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

Take the time

I took the time not to run today. To walk, slower than usual. To not ace the targets I’m always unconsciously building up in my mind.

To savour the milestones I’ve reached for longer, before I set myself up for the next one.

To be in the present more. To meander. To stop. To laze. To feel.

I took the time to be average at the gym today.

No need to hurry. No need to sparkle. No need to be anybody but oneself.   

— Virginia Woolf

Pretty much sums up the current point at which I am in my tussle with inner demons. If only it were as easy as VW makes it sound — simple, flat, within reach, like a few uncomplicated words strung together. But I do know that like with all things lately, small, incremental, seemingly insignificant movements do stack up and amount to something significant. Over time.

I am going to take my time.

One year ago: Snap back to reality, oh there goes gravity

Free

Every now and then there’s a day that’s so good, it takes me by surprise. I began yesterday with a run in the park — my first real, proper outdoor run. And by that I mean, not a walk-run-walk-run run but a legit long-distance run. And by long distance I mean 5+ kms. Truth be told, I didn’t know what it would be like. I was pretty sure I’d walk more than run because I know how running on a treadmill is a bit of a hack because it sets a steady pace and you have to just keep up. Not to undermine the effort and stamina that takes — I have seen how little by little I have gotten better and steadier at running on the treadmill and pushing the kms a little everyday. But, I always believed outdoor running is a whole other ball game. I have also never had the sort of endurance that I do now.

And yet. Yesterday was such a revelation. First of all, it was a cracker of a morning. Many hours of rain the previous night meant there was a crisp nip in the air. Not bitingly cold, but just perfectly cool enough. The sun was beginning to peek out ever so subtly. The park on a weekday is 100% better than the park on the weekend. I began with a slow and steady jog, picked it up to a comfortable pace and then kept waiting to go out of breath and feel the need to walk/stop. But that moment never came. Pretty much until the end of my 45 minute stint, by which time I had inadvertently clocked nearly 5 and a half kilometres.

I was beyond stoked. Not just by the numbers, but the sheer thrill of being outdoors and seeing actual results for something I have been silently working at. Something about the lungs expanding the way they do in the midst of greenery, having my heart race and breaking a proper heavy sweat even when the weather is chill, and winding my way through a green, green park, slowly but steadily, feeling so, so, so tuned in and focused.

It’s taken me a long time to consider a mid-week run in the park. It’s taken me longer still to get out and do it alone, even without company. But it was so good, I maybe considering doing it more often.

In the evening, Niyu and I took ourselves out for an early dinner to Koshy’s. We ended up having breakfast for dinner — omelettes, chicken sandwiches and a plate of smileys — between ourselves, with a large rum and very iced tea as a mixer. Then we ducked into Hard Rock Cafe to catch a Thermal and a Quarter tribute gig to celebrate 17 years of their very first album.

It was the kind of evening that was like going back in time. A real life throwback Thursday, if you will. Not just because I got to hear TAAQ again after so many, many years, but because they performed in the OG set up with Rudy stepping in for a few numbers, the groupies and crew returning to reunite in celebration, and also something about rock and Bangalore churns up the somethings-will-never-change feels for me. It was really like stepping back in time. The vibe, the people, the excitement. It may as well have been 2003 in Zero G which was my first time hearing them live. I was all of 19, and there at the behest of Niyu, but also lured by the idea of watching a boy who had semi heart-eyes for me perform. It was a time before mobile phones, let alone camera phones. And so we didn’t document anything back in the day. But I have vivid memories of having such a good time, and drinking way too much more than I could handle. It was a simpler time when we managed to get home safe, even over-inebriated, no cabs, no cell phones. Good times.

And so I relived it all last night. As an adult. And it made all the difference. There is a new self-assuredness and awareness of myself and the space I occupy at social gatherings that I am suddenly very aware of. That little bit of self-consciousness that always kept me one step back from the thick of it seems to be slowly peeling away. I feel much more at ease and comfortable in my skin, I have loosened up in ways I didn’t even know I could or needed to, and I am able to step in and have a good time with little thought.

Yesterday was such a freeing day.

One year ago: One night to speed up the truth (Amsterdam. Day 1.)
Three years ago: Control issues, part 2

Morning joy

This is what I woke up to this morning. Later than usual, groggier than usual, feeling more lethargic than usual — thanks to the rice-heavy full meals I had later than usual, last night.

I was *that* close to skipping my workout and just calling it a rest day, but something compelled me to go. A little voice that said it’s too good a morning to spend in bed, and that nothing will kick the lethargy out of me like a quick run. And so I went, and it turned out to me an hour long Chemical Brothers retrospective. Thanks to D, who brought back this cracker like a blast from the past, when we met on the weekend.

Again, I don’t know if it’s the music that gives me this burst of energy, or if it’s the goodness of slowing down and going at my own pace, or I’m just unconsciously genuinely getting my legs to work better and faster, but guess what?

That next milestone I said I wanted to work towards, on Friday? I surpassed it today.

One year ago: Warm shadow, won’t you cast yourself on me (Bruges. Day 2.)

Small victories

I’m always motivated about getting to the gym first thing in the morning, as I’m drifting off to sleep. I sometimes visualise what my workout is going to be, and most times I feel pumped and ready to hit it out the park the next morning.

Sometimes though, I wake up and discover that everything has changed. Between going to bed motivated, and waking up eight hours later, somehow the enthusiasm for endorphins has morphed into the enthusiasm for layers and snuggling.

It happens. I have a day like this every 8-10 days, and I’m learning not to let these days throw me off. My usual tendency used to be to fight it and berate myself for it, such that whether I ended up dragging my ass to the gym or not, I felt a bit shitty. Nowadays I have become easier on myself, with allowing the odd day off when I get to bunk and stay in spontaneously. Just because I woke up feeling like it. But something else is changing too. I also had this need to quickly cancel the gym outing altogether just because I didn’t make it out the door in that sweet spot between 6.45 and 7 am (so I can hit the treadmill by 7.15 am so everything works in perfect clockwork). Of late though if I’m late to rise and feeling the need to slowly ease into a workout state of mind rather than jump right out of bed and get going, I give myself that time. And I leave things open, to decide later on.

Today was one of those days. I stayed in bed. And I stayed and I stayed, for a whole hour past my usual time and at 8 am, I decided I was ready to go. My habit-driven, routine-bound mind and body usually gets very thrown by such shifts, and I have the idea in my head that my workout will not be good. Of course this is the unnecessary perfectionist in me at work, rearing her head again and again, trying hard to regain the control she’s fast losing.

I don’t give in to her as easily anymore.

I made it to the gym, in what I thought wasn’t the best mood or energy. But to my surprise, I did my fastest 5k today. I’ve been wanting to switch things around with running too, try something more and push myself just a bit. I upped things a teeny notch today, adding a mere minute to each of my sprints, unsure if I’d be able to sustain it till the end. And here’s the bit I forget: the way that I have been running with regularity, it adds up. And even the tiniest sliver of pushing, every little minute adds up.

I’m beginning to feel this way about progress in general. All upward movement, every little change, growth itself. I’m learning to appreciate the small wins that take time, are slow to come, but when they show up, feel immense. Not in quantity or in value, but in sheer progression.

I am savouring the small victories. Because they add up. They matter.

My quickest run yet. Just sooooo close to meeting the 5.5 km mark in 35 minutes. That’s going to be next milestone to work towards, I guess.

It was one of those one-small-step-in-the-running-universe-one-giant-leap-for-Rere kind of mornings for me. And I’m not just talking about the running here.

One year ago: We can hit the road and we can go (Paris. Day 1.)
Three years ago: Perch

Running updates

It’s crazy how in June, when I returned from an unexpected two month break in Goa, clocking a mere 5k on the treadmill everyday felt like a herculean ask. Huffing and puffing to just get to the end of those 35 minutes, I’d keep going everyday, not knowing what I need to do to better my time.

I have never trained at running, like I have in the past with strength and conditioning or kickboxing or weight training. Running has never been my go-to, so I’ve never invested time into building strength and getting technique right. So I’m extremely clueless about how one progresses realistically and how I can get from one level to the next. I’ve been going at it intuitively, but somewhere in August I felt like I needed to begin somewhere. I had this urge, but no idea where to begin. The internet is filled with confusing resources, so I let that idea simmer for a bit and just kept at what I was doing, intuitively. Side by side, I continued my HIIT and weight training. The only little shift I made was to try and better my time just a little bit, once every week. Even if it was a teeny 0.2 or 0.3 km increment. It felt like I had hit a plateau for the longest time, but suddenly one day at the end of August, all those little incremental steps added up to a 6km run, randomly one morning when I wasn’t even looking.

There I was just running like I do everyday, nearing the last 7 minutes of my run, when I felt a push to go harder and faster. And so I listened and pushed on. Amped up the speed and went for it and boom — that 6km just…happened.

I was so elated, especially because I wasn’t spent or tired and felt like I had a burst of energy to finish the rest of my workout too.

Then, a week later on a very good energy day, I decided to push myself a little harder and see how far I could go. The treadmill times-out automatically after 35 minutes and that’s usually my cue to move on to the next thing. But that day, instead of turning it off, I took a minutes breather and turned it back on and began to run again. For nearly 2km more, breezily, easily, without panting, I just kept going. Music on and loud, my heart pounding, my feet on the machine, I felt totally in flow. And I hit that 7km mark…seemingly effortlessly. Again, it just happened. I actually hadn’t even realised when I had moved past the 6km mark, 6.5km and smoothly past the 7km mark.

The human body and mind continues to fascinate me. How easy it actually is to stretch and reach higher and beyond. And how much it is willing to take, resilient and adaptable. How far it can actually go. I am really enjoying this phase of training, where intuition and an internal rhythm is guiding me on. I would love to train systematically, and it’s on my goals for next year, but for now this has been such fun. I love going by my own moods and what I am feeling like on any given day, and to see it’s actually taking me farther every week.

As I’m witnessing my body change this time around, I’m in tune with what it’s asking for (whether up-tempo or down-tempo), I’m watching keenly as it’s stretching and responding to the changes I introduce, I’m feeling something build from within, and I see it take shape in the tiniest ways in which it shows externally. In my posture, in the way I’ve been carrying myself, in the way that I sit, stand or take space, and most of all in the way I am feeling strong, full and grounded.

This week, I haven’t been to the gym at all. I went to my animal flow class on Tuesday, but that’s it. And it feels alright. I know come Monday, I’ll be back.

One year ago: Walking high on the wire
Two years ago: What coming home feels like: making friends edition
Three years ago: Down and up again

Run

This is the sweaty, but thrilled, messy but smug mug of someone who hit a significant running milestone the other day. That it happened out of the blue, unexpectedly, despite running on just four hours of sleep thanks to a moment of temptation that resulted in a caffeine-addled brain that didn’t shut down till 2.30 am, is a thing to celebrate. And yet, just to have taken myself to the gym, to find the energy to surpass my daily target by a whole kilometre, felt so, so, so good.

I hit the 6k mark, in just five minutes over my usual running time. It took running for ten minutes more than usual. It took pushing. It took a little more sweat and pain. But it felt so good.

I don’t know if maybe the remnants of caffeine were responsible for the extra energy and power. Or maybe it was the playlist for the day.

How does one not feel like running when this comes one?

Or this?

Anyhow, lying sleepless in bed the previous night, I was worried how I’d get through two days of class with limited sleep. But I managed just fine. And I think making it to the gym and getting that spot of exercise in had something to do with it.

I have so enjoyed exercising this year. Minus the rigid need to make all the self-made rules. Minus the unrealistic goals. Plus a whole lot of listening to my body, giving it the right amount of stretch it needs, while also resting when it asks for it, an eating what I want when there is a craving. I’m back in the groove of things, and I feel like I’ve found a sweet spot that work for me. The right routine, the right set of workouts, allowing myself that little bit of flexibility and ease, and the right goal — consistency, not numbers.

Even on mornings when it’s slow to start and the going is hard, it takes about fifteen minutes of being at the gym, pounding my feet on the treadmill, letting the music kick in good and proper. I have to stretch myself just that much and from that moment on when the sweat begins to roll, when my legs begin to do the work, I feel like I could fly. What a massive high that is.

I can tell something has changed when there’s an ease and a flow about the way in which I am able to carry it out. And this has happened with other things in life, but this is probably the first time there’s an enjoyable flow about exercise an I am so enjoying the twist in the tale.

Three years ago: Friyay

I can laugh

Yesterday was essay submission day, and as usual it was a dash. This, despite having done some work progressively over the last couple of days, and having practiced nearly every single day for the last ten days. I just can’t seem to escape the last minute rush. At least it wasn’t panic this time. Because I had my points of focus down, I knew what I had to say and I just had to work on putting it together coherently. I wonder if last minute panic is just a part of my process, and weirdly brings out the best in me?

As I was flipping through the pages of my notebook, referencing things because last time I was in class feels like it was two months ago, I realised it’s only been two weeks. Something strange has been happening: this distortion of time. This weird expansion and collapse of time that’s not in my control, the way that I’ve been losing track of what day of the week it is, and generally how slow and quiet everything has become.

It’s only been two weeks, and while externally there has been a whole lot of peace and quiet, within I have been in full tilt churn. I have witnessed this quietly for a change, allowing it time and space, not rushing it, not trying to make sense of it.

In the bargain, time has slowed down in this most beautiful way. And yet simultaneously, it’s zipped by so fast that. Two weeks has felt like two months. Except, it’s just been two weeks, how can it feel like two months!

***

One of the things I’ve been working on is building a safe internal container — for my process and for myself. I know it is an outcome of that timely meeting of my inner child, from the strong and resourced place of the adult that I am growing into. It is a slow and testing process, and I have been waiting for a sign, some indication of this development.

So yesterday, when I registered this distortion of time and how I have retreated in some ways because of it, I suddenly realised this is probably what a healthy internal containment looks like! I have in many ways held myself together (not in a way that is repressive and uptight), even as I allowed the unfolding and processing of all that has come to pass these past two weeks since that important day.

I whooped for joy. Because this has taken no conscious work. All I have done is consistently and consciously stayed with what I was feeling, everything that came up, saying yes to it all and giving it a place.

***

One of the most healing things during this time has been the lighthearted chatter I’ve been having with S. We don’t meet nearly as often as we’d like to, and when there’s things going on internally we may some times withdraw into our own worlds, emerging to touch base only for the fluffy banter, a spot of nonsensical gabbing and the like. But it almost always results in oh so much laughter.

To be able to resurface for a breath fo air, reach out, and be met with a response that generates giggles and stifled guffaws that make me look stupid in public places, or make it seem like I have a constant boyfriend chat going on because of the stupid grin pasted on my face, is a real gift. It has been so empowering and healing to be reminded so, so often that I can laugh, even as big, life-altering changes are in swing.

***

The other two things that have given me support and steadiness: adequate, restful sleep. And exercise. Truth be told, the sleep has been so good, and the weather has been so good (and cold!) that it’s been a bit hard getting out of bed early in the morning. There’s such a massive draw to just stay under the cover, that many days I wake up, get into my gym clothes and drop back into bed for a snooze again, before I finally leave.

I’ve had to step back on the regimen a bit, focusing just on making it and getting a basic workout in everyday. Because I realise there is a resistance and whatever is going on inside is probably taking away some energy too. So I have allowed for it, not pushing myself too hard, going with what my body feels like. Running 5.3kms one day, and just 2.5 the next. Getting weights done some days, coming home after a sweaty run on others. This is clearly not a time for fixed and rigid rules, but to flow where my body goes.

One year ago: They paved paradise