GROWING OLD THE CHINESE WAY
By Dr Moni StorzThe sunshine of a Melbourne summer's day outside my window makes my heart yearn to plunge into the deep blue sea, and never to emerge again to face BAS for this quarter. I have just returned from Malaysia having seen my aged mother inexorably drifting into old age. Her hair is silver white, her words repetitive and her stories meander into slumberland. Will I grow old like that, I wonder aloud to my elder sister, Mona. Of course, she said, do you think you would be exempted from old age? Her response, short and sharp, made me think.
My contemplation turned to growing old the Chinese way. For instance, traditional Chinese do not celebrate their birthdays. Is it because of the fear of growing old? Somehow I think not, since Chinese venerate the old, seeing them as wisdom bearers. Chinese culture does not celebrate youthfulness, unlike the Anglo cultures. In fact, if you are young, you have a tougher time. Note for instance, the younger siblings compared with their elder brothers. As recent as 10 years ago, a Singaporean friend told me that her father left forty million dollars (US!) to her eldest brother and nothing to her and all the sisters. However, as Chinese, we know that the eldest brother has the onerous duty of supporting financially all the other siblings plus his widowed mother.
Chinese do not have birthdays in the Western way since we all grow a year older on Chinese New Year's day, regardless of where we are or who we are. Chinese calculate their birthdays very differently from Westerners. Supposing a child is born on the 11th February this year, the poor child will be two years old the next day!
As I ponder my own ageing process, I remember the activities which have stood me in good stead no matter what is happening in my life. It is the practice of hatha yoga and meditation. Indian yoga has the same benefits as tai chi and qigong. They serve the purpose of uniting body, mind and soul/spirit. Practise one of these daily will help one to maintain a sense of balance and purpose in one's life. During the past 2 years, while undergoing the most intense crisis of my life, I look back now and once again, celebrate yoga and meditation in my life as a gift, for without it, I would not have had the mental strength to cope with a dying husband, nor find joy again to continue living without him. There is nothing like grief to age a person whether it is separation through divorce or death. I look in the mirror this morning and see eight white hairs! So I am seeing the signs of wisdom on my head. At last!
Dare I claim to have some wisdom now, I suddenly ask myself with trepidation. Much of the old tapes still play in my head. However, the wisdom of Yogic teachings whether Chinese or Indian, point to the mind as the 'cause' of all our sufferings and happiness. If we can harness the thoughts that endlessly circle like a cesspool in our minds, and silent them through the practice of meditation and chanting, we may be able to listen to our inner voice which is truly the voice of wisdom.
Love and LightHans
Hans passed over to the other shore on the 22 November 2001 at 2.33am. I was with him when he drew his last breath. He diagnosed himself in May 2000 and for 18 months lived with cancer. Each day he found joy and purpose in his work and play. Six days before he left, he was still doing paperwork. It is in the 'paperwork' that he contributed behind the scene for ACCS. Without his unpaid work, ACCS would not have survived as a community project that I started to help Chinese scholars retain dignity in the work they were educated for and that is, teaching and learning, as they battled for a better life in Australia. Hans had not lived in vain for he, too, had learnt to love and to give in his own eccentric blustering way.
I wish to thank all of you who sent loving messages to console me. I am sorry that all of you could not say goodbye to Hansie. He did not want anyone to know and he did not want a funeral. However, he said that three months following his death, I could tell everyone. So with deep love, I am telling all of you who care for me deeply. I will start to party soon and there will always be laughter, joy and love to replace sadness.
If you are sad about Hans, don't be, just remember this message from the great teachings of Buddhism and Hinduism: All who are born must die and all who die must be reborn.
Also I would like to share this comforting message that came to me in my meditation one morning soon after he had departed: Wherever there is love and beauty, there our Hansie will be.
So see him in powder snow, sunrises and sunsets, and in the first forget-me-nots in spring. See him also in the face of anyone you love.