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

Monday Tarot Message: Find your tribe

That familiar grief of lost friendship that keeps rearing its head time and time again, is never without reason. I am going through yet another cycle of re-looking at myself, observing what has changed in this brief period, and along with it re-looking at what that has changed in my relationships. It also means observing the subtlest shifts in how I am with people, and how people are being with and around me. It’s making me once again re-look at who I want to belong to and how. This happens every time I reach a point of levelling up. I realise it is actually an upward spiral that brings me to the same emotions again and again (that’s why the recurring grief), albeit a little deeper. Lightness follows grief, brightness follows darkness, connection and solitude dance together, belonging and loneliness walk side by side.

So I have been going through a strange sort of pulling back that feels quite unlike me, and yet I am allowing myself to go with it. It’s almost like I am testing what happens when I pull back and really let go. What changes in people around me, who stays, who reaches out, who understands. It has been utterly fascinating. It has been a period of loneliness, and frankly, some anger too. This time around, though, there is renewed clarity about what I want for myself in terms of people and relationships, and what kind of presence (or the lack of it) just won’t do anymore.

So this seemed like a super interesting card to have popped up right after feeling this way for a while now. A reminder that just as relationships endure when individuals are committed to developing a healthy sense of who they are, individuals can truly grow when they’re surrounded by others who support that.

But this can be difficult for many of us. Especially, if we didn’t grow up with adults who valued or encouraged a sense of self in us. In many cultures this is avoided as encouraging over-confidence, self-obsession or selfishness. Without these early lessons, we may go through adulthood lost and trying to discover ourselves, wondering what we are outside of all the roles we play.

Inculcating wholeness, or a sense of self involves exploring making and respecting boundaries, getting in tune with personal desires, discovering the ability to hold space for ourselves, being in touch with our needs so we can go after them in an authentic manner.

While some part of this work is solitary, much of it requires the company of a chosen tribe.Relationships act as mirrors for our projections, where suppressed needs find expression in mysterious ways. Observing how you are around people, and how they are around you can be a very loaded way to get cues and insights into what you need to work on yourself.

So it is useful to identify a tribe. Who gets to be in your circle and walk with you as you tend to your inner self? Are they committed to their own growth? What happens to you when you are with them? Choose who you show your vulnerabilities to, with care. But perhaps that’s the stuff of another post.

In learning to relate to others, we understand our preferences, we see who vibes-in and who vibes-out. It is a key part in finding belonging, and in finding our true place in the world at large. It helps iron out the chinks, confront our shadow selves, and deepen what we want to make of ourselves. To believe this work can be done entirely in isolation is delusion.

The Three of Cups asks us to embrace the role of people around us on this journey. Friends, parents, families, significant others — whether or not there are difficulties in these relationships, they are good spaces to find portals into healing the inner self and learning in adulthood who you really are.

***

This is your timely reminder that if you’d like a personal Tarot Session to explore yourself and get more insights like this, you can reach out to me to make a booking. I offer these sessions in person, in Bangalore, as well as telephonically for anybody anywhere in the world.

Also, pssst: if you’ve already worked with me and are considering a second session, there’s a discount of 10% waiting for you. Only until the end of this month.

One year ago: The last of the despatches from Benaras   
Two years ago: But if you try sometime, you’ll get what you need   
Three years ago: What I’ve been reading   
Four years ago: Telepathy

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

Standing tall

When I am relaxed. It really shows. In more ways than one.

***

Noticed an important, subtle shift in me today. It is a change in the surety and confidence I feel in taking time. In giving myself the permission to take my time. In allowing myself to remain in a space of undecidedness. For as long as I need.

This has played out across the board — in something as external as when I was asked about my opinion on a burning issue everybody has a stock response about, to something as internal as allowing myself to feel a whole gamut of things from nothing at all, to confusion, to blankness, to abject distress and vulnerability at not knowing at all where things are headed in a certain situation that’s playing out in my life. In fact, it’s now been nearly three months with said situation, and I find myself really testing the boundaries of how far I can take this not-knowing-ness. It is playing out with extreme levels of discomfort, bringing up some of the worst of my tendencies to worry, be confused and restlessness to have some indication that it will be okay.

But through all of this, I have been steadfastly reminding myself, especially when doubt raises its head, that I am not going to force myself into knowing, into taking a stand, into making a decision, unless I intuitively arrive at that space. The hope is that this will then be the decision that is most right for me. Not influenced by the “right” thing to do, not fuelled by fear, not spurred by haste, not a compromised safe choice. A choice that will come from a place of true strength. Honouring the very crux of my needs, and keeping that at the heart of it, and not choosing to do something that will “keep the peace” or just to quickly make everything alright again.

Tempting as that has been, several times over the last three months, I have often wondered just how far I will have to go with this. What the full price or consequence of this might actually be, by then. And truth be told, it is bloody scary. Because we are talking real people, real relationships at the receiving end. Not hypothetical emotionality. But I’d be lying if I didn’t also tell you that that very scary outcome also comes laced with the promise of such sweet liberation. Even here, now, I can sense a palpable freedom in honouring myself to this deep degree. It is a process I have never allowed myself.

I realise this is the duality of life. Honouring oneself deeply, always comes at a cost — either something or someone. But it also comes with a high reward. For the self. And while this can feel like a terrible choice to make, committing to being completely, authentically honest is the only way to know which way to go.

This is something that contemporary pop-psychology glosses over, papers over, so, so often. It’s so easy to make healing or self discovery a journey of pursuing feeling good all the time. Of making things right the . Of finding bliss through everything.

This is untrue. Healing involves a lot of discomfort on the road to peace. There was this line in Thappad that I watched last week. Where Amrita’s father tells her that many times in life walking the path of truth, standing by your authentic self, doing what’s right by you, does not feel good.The line hit me like a pin through my heart. It touched me so deeply, because it is exactly the situation I am living through. The pain and the discomfort, and the joy and liberation of standing by myself in a way that really, only I can.

It is as frightening as it is liberating, in the sheer solitary-ness of it. And that is precisely what makes it so worth it.

One year ago: Mornings in Benaras
Four years ago: No. Just No. 

 

 

Monday Tarot Message: Everyday grief

I have found such a stark difference in the way I experience closure in lost relationships where I have had a greater degree of processing the sadness of it, versus those where things ended suddenly, where I felt misunderstood (and still continue to) and had to move away, shut myself off, close my heart up, without any degree of processing that sadness at all.

It’s ironic that this past weekend, as hung out with some of the nicest friends I have at this point in time, having a genuinely good time, engaging, feeling nurtured, while also kicking back and relaxing, I was flooded with thoughts about a friendship that ended with a complete lack of space for vulnerability in the ending itself.

This was of course the issue with said friendship, and why I had to eventually let it go. So perhaps it is not ironic that even in the ending, the same pattern continued. The friendship had thrown up a lot of smaller grief along the way. Signs of a possible, impending ending. Signs that I had ignored, because at the time I was so frightened of having to let go, of being alone, of untethering myself. And in the bargain, I know the relationship had made me avoid facing the pain and grief it was causing me altogether.

And this is probably precisely why thoughts about this friendship still linger, long after it has ended and we have both ostensibly moved on. I have much grief still to process with this one. So I am not at all surprised at today’s card. It has come at an apt time, as a timely reminder to do right, now, what I haven’t done enough in relationships past.

Regular, functioning relationships throw up so many instances of small, everyday grief. That cancelled plan that you were so looking forward to, the prolonged lack of availability, the desire for conversation when there was no space for it, that friend who suddenly changed (as everyone is entitled to).

While there is always good reason for each one of the scenarios above, it doesn’t negate the minor level heartbreak that we’re all constantly facing. It is also not to say that we turn into snowflakes who take offence at and hang on to every little instance of things not going the way we’d like. But how often do we allow ourselves to feel this heartbreak? Is there space for sadness and everyday grief of this minor kind in our relationships and friendships at all?

We usually reserve the grief for potential endings of relationships/friendships. Even the mere thought of that grief can be scary, so we avoid familiarising ourselves with it. Over time it may be that even when we know a potential ending maybe good for us, we put off the inevitable, and sometimes the necessary too. Sometimes we keep walking back into failed relationships in the hope that something will be different, simply because we don’t want to face the sadness of the ending.

The reason it feels impenetrable and all-consuming is usually because we have not made space for small, daily grief to touch us. To slowly make space for it, is to know that we can hold it. So you do not have to avoid it altogether.

If you find yourself at a crossroads in a relationship or friendship, the card today asks you to imagine what rebuilding might look like. To put pen to paper if necessary, and work out all that you will need to hold yourself in the time after an ending. When the grief has arrived. To think about everything from the minutest, deepest emotional needs (the grief and sadness to deal with), to the other practical physical needs (an altered physical reality?). To work on building resources so you have them when the time of need comes.

I know it seems like this might be more apt for broken marriages, cases of divorce or long term romantic relationships that come to an end. But I feel strongly that it is no different in matters of friendship too.

Often we avoid this part of the work, not wanting to imagine ourselves at our most vulnerable — feeling abandoned, rejected, like we have failed — and so when grief comes, we jump straight to “moving on” bypassing the grieving process that is crucial to authentic recovery and actual moving on.

The message for this week is to acknowledge and make space for everyday grief, to get friendly with it on a daily basis. To avoid making it a monster you have to avoid at all costs. So you know you can hold it when it comes, as it does with every one of us. Because it is important to give grief a holding space. Without it there is no evolving, no growing.

One year ago: Slow row
Two years ago: Come a little bit closer, hear what I have to say
Four years ago: Small joys

Monday Tarot Message: Shine the light on your shadow

Last week’s message about emotional strength talked about honouring all parts of ourselves, including the lesser-than-ideal parts that aren’t “sexy” or that we feel the need to hide away from the world. Parts that just don’t work for our increasingly performative lives. And this week’s message feels like an extension, or a follow up, to that one.

What parts of yourself do you most negate, ignore or push away? Are those the very parts that need to be seen, and included?

The Moon is a symbol of our Shadow selves. The part that lies in the dark, our unconscious, and is seldom accessed, whether by choice or circumstance. It usually encompasses all our fears, anxieties, guilt, shame, rage and many other “unpalatable” facets of ourselves that we strive to keep hidden from the world. Our vulnerabilities, our challenges, loneliness, pride, jealousy, addictions, cravings, and just so many other things we might either not be in touch with within ourselves, or sense from time to time, but never let them surface.

But here’s the thing about shadows. They’re ever shifting, depending on how the source of light moves. Just like the dark side of the moon comes into the light with time, our Shadow selves will not remain completely in the dark, forever. It is natural, cyclical and the very nature of movement (life) itself for all parts of the moon — and ourselves — to be seen at different times.

It is no different with our psyches. If life is the light source that is constantly at play with our inner worlds and our emotions, you’ll see that parts of our Shadow are routinely being coaxed out of the dark. They may manifests as challenges (most times emotional) in our lives, and every time that they do, we are offered a choice. To either approach them with great anxiety and tension, leading to further avoidance. Or to see them as opportunities for growth. With the openness to look at them, we can cultivate the strength to own these darker sides of ourselves, and begin to include them in our being. This makes for a fertile ground for clarity and growing intuitive abilities.

In the Tarot tradition, the Moon also symbolises the unconscious as a wellspring of material through which to build intuitive clarity, or oneness with the self. The two are related — the more in-tune with ourselves we can be, the more we will have clarity in our lived experiences, and consequently the ability to deal with “unpalatable” sides of ourselves with compassion and acceptance.

There is no light without shadow, and no shadow without light. It takes including both parts/sides to form an authentic whole self — the goal of any inward journey.

If this message resonates, if you’ve been getting in touch with an unpalatable side of yourself, or if you’re slowly becoming aware that there are things in your life or your emotional journey that you have avoided looking at or processing, take this as a sign that it’s time to begin. And a good place to begin is to go right into the spaces you don’t want to look into.

One year ago: Reboot
Two years ago: Hit the road Jack
Four years ago: Why facebook just feels like a lot of noise

Monday Tarot Message: Strength

Re-negotiating one’s definitions of resilience and coping, is bound to shake up the definition of strength too.

What does emotional strength look like?

Taking an inner journey, moving from the level of the personality towards alignment with the authentic self comes with peeling back several layers. Going inwards means encountering deeper and deeper emotional truths, and processing them, living through them, as you go.

Every level will present challenging emotional material that will persuade, almost seduce, us not to move further. These will manifest as fears, anxiety, self-doubt, shame and several other things that we typically prefer to keep under wraps in our outward lives. All the things that the world around us deems “bad” coaxing us into the singular pursuit of “good” alone. A pursuit that is inherently exclusionary and fragmenting.

The work is to find vulnerability in meeting all parts. Integrating them in a healthy way demands a great deal of curiosity, compassion and kindness — emotional flexibility and strength, in other words — and minimal judgement in seeing ourselves as an amalgamation of so many moving, human parts.

Any attempt to hide from, push away or deny the existence of these lesser-than-ideal parts is what keeps us stuck. Liberation and spiritual evolution comes from honouring them. Even embracing the difficulty, anger, despair, loneliness, shame (amongst other things!) that facing them will bring. This requires the ability to flow with, rather than try and outrun these emerging parts. To align and fall in love with all of ourselves, rather than go against the grain and shame and distance some parts.

This will demand emotional strength that looks like:

  • gentleness over forcefulness
  • vulnerability over perfectionism
  • brutal honesty over projection
  • allowance over resistance
  • acceptance over judgement
  • self love over loathing

Aligning with the authentic self is to accept our completely ordinary, imperfect and often mediocre humanness. That takes inner strength. And you might just see that the strength it invokes and calls for looks nothing like the kind of strength celebrated and even upheld in the outer world.

***

If you’ve come this far and you have enjoyed what you’ve read:

  1. Follow me on Instagram for more guidance-based Tarot messages like this. Typically on Mondays, usually by 9 am IST, but also for other stuff posted on other days!
  2. Would you like a consultation? Are you looking for personal guidance or just curious about tarot? Please contact me to know more or book a session.

Bookings for March are now open. For second-time bookings made between 24 February and 29 February (session can be any time you want, but booking should be made during this period), I’m offering a 10% discount.

One year ago: Like waking up again
Two years ago: All my sweat, my blood runs weak
Three years ago: Ten reasons why I love the girls I am in long distance friendship with
Four years ago: Let go, already

Shit on toast kind of day

It’s been a strange day. I could blame on having got my period, but the truth is it’s been building all week and I have done many of the things I mentioned here, in distracting myself and keeping it at bay. I’ve spent a major part of the week fighting the constant urge to just veg-out and binge-watch Netflix. The only thing I’ve been very pumped and motivated to do is the readings I had booked thru this time, and sorting some things out for Instagram. It’s been a challenge waking up early. It’s taken a LOT of effort to go for a run and I only managed three days. I’ve dragged myself into the kitchen to have meals cooked in time. If it were just VC and me I’d have taken the liberty to eat eggs and toast or order in, but it’s not just us and I just don’t have that luxury right now.

I’ve kind of floated through in this strange twilight zone between getting by, staying just on top, but also knowing that there is something bubbling beneath the surface that I am avoiding getting in touch with.

My absolute telltale sign is the need for sloth. When I want to do nothing else but sleep, stay in bed, that’s usually my being shutting down and telling me to shut up and go with it. But this week, I have not listened. I have guilt-tripped myself, beaten myself up over it and cumulatively felt shittier still, by trying to stay active as one “should”.

Avoidance rarely gets me very far anymore. It only works for this long and this morning it bubbled over. I was inexplicably sad, that sinking feeling of not knowing what’s come over me, but feeling distinctly like something has. The cluelessness is because I have done everything in my power to avoid it up till now — boo. There is also that old familiar loneliness whenever I hit a phase like this. It’s what N and I call the “Empty Elevator Phase” whenever we talk about it. It’s like the elevator emptying out naturally, when you level up, emotionally. Leaving you either alone in the elevator, or finding yourself at a new level looking at an empty space when the elevator arrives and the doors open. There is always a sense of going through this alone. I am not feeling particularly social, and yet I do wish for some company to share this with. Company that is not VC alone. But the usual suspects I can share this with are travelling or live in a different country.

Anyhow, I don’t know what I am processing. I’ve passed off the lingering blues as everything else but what it is. I keep thinking it’s this or that — maybe I’m recovering from the weekend of animal flow, maybe I need to ground more after all the readings, maybe I need to push through and get that exercise, maybe it’s PMS, maybe I need to watch less TV before bed and sleep early.

Maybe it’s a little bit of all of that, but it is also some overwhelm (from a lot happening all at once), some loneliness (from not having anyone to really share this with), some anger (at some of the events that have transpired), some grief (at the change and inevitable moving on and loss that comes with it), some disappointment (at some specific events), some abandonment (from a combination of the disappointment and loneliness). From various things that have happened in the short span of just five days, but also from some things that happened a couple months ago that I have just been waiting and watching from a distance.

***

This morning, the exact feeling was of doom. Impending doom. Like things are poised to go downhill and like I am wholly responsible for it.

The only thing that got me through this morning was exchanging some laughs over whatsapp with amma and Niyu, who are both in Bombay at the moment, and the spontaneous decision to ditch my self-made responsibilities in favour of just being by myself. I went to Koshy’s and sat at my favourite table by the window. Originally, I planned to take my work along, but later decided against it, and instead just sat there for an hour journalling what I was feeling. No coherence, just freewheeling words. Not even full sentences, sometimes.

Then I had a masala omelette, buttered toast, two cups of tea. Slowly. Listening to a playlist I love. After over an hour, suddenly the penny dropped. I realised what was festering — a combination of many disconnected things that at can all be summarised as having demands/pressures on me and my time, when all I want right now is to just be left alone, to do my thing, in my time, as I will.

Allowing — actually even just articulating this need — myself has brought up a LOT of guilt and shame today. I’ve been better with this guilt and shame in recent times, but this is an old part of my brain that kicks in if I am not watching closely, and with kindness.

When the penny dropped, it came with a gush of tears. And I surprised myself by just sitting there, looking out of the window, wiping the continuous stream away. I dialled VC and did what I can only do with him, word-vomit of everything I was feeling. Said okay thanks, I feel better, I’ll see you at home and hung up.

I felt lighter. A little.

***

I often forget that feelings don’t always come up as an indication of something that needs to be fixed. Feelings are just feelings. They just need to be felt.

I don’t give myself that option all the time. I think I need to be able to catch myself more often, that I should understand, that I ought to have the answers.

Why? (Because I think I’m a goddamned knowitall hahaha.)

Jokes apart, it’s just too much pressure on myself. Again, an old, old trait. Of having to ace things, be good, stay on top of it.

I’ve been feeling like there’s a lot of demands on my time lately, time that I really just want to spend on myself. I’m doing things I don’t want to do and it is really gnawing away at my time and my space and that sense of ease I had so carefully cultivated. And because I have been “selfishly” spending so much time and attention on myself for so long now, my old brain tries to guilt me about it from time to time, bringing back old notions of what is selfish, what isn’t, what my “responsibility” should be, etc etc.

I forget that there is no need to make sense of feelings. Not immediately at least. That feeling them is usually all that is needed. Sometimes the feeling asking to be felt is shitty, or overwhelm, or loneliness.

I forget that I am allowed to feel those things too.

One year ago: Like coming home
Two years ago: I hope you’re not lonely without me

On resilience

Putting my deck away yesterday, a card fell out. I might have just slipped it back into the pile otherwise, but yesterday it really felt like the card was asking to be seen.

It’s not Monday, but here’s a bonus tarot message for the day. Just, because. As usual, it felt like a timely reminder for myself, I have been experiencing some difficulty in staying in contact lately. Partly because I have thrown myself into the fullness of work, and I’m still finding my feet with a natural rhythm. But partly also because the nature of this work itself has been bringing up a lot of my own inherent needs that need to be seen. There is sometimes discomfort with this sort of process, and the mind usually kicks in and does it’s very best to keep me on top of things, and it’s easy to lose sight of the cost at which that “staying on top” comes.

So this was a good reminder. And maybe you need one too? Stealing this one off my Instagram, but here goes.

What are you ignoring, in the pursuit of resilience?

While we’re talking about mind-body connect, here are some classic coping mechanisms that we’ve culturally come to accept as being good for us.

  • Staying busy to stay distracted
  • Abusing food and nourishment, either binge-eating or crash-dieting
  • Throwing ourselves deep in work
  • Powering through our days on auto-pilot
  • Shirking help

When we hit a rough or an emotionally challenging patch, particularly one that demands stillness, introspection and a deeper connect within, our minds work extra hard to bring in some/all of these coping mechanisms as a way to keep us from feeling miserable. But it invariably comes at a cost — most often a huge disconnect between mind and body. Which, while it may provide immediate comfort, can send you deeper into emotional disconnection and not really do you any good at all.

Culturally too, we laud these behaviours as resilience, perseverance, as “bouncing back”, and further reinforce them. And while it is important to allow whatever it takes to cope, it is also important to know there is no bypassing the process of healing, which sometimes takes us to uncomfortable places that demand a deeper mind-body connect. The distress and discomfort, while being intrinsic to healing, can be eased.

It’s okay to lean on a coping mechanism, but are you in touch with when you may be going over the edge, into numbing something that needs to be seen?

  • By seeking a trained professional to assist/guide your healing process
  • By leaning on sources of strength, rest and rejuvenation often
  • By gradually inculcating mindfulness and stillness
  • By creating spaces for safety, vulnerability, joy and connection that heal

I also know, and I will personally vouch for this, that the healing process is a severely non-linear one. Having mastery over something, being in touch with inner self, at one time, does not ensure that you will remain in that state at all times.

It’s just best to be realistic and know that you will inevitably swivel this way and that, depending on a host of different reasons. How aware you are of those movements, and how compassionate and non-punitive you can be with yourself with that self-knowledge, can make all the difference.

One year ago: Like seeing sunlight
Two years ago: Stop this train, I want to get off and go home again

Seasons

Observing the quiet, natural way in which the planet gently and purposefully moves, signalling timely moments of birth, blossoming, life, rest, recovery, strife, renewal and eventually death has come to hold a lot of meaning for me. I’ve unconsciously internalised the message about everything happening in it’s right time, all things — even difficulty — having a place and a purpose, so deeply in the last couple of years, that it has become natural to now see a tree in full bloom, or absolutely leaf-less and immediately feel a connection.

Flowers, plants, butterflies, dragon-flies, moths have taken on a new meaning, when I spot them. Nature holds so much more. The earth has called out to me in so many ways.

It’s how I observed some days ago on a Sunday walk, that it is that time of year again.

The start of the same cycle that I have noted before.

Here. As hope, in a time pregnant with uncertainty, but promise.

Here. When I experienced the transience of time and how insignificant my worries, and I myself, felt in the larger movement that is life.

And here. Symbolic of the the despair I was experiencing then.

Looking back I see a movement in how I have moved in experiencing the same phenomenon as distress, to eventually hope. It’s telling for how much power there is in working through distress, even when everything is saying don’t go there, and processing it. Not so you can forget, forgive, or deny and minimise the effects of a difficult time and the pain it may have caused, but so you can actually integrate it in your being, in a way that eases the power it holds on you, to move on with ease.

Yesterday, I wrote a post on Instagram about trauma, and how the most human tendency towards processing it is avoidance. And how holistic methods of therapy can actually work in ways that befriend feelings in order to loosen their grip.

One year ago: Move, move, move
Two years ago: There’s nothing here to run from 
Four years ago: Major leaps, minor struggles

Flow, flow, flow

For a while now, I have been aware of the fact that the ups and downs in my energy and attitude towards working out everyday, has carried a message for me. I have, as far as possible, tried go with the — giving in to the needs to be slothful as much as working the high energy bursts to my advantage. But it has been a tad sad, to have to see the absolute high of last year’s energy in this aspect of my life change so dramatically.

The message has mostly been about coming back in touch with my body. To listen when it is saying something — whether asking for rest, or a change in form of exercise, or an indulgent rich dessert — whatever it is. Just to listen. Some clues have surfaced when I have, but it has been a challenge to still the mind and it’s need for rigid routines and perfection, and allow for that listening.

Yesterday’s tarot message was, unsurprisingly, mostly for me. It is already very, very true for me — when my mind is well, my body is too, and vice versa. Which is to say when my body isn’t well, it’s sometimes something to do with my mind. After years of training myself to listen in, and the years I have spent exposing myself to a holistic practice like Family Constellations, I now turn to look at what inherent connections I am missing, before I jump to medicating myself.

Anyhow, after many months of chipping away at a return to fitness on my own last year, and the uphill task of trying to sustain that some rhythm this year even in the face of clear and present need for change, it was suddenly time for an intensive movement workshop that I had signed up for last year.

I spent this past weekend in an intensive two day level 1 certification of Animal Flow, a practice I have been tracking for some years now. I’ve watched in awe not just the flair and flourish with which these flow-ists practice, but felt very deeply attracted to the mind-body connect it inherently requires, the slow, mindful way in which the movement flows, and the way in which the practice always feel so grounded — literally — since it is performed bare feet and on all fours.

This ground-based, quadripedal, body-weight movement training is focused as much on strength and power as much as it is on flexibility, agility and grace. It draws heavily from primal movements typically seen in animals, and is a beautiul framework of movement that has an insanely high focus on building greater neuromuscular connections and performance.

Again, bringing me right back to the mind-body connect that, even as I dole out as advice to so many people on a daily basis, I have been unconsciously moving away from in my own life lately.

The opportunity to certify myself as a level 1 practitioner finally aligned for me, after three missed chances, last year. I grabbed it back then, no knowing what 2020 would hold for me or if I’d even be around, and that an early commitment would mean I would prioritise it. And yet again, unknowingly, most serendipitously the timing couldn’t have worked out better.

Just when I have been flogging myself for not being able to just get with it, and get regular with my exercise, just when I have been not listening to the cues I’ve been getting about trying something more grounding, more in tune with being outdoors, something a little more challenging than the comfortable rhythm I have fallen into, it was time for the animal flow weekend.

And it kicked my butt. Physically, and metaphorically, both.

Despite being in a very good place as far as my body and fitness goes, I have been struggling since the start of this year. Waking up has been hard, my body is clearly demanding a new rhythm from me that I have not been very willing to give it. For eg: I have not stopped to wonder even once, why it hasn’t been hard to wake up and get to Sunday walks, as much as it has been to wake up and go to the gym everyday. The answers are there, pretty clear, if I had chosen to stop beating myself to go against the grain, than lean in and do what my body was asking for. More outdoors, more nature, more unfussy practices, less rigidity, less routine, less flogging.

At a time like this, there’s quite nothing like spending two full days around serious fitness aficionados and trainers — I was one of only 2 members in the group that were learning it for purely personal reasons — to shake the ground beneath one’s feet. The rigour of the training was way up there, because it was geared for fitness coaches, but I enjoyed every bit of it.

The thrill of a new skill, new tricks, and a 1000 new possibilities that lie ahead as far as working out and fitness goes, is high. But what’s more, I felt an intense mind-body connect over the last two days, and spending the whole time crawling about on all fours, doing those moves over and over and over was just the kind of big dose of physical grounding I need right now.

There’s also quite nothing like a good challenge for the body to remind me once again what’s emerged as important points in my fitness journey goes. The weekend brought me right back to remembering how well these have worked out for me recently:

  • Being honest and realistic about my expectations and goals
  • Focusing on what feels right and noticing when I find flow
  • Being grateful for my body, where it is at, and all the it enables me to do

I’ve already made the shift from focusing on fitness as the pursuit of slimness to focusing on it for strength, health and wellness. This past weekend I felt myself feel into my body, at a cellular, muscular level, and I daresay I really enjoyed the experience of what my body can actually do, in a very, very different way than ever before. There was a very deep, primal connection I felt with my limbs, my muscles, my skin, for my brain, for how incredibly crazy it is that we can learn new things and get our bodies to work in new ways. AND THE BODY JUST LISTENS.

Overwhelming. And humbling.

I guess there’s something to be said about non-fussy, no-equipment practices like this, or even yoga, that just use the body as the best instrument that it is. It touches and activates a very powerful, primal spot that is in all of us, that either lies dormant, or covered in heaps of layers of gunk for the most part.

I keep thinking about how the word flow keeps coming to me. My my experiences, conversations, how it’s emerged as a focal point, a goal, a measure of goodness almost. And it’s so uncanny that I literally learned another way to flow yesterday. The synchronicity is not lost on me.

One year ago: In-between   
Four years ago: Light and shadow

Monday Tarot Message: Mind-body, body-mind

In somatic approaches to therapy the body is considered a vessel of energy and information when looking at one’s psychological past. As we go through life’s ups and downs, in differing levels of contact with our bodies and energy, we may either work through, process and release the energy, or in the case of difficult experiences and emotions, avoid processing or letting go. But in the bargain, we invariably end up holding on to the energy tightly.

However, energy being energy, must go somewhere. And most often it wanders deeper, lodging itself in the body. The Devil, as ominous as it may seem, is today just a gentle reminder that we are all vessels of moving energy, sometimes chained to energies embedded in places we aren’t aware of.

We may experience it as blockages such as ailments, stuckness, difficulties, struggles with mental wellness, chronic pain, sometimes confusion, joylessness, grief or sadness. Sometimes it manifests as recurring patterns of difficulty. Or self sabotage. But have no idea where it is coming from, why, or what to do to free ourselves form it.

Most often, this is just trapped energy from unresolved emotional material, asking to be seen, or heard. Thankfully, the world is waking up to somatic therapies that go beyond just the mind. Many such practices make it possible to access these spaces, tapping into the sub-conscious through what is locked in the body, and release energy.

Allowing free-flow in this energy brings profound shifts, not just as physical changes like alleviation of pain and movement towards wellness, but also in a deeper mind-body connect that sets off a holistic healing which may be experienced mentally too. As feeling “fuller” in ones being, believing more in the self, seeding fully into ones own power and potency, feeling confident, etc.

In a Family Constellations perspective this is a reinforcement of the idea that what is in the mind, is in the body, and what is in the body is in the mind. It is limiting to try and work with one without the other.

The tarot message for today is to reflect on whether any of your current challenges that feel recurring, or insurmountable, or beyond your cognition, may be seeded in something deeper, something from your past, something from previous generations even, that you maybe carrying in your body.

If so, it is time to free yourself from it, put that burden down. And the work is to get to it through your body. Begin by establishing a connection with your body — by using your hands, exercise, walk bare feet, ground your energy. Then, explore holistic therapies that consider both mind and body equally.

One year ago: Another favourite
Two years ago: If you could change your mind
Three years ago: Pointless post
Four years ago: Make like a tree