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Things I learned from climbing Mount Sinai

Mount Sinai is located in the Eastern part of Egypt. In the Bible stories, it is the place where Moses received the 10 commandments. I was blessed enough to hike the small mountain in my recent trip to the Middle East. I don’t climb a lot of mountain, but I have to say, it is the best hike I’ve experienced in my life. And here are a few things I learned from that hike.

  1. It’s okay if you can’t see where you’re going

Hiking to the top of Mount Sinai was a hike of rocky terrain in pitch-black darkness. We started on the ground at 11 am. We took a Camel ride for roughly a couple hours and then we started hiking to the top of the mountain at about 2 AM.

We carried our flashlights so we could still see. But what we could see was only the step right in front of us cause that’s where the flashlight was pointed to. If not for our big group that had made a snaking line ahead, I wouldn’t know what the path was like.

It was only when the sun started rising on our way down that I could see that the rocky steps were right next to a deep fall. And honestly, I was thankful I wasn’t able to see that while climbing up.

Our family with the tiny flashlights we carried to climb Mount Sinai. This was on the way down so there was some light. Yep it was THAT dark even with some light.

That’s kinda like life isn’t it? Often times we really don’t know where life is going to take us and we can only see the step right in front us. And even with just that 1 step, the fear that rises is big enough to stop us from taking it. What if we can really see where we’re headed and see how steep is the climb? Hundreds more fears might rise up and we might just decide to go back and just sit in one corner cause the climb is too intimidating.

So really, it’s okay to not be able to see where we’re going. Just take it one inch at a time, one step at a time. Have courage and faith, and we’ll get there. And also, there’s always others in front of you that will show the way :).

2. When we’re afraid and doubting ourselves, helping others can help us find our courage.

I had huge doubts on whether I could make it to the top of Mount Sinai. This doubt was in my mind for days and was exemplified in the hours leading to the hike. To be honest, I was doubting my own strength (silly I know, I’m actually pretty fit and should be fit enough to climb the mountain).

After the couple hours of Camel ride, we stopped at a small coffee shop before continuing the hike for another couple hours on foot. By this time, the below-0-degree-celcius-cold air started hitting me hard and I started to shake quite uncontrollably.

Hello, Mr Camel! I love you! This is one of the camels that are used to climb half of Mount Sinai.

Normally when that happens, it tends to get worse and I get sick shortly after. So my doubt was getting stronger. Every second I was questioning whether I could make it to the top. But I was curious, you see. I am a very curious person and that’s how I’ve accomplished a lot of things in life. So my curiosity won and I said to my family that I would go as far as I could. If I couldn’t do it, I would turn around.

So I started climbing, my parents were following behind me. After a few minutes, we started seeing that the climb was quite tricky and we had to be careful with the rocks. Armed with my tiny flashlight, I decided to take on the role of finding the best rock to step on and the best path to climb so my parents can just follow me.

I suddenly took that responsibility of ensuring the safety of my parents and therefore shifting the focus out of myself. I, who was previously more doubtful than them and was legitly scared, started giving them encouragement. I forgot about myself, step by step we go, and we all made it to the top. I cried at the top cause I thought I was never gonna make it.

A lot of times, my fear and doubts get extrapolated cause I kept turning around and getting stuck in my own head. Shifting the focus to others forces us out of our own self-pity hole and we can actually see things more objectively.

Have you heard people giving advice for someone to do volunteer work when that person is being rather miserable? Well this is one of the reasons why :). Sometimes we just have to be with others so we can get out of ourselves.

3. This Universe is really all-mighty and Divine and absolutely breathtaking.

This last lesson is not really a lesson but a reminder.

We are all created just right and we’re all at the right place and always at the right time. The camels are created just right. Their eyes are more sensitive than bats to see in the darkness. Their legs are created to walk on those sandy and rocky surfaces. And they really are some of the most graceful creatures on earth (I fell in love with them).

We, humans are created just right with the intelligence and the ability to help ourselves and help others. And despite what we often like to deny, everything that happens in our lives happen for a reason. If we can see the lessons in them and learn from them, we can continuously grow and adapt to our lives. And we remember things from our ancestors. I followed Venus as my guiding light during the hike, probably just like the early Homo sapiens did when they roamed the land.

We are all connected. Humans and animals, and plants, and rocks. My camel guy, Ahmed, is an Egypt Bedouin who lives thousands of miles away from me. But we both have the same basic human traits. He was able to speak English with me, but even without English, we both spoke the language of Respect. So did him and the camel, and I and the camel. So did both of us and the magnificence of the Mountain. We all spoke 1 language: Respect.

The S T A R S. My goodness. The S T A R S. They filled the velvety night sky with  their glittery brilliance and they naturally enchanted all pairs of eyes that look upon their beauty.

The darkness. Oh how it wasn’t just 1 shade of black. It was a million shades of black. And my eyes could capture them all.

The beginning of sunrise at Mount Sinai. Breathtaking.

And the beauty of the Moonset and the change of color in the dark horizon on top of Mount Sinai was so beautiful, I wept upon its beauty.

We are a part of that beauty and we are part of that bigger magnificent connection that goes beyond our selves. We can open our senses and continue to be in tune to their messages. There are many lessons, stories, songs, and tales stored in these connections. We just have to be open and be willing to listen.

So there. Take it one step at a time, don’t just focus on yourself, and always stay connected, be open and listen to this marvelous Earth.

Let’s continue to marvel at the beauty of this Universe, shall we?

A new page.

Hello Beautiful!

Happy New Year! Can’t believe we’re already 11 days into the year 2017! Seriously, time flies and it’s a great reminder to appreciate every second of this life cause it’s so so precious!

I titled this letter One cause this is my first letter in 2017, and I’m sending it on the 11th of the 1st month of the year. And numerologist also believe this is a “One” year: (2+0+1+7=10 —> 1+0=1). Uhm, I can’t remember what is 1 in numerology, so you can google it :D.

To me, number 1 signifies a beginning, a fresh start, a new page. And for us, a beginning starts with a thought or an intention. What do you want to this year to be? What is your intention? It’s always good to spend some time reflecting on this question and I would encourage you to do that to set the intention for the year.

I’m going to reflect on the same questions as I go into my 10-day silent meditation retreat (which is more like 12 days) starting this afternoon. I love going into these silent retreats cause it gives the space to feel my emotions, observe my thoughts, and face my fears without distraction. The elimination of writing, talking, watching, reading combined with the detachment from outside world really “forces” me to not run away but deal with whatever comes to the surface. 

And the result of this interaction with myself is like the clearing of a crystal ball: I’m more clear with what I want out of this life and what brings me joy and it’s like a recalibration of my compass in life :).

Anyway, I thought I was going to be a meditator this time around but turns out I was asked to be a server/ helper. This means I’m going to be meditating less and the rest of the time I’ll be assisting in cleaning up of things and the preparation of things. This is going to be a new experience for me.

I’m having mixed feelings cause despite my excitement to serve, my ego is screaming “nooo, I want to be served!”. And ladies and gents, that resistance is the more reason why I was put to serve this time around :D.

In these last few years of self-awareness/ self-realization work, I experienced that this type of resistance is normally the final hurdle/ gate/ boss before some kind of transformation can happen. So I am taking deep breaths and walking forward, light-saber in hand, facing whatever boss/ monster coming up.

Alright Beautiful, may this year be an absolutely fabulous one for you. If there are monsters and hurdles, may the battle be easy and enjoyable. May your Kyber Crystal be clear and your light-saber shine bright.

And finally, May the force be with you.

The Next Breadcrumb: Yoga

I’m sitting here in my bedroom, the night before I start my first day of Yoga Teacher Training Class. And the whole week, I’ve just been through a whole lot of mixed emotions about this.

Part of me is scared. There is a little voice in my head that keeps asking questions like “what if I can’t make it?” “what if I can’t keep up?” What I’m scared most of is whether I will have the stamina for it.

In the last 2 weeks, I’ve started taking 3 yoga classes a week, increasing the intensity with slightly more intensive classes and slightly longer sessions and even that was tiring enough. All the tiredness and injuries from the time when I was in dance rose up to the surface and I got stuck in the unpleasant memories. And I kept thinking how the first 10-day intensive, which is going to be the longest, and maybe the hardest, is going to suck.

I haven’t even started and I already declared that it’s going to suck. We’re not off to a good start here, Meta!

I don’t want to start with a wrong foot and the wrong energy. So let’s start over. Why do I want to do this?

I want to do this because It’s been in my mind for several years and I’d really like to give this a go.

I want to do this cause in the last 17 years, since I took my first yoga class in high school, yoga has always been what I come back to when I need balance, when I need exercise, when I need to move my body, when I need to connect with my body, when I need to find peace, when I need to release, when I need to love myself more. Nothing else sticks (not running, not gym, not swimming, nothing) but Yoga.

I want to do this cause taking normal classes is no longer enough. Yoga for me hasn’t been just about the poses and the exercises for a while. It’s been beyond that in a way that I can only experience and not necessarily can put into words. And I’m thirsty for more: I’d like to understand the seed of Yoga: I’d like to understand the energy of the movement and the breath, where’s the flow, where’s the center, what’s the state of my nerves, where is my consciousness, where is liberation in my body, how does freedom and strength works in a magical marriage.

I want to do this so I can use this as a vehicle to share with people about self love and having a beautiful relationship with our bodies.

In the end, I realized that I’m scared cause I’m going to have to go even deeper into being compassionate with myself when things gets tough and all I want to do is to give up. I feel like the Universe is smiling at me saying “hey, you said you want to share with people about this right? loving your body, being compassionate with it and all that? then here you go, a chance to understand it better.”

And I’m also scared because I feel like a lot of healing is going to happen, which means I gotta be vulnerable and open myself up, and that’s scary. 

I still have pressure I’m giving myself, for reasons I don’t yet know. I really don’t know where all these pressures come from. [I lied. I know. Growing up with a (mild) Tiger Mom + having to go through SG insane education system under scholarship bond + having a personality type that always wants to do well have a lot to do with it.]

But when the pressure comes, I remind myself that this is just a breadcrumb. I have a philosophy that life is about following the breadcrumbs. So this is really just another breadcrumb that I’m following, which is simply going to lead to another breadcrumb.

My life has been a whole journey of following the breadcrumbs, which has lined up perfectly to get to where I am today. In the journey, sometimes I get lost on where the next breadcrumb is, but it always shows up eventually. I get frustrated on certain breadcrumbs I have to pick up cause I wanted the shiny rock off the path that looks prettier. But the rocks don’t lead anywhere, so I come back to the breadcrumbs.

And this time, yoga is one of my breadcrumb and I shall follow it. Even if at this moment, despite my eagerness to learn, this breadcrumb kinda feels harder than others.

So I’m calling out for support from you. Please send some cheers and support and hold my hands if I need a hand to hold on to.

I can do this!

I can write!

Hey You

We all have fears and sometimes we have to face that fear so we can move forward. Recently, I had to face my fear of writing. In particular, writing in the narrative style.

I tend to be insecure when it comes to language, especially English. Firstly, cause I’m generally better at numbers and logic. Secondly, cause it’s my second language and my brain gets confused by all the rules, grammar and sentence structures that are completely different form my mother tongue.

Many people had told me that I can write. A part of me believed them but a large part didn’t cause my mind liked to block their affirmations and created its own story: I can’t write.

Oh but I love language. I love reading and being taken to far far away lands through strings of beautiful words. I love being inspired by the stories and I too want to share my own stories and inspire others.

This desire to share my own stories had gotten more serious this year. This led to setting up this letter series and my blog as avenues to practice.

About a week ago, I was clearing my emails while getting lost in my own thoughts thinking that I want to write a book but I don’t know where to start. The next email I opened had a link to a travel writing scholarship from World Nomads. The winner gets to be mentored by a Lonely Planet author, on top of getting a 10-day trip to Australia. I couldn’t believe the opportunity in front of my eyes. Someone up there heard me and that was my chance to learn! So I started writing the required essay.

Oh, it was HARD.

I wrote many drafts and got feedback from two good friends. They both said I just have to be myself and let my voice be heard through my essay.

By this time I was in my own pity hole and was chanting “I suck I suck I suck.”
I went nuts. What the hell is my voice? Who am I? How do I show myself through my writingCan you tell me what is my voice? Cause I for sure don’t know how I sound on paper!

Ah, meltdowns – Universe way of shaking us so we can find ourselves.

After a break, I took a deep breath and looked at what I wrote. My friend told me to not worry about my voice and to just focus on what I want the readers to get. I changed one sentence at a time to paint the picture I want them to see, so that they feel like they were there with me on my journey.

One breath at a time. One sentence at a time. And with each breath, all stress and anxiety disappeared and I finished my essay and actually liked it too!

Finishing the essay was amazing. But my biggest triumph was changing the voice in my mind that said “I can’t write” to “I CAN write”. In the process of writing this essay, I learned that I was scared of writing cause I was afraid of being judged. I was afraid that if my writing is crappy, people would think that I am crappy. I was also afraid to be judged by the content that I’m writing. I cared too much of what people think to the point that it limited my belief on what I can do.

THAT, my friend, is my biggest lesson in this lifetime. I have learned, and am continuously learning to not worry so much about what others think. My value doesn’t come from others, my value comes from myself.

I submitted my essay yesterday and It felt good. I may not win the scholarship, but I have won in changing my own limiting belief.

So, You, fear sucks. But don’t let it ever stop you from doing what you want to do. The world is too big for us to live in fear.

Be courageous and shine.


PS: You can read my essay in the previous post or just click here!