There is a gazillion of books out there, so why write one more book?
Just because I wanted to. I always had this warm fuzzy feeling that I was going to write a book. But what to write? I had no idea. It’s like when you find yourself in one of those quiet reflective moments and you write a wish list of the things you seriously want to do before you die, and for me at that time, writing a book was a standout in my list. But I did not know what to write nor did I have any valid or justifiable reason to write.
By writing a book, what would I gain that I could not possibly gain any other way?
I had no idea. So I shelved the desire of writing a book, thinking that I would someday revisit the idea when I’m older and presumably wiser. If that someday would come and the feeling is still there, I thought I was going to definitely write after my retirement. But retirement from what? I didn’t even have a job at that time as I had just quit my job and had no idea what to do next. I planned to write a book after my retirement from yet an unknown job.
Second on my wish list was to travel.
First, I wanted to write a book, but I did not have any idea what to write, or how to write, or who to write it for. Second, I wanted to travel, and I knew exactly where I wanted to travel to.
So I traveled. And in my travels, I met people.
In Thailand, while visiting a Korean friend who was working in one of the beautiful resort islands there, her boyfriend, a retired professor, asked me what I want to do in my life. I told him what I knew I’ve always wanted to do: to write a book. He encouraged me. He thought I’m smart enough to write a book. I told him I don’t know what to write. He laughed and told me that I could start by writing about myself. I laughed back, saying, “What would I write about myself and who would want to read what I write about myself?”
Knowing that I come from a particular indigenous ethnic group in my country, he suggested I write about the legends, myths and folktales of my ethnic group. Being a professor of language and literature in Paris, he said that these kinds of things are increasingly becoming more popular around the world that fiction writers and academic researchers alike are looking more into these ‘exotic’ stuff.
I was very doubtful of what he said. I just didn’t think that the legends, myths and folktales of my hometown are interesting enough for anyone to spend time and money on. Besides, I know someone who collected and published the folktales of my hometown, and I just did not find any good reason to repeat what was already done.
In Malacca, Malaysia, while having some refreshments in one of the lined shops along the riverbank, I noticed a man who I felt had been curiously looking at me. I looked at him, curious about him being curious about me. He waved and said hello, asking where I come from. We became friends.
He thought I appeared to be very interesting as I exhibited a different atmosphere, and that of the many travelers that came and went his touristy town, it was his first time to see a very young-looking Southeast Asian girl traveling all by herself (it was indeed rare at that time). It turned out that he is a master of the ancient art of Chinese tea ceremony. He invited me to have a tea ceremony session with him the next day.
He asked what else I want to do in my life apart from traveling. I told him that I’ve always wanted to write a book, except that I don’t know what to write. He laughed, and suggested I write about myself and my travels.
Again, I was very doubtful of what he said. I thought, what would I write about myself and traveling that someone else will find interesting enough to spend their time and money on? Besides, there are countless other people who already wrote brilliant stuff about traveling, and there are more who are now writing and who are far better equipped than me to write.
But going by his first impression of me as allegedly being different, he said that I can write something different because having a different background, I have a different experience; thus, I see life through a different lens. He thought I absolutely have something unique to add to the stew.
In his eagerness to motivate me, he shared with me tips and stories of people who acted on their inner urgings and came out happier and more fulfilled as a result of heeding their inner calling.
I took his advise lightly and wandered on.
Then came a time when I got weary of traveling, of searching, of wandering. An unidentifiable, unfathomable, mysterious heaviness inside me brought me to a point where I just wanted to stay in one place, sit down, and bring it all out.
Thus, the time to write the book wanting to be written, has come. The impetus became too strong that I cannot not do it. I started typing down the ideas and images that seemed stuck and heavy in my head. The story flowed like water and I couldn’t stop. All my worldly concerns faded out into the background. And I just knew that I no longer needed any reason to justify my feelings in writing a book!
So what did I write about?
Yes, I wrote about myself. My origins, my family, my ethnic group, my country.
I wrote about the ancient stories passed on to me by my shaman grandmother – their deeper implications and meanings in relation to the mysteries of life, death, afterlife, multi-realities and parallel worlds.
My story incorporated some factual history, anthropology, indigenous psychology, a bit of politics, and a good chunk of philosophy.
So although it is a fantastic story from beginning to end, it is not an ungrounded, airy-fairy feel good new age stuff, nor it is purely an intellectual exercise discussing abstract metaphysical ideas.
This story is both dark and light.
A labor of love born of a debilitating, maddening shamanic sickness is not featherweight spirituality.
In other words, this work is an original, authentic experiential journey towards spiritual expansion – others like to call it Enlightenment.
What are the main themes explored in the story?
The Nature of God – the Will of God, the Mind of God. Why did God create? Why is there suffering and injustice?
The Nature of Reality – what is real, what is not real? How is the world an illusion? What are dreams?
The Unknowns – God, the Devil, Death, life after death, meaning of life, purpose of existence, sorcery.
Loss, bereavement, intense grief. Communication with the dead.
Lastly, I did not write to save the world, nor to convert anybody to think and act in any specific way.
I am an all out supporter of freedom and joy and fun for everyone – what I found are the necessary outcomes of true en-lighten-ment.