Thursday, April 20, 2017

How to Break Out

It takes time and awareness to recognize that we are being wronged. The veil of love and trust mixed in with fear and insecurity keeps the wrong doer and the wrong done concealed. We see it happening and maybe hope, it is 'just this once, after all no one is perfect.' Eventually we must admit that we were fooling ourselves and have been played. Stop right there and take a deep breath because the truth of the matter is - we reneged on taking care of the one person we should never neglect - this "ME." I know now, that everything I was taught about being selfless should have been predicated with 'but not at the cost of your own destruction.' A line must be drawn once we recognize that we are giving up on being tender and loving to our own spirit. A child does not have the understanding of the wrong being done, nor the power to change things. It takes self awareness, awareness of the outside world, and a lot of self love to eventually acknowledge and extricate oneself from the web that keeps us trapped

The shift from love, through hurt, anger, grief, and sadness, to self-love, is a mental pathway that we have to go through before we can come to forgive. It is a cathartic journey to forgiving oneself for giving away ones power. "How could I not have seen it?" "How could I have let it continue?" "Why did I not stop it?" "Why did I not walk away?" The questions don't stop and there are very few logical answers. There is one thread to the answer - we loved and trusted the other, but ignored our inner being. Spirit only witnesses - it does nothing more. The choice to care for it is entirely upto the smaller 'me', who looks outward till it reaches a dead end and only then thinks of finding answers within. No matter how much love and support your parents, spouse, children, siblings or friends give you - know that love for your Self is by far the most enduring you will ever have. I no longer believe in a personal God and to me 'God Loves You' means I have access to love within me. This is the Love that takes us to forgiveness and beyond.

It is within our power to stop letting others wrong us. It is possible to forgive the wrong doer, forget the hurt; but to not let the person hurt you again, make sure you recognize the attribute you have, that allowed the wrong to be done in the first place. Take the time to know yourself. The more you love the person, the more you will need to consciously love yourself. The steps needed to stop the abuse will come from that space of love for yourself. Each of us will handle it differently, but handle it we must. Some relationships break, others correct themselves, still others will constantly evolve but every abusive relationship requires that we have a strong sense of the One I, so we do not allow the abuse to continue and we do not propagate abuse.

We play an integral role in allowing abuse. This is not to say we are to blame, rather to say we do not recognize our own power. The abuse may stop once our power is manifest - if it does not, we must distance ourselves. Abuse is a reflection of the weakness of character of the abuser. It is not our responsibility to strengthen his/her character. It is however our duty to help those being abused to get their self-respect and their power back and that includes you, if you are being abused. If you have been abused be empathetic to others around you - own your hurt so you can feel the pain others are going through. Empathy requires us to acknowledge our own pain first.

It is important to know that abuse can be subtle and we get conditioned to it. Someone looking from the outside in, may see it right away, but if one is being abused it seems like normal behavior. This is truer when the abuse is from someone who is supposed to provide you with care, support, guidance, nurturing. A parent can be just as abusive as a spouse or a boss. It depends more on the power or authority one has over you. Abuse is also not gender specific. Men and women can both be abusive or abused.

Develop character, self confidence, self reliance and surround yourself with good people. Be honest with yourself. Be kind and loving to yourself. Be observant and if you have experienced abuse in any relationship be vigilant and learn how not to be. Teach yourself to say 'No.' You owe no explanation for saying it. Respect your instinct. If something hurts, it is because it is meant to hurt. If you place your hand in something hot, you instinctively know how to respond. Emotional pain brings on the same instinctive response and deserves to be acknowledged.

Be kind, empathetic, and aware towards all. Remember you are an integral part of 'all.'


Friday, February 10, 2017

6 Decades Later

Life has been an experience worth having. I generally do not dwell on the past, instead I tend to introspect and concentrate on the now. Today I would like to delve into my past - to take stock of how life has influenced who I am.

One vital lesson - the only constant is 'I am.' The predicate changed as I walked through life but all of those changes left the 'I am,' untouched. The little child has walked through 6 decades and now appears to be an old woman, but I still feel what the child felt then and through every experience she has been through since. The love, the joy, the fear, the desires, the sadness, the empathy, the envy, the anger, the indifference and more - are all there. I have learned how to process them, express them, absorb them or discard them - but the original feelings are all still part of this being because I am now, as I was then. Time has passed but the Being remains unchanged. I am unable to encapsulate that Being, unable to identify it in isolation and yet I must acknowledge its unchanging nature. Since I do, I necessarily must acknowledge it in everyone else.

Over time I have learned to be silent. Silencing the mind has taken much effort and innumerable hours of practice and every emotion that rises within me shakes that silence. I find that holding back on the words and reining them in opens a space within where the emotions and the thoughts converse between themselves and bring me to a peace filled silence. Conversely if I react outwardly while still in the realm of emotion the mind cannot find stillness with the same ease or peace. I have always filtered my emotions through thoughtfulness and then expressed the results in words - oral or written, but now there is no filter - expression of an emotion is an internal affair from which I come out with a perception and a lesson in meditative silence. Any expression of that perception brings a sense of calm and joy that is self glorifying. Keeping that glory under rein then becomes the struggle. This feeling of being somehow superior and exalted can overwhelm the silence and the mind takes over and disturbs the calm. A lot more effort is required to silence this sense of glory. Glory feels good and the mind wants to dwell on it. Deeper introspection, meditative silence, being kind to myself, bowing my head to that unchanging inner child - consciously and with forgiveness and humility, eventually brings the silence back.

I like being alone. I enjoy my own company. I read, write, do crossword puzzles, solve sudoku, work, meditate, and have very little time to socialize either one-on-one or on cyber space. I have brought idle interaction down to a bare minimum. I stay abreast of how loved ones are and what the current state of the world is, but I do not delve into details, nor do I choose to debate any issues. I respect the perspective of others, understand the 'other' side, and rethink my own opinion but I no longer have the need to be right or to be understood. There are no absolutes in the material world and spending time trying to bring consensus is futile. There will always be another point of view - and I respect that. I find this teaches me more about life. It opens avenues where thought wanders into to find its way into a deeper understanding of the material world and helps appease the curiosity that could otherwise shatter the silence.

The first many years of my life were spent in simple existence. Living life as it came. There was no sense of purpose. I was guided by what was happening around me fulfilling the roles that life was assigning to me. It was in my mid forty that this thirst to know more, the feeling of discontent, the urge to find passion and purpose seemed to take over. I was fortunate to have met some like minded women on the net during this time and we were all going through the same struggles. The journey to moving inwards and finding the Being in the inner depths began there with these ladies. I am still in touch with some of those beautiful souls and have them to thank for the circle of love that allowed us all to bloom.

In this 7th decade I continue this beautiful trip. I know I am closer to the end of life than to the start of this one and that death can strike anytime - like it could have for the last 6. Living in the now turns the thought of death into a moment. Here now - gone now. My desire is that upon my death my loved ones celebrate my living moments and so I continue to be better, do better, with love, passion, compassion and integrity - always. Many have touched my soul through this journey and some of them have passed away. Yet the bond I feel with them is palpable - my Being touching their Being - that unchanging One within each of us.

I bow down to you, the undefined you,
The one who resides within me too.
I feel your breath, I feel your touch,
A fluttering feather I try to clutch.
You were here and so was I
You are gone and so will I.
A new being is born today
That same one in a new bouquet,
And so we all continue on
The day, the night, the dusk, the dawn
Always seeking, yet in a whirl
Till we find that elusive pearl! 

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!