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. 🙂


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 Daisies

“Don’t you think daisies are the friendliest flowers?” ~Meg Ryan, in You’ve Got Mail.

**All photos used in this post are courtesy of google images**

i am daisy

but no lazy

pick me up

and i will cheer you up

never fails


i am known as

the friendliest flower

put me to the test and

i will shower you with


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~~~ Sending happy thoughts and love through these lovely daisies to everyone special and close to my heart, particularly those who are going through tough times. I love you all. Oh, and by the way, did I mention that daisy is my favorite flower? It is my picker-upper when I’m down. ~~~

Jalan-Jalan Sore Continues…

My “jalan-jalan sore”, or late afternoon walk, continues…  Here, I took advantage of the spring scenery and documented them. Hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed taking them.

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All of these pictures were taken from a park in Munster, Indiana. It’s a huge park. It has two men-made lakes, two small flower gardens, an entertainment stage, one playground for kids, and one park specially made for dogs. The park is surrounded by a half-mile walking path, so all you have to do is to walk around twice and you already get a one-mile-walk exercise while enjoying the scenery too. Not bad at all. On the other side of the park, there is a small golfing area. I never bothered to go there since I don’t play golf. The park also has a small restaurant or resting area for people to stop by after golfing, which is the building with the red roof.

I’ve been there probably about four times so far this past week. I discovered the park last year, but never took the time to visit it until last week. It really is a wonderful place. I’ve been doing my afternoon/evening walk here often while taking pictures too. Sometimes I just parked my butt on one of those many benches in the park and got lost in my mind (aka. “melamun” in Bahasa Indonesia). It’s more than “melamun” sometimes, though. There have also been some thinking, crying, humming, listening to music and the sound of nature, and talking to self mixed in there with “melamun.”

Well, I always have a wonderful time there at the park. I truly enjoy my time there and I know that I will miss it a lot, some day.

Hi, My Name is ‘Olive Tree’ and I’m Addicted to FarmVille, Cafe World, FishVille, and still counting.

The joy of doing mindless games.

Aaahh, it’s weekend, no work brought home from my internship, no dissertation work this weekend, it’s time to continue with mindless games.  I’m still working on the feelings that seem to tag themselves along with me while I’m playing these games.  It used to be guilt, now it’s just a feeling of ridiculousness.  I can’t believe the amount of time I’ve spent on playing these games.  They’re addicting, very very addicting.  I’ve lost sleeping hours on these games.  Zynga, Inc. (the maker of many of these games) ought to have a support group available for people like me.

I wonder, though, why is it that I easily become addicted and spend an enourmously ridiculous amount of hours playing them?  As soon as I get home, I go straight to the computer, turn it on, open facebook account, and hoala…I get busy.  I have even sneaked time to check on my farm and cafe while at work.  More recently, I added two fish tanks and another farm into my list of places to tend.  Somebody save me!

If I have to take a guess, I think I know the answer to the question above.  It’s because life has been very stressful since September this year.  The responsibility and demand of internship work has been so high that often when I get home I can only do mindless stuff, such as vegetating in front of the TV, getting on the internet, or sleeping.  If I have the energy, maybe I spend an hour or less exercising.  What I miss are my hobbies, writing being one of them, but it has been very difficult to find time, energy, and ability to focus when I’m emotionally and mentally exhausted.  Mental exhaustion, yes, that’s exactly how I feel when I get home from internship.  The theme this week in internship, for example, was handling crisis.  Gosh, I’m exhausted just thinking about it.

So, can you blame me for playing these games?  I probably wouldn’t even put time and day in the past to play them.  Didn’t even start until last month (October).  Another interesting question to ask is perhaps I’m already experiencing an early stage of burnout because I start to lose interest in doing old hobbies.  Thus, if you’re reading this blog, it means that I’m trying to bounce back to my old interests again.  Let’s see if I can keep this up.  🙂

On Blogging

I’d like to start by saying that I am still slightly apprehensive about this. This, meaning blogging, putting my thoughts in the air for others to read. I have always considered my thoughts as personal, private, not for others. So, you may start wondering at this point, why then did I decide to blog, to actually get an account in google e-blogging and even have my own name as part of a website, an act which in itself sounds foreign to me.

About 2 months ago in June, I made new friends in Washington, D.C. I was there as part of an advocacy work, but it was more of a journey for me (and less work). It was advocacy for torture survivors from countries around the world, including the U.S. It was part of a Survivors Week that has been held for 13 years in Washington D.C. by a group called the Torture Abolition and Survivor Support Coalition (TASSC). More information about this group can be found in their website, http://www.tassc.org/. One of these days I may share my reflection about my journey in D.C. and my involvement so far with TASSC. My new friends asked me at that time why hadn’t I tried to blog or share my writings online. I remember making a lame excuse about how I wasn’t comfortable sharing my thoughts. I held on to that lame opinion for a while too. Before I met those friends in D.C., I have heard a similar question from other friends, and I continue to hear the same question from more friends. And the impact of all these “friends and questions” on me? Well, genius, what do you think?

Anyway, regarding these friends that I met in D.C., many of them do not share my background in clinical psychology. Instead, the majority of them are activists and journalists. Translation: they are used to the idea of writing for the public. Heck, the whole point of their job is to get their writings to be read by the public. In contrast, clinical psychologists are not used to that kind of writing. Translation: it is the kind of writing that is difficult for other professions to read due to its jargons and psycho-bubbles (Hint: that was a joke, and you know that must be a lame attempt if I have to explain myself). On a more serious note, one might also ask if there is a slight truth to it. I would like to think so. I was an amateur in advocacy work, evidenced by my lack of understanding of the importance of writing and speaking up. By the time most psychology students in many doctoral programs finish their study, they are not ready to do advocacy work. The idea of writing something other than psychology papers is probably foreign to them, just how it is also foreign to me. But then again, it could also be just me. At my school (Adler School of Professional Psychology), we are trained to do advocacy. There is a class specific for advocacy and public policy that we all have to take. Although the class doesn’t necessarily make me more ready to blog, my argument becomes weaken here. Perhaps I am the one who is not comfortable to blog and share my writing on the internet for others to read.

I think the idea of blogging is a challenge for me because it is about taking a risk. Taking a risk in life, however, should not be new to me. My life thus far has been about taking risks. You can’t say coming to the U.S. alone as an 18-year-old girl or leaving a full-time job to go back to school as not about taking risks, right? You would think that I should be familiar with this feeling of vulnerability. Yeah, well, here I am feeling it, and can’t say that I’m enjoying it. I feel like I have surgically opened my brain and allowed myself to be judged (Note to myself, ought to blog on this topic: fear of judgment). I feel like I’m losing a level of privacy. But then, privacy on the internet sounds like an oxymoron anyway.

I see blogging as a new, or more recent, phenomenon. Blogging without the internet is pretty much journaling. Journaling has always meant to be private. Hence, journal books used to be sold with a lock. With the existence of internet, however, the journaling activity now has a choice of becoming public. It can be a form of communication among family members and friends, such as to share news about the newest member in a family, starting with pregnancy, child birth, all developmental milestones, first birthday, all the way until the blogger pretty much lost interest or time to continue. Blogging, to be honest, can be much more fun than the traditional book journaling because it can include photos, graphic pictures, videos, sounds, and it can also invite comments. You can say that it is also a newest form of scrapbooking.

I have discovered that blogging can also be a tool for making a statement; it contains a potential or a spirit of activism, of encouraging, of spreading news, of educating. Nowadays, many journalists have even participated in blogging. It is a form of editorial, of sharing an opinion or an analysis. People don’t need to have a degree in journalism or experience as an activist to blog, though. Anyone can do it. There are no blanket rules in blogging, yet. At least, not that I know of. Each blogging network creates its own rules and regulations. Perhaps this is the part that also concerns me a bit in the beginning. I have always considered writing as a task that carries profound responsibilities. I am sure many writers, responsible writers to be more precise, would understand what I meant in that statement. Writing has its own ethical responsibilities. True, we can’t always control how people comprehend our writing, but it doesn’t mean that we can’t write responsibly. Therefore, my concern is that, to the best of my knowledge and effort, I don’t ever stop considering the impact of my writing on other people.

Now that I have listed my concerns and decision-making process to join the blogging world, what more can I say? I guess you may say that I am testing the water. After all, didn’t a wise person once say that life is about testing the water? Who knows what will happen. So here I am, blogging, putting my thoughts out there on the internet for people to read and allowing myself to feel vulnerable (Scary, what crazy people would do things like this?)

Lastly, I would like to thank all of my friends (I feel like I’m on stage at the Kodak Theater) who have influenced me to blog. You know who you are. Thank you for sharing your stories, thoughts, opinions, and courage. Your courage, really, was the one factor that finally made me realize what a waste it was to hide my thoughts and stories since I have a lot to offer. I just hope I can do it responsibly and make the experience gratifying.