Day 236 in Beijing: Masjid Selat Melaka, Part 1

Simplicity and beauty combined.

Simplicity and beauty combined.

Jill and I had read about an amazing mosque in Melaka that was built over the Melaka straits and we knew we wanted to visit it before we left.

We’d been running around, a lot, on this trip and hadn’t had much down time and we were thinking of skipping it.

The pool at our airbnb apartment was nice and relaxing and the weather was hot and humid.

We looked at the pros and cons of skipping the Masjid Selat Melaka and decided that we’d probably regret not going and we could sit in the pool on another day.

We are both so glad that we decided to visit that Masjid Selat Melaka.

If I only had one word to describe it, it would be, “beautiful.”

I’ve seen some of beautiful architectural sites of the world including Big Ben, The London Bridge (and it wasn’t falling down, by the way), The Golden Gate Bridge, and The Sydney Opera House, The Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia in Istanbul.

I’d have to say it was equal to some of those because it was so simple and yet so perfect.  There wasn’t a wasted piece of space and there was a large amount of open space that allowed the mosque to feel fresh and peaceful.

We both loved the sounds of the water crashing below it and the waves moving slowly by us as we stood out on the deck that surrounds the masjid.

The people were incredibly friendly and, as we stopped at the entrance and looked around, a gentleman walked up and asked, “Would you like to go inside?”  We responded we would and he told us that Jill would need to wear the hijab and I would have to pull my shorts down to cover my knees.

Jill went to put it on and a few women helped her with it since it is quite tricky.  She told them, “I respect anyone that is wearing this because it is so hot!”  The women nodded and smiled.

The hijab that Jill wore was made of nylon and didn’t seem to allow the body to breathe much at all.  These seemed to be used to at the mosques because so many people, and especially tourists, borrow them and they would wear out very quickly if they were made of a softer material.

I wore one later on our trip and I felt the same way. as Jill.  This was especially evident when I pulled the hood over my head to see what it would feel like to cover up as many women in Malaysia do.

Most of the women we saw on our every day travels wore very light hijabs that seemed to allow for the body to breathe more and didn’t seem to be uncomfortable.  I have no idea about the burqa because I didn’t speak to anyone wearing those on my travels so far.

After being fitted, the man walked Jill back to me and took a picture of us together.  It is actually one of my favorite pictures of our travels because we are in front of a gorgeous mosque, over the water, in a beautiful country and we are learning about Malaysia, Islamic customs and doing our best to fit in and also express who we are as individuals.

I was a little worried about wearing a Bear Republic Brewery t-shirt into the mosque since drinking alcohol is forbidden in the Islamic religion but no one seemed to mind and it is  fun to wear a shirt from my hometown while traveling to far and distant lands.

As we walked around the mosque, people would smile and greet us kindly.  They often wait for us to take our pictures and we did our best not to interfere with anyone who was praying or trying to take pictures of their own.


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Day 232 in Beijing: New Year’s Day.

I apologize for jumping around regarding dates, times and locations of my blog posts.

I tend to write my blogs about a week or two in advance because I don’t want to miss any days.

Being that I have a full time job and a full time life, if I wrote each blog, each day, I’d fall behind and forget what the heck I had written about, want to write about and will write about.

I’d also have stacks and stacks of photos sitting in my folders and unused because I don’t have the time to edit them in that moment.

This is especially true when I go on vacation or travel.

Lastly, the internet connections are not always reliable so it also interferes with my ability to do timely blog posts.

Therefore, this is a blog post about how I spent my New Year’s Day evening.

As you know, we celebrated New Year’s Eve in Singapore watching the fireworks down by the Marina Float with about 200,000 of our “closest” friends.  There was an 8 minute fireworks display and I’ve now seen NYE fireworks in the USA, Australia, Japan, and Malaysia.  I will see the Chinese New Year’s fireworks in just week from now in Beijing.  I’m looking forward to it although I’m a bit apprehensive of the 10 days of sleepless nights when fireworks are continually exploding all around the city.

Jill and I were wandering around Singapore on New Year’s Day and just relaxing.

We had spotted the Thekchen Choling Buddhist Temple about two blocks away from our hotel and since we were visiting temples, mosques and churches on this visit, we decided to stop by and see what was happening.

Luckily enough, they were having a special chanting session since it was the start of the lunar new year that day!

Jill, being the person she is, had people walk up to her and start talking to her as we waited.  A few people talked to me also but I was sitting on the men’s side of the aisle while she was closer to the door and sitting on the women’s side of the aisle.

As I was talking to someone, Lama Thubten Namdrol Dorje Tulku walked up beside Jill and talked to her for a few moments.  He then handed her a book that he had written.  He had just returned from learning with His Holiness The 14th Dalai Lama and had a feeling of such calm and peace that it emanated from him.

The book, Direct Expressions, is wonderful.  I read it on our bus ride up to Melaka a few days later.  I highly recommend it as it is based in mindfulness and caring for your fellow human being and, in what seems to be part of the Buddhist tradition, very humorous and jovial terms of language and belief.  It also shows great respect for the beliefs and traditions of Buddhist life.

One man started playing a drum and ringing a bell to announce the start of the chanting. People that had been wearing shorts and tshirts just a few minutes before, appeared in gorgeous black or orange robes and sat down in the chairs around us.

Here is a quick video of the call to chant:

The chanting started and the Lama sat by the drum.  He looked around a few times and as he rose to move to a different position I saw him smile.  He seems to be a genuinely happy person.

One reason I’m interested in Buddhism is that behavioral therapy has recently been adapting Buddhist ideology into its practice.  This is where the idea of acceptance and choice is so apparent in the work that I do with my clients and the work I do on myself:  I can choose to make a change, which will cause suffering of one type, or stay the same, which will cause suffering of another type.

If I choose to stay the same, I accept that I am making this choice and try to do so without regret, guilt or other emotions that would cause negative reactions.  Or, if those emotions appear, notice them, welcome them and then let them go and continue on my way.

I mention that either changing or not changing will cause suffering because to live is to suffer.

This may sound like a terrible idea but it is actually quite freeing.  I know that I will suffer, and the suffering will end, so I can use that to continue, move through the suffering, and know that suffering will come again and be ready for the experience.

I love my mom.  However, when she dies, I will suffer.  I will suffer for the things unsaid, the things said and everything in between.  This is life.  I can do the most I can to make sure she knows I love her (and I know she’s reading this blog so I know she will see this) but there is only so much.  Life is impermanent and so the ability to cherish what we have now, in the present, and let go of the past and fears of the future, allow us to be truly alive.

The ability to live in the now is all we truly have because we can die at any moment.  Again, this can be a terrifying reality or it can be an enlivening one.  I choose to be excited by this belief because this means I can cherish, and relish, each and every moment I’m alive.  I live with the feeling of joy and excitement at what each day will bring and where I will go.

As the chanting continued, the kind man sitting next to me kept showing me the words, in Chinese and and in English, that they were chanting but since I don’t speak Chinese I didn’t understand them and just listened and tried to take in the feeling of calm and comfort.

We stayed for about half of the chanting and then quietly got up and left.  I felt some guilt at leaving because it seemed to be so relaxing and generous of them to welcome us.  However, I realized this was just an emotion and I had enjoyed my time, and hoped that the people with me had enjoyed theirs, and that was how life continues to be.

I’ve posted two videos of the chanting.  The first is in normal speed and the second goes into double time:

and later the chants are done in double time:


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Day 228 in Beijing: Linear and Circular Spectrum.

Make your choice and see what you can become.  The options are endless.

Make your choice and see what you can become. The options are endless.

I am often asked by people about how to be happy in their job, their relationships and their life.

My belief system is grounded in behavioral therapy and has been further adapted to include other methodologies and mindfulness.

This does not mean it has a religious or spiritual belief behind it but that each moment is impermanent and we have a choice to live our lives, by choosing our thoughts and behaviors, which affect our emotions, each nanosecond that we live on this planet.

I used to search for jobs, friendships and relationships that would be “the one.”  The more I looked, the more I found that no matter how much I believe one job is better than another, one person is better than another or that “this new thing” will allow me to be happy, I was incorrect.  My hypothesis was that something else would make me happy when I wasn’t willing to do the hard work to re-frame my automatic negative thoughts and my biases to the outside world.  I wanted everyone else to change instead of realizing that it is my fault, in a very positive way, for each and every interaction that I have and what the outcome will be to that interaction.

We all have this ability to be exactly who we are and what we are right now.

We are that job we don’t like, which is a job someone else would love to have.

We are that person we hate, who is that person someone else would love to love.

We are all those things that we despise.

I was the thing I despised because of my ego and my insecurities.

In the end, we may just be specks of dust and atoms that scatter back into the universe.

This is exceptionally freeing to me because that means I can live my life with less regret and less pressure to have to “be something” or “prove something” that doesn’t really count in the long term.

This allows me to take on as many roles, and personalities, as I want and make changes whenever I choose to make them.

Many people I know see their life or their life choices as a linear spectrum.

They see it as a flat line that goes in one direction.

There is good on one end and bad on the other.

I prefer to take the ends of those lines and bend it into a circle.  I see it as those ends are not the opposite.  They are actually very close together and can oftentimes be interchanged.

I’m not saying that every US president is the same but, in many ways, they are probably not that different when you look at it:  both human, both “male”, both work in politics, both think they are doing the right thing, both believe they are chosen to lead, etc.

I recently went swimming with sharks in Malaysia.  Some were about 3 feet long and I was right beside them without any protection.  I also went skydiving after I received my Marriage and Family Therapist License as a way to prove to myself that fear and anxiety are lies and I have a choice to overcome what I choose to overcome.  I continue to do that every second of my life and love how my mind and body respond to the mastery of a new skill.

I feel it is my responsibility to take the positive in me and let it flow into what I do.  If I don’t, I then encourage negative energy from other people to build and take control of my life.

I encourage you, in your own way and style, to be willing to feel the fear in new adventures, to make mistakes, and to revel in the changes that result.


Day 203 in Beijing: The War on Christmas?

If you watch certain American media outlets, or read newspapers by them, there seems to be a number of people worried about a hypothetical “War on Christmas” back home.

I’m utterly confused how one can have a war on a holiday that is made up but hat is just me.

Think about it: A dude that flies around in a sleigh with a bunch of reindeer and circumnavigates the entire Earth in less than 24 hours.  This includes people who don’t believe in Santa Claus, or have never herad of him, and he still gives them gifts.

That sounds like a pretty cool guy that no one would want to go to war with.  He also doesn’t sound like anyone that would go to war, either.

One of the issues that often comes up by people who believe that there is a “War on Christmas” is that other religions are trying to take away Christmas as a holiday and make it their own or destroy it.

The fact is I live in Beijing, China and am vacationing in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, right now.

According to “The War on Christmas” folk, these nations should hate Santa Claus and everything that he represents.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

China is supposedly a Communist nation that doesn’t believe in religion.  This isn’t really true because of Buddhism but we will ignore that point for now.

China spends so much money and time on Christmas that it all people need to do is visit and they will lose all fears of a war breaking out anywhere.  The people here LOVE Christmas and everything about it.  It is probably more like Christmas here than it is back in the USA.  The Chinese have more fun and less anxiety about Christmas because they love buying things and giving gifts.

Maybe we all could learn how to respect the Christmas spirit and give a little more to the needy?

In Kuala Lumpur, as you can see by the pictures, there are Christmas trees everywhere. Remember, it is about 90 degrees with 90% humidity so it isn’t like Santa is going to be flying in and landing in the snow here anytime soon.

If anything, I’d worry he’d get heat stroke and die with his big heavy coat.

Listen up, folks:  The Commies in China, and the Muslims in Malaysia, love Christmas and Santa Claus.  So, if you believe in Santa, and Christmas, relax a little bit and feel safe that nobody here wants a war.  Let alone, a War on Christmas.

I think that all people want is a little peace, love and holiday cheer.

Isn’t that what the Christmas spirit is supposed to be about anyway?

If you agree that it is, please donate to a charity or help people in need.

I have a friend that would be such a person.

Her name is Mary Resenbeck and she is stuck in an isolation ward in a hospital in San Diego.  She has diverticulitis and is having a very difficult time.

She has developed C-Diff because of the antibiotics and can not even hold, or breastfeed, her newborn 3 month old baby, Gracie.

She and her husband, Doug, have 5 children and neither of them can work at this point since Doug is taking care of the children himself.  Gracie is staying with family members since she is so young.

They have insurance but it will not cover everything they need, let alone the basic necessities that they have during this time and the months to come.

Mary may be in the hospital for months to come, as she heals, and then needs surgery to fix the ruptures in her colon and reattach it.  This is no small problem and not a quick fix.

This is the reality of life.  People need help and, if we have the means, we can choose to help them.

I donated this morning and hope you will also.

Please follow this link and help her out.  It explains her whole story and is touching and powerful that what I posted here.

Please make it a Merry Christmas for Mary, Doug and the rest of her family.