Look up

For a lifetime hinged so hard on figuring things out, sorting, fixing, being on top of it all, and investing so many hours of my life towards this, it took an oddball of a year like this one to discover the unparalleled power of not knowing. Today I looked up momentarily, while walking back home, and I realised it absolutely couldn’t have been any other way.

Monday Tarot Message: On Progress and Failure

Getting past a setback looks different, and asks for different things of every one of us. I watched a video by my absolute favourite @nathanieldrew_ today that offered a refreshingly simple way of looking at “failure”.

Whether it’s a minor transgression or what you might deem a serious failure, there are two parts to it — 1) the event in and of itself, 2) the psychological additions (feelings) that we pack on as a result of the event. Like, self-doubt, regret, shame, guilt, fear, sadness, and so much more.

It is well worth learning to separate the two. We can do the work to get comfortable with and make space for feelings that come up, and learn to accept our humanness. Knowing, understanding and getting in touch with our vulnerabilities, experiencing our limitations is an important part of understanding what progress means to us.

Focusing only on the feelings around failure on the other hand , may not be useful. Setbacks and mistakes are a part of any journey and they are sometimes the most pivotal opportunities for growth/change, simply because they bring us face to face with the vulnerabilities we otherwise keep at arm’s length. Most of these moments are not going to feel good. If we stayed with how they made us feel, and let them guide the way, we’d never get to making progress.

In order to truly absorb the learnings from the event, we have to accept the feelings as the come, and this takes time, effort and work. But it’s also crucial to understand what is then required of us to move to the next step, so the feelings don’t keep us stuck or unable to move. In order to change, to break an old pattern, to switch streams, to do something differently.

When great waves of feelings come over you at such a time, it’s useful to momentarily drop the view of the larger goal or end point. And just look at just the next step. Progress then, becomes about an immediate, smaller step, rather than an intimidating success right off the back of a misstep.

What does the next point in your journey look like?

Of people and trees

There’s a strange dichotomy that’s been brewing. An aching need to be around people again, growing alongside the deep desire to be with nature instead of people.

It feels easier somehow to sit amongst trees, than reach out to people. And even so, this past week I’ve reached out and ventured out more than I ever have this past year.

It’s always fascinating to notice. And this time around I am observing who there is ease with and why, and what my interactions with them are like.

I’ve grieved so much loss, past and current, in terms of people and relationships this year. Not just loss as in the severance and disappearance of connection, but the ways in which change and growth (from both sides) has irrevocably altered so many relationships. At times it’s been like watching it all get wrecked in slow motion and feeling the slow twisting of a knife in my gut, reminding me just how alone we all are.

And yet, every now and then, just as I have made some peace and found some comfort in the discomfort of that inalienable truth, surprises come by. Being at the receiving end of someone else’s need for connection, a chance for shared vulnerability, honest conversation, a joyful reminder for laughter and ease even through the pain.

After months of being entirely inward, pulling away from all sides and retreating into the abyss of my aloneness, I felt drawn out again this week. Chatted with S several times, and discussed fervent plans for their trip to India and Goa, drumming up much excitement. Chatted with N for over two hours, across time zones, and unexpectedly again in just a couple days, planning some new ways to collaborate and hold each other’s hands in the coming weeks. S and I went to Cubbon Park for a walk one evening, Airlines for a coffee and then hung out leisurely at home another day.

Friendship and belonging has changed so much in 2020. And I’m finding happiness in accepting that this too is okay.

Tarot: Breaking routines

It seems like a tarot week, because I’ve been waking up inspired to pull a card every morning. I do it very often. But just for myself, usually. But this week, I felt inspired to move and share. So here goes.

We cultivate routine, structure and sameness as a means to experience certainty and a sense of stability. This predictable rhythm creates safe spaces within which to live. However, the energy of life is meant to flow and inevitably, the same routines that provide support can sometimes feel limiting.

Each of us has a different degree to which we require the support of that sense of certainty. And while routine and sameness has its place, it is a good idea to build the capacity to know intuitively when to break the routine and allow life to flow. Similarly, when to bring back some containment when we need it.

Developing a personal knowing of when to move in which way does an immense lot for a sense of self, knowing one’s capacity to brave uncertainty and in the process to grow.

During challenging times, often the hardest ask of us is to change something that has come to be routine — a response, a habit, a way of being, a relationship, an action. We’re called upon to break or make (new) routines, and it is not easy to do this. We come up on a lot of resistance, doubt, fear and a hundred reasons not to change a thing.

This change is harder still in a world that rewards those who live within the externally created structures that dictate what our lives should look like, how our days should flow, what an ideal work routine is and what “good” outcomes of these are.

There is merit in finding how much of that you can and want to incorporate. And to know when you might sometimes like to break the mould for yourself.

Tarot: Meeting disappointment

Another wild card from this wild deck> Maybe the last one for this week, and a fitting add-on to the theme around embracing change that’s ongoing since the start of the week.

One of the reasons we find it easier to reject change is because it is difficult to accept the very real possibility of disappointment that any change can bring. This disappointment rests in the widening gap between what a potential future holds and the version of it we may have dreamed up in our minds.

This gap can make our desires feel like they’re too good to come true. And so we avoid moving towards change, to keep safe from that disappointment.

In truth, reality is often disappointing. Sometimes mildly, sometimes severely. To continually protect from disappointment is to sign up for a life of no movement. It could be that your imagined reality is an inaccurate version of the future waiting for you. A future you will not know unless you step forward, towards it.

Instead, ask what you need to help you feel your way through disappointment in the service of moving ahead.

Tarot: Embracing change

Busting out a Deviant Moon Tarot deck D gifted me two years ago when I was a wee little tarot newbie. It’s taken a while to get to using it because it’s so deliciously, wildly different from Rider Waite deck. But I’ve been inspired the last few weeks, and here I am. Since I have been using it in sessions in the recent past and fiddling with it in my own time, I thought it might be a good time to pick up this thread I started and immediately forgot about. Oh well.

So here’s a mid-week pull on embracing change.

It’s an aspect that shows up so, so often in many sessions. And this year, it has been a question on everybody’s mind, considering the overt and covert change that has enveloped us all: How do I move on and accept all this change?

Plus it ties in nicely with yesterday’s tarot message for the week too.

Change, whether big or small, always brings about doubt and uncertainty. Parts of us that are prone to feeling trepidation and worry might be activated at this time. Doubt about the possibility of something not working out, fear about inherent uncertainty, premature grief about the loss that will inevitably follow are natural by products of change.

This is a reminder that all of this is normal and perfectly okay. Make space for it rather than fight it. See it all rather than power through it. Ease it by asking: what do I need (and how can I get those resources in a safe way) so I don’t have to shrink away but can keep moving anyway?

Monday Tarot Message: Dealing with change and the new(normal)

“Normal, just for a bit.” How many times have you said or heard this in the past few months? It got me thinking about our fixation with normal. It stems from the human need for certainty and predictability as markers of safety. Even in the face of abject uncertainty, here we are still wanting normal.

Today’s card is an invitation to look at the new, for what it is: new. Something never been before. A chance for a departure from the norm. Even as the times continue to be dismal and hopeless, every day there are changes that present new opportunities big and small. Our fixation with a static idea of “normal” blocks that out.

Changing this requires turning within. To unmuddy our minds, understand the reasons why we cling to the old, what fears keep us from embracing the new, what stories we tell ourselves in order to stay, unmoving. In the process we may affirm our intuition and inner wisdom that has been there all along. While the world may churn every now and then, that voice can provide solidity (certainty) and calm (solace) that we look for outside of ourselves.

Self reflection and sharpening your intuition will make you aware of rigidity that could do with softening up, or fluidity that could do with some focus and channelling. It strengthens our ability to change our thinking. It offers new ways of thinking, new ways of getting comfortable with what life is offering in the now. New possibilities. New normals.

I’ve turned to Tarot more this year than ever before, looking for solace, perspective and calm. If there’s one resounding lesson I have received over and over and over, it is this: every single day of life is made up of change and flux, and what I need more than anything else is to continually get comfortable with that. I see this not only in the messages I receive, but also in studying and understanding the very structure of this deck of cards. Nothing stays, everything changes, from one card to the next. There are no guarantees, no fixed answers.

What ideas of normal are you holding out for? Is it holding you back? Reflect on what is passing you by while you wait. What do you need so you can ease up and embrace what is, instead of waiting for what you’d like it to be.

Love yourself

When they said love yourself, what did they really mean?

Did they account for the times when one feels utterly shitty, inadequate, useless and terrible?

How can I learn to love parts that I never have, parts that I didn’t even know I had boxed in, and some more parts that various people told me are simply not good enough? I’m trying everyday, as I sit with many of the terrible, dark, seemingly insurmountable facets of myself that are showing up lately.

I sit with it. Simply. And I try (and sometimes fail) to merely bear witness. To watch the comings and goings of my own feelings towards all that’s coming to the surface. It has meant accepting with grace, the contradictions that I hold, that are beginning to stare me in the face. To find gentlessness rather than judgement in viewing it. To slowly dismantle the heavy dualities I still sometimes impose on myself that are beginning to wear me down. To go easy on how I view past transgressions. To dig deep and find a capacity for softness where I have piled layer upon hard layer. But the hardest thing of them all has been to resist the urge to do a damn thing about any of this.

The only job I feel called upon at this point in my life is to embrace it all. To view it, own it, accept it as a part of who I am. To give myself the permission to be a bit more human everyday. To be real about the average, ordinary, imperfectly-perfectly person who doesn’t have it all figured out, and is still getting on okay, somehow. That has been the hardest thing of all. And I sit here, watching that too.

I call bluff on the love yourself  clarion call I felt so drawn to in my younger years. I’m switching this around now, to see yourself. It’s okay not to love it all. Because as long as the goal is love it, I’m going to be only looking for the parts that feel palatable and easy to accept. And I am hungry to learn how to be here for all of it. For all of me.

Expansion

Everything in nature invites us constantly to be what we are. We are often like rivers: careless and forceful, timid and dangerous, lucid and muddied, eddying, gleaming, still.

— Gretel Ehrlich

Through the storms of the weeks past, I have felt, noticeably, the need to again and again be in the presence of expanses bigger and larger than myself. The sea, many, many trees, amongst the fields and under an expansive sky.

The need, I think, has been to feel small and my size again because I felt very drawn out of my space, ballooning with the ongoing challenges and having them feel very, very insurmountable.

In the presence of something unmoving, larger, non-judgemental, I feel okay. I feel alright. I feel enough. And I feel alive and present again.

They call nature the ultimate witness because it stays, unchanging — the waves coming and going rhythmically, the sun setting and rising again and again, the trees going through their relentless lifecycles over and over — and un-opinionated. It speaks in silence, and reminds me often to just be, as I am. A quiet reassurance of being surrounded by and being in the presence of exactly that which is within me. Equanimity, sufficiency, calm.

It is an experience that I find hard to express in words, but is probably the closest thing to a spiritual experience I have ever had.

I don’t think I’ve ever felt this in a temple or any other religious space, but I felt it in Manali last year, in the giant wooded park we picniced in, in Paris. And I felt it again and again this time in Goa by the sea.

It induces a sense of expansion within my chest. And when I tune in and really feel it, it makes me want to sit up, puff my chest up, and feel my ribs part. Making space for that something. Expansion, I know now requires so much the ability to move beyond a dualistic bent of mind. It is such a struggle, but this is the invitation at this point in my life. To make room for a spacious, all-encompassing, gentle intuitive approach. To take my contemplations and inner knowing and allow it to flow into my life.

On the could-haves and would-haves

A constant theme in the last few years, but one that I have been reliving very intensely lately: past loss and thinking about the good old grief of all the could-haves and would-haves of my life. The seemingly eternal sadness piled upon sadness of all that I have left behind. The liberation of choosing one thing, moving ahead with a sense of purpose, enjoying and cherishing it comes with the grief of the choice unmade.

Right?

This story always brings a hint of feeling like I wasn’t fast enough, good enough, smart enough. Hazy day-dreaming of a life I could have had, if I had stuck to a particular path. Feeling FOMO when I see my friends from certain phases in life that I have moved on from.

It’s hard to remember that nothing good gets away.

If it is right, it happens—The main thing is not to hurry. Nothing good gets away.

John Steinbeck wrote this in a letter to his 14-year-old son, talking about heartbreak. While this here, is about love here, this current bout of grief has me wondering if it is worth experimenting with this with everything else that I value, want or am working towards.

How can I cultivate a deep belief in divine timing. In the fact that there is a lot to go around — a lot of love, a lot of luck, a lot of prosperity. And that the inherent timing of a happening is something to lean into.

What if I questioned the notion of “running out of time” or accepted it for simply what it is, a construct that makes the people of this planet tick in “timely” fashion so we can be productive and “useful” in only a certain way.

What if I surrendered my judgement around the words “too slow” or “too fast” and in the end allowed whatever pace I want or have, to work for me.

What if I chose to believe in the non-linear way of life working out just as it is meant to, not a moment off-key?

Then if I put my head down and do the work, maybe I’ll be more likely to align my desires with my actions and reach places I want to be? And maybe the grief that I know won’t ever abate, will be sweet and liberating rather than bitter and constricting?

Chill

Notes to myself that serve as reminders in this very strange period within this absolutely bizarre time. Reminders I still need, every so often.

  1. Take your time
  2. Find your rhythm
  3. Make space for play
  4. Get out more often
  5. B R E A T H E. And H Y D R A T E.

Most times in a crisis, until I figure out the big thing that is needed of me, it is the small thing that has taken me through from one moment to the next. Small things like taking a moment. Stepping back. Taking a long breath. Getting out if I have the space and opportunity. Drinking a tall glass of water. Lying down. Speaking softly, unhurriedly.

And yet, I forget the simplicity of it all. So very, very often.

Monday Tarot Message: Out beyond the ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing

Between watching the painfully drawn out US election with my breath held, feeling confused about how gleeful Arknob’s arrest was making me feel and generally being caught up in a whirlwind of hopelessness and hope and feeling extreme FOMO about possibly never having a fighting chance with kicking out our very own Fascist, it’s been a long and hard week of questioning ideas of good and bad, right and wrong (left?), yet again.

The unconscious holds information about how and why our rigid ideas of “good” and “bad”, “palatable” and “ugly”, “right and “wrong” came to be. When we observe our own patterns, triggers, traumas and all the cover motivations for overt actions that silently guide our behaviour, we can accept the innate humanness in ourselves. We can also then let loose the rigidity around these ideas, and see others around us, as just as human.

This is the truth about our humanness. And an important piece to understand and integrate. Because good people are capable of devastating actions. Safe people can act in unsafe ways. Trustworthy people may let you down. Proficient people also make mistakes. Well-intended love can sometimes take hurtful forms. Fair people have biases too. This is what it means to be human.

There is safety in categorising experiences and emotions into watertight opposites. Traumatic experiences make it difficult to venture into grey areas in-between. It makes it hard to accept that everyone has a rich life experience that colours the canvas of their personalities in different shades. Just like our own.

This leaves no room for humanness, causing disappointment, stress and further trauma in the long run. Looking within sets off a beautiful cycle — what we notice and acknowledge in ourselves, we notice and acknowledge in others. The more we accept our own humanness, with all the grey areas, the more we are able to see the world and how human beings tick with gentler eyes. Whether it is understanding family dynamics, relationships or global politics. I see this as a soft space where opposing emotions, opposing human beings may meet. In ideas, if not reality.

This is not to advocate a blindly neutral (or apolitical) stance, or to tolerate injustice. It is just to remember often that life exists in the spectrum between the polarities. That everyone has a story and an inner world influencing them. That while we are all drawn to fit our experiences into extremes and labels, a fuller, richer understanding of life and people is one that allows for expansion into the spectrum. Into the wild in-between. A personal reckoning with this may help us meet the world with more understanding, softness, openness and curiosity.

Gentle reminder

It’s been the kind of day that made me realise sometimes all I need is to get out without procrastinating, be with something larger outside of myself, get some fresh air, breathe, move my limbs, gab my heart out, and forget about my feelings for a while.

Sweetness

I’ve been so consumed in just the shittiness of life that has come my way, feeling utterly unmoored by it all, and also allowing myself to just float through it, resisting the urge to constantly fix, make better and optimise every moment of awkward discomfort, that I have missed acknowledging the sweetness that life has also brought my way.

How sweet it has been to be in Goa during this shitty shitty, challenging, troubling time.

How sweet to have been offered a forced break from all the things I thought I ought to be doing.

How sweet be able to to find my way to the sea, again and again and again.

How sweet it is to have space to just be. Even when I’m feeling shitty.