Nothing absolute about us

This Women’s day I did not feel like writing about the obvious and have instead gone the route of reflecting upon how we define and experience ourselves/others over the course of a lifetime. Our definition of ourselves is limiting not only for us but also extends to those around us.

In my humble opinion, everyone exists on a spectrum or a continuum. With us human beings there are no absolutes . Absolutes in human beings would perhaps make us boring and too predictable.  We wish with all our might to see things in black/white but if everyone’s black/white is different then there is no one right or wrong barring acts of intentional harm caused to another. The absolutist tendencies also tie you up to be a certain way forever whereas the spectrum/continuum way of thinking leaves room for exploration and growth.

Pause - where am I heading -reflect

Auckland, New Zealand

What led me to write this? Two things come to mind- one is a documentary titled Gender Revolution which I watched on Netflix and an article I was reading this morning about someone being an Introvert vs Extrovert. Psychologist Carl Jung’s work was one of my first introductions almost a decade ago to this line of thinking. He developed a theory of Type Indicators where people could score on a continuum of Introversion/Extraversion, Judging/Perceiving, Intuition/Sensing, Thinking/Feeling. This MBTI type also allows room for change/growth by saying that people can have different tendencies at different points in time while having one base tendency which may be predominant but not definitive. As much as I liked this idea I found that in real life if I said to someone that I tend towards talking when I am with lesser number of people and am quieter when am in a group, I was called indecisive or unsure of myself. Of course, there were also those who were familiar with this thought and matured to understand that no one really fits into a box at all times and that the boxes we fall into are rather superfluous.

In the documentary on Gender Identity there were some interviewees who mentioned that their experience of their gender isn’t simply either male or female. I find this thought very freeing and one which would develop a lot of tolerance in our society. If you think about it, every person is a mix of masculine and feminine tendencies. Depending on our upbringing and current circumstances we exhibit more of masculine or feminine tendencies. Teenagers are perfect examples of this exploration when the hormones are surging and there’s a creative confusion happening within. The genitalia aren’t the prime indicator of our behaviors and expressions at all times. There could be a pre-dominance but that’s just that- a pre-dominance. It’s mostly the social expectations of a certain ‘normal’ which when challenged lead to extreme measures of ostracism or other such isolating punishments.

If human beings are the only evolved species who are capable of complex thoughts and feelings then why shun someone who is born with male genitalia and expresses mostly feminine tendencies. Why box yourself up by calling yourself a shy/quiet person or someone who is always detail oriented versus a big picture person? I used to think that I wasn’t oriented toward details but the fact is that I didn’t want to accept that part of me because I liked the idea of being a ‘big picture’ person. Today I know that I am both and I love recognizing this in me. I no longer say that I always think/behave a certain way and I must say that some people have trouble with it:) but what matters is that I no longer am troubled with this so-called acceptance of duality that’s present within me. If only we could accept that we all cannot always be the light and that we all have darkness within to deal with, we would judge someone else a little lesser.

The more I think about this, the more I feel like the ‘I AMs’ are nothing but ideas at a certain point in time that we are happy to live by. If we recognize those as ideas of ourselves or about ourselves at a given point in time we would struggle a little less when that idea changes to something else later in life either by internal desire or by external situational factors. Say for example if you are born into a Hindu family but over a course of time you no longer believe in pantheism, this shouldn’t be for someone else to tell you that what you are experiencing is wrong. If we allowed a healthy level of exploration and questioning, perhaps the crimes performed in the name of an overarching right/wrong would also be reduced.

These are just examples to provoke a certain line of thinking. Which ‘I am..’ of yours are you wondering about? I would say, the more I AMs you destroy within you, the more accepting you are of not only yourself but also of others around you.

I shall close with one of Osho’s thoughts here- In order to truly live, we need to keep dying within.

P.S.: The image is courtesy my brother’s travels to New Zealand in 2017.

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U.S. Election cycle of 2016-my takeaways.

“Hillary doesn’t come across as a strong candidate because she isn’t very dynamic and doesn’t have radical ideas for change. She wants to continue on Obama’s legacy whereas Trump is all about shaking up and bringing in change.” My father’s words rang in my head last night while I was watching Hillary Clinton’s last rally in Philadelphia. I was looking at the Obamas and HRC together and I said to myself, What’s wrong in a picture where power comes from a shared source?  In my humble opinion it’s time for people to honor and understand the collaborative aspect of power in addition to the existing aggressive individualistic concept. An individual can make a difference but real change can only be impacted as a system. Collaboration being a feminine ideal perhaps struggles to find its voice in our masculine competitive view of the world. We need a healthy balance of both to thrive. Assertion is needed to raise issues and collaboration to find solutions.

For someone who has kept herself aloof from politics, I must say that this election cycle has taught me a thing or two and I am writing this blog to share what I have learned.

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US Election 2016-Climax time

The 7 things that stood out to me during this election cycle were:

  1. This election had two candidates who hit the core of our hearts and conscience. Their mere existence asks you, ‘What are you made of?’ – Is your baseline marked by love or by fear?
  2. Emotion trumps rational thought process unless we as human beings use our highly prized ability to discern. Emotion provides us with instant data of what lies beneath and we can choose what we would like to do with this data. Being aware would be the first step.
  3. A message that is hammered long enough around you can become a belief. Constant flow of visuals through media influence what you focus on. What you focus on consistently becomes You.
  4. Collaboration is perceived to be weak and aggressive competitiveness is perceived to be a winner’s attribute. This very notion goes against biology and physiology where every element works in tandem with the other. Can you imagine any single organ of your body being able to function optimally if something else in the system is compromised?
  5. You need to blow your own trumpet. If you boast enough about yourself, your followers will emerge. This is perhaps what social media helps you with. To find and connect with your audience.  A case in point is Bernie Sanders’ campaign whose authenticity and passion resonated with millions.
  6. We need our leaders to be flawless. We can’t tolerate imperfections in the people whom we choose to put high up on a pedestal. Is this even possible? I think this only allows for us mortals to sin without guilt because we aren’t up there. We need to let them be human beings who can err.
  7. You cannot focus on what you don’t have or have lost and expect to become great again. It’s similar to how one cannot focus on disease and expect to become healthy. Disease can be used as a pointer/indicator and only a vision of health can move you towards wellness.

Walking on my unique path, I feel supported and connected to all that is Life.-Pooja Joshi

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image in here was found on pinterest and the words followed:)

What we hide does find a way out!

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My desk mirror

Don’t ask me why but today while reading the DSM IV-TR (Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) I came across a whole spectrum of disorders that originate from not wanting to acknowledge the negative that exists in and around us. This could be negative emotions i.e. fear, jealousy, anger, insecurity, feeling blue etc. or undesired life circumstances i.e. loss of a loved one, loss of a job, physical illnesses etc. When we look around we are taught to always keep smiling, push things under the carpet, ‘sleep it over’ or ‘drink it over’. The sad part of it is that sometimes the people we love cannot see us in pain longer than what they would expect. This subtle expectation stems from a place of love but leads to us choosing unhealthy coping so as to pose perfectly in front of our loved ones.

Using computer parlance, all of this data does not get deleted on its own or leave the system. It exists in there, somewhere. If we continuously keep storing files in the system and never delete cookies or unwanted files, what does it do to our system? Well, we know it, it slows down. Being a human being and not a machine adds several other complexities and in addition to slowing down, we tend to find ‘releases’ or compensate our pain with temporary pleasures like drugs, meaningless sex and series of addictions.

Our culture today does not teach us ‘Emotions 101’ and we find ourselves battling with them day in and out. Emotions have been portrayed as something that needs to be controlled just as man has attempted to conquer Mother Nature. It is not a war unless we make it one. Akin to our physical ailments where we know the ‘symptoms’ and treat them, emotional symptoms are ignored or the person with the symptoms is looked down upon as ‘the problem’. This is where the individual goes to a doctor and gets prescribed some pills to alleviate the symptoms. The negative emotions continue to stay inside and we just don’t realize they exist, similar to pain killers where pain is numbed not cured.

Emotions need to flow just as water flows. When we try to block the flow of water, it only forces itself out through some opening. How do we maintain this flow? Being open to experiencing emotions, acknowledging them and not to judging will help. Expecting not to feel a certain way is counterproductive. Journaling on a regular basis will help increase awareness. Once we have an increased awareness, the shadows of blocked waves from the past cannot take us by surprise. Seeking professional help to manage emotions also works. I personally love using Dialectical Behavior therapy which draws from Buddhist philosophy of acknowledgment and acceptance.

On a side note, more often than not, our emotional symptoms point to greater unresolved issues i.e. unhealthy interactions in family, societal disparities, cultural incongruities etc. Our individual systems are constantly interacting with the environmental influences..let me save that for another blogJ

Let it flow!

After all family is family…

It has taken me quite an experience to understand this fact of life. For years I heard people say this to me and I was also fortunate to see some people act on this belief. Being a person who needs to experience things first hand to understand them ( you can read it stubborn), it was not an auto response for me to nod my head when my father said to me ‘ in trying times, it is only your family that comes to your rescue’. In my share of life experiences I had seen friends and well wishers come to your help when it was needed and when they couldn’t I just did not take it as an opportunity to fall back on my father’s words. I always believed that you meet people in your life as per your needs and friends become your extended family or sometimes even acquaintances reach out to you when you need it the most. It is also important to mention that these experiences I am referring to occurred in my life when I had the luxury of having a permanent roof on my head ( provided by my father) and some money in my bank account (courtesy my employer). What I needed the most then was more of emotional support and I sought it from my friends.
Today, I am a student in a foreign country (US of A) who does not have a permanent income or accommodation. Being a romantic optimist I chose a university where I do not have any family relatives or friends that I knew from before. Somewhere in my heart I used to feel that life was too easy for them who had relatives that they could lean on when they needed. I would see some of my roommates who would go live with their relatives over the weekends and could count on them when they needed some help in this foreign land. When I saw the relatives help my roomies I would think , it need not just be family but anyone (who is your friend) would come to help you when you need it. Fortunately in addition to a couple of Indian friends, I also made some non Indian friends here who helped me go to a grocery store (you had to have a car to move around in the uncivilized neighborhood I lived in), drop me home from school, help me shift apartments and the likes. These experiences affirmed my beliefs that there are good people out there in the world to help you out. I felt that these people who helped me until then were my friends and I thanked the guy above for having met these people. What I am going to share further is completely a personal experience and I don’t intend to generalize it. Two months ago I fell very sick and I had to be hospitalized for a serious respiratory infection. This was sudden and I had not dreamt that I am going to need hospitalization. That day in my head when I was searching for someone to come and get me stuff I needed, I could just think of one name of the many friendships I thought I had developed here. It could be my shortcoming but some of my other experiences had made me aware of some cultural differences between Americans and Indians. A small example would be that I felt the degree of cautiousness surrounding common cold/cough and the likes among the people who were brought up here was very high compared to what I have seen back home. At times it irritated me and at times I was successful in making myself see the benefits of being so cautious. When I fell sick, my head told me that I should not try and call someone who generally is overcautious about avoiding infections. I did debate with myself saying that may be the people I was thinking about may understand the complexity of my present situation however I decided against putting anyone through such a dilemma and called on the one person I had no doubts would understand.

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Boston

During my stay at the hospital, I recalled the times when one of my family members fell sick and without a second thought we would do what was required. When I was here in a foreign land without anyone whom I could assume would bring me my clothes/ food and other basic stuff I remembered how members of a family perform such duties as an ‘auto’ function. As much as I am thankful for the two friends who helped me the most during this period, I did gain a far better understanding of what it means to be a family. No matter how strained your relationship, when need arises its your family that takes over the situation and understands your needs even before you verbalize them. I have been fortunate to find such support with people who are not ‘related’ to me however there is always a limit to what friends can do. Some willingly cross that limit and go out of their way to be around you when you need it but that limit always stays. Beyond that limit is when you enter the circle of your family and close relatives. Sometimes members of extended family may do it as an obligation but I guess it still counts because at the end of the day they do help. I have not personally experienced the ‘extended family’ reaching out to help part but have seen this happen with people around me when cousins and uncles traveled distances to settle their niece/ nephew in this place they would otherwise be foreigners to. Perhaps, you can say that I have learned to appreciate some relationships when I did not have them around me.