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From a writer’s block to the secret of life…

This writer’s block is killing me, it has been three months and I have not written a single article, not sure why. I am not in any crisis or pain, the stress and work are as usual, yes things are changing and life is happening but why should that stop my flow of words or self-expression? This is the first time since I took up writing on a regular basis that such a phase has happened. I tried writing in bits and pieces but nothing satisfactory. I am sharing now some thoughts that are flowing, hoping to get back into the zone. Summer time has already arrived, the days are long, dry, hot, and hours go by without even a leaf moving, view outside my window is a stand-still image. It looks like a life-size painting at times, tall silver oak trees in a row and far at a distance a tree in full bloom with purple flowers, not a leaf in sight, just a sea of purple. With the backdrop of the clear blue skies it’s a delight to watch.

Lately, I have been watching videos on a channel called Green Renaissance, they bring deep and meaningful short interviews of people who seem to have earned wisdom through the choices in their lives. One such person is Antoinette, an old wise woman living in the deserted region of the Karoo in South Africa. The South African language she speaks mesmerizes me, and her words are pure gold. She says people often ask her why she lives in such a deserted place with no trees, only shrubs, and a harsh environment, there is nothing there. She says, she remembers a quote by a famous mathematician.

“ If you look at zero you see nothing, but if you look through it, you see everything”,

A famous mathematician

Profound words that touched me. In the seemingly nothing, life thrives, mother nature finds a way to keep life going, in what outwardly looks barren, is still rich with hidden fruits of nature. We pass by life every day as it is happening around us, seldom do we sit and watch. Have you ever been to a park and sat on a bench, after a while your eyes wander and start noticing that tiny anthill next to it, you watch the ants moving up and down in a hurry, they are so busy, so much of life is happening and yet any other day you would have put on your headphones and walked past this completely unaware. 

She says to know yourself, learn to sit with nature and actually listen, no cellphones, no headphones, no meditation music, nothing. You will be surprised that there is actually a lot of sound, nature is seldom silent. Only in the lap of nature with total silence and attention, can we hope to reconnect with ourselves. And it need not be deep in the amazon forest or high on the Himalayan ranges, a small walk to an urban garden would also do. The dining room in my house has a big french window that looks over a meager garden. If you can even call it that, it’s a bunch of pots with some plants. While drinking tea and thoughtlessly looking outside, I am amazed at the amount of activity I notice, sun birds, squirrels, butterflies, dragonflies, bulbul birds, caterpillars, chameleons, ants, spiders, the list goes on, all busy with their day’s work hunting for food and water. 

When you stop thus, even for 5 minutes everyday and watch nature, it has a soothing effect on your soul, if you live in a tall building, spend time looking at the sky, the eagles and kites circling around, the clouds passing by in all shapes and sizes and watch without analyzing, without any judgement, just watch. I think those few moments bring us back to the realization that we are human and part of nature, not robots working on autopilot all day, running towards something important,no one knows what. Do not wait till the next vacation or for the pandemic to go away to experience this, just try it out today in whatever capacity you can and stop for a while the invisible race we all are running.

Antoinette goes on to share that if you want to learn about love, learn it from an animal. Animals do not give you unconditional love, they give love from their inner being, and hence it is pure and unadulterated. They do not calculate or manipulate love, they love for the sake of loving. This is so true, with all the animals I have had the privilege to know, I have experienced the same. My pet cockatiel sings to me every morning, only to me, no one else in the house, and he is stuck to me all day long, at times I ask him, what is it so special about me that you look at me with so much love? He tries to comprehend and then goes about being mischievous again, chewing on wires and pooping on stuff hahaha. But I know for sure that the love he shows is not an act, he does it for the sake of love alone. Why do humans need someone or some animal or some external factor to make us love ourselves? Why are we such harsh critics of ourselves? Why cant we shower the same kind words to ourselves as we do to our loved ones?

Antoinette ends with another profound pearl of wisdom, she says people often ask her what is the secret of life, and she says the secret of life is to be content.

“To arrive at a place, where I accept that which I was given at birth is enough, and thank you, I am content, that is the secret to life”.

Antoinette Pienaar

It took me a few rewinds of this section to understand this, but it went straight through my soul. Imagine, being content truly with what was given to you at birth, it does not matter if you were born into a rich family or poor family, we all are born with just our naked bodies and our soul and heart, the day we feel that is enough to be happy and content, the release of pressure we will feel is tremendous. I imagined it for a few seconds and I felt relief, a huge relief. To feel grateful for the body, the soul, the mind, the heart, and our breath, all our pursuits feel so futile after that. There will be no scope of disappointment if we get something that is well and good and if we don’t that is also well and good. To anyone undergoing depression or feeling low today, please take a deep breath in and release it, and imagine yourself saying thank you and being content with just you, no titles, no money, no beauty, no relationship, no property, no savings, no degree, no marks, no trophies, no vacations, no friends, no family, no parents, no diamonds, no fast food, no shopping, no nothing. Take a deep breath again and repeat, repeat this as a mantra and keep repeating it every day till it begins to sink in. I am trying this out every day.

This is not to say that we all become lazy and give up our dreams, this is to say go after your dreams but without any lack in your mind. Go earn those millions but without fear of loss, go chase that relationship or that soulmate without the fear of being alone, go work towards winning that medal without the fear of failure, because when you are content, there is no fear and you are no longer greedy. You can excel and be the best version of yourself when there is no lack, there is no greed, there is only an anticipation of an experience called life. Then you will find time to stop and smell the roses, you will truly appreciate that helping hand, maybe your spouse or parent or child or friend, you will live not just survive but thrive. And when you start looking at yourself through that lens, your expectations from others will reduce too, because the other person also needs to be accepted for just being human. 

It is not easy to practice because our monkey brain will forget soon and people will do something or say something to upset us, but keep trying, keep reminding yourself of what is truly important, why are we here on this planet? Hopefully this will help someone contemplating suicide, that there is a reason to live, it is for the sake of living. More people are dying of suicide that all pandemics put together, unless we find an anchor for our soul and mind, it is a possibility in all our lives too. Find your anchor, it need not be a person, it can be a simple yet powerful thought, in moments when everything seems meaningless turn to that thought and hold onto it until that moment of danger passes away, then go seek help. I believe this could be a potential thought we can use, being content with what we were given when we were born, everything else is a bonus, our roots lie in being human and that is all that matters. 

I started with a writer’s block and ended up with a thought that is simple yet profound, and am grateful to the team of Green Renaissance for bringing such a deep and meaningful video and sharing on a free platform. I will leave the link to the video below, do check it out and others as well, which I shall write about too. We should follow and idolize such figures who have earned their wisdom through the choices they made in their lives, living examples of the different ways of looking at life. Perception is what needs adjusting every now and then, if you do not get it all today it is alright, just pause for a few minutes and be present without the distractions or loud thoughts, just be today, that is enough, Just be.

Antoinette Pienaar- The secret of life- Green Renaissance (Video link)

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Hoarding, Minimalism, Consumerism and Frugal living

The topic will give you a gist of what has been on my mind the past few days and the photo on the blog shows the pictorial depiction of those thoughts (photo credit – Google). I have been calibrating my finances, my debt, and expenses. I found a motivating method of budgeting and I have refocused my financial goals this year. The last year has helped in moving me towards a mindset of minimalism or rather I should say the travel restrictions and restrictions in general due to the lockdown forced me to re-evaluate my spending habits. I do not splurge on unnecessary or heavily priced items or branded clothes in general, and I am not a compulsive shopper in the usual sense, but I love the act of buying. I collect crystals and oracle cards and perfumes and I did not realize it has kept me in a loop of credit and repayment and I guess I cannot go on like this. So my focus is closing out the debt I have, it is not a mountain, but it is still a small hill that will require patience and discipline. The reason I share this is to set the context of what led my thoughts to wander into the topic of this blog. I am sure like me there are many others who have used shopping as a distraction or coping mechanism or rewarding mechanism to help deal with some serious life issues and who now have matured to acknowledge that its job is done and it is time to look at it objectively. And to be honest, I am excited about the new financial goals and the discipline and the no-buy year, it is a challenge and hence it is fun, I do not feel I am depriving myself of anything. I am grateful that there is this amount of debt that can make me take this mindset change seriously and I cannot delay it further. I grew up in a normal middle-class household and when I started earning I wanted to spend my money and live the way I wanted to, I have no regrets, every move teaches us something. 

While this change was happening, I came across videos and documentaries on hoarders and how this is becoming a wider problem especially in countries like the US & UK. A hoarder is someone who loves buying and bringing in all kinds of things into their house, with an intent to use but instead end up stuffing their houses from floor to ceiling in items, so much so that they cannot walk around in their own home. They have a mental condition where they cannot let go of any stuff even trash at times and in progressed cases they value things more than family. People who live with them suffer the most, especially children and spouses. These are seemingly normal people and have normal jobs like any of us, and you would not know a hoarder on the street if you met them.They require serious interventions from family and friends and often need professional and psychological assistance to recover. Things can take over you if you do not take control of your things, so true isn’t it? But what is contributing to this increase?

It is mass production, cheap products, use & throw culture, availability of one dollar stores and cheap fashion which is created in such a way that those clothes won’t last two washes and you will be forced to buy again. Sale and clever marketing techniques that force you to buy more in an attempt to save little even when you do not need it. How many times has a store employee urged you to spend that little extra for a discount and in spending that little extra you bring home something you never needed or will need and you end up giving it away? We are not only living consumerism we are unconsciously taking part in it. 

While the number of hoarders and consumerism is increasing, we also see a rise in people stopping and realizing that how much is enough? They are giving up all but essential items in their lives and leading what is called a minimalist lifestyle. These are not old retirees, most of the minimalists are young people even families with young children. They take a stock of what is really used and the rest is let go off, they reuse things until they are worn out before replacing and not because they cannot afford to buy new ones but a conscious effort at reducing the fast buying mania and actually valuing what they own. In owning less we take care of our things better than if we know we can easily replace something. The minimalists claim that removing all the unused junk in life has freed them on a mental level as well. When you own less you worry less about things. It is true, when you own a vehicle you have to maintain it, service it, if it gets damaged repair it, buy insurance every year etc. If you use public transport, you don’t need to think of any of this. It may seem like a small mind space but think of all the things you own and the amount of time and mental energy and money is spent on maintaining, repairing, servicing of all those things.This not being stingy or depriving oneself of what gives us joy, there will always be people who save  70% of their income being stingy and frugal. This is about conscious living and mindful spending. 

“You say, ‘If I had a little more, I should be very satisfied.’ You make a mistake. If you are not content with what you have, you would not be satisfied if it were doubled.

Charles Spurgeon

It all points to the stress of living a certain lifestyle and it keeps upgrading every year and we expect to earn more and more, we jump jobs to get paid more, we upskill, we negotiate, we run and run and yet most of us find ourselves with less. We never feel like we earn enough, the more we earn the more our lifestyle upgrades and the rat race continues. When I was looking at my finances and the debt, I thought I should try to switch jobs to get paid more and I put so much pressure on myself to find a high paying job. Then I stopped and asked myself, why should earning more always be the solution? The only solution? It is then that I embarked on this journey of understanding true financial freedom, it is not in earning more, it is in managing with what you have and feeling rich. Feeling like you have enough and more and stop feeding the consumerist in you. You do not need the 5th type of mascara in your make-up kit, nor do you need the 100th book from Amazon overnight, just so you skim through 10 pages and it lays in your bookshelf gathering dust never to be touched again. Sounds familiar? 

Refocusing on needs more than wants, value more than quantity and testing my ability to stop that urge to spend now and pay in EMI later, that instant gratification that has turned us into 4 year olds.Extremes always help us find the center, explore and read up on the hoarders and the minimalists, experiment and figure out what adds value to your life. Mindless consumerism is here to stay for a while, we all are against it in principle and are armchair activists tweeting and facebooking against it, and yet when we walk down the street we cannot help ourselves when we see a good deal or a sale, we convince ourselves that we donate our used clothes to the poor but we don’t actually see poor people wearing those fancy jeans and silk blouse do we? We hand these clothes over to someone or some NGO and they are left with the headache of sorting these clothes and finding something poor people can actually wear, the rest goes to landfills. I realized this during this lockdown, I only wear a handful of clothes on a regular basis, the rest have now been packed into a suitcase. 

“Refocusing my mind, I wonder why it wanders off so often into its own web of fears and anxieties until it is trapped in this maze and starts suffocating. I start again by retracing my steps, guiding it back step by step, calming its nerves, reassuring it like a child, until I am able to ground myself and bring it to focus back on what matters. The cycle continues, I was foolish to believe it ever ends.”

Pooja Damle

Launch your own investigation, observe your own little self and track your spending habits. This problem will not disappear because you choose to ignore it and it affects all of us. Mother Earth can only process a limited amount of our greed. I wrote this prose as part of my journey of self-discovery. I have to keep refocusing on what matters, our brains can trick us back to old paths and down familiar roads only to overwhelm us. Let me know your thoughts and discoveries on these topics, an exchange of ideas are the only way to move ahead as a collective consciousness, we may feel we are individual but we are part of the universal collective.

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Social Media Distractions : How long will we choose to live in denial?

About a month ago in India, WhatsApp announced its updated privacy policy. As a normal user of WhatsApp, I clicked on the agree button without even reading the policy, I never gave it a second thought, in my mind WhatsApp was an essential communication tool and I saw no other alternative to reaching friends and family. Until I spent some time watching videos and reading in detail on what this privacy policy change really meant, and it hit me, how callous my approach had been to my own data privacy. It was a wake up call that was long due and suddenly I started noticing things with which I was not ok with but had gone along so many days/years just to fit in. WhatsApp later pulled back its change as many people started migrating to other apps, and soon people forgot about it and within days everyone was back onto WhatsApp. My blog today is not about one app, it is about social media in general, including Facebook, Insta, Pinterest, Twitter and even Google and how we are slowly being herded into unconscious addiction. The worst part is we are so confident that we are free to choose and that we are mentally strong enough to control our attention towards social media but the truth is further away. This policy change was just the trigger I had been waiting for, personally to force myself to address an issue that exists, and not pretend any longer.

I am like any of you , if you own a smartphone. In the morning, even before my eyes open, my hands are searching for my mobile phone, it is the first thing I check. Because I do not have a clock in my room, my excuse is I need to check the time. I unconsciously spend the next 10-20 mins on the phone, checking WhatsApp messages, scrolling mindlessly on other apps. Most of my friends stay abroad and hence overnight the group chats are filled with forwards, vidoes, photos and general nonsense, admit it, no conversation of any deep value takes place on social media.

You dont message your therapist, you talk to them, hoping you see the difference here

So continuing the day, anytime I am off my work screen, my hand automatically checks my phone, while eating, while drinking tea and even on a walk. I am a zombie, like most of you, and off late I cannot fall asleep until I watch a dozen YouTube videos. Yet, I claim I am not addicted. Stop reading right now and reflect, are you in denial too? 

Post the privacy update on WhatsApp, I started really looking at their operation model, anyone who has my number can add me to a group without my permission. I have an option to exit, but if I do not check this group for a few hours, say, the amount of time my number is available to all random people added to that group. This started happening to me, as local vendors, clothes shops and grocery stores I visited, started adding me to their random sale groups. How did they get my number? In India shopkeepers ask for your mobile number for billing purposes, and that’s how they used mine. Similarly I found myself being added to multiple groups of extended friends and family and school friends and colleagues and before I knew, there was an unknown WhatsApp etiquette to be followed , if you exit any of the personal groups, the friends would get upset, call me and convince me to join. I tried reducing using this app so many times but it didn’t help, does that mean I am weak minded? No way, I am one of the strongest willed people I know. When I stepped back and took a hard look, it struck me, the app is not the problem, but the app enables anyone to contact me at any time of the day, the accessibility has left us with no boundaries. 

Out of the 200 odd ppl on various groups, only a dozen or so add value to my life, the rest are there to share their fake happy lives,or just need someone to fill their boredom, none of them do it on purpose, they are all nice people. But the question is what am I trading in return for this accessibility? My mind is constantly searching for a distraction, I cannot focus, I need my phone always with me, I have an urge to keep checking notifications and I never realized until I stopped and observed myself. Scientists are saying our mobile phones are our pacifiers, they provide a Dopamine release every time you get a notification ping or every time you refresh your feeds, with every like and comment. This is the same theory used by casinos to addict people to slot machines. No amount of will power is going to make you immune, these algorithms are built to hook you and hook you hard. This is the power of influencing and the hundreds of so called influencers online. We have stopped having an opinion of our own long ago, we only think we do, we are accepting opinions of the influencers that’s it.

I decided to delete WhatsApp, and for an hour I was thinking how I will keep in touch with friends. I had forgotten something called an SMS/text message that is free with all phone plans, that is how we used to stay connected before WhatsApp, before the internet existed on our phones. I had an Orkut account back then (many kids will not know what this is, it was a precursor to Facebook), a Yahoo avatar for chatting and I would spend limited time checking emails and chatting and in general online, it was not being bombarded onto me 24X7, I could control when and how I wanted to use the internet, and that was when we truly had a choice. Plus there are other alternative apps now for connecting with friends and family abroad. And more than that, I asked myself “Why do I need to be constantly connected with everyone?” Can you see how a want has been converted to a need?It is so subtle that it is scary. 

The reaction from my friends and extended family shocked me even further, some of them were concerned about me, thinking I am depressed or want to socially isolate, some of them praised me for my bravery to take such a step and some of them fought with me for being too extreme, claiming that social media/phone addiction is similar to avoiding alcohol, why avoid the party just dont drink? Now, all of them are dear friends and mean well, but what shocked me was, how did a communication tool become so ingrained in our social fabric that going off one app, causes such alarm and that we are unable to imagine another way of living? When did we equate fun to being on social media? That we cannot understand that it is just a tool and that every person has a choice to decide?When did social media start dictating our quality of human interaction?

 I am not depressed or sad or socially isolating myself, if anything I am trying to go the other way, WhatsApp and other apps have socially isolated us. When was the last time you called a friend on his/her birthday instead of just sending a lousing GIF or message? I am guilty of this too. Is that what we call quality social interaction? When did we reach such a sad place in technology advancement and how have we let ourselves become lab rats for big social media and online tycoons?  If you still think I am overreacting, challenge yourself to sit quietly in a corner without phone, music, conversation or any distraction, just you and your thoughts for 10 minutes straight? You will be amazed at how restless you get. We are so discontent, we constantly need stimulus after stimulus of cute cat videos or political rants or propaganda,or a scrolling hours and hours on Pinterest, missing out that lovely sun outside the window. I find myself only either working for my office, eating, sleeping or scrolling on my phone , there is nothing of value I am letting myself do. We all complain we have no time, but it is not true, the pandemic added to this and people just filled every waking hour or minute watching series on Netflix and Amazon instead of learning something or enriching their lives. Are we so scared to face our own thoughts? To give so much time on artificially connecting over social media than rather living a life? 

I have deleted my profile on WhatsApp and slowly plan to go off other social media apps,I am not going off grid, there are still other ways to be online and stay connected, but not on my mobile phone. I do not give permission for anyone to contact me at any time, if you are a close friend, and if you need me, call me or text me and I am there. I am going to give time to quality connections, even with friends abroad, I am planning to write emails or connect over video calls rather than just texting on the surface. Trust me, if you take this step only people who genuinely care will find a way to stay connected. I have seen way too many fake happy marriages and fake lives on social media, and I bet you have too, let us cut out the clutter. You need not be everyone’s best friend, you were never supposed to be.

With my research, what I have learnt so far is social media companies do not use our data, they are not interested in our data, rather we are the commodity they sell. We are a demographic sold to the highest bidder and what they need is our attention. So I refuse to participate, nothing is for free in this world, if all these apps are for free, you are trading something of much more value than you bargained for. Now does that mean they are all evil? Not at all, they have helped people find medical assistance, blood banks, organ donors, finding roommates, finding house on rent , selling stuff and a lot more using these apps. I reconnected with a lost friend over Facebook who I was searching for 17 years. So it started off as a good thing, the trouble is, it is unregulated and growing into something far more harmful than intended. The issue is the companies do not stop there, it is getting to a point of subconscious manipulation, with sublingual messaging by tracking your every move. We all want to deny it because of course none of us want to acknowledge we are vulnerable and this gullible.

I know I have touched on various aspects of this issue, from the lack of focus, to addiction, to Dopamine release, to personal space, to the erosion of our social fabric, the truth is this is affecting all parts of our lives. 

I am going to experiment and I will share more as I move along:

  1. I am starting by slowly removing these apps from my mobile phone
  2. Setting aside time to check some of these apps only on my laptop, at a designated time of the week to browse
  3. Trying to minimise my YouTube addiction by setting a reminder on the app 
  4. Tring to reduce the constant need for “artificial” connection, if I miss a friend I will call and talk
  5. I want to try and move to a basic phone, I cannot do it immediately but I am planning on it, a phone must be a phone.I miss my first phone a sturdy Nokia 3310 I think, I forgot the model name, battery would last days and I thoroughly enjoyed texting and talking to friends on it, the voice quality still beats fancy phones. If you notice, the latest phones have terrible reception and voice quality and one cannot talk for long unless using headphones.

This is a personal experiment to test my addiction, how this social detox will improve my life and  mental health? Will I feel less restless? Will I be able to focus and do things that matter? 

The social experiment is to observe how my friends, family and acquaintances react to my decision, and this will show me how far our dependency has creeped. Will they be ok with texting me using SMS or a call? Will they be ok emailing me photos or setting a time for a video call? Will they get upset and showcase their own insecurities? Will they even stay in touch because they cannot see the alternate ways to stay in touch?

All I know is the more comfortable and convenient life has become, the less we are living it, the gadgets, the overnight amazon delivery, the million odd things we “need”, they are stopping us and distracting us from facing the real questions of life and keeping us trapped in a loop. 

Are we already so deep into the matrix that we do not even realize it? Or is there time still to identify and make choices. There is no right or wrong here, I do not claim to be any authority on what is right, I am merely observing and I ask you to do the same. Observe, if any of your friends want to try a social media detox, be open to the idea, even if they come back after a week, it is alright, if you do not try you will not know. Do not discourage people from experimenting, and if this intrigues you, give it a try. This is not a life or death situation, it is a choice of living and a choice of which medium to use to communicate, let us not make it complicated. 

I will be sharing more on how I predict the future of humanity will look, where I will dive into a choice we will need to make at some point, either to stay in the grid or off the grid and the earlier we start thinking about this the better. I hope this blog post is not drab or scary, I mean this to be thought provoking, let us start a dialogue with open minds, every coin has a flip side, every good has a bad side attached to it.How do we find a balance? And more importantly is there any balance to be found? 

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I Promise Myself

 I Promise Myself
 To be so strong that nothing can disturb my peace of mind.
 To talk health, happiness and prosperity to every person I meet.
 To make all my friends feel that there is something worthwhile in them.
 To look at the sunny side of everything and make my optimism come true
 To think only of the best, to work only for the best and to expect only the best.
 To be just as enthusiastic about the success of others as I am about my own.
 To forget the mistakes of the past and press on to the greater achievements of the future.
 To wear a cheerful expression at all times and give a smile to every living creature I meet.
 To give so much time to improving myself that I have no time to criticise others.
 To be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear, and too happy to permit the presence of trouble.
 To think well of myself and proclaim this fact to the world, not in loud words, but in great deeds.
 To live in the faith that the whole world is on my side, as long as I am true to the best that is in me.
 By Christian D Larson 

This is a simple yet powerful poem and I consider more as a mantra than a poem. The words are not complicated or twisted, it is a simple promise. What makes it so relatable is it is promise to the self, deeply personal. I came across this when I read the book “The Secret” by Rhonda Byrne and watched the movie. It affected me deeply and awakened me to my own internal world of thoughts which up until that moment I thought were random and did not amount to much. When I read this poem and decided to make this promise to myself, I was surprised to see how much I hesitated. I am someone who believes in integrity and power of the word, I never promise something I cannot follow through. If I promise something I ensure that I follow through else my conscious does not let me rest. But this time it was even more intense and serious because I realized, I was afraid to let myself down. This was a revelation in my own relationship with the self. If I am going to promise these things to myself I know that I cannot cut corners and take shortcuts because I will know. It also showed me that I am my biggest critic and the self is observing in minute detail every thought, action and emotion and the self can be brutal in its critique. Intense isn’t it? So I decided to back up a bit, and add some pressure relievers in the mix to ensure I do not get rigid in the promise and turn this into something negative.

I took a printout of this poem and stuck it to the back of my bedroom door with cello tape, nothing fancy. I decided as soon as I wake up I will read this, first thing in the morning. I knew very well that there will be life that happens through the day and I may not at every moment be able to live this promise but I will try. I will remind myself as many times I could and try and live a part of the promise if not all. And so I embarked on this new experiment, I was all excited and a few days everything was upbeat, I was able to keep up with it, but then few days things did not go my way as is bound to happen, someone pissed me off, something happened, my energy was low and I felt sad. At that time when I would read the poem it would feel like an empty and hollow exercise, but I would just do it for the sake of it. The poem stayed on my bedroom door for many months and though nothing miraculous happened, something in me started shifting. The priorities in life started shifting, my outlook started moving. I started focusing more on self-improvement, yes there were days the past would come haunting and I would spiral down memory lane of blame and sorrow, but I learnt to recognize and reduce ,my visits there. The one line that had the most impact on me is

“To spend so much time improving myself that I have no time to criticize others” I may not remember the entire poem, but this one line is embedded in memory. Whenever I feel myself comparing my life, or feeling sad for losing out on life, or blaming someone for being the way they are and so on, this line jumps out and I make the conscious effort to stop the negative conversation whether with someone or in my head. This line does not talk about forgiveness or moving on or ignoring the hurt. This line helps refocus on the now, the only moment we actually live. When we are in the now, the past and the future does not exist and hence have no power over us. When I watch too much news, or scroll through too much social media at times I get worked up and agitated with all the bad things and injustice happening in the world, or if some topic comes up in a conversation and I start rambling or complaining about a person or a situation, I end up feeling drained and tired on an energy level. It leaves a bad taste in the mouth so to speak. I do not like the cribbing version of me, which very much exists. If this moment is the only moment in time and space that matters, is it worth wasting it on complaining or brooding over things we have no control over? If this was the only moment that mattered, no past no future, just this very moment in time and space, wouldn’t I rather spend this improving myself or the lives of others? I could read or listen something uplifting, I could learn or teach something new, I could help someone or do something of value for someone, or I could garden, cook, sing, laugh, dance, take my dog for a walk or play with kids or meditate. I could do so many things that do not involve criticising or complaining or cribbing or whining. What this line shows me is I have a choice. No one has kept a gun to my head and asked me to stay in a lower vibration energy, it is my choice.

I heard a beautiful story of bravery and exercising the power of choice in adversity. We all have heard of the great king Prithviraj Chauhan, the great warrior king. He protected his territory from invaders for many years and fought many battles. Unfortunately, he was defeated and captured by the king Muhammad of Ghor. The enemy king wanted to taunt Prithviraj Chauhan and he ordered to gouge out his eyes, blinding him permanently. Prithviraj Chauhan was now blind and humiliated in the court, but the enemy king wanted more and said he had heard of Prithviraj Chauhan’s great archery skills that he could shoot with just the sound. He asked him to demonstrate his archery skills, Prithviraj Chauhan had one condition, he would agree only if his court poet, Chand Bardai would be allowed to stand near him. The show was organized in the court and upon hearing the gong Prithviraj Chauhan would shoot towards the direction of the sound.

Meanwhile Chand Bardai recited a couplet to King Prithviraj Chauhan.

“Char Bans Chaubi Gaj, ungal asat parman;
Ta upar sultan hai, mat chuke Chauhan.”

When the gong was sounded, King Prithviraj Chauhan shot his arrow and it hit the throat of king Muhammad of Ghori killing him instantly. What very few knew was that he could not only shoot with sound but with understanding distance as well and the poet Chand Bardai had recited the distance and angle of where the enemy king was seated to help king achieve this feat. It is said that as soon as he killed the enemy king, he and Chand Bardai stabbed each other so as to escape the fate of being recaptured (Note- this is found in the poem Prithviraj Raso and does not have historical evidence).

The learning I take from this story is looking at the now in any circumstance, what a brave soul he must have been. Instead od accepting his fate and waiting to be beheaded at the hands of a cruel enemy who had delefeated him, looted his empire and now wanted to humiliate him, he took up whatever opportunity to keep the battle going. Symbolically, I believe even if we are not victorious externally, every attempt at improving the self is progress and will eventually bear fruit. The promise to yourself to focus and keep refocusing every time you slip is the key.

I suggest you to search for this poem by Christian D Larson, print it and paste it on your wall or door or keep it near you. Read it if possible first thing in the morning, and then go about your day. Try reading it anytime you remember throughout your day and then notice after a few weeks if anything shifts within you. I will be sharing more promises on my Insta @everythingpooja and other social media feeds over the next few weeks, hope this inspires you to make meaningful promises to yourself with every intent of keeping those.

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Loss of a romantic other

To listen to this post as a podcast episode, clheck out spotify

Today’s topic is in popular demand, I have been thinking of penning it down for many days now, and yes it is a part of my upcoming creative project, so will be a sort of sneak peek or preview. Loss of a romantic relationship, it can be a girlfriend /boyfriend or a 20 yr old marriage, it can be due to separation of loss of life. A heartbreak as we call it can happen at any age and at any stage of a relationship. The hurt or pain felt is also relative, depending on how involved you were in the relationship, does not matter if the other person loved you or how much, the hurt will only depend on your involvement. The loss of a relationship can make you question your self-worth, because the first question after it ends is usually, did I do something wrong? Why me? Am I not enough?  And especially if the person chose someone else over you. I am trying to make it as generic as possible, but the scenarios are endless and I am not a psychologist or therapist so whatever I share with you guys are totally my personal opinions and ideas. If they do not resonate please feel free to ignore.  But over the years I have observed many relationships, my own as well as those around me and I am sure that relationships, especially romantic relationships, are karmic. The famous astrologer K N Rao used to say our enemies from past lives manifest as our spouse and this is because there are unresolved issues on a soul level and we are forced into a relationship with an initial attraction which at times defies logic, just so that we can sort out our differences. 

Unlike bollywood or hollywood stories, we have multiple soul mates, not just one perfect partner. Soul contracts of all kinds attract different types of soul mates, but with each relation you discover a new side to you. They hold up mirrors in front of our psyche and at times challenge our self image. Are we really as patient as we claim to be? Are we really as accepting and tolerant as we claim to be? Remember, it is never about the other person, the other person might have been a jerk, cheated on you, spent all your money, treated you like a nobody and then walked out with a smirk, it does not matter. You heard me right, it does not matter if the other person was an angel or a devil, all failures in romantic relationships occur to make you realize something about yourself and work on it. Let us take a scenario where you cheated on your partner, and they left you, owning up to your mistake, and working on your fickle nature. Maturing to an extent when the next relation you have, you are a transformed version of yourself who realizes the true value of integrity, that is your win. 

Similarly, if you were the one cheated upon and it broke you completely, yet yo0u worked on yourself, did the inner introspection to see your own strength of character. To be able to look at the situation and understand that you may have very high standards of integrity but you cannot expect everyone to follow those standards, to not become bitter and cynical but even more compassionate. To be ready to trust a new person and not be naive or childish and say I will never trust again. This was something I heard in one of the lectures by sister Shivani from Brahmakumaris, she explains so well, that trust is fundamental for us to survive in this society, how can you work or move around in society without a level of trust, so we must trust but not keep expectations that everyone will maintain that trust, be prepared that yes trusting someone is a risk and there is a chance he/she will break your heart, but if you say I do not trust anyone because so and so broke my heart, you are a fool. Maturity is not by avoiding hurt, maturity is jumping into life with tools of surviving and thriving. I know it takes time and a lot of will but it is possible, your mind will keep going back to the ex, stalking them on social media, checking with their friends what they are doing and if they get married or move on it is another blow to an already hurting ego. We are so curious to see what is happening in that person’s life and if he/she deserves what they get. But this is a futile attempt and we need to bring back the focus on the real person, you. We all begin with a baggage of insecurities about ourselves, our looks, our financial position, our social status but mostly it is our looks, Even the most beautiful person has some parts they don’t like about themselves. We invariably project those insecurities on the other person and we attract people who treat us like shit. Because we are yet to discover our own value, we allow people to treat us the way they want. It need not be outright insults or physical harm, subtle undermining, being condescending, forcing things to go a certain way, subtle domination in decisions, it can be anything. It is because we do not know what makes us happy, we do not know our strength and our own flaws. A swot analysis will not help, it takes a deeper dive into our mind. Take a solo trip, find a therapist who can help you, read self-help books, attend self-improvement seminars, do meditation courses, or start a spiritual practice, all these things help us to dive within. I was once at a self-improvement seminar and the host asked us to write down 5 things that made us happy, and I swear I could not even write down one at that point, I had never asked myself that question. What do you value or what are your core values? If you do not know today it is alright, think and write them down, because if you do not know your own values what are you expecting from another person? Let me share an example, for me coming on time or respecting someone’s time is of utmost value, If I commit to meet someone at 10 AM, I will leave home after calculating the traffic and distance and ensure I reach 5 mins early, If I foresee I will be late, I message or call and inform that person in advance. I hate it when people are leaving home but on the phone tell the other person, I am just 2 mins away. For me personally, that is serious and I do not compromise on it. For someone else, it may not matter and that is absolutely fine, it is not about morality, it is what is right and wrong for you as a person. Similarly, what values are dear to you? What do you expect from a relationship? And try to steer away from intimacy, and money and look for this exercise, those are important but for this value exercise, stick to asking what values do I want the other person to respect? Before even thinking of dating again, know yourself first, rejection is a big blow to the ego, it does not matter who ended the relationship, a relationship where you invested emotions, energy, time and money did not last and that itself is a type of rejection. 

I usually advice people not to rush into the next relationship, “move on” may sound cool but it is detrimental to your life, you must realize if you get into another relationship in that miserable state, you will be caught in a loop. Attracting the same kind of shitty people in some for or another, who make you feel more and  more miserable. Yes the rebound sex might be great but like any addictive subtance, once it is withdrawn you will feel even more miserable. Patience is your best friend, and inner work is where you will find success. Now you may say, this is not fair, I have idiotic friends who never did any inner work and yet are in seemingly happy relationships, well to that argument I have no answer, except stop looking arouhnd you, and start looking within. We are all on different stages of our soul evolution spanning thousands of lifetimes, your friend’s soul has done all the work in a previous lifetime and is much at peace now maybe, it doenst matter. What matter is , do you prefer getting stuck in a loop or do you want to break free? Having a relationship so you can show the world that your are successful and happy externally is not going to help. Real progress is almost never visible externally. It is the bamboo shoot growing for years below the ground in silence only to rise up above the ground as a magnificent tree in a few months. We may never be in a perfect relationship and I think that should not be the goal. We should aspire for meaningful relationships, were you are walk in parallel, you should not have a need to change each other, just walk together in life, side by side. Find someone who first and foremost respects you as a person, values your presence in their life, makes time for you, shares life stories with you, wants to build memories with you rather than just buying you gifts, will not emotionally blackmail you, is not co-dependant on you, if you need to spend two days alone on a solo trip that person should have something else to do in life, being in a relationship does not mean spending each moment together. Find someone who will prioritize you, someone who does not need to check your phone or social media, someone mature enough to understand personal space, but before you begin ask yourself this question, are you ready to be all this for someone else? 

Hope this gives you something to think about, the subject is too vast to cover, and hence in my upcoming literary project I will go into detail into this, I am hoping to share it with the world soon. Until then keep strong, believe in your worth to be loved and to share love, look back and analyze where you might need to improve and do your due diligence before even starting to look for love again.

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Osteoarthritis – the story of my invisible illness

The picture is me at the famous Chele La pass in Bhutan, the highest pass with a beautiful view, I managed to climb a small bit near the top with the help of that walking stick, our sweet cabbie and motivation from a dear friend, I was in excrutiating pain but wanted to scale the small bit for the view and it was worth it.

The thing about invisible illnesses is that they take years to get diagnosed. Doctors are not sure and first try and rule out other possibilities, leaving you to doubt your pain. Since you have not been diagnosed, there are times you feel it is laziness or mind games or self sabotage and it takes decades to come to peace with it and own it. My story is somewhat similar, and I want to share this today so that it helps anyone else suffering in silence. I want them to know that they are not alone. My invisible illness is Osteoarthritis or OA, it causes chronic pain and inflammation in joints, in my case it’s my knees. This is a degenerative disorder, i.e. it worsens with age and there is no cure for it, like diabetes, you learn to manage and live with it. It can be genetic and is triggered by trauma most of the time. With season and temperature and humidity the pain levels can fluctuate and there are flares or days when the pain and inflammation flare up for no particular reason rendering the person immobile or bedbound. It is one of the trickiest illnesses out there because if you do not have it, you cannot understand it, period, don’t even try. This is the reason most doctors cannot empathize with patients and diagnosis takes longer than usual. At Least for me that was the case, I was properly diagnosed only at the age of 33, after many consults, a knee surgery for a ligament tear 7 years prior, multiple X-rays and MRIs, thousands spent on medications and supplements. Even after my diagnosis, I underwent many more supplements, one more knee surgery to repair my ligament and adjust my knee cap, several physiotherapists and thousands of rupees spent on finding a miracle cure until I finally understood and accepted it.

I was an energetic child and my mother says I always used to wake up with a smile. I had a spark in me that would energize anyone who came in contact with me. Always dancing, jumping, running around, giggling and laughing. But there were signs from the begining, when I was a toddler I would compalin of leg pain, it was not knee pain, but my legs would hurt if I exerted too much. My pediatrician told my mom that I needed more vitamin C and no one really took it seriously because a good night’s rest would usually cure it all. As I grew I started putting on more weight than the average age group but I was still just as active. Participating in every activity at school, I was a dancer, shot-put player, throw ball player, represented my school at several inter school competitions, and participated in the school march past troupe. As I mentioned earlier, OA is triggered by trauma, my first trauma was a ligament tear at the age of 16 while practicing for my shot-put competition. The doctor just took an Xray and did not feel the need to explore further.My father who believed that doctors are thieves and did not deem it necessary to go any further. Painkillers , hotpacks, rest and age helped me bounce back. The other leg took the major role and I went through years in life not realizing I had onset of OA.I learnt to bear the pain and push through like a soldier. But I started falling down often and would hurt myself more frequently after that injury, the knee would swell up to a point it would lock and I needed hot water fermentation and pain killers and rest of a few days to come back to normal. When I was 22years old, I had the second injury that turned my world upside down. I was dancing away at my brother’s wedding reception and my good knee twisted and I fell down. I remember the piercing pain and I almost blacked out, my cousins helped me up and carried me to my room in the reception hall. There was a doctor among the guests who checked and it was nothing major, I took my trusted companion, 600mg of ibuprofen and soldiered through the rest of the wedding. As usual my narcissistic father conveniently brushed it off and proclaimed I was clumpsy and needed to lose weight and it was not a big deal. The worst part is I believed him, I was 22, in the last year of my masters degree in Biotechnology and yet, I believed my laziness and weight was the problem and did not bother to explore this further. But I started losing balance often, I would fall even while standing, my knee would buckle, for those who have not had a ligament tear will not truly understand that feeling of your knee buckling. It is scary and creepy to say the least, finally with my brother’s help, I managed to get an MRI and it revealed my ligament tear. The doctors who performed my ligament repair, failed to diagnose even then that it was OA. It is strange now when I think back. And it always baffled me that I never really recovered from my knee surgery like a normal person with an ACL procedure would. I would read about these people who underwent ACL repair and in a few months started sports, dancing everything. If anything my pain worsened and I was hooked on NSAIDS (Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) aka Ibuprofen and Combiflam. These two were my crutches, and still are my best buddies and survival kits. I continued to believe the hokum story that my weight was the root cause and invariably made things worse, I took up gyming, fat burners, and personal trainers who knew nothing about physiology and injuries. I would try and try and end up miserable or more injured than ever and guess what, I thought I had no will power. 

If you have OA you will notice, people around you fail to understand, and you will fail to convince them ever of the degree of pain and suffering.You see OA has what we call flares, or certain days that are worse than others, when you cannot get out of bed. There are very good days when you can walk a mile, and genuinely feel upbeat, so most of them end up thinking you are lying, that you are trying to gain sympathy or that you are plain lazy. And it is understandable, let me give an example. I was sent to Manila, Philippines on a business trip for 2.5 months, it was an amazing experience. I travelled with several other colleagues and we were all put up at a hotel 3 blocks away from the office building. It was close enough to walk but I would struggle to walk the 3 blocks carrying my heavy laptop bag and would invariably ask a male colleague to help carry it for me. They were sweet enough to help me out. Now Manila is the city of epic parties and over the weekend we would all frequent the pubs and dance floors, me being a dancing nerd, I would dance away like a crazy woman, for an observer it would have felt like I was a liar, how is she dancing now when she cannot even walk 3 blocks with her laptopbag. What they did not see was that I was dancing despite the pain because I had learnt to be in constant pain and I knew I would pay for the dancing with 3 days of chronic inflammation, knee lock and loads more Ibuprofen, but I did not want to miss out on life.I was ready to pay that price for that night of fun. Not just colleagues, even friends and family at times struggle to believe and understand OA. It can leave one feeling alone and misunderstood.

Arthritis itself is known as an old age disease and hence believing a 30 something would have it is a crazy notion. I don’t walk with a crutch or need a wheelchair, my disability is unique. I have powered through life, joining colleagues and friends on short hikes, go out dancing, visit different countries and as you can see in the photo climb small distances, leaving others thinking why at times I can do certain things and at times I prefer to sit back. My frustration was that I insisted on explaining my condition to everyone, and when no one would understand it would drive me nuts. Many nights I have spent on my own, feeling sad, feeling like an outsider, misunderstood and an island. I travelled alone to various countries and I found that more enjoyable as I could pick and choose the activities as per my pain needs. For example, I visited the beautiful island of Boracay in the Philippines on my own, I spent most of my time there plonked on a white beach chair with a cocktail staring at the blue sea, but one morning I felt fresh enough to go horseback riding around the island, I hope you get my point by now :-).

The second major setback was when I injured my back, not a surprise again while dancing, you must be thinking by now I should have learnt not to dance, but weddings and dance are not combinations to be missed. I got MRIs of my back and my knees done and met this horror or an orthopedic who declared I needed immediate total knee replacement of both knees. I went into a huge shock and it just hit me hard. But I knew something was not right, that is when I met a sane doctor, a doctor who spent 30 minutes listening to me, that is extremely rare nowadays, he did not ask me for any tests. He only ordered a simple Xray and showed me that I had Osteoarthritis, that I had used my knees a tad too much and that I needed to preserve them now. He said total knee transplants only last 10 years and given my young age it was ridiculous to consider. He put me on some supplements and NSAIDS. I walked out there a bit relieved but I had not accepted it yet. It took me many more years to reach the stage of total acceptance.

After that, my knee cap moved for some reason and I had to undergo a second knee surgery. I never fully recovered from it either. This time I requested the doctor to wake me up as I wanted to see the surgery, I watched for sometime on a screen as the camera moved into a dark abyss that was my knee and what looked like old, shredded curtains hanging in the dark was what was left of my cartilage. It was surreal, like a halloween decoration or a haunted house,the doctor scraped out the shredded pieces and fixed the knee cap. 

Again I struggled to understand why my recovery was not as expected for a normal person undergoing the same surgery.I slipped into depression a year or so post my second surgery. It lasted for months, I isolated myself working from home mostly, days would go by and I would not even step out of my house. I had to take sleeping pills to sleep and I had hit one of the deepest rock bottoms of my life. Not the first, but the worst, it felt like I had no way out. I tried and I kept trying, searching for a miracle cure, maybe that ayurvedic medicine, or that oil, or that supplement just anything. Praying and praying for a total cure and just hitting dead ends everywhere, again I blamed my fate, my lack of willpower, my body weight just everything. One thing I must mention, I always excelled at work despite all this, I would give my 110%, hardly anyone knew what I was going through. It took me a lot of introspection, self work, healing, spiritual practices and the thing I thought I lacked, will power to realize that I need to stop fighting this. I needed total acceptance of this condition and I needed to surrender the search for a miracle cure. I found online forums and communities and read experiences shared by others suffering from OA and I realized I am not alone. I stopped apologising and explaining my condition, I started stating it as a fact and it was such a relief.

I have accepted the fact that not everyone will understand my condition and I am absolutely ok with that. Instead I now put forth what I need, if I am outside with others and have been standing for a while, I say I need to sit for a while, no explanation attached. If there is a team outing to an adventure sports club without a lounging swimming pool, I say I cannot come, because there is nothing for me to participate in. 

My only advice to anyone who is dealing with OA is accept it wholeheartedly as a part of you. Stop explaining to others, if you need to rest, rest, if you need few days off work, take them, if you cannot go mountain climbing with friends or colleagues, just state it out and find something else to do, yes it will not be like flipping on a switch, and yes you may feel left out, but it is alright. You have an invisible disability and unless you say it out loud as a matter of fact, it will pull you down and make you feel miserable.What we are dealing with is beyond imagination, because people cannot see the disability and we cannot see it at times, but the strength of character you have due to living with this is above anyone around you. To show up at work, at parties, at weddings, at birthdays, going shopping with a friend or doing anything, all the while with at least 25-30% pain in the body is extraordinary. You are great just for being, you are brave for contributing despite these challenges and doing it all with big smiles. I bet most of you going through this are the agony aunts of your respective groups, giving wisdom and solace to your friends and loved ones.

Two astronomical entities define OA for me, Chiron the comet asteroid known in astrology as the wounded healer and the great planet Saturn who is described to have a limp and is a significator of our past karma.Both are dealing with physical challenges that never heal and yet they are highly spiritual and guiding and healing powers for others. If we are all mighty warrior souls, our super power is not physical strength it is the mental and emotional strength that is beyond the understanding of most healthy humans and it gives us the power of empathy, the power of understanding and the power of inner strength and patience. 

To all you OA warriors out there, I salute your bravery and strength of character, wear your badge of honor with pride, take care of yourself, take your meds, do those exercises, rest when you must, but stop explaining, not everyone can go through life with this challenge. Stop frantically searching for a miracle cure, spending thousands on supplements and quick fix solutions. It is not that we stop praying for a cure, I do hope there is a cheaper, painless, non surgical cure for OA somewhere, but stop the desperation and subsequent despair running after these solutions. Understand the deeper meaning of this challenge in life, I know it is not easy, days when you will feel down in the dumps, just be, don’t rush, you are human. Just never forget that you are a living example of tolerance and endurance, give yourself credit. You are your priority, do not expect others to make arrangements for your comfort, demand and state your needs out loud and clear, treat yourself with the gentleness and VVIP status that you deserve. And so share your experiences with me and others, let people draw inspiration from you.

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Age and society’s milestones

If you want to listen rather than read, check out the podcast version of this post.

You never really think about age when you are younger, not until you hit the magic number 30. Then you start counting if you achieved the milestones society has set for all of us. Are you at least in a middle management role at your job? Are you in a stable marriage?Do you have at least one child? Do you have savings, fixed deposits, stock options and right mutual funds? Have you booked or bought your first house? Do you own a car? And the list goes on. Let me share something with you, when i hit 30 i had none of the above. I still dont have most of the above in my late 30s.

It can get scary to measure yourself with all these parameters and realize you haven’t even started on these, or worst you failed miserably at some. The glass that usually is half full starts looking pretty empty. You start hating scrolling on social media, liking photos of peers who may have achieved all the goals, and at times you think, how the hell did this person get all this? In school or college the person might have been shy and quiet and no one really thought they would amount to anything and now you admire how far they have come. Or the person might have been rude, mean, a bully who was cleary stupid, and yet now they are showing off that fancy car. 

I dont want to pretend that I am above all of these petty emotions or pangs of jealousy. As a normal human being I too am afflicted occasionally with these emotions, I have however learnt not to linger or indulge in them for long. But these thoughts do cross my mind.

Even before the quarantine began, several factors had led me to limit my social interactions. I started working from home more often and focusing on more productive activities like reading and writing more. This year removed whatever little social interactions I had and slowly a weird feeling started creeping in. I started feeling old, like I had lived all that was to be lived and was ready to retire. It may have been the virtual fatigue, too much online presence, lack of interaction or all of the above, but my mind was refusing to agree with my age. Somewhere I started thinking what is the point of anything, not in a depressive way but in a way of total acceptance. By society’s standards I have not achieved any kind of stability and the mind started weaving this story that now I just need to maintain life and not really aspire much, because even if things change it will be too little too late. And then, the US elections happened, and I got to know that the president elect, Joe Biden is 78 years old. Isn’t that amazing? This man is about to enter the pinnacle of his career at 78.Way to put a twist on things.

A few days prior i needed convincing from a friend who said, hey you are young and have a lot left in life, and I sort of went “Huh, maybe that is true”. No matter how idealistic we think we are, we inevitably compare our life path with others. It is hard wired due to primal survival instincts. If you possess these things at the appropriate age, you are safe and secure. So like everyone else, I too take a trip down that slope one a while.

Then I think, everything is made up around us, isn’t’ it? Society itself has been created as generation after generation humans layered their notions of time and age to create this illusion of a race. Maybe a couple of hundred years ago the average lifespan was 50 years and due to harsh living conditions, it was imperative to marry and procreate and create a safety net sooner than later. It amazes me that society still holds that age barometer true, when people are living longer on an average. 

We all are fascinated by child prodigies, and geniuses that get PHDs at 15 years of age. We all want kinds who are highly evolved and over achievers, so much so, that some idiotic company has created coding classes for kids? I mean, for God sake, why? Is the purpose of life just to hit these milestones and then die? Even though intellectuall;y we all understand that life has a bigger meaning, we all fall into the trap invariably. I did my masters in Biotechnology and we were taught that when women over 30 have kids, they kids are more prone to genetic disorders.I totally bought into this and I was approaching 30 and had no stable relationship, it felt like time was slipping away. Like I was losing my chance at motherhood and it put tremendous pressure on me and made me sad. It took a lot of introspection, reading, talking to other women to realize this was fear fueled by society. I am still not in a relationship, but I no longer fear losing out of something in life, motherhood is not a desperate need anymore. On that front I have found peace, and the perspective or the lenses of society needed to be removed. I am aware of many women struggling with this very dilemma and it is not fair.

I now believe it is not even about moving the milestones, it is not about 40 is the new 30. It is about removing the milestones all together. You can have them if you want but they should not be generic, they need to be highly personal.I hope society can evolve one day into a more fluid state, with no age limits and no set expectations only then will we be truly free. 

I give myself permission today to throw out all milestones in my life. I promise myself I will try and keep them out. Success in career, relationships,marriage,children,fixed deposits, houses, cars, none of these will define my worth or make me question my existence. I am here for a reason and I may never know it, but observing life and putting down flags of achievement where it makes sense to me is what I should be doing.

To all of you listening, if you are having a bad day due to society’s milestones, if they are making you question your life, if you are looking back and thinking it was a waste of time, I understand what you feel. Trust me, let those feelings flow, wallow in it for sometime, do not try and shrug them off. Come back in a day or two and read this again, write down things you have done that you are proud of no matter the value or worth society adds to it. And if you feel you haven’t achieved anything, it is absolutely alright. Work towards what makes you happy, what resonates with your soul. It may be as simple as learning to swim or as complex as writing a book or as ambitious as owning a mansion or as simple as making more time to spend with your dog. If you want something, work towards it but keep expectations fluid. Understand that life happens, people leave you, there is a health situation or a financial crisis that needs attention and then the goals take a back seat, so do not attach age or time to them. Now don’t become lazy and a couch potato and say Pooja told me to do nothing, ha ha. Never leave your karma in life, never stop trying, the karma or activities can be anything, talking to a friend who needs someone to listen, keeping a bird bath out in the yard, or doing your duties as a parent or caregiver. It can be any role, but keep doing something, let life unravel as, when and how it wants to.

Trusting a higher self and not trying to find meaning in everything is the crux.

Nowadays my inspiration for living in the moment is my little bird, Coco, he is a 7 month old cockatiel and he is very naughty. He loves sitting on my shoulder and if he wants attention he nips or bites my ear. I loudly say no and put him on the counter or the table away from me. For the first 2-3 seconds he looks at me with anger, immediately after that he finds something to chew on and is as happy as ever, in about 10 secs he flies back to my shoulder. He never thinks too much, never takes anything personally and is super chill. Our human minds are a blessing as well as a curse. We can have complex philosophical thoughts, or calculations that land us on the moon, but most of the times we forget to live life.Take a deep breath right now and slowly release it, remove all thoughts and just be. Breathe in and out slowly, silence that mind with a mild smile on your face. Continue this for a few minutes and know that everything is alright, everything is as it was supposed to be, you are perfect the way you are. Ground yourself and keep repeating these lines. What helps me are the rampage videos by Abraham Esther Hicks on Youtube, to help center me when I am overwhelmed. Take care, gorgeous souls, I send you a lot of love and hope you disengage with society’s notions of age and time and embrace life.

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Back to future – is the future closer than it appears?

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Over 100 years ago a writer named John Elfreth Watkins made a number of predictions about the future, some of which have come true and we consider them commonplace. He predicted digital photography, mobile phones and pre-cooked meals to name a few around the year 1900. Imagine the time he made these predictions, they would have sounded ridiculous and impossible, but we are living this impossible in our daily lives today(Here is a link of the full article of this predictions). My cousin shared a short video clip that depicted a daughter telling her mother she got skin implants that have integrated her cell phone in her hand. This got me thinking, are we prepared for the future? It is approaching faster than we imagined and when I look back at the last 20 years, it amazes me how it has slowly creeped into our reality without us noticing. 

I remember as a kid watching the cartoon “The Jetsons”, it depicted a family in the far future, who had a robot as a maid (though the robot still wore an apron and was named Rosie ha ha). I never imagined in my lifetime it would be possible, but we already have these robot vacuum cleaners that go around the house sweeping and mopping and auto-dock when they run low on battery. So how far are we from the future, I mean my neighbour already owns one of these. It is exciting to think what else will be commonplace in the next 20 years? My imagination is limited and I do not watch sci-fi enough to have any idea, maybe I should.

Astrologically I am aware that 2020 is a year of great significance as we stand on the cusp of a global era change, the end of a 200 year old cycle and the beginning of the next. Last 200 years belonged to the element of Fire, we saw dominance of oil, coal, fuel, the rise of the industrial revolution and more natural disasters as wild fires. The next cycle belongs to the element of Earth, we will see the rise of agriculture and anyone investing in it will dominate, there will be wars for water rather than oil and we can expect more earth quakes than wild fires. I am linking here a video which outlines all the changes we can expect based on historic evidence coupled with astrology. 

In our busy lives we never pause and think how far we have come in technology, the millennial generation has seen it closer than we realize (I feel those born from 1970-1990), we have known a world where we celebrated the day a landline phone came home and we sat around it expecting the first phone call with baited breadth, or decided who was important enough to call first. When we fought with our siblings to hang the phone as we were expecting another call, fast forward to today when we have dual sim card mobile phones and cannot live without Wi-Fi. I still remember my first mobile phone, I got it when I was doing my masters degree and was thrilled with the 100 SMS per day pack. I upgraded my phone when I started working and it had a VGA camera and I bragged about it. (I can imagine few of you asking google what a VGA camera is ha ha ha).  Now before you start thinking what is so unique about this generation, even the generation before experienced inventions like the TV and refrigerators, think again, the very way of living in all aspects of life has changed over the last 20 years. It is more profound than any generation before this and is only going to accelerate. I watched a tamil movie “Comali” which depicted a 15 year old boy who goes into a coma in the late 90’s and wakes up in 2018 and the world has changed so much from flat screen TVs to high rise buildings and shopping malls.

I remember as a kid, going to the bank with my mother everytime we wanted to withdraw money, fill out a form & stand in a que. It used to be fascinating to watch the bank teller count the money and hand it over. And if we wanted to open a fixed deposit it was an important event and took time, sitting there chatting away with the bank employees as they slowly processed the application and we walked out with a physical certificate. I do not remember the last time I had to visit a bank in person, I now open my bank’s app and can do pretty much anything within a few clicks. Thanks to this pandemic I am not motivated to visit the ATM either, 95% of all transactions are cashless. The demonetization in India in 2016, was a huge change and an overnight shock to the country, many people complained and cribbed, but this in a way prepared us for the future of 2020, right from a pani poori seller to an auto-rickshaw driver all accept online money. The world is fast moving towards a cashless economy and more than that it is moving towards a new currency altogether. The digital currency will take over and the days of printing money would be soon be over.

Technology has changed every aspect of our lives, from online doctor consults to gadgets that monitor our health, to online shopping with same day delivery to online schools. I distinctly remember a conversation with my brother many years ago, he described a smart tv that could connect to your phone and with a swipe you can see photos in your phone on the TV and I was spellbound by that idea. It is two years since I have such a TV at home and I didnt even remember this conversation when I bought it. From live streaming weddings to giving Amazon evouchers as wedding gifts, from buying glasses online by trying them virtually to getting pets home delivered (I bought my fishes and birds online), I could have never ever imagined this possible or necessary even upto 15 yrs ago. I was on a video call with a close friend the other day and saw her son playing with his new hoverboard and remembered seeing that in Back to the future part II movie years ago.

I am not sure of a robot uprising, but am sure robots will soon be normal, sooner than we think. My 10 year old nephew was describing his visit to this restaurant where robots serve the food, not long till all of us have our own R2D2 & C3PO ( robots in Star Wars). It is fascinating and scary at the same time, long gone is our privacy with Alexa and Google home, and our mobiles already listening devices. When I search for a song on my mobile and when I then turn on my smart TV and open YoutTube, I type a single letter of the same song and the AI recommends it, I sometime feel it can read my mind. Once I landed in Pondicherry, and switched on my mobile waiting to get off the plane, and Google message popped up “Welcome to Pondicherry” and it creeped it out, how the hell does Google know where I am, until I realized the flight schedule had auto synced to my calendar.

Hey remember the time we used to travel without GPS, asking strangers for directions, yeah that time existed, my parents drove us inter cities relying on strangers to show us the way. I think we should all stop and think what could actually change in the next 20 years? Maybe watching sci-fi will help and we will need an open mind. I believe we can have integrated mobiles, we click a button on our temples and project a screen, no need to carry around laptops as well. Technology has crept up so stealthily on our psyche, we already have embedded medicine patches and who knows wolverine might also be a possibility, wont that be cool ;-). Something like the matrix scares me, but we already have self driving cars. Do you think teleportation might come sooner than we imagine? This pandemic has really accelerated the need for AI and virtual reality, companies are discussing the future of work 5-10 years earlier than it would have manifested. The question then is are we prepared for the future or are we just as oblivious as before? Something worth pondering , let me know your thoughts. 

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The day of the ultimate Victory

Today is Dussehra/Vijaya Dashami, the day Goddess Durga won the battle against demons after nine days and nine nights of continuous war. This is also the day when Lord Ram returned to Ayodhya after defeating the demon king Raavan. This day is also the day the Pandavas retrieved their weapons and ended their exile. It is the day of victory of good over evil and restoration of faith and goodness. In Northern India, it is celebrated by burning down a large effigy of the demon king Raavan, a symbolic celebration of victory. All of us remember and tend to celebrate only the victories but tend to forget the struggles in between to reach this end. 

Lord Ram was the human incarnation of Lord Vishnu, the creator and sustainer of all things existing and non-existing. In his human form he fought a mighty battle against the demon king Raavan who had abducted his wife, Goddess Sita and held her captive. King Raavan was powerful, effluent & wise, he had command over all the Vedas and scriptures. He had set up the city of gold, Lanka and he was a great devotee of Lord Shiva. He had completed many years of tough penance and received boons from Lord Brahma and he had even lifted the Kailash mountain. He had a massive army of fierce demons and magical creatures and a fortress that was impossible to break through. He turned extremely ambitious and drove out Lord Indra to capture heaven, he even defeated the god of death, Yamraj and took the nine planets captive. Why am I glorifying the demon king? This is to give you an idea of the kind of enemy Lord Ram was facing. Lord Ram was in exile when his wife was abducted, he had no army of his own. He formed an alliance with the monkey king Sugreeva and marched towards the city of Lanka with an army of monkeys. He did not possess any special artillery or weapons, just his younger brother Lakshman, his devout devotee Hanuman and his devotees in the form of the monkey army. Let us pause here and think, why did the creator of everything take a limited human form and ask monkeys to help him defeat a mighty demon king? He could have simply lifted a finger and the entire city of Lanka would have been destroyed. Ok now put a pin in that thought and let us proceed. 

So Lord Ram reached the city of Lanka and the war began, everyday the demon Raavan would send his mighty generals or magical demons to fight and monkeys had their supreme faith in the Lord which helped them win at the end of each day. It was the last day of the war, Raavan flew high in his magical chariot, seeing that Lord Indra offered his magical chariot to Lord Ram, and the battle began in the skies. But today was different, Lord Ram would release his arrows and cut off Raavan’s head, but in a few seconds lo and behold a new head would appear. This continued for hours on end and a time came when Lord Ram was exhausted and at his wits end. Remember the Lord was in a human form and had the limitations of a human body. Nothing seemed to hurt Raavan that day as he stood there smirking away. It was as if he had an infinite supply of heads and this battle would go on till eternity. Lord Ram looked at his charioteer and asked him,” What is wrong today? Why aren’t any of my arrows bearing fruit?”. He took a human form to lead by example because humanity would always have this reason that what can we do as humans? And also to show even the in a human form faces times that seem bleak.

Let us look at what Raavan represents, we all have a part of him in us, he represents our ego and our desires. No matter how many times you try to control your ego, it has a way of rearing it’s head up again. We may attend a nice spiritual retreat and come back determined to not take anything to heart, it lasts until someone tips us off again and we take things personally. Similarly, we may buy a 50-inch tv today and after a year want a 65-inch tv and the upgrades never end. Now, don’t you lie to yourself, all of us have desires in some shape or form. The story of the demon “Rakht Beej” is apt here, he was a demon with a boon, if anyone hurt him and even a drop of his blood fell on the ground a clone of the demon would instantly appear. He was almost invincible as the clones would just multiply in any battle he fought. Goddess Kali fought the battle with him, and she too had to face his million clones, finally, she found a way to destroy him for good. She would sever his head with one hand and in the other, she held a large vessel to catch all the blood that fell out, eventually, she killed the demon and all his clones, emerging victorious. Our desires are like this demon, they keep multiplying when we destroy one, seeming impossible to conquer.

While Lord Ram was still thinking and feeling a bit low, after having fought the battle for so many days and reaching a point that seemed futile, he turned to the charioteer who said, “ My Lord the end is near, you may not see it right now and it may seem that your arrows are not bearing any fruit but now is not the time to stop, start again anew with even more conviction, the end is near”. Lord Ram then stood up and lifted his bow and arrow again. His arms were tired with the hours of battle and in front of him stood the scorning and laughing demon Raavan with all his magical powers and might, and he still decided to keep fighting. Eventually, that fateful arrow bore fruit and Raavan came crashing down on the ground, the battle had been won. We can consider this as the Lord’s Leela or theatrics but what would be the purpose?

(please note there are various versions of Ramayan and this is taken from the Geet Ramayan).

On this day of Dussehra/Vijaya Dashami, let us take a pledge to not give up, mentally, physically, emotionally on all levels of our existence. The fight against this pandemic seems eternal but we will defeat it eventually, as a collective consciousness of humanity. The fight against corrupt governments and systems across various countries of this world, oppressive and dictatorship rules seeming unending but we will win it one day. The battle inside us of our egos and desires, past karmas, relationships or any other may seem never ending, exhausting and futile but keep going. Look for stories from our real heroes, the countless incarnations of divinity on earth in all religions and faiths, they all manifested to show us nothing is impossible. Like the arrows of Lord Ram that seemed to be failing that day, or the hundreds of clones of the demon appearing in front of the Goddess Kali, remember that truth and sincerity will always win and the demons will be slayed. 

Fall a thousand times but get up a thousand and one times, all of us have different manifestations of problems and issues and the solutions are not always in sight. Sometimes we need to wait for a day, few weeks, months or even years for a solution but never give up. Yes praying to the almighty is important but actions are inevitable, the Lord does not help one who stops trying, and the Lord works through our attempts, people and circumstances around us. Strive everyday, if you fail keep trying everyday, rest when you must but never stop trying. 

Remember these leelas of our compassionate heroes, the avatars of our creator. Happy Dussehra/Vijaya Dashami, the 10th day of the ultimate victory of good after nine days and nine nights of a battle that seemed never-ending, it may take you days, weeks, months, or years but you will reach your day of victory, there is always hope for those who try. May the Goddess shower her mercy on all of us and lead us to our days of victory.

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Mirror Mirror on the wall..

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I saw a beautiful oracle card the other day, it depicted a white swan swimming in the pond, and looking down at its reflection in the water. What it saw was not it’s plain self, it saw a queen sawn with a diamond crown and a beautiful necklace. This got me thinking, what do I see in the mirror? 

At some point in life, most of us have seen a grander version of ourselves in the mirror. Do you still see that vision? When I asked myself this, I was surprised to find the answer was no. Off late when I look into the mirror , I see an aging me, I see blemishes on my skin, dark circles under my eyes, a thinning hairline and of course outgrown eyebrows (thanks to the pandemic it has been ages I entered a beauty salon). I am not necessarily sad when I see all this, it is a matter of fact reflection of reality isn’t it, or is it? There was a time in life when I used to see a beautiful crowned empress staring back, where did she disappear? And is she even required? Isn’t the mirror now doing its job of reflecting reality?

I truly believe we are the creators of our life and our thoughts and feelings mould our reality. Hence visions of a better version of ourselves are imperative. These are not hallucinations, take it metaphorically, these are the best versions of ourselves that exist in our mind and as years go by we do manage to achieve the changes piece by piece.These are the best versions of ourselves in body, mind, spirit, wealth, status, adoration and recognition in some form or another. This is what keeps us motivated to take action everyday and give it our best, consciously or not. It is important in today’s age to keep that reflection alive, even for our human collective. Gone are the days when people stopped and patted the back of a fellow co-worker, neighbour or family member for a job well done, even a small one. It happens but sporadically, especially at work, companies are investing in HR trainers who teach people to be self-motivated and claim that even expecting an email of appreciation is the wrong and one must work without any expectations. It is a sad state of affairs where we do not want to celebrate our fellow humans. If someone gets a promotion in the company, they are asked not to share with everyone or make a celebration out of it, the culture is turning so dry and mechanical, and the physical distances due to the pandemic make things that much colder.

In this world which is dealing with one crisis after another, and is so fast paced that the primal nature of all humans is still self preservation, may not be in the form of hunting, but all of us are thinking of survival at some level, so much so that we have stopped celebrating each other. This is where those reflections are of paramount importance, the ability to imagine a happier you is the foundation of all growth, our ability to thrive rests on this.

Past few weeks I have been getting news of people passing away, distant relatives, family friends, relatives of close friends and due to the pandemic rules, even the closest relatives are unable to attend the last rites or spend time with the people who have lost someone. We cannot even visit and share their grief. This situation has reminded us all that we are born alone and we will die alone, the sooner we accept this fact, the more at ease we will be. Our grand reflections are the only company that will truly stay and help us hold onto hope when there may seem none.Manifesting is the true measure of aliveness

No matter what your age, your physical or financial situation, never stop manifesting, for yourself and also the collective. Manifesting is the true measure of aliveness. The biggest tool is the queen swan starring back from that mirror. We all have heard the story of Snow White and the seven dwarfs. Snow White had an evil stepmother who was the queen and this queen had a magic mirror. Everyday the queen would stand in front of this mirror and ask “Mirror Mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?” and the mirror would show her the best version of herself and say “You my majesty”. Forget the rest of the story for a while, and only remember this part. We need to be like the evil queen (ok drop the evil bit), in the sense, keep the magic in the mirrors alive, have faith in the visions you hold for yourself and believe in that magnetic person staring back.

Most of us are working from home and even for those who are not, find a mirror, in the office restroom, few times a day look at yourself in the mirror and say “I love You”, “Hey Gorgeous”, “Hi Handsome”, “You are the best”, “You rock and you can achieve  anything you want”, add your own praises whatever you need to hear, adjust that invisible crown and really watch yourself fall in love with you. You can say it out loud if you are alone, or in your head is also fine, it may feel a bit awkward at first but go for it. This may last for just a few seconds until your mind draws your attention to that ugly pimple on your cheek, that is alright, keep trying. You will notice an energy shift in a few tries and if you have been blocking your own manifestation due to energy being low, it will get cleared.

Keep working at your dreams though, do the tasks, take those classes, practice everyday, hone your skills, make your strategy, go about life as usual, but spend a few minutes each day for this, and you will see the magic mirror sprinkle some fairy dust on you. Negative self-talk can be extremely destructive, they say be cautious of what you say to others, but be more careful as to what you say to yourself, remember, not just your mind and heart, your entire body is listening and responding. Have you ever experienced this, when you happen to look into someone’s eyes for a bit too long and something attracts us to that person? We feel sudden compassion and love, it is a bit of magic, try staring into your own eyes in the mirror long enough each day and you will reflect the same compassion and love towards yourself.

Remember the queen, look into the magic mirror, and ask your mirror mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all, all the best my gorgeous souls, let us elevate the universal consciousness by beginning with our own.

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A visit to the office amongst COVID

Last Monday, I had to visit the office to help onboard a new joiner to my team. It was not mandatory for me to visit the office, but I wanted to meet this person at least once and welcome her into the company. I had to take a few approvals before visiting the office and finally was ready to go there. After 6 months I stepped foot into the office building, I swear I almost forgot the name of the landmark to my office building. I took an Ola cab, the roads were comparatively empty and as the cab veneered into the premises, a smile popped on my face. It caught me unaware,I got off and walked towards the building, a familiar pace set on my toes. There were several notice boards and notice posters at the entrance stating the various rules of social distancing, hand sanitizing and much more. I could no longer just whisk my card and rush inside, I had to show the approvals and wait patiently for the security team to follow new protocols to escort me inside. 

It felt like I was entering a top secret military lab, I was escorted to a floor, not to my usual desk. To a single floor where employees can work from during this COVID crisis. I had to keep the mask on and I saw masked faces around, some familiar, some new. These were the IT, facilities and security teams working tirelessly through this entire time. As I walked to an empty desk and placed my laptop, I noticed every other seat had an X to ensure no one sits too close.

As the neon white lights glared above me, I thought my god, I have actually missed the office. I felt elated and happy under the very neon lights I thought looked like the ones in an operating theatre. Isn’t it interesting how our human mind functions? Even things that used to irritate us once, fall under the familiarity category. If we move away from that environment suddenly for a long time and re-enter, the mind recognizes it as familiar and safe. I have been working in this organization now for almost 8 years and the last 6 months have been so different and something none of us phantomed. 

After a while, I walked up to the coffee machine, it is now manned by a facility staff in gloves and mask, no one is allowed to touch the coffee machine apart from him. He serves everyone coffee and even water as they walk up to him maintaining social distancing. I saw a big bottle of hand sanitizer and wondered of all these small things we took for granted. The water cooler conversations, the crowding around the coffee machine, the polite gestures of handing someone a paper cup if they stood on the other side. Every movement I made, I had to be conscious of social distancing and safety. The office elevators also have rules now, stickers of where to stand and limited to small groups, not that I missed crowded elevators but it all felt surreal , like a video game.

I greeted the new joiner, with a namaste and a mask, later maintaining appropriate distance, we removed our masks and met properly for the first time. How much onboarding has changed? Imagine joining a new company now, you are interviewed on the phone, everything is online, you cannot visit the office, you cannot use your senses to grasp the culture and the environment of an office. It is not just the building but the people, the way they dress, the way they move and talk, minute social cues one picks up, all that is missing. Now, you connect with your new team and manager over video calls and such. There is no buddy assigned to you, to show you how to navigate the building, the shortcuts around the building and most importantly show you where the washrooms and tea point is located. I wonder for freshers who are on boarded now, they have no experience of how it feels that first week at a new workplace. Not sure if it is a good thing or a bad thing, but just that experience is no longer available, at least for the next 6 months. But I am still old schooled and believe in meeting a person who will work with you so closely on a project, at least once. Identifying someone with a mask on is difficult, especially people in office we may have never spoken to, but we always smile at them as we pass by. I recognized and smiled at a few such people and I realized I spooked them. Because they could not see my smile through the mask, only a weird woman staring at them for no reason ha ha ha. For a smiler like me, that is a disappointment. 

I wondered about the person who was leaving my team, he will have to say goodbye to everyone virtually. He will just come to the office and drop off his laptop and pick up things if any. He will have no one throwing him a goodbye party like we used to have. If you work at an organization for a long time, the goodbye is painful, doesn’t matter if your time there was fun or not. You gave 9 hrs of your life everyday for that stretch of time to a project or a team and it is a big change in life. But for now he will have to accept the online goodbyes.

Continuing my day at office, I had stacked things in my table credenza/pedestal, all kinds of weird things, green tea bags, a bottle of aroma diffuser to make my desk smell good, a small bottle of ajwain (in case my stomach felt weird), stationary, assorted collection of coffee mugs and pens, wedding invites of colleagues collected over the years, LAN cables, and god knows what else. I am one of those people who has everything required for a calamity stacked and ready in the office credenza. I cleaned out as much as I could, I was escorted by a security personnel, he watched over me as I opened the credenza with my keys, and he asked me to write down what I had taken, this was the embarrassing part as the space allotted for that list was too short for my paraphernalia. As I was escorted out of the floor, he locked the doors carefully and ensured I didn’t wander off, dropping me at that one floor which was open. 

I really appreciate the meticulous planning and thinking of my company’s facilities and security teams. I caught up with one of them and made sure they knew the excellent work they are doing to ensure safety of all.The scenario we are in will not last long. That is for sure, this virus will go away sooner or later, but how it will affect human to human interaction is something to wait and watch. We may no longer be as free as we were. When I was standing next to the printer, and clicking the touchscreen, my thoughts were constantly to remind myself to use the hand sanitizer as soon as this is done. It makes me wonder, when do we draw the line between safety and paranoia, for now since nothing much is known about this virus, it is safe. But once all of this tides away, will that be a paranoia?

Before I wondered all this, time flew and it was evening, I had to leave. I booked a cab and walked out of the building, it was 6PM and the business park was empty, a lone cab stood at the corner waiting for me. Felt eerie for a bit, 6PM, the time of hustling bustling activity of people rushing to catch the bus or the cab, cab drivers honking away, the sound of the crazy traffic on the main road outside, none of that existed. I took my time, entered the cab and left in silence.

It usually takes 30 mins to cross a stretch of road filled with IT parks, it took me less than 10 mins and this part I enjoyed as it is a rare scene in Bangalore. Thus ended my adventure of a day visit to the office during COVID. This was not just a visit to me, this visit made me observe and think about actions we never stop to notice and just how much a small virus has changed in our lives and we have absolutely no control over it. It was a strong reminder that nothing is in our control except our own reactions to situations, accepting and being flexible to change is all that we can control and that is enough in itself.

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Destiny and Karma; an attempt to understand them with the help of an avatar

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Today I want to share a small story from the Ramyan, the great Indian Epic, the story of Lord Ram. The Marathi language is blessed with a beautiful creation called “Geet Ramyan”, a musical version of the Ramyan, written by the great G.D.Madgular and composed by Sudhir Phadke. This creation contains 56 divine songs picking key events in the Ramyan. I am going to discuss one of the songs from this composition that describes the scene when Bharath visits Lord Ram in the forest. My attempt at translating this particular song is not a fair one, in the sense language is a complex medium and when one listens to the original the profoundness of it reveals itself. But I feel language should not be the barrier for others to at least get a gist of this amazing composition. This song moves me to tears almost every time and attempts to bring me to the reality of existence. The title is “Paradhin ahe jagati putra manasa cha dosh na kunacha” and here is the link on Youtube for this song with English translation.

Lord Ram’s father was the great King Dasharath, who had three queens and four sons. Lord Ram was to be crowned as the next king as he was the eldest son, but one of the queens, Kaykaye wanted her son Bharath to be the king and she used the two boons granted to her by King Dasharath years ago to ask for her son to be crowned the king and for Lord Ram to be exiled for 14 years. She wanted to ensure that her son Bharath once crowned the king had not threat from Lord Ram, as anyone who stays away from his property for 14 years loses all claim to it as the rule of the land. King Dasharath pleaded her to change her wishes and ask something else, but she did not budge. As was the rule back then, a king could never break his promise and he reluctantly summoned his favourite son to break the sad news to him. Lord Ram being the epitome of dharma, accepted this gladly, and he along with his wife Sita and younger brother Laxman, left for the exile. Shortly after this, King Dasharath died out of this heart ache of separation from his dearest son. All this happened when Bharath was not in the city of Ayodhya and he was unaware of all that has conspired. Bharath and Lord Ram were very close and Bharath worshiped his brother. When he came back, he was shocked to find out that his had father passed away and his dearest brother got exiled, because his mother wanted him to become the king. He was furious at his mother and he decided to go into the forest to bring back his dear brother and make him the rightful king.

So, the song describes the scene where Bharath has come to the Chitrakoot forest where Lord Ram is staying and he informs him of the demise of their father. He also pleads him to come back, he says “Because of my mother’s ambitions and my father’s promises, you had to face all this, now father has passed away and I have severed all ties with my mother, there is no reason to fulfil these promises. You are the rightful heir to the throne, come back and become the King, please show your mercy on the kingdom.”

Lord Ram is heartbroken to hear about his father’s demise and he completes the final rites, pouring the ashes into the holy river. He then explains to Bharath that as per dharma he has to complete the promises of their father and he will only return after the 14 years of exile are over. He explains to him that this is not anyone’s fault, everyone in this world is helpless in front of destiny.  

Lord Ram then asks Bharath to look around and notice that the entire creation is impermanent, he says “Dear brother, everything created will eventually be destroyed. Mother and father are not to be blamed, all that has happened is my karma, my past actions are being played out now”. Point to note here is who is saying these words about karma, it is Lord Ram who is the avatar of Lord Vishnu, it is God himself, and yet he is talking about karma. Lord Ram is also known as the Marayada purushotam, or the ideal man who follows dharma, and he was filled with compassion and justice. He always followed the rules and was understanding and always thought of others before his own needs. If he himself is accepting the laws of karma, what about us? We feel we have not wronged anyone in life, but we cannot even phantom or compare our actions and way of life to that of Lord Ram, plus we have no way to know what transcribed in our past lives. Everything wrong happening in our lives, shouldn’t we also try to accept it as fruits of our karma? Known and unknown karma?

Lord Ram continues “Dear brother, anything that rises has to fall, anything that is accumulated has to be lost, we meet people only to be separated that is the rule of the world. No one is to be blamed for what transpires in life. Birth and death are inter-twined, two sides of a coin and are together right from our birth, whatever you see around you is perishable, why are you grieving then for something which is a mere illusion, a dream? Man is enslaved to destiny and hence no one is to blame. I understand, our father suddenly passed away and your dear brother was sent to exile, all these circumstances happened in your absence and it has been a huge shock. But although sudden these are not incomprehensible situations. The mental capacity of comprehension of even the wise and the well-read is restricted when it comes to death, they are confounded and limited in their thoughts when faced with death. But has anyone ever escaped the cycle of birth and death? Has anyone ever truly lived without sorrow in this world? Whatever thrives has to die at some point. Hence no one is to blame.” At times when great sorrow hits us, we refuse to accept it and all we can see is sorrow, nothing beyond it. In times like these this song has helped me, it has acted as a crutch and stopped me from falling into the abyss of sorrow. I take it as God consoling me in person from whatever I am facing. Listen to this song, not as a third person but as Bharath, and it will really sooth your pain.

Lord Ram then says “Imagine, two logs of wood floating in the ocean, they slowly float towards each other and at one point touch each other. They are happy they found each other in this huge ocean and they float together content and happy. Then suddenly a huge wave crashes and they are separated, forever, never to meet again in this vast ocean. This is exactly how momentary, relationships are in this vast ocean of time and space, my dear Bharath. Man is slave to his destiny and no one is to blame for what conspires in life.” How wonderfully put isn’t it? This is my favourite part of the song; the example is so simple to understand and imagine and yet explains the depth of existence. What gives us sorrow, have you thought? It is loss isn’t it? Loss of a person, loss of money, loss of health, loss of time anything, but it is loss. If we imagine we are one log, and the person, money, health, opportunity is the other log, we meet, we enjoy, we rejoice and then when the time comes for that wave to crash, we depart. Most times never to meet again, it is sad but it is the inevitable truth.

Lord Ram continues “Stop crying now my dear Bharath, wipe those tears, both of us now have different paths to travel in life. You will become the king of Ayodhya and I will lead the life of an exile in the forest, no one is to blame, man is a slave of his destiny. Do not plead to me for my return now to Ayodhya, let us fulfil our father’s promises and bring him glory. It does not matter who wears what, whether a royal gown or a wanderer’s rags, both of us will do our duties. I will only return after these 14 years are complete, I will not step into Ayodhya before that. You are now the only king of the kingdom and all the wealth. Do not come into the forest looking for me again, I carry all your love in my heart. Ensure you take care and add to the prestige of the great city of Ayodhya.” Lord Ram thus consoles Bharath and reminds him of his duties. He asks him to move on in the path their father & mother had laid out, with all his strength and intention. I always imagine as if Lord Ram is saying this to me, to stop mourning for all the losses in my life and to look ahead instead at the path I have in front of me. It may be that of prosperity or it may be that of struggles and lack, but there is no choice. Walking on this path with my head held high and giving it all of my effort, intention and attention is how I must lead life.

Not get caught up in the luxuries and the richness and not get depressed by the challenges and the lack, only focus on the tasks in hand, that is what is expected from all of us. Bharath was fulfilling his father’s promises, we are fulfilling God’s will for us. To respect God’s will and to sincerely live life every day, not just with a sense of duty, but to live it fully being truly alive and experiencing each step is important.

When Lord Ram says that man is a slave of destiny, this is not to be taken as a defeatist attitude and stop striving for improvement. The reason he says this is, stop holding on, stop holding grudges, stop blaming someone else for your sorrow, he does not mean sit in one place and do nothing. In his exile, Lord Ram punished a lot of asuras or demons for their wrong doings and fought a great battle with the Asur King Ravan, not to win anything or prove anything, but as a duty to establish dharma. Ravan had abducted Lord Ram’s wife, Sita and held her hostage, yet Lord Ram did not lose his dedication to dharma and fought the war righteously. After he won the war against Ravan, he did not take the golden city of Lanka for himself, he established Ravan’s brother, Vibhishan as the king, who was just and kind. So, continue with duties and follow your dharma and the dharma of the land you live in and the dharma of humanity, do not give up your karma or work due to the fact that destiny is undeniable. By dharma here I do not mean religion, by dharma I mean standard of righteousness. For example, if you were in a relationship with a person, you loved him/her dearly, you gave your 110% in this relationship and suddenly the other person wanted to break up. You felt bewildered and you tried your utmost to save the relationship and it still ended. There is a point till which you can try to revive a relationship, beyond that you have to stop and move on. It is at this point in time that one accepts destiny and respects the other person’s choice. It does not matter who was right or wrong, it does not matter if the other person cheated you, broke your trust and used you or manipulated you. It was a relationship that was meant to end someday and, in your destiny, it had to end this way. It ended true to the transitional nature of this entire universe. Time is relative and we will never be satisfied with the amount of time we have with our loved ones, we will always want more.

Similarly, if someone close to you dies, the moment is devastating and for few days it feels like nothing is worth living for. At times like these, we should remember the story of the two logs of wood on the ocean, and accept that our paths were meant to unite only for this short time. It is not any one’s fault not even God’s fault. We make up notions in our mind that a successful relationship is if we spent an entire lifetime with that person, and it is just that, our notion, it is not the truth. Few people stay together for 60-70 years and some for few months, but that does not reduce the depth of emotions one might have felt. That does not determine the quality of the relationship, it is destiny and the way ahead is shown to us by God. Accepting certain truths in life and giving our best to the life ahead, being sincere in our attempts is what we must strive for.

Have you wondered why God takes birth on this earth as an avatar? It is to lead by example, he faces trials and tribulations to show us that there nothing unsurmountable. We should not always take an avatar’s actions literally, because stories at times are bizarre. But we should study what is it that they convey, where can we draw strength from them, where can we find hope in them. Hope this short story has touched you and hope you continue drawing inspiration from our real heroes, the innumerable incarnations and stories that exist for that very reason.

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Power of a tiny clumsy little creature

Animals are connected to source energy on an unadulterated level. They have no filters, no preconceived notions, they do not pretend and most importantly they always live in the present moment. Guess where divine always resides, in the present moment. A tiny clumsy little bird has shown me that God can reach out in so many ways and it is not always a grand entry.  When an animal decides to trust you, it trusts you completely, there are no reservations, and when it showers you with love, the energy is too pure to ignore. Blessed are those who experience this and even more blessed are those that realize what they are experiencing.  When was the last time you ever trusted someone so completely? To be more specific, trusted a human that completely?

Animals are clumsy, dirty, stinky, they poop wherever they want especially birds and if they don’t like something they let you know by biting/hissing/clawing depends on the animal, in spite of all this, we find them adorable and we clean up after them, we forgive them if they react and we say “its alright it is an animal”. We do not hold grudges against our pets.  Can we ever accept ourselves so fully? Can we accept ourselves like they accept us?

My dog passed away last year, after almost 17 years of giving us joy & love. It was devastating and I was heartbroken, I never thought I would get another pet as the attachment is inevitable and when they leave, they take a piece of your heart with them to heaven. Last month my brother decided to get a pair of cockatiels for my nephews and this idea stuck in my mind too. I thought they would be more ornamental and less work than a dog, you don’t need to walk them, and could be just good company, but I never imagined I would bond with them so much. I got these two scrawny little 3-month-old baby cockatiels, and for the first few weeks, they hissed at me and were very skittish. I would talk to them, change their food and water every day, and spend an hour or so sitting next to the cage, not trying to approach them but ignoring them so they would feel comfortable. At first when I left the cage door open they would not come out, but slowly one of them started exploring, it was the scrawnier of the two, and just like that one day as I sat near the cage, he climbed on my leg and looked at me with that weird one eye, like birds do and I burst out laughing. Over the next few days, he started climbing on me, and now he thinks I am a big perch. The day he enjoyed the first head scratch from me, my heart just melted. Then I started whisteling the tune “If you are happy and you know it, clap your hands”, and to my surprise within a month he has picked it up and whistles in the clumsiest possible way, bringing an instant smile on my face.

2020 has been a hard year for all, the energies are difficult and every day we hear more devastating news. Everyone is going through some challenge or the other and I am no different, the companionship that animals provide is beyond description. You see, they cannot talk the same language, so there is no way of having arguments or intellectual filters and judgements we have with human company. An animal is content just sitting next to you and radiating loving energy, teaching us by example how to just be, just be in the present. To show us that there is a way to stop that super-fast train of thought that keeps running at high speeds at all times, sometimes even in sleep, that there is a way to exist by keeping that aside. We can be content just sitting in someone’s company, with no exchange of anything, no exchange of words, ideas, food, sport, money nothing. Observe also the way animals look at you, not when you irritate them 😉, but in those moments of just being, their eyes will communicate that love and compassion beyond all. You can talk to them and pour out your heart and they will be content just to listen and snuggle a bit closer. No wonder, Lord Krishna is depicted in Vrindavan always sitting and snuggling up with baby cows and playing his flute, content and in the moment. In Hindu religion, every God has an animal associated with him/her and it makes me wonder the symbolism of the universal source and how animals might act as a medium to this source.

Not everyone can achieve a bond with an animal so close and personal and not all animals will respond to you that way. Everything has a time and place in our lives and when you are ready, the animal will find you. It need not even be a pet, I have seen videos of people bonding with a crow that visits their kitchen window everyday for scraps of food, or a stray dog someone feeds every day, or a stray cat. They are so connected to mother nature and not distorted by the human world view, having stated this, I have also seen unfortunate animals whose connection from mother nature has been removed by humans who abuse them. There are countless rescue videos online showing the horrible abuse they suffer and months and sometimes years it takes to get them out of that trauma.  I know I have painted a beautiful description of animals in this article, but getting an animal as a pet is a huge responsibility, first ensure you have done enough research before you decide to get a pet. This should never be an impulse buy/decision, that is how hundreds of animals get abandoned on streets. Also do not approach an unknown animal if you are not aware how to handle them, every animal has specific way and you might end up seriously injured. It is really important for children to learn how to approach animals and are introduced to handling animals at a young age. I think the most important lesson they learn is how to be gentle, that even if one can cause harm to someone why not to, how to show kindness no matter how the animal reacts and how to forgive.

Perspectives change as our situations change, and our experiences influence the perspectives. The human world is full of Maya, distortions created by our own mind, and added on by the world. Our lenses are cracked and coloured and life’s lessons help us clean them slowly and steadily. One of the life hacks is to find these wonderful moments of just being, surrounded by pets or animals in general, for a short while get respite from this world of distortions and connect with mother nature as you, the true you. I do not believe there are animal people and non-animal people, I think there are people who have experienced the magic of animals and those that haven’t and once they do, everyone in essence is an animal person.

Do not go looking for an experience to bond with an animal, but when an opportunity presents itself, let yourself feel every moment and enrich your energies with mother natures outpour. I am sure you will come out of it a more compassionate person and some part of you will become more receptive, a subtle yet beautiful change. They say that grace is always pouring on us 24×7, it we who are holding an umberella, no one or nothing is too small or insignificant to not affect us or teach us something. Open your minds, close that umberella for a while and just be.

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Surrounded by Excess yet searching for More

This post will take 15 -17 mins to read, if you would rather listen, click here for the podcast version

This best describes the generation we live in, no other generation has faced this dilemma and it is graver than we imagine. In today’s age, we lack for nothing, most of us have good jobs, we can afford to indulge in any whim we want instantly, yet hardly a handful are at peace. Very few people are aware of the gravity of the situation this generation is in, and most of us are still not taking it seriously. It is crazy how easily media and advertising can normalize something in our lives which is not supposed to be normal. But we are all sitting on a ticking time bomb, I will go in detail as this is a bit vague so far. 

Surrounded by excess, excess is the other side of abundance, true abundance is feeling satisfied and secure in all areas of life, so abundance has nothing to do with how much we own, abundance is qualitative not quantitative and it is definitely subjective. For example, for person A, owning a 5 bedroom luxury villa with 2 expensive cars is abundance and he/she feels satisfied, but for person B, owning 5 houses like this is abundance, we are not judging greed here, just a disclaimer, I am trying to get some perspective as to what abundance can mean. The end result when one reaches one’s goal material or personal is peace and satisfaction. But excess is the darker side, imagine a society where everyone had endless amounts of money and could whatever he/she wanted, there would be nothing left to strive for or work towards and that would not be fun at all. How does this apply to the current world? Just look at yourself, look around and then look one or two generations behind, we are the fattest, sickest, weakest, most in debt, most lonely and most unsatisfied generation yet. There I have laid it out bare, I am not saying we all are this miserable, but all of us have sides which are truly not at peace and we all have mastered the art of looking perfect on social media. Be true to yourself and you will realize this, we have now the most number of deaths due to heart attacks, strokes, and lifestyle diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure etc. Migraines, spinal cord issues, back pain are now so common. We are also the generation most in debt, that too from a young age as soon as we get that first job, the credit card companies are ready to offer you a card. 

This is not always because we lack self-control, we live in a world where we are hounded subconsciously with excess of things around and the ease of getting what you want. Just ask your grandparents or parents how and if they ever took a personal loan, how difficult it was back then? We do not even think twice, bankers come home, collect out documents and within hours transfer huge amounts of money to our bank accounts. All of us are surrounded by banks and credit card companies willing to give us credit, more than willing, they are tracking us down and hounding us to take this credit. I agree the convenience is awesome and feels empowering, until you need to pay back, and thus starts the never-ending cycle of loans and debts. It is scary, and what freaks me out is 90% of us do not realize what we are walking into. It is easy to say, you need to be smart, you need to not fall for these ads, it is not about being smart, we are subconsciously tuned to an EMI culture and today, if you wanted a luxury car, you could easily get a personal loan within a day or two have that sparkling new car in front of your house, we all have lost patience and the ability or thought process of being patient and saving up for something is almost extinct. Most of us realize or rather acknowledge our spending patterns only post the age of 30, by then you have accumulated enough debt to last for years. Think about this, when did changing a mobile phone every year become a thing? Why do we need to upgrade everything in life every few years? From the TV, to the furniture, to the appliances to our laptops, to our cars. Since when did expensive holidays become a need? 

We have been desensitized to spending, imagine if you are 35-40 yrs old right now, in college you probably spent 50 bucks (Indian rupee) on a movie, 30 bucks for the ticket and 20 bucks on popcorn, you watched it in a comfortable AC theatre with DTS sound, how and when did we transition to spending 500 bucks on a ticket and 400 bucks on popcorn and why the hell do we find it normal? It is crazy isn’t it? None of us questioned this, the multiplexes played into our psyche so well. I mean you can still make popcorn at 30 bucks at home, inflation cannot justify this, still we all accept it as normal and it is alarming. Past few years, there is awareness being created online and I am glad people are now waking up, with no-buy years and financial cleanses we can definitely give our spending patterns a shock and find the right balance to survive this mad world of consumerism. But still, there needs to be a mass awakening before it is too late and we end up the poorest retired generation begging on streets relying on government aid in our old age. 

Food is another marketed and well targeted addiction, making food cheaper, accessible with 24X7 delivery, fried, sweeter and crunchier and with zero nutrition. Morbid obesity is on the rise, and even seemingly slim people get heart attacks on treadmills, our food has been destroyed by corporations. I mean think about it, why the hell do we need vitamins added to our cooking oil? This is not about self control, or being health conscious, it is about the amount of temptations around us, after all we are humans. The kids channels are flooded with ads of noodles, pasta, chocolates, and so on. We are being sold ridiculous things under the name of healthy, apart from the obvious unhealthy fried stuff. Even stepping into the office cafeteria you find brands like Dominoes and McDonald’s, try browsing once for Pizza and watch your social media feeds flooded with suggested ads. People gulp down Coke and Pepsi like water and who really cooks all meals at home? I was one of those at one point in life, eating out everyday, and weekends ordering out and I am not saying we should all stop doing this. But we are acting like a deer in front of a car’s headlights, just stunned and we are blindly developing patterns of eating and spending tagging it as normal. Diabetes is not normal, High blood pressure should not be normal, back pain should not be part of a normal conversation with colleagues, there should be no pressure to buy the latest Iphone. I mean Iphone is the greatest example of excess, something that nobody needs but everybody wants and is ready to sleep on the street outside the Iphone store to be the first one to buy the latest model. If that phone falls and breaks it is as good as useless, because no one can afford to get it repaired. No offense to Iphone owners, if you can easily afford it go for it, but taking loans to buy something that adds absolutely no real value to your life is madness.

Health and fitness is another crazy, marketed business that has people getting injured and spending huge amounts of money to look cool. I do not believe BMI proves your health status, that is bull shit. If you feel healthy, you are healthy, John Abraham and Bipasha Basu are not the only examples of health, they cannot be the parameters to judge everyone’s fitness. Doing crossfit, running marathons, triathlons, Jujutsu are not definitions of being fit, the fitness craze has got everyone hooked. I have personally spent thousands on protein shakes and even performance enhancers to do extra workouts in the gym, I was going through a phase of fitness craze. I spent a lot on a personal trainer, a nutritionist, hours in the gym, extremely strict dieting and I was miserable, eventually an injury made me stop. See, the thing is I was doing all this because I thought I was unhealthy, when in fact I had no medical issues before that phase, I rejected my body and wanted to match a standard that was impossible, because I thought I was imperfect. Do not get me wrong, I know people who are genuinely dedicated to working out and eating healthy, but they are not miserable, they are doing it because they really enjoy it and they love themselves. I see too many people who are struggling with body image and are miserable, spending thousands or even more, maxing out their credit cards and eventually giving up. Nothing can replace patience, and there are no miracle results that last, yes you will lose those 10 kgs in 2 months, but gain more health issues than before and once you stop, you will be 20 kgs heavier because the weight comes back with a vengeance. Do not fall for anyone promising you quick results, you did not put on that weight in a day and you cannot lose it in a day, follow people who ask you for patience and not empty your bank balance in a minute. There is a way of sustained health without spending any money, and I have embarked on it. I hope to create more awareness as I move ahead on that path. Till then search for balance, not a miracle.

The list of industries and segments is never ending, the fashion and grooming industry, the love and marriage industry, marketing and targeted selling is slowly crossing boundaries we never imagined. To remain unaffected by the sheer amount of selling around us is near impossible,  and not many people are talking about it, I mean since when did this return gift trend start? I do not remember pestering my dad for money to buy expensive gifts for my friends, I remember saving up my pocket money and adjusting gifts within that budget. The fact is it all seems tiny and insignificant but this is how drop by drop our generation has been brainwashed into thinking normal about these spending patterns. The children today know no lack, they have nothing to draw a parallel to, and it is scary. Where are we headed as a society? Is this something that will eventually implode? Do you see the connection between this and rise in the number of suicides? Especially between ages of 16-25? When I speak to youngsters in this age group, they want to grow so fast, they want all the fame and money within 2 years of getting out of college and they are so disappointed when they have to face that nothing happens overnight, and sadly some of them end their lives. I was shocked when a fresher in my office in a first meeting asked me, what is the promotion cycle in this company? I was shocked, here is a youngster who has joined a week ago and instead of focusing on learning is worried about promotion.

Creating awareness, having more conversations, taking a pen and a notepad and writing down where in your life you see this pattern? Recognizing that these patterns are more addictive than cocaine and alcohol is important. Doctors have proven that some foods are indeed more addictive and destructive than drugs, as adults we can moderate but kids introduced to these foods cannot save themselves from the addiction. Identifying behaviors driven by media and marketing are important, do not be under the impression that you are smarter, trust me you will find subconscious patterns that will shock you. We all need to ask ourselves, despite so much ease and so much excess why are we still unhappy? Why are we still not at peace? What are we still searching for? Can we train our brains to stop and think do I really need this? One trick that has helped is, if I get that impulse to shop online, I spend the time online and add things to the cart and wait for a while, once that urge is satisfied I delete everything from the cart, because I never needed any of that to start with. I do the same with food cravings, I open Zomato or Swiggy I browse and add to the cart, wait for a minute and delete it all. I go to my kitchen and eat my dal rice with satisfaction and it is not really a struggle. Try it out, it is not whether you can afford it, it is asking yourself do I need it right now?

Everything that comes too easily has a price attached to it, doesn’t matter if it is a credit card, personal loan, designer clothes, fast food, fancy gym membership, or a crazy diet that promises you a flat tummy in 10 days, the price can be money and worse your health and mental balance. I hope we awaken sooner than later, this is no longer about personal choices or personal finances, the more citizens are sick and broke the more the government has to shell out, and it is all a tax payer’s hard-earned money, we cannot turn a blind eye to this any longer. The pandemic has truly provided us an opportunity to introspect, what actually adds value to life? We all have survived without a lot of things these past few months with ease and how many of us will continue looking for the real after this is all over? Can we separate need from want and can we train our children as well without giving excuses that it is normal? I was interested in a prediction made by an astrologer on Youtube, that we will eventually have two choices, first to stay in the system, with all the AI and government tracking, within the grid enjoying the benefits of technology and advancement, continuing the spending habits and sucked into the never-ending cycle of earning more and never having enough, the second would be to choose to live outside the grid, in small communities, self-sustained, having little but free from the vicious cycle of working for multinational corporations. What would you choose? 

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What travel means to me

Note: This post will take 12-14 mins to read, if you would prefer to listen instead, click here for the podcast version

With the current world situation, a lot of travel enthusiasts like me have been forced to stay home. Most of us have gone the longest without travel and it is starting to get bit uneasy. Why is travel so important to this generation than any before us? Our parents are ok with not travelling for long periods of time, in fact summer holidays were the one time in the year we used to travel as kids, and that too was mostly to our grandparent’s house or some years we never travelled at all as travel was expensive. Travel is even more expensive these days, but we give more importance to it and hence find ways to fund ourselves.  

Travel is the one expense I don’t feel is extravagant, it somehow seems like the call of an inner voice.  It may be a road trip with friends, with the music on high or a solo trip to a new country with my headphones on. Travel has enriched me as a person beyond expectation. Travel is no longer just visiting monuments and clicking pictures. Travel means immersing in the culture and expanding our limited mind. Travel challenges your mental limits, for example, how tolerant and broad minded are you? I thought I was a broad-minded person, until I landed in the Philippines and I realized, I was still judgmental. I was shocked with my own thoughts and reactions, I had to open my mind and really accept the culture. It was a rude awakening to my mind’s limit. I admired the all-inclusive mentality of the people there, it was liberating. The Philippines taught me acceptance of another person, no matter what their sexuality, orientation, food choices and diversity. The Philippines has a large number of transgenders and LGBT community members, and they are so seamlessly a part of the society, and for an outsider this is all a lot to grasp and open the mind in the true way. The local people’s food choices were a lot extreme for me, as I am a pure vegetarian and it was a challenge for me not to cringe while sharing a table with this exotic food (pork, beef, all kinds of birds, fish balls, chicks etc.), But this is the part that exposed to me how accepting I truly was, and it helped me evolve, to respect and totally accept another person’s way of life. Trust me you are not as broad minded as you think, not until you have travelled enough. The result was that I made some amazing friends and they showed me their city in their style. 

The joy of holding a paper map and exploring an unknown city is beyond words. This is something my travel to Singapore provided me. The city is well planned, and you can’t really get lost, although I did hop on to the metro and got off at the wrong station. But the independence to move was freeing, the use of public transport was so hassle free. The confidence that it built in me was amazing. I explored the whole city on my own, including the Singapore Zoo, the Night safari and Universal Studios. It was a first time alone in a theme park, but I sat on all rides, including the scariest of roller coasters. I could cut across long queues as a single rider, so that was a plus. It taught me I don’t need company all the time to do things I want to do, I can have fun alone and that is a major learning in itself. I did have a few days when my friends joined me and those were memorable as well. 

Happiness in whatever God has given you, that is something I saw in the people of Bhutan. The breathtaking scenary does not mask the hard life of the locals. The terrain is unforgiving as it is beautiful, but nowhere have I seen the smiles and ligt heartedness of the locals like there. They truly seem a satisfied lot. Our cab was turning a corner when a woman with a child suddenly tried crossing the road, in any other country or city this would have left the driver screaming at the woman and the woman screaming back, that is what we all expected in the backseat, instead to our surprise, both of them burst out laughing and went their ways. This may seem like a tiny incident, but it was a big lesson, in the rushing so called progressive mega cities, we have forgotten humanity. Rushing to office seems like a battle cry, and we take life so seriously. I don’t think this scenario is possible in our cities anymore. 

Coming from a country which was ruled by the Europeans (namely British) for a long long time, subconsciously for an Indian, we assume that Europeans are richer and more privileged than us and we believe only India deals with poverty. My eyes were opened when I travelled across Europe, when I saw there are poor and homeless even in the progressive nations. Money imbalance remains a global phenomenon, but for an Indian to see a homeless European with a board begging for money, is a cultural shock, I felt extra sad for the person. I don’t think many non-Indians will understand this, but this was another aspect of life I witnessed, something only travel could bring about, no media is going to showcase this, not in India at least. 

When I travelled to countries who have not yet heard the word “vegan” or “vegetarian”, I faced a new challenge, finding food. I never imagined I would have to think where I will get my next meal, when I see so many restaurants around. But I did face this dilemma, I was in a city which had no vegetarian restaurants, they didn’t even have salad on the menu. I had to scan through the only Chinese restaurant in that city and ordered plain boiled rice with blanched spinach. I have never felt so bad for myself ha ha , sitting there eating the only food I had to survive, it was something else. Survival skills in the 21st century when it comes to food, who would have thought. I learnt a small trick, so any vegans reading this, always remember, if you are in a country that does not have vegan food easily available, search for an Italian restaurant, they can easily whip up delicious vegan food without much of a hassle. 

Receiving help from kind strangers, we have always been taught to be self-reliant and in our day to day life, everything is in place and we have our schedules, the same places we visit, the same routes we take. We are not used to taking help from complete strangers, we may however have extended help. A few situations in foreign countries, I was touched with the act of kindness. I was at an airport, i had checked in and was waiting to board the flight and I had exhausted almost all the local currency in cash, I was thirsty and wanted to buy a bottle of water. I was 2 dollars or local currency short, and I was so thirsty, they did not accept my card as well. The woman behind me in the queue saw this and immediately paid the remaining amount. I thanked her whole heartedly and did feel a bit ashamed that I was short of cash. Accepting help gracefully is another lesson no book can teach. 

Another time, I didn’t have change for a locker at a museum, an elderly man watched me struggle and gladly lent me some coins. You must be wondering why is she always short of cash? ha ha guilty as charged, I shop like crazy. But on a serious note, dealing with currency calculations and understanding the economy of a new country is difficult. A bottle of water may cost Rs.30/- in India will cost 1200 Forint in Budapest. That is a lot of difference to wrap your head around in a day, isn’t it? You may be really good at math, but when you see a coin of 300 or 500 in a local currency, as opposed to seeing highest as 10 in your own currency.  

I observed with each new country I travelled, I matured, and my problem-solving skills improved. Because travelling can bring unexpected challenges that need your decision-making skills to be sharp and swift, along with common sense (which is really not that common). Let me share an example, I was travelling to Belgium, it was supposed to be a connecting flight from Bangalore to Paris and Paris to Brussels, what my travel agent forgot to mention was the Brussels airport was closed and the second flight mentioned in the ticket was in fact a train from Paris airport to Brussels. I found out thankfully when I asked a taxi to be sent to the Brussels airport to pick me up, the local agent told me it was a train. So here I am at the Paris airport, which is a monstrosity of an airport, it is too huge to describe and I am in the middle of a long queue for immigration. The queue right next to me for France nationals is so small and I really feel discriminated, but I am almost sure I will miss my train, because post immigration I had to locate the railway station in this monstrosity of an airport. I judge the number of people in front and behind, and then try my luck, there was an airport attendee manning the queue, I politely told him my problem and I didn’t believe he immediately let me to the front of the queue. My mother’s lesson, which I had finally put in practice, she always says, until you ask you won’t know, so you need to ask for help. I am so glad I did. Had I been shy, and polite and had spent time second guessing, I would have missed my train. 

It is not just foreign lands; domestic travel also opens a whole world for us. India is such a huge country, a lifetime will not be enough to explore it completely, every state has a new language, new culture, new food, new clothing, new arts & architecture, along with the conquerors and their heritage mixed with the local. Diversity needs to be experienced and not just read or taught in schools, our judgmental human nature is very stubborn and will not budge unless we place ourselves in these new and unknown situations. 

Travel is about stories of how silly you acted, how stupid sometimes you felt and how lost you were, that is what travel is all about. When I am old and repeating the same stories again and again to anyone who will listen, I want a bucket load of stories to share. What I shared today are a just a few of the many experiences travel has provided me, I now travel so well packed that I can survive in a remote island for a week, ha ha. You would have guessed I am not a light packer, but that is the fun in it all. Hopefully the world situation will change, and travel will be back on our agendas soon. Next time you travel, look out for such experiences, document them in a diary or in your mind and take the moment to absorb the lessons. Don’t be the tourist that litters the place or screams loudly and doesn’t care of the privacy of the locals, or someone whol falls off a cliff trying to take that perfect selfie ;-),respect the locals as they have allowed you into their space, and be a conscious traveler. Do not travel for social media, do not travel for perfect photos, travel for the right reasons, travel for the stories, travel for yourself.  

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Courage – hiding in plain sight

What is courage? A highly regarded and sought after virtue. We have heard numerous stories of courage from David & Goliath to our armed forces protecting our borders from terrorists. Courage has always been seen as something only a few brave people exhibited. Not everyone’s cup of tea, the brave few who act during times of crises and life threatening situations. The fire fighter who jumps into the fire to rescue a child or the rescue teams at Mt.Everest who risk their lives to save stranded tourists and climbers. All these are fine examples of courage and they are worthy of the salute.

But this pandemic has openend a new face of courage. Ordinary people have showed up for the human collective, and risking exposure to the virus everyday. They are not dying of bullets or missiles, but they are sacricifing themselves everyday. The hospital cleaning staff, the garbage collectors, the nurses and doctors, the mailmen, the milk man, the food and grocery delivery guys, the transport guys and drivers, the countless lab technicians working 18 hr shifts to test thousands of samples. Imagine the risk everytime the lab technician opens a blood sample. All this is happening in silence and shows us how we just cannot survive without each other, money doesnt matter, we need another human being to survive and thrive truely.

A poem recently caught my attention, Courage by Edgar Albert Guest

Courage isn’t a brilliant dash,
A daring deed in a moment’s flash;
It isn’t an instantaneous thing
Born of despair with a sudden spring
It isn’t a creature of flickered hope
Or the final tug at a slipping rope;
But it’s something deep in the soul of man
That is working always to serve some plan.

Courage isn’t the last resort
In the work of life or the game of sport;
It isn’t a thing that a man can call
At some future time when he’s apt to fall;
If he hasn’t it now, he will have it not
When the strain is great and the pace is hot.
For who would strive for a distant goal
Must always have courage within his soul.

Courage isn’t a dazzling light
That flashes and passes away from sight;
It’s a slow, unwavering, ingrained trait
With the patience to work and the strength to wait.
It’s part of a man when his skies are blue,
It’s part of him when he has work to do.
The brave man never is freed of it.
He has it when there is no need of it.

Courage was never designed for show;
It isn’t a thing that can come and go;
It’s written in victory and defeat
And every trial a man may meet.
It’s part of his hours, his days and his years,
Back of his smiles and behind his tears.
Courage is more than a daring deed:
It’s the breath of life and a strong man’s creed.
Edgar Albert Guest

This poem got me thinking, what is the real nature of courage? We exhibit it everyday actually without ever realizing. Personally, a very difficult health challenge showed me that courage is not limited to few heroic acts , courage is a constant, a part of one’s character, we seldom give ourselves the credit for it. As someone who knows physical pain too well, while listening to this poem being recited, it struck me that I have had courage all along, to manage pain and show up for work and make time for my passion of writing and podcasting. To have been patient with my health challenges and get out of bed on days I just didn’t want to , courage has always been there. Through various decisions and cross roads of life, courage has always been there, but it was never this obvious as I suddenly found it staring back at me. I studied in a school with the moto ” Dare & Do” and somewhere this was in my subconscious I think. And I started to identify courage in the people around me, so many many examples of tremendous courage in patience and endurance.

To excel with what has been given to you is courage

Pooja Damle

I think it is time courage is brought out of the golden drapes and out into daily life. Not all of us have courage in all aspects of life, but we have showcased it atleast once in life. I have seen a close friend, whose life was turned 360 degrees, in a matter of hours due to a rare medical condition and I have watched this person show extraordinary courage through his recovery. I would not have been able to do this, as gracefully as he did. Another close friend, who lost a life partner at a young age and is a single parent, not only survived but is thriving with tremendous courage. Showing by example that life can go on and can actually be turned around.

I want to acknowledge countless individuals sufferging from anxiety, depression, claustophobia etc. showing courage in the time of a lockdown, losing their external support systems. Trust me, for a person with claustrophobia, a simple elevator ride requires every ounce of will power. It goes unnoticed because noone understands the nature of the fears and the courage to surmount them.

Courage manifests in so many places, often times in not so obvious places. Courage needs to be recognized in the nooks and crannies of life. This needs to be cultivated in children, empowering them by showing its true side. The line from the poem Courage mentioned earlier, is so apt for the condition today. “It’s a slow, unwavering, ingrained trait, With the patience to work and the strength to wait“. Patience seems to be another manifestation of courage, patience for our bodies to heal, patience to mend broken relationships, patience for wars to end, and just at times patience to wait for the tides to turn in life. So many children in the world take growth hormone injections everyday for years , and some of them learn to take it themselves. Countless diabetes patients around the world take insulin injections every single day, all this is courage.

I want people to recognize courage in the not so obvious or taken for granted places and more importantly within themselves. Pat yourself on the back once in a while, praise yourself on the courage you have manifested in your life. Imagine an elobrate award ceremony red carpet event and give yourself that trophy. We are so wrapped up sometimes in our modesty that courage hides in plain sight. So think of the times in life you might have shown courage and not really given yourself due credit. Write it down and try and understand courage in your life. This is by no means to feed the ego or to get into a superiority contest. All of us have various degrees of challenges and if you compare your life challenges with another, there will always be someone more courageous than you. That is absolutely alright, but understanding our own inner strength, deepening our self respect and cultivating conscious living is the goal. Once you do this , you will start recognizing the courage within your own family, friends, neighbors, colleagues and a natural respect will develop towards them as well. Imagine a society that is so intune with each other’s challenges, now that would be a truely evolved universal consciousness. We may be far away from this, but we can start with ourselves, right now. A salute to the courage in all of you!

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Denial – more real than we realize

It is a bigger truth in our lives and more common than we think. We see it being repeated so many times around us that we almost always cannot recognize or call it out. I have been lately staring at a lot of these denial tendencies and excuses being thrown around. So, let us discuss denial today, see how to recognize it, and how to call it out? 

I would like to remind you, I am not a therapist or a medical professional. These are merely my observations and online research and most of it is my observation. If you feel you are dealing with denial and you need help, please seek out a professional who can guide you better. 

So, what is denial? Denying a situation or the gravity of a situation to avoid having to confront it and solve it. As humans we have developed a lot of defense mechanisms to survive the trauma and stressful situations. Denial initially occurs as a defense mechanism. As per a blog article by Mayo clinic “Refusing to acknowledge that something is wrong is a way of coping with emotional conflict, stress, painful thoughts, threatening information, and anxiety. You can be in denial about anything that makes you feel vulnerable or threatens your sense of control, such as an illness, addiction, eating disorder, personal violence, financial problems, or relationship conflicts. You can be in denial about something happening to you or to someone else.”

This is sometimes helpful, when you are facing trauma or need time to process some bad news or are undergoing some sort of abuse and need time to accept this is happening to you. And normal human beings eventually move out of denial on their own and act towards improving the situation or healing themselves. But denial can start hurting you when you let it get too far, and it starts becoming your alternate reality. Especially people stuck in denial for years on end. Patterns of behavior and non-action or complaining about a big pain point in life yet refusing to do anything about it. You might notice this in your friends and family, and I am hoping you can notice this within yourself too. This is not me sitting on a high chair judging everyone, I am not perfect, and I too have some denial patterns of my own. The objective is to explore this together, identify and act on it, and if you have people in denial about serious issues, at times life-threatening issues, how to help them out. 

Before you continue reading, think of the biggest pain point in your life. What is causing you misery right now? It could be a job, an illness, a relationship, anything. Good now that you have it noted, let’s move ahead. 

I have taken specific scenarios as examples, denial is not limited to these, but I have observed these in most people. People stuck in abusive relationships, men and women both suffer from abusive relationships. The abuse can be verbal, mental, emotional, or physical, all of which lead to some serious denial. Couples who have been together for so long that they find comfort in the misery rather than face the unknown. It reminds me of the saying the known devil is better than the unknown. 

Women with young children are especially vulnerable in abusive relationships and choose to stay in such relationships. You will be surprised that educated, financially independent women are the ones who choose to stay, so it is not just the financially dependent or uneducated lot. These women excel in their careers and are so good at supporting & advising their friends but choose to live in denial in their own relationships. Drives me to think, Why is misery so dear to us? Why is the comfort of the known so appealing and what kind of comfort is this where people accept physical violence and continue to live in denial.

You will notice that they may confide in close friends and complain about their situation, they may find someone who will listen, but they never act on any advice. Once they are done ranting, if you try giving them practical advice, you will hear 1001 reasons why they cannot act on changing their situation. What especially infuriates me is the favorite excuse of women “I have to stay for my child”. It infuriates me because they are using their children as a shield to continue living in denial. Do you really think an abusive partner can magically be the best parent? Do you think children do not understand? They watch your every move, they sense your every emotion and a child as young as 3 will know if his/her parents are fighting and if they witness violence, they are going to be emotionally scarred. You are exposing your child to mental and emotional trauma, this abusive spouse may treat your child well, but they are using the child as a bait to keep you in the relationship and they will continue using the child for selfish purposes. A person who has no compassion towards you as a human being is not fit to be a parent. Stop fooling yourself into thinking you are sacrificing yourself for your child by staying, the society has already placed mothers on a pedestal and set unrealistic expectations from them, why are you adding some more? You are not Gandhi or Mandela, showing your child that self-respect, dignity, and courage are more important than the money, house and a fancy car that your spouse may own is the raw deal of being a good mother.

Where does denial stem from? What is the raw emotion below this? It is Fear. Fear of change, fear of shame, fear of rejection from society, and at times fear of success. What will people say? People will ask questions, or what if I leave this person and end up meeting a decent person who respects me? How will I react to that? Fear of dying alone is another reason, what if I never find anyone else? What if I end up alone? Yes, this is a fear and this thought does cross my mind as well and am sure many of you have had this thought. But some people just cannot be alone, they cannot stay alone, they cannot fall asleep if they are alone at home, their fear of being alone is so high that they are willing to accept the denial and continue watering a dead plant. When you walk out of an abusive relationship, yes, it is a possibility you may not find another person, but that is not a reason to continue to stifle your soul. Start enjoying your own company, it is difficult in the beginning but soon you will discover you are an interesting person. If you do not enjoy your own company, how do you expect someone else to enjoy your company? I have traveled to many countries as a solo traveler, and I have thoroughly enjoyed all the experiences. I made new friends, I learned new cultures, I met kind strangers, and I enjoyed nature in my own company.

The other emotion mixed with this is Hope, maybe this person will change one day, so I should stick out, he will eventually realize his mistake and love me dearly… WAKE UP, if a person can beat the crap out of you without remorse he will never change, if a person can skillfully manipulate you and leave you feeling worthless & unvalued every time, they will not magically change.

There is a fine line between forgiveness and denial.

Janet Rebhan

Think about this quote, are you acting on the virtue of forgiveness or using it as a mask for denial.

Going beyond the fears that hold you back is life. If we let our fears paralyze us, we will stop living. No one solution fits all and walking out may not be an option right now for you, and I totally understand. Seek help, confide in people but be ready to follow their advice, if you are in a grave situation and fear for your life or sanity, seek out professional help, seek out a therapist or a lawyer and weigh your options, start setting aside some money that your partner is not aware of, have a plan of escape if things escalate, identify a safe place your partner will not reach and stock some essentials there, it could be a friend your partner doesn’t know about. 

Plan for working on the situation one step at a time but stop living in denial. Stop accepting the abuse, stop normalizing the abuse. I know a few brave women who have taken bold steps, these are single working mothers who are slogging day and night to improve their situation. I call them brave because they had the guts to call a dead cat, a dead cat, no more denial. They have risen above their fears. I have heard another excuse, it is easier for people in the US than in India, society is to blame. Trust me it is not easier because it is the US, the questions of society will never change. Some of these women even have parents who are in denial, their daughter needs to be in a perfect marriage for society so they downplay their own daughter’s misery and pain. These brave women have no support from their own parents, it’s crushing but these women are putting up brave smiles for their kids and eventually they will rise like the phoenix. Proud that they had self-respect, they chose the right path for themselves and their children. Again, I will reiterate, there is no one solution fits all, walking out may not be an option for all, but having an honest conversation with yourself, whether you are a woman or a man caught in a toxic relationship is imperative.

Moving now to some lighter examples, the same applies to a job or a passion project. If that job makes you unhappy, grumpy, sad, or depressed please find another job or just quit. Staying there for years on end will manifest lower back pain, neck pain, sciatica any kind of illness where your body rebels against the misery. If you are passionate about photography, then only buying expensive cameras and lenses is not enough. You will need to make time for the course, make time for clicking those pics and photoshopping them, and make it a priority, stop blaming the world for not letting you be a great photographer. If you are blaming the world for your failure, look again, maybe photography is not something you are passionate about and you are sticking onto it out of fear of ridicule. Just be honest, if it is not something that motivates you, sell your equipment and find a new passion.

Working your way out of denial has nothing to do with Will power, that word has been misused I feel. Dig deep and find the real reason behind the procrastination and once you face that all your excuses will fall away and you will not need will power, your heart’s passion will fuel you.

Nobody is perfect, and you are the best judge of your situation and your life. Learn to own up to it. Most of these fears are monsters of our imagination and the reality might be a lot more encouraging.

Let us take another example, this time romance, how many of you singles out there, at this moment have a huge crush on someone? And the other person has no clue? You may have known this person through work or as acquaintances or common friends or neighbors, you may have known them for months and you have kind of dropped signals that you like them. Now how many excuses do you have ready for not asking them out on a date? Age does not matter, you maybe 18 or 68, yet you will have innovative excuses lined up as you are reading this. Fear of rejection is a big scary fear, I agree, but your denial of these feelings will end up costing you a prospective relationship. Your friends know you have genuine feelings for someone, and they may be telling you to go ahead and ask this person out, but you give a bucket load of excuses to your friends and convince yourself that non-action is the way to go. Let us see some practical ways of thinking that can help you, ask yourself what are the various ways this could play out? What is the best outcome and what is the worst that can happen? 

Scenario 1. This person might turn down your date, no big deal, respect their choice, respect yourself to know it is not your fault, and walk away. Feel bad for a few days and then move on. 

Scenario 2. This person agrees to go on a date, but you realize by the end of it that they are not as smart as they look and your illusion of a crush is literally crushed, ha ha, been there done that, some people are attractive until they open their mouth, then you wish they had never spoken. No big deal, politely tell them this won’t work out, and move on.

Scenario 3. Both of you enjoy the conversations and the date goes well. You start seeing each other, few months or a year down the line for some reason, this doesn’t work out. That is absolutely alright, you would have learned a lot about yourself through this relationship than any book can teach. Process your grief and move on. 

Scenario 4: the best case one, you both realize that you are perfect for each other after a host of conversations both of you know you have found the one and you can progress with this new partner

How much importance does your fear of rejection have now? If your subconscious is nudging you to ask this person out, please act on it. One disclaimer though do not keep conditions that this should work out. If you lay out a few scenarios, be prepared for any of these to play out, and be mature enough to accept them all. Balancing your expectations while holding onto hope is a tight rope walk and that is what maturity is all about. It is an acquired life skill, life is never a straight-line trending upwards. Situations we cannot phantom occur overnight, we all are living this with the lockdown, who would have imagined waking up in this new reality but we did. Humans are extremely adaptive creatures, trust your instincts you will survive, we cannot be prepared for everything, but this exercise of playing out scenarios in your head for any situation helps a lot to curb the fears.

Balancing your expectations while holding onto hope is a tight rope walk and that is what maturity is all about.

Pooja Damle

Now how to deal with a friend or family going through denial. Take stock of their situation, if they are in the early stages of denial, be patient listeners and they will eventually come to their own conclusions and take action. But if you notice for years and years, they are using excuses and using you only to vent frustration, there are two things you can do, but be prepared you may lose the relationship.

Because this friend is not going to like when you hold up the mirror, so be gentle yet firm. Listen to their usual rant, then slowly start introducing practical steps, they will immediately launch their laundry list of excuses, patiently shoot down the excuses one at a time. It may take several conversations but the nudging will bring in a ray of hope. But this demands a lot of investment from your end and be prepared that they will come full circle and still choose to live in denial, do not get frustrated. I know it is easier said than done, I have been driven up the wall so many times with such people. Persistence is the key.

If you feel you do not have the time or resources to help them this way, if they are draining your energy and leave you feeling frustrated, step back, and be practical. You cannot wake a person who is pretending to be asleep. Understand that personal karma cannot be shared, you may want to help them desperately, but you cannot risk being pulled down. Accept the fact that this person will have to fend for themselves, you cannot be their venting space anymore. Try putting down timelines or boundaries, this may not work as I have observed, you can be as raw and to the face to them, but they have been living in denial for so long that, after a week, they will call you and talk about the same stuff, ignoring the last raw conversation completely. Do yourself a favor and step back, continue being a good friend from a distance and pray for them. If they ask you for advice, point them to a professional therapist, that is the best thing to do.

Everyone is on their life journey and we are not meant to help everyone, it must be destined. I hope this article has sparked a bit of contemplation, this subject is too vast to cover in one article and too big to delve into all the examples. Sit down and have that honest conversation with yourself, are you procrastinating due to patterns of denial? If so, what is the base emotion or fear? Is the fear as big as you are painting it to be? What can be the possible outcomes if you decide to step out of this? What is the next right step for you? Do you need to ask for help? Trust me your emotional intelligence knows a lot more and you will find your answers. Evolving ourselves to a higher version is the ultimate goal, it is not about winning or losing, it is beyond the usual parameters of success and failure. 

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Nothing loved is ever lost

This is the first in a series of articles I am writing on Loss. Loss is an integral part of our lives and loss can be of anything, physical, emotional, financial, career, or death. But all loss is followed by grief, it is what I call the “Loss-Grief-Learn cycle“. We all hate the learn part, don’t we? why can’t learning be with something happier? Why does true learning only happen when we go through a crisis?  Every loss I believe peels away layers of our psyche forcing us to face the rawness beneath and thus evolve. I am not going to romanticize learning here, or make it sound godly, I just want to share my perspective on how organic it can be.

Loss of a pet is one of the worst losses and not to be compared with other losses. I recently lost my dog of 17 years last September, he was old, in a lot of pain and had been suffering for over a year due to old age. Even then the loss was unbearable. You will not see my family or me wailing and crying or depressed as life needs to go on, but the internal devastation is just that a devastation. I will be mentioning dog here as that is how I relate to this loss, but please consider this for any pet animal (cats, birds, rabbits, fishes anything).

Once you have known the love of a dog, nothing else will compare.

Pooja Damle

For all those who have never experienced any personal connection with an animal, please stop trying to understand this loss. You cannot understand it and it is ok, I will be sharing a few do’s and don’ts if you are trying to console a friend who is experiencing this loss. Trust me, even if you consider yourself an animal lover, if you have not connected with an animal on a personal day-to-day basis, it is difficult to understand this loss.

So here goes to all the non-animal people:

  • DO NOT under any circumstances say, “Why don’t you get another dog?” It is cruel and hurtful.
  • DO NOT make it a competition of grief. Let me share an example, we had decided to cremate my dog in an electric crematorium, and I was naïve enough to share my painful experience with a co-worker. I was describing the pain I felt watching my dog’s body move into the cremation machine, I had just finished this sentence, when he asked me “Have you watched a human body being cremated, it is worse?”. This well-meaning person had invalidated my grief in one sentence. I smiled and move away.
  • Loss of a human being and loss of an animal are very different, none is superior to the other and comparing the levels of grief is illogical and insensitive. Stop drawing stupid parallels, practice compassionate listening. You need not understand, at least listen quietly and nod, that is more than enough.

Coming now to the pet owners:

  • STOP sharing your feelings or grief with people who do not get it, the one’s mentioned above.
  • FIND other pet owners who have suffered this loss, even strangers can provide you more emotional support that friends who are well meaning but don’t get it.
  • JOIN online support groups, create one if you have none, watch videos and read blogs that will make you feel that you are not alone. While other people may be forcing you to move on quickly, take your time.
  • DO not rush out and buy another pet, give yourself time and permission to grieve
  • Take days off work if you need to, allow yourself to grieve
  • DO NOT expect anyone else to understand or respect your loss.
  • Give away toys, food bowls and leashes immediately, keep one thing as a remembrance. I have kept his collar, looking at his empty food bowl was too crushing, I gave away everything to a dog shelter the very next day.
  • Have your own mourning ceremony, invite people who will empathize, or just do it for yourself/family. We went to a nearby town called Srirangapatna, and immersed his ashes in the holy Cauvery river, it was a beautiful day.
  • If it is too painful to look at the pictures, remove all pictures for a while, you can hang a photo of your pet when you are ready.
  • If you had to make the tough decision to let them go, forgive yourself, you did this to end their suffering, you were the only one who understood the physical pain and suffering your dog was going through. Trust me dogs hang on for their humans, even when they are suffering and if your doctor agrees, letting them go will be the most soul crushing decision but the right one, and you will survive it.

My dog was connected to me on a psychic plane, he gave me unconditional love till his last day. I do not remember a single day he was in a bad mood. In his last days/months, he had hip displacement, painful arthritis, cataract in both eyes, mild but progressing dementia and he would have peeing episodes within the house as he was losing bladder control, that dog was on so many medicines, his tooth were also decaying, but he never missed to wag his tail and lick my face when I came back home from office. Dogs cannot pretend, they only know to give love. He was ok with me more than I was accepting of myself, in his eyes I was perfect. Did not matter what I wore, if I showered or no, if I had make-up on or no, if I was a good person or a serial killer, nothing would have mattered to him. Imagine experiencing this kind of love.

I look back at sweet memories, he would love getting the first serving of the prasad or food offering to god after prayers. He would sit patiently next to the alter, waiting for the prayers to end and for him to get his share. He would make us laugh and giggle by being silly. I miss waking up and saying, “Good Morning Rishi” or checking on him before bed “Good night mani mau”. At times I still ask mom, as soon as I wake up, where is Rishi? He loved listening to me chanting mantras, no matter where he was inside the house, he would come and sit next to me the moment I started to chant Sri Lalithasahasranam, this takes 30-40 mins and he would not budge till the end. He attended all our rituals and havans/fire obligations at home.

He was aware of a lot more than we knew, when he was younger, his ears would stand straight upon hearing ice cream or biscuits, at times we had to spell these to avoid him hearing ha ha. He was a 35 kg, double coat, long & tall male German shepherd, but a gentle giant. Anyone who met him even once fell in love with him, right from the neighbors, their kids, his doctor, our maid just everyone. Last few years of his life, we celebrated his birthday with small parties, he would enjoy eating his cake and watching the kids dance.

Out of all losses in my life till now, nothing shook my core like this one. We knew his time was near, we knew his pain was unbearable, and he is now free from his physical suffering, but no matter how much you try you are never prepared enough. This loss ripped out the remaining paper off my psyche, life will never be the same nor will I. This is not a statement from a depressed or hopeless place, rather a fact of my new reality.

Animals feel loss too:

I think animals handle loss much better than us, because they are wired to live in the now. We see so many videos of dogs/cats/horses mourning the death of their human owners, or how the wild elephant herd mourns the death of a member. So, we know that they do grieve, they feel the loss and they express it as well. But how do they cope with it? They do not have a glass of wine or visit a therapist or go on a shopping spree or join the most expensive gym. How do they get over the grief?

After my dog passed away, I started feeding the stray cats in my neighborhood. There was a mother cat, who had two adorable white & black kittens. I named them Hansel & Gretel, though both are males. They would come everyday morning and evening and meow out loudly to ask for food. Then they would hang around for sometime and leave. Both grew into handsome male cats, but their brotherly bond was endearing. I would often find them laying close to each other in the afternoon sun.

The more white cat is Hansel and the one on top is Gretel

One of the brothers, the bigger stronger one,Hansel , suddenly disappeared. Feral cats move around, and we cannot track them, but we went searching for him and he was never found. He either ran away and got lost or was killed in an accident, we will never know. The other cat mourned him for days, he would sit outside my door and cry and refused to eat. He became so thin, and sad, all he wanted was someone to comfort him. I would sit with him and talk to him and pet him, but he was in deep distress. There was nothing else I could do for him. Slowly as the weeks past, he bounced back, started eating, and putting on weight. Now I see a more confident cat, who loves chasing squirrels and birds and still visits me everyday for food and petting. I wish I could have a conversation with this cat over a bowl of milk, ask him what he did to process his grief? Does he still remember his brother or did the angels wipe out his memory? Or he just prefers to stay in the present?

We brought our dog home when he was just 35 days old and the cutest puppy I have ever seen till now. He stayed with us for as long as he could, maybe he is up there waiting for me to join him, I would go were all dogs go after they die, that would definitely be heaven.

Hope you find some comfort in the write-up, whether it was a recent loss or years ago, please share your stories and experiences with your pets, I would love to read.Leaving you with the image of the cutest puppy I bet you will ever see.

Rishi at 35 days old, December 2003
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DECLUTTERING – MIND, BODY, SPIRIT THROUGH SPACE

With the lockdown, a lot of us are decluttering our homes, with the extra time at our hands. Decluttering in the traditional sense means removing unwanted things from one’s physical surroundings. We give away what is not needed and throw out the old to make space for the new. In Indian culture, we are encouraged to declutter around certain festival months to give it a community feeling (Sankranti/Pongal/Diwali etc.), to unconsciously instill the habit of decluttering.

Like most of you, for me decluttering meant a superficial activity, where I would choose a day, play loud music and absent mindedly sort my clothes, books, shoes etc., and find excuses not to part with things. I would end up cleaning and rearranging them, not so much of giving away😉, especially books. All this was mechanical, and I never imagined that this activity could be much more powerful on a psychological and energy level when approached in the right way. This was until I stumbled upon the Konmari method on YouTube, created by Marie Kondo, a Japanese organizing and decluttering expert. Yes, you read it right, she is an expert on organizing things and decluttering, who could imagine that could be a career right? She has her own TV show, books and Udemy course. I read her book “the life-changing magic of tidying up” and it opened a whole new dimension to me, I never knew existed.

I will try to share few key points of this method and most importantly how it directly affected my life.Marie Kondo is not sponsoring this, I must put it out there, I secretly wish she would though.

We might have read or heard that things carry memories, emotions and energy of the owner. That old shawl belonging to your grandmother, that tea set your mom cherished and then handed over to you, that tie that belonged to your father, are all good examples. Now imagine you are visiting your parents in the house you grew up in and in your old room you find a box stashed with your old toys, books- your favorite doll, some WWE cards, a small car etc. and when you hold these in your hands and smell them , you unconsciously close your eyes, at that point do you only see the memories flashing? Or do you also feel the emotions as a child playing with these toys? This is all the proof you need that things carry our energy & emotions intact.

When we hoard things and our personal space is crammed with things and books and clothing and shoes, it clutters our mind, body and spirit as well. Decluttering as an activity should be done not only for the physical aesthetic but for our internal health as well. I know what you are thinking – Pooja always converts everything into psychology and spirituality, how can decluttering impact my life? I have done it so many times over the years and nothing changes? All valid questions, and before you conclude this is all made-up humbug, spare a few more minutes to read this till the end as I now share my personal experience.

3.5 years ago, I was in a bad place in life, I was still recovering from my second knee surgery and dealing with pain and life felt like it was stuck. I was not inspired to do anything and apart from work and home l had nothing else going for me. Life was going in circles and though I had a stable job and a nice home, my mom and dog were with me, nothing seemed to be moving forward. It is then that I watched videos and read the book on Konmari method. Her approach intrigued me, I had a lot of stuff at home and boxes that had been sent over from my hometown as well. I decided to try it out and got mom onboard with it. I am sharing below few key points of her method:

  1. Start by greeting your house, sit on the floor, close your eyes and ask the house permission and help in this exercise. In India we consider each house as a living deity, the Vaastu Purusha who resides and takes care of the residents of the house.
  2. Start decluttering in categories, like books, clothes, shoes, kitchen etc.
  3. When deciding what to keep, only ask “Does this spark joy?”. Not “can this be used 5 more times?”, only does this spark joy? Give attention to the feeling do not use logic while sorting

So, I started by bringing out all clothes I owned and piling them on the floor, all of them, from the closet, from the laundry, from everywhere in the house. The pile blew my mind, it was a mini mountain, how the hell did I own so many clothes? Then I picked each piece of clothing in my hand and asked myself does this spark joy? If the answer was no, the clothing was rejected. I had to fight the urge, to keep stuff because it was brand new, worn only once, or gifted by a loved one. Then from the rejected pile, I sorted which ones to donate, gift or throw.

Addressing all my male readers, don’t give an excuse that this is applicable to the ladies alone, I know you have loads of clothes too and that favorite T-shirt with holes hidden somewhere from your mom/wife ha ha.. Don’t worry you have a valid answer to continue holding on it, it sparks joy 😊. Jokes apart, this needs to be done by everyone for their own items, don’t involve your parents or spouse in the decision to keep or throw your items.

Moving now to books, which are the hardest category, the method says- keep books you would want in your hall of fame, maybe classics or favorite books, the books you haven’t read in ages, trust me you will never read them, so they need to go. If you really like a book, you will devour it as soon as it lands in your hands, all the book nerd will agree with me 😊.

Next came the photos and old documents and copies, mom and I were so engrossed in the exercise, one day we looked at the clock to realize it was 2 AM already. The whole exercise for the house took 10 -15 days, it is an intensive process to complete any sooner. We noticed something odd, our stomachs were cleansing on their own, we were visiting the toilet frequently and as the categories were being dealt with our bodies felt better. Marie mentions this in her book that some people feel it this way that the digestive system reacts and cleanses the colons. It was fascinating as we had not changed anything in out food or lifestyle. I cannot describe the feelings of relief we experienced at the end of this exercise. My mind felt calmer and clearer, a weight had been lifted on my heart and I started getting inspiration to the next right thing in life. We also surprised ourselves that we were able to let go of so many items.

The most emotionally impactful were my expensive lehenga, sarees, and some artificial jewelry from my wedding, after the divorce these things just lay at home. I couldn’t donate them to the poor in an orphanage, some people said they are such expensive clothes, why don’t you repurpose and use them. But the emotions every time I touched or looked at them were too painful. They did not spark joy and I knew I had to give them away. I found a wonderful organization called Goonj, they create wedding kits for brides from poor families. This was the perfect way to do justice to these items, I had them dry cleaned and packed them nicely and prayed that the bride they reach should get a lot of joy and happiness from wearing them and bless her new beginning. It was a beautiful release of these emotions and I felt lighter and happier already.

I also had some fun with this exercise, I handpicked books I had read and enjoyed but didn’t want to keep, clicked nice pics and shared on WhatsApp with my friends and colleagues. It was my mini garage sale, and I sold the books at nominal rates. The reason I didn’t just give them away, was when I put a price, people only picked books they wanted to read. It was super fun, it wasn’t about the money, it was the delight in the tiny activities 😊. I encourage you all to watch the videos and read Marie’s book, try this method at least once in life, it did create an impact on mine. Another thing I noticed was a change in my buying behavior, when I now buy clothes or any other stuff, I really ask myself, does this spark joy? I am not perfect at it and I still end up with stuff I don’t need, but I am much more conscious of what I bring home. This decluttering is not a one-time activity, in our lives we will accumulate stuff and at least once a year need to embark on this mission.

The second part of this whole exercise was organizing, and this was fun too. Finding places for each item to be kept, learning to organize my documents, getting cute organizational baskets, boxes and DIY organizers as well. Ensuring every item has its home, so you find it easily and items stay in good condition for longer. I sometimes felt like Monica from Friends, especially when I started labeling things ha ha ha, it is oddly satisfying 😉.

After the whole experience, I was drawn to learning Tarot and a lot of things made headway like a domino effect. I joined Marie’s course on Udemy for a while thought this could also be a good career option, but I stuck to energy work which is where my joy resides.

Try it out and make it fun, involve your entire family, go by the rules, approach each category in the order she mentions and observe how this affects you personally. Hold a small garage sale with your own friends and family online, they can pick it up post the lock-down. Spark Joy in life and share your experiences with me, would love to hear and share more on this topic.

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“To be loved means to be recognized as existing”- Thich Nhat Hann

I was browsing videos on YouTube and came across an old interview of the Buddhist monk, author – Thich Nhat Hann by Oprah. A couple of points hit home for me and I thought I should share with all of you. First one was “Deep compassionate listening”, we might have heard this question “Are you hearing or listening to someone?”, there is a lot of difference between these two actions. I was under the impression that I knew what listening meant, as I have been trying to practice conscious listening, but after watching this video, I realized that my understanding and practice was only on an intellectual level. So, what does deep compassionate listening really mean? I believe it means listening through all your senses, not just ingesting the words through the ears, but to feel the energy being portrayed, watch the body language, understand and look beyond the veil being held. Sometimes what people say and what they mean are total opposites. Most of them hide their true feelings and only show you the tip of an iceberg.

Now how to practice this? My interpretation is by being in the present totally, not in the past or in the future, not silently judging the words being heard, not conjuring up advice to share, just mindfully and sincerely be still and act as a vessel catching whatever is being shared. You do not have to advice the person right away, let the person feel comfortable, share whatever he/she wants to pour out, let them trust enough to start opening their heart. You will have plenty of chances to advice later.

A word of caution here, ensure you do not get so involved in the suffering being shared that you get depressed or drained of energy. This is the fine balance of being totally present but not involved. Being like a lotus flower, in the pond but the water droplets cannot stick to it. It sounds magical and almost mystical, impossible at times. This has really peeked my interest, how nice it would be to attain that stage, to be able to listen deeply but not get involved. Have you ever felt this or attained this state? Please share, I would love to hear your stories and experiences.

Thich Nhat Hhan further shares four mantras for personal relationships, which I found absolutely wonderful and simple to use. He calls them mantras but they are plain simple words that can be translated to any language.

  1. “Darling I am here for you” – The best thing you can gift your beloved is your presence. Your total presence, not being preoccupied with the past or future or your phone. Isn’t that simple and wonderful? To tell someone you are there for them. And this is not limited to husband-wife or romantic relations, this can mean parents, siblings, friends, kids and even pets.
  2. “Darling I know you are there, I am so happy that you are truly here and present”- what he mentions next is the crux of this “To be loved means to be recognized as existing”. Most of us take our loved ones for granted, after a while they are blurring backgrounds of our lives. Especially mothers & wives, who are constantly working for the house and we know they are important, we love them and respect them but hardly ever acknowledge their presence. Just saying I love you means nothing if actions don’t follow suit. Hug your loved one today and be present for them, see the magic unfold.
  3. When your beloved is suffering “Darling I know you are suffering and that is why I am there for you”- Acknowledging that he/she is suffering and that you are there will help relieve some of it already.
  4. The last one is difficult and challenging, when you have been hurt by that loved one, and you are upset and angry with them and want to punish them for hurting you, go back to them and say “ Darling I am suffering, I am hurt, please help me”. Having the honest conversation that he/she hurt you and involving them in finding a solution. It sounds wonderful but I am sure when anger and hurt are mixed and a splash of ego is added, this will seem impossible. How do we try this out? Maybe once we calm down, we set aside the ego and give this a try, if not for anything but testing this out.

When it comes to love, compassion, forgiveness etc. these words have been used way too many times and no one knows the day to day translation of these emotions and values. These four mantras seem simple and straight forward. Simplicity is the key to allow subtle changes to transform us, remember to say these out aloud, be sincere while saying them and follow through with action otherwise this amounts to nothing.

With the world currently in lockdown and the next few weeks and months forcing families to stay under one roof day in and day out, I hope this will help reduce the stress, defuse the tension, bring a smile, some laughter and better yet completely revitalize atmospheres within homes. Let us emerge as better human beings after this crisis tides over.

Photocredit- My best friend, Dr.Ramya Darshini, this was taken on my trip to NZ, literally traveled to the end of earth, paradise indeed :-).
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The blissful tears of spiritual ecstasy

Very few people know how it feels to cry in bhakti, the euphoric tears of the few rare seconds one merges with the almighty source during meditation. The sense of relief and release from this vital body, the few moments one relates as a soul rather than the physical identity, the few moments one feels deeply the pricks of separation one has been living so far and the ecstasy of merging with the supreme, Param Atma. In meditations like these, one either doesn’t want to come back or awaken or cannot bear physically the ecstasy and hence is forced to come back. Now the question remains, come back to what? To Maya or reality? What do you call what we are living now, is this reality at all?

Yesterday was Mahashivratri, the night of potent energy to find the Shiva tattva, and I was blessed to experience few such moments of bliss. I am grateful to Sri Siva Premanandji, from whom I have learned a lot about Sri Vidya and Shiva Tattva. He was conducting a live stream session, guided chanting followed by small spans of silent meditation. And during this I felt it again, and I was so deeply in bliss that when he announced, please open your eyes, I just couldn’t get myself to do so. I didn’t want to come back, he joked to the audience in front of him (I was at home listening to the live stream) that few people don’t want to come back to the now reality, but please do. To tell you the truth that state felt more real than anything else, eyes closed, tears bursting down my cheeks, I could feel the lord holding my hands.

These are spiritual teasers for the soul, the divine poking at one’s subconscious soul ever so gently, nudging in the right direction. The few moments when the veil is lifted and we lose our earthly identity. When I was young, I would get flashes of awareness that I was not Pooja, I was not this identity and I would tell my mom that I can separate this identity and it was not the real me. I didn’t have the words to articulate nor the depth to understand what it really meant. My mother would patiently listen to me and I was just happy to be heard :-).

Why am I sharing all this? They say one should not talk about one’s spiritual experiences as most people will not understand. I am aware of this and the idea is not to make someone understand this exact experience or to gloat my spiritual tendencies, or to show superiority over others. It is sad that many people use this to flaunt and dominate others and this has made people doubt the authenticity of such an experience, calling it imagination and falsehood. My sincere effort is to let people know that an ordinary person can also experience this, and that everyone should try to meditate, should aspire either by chanting or sitting in silence or walking meditation anything that rings your bell and this is not restricted to a religion or a god, this is beyond. So when your soul calls don’t drown it in Netflix but indulge it in some meditation. I would love to hear your experiences.

At times, I have been asked to do spiritual practice on behalf of someone and pass them the blessings because we are related as family or friends, and it deeply hurts me, unless you are an infant or seriously ill, this is an unethical ask. God seeks the seeker and Maya Devi wraps up the pretender that is how it works. Most people get lost in clever arguments and get nothing out of conversations, try and stay away from them. It takes many births to be gifted a human body, and many blessings to get the gift of education and ability to perceive. We are more blessed than we realize.

Verse from Isha Upanishad

 पूर्णमदः पूर्णमिदं पूर्णात्पुर्णमुदच्यते
पूर्णश्य पूर्णमादाय पूर्णमेवावशिष्यते 
 शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः 

Om Puurnnam-Adah Puurnnam-Idam Puurnnaat-Purnnam-Udacyate
Puurnnashya Puurnnam-Aadaaya Puurnnam-Eva-Avashissyate ||
Om Shaantih Shaantih Shaantih ||

                                                   Meaning

“This is complete, that is complete, from completeness comes completeness, when completeness is added or subtracted, it still remains complete” – interpretation by Devadutta Patnaik, in his book My Gita.

We are all the seed that holds the entire tree within, after shedding the seed, the tree is not any lesser & still remains a tree. Our soul is the seed and universal consciousness is the tree. We all can choose the paths we want to walk back to this tree, the important thing is to start the journey.

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Waves of Gratitude

Sipping my cup of afternoon tea, standing by the french window in my dining room and looking out at my small back garden. The orange sun setting in the west, peeking through the trees, nodding a silent goodbye. On the fence wall among the creepers, I can see a squirrel glancing at me with curiosity before scampering away in a hurry and two red whiskered bulbul birds, perched on the barbed wire, at ease and peaceful as the day draws to an end.

A butterfly flutters in suddenly and sits on the ground in front as if to say, hey look at me, I am here too. My small garden with a handful of potted plants, is just starting to bloom as spring begins. Among them, a white rose has greeted me today, a beautiful valentine’s day present. A red hibiscus flower stands tall and pretty, next to a bunch of pink bud roses, saying hello. A few sly lizards are crawling away at a distance and a tiny beetle crosses the garden pathway onto the soil.

I take another sip of my hot tea, and suddenly feel a wave rising within. A wave of gratitude, it lashes over me as I take in this picture-perfect moment. I realize, it is not the everything that counts, it is these small fleeting moments of calm and existence that count. Moments that make me fall in love with my life right now, at this very moment, as it is. Yes, for a second there I do wish I had a partner standing next to me sipping tea and sharing this moment, but then I think, there goes my mind again trying desperately to focus on what is missing. The big battle we all deal with every day.

I take in a deep breadth dismissing this thought, I step into my garden and smile, feeling the love around, letting gratitude overflow, Thank you God for this moment today. Life is what is happening right now, love is what is happening right now, romance is what is happening right now, all around. Happy Valentines day 😊, Isn’t this the true essence of this day? This magic that surrounds us all? In that moment, I forget my pain, my losses, my stresses, and most importantly I forget what I want that I don’t currently possess…. Powerful, this wave that hit me, I take in the love, sip my afternoon tea and smile like an 8-year-old in a toy shop.

I am aware this moment will pass, I am aware as a human I am programmed to fall back into those ways of thinking, but I am thankful that God will plant more such moments in my path, to pull me into the rain of grace and mercy that is always raining, it is we who hold the umbrella unconsciously. This is his unconditional love for us, the universe’s complete acceptance of us, let us all stop and feel these moments when they happen. You cannot plan them, but you can stop and live them. Happy Valentine’s Day 😊

Gratitude turns what we have into enough

Random Pinterest quotes
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Sensing Energies – The unsung super power

Photocredit- Madhumithaa (a dear childhood friend)

Throughout life I have been fascinated by energy, not in terms of physics or mathematics, more so in terms of its existence around us and within us. Growing up as a Pisces kid, feeling and sensing the energy drama around me was second nature. Albeit it took me 33 years to start understanding what I was feeling and sensing. It was a superpower I didn’t know I possessed, I wished as a kid someone had told me what it was and how I could cultivate it.

The term usually given to a person like this is Empath. A person who can sense, feel energies in and around him/her that others may not pick up, understand intentions and sometimes predict outcomes. The downside to this superpower is that if left unprotected, one can end up feeling drained (mentally, emotionally and physically) as empaths can pick up on other’s emotions, intentions, pain, fear, anger and a varied spectrum in between, not just sensing them but feeling them as well.

The concept of energy works like money, you need to earn the energy reserve, you need to protect the energy reserve and you need to increase it to move ahead on the path of spirituality and life alike. Learning to use and cultivate this sensing of the energy play which is happening around us always is key. There are energy vampires, people who are ready to sap your energy the moment you let your guard down and all of us have experienced this. They don’t have fangs or wear a cape like Dracula (would be awesome if that happened), but you can still recognize them. I bet you have met someone, every time you meet leaves you feeling drained, sad and tired for no apparent reason. Most of them don’t do it on purpose, but they can suck all the good feelings vibes out of you like a Dementor from Azkaban.

And then there are blessed souls who are ready to donate their energy in times of need, when you meet such people you go away feeling uplifted and positive in life. It is enough if we become aware of the different types of people out there and how these subtle energies can play out on our psyche and physical body. Energy work has been under the shadows of religion and spirituality for a long time. Mainly because it is not something to be seen but something to be felt. We are so sure of what we see and only believe in what we see that we forget, what we see is the biggest Maya of all 😊. The lack of awareness has facilitated many con artists to feed off unsuspecting people under the name of spiritual progress.  

Genuine Empaths are often branded as emotional and taught to ignore the energy play. I grappled with this part of my existence for a long time, thinking I was a moody person and that I had mood swings. Much later in life I learnt what it actually was, since then I have experimented with the energy play in my own small ways and have been astounded by the results, mainly using crystals and mantras as my tools. Here is something you can try right now, hold your right hand and hover over your left arm, an inch or so above your left hand, do not touch the skin. Now slowly move your right hand over the left arm keeping this gap, in a few seconds you will start feeling tingling sensation. This is your aura or your own energy sheath, try it out on friends and family. Slowly you will learn to sense the subtle energies from strangers without moving a finger. It takes practice and you may not be able to judge accurately at first, but keep it at it.

Your Energy Introduces You Even Before You Speak

Random Pinterest Quote

This superpower has helped me scan intentions of people in the most accurate way and though it takes a long time for others to physically see the dark side of that person, it is crystal clear to me and now I trust that sense more than logic. Not that I can understand what others are thinking, that would be scary, don’t want to read minds, no thank you! But isn’t it wonderful to have your own personal scanner, shhhh no one needs to know about! I am still working on it and its not perfect I must admit that it is the fun of experimenting 😊. I don’t have to use it with animals, but with humans who are so complex and unpredictable, this is invaluable to navigate through waters of life. I will keep revisiting this subject and share more experiences in articles to come. This was just a teaser at this vast topic and dip in the cosmic ocean of the energy play.

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Notes to a 19-year-old me

At some point in your life, you would have stumbled upon that forgotten box of old photographs (mostly in your attempts to declutter), and before you realize you have spent hours down memory lane. Looking at each piece of time, preserved on that sheet of photopaper. It mostly serves as a reminder of how you have evolved over the years as a person. From that cute little toddler, to the odd 7-year-old (with a missing tooth 😉), to that awkward teenager with the weird hairstyle/clothes and then maybe to this sophisticated corporate employee with a plush photo on LinkedIn.

Some photos make us laugh, remembering silly yet innocent times and others bring a tear to our eyes over a lost friend, a lost pet, a lost lover or a lost relative. Suddenly in that pile you notice a photo of yourself, of a time when you weighed literally a ton lesser yet remember feeling fat and huge or a time when you had a gorgeous head of hair and flawless skin, without ever spending any time or money in the spa, but never realizing your own beauty. Moments like these, I wish I had the power to turn back time and hug myself. To tell that young girl that she is beautiful and worthy of so much more. To scream out loud at that 26-year-old, to stop doubting herself, ease up on the self-criticism and to stop selling herself short.

One such day a thought popped in my mind, what would I say to a 19-year old me, if I got a chance to meet her?

Well it sounds impossible doesn’t it? How can anyone go back in time and even if I did manage it and made better choices, I know I will still need to learn the life lessons one way or another. What if I told you there is a way to connect with your past self and have a dialogue? Well take it with a pinch of salt, but this is something worth trying out. I read it somewhere and I tried it myself and its very powerful.

Sit in a quiet place, alone, calm down your senses and close your eyes. Now bring up that photo/image of a 7-year-old you, that little girl/boy and just feel love for that innocent child. Fill yourself with a lot of love and then hug that child with all your heart, telling her how beautiful she is, that she is loved, protected and blessed always. This will soothe that inner child, letting her know everything is alright and that she can come out occasionally to help you relive that innocence. Now go back as often as you like at different stages of your age, especially in the transformative ages where you had just begun to know yourself. Reassure that young person and if possible, forgive that person for not knowing what you know now. With the knowledge you now have of life, you can soothe these subconscious worries still very much alive at the same stage of development they first occurred.

How will this help you? Apart from sounding creepy at the first instance 😊, spiritually speaking this doesn’t really matter, but your subtle bodies (emotional and mental body) will feel it the most. The goal is not to dig up past trauma, the goal is to empower that emotional part of you that still is at that age. Time is an illusion, we store the raw emotions felt during childhood and throughout our life, somewhere in our physical and mental bodies, and if these are not eased, they contribute to our physical ailments. The goal is to look at our current photo at the age >65 and not have to say a lot. To be at ease then, knowing that you learnt to appreciate life and relax into it.

We learn our life as we grow, we learn how to excel at being our self and get good at living our own life. When you think of it, isn’t this worth a sense of achievement in itself? 😊 Celebrate yourself today, celebrate being alive, celebrate this achievement of being you and once in a while reach out to that inner child, to get inspiration from her innocence.

So here goes, my notes to a 19-year-old me

  1. You are beautiful, gorgeous and smart, be more confident, all this fear is an illusion
  2. Be shrewd and speak your truth, you know more than you believe
  3. Your intuition is your best friend, trust it when it comes to people
  4. Take up yoga, learn alternate healing, build your psychic abilities, you are blessed with wonderful gifts
  5. Love your body, you are healthy and strong no matter what they say
  6. You are worth a million bucks, don’t ever bend backwards for anyone, especially in a relationship, the right man will never ask you to
  7. Manage your money better, you are always taken care off 😊
  8. Take life easy, laugh more and most importantly hug your dog tight, spend as much time with him as you can while you can
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Decade away

A decade has passed by, a lot has transpired for me personally mostly some massive life lessons. In the wake of this new decade, I can feel a change coming along, a tide slowly building up, rising away in the background as if to eventually wash over, leaving a fresh new me. Similar to a magical door appearing , one step away from wonderland, one step away from a total transformation.

Looking back at this decade, I do not feel all that different, yet I am definitely not who I was in 2010. It is strange, because at my core I am the same soul, yet something is different now. Like a kernel of popcorn, flavored with new seasoning, tastier and better though a bit more cooked 😉 (and age is not really the factor).

Alice in Wonderland

I have always put a lot of pressure on a new year, expecting each time that it will be “THE YEAR” when I will have it all, only to be a bit disappointed. So this year I have no expectations at all. Don’t get me wrong, I still have my hopes, wishes and dreams and I know they will come true, but there is no pressure on 2020 to be it all. Instead, I have decided to observe it from a sweet distance, like enjoying a long drive on an empty road, physically taking the baby steps towards self improvement but not caught up in it all.

If great wisdom resides within all of us, then just observing ourselves closely, watching our lives unravel should be like a treasure hunt for El Dorado :-). I want to be so busy improving myself that I do not have time to criticize others (the latter part will need some practice .. he he) . Every time I find myself, getting swept away in the stress of it all, I will step away, refocus and allow the universe some wriggle room to work its magic.

I asked the divine to guide me and I pulled the two oracle cards below, hope these will resonate with you all as well. Setting an intention rather than a resolution for this year, the intention of getting out of my own way, taking a breath and observing the year as it happens.

Wishing everyone a Creative, Motivational and Euphoric 2020
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Krishna.. the lovable god

Oh Lord Krishna, thy one embrace is all I seek…one embrace of paramananda… one embrace of solace…one embrace of eternal love, just the thought of it makes my heart leap with joy, that one embrace where I cease to exist and go back to where I belong, oh but a tiny part of you.. for I have wandered for eternity through this creation of yours, aspiring more with every birth, just thy one embrace

– a small something I penned down 3 years ago.

Ever wondered why is that when we utter the name Krishna, we feel such joy, such love… No other god evokes so much comfort as Krishna… He is divine, yet he is a lover, he is a child, he is a warrior, he is a friend, he is a husband, he is a brother… in any relation, you imagine him, and that pure bhakti just flows out. I am not a mainstream Krishna devotee, my Ishta devata is Goddess Kaali, but Krishna has always been special. Listening to his bhajans or just muttering hare Krishna absent mindedly brings comfort. I love Bhaja Govindam written by Adi Shankaracharya and Meera bhajans (Listen to Meera Kahe and Flute music of new Mahabharata… by Ajay & Atul, the music is divine)

I think the answer lies in what I described above, he can be imagined in any relation you want or need at that stage of life. He is someone we can converse with, he is a Guru at the same time a friend who play pranks with you. Someone who realizes he is god yet is human in every-way, he doesn’t demand anything, he just is.

Is this the purpose of our lives? To realize our divinity and yet remain human? I haven’t read the Gita entirely nor can I recite all the slokas in it, but I have tried to grasp some of its teachings. They are not very complex when you take a hard look, they are relevant to this day and age and seamlessly guide through any difficult situation in life. I have experienced this several times as I struggled and asked the question why? Why me? Why now?…

I would highly recommend watching or reading the Mahabharata (the latter is easier 😊). Throughout the Mahabharata, Krishna never directly tells anyone what to do, he only hints or nudges, he never comes between anyone’s free will. I think that is what truly makes him approachable in a sense, there is no judgement, there is no rejection, you don’t have to look or be some way to love him.

How do we manifest this in our lives? Bhakti Yog is just pure surrender to this love and it is as simple as it gets. It is not some delusion that you use to escape reality, it a path of connecting with that source energy that powers all. To survive sane in this world where everything seems to be just sadness, devastation, abuse and senseless killings (when you accidently watch the news).

Can we make someone feel safe and completely accepted? Even for a short while, setting aside our judgmental ego, and just connect on the plane of love? If we can do this every day, for a small but sincere moment, I think we can manifest him in us and let that tiny amount of love flow to the other. Start with yourself, when you hear that voice in your head start the self-negative talk, just stop and accept yourself, then extend it to anyone around. The beauty of this is, its internal no one needs to know, but am pretty sure it is empowering. Let us try and be the Krishna for someone today, completely present, completely accepting 😊.

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Demystifying Tarot… Or Not 😉

Tarot came into my life a couple of years back, and I started out as a skeptic. I would watch YouTube videos for my sun sign and would always doubt what I heard, these people felt like they were just spinning some vague story. But something kept pulling me back, I decided to invest in learning Tarot. The best way to demystify something is to study it. I bought my first deck of Tarot cards (Tarot of Dreams by Ciro Marchetti) and leapt straight into learning and memorizing the cards and their meanings. I started with small personal readings and then forced my family members to get their readings done (not that they had a choice in it😉). My amazing set of friends came forward and let me give them personal readings, slowly but steadily this world of the tarot cards unfurled, and I stepped into the enchanted forest of intuition.

It was pure magic, and yet it wasn’t. Scientists have found out that our brains work 13 secs in the future and many times people escape accidents by quick reflexes signaled by their subconscious brain. We are so much more than our brains and if you truly aspire and pursue, your higher self will respond. One may wonder, how does my higher-self know about another person’s life path? For anyone who has watched the movie ‘Avatar’ this will be easy to visualize, we are all connected to the universal consciousness. When reading for another person ask guidance from this pool which is very much alive, ask and ye shall receive.

Tarot is not so much a predictive tool, then a guidance mechanism. It is the GPS lady telling you what is ahead on the path and how to reach your destination, whether you take that right turn or keep moving straight is up to you. Isn’t that exciting? truly empowering? Ultimately is our freewill, in Mahabharata, Krishna imparts the wisdom of Gita to Arjuna and in the end says “yathechchhasi tathā kuru” which means Do as you wish. We all have life lessons we need to learn and once you know what they are, you can easily navigate the waters of life. Responding to life instead of reacting to it. I continue to explore tarot, experiment with it, I fail sometimes or sometimes things are not very clear, but this is not about perfectionism, this is about getting a different perspective on life.
I welcome you to join me on this new journey as I share my stories, thoughts and lessons learned and as promised it will be more that just Tarot.

Looking back at 2020

Never before has a year been such a mixed bag of everything. Usually a year sums up pretty neatly as a good year or a bad year or an average year. This year has only one adjective to justify it “Crazy”, no year in the history of humanity shook each and every human being at the same time with the same intensity as this one. In terms of the evolving universal consciousness and the feeling that we are the same, this hits a score of 100. Not all of humanity is there yet, there are a few who refuse to believe that the pandemic exists, but such people will always be there through each generation. 

To me personally, it was a true roller coaster, the setbacks and fresh starts were equal, equally exciting and intense. The year started a bit mellow much like a roller coaster on the first climb up, slow and steady, where you are comfortable and a bit excited. Reaching March all hell let loose, like when the roller coaster takes that first plunge and you think, what was I thinking getting into this?The plunge that followed was deep and scary, into the unknown. Not just the lockdown but the physical issues I was personally dealing with, that were new and unknown.Never have I felt so out of control, so helpless internally and externally.

In the middle it was a bit fun, like when the roller coaster turns a smooth corner on the lower level and you have enough courage to open your eyes and smile wide. Proud of having made it so far and enjoying the adrenaline rush. It was the same mid-year, I had launched a few creative projects and changes in lifestyle that had started feeling good.My physical health improved and light was getting brighter.As is with roller coasters, this short lived middle phase fizzled out with the next climb and another deep plunge, leaving one to think “how am I still here?”.

Through this year, challenges have been personal and global for all of us. Sometimes the personal stuff was too hard to deal with and sometimes the global crises brought tears to my eyes, looking at the struggles of people outside. Then there were moments of personal discovery, launching new projects, ideas flowing so fast I had to rush to find a pen and paper to write as fast as I could lest they are gone. 

I welcomed new feathered members into my family( three cockatiels and two african love birds), one of them is like my own winged angel,my little cockatiel “Coco”, literally sitting on my shoulder all day and distracting me when I need to be distracted the most. The way he looks at me melts my heart each time and the way he claims me, snuggles with me and pecks at my lips, he is spoiling me so much, I sometimes feel its high standard for any man to reach ha ha ha. I discovered the love and language of birds which I had never ever imagined I would, and what I found was beyond expectation. I am still learning but it has been a true blessing.

I made new friends this year too, although remotely, but some genuine and warm people entered my life. They are already appreciating me so much, and am so grateful for these souls who are standing as my advocates, whether at work or on a personal front. A few friends who provided that support system to keep me going. We all need a support system and I pray all of you get a similar group of people in your life. This year also has been a conscious effort to connect with existing friends more than any other year thanks to the technology of a video call.

There were times this year, I questioned the purpose of it all. I saw near ones lose relatives, friends, colleagues and neighbours to either the virus or other natural causes. I saw political upheaval and the battle for human rights, I saw nature’s fury in the form of fires or cyclones.Personally, physical pain, standing up for myself to people who were dismissive, refocusing on projects when I felt like giving up, the day my female cockatiel Mango flew away due to a freak accident, not to be found again, as I watched this tiny frightened bird shoot out of the door into the sky, my heart knew she would not survive. Random happenings and unexplained loss has been a theme for everyone around, loss of people, pets, friends, jobs, the list goes on. Yet just enough positives and good days to keep us moving ahead. My resilience astonishes me each time I feel I cannot go on, and then I look around and see the same. Resilience would be the one positive word that could describe this year, close enough to encompass the one trait that has stood out in humanity. 

Last year around the same time, I started my blog. It was a leap of faith and when I look back now, it was the first domino in self expression. It led me to believe in myself, the response I received from all who read and follow my blog has been amazing. I launched my first podcast series in March, I executed within 3 days of getting the idea, I surprised myself. Sometimes we forget that if we set our minds to something nothing is impossible. I am closing 2020 with a second podcast series and three new creative projects already started for 2021, which I cannot wait to work and share with you all. This is not me bragging in a sense, this is an observation of how mixed this year has been so far.

A lot of great stories and books entered my life in 2020, I have not finished reading any of them yet, but have started reading them. I am grateful to my mother for inculcating this habit in me. I remember the excitement as a child when my parents would take me to the local book fair. Looking at thousands of books stacked up on numerous stalls, it was like Disneyland for me. I would proudly walk out with a dozen or so books, though my reading nowadays is not that much still I try to keep up. The significance of words, books, thoughts and ideologies passed on from the pages to your soul are something only a true book junkie can understand. I am excited about sharing book reviews with you as we move into 2021.

As with last year, this new year too, I have no demands and expectations from 2021. I do not dread a calamity neither do I expect the world to turn into a fairy tale, I am happy just being.

The journey is what matters and as years pass by, it is getting even more evident, life is not a destination. There is no need to rush, the need is to take a deep breath and be in the now, the exact moment of taking in the breath of air and letting it out. Living each emotion with sincerity, and doing the best we can at every moment, just experiencing life. It may be experiencing the boredom of being at home due to a lockdown or the thrill of traveling to a new place, the sadness of losing a loved one, or the excitement of inviting someone new into our life, it maybe sharing your lunch with someone hungry and poor or cooking an elaborate meal for yourself, the art of being is life. Welcome 2021 with wide arms, and promise yourself that you will strive to “Just Be”. Wishin you all a very happy and prosperous 2021, may the universe shower blessings, and may you be in the vibration of receiving the blessings.