Powerlessness of love

Last minute, rushed brushing-up texts from last year’s course, as I prep for class again this week, I stumbled on this stunning description of “primary emotions” that I don’t remember reading last year. Or maybe I read it, merely glossing over it, not taking it in the way it stumped me this time around, simply because this stuff has come to mean so much more in recent times.

The author describes primary emotions as being so intense that there is a powerlessness in the experience of them. He speaks specifically of love, and how it, like most pure, primary emotions have that quality of lightness, ease, and of loosening up something within us, to the extent that they render us powerless.

I realised this only in context of how when we move into the realm of secondary feelings, what drives us is actually the desire to subvert that which makes us feel powerless. It is our inherent human tendency to attempt to control, to actually exert power over anything that tends to take over us — as most primary emotions do. It is what we all do, in order to make sense, in order to navigate what we’re feeling and in order to sometime just “feel” through the emotion.

I’ve consciously and unconsciously done this believing fully that it is what is to be done with emotions. But I’ve recently realised this is futile. It is counterintuitive and that the only way to move through it is to do nothing at all. To surrender to it’s power. To really wholeheartedly experience primary emotions like love and joy, are to surrender to the full impact of their inherent powerlessness, and how they invoke the same powerlessness in me.

In other words, let it all go.

I’ve been trying to let go, let loose a little bit more than normal when I feel primary emotions wash over me of late, to really see what happens when I do, what am I so afraid of. And the observations have been interesting to say the very least.

Gratitude for love and people in my life, this week. For the numerous small, daily opportunities my life presents for me to connect and feel this love in so many different ways.

Meanwhile, and as I speak of love, under a week to go before I see this face and get to do this IRL, than with screens between us. Gratitude for VC and for everything that he is to me, and this strange, magical place we are in.

Gratitude for the opportunity to be in a classroom again starting tomorrow. To learn. For no other reason except to itch the scratch of curiosity about something that has drawn me in so fully. To learn for the sake of learning alone.

Gratitude for the epiphanies this work and the learning continues to bring. For the numerous daily aha moments that abound. For the slowwww way in which it unfolds, creating the gentlest ripples in my life. For the incessant lightbulbs that go off and on from time to time. For this experience of learning that feels vast, endless and like I will take it through to the rest of my life.

Gratitude for exercise once again, this week. I realise the days immediately after my period ends are when I am at my lightest, most agile best. And I don’t mean this in terms of weight at all, but more in terms of how nimble and springy and ready to get up and run, I feel. There is a literal spring in my step that makes me quicker, feels like it transforms me into this lithe, subtle being that can fly.

Yesterday, at the gym after a four day break, fully expecting to take it slow an easy as I ease back in, I surprised myself by bursting into a spontaneous quick run that was faster and took me farther than I have been in the recent past.

I’m slowly figuring out the key to making myself sustain anything in a healthy way. The ways in which this works for me are to focus on consistency and ditch all the numbers. And this isbfinally how I’ve become about the gym too. I started in March and all I have done is very mildly streamline my food inake and get diligent about getting a spot of exercise six days, every week. I haven’t measured or held myself to any numbers or measures of progression as yet. I didn’t stand on the scales either. Until yesterday. But in the way that I feel, in the way I can run, in the way that I have been lifting weights again, I can feel myself getting marginally better every week.

I stood on the scales for the first time in years today, and was shocked to see I am back to my pre-wedding weight. This has happened entirely when I wasn’t looking for it. So I felt mighty thrilled and I treated myself to a slice fo flourless chocolate cake.

Gratitude for little surprises that break the monotony of this city life. D said to look out for signs in the form of bright, unexpected yellow flowers today, and minutes after I read the post, I realised I’d stepped into the midst of these.

And as it happens, I had extreme flow, zero obstacles on a day when there could have been many, a delightfully happy day.

One year ago: It’s just this thing that seasons do

Advertisements

We back

Today, I was so happy to see I’m almost exactly at the same running pace I was at when I left two months ago. Finished an easy 4.8kms in 35 minutes today, and really felt a world of improvement in my strength and conditioning lifting weights today, compared to two months ago. Was so good to feel my legs work better than they did then. That I haven’t shaved off too much stamina and endurance even though I’ve only been working out at home while I was away gave me a real kick. In fact, if anything I’m doing better, because I finished today’s run with ease and zero cramps or huffing and puffing. I think all the clean eating and the consistent HIIT focus has helped fast twitch muscles considerably. I’ll go the distance and get there in time, my goal for now is to finish 5k in sub-30 minutes.

There’s quite nothing like tracking progress of this sort, when I’ve had a break and returned to an old activity, expecting to be a little rusty but I find the difference is pleasant, and so visible.

I’ve missed the gym so much. I’ve missed the treadmill, the weights, my new sneakers that I left behind in favour of an old worn-in pair to take to Goa. I’m so ready to begin lifting heavy again, because that’s what’s calling out to me now.

One year ago: Days when I couldn’t live my life without you
Three years ago: Waiting (the film)

Going the distance

I don’t know if there’s a better picture than this one to aptly illustrate just how much I am being pushed and tested to let go of all the perfect endings and neatly laid plans I have in my head.

Time and time again these past few weeks I have been shown that it’s important to just go the distance, even if it isn’t all the way till the end line I imagine, or even if the route to getting there isn’t the one I’d have chosen. What matters is giving it my all and going as far as I possibly can in that moment.

To actively work towards hitting 5k in under 35 minutes and nearly make it, only to be stopped just short, by a pre-timed treadmill that’s trained to shut off at 35 minutes was serendipitous today. It made me laugh hard at the gym today. It felt like a small scale version of what happened yesterday when it felt like my life, that was moving happily along, was forced to come to an abrupt grinding halt. And there was absolutely nothing I could do but to go with it.

I’m headed to Goa, two weeks ahead of schedule. And for the first time in perhaps ever, I’m not thrilled about it. After more than a day of fretting and stewing silently, I now feel a little bit at peace with the acceptance that I don’t have to force myself to feel kindly towards what’s going, but I can still do what’s needed and what’s asked of me.

It isn’t perfect. But it’s far less worse than it could have been. And for now, it’ll do.

One year ago: March

A good day to give thanks

Gratitude this week for:

My body for reminding me how resilient it is and how much I can push and stretch it to do things I sometimes think are unimaginable.

Access to a gym, to be able to afford it and to put money, mind and body into fitness as a priority.

My trainers and for the commitment and focus they bring. And for inspiring and pushing me.

One year ago: Love dares you to change our way of caring about ourselves

Finding flow again

It’s been a while since I experienced a state of flow like I did today. I’ve only ever felt it when I’ve been so completely into doing something that it absorbs me wholeheartedly in a way that makes me zone out, the world spinning on like it does, but all I can see or hear, all that I am aware of is the task I’m engaged in. It has consumed me fully, taken me to a strange otherworldly state of bliss. I have experienced this with baking, writing and reading before. Times when hours had passed, but I was entirely clueless of the passage of time and when I suddenly snapped back to reality, I was in utter disbelief about how long it had really been, and how deeply engrossed I had gotten. This was years ago.

Today, it happened at the gym.

I was so slow to wake up. Even though I went to bed early and got a good night’s sleep, that old familiar feeling of wanting to hit snooze till eternity came over me. So, I got to the gym ten minutes later than I usually do. It’s the kind of thing that used to earlier really bother my Type A mind that could only work a regimen to the T, the way I have it chalked out in my brain. Even the smallest deviation would make my motivation drag and a 10 minute delay would sometimes mean I’d cancel the workout completely. But some things have changed, I suppose.

So anyhow, in my groggy state this morning, while trying to get myself out the door before I give in to the deep desire to sleep again, I glanced at my workout of the day, saw only the top line mention a 20 minute run and thought Oh, that seems easy enough. It was all the push I needed. And off I went. Earphones on, Sapporo (currently the only album that’s fuelling the running) on full blast, I began to run.

I don’t know what happened after, but the next thing I know, the 20 minutes were done I felt like I’d barely been running for 5 minutes. Energy pulsed through me, and I  could almost feel it charging down my legs urging me to get going some more. It’s been challenging getting my running form up again. Every day last week I’ve had to really, really push myself through to the end of the running bit of the workout. It has taken every ounce of willpower to push through that burn and not give up when I think I’m done. The wonderful thing about finding this flow today, was how all of that difficulty just dissipated entirely, without my awareness. It’s the sort of switch that makes pain turn sweet, makes that inner voice (that sometimes tells me to give up) just disappear, and makes every moment spent with the task at hand an absolute and perfect joy.

Running those 20 minutes were a visceral pleasure that I could feel in my soles snug in my shoes, in my quads taking me farther with every step, in my hips that were no longer straining to keep up with me but were working in perfect synchrony, getting my legs to find the rhythm they’ve been gingerly trying to get a hold on for the last ten days.

Then. The killer.

I glanced at my WOD and realised the 20 minute run was just the start. The next few lines to follow “21 minute run” went like this:
5 minute rest
15 minute run
5 minute rest
12 minute run

And as if that wasn’t enough, a 15 minute conditioning burst to finish.

Misreading that is usually the kind of mistake that would make me either go back home, or fudge the rest of the workout. But today something took over me. I don’t know if my supplements are finally kicking in, or I needed 8 days back at the gym to find my groove again, or if Shingo Nakamura kicked things into place for me today, but today it really felt like divine timing waiting to happen. Like disconnected parts aligning slowly and moving towards that one moment when everything clicks into place just so. Like perfection waiting to happen. As a result, something really special, and surprising happened today.

I didn’t fudge the workout. I didn’t feel the need to give myself the I’ve-just-started I-can-go-easy excuses. No shortcuts, no sneaky cheats. I finished.

And I felt utterly blissful.

It’s a different matter that when I left the gym there wasn’t an inch of dry surface area on my tee, I wished for one of those Tesla cars that drive themselves, and a remote controlled house key that needed only a click of a button.

Boo-yeah.

One year ago: Just go ahead, let your hair down

Mostly nothing

After spinning like a top for two weeks, I had a much needed quiet weekend of mostly nothing, all to myself. It was just what I needed to hit reset, make the wheels in my head stop spinning. And it was good to just resign — to sleep, to cooking for myself, to eating eggs and toast for dinner, to binge watching shitty movies, to just being without doing much else.

I say nothing, but it wasn’t an empty weekend. It was just a low-key one, filled with basic, mundanities. The stillness of a regular routine, of being able to do whatever I want of my time, of lying low like the afternoon sun slanting in, stark yet sleep-inducing, is seriously underrated and I don’t know what it will take for me to remember to indulge this luxury that I have, more often.

If on Thursday I was confused and disconnected, this weekend reconnected the link that had snapped. Who knew all it needed was a weekend spent simply, spontaneously?

There are times where I arrive at perfectly regular, unspectacular days like these. Where everything is just normal, and I get the sense I’ve been here before. I know this, it works, it has worked before. And the way in which they ground me and bring me back to myself, I sometimes feel they heal — harder and deeper — than the epiphanies and breakthroughs on days that come like a spectacular bolt of lightning and shake the ground beneath my feet.

I wish for more days like these. Where the truth is easy, and it dawns unannounced. Where there is love in simple acts of pleasure. Where I feel grounded and held, even when I’m going about my home all alone. When I suddenly realise that what I’m looking for has been here and within my reach all along.

***

It began on Friday, actually. With S coming over for lunch, I ended up cancelling all plans to work. This wasn’t part of the plan, but I just went with it — and this is something I am trying to let myself do more often without attaching judgement to it. I enjoyed cooking that meal complete with greens, salad, curry and millets. There was filter coffee post-lunch and we ended up gabbing till well into the evening, having to forcibly stop because I had to leave. Else we might have gone on and on, I suspect.

On Friday night I drove an hour across town (willingly, excitedly, on Friday evening. I don’t know who I am anymore.) met with A and caught Girish’s Karnad’s Rakt Kalyan, a Hindi translation of the original in Kannada, directed by Sunil Shanbhag. The play was stellar and deeply moving because even though it’s a tale of a perfectly idyllic society degrading to despicable levels of anarchy and bloodshed, it felt all too real and relevant for where we are as a country today. However, it was dense, intense and in such perfect Hindi, I had a hard time not tuning out. It wasn’t the play, it’s me. I realised that night that I’m just not in the headspace for anything densely engaging right now. It’s why I haven’t been able to read a full book this year, and why my journal writing is fragmented and staccato, not flowing like it was just last month.

The feels come deeply and sweep over me and I can’t do much but sink with it — a feeling I don’t quite enjoy. It makes me listless, my mind torn between over-engaged and letting go, stuck in between and doing nothing.

The play made me feel something. A little too deeply. And when we got out to catch dinner, I found myself nursing the idea of breaking my carb fast to chase the blues that had descended away. Luchi-aloor-dom it was. And it did not disappoint.

***

On Saturday morning, I woke up early, ostensibly, to hit the gym. My body has been stretched to the max this week and that morning I felt it in every inch of my muscles. I was very, very tempted to chicken out, but I persisted and pushed myself out the door. Thankfully it was a spot running workout, and even more surprisingly, once I was past the 7 minute mark, something inside of me kicked alive and I began to enjoy the run. Even so, I was battered — in a good way — by the time the 45 minutes were done. I’m still only running 50% of the stipulated time, and everyday that I make a small improvement whether in a new distance reached or a better pace, I feel good for it.

There is something ridiculously satisfying about getting my workout for the day done before 8 am, coming home to a super hot shower, getting back into my night clothes and back into bed for a daytime snooze. In summer, with the AC on, it hits the spot a little more. I meant to catch a short nap but woke up 2 hours later, when the doorbell rang.

I then spent half an hour sorting and arranging flowers around my home. This week I got two deliveries worth of flowers which means there’s currently more vases with excessively dressy flowers in my home than there are humans. The ratio is 5:1.

A lunch of leftovers was meant to be had, but after binge-watching the Bong Eats youtube channel yet again (I have no idea why it’s so addictive and makes me go on and on, one video after another, losing track of time) I was craving a simple masoor dal. So I made myself some and ate my lunch in bed, watching Netflix.

A few hours of Netflixing later — I really got into the gritty and raw Delhi Crime (can’t dial into anything serious, she says) — I received an annoying Basecamp notification from a slightly irrational client who I suspect has the idea of timelines all wrong in their head. I was so triggered in the moment that I decided right then and there to just give them what they’re on my case for (even though the timelines they expect are crazy). Sped off to Third Wave, which has become my go-to when I need to kick my productivity in action, and pounded away for a few hours getting some work done even though working on the weekend was the last thing on my mind.

Somewhere in between D texted me and what ensued was a really funny conversation that had me stifling loud laughter and wiping away tears. The dude working at the table next to me kept glancing sideways, with a very perplexed and worried look. Later I realised it must have looked like I was crying, violently shaking as I was from trying to mute the noisy laughter that was threatening to erupt, while wiping away a stream of tears. I really needed that bout of laughter, and the endorphins that rushed in.

I came home and made myself a boiled egg sandwich with Kasundi (thank you, Bong Eats!) and ketchup, salt and pepper before calling it an early day.

***

Thank God for Sunday being rest day. And after the brutal week it’s been in the workout department, I was looking forward to it. But I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to hit my Sunday walk again after so many weeks. We promised to try. Except I woke up and promptly listened to my body, — clearly begging for some rest — cancelled and went back to sleep for two more hours.

I spent the rest of Sunday pretty much horizontal. I managed to read a bit, cook myself some cholle for lunch, loll about for extended periods of time for the rest of the day, watching Delhi Crime. Niyu came over in the evening and we chilled for a bit, before I caught Captain Marvel (again!) in the evening with D.

***

Time and time again I am shown the beauty and wonder that slowing down, minimizing and steadying myself has to offer. Most times, when I have nowhere to go, no place to be, no timelines to worry about, I am happy. This past weekend I was all alone. My folks are travelling, my maid took the weekend off and I had no real plans — something that hasn’t happened in many weekends now. The plans that got made, happened spontaneously, with ease, and because I wanted to. No obligations, to stretching myself more than needed.

Cerebrally, I know the benefits of letting go, going with the flow and all of that. And for the most part I am in sync. But there are times, like the last two weeks, when everything about my being decidedly rejects the idea and insists on staying on the run. I must remember to especially slow down and stay still at such times, not to see what I am getting away from when I run, but to see what emerges when I stop.

I know what it was this time, and I feel a little silly that it takes a weekend of forced staying in and nothingness for me to dial in to that. When will this become my default? When will that inner knowing be fine-tuned so much that I don’t have to think about it and I just know when to pause, without having my external life orchestrate the pauses?

I was chatting with VC the other night about how much I am loving what has become of my life. Aside from the fact that it’s missing his presence sorely, I am thoroughly enjoying how much space I have for me, for what I want to do, even if it is sometimes nothing at all. I hope I can get myself to turn the negative self-talk down more often and really make the most of this time. That was after all one of the major motivations of staying on in Bangalore.

I must remind myself more often.

Three years ago: Piece of peace

It’s been a long time coming

I got back to my daily walks pretty soon after we got home from Benaras. Summer is here, good and proper. So it’s ridiculously bright, warm and muggy at 7 am, not at all like the crisp mornings I enjoyed when I left for Goa.

I felt physically uncomfortable for days after we returned, feeling my body heat and dry up from the inside out. It was like my insides were revolting the drastic turn in climate. Would you believe Goa was cooler?

On the upside bright, early mornings have meant waking up super early to sunshine streaming through my curtains. The exact opposite of winter when it’s dark and grey, making it impossible to wake up and get going.

So, waking up has been easy. It’s been good but more than that, the feeling of getting going, of the wheels beginning to move and run from the get go, is such a summer feeling I love.

And then there’s splendour like this where I go for my walk/run. And it has made all the difference in helping me stay consistent.

Since the start of the year, I’ve listened as my body as asked for a little movement, and then some more and a little more. I started with walking on Sunday, then a few more times in the week, then I started running some of the time before eventually rejoining my yoga class. Slowly, I’ve been feeling my body come alive after a whole year of what felt like hibernation.

This week, I went back to a gym. My body has been screaming for some weights and so I listened. It’s been five days and such a viscerally felt thrill to be back on a treadmill, pounding the kms away, picking up a pair of dumbells even more so.

This sense of an awakening in my body has been slowly trickling in spurts. This week I really felt like I’d rekindled and revisited an old friend within me. And old self I’d loved and lost. And regained again. That meeting, that felt like a coming back home to myself once again.

It’s been just so, so, so good to be back.

One year ago: Love, let’s talk about love
Three years ago: On unlearning and relearning order

Move, move, move

The urge to get moving again actually surfaced one fine evening on my last trip here in Goa. It’d been a year long time of hibernation, near nil movement until then, with all the classic signs of sloth that I have never really seen in myself in all my life. The inability to wake up in the morning, taking so long to surface, the idea of exercise or even just movement feeling like a drag. Coupled with this was an unquenchable appetite, that I now think was partly emotionally charged. I was eating large quantities of ALL THE THINGS.

Somewhere around November of last year, I began taking long walks with D on Sundays in Bangalore, and maybe that was the beginning of it. Even so, it took a lot of effort to push myself out of bed one day a week, and I couldn’t get myself to stretch that enthusiasm for even one more day.

Possibly the one good thing in all of this has been my complete refusal to push myself, and the acceptance of things as they were. Yes, deep down it did bother me that this sort of fundamental shift was in the works. I wondered if I will ever be the exercise buff that I used to be. Have I stopped caring completely? Will I ever have the morning energy like I used to again?

Just as I was settling into a deeper state of acceptance that maybe that phase was well and truly over and it’s time to usher in a slow, non-moving one, something stirred again. And I’ve just listened, gone with it and been at it ever since — yoga every other day, a walk or a run every other day, sometimes an short power extra walk or run in the evening additionally if my energy and time allows it, and that long walk on Sundays.

Almost naturally, my food intake has become more mindful too. I’m convinced the two go hand in hand now, because without much effort I find my portion sizes becoming more appropriate. I used to be a big breakfast eater, that’s changed. I’m easily satiated at lunch and dinner too. The only real effort I’ve put is in quitting sugar to a large extent. I skip it in my chai and coffee, I’ve been mostly off dessert, though I’m not being ultra strict about this either. I have allowed myself the odd hot chocolate or jalebi, when the opportunity strikes. But overall, I feel like I’ve found a rhythm about my body — of being tuned in and being able to listen. This is new too.

And so, in an effort not to break the healthy streak in Goa, I came prepared. With my sneakers, exercise clothes and yoga mat in tow. I hit the road this morning, and walked a speedy 6k in an hour, came home and did a few suryanamaskars and I FEEL SO GOOD.

I don’t have a very great locale to walk/run in, unfortunately. Not one that I have discovered as yet anyway. I’m located just off a highway that’s currently under construction, so it’s just miles and miles of dust and rubble. But I didn’t want to let that stop me. I plugged in my new Bonobo faves compilation and went for it.

The morning views around this home aren’t a patch on what I used to have earlier, but it’ll do. I feel like this time around I’m not going to give up so easily.

One year ago: There’s nothing here to run from
Three years ago: Major leaps, minor struggles

Waking thoughts

At yoga this morning, my teacher said something really simple, but that rang true with the resounding sound of ten bells in my head.

To bring awareness to a part of your body, is to breathe into it. To bring prana into it. To bring life itself to it.

And suddenly I realised, that’s exactly what the journey of awareness has been for me. Like in yoga, bringing awareness has brought life to my life. Without it would be to merely exist.

***

I’ve caught myself saying “I feel so used!” to myself so, so, so many times these past few weeks. So far it’s mostly been in response to things friends have said or done, which has had me sit up and look at the equation between us. But it peaked when my neighbour, who I barely know, just asked me if she could use my home to serve lunch to a bunch of wedding guests they cannot accommodate in their home. It’s been a testing time for my boundaries and the idea of my personal space and how I allow it to be encroached has been coming up a lot, lately. If this is not a sign to wake up and address it, I don’t know what is.

Three years ago: Orange is the new black

Sparks of joy

Just some things that sparked joy this past weekend.

The beginnings of the jacaranda blooms are here. And the city is bursting into clouds of pink that make my heart sing.

I may have developed a habit. A flowers for no reason habit. Oops.

Cooking.

And a few other things:

Being back in class for two days and understanding duality s little bit more.

All the experiences of being forced to slow down.

That stunning slice of chocolate mousse cake I had on Sunday night.

Yoga. Making it to a walk every other day.

Waking up and surfacing early again. Just like it used to be before I turned into a sleepy head.

Homemade strawberry jam.

New epiphanies and letting them sink in slowly.

A new skin.

Three years ago: So, is this a blogathon?

Little pieces of magic

In the early years when VC and I had just begun seeing each other, we weren’t too big on using the phone. We’d spend all day together at the same workplace, and inevitably a gang of us would head out after work for a bite or a drink (or both) and it was only the hours between sleep and the new work day that kept us apart. So we didn’t really need to talk too much in the after-hours.

In general, in life, VC isn’t big on communication. If something is pressingly urgent or needs to be immediately shared — these are the only two counts on which I usually expect a call. A barrage of messages, an entire conversation on SMS — this is an impossibility with him. The thing is, I am a big communicator. Not so much telephone calls (though I sense something changing here too), but I can have entire conversations on chat/messaging services. And I can make calls to VC for no reason at all.

Anyhow, with this long backstory out of the way, this is just to note that VC has suddenly taken to calling me for no reason. We’re suddenly the people who begin and end most days with a telephone call. Sometimes just to say hi, and bye. The thing I thought would never be possible: video calls. We make them now. Several times a week. And I have to say, I’m not the only one initiating them.

I am enjoying this shift in our lives. Where suddenly there seems to be a place for long, detailed, emotionally-charged chatting, baring our souls and sharing our biggest excitements and dejections of the day, conversations that go late into the night. This is the stuff we bypassed entirely in our relationship.

***

Sunday morning walk has become a marker of a good week. A thing to look forward to. I’ll admit the idli-vada is still the draw, but it does feel really good to be out in the crisp morning air when the sun has only just come out.

I nearly didn’t make it two weeks in a row and the joy of actually having made it, and having finished a walk amidst many, many giggles and all kinds of conversation with D, and that breakfast with a double dose of coffee at the end — it’s near perfection.

However, the thing that just laces it all beautifully for me, like a cherry on the top, is coming home and getting right back into bed. Under the quilt and all, to either read, watch some Netflix or just nap — it is just divine.

Last Sunday, I realised this is a small, seemingly insignificant pleasure, the joy of which I almost didn’t fully register. But it has become something of an important ritual for me, and it does lift my day, my week up in more ways than I realise. To acknowledge that this past Sunday shifted something.

***

I have also resumed yoga again. AND I FEEL SO GOOD. There is that sweet, stretchy pain of having used my body for something more than just sitting around, which has been my predominant state for the last 12 months. It’s been a little over a week and it’s hard to fight the constant thought of how woefully out of shape I am, of how the proportion of time it takes to gain strength, stamina and muscle versus the time it takes to lose it all is so goddamned skewed. But, I feel really, really good. I like the deep stretching, the twisty, bendy moves that turn my mind and body into knots, I love the peace in the pranayam, and I go through the entire class in anticipation of the deep relaxation and full-body scan of the last 7 minutes of shavasana.

I’ve had sore abs and hams and glutes pretty much after every class. And then I went and started getting out for a walk on the alternate days when I’m not at yoga. Plus there’s the Sunday walk. So yeah, I’m moving again.

Last year was obviously a year of sitting still, conserving energy. And while it has had its place in the whole process, I hadn’t realised just how much I love to be active, and how happy it actually makes me. On Thursday last week after a walk, I actually came home and burst into a hysterical fit of laughter and cried happy tears from the sheer surge of endorphins like I haven’t felt in forever.

As my next Goa trip approaches, I’m wondering about my options to keep the exercise going. And almost like on cue, my kickboxing trainer messaged me out fo the blue. We hadn’t interacted in upwards of 6 months, and he just checked in on me suddenly, just like that.

I feel like it was a sign.

***

L was down in Bangalore after what feels like forever. Actually, the last time she was down was when we met and hung out at M’s wedding six years ago. Six years isn’t very long, but it feels like an age simply because of how much has happened in the years between. We haven’t been inactive touch through this time. We pretty much fell out of touch entirely, and I only surfaced to get in touch with her last year when I visited Pondicherry and this year when I was in Auroville — to see if we could catch up. Both times she was travelling, and we went back to our regular lives.

So we met, and I realised only after we met that she had made the entire trip down to catch up with me, and another friend. I am so used to assuming nobody would ever do that for me, that I had just taken it for granted that she had some other business to deal with in Bangalore and was catching up with me on the side.

We had a lovely hang. It was meant to be a quick coffee at Koshy’s, but it ended up being a long, long, chatty time. And when we weren’t done even after our coffee was done, we walked up and down Church Street chatting some more. Then ducked into Blossoms and bought a bunch of books. Still no sign of calling it a night, we went back to Koshy’s for dinner.

It was just so affirming. Here’s someone I have just not been in touch with, we have lives that are wildly polar opposites of each other, and yet when we met we picked up effortlessly. The conversation wasn’t stilted, the connection was warm, genuine and lingering, refusing to end.

In all my years struggling to get a grip on the loop of friendship and loneliness in my life, I’ve focused on the lack so much. It only takes a day like this to turn it all around.

***

I also caught up with S and D — we hadn’t done this since the course ended. I came home just so grateful. Here are two people I only got to know about six months ago, we don’t have history. I don’t know too much about the intricacies of their lives, and vice versa. But we’ve connected on a foundation of authenticity and vulnerability, just by virtue of doing this course together and experiencing each other’s worst selves in a closed room. There’s something special about that kind of bond. There’s warmth in the hugs we give, there’s a glint in our eyes when we talk about what we’re dealing with, and there’s the incredibly rare and wonderful bit where we meet like this, over coffee, after 3 months and waste no time in pleasantries, jumping straight to OMG I’m struggling so much this month!

***

I’ve been practicing reading the Tarot for myself for months now. Ever since D got me started last year it’s been a regular feature/habit and gradually growing interest in my life. At the start of the year, I told myself I want to do this more — for myself and for others. This week, I did four readings for four different people. And each of then were an utterly enjoyable experience for me.

What I love most about reading the cards is how there’s almost always a message for me in every reading, how much it makes me tap into my intuition and how much freshness it brings to my life as a newfound interest.

***

This is gratitude for all that has shifted this week. Something about a cycle closing — I’ve been feeling this since the turn of the year and the last full moon that gave me a burst of energy seems to have also completed some kind of shedding that has been in process. I’ve been so wrapped up in thought and working on processing it through my head, that I’ve lost contact with my feelings and my body. I realised today in an instant that I have loosened up physically, as much as I have relaxed about certain tight corners in my life.

Maybe it’s new. Or maybe it’s been there and I hadn’t noticed it because I’ve been so busy looking for cognitive answers.

***

This is gratitude for the winter. For the walks. For the parks. For the morning air.

For the strawberries that I could make jam with.

For this blog and the fresh connections it has brought to my life.

For friends who’ve been there in ways I have been unable to see. For new friends. For new people who are there, just as people, and that’s okay.

For friends who have come, are in the process of leaving, and also those who have left. For teaching me not to hold on so tight. For finally showing me what I’ve been fighting and how futile it is.

For therapy and N and how hard she pushes me.

For the crayons I bought, for the pictures of myself that I dug out and the drawing and writing that came from it.

For the numerous times that I found myself at Airlines this past week. For the coffee.

For home. For amma and for how much time we got to spend together since I’ve been back.

For R, S and H and how they’ve taken me under their wing. Counting me in whenever they go out as a family. It’s incredibly heartening.

One year ago: Pretty lights
Two years ago: Because I want to remember
Three years ago: Saaru-anna

 

Day 328: Leaves are falling all around it’s time I was on my way

Maybe it was all the walking I did in Europe. Or perhaps the walks with the pupsters in Goa. Or maybe it was the seed of a new vice that was sowed way back at the start of the year when I walked the OXFAM Trailwalk. It’s possibly also a little bit of sheer necessity and the reality of being without a car. Also, after all the walking I did last weekend in Auroville, this feels like I have stepped through a new door. I’m not sure when it happened, but suddenly I’m choosing walking a whole lot over other modes of transport. Through the week, I walked to the supermarket and the bank. They’re close enough, no big deal really. Except for the fact that I’d never actually really walked there and back. Because I’d always have a car on hand, most times. If I didn’t, I’d wait till I got my hands on the car. (Yes, totally and completely spoilt, I know!) But, suddenly it’s like I’ve been bitten by this new bug. I’m walking everywhere. Today, when I got out of the salon at 6.30, without giving it so much as a second thought, walked 5.5 kms home. I was home just shy of an hour. Despite the noise and dust, I feel great. Maybe it’s also my exercise-deprived body just happy to be moving again. All that’s needed is to make sneakers my default choice of footwear and a set of headphones in my bag at all times and with good weather, I don’t see why this can’t happen more often.

I’ve been contemplating going back to yoga, despite the inevitable erratic schedule that promises to persist. I’ve also tossed up joining the nearest gym. My limbs are craving that kind of movement. Weighted lunges, pull-ups, a 30 minute run listening to my everyday wake-me-up track at 7 am everyday as I began jogging. Something. And now there’s this. It feels like a fitting beginning.

I’ve just come home a sweaty mess. And I’m superlatively happy. This kind of endorphin high hasn’t happened in forever. A small part of me is wondering what this means spiritually — this sudden, consistent urge to wander. And the thrill in this choosing of the meandering, long and winding, sweaty road home. Hmm.

Two years ago: Day 328: ‘ssupdates

Day 239: Cake by the ocean

One whole year since the life-changing 6-week diet and 8 whole months after I gave it up completely, I am finally fully feeling like myself again. I know I point out my hips a lot, but this has been the real indication. My pants no longer hang on me. They’d all gone shapeless, several sizes too large, and needed belts and all kinds of other fasteners to keep them up. Now they’re staying on their own now, and they feel snug.

My hips don’t lie. I’m back in them the way I used to be. Thick thighs, wide hips and everything in between.

I’ve been steadily moving on to the side of regular unabashed eating over the months, but nothing pushed me over the edge like the frequent travel this year did. I find that as long as I am at home, eating home food I am balanced, measured and satisfied with what I eat. And I feel good eating the way do. But starting with the Thailand trip, when I really cut back and ate ALL THE THINGS, I’ve been on a non-stop no holds barred eating trip. This continued with every trip to Goa after, normalising only a little when I come back home, only to fall off the balance again with the weekly visit to VCs. So somewhere in between, I just completely stopped thinking about it — carbs, sugar, alcohol, bread — like I said, all the things.

Something about being on holiday mode (even if only in my brain) makes me want to eat, eat, eat all the things. And I realise I have been happiest when I have allowed myself to eat. It has taken so much rewiring to really admit, without berating myself and calling myself a pig or shaming my genuine love for indulgence, that I really, really love to eat. And that I eat a lot more than the average woman my age. Yes, my skin might sometimes suffer because of it — sugar sends my acne out of control. Carbs and alcohol make me bloat, and I have to find balance and exercise moderation. But I have realised, I love food far more than I love the idea of flawless skin or a flat belly. For now.

For many years, the last decade, I was in love with the idea of being fit. It was great, it made me feel invincible, I was in the best shape and health. Even when I was on the diet, and for months after, I continued to feel good. In my body, about my body. Perhaps it was the turn my life was taking, and the necessary twist in my self-development journey, but it wasn’t long before I began to feel a strong dissonance between what my mind demanded — ease, softness, openness — and what I was doing to my body — abstinence, curtailing, starving it.

Life has this way of beating me down into submission, to see the truth that needs to be seen. And if it weren’t for the therapy and the work I was forced to put in, I could probably have taken a lot longer to see the mind-body connection, and how much what I was doing to my body was slowing my mind down. On one hand, my soul was raring to go on this journey, but my body was stopping to exercise portion control and self-flagellation.

I couldn’t keep it up. This is not to say indulgence is the way to go. I know that my periods of indulgence and binging are short and are always punctuated by adequate windows where everything gets balanced. Home food is good food, and what we eat on a regular basis is good and wholesome, even without all the eliminations. And that really keeps my system ticking. But it was important to let the reins go. To feel fully, to be me fully. To allow my being to sprout.

In Goa last week, I realised this love I have, to treat my body with good food of late, has been such a vital part of that process of sprouting. About accepting myself just the way I am — hips, thighs, abs, arms, face as they are. In the months between stopping the intense diet and working-out and now, there were periods of struggle when I’d look at fitness icons every now and then and momentarily slip back to wishing my butt were a different size, my waist were smaller and the like. I’d stress about how I’m undoing what I worked so hard to achieve. I was so hard on myself, and it routinely made me so unhappy. First the lack of eating what I wanted to eat, and second the fact that I was even putting myself through it.

It is only as recently as the last 2 weeks that I am experiencing a new level of freeing self love. And I knew it was freeing when I stopped counting what I was eating.

I’ve realised it’s possible that for many years, I was more in love with an idea of being painfully fit, more than I actually loved what it takes to be that fit.

In reality, being just a little bit fit will do.

Second, that idea of what fit is was woefully inadequate for the person I was becoming. It was limiting, restrictive and at a very fundamental (and unconscious) level, ate away at my joy. My sprouting quite literally needed nourishment, and there I was not allowing it.

I’m trying every day to redefine my idea of fit — to tone down the emphasis on how my body looks, and focus more on how I feel. In my heart, in my mind. Deeper down, in my soul.

I realise now that the only want any of these life habits can be sustainable is if I feel good practicing them. And I will only feel good practicing them, if I listen to what it is I need, and move accordingly. So it has taken constant nourishing, through good food, healthy thoughts, and it has taken constant reworking of limiting beliefs and it has taken the hugely painful and taxing work of including everything that I was too afraid, ashamed, proud to see and accept as mine — my faulty beliefs, my inaccurate definitions, my terribly harsh goals.

Try as I did for a while, this process simply didn’t allow for exclusions of any kind. Not of food groups, not of happy moments shared in the company of people who would call bullshit gently when I faltered, not of the opportunities to look deep within with honesty, not of the ability to change

I simply could not keep going with the pursuit of “strong” the way I believed it to be true to me, when deep down my being craved and needed softness, less rigidity, more vulnerability. And acceptance.

In this too, there has been a big lessons in loosening up, and allowing a little give. As much as I struggled to embrace the fact that I did in fact have a warped sense of body image, I have found that joy in embracing my whole self again.

It is enough. I am enough.

The truth is, I love a hearty meal. How else can I explain the glee in planning even the simplest dal-rice meals? This joy comes to me on a daily basis, day after day after day. It’s true what they say, abs are made in the kitchen, but I love dal-rice-and-potato meals way more than I love the idea of flat abs.

Accepting myself, and my body has meant being realistic about its capacity, it’s limitations. It has been about understanding that joy happens when my body works with my mind, and vice-versa, not against. It has meant accepting that the softness I needed in my emotions, needed to find a home in my body.

It has been about choosing kindness and allowance, over the many disallowances Id made mine. It has been about growing soft, letting those muscles really soften, as a blueprint for giving up the obsession to be strong, literally and figuratively. It has been about spreading myself out, taking up space and not shrinking to fit in. It has been about allowing myself vulnerability in my very being — not something I can simply talk about if I don’t bring it into my life, in every aspect possible. And that has meant letting go of the labels, the notions, the sense of self I had cultivated so strongly attached to fitness.

I had to break it down and let a newness grow out of it, to see what else I could be.

Could I be a new kind of fit?
Can I find happiness in a different form and shape?
Could this be an essential part of the journey?

It has not been about seeking comfort in telling myself I’m perfect and flawless. It has meant accepting that my body, me, is just what it is. Not perfect, not horrific. It’s big in parts, smaller in others, it has skin that leaves so much to be desired, a shape that’s sometimes hard to clothe.

It is just what it is. Some days I feel great in it, some days not so much. But it has meant learning to be okay and comfortable in this body, this skin, despite it all. It has been about wearing it with love and acceptance even on those days when I’d rather not. It has been about finding clothes that fit me, rather than fitting myself into clothes I believe I should. It has been about letting go of labels of strength and muscle, and embracing the softness and vulnerability my life so needed.

They say what you eat, is what you are. And I can’t help but believe it is so darned true. These days I feel full and whole. I feel no parts of me left behind, or out. I feel lovely and loved.

I feel intensely. Every emotion I witness fills me up, every encounter and experience, a reminder to dig in and enjoy myself fully. Every time that I am faced with a desire an inkling these days, I find myself choosing action over abstinence — whether a mug of hot chocolate or the idea of a journey or an assignment or a tattoo or a new experience. This agility and impulsiveness is so new for the over-thinker and over-planner that I was. And this has made such a massive difference to the quality of my life. Suddenly everything is wide open, and so full.

The day I came home from Goa and got into my night shorts after 10 days in other night clothes, I felt the elastic bite into my waist, a wee muffin top on either side. Back to normal, like I was last year, I said to VC. Immediately, his reaction was to remind me to relax and not get obsessed about losing it. He’s used to this dance — I complain about my body and he swiftly does his job of making me feel better.

That was who I was. I’d only ever notice and acknowledge my body when I wanted to point out its flaws.

That night thought, it was different. I grabbed my waist, ran my hand around the little hump it created on either side of the elastic waistband, and realised just how joyful this process of filling-out has been. I have enjoyed watching what happens when I let go, give myself permission to eat freely. I have loved fattening myself up.

I have enjoyed watching my body up close and making it mine.

I want to take today to remind myself that this process, the progress, is slow. It takes time, and I might falter. But as long as I continue to allow myself everything — the transgressions as much as the permission to be — I’m moving towards the best life. Time will pass on, and I will continue to grow. In all the many, ever-changing ways possible.

Two years ago: Day 239: Friyay

Day 229: You haven’t felt the fire

(And by you, I mean me, of course.)

One of the side effects of discovering a deeper sense of myself has been the frightening reality that I enjoy dressing up and feeling pretty. It has meant allowing myself the luxury of indulging in small things I never thought I could possibly want or love. Things I didn’t even know I could love, simply because I hadn’t considered the possibility long enough to try it. All because of a fixed sense of self that didn’t fully align with things like pink lipstick, red hair, the occasional selfie on a day when I feel good, or even just looking in the mirror and acknowledging that I look and feel really good. All because of a woefully inaccurate and incomplete sense of who I am, and certain other ideologies that I had hastily picked up and imbibed, for no other reason other than that some parts of them sounded nice and aspirational.

I am now having to slowly deconstruct my false beliefs, examine how distorted my sense of self has been so far, and put it all back together in a way that is most authentic to who I am right now. So much of this has meant letting go of beliefs about being a woman I have staunchly held so far. Beliefs that I have partly because of how I was raised, some because of living through my teens and 20s believing I wasn’t cool/pretty/popular enough to every be worthy of the self-indulgence of prettiness and moments of self-assured confidence and vanity, but mostly based on the ideas of feminism that I have exposed myself to.

And so it’s been a fun time of smashing my own shaky foundations, and rebuilding what feels like and is a more wholistic self.

First and foremost, I’ve realised once again (and had it reaffirmed so many times in so many different ways recently) that the very idea of beauty is a social construct. Mostly one created to pander to the tastes and likes of the gender that sits in viewing, in judgement of the other. For far too long, one half of our kind have decided what is deemed pretty, desirable, sexy and so much of that has come at the cost of our comfort and sanity. To be constantly craving being something one is inherently not, and therefore the constant need to reach an (unhealthy) standard of what is beautiful, is taxing as fuck. And yet we wholly owned that fight and make it a large part of what we do day after day after day.

Personally, I have realised that even with a moderate-to-healthy level of self-awareness and self-assuredness, the constant exposure to a range of media and pop culture that screams messages of what is “right” and desirable, has further reinforced a lot of those shaky beliefs. I may have escaped the desire for fair skin wholeheartedly, but I fell hook line and sinker for the strong-is-the-new-skinny aspiration. And it was so easy to believe that was a healthy, even empowering aspiration to have. For over a decade this has shaped the way I viewed everything about myself — my body, my attitude to health and fitness that was ironically downright unhealthy/obsessive, the way I dress, the way I carried myself, my body language and even my sexuality.

I’ve realised how something so seemingly harmless, couched in good intentions, the right messaging has therefore shaped my notion of beauty, my self-worth, ad my notions of my self. But it was only when I realised how may choices I was making/have made are not quite my own but rather a reflection of what I have internalised as attractive, aspirational, that the cracks have become visible.

This year will go down as the year with the least amount of exercise or attention to fitness. In another time, this would have sent me down a spiral. But I wasn’t prepared for how freeing and powerful it has been to let that shit to, and instead watch myself grow. To feel my hips widen, to enjoy watch the cuts and curves of my once muscular body give way to a more curvy body, to experience with fascination, how my body is changing. And to therefore allow for changes in my wardrobe and the choices in the clothes I want to wear. Suddenly, I have found comfort in clothes that fit me, rather than the other way around. There are small joys in pink lipstick and red hair, in bright prints as much as muted staples, in shopping itself (a luxury I eschewed for a minimalism that I now know is not entirely mine).

What an absolutely liberating joy it has been to rediscover a new sense of self that is beautiful. In filling myself up with the solidity of an inner knowing, rather than the wobbly and slippery slope that is external validation. I think I am only now discovering what it means to know a self worth that is rooted in a belief system that is entirely mine, aligned with notions and attitudes that work for (rather than against) me and the person I am growing into. The most beautiful discovery is how this translates into a confidence, a positive body language, a freeing energy about myself. And this has come from building myself ground-up, rooted in a deep knowing what fills me deep in my core.

It has been like meeting myself for the very first time. And what a beautiful meeting it has been.

Two years ago: Day 229: Into the blue

Day 221: I don’t know about my dreaming anymore

It’s not a random occurrence that there is so much talk of food and a more than normal preoccupation with eating well around here. Of late — all through this year actually — food (and my relationship with it) has emerged as a big piece in my story. The need to look at why I was compelled to eat a certain way, or not eat certain things to be more precise, was entirely spurred by a year of shedding so much weight and still feeling a sense of dissatisfaction and emptiness deep down, with regard to the way my body looked and felt. As much as I celebrated how much my body had coped with what I was putting it through, and marvelled at the body’s capacity to transform in such a dramatic way, I was also appalled at how unrealistic my ideals were and how harsh I was being towards my body.

Somewhere in there was also some guilt about even admitting to struggling with this. Because I have never been typically “fat”. And right there was proof. Of my selective blindness, of my denial of the truth, of these wholly unrealistic ideals I was holding myself up to, even as my fitness mantra was one of fitness and not slimness. And a wild discomfort that my newfound thinness had actually given me a license to own by body some. The selfies I was never able to take, were suddenly so easy. Sharing pictures of myself became comfortable. And let’s not even go into how my dressing changed.

I wondered, did it mean I had an inherent need to conform to an accepted standard of shape and size? Did I not feel as kindly towards my body anyway? It was a harsh reality check to wake up to my own double standards and the effect it had on me, my sense of worth and the truth about how how I really felt about my body.

Today, approximately eight months on from when I started to question and examine these aspects of what I hitherto assumed was just a “fitness obsession”, I find myself coming back to me. Regaining parts I’d ignored and shut away. Finding form where there was none. Regaining that sweet spot of a healthy balanced relationship other everything that I put in my mouth. Feeling whole again. Literally and figuratively. Yes my pants are much tighter than they were last year and yes I know how good getting off sugar and rice was — for my skin, for my energy levels more than anything else. But I will not terrorise my body to conform anymore. I have a long way to go, but today I felt like I was in my body again. Wholly, completely myself. No parts missing, no parts feeling heavy or like a burden, nothing I wanted to change. And I want to remember it. For good.

Two years ago: Day 221: On the road