Unknown Land


One Winter Evening at Jackson Hole, USA

One dark night

At the ocean

When the wave rhythmically moves

Seducing the wind

To choreograph a dance

Bestowed upon those

Who have lost their love

In the wilderness

Of own creation

Maybe upon those

Who have lost pieces of their broken hearts

On an unknown land

Where imagination lives

And upon those

Who have anchored their hearts

At the bottom of the sea

Where dream ends


Inviting Stillness


Beach of Maratua Island – north coast of East Kalimantan, Indonesia. Photo by Eddy Halim, 2014

In the post Perception vs Reality we explored that we have this filter or perception and often we forgot that we have them. Like we forgot we’re wearing glasses because it’s in front of the eyes all the time. And one way to remember there’s that filter or perception is by reflecting, and in order to reflect there has to be enough stillness.

It’s difficult for us  to be still. We are born to move, because if we don’t move we die (not moving means not finding food to eat, not running away from predator etc). We are so used to moving all the time that at the beginning it’s quite challenging to become still. We even move when we sleep.

How do we invite stillness?

Meditation is a form of inviting stillness. Becoming still physically in a position that we can sustain for a while. As the body become still, the five action senses (karmendriyas) become still – and that’s something unusual for them. What are the five action senses? They are the organs for eliminating, reproducing, moving, grasping, speaking – the digestion, genitals, legs & feet, arms & hands, speech organs respectively. In addition to that, the five cognitive senses, the sense for taking in inputs from the external world (jnanendriyas) – also receive limited stimulation from the outside world. The five cognitive senses are the organs for smelling, tasting, seeing, touching, hearing – the nose, tounge, eyes, skin, and ears respectively.

When we become still, when we are not doing anything (the five action senses are still) and receiving minimum stimulation of the outside world (the five cognitive senses are quiet) – the mind have three choices:

  1. Interpret this as time to turn off, take a break, and get some sleep
  2. Try to find something to keep itself busy, entertaining itself by thoughts of future (planning), past (remembering), or new thoughts (noting/ideas/insight)
  3. Become still and rest in awareness itself

We are training the mind to take the third choice.

For some of us the mind often goes to the second choice – the mind jumps around, agitated, like naughty monkey jumping all over the place, and we have no control of it.

For some of us the mind often goes to the first choice – the mind decided to take a break, shut down, and we drifted to sleep.

We are training the mind to take the third choice. It’s not easy. Just like everything else it takes effort & consistency. In other words, practice, practice practice.

Supporting practices

Many people think that meditation practice is only during the actual meditation itself. Actually there are practices that builds foundation for meditation. Sage Patanjali codified this in his Yoga Sutra as the eight limbs of yoga (ashtanga):

  1. yama
  2. niyama
  3. asana
  4. pranayama
  5. pratyahara
  6. dharana
  7. dhyana
  8. samadhi

I will not go into detail about these eight limbs of yoga on this post.

Just a brief recap, the first two limbs yama & niyama are ethical & moral conduct, that when we don’t follow them we’ll tend to have ‘unfinished business’ so to speak. Example – we stole something from someone, and during meditation probably that thought will arise (I feel guilty / he has so much more so he deserves to be stolen from / I need that thing, that gives me the right to steal / I’m sorry I stole I know I shouldn’t have / and so on). These ethical & moral conducts are guides for us to live our life in such a way that we have peace of mind, so that when we meditate we have less worries, less disturbances.

The third and fourth, asana & pranayama, are ways to keep the body fit, limber, and the energy moves freely, so that the physical body can be still in meditation.

The fifth, pratyahara, is about turning the senses inwards, not letting the mind drawn to the outside world through the senses.

The last three – dharana, dhyana & samadhi are different types or levels of concentration / focused attention / awareness.

To be continued.



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One Winter Afternoon at the Brahma Kumaris Center in Frankston, Australia

When the moon spells out your name
How do I pronounce it without missing you?
Must be the emptiness in me
The one that stings
Thinking of you, not knowing where you are

When the clouds illustrate your face
How do I look at you without whispering your name?
Must be the longing I can’t explain
The kind that stays
Wanting you, not knowing if you feel the same way

When I think mirror doesn’t lie
How does it reflect you when I look into it?
Must be the magic that draws me
The spell that binds
Bound me to eternity, until the day I find the wand

And when the wind sings your tune
How do I keep myself from bestowing a serenade upon you?
Must be the melody that muddles me
The kind that strains the heart
Imprisoned me, hold me captive
Without you

Shantideva’s Dedication

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Guanyin of the Southern Sea

May all beings everywhere
Plagued by sufferings of body & mind
Obtain an ocean of happiness & joy
By virtue of my merits

May no living creature suffer
Commit evil, or ever fall ill
May no one be afraid or belittled
With a mind weighed down by depression

May the blind see forms
And the deaf hear sounds
May those whose bodies are worn with toil
Be restored on finding repose

May the naked find clothing
The hungry find food
May the thirsty find water
And delicious drinks

May the poor find wealth
Those weak with sorrow find joy
May the forlorn find hope
Constant happiness, and prosperity

May there be timely rains
And bountiful harvests
May all medicines be effective
And wholesome prayers bear fruit

May all who are sick and ill
Quickly be freed from their ailments
Whatever diseases there are in the world
May they never occur again

May the frightened cease to be afraid
And those bound be freed
May the powerless find power
And may people think of benefiting each other

For as long as space remains
For as long as sentient beings remain
Until then may I too remain
To dispel the miseries of the world

Above is a condensed version of last chapter, the dedication chapter, from Shantideva’s The Way of the Bodhisattva. I copied it from the FPMT prayer book when I did Introduction to Buddhism course at Tushita Meditation Center last November.

There are many commentaries, translation, and online version of Shantideva’s work. I’ve only read one version (the one from Shambhala Publication, link above). H. H. Dalai Lama said about this text: “If I have any understanding of compassion and the practice of bodhisattva path, it is entirely on the basis of this text that I possess it.”

I like this ‘prayer’ a lot. It’s like an extended expansion of the mantra Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu. Short translation: may all beings be happy and free from suffering. Long translation: may all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Image: Guanyin of the Southern Sea, wooden sculpture from China 11th/12th century, The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. It’s the image used as cover of the book.


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Sunset at Jimbaran Bay, Bali, Indonesia

Last day of the year today, seems different from all last days few years back. I am not the sentimental type, but certainly something is not the same. Trying to figure it out is like pressing the play button on my memory bank of past events.

Dancing through, down the waltz of memory lane is like watching a movie on a winter night. The absence of identification to any of all those scenes feels so real, sending a tingle of wonder down the spine and up above.

Yet, it numbs the entire of me, it is like I am there watching, without sensation, without any senses. At awe, stupefied.

Things come and go, people come and go, marking each day with their presence. Sometimes what remains is just a distance memory. Things happen, things change, people change, we change. And suddenly the scribbles on my notes are no more.

What we deem important today, it might mean nothing tomorrow. What we love today, we might be willing to be part with the next day. Stranger becomes lover and lover turns to stranger.

Life is predictably full of surprises and changes are written all over the fabric of our hearts. Most of the time, we refuse to see them. We ignore them, until they hurt too much.

Old friends drift apart, new friendships blossom. What do we get to say about that when disappointment is the byproduct of unmeet expectation? And it is a blessing when true friendship triumphs.

When failure and sorrow make us a better person, it can break us too. What differentiates the two is only a choice away. And the choice is ours.

I can go on and on and on but soon the new day will come, brings with it a new year, a new hope and a new reclamation.

Let us all embrace whatever comes our way, no serendipity is too real and let’s hold on to love.