Gumbo pot- Reflections

I am writing this post as a reflection of my thoughts on some current global events / issues and some reading/listening that I have engaged in. This post is perhaps a continuation of my recent post on Feminism and what it means to be a Feminist.

I was reading/ listening to:

  • Women’s bodies, Women’s wisdom by Dr. Christiane Northrup
  • The Truth about Vaccines – This is a 7 part documentary series on the good/bad and the ugly related to Vaccines given to infants/children in the U.S.
  • The Yoga of Bhagavad Gita by Paramhansa Yogananda

Below are some of my ponderings/thoughts:

  • For any change to occur, we need more women to be aware, educated, in tune with their intuitive intelligence and more men to stand with these women.
  • If the chemicals being spread on Earth’s soil and the antibiotics/hormones given to cattle affect our health via food/water/air, then why assume that all vaccines given to babies are safe?
  • Shouldn’t I as an individual always have the ability to make a choice? What is freedom if not for the ability to make our own choices and be responsible for them?
  • Why do we believe more in pills and less in the intelligence of our bodies?
  • Any person/ medium/approach that thrives on you being fearful is not your friend.
  • We need to stand up to the Pharmaceutical industry much in the same way as we are seeing with the Pesticide and Food industry. Personal is indeed political.
  • If every single person only took responsibility for themselves including their physical, mental, emotional, relational health, that would be enough.
  • Authoritarian approaches that disallow freedom at any level need to be replaced with collaborative/consultative approaches.
  • Don’t simply follow practices/beliefs because ‘that’s how it has been’, ask why and be open to understanding.
  • It’s all connected. If it’s NOT OK for Syria to bomb its own people, it’s NOT OK for the government to issue mandates on what’s needed in my or my child’s body. Both are fundamentally related to human rights.
  • Don’t be a rebel for the sake of feeling powerful.
  • Let’s stop living in an illusion that we are separate from the Earth/Environment.
  • Invest more time/resources in improving the state of health instead of focusing on disease.

I will close it by saying; Let’s dream with our eyes wide open. Let it make us uncomfortable. Let’s feel it and then feel it again in every inch of our bodies. May we have no other choice but to move with it.

I would be eager to know if this stirs something in you.

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My take on what it means to be a Feminist

Feminism doesn’t ask you to be a man hater

Feminism doesn’t ask you to use coercion or domination as a means of influence

Feminism doesn’t ask to be expressed in obnoxious and disrespectful ways

Feminism doesn’t ask you to only care about women and women’s rights

Are you a feminist simply by being born a woman? I don’t think so.

‘It’ isn’t literal and narrow. It is about honoring that aspect in and around us which connects us to the feminine. What is feminine you ask?

I hope you do ask because we have had too much information and little knowledge about this idea/concept/construct.

Feminine is the creative force. It is open, vast, receptive , fluid and vulnerable. It is the power of intuition, emotion and nurturing. In humans, we understand the right hemisphere of the brain and the left side of the body to be working on this principle. Being born as a woman definitely gives us a biological advantage to be more in tune with the feminine but it requires awareness and acceptance to be used as a strength.

The construct of the ‘Feminine’ encompasses all creatures on Earth who depend on us human beings to be taken care of, to not be violated. This is a child, a woman, a man, an animal, plants, oceans, environment etc. ‘It’ asks for grace, compassion and empathy for another being. It evokes a power within which cannot be denied. It asks that we transcend our ego and see the world beyond the ‘I, Me, Myself’.

Any being who can be subjected to oppression, injustice deserves to be fought for. Across generations and cultures we have seen this injustice manifest the most around women and hence feminism is synonymous with the experience of being a woman today.

We know this force as the archetypal ‘Mother’.  She gives of herself to create, raise and nurture. She can protect her offspring when she senses any threat. She also feels the collective pain of any injustice.

And if we know anything, then we know that the true feminine cannot live in isolation from the true masculine. Both are needed and in balance.

Masculine is the seed force without which creation isn’t possible. It is the power of action, focus, intention. This is the ‘achieving’ energy which is logical, rational and solid/set.  It is externally focused.

We know this force as the archetypal ‘Father’. Quite naturally, the masculine force provides the seed and the feminine nurtures it to life. Masculine provides and protects.

In schools, offices, governments, families, we are taught to recognize and bolster the Masculine but seldom talked about is the Feminine power.  I suspect that this is because we only believe what we see with the limitations of our physical eyes and the faculties of our rational mind. I am happy to see an increase in the ‘mindfulness’ trend in schools. Practices like meditation, mindfulness, art connect us with this power which lies within untapped.

As for a man vs woman debate, I have seen many men who are securely in touch with their feminine side and I have seen many women who aren’t. I know the corporate driven achievement oriented culture doesn’t give much of a chance to stay connected with our feminine side and neither does a culture where a girl is not free to exercise her freedom which stems from simply being alive.

In majority of the cases, women leaders and the men who find a way to honor their feminine side do tend to think long term and in terms of a larger balance. Here I would like to draw your attention to the women led Icelandic bank which was the only financial institution to survive the financial crisis in 2007-2008. Auður Capital is a financial services company founded by two women who formed feminine values as the basis of their institution. Halla Tomasdóttir who is one of the founders of this bank said that if we want to see a change anywhere, we must include atleast 3 women on the board because one is token representation and two is a minority.

I was thrilled to learn about several initiatives in European nations and some other countries where as a society, balance, harmony, sense of community are highly prized values and are seen integral to improving performance. These initiatives are in the direction of healthcare, education, child care, environment protection, animal rights, parental leave, vacation time etc. The ‘softer’ side of running a company and a society.

An example of honoring the feminine around us was in 2013 when New Zealand granted legal personhood to Te Urewera National Park and Whanganui River and its tributaries. This speaks volumes in terms of respecting and protecting the intrinsic rights of this earthly body. It is recognizing and protecting the rights of an entity which cannot speak for itself and calls upon us human beings to do so.

So, what does it mean to be a Feminist?

  • Being aware of the most obvious and subtle forms of injustice
  • Speaking up against injustice as and when you can
  • Taking action at an individual and or collective level in a collaborative manner

Thoughts?

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.

The Stronger I get, Harder it is for me to bend…

The Stronger I get, Harder it is for me to bend…

You must be wondering what’s with the title, guess what this title just slipped off my tongue 2 minutes ago when I was talking to my friend. Serendipity, would you call that? Well, without dragging that much let me tell you what I am referring to. I am referring to the strength of the person that we become with age, experience, insights etc etc. The word bend here is not used with a negative connotation but refers more to adjustments. Some years back when I was pursuing my MBA, I had heard the term agility which meant that you are strong but flexible to adapt to situations. I always kept that in mind as a benchmark of how I wanted to be. The professor who talked about explained the concept with a beautiful analogy of the green grass and tall trees. Tall trees are noticeable and look strong whereas the short green grass often goes unnoticeable and looks meek but when hit by a storm, tall trees fall down to the ground and the green grass survives. This questions our basic understanding of strength which often is phrased as ‘as hard as a rock’. When we consider the above example, we are forced to rethink of strength as the ability to survive which has a prelude in one’s ability to adapt. I have given the example above to contextualize the word bend in my writing ahead.

Some years back, I was going through a phase of asserting my identity to myself. I was searching for my own value system and the way I wanted to live myself which included my work, my idea of a vacation , my ideal life partner and things I would like to engage in etc. With the help of some of my mentors and great friends I became the person I wanted to be. I received positive re-inforcement for the way I was with some minor areas of improvement. It has always been tough for me to receive feedback which involves criticism but I was lucky to find people who made me understand the value of positive criticism and I paved my way through those improvements. I reached a stage where I felt that I was the best person I could be and consolidated my idea of myself through my actions. Having moved from a point where I was not sure of many things in life to a point where I was being just the way I thought was best made me confident in myself. I would easily adapt to different situations and be open to different perspectives in life. I was happy that I was the green grass and not the tall tree.

Little did I know that I was going to be presented with a relationship where I would have to reflect on my self perception of what I am. It requires discernment to be able to decide whether your assertion is proving to be stubbornness in a relationship. It is this reflection that forced me understand that when we are in a relationship, there obviously is an other( read person) whom you ( encompasses your values, habits, behaviors, beliefs etc) are trying to relate to. I was trying hard to be the green grass whereas in reality I was coming across as the tall tree in the relationship. Today while I was talking to a friend, I mentioned to him that there is reason why our parents want us to get married by the age of 23-25 or so. The reason being, at that age we are still in the process of solidifying our identity and not achieved closure on it. As we grow older, we become more of the person we are and hence not ready to modify ourselves easily if so proposed by someone else or by circumstances. This closure provides us with stability in our thoughts and does help us move in positive directions. Right at this moment, I am tempted to offer an example from partnered dances like salsa, jive etc. The feminine aspect of these dances is to be able to follow the lead offered by the masculine. The beauty of these dances is to be able to complement each other’s moves and more so for the female partner who can be the best individual dancer but has to know how to offer herself in the best with the lead. Another aspect in these dances is that, a female is more receptive and not assertive (The male and female used here are not necessarily referring to ideal man/ woman traits).

With all the description above, I am trying to say that sometimes our perception of our strengths becomes our weakness. My idea of asserting myself had reached a point where I did not feel the need to change anything in myself and was not willing to bend for anything. I found that the strength of who I am was coming in my way of nurturing my relationship. It was hard on me to realize that my individuality had become too strong to accept any changes even if they were minor in mature. I felt as if I wanted to stand at a place where I was comfortable and wanted the other person to do all the hard work and reach towards me. As I write this, I would also like to mention that I am not an advocate of sacrificing to an extent where you cease to exist and fight to search who you are all over again. Instead, I would be glad if we could find a midway of doing things which calls for a lot of discernment at our end. In some heavy words, it would be finding your path between individualism and collectivism. It would be a move from being independent to being interdependent, from saying “this is me, take it or leave it” to saying “is that how I come across?, let me think about it”.

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Togetherness

Well, this is just the beginning of another life lesson for me and from the looks of it, it seems like a tough one indeed. There are times when I felt that I can live my life all by myself and that I don’t need to be married to someone but today I feel that having someone next you all the time, keeps you in check at different points of time and through various life transitions.