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Ridiculous, Period

If you’re Asian, you would have grown up with an aversion to walking under other people’s underwear (hard to avoid in cities where laundry hangs on bamboo poles from high-rise apartments).


You don’t want water from underpants (even when they’re washed) dripping on your head – yech, bad luck! But even more importantly, you must steer clear of women’s underthings because women menstruate, and that’s super ‘unclean’.


This notion of menstruation being dirty and henceforth sullying all women from puberty to menopause is a part of Asian culture. There are so many taboos surrounding the monthly cycle that women in the old days must have been handicapped for a week of every month.


withered planthand

My mother used to say that when your “friend” visits, women should not touch auspicious plants like the pomegranate, or make certain traditional cakes. The result would be a withered plant and a ruined cake. It sounded like menstruating women turned radioactive.


Male family members were especially protected against the taint of women’s blood. It wasn’t so bad for us in Singapore, but in some places, superstition and even religious beliefs led to poor hygiene as women tried not to dirty or contaminate communal wash areas.


“According to WaterAid, women and girls in some South Asian communities, for instance, are not allowed to use water sources during menstruation and nearly 20% of those interviewed refrained from using latrines during their periods despite having access to them – See more at:


Of course, this seemingly imbecilic taboo must have been created by men as elders, priests and all leaders were mostly male in ancient times. But are there valid reasons, and why do even New Age practitioners advise women not to carry out sacred rituals while menstruating?


Finally, an acceptable explanation when I chanced on an old book in my collection.  Published in 1996 (Piatkus), from Creating Sacred Space with Feng Shui by Karen Kingston, here’s an excerpt:


It is best not to do Space Clearing if you are pregnant, menstruating or have an open flesh wound


Let me say straight away that this is nothing to do with women having ‘the curse’, or anything like that. It is because of the blood element, which can apply to both men and women alike.


In many religions, women are not allowed into temples when they are menstruating. Feminists get indignant at this, but perhaps they wouldn’t if they really understood the underlying reasons. In Bali, it is not just menstruating women who are not allowed into temples but anyone who is bleeding in any way at all.


One reason is that blood attracts lower levels of entities, and they don’t want those entities in the temple because they want to keep it as clean and pure as possible. Western studies of groups of people who go into jungles or into places far from civilization have shown that if ever they are set upon by wild animals, it is the menstruating women they go for first, and their second choice is anyone with an open flesh wound! Exactly the same thing happens in the realms of energy where lower levels of entities are concerned.


Another absolutely different reason why menstruating women in particular are not allowed into temples is because they are not able to handle the high levels of energy in temples while their bodies are involved in the monthly process of internal cleansing. All their energies are turned inwards, and this is a time when their life force is at its lowest ebb. Women lose life-force energy through menstruation in the same way that men lose it through their ejaculation.


Space Clearing is about cleansing externally, and women are not equipped to do this so well at the time of the month they are doing their own internal electromagnetic cleansing. I used to sometimes do Space Clearing when I had my period but I found I got a lesser result and I felt more exhausted afterwards. Nowadays I never do Space Clearing when I have my period, and I certainly wouldn’t do a full-scale consecration ceremony while menstruating.


Similarly, during pregnancy, a woman’s energies are turned inwards because they are in the process of building and nourishing a new life inside. Also, everything that happens to the mother is transmitted directly to the sensitive foetus inside her.


To protect the child and nourish the mother, pregnancy is a time for a woman to have her partner do Space Clearing for her. In ancient cultures women would go into ‘confinement’ during the time they were pregnant, which was for the entire gestation period, not just for the few hours while they were in labour (or for Asians, for a month after delivery).


From the time they conceived they would live in the elevated atmosphere of a specially created place apart from other members of the tribe, to give that new life the best possible opportunity. They knew that the most formative time in a person’s life was the time spent in the womb.


Note: Karen Kingston is updating her book.

“My first book, Creating Sacred Space with Feng Shui, has sold over a million copies in 16 languages. There have been so many developments in my space clearing work since then that I am now writing a completely new book that will replace it.”

For information, visit

Can do!

Actually, it’s not at all easy retrieving the can you’ve been kicking down the road.

During the ongoing City Harvest Church trial, the Deputy Public Prosecutor accused a witness of “kicking the can of the debt down the road”.

It means to put off solving a problem or dealing with an issue. The expression conjures such apt imagery for the procrastinating we’re all guilty of. Whether it’s clearing the storeroom or delivering unwelcome news, many of us tend to drag our feet, hoping for someone else to take over or for the problem to resolve itself.

Top image:


can 3

So, what’s the personal can you’ve been pushing along? Excess weight, credit card debt, dead-end job, disintegrating relationship, hoarding habit, health check-up, making a Will/LPA, smoking cessation, moral dilemma, depression… The last is not a can, more a dark cloud threatening to envelop sufferers. But there is a can tied to depression, and that is seeking help, or facing reality.


can crush

A counsellor will tell you to bring your cans to a compactor, cry while they’re crushed, and know they’re going to a better place. Easier said than done.

I’m as guilty as everyone else, so I can relate to all fellow can-kickers. My can probably has some cement in it. It’s stubbed my toe but I’ve still managed to kick it to the next street. But never mind. Along the way, I’ve found another can to kick as a distraction.

And that’s the problem. A can collection can be a menace to anyone in the vicinity, impeding the flow of your life and tripping you as you try to distance yourself from the clanking tin.

Do you have one big can or several small ones? When are you going to pick them up? Many of us will continue kicking cans till the end of our journey, but it sure does ruin good shoes!

COMMUNITY – Smells like Christmas

The Skyve Wine Bistro (Singapore) was dressed like a classroom for delinquents with padded benches and a (drinking) bar for hopeless cases. The Body Shop staff looked like they’d dug up their school uniforms (but with manicured nails, they too looked delinquent), and Linda the MC could have passed off for the School of Rock principal, both stern and comic in her glasses.

To make matters more confusing, the scents of cranberry and spices, carols and festive lights added to the feeling we’d walked into a Christmas tableau in mid-October, and Baby Jesus would soon make an appearance along with a lamb or two.

Yes, it is that time of the year when hoteliers and retailers compete for media attention to publicise their wares. And how I love the whole shebang!

It’s my favourite season when the shopping district turns into fairyland and we are done with appraisals (not yet, but soon-soon). In Singapore, the tropical heat wavers, surrendering to stormy weather but we know it will soon be over and January will shine bright and red in preparation for the Chinese New Year. So, let’s savour this time of fake snow and Asian boy Santas. As they say, it’s the feeling that counts.


Of course, the thought counts most, so I do like how The Body Shop assuages the guilt of spending money on those who have everything they need. The Body Shop supports Community Fair Trade, buying from small farmers of the Third World – loofahs from Honduras; cocoa butter from Ghana; paper products from Nepal; soapstone oil burners from North India; and wooden massagers, accessories and cosmetics bags from South India.


When we buy something from their Christmas range, our purchase contributes towards the School Project – £200,000 will go towards building five schools – one each in the countries mentioned. We take education for granted whereas going to school is an opportunity prized in many parts of the world.

What’s one school you might think when so many more are needed? I think every bit counts and in a snowballing effect, every child educated will in some way, return something to their homeland.


Best of all, you get something pretty and practical, exclusive to the Christmas season and that will look really good under the tree. And if you wear make-up which I don’t, I hear their smoky eye palette and BB cream glide right on.



WELLNESS – The creative curse


Manic depression (MD) also known as bipolar disorder affects 2.5% of the U.S population (according to In Singapore, official figures estimate 1 in 167, a very conservative estimate according to Choo Kah Ying, author of Five Little White Pills… And Then There Were None, her autobiography chronicling her struggle with MD.

The list of famous sufferers, dead-or-alive, is so impressive that MD looks like an excellent excuse for erratic behavior. For instance, Ris Low, the beauty queen who’s been the butt of jokes for her Singlish, is manic depressive. But then, as Kah Ying says, “Given the stigma faced by those with manic depression and other mental illnesses, it is not the best move for someone to use it as an excuse,” so we should be sympathetic instead of sceptical.

MD celebs in no particular order include Catherine Zeta-Jones, Ludwig van Beethoven, Vincent van Gogh, Russell Brand, Kurt Cobain, Charles Dickens, Carrie Fisher, Connie Francis, Ernest Hemingway, Marilyn Monroe, Abraham Lincoln, Sinead O’Connor, Frank Sinatra, Amy Winehouse, Virginia Wolf, Axl Rose, Winston Churchill and hordes more.

If the U.S figures are taken seriously, up to 25,000 adults in every million are manic depressive. What should the public know about MD that would help them better relate to it, or self-diagnose?

Kah Ying: I think the public’s lack of understanding of MD stems from what I feel is the inherent treachery of the condition: the vacillation between two extreme mood states of despair (depression) and euphoria (mania). The gradual shift from depression to mania can often be mistaken both by sufferers and their loved ones as indications of recovery: their mood improves and their energy level rises — they are up and about, actively involved in life. Then the sufferers begin to engage in excesses in their behaviours (shopping sprees, impulsive and reckless behaviours, etc.) and their energy levels are super-high, it may now be difficult for the sufferers and the loved ones to rein in such behaviours.

While everyone can feel sad and happy, the intensity of these emotions and related feelings is amplified several times for people with MD. Just to give some insight as to how crippling manic-depression can be, I will describe a little bit about how I was (as captured in my book).

When I was depressed, just seeing the rising sun would strike fear, anxiety, and dread in me. I couldn’t stand the thought of going through another day when I cannot make decisions; have little energy and desire to do anything; struggle to focus on my school work; and feel that the whole world was passing me by. I even flinched at the thought of taking a shower because the refreshing sensation was so startling to my dulled senses.

In contrast, when I was manic, I felt deliriously happy: just walking down the street feeling the warmth of the sun on my skin and the wind in my hair would make me feel on top of the world. Bursting with energy, I would only sleep for three hours each night. At the first sign of the sun, I would burst out of the house on my bicycle, put on my Walkman (yes it was a while ago), and sing out loud to the music at the top of my lungs, not caring what other people thought. I was partying at clubs frequently: I could dance so fast, matching the music, that I was quite a spectacle to behold. In addition, I went on shopping sprees purchasing things that I just threw around in my home — I was constantly on the go, with so many ‘projects’ that would be started and abandoned, that I barely looked at the things I had bought on impulse.

What the public needs to understand is that MD is a serious mental condition: people’s lives are often destroyed when they are caught in the relentless grip of their depression and mania cycles, which undermines their ability to think, study/work, and lead a stable life. Most seriously, some have committed suicide, while in a state of depression.

I had a schoolfriend who went off to London to study after A levels, and we didn’t meet again until 20 years later. By then, he was divorced and diagnosed with MD but I didn’t know what to ask or how to show concern. I felt really bad about not being able to empathise and I feel there are more people like me who don’t know how we can help.

Kah Ying: To genuinely empathise with your friend, you could read up about the condition — information about MD is widely available. When you are with your friend and he speaks about his MD, listen with an open mind and heart, without preconceived judgments about the excesses of his behaviours (hopefully, they are already in the past). You could ask him how he is doing and how he has been managing his condition, and ask if there is anything you could do to help. I think your primary concern would be to see whether he is managing his MD well and that his life is not falling apart. After that, it is important to show unconditional acceptance, because so many people with MD and other mental illnesses experience stigmatisation and hide their condition with a sense of shame, which is debilitating to their self-esteem and self-image. Ultimately, such an attitude would adversely affect their ability to deal with their condition.

Has having a son who needs you so much helped by drawing your attention to him instead of focusing on yourself? 

Kah Ying: As readers will find out in the book, I consider Sebastien, my son, to be my savior. In the midst of my struggles with postpartum depression, a psychiatrist convinced me to take medication (for the next 10 years) so that I could care for Sebastien. Sebastien became my inspiration to get my life together in order to meet his needs. During the early days, as he was a particularly demanding baby, I was really whipped into shape: there was no lingering in bed when a baby is crying to be fed, etc.

Once he was diagnosed with autism (at the age of 18 months), I was so focused on addressing his needs and getting the services he needed that my own condition was really not uppermost in my mind. By leading a stable and purposeful life, supported by medication (with visits every 3 months to the psychiatrist), as well as a healthy lifestyle of daily exercise and relaxation routines, I was ultimately able to wean myself off medication after 10 years. In the book, I share my lifestyle strategies and approaches, which have helped me to stay on-course without medication for the past eight years.


Author’s talk: 12 October 2013, 2-4pm at The Loft, 268A South Bridge Road (off Smith Street). The $10 admission fee includes refreshments. RSVP: There will also be a mini-exhibition of paintings by Sebastien.  

NITE OUT – LaChica-Go in Bedok


Friday night and nowhere to go? Head for NTUC Club’s Happy Days in Bedok Central (Blk 445, Bedok North St 1, tel. 6445 4345) and chill to Rock and Pop hits from the 70s-90s by a great band – LaChica-Go. Get a peep at


It’s a cosy set-up with just three Singaporeans in the band and a Rock/Top 40s/Pop repertoire that sets feet tapping for both Gen Y and Baby Boomers. Band leader Gerry La Chica, 61 became a professional musician when he left school at 16, playing with The Flybaits in Hong Kong in the late 1960s. Now a father of five and grandfather of six, he’s still loving what he does. As do bandmates, vocalist Zack (Mohd Zaki Omar), 42 and lead guitarist Riz, 47 who both hold non-musical day jobs.


Friendly staff, tasty finger food, and NTUC members can redeem beer with LinkPoints! How great is that? Check out the different live performances every day of the week. If you’re going to drink, take public transport. – Video: Bernard Koh