Confessions of a Wordwhore


Technically speaking, blogging method is the same whether it is a NaBloPoMo, or 365-post, or once in a blue Saturn moon. Blogging is blogging, except that if you've been doing ANYTHING every day for a while, it is bound to get easier.

Last year's NaBloPoMo happened on Valentine's month, and I was in a relationship with an amazing guy, and I hadn't been on a vegetarian meditation trip. Not even once.

This year, I haven't published regularly in more than a year. The only romantic relationship I have is with my nail-polish collection. And I haven't seen a roll of joint in forever that I have completely lost the ability to laugh at trees. Oh they used to be so funny.

Like I said, NaBloPoMo this year was TECHNICALLY easier by no contest.


Creatively speaking, I'm stuck. What I did this past month is the same thing that I have been doing for the last five years. When the Angels come to my deathbed, I'm going to spend my last smoker's breath guffawing: Of course I can write, edit and publish a 300-500 word blogpost in less than 2 hours while fasting and half asleep. Tell that to the Auditing Angels, so can you now leave me sunbathing by the River of Booze in peace, please?

Creatively speaking, this isn't what I had in mind at the beginning of August. I don't feel like there has been much of improvement in my writing. I'm disappointed that most of the stuff posted this month were exactly what I did NOT want to end up with: narcissistic reporting.

And if these are the ideas that had been sitting in my hiatusing writer's head for the past year, does it mean that I haven't improved much as a person?



I'm convinced that if I want to be a fiction writer, and not just a blogger, I won't be able to pull it off by blogging. It just doesn't come together: the audience, the deadline, the media, the internet and great-writing.

On the other hand, I just signed up for September's NaBloPoMo. As much as I dislike my own craftsmanship, I still can't stop writing. No, rephrase that. I still love writing. And if blogging is the only currently available way that I can offer my services as wordwhore, then so be it.




Asim: Has it been announced in Indonesia?

me: Yes, it's going to be on Wednesday. Not today.

Asim: Wow! Why?

me: Mafi ru'yah.

Asim: Hmmmmm. Strange.

me: (shrugs) Indonesia's too far in the east; moon's too young.

Asim: So you were fasting today? :( Poor thing!

me: the Timekeeper gave me dangerous looks when I complained. He said, "You fast for Allah, in gratefulness to Him. If you complain about giving Him just one more day, don't bother fasting."

Asim: (long LOL). Scary clergy.

me: (whimpers) Can I have an extra Eid chocolate with that?

Update (03/09):

This is how Triesti explained the different dates of Eid on her blog.

No one can see the moon on Monday in Indonesia. You can see the moon in the Western part of the Southern hemisphere, though. Apparently, on Tuesday there is a conjunction of moon and sun, which means it's a new moon according to the astronomy. Muhammadiah is supposed to cite a certain Koranic verse to use the conjunction as the start of a new moon. However, according to that scientist, there are more verses supporting looking for hilal. Apparently, the fact is you can only see a hilal when the moon is up about 2 degrees. On Monday, the moon is up less than 2 degree, therefore the next day couldn't be considered a new month.

I then asked why Saudi celebrated it on Tuesday when the moon is up less than 1 degree there. He said, in Saudi, no one verifies the witness, so as long as someone came up and said he saw hilal then they declare it as a new month the next day. In Indonesia the government verify the witnesses. In that sense, Indonesian government did it very well for once.


On Choosing Literature

Books are unsentimental friends that will not be offended if I unfollowed them on twitter or donated them for fuel. Reading is an intimate relationship with a writer's mind. So if a book is meanly written, carelessly edited and leaves the reader with bitter taste of waste after EVERY PARAGRAPH, then neither book or reader will come out of it the wiser.

I rarely spend time with anything that is not CLASSICAL, preferably on the PUBLIC DOMAIN. (so I'm a cheap intellectual. Whatever.) The more available a classical is, the more people will take it for granted. Which is why I understand why people skip reading blogs from their list of daily to-dos.

See here, we already have complicated relationships with human friends, why complicate our relationship with books too? If it sucked, then don't bother wasting another minute of your very precious time on verbal diarrhea.

I blame Hemingway for my 18th century literary taste. In the "The Monologue of the Maestro" (PDF. must read if you want to write well. trust.), Hemingway's reason to reading only from dead writers was this:

"Most live writers do not exist. Their fame is created by critics who always need a genius of the season, someone they can understand completely and feel safe in praising, but when these fabricated geniuses are dead they will not exist."

I agree with Hemingway, especially because he's dead too. Also, if a book is a communication, and I'm struggling to respect the author (or even editor) through every page, then it is probably not worth the damn paper it has been printed on.

Look, the world is filled with awesome books that will leave you feeling like a better, smarter, bigger person. There are hunderds of books for every taste to last every one a lifetime's worth of reading (or listening).  If we choose quality food and clothes for our outer appearances and bodies, why settle with anything less than the best for our minds and hearts?

Whatever you do, unless recommended by a trusted friend (who knows what kind of conversation needs to happen in your head at the moment of recommendation), the next book you pick has a lesser risk of being called garbage if it was on one an "ALL TIME Best of Reliable Source Book List"

There's just too many good books in the world to read and our time on earth is too brief to be wasted on Publishing Industry X's BESTSELLER'S LIST.



I know this needs a lot of work. I just have been thinking about it for too long and was either going to drop the whole thing or just go for it and suffer unbearable humiliation later. No matter how many times I asked for feedback throughout vlog, do lie to me occasionally and tell me nice things.

And, no, man, it's not Lebaran Eve. The noise usually is that bad around here.



What if I have killed someone?


Last May, in the random world of internet gaming, I met David. From casual conversations, to putting up with my "I am afraid that when the time is up, I'd lose my way and sink instead of going ahead." -- to his "That's doubt talking. Remember that God gives, God takes away, and God replaces with more."

That time, while sinking and desperate for buoys, I chose to believe David and his God.

Then last week, I googled "Teardrop tattoo," and went on a rush of fear. David has that tattoo.

I freaked out for a moment. Or a week. When the moment passed, I had a choice between staying friends with him or switch phones, get on witness protection program and RUN. What good is there in keeping a probable murderer as a friend when I can't even be friendly with my parents, right?


In writing this article, I sought justification to maintain my friendship with David. At first, the argument was pretty simple: the nature of our relationship is too light to be taken seriously, and I tended to romanticize friendships with people off my common society.

But something snagged heavily. Murder, or even the possibility of it, is a serious trespass in all social codings. I tried imagining any of my friends being in my situation and can't help but recite the texts and logical arguments condemning the relationship.


They say that our friends say a lot about ourselves. In a popular tradition, the prophet advised selective socialization: socialize with perfume sellers, and ye shall smell like them. Socialize with gang members, and ye risk becoming like them. So what does being friends with David say about me?

If I lived in the same town as he, would I have allowed it to last so long? Wouldn't I freak out for the safety of my beloved if I knew that they are socializing with certain kinds of people?

While keeping in mind that the distance between Arizona and Jatibarang is a gajillion miles, I also know that people of the Abyss don't have a lot of choices in friends. And that Jed and the Timekeeper are not selective in offering their services, as far as they are able. That our meetings are predestined and that life does not always provide straight answers.

Couldn't there be something good to learn from David? Couldn't it be possible that I am the subject of his charity, rather than being the one who is challenging a lot of sensibilities?

Dubito, ergo cogito, ergo sum

When it comes to tests of character, David hasn't failed my expectations once. There was not a single promise he made that he did not keep. In matter of faith, David was there to steer me away from doubt. And as far as I am concerned, he has not caused me or my loved ones any harm.

In rejecting generic fatwas by religious police and MUI while still believing in an deity, I risk complicating my channels of communication with God, or Something at That Level of Awesomeness. Even, say, through someone with the markings of Hell on Earth on his face.

And maybe that's how all friendships are meant to be.


On the Woes of Living in a Small House

"Feet, we risked breaking every bone by doing this. The least you could've done was aim straight up."

"We were afraid to hit the clock."

It's not necessarily the amount of time you spend at practice that counts; it's what you put into the practice. ~ Eric Lindros


What he puts up with

"Out of blogging ideas?"

"Me? Never! Stand on your head, please? Readers love acrobatic elders"

“All human wisdom is summed up in two words - wait and hope” ~ Alexandre Dumas Père


The Music

(For the stuff we repeat daily deserve their own share of audioration.)"A dancer's body is her temple" - Paulette Rees-DenisReps

I found that the best way to stick to reps without losing momentum or falling into a daydream between asana sequences is by playing the same song in repeats.

For example, music for

  • ...Suryanamaskar (warm-up), Prodigy's Firestarter, Tiesto's Traffic.
  • ...Standing sequences, Halo, Firework, or Pokerface. (Go ahead, guess the my dirty-pleasure artists.)
  • ...Sitting sequences, Nina's To be Free or songs from the City of Angels Soundtrack
  • ...Closing sequences (cool down), Mashrou3 Leila's Shem Al-Yasmine


Say that Suryanamaskar sequences take 20 minutes, and Firestarter lasts for 4:41 minutes, then the song will repeat approximately 5 times. Yes, I can listen to Firestarter for five consecutive times. Don't judge. I acquired the taste at a sweet period in high-school.

Besides, I can have a different warm-up song tomorrow. The asanas remain the point of focus. Music is only to keep me flowing, keep me dancing between controlled reminiscences.

A Song A Sequence

I get lost between asanas and sequences if the songs changed too often. Maybe because every song carries a different energy, a different memory, a different person who introduced to and shared that music with me.

Hence, if I listened to Fatboy Slim, Eminem, Metallica and Linkin Park during Suryanamaskar, I would end up feeling like I had been gangbanged by too many memories instead of practicing yoga.

Like reciting al-Fatiha for at least 17 times in a day. Or repeating "Hail Mary". Or "I love you, have a nice day." The sounds that we dance to defines our life's rhythmic flow.

Share with me. What's your workout soundtrack? Do you change between the songs a lot? Why?


Knowledge is important, but...

“A man's errors are his portals of discovery.” ~ James Joyce Once, on a ship bound at sea, there was a young learned man who took plenty of pride in his education and every chance to show it off

On the same ship was an elderly bellman who used to sit and converse with the younger man and shower in the light of that bright intelligence.

One night, while walking on the deck of the ship after a long conversation, the learned man asked, "Tell me, old man, what do you know about the stars?"

The bellman shook his head sadly, "Only that they fill the night skies with beauty, sir."

To which the learned man replied, "That is a shame, you have wasted half of your life by not learning astronomy."

The next day, over dinner, the educated man asked the elderly, "What do you know about gastronomy?"

The elderly shook his head again with embarrassed innocence, "Only the difference between a full stomach and an empty one, sir."

Again, the learned man shook his head in reproach, "You have wasted the other half of your life eating without understanding how food is digested."

On a third day, the elderly man ran into his companion and with excitement in his voice asked, "Sir, sir! Can you swim?"

The learned man said, "Why, no. Why do you ask?"

For once, the elderly smiled with cockiness, "Sir, you have wasted your entire life learning astronomy and gastronomy. The ship is about to sink, and you haven't learned swimming-tromy."

- one of the stories passed by Goenka to his students.


"Claire de Lune"

Whether you like them or not, audiobooks are relationships. Not just between the audience and the authors, but also with the vocal readers: people who are stricken with booklust even in their voices.

This was my first classic offering to the public domain: "Claire de Lune", by Guy de Maupassant, part of Librivox Short Story Collection. (13:00 min.)


Tell me what you think?



Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again. ~ C.S. Lewis Simbok, may she rest in eternal peace, was my skin-and-bone nanny.

She was amongst us until four years ago, but she was already old from the beginning, man. And remained so until she became a baby again and they carried her to Earth's Bosom. It was her oldness that taught me not to fear being her age.

It wasn't that she aged gracefully. Far from it. She was too simple and rustic to be taught urban grace that she was sick every time they put her in a moving vehicle. The poor woman. A lot of polyethylene bags bear witness to her stomach's misery.

Being left to take care of an eldest (grand)child of an intellectual-wannabe family, Simbok had a lot of ambitions to keep up with: They told her to read bedtime stories to the grandprodigy. Bedtime stories would not have been a problem if she were not as literate as a wooden chair. Couldn't even sign her name.

Perhaps, she was just as fascinated so she was inventive with books and read to us, nevertheless, until we loved even the sound of a page being turned.

In her most bumpkin Javanese, she made up the stories; a sentence for every page, a secret of world to hold forever.

"Dadang and Dadung go shower."
(Turns page.)
"Dadang and Dadung go eat."
(Another page.)
"Dadung and Dadung go bed. And happy. The End. Chalo, now you go bed too."

I miss every bit of her. I even miss the cool touch of her wrinkly cheeks. Who wouldn't miss someone whose voice is filled with ancient love and reveals all the secrets behind life's illegible letters?


Ramadanesque Behavioral Modification

“Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort.” ~ Paul J. Meyer (1 hour before sunset)

Let us first set the threats under which made this article published, (let's call them my Ramadanesque Threats):

  • If I don't write fast enough, I can't publish before sunset.
  • If I don't make it before sunset, I have to work through the night and lose precious sleep.
  • If I don't sleep at night, I can't wake up for sahoor, can't read in the morning, and worstest of all: can't be awake enough to practice yoga.


This is what fasting Ramadan has been doing to my habits:

1. Grin-and-Bear-It-A-LOT
Before Ramadan, I made the resolution to not complain about the fasting part. Ever. With hunger, sleepiness, thirst, uncontrollable rage, the method is the same: Either I stare it down or break the fasting.

(Occasional cursing still applies, but purely out of linguistic necessity.)

2. Daily Rhythm Challenge
Feeding hours during Ramadan forced me to reset my daily rhythm. Eat, sleep, exercise according to a tight schedule, or else miss my chance and I have to wait until tomorrow to start over. This one is easier because I have social support. The only person whose schedule I have to coordinate with is a hermitic clergy, and he is already for schedules and productive Ramadan by default.

3. Sharpened Survival Instincts.
The prohibitions of Ramadan are set against natural biological needs. The needs that humans, on a normal day, are allowed to bear arms to protect and fulfill. Ramadan schedules and fasting will drive that same survival instinct to full force. It sharpens awareness and readdresses priorities. It is like warming up for a fight, but not really getting into one, because we know that the sun will, eventually, set. This does amazing things to my productivity, while the knowledge that the sun will set holds it back from running demonstrations.

4. Responsibility in Daily Choices.
There is always the "be an egg and put your head under a rock for a month" approach to Ramadan. Except that it NEVER feels as great or as rewarding as "be awesome and take Ramadan by the horns". While picking between approaches, I have to note that the "be an egg" approach is unavailable to parents with toddlers, the poor and people who actually want to do REMARKABLE THINGS with their lives.


5. Applied Behavioral Modification
I'm craving a lot of things right now. The hardest to ignore is the craving to catch my servant before he leaves and hand his week's allowance. The other is cutting my nails, because they're too long to let me write.


The cravings are getting worse by the letter, and I'm only able to write this next sentence without jumping out of the chair is because I had that list of consequences lined up at the beginning of this article. The HORRIBLE THINGS that will happen if I don't publish this really really now.

In applied psychology, the first rule of behavioral modification is simplifying the course from action to really, really clear rewards. Publish, go pay and cut nails. Get off before that, suffer through LONG SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS.

(With my chronic ADD, I am so glad it ONLY TOOK 30 YEARS to figure out the stuff that can make me sit through a writing session.)


On the other hand, is nothing. Seriously, I'm writing without the usual cigarette in my hand.

I had always believed that I could not write or plug in my brain without a cigarette. And it's not true for today's writing rush; because if I don't write this, I am going to lose a lot more than just writing. So, yeah, my fingers are shivering from withdrawal symptoms, but I'm forced to follow this one condition: learn to write without smoking.

(Shout-out to Fina for suggesting the unthinkable.)

Now, how do I make the good habits stick on off-Ramadan months?



I hadn't seen him since he got married.

But here, while we are alone, he tasted exactly as I remembered. Muscle memory dictating our limbs and orifices. We want this. We want more. We want to remember how good it felt. How important we felt. Important? No, maybe just "wanted" for giving "THE wanted" kisses. Hell, something this good, this simple, why shouldn't we indulge?

The sharp inhale was the sound of a broken kiss. Like a sudden shower. It was cold. Alarming. Unwelcome. No, we hadn't gone thatfar yet. Something awful stopped us mid-breath. Something angry and ugly with grief. Of dear ones
if another kiss happened. And the _____ , we sensed, was going to overbalance.

We had to break up. We did break up. When we got on separate trains, back then and this time, it was not for of lack of wanton. No, no, the kisses said plenty for abundant love and lust, reserved.

It's something else. Something sadder. Irrevocable. Finished. Gone. Inarguable. Like a death. Or a fetus. No more. No more. I love you. Yes, I still do. Always will. Never again.



How to Live with Elders Without Tranquilizing Them

“Work is the refuge of people who have nothing better to do” ~ Oscar Wilde About six or seven years ago, when my brother Ade started making serious money, he suggested our mother should stay home to relax and enjoy her retirement.

Everyone loved the idea, except that it did not go so well with her.

Actually, it drove her mad. Seriously, being replaced by a younger woman was something, staying at home moping about it when the kids are all grown up was a WHOLE other kind of crazy. I'm sorry for everyone who had lost their faiths in those days.

Then, four years ago, she finally got her business started up, the thing that made it legal for her to run around town and country with the dignity of a free man.

It is worth to mention that it was also around that time when I started believing in a God again.

When mother was cornered with hectic work, dealing with bedus and bookings, she bothered nobody. She complained all the day, but it was CLEARLY not about us. Bedus and bookings are just migrant fairies from WorkingLand.

As soon as vacation season comes, she starts reciting from the Book of Faults. Faults by the people who live with her, then by the people who live on the phone (as far as Bali and Jatibarang and North Carolina), then the people who no longer live, like my grandparents or her former partners, and eventually by her own until she is paralyzed with faults. Or until vacation season ends.

Do you see my point? My two points actually.

1. Here is to girl power, and boys who want to learn from it.

My mother is a hyperactive mutawwifa; she handles group accommodations, meals and transportation between Jeddah, Meccah and Madinah. In a way, mutawwifs secure the earthly matters for pilgrims so that pilgrims can concentrate on securing their path to heaven. Since going heaven is expensive and complicated, God generously rewards everyone who work on it. I mean, REALLY generously. In Riyals, Dollars and Rupiahs, okay?

Let all of that sink in and then reconsider mother's status as a foreigner and a middle-aged, divorced woman living in Saudi. Everything they say about gender discrimination in Saudi? Half of it was caused by mother's business successes.

2. Nothing beats the blues like work.

People who work with their hands, reach God with their hearts. If idleness is the devil's playground, then work is where God celebrates creating us. Hallelujah, mankind was not a complete mistake after all.

To live sanely is to work; to have something and anything done. Whether it is giving flyers in malls or driving for someone. Whether it is parenting and keeping house or taking pictures and movie making. It is all service. Even if it physically hurts, or does not seem to make sense.

Wait, what am I saying. Of course it makes sense! It makes absolute sense now that we did not stick to the first plan of keeping our mother at home معززة مكرمة بس تجننّا معاها honored and revered but driving all of us crazy along with her.


Yoga while Fasting

If you don't want to do something, one excuse is as good as another. ~ Yiddish Proverb My biggest concern with fasting this year was around my yoga practice. Everyone I asked discouraged exercising during the fasting hours, and for good reason: Dehydration is hard on creatures whose built is more than 50% water.

But do I have to lose one good practice in order for the other to fit in? Yoga is supposed to be practiced on an empty stomach, and if done correctly, both yoga (or any kind of physical exercise) and fasting are supposed complement each other in flushing out bodily toxins.

In countries where the majority is not Muslim, fasting becomes simplified into what it was supposed to be: self-observation. Similar to the basic idea in vipassana: "This is how thirst and hunger and anger feels like. Do not respond. Just observe."

The underline is that if I wanted to make up excuses not to practice, either fasting or yoga, there are ways to be creative. But if I really wanted to have both (beside writing and sleep and other wonderful things), the argument becomes a lot less complicated: STFU and just do it, dammit.

So I did.

And, shit, it was awesome.

I would not suggest this to anyone unfamiliar with their bodies. I'm pretty fit for a slob and this was not my first week or month yoga-ing. In my case, doing yoga while fasting was the only right thing to do because I am wired to practice in the mornings. Besides, yoga at night means having to put up with mosquitoes and darkness and other pesky things.

It isn't like I'm training for a competition or pining to be the next Olajuwon. Remember Olajuwon? His NBA records during Ramadan settled the rest of the issues I had about training while fasting.

Fasting and yoga were not meant to be served easy; they are designed to challenge the things we that take for granted. In calling ourselves Muslims or Yogis or simply devoted, we strive on serving these offerings as pretty and as uncomplaining as the sun that sets every day in Ramadan.



Sibling rivalry is inevitable. The only sure way to avoid it is to have one child. - Nancy Samalin There was a writing prompt coinciding with my brother's birthday. The question was, "How would your life be different if you had grown up without any siblings?"

The most obvious thing that crossed my mind was my severely retarded sense of fashion. I would not have delayed dressing up femininely for thirty years if it weren't for their sake; just to make sure that they grew up into real men and that the clothes I passed on to them would fit social approval.

I'm glad that has passed. I still walk like a drag queen when I'm in high-heels, but I'm better at coloring my nails. No worries.

Sometimes, when I try to write stories about siblings, I always stop at the part where the siblings scream at and strangle each other. I break sweat and my fingers become paralyzed under the scrutiny of the almighty super-ego. Until a laughing-memory passes and pats me with pardons. "No, you only wished you did that."

So I might have become a better crime writer, a wilder free-thinker if I did not have siblings. Who cares what the Bronte sister and Stephen King wrote? It wasn't weird enough compared to the worlds that Nietzsche, Iris Murdoch & EM Forster created.

I sound fictional. Heck, only-children are easier to fictionalize. If they keep their parents, they are showered with undivided love and attention from start to end, and a lot of them achieve amazingly because of that. There is no such thing as too much love and attention, see? If you think about it; there are 335 million only-children in China since 2009. Most of them are boys. Just you wait. Eventually, all the Makkis and Ghamdis and Zahranis will become Tangs, Liongs and Chans.

Anyway, I have always thought that our youngest was the favorite. He was everybody's favorite. Poor thing. The ones who got the belt grew disproportionately faster. Hence, for all the years our youngest missed out on beatings and abuses, he has got to make up for them by attending our parents the longest. Such is the life of the only-child and the youngest in the family.

So maybe if I didn't have siblings, I wouldn't have become as highly-mobile and independent as I used to be.

(I'm not as nomadic as before; I am someone's only-child after all. And I am fenced with love and dutiful service that gives freedom another kind of meaning. The kind that youngest and only-children understand.)

Siblings are people we practice with. Now that they are grown up, I feel like I've done my practice. Like, I myself am done. With life. With newness. With children. You know?

What was the question again? "What kind of person would I have become if I weren't born the eldest?"


The Student

To be a teacher in the right sense is to be a learner. I am not a teacher, only a fellow student. - Soren Kierkegaard Before

There is this neighbor, a lady who keeps house for my master, who asked if I could teach her yoga.

I am reluctant about teaching. Aside from feeling uncertified, teaching would take me away from my own practice; because I would have to dumb down the asanas to accommodate a student's capacity.

So we had that first class and, with my reluctance and her over-enthusiasm, it was bound for disaster. I pushed her far, she pushed herself further. And for a week after that, she steered away from my yoga area because the mere sight of a yoga mat made her cringe with phantom pain, poor woman.


I told Sue about this, and she graciously offered me a yoga plan that was easy for my student to follow, and worse for me, because it was absofuckinglutely dumb for my level.

You know the argument that artists have about copyright? That if someone stole your work, you lose parts of your self in that art. That it no longer becomes yours. And you can no longer take profit out of that art. My reservations about teaching was more or less like that.

"Why should I teach if I it isn't going to give me more benefits as a yogi?" I wanted yoga to be mine. I do not care how others do it, I just want my yoga to be perfect. And I am jealous for the time and energy I have to offer the Gods of Yoga, so much that I would consider students as dead-weight to my practice.

But when I thought about it some more, I figured, who owns yoga and art? Are we not vessels and messengers for the generous fairies who inspired our bodies and minds with grace and agility and ideas? Aren't I accounted for the generosity that all my teachers have offered? Aren't I supposed to do their teachings some justice by passing it on?


This time I offered myself to her, my poor scared student. I swore that if she would let me teach her one more time -  with this fool proof easy plan that Sue gave me - she would enjoy the benefits of yoga.

Let's fast-forward a few weeks. My student came every morning since we tried Sue's program. Even when I did not feel like practicing. She is more aware of her body, she knows where her 80% is, so that she won't injure herself at 100%. She sleeps better. And her husband's happier.

In fact, it is me who reaps benefits from teaching. Just the sight of her in yoga costume shames me off my laziness onto the mat. My teaching-voice is more confident. And when we are in vinyasa, that flowing focus which allows no exchange of words, I know that I have her to thank. Teaching her did not just improve my asanas, it has made me a better yogi.

Did you ever hear that no money becomes less with charity ما نقص مال من صدقة? All the other yoga teachers seem to agree with that; that teaching is a gift to ourselves.


The Yoga Teachers

A teacher is one who makes himself progressively unnecessary. ~ Thomas Carruthers


My first yoga teacher was a thin book from Jareer. It had all the pictures, though it was not very motivating to keep flipping pages between asanas. I practiced for 2-3 weeks and then, khalas, the loneliness of doing something as unnatural as taking orders from a book bit me and I dropped it.


Four years ago, I had Sue as my housemate. She was an avid yoga practitioner and teacher. She still is. And the next book, Light on Yoga, was her gift to my practice.

Nevertheless, when she left Indonesia, and I moved into the Timekeeper's house, the loneliness got on me again. The timekeeper's silence added to the not-doing-anything-else depressed me. After a year of struggling, I couldn't stand the silence and dropped yoga. I figured, I was doing fine without the added sadness, so why tip the fragile balance?


Last year's long process of renewing my Saudi passport and Indonesian residence permit brought one of the most awful kinds of silence. The kind found in overcrowded waiting lounges; where you and everybody there are waiting for The News to arrive.

That is when I just had to invoke the deep silence in yoga. And maybe the Gods of Yoga felt pity for me that they gave me the chance to attend David Swenson's workshop and introduced vinyasa: practice flow.

While vipassana meditation brought the silence by halting everything, vinyasa brings the silence by moving. Like the silence you hear when you're sprinting: you can't think in words, and the only thing you can do is concentrate on your breath and the steps ahead of you. That is vinyasa's version of silence.


Living in the Timekeeper's house while having everything provided for, is another kind of loneliness. It is occasionally rippled with meals or trips out of town, but generally the silence is constant. I thought that taking a meditation course and practicing vipassana could fix my issues with noise/silence.

You know how that went. I loved the silence. There are things that only the silence can teach, if you can understand its language and not run from its dark and intimidating depth. Or die.

Sometimes I see that the Timekeeper as the embodiment of silent practice. His life is semi-automatically sequenced, from vipassana to vinyasa to vipassana again. It does not bother him, whether in vipassana state or vinyasa. He does not question his practice, job or God because he just accepts and does what is expected of him.

How does someone grow that kind of courage and faith in his practice? Genetics?


I once asked the Timekeeper if I need to find a steady yoga teacher, a security net against de-motivating loneliness. He said that vigilant practice is the best teacher.

Another yoga teacher suggested a sparring partner. Someone to make the practice feel less monotonous. Kind of like group worship in mosques and churches. It does not deepen the quality of our practice, but peer pressure can get us going.

The last yoga teacher I sat with over coffee said that teachers can only offer glimpses of their own practice. The rest if up to the student whether they want to learn and apply their lessons or not.

I wonder if the Prophet Muhammad knew this last bit when he said, "اليوم أكملت لكم دينكم I have done my job at teaching your religion…now it's up to you."

Update 2012:
I got certified in as a Hatha Yoga Teacher. It didn’t just help me feel more confident in teaching with minimal intrusion to a student’s practice, it actually made me a better masseuse from knowing how the human body works.


No shortcuts

If you would not have affliction visit you twice, listen at once to what it teaches. - James Burgh It worried me when the Timekeeper told me to take care of Kim.

When I asked what was the matter with him, Kim (whose name meant GOLD and was the richest man in the regency) only shrugged, mumbled, then finally croaked: "I'm losing my memories…The doctors said I'm fine…I was hoping for a miracle cure…"

Ah. That is why his case was delegated to the lollygagging house bunny. I was supposed to have the patience to put up with this.

"Your memories aren't missing, sir, you just got too much noise in here." (Tap-tap on my temple.) "You need to make space for them to settle, sir."

I picked up a flyer, waved it in front of him, "You're Buddhist, right? So you have more right to this than I do. The meditation course is offered to everyone for free every month. It froze my voice for a year, so I'm pretty sure it will work better than miracles in clearing the voices in your head."


Few weeks later, while hanging out with fellow meditators, I asked them, "Why wouldn't he take my suggestion? Why do the rich always go for the "ridiculous & trendy" rather than the "tried & true but lame"?

And they said, "He isn't called for it yet. He hasn't gathered enough karma."

I rolled my eyes. "So he's supposed to suffer? This thing has been around for centuries! It won't cost him penny or penicillin to sit through meditation and have his wires fixed!"

"It's because happiness/health/freedom is not for free. There are no shortcuts. Kaffarah, redemption and karma are costs that we must pay for rewards, heaven or nirvana."

The thought pissed me off (and later relieved me from so much guilt) for two reasons:

  1. The best suggestions in the world will be the first ones flushed. It is not a personal thing. No matter how smart your ideas are, people need to be broken to bones before they can follow simple orders.
  2. You cannot give your happiness to others. إنك لا تهدي من أحببت You can show it. You can stir curiosity. You can teach the method and direct the path. But you cannot walk the path for anyone.

So there.


People of the Abyss

“A bone to the dog is not charity. Charity is the bone shared with the dog, when you are just as hungry as the dog.” - Jack London "People of the Abyss" is a firsthand account on Jack London's experiences in the poorest areas of London.

I loved how this book cheered me up. If there is anything that could remove our personal misery, it is the misery of others, and there is plenty of that in Abyss.

The book was written around the 19th century, which means there are no references to 911 or the World Wars, or twitter. And who cares? People in the Abyss do not mind those things eternally. They barely can figure out what to feed their seven children to bother about God, King and Government. 

Jack London never went overboard with melodrama. He bitterly dissects the details, as if it is natural for Abysses to exist, in his time, in any time. But it is just the way the world works, you know? Simple as that. Anyone could have been in that situation. Since nothing in life is guaranteed, any one could have their games played through and there is no chance of getting out and there is no hope for betterment and it is nobody's fault, really. It is just the way things are and will always remain in the Abyss, till Kingdom comes.

Then, maybe as consolation, just so that our thoughts don't freeze from despair, London touches upon small acts of kindness that keeps the Abyss from collapsing. A man carefully twists his mate's loose hair off her face and places it carefully behind her ear. He's proud of her; he wants her to feel and look beautiful, even though they were standing in queue for shelter and food.

Now, for that kind of attention from our mates, how many meals are we willing to miss?




"Are you blind?"

She was my friend since middle-school. And she was complimenting my hand-me-down clothes and bald head. I thought that she was mocking because she was the "fresh from the catwalk" pretty one. The one with actualized feminine powers: Married to a faithful man, two children, a steady job, and an amazing sense of fashion.

Once I believed that she was serious, something sad tugged on our conversation.

She said, "You are hot with possibilities."

Possibilities to start something else. To go to places. To marry. To conceive. The sexiness of perceived freedom is invincible.

After a pause, she added almost carefully, "So you should enjoy it while it lasts."

Because once you're settled, she said, things are only going to turn from bad to worse. You get used to the same man, the same routines, the same rhythms. It is the untold price of security.


Suppose a woman is most beautiful when she is fresh. Around her late teens? When her body is just ripe and her mind still delusional enough to believe in romance. Suppose that part of the Universal joke is that even the most pristine youth and sweetest joy, does not last, and that pristine beauty will turn out rotten eventually.

Doesn't it also mean that boredom and tiredness do not last?

Possibilities are fictional, they are in abundance depending on how much imagination is exercised. Like a recurring character in our daily soaps, usually played by Mr. What If. Except that maybe the older we are, the more we hope for less disasters than pleasant surprises. Hope we don't get too sick, we don't run out of money, and is there time for coffee before imsak?

I see that she is one of the most beautiful people in my world because she answers my own what-if questions. Then again, suppose that looking at our lives as a "series actualized possibilities done perfectly right" is all that it takes to hold beauty, might not we give it another look?



I'm tired of trying to sound smart. I want blogging to be more than just a report to what I know. Sometimes, I just want to bullshit and tell stories, just want to hold one feeling, one moment, one man, and show you how that presence changed my life.

There are universal feelings that both intellectuals and simpletons experience. There are common things that keep us motivated and rolling out of bed every morning. I want explore these common things because these are the stuff that gave my education its penny's worth. I feel that fiction is the only way I can explore that kind of truths without stating facts, you know? 

If I learned to write stories well enough, I might be able to show more without losing contextual frame or becoming glaringly sunny. I long to tell the stories that made my life more understandable without turning didactic or (if I can help it) snobby.

Remember that meditation retreat that froze my thoughts? Fourteen months and a few more sects later, and I still can't delete this blog. I still can't quit publishing and satisfying the need to self-exhibit.

Between not wanting to say anything and blog-existential-anxieties, one of these has to give: Either lose Hning's blogging style or lose the core, the god within and her urgent writing-voice.

I don't know what matters anymore. I just need to keep writing.

One Hundred Books in A Year: 17 Lessons Learned

Pexel 1.      Readers will read. Regardless to format or income or legality.   2.      Something to remember: The Prophet was illit...