Monday Tarot Message: Everyday grief

I have found such a stark difference in the way I experience closure in lost relationships where I have had a greater degree of processing the sadness of it, versus those where things ended suddenly, where I felt misunderstood (and still continue to) and had to move away, shut myself off, close my heart up, without any degree of processing that sadness at all.

It’s ironic that this past weekend, as hung out with some of the nicest friends I have at this point in time, having a genuinely good time, engaging, feeling nurtured, while also kicking back and relaxing, I was flooded with thoughts about a friendship that ended with a complete lack of space for vulnerability in the ending itself.

This was of course the issue with said friendship, and why I had to eventually let it go. So perhaps it is not ironic that even in the ending, the same pattern continued. The friendship had thrown up a lot of smaller grief along the way. Signs of a possible, impending ending. Signs that I had ignored, because at the time I was so frightened of having to let go, of being alone, of untethering myself. And in the bargain, I know the relationship had made me avoid facing the pain and grief it was causing me altogether.

And this is probably precisely why thoughts about this friendship still linger, long after it has ended and we have both ostensibly moved on. I have much grief still to process with this one. So I am not at all surprised at today’s card. It has come at an apt time, as a timely reminder to do right, now, what I haven’t done enough in relationships past.

Regular, functioning relationships throw up so many instances of small, everyday grief. That cancelled plan that you were so looking forward to, the prolonged lack of availability, the desire for conversation when there was no space for it, that friend who suddenly changed (as everyone is entitled to).

While there is always good reason for each one of the scenarios above, it doesn’t negate the minor level heartbreak that we’re all constantly facing. It is also not to say that we turn into snowflakes who take offence at and hang on to every little instance of things not going the way we’d like. But how often do we allow ourselves to feel this heartbreak? Is there space for sadness and everyday grief of this minor kind in our relationships and friendships at all?

We usually reserve the grief for potential endings of relationships/friendships. Even the mere thought of that grief can be scary, so we avoid familiarising ourselves with it. Over time it may be that even when we know a potential ending maybe good for us, we put off the inevitable, and sometimes the necessary too. Sometimes we keep walking back into failed relationships in the hope that something will be different, simply because we don’t want to face the sadness of the ending.

The reason it feels impenetrable and all-consuming is usually because we have not made space for small, daily grief to touch us. To slowly make space for it, is to know that we can hold it. So you do not have to avoid it altogether.

If you find yourself at a crossroads in a relationship or friendship, the card today asks you to imagine what rebuilding might look like. To put pen to paper if necessary, and work out all that you will need to hold yourself in the time after an ending. When the grief has arrived. To think about everything from the minutest, deepest emotional needs (the grief and sadness to deal with), to the other practical physical needs (an altered physical reality?). To work on building resources so you have them when the time of need comes.

I know it seems like this might be more apt for broken marriages, cases of divorce or long term romantic relationships that come to an end. But I feel strongly that it is no different in matters of friendship too.

Often we avoid this part of the work, not wanting to imagine ourselves at our most vulnerable — feeling abandoned, rejected, like we have failed — and so when grief comes, we jump straight to “moving on” bypassing the grieving process that is crucial to authentic recovery and actual moving on.

The message for this week is to acknowledge and make space for everyday grief, to get friendly with it on a daily basis. To avoid making it a monster you have to avoid at all costs. So you know you can hold it when it comes, as it does with every one of us. Because it is important to give grief a holding space. Without it there is no evolving, no growing.

One year ago: Slow row
Two years ago: Come a little bit closer, hear what I have to say
Four years ago: Small joys

Even flow

It’s been a good couple of weeks, the energy from the weeks before has turned. Like I said yesterday, there is equanimity. And this time, I find myself not dismissing it as “surprising” or “sudden”. I know this is deliberate. It is cultivated. I have put certain practices in to place, prioritised some stuff over other stuff, realigned my life to look and feel the way I need it to.

I’ve been sitting with duality again. About how sometimes it is possible to be going and coming at the same time. To feel incredible freedom and yet feel clenched up at the same time. Finding surprising elements of femininity and masculinity that exist within me at the same time. In realising that a sense of loss almost always precedes new discovery.

It’s been a day spent out with S again. A day of such lightness and freedom. Rushing off for a morning movie show so early, I was reminded of my years when I held down an office job that required rushing against time to get things done at home before I dressed for the day and dashed out the door. Except that was to go to work, and this was to go to fun. Walking around CBD with its wide pavements in the summer sun, oversized sunglasses making an appearance in March, an easy, luxurious Mallu sadya lunch on a banana leaf, running errands with S, and then catching up with D and S for a work meeting that turned into a lazy hang that last three whole hours before I slowly dawdled my way home.

It had been nearly 12 hours since I had left home in the morning.

It was a day that gave made me experience freedom in more ways than one. And a day filled with timely, required reminders that this, here, is enough.

One year ago: This is us. Really.
Two years ago: Let’s get one thing straight now
Three years ago: Whisky-shisky
Four years ago: Flying solo

Peace within

Feeling a sense of equanimity and peace today. Despite stepping out of my cocoon to read and realise that the world is still fast spinning out of control.

On days like this, when the balance shows itself, I feel that internal “container” within me that we have been talking about building and growing since I began therapy. It’s the space that keeps me grounded and in touch. Balanced. Peaceful. Even as worlds of emotions swirl inside. The two can coexist, without my having to fly off into a mood.

It’s also been a full, satisfying day. Once again reiterating my need to be grounded, in reality, to feel equanimity in my being.

A night of restful sleep, a sweaty workout to start the day, two readings in person, the house to myself all day long, a nap, a long walk around the neighbourhood and returning with some fresh greens and groceries I picked up along the way, some solid, involved, deeply satisfying cooking (for today and tomorrow!), dinner that hit the spot. Finishing this all by 8 pm and settling in bed, done for the day and writing this as I get ready to shut my laptop off and wind down already — it just feels very, very good.

One year ago: Home away from home kind of feeling
Two years ago: I still remember when we did not have the answers

Soft, rested, easy

A softness and ease that I was missing since the start of the year, seems to be slowly returning.

Easy. Relaxed. Unwound. Rested. Calm. Happy. All things that felt like they needed effort, are now within reach again.

A good night’s sleep, that has been really hard to come by (to the point where it was beginning to worry me), has made a comeback. Consequently waking up — that I was also struggling with — has become easy again. Which in turn means I’ve been very good with getting exercise at the best time of the day for me. And that soft, good beginning that really sets me up for a day of ease and flow, is possible again.

I had decided I want to get 5 days of exercise per week, as far as possible. Because this number had dwindled in the last 3 months of 2019, and the effects of it were showing. I have had way too many fits and starts since then. But as of last week, I think I may have made a real comeback, without having to struggle for it.

Mid way through last month, my gym membership expired. It was around then that I realised it was time to listen to my body that was asking for the usual change I crave every now and then, and I didn’t renew it. I’ve also been feeling a very strong urge to run, outdoors, more seriously, more frequently. And so I began. I just began, without thinking about it. Running outdoors and working out at home on alternate days.

Summer is also upon us. The days are getting longer, mornings warmer. Waking up and wanting to head out has been easier. And so, I’ve had an unbroken streak so far — 5 days last week. Everyday so far, this week.

The green outdoors, running amidst freshly flowering trees, morning glow all around, my current music OBSESSION in my ears — on two occasions I teared up while running just from the sheer goodness of the endorphin rush combined with the perfection of the moment.

I managed to get out and have some fun, to balance out all the heady work I’ve been doing. The heaviness that has made me constantly choose the bed as my only respite when I wasn’t working, has lifted.

Solo outings that I so, so, so need are happening again. I’ve also been enjoying cooking good, wholesome meals for us at home again. Minus the drudgery. And even allowed myself take out on the days I most needed it. Minus the guilt.

I’ve been taking naps when I needed them, given the bad night sleep I’ve been having. I have been in a consistent fog of sadness through the last few weeks. Even when things have been good, happy and uplifted even, there has been this fog lingering at the back of my mind. It sometimes felt so physical, like my vision has been hazy at times and seeing clearly was difficult. But, I feel rested, eyes open and I feel clear again.

VC and I have been enjoying relaxed time together — something we strangely haven’t done very much of since the start of the year because we’ve both dived headlong into our respective new work areas and it’s been very, very preoccupying for the both of us. So the past week or so we’ve had relaxed evenings just sitting together, chatting, sharing a drink of wine and I realised it’s something so simple, but has been missing, even though we’re both working from home, and are together all the time!

My energy has changed, and I know getting sleep and exercise back on track has everything to do with it. But I also feel it was an energy shift from the weekend of workshops. Not just from facilitating, but also from being in a healing circle and receiving gifts even when I am not there to work on myself. That has been such a gift.

I didn’t know that what I was missing during these confusing, heavy, sad last few weeks was softness. But now that I feel it — in my body and in my mind — I realise there was something clenched up, hard, about the way I have been lately. Maybe it’s the constant onslaught of the political situation, plus the hyper-focus on making work work and a serious reduction of all my rejuvenating practices that actually ought to double or triple at a time like this.

I’m enjoying this return to me.

One year ago: As Goa as it gets
Four years ago: Because I want to remember

Chasing sunlight

I took yesterday off.

After a rather hectic week, and an intense weekend of two full day workshops, and the realisation that I need to see some light, I got out and spent the day with S.

We’re so focused on our catching up that we make time for it, choosing to meet ahead of lunch to maximise the gabbing so we can cover all the topics we routinely file away to discuss at length “when we meet”. So there was a pre-lunch hang over chai, then greasy Chinese for lunch, then a post-lunch chai, and then dessert. And this time we did each thing at a different place, walking around Richmond Road.

It was like a breath of fresh air in an otherwise very dreary time.

On my way there, as early as 10 am, I thought to myself what a privilege this is. To be able to have life go on, undisturbed even as parts of this country are ravaged. What a luxury to have the space and the ability to begin a Monday morning like this. What a delight, to choose rest and recovery, with deliberation.

I’d like me more of this.

Three years ago: Kitchen soup for the homesick soul
Four years ago: Shine on

Monday Tarot Message: Shine the light on your shadow

Last week’s message about emotional strength talked about honouring all parts of ourselves, including the lesser-than-ideal parts that aren’t “sexy” or that we feel the need to hide away from the world. Parts that just don’t work for our increasingly performative lives. And this week’s message feels like an extension, or a follow up, to that one.

What parts of yourself do you most negate, ignore or push away? Are those the very parts that need to be seen, and included?

The Moon is a symbol of our Shadow selves. The part that lies in the dark, our unconscious, and is seldom accessed, whether by choice or circumstance. It usually encompasses all our fears, anxieties, guilt, shame, rage and many other “unpalatable” facets of ourselves that we strive to keep hidden from the world. Our vulnerabilities, our challenges, loneliness, pride, jealousy, addictions, cravings, and just so many other things we might either not be in touch with within ourselves, or sense from time to time, but never let them surface.

But here’s the thing about shadows. They’re ever shifting, depending on how the source of light moves. Just like the dark side of the moon comes into the light with time, our Shadow selves will not remain completely in the dark, forever. It is natural, cyclical and the very nature of movement (life) itself for all parts of the moon — and ourselves — to be seen at different times.

It is no different with our psyches. If life is the light source that is constantly at play with our inner worlds and our emotions, you’ll see that parts of our Shadow are routinely being coaxed out of the dark. They may manifests as challenges (most times emotional) in our lives, and every time that they do, we are offered a choice. To either approach them with great anxiety and tension, leading to further avoidance. Or to see them as opportunities for growth. With the openness to look at them, we can cultivate the strength to own these darker sides of ourselves, and begin to include them in our being. This makes for a fertile ground for clarity and growing intuitive abilities.

In the Tarot tradition, the Moon also symbolises the unconscious as a wellspring of material through which to build intuitive clarity, or oneness with the self. The two are related — the more in-tune with ourselves we can be, the more we will have clarity in our lived experiences, and consequently the ability to deal with “unpalatable” sides of ourselves with compassion and acceptance.

There is no light without shadow, and no shadow without light. It takes including both parts/sides to form an authentic whole self — the goal of any inward journey.

If this message resonates, if you’ve been getting in touch with an unpalatable side of yourself, or if you’re slowly becoming aware that there are things in your life or your emotional journey that you have avoided looking at or processing, take this as a sign that it’s time to begin. And a good place to begin is to go right into the spaces you don’t want to look into.

One year ago: Reboot
Two years ago: Hit the road Jack
Four years ago: Why facebook just feels like a lot of noise

Lightness

Thinking of this Sunday morning spent at Cubbon Park at an Art for Adults session with Drawing Room, in the company of four women whose company I enjoyed immensely. Listening to a playlist I titled “Mellow” while we roamed the park foraging for natural objects, studied their textures and shapes, and made art from seeming nothingness. We ate oranges, drank super sweet tea, watched happy dogs frolic and decided to try and do this at least once a month. If you’d like to join us, follow Drawing Room for updates about the next session.

This wasn’t art as a pursuit of beauty, rather an effort to use my hands, connect my mind to my body, and ground myself. So it doesn’t matter if one is “good” at art or has even done it before. Doing things like this, like my Sunday morning walks, or the occasional coffee I take myself to all by myself has come to be important ways to bring myself back to me.

Everyday life and all the many things that are going on — in my immediate world as well as the horrors that are unfolding around — have totally consumed me lately and I have felt many times like I am drifting quite far away from myself. Disconnection, sometimes. Deviation, sometimes. Distractions, sometimes.

It as also a morning of much-needed lightness in a routine that has begun to feel all kinds of heavy lately. I realised this morning that between mobilising this new kind of work, thinking and doing all that is required around it, managing the spike in the number of readings I have been doing, pushing my Instagram, while also keeping things afloat on the home front, tending to my own emotional needs has meant a full-time mentally exhausting few weeks since the start of the year. Added to this, I’ve felt the latent impact of the political shit-fest quite intensely, inwardly. My body seems to be picking up and carrying a lot of fear of late. I have felt hyper-vigilant, and almost a constant state of terror and worry looming over me. This has certainly taken a toll, and I have felt a lot of heaviness.

I have had some pockets of lightness. Like this impromptu lunch we did some weeks ago that really set me up for the day and week. And yet, they have felt few and far between. Reminding me that I need to amp up my self care and other sources of rejuvenation, much more than before in light of being able to do this kind of emotionally-demanding work.

Today, I had a hard look at the days gone by and reminded myself to create more moments of lightness for myself. Some fun, some high energy, some nurturance, some peace and quiet. More often. More deliberately.

One year ago: Not my country
Two years ago: Pretend like there’s no world outside
and Ribbon in the sky
Four years ago: February

Cry freedom

Sabke labon ki tu
fariyad rahega,

Tu azaad hai, azaad rahega.

One year ago: Open
Two years ago: The race is long, and in the end it’s only with yourself

Things I want to say to an assortment of uncles I have known

Woke up with thoughts of a particularly heated evening from 2017, soon after I had just moved back to Bangalore. A living room conversation I found myself having, with a bunch of uncles — some relatives and friends of my parents who until then, I was until then doing my best to try and tolerate anew. The conversation was responsible for not just a crash right back into reality about the new society I now inhabit, after years in the Goa bubble, but also the reality about having to once again be in close proximity with uncles and their views, many of which I simply cannot digest and take lying down anymore.

It was not long after Kuldeep Singh Sengar got away in the Unnao rape case. My emotions were volatile, tempers were high, and I somehow got into a conversation with said uncles about how I just do not trust the current government in power because they’re crooked and vile and will leave no stone unturned in perpetrating the most heinous crimes on the people of this nation. I had already enumerated enough instances to explain why. But when the unnecessarily pressing questions persisted, I simply said “Modi is a terrorist and I refuse to accept him as my PM. I have massive problems with what he is and what he stands for.

I will never forget, and it came back to me swiftly in a cloud of rage this morning, the response I got. The most blind, sanghi, blindly servile, sanskaari-drivel-fed response of them all. “The Supreme Court has cleared him of all charges. The Supreme Court is like the mother of this nation. Questioning her word is like questioning your mother about who your father is.

VOMIT. UUUAAACKKK.

I had to leave my parents home that evening, abruptly. To keep from either barfing or breaking something. Or both. It’s been a while since I have been that triggered. And I decided then that I’d do my best to avoid discussing politics with uncles and their ilk, thereafter. It has meant blocking many on whatsapp, choosing to be quiet in the interest of my sanity when views are aired in person, walking away from political discussions with uncles who will not listen to reason, distancing myself from some family members, and unfortunately quietly cultivating a lot of loathing for some of them (which I know doesn’t serve me at all, but until I figure out a better way or achieve higher levels of Zen, I’ll deal with it).

Today is day 3 of helplessly watching things escalate while nothing is being done to abate the violence, and I have a few things to say to Uncles At Large. That mass of grown ups, every single one of them, who in 2014 told me not to worry because “Modi cannot afford to play those same politics now that he is PM“.

I want to thank them, with folded hands, for their faith and blind servitude.

For their sycophancy and commitment to turning a blind eye to the lies.

For their refusal to open their eyes and look beyond the empty promises of development and economic progress.

For their ignorance and obstinance, even now, that he is somehow the messiah who will lead this country to deliverance.

For their impudence that they knew it all, and their insistance that as younger (angrier) people we could learn a thing by being servile.

I’m angry today.

I want to go to every one of these uncles and tell them this, today, is on them. The blood of all these innocents is on them.

They voted a terror accused to power, knowing fully well that they’re backed by literal admirers of Hitler. And yet, they believed we’d never see pogrom of the scale of Godhra again. So, here we are. Exactly the same place we’ve been many times over.

I’ve watched that video of the goons dressed as cops thrashing the near-dead men, commanding that they sing the national anthem (and they comply), in absolute terror. I can’t get over the images of the thugs climbing atop the minaret on the mosque in Ashok Nagar, destroying it and placing an orange, RSS flag in it’s place.

Wake the fuck up, uncles. Wake up, own up and say you’ve fucked up and we’re here today because of you.

This blood is on you. 

So much for fucking progress. So much for development. So much for economic growth and prosperity. So much for forward thinking leaders and visionaries.

I wonder if they’re happy now, watching the news. I wonder if this gives their bloodthirsty guts a riotous fill, or if there’s even an iota of shame and guilt for what they have contributed to. And if there is, this is a good time to take it and shove it deep where the sun don’t shine. Sit now, with your Hindu Rashtra (read: Taliban), and take shelter in your Ram Mandirs, hang on to your sacred threads and do everything to revive the most backward, regressive aspects of our culture (and none of the hope-filled, progressive ones) and hope like hell that it’ll all give us the many, many, many jobs that can keep these mindless mobs out of trouble. Because this is what this is. A long-drawn, very complex plan to destroy democracy, to destroy our very humanity.

Let’s make no mistake in not seeing it now. Miscalculated errors like demonetization and GST weren’t isolated. They were done to bring this countrys growth and employment to its knees. So frustrated empty youth can fester and form a fertile bed in which to sow seeds of hate. Then, fan them. With Pulwama and Balakot. With the Ayodhya Verdict. With 370. And finally CAA and NRC.

If after all this, you still support this government, you could do well to introspect deeply on what humanity means to you. On what the Hinduism you’re so insecure about really teaches you.

Make no mistake in calling this a series of unfortunate events. This is calculated. This is the work of monsters. Monsters YOU voted. Monsters you brought to power, twice over.

One year ago: At ease, at home
Two years ago: I’m glad that I’m alive
Four years ago: In between mouthfuls

Cancelling today

I don’t know if it is naïveté or just hopeless optimism but I didn’t think I’d live to see things escalate as much as they have in Delhi yesterday. What’s worse, and has been physically impossible for me to digest, is the blatant, brazen way in which the violence has been orchestrated. In full view and with the full support of those in whose hands law, order and peace is usually kept for safekeeping. It is impossible to look back at over two months of protests — almost entirely peaceful — and not see the “chronology” of what played out yesterday, following the threatening speech Kapil Mishra made. What’s in the news doesn’t begin to scratch the surface of what is going on on ground. I am completely shaken by the visuals I have seen on twitter and Instagram this morning. Even though the constant thought in my head as I try and go about my very mundane, normal day that will be completely untouched by what’s happening in the country, is “How did we get here???” I know the answer. The writing has been on the wall. Not just since 2019, not since 2014, but long before. In 2002. In 1992. In 1984. The model is the same. The prototypes the same. The methods the same. I want to go back to every time that someone has said “But what about 1984?” to me in the last two months, when I have expressed concern about the CAA, and shown solidarity at protests. Yes, what about 1984? Is this how we’ll right that wrong? With another wrong horrifically worse? The truth is as long as we cling to what makes us different — caste, religion, creed, economics — we’ll be this bloodthirsty. Willing to throw it all away, and entire groups of disadvantaged minorities under the bus, to get what we can grab, and to do what we need to, to stay on top. We’re a horrific people. Now is not the time to call Amit Shah “incompetent”. Now is when we wake up, fully, and smell the shit. You can’t call it incompetence when there is this degree of evil and malice attached to systematically flexing your untouchable muscles to show people who is boss. These events will go down as achievements in the history books of the groups Shah belongs to. They’re nothing to be ashamed of, where people like him come from. Let’s not be stupid and dismiss this as incompetence. This is planned, sanctioned, state-sponsored violence. No different from 2002. This is what they call the Gujarat Model. This is no longer an attempt to quell dissent around the NPR/NRC and CAA. This is plain and simple violence at the hands of an anti-democracy, anti-liberty power. I am angry and helpless at the completely empty handwringing and platitudes being thrown around. Which brings me back to where I began, and the thought that just won’t leave me today: How much more will this escalate before questions are answered. Before someone steps up. Before something changes. Before I can feel hopeful again.

One year ago: Notes on an island
Four years ago: Travel

Monday Tarot Message: Strength

Re-negotiating one’s definitions of resilience and coping, is bound to shake up the definition of strength too.

What does emotional strength look like?

Taking an inner journey, moving from the level of the personality towards alignment with the authentic self comes with peeling back several layers. Going inwards means encountering deeper and deeper emotional truths, and processing them, living through them, as you go.

Every level will present challenging emotional material that will persuade, almost seduce, us not to move further. These will manifest as fears, anxiety, self-doubt, shame and several other things that we typically prefer to keep under wraps in our outward lives. All the things that the world around us deems “bad” coaxing us into the singular pursuit of “good” alone. A pursuit that is inherently exclusionary and fragmenting.

The work is to find vulnerability in meeting all parts. Integrating them in a healthy way demands a great deal of curiosity, compassion and kindness — emotional flexibility and strength, in other words — and minimal judgement in seeing ourselves as an amalgamation of so many moving, human parts.

Any attempt to hide from, push away or deny the existence of these lesser-than-ideal parts is what keeps us stuck. Liberation and spiritual evolution comes from honouring them. Even embracing the difficulty, anger, despair, loneliness, shame (amongst other things!) that facing them will bring. This requires the ability to flow with, rather than try and outrun these emerging parts. To align and fall in love with all of ourselves, rather than go against the grain and shame and distance some parts.

This will demand emotional strength that looks like:

  • gentleness over forcefulness
  • vulnerability over perfectionism
  • brutal honesty over projection
  • allowance over resistance
  • acceptance over judgement
  • self love over loathing

Aligning with the authentic self is to accept our completely ordinary, imperfect and often mediocre humanness. That takes inner strength. And you might just see that the strength it invokes and calls for looks nothing like the kind of strength celebrated and even upheld in the outer world.

***

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One year ago: Like waking up again
Two years ago: All my sweat, my blood runs weak
Three years ago: Ten reasons why I love the girls I am in long distance friendship with
Four years ago: Let go, already

Shit on toast kind of day

It’s been a strange day. I could blame on having got my period, but the truth is it’s been building all week and I have done many of the things I mentioned here, in distracting myself and keeping it at bay. I’ve spent a major part of the week fighting the constant urge to just veg-out and binge-watch Netflix. The only thing I’ve been very pumped and motivated to do is the readings I had booked thru this time, and sorting some things out for Instagram. It’s been a challenge waking up early. It’s taken a LOT of effort to go for a run and I only managed three days. I’ve dragged myself into the kitchen to have meals cooked in time. If it were just VC and me I’d have taken the liberty to eat eggs and toast or order in, but it’s not just us and I just don’t have that luxury right now.

I’ve kind of floated through in this strange twilight zone between getting by, staying just on top, but also knowing that there is something bubbling beneath the surface that I am avoiding getting in touch with.

My absolute telltale sign is the need for sloth. When I want to do nothing else but sleep, stay in bed, that’s usually my being shutting down and telling me to shut up and go with it. But this week, I have not listened. I have guilt-tripped myself, beaten myself up over it and cumulatively felt shittier still, by trying to stay active as one “should”.

Avoidance rarely gets me very far anymore. It only works for this long and this morning it bubbled over. I was inexplicably sad, that sinking feeling of not knowing what’s come over me, but feeling distinctly like something has. The cluelessness is because I have done everything in my power to avoid it up till now — boo. There is also that old familiar loneliness whenever I hit a phase like this. It’s what N and I call the “Empty Elevator Phase” whenever we talk about it. It’s like the elevator emptying out naturally, when you level up, emotionally. Leaving you either alone in the elevator, or finding yourself at a new level looking at an empty space when the elevator arrives and the doors open. There is always a sense of going through this alone. I am not feeling particularly social, and yet I do wish for some company to share this with. Company that is not VC alone. But the usual suspects I can share this with are travelling or live in a different country.

Anyhow, I don’t know what I am processing. I’ve passed off the lingering blues as everything else but what it is. I keep thinking it’s this or that — maybe I’m recovering from the weekend of animal flow, maybe I need to ground more after all the readings, maybe I need to push through and get that exercise, maybe it’s PMS, maybe I need to watch less TV before bed and sleep early.

Maybe it’s a little bit of all of that, but it is also some overwhelm (from a lot happening all at once), some loneliness (from not having anyone to really share this with), some anger (at some of the events that have transpired), some grief (at the change and inevitable moving on and loss that comes with it), some disappointment (at some specific events), some abandonment (from a combination of the disappointment and loneliness). From various things that have happened in the short span of just five days, but also from some things that happened a couple months ago that I have just been waiting and watching from a distance.

***

This morning, the exact feeling was of doom. Impending doom. Like things are poised to go downhill and like I am wholly responsible for it.

The only thing that got me through this morning was exchanging some laughs over whatsapp with amma and Niyu, who are both in Bombay at the moment, and the spontaneous decision to ditch my self-made responsibilities in favour of just being by myself. I went to Koshy’s and sat at my favourite table by the window. Originally, I planned to take my work along, but later decided against it, and instead just sat there for an hour journalling what I was feeling. No coherence, just freewheeling words. Not even full sentences, sometimes.

Then I had a masala omelette, buttered toast, two cups of tea. Slowly. Listening to a playlist I love. After over an hour, suddenly the penny dropped. I realised what was festering — a combination of many disconnected things that at can all be summarised as having demands/pressures on me and my time, when all I want right now is to just be left alone, to do my thing, in my time, as I will.

Allowing — actually even just articulating this need — myself has brought up a LOT of guilt and shame today. I’ve been better with this guilt and shame in recent times, but this is an old part of my brain that kicks in if I am not watching closely, and with kindness.

When the penny dropped, it came with a gush of tears. And I surprised myself by just sitting there, looking out of the window, wiping the continuous stream away. I dialled VC and did what I can only do with him, word-vomit of everything I was feeling. Said okay thanks, I feel better, I’ll see you at home and hung up.

I felt lighter. A little.

***

I often forget that feelings don’t always come up as an indication of something that needs to be fixed. Feelings are just feelings. They just need to be felt.

I don’t give myself that option all the time. I think I need to be able to catch myself more often, that I should understand, that I ought to have the answers.

Why? (Because I think I’m a goddamned knowitall hahaha.)

Jokes apart, it’s just too much pressure on myself. Again, an old, old trait. Of having to ace things, be good, stay on top of it.

I’ve been feeling like there’s a lot of demands on my time lately, time that I really just want to spend on myself. I’m doing things I don’t want to do and it is really gnawing away at my time and my space and that sense of ease I had so carefully cultivated. And because I have been “selfishly” spending so much time and attention on myself for so long now, my old brain tries to guilt me about it from time to time, bringing back old notions of what is selfish, what isn’t, what my “responsibility” should be, etc etc.

I forget that there is no need to make sense of feelings. Not immediately at least. That feeling them is usually all that is needed. Sometimes the feeling asking to be felt is shitty, or overwhelm, or loneliness.

I forget that I am allowed to feel those things too.

One year ago: Like coming home
Two years ago: I hope you’re not lonely without me

On resilience

Putting my deck away yesterday, a card fell out. I might have just slipped it back into the pile otherwise, but yesterday it really felt like the card was asking to be seen.

It’s not Monday, but here’s a bonus tarot message for the day. Just, because. As usual, it felt like a timely reminder for myself, I have been experiencing some difficulty in staying in contact lately. Partly because I have thrown myself into the fullness of work, and I’m still finding my feet with a natural rhythm. But partly also because the nature of this work itself has been bringing up a lot of my own inherent needs that need to be seen. There is sometimes discomfort with this sort of process, and the mind usually kicks in and does it’s very best to keep me on top of things, and it’s easy to lose sight of the cost at which that “staying on top” comes.

So this was a good reminder. And maybe you need one too? Stealing this one off my Instagram, but here goes.

What are you ignoring, in the pursuit of resilience?

While we’re talking about mind-body connect, here are some classic coping mechanisms that we’ve culturally come to accept as being good for us.

  • Staying busy to stay distracted
  • Abusing food and nourishment, either binge-eating or crash-dieting
  • Throwing ourselves deep in work
  • Powering through our days on auto-pilot
  • Shirking help

When we hit a rough or an emotionally challenging patch, particularly one that demands stillness, introspection and a deeper connect within, our minds work extra hard to bring in some/all of these coping mechanisms as a way to keep us from feeling miserable. But it invariably comes at a cost — most often a huge disconnect between mind and body. Which, while it may provide immediate comfort, can send you deeper into emotional disconnection and not really do you any good at all.

Culturally too, we laud these behaviours as resilience, perseverance, as “bouncing back”, and further reinforce them. And while it is important to allow whatever it takes to cope, it is also important to know there is no bypassing the process of healing, which sometimes takes us to uncomfortable places that demand a deeper mind-body connect. The distress and discomfort, while being intrinsic to healing, can be eased.

It’s okay to lean on a coping mechanism, but are you in touch with when you may be going over the edge, into numbing something that needs to be seen?

  • By seeking a trained professional to assist/guide your healing process
  • By leaning on sources of strength, rest and rejuvenation often
  • By gradually inculcating mindfulness and stillness
  • By creating spaces for safety, vulnerability, joy and connection that heal

I also know, and I will personally vouch for this, that the healing process is a severely non-linear one. Having mastery over something, being in touch with inner self, at one time, does not ensure that you will remain in that state at all times.

It’s just best to be realistic and know that you will inevitably swivel this way and that, depending on a host of different reasons. How aware you are of those movements, and how compassionate and non-punitive you can be with yourself with that self-knowledge, can make all the difference.

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

Seasons

Observing the quiet, natural way in which the planet gently and purposefully moves, signalling timely moments of birth, blossoming, life, rest, recovery, strife, renewal and eventually death has come to hold a lot of meaning for me. I’ve unconsciously internalised the message about everything happening in it’s right time, all things — even difficulty — having a place and a purpose, so deeply in the last couple of years, that it has become natural to now see a tree in full bloom, or absolutely leaf-less and immediately feel a connection.

Flowers, plants, butterflies, dragon-flies, moths have taken on a new meaning, when I spot them. Nature holds so much more. The earth has called out to me in so many ways.

It’s how I observed some days ago on a Sunday walk, that it is that time of year again.

The start of the same cycle that I have noted before.

Here. As hope, in a time pregnant with uncertainty, but promise.

Here. When I experienced the transience of time and how insignificant my worries, and I myself, felt in the larger movement that is life.

And here. Symbolic of the the despair I was experiencing then.

Looking back I see a movement in how I have moved in experiencing the same phenomenon as distress, to eventually hope. It’s telling for how much power there is in working through distress, even when everything is saying don’t go there, and processing it. Not so you can forget, forgive, or deny and minimise the effects of a difficult time and the pain it may have caused, but so you can actually integrate it in your being, in a way that eases the power it holds on you, to move on with ease.

Yesterday, I wrote a post on Instagram about trauma, and how the most human tendency towards processing it is avoidance. And how holistic methods of therapy can actually work in ways that befriend feelings in order to loosen their grip.

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

Flow, flow, flow

For a while now, I have been aware of the fact that the ups and downs in my energy and attitude towards working out everyday, has carried a message for me. I have, as far as possible, tried go with the — giving in to the needs to be slothful as much as working the high energy bursts to my advantage. But it has been a tad sad, to have to see the absolute high of last year’s energy in this aspect of my life change so dramatically.

The message has mostly been about coming back in touch with my body. To listen when it is saying something — whether asking for rest, or a change in form of exercise, or an indulgent rich dessert — whatever it is. Just to listen. Some clues have surfaced when I have, but it has been a challenge to still the mind and it’s need for rigid routines and perfection, and allow for that listening.

Yesterday’s tarot message was, unsurprisingly, mostly for me. It is already very, very true for me — when my mind is well, my body is too, and vice versa. Which is to say when my body isn’t well, it’s sometimes something to do with my mind. After years of training myself to listen in, and the years I have spent exposing myself to a holistic practice like Family Constellations, I now turn to look at what inherent connections I am missing, before I jump to medicating myself.

Anyhow, after many months of chipping away at a return to fitness on my own last year, and the uphill task of trying to sustain that some rhythm this year even in the face of clear and present need for change, it was suddenly time for an intensive movement workshop that I had signed up for last year.

I spent this past weekend in an intensive two day level 1 certification of Animal Flow, a practice I have been tracking for some years now. I’ve watched in awe not just the flair and flourish with which these flow-ists practice, but felt very deeply attracted to the mind-body connect it inherently requires, the slow, mindful way in which the movement flows, and the way in which the practice always feel so grounded — literally — since it is performed bare feet and on all fours.

This ground-based, quadripedal, body-weight movement training is focused as much on strength and power as much as it is on flexibility, agility and grace. It draws heavily from primal movements typically seen in animals, and is a beautiul framework of movement that has an insanely high focus on building greater neuromuscular connections and performance.

Again, bringing me right back to the mind-body connect that, even as I dole out as advice to so many people on a daily basis, I have been unconsciously moving away from in my own life lately.

The opportunity to certify myself as a level 1 practitioner finally aligned for me, after three missed chances, last year. I grabbed it back then, no knowing what 2020 would hold for me or if I’d even be around, and that an early commitment would mean I would prioritise it. And yet again, unknowingly, most serendipitously the timing couldn’t have worked out better.

Just when I have been flogging myself for not being able to just get with it, and get regular with my exercise, just when I have been not listening to the cues I’ve been getting about trying something more grounding, more in tune with being outdoors, something a little more challenging than the comfortable rhythm I have fallen into, it was time for the animal flow weekend.

And it kicked my butt. Physically, and metaphorically, both.

Despite being in a very good place as far as my body and fitness goes, I have been struggling since the start of this year. Waking up has been hard, my body is clearly demanding a new rhythm from me that I have not been very willing to give it. For eg: I have not stopped to wonder even once, why it hasn’t been hard to wake up and get to Sunday walks, as much as it has been to wake up and go to the gym everyday. The answers are there, pretty clear, if I had chosen to stop beating myself to go against the grain, than lean in and do what my body was asking for. More outdoors, more nature, more unfussy practices, less rigidity, less routine, less flogging.

At a time like this, there’s quite nothing like spending two full days around serious fitness aficionados and trainers — I was one of only 2 members in the group that were learning it for purely personal reasons — to shake the ground beneath one’s feet. The rigour of the training was way up there, because it was geared for fitness coaches, but I enjoyed every bit of it.

The thrill of a new skill, new tricks, and a 1000 new possibilities that lie ahead as far as working out and fitness goes, is high. But what’s more, I felt an intense mind-body connect over the last two days, and spending the whole time crawling about on all fours, doing those moves over and over and over was just the kind of big dose of physical grounding I need right now.

There’s also quite nothing like a good challenge for the body to remind me once again what’s emerged as important points in my fitness journey goes. The weekend brought me right back to remembering how well these have worked out for me recently:

  • Being honest and realistic about my expectations and goals
  • Focusing on what feels right and noticing when I find flow
  • Being grateful for my body, where it is at, and all the it enables me to do

I’ve already made the shift from focusing on fitness as the pursuit of slimness to focusing on it for strength, health and wellness. This past weekend I felt myself feel into my body, at a cellular, muscular level, and I daresay I really enjoyed the experience of what my body can actually do, in a very, very different way than ever before. There was a very deep, primal connection I felt with my limbs, my muscles, my skin, for my brain, for how incredibly crazy it is that we can learn new things and get our bodies to work in new ways. AND THE BODY JUST LISTENS.

Overwhelming. And humbling.

I guess there’s something to be said about non-fussy, no-equipment practices like this, or even yoga, that just use the body as the best instrument that it is. It touches and activates a very powerful, primal spot that is in all of us, that either lies dormant, or covered in heaps of layers of gunk for the most part.

I keep thinking about how the word flow keeps coming to me. My my experiences, conversations, how it’s emerged as a focal point, a goal, a measure of goodness almost. And it’s so uncanny that I literally learned another way to flow yesterday. The synchronicity is not lost on me.

One year ago: In-between   
Four years ago: Light and shadow