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. 

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

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.

“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 :-).

JUST BE

Feeling every emotion is important, living every emotion is more important.

– something that popped up today in my little brain. Photo credit- self – on one of my retreats last year, name of the place did justice.

How often do we allow ourselves to? Why are we taught that feeling & living our emotions is a sign of weakness? Why can’t we cry in front of people easily? Why are we in a hurry to say, “I am OK” “Its Alright”? Especially when these emotions are of sadness & disappointment. I am not talking about huge losses or obvious rock bottoms of life. I am talking about the days when you just go numb, not because something went wrong or anything drastic happened. The days when all those disappointments and failures over the years hit you like an unexpected tsunami of emotions. The days you just want to hide and blast music on your headphones to drown out. The days you don’t feel like talking to anyone and if anyone (meaning well) asks you what is wrong you feel like punching the wall. Nothing cheers you up, absolutely nothing does, and you know nothing will.

In the past I have never allowed myself to feel or live such days. But nowadays I make it a point to, nothing is worse that faking optimism when you have not a shred of it at that moment. This is not depression, this is not negative thinking, this is not giving up, this is much more subtle. I know I am blessed, I am aware I have a lot to thank for, I am aware good things will happen at some point in life, but days like these are not meant to be forced on by gratitude or positive thinking. Most of us are living in survival mode most of our days, there is so much discussion of moving on, dusting off harsh failures, pep talks on YouTube or by a friend or by yourself, spiritual practices & books that mention looking within and after all this, the next survival task ahead just distracts us and we brush a lot under the carpet.

This is not about taking time to process anything, it is more of non-action, acknowledging these emotions exist, not reprimanding yourself for feeling a certain way, not trying to move on or cheer up, just being. Imagine having tea in silence with the elephant in the room, no conversations, no sorting out stuff, no processing of anything, just being.

Accepting the fact that you are human and though intellectually you have set those high standards of thought for yourself, you have developed coping mechanisms and survival skills, you have forgiven those who needed to be, you have had good times and good friends and you have also had those rare spiritual moments, but now more than ever, acknowledging that yes life hurts, absences are still felt strong, disappointments are still very very real, whether caused by people or circumstances, yes, there are still things so wrong in life, there is still so much more of your potential that is unable to shine. To sit in quiet hood, with no expressions, being in that space inside, nodding at these facts, nodding at these feelings, just being in the moment. If tears want to flow, letting them flow, but the most important thing is being unapologetically in the moment.

Trust me when I say, talking to someone doesn’t help because you see, you are not upset or angry at anything. Your soul is just tired, hush your mind and ignore your heart’s babbles, let your soul breathe, let your soul be noticed, your tired tired soul. Come tomorrow you will have to wake up, dress up and show up, until then JUST BE.

My blog was started not just to share one side of life, but all facets of it as it chooses to manifest. Hope this reaches people who have experienced what I have written here, know that they are not alone. There is someone out there that can feel as deep and as through n through as they do. Life when raw is the most beautiful.

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.

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

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.

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

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