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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The Best Job in the World

The other day while surfing channels I chanced upon a news story that made me stop. A janitor was cleaning floors at a school and the reporter was saying that we shouldn’t judge a person by the work they do. And yet I had made a lot of assumptions about this silver-haired person with a mop in his hand. Uneducated, poor, can’t afford to retire were some of the things that crossed my head. I was in for a shock when the reporter revealed that the unassuming janitor was actually part of a team of engineers that sent astronauts to the moon!

So what was he doing cleaning floors for a living? He had suffered a stroke which impaired his cognitive memory. So the former electromagnetic engineer had to give up his career of choice and took up a job as a janitor to stay  healthy and keep himself occupied. In the process he has struck quite a rapport with the students, who love hearing about his mission to the moon and give him hugs and high-fives.

When posed with this tricky question, “Would you go back to your old job if you got your cognitive memory back?” the former engineer said that he loved his job and would not trade it for anything. “These kids say – I love you and thank you – not something I heard from NASA as far as I can remember,” said the old man.

Watching this reminded me of my short stint as a teacher and being associated with children and schools in any capacity. The pay wasn’t that great but I loved every minute of it. Kids are unpretentious and genuine. It is a gift to work with them and for them. After that it is always difficult dealing with adults.

Hugs, laughter, games, cards, and flowers are given freely to show you that they care. I remember when I had to leave a long-term substitute position because I was moving (story of my life!), the whole class made cards for me and I had only worked with them for a month! If the schools in my county did not require substitutes to complete a mandatory training, I very well would still be working in a school. I look back at those days and see all those innocent faces, the laughter, the tears, the skinned knees, the hugs and the sweetest compliments, and it warms my heart more than a fat pay check or a promotion.

I feel incredibly grateful that the universe gave me the opportunity to work with children, to touch their lives and to be touched by their grace, beauty, wisdom, genuine love and affection.


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So I’m Bossy Now

The other day my husband remarked, “Of late you’ve become so bossy.” I told him I was tired of being nice because I never got anything I wanted. The kids keep telling me to stop yelling and I’m like if I ask you nicely you just don’t do it,  so I have to yell to get you guys to listen to me. I’m just sick and tired of us women being told to be nice and quiet while every Tom, Dick and Harry steamrolls over us and hands us a cartload of patriarchal nonsense.

I stopped caring about what people thought about me and started thinking about me and what I need to be happy. I think it’s called taking charge, being in control. If you find me loud and obnoxious – I don’t care. Just like you didn’t care about anything I wanted or expected out of you!

When men do it, they are applauded for strength of character and leadership skills and when women so much as raise their voice they are bossy, intimidating and unlikeable. Well sorry! We’re done with the all cute and cuddly purring kitten types that are dripping honey and hanging on your every word. You stepped on our tails more than once and we’re lashing out with our teeth and claws.

You wax eloquent about your stressful day and how much you have accomplished while we straddle corporate careers and motherhood, cooking gourmet meals and coding and so much more that your testosterone-filled veins can handle for a day.  And yet WE are the fairer sex? The weaker ones needing your patronage and protection? Why don’t you hulks try birthing a child or nursing twins or even trying to fend off nausea for a week. Or maybe try, just try to make dinner every night after work.

So if I yell when I come home and the entire kitchen island is filled with everything you ate from breakfast cereal to tortilla chip crumbs and the sink is overflowing with dishes, its because I just finished my day job where I get paid and appreciated and now I’m at my second job that is thankless with no pay.

I don’t like microwave meals myself or I would have abandoned kitchen duties the day I started working full-time. Or stopped packing lunches for the kids and asked them to make do with the gross school cafeteria food. And with cooking comes mountains of dishes. I’m thankful for the dishwasher but unfortunately it doesn’t load itself. I don’t think it will kill anyone if they loaded the dishwasher every night after I was done making dinner.  Again everyone would rather I do it, till I make a scene and ask the kids to do their chores.

Then again why is dinner my responsibility ALWAYS! Why do chores have to be gender based? All of this churns through my psyche and makes me yell every once in a while. You have a choice to not cook or clean and I don’t? That really makes me yell dude! And since it’s my kitchen, it’s MY RULES. Obey or be prepared to be shredded to fine saw dust.

And  you can shove that unsolicited advice you know where! If you aint helping, I don’t need your suggestions for improvement. I’ve been doing this for 15 years and I think I qualify as an expert! So there you go. I’m bossy and unapologetic. They may promote me to a manager at work for my much sought after leadership skills!

 


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22 Days of Gratitude and Counting

Like promised, I kept a memo pad at my work desk and every day I jotted down what I was thankful for in the time it took my laptop to switch on. On weekends, I stuck my gratitude notes on the refrigerator. The notes were not as thoughtful and deep as the ones I did last year, when I had all day to think about what I was grateful for. Also, this year a little prayer for those who are living in pain or poverty accompanied most of my gratitude notes because memories of not being in a place of abundance are still fresh in my memory.

At the end of October we moved to our own home and I am really enjoying the space and the views of the autumn-kissed trees from nearly every window. We have been living in apartments ever since we moved from Boston and I have longed to give the kids their own rooms and a backyard. My son used to kick a ball around inside our apartment in Florida, knocking down knick knacks in the process. The people who lived below us used to bang their ceiling with a broom every time we made some noise. And I’m talking about me rolling some dough for dinner! I’m guessing they did night shifts and were trying to get some sleep when we were up and about.

We moved into an even smaller apartment when we relocated to Redmond. Thankfully it was on the ground floor and close to the playground.The pictures the leasing office sent us were misleading and made everything look bigger than it actually was. Unfortunately, we couldn’t make a trip just to look for apartments because of the distance.  Only when our furniture arrived did we realize that the place was way too small. The dining table almost pushed against the patio door, the couches filled pretty much the entire living room. The kids room had no space for their desk and so it ended up in the already cramped living room.  So much so that it was impossible for my son to play ball inside the house.

And now we have all this space and no furniture! But I’m grateful that we are slowly building back our lives. It’s like we got a fresh start.

Another friend who went through some great upheaval in her life also had a major breakthrough. She quit her job (which wasn’t paying her much) because she had to deal with a chronic illness. Her dream to find a job where she is appreciated and well-paid started off as a summer internship. The culture, the people, and the work were all a perfect fit, but the internship was going to end. Impressed by her work and can-do attitude, her manager created a position in the company so they could hire her full-time. I repeat, CREATED a position. How cool is that? I am so grateful for miracles like these that show up around me. It gives me hope when things aren’t looking up or when fear grips my heart.

Just today I read an article on how gratitude changes the energy around us and raises our vibration. It also acts as a magnet for more good to come forth into our lives. So this Thanksgiving remember its not about the food, the football game or shopping deals. Remember to give thanks for all you have and also pray for those who are not as fortunate as you are. Happy Thanksgiving everyone and do share what you are grateful for in the comments below.


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Power Up, Bring it On!

This post is dedicated to all the supermoms out there. Who knew that the tiny bump growing in your belly would one day unleash dormant powers that you never knew you possessed. In the first few days of your baby’s life you realize you can wake up at unearthly hours, sleep-walk to the crib, feed and burp a baby and go back to sleep. You can survive months or years without your daily quota of 8 hours of sleep. You become immune to stale spit-up all over your t-shirt or find yourself ignoring the dirty dishes calling for your attention.

How about the one that allows you to keep a deadpan face while your toddler is howling and screaming in the grocery store. Or the one that allows you to straddle a baby and do chores around the house.

If you have a boy or a girl who is into sports (unlike yourself) you suddenly develop motor skills you never thought you possessed. Shooting hoops or hitting a baseball like a pro becomes second nature to you. This goes for things you never warmed up to as a kid but then find yourself doing and also enjoying as a mom. Like say camping and the outdoors.

And then there are other brave moms who venture back to work while nursing infants. They work, attend meetings, commute, stay up at night feeding their babies, cook dinner and still have enough energy to go around. I call it the energizer bunny superpower. I never tapped into that power since I decided to stay home with the kids.

Now when my kids are in middle school and high school, I’m back at work full-time and have to get back home and take care of dinner and the dishes. Throw in some homework help as well and you can see how busy my day is.

Like that wasn’t crazy enough, I have to wake up at 5.00 a.m. to get my daughter to the bus stop at 6.00. A week into this schedule and I was ready to call it quits. But then my superpowers kicked in and somehow I manage to get through the week. There are moments when I find it hard to string a sentence together because my brain has fallen asleep.

Then throw in after-school activities and your walking-on-a tight-rope superpower gets activated to make sure you don’t end up falling on your face. It takes a while to grow into your superpowers so don’t be disheartened if you feel like you are falling apart.

Any challenge you face as a mom, be sure that there is some secret superpower you wield that can help you ace your game. Two sick kids and an ailing parent? You got it! Crazy commute and a husband who is travelling frequently? Bring it on!  Colicky baby and a brand new puppy? Oh yeah!

Now that I have kids, I have a lot of respect for my mom and the way she managed her time and energy to make sure that we were well-fed and that we had clean clothes to wear, while working full-time as a Hindi teacher. Her day started at 5.00 a.m. and she went to bed after 10.00. Also kudos to my dad for driving me, mom and my brother to and from work, college, school and wherever else we had to go.

Same goes for Ganga, my second grandmother who cooked and packed lunches and got me ready for school, and waited by the gate till I got home. My Dadima used to drop me off in school every single day before she went to work. And it was Sharma aunty who used to pick me up from school every evening. It’s not until I had to do it that I realized it wasn’t so simple to show up every day at the same time especially if you had to work or manage other responsibilities. This I call the time-keeper superpower. It makes sure kids are woken up in time to catch the bus, that lunches are packed and kids get picked up on time.

I may have missed a few. If you supermoms/dads out there have any more to add please comment. Power up! You got this!

 

 


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The Fruits of Perseverance

It has been a while since I last blogged and I’m writing to share the realization of a long cherished dream. My struggle to find full-time employment in my field is something that shows up in my blogs from time to time. Regular readers are familiar with my transition from unemployed to underemployed to doing odd jobs that weren’t in my field. I have extolled the virtues of volunteering time and again and I still volunteer for an NGO even after getting hired as a contractor.

Although I loved working in schools, a part of me wanted to get back to writing and editing. My blog opened the door to many writing opportunities and several websites have  published my work. The next step was getting paid for the writing. I started writing for content mills and although they paid a pittance, it built up my confidence and honed my skills as a writer.

When I was in India, a referral from a old friend/colleague landed me a contract as a content writer. This was my first job as a writer in the corporate world. While I enjoyed the perks of working from home, it became apparent that after a long break one could benefit from the learning that occurs in an office environment. This role was quite different from writing for content mills and showed me where I could improve as a writer. Before I knew it 4 months were up and I was back to being unemployed.

Long bouts of unemployment coupled with our unsuccessful attempt to settle down in India made one thing quite clear to me. With kids whose future lay in our hands, I couldn’t put my career on the back burner anymore. You never know when life will throw you a curve ball and one has to be prepared. If I had been established in my career, maybe the trip to India may not have been so stressful. Even though my husband was not earning I could have run the household.

I came back to the U.S. with one burning desire – to find a full-time job that could support me and my family. While looking for jobs I continued to gain experience as a writer/editor by freelancing and volunteering. Two interviews later I got a call that changed my life. I interviewed for a job that seemed a right fit for me and got hired as a contractor to do web content editing. There was the promise of being hired full-time if I performed well. Five months into the job and I got hired full-time. Maybe it’s not a big feat for all of you reading this. But for me it has been 15 years since I had a full-time job (other than being a full-time mom).

For 11 years I couldn’t work in the U.S. because it took me that long to get my green card. Then another 4 years to find my way back to writing and editing. Along the way I have had many well-meaning relatives and friends advise me to take up an entirely different career path. Like say pharmacology or QA testing or even running a daycare.  But none of that appealed to me. Somehow I circled back to writing.

As I write this , others in my circle have had breakthroughs in other areas of their lives. Some have been blessed with babies after several years of heartache and pain. Others who have struggled with finances now have nest eggs that give them financial security and freedom. It took a long time for them and for me to realize our dreams but we persevered, kept the faith and took one step at a time in the direction of our dreams.

I cannot say I have reached my destination because ahead of me are more lessons, adventures and truths to explore. For those of you unsure of getting what you want or following your dream, I stand testimony to the fact that it can be done no matter how long or how hard you have tried or how unsuccessful you have been so far. So go for it!  You are supported by the universe and my good wishes are with you.

 


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Perfect In My Eyes

When we look in the mirror we either like what we see or we don’t like what we see.  We see flaws or we see perfection. It even goes beyond the physical aspects to character traits or even how we feel about ourselves. Our relationship with ourselves covers the entire spectrum from best buddy to worst critic.  Sometimes it evolves into a fatalistic obsession or a self-destructive streak.

Those who obsess about the way they look, spend hours preening, grooming and purchasing the latest skin products that promise to keep wrinkles away. Take it to an extreme and you have women making multiple trips to the plastic surgeon to fix different physical features which are perceived as “flaws”. Some just end up worse than when they started although they won’t admit it to anyone but can’t seem to break the cycle, all the time filling the coffers of the plastic surgeons.

Then some others are so unhappy with themselves that they need to constantly numb their senses to get through another day.  Alcohol, drugs, coffee and even junk food replaces a sober disposition and healthy mind. Before they know it the one-time thing becomes a go-to thing that comforts them or puts them in an alternative state of mind.

Still others don’t dabble in drugs or Botox but think there character needs a overhaul. Countless self-improvement classes don’t help them arrive at the conclusion that they are perfect just the way they are. Still others drown themselves in mindless TV or video games that offer them respite from dealing with themselves.

And yet deep inside we know that we are perfect. We were born perfect and came from perfection. If what we came from – call it God, Source, Creator or Universe – were looking at you or me what would s/he see?  To understand that we need to understand the quality of perfection. Perfection sees perfection in all things. If you take a drop from the ocean and carry it a 1,000 miles away it would still have all the properties of the ocean – salinity, fluidity and density. You cannot strip it away from the drop. The same goes for us. We are beings of light, love and perfection. Putting us in dense bodies doesn’t take that away from us. We still are an essence of our creator. In other words the entire universe lives within us and we within the universe.

The separation is not real and when we begin to see that, we see perfection first in ourselves and then in everything around us. Does perfection mean we makes no mistakes? No. It means we don’t beat ourselves up over those mistakes. We accept who we are, how we look, how we feel and all the other 10,000 things that go with being a human being.

From acceptance comes love, an unconditional love that loves the crooked nose or the frizzy hair, the sensitive side and the sour moods. It is utter acceptance and love without questioning your perfection. Remember you are unique and there is no one else out there quite like you – not even your identical twin can replace you! You are a puzzle piece that fits even if you think you have a funny shape.

If you could see through the eyes of perfection, you’ll see that you try too hard to be what you are not, forgetting that you are great just the way you are and that you can do wonders if you simply set aside your doubts and misgivings and embrace 100% of you – undiluted and uncensored.

When you see perfection in yourself then you will not tolerate people who deliberately point at your flaws as a way to either make them feel better or a way to bring you down. At first you get defensive and even angry and then you realize that their mirror is cloudy and there is nothing you can do about it, except hand them a cloth and hope they will get to cleaning it soon. And if they don’t, then walk away and stop looking in their cloudy mirror.

Have you ever handed a mirror to a baby and had the feeling that the baby really doesn’t know it is looking at its own reflection.  Can you look back and see when in your life you stopped admiring the face staring back at you in the mirror? Why did you stop? Didn’t you come from that perfect baby who didn’t judge itself so harshly?

Go back to your perfection. Feel it deep inside of you every day. That is how the Universe sees you. As part of its perfect infinite self. And when you do the world will right itself.