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Got body image issues? This is for you!

So at some point in time or other, we all get these body image issues. Too fat, too thin, not enough boob, too much boob, jiggling in the wrong places … you name it, either you got it or someone you know does. What doesn’t help is the media portrayal of women who just look too damn perfect! Perfect skin, hair, make-up, figure.. everything is just too perfect!

It’s enough to cause bulimia and anorexia in teenagers. It’s enough to cause any women, regardless of age, body-image issues. In fact, if we could take our mental picture of us and compare that side by side to how others see us… we would be startled at how beautiful people think we are and just how critical we are of our flaws – real or imagined.

Everyone has some feature that others envy. Trust me! Sadly, I have yet to meet a woman/girl/teenager who thought they were perfect the way they are. What does that tell us? So here’s a ted talk from someone who is PERFECT! really! she is! She’s smart, beautiful and has a rocking body. She’s been a model for 10 years now. She’s  literally admitting her privilege and pointing out both the biases and superficiality of the fashion industry (which can severely affect the body and beauty image of young girls everywhere) and the way people judge others based solely on physical appearance (RACE, gender, weight, hair color etc).

The first part to fixing a problem is letting it be known – in this case that happens to be that ‘LOOKS’ aren’t everything 🙂

And here’s a talk that shows the surprising impacts of low body and image confidence—from lower grade point averages to greater risk-taking with drugs and alcohol. And then shares the keys things all of us can do to disrupt this reality.

This post is related to another one I wrote on girls & images: Caught in between lies & half-truths.

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Being at peace: free resources for learning meditation

I love meditation 😀 I love the feeling of peace, security, acceptance and over all lightness that I experience in my meditation sessions. As an introvert, my inner world is supremely important to me, in fact so important that from time to time, I like to set dedicated hours apart to ensure that my inner house is in order.

Knowing who I am and what I am has been quite a journey. In this journey of self-discovery and learning, I have found meditation to be quite a tool for inner discovery. Most of us look outside when we want company, happiness, comfort… not quite realizing that everything that you need already resides within you. However it’s almost impossible to find your inner resources when you don’t have the best relationship with yourself.

We all have that little voice that nags us at the back of our head. Maybe a forgotten voice that belonged to a teacher who called you ‘stupid’ for failing in math or a family that thought you were too ‘naive’ or ‘angry’. All those labels that people we have forgotten, labelled us with and that subsequently became part of our personality. The voices that say that things aren’t quite how they should be, that you could always do better, etc. and you keep beating yourself up over your perceived failures. It’s a never-ending nag! Had this voice belonged to someone else, you would have probably resented their negativity and pulled away from their social circle. But since this is the voice in our head, most of us, go through life oblivious to it.

This is exactly why I love meditating. It puts me in touch with me. The me, who already has everything that she needs. The me, who is happy and blessed. The me, who knows what is right for her, in her gut, in her mind, intuitively. This is the inner me, the fat happy cat that purrs near my feet, light as a feather, happy as can be.

So given the recent onslaught of questions on finding resources on meditation, I have found quite a few sites which I love.

These Buddhist monks who have started a Peace Revolution are amazing, head over here: https://peacerevolution.net/. They have a free 42 day program to guide you through your journey 🙂

If you want something more scientific, try this site: http://marc.ucla.edu/ The UCLA MARC has an array of information, including free guided meditations.

And if you have an interest in Buddhism (you don’t have to in order to learn how to meditate), head over here: http://www.how-to-meditate.org/ They have an array of videos on lectures and techniques, along with the underlying principles.

So go on ahead… enjoy!

 

p.s. Other posts were I have written about meditation are:

Mind monkeys

How to increase self-confidence

The lazy persons guide to being healthy

Meditation Realizations

Meditation Retreat

 

Meditation retreat

Recently I joined a meditation retreat. It was more like the halfway house of meditation retreat. All of the rules of a retreat but no strict enforcement. Since quite a few of the participants were first timers, the relaxed setting made it easier for people to assimilate to the environment.

So why did I join the retreat?

My life has been so hectic this year that I have been acutely feeling the need to unplug. Literally. I checked out 2 temples in Nepal to go on a private retreat. Unfortunately both were booked on month-long programs that are ongoing. Remember that saying “when you want something badly enough, the universe conspires to help you receive it?” well… I found a retreat all right and it was right here in Bangladesh.

So not only did I get to go on the retreat… I got to take my mom with me. Yes, my mom. We haven’t always had the best of relationship but recently we have been doing better. In fact, this year has probably been the best for us. The retreat gave us a great opportunity to spend quality time with each other and to see a side of us that we don’t usually get to. I know she’s done the quantum meditation course and she really loved it. She knows that I have done Butthan meditation and I really loved it. So this was another kind that we both got to try together.

We had a Thai Monk leading the sessions and it was lovely. He mostly used the visualization technique and had hilarious little anecdotes that he shared with us. For example, when his dad meditates, he imagines that he’s got a crystal hanging like a pendulum from his head, all the way down, inside his body to his navel. And during the meditation session, he would try to balance that pendulum and sometimes he would be swaying a little in his balancing attempt. The visualization in my head of that scene had me cracking up for the rest of the day.

So we all have this expectation of what we hope to get out of meditation and I was no exception. I wanted to come away remembering once again how to smile with every single cell of my body. Generally I am a pretty happy person. I have a great life, I love my job and my colleagues. I enjoy my studies and my various volunteer roles. So it’s a full, busy life that I find very satisfying. But this year which has flown past me was really starting to get to me.

So yeah, I sat in my sessions, willing myself to find that happiness inside again. And here’s the funny thing, on the last day, in the last session, I had this vivid sensation that I was a fat, happy, cat who is purring away against my own leg. Sated, satisfied and just HAPPY! I opened my eyes and I could still feel myself, happily purring away. It felt soooooooooooooo good! It’s been months since I have felt good enough to want to go dancing all night.

Yesterday, the visualization that worked for me is of being a wild horse. My thoughts were all over the place, the to-do list kept running through my head. I had to keep coaxing my mind to slow down that runaway horse. After some time, I could feel that horse standing still. It was black and beautiful… almost majestic! with soft full mane and a lovely long tail and I knew it was me. Now how can you not smile at that? I think I fell asleep with that picture in my head.

So I have gone from constant rushing – office, university, home, assignments, reports, presentations, workshops, never-ending to-do lists running through my head – to chilling out, breathing, being mindful and more present. I had started walking on the treadmill again, the retreat inspired me to add yoga to my routine.

I just love the fact that I am from a continent that has a rich history of health practices – yoga, meditation, martial arts, herbal medicines… you name it and we probably started it and there’s such a wide variety of activity to pick from to get healthy, stay healthy, cope with stress, it’s freaking amazing!

The next retreat is in February 2015, somewhere in Thailand. I am not sure if I am going to be there. But I am pretty sure that I will be doing another retreat, somewhere, sometime. If you would like to check out the peace rebels… head over to their website here:    https://peacerevolution.net/docs/en/peace-revolution

Peace in … Peace out…. 🙂

Powerful monologue by Kalki Koechlin

Bollywood actress Kalki Koechlin wrote a strong monologue for a solo performance at the 13th Indian Today Conclave on International Women’s Day on March 8. The monologue, which she dubbed as ‘Just Another Rant’, is a frustrated ode to women everywhere chained and bound by traditional patriarchy.

Here’s the full text of her monologue:

You remember in the beginning?

In the beginning God made man.

God made man in his own image.

And then that’s was it. ‘Man’kind, hu’man’ity, wo’man.

Man, man, man.

What chance in Hell did we ever have?

We were sidelined from the Big Bang.

You remember Draupadi?

Draupadi married off to all five Pandavas.

She garlanded only Arjun

But they told her you got to marry all of us.

Five husbands! That can’t be fun.

God know I have enough trouble with one.

Or what about Eve and the apple?

Blaming one woman for all mankind’s evil?

Soorya and Kunti,

The Virgin Mary

Do you know Gaia?

The Goddess Mother Earth

She’s the one we all trample on.

And remember Aphrodite

Goddess of love and beauty

Lest we forget, she was also

The patron of prostituting.

Persephone,

She was less known

Raped by Hades

She became Queen of the underworld,

Not even goddesses were left alone.

You might not know A’isha,

She was one of the wives of Prophet Mohammad

She challenged a Califh for power

It created quite a ruckus,

It led to war in fact,

All because of one woman’s fuss,

And so was born the tradition Islamic

That women should not engage in anything politic.

But of course they did,

Thank god they did.

Women have their ways,

As somebody once put it.

The Queen of Sheba, Empress Theodora, Rabia al’ Basra,

Cleopatra, The Victorian Era, The Mona Lisa

The Suffragettes, Marilyn Monroe, The sixties and burning bras,

The unpopular Thatcher and our own Indira

Et cetra et cetra and now here we are.

Here we are,

We’ve survived this far,

Thanks to seduction, perhaps some manipulation,

But mostly thanks to Mother Nature and ovulation.

Now look at all the queens and goddesses of history,

No prince came to the rescue,

No king ever went down on one knee,

No deity was even that trustworthy,

Yet all we’ve be told since we were three,

Are fairytales, adverts, and pretty stories,

Telling us to pray, hope,

And wait to be saved.

Here we are today.

Here we are,

On International Women’s Day,

With some minor disappointments,

And a few little things to say.

The woman in red,

The girl in pink,

The widow in white,

The Burqa in black,

The colour of lipstick,

Viva Glam, Lady Danger, Fresh brew, Faux, Frenzy, Hot Gossip and Sweetie.

Ramblin, Siss, Crme cup, Paramount and Modesty

Fetish, Spice it up, Naked Paris, Honey love and Odyssey.

Apply, line, smack, seal, pout,

And you’re ready to go out.

Ugh!!!

Sometimes I just want an oversized T shirt, boxer shorts, unkempt hair and unibrows.

I want armpit hair long enough to plait,

I want a clean face without a trace of make up

I want to look the way I do when I wake up.

I want to scratch my head,

Dig my nose,

Lick my fingers,

Stretch my legs

And spread my toes.

I want to smile with my gums showing,

Bare my teeth and

Contort my pretty face into wrinkles.

I want my crow’s feet to look sexy,

Or my salt and pepper hair,

Or my sun burnt skin,

I want to be George Clooney basically,

But with breasts and a muffin.

Alas,

No…no…shhh…control, control!

Keep it down.

Stuff it up, bottle it in, switch it off,

Cross your legs, wear a bra,

Sit straight and smile sweetly for the camera.

I went to a party,

I went to a party where

I was looking for something real.

Glittering, flashing lights,

Sparkling clean glasses with something bubbly and expensive inside,

Stuck on smiles of painted lips and gorgeous, skinny, beautiful ladies all around,

I craved a touch, a caress,

But my senses were intimidated by cloned perfection.

I thought I could hear muffled wailing,

Nervous giggling,

Intoxicated complying.

I thought I could hear the buzz of millions, screaming out their instructions,

Sit down, stand up, stay,

This way, that way, go away

I can’t breathe, I’m choking.

This room is filled with smoke

From regrets and weak, nicely packaged cigarettes.

This room is filled with luxury and fame

And false dreams.

This room is full of fat sharks

With sharp teeth

Sliding through delicate skin

Like a hot knife through butter.

God I’m so hungry.

There’s nothing to eat.

No food except some frozen bits of fish

On a silver platter

I eat one. I’m still hungry.

I eat another and I’m stared at by the waiter.

No matter. I take the whole platter

Totter off to my little corner

Next to an old and and eat from my platter.

I’m stared at by the latter.

No matter. I continue to eat from my platter.

I wipe clean the crumbs from my platter.

I lick clean the whole platter.

What? What are you looking at?

Stop. Stop looking at me like that.

What? I was hungry.

Haven’t you ever seen somebody eat before.

Stop it. Seriously, stop staring at me.

Hey, I’m talking to you,

Are you deaf?

Stop staring at me!

Stop it. You’ll drive me crazy!

Oh god, I’m dizzy.

It’s that bubbly stuff they gave me

This is one hell of a party.

I have to leave.

I’m spinning and bumping into people and furniture,

I’m spinning and bumping into everything.

Bumping into shiny lies, through living ghosts,

Past sickness,

Ramming right into anger,

Into wastefulness, nothingness,

Bad times, endless sleepless nights,

Half dead daylights,

Violent bumps from losing loved ones,

Losing innocence,

Losing dignity,

Losing looks,

Losing, just losing.

I’m craving, I’m starving,

For something real,

Something breakable,

Something tangled,

Fragile, imperfect and free.

I am starving

To be me.

What am I complaining about?

What right do I have to complain?

I have money, friends and fame.

I’m not fifteen and married,

I’m not a little girl who’s been lied to that she’s a woman,

Who’s been told not to question

A stranger who shares her bed,

I’m not a little girl who’s been

Raped before she’s been kissed,

Who’s been made mother

Before she’s had time to play,

Does she even ask to be free?

Does she dream?

When her husband enters her

Is it Shah Rukh Khan she tries to see?

Does she feel sexy?

I don’t think so.

This is her job,

Twenty four hours,

Seven days a week,

Zero pay,

Just get through each day.

Do you think she cares freedom, rights, about politics or religion,

She’s fifteen.

She cares about food

And what her neighbors say.

Politics and religion are for the luckier,

The wealthier,

The stronger,

And in our country,

Politics and religion are enviable careers.

So your religion tells you to cover up,

Your religion tells you to shave your head,

Your religion tells you to be meek,

Keep your eyes lowered,

Keep having children,

Or keep your mouth closed.

What if your religion told you to hate the other,

What if your religion told you to burn alive on a funeralpyre,

What if your religion told you to do whatever you felt like,

Spit, scream, gossip, fight, lose control, make noise, pollute,

Marry a child, perform an honour killing,

Rape, torture, discriminate,

Keep breaking the law,

Keep locked up,

Keep uneducated,

Keep submissive,

Keep ignored,

Keep under control.

Does God have a say in your religion?

Has God become a politician?

Dear men,

Dear powerful men,

I know you care about women.

I know you care about her.

I know you want her to feel like a princess,

I know you want to put her up on a pedestal,

Make her a goddess,

And give her a special day

International women’s day.

You want to carry her so she can’t walk,

Hold her, so she can’t be free,

Tell her, so she can’t know any differently.

But NO!

No. That’s not how works equality.

It’s hard work

To change a nation’s mentality

It’s hard work to go unnoticed,

Change the roots and the minds

Of a people who have been too long deprived

Of education and basic rights

Who are steering towards intolerance and misanthropy

Because of shameless inequality.

Dear men,

In all this will you give me the power?

Will you let me stand in your place?

Will you let me laugh in your face.

Will you stop staring, judging and accusing me

Or will you arrest me for blasphemy?

Label me as sexy, slutty, lose or crazy?

Call me Basanti, Pinky, Sweetie and whistle at me?

And wait a minute!

Wait a minute!

Not just dear men,

Dear auntie,

Will you stop gawking at me?

Dear Didi,

Will you stop telling me to shut up?

Dear women,

Will you, at least, stand up for me?

Enough of a woman who has become viscous from her environment.

Enough of a woman who has to become a man to compete.

Who has to weaken where she is strong and strengthen where she is weak.

Enough of a woman that has to make space for child and lover,

That has to occupy what space is left over,

Enough of uninformed teenage girls

Bleeding after losing their virginity and keeping silent after,

Enough of having to deal all alone with the morning after,

Enough of the disposed foetus,

Enough of the unwanted daughter.

Enough of girls in fairy dresses,

With bulimia and major complexes,

Enough of parents in denial, gender gaps and dividing sexes.

I’m tired.

You’re tired.

We are all tired.

We’re tired of waxing, manicuring, excercising,

Aborting, procreating, trimming, posing,

Smiling, threading,shopping, fucking, water-bursting,

The pill, make up, high heels, stainless steels, tampons, covering up,

Nurturing, caring and crying.

Ahhhh.

Sometimes I just want to breathe,

Sometimes it’s hard to even just breathe.

Like when a man is pounding incessantly on top of you in a daily routine,

It’s hard to breathe

When he turns away to sleep

Leaving you completely I satisfied sexually,

It’s hard to breathe

When your clothes are too tight,

The underwire of your bra is poking into your ribs,

It’s too hot to be wearing all this,

And it’s hard to breathe

When you want to stop being stared at but everyone always is.

The watchman, the rickshaw wallah, your neighbour’shusband,

They’re all watching your chest heave,

Everytime you breathe.

Sometimes, as a woman, you feel guilty to just breathe.

Of course we are going to be hysterical

Of course we are going to scream,

Of course we’re going to be unreasonable.

You think it’s reasonable to restrain somebody’s breathing?

Hello. Namaste. Salaam.

I am a Hindu a Muslim a Christian a Buddhist and an atheist.

I am twenty, thirty, forty and fifty.

I am single, married, divorced and half the country.

I am a mother, a daughter, a wife and a prostitute.

I am a stereotype, a trophy and a prisoner or patriarchy.

I am a woman in Indian society and I am not yet free.

But forget about all that for a moment and just look at me.

Look beyond my body, really look at me.

I am not a hardcore feminist to be very honest.

I am not a rebel as some would like to believe.

I am not even such an impressive celebrity,

I am not always made up and dressed up perfectly.

And my therapist assures me that I’m not crazy.

So look beyond all that. Look at me.

Look at what you’re seeing.

You’re seeing another human being.

You’re seeing another you in me,

And really there is no difference between you and me.

That’s all we need to grow up understanding,

To make ours a better society.

What if the world turned on it’s head?

What if the world turned on its head and you woke up one day to a society like this.

What would change for you?

as a man…

as a woman…

as a human being…

Wise men say before you judge someone, walk a mile in their shoe. Yet we specialize in jumping …. to conclusions, to forcing others to live up to what we expect from them, what society expects, what religion expects, tribal laws, family laws/customs or whatever else we can drum up…… ever stop to wonder what they expect from themselves?

Have you ever asked someone what they want for themselves and REALLY listened?

This is not an invitation to debate, it IS an invitation to stop and think. Take a moment, take a breath and reflect.

Compartmentalisation

Psychology defines compartmentalization as a defense mechanism, or a coping strategy, which doesn’t impart a very good connotation. Put simply, it’s how our minds deal with conflicting internal standpoints simultaneously.

Compartmentalizing is something that doesn’t usually come easily to people. You can see this in the way people will bring problems from home to work, let that affect their performance and vice versa. For some not so strange reason, I seem to have the opposite problem. My life is compartmentalized in so many segments that I find it difficult to allow them to mesh together. Maybe that’s also the reason I challenged myself last year to allow a disintegration in the boundaries, to mesh in all the different parts and build a new collage of the different parts.

Compartmentalizing is good, as long as you can handle it. To compartmentalize is to shove something in a box in your mind. It isolates the issue, allowing you breathing space, to get back to it with a cool head, a certain sense of detachment if you will, that allows you to approach it in a new way. In my own experience, this detachment has allowed me more flexibility and find more solutions, it’s probably the reason that I can come up with a Plan A, B, C and D to most any situation.

Compartmentalization however doesn’t work if you are trying to run away from issue, to avoid dealing with them. You do not get to shove things in a box in your mind and pretend like you have forgotten them. The issues don’t leave, resolve and in the back of your mind, you know that they exist. In extreme cases, this denial can lead to disassociate disorder and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

The reason I do it is automatic but it’s a skill like every other that we acquire. Being able to compartmentalise can help you to achieve more, be more effective and efficient. It allows me to do a 40 hour week, my two volunteer work, one full time evening masters. There is no end to how much more you can handle. Anyone can train themselves to be anything, us humans have unlimited potential, if we focus on expanding our potential.

And that applies to humans too 😉

This is not a new phenomena infact a vast majority of us do practice it daily. For example, you might go home, see your kid smile at you and completely forget the stress you carried over from work.It’s what people talk about when they say that they want more work-life balance. It’s what allows multi-taskers to be effective. Leaders to stay on top of all the varied things that go on under them in an organization, team or league. It is our unconcious mind protecting us automatically from being overwhelmed. 

If you would like to use the process of compartmentalization in a concscious and effective way, then I suggest the following steps:

1. To effectively compartmentalize, isolate the issue. Don’t confuse one thing with another. Be very clear on what you are isolating.

2. Once the issue/problem/riddle is isolated, focus on it. Really focus on it. Place that issue on the table in front of you like a rubics cube and look at it from all angles. BUT do this only for short periods of time.

3. Once you have analysed a problem, you can then start working on a solution. A little bit at a time.

4. Once the problems been handled, close the compartment. The problem existed, you handled it. Don’t dwell on it. Don’t file it away somewhere in the back of your mind in order to return to it over and over again. You have already given it your full attention. You have already solved the issue at hand to your best possible ability. Now close it and be done with it.

5. Learn to say “no”. Get comfortable saying “no”. Prioritize your time and your attention. While there are unlimited supplies of problems, both at home and at work, you as a human however only have a limited supply of energy and time to devote to them. So learn to get comfortable saying “no” to things that have no business in your life. And once you have said no, move on. These do not have to be filed or compartmentalized in order to be handled at a later time. It’s like cleaning your PC when it gets virus infected. You purge and reboot 🙂

Of convictions and contentment

I met Frankie today. A very interesting Austrian woman who happens to be here for a little more than a week on jury duty for an International Film Festival that is taking place here in Dhaka. We went for a long walk around Old Dhaka today and had some rather interesting discussion. Frankie and I have been born world apart, in the same year, in completely different societies. Our upbringing and lives have been in that sense rather different too. Yet we connected on so many different levels and had such animated conversations that none of us wanted it to end. At one point during our conversation though, she said something that made me stop and ask her to repeat herself again, just so that I really understood what she was saying.

Here’s what she said: “You are full of convictions and yet at the same time you are also brimming with contentment”. 

I kid you not, I did a double take when she said it. I was sure that I heard it wrong, which is why I asked her to repeat herself again.

My convictions that she was referring to was about my views on religion, life, goals, my child and what I want and don’t want for him & me etc. My contentment apparently stems from the fact that I can very easily declare that I love my life. That its easy to see that the work I do is something that I love very deeply.

This is not a gloating post.

Tomorrow will mark the 2nd year anniversary of the day I almost ended my life. I was in a deep dark tunnel that had no end, stuck in a life I felt powerless to change. Simply put – I hated my life and could not find the answer to the question, “why should I take another breath? or live for another day”. I didn’t have an answer. So I decided to take matters into my own hands. I planned for posterity (that would be the type-A personality in me). I planned my will, bequeathed what I own to the people I care for as carefully as I planned out exactly how I was going to end it.

I will tell you what saved me that day – these quotes from the Bible and the Quran and my best friend.

Frankie asked me this today and I had to think for a moment before I answered – am I religious? I think not, I think I am spiritual. I believe in something greather than us, a grand designer, creator of the cosmos if you will. I do believe in humanity.

I have been incredibly fortunate or lucky to see quite a few miracles in my life. At the same time I have also seen the worst face of human beings. It’s like the highs are real Himalaya kind of high, while the lows have been the pits of hell. That in itself would be enough to either rattle someone to their very core, or get them diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Turns out I don’t have that. Trust me, I did analyze myself and get a second opinion. (yes I am talking about mental health issues here, if you are not comfortable, this is not the blog for you).  What I do have is incurable, inexplicable – optimism and faith.

When I had forsaken the religion that was being shoved down my throat, I decided to find out for myself what religion meant. I went everywhere I could think of – churches, temples, gurudwara, synagogue. I read up on philosophy, debated religion with people who were open minded enough and knowledgeable enough to have an intelligent discussion. Let me tell you this – the ten commandments hold true no matter what religion you follow, or which God you worship. The name may change but the devotion felt is the same and at very core of it lies humanity. This gave birth to my conviction on religion – to each his own, his own action, karma, life and choices.

So back to two years ago, I was stuck in a dead end life that was not what I wanted or needed but couldn’t figure out how to get out of. See the trick there? I couldn’t see the how, the silver lining, the end of the tunnel. That’s were faith, optimism and my best friend kicked my ass in. I had to let go of the need to control the how and shift my attention to the why.

Ok, so I was not happy – why? what do I need to change about my life to be happy? What can I no longer tolerate in my life? What do I actively want to manifest in my life? What would change my life to the point where I do not feel the need to question the why of my life.

The more I have let go of the ‘how’ and concentrated on the ‘why’, the more I have achieved and the happier I have been.

It’s really been as simple and as difficult as that.

When my motivation to undertake something is not at the core of my being, my passion, my time is wasted. When it is, my time is invested. A simple example – people have told me for years that I should do my Masters. I couldn’t see the reason as to ‘why’ I should do it. The reasons that people usually gave to the ‘why’ was not for me. I don’t need that certificate or the salary bump that may come from it. Both of these reasons are arbitrary and while they may be true for most people, I already made more money than most people my age and I have worked my ass off to get where I am, so that didn’t really apply to me. However, last year, when I got bitten by the bug to know more, when development aid ignited my passion, I finally conceded that I do now want to do a Masters on Development Studies.

The problem with my life, as with most women and men’s, was that I was living a life that is prescribed by someone else – our family, society, expectations. The invisible iron chains that bind us down into making choices that has nothing to do with our individuality. It doesn’t stop to take note of the machines that we become, the dreams that we kill, or the aspirations that we suffocate to death. It takes no note of the zombies we become, like actors on a stage, in a play that they do not desire to be part of but cannot leave either.

This journey of becoming an individual is not an easy one. Neither is it for the faint hearted. If you crave love, attentions, affection and confirmations, then this is not the road for you to take. You will not get accolades for your efforts. Neither will you be cheered on your journey. The road to transformation is a long and lonely road – because no one else will see the destination that you are trying to reach. When you reach your destination, you might be the only one at the mountain top. Others might congratulate you for scaling another peak, for another success. But it will be your own blood and sweat that you will shed on this lonely journey.

Then again, in your travels, you might find a kindered spirit in someone else. Recognize yourself in someone else. You might even stop in your path to lend a helping hand. If you are suffering from depression, if you can’t see the end of the tunnel – the psalm 23.4, really helps. It will remind you that you are not alone. And when you get tired of fighting for what you believe in, your dreams, your goals – the Surah Al-Kafiroon, really helps. It will shore your belief that just because others can’t see things from the same perspective as you, it does not invalidate your dreams. You have every right to be YOU, while they have a right to be themselves.

Contentment? Yes please, I will take a double helping of that 🙂

What are you attracting?

 

 

I had a friend. Nothing in her life ever goes right according to her. Every single conversation with her is dipped in negativity. It got to the point where I would dread having to either talk to her or entertain her if she turns up in one of her impromptu visits. She seems to be hardwired to find the negativity in every situation and with her negativity and constant whining, she invites more of that to come into her life. No matter how many times she changes her job, her boss or what office she works in, she takes that negativity with her everywhere. And her negativity and constant whining invites the same from others who come into contact with her.

Then at some point in time this year, I made the firm decision to cut out all negativity from my life and thankfully to a large degree that included negative people. This  change for me was not an easy one since I have the tendency to be too generous instead but my generosity was creating problems in my life.

At some point in time, I realized that I cannot change my friend. People change when they want to. When they are motivated to change. My frustration with them or myself is not helping either. And instead of becoming a solution, I was becoming a problem, for myself. With that realization came another one – in order to say ‘yes’ to others I was saying ‘no’ to myself, I realized that it was I who had to change.

 

 

I had turned a new leaf by the time I spoke to her again a couple of months later. At the very beginning of the conversation, I told her that she cannot complain, no matter what catastrophe is at the center stage of her ongoing drama with life. If she wants to discuss problems in order to find solutions, I will listen and advise if I can. Otherwise we are going to stick to the pleasant things in life. No more getting on the ‘merry-go-round’ of self-pity parties. The conversations lasted less than a couple of minutes and then the calls were fewer and far in between until we started going for months without talking. This scenario played out with 2 other friends of mine. Until one day I realized that by saying ‘yes’ to myself and consciously making that choice to only entertain the positive, the quality of my friendship with the people around me has drastically changed.

I can tell you this….. the journey has been worth it. The friendships that I have now are one’s that I cherish. In giving myself the permission to be brutally honest about how each relationship affects me and what I expect the other person to put in the relationship, it freed up the other party to do the same. These are the relationships that build us up, cheer us on and kick our ass if we wallow in pity parties at moments of weakness. These relationships are based on authenticity, integrity weaves them together, true generosity of the spirit leaves no room for maliciousness in the directness.

Have you hugged someone today?

I am a hugger…. you know the kind that hugs friends, family, children, colleagues etc. Well so far I think I have managed to refrain from startling strangers with hugs but who knows someday you might find me on a street corner offering free hugs 🙂 After all, everybody, needs a spot of brightness in their day.

Have you had a hug today?

 

There’s a hindi movie where the hero goes around giving patients in a hospital big bear hugs – “jadu ka jhappi” – the magical tight hug that makes people feel so much better. I liked that phrase “magic hug”, in fact I would hug my son all the time and tell him that I am trying to squeeze the juice out of him and then we would have a competition on who’s losing more juice depending on who’s hugging harder. Those are moments that make a whole life time worthwhile.

 

There is a saying by Virginia Satir, a respected family therapist, “We need four hugs a day for survival. We need eight hugs a day for maintenance. We need twelve hugs a day for growth.”

 

Studies have shown that there are psychological, physiological and spiritual benefits to hugging. Benefits range from lower stress level by reducing the production of cortisol to an increase in production of oxytocin, serotonin and dopamine, the hormones that are primarily responsible for feeling content, happy, relaxed, loved. So if you are trying to be happy and relaxed, then besides the meditation and the prayers, I would certainly recommend getting as much hugs as possible 🙂

 

So tell me, have you hugged today???

 

Truth is not easy

Even though I have failed to keep up with my blogging, I have tried to stay abreast on the news of my blogging community. I followed one of their post to this blog:

http://kyllingsara.wordpress.com/

A beautiful young woman, full of humor and life who also struggled with the truth of the darkness that existed in her life, that touched her and marked her forever. She suffered from DID (dissociative identity disorder) and ultimately took to blogging to write down the thoughts that were running on train tracks around her head. She was sorting herself out. She seemed to be on the road to recovery. Then she suffered a set-back and faced condemnation from the very blogging community who had supported her. She silenced her voice, stopped blogging and ultimately she chose to end her suffering by ending her life.

Suicide is not a popular choice but it is an intensely personal one. It is not a choice that a person makes lightly. Most people who commit suicide successfully have records of having made unsuccessful attempts at least once or more times before. These behaviors – they are a cry for help, for someone to understand, for someone or something to take the pain away. It is an attempt to find relief from a pain that is intense, constant and can’t be borne anymore. It may be born from deep despair, depression or such adversity that can’t be changed or faced anymore.

Another blog that I stumbled on is: http://crazyinthecoconut.co.uk/

This blogger too is trying to face the condition with humor, with truth and honesty about everything that is going inside this person.

It is not easy. Truth is not easy. It is easier to avert our eyes from abuse. It is easier to ignore the statistics that says that 5-6 child out of every 10, will face abuse at some stage of their childhood. It is easier to ignore that half of these kids will be boys. It is easier to ignore the timid pleas of a child that wants to stay out of range of particular adults in his/her circle, because really how could that nice uncle, grandfather, neighbour possibly be a child abuser.

We let the abusers off the hook every time we avert our eyes. Everytime we fail to protect a child we let another scarred human being walk alone in this lifetime. No amount of therapy or drugs will erase the horrors that will be faced over a lifetime. Some will survive but most will at some point in time decide to end their life to end the torture that life becomes.

This subject, these blogs and their bloggers, they shook me to my very core. They made me incredibly sad and angry at the same time. I wish I could hug each one of them and tell them “don’t give up. don’t let the abuser win. don’t be a victim. don’t think that this has to end this way”. But I can’t. All I can do is be there with supportive comments, helpful advice if any, or just be there to show that I do care.

Mental health issues and their causes are not easy subjects to discuss. Normally I would stay away from blogging about this at all on this particular blog, but as part of my new year’s resolution, I need to let my worlds collide. To shove each other around and see where and how the puzzle pieces would fit together to build the whole picture. I lost 2 of my best friends to suicide and while their stories are not mine to share, their losses shook me to the core and made me question a lot of things that I had taken for granted till then. Life taught me, showed me, that reasons that I did not understand before are perfectly valid and logical (and yes that includes reasons to commit suicide) under certain circumstances, they even become inevitable.

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