Monday Tarot Message: On self-compassion

As a culture that places such a huge premium on happiness as a goal, we often forget how important it is to experience pain, distress, things not working out, feeling like we’re falling apart, the discomfort of tedium and monotony, disappointment, rage and grief, amongst many other discomfiting circumstances and emotions, in order to grow and evolve as people.

We talk about self-compassion a lot, but we save it only for the parts of ourselves and our lives that are happy, healthy and easy to access; while looking with judgement at our pain and difficulty. Healing often hurts like hell, before it begins to change your life in ways that feel good. But in holding all that is painful is the opportunity to reflect on what you want to change in order to evolve. This sometimes looks like a “breakdown”, like you are falling apart. But without it, there is little opportunity for growth. By placing a negative value or label to this part of the process, we disconnect from true self-compassion.

Self-compassion isn’t about brushing all that’s difficult or challenging under the carpet and moving quickly on to the happy stuff. It is about finding ways to hold yourself kindly and fully, even through what is difficult. Accepting your sheer humanness — messy, flawed, awkward, frail, difficult — as complementary to all that is wonderful and easy for you to acknowledge.

Learning to hold feelings that scare you is a powerful act in developing love and care for yourself. Dropping labels around what’s difficult takes practice.
It’s a stepping stone to building inner safety that will matter when the going is tough, or you misstep. It’s will help you see yourself wholly, love yourself unconditionally, so you can show up authentically, anyway, no matter the circumstances or perceptions of others.

The Star reminds me of self-compassion, and how it involves giving yourself permission to feel terrible sometimes, to sit with the unhappiness, to fall apart, to face failure, shame or grief — and to learn to do it without judgement. It is necessary, to build a safe internal container that can hold you as you shift your internal landscape, release and rearrange your world within, let go of the old and make way for the new — all very important steps in becoming more authentically you.

One year ago: Awaaz do
Two years ago: Full moon magic
Three years ago: Gravity is working against me
Five years ago: Love

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This past week

I’m hanging out with my extended family this week. And it’s been an interesting study in how love doesnt always have to hurt.

I am giving myself 100% credtcredit for shifting whatever it was that needed to shift within me, to feel this way. To be able to see my family for who they are — with their individual idisyncrasies, our collective dysfunction — and receive all the love they have to give, to bask in it, to enjoy it.

It is in seeing and accepting all of the above in myself, in seeing me as imperfectly human, that I am able to see and accept the same in people around me. This has made an astounding difference to how I can relate to my family, and in finding ease, comfort and love without a struggle.

One year ago: As within, so without
Two years ago: Little pieces of magic
Three years ago: Pretty lights
Four years ago: Because I want to remember
Five years ago: Saaru-anna

I am small

I have been so, so, so lucky to have so much opportunity for safe retreat while much of the world is still indoors, and our country is outdoors, but dangerously so. An oddly soothing message that I have been getting over and over these past two months (not surprisingly) always while being amidst nature:

I am small. The world is big.

It has been humbling, fulfilling and very, very comforting to thaw out and find my own place, shape and size in the world, in this gentle way. And in doing that, to acknowledge the place of the larger natural world I inhabit.

I cherish the pockets of quiet and nourishment that I’ve had in the latter part of 2020, going into 2021. I’m so grateful for how much I am able to be in the natural world. And I am so amazed at how much that regulates and brings in to balance everything within me.

One year ago: Fitness in 2020
Two years ago: An inalienable joy of meeting grief
Five years ago: Bengloor-life banter

Happy with me

It occured to me yesterday, while I was working out in the morning that I am happy with who I am. That an essential part of how I see and love myself has shifted. There is so much fluidity and agency in choosing to, or not to do, what I want for my body, as far as fitness and exercise goes.

I don’t feel the need to do something to my body to feel accomplished or as a reason to feel happy with who I am. My body, my eating habits, my resolve has fluctuated so much in just this past year that it has loosened something up inside me.

I am interested now in taking care of myself. In focusing on what makes me feel healthy and good in any given phase, and looking at it more wholeheartedly. I’ve learned that fitness and health is important, but it’s only a very minor part of the overall whole that is my self. So while I’ll make it to my morning class every day, it’s also important to enjoy that piece of cake with a friend. Delay dinner if it means spending time without someone who uplifts me. Skip a workout if it means listening to my body when it asks for rest. Sleep in when I need to.

I didnt realise it before, but it is in what has changed now, that I realise what I have moved from — I have never known what it is to not be afraid fo food. Until now.

To eat food fearlessly, is a gift. It’s hard to feel love myself and my life when my tummy isn’t full, or happy or I’m physically tired. And so I want to love myself as I am, wherever I am, more often than not. Without wanting that smaller butt, flatter tummy, ideal weight, etc etc.

I think I have finally found reasons outside of my body to feel proud and happy with my fitness and where I am physically.

One year ago: On being
Four years ago: 2017 book beginnings
Five years ago: Perspective

Doséy

VC and I ventured into CTR today. It was our first CTR dosa since March 2020. And certainly our first in the last six weeks of being away.

We sat side by side, as opposed to across from each other, because of the plastic partitions that now separate oppsite sides of every table.

Socially-distanced CTR felt absurd and amusing. I chuckled through most of it, devoured more dosa than I usually do, in the bargain. Follower by a coffee, also something I havent done in a long time.

N, PK and I have a Whatsapp group called “Doséy” on which we literally only exchange pictures when we’re eating beautiful dosas. There is little to no other discussion that happens on there, unless it’s about dosas. This momentuous occasion of returning bravely to CTR deserved sharing. So I sent them a picture, and got into a discussion about said dosa and our willpower in staying away for 10 months.

All in all, I was so overwhelmed from the experience, and the deliciousness of the dosa and the need to share it all immediately, that I did not mindfully, quietly eat the dosa. I did not savour every bite slowly like I could have.

I guess I’ll just have to go back.

Two years ago: Learning to let go
Three years ago: Sorry seems to be the hardest word
Four years ago: Work, but also life
Five years ago: Hope

Monday Tarot Message: Come home to yourself

The journey of “coming into one’s own” is one of self-discovery, of seeing aknd knowing oneself authentically, the triumphant experience of receiving how it is to see ourselves, and be seen, for who we truly are. It reminds me of what Toko-pa Turner says in her book, Belonging:

Where you ache to be recognised, allow yourself to be seen.

This homecoming is a process of learning to see ourselves first. What we accept and learn to love in ourselves, we can then allow to be seen by the world. One does not simply arrive here, without doing the work of peeling back the layers that cover our authentic selves, innermost desires and potential. It requires uncovering growth by getting to the depths of all that holds us back, whether past hurt, trauma, wounds that need healing, self-limiting beliefs or simply a belief in lack. It inevitably requires us to move in ways that we are not comfortable with, and we can only find newness by moving towards the edge of that discomfort.

 

Venturing into this unknown involves a simultaneous discovery of desire within, and inner strength to follow through. Undoubtedly, you’ll find fear, grief, insecurity waiting for you there. But this gradual process of meeting all that you have hitherto protected yourself from, kept hidden, helps loosen the grip, acknowledge and see yourself in your wholeness.

Knowing yourself is no different to exercise. When we place incremental strain, stretch and wear and tear on our bodies/muscles, we encourage them to grow. Similarly, your personhood finds opportunity to grow through experiences outside the comfort zone. Through confronting your fears gradually, you also find the capacity to meet them. It’s a practice that is best done slowly, one day at a time, and even better under the careful guidance of an experienced professional who not only knows the ways of how to stretch and grow, but can hold your hand and take you through it.

Let’s be honest, these challenges may be daunting. To tread unexplored waters that have always been scary. It reminds us of all that we could lose, so we choose to stay and remain unchanged. But there is a price in staying, as much as there is in moving. And sometimes that price is the opportunity to come home to yourself.

One year ago: Things that have punched me right in the gut
Two years ago: Old selves
Three years ago: Afterglow
Five years ago: End of day

Fin

Thank you for the sea. The sun and sand. For sudsegad and the daily siesta. For the sunsets. The daily brush with shells, saltwater and seabreeze. For the fish thalis. For tisriyo, veliyo, lepo and chorice. For the beef. For the chocolate cake, serrsdura and caramel custard. For gelato. For friends who never forget. For friends like family. For the beach stays. For beach days. For the drives. For the 2000+ kms done in just six weeks. For the ease and acceptance. For the best time with S. For all the good work vibes and the tsunami of sessions. For the comfortable routine. For the drinks and the doobs. For the humidity and good skin days. For the heat and the powercuts that made me miss Bangalore. For such great shorts weather, my jeans lay untouched. For sweaty workouts. For meeting new people. For making new friends. For comfort in those that have altered. For acceptance with those that I left and hurt over for too long. For the happy happy days that outnumbered all others. For the flat days that gave pause. For the solitude and solo exploring. For all the catch ups I managed. For all the new places I ate at. For letting go old discomforts that have been heavy. For lightness and ease. For everything that’s changed that I worried wouldn’t be the same. For how okay it feels. For how okay I feel. For the quiet end of the year. And quiet beginning of a new one. For a home away from home. Forever home. For always.

One year ago: On anger
Two years ago: New light
Three years ago: Blockrockin’ beats (Wayanad 2017)
Five years ago: Come undone

 

This here, is my body

2017 marked a significant shift in my relationship with my body, with the idea of fitness, nourishment and body image. I believed then that I was already in a “good” place because I had been over the slimness versus fitness, strong over slim hill already. And I had chosen strength already. I was squatting more than my bodyweight. I was kickboxing in a class with the local goon, often sparring with him and giving him a run for his money. Either that or he was letting me win. I was visibly muscular, and I liked it. I’d never denied my body anything food-wise, until then and I wondered what restrictive healthy eating might do for me. So I gave it a shot with a 6 weekow carb high protein shred which took me to a body weight and size like never before. I would say it altered my frame altogether. I was at my energetic best, working out hard six days a week and feeling fabulous. But it was simply not sustainable. I also got into an obsessive loop of trying to stay the same, which, to be honest, is an impossible ask.

It’s been up and down since then, slowly arriving at a place of balance. Letting completely go for an entire year, growing physically as much as I did emotionally, to returning to an intuitive and self-led approach to what made sense for me, then. Finding, from all my years of experiments with workouts, what makes me happy and understanding my relationship with tedium and routine. And finding my unique niche, that place of comfort with allowing myself to go with the changes as they come — whether that’s cravings and desire to eat what I want or the ups and downs in my energy on any given day.

2020 however was a whole new world. The forces healthy eating during lockdown, challenges of working out indoors and then swapping it up so much post lockdown, returning to R’s class — my body has shredded and grown many times over in just one year. And somehow I’ve found a new level of acceptance with my body through it all.

This is your body, your greatest gift, pregnant with wisdom you do not hear, grief you thought was forgotten, and joy you have never known.

— Marion Woodman

2020 was also the year where the physical aspect of my body became prominent in my emotions al journey. As my work (for myself as well as my work with clients) grew more somatic, I’ve become aware of the role of my body as a vessel and what it holds. And so my relationship with that body has changed yet again. It has been less about doing, and more about being, and allowing all kinds of being — active to rest, high energy to restorative and slow — and treating myself with fondness and interest.

Suddenly now, I see a malleable, gentle being that needs attention and kindliness, no matter what mode of exercise I choose, where I once saw a hard, unchanging body that needed to be fixed, through restriction and punishment.

I feel like my body looks different from what it did even just one year ago, somehow. It certainly feels different, in a very private sort of way. Like an inner knowing, and not so much what’s visible to the world outside.

More gifts received from the year that took so much:

  1. Rediscovering running
  2. Maximizing the 5×5 space in my living room for seven months
  3. Finding yin
  4. Fondness for myself and my body
  5. A flexible daily practice
  6. Softness. Rest. Listening with ease
  7. Returning to the best coach I’ve ever had
  8. Enjoying my body, enjoying moving any way I like, dancing
  9. Learning that I love my body and I love food, and that one need not cancel the other
  10. Feeling really frigging well, inside and out

One year ago: Of a new beginning
Two years ago: Breathing space
Five years ago: People puzzles

That’s how I built my heart’s palaces

In the way that flowers bloom in the desert
That’s how I built my heart’s palaces.

The idea of “heart’s palaces” — entire, vast, palatial, seemingly endless palaces ensconsed in the boundaried space that is my heart, really spoke to me.

The idea of building these figurative palaces, akin to the audacious way in which flowers dare to bloom, fighting all odds and nay-sayers, in the drought of the desert — even more.

Lines from my one of only three (boohoo) favourites in this year’s season of Coke Studio.

One year ago: On emptiness
Four years ago: Two new pieces
Five years ago: Lessons in letting go

Old-new Instagram vibes

At the start of the year, I resurrected my old Instagram account from yonks ago, after a three years hiatus (during which I really looked down upon and curled my nose up at the idea of Instagram itself).

I’d say I’ve come full circle. And with good reason — the stuff I’ve saved for my written journal hahaha. I was spurred by the sense of having turning yet another corner, enjoying this new feeling of wholeness and being present in my being in this point in time, palpably shedding the need to hide parts of myself that I have so far, and wanting to just separate my work and life/word sharing a bit.

And so I’m back. But I wanted it to be new. So I archived the entirety of my old feed, and what an exercise it was. Scrolling back over 2k pictures, all the way back to 2012, when I first got on the platform.

It was like turning the pages of a life of an entirely different person. Fascinating and wonderous, the things I have done, the thoughts I have had, the stuff I have shared. It brought back vivid memories of events and experiences, many that are slowly receding and could have done with a jog back of this kind.

There were so many good memories! So many, many good times. Because let’s face it, I only shared the good times hahahaha.

In the past I found all the lightheartedness and play that I have longed for in the last few years of my life. And I felt a kindred spirit for the person I am today, once again sparking this facet of myself.

But it was painful seeing many of the pictures because it brought back equally vivid memories of experiences, events, holidays, meals, and so much more, shared with people no longer in my life. It felt like brief frames with a limited shelf life, snapshots of a time when I was blissfully unaware of who I was and who these poeople would eventually be to me. I truly believed — and this was so apparent in my words — that they were my people. It hurt to once again recollect how wrong I was. And how easily and badly I wanted to believe that.

I took some really really shit pictures. Both in terms of the complete lack of aesthetics, but also in terms of what was being photographed. AND WHY???

For many years in the beginning, I took some really shit pictures. Aesthetically terrible, but also shit in terms of content. Pictures that really needed no sharing. Pictures that possibly didn’t ever need to be taken. Reams of pictures that I looked at and went “why?

Later, especially in the last two years before I quit, when I started to really get into the aesthetic of picture taking/memory making itself, I took some really good pictures. Content-wise, still questionable, but at least they were beautiful pictures to see.

I consistently and continually wrote some seeeriously dorky captions. I probably thought I was really funny (and maybe some of it was, at the time), but from where I am today, I had an ache in my heart thinking of the person I was. There was a serious amount of posturing, and trying hard to be the person I was on Instagram I think what began as an accidental projection, continued into a moulding a convenient facade, and an active effort to maintain that image. Cool, casual, non-chalant. No matter that the reality of my life, especially the last 2-3 years before I left, was rife with upheaval that was far from cool, casual and non-chalant.

I felt a bit gob-smacked to see this in myself. It is something I was oblivious to back then, and have only known in varying degrees over the last three years since quitting Instagram. Yet, nothing made it hit home like revisiting my feed did.

That hurt. It’s an odd feeling, this. Hurting for an old version of yourself. In a way, there is so much distance and movement ahead, it feels like a faraway ghost of myself that I actually can’t relate to anymore. There is disbelief. But there is also an inherant connection, and almost a longing to quickly go back in time and soothe myself. The knowing of all that was going on in my life then is alive. And there is familiarity mixed up even in the distance and the disonance that the passage of time   creates.

***

I also massively, and I mean massively, culled my follow and follower list. So, some other observations and thoughts I had along the way:

Those who were voyeurs then, are voyeurs even now haha. I am personally very bored with that kind of Instagram that I was into back then. Looking at the lives of people. I have gradually growing bored in that format over the years, especially peeking into the lives of strangers who remain figments pieced together from a collection of pixels and our perceptions, but it has probably peaked and turned into an abject disinterest. There are a couple of people I follow in this category now because theyre seriously compelling in some way or the other. But just following someone for pictures of their cute baby, their furniture and decor ideas, their daily lunch plate — you get the drift — it is so, so boring.

I revisiting the old follow list I had, and my god there were SO MANY in this category. And it was interesting to see how many people I saw still into it.

I did some entirely unnecesary photo challenges like that godawful “FMSdaily prompt challenge”. UFFF, why why whyyy did we do those things, and why did nobody tell us how awful our pictures were? I posted one too many terrible pictures in the effort to finish those daily challenges.

I followed some seriously problematic people. Seeeriously problematic. I guess it’s a sign of what I have learned, and how I have grown/changed in the years since. My politics and my sense of the ideas that shape my world are definitely very different, than they were back then. It made me slightly uncomfortable to see some familiar names following people I wouldn’t dream of following now. I had to bite back and reflect on my judgement here.

Some people that I followed for their cute baby, now have two. Some distant acquaintances who were single are now married and have babies. Why is everyone having babies, what’s going on, what happened in this pandemic year?

My ideas of so many things are just so different now. Fitness, food, art, aesthetics. The handles I followed then based on my interest in these things are so different form the handles I follow now. I have next to no food on my feed today, I have some fitness, but it’s of a very different kind from the handles I followed back then. There is a lot of art, comics, and illustrators, but again of a very different style and content. It was fun to see what has changed, and how much.

I obsessed over every little thing I cooked, believing it was an accomplishment. If people told me back then how stupid it was, or how unnecessary, contrived and self-obsessed it was, I wouldn’t have taken it well. I should have stuck to my food blog, where I did a half decent job of documenting the food I enjoyed and cooked. There was absolutely no need to put a really bad pictrue of every little thing I ate or cooked on my Instagram. UGH. Terrible self-obsession. I thought everything I cooked was gorgeous enough to be photographed, which is seriously a joke.

I believed I was very self-aware and honest on my social media. And maybe I was, to a large degree. But looking back, and through my feed three years on, I saw so much lies. So much conspicuous posturing of the kind I loathed seeing in others.

If there is one thing I know for sure (and I try and not articulate too many conclusive, sweeping statements of this kind these days) it is this: I am ordinary. I am small. I am not special. Just like every one else.

So it was such a cringe fest seeing some of the posts, especially those on days that were truly miserable, or when something really forgettable happened, but I chose to post something entirely different to distract from it and to lure myself into the belief that there was something inherently special about me and my life.

What a ride.

Two years ago: Solo Saturday night
Three years ago: Obscured by clouds (Coonoor, 2017)
Four years ago: Inconsequential posts you really don’t need to read
Five years ago: R&R

Monday Tarot Message: On balance

About two years ago, deep in my efforts to “find balance,” I realised there was nothing balanced about my pursuit, since I was chasing a very fixed (also borrowed/aspirational) idea of what “balance” is, and I punished myself for every inconsistency. How could I possibly find balance without a balanced approach to begin with? (LOLZ)

Temperance calls to the fore a soft, intuitive balance. This is a card that I believe is an apt summation of the entire tarot deck itself in which we see the emotional (cups), material (pentacles), spiritual (wands), intellectual (swords) worlds within us always in flow, intermingling and inter-twining. Life feels balanced when we can move with, rather than against, the influences and interplay between them. The deck essentially provides visuals for when the various aspects of our being may feel off kilter — indicating which aspect we need to see/hear/pay attention to/care for — in order to bring ourselves back to balance.

Perhaps balance then, is about understanding that “being balanced” itself looks different for different people, rather than aspiring to a fixed one-size-fits-all notion of it. It is about noticing that when one aspect feels “off-balance” it’s likely that something within is asking for attention and care. Tending to it will involve listening, rather than admonishing it for its needs.

A balanced approach to self-awareness requires understanding the interplay between the various parts that make us whole. There will be times where the emotional will be louder/more demanding than the physical, or the spiritual may appear at loggerheads with the cognitive. Maybe leaning hevaily into the physical is your modus operandi, and there comes a point in life where the emotional or spiritual will rear it’s head asking to be noticed. Working with this interplay will mean looking at each aspect in context to the others, as it may be coming up for you.

This ebb and flow is natural and human. Knowing this is step 1. We can then get good at recognising when one of the aspects are in flux, and what they’re asking for. This is self-awareness, and it enables us to respond appropriately. Flowing in tune with our inner-needs that are ever-changing (and demanding!) as opposed to having external goals that are mostly fixed. We can allow ourselves variance and opportunities to grow by listening keenly, being in tune with each of our aspects and understanding what drives us. And we’re more likely to find balance, in this way.

One year ago: Full moon, moon shine
Two years ago: Deep-dive
Three years ago: I have my books and my poetry to protect me
Four years ago: Happier: perpetual WIP 
Five years ago: This and that

On magic

It’s not Monday, but I had some thoughts on Magic. So here goes.

Making Magic usually takes some work in terms of aligning desires with actions that can take us towards fulfilling them.

But there are many times that life offers up Magic without any effort or doing on our part. Think the sweet spots that shine amidst the rhythm of mundane life. Surprises that hum through the low hum of daily existence. Unexpected gifts that were waiting to be revealed, that were chanced upon seemingly in the middle of nowhere. When we weren’t looking. Happy coincidences, chance twists in the tale, unexpected good times that somehow make our day, week, month or year.

It’s okay, good even, to take these moments of magic for what they are. With arms outstretched, to receive it in full, even when it feels unwarranted or like we did nothing to deserve it. From a source beyond our making or doing.

The end of 2020 has been nothing short of magical for me. And I’ve been trying to take it for what it is — pure goodness — without wondering if it will last, how long I’ll be before the next slump, if I’m worth it etc, and all the other thoughts I usually have that totally kill the magic.

If you need a sign, take this today. Magic received and passed on, just as is. No reasons given, no hustle needed.

One year ago: On listening
Two years ago: Changing seasons, changing reasons
Three years ago: I’m just too good at goodbyes
Five years ago: On waiting

Ghosts of people past

Still have Joan Didion’s words thrumming through my body and brain, a whole day later, in the form of questions I have arrived at and asked myself many, many times before.

What happens to the people we used to be, past versions of ourselves, as we gently tend to growing some parts, letting others go?

Sometimes I’ve had answers. Sometimes I’ve only felt like I have come close to having some semblance of an answer, letting myself kiss the edges of knowing, but settling fully into the un-knowing. Dipping myself into the masochistic discomfort of it.

But, most times the answer has been a statement — I wonder.

Or some variation of it.

One year ago: Clear
Two years ago: I am the universe
Five years ago: Shiny new guiding lights

Who dat?

Deep feels, deep resonance and deep, deep punch to the gut reading Joan Didion today.

I have already lost touch with a couple of people I used to be…

— Joan Didion

One year ago: Sundry work updates
Five years ago: Sometimes I draw

Endless beach days

We took ourselves to the beach on the 31st to catch the sunset. And somehow, without plan, found ourselves back at the beach on the 1st too. Then on the 2nd, we celebrated D’s birthday by spending the day on a beach in the south. So now we’ve even ticked that off the box. I want to believe that starting the year with three days at the beach is a good sign. Of what, I’m not sure.

Of balance? Of grounding? Of more access to sunshine and salt water? All of the above?

One can hope.

One year ago: Recharged
Three years ago: Here I go again (on my own)
Four years ago: 2016
Five years ago: In-bloom