Monday Tarot Message: Finding joy

The wonderful, joyful and honestly underrated aspect of healing is how it opens up access to moving towards that which you could only dream at one time. A life that has a capacity for hope, pleasure and delight, triumph and success. A life in alignment with your desires.

A major aspect of any healing journey involves doing the difficult, confusing, painful work of facing trauma. Inner work is terribly unsexy for the most part. But it is only by working through the parts of our stories that make us unravel, that we find ways to put ourselves back together again.

However, what doesn’t get spoken about often enough is that doing this work is also the portal to accessing safety and joy. When we heal our trauma (however big or small), and we regulate our systems to identify and cultivate a sense of safety, is the foundation for unlocking so many wonderful things like trust, curiosity, wonder, the capacity for joy and fun, nurturing creativity, finding and receiving love, chasing a passion and the like.

Healing brings back into our wholeness all those things that trauma may have split away from us, making us believe that we are not worthy or that we got dealt a bad hand. Accessing these joyful moments in the journey is definitely challenging and demands strength and vulnerability that many of us fear. But the moments when we make contact with that safety and well-being can be life-giving and affirming for all the work it has taken. Like finding light even while walking through the darkness.

These moments of light and life begin to return more frequently when we get the hang of regulating our systems to feel safe more often than not. When we learn of inner strength, and how we can find all of these resources within ourselves. They bring a robustness and a sense of being whole, rather than split. And a feeling of joy and love being within, rather than beyond our reach. It is only from a space of safety and wholeness that we can begin to reach our full potential and touch the fringes of all the things we aspire to.

It is necessary to affirm and celebrate these moments along your personal journey. Moments that hold promise and potential for the kind of life you may have only dreamed of until now.

One year ago: Downtime
Two years ago: And you were an island to discover
Four years ago: July

That’s how growth is

One reason I love tracking my daily posts back to one year, two years, three years ago and so on and so forth is that sometimes I make little discoveries that only I can revel in. Discoveries that would otherwise just slip away, pass me by. And I like making these discoveries, because in their small, subtleness there is sometimes a colossal shift to be found. I say found, but of course I mean experienced, in a way that only I can.

That’s how growth is. I’m back in the classroom again — the final, final leg of it all and it’s brought to the fore all sorts of bittersweet feelings about endings and new beginnings and just how immense this entire journey of tow years has been for me. Someone put it beautifully in class today:

I may look the same on the outside today, as I did last year, but on the inside I feel completely new.

And that’s how it has been for me.

So when I stumbled on this post from one year ago — frightfully, down to the day — on a day when I was going through all those same emotions and conundrums, albeit a whole year later, I got to witness exactly HOW MUCH I HAVE CHANGED. Sorry, I didn’t mean to shout there, it’s just THAT potent.

To see how I held being in that same space of tension differently, and how I managed myself, is heartwarming. The clarity and clear sense of personhood I feel as a result, liberating.

One year ago: Move
Two years ago: Day 212: I eat the city as I leave the scene

On grounding

When I’m faced with challenging circumstances that cause inner conflict, my tendency was once to be quickly lured back by an older self that preferred to shrink away from spaces that felt unwelcoming. To choose inauthenticity in being and in words to avoid the discomfort. To allow the pain to fester and turn into unexpressed anger. In the hope that this would keep the peace. It was always much easier to do this than to push through and emerge on the other side, not knowing what the consequences of owning my truth would be. Because there are consequences. Authenticity, and being true to myself is precious, it comes with a price.

Circumstances may change, but this essential dilemma — of whether to move forward (and pay that price) or give in to an older state or way of being (and return to the status quo) — seems eternal. This week, I practiced actively grounding myself, when faced with it.

I grounded myself as a way to remind myself of where I am now, how far I have journeyed and of what I am capable of. Not to wish the discomfort or the recurring pattern away. In fact it was a means to welcome it. Make space for it, allow it and fully see it. To realise that the confusion and conflict is as much a part of my reality as is the capacity to see it and hold my ground without letting it uproot me.

To realise that growth doesn’t mean challenging circumstances won’t come my way, but that when they come like the whirlwinds that they are, I can bend and be flexible, but not lose ground.

The two states — of feeling the tension of the challenge while knowing I can be steady — can coexist it seems. Not without causing internal chaos momentarily. But when I ground myself in thoughts of the now, I bring myself back from fears that are mostly old. I root myself in what I know to be true. And it helps me find strength in seeing and acknowledging what is, as it is.

I’m in constant awe of the wisdom basic, natural building blocks hold. Roots, plants, trees.

To root. To take ground. To recognise where we are. In the now. Is to find a state of balance even in shaky circumstances. Is to acknowledge everything as is, in full honesty. It is to allow a new possibility to emerge.

David Whyte has some beautiful words on taking ground as a means to feel at home in yourself and your body. He says it better than I ever will.

Ground is what lies beneath our feet. It is the place where we already stand; a state of recognition, the place or the circumstances to which we belong whether we wish to or not. It is what holds and supports us, but also what we do not want to be true; it is what challenges us, physically or psychologically, irrespective of our hoped for needs. It is the living, underlying foundation that tells us what we are, where we are, what season we are in and what, no matter what we wish in the abstract, is about to happen in our body; in the world or in the conversation between the two.

To come to ground is to find a home in circumstances and in the very physical body we inhabit in the midst of those circumstances and above all to face the truth, no matter how difficult that truth may be; to come to ground is to begin the courageous conversation, to step into difficulty and by taking that first step, begin the movement through all difficulties, to find the support and foundation that has been beneath our feet all along: a place to step onto, a place on which to stand and a place from which to step.

The realisation that making space for what is, just as it is, with nothing to be done but simply accept and witness, rather than trying to get over whatever it is, feels like breaking new ground.

And to do this in an embodies way, literally finding my roots, and feeling rooted in my body, seems to have made the difference in taking me across the uncertainty of having to make that choice between the old and the new.

One year ago: Reboot
Two years ago: There’s glitter on the floor after the party

Grumps

Having a grumpy week and not feeling so good. I’ve turned to my cards and plants for solace. And I haven’t felt inspired to say very much.

Bleargh.

One year ago: New
Three years ago: Bangalore: a graphic novel
Four years ago: Interwebzy things

Strange days

Having my monthly enough-of-this-staying-in-nonsense vibes, but also this time it’s come amidst a really busy set of days, and just ahead of getting back into the classroom. A daunting three days of being in an online class, in front of a screen for about six to eight hours. Something I have long forgotten how to do.

It’s just one of those days where I can’t wait for the week to be done.

And by now I know the cycles that these kind of days are keeping. I know the loop, and so I’m riding this one out too.

Four years ago: 2016 monsoon earworms

Monday Tarot Message: Being true to yourself

Our capacity for authenticity as a cornerstone of how we live our lives begins with honesty with the self. And how we hold that authenticity towards ourselves and our own lives first. This defines being true to oneself.

The High Priestess represents that inner aspect of the Self that holds the authentic core, with all that we truly know and desire. A fulfilling life comes from listening to the voice of that self with confidence.

The voices on the outside — expectations, norms, benchmarks, values — can often drown the inner one which is clear and pure and needs no reasoning. This can be hard to do, especially in a world that holds so many ideals and values as aspirational, and teaches us to chase what structures and systems (such as capitalism, patriarchy, caste, nations) require of us. This can cause massive obscuring in the process of being in tune with the voice on the inside that may want otherwise.

Today’s message is a reminder that healing, growth, personal development — are all journeys that take us back to our inner selves. Healing offers a process through which we may examine and soothe all the parts of ourselves that choose to deviate or move away from that inner self, which is actually the only compass for living an authentic life. And it helps us return to ourselves. To our bodies and hearts the way we were always meant to be.

Our connection with the inner self is routinely disrupted by the machinations of our outer life and all that we encounter or engage with. We experience dilution of our intuition and may question or doubt that pure way in which we know things to be true without needing proof or validation. This causes confusion, anxiety or, in the long run, the inability to find meaning or deeper satisfaction in life.

The ego is largely motivated by external voices. Often the knowing or desires of the inner self are not in alignment with that of the ego. This can cause tension. For eg; the ego’s pursuit of what a “good” person is, may often cause one to go against ones true desires which maybe entirely different. Over time, this inauthenticity will feel insincere and disingenuous to the self and bring disconnection and unhappiness.

Re-establishing this connection is to rediscover the true self. To gradually strengthen the ability to listen and trust the inner self. To learn to parse out doubt, fear, shame or guilt or anything else that inhibits listening and leaning in. To examine our need for external sources of certainty (validation), or why the internal compass doesn’t feel trustworthy to begin with. To notice our patterns of abandoning our inner selves. And most importantly, to see the ways in which this sidelining of ourselves brings pain from disconnection in the long run.

This is what being true to oneself would look like.

One year ago: Forward
Two years ago: Closing walls and ticking clocks
Four years ago: Smoke and ashes, email trails and matters of the heart

Blissful

Just sitting here basking in the joy of an open heart and a clear mind after an excellent session of therapy.

Celebrating the high with the almost-rain backdrop, chai and the closest-to-Parisian croissant I’ve found in Bangalore.

increasingly, therapy has become a very quiet affair, for me. Far fewer words, working mostly with my body, movement and dreams (when I remember them), lots of quiet and noticing what happens in those quiet moments, really taking the time to soak that in before ticking off items from the mental list to move on to the next thing.

It has brought about a sense of expansiveness not just in the way that therapy is working to open me up, but also in the way that I am experiencing life itself. Open, quiet, slow and free.

Today was an important session. And I spent much of it in a haze of peace and oneness. Not having the words or even the urge to explain what I was feeling. It’s such a relief to have a therapist who works in this way, with whom I can spend the entire hour in mostly silence, without owing explanations and still feel held, safe and grounded. Today has left me feeling very present in the now. In today. In what my body is experiencing as this sense of peace and togetherness.

We always end with “so how are you feeling now?” and usually my answer is the woefully inadequate “good” or “not so good” (as the case may be). Today I burst into a beaming, heartful smile and said, Blissful.

One year ago: Two things
Two years ago: If you, if you could return
Four years ago: Gym rant

On the cost of domesticity

Pulling out this post I wrote in mid-April, but never finished. It is so interesting for me to see that even between April and now, how much has changed in not just my thoughts around productivity, but the way my life is moving in an alternative way to make space for sloth, rest, repose and rejuvenation.

This is just a disclaimer to say the content still holds, but the feelings are not current.

***

One of the scripts in my family is high worth attached to high productivity, efficiency, being a woman who is a go-getter and always on top of everything. It’s a great motivator, but also a subtle killer in the long run, I’ve discovered. Productivity across the board — from applauding efficient women who run their homes and hold down jobs, hailing devoted mothers who put their families needs above their own as “good”, to admiring outward focused woman committed to “serving” others (even at great personal cost) who have the ability to just give give and give, and take on some more, even when their plates are full — is greatly admired, coveted and covertly sold as the benchmark to aspire for. These are traits that are held up as hallmarks of being good women worth emulating, worth noticing, worth embracing. So obviously, women committed to themselves aren’t looked upon very kindly.

The last few weeks have felt like an infinite loop of housework, cooking, cleaning, planning, and managing work in the pockets I can find, while also culling out some downtime right before bed. It’s made me think a lot about how first of all so much of this is assumed to be the woman’s department. Even while VC has taken over the dishes, helps by dusting while I clean, gets into the cooking, does laundry, and waters the plants etc, I find myself instinctively still reaching over and above and trying to either assist him, or offering to do his share too. He’s tired of telling me that his attempts to help me are futile if I help him back.

I stopped myself in my tracks the other — wondering why this is so hardcoded in me? And I know part of it this early and deep lesson in equating my worth with my productivity, makes it very hard, almost impossible, to gracefully and thankfully take help. And over time it has made living up to my own ridiculous standards hard enough, but also terribly run down every effort and willingness on VC’s part towards being an equal part of this home.

I only woke up to this harsh realisation sometime last year, that this is not only a sorry state of affairs, but a huge disrespect to him. So even as I have been reworking my beliefs around not equating my worth does to how useful, productive or desirable I am, it is extremely hard to stay on track.

In the constant cycle of domesticity that has consumed us these past few weeks, I see how much of a struggle it has been to cull away time for myself. Even if it is to just lie back and stare at the ceiling. There always seems to be something more urgent that needs my attention. I’ve not had as much time as I’d like to sit down and write my blog posts in peace, for example. Writing time is pushed further every day and sometimes I write out a rushed post just before bedtime. I’ve been reading and important book about money with S, convening over video calls to discuss, but after a good beginning we haven’t made any progress in the last 10 days. I usually spend a significant amount of time thinking about my Monday tarot posts, but since the lockdown they’ve been all but hurried posts banged out in the nick of time. There’s a book for my course that I need to finish, and I haven’t even gotten around to starting it. This is the stuff that creatively nourishes me. The stuff I’d happily be doing when I have outsourced the house work.

It got me to thinking about how my mother did it all. How much she put aside to tend to us kids, keep our homes and family afloat and happy. And my mother was extraaaaa. We’ve had a full childhood with a lot of hands-on family time, picnics and holidays and activities and time spent together. Very focused, dedicated, active, deliberate togetherness, that must have taken a lot of emotional and physical energy to keep at. My sister and I were challenging in our own ways, and I know we kept our parents, but more my mother, on our toes at various phases of our growing up years. I don’t actually remember a single phase where my mother wasn’t quick to respond though. To get on her problem solving, troubleshooting, go-getter hat on to fix whatever it is that needed fixing, or soothe us, feed us, cuddle us, and do whatever it took.

And it got me to thinking about what the colossal creative cost of that might have been. Especially for a professional vocalist like her.

I wondered about how much talent, creativity and potential we’ve quietly snuffed over generations by channeling energy towards chores, family and the like. For generations before that didn’t have the luxury and privilege of outsourcing as much of it as I do, it must have ben 100x worse. Sure, it made women be creative about their domesticity, and many have rocked playing that role to the T. But I think of my own mother who was clear she wanted to focus on her family, and put her career as a musician and vocalist aside till we were old enough to go off on our own. I wonder what the emotional cost of that has been. If she was frustrated from it back then, she never let it show. Or I was too young to know. And now, as an adult woman navigating the age by which she had two children to care for, I can no longer deny that cost.

But from a few weeks of having to fight for my time, sometimes feeling resentful that there seems to be so little of it these days, I’ve been asking myself, how many more would women be able to dig into themselves and the depths of their spirits and creativity, if they didn’t have homes and families to tend to? How many more successful artists would we have?

And of course, it all comes back to this oft-asked and long-unanswered question: can creative lives thrive and flourish around the central axis of families that need feeding and children that need caring and homes that need looking after? Sure, they can co-exist. I am a product of such an environment. But can they thrive? I can’t help but wonder how much more art and music and poetry and writing and cooking and whatever else we might have had access to, if women weren’t taught early not to hinge their worth and likability with domestic productivity. I cant hep but wonder how much easier it would be for girls and women thereon to then go find themselves, scratch all their passions and be their whole selves minus the angst of having waited a minimum 30 years to get to the realisation that there was something more to life that they’re missing out on.

I believe that one of the common traits successful women artists have is the ability to shake off criticism around caring for themselves. And maybe at some level it is giving up the urge to be liked in the way that society, their families, the world at large would like them to be. Maybe it is about knowing so deeply what they are made of and what is important, life-giving, and non-negotiable for them to survive, that they would not give it up for the world.

That notion of what’s likeable, it’s beyond old and tired now. I realised many days into cleaning up that the thrill of being efficient, having a schedule, having things so much cleaner than before, doing it all was so old and so boring. And when the day came when I was feeling depleted and quite drained from not having done a satisfying amount of anything nourishing for myself, I felt a smidgen of that cost I keep talking about. The price women pay. The cost of doing it all.

And I don’t know if it’s worth it. I realised that I was actually quite okay to have a slightly dusty home for two days in a row if it meant I can catch up on reading. It quickly became okay to eat Maggi for dinner, and let some veggies go to waste now and then to just not enter the kitchen for a day. I didn’t feel bad for VC for having to do the dishes on top of everything else he has to do, because er, it’s no different for me.

***

That was April. This is now, and too much has changed to even enumerate it. But reading this post in the drafts made me happy because I see how much has. We are now down to sweeping and dusting at best twice a week, mopping once a week. Maggi has become a staple like sugar and atta and rice in our shopping lists. Take out induces nearly zero guilt, compared to before. And I have enjoyed many, many, many days of lying on my back and staring at the ceiling. In fact, I was just telling a friend the other day that I think I spent much of June horizontal — and I don’t even mean that metaphorically.

I might complain about the banes of being locked in and everything that it has changed in my life a lot, but I cannot lie — it has been an extremely powerful time of change for me. And for us, as a family and a home. In claiming something very essential for myself I see what has been freed up, what has come alive, what has become visible.

I’ve been pursuing slowing down for years, but it took the world around me also slowing down, coming to a halt, to receive the much needed impetus to do the same. When I did, so much changed, so deeply and so quickly. So if I may for a moment fully own and acknowledge the immense privilege of it all: the last four months have been an extremely valuable time.

And maybe sometime soon, I will write about all the ways in which this domesticity has actually taught me to value the work itself, the invaluable contribution of people I have casually outsourced it to all these years, and why I’m trying to do without it for some time to come.

One year ago: All my worries seem so far away
Two years ago: My moves are slow but soon they’ll know

The unbearable pain and joy of being oneself

I’ve spoken so much about loneliness, and some (perhaps a little unintelligibly, for a reader to grasp) more about the changing face of loneliness as I have moved through discovering myself. What was once an acute loneliness for people, a tribe, bodies, a sense of being one among many, has shifted to a different kind of loneliness that is frankly a lot less worrying than it used to be.

The old loneliness used to get me so down, because I felt so helpless and not in control of the situations and circumstances I faced with people that led me to feeling that way. I didn’t know what I was doing wrong or how to prevent it from happening again. The new loneliness is very private, inward. And it is a loneliness for something else. Much less tangible than people, a crowd or a sense of wanting to be in the company of other human beings.

What’s different in recent times is a sort of distance I feel between myself that feels the loneliness, and the part of me that witnesses it. I no longer feel like I am being put through the wringer when loneliness comes. I see it, I feel it, I let it wash over me.

I don’t quite have a full grasp of what it is I am lonely for, and I am not in a rush to figure it out. I know it is taking shape slowly. This ease in letting it be, do it’s thing, is new. And liberating.

But what I do know for certain is what has changed. And that is a solid inner attitude and certainty about no longer abandoning myself. I’ve spent a lot of my life letting myself down, choosing everything else over myself, pleasing people to the greatest degree and practicing so many other such forms of abandoning myself. Routinely and continuously. It has taken a lot of introspection, slowly letting those old ways down, opening up to the consequent feeling of being exposed, and feeling lonely  yet again — just in an all new way — to get here.

I feel like the loneliness may never fully go away. It feels existential, treading a nebulous zone, while knowing in the pit of my stomach that in the end we’re all alone. So I am on the right path.

That I can have connection, intimacy, love, belonging and respect. That it cannot come at the expense of myself. And that this is the unbearable joy and pain of feeling truly and completely at one with myself.

One year ago: Second chances
Two years ago: Don’t worry about, don’t speak of doubt

Small annoyances

All of us woke, progressive, ahead-of-the-game folks: why are we watching Indian Matchmaking? Why are we watching it and posting about it, even if to make fun of it? We know this stuff. We know it’s going to be cringe-worthy, it’s going to trigger us, we know it doesn’t need more eyeballs. I’ve watched a lot of timepass TV in the last four months, but I’ve consciously decided I’m going to stay away from things that no longer sit with my values. And considering I’m always feeling like there’s not even Indian content that’s made for an audience like me, I feel even more strongly that I can no longer give into this sort of voyeuristic, guilty-pleasure viewing. If I want better, I’ve got to choose better.

I wish everyone would stop with the memes, the hot-takes and even the mockery. The show doesn’t need more eyeballs, and certainly not confirmation and proof of how many eyeballs have been directed towards it.

I’m not entirely sure what the sweet spot between showing the grotesque reality of a socio-cultural structure like this, and making an informed commentary relevant to this moment in time is, but just seeing the trailer, I feel like this is not it. We have to move past skimming the surface by embracing enough wokeness to garner brownie points and profit from it through viewership, while sidestepping delving into the depths of an issue so problematic and in need of exploration.

***

So deeply disappointed in Kangana Ranaut of late. I’ve been slowly sliding out of that fandom for over the last year or so, but nothing made me exit faster than the way she’s been piling on her own agenda onto the suicide of Sushant Singh Rajput. Deeply distressing to watch the way she’s using her words, targeting and verbally abusing the same group of people she claims she belongs to and is fighting the cause for. It makes no sense anymore.

I’ve tossed this around in my head a lot in the past. Wondering if it is my conditioning that makes an aggressive, opinionated woman uncomfortable for me to take. But it isn’t. It’s the hypocrisy, the double standards, the blatant pandering one toxic establishment in the name of bucking the foundations of another. Most of all it’s the total lack of empathy and foolhardiness of her arrogance that is making me shame my head every time she opens her mouth.

***

I’ve been wondering about this whole Bollywood debacle that’s droned on and on and on with absolutely no new insights being offered for a month now, and wondering how and why it’s occupying so much primetime news space, in a country and at a time when the pandemic is literally raging fury, floods are ravaging significant parts, while others are drowning in anarchy and complete breakdown of law and order. So many states reeling under the effects of a broken health system, no real, dependable answers and numbers from health officials from any corner about what we have on our hands and how we’re dealing, even four months into this.

But we’re so happy to get behind relative non issues like nepotism? Like we’re well on our way to finding that vaccine and making is available to the country? Like we’ve solved hunger, poverty and education?

This is where I smell a rat and call bullshit on Kangana’s rampage. She is a well trained arm of the forces that be. Extremely erudite in understanding the goals of the propaganda machine, fitting right in, harnessing all her clout and skills to deliver. Distractions, histrionics, dangerous rhetoric, pretend nationalism couched in nice sounding intentions. She’s aced this act since 2014. And she has been well rewarded for it.

So while the nation burns, lets please keep focusing on Bollywood and imagined issues of any relevance.

***

I was late to catch up on the Shubham Mishra video, but heck, it gave me chills to watch it and hear his impassioned words. I felt really physically afraid, in my body, thinking about the number of men — his entire army of followers — who would be emboldened by those words. And it really stoked a fire that’s been slowly gathering steam in the pit of my belly: 

I do not feel safe in this country. I do not feel safe to be a woman. I do not feel safe on the Internet. I do not feel safe in this society. I do not feel safe.

It has taken a lot of work to feel well, whole, and safe in my body. And I have made huge strides in this aspect. But it takes so little to slip back into fear.

Stepped out for a walk with VC this evening. My first outing in over 10 days. I decided to run ahead. And in no time at all, I realised I was being stared the fuck out. A feeling and a sense of self consciousness that I’d lost touch with because I’ve worked hard to move past it in many ways, and I’ve been indoors for the larger part of this year, which has given me space to stretch myself out. And forget others’ eyeballs.

My first instinct was to check if my nipples were showing. Second, double take over my clothes to see what was “inappropriate”. It is this deeply ingrained. Subconsciously, it is so easy to feel unsafe, and then blame ourselves for any danger we might feel.

I know it’s not much better elsewhere. But overall, I’m just so sick of this country. I’m just so done.

***

Even today, so far into this whole situation I saw loads of people without masks on. Old people without masks taking evening walks, mums pushing strollers with babies in them without masks on, construction site workers and contractors milling around without masks on, street-side vendors without masks on. All while I was sweating it out under my mask, while running. Making big glaring eyes at all of them, almost as if to cancel out their stares at whatever the hell they found so interesting to stare at me for.

***

But here’s a sunshiney picture from today. The skies were blindingly blue, but it wasn’t hot. The air was thin, cool and light to the touch. After several nights of heavy rain, and many rainy, wet days, it was lovely today.

And we came out of lockdown today. Two reasons why I decided to get out.

One year ago: Unpretty
Four years ago: Homebody

Same same

Still here, finding the tiny silver lining in the midst of a pandemic that’s raging out of control and has our authorities foxed. Focusing on staying well, staying safe, staying indoors and staying positive.

And it’s a tough ask. I mean last week the health minister just threw his hands up and said only God can now save us from this message. Today he says he alone can’t be expected to do the work.

Then why for you became Health Minister, saar?

Even WHO videos are now pissing me off with how absolutely wishy washy, unreliable and ineffective they’re beginning to sound. Just so much hand-wringing and nothing more. Even seven months since this thing broke out. How is this a 2020 reality?

Virus aside, though, I’m still intermittently in awe of alllllllll the ramifications of the way in which life has been toppled over and all that we are having to contend with.

There’s so many things I hope I never take for granted again. Hugs, for one. Sunlight and fresh air. Just human presence, is what I miss the most I think. Poor VC is bearing the brunt of all my need for human contact, facing frequent assaults of love. But yeah, I can’t unsee some of the fundamental ways in which life has shifted for me. Fourth month of doing all home chores by ourselves and we’ve stacked up a whole load of lessons learned but also tricks and hacks to make this work. I don’t think I can go back to the old ways of waste and excess (in so many little things) in a hurry. Eating meals at the table has been such a joy. Working out at home has been a revelation. And I’m only just scratching the surface. A lot of the changes we have made are small and private and I don’t want to be virtue signalling by talking about them at length. Also, I know this has been the process for many, many people. Everyone has had their own set of learnings and have changed their lives in important ways.

So I’d be lying if I said this painful time hasn’t been without gifts.

It’s just taken me a while to assimilate, look back and acknowledge them. Despite feeling fully the privilege it speaks of to be even doing this. For too long I let the guilt of that privilege stop me. Until I recently realised privilege too is a gift and I’m wasting it by letting the guilt paralyse me. I can instead acknowledge it, own it and let it move me to actually do things.

I ranted about just wanting to go out on my Instagram the other day, and it took absolutely no time for someone to point out that staying in is a privilege! like I was ignorant about or hadn’t possibly considered that truth. That presumption aside, it reflected exactly my own thought process around this. How stuck I have felt from just acknowledging my privilege. And what a shift it has been to accept and own it and instead move on to thinking about how I can use my privilege positively and constructively. Even if just for my own life.

(Also, acknowledging and agreeing with an inherent privilege doesn’t make the feelings of wanting to leave, any less true. Why do we insist on existing in stark binaries so much? The two states can absolutely coexist!)

Heard this Pico Iyer quote the other day on a podcast, and it hit home why some times, some parts of this shit show begin to make sense. And some times it feels good too.

Going nowhere, as Leonard Cohen would later emphasize for me, isn’t about turning your back on the world; it’s about stepping away now and then so that you can see the world more clearly and love it more deeply.

Three years ago: In which I end up without a phone
Four years ago: Rainy day feels

Monday Tarot Message: Learning to feel, rather than over-think

We over-think as a means to under-feel.
Over-thinking helps distract from the uncomfortable ways in which emotions present as sensations in our bodies.
When we over-think, we remain at the level of the cognitive, and cannot access our emotions that lie deeper.
When we over-think we keep our nervous systems in a state of stress.

Developing an awareness about what we feel in our bodies can help us learn to process emotions in a safe and healthy way. Even the difficult ones that present with distress and discomfort.

Our minds do a fantastic job of getting us to over-think, as a means to avoid feeling. Like I discussed last week, this is a mechanism to ensure safety and that the status-quo is unchanged. But it is also a way to avoid processing feelings entirely. And therefore, keeping us stuck in a stress trap.

Being trapped in the over-thinking loop causes distress and discomfort that we experience as anxiety, fear, angst or worry (amongst other things). Body sensations are signals to tune into, and understand what you are really feeling — and not what you think you are feeling. Allowing that feeling to surface and be seen, with little judgement can be life-giving, and opens the possibility of coming out of the stress trap.

Breaking out this trap by listening to the body instead of the mind can help in building:

  • building a capacity to either tune in to the body and notice sensations (or notice sensations and then tune in)

  • noticing when an emotion bubbles up and asking your body (not mind) what you need. It could be rest, sleep, a nourishing meal, a drink of water, quiet or stillness, a conversation with someone safe, movement, etc.

  • witnessing the emotion without labelling it or judging it

  • observing how it passes through, especially when you give your body what it needs

  • finding ways to express and release the emotion, whether that is to have a cry, scream into a pillow, dance around by yourself, journaling, painting or writing, making music — whatever your chosen expression may be. Sometimes a combination of some of these works too.

Curiosity towards the body is a good place to begin. It is a deep and invaluable portal to our inner worlds, far more vast and rich in nuance than our minds can ever be. It’s important to remember that in developing this curiosity, the goal isn’t to “feel better”, but to just feel, for a start. Whatever it is you are feeling, just feel it.

One year ago: On and on and on
Two years ago: I got a feeling I’m not the only one
Four years ago: I’ll be fine, sipping wine, taking time slow

200

More thoughts on growth learnt from watching my plants:

  1. Growth is so, so, so dependant on laying a nourishing, fertile foundation and cultivating a safe, healthy space for it to continue
  2. Growth is mostly small and subtle, miraculous in it’s shapeshifting subtlety
  3. Growth is beautifully silent
  4. Growth is bloody magical
  5. Growth, whatever kind, however it happens, is gorgeous. And absolutely worth working for

Casually hit the 200 post mark today, and felt all kinds of happy all over again, to have this space to journal, doodle, scribble the meandering growth curve that I am on.

Even though a lot goes un-articulated, undocumented (and that is fine) I am happy I have this space to note some of the surprising twists and turns, inflection points and important milestones of this journey because of the all-consuming way in which I have built it around my life itself. Not a side-project, not work, not a hobby. The very centre of my life itself.

One year ago: Retrospect
Two years ago: If everything could be this real forever
Three years ago: Perfect love
Four years ago: Barely moving

At home in my body

Last evening, I spontaneously snuck in a workout because I had just as spontaneously skipped it in the morning, in favour of spending the morning being very, very homey. Even though I’m doing the same workouts, my energy is about the same, the same struggles persist and most else remains the same — something subtle but important has changed.

It hit me like a tiny pin dropping in a silent room, last evening. Sharp, cutting clarity — My body feels much more like my own. I really feel how I inhabit it.

My body feels different in the way it moves, and I feel much more connected, and in tune with how it moves.

What has been conscious and intentional over the last few months is a shift in how I approach my physical practices — exercise, and all the other body-focused habits I keep. I’ve become much, much more loose, comfortable and fluid in how I keep them. Even so, I can’t pin point one thing that made this shift happen — it’s a combination and culmination of some mindfully cultivated aspects, but also some surprise — and I can’t say when it has happened either. My sense is it was a gradual flow, a loosening or melting perhaps.

In the moment that it hit me, I was bouncing around my living room, freestyle. Eyes closed, enjoying a loud AC/DC song. Previously, even “freestyle” has been rigid, where I come from. Lines, points, beats, bars. This is what I know, and I feel it is also what I have absorbed deeply.

But yesterday, I felt a flow that was definitely surprising and new. Fluidity, like a splotch of paint that’s running amok and cannot be corrected or fixed to stay within the lines. An unruly, unfettered energy that coursed through not just my limbs — that I usually associate as aids of movement — but my whole body. My neck, my chest, my waist, hips, torso. Even my eyes, closed, felt warm and full of energy.

What I do know is, the past few months have made me befriend my body in a new way. It’s shown me a new level of faith and gratitude for my body. Gratitude for everything that it endures and allows me to do — the stretch and the misuse included.

But also faith, that it is mine and on my side. I’ve found this in a truly embodied way, and I feel it in how easily I have been able to slip and slide through the energy ups and downs, listening keenly and leaning in to whatever my body wants and asks for. Conversely, having it respond with ease and grace when I need it to. I feel so firmly that it needn’t be punished, tamed or moulded harshly into being something else. Just what it is, will do.

It’s my inner gaze that’s shifted — a little softening in how I see myself. Tender, where I was once rigid. Gentle, even as I feel strong. Easy, with how I use restrain. More welcoming of the idea of human fragility, even in my body, where I once chased a strange notion of invincibleness.

All of this was never part of my plan. I didn’t even know there was healing to be done as far as my relationship with my body goes or how it impacts so many other things in my life. I’ve always held the physical somewhat separate from the emotional, despite ample training and experience that has shown me surprising links between the two. I didn’t think I “needed” a deeper connection between the two in myself. So in that sense, this was not part of the plan.

But that is just it: healing takes surrendering to the process as it happens. Minus any pre-planned notions and ideas about how to proceed or what to focus on.

At this point it’s hard for me to say if surrender has brought me here, or if getting here has shown me another gift of surrender.

Of course, the regular exercise has made me leaner and more toned than I have been in a long while, and I will not deny how good I feel. Confident, healthy and happy in my body. But there has been something more. A sense of oneness. Like arriving at a meeting place between the infinite world inside of me and the finite body that holds it. It’s a feeling of having yet again come home. And it feels very, very whole and contained this time around.

Rooted and fluid at the same time. Strong and tender at the same time.

And it’s inspired a kind of revelling and enjoying of my body. A little more unabashedly than before.

One year ago: Days like these
Two years ago: Always somewhere, miss you where I’ve been

Home and away

This whole self-isolation things is beginning to feel quite like school all over again. Specifically, when I was in group projects but was always the one that did the work and shared the credit. Or the time someone on our school bus was dumping their lunch on the floor of the bus every single day and the whole bus was detained because nobody owned up, so I ” volunteered to” to shorten detention for everyone. Or that time in Sri Lanka when we misguidedly went whale watching and were given clear instructions about staying in our respective sides of the boat but everyone clean forgot when the first whale was spotted and I thought I could singlehandedly balance the tipping over of the boat by staying on my side (and missing out on seeing the damn whale!) because everyone else had clearly forgotten. This is how it feels. Staying in, against all odds, feeling all the emotional highs and lows that come with it, only to see outside it’s a party like Covid has left the building.

I don’t get it. Is it positive thinking and optimism that these folks have? Or is it blind stupidity and denial about the shitshow we are in the midst of?

Anyhow, every time that I have mustered the courage to venture out a bit, and break the isolation, something has happened that makes me get right back indoors. It’s kind of amazing.

First it was the containment zone in our neighbourhood. Then the case right in our building. Then, last weekend I was mildly under the weather and I convinced myself that it was the virus, so I hunkered down and lay low only to have it all pass in 3 days – phew. And now, we’re back in total lockdown.

In between these phases, we have somehow managed to get ourselves the new sofas, replace some essentials in the kitchen, and I got new sneakers too, and some new plants for the house. I’m glad we did, because life indoors is better for it.

I can’t say we have been totally isolated, or totally out of touch with the outdoors. There have been consistent grocery runs and shopping for fruit and veg. But for the first three months we were hyper good about staying in. Even after “unlocking” we were limiting outings, stockpiling errands and waiting for them to accumulate before getting out. We haven’t met any of our friends, except having D over a few weeks ago, and then we went plant shopping last week. But it has been 90% isolation, I’d say. I have lost track of the days, but cumulatively I think they’re touching the day 130ish mark or so. Which just feels like oh so much.

The year had just started when we got locked in, and somehow we’re past the mid-way mark of 2020. I still have moments of awe and shock when I think about the enormity of this situation.

Since we’re back in lockdown, I am enjoying the silence again. The traffic disappearing makes such a difference. But right before all this happened my sister snuck away to my folks in Kerala, and so our party of three has whittled down to two. This is a number and a space that is both terribly isolating as well as snug and cozy, if you know what I mean.

The energy certainly shifted when July began. I feel it all round. Work has been picking up steam, I am enjoying the home and doing things at home again — cooking, working out, gardening — plus there is the rain. Those frightfully beautiful misty mornings, all-day rainy days that I know many don’t enjoy. But I can’t get enough of them.

Today was one of those days. I knew from the moment I woke up that it was going to be raining all day, and I felt immediately like I wanted to just potter about my home, and not do much else. I had myself a full on domestic morning. Cooked a full lunch of stuffed baingan, rasam and rice and assorted fried things to go with. Cleaned out the fridge, re-stocked the veggies that had just been delivered. Dusted and set furniture right again. Laundry. Watering the indoor plants. Otherwise dull stuff, but somehow satisfying in these strange times. What can I say, staying in is bringing out this extra nesty person in me.

Even after all these months, I can’t decide if I love or hate this. If I’m sick of it or very used to it. Mostly, I oscillate between these two extremes. Very little in my immediate environment or life like it used to be feels like it will return to “normal” whenever that may be. On the one hand, I am thriving in the moment and everything it has brought for me, and to that extent I’m so present and all here; but I am also away a lot, you know? In my head. Dreaming of something beyond, the larger picture, a different life, after. Late night chats with these two, in their faraway worlds and homes, has kept me going.

One year ago: Support
Two years ago: Under my umbrella