School again

Back in the classroom again today. A different set of people. Different modality of work. Different mentor. Different me.

I’m so excited to be learning again. And so happy to be interacting with other humans. Just so, so sad that this too is across a screen.

I was only just about getting comfortable with getting out and about, meeting humans in the flesh, and settling into the “new normal”. Some friends and I made promises to each other to try and do this more often, fight the fear and get out and live a little. And somehow we are back to square one. Only worse?

One year ago: Zen
Two years ago: Thank you, Bangalore
Five years ago: Imperfect timing

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Haathi Time

In January, the forest was lush, green and overgrown. Mornings were snappy, with a cool wetness in the air. The light dappled through, casting lacy shadows all over. Venture out early enough and a mysterious fog clung close to the ground, making every broody and eerie. You just felt and knew it was winter.

Now, just three months on, nearing the peak of summer, it’s a scene from a different chapter.

A mess of largely naked trees, woody browns, earthy tones, dry and open. Everything sparse and spaced out, nowhere to hide. Punishing heat and all signs of awaiting a period of restoration to come.

In the midst of the vastly dry, waning cycle of the life in the forest, these Amaltas are the late bloomers. Showing up unannounced, late to the party, and making themselves seen. Bursts of yellow here and there, taking you by surprise, giving you that much needed respite.

And then, the icing on the cake. In the midst of this largely barren landscape, we spotted an elephant.

Day made.

One year ago: Monday Tarot Message: Make way for hope
Three years ago: I got mad, mad love
Five years ago: Space

Monday Tarot Message: Connecting with your deep truth

The High Priestess is the guardian of the subconscious mind, the epitome of inner knowledge. When she shows up it is a reminder to lean in to the hidden workings of the intuitive/higher self.

Working towards doing this in a healthy way is to commit to knowing yourself fully, just as you are, no matter what shows up on the exploration. To meet your higher self is to confront all of you, as a whole. Including the not-so-beautiful, vulnerable parts that we may otherwise keep hidden. This includes shame, anger, fear, guilt, regret and evil, amongst other things the world deems unworthy of display.

The movements and shifts — in healing and self-improvement — that come from this approach then happen right through the process. Whereas improvement that is hinged on a striving for a particular “good” outcome becomes a striving for perfection, for an externally determined idea of worthiness.

“Undesireable” parts are present in all of us. To deny or disconnect from them, is to move away from our humanness. To lose contact with the essence of us. And when we disconnect from this truth, we feel lost and disconnected. Within ourselves, and from everything around us too. To embrace them, learn to see their existence in us, is to own ourselves fully. The messy parts of us, the cracks and pain that we hide away are the very portals to meeting our deep truth, healing ourselves. We can’t get there by pushing aside that which we don’t want to acknowledge.

When we go to therapy, it is important not to expect it to be a silver bullet to being magically “healed”. A therapists job isn’t to heal you. Instead it is create and hold space so you can find your own inner compass, tap into your own capacity to meet and heal yourself. Through your intuition, the wisdom of your emotions and systems of regulation.

It’s about the journey, not endpoints we may think we want to be. It’s about the process and all that it brings up, not the outcome. This self-reflective journey is the High Priestess’s way.

One year ago: Regeneration
Two years ago: Thank you, Bangalore
Three years ago: And I’m feeling so bohemian like you
Four years ago: Serendipity
Five years ago: Lucid

Rest easy

When I have adequately tended to and cared for the vulnerable parts of me, I allow the overactive parts, that work hard to numb and hide them, to rest. And when they rest, I have more life to spend on living than merely existing. My days are bright and my life feels harmonious.

Not a tarot message. Just me marking a delightfully happy evening with VC in the yellow evening light of our home, conversation and much laugher, that affirmed this truth.

One year ago: Sweet relief
Two years ago: Happy days
Three years ago: You’re beautiful, it’s true

On honesty

An ongoing effort has been to be more, utterly and completey honest with myself. I say this a lot, and practice to a great degree. But lately I am trying to get deeper with it. To lay the smallest truth threadbare. Even if just to myself. Perhaps, especially to myself. To not say even the slightest thing on a whim, without an element of conscious honesty.

I feel like doing this for many reasons, but I think what has spurred it the most is the deep realisation that I have been most hurt by people who aren’t honest with themselves. It has always manifested as a dishonesty with/at me. But my own experiences with understanding myself has shown that at the heart of this is a great degree of unconscious dishonesty with the self. What I now call a state of living like we’re sleep-walking. When assumptions and aspirations become truth before they are actually lived and embodied.

And so I think now, if I can’t be honest with myself, I definitely don’t have a good shot at being honest with anyone, in any kind of relationship. So, I want to get better at this.

One year ago: Mid-week note to self
Two years ago: Home
Five years ago: On being average

Slowly moving

Sanctuary. Shelter. Security.

It’s amazing how much more time I’m inclined to spend outside my bedroom since the plants have made a comeback. Feeling motivated to ignore the heat and consequent lethargy, to get out of lying in bed all day means I’m moving on things that were just thoughts and ideas (that required me to get out of bed to see in action).

Ah, sigh. Think I did this in time for a possible return of the lockdown. And I’m almost afraid to admit what a hard sense of deja vu I’m having today. I sweet this was the exact turn of events last year too. All I need is an April downpour.

One year ago: Good things
Three years ago: Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow
Five years ago: Weekending

Pump it

I’m now into week 6 (of 10) of the Epic Program (that I mentioned here). And I am officially obsessed. I’ve done a lot of youtube workouts over the last year, but nothing, and I mean nothingand nobody, has challenged, encouraged and made me feel so pumped about being consistent as Caroline Girvan has.

It’s been 14 months since I stopped going to the gym, which until then was a seemingly permanent fixture in my everyday life. I have always been someone who needs change and challenge frequently to keep myself motivated about fitness. So 2020 has been unique in that sense. I had nobody else to depend on but myself. Left to my own devices, no equipment, and a 4×4 feet-ish space of my living room (which I managed to do with here, in Goa and at my folks’ in Wayanad too). I’ve been through an insane variety of exercise routines, and I’ve probably tried every big youtube fitness instructor currently relevant/popular. I even went back to an my trainer from Goa in October last year, training over zoom until February when I began to feel that familiar itch for something new again.

So on March 1, I decided to give the Epic program a shot. Even though I was intimidated at the idea of a 10 week commitment, I decided I wouldn’t let completion perfectionism get in the way of starting. If it didn’t work out for me, I am allowed to stop, right? Right.

In about 10 days though, I was motivated to swap my resistance bands and waterbottles for a real pair of weights. It was a sign I was really getting into it. I finally caved and bought myself a pair after a whole year of making do, because I think going back to the gym is truly a distant dream now.

Over the days, I’ve realised this is an insanely good routine. Caroline is fantastic with her programming, and I love that her focus is strength and agility not just physically, but mentally too. I love how she stresses honouring where you are at and slowly building up to whatever goal you may have, junking all “ideals” and benchmarks. Her focus is always quality over quantity, encouraging me to go hard but not necessarily long. Which is important for someone like me.

What can I say, this is just the change and challenge I needed. In the last five weeks Epic has steadily but significantly challenged my skills, my willpower and strength — of body and mind. The diffiulty gradually increases, so I have been able to ease into the newer, more advanced moves, but already can see progress.

5 weeks in, 5 weeks to go. This is the point at which I usually get fidgety and need to change things up again. But somehow I am waking up every morning, pumped to exercise quickly. In fact the anticipation begins the previous night. My interest in workout music playlisting is back. I prepare myself for the insanity that are these workouts. And I love the burn. My body has responded very well and I’ve already experienced significant change in toning, sculpting and lifting capacity.

I am eager to finish this, see how much more my body and performance will change. And then I want to get to Epic II — the next 10-week program.

If you’ve been in regular exercise, are in good form and want to amp things up because you’re just tired of working out at home, Caroline is excellent.

One year ago: Monday Tarot Message: What are you willing to let crumble, now more than ever?
Three years ago: Where the cares of the day seem to slowly fade away
Five years ago: Maybe I’m finally making my peace with being mediocre

Monday Tarot Message: Stress and awareness

When we are stressed, tension builds in the way we perceive things, in our bodies, in our capacity to think and move ahead. As a result possibilities shrink, the future look small and bleak, and we minimise ourselves to fit. Not because that is necessary or even true, but because in that moment, we don’t know better.

The Three of Wands indicates an opposite state. Instead of closing up for protection, we can respond with expansion. An opening up that is born from fortitude. Where awareness grows, possibilities are many, potential is full and rich.

This isn’t about “being positive” or eliminating stress, rather about healing, so we may respond to stress, rather than react to or buckle under it. Building awareness and inviting a softening helps open our hearts and allow a wider scope of life to touch us. When we heal, we build a safe, relatively unshakeable space within ourselves that is not easily perturbed.

Stress contracts awareness. Makes us see and operate from limited view of a situation. We lose the capacity to pull back and see the big picture. With healing, we can understand and work through the triggers that cause stress and come to a place where we meet the same (and other) stressors differently.

We can teach ourselves to witness our emotions, give them space as we move to a vantage point from where to scan the horizons of our inner and outer worlds. We may experience containment and openness while also being held safely within. When we can expand and hold ourselves through this process, we are more likely to progress in a good way.

In the larger picture, this may also be experienced as individuation. Coming into one’s own. This is the birth of what some forms of healing call the Big Self.

(Thrilled to be breaking in a new deck that was an early birthday gift from my mother, and getting back to enjoying my balcony that I tended to and brought back to life over the last four days.)

One year ago: Despair
Two years ago: Chance encounters
Three years ago: A life of stranger things
Five years ago: Busy bee day

Taking root again

Finally, after procrastinating over it since January, after looking at my dust, barren, forlorn balcony for three months, I got down to it. I sorted out the handful of neglected, nearly-dead plants in my balcony.

I have had this chore — “Sort plants!!!” — on my to do list since the beginning of February. Sorting involved weeding out some plants that I could not recucitate that were in desperate need of being put down, making space for some new potting mix, splitting and transplanting some overcrowded pots, repotting some long overdue pots, reorganising the space in the balcony and lugging all 50+ pots over from my folks’ to ours.

Again, it’s just timing. I’ve been busy, and then lazy, and then it got so hot so fast, just something or the other has been occupying my time, and I have been putting this off because it needed a good chunk of at least a couple of hours on hand and I just didn’t seem to want to do it without.

Eventually, despite all my attempts to plan at this, it happened in the most unplanned way. On a whim, thanks to a burst of inspiration that struck at 6pm yesterday, I dragged out this big long trough-pot that doubles up as my mixing station, and I got to work. Of course I didn’t finish in one go, but I got a lot done. Continued this morning — wondering why I didn’t think to just do it over a couple of days, a couple of sessions, instead of waiting for the opportune (and elusive) window of 2+ free hours.

It felt SO damned good to mix earth and water, to have dirt beneath my fingernails, to get down on my haunches and to plant. I called it a whim, but I remembered again that this is no mere whim. I turn to the earth at very specific times. And I know what this is about. It’s a sign of life. Of the end of a hiatus. Of grounding. Of growing. Of coming back alive, yet again.

One year ago: Feel good? Or feel really fucking shitty first?
Two years ago: Going the distance
Three years ago: March

Endless summer days

The days are getting so oppressively long. No sign of dusk until nealy 7pm. And the the blue gloom lingers around painfully. The end-of-day heat collectively rising, clinging on to the horizon.

Summer.

(If only the mangoes would gethere sooner.)

One year ago: At home
Two years ago: Blank
Five years ago: Fullness

Tarot: Love and forgiveness

Lovers showed up again!

Normally, I’d draw another card if I pick a repeat, but lately I’ve been having A LOT of conversations in sessions, with clients as well as in my own life with close friends, around love, pain, hurt, forgiveness and making space for evolution in relationships. So I’m running with this today.

When was the last time a current relationship dynamic brought to the surface an old hurt that you may have buried away? Old hurts can arise not just in past significant relationships, but also friendships, our relationships with our parents, early childhood experiences with one or both of them, possible trauma in connecting with family early on in life.

Sometimes forgiveness is about healing that old hurt/s. It is about building the self-awareness to notice the stories you may be building and running off with, that are coming from an older experience of pain or hurt. Forgiveness is letting yourself hurt and grieve the old, so you can heal it and separate the two — the past and the present.

Forgiveness is understanding that you can heal the past in order to reduce the stress it causes in the present.

Forgiveness:

  • is to heal yourself
  • helps loosen the grip an old hurt has over you
  • doesn’t always mean reconciliation
  • can happen over a distance, without a single conversation with the other
  • can help establish new, healthy boundaries you need

Forgiveness takes time. And most of all, you deserve to give yourself forgiveness too.

One year ago: Transience
Three years ago: Slow change may pull us apart
Five years ago: Procrastination

A new kind of alive

The interesting thing with difficulty and pain is it is so much easier to acknowledge it once it has passed. When in the throes of it, I’m often so focused (even if in a quiet, non-active way) on letting it pass that I may or may not acknowledge it out loud. This is perhaps changing ever so slightly. But even so, once the pain has passed, the hardness has lifted, it becomes easier to see it, talk about it, acknowledge how present it was. How hard things really were.

I’ve been in that headspace looking back at last year. Especially the months between March and October. Even as I was living life, thriving in so many ways, I was also in the darkest darkness I have been. Internally, spiritually. In retrospect, as I’ve said before, it was possibly the most spiritually rich and “productive” time in my adult life. In restrospect, though. Now, I can look back and feel chuffed at the progression, but back then it often felt like having my teeth extracted in slow motion. Like constantly walking in the dark. Like just havin no idea at all if and when the light would come.

But it did. The light showed up. It always does. When things began to shift in about November. Slowly at first, and then with a steadily building gallop. By January, I felt like a new person living a new life all over again. Even though virtually nothing about my life, on paper, had changed. It was entirely internal. Like shedding everything for a brand new world.

So bright, full and positive has it been in fact, that it was only when N reminded me at therapy last month, how very dark and bleak the days were and how challenging, roundabout and clutching-at-straws my sessions were, that I remembered that it was true.

I’ve been thinking about this since. How the lifting of pain, in this way that it does at the end of a cycle, with a heave and a ho, actually made so much room in my life.

It wasn;t literal room of course. Like I said, my life remained unchanged on paper. But this is probably what we call “expand” in therapy speak. An internal sense of opening, unfolding, stretch, limitlessness. And externally, it does manifest as a vastness, tinged with a sparkly newness that’s hard to really put words to.

The other interesting thing about it was how long this “transition” lasted. I put it in quotes because I imagine dtransitions to be long, but even my idea of this frame of time is short and brisk, compared to what these soul shifts are like in real life. And the shift is almost always preceded by immense pain.

I realise now much of the inexplicable, intangible, wordless pain that I experienced was from being slowly broken open. Like a slow hatch from the darkness and warmth of an egg where I’ve cowered and grown silently for years now.

That state of hibernation has made me go within, withdraw from my surroundings, from people around me, from friends, from groups I belonged to, from my work as I knew it, from habits, from routines and rituals, and it quite literally put me in a self-protective space. Almost as if in preparation for the tender, vulnerability that would inevitably come from it. I have longed for this coming out, but it was just not time. Until about December, when I began to feel the natural, organic shift away from the inwardness. For the first time in years it wasn’t taking effort, coaxing, willing of energy. And in the weeks and months since, I have reveled in watching the shell fall to the side.

I feel so alive. Eager. Burning with desires to move, to do so many things, to open myself up, to experience. And I am so very eager to see what becomes of this vast, wild, open unknown.

One year ago: Monday Tarot Message: Tend to your masculine side
Three years ago: Please press pause and try again
Five years ago: Seeing the sunrise

Monday Tarot Message: Be the custodian of your emotional self

I have always seen the King of Cups as a custodian of the emotional self. The one that has mastery (not to be mistaken with control) over all that they feel, to be able to sit with their emotions as they are, without judgement, to just make space for the expression needed at the time, for all emotions to come and go naturally.

Traditionally, water symbolizes all things emotion. And so the King, holding a cup in his hand, sitting amidst a choppy sea, looking out, unperturbed, represents the ability to allow emotions to surface as they need to. Even in turbulent or challenging times. Because that is the only thing to do with emotions. Let them be felt, so they can pass.

Our training in the world around us may be to deny the true state of our emotions, to feel them privately or not at all, to “control” them by pushing them back within, to overpower them in this way, to favour positive emotions over harder ones, to genderize them, label them, reject them. The King of Cups is a nudge in a different direction: to do whatever it takes to be custodians of our emotional selves. To let emotions arise, not so you can learn from them, work on them, fix them. But just so they can flow. This is probably one of the nicest forms of self-compassion and self-care.

If “eat your veggies” is what we tell ourselves to feel physically healthy, “feel your feelings” is what we should tell ourselves to feel emotionally healthy.

One year ago: Are you tired of me talking about grief, yet?
Two years ago: Looking within
Three years ago: Trust me on the sunscreen
Five years ago: Letting it go

Moving through

Thoughts about continued injustice, unfairness, inequity, divisiveness, endless suffering across the board really gets to me from time to time. Some days I come up for a breath of air, and manage to stay afloat, aware and happy for many weeks. But there are phases where I’m just cowering under the effects of all this Bad News.

I’ve had to eke out space and time for feeling hopeful, to nurture a sense of optimism even when it’s all but missing. Those parts exist in all of us. Parts that can trust, without reason. Parts that can find joy in the midst of sorrow. Parts that can hope, stay alive and focused on optimism. Strangely, contrary to what I believed, these parts showed up not from trying to “stay positive” but by allowing myself to feel broken, hurt, hopeless and touched, and a bit altered by the pain.

I have a strange feeling a time of intense suffering may be the pathway to worlds where there is softness, more listening, and where gentle togetherness and kindness can lead the way. But we may just have to sit with the pain for a while longer before we move through to another world.

If the neighbourhood, the country, continent, the world at large are all macrocosms of each of us as individual units, then surely they do are made up of all the parts. The good and the bad. The glorious and the grotesque. The rich and the meagre. And if understanding myself, really knowing who I am authentically has meant including my rage, my fury, my ignorance and my shadow into the fold, then surely the monstrous proportion of evil that the world is displaying at large needs to be seen, sat with and honoured, so we can heal and find our higher selves as a collective too?

I don’t know. These are just thoughts I’m having on a random Friday afternoon, with a brain addled by muscle relaxant.

A question I ask myself almost on the daily: What do I need, to stay grounded in hope even as I feel pain and suffering all around me?

Some days I have the answer, everything fits in and I am at peace. Many other days the answer eludes me, guilt and rage bubble to the top, and I have no choice but to sit with it.

One year ago: Pictures for words
Two years ago: Finding flow again
Three years ago: This is the story of my body

Moved

I am so easily moved to tears lately. It’s not a new, being moved. But allowing the emotion to flow without stifling it is certainly very new.

Things that have brought me to tears in the last few weeks:

  • The finishing moments on some days of Caroline Girvan’s Epic I. She is a warrior, so inspiring and such a healthy approach to strength over slimness and I delight in how I am slowly being able to do things I always pushed aside for not wanting to struggle.
  • So many, many moments on the new season of Drive to Survive
  • Ronnie and Barty’s channel, with the overwhelming views of snow capped mountains, high altitude sunlight and tall coniferous trees, just make me watch with tears streaming. You can sample the most recent one here, the most of which I watched through a teary gaze.
  • Some weeks ago I went to a play, for the first time in over a year of course. Socially distanced, and all. The hall was barley full, and it was a poignant,  but funny play. Dark comedy, if you will. But even before it began, when the lights went down and the spotlight on the opening scene came on, I welled up into an overwhelming river of tears that would just not stop. I realised it was just the visceral experience of being in a public space and enjoying something in the company of other bodies that did it. I have never been so grateful for my mask, which did a fantastic job of hiding half my face and soaking up snot.
  • Yesterday I went to an art show at CKP. And again, I got goose bumps walking through the gallery and felt very touched to be consuming art in a public space again. I have missed this so much. Now all I need is a night of dancing, or a live gig. When I think about it, I feel a bodily craving for it. This was the last memorable one.

One year ago: The birds
Two years ago: Mostly nothing
Five years ago: Pieces of peace