Reflections 2010, Intentions 2011

My 2011 intention for myself...What's yours?

Dear Friends,

I am taking a break and starting to reflect on 2010 and set intentions for 2011.

So I thought I would share some questions that might be helpful if you choose to do some reflection too. It’s a long list so you could pick what speaks to your heart the most; space them out or carry them over to next year too. Reflect with trusted friends or relatives and if you do, be gentle and supportive in how you respond to others’ thoughts. Write or make some other physical representation (such as a collage or mind-map) of intentions that emerge. Having something physical to take away from reflection helps me alot.

There’s one question here that is most powerful for me – the last one! If you do just one, I’d recommend that one…


1. Imagine you will completely lose your memory of 2010 in five minutes. Set an alarm for five minutes and capture the things you most want to remember about 2010. (Author: Patti Digh) Source:

2. Who or what was your best discovery in 2010? (Source:

3. What’s the one thing you have come to appreciate most in the past year? How do you express gratitude for it? (Author: Victoria Klein) Source:

To this, I would add – To whom are you most grateful for this year and how can you express that to them? (Source: For an example of a letter of gratitude, see

4. What was the best thing you learned about yourself this past year? And how will you apply that lesson going forward? (Author: Tara Weaver) Source:

5. Who has been the biggest influence on your life? What lessons did that person teach you? (Source:

6. Where have you discovered community, online or otherwise, in 2010? What community would you like to join, create or more deeply connect with in 2011? (Author: Cali Harris) Source:

7. Which virtues did you develop the most in 2010? (Source: For list of virtues, see

8. What should you have done this year but didn’t because you were too scared, worried, unsure, busy or otherwise deterred from doing? (Bonus: Will you do it?) (Author: Jake Nickell) Source:

9. What virtue/s would you like to develop more in 2011?(Source: For list of virtues, see

10. Who can support you in transcending your fear about something that is holding you back from a more joyful life? (Source: Learn about how our dog, Max, overcame his fear of the sea:

11. Who/what would you like to open your heart to more in 2011? (Source:

12. Who do you most need to forgive? (Source: For ideas, see

13. To whom do you need to apologise? (Source:

14. Where is there most imbalance in your life? Where would you like to spend a few more hours a week next year? (Source:

15. Imagine that you will die in exactly one year. How would you live this last year so you can die in peace and in a state of fulfillment, grace and gratitude? Write down what you would do.  If you let it guide you, your life will most likely change in one year in ways you cannot imagine now. ( inspired by Stephen Levine, author of “A Year to Live” and my inspiring former professor at Columbia University, Barbara Becker, who lived like this year was her last.) This past year has been the best year of my life because I also intended to live like I could die at any time. Although I didn’t go through a structured programme and I admit I didn’t always keep to the spirit of it, I’m amazed at my progress. One reason why I mention forgiveness quite a bit on this blog is because I have felt its tremendous power in my life.  

If you forward or post one question on facebook or anywhere else, would be great if you could  forward each question with attribution to the author/source.  This way, your friends might find something on the website of the source that is helpful.



My ever-present intention for Singapore...what's yours?

How are you celebrating Christmas?

What virtues does Jesus embody the most for you?

I asked my cousin and her husband which virtues Jesus embodies the most for them. What struck me were Love, Forgiveness, Peace and being Sinless. So today and tomorrow I am reflecting on the following questions: Where in my life is love flourishing? Where is it malnourished? Who remains to be forgiven? When was I a peacemaker and when did I contribute to deepen conflict? What is one way in which I can practice more nonviolence?


I asked  Catholic priest, Father Bruno Saint Girons, what his Christmas eve homily will be about. These are some excerpts that really struck me:

All the violence in the world probably comes from that we don’t know how to love. Because we lack the experience of being loved…

and that’s why God gives himself…

Be “a light that shines in the dark”…


I also asked a few people on how they are honouring the true spirit of Christmas this year and what that means to them…  



A season of giving and sharing…
A reminder of unconditional love….
How to love and accept others as they are?
How to love them through your words and actions?
In giving, we receive…
In sharing, we give hope to others that the world is
not as cruel as we think it is,
And that love does exist, even though we may not 
feel worthy of being loved,
A time to show that we care about others, their plight,
their concerns and give a little joy to those who might
think that life is hopeless.
Such a gift was given to us, a gift of unconditional love
from God to humans, and so may we be the ones who
spread this love and bring peace to spaces of turmoil.

To one and all, Season’s Greetings and a Joyous New Year,
~ A follower of Jesus…


At Christmas I’m always reminded of the importance of family and friends. I am blessed to have my parents with me in their old age. They both celebrated birthdays recently and it was wonderful time together. I’m looking forward to a quiet christmas with the family. A time to reflect on the real meaning of Christmas. The gift of Love – “Immanuel” (which means, God with us) ~ Vairam Gopalakrishnan, Life Sojourner


Who's Christmas about to you? Gift-bearing Santa or love-bearing Christ?

Christmas is for the family to spend time together and appreciate that it was the birth of the promised child. So as always my family will be in church in the morning and will spend the rest of the day with each other. ~ Jessica, Public Relations Executive


We don’t try to do anything for Christmas these days but as long as the family still makes time to sit together for a meal at least once a week is still quite a celebration in itself.

For me this Christmas I’ll also be sharing a Christmas lunch with two friends whom I feel I would like to know better.
~ David Gan, Videographer


Who's Christmas about to you? Gift-bearing Santa or love-bearing Christ?


Christ is THE sole reason for Christmas. It commemorates His birth, but more than that, God’s infinite, all-giving love. One so great that He sent His Son to us both to bring the good news and to redeem us. Imagine if we so loved ants that we actually gave up our human form – and all of its rights and privileges – to take on that of an ant – with all the vulnerabilities that entail!
Hence I choose to honor Christ by going to the Christmas vigil on the eve, and Christmas Day mass. I also choose to bring the joy of His love and presence in a real, tangible way by sharing this time with the poorest elderly Singaporeans, at St Vincent’s Home. As our Pope notes, “It is Christmas every time we allow Jesus to love others through us.”

Blessed Christmas,
~ Viv Claire, Founding Director of a philanthropy-related organisation


How about you?

Related post on giving:

PS: I approach this blog from a multi-faith perspective and don’t promote any one particular spiritual tradition.

I am grateful to all who shared their thoughts with me! Have a wonderful Christmas!

Prisoner Art

The Yellow Ribbon Project is an initiative to give ex-offenders a second chance. I attended their community art exhibition this year and was very moved by the art pieces made by inmates.  The art pieces continue to be on sale  so if you’d like to buy something that represents deep hope for someone, this could be it. If as a community we do what we can to support them, they have a higher chance of breaking out of the cycle of crime…

It could also be a meaningful gift to someone you know who likes a certain piece and the idea behind Yellow Ribbon.

My favourite
We help reduce the chances of inter-generational crime when we support prisoners who have turned over a new leaf. No, there are no guarantees they have changed. Sometimes it helps others when we take a chance...just like we would like to be given a second chance if we have made a terrible mistake...



 ~ The word art “adoption” is used but it just means sale.

~ The money from the art pieces goes to the Yellow Ribbon fund. I was told that the artists have been paid for the work.

~ Till 27th December 2010, the person handling enquiries on this will be Mr Prem who can be reached at premchand_shahri[at] or 62142832. After that, please contact Mr Choo Soon Ann at 62142815 or email him at choo_soon_ann[at]

Knowing where material things stand

Materialistic aspects of Christmas contribute little to joy or bring less happiness

Happiness is…..knowing where material things stand during (and after!) Christmas.

A 2002 study cited in the Journal of Happiness Studies, “What makes for a merry Christmas” by Tim Kasser and Kennon Sheldon involved interviewing 117 respondents on their “satisfaction, stress and emotional wellbeing” during the Christmas season. It concluded that:

 “…family and religion provided the greatest benefit to holiday well-being whereas the secular, materialistic aspects of the holiday either contributed little to Christmas joy, or were associated with less happiness and more stress and unpleasant affect. Such findings fit well with research about how family, religion and materialism relate to well-being during the rest of the year (Kasser, 2000; 2002, Myers, 2000) and suggest that the path to a merry Christmas comes not from purchasing many expensive gifts at the mall, wrapping them, and placing them under the tree, but instead from satisfying deeper needs to be close to one’s family and find meaning in life.”

Remembering what's important amidst the bright lights and glitz - Connection

I got in touch with Dr Kasser and asked him how he celebrates Christmas:

…. my family does celebrate Christmas. My wife and two sons are Christian, although I am not.  We grow our own Christmas trees and so my boys and I typically go and chop one down, and then the boys and my wife decorate it.  We have a low key Christmas Eve, as my wife goes to an evening service at her church and then picks up a pizza for dinner.  Christmas day the boys open some presents from their relatives.  We have found that we can not control the grandparents so well in terms of what they want to buy for the children. 

But we try to limit the presents to some small things in the stockings, and two medium size gifts for each boy.  We also always give them coupons that they can redeem throughout the year.  The coupons are for a variety of things, such as being able to skip a chore or a meal that they do not like, having the chance to visit the library, getting extra screen time (as they are limited to 30 minutes per day), having extra dessert, etc.  For dinner, we have a vegetarian tofurkey and some sides.

Then we leave on the 26th to visit my mother and brother’s family in Louisville.  We have implemented a gift exchange with that part of the family, in which the adults all draw one of each other’s name and then only buy for that person (instead of everyone buying for everyone). A similar gift exchange happens among the younger cousins as well.

I thank Dr Kasser for taking the time to respond. I also greatly value the honesty of his response. His answer raises the real-life complexities of trying new ways of being that run counter to what people are used to. I also like the idea of getting fewer gifts. It echoes the Advent Conspiracy’s idea for us to even buy one less gift for Christmas.

One thing that has helped me over the years is to be less “all or nothing” and be comfortable with doing my best, embracing contradictions and difficulties yet staying conscious and honest about them. And still moving in a positive direction…

My next post will be on alternative gifts and alternatives to gifts.

iPhone app: The Virtues Reflection Cards


The only reason I got an ipod touch is to review iphone apps for this blog! And the first app I downloaded is the Virtues Reflection Cards.

~ It’s a very simple app and it is a virtual version of the printed Virtues Reflection card deck. So just like a pack of cards, you can shuffle it and pick a card randomly or pick a card purposefully.  There are 100 virtues which are beautifully explained.

~ There are quotations from different spiritual traditions, seekers and great minds, six ways to practise the virtue and an affirmation.

~ Each card has two sides so remember to use the flip button.


~ There is also a wonderful option to send a virtues card to someone via email! (Thanks to Debby Ng for discovering that and letting me know!)

You could pick a virtue of the day as you start or end your day. Or when you face a challenge.  I have given it as a gift to people of different faiths and they have appreciated it.

Sometimes I don’t give the deck as a gift but bring my cards with me and invite people to pick a card as a gift. It’s free and much appreciated! I did this with friends at the Gandhi Institute of Nonviolence in Rochester and this is what George Payne from the Institute emailed me later:
I just wanted to let you know that I ordered the virtues cards for the Institute.  These will become a terrific asset for us as we try to communicate the universal messages of truth and compassion. Thank you for sharing them with us.

George just shared with me today via email that they have used it several times already. :)

I have used the cards during a family gathering where each member got to receive a card when picked with intention but randomly. It was well-received! Some asked me what it means to pick a virtue randomly and I like what the developers of the cards say:

When we receive a virtue, it is either a affirmation or an invitation and sometimes both.

Hopefully you’ll know in your heart which it is…:)

Some will prefer the actual deck of cards and some, the app. With the app, I can show it to more people and not have to lug around 100 cards. But part of me is old-style so I will still use the deck most days. I like the feeling of shuffling and picking real cards!


I loved this book for years and a few months ago wrote to the author to ask if we could meet. She said "Yes"!

One of my favourite books is “Hope for the Flowers” by Trina Paulus. In it, two caterpillars set off on a journey together. One becomes a butterfly faster than the other. Then she waits for him although he’s still entrenched in caterpillar activities.

I met Trina at her home in New Jersey in October 2010 and asked her to pretend to be Yellow, the  butterfly. I asked her why she waited instead of moving on with another butterfly. She said, “Because I love him”.

In a 1997 interview with Carl McColman, Trina explains the beauty of waiting and spoke about Advent – which is the Catholic period of waiting for the coming of Christ before Christmas – which is happening right now.

Here’s an excerpt of the interview which first appeared in “New Leaves”:


Carl: My favorite line in the story comes when Yellow is struggling with Stripe’s request for her to join him when he tries to climb the pillar for the second time. She realizes that “somehow, waiting and not being sure was better than action she couldn’t believe in.” That’s a powerful statement—and also a challenging one, for I believe we live in a world where “not being sure” and “waiting” are not valued. Can you share with us any insights on this wisdom? Where did you learn the value of uncertainty and waiting?

Trina: This is a frequent theme in the book. Yellow’s leadership of love is possibly best shown in her ability to wait. She waits to know what she should do next with her own life—against her immense urge to sacrifice her own becoming to please her “man.” She waits within her own cocoon. She waits for Stripe to get the point. She waits for Stripe to make his long journey down the pillar. She waits for him to go into the cocoon and finally she waits while he is experiencing his transformation within it.

My reverence for waiting and not being sure was most deeply nurtured by my experiences of silence and that great, feminine, pregnant celebration of this mystery given to us in the season of Advent, those 4 weeks before the winter solstice, the feast of new life, which the early church chose to honor the birth of Christ. I had the privilege of living this season in its full splendor during my years with The Grail, an International Women’s Movement, at their U.S. center at Grailville, Loveland, OH, and it has enriched my life with dimensions of meditation, silence and prayer not easily found.

I still try to live the spirit of Advent, but it is not possible to experience this sort of profound celebration of the not-yet of things, the waiting, in today’s world, which has so fully eliminated that season that we think of Christmas as beginning with Thanksgiving, and ending, not beginning, on December 25.This is the season that seems most totally condensed by our present world—to our detriment—I believe. We need to honor the “not yet” times in our and others’ lives, like we honor what is happening in a cocoon.



Sometimes we wait for others. To learn new things. To change.  To even love us or treat us better. Sometimes we wait for a situation to change. For opportunities. For respite from a rough patch.

There are rewards to waiting...


~ for someone or a situation that poses challenges makes me a better person. I have found that it’s much more effective to change myself than wait for someone to change.  So I am learning to wait for myself to change more patiently. But over time, if I am changing for the better and the other is not in the ways that fulfil my needs, then it might be time to stop waiting. I need to discern when others may not be honouring my time and making me wait consistently or too long to my detriment.

helps me develop more creative and deeper solutions. I find that some answers emerge over time so I try not to hurry for quick ones which may make me look efficient but not actually help me be as effective as I can truly be.  

helps me develop patience. I have been conditioned to be impatient by our society and am striving to undo it!  One thing that has helped is working for social change because deep change often takes time. As lyricist, Bob Russell wrote: “The difficult I’ll do right now/The impossible will take a little while.”

“There is more to life than increasing its speed” ~ Gandhi

Here’s wishing you the “more” in life…

And discovering when to wait and when to move on…or try a different approach. 

PS: “Hope for the Flowers” is available at Kinokuniya (Singapore) and the National Library (Singapore). It has a powerful message of hope for people of all faiths and walks of life.  Correta Scott King, wife of Martin Luther King wrote this of the book:

“I read it with deep appreciation for its message.”

Click here to check if the book is available at your favourite branch of the national library.

PS: I don’t promote any one particular spiritual tradition through this blog. I do value inter-faith understanding and approach this blog from a multi-faith perspective. And I value the universal principles of love and compassion.

Advent Conspiracy

I love the message of the Advent Conspiracy for those who honour Christmas –  Worship Fully, Spend Less, Give More and Love All. Their video says it best.

There are resources for pastors who’d like to join in too.

PS: I don’t promote any one particular spiritual tradition through this blog. I do value inter-faith understanding so will approach this blog from a multi-faith perspective. 

Book: The Gift of Nothing

New York Times Bestseller “The Gift of Nothing” by Patrick McDonnell is a lovely picture book  that makes us appreciate that sometimes we need not give people  anything tangible.

Ironically, it makes a good gift….!

Watch a preview of it. Read reviews of it. Available in the National Library (Singapore). All MUTTS books by the author are printed on recycled paper. And he’s a supporter of animal protection.

Thanks to Debby Ng for this book recommendation!

PS: I love children’s books. Some impart profound messages in minutes! So you’ll see more of them in this  category. :)

Give Me Love on Christmas Day

“Give me love on Christmas Day” by the Lilac Saints reminds us of what Christmas is about.

I asked their percussionist, Desmond Sim, about the inspiration for the song and he said: “Love”.

“There is not a need for any materialistic gifts, just simply love.”

The song was recorded in 2008 as a charity project. All proceeds of the single sale were given to “Boy’s Town”, their chosen charity. Sounds like love in action to me…

Thanks to Ketan Shah for introducing the song to me and to the Lilac Saints for sharing wisdom through music! :)

Movie: It’s A Wonderful Life


What would the world be like if you hadn't been born? (Image source: Wikipedia Commons)

Some movies nourish us…and I thought I’ll share some that nourish me.

My first movie recommendation is Frank Capra’s “It’s A Wonderful Life” about a man who views his life differently on the Christmas eve that he decides to commit suicide.

It has been named by the American Film Institute to be one of the 100 best American films made.  It also tops their list of most inspirational American films of all time. 

What would the world be like if you hadn’t been born? 

That’s what the movie asks us to ponder. What a great question.

It is also a great movie for leaders on how their decisions affect so many lives. (In the movie, the businesses are banks…)

I’m not sure about sacrificing so much of one’s personal dreams  so consistently for others. I prefer the idea of loving oneself as we love others…but the film still works on many other levels for me.

My favourite lines..

On being discouraged

Clarence (who’s protagonists’ guardian angel being sent on his mission): Is he sick?

Joseph (head angel): No, worse, he’s discouraged.

On different kinds of businessmen (though I would prefer a nonviolent version of this myself..!)

George: Just remember this, Mr. Potter, that this rabble you’re talking about…..they do most of the working and paying and living and dying in this community. Well, is it too much to have them work and pay and live and die in a couple of decent rooms and a bath? Anyway, my father didn’t think so. People were human beings to him, but to you, a warped frustrated old man, they’re cattle. Well, in my book he died a much richer man than you’ll ever be!


George: We’ve got to have faith in each other. 


Clarence’s note to George: “Dear George, remember no man is a failure who has friends…. “

And my favourite message from the movie is that what goes around comes around…

PS ~  Movies I recommend should be available in at least one of the DVD rental stores/online stores in Singapore unless I say otherwise. I got mine from Video Ezy. This dvd is also available at the national library branch at the Esplanade.

~ If possible, why not do movie nights with family, friends or colleagues and have a little chat afterword about it? That chat enables reflection and exchange of new ideas and holds the possibility for more transformation than just watching the movie and heading off afterward. 

~ If you do watch something you read about on this blog, would love to hear from you on how it went!