Through a glass, darkly


Standing near the window; covered with dark glass.
Glimpses and blurred images of what’s inside.
Meanwhile; the world outside is beckoning.
Enticing the senses with colors, fragrance, sunny days, breeze.
I want to see what’s inside, but I also want run to the world outside.

Standing near the window; covered with dark glass.
Glimpses and blurred images of what’s inside.
Icy winter days and it’s storming outside.
The world is grey, freezing, numbing, cold.
I want to see what’s inside, there’s nothing to see outside.

Standing near the window; covered with dark glass.
Rubbed clean the glass from the outside, clearer glimpse of what’s inside.
Inside feels like home, cozy fireplace and a warm cup of tea.
It’s spring and the world is again full of colors, sunlight, fragrance.
I want to come in to the unchanging inside, the outside changes all the time.

Standing near the window; covered with dark glass.
Been looking inside for so long my sight adjusted to the dark.
Now I notice there’s someone inside, looking back at me.
Calling out to me, showing me the way in, there’s a door I didn’t see all this while.
I opened the door and come inside;

I’m home.

Note: I knew the phrase “Through a glass, darkly” from Jostein Gaarder’s book title. Only much later I found out that it is a biblical phrase from 1 Corinthians 13:12. (KJV: For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.)

This is one of my first attempt writing something that resembles poetry, originally posted on my blog 

Image credit: Shelby U


Cloudless Sky


Samawa Beach, Indonesia, a photograph by Ayda Sulianti

What gives form to the world, has no form of its own. – Rumi-


It’s been few hours

Since I watched the sun rising

But the sky remains cloudless


Wonder how it feels like

Up there, looking down

So close yet never be


Has the sky plotting against us

In the game of hide and seek

With nothing to look for


It reminds me of that day

When the weight of hopelessness

Trembled me to the bone


The only way was to sink

Like a cruise liner

Sent down to the heart of the ocean


Oblivious to the commotion

In the absence of judgment

The sky was cloudless

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


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

34-10 Guanyin MFW 001

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.

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”