Sunday, April 5, 2009
Siah Ah Tai
Meditation has always been my practice, thanks in great part to my second mother, who was also my first spiritual teacher. She was a human manifestation of Quan Yin (Chinese Goddess of Compassion) inside a tiny package, just the right size for a Brit toddler in Southeast Asia. Siah Ah Tai was my Amah (nursemaid) for a good chunk of life's first decade, spent in Malaysia and Singapore.
Tai was a Chinese Buddhist woman whose voice only raised in the marketplace, over the price of crab. With me, she was always soft-spoken and unconditionally loving. Her harshest discipline was to turn the black pearls of her eyes away from me...and I was immediately ready to make amends. She was my constant when the world was unreliable in its movement; her smile punctuated every understanding.
She would welcome me into the morning with prayer and meditation. While a light pink mist hung in the dawn and the muezzin called the faithful to Islamic prayer, I would be transported on the pungent smoke from her joss sticks, her bowing prayers and then...stillness. No words were necessary in the hours I rubbed coconut oil and the morning sun through the blue-black of her knee-length hair, or the hours she spent bringing me tea and moonlight in the night when I was writing. She taught me being...and how to listen for all the names and thoughts of the Creator within quiet, humble waiting. She is the Far East and the yellow chrysanthemum robe still met within meditation.