Pantai Air Manis, Padang. 2012

Have you ever felt that you are seeking something?

That something is missing in your life, and you can’t really put your finger to it, or define what is it that is missing? You just know that there’s got to be something more than this.

You try to fill that gap with many things.

First you try to fill it with material things. Stuffs. Cars. Bags. Branded clothes. Gadgets. Etc. But material things doesn’t make that gap go away.

And then you try to fill it with non-material things. Relationships. Achievements. Career. Holidays. Power. Status. But non-material things doesn’t make that gap go away.

And then you try to fill it with even more subtle things. You seek knowledge. Read  books. Study ancient and current wisdoms. Perhaps devote yourself to a religion. Or maybe practice spirituality. Yet these subtle things doesn’t make that gap go away.



You are complete. You are whole. You are already perfect.

You just forgotten that you are whole. You are suffering from delusion. Delusion that you are separated. That there is a gap.

You are already whole. You don’t need anything from outside. You just forgotten.

And all those wisdom, books, teachers, rituals… are reminders. To help you remember.

To help you remember that you are whole.

In Alan Watts’ words:

“You’re it.”


Body Mind Soul


In yogic theory, human is made up from five layers, or dimensions, called the koshas. I’ve written about the koshas in my personal blog a while ago. Just a short recap here, the five koshas are:

  1. Annamaya kosha / the food body – the physical dimension (bone, muscle, blood, fluids, organs, glands, nervous system)
  2. Pranamaya kosha / the energy body – the energetic dimension. What’s called prana, chi, qi, ki, lifeforce energy
  3. Manomaya kosha / the lower mind – the individual mind dimension. The executive day-to-day operating system
  4. Vijnanamaya kosha / the higher mind – the wisdom, intuition dimension. Connects with the universal, less individual
  5. Anandamaya kosha – the bliss body – the essence, the awareness.

In modern times we use the term ‘mind, body, & soul’ to describe human as a whole. It is pretty similar with the koshas framework, body is the physical part (annamaya), mind is the manomaya & vijnanamaya. Soul, this is my limited understanding of it, soul or spirit is partly vijnanamaya and partly anandamaya.

What’s bringing these three dimension together into one human? It’s the prana, the lifeforce energy. Prana began when there is conception, and as long as there is prana, the three dimension are bound together. Prana is like the glue, the binding. When there is no more prana, the binding disintegrate, mind loses it’s individuality, soul goes back to it’s source, and body starts to decompose and return back to earth.

To live as a human in the best way possible, all the dimensions ideally are in their maximum functioning capacity. All the dimensions are ideally aligned, in tune, in harmony with each other. When the layers within are in harmony, then one can start to be in harmony with the things outside (the environment, other beings, etc).

How? Work on each individual dimension, and also work on the glue that bring them all together. Work on the body, mind, soul, and work on the prana.


Nature of Mind


The Knower & The Known by Fabrizio Cassetta


This is my notes from a talk by Tenzin Palmo.

Everything is perceived through the sense organs, caught by consciousness, and interpreted by the mind. In other words, everything we experience is in the mind.

There are two aspects of the mind. First, the known. The known covers memories, thoughts, feelings, emotions. The second is the knower, the part of the mind that knows, but not involved. A.k.a the observer, witness, or awareness.

The known is like movie. Light projects through individual thought frames to the screen continuously, moment to moment. The problem starts when we identify ourself with the movie at the screen, we believe that is us. This fundamental delusion and misidentification causes suffering.

The knower is vast, spacious, peaceful, clear, infinite. Like the blue sky. It is always there, but often hidden by the clouds. And because the clouds are so thick and never cleared up, we forgot that above the cloud there’s blue sky.

To cease suffering, start identifying with the knower and stop identifying with the known.

How? By taking a step back, and just watch the known passes through, without judging, without like or dislike, just simply watching. Have space in our life to just be, sit, and use the mind to look at the mind.

This is a form of meditation. Where we just become still and observe the fluctuations of the mind.

The knower watching the known.



Pillars of a Good Life


There are four pillars of life. When they are all well developed and well balanced, life is good. When they are underdeveloped, life is probably not so good. Whey they are not balanced, if one aspect is much more highly developed than each other, maybe life is pretty good, but not as good as it potentially can be.

The pillars are:

  1. Health
  2. Ethical life
  3. A method to quieten the mind (eg meditation)
  4. Framework, knowledge, purpose

We’ll look a bit deeper into each one.

It’s pretty obvious that life is better when we’re healthy. We can enjoy life. We can interact with life. We are at ease with ourself, without dis-ease. So staying healthy is one of the most valuable investment for ourself. How do we stay healthy? Basically feed the body with good nutrition, enough movements to stimulate the body & organs, and enough rest.

Ethical life means leading life according to ethics and moral values. Most of the religion’s moral values are similar in some way. Yoga have the yamas & niyamas. Siddharta Gautama taught the eight noble path. Christian have the ten commandments. And so on. The moral values boil down to ‘Don’t do unto others what you don’t want others to do unto you.’ When one lead a life ethically, it will contribute to the next pillar – a quiet mind.

A quiet mind means a mind that is aware of it’s own fluctuations, and not getting carried away by the fluctuations. One of the method is through meditation. In meditation we train the mind to stay with one anchor for a period of time. Through practice we develop the endurance to sustain this focus for longer and longer. And the longer we can stay there, the quieter the mind become.

When the mind is sufficiently quietened down, there’s a sense of direction that comes from within. Perhaps at the beginning we can’t pinpoint or detail which direction does it want to go – but usually we can tell if the direction is wrong. If we are receptive and open we’ll find many teachers and lessons in our lives that provide you with knowledge. With this knowledge we develop framework, like a map. With a framework we know where we are, why we are here, and where we are going. And slowly find the answer to the perennial question “Who am I?”


Based on a talk by my yoga philosophy teacher Swami Pujan

Image: Rio-Antirio bridge by Spiros Vathis


Stillness & Clarity


Sandy Bay Golden Hour by Eugen Naiman

If there is no stillness, there is no silence.
If there is no silence, there is no insight.
If there is no insight, there is no clarity.

~ Tenzin Priyadarshi

Previous post: Mind Like Still Water

Stillness is when there are the feeling of calm, peace, grounded-ness, the sense of firmness, earthed, stable, unshakeable. At the beginning this stillness is achieved by becoming physically still (eg seated meditation). As one get more used to it we can have stillness in motion (eg walking meditation, focused movement like taichi, yoga etc, or even during running/swimming/knitting/cooking).

Clarity is the result of stillness. Imagine a glass full of muddy water. Without stillness, the mud will not settle down and the water will never become clear. When the glass is placed down and left to be still for a while, the mud will settle down to the bottom and water will clear up and we can see through the water. Another analogy that is more high-tech: imagine trying to take a picture while we’re in a moving car on a bumpy road. Unless the camera has very fast shutter speed, the resulting picture will be blurred. We have to be holding the camera still enough to be able to capture the image clearly.

Why is clarity important?

When there’s clarity, we can see things as they are, without any filter or coloring. Free of perception. Free from conditioning, judgement, assumption, beliefs, hypothesis, expectation, etc.

When we see things as they are, without any filter or coloring, we can better navigate ourself in relation to things. ‘Things’ here cover everything: ourself and everything that is outside ourself (family & friends, other people, relationships, objects, job, career, everything).

Clarity helps us to make the most appropriate decision at any given time. Appropriate decision usually effects the elements in such a way that they become more in harmony with everything else. When there’s harmony, there are less disturbances, less waves. Like a boat in the sea – when there are less waves, the boat will move more smoothly.

Staying with the boat in the sea analogy, there will be waves (or even storm) from time to time, outside of our scope of control. So situation can be rocky and disturbed from time to time – but the more harmony there are, the sooner the waves calm down, the sooner the journey become smooth again.

Image credit: Eugen Naiman


Mind Like Still Water


Garabaldi Lake, near Whister, BC. Photo by Tim Shield’s son, 2010

In the previous post Inviting Stillness we discussed about the importance of stillness in order to have clarity and overcome the filter of perception. We discussed about the challenges of becoming still, and the supporting practices. This post will again discuss about these.

Three possible reaction when we are trying to become still and meditate:

  1. Mind becomes dull & sleepy – and then turns off – zzZZzz time
  2. Mind becomes agitated, running all over the place
  3. Mind rest in the stillness, alert and clear

The ideal outcome is number three – yet as anyone trying to meditate know, it is not easy to get there.

Lets look deeper into the two challenges.

Dullness & sleepiness

Without stimulation, mind is bored. We modern humans are generally tired – due to many things: lack of quality sleep, too much distraction, poor nutrition, etc. The mind, when sensing there’s no stimulation, knowing it’s in a safe space (no predator or dangerous situation), decided to go to sleep because it knows the body is tired and needs sleep. How to tackle this problem? First thing we can do is make sure we get enough rest & sleep, and fed properly. When the body is well rested, at least there’s no actual demand for sleep.

But even when body is well rested, when we are trying to become still and meditate, sometimes the mind still switches off. This is dullness, losing the clarity. Some of the things we can do to overcome this challenge:

  • Arrange the meditation time so that it’s not after a big meal. After a meal more blood circulation goes to the digestive system, and less blood in the brain area, resulting in sleepiness
  • Do some yoga asana or stretches before sitting down to improve energy circulation. In my personal experience some inversion & backbends helps.
  • Do some energizing pranayama like kapalbhati or bhastrika
  • During the meditation itself, when we catch ourself becoming sleepy & dull, use the inhalation to refresh. Deepen the inhalation a few times and return to the object of focus (breath/sound/guide etc)


If the mind is not dull & sleepy, there’s a possibility that it will go to the other extreme – becoming agitated, jumping around, running all over the place. When the mind is not focused or holding attention to something, there’s this function of the brain called Default Mode Network that usually becomes active.

What is this Default Mode Network? I’m no expert in neuroscience, this is my simple understanding of it. Default Mode Network is a function of thinking about self, thinking about others, and thinking about past or future. It becomes active when the mind is not focused or holding attention, and it seems like it serves like a background process of assimilating, comprehending & understanding of all the inputs from the outside.

So when this DMN is active, then the mind ruminates about something (usually related to self, others, past, future, or sometimes even random) – and this thing triggers another thought, and another, and another. Any meditator knows this – suddenly we catch ourself thinking about something else and totally forgot we are meditating.

How to overcome this? By holding that focus and attention at the object of meditation in a ‘just enough’ way. Not gripping, but also not too lose. Balanced. When we’re gripping, there is tension. During meditation this can be felt in the physical body – the body or the face is tensed. Release the tension with the exhalation, and relax. When too lose, the mind tend to start to wander & ride along the DMN, generating many new thoughts. As we notice we are sidetracked, first be happy that we noticed we were sidetracked, and then relax, release the thought, and return to the object of meditation.

One of my meditation teacher use this analogy – imagine the thought like a butterfly that settled down on your arm. Just notice “Oh there’s a butterfly on my arm / Oh there are thoughts on my mind”, and without needing any force or violence, gently blow it away.

Like still water

With consistent practice, gradually the mind will be trained to rest in stillness. Alert, aware, and focused. In this stillness, clarity comes. With clarity, comes the realization that it’s all perception (judgement, assumption, expectation, belief, hypothesis, conditioning, etc). When we realize that it’s all perception, we have the opportunity to take that perception filter off, and see things as they really are. Like still water, reflecting the surrounding as it is.


Read more about Default Mode Network here:

Image from Tim Shield’s flickr


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.



2015-12-18 00.14.58

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.

Perception vs Reality

AXE_Scent Changes Sight_Hi-Res

This Axe advertisement shows Perception vs Reality in multiple layers. First layer is the ad’s message: that wearing a certain scent will change the perceived sexual appeal of a person. Second layer is that an advertisement is all about perception – the brand wants to be perceived as something cool and sexy.

Still continuing with the topic of seeing the world as it is.

Previous posts:

In the previous posts we discussed about how everything is perception and it is us that project exaggerated qualities to an object. Because of our perception, the same object can cause both pleasant and unpleasant emotions to arise, and it’s a subjective experience (no two people experience exactly the same thing out of the same object).

Now that we know everything is perception & everything is in the mind, we should be able to operate with a more clear filter, yes? We should be able to become less attached (less like-dislike, clinging-reject, raga-dvesha), yes? Not quite. We are so used to equating perception with reality, that it has become an ingrained habit. It’s like when we’re wearing eyeglasses, because we are so used to wearing it, we forgot we are wearing it. We’re so used in seeing the world through filters, we forgot there are filters.

How do we remember that we have this filter of perception?

Just like when we forgot we’re wearing eyeglasses, when we saw our reflection in the mirror, we saw that we are wearing eyeglasses. When we take time to reflect, we realize that we have perception. We remember through reflection & contemplation. The mirror can be something that can provide a true and honest snapshot of our self, for example a journal or diary. Or listening to our self talking – I think this is what psychiatrists do – facilitate & enable one to verbalize, and this is a form of reflection & contemplation. One important thing, the listener has to be able to stay neutral and non-judging – otherwise the reflection will be distorted.

In order to reflect, there has to be stillness. Without stillness we can’t reflect. The more still, the more clear the reflection become, then the more often we remember that it’s all perception. As we remember more and more often that it’s all perception, the weaker the filter would be – the less coloring – and we start to see glimpses of things as they are, reality as it is.

How to develop stillness?

We can start from the body – physical stillness. When the body is still, then the mind can become still too. Spend some time to be still. This is meditation. No need to sit in a perfect lotus position, even sitting on a chair will do, as long as the spine is straight and upright. Sitting is too difficult? Try lying down. Preferable not in the bed as we will probably immediately drift to sleep. Lying down on the floor, place a blanket underneath if its cold, make sure the spine is straight and aligned. Let the feet fall outwards, hands besides the body with palms facing up, and relax everything. But try not to sleep. Just be still.

At the beginning stillness may feel strange. We were always active and moving since we were born. The mind, never have the experience of stillness before, will either:

  1. Get caught up in its own train of thoughts
  2. Interpret this as time to catch some ZZZs and fall asleep

How to overcome these? In my next post.

Who Am I?


Love is the bridge between you and everything – Rumi


Stunning view from Sakura, New Zealand

Stunning view from Sakura, New Zealand


As we traverse the path of life we will inevitably come face to face with the big questions.

Who am I? Why am I here?

Irrespective of our backgrounds, colours, or beliefs, we human beings cannot avoid this inner dialogue; for these questions are the very purpose of our existence here. All of us. We are united in this. The search for our true selves.

If we avoid the truth of who we are, our lives present obstacles which make us take a deeper look at ourselves. Sometimes a very painful look. The harder we resist the truth of who we are, the more difficult the obstacles and the lessons become.

Some of us seek to hide our confusion, or numb it. We don’t understand why we are lost. We don’t even know that we are seeking. Sex, drugs and other addictive behavioural patterns manifest to mask the emptiness. We feel broken because we are not open or connected to the heart of ourselves. Sometimes we see glimpses, commonly in the love of another, and when that is lost or changed with time, our lives lose colour. We seek deep connection with others in the belief that the other will make us whole. We delve into practices which distract us. Work hard, play hard. We get lost in the social construct which dictates we must earn more and have more to be whole. We seek refuge in the material, as if that diamond ring has the power to heal our soul.

We look for answers externally but there they hide from us. It is as though we are continually playing a game of hide and seek, only ever having fleeting glimpses of that which the soul seeks most.

Who am I? What is my reason for being?

Some of us will ask these questions earlier in life and some will only ask in the final hour.

Who am I? What is the purpose of life?

If we are curious enough, ready enough, and brave enough we will allow the questions to unfurl our inner landscape. We will begin climbing the mountain that is our destiny.

And this path will be the most beautiful path of all our existence.

The path of our own understanding.

That is not to say that it is an easy path, this path of deep self introspection. Truth often comes with a bite. At times it may rip the fabric of your being, break your heart, shatter you. But in that brokeness you will discover what it is to be open, and in turn what it is to be whole again.

Who am I? Why do I exist?

Although the enquiry is analytical, the answer to the mystery is seldom presented by the analytical mind. This in itself is hard to grasp and can be a source of great suffering and confusion. The mind that is grappling for answers. The mind that is filled with ideas, ideologies and conditioned thoughts and responses. This mind is the catalyst for our great discovery but it is not where the answers lie. Rather, we must unlearn everything that we have come to know in this life. We must let go of thought. In the great unlearning we surrender all, we find our way home.

Who am I ?

The answers on the path of understanding come out of nothing, they are born out of stillness. To find them we must go within.

They stream from a consciousness that unites us all. A consciousness that breathes us.

Who am I ? Who are you?

The answers lie in presence, in quiet contemplation. The answers arise when the mind is still and at peace, and the heart is open.

As we learn to cultivate this stillness within, dance with it, play with it, as we did naturally when we were children, we will come to know the truth of who we are. We cannot avoid it.

And in those moments, suspended in timelessness, all questions dissolve into the mystery. And we not only see truth, we experience truth.


In those moments we are born into a love that is so profound, it is indescribable in words.

As Rumi said: It is a love that is a bridge between you and everything.

It is infinite. It knows no separation and no boundaries. It is the love that creates all things. It is you and it is me.

It is the ferociousness of a hurricane, and the grace of a dolphin’s dance. It is the shimmer of water and the sound of birdsong. It is where the rainbow meets the land, and where the clouds float on chariots in the sky of your imagination. It is the beautiful dance of intimacy between lovers. The sacredness of a rose. The kind words of friends. It sits in the wisdom of old age and laughs with our ancestors.

You can find it in the depths of the oceans and in a child’s eyes. It is all pervasive.

Everywhere and Everything.

And when you fully realise the beauty of you, you will never ever question again the beauty of another.

You will never again seek sanctuary in anyone, except for yourself. Because you will profoundly understand that you are enough. So much more than enough.

You will no longer seek to judge another either, because you will know their essence is your essence. You will have great compassion and forgiveness for yourself, and in so doing you will pass that compassion to others.

And so in this way when you invest in the discovery and healing of yourself, you are automatically invested in the healing of others. You are also invested in the healing of all that is the earth and on the earth.

Your path of discovery, is not just for you, it is for all of us. It is the greatest gift you can give to yourself and to the world.

The bridge between you and everything.

Who are you ?


“beautiful piece by Gwen Bryce, you can reach her at”