The Melancholia of Transition

 

img_1179Jomson, Mustang, Nepal 2014

“To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest. To live fully is to be always in no-man’s-land, to experience each moment as completely new and fresh. To live is to be willing to die over and over again.” ~ Pema Chodron

The hardest thing in having the habit of living like a nomad is that you are constantly feeling in transition. Often feeling not exactly there.

2015 feels transitory for me, it is a year where it takes me to go beyond my comfort zone and trying new things. Completely new things. Testing my own limit. Going through the different sense of things beyond my reach. It has been giving me all the biggest lessons. It has shown me my capability and also my weakness. My constant travel also teach me something that we all should be careful not to burn out along our journey. That stopping is necessary. That a rest is always good. Even crying your eyes out sometimes. Asking for help. All is necessary.

I wish I could start to write something more uplifting in this beginning of the year, but this writing become more like a reflection.

It become something that I ask myself the fundamental questions about home, when you are constantly moving around. When your comfort feeling often when you just see yourself carrying only one bag in a journey. Then you suddenly feel home. Alone with just one bag. Walking to some unknown destination.

***

Death has been a constant blow in my life. Death, I realised can come in many forms. Death has often mark of a cycle for me in life. Last month, my most respected teacher, Benedict Anderson passed away in Batu Malang. I am supposed to submit an obituary writing for him and I haven’t started yet. The thing is, Ben teach me how to live.

My last email correspondence with Ben was about going to India. And I managed to be back in India again last year.

Pause.

The draft of this piece was done in January 2016. Fast forward, I’m continuing this writing in November 2016.

And its start to turn out what November feels. What 2016 for me feels.

I was back to Northern India again in March 2016, to pause a bit, to breath a little bit to things that brought back my sanity. I couldn’t continue my writing before hand. Now, I am on my last night in Saigon and found myself back to this blog.

This year, I ended back in Jogjakarta. I realised after trying to figure out what is the relationship I have with this ancient spot for the last fourteen years, is to also realised its old adapted name, Ayodhya. I missed this fact somehow along this journey to understand better the meaning of having home. To grow rooted.

While 2015 feel transitory, it is exactly in these melancholia that I felt in the shift within myself. The soft breaking of my own walls while staying in India. To stake my own heart once again. To go deeper again than ever before.

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Dharamsala Tibetan Archive, Dharamsala, North India, 2015

I had to go back to Dharamsala in October 2015, to be reminded again where all these journey of the open heart started four years ago. I openly grief and let go of the loss of my parents, letting things go for new spaces to come. I ended up feeling disoriented for a while. And the tinge of melancholia hanging in the air. But I manage not to get overwhelmed by it, since I know already all the things that I need to do to handle it.

I did not plan to take more journey this year. But seems the fact of always having a nomadic streak is just something I need to accept in my life. I end up in different places: Lombok. Gili. North India. Singapore. Toraja. Cambodia. Vietnam. Though seriously you would find me most at home nowadays, even revamping the space after going through so many years of trying to organised a proper home. I end up chucking 70 percent of my things, start a new restaurant venture with my best friend, organised a bi-weekly secondhand market which ended up being a community hang out. While our restaurant, at its best, starting become one of Jogjakarta communal living room. I am finding myself more in the kitchen, from cooking, managing and hosting things. I notice I wrote more while I am travelling solo. And I do these in and out nowadays. Seeing the fluctuation of my energies, those moments when I need to recharge myself and moments when I need to show up for others.

I lost two important person this year too. One is our first restaurant customer, Budi, he was only 28. Another one is one of my really good friend, Chindy Tanjung, she died before turning 40. If Ben Anderson teach me to live, Chindy teach me how to hope. Her best reminder is left at my son’s name, Asabhumy. She add Asa years back when I was still pregnant with Bhumy. Asa literally means hope.

I learn to go through my grief. Keep opening my heart to also celebrate death and all the values behind it. And I see death has the ability to transform so many things. I change my relations with death. It has been a decade since my mother passed away. In all my transitory state, I accept that giving time and space heals everything.

I took the heart to face and not turn away my face in seeing the darkness anymore. Lessons while travelling in Cambodia and Vietnam, flow like water. Being in Vietnam the last few days, the attack of nostalgia is strong. As strong as remembering all my love ones in a bite of food.

In the cold air of the mountain.

And in every breath I take in feeling alive. Here and now.

Kathmandu: Kopan Monastery Calling

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How do you define a calling? You never did.

Studying at a Catholic school for eleven bloody years. Growing up in a country where the Moslem population is the biggest in the world. Ending up in the high peaks of sacred ancient temples of the Hindu or Buddhist from another civilization. Finding yourself in some shamanistic journey of different tribes in forgotten interiors. You would start question what do you seek in this world?

You feel you are not all that religious being brought up in one of most mixed up family in one of the most mixed up environment, a so called Indonesian, but always puzzled with your own background when they asked you where do you really come from? Those background already at least take 15 to 30 minutes explanation, let alone when they ask you what you believe in?

***

For me all of this issues are personal. In this age of confusion, religious or not, spiritualist or not, atheist or theistic or agnostic, whatever, I most feel that our sickness is the sickness of the heart. Often we don’t know what to do with our own heart. To build our walls around it or to keep it open to the world.

I personally don’t know how I ended up hanging out with the Tibetan Buddhist monks. Back in Indonesia or in Tibet or in Kathmandu. Stumbling and finding myself in the many Tibetan quarters. In New Delhi, Dharamsala, inside China, in Tibet and now in Nepal. Some people say I look like one. I don’t know. I stop defining how I look ages ago. As long as a person is not making a racist comment, I go along just fine. It is maybe the nomadic nature of the Tibetan that somehow have some personal connection to my soul. In short maybe I was Tibetan in my previous life.

Though, in May 2014, thinking that I would spend the Vesak day somewhere in Borobudur temple in Central Java or in one of the biggest Buddhist temple in Trowulan, where the old Hindu kingdom was, I ended up flying to Nepal and apply to a 10 days of meditation retreat in the Kopan Monastery. On Vesak day, where they celebrated the Buddha’s birthday, I saw the Boudanath stupa from the high hill of Kopan Monastery, seeing the lights and festive from quiet a far. I remember that night was silent and I seek for the stars and one of the biggest super moon of this year shine from above. The same fullmoon where 2600 years(?) ago that Siddharta Gautama become Buddha under a bodhi tree.

IMG_0864Sunrise at Kopan Hill

IMG_0894Kopan Monastery main hall

I was sitting in the Kopan Monastery hall with around 80 other people from all over the world. Each with their own purpose, questions and process as a seeker in life. Some are so young in age, some are in the mid-life, some are easy going, some are serious. The background was so diverse, it is so interesting how this groups actually made off. We spend days hearing Introduction to Tibetan Buddhism, spending half days in silence and full silence on the last two days, doing meditation and walking meditation, doing discussion on the some major questions in life and share each other experiences, and in some other times just having good time sharing food or travel stories. One Morrocon friend spend his days with his roomies, one a Jew, one an Indian Hindu, one a Christian and they all somehow met in the Tibetan Buddhist monastery. I end up hugging a stranger in one afternoon and she turn to be the only other Indonesian of the whole group. She was crying in that point and ended up laughing out loud with this universal joke. The whole experience has enrich part of my heart and I can feel the beat has somehow calm down than its usually are.

IMG_0442Spending 10 days here :) Sharing the space with 3 other girls

IMG_0912Sharing lunch with the girls

IMG_0467Voluntary yoga sessions on the hill

There are some of major questions in my life that had been answer without me asking my own questions. I found myself doing yoga in the morning because we agreed to have some short class in one the hill of the monastery. I was so thankful with the shared experience. I found a lot of talk session with myself. Looking at the moon at the top of the building late at night and be grateful with all the things in life that had brought me there. It is somehow like counting my blessing and being thankful for all the people who had somehow guided me here.

IMG_0911Initiation session on final day

My major lesson in Kopan was about wisdom and compassion, how it has to go together in order to work. How it is supporting each other. My Morrocon friend, who later become my somehow sangha brother, at the end of our journey decided to get the same tatto reminder in one of the studio in Freak Street. Three weeks ago he managed to message me and said that our two names means the same, Reda and Reza, which means “he/she who prays”. I end up laughing hard in the many coincidences in life that is actually making patterns in my daily life.

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IMG_0693Reda, me and our Nepali tatto artist, Sanjay

Post Kopan session, it was not only a calling anymore, it was a real test in going back to the real wild world outside the monastery gate. Finding peace in the middle of a chaotic world and meditate your mind in the ongoing fast pace changing world is a challenge. I realized that this path is the way of going to the deepest mystery of the human heart. May peace be upon us all.

Om Mune Mune Maha Munaye Soha

Om Tare Tuttare Ture Soha

The Journey of Finding Home

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Banyuripan teak forest – our future home, Bangunjiwo, Jogjakarta

In so many ways, everybody need to find their own home. My life has been quiet random in the terms of the places I live in. Since 2012, I had the 10 years itch to move somewhere else. I had lived in Jogjakarta for the last 12 years. A city that I fall in love with since I was 18 years old. A city where I found my skills, gain my knowledge, belonging to communities, finding my ancestral roots, meeting all the beautiful people I love, fall in love, break my heart, again and again, where I deliver my son into the world, finish my degree after 8 years, a city where I build and rebuild my life, over and over. A city where I am most comfortable with. But also a city where I know I would not grow from it anymore. Jogjakarta is my comfort zone and everything has become too easy. Although I am at the utmost grateful with this beloved city, where I feel I answered part of my ancestry calling.

This feeling were answered in the moments I had in Tsuglag Khang Monastery when I went to Dharamsala back in 2012. I had nearly forgotten my travel passion due to all the family matters, motherhood and a faltering marriage. I was kinda lost for a while. Knowing too well that I’m actually best when I’m on the move. That my life energy is based on movement. My ways of grounding myself is often when I’m flying all over the place, doing yoga or just stare at the sea for hours (that goes for mountains too).

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The magical waterfalls of Pupuan, Tabanan, Bali

Photo courtesy of Labodalih Sembiring

Last year I tried to move to Bali, where I live in a beautiful mountain for nearly 7 months. It is a process of slowing down everything in my life. A process of cracking the nutshell to grow. The process to find the blooming of my own heart. It was a process of mirroring each other in the eyes of someone else. It was the process of opening the heart. It was about patient, resilience and perseverance. It is a process to know the right timing for every single thing naturally, something that I’m not so good at. But I learned. The hard way.

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Asabhumy on the way to Kethek Temple, Cetho, Solo

Then, it is my son. It was not easy to move permanently without slowly adjusting about his life and mine. Our own needs and our space. I decided not to go that fast this time. Though Bali stayed as our second home forever. We love Bali and its beautiful nature. His ancestral place and my love affair forever with the island which I need to answer myself. Somehow I’m starting to found Bali as my working base to be, very soon :)
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Me and Asabhumy chilling in Nusa Ceningan, Bali

Despite all things, I’m in my second trip back in Kathmandu this year. Where I found the gracious pace of Tibetan old ladies doing the kora in Boudanath had calm my mind and help me to keep my creative juice flowing through my writings. My days in Indonesia in 2014 were so intense that I need another break from it. I’m currently also helping my friend, Anggi Frisca, who managed itinerary adventurous trips around Indonesia and also Nepal, do check it out and contact them if you want to go to Everest Base Camp this year and next year: http://www.rokaora.com (ROKAORA)
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Tibetan Ladies doing the kora, Boudanath Stupa, Kathmandu, Nepal

I’m currently feeling so home staying around Boudanath Stupa this time. Of course I will share more on all the stories of the Himalayan regions since last year, so stay tune on this blog :) Bless all of you

Om Mane Padme Hum

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Boudanath Stupa under the moonsoon, Kathmandu, Nepal

yogyakarta: how navicula impress a four year old boy

P1060062navicula performing at sangkring art space

navicula was in town last weekend. they had their show in sangkring art space on friday night and the next day a concert for solarizing borobudur event of greenpeace indonesia. it was great to see the whole crew and see them performing live. such a vibrant, amazing, positive energy throughout all their concerts. their great lyrics and important message for all of us. the music that move your body, heart and soul. and might as well shake the earth to dance as well.

the gig in sangkring was a full house. my son turn out to be a grunge fan. joining the gig crowd in the trusted shoulders of his uncles and enjoying the show. bhumy is somehow smitten for that particular night. becoming the youngest and biggest fan of navicula overnight. throwing questions and stories about harimau (tiger), orang utan and his name himself, bhumy (bumi, the earth). i’m currently seeing him singing the lyrics, head banging with his imaginative guitar while making this post. i hope it will grow his conscience to learn more about taking care our planet and i’m personally hoping that his generation can see still all the animals mention before.

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bhumy and his first navicula gig | full performance on stage | bhumy seriously watching the concert on my shoulder | uncle rahung with bhumy | a satisfied navicilik after the concert

then again, before the concert started, navicula played their short preview of “mata harimau” done by @rahung in their last borneo tour. it is devastating to see how all our rainforest has gone and converted to palm oil plantation. click the video, to watch it yourself.

i seriously hope, we still can act and hope for a better planet.

maybe a small act, to change out daily consumption seems small. but i believe in doing the small things. navicula made their latest merchandise by making soap from coconut oil as a statement against palm oil. for a mother and a cook myself, changing my daily cooking oil to coconut oil is never a hard thing to do. the generations of women in my family had always used them and will always will be. the tradition of southeast asian diet to use coconut oil is going back through all out traditional roots and it is ALWAYS healthy. get your readings right, black campaign of american palm oil companies on coconut oil, is the biggest lie of the 20th century.

P1060199environmental friendly packaging

P1060200navicula coconut oil based soap comes in three flavours: arak madu, java mocha and kretek spice

my son called them “the orang utan soap”, happily use them to take his bath this morning before going to school. it is a great way to start the day. SAY NO to PALM OIL!

kaliandra: teaching of dagpo lama rinpoche

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it was my first tibetan teaching ever. it was a lot of coincidence. i heard and had the invitation to join the event from jean-pascal. ending up taking the bus with jean-pascal and mbak yani to leduk pasuruan with a lot of buddhist student, sort off in the middle of nowhere. having the weirdest conversation with mbak yani about life and ending up in this trip. i haven’t seen her for years.

arriving at night at a huge resort ground name kaliandra. it’s like suddenly being in the woods sort of feel. up in the mountain area where everything had the freshest feel. the smell of rain was still there.

we slept with the buddhist student in a wooden villa (it remind me of japanese design), we were divided with the girls students. jean-pascal had to walk a little bit up further of the villa area. had the best dinner with all the organic vegetables, i got introduce by jean-pascal with the monks, a couple of them are from tibet and most of them are from their center in bandung, west java.

the next morning, everything was all green. me and mbak yani visit jean-pascal villa which are very nice and we truly feel walking among the green woods. some of the architecture in the area looks to be adapting the majapahit era with all the red bricks and stone statues. and amazing beautiful italian palladeo. for the first time, finding them in indonesia that look wow (not just imitating the design and look cheap). the food was the most freshest.

we went in for the teaching. i can feel i was a little nervous somehow. i didn’t even realize that i was sitting next to rio helmi, an indonesian senior photographer. dagpo lama rinpoche enter the room, everyone bow down. his very first word were “it is not a coincidence that we are all gather here. the accumulation of your good karma has bring you back here. and this is not the first time that all of us could gather like this. this has already happen before and i’m glad to see all of you again.” that first five minutes that i felt that i suddenly wanted to burst to tears. those words just hit me deep.

tibetan chant made me lost to another world with a such familiar feeling. rio was next to me sharing the text of the tibetan mantra and the chant. funny to find that he was before the translator of the lama. the first day we had the teaching of bodhicitta translated from tibetan to english and indonesian. a mandala offering was done and a white tara blessing done the next day. everyone wore a traditional javanese clothing. and i had my first white tara blessing in my white kebaya and my son’s batik cloth that i carry everywhere when i travel.

no matter absurd i felt being in pasuruan. being in an italian paledeo of tropical garden and javanese mountain landscape. wearing javanese attire for a tibetan teaching. i am thankful for this chance. o, dagpo lama rinpoche. dharmakirti. atisha dipankara.

om mane padme hum. may all the blessing felt by every single being.

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lama dagpo rinpoche | tibetan monk making an offering | walking for the teaching | the tibetan prayer flag | me and jean pascal | the mandala offering

new year’s finding at milas

 

today was parent’s meeting at milas’s playgroup. it was our first new year’s meeting. suprisingly at the end of the meeting, there are buckets of milas craft being on sale. so all the ibu-ibu went crazy. how could you resist the temptation of old batik handmade at 1000 – 5000 IDR per item. i went mad of course.

so these lovelies above are going to india on febuary for our lucky friends that we would meet there :D