Life right here, right now

This morning, I caught a visual representation of how I’ve been feeling lately.

Budding, thriving, flourishing (against all odds). Rooted, but flexible. Enjoying catching the breeze, loving the sun.

Thorns and bright blooms alike. Scanty branches, with promise of new growth, bunches of blushing fully-bloomed flowers alike.

One year ago: Cancelling today
Two years ago: Notes on an island
Five years ago: Travel

Sponsored Post Learn from the experts: Create a successful blog with our brand new courseThe WordPress.com Blog

WordPress.com is excited to announce our newest offering: a course just for beginning bloggers where you’ll learn everything you need to know about blogging from the most trusted experts in the industry. We have helped millions of blogs get up and running, we know what works, and we want you to to know everything we know. This course provides all the fundamental skills and inspiration you need to get your blog started, an interactive community forum, and content updated annually.

On slow living

Life has been full lately. My days have been quite packed, I’ve been out and about, I’ve worked hard and taken time to enjoy the fruits of my work.

Externally, life has been moving fast as it usually does. It is a welcome change from the collective energy of p-a-u-s-e that 2020 was. And yet, I feel slow and measured internally. My mind isn’t struggling to “keep up” with my body or vice versa. There is an unsaid synchronisation and we’re all just keeping pace gently. Like a quiet working together. Slow, mindful, peaceful coexistence that seems to be enduring, staying, becoming a constant. This wasn’t the case before. I would find pockets of this amidst the chaos that is usual life.

This is different. This is new, again.

Inside I feel pleasantly slow. My mind staying with my body most of the time. And it occurred to me that I usually associated this “slowness” to the privilege of empty time. I waited to earn that down time. Periods of no work, autumns of rest and recovery, nights of sleep. But somehow now, there is slowness within, even in what has been some of the busiest weeks of the last two years.

Slow doesn’t mean that I am not working or otherwise engaged. It has come to mean I am moving through my (busy)days, intentionally. I’m being present, and this has become a touch easier lately. My mind stays where my body is, my body finds my mind, most times.

Slow isn’t the lack of activity. It is intentionality.
Slow isn’t emptiness. It is filling me up.
Slow isn’t a luxury or privilege. It is a hard won gift.

Even when I’m rushing around, the slowness has allowed me to find moments to appreciate where I am, the beauty around me, feel gratitude for this natural change, enjoy where my life has brought me to. Even as I navigate this godawful mess of a city. Even as I dream about taking the metro again. Even as I run from one thing to the next. Even as I dream and schedule quietly, scrub dishes, cook my meals, type away on my computer.

The slowness has given me new life.

One year ago: Monday Tarot Message: Strength
Five years ago: Let go, already

Little joys

From the last few days.

Pre-storm, billowy gusts of wind that threw all the dry leaves in the air, but cleared the view just for a bit so I spotted that audacious burst of yellow blooms down the street.

Made it to Koshy’s finally for a chill, early dinner and hot lemon tea. Got the window seat, gabbed away while it poured in dramatic fashion for a whole hour. Came home with still enough time to watch some TV and call it a day. Early.

Morning sunlight streaming through my windows (still shut), baking my legs gently orange, whilesitting in my unmade bed, taking my sweet time drinking my hot water to kick start the day.

Three years ago: All my sweat, my blood runs weak
Four years ago: Ten reasons why I love the girls I’m in long distance relationships with
Five years ago: Working better

Monday Tarot Messaage: Revisiting your past

Many of our challenges as adults — shame and guilt, disconnection and difficulty relating to others or finding a place, trouble feeling emotions as they are, anxiety and/or depression, debilitating anger/frustration — have their roots in the past. Growing up, early childhood, sometimes even prenatal experiences can cloud the lens we view the world through, as we individuate and move on to navigate our lives on our own.

The Six of Cups is about that part of the healing journey that cannot be escaped — revisiting the past. To that time of innocence where we believed, unquestioningly, that our experiences were absolute and unchanging.

The image on the card is of an older boy meeting a younger child with an offering. It is probably because of my family constellation training that I always view this as a meeting between mother and child — the relationship that has the potential to form the crux of our relationship with life itself.

To understand our challenges and find true change is to thread our way back to the roots of the beliefs that have moulded us, to integrate the pain that we may find there. This can be intimidating but going back, gently and safely, is the key to noticing how many of our adult experiences, attitudes and reactions come from a place of pain as felt by our child selves.

One of my mentors used to ask: Who is in the driver’s seat (when you feel that way)? Is it your child self or you as an adult? Going back to the origins, helps us tell the difference.

Our childhood experiences get set in stories we tell ourselves repeatedly, that we believe are the unchanging, defining stories of our lives.
I am forever alone.
People will always use me.
I’m difficult to love.
I’m too touchy, too energetic, too ambitious.
I’m too much.
And these beliefs cause us to have inaccurate perceptions: mistaking healthy boundaries for abandonment. Confusing the basic human need for connection with neediness. Labelling emotions that are basic, human and valid as wrong and problematic, in need of fixing, etc.

If you are sitting with a particular challenge or just something festering ever so slightly, unable to navigate it, this card is a reminder that maybe it is worth looking into your past. To separate early experiences of pain that you may be confusing with present ones. To re-learn basic ideas of love and the self, and to know just how worthy you are of having both as an adult. And to experience anew how embodying the two can bring wholeness.

One year ago: Shit on toast kind of day
Two years ago: Like waking up again
Three years ago: Let it blow through you, don’t let it move you
Four years ago: Roads and Kingdoms
Five years ago: Playtime

Showers

Just as it began to get warm, I woke up the other day thinking of how we haven’t had a typical Bangalore shower in a long time. I was away for all of December, most of January and I’m not sure if it has rained this year at all, but it certainly hasn’t since my coming back.

I should have guessed there was something odd about the way in which things warmed up suddenly, between one day and the next. It didn’t feel natural, real.

And lo and behold. It rained last evening. Came down as suddenly as the heat did. I was so  sure it was that typical Bangalore shower that comes with great gusto, makes a huge fuss and noise and passes really quickly. But it persisted and gradually turned into a massive downpour that lasted about an hour.

I am relieved that the dust might settle. The entire fucking city — this is not even a slight exaggeration — is a giant construction site at the moment, and there is dust everywhere. No amount of dusting within the home is cutting it and the situation outside is seriously killing my mojo of wanting to get out. But here I am. in that strange place that only Bangaloreans understand. Feeling glad for the rain, enjoying the petrichor  (I still strongly detest that word and how easily it gets thrown about on days like this. Chill people you’re smelling the DUST not the earth.) and also feeling massively frustrated for the almost immediate traffuckery that follows. It takes absolutely nothing for rain-induced chaos to set in. Literally just a matter of minutes.

Traffic jams, dug up roads, irationaly long drive times to get anywhere notwithstanding, I’m moving. Out and about.

One year ago: Tarot: On resilience
Two years ago: Like seeing sunlight
Three years ago: Stop this train, I want to get off and go home again

Pleasure

I’m allowing myself to follow what feels pleasurable. What feels delicious. What feels light and freeing.

One year ago: Seasons
Two year ago: Move, move, move
Three years ago: There’s nothing here to run from 
Five years ago: Major leaps, minor struggles

Pictures of me

The weather is fast chaning and my short-lived brush with winter is feeling too short for my liking. In the span of just one day we went from having the fan on super low to two notches higher at night. And I am beginning to sweat it out good and proper during my morning workouts again. When I returned from Goa, I was working out with a jacket on and with the doors and windows closed. Until  this morning, when I broke into a massive sweat, my body temp spiking, and stifling me. So I had to throw the balcony door open.

But until last week, the morning post-bath ritual of lying in the sun, even if just for 5 minutes before my first session for the day, was doing a fine job of keeping me warm.

On another note, VC took some splendid portrait shots of me recently. The past two weekends we’ve been experimenting with a makeshift homestudio of sorts to see what’s possible right here at home, without having to venture out.

I love them pictures so much, but must acknowledge that the veneer on those is only part of the truth. I’m rarely ever that put together. I love and enjoy being made up and dressed well. And I love a flattering photograph. Especially if VC takes it. But many, most, times I’m also the dork that lies in the spot of sun in my balcony till the sunshine has gone deep through my eyes and right into the soft centre of my fuzzy sunshine-addled brain, blinding me so I can’t see the picture I’m trying to take of myself.

Yes this is also me.

I realised today, that I’ve been posting a lot many picture of myself, of my face on my personal instagram recently. This is a huge change. And it felt nice to notice it. Oddly, in most of them, I am lying down/reclining. And that felt nice to notice too — that I have so many moments of lying down. Now that I have started to take notice, moments of softness almost always involve being horizontal. Such a small thing, and yet there’s always some discomfort, shyness, shame around doing it. Letting our bodies splay in an uncontrolled fashion feels too vulnerable, unfamiliar, unpretty. So, to have a newfound comfort and freedom to lie down whenever an opportunity presents itself or I am inclined to, is everything. To find comfort in sharing moments/memories, even more so.

Instagram is such a weird place. Pictures of one’s face, or a personal detail of one’s life, accompanied by an arbit, meaningless caption always gather so many more hungry, voyeuristic likes than an odd picture of a sunset, or a tree — of which I post PLENTY — captioned with some deep inner thoughts that I’ve felt like sharing.

Oh woe.

One year ago: Flow, flow, flow
Two years ago: In-between
Five years ago: Light and shadow

Re-balance

I’ve had a really full-on week of work. 3 sessions a day on most days, and sometimes things happening in between too. The slowness of 2020 seems to be fading, and whenether I’d really like to or not, an upward energy has scooped me up. I have had to make time to sit down and catch a breath, sometimes a nap, or a grocery run in between my commitments and appointments this week.

It’s been very busy, by my standards (from the last couple of years of major, deliberate relaxation) but fulfilling. I have wanted this. Movement, work, a challenge, so I am really loving it. To enable focusing on work this much, I had to revert to hiring house help again, and it has been a boon to have that taken over. More mindspace has been freed up.

But, I’d be lying if I didn’t acknowledge that it’s also been exhausting. To be present to my work, fit in home stuff, get meals done, try and stock cook and eat clean and somehow pull it off.

Not a big deal in the lives of most women, I know. But it’s been a long, long time since I had work be the predominant force that dictate the rhythm of my routine in such a major way. And it’s been two weeks of this. Next week, I’m taking it easy. Deliberately. Fewer slots open for sessions, I’ve fixed an appointment for a massage, and I’m going to take myself out for a day by myself.

Re-balance.

One year ago: Monday Tarot Message: Mind-body, body-mind
Two years ago: Another favourite
Three years ago: If you could change your mind
Five years ago: Make like a tree

Chasing the sun

This is not an oak tree, but it reminded of these Marion Woodman words I came across recently:

The conscious feminine gives us the courage to love an acorn without knowing what an oak tree is.

I have been seeing trees differently lately. More intently, closely. And I feel a bit captivated.

Some recent recurring themes/happenings: Cubbon Park hangs, conscious feminine, trees, branches, sunlight

Two years ago: You’re my favourite, you’re my favourite
Three years ago: There’s still time to change the road you’re on
Five years ago: Cloudless skies

Monday Tarot Message: On working towards your desires

Apt card for mid-February methinks. When the fresh January enthusiasm to get moving on goals is somewhat diluted in the routine of life. The Knight of Pentacles is a high-energy, high-action card.

It depicts a journey towards a goal that is already underway, reminding us that desires need the fuel of commitment and action in order to come alive.

It’s good to find ways to keep your intentions active, either visually (vision board, sticky notes) or through habits (daily routines, action groups). This came up a number of times in Looking Back And Looking Ahead sessions this past week. Because life inevitably gets ahead, and a distance can build between your desires and intentions, and the direction in which you eventually move.

So whether you are a methodical planner or you like to go with the flow, this is your reminder that when bringing about a change or moving towards a goal, there is no replacement for putting one step in front of another and walking the path. No matter how big or small those steps may be, there is no escaping the walking.

Depending on circumstance and your specific goals, your journey may be smooth or challenging. Or both. Patience that comes from a deep sense of responsibility and commitment is key. When you approach progress in this way, actively, it becomes easier to evaluate on the go. To know when a goal is unrealistic, to tune into your own pace and understand if you need to move slower or faster, to also check in on whether the intention still feels exciting and motivating too. All very important steps in ensuring that you succeed.

If you’ve been waiting for a sign it permission to move towards a desire/goal/plan/intention this here is it. Go forth!

One year ago: On love
Two years ago: New eyes
Three years ago: All the feckless men that queue to be the next
Four years ago: Pointless post
Five years ago: Morning views

In every direction

You’re the center and you’re always free
In every direction

— Junip

This morning, while obsessing over Nicolas Jaar’s musical genius with S, I discovered he had his first album out at 21. TWENTY ONE. It’s no different for some of my other favourite artists like Stormzy and James Blake, in terms of being focused and prolific in their 20s. And I said to S, in shock, “HOW do they do it so young! I feel like my life has only begun at 32. I spent my 20s unconscioulsy figuring so much stuff out, and consciously putting the pieces together when I was closer to 30.”

And here I am today.

This is just me in a moment of happy. Doing what I love best these days. Sitting on the ground, in the sun, beneath a tree. Reading cards. Joining the dots. Soaking it up. And the satisfaction from it comes from holding the polarities — this as a route to reaching people in a way that fulfills and excites me, and this as a job that earns me my daily bread. I’m finally in a place where I don’t feel the need to shirk the value that money adds and why earning it from doing what I love is a very, very key piece in the do-what-you-love puzzle.

This has been a hardwon learning. I’ve had a meandering life path that flits and swings from one thing to another every few years, with every pursuit taking me in intensely, often makes me feel bad because I have little to show for “consistency” or “staying power”. I’ve baked for a living, cooked and food blogged, had a pretty serious stint in freelance journalism and feature writing, and also a significant number of years in advertising. At every point, each of these things felt like the thing I’d do for the rest of my life. And eventually the pressure to balance the practicality of how much I earned from it (to make it practically work) without compromising on how passionate I was and how much joy it brought me, killed the pursuit. I would always reach a point where I had to “ramp things up” to make it make sense economically, a point where I realised I couldn’t go on in quite the happy go lucky way that I had the privilege to. And it frightened me to the point of giving up, each time.

There was so much shame from having built so many things up form scratch, only to shut it all up every so often and go on to the next. Repeating the cycle all over again.

Will I ever be taken seriously? I wonder. Even now, I stutter a bit when people ask me what I do. When I realise they mean “for work” and not just “in life”.

But in the last couple of years, I’ve become comfortable with seeing myself as someone with multiple directions. Easily excited and intensely taken into multiple things that capture me. A completely new thing every so often.

And I ask myself often, “What’s wrong with that?”

When this squidggly trahectory prickles me, I ask, “What’s wrong with reinventing myself?” And I remind myself, “You’re allowed to change your mind, life path and choices, as many times as you need to.”

Because that is what it has been about. If I’m being completely honest, I know now where my commitment and perseverence shows up. I am actually very committed to, and very consistent with reinventing myself. With all the practice I’ve had I’m so much better at responding to inner calls that take me to different, divergent places, and not necessarily in one direction. And I’m getting better at letting the shame around that slip away.

I’ve only recently started to see, accept, appreciate and hold that as just the way my life flows. I build, break down, let go, move on and rebuild often. I dig deep within myself often. I stay interested a lot. This is my life, as it has come to me.

One year ago: Finding flow, and flowing with it
Two years ago: Renewal
Three years ago: You guys, I must be the luckiest alive
Five years ago: Beach bum

Reunited

So dang happy to be…I’m afraid to say it…back to normal. Well, in as much as is possible right now, anyway.

It’s probably a product of some conditioning plus early upbringing/disciplining that made me harbour a fair bit of unnecessary guilt and shame around minor indulgences. Well into my adulthood I’ve had this ghost lingering around, asserting high expectations of when one is worthy of an indulgence, and even when one indulges, what kind of indulgence is permissable.

Little things like a daily coffee, a totally self-indulgent ritual that I might have enjoyed, or similar small “guilty” pleasures (why do we even call it that?!) — I’ve always kind of kept them hidden till just a few years ago. Even when I lived in Goa with absolutely nobody keeping tabs on no, nobody to answer to, I felt the compulsive need to build up and make convincing excuses to sound like I deserved a break or an indulgence.

I walked into Third Wave yesterday and had such a rush from the smell of that freshly roasted coffee that was so achingly familiar, that I have missed for a whole year now. The familiar faces behind the counter smiling behind from their masks and visors, eyes lit up to say hello to me, they even remembered my standard order — it was a thrill. The cafe was packed, buzzing with people working from “home” and it made me so nostalgic for 2019, through which I spent almost nearly 4-5 afternoons at this very cafe. Working, writing, reading, dreaming, chatting with whoever sat next to me, sometimes just sitting in silence drinking a cold brew or a hot tea all by myself.

And I thought, I’d really like to bring back that simple, everyday joy again. I said this to a bunch of clients the other day and I feel it is so applicable to me, I could do with the reminder — often.

The effects of simple joys, everyday beauty, small acts are seriously understated. If you grew up in a middle-class home in the 80s-90s, or in circumstances where simple pleasures felt like big, underserved indulgences, maybe you’ll relate?

I see now, as an adult, that it needn’t be something outlandish or opulent (though there is a time and place for that if youcan afford it, I suppose. Everyone’s idea of, and appetite for, indulge is different) and in fact the simpler and easier it is to access and make possible, the better. I have found joy in small things like a brisk walk to Third Wave, a quietly sipped hot tea, and a walk back. And for me, it doesn’t take much than that on any given day. There have been times I bought myself flowers on the way home. Or I stopped to pick up an aloo-bun at the bakery I pass. Or I met up with VC at where he was and took a ride back home together.

And then I thought of my weekly-solo-breakfast-someplace-out ritual from 2017-18 and how much that used to set me up for the week. I’d get my weekly fix of getting out of the home, of eating something nice that I’d plan to eat in advance, of spending some time by myself and sometimes even catching up with a friend later on. I no longer eat breakfast, but maybe there’s some scope to adapt the idea of that ritual in some way.

There was also my Sunday-morning-walk-followed-by-breakfast date with D that was such a good marker in the week. An excellent way to finish the week and yet start the Sunday off well. We’ve done it off and on post lock-down, but life and travels have made it hard to get back to the routine like we had going pre-COVID.

I miss the rituals. I miss those small joys. I miss the comfort of that rhythm. The predictable, unfaltering promise of fun in these routines. Now that we’re getting out, one way or another, masks on and sanitiser at hand, I am craving this kind of normalcy.

***

One would imagine Goa was a holiday time for us. But in reality I worked harder in November and December, than I did the entire year. Even the first two weeks of the new year that we spent in Goa were chock full of work. VC went off on a work trip to Calcutta and back and continued to work from home almost right through. The added difference this time was we were committed to getting out often and making the most of being in Goa.

We had really gotten into the swing of normal life there. A balanced, routine existence that since being back here took some time to regain. And then I went back and forth twice to my parents’ in just ten days and somehow that’s two weeks just whizzed by in this holiday like haze. Mildly disorienting because we’d returned from “holiday” to “real life”. Last weekend though, after days of trying to get back to my routine and finding my feet (and succeeding some) I swung back into action. Inevitably, a tsunami of work flowed in after and I have been swimmingly busy since the start of this week. And oddly, there is promise of normalcy in this.

Who knew.

One year ago: I’m alive
Two years ago: Super power
Five years ago: Fail

Tarot: On strength, and taking help

I was in the mood for a mid-week pull. It’s just my state of mind, from lingering thoughts that have been accumulating from readings I’ve done over the past week.

How easy is it for you to be in a state of needing help? How does it feel to be unable, incapable, unsuccessful sometimes? What happens when you are not able to “make it on your own”?

My work lately has made me see that often our ideas of strength are rooted in deep wounds, early traumatic events that define what and how we must survive in the world. Our ideas of strength come from locking away all experiences of “weakness” in the hope of overcoming them. Many times the absolute refusal to ask for help is encoded in that idea of strength.

We grow up and live our lives through strife and difficulty, believing that it is the only way to be. And our sense of self and worth gets entwined in that struggle.

But this is unsustainable. We often outwardly wish for less struggle, but we feel completely at a loss about how to make it happen. Especially when we’ve built an entire identity around that idea of “independence” and “strength”.

Learning to ask for and receive help begins with understanding what made it difficult for us to begin with. To sit with the pain of those events, or that time in our lives. To revisit and put back together the parts of us that came undone when we were hurt. So we can understand who/what our external resources are. To make new definitions of strength from understanding that sometimes our pain is our strength too.

One year ago: Monday Tarot Message: On doing too much, as a way to find love
Five years ago: Our very first carnival in Goa

Into the wild again

I’m slowly getting out, make plans, meet people, do things like in The Before Time, in Bangalore again. It’s been oddly disorienting. Like learning to walk again. Strange how much like pyshiological muscles, our social/emotional muscles also forget how to flex and stretch when they’re not in use, I suppose.

It’s been a strange mix of so badly wanting to go out and hang out with peeps, but also feeling like the thought is overwhellming and asking for too much effort. Also, so much has happened with me and my friends in this time of distance, I no longer know where I stand with many of them. The ones I am currently closest to live overseas and we connect more often than we ever have, over video chat. Here, with the folks I share a city with, I have chosen not to reach out or make plans since March last year when everything went tits up. I don’t know what to make of this strange love-hate thing happening. This odd mix of wanting, but also not wanting; of craving company but feeling very, very pricey about whose company it should be, when I am really not in any position to be choosing at this point. It’s not like there’s a buffet spread in front of me. My circle is down to 2.5 people again.

I don’t know if I’m being shy? Or if I’m feeling awkward? Because this past year has felt like five, in terms of growth and change within me. I feel like an entirely new person and much of this has been a private exploration that I have enjoyed in my own solitude. In an older time I’d be updating my friends on the daily about everything that I am thinking and feeling and going through. But that has not been the case though 2020. So I wonder if I’m guarding/hiding the person I have become over the course of this year? I know that part of the reason the journey has been so rich this past year is the absolutely minimal peer contact and “pressure”. There’s a sense of having tasted something special that I am feeling a tad greedy to let go of. I notice this in myself, and I ask myself why do I want to hide? What am I hiding? And I notice how the part that wants to hide is at direct loggerheads with a significant part that really doesn’t.

I shared the weird feeling with S on Saturday night when we caught up on a late, late zoom call. Him nursing his end of day doob, and me drinking mug after mug of hot water. Interestingly, when I described this whole saga, he said it’s how he feels every time he returns back home from wherever he is in the world. It is like reorienting to a time and space you left behind, to an older time when you were an older version of you, to a set of people who knew you differently. And there’s confusion about which way you should be, or how you will be received if you didn’t have to choose.

I know that the lack of any kind of social interaction for 10 months in-between — some forced, and honestly, some chosen, has made it somewhat worse. Thus th feeling of having to learn how to do this all over again. This time, with a frigging mask on.

Two years ago: Safe and sound
Three years ago: The heartache lives on inside
Four years ago: Commitment issues
Five years ago: Begin again

Monday Tarot Message: Reconnecting mind, body and spirit

I have come to see self-compassion as a primary building block of feeling at peace with oneself. That sense of wholeness — it comes from establishing a connection with one’s true self. And that in turn, is the primary building block of alignment and harmony in relationships with others.

Ten of Cups reminds us that discovering who we really are, coming home to ourselves involves looking at the sum totality of our lives. The pain as much as the pleasure, to rejoice the highs and grieve lows, make space for losses as much as we have our triumphs. It is a meandering, life-long journey that isn’t linear, uniformly happy and often goes back and forth. But the promise of wholeness and returning to ourselves, is rich.

Disconnection from the self is one of the first coping mechanisms we adopt when dealing with difficult experiences. When our feelings and thoughts become too much, we cut off from them. This means cutting off from the body, from sensory cues, from physical and emotional feedback itself. Along with it, we cut off from the capacity to also feel joy, love, healing and move further away from wholeness and harmony.

Healing begins with learning all the ways in which we habitually disconnect, when we feel broken. And bringing the parts together to cohesion comes from re-connecting the mind, heart and body back together to work as one. In doing this, we grow the capacity to look at the pain in our lives, we build resilience to stay, with kindness and self-compassion. And we develop a deeper sense of who we are.

One year ago: Small changes, big feelings
Two years ago: Stoking the friendship fire
Three years ago: And so it is the shorter story
Five years ago: Time bubble