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.
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.
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"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!
Some interesting stuff about Cambodia that's been floating around:
- Cambodian Australian Alice Pung has just published a new book about her father's experiences in Cambodia.
- I ache for the delicious lemongrass soup that is ubiquitous in Phnom Penh. And the beef salad.
- A monastery library in Siem Reap.
- Screen Comment gives a cautious review to Phnom Penh Lullaby, but I think it sounds like a fascinating documentary about a love affair between a Jewish man and a Khmer woman.
- Life is hard on the streets of Phnom Penh, and Phnom Penh Post gives us a few wonderful essays on people trying to make their livings there.
- The literacy rate in Cambodia is till only 70% according to Voice of America.
- The famous (and dangerous) bamboo train.
- The Herald Sun re-opens the case of Australian David Wilson, murdered in Cambodia in the early 90s.
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:
- I'd like to check out the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple in Singapore. And also the Taiqing Palace Taoist Temple in China. And in case you were stuck, here are 10 things you must do in Ho Chi Minh City - from Travel Blackboard.
- LoneLeePlanet presents us with 10 weird things eaten in Japan. Fish sperm, anyone?
- I always tell myself I should go and see more musical theatre, and Maryann Wright tells us that Australia is the place to be when it comes to musical theatre.
- Just when you thought you knew everything there was to know about Twitter, along comes 50 things you ought to be doing on it. From Book Buzzr.
- Discrimination against fat people is both endemic and encouraged in our culture.
- The Australian tells us that Christos Tsiolkas is threatening the ABC.
- All will be revealed when the Dalai Lama turns 90.
- I was very keen to buy Boy George's new book, but as Wonderwall explains, it was going to cost me around $300. Yikes!
- Australian sci-fi author Marianne de Pierres talks about how she started her career.
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!
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.
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:
- My other half, the dear Mr. Noodlies, reviews Flying Fish in Pyrmont.
- I always get excited when the Blake Prize comes around every year and here is a podcast with finalist Khadim Ali.
- The ABC's Religion and Ethics page brings us the ever-exasperating Gail Dines. But I just can't stop reading her!
- Buddhist monks and nuns learn to swim in Taiwan. Focus Taiwan tells us it's all symbolic, apparently. I disapprove of mixed bathing for the celibate religious. Call me old-fashioned.
- Jean Cocteau and his cat - just before. From the lovely Writers and Kitties.
- A woman ditches her publisher in a fit of fury at being pigeon-holed.
- Book Buzzr is always useful, and this is a great article on using Facebook ads to promote e-books. I obviously am planning on producing a few e-books. Also from them, a wonderful list of podcasts for writers.
- People all-too-often forget their manners on-line, and Diana Adams has a lovely piece on being a nicer person on Twitter.
- Sophie Ellis Bextor is coming to Australia! I'm in heaven! From the Star Observer.
- Apparently it's not Justin Timberlake's penis.
- Kolorkube has pushed me guiltily along with this terrific article about moving ahead and getting things done - one key action every day, people!
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?
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.
TEASER TUESDAYS asks you to:
"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
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.
I asked writer and comedian Jennifer Wong about books, comedy and inspiration - here's what she said:
|Me with the fabulous Jennifer Wong|
- Anyone who has spent time in Cambodia will be aware of the cultural one-upmanship that occurs between Thais and Cambodians. The United Nations is now considering the origins of the jeeb - the graceful hand gestures characteristic of Khmer and Thai dance. Who owns it? The BBC points out that there has been a revival in traditional Cambodian arts which makes this an important question.
- Some great pics of Phnom Penh. And some more.
- Freshwater dolphins are facing extinction in Cambodia.
- Body building has always been a very popular sport in Vietnam, but now the Phnom Penh Post tells us it's taking off in Cambodia. Can't be a bad thing.
- Some very elegant video footage from Cambodia.
- The Kingdom of Cambodia is making a push to grow more vegetables to feed their population.
- Fundraisers in the West to buy fire trucks for Cambodia.
- But nearby Asian nations are stealing Cambodia's sand.
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:
- 25 authentic Asian experiences, and Her Daily Digest gives us some tips about how to travel to them alone. If you're in the US, the National Gallery of art is, according to the Washington Times, planning a cracker of an exhibition of Japanese scrolls for next year - would be well worth seeing.
- I have a problem with asking, but have noticed that people who ask often get. David Vogelsang points out that we need to overcome our fear of rejection.
- A great list of articles on social media for authors, from Self Publishing Coach.
- 5 tips for using Outlook to manage your day.
- Entertainment Weekly informs me that my life is now complete - DJ Pauly D is about to do an album with 50 Cent!
- Did you grow up in a New Age family? Julie Gray did, but she's ambivalent about it. But she can take heart, because it's nothing new - they have just discovered another 18th century self-help book in The Telegraph.
- Viktor & Rolf are writing a book of fairy tales.
- The Irish Times has a nice piece on meditation and staying in Plum Village. Meanwhile, the world's hottest reincarnation continues to win hearts, and Westside Today reports on his Californian trip. But could the Shaolin monks be the most popular franchise in film? There's a new one, starring Andy Lau, reviewed in the New York Times.
- If Christianity is more your thing, The Guardian gives us five of the UK's best Lady Chapels.
- Another review of Booker favourite Julian Barnes' novel The Sense of An Ending - from BookBath. Reluctant Habits interviews Alex Shakar, who is apparently very good - there is certainly a lot of buzz surrounding his book Luminarium.
- So you love counterfeit tat? You are not alone.
- The Independent quite helpfully offers us an A-Z of postmodernism.
- They're doing an Australian version of Celebrity Apprentice! And it's going to feature Deni Hines! From The Herald Sun.
- Saigon Giai Phong wants us to know that the English National Ballet is performing in Ho Chi Minh City tomorrow night - I wish I was there!
- Ever eaten at a Korean food truck? Apparently it's all the rage in the US, and I want them to come to Sydney!
Now I'm just crazy about smells.
You can't walk into my bathroom from the enormous range of smelly substances I keep in there - soaps, body lotions, perfumed oils...My bedroom is overflowing with a truly mammoth collection of perfumes and colognes, and I love burning incense. I collect incense from all over the world. My house is the proverbial Bombay brothel. Indeed, I burn incense so often that my books carry a constant perfume, and friends remark on the perfumed nature of everything that comes from my home.
Imagine my pleasure when, yesterday, I discovered that Tree of Life in Newtown is stocking a whole new range of Nagchampa incenses. I don't know if you are aware of Nagchampa, but it is the quintessential hippy incense, and I have been addicted to it since I was a child growing up in the 70s. The Nagchampa smell is distinctive and quite unlike that of almost any other incense coming from India. So I was desperate to see what they would do with a whole range of other scents.
Here's the rundown.
First, I was interested to know that they went with themes rather than specific smells (apart from sandalwood). Generally I'm against this when it comes to incense. I like a distinct aroma that I can pinpoint and select to suit my mood, rather than suffering through someone else's approximation of "Sunrise" or "Romance." But since it was Satya Nagchampa, I was willing to extend a little leeway.
A reasonably cheery blend, "Sunrise" seems to be taking its description literally. I was quite taken with its scent fresh, but when burned the aroma was too subtle for me.
This one's strange. Fresh it doesn't really have much of a sandalwood scent at all (I do enjoy a really heady sandalwood). Burned it has a fluxo-incense aroma, the sandalwood a barely-present undertone. It leaves a slightly sour after-smell. Not a success.
Ordinarily I would never by any kind of scented blend claiming to be "Rainforest" - I mean, it's just silly. I grew up in the rainforest, and can vouch for the fact that it smells variously of rotting plants, batshit and mud. Not the kind of thing I want wafting through the house. But I was prepared to extend my disbelief somewhat. This blend is quite yummy fresh, but with a slightly anonymous smell that one might find in cheap Indian incense everywhere. When burned it is subtle but a bit soapy. No rainforests were harmed in the production of this incense, that much is plainly obvious.
"Midnight" sounds full of promise, doesn't it? This is the kind of blend I would have bought as a teenager, and it is indeed scrumptious fresh. Smooth, rich and, dammit, midnight-ey. I was keen - it seemed a nice rich blend, not one for the subtle types. When burned the richness remains, and it really is very strong - but in a nice way. I'd buy this one again - it stays in the room for quite a while afterwards.
"Fortune" is one for the Chinese market, perhaps? I am always fascinated that the Chinese taste in incense is so very different from the Indian, and wonder why no-one on either side has ever sought to target its product at the other. Note to the manufacturer - it should have red packaging. Very soapy smell fresh, with a strange and unidentifiable sharpness. Very strong burned, though I simply didn't like the smell. The same sharpness continued. It would be effective if you wanted to deodorise a room, however.
"Blessings" is the one that really caught my eye - what a lovely idea for a blend. Very subtle, slightly flowery fresh. The subtlety continues when burned, but I could never detect any particularly doominant note - though it was pleasant enough. Not really worth it.
Aaah, "Romance!" Again, not one I'd get normally, as I don't usually associate incense with romance. But that's just me. Fresh it's terribly soapy, with the tiniest hint of rose. Burned it is actually much more pleasant than you'd expect, stronger and more oriental. One for mum.
So, the clear winner of the range is: Midnight.
Runner up is: Romance.
Back to the drawing board: Sandalwood.