Tag Archives: self-help

Why I Volunteer

So things haven’t changed for the better since my last post. I’m still looking for work and resigning myself to the fact that I will have to wait until next year for something to come my way.

When I feel stuck or feel that things aren’t flowing or working for me, I do two things.

  1. Write in my gratitude journal. I did this to land my last job. I wrote thank you for my new and wonderful job in my journal every single day and even wrote about the kind of job I was looking for.
  2. Look for opportunities to give or serve. This worked for me years ago when I was trying to get back to work after a long hiatus. I volunteered in public schools for several years and then landed a job in a charter school.

It doesn’t help that most people are posting pictures of cruises and vacations in the Caribbean when I’ll be doing a staycation this year. So I decided to look for volunteer opportunities on Idealist. I found something that would use my skills as a writer/ editor and for a cause close to my heart (children and education).

Volunteering helps you feel good and gives you the satisfaction of contributing to the community in meaningful ways. It also helps you make friends and learn new skills. By taking away your focus from what is lacking in your life, volunteering allows you to appreciate what you have.

You have to give to receive. So whenever you feel things are not flowing to you, it is a good practice to give and get back into the flow of the Universe. Waiting till you have enough will keep you waiting indefinitely. Give how much ever you can of your time, money and efforts and you will be rewarded with peace and contentment.

Even if you are in a good place in your life, take the time to give back. There are so many out there who are hurting and can benefit from your generosity. Serve wherever you are, even if it is for an hour every week or every month and you will find it brings you more joy than all the comforts and things money can buy. This is truly one of those cases where the giver of the gift benefits as much or more than the receiver.

Still need convincing? A study report by CNCS titled “Volunteering as a Pathway to Employment” found that active volunteers were 27% more likely to get a job than non-volunteers.

What Do I Want?

Today I find myself at the park again but this time I brought a pen and some paper so I don’t need to struggle with the tiny keyboard on my phone. So many emotions. So many thoughts. So many things that I want to put down on paper. They keep swimming around in my consciousness making me confused and clueless. Sometimes putting it down on paper gives me some clarity.

So what is it that I want? It is what everybody wants. Happiness, peace, love. Where can you find it? Within. Although I know these things hypothetically, when life happens I falter and wrestle with conflicting emotions. But tell me this – if your immediate needs are not met will you look within for peace and happiness? Not really! Spirituality on an empty stomach may not be attractive to everyone. Which explains why the Masters addressed suffering and tried to alleviate pain, hunger and disease.

If you don’t know where your next meal is going to come from would you care to sit down and find inner peace? It is those who have everything and find that they are still empty that go seeking happiness and God. The rest of us believe that some goal in the future can get us there. If I can just make this much more money. If I can just find the right job. If I can just marry the perfect person for me. And the list goes on and on.

From where I stand, I know all of these things but try as I may I can’t find the peace that comes with the security of having a good job, a roof over your head and happy children. And I can’t seem to find it here while others transpose their will on my wishes and dreams. It feels as if the reins of my life are slipping away from me. So much so that I have turned into another version of myself – one I can’t recognize in the mirror.

The burden of others wishes have become my manacles – keeping me from living my life to the fullest. Keeping me from shining my brightest. Manacles or duties, call them what you like but the truth is that they keep you bound. Yes everyone has responsibilities, I know. But when these responsibilities keep you from doing what is best for you or prevents you from fulfilling other responsibilities that is when it becomes onerous and heavy. And try as you might no one benefits from it, least of all you. It results in a sort of co-dependency that keeps you trapped in the belief that you are actually helping the other person. The fact of the matter is that you are tying them down and making them more helpless. It is like giving a crutch to a man who can walk and convincing him that he cannot do without it.

Everyday I wake up to a world where I have to choose between my happiness and the happiness of others and I wish it wasn’t that way at all.

Not Depressed…Just Melancholic

That much celebrated emotion of bygone poets, bards and writers. That very same state of mind that evokes the deepest of sentiments that spill over and create art that transcends time, culture, and every other tangible wall. I fancy melancholic. It is definitely more palatable than depressed, don’t you think? Like a fancy mental state not requiring the 3 Ps – Prozac, a psychiatrist or psychological counseling. The hard part is to convince people that I’m simply in a melancholy mood on the verge of penning my next bestseller. I really doubt Van Gogh or Hemingway cared a hoot for what people thought. So these days I don’t give a damn either. You can pronounce me depressed, given your limited understanding of an artistic persona and you probably weren’t around when I was really depressed. I’m no where close to that now. I do have some days when I find it hard to get out of bed but I always find the strength to pull myself out of it.

So keep your eyes peeled for one helluva novel, poetry that pulls at your heart strings and other artistic outpourings from me. Just hope I can hold on to the melancholy long enough. Some days its just gone and other days it hangs around like a blanket obstructing the sun. Wish I could bottle some of it for days when I need a muse injected with a dose of sadness.

I don’t fancy putting on a smiling face and pretending everything is ok. It seems fake and unauthentic to me. That doesn’t mean you need to lament and share your sob stories with all. Nor does it mean that you should wallow in your woe. When you are not happy inside, the unhappiness spills out somehow. You are not really addressing it and so it stays there under the surface. You don’t have to say a word but people sense it and soak up some of it. After a point being around such people is unbearable.

It’s ok to feel sad and it’s ok to ask for what you need. I’m not going to burst into song and giggle my way through the day just because that is how you want me to behave. I might sing when I feel up to it or laugh at a joke that my kids made up. I give myself permission to be happy or melancholic and I don’t need you to judge me. I’m trying my best just like everyone else is and I need you to respect that. And maybe you’d be happy in the same circumstances but I’m not because I have higher standards! I don’t need to conform to your views of how I should live my life. You can keep going on like a hamster on a wheel, shoving everything down and pretending to be righteous. Excuse me for not joining your rat race and for stepping aside to do something more meaningful. For having the courage to say, this is not working for me and for looking for something better.

So the next time you see me and I’m not really grinning from ear to ear do yourself a favor and leave. I might be on the brink of a creative endeavor and I don’t need any naysayers to rain on my parade.

The Rise of the Sensitives

I have known that I’m different for a long time. When the whole world is going east I would be looking west. I gave up meat when I was in 12th grade and also became a Reiki Level II practitioner. I dabbled in yoga and spent Saturday mornings at a home for the mentally challenged. Yes I was different. I felt everything more intensely than everyone else. I just thought I was sensitive and being sensitive of course is considered a bad thing. It is associated with weakness and the inability to cope. Sensitive people would rather be at peace than be right. So often times we keep quiet to keep the peace. It doesn’t mean that we are in agreement with you – it just means that we don’t want to soak up the toxic energy created by an argument. I had to learn to be assertive even though it meant ruffling a few feathers.

Earlier I had to deal with just my emotions but these days I find that I’m picking up on everyone’s vibes and it is very unsettling. For no apparent reason my mood fluctuates. Then I look around me and I see people acting out, depressed, lonely, sad and hopeless. Some who can’t take it any more are ending their lives. There has been a rise in our level of sensitivity as a race. We are no longer living utterly selfish lives filled with apathy. Don’t read the prophecies of doom and gloom that the media is publicizing. Read stories of real people reaching out and helping – fellow humans, animals, trees and other distressed souls. Being tough and street smart aint getting anyone anywhere. Natural disasters, death and disease – humble levelers of us all – have taught us that we need each other and we can’t live in isolation, oblivious to the suffering of others. One day we might be in their shoes and all the money and intellect in the world couldn’t help us. Only another human can. Another sensitive human.

So I wear my sensitivity proudly as if it were a prized possession. Yes it is hard to manage all the emotions swirling around me and sometimes I feel overwhelmed and helplessly at the mercy of my feelings. But over the years I have learned to manage them and divert them for a better cause.

If you are sensitive you understand what another person is going through. You feel their emotions like they are your own. People feel soothed in your presence because you can empathize with them without any exchange of words. You are probably the person who takes all their distress calls.

Being sensitive is a blessing but could be a curse if you don’t know how to manage it. Of course you can manage it! Didn’t you know? You should know when to cut back and retreat so you don’t take on too much of other people’s energies. In Reiki they teach you this. Protect your aura before you start healing another and it applies to all of us even if we are not healers. Certain people can drain you of your energy and you need to identify these energy vampires and stay away from them. Some will be naturally drawn to you but you need to say no because no one benefits when you give at your own expense.

So how do we protect ourselves from being dragged down by the toxic energy around us? One way is obvious – pray and ask for protection. Another way is to stay away from news, media and not so loving people. Spiritual practices like meditation, yoga, tai chi and qi gong help center us and keep our emotions in balance. Lastly, get away, go on a vacation or simply retreat and rest. Affirm to yourself daily that you will at no cost be pulled into the drama because your nature is peace! Even when people spew out their negativity at you, stay centered and mentally negate the energy so it has no power over you. If it happens too often then try and get away from this person.

Being consciously sensitive is empowering and is in no way a sign of weakness. It is in fact the way to lead this world into a day when loving kindness and peace will prevail. Because loving kindness starts with you.

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.