THE NEXT STEP (27)

‘Irene actually has  a two-year-old daughter’, Madam Chen, one of the older nuns at the monastery told Ted. They were sitting in the garden in the end of the day, soaking in the last bits of sun before it would disappear behind the beautiful mountains and in the horizon. Birds were singing, and Ted felt at peace.

‘Does she, really?‘ Ted was surprised. He had bonded well with Irene, as she was one of the youngest nuns at the monastery and had been very keen to get to know Ted better. They had spent many hours after dinner talking in the garden, getting to know each other’s backgrounds and reasons for why they were both at the same monastery now. Irene had told Ted that she had only been at the monastery for about five months, before then she had been married, but she did not get along with her husband and had divorced him. After that, she had found peace of mind and herself in the Buddhist teachings and then decided to become a nun. She had never mention a child.

‘Yes, she was married, but the man turned out to be too macho and arrogant, which is why she left him. The man was of high class and pretty wealthy. He was posted to work in Europe and they lived in Spain where she gave birth. After the divorce, she came back here with her baby’, Madam Chen explained.

‘But who is looking after the child when she is here at the monastery?‘ Ted was even more surprised. Why would you not want to be with your young daughter?

‘The baby is staying with her parents and they also have hired a nanny. Irene goes to visit them over the weekends, usually. That’s why she is not seen on Saturdays or Sundays.’ Madam Chen closed her eyes.

‘The divorce and everything took a toll on her. Here in Taiwan, people are very careful about their image and saving their face. They want to come across as perfect and as if everything is well with them. And there is a general consensus that divorce and things not working out with the person that you have married is a failure. This is why most divorced people feel very ashamed. Like Irene is feeling now.’

‘I see’, Ted said. The last bits of sun were warming his legs. ‘I am still surprised that she never mentioned the baby to me. Especially since the baby is here nearby. She spoke about the divorce before. And she did seem very embarrassed about it.’

‘Yes, she would be’, Madam Chen nodded. She was circling a piece of grass around her finger. ‘Anyone here would. I assume that, since she was already embarrassed telling you that she was divorced, she would be doubly embarrassed to tell you that she has a baby, in particular since she is now here at this monastery. I think that she will tell you when she is ready.’

Ted looked at the birds flying by. The life of birds was much simpler. No over-thinking and worrying about things. They could just fly around. What was wrong about having a baby ad being divorced? Why did people always complicate their lives so much?
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THE NEXT STEP (26)

‘So the  she told me that I would have a wild romance with a dark handsome musician’, Annie laughed. ‘As if. The whole thing turned out pretty funny in the end.’

Laura nodded. They were having dinner at the dining hall and sharing their experiences with the psychic Sheila.

‘Well, you could see Darky again, you never know’, Laura said. They had only seen Darky a couple of times and he was still slightly illusive to Annie.

Somehow Laura also felt that she didn’t want to mention her romance prediction to Annie. She felt that talking about it might jinx the whole thing. She would rather wait and see if anything would really happen. She was not entirely sure yet that she trusted what the psychic had said.

‘Yes, but also interesting’ Laura said as she bit into a piece of tofu. ‘At least now we know that we only need to talk to the Masters if we want to know our future.’

They both laughed at that.

THE NEXT STEP (25)

Laura sat on the chair opposite the tarot reader, Sheila, with a slight uneasy feeling in her stomach. She looked at Sheila arranging tarot card in front of her. Sheila was dressed in a long colourful skirt that nearly reached the floor and she had a lot of jewellery on her, ranging from crystal beads around her neck to golden rings on each finger. If Laura had met her at her yoga studio in London, she probably would have thought that she was a cliche psychic lady who overdid it with her decorations. But somehow here at this retreat centre, Laura wanted to believe that she was for real and knew what she was doing.

‘Do you know much about tarot cards?’ Sheila asked Laura once she was done with organising the cards.

‘I know a little bit’, Laura admitted. ‘But aren’t there different types of decks of cards?’

‘There are’, Sheila smiled. ‘Each one is designed for asking for guidance from the spirits. For example, there is a deck of angels for when we call out for help from them. Today we are going to use the ascended masters deck. It means that we get guidance from all sort of masters ranging from the Buddha to Jesus and well-known yoga masters.’

Laura nodded. She relaxed a little. At least there was some yoga in this too.

‘There are 52 cards in this deck’, Sheila continued to explain. ‘You can tell me an area in your life, which you would like guidance with. Then you will draw a card from the deck randomly and I will explain what the master is telling you. Is there a particular aspect in your life that you would like to know about?’

‘Well, the usual stuff, I guess’, Laura said hesitantly. ‘I am at the crossroads in my career and I am trying to figure out what to do next, which direction to take.’

Sheila smiled warmly and shuffled the deck. ‘Draw one card and we will see what the master advices you to do.’

Laura drew out a card from the middle of the deck.

‘Ah, the Light Master’, Sheila’s eyes twinkled. ‘This is good news. The Light Master encourages you to choose the path that focusses on creative work. He encourages the  use of the left hemisphere and only shows up to people who he really feels have some sort of creative streak in them.‘ Sheila looked up. ‘Do you do anything creative in your life or have you thought of doing anything like that?’

Laura gave Sheila a half smile. ‘I have played the piano for many years and would love to turn that into a profession somehow. I have been thinking about it, trying to figure put what it is that I would like to do with it. I also like working with people, so I am thinking that perhaps teaching students to play the piano would be a nice thing to do.’

Sheila’s smile widened. ‘Seems like the Light Master is encouraging you to do just that.‘

Laura felt an inner peace settle inside her. Somehow it felt that she had needed this reassurance from an outsider to her situation in order to know that that was really what she should focus on when she got back to London. Now she knew for certain that it was.

‘Okay, is there anything else that you would like to ask the Masters’ guidance for?‘ Sheila shuffled the deck of cards again.

‘I suppose on a more general level if anything significant will happen in the near future. Or is that too broad a question?’ Laura looked at Sheila questioningly.

‘Not at all’, Sheila nodded for Laura to pick out another card. ‘Let’s see what the Master wants to tell you.’

Laura drew out a card and turned it over. There was a picture of a dark handsome man riding on a white horse. On the top of the card, it read The Master of Love.

Sheila studied the card, then she closed her eyes for a moment. ‘I am told by the card and the spirit that a handsome young man called Ted will appear in your life soon. You two will share a special bond that will last a lifetime.’

Laura giggled. This started to feel like a story out of a film. ‘Sorry’, she said. ‘It’s just that I’m still getting my heard around to how this whole thing works.’

Sheila smiled her trademark smile. ‘No worries. You just mark my words and let me know if you really do meet him.’ Sheila passed her business card with all her contact details to Laura who took it hesitantly. ‘You just wait and see. I have a hunch that these Masters are completely right.’

THE NEXT STEP (24)

‘Too bad you missed the best bit’, Annie said dreamily. Laura and her were sitting on their balcony, overlooking the mountains and sipping iced green tea. Apparently the group had climbed up the mountain all the way to the top where there was a small ancient village with small huts and handicrafts for sale. The view had also been magnificent.

But Laura wasn’t feeling bad about having missed it. She felt that there was a closeness between herself and Darky now, after he had confided in her and they had found their way back to the retreat centre together. She felt that she understood him better now and that she wanted to get to know him more and to support him.

‘Well, we did also have an interesting hike in the end’, Laura said as she closed her eyes. She hadn’t seen Darky much since that day, but at least now she understood why he kept to himself so much.

‘We are having more of a New Age Day today’, Annied laughed. ‘There is a psychic lady coming to do some tarot card reading and palm reading for us.’

Laura wasn’t sure how she felt about that. To her, yoga was a means to cope with her daily life, but she didn’t  buy into all this New Age stuff.

‘I guess we might as well give it a go and see what she says’, Laura shrugged. ‘No harm done.’

‘Yep, and you never know what she might tell you. It might change you life’, Annie teased her as they both sank deeper into a state of sleep, eyes closed, and the sun shining on their faces.

THE NEXT STEP (23)

The following morning Ted found himself preparing his lessons from a different perspective. He felt like including more creative activities in the lessons. Why not learn English through drawing the words out? Or maths through singing the sums? Why not have the kids dance around for a while in between different subject lessons? This would cultivate their creative and artistic side and also help their minds and bodies to stay more healthy.

Ted thought about himself as a child. He tired to imagine how it would have been if he was never let to do anything else than school work. Most likely him and his friends would have gone mad. But then again, humans could get used to anything. If you knew no different, how could you complain.

From then on, Mister Choo could see Ted dancing around with the kids during their break time; he would hear beautifully sung calculations and words in French; he would see drawings of plants being glued to the outside wall of the monastery. Mister Choo smiled. He had never seen the children so happy and alive. They had always loved learning, but they seemed to love it all the more now that Ted was doing it with them in a different way.