Category Archives: Spirituality

End of the Tunnel

I am the light at the end of the tunnel. I am my own savior. My spirit ran ahead to beam the light of hope as my weary body and mind struggled to catch up. It was this light that kept me alive as the piercing darkness around me spilled into my soul. The tunnel was akin to a birth canal, squeezing every lie, facade and mask that I ever wore. Squeezing all my pompous notions of being above it all. Thinking I had reached the peak of spirituality, I refused to budge. But I slid quickly from the summit into a dark endless cavern where I stayed until I came to terms with my own foibles. There were no milestones and even if there were, I couldn’t see them. I wasn’t even sure if I was blind or it was too dark to perceive anything. I may have had my eyes closed, afraid of what I would encounter if I opened them. Somewhere along the way when it was too painful to grope in the dark I simply lay down in a heap and slept. The darkness of sleep more soothing than the one that I could not escape when I was awake.

Was I alone in the tunnel? I could not tell. But I could sense a presence. A warmth. A glimmer of hope from somewhere afar. It was towards this that I floundered like a thirsty animal in a desert. The squeezing and extraction of all extraneous baggage continued until I felt like I was stripped naked. But instead of feeling self-conscious and embarrassed I felt free. I was exposed and I no longer needed to play the games I played before to keep a bunch of lies alive or to please people. This is when my eyes that were accustomed to darkness spotted a faint flicker far far away. Now I knew I wasn’t imagining the warmth. It was coming from this source. As I edged closer it felt warmer, loving, compassionate and all -embracing. It was me I found at the end of the tunnel waiting and shining like a beacon. I had just birthed a swanky new version of myself. Pure, free and full of child-like hope.

When I stepped out, I saw more like me shining and waiting to receive themselves. But like the indistinguishable darkness, our light merged and blurred our individual bodies. You might think I’m out of my mind and in a way you are right. Thoughts travel faster than the speed of light. Our soul knows where we are going and even when our bodies falter, the soul charges ahead unafraid.

Maybe Sri Aurobindo’s words would make more sense to you than mine. So I leave you with this excerpt from the Savitri.

Even through the tangled anarchy called fate

And through the bitterness of death and fall

An outstretched hand is felt upon our lives

It is near us in unnumbered bodies and births;

In its unslackening grasp it keeps for us safe

The one inevitable supreme result

No will can take away and no Doom change.

 

Walking into the Unknown

It’s a scary place to be. The vast openness in front of you. Myriad intertwining paths stretching across the horizon as far as the eye can see. Fear immobilizes you. One wrong step and you think all will be lost. How sad it is sweet child that you have forgotten where you have come from. Squeezed out of a dark and snug chamber through a narrow canal, forced to breathe that air which was alien to you a second ago. Deprived of your continuous supply of nourishment, you had to latch on and suckle to survive. From simply being you were pushed into doing. You had to learn the tricks of this brand new world. Cry to get attention so your needs could be met – needs that did not exist before your birth. And isn’t it a wonder that you did incredibly well, although you had no idea what to expect.

Yet you falter when faced with the unknown. When uncertainty looms large, you fret and fume, cemented to your narrow path, unable to make a choice. Until you are pushed own the rabbit hole, forced to take a plunge and fill your hearts with courage. Why must you be afraid? The same force that birthed you and made you take in that first breath of fresh air, will nudge you along the right direction. If only you are patient and quieten your mind to listen to its guidance. For it is always there. It is like the background noise of a dripping faucet that you learn to tune out. But if you tune out  everything else, the noise becomes ominously loud – too loud to ignore. Follow that guidance and it will never fail you. It will in time take you where you are meant to go.

When I made my appearance into this world, my hip was dislocated and I wasn’t breathing. I could have made an exit without my first breath of air, without ever being held in my mother’s arms, without ever crying. Miraculously I survived but I was not out of the doghouse yet. Was my brain damaged because I was deprived of oxygen? Would my hip fix itself and would I ever walk normally? These were not questions that ran through my head. I was too small to know or even remember any of this. My parents didn’t know either. But when I visited my pediatrician, she would give thanks for every milestone I crossed. For she was the one who saved me from the jaws of death as I lay lifeless in her arms. She was witness to the miraculous power that let me live and thrive.

I don’t doubt for a second that help is always available for those who ask. But we must have the courage to follow through even in the face of imminent disapproval. Only we can hear our inner voice. We cannot let the voices of others drown it. Nor can we allow the noise of the world obliterate it. We cannot let fear dictate our actions. We have to trudge forward in full faith that the force that birthed us will take us home.

Uncertainty and Surrender

For a couple of years now we have been grappling with uncertainty. That strange feeling of not being in control and not knowing where you are headed. It started the year we left Florida. We were supposed to come back to India but somehow ended up in Washington. There again I knew we wouldn’t be staying for long. Every decision and interaction was colored by that knowledge. We all pulled on with bated breaths not knowing what to expect.

That was nothing compared to the state of flux we find ourselves in now. Everything seems to be up in the air, in space, nebulous as I stand gaping open mouthed for it to fall into my outstretched arms. Every day I wait and I return empty handed. The shapes dance and swim out of my vision – mocking me and enticing me with promising futures.

I lie in bed thinking of the world I left behind and the irony of it all is that I had wanted to leave – not when I had but many moons ago. I wanted to come back to something familiar, something certain. Something solid to build our lives on. Not a shifting and shaking earth. I have finally come back but that old familiar feeling has long gone. Gone are my cousins, brother, grandma, friends and so many places and people that made Chennai special. Made Chennai home. Home is a stable and secure place where we can be our best possible selves. But here I find myself flailing in my new surroundings trying to find my sea legs in this tremulous place. I’m not on solid ground. No terra firma here. Just undulating waves of uncertainty that wash you to uninhabited shores. So what does one do?

Uncertainty is part of life you say and I agree. Life wouldn’t be interesting if there weren’t some twists and turns every  now and then. But when uncertainty decides to make your life its primary dwelling place then things can get really sticky. After a point every waking moment is tinged in uncertainty that you simply cannot push it to some corner of your brain. It becomes every breath, every thought. Every instant you struggle with that hollow feeling deep inside and very soon the uncertainty turns into fear. Fear of the future and fear of failure.

Finally when my over wrought nerves could take it no more I sought refuge in God. I pleaded, I begged, I prayed but the uncertainty lingered on. It became bigger and bigger and harder to ignore. At long last when none of the old tricks worked I decided to stop fighting life and to simply surrender. There was no use straining, the shackles only became painfully tighter. No use swimming against the current to attain the unattainable. Let the waves lash, let the emotions smother you and let every damn security you invested in come crashing down. When you lie there stripped of everything, cold and trembling with your head held low in an act of complete and utter surrender, an outstretched hand appears to lift you up and out of the raging waters and soothes your troubled soul. To wipe the tears of frustration and show you hope. Hold on to that hand and never let go for it will take you to where you belong – home.

I Thought I was Alone…

You can be surrounded by a room full of people and still feel alone…alone in your frustrating circumstances, grappling with seemingly inconsequential problems that no one really sees as problems. How you wish you had someone who would understand! How you wish you could draw strength from your loved ones and fall back on their support! And sometimes the very people who have supported you, fall on hard times. How can you turn to them when they can barely keep afloat? How can they save you from your pain? Ultimately no one can save you and you need to find your strength and pull yourself together. But as humans we also need to connect with others and seek solace in their company.

I was in a limbo, a week ago. Kids had finished a year of school. My contract with the company I was working for was ending. There was a lot of uncertainty in the air and I was feeling the weight of the long year full of challenges and not really looking forward to more of the same. I hadn’t blogged in a while and just couldn’t find any motivation. As I kept sinking into oblivion and praying for redemption at the same time, something magical happened. R sent me an inspiring video that nudged me out of my stupor. I wrote and published a post on my blog, the very same day.

The next day my friend S sent me a message asking how I was doing and sent me prayers and good vibes. Another friend from Florida called me and spoke to me for hours, praising me for sticking it out for a year and not giving up (I know how many times I did and then had to push myself to keep going!) Then several other friends sent me encouraging messages after reading my blog. All of them lifted me up and out of my pity party and I felt reassured in the midst of all their comforting support.

Yesterday I went to see my friend’s grandma who was also my pediatrician for years. Frail of frame at the age of 94 and pushing herself with a walker, her eyes lit up when she saw me. I sat beside her, basking in her comforting presence. She held my hand the whole time squeezing it ever so gently every now and then and told me she would pray for me. Her prayers brought me back from the dead, so many years ago when I was born breached and wasn’t breathing. And as I sat there I realized that the same force that had brought her to my rescue had given me this chance to be in her healing presence. I looked up and on the wall in front of me was a picture of Jesus.

My friend’s Dad reminded me of what my friend had been through and how everything turned out ok in the end even though he had given up all hope. Good things happen when you least expect it, he said. We just need to keep going on and then suddenly the thing you were chasing will fall into your lap. I left their home which is named “Serene” by the way, feeling so at peace, like giant loving arms were embracing me tightly.

Maybe I am trying too hard to make things work when I have absolutely no control over any of this. None of us do and so many of us are hurting because we feel helpless. Personal challenges and the horrors of the world are being unleashed on us. We look around for the ones who always saved us and see them stumbling and falling. Fear can only live when we isolate ourselves and cut ourselves off from all the support available. And sometimes it is not easily available and we think our numerous pleadings have fallen on divine deaf ears. Help may come from the most unexpected of places but it does come if we are open and it nudges us towards greater happiness if we allow it.

Another magical meeting arranged by the universe also happened yesterday and I met an old friend from my days at the Women’s Christian College and Madras University. She too moved to Boston after she got married and we used to meet quite often. I hadn’t met her since 2007 when she left Boston for Chennai. As a writer, she keeps checking on my progress and she came just when I needed to brush off that dusty memoir and get cracking on the next chapter. A writers group that she is a part of is also something I need to get into to inject some discipline into my otherwise erratic writing habits.

When it rains it pours! And the floodgates are open so to speak. As I receive support, more seems to be coming in and I am thankful that I don’t have to go through this all alone. I am opening up to more magic, revelations and miracles in my life.

Hang in there if you feel like you are on a roller coaster and you are all alone. You are not! And help is just an arm’s stretch away…may you find the support, healing, peace, joy and abundance you are looking for. God Bless You!

My Year in Review

 

Even through the tangled anarchy called fate

And through the bitterness of death and fall

An outstretched hand is felt upon our lives.

It is near in unnumbered bodies and births;

In its unslackening grasp it keeps for us safe

The one inevitable supreme result

No will can take away and no Doom change. 

– Savitri by Aurobindo

Dear God,

What a rollercoaster this year has been! It started off well enough with good writing work from a content mill. Then a bit of a lull in February after which you took me in a whole new direction in March with the substitute job at an elementary school. The job got extended to April by which time it was apparent that our move to India was imminent. I had to say goodbye to a job I had come to love and focus on selling and disposing of stuff. I thought it would be an extremely emotional affair. But I was wrong. I found I wasn’t really attached to much of the stuff (or so it seemed at that time). All of it can be replaced – I kept telling myself. The only thing that nearly brought me to tears was watching someone drive away in our black Honda Accord. She was there when I got married and came to the U.S. for the first time. She was there when my babies were born. She was there on our road trip to Maine. She took us all the way from Massachusetts to Florida. She was the first car I ever drove. Then she came with us to Washington State, where we finally bid adieu to her. Even today it is painful to look at a Honda.

Anyways, with a lot of prayer and on the wings of faith we reached Chennai ready for a fresh start. Little did I know that we were in for a lot of hardship. I did the only thing I know to do. I prayed, I chanted, I wrote in my prayer and gratitude journal. Four months down the line we had not made any headway. Days flew by and prospects of a job grew dimmer. There were days I could not get out of bed. Broken in spirit and physically exhausted, I doubted if my prayers would be answered. That was when a long anticipated trip to Arunachala happened and it renewed my faith and lifted my sagging spirits. But that was not the end of our trials was it?

You sent illness, floods and other challenges our way, so much so that we felt like the trials that had come before were child’s play. December brought illness and more flooding. By then I had reached the end of my tether. Hear my last desperate call, O God or I quit. I quit on you. All that I worked on for the past few years was a bunch of nonsense. There is no one up there. All this New Age mumbo jumbo that I keep doling out is a lie. There is no hope. Only suffering. I see how deluded I was. I won’t write blogs anymore. giving people false hopes.

In one last desperate call to you, I fasted one Monday in December. From dawn to dusk I only ate some fruit and milk. My body already ravaged by the stress of the past few months couldn’t take it. Exhausted, I waited for one tiny ray of hope. One answered prayer. That is all I asked for. Tuesday went by – nothing. On Wednesday I quit on you. I thought that you had given up on me and my family. Wednesday night saw me a crushed and crumpled being struggling to come to terms with myself. I felt abandoned by the only person I had trusted – YOU!

Then a phone call and everything changed. I got a job. One prayer was answered. My body shaking, I retrieved my prayer books which I had sworn never to touch again and I quietly said my prayers with tears streaming down my face. You heard me. You heard this wretched soul. You saved me yet again albeit after pushing me to the edge of sanity. After taking everything away and leaving me helpless, you extended your hand in the last moment to save me from inevitable ruin and disgrace.

Your grace is unrelenting and works in mysterious ways which are beyond the grasp of my human mind. You have finally given me something to hold on to. Something to build my life on again. Most of all you have lit the flame of hope in my heart which I can share with others who probably are in similar situations. So thank you God. I look forward to more answered prayers and more blessings in 2016 and I give thanks for all your gifts in advance.

Infinite love and gratitude,

DC