A Moment of Catharsis

A moment of catharsis today. Yup, I had about half an hour of wonderful catharsis today. Can’t wait to tell you all about it. It was so much fun discovering something new in my life.

I came to see a speaker today who gave a talk about Telling Dongeng. I came in with nothing in mind about what I was about to experience. No presumption whatsoever ahead of time. I was never even the type of person interested in dongeng and never had any adult telling me dongeng when I was a kid. Dongeng is Bahasa Indonesia for tale, fairy tale, or myth stories. It is usually told to kids. The speaker was teaching those of us who work with children and to adults who are interested to use dongeng in their line of work. It was held at a small after-school program across the street from where I work. The speaker was EXCELLENT! He never had any specific training about dongeng, but has been interested in the subject for over 20 years and pretty much taught himself about it. He is also a ventriloquist and showed us his skills.

The speaker has one unique characteristic about him and to a certain degree I think this characteristic has made him even better in the way he tells his dongeng. He’s blind. He wasn’t born blind, but contacted a virus that slowly took away his eyesight during his early adult years while he was still in college. He is probably now in his early 40s, so he has been blind for quite some time. He always loves telling stories and has quite an artistic talent. When he still had his eyesight, he also took up a training in acting and had even taken some acting jobs.

The training he gave ran for about 3 hours, and it has been a while since I had a very wonderful 3 hours that ran by so fast because I had so much fun. He started by introducing himself, explaining about his passion in telling stories, especially dongeng to little kids. He also talked about his experience telling dongeng to street kids, poor kids, kids who were born in brothels, and children who have been abused in his life, sexually or physically. His message to us, which I can still hear it well until now, is for us to never give up hope in trying to save or make a difference in the children of this country, and we can do that by as simple as telling stories, engaging children in stories, sending right and powerful messages to children through stories. Simple, yet strong, message.

After talking about his background and dongeng in general while modeling to us too a few examples of telling dongeng, he then asked us if we could start telling dongeng to each other. No response. There was silence among us. Some finally said no, including me. The speaker then, in his very comical way of talking (and he was very very very funny, by the way), changed his strategy and made us do two activities. The first one was meditation. He led us through a short meditation session with the purpose of emptying our mind and putting us into a relaxing mood. It wasn’t hypnosis, but just a simple breathing meditation. He had two assistants with him, and one of them used a laptop to play meditation music.

The second activity (and here comes the fun!) was an acting activity, but with a twist. He asked all of us to cover our eyes, to not rely on our eyes when we were playing the roles, but to simply ignore our surroundings and just act. This is where I think his uniqueness of being blind has influenced him, and he graciously shared that one uniqueness of his with us for one short moment. We all became blind for a moment, and then we were asked to pretend to be many roles and talk to someone in front of us.

At first I felt so awkward, weird, and embarrassed. Although I couldn’t see anything, I could still hear everyone. My hearing, if anything, became sharper. I could hear giggling everywhere. It was probably mine too, who knows. Then I heard the first instruction, “Be a policeman. Say anything, do whatever you want. You are now a policeman.” First I heard a hesitation around me, as if everyone was thinking. About 5 seconds later I started hearing someone said something. I was probably still giggling, too embarrassed to do anything, but I did try something. I acted as if I was stopping someone from riding his/her motorcycle, asking the person to step down, and making him to show his ID. Then the instruction changed, but I couldn’t remember what was the second role. It changed every 1 minute. All I know there’s a long list of roles given to us and here are some roles that I remember: a beggar, abang becak or a pedicab driver, a robber, and a prostitute. We were also asked to be a child, a very bad and insubordinate child, a child who just lost his/her mom and truly feeling the emotion to the point of crying, a mother, a grandmother, a grandfather, a man with deep voice, a little child with a little voice, a singing child, an angry person, a mad person acting crazy, laughing so loud, singing a dangdut song (dangdut is a genre of Indonesian popular music that is partly derived from Malay, Arab, and Hindustani music according to Wikipedia), a crying child, a girl trying to seduce a man, and so on. My favorite one of the entire list of roles was the laughing part. Now, that’s what I called a true catharsis. I was laughing my ass off, people! I was laughing so hard that I lost my voice afterwards.

You know, for an activity where I started off in the beginning very timid and awkward, I was surprisingly feeling like I wanted more when it ended. I truly got into it and loved it! I tell you what too, sometimes activities like this one that you truly don’t have any idea or presumption of what it is about is the one that truly surprises you. I was so glad that I came to the training, even if it meant that I had a very long working day…on a Saturday. It was worth it!

If anyone has not tried any acting exercise, I recommend you to try it. I realize that it’s not easy for everyone. A co-worker of mine who was standing right next to me was one of those people who couldn’t really get into it. She is a very disciplined person, somewhat more rational in her approach to things compared to the rest of us. She uses logic all the time, and to move from one part of the brain that relies on logic to the other part that focuses more on creativity was not easy for her. Regardless, she still enjoyed the whole acting exercise. Whoever and whatever type you are, I still recommend you to try this once in your life. It’s very…cathartic. 🙂


On Meditation

in this space alone
gone are the shrills of the world
i’m left with my own


“keep mind in order,
don’t let thoughts take over mind”
becomes the new thought


my mind simply slips
i feel no more of tingling
as dream captures me


answers come to me
during my walk, as fresh air
opens up my soul


oh come, heal my soul
i open my heart for thee
my long await peace

Sensational Haiku Wednesday, November 16, 2011 – prompt: Meditate

Stumbling Upon a Surprise Gift, Part II: “My Room”

There is a place at my church where I now regularly go to find calm and peace. It is a quiet place. The main building of the church stands separately from this place, yet not too isolated, for it is a big church and has a great amount of followers to keep the whole church area constantly busy. This place, my new hiding place, my source of serenity, is small. It has a name, which for the sake of my brain, the name has escaped my memory just now. Who knows, it may come back again, but I don’t feel like chasing it now. Let’s just call it a praying room, or more stylishly, “my room”.

“My room” is also my shelter. It has sheltered me from the many fierceful battles that have been going on in my head lately. I would seek it when I needed to get away from this small living place I now call home. I would definitely seek it when the need for air to breathe forced me to dig my way out of my room, walk down on the street under the hazy sun or mist of rain, and enter the space of calmness. At times like right now, as I am typing my words into this precious laptop of mine, the craziness of energy in the air and the loud shrills of excitement from the young girls who live on the two floors beneath my floor are seeping into my room through any open window or crack of holes between the door and the wall, disturbing my being all the way to the deepest parts of my brain that I did not even know exist until now, forcing this little crack of anger that is really close to burst out at any moment now. I have no clue of what is going on down there, but I really don’t give a damn. At times like this, to say that I need “my room” is an understatement. I would love to just grab a sleeping bag or mattress that I can find, drag it to “my room” and spend the night there. Excuse me for a second, but I need to take a few deep breaths. I don’t often include into my essay what is happening around me as I am doing the writing. Be right back.

*************** INTERMISSION ****************

What I do inside “my room” is probably obvious to everyone. I pray. However, more often than praying, I meditate. I tend to stay in the room for a long time. I mean, a very long time. (Is an hour considered a long time?). Sometimes for over an hour, depending on how fast my legs fall asleep or my back screams out loud for mercy. Once, I fell asleep. Yes, I swear it was only once. I’m so glad that it was a quiet and very short one and that there wasn’t any display of head bobbling that I typically do when I fall asleep sitting up. I’m not ashamed of admitting it because falling asleep is actually very common in meditation.

People tend to just sit on the floor in the room. There are sitting pillows available and a few chairs at the back of the room for those who are physically restrained to sit on the floor. I sit with my legs crossed, back straight up, and each hand on top of each leg like a Sitting Buddha, complete with my fingers making the bowl hand gesture. The hands take that form automatically because I used to do it so often at one point in my life. I have neglected this habit, meditation, because of the moving and adjustment at a new place, and so I am now rediscovering it again. I sometimes enter the room for the specific use of meditation and skip the heavy duty praying for another time. I choose to do so because I want to…listen.

To listen I think is the key element here in praying. We are often so busy talking to God, or to Whomever we believe holding the Higher Power based on our individual faith, that we forget to listen. I believe praying is not only about asking, confessing, and expressing gratitude, but also listening and being silent. And in the act of listening, we are surrendering. Only by surrendering that I think we can hear the message from God. So I figure out a new ritual. The praying room is (often) for listening to and the church for conversing with God. There is also a very small pond garden between my room and the church where a statue of Mother Mary is placed. It is Her garden, made specially for Her, with candles around the statue. The garden is located outdoor. It is another place for people to pray and have a little bit of quietness. This has also become my other refuge, if the weather permits it of course.

I’m sharing this because I AM very thankful to have discovered these places, especially “my room”. It is easy to skip the room and be clueless of its existence due to the absence of any sign or information outside of the room. It has to be by word of mouth only for anyone to know it. I remember when I first saw the room. It was also my first day attending the Sunday mass at the church. At that time I was clueless about the purpose of the room. All I could see was that within the span of perhaps 15 minutes, there were quite enough people going in and out of the room. The first thought that came to my head at that time, “Is that another public washroom? I just came from one and it’s over there (opposite direction). It can’t be that many washrooms for this church? Do people here need to go to the bathroom so often that they need to make a second one?” Then I saw that these people first took off their sandals before entering the room and their whole entering and exiting behaviors were unusually hushed and quiet. So then I quickly crossed the idea of bathroom. But then what? My question was answered a few days later when some friends and I decided to meet at the church parking lot as a meeting place before going somewhere, and one of them told me. She also accompanied me to the room for the first time, and it didn’t take me long to come back on my own, which I believe was…a day later. I have since been hooked, desperately hooked, so hooked that one time I was afraid that I may mistakenly call it “my homey”.

This whole experience made me realize how I miss meditation. Mind you, I am NOT an expert in meditation. Meditation is actually a very difficult task for me. I have not been able to master my concentration, my breathing, and just a control over my mind during meditation. My mind constantly, I mean CONSTANTLY!, wanders. To bring my mind back to the center is a constant and exhausting process. I consider a meditation day a good day when I can most of the time successfully bring my mind to focus back and end it with a focused mind. On a not so good day is when somewhere in the middle or towards the end I give up trying to focus my mind due to the amount of times I have to chase around my thoughts. A REALLY bad day is, well, when I fall asleep of course.

On my very first day of trying to meditate inside “my room”, the scene from Eat, Pray, Love (the movie) came to mind. It was the one with Julia Roberts inside the meditation room in India, trying to meditate. It looked as if she had already been in there for a while due to what seemed to be a long conversation in her head with herself, and when she looked at the clock on the wall at the end of her own busy conversation, she realized that the time had only passed for less than 5 minutes since she first planted her behind on the floor. Time truly feels like it goes very slow when all a person has to do is to SIT. This realization resulted in Ms. Roberts’ exasperated grunting and moaning. I always thought of it as a very funny scene. Everyone one of us who has tried meditation understands that scene well. We know how slow the time goes by. We know how when you stop the physical activity of your body and yet still have to stay awake, then the amount of activity seems to be travelling to the mind area. The mind/brain area suddenly becomes very active, busy, and…unfortunately, chatty.

I am happy to have shared “my room” with you. Everyone needs a place like this, a refuge, a get away. Before I came back to my home country, my refuge used to be a big park with a lake, a small forest of trees, a walking path for me to walk, and a family of ducks. It’s a beautiful place, I remember it well. During my meditation attempt here, my mind often wandered to that place. Once it decided to go there, my attempt to bring my mind back tended to be futile. Oh well. Life goes on.

And this brings me to this question for you, my readers. Do you have a “my room” of your own? Feel free to share one here in the comment section, or write it up for your own blog. I hope you all have one.

On Mindfulness Meditation

I started the whole practice of meditation in May this year (2009) when I took a class in mindfulness meditation. The class taught me not only the techniques of mindfulness meditation but also the application of meditation into my work as a psychotherapist. The class met for about two months and we did mindfulness meditation in every class meeting and squeezed in yoga whenever we could. Yoga is incorporated as part of mindfulness meditation because there is an aspect of focusing and concentration in yoga. Mindfulness meditation (MM) is different than transcendental meditation (TM) in that MM does not involve chanting, rather the focus is on breathing and being mindful on the whole practice of meditation itself and the surroundings.

Mindfulness meditation may look deceivingly simple, but it is not. People may think all that’s needed is to sit or lay down, which are the two most common forms of mindfulness meditation, and focus. Well, I found it harder than it appeared initially. Sitting still for a long time is not as easy as anyone would think. In what appears to be as a non-doing activity, meditation actually requires a great deal of effort in order to maintain the appearance of non-doing.

I have discovered several challenges so far in my meditation practices. The first one is to fight a sense of sleepiness creeping up after more than 30 minutes of meditation. It usually takes at least 30 minutes before I start to notice my head nodding sideways, front, or back. When I do the laying down meditation, it would take me faster sometimes to start falling asleep. The longest time of meditation that I have done on my own was about 45 minutes and believe me when I say that it was a struggle at the end. I have done longer than 45 minutes (about 1 hour) with the whole class and I must say it was a wonderful, peaceful dream I had in the last 15 minutes. Hopefully I didn’t snore loud enough. I must say that the one-hour meditation was very difficult. I was restless and my back started to ache. At one point I moved my sitting position back a few inches towards the wall so I could rest my back against it. Unfortunately, it marked the beginning of my dream journey. Conclusion? Perhaps a sense of restlessness is needed in order not to fall asleep.

At this point, I am not sure if I can ever meditate on my own for one hour or more without feeling restless, but hopefully one of these days I will get to that point. One thing for sure though, I am not going to force myself to get to that point. A part of me knows that I may or may not get there, and when I do, I will definitely take a notice. It is likely and hopefully feel like an accomplishment.

The second challenge is regarding my busy mind during meditation. I often find my mind drifting away and thinking about many things during meditation. In the beginning of my meditation routine, I started by focusing on my breathing every time I meditated. I enjoy this practice very much. My body usually quickly relaxes when I focus on breathing. I picture the air going into my brain, into my muscles and the rest of my body. It was once we started to practice thought-watching in class that I found myself easily being sucked into following my thoughts instead of watching them. The idea of thought-watching is literally watching your thought passing by in front of you, but resisting the temptation to follow the thought. Metaphorically, it’s like sitting in a park and watching an ice cream truck passing by with its truck-load full of temptations, trying very hard to continue keeping my butt on the park bench and not following the (damn) truck. Am I making sense now? Needless to say, I ended up going with my thought for quite a long time and getting lost in that thought before I was able to recognize what my mind was doing.

The third challenge is regarding a tendency to continue judging my meditation performance. Even in my previous explanation of the second challenge, I might have sounded a little bit judgmental of myself. I have only done mindfulness meditation practice for about two months, which means I am still a novice, a trainee. Perhaps I just need to give it more time.

Mindfulness meditation has definitely been an important tool for me to stay relaxed and focused and to maintain a healthy life-style. I have even incorporated it into my exercise routine, to do it at the end of my exercise as a way to relax and rest my body. This is something that I can see myself carrying on for a long time, hopefully for good. I do enjoy very much the quietness and the aloneness during meditation.

What I like about mindfulness meditation is the philosophy behind it, and I seem to have enjoyed and appreciated this more than the meditation practice itself. The philosophy behind mindfulness meditation is letting go and having non-judgmental attitudes. They have impacted me in the way I face problems and make my decisions. I used to have a hard time to let go certain things that happened to me and continue to carry negative feelings (i.e., anger, fear, or loneliness) for quite some time. For example, I used to get so angry when another driver would cut me off while I was driving, and I would do whatever I could to show my anger to the other driver, either by using the horn of the car, my own voice, or my finger. It was stupid, really, and I knew it too at that moment, but I had a hard time to let go the immediate feelings that happened as a result of what the person did.

Ever since I studied mindfulness meditation, I consciously told myself that there is no use of getting angry and that to let things go, which I have done on several occasions. In this regard, I think I have improved, to the point that I surprise myself. I am not going to lie, though, to say that I am perfect in this matter, but I have done a major improvement. In the end, it has helped to reduce my overall stress level.

Mindfulness meditation and its philosophy are definitely useful in clinical practice. I have incorporated it in my work. I found that many clients in my practicum settings in the past, for example, could definitely benefit from mindfulness practices. I have mixed it with some kind of other relaxation techniques, such as various breathing exercises or using guided imagery. Now I have mindfulness meditation as another tool to use, and this time I think it is better than those other relaxation techniques because I can also incorporate the philosophy behind mindfulness meditation. Clients then will have the opportunity to practice being mindful not just during meditation but also throughout their days. The principles behind mindfulness meditation can be applied into our daily routines, decision-making processes, and overall well-being. The meditation is just more like the icing on the cake, the cake being how we live our lives.