Making meaning

It’s not that I have been busy. I’m just as occupied as one can be in a situation like this. But I realised this morning in therapy, that I am sad. I am grieving. Many things. And as I processed some of it, I realised this is also why I have also been at a loss for words.

In all of this, I have been feeling a lack of space for expression of what I am feeling. I have been feeling alone, worried, anxious, confused, uncertain. And I have had very few places (nearly not enough) where I can express that. Words have not felt like they’re enough. And formulating them has been difficult. So much so that I haven’t tried very much. Couple that with wanting distance from the news and not turning on my laptop means there have been no posts. My head has felt blank a lot this week.

Even so, outwardly, my life goes on. I have been alright. Life has been going on okay as it does even when there is no full blown pandemic in the air. Up and down. Good days, okay days, not so good days. The way it rolls even otherwise.

So yesterday, as I struggled to find the words, we explored art instead in my therapy session. I scribbled in silence, crying some, on a Skype call. Quietly, but strangely mindfully. Not knowing at all what I was doing with the crayons on the paper. Not making meaning. Not even remotely trying.

I often mistake words as my only form of expression. And by extension, I see my need to make meaning in my expression, in everything I do. My deep need to understand and have certainty is fully exemplified in writing. Words are certain. They have form. They hold shape. They say very specific things. They make articulation possible. They communicate. They make me feel like I have control.

Whereas what is going on around us right now is from a different realm altogether. No certainty. No form. No pattern. No plan. No shape or size. No articulation.

NO CONTROL.

And it is this that I have been confronting everyday, at a very subtle level. So subtle that I had no idea until I had been through an hour plus of therapy where I — you guessed it — made meaning of it.

So post therapy, I sat with my sister and put paint to paper for about four hours. This is no big deal for my sister who spends hours very quietly, never needing words, not wanting to expend any energy in words, simply making her art. So her presence and company helped. There was music, there was me occasionally breaking the silence to chatter as I always do. There was chai, and there was banana bread. And I painted.

I have no idea what I made. I didn’t start with a plan, I didn’t set out with a picture in mind. I just went with it. I still don’t know what I’ve made. It holds no meaning.

But it was therapeutic. I might have to include this in my regular activities now.

One year ago: A good day to give thanks
Two years ago: Love dares you to change our way of caring about ourselves

In my head and in my heart

I’m am back to the classroom this morning. I’ve missed the learning space but I’ve also missed the cradle, the nest that the space has been in teaching me how to fly. And so it was good to head back there today.

I felt the need for some guidance today so I picked a card this morning before I set out. And it was not only apt for a day of re-entering an academic space but also for something I have been working thru in doing my work out in the world.

Questions I have asked myself: What would it be like to find a place where I can think *and* feel? How can I talk about this work without mystifying it but also not losing the essence to jargon and academia?

Today’s card made me instantly see something that I have known but perhaps been unable to articulate. The value the modern world attaches to the singular pursuit of intellectual/academic knowledge that is verifiable, over building intuitive knowing, that is not, is worth questioning.

It is inviting me to surrender in a new way. This is something I contend with a lot in my work with clients which requires me to use practices founded in psychology and therapy, while also building my own intuition, and encouraging my clients to as well.

Perhaps the answer isn’t so much in pitting one over the other, but understanding that they each have their place and are valuable for different things. An understanding that sometimes a gentle combination of the two is required.

Much of my own healing journey has been the deliberate return from doing/thinking to just feeling. And as a product of the world that routinely lulls us into doing, not feeling, it has been a tough but essential hurdle to scale.

In Somatic therapeutic practices, the accent is clearly on feeling. Our bodies are the vehicle/container for sensations that carry clues about our emotions. It is important to rebuild that connection with the body, in an environment that is always asking us to exit the body and rely on our minds alone.

Exiting the body and only relying on the mind amounts to a form of dissociation. And while dissociation may be a legitimate coping mechanism, unpacking or reversing it to help manage illness and some forms of psychopathology, requires returning to the body.

The more we let go of ways to access the knowing held in our bodies, the more polarised, rigid and unchanging our perspectives become. And what we reject in our outer worlds, we also reject within ourselves. The more comfortable we get with exiting our bodies and bypassing all that we reject, the more fragmented and disconnected we feel.

The softness and fluidity of intuition can keep our inner world from turning polarised. This also means we’ll be better able to witness parts of ourselves that would otherwise turn unacceptable, unpalatable, and best avoided. Integrating unpalatable aspects and experiences is a very useful way to work through a backlog of unfelt/unprocessed emotional material.

There are several practices today that are grounded in the soma, in accessing somatic and intuitive material, in going beyond the limits of the cognitive to delve into the unconscious. Because there is so much more, in places our minds will never go to.

Today is a good day to honour both sides — the cognitive/intellectual/academic, and the intuitive/energetic. And to see where in your life you need to bring back balance between the two.

Through the day, learning new things — broadening some, deepening some — I realised that this is true for my work as much as it is for my personal journey. This finding a balance in my reliance on both.

One year ago: The food, the food
Two years ago: We form our own boundaries

What progress looks like these days

Unsurprisingly, therapy this morning took off from the thoughts I’ve had sloshing about in my head for a few days now. I know I have turned yet another corner in my journey, and it’s come with realisation and reaffirmation of the nature and energy cycles in my process itself. I’m riding the peak right now. And so I had one of those seminal light-at-the-end-of-the-very-long-tunnel kind of sessions today. With props, pats on my back, a big, wide smile and a full, full heart. And then we traversed other things and explored a recent dream that put a completely unique spin on the milestone I’ve hit. Then it ended with a revolutionary thought (is frightfully good at offering them rarely, but when I really need them).

“Even as you celebrate the liberation from this step forward, what do you need to do to be in touch with the fear and panic you feel about stepping into the unknown?”

Yet another reminder that the two feelings can absolutely coexist — the joy and freedom of having clearly shifting an old pattern and moving forward, and the confusion and distress of suddenly having to navigate completely uncharted territory that lies just ahead.

It’s a crucial reminder for me, and I’m lucky that I get these often enough. As someone habitually looks at having things sorting, figured out, pickled and fixed as a sign of progress, and habitually thrives on making progress, it’s absolutely essential for me to understand and remind myself over and over that the process isn’t always linear, and will not always lead to a perfect ending tied up in a bow. That progress doesn’t always look like I might want it to — happy endings that feel wonderful.

Like I said yesterday, standing my ground, while liberating also comes at a high cost. Those are opposing states, they invoke opposing feelings. Liberation and panic. And so it is important for me to remember to be attentive to and tend to both ends of that emotional spectrum whenever I enter a phase like this. When I’ve turned a corner. When I’ve stepped up. When I’ve made progress. To honour my progress is also to honour that this is and will always be bloody scary and really solitary work. That there is no one without the other.

To work towards emotional strength and authenticity is to, time and time again, make room for vulnerability.

Without these timely reminders it’s very easy for me to turn my therapeutic journey into a performance sport and try and win at. coasting from one shiny milestone to the next, getting completely taken by conventional (capitalist?) markers of progress that mostly always negate the inherent difficulty of the journey itself.

This is the part of the journey that most needs self care. Delving deep in practices and ways of being that will help create a holding space (within) for it all. And that is quite an excruciating space to be. Because it means tolerating the distress. Observing it. Staying with it.

Like I told N today, since I’ve been back on Instagram and browsing through a lot of the pop-psych content that shows up on my recommendations, I don’t understand at all how self care is made to look so beautiful and almost glamorous all the time. Many, many times self care is just brutally painful. And the goal isn’t always to feel “good”, like I said yesterday.

These days progress has started to look like moving towards doing what is right, even when it’s difficult or distressing, to face the full spectrum of emotions that may surface along the way, and to stick by it anyway.

One year ago: Back to base   
Four years ago: Pretending to be brave

Peace within

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

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

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

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

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

Soft, rested, easy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m enjoying this return to me.

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

Lightness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On love

Generations of conditioning about love as something that completes us has ruined it all. We’re not jigsaw puzzles, ffs. We’re all independent human beings, capable of being whole and integrated on our own. If anything, authentic connection begins right here — within. In our own hearts, with our own selves.

Instead, we roam the world in search of connection that can complete us, when actually the struggle is a connection with ourselves. And that connection with ourselves is really the basis from which healthy, balanced and positive connections with fellow human beings can grow. Without it we’re only going to find projections, attachments and codependency; instead of true intimacy. And belonging.

What’s worse, that sort of inauthentic connection will demand people-pleasing of you. All of which comes at a high cost to The Self. Negating, minimising your true self, and moving further away from an authentic connection with yourself.

When that connection with oneself is on shaky ground, it leads to the need to find safety in connection outside the self. When there are things within us are difficult to see, hear, sit with, acknowledge and integrate, we push them our Shadow. And the larger the Shadow gets, the more fragmented we feel. This is the sense of being incomplete. And so, we look for “completion” outside of ourselves.

Some weeks ago, I wrote a post about the fleeting moments of being the harmony of being deeply connected with myself and how that miraculously reflected in a sense of peaceful connection and ease with everything around me. This sort of authentic connection with each other is the need of the hour. In this age of hate and polarity, we need connection more than ever.

If you’re looking for love, start with yourself. Begin within. Do you truly love yourself wholly? What parts need some work before you get to acceptance?

Today, a wish for every one of you to find and nurture love — in significant relationships and friendship alike. Love that gradually grows free of projections, that isn’t attachment masquerading as love, that isn’t the harmful claw of control under the garb of love. A love that holds close the spark of honest and free expression, but also knows deeply the silence needed to hold space. A love that allows for comforting space to individuate and become your own person, while also connecting creatively and intimately. A love that both liberates you, as well as grounds and anchors you.

Today, this wish is for every one of you to find and nurture that love within yourselves first. It really is the first intimate relationship to nurture, and the only way to find true, balanced, wholesome love in significant relationships and friendship alike.

One year ago: Born again, all grown up
Two years ago: We’ve got to hold on to what we’ve got

Finding flow, and flowing with it

It’s been over a month and a half of doing tarot card readings for people. At the end of practically every one of these sessions, I feel a bit in awe with the realisation that if there’s one utterly human thing that connects us all, it is the basic desire to understand ourselves.

It’s very grounding and humbling. Levelling, unifying. As much as we are diverse and unique, we’re all also much the same.

The pursuit takes different meanings and manifestations for each one of us, but at the heart of it, is always a desire to “make sense” of the machinations of our minds, hearts, desires and stimulations and getting them all to align from time to time.

Since committing to sharing my journey and learning, and stepping into what Bert Hellinger calls The High Art of Helping I try and stay in touch with what feelings are evoked in me when I engage with clients and am in the seat of The Helper. It’s usually where I find clues for what I need to still see in myself, what parts I am yet to integrate and possibly to unpack a little bit more, the complex machinations of my own spirit mind.

It is a process that while very satisfying, evokes a simultaneous helplessness and the desire to do more, reach more people (because I see how common and universal human struggles are) while also drumming up the soft rhythmic beat of a series of gentle yeses that affirm I am in the right place and this pace is just right.

Like I said, grounding and humbling. Levelling and unifying.

***

At some point in the last few months, I made a slow and almost inconspicuous shift from the pursuit of flow, to just flowing with it when it arrives. I’m somewhere in the process of making friends with the up and down natural rhythms of my body’s energy, my minds willingness to be motivated and push through, and the sweet spot when the two meet and find alignment. I don’t recall exactly when, but I do recall having a conversation about it with S and saying, perhaps this is just it then. I welcome the highs when they arrive, and ride them fully, enthusiastically. And I give in to the lows with as much welcome, allowing for rest, if that’s what it is asking of me.

Working with people in the way that I am these days is also asking for a lot more emotional and mental energy than I imagined. I know I will develop ways to conserve and protect my energy, as I go on, but that is a curve and right now I am at the very bottom of it. So it has been taxing, depleting and quite revelatory.

Which explains perfectly, why my energy hasn’t been uniformly upward or even plateaued. I’ve seen wild ups and downs and for the first time in my life, I have been able to go with it peacefully, rather than grit my teeth and fight the natural rhythm of things.

***

And then there have been days like today. Three readings, two of which were in-person, in my home. And two more enquiries from people who I’ve done readings for last month — my first repeat clients!

Today has been a super demanding on me, but also super satisfying for all the same reasons. It’s been a day of flow. A day that flowed. And I was able to just go from one thing to another with ease, enjoying thoroughly, every moment of my work. I live for days like this, and I’ll bookmark this one to remember.

One year ago: Renewal
Two years ago: You guys, I must be the luckiest alive
Four years ago: Beach bum

Bombay meri jaan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regular programming ensues

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

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

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

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

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

Maximum city

Back in my grandparents home after close to five years. This city, and this home, always fascinates me. Everything always feels so large, loud and in your face here. The rules of engagement always so different from everything I am familiar with. It is just the right amount of unease and asks for some stretch while also kindling a really old part of my brain that has memories of so many fun holidays and trips made here.

Human memory is such a fascinating thing, a muscle almost.

One year ago: Mini thoughts make incremental change
Two years ago: January
Four years ago: On creative happiness

The body keeps the score

After a really, really long time, I have harboured a sense of loneliness the past couple of days. It wasn’t a literal loneliness for people. But it’s been there, just below the surface, this inexplicable reminder that in the end, I am on my own in feeling the depths of difficult emotions.

It has taken me some days to come into full contact with it and articulate it as this — a combination of many things. First, VC actually left town for a few days and I was quite literally alone. This coincided with the general helplessness and sadness about the state of the country, that resurfaced in a big way after going to the Frazer Town protest for a few days in a row. There is some other emotional stuff brewing on a low simmer that has caused some upheaval. There has been some work-related pressures. There is loneliness in feeling intense emotions, yes. But that is stating it simply. Because this was mostly spurred by a remembrance of rejection, which then brought up a landslide of old, forgotten traumatic memories, and then a fair bit of grief about said past memories. Add to it extra sadness and self-pity in acknowledging how hard it must have been for 20-something me, then, for my brain to have done a banging good job of cleaning out those memories entirely. Because it took my sister helping me recollect many of them, and even as she helped, it all sounded like fiction with only a vague, distant sense of a knowing and familiarity. There is sadness for how things have been. For what was and what was not, with this particular relative and the associated memories. And how that has made me be, in the past, and what it is asking of me now.

It was surreal.

It’s particularly interesting (and intense) because it has surfaced this time around, as a sharp pain in my the upper left side of my back. Again, it took me a while to make the connection. I thought maybe I did something to myself at the gym, or I slept wrong. I took it easy at the gym, I changed my pillow. Nothing has really helped. But since making this realisation, I have had to draw a boundary for myself and in a first, communicate it very clearly. In explicit words. Something I am still getting used to, and something I haven’t quite had to do in this way as yet.

But there’s always a first time, I suppose? And so it’ no coincidence that the tenderness in the area has flared up since the conversation yesterday. I didn’t make it to the gym today, as a result.

This is expected, when trauma resurfaces. It finds its way out of the body where it has had to lock itself away for so many years. And even with healing, even as it is finding expression in safe and possibly healthy ways, there is a somatic reaction.

So I’ve had to take some time to soothe the hurt, the grief and the loneliness that this has brought up for me. It meant dropping the efforts to feel better, leaving be all the external relief techniques I was trying, and just sitting with the feelings all of today.

There is power in recognising, very plainly, difficult and intense emotions. Not necessarily to fuel them and make them bigger than they need to be, but certainly in acknowledging what has surfaced and allowing it to come to light fully, rather than be pushed back into the shadows again.

I forget quite often that healing isn’t about pursuing singleminded happiness alone. It often requires looking at painful things from the past, even the things we don’t always consciously remember. It isn’t even about erasing or papering over those painful memories with sugar and honey. But in creating a safe container witin that can hold the expression of those memories, or trauma, or difficult emotions. In a full, honest feeling through of the vulnerability of them all.

Healing isn’t at all about wishing difficult memories or experiences away, but about acknowledging them such that the heaviness around them lightens up. So the grip they have over me is loosed. And one way or another, there is ease and flow once again.

Over the last couple of days of processing this, I’ve had to let the pain in my shoulder get really bad and I’ve had to acknowledge it fully, before finally, since about 3 pm this afternoon, it has started to reduce and I feel it finally ebbing away. This has quite literally felt like a burden I didn’t know I was carrying, that I have held in my body for upwards of 10 years. It is a burden I no longer want to carry.

What a relief it is to put it down. Finally.

One year ago: On duality
Two years ago: I’ve been reading books of old
Four years ago: Emptying my cup

On blooming

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To bloom.

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

Awaaz do

Hum ek hain.

I really wish I had at least one video of this slogan, but every time that it was hurled out through the mic, I would freeze, my hair standing on end, driven to tears.

Sometimes I wonder what’s the point of taking myself to protests because I spend much of my time just crying, and wiping tears. So two nights ago when I headed to the first night of the 24/7 protest slowly growing outside the Frazer Town Mosque on MM Road, I wondered if maybe more than my doing something for the protest, the protest is doing something for me.

It has certainly been very cathartic for me. Just to be there, surrounded by swelling crowds of unity, finding a voice and joining in the slogans. Just saying Azaadi, over and over has been healing. For me.

After literal years of being a cynic and fearing this country is a lost cause in the hands of rogues, this past month has filled me up with hope. Literally, somatically, I have felt like I am being filled up by an energy I didn’t know we had as a country. Every time I have been at a protest I wonder where these people, people like me, have been hiding for all these years!

The MM Road protest has been incredible. Organised completely by and for women, it’s been an outstanding show of how ultimately it’s women who roll their sleeves up and get the job done. I’ve seen them there in huge numbers, big and little kids in tow, organising food, passing around water, multiple rounds of chai, and even coming back to collect trash.

At the foot of the stage, where woman after women goes up to speak or sing or chant or sloganeer, there is a makeshift activity centre of sorts. It’s not as fancy as I am making it sound, but it moved me immensely, because it was a sign of women doing what they need to, to get out of their homes to get the job done. It was well past 10 pm on Thursday night, and with  probably nowhere to leave their kids since they were out on the streets, several women gathered their kids together, distributed piles of paper, scattered some paints and crayons amidst them and asked them to stay together. The kids stayed, doodling, making posters, painting the tricolour on each others’ faces, while their mothers donned reflective jackets over their hijabs, and job hustling with their volunteer work.

I was there till well past midnight, all by myself, long after my friends left, and it was entirely safe, well organised, just so tremendous and inspiring.

I said this before, and I’ll say it again. This isn’t just about religious fundamentalism anymore (though that is also a big reason why we need to push back). This is about divisive politics. Politics that will come after minority after minority. Today it’s religious factions, but it wont be long before it irreversibly ruins the poor, Dalits, Adivasis, LGBTQIA folks, women and children.

Tomorrow marks 70 years of the Republic of India, and there is no better time to revisit and reassert our rights, and celebrate the very constitution that makes us who we are as a nation. The constitution that is at stake today.

All bets are off. The shiny veneer of the promise of development has all but faded. Unemployment is at its lowest. We’re in the midst of a full-blown agrarian crisis. The economy is in shambles and all we can seem to do is wring our hands and watch hopelessly. In fact, IMF is now pitting the global economic slowdown on India. And to top it all, our rights are severely at stake now.

The world is watching. Yesterday, The Economist revealed the cover of the first edition of the year. It reads “Intolerant India“.

We have got to stand up as one, like this matters. And like it matters to all of us alike.

***

The MM Road 24/7 (indefinite) protest is happening outside the mosque, opposite Carry Fresh Supermarket in Frazer Town. Today is Day 3, and there’s a lot of hope and determination to keep this going in support of the incredible women of Shaheen Bagh. If you’re in the city and you’d like to show your support, even if it is just for a short while, please consider going there.

This realy awe-inspiring piece talks about how it’s women taking the lead.

They need our support. Awaaz do, hum ek hain. 

One year ago: Full moon magic
Two years ago: Gravity is working against me
Four years ago: Love

Incremental change

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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