The Buddha of the Future

Being in Vietnam makes me happy.

Like the Vietnamese I have a great reverence for this fellow – a figure they call Di lac Phat, Maitreya Buddha, the fat, laughing Buddha of the future. In fact, the resemblance between myself and Di Lac Phat has often been commented on, and is, perhaps, a secret to my great popularity in Buddhist monastic circles.

If you’re ever feeling down or depressed or sorry for yourself, I dare you to gaze upon his form for even a moment and not feel slightly amused, slightly more hopeful.

And that is what Di Lac represents – hope for the future, the wealth and abundance of which is made manifest in his bodily form.

He smiles and carries a mysterious sack which most say is filled with gold. In some popular representations he is depicted surrounded by healthy, laughing children, and in others he holds forth a huge gold ingot, making the imagery that little bit more obvious.

He hasn’t arrived yet, but his day is just around the corner.

A New Understanding of Abundance

My review of BelindaGrace's new book, You Are Abundant.

I have been aware of Australian psychic, clairvoyant and spiritual healer BelindaGrace for some years. When I worked at Adyar bookshop she launched her first book You Are Clairvoyant, and it was a great success, as were the events with her that we hosted. Indeed, You Are Clairvoyant has become something of an international hit, being published in the US by Llewellyn and about to be launched in an Italian edition!I was interested to read her new book, You Are Abundant, and find out just what she might have to say about abundance, a concept that is surprisingly problematic and which many people express reservations about.

Of course, from the outset I need to say that Belinda's ideas about abundance are not the usual ramped-up quests for super-riches that you might be familiar with from an older generation of self-help books. There are no injucntions in this book to tape fake cheques for a million dollars on your bedroom ceiling. And while I'm not making fun of the quest for material abundance - I spend anough of my time in places in the world where material comforts are all too rare and not to be viewed with cynicism - I am still happy to see a writer enlarging and enriching the concept of abundance to include an inner spiritual wellbeing and an acknowledgemnent of the incredible gifts that each of us lives with every day: the gift of existence, of family, friends and regular meals, the simple gift of being.

What Abundance Used to be About

If you've ever read some of the hoary old classics of New Thought you will know that traditionally we have been talking about the material world when we discuss abundance. New dresses, nicer cars and more comfortable homes: these were the understandable concerns and desires of people who had grown up in materially more restricted times. But we are in the midst of a new paradigm, and BelindaGrace's wonderful book is part of that re-structuring of the concept of abundance. Few of us really want to use our mental and spiritual powers to increase our sales or pay for a mediterranean cruise. This was the old world, the world in which we knew we "should" have certain material markers of success. But BelindaGrace wants us to abandon these "shoulds." Instead we can replace them with an acknowledgement of the wonderful things that fill our lives, and cultivate an attitude of gratitude that acknowledges the immense abundance of our universe. As Belinda says, "Every time you express a small inward or outward 'thank you' for anything at all, you are adding to a spiritual savings account that will bring abundant returns."

Messages from the Angels

Interestingly, Belinda states that the messages contained in You Are Abundant are from the angels. And as such they express a certain lightness of being, along with a profundity and depth that help the reader towards a re-understanding of being. The book is filled with the most wonderful meditation exercises (some of which I have had the great good fortune to have been led through by Belinda herself).

Probably my favourite is the "re-parenting exercise," a 15 minute process in which you work through your childhood hurts and re-cast your situation in a healing and positive light. There is such simplicity in all of Belinda's exercises and ideas, and this is the kind of book that you could offer to anyone who wanted to gain a deeper understanding of themselves. Belinda's great gift of expression means her book is a delight to read, and all of the meditative exercises are straightforward and down-to-earth, devoid of the cringe-factor which can make some New Age exercises difficult to digest.

The Basic Program of BelindaGrace's Journey Towards Abundance:

Be Prepared for a 'Threshold Phase'

Things don't always run smoothly, and sometimes after a run of good luck and good results we can happen onto a difficult patch. This is a perfectly natural part of our development.

Get Back to the Divine Feminine

We have lost grasp of the power of the Divine Feminine, and it is to the detriment of our culture. Belinda gives us a wonderful meditative exercise which is powerful tool to re-awakening this side of our spirituality.

Get Over Your Fears

To quote Belinda: "Many people are secretly haunted by the fear that they don't really deserve a happy life, even when they strive to be an aware person and do the best they can." Most of us are incapable of forgiving ourselves, but doing so is essential.

Don't Blame Others for the Spread of Negative Energy

If we're being honest, most of us would concede that we do our bit in spreading all kinds of negative energy in the world, mostly through gossip, criticism and shallow judgenent. Until we take responsibility for this, we can never free our lives of the results of negativity. Be honest and change yourself before you worry about others.

What Makes Belinda so Fascinating?

I had a lovely coffee with BelindaGrace at Berkelouw's bookshop on Norton St. in Sydney's trendy Leichhardt, followed by the most amazing couple of hours in which she led a free workshop where she shared her ideas, her insights and her wonderful energy.

BelindaGrace and Walter Mason chatting at Berkelouw's Bookshop, Norton St., Leichhardt

Her enthusiasm is infectious, as is her commitment to constant learning and development. Indeed, she says in her book "If you haven't been learning anything new lately then you are missing out on a big part of why you are here. Go out and explore the world..." And in her book that is exactly the quality she is encouraging - the quality of curious investigation and the desire to progress and to become a better person.
She advocates meditation and provides a number of practical, short and really amazing meditation exercises in the book. What BelindaGace is talking about is not a simple quest for material abundance, but a deeper and more nuanced internal abundance tied to an overall spiritual view of life. And once we have developed this spiritual abundance we frequently find that a material abundance evolves out of it, as if by accident.
If it's been a long time since you've read a book about spirituality, or if you are naturally skeptical about the genre, then this might just be the book for you. Let BelindaGrace's charm and her down-to-earth tone help you to re-shape some of your more limiting beliefs and open you up to a world of intuition and possibility.

Teaser Tuesday

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly meme hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

Grab your current read

Open to a random page

Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page

BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)

Share the title and author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

My teasers:

"I remember the days when becoming your own best friend sounded like a silly motivational slogan, but now I know it's crucial that we do so. Most of us are so hard on ourselves. As I look back on my own life, I can see that for years I made the mistake of believing that I could actually motivate myself to make positive changes by beating myself up - the old "kick in the ass" mentality. Now I see this for what it really is - a way of reinforcing limited beliefs that keep us frightened and stuck"


For countless people, the words of Louise Hay have served as a beacon, leading them out of the darkness of despair and into the light of a better life. Cheryl Richardson is one of the many individuals whom Louise has greatly influenced . . . before going on to become a best-selling author herself.

So what happens when these two combine their collective wisdom into one book?

The result is what you’re now holding in your hands. As Louise and Cheryl engage in a series of empowering and intimate conversations, you’ll feel as if you’re simultaneously having lunch with your best friends and also attending a master class put on by two leaders of the self-empowerment movement.

As they travel throughout North America and Europe together, Louise and Cheryl discuss a wide range of topics, including the importance of loving ourselves and our bodies; aging consciously; bringing true prosperity and abundance to the world; manifesting positive relationships—both with family and friends and in the workplace; and facing death in a dignified and peaceful way.

These two amazing women are living proof that the spiritual principles they discuss in these pages really work. As you read, you’ll discover that you, too, have the ability to create an exceptional life!

Cambodian Roundup

(Author Alice Pung, photo from Sydney Morning Herald by Rodger Cummins)

Some interesting stuff about Cambodia that's been floating around:

Monday Blogcrawl

We need to have our bathroom renovated, and these kinds of large-scale projects are the sorts of things that have me waking up screaming at night. For some reason it brings out the very most anxious part of my personality. So for the next few days I am going to have tradesmen traipsing in and out of the house telling me the awful truth about what needs to be done and how much it's all going to cost. To avoid thinking about bathrooms, I've been surfing the net:

Mary Ann in Autumn

Armistead Maupin is, by now, gay royalty. He has documented a generation of gay liberation through his unique and personable little novels. The Tales of the City books (which became a scandalous mini-series in the 1990s and have now become that characteristic Noughties artefact - a live stage musical) are perhaps unique in chronicling the struggle, rise and slow diminution of a social movement and an identity. Maupin has been there for every stage of "gay," and it seems that as long as he's alive he will continue to write about the peculiar coterie of queer misfits that have inhabited his San Francisco since the 1970s.
If you're like me you read the Tales of the City series as a youngster, and in many ways it was these wonderful, Dickensian, stories that shaped what it meant to be happily, functionally and healthily gay in contemporary culture. I say "healthily," but of course in many of Maupin's books he was writing about the terrible scourge of AIDS and the devastating impact it had on the dynamic culture of which he was the unofficial laureate. And now, in Mary Ann in Autumn, the spectre of AIDS has diminished, and instead Maupin's characters deal with the far more humdrum (and perhaps universal) betrayals of the ageing body: cancer, impotence and dementia. Maupin is here to tell us that gays get old, too.
It is almost impossible to pick up one of Maupin's books and want to put it back down any time soon. He is a ridiculously addictive writer, his characters and stories inhabiting a world of ever-so-slightly-enchanted believability. It is not high literature, certainly, but I think I can safely say that Maupin is a species of literary genius, capturing a gossipy, casual style that renders his popular fiction almost faultless. He has never written a dud book, and his eye for subtly clever and involving plot means that you will forgive him the very-rare clumsiness that occurs in his prose. I went to hear Maupin speak last year at the Sydney Opera House, and he said he was a tireless re-writer, and wouldn't leave a chapter alone till he felt it was perfect. Such careful attention to his craft certainly shows, and it pays off -Mary Ann in Autumn is a gorgeous creation - a fabulous, distracting novel that demands to be read.
If you know the books then you will be happy to see most of the old characters there - Mouse, Mary Ann, Anna Madrigal. Plus a couple of the new ones like Jake the F2M gardener and Mouse's hunky young boyfriend who hunts daddies at the Y in his lunch hour.
Get the book - you will love it, you will inhale it and you will be left with the wonderful warmth of nostalgia that is so rare in modern literature - the familiar call of a set of characters and situation with which you are perfectly familiar.
Please write us a new one soon, Mr. Maupin!

New Books - Fiction

I am elbow-deep in the latest chapter of my thesis, plus I have a mountain of review books to read. Then there are the new books of my wonderful and talented friends that require my immediate attention. How do I cope? By buying some new fiction. Well actually, it's all old fiction, and gives an indication of my taste in the obscure and the camp. Here's what I have bought in the last week or so:

Night Letters by Robert Dessaix - A wonderful novel posing as a travel memoir. Dessaix is playing all kinds of Nabokovian tricks here. I love Dessaix's writing, and have never read this one.

King of the Badgers by Philip Hensher - I simply had to read this one when it was slammed by a Peregrine Worsthorne (was there ever a more exquisitly named personage?) in the Spectator. He was disgusted by its explicit gay sex, and thought it brought ill-repute to all homosexuals. He thought its "unseemly anatomical accounts of group homosexual orgies...poison public opinion."

And No Man's Wit by Rose Macaulay

Corfu by Robert Dessaix - Another by the lovely Mr. Dessaix.

Running Backwards Over Sand by Stephanie Dowrick - I am currently writing about Dowrick's popular non-fiction, but have still never read any of her novels. I found a lovely signed hard-cover first edition.

Under Two Flags by Ouida - I adore Ouida as a character, though I have never actually read a single word of her fiction. I am about to remedy that.

Monday Blogcrawl

I have a handful of books that I've almost finished, so dammit I am about to go and sit down and finish them all. I have heard it's a bad habit to read more than one book at once, but I simply must. I only try not to mix up my genres - so only one novel, one autobiography etc. Seems to have worked for the past 20 years or so. Or if you'd rather not read, here are some interesting things on the net:

El Circo Rouge

Circus, burlesque, drag show and 5-course degustation.
Was there ever a more perfect night's entertainment?
Lat night I was at Canterbury-Hurlstone Park RSL for the fabulous El Circo Rouge, a post-modern cabaret spectacular conceived by the entertainment mastermind Marc Kuzma (aka Claire De Lune) and transplanted holus bolus from glamorous digs in Oxford Street straight into Sydney's suburbs.
Oh, and did I mention it stars my dear friend and global drag diva Verushka Darling?

Mr. Noodlies can't keep his lips of Verushka Darling's delectable face.

She was looking spectacular, every last amazing foot of her, and I wanted to take her home, cock-feathers and all. Never has a woman worn a miniature top-hat with such elan.
I'm only going to be able to gush about a show and dinner which exceeded every last expectation - I wondered why I hadn't been before, dozens of times, in fact. The spectacular variety show, hosted by the terrific Ms. Darling, had something for everyone - trapeze burlesque, naked men, doves in handkerchiefs and even Verushka herself doing her Tippi Hedren turn. Must say there was a rather a lot of perfectly-formed male flesh on show, and the ladies in the audience were ecstatic.
The show has almost completed its run at the Canterbury-Hurlstone Park RSL (why oh why have we waited so long?), so get on the phone NOW punters and book yourselves a ticket. I mean NOW - you simply cannot afford to miss this dazzling night out. Ticket includes show and the amazing dinner.

Me with the gloriously glamorous Ms. Verushka Darling.

Teaser Tuesdays

TEASER TUESDAYS asks you to:
  • Grab your current read.
  • Let the book fall open to a random page.
  • Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.
  • You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!
  • Please avoid spoilers!
  • My “Teaser” Sentences for today:

    "But these roots of our desire are deep and thick and they spread out and underlie everything. This is the problem. These roots of our negativities, our delusions, our ill-will, and our greed are so deeply imbedded in our mind that they permeate everything, and often we don't even recognise them for what they really are."
    ~ page 108, "Into the Heart of Life" by Tenzin Palmo

    BEAST - Shock

    I discovered this song on Sunday while watching SBS Pop Asia.
    My Sunday mornings have now become sacred because I know that between 8.30 & 10.30 am I can watch the most glorious pop from all over Asia. For too long fans of Asian pop have been forced onto Youtube to suffer forced K Mart ads and tiny screens of their idols.
    What a revelation BEAST were on the big screen! Let's admit it now - no-one does boy bands better than the Koreans. It's the dancing, the clothes, the blonde hair, the bizarre ear ornaments. I don't know about you, but I just can't get enough.
    In the inimitable fashion of Korean boy bands, BEAST is actually an acronym for Boys of East Standing Tall. So now you know.
    So feast on BEAST, and don't forget to get up early on Sunday to see SBS Pop Asia on SBS1.

    Jennifer Wong on Comedy and Reading

    I asked writer and comedian Jennifer Wong about books, comedy and inspiration - here's what she said:

    Me with the fabulous Jennifer Wong

    1. Are all bookish people secretly harbouring a desire to be in the spotlight?
    What a great question. I like the idea of secret harbouring. That it’s desire is just a bonus.
    I think bookish people are usually logical people, who’d naturally shun the spotlight knowing that it eats in to your reading time. But then bookish people are also by nature pretty curious (although it may be entirely possible to be bookish only for econometrics textbooks, or bookish only for technical writing handbooks), so maybe within that curiosity lies a deep need to experience being onstage with all eyes on you, at the absolute centre of attention with no competition, just you and a microphone, a bare stage and the incredible and addictive power and privilege of telling jokes and stories to total strangers, all the while aware that the risk of failure is just a misplaced word or two away. Of course, this is all just speculation.
    I’m not sure if I secretly harboured a desire to be in the spotlight, but when I was little I know I desperately wanted to write, and this came purely from a love of reading. As a child I loved that a good book can make you feel comfort, and can make you feel less alone, and can make you laugh. A good book is all powerful, good company, and the best ones are so honest that when you read them again they’re sad, joyous and funny again - and then some.* (For the record, I think that one of the funniest things ever - in books or otherwise - is from To Kill A Mockingbird when Scout is running around in the dark dressed as a ham hock.)
    At my most bookish, when I was working at a bookshop during high school and uni (at Shearer’s Bookshop in Cherrybrook and Gordon for five years), I didn’t have the desire to perform at all, or even to write. I just read solidly and touched a lot of books. I worked at Shearer’s Cherrybook when it first opened, and I went home one day and told my mum I’d touched every book in the fiction section because we’d been moving shelves. “That’s nice,” she said. So I had no desire to be in the spotlight then, because there would have been no books to touch.
    Later, though, I wanted to write. It’s pretty common for people to want to write and to feel the fear and not do it anyway, but I was crippled with a unique fear after I left high school where I’d always done pretty well in English. The fear was that now without the confines of a syllabus, anything I wrote would be a weak-ass version of The Joy Luck Club...even if it was an essay on Australian politics. It was a strange curse.**
    When I started doing open mic in Sydney after uni I found the deadline of having to do new material all the time was the best motivator for writing, so for a long time the “spotlight” was not about the spotlight at all, it was the thing that forced me to write.
    Writing for open mic comedy broke the five-year curse: I was only ever writing five minutes of material at a time, I didn’t have to tell a book-length story, and I could write based on what was in the news, not what was in my head or heart (that came later), and all I had to do was concentrate on what was funny. It was entirely liberating.
    * The first time I realised the scary magic of it all was when my fifth grade teacher Miss Mitchell, who’d also been my teacher the year before, read Bridge to Terebithia to us. In year 4 she’d cried while reading us the sad part (I won’t ruin it for you if you haven’t read it), which in itself was a huge thing, to see my favourite teacher/an adult person cry and dry her tears on the edge of her very Ken Done-patterned long skirt (it was the 80s). But when she read it to our class in year 5, she cried again. My nine-year-old brain couldn’t handle it. Why is she sad? She knew this would happen. The ending was never going to be different, and she seems even more upset than before.
    ** It’s not that I wanted to write another Joy Luck Club, but that I was scared that something like it would accidentally spill out on to paper and ink itself just because I was Chinese and wrote in English. I hated it. So every Asian Studies essay at uni was overdue. Some still remain unfinished, ten years on, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t learn anything - I now know that AF means Absent Fail, badoom tish. A report I had to write about my experience with a group of overseas Chinese youth-folk and our Guinness World Record attempt at the world’s longest dancing dragon on the Great Wall of China was never handed in. I struggled with every essay all through uni, and doing the subject “Chinese Diaspora” at ANU was a paralyzing 14 week-long identity crisis I’m ashamed to recall because it was pretty much a narcissistic one-note whinge: stupid Chinese women with all their stupid identical Chinese women stories...I’ll never be able to write about anything apart from my mother and her mother and her mother’s mother. Ugh. Charming, huh?
    2. How did you make it big in comedy? What kind of apprenticeship did you serve?
    I love that you used the word apprenticeship, because it implies a certain steadfast and grudging commitment, no shortcuts kind of approach, and there are definitely no shortcuts in comedy (although some comedians would say the use of props is a definite shortcut, ha-ha). I wouldn’t say I’ve made it big in comedy AT ALL. At the Melbourne International Comedy Festival this year I learned two things that define when you’ve made it big in comedy in Australia.
    1. When a punter refers to you by your first name, e.g. “Sorry, I can’t go to your show. I’m going to see Wil.”
    2. When the ushers at Melbourne Town Hall yell out your name (first name only, of course) every night as part of their job, e.g. “Tickets to ARJ. ARJ. Line up to the RIGHT. ARJ. ARJ.”
    And they’ve both been working for almost 20 years, I think.
    The apprenticeship I’m serving is writing and gigging as much as possible, and working with and learning from people who are more experienced; reading lots, but not as much as I’d like (e.g. David Rakoff, David Sedaris, everything “New Yorker”, Joan Didion), watching lots (live stand-up, YouTube clips of Pauline Hanson), and listening lots (most recently to Steve Martin’s Comedy Is Not Pretty, and always This American Life and Conversations with Richard Fidler).
    But mostly it’s stage time. That’s why festivals are so great. During the festival in Melbourne this year we got to perform six nights a week for almost four weeks, which is the most I’ve ever done in a block. It’s not really possible to gig that much when it’s not festival time, unless you’re Wil Anderson and performing at The Sydney Comedy Store every night for a month. This week as part of Sydney Fringe I’ll do six gigs in seven’s a real treat to have that much stage time in a week. In other apprenticeship-serving, I’m also trying to gently side-step into other types of writing. This week apart from doing the solo show I’ll be reading from my teenage diary at Surry Hills Library (which, conveniently is already written. I’ve never been so prepared!), and telling a story at a Fringe event by Campfire Collective.
    3. THIS IS THE ONE YOU MUST ANSWER: Can you give 5 pieces of advice to someone who wants to take the leap and explore their own creativity?
    I’ll keep it short and sweet because I was so wordy before, and also I’m not good at giving advice. It comes from an aversion to taking responsibility for my actions, but since you said THIS IS THE ONE YOU MUST ANSWER, and I have trouble not respecting authority and all caps:
    1. You’re exploring, so have fun. Enjoy being a beginner, and be kind to yourself when you’re learning something new.
    2. Be humble enough to ask for help and strong enough to make up your own mind.
    3. Be curious, brave and patient.
    4. Be rigorous. Set yourself challenges or deadlines. It makes you work more and the more you work, the more you’re exploring your creativity.
    5. Always be exploring.

    Cambodian Issues

    Monday Blogcrawl

    I'm currently feeling kind of oppressed by reading. I just have so much to do, and my "must read by yesterday" pile is becoming more and more impossible. Here is where I've sought some escape:

    New Books - Miscellaneous

    I think I am going to have to go on a book buying fast sometime real soon. I simply have too many things I NEED to read right now. But until then, here is a miscellaneous pile of books I've bought recently. From the top:

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