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: