Peace, within and without

First thing in the morning is my most preferred time of day for exercise. In a perfect world, my energy and willingness would be right up there with that intention. But that isn’t always the case. And it is only very recently that I have come into agreement with this fact, without feeling like I am somehow useless for not always meeting that standard.

I don’t know if it is just an outcome of ageing that I am me seeing how my “morning person” energy is shifting, as it does, mostly towards a natural slowing down, or if this has always been true and I am only just getting more comfortable with my inherent patterns of energy.

I am also at my most energetic, nimble and supple in the few days right after my period, while at my least energetic and not desiring movement in the days right before my period.

Today was that kind of day. Slow, blobby, body not entirely willing even though head and heart were. So even though I woke up early and had a perfect window to workout, I found myself moving in a very measured way, doing everything else except getting ready to exercise.

I nearly cancelled out the workout entirely, even. But pushed myself just a wee bit. Because I have rarely never regretted a workout once I have finished, no matter what the circumstances before I began.

This is also a part of rolling with the punches — the willingness and ease with breaking the plan, with doing something rather than nothing at all, going as far as is possible than not going at all, not being exacting and demanding with my expectations of myself.

Picked a short, quick, high-impact workout today. There is quite nothing like that burst of energy, even for a body that not so long ago felt unwilling to move. Invariably, it takes all of 5-7 minutes for me to feel like I can move. And so I am glad I pushed through with whatever I had to give and however I was able to show up today. Because by the end of it, I felt bliss.

Bliss is just the word for it. Have you ever felt bliss within your body? Like the sun shining out from within you? I felt that way this morning, despite that feet-dragging start. And so I felt instinctively drawn to step outside, to the little sliver of sunshine I get and feeling one with the world around me.

It has to be said that even with the ups and downs in my emotions, in context to what’s been going on around me and the world at large, I feel very much at one with myself lately. A sense of togetherness within me. Peace inside of me. Quite anchored and not wanting to uproot anything — a sense of everything being in it’s place.

Earlier, when this contentment showed up, it would come with a desperate need to hold on to it. To bottle it. To keep it for a rainy day. I notice now that there is a new ease with just witnessing, experiencing it in the now, now. And letting it go. And welcoming all experiences and everything that they bring, alike.

This is so new, and I suspect a major reason for the peace, even in the face of feeling low sometimes, quite a bit of grief sometimes, physical distress from being restricted too.

I want to acknowledge this experience I’m having, of seeing and knowing emotions, without being hijacked by them, getting swept away or losing my footing when in their effect. Is this possibly a brush with inner peace?

***

Today, this also made me really happy.

***

Looking back at posts from July one year ago, and again balking at what a different place I was in, in my head and in my life. It seems too distant to even process, like reading the words of an entirely different person.

This year, with the coming of the monsoon, that expected and predictable yearning to be in Goa is all but missing. A fascinating development. I mean, I would love to be there in the monsoon, but every year since I have moved away, this time of year used to bring an aching longing and FOMO, which hasn’t come this year.

One year ago: The rain
Three years ago: I need to sit with the quiet, I know that much
Four years ago: The rain, the rain

Saturday morning done right

When it’s raining outside.

…and err, inside also.

Four months of very, very regular working out, right after a whole year of running more than I have in many, many years means I now need new training shoes. This is the quickest I am having to replace a pair of sneakers.

One year ago: Decompress
Two years ago: Did we fly to the moon too soon?
Three years ago: Back to base. Almost.

Outdoors

In the midst of all the madness last week, I managed to wake up early, put my mask on and head out for my first outdoor run in over three months. I swear, I cried a little.

And because I felt so good, I went again, the very next day. It was raining, a typicaly Bangalore morning, feathery drizzle all the way through my entire run. It felt so great to be outdoors, and so good to be running in the rain.

It’s all the exercise I could manage. But it gave me a burst of energy and good hormones I so needed. I took the weekend off from volunteering, and lay low. Feeling feels. Journaling, painting, listening to music. Eating greasy Chinese take out. Crying and laughing. Sleeping. Not exercising. Just listening.

Then Monday came around, and I knew from the moment I woke up and stepped out of bed that it was going to be better. This week, I’m looking forward to gently getting my exercise and cooking routine back on track. Infections are spiking in Bangalore again and I’m not feeling so safe to head out again for a run. It was short-lived joy, but I think I’ll pass for now. Back to those home workouts that I’ve not done in two weeks now. My fridge was a mess, overstocked, but chaotic with nothing cohesive to make a meal from. I cleared it out and set that right over the weekend and already, I feel so much better.

As much as I am raring to get going, I clearly am not ready to dive into the deep end, so I have had to reign myself in and stay with what I can do and what my body and mind is allowing for. This whole experience has been a live lab for all my learning in boundaries, empathy, holding space for the other while also making space for everything that it rakes up within me. And I’m quite pleased with how I have pulled myself through it. Not punishing myself, but staying very close to what I need and taking it when I must.

Two years ago: Love on the weekend   
Four years ago: I’m only procrastinating to avoid the discomfort

Lovely day

Highlights:

My tuck jumps have gotten steadily better. I’ve gone from not being able to do more than 2-3 at a stretch in February, to being able to do a slippy cheat version for 30 seconds (cheating was the only way to endure the interval) on my birthday, to today doing them really bloody well for the entire interval.

I felt seriously stoked. Working out within the physical restrictions of a 4x5ish space in my living room at home has upped my game. Who’dathunk?

Vc had a light work day and so we spent it together relaxing, just doing our own thing. It is a seriously underrated luxury.

I cooked lunch today as opposed to eating leftovers from dinner the previous night, which is usually the strategy. Sindhi kadhi, methi aloo and some crispies on the side — perfect for the threatening-to-pour-any-minute-now day that it was.

Then it came down finally. It poured the fuck out at sunset and things have cooled off considerably.

I went the whole hog and made Biryani today. Friday onions, a separate meat curry cooked in coconut milk, half cooked basmati rice. Layered and cooked on the dum. It was divine and I even took a picture, which I looked at much later, only to discover it’s a perfect depiction of how good the biryani smelt and looked because I was clearly in too much of a rush to dig in.

Two years ago: There’s still time for another
Four years ago: On the calmness of being at home

Wild and free

My mind feels well. And by well I mean in tune with the rest of me. My body hasn’t felt this whole in years. Supple, and just this comfortable in my skin, this alive. My skin has really benefited from this lockdown. Between the clean air, home food, measured indulgences, regular sweaty exercise and a mind that feels well too, it’s really all cumulatively showing on my skin. Not just my face either.

The hair, though. That’s a whole other story. It’s just going out of control doing it’s wild thing as it would, two months over the usual stipulated time. It really hassled me for a while. But I am just going with it now. Also, let’s not talk about body hair right now.

Emotionally, I’ve had really good days, and really shit, shit days too. It’s been especially hard to not have anywhere to run off to, literally and figuratively. But somehow that is exactly also what’s needed? Sitting with the full gamut of all the feels. And I know that that has been extremely beneficial. Painful, but essential.

My dreams have been crazy. Frequent too. Not the unbelievable/imaginary kind of crazy, but the very real, featuring people in my life, revisiting places I have been, in a very surprising way kind of crazy. I’ve been journaling my dreams too. And I know this has been beneficial too.

There’s a wild and free feeling in my being these days. Ironic, no? Given our existence is anything but wild. And the farthest thing from free.

This is the mid-week look of having smashed out a workout I nearly didn’t do. I realised this morning that I may have literally never regretted a workout once it is done. Even when I’ve procrastinated or had starting trouble, once I have pushed through and finished it, I always feel good. It is always worth it.

I’m not happy all the time. I’m not productive everyday. I feel uncomfortable, uncertain and anxious a lot. I notice very keenly these days when I am not alright, in fact. When I’m not happy. When I’m restless. When I’m angsty. And I notice when I long for an escape, and when I am able to just observe it and let it pass. I notice how I’m turning to my usual rescue team a lot less. I see that it l eventually passes. I see a change there, in all of it.

Even through this very up and down time, something’s working, something’s shifted, something’s right.

One year ago: Vulnerability and validation
Four years ago: Birthday weekend in progress

Just now

It gave me joy to do something for just myself yesterday. 90 minutes spent alone at home, by myself and with myself. At two points when we were required to place our palms on our heart centre, my eyes welled up profusely.

Practicing a form of yoga that isn’t about the physical body as much as it is about the emotional body. No getting sweaty and breathing heavy. No complex poses. No challenging the body physically. Just steady, mindful breathing for a whole 90 minutes, while observing what comes up emotionally, when the body is placed in certain ways.

As someone who has a strong physical practice that is all about the challenge, rigour and stretching my limits, and most definitely performing better, this is a challenge but surprisingly, as I discovered yesterday, also a delight.

***

Things I am desperately craving:

  • A really cold, crisp beer
  • A run in the park. Heck, even around the block would be good, right now
  • A good, meaty burger
  • Cool, crunchy papdi chaat, with cold dahi and pomegranate on top

Things that are making me really happy right now:

  • My plants (I’ve started to call it a garden) are thriving again, the hibiscus flowering regularly, all babies growing up very quickly, new shoots and leaves and buds showing up in places they haven’t before
  • Thums up
  • Mangoes
  • The silence

One year ago: Slow and steady
Two years ago: The times, they are a-changing
Four years ago: Go far, they said

Good things

that have come from this stay-in. Just some things I’ve started to pay attention to, enjoy/care about more than I used to before this strange, strange time:

The value of housework. And by value I mean the actual worth. I am totally rethinking how much I’m paying my help enough. And I’m a muddle of thoughts about all the unpaid labour housewives put in and how much of themselves they are forced to forget in the bargain.

Folding the laundry, doing the dishes, mopping the floors down on my haunches. Thanking my stars for having a small (manageable) home. Finding the daily dose of happy by tending to my plants diligently again.

Cooking twice a day, every day. Managing efficiency with groceries. I’m frightfully aware of consumption and wastage lately. We’re becoming champs at repurposing leftovers all the time. Salad becomes raita. Dal goes into paratha dough. Bits and bobs in the veggie tray get roasted up and piled on toast, coffee grounds go into my plants. And it feels really good to be using up everything that’s in my fridge and kitchen to the max.

Cleaning methi leaves. Making dahi every single day. Remembering to soak nuts every night.

Video calls. I’m not much of a phone person. It’s only in recent time that I’ve started to enjoy telephone conversations with some people. Video calls were saved for work and readings. And suddenly now I’m doing it so often, so easily.

Working out alone. Working out at home. Treating the half hours of sweeping and mopping the floor as my full body cardio warm up hahaha. This has forced me to get really innovative with my exercise. Trying that new yoga class on Zoom.

Getting comfortable with finding pockets of routine in days that are really not uniform and where no two days are the same. Being okay with having no routine. I feel quite relaxed.

Not knowing what tomorrow will be like. Imperfection. Taking time out to make myself happy, either by cooking something I want to eat, or finding that window of time to paint, being flexible with exercise.

Holding grief and allowing for it when it comes. Learning to be okay with witnessing it and not making meaning.

Realising I’m in a space of retreat again. Not having much to say about it. Watching as it’s making my relationships change. Not doing a thing about it.

Waiting. Uncertainty. Pause. Going really slow.

Justin Bieber. That daily sugary evening adrak chai with a small unhealthy snack.

Who knew.

Two years ago: Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow
Four years ago: Weekending

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

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

I’m alive

WHAT. A. DAYYYY-YYYYY!!

1) It started at 7 am. For making it to the gym, two days in a row. Yes I’m now down to celebrating this, because January has seen the exercise streak take a severe beating. One that I was happy to just go with, till it led to unbelievable levels of sloth that I had to just ride out, I suppose. An upward spike in energy since the weekend has meant I am back, once again. And two days in a row made me insurmountable happiness first thing in the morning.

Working out to this on repeat a handful of times probably also had a major role to play.

2) Also the fact that I started loading and refreshing the Election Commission’s website at 8 am today. It was bound to be a good day, right form the get go by the look of things. But boy, I was not prepared for just how good Delhi came through!

This is probably what reaching tipping point feels like. When the status quo has been hella shook, people have no fucks left to give. I’ll admit, I had a mad sadistic happiness watching the results, with BJP getting absolutely pissed on, and Congress, walloped. Every cell in my body feels relieved. And insurmountably happy that after years of wondering how much lower will we have to go before there’s a glimmer of some push back, some turnaround, this happened.

The single-minded hate campaigns have had me really disillusioned lately. That this is a state’s response the country’s current ruling party got, for what was probably the lowest, most despicable, disgustingly hate-laden, vilest campaign possible makes me happy no end.

Kejriwal’s “I Love You” to Delhi punched me right up in the feels today. I feel hopeful that as a country we know better, we want better, and even though it might be a long and painful road ahead, this victory makes me feel hopeful that we will not settle for less. Not anymore.

I read this couplet somewhere today, and aside form feeling really apt for the turning point that today is, it really, really touched me:

tū shāhīñ hai, parvāz hai kaam terā
tere sāmne āsmāñ aur bhī haiñ

Translation:
You are a falcon, flying high, your purpose
And you have so many undiscovered skies ahead of you

This is what hope looks like.

3) And as if all that goodness was not good enough, I watched Little Women. It was an impulsive plan to tag along with S and S and I wanted so badly to “revise” the plot of the book before I went but that didn’t happen. I kept repeatedly mixing up details and plot lines and earlier televised and cinematic versions with Pride and Prejudice (*eyeroll*) and I was all kinds of confused until right before the movie began. But OMG OMG OMG — what. a film! Came home so utterly confused about why Soirse Ronan didn’t bag the Oscar for Best Actress.

It was just beautiful — stunningly re-imagined, picturised, shot and edited. And just such a delight to see a film so full of powerhouse women taking so much screen time, uninterrupted by men who are just mostly in the background. It was poignant, and I could personally relate to so many little nuances of each of the characters. Their pains, sorrows, joys, triumphs, confusions, disillusionments, frustrations and ecstatic successes alike. It was touching and joyful, heart-wrenching and uplifting, simultaneously. Experiences that show me humanity, and duality are fast becoming top experiences in my book.

4) We shared a plate of the best potato wedges after the movie.

Yeah that’s it. That counts for a darn good happy day in my books.

One year ago: Super power
Four years ago: Fail

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

Food for my soul

It’s now been almost an entire month of no exercise, and even though I had grand plans to get back to eating normally (after the Manali holiday), here in Goa, that was not to be either. I tried, and realised very quickly that between extended Diwali shenanigans, meeting friends over meals, going to the beach, and general state of relaxation that has ensued, it wasn’t a sensible idea to force eating “right”. So I gave in and went with the flow instead.

There has been a lot of beer, a lot of alcohol, a lotttt of sugar (unbelievable amounts in fact, in comparison to how much I’ve cut it out of my diet), a lot of eating at odd times, ordering in, eating out and a lot more meat than I have been used to lately.

It’s always fun for a short while. I realise eyes and my brain that dream up the food I want to eat, enjoy it far more than my tummy does these days. Nearly a year f consciously eating better, eating cleaner and generally listening to my system has made it quite…not sensitive, but balanced, in a way that it is quick to protest when the balance goes off kilter.

I’m ready to hit reset and go right back to eating two meals a day, cutting table sugar out completely and eating home-cooked food again. But there’s still some days to go before I can do that. Tonight, the temptation of a new joint that’s doing momos and street-style North-Eastern fare has lured me out to dinner again. Then there’s the weekend before we leave on Monday or Tuesday.

So today, I gave my tummy a break from all the indulgence with the comfort food that I most crave when I hit periods like this. Those chips have become a staple in my meals here — see what I mean by off kilter?

I recently told D that I have discovered the easiest trick to sustain any kind of food plan and make it stick and work is to allow for moderation. I find that I do that by including semi-frequent indulgences and the occasional falling off the bandwagon. That said, this has been a good year for fitness, for pushing boundaries physically, for getting closer in touch with my body, for health, for food, for finding balance and for wellness.

Gratitude today for all the ways in which opportunities aligned for me to focus on my health this year. Whether it was finding means to sustain my regimen through all the travel, reconnecting with a trainer whose methods really worked for me (over distances even), finding a sense of balance with myself that encouraged me to keep going, discovering joy in running, living within walking distance of the gym, walking on Sunday mornings pretty consistently for nearly a year now — I feel like this year I really found my groove with fitness and didn’t have to really effort much. Things fell into place, they happened, and I just moved through it with minimal difficulty and very little mental doing. It helped save all my focus for actually working out instead.

One year ago: These days are better than that
Two years ago: More Goa postcards: Walking through Mapusa market
Three years ago: Light and life

Moarrr rain = a lazy week

By now I know that this extended rain isn’t an occurrence isolated to the coasts alone. It’s been raining all over large parts of India, from what I have read and heard. But what I’ve experienced in Goa in just the two days since coming back is phenomenal. I don’t remember it being this heavy even earlier this year in peak monsoon.

This feels like July or August once again, but it is just so much more…relentless. Powerful, unstoppable, aggressive, almost.

Yesterday we had some respite in snatches. But at some point when we were busy playing taash last night, it began to come down again. Loudly and continuously, with no signs of slowing down. It continued well into the night and even as I drove home in the rain closer to 1 am and we got into bed, it didn’t seem like it was going to pause anytime soon. I woke up to the same rain, same intensity, same darkness at about 9 am. And it has just gone on and on and on like that all day long. I am not even exaggerating. I slowed down a wee bit, just a tad, in the afternoon and just as I heaved a sigh of relief it came clamouring down again at about 6 pm, and it’s the same story all over again. It looks and feels a bit like there is some endless source where this is coming from, and it is nowhere near done.

It’s been 20 days since I got any exercise at all. I mean any exercise. I haven’t moved a limb. First it was the holiday, then the hectic week at class. And so I came to Goa prepared to at least resume running again. Outdoors, I thought. Since there’s so many places to go here. But I guess the weather has other plans. So instead of moving again, I’ve spend a majority of my time here in bed. Between the darkness thanks to the nonexistent sunlight, the great sleep vibes this house has, rising late and generally letting myself go this month, I’m writing October off as a dud. A rest month.

Something about being here with absolutely no need to wake up “on time” always brings out the lazy in me. It’s been interesting to see how I can let it be. So far, I’ve slipped into some form of routine here too, but nope I haven’t even tried this time around. The help doesn’t ring the doorbell in the morning, there’s no gym to get to, VC doesn’t even stir because he has no work to get to, and I have absolutely no demands of me. So I have gotten more sleep than I imagined I could these past three nights and two days.

I’ve even been slow to get started on the errands we need to tick off before we pack up and move cities yet again. I’ve been late to write a post everyday. I have two drafts I want to get down to fleshing out, but they remain as they are — half-written. I have an essay submission to make and tonights the absolute deadline, but it’s in bits and pieces and I’m dragging my feet on tying up the loose ends like I have all the time in the world.

The weather seems to have changed our plans, and for a change I’m going with it. Coincidentally, my body has also needed the rest. A week of class means a lot more to process physically, and that had exhausted me way more than I realised. So I suppose it’s natural that the minute I put myself in a no-demands environment, it’s claiming the rest and sleep in needs.

***

Even as I’m a bit peeved by how goddamned wet it is, I’m grateful for the break. For the sleep. For the rest. For the contemplation and clarity that has come because of it.

One year ago: We’re never done
Two years ago: On going solo
Three years ago: Weekend snippets

On alone time

I’m slowly re-learning what it means to take time. To make time for myself. It’s taken a slowly easing into, a dropping further below the previously held notions of what “alone time” has meant. I’ve watched my comfort levels with this waver, go up and down, observing when I am comfortable and when I am not.

It’s all so telling.

Beyond the obvious lessons in putting myself first and setting clearer, healthier boundaries, I’m also now seeing how this learning has its roots in the deeper process of individuation and growing closer to the needs of my inner self — the broader arc that has defined my journey so far. I’m learning to move beyond outward behaviour that is often loud and fond of making statements, to listening in to the voice that doesn’t always have a loud, expressive voice to say what it wants, and when I listen, sometimes the ask is of a quiet, non-exhibitionist solitude.

This is the first time that despite having VC visiting, a rather full weekend for ourselves and the usual temptation to abandon everything and be with him that overrides all other motivations, I got out willingly and easily, to make it to a movement workshop I’d signed up for weeks ago. And instead of rushing home after, I went over to Koshy’s and had lunch by myself. Because I wanted to stay with what I had experienced at the workshop, I wanted to sink in, I wanted to tend to that sense of oneness with myself for a little bit longer.

I’ve been doing this solo thing for literally years now. Long before solitude and activities-for-one were hashtaggable digital vignettes made cool by millennials. I’ve watched movies and had meals alone since my early twenties. Later, being self-employed and largely deprived of my kind of friends in Goa, doing things by myself really became a way of life without much thought, choice or coolth attached to it, even.

I have spoken many, many times of the proven benefits of embracing and getting comfortable with solitude and stillness. For years, this was just life for me in Goa. Not something I had to cull-out time for and cultivate outside of regular life.

This feels different. Like an outcome of a deliberate choosing. Not from rebellion, minus any guilt, not as a fall out or to compensate for rejection or any of the other usual suspects that sometimes precede an outing like this for me.

Today, this really feels like it is coming from a place of a deep and simple need to honour myself. A need that has shown up, simply asking to be seen.

I am glad I am beginning to catch these cues. And I finally have the ability to act on them selflessly. The gifts of solitude, whether in an indulgent, luxurious getaway of some kind or simply enjoyed bowl of rasam-rice eaten alone in bed — you do you and choose what you will — are seriously underrated. Somewhat lost, and just diluted in what has become the predominant narrative around self-care these days, I’ve realised how much alone time can be done easily and affordably. It isn’t about buying stuff and experiences and consuming more to feed the capitalist machine that’s profiting from our angst and collective efforts to discover ourselves. Although if sometimes you want to indulge that, go right ahead.

It has only now become about truly, simply, feeling enough in my own company. Of feeling safe, held and sufficient. Of having my own back. Of feeling steady, still and solid in and of myself.

As someone who has long lamented the lingering loneliness that always lurks in my life, this feels different.

This feels new.

On my way to Koshy’s, zipping through traffic on MG Road, thinking these thoughts, I was gobsmacked my a bright blue butterfly that flew right through the auto I was riding! In through one side, fluttered around attacking my face, and out through the other, all while we were scramming through moving traffic in the middle of the city.

If that isn’t a sign, of new growth, of flight, of lightness, I don’t know what is.

***

Happy and grateful to be in a good streak, physically. Waking up early, feeling energetic, feeling the urge to use my body for more than just getting around, challenging and stretching myself outside the limits I am comfortable with. I said to D this morning, that something has clicked into place for me as far as understanding exercise and what it does for my body goes. And he put it perfectly by saying maybe I have pivoted. Haha.

I think it’s true, though. And it’s what I am grateful for that shift in understanding, because this time around it seems to have come from deep within. Not motivated by only fitness performance alone, or only aesthetics alone. There has been minimal deprivation, plenty nourishment in a mind-body kind of way.

This time around it feels like the outcome of a deeper connection with myself. I’m grateful for this.

Three years ago: Too many words, so here’s a copy out

Let it blow through you, don’t let it move you

I had a brief exchange with someone a couple of days ago that brought up in full force a latent feeling of hurt and disappointment with people. Specifically of a set of people I felt used me during the Goa years of my life. People I mostly knew online, but who slipped from the virtual into the real in the name of shared interests. People I mistakenly called friends. People I opened my home and life to so (maybe a touch unnecessarily too) willingly. People I realise now preyed on the usefulness of knowing someone who lived in Goa. People who picked my brain effortlessly — for work, for contacts, for information, for inspiration, for help, for connection, for friendship. People who took it all so easily. People who have benefited from my hospitality, my openness, my willingness, my warmth.

People who needed me then, more than they do now. People who dropped me like a hot potato when that phase — and the usefulness — of my life ended.

Because, what use am I now when all I do is blog about a largely personal journey? Only speaking in vague circles. Not posturing at an audience. Not sharing details of any particular interest to anyone. Not giving enough meat to build a steady voyeuristic habit on. Not possessing much coolth by way of social media currency or giving anyone any reason to engage with me. None of the above.

The exchange, and the hurt that followed, didn’t leave me pining for the oddly confused/lost connections (as such situations once did), as much as it made me feel sorry for the naive and simply trusting person that I have been. For being at the receiving end of this, too often for my own liking. For mistaking my own loneliness and need for diversity as the right receptacle for new connections. For mistaking some of those new connections to be something real connections. For trusting. For being used. For feeling hurt.

I’m glad that exchange was quickly followed up with a solid day spent (in a saree!) with S. I chatted with her about this, blinking back tears at one point. Because it reinforced so much about where I’m at, what kind of connection I want and will welcome, and just how impossibly ungrateful people can be. And even as I feel my world expand, my heart open wide, there is a simultaneous bitter truth about the number of people who make it in to that inner world getting smaller and smaller.

I feel grateful for the friends I have at this point in my life. Close friends, acquaintances and everyone else in between. I’m grateful for what I have learned from experiences past, and the ability to now call shit like this out. Even if to myself, even if in retrospect. For knowing what I simply will not stand for anymore.

The more I see how shit people can be, and the ways in which they have exited my life, the more I appreciate those that have remained. Those with whom my relationship has evolved and strengthened. Those who have given me room to be who I am, through the ups and down. Those who watched me go and grow through the last two years either silently from the sidelines, or cheering me on front and centre. Those who have made me feel I have the space and liberty to take as much as I give. Those who allow me to take, even when I don’t have much to give. Those with whom the relationship is larger and way beyond what I am good for or what I have to give.

***

I was talking to S (a different S ahaha!) yesterday and telling her how even though I am in a phase where I feel solid physically and mentally, I seem to be at my most “unproductive” best. My reluctance to do anything at all has reached an all time high, and my inclination to work (actually, to do anything at all beyond the bare minimum required of me right now) is at an all time low. And she echoed it — telling me how her experience was exactly the same during the time of this same course that I am in the thick of.

The more I think about, the more I feel glad for a life that allows all of this. The luxury of staying off work commitments, the choice to dip in and out of family commitments knowing I have their support and backing, a roof over my head that I don’t have to hustle for, a structure and routine that has my space and solitude at the heart of it. It’s enabling a lot more than the obvious.

***

Ran a smooth, steady 7km in the park today. A good pace, a new route, bumping into S after 7 months since I trained with her last. To have her look at me and immediately notice OMG, you’re running! and then to take off and run with her for the rest of the time. Such a good start to my day. I’m grateful for the park, for bumping into S (that’s yet another S! I realised recently that I am surrounded by them!) who took my run from a regular run to a milestone run. My longest outdoor run yet that ended at 7.1km.

One year ago: Warm days filled with sunshine
Two years ago: Boooooook post
Three years ago: 109 kms done