Monday Tarot Message: On desire (and listening in)

There is something so compellingly hopeful about Aces, signifying new beginnings, ripeness of potential, fresh inspiration, new journeys. All Aces, but especially the Wands, speak to me of the fire in my belly. It reminds me to tune in to my desires, of all kinds.

Two things can happen with that energy. When we’re accustomed to listening to our own voice, we may run with it, fuel the fire and stoke it till it consumes us and changes something elemental about us. If we are governed more by external voices, we run the risk of dousing it completely. Usually for fear of failing, or not feeling gratified, or displeasing someone, amongst other things.

Desire is often looked at as “bad”, for making us “self-serving”. But it is worth becoming curious and interested in them because our desires are our inner voices showing up. When we listen often enough, we begin to get good at telling which desires to put energy into, and which ones to let slide.

Rules, expectations and externally perceived ways of being usually feed our conditioning and socialisation, teaching us to quell our desires. Those “bad” things that make us stray from what’s best for the greater good. And so we avoid focusing on ourselves, we stay within the lines, play safe. And in that way, we minimise our desires and our bypass intuition.

Our real work though, is to get intimate with desire, with the heart of our inclinations, the inner throbbing nucleus unmet aspiration. So we can discern what makes our spirits shine, heats sing and fills us with life. And then we can run with it. When we engage with our desires in this way, we build the capacity to chase what is good for us. What brings harmony and alignment, and feeds our soul.

How does it feel to just listen to your desires? Even before you act on them, can you just listen? Without speculating. Without labeling or judging them. What do you need, so you do that without worrying about whether it is useful, productive, efficient, realistic, prestigious or lucrative enough?

Desire can be one of the greatest teachers, in meeting your true self. Can you listen?

Two years ago: Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day
Four years ago: Fairy lights

Monday Tarot Message: The Establishment vs. The Self

The Hierophant is the male counterpart of the High Priestess, and represents the Establishment, conventional rules, fundamental principles and belief systems that govern acceptable ways of being in any group or system. It could be a workplace, friends circle, family system, society, country at large.

I also see him as a gatekeeper of a deep spiritual ability to guard our Authentic Self. An advocate of necessary rule-breaking as a way of living, that while in keeping with the Establishment’s values, upholds asking difficult questions about what values we are chasing personally.

The Hierophant reminds us of be aware of the difference between:

  1. group values and personal values
  2. rules that make us rigid and take us away from, versus those that are soft and more aligned with our personal values
  3. rules that serve Belonging versus Personal Individuation

All groups have said and unsaid rules that govern who gets to belong and who doesn’t. These could vary wifely and include things like:

  1. I must always be happy and positive
  2. I must be married by age 30 and bear least 2 children
  3. I must not grow a beard
  4. I must be religious.
  5. I must not be emotional.
  6. I must choose security over satisfaction and join the family business

Following such (And other) rules unquestioningly definitely ensures a secure place within the group, but the Hierophant reminds us to stay akin with our spirit, to know when the rule following is coming at a great personal cost. This happens often, when our personal values and group values collide, causing tension.

Life requires building an appetite for healthy rule-breaking, knowing when to question the norms, how to navigate them in a useful way in order to construct a life that is personally satisfying too.

Serving the group ticks the right boxes, satisfies the ego and brings external appreciation. Whereas serving the Self is a quiet process with no outward accolades. Individuation asks us to question the rules, to break down established constructs and reconstruct them when necessary.

Questioning established rules is also to call for change — a deeply unsettling prospect for the majority. To be the one that bucks the rules of the system is invariably seen as being selfish and self-serving. And so it requires being okay with meeting displeasure and unease from the other. It requires the ability to face being judged, disliked and to be unacceptable. To be keenly comfortable with fear, uncertainty and the loneliness of this process. Not with a false sense of bravado, but an inner strength instead.

We typically believe visionaries and change-makers are blessed with fearlessness. We hark their bravery as a prime quality, but I think it is more likely that they are just more comfortable with their fears. They are more friendly with uncertainty. They are okay with taking the risks of going against the grain, and they’re in deep commitment to the personal alignment of their inner Selves, over the easier, quickly-rewarded alignment to the Establishment.

***

Lately, I have been thinking about this a lot, in the context of two aspects of my life — my growing sensitivity/intolerance to right wing rhetoric in this country, and my evolving ideas around marriage. The two are also very closely related as my personal politics have grown and evolved. I now find myself in a strange new place, where I find myself having to regain belonging again. In a new way, from my new sense of self, having shed all the things I did to belong before — many of which came at a cost to my individual personhood.

Aligning strongly and firmly with personal values that oppose the rules and values of the majority no doubt comes with a loss of belonging and oneness with people around. I feel this deeply in both the aspects I have mentioned above. I feel increasingly like I don’t belong in this country anymore, like this is no place for me anymore. And I feel like a bit of an outsider in the family I have acquired through marriage.

I feel strongly, now more than ever, willing to contend with the inherent loneliness and fear of being in this place, because to choose to flow with the norm just to avoid it feels like too high a cost to pay. My sense of self has grown too strong now, I cannot seem to turn back on this and go back to some of my unthinking, unquestioning ways from before.

Two years ago: Please don’t go
Four years ago: Summer evenings 2

Monday Tarot Message: Healing can sometimes feel counterintuitive

“How can it be good for me when it feels so awful?” — is something I’ve asked myself quite often on my therapeutic journey. Healing can often get turbulent and feel lousy and destabilising. Because you’re going to go all up into all the uncomfortable things you’ve steadfastly avoided. Challenge strong beliefs, question patterns, revisit trauma and face previously unfelt emotions.

Emotions that are ignored don’t go away. They simply get lodged in the subconscious from where they continue to impact outward behaviour. An effective therapeutic practice involves building a safe and steady container within — a holding space for this journey that will bring up a lot of difficult parts of ourselves.

In allowing for feeling all that we have previously denied, we can begin to disengage from the impact that denial has had — whether an unhealthy pattern, or letting go of anxiety or grief, or opening up to positivity and abundance.

We are very used to looking for linear markers and milestones of success and achievement in everything we do. We chase consistent and upward movement. We seek to feel good as validation of our progress, and so we are not used to feeling unsettled and the process can feel counterintuitive. But healing and growth is an inherently non-linear journey that traverses parts that unsettle, challenge and require you to allow for feeling wretched sometimes.

The Nine of Cups reminds us how crucial it is to take this route, over pursuing bliss alone. To build this container, so we can hold ourselves through the turbulent times. Because that is progress too.

In fact, I can vouch through personal experience that, the greatest changes and more monumental differences in my journey have been on the back off the toughest most emotionally challenging phases.

Within the safety of a holding space, we can bring back into the light all that was previously repressed and pushed into the Shadow. It is necessary to know pain so we can know joy, to process grief so we can find relief, to confront so we can let go. So we can do it all actively, with deliberation. In a healthy way.

So yeah, it’ll feel wretched sometimes. It’ll feel unsavoury and confusing. It’ll downright suck too. It’ll feel entirely counterproductive. But that is the only way it goes.

One year ago: Content
Two years ago: I’ve been saving this time
Four years ago: Inside-out

Wild and free

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday Tarot Message: Working with fear

The undeniable thing about any fear is that it is present on the flip side of the very thing you value the most.

The very things that we desperately want, somehow keep us crippled and stuck, unable to move towards any kind of fruitful outcome.

Like wanting to be a successful entrepreneur, yet crippled by the thought of going solo. Wanting equality in connection, but escaping to the lopsided dynamics of toxic relationships. Like dreaming of showing your art, but feeling the burden of not being good enough. Want to hold your vulnerabilities lightly, but fearing them being seen.

Eight Of Swords reminds us of the more useful way to deal with fear — to engage with it.

When we refuse to see fear, it turns into a surly enemy that blocks the path. But when we articulate it, allow ourselves to feel it, witness what it does to us, share it with another, it loses the hold on us.

Culturally too, we are taught never to show fear. Or let fear show.

We demonise it, and are shown time and time again to avoid it at all costs. So we never learn to engage with it. But fear makes us feel boxed in when we repeatedly avoid that which we fear, or fear itself. It keeps us stuck when this avoidance is so habitual that we unconsciously slip into loops of escape. And we wonder why life isn’t moving on and why certain patterns keep repeating — such as difficulty with success, recurring relationship problems, health troubles.

Perhaps a more useful response to fear is to acknowledge that it’s okay for fear to be there, first. Not to rush to eliminate or get rid of it. To allow it, invite it in. Give it a seat at the table, even.

The next time you feel deep fear, ask yourself, how is it impacting the choice you are about to make? And is that choice going to take you closer to what you value? Or will it keep you stuck?

When you engage with your fear, you give true change a chance, by acknowledging how it is closely linked to what you value. To acknowledge the fear-fuelled urge to give up, turn back, flee, and to invite it in anyway, is actually the precursor to taking mindful, deliberate action. To move towards change, not without fear, but in spite of it.

I feel like this week, the message is so deeply for me.

***

I continue to take enquiries for personal reading sessions. This is most easily done online, either on a video call if you prefer and are comfortable, or a regular voice call too. So if you have been considering — whether you’re in Bangalore or not — please reach out.

If you’d like to know more about how this works and how it might be useful to you, we can have a chat about that too.

Two years ago: And love is all that I can give to you
Three years ago: Because wanting to leave is enough
Four years ago: This day, that year

Monday Tarot Message: Practice intention and mindfulness

One of the purposes of healing the past is to move forward into a future independent of all that holds you back. Individuating from old patterns, toxic cycles, unsupportive relationships, limiting beliefs, and coming into your own power. Arriving at this place involves practice — practicing at life — starting with the most basic building blocks of intention and mindfulness.

Building intentionality is the first baby, but big, step at self-awareness. When you begin to practice this, in the smallest ways it slowly translates to practicing discernment.
Deliberate action.
Commitment to ones personal values.
Honouring the truth.
Boundaries and respect.
Compassion and empathy.

All of this builds the capacity to choose that which serves, and parse out all that doesn’t. That which heals, and that which poisons. That which holds you up, and that which drags you down. That which nourishes and nurtures, and that which drains. Which is basically what a healing journey is all about. Finding yourself, amidst the mess, choosing yourself and walking on.

The practice of intention and mindfulness begins to show up in your life slowly, subtly. You’ll see it in shifts in effective communication, harmonious relationships, respectful equations with people around you, the ability to witness your emotions, a life that is in flow, no matter what the circumstances.

To heal is to essentially move towards that which is in alignment with the self, leaving behind all misdirects. It’s a constant WIP, and you won’t always get it right. But every choice will teach you something, and the Queen of Swords is a reminder that you can move towards a place of mastery where this choice making, discernment, intentionality becomes second nature.

It all begins with cultivating a razor sharp focus on on intention and mindfulness.

Two years ago: I was born this way
Four years ago: Happy music fix

Too much

Today I feel implicitly like my I am too much for people around me. I see how the newness in me makes everybody back off. My opinions are too loud, my views are too angry, my state of mind is too discontent, my emotions too negative, my questions too unnecessary, my presence too much. Everything — just too fucking much.

I have been a certain version of myself for so long now and as I feel that person — that always put-together, more or less agreeable, mostly pleasant and cheerful, always awkwardly goofy person — receding to the background, I’m not entirely sure my little world is ready for what’s showing up.

What’s showing up is a lot of intense emotion right now. And aside from myself, it is being met by deafening silence — absolute crickets — or being brushed aside with mirth and laughter.

I notice, in the tacit expressions of frustration and disdain, that this discomfort is from the other. I see how every effort to explain myself is taken as an invitation for confrontation. It isn’t. And I couldn’t be arsed to further explain that. An older me would have panicked and twisted myself into knots trying to make myself more palatable. Or do my bit in making swallowing the bitter pill being presented a touch better, so to speak.

This new side of me that I am still groping at, in the dark and discovering piece by piece slowly, doesn’t give a fuck.

It is scarily freeing. And I feel afraid of just how much I can push the world away.

As much as I feel filled out and in my space and potency, in the steady and consistent stepping back of people, I also feel a hollowing ache. Bracing for a lot more loneliness in the months to come.

One year ago: Separate, yet connected
Two years ago: Where is the love

Regeneration

It’s hard to miss the silver lining that’s beginning to creep out of all this silence and solitude. Yes, the economic genocide continues, the uncertainty is thick like a pre-monsoon humid atmosphere, the hunger issue is right up in my doorstep. Literally. This morning as I was entering my building gate, a man walked up to me and asked for some food in a language I didn’t understand. And he didn’t understand me when I said I was empty-handed, but if he waited, I could get him some food from upstairs. He was gone before I could finish my sentence. And it made me wonder if that’s because he’s been turned away from many doors already. And yet, yet, I feel a sense of something regenerating. I’ve been saying it in different ways in posts before, and I feel it slowly crystallising into something in my head, holding meaning for my personal life. And I can feel it in the way people around me are rethinking very basic aspects of their lives and what sort of problematic “normal” we have upheld till now. That, for me, is good news. It’s a subtle, but powerful shift that is otherwise very difficult to bring about.

But yes, I’m also feeling good seeing the news about rivers cleaning themselves up. Today I saw a video of the Dasashwamedha Ghat in Benaras, devoid of the throng it always sports and I couldn’t believe how clean the water looked from just one year ago when VC and I visited. I’m feeling the sense of regeneration. In the peacocks that showed up in my neighbourhood. The skies clearing up and entire mountain ranges coming to sight. Wildlife taking over city streets and junctions. In our kitchens where we’re all cooking nourishing meals, mindfully. In our self-reliance, minimal, stripped down existence. In our sudden attention to detail, which is now a necessity, not a luxury. Like soft gentle tinkling bells heralding change, bursting forth with the promise of new life.

I stuck these spider plant “babies” in water at the end of last week. Today, I saw they’ve sprouted shiny, tender new roots, ready to take life on, on their own.

Yesterday, I gave myself a sloth day from what has become an infinite loop of days filled with cleaning, cooking, working, sleeping in different order of sequence every day. I declared it a do-nothing day because I realised that rest is an important part of regeneration. I chose to take it easy, to give the cleaning a miss, to ditch cooking and get take out for a change. And even with the rest, I felt so full of energy. In mind and body.

I feel restoration within me too, somehow. I know there has been talk of the lockdown being extended, and while it bums me out a little (because I really want to get a run in the park, and a GOOD idli-vada and hot chocolate fudge and just a hangout somewhere that’s not my home, and I really don’t want to spend my birthday locked down)m I’m thinking of all the rest and regeneration that still needs to happen. And maybe it will get a chance to?

I know that our expectations of change are that it be quick, as painless as possible, and always positive. But really, aren’t we beginning to see how the deepest most potent transformation is anything but all of that?

One year ago: Goa vibes
Two years ago: To the gypsy that remains

Mid-week note to self

Reminders I need. Often, these days.

Let everything happen to you. Beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.

— Rainer Maria Rilke

One year ago: Home
Four years ago: On being average

Monday Tarot Message: What are you willing to let crumble now more than ever?

The Tower emerges as an indication of a radical shift in perception of reality. Today it feels particularly potent, both in imagery and significance, given current circumstances. And it resonates with things that have been top of mind for me 1) How the pandemic has presented opportunity for rethinking my reality and 2) The literal ivory towers we inhabit. And here it is, in today’s card.

The Tower signals an intervention, interruption. A topsy-turvy time of pandemonium, chaos and severe upheaval. While discomfiting, this presents an opportunity to connect with one’s true self. An opportunity to see the truth fully, eyes open.

You see, the ego seeks and finds comfort in the unchanging, while the True Self always seeks growth through constant change. It requires enquiry, confronting the truth and letting go what no longer serves, and bravely reimagining the new.

Like all great transformation, this is not without a palpable loss of security, sensation of great instability in the ground beneath our feet, as everything that we have held to be absolute and true comes crumbling down. Much like it is in the world today.

It is not a comfortable place to be by any stretch of imagination, and yet it is crucial to be here and stay for as long as delving into the truth needs. We cannot rush this process and skip to the next stage for comfort sake, else we risk losing the essence of it. But even as we delve into the depths of despair and feeling utterly shitty, we also carry a knowing, a gut feeling, a hunch, of what will absolutely NOT do anymore. Whether in our own private lives, thanks to the time for introspection. Or in our immediate communities, from seeing our habits as human beings so closely. Or as a nation or political entity, while so many false promises and facades come crashing down as we see our leaders for what they are.

A great facade has lifted, the charade has dropped, and we are seeing very clearly the brutal truth for what it is. Maybe we have been players, maybe we have been played. No matter where we stand on the spectrum, we all carry a deep knowing that nothing will be the same again.

The message today is, let loose the grip on the desire for sameness, for positivity, for goodness alone. For continuity, uniformity and permanence. Because nothing true, breathing and living can ever exist in a state of sameness. Be willing to be thoroughly transformed by what is happening today. And for that, be willing to sit with the discomfort of what is happening, and face the atrocities and fractures it is throwing up.

Whichever way you look at it, this is a period of essential (and much delayed) cleansing and regeneration. And it is only when the rotten crumbles and falls away fully that new, stronger foundations can be laid.

How you move forward will depend on whether you choose the truth or go back to deception; whether you choose true compassion that favours equality or slip back to ways that continue inequity.

Take this time to relook at your foundations, your core beliefs. It could be personal or to do with the community.

What rot are you holding on to that is threatening to crumble?
What are you ready to let go of now more than ever?
How has three weeks of being locked in changed your life positively?

Take this time to also internalise what you’ve learned, and allow it to touch your life in a deeper way will. This will make the difference in whether you come out of this with positive change, or slip back to shaky ground.

Personally for me, this has shown how much more involved I want to be as a living entity in my environment. It has crushed what little faith I had in leaders to show the way. It’s on me, on us as individuals. I feel this desperately now. It has also triggered a very old and hitherto shut-down part of me that has absolutely no tolerance for injustice. I was absolutely not in touch with this side of me, until recently. And lately it feels like I just can’t unsee this. I’m done. I cannot go back to closing my eyes. All of this is having very real and palpable reactions in my outer life, and the ways in which I am being. It is grossly uncomfortable and at many times unpleasant. It makes all my relationships feel very tenuous and I am unsure which way I am going.

But I know deep down that I must let this play out fully, trust the process, continue to keep seeing the truth, no matter how discomfiting. And it will emerge, slowly.

I will rebuild. We will rebuild. We have a choice to make here. We must make sure to choose the truth, over comfort.

One year ago: Chance encounters
Two years ago: Where the cares of the day seem to slowly fade away
Four years ago: Maybe I’m finally making peace with being mediocre

Monday Tarot Message: Tend to your masculine side

Apologies! I do my best to try and get this up in the morning, so it serves as guidance for the day, and sometimes the week ahead too. But it isn’t always possible. Today we ventured out early with our masks on, to try and scope some supplies. It’s not that things aren’t available but supplies are definitely lean where I live. It took a lot of waiting in queues in multiple stores, and then purchasing stuff from a couple of local kirana stores and a push cart, before I got home. And then the day got ahead of me. Ah well!

Here’s the message, though. And even though it is a message for the day, I feel like it is relevant for this time in general.

***

The consciousness comprises a feminine and a masculine pole — whether you are man or woman — bringing together the opposites to coexist in harmony. The Emperor represents the masculine, the does, the analyser, the go-getter, the controller, the ringleader, the taskmaster. And we all have a side of ourselves that is like this. It is highly active in some, moderately so in some others and probably nascent in many. This is also probably the side that is feeling challenged by the current dip in productivity and capacity to do, given this lockdown situation.

While your feminine side (again, in differing proportion for different people) maybe enjoying this time for rest, renewal, slowness and tenderness, The Emperor asks us to also make contact with the masculine. If you otherwise seek control and clarity in knowing at all times, how are you feeling with this uncertainty? Are you taking care of that side that is probably feeling neglected, unsettled, frustrated?

Use this time to connect with your masculine side. If it has been a challenge to slow down and stay indoors, soothe it, let yourself know that it is okay to soften up and learn to trust the universal balance of things. It’s okay to learn the necessity of rest and renewal as much as you have, the need for perseverance and doing. Sometimes even by force.

The Patriarchy, with its unnatural and unnecessary leaning towards all things male, creates this imbalance in the masculine. Whether male or female, the strong emergence and reliance on the masculine means we are all that much more mistrustful, value control and don’t believe in rest. In our effort to combat/balance that in our external worlds, we may sometimes devalue the need for rest, or even neglect the masculine aspect within ourselves. This card is a reminder that both aspects have a place and when in balance, are immensely useful to us — man or woman.

It’s hard not to look at life like it constantly needs solving — projects, productivity, compulsively helping people, moving from one thing to do to the next with efficiency — in this masculine-leaning world that values doing over just being. It’s hard to make room for slow tenderness, even if that is your inherent pace. This is also a byproduct of the patriarchy — this perverse pursuit of doing and domination.

Take this time to soothe your masculine side that may be struggling to relinquish control. Help heal it so you can move closer to the feminine within you, to integrate, rather than exist as opposing poles. Because both parts exist, both parts are valid, both are useful and have a place in your consciousness.

***

Even though I have been taking it easy, slow and really relishing this time where the world seems to suddenly be moving at my pace, this message, rather a reminder, to rest keeps coming up for me. I am taking this as permission, that it’s okay to slow down even more. I know that my personality needs it. So if that is the case for you, maybe just take this as permission to do and be just the way you are during this seriously surreal time.

One year ago: Looking within
Two years ago: Please press pause and try again
Four years ago: Seeing the sun rise

Are you tired of me talking about grief, yet?

Because here is yet another post about grief.

Right. So, I’m having a hard time with what’s going on. I just needed to say it.

It has felt doubly hard because I feel stupid about even thinking and saying this to myself. While most people began to take this seriously only two days ago, we have been largely indoors and not socialising since March 14th. And we have been fine, which in a perverse way, makes it doubly hard to accept that even with everything being okay, I am having a world of emotions swell up inside of me, and that it has been challenging to hold.

I have a roof over my head, a fridge full of food and enough stocked up to last me weeks. The luxury of staying at home and so many ways to keep myself engaged and happy. My very first world issues include wondering about when I will get this a very overdue haircut, and when can I go out to the park for a run. While millions have been rendered homeless and jobless overnight, and are having to walk back to their villages many, many miles away. While J and S tell me stories of how their work and teams in Europe are slowly imploding, and how some of them are having to justify their teams existence from one week to the next. What business do I have to say I am sometimes emotionally overwhelmed?

Except, I am. And the additional guilt isn’t helping. But hiding the truth isn’t making it go away either.

I’ve felt uninvited anger. Inexplicable sadness. Confusion. Exasperation. Downright rage and fury. Helplessness and hopelessness. Grief, anguish and deep sadness. Fear. And sometimes just blankness from it all. I have felt all these things in the past 2 weeks, sometimes too much for my heart-with-limited-capacity to hold.

Even words, my usual go to, have evaded me. And I have pushed the edge to which I can go without trying to make sense of what’s going on and what I am feeling in response. I may not have always been very successful with that.

Then, yesterday I read this HBR article that demystifies this “discomfort” as Grief. I realised this is what I have been feeling, through therapy yesterday. There’s a bit in the piece about the power of naming the feeling really struck home. Because I realised that the moments of upliftment these two weeks have been the moments where I have shared and stated what I am feeling.

At a time when words have been few and difficult to find for me, having S text “how are you today?” literally every morning, and getting on a video-call with her every other day to simply say what has not been easy, and what has, has helped. We invariably end up having a giggle fit. And that really helps!

In addition to frequent group video calls — a thing I have avoided like the plague until now — J, S and I have a continuous stream of sharing images of what we’re cooking and eating. This is literally the only whatsapp group I am active on, save the other one with my folks and sister. Talking to them is always equal parts keeping it real and making a big fat joke of everything. I have a bunch of images where we’re chuckling, and a couple where J gave us a guided tour of his plant family, complete with telling us their names. So there are colourful plants in the window where his face should be, and there’s S and I laughing our heads off in the other. Clearly we’re discussing the gravity of the situation, and our collective sads, in the picture below.

In all this, I’m so glad I’m not alone in my isolation. I have my sister and VC with me, and we spend a fair bit of time sharing the little things that are scary, annoying and confusing about these times. Minus the guilt. Plus we have been doing things together — cooking, exercising, eating, painting — that certainly help.

It helped to just say it as it is — I’m sad, angry, exasperated, confused, uncertain, while also feeling fiiiine — in all the different ways possible, for a full hour of therapy yesterday. We skyped and talked so little. Again, virtual therapy sessions are a luxury I have enjoyed all through last year when I spent extended periods of time in Goa. That is the extent to which my life, on paper, hasn’t changed.

And even then, this is me saying it: Ive struggled from time to time these past two weeks. If you have, have you tried naming it? It certainly helps emotions lose the grip that they sometimes have over us, holding us down.

There is something powerful about naming this as grief. It helps us feel what’s inside of us. When you name it, you feel it and it moves through you. Emotions need motion. It’s important we acknowledge what we go through. One unfortunate byproduct of the self-help movement is we’re the first generation to have feelings about our feelings. We tell ourselves things like, I feel sad, but I shouldn’t feel that; other people have it worse. We can — we should — stop at the first feeling.”

I guess what I’m saying is these are uncertain times for all of us, and if you’ve been feeling weird, overwhelmed, confused, foggy — it’s probably grief. We’re all experiencing this in our own ways.

Even when our lives are intact and largely unchanged. It might seem illogical to feel grief for something that hasn’t really touched you. But here’s where I differ from the BHR piece. Which there may be grief for the prevailing circumstances, I think what we’re all feeling is also the grief of uncertainty. The grief of many fundamental pillars of ur existence being challenged. Knowing that certain critical things are crumbling and making way for a new era that we know nothing of. There is grief in that letting go, fear in not knowing.

The guilt of having certain privileges may be keeping you from admitting to what you’re feeling, making you teeter around the edge of this discomfort for days on end. It might help to open the door, jump in, right into the depths of whatever you’re feeling. State it, name it, call it out, share it if you can and if you have the luxury.

One year ago: This new abyss
Two years ago: I get the strangest feeling you belong
Four years ago: Fam-jam

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

Monday Tarot Message: On shame, hiding and relationships

Who are you when nobody is looking? What parts of yourself do you shy away from revealing even to your closest people? What are the casual white lies you tell to keep what’s hidden intact? Observe that today.

The need to lie about who we are comes from underlying shame, and shame, lying and hiding almost always comes from not being fully at peace with those aspects of and in ourselves. As long as they remain hidden, our work towards meeting our authentic selves remains incomplete. Because what we keep from the world, we also keep away from ourselves. Bridging that gap requires compassion so we may meet all that’s unpalatable, undesirable and sometimes downright loathsome, within us.

The thing is, each and every one of us comes with some inherent shame or self-loathing. Healing this requires compassion. Not to justify or allow continual inauthenticity, but to trust that what’s “shameful” needs acceptance, even integration, in order to ge healed. So we don’t have to be fragmented anymore.

The Seven of Swords asks to also look at your closest relationships. Who you are encouraged to be stealthy, cautious or surreptitious around? Who triggers your shame, making you most want to present a more “palatable” version of yourself?

We all have someone like this even in our closest circles. Sometimes it is our partners, our closest friends, or even our parents — with whom we may very well have great relationships. What version of yourself do you present to your closest people?

This happens because the ego is steadfastly committed to saying “yes” to relationships that help keep what you find shameful hidden. But this also means saying “yes” to avoiding the work of healing shame and meeting yourself wholly. And worse, it means saying “no” to your authentic self.

Most often, those of us with a history of deep shame are attracted to lovers and friends who appear to accept us completely, but around whom we unconscioulsy have to shrink, downplay, downsize ourselves. Think about that person/s in your life today. Look out for the ways in which you are stealthy around them. Choose well.

One year ago: Love filled
Two years ago: Everything is going to the beat
Four years ago: Flight

On balance

Last week, back in the classroom before things got disrupted by escalations due to the coronavirus, it wasn’t surprising that so many of us brought up Balance. In context to things feeling very out of balance around the world lately. Between the political shitstorm in India to what is playing out in the USA as well as globally, the ecological extremes and now the virus, everything seems a bit off kilter, no? One of my classmates didn’t even make it in for class because she comes in from Dubai and the travel ban was enforced a couple of days before class was scheduled.

Balance (like Belonging, that I also talk about a lot) is another fundamental principle of family constellations therapy. Bringing back balance in systems (usually families), restoring individual members to their rightful place, size and helping them understand their place as not just as individuals (in that singular fashion) but as symbiotic beings belonging within the interconnected framework of a larger natural system (or family) is a significant part of the work we do. This is a big part of the therapeutic work in viewing our individual realities, understanding context, making perspective shifts and releasing energy that is blocked when we are otherwise in a position where none of the above is possible.

It involves learning to pull back and view systems and how they operate, what impact it has on individuals and most times the thing that we’re viewing under the microscope suddenly takes on a new look.

One of the key principles in understanding Balance is that the system always works to restore balance. To bring back that which is off-balance. And in doing this, it may sometimes sacrifice some other elements. And so, I can’t lie, I’m fascinated at how looking at things through this lens, the systemic lens as we call it, is making me view the pandemic: as an instance of the system taking charge to restoring balance (as systems as naturally programmed to) that we haven’t been able to do ourselves.

And as we also see in family constellations every movement in the process of bringing back balance, comes with a serious amount of churn, a lot of unsettlement and what presents as destruction with far reaching consequences, before things can settle again.

The scale of these “consequences” in the case of the virus has been mind-boggling. I’m marvelling at how equally helpless we are in the face of this mysterious thing we know so little about. Except that it’s deadly, airborne and spreading uncontrollably. I’m fascinated how nobody is above this. No race, no country or border, certainly no religion or economic group. None of the divisions we have created to pit ourselves against others matters.

The pandemic is testing each of our personalities. Bringing out our collective compassion and monstrosity alike, surfacing parts of us that are deep-seated and rooted. Something deeper is at place, affecting change from within, showing up who we really are and what we have become as people. As a planet.

Notice how we’re facing shortages — in food, in resources, a foreboding sense of shortage of time, a palpable shortage in patience, an inability to deal with our fears and panic. It’s quite something. Mostly, a sign that things are not balanced within.

Restoring balance requires bringing back a deliberate consciousness towards natural rhythms, cycles, checks and balances. Our own, within us as well as around us. This forced slow-down, stay-home situations feels significant of that restoration. A time to do nothing, with no plan and little control.

How easy or hard has this been for you? What feelings have surfaced? It would be telling (and useful) to check in with yourself.

Restoring balance also means returning to our original size and place in the universe. Knowing there are forces that are and should be larger than us, literally and metaphorically. That we are not omnipotent and indestructible. Because far too many of our choices these days make it seem like we are.

This has been a sordid reminder of how frail and vulnerable we really are, and a jolt to step back from the plunder and destruction we have made a normal way of existence. It’s time to check our excesses, at every level, from the personal to the global. It’s time to return to some state of compassionate, synergistic, balanced way of living.

As a civilisation we have been through churn like this many times before, showing us how far off we have veered from the natural order. How cluelessly we believe we are the bosses of nature. How many horrific gaps we have created and how many of those we continue to ignore and resist fixing. How overly disconnected we have become from ourselves and the planet that has obliged us this chance at civilisation.

If this situation has thrown your emotions off balance or brought up difficult things to deal with, that is probably exactly what you need to reconnect with, witness and bring back into balance. And I believe it’s what this time is doing for us — bringing us back in touch with ourselves, one way or another, at whatever level we are willing to receive it.

We talk so much about “slowing down” and “solitude” and “self care” but very rarely do anything significant about it. There never seems to be enough time, and always far too many distractions. And yet, here it is, the perfect time. With nowhere to go, nothing to do.

If nothing else, it’ll be immensely useful in steeling yourself for future eruptions like this, because Gos knows this is just the beginning.

It’s a process. Connecting with yourself. Restoring balance within yourself. And you can start now. This is nature giving you a chance.

One year ago: Out there
Four years ago: Abandon