At home

In today’s edition of excessive-but-necessary domesticity, we made a batch of homemade paneer by curdling 2 litres of milk. Because while milk has been in abundant (daily) supply where I live, paneer and cheese has not.

Yesterday, it was a whole wheat plum galette. Yeah, apparently I’m that person now. Because we had plums (only fruit available on the clean shelves in the supermarket) that tasted like nothing really and I didn’t want to bin them. This, in addition to house cleaning chores, unending dishes (because we are a house of three foodies who are taking our meals very seriously even in isolation), laundry (what with working out everyday) and cleaning the bathrooms, the actual cooking itself and what not.

So it’s no wonder that this week, I haven’t had it all chill and easy like the last few weeks. Suddenly I’m wondering where is that free time and hashtag-slowlife everyone has been talking about. It’s also mega amusing how I do the most basic, essential-for-life things that I otherwise outsource blindly for a few days and I cannot resist the urge to max it out and I do somewhere feel like I deserve a prize for it. It’s messed up, no?

I mean, this is life. This is normal. I’m not doing anything out of the ordinary — okay if you discount the baking and the extraaaa domesticity — it’s just cooking, cleaning, and focusing on being healthy and responsible, during this time. What’s the big deal, man? It kind of made me wonder how distant I am from these very normal functions of life, and it’s something I’m going to try and correct even after things normalise, to the extent possible.

Slowly beginning to see that not everything from my “normal”, old life may be worth returning to once things go back.

***

We had a beautiful, mellow, cotton candy sunset yesterday. And I rearranged my pots in the morning. The most unexpected plants are thriving — and I think it’s the clean air.

I’m not bored being home as yet, seeing as how I have had a lot going on. And even before that, the silence and stillness has been good. But today I said to VC and Niyu, I do want an Andhra meal. Or a coffee at Third Wave. Or a good wood fired pizza. Mostly, going out is about the food for me, I realise. Everything else I need is right here with me. Immense gratitude for that, given how impossibly devastating this has been for so many others. I struggle to make sense of the dissonance of it all. And I find no answers.

One year ago: Blank
Four years ago: Fullness

 

Transience

Been thinking about transience a lot lately, as so many everyday things that I take for granted are no longer within my reach and so many more are gradually slipping away. I carry this constant feeling that none of this is a temporary blip, and that none of it isn’t all going to miraculously swing back to “normal” the way it used to be, once this is over.

Something much bigger has been affected, uprooted. And the way forward, if we know what’s good for us, will be nothing like we have known it to be thus far.

I feel hyper-aware of systems crumbling. Of all the many big and small dysfunctions and gaping holes we have enabled. How perverse the inequities that we have created actually are, and how long we have just gone with it, turning away, snug in our comfortable positions of privilege we have occupied of no effort of our own.

I don’t know how we’ll un-see any of this. I know we shouldn’t. Because more than anything this experience has me seeing how transient everything is. How impermanent even the most solid things that we thought unchangeable actually are. How just because systems have existed in a certain way for centuries, doesn’t mean they work or that they don’t stand to be questioned. Or that they won’t crumble, entirely out of our control. How even the most powerful nations are rendered useless in the face of collapse of this nature.

Mostly, I feel if we don’t do the timely course correction, nature does. And by nature I just don’t mean the environment. I mean the nature of systems that always seek balance. They will swoop in, inevitably, bringing back order again. and it might not always be the order we want or would like.

Unlike the comforting, expected bursting forth of spring, that always signals change and temporariness, life and death to me, I realise that sometimes lessons in transience are violent and challenging. Not at all comforting, not at all expected, not what we are equipped to handle. Forcing us to think on our feet, challenge all that we have come to believe as absolute and unchanging.

It becomes easier to see the need for change, and to embrace it even when it comes this unexpectedly, if we have cultivated mental flexibility. To be fixed and cocksure about a way of being, even in the face of such inequity, is no longer an option. The only way we’ll be se to find new methods, is to remove ourselves from the fixed outcomes we covet and hold true, and embrace the new gifts that this churn has to offer. As individuals, as well as communities.

I don’t know that anything is ever going to be the same. And I wonder if we have it in us to really understand what this Transience means and is asking of us.

Two years ago: Slow change may pull us apart
Four years ago: Procrastination 

Monday Tarot Message: Tend to your masculine side

Apologies! I do my best to try and get this up in the morning, so it serves as guidance for the day, and sometimes the week ahead too. But it isn’t always possible. Today we ventured out early with our masks on, to try and scope some supplies. It’s not that things aren’t available but supplies are definitely lean where I live. It took a lot of waiting in queues in multiple stores, and then purchasing stuff from a couple of local kirana stores and a push cart, before I got home. And then the day got ahead of me. Ah well!

Here’s the message, though. And even though it is a message for the day, I feel like it is relevant for this time in general.

***

The consciousness comprises a feminine and a masculine pole — whether you are man or woman — bringing together the opposites to coexist in harmony. The Emperor represents the masculine, the does, the analyser, the go-getter, the controller, the ringleader, the taskmaster. And we all have a side of ourselves that is like this. It is highly active in some, moderately so in some others and probably nascent in many. This is also probably the side that is feeling challenged by the current dip in productivity and capacity to do, given this lockdown situation.

While your feminine side (again, in differing proportion for different people) maybe enjoying this time for rest, renewal, slowness and tenderness, The Emperor asks us to also make contact with the masculine. If you otherwise seek control and clarity in knowing at all times, how are you feeling with this uncertainty? Are you taking care of that side that is probably feeling neglected, unsettled, frustrated?

Use this time to connect with your masculine side. If it has been a challenge to slow down and stay indoors, soothe it, let yourself know that it is okay to soften up and learn to trust the universal balance of things. It’s okay to learn the necessity of rest and renewal as much as you have, the need for perseverance and doing. Sometimes even by force.

The Patriarchy, with its unnatural and unnecessary leaning towards all things male, creates this imbalance in the masculine. Whether male or female, the strong emergence and reliance on the masculine means we are all that much more mistrustful, value control and don’t believe in rest. In our effort to combat/balance that in our external worlds, we may sometimes devalue the need for rest, or even neglect the masculine aspect within ourselves. This card is a reminder that both aspects have a place and when in balance, are immensely useful to us — man or woman.

It’s hard not to look at life like it constantly needs solving — projects, productivity, compulsively helping people, moving from one thing to do to the next with efficiency — in this masculine-leaning world that values doing over just being. It’s hard to make room for slow tenderness, even if that is your inherent pace. This is also a byproduct of the patriarchy — this perverse pursuit of doing and domination.

Take this time to soothe your masculine side that may be struggling to relinquish control. Help heal it so you can move closer to the feminine within you, to integrate, rather than exist as opposing poles. Because both parts exist, both parts are valid, both are useful and have a place in your consciousness.

***

Even though I have been taking it easy, slow and really relishing this time where the world seems to suddenly be moving at my pace, this message, rather a reminder, to rest keeps coming up for me. I am taking this as permission, that it’s okay to slow down even more. I know that my personality needs it. So if that is the case for you, maybe just take this as permission to do and be just the way you are during this seriously surreal time.

One year ago: Looking within
Two years ago: Please press pause and try again
Four years ago: Seeing the sun rise

Are you tired of me talking about grief, yet?

Because here is yet another post about grief.

Right. So, I’m having a hard time with what’s going on. I just needed to say it.

It has felt doubly hard because I feel stupid about even thinking and saying this to myself. While most people began to take this seriously only two days ago, we have been largely indoors and not socialising since March 14th. And we have been fine, which in a perverse way, makes it doubly hard to accept that even with everything being okay, I am having a world of emotions swell up inside of me, and that it has been challenging to hold.

I have a roof over my head, a fridge full of food and enough stocked up to last me weeks. The luxury of staying at home and so many ways to keep myself engaged and happy. My very first world issues include wondering about when I will get this a very overdue haircut, and when can I go out to the park for a run. While millions have been rendered homeless and jobless overnight, and are having to walk back to their villages many, many miles away. While J and S tell me stories of how their work and teams in Europe are slowly imploding, and how some of them are having to justify their teams existence from one week to the next. What business do I have to say I am sometimes emotionally overwhelmed?

Except, I am. And the additional guilt isn’t helping. But hiding the truth isn’t making it go away either.

I’ve felt uninvited anger. Inexplicable sadness. Confusion. Exasperation. Downright rage and fury. Helplessness and hopelessness. Grief, anguish and deep sadness. Fear. And sometimes just blankness from it all. I have felt all these things in the past 2 weeks, sometimes too much for my heart-with-limited-capacity to hold.

Even words, my usual go to, have evaded me. And I have pushed the edge to which I can go without trying to make sense of what’s going on and what I am feeling in response. I may not have always been very successful with that.

Then, yesterday I read this HBR article that demystifies this “discomfort” as Grief. I realised this is what I have been feeling, through therapy yesterday. There’s a bit in the piece about the power of naming the feeling really struck home. Because I realised that the moments of upliftment these two weeks have been the moments where I have shared and stated what I am feeling.

At a time when words have been few and difficult to find for me, having S text “how are you today?” literally every morning, and getting on a video-call with her every other day to simply say what has not been easy, and what has, has helped. We invariably end up having a giggle fit. And that really helps!

In addition to frequent group video calls — a thing I have avoided like the plague until now — J, S and I have a continuous stream of sharing images of what we’re cooking and eating. This is literally the only whatsapp group I am active on, save the other one with my folks and sister. Talking to them is always equal parts keeping it real and making a big fat joke of everything. I have a bunch of images where we’re chuckling, and a couple where J gave us a guided tour of his plant family, complete with telling us their names. So there are colourful plants in the window where his face should be, and there’s S and I laughing our heads off in the other. Clearly we’re discussing the gravity of the situation, and our collective sads, in the picture below.

In all this, I’m so glad I’m not alone in my isolation. I have my sister and VC with me, and we spend a fair bit of time sharing the little things that are scary, annoying and confusing about these times. Minus the guilt. Plus we have been doing things together — cooking, exercising, eating, painting — that certainly help.

It helped to just say it as it is — I’m sad, angry, exasperated, confused, uncertain, while also feeling fiiiine — in all the different ways possible, for a full hour of therapy yesterday. We skyped and talked so little. Again, virtual therapy sessions are a luxury I have enjoyed all through last year when I spent extended periods of time in Goa. That is the extent to which my life, on paper, hasn’t changed.

And even then, this is me saying it: Ive struggled from time to time these past two weeks. If you have, have you tried naming it? It certainly helps emotions lose the grip that they sometimes have over us, holding us down.

There is something powerful about naming this as grief. It helps us feel what’s inside of us. When you name it, you feel it and it moves through you. Emotions need motion. It’s important we acknowledge what we go through. One unfortunate byproduct of the self-help movement is we’re the first generation to have feelings about our feelings. We tell ourselves things like, I feel sad, but I shouldn’t feel that; other people have it worse. We can — we should — stop at the first feeling.”

I guess what I’m saying is these are uncertain times for all of us, and if you’ve been feeling weird, overwhelmed, confused, foggy — it’s probably grief. We’re all experiencing this in our own ways.

Even when our lives are intact and largely unchanged. It might seem illogical to feel grief for something that hasn’t really touched you. But here’s where I differ from the BHR piece. Which there may be grief for the prevailing circumstances, I think what we’re all feeling is also the grief of uncertainty. The grief of many fundamental pillars of ur existence being challenged. Knowing that certain critical things are crumbling and making way for a new era that we know nothing of. There is grief in that letting go, fear in not knowing.

The guilt of having certain privileges may be keeping you from admitting to what you’re feeling, making you teeter around the edge of this discomfort for days on end. It might help to open the door, jump in, right into the depths of whatever you’re feeling. State it, name it, call it out, share it if you can and if you have the luxury.

One year ago: This new abyss
Two years ago: I get the strangest feeling you belong
Four years ago: Fam-jam

Making meaning

It’s not that I have been busy. I’m just as occupied as one can be in a situation like this. But I realised this morning in therapy, that I am sad. I am grieving. Many things. And as I processed some of it, I realised this is also why I have also been at a loss for words.

In all of this, I have been feeling a lack of space for expression of what I am feeling. I have been feeling alone, worried, anxious, confused, uncertain. And I have had very few places (nearly not enough) where I can express that. Words have not felt like they’re enough. And formulating them has been difficult. So much so that I haven’t tried very much. Couple that with wanting distance from the news and not turning on my laptop means there have been no posts. My head has felt blank a lot this week.

Even so, outwardly, my life goes on. I have been alright. Life has been going on okay as it does even when there is no full blown pandemic in the air. Up and down. Good days, okay days, not so good days. The way it rolls even otherwise.

So yesterday, as I struggled to find the words, we explored art instead in my therapy session. I scribbled in silence, crying some, on a Skype call. Quietly, but strangely mindfully. Not knowing at all what I was doing with the crayons on the paper. Not making meaning. Not even remotely trying.

I often mistake words as my only form of expression. And by extension, I see my need to make meaning in my expression, in everything I do. My deep need to understand and have certainty is fully exemplified in writing. Words are certain. They have form. They hold shape. They say very specific things. They make articulation possible. They communicate. They make me feel like I have control.

Whereas what is going on around us right now is from a different realm altogether. No certainty. No form. No pattern. No plan. No shape or size. No articulation.

NO CONTROL.

And it is this that I have been confronting everyday, at a very subtle level. So subtle that I had no idea until I had been through an hour plus of therapy where I — you guessed it — made meaning of it.

So post therapy, I sat with my sister and put paint to paper for about four hours. This is no big deal for my sister who spends hours very quietly, never needing words, not wanting to expend any energy in words, simply making her art. So her presence and company helped. There was music, there was me occasionally breaking the silence to chatter as I always do. There was chai, and there was banana bread. And I painted.

I have no idea what I made. I didn’t start with a plan, I didn’t set out with a picture in mind. I just went with it. I still don’t know what I’ve made. It holds no meaning.

But it was therapeutic. I might have to include this in my regular activities now.

One year ago: A good day to give thanks
Two years ago: Love dares you to change our way of caring about ourselves

Pictures for words

Until the words return, I might have to make do with pictures.

And something I made today.

One year ago: Finding flow again
Two years ago: Just go ahead, let your hair down

The birds

I know it’s been two days since I’ve posted. But I haven’t turned my laptop on in two days. Partly because I’ve been otherwise engaged. And partly because I have been trying to avoid the internet to feel better.

Quick post off my phone to say I haven’t heard the birds so resounding clearly in my neighbourhood since the 90s. These are such strange times.

More soon.

One year ago: Mostly nothing
Four years ago: Piece of peace

Lockdown things/thoughts/shenanigans

It’s been over a week of mostly staying in, except for the odd grocery run. In truth, and as I’ve said before, my life hasn’t changed or been disrupted at all, but I have been thinking (and feeling) a lot about what this is potentially doing for us as a community. That has caused a fair bit of mental disruption. I am feeling many feelings, to the point of wishing I could turn the feelings off.

There was a spot of joy right at the start of the week. This flower bloomed seemingly out of nowhere. After a full year of having this plant and not knowing what colour the flower would eventually be!

Some lockdown thoughts:

  • One thing’s for sure — I’ve really had to re-examine control, in every single aspect of my life. To relinquish the idea that I am in control. Or that we are as a people and a race. Control in every aspect — internal, external, outwardly exerted, self imposed, has been challenged these past few days. And with it I’ve had plenty thoughts about nature vs nurture. About doing vs being. About capitalism and what is the way forward. About finding new ways to exist and operate. About society and the place for empathy. About truth, and our inability to see it, and how far we will go to hide from it.

    About how we’ll go from here on. What is “normal”? Will we have to find a new normal? And what will we differently? And through it all there is also a voice in the back of my head, a constant low hum, telling me that it’s okay NOT TO KNOW. To take it one day, heck, one hour at a time, to trust that the new will emerge. Most times that is a process of unfurling, not a mere switched turning on on a new day and time. And we have so little control over any of it.

  • I’ve been super grateful for this mostly stay-at-home life that I’ve had for oh so many years now. This staying in has made me realise how good I have it and how much I take this existence for granted. So many people are struggling with being home, being around their families, not being able to run away from so much that we do on a daily basis. I’m mostly okay. I am not bored. I have gotten used to long periods of solitude that often feel like isolation. I am okay with the boredom if it comes. I also have had experience in not filling every free moment with some activity. In letting stillness come when it does, and enjoying it even. I have given stillness, solitude and staying-in a place in my life already, so this doesn’t really feel out of the ordinary. But I certainly do take it for granted, and don’t realise that this isn’t “normal” for so many people. I am glad I have learnt to love my own company, so this period isn’t feeling out of the ordinary or particularly testing.

  • It’s been equal parts overwhelming to see the outpouring of kindness online and around me, and disheartening to see how some very fundamental and core essence of our humanity has been slowly numbed. For every piece of ghastly news (much of it hidden away from mainstream media) I’ve seen instances of surprising compassion. For every display  of unbelievable selfishness that has come up, I have been humbled by several acts of unbelievable goodness. I feel overwhelmed to think that the two polarities co-exist, and in such close proximity sometimes.

    I know for sure that the way we go from here depends a lot on how quickly we understand that this is not just about our safety as individuals. Now and going forward. I hope it’s making us think beyond the pandemic and notice how much of our lives, our ways of existence, the systems we have come to accept unquestioningly have become insular, small, narrow, divisive and completely without heart. That, fundamentally, is being challenged, I think. And that, fundamentally, will have to go through a massive re-haul if we are to collectively overcome and heal from this experience.

  • Aside from that I’ve also wondered why we aren’t taught to cut our own hair and wax our own legs like we are taught to cook and clean toilets. Because by the end of this I’m going to be long-haired — in EVERY department. I was about two weeks overdue for a haircut even before we went into lockdown. My hairdresser was already stuck in Manipur back then, and now it looks like it’s easily going to be a month before I can even try and venture out. I am anyway quite lax about waxing my legs, so I’m not even equipped with backups like a razor — boohoo — but summer is here, and that kind of changes everything.
  • How much more extra can I be in the kitchen, I wonder. I have made a big, I mean BIG, batch of granola. I have baked a wholesome buckwheat flour chocolate cake, with icing. I made two batches of banana bread — one for me and one for my help’s kids since they’re all stuck at home too. And this morning I did the unthinkable. I churned about a month and a half’s worth of milk cream that I’d collected in the freezer. It’s a task I never do, because my help otherwise gets it done when I’m not looking. I wasn’t even sure if I could do it. But with text instructions from amma, I managed! And I churned a massive lump of butter that was made into a batch of ghee. And the buttermilk will either be lightly spiced and consumed, or turned into kadhi. Fully extra, no?

Four years ago: Fitter and stronger than before

Monday Tarot Message: On shame, hiding and relationships

Who are you when nobody is looking? What parts of yourself do you shy away from revealing even to your closest people? What are the casual white lies you tell to keep what’s hidden intact? Observe that today.

The need to lie about who we are comes from underlying shame, and shame, lying and hiding almost always comes from not being fully at peace with those aspects of and in ourselves. As long as they remain hidden, our work towards meeting our authentic selves remains incomplete. Because what we keep from the world, we also keep away from ourselves. Bridging that gap requires compassion so we may meet all that’s unpalatable, undesirable and sometimes downright loathsome, within us.

The thing is, each and every one of us comes with some inherent shame or self-loathing. Healing this requires compassion. Not to justify or allow continual inauthenticity, but to trust that what’s “shameful” needs acceptance, even integration, in order to ge healed. So we don’t have to be fragmented anymore.

The Seven of Swords asks to also look at your closest relationships. Who you are encouraged to be stealthy, cautious or surreptitious around? Who triggers your shame, making you most want to present a more “palatable” version of yourself?

We all have someone like this even in our closest circles. Sometimes it is our partners, our closest friends, or even our parents — with whom we may very well have great relationships. What version of yourself do you present to your closest people?

This happens because the ego is steadfastly committed to saying “yes” to relationships that help keep what you find shameful hidden. But this also means saying “yes” to avoiding the work of healing shame and meeting yourself wholly. And worse, it means saying “no” to your authentic self.

Most often, those of us with a history of deep shame are attracted to lovers and friends who appear to accept us completely, but around whom we unconscioulsy have to shrink, downplay, downsize ourselves. Think about that person/s in your life today. Look out for the ways in which you are stealthy around them. Choose well.

One year ago: Love filled
Two years ago: Everything is going to the beat
Four years ago: Flight

Life these days

In truth, my everyday life isn’t altered very much by social distancing. I do stay home for much of the time. And since VC moved back here, he does too — working out of his home office in our second bedroom. Life has fallen into a neat little rhythm. There is routine and I know it keeps me grounded to have this baseline of some method to the day. Even when I allow myself the odd day of freewheeling out-of-schedule meandering, and do wild things like or sleep in till noon and order-in a burger for lunch, I know that days like that are the exception not the norm. I take solace in some routine, and I have finally, after an entire lifetime of being a slave to routine, learned to acknowledge it’s place and purpose in my life, and make it fluid so I can move, rather than rigid so I feel caught.

Anyhow though, I’ve noticed that when things are spiralling around me, I take extra pleasure in taking my time to do the little things. Like making my bed every morning. This morning, as I folded up our blanket, stacked the pillows, stretched out and de-wrinkled the sheets, I realised I have really grown to like being at home again. Full circle.

The simplicity of this life suits me a lot. And I felt glad we have a life that hasn’t faced much disruption, where work can and has continued for the both of us, where the comforts of home with home cooked food are easily had. It makes a huge difference.

So, I’m listing down the simplest pleasures in my daily routine that I have enjoyed these past few weeks (and months) of uncertain and trying times, when what has been happening in the world has had an impact on me and my mind, and the one thing that has kept me sane has been my routine and the comfort of my home.

  1. A full nights restful sleep, waking up, turning off the alarm and going back to sleep
  2. A good home workout or a run in the park
  3. Slow, mindfully cooked lunch, most every single day
  4. Eating lunch at the dining table with VC, sharing that window of time together before we go back to our respective work/activities
  5. Sometimes catching a nap
  6. Being actively involved in doing the laundry, folding it when it’s dried and putting things away
  7. Thinking about what to make for dinner
  8. Making, or should out to VC to make us our evening tea or coffee
  9. Enjoying it in bed with a snack plate of sponge cake and sweet rusk (this has become something of a ritual in recent weeks, since we have found the ultimate source for both)
  10. Sitting in my living room at sunset, looking out the windows at my plants and beyond, it’s become my little window of absolute nothingness, where I do nothing, no phone, no laptop, no book
  11. Smelling the rain as it has threatened to come, watching glimmers of lightning in broad daylight
  12. Taking client readings and sessions (online and off), different times of day, it’s been an unexpectedly satisfying thrill
  13. Cooking up imagined recipes that have formulated from nowhere in my brain, and having them turn out well
  14. Eating fruit in bed before turning in
  15. Lying on my massage ball
  16. Regaining my lost sleep again

I have certainly been cooking with a lot more involvement than I usually do. And I have taken way more interest in home chores that I otherwise find quite tedious and just like ugh-this-needs-to-get-done. I suppose this is is the difference between staying in and having to stay in with nowhere to go, maybe? Because I know I have been doing all of this with a quiet, but furious energy like my life depends on it.

Maybe, deep down, it does.

One year ago: It’s been a long time coming   
Two years ago: Let’s talk about love   
Four years ago: On un-learning and relearning order

Uncertain

Balance has felt just within reach and like it slips away ever so quickly even when I touch it. And yet, I know it is what is being called for, the most. I find myself swinging between feeling calm and settled feelings that say This is a major blip, but you’re privileged, your life hasn’t changed even slightly in all this uncertainty, you will get through this, we will be okay, to suddenly, the very next instant feeling like Nothing is okay, and I get the strangest feeling that it may never be okay again.

Then I segue off into a mind-tunnel wondering What even is okay, in these times anyway?

I keep thinking this is a great time to do so many of those things I have been wanting to but never find the right time to begin. ALL those unfinished books from the last two years. That tarot course I want to do-over. The writing project that is sitting at the back of my mind. Listening to the endless list of podcasts I have bookmarked. Catching up on all the TV I can’t keep up with.

That would be very productive use of this time, I think.

And yet, there is an inertia to begin. What if it isn’t about productivity at all? It has felt like inertia for days, but today I wondered if it is just necessary pause. Pause to see what this uncertainty is actually making me feel. Can I stay with it for just a minute, an hour, a day, maybe? Before I fill the “empty” time with the next act of doing.

S said to me this morning, something deeper is at play, echoing what I have been feeling. I’m noticing how quickly and easily the airline industry and food and beverage industry seems to be down on their knees. I’m watching how rich, comfortably privileged people are panicking so easily.  And I’m sure this is just the beginning, the tip of the iceberg with very much worse to come.

The excesses aren’t just in our consumption and our external lives. There are excesses in the way we use our energy too. And I have felt the dissonance of this for a while now, as my own internal pace has been slowing down to a point where I wonder (and worry) how I will continue to be in a world that’s on the run all the time. The very forces of capitalism that have encouraged us to keep doing, more and more, hustle harder, ear more, buy more, just don’t sit still are so very vulnerable. And clearly crumbling today.

So I can’t help but feel it’s not time to fill this emptiness with more mindless doing. It’s okay to take a moment, to see what’s emerging and move accordingly. By all means read that book, watch that TV show, but let it be a touch mindful. At least that’s what I am trying to do.

Mostly to just sit with the uncertainty, and to accept that I know nothing about how to go on from here and to feel the fullness of that not knowing. To realise how little control I have. And to let the blankness of this time sweep over me.

I’ve felt out of sorts a lot this week. And every time that I have paused to ask myself what it is I’m actually feeling, the answer has been: Uncertain.

One year ago: Things that are shiny and new   
Two years ago: People say I should forget

On balance

Last week, back in the classroom before things got disrupted by escalations due to the coronavirus, it wasn’t surprising that so many of us brought up Balance. In context to things feeling very out of balance around the world lately. Between the political shitstorm in India to what is playing out in the USA as well as globally, the ecological extremes and now the virus, everything seems a bit off kilter, no? One of my classmates didn’t even make it in for class because she comes in from Dubai and the travel ban was enforced a couple of days before class was scheduled.

Balance (like Belonging, that I also talk about a lot) is another fundamental principle of family constellations therapy. Bringing back balance in systems (usually families), restoring individual members to their rightful place, size and helping them understand their place as not just as individuals (in that singular fashion) but as symbiotic beings belonging within the interconnected framework of a larger natural system (or family) is a significant part of the work we do. This is a big part of the therapeutic work in viewing our individual realities, understanding context, making perspective shifts and releasing energy that is blocked when we are otherwise in a position where none of the above is possible.

It involves learning to pull back and view systems and how they operate, what impact it has on individuals and most times the thing that we’re viewing under the microscope suddenly takes on a new look.

One of the key principles in understanding Balance is that the system always works to restore balance. To bring back that which is off-balance. And in doing this, it may sometimes sacrifice some other elements. And so, I can’t lie, I’m fascinated at how looking at things through this lens, the systemic lens as we call it, is making me view the pandemic: as an instance of the system taking charge to restoring balance (as systems as naturally programmed to) that we haven’t been able to do ourselves.

And as we also see in family constellations every movement in the process of bringing back balance, comes with a serious amount of churn, a lot of unsettlement and what presents as destruction with far reaching consequences, before things can settle again.

The scale of these “consequences” in the case of the virus has been mind-boggling. I’m marvelling at how equally helpless we are in the face of this mysterious thing we know so little about. Except that it’s deadly, airborne and spreading uncontrollably. I’m fascinated how nobody is above this. No race, no country or border, certainly no religion or economic group. None of the divisions we have created to pit ourselves against others matters.

The pandemic is testing each of our personalities. Bringing out our collective compassion and monstrosity alike, surfacing parts of us that are deep-seated and rooted. Something deeper is at place, affecting change from within, showing up who we really are and what we have become as people. As a planet.

Notice how we’re facing shortages — in food, in resources, a foreboding sense of shortage of time, a palpable shortage in patience, an inability to deal with our fears and panic. It’s quite something. Mostly, a sign that things are not balanced within.

Restoring balance requires bringing back a deliberate consciousness towards natural rhythms, cycles, checks and balances. Our own, within us as well as around us. This forced slow-down, stay-home situations feels significant of that restoration. A time to do nothing, with no plan and little control.

How easy or hard has this been for you? What feelings have surfaced? It would be telling (and useful) to check in with yourself.

Restoring balance also means returning to our original size and place in the universe. Knowing there are forces that are and should be larger than us, literally and metaphorically. That we are not omnipotent and indestructible. Because far too many of our choices these days make it seem like we are.

This has been a sordid reminder of how frail and vulnerable we really are, and a jolt to step back from the plunder and destruction we have made a normal way of existence. It’s time to check our excesses, at every level, from the personal to the global. It’s time to return to some state of compassionate, synergistic, balanced way of living.

As a civilisation we have been through churn like this many times before, showing us how far off we have veered from the natural order. How cluelessly we believe we are the bosses of nature. How many horrific gaps we have created and how many of those we continue to ignore and resist fixing. How overly disconnected we have become from ourselves and the planet that has obliged us this chance at civilisation.

If this situation has thrown your emotions off balance or brought up difficult things to deal with, that is probably exactly what you need to reconnect with, witness and bring back into balance. And I believe it’s what this time is doing for us — bringing us back in touch with ourselves, one way or another, at whatever level we are willing to receive it.

We talk so much about “slowing down” and “solitude” and “self care” but very rarely do anything significant about it. There never seems to be enough time, and always far too many distractions. And yet, here it is, the perfect time. With nowhere to go, nothing to do.

If nothing else, it’ll be immensely useful in steeling yourself for future eruptions like this, because Gos knows this is just the beginning.

It’s a process. Connecting with yourself. Restoring balance within yourself. And you can start now. This is nature giving you a chance.

One year ago: Out there
Four years ago: Abandon

Eerie days

After three days of being home, I stepped out for a run this morning. It’s not like my life has changed a lot since this directive to stay indoors and avoid public places and people was enforced on Friday. I mostly operate from home, my work happens online, a lot. So I can’t complain. But still, I felt so good to be out today. What I didn’t expect was the summer vacation mela that the park was. I guess kids at home ahead of vacation time means parents are finding ways to keep them entertained and outings at the park are one way. It was more crowded there than it usually is on a Sunday, which was kind of shocking.

The darshinis mostly looked packed today. I stopped by at the supermarket to stock up and it was buzzing like business as usual. The streets are mildly quieter and smoother because of less office going traffic and zero school traffic. But I hear folks are eating and drinking out as usual. It’s all a bit confusing.

It feels like surreal times. On the one hand this post-apocalyptic doom lingering over us, with the virus and the absolute mayhem it’s causing across the board, and on the other hand this absolute disregard for the seriousness of this situation. I’m not sure which side to belong to and how much I should worry.

Meanwhile S tells me it feels like war time in France. And J said Germany is beginning to feel eerie. Closer home I have a friend staying with me who is worried she might not make it back home to Canada in time before they shut their borders. Somehow this wasn’t a situation I thought I’d ever witness in my lifetime.

The scale and expansiveness of a mere virus, it feels pretty incredible. It’s bringing the whole world to a place of slowing down, staying in, being with themselves. And we’re seeing a surge in polarities of compassion and cruelty in ourselves as humans. I’m kind of fascinated, I can’t lie. It feels like a global turning point of sorts.

Anyhow. Wherever you are I hope you’re washing your hands frequently and not touching your face. And as far as possible, just stay the fuck home.

One year ago: Happy spots   
Two years ago: Flowers in the window   
Four years ago: Moved to tears

Monday Tarot Message: Find your tribe

That familiar grief of lost friendship that keeps rearing its head time and time again, is never without reason. I am going through yet another cycle of re-looking at myself, observing what has changed in this brief period, and along with it re-looking at what that has changed in my relationships. It also means observing the subtlest shifts in how I am with people, and how people are being with and around me. It’s making me once again re-look at who I want to belong to and how. This happens every time I reach a point of levelling up. I realise it is actually an upward spiral that brings me to the same emotions again and again (that’s why the recurring grief), albeit a little deeper. Lightness follows grief, brightness follows darkness, connection and solitude dance together, belonging and loneliness walk side by side.

So I have been going through a strange sort of pulling back that feels quite unlike me, and yet I am allowing myself to go with it. It’s almost like I am testing what happens when I pull back and really let go. What changes in people around me, who stays, who reaches out, who understands. It has been utterly fascinating. It has been a period of loneliness, and frankly, some anger too. This time around, though, there is renewed clarity about what I want for myself in terms of people and relationships, and what kind of presence (or the lack of it) just won’t do anymore.

So this seemed like a super interesting card to have popped up right after feeling this way for a while now. A reminder that just as relationships endure when individuals are committed to developing a healthy sense of who they are, individuals can truly grow when they’re surrounded by others who support that.

But this can be difficult for many of us. Especially, if we didn’t grow up with adults who valued or encouraged a sense of self in us. In many cultures this is avoided as encouraging over-confidence, self-obsession or selfishness. Without these early lessons, we may go through adulthood lost and trying to discover ourselves, wondering what we are outside of all the roles we play.

Inculcating wholeness, or a sense of self involves exploring making and respecting boundaries, getting in tune with personal desires, discovering the ability to hold space for ourselves, being in touch with our needs so we can go after them in an authentic manner.

While some part of this work is solitary, much of it requires the company of a chosen tribe.Relationships act as mirrors for our projections, where suppressed needs find expression in mysterious ways. Observing how you are around people, and how they are around you can be a very loaded way to get cues and insights into what you need to work on yourself.

So it is useful to identify a tribe. Who gets to be in your circle and walk with you as you tend to your inner self? Are they committed to their own growth? What happens to you when you are with them? Choose who you show your vulnerabilities to, with care. But perhaps that’s the stuff of another post.

In learning to relate to others, we understand our preferences, we see who vibes-in and who vibes-out. It is a key part in finding belonging, and in finding our true place in the world at large. It helps iron out the chinks, confront our shadow selves, and deepen what we want to make of ourselves. To believe this work can be done entirely in isolation is delusion.

The Three of Cups asks us to embrace the role of people around us on this journey. Friends, parents, families, significant others — whether or not there are difficulties in these relationships, they are good spaces to find portals into healing the inner self and learning in adulthood who you really are.

***

This is your timely reminder that if you’d like a personal Tarot Session to explore yourself and get more insights like this, you can reach out to me to make a booking. I offer these sessions in person, in Bangalore, as well as telephonically for anybody anywhere in the world.

Also, pssst: if you’ve already worked with me and are considering a second session, there’s a discount of 10% waiting for you. Only until the end of this month.

One year ago: The last of the despatches from Benaras   
Two years ago: But if you try sometime, you’ll get what you need   
Three years ago: What I’ve been reading   
Four years ago: Telepathy

In my head and in my heart

I’m am back to the classroom this morning. I’ve missed the learning space but I’ve also missed the cradle, the nest that the space has been in teaching me how to fly. And so it was good to head back there today.

I felt the need for some guidance today so I picked a card this morning before I set out. And it was not only apt for a day of re-entering an academic space but also for something I have been working thru in doing my work out in the world.

Questions I have asked myself: What would it be like to find a place where I can think *and* feel? How can I talk about this work without mystifying it but also not losing the essence to jargon and academia?

Today’s card made me instantly see something that I have known but perhaps been unable to articulate. The value the modern world attaches to the singular pursuit of intellectual/academic knowledge that is verifiable, over building intuitive knowing, that is not, is worth questioning.

It is inviting me to surrender in a new way. This is something I contend with a lot in my work with clients which requires me to use practices founded in psychology and therapy, while also building my own intuition, and encouraging my clients to as well.

Perhaps the answer isn’t so much in pitting one over the other, but understanding that they each have their place and are valuable for different things. An understanding that sometimes a gentle combination of the two is required.

Much of my own healing journey has been the deliberate return from doing/thinking to just feeling. And as a product of the world that routinely lulls us into doing, not feeling, it has been a tough but essential hurdle to scale.

In Somatic therapeutic practices, the accent is clearly on feeling. Our bodies are the vehicle/container for sensations that carry clues about our emotions. It is important to rebuild that connection with the body, in an environment that is always asking us to exit the body and rely on our minds alone.

Exiting the body and only relying on the mind amounts to a form of dissociation. And while dissociation may be a legitimate coping mechanism, unpacking or reversing it to help manage illness and some forms of psychopathology, requires returning to the body.

The more we let go of ways to access the knowing held in our bodies, the more polarised, rigid and unchanging our perspectives become. And what we reject in our outer worlds, we also reject within ourselves. The more comfortable we get with exiting our bodies and bypassing all that we reject, the more fragmented and disconnected we feel.

The softness and fluidity of intuition can keep our inner world from turning polarised. This also means we’ll be better able to witness parts of ourselves that would otherwise turn unacceptable, unpalatable, and best avoided. Integrating unpalatable aspects and experiences is a very useful way to work through a backlog of unfelt/unprocessed emotional material.

There are several practices today that are grounded in the soma, in accessing somatic and intuitive material, in going beyond the limits of the cognitive to delve into the unconscious. Because there is so much more, in places our minds will never go to.

Today is a good day to honour both sides — the cognitive/intellectual/academic, and the intuitive/energetic. And to see where in your life you need to bring back balance between the two.

Through the day, learning new things — broadening some, deepening some — I realised that this is true for my work as much as it is for my personal journey. This finding a balance in my reliance on both.

One year ago: The food, the food
Two years ago: We form our own boundaries