Lotus in Gold

Hello Friends,

I’m happy to let you know of a friend, Melissa De Silva, who has found her calling in art. I was fortunate enough to be a witness to her journey of transformation and discovery.

Here’s a painting by her, which is on sale. If you know of people who may find joy in owning this piece, please forward this post to them.

I invited Melissa to share more about her painting.


This work for me represents our collective human journey through life. For all of us, it is a
transformative journey that may start out in a dark and murky place but ends in
a space of light, brightness and purity.

I created the lotus from gold and silver foil shapes and hand smeared black paint over some of the petals. To the ancient Egyptians, the lotus was a symbol of rebirth.  In the evening, it closes and slips underwater but in the morning, it opens, rising resplendent above the water in glory. In Buddhist symbolism, because the lotus emerges from muck and corruption through purifying water into the sunlight, it’s a metaphor for the transformation of human beings as they make their way towards enlightenment. To me, that the lotus has emerged from the water (although a little muddy!) indicates that
despite our scars and bruises, our ultimate triumph will be the strength and radiance of our human spirit.

I chose to do the lotus in gold as a symbol of flexibility on our spiritual path. In a sort of
alchemic process, we assimilate life experiences and allow them to refine and
shape us.

The golden square suspended above for me, represents existence, or the divine. It is always with us, shining its light on us and guiding us to the true path of love, joy and
fulfillment that we are all created for.

In many ways, this work represents my own transformative journey, starting out as a rather clueless human being and taking heaps of wrong turns along the way, but
(slowly!) I am learning every day to listen to the compass of my heart and my
inner wisdom to guide me along way.


Melissa blogs at Finding The Lotus.



Conscious Changemaking

This is a precious list of principles that could guide us to make change in the world in a more conscious and peaceful way.

In my time in the social change sector, I realised that this doesn’t always happen. I was also focused on changing the world and doing less to change myself.

This list has inspired me for years. When I first saw it, I admired it and understood it at a cognitive level mainly. Now, the ideas have sunk deeper into my heart and I practise them more.

I hope you find this a supportive guide in your journey to improve the world too.

Of Bears and Bulls

Bear in a farm that investigators visited. Photo Credit: World Society for the Protection of Animals

I was involved in the campaign to end the farming of bears for extraction of their bile when I was working in the animal welfare sector.  Various animal welfare investigators who have visited bear bile farms have found bears kept in tiny cages, so that they can have  their bile extracted out of their gall bladders. Extreme suffering results. Here’s one resource for more information.

Photo Credit: World Society for the Protection of Animals

So I shared the deep concern of animal protectionists when I recently learnt that a company that is involved in farming bears for their bile in China is trying to get listed publicly.

Amidst this disconcerting news, a light shines brightly. Alibaba.com has committed to not allowing bear bile products to be sold on its platform. They also don’t carry cat and dog meat and fur. How wonderful that this business cares enough to give up the potential for more money and stands firm on standing up for compassion! Let’s celebrate such actions, and let people know of such businesses.

News of the  potential public listing of this company reminded me of ethical investments.  It’s another powerful way in which we can make a difference, without leaving our homes. Learn more: Global Impact Investing Ratings System, The Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment.

(We still need to use our own personal compass to guide us and be vigilant. For example, if you care about animals like I do, we may choose to invest in businesses that don’t trade in animals, which may still be listed as “socially responsible” under other criteria.)

Crushed – What Can We Do?

On Saturday, 18 Feb 2012, a worker from China got folded into a dough-mixing machine as it began churning. He was crushed and killed.

The dead man’s girlfriend, Ms Feng Weijia, told Chinese newspaper Lianhe Wanbao, that they were going to get married next year. Apparently, her boyfriend had said that he had a good boss but that he  was working overtime – about 12 to 16 hours at a time – almost daily.

Investigations are undergoing.

I couldn’t turn the page when I read this news report. Various thoughts emerged:

– Let’s say it was true that he was working 12-16 hours frequently. Could working shorter hours have meant he is alive today? Could he have been alert enough to withdraw his foot fast enough? Or been more mindful of his safety? Or remember any safety instructions he had been given? Was he too tired? Maybe.

– How about his employers? Do they work long hours too that affects their own wellbeing adversely? Is that why this practice is probably trickling down and affecting their workers? If they knew in their hearts that compassion is a big part of being joyful, could this death have been prevented?

What if we know his employers, or other employers or realise that we are “employers” ourselves? We belong to clubs, associations, alumni groups, schools, places of worship and of course our own places of employment. We know others from there.  These places have staff, both permanent and contract workers. If we have influence in these settings, we could use that to enable these employees to be safer and happier. What conversations could we start to enable this? How would we invite family members, friends and others in our affiliated groups to run their businesses more consciously and compassionately?  How could we support them to be compassionate to themselves, as well as those they work with?

Remuneration, working hours, workplace safety, medical support when injured, accommodation, food, transport, and potential for growth – these are some key areas we could pay attention to. I don’t currently have a precise list of questions we could pose to contractors etc. For now, let’s try common sense and what we would want for someone we love dearly.

How could we create systems of transparency and accountability where we really get to know what’s going on the ground for contract workers especially? What could we witness and check first-hand?

– There’s alot of talk on Corporate Social  Responsibility these days. My thinking is that the best CSR starts with one’s own employees. No need to go far to find suffering to alleviate or to bring joy to others.

If you agree, and have opportunities, could you help shape the CSR discourse to integrate more of such a view?

Yes, some changes require more money.  Are we willing to pay more to enable these employees to have a better life? What would it feel like to vote for compassion with our money? How about using some of the money we want to give away in the name of CSR to actually making changes in our own companies/organisations that can help protect more lives, and help employees be happier?

How could we do as much as our compassion and wisdom guide us to, and not only follow legislation? Fo example, it’s legal to transport workers in goods vehicles. But if we really cared about their safety, we could transport them in passenger vehicles.

This week, another worker, Mr Ibrahim, 22, was killed when the lorry in which he was being transported in met with an accident. Others were injured.

But those are the few that we get to know of. I know there’s probably more employees who got injured this week. Maybe more died.

I now have a start-up that helps businesses help their employees to be happier. It’s my own small way of helping to change things. What could yours be? Where’s your sphere of influence? How could you use it peacefully and constructively?

Every small bit helps. Let’s not let this man’s tragic death be in vain.

For a start, could you bring/raise the ideas in this post to any upcoming meeting and start a dialogue around it? Or simply forward this to someone with a note on what could be done in the organisation you’re from?

(PS: I also try to heal my own blindspots, inconsistencies, short-sightedness as I believe that societal transformation starts with personal transformation. If not, I may be the unwitting cause of someone writing a blog somewhere about my actions, and how s/he needs to try and change mine!)



Picture Books Went Walking…

My little children’s books collection went walking and came back from visiting a specialist clinic and a restaurant in Singapore. Am grateful to Dr Tan Chi Chiu from Gastroenterology and Medicine International at Gleneagles Hospital and Mr Tan Kian Teong of Cornerstone Restaurant.

Here are some of the comments people left in the books.

The books continue to move, delight and provoke thought among adults. I sometimes bring them to gatherings or lend them to people.

Related: Picture Books for Adults

Conscious Diamonds

We can spread joy as conscious consumers…

If you buy diamonds, and care that they are made ethically (that is, without funding violent rebel groups, or torture or rape by militaries) please log on to these links and share them with your friends.



While there are companies which say they enforce standards by the Kimberly Process, this is what Charmian  Gooch, a Founding Director of Global Witness, a human rights group has said:

“Nearly nine years after the Kimberley Process was launched, the sad truth is that most consumers still cannot be sure where their diamonds come from, nor whether they are financing armed violence or abusive regimes.”

Here is more information on Global Witness leaving the Kimberly Process.

Brilliant Earth is a company that goes beyond the Kimberly Process in acquiring its diamonds.

Lab-grown diamonds are another alternative. Max Gordon is an option in Singapore.

Or perhaps this is a time to give up on diamonds altogether and channel the money to worthy social change projects or investing in your personal and spiritual development? :)