Punctuate Life

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30 Days of Meditation

I won’t lie. The car accident left me emotionally scarred. Right after it happened I wasn’t sure if I’d ever drive again. I had a hard time focusing at work and the smallest frustration made me burst into tears. Physically, I had escaped with a few scratches and bruises but emotionally, I was a mess. I took a week off from work to rest and heal. My nervous system was on overload and I felt like one small incident would lead to a breakdown. That’s when I turned to meditation. For thirty minutes everyday I sat down with some meditation music and tried to empty my mind of all the agonizing thoughts it was spitting out by the second. When I was done my mind would start all over again. But it got easier every day. I looked forward to 30 minutes of being free of my mind and it’s depressing thoughts. Some days I did better than others and some days I slipped back into depression.

But something egged me to keep going and I did. Now the lows are fewer and less frequent. I don’t wake up dreading what ugly thoughts my mind will conjure up for me. I found the courage to start driving again. I never thought I’d do that! It felt like the old fear of driving would now overrule all the confidence I had built up in 10 years of sitting behind the wheel.

I quit my job at the end of August and I’m facing another big fear again—finding a job. If you follow my blog, you know how much I have struggled with getting back to work after raising my kids for over a decade. Part of me thinks I’m a dunce to throw away a perfectly good job on a whim. But the deeper part of me that I dig into when I meditate tells me I did the right thing. Again I’m surprised that I’m not freaking out right now. A month into the job search and I haven’t landed a job. But instead of losing it, I’m more balanced and I’m more confident; another result of my daily practice.

Back when I was living in Florida, I used to meditate almost everyday. These were my early days of blogging and I found that ideas would pop into my head effortlessly during the day. Sometimes even during meditation. It has happened rather infrequently after that. Probably because I stopped meditating regularly and got sucked into the busy, busy,  busy, always-busy rut. Now after meditating for over a month I feel like I can hear the whispers of creativity again. Just yesterday when I was thinking about a title for this blog, I tried using my brain to come up with a suitable title. But none of them sounded right. I gave up and then when I was doing something else the title “30 Days of Meditation” popped into my head and I just knew this was the one I’d go with.

Another funny thing happened after I started meditating. I decided to go vegan. This was my second attempt at going vegan and I approached it with a little wariness. My last attempt fell flat because I went cold turkey. I couldn’t drink tea with soy milk. The soy milk didn’t agree with me and left me gassy and bloated. I was looking for support from family and got none. They felt being vegetarian was bad enough! This time I knew what I was getting into. I don’t drink tea anymore and I got almond milk instead of soy milk. I eased myself through the process of giving up dairy. First, I gave up milk and butter, then cheese and yogurt. The last one was difficult because I love yogurt—with rice and pickle or strawberry flavored. But I wasn’t willing to buy a 4 oz. container of coconut yogurt for $1.45 at Traders Joe’s. Chocolate wasn’t so hard to give up because I don’t have it every day. But I’m going to treat myself with a vegan bar ever month. I have to thank Nisha Vora and her book “The Vegan Instant Pot Cookbook” for making vegan cooking look so glamorous! And no my family was not supportive this time either but soon realized I’m not backing out and that I had all the support I needed to do this from the inside.

Now, what I experienced is not new. My brother reported not wanting to eat meat for weeks after coming back from a 10-day Vipassana meditation retreat. And he’s the guy that loves meat, even game meat! And in this book about meditation I picked up, “Success Through Stillness,” the author Russel Simmons, mentions the same thing. He even claims it can help people with addictions. The book reinforced all that I had experienced after 30 days of meditation and that’s when I realized like Russell that meditation is not getting all the attention it should.

So I urge you to start a practice, even if there is seemingly nothing wrong with you physically, mentally, or emotionally. Just sitting in stillness and focusing on your breath or a mantra for twenty minutes a day can change your life. You will feel like a different person; you will feel more alive, creative, balanced, and in control. You will achieve a lot more with little effort. You can drop addictions, lower your blood pressure, lose weight, ease symptoms of depression, and achieve anything because you can now tap into a part of your brain that was shut out because of the constant nonsensical chatter in your head. Move over wrinkle creams! Meditation has been proven to lengthen your telomeres and slow cellular aging. Don’t take my word for it. Go look up studies and research articles online and you’ll have a mountain of evidence that meditation is good for you.

I for one don’t put stuff on my blog unless I have experienced it or benefited from it or if it could be a cautionary tale for others. As someone who has grappled with depression in the past, I know how hard it is to get out of your mind and the looping negative thoughts. I thought after the accident that I was going to have another debilitating depressive episode and it would take me months to come out of it. And I’d need pills and therapy. But I’m out of it and I owe it to meditation. It also helped me reach out to people who were supportive and gave me the strength to get out of it. I do want to say if you need help please seek it but also add meditation to your daily regimen to augment your treatment.

Lastly, I want to say that a lot of celebrities (Oprah, Ellen, Deepak Chopra to name a few) meditate and they have to make time in their hectic schedules to do it. But they do it because like me they have seen an incredible transformation in their lives. So just start and keep at it. If you don’t know how, look up YouTube videos. Deepak Chopra has some good ones. You can also pick up Russell Williams book where he guides you through Transcendental Meditation.

Do any of you meditate on a regular basis? I’d love to hear about your experiences. Here’s to your good health and me landing my dream job!

 


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Energy Healing 101

For most people the body is a solid tangible entity and the core reality of their existence. They forget that everything in this universe and beyond is energy and besides what is visible to the naked eye is a whole other subtle world that influences our reality. Without this energy or life force (chi or prana in eastern traditions) the body would simply be a corpse.

Our thoughts, emotions, and feelings emit a frequency, an energy if you will, that is palpable if you are discerning. Everyone is aware of this at some deep level but often dismisses it for things perceived by the senses. Regular folk who walk on sites that used to be concentration camps or battlefields can sense the pain, fear, and despair because these places are drenched in those energies. On the flip side when people visit a monastery, meditation center or place of worship they can feel the peace and almost always come back feeling good.

Think about it. Some places or people always make you feel peaceful and calm while others trigger unpleasant emotions. So what is it you are picking up on? Surely not the external appearance of things! Someone could be smiling at you and quietly cursing you in their head and somehow you know. You are picking up on their energy.

Apart from the physical body we all have an energy body that is greatly influenced by the food we eat, our predominant emotions and thoughts, all of which are different forms of energy. This energy influences our physiology and as a result our body. This is probably old news. Doctors have been talking about the mind-body connection for several years now. But what is interesting is that more and more doctors and hospitals are offering alternative and energy healing therapies in addition to regular treatment options.

My introduction to energy medicine came at a young age. A Reiki Master came to my college and gave a talk on energy healing and I was instantly drawn to it. I did my Reiki Level 1 with my Reiki Master, Nirupama Prasad. After that I was doing hands-on healing for family and friends and also started meditating on a regular basis. I ended up doing Reiki Level 2 as well, which allowed me to do distant healing. I sent Reiki to my babies when I was pregnant and both my kids were born healthy and through normal delivery. I have this on again and off again relationship with Reiki for several years now. But a few years ago I noticed a great surge of energy every time I did Reiki. My daughter started believing in Reiki after I got Lucky, our cat, to sit on my lap while I did Reiki. She closed her eyes, became very still and seemed to enjoy it. As a matter of fact, animals and plants respond very well to Reiki.

So what is Reiki? It is cosmic or divine energy (prana or chi) that is all around us. Reiki healers can channel this energy through their body and out of their hands to the patient. They don’t draw their own energy. This is important to note because some people worry that the Reiki healer’s energy will get depleted because they are sharing it with others. Contrary to this notion, healers feel energized after a Reiki session. They allow the divine energy to flow through them and fill them up before channeling it to the patient.

Reiki treatments are very effective for aches and pains. After a couple of treatments, the pain subsides or completely disappears. The patient also feels relaxed, sleeps better, and is emotionally balanced after a session. There are stories out there about Reiki curing cancer, reversing hearing loss,  and healing bones. I did Reiki for A when she broke her elbow. She reminded me that the cast came off two weeks before it was supposed to. The orthopedic surgeon was surprised and asked us if she had eaten a lot of cheese!

Over the years I’ve been wary of openly proclaiming the miraculous powers of Reiki or energy healing. Many thought I was weird, out there, cray cray, cuckoo for talking about it. But these days Reiki has become more mainstream and less “out there” and “alternative”. There are doctors in Duke Hospital who are also Reiki healers. Duke even offers Reiki Level 1 and 2 as part of their integrative medicine initiative.

I was surprised the other day when “Saving Hope” a medical drama series that explores near death experiences introduced a Reiki healer talking about the heart chakra of a comatose patient. Usually the media stereotype for spiritual or new age folk is a blundering fool who talks funny and can’t fit in with regular folk who constantly poke fun at their weird rituals. So it was refreshing to see that the surgeon in this serial wanted to give Reiki a shot to save her patient.

Alternative medicine (acupressure, acupuncture, Reiki, naturopathy, homeopathy, etc.) is gaining more acceptance. People are beginning to wake up to the fact that there is more to life than just this body and material acceptance. Also they are tired of popping pills and dealing with side effects. While alternative medicine cannot completely replace Western medicine, it can surely hasten the healing and reduce side effects. And more and more doctors and patients are becoming aware of this.

My aunt can’t pop pills when she is in pain since she is allergic to several pain killers. So I find myself doing Reiki for her whenever she is dealing with pain. These days she refuses to go see a doctor and insists that Reiki will heal her.

After the accident, I plunged into Reiki and meditation with renewed vigor. A month ago I was a nervous wreck – weepy, emotional, withdrawn, and barely able to function. After a month of Reiki and meditation, I feel more balanced, positive, and in control. I drove again for the first time after the accident and wasn’t crippled by fear or anxiety. It’s a miracle! I never thought I’d get out of it. I thought my old fear of driving would possess me, now that it had some external validation.

I decided to offer Reiki to people outside of my immediate circle because I have witnessed its immense power and miraculous results. If you are still skeptical, give it a shot. You’ll be surprised at the results. I always am!

If you have any questions or need more information please share them in the comments section and I will be more than happy to go deeper into this subject.


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While You Were Sleeping…

My grandmother was a busy woman. She used to work at her gas agency from 8.30 in the morning to 1.00 in the afternoon. Then she’d come home for lunch, pop a handful of pills (she had heart disease and high blood pressure) and settle down for a nap. She napped every day from 1.30 to 3.00. She was a light sleeper and when one of the million clocks in her room chimed she’d jump out of bed and get dressed for work.

When I was growing up in my grandma’s house, I would get back from school after my grandma had left for work at 3.30 in the evening. But come weekends, my grandma would insist that I go lie down next to her and take a nap. She wouldn’t take no for an answer so I’d end up in bed with her, a big blanket over me. I’d lie absolutely still until I heard soft snores emanating from my grandma’s side of the bed. I’d wait a couple more minutes and then gingerly slip out of the bed and head to the door. Now this was the tricky part. Like I said, my grandma was a light sleeper and the smallest noise would rouse her. Ever so gently I would push down the handle of the door and slip outside. As I closed the door and released the handle as slowly as I could the metal would touch the wood and my grandma’s eyes would fly open. She would give me a look of disdain as I turned away and snuck outside to play.

I would cut up leaves of various hues in the garden and grind some bricks to make chili powder. Then I’d arrange the bricks to make a stove and cook my leaves in tiny steel pots and pans which my grandma got for me. When I was older my grandma had young maids and they were my playmates. So when my grandma and the older maids were taking a nap we’d play all sorts of games and I would teach them how to write their names in English.

It didn’t matter if you were a kid or a grandma or a middle-aged person, anyone spending a day or more with my grandma would be coaxed to take a nap. If she was very close to the person, she’d fetch them a pillow and blanket and ask them to sleep right next to her. In 2009, just days before she passed away I lay beside her with my daughter. I held her soft hands and fell asleep out of sheer exhaustion. I woke up hearing the nurse talk on the phone – her pulse is going down – she was saying. Two days later my grandma was gone.

I’m not much of a napper but when I had my first baby I started taking naps in the afternoon. My daughter was quite a good sleeper and she woke up just once during the night. It was when my son came along that sleep deprivation took on a whole new meaning! His schedule was erratic. He woke up every 2 hours at night to feed or be comforted back to sleep. I couldn’t nap in the afternoon because the two of them wouldn’t nap at the same time. I would be dying to take a nap but I couldn’t and my long day would end only at 11.00 p.m. Just as I dozed off, baby number 2 would wake up screaming!

I would wander around like a zombie and get irritated if someone buttered the toast too loudly! I was on edge and would start yelling at the slightest provocation. By the time my son was one I was ready to wean him and let him cry himself to sleep! My husband jumped in to my rescue and he tried feeding my son from a bottle. My son however never took to the bottle or formula for some reason and after 3 days he stopped waking up at midnight.

I didn’t need naps anymore but I did need some downtime. So I got the kids to nap at the same time. It was tricky because my son would want to roll off the bed and go play. I had to put him in the middle and hug him ever so tightly so he wouldn’t wriggle away. My daughter was really getting to the age where she didn’t need naps but she used to humor me (angel that she is! ) Once they feel asleep they’d only wake up after 2 hours.  Those 2 hours were when I watched the Oprah show or read without the book being yanked off or spoke to friends on the phone without being interrupted. I developed great respect for the concept of napping.

And soon after that I was terrified of napping while my kids were awake. Here is what happened. We had gone on a trip to the West Coast and when we got back home I was so exhausted that I fell asleep on the couch while my kids were playing around. My son decided to try shoving a straw up my nostril and I woke up startled. As they got older the fear dissipated and sometimes I would nap in the afternoons and let them play. They would assume it was ‘their time’ (unsupervised time). So they’d run out to the patio with buckets of water and start washing their bikes or doing some messy craft that requires adult supervision.

I rarely nap these days and on weekends when my husband sometimes takes a nap, the kids and I play board games. When we go back home to India to visit our parents we end up napping because of the jet lag. Also all the travelling and running around visiting friends and family gets us exhausted. Probably when we are old and gray (second childhood!) we’ll go back to napping the way kids did when they were babies!

 


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Vegan or Vegetarian?

I turned vegetarian when I was 16. I saw a goat being slaughtered on television. I saw chickens with their feet tied to the handlebars of bicycles, their beaks grazing the wheels. My taste buds kinda died that day. I lost my taste for mutton and chicken and even seafood. I went a bit extreme and gave up leather footwear and handbags. Handbags I wore well but my feet blistered the moment I wore PVC shoes. Jute shoes and online shopping were not popular back then. Heck! I had no credit card. So I reluctantly went back to leather. I reckoned they used the hides of cows that are slaughtered for beef anyways! Wrong! The beef and leather industry haven’t made the connection. I thought until recently that all dairy products are manufactured humanely. After all no animals get killed right? Wrong again! Cows have their calves taken away from them so they can be milked solely for human consumption. Some calves are shut away in cages to make them veal entrees at fancy restaurants! So last month I decided to become vegan and then I realized how hard it is. It meant giving up eggs, milk and yogurt which is about the only protein I get apart from lentils. So I started by giving up milk and then I realized I don’t drink black tea. So a little milk trickled back into my diet. Then I was making pancakes and eggs were included in the recipe. So I had that as well. Being South Indian means yogurt is a big part of my diet. So I couldn’t suddenly stop eating yogurt.

Then I decided I should just not buy milk and yogurt anymore. But then what about the kids? They need 2 glasses of milk everyday and yogurt to go with my spicy cooking! So I took my daughter grocery shopping with me and told her I was going to buy soy milk. She screwed up her face and said – please Ma! I don’t want it! Then my husband’s face flashed before me. He would not approve of soy milk tea – not in a million years! It’s a good thing I didn’t buy soy milk because a few days later I read about genetically modified products in the very same soy milk I was tempted to pick up. So right now I’m swimming in information that makes me feel guilty every time I have dairy! Sometimes I just wanna scream. As you may have guessed my stint as a vegan was short lived and very unsuccessful.

I remember someone I met long ago who was relating to me why he had turned vegetarian. When he was a kid he had a chick in his backyard that he raised as a pet. The chick soon grew into a hen and he was really attached to it. One day he came back home to find the chicken gone and guess what was for dinner? His uncle had come for a visit and was craving chicken. The boy was crushed, mad, angry. Of course he would have rather starved than eat his own pet chicken. So that day he swore off meat.

I know many people who love animals but still eat meat. It’s like they would never dream of hurting their pets but as long they don’t kill the animals they eat, it’s fine. Some say if we don’t eat fish the oceans will have too many fish. Actually the opposite is true. Over fishing is rampant everywhere and if we don’t stop we’ll run out of fish soon. Some think the vegetarian diet is not wholesome. Again we are not true carnivores. We cannot eat raw meat and survive. Our teeth and our intestines are designed for plant based diets.

Sometimes I wish I never knew any of this. Ignorance is truly bliss and peace of mind and easier times at the grocery stores. I  think it’s up to people to decide what they put into their mouths. So for years I have been a passive vegetarian – I don’t go around trying to get people to stop eating meat. But the problem is not about what you put into your mouth. There are bigger issues than that. It’s about being humane, saving our oceans, saving species from extinction and in turn saving ourselves. There is too much information out there and in the end no one can force you to make the decision. Read about fishing and the meat industry and dairy and make a conscious choice. Even if you don’t become vegetarian or vegan at least support farms that treat animals well. If we have a choice when it comes to what we eat I think they have a choice too. A choice to live, be treated well and die a natural death!