“Respect your incarnation.” That’s what my Marin Style Change instructor Carl Buchheit teaches. These three words hold weight both literally and energetically–illustrating the heart of what it truly means to be a human being. Sometimes, a few words is all it takes …
So what does respect your incarnation mean? Well, I can only speak for myself. And hopefully in sharing my experience you’ll know where I am coming from.
Every human being is born into a set of circumstancial variables. Whether we believe it is by chance or by precise universal design is not so important. The fact is, we all have a unique set of cards to play with; particular set of parents and their genes, environmental factors of geography, the geopolitical environment, time of day, likely friends etc.
All these variables leave distinct imprints on who we become as we grow up, catalyzing important learnings for our lives. And all of those factors serve a positive intention for the incredible journey called being human. Now, these don’t determine our destiny (as in what we can choose and control), but they do govern our fate (what we can’t control). The distinction between fate and destiny is important, as we will explore.
So what do I mean by the distinction between fate and destiny? Genetically, I have smaller eyes that are dark brown. By nature that is not going to change. I am fated to have them be as they are. Now, I can get plastic surgery, and wear colored contact lenses which will mask the way they look. Choosing to do so in this manner, would be a demonstration of destiny. But the reality is I got brown eyes and I am asian-looking. That is a fate I have to work with. At 30 years of age, I am also 5’7, a fate I have to live with as it’ll be unlikely that I qualify as an NBA basketball player. Doesn’t mean I can’t try. But the probability is miniscule.
This is a very big deal. Because when you look at the fated cards you are dealt with in all aspects of your life, it starts to reveal your barometer for life. For example, a path of least resistance that you can take where more is achieved with less. It also provides the necessary set of challenging experiences you get to have along the way. These challenges can also unlock a certain natural talent, or set you on a trajectory that is important for your preferred learnings. In this particular way, understanding the cards you are dealt with, reveals the boundaries or restraints that you have to work with in this lifetime.
Another example? I am shorter, and of smaller muscular build, so I found myself like a fish in water when I started Martial Arts (13+ years now). This was a bit of a path of least resistance for me. A combination of short-twitch muscles, flexibility, a sensitive nervous sytem, meant that I naturally excelled at the art. But in sparring, my competitors were still bigger than me. Equally fast too! This was quite challenging for me! So I had to work like a maniac on footwork to close distances whenever I sparred. That was my challenge, and it eventually taught me multidimensional aspects of space and time. For example, did you know that in sparring it’s not only how fast you move, but how fast your movements are interpreted by your opponent? This learning is precious, and I wouldn’t have had it without my unique set of challenges. I learnt in the process, the aspects of fate in my favor, and those that I could work to improve.
(Note: Dad was natural at martial arts too, and so was my maternal great grandfather.)
What I just shared is just an athletic, physical example of course. The same principle applies to all domains of our lives; relationships, commercial ventures, career choices, finances, and spirituality. And if we are able to get an appreciation of the cards we are dealt with, it reveals a smoother path for which we may progress in life, or catalyzes a revelation that can become significant. Just like all working materials (glass, metal, and wood) have their uses and shortcomings, all the working materials of our lives have the same too.
I mentioned before, that aspects of our fate include challenges that can unlock a certain natural talent, or set you on a trajectory that is important for your preferred life’s learnings. So it doesn’t mean we have to surrender to our fate, and not try at all. Not at all.
For example, I am a naturally shy guy. I never spoke much when I migrated from Malaysia to Australia at 4 years of age. I was sent to English as a Second Language (ESL) class, and for almost 20 years, my school teachers and professional colleagues thought I was a retard at reading, writing, and speaking. But in my heart, I knew I wasn’t. So I was compelled to voraciously fill that void. I practised writing whatever-the-hell I wanted, day and night, in all sorts of styles–to become a better communicator. I did this for 4 years straight. Eventually this set of conditions helped me find my own voice, rather than copy the way other people write. This was the set of challenges that helped uncover a strength.
Consenting to where you are and what you have got, is foundational to clearly defining where and how to be where you would like.
That’s why I believe it is a worthy venture to recapitulate on your life (from Carlos Castaneda’s book The Active Side of Infinity) to get this 360 degree vantage of who you have been to date, and what was left to you by your predecessors. Especially what was left to you by your predecessors. The immortal part of us chooses the family we join, and they house us with their love and with their best, such that we can present our best, and complete our life’s learnings. This I believe, is key to finding a way to fully respect our incarnation.
For example, I was born in Malaysia Kuala Lumpur to chinese-blooded parents (3rd generation Malaysian Chinese). Both my parents came from working class backgrounds. My maternal grandfather (Tam Sam Chai) was a hard worker (he’s now 97 years old!), and my maternal grandmother was too (Cheong Yoke Ling). Together, they raised a family of 7 children, of which my mum (Mai) is the youngest. Sam Chai dug ditches and worked in the railway, served in World War II. Yoke-Ling was from a wealther family, and had more time to smell the roses (eat their nectar too) and explore the arts. Eventually, they both earned enough to start a watch business in chinatown (repairs, second-hand sales, and new watches), and see their children start families and lives of their own.
They were middle-class citizens, and together did a great-enough job to send Mai to London for university. Mai is naturally great with people, has a solid mathematical mind, but struggled as a communicator (that’s where I inherited the gift!), and never really got much of a childhood. These set of variables meant she was an invaluable worker in Sam Chai’s business, helping out with the accounts from the age of 7.
My paternal grandfather (Liew Wan Swee) was a hard-worker too! (He’s deceased, I never got to meet him), and my paternal grandmother (Phua Mai) was middle class in China, from a family of farmers. Wan Swee started as a labourer on the railways, and his job was to clear boulders from the tracks. He eventually worked his way from there to start a construction company in Malaysia, and became one of the wealthiest men in Malaysia. Though it was eventually diluted due to the war, and his death at 75 years of age. Wan Swee and Phua Mai raised a 13 children, of which my father (Liew Oh Cheng) was the eldest son. Oh Cheng was great with people, was awarded by the King for his efforts in the construction industry, and had an incredible work ethic.
Oh Cheng eventually became a very well paid professional consultant and advisor for British companies in Malaysia. Growing up for the first 4 years in my life, meant we got to stay in our luxurious private compound, and enjoy the luxuries of; expensive cars, private maids, and great food. There was always enough. Together, mum and dad eventually accumulated enough wealth to migrate with us all to Sydney, Australia. There, they operated a newsagency for 16 years while I was growing up. It was a bit tougher in the Australian climate, since the currency was stronger, and the taxes higher. However, together, mum and dad eventually secured multiple investment properties in the wealthiest eastern suburbs of Sydney. Our home was in Bellevue Hill, we owned 2 x shop lots in Rose Bay, and a townhouse in Bondi Junction. This sort of real estate portfolio would have set us up for a pretty easy life financially.
But post the Sydney Olympics, we lost everything when we sold off those assets (real estate and the newsagency business) to fund and build an apartment block of our own. My parent’s aspiration was to build a family estate really, so we could all have our independent living quarters, but still live in the same compound. Unfortunately, the amount we invested left us little cash flow to continuing owning and running the joint. And the money we borrowed, was not recuperated upon sale of the block. In fact, far from.
Oh Cheng (my father) had to declare bankruptcy, and at 49 years of age, my mother Mai had to get a job to keep a roof over our heads. And to see us through our university studies. Jo En (my older sister, and the eldest), Andrew (my younger brother), and I, did our bit to pitch in of course. On top of studying full-time, we worked multiple job to help repay some debt, and rebuild ourselves financially from scratch. It took a good 10 years to get back on our feet.
As you can see, sustained wealth, and keeping assets isn’t a strength in my lineage. Even today, at 30 years of age, though I have had a good/great run of sustained business and income, I find myself again sleeping on an airmattress in my brother’s spare room–without a home, and about enough savings to see me through for 3 months. Despite having a business that earned me 6 figures 3 years in a row–here I find myself on ground floor again. It’s sad. It’s somewhat shameful.What went wrong? Where did my money go? Business investments that didn’t work out too well, and servicing clients that end up costing me more than what I had earned from them etc.
My father Oh Cheng had a similar experience earlier in his life too, when the communists were dismantling their business empire in Malaysia during the war. But in much harsher conditions than my own. I can at least confidently say that the choices I made and the experiences I have in this lifetime, are 10 times better than my predecessors. You see, Oh Cheng had to sleep in the jungle in pitch-black darkness, with predators he could sense and hear, but couldn’t see. He did this because the ones he could see, the humans, were intentfully after his life–numerous assassination attempts and blackmail. So dad lived on the streets, in the jungle, and ate out of trash cans before finally meeting Mai, and being housed by Sam Chai and Yoke Ling’s Love (maternal grandparents).
I see this in my life too, with Claudia (partner). When I was building my business from scratch, and left a good-paying job–she took care of me. Her parents Jane and Bill also fed me, housed me, and even clothed me. Claudia also helped care for Oh Cheng during his final year of life. And now, 2 year since then, she and her family are doing the same for me, as I refine the direction I am taking with my life hereon.
All this recapitulation has given me clarity on my life’s assets, challenges, and inherent desires.There is a saying that if you look far enough into the past, you can see into the future. I believe this sample principle applies with your personal history too. I now know the floor of my operation, and I know the roof operation. And within these two limitations, I am to express the infinite possibilities contained.
As a son to so many predecessors, I too seek to fulfill, to a greater degree, what they did not have an opportunity to. The most apparent desires I have:
- To deliver meaningful work to mankind (Self, other-Selves and the whole of life).
- The desire to build family wealth.
- The desire to build a family home.
And in that order. The distinct gifts I inherited from them was:
- A strong work ethic and a deep sense of responsibility.
- An analytical mind.
- Good with people.
- Ability to run my own business (I abhorr working for others).
- Addiction to working hard and a deep sense of responsibility.
- The inability to have a sustained sense of fun and joy.
- The struggle to build and sustain financial security.
These are the operating conditions I am blessed with. Gladly, I have my gift in communication. Which was catalyzed by the fact that my mother Mai has dyslexia. Subsequently, my sister (Jo En) and brother (Andrew) are lawyers! Seems like that void is being filled through us :). Growing up, kids mirror their mothers. For me, it was mirroring mum. Somehow, I learnt how to understand what she meant despite her words not making sense. That was mapped over to me too. I had a strong sense of what I wanted to communicate, but it would always come across as “patchy” and “unclear.” That void drove me to become a better communicator in this lifetime.
Now, because Mai did a lot of catching up on her childhood in her later years, it rubbed off onto me too. She watched lots of television drama series, played gameboy, played computer games, and loved going out with friends. This stimulated my desire to; daydream, muck around, and invent my own mind-games. Dad didn’t like this. Because he wanted me to study hard and stop wasting time. I understood his sentiment. But inherently, I was expressing what had been suppressed in both my families–creative expression and freedom. And it was bursting for passage.
So, the most apparent gifts I express that they have repressed is:
- Creative, artistic expression.
- Living intuitively.
- Finding and expressing their voice.
- An ability to communicate the tangible and intangible aspects of life.
There is a french saying, “Chassez le naturel et il revient au galop” which roughly means “try to suppress your nature, and it will come back with a vengeance.” Eventually, I forced myself into an engineering consulting career. This was primarily driven by my natural strengths (analytical skills), and the need to work to pay the bills. But eventually, working a corporate career got too inhibiting for me. Despite working in engineering & construction (which my whole father’s side was involved in!). Yes, I learnt great things. But my nature was to be free. To do my own thing. And I succeeded. For those who know me, today, I am gifted with the ability to; write books, brands, marketing messages and facilitate personal change in other people’s lives.
This facilitation of course, is the nucleus of my services, and my barometer for life hereon. If you read my previous post on death, you will understand this. A lot of my success and independence had to do of course, with my natural gifts. Gifts passed on to me from my ancestry, and from the set of variables of my incarnation.
But it begs the question, where do my spiritual roots come from? How is it that I have such a strong inclination to understand the context of humanity we all play in, and the more spiritual aspects that govern our modes of operation?
For that, I must thank my father Oh Cheng and my mother Mai. At 4 years of age, when we first moved to Sydney from Malaysia, mum invited these monks to do energetic clearing in our house. They would light incense, do prayers, hum etc. When I was 12 years of age, Oh Cheng started a weekly Friday evening family meditation gathering. Though dad often worked from 4am till 7:30pm at night, he always made the time for us three kids to be in meditation. We would light sandalwood incense, and pay homeage to Buddhist Symbols. Now, I’m not into any religion. But I do recall special things happening. Like the incense suddenly flaming up in flowering form, and a Llama (Mai’s friend and mentor) calling our home after our session was done and telling us that “Buddha was hovering above our house.” And I couldn’t deny, the warm, comforting energy that I had after, and the ease at which I slept.
As I grew older, dad shared with me more about the world’s lesser-known agendas. As a teenager, I thought he was off his rockers. But as the years passed, I started to understand the structure of our limitations in this human construct. Such as, working for a salary, being taxed indirectly and additionally by inflation, feeding the institutions that decimate our planet. All supported by media propoganada, traditional education that teaches you not to learn, and a medical system that makes more money from your suffering than your survival. Sure, I found a place for them in my heart (and am still in the process of doing so). But I was initially enraged at the covert constructs that govern our lives. All this sense of disempowerment drove me to find an answer to the questions …
What do I want … really? And how do I want to operate in this world … specifically?
As I lived with the above questions and my inherent desires–the arrows all pointed towards education. What we are aware of and appreciate, can be influenced. What lays out of side, out of mind, and is resisted–governs our lives. My intention, with my facilitation and communication skills, is to start an educational centre that focuses on developing human potential. Sure, I won’t be the first to do it. But there is certainly a want and a need for more on this planet.
When I look at my natural strengths, my creative tendencies, and my operating values–sitting in the seat as an educator and facilitator of transformative communication is my finest tribute to my incarnation.
Divinity would have it, as I imagine myself sitting in this seat–I feel like the wealthiest man alive. And I am reminded, that this is what I want most for this lifetime. So my wish is to take what I have been given, no matter how large or little, and run full throttle with it. That is the best way I can celebrate the lives of my ancestors, and the life of my own.
Last week, Mai gave me a gold pin that was given to her by my grandmother. It was perfectly timed, as I looked to consolidate my 30 years of life, and take all my accumulations into the remaining years of my incarnation. Not driven by fear, but by the Self that resides in us all.
Looking at the shape of golden ribbon, I cried profusively at the message it had for me …