Thursday, February 16, 2017

The Art of Balancing Butterflies on Your Nose (or Not)

This isn't one of those Zen posts that teach you How To Find Peace by Being Able to Balance Butterflies on Your Nose. Kind of like
Happiness is like a butterfly which, when pursued, is always beyond our grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.
Which, by the way, isn't a quote by Henry David Thoreau or Nathaniel Hawthorne.

But really, while the scene conjures images of lying on soft verdant grass on a blue sky day, trying our best not to giggle while a butterfly gently lands on our nose ...

Think of the reality if you're squeamish and hate insects. Shoo Shoo Go Away Butterfly and a panicked frenzy ensues. Or instead of taking soft focus photos of yourself with spurious motivational quotes tacked on to post on Facebook and Instagram, you realise you hate the sun and grass poking at your back, and you think it's not worth the trouble to fish for more thumbs and heart emojis.

There's what seems, and then there's what is. The trick is knowing the difference and where you ought to be spending most of your time and attention.

Friday, July 31, 2015

A Year's Worth of Updates - Runs/Ministry

Hallo everyone,

It's been a year since I last logged in and wrote something here. *blows dust off*. Neglect aside, I am glad to have this virtual space to pen down my thoughts and feelings and update on where I am in my life at present.


Post my first 10k in Kota Kinabalu (Borneo International Marathon) , I have since completed the Standard Chartered 10K (KL), Newton Challenge 12K (Penang), Colour Run 5K (KL) and OSIM Sundown Half-Marathon 21.1K (SG), in many different ways.

Some of the runs ended on a high note, and some ended in a mix of exhaustion and disappointment.

The Stand Chart one and OSIM Sundown half marathon stand out in my mind as moments of despair when I knew it would be almost impossible to meet the cut-off time and yet I pushed on. Reaching the finishing line did nothing for me, except to feel somewhat a failure even though I had managed to prevail to the very end. The cramps which I suffered in my 14th km during Sundown (only on my left leg. It must be much weaker than my right leg)  reminded me I needed to put in much more mileage to accustom my legs to the full distance, although I realised the cramps only kicked in after a much greater distance from the first time I suffered from cramps after the Terry Fox run, which was only 5K back in December 2013. I m taking that as a sign of progress.

In contrast, the Newton Challenge was one of my triumphs in which I was well within the stipulated cut-off time. Running along Gurney as I watched the sun rise and playing hop, skip and jump along the pot-holed roads of Pulau Tikus was an amazing and unforgettable feeling. I jumped over uncovered drains and counted the number of pot holes which appeared and I ran like a headless chicken at traffic crossings. Early morning runs - the sunrise you enjoy makes up for the pain of leaving a comfortable bed.

I am currently training for the Run for A Cause (RFAC) 10K at the upcoming Standard Chartered Marathon to raise funds for Hospis Malaysia. Why palliative care? Why Hospis Malaysia? While I believe in making the last days of those who are in pain dignified and with minimal suffering, I have chosen this cause to honour Dato' Sir Peter Mooney and my dearest grandmother, both who have made a difference in my life. The link to my RFACprofile is here


After 7 years of being in Lifeline, I have finally called it quits and left.

Whywhathowwhen? Burnout is the simplest reason, I reckon.

So much to process.  So much to deal with, when for 7 years I have given my heart, mind, strength to building up and forming the community, despite my own issues. It was the centre of my days and nights for a very long time.

I wasn't perfect. I still am not. But what I leave behind cuts into me, makes me wonder am I even capable of loving again? Of caring? Or being with others whose brokenness wounds me and me wounding others in my incomplete self? I was talked down to, laughed at, seen as an emotional trainwreck, judged as incompetent and incapable (who the hell comes up with these metrics anyway?) and finally and ultimately rejected. If tomorrow I appeared before Him, all I can say is I tried my best. 

It's gotten to a point where memories of certain individuals spike my desire to run faster or to speed up on the elliptical in disgust and derision. Good for my body, not so good for my soul.

In wild moments, I wonder if the faith I had nurtured and tried to impart to others will desert me, even where my mental faculties and thought have sharpened. Perhaps I will become one of those hardened atheists, disdaining unnecessary and unwarranted human contact that interferes with thought and reason and the improvement of what I currently hold in my hands: my time and life.

Winter of discontent indeed.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Evenings in Spiritual Conversation - Part 1

image taken from

Last Thursday, Maranatha Retreat House organised a session on 'Evenings in Spiritual Conversation' by Fr. Christopher Wee SJ which was really an introduction to Ignatian spirituality. 

I was torn as to whether to attend this event - hot off the heels of an extremely challenging day - but I made it and it was one of those serendipitous moments I cherish.

One of the key aspects of Ignatian spirituality is its focus on conversations - with God, with St. Ignatius, with self and with others. Informal, down to earth, as how we would speak to anyone.

As the picture above says, the conversation with God is the relationship - that we are no longer talking about God but engaging with Him, having a personal experience of God as a real presence. 

Likewise, the conversations with others are a journey of the heart - an opening up to each other in trust and there is no place for criticism and correction but a loving acceptance of what God is doing to us. We begin to fulfil the need and desire to make contact and for space and peace. How often do we hear the advice 'you guys need to talk' when faced with an issue or problem. So it goes. Communication at the heart of relationship building. 

Fr. Chris shared with us the story of St Ignatius' conversion and highlighted his cannonball experience i.e. something that breaks us and disturbs the flow of life. This is something I hope to explore more deeply in a subsequent post.

In reflecting on our life, it is important to reflect that we go deeper rather than further. This accords with what Fr Simon Yong SJ told a younger, more impetuous me when I asked him why did I have to go up and down the garden path to discover what God wants of me? Can't I just go from point A to point B direct? Wouldn't it be easier and more efficient? 
Fr Simon said the winding journey which seemed pointless at the time would lead me deeper in self-knowledge. I didn't understand him then, but I think I do now.  

I'm looking forward to the next instalment next month when we begin delving into the 3 main texts at the heart of Ignatian spirituality - A Pilgrim's Journey (St Ignatius' autobiography), The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius and the Constitutions of the Society of Jesus. 

Meanwhile, I have some scintillating conversations to go and initiate and people to catch up with.
*Edit - in my previous post I described SFX as organising this event - Fr Chris has kindly highlighted that it is actually Maranatha Retreat House which organised this and I have made the necessary amendments above. Apologies for the confusion.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Quick updates on BIM / A session with Fr. Alberto

Hi there,

It's been certainly quite awhile since I last updated.
First things first, I managed to get my finisher medal for Borneo International Marathon - my very first 10k. 

I really do like this picture very much -  the effect and play of morning light and shadow on the grass contrasted with the red of the tshirt is quite striking. Was dog tired and close to collapsing, but the photo doesn't show that...! Taken while I was queuing up for Milo (2 cups, no less, I think I fully deserved it) 


The event of the year for Lifeline - our Lifecamp 2014 is fast approaching, and with it, the excitement of promo and content and planning meetings and getting things ready for the camp. This year, I take on the challenge of planning and coordinating camp content and briefing the facilitators. 

Over in my sub-ministry, things haven't been easy - 3 members quit my team and 1 told me he's now in the core team for RCIA i.e. he will have much less time to serve in Lifeline. It's only me and my faithful assistant who's been manning the fort. With the demands of work and other issues, it's really been very difficult managing the workload and the expectations of those around me, as well as my own. 

This wick began to smoulder ... and I thought He would quench it.  
But He didn't. 

We had a meeting with Fr. Alberto, our assistant parish priest who oversees Lifeline. 
And such words of wisdom he shared. Truly, it was balm to my soul. Here are some of the key points and my own reflections :- 

  • Support systems and coping mechanisms matter

We need to have our support systems in place when undertaking any kind of venture and more so in serving in ministry. Sometimes the support systems may take different forms and can be quite unexpected, but if they encourage us to do better and comfort us, then they are worth having. 

It's also important to have appropriate coping mechanisms. One of the things that struck me the most was avoiding negativity and empty talk from the people around me, possibly characterised as 'unhelpful chatter'. It only makes things worse. 

  • Remember our growth 

Never forget that all of us are growing, whether in our personal lives or in ministry or at work. Don't forget to take a step back and see how far you have come and know that you can keep on going 

  • Numbers aren't everything 
Ministry isn't a numbers game and as much as we help to sow the seed, remember that the growth of the seeds depends on God and we can never know how much of a difference we make in our efforts. 

  • Respect 
Always respect the other and yourself in all interactions. There's a reason why the saying 'familiarity breeds contempt' exists. 

  • We live in tension 
We all live in a tension between what we long to do and the realities we face - the secret of life is managing the tensions. 
Just knowing that frees me up a lot because I can acknowledge that I'm a complex person who faces conflicting emotions and this is absolutely normal. And this is where I am learning to depend on grace - the spiritual side of things - while also working on the material and concrete issues that demand my attention. 

Monday, March 31, 2014

Formation and teaching the faith / Running / CLS and activitism

Hi there! 

It's really been quite awhile since I last updated here. In the interim, a new career path opened up, taking on an expanded role in Lifeline Ministry (our fb page is here
and a growing love and interest in running and being part of CLS - Catholic Lawyers Society.  
So here goes nothing - 3 short posts in 1

Formation and teaching the faith 
It's my role in Lifeline - I head the Sound in the Word sub-ministry which is mainly centred on formation and teaching the faith. Together with my team, we draft Lifeline studies on Church teachings and scripture, organise Lifetalks and work with the Worship team for Lifesessions such as the recent Scriptural Way of the Cross. 

When I think about my late great-grandad Moses who was a catechist, I feel privileged to be able to walk in his footsteps to share the faith. Of course, it's not always easy, and it's so tiring at times, but how much joy I have in seeing the knowledge of others grow and hopefully lead to a close walk with Christ.  

On a more prosaic note, learning to use Excel and delegate and keep track and draft studies and manage my team. Work in Progress tis. 

My first ever finisher medal - Done. 
My first competitive 8km race - Done. 
Now on to my first 10k. Wish me all the best! 
Even though I can only run in short spurts, and I am quite easily winded, I still love running for the freedom and energy it brings, and the distance it puts between me and my worries and concerns. And the hills, I curse when I get up them, but the relief sweeping down slope is liberating. 
Regardless whether I get that finisher medal at Borneo International Marathon, it's the trying my best and training for the run which keeps me going. 
Maybe someday I will attempt to bike. 
But for now, I will continue to get fitter, not fatter. 

The food is all too tempting, fallen off the wagon too often, but time to hoist me up and carry on. Less Food = Lighter Pet = Faster Pet 

CLS and Activism
Some of you out there may know that I've been involved in Catholic Lawyers Society for some time now (since 2009). I'm not a lawyer anymore but I'm still a committee member ...
Amidst all the activism of CLS in these difficult times, I've finally found my niche from discussions with Fr Jestus as serving to help the spiritual formation of CLS members - see the connection with item#1? :) 

It's nice to know what I can give, and what I'm good for. 

Sunday, June 23, 2013

In fast forward / In slow motion

Frail, fragile body encasing an iron heart, 
and a mind sharper than steel,
I watched your spine bend and curve. 
What to make of your last moments
that giving way in fast forward? 
From the easy chair to that old spring-laden bed, 
which you could barely come out of,
you went to that dim dark hospital room,
and reduced 
you to nothing more
than squiggly lines and masses of beeps. 
You were aware to the end, 
fast forwarded. that passing over. 

And the one you loved the most, 
he has forgotten who we are, 
those strange blank faces he smiles at. 
He neither walks nor talks much ,
the words are nothing more than syllables
his lips cannot pronounce anymore,
the days he spends no more than sleep, 
maybe deep inside somewhere 
in a place where he can speak, think, be as before, 
he dreams of you, 
he inches along to catch up with you, 
in slow motion. that passing over. 

*For my grandparents - my late grandmother, and my grandfather* 

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Readiness and layers of atheism

You've got to be ready for the opportunities - I think that in moments like these, I'm being trained to know what it feels like to keep walking on in the darkness. I wondered where the light was, but really I've kept on blowing out my own candle instead of kindling it from the fire that never goes out, that fire that reassures me and has loved me before I was born. That fire of God's love. 

My love for God comes in fits and starts, and as I get to know myself better through the ups and downs of daily living, through reflecting on past events, questions about where do I go from here - I uncover 'layers of atheism', as Gerard Hughes, author of 'God of Surprises' puts it. For all the platitudes I've expressed, for all the seeming piety that people associate me with (I would be the first to admit that I'm sinful and broken in one million different ways), there are deep parts of me that cannot let go, cannot trust, cannot surrender, cannot believe. Yet. 

Because even as another layer is revealed, I sense Him there. I sense my own hardness of heart, my insistence that things SHOULD be a certain way, I OUGHT to be someplace. Anywhere but in the here and now - and the dread of floating along, drifting along, yes, they reflect a certain ambition and drive, but they also show a distinct lack of trust, and a whole lot of pride. Pride that my plans, hopes, dreams are the best and they are the blueprint by which God should abide. Don't I know myself best? Won't He want the best for me too? 

And despite previous experiences of me begging Him, 'please rubber stamp my plans' - and that not too long ago .... I persist. It's futile. I know. Writing's on the wall, but I'm trying to rationalise those squiggles as reading something entirely different - maybe if you tilt your head sideways and squint a little, it reads something else. It reads 'I don't need to change the way I do things, or think, or behave, or carry on'.  That's what I would like to think. But the truth ... the truth is that, I have a long way to go. 

One of the secrets of growing older is learning how to reflect fruitfully on the past. There are many ways of reflecting, one with increasing bitterness and regret at missed opportunities. The other is to think back of what went wrong and look at what caused it and how to fix it.