Author Archives: siewfan

Once upon a time…

There was a time not that long ago, when I left Der Schweiz with a backpack and not much else. That tremendous sense of laughter and freedom… I can still taste that with my being.

Standing here at the top of the stairs, I am admiring the gurgling of the water in the fish pond, and vivid green of the urban oasis we built in the house. I’m thinking, this is what I’ve been wanting to build, a space for the community of like-minds, who all want to live life built on meaning and purpose. I am also thinking that here is the opposite moment of that ‘backpack’ moment  of the last that I saw of Switzerland. This is the re-entry into the social-economic scene of normal life.

This is the culmination of 7 years of  journeying the byways and highways of the inner landscape. Of searching for a new way to re-org all the myriad intentions, learnings and impulses to build a safe place for myself and others to explore the full human potential. We are calling it Gallery Helios, Centre for the Art of Mind-Body Wellness. Community. Art. Mind. Body. Wellness.

This is a business. I have shareholders. And fixed costs, but what a beautiful fixed cost, a house in the traditional Peranakan style with a modern interior, a staircase built to visually disappear at nightfall. 4500 square feet with skylights and an airwell. Standing here, I’m mulling over how this has come about.

The Healing Place

In meditation one day, I saw myself sitting in a pavilion on a high place looking over water. It was a space of healing and rehabilitation, a retreat in the mountain. It was simply called The Healing Place. It would also have a city-center Centre, from where the weary  (and the weird ) would find solace and re-charge, or start a deeper journey or climb higher heights. And so here we are, starting part 1.

Old Ghosts…

i saw one today. i hadn’t seen or thought of him in 11 years at least. Yet without looking i knew this was the old enemy and there appeared a bad taste in the mouth, and i felt like i had to wash my hands. The old feelings of despise and contempt rose up like bile, and took me completely by surprise.

So while i feel like i have done a lot of inner work, i realize that there is no room for complacency, and that i need to continually release all the projections of my  unlived, unacknowledged shadows. There are principle and ethics, and we naturally get angry when our values are violated. But i have the tools, thank goodness, to quickly deal with energy leakages such as this. The ego-self that we hold on to and protect… on this post i’m using “i” instead of “I”.

Well, i’m grateful i could practice what i preach today. And having dealt with it, now i think he just had the bad luck of being my projection of most of the things that rile me in the dog-eat-dog world…. and he really was doing the best he could, with the tools he had…

Metaphors, Archetypes, Religion

Of late I’m re-reading Oscar Wilde’s De Profundis. In there he spoke of Christ. He didn’t call him, Jesus, he called him always Christ. Oscar was a protestant who had a classical education, and he read Christian texts in the original Greek. His Christ is a romantic figure, idealized, a deeply personal interpretation. Each act and twist to the Christ story steeped with nuances and symbolism. How often do we make heros, villians and gods of others, by projecting our internal movies on to external landscapes? The collective consciousness, Jung and Campbell, the metaphors and archetypes of art, history and religion; are they not all communicating the different facets of reality? How do we make sense of the ever shifting kaleidoscope of human experience ? Which are the chickens and which are the eggs?

01 Leaving Switzerland

Friday, 13th June 2003

Writing From the Train : Paris-Bordeaux
I had spent my last night in Zurich in the uppity-up room of the Bernets’ brilliantly restored farmhouse. I woke up feeling tired this morning, not having slept more than 2 fretful hours. It’s been hot. The promise of rain did not deliver. It’s been a week of summer, quite unusual in June. This is Europe, no air-conditioning tradition here. Funny what one thinks about during one’s last night. After 7 years with the company and 5 years living in Switzerland, I am leaving for the unknown of a sabbatical year (hopefully).

Driving to the office we were stuck in horrendous traffic – yes they have those even in Zurich. Saying goodbye at the office consisted of a whirl of tri-kisses, photos and best wishes, and finally storming into my boss, W’s office to inform him that I did not really intend to walk to Bordeaux. He kindly offered to drive me to the airport. A couple of hugs and a couple of tears and it was over. We had a great team, and it was hard to say goodbye.

The apartment in Windlach has been given up (loved that apartment), the car sold (loved that car), the furniture mostly given away. Still my worldly possessions weigh heavily upon me, especially since the French are still working on their railway strike. I’ve been so tired, I don’t think I can heck the going to Plum Village and doing the 5am meditation thing right away. The last week has been exhausting, emotionally, physically and it’s been so darn hot*. I think I need a breather when I do get to Bordeaux. I’ll may be spend a couple of days there just sleeping, and go to Plum Village on Sunday morning.

Zurich to Paris was uneventful.

Vive la France! Aeroport CDG to Montpanasse via Gare du Nord was an exercise in patience: long wait at immigration, disorganized train service, a partial strike, long wait for taxi at Gare du Nord, flying around trying to get a phonecall to Plum Village. I bought a 7Euro phone card to make the one call. The number was engaged and I had to run to the train. Life today had been a see-saw of waiting in line and flying around after being late for having waited in line. And it is definitely true – I am always stuck in the slow lane. Today was after all, Friday, the 13th (and 14th on the Chinese calendar).

Through it all I had the distinct feeling that it was supposed to happen – the cultural clash of the merger and the subsequent drama, what the buddhists term ‘aversion’ came up big time. I’ve been tired of that bs for some time. This was a kick start for me to get out and do what I need to do. I’ve at least manage to protect my team. I am also proud of G, she’s put her dreams on the table with talking to people about moving back to the city (New York City) and also doing some sort of business. I hope to have news when I leave. 6/13/2003 4:37 PM

Writing from Bordeaux: Sanitized for Your Protection
8.30pm and I’m in a 2-star (sanitised for your protection) hotel across from the Bordeaux St. Jean station. They cancelled all the other trains to Begerac for tonight. Just as well. After lugging my bags around, up and down stairs, in the heat, I was ready to call it a day. Dumped most of the luggage in the baggage place and found the Hotel Arcantis at €43++. No aircon, took a coldish shower, going to be a night in the bare buff I think. Might go in search of something to eat, perhaps some type of salad. Or go to sleep now. 6/13/2003 8:41 PM

* It turned out to be the hottest summer in Europe in recorded history. About 40,000 Europeans died.

00 Past Chronicles: Letter to a friend

Found this while cleaning up my laptop. I was writing to a friend but don’t really know if I actually sent it. It’s a snapshot of life at that time.

Tuesday, February 03, 1998

Hey M,

How’s it going? Where are you living now? Detriot? I don’t remember when I last wrote. Sometimes I don’t remember where I am and what day it is. I’ve been travelling so much since I got to Zurich, I really don’t feel like I live here.

Just got back from Istanbul. It was hard work, but we had some time for fun too. Aside from the really bad air on the first day, i.e., worse than Beijing and the Indonesian smog put together, the couple of days we managed to go out was fun. The people here are so good looking, as good looking at the carpet seller in Agra (a really good looking guy). Saw the world’s 3rd largest diamond, called the spoonmaker, St. John the babtist’s arm bone encased in gold and a s_load of cool relics and jewels of the Ottoman and Byzantine empires. Went to a restaurant, formally a cistern built in the 4th century – only candles, no electricity – very, very cool, closed the Harry’s Bar in the Hyatt, shopped in the spice market. Didn’t get a chance to do the Turkish bath thing, but got a nice facial. And oh, went to a Belly Dance place for dinner, humiliating but a lot of fun. Seriously GREAT food – I feel it on my waistline. Great desserts and I usually don’t take dessert. But there was so much more to see!!! Next destination: Cairo – Camels, here I come.

My social life here is really zero. Zurich is quite a nice town, but I don’t know anyone, and the people from work generally don’t hang out together. No men. I was seeing someone in Beijing. Then I moved to Zurich, he moved back to Germany and that was that. He still has some of my stuff, which I like to call my Beijing contraband. I had some difficulties shipping some small pieces of antiques, and he took them for me. He was working for the German embassy – so while I struggled with the airlines, my stuff got to travel via diplomatic channels. We’re still friends, spoke on the phone a few times, but have not seen each other since. What about you?

I am somewhat legally allowed to be paying taxes in Switzerland. The authorities in Bern finally came thru on my permit, what it’s for, I’m not exactly sure, but I had to take a chest X-ray for it. I have meetings over the weekend with the big bosses to decide my fate. It seems they are trying to find me something to do after I get done with my current project – installing central information systems in all our hotels. It’s really sweet because they could just fire my ass since there really isn’t going to be enough of an Asian region to take care of in the near future. There’s been a few body counts. The Asian projects are all, as we say in Cantonese, colder than water. I think l shall be taking my German lessons more seriously. I will most likely be here till the end of the summer, then Bangkok for a few months, then we don’t know yet. Finances aren’t good in the company, but we just got a brand new kick-ass expresso machine with a proper steamer for cuppucinos. Hey, certain standards have to be maintained.

I have to travel for a month starting next week. My 3 office plants have almost given up the ghost from my Istanbul trip. I can’t blow off Cairo, a non-terrorist target as yet, (AR, my partner in crime, and I will be publishing a Lonely Planet guide to Non-Terrorist Targets – watch for it!) so the plan is to go to Cairo, then Hong Kong, and while in Hong Kong, get my China visa, i.e., will arrive in Beijing around Feb 25, and plan to spend at least 4 days. I have to be in NYC after that, but don’t know exactly when, but it will be sometime during the first week of March. Then my parents want to visit, but I had to tell them no, cos I’m a slave to my project schedule and it keeps bloody changing.

So all in all, life isn’t bad, just a bit too hectic. That’s all the news I have for now. I’ll try to call you when I get to New York.