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

Of love and longing

Like thousands of other Indians who are horrified at the aftermath since the Delhi pogrom, I am no longer able to keep my politics under wraps. I find that it is showing up, surfacing, in my face, even without any effort. Pushing me into spaces and conversations where I have to really think about where I stand, and what I really feel. I’m trying not to be hasty about many things, to take my time to decide and make up my mind, but I find that being altogether apathetic is no longer an option.

It’s clear that what the current Government is doing in the name of making a statement that probably works as a (severely myopic) political tactic has done some severe damage to the minds of people. Much of this is going to be hard, if not impossible, to rebuild.

This has come up especially loud and clear, in my work. Last weekend at the workshops, it was not a coincidence that three clients came with issues of distress around the devastation playing out in our country. I know that going forward, in an increasingly polarised world with multiple forces trying so hard to divide us in as many ways as possible, people’s longing for connection and belonging is only going to be on the rise. And so, I realise my work as a practitioner and facilitator of family constellations feels relevant and has suddenly taken on a new avatar.

The connection between the personal and the political has never been greater for me than since studying family constellations. Belonging is such a fundamental theme in the work, and I have written about it so very often, here too. I’ve seen time and time again how the transgenerational trauma and effects of world events like the Partition, World Wars, mass migrations, being prisoners of war, and the like, experienced by older generations impact the current generations ability and need for Belonging, Love, Flow and Life. And how the effects of it show in surprising and often unbelievable ways.

Watching current events pan out, I am frankly petrified of the nation we are becoming. In full view of the world that is watching. The continued blame shifting around the violence in Delhi, the complete lack of accountability, the violent amounts of straightfaced lies, the atmosphere of uncertainty and the abject lack of empathy as we have all just slipped back to assumed normalcy as thousands in Delhi are still missing, possibly dead, entire neighbourhoods burned to the ground, with virtually no questions asked, IS TERRIFYING.

I know this is going to show up in my work time and time again. The need to hold these polarities, to make a case for peace, love and hope, against all odds, even as we acknowledge and call out the effects of these atrocities. It’s a tough job. And it’s easy for me to slip into an abyss of gloom sitting in my home endlessly scrolling and consuming the news.

But because Belonging is such a huge theme not just in my study, but now in my life too, recent events have had me wondering a lot about it.

  • Who decides who belongs?
  • How do you belong once you have lost everything?
  • What is the place of love in the world today?
  • What is connection in the world today?

I live for pockets of solace and moments of hope when I get them and yesterday, it came in the form of Sindhustan. An exquisitely made labour of love. I went to catch Sapna Bhavnani’s epic film Sindhustan, but reached the venue early and slipped into a talk that was already running. It was titled “The Politics of Citizenship” and it was about a newly launched book The Deoliwallahs, about the true story of the internment of Indian Chinese in the 1960s. Co-author Dileep Dsouza was present, while Joy Ma spiritedly joined on Skype. Somehow the boundarylessness of the setting itself was so fitting. The conversation shone a light on an issue I was entirely unaware of and even though I had to duck out in time to catch the film, the experience was everything.

Sindhustan, on the other hand, had me in tears from the get go. I was so overwhelmed for so many reasons and I feel a serious lack of words to express what or why. So I’m not going to try, except to share some lines that have stayed with me.

No one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land.

I may finally be understanding that my inexplicable bind with Sindhis goes beyond my love for VC and Sindhi curry, because my fascination about the community, their migration and the way in which they exist as a culture today has no logical reasons.

I came away definitely looking at not just the community differently, but also feeling very differently about my family. The family I have often struggled to find my own belonging with. It is so interesting how answers to so many long-held questions can suddenly crystallise when you’re least expecting them.

When love ends, everything ends.

I have known for a while that the average South Indian like me, especially us who live in the South, are largely shielded from the true atrocity and violence of the Partition. I have in some measure tried to dig up and read about it for my own curiosity. More recently, it has come up again and again as a theme and an event in my work with family constellations, and I may have only begun to understand its consequences a little bit more. The film gave me a solid hours worth of fodder to pull away from the frankly useless maddening cacophony of news cycles and Twitter threads, offering not just hope through the stories of love, of overcoming strife, of humanity, of spirit and of belonging, but also reason to change my perspective.

I’m sitting with that for a while.

So I’m immensely grateful for the opportunity I literally chanced upon yesterday. I went off to soak in the feeling over dinner with myself after the screening, furiously jotting down notes and thoughts. And I sat quietly, with a sense that while I know what is going on right now is looking like it will be a long, brutal fight that we will undoubtedly pay for heavily, somewhere inside of me I carried a glimmer of hope. That maybe we will be okay after all.

One year ago: Baffling Benaras
Two years ago: Everyday is blue Monday

What progress looks like these days

Unsurprisingly, therapy this morning took off from the thoughts I’ve had sloshing about in my head for a few days now. I know I have turned yet another corner in my journey, and it’s come with realisation and reaffirmation of the nature and energy cycles in my process itself. I’m riding the peak right now. And so I had one of those seminal light-at-the-end-of-the-very-long-tunnel kind of sessions today. With props, pats on my back, a big, wide smile and a full, full heart. And then we traversed other things and explored a recent dream that put a completely unique spin on the milestone I’ve hit. Then it ended with a revolutionary thought (is frightfully good at offering them rarely, but when I really need them).

“Even as you celebrate the liberation from this step forward, what do you need to do to be in touch with the fear and panic you feel about stepping into the unknown?”

Yet another reminder that the two feelings can absolutely coexist — the joy and freedom of having clearly shifting an old pattern and moving forward, and the confusion and distress of suddenly having to navigate completely uncharted territory that lies just ahead.

It’s a crucial reminder for me, and I’m lucky that I get these often enough. As someone habitually looks at having things sorting, figured out, pickled and fixed as a sign of progress, and habitually thrives on making progress, it’s absolutely essential for me to understand and remind myself over and over that the process isn’t always linear, and will not always lead to a perfect ending tied up in a bow. That progress doesn’t always look like I might want it to — happy endings that feel wonderful.

Like I said yesterday, standing my ground, while liberating also comes at a high cost. Those are opposing states, they invoke opposing feelings. Liberation and panic. And so it is important for me to remember to be attentive to and tend to both ends of that emotional spectrum whenever I enter a phase like this. When I’ve turned a corner. When I’ve stepped up. When I’ve made progress. To honour my progress is also to honour that this is and will always be bloody scary and really solitary work. That there is no one without the other.

To work towards emotional strength and authenticity is to, time and time again, make room for vulnerability.

Without these timely reminders it’s very easy for me to turn my therapeutic journey into a performance sport and try and win at. coasting from one shiny milestone to the next, getting completely taken by conventional (capitalist?) markers of progress that mostly always negate the inherent difficulty of the journey itself.

This is the part of the journey that most needs self care. Delving deep in practices and ways of being that will help create a holding space (within) for it all. And that is quite an excruciating space to be. Because it means tolerating the distress. Observing it. Staying with it.

Like I told N today, since I’ve been back on Instagram and browsing through a lot of the pop-psych content that shows up on my recommendations, I don’t understand at all how self care is made to look so beautiful and almost glamorous all the time. Many, many times self care is just brutally painful. And the goal isn’t always to feel “good”, like I said yesterday.

These days progress has started to look like moving towards doing what is right, even when it’s difficult or distressing, to face the full spectrum of emotions that may surface along the way, and to stick by it anyway.

One year ago: Back to base   
Four years ago: Pretending to be brave

Standing tall

When I am relaxed. It really shows. In more ways than one.

***

Noticed an important, subtle shift in me today. It is a change in the surety and confidence I feel in taking time. In giving myself the permission to take my time. In allowing myself to remain in a space of undecidedness. For as long as I need.

This has played out across the board — in something as external as when I was asked about my opinion on a burning issue everybody has a stock response about, to something as internal as allowing myself to feel a whole gamut of things from nothing at all, to confusion, to blankness, to abject distress and vulnerability at not knowing at all where things are headed in a certain situation that’s playing out in my life. In fact, it’s now been nearly three months with said situation, and I find myself really testing the boundaries of how far I can take this not-knowing-ness. It is playing out with extreme levels of discomfort, bringing up some of the worst of my tendencies to worry, be confused and restlessness to have some indication that it will be okay.

But through all of this, I have been steadfastly reminding myself, especially when doubt raises its head, that I am not going to force myself into knowing, into taking a stand, into making a decision, unless I intuitively arrive at that space. The hope is that this will then be the decision that is most right for me. Not influenced by the “right” thing to do, not fuelled by fear, not spurred by haste, not a compromised safe choice. A choice that will come from a place of true strength. Honouring the very crux of my needs, and keeping that at the heart of it, and not choosing to do something that will “keep the peace” or just to quickly make everything alright again.

Tempting as that has been, several times over the last three months, I have often wondered just how far I will have to go with this. What the full price or consequence of this might actually be, by then. And truth be told, it is bloody scary. Because we are talking real people, real relationships at the receiving end. Not hypothetical emotionality. But I’d be lying if I didn’t also tell you that that very scary outcome also comes laced with the promise of such sweet liberation. Even here, now, I can sense a palpable freedom in honouring myself to this deep degree. It is a process I have never allowed myself.

I realise this is the duality of life. Honouring oneself deeply, always comes at a cost — either something or someone. But it also comes with a high reward. For the self. And while this can feel like a terrible choice to make, committing to being completely, authentically honest is the only way to know which way to go.

This is something that contemporary pop-psychology glosses over, papers over, so, so often. It’s so easy to make healing or self discovery a journey of pursuing feeling good all the time. Of making things right the . Of finding bliss through everything.

This is untrue. Healing involves a lot of discomfort on the road to peace. There was this line in Thappad that I watched last week. Where Amrita’s father tells her that many times in life walking the path of truth, standing by your authentic self, doing what’s right by you, does not feel good.The line hit me like a pin through my heart. It touched me so deeply, because it is exactly the situation I am living through. The pain and the discomfort, and the joy and liberation of standing by myself in a way that really, only I can.

It is as frightening as it is liberating, in the sheer solitary-ness of it. And that is precisely what makes it so worth it.

One year ago: Mornings in Benaras
Four years ago: No. Just No.