Bheja noodles

The last straw in the camels back of recent challenges in the shitfest that has been the last few weeks of my life, was my laptop dying on me a week ago. Second time in two months, at what is probably the worst time ever to put me in a space where I need to consider another expensive purchase.

I was distraught and annoyed of course. But mostly, after being wrung thru the grinder in similar fashion for weeks now, I found myself oddly calm and numb when it happened. It was like I’d forgotten what to feel. A switch inside my brain went off. And I decided to just give it up, stop trying to fix anything anymore and just give in to what’s being asked of me.

My work and my workout are pretty much the only two essential things I need my laptop for, both of which can be serviced on my phone. And so I just packed my laptop away and decided I’ll be without one. (hence the lack of posts)

Until a viable solution makes itself known, I decided I wasn’t not going to break my head or throw any more money at this. And I told VC to do the same. In the interim we’ve been to the beach three evenings (so far, I’m making good on this intention) in the last week. So of course I have had ample time to sit back and ponder. To churn up a cocktail of thoughts about this strange strange few weeks in what is anyway one of the strangest years of all time.

2020 is really giving 2016 (the last truly shitty year I had) some time stiff competition.

***

How is it that we want to succeed and reach great milestones, but we’re also afraid we’ll fail?

How is it that we crave intimacy and long for deeper connection, but we’re also afraid of being let down by people?

How is it that we seek heartful vulnerability and honesty, but we’re also guarding ourselves against shame and heartbreak?

Maybe the goal shouldn’t be to want to move from one to the other, in a way that casts away the old, but navigate the in-betweens and know that experiencing both (sometimes simultaneously) is 100% true for all of our lives.

***

A thing I’ve had to contend with lately, through the thick of these challenges: the notion that I have to “make it” on my own. The hardest part of it has been understanding that sometimes I need things that I can’t give myself, and I have the option to articulate my needs so that the people I depend on can show up and help me.

It begins with understanding the need. Beyond the physical, and digging a couple of layers below to see what situation from my past I am recreating, and how I can serve that in the present.

I have much work to do in this regard.

***

It does not strike me as a coincidence at all that in this most challenging month, I have had to in my my work with clients, keep reiterating the fact that growth involves coming apart, falling down, feeling undone, very often. Again and again.

It was clearly a message I needed to reopen force within must. It’s not an easy truth for anyone to embrace. And in the frequency with which I revisit this with clients, I found reaffirmation of the very nature of this process for myself. Timely reminders to handle myself with a little more allowance and kindness.

Over the years I’ve come to understand how much personal growth is non-linear, and I’m looking for a new word to replace Growth. One that doesn’t inherently imply upward/forward movement as a marker of success. One that doesn’t even infact look for a “marker” of “success”. One that is gentler and allows for flow in any direction. Because that is what the process has asked of me: gentleness, fluidity, and grace in picking myself up every time that I have fallen. All these years on, I am only just about learning this.

Soft

Sometimes when we make the choice to venture into the unknown—to break the old spells & quit dancing the old dances—we find distressing mental experiences waiting for us there. Fear, grief, shame and rage. All waiting to twirl their tendrils tightly back around our hearts. Hearts that have just freshly been cracked open, still raw from the experience of letting the hurt down.

Much of my personal journey has been in again and again meeting the experience — past and present — that trigger the same old responses of clamming shut, building that wall and shortly swiftly back to that solid heart that will not breathe free. The work has been in learning how to go soft. How to be soft. In showing myself again and again that it’s possible, safe, that I am not weak for choosing it, that I can do it. that in fact, I need it.

And because I have been at it for literally years now, I can recognise and I have a full body experience of moments where I feel thawed completely. Where my heart blooms open and life bursts forth, coursing through my veins, uplifting me.

This was one such moment. Lying in the sun in the driveway at home, one sunny afternoon after days of grey, grim, rainy weather. “Eating sunshine” with my blood women. My mother pacing about digesting her lunch, my sister catching the warmth on her face. Someone said something utterly ridiculous and it was funny, but not that funny and it set me off. I went I to a tizzy and a loop of endless giggles that rushed out thru my lungs, pushing my ribs apart. Coming out in gusts that made me shake and lose my breath.

long after the moment had passed I was still laughing, breathless, with tears running down my face. It felt for a moment like I wasn’t laughing anymore but that it was the laughter that had taken over.

I felt alive. Soft.

I recently came across a French word that struck me as delicate and beautiful. Not just in what it means but in the way it sounds and the form it takes — letters standing up tall but with a softness that shows a give. Touch it and it’ll bend, almost.

S’épanouir

It means “to bloom”.

And this moment here is a moment of épanouissement that I will remember fondly for some time to come.

Because, je m’épanouis.

Brave

Every healing journey of self exploration will bring you to the ironic realisation that growing and moving towards a life most aligned with your inner calling actually requires you to do the exact opposite of all that you did to stay safe thus far.

The work isn’t so much in the outcome, but the processes that create an alternative safe space. One within, removed from external sources of validation, reassurance, love and acceptance.

A lot of this, and my work around and towards building it, has been brought to question this past week and I’m sitting with a slew of thoughts. Contradictions, conflict, an inner tussle between the enigmatic philosophies that (ironically) help me make sense of real life, and the hard realities of life itself that need culling, like picking wheat (the stuff of life) from the chaff (said enigmatic philosophies). I’m again trying to find middle ground. The space between being and doing. Between resting and moving. Between out and in. Between stillness and chaos. Between solitude and loneliness.

One year ago: Cold but happy
Two years ago: Wandering through life will love come home to you
Four years ago: Escape

Up and down and down again

I’ve spent a greater part of this week breathing deep.

In and out.

In and out.

It really brings me back to the now, holds me down and soothes me. I’ve needed that a lot this week. It’s been a challenging one. On many fronts. For the first time in many, many months — probably years — I felt helpless to the point of just utter despair.

It’s not that things aren’t “good” or that they’re down in the dumps. But it has been a while since I had a steady number of days that are uniformly harmonious and with things in sync. Which is not to say only goody-good, but rather where I haven’t felt caught in the undertow of something or another.

For months now, there is an emerging pattern of one/few good day/s, an upswing, and then a number of challenging days, then the light shines through again, I emerge on top of it all and go with it, but only very briefly, before something else comes at me.

This is stuff on the personal front of course, but it’s also a combination of many things that seem to be taking turns to go up in smoke. If its an internal challenge of some sort at one time then it’s followed up by a string of emotional ups and downs, when that just about settles there’s a physical or practical aspects of our life that needs our attention, something or the other just constantly is on the verge of bursting or going up in smoke. I feel like we’re (and I count VC in this too) being thrown one oddball after another, and I JUST WANT TO CATCH A BREAK.

All of this is of course 100% more aggravated in the environment of complete uncertainty and zero guarantees that seems to have become the norm now..

I’m just so exhausted from existing these days. Even the good days seem to be emotionally high for me, leaving me somewhat spent. I’m thinking back to phases in my life, even from just earlier this year, when feeling good and being well didn’t mean just for a day. And when there was certainty.

However, the universe works in such strange and complicated ways. I would say yesterday was probably one of the hardest days I’ve had since 2016 — which was the last time I felt this very apparent lack of steadiness in state of mind, when every day was a new emotional whirlwind that presented a new challenged. The worst day in one of the hardest weeks of recent time. That we’re in the midst of a pandemic ridden world is just the perfect context for it all hahaha.

But, I’ve had the best work week ever, since the start of this year. A sudden surge in interest greater than any upswing I’ve experienced since I started doing personal consultations. So good and filled with promise that I’ve done 15 sessions in just the last 5 days. And by the end of tomorrow, I would have done 18.

I wanted to do a mid week tarot reading to make up for the missed one on Monday. But I’ve directed all my energy work-wards. Honestly, this has been the bright spark in a week like this one. Because it is work that energises and me, makes me feel alive and gives me reason to keep going.

Striving, as VC called it today. As low and down and out as I felt for the last two days, I have found the energy to show up at sessions. And I’ve ended every one of them feeling a bit better than I did before.

One year ago: Come rain or shine
Two years ago: Try to remember the good times
Three years ago: What coming home feels like: revisiting old haunts II

Finding softness (in a Monday reading that was forgotten)

Apparently it is Monday. And Monday has come and gone without a card pull and without a reading for the week. This is a first for my otherwise very-Type-A-about-routine-and-scheduled self. I’m a bit baffled at how this happened, but also secretly very, very chuffed. Because it signals a letting go and softening up against the many linear, rigid routines I box myself into. A constant tussle I have with myself.

Even as the process of loosening it all up, slowing down and going with the flow is in the works all the time, I am always acutely aware of the place of routine in my life and being. Routine is still what grounds me, brings me back to the now and helps me navigate my days. So it is a constant and fine dance between knowing when I am in charge of the routine, which is to say I can ease up and get lax when I choose/need; and when the routine has taken charge of me, when it begins to be routine for routine’s sake. Or worse — that bigger demon that keeps raising its head — routine for the sake of perfection, neat completion and a very fixed outcome.

And that’s probably why the way in which I have obliviously completely forgotten that today is Monday feels good. I’ve been fairly disoriented since being back. At first I thought it was just the sheer contrast in the realities between where I was and returning to Bangalore. And then there was the news which really hit me in a way that made my body clam shut tight. I made time to just ease back and not pressure myself to snap back as I might have (and then lauded myself for it too!) about a year ago. I am much better with going with the flow now — whatever it presents — whether it is that I organically snap back or it is that I need time and drag my feet. Expectations are lower and the definition of “normal” is loose and indefinite.

So, it’s been a slow return to some semblance of routine. This weekend was extremely relaxed and I felt myself slipping from feeling greatly at peace and at ease with myself, to feeling turmoil with the shit-fest that’s erupted yet again in UP. I’ve felt that sense of elation that comes from great personal contentment, alongside, simultaneously with, the confusion and brain-fog that came from (not reading, but still feeling)the news.

In all of that, I don’t know when Saturday turned to Sunday and Monday rolled along. My day, and week, began as every week usually does. Wake up, take my vitamins, soak my nuts and dry fruit, get in a workout, get on with the day. But I skipped the Monday addition of sitting down to pick a card and write out a message that usually happens somewhere between 7 and 10 am.

And I didn’t blink today, I had absolutely no realisation of this. It was only at about 3pm, when I finally checked Instagram, that I saw messages from two folks who checked in to ask where the message was, and one enquiring if everything was okay with me, that I realised what I’ve done.

It felt good, and special today, to have accidentally flaked off a personal commitment. I am getting better at choosing my goals on any given day without letting unnecessary guilt take over, and today felt like a milestone. An important physical manifestation of the process I have been traversing these past few weeks at therapy — finding solidity in softness rather than rigidity, firmness that comes from ease rather than self-made difficulty, comfort with vulnerability and imperfection.

Missing my Monday reading was a real-life imperfection in what is otherwise a project set out with a plan for perfection. We tend to think of perfection as an outcome, but I am beginning to see how perfection has its threads wrapped around the processes that work towards an outcome as well. And I would like to let go my need for a tight grip on that as well.

When I have managed to do that, I have found flow. The kind where I get engrossed at such a deep level in what I am engaged in — even if it is just resting, like I did this weekend — I lose track of time. And I really live for those moments of flow and absorption. Because something very energising and life-giving happens in those moments. This past weekend was like resting, but on steroids.

***

It is interesting that at just today, at therapy, I said to N that this slowing down to the point of almost letting everything (externally dictated schedules, rigid self-made routines, the noise of guilt, etc) in my world fade away, except that which I choose to focus on — which btw is not more than 2-3 things on any given day — is feeling more and more aligned with who I really am. But not just that, I noticed that I probably get this from my father. Because I recently witnessed him at work, at his desk and in his fields, in flow. In the way that I have only touched briefly moments lately. The kind of engrossed and consumed in handiwork that makes it effortless, easy and enjoyable and hours pass by in a blink of an eye.

I realise it takes a softness of being to be able to give in to that. To surrender to the animal within that some times just wants to go easy and listen to nobody else by the self. Not much in our environments otherwise encourage that, and I am working very slowly at unlearning the ways of my training, and learning to listen in, instead.

In the first instant after I realised I had missed today’s reading, my immediate reaction was a jolt of OMG like I had missed a deadline or a commitment. Some questions I asked myself then:

  1. So what? to break down the actual consequence of something being missed 
  2. Who made this rule? to remind myself, I did and I DO, all the rules
  3. What’s wrong with easy? because I know there is an element of glory and achievement in making through a hard time/space/situation that makes taking it easy difficult
  4. Can you stay with this moment of imperfection just for a bit? turns out I can, a little more than before

One year ago: All heart
Two years ago: It’s just another ordinary miracle
Three years ago: Just do the next right thing, one thing at a time. That’ll take you all the way home
Four years ago: Sticky trash

Be water, my friend

Clearly, there’s a theme emerging this week.

And I love it when this happens — all roads pointing to affirming one thing, one message. Reinforcing something new that has just found its way to me.

Two years ago: My heart is abloom
Three years ago: Joyful
Four years ago: Off the saddle

 

Monday Tarot Message: On self-love

How do you meet the other in any relationship? Are you more of a giver, are you also comfortable receiving? How is it for you to ask for what you need? And how do you feel as an individual within a relationship unit?

If you find yourself holding out for something to change in the other, so you can be seen or heard, have your needs met, feel safe or acknowledged, loved and validated in some way, chances are, you’ll be waiting for a long, long time.

The more whole and fulfilled we are in and of ourselves, the free-er it is to offer and receive love in our relationships.

This is not to be mistaken as a call for self-sufficiency that makes us shirk help or assistance. Independence for the sake of defying and denying the basic human need for connection and collaboration is futile. This is more the subtle but important difference between learning to satisfy your fundamental needs in a healthy way, versus waiting for them to be met by unwilling/incapable parties.

When we operate from a place of wholeness, we enter into relationships ready to give and take freely, rather than expectantly waiting for the other to fulfil or complete us in some way.

There is a lot to be said about learning to make choices and build a life that reflects and reaffirms that you can look after yourself, tend to your needs, nurture, love and keep yourself safe. Then everything else that you may ask for and receive from the world, will be a bonus. But, to be the master of one’s needs requires a level of judgement-free honesty about one’s own vulnerabilities, that most often requires learning and building.

Cultivating the means to meeting your own needs begins with a truthful understanding of your needs — whatever they may be. Union and connection for some, safety and boundaries for others. This too is an act of self-love. The term gets oversimplified when we don’t include the important parts of owning up to missteps that we may have made from seeking love or completion in places where it could not be found. From people who weren’t equipped to fill those gaps. Or in places that were inherently unsafe.

Completeness or “wholeness” as it is often called in therapeutic practice comes from understanding needs, which are the shaped by a range of experiences and the positive and negative effects they may have had on us. When we do ourselves the honour of healing that emotional back-log, we can connect with others without putting the burden to soothe us, on them.

Self-love and healing is about reinstating trust within yourself, that you can keep yourself safe, loved and cared for. That you are enough. The interesting thing is that learning this takes *making* choices that reflect the fact itself.

A catch-22 of sorts.

You can begin by checkin what it’s like for you to say, “I can trust that I can keep myself safe” ? See what comes up for you. Is it disbelief? Or maybe a deep trust already exists.

Two years ago: One breath leads to another
Three years ago: Go, Goa, Gone: End of my sunshine dream
Four years ago: This morning

Monday Tarot Message: A balanced approach in relationship

Today, this card reminds me of what a constant balancing act being human is. Most of us are not uniformly “good” or “bad”. Instead, products of our experiences, beliefs we have cultivated, and our “good” or “bad” actions are a reflection of it.

Growth comes from building the capacity to accept this about ourselves so we may heal that which is traumatised in us, and improve our behaviour, reducing the chances of causing harm in relationships in the future.

This is a reminder to seek a balanced understanding of ourselves, as well as of each other.

Experiences of pain in relationships may lead us to believe that all people do hurtful things so it’s better to build a wall around our hearts. Or we may fail to see that even the best people are capable of causing pain, and the pain of realising this may cause us to avoid relationships altogether. Our relationship with connection itself can be imbalanced and altered dramatically.

We do this to cope and to stay safe, but to heal from pain is to find compassion and remind ourselves that polarities are seldom useful. Or even real. Nobody is ever that black and white. Growth is acknowledging that each one of us carry unhealed trauma that makes us behave in ways. Ways that can be worked on, so we may improve the quality of connection we seek. And that we offer.

Lately, I have been thinking about this in relation to injustice in the world. How can we heal while simultaneously dismantling systemic injustice, without understanding this basic inalienable truth of the human condition — that we are all capable of being good and toxic, in equal measure? That it is useful to reflect on the why, rather than the what of our behaviour, if we are to improve as a people.

Perhaps the answer is in adopting temperance — a balanced approach of empathy and compassion, to understand that we are all whole people made up of many different parts. Self-improvement and healing involves accepting that we each have aspects of the good and not-so-good. Our identities are not so fragmented in black and white and cemented by just the acts we may commit. We are all works-in-progress with the capacity to heal and be better.

I’m thinking today of how Rega Jha put it perfectly: Everyone’s inner world is as weird, complex and well-intentioned as yours.

Seeking balance with ourselves and our traumas might be an entryway to explore the grey areas, where humanness resides.

One year ago: Raw
Two years ago: Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof
Three years ago: Brain noodles
Four years ago: August

The hidden life of trees

So, I decided to break my boredom with home workouts and desperate missing of the gym, by braving the outdoors and resuming running again.

It’s been three days and one whole day of severely sore legs, but I feel so good.

It’s more than what running does for my body, which in itself is a whole other story. But I’m also beginning to see why being outdoors in an enveloping tunnel of trees, that are overwhelmingly old and large, surrounded by eye-hurting green views, even as small and limited as they are in a city park, does for me.

It’s a reminder to keep growing. To keep going. Of how strong roots are the key to talk trees. Of age and wisdom. Of a silent judgement-free witnessing. Of the cradle of mother earth. Of the place that energy and the elements have in giving life. Of fertility even in times of destruction. Of survival and enduring.

On Sunday, practically my first real long run since March (because I’m not counting the two failed attempts in May and June), I had a mini cry behind my mask even as I had just entered the parking and started my run. I just felt overwhelmed to be outdoors, for one. But I was also just taken by these large, old trees. Just standing there, watching the world go by, as they have for years now. I also felt a surge of endorphins, and while they’re usually known to induce extreme highs interpreted as happiness I have noticed that they heighten whatever emotion I am allowing myself to feel. That day it was overwhelming gratitude and aliveness.

I have not appreciated trees enough in my life. And that day I realised I have probably not appreciated the trees in Bangalore enough in my life.

They’re becoming reminders for me. Of life and growth. Of swaying with lightness and tenderness, while being powerfully rooted. Of grounding. Of joy and life. Of air and breath.

In the inimitable words of Mary Oliver, who I have realised has woven beauty in words for every goddamn experience, it’s simple.

Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, “Stay awhile.”
The light flows from their branches.
And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say,
“and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine.”

Stay. Awhile.

One year ago: Brain noodles
Four years ago: Wandering, right here at home

Gifts

I just want to remember this as the day I was having a truly flat, unproductive morning wandering about my home; when I noticed this. This exact red flower that showed in a powerful image in a dream-like state during a visualisation I did at therapy last week, was suddenly real, and within grasping reach. It bloomed out of seemingly nowhere, because the plant has been in hibernation for a while now, after profusely flowering through summer.

N called it the “wondrous ways of the self and the universe.”

I called it a gift.

PS: Also, can we just acknowledge that this is now an infinite scroll of pictures from my balcony garden? Okay? Okay.

One year ago: Naked
Two years ago: Talking about worries and problems, people

Green reflections

I have indulged in my plants a lot more lately than I have even last year, when this bug bit me. This was not a pandemic-induced habit. I have really given of my myself to my plants lately — losing track of time and spending endless amounts of it just absorbed, my hands dirty and trimming, pruning and fixing things, making of it an entire day’s activity and feeling utterly satisfied at the end.

In the plants I have seen natural cycles of birth, death, rebirth and hibernation with humbling proximity that has comforted and supported me.

As much as I have given, I have received in return.

Today, I took all my indoor plants out for their periodic couple of days in the sun. And I looked around the home and realised how sparse it all looks minus the green spots.

There is true life in plants, in how easily they lend that live to the spaces around them, wherever they may be placed. And I mean life more than the stuff that makes leaves sprout and shrivel.

As the author of this piece in the New Yorker quotes Sue Stuart Smith, the author of A Well Gardened Mind; I was interested in the unconscious aspects of gardening—the symbolism, and the level of metaphor.

There has been plenty of that. If you have read the blog recently, you’d know how much I have spoken about my plants and the reflections they offer of my life and process. The unconscious, the symbolic, the metaphors, and how much I have looked to them for meaning.

When we sow a seed, we plant a narrative of future possibility.

It is what I have gained the most. The spots of green are a bonus.

One year ago: Run
Four years ago: Friyay

Monday Tarot Message: Sitting with a problem, instead of solving it

Many of us find that we are wired to jump in to immediately solve problems — our own, others’ and those of the world at large. If this is a compulsive tendency, it could stem from a need to avoid discomfort. Like guilt of not being useful or efficient, or fear of not being looked upon kindly or not finding belonging, or shame for not having all the answers. This is especially true if being useful or productive or being the problem solver was a way to be seen, loved and to belong in your family.

Compulsive problem-solving denies us the experience of growth and change that discomfiting emotions present. Given that problem solving is a way of our world, our rush to fix things may have us forgetting the art of sitting with problems. An art and practice that is essential in solving the quiet, internal difficulties of our minds, that asks for something else.

While the outer world exists in polarities — problem and solution, this or that, trouble or relief — matters of our internal world call for exploring the vast middle ground, or finding a meeting point between the two.

Carl Jung called this a “third thing” in which opposites can unite. He says;

Here the logic of intellect usually fails, for in a logical antithesis there is no third.

He likens it to the intangible, fluid space in which:

a waterfall visibly mediates between above and below.

A few questions you could ask yourself, to check for your true intention, or where the need to solve problems may be coming from:

  • Are you a compulsive problem solver?
  • Are “problem” states uniformly uncomfortable?
  • Does problem solving assuage that discomfort?
  • Does being “useful” to others make you feel good, give you a sense of worth?
  • Are you inexplicably “drawn” to feeling responsible for any and all problems?
  • Do you feel that every problem you encounter, whether yours or others’ is your burden to carry?
  • What purpose is solving all problems serving for you?

In rushing to find solutions, you may be blocking/bypassing a potent channel for healing that’s present in holding the tension a problem presents. This is often “sitting with discomfort” in therapeutic practice is all about. Or what therapists mean when they say “befriend discomfort”.

Sometimes, sitting with our discomfort, or being able to watch others sit with theirs can be a powerful healing experience. Not all problems need solutions in the way we imagine they do. Simply sitting it out can be medicinal. It is important to develop the capacity to tell the difference.

One good way to do that is to learn to take a beat, to pause and check your intention when drawn to fix a problem. If the choice comes from avoidance, that discomfort will not go away, instead simply find other spaces through which to emerge again.

One year ago: Just 365 days
Two years ago: So comfortable, we live in a bubble
Four years ago: It’s nothing, really

Tarot: Unmet goals and unfulfilled dreams

Aside from the Monday tarot messages, I have sometimes done the one-off card pull mid-week. Either when inspiration strikes, or when I needed the guidance, or if something came up for me that needed to be seen or resolved.

Like these:

  1. On resilience
  2. Thinking and feeling
  3. Loss and betrayal
  4. Middle-ground

I’ve been wondering about doing a card a week (maybe) discussing some common themes that arise in my sessions. Frequently asked questions that most people have on their minds. I’m not sure how frequently I want to do this, especially because in essence they’re only very slightly (barely!) different from the Monday posts. Let’s see how it pans out. Anyway, here’s the first one.

One of the most common situations clients bring to me are unmet goals and unfulfilled dreams. And the idea that something is “blocking” them from becoming reality.

I want to clear the block.

I feel blocked.

No matter what I do, it doesn’t work out.

For many, the healing journey begins with the desire to clear the “blocks” in getting to places or things they aspire to. Because the realisation that the blocks aren’t entirely external and certainly not actual, physical hurdles comes pretty early in the process. The idea that sometimes what’s in the way, blocking us, is we ourselves, can be revelatory.

Healing mostly begins with examining deeply held beliefs about a host of things. What follows inevitably is revisiting experiences that created them. This requires building safety within oneself, a necessary requirement of moving out of old beliefs and into new ones. That itself is the healing process.

It’s how we may find the power us do the work to get out of our own way.

We can then create goals grounded in values that come from the newly-discovered authentic place, values that aren’t borrowed, convenient or fear-based, there is a greater likelihood that we will succeed.

If we are upholding the values drilled into us by our parents, society or what is culturally expected of our gender, for example; or if we’re trying to outdo past experiences of trouble and trauma that our family or past generations may have faced; or if we’re simply caught in aspirations that aren’t aligned with our own true values, we find ourselves working hard but getting nowhere, and feeling unhappy most of the time.

Defining values is step one. Next begins the work to meet those goals. There is no shortcut to this: dedicating energy to consistently examining, realigning and evolving values and beliefs, so that they are relevant and true is so important but often forgotten. This is the constant work of life, birthing values and shaping them into real living things.

Then you’ll see that progress, moving ahead, levelling up is a bit like going around in circles, but definitely upwards. You’ll find yourself revisiting the same essential questions, but with a deeper understanding. Figuring out what values make you tick is just one part. Practicing consistently, the ways to live by them is equally important.

It’s like planting a sapling that requires constant nurturance in the form of water, sunlight and nourishment in order to thrive. This isn’t a one time task. It takes consistently show your values your love. Nourishing them by feeding what they need to come to life.

Nurture your authentic self, give life to your desires, watch your values take root and your goals will definitely blossom.

One year ago: No rain, no rainbow
Two years ago: It’s been a hard day’s night
Four years ago: What my Sunday morning was like

On pain

If you’ve been reading this blog frequently recently, you’d know I had something of a “growth spurt” lately. And like in the physical realm, this kind of a spurt comes with “growing pains”. Literal aches and discomfort from having to stretch in ways that are new and unfamiliar.

Even those of us who have been doing this for years now, continue to be stretched when crucial moments of spiritual growth present themselves. So I always find it a bit odd when people look surprised to see me in a “bad place” and ask some version of “But you should know better!” or “You’re familiar with this!

My self work has been mostly about meeting myself. And working on your emotional self is quite working out your physical body. You’ll address different parts on different days/phases. You’ll try out different styles and techniques that work for you. You’ll work out a pace that you’re comfortable with. And the goal is to always push your limits a little. Allow those muscles to flex, tear, repair, build back.

So in this pursuit of understanding myself in a deeper way, I’ve realised more and more that this cannot be about the self I believe I am, or the self I think I want to be, or the self that others think I am.

It has to be me, just as I am.

As simplistic as that may sound, let me assure you it is not. Forget the personas and masks we wear for the outside word, for a second. In all the years of exploring this, the most astounding discoveries have been the masks I have been wearing for myself. The ways in which I deftly hide parts of myself, from myself. The lies I so desperately want to believe about myself. The notions and aspirations I hold, against all odds, even knowing full well that they’re not coming from the truest space of who I am.

And so, this work of meeting myself continues to be challenging. I am in the thick of one such spurt. Where I am opening up a part of me that has been largely hidden away even from myself for the greater part of my adult life.

I am in the process of meeting that part again, acknowledging the pain it is bringing to the surface and understanding hat this is the very reason I have kept it hidden away — it’s too fucking painful to revisit.

Pain is scary. The fear of it has kept me away from going there. It has kept me away from growth. And away from myself.

However, there is a lot to be said about how years of healing does add up. I have known this, but am experiencing it first-hand now. The very same pain now feels manageable, even though it is no less intense. This is my work paying off.

This is like dreading doing push-ups for years, working through the pain of it, training in the smaller movements and building muscles that can assist the larger movement. And suddenly one day realising you can do a full push up. It’ll still painful, but you’ve trained yourself to take the pain as a part of the process.

I feel not just ready, but willing to do this. It feels not just necessary, but pressing to do this now. Because here’s the thing. Difficult experiences make us cold, and close up. Healing makes us thaw, and allows expansion. In my work, and in myself, I see how unhealed pain makes us choose resilience, at a cost. Healing that pain offers the valuable experience of tenderness. And tenderness has, in my experience, 100% proven to be the way to grow and find love.

So here I am. Having crossed the threshold of this very dark place, still hanging out at the door. The urge to turn around and bolt is strong everyday. But with a little help and some ground practices in my everyday life, I am able to stay.

The thing that prompted this, this time around, is the active need for a better tomorrow, not just for me, but the community around me, the kind of work I lend to it, and the way in which I live as a part of humanity. And something inside of me has been nudging on, telling me that hate and hardness, by itself, in a pure, misdirected way, is not going to be useful.

New beginnings require love. And that requires healing.

My therapeutic journey has so far been quite focused on “moving on”. That is also training, that tells me healing itself is an act of fixing something that’s broken. For nearly two years, as I was training to be a practitioner in Family Constellations, I have been familiar with the broader concept of meeting myself as I am, and coming into agreement with my life as it is. I have uttered these words with heartfelt intention at least a hundred times by now. But I feel pushed to embody them in a way that requires acknowledging certain truths of my own life now.

Coming to terms with myself just the way I am. Requires owning up to the painful experiences that have shaped me too.

This is no longer just about therapy or healing. It has become important to do this as a professional in the line of work I now operate in, but more urgently as a person in this world. So I can understand myself better, my traumas and my experiences, that shape my beliefs, my prejudices, my biases, my capacity to connect with other humans, and understand where they may be coming from. Even if they’re at the diametric opposite end of the spectrum from where I am.

So much of what we are taught is about “moving on” is focused on getting better, manning up, holding up. All of this inherently involves suppressing pain. And it makes us lose touch with the sides of ourselves that aren’t able to do these things so often.

As I realised last week in therapy, many times when we have been through a traumatic event, we don’t want to move on. In a single session I felt a lifetime of moments of wanting to grieve. Wanting to cry. Wanting to feel the pain of what had happened. But my training didn’t allow it. And a lifetime of not allowing that, and only looking at resilience as a measure of health, has meant not knowing the ways in which I am in fact still broken.

Being broken has never been favourable place to be. Fixed, is always the aspiration. But even healing requires being broken for some time.

In that single session I suddenly came into contact with the part of me that still hurts from all those experiences. Like a wound scratched open, still feeling a world of pain.

A person in pain, in touch with that pain, cannot man up, or move on. We may find ways to cope and function so that life doesn’t come to a halt, but how often do we revisit that pain and process it? How often do we go back and heal it, so it can move through us in a healthy way? So that it doesn’t fester and create dynamics within and around us, affecting how we are as human beings, how we relate to other human beings, and how it manifests in our beliefs and actions?

But more importantly, how can I heal a wound I am not willing to pull the bandaid off of, and let breathe? How can I heal unless I look at the wound and really feel all of the pain first? It’s taking a lot of empathy, compassion and caring for myself at the moment. Something I still struggle to extend to myself to the degree necessary in moments like this. But I am getting there.

The only way out of the pain, is through it.

One year ago: Shine
Two years ago: When you wake up in the evening and the day is shot

On fear

I wrote a kind of follow-up to the Monday Tarot Message from this week, on Instagram today. Also because I have been thinking about this for myself lately. Having stepped once again, but deeper this time, into trauma territory at therapy, I am revisiting and contending literal traumatic experiences from my past and renegotiating fear all over again.

Rewiring fear responses is by no means an easy task, but it takes active work. And I’m seeing how much readiness it takes to build before actually jumping in. I feel as if I have been only readying the soil all these years, for the work I am about to begin.

Anyhow, so fear has been on my mind a lot. Especially in context to Monday’s post about going within, finding the truth. The core of the self that gets hidden under layer upon layer of pretension as life chugs on. And I have been thinking about why we hide.

The training to hide who we really are and what we really feel, is built as a protective response to fear. It kicks in from early experiences of feeling unsure of how we will be received, from fear of causing or being hurt by showing ourselves, worrying that we may be too much for our loved ones to bear, and that being ourselves may cause them to leave or be displeased. And so we hide by creating a persona, a version of ourselves that keeps some facets under wraps and portrays only what we have learned is needed or “good”.

Often, hiding manifests as:

  • the inability to say no. Or saying yes, when you really mean no
  • the belief that anger is dangerous and should be suppressed/allowed to simmer
  • wanting to always be the bigger, emotionally mature person when facing conflict/confrontation
  • a desire to be always affable and liked by one and all
  • being everybody’s problem solver
  • living a dual life
  • difficulty in holding a contrarian belief

All of the above involve minimising a truer, more instinctive response, in favour of a more palatable one. Habitually choosing a polite falsity else over the truth takes us further and further away from what we know to be true. Further away from ourselves. Until we begin to feel like a mere shadow of ourselves.

So what is the process of “going within”? Healing, essentially. Revisiting and understanding what caused the hiding to begin with. Working with a professional, finding a support system and building a safety net that allows you to be your true self requires renegotiating those experiences so they may be revealed, healed and integrated.

This is how we can begin to overcome those hardcoded fears and get in touch with our authenticity once again. This helps expand space for healing, growth, and finding safe fulfilling connection. And that can be like finding life, coming alive, again.

I said in the post on Monday: “What we go searching for in the world around — belonging, validation, to be seen or heard, love or acceptance, surety  — inevitably brings us back to that self that lies beneath personas.” It is only by working with and healing that which we kept hidden, because we believed it is not worthy of being seen heard and loved, that we may begin to see just how worthy we actually are.

***

In October last year, nestled under a thick woollen blanket in a log cabin in Manali, I guzzled Calrine Myss’ Sacred Contracts, in which she says:

I am convinced that the deepest desire within each of us is to be liberated from the controlling influences of our own psychic madness or patterns of fear. All other things—the disdain of ordinary life, the need to control others rather than be controlled, the craving for material goods as a means of security and protection against the winds of chaos—are external props that serve as substitutes for the real battle, which is the one waged within the individual soul.

And I’ve come to realise, especially through my work recently, that this battle is universal. Every single human being is fighting it, just in different levels of intensity, with different stakes at hand.

Myss also makes an interesting comment on the idea of fate. In context to fear, she says the notion of fate as an uncontrollable sequence of events that just unfolds is a convenient one to believe in, when you let fear determine your choices. While destiny may have a role to play in how life is revealed, playing an active part in confronting fears is the way to make conscious, eyes-wide-open choices that are in alignment with our desires and aspirations.

They’re called conscious choices for a reason.

The biggest reason to ignore or dim our intuition in choice-making is fear. Our early experiences, where perhaps we were made to believe that who we authentically are, will not work out, definitely trains us to keep from letting that true self take the drivers seat again.

We are afraid of what intuitively living might do to those around us. But years and years of living from that dimmed space also makes us afraid of who we can truly be. We become afraid of the results of what living from a space of authenticity might bring. We fear the chance of change it offers.

Today, I had an epiphany. A distinct sense that I have moved from a space where I have been afraid of my own power coming to fruition, to now feeling very, very ready to welcome it.

This is to say I am fearless or that I’ve cracked the code and I get it right all the time. Or even that my life is a smooth set of consecutive intuitively-guided clear steps in the right direction.

I’m just expressing how liberating it has been to slowly shed my fear of uncertainty a little by little. Letting go of the fear of being seen in a certain light, as a certain kind of person, has allowed me to look at my life’s past experiences in a much richer manner.

Letting go, slowly, of this fear has opened up my present life to experiences I didn’t know I could have or enjoy. It has shined the light in relationships in my life and shown me which ones are probably likely to last longer than others. It has brought joy, lightness and agility to my life. I am able to move freely. I feel flexible and spontaneous.

It has made me seek learning and be okay with getting it wrong a lot. It’s taught me vulnerability and what it is to relinquish the notion of control I thought I had and needed. It’s helped me understand my need for perfection, and relax it.

It’s shown me the power of surrender, in the face or chaos and confusion. It’s taught me to slow down and find presence and breath. It’s brought me back home to my body. It’s made me acutely aware of the messes in my life, the emptiness, the discomfort, the loneliness, the hurt, the brokenness that I feel a lot of the time.

It has shown me that I can let it all be there. Without losing my power to, or because of, it. So today, if I were to define what fearlessness is, it’s not so much about the absence of fear. But the capacity to understand the space that fear occupies and where it comes from. It’s the ability to accept that fear has a place at the table too.

And it’s true, giving fear a place at the table, is life-giving. Contrary to everything I believed, that made me fearful to begin with, welcoming fear has made it lose its power over me.

One year ago: Slowly
Four years ago: Manifesting a dream