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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Remembering Foo Toon Jong

Foo Toon Jong, RIP 19 May 2012.

It took a few days for me to decide to write this post. Perhaps it is because it takes that long for me to accept the vulnerability of this human journey itself. 

Toon Jong was nicknamed "Tom Jones", because of how the two names rhymed and also because we had spent countless hours strumming the guitar and singing at the Club room. We both were volunteers in the Singapore Polytechnic Welfare Services Club (WSC) and Tom was a volunteer at Bukit Ho Swee Tuition Centre, Villa Francis Home for the Aged and Singapore Association for Retarded Children (now more politically correctly named as "MINDS"), from 1974-1978.

Toon Jong was at a staff bonding function in his new job, when during the activities, he had to excuse himself as he didn't feel well. He then went to rest on a couch and passed away peacefully there. Doctors concluded that he had a cardiac arrest.

During his wake, I learned from his wife that Tom never had any serious illness. He was a non-drinker, non-smoker, not over-weight and was always careful with what he ate. I last met his wife during their engagement held in a community centre in 1982 - thirty years ago. Time flies. Tom works for a civil engineering construction contractor. Such jobs are usually highly stressful, which could be the reason for his clogged artery and cardiac arrest. Some months ago, another younger WSC grad, Chang Yew Kee, died of heart attack in his sleep at the age of 49 - he was also working for a contractor.

This is not to prejudice the construction contractor business, but rather to say that we need to watch our stress levels, as stress is the single biggest killer.

After the wake, some of us suggested that we should meet at least once a year, before we never have the chance again. Sadly, it takes situations like these to renew interests to connect with each other. I used to phone them regularly, but gave up after sometime. I may have gotten a few phone calls from them (on their initiative) in the last 32 years, but too few to make a dent.

Perhaps now, things will change, alas getting back to be 'brothers' and 'sisters' in one big family - as we used to refer to ourselves as - back in the good old days.  :)

Monday, May 07, 2012

Feels Like 500 Miles

This is the 500th article and Vacuum State is completing its 7th year. Vacuum State started on the 4th July 2005, out of curiosity to dip my toes in the world of blogging and also the compulsion to express and share what I experience in my spiritual journey.

Prior to 2002, I was a hard-nosed engineer. Everything has to be logical and scientifically proven. If not, I would not take it seriously. That was the only way I would approach a subject and grow my interest in it.

Then one day in 2002, on a long and frustrating day, I decided to take a break and visit the Holistic Fair at Fort Canning, Singapore, not knowing at all what it was all about. There, I met the Self-Awareness Society and signed up for the 7-Day Transformation Journey and a Reiki I course with Master Parag Pattani, and I have never looked back since.

I began to experience the peace and clarity that I have overlooked when I was so busy running around working in the past. Through the clarity, I also began to get a 'feeling' of things to come. Then through Reiki, I started to feel vibrations of things around me, get a feeling of the meaning behind those vibes and see auras.

Then one day, unexpectedly during meditation, I merged into the ambiance in an instance.  I could not feel anything or any part of my body and was in total bliss. It was like I was not around, but yet, I knew I was there. Everything was ONE. And so I nickname this experience, and consequently the name of this blog, "Vacuum State".

There are many ways that the Universe reveals itself beyond the physical, some by vibrations, visions, feelings and even through numbers.

I found Dr Oliver Tan's numerology very useful and have since read the character of behaviour of numerous people based on their date of birth. Date of birth gives a clue to our character potential. However, there is no such thing as fate, but only destiny based on character, habits and thinking.

Similarly, our facial features are clues to our character and destiny as they are a result of our thinking. Hence to change our destinies, we only need to change our thinking. Nothing is fixed. Nothing is permanent.

What is most important is that my readings on my friends' date of birth and faces have helped them to understand themselves better and change their ways as they desire.

And so I share these new experiences in this blog.

I started attending talks by many spiritual gurus and write about them. Among them were talks by the Brahma Kumaris, the Art of LivingBuddhist Abbots, the Theosophical Society and other spiritually awakened teachers. Some of the talks in Chinese are interesting in that they look at the same thing in a very Chinese manner, from the perspective of 'balance' - the core precept of Tao.

I could then reproduce the speech almost in ad-verbatim in the blog. This is astonishing as I did not use any voice recorders. I don't know how I did it either, I just know and could almost hear the echoes of the speaker word-by-word, as I wrote. Perhaps I was so enchanted by the speakers that I was entirely in the present moment with a photographic memory like a child.

Then I also realised there are several very good videos online, like talks by Eckhart Tolle, Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev, Ajhan Chah, Esther and Jerry Hicks, Hew Len, etc, and included them in the posts, as got more user-friendly to easily include video embeds.

The Buddhist Library's monthly Movie Nite in Singapore is also a good source of inspiring movies, carefully selected by the organiser for screening. You can read some of the movies here.

Then, I also joined a group called the Bucky Group in Singapore, who meet in an unlikely place of a hair salon called "Hair Affair" - on Saturdays and at MacRitchie Reservoir on Sundays. And they have been doing this for 17 years!!! They read books, watch videos and discuss the philosophies and teachings of Buckminster R Fuller.  There were also some video sessions that were kinda 'spiritual', like the group study of the "What the Bleep Do We Know" series, "Conversations with God" by Donald Neal Walsh, and talks by a Catholic Priest Father Anthony de Mello.

I am fascinated by the philosophies of Buckminster Fuller. He expressed the Universe in such a comprehensive manner and propounded that there are generalised principles governing what we see around us. And that what we thought were separate subjects in school like Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Mathematics,...etc, all belong to the same Universe obeying some 'generalised principles'. From such generalised principles come the technology to construct livingry - implements that improve the quality of living; though the other (destructive) use of technology to make weapons, called weaponry is much despised.

And so I started a series on "Technology", as it is a subject that helps us to do more with less and serve humanity. What more, I am a trained engineer and have been an information technologist for more than 20 years. It makes me proud to be a technologist. :)

The Education series was also inspired from the Bucky Group meetings and also through the books of futurist and author Alvin Toffler.

For a time, I also blogged about my experiences in the Futurist Group that was organised by Steffan Perner when he was residing in Singapore. That group stretched me beyond my comfort zone of looking at life and the future. I began also to listen to points of views of many atheists and some of their surprising anxieties of not being able to live forever, since they don't believe in God or reincarnation.

There are yet other atheists outside the Futurist Group that feel that they need to educate people that there is no god, and they are spreading this belief like a religion. I find this to be an oxymoron, as if they truly believe that there is no god, then there shouldn't be any belief to spread about. But, they are free to do what they like.

The same argument goes about their anxiety about the termination of life after death. If there isn't a life after death, then it shouldn't matter as one wouldn't be around to experience it.

Also through the Bucky Group, I got to know a Dr Aaron Lim. Dr Aaron is a botanist and runs a successful food business in Malaysia. He gives talks in Malaysia and Singapore on requests from people who knows him by word-of-mouth, with the seminar fees going to orphanages and children charities.

Dr Aaron's talks is yet another turning point in my life. He speaks about the light hidden in seemingly mundane day-to-day events and helped me to re-discover spirituality. Often, amid the maze and haste of our daily life, the soul behind what is physical is lost. He also taught me that one does not have to be poor, miserable and endure sufferings to be spiritual. Being 'spiritual' doesn't mean that you have to be financially poor, be submissive and allow everyone to walk all over you. In fact, being spiritual essentially mean the need to love yourself and stand up for yourself, as it is only when you are ok, that you can love and help someone else.

Dr Aaron's seminar series on the 105 Universal Laws, Spiritual Parenting, A Course In Miracles,...etc, espouse numerous spiritual reflections and explanations of what is behind many seemingly mundane daily events.

From there, I realised that spirituality is beyond religions, gurus and even the sit-down meditations. Spirituality is life, though we have been too blinded to see the light shining within; and our quest now is only to find our way home. So, I started blogging about everything from the spiritual perspective; beyond talks, books, videos and intuitive/paranormal experiences. The question  is that if there is something illuminating, or that there are lessons to be learned, then it ought to be in the blog.

I then blog about matters that are close to the common people, like  the monetary system,  usury and "design follies" as a protest against wasteful public constructions. I also write about the street concerts or  getais during the Chinese  Hungry Ghosts Festival.

Then, the light seems to shine everywhere I go. I even learn stuff going to the neighbourhood coffee shop, and that started the "Coffeeshop Thoughts" series.

Amid the 'everything' I blog about there are two topics that stand out: 

One is 'Nature', which never lies. Nature responds to what is around and offer what it has without expectations and without the need to understand the colossal whole but just with the mere faith that the whole will work seamlessly together.

My revived interest in 'nature' led me to think more about 'health' and ferment enzymes and wines. Fermenting wine is now a hobby. Alcohol is frowned upon by some religions and is also an extra load for the liver and kidney to process. However, taken in moderation,  enzymes in  wines aid digestion and carry nutrition to different parts of the body more efficiently.

My interest in nature also led me to join more nature walks. One particularly impressive one is the herbal garden maintained by Mr Tan and his team of volunteers. Together, they till the land and give out herbs free-of-charge. It is a labour of love and a service to anyone that approaches them. All these amid the rat race in highly urbanized and densely populated Singapore! Isn't this commendable?

The other topic of much interest is 'kids'. They are so true to everything and are in perpetual bliss. That is, until they hit puberty where the compulsion (and perhaps duty) to procreate distracts them away from the purity of their childhood. For that, I started the wonderful series of "Kids' Play".

My wish is that the "Kids' Play" series can someday be written as a script for a movie. There is so much innocence and wisdom in children. They have not forgotten as much as we have as adults. Children, together with puppies, kittens and flowers, are my window to the divine. Actually, there is someone I know who has got out of depression just by adopting a kitten - God does work in strange ways! :)

Then out of the blue in late 2010, I was spotted by a film director and asked to act for her film. What is more surprising is that some months later, two of the films won awards: one for the Best Film in the Singapore International Film Festival; and the other a Gold Award in the International Anti-Corruption Public Service Announcements Award, organised by the IAACA in Hong Kong. Further one of the feature films which I played a support role in, is securing world-wide distribution. Then, two months ago, I won the Best Performance Award in the 3rd Singapore Short Film Awards (2012).

And I have been getting many gigs - way above the average. The people I have met in the acting circles  have also been very kind to me. They have encouraged me, given me tips on acting, brought me gigs, and there were even producers who have paid me a little bit more without my bargaining for. This is amazing happening in a highly competitive industry which is tight-fisted with budgets.

I have learned a lot about society, human behaviour, life and myself through the scripts, roles and scenes I acted in, while getting into character and being the character, instead of outwardly 'acting' as the character. Like the master Sanford Meisner said, "Acting is the ability to live truthfully under imaginary circumstances."

There is so much I would like to write about 'acting' that I have now created a new blog Michael Chua, so as to separate the commercial aspects of acting away from Vacuum State which I would try to keep it away from dollars and cents, as much as possible.

Evidently, I am in the FLOW. It is easier to be in the FLOW, than against the FLOW. From here, I realised there is this 'flow' in our life. Learn to recognise this flow, and go along with it.  Especially when you are in the downside of your energy cycle and need an easier route.

So stick around with energetic people and avoid energy vampires - at least until you are ready to stand on your own. Places also differ in their energy levels. If you intuitively know of certain places that mysteriously energises you without your trying to perk up, then that place is likely for you. Frequent that place to charge up. And those energetic people and places need not necessarily be spiritual gurus, expensive life coaches, luxurious holiday resorts or grand churches. Sometimes, these humble saviors can appear as children, animals, a cozy corner in your house, or just your ordinary looking walkway by your neighbourhood.

My spiritual quests did not stop during my waking hours. At night while asleep, we all dream and I was curious about what goes on during that time. So I kept a dream diary and was surprised with its revelations about my sub-conscious thoughts and why I should watch them. Though of late, I have learned not to focus too much on 'watching' them, but instead to be sure that I control my thoughts and not let my thoughts control me. There were also instances when I meet people in my dreams first, months before I physically meet them in person.

I don't normally publish my dream log, but there is one so lucid that I have included it as a blog post in Dream Interpretation. That dream was probably about a mental tussle I have between spiritualism, organised religions and their accumulated material wealth. We store various thoughts in our sub-conscious everyday unknowingly, and re-organise them in our dreams.

I took lucid dream interpretations and logs one step further and ventured into astral travel. I did that with a master. During astral travel, everything I saw was no different from what I see in my waking hours.  There is virtually no difference apart from knowing that I am awake in my dream and have the ability to fly and walk through walls effortlessly. It is hard to convince those who haven't experienced astral travel about the surrealism of the experience, so I am not attempting beyond this.

The lesson I learn from astral travel is that it reminds me that whatever we see around us even during our waking hours are illusions, and so I will not take them too seriously. That means, I am IN this world, but not OF this world.

The other splinter blog that I have started is Vacuum State Travels, though I had not been updating it as much as I like.

There is a reasonable following in Vacuum State. Some have commented, some have corresponded with me, yet others have asked to meet up with me, which I did. It is all very encouraging. Vacuum State now averages 100-200 hits a day.

What I would love to see is perhaps a community emerging as a result of Vacuum State and also guest writers sharing their experiences. Every journey is unique and every journey would be a good mirror for oneself.

There are no easy answers of 'right' or 'wrong' in spirituality. I now look at matters as 'choices' and 'consequences'. Besides, what is 'right' or 'wrong' often depends on which side you are on or whether you are looking at it merely from a human perspective. For instance, a fallen tree on my roof would be considered a disaster to me, but would be a paradise for the termites.

There are even contradictions among religions and spiritual groups. I have been told by a spiritual group that Reiki healing is bad because it interferes with the person's karma. In another instance, a leader from another spiritual group turned pale when I told her I could feel vibes and channel healing energies. What is surprising is that she is willing to believe and revere the founders of her group, whom she believes are highly psychic, though she has not met before, nor are any of these founders still in the human plane. Yet she will not believe that one of her ordinary members standing right in front of her could possibly be psychic.

So accept beliefs that you are comfortable with and leave those that you are not. Not that what you did not accept was 'wrong', but rather that they did not resonate with you.

Of course, as we evolve in our consciousness, so will our beliefs. So our beliefs today may be our superstition tomorrow. We mustn't be foolishly attached even to our beliefs.

I believe if we were to put LOVE first, then everything else is secondary. As the late Teresa Hsu said, "When the Buddhists and Christians came to my place, they argue and cannot agree,... but when we speak about helping the underprivileged, everyone from both sides agree immediately." This, I think, is evidence that Love precedes all other rhetoric.

Personally, I do not have to agree with everything I listen to, or see. Sometimes I even learn a lot through disagreements. As such, I have even journal a Bucky Session that discussed about a book by an author I do not agree with. It is an exercise of separating the singer from the song. Read here.

There were also instances when I cheekily turned somebody else's article upside down on its head spiced with lots of sarcasm to see if we can force ourselves to look at the topic from an opposite direction. Read here.

Lest some of you may think that I am sitting here (or somewhere) in Utopia happily hacking away on my keyboard for Vacuum State, this is not quite the case. I am probably like most of you readers who  go through the daily grinds, tediums, frustrations and menial chores. I have also my fair share of encountering deceits, betrayals and injustice from people who continues to live in a degratory manner due to the insecurities of rejection and fear. Ultimately, we have to forgive them for they do not know - that they too, are divine. Our inner peace should never depend on them. And like most of you readers, I am learning everyday about myself and walking my own path.

I have given up wondering if all these are happening because of, or despite of all the problems that I had in the last ten years. Either way, it doesn't really matter. What is meant to be is meant to be, and everything happens for a reason.

Keeping up with at least one article a week in this blog is a challenge and that is why you  are not seeing such a frequency.  Not only that I am hard pressed for time and mind space, especially now that I have the new acting blog, but also the inspiration that has to come. Spirituality is unlike other topics like technology and finance where words can be crafted based on objective inputs. There needs to be inspiration for the words to flow and that is why sometimes I write in unlikely places like trains,  coffee shops or bus stops - whenever the light happens to shine. It is also often very hard to describe the experiences, as words can never encapsulate the whole experience.

This blog feels like 500 miles of a meandering and winding road, going through steep and undulating terrains for the last seven years.  It has been an enlightening journey. I always think that no matter what we do, whether we are conscious of it or not, we are taking a journey towards self-realisation. So enjoy the journey no matter what - accept all the sweet and sour, warts and all.

Last, but not least, a big HUG and THANK YOU for visiting Vacuum State all these years. Without you, the words will just go through empty halls.