Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Love story

After almost two years of soulful romancing with Sooshians (nickname) we have decided to "come out" to our families. It was a huge step that needed plenty of courage and guts as we both came from two different backgrounds (religion, nationality, race). Sushi, as I fondly call him, is of Iranian descent, and hail from the northern part of Iran, Babolsar. Both of us met each other when we were students completing out Masters in English Literature in a local university. I've always thought that our relationship was a mystical blessing from Rumi as it was conversations about his beautiful poetry that bought us close together. The story goes that it was after class, I was reading a book on Rumi in the bus stop waiting for my transport and he was there, and then as they say, all was history (or maybe our story)

I was struggling with fears that my family would not accept and approve of him for two whole years, even spotting a short period where I was suffering from skin allergies. I had to work with my fears and to truly believe I deserve this love, this beautiful bond. I have to listen to the whispers of my heart and asks the question that matters the most "what do you really want?" I wake up every day now feeling so blessed to have this love, and my family love him.

As I am prone to worry pangs and nonsensical anxiousness, Sushi is always the rock that grounds me.

When I am too much in my head, he brings me back to my heart.

When I am delusional with sadness, anger, craziness, or any winds of emotions that rendered me powerless and vulnerable, he shows up and accepts me unconditionally.

At the end of every of our phone conversation he usually does not forget to says "Remember, I love you."

Sometimes tears welled up in my eyes when I thought about how someone could love me so unconditionally.

During these 2 years thoughts of giving up occasionally enter my mind, a mind that could not at times imagine a miracle, a higher possibility. Yet in the inner corners of my heart a voice keeps still. I was happy. I am still very happy. My head could lie to me and conjure stories so I would be consumed with fear. But the sums of all the time of our partnership says otherwise. This is a man whose companionship I truly treasure and enjoy. I must be a total fool to give us up! So I persevered, I waited.

I thought all this time I was waiting for the right moment to "come out". I was instead actually waiting to be reconnected to my true self, the self that believes love could transcend all borders. I was waiting for the parts of me that was too small to die away- those parts that was afraid of the unknown, that was afraid of being 'bigger', that was afraid of dreams and possibilities. I was waiting to be healed. I needed to remember that inside me there is already a place of wholeness and fullness, inside me I was already healed.

This relationship is no ordinary relationship. It breaks my ego apart, throw my fears to the dogs and laugh at my cowardice in my face. It challenges me to think big. It asks me the big question: are you willing to be big to love big?

I have always prayed for a soulmate relationship. I wanted the lovely parts, the romantic parts, the parts where two lovers savour each other's presence and walk along the sandy beach and kiss and hold hands. But a soulmate relationship is more than that. Yes, it gives you beauty and reawakens your zest for life. But it shakes you out of your comfort zone and throw you offguard into turbulent waves, it challenges all your preconceived notions about love, it shatters your false beliefs and rendered you helpless so you will have to pick yourself up and question every single thought that enters into your mind.

Do you want a soulmate relationship? It is intense, crazy, turbulent, chaotic and definitely not for the weak-hearted. But it is also so beautiful, so fulfilling and rewarding. If you want all of these things and more you're welcome to embrace the possibility of having your own soulmate relationship, but be warned, rocky roads lie ahead. But at the end of the day, being in the same space and breathing the same air in the same space and amidst the preciousness of togetherness, all is worth it, all is well.

There are so much I am thankful for right now. Life is beautiful, the journey has not always been a bed of roses, but learning to pick out the thorns and appreciating the flowers has kept me sane and humble.

From Yours Truly.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

King of the Sea and other creative pursuits

I went to a book reading yesterday by Malaysian writer Dina Zaman (she's called 'literary hottie' on the internet, how fabulous is that?) in UM to listen to her talk about her latest book "King of the Sea" which is a book compiled of short stories.

I expected to be starstrucked and get in line to buy her book and get her autograph while blushing and gushing like a teenage girl (long past that phase) after the discussion. (Think Justin Bieber and his girl-fans). But the friendly writer didn't give me a chance to get me starry-eyed because she caught me looking for the location of the book talk and I ended up getting us there. Yay to my inner GPS!

This lady made the coldest person fall in love with her easily, she's amiable, she's funny, she's real. I think modern society taught us to admire and fear people who have carve out a name for themselves in a creative career. We think of us as us, and them as them, artists and writers as geniuses, and we put a divide between them and us. So we expect these talented souls to be proud and a little cuckoo. Because I think secretly we're a little jealous of their success and want to sooth our egos that we're not pursuing our real passion because we're not crazy and because we're sane and we follow rules. But I am incredibly humbled as Dina has no celebrity-aura going on with her; she's like a friend who reads you stories (from her own book) around a bonfire while you bbq marshmallows. (except we had curry puffs and hot tea and air-con).

And if you have seen this lady upfront, you must read her works. For it's as good as the woman herself. I love King of the Sea, because it's a book rich with mythology and folklores, and I am a sucker for these because the magic realism always has the charm and power to draw me deep into its mystery, with its seduction of the supernatural, ambiguous setting and endings. And as much as I love mythology and legends of the ancient Egyptian and ancient Greece civilizations, I know that Malaysia has an abundant of folklores that have been passed down orally and it's not lacking in richness in comparison. It's a shame that not many scholars or writers have taken the path of writing about them, hence they got lost, or they become secondary to the things that supposedly "matters", like fighting for surival, paying the bills, putting food on the table, or going to the mall.
In sharing her works, Dina urges us to write. She says we each have stories within us, stories we've heard and collected by listening to others, by sharing our ideas. And if we don't write, the stories die with us, in us. Neil Gaiman says "I learned to write by writing. I tended to do anything as long as it felt like an adventure, and to stop when it felt like work, which meant that life did not feel like work." Maybe we really needn't worry about where writing might take us, or whether we could see these books, instead we keep on writing and see where it leads us.

For the whole of Neil Gaiman's speech click here.

I think about why I hunger for myths, for stories that seemed to have no connection to "ordinary daily living", the stories of gods and goddesses of prepatriarchal cultures, lores of the shamans and spirit animals and how they fuel my love for life, and art. Without them I shrink. Life would be barren and empty. Without myths I can no longer paint and make art. It's great that she's written this book, I could see the connection of the local folklores with the ones from a completely different time and culture. I could see that although we desperately differentiate ourselves by gender, race, religion yet underneath our psyche is the collective memory of perhaps, something ancient, primitive and even... similar.

I think about people who label themselves as belonging to a particular religion. But they don't necessarily just practice the religion and full stop. Like the Buddhist priestess I know whom works with crystals, the Malay girl who reads tarot etc. There's always that blurring of beliefs when they cross-over to look for a shaman, a bomoh, witch-doctor, healer, alternative medicines when the orthodox religion gives them no comfort. It's that longing for that sacredness, that connection, the need to believe in something, a ritual, magic, the unknown. It's ingrained within culture and there's no real split between religion and magic rituals actually. And The King of the Sea is exploring the breaching out these boundaries that organized religion so fiercely guards.

I thank people like Dina Zaman and Neil Gaiman for doing what they've been doing, and giving us invaluable tips to continue the often zigzag and unpredictable pattern of the creative journey. Creative mentors are rare gems and hard to come by, and I don't necessarily want to follow their way, but rest assured at least I can be inspired by that fighting spirit!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Breaking Dawn

After a long break from blogland, (one imposed on myself) the reason being that I've to finish my Masters dissertation, which speaks about artist and the creative process, by reading and critiquing Margaret Atwood's novels. The title for my dissertation is a funky one, "the female artist as postmodern shaman: revisioning myth and subverting identity". However much I love painting, this thesis has been in the way and I needed to get it done once and for all. It took me a little more than half a year, and here I am, after a long period of hibernating with words, journals and writing, I'm back to my first love - painting.

The feeling is one of immense relief ..... I just felt like sighing for a long time after a stressful period of reading academic journals day and night. I love literature, I love words, ideas, stories, don't get me wrong. But it's alot of head knowledge and I'm starving for heart expression. It's not that word can't do that. But in the academic world, they're not looking so much for heart knowledge. Even if it does, it must be put in an academic way to persuade that it matters. So all this time I'm in my cave with my thesis, I'm longing and longing for the freedom of expressing the unknown with paint- colours, strokes, shapes...

And I've just handed my thesis in, even though it's not yet published, but it's in the final stage... (so now I can finally rest my overfried brain, and fatigued body and mind) hehe, pardon the drama queen within me!

I'm exploring a new style of expression! There's a lot of play with multilayering and playing with the dancing movement of colours and being organic and in the flow! I'm loving it so far. Painting is healing for me. I realized if I paint, I don't need to sooth myself or indulge in comfort food. I think I'm naturally very sensitive and so making art is a great way to channel all the excessive energy and nonsensical moods!

So this new work, "Breaking Dawn" is an artwork about breaking out from the shadows of the self and being seen out in the world, and allowing myself to not know all the answers, to be ok with doubt and insecurities, to be ok with multiple choices present to me at the same time, to be just ok. With the messiness that is call LIFE.

There was FEAR (as expected by the perfectionist side of me), so much of it, before painting, during painting... of where the new style might lead me. This artwork is made up of several layers, each one foreshadowing the next one, each one supporting the next layer, each one allowing the next one to emerge and appear while also humbly allowing some elements of itself to be sacrificed...  Isn't this so much like life, the past allowing the next phase to emerge as it fades into the background, the old gives way to the new, without death there is no renewal of life.

I was just amazed by how art and life is intertwined, the lessons I am learning from art shows me my life, and my life also shows up in my art. These two are intimately interwoven.

I'm really excited about this new phase of my life that is showing up after I graduate from my Masters in English Literature. Excited and scared. To be precise.

I'm signing up for MA in art therapy in Singapore, and I'm praying, hoping, dancing under the rain in trance (this one obviously exaggerated) so that I may get in. I've a good feeling about this. Art is healing, there's no question about it. The question is, how do I support a living doing art and teaching the public how much benefit one may reap from creative expression? In a world increasingly complex and perhaps hungry for that soulfulness because it is so severely lacking, will art be one of the answer to come back within? Yes, I would love to work with the marginalized community, autistic children, senior citizens, but unless ordinary people like you and me have risen up to regain the soul from art-making, art as therapy will remained exclusively reserved for 'pathology', but its potential is far more than that, it is an access to greater spiritual heights and depth, a tool to raise awareness and for self-discovery. It is, from the most ancient of times, a tool to access the gods, and these gods are just the highest potential of us waiting to be accessed and explored.

I really envisioned a world where people consume less and create more. So we've more happy and authentic people and lesser shopaholics!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Art, Art, I Love You

Our family won a trip to Paris, and this is the very first time that we've won a price so huge that it took us by surprise! I always thought good luck happens to other people, so now I'm blessed into changing my mind. Even though I've been to Paris a couple of times, this is the first time that we went in the summer and I L-O-V-E the sun. Malaysia is summer all year long, but for a traveller, it's always best to enjoy a place without having to endure the harsh and chilly winter.

On our way to Paris, we stopped by Vienna and Budapest. I made sure my eyes are wide open to capture all the art that surrounds and breathes in corners of the city. Below: a mermaid-angel-Goddess hybrid by the riverside in Vienna.

Was lucky enough to see a graffiti artist in the midst of working his passion. He was doing a little dance to get into the feel of his work.

Street artist. So talented. I was so amazed by the ease which he exudes as he makes his artwork in the eyes of the public eye. I love the theme of his works: the majestic earth in the foreground and planets and stars revolving around. It feels out of this world. I fantasize about me painting in public. While this young man took an average of 15-20 minutes to complete one I might need a few days. I'm inspired to work more with spray paint now. I'm so surprised by the things you can do with spray paint and paper.

In Paris. Of course it's a must to snap a picture with the Eiffel Tower! Love the glamorous sunglasses!

One of my fav painter: Claude Monet. The genius who founded and led the French impressionistic art movement. I was enchanted by his paintings of the lotus pond and was amazed how his deceptively messy brushstrokes actually conveys a sense of water moving. I felt I was being taken for a pseudo boat ride as I walked along the masterpiece. I could feel the love and passion he has for his garden (in Giverny) and art, which he spent much of his time tending and painting. We were required to be very very quiet inside the art museum, and were hushed if there was slightly noisy. A very stern environment of art appreciation.

My dad who's a darling accompanied me to Musee d'Orsay even though he's not particularly interested in art and sculpture. I had to held my breath as I stood in front Van Gogh's paintings of his room in Arles and his self-portrait. He was really much too perceptive for his times. And there's fierce honesty and vulnerability in his works which I appreciate.

Pierre-August Renoir, Bal du moulin de la Galette, 1876 oil on canvas, image from and link to Musée d'Orsay. One of my favourite works from the artist. The sunlight playfully dancing and merging with the men and women in indulgent moments like this. There's a surreal lightness to the artworks, the lines are undefined, the impermanence of the moment captured. Fleeting pleasure and beauty.

Malaysia in comparison, has a very short history in art. I do hope my country is opening itself up to the awareness that art is not only for aesthetic purposes, it's a direct expression of the people's spiritual growth and identity and it demonstrates the maturity of its people in terms of self-reflection and contemplation about life and the big questions surrounding it. I look forward to the day where everywhere I go there'll be displays of artworks that invite me to contemplate and appreciate its beauty, meaning and message.

After inhaling all the painting, maybe it's time for me to exhale some of mine?

I'll be wordless and quiet in the meantime. I think it's essential for most artists to go within to look for inspiration after visually feasting on other painters' works of art. See u soon! =)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Art and Angels

Last Sunday I attended a soft pastel class conducted by a bubbly Japanese lady who's married to Malaysia, it was my last minute decision to sign up because I was worried I couldn't finish my Masters assignments. But my heart says "go, go, go!" and I have to listen to the insistent voice. Turns out that not only it was insanely fun and inspiring, I also had a creative de-stress session while I plunge my head, heart and soul into painting with soft pastel. I've never attempted that medium so was delightful to find that it's effects are dreamy and surreal.

The teacher, Yoshie (bottom right), sharing about soft pastel art while us students listen on intently. I was running around like a restless child taking pictures!

Her works, colourful manadalas. If you're familiar with Carl Jung, a psychotherapist, he says mandalas are the doorway to understanding about your SELF. I think my teacher's SELF is beaming with gorgeous-ness the way the picture is drawn here.

Adults "heart" at work, it's cute to see grown-ups (especially men) concentrating on creative expression. There's something inherently healing about making art in the presence of others, and sharing what the art and creative process means to you in a group.

I picked a card that says "beloved One" and this is my attempt to portray the kind of soul-mate relationship I envision to have and experience. Very lovey-dovey and loaded with sweetness I know. *Blush. Also, I wish for the spaciousness and growth in it too.

Me "heart" at work, drawing my own pairs of wings to get me fly high and soar! Everything you see on paper is drawn by our dainty fingers. It's a very gentle and patient approach to art I felt. If you're the impatient sort of person this really helps train you to be present in the moment and not rush the process. Anyway the process is as much rewarding as the end product. Or more.

Another student's art, she's way way too brilliant and artistic. I love the beauty that each piece of her art conveys. Speechless is a term I would use to explain my response as I savour her work.

Some of our works, proudly displayed on the wall.

I'd so much fun I couldn't stop savouring everything about the day. Art has this magical touch of uplifting your spirit and moods, and help you gain an alternative perspective if you're feeling stucked and dry. It's a reminder of the beauty you're capable of expressing, and the joy of being a creator. My next mission-get meself a box of soft pastel and start making a dreamy, happy mess!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Creative Souls Blossoming

I spent the whole day today coaching a spirited social worker that works with high-risk street kids, drug users to learn alternative art therapy so she could incorporate in her work. I felt an urge to conduct the class in nature, surrounded by trees and fresh air, away from the confinements of four walls. So we ended up in the park, our paintbrush, colours, paper all make a happy mess on the table under the shaddy tree. And I'd so much fun coaching especially when new ideas flow into my moment of inspiration when I least expected it!

Kat is lovely, she's a really curioys and enthusiastic student, and I know that fun for her is so crucial (a priority actually!) so I tried to coax her to paint using mediums other than paintbrush and crayons. She love finger painting- this is her in the process of painting her life purpose with her fingers! her favourite activity of all!

Love the bamboo tree behind her. The painter is fully engaged in her creative process!

(Below) A message from her wise self, a creative poet making poetry! Using old fashioned ink dipped pen and writing in cursive letters really channels an old-soul kind of wisdom! hehe

(Below) Kat's divine soul portrait.

Awareness exercise. I asked her to take pictures of things in the park that represents who she is. This aims to expand one's awareness. And Kat was absolutely ecstatic to be wandering around the park with my pink camera taking snapshots of pieces of beauty that we might not noticed if we didn't pay attention.

She's very observant. She shares her insight that the dead and dying leaves are nourishing the new baby plants. Life/Death/Life is always a very present cycle.

Someone's junk. But perhaps it was there to remind a passerby to pray for Japan. And to keep praying. I felt a solemn need to say a prayer when I see this.

(Below) Appreciating little beauties. With the touch of her hands perhaps the flowers could blossom even more vividly.

Eggs. Hidden from human eyes new life awaiting...

Even as the teacher my student teach and reminds me to walk free, as she paint with orange glee the message that her body needs. She's really free-spirited, and with a heart of gold, it shows in her love for her work with the marginalized community, even if the work is tiring, but she's still so passionate about serving a purpose. Her love for life and people, and her simple philosophy and wisdom that precedes her age humbles me.

It's wonderful after a day like this, I'd come home with a tired body, but my heart and spirit uplifted and inspired because I deeply love the nature of my work and the fulfillment it brings. Both of us, nature-lovers, creative spirits, big dreamers, had so much fun teaching and learning about the healing prowess of art. Who's the teacher? Who's the student? The line considerably blurred. I hope to keep doing this soul work, making this soul art. More people need to know the benefits of art, and learn the magic it promises.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Sacred Marriage

The real thing and the shadows, both complemented each other in a beautiful union.

I've been contemplating about dualities, and how most of our sufferings are stemmed by it, revolves around it, and can be healed by resolving it.

We give meanings to things, and when we perceive something as positive and another as negative, we reject the negative and want it disappear, gone, vanish. And when we perceive something as positive, we tend to want it, desire it, demand it.

We suffer when we don't get the +ve, we suffer when we get the -ve.

But most of all, we suffer because our reality is divided into this either-or dichotomy.

For example,

In my mind,

I appreciate my depth of being, and think shallowness is such a shame. So I judge someone else as shallow when he or she is not as deep as I wish them to be. It's my bimbotic self that I've rejected. But in all honesty, being constantly in the deep is like diving underwater, I'm no mermaid, so I felt suffocated if I remain there too long. It feels good once in a while to come up to breath air, and clear my head space, and it's ok to be silly and poke fun at myself and things. I have accepted that while I'm philosophical and I always dig deep for meanings, there's a part of me that's sheer nonsensical.


In the past, before I've come to self-empowerment, there are so many times when I've looked for others so that I could transfer my powers to them. Mr. Perfect used to be so intelligent and so brilliant in his studies and mouth-crackingly funny. No faults, just pure awesomeness. In comparison, my own light is dimmed. I'm not enough. Not brilliant enough, not funny enough, not beautiful enough. It's as if you're wearing a power-transfer lense in replacement of the wisdom of your soul-eyes. Either he is perfect or you are imperfect.

But when I've learn that true empowerment comes from within, the lenses broke into pieces.

Mr Perfect is just half divine, half human. Half human now because you see that while he's funny, he might be using humor or words to cover other insecurities. While he's brilliant, he can also bask too much in the glory of his mind to be down to earth. Half divine because you acknowledge that this person has so much potential and so much beauty, even in his flaws and imperfections, scars and wounds. You see that if he gets down to business to heal his shadows, his gifts emerge and he'll be awaken to be a powerful and compassionate human being.

Can a man only be strong or vulnerable? Can a man be both? Will you appreciate or trust someone who only has one side of that, either fully strong or fully vulnerable?

I'll appreciate someone who is both strong and vulnerable, because that's balanced..

I'm saddened when I heard men tell me that it's a men's world, and you've to fight to stay in the battlefield. You've to put up a tough front, survival skills, be macho. And you know these men are bitter and angry because they aren't allowed to experience their vulnerability.

Can you understand why this world is so tired, so stressed, so unhappy? Because we're coerced and manipulated to think we can only choose to be one side of the coin.

So all you can do is to love him. love the differences. Love you, Love yourself. Because whatever shadows he has you have too. All the people have them. And I have them too.

I'm my shadows and my gifts.

So what heals the dichotomies, the binaries, the dualities?

In healing that split in the mind, to love both and to appreciate both and see them as one, one cannot exist without the other. The union and acceptance of the opposites is what heals.

I'm craziness and sanity.

I'm devilish and angelic.

I'm childish and mature.

I'm foolish and wise.

I'm selfish and selfless.

I'm dirty-minded and pure.

I'm narrow and open.

I'm my body and my mind.

I'm soulless and soulful.

I'm full and empty. The lists goes on... and on.

I'm all the above and none of the above.

The union and marriage of the opposites lift the burden of separation in my heart. When I married all my inner opposites, I no longer battle them and peace persists. Perhaps if the world heal the illusions of separation, there'll no longer be battle of the sexes, or religious wars, or warring of any kind.

No more me vs you.

Just a reconnection.

Of Me=you. One= All. All= One.