Sunday 27 February 2011

Those Who Look, Find

I see a goddess in the silver anklet,
I hear music.
Impatiens psittacina, Parrot Flower,
discovered in the Shaw State of Burma, 1889
I saw a man in the rocks,
you laughed!
But you saw lovers kissing,
I only saw the moon.

And you, crying, waiting
for a sign you find,
when you break the rind
of an egg.

Parrot flowers,
and eggs yolked in two,
Keep searching.

The answer is kind,
those who look, find.

- Shaista, 2011

Friday 18 February 2011

Telephone Meditation

I am awaiting The Call from the Consultant again... it is 1:57pm, the call was due at 1:30pm. Not that I expected it at the correct minute, but you know how you have to be ready anyway? Like an athlete at the starting point, knees bent, ears cocked, heart racing with unnatural levels of adrenaline.

1:58pm... breathing in, breathing out... am knitting two blue stripes into a hat for my nephew, also awaiting the get-set-ready signal to jump out of his heavily pregnant momma... my fingertips are frozen, and I am wearing fingerless gloves as I type...

3:14pm... am writing a potted history about my life, pets, hobbies and favourite telly shows for the radio chat room... (small whoop of joy)..
Venerable monk Thich Nhat Hanh teaches this mindfulness practise for the telephone...
When you hear the telephone ringing you can consider it to be the sound of the mindfulness bell. Every time you hear the telephone ringing you stay exactly where you are. You breathe in and breathe out and enjoy your breathing. Listen, listen - this wonderful sound brings you back to your true home. Then when you hear the second ring you stand up and you go to the telephone, with dignity! That means in the style of walking meditation. You know that you can afford to do that, because if the other person has something really important to tell you, she will not hang up before the third ring. That is what we call telephone meditation. We use the sound as the bell of mindfulness.

6:37pm... I waited three rings. And it was a good conversation. My consultant said she had spent several hours going over my old records, and realised herself just how beneficial this treatment would be for me. She even asked me to participate in reviewing a grant application she has been working on.
Success! High five!

7:30pm... I went to see 'Fiddler on the Roof' performed by the local youth centre drama group.
L'chaim!! To Life!

photo by Traczewska, from Trek Earth

Monday 14 February 2011

Not expecting, just hoping

A girl
wants to share
her beauty
if she can

but shyly,
and with
the right man.

- Shaista, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day my beloved readers!
And for all my sisters around the globe, from Congo to Kigali and Brooklyn to Bangladesh, may this little poem-prayer find you in a pocket of peace.

Maze by James Jean

Friday 4 February 2011

Surprised by Joy

"Wie viel ist aufzuleiden!"
- Rilke

In Cairo, Joseph Farquharson
It is howling with wind outside. The bare branches are orchestrating an original work, no doubt in communion with the trees of Cairo, on the Day of Departure. Hosni Mubarak does not seem to hear the orchestrated sounds of revolution, but the wind's force grows stronger regardless. Angelina's flight back to Malaysia has been cancelled 'due to the aircraft being required to perform humanitarian evacuation flights from Cairo'. The wind howls on.

A few weeks ago my brother returned home after visiting a friend, with a book for me. The cover shows a brightly coloured bird sitting on a barbed wire fence, in a concentration camp. The book is Victor E Frankl's 'Man's Search For Meaning', and although I have read and studied Holocaust literature, my instant reaction to it was not dissimilar to a horse, unexpectedly approached. In other words, a high level of anxiety. My mind has been a fragile thing these long weeks of waiting for the consultant to respond to my emails, my basic request for her to view me as more than a case on her desk. She has agreed that I should have the treatment I requested, but on her terms, with twice as many months in between each dose, and at half the usual dose. I am a cost she is cutting. We meet again on the telephone on the 18th of February, when things will be 'reviewed' again.
Pawel Sawicki, photograph, flickr
I determinedly dived into Frankl, because I love my brother, and because I would always rather be brave than cowardly. 50 pages into it, I started to seriously consider the possiblility that I was on the brink of a mental breakdown. For five long minutes I entertained this reality. Then I re-opened the book, and read on. And on page 52, the words 'Et lux in tenebris lucet' - and the light shineth in the darkness. The guards are insulting Frankl as he attempts to dig a trench in the bitter cold of dawn; he is silently conversing with his wife, trying to reason himself out of suffering, when he suddenly has the strong feeling that she is present, she is there... 'Then, at that very moment a bird flew down silently and perched just in front of me, on the heap of soil which I had just dug up from the ditch, and looked steadily at me'.

The night before Rizwan brought me the book, I had written and published a poem on Rilkean anxiety. On page 86, Frankl quotes Rilke himself, "Wie viel ist aufzuleiden! - How much suffering there is to get through!" It surprised me with joy to see the connection. And I have continued to be surprised by joy. The next day as I was printing out a letter to the consultant, an email arrived in my inbox from the editor-in-chief of a medical journal asking me to write a few articles on lupus for an issue of IGI global. And last night Dr Jane Wilson wrote to ask, would I like to be on the radio? Would I like her to speak to the producer of the show about me? Er... yes!! Hey, I think I'm going to be on the radio!! And today, flight cancelled, means an extra day with Angel!

Surprised by joy - impatient as the Wind
I turned to share the transport - Oh! with whom
But Thee...
Love, faithful Love
- Wordsworth

Wednesday 2 February 2011


I felt an angel
tread gently on my heart,
And perceiving numerous ripples
withdraw her tender touch.

I heard an angel
whisper gently in my ear,
And beholding disbelief
feed silence to my fear.

The angel saw me cry
and smiled despite my grief,
For the angel saw diamonds
falling from my cheeks.

An old poem for a new time, for all of you, who make me happy.
And for the angel living in our house right now, teaching me guitar chords, the beginner's guide to salsa, the meaning of Malay songs about stars, watching movies from the dark (Black Swan) to the light (Walt Disney's Tangled)... and most importantly, making my brother happy.
Happy birthday Angelina! May a thousand million lanterns float towards you...
and a birthday promise to you all... if the old dreams die, I'll light new ones, for that way lies the art of happiness.