Not afraid to be ordinary

I have to admit right at the outset that ever since I was a kid I disliked anything which was ‘normal’, ‘regular’, ‘conventional’.  I would often ask why rituals are done a certain way or why do I have to follow social rules which my brother didn’t have to follow. And you know what the rest of the why’s would look like..

The story began one afternoon when I was sitting in our family’s apartment balcony and looking at what people in the apartments living opposite to us were doing( I know it wasn’t a nice thing to peek but hey..everything was too close not to watch when the curtains are open) . It was yet another sunny day in Mumbai and I had just returned from school. While I was watching,  I noticed one apartment in particular where the kids were playing and the maid was drying the clothes in the balcony. They weren’t doing anything extraordinary and in fact they were doing exactly the same thing as they did the day before and the day prior to that. It was then that I wondered:

  • Will I die one day and no one would know?
  • Will my existence go unnoticed?
  • How can I be different?

Trust me when I tell you that I was all of 10-11 years old thinking about such glum stuff. In that very moment

  • I decided to be different.
  • To not follow the routine, mundane and mechanical life.
  • To create my own rules and
  • To learn everything on my own ( this wasn’t a smart intention to set but I did set it that way)

This existential thought storm also triggered a resistance towards anything normal. If someone had a normal childhood i.e. sans any major struggles or discomfort then that didn’t interest me, two people who got married with ease didn’t give me as much a kick as did an odd couple i.e. Older woman marrying a younger man, if everyone was afraid of the walking alone in the dark then I would surely try and see what the fuss was all about. I wanted to be above the rest but not in the normal competitive manner where you tried to score better than your peer. I got above the rest using some spiritual and philosophical understanding. Being competitive also meant being normal so I wasn’t going to engage in it.

Fast forward some years and some first-hand experiences , I craved normalcy and all I wanted was a normal life. I was at a point where I was tired of ups and downs and desperately wanted the comfort of the plateau, the known. I needed certainty/ stability and thankfully I was able to achieve it after some challenges. The truth is that had I not tasted these challenges where being able to make ends meet in a foreign land was my daily concern, then I wouldn’t have been able to value normalcy. I am stubborn like thatJ

With this new found respect for normalcy and my 10 year old still inside of me, today I have reached a point where I can say that no matter how ordinary you are, there is an inherent uniqueness in each one of us which can never be suppressed (unless you choose to suppress it). You don’t have to try too hard to be extraordinary.

Accepting the beauty of normalcy takes courage. Accepting somewhere that most of life is lined with routine tasks which are not to be fought with but won over. The ‘difference’ lies in the choices we make while leading an otherwise ordinary life. There is an ease in this approach to life. An organic wisdom if you will. It is the beauty of a homemaker who sings while she cooks, the compassion of a man returning from a 9-5 job who helps a wounded animal on the street,  the courage of an otherwise ordinary bystander to stand up for a woman who is being eve teased.

In my opinion, if we can simply learn to be good at being ordinary with an elevated consciousness/humanness then we will never be ‘just another’ person who lived/died. As long as we keep fighting the normalcy, that’s what we stay busy with and staying busy in our own head doesn’t mean that we aren’t ordinary. This constant battle we create for ourselves can induce more fear in us than needed.

I am not suggesting here that you shouldn’t challenge yourself or try to grow or be complacent. If you do any of the above then you are not respecting your inherent uniqueness and not allowing it to express itself. What I am saying here is that not everyone needs to be a Mark Zuckerberg or a Bill Gates to make a difference or to live a life that has created an impact. If you live your life with authenticity then it will indeed be a life well lived. Some of us spend too much time and energy focusing on what we are NOT in this moment. You don’t have to know everything OR be restless at all times because you aren’t doing enough to get somewhere.

Advertisements

Creative birthing..Are you in labor yet?

On a flight to California from Chicago, unable to rest my mind which is stimulated from reading Susan Cain’s book Quiet, here I am struggling to move my fingers on my laptop (courtesy the person in front of me who decided to extend his back rest) and yet experiencing no discomfort penning down my thoughts. At this point I don’t know whether it’s a blog or the beginning of a book and I am OK not knowing it.

Let’s dive into the subject at hand!Like most creatives who have experienced this, birthing of an idea is similar to child birth where conception occurs long before the actual child is born. There is gap between when an idea germinates in your conscience and the day you act on it. It is not that you as the bearer of the idea don’t want to act on it but it’s the fact that not everything else has come together yet for the successful birthing of that seed thought. Much like farming, you sow the seeds and it grows into a plant only when all the other conditions around it are just right.  I am one of those people who believe that the child chooses its parents and the surroundings in which it would like to be born and where the utmost growth could occur for her. Similarly, we don’t choose the ideas we work on but the ideas choose us. More often than not the bearers of the idea will experience anxiety and restlessness within themselves because they know they are not acting on something but if the time isn’t right yet, it just won’t feel right and will evaporate into thin air. Just like a woman always carries an egg inside of her and waits for the right man to co-create a child, so does the bearer of an idea have to wait until she finds the right time to fertilize her seed thought. This happens to be a very private, personal and self-consuming affair. It isn’t meant for someone who can’t be comfortable with solitude. In some ways, bearing a child is easier on one’s mind because for the most part, one knows what to expect and is aware fully well that she is bearing a child. When you are carrying an idea, you don’t even know that you are pregnant and how are you to know that you will need to carry this mixed bag of anxiety and joy inside of you until such time as deemed fit to deliver it. You are also aware that you will know when the time is right to birth it and you also know that you will doubt yourself when that happens. It is at this point that one makes a key decision. This decision is let go of the ‘I’ in you and surrender yourself to this entire process as it occurs. You choose to roll with it and take a leap of faith. Not everything from this point on will be a known and yet you will know that the birthing needs to continue. That’s the only known and you are aware that you aren’t the owner but a trustee here. A vehicle, a vessel, a medium through which the idea needs to be conceived, received, held, nurtured and delivered. It is perhaps the most selfish and selfless act at once.

Drawing parallels with the delivery process of a child, a creative idea takes form in the following ways:

  • Organically i.e. with less intervention or help from others. This could be a single person or more than one person acting in synergy without much input from anyone else. It could be closely guarded until the idea has been born and taken form. You could utilize the assistance of people with special skills like midwives who are present and hold space while assisting you in giving birth. These could be people who have necessary skills that you don’t possess yourself but find it imperative to the birth of the idea. Examples could be people who could assist in marketing, finance, networking etc but who are veru rightly holding the space for you and not threatening your rights as the idea bearer.
  • C-section- this is perhaps when an interventionist who was not party to the idea germination process acts as a doctor who advises a C-section for the health and safety of both the mother and child. This albeit would never be the most preferred option, is much needed for the idea to come to life else it risks never seeing the light of day. Such an interventionist could be a mentor or a close confidante who enjoys trust and credibility with the idea bearer.

In either of the above cases, one will have to experience first-hand the process of going through labor. This is the phase when you know that you can no longer hold the idea in. It is asking to have a life of its own as was intended. These are the times when you are compelled to act whereas earlier you could get sidetracked by other thoughts and go through a normal routine life. You may not be able to sleep//rest until you create the right conditions for the idea to be born. This could mean anything from starting a website, to begin prototyping your idea , incorporating your company , attracting other like-minded individuals, buying office space etc. More often than not, once the ball is set rolling, the other things do fall into place or you could say that you find the strength to make everything else happen.

Besides the two birthing possibilities, there are also possibilities of miscarriages, still births and the child dying right after birth. One thing that I have learned from life is not to beat yourself up over things which are not in your control. You may have been attached to your idea but when its dead for reasons other than your desire to birth it and bring it to life, you can only take it as a learning. In many entrepreneurial books, I have read that an entrepreneur’s success depends on discerning the right time to move away from a stagnant idea. You know it when it is dead but you don’t want to give up because you thought it was yours. It is here that one needs to apply the concept I suggested above in which ideas choose you and it does not work the other way round. We tend to get too involved with failures and lose time. The purpose of that failure was to help you grow and learn. It is when you understand this death, that you can respect it’s life and what it gave you in the short span that it existed. It was perhaps your first idea which gave you’ the confidence to go and talk to investors or the first piece of art you shared with the world and it is exactly this nudge that it came for. If you knew from the beginning that it would die, you wouldn’t reach here. And then one can wonder..does it really ever die? Perhaps not.

Creative birthing isn’t for the faint hearted and if you are one, then watch out..you are about to receive an upgrade..whether you like it or not!

The Wisdom in Stillness

 

Image

Folsom 

 

Being still does not mean you are stagnant.

When you are separated from external activity, through an illness, job loss etc, it is not a punishment. Embrace it as a time for renewal and healing.

Winter is nature’s time to lie low and renew. Everyone one of us lives through different seasons in life. All seasons play a crucial role in maintaining the balance of nature.

You will know when life presents you with this ‘still’ and ‘down’ time. Go inward. Spend some time in silence. Retreat into your being. Utilize this time to rest your body. Become a witness to all that you have created without judging yourself or others.

I believe it is for this purpose that several people go on a pilgrimage. You need not always travel to a different destination. You may choose to do so if your heart so desires. Spending time in nature will provide you with the inner stillness and grounding that you need. For some of us, it may present as a time to do some soul searching.

Until you find that ‘stillness’ inside you, you will continue to experience restlessness because your spirit is not at ease. A lot of us need a ‘time out’ from family and friends too. Some of us recognize that we need this time for ourselves but are unable to do so due to familial responsibilities. The more we ignore it, the more pronounced it becomes and then comes a day when circumstances build in a manner that we have no other excuse to reach for. We also find some people who take a break from a successful career to satisfy their soul’s longing and wonder how does one give up a well settled life in search of an unknown. I am reminded of the book ‘The Monk who sold his Ferrari’ by Robin Sharma as I write this.

Having lived through some such seasons in my own life, I can also say that there are some who choose to fight and fret this period which makes it even more gruesome. Ultimately, such periods are nothing but chances for us to grow on a spiritual, mental, emotional and physical level.

Not to say that there is anything easy about these stretches.

Similar to most other experiences in life, we can choose how we respond.

Namaste.

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.

img_4233

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.

My Spirit wants to dance…

My Spirit wants to dance……but she will have to wait

img_0457

Manresa beach, California

My Spirit wants to dance. She knows the best rhythm and beat that would make her dance but is shying away from it. She dances on other beats too but does not shine in them. If it was only for these beats, she would have danced her way through life but it seems the flooring provided to her isn’t suiting the footsteps. The shoes are hurting when she dances on this floor yet she is trying to adjust. The beat also does not excite her right now but she fools herself by trying to believe so. I have instructed her to believe and live with some of these facts – that she will have to wait for a while…
Her care takers fail to see the glow she has when her body strikes the rhythm it is meant to serve. They want her to dance on the tunes, they had chosen for her. I am indebted to them for all the care and support they have given me through years. She does not seem to care for it and only knows her rhythm. She does not want to understand the circumstances that I am in and she does not understand any debt. She says, when you let me dance, all your debts shall be repaid. I do believe in her but I am scared that my care takers won’t understand her. If I support her, I know I will start living, for, right now I just exist. Once when she danced through me it seemed to be the best feeling ever. I did not want to stop her. I wanted that feeling of being alive each moment of my life. I spoke to them about it. Alas! They themselves were denied their rhythm. I cannot blame them for what they make her do but I feel suffocated when she cannot flow through me. For, she is sole reason for my “being”.
The rhythm of the universe keeps knocking within and I can’t open the doors. I can feel the beauty she wants to show me but cannot bear suppressing it. In moments of quiet, I let her dance. In her rejoice, then, lies my pain. I do not talk about her with others because when I did, I found myself to be foolish. Most of the seasons, I am left alone with her and she asks me, “when will you give me my wings”. I cannot explain to her the many silly reasons my caretakers load me with. When I talk to her about it, she blames me for not having the courage to keep up my promise. Sometimes, walking along some lonely streets, I witness some spirits who have found and are living their own rhythm. I keep quiet as she enviously looks at them. I fear, one day, she may stop knocking!
I know she is selfish. Much to my surprise, it is only in such selfishness that I have found veracity. It is only when I let her be, I feel beautiful and purged. She wants me to know that all I need to do is to let her take charge and the rest shall be fine. I sit here waiting for the moment when she no longer asks for my permission and storms herself through me…Possibly, I lack that force right now…
Wandering about in wasteful times, I pity my inability to live “her”. But, I want and need her in me, hence I dance with her when she is about to get into a recluse. This is how I save my Spirit and pacify her by saying, “the day is not too far when you and I shall be one”. She smiles and gives me another chance to save myself…