Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The Weight of Silence

Words carry the weight of our thoughts. It is a good exercise to count how many times we say, "But that is not what I meant;" or "Just kidding;" or even "Oops, slip of the tongue." What we mean and what we say often conflict. We use terms like semantics to explain away the disagreement, yet once the words are out - they are embedded in the minds of those who hear them. We may choose to use the written word which are just as weighty, and find ourselves either back peddling or explaining our intent or our thought process.

We often 'say the wrong thing,' yet we must be aware that the person hearing us does not know so. If you try to explain or re-word what you first said the idea that if the words were spoken, there is a place in the mind where it exists, remains. "You have gained weight!" can be very hurtful to the person being addressed. It may be true but it is unkind to make negative comments about physical appearances. Saying, "I only said it because I worry about you," changes nothing. If you were worried, you would inquire about health before calling out the weight.

When what we say and what we do are incongruous, we lose credibility. Saying, ' I would never hurt my dog,' and leaving it chained outside in the bitter cold are incongruous. The words carry zero weight. The hypocrisy that otherwise may be hidden shines bright when someone talks about love, but lies to, neglects or disrespects another.

Apologies and explanations are never enough to cause words to 'un-sting.' It is best to develop the skills to filter our words on cue. My mantra is - I would rather be kind than right. I sometimes pay the price for being kind and get walked over by people who take my kindness for weakness, but it matters not to me. I know the importance of distancing myself from people who are disrespectful of me, and have learnt how to do so with compassion. I also know that I mostly attract like minded people.

Silence carries as much if not more weight than words. Silence in the face of disrespect or neglect says more than words ever could. Yet the right words must be spoken when we see injustice or evil, for then silence gives power to the wrong doer. Knowing what to say is important but knowing when to speak and when to stay silent is an essential part of our humanity. Words are not an attempt to change others, but a tool to raise awareness. Words we use must be well thought out. Hurtful words; words that assign blame; words that accuse or belittle are a waste and should be kept out of our vocabulary. Words must be used to reach into the hearts of people and bring out the best in them. Often times I read or hear something that prompts a response. If I do respond with the written or spoken word the peace within me is what makes room for the thoughts that must be expressed. I use my words with loving care, express them and let the thoughts enhance my inner wisdom and leave.

Silence and kindness are beautiful together. I find the urge to be kind grows the more silent I become. Silence makes space within my mind for peace to reside. Dwelling on thoughts becomes unnecessary. If I stay silent my response passes through me and widens the space bringing a little more kind understanding and eventually peace has more room to expand.

Words are my friend - they have been for the longest time. I enjoy reading and writing and over time I have learned to evaluate words by the weight they carry. Silence on the other hand is my guide - it lends its power to my thoughts, words and actions; brings me peace and affords me the time and the space to introspect and get to know myself more.

'I have learned silence from the talkative, tolerance from the intolerant, and kindness from the unkind; yet, strange, I am ungrateful to those teachers.' Khalil Gibran


Friday, January 13, 2017

Authenticity



Authenticity brings peace into everyday life. It makes for self-assurance and self-worth. Honest folk admit they are imperfect and often work towards perfection. People lacking authenticity feel weak and insecure on the inside. Society has always been a bag full of people of both kinds. There is nothing wrong in being imperfect – the problem morphs when we hide our imperfections. That is a sure sign of deep rooted insecurities. 

Insecurity, to one wanting to be authentic, is the perfect opportunity to introspect and work through the issues so inner peace can be maintained. Someone who is unwilling to work through the fear and insecurity, will necessarily be dishonest. Imagine having to live with the inner conflict of knowing what is right but doing what is wrong. Such a person can become cruel, bitter, and cold. It is one reason being alone with oneself becomes an impossibility. They will always be afraid of that dark corner because it is within them – a place they dare not confront as it is filled with anger, shame, and guilt. It feels like a festering tooth abscess. You feel the throbbing pain, taste the rotting blood, and smell the putrefaction but smile through it all, hoping no one will notice. You know the smile is unreal but you cannot help but smile.

Visiting our insecurities and confronting them is frightening – but only for the moment. The shame, the guilt, and the ugliness of those darkest parts of our life hold us down and cause us suffering. Once we have worked through them though, we feel liberated. The fear of being exposed seems insurmountable, but truth has the potential to release all the negative energies and thus free us. Sometimes the material consequences appear painful, but the inner strength authenticity gives us will not just see us through this loss and pain but it opens horizons for the future we never dreamed of.

An insecure childhood due to poverty, neglect, abuse, poor parenting, abandonment, illiteracy, war, or anything else is not the fault of children with no tools to overcome the assault of their circumstances. It is therefore easier to be led by bad experiences to mold our life. Yet, as adults, it is within our power to change things and as a society we owe it to each other to help work through our fears and insecurities. The challenge is in recognizing these fears. Fear is expressed through our actions and our treatment of others and ourselves. When we as a people, normalize aberrant behavior we are choosing to lose sight of these fears. The person demonstrating this behavior will justify it and express their belief with free abandon and there is not much we can say or do that will change them. People change only when they recognize the need to change. Often this need comes when the burden of their actions overwhelms the original insecurity. If we can change ourselves, and share our experiences openly then others can emulate us and slowly we are surrounded by people on the same path.

To give up on people who are insecure and afraid is an act of cowardice but to normalize their unnatural behavior is destructive. If after trying to help the person through, you fail to get them to see their aberration, it is better to be a coward than to accept their behavior and thus destroy them from the inside out. Keep the door open for them to come back when they are ready to overcome their fears so they know they are not alone. Don’t forget being alone with shame and guilt is frightening. Once the person is ready for change, they need to feel supported. Their strength will return but for the moment they will feel defeated.

Authenticity is about the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. It allows us to be who we are when we are alone or in company. This company could be strangers, friends or family and we can be who we are no ifs or buts. It is hard to be so authentic when we have built facades around us, but these facades can be dropped layer by layer. With it is the need to develop good morals and values that are based on non-violence, compassion, and love – for oneself and for others. This balance is what good character is built on. Character is a determinant of our destiny and gives us the courage to face the consequences of our actions. That is what brings joy, inner peace, self-confidence, and self-worth. We owe it to ourselves to be the masters of our own destiny and to never give the power of our own joy to others. To let others destroy us is to deny our self-worth. We are all worthy and we deserve to live so our worth is fully expressed. Let us introspect and identify our imperfections and let us examine how we are expressing these so we can move towards the perfection we have the potential to achieve. Let us help each other on this difficult journey. I am here for you and would like you to hold my hand too. 

"When you feel a peaceful joy, that's when you are near truth." Rumi

Monday, November 21, 2016

How to Live an Independent Life - You can.

I am an East Indian married woman, mother of two grown men. I have flirted with the dream of being independent but did not believe it was possible. My brother moved out of our home when I was about 10. My father passed away when I was 18. I met my now husband when I was 16. I always had male figures in my life that were my anchor.

When my father died I did feel rudderless for some time, but by then I had a steady boyfriend. My father raised me to think that I could do anything and be anyone I wanted to be, but when he left the physical realm of my world I was not ready to believe I could. My husband on the other hand is a cautious man and slowly but surely I began to give in to his fears and his way of thinking. The only time my independent side truly shone through was when I had to guide my boys. I wanted them to be independent thinkers and doers. I encouraged them to make decisions and be willing to face the consequences of their actions. They have made mistakes, they have fumbled and fallen and I have stood by and watched - all the while agonizing for the pain they were going through. I made sure they knew I was there if they needed me - but never inserted myself into their lives uninvited. I gave guidance and I helped them make decisions (except when it came to a University education. That was a non-negotiable.). They chose which University they wanted to attend; what courses they wanted to take; what and when they wanted to eat; when they wanted to sleep, bathe, study, watch TV and who they wanted to befriend. They learned fast what was good for them and what was not. As teenagers when they went out with friends my only advice to them was, "Don't do anything I would not do." It backfired at times because they did some things I would not dream of doing, because they presumed I would. I enjoyed giving my children free reign to be who they are - but it was a vicarious joy. I remained dependent.

Then in my late 50s life threw a curve ball and I was forced to live an independent life. An opportunity to turn dreams into reality. It was not easy, despite it being a freeing and fulfilling experience. I was a pseudo teenager - at 50+ I had the wisdom that life had given me but now I could also explore who I am when no one is watching, no one is depending on me, no one is waiting for me, I am waiting for no one. At first I felt selfish, guilty, unkind to be enjoying my freedom, but soon I recognized that this freedom should have always been mine. My husband had the freedom to move out of the home - and he did - for a job that he chose to take when the children were still depending on us for every need. I was expected to stay home and manage it all. If that was okay then - and it was - then my choice was okay now.

How to embark on an independent life:

1. Prepare your mind for it.

2. Make sure you have the financial means to maintain your needs. This is not meant as an opportunity to splurge, so having just a meager source of money is fine.

3. Make sure that relationships that value you know of your intent to do so. They do not have to agree with you, but an open discussion will give everyone an opportunity to address their concerns. It is a good exercise for you to examine your own resolve.

4. Physically distance yourself from people you depend on or who depend on you. This does not have to be for very long, but anything less than a year will probably not be enough. It takes a few months for the novelty to die and then a few months to appreciate the beauty of unencumbered living. I did it for two and could have continued it - that is how much I enjoyed it.

5. Do the things you have wanted to do but have held yourself back. This is a non-negotiable. No matter how hard it is to step out of your comfort zone - do it.

6. Use wisdom as the guiding light on how to keep yourself safe and alive. Know your surroundings. Be alert.

7. Become an independent thinker and don't depend on advice from loved ones to make decisions. Make mistakes. Fall. Fail. Get up, smile and move on. Life is a very short journey and can end without notice. Don't waste it waiting for an opportune moment.

8. Go back to point 1. Now prepare yourself to remain independent in your mind. Recognize that it is your right to be free from the wishes and desires of others. You have the right to live your life your way even if you are surrounded by others.

9. Walk away from those relationships that do not value your freedom. Get back together with people who value you and respect you for who you truly are. You may find you prefer to be dependent and that is fine too - but it must be your choice. You will see that dependence in a different light now.

10. Make it a habit to live your life your way.

Independence is a state of mind - this I know now. I have learned to say 'No' to things that I could not before - my mind would say, 'No,' but my lips would say, 'Yes.' Now I say what I feel. If you do not like it, I understand. I am not responsible for how you feel. I do not willfully hurt anyone, neither am I willing to hurt myself. I refuse to give my joy away simply because you will not be joyful.

I am a changed person today. I appreciate myself more than I ever have and I no longer need the approval of others. I fulfill my own dreams and desires - just like everyone else around me.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

I Remember



As far as I can tell I had a great childhood. I defined it by the love and care I received from my dad. I lost him when I was just 18 and his memories to this date are of a man I loved dearly and who loved me in return. My very early childhood is a blur. What I remember are stories I have heard as I have grown but have very few memories of my own – except for some involving my father. How I loved watching him tinkering with his Black Morris Minor. He would open the hood, or jack up the car and go underneath it, or he would be polishing it to a flawless sheen. I remember his stature – a big, tall man with a straight back and his head always held high. He was by no means a jolly man but when he smiled his eyes lit up and when he laughed he guffawed with his whole body shaking. He was a disciplinarian and would have been diagnosed as having OCD if he was with us today – everything had to be just so; not a speck of dust was tolerated anywhere around him and he washed his hands upto his elbows before and after anything he touched. He loved to read, enjoyed good music, movies and theater. Oh yes – and he loved to gamble – lottery tickets, a rupee or two on a race horse every now and again. He loved playing contract bridge with friends during weekends too. Scrabble was his game of choice when it came to board games.

My best memories are spending time with him after school work was done. We would sit beside each other and read our own books or read to one another from Reader’s Digest or from one of his Classic collections of Somerset Maugham or Leo Tolstoy. He also had a collection of a magazine called Knowledge and Encyclopedia Brittanica. He loved doing research on different subjects – he loved to learn and was always a diligent student of life, of knowledge, of people.

My father is my role model and my source of strength, of wisdom, of joy and has always been my guiding light. As I approach my 6th decade of life I can clearly see how much he influenced me. It was his presence in my life that kept me positive during his lifetime and that influence has lasted since, throughout my life. I wish he had lived longer for I believe I did not imbibe everything I could have from him. I wish my children had had the opportunity to meet their grandfather for in them I see a reflection of my dad and it would have been great to see them together!

I know my Baba would have been as proud of me today as he was during the first 18 years of my life. He would have loved to have spent time with my family and that of my brother. He would have been an active participant and an ardent admirer of all we have all done and achieved. I know we would have all made him proud and he would be standing up tall with his head held high – giving and receiving our love and admiration always. 

Love you Baba!

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Mother

She personifies pure love, they say.
A mother is a mother at the end of the day.
She loves whole heartedly
Protects unreservedly,
Mother never gives up on your dreams,
Each time you win, her face is in beams.

She personifies wisdom, they tell me.
Mother knows you in and out, you see.
She will practice more than preach
For she knows that is how to teach.
Mother is always by you when you fail,
She will put you right back on the trail.

She personifies friendship, I am told.
A mother knows when to no longer hold.
She is watching you, for sure, from afar,
Her love, her wisdom your guiding star.
Mother - in the background as she applauds,
Your goals, your medals and your awards.

Tell me y'all, is motherhood above humanity?
She must personify strong character and integrity.
She needs to love more than just her blood,
Someone who cares for all beings in this world.
Woman must first be a true human at heart,
Only then can she play a mother’s part.

I know of women who are selfish and unkind.
Having children only to leave them behind.
These women make not good mothers
They must grow up before they raise others.
Women, please love yourself as a whole
Before you mother an untouched soul.

The pain of a neglected child goes deep,
The nightmares overtake adulthood sleep,
Some slip down a slope so steep
They tumble into an untimely junk heap.
Child, raise yourself above the hurt
It can be done, just be ever alert!

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Thank you, child!

Last night I watched a video about a young woman's gratitude towards her mother for all she had done. I see many posts on FB too about how important gratitude is and I understand the concept of it, but it jars me when I see this expectation that we as parents have that our children should be grateful to us for bringing them into the world, for raising them, for being there for them, for taking their tantrums and their rebellion. 

I wanted children for me. When we were planning our family not once did we say "We need to bring a child into this world so he/she can be born." Was I doing it wrong? I remember saying to my husband, "My life is incomplete if I cannot be a mother." I am therefore, grateful that my life was completed by the arrival of my children.

I raised my children for my own pleasure too. Yes, I did want them to be comfortable and I wanted them to feel loved - but that was just a by-product of my need to keep them happy and loved. It was about me! They filled me up. They were born from me and they gave me the opportunity to be a parent and feel accomplished and today I feel if only I had known some of what I know now, I would have done so many things differently. I did them an injustice by not educating myself enough about parenting and simply following instincts. I am fortunate that my children turned out as well as they did despite having me for a mother. They saw through my mistakes and acknowledged my love instead. For that I am grateful.

To teach our children to be grateful we first need to show them the grace of being grateful to them for being amidst us. The gratefulness will come to a child who knows what being graced by gratitude is. We learn so much from our children - as much if not more than what they learn from us. The basics that we claim to teach them would have eventually come to them. How to put food in the mouth, how to walk, how to say Mom, how to bathe, how to clean after a bowel movement, how to dress - these eventually can be learned. We send them to school and educate them because we want to be considered good parents of successful children - wanting them to be successful for themselves comes much later.  

From my children I learned about goodness, about compassion, about love, about joy, about guilt, about those butterflies in the stomach when they got on the bike for the first time or bungee jumped! I learned about weed and about computers and 3D movies and about the soul. I got to read amazing books and watch great TV shows & movies that may never have been part of my horizon if my boys had not been in it. I learned about dorms and about bullying and about watching ones child fail and letting them be. I learned to treat them as babies and as adolescents and as adults by watching how they adjusted to me as they grew older. Most importantly I learned to let go!

I am fortunate to have two amazing sons. Very different from one another and yet perfect the way they are. They truly are my biggest joy. Then I have a beautiful soul as a daughter, thanks to my younger son who brought his wife into our family. I am learning new things from her and am grateful to her for teaching me about following through on ones convictions and doing so with grace towards those who do not have the same belief. For one so young she is wise!

So how about a video on parents showing gratitude towards their children? Anyone?