Tuesday, July 21, 2015

What is Suffering?

A friend of mine was extremely curious to learn what suffering meant in the context of Buddhism, since this is a word that has been used in many of my recent posts.

Suffering means dissatisfaction, impermanence and imperfection. There are three known categories of sufferings: the obvious physical and mental suffering caused by birth, aging, sickness and death; the anxiety generated by holding onto things that are constantly changing; and the basic unsatisfactoriness caused by impermanence.

All good things must come to an end when all the causes and conditions associated with that particular cause cease to exist. One cannot stay healthy and young forever. Beauty and youth doesn't last. Lovers can have a change of heart; kids grow old; friendship evolve and drift apart; loved ones getting all caught up in addiction and consume by hatred, anger, depression and disappointment.

The notion of "more is better" or "the grass is greener on the other side" are sufferings arising from dissatisfaction and discontentment with the current situation. In the digital dating world, whether it's straight or gay, not wanting to settle, thinking that there is always a "perfect" match out there for me, constantly "looking" and never quite find what you are looking for are suffering caused by discontentment and imperfection and unsatisfying. Nothing ever lasts, everything goes through momentary changes, evolves and decays.

Suffering arises when we try to hold onto the unstable, impermanent nature of objects, people, situations or phenomena that are no longer the same. The teaching of the four noble truths is the foundation of developing insight into the nature of suffering, the conditions that cause it, and how it can be overcome.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

A Fall Into The Pit, A Gain In Your Wit

Hello friends,

Over the last few weeks, I have worked relentlessly to meet the deadlines for the book. Not only I was able to complete the new chapters ahead of time, I was also able to maintain a sustainable and balanced lifestyle. I had to make a few tough calls and draw a line in the sand in order to protect my own sanity. Other than the usual work and dating, I also enrolled in a mentorship program for career advancement. After the recent sex workshop that I co-lead, I realized that my life is evolving so fast that I didn't really have time to process everything alone or with a trusted friends. It made me realize that I need to make some adjustments in life that will revitalize my program of recovery and to bring new ideas into my life. It was not an easy choice but I had to switch sponsors.

While all of those things were happening in my personal life, I needed to stay focused on completing the last two chapters of the book. It was not an easy task whatsoever. These last two chapters set the foundation for the rest of the book. I had to keep the stories as detailed as possible in order to bridge the gap for the second half of the book. As I was writing it, I was also getting caught up with the emotion of the stories as it developed. I found myself getting angry and upset with my younger self. Back then, I didn't have a role model to look up to. I was trying really hard to fit in and was desperate for human contact. My desperation and the urge of wanting to fit in combined with curiosity, lead me down a path or self-destruction and despair. All of these happened within a year and a half after I moved to New York City.

There was a sense of serenity and peace after the writing was completed. I could finally put the past behind, let go of all the tough moments and things that once made me the person I am today. Instead of living in the past, I can now focus on living for the present moment and embrace it.

After I submitted the entire stories to my publisher, Afdhere wanted me to meditate on the following three questions:

1. If this book could help someone specific, who would this person be?

2. If your life in general could help someone specific, who would this person be?

3. What do you want from this book specifically, and what do you want from your life in general?

These were some pretty big questions I needed answers to. Luckily for me, when I created my five year plan a year and a half ago, I already had documented some of these. The blog from last year also helped me identified my readers and supporters like you. I will be creating a new basic personas that I share with my publisher.

I will keep you posted on the next phase of the development. Please stay tuned.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

No Time to Waste Like the Present

Hello friends,

The deadline to finish the stories for the book is around the corner. I am working extremely hard on top of my existing responsibilities to complete the remaining three chapters of the book. The last three chapters are the most important chapters that I have to write, which connect my past in Malaysia and my current life in New York City. This is where the young innocent naive me transformed into someone who would later be destroyed by the fire of addiction.

Chapter six which I finished last week talks about the "lost time" that I spent between Petaling Jaya (PJ), Malaysia before I ended up in Raleigh, North Carolina. The reason I call it "lost time" is because this was a very confusing time of my life, where my future was uncertain. I was unable to obtain my visas and life was a little chaotic. Thankfully, I was able to hold the fort together while spending some time at school knowing that I will be leaving the country at any time. I went to a graphic design school and started to make new gay friends. Being friends with them helped me accepting myself for who I am. Their friendship and support gave me the courage to come out to some of my high school friends.

As I begun to get comfortable with my own sexuality and used to going to school in PJ, my visas went through and I have to leave the country before I turned 21. Right before I left the country I stayed overnight at my cousins. She took me to a mall and we ran into a monk who happened to be a fortune teller. He foresaw that I will experienced a catastrophism at age 24 and predicted a few things that will happened in my life which most of them already came true.

On another note, I met with my publisher in person last week for the first time and I have some exciting news to report. Afdhere and I discussed getting the book published in multiple languages with worldwide distribution in hardcover, e-book and softcover. He also explained to me what needs to happen during the editing process in the next six months. Social media, which will be a big component of the success of my book launch, was a big part of the discussion. Afdhere also didn't want to overwhelm me with all the details right now but to focus on my writing instead.

I am still in shock about the meeting with Afdhere partly because the reality is a little surreal for me. Everything that's happening to me this year has been nothing but extraordinary. I am forever grateful to every opportunities that were offered to me this year. I am definitely living life beyond my wildest dreams. Whatever my higher power has in store for me, I am going to honor it and respect the process but living it to the fullest and showing up wholeheartedly.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

April Showers Bring May flowers

Hello friends,

Spring is finally here! I hope you are enjoying April's showers, the flowers and the mild temperature that we have been getting with the new season.

In Malaysia, there is no spring, fall or winter. There is just hot and hotter. It does cool down during the monsoon season after the rain. The catch-22 is the high humidity during the day, before it rains, followed by a drop in temperature in the low 70s later on. However, for a teenager going through puberty in Malaysia, the heat is constant. I just finished writing Chapter Four of my book, which is all about my first man-crush, losing my virginity to a man, and coming to terms with my confused homosexuality.

Have you heard of "Manglish" (a.k.a. Malaysian English)? This is a hybrid of phrases and terms from all the languages spoken in Malaysia. Although not the official language, Manglish is commonly spoken by everyone on the streets of Malaysia. Since every Malaysian knows as least two or three languages, some of these words are "borrowed" from other languages to form a sentence. I have included many examples of Manglish use in Chapter Four. You can also check out a few examples of Manglish on my Pinterest Board (also named 'Manglish'). I hope you will find it interesting.

My friend Gavin and I tried to make the Nyonya kuih a couple of weeks ago. The result was as good as we expected, especially being first time we ever tried to make it ourselves. We will be testing out more Malaysian dessert recipes next month before we plan on having a tasting party. Stay tuned for that announcement coming soon!

The next few chapters that I am working on will be focus on when I first arrived in the United States through the time I moved to New York City, before I seroconverted. As the story progresses, the topics have more weight on me and it takes longer to write. My anxiety is significantly higher due to the complicity of the stories that I am about to tell. I'm being careful to not glaze over vivid details during this time of growth, especially in detailing the series of actions that lead me to my drug use. It's a challenge to relive this part of my past as I write but I do it with self compassion.

I am happy that I have the wisdom and the knowledge I have today to write the book objectively. My publisher, Afdhere, has forewarned me that I may not get the rewards and validations that I want right away but can look forward to the end results when the book is published. I sincerely hope that someone will be able to learn something from my stories and, even better, get inspired.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

As A Man Sows, So Shall He Reap

Hello my Buddha Within friends,

Another two weeks have gone by and I've finished another chapter called "Knowledge in Youth is Wisdom". Those of you that know me in person  are well aware that I love food. In this chapter, I will talk more about some of my favorite food like apam balik and fruits such as durian, rambutan, langsat, jackfruit, guava, papaya, cempedak, soursoup in Malaysia. If you are interested in learning more on the different types of fruits and food in Malaysia, I suggest you check out my board on Pinterest.

Pasar is a term we used to describe the farmers market. I used to love going grocery shopping at the farmers market with my mom or grandma. It was a way to break the morning routine and a chance to choose my yummy breakfast. Pasar malam refers to the night market. They generally sell t-shirts, snacks, CDs, and all kind of junks that we don't really need. But it's such a fun thing to do with friends and family at night to visit the night market.

The first two chapters of the book were about setting up the background stories. This chapter really delves into a lot of my first experiences in life - my introduction to Chinese medicine; learning how to ride a bike; playing Nintendo Mario Brothers for the first time; watching my first porn, and for the first time living semi-independently without too much adult supervision.

I may not have expressed it in my writing as often it's hard for me to do, but writing these chapters made me extremely homesick. I thought that my childhood was not all that great, but now that it's presented in front of me in digital form, it doesn't look too bad after all. I grew up in a dramatic alcoholic family and I can see that I inherited some of that traits into my adulthood, but nevertheless my childhood was colorful and there wasn't a dull moment. I wish that I am in Malaysia right now, giving my mom and dad big hugs and thank them for what they have done for me the first 20 years of my life before I moved to United States. I wish to spend some time with my mom today, share meals with my family, let them know about all the exciting things that's happening in my life today. I want them to know how much I have missed home, and how grateful that I am for what they have given me with their best ability and intent. Raising kids isn't easy, but with a gay son in the mix, I am sure they have their own challenge and difficulties as well. I would love to hear their stories and have my mom tell me the difficulties that she experienced. I am sure she has plenty to share.

In case you are wondering, Chinese idioms and proverbs were a big part of my Chinese education. I have been trying to incorporate them into my writing as well. These idioms became the titles for my entries and also the title for the chapters of my book.

Friday, March 27, 2015

A Child's Life Is Like A Piece Of Paper On Which Every Person Leaves A Mark

Hey my Buddha Within friends,

Another two weeks has gone by and the second chapter entitled "The Child is Father of the Man" has been completed. This addition to the book introduced my hometown in Malaysia, Ipoh, and the local food specialties there. The food in Malaysia is well known worldwide for its flavors, thanks to its unique location. Ever since they discovered an alternate route from China to India hundreds of years ago, Malaysia has served as a trade hub for spices. Therefore, many different spices were brought to Malaysia and are still used in the local cooking today.

This chapter introduces some of my favorite Malaysian cuisine, including Nyonya kuih. The Nyonya kuih are bite-sized snacks or dessert foods commonly found in Malaysia. It’s more often steamed than baked, and thus has a very different flavor, texture and appearances than western cakes. Most kuih are sweet but there are some savory versions of kuih as well. Because writing these chapters on food and culture were making me homesick, I reached out to a chef friend of mine and he agreed to work with me to recreate some of these Nyonya kuih here in New York City. As a result, I will be planning a Malaysia dessert tasting party very soon. Stay tuned for more updates. Check out the photos for some of these yummy treats on Pinterest.

Another key topic in this chapter is the exposure to spirituality early in my childhood. I was introduced to the Buddhist sutras, but never really understood what it all meant until later in life. There is one particular celebration in the Chinese folk religion that I would like to share with you. It is called the Nine Emperor Gods celebration and it happens every year during the first nine days of the ninth month of the Chinese lunar calendar. It's a fairly large and elaborate festival that includes thousands of worshippers gathered at temples to light incense and to pray. There is also a parade on the last day of the celebration where people who practice shamanism get their piercings done, walk through piles of hot, burning charcoal with bare feet, eat vegetarian food, and see free Chinese opera. It’s a celebration that we would never miss.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Past Experience, If Not Forgotten, Is A Guide For The Future

Hey my Buddha Within friends,

I just wanted to give you some quick updates about the book. 

As of last week, the first chapter of the book with a temporary title: "The Tales, The Spirits And The Reality" is completed. This chapter focuses on setting the tone for the book and gives readers a general outline of where I grew up. Most importantly, I talk about the cultural and the spiritual aspects of my life that came into play early on and what made of me before I came to the United States. 

More specifically, an introduction to the Chinese folk religion. It is a spiritual belief system that is deeply engraved in the heart of the Chinese community in Southeast Asia. Its rituals and practices focus on staying in touch with the spirits in general, whether it's the gods, heaven, people, the spiritual realm and the afterlife. The Chinese believed that by paying homage to the spirits invoke the power to summon the blessings and drive away harm. 

Chinese folk religion is consist of Taoism, Confucianism and Buddhism. Taoism focused on the rituals; Confucianism is known for the ethical and philosophical system that thrive from social order with emphasis on the importance of the family. When Buddhism was introduced into the ancient Chinese society, together with Taoism and Confucianism it reformatted as Neo-Confucianism. I will be spending a great deal of the book to explore some of these ideas that helped shape my personality and my core values in early childhood.

David, my new social media manager, will be helping me with some of the promotions and web content development. Check back for more information on my my upcoming travels, details on The Chinese folk religion, Taoism, Confucianism and Buddhism. He will also be posting information about my personal likes on food, fashion, throwback Thursdays, Sobriety Saturday and weekly wrap.

I am extremely excited about this part of the spiritual journey. I can't wait to share more with you in the upcoming months about the progress of the book.