Punctuate Life

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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.


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Slow Down, Chennai!

Almost a month has passed since I moved back to Chennai. It hardly feels like the city I grew up in. Madras as I knew it was a laid back metro, unimpressed by the hustle and bustle and night life of Mumbai and other cities. The city went to sleep at 10.00 p.m. like all its residents. No one stressed about traffic and commute and people were quite happy with their filter coffee and idli-sambar.

Over the past decade, fast food and instant coffee has replaced so many iconic landmarks. I remember eating crispy dosa and vanilla ice cream at Dasaprakash and going to Woodlands Drive-in Restaurant. Or browsing at Landmark bookstore, my favorite haunt. All gone without a trace.

The whole city has a different pulse. A hurried pulse if you will. Everybody is in a hurry. On the road, everyone wants to push past you and get to God knows where. They are going to show up late, anyways. So why bother! Three times this week my kids reported that their bus was hit by another vehicle. Every other day we see an accident on the road and know that it could have been prevented. Moms pick up their kids from school, grab a snack from a convenience store and rush them off to tuition classes. Nobody has time for anyone else.

Everyday is a battle to get to work, clock in nine or more hours, rush home, cook, eat, sleep and repeat. Ladies who opt to stay home have their hands full with temperamental maids (who are also in a big rush!), then tackling kids and their mountains of homework and incessant tests. Kids don’t have time to go outside and play.

Recently, while speaking to a recruiter, we complained about the long commute. The recruiter brushed it off saying that it is normal! A study conducted on commuting stress in Quebec says that a commute lasting more than 20 minutes can lead to burnout. Working 14 plus hours is also deemed normal here. Everyone does it, right? The number of youngsters suffering from blood pressure, heart attacks and diabetes is alarming. And yet life goes on. People pop pills and continue abusing their minds and bodies.

If you think I’ve gone soft after staying away from the motherland, think again. I spent 23 years of my life here in Chennai and things were way different then. Some say we don’t have a choice and have to conform to “the way things are”. I want to challenge the status quo and refuse to conform.

So how do we slow down and change the frenetic pace of things? On the road, remember you are not a bull dozer. Slow down, allow people to cross and don’t be in a mad rush to overtake every other vehicle on the road. Don’t cut in front of people waiting in line (if there is no line – form one). Smile and say thank you to people who serve you or hold the door open for you. Work smart so you have time for your family and for relaxation and exercise. Find time to cook simple meals at home. You health and savings account will flourish. Get enough sleep and set aside some time to be by yourself in a quiet space. The noises of the city can drown out that quiet voice of wisdom within you.

When you feel stressed, even if you are at work, go outside for a walk if possible or go to a clean restroom and take deep calming breaths. Stress is something that creeps up on you and builds up till you’re bursting at the seams. It happened to me last week and I found myself yelling at the kids. I had to consciously make a choice to calm down, close my eyes and breathe. This week I’m not waiting for the stress to build up. I am taking time to relax, breathe and center myself. Seems to be working so far. A few days ago the school bus was late but I did not have a panic attack. Life happens and sometimes a good dose of humor helps. Laugh away your cares and move on.

If you want Chennai to slow down, you need to slow down first. Don’t rush through your day. Find time for people and things that matter. You have more than enough time to accomplish everything. So take your time and do the best job you possibly can.

 

 


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Manifesting Dilemmas : Be Clear or Stay Open to Possibilities?

I have spent a few years using the law of attraction and know for sure that it works. But I have not been able to break it down to a science because it works in mysterious ways that defy definition. The first step in manifesting anything is to ask. Get really clear about what you want before you ask. Describe or visualize vivid details about the outcome. Be specific.

Another school of thought believes that we should not limit the limitless universe by giving it specific directions. Be open to receiving what you ask for or something better. So which one works you ask?

For me manifesting has been a feel your way as you go kind of experience. Some things have been easy to manifest while others felt like I was up against a wall all the time. Sometimes being specific keeps you stuck on one thing and blind to other possibilities or even to other means to reach your goal.

If you are very sure about what you want and have already done the groundwork for it, then being specific helps. If you are not really sure about what path to take and have too many factors that influence what you are trying to manifest then being open helps. It is a form of surrender. Here God or Universe, you take charge because I have tried and failed many times over and ultimately you know what is best for me.

I wanted to make a career out of writing, but it is not something you jump into and become instantly successful. Writing is one of those professions that takes time – time to get noticed, time to build an audience, time to perfect your skills. So I never really made any money out of my writing. I started my own blog and posted guest blogs. But part of me wanted to have a real job – a job that pays. So I kept applying for writing jobs with no success. I was ‘stuck’ with my one specific option for making money.

At some point frustration took over and I stopped applying for writing jobs. Still later desperation kicked in and I started applying for all kinds of jobs. I became an open vessel to whatever the Universe was going to give me. And ‘whatever’ happened to be a job at the school. It kept me busy and I still had time to write. On a whim, I started to write for content mills – don’t judge me, I had to start somewhere! I had to let my ego die again to gain experience even though the pay is something most writers would frown upon. After a few months the pay is better and who knows it may become a reliable source of income for me.

So my point is this – be specific but be prepared to explore new means to your goals, even ones you may not consider. When I wanted to be paid for my writing I wanted it to show up as a 9 to 5 job, like the one I had years ago as an editor. But the Universe knew that as a mom something more flexible would suit me better. Something that could be done from the comfort of my home, with my kids doing homework in the background. Maybe 10 years ago a 9 to 5 job would have suited me fine. But now my circumstances have changed and so have my priorities. Kids, home and family take priority. Cooking a fresh meal takes precedence over deadlines. So the Universe gave me a job at the school so I could come back home with the kids. Our vacations overlap and I don’t need to put them in summer or winter camps.

In the end, I guess the Universe knows best. Accept what shows up or that which is obvious, instead of being stuck and it will take you places you never knew you could go. Success isn’t a destination. It is a constantly evolving path with milestones littered along the way. Wishing all of you reading this, success is manifesting your most cherished dreams. Thank you for your continued support in 2014. Good luck and a very happy new year!


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Waxing Nostalgic

I am guilty of living in the past. I can’t really explain why. It’s like an aching. A longing. A strong conviction that the past held magic amidst the mundane. The glittering golden glory days of yore – far superior than the modern day drudgery. Something about those bygone days captivate me. Something about musty albums with black and white photos pasted carefully on cardboard pages and separated by layers of tissue. Something romantic about the lifestyle. Glimpses of my ancestors hobnobbing with royalty. Girls married off at puberty. Love letters tied up with ribbon and stored in biscuit tins. Where travelling to England meant a long treacherous voyage by sea.

While strolling through the rooms of the Cochin Palace I felt this strong yearning for the past. I imagined the princesses bathing in the pond and then taking long walks through the gardens with deer flitting by. The ladies-in-waiting dressed their hair with jewels and wrapped them in “kasavu” saris. I could almost hear the strains of music and the tinkling of anklets. My heart fluttered at the thought of going back to that time in history. My friend shook me out of my reverie and narrated “not so romantic” aspects of a woman’s life in days of the Raj.

I have only my grandma to blame for painting such a glorious picture of her high society days. She threw parties galore and had Russian ex-pats wining and dining with her. Although her trip to England was marked by hardship and disease, it still held a certain magic for me. I wish I could go back in time just to see my grandpa and how tenderly he looked at my grandma, the love of his life. To maybe dance with him, the way he danced with all the little girls in the room, crouching down to their height and sashaying them around till they giggled in pure glee. Or to just hear his voice and the authority it held. To travel back to England and help my grandma bake bread or watch as she presided over an Indian committee.

Or if I could simply pack my bags and stow away on a ship to the past and be an invisible observer – not intruding, not changing the course of history, but simply taking it all in – turning all the musty, black and white photos to fragrant Technicolor movies if you will. The war, the rations, the biting cold of an English winter, the glamorous parties and the beautifully furnished bungalows. See my grandma as she grieved the loss of my grandpa and quietly but unobtrusively send her vibes of sympathy and courage so she could go on and meet me later. Only to tell tales of how things were and how we could never go back to that charmed life.

When I visit mountains where Native Americans once roamed, the very same yearning fills my heart. Of roaming free in the wilderness, one with nature, drinking from the stream, picking berries and running away from bears. Like Pocahontas but without any interference from the British. Maybe I’d like to go to even Ireland, when druids made potions and witches spoke spells. Or Japan when emperors ruled and Buddhism was taking root. Maybe I travel to these places in my dreams and maybe some day time travel won’t be just an idea in a book.

But until then I have resigned myself to live with that aching, that longing, knowing that it is gone, much like the people that lived in it, mingled in the dust, faint in the memories of those still alive, every fading ever more.


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The End of a Lazy Summer

I am ready to throw a tantrum. Summer is over. Kids are back in school. I’m still home and unemployed. Feels like I just retreated back into my shell. The kids didn’t complain though. They got up at 6.30 instead of 8.30 like it was the most natural thing to do!

But every year I’m miserable when the kids go back to school. I’m antsy, bored and feel like I have too much time on my hands. It’s not like I haven’t looked for work. I have. All summer long. But I haven’t got a single call or an interview.

Sometimes it makes me doubt my faith. If God knows I want something and can hear my prayers why doesn’t he give me what I want? Like a child asking its parent over and over again, I keep beseeching this God in a faraway place. But he keeps me right where I am. Why would a parent deny their child something? Why?

I had to put myself in a parent’s shoes to answer this mindboggling question. As a mom I find myself saying no to my kids several times. If my children want something but I see it as a distraction or a clash of values I end up saying no. Do my kids understand? Do they think I’m being fair? Maybe not. Do they give up on me? Absolutely not! And so it is with God.

We came here to learn, grow and evolve. We made arrangements, chose our environments, our paths, our families and even our obstacles. Of course we fall into deep amnesia once we are born into this world. We bumble around like babies, falling and making mistakes, totally oblivious to our true calling which can be heard in the whispers of our soul. We go down winding paths leading to nowhere. We strive and struggle, pray and fast to achieve something that is not in our destiny. Something we never signed up for. Maybe not getting what we want is God’s way of nudging us closer to what we really want but cannot put into words as we continue living a dream.

When following the course of a religion (or anything for that matter) over many centuries it becomes obvious that good times and bad times come and go in waves. Temples are built and civilizations flourish for many years and then one day everything burns down and something new takes its place. Yet we place so much importance on acquiring transient things like money, property and fame. None of these are lasting. None of them can give us lasting happiness.

I need something to do to keep me occupied. You need money to pay the bills. Somebody else needs a place to call home. But if my entire existence is focused on getting a job and a job that ‘I’ think is good enough for me then it consumes me and I end up miserable. So it is with money or trying to get a bigger or better place to live. I read somewhere that pain is inevitable but suffering we create.

God does not make us suffer by denying us what we ask for. We reject the gifts we have because we think they are not good enough and we need more of this or less of that to be happier. And when we don’t get it we allow our minds to lead us into suffering. Sometimes getting what you want may not be a good thing after all. For instance, I wanted to move to Florida for the weather. To enjoy good weather we gave up our spacious home and lovely neighbors. Good weather with no friends to enjoy it with was no fun at all. Now in Seattle I’m tempted to make the same mistake. The house is too small. The weather is gloomy. I don’t have a job!

But we’re on the ground floor with a playground for the kids. We have good neighbors who will chase the winter blues away! I can always volunteer in my kids’ school. You can’t change what is but you can change your attitude to it. Then every thing becomes a gift. Even the darkest winter becomes bearable. Years become days and life flows effortlessly. God doesn’t give you exactly what you want but he provides the best circumstances for your life to flourish.


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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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Tried and Tested Steps to Change

So the new year is here and you’ve written your resolutions and sworn to stick by them only to find yourself stuck. Stuck with the same old, same old. Many of you started making changes and then found that your enthusiasm fizzled out and some of you haven’t found enough strength to take that first step. Whatever your predicament, the following steps will ease you through the process of change. They have been tried and tested by yours truly.

Taking that first step

So now you have made up your mind to change but you have a big problem. Every cell in your body has turned to lead and it seems impossible to overcome the heaviness. It’s hard to take that first step. You want to just give in to the heaviness and slump down in a heap on the floor. It’s too hard or too scary to change. Fight it! Muster all your strength and make that all important first step.

Do it as long as it takes to form a habit

You took charge and started making changes but somewhere along the way life and its complexities got the better of you and slowly but surely you went back to the old ways. It takes time to form a good habit or make a positive change in your life. If you do it every single day for a month you end up making it a habit. Consistency is the key to success. Make time for what is important to you every single day and victory will be yours. Now you own the new behavior and you can work it like a pro.

Make a small change

Don’t try to change everything at once. It took years to get into the mess you are in so it will take time and a lot of WORK to get out of it. Don’t be discouraged. Take that first step and make a small change – no matter how small or insignificant it may seem. It will have a ripple effect and before you know it you are in a completely different place in your life.

Don’t listen to that negative little voice in your head

Your worst enemy is your mind especially if it is constantly playing negative events and saying negative things about you. You say you want to change and it says you can’t. Shut the voice out for long enough and it won’t have any power over you.

Be your own cheerleader

If you can get that little voice to cheer you on, you will be unstoppable. Replace all the negative mind chatter with positive stuff. Keep repeating it like a mantra and soon your mind will catch on. Fake it till you make it baby!

Be strong in the face of opposition

Not only do you have to deal with that inner voice in your head (like that isn’t enough!) but you also have to deal with the voices of your loved ones. They are guaranteed to react adversely every time you try to change something in your life. It’s just a test. They (or their ego) wants to figure out if you really want to do this because it means they cannot continue behaving the same way. They feel threatened. Ultimately your change will transform those around you. So they better co-operate or bail out.

Remember your victories

This is important when you are afraid to take the next step. Remember how far you have come and step boldly to face the next challenge you have decided to take on. Usually what is most scary to change is the one thing you will really benefit from. It is your most important lesson. Once you cross that hurdle, all else will be easy.

Persistence

If something doesn’t work or doesn’t give you the desired result try something different. But don’t give up. Persistence has its rewards.

The buddy system

This works if you find it hard to motivate yourself or are not clear on what steps to take to reach your goals. Friends help you work through your fears and insecurities and also help put things in perspective. It goes without saying that it is fun to have someone share your journey with you. When you are slacking they will give you the much needed push to get up and get going.

A word of caution before you embark on this glorious and extremely fulfilling quest. Don’t try to fix your spouse, your boss, your mother or your kids. I guarantee you that you will fail and end up right where you started. Your job is you and that in itself is a daunting task. Be clear about your motives for change. Do it for yourself and know what you want and why you want it. Doing it for others only gets you so far, doing it for yourself is what keeps you flying high.