Punctuate Life

Pause Breathe Relax


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The Road Less Taken…

It has been hard for me to follow my dreams because they did not match the dreams others had for me. I know that is a very disempowering notion but when you are child in a adults-know-best world that’s how it is. They wanted me to be a doctor and I really liked the idea until I realized that I hated dissection. If cutting up frogs in the zoology lab made me throw up, how on earth could I cut up corpses? Being a fan of horror movies didn’t help either! Nor did my new found interest in Reiki and other alternative therapies. Everyone was ok with me getting initiated in Reiki or doing an acupressure course or Pranic Healing. Everyone was ok with it being just a hobby. But to me it was more than a hobby. I felt passionate about alternative therapies. This was way back in school when I was still figuring myself out. And I’m still figuring myself out now because I felt others knew better. I thought the road I was taking was not so cool. The stats weren’t that good either. How many Reiki practitioners did I know? Just one. Just one sane one that is. I had very few role models to look up to. Very little support.

So I just buried everything because most of my friends frowned upon the idea of a Reiki therapist or an Acupuncture practitioner. I also felt a great connection with nature and thought ecology was the subject that would land me in a fulfilling career. I had the right idea but ended up in the wrong place. I felt so strongly that I was doing the right thing that when it didn’t work out and I had to quit I blamed myself. And worst of all I stopped trusting my own judgement. That started my downhill spiral to living an unauthentic life.

Reiki and yoga went into hiding. I was almost ashamed to admit that I knew Reiki or did yoga and the friends around me again validated this for me. Any talk about energy would make them visibly uncomfortable. So I buried all of that deeper. But it was such a burden on my psyche. And all that burying took its toll. It was like a shroud of unhappiness that I could never shake off, which clung to me like the mask I was wearing.

So after years of trying to fit in with what the world thought a respectable woman should do I finally realized that I always knew what I wanted to do. I wanted to be a healer or a teacher of healing arts. I wanted to help people feel better and live better lives. Help them work through their issues both physical and mental and emerge the best person they could possibly be. But I still didn’t have the courage to go for it. I still am surrounded by naysayers, brow beaters and soul stuffers. Now don’t get me wrong.  My friends and family mean well. They are trying to protect me from what they perceive as failure or danger or whatever else their limited perceptions allow them to believe. They are doing the best they can with the knowledge they have. But I can longer live with my people-pleasing unauthentic self.

And this blog which I started has been an eye-opener for me. First, it took courage to start the blog and put all my feelings out there. Second, writing put me in touch with my deepest fears and wildest dreams. In the last 8 months I’ve discovered more about myself than I have all my life. I’ve finally become comfortable with who I am even if it means that I’m a social outcast. Even if it means that my friends don’t approve. My dearest friend J (I love you very much!) and I were having a heated discussion the other day about my writing. She was telling me not to write about sensitive issues (See United Nations of the World). I simply refused to back down and said that I would write whatever it is I felt the need to write about. I know she was trying to protect me and if this had happened a few years ago I would have agreed with her.

It’s not that I don’t care about my family or my friends anymore. It’s just that I care about ‘me’ more. Being your version of ‘me’ brings me no joy and I’d rather travel on the road less taken than follow the crowd. Even if it means walking alone. Cos I know in my heart of hearts that it will take me home. I also know that not far along the path I’ll discover that I’m not alone. All I need is the courage to go down that lonely road.


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Nurturing the Goddess in you…

All you men out there, this one is for you as well. You may have six-packs and rippling muscles and testosterone in your veins. But you still have a feminine side. You have a heart, don’t you? That thing that pumps blood and also has the ability to make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Perhaps you haven’t been listening to it lately.  I’m sure you have faced the classic dilemma posed by your mind and heart. Your heart says go for it and your mind gives you a million reasons not to…You listen to your head and end up with heart ache later…

In a world built on logic and ruled by logic what place does the heart have? Well, the world built entirely on logic and largely by men in power is slowly crumbling down before our very eyes. It lacks sensitivity and creativity which are primarily feminine aspects. The mind thinks and the heart knows. We have forgotten how to trust our hearts to make decisions for us. We think through our decisions but forget to feel our way through them. We deny our feminine sides. Shun it, deplore it, mask it! And all you women out there are facilitators!

Just the other day I heard  a single mom say about her son – I don’t want him to be too girly. I’ve also heard soccer moms go on about how their daughters are not aggressive enough and push them into competitive sports. When boys cry we say to them – strong boys don’t cry and lead them to believe that crying is a sign of weakness. Or even worse – don’t cry like a girl – creating the notion that crying and being like a girl are both highly undesirable qualities.

In my house most of the crying is done by my boy. He is what they call a Highly Sensitive Male (HSM). He feels everything deeply and hollers his tiny heart out every once in a while! I wish he would relax a little while still holding on to his sensitivity. It makes him a remarkable little person. He senses my angst at the end of a long day and will come and ask me – Ma do you want me to help you. It just makes me want to cry!

Just hope the world that thinks sensitivity is a weakness and power comes from supressing others doesn’t take it away from him. I’ve heard so many opinions about raising boys that I’m sick of it. Don’t hug, kiss and coddle your boys too much. You don’t want them to be sissies! Go help your Dad (like helping your Mom out with chores makes you less macho!!) And then these very same boys that you raise rough & tough, grow up and shy away from changing diapers or feeding babies. Their women will lament about their lack of sensitivity. And then these very same women will go on to raise identical replicas of their husbands! Do you see the vicious cycle we have created?

Women too seem to suffer from the mind-rules-and-hearts-can’t-be-trusted psychosis. After years of supression, women came out of the home, out of their nurturing roles as moms and wives. And into a harsh corporate world where the rules are different. The rules were made by men – men who had suppressed their feminine side. Men who only thought of numbers, figures and bottom line margins. Women had to be tough, put family last, work long hours and put their heart-centred nurturing on the back burner. But we have seen how this fractured way of thinking without a balance of mind and heart has failed time and again because it forgets that people are the life of an organization and not figures.

Nature however loves balance and the time has come to balance the mind and the heart. The male and the female. The yin and the yang. It is no surprise that this year there were women Olympians from every participating country. Today several top companies like Yahoo and Pepsico are headed by women. My only prayer is that these women share their wisdom and chart their own path to success instead of following the foot steps of  those before them.

It’s heartening to see stay-at-home dads who love and care for their babies. I remember a time when dads never did any parenting. They brought home the bacon, drank beer and watched TV. They never read to their kids or even hugged them. Those days are long gone but some men still hang on to remnants of those days and think parenting is mostly the mom’s job. No wonder many single women think they don’t need a man to procreate anymore! But there is a reason why children need both a mom and a dad. So they grow up balanced. So their minds and hearts are equally developed. So they can think and trust. Judge and love. But in order to raise balanced kids we need to be balanced ourselves.

So how do you get in touch with your feminine side? It’s the playful, creative, loving side of you, that is connected to nature and all beings. When you hold your baby and your heart fills with so much love that it might burst – you are connecting to your feminine side. When your dog showers you with unconditional love and you mirror it back you are connecting to the feminine. When you reach out with compassion you are connected to that force. When you dance, sing, write, play, have fun you connect to your inner goddess. When you pay attention to your feelings instead of that little voice in your head you are connecting to your heart.

I love the picture in which Shiva has the right half of the body and Parvathi has the left half. Male and female totally balanced. Where the heart listens to the mind and the mind bows down to the heart which always comes from a place of compassion and unconditional love.

 


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The United Nations of the World

This post was meant to be on segregation and casteism and all the ugly covers we use to judge and divide us. But my wonderful husband told me this – your blog is about the positive, not about the negative. So I did not publish that post. Instead I have taken just the good points from it with the intention of sharing them with you.

Growing up, we were never really pukka Malayalees because we lived in Chennai and spoke mostly English at home. Part of it had to do with the fact that my parents never grew up in Kerala either. My mom had attended Benares Hindu University and was very fluent in Hindi. In fact she went on to be a very good Hindi teacher. My Dad grew up in Bombay and went to a school in Yercaud. I was born Hindu, went to a Christian school and said the Lord’s prayer everyday and lived in a neighborhood where everyone was Muslim.

Our Muslim neighbors burst crackers during Diwali and we shared sweets with them. During Ramzan they would send plates full of biriyani for us to enjoy. I don’t recall having any Malayalee friends in school. Lots of cousins, yes, but no friends. My best friends were Punjabi, Tamil, Telegu, Kannadiga and Bengali. It didn’t matter. No one made me feel like I was different. We all wore the same uniform, had the same rules to follow in school and our parents were friends. Some of the wonderful friends I made in college are Malayalees but that was not the reason I was friends with them!

I never really understood the impact of this kind of environment and upbringing until much later. Somewhere deep inside I knew that religion was just the way and that God was one indivisible being. I didn’t understand it even when 9/11 happened. Some of the best girls I know are Muslim and they are so gentle, loving and accepting. It didn’t hit me when I moved to the U.S. and the friends I made hailed from all over India.

But then slowly the hatred and bias that had been building up over the years started to spill over and I started hearing and seeing things that shocked me.

What really spurred me to write this article is something that came up in the news this week. It was about a boy who was one of the first responders when the 9/11 attacks happened. He lost his life trying to save the people trapped in the tower. His name was not mentioned along with the first responders. Why? Because he was a Pakistani Muslim. My good Indian friend L who lives in the Middle East told me that her best friend is Pakistani and I remember Benazir Bhutto’s last interview before she was assassinated. She talked of a deep love for her country and its beautiful people painted black by the media. She said that is why I fight for my country. That one sentence changed the way I as an Indian saw Pakistan. It is a country full of people like you and me, with families, with hopes and dreams. The real enemies are the politicians with their murky agendas, not the people of Pakistan.

I was also saddened by the news about the people from the North Eastern states having to flee Bangalore in the wake of threats of violence against them. What have we come to? Maybe the states should not have been divided based on language. But why should that divide us. What is wrong with speaking Hindi in Tamilnadu and why should every South Indian be called a Madrasi? I never grew up with those biases and so they seem really pointless and petty to me. I urge all of you to do the same. Get out of the narrow space that you have carved out for yourself. Explore the possibility of befriending someone outside of your limited religious or linguistic circle. My life is richer because of that. I learn so much about food and culture from my friends. And I almost always find so much similarity disguised as differences.

My kids now grow up in America and most of their friends are not Indians. I had to drop my bias against Westerners as well. I should have dropped it when I saw my friend S’s  husband who was German eat rice and curry with his hands. Or when G’s European fiance travelled all the way to India to meet her family and ask for her hand.  You see bias is a dangerous thing. Once you let it in, it colors your vision of the world and your life will never be the same again.

Don’t believe all that you see on television. The divide and rule policy is alive and well in every country’s government! Use your own experience to guide you.

I urge you to drop your veils and see the oneness that is us. It is what you have been seeking all your life…


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Return to Innocence…

It’s September already and we are fast approaching the end of the year and some think the end of the world. Now enough has been said about the apocalypse and the Mayan calendar and aliens annihilating our earth. So I will not delve into that. By the looks of it we sure seem to be headed toward total death and destruction. War in Syria. Drought in various parts of the world. Wild fires and hurricanes galore. And don’t even get me started on the pandemics that are breaking out everywhere! Yes, it does seem like the end is near. But wait and take a closer look. Look at it from another perspective.

Have you ever looked inside a compost pit? It looks disgusting and the smell can make you faint but after a while (a month or a year) it will be the best thing that you can put in your garden to help it flourish. That very thing that transforms garbage into garden gold is happening to the earth and to us. We have to facilitate this transformation. We have to purge ourselves of all the trash before we can shine and shimmer the way diamonds catch the light. We have to confront the shadows before we return to innocence. Innocence that was lost when we let the ego shroud our hearts and our minds with fear.

It could also be Mother Nature screaming out at us for help. Asking us to wake up and stop mindlessly polluting the air and water and filling landfills with garbage or cutting down trees in  the name of development. If she had a voice she would say – “Return to the innocence of the Native Americans who held the humble belief that they belonged to the land and not the other way around. Who treated every creature with respect, never wasted resources and had immense gratitude for all that the earth provided them. Relinquish greed and selfishness for gentler ways that nourish you and the planet. They were not the savages – you are!”

We can no longer pawn off all responsibility to others and let others take care of it. It’s much too late for that! We can no longer use apathy as a shield and excuses as a veil that keeps us from doing whatever little we can. There is still hope and ultimately light will break through the darkness but we cannot see the light if we keep our eyes closed. What I’m saying is this. We are very much a part of this transformation. The world will evolve with or without us. But we can hasten it by being actively involved in the transformation. Going back to the example of composting. You can help the organic matter decompose faster by adding earthworms and moving the material around every once in a while. Those two steps will give you compost in a month as opposed to a year if you let nature take its course! So let us be the earthworms of the world and digest and break down the stinky stuff so we can all enjoy the Golden Age!

So what can you do today? Do you recycle like there is no tomorrow? I do and now I’ve taken to cleaning up the beach as well. I heard about the 10 foot garbage island we have created in the ocean and that really got to me. Use less plastic, less paper. Detoxify your diet and your cleaning supplies. Drink more water and less soda, alcohol and caffeine. Eat fresh food and less fast food and processed food. Ditch the antibacterial soap and phospates in your cleaning supplies. Pray for peace and pray for our planet. Be an activist for peace and for the environment. Not all of us can hold up banners and go on protest marches or demonstrations. But you can write a petition. If you can’t write a petition, then sign a petition. If you can’t sign a petition then put a thumb impression on it…you get my drift! No excuses. No time to waste. No time to pass the buck.

Also no time to let the ego take over your mind and run with it. It will tell you the end is near and show you the worst-case scenario. But remember the world or universe does not have a built-in code for destruction. It has a built-in code for survival. We are a unique species. We are the sickness and the remedy. Give up your old ways and embrace a wholesome new way of life. It’s time to pause, breathe, roll up your sleeves and clean up your act.