Deepavali and Inner Light

Happy Deepavali to all Hindu readers!

How do you keep your inner light bright? Who are the witnesses who mirror your light back to you?

Deepavali is about the triumph of good over evil. And I value what Indian mystic Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev shared in 2008:

The evil need not necessarily come in the form of demons. Desperation, depression and frustration can cause much more damage than to one’s life than the demons that you have not seen.

Diwali is a reminder to slay all that is negative in our life. Especially in today’s global economic situation, on this festival of lights, let your inner light remain on.

How we go through tough times determines what we are made of. If only you can go through difficult times with an inner grace, you could see that every situation we face is an opportunity to enhance our lives.


To me, the inner light represents love, truth and wisdom.

May you strive to keep your inner light bright. And also see the inner light in others, even when it’s difficult to. And when someone is shining their light very brightly, I hope you share with them how you’re impacted by that.

Mind the Snails

Save lives – yours and others’. Walk mindfully.

About two weeks ago I watched with horror as I saw a man almost being run over by a car at Orchard Road. He was on his phone, oblivious, and facing away from traffic yet crossing the road. A few of us called out to him and he managed to step back in time. If the car had hit him, the few of us walking near him may also have been injured.

I also see many people almost bumping into me while they walk and look at their phones.

The other day I saw a crushed snail next to my friend’s foot. I wondered whether it had needlessly died because someone was looking at their phone while walking.

I see drivers looking at their phones while driving. I wonder how many lives have been lost because of this. The other day, as I saw a driver on the ECP look at his phone while driving, I actually felt tears well up.  I thought about how I would feel if my loves ones were hit by such drivers. Then I wondered how many of my loved ones were such drivers!!

Some of us have become zombies or addicts or nearing that, plugged into various electronic gadgets, disconected from the present and unable to be in silence or with our own thoughts for even a few minutes. Yet we are judgmental of addicts such as alcoholics and drug and gambling addicts. Maybe this addiction to electronic gadgets is bigger than all of that! (Watch video on smartphone addiction.)

There is an alternative – we could be walking around with vitality, connected to the present, aware of where we’re heading, what we’re stepping on, aware of who’s walking around us, smile at them, help someone who may need help, or send positive intentions to people.

So what can I personally do? I can stop looking at my phone while walking. I don’t do it much but if I want others to be more mindful, I need to be as well. “Don’t do it much” is poor excuse. Maybe on the day I do do it, I might hurt someone or myself.

I thank the series of incidents that have led me to this resolution to not look at my phone while walking and certainly not cross roads while using the phone. I especially thank the crushed snail and this beautiful one (in photo) in showing me how we can destroy a fragile and beautiful life if we’re not mindful…his fate lies in your hands…or rather feet..

As I have shared before, our behaviour on walkways and roads may reflect how we journey through life. Moving too fast and mindlessly, we may get crushed… or crush someone/something else….

Moving mindfully could bring us greater connection with ourselves and others…and hence, greater joy.

How to Break Free from Addictive Checking

Coping with Cell Phone Addiction

PS: Since I wrote this, I saw a pregnant woman crossing the road in Orchard looking at her handphone….I would like to invite you to observe others and yourself on this matter…and if you like, try using your handphone less…What do you see? What do you realise? What do you feel? What could you choose? Where would it bring you?




Video: Inner Work and the Life of a Teacher

“My life is my message” ~ Gandhi

This video captures what I hold very dear…that the inner work of teachers (and by that I mean all who are in a position to educate and facilitate the transformation of others) affects their contribution in the world.

In this video, kindergarten teacher Dr. Debbie Dewitt says, “I teach who I am”. She asks, “Are the children happy? Are they whole? Am I happy? Am I whole?”

If more teachers, leaders, parents and others in the helping professions were aligned with such thinking, I believe we’d see a supremely more powerful positive transformation in the world.

One of the greatest inihibitors of such a difference is when we try to help others without doing sufficient inner work. I did that for many years as a social change advocate and count that as one of my biggest mistakes and am thankful I am more conscious of this now.

Learn more at the website of the Center for Courage and Renewal.

When in doubt, escape

Over the last two years, I have broken free from a prison I had mindlessly got myself into.

I bought less of some things and more of others.

Fewer clothes, jewellery, shoes, bags, material gifts.

More of experiences such as training workshops that were critical to a new venture I have started. More picture books with beautiful messages which I carry as part of my mobile library.

Consumerism slowly imprisons us into thinking happiness lies there. (Image credit: Adbusters)

While I was headed this way, two catalysts were responsible for helping me shift even more consciously.

One is Debby Ng who said that of the three “Rs” – Reduce, Re-use, Recycle – Reduce is the most important and yet gets the least attention. Another was someone else who asked me if I really needed another pair of jeans when I said I was looking for ethically produced jeans. It’s been a year since he asked me and I haven’t bought another.

Escape. When you feel like buying something, I recommend asking yourself, "Will this bring me true joy? What else could I do with the money that could?" (Image credit" Adbusters)

When I feel like buying something, I now ask myself, “What else could I do with this money?” And I think of how else I could use the money – I could save it or put it aside for insurance. I could spend it on health-related services/items, learning experiences, ethically produced things that sometimes cost more, books. 

Positive psychologist Sonya Lyubomirsky shares in her book, “The How of Happiness”:

“..not only does materialism not bring happiness, but it’s been shown to be strong predictor of unhappiness…materialists are more likely than nonmaterialists to suffer from a variety of mental disorders…materialism may distrct people from relatively more meaningful and joyful aspects of their lives, such as nurturing their relationships with family and friends, enjoying the present, and contributing to their communities…materialistic people have been found to hold unrealistically high expectations of what material things can do for them… 

Professor Tim Kasser has also done alot of research in this area.

I still buy. Just much less. I strive to stay conscious so I don’t get hypnotised to buy. And I have my own way of dealing with the ads that hound us, making us feel like we need more and more and that we’re never enough. More on that next time! But here’s what I mean!

Related: The Advent Conspiracy, Knowing where material things stand, What do we give then?

Missing House

I was walking to a friend’s place and a house was missing down her street. All that was left was a gaping hole, like the gaping hole we feel in our hearts when we lose what’s precious.

Apparently, the house was there one day and gone the next, quietly…..    

One day we’ll wake up and someone close will be gone. If we want a worthy race, let’s forget the rat race. Let’s get onto the race to Love and show it. Life is fragile and fleeting.

“Normal day, let me be aware of the treasure you are. Let me learn from you, love you, bless you before you depart. Let me not pass you by in quest of some rare and perfect tomorrow. Let me hold you while I may, for it may not always be so. One day I shall dig my nails into the earth, or bury my face in the pillow, or stretch myself taut, or raise my hands to the skye and want, more than all the world, your return.”~ Mary Jean Iron


Sorry…(Part 1)

I wrote this sometime ago when I was waiting for someone to apologise to me. I was so gripped with hearing an apology that I started to read about what I wanted so much. I didn’t get it published so it’s time to now! I never got the apology but no longer need it. I have forgiven the person and myself for attracting certain behaviours into my life. I wish the person well.

I wouldn’t wait for an apology again. It’s not within my power. But forgiveness is. And so is learning lessons from what happened.


It is sometimes easy to make a mistake or hurt someone and just move on. You forget, downplay, or rationalise away its significance. Yet the harm you caused may live on, unseen by you. The injured party may have difficulty trusting others or face other problems. And if your conscience is awake, say ‘hello’ to stress, anxiety or sleepless nights.

Why Apologising Matters, More Than You Think

We are not brought to criminal courts for the daily unkindnesses, betrayals and pain we inflict on others. Yet have you realised that the impact on others may be just as severe? In fact, as Harvard Professor Donna Hicks notes, when one’s dignity is violated, the brain experiences the injuries are as severely as gunshot wounds.

When you apologise, you are restoring some sense of justice to an unfair situation. Through an apology, you are helping the wronged party heal and achieve true closure through empathy, caring and respect.

Research has even shown that those who imagine receiving an apology experience better heart and nervous system functioning. Try a small experiment. Close your eyes. Think of someone who acted in an unkind way to you and has not made amends. Now imagine the person sincerely acknowledging your feelings, regretting his actions and making amends.   Notice your feelings, muscles and breathing. Does it feel like some order in the world was restored? Now imagine giving that gift to someone you may have hurt or been unjust to.

Apologising to make yourself feel better is insincere. But apologising does bring positive side-effects. It assuages your conscience, increases your self-regard and relieves stress. It is a sign of emotional and spiritual maturity.

Making amends is a key part of twelve-step programmes (such as Alcoholics Anonymous) for recovering addicts and others with dysfunctional behaviours. It has been found that when participants become responsible for their actions and make amends to those they had hurt, they experience remarkable positive life changes.

Beware, the Empty Apology

Do you think you have already apologised to someone? Beware, for empty apologies are the easiest to give and the worst to receive. Many of us have received these. We hear someone saying “sorry” but something just does not feel right. And the insincerity can hurt tremendously. So if you’re saying sorry while gritting your teeth, or you are just doing it because you want to look good or be polite, it is meaningless. Apologising is not about saying the words “I am sorry”. It is a process of honest self-reflection and change.

So what’s the recipe for the best apology? See Part 2.

Resource: Apologies Page

Sorry….(Part 2)

In Part 1, I wrote about why apologising matters and what not to do. Here’s some guidance on how to do it well…

Recipe for The Best Apology

While many have written about forgiveness, few have written about the healing power of apologies and how to give one that is meaningful. Beverly Engel, a psychotherapist with over 25 years of experience, fills this gap with her book, “The Power of Apology”. It is a seminal piece that has the potential to bring much needed healing to all kinds of relationships, including those that have ended. In her book, she provides guidance on how to apologise and what distinguishes her advice from others’ is the inner work that is done before the apology.

~ Make a list of whom you have hurt or treated unfairly and not made amends to.

~ Be honest with yourself. Take responsibility for your actions.

~ Reflect on the impact of your actions on the other.

~ Empathise.

~ Forgive yourself. Otherwise the attention will be on your guilt and not the person you are apologising to. Guilt is not the best reason to apologise.

~ Forgive the person you are apologising to for whatever they may have done to you. Otherwise, you may be holding on to resentment that can taint the apology.

~ Plan your apology carefully. A flippant “sorry” can exacerbate things.

As you use this process, it feels like you are peeling away layers, till you get to the heart where a hidden gem lies. This is the apology, waiting quietly to be given as a gift. Without such inner work, the apology would not be ready – uncooked!

During the actual apology, Engel recommends three steps:

Regret – Empathise. Feel the sorrow and regret for having caused hurt. Communicate this.

Responsibility – Take responsibility for your actions or inactions. Avoid excuses or blame.

Remedy – How you will make it better for the person you hurt? What amends will you make? Communicate that. I believe that it may be beneficial to also ask the other party how else you could support them so that they can truly heal.

Tip: The magic ingredient is really genuine empathy. It is what distinguishes us from psychopaths who can hurt others and move on, feeling nothing.

The Best Amends

In “A Pace of Grace”, Linda Popov, founder of The Virtues Project is unequivocal about what a true apology means. She says, “When we have made a mistake, transformation is the only amends.” Popov cites the story of a man who was regretful for something he had done. He asked a spiritual master, “How can I know if God has forgiven me for what I did?” The master said, “You’ll know you are forgiven when you no longer do it”.

Reminders for Reaching Out

~ Step nine of 12-step programmes remind us to only apologise when this will not cause further harm.

~ Even if you have no contact with the person you want to apologise to, set out to reach them. It is never too late. Such apologies are especially important because it is easy for someone to be “out of sight, out of mind”. Yet you have no idea how you might have affected them. Your relationship with them may just evolve into something better than before, because you have evolved.

~ Facing the risk of your apology being rejected is part of the courageous journey this is. The right thing to do is sometimes not the easiest.

Start a Pandemic

The miraculous power of apologising lies in its healing potential for both parties – and more. As you set out to heal someone else’s heart, you may heal yours. And as you set out to respect someone else, you will respect yourself. And as two people experience growth and healing, those connected to them will, too.

Of course, the best outcome is learning and growing from our “Sorries” so we really have to say fewer of them as time goes by.

But for now, how many “Sorries” are waiting for you to deliver?

Related: Forgiveness, Apologies Page