Punctuate Life

Pause Breathe Relax


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The Road Less Taken…

It has been hard for me to follow my dreams because they did not match the dreams others had for me. I know that is a very disempowering notion but when you are child in a adults-know-best world that’s how it is. They wanted me to be a doctor and I really liked the idea until I realized that I hated dissection. If cutting up frogs in the zoology lab made me throw up, how on earth could I cut up corpses? Being a fan of horror movies didn’t help either! Nor did my new found interest in Reiki and other alternative therapies. Everyone was ok with me getting initiated in Reiki or doing an acupressure course or Pranic Healing. Everyone was ok with it being just a hobby. But to me it was more than a hobby. I felt passionate about alternative therapies. This was way back in school when I was still figuring myself out. And I’m still figuring myself out now because I felt others knew better. I thought the road I was taking was not so cool. The stats weren’t that good either. How many Reiki practitioners did I know? Just one. Just one sane one that is. I had very few role models to look up to. Very little support.

So I just buried everything because most of my friends frowned upon the idea of a Reiki therapist or an Acupuncture practitioner. I also felt a great connection with nature and thought ecology was the subject that would land me in a fulfilling career. I had the right idea but ended up in the wrong place. I felt so strongly that I was doing the right thing that when it didn’t work out and I had to quit I blamed myself. And worst of all I stopped trusting my own judgement. That started my downhill spiral to living an unauthentic life.

Reiki and yoga went into hiding. I was almost ashamed to admit that I knew Reiki or did yoga and the friends around me again validated this for me. Any talk about energy would make them visibly uncomfortable. So I buried all of that deeper. But it was such a burden on my psyche. And all that burying took its toll. It was like a shroud of unhappiness that I could never shake off, which clung to me like the mask I was wearing.

So after years of trying to fit in with what the world thought a respectable woman should do I finally realized that I always knew what I wanted to do. I wanted to be a healer or a teacher of healing arts. I wanted to help people feel better and live better lives. Help them work through their issues both physical and mental and emerge the best person they could possibly be. But I still didn’t have the courage to go for it. I still am surrounded by naysayers, brow beaters and soul stuffers. Now don’t get me wrong.  My friends and family mean well. They are trying to protect me from what they perceive as failure or danger or whatever else their limited perceptions allow them to believe. They are doing the best they can with the knowledge they have. But I can longer live with my people-pleasing unauthentic self.

And this blog which I started has been an eye-opener for me. First, it took courage to start the blog and put all my feelings out there. Second, writing put me in touch with my deepest fears and wildest dreams. In the last 8 months I’ve discovered more about myself than I have all my life. I’ve finally become comfortable with who I am even if it means that I’m a social outcast. Even if it means that my friends don’t approve. My dearest friend J (I love you very much!) and I were having a heated discussion the other day about my writing. She was telling me not to write about sensitive issues (See United Nations of the World). I simply refused to back down and said that I would write whatever it is I felt the need to write about. I know she was trying to protect me and if this had happened a few years ago I would have agreed with her.

It’s not that I don’t care about my family or my friends anymore. It’s just that I care about ‘me’ more. Being your version of ‘me’ brings me no joy and I’d rather travel on the road less taken than follow the crowd. Even if it means walking alone. Cos I know in my heart of hearts that it will take me home. I also know that not far along the path I’ll discover that I’m not alone. All I need is the courage to go down that lonely road.


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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.

 

 

 

 


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Balancing This Tight Rope Act We Call Life…

Balance is something I absolutely love to talk about. Maybe because it reminds me of the tree pose or Vrikshasana in Yoga. When I started doing yoga I couldn’t do the tree pose. I kept toppling over. I was out of balance. Had some dull aches and pains which I thought were ‘normal’ after childbirth and ‘normal’ as you grow ‘older’. But I remembered the time I was young and fresh out of school with a supple and flexible body that could contort into unimaginable yoga poses. I remember having the general feeling of well being that ebbed and flowed throughout the day. My emotions were equable and under ‘my’ control. I sorely missed yoga and the amazing sense of peace and health that went with it. So during the long dreary winters in Boston I started doing yoga in my living room with Wai Lana and my little yogis. My body resisted when coaxed into poses I was pretty sure I could do. I quickly gave up but by then my kids developed a liking for the kid-friendly yoga videos. They wanted to be lions and cobras and do the cat and dog stretch. So I did it with them but with little enthusiasm. Deep down inside I’m thinking – I can never be as supple as them.

Then the PBS channel did a special on Peggy Cappy of Kripalu Yoga in the beautiful Berkshire mountains of Massachusetts. All her students are seniors. Some of them joined yoga class after years of crippling pain that interfered with their normal life. Her oldest student was 90 (I think). And here I was not even 30 and complaining about not being ‘bendy’ enough! So I threw myself into yoga with a renewed spirit but lacked the discipline I had before kids, marriage and responsibilities. I yearned for some structure and discipline and to study under a good yoga teacher like Peggy. Well, that wish of mine was granted soon. I found a yoga teacher after I moved to Florida  (seems like Fl is the land where dreams come true…at least for me!)  She had a morning class at the recreation center right across the street from my home (how convenient!) I ended up being her first and only student. Lucky me got to have several one-on-one sessions with her.

She is probably my grandmother’s age, silver-haired, always smiling with a soothing voice that can get you into Shavasana (deep relaxation) in a trice. After doing the sun breath she would say – bring your hands together in prayer position over the heart chakra – MIND, BODY and SPIRIT are one. She also did something called the breath of joy which helps release stress and lightens you up. I simply loved her and Yoga was the highlight of my week for almost a year. My aches and pains vanished. The back pain that used to show up at the end of a long day on my feet – GONE and has never returned. My malady of being cold always (yes, even in Florida!) magically disappeared even without me realizing it. I also had a lot more tolerance and did not lose my cool easily. People said I exuded peace. My body and mind were restored to a balanced state. But what amazes me the most is that I did not know I was out of balance. That, by the way is everyone’s story. People ignore signs their bodies send their way. You think pain is normal, diabetes is normal, heart disease is heriditary, arthritis is incurable. I have to live with it you say. No you don’t! Most diseases are caused by wrong thinking, wrong diet, lack of exercise etc. Why is stress everyone’s favorite word today? I admit that we have an undue amount of stress to deal with, living in the world as it is today…but we also have the tools to bust stress and live a balanced and peaceful life.

Everything in life is a choice. You can choose to think positively or spiral down the black hole of negativity. You can choose to live a healthy stress-free life or fill your life with meaningless things that stress you out and slowly but surely suck the life out of you. You have the power to transform your body into a powerhouse of strength which in turn transforms your work, your relationships and your impact on the world at large. Don’t put it off. Start today. Honor your body, strike a balance and stay centered always.

What will you do to bring balance into your life? Please share below.