Ten Sanskrit Terms I learned in our local Yoga Studio

There are plenty of reasons why people go to a Yoga Studio. Some go to improve their physique. They want to be flexible and strong. Some go for mental clarity to deal with their everyday hangups. Others, to improve their spirituality. They try to create or renew their relationship with God, their universe, or their higher self.

I have been attending Yoga sessions at The Yoga Playroom for ten weeks now. It has served me well in all aspects—physically, spiritually and mentally. As a bonus, I get to learn beautiful words from the ancient Sanskrit language. And really, they are lovely words.

The Sanskrit language is one of the oldest languages in the planet. Sanskrit means refined. It is the major religious language used by Hindus and Buddhists around the world.

For this post, I want to share the ten favourite Sanskrit words I learned at the Yoga Playroom.

Ujjayi Breath – this was the first Sanskrit word I learned aside from the word “yoga.” Our teacher reminded us that being mindful with the breath will be helpful for the practice. She sat next to us and demonstrated Ujjayi breath (yogic breathing). It’s breathing through the nose with a sensation felt at the back of the throat.

Asana or Yoga Poses- this is one of the most common Sanskrit terms you will hear in the studio. You usually add the word Asana to every yoga pose like tadASANA or bakASANA.

Savasana or the corpse pose- this is one of my favourite poses because it is a resting pose. It also signals the end of the yoga session. But, it is one of the most challenging poses because it requires you to let go, and letting go is difficult.

Dhyana- Asana or Yoga poses is just one of the many kinds of yoga. In our Tuesday classes, our teacher would ask to come earlier for Dhyana or meditation. It’s sitting still and focusing on the breath. Dhyana is one of the eight limbs of Yoga.

Prana or Life Force- This is our breath. Without prana, we are nothing.

Pranayama- if Prana is breath, Pranayama means managing the breath. Every now and then, our teachers would tell us to lengthen our inhales and exhales.

Drishti or focused gaze- In most asanas, our teacher would ask us to gaze at one point: “Gaze at the back” or “gaze at your mat” or “gaze at your toes.” Drishti leads to focus and concentration. I often hear our teachers say the Sanskrit word during Warrior poses and balancing poses.

Surya Namaskar or Sun Salutation is the most common flow we do at the studio. It is a series of Asanas.

Ahimsa or non-violence. This is our teacher’s favourite word. It means being kind to others and being kind to yourself. Doing yoga is sometimes frustrating. I have experienced episodes of frustrations whenever I am the only person in the room who cannot do the pose. But this word reminds me that it’s ok not slay the poses and it’s also ok to get frustrated. Also, Ahimsa goes beyond the mat. This is how we treat other sentient beings.

Last but not least, NAMASTE, a staple word at the end of the yoga session. It means honouring the light in everyone, including oneself.

Namaste and I hope you enjoyed this! If you wish to drop by at the Studio, click here for more info.

Pre-Chinese New Year at Ongpin Street

Last Saturday, we went to Manila for my mom’s checkup in Manila. This was her first post-checkup after completing all 8 Chemo sessions and lab tests. We travelled as early as 5am for the 12noon checkup. We need to be there early to get the first couple of slots.

While waiting for the doctor, I asked my folks to drop me off at Chinatown. I told them I will be staying there for a while before we return to the hospital. They went to the nearest shopping centre after they dropped me off.

I have 2 hours to roam around this familiar face. I used to go here every year to celebrate the Chinese New Year. I stopped when I realised that I am not Chinese and going there during that holiday does me no good. Haha! I usually go there during lean seasons for food trips. Vegetarian places are famous in the area. This place is magical without the crowds.

My main reason why I asked them to drop me off Chinatown is to look for Tibetan Singing Bowls. I planned to add sound therapy before or after my daily meditation sessions. Unfortunately, they were expensive. So, I decided to treat this as a short, unexpected pilgrimage. Cheap thrills? Why not?

Next week, the Filipino Chinese community will be celebrating the Lunar New Year. The place is already busy. Merchandise, fruits and plants from God knows where are now being delivered in Ongpin street, the most famous street in Binondo, Manila. Travellers are rare now, but you can still see some groups carrying with them large cameras. In the next few days, before the New Year, foot traffic here will be terrible. It’s been around 5 years since the Philippine government added the Lunar New Year as one of the major holidays in the country.

I started the pilgrimage at Binondo Church. This church was built by the Dominican Priest for the Chinese converts in the area. That is why masses are held in 4 languages to accommodate the Fil-Chinese community in Binondo and nearby towns. The major part of Ongpin street is influenced by Buddhism, but I find it cool that the residents there were able to integrate 2 major religions. I don’t mind religious integrations. Why not quote the Buddha during the homily, right?

While in Binondo Church, I lighted a candle for my mom and prayed for a positive post-chemo check-up.

Because that was a bit early, some shops are still closed. But the trinkets, Feng Shui and lucky charm stores are already luring the tourists. Pig figurines of all sizes dominated their storefronts. It’s obviously the year of the Pig, a so-so year for ‘Snakes’ like me. Some stalls are already assembling their dragons and lions for the New Year dances. People are shouting either in Cantonese or broken Filipino. Like any melting pot, contrasts are everywhere. My favourite was the shrine with a golden cross in the middle of Ongpin. There’s a Catholic cross, incense on jars, jasmine flowers and Buddhist books in Chinese characters. Generally, I still consider Binondo an eye candy in the middle of Manila.

While walking, I remember some stories about my late maternal grandfather having business affairs in the area. According to my aunts, Binondo is one of his favourite places. I wonder how this place looked like during his days.

Food stalls are everywhere along Ongpin street. Google the word Binondo, and you will get plenty of food walk articles. I admit that I could never be a good food blogger because of my dietary restrictions. Although, like what I have said earlier, Vegetarian diners are booming here. The Buddhist philosophy of Ahimsa or non-violence is being practised here.

Accidental Wong Kar Wai-ish shot.

I ended my impromptu pilgrimage at Sta. Cruz Church, where I lighted a candle for my dad. I prayed for his health, too. He takes care of my mom. This entire situation could be stressful for him not just physically but also mentally.

After Sta. Cruz Church, I went all the way back to Binondo Church where my folks picked me up.

Trying Out Osho’s Dynamic Meditation at Home

Spirituality is rebellion; religiousness is orthodoxy. Spirituality is individuality; religiousness is just remaining part of the crowd psychology. Religiousness keeps you a sheep, and spirituality is a lion’s roar. – Osho

I did not know anything about Osho except for his fierce quotes I see on Pinterest and Instagram. He has this huge eyes and long white beard, wearing a long sparkling robe. I attempted to draw him before because his looks were very iconic. And then I watched the Netflix documentary, Wild Wild Country. It was part expose and part “educational”. It is about the cult he established in the 80s called Rajneeshpuram. Everyone must watch the documentary because it is very relatable. It tackled the good, the bad, and the ugly of EVERY institution, religion, cult, or organisation.

I still find Osho and his teachings very relevant and inspirational even if the cult made me cringe. I still regard him as one of the greatest teachers of the modern world.

One of his legacies was his famous Dynamic Meditation. For Osho, to still the mind and the body, you must undergo intense physical activity and catharsis. The Dynamic Meditation is a 5-stage meditation technique leading to stillness. The cult members claimed the effect of this meditation similar to being high. I was sceptical at first, but my curiosity led me to try it. I prepared my room, cleared out all the clutter and finally opened the video on youtube (for the music).

This meditation is actually done as a group meditation, but I tried it on my own, in the comfort of my room.

Below are the stages and my reaction to every stage:

Stage 1: Breathing chaotically for 10 minutes. This is intense breathing as if you are exhaling even the mucous inside your nose. You use your whole body for the momentum of the exhalation. You can jump, move or hop to exhale, but make sure not to make a pattern out of it. Let it still be a flow.

Experience: My nose cleared out. I tried it while I have allergic rhinitis. I almost fell into the trap of making a pattern out of my body movement.

Stage 2: Let it all out. You can shout, cry, or punch a pillow. You have to release everything. You have to let it all out like this is your only chance to let go of stress, anger, fear, worries, pain and suffering. You do this for another 10 minutes.

Experience: This was a very cathartic moment for me. I cried my heart out. I remember my mom who was suffering from Cancer and her chemotherapy. I remember how unfair life is. I remember the cruelty of this world, the endless suffering, the chaos. I punched the pillows around me. I shouted like it’s my last day on Earth.

Stage 3: When you think it is over, you have to raise your hands and jump up and down while shouting “Hoo Hoo” as your mantra. Again, you do this for 10 minutes.

Experience: My body was full of salt because of the sweat and tears of Stage 2, and now I have to do this exhausting stage 3. I felt tired by jumping up and down, but I must not stop. My heart palpitated. My knees got tired. But I had to exhaust everything in me. I was on the verge of quitting the meditation, but I tried my best not to.

Stage 4: After jumping, you have to pause at the 10th minute. You must not move at all from your last position. You have to stay still for 15 minutes.

Experience: Weirdly, I did not feel any discomfort, but I felt my whole body. I felt the rush of blood throughout my body. I was vibrating. When was the last time you felt that you are one with your body? Have you ever felt as if every cell in your body is alive?

Stage 5: Dance and celebrate. You can sway with the music. You can dance like you are a crazy person. Enjoy the present moment. This is for 15 minutes.

Experience: I actually just sat down during this stage, took some fruits and enjoyed the moment. I was smiling the whole time. I was laughing about the stupidity and craziness I did. But it felt good. I felt that I was high. It was bliss.

My favourite part was Stage 2. It felt good to shed all those tears and all those emotional baggage I was carrying. Now I understand why the Rajneeshis looked like they were floating in clouds. Maybe if you do this on a regular basis, you can empty yourself and float wherever the wind takes you.

Will I do this again? Yes. But I cannot actually do this on a regular basis. I could repeat this every quarter or twice a year.

Osho designed other meditation modalities, but this one was the most used and most popular among spiritual seekers. So before I end this, let me quote one of my favourite Osho quotes:

“Experience life in all possible ways –good-bad, bitter-sweet, dark-light,summer-winter. Experience all the dualities. Don’t be afraid of experience, because the more experience you have, the more mature you become.”― Osho

Meditations at the Chemo Department

As I write this, mom is inside the Chemo room having her 7th out of the 8th round of Oxaliplatin. We are almost done with the treatment. It’s nearly 9 months since the diagnosis.

The view is the same every 3 weeks. Patients are waiting for their turns. Some are wearing wigs. Others believe that bald is bold. Oxy does not make you bald, and we are thankful for that. Either way, that was the least of our problems. We only want mom and other patients to survive this.

My maternal auntiedom is here—from Mom’s eldest sister to the youngest sister in law. Like me, they do not want to miss a session. They alternately go inside the treatment room for attendance. Visitors are medicine, too. Love is overflowing.

Kids are playing and running around the place. They have no idea what was happening inside the chemo room. Or they are aware. My first encounter with a cancer patient was when I was 8, and that was still vivid to me, and it still haunts me.

My dad is drinking his macchiato. I buy him coffee for breakfast. This is becoming a tradition already, part of our new normal. In fact, I usually get my coffee at a Starbucks near the hospital. The barista will usually do their spiels:

“How’s your day?”

“I am good.”

“Do you have class or work today?”

“No. I came from the hospital. My mom is having chemo today”,

Then they will give me their genuine smile because people are generally lovely.

I was looking the faces of the significant others of the patients. Are they ok? How are they coping? Are they scared?

The chemo unit of the hospital suffocates me. But, it is also comforting knowing that we are not alone in this battle. We all know what randomness means. The randomness of receiving a cancer diagnosis to the “Why Me?” questions of the patient. We all want to set aside our values and maturity and say “FUCK YOU, CANCER!”

At 11am, I go up to check on the newborn babies at the nursery. I have 2 thoughts, “Welcome to Earth! Life is sooo good and beautiful” and “Poor babies, life is suffering”. We cannot separate sadness from happiness, ugliness from beauty, the yin from the yang.

The chemo unit scene is one of the many faces of the reality of life. You see the pain in every bad prognosis and happiness in every report of healing and remission. It is also a sacred place to realise things you don’t usually learn in other areas.

Praying and hoping that all will be well for all the cancer patients and their caregivers.

May the divine bless you with good health and good tea and coffee!

The Gong Bath

I was excited about this specific part of my Hong Kong itinerary. The Red Doors Studio is becoming more and more popular with the expat and local yuppies in the city. It was why I quickly found it online while searching for meditation spaces in Hong Kong.

The studio is in Wong Chuk Hang, which is a bit far from the hustle and bustle of downtown Hong Kong. It is the station next to the famous Ocean Park. It is actually refreshing for me to see this laid-back side of Hong Kong. I was surprised that most of the establishments are already closed. I went to this coffee shop at around 6pm. I ordered a latte, and they closed the shop after. I was forced to stay in the street. I am glad the weather was nice, and my phone could detect a wifi connection.

After drinking my latte, I went to the Red Doors Studio, where I will spend my last night in Hong Kong. Outside the door was a shelf for the shoes. I removed it and went straight inside. I checked my name on the list, and the guy who was in charge of the registration gave me a small piece of paper. He said that I could write one thing I was grateful for today.

Next to the counter was a pile of mantras, a bowl filled with tantric necklaces, and a couple of lavender oil rolls. They instructed us to get a mantra sheet, to wear a tantric necklace and to rub essential oils on our wrists and neck. It was quite overwhelming. After the pre-bath rituals, I entered the room and sat on a mat not too close and not too far from the front. There were around 20 mats. Each mat contained a comfortable linen, an eye cover and a couple of pillows and cushions.

A bunch of gongs were on the right side of the room. This is a Gong Bath session, one of the popular offerings of Red Doors Studio. It is a form of sound healing used by our ancestors centuries ago, during the Bronze age.

After a couple of minutes, a woman in white entered the room. “Oooh! She was the founder of the studio, the one interviewed on Youtube!”, I said to myself. I did my research before coming here. She was overwhelmed that plenty of people came in tonight. It was a full house.

“Today is actually Thanksgiving Day in the US. This day teaches us about gratitude. When you entered the room, I asked you to write something that you are grateful for. I want you to share it with the person next to you.” , she instructed us. I turned to the woman next to me. She was in her mid-40s. She told me that she’s thankful for her family and the chance to live with them on a foreign land. She works in Hong Kong as an expat. I shared my note. I told her that what I wrote was something I was grateful for and at the same time a prayer and an intention. It was my mom’s healing. I told her my story. She smiled, but I felt her genuine concern.

After sharing our stories of gratitude, she asked us to settle down and do a special mantra called “Har Har Har Gobinde”, an adoration prayer.  

After the mantra meditation, she explained to us the process of Gong Bath. She said that this is the largest personal gong collection in Asia. Martha, the founder and owner of the Red Doors, started her Gong Journey 7 years ago. Her first Gong Bath session healed her ailments. “I need one of these”, she said. So she bought one. Then one purchase led to another.

Processed with VSCO with p5 preset

According to her, the sound of the frequency of the Gongs could stimulate the body. It could lead the listener to a REM sleep state. It means that you are neither asleep or awake, the state where the body heals itself. In Martha’s own words, “the cells will vibrate, and you will be like a Jell-O. That’s when you heal yourself!” I understood this because we studied this in high school. One of her friends suggested tuning the gongs to the sound frequency of the planets. Pretty cool right? The gongs have these planet symbols printed on them.

After the explanation, she finally asked us to lie down, to wear the eye cover and use the linens to cover our bodies. She asked us to close our eyes and experience the gong bath. This is it!

The first minute, I could already hear some snores. These people must be exhausted. After a while, I found my legs and arms twitching. They moved involuntarily in circular motions, like my Inner Dance experience years ago (which I will soon write here). It’s been a while since my body felt the flow of this energy, the chi.

After the 45 minutes of pure bliss (which felt like 10 minutes), Martha woke us up. I was not sure if fell asleep or if I was half asleep or if I was awake the whole time. But it felt like I slept for 8 hours. It was like I had enough sleep for a day, even after walking non-stop around Hong Kong for more than 12 hours. I smiled at the girl next to me, who looked like she had a 2-hour massage.

After the whole process, Martha instructed us to go outside the room and enjoy the snacks and yogi tea. It was time to socialise. I talked to the woman sitting next to me, and she told me that she will do it again. I said that she’s lucky she works in Hong Kong.

Before I left the place, I went back inside to talk to Martha. She said that there’s a Gong Bath in Manila because she recently did a session a couple of weeks ago. I need to research where that place is.

Getting here: 
By MTR exit Wong Chuk Hang station off the South Island Line, take exit B. Walk to the far end of the pedestrian overpass, down the steps and turn left onto Yip Kan Rd. We are the third car park opening on left, if you see a fire hydrant, you are there. Enter through the back of building after 1800 not the entrance on Wong Chuk Hang Rd. Parking available on the street at night.

Into Samadhi

Samadhi – The term ‘Samadhi’ derives from the root sam-a-dha, which means ‘to collect’ or ‘bring together’, and thus it is often translated as ‘concentration’ or ‘unification of mind. (Wikipedia)

Sheung Wan is one of my favourite places in Hong Kong. Everywhere you look is a form of artwork. It is also home to the very colourful art scenes in the country. It is an old neighbourhood where old traditions are preserved.

During my backpacking trip in Hong Kong and Macau 8 years ago, I spent a day in Sheung Wan for a photo walk. I have taken loads of pictures that time from wall art to flower boxes. I am grateful that I had the chance to add new photos to my collection.

Nothing much has changed, to be honest. The vibe was the same.

I was able to revisit Man Mo temple, and I was lucky that it was not crowded that time. Man Mo is one of the touristy temples in Hong Kong. The last time I went there, I hardly had pictures because both pilgrims and tourists flock the area. Man Mo temple was built to honour Man, the God of Literature and Mo, the God of War. The temple is in Hollywood Road, one of the major and oldest streets in Sheung Wan. If you are looking for antiques and artworks, this road is the go-to road.

But my main reason why I was in Sheung Wan was to look for Samadhi Training Center for the Soul. Again, this Hong Kong trip was a pilgrimage. During my first day, I was not able to find it. I was not bringing any map, and I had no access on the internet. I returned on the second day to intentionally look for it, and I was glad I was able to find the center. Apparently, it was located next to Hollywood Road. I could be stupid with directions sometimes.

The center is located next to a tea shop and a hole-in-the-wall food stall. The facade has this quote:

Your nucleus is of God, so you don’t need to do anything to deserve it. You simply are IT. And no matter how much you disbelieve, or try to disown this divine identity, you remain a precious part of something Loving, Supreme and All-powerful.

It was a statement by Mother Ocean, Samadhi Training Center’s founder.

As I opened the door to the center, I felt a peaceful feeling. It was kinda weird. The light inside was comforting. The colour purple dominated the room, purple carpet, purple pillows and purple cushions. The aroma inside was relaxing.

Then a woman welcomed me to the center. She was smiling, genuinely, at me, as if she’s smiling at my soul. Without exaggerations, she looked like a fairy straight out from an epic movie.

“Namaste!”, she greeted me. Namaste means peace. “What can I do for you?”

“Hi. I am Darby from the Philippines. I am travelling around Sheung Wan, and I planned to check out your center. I actually sent you a Facebook message that I will visit one of these days.”

“Oh yes, I remember. Come here and pick a cushion”, she asked me to sit down next to her. She started to explain to me what the center is about. “Samadhi Training Center for the Soul serves as a refuge for the soul. People can come here to sit and be still. Our founder is Mother Ocean.”

“Is she a local?”, I asked.

“Actually she was Malaysian born but lived in the UK for quite some time. I am actually from Switzerland, and I am doing voluntary work in this center”, she answered. “This place is actually designed metaphysically, and it contains a Light Matrix. Later, when you start your meditation, you can download this light in you.”

I had no idea what a Light Matrix was, but we continued the discussion. I shared my story about how this year slapped me on the face because of my mom’s cancer and other equally difficult trials.

“We need not label things as something good and something bad. Your mom’s cancer will open doors of opportunity for your spiritual growth”, she said. This could be a cliche, but this is the truth. I have become more human than ever after mom’s diagnosis. I grew more emphatic to other people.

“I agree”, I said. “It also led me here, in your center. I planned this Hong Kong trip to be a pilgrimage.”

“That is right. We are also here to evolve and to serve. Service is the highest form of love. When we serve others, we serve God.”

I smiled. Everything she said brought life to me.

“Ok. I will leave you now so that you can meditate”, she said. She stood up and entered another room to play music to help me meditate.

I closed my eyes.

Focused on my breathing.

Felt the metaphysical light she was telling me. I trusted the unknown.

Felt the present moment.

For the longest time, I finally had the chance to meditate, even for 10 minutes.

I felt recharged after the long walks I have had for two days.

I left the center by offering a small donation to keep things running there. Busy Hong Kong needs these spaces.

This center reminded me of the truths the universe kept on telling me over and over again throughout my life. That we are divine. That we are parts and parcels of God. We often forget these truths because we do not allow ourselves to stay still and feel the present.

We need places like Samadhi to gently remind us of the power that is inside us.

I have been scanning their Facebook account and here are my favourite quotes by Samadhi’s founder, Mother Ocean:

“Life does not create the suffering, it is your reaction to life that creates the suffering.”

“The Universe is a hologram. Each part contains the whole. When we know ourselves, we will know the Universe.”

“Whatever somebody says, whatever somebody does, it is only a mirror reflection of what is within them. It has nothing to do with you. So don’t take it personally.”

“Spiritual growth is about the Realisation of the Wholeness of Life.”

and my favourite:

WE ARE LOVE GENERATORS.

Photos I got in Sheung Wan:

Dialogue in the Dark

“Shoot, I am going to be late!” I said to myself as I prepared after an unplanned nap in the hostel. The instructions on the ticket were that I should be there 15 minutes early or else, they will start without me. My destination is to go to Dialogue in the Dark, an exhibition tour where we experience to be blind for an hour. Since the transportation system in Hong Kong is very efficient, I got there on time. In fact, I was there first.

The female staff approached us and briefed us about what’s going to happen inside. She gave each of us a pole for easier navigation in the dark. She told us that Henry, a blind person, will guide us.

Then we went inside. It was pitch black. Henry was accommodating. I wonder how he was able to guide us inside the room. He asked us to rely on his voice and his instructions. (spoilers ahead)

First, we went to the park. We navigated using our poles. We knew we were in a park because the feel of the ground is grassy. We also felt the foliage on our faces. After the trip to the park, Henry led us to a bridge going to the boat. He guided us in our respective seats. After everybody settled down on their seats, he asked us to sing in our native language. We were 4 on tour. Sarah and Millea were travelling to Hong Kong all the way from Spain to watch a Kpop concert. Eric was from the USA and has a 6-hour layover in Hong Kong. Unfortunately, I blacked out (literally and figuratively), and I was not able to sing a tune for them. I should have sung Bahay Kubo or Leron Leron Sinta.

After the boat ride, we went on to a “city tour”. We experienced being blind while crossing a street and buying at a supermarket. Before this tour, I wondered why the pedestrian lanes in Hong Kong have sounds when we cross the roads. Henry explained to us that this was for blind people and a signal when to stop and when to go.

From the city, we went to a cinema and watched at a sound theatre. It was an exciting experience because you get to appreciate every sound. For me, the movie was about the evolution of music. It started with nature sounds and finished with Rhythm and Blues.

Finally, Henry led us to a cafe. The cafe owner dictated the price of the beverages and snacks. I bought a Soya drink. Henry explained to us the reason why the money in Hong Kong differs in size. Again, this is the country’s way to be friendly to people with disabilities.

While in the cafe, the dialogue started. Henry opened the floor for questions and realisations. He told us that he lost his vision when he was a year old. The Hong Kong government is doing a great job to ease the difficulties of people with special needs.

During the whole trip inside the exhibit, I used my imagination. When Henry said that we were in a park, I imagined myself being in a park. I could imagine trees around me. I could imagine the clouds and the birds above. But how about Henry and other people who were born blind and had no idea what a plant looks like? Or what a human being looks like? I also wonder if it is more difficult to be born blind or to be born with a vision and will eventually lose it?

The dark is very inconvenient for us. Most of the time, we fear it. But, other senses are heightened in the absence of sight. The soy milk, without judgement on how it looked, tasted better. Feeling an orange using your sense of touch felt good. How often do we feel everyday things? Are we taking things for granted like the sound of the rooster in the morning? Or the smell of your mom’s especialty meal?

We often judge and label objects and people using our sense of sight. This is a chair. That is a tree. He is Darby. You are Henry. But if we see everything without judgements and without labels, maybe we could reach a point where we can appreciate everything.

Walk with faith and not by sight.

Dialogue in the Dark
Shop 215, 2/F, Household Center, Nob Hill
8 King Lai Path, Cheung Sha Wan, Kowloon

How I got there:

Mei Foo Station, Exit C1. Turn right and walk along Lai Wan Road, past Lai Chi Kok Government Offices, until you reach The Household Center.

Entrance Fee:
Adult: HKD 160,
Students, PWD, Senior, Birthday Month: HKD 90

Official Site: http://www.dialogue-experience.com.hk/en/experiential-exhibition-tour

How Jazz Taught me A Lesson About Being in the Now


We arrived in Hong Kong at around 9 am. We had the easiest immigration procedure. My 75-year-old aunt requested for a wheel-chair, allowing us not to line up at the immigration queue. Hong Kong International Airport is a city in itself with their own mall and train station.

After lunch over a bowl of noodle soup and fish cakes, I told my aunts that I will leave them to explore Hong Kong on my own. Going around Hong Kong is easy because of the very efficient transportation system. They have taxis, buses, trains, but I prefer the subway of course.

Fringe Club is my first destination. Last week, while I was drafting my itinerary, I saw this Jazz Event at the Fringe Club. I booked a ticket and decided to experience the music scene in Hong Kong. The Fringe Club is an avenue where budding artists launch their artwork. This is also where the creative buffs gather to consume and create art and music.

My expectation was actually a typical lunch. I will order food or coffee and listen to Jazz music in the background. I was wrong. It was a concert type event where we had to sit, focus and watch the musicians play. I doubted if Jazz is something that you watch.

I grew up listening to Jazz. My dad has this jazz CD and LP collection from Louis Armstrong to Ray Charles to Norah Jones. My uncle, who was with my mom in Hong Kong during the 80s is also a local jazz artist. He still remains my favourite saxophone player in the world. I also fell in love with Billie Holiday and her music during my “hipster days”. But the first time I experienced Jazz as a spiritual experience was the one I recently had at Fringe Club.

I sat on the second row next to a couple of women. They looked like they only sneaked out from their regular 8-5 work to watch the one-hour two-man show. I bought a coffee because everyone in the small audience was either eating a sandwich from 711 or holding a cup. It was an expensive cup of coffee, but it tastes good. Well, I needed to blend in with the locals and expats.

The artists went up to the stage at exactly 1 pm. Tjoe, the lead artist is about my age. He was wearing this pretty cool red long sleeves and a pair of fashionably worn out brown shoes. The guest artist was a bit older but bursting with charisma on stage, carrying with him his guitar and a cup of tea. They both have the musician’s sense of humour.

Then they started their gig and improvisation. We were watching the two dialogue using music. For the first time, I focused on Jazz. It’s different from listening to it in Starbucks. I focused on the movement of the artist’s fingers across the frets. I focused on how the two artists led each other during the improv. I was planning to do an Instagram Live or record at least a song, but I did not bother. I do not want to waste that moment. No one is doing it either. It would be awkward for me to bring out my phone. Everybody has their eyes fixed on the artists. I even noticed the woman in front of me paints a picture of the artists using a portable watercolour set. The woman next to me sighed every time she hears the quick chord shifts, from low to high or high to low. I sometimes close my eyes to feel the music.

You have to be in the moment to appreciate jazz. I had the epiphany that like this jazz event, we should always feel the moment. Our autopilot is to spend our days mindlessly. We waste precious time by allowing our irrational minds to take over. The next we know is that the day is finally over.

I am praying that throughout our busy days, let us find time to root ourselves at the moment. Close your eyes. Listen to jazz or any kind of music. Don’t hear it but listen to it. This is a good practice to feel the now and to get consumed by the present moment.

Peace to you!

Fun Fact:

Jazz has a meditative history. John Coltrane, one of the famous Jazz players of all time pushed the boundaries of Jazz. He created music to connect to the divine. His A Love Supreme, Om, and Ascension. A Love Supreme is a prayer and dedication to His maker. His inspiration comes from a week of meditation.

Picture with the artists:

Address:

Fringe Dairy, Hong Kong Fringe Club, 2 Lower Albert Road, Central, Hong Kong, Hong Kong SAR China

How I got there:

MTR Central Station, exit D1. Turn right on Pedder Street, cross Queen’s Road Central and walk up Wyndham Street. 

The Zen of Hong Kong – Intro to Pilgrimage to Hong Kong series

“If you want to go with us, let us know, we will book you a ticket”, my eldest aunt offered. My mom was supposed to join her three siblings to Hong Kong. But because she’s still under chemotherapy, she declined. Instead, she told my aunts that it would be best that if I will represent her.

It was an unexpected blessing. This year was tough for the whole family because cancer entered our quiet lives again, and worse, it was my mom. Stage 4 Colon Cancer with metastasis to the ovaries, uterus, spleen and appendix. I already expected that my annual international trip streak will be over. It was a financially challenging year.

I accepted the offer. Who am I to resist a free trip? It was God’s way of telling me, “You were tired my child, chill, relax, and I got this covered!”

In return, I promised myself and the universe that this one will be a different travel experience. That this time, it will be a pilgrimage back to my core, my spirit, or whatever you may wish to call it. I also brought with me a special intention: Mom’s healing.

Mom lived in Hong Kong for over a year and a half as a singer of their family band. She went there together with her siblings. Growing up, my mom has told me loads of stories about Hong Kong and their (mis)adventures. I could remember her stories about my uncles who were once trapped in an elevator. Some funny stories like how they badmouthed the locals who were mean to them. I also heard stories about how they were invited to sing in Kowloon’s Concert in the Park and how they joined the thousands of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) during Sundays and countless stories on repeat whenever Hong Kong was the topic.

This was my second trip to Hong Kong. The last time was the usual trip. Disneyland, Avenue of the Stars, Nathan Road, then a side trip in Macau. I will never do Disneyland again. It is not the happiest place on Earth especially if a bottle of water costs a fortune.

I carefully drafted my itinerary. I did plenty of research on how to explore the peaceful side of Hong Kong, which I believed to be a contradiction to many. Hong Kong is a huge contradiction. If you want to experience Yin and the Yang, it is everywhere.

Zen gardens in busy districts.

Meditation spaces in touristy streets.

Historical museums in modern areas.

A beautiful mural next to a garbage bin.

Old people doing tai chi in parks and young people stuck with their smartphones in the subway.

A cathedral next to a temple.

Incense and third-hand cigarette smoking.

The Chinese East and the British West

Five-star rooms in old ugly buildings.

Tea shops and coffee shops.

In this series, I will be writing about my spiritual experience while travelling in Hong Kong:

A meditative experience while watching a jazz show

An almost out of body experience while listening to a gong.

An experiential museum where I was blind for an hour.

A small meditative space where I was reminded of what my true self is.

I hope you enjoy this series.