I have once again been fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time (thank you Universe!) as the two-week Chinese New Year celebrations kicked off just after I arrived in Penang, Malaysia. With Chinese comprising about half the population of Penang, it is the perfect place to experience this crazy, colourful, chaotic event. I was staying in Georgetown which is all decked out for the holidays. There are red lanterns adorning every street, and giant sticks of incense burning outside the numerous Chinese temples and clan houses in the area. Lion dances regularly take place outside the temples to the rhythm of deafening drums. Fireworks explode over the city at all hours of every night. The Esplanade in Georgetown also serves as a focal point for much for the festivities, which is apparent from the visuals on display there for the holiday period. On the street side, hundreds of hand-made paper hot-air balloons hang from the arches of a pretty walkway – they are individually painted and decorated, and, along with the red lanterns, truly make for an enchanting setting when all lit up after darkness falls. On the other side of the park by the water, there is an installation with big colourful plastic statues of the twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac. As we are entering the Year of the Monkey, the monkey statues are given center stage. I was born in the Year of the Monkey, so I was excited to be coming into my own year – until I learned that this can actually bring bad luck! Guess I’d better be extra careful this year…
You can be happy, right here, right now.
It is possible to summon a feeling of joy in every single moment, no matter where you are or what you’re doing.
And if it is possible to consciously create a joyful moment, doesn’t it then follow that you can bring that practice that to every moment and create a joyful life?
Yes, it does! Keep reading to find out how.
My first stop in Malaysia was a short visit to the capital city, Kuala Lumpur. And as luck (or the Universe) would have it, this trip just happened to coincide perfectly with a Tamil Hindu festival I hadn’t heard of – Thaipusam! Turns out this one is a pretty big deal in the Hindu calendar, and is also renowned for being a particularly gruesome event. Over the course of the weekend I was fortunate enough to witness devout Hindus going to extreme lengths to demonstrate their faith or to seek favour from Murugan, the Hindu God of War to whom the festival is devoted. The experience was extraordinary to witness, and has given me a bounty of food for thought about the personal choices and sacrifices people make in the name of their faith, and why.
Warning: If you’re of a sensitive disposition, there are some pretty intense (although blood-free) images of facial and body piercing below – proceed at your own risk!
As my time in Ko Lanta draws to close (for now at least), I realised I’ve been holding back a bit from you guys. I’ve talked a little bit before about how difficult it can be to really open up and put myself out there publicly through a blog. This is a continual work in progress for me, not just on this site but on social media too. I’m generally always lurking around in the background but have never been one to post every step of my daily life online. I’m more a once-a-month than a once-a-day kinda gal. This is definitely on my “needs improvement” list, but right now it means that I haven’t shown you nearly enough of just how idyllic life on this island is.
From my last post you might be forgiven for thinking that life on Lanta is a never-ending party. Well I guess you wouldn’t be entirely wrong; there is always a party to go to with fantastic people if and when you’re in the mood. However, my most profound and rewarding moments on this beautiful island have come when I have withdrawn from the crowd to sit with my Self and embrace the serenity of solitude.
You might have noticed that all has been quiet on the Happy Chanter front for the last couple of weeks. My excuse for that comes in the form of my lovely friend Emily who came to visit for the holiday season, kicked up a party storm on the island, and left a series of hangovers in her wake. To be fair, I welcomed the opportunity to consciously step back from anything resembling work and have a bit of a holiday myself. Days, evenings and nights spent on the beach, basking, swimming, singing, eating, drinking, dancing… It was an absolute blast, and I wouldn’t change any of it. Well, except maybe that last SangSom bucket on Saturday night… That was the final straw as my body finally gave up, said NO, and the 6 day party binge left me suffering from vertigo and fatigue for 4 days in the run up to New Year’s Eve. That part wasn’t quite so much fun.
Ho-ho-hooo! Christmas is nearly upon us and I’m sure some of you out there are looking for some last minute gift ideas. With that in mind, I’ve put together a list of some of my favourite spiritual resources which are all just a click away on Amazon* to avoid that last minute scramble around the shops! If you know anyone who might appreciate this airy-fairy stuff, or even if you’ve enjoyed my last couple of posts and would like treat yourself to your own gift and delve a little deeper into the concepts I’ve talked about, I have gotten huge value out of each item below and think any one of them would make a fantastic stocking filler.
After posting about how I started chanting, I’ve had a few comments from you guys asking for more information about nam myoho renge kyo, what it means and how to try it out. I’m delighted to see some interest in this practice and I can’t wait to hear how you get on! Why not even try out the 21 Day Challenge and keep each other posted there??
As for the questions you’ve been asking, well there is already enough information in the About NMRK pages to get started, so you should check those out. It all ties into a much bigger picture though, each element of which will be fleshed out in future posts. But for now, I thought it would be helpful to provide a general overview of what I think it’s all about and how it actually works.
Since I set out on this journey, launching this blog and telling more and more people about nam myoho renge kyo, people have often asked me how exactly this chanting practice has impacted upon my life? How does it work? What exactly does it do for you? There is no easy answer to the bigger questions; in fact, my attempts to understand the cosmic mechanisms at play will make up the main focus of this blog. But for now I’d like to answer the first question at least, by telling you the story of the very first change that manifested in my life, and in myself, after I started chanting. There are two threads to this story which will come together, so bear with me…
It has officially been one month since I arrived on Ko Lanta. I know, I can’t believe it either! Time really does fly…
Apart from finally managing to get my Abu Dhabi trip all written up and posted, it might seem to you that I’ve been sitting back, taking it easy, and not getting much in the way of “work” done. Well, you’re not entirely wrong. But you know what? I’m not beating myself up about it. Not any more anyway.
See, during my year of intense student life, every single minute spent doing anything other than burying my nose in a book was riddled with guilt. There was always that feeling of “I should be doing <something>”, no matter how much I’d already done that day or week. That kind of guilty auto-response is probably familiar to a lot of people, whether you’re a student or a worker or a parent or just a person. And this is exactly the kind of automatic response-to-self that I am trying to escape, and that I have realised is unnecessary, pointless and even harmful. Harmful to your own sense of happiness and well-being. Why is it that we condition ourselves to berate ourselves far easier than patting ourselves on the back – or even simply giving ourselves a break?