Monday Tarot Message: Finding joy

The wonderful, joyful and honestly underrated aspect of healing is how it opens up access to moving towards that which you could only dream at one time. A life that has a capacity for hope, pleasure and delight, triumph and success. A life in alignment with your desires.

A major aspect of any healing journey involves doing the difficult, confusing, painful work of facing trauma. Inner work is terribly unsexy for the most part. But it is only by working through the parts of our stories that make us unravel, that we find ways to put ourselves back together again.

However, what doesn’t get spoken about often enough is that doing this work is also the portal to accessing safety and joy. When we heal our trauma (however big or small), and we regulate our systems to identify and cultivate a sense of safety, is the foundation for unlocking so many wonderful things like trust, curiosity, wonder, the capacity for joy and fun, nurturing creativity, finding and receiving love, chasing a passion and the like.

Healing brings back into our wholeness all those things that trauma may have split away from us, making us believe that we are not worthy or that we got dealt a bad hand. Accessing these joyful moments in the journey is definitely challenging and demands strength and vulnerability that many of us fear. But the moments when we make contact with that safety and well-being can be life-giving and affirming for all the work it has taken. Like finding light even while walking through the darkness.

These moments of light and life begin to return more frequently when we get the hang of regulating our systems to feel safe more often than not. When we learn of inner strength, and how we can find all of these resources within ourselves. They bring a robustness and a sense of being whole, rather than split. And a feeling of joy and love being within, rather than beyond our reach. It is only from a space of safety and wholeness that we can begin to reach our full potential and touch the fringes of all the things we aspire to.

It is necessary to affirm and celebrate these moments along your personal journey. Moments that hold promise and potential for the kind of life you may have only dreamed of until now.

One year ago: Downtime
Two years ago: And you were an island to discover
Four years ago: July

That’s how growth is

One reason I love tracking my daily posts back to one year, two years, three years ago and so on and so forth is that sometimes I make little discoveries that only I can revel in. Discoveries that would otherwise just slip away, pass me by. And I like making these discoveries, because in their small, subtleness there is sometimes a colossal shift to be found. I say found, but of course I mean experienced, in a way that only I can.

That’s how growth is. I’m back in the classroom again — the final, final leg of it all and it’s brought to the fore all sorts of bittersweet feelings about endings and new beginnings and just how immense this entire journey of tow years has been for me. Someone put it beautifully in class today:

I may look the same on the outside today, as I did last year, but on the inside I feel completely new.

And that’s how it has been for me.

So when I stumbled on this post from one year ago — frightfully, down to the day — on a day when I was going through all those same emotions and conundrums, albeit a whole year later, I got to witness exactly HOW MUCH I HAVE CHANGED. Sorry, I didn’t mean to shout there, it’s just THAT potent.

To see how I held being in that same space of tension differently, and how I managed myself, is heartwarming. The clarity and clear sense of personhood I feel as a result, liberating.

One year ago: Move
Two years ago: Day 212: I eat the city as I leave the scene

Monday Tarot Message: Being true to yourself

Our capacity for authenticity as a cornerstone of how we live our lives begins with honesty with the self. And how we hold that authenticity towards ourselves and our own lives first. This defines being true to oneself.

The High Priestess represents that inner aspect of the Self that holds the authentic core, with all that we truly know and desire. A fulfilling life comes from listening to the voice of that self with confidence.

The voices on the outside — expectations, norms, benchmarks, values — can often drown the inner one which is clear and pure and needs no reasoning. This can be hard to do, especially in a world that holds so many ideals and values as aspirational, and teaches us to chase what structures and systems (such as capitalism, patriarchy, caste, nations) require of us. This can cause massive obscuring in the process of being in tune with the voice on the inside that may want otherwise.

Today’s message is a reminder that healing, growth, personal development — are all journeys that take us back to our inner selves. Healing offers a process through which we may examine and soothe all the parts of ourselves that choose to deviate or move away from that inner self, which is actually the only compass for living an authentic life. And it helps us return to ourselves. To our bodies and hearts the way we were always meant to be.

Our connection with the inner self is routinely disrupted by the machinations of our outer life and all that we encounter or engage with. We experience dilution of our intuition and may question or doubt that pure way in which we know things to be true without needing proof or validation. This causes confusion, anxiety or, in the long run, the inability to find meaning or deeper satisfaction in life.

The ego is largely motivated by external voices. Often the knowing or desires of the inner self are not in alignment with that of the ego. This can cause tension. For eg; the ego’s pursuit of what a “good” person is, may often cause one to go against ones true desires which maybe entirely different. Over time, this inauthenticity will feel insincere and disingenuous to the self and bring disconnection and unhappiness.

Re-establishing this connection is to rediscover the true self. To gradually strengthen the ability to listen and trust the inner self. To learn to parse out doubt, fear, shame or guilt or anything else that inhibits listening and leaning in. To examine our need for external sources of certainty (validation), or why the internal compass doesn’t feel trustworthy to begin with. To notice our patterns of abandoning our inner selves. And most importantly, to see the ways in which this sidelining of ourselves brings pain from disconnection in the long run.

This is what being true to oneself would look like.

One year ago: Forward
Two years ago: Closing walls and ticking clocks
Four years ago: Smoke and ashes, email trails and matters of the heart

Blissful

Just sitting here basking in the joy of an open heart and a clear mind after an excellent session of therapy.

Celebrating the high with the almost-rain backdrop, chai and the closest-to-Parisian croissant I’ve found in Bangalore.

increasingly, therapy has become a very quiet affair, for me. Far fewer words, working mostly with my body, movement and dreams (when I remember them), lots of quiet and noticing what happens in those quiet moments, really taking the time to soak that in before ticking off items from the mental list to move on to the next thing.

It has brought about a sense of expansiveness not just in the way that therapy is working to open me up, but also in the way that I am experiencing life itself. Open, quiet, slow and free.

Today was an important session. And I spent much of it in a haze of peace and oneness. Not having the words or even the urge to explain what I was feeling. It’s such a relief to have a therapist who works in this way, with whom I can spend the entire hour in mostly silence, without owing explanations and still feel held, safe and grounded. Today has left me feeling very present in the now. In today. In what my body is experiencing as this sense of peace and togetherness.

We always end with “so how are you feeling now?” and usually my answer is the woefully inadequate “good” or “not so good” (as the case may be). Today I burst into a beaming, heartful smile and said, Blissful.

One year ago: Two things
Two years ago: If you, if you could return
Four years ago: Gym rant

The unbearable pain and joy of being oneself

I’ve spoken so much about loneliness, and some (perhaps a little unintelligibly, for a reader to grasp) more about the changing face of loneliness as I have moved through discovering myself. What was once an acute loneliness for people, a tribe, bodies, a sense of being one among many, has shifted to a different kind of loneliness that is frankly a lot less worrying than it used to be.

The old loneliness used to get me so down, because I felt so helpless and not in control of the situations and circumstances I faced with people that led me to feeling that way. I didn’t know what I was doing wrong or how to prevent it from happening again. The new loneliness is very private, inward. And it is a loneliness for something else. Much less tangible than people, a crowd or a sense of wanting to be in the company of other human beings.

What’s different in recent times is a sort of distance I feel between myself that feels the loneliness, and the part of me that witnesses it. I no longer feel like I am being put through the wringer when loneliness comes. I see it, I feel it, I let it wash over me.

I don’t quite have a full grasp of what it is I am lonely for, and I am not in a rush to figure it out. I know it is taking shape slowly. This ease in letting it be, do it’s thing, is new. And liberating.

But what I do know for certain is what has changed. And that is a solid inner attitude and certainty about no longer abandoning myself. I’ve spent a lot of my life letting myself down, choosing everything else over myself, pleasing people to the greatest degree and practicing so many other such forms of abandoning myself. Routinely and continuously. It has taken a lot of introspection, slowly letting those old ways down, opening up to the consequent feeling of being exposed, and feeling lonely  yet again — just in an all new way — to get here.

I feel like the loneliness may never fully go away. It feels existential, treading a nebulous zone, while knowing in the pit of my stomach that in the end we’re all alone. So I am on the right path.

That I can have connection, intimacy, love, belonging and respect. That it cannot come at the expense of myself. And that this is the unbearable joy and pain of feeling truly and completely at one with myself.

One year ago: Second chances
Two years ago: Don’t worry about, don’t speak of doubt

Monday Tarot Message: Learning to feel, rather than over-think

We over-think as a means to under-feel.
Over-thinking helps distract from the uncomfortable ways in which emotions present as sensations in our bodies.
When we over-think, we remain at the level of the cognitive, and cannot access our emotions that lie deeper.
When we over-think we keep our nervous systems in a state of stress.

Developing an awareness about what we feel in our bodies can help us learn to process emotions in a safe and healthy way. Even the difficult ones that present with distress and discomfort.

Our minds do a fantastic job of getting us to over-think, as a means to avoid feeling. Like I discussed last week, this is a mechanism to ensure safety and that the status-quo is unchanged. But it is also a way to avoid processing feelings entirely. And therefore, keeping us stuck in a stress trap.

Being trapped in the over-thinking loop causes distress and discomfort that we experience as anxiety, fear, angst or worry (amongst other things). Body sensations are signals to tune into, and understand what you are really feeling — and not what you think you are feeling. Allowing that feeling to surface and be seen, with little judgement can be life-giving, and opens the possibility of coming out of the stress trap.

Breaking out this trap by listening to the body instead of the mind can help in building:

  • building a capacity to either tune in to the body and notice sensations (or notice sensations and then tune in)

  • noticing when an emotion bubbles up and asking your body (not mind) what you need. It could be rest, sleep, a nourishing meal, a drink of water, quiet or stillness, a conversation with someone safe, movement, etc.

  • witnessing the emotion without labelling it or judging it

  • observing how it passes through, especially when you give your body what it needs

  • finding ways to express and release the emotion, whether that is to have a cry, scream into a pillow, dance around by yourself, journaling, painting or writing, making music — whatever your chosen expression may be. Sometimes a combination of some of these works too.

Curiosity towards the body is a good place to begin. It is a deep and invaluable portal to our inner worlds, far more vast and rich in nuance than our minds can ever be. It’s important to remember that in developing this curiosity, the goal isn’t to “feel better”, but to just feel, for a start. Whatever it is you are feeling, just feel it.

One year ago: On and on and on
Two years ago: I got a feeling I’m not the only one
Four years ago: I’ll be fine, sipping wine, taking time slow

At home in my body

Last evening, I spontaneously snuck in a workout because I had just as spontaneously skipped it in the morning, in favour of spending the morning being very, very homey. Even though I’m doing the same workouts, my energy is about the same, the same struggles persist and most else remains the same — something subtle but important has changed.

It hit me like a tiny pin dropping in a silent room, last evening. Sharp, cutting clarity — My body feels much more like my own. I really feel how I inhabit it.

My body feels different in the way it moves, and I feel much more connected, and in tune with how it moves.

What has been conscious and intentional over the last few months is a shift in how I approach my physical practices — exercise, and all the other body-focused habits I keep. I’ve become much, much more loose, comfortable and fluid in how I keep them. Even so, I can’t pin point one thing that made this shift happen — it’s a combination and culmination of some mindfully cultivated aspects, but also some surprise — and I can’t say when it has happened either. My sense is it was a gradual flow, a loosening or melting perhaps.

In the moment that it hit me, I was bouncing around my living room, freestyle. Eyes closed, enjoying a loud AC/DC song. Previously, even “freestyle” has been rigid, where I come from. Lines, points, beats, bars. This is what I know, and I feel it is also what I have absorbed deeply.

But yesterday, I felt a flow that was definitely surprising and new. Fluidity, like a splotch of paint that’s running amok and cannot be corrected or fixed to stay within the lines. An unruly, unfettered energy that coursed through not just my limbs — that I usually associate as aids of movement — but my whole body. My neck, my chest, my waist, hips, torso. Even my eyes, closed, felt warm and full of energy.

What I do know is, the past few months have made me befriend my body in a new way. It’s shown me a new level of faith and gratitude for my body. Gratitude for everything that it endures and allows me to do — the stretch and the misuse included.

But also faith, that it is mine and on my side. I’ve found this in a truly embodied way, and I feel it in how easily I have been able to slip and slide through the energy ups and downs, listening keenly and leaning in to whatever my body wants and asks for. Conversely, having it respond with ease and grace when I need it to. I feel so firmly that it needn’t be punished, tamed or moulded harshly into being something else. Just what it is, will do.

It’s my inner gaze that’s shifted — a little softening in how I see myself. Tender, where I was once rigid. Gentle, even as I feel strong. Easy, with how I use restrain. More welcoming of the idea of human fragility, even in my body, where I once chased a strange notion of invincibleness.

All of this was never part of my plan. I didn’t even know there was healing to be done as far as my relationship with my body goes or how it impacts so many other things in my life. I’ve always held the physical somewhat separate from the emotional, despite ample training and experience that has shown me surprising links between the two. I didn’t think I “needed” a deeper connection between the two in myself. So in that sense, this was not part of the plan.

But that is just it: healing takes surrendering to the process as it happens. Minus any pre-planned notions and ideas about how to proceed or what to focus on.

At this point it’s hard for me to say if surrender has brought me here, or if getting here has shown me another gift of surrender.

Of course, the regular exercise has made me leaner and more toned than I have been in a long while, and I will not deny how good I feel. Confident, healthy and happy in my body. But there has been something more. A sense of oneness. Like arriving at a meeting place between the infinite world inside of me and the finite body that holds it. It’s a feeling of having yet again come home. And it feels very, very whole and contained this time around.

Rooted and fluid at the same time. Strong and tender at the same time.

And it’s inspired a kind of revelling and enjoying of my body. A little more unabashedly than before.

One year ago: Days like these
Two years ago: Always somewhere, miss you where I’ve been

The only journey is the one within

Things about keeping plants and growing things that I’ve said before, but I am going to say again:

  1. Five years ago, when I first gave growing anything a shot, it was already a process that gave me so much more than just produce. I was growing methi, pudina, palak, garlic chives and cucumbers at one point. It was a lot of good stuff to put in my food. I don’t remember a lot of the little details — like the cucumber plant — but the memories that remain are of the process. The wonder, the expectation, the excitement, the magic, the patience, the satisfaction. The wonder. The wonder.I don’t think I’ll ever forget the giant metaphor for life that tending for and growing things has taught me. I summed it up as patience, but really there was so much more. Lessons in nurturance, tenderness, beauty in rawness and imperfection, in taking time. And this is what has stayed for years on.
  2. Over a year and a half ago, the bug to garden came back. With a vengeance this time. And it has remained, steadfastly, since. And yet again, I found resonance in the what was happening in my garden, with what was happening within me.I wrote:
    It feels like my own experience of coming to (new)life, unfurling, stepping into a new seasongrowingflowering seems is reflected in my plants too.My plants have been life-giving and inspirational all through. A great way to get back to my roots, literally, and find observe and revel in life at the source.
  3. When VC moved back from Goa last year, the only thing we shipped back home were my plants. And it is a decision I rethink and feel extreme gratitude for almost every week.The number of pots we now have has significantly increased, and encroached multiple balconies, and indoor spaces. We now have enough plants to rotate and shuffle them around the place. And not all the plants that have been added on were bought. I have not just figured out how to multiply and propagate many of my plants but also figured out I can do it myself, contrary to prior belief about having a black thumb.My plants are the single biggest gifts that keep giving. I have received unending joy through them in these months gone by. Not just the green value they add to my home, but in the process of tending to them, nurturing and bonding with them. It is totally a trip to watch them grow, as closely obsessively as I do. Like they’re my literal babies.I now call my balcony full of pots a “garden” and it amuses Niyu and VC no end. But, it is what it is. Full and lush and happy making.
  4. I ended last year with the clear realisation that I was certainly feeling drawn back to the Earth, to roots, to more natural ways of living, in more ways than one. It’s a theme that has shown me many a parallel between the external reality and the internal landscape of my emotions and personal growth.
  5. And then this year, again and again, through observing nature abloom around me, as well as growth spurts within me — big and small — I have re-learned some old lessons about growth in a new way.These words I wrote here ring so true:
    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 don’t — 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.

The other day, in a marathon session spent with my plants, I potted some spider plants that I had left to drop roots in bottles of water. If they were babies then, they had turned into literal toddlers by the time I got to potting them.

The bottles still had their labels on which meant that while I was topping up the water (often quite disinterestedly) every so often, I didn’t really have a view into what was going on within. Truth be told, there wasn’t much growth to show for on the outside either, which is actually why I hadn’t moved to do anything with them sooner. I was waiting to see some obvious signs of growth.

Externally.

Until that day, when I pulled the pesky little babies out the water.

It’s literally the most obvious things. Plants sprout shoots. We know this. And yet I couldn’t believe my eyes. Upon unentangling and loosening up the roots, I couldn’t get over how long and how lush it was.

All this beneath the surface, hidden from view, with nothing to show for it above the surface — I felt impossibly moved at the thought of how much action and activity happens in the quiet, hidden recesses of the internal world. With no real signs, no fan fare on the outside.

It felt resonant to my own therapeutic process, my journey the last so many years. Intensely private, quiet, only for me to see and know what I am chipping away at ever so subtly. Weeks and months go by with no visible change. And even when change comes, mostly I am the only one to know it, and hold it within me.

It reminded me of the personal, quiet, often lonesome and non-performative nature of true growth.

Not the first time I have cried over my plants, but the sight brought me to tears to see parts of my own life these past four months reflected in the plant. Being physically isolated, restricted, cut off has definitely cut away another layer of distractions for me, taking me deep within in a way that has been deeper and quieter than before.

I have shared little with friends and have mostly felt a lack of words to explain the nuances of my emotional state. It has seemed calm on the outside, but within, I have been through some extreme emotions, ups and downs and emerged from it all much more solid than before. I’ve witnessed the tiny roots and shoots nudging forward within me, forcing their way through my ribs and lungs, making my heart expand ever so slightly, a little bit more every day.

My therapeutic process too has been different lately. Few, almost no, words. More body work. Dream work. Art, movement, physical and other forms of expression. And through it all I have steadily noted how my movement has been inward. Going deeper within, even as I stretch out.

The lack of specificity, tangibility, the unseeness of the process I am currently in has been challenging. It has required of me a curiosity, patience and tenderness that I didn’t think I could ever extend to myself. It has been like falling in love with myself all over again.

It feels special, this privateness. I know it speaks of my capacity to hold my growth, and hold myself through it. Perhaps a day will come, when quite like a baby emerging out of a birth canal, or the spider plant being pulled out of the bottle, something will happen that will stun and astonish me at how much has changed, out of view.

How much growth happens beneath the surface. How much the roots matter. How much going within, is the key to growing tall. How much this silence and inwardness has made me feel rooted and centred.

How much growing outward requires the deep, difficult, yet essential journey within.

Right on cue, I found Rainer Maria Rilke put succinctly in simple words what I have stuttered along for too long here.

The only journey is the one within.

Everything else is noise.

Two years ago: Lost and found and turned around
Four years ago: Down and out

Monday Tarot Message: On the human need for safety

One of the main goals of the subconscious mind is to keep us safe by encouraging and reiterating safety in the Status Quo.

So, impulses for growth, expansion and evolution often make us feel torn between staying in or stepping out of our comfort zones. This is what that familiar feeling of not knowing when or which way to go, when considering change, is all about. Waiting for your mind to cue the right time or opportunity is to commit to that status quo — as safe as it feels — indefinitely.

Today’s message is: Whatever you feel called towards, even if just a hint or a glimmer, respond. With a small step. Begin now.

The allegiance to comfort zone is hardcoded into our physiology and psyches. For those of us who come from ancestry fraught with difficulty, deprivation or insecurity (read: experiencing wars, partition, mass persecution, famines, floods, severe economic difficulty etc.), the message to stay in the comfort zone to keep safe is inherited, valid and deeply embedded within us.

It may manifest as fear of change, disproportionate to current reality. Or as illogical and seemingly unreasonable preoccupation with things going wrong. Or, conversely, as an obsession or hyper-focus on security and staying safe.

However, this safety mechanism can often fortify our resistance to grow — a process that lies almost entirely outside the comfort zone.

Whether it is considering a career shift, making new friends, pursuing learning, developing new skills, overcoming a fear, or healing old trauma — it is your subconscious’ job to show up in numerous ways to encourage you NOT to. And it will. Very often, it will also succeed.

I’m all for fearlessness in embracing change. Growth requires a certain willingness and bravery to encounter the unknown. But it’s important to also understand that feeling safe is a crucial human requirement. When we acknowledge this very basic need, we can respond with a kind of bravery that is soft and tender, that makes space for it as a necessary vulnerability that makes us human; rather than bravado that discounts it and in the process may push us to be reckless or dangerous.

Understanding our need for safety teaching us our natural limits and therefore how and when to push them in a way that works for us. Negating the real need for safety disconnects us from what may work for us. This may be the subtle difference between the call for blind, miraculous, all pervasive fearlessness; versus moving mindfully towards growth, even as you experience fear every step of the way.

The fear probably won’t go away, but we can learn to move towards our dreams and desires by inviting fear to the table and trying to learn what it can teach us about ourselves in the process.

Even when we feel called to grow, we cannot respond to our heartfelt desires, without tending to the need for safety. The key is to identify experiences of stretch that can serve us well, and to move towards them in a slow and safe way. Awareness — of what and when resistance is triggered — and mindful steps towards safe choices that affirm the benefit of letting our guard down in favour of that stretch, towards growth and evolution, will serve well.

One year ago: Taking myself to new places that my mind doesn’t know are good for me
Two years ago: Long as you remember, the rain been coming down
Four years ago: 100 Tinder Tales reveals dating apps give women the upper hand

There is no better place

Peace, in the last couple of weeks, has come fleetingly. But when it did, it came with a giant embrace that totally engulfed me. I noticed that when it came, it was always on days or phases when I allowed myself to fully respond to all the ways in which I am being called to face change. When I put my mind aside, and responded through body and heart, moving with it to the full extent that seemed necessary. Doing what felt important spontaneously, without intention, little judgement (I try!) and as little planning as I could possibly manage. This is the manageable, internal part. But there is also the external component. And so that all-consuming peace that comes with a hum of happiness has also come from accepting with grace — I am only just learning I have this within me — that the world around me has changed. Irrevocably so. And that it will continue to change.

It takes constant reminding myself in as many different ways as possible: There is no “better” place. Just this, here, now. Hang on to nothing. Stay curious about most things. Be open to everything.

Much easier said than done. And certainly something that needs continual chipping away and internalising, through examining my resistance to it and enjoying the effects of what happens when I drop that resistance for a wee bit. None of this is easy. But what I know for certain now is that it is totally possible.

Four years ago: Chettinadu vignettes

Monday Tarot Message: Examine your illusions

I love when this happens — when a super apt card shows up at just the right time. It feels extra relevant and potent somehow. Like this card, today.

An important one to have picked right after the full moon of the weekend, which featured an important lunar eclipse and coincided with the occasion of Guru Purnima — a day to revere enablers of truth, within and around us.

The Moon speaks of illusions we hold in our waking life. Like fear, shame and guilt — that make us project versions of ourselves, in the attempt to keep the true, most authentic versions of ourselves at bay. These projections help us fight the need to delve deep into the inner truths of our subconscious (depicted by the rippled pool of water), which is the only place to know who we really are. For example, a projection of strength, maybe hiding the fear or shame of facing the tenderness and fragility of human nature. A projection of uncompromising resilience maybe hiding the need to accept a vulnerability that would probably help us from staying out of harmful situations, than walking into them over and over, in the name of resilience.

Owning who we really are involves facing up to these illusions we hold. It requires confronting a truth that we may have avoided for long because it is either too scary or difficult or painful or shameful to face alone. This is where the role of a fellow truth seeker/speaker becomes crucial. For a seeker groping the dark, the path is illuminated by a Guru.

Traditional connotations of the term may bring to mind a picture difficult for many of us to connect with, so perhaps it will help to deconstruct the term to suit your reality and experience. Think of a Guru as anyone who enables this journey for you. Anyone who stands by your side shining a light sometimes, leading by examples sometimes, cheering you on and holding your hand when the going gets tough. This could very well be a spiritual or religious leader, as is often the case. But it could also be a mentor, a fiercely honest friend or relative, a teacher, a fellow truth seeker, a therapist even.

With the help of a Guru, you can introspect on and examine your illusions and dismantle them. So you can get to the truth that lies just beyond the facade. What do your illusions hold? What are they keeping you from seeing? What truth are they helping you fight, keeping you fragmented and disconnected from yourself?

A projection is usually hiding something very innately human. In our quest for perfection for example, we’re usually fighting embracing the very real messy, unkempt and imperfect side of ourselves. And in the bargain we’re fighting our very humanness.

Beyond the illusion is usually exactly what we need to see, acknowledge, and embrace.

Interestingly, the full moon that just passed marked Guru Purnima — a day on the Indian calendar dedicated to celebrating our Gurus and enablers of truth. And this year, Jupiter — the planet of wisdom and truth, also called Guru — is in retrograde, heralding a time of a quiet, introspective, inward-turned gaze.

Take a moment to think of the truth speakers/seekers in your life. All those who allow you to be true to yourself, who hold space for your truth, who enable you on the journey to knowing your true self. And with grace and gratitude, give thanks today.

Two years ago: Did you fall from a shooting star?
Four years ago: More work thoughts

Monday Tarot Messages: Befriend difficult emotions

Periods of turmoil usually bring great inner unsettlement and a loss of peace of mind. This is natural when old foundations (of anything) are being shaken to make way for the new. An essential part of authentic growth that challenges established orders — within and without. A process that is inherently not without turmoil, despair, grief and fear.

By themselves, these are not problematic. What makes us believe they are is the agitation that actually comes from resistance to feeling these emotions. The more we fight them, the more we allow them to hijack us. And they do. In that sense, we cannot avoid feeling difficult emotions if we intend to grow from our experiences of strife. What we can do instead, is learn to be agile with our emotions, befriend them, so we feel without carrying the heaviness.

Distress in times of strife comes from our inability to meet grief, which is such an integral part of renewal or growth. We fear grief as a heavy, cumbersome emotions that is best avoided. And we march on, investing a great deal of effort into being stoic and putting up a brave front. But if we do not grieve what we are letting go (good, bad and all of it) we cannot welcome what is waiting in the wings.

Learning to feel, rather than think about emotions, not judging them as conditions that need fixing, is one way to welcome them. Then, we may embrace them for the crucial role they play in making us vulnerably human. As the thinking, feeling, heart-throbbing spirits that we are.

Think about the term “falling prey” to emotions. It implies an attack that must be avoided in our attempt to be free. While actually, the avoidance lands us in conflict, distress and disease. When we meet emotions and everything that they make us feel, without resistance, there is an opportunity to grow. There is an opportunity to move through, rather than bypass the full gamut of the experience.

This might just be the single thing that differentiates feeling feelings rather than suffering them. Or as N wisely said to me last week: “being kidnapped by feelings.”

What thoughts have been keeping you up at night lately? They might carry clues about the emotions you are fighting, that are asking to be let in? What can you do to welcome them in the days to come?

PS: quite uncannily connected to my process and thoughts around befriending tenderness, so I can feel feelings.

One year ago: Away   
Two years ago: Nobody really likes us, except us 
Three years ago: Just breathe   
Four years ago: Hit by a crippling case of travel excitement

Your tenderness is valuable

Some weeks ago, N and I were talking about how emotionally spent we’ve been feeling all the damn time these past few months. And she said to me “If there was a season for feeling feelings, this is it”.

I couldn’t agree more. Unexpectedly finding moments of tenderness when I’m not trying to be put together, or keeping my frailty at bay, choosing “strength” and productivity over all else, has been a whole new world for me. Because it has opened me up and allowed an onslaught of every single emotion possible. Not fighting, figuring out or trying to overcome any of them has meant I have felt everything very deeply, as might be obvious to those of you who read this blog.

I grew up having a lot of role models for “strong” women. And I put the word in quotes because while they were all impossibly strong and showed me what grit, determination and a sense of ambition outside of themselves can do, as I’m growing, I understand what that strength has cost them. The loss of tenderness.

As an adult, I realise I know little about being tender or soft. I have held such strong, unidimensional ideas of strength (and therefore weakness too). I see how easily I used to equate vulnerability and tenderness with weakness, because I was so focused on keeping it and myself together, through everything.

Lately, I’ve realised “weak” is a word I no longer like to use. I don’t see weakness anymore, just different colours and kinds of strength. This is especially apparent as I’m having to learn vulnerability. It’s been a hard and painful journey of unlearning that definition of strength. Looking back, I wish the women I looked up to as a child has also modelled strength in tenderness. So I could have seen the power of vulnerabilities and letting them be seen.

I have known and believed for years that Vulnerability is Strength, and maybe I even practiced it a little. But it wasn’t until very recently that I have embodied the very idea of it in a wholehearted way that has broken me apart. Because it has let me shatter the various personas I hold, in order to be seen as a certain kind of person. Sorted, sometimes. Loving, caring, available sometimes. Unaffected, strong, most of the times.

I have been on this quest for years — waiting for a moment where suddenly I’d just be able to feel all the feelings. Little did I know it’s it takes time and practice. That it isn’t an achievement that I’ll gain, like arriving in a point in time. Rather a gradual process, like standing at the edge of the vast expanse of an ocean and allowing the sea to gently lap over me. Toes first, feet next, making me heave and gasp with overwhelm. But soon enough, it gets easier, familiar, fun even. The sea that seemed threatening is suddenly inviting. Joyful. And before I know it the waves have washed over me. Drenched. Heavy. And strangely — buoyed, uplifted, held, strong.

These past few months, I have felt the depths of sadness, agitation, helplessness, anger, grief, heartbreaking rejection and terrible loneliness with an intimacy I haven’t allowed myself before. I believe allowing myself tenderness had something to do with it. And somehow through that tenderness, I found a kind of strength I haven’t ever felt before. A strength, from vulnerability, that I haven’t allowed myself either. It has taken everything out of me to begin to show myself, in these vulnerable states. To say, I don’t feel well. I miss you. I am hurt by what you said/did. I don’t want to have it together today. I wanted you and you weren’t there for me. I shrink when you say that, and I don’t like shrinking. Please don’t say that to me again? I’m really, really lonely. amongst so many other things.

And so many weeks and months down, it is slowly manifesting in a bodily awareness of being fully (differently, somehow) in my skin and deeply aware of my changing world.

This is a note to myself, but maybe you need to hear it too today? Your tenderness is valuable. Your tenderness is the path to strength. Your tenderness can set you free.

One year ago: Tender
Two years ago: You live, you learn
Four years ago: I don’t feel sorry about posting pictures of my life

On listening

So much has been said, and continues to be said, about mental health, exalting the dire importance to “reach out”. Though well-intentioned, the sheer number of posts that have just casually offered this as a silver-bullet — “please reach out” “you are not alone” “my DMs are open” — have left me a bit uncomfortable. First because what does it say about us that this has to be explicitly stated, after someone has passed away by suicide? And second because I’m wondering about what after the person reaches out? Assuming that they can just get over whatever it is that has stopped them from doing so, that we seem to think just reiterating that they should reach out will help — what next?

When we offer a listening ear, how do we listen? Can we really listen? And more importantly, are we in the habit and practice of doing so with presence and empathy?

Can we listen without immediately pathologizing the human tendency to feel feelings, sometimes more intensely than usual? Without offering solutions or judgement. Without wishing tough emotions away.

My guess is we are mostly not. Because we live in a country and a culture that isn’t used to looking at vulnerability of sharing in a healthy way. We are not in the habit of looking at mental health as a product of societal and cultural polarities (amongst many other things) that contribute a great deal to ill-health. We mostly don’t have it in us to cultivate a systemic view of life that accounts for all of this.

So how do we listen better? Just listening, for a start. I’ve been wondering about this. Not for my work, but for life, as a whole. Listening with the ability to put myself and any discomfort that may arise from it, aside for a brief moment, to give my presence to the other. To be patient, and bear witness, as I listen.

I don’t have any hot-takes or immediate answers. Just my own questions around this, most of which arise from my experiences of not feeling heard and seen. I know that the collective changing rests with every individual changing, slowly, one step at a time, over time. And so maybe we begin with ourselves, and our experiences with being heard, and looking at how that was for us. I know that it is only through living and experiencing this that answers will emerge.

PS: Not the first time I have pondered about listening, it seems.

One year ago: My own person
Two years ago: Home where my love lies waiting

Everything hurts

Stepping up to claim space means waking up to many, many, many old hurts. And I’m currently underwater in hurt.

One year ago: These days
Two years ago: Please stick to the rivers and the lakes that you’re used to
Four years ago: About yesterday