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. 

 

 

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

Small changes, big feelings

A little over two weeks since I have stepped gingerly back on Instagram turf. The single biggest change in the 2+ years of staying away from it slowly came together for me this past week.

The allure is as diminished as the angst is. I have gradually realised why — and like everything else these days, it’s something linked to discover authentic inner power — there is a steep increase in confidence about where I am, just as I am, and a steep decline in the need to justify, explain or prove any of it to anybody.

Earlier in the day, it was exactly the inverse. A serious deficit of true confidence, and an overcompensation through displays of various kind that acted as justification and efforts to constantly prove something or another.

Something about showing up and willing to be seen as I am has really clicked into place for me. It’s been interesting — a tight rope to walk — navigating actual selling of services and building a presence for myself in the absence of the desire to go down the “personal” nature of my old Instagram presence. Its been all kinds of interesting to witness.

One day ago: Of days that turnaround
Two years ago: The only baggage you can bring is all that you can’t leave behind

Bombay meri jaan

So. Bombay. It was surreal, fascinating, exciting, new. And a little saddening all at once. Yes, there was the work. Some exploration of the city, for possible future ventures there. Some one-on-one sessions, some powerful tarot sessions that moved me, and hopefully moved clients too.

And a visit to a restaurant I have been tracking and wanting to visit ever since it opened, almost four years ago (I think?). And there was vada pav.

And there was hanging with my cousin in a way that I haven’t ever had before.

And there was the happy coincidence of catching the memorial days of my great-grandfather as well as grandfather’s death, which takes on a whole other significance when you’re in the business of doing work around families and family dynamics.

It was fun. And it brought up a host of feelings from a host of different experiences. I’m still processing all that happened over the four days that I spent there. But it is hard to ignore, like with most other experiences lately, the fact that my way of seeing things has changed dramatically. It’s not sudden or new. It’s been a slow turnaround, but when I encounter certain experiences after a long time — such as being back in the company of my family in Bombay after so many years — the difference is accentuated.

For the first entire day there I kept wondering what’s different, what’s changed. Until I realised nothing much has in that world. Things are as well as they can be. And they’re largely the same as they have always been. It’s my eyes, my ways of seeing, my perceptions, my radar and intuition, that has changed.

The sense of a change was once again, not without that tinge of sadness. Sadness for the very distinct feeling of having left something very fundamental about how I used to relate and be a part of this family behind. As much as there is joy and liberation in working through old patterns, healing old trauma and moving on, there is always (repeated) grief about letting it all go. And being around my family, spending time in my grand parents home, reliving old times, brought it all up for me.

Internally, I felt very distant. Like I am in a faraway land, looking at that world from a distance. Intellectually, emotionally too, and in terms of where my life is headed, it just seems such a different world from the one I had stepped into there. It was oddly freeing, because I experienced so clearly some of the old bondages no longer holding me down. But it was also disorienting because I saw so clearly what had changed. And that process is never without a hint of guilt and shame, for somehow “caring less”. Once again, I had a visceral experience of this duality. And how the two poles most certainly can co-exist.

One year ago: Weekend highs and lows
Two years ago: May your feet always be swift
Four years ago: Blush

Regular programming ensues

It was past 2 am by the time I got home last night so I have spent much of today in a daze, and catching up on sleep. But at 3 pm I woke up and took myself to Town Hall again, in solidarity with Shaheen Bagh. I sat there for two hours today, softly repeating slogans, watching the sea of women, hearing fiery speeches about women doing the work, and witnessed passionate cheering and coming together around me.

The more you stand your ground, the more ground you will come to know.

There is power in finding your truth. As much as there is truth in finding your power. I feel this so deeply today. As myself. As a woman. As an Indian.

Finding deep correlation between my own personal journey and the awakening of this country, especially of women. And it feels like an unfurling that simply won’t be undone.

One year ago: Waking thoughts
Four years ago: Orange is the new black

Monday Tarot Message: Suspend

As a race we’re increasingly creating a world of instant-everything. Instant feedback, instant validation, instant results, instant responses, instant justice, instant opinions, instant noodles. We want everything really quickly. Perhaps it’s a way to feel in control, a way to one-up the rapid movement of time and change that seems to be hurtling faster all the time.

The Hanged Man asks you to consider what it means to pause. Pause before you speak. Pause before you make up your mind. Pause before you decide. Pause before you think you know it all.

A major part of any inward journey is heading right up into spaces in your being that will require you to pause.

To take a moment. To allow a slow unfolding. To give things time. To feel your way through uncertainty. To sit with discomfort and do absolutely nothing about it for long periods of time.

And a major part of confronting these spaces will mean facing that innate resistance to all of it.

In the Hanged Man’s suspension, I see surrender. A reminder that not everything needs to be figured out immediately. There is power in knowing your place in the grander scheme of things, of realising how little is really in one’s control, and finding joy in flexibility of not figuring it all out. This allows for that little play for things to emerge, and gives you the permission to change your mind, to stretch and flex, and to grow.

Can you shine a light on those aspects of yourself that resist waiting and watching, that fight the pause, that grow quickly uncomfortable with uncertainty, and look at what that urgency might be about?

A good place to start is to see dow it feels to suspend action. To suspend logic. To suspend the need to solve everything instantly. What happens in your body when you suspend the need for certainty? How does it really feel, to just for a moment, let go the need for instant-everythings?

One year ago: Slice of life
Two years ago: Fields of gold
Four years ago: Every day

On blooming

It’s nearing that time of year when the Jacaranda blooms in full fervour and intensity all across Bangalore. It’s one of the first signs, long before the hay fever and really warm days, that spring is upon us. It marks a slow coming to life after the snug days of winter, (even though we didn’t have much of a winter here this year – boohoo) a gentle blooming of life again, after a period of germination.

For some time now, as I have been seeking and feeling alignment within, I have also been observing patterns in nature. These age-old cycles that have been keeping rhythm of life for billions of years. Announcing periods, setting the pace, informing us in so many ways about when to slow down, when to keep pace, when to rest, when to retreat, when to conserve energy, when to step on it and ride it out.

I’ve been thinking about about natural rhythms and seasonal cycles, and how much it impacts the state of my body and mind. And I’ve been thinking about ways to observe closer, in order to find a deeper alignment. Because there is without a doubt, a benefit in this for me. Much of my work over the past few years has been in finding my own natural rhythm. A pace of life guided by an internal axis, rather than one set by the world around me that runs to a different beat.

I’m nowhere close to where I’d like to be as far as working in rhythm with natural cycles goes, but I am trying to make a deeper habit of tuning in and tuning around. Watching the moon cycle, noting my energy levels through the month, seeing what changes within me, as the seasons turn. When am I at my most energetic? And what can I do to maximise that, so that I can seek rest and retreat guilt-free at the times when I feel the lows?

I have been big into practicing staying with my pace and inner cues, and not going against the grain of late. And so, spring is about coming alive again. A liveliness that I have been feeling bubbling over all through January. But even so, I have felt the energy peter out in the last ten days or so.

It makes me wonder, how aware are we of the natural signs around us? Urging us all the time, gently and by example, that everything is cyclical. That there is no growth without descent. No spring without winter. No rainbow without rain. No full moon without new moon. No life without death.

Being in tune — whether it has been in taking to plants and dabbling in a bit of gardening, watching the moon and observing my mind and body through the cycle, running when I feel like it and lazing when I dont — has affirmed in many a way again and again, that growth has it’s own pace. It’s own milestones. It cannot be rushed by an externally kept schedule.

To ready yourself to bloom often requires long periods of inaction — whether you think of it as germination, autumnal period of your life, hibernation for self-care or whatever you will — it signals the necessary time of pause. Of stillness that is needed to first drop below. To peel. To shed. To let go and leave behind. In order to heal, nourish, nurture what lies beneath. And eventually to move on and about. To reach out. To evolve. To thrive.

To bloom.

One year ago: Sparks of joy
Four years ago: So, is this a blogathon?

Incremental change

Almost one month of the year down, and I finally feel like the pace is finding some semblance of balance and normalcy. My days are even and I have time to do it all, with ease.

I accidentally stumbled on a list I made on 01/01/2019 — a list of things I want. I think it was meant to be an open-ended list containing some of the most basic to the wildest wants that I had for the year. I saw it and chuckled. It’s sweet how I can dream, unhindered. And it’s sweeter still how much of that “wild list” that I actually forgot about, got done. This is the second such list for the past year that I have stumbled on, and I have made the same pleasant discovery both times.

I won’t go into details about the “wildest” wants that didn’t see fruition but here are some of the things that did, and that paid off very well.

  • To spend at least 10 minutes each day writing — really writing, pen to paper — in a notebook
    Okay, so the real notebook writing habit faded away within three months or so, but I did continue to write everyday and the ways in which this habit has changed and grown has really meant something deeper to me
  • To wake up early and start some form of exercise again
    Haha, I laugh hard reading this today because I know just how far off the bandwagon I was at the start of 2019, and I know what it took to get back on, and how far I have come since then. The difference is staggering
  • To do more tarot
    This was one wonderful, really pleasant, immensely satisfying development. Another habit that has grown and transformed me very internally in the process.
  • To be a little more mindful about taking care of my skin
    I started an actual skin-care regimen this year. Something I thought I’d never do. I realised how much my skin reflects the state of my internal (gut) health and emotional health, and I began to really make a effort towards balancing them
  • To be more in touch with my body, all that it holds and all that it can tell me
    This was something I have not just gotten better with, but also something I think I cannot do without now. Being in contact with my body has become essential, and I can tell immediately when I lose contact, these days. It has been a direct result of the family constellations, and the ongoing therapy I’ve been working with

***

One thing that struck me when I saw this list was a general sense fo ease and acceptance that has pervaded them over the year. For a few years now, I have ditched the term “goal” in favour of “milestones”. It has helped look at these as markers of somewhere I’d like to be, rather than an exact spot I’m aspiring to reach. It’s given me a broad range, a zone to work towards, a spectrum of acceptable outcomes, rather than a single, rigid fixed notion of what the outcome of each of these should be.

Last year, more than every before, I realised that this ease can only come with working towards acceptance. And that began with the understanding that acceptance isn’t a switch in the head that can be turned on and off. It’s not even an emotion. It is a willingness to look at reality differently. With playing with reality as it is, allowing it to do things to me, rather than constantly going against the grain to make it different.

One year ago: The changing face of loneliness
Two years ago: How about me enjoying the moment for once

On rejection

I usually look at this card as a very bright and optimistic one. Of birthing new ideas, welcoming new dawns. Of tending to the inner child. Of returning to a place of innocence and trust in how I operate.

But today, the same card brought up rejection as experienced by an innocent child. And I am always so fascinated by how the same cards provide differing anchor points, a story-board of sorts, depending on where I am, what I am experiencing or how I am feeling. The cards have become a powerful way to engage with whatever I am experiencing, in a visual way.

Since a large part of my recent work has been to do with autonomy and power, it has been really interesting to observe and witness how this is playing out in various relationships. One of the strangely-timed recent events has been reconnecting with an aunt of mine after a decade-long period of estrangement. She is one of my absolute favourite aunts from when I was growing up, and a true kindred spirit in many ways. As a child, she was my everything. I emulated her, imitated her, strived to be like her and in the process, aligned myself with her completely, probably in mind and heart too. With that background in mind, reconnecting with her, after this long gap, and at such a significant juncture in my life as I am navigating reconnections as a new me, has been super interesting to say the least.

As with any process of individuating, in peeling away and separating myself from many of the ways of being — that I might have cleaved to from blind loyalty, kindness, politeness, wanting acceptance and validation — and finding my feet in my own power, I have seen some really stark differences in the way we have connected this time around.

It’s different. And I feel the difference the most in that I may be that same doting niece, but I feel far less vulnerable and gullible in wanting approval. I am the same doting niece and I have felt an incredible amount of love and respect since reconnecting, but I also feel so grown up in how I no longer desperately want to be just like her at any costs. And yet, there have been a couple of instances, particularly in the face of a heavy projection of opinions, when I have chosen either 1) complete silence, 2) over-explanation of my stance on said thing — both typical tell-tale signs for when I am seeking approval, or avoiding rejection.

This morning, it came up in a big way for me — this dance of avoidance of rejection. It instantly took me back to specific times in my childhood when I have behaved in much the same way, and when I struggled to quickly try and formulate an opinion of my own that would be acceptable. That would make me continue to be worthy of approval and love. I know now, that this has been the unsaid, unconscious code for our relationship.

And it got me to thinking about what love does. Love can be the wellspring of nurturance and care. But for children, it can also sometimes be the channel for heavy projections and oppressive helpings of adult hopes and desires for what they want of and for their children. Every part of this happens unconsciously, and completely devoid of malice or ill-intention. And yet, this very lofty placing of the best hopes and dreams on to a child — it does so much.

It dictates to a child what is required of them in order to belong.

And it lays down early experiences and memories — sometimes violent ones — of rejection.

Today, as I sat with that flitter of a hint of rejection at having an opposing view — my own (seemingly questionable?) view — I had a rush of memories and visuals of that old self, that child I once was. Who has experienced this rejection in full force at times. And I realised this is such a primal human emotion, an evolutionary building block, as it were. For if we didn’t experience rejection, we wouldn’t learn the codes of how to belong and stick together which was so crucial for our survival.

Literally every one of us knows this rejection. It is the very basis of what keeps families together. A watertight unwritten, but experienced, knowing of what is right and wrong. What is acceptable and what is not. What is good and what is bad. What is allowed and what isn’t. And if we were to dial any of those experiences and really feel in to them, at the very core it is usually a rejection of the very essence of who we are, through the eyes of a member who really needed us to be a different way.

So we comply. In order to avoid rejection. And when we comply, it is often at the cost of dishonouring our own instincts and inner needs. Oddly enough, it is at the cost of rejecting, or sacrificing, ourselves.

Today, when I touched that old place of rejection, it wasn’t long before I realised where in my present I am rejecting a part of myself. But that is the stuff of an entirely different post, for when I have processed this some.

It’s an old and heavy wound for most of us, this one. Not one we can shrug off easily. It cam come up again and again, even when we have touched the place and healed some parts of it many times before. And so, of course I shuffled my deck of cards and pulled The Sun, which immediately took on a new meaning this morning.

It so happened that I had a therapy session today, and even though I have had a world of things to talk about since our last session, pulling a few cards this morning gave me immediate clarity on the one thing I wanted to bring up and dive right into. That old wound of rejection.

One year ago: On crying
Two years ago: Tell me what you really like

As within, so without

When Joseph Campbell came up for the third time this week, in passing conversation, my ears perked up.

As always, repetitive things, strange coincidences, synchronicity, catch my fancy. I have dived a little bit into his work lately, as I am charting out some projects I want to kick off in the first half of the year. I’m dreaming of a melting pot of writing, psychology, Tarot and behaviour sciences and the ideas are blossoming faster than I can keep up with them. Exciting work that for now requires me to make a laboratory of my brain, to meld together old (and sort of rusty and dusty) and new identities (still emerging and unfurling), old and new skills, the comfortable spaces of familiarity with stepping into new spaces of discovery.

Still not in any coherent form, I am going with it — mind-maps, vision boards, lists galore and the like — in the hope that clarity and form will emerge. All through this month, as I have nurtured these thoughts, I have realised time and time again how much this year is already different to the last one (or two actually!). The last two years felt quiet, slow, restful, inward, while this year already I feel so outward and such a significant sense of movement and shape-shifting taking form. It felt like affirmation for how much the focus within has impacted how (differently) I can now relate and connect to the world without.

Affirmation also that the last few years I have spent looking within have irrevocably altered the axis of my being, putting a wholly different spin on how I want to be as a person in the world. What it means to be a human being in 2020, and how I can bring purpose to my existence.

Affirmation of a necessary journey that everyone must make if they can — this inward one — for how much more rich and fulfilling it makes the outward experience of life itself.

I seem to be running into this same message over and over again in different forms, in interactions, conversations, pieces of writing, video. It’s quite astounding.

Affirmative. Life-giving.

Today, I read something Campbell said and it has stayed with me, speaking of The Hero’s Journey (which is central to Tarot, and also what I have been researching):

We have not even to risk the adventure alone, for the heroes of all time have gone before us. The labyrinth is thoroughly known; we have only to follow the thread of the hero path. And where we had thought to find an abomination, we shall find a god. And where we had thought to slay another, we shall slay ourselves. And where we had thought to travel outward, we shall come to the centre of our own existence. And where we had thought to be alone, we shall be with all the world.

It spoke right into my search far and wide for belonging, and more recently, thoughts about how to belong in this jagged, fragmented world today.

And then, one of the favourites I have cultivated and savoured over the past year — Adyashanti — put it beautifully in a view from just a few days ago. Speaking of the universal interconnectedness of all beings, and the need for us to operate from that place of deep connectedness with ourselves.

Speaking affirmatively once again to the fact that there is no better way to connect with the outer world, than to first be authentically and deeply connected to oneself.

If one thing has become more and more obvious to me—and I don’t say this so anybody is overly aggrandising themselves, because it’s actually a very humbling thing—the world needs you.

The world needs each and every one of us. It needs anyone who is endeavouring to be connected and to live from a place that is a bit more connected.

It ties in beautifully with the tenets of my Family Constellation work, with the state of the country in this present day, and the ask of each of us as human beings in this world that is insistent on spiralling out of control.

I feel a gentle coming together of many disparate threads of my life. And I am curious, humbled and very, very, excited in a childlike manner, imagining what is yet to unfold.

***

In the interest of new dawns, new beginnings, new steps, new spaces, new projects, after much, much, much deliberation, it’s taken me a few weeks to figure out the best way to do this in the manner that best aligned with my specific needs, minus the onslaught that social media inevitably brings.

Finally, today I swallowed the red pill.

I am on Instagram, purely for work. Follow me, and spread the word, if you’d like!

https://www.instagram.com/revatiupadhya/

One year ago: Little pieces of magic
Two years ago: Pretty lights
Three years ago: Because I want to remember
Four years ago: Saru-anna

Fitness in 2020

I took this picture on a particularly cold morning last week that took us all by surprise, after a spell of warm days, when D and I caught a mid-morning walk. The crunch in the winter morning air, misty treetops, dust-speckled sunlight slicing through, casting dappled shadows around. It was such a good morning to be out and moving.

It was a good day, in a week of almost no exercise. It hasn’t been the best time for exercise in general. And by that I mean, I’ve experienced better — better regularity, better commitment, better follow through — over the major part of last year. 2019 was largely a good year for health, and for fitness. I started to course-correct and bring myself back in the bandwagon and found what felt like the missing piece in healthy sustenance, the difference between fitness as a fix versus fitness as a lifestyle. And so I suppose in that case, I must accept that in exercise, as in life, there are fits and starts, periods when life happens in spaces other than the ones we’d like to keep flogging.

I have had a dry spell. It began way back in October when I went to Manali, where it was too cold to exercise, plus I was on holiday. Then we were in Goa to pack the house up and I got rained in, which made it impossible to keep a regimen going. And then I came back to a hectic few weeks of the last bits of my course, which went into December that had S visiting, and two back to back getaways, only to return in January. I’ve had fits of two week stretches of regular running and gym work in between all of this, but nothing longer.

Even in January, I started in the second week only to give it a break last week again, post my first workshop, when I typically have somatic changes and my body demands rest and slowness.

I observed this time though, the stress about the dry spells has all but vanished. I seem to be able to move in and out of the slumps as and when required. Give in and rest when my body or mind asks for it, minus (and I mean absolutely NO) guilt or shame, and get up and get going when I know it is time to move again.

Like I did this week. Resuming my morning workout, in earnest once again.

I still have starting trouble, seeing as how the mornings are still nippy and life under the covers is far more inviting than outside the covers. It takes a herculean amount of willpower to stay out long enough to brush my teeth and change out of my night clothes and into my gym clothes without slipping back into bed. Because the od time that I have done that, has meant a drastic change of plans. All plans for movement have been rendered shelved in favour of rest.

That said, once I am at the gym and working out, I feel almost immediately that getting out of bed has paid off. Days with exercise go far better than days without exercise. I know this for a fact, and I really count on the flow that starting the day with exercise brings.

In just two days this week, the energy feels different. And it’s uncanny that it will be exactly two weeks of this before I have to give myself a break again because I am off to Bombay for my next workshop.

And so I wonder if this is part of fitness as a lifestyle. As with everything else, I am seeing how to operate with ease and gentleness rather than by compulsion. To tune in and listen, rather than force myself to go against the grain.

I’m curious to see what fitness in 2020 holds.

One year ago: An inalienable joy of meeting grief
Four years ago: Bengloor-life banter

On anger

I have been confronting ideas of anger, lately. Anger that’s held in my body. Anger as a mere idea, and how my family has felt about it over the generations. Anger as something I have not been very much in touch with at all, growing up. Anger that I only mistook for rage. Anger and shame. Anger and guilt. Anger and permission.

Anger as a woman.

Anger towards the injustices we’re facing as a country. Anger at basic, everyday disappointments and rejections. Anger at the personal level, as well as the level of the collective.

It’s also been up in the air, around me.

Personally too, at therapy over the last many months, I have visited that place of anger, really opening the door, laying out a red carpet and allowing it to enter my mindspace in its full potency. Airing it, fanning the flames and sometimes letting it billow into a huge all-consuming fire. Sometimes watching it erupt, but fizzle out quickly, leaving a spot of singed skin. Raw, asking for the comfort of cool breath.

In the process I’ve had to examine my relationship with anger, and how much the ideas of anger, and the beliefs the adults around me held about anger, have shaped my own. How much that has made me either turn away from my anger, or bury it the moment it has raised its head. And consequently how much that has caused repressed, festering wounds that would just be gone if only I was in touch with my anger.

And now, with frequent entry-points into my anger, I have learned to go back to points in my life where anger came up but didn’t find a way out, and tell myself that that then, was the experience of a child who didn’t know better. A child who had to choose between being herself in the full flow of the emotion she was feeling, versus being accepted and loved.

I have had to reconcile with the fact that I have grown up believing that my anger is bad. Sometimes, the unsaid message has been that anger, in women specifically, is difficult. Other times it was that my anger makes me too much for people around me to take. That my anger has been a huge burden.

As I have processed much of this, and in turn built a safe container in my adult self to give room to that anger to find it’s way out, I am now, slowly, seeing a mellowing down in my current relationship with anger. I am angry, but I don’t act out as often. I am angry, but not rage-y or vengeful in that misguided, out-of-control way that I used to be. I respond, more than I react.

I am angry, but with purpose. I am angry, with energy.

And it is entirely because I have tapped into my anger as a life-force. Anger, that actually warned me when I felt unsafe. Anger that actually cued me to claim my place. Anger that made me realise when I was let down, disappointed and dejected. Anger that signalled something I was deeply passionate about.

Anger that kept me safe.

Anger that should have had a significant, life-giving place. Anger that didn’t find a way out.

And when I numbed that anger, I also numbed joy, passion, energy and purpose too. I numbed life itself.

Historically too, women have been taught to keep anger under wraps. It’s a centuries-old tactic to keep women in check. To keep our emotions locked away, to keep our power diminished. However, the greatest revolutions and steps forward that women have made, have been born out of moments of blinding anger and often destruction. Even culturally, essential female archetypes of death and destruction such as Shakti, specifically Kali, embody anger, red hot power and strength.

She embodies that heart of anger that is the umbilical cord to out full power, and our emotions. She is life, as much as death. Birth and fertility as much as rebirth. Her demand of us, is to be vivaciously alive, passionate and deeply committed to truth.

We know this all very, very intimately. And yet, we continue to give anger the bad rap it doesn’t deserve. I know this because I am suddenly so, hyper-aware of the great levels of discomfort around anger (especially in women) in my own family. I also understand that some of it is well-intentioned and modelled around wanting to be better human beings — more gentle, loving, forgiving, kind, empathic and peaceful.

What I know now, is that the only real way to be all of those things, is through feeling anger if and when it comes up, and not side-stepping it. Through realising that anger is a life-sustaining energy, primal force, that it comes up to signal danger, cueing preservation and safety. It is impossible to make those choices and move forward, without fully accessing anger.

For generations, women have had to bypass their anger in the effort to be more pleasing. Palatable. The kinder, fairer sex. For generations, even those of us who have talked of anger through our myths and legends and religious archetypes, have simultaneously managed to never feel it ourselves.

So is it a wonder that expressions of anger are then seen as the horrible, ugly things that they’re made out to be?

***

Here’s another thing I’m working hard to rewire: my relationship with anger. By accessing it fully when it comes up, freeing myself from beliefs and reactions coded in my childhood, and navigating through it in safe, adult ways.

And so, it is no surprise at all that I am having anger come up in so any different conversations around me. Speaking with VC two days ago, I told him I have been feeling deeply angry on his behalf, because I noticed and paid attention to something that is brewing in me. To notice it, allow it, acknowledge it and let it play out its natural course without judgement or panic that the world is somehow going to implode because of it, is a huge step for me.

Yesterday, my mother mistook my emphatically and emotionally voiced opinions to be an angry lash-out. It absolutely wasn’t and not too long ago, the mere mention of anger might have triggered off a fit of rage. However, I surprised myself by a spontaneous chuckle that escaped from my chest, and the surety with which I was able to say I am not angry.

This post in fact, is an outcome of many meandering thoughts that have been swimming in my head for months now, but that somehow found bright crystallisation this morning, in a chat with my aunt.

Later in the afternoon, my sister shared with me an insight about how she has noticed how she holds anger in her body and wonders how to process it as an adult.

Anger. It’s in the air. All around me. In so many forms. Asking to be seen, to be held and examined closely.

This kind of synchronicity, when things repeat and show up again and again, are my markers. Deep affirmation that what I’m on to is really important for me.

***

I’m learning to love my anger. To touch it when it shows up. To see what it has come to teach me, before I bypass it in a rush to feel better.

But anger rarely comes alone. It often brings along its friends fear, judgement, guilt and loneliness. But as I am also learning to sit with all of that, simply as it is, it has been a revolutionary idea: to love my anger. To drop the weight around it. To allow the adult in me to redefine what anger means to me now.

Fear not the pain. Let its weight fall back
into the earth;
for heavy are the mountains, heavy the seas.
The trees you planted in childhood have grown
too heavy. You cannot bring them along.
Give yourselves to the air, to what you cannot hold.

Rainer Maria Rilke

One year ago: New light
Two years ago: Block rockin’ beats (Wayanad, 2017)
Four years ago: Come undone

On emptiness

Committing to a life of getting to know myself a little more intimately has meant consistently peeling back layers and layers of protective fluff that we as humans tend to gather around our hearts. As I told someone in a reading today, this is human nature — the need to protect and keep the heart safe at all costs. Even from seeing the truth that needs to be seen, before we move forward. This process also takes us further away from the core of our humanity as well. Creating layers between our outer and inner worlds, keeping us away from our own  selves.

So then, to commit to a life of getting closer  human to try and confront whatever it is we are seeking protection from. To do it in a gentle and compassionate way, that facilitates integration and forward movement in life, is super important. The goal then has been to be more touch with that which makes me human. What lies at th core of my spirit, when all the layers have been shed.

I have been thinking a lot about this — about the very core of humanity, and what it is that makes us the way we are. And the process of getting there through constant cutting of fat, peeling of layers, letting go of all that doesn’t serve me, processing all that does, often requires culling away and gracefully shedding many things. People, emotions, beliefs, ways of being and living, even. And very, very often, staring at the emptiness that remains.

It has taken me to the depths of understanding the heartbreaking, but liberating, price of living in a way that deeply honours the needs of what lies at the core of my spirit.

I have been witnessing emptiness in my life so often, in so many places and forms, these past couple of years. But the simultaneous process of filling myself up in a healthy way, of finding inner solidity of and from myself, has made all the difference.

This mornings edition of the daily aha moment while on my run was this: that I have discovered the difference of looking at emptiness from a place of emptiness, versus now looking at emptiness from a place of being quite filled up.

It means I am less compelled to be uncomfortable as I once was, by that emptiness. Less troubled, less thrown, less inadequate because of it. And I am less drawn to immediately fill it up with something else. Less inclined to do anything at all, actually. I have somehow found the ability to just see it and acknowledge it for what it is — emptiness. Necessary emptiness. And I am able to hold it as it is, more often than not. And the discovery thrilled me no end this morning.

One year ago: Solo Saturday night
Two years ago: Obscured by clouds (Coonoor, 2017)
Three years ago: Two new pieces
Four years ago: Lessons in letting go

Full moon, moon shine

Full moons are already times of release, of purging the old and making intentional space for the new. With a lunar eclipse added to the mix, it makes for a really potent time to let go of the past, remove self-imposed blocks and barriers, and re-evaluate and release beliefs we’ve held (with good reason) but that perhaps no longer hold good or serve a meaningful purpose.

This first week of the new year has already been such a sharp and steep contrast to not just the last year but the last many years, for me. It has been like going from sleeping to standing up tall and taking strides ahead.

I keep saying it has been sudden, that I woke up in January and suddenly everything had changed. But this is untrue. It is also doing myself and the work I have slowly and steadily done over the past many years a huge disservice. The truth is that the last couple of years have been a time for germination. Of slowly chipping away at myself, getting to the core and seeing how I can nurture and nourish what makes itself seen there.

And like with all germination, it happens slowly and in a hidden way. Beneath the surface. It’s hard to tell from above the ground what is at work or how things actually change. And then “suddenly” after many days of nothing, and staring at plain crumbly brown ground, there is a tender shoot that pokes thru.

I am that shoot today. January saw the beginning of that waking up and emerging into the world. And I can’t help but feel the sacredness of all that is already so new and different from before. I am heading in ways that are drastically opposite to what I have thought good for me in the past. And to be moving thru steadily, slowly chipping away, with a quiet confidence and clarity every step of the way is proof. Change takes time. A heck of a lot more time than we are usually willing to give or notice. But this process of letting go of the old and welcoming the new. It is such a special journey. Sacred. Important. Life giving. And I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

One year ago: And so it’s done
Two years ago: A hazy shade of winter
Three years ago: Happier: perpetual WIP