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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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.