Friday, December 15, 2017

Are There Any Dudes In The House?

If we can buy into the New Age philosophy, "where we are is where we need to be," and "what we are doing is what we need to be doing," we will feel better able to cope with our challenges. The philosophy says we don't need to be anywhere but where we are in order to work on our karmic themes and lessons we came back to master. We can run but we can't hide. We just have to face ourselves, our souls, and our truths. 

There has been a new religion around for about a dozen years already. Dudeism.

“The Dudeist belief system is essentially a modernized form of Taoism stripped of all of its metaphysical and medical doctrines. Dudeism advocates and encourages the practice of "going with the flow," "being cool-headed," and "taking it easy" in the face of life's difficulties, believing that this is the only way to live in harmony with our inner nature and the challenges of interacting with other people. It also aims to assuage feelings of inadequacy that arise in societies which place a heavy emphasis on achievement and personal fortune. Consequently, simple everyday pleasures like bathing, bowling, and hanging out with friends are seen as far preferable to the accumulation of wealth and the spending of money as a means to achieve happiness and spiritual fulfillment.” –

March 6 is the annual sacred high holy day of Dudeism: The Day of the Dude.” While I dig the Dudeist manifesto and I enjoy the funny and irreverent writing of Oliver Benjamin, the founder of Dudeism and Rev. Dwayne Eutsey, Arch  Dudeship, I am hoping it’s not going to go the way of the hippies in the sixties. The hippies were mostly right philosophically but they didn't have a sustainable long-term plan for survival in the real world. Let Dudeism run its course by all means and let’s see how it changes our world. Many believe Dudeism is the religion for our time and place.

If Dudeism is about taking it easy and not working so hard to have a respectable lifestyle or to change the world, I hope it’s not going to encourage laziness and apathy. I mean, it says life is short and complicated and nobody knows what to do about it so we shouldn’t do anything about it. Like, really? Seriously? We know control is an illusion like everything else but don’t we still try to stay on top of everything that goes on in our lives? The Lennonism line, “Life is what happens to us when we are planning other things” doesn’t stop us from planning our lives, does it? We want to be the scriptwriters of our stories, don’t we?

Metaphysical teachers tell us when we were born all the solutions to our Earthly problems were embedded in our DNA. We just have to dig deep and pull strength from our soul/spirit wisdom. Our physical bodies may be weak from time to time but our spirits just need to be aligned with our life purpose and we will thrive. We are told we can operate on soul energy.

If we are sick or diseased, and many of us are, it won't hurt us and might actually make a positive difference if we ask for forgiveness for all the mistakes we have made, all the hurt/pain/suffering we have inflicted on others. For each one of us who needs therapy because of what someone else has done to us, someone, somewhere, needs therapy because of something we have done.

If we do not get cured after we've made all these life/energy changes, we would have become better human beings, we would have made a positive difference in our time and place and we would have lived a more expanded and meaningful life. In addition, we would have prepared ourselves well for the eventual dying and death scenes that all of us have to be ready for. “In a world where Death is the hunter, it doesn’t take a lot to die.” – Don Juan via Carlos Castaneda.

Even if we have by and large become cynical, some still believe in united thoughts, prayers, and meditation as ways to move the world forward. Others still believe in doing what we can. For example, some people are going off the grid, not supporting the 'system,' or living outside of the ‘system.’ These are ways some of us feel we can do something.

Some cling onto hope, not losing faith that evil will be its own undoing. Others understand something about the structures and movements of energy at a cosmic level. The understanding is that the "operating system" of the cosmos run all kinds of "programs/apps," some constructive and some destructive. From a human point of view, the destructive ones are termed “evil” when manifested through human vessels like the perpetrators of wars and heinous crimes. This cosmic process is impersonal, indifferent and as we understand it, down to cosmic intent or design. Whose intent and whose design?

Some of my Facebook friends believe there can be an end to evil if enough humans want the end of evil. In my opinion, evil, as a force, cannot be eradicated. For evil to be eradicated, goodness and love would also have to go. One cannot exist without the other. Whatever evil we think we want or need to see removed in our present times, that evil will only be replaced by another evil. There is no end to evil; just as there will always be problems. Every day we solve problems and every day we wake up to new problems to be solved. There is no end to that either.

As I said in The Dance of the Chi:

This, it seems to me, is an example of the Yin and Yang forces at the universal level. Scientists report observations of what appeared to be a glowing of gamma radiation from the disc of the Milky Way. They said these were the light of distant combat between armies of matter and antimatter, annihilating each other in tremendous flashes of energy.

This strikes me as proof that the system we live in will always be one in which energy will somehow combat energy. Different forces will combat each other. If it’s true for the outer reaches of our Milky Way, why not for us here on planet Earth?

It seems we live in a violent world as a reflection of the violent outer reaches of space. Perhaps the clue to the fate of the soul can be found with the clue to the fate of the Universe. If the Universe is without an end, is the soul also without an end? If about 90% of the mass of the Universe is unseen, could it be that about 90% of a human being is also unseen? As above, so below? The macro universe and the micro-universe? It turns out, metaphysicians and New Age scientists now tell us we use only 5% of our brains and that 95% of our brains is the subconscious.

Some people say that’s why Utopia can never be. What would we do with ourselves if we live in a perfect world where there are no problems and no evil? So, while Dudeism can’t change the ‘system’ or get rid of the Universe’s “programs and apps,” it can change the way we react to them. If enough people get behind the philosophy of Dudeism, can that critical mass make a difference to the ‘system’ as we know it? What do you think?

Yo, dudes, I think you guys are a blast but if life is short and complicated and nobody knows what to do about it, we shouldn’t just do nothing about it. We should take some kind of action, man! Like creating a new religion!

Monday, June 26, 2017

Book Review: Are We Just Bubbles?

Are We Just Bubbles? – Author, Dan Bowlds.

A review by Mena Koo.

(A note from Mena: I had to skip the technical portions of the book and lock in on stuff that I could understand and follow. I think it’s fair to say that the reader has to be highly motivated to read books like these.)

When dealing with science and scientists, they are allowed to say: I don't know or we don't know the science of that so we don't have the answer to that. When dealing with Metaphysics and Spirituality, we get to use the imagination and we get to allow the intellect to have a bit of fun. Kind of like science fiction writers, I suppose. It was no less than Einstein who encouraged this in us saying, "Imagination is more important than knowledge." Knowledge is the past; imagination is the future.

If everything is alive and conscious, and if everything and everyone is connected, it follows that the collective consciousness is a reality. This would be what is known as the “universal intelligence.”  Most people call this God, yes, for want of a better name. But most metaphysically inclined people prefer not to use the word God for it is too connected to organized religion. We just say “the Universe.”

The chapters in Dan’s book mainly cover the technical aspects of how the Universe works. This will be primarily of interest to the scientific community, but even the non-scientific should know enough about how it works to understand that our physical world is an illusion. An illusion, in that it is all made up of something we can't see, and it is only through the action of a creative “expansion energy” that it exists. Dan offers his views to any who is willing and who wants to explore a different way to consider our existence.

I have been interested in Dan’s book and lecture videos as I sought to discover things he mentions that might be in common with what I believe. I would like to take the stance that either extreme is wrong. That those who say there is no God and those who say there is a personified God are both on the extreme ends. I like to believe the truth is again in the middle. I like to believe there is a Creator but what is this Creator that pumps all the energy into the space bubbles — the space bubbles that go on expanding into the infinite void?

I quote a commenter from a recent Facebook post, who has given me permission to quote him but who doesn’t want to be identified here: Prof. Kaku seems to assign a position to Einstein that he did not in fact hold. Einstein certainly believed in free will. Kaku overlooks the fact that free will is still possible in a fully deterministic universe because accurately determining what will happen next in such a universe requires full knowledge of the system. Kurt Godel showed that no entity within the system can possess such knowledge. Granted, an entity outside the system might possess such knowledge but said entity then could not interact with the system in any way since by doing so it would become part of the system. Thus free will is not only possible but pretty much unavoidable.

I was struck by this comment as it explained in a scientific way why God if he does indeed exist, is so absent from our planetary affairs. If this God is outside of our “finite universe,” pumping in absolute energy into our expanding space bubbles, this God cannot micro manage to answer our prayers. This is why our world is in such a state and this is why believers find it hard to let go of their versions of God. In hard times, humans need a crutch to lean on, to draw strength from. We don’t want to feel destitute in our misery.

Godel proved that no part of an isolated system can contain a complete description of the system, except, of course, the entire system itself. Thus an all-knowing God cannot exist within the universe of which it is all knowing. Since interacting with the universe requires one to be part of it, it is clear such a God cannot interact with the universe either.

"Since interacting with the universe requires one to be part of it, it is clear such a God cannot interact with the universe either."

I thought this explains a lot. While there is no God micro-managing us, I need to stress that I believe in a kind of cosmic justice. Just because there is no personified God to punish humans for doing evil, it doesn’t mean that humans are not penalized for bad decisions and actions. I believe in cause and effect (for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction) and I believe in Karma (even if Karma can be transformed in a lifetime). Our own actions and behavior will either reward us or punish us. What goes around comes around and the law of attraction applies.

Dan’s view is we are all connected, and we must make a giant leap into the next level of our understanding of consciousness and social evolution if we are to survive on this planet. Dan says, without kindness, love, willingness to seek the truth, and tolerance of others, he would never have come to this realization.

In ‘Are We Just Bubbles?’ Dan presents the possibility of an unseen dimension and expansion of space that might be the underlying cause of all that the Universe is. It is not the author’s intent to “prove” any of what he is proposing. The author feels if what he proposes cannot be disproved, then the certainty of what we now think the Universe is, based upon our measurements, comes into question.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

My First Editions

Two years ago, my first digital editions were offered on my own platform. I created a website to make my digital books available to Malaysians for whom Kindle books are not available. I toyed with the idea of offering the platform to other writers whose Amazon digital books were also unavailable in their own countries. I did not know of Smashwords then. Smashwords makes digital books available all over the world, in multiple formats which can be downloaded several times over as many days.

People then asked, what about printed books? How was I going to make those available if I didn’t use the PODs (Print on Demand) portals on the internet? I put off creating the paperbacks then as my first editions were not professionally edited. I paid good money for my first edition book covers as I didn't want to distract from the several levels of editing and dozens of proofreading runs that I had to do for practical reasons. There was difficulty in finding a local editor who could resonate with my content and the foreign quotations (not that they were a match for my genre) were simply outrageous. At the time, I was surrounded by sharks in the industry and couldn’t afford the 8-9 cents a word they were going to charge me for editing. Insane, right? I thought I would do my best on my own and just put the book(s) out there to test the market.

It was a blessing in disguise that my website didn’t take off. My website was hosted on a Malaysian server and we would have had to pay Malaysian income taxes. I’m better off now that I’m on Amazon and Smashwords since income earned overseas is not taxable locally. Since Amazon and IngramSpark printed books are so expensive to ship outside of the USA and Europe, I’m going to have to photocopy and bind my manuscripts for sale locally. This is the only way to make the book marketable locally.

I’ve never been able to work the Facebook friend thing. Now that Amazon doesn’t allow Facebook friends to leave reviews, I can’t see myself suddenly getting excited over a Facebook friendship. I like that we are able to exchange messages without being Facebook friends. The only advantages to being Facebook friends, it seems to me, is that we get to tag our friends on various posts and we get to send posts in private messages. Other than those features, it’s all the same friend or no friend. 

I’m told Amazon's search engine algorithms are driven by keywords and reviews and that both help with the book’s discoverability. Yet, reviews are merely opinions and are subjective. Reviews are only as good as the reviewers or as good as the reviewers invest the time to make them. I just got a review from a friend for whom English is the third language. The comments are positive but the review itself needs editing! Being his third language, I can’t place a lot of value on his opinions of my ideas, can I?

When I first got on the self-publishing scene, the various writers’ groups were all about “you read my book, I read your book; you review mine and I’ll review yours.” I couldn’t play that game as a) I’m in a country that cannot download Kindle books. b) I couldn’t read other indie authors’ books so they weren’t going to read mine. c) I thought that I couldn’t exchange reviews with other authors even if they sent me the PDFs as Amazon wouldn’t allow reviews unless the book was purchased on Amazon.  (I was mistaken. As long as someone has spent USD 50.00 on Amazon on any purchase not necessarily books, that person can leave a review. The idea behind this is the person may have purchased the book from a different portal.) d) Even if the authors were interested in accepting my reviews off of Amazon, I found I simply couldn’t invest my time reading fiction genres. I read to remember; most of those books are for people who read to forget. Clearly, if I wasn’t going to read their books, they were not going to read mine. That was the mood of the writer forums.

This time around, with my second edition (my first on Amazon and Smashwords), my experience is different. I stumbled upon Dan Bowlds who authored Are We Just Bubbles? It was a book about “An Alternate View of Existence.” It was non-fiction, about the Universe and energy and in Dan’s words, “we (he and I) are both searching for answers to questions that have plagued mankind since the dawning of our consciousness: How we are here, why we are here, what is to become of us. Each of us has to seek the answers to these questions in our own way, and one that satisfies us. There are no wrong ways, except when we deny our own reasoning and logic to falsely gain the favor of someone trying to force their beliefs on us. Above all, we have to have a humble heart and be thankful for our existence.” Here was a book that I thought I could interest myself in reading and reviewing.

Here’s Dan’s review of my book:

Mena Koo's “The Dance of the Chi”, is about her journey of “going where the imagination, magic, and mystery are” through the practice of Tai Chi. It is written chronologically with current updates interspersed, and is a history of her progression from the early practice of Tai Chi for health and self-awareness reasons, to a higher level of meditation and spiritual enlightenment. She believes that Chi is a vital yin and yang force, two energies that operate the Universe to make it whole, and through the practice of Tai Chi, we can tap into this infinite energy of the Universe. 

She has written this book to share her Tai Chi experience so that others may benefit from what she has learned. The book is interspersed with her poems and songs which are a good read in themselves. I would recommend this book to students of Tai Chi who also want to develop their metaphysical spirituality.

Dan admitted his book review is very brief and wanted to make sure that I am okay with what he has said. Dan added he went through my book rather quickly and highlighted points that he thought were important, then wrote the summary from his take on what he surmised from the notes. Dan apologized if what he has said is not correct and asked if I would like him to change anything in his review.

I have declined Dan’s offer as I want reviews to be as authentic as possible. I now appreciate why Amazon doesn’t allow friends to review books. Friends tend to do favors for each other and they would write biased reviews which would not be fair to the purchasing public. I also appreciate that writing reviews are not easy things to do if we want to do them honestly. It’s a huge responsibility all around, whichever way one views it.

I see that Dan has left out many major ideas in The Dance of the Chi of which I’m particularly fond of. I feel that his review tends to limit my audience. I feel that ‘My EFAW Theory’ and ‘My Outer Space Experience’ is not limited to Tai Chi students. I feel the chapter ‘Differences and Similarities of Tai Chi and Yoga’ and the ‘Healing Therapies’, among many other ideas, are not limited to Tai Chi students. My philosophy of life throughout the book is also not limited to Tai Chi students.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

What Have I Done?

The Dance of the Chi is now available on Amazon but currently is not available to Malaysians. Malaysians, please go to Smashwords. The digital book is priced at only USD 0.99 cents. The Look Inside feature on Amazon is not available yet but the same feature, called Online Reader is available on Smashwords. I have opted to share 20% of my book for readers to sample. 20% is about 30 pages (?) of the book. When you get to the respective sites, just look for the words Look Inside and Online Reader and click on the link. It will take you to the free sample reading.

Whatever you do, do not write a book if you think it is the same as keeping a journal. It is not. If you have to write, write, but do not self-publish thinking that the process somehow organizes your thoughts in and of itself. The book has to be professionally edited because we generally can’t see our own inconsistencies. When it comes to non-fiction or creative non-fiction, even the editors might not catch our inconsistencies because they are not knowledgeable or familiar with the genre. Finding a suitable editor is not easy. That means we have to proofread our manuscripts dozens of times to finesse it. The discipline of organizing our thoughts and ideas will help us “know what we are thinking.” Perhaps that’s why we write. We need to know what we are thinking. Seeing the project through to the end regardless of how maddening the process is will build character. We do find ourselves and become more in the process and that’s the reward. What comes after publishing is not within our control. And that means, or should mean, it’s time to chill and spend some time balancing other areas of our lives. Areas that were neglected because we simply had to write and do this thing called self-publishing.

Self-publishing costs money (at least for me, it did) and working with the system and the vendors who we engage to help us with the system will run us into the ground if we’re not already grounded. The system is not perfect and neither are the vendors. Everybody is doing their best to cope with the challenges in their lives and the stress just builds and builds. The editors and formatters can’t and don’t do it all and we still have to finesse our manuscripts on our own. We are in charge of crossing all the ‘t’s and dotting every ‘i.’ Publishing projects are fraught with challenges not for the half-hearted.

Promotion and marketing. I always thought that might be a drag for empaths. Studies show that narcissists are better at marketing and sales because they are known to be chameleons. They can be charming and persuasive as they pretend to agree with everyone in order to get their narc supply. Simply put, they understand the dynamics and know how to close a sale. Now that all the words are taken care of, I’m psyching myself to being more sociable on social media. When I was in the writing and publishing stages, I simply did not have the time or energy to engage. It was working around the clock for a few years and my idea of a break was to eat properly (not stuffing my face in front of the screen), do household chores, attend to the dogs’ needs and exercise. A writer or any creative person who spends a lot of time and resources developing their ideas passionately tends to neglect their friends and family in the process. Is it any wonder we tend to be loners? Time for humans is finite, we can’t do it all or have it all. For everything that we gain, we lose something. For everything that we lose, we gain something.

All that said, it’s a filtering process. We will get to a point where we will know ourselves and our paths better and know how we want to spend what’s left of our time. If we didn’t know this before, it will be seared into our consciousness: Time is precious.

What have I done? I’ve put myself out there for people to take pot shots at me. Ai! My universe/energy theory, based on my Tai Chi insights are now grist for the mill. Recently I stumbled upon another writer with his ‘theory of the universe’ book available on Amazon as well. We became Facebook friends and he sent me a free copy of his book and I said I would be happy to write a review detailing how his book is different from mine. When I discovered he doesn’t subscribe to the Big Bang theory and his universe/energy theory is based on the Universe being finite, I couldn’t imagine how I would be able to take his book in.

I mean, when we are at a certain age or stage in our lives, we tend to be riding on a certain belief system. It’s difficult to read a writer who is not coming from the same place (and not going where we're going?) as we are said to understand what our souls already know. When we read something we can’t resonate with, it’s just a whole lot of words there in front of us and it’s difficult to go where the writer is trying to take us. Perhaps this is a case of cognitive dissonance?

My book is based on a Tai Chi way of knowledge and Tai Chi equals infinity. If one cannot accept the concept of infinity, it would be difficult to wrap one’s mind around my imaginations? This drives home the point that once we believe certain theories or stories in life, it’s hard to let go and start embracing opposite theories or stories. There is just not enough space in our heads for new belief systems to take root and flourish, plus the inner animations or algorithms are simply missing from that place deep within us. While the freedom to discuss dissenting issues should be allowed and encouraged in the interest of growth and expansion, actually calling out someone on their beliefs can be a confrontational exercise. Especially, when we are able to spot some of the inconsistencies in their content and their book has already been published. Authors may be more receptive to such challenges when their books are in the beta reading phase or even the editing phase. If at all. 

The author of the ‘other’ energy theory, Are We Just Bubbles, Daniel P. Bowlds, said he was looking forward to reading my book. When I was proofing The Dance of the Chi on KDP, I came upon the Big Bang theory and the word “infinite” so many times, I felt bad to put my new friend through what must be an agony of a reading experience. I wondered how many pages he could bear to read before being rattled enough to give up trying to take in another writer’s unfamiliar and opposing views. At certain points in our lives, we gravitate towards people (and books) that can augment and refine our thoughts and ideas, helping us to answer some of the questions that need answering. Building structures are more fun than tearing down structures, yes?

This reminds me of what someone said about the legal process. This person said it’s widely believed that even before a case goes to the courts, the lawyers and judges already have an opinion on the matter and they know which side they are on. Then it’s only a matter of finding the legal points to support the arguments or be against them. After I’ve spent my whole adult life believing in the Big Bang theory, I present my case using the Big Bang theory and the concept of a never-ending expansion of consciousness. Thus, we can see how difficult it is for religious people who have spent their whole lives believing in their holy books to suddenly be able to make a turnaround and embrace the opposite of what they have believed for so many decades. That’s why it’s said it’s easier to fool someone than to convince someone that they had been fooled. Confronting the possibility that one has been barking up the wrong tree all one’s life is a harsh awakening.

Update: Daniel has messaged to say he’s reading the Free 20% sample and so far finds the book “interesting.” That means the first 80 pages of my book is not too rattling? J We’ll see.

Quantum entanglements -- even free thinkers don't think alike. Free thinkers are more or less experiencing an ongoing state of confusion/chaos as we are more open to ideas outside of our core. I think of it as an evolution of consciousness exercise. Humans generally cannot accept what we have no experience of. Gary Zukav, in The Dancing Wu Li Masters, said knowledge is past tense; imagination makes physics come alive. Einstein said imagination is more important than knowledge. Scientists are limited by their knowledge. The rest of us are limited only by our imagination. My book is just me allowing the intellect and imagination to have a bit of fun. The views I hold today will evolve as my consciousness expands. My book is just an exploration of ideas. My ideas/beliefs/interpretation of the Universe/life on Earth could well be dismissed and laughed off the planet. I'm not sure whether I would prefer my book to be ignored or whether I would like for critics to have a field day. Whatever, I've got my hard hat on.

I'm a semi-recluse because I don't care to get into arguments and disagreements. Everyone is on their path and learning at their own pace. Everyone is doing the best they can to survive, thrive, and to make sense of their world. Everyone is entitled to their beliefs as long as they are being wrong not doing wrong. Behind every argument is someone's ignorance. We will all get there in due time. We all want the same things — to be healthy, happy and at peace with ourselves.

Monday, May 1, 2017

From The Dance of the Chi: Tai Chi Insights

Bruce Lee was so brilliant and exciting with his martial arts skills, but in my opinion, he was a victim of his own “warlike” attitude. People who lost to him in “combat” or who did not dare take him on in combat, turned to other “means” to defeat him. I am aware of the official cause of his death: that he died due to his body reacting to drugs that were not prescribed for him. My metaphysical friends and I believe “forces” were already being thrown at him long before he succumbed to the official cause of death.

Some Chinese believe in the 3 Wan, 7 Pak metaphysical theory. So if people know how to spiritually mess with your 3 Wan, 7 Pak, they can pull parts of your 7 Pak away and you will be in a weakened, incomplete state, spiritually. This can happen to anyone regardless of their superior physique or martial arts skill. I have linked this 7 Pak to the 7 chakras but the 7 Pak is more than that. The best translation that I can come up with is 3 Wan is like 3 parts of soul and 7 Pak is like 7 levels of consciousness.

Some Chinese with a metaphysical bent believe humans have 3 parts of soul and 7 levels of consciousness, or senses (please see 3 Wan, 7 Pak below).

Here, I attempt to break the above down. This is tougher than the ‘Definition of EFAW’ theory because the EFAW theory is my own from experience and insight whereas this 3 Wan, 7 Pak is a metaphysical Chinese belief I have only heard of vaguely in conversations. I have not been able to read anything on this in any language.

1. Our connection with Source 
2. Our being in the Universe.
3. Our Higher Self or Over Self.

Something to think about: “Heaven creates. Earth sustains. Humans destroy.”

7 Pak (7 Levels of Consciousness): All levels are related to crossover dimensions, only some are more obvious than others.

1. Soul, Higher Self, or Over Self. The sum of all the experiences, thoughts, and feelings we ever had from the beginning of our individuated soul-making.

2. Spirit. Spirit is a small percentage of our Soul or Higher Self. All our present experiences, thoughts, feelings, and sexual energy or Ojas (Sanskrit). Hence, when we succeed to harness the sexual energy, we gain more spiritual energy. Related to intuition and Extra Sensory Perception (ESP).

3. Astral Self (Auric field).

4. Emotions

5. Psyche (Mind)

6. Conscious 5% and Subconscious 95%

7. Unconscious

Update 2014:

I believe there are documentaries out there now for those of you who are interested to know more about this side of the Bruce Lee story. The story covers three generations of his family — his father, himself, and his (only) son. Bruce Lee’s son, Brandon Lee, died in a freak accidental shooting with a fake bullet during filming. Some accounts say it was a real bullet that found its way into the prop gun, mysteriously. This EFAW family story goes beyond the scope of this Tai Chi book. I expand on the story in Different Realities

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

A Chapter from The Dance of the Chi

The person who first taught me Tai Chi was an old Chinese man in his eighties. I shall call him AP in this book to protect his privacy. AP could speak English and that was important for me, as my Chinese was below average. My birth father was an Anglophile who worked for the British and we were raised to speak English even at home.

AP was 95% blind (cornea damage in one eye and Glaucoma in the other) and he couldn’t check my postures as we went about our Tai Chi. This turned out well for me as I didn’t have to endure the usual petty “correction of postures” that most students find disruptive as per the learning process. He was also hunched up due to Osteoporosis and somewhat infirm, and I couldn’t learn the postures properly from watching him play. Blind, hunched up, and infirm — not a good Tai Chi teacher by any standard — but he was perfect for me. He couldn’t judge me by my appearance, so he relied heavily on judging me by my personality.

Due to his condition, wannabe students didn’t have confidence in him beyond just following his play at the neighborhood park. Again, this worked well for me as I more or less had AP all to myself.

Update 2015:
In time to come, this would prove to be my preferred way to interact with others in all areas of my life. I thrive on one-on-one situations. I do not do well in group situations. Hence, in later years I would seek out one-on-one refresher courses for the Tai Chi sets that I didn’t remember, and when unable to get this exclusive interaction, I would back off. This applies whether I’m learning guitar, languages, or even in a songwriting situation when I need someone to accompany me on an instrument. I need the intensity and focus of the one-on-one. I also need the shared agenda. The project has to mean as much to the other person as it does to me.

AP would be at the neighborhood park by 5:30 AM to do his exercises and the followers would trickle in and surround him and learn whatever they could from him. AP didn’t charge a fee, for he knew no one would pay to learn from him. Besides, he didn’t need the money. He was a lonely old man and it suited him to have some company. Everybody was welcomed.

That was how I stumbled upon the group play. I saw them and I approached out of curiosity. I was not a morning person and I’m still not a morning person. However, that day, I was recovering from some emotional trauma and decided to do things a bit differently. I woke up early and decided to go for a jog. Serendipity was what it was. Around 8:30 AM, the group would disperse and each would go about their daily business, but I would stay on to talk to AP and to whoever also chose to remain behind. Usually, it was just AP and I but sometimes AL, his goddaughter (also one of his students), would be present.

I would always have my water bottle with me and most of AP’s followers would too. But I noticed AP didn’t bring a water bottle and that he would be dry-mouthed and tipsy by 8:30 AM. So I suggested that he should bring a water bottle but he said he was usually not thirsty. I explained that by the time he felt thirsty, it would mean his body was already dehydrated. I suggested that I would bring his drinks daily and I asked what he would like. He said he liked Chrysanthemum tea and that was what I would prepare for him every day.

And so began our one-on-one sessions. AP was quick to figure I wasn’t like any student he had experienced. No one before me even thought to get him a walking stick; the type that blind people need. I went to the local blind institution and bought a folding stick; the kind that AP could fold and stick into his pocket when unused. I next went to the local stationary store and bought some highlight color paper, the kind that glows in the dark. I glued the glowing paper on the stick so that the stick would glow in the dark. AP was so thrilled with this gift. He could walk from his house to the neighborhood park in the early morning darkness before the break of dawn in relative safety.

I showed him due respect and I also showed him I had a healthy respect for myself. He was perfect for me because he was flexible and savvy enough to think out of the box with me. Soon, I convinced him to let me learn at my own pace. I explained I was itinerant and had no idea how much time I had with him. AP agreed to teach me as much as I could absorb on a day to day basis. He had a good memory for the Forms 24, 48, and 88, all of which he taught me — plus some Kung Fu moves he included in my training. All in, we spent about eight months together. During that time I was doing nothing but Tai Chi. I helped type out the various Tai Chi forms for AP to distribute to his other students who, like me, needed the notes in English. The Chinese-educated students had lots of material (the classics as well as more recent) to draw from.

Update 2014:
I tried to take refresher courses for Forms 42 (that I had learned from teacher #2 who came after AP), 48, and 88, as I had more or less forgotten the choreography for lack of practice. However, I found I had to give up after a few days as the teachers were too bent on getting the little details right; details that I had already mastered but was unable to manifest due to lack of practice. I just really needed to remember the choreography and then to practice and I would be able to manifest the details. Had AP done this with me; had AP the eyesight then to correct my play like these teachers like to do, I don’t think I would have done as well as I did all those years ago. That’s why I said AP was perfect for me. Because he left me alone, I was able to learn at my own pace, using my own tools, references, and modalities. I was able to focus on the esoteric and not the itty bitty bits which just distract from the whole.

AP was very patient and generous with his time and knowledge, and he was good at teaching Tai Chi theory. He said I was his most intelligent and fastest learning student ever. We spent 8:30 to 10:30 AM together every day and then I would walk him back to his house, which was near where I lived at the time. After a while, I would use the car as the sun was just too hot for the walk back. To give readers an idea of the average timeline of individual tuition in those days, here’s a sample from an ad of that period (1987).

First Year – Beginners Class: Fundamentals of Qigong, Tai Chi Chuan, Bagua Zhang and Push Hand.

Second Year – Intermediate Class: Tai Chi Sword, Tai Chi Broad Sword, Tai Chi Fighting, Beginning Massage.

Third Year – Advanced Class: Free Sparring, Remedial Massage, Teacher Training.

I learned 24 forms in a week, 48 forms in two weeks, and 88 forms in a month. OPC was doubtful I was really learning so much Tai Chi in such a short time. He said he knew of people who took decades to learn just the 24 and would play just the 24 their whole lifetime. AP was perfect for me as he was happy to let me learn using my own tools and at my own pace.

Some of you may be wondering by now, what is the difference between these sets of Tai Chi practice? 24 is the choreography put together for beginners.

In 1956, the Simplified (or 24 Postures) Taijiquan was compiled by the Chinese Sports Commission. Tremendous efforts were put into promoting Taijiquan. The 24 Postures Taijiquan was derived from the traditional Yang Style Taijiquan long form. It was the result of many Taijiquan masters working towards standardizing and simplifying Taijiquan, for use as a health-promoting exercise. Many of the more complicated and repeated movements were deleted from the long forms for ease of learning and practicing. The sequence starts off with very simple movements and gradually becomes more complicated. Even though the 24 Postures Taijiquan sequence is a simplified version of the long forms, it is still a "traditional" sequence with the original martial applications in every movement.
It consists of 20 different postures from the Yang Style Long Sequence. Three of the postures are done on both left and right sides, and one of the postures repeats itself, making a total of 24 postures. Because this sequence is based on Yang Style Taijiquan, the training guidelines and principles of Simplified Taijiquan follow the characteristic "flavor" of the Yang Style.  – From a YouTube description

48 is a bit more challenging, as the choreography gets a bit complicated.

The Tai Chi 48 Postures form is ideal for those interested in experiencing the true essence of Tai Chi Chuan, because it combines powerful techniques from all styles into a sequence embodying the spirit of relaxation and softness with circular, continuous movements.
The Simplified Tai Chi 48 Postures form was created in 1976 by the Chinese National Athletic Association in order to promote the art of Tai Chi. While maintaining all the movements from the Simplified Tai Chi 24 Postures form with slight modifications, this sequence also incorporated other more challenging techniques from the Yang, Chen, Sun, and Wu styles of Tai Chi Chuan. The martial applications and Tai Chi Push Hands techniques for each movement are still intact in this shortened form, and it should be performed with Yang-style flavor. – From a YouTube description

88 is usually managed mostly by the older masters. The longer the play, the more memory, and discipline are involved.

Tai Chi Chuan 88 or 108 form, is the same form. Depending on how you count the steps it comes up to 88 or 108. This is also a Yang style choreography.

I believe for any relationship to work, there has to be a fair exchange of energy. So I made myself useful to AP and his old sickly wife whenever I could. They had grown-up children, but the children were all living away and the old couple relied on AL, the goddaughter, to help them when they needed help. AP bought me a gold necklace and asked me to be his second goddaughter but I politely declined as I didn’t want to create a triangle with AL. As well, I was itinerant and wouldn’t have been able to carry out my long-term duties as a goddaughter.

Before I left Penang and AP, I assisted with writing letters to all his children to get them to help him secure the operation(s) that would help him recover some of his eyesight. His daughter was a nurse then in Melbourne, Australia, working for an eye surgeon. She flew her father over to have a Glaucoma drainage operation by her boss. Not long after that, I was in Kuala Lumpur when AP had his cornea transplant at University Malaya Hospital and I visited him at his son’s house.

After AP regained partial sight, I was excited to play for him so that he might see the postures of his “favorite” pupil. (Many Tai Chi masters don’t like to use the word “play;” they prefer “practice,” but AP loved the word “play” so I use it often.) He suggested a few minor corrections, but overall he was distracted with the fact that he could see me after all this time. Once he could see again (albeit not 20/20), his life changed and our relationship changed as well.

About three years after I left Penang and AP, I returned to Penang and saw the need to study Mandarin to better understand the Chinese language, culture, and Wushu. During these one-on-one Mandarin classes, I would bring out my Chinese text Tai Chi books and Han Yu Pin Yu notes, and get the Chinese tutor to explain the meaning of certain Tai Chi related words, phrases, and concepts. This prompted the Chinese tutor to tell me she couldn’t explain that much to me as she was unfamiliar with Wushu and metaphysical concepts. She told me there was an old man who played Tai Chi in her neighborhood every morning and that she would introduce me to him.

Although I knew for some time that I needed a Tai Chi master to check on my postures, I couldn’t find the “right” one. For three years after AP, whenever I practiced in the parks and open spaces, masters would come up to me and invite me to join their classes, clubs, associations, groups, whatever, but I always declined as I knew classes were trouble for an outlier like myself. I just knew I had to wait for the right situation.

Teacher #2 was also an old retired Chinese man in his seventies and he could only speak Chinese, but by then I already knew the fundamentals, and all he had to do was perfect my postures. Or so I thought.

While AP emphasized on playing Tai Chi as “soft as cotton,” Foong Sifu aka Master Ang was more inclined towards the “martial” art part of Tai Chi. He was always dueling with me in training. He also imparted some metaphysical, philosophical, and physiognomy knowledge as it was passed down to him from his masters. Communication was hampered by my lack of classical Chinese, but I knew just about enough regular Chinese to connect the dots. It helped that I wasn’t really being taught anything new per se. It helped that my soul was being led to remember.

Both my teachers were with Wushu (Martial Arts) associations when they were younger but were retired by the time I met them. Both of them assumed an exploratory dynamic with me, which suited me immensely. This was highly unusual in those times when the norm was master-disciple interactions. I was thirty-ish and they were both eighty-ish. Yet they were able to treat me as more or less an equal. I felt comfortable enough with them to share that I was only learning Tai Chi for the health and metaphysical aspects. I told them that Tai Chi, the martial art, was invented during times when people did not have weapons to protect themselves. They had to agree since weapons were added to the Qigong martial arts later on.

Update 2017:
Both these masters were born and lived almost all of their lives in Malaysia. OPC and the medical doctor/shaman I write about in Different Realities were also born here but they lived parts of their lives abroad. I used to wonder why I was born in Malaysia as I obviously don’t fit in. Fate, fortune, and destiny are sometimes used interchangeably. Only in hindsight, everything becomes clear(er).

There was this Qigong master in Kuala Lumpur, the capital city of Malaysia, who was killed with a single gunshot wound to his chest when he was confronted by robbers. He asked them: “Do you know who I am? I am Mr. So and So, the Martial Arts Master, blah, blah, blah.” They promptly shot and killed him. These are not times for martial arts bravado. That said, knowing some martial arts can aid the self-confidence when we are out there in the scary world where one can be attacked and victimized for no reason at all.

To AP’s credit, Master Ang didn’t have very much to correct where my postures were concerned. The corrections were very subtle. Thereafter, whenever people watched me play and asked who my teacher was, I would say AP, and nobody could believe the old blind man taught me how to play the way I was playing; so I always had to add that I had two teachers. Master Ang corrected some of the postures, and then, they were like, Oh okay, now we understand.

Actually, Master Ang taught me Forms 42 and 55, on top of finessing the 24, 48, and 88 that I had learned from AP. 42 and 55 are just more different sets of Tai Chi choreography exercises. Later on, I came across 37, 58, and 103, and found all these confusing at first until I understood they were all someone’s choreography. The 103 is also known as the 85, 88, 108, 113, or 150 form. Like I said, they are confusing. Nowadays (2016), I see many postures created by imaginative masters/teachers. Some even mix the postures up with the different Tai Chi Schools of play. Innovative! Interesting! Challenging! Exciting! But … not for me. I like to simplify, simplify, as Thoreau coaxed us. Life is complicated enough as it is.

I also watched other masters at play whenever possible, to see if I had learned the sets and postures correctly. I attended international Wushu competitions held in Kuala Lumpur and referred to form books and videos — whatever was available pre-internet and YouTube days. In 1993-94 (I got on the Internet only in 1996), I visited China and played Tai Chi with the locals in the public parks. It was a delightful experience.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Keeping It Real

Many years ago, when I was writing content for my website,, I wrote and published over a thousand articles spanning an eight-year period and didn’t receive a single critique regarding my usage of the English language. I had more than a million unique visitors over that span of time and everyone was focusing on the content, not the standard of English. Since I started publishing books, suddenly, it’s all about the grammar, punctuation, syntax, and format. Nobody is talking about the content and the ideas. In reflecting why this is so, I had to conclude that it’s the publishing industry that has set these standards. The content on my website was offered to the public for free before self-publishing became a case of too much supply and not enough demand. Books are for sale and not for free so they are held up for scrutiny. Then again, even books that are offered for free get scrutinized and critiqued. Yet, I see errors of punctuation in the newspapers (online and in print) on a regular if not daily basis and no one critiques the newspapers. Why do you think that is?

As writers go, I don’t know which is worse -- for our books to be ignored and to remain in obscurity, or for our books to be critiqued mercilessly. People get hurt when told they are not good enough. It hurts only because we aren’t able to see ourselves in the light.  Three years ago, when I started writing books for publication, I went to my defunct astrologyTOMORROWtoday website to tap some old articles for blog write-ups. There were over a thousand articles on that archive on the Lycos free server but I was appalled at the standard of my writing. Over the eight years, this website had about a million unique visitors. No one complained about the grammar or syntax, etc. and yet, I was able to judge that my writing then was not good enough. I wanted to maintain the archives with a view to editing some material for blogs or books but when I realized the search engines were bringing up those archived pages, I had to delete the whole archives. I chose not to let present readers access the old archives as I was not proud of my level of writing then. Nowadays, I set higher standards for myself and I don’t expect a lot of negative critiques. Even so, I’m not going to be knocked off balance by critiques. I know my English is not perfect but I’m good enough for the purpose of sharing my messages. We only feel hurt when we are not ready to see ourselves in the light. If you Google ‘astrology tomorrow today’, you will still see links to my old website(s). I wrote under the name mEinah aka Mei Nah Khoo.

I noticed an odd thing in recent times. When I quoted content from traditionally published books in my manuscript, one of my editors found errors in those quoted passages.  He kept correcting the errors of these published books and I had to tell him not to. I used “[sic]” to keep the quoted passages as they appear in the original works but my first editor suggested they were not necessary. I also used “[sic]” to show that the spelling, word, or phrase that I used was my choice, not bad English or a typo and again, my editor said it was not necessary. Should I listen to the editors or not? For example, the well-known “good, better, best.” I want to make a point with “good, gooder, goodest.” Why can’t I use the latter?

I agree writers have to set aside a time to take on critiques. Not any and all time is a good time. During the alpha reading phase, we look forward to the critiques as we build our manuscripts and during the beta reading phase, we look forward to the comments to finesse our manuscripts. Then we have the manuscripts pro edited (more critiques) and pro formatted and once published, we look forward to fewer critiques as by then, there is nothing we can do to improve on the manuscripts unless we want to pull the book and re-write, which is a lot of hassle. The time writers don’t enjoy critiques is when the books have already gone to print and it would cost a lot to make the changes.

All artists, whether in paint, prose or song, are in the business of communicating with their public. We feed, gain, and grow off the interactions.  Let it not be said that I can’t take criticism of my work. If I’m putting myself out there getting my ass kicked, whoever wants to critique should earn the right to critique by a) buying my book(s) and by b) critiquing on my social media page(s). If I am afraid of critiques, I would be preferring to take them in private rather than have to apologize now for not being able to handle critiques via personal email. I choose to handle critiques in public so that we all enjoy more mileage from our investment of time.

Talking about critiques, the experts say we shouldn’t ask our friends for critiques as they tend to be too kind. In my experience, strangers have been kinder. Most strangers stick to the old maxim, “if you can’t say anything nice, then don’t say anything at all.” The people who leave snarky reviews or comments appear to have an agenda, don’t they? The people who know me like family, friends, and acquaintances pull no punches or they simply ignore my books. The writers on the forums have shared that their families and friends are not happy for them when they have published a book. In my opinion, the people who have known us for some time think that by becoming authors, we will consider ourselves superior to them in some way. They do not want to feel inferior to us so they need to minimize our accomplishments in order to not feel bad about their own sense of a lack of accomplishments. They probably had talents and dreams at one time too. Whereas we were able to discipline ourselves to work our talents to a point of fruition, and they have not, bother them no end. Friendships and relationships have ended as a result of this.

Sadly, it’s the people in our lives and those we know who don’t want us to pull ahead. They do not want to be left behind. If they don’t like us, they don’t want us to succeed because that means we’ve done something right for our progress and they were wrong to have looked down on us. It’s about them, not about us. So we have to be careful who we allow into our minds and lives. We have to have enough self-confidence in ourselves to know we are capable of good, steady work. Experts say there is no such thing as overconfidence. One just cannot have too much of confidence.

Many writers get depressed when they discover that their books don’t sell as they hoped or wished they would. Many bubbles get burst and then it’s back to our personal reasons for writing and publishing.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Hopping on the Self-Publishing Wagon?

I sympathize and feel for all writers, who are struggling with the various requirements of self-publishing. I share what little experience I have in the hope that I can do my part to alleviate the suffering. Make no mistake, self-publishing can be a lot of suffering. Our creative challenges serve a purpose or else we wouldn’t be striving toward our creative goals even when the odds are stacked against us.

This is what I have learned about the self-publishing industry during my short time wading in, 2014-2017:

If you can’t afford a properly trained editor, you might as well forget about self-publishing. Unless the quality of your writing is good enough like some of the non-fiction writers I personally know. They have self-published with no pro editing and have managed to hold their own in the business. The untrained, inexperienced and/or untalented editors are simply not good enough. If the editing is not good enough, your book will not be able to compete in the open market. You might be publishing just for family, friends and small groups. If you are okay with that, then go ahead and publish. Who knows, you might be one of the self-published ones who will get lucky.

Most of us in the industry know there are different levels of editing. There's basic proofreading, there's line editing, copy editing, and there’s development editing. The time it takes to properly edit a manuscript depends on what is needed to make the manuscript publication worthy. Most of us know editing a book takes about three weeks to a month. So if someone takes a week or less to “edit,” that is proofreading, not editing.   We are told over and again, no good editor is going to tell us a price without first sampling our manuscript. We are advised to make sure they read about 10-25 pages of our writing before quoting any fee.

My genre is not easy to alpha and/or beta read and reading the manuscript alone will take more than a week in most cases, nevermind the editing part. My genre is not easy for even the pros to proofread and/or edit. My experience with the various industry vendors has been unpleasant and unsatisfactory mostly.  Some people are just not cut out for this business. Writing/editing/proofreading, require detailed, sharp minds, sharp eyes, foresight, insight, and many other qualities. Just because editing pays well, it doesn't mean anybody who writes well can be an editor. I actually have had people who write poorer than me offering to edit my work. How crazy is that? Editing software cannot work without the experienced and knowledgeable judgment/discernment of the skilled editor. Like I said, software editing does not work well in my genre.

Graphic work and indexing also require a lot of concentration. If the vendors are highly stressed in their lives, they tend to make a lot of mistakes causing a lot of redo’s and then the interaction with them becomes unpleasant as they resent the extra work and time required. The point is, the redo’s are the cause of the extra work and time put in. The solution is simply to get it right the first time, isn’t it? If vendors turn in sloppy and unsatisfactory work, do not expect the customers to be happy and satisfied customers.

I did appreciate the feedback from my first editor. He is a self-published writer of several novels and he was able to suggest which parts of my manuscript could do with elaboration, which parts needed tightening, what was redundant, how my material/ideas affected him, what kind of response he hoped I would get from readers, that sort of thing. In the final analysis, yes, we are apt to get what we pay for.  Even with the better editors, writers must do the final proofreading to get everything just right.

On the writing forums, I was one of those who stuck my neck out defending the low-end editors and vendors as I had wanted to help the underdogs in the business. I am always wanting to help the underdogs in any area of life. Some of the writers were telling me how they had spent their life savings and also remortgaged their houses to pay for the publishing and promoting process and yet, they were not selling any books. I thought that wasn’t right; I thought there has to be a way for people to publish without making themselves homeless.

If anyone is looking for an editor, it’s also important to take genre into account. The editor you work with should ideally be a "fan" of your genre. It's not required but it's helpful. In my case, I’ve been looking for more than a year already and I’ve not been able to find someone who meets my requirements.  My genre: Self-help/Spiritual/Personal Transformation and Religion/Spirituality. I did stumble on one suitable candidate but that person was priced out of my orbit.

It appears good help is truly hard to find and if we want things done thoroughly well, we might have to learn to do everything by ourselves. That, or get lucky attracting a support system that delivers the goods. This saying just about wraps it up: Cheap, fast and good -- you can at most, pick two of those at any one time.  Just for your information, I spent about USD2,600.00 for this publishing project between 2013-17. I don’t expect to break even anytime soon. I take this expense like I’m paying for a full year’s Publishing course at a university. If a semester costs about USD900.00, then this amount I spent is like for three semesters. I have learned so much about this industry and the people in the industry during the past three years. Working with people is extremely difficult (harder than writing) but the experience of the past three years is serving me well. Life is hard for us spirits in human form on planet Earth. Humans have to balance the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. Disembodied spirits have less to balance. Light entities, not Earthbound, have even less to balance. I hope this sharing will be of benefit to other writers. I believe the journey can be the goal. During the process of trying to get published, I have become more than what I had started out with.

PS: Seems to me, since writers (books) are reviewed publicly on Amazon to help the public with their decision making, vendors should also be reviewed publicly to help writers with their decision making. On Fiverr, they do have a review system where customers get to review the services of the vendors. When I went there to get a Facebook cover done, I picked a vendor with a lot of 5 Star reviews. Perhaps Amazon should create a list of vendors who will be willing to subject their services for public review. Then writers can tap from this "vetted" source and those not on this list would be a risk for writers to engage? What do you all think of this idea?