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The Roaring 40s…

The other day I was lamenting to my parents about stubborn belly fat that won’t go away and they told me that happens at “my age”. I felt like it was a little premature for me to be having this conversation but it really got me thinking. I just celebrated a milestone birthday last month and I must say so many things have changed over the past decade. For one, my people pleasing days are over. You like me? Great! You don’t like me? Just get over it because I ain’t gonna bend over backwards to make you my pal. And my body is acting weirdly too. My stomach loudly protests in meetings if it is hungry, while I desperately clear my throat or cough to drown its groans. After a trip to DC where we walked around everywhere because parking is a pain in the city, I was almost immobile for days and had these aches and pains from muscles that are rarely used in my sedentary life. I made a note to myself to start exercising and taking better care of myself. Well, that lasted all of one week. Living with two teenagers drains all the energy out of me. I cannot have a conversation without being interrupted, corrected, or sassed. And chores? Don’t even get me started. As toddlers, they loved cleaning up. They would happily sing Barney’s clean up song and put all their toys away. Now, not only does the clean up song not work but also any amount of screaming and threatening won’t help. Some kid’s mom hides gift cards all over the house for them to find if and when they clean up. Most of her gift cards go undiscovered, so I’m not even going to try that. Sadly, part of you knows they’ll be off to college, leaving behind empty rooms that won’t get messed up till they come visit. That’s when you sigh and clean up the mess yourself.

I’ve connected with so many people over the last decade thanks to social media. So I should be grateful for technology right? No! Technology sucks! Ten years ago people used to call to wish you on your birthday. Now it’s just a bunch of messages on your social media page. 100 plus messages and yet that makes me feel mighty poor. Technology has its place, but condolences sent as text messages? That’s where I draw the line. If you can’t be with the person physically, then at least call. Losing someone close is incredibly painful, don’t make them feel like they don’t have anyone else they can turn to. And no one sends handwritten thank you notes anymore, except people from an older generation, so I’m going to let that slide.

It’s when you are at my age that you find older friends and family leaving for a better place and it makes you wonder about life and your purpose. Are we all here to study, work, marry, birth babies, send them to college, retire and die? Or is there something bigger than that? Today, I’m in a place in my life where I yearned to be in my 20s, but I find that the dream has lost its luster and left me feeling mildly unsatisfied. I don’t mean to sound ungrateful because indeed I’m blessed with all that I need and more. But I don’t feel like that is an accomplishment or something to be smug about.

Words get muddled up in my head sometimes and I end up saying things like “I gave up coffee cold shoulder” instead of “I gave up coffee cold turkey!” I mix up words and their meanings sometimes too and it is not very flattering given that I work as an editor. And I’m thinking I’m just 40, this can’t be happening to me. Maybe I’m doing something wrong here but I don’t know what. The last time I checked, these things happened to retired people! So much for the roaring 40s, I’m too pooped to go out with my friend during the week to network over cocktails. Maybe this is when life gives you a sneak preview of your later years or maybe it’s a wake up call to take better care of yourself so you’ll end up living a full life till the day you are gone. I don’t know. Check back with me in a decade!


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The Great Disconnect

We are fragmented beings at many levels, living in a fragmented world, trying so hard to patch together our fragmented lives. The chinks, the cracks, the scars and the wounds leave us feeling incomplete. This hole we try to fill with things we seek on the outside, failing to realize that they can never make us whole.

Take our bodies for instance. When we fall sick we look for external causes. We perceive our bodies as separate entities over which we have little or no control. We keep treating symptoms by popping pills or by getting someone else to figure out what is wrong with us. And we keep trying to fix things on the outside instead of looking inside for our own natural wisdom. Our bodies are not a mass of unintelligible cells. Each cell has its own innate intelligence and not the kind that humans acquire by poring over books or earning degrees. I’m talking about an intelligence so advanced that it is beyond the comprehension of us mere mortals with our limited thinking and limited vocabulary (confined solely to our experiences as humans). Animals are in touch with and connected to this intelligence. If you have pets you might have seen your dog eat some grass and then throw up when they have tummy troubles. They take charge and know exactly what to do to feel better.

Treating your body as an entity separate from you and separate from the supreme intelligence is the big physical disconnect. Ancient cultures that lived close to the earth possessed this intelligence. They had a vast knowledge of herbs that could heal. Modernization has caused us to disconnect.

Modernization also imposed proper manners and etiquette. Some of these things are good, like expressing gratitude and waiting to take turns. But most of it is pretentious and asks you to deny your true feelings to avoid hurting someone else. All this has led us to stuff down our feelings and force ourselves to act like everything is ok. Think about it. Some of our interactions with people are so fake and superficial. Like robots we have structured responses to every situation. We disconnect from our heart and our own emotions. We let our heads do all the talking, making most of our relationships flimsy and obsequious at its worst. We also refuse to acknowledge our true feelings and are quite content with the charade we call life.

Lastly we disconnect from Spirit /God/ Almighty and this causes the most suffering. It is like a hole you can never fill. Like everything else we project to the outside world, we continue to seek God on the outside as something separate from us. We view ourselves as different from this being. Nothing can be further than the truth. We seek love on the outside from people as fragmented as us. That kind of love just keeps us hostage and wanting more but never really fulfills us. It is like uprooting a plant from the earth and then trying very hard to keep it alive by pouring water on it, keeping it in sunlight and spraying plant food on it. The plant needs the earth to complete its life cycle. We need to connect to our source of life to become whole. Connecting with the divine spark within us will heal us of emotional and physical issues. This is when miracles become every day occurrences. So we can walk tall with our mind, body and spirit in perfect unison all working for our highest good.

Once we make this connection we become aware of another disconnect. The nature disconnect. God is not only within us but also within every blade of grass, every drop of the ocean and every animal. When we disconnect from nature we pollute, destroy and deplete resources and drive animals to extinction.

Disconnecting is like making  Horcruxes (please excuse the Harry Potter analogy) and we walk around with our souls in several pieces totally and utterly unaware of the horrific consequences. While Horcruxes cannot be undone, we can piece back our souls by simply looking within and acknowledging our own divinity and the divinity of others.

I turned to God (up in heaven kind of God) to help me heal emotionally. Again as a healer I relied on healing from a Divine source (outside of me). They say God is omnipotent and omnipresent. As a kid I imagined several images of God all over the room, all over the world and all over the Universe (invisible of course!) Now I understand those words quite differently. God is within each one of us, has been and always will be. No matter where we are, we are with God at any given moment. Also every person we meet is divine. Yes, that includes you as well!

It is not easy to accept this idea of being one with others, nature and God all at once. So start slowly by looking for answers within. By connecting with that deep wisdom, healing, love and oneness every day. Slowly the connection will become stronger until you no longer need to consciously seek it. It will always be on!

So let me conclude by saying Namaste – the light within me bows down and honors the light within you. For we all have inbuilt flood lights we just need to remember to turn them on!


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All I Wanted for Christmas…

My list was long and I was just waiting for the winter break to get started on it. Some things were material and some were more abstract. I wanted to cut and color my hair, get myself a sweater, go on vacation with my family, write a novel, meet up with old friends and relatives we haven’t met in a while. On my last working day before the break, I took off early from work. I didn’t feel good. Sure enough by the time I got home I was coughing and sneezing and totally miserable. The next day I felt worse but by then I had started a course of antibiotics. By Sunday I was a complete and total mess. My tummy hurt, I was coughing and bringing up mucus and I had absolutely no energy to do anything.

The first thing to be crossed off my list was meeting with an old school friend. She and her family were visiting Orlando and we had agreed to meet up on Sunday for dinner. I wasn’t up to it at all and I didn’t want to make her baby and little girl sick and ruin their trip. I crossed off going to the salon as well, when I got back after grocery shopping (we had no food in the refrigerator!) and collapsed on the bed. I didn’t care about the grey’s showing or if I had a matching sweater to wear to work. All I wanted was to be well. All I wanted was some energy to get through the day.

The weekend was gone and I was done with my course of antibiotics. The cough had subsided but the fatigue clung to my body. It took every ounce of strength to get up and fix a meal and after eating I’d go collapse on the bed leaving my husband and kids to clean the dishes and clear the table. On Monday I wanted to blog. I sat on the couch, paper and pen in front of me. I had a couple of topics that had come to me earlier but my brain was in a fog. The virus or whatever it was had sapped every cell in my body of all its strength. Every day I got up praying that I would be better. And I would be. Thinking I was back to normal I’d go about my chores only to find myself totally drained out. Write a novel? Forget about it! I couldn’t come up with a measly sentence for crying out loud!

By Wednesday I was not only physically down but also my upbeat attitude had taken a terrible beating. It hit me finally that without a sound body, everything I did in life would be impossible to do. Every thing that I had taken for granted – healthy vigor, energy, creativity, fun, laughter, work – all of it simply vanished when my health was compromised. It made me realize that good health is the greatest gift without which the rest of life’s blessings cannot be enjoyed. I also came to the humble realization that even though I believed that I was living a healthy life, taking good care of myself and not indulging in risky behavior, I had no power over disease. It could strike any time, out of no where and ravage your body, mind and spirit.

The next day I was almost back to normal. My energy levels were up. But my spirit was shaken. I felt small, mortal and completely vulnerable. I felt sorry for myself. All my plans for the winter break were now just plans that would never take shape. Since we waited for the last minute to plan our trip there were no rental cars available. So we had to be content staying home. My distress levels hit the roof until I realized there were folks out there without power. Folks who had to leave home and spend Christmas in a hotel or a friend’s home. Folks who had to spend Christmas alone because they had no family. Folks who were sick on Christmas day.

I was thankful that I was better on Christmas day and got to meet relatives from New Jersey for a fun-filled dinner. A dear friend called me late in the night, quite unexpectedly, just to lift my spirits.

I am thankful I have power and can stay home, even though a vacation is out of question. I am thankful for my beautiful family, for taking care of me and nursing me back to health. Thankful for friends who called to check on me. So in the end I didn’t get most of the stuff on my list but I did find out that I’m one lucky lady. I already had everything that really mattered. Everything that made the holidays special – family, a warm home and wonderful friends. Without that and my health (which is back to normal) none of the gifts on my list would have given me any joy at all.

I am thankful for the disease that came right around the holidays threatening to ruin it but turned out to be a beautiful lesson and a gift that I now share with you. The most important gifts in life are those that money can’t buy. They don’t come gift wrapped with a big bow on the side. They most certainly cannot be returned, exchanged or regifted. But be sure to cling on to these all year long and especially during the holidays for they make life complete and are a joy to receive. Wishing you good health, a warm home, your beautiful family & friends and lots of joy this holiday season.


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You have the Universe and All its Treasures at Your Feet

We all grew up with a lack mentality. The illusion of not having enough. Even if you were well-off you had to face a world of inequality and injustice at every level. Poverty, illness, death and disease was the fate of the unfortunate or so you believed. Like the Gods didn’t favor them for some reason.

Of late I’ve come to believe that all the inequalities we see, all the injustices and blatant violation of human rights are all created by man. Grace, abundance, love and joy are freely available. It’s like the sun which shines on all, no matter if you’re rich or poor, saint or sinner, fat or skinny, healthy or diseased. God’s grace is shining on every soul at every moment. Then why is there suffering you ask? Because you have this thing called the mind that can play devil’s advocate from time to time. You filter the world through your mind, based on your past experiences.  After all, you don’t absorb much of the sun’s radiation if you sit indoors with the windows shuttered and the drapes drawn. If your mind shuts out the grace and healing that is available to you every moment, then who is to blame?

The mind is a tricky entity to deal with. I’m still irked by how it sneaks unwanted thoughts and beliefs into my psyche. One night I was up watching TV all by myself. A beautiful actress with long hair and perfect skin appeared and I mentally sighed. I’ve had issues with my stomach, skin and hair for sometime now. I’ve tried creams, shampoos and diets but nothing worked for me. This Hollywood beauty had top dermatologists and hair stylists at her beck and call. Poor me, what could I do? I’ll just have to suck it up and make peace with my not-so-perfect health!

I’ve had this limiting thought so many times but this time I realized how it was preventing me from finding solutions to my problems. I felt I needed to be someone else, somewhere else in order to be healed! It’s all there for me and everyone else who wants it. I was just pushing it away with my mind and its irrational thoughts. This reminded me of the clip-on mosquito repellent ad. It was like I had a giant bubble around me preventing me from soaking up all the healing, love and abundance I needed.

As a Reiki healer I have felt these bubbles or blocks energetically. Reiki is a healing technique that involves laying your hands on a person and requesting Reiki energy to flow through you from the cosmos to the person to facilitate healing. People who have a mental block or don’t trust that they can be healed don’t allow the energy to pass through them and in effect prevent their own good or healing from happening. Remember I said cosmos – the air around us is full of prana, chi or life force. You can tap into it right now even without being attuned to Reiki. Breathe it in and allow it to heal you. Stop the constant chatter of your mind and allow your highest good to unfold now. Yes now! You can be whole, perfect and abundant in an instant.

How else can you explain classic rags to riches stories? Homeless people winning lotteries and becoming millionaires. Orphans growing up to be great spiritual masters. Miraculous healing beyond all odds. They all tuned into the love and abundance of the universe and tuned out the illusions created by the mind. The Tao teaches us to become one with the universe in order to be whole and complete. To be one with the universe is to be one with love, compassion and abundance. Then you want for nothing and everything is freely available to you. The universe gives freely of its abundant, inexhaustible resources. When you give with the same spirit then all the abundance you can imagine will lay at your feet.

In order to be healed you must give up thoughts of being imperfect or broken beyond fixing. Of course you will need to make changes to your diet or lifestyle as guided. But your success largely depends on your beliefs about whether you can be healed or not. For years I felt healing was something that came from the outside. I could help others feel better but when it came to healing myself I had little success. A bad case of throat infection that refused to go away with antibiotics got me anxious. I was to travel to India in less than a week and I had no energy to pack. I wanted the healing and I wanted it bad! So I lay down and placed my hands on my throat. The old doubts about self-healing surfaced and tormented my mind but a wave of trust placated it. In a few days I was out of it and felt much better. I went on to have a fabulous vacation in India.

Louise Hay says in her book, “You Can Heal Your Life”, abundance is like the ocean. Some come to fill up tiny cups and others come with tankers.

So what will it be for you? A tiny cup or a tanker. Do you want to be out soaking up the grace or in a room with the doors and windows locked and shuttered? It’s all up to you, for the wealth of the universe lies at your feet!

 


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The Dilemma

Who am I?

I don’t seem to know anymore!

I wake up in the morning

And stare blankly at the door.

Trapped in a body wracked with limitation,

Every breath is an act of suffocation.

Am I the sum total of my successes,

Or the product of my failures?

 

Everything is a lie and illusion is rampant,

It is taken to be real and there lies the delusion.

The truth is hard to swallow,

The pain too much to bear,

This separation between body and soul,

As the body stumbles and the soul soars,

This I’m sure I did not ask for!

 

To be of this world and not to be,

To belong and not fit in,

To be torn between the dream and the awakening,

Is a dilemma that I dread facing.

 

Disconnected from the love of the source,

A whirlwind of activity and emotions I force,

I trip and fumble trying to find

Something that will satisfy this deep thirst in my soul.

What is it that seeks to be birthed?

A tiny voice inside me speaks,

Which I try to drown in the quagmire that is my mind.

Feebly it cries – Happiness lies in the ‘IS’,

In the ‘Now’

In the everlasting that is there forever more.

 


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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!


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Taming Your Mind, the Monkey

I did not go out seeking mind control. But was forced to do it after a severe bout of depression. I simply had to control the negative feelings that kept rising up every now and then. So powerful that they almost smothered me. I was afraid that if my predominantly negatively charged brain was given control that I would plunge back into the Black Hole. The Balck Hole that I swore never to return to.

So the first step to controlling your thoughts is to be AWARE of them. If you go through your day doing things and not paying attention to your mental chatter then you have no control. But then again it’s hard to pay attention to your thoughts when you have a million things to do and your mind is jumping from one task to the next. My suggestion? Take a few minutes every day to just sit down and listen to your thoughts. Write them down if you want. Now check to see if they are predominantly positive thoughts or negative thoughts. Are they thoughts that will set you free or keep you victimized? Will they help you in your life’s purpose or will they keep you stuck? Or are you just replaying the bad events of your life over and over?

Thoughts and feelings are bosom buddies in that, where one goes the other will follow. If your thoughts are blue, guess what?  You will be feeling blue. When I felt sad I would try very hard not to dwell on those thoughts that were making me sad. By not paying attention to them. By doing something to keep myself busy or by distracting myself. Little did I know then that I could totally shift the way I was feeling by simply force -feeding my mind some positive thoughts. So for many years I lived in this limbo of unhappiness, slipping in and out of near depression. Mind you a negatively charged brain will refuse to go on a positive thought diet. It will throw up, gag, retch and find myriad ways to let you know that it dislikes change! Over time and with practice I have made my mind a cheery little creature that speaks encouraging words, eggs me on and boosts my confidence. You can do it too – everytime you pay attention to your thoughts. If they are positive, good for you! If not, stop, drop the negative thought and keep the positive ones rolling.

Here is the danger with not replacing the negative with the positive. Like attracts like. So one negative thought leads to another, then another and then another. And before you know it you are wallowing in it, in your nightgown at 11.00 in the morning! So remember the fire drill. Stop! Drop! Roll!

After a point I needed more than just positive thinking to keep me centered no matter what. I was looking for peace, a serenity that enveloped me and everyone I came in contact with. For that I turned to meditation. I was always drawn to it but it took me years to find the right fit for my kind of mind. I started off with Reiki Chakra meditation. Then SOHAM meditation. None of them lasted for more than a few months. If you prefer a guided meditation tape or CD then you could try these. In my case it was during guided meditation that I lost all feeling from my body and felt blissful. That one experience egged me on to find the perfect meditation. There was this chant that I heard at a musical that I really liked. It was like a trance and it made me feel at peace. So I used to chant it a few times and then just enjoy the peace that came with it.

For someone who has never meditated before I would suggest sitting still for a few minutes and following the breath. Take deep breaths and focus on your breathing. If you mind is too active then you need to focus it on one thing. Try saying a mantra. Choose something meaningful to you and not something random. ‘Om’ is a good mantra but if you feel it’s too ‘Hindu’ for you go with ‘Aaaah’. Take a deep breath and say Ooooooooooooommmmmmm or Aaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhh on the exhale. Say it slowly and remember to stay with the ending sound as well  – the mmmm hum or the hhhhh hum after your lips close. Feel the vibration, feel the mantra course through your body. Feel the rhythm. Say it as many times as you need to and then just sit still and listen to or feel the chant in your mind or body.

Eckhart Tolle describes another method in his book “A New Earth”. This is a must read for anyone searching for meaning amidst the chaos of the world. He says that the breath or prana or life force or spirit is the doorway to your soul and the peace and bliss that comes with it. I’ve heard of this concept before and I had tried to control my breath in order to control my mind. If you hold you breath your mind will be quiet. I just ended up breathless! Tolle however asks us to watch our breath. As in, breathe consciously as opposed to unconsciously. That will stop the mental chatter because you can only be fully aware of one thing at a time. I practised this type of meditation for a while and then I saw Deepak Chopra’s meditation on the Doctor Oz show. He asked the audience to feel their heartbeat without placing their hands over the heart. And then progressively feel various parts of your body by sending your attention or concentrating on that part. Start with bigger areas like your hands or your feet. Then try feeling your nose, ears and scalp. As you concentrate you will feel the life force as a pulsating sensation, fully alive. As you do this, your attention which is usually in your mind will begin to shift and you are no longer a prisoner of your mind.

Yoga again is meditation in motion, if done properly. You have to breathe into the pose, feel the stretch or in other words your awareness should be within your body, totally present, totally focused.  Shavasana (corpse pose) is a wonderful relaxation pose and when the body is relaxed, the mind relaxes too. Then if you just follow your breath, you go deeper into relaxation and deeper into meditation.

One last type of meditation that might work for some of you, especially if you have an analytical mind is the Self- Enquiry method or the Who am I meditation. I have not had much success with it possibly because I’m not very analytical! So you sit still and ask the question – Who am I? Your mind will give you a thousand answers. Negate all those answers. Ask the question, be quiet and plunge deeper. In the end after you realize that you are not the body, the thoughts or the mind or the roles you play, you will only hear the ‘I’- ‘I’ beating of your soul.

It’s important that you use the same room/chair/place for your practice. After a while just entering the room or sitting on the chair will take you to that deep, sacred and peaceful place, almost instantly! If you try the last type of meditation and meet with success, please share your experience so others like me may learn and follow.