I grew up in a poor family, my childhood, no less dull, routine and ‘anti-social’, as most of my friends would deem it. Never could I afford much as most children do, the birds, insects, the stars and clouds became my source of amusement and companions during my leisure.
My humble abode, a low-cost house in Transit Quarters (now demolished, no longer exist) faced a green hill and blankly staring at this distant hill became my favorite evening past time; or waste of time. This small house was home to me.
My feet walked me to school through thick bushes, shrubs, long 'lallangs', muddy paths, bamboo trees and a small stream; rain or shine, I still must pass, even in the dark sometimes. I often feared the quiet and loneliness, walking through this off beaten path...sometimes, out of this fear, I would simply run straight through.
I lived in a small town facing the sea; many, many years ago, home to Chinese tin miners - Kuantan, they call it, a tropical gateway to the East Coast of Malaysia.
Long walks on the virgin beach, listening to the beatings of the waves, smelling the salty sea breeze, the white sands warm my feet, swaying palms dance to the rhythm, soaking in the blue lagoon...continues to linger in my memory.
This town was also home to the air force base, rendering noisy combat support over the South China Sea; the latter, the source of the harsh monsoon storms, flooding the town.
My growing up years have often been a mystery to me, difficult to comprehend, feeling isolated many a times. I always thought I never had enough as others did. I neither had nor recall any Epiphany, or if ever there was one, I never did recognized it, although I am a cradle Catholic and served with absolute commitment as an altar boy in the Catholic Church for many a years; the initial calling having been, by the grace of God, forced upon me by sheer external pressure.
Looking back, it seems that I allowed myself to be bullied by the seniors, having to serve the sunset mass and other mass that were not "high profile" almost weekly, some in languages that were even foreign to me!
Yes, my childhood life was simply simple, without much to worry about. Moving to the hustle and bustle of the capital city to further my studies and later on, flying down-under for my tertiary education would form a reflection for another day.
As my adolescence youthful years passed and the middle ages crept up upon me, I somehow took courage and confronted that dreadful ‘silence’ at a retreat session conducted by the late M. Basil Pennington; Centering Prayer, the pilgrims would call it; waste of time, the world would deem it. Why pay money to sit there doing nothing?? Well, this was to be a most enriching few days for me.
Looking back, this was one of the best investment I gifted upon myself for my spiritual life, for my relationship with God, for what truly matters in my life.
Amidst all those centering sessions, little did I know that what actually transpired during those times was a timely awakening of the seed of silence somehow embedded deep within my human being all my life; an encounter with ‘nothingness’ – I have finally come home. All of a sudden, in the following weeks, all the pieces of my life's jig-saw pieced together...I began to see God's hand in every facet of my life; past and present.
For this, I have to thank my humble parents for...though poor, they taught me a precious quietness that much of the restless world was searching for. They conditioned me in the simplicity of life and the poverty of just being.
My late father was strict but he would never fail to take me for simple rides on his faithful old bicycle...to school, to the river, to nowhere but enjoying each others' presence. My mother, to me, is the most humble and generous person, trusting everything single decision and thing to God and Mother Mary; she was and still is the best cook ever - feeding both my soul and tummy! Through both of them, God loved me.
The later years had me completely drowned in scripture study, retreats and the writings of Trappists monks like Fr Basil and Fr Thomas Keating, especially Thomas Merton, which I never seem to have enough of. Somehow, even if I did not find him, he (his books) would somehow miraculously find me. The mystery of the hand of God.
Through my attraction to his writings, I came to understand, with much meaning and clarity, the ‘quiet’, the ‘nothingness’, and ‘silence’ which filled my growing up years; as being sacred and priceless, without which I would never had cultivated this sense of awareness, mindfulness and consciousness.
Now I realize that the blank staring into the faraway hill in front of my house...is what the mystics call ‘contemplation’. The lens of silence embedded in me has now helped me see the equanimity in all humanity and creation.
This same silence has enabled me to be in a crowded bookshop, yet feeling alone with a book in my hand, wanting to know more of God's love. This silence has gifted me with the ability to listen to others when no words are yet spoken, transforming fear to courage and darkness into light, mystery to understanding.
The wisdom of Thomas Merton, and many other great Catholic writers, still continue to unveil layers towards the discovery of my true self deep within my being.
My journey continues into the simply quiet of this world as I contemplate more and more of the richness, sacredness and joy of embracing each day and each person I meet along this journey back home to God.
Because of this silence, my life has become more precious, because of this silence, I now begin hear, see and feel God everywhere.
This is my humble epiphany reflection during this day of Lent, from across the miles and today, hovering into my late forties, I continue to share the simple thoughts of my journey, into the world, hoping that this will reflect some light onto someone else's path; a drop of water, hopefully, by the grace of God, sending out small ripples...to touch lives.
In this holy season Lent, make time to ponder about your life, your growing up years...how God made you to become who you are today.