amulets, dishes, nappies!

Filipinos you meet everywhere including those in Sydney will share their immigrant stories at the drop of a hat, including their hard-earned dos and don’t’s in the new country. I can understand why. It’s because moving to another country and leaving your roots behind is such a life-changing event that requires a big paradigm leap. It’s a real watershed. You go through battles and hardships to embrace a new life and many insights are picked up along the way. It’s a perfect dramatization of the hero’s journey which writer Joseph Campbell likes to talk about. Every life is indeed a hero’s journey. The immigrant story is, I suppose more literal than most. And every hero likes to pass on wisdom to the uninitiated.

The newbie’s job is to sift through the nuggets and see which one can be fashioned into the right amulet that will protect him and further his own journey to the promised land.

–Leaving Manila and our comfortable life is in the eyes of many quite baffling, and yes, even crazy! I agree. But at the same time, life is about growth and discovery probably even more than just being comfortable if one wishes to suck the marrow of it. There is little growth that happens in a comfort zone. In the unknown, one’s senses are awake and astute as they make sense of life’s new configuration. In many ways it’s as if I have asked life for a renegotiation. I have asked for a different contract. I just hope I am ready to take whatever it brings to the table.

–In a new setting, it is not unusual to meet aspects of oneself that you never suspected were there. In my case, the obligations of house cleaning and all that have allowed me to discover some joys I would not have dared try voluntarily before. So far, I am enjoying my slot at dish washing. I find it is quite calming, and the act of submerging a dirty dish on hot water, and washing it, as a metaphor for baptism does not escape me. Our Catholic tradition says that one is cleansed of sin through this sacrament. In zen, the act of cleaning dishes is a good metaphor for discovering ‘original face’. (‘What was the plate like before it was contaminated?’). There isn’t anytime or any place, including the most mundane situations where one is not given the opportunity to have a spiritual experience.

Ken Wilber, my favorite writer talks about the only ‘real job’ he ever had which was washing dishes for Red Lobster restaurant in the US for two years. He says that as much as it was work, it was also part of spiritual practice. When one thinks about it, what isn’t part of spiritual practice?

–The act of settling anywhere, or to be more accurate, getting settled somewhere is as much a psychological act as a physical one. One meets the resistance that resides inside oneself. In my case, I know I have this fear of the driving test. The cars are built differently and the roads are facing the wrong way, as far as I am concerned. But I also know that our lives here would greatly improve with more mobility and so I must conquer this fear and go for a license asap. I also know that just recognizing a fear is already a gigantic step in overcoming it. The rest is not resisting the learning that I need to do to pass the test.

–For the moment, I find I have so little time to blog. Lydia and Erica are sharing this computer and so I have limited access. And very often, even when I do have access, my grandchild Ananda is forever pulling ‘wowo’s hand to go here and there, or do this and that. I thought I was through with childrearing already but apparently, I am not.

Just last night, I was getting philosophical and was telling my kids how strange it is that we had been thrown together into the same family. As souls, did we have a say on which circumstances, country, genes, social situation we were going to inhabit when we entered the world of time? Who knows! And how is it that we now find ourselves together in this strange place living this life that we’re living? Was there a purpose to all this? What is it then” What is the great mission for us, if any? Last night, we all felt a quiet, comfortable kinship that went beyond the familial relationships we had. In the closeness, we all felt lucky and even assured to have a shared destiny. But why God threw in Ananda at the last minute is still a big mystery to us. Ha ha. Who knows, maybe my great mission in Aus is not to do any great thing that is measurable in terms of the material. Maybe it is the simple task of helping raise this child!

Enough of the mystery for now. Ananda needs a nappy change!

****For a light video report on how we are doing here, watch what my daughter Ala creatively put together!****