21 years ago, I was the Greater China Counsel for Yahoo!, based in Hong Kong and zipping in my open-top Mercedes. A typical Chinese girl from Malaysia, working long lawyers’ hours and loved my yoga classes, shopping and going to beauty parlours at the weekend.
I felt an affinity with Buddhism from an early age. After a seven days stay at Taiwan’s largest nunnery when I was 18, the connection grew stronger. Years passed but the persistent inner calling to find my “truth’ became something I couldn’t ignore.
After realizing my superficial lifestyle wasn’t for me anymore, I left my high-paying job, sold my Mercedes and left Hong Kong. I traveled to Nepal, studied Buddhist philosophy, underwent hardcore solitary retreats and met the Dalai Lama.
I quit my job and sold my car
I had a promising job in a booming technology industry. I worked with the best boss and team. I was part of global disruption in reshaping the legal framework from offline to the online world. Yet, I started to get restless, something was not quite right. I was also carrying with me a heavy heart from a break-up. My regular yoga practice was beginning to seem more important than work, and I found myself with an unusual decision to make.
This was the decision which changed my life. I remember I was at my desk at work and I asked myself “I spent three years studying law at Cambridge, another two years to get my qualification, why not spend more focused time on a path that will lead me to liberation? Surely, it’s worth the risk?” It was a no-brainer for me.
At that time, my boss offered me a promotion to lead Yahoo! Regional Legal Team in the Asia Pacific. What a great opportunity for an up and coming lawyer, right?
Not only did I turn down the promotion offer, I also resigned. Little did I know then, this resignation marked the ‘official’ beginning of my spiritual quest – healing- transformation- awakening- leading to further resignations down the line and paving the way to my deep calling now manifested as Heal with May – my heart-centered and soul-driven healing business for the greater good of all.
My spiritual quest in Nepal
Fasting Retreat for purification
Shortly after my resignation, I traveled to Nepal, a country I had visited many times before, and immediately launched myself in an eight-day fast retreat. Yup, no strolling along the valley, or time to go shopping here, the Buddhist way of a retreat is all about discipline- getting up before sunrise at 3am every day and spending the hours of practicing rituals, texts and full-body prostrations.
For 36 hours there was no drinking, no talking. Some hardcore people – they didn’t even swallow their saliva! The hunger didn’t get to me, but the thirst did, and all that we are still doing the prostrations, so it’s a test of willpower and mindfulness. It was a purification practice– it cleared deep and stubborn blockages on all levels and an accumulation of good karma at the same time.
International Buddhist Academy
I studied for three intensive months at the International Buddhist Academy. Learning in-depth Buddhist philosophy and Tibetan language. I must admit it was just as demanding as getting my law degree from Cambridge! I passed the end of term exam with a distinction and graduated as number 2 in my class!
Giving back to support Sangha
Buddha taught the six paramitas or ‘perfection’. The first perfection is the perfection of generosity. There is also a Chinese saying that the one making offerings is more fortunate than those receiving the same. In the Buddhist context, it is particularly to support the Sangha, the community of Buddhist followers, particularly the ordained community because this community is the lifeline of Buddha’s teaching, preserving and practicing and continuing his legacy for the next generations to come.
Giving back is a way to offer what we possess to those in need. There are many types of ways to offer generosity- material, education, emotional, spiritual offerings. During my time in Nepal, I had the great fortune to give back to the Sangha and people of Nepal. I made financial donations to fund the building of monasteries, making statues and food offering, I taught English to the young monks and I bought them jackets to keep them warm in winter.
However, I believe that the best form of offering is my practice to heal, transform and awaken myself- this is the wish of all Enlightenment beings before us, my gurus, all spiritual teachers such as His Holiness Dalai Lama. Their wish is for us to wake up from our deluded minds, and see for ourselves the nature of things and how things work as they are. With such inner realizations and awakening aha moments, we will find for ourselves true peace, ultimate happiness, and the resilience to live a fulfilling and meaningful life on earth.
These were the most challenging and rewarding undertakings in my life and warrant a dedicated blog post!
It may seem unimaginable to many, including my family and friends that an outwardly westernized woman could shut herself away in a guestroom in Kathmandu to meditate on a particular Buddha for three months at a time. But this was what I did, three times.
For the inside story from my solitary retreats please check out My Hard Core Solitary Meditation Retreats.
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