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?

7 Simple ways for healthy coping

Whenever you feel stressed out/off center, it is always better to address it quickly rather than to prolong it. Train yourself to be more in tune with yourself  to recognize any signs of stress. Why accumulate anything that doesn’t help. Right? Am sure we all know these ways of coping but a reminder never hurts and there’s some value in seeing it all in one place.

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Find your way out of stress. (Winter storm Niko-Feb 2017)

  1. Exercise – Any form of exercise for 20-30 minutes will help you kick in those endorphins!
  2. Spend time in nature – Walk in the woods or sit by a lake/ocean. Use an app for sounds of nature ONLY IF there is no option for you to go outside.
  3. Talk to a friend who won’t judge you- I am sure you have at least one such person in your life. Please remember that texting cannot be the same as picking up the phone and talking or meeting someone in person. You can also talk to your furry friend.
  4. Prayer/Meditation- Connect with something higher than you and release your worries
  5. Watching videos which make you laugh/smile. Ex: Cute pups/kittens/comedy shows
  6. Art- Don’t worry if you aren’t a painter, just splash some colors or dance freestyle connecting to the music
  7. Journaling- This can be a notebook or even a video/audio journal. Two things I did as a kid and at times even now – Speaking to the trees around me and having a dialogue with myself as if someone was interviewing me.It works for me!

Find out what works for you and USE IT!

 

7 simple rules to practice self-love

Since we are still in the ‘Love’ month of February I wanted to share these 7 simple rules to show some love to our ‘Self’. After all, we can only share what we have.

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Practicing Self Love

  1. Wear an outfit that makes you smile and or wear make-up that makes you smile J
  2. Eat well- Recognize the foods/drinks which make you go off balance.
  3. Make time for what makes you happy.
    • This could be prayer/meditation/ time with nature/me time. Me time could also be time for painting, journaling, dancing etc.
  4. Get your body some exercise – experiment with dancercise, rock climbing, hiking, biking and find out which form of exercise you actually look forward to.
  5. Allow yourself time to not ‘do’ anything and just be. This can be for 5 minutes or 15 minutes depending on how long you can give yourself. If not doing anything drives you nuts then simply curl up in your bed and take a nap or get a nice bubble bath.
  6. Pay attention to how many hours of sleep is ideal for you. You would know this by the fact that you don’t need an alarm to jolt you up in the morning.
  7. Set boundaries with people at work, with relatives, with friends etc. Start saying NO to those situations/people who drain you out. Respect your life enough to leave work on time most days where you feel like you have a life beyond work.

 

Patterns- let’s decode. Shall we?

Today I am experiencing one of those beautiful synchronicities that life offers you. This morning I was reading a book titled ‘Patterns of the Hypnotic Techniques of Milton Erickson’ and later in the day while surfing for something to watch I stumbled upon this video titled ‘ The brain that changes itself’ on Amazon. Let me share and elaborate how my little head connects the two and there’s also a bonus at the end. Have fun!

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Mastadon of IPFW, Fort Wayne, Indiana.

I am only 10th page of the book I mentioned and I loved how the author talks about the different messages we decode everyday from our external environment unconsciously. How do we decode these messages? Via our senses i.e. sight, smell, hearing, touch. For most people only one of these senses is the dominant source of information. Our decoding of this information depends on our past conditioning to a large extent. For example: When you say or read the word ‘food’ , each one of us experiences this word differently based on our associations to the word food in the past. It could be an image, it could be a distinct smell, it could be texture or the clinging of vessels related to the word. While we are forming those experiences/associations in the beginning we don’t filter it out, we simply receive and save it in our repository. This then helps us to not have to go through this decoding process again when we hear/read the word food. This association becomes our default as we grow up and we never really challenge it. We assume that what ‘food’ means for us is what it means for everyone else in general. This assumption of sameness makes our lives easier for sure but this assumption can also limit our abilities to learn more and new meanings of the word ‘food’. As I write this, I can think of how so many individuals argue over the definition of what is and what is not ‘food’ which is a never ending argument for many. So remember that we as humans like certainty and we create these patterns which need to be used by default without being questioned so that we can then utilize our brain power on other important issues like performing on job, rearing children etc. This can also be called our need to maintain homeostasis. Some of these patterns are helpful but some of these limit us.  But can these patterns not be changed or should they be changed at all in the first place?

The answer to whether or not they should be changed depends on what life circumstances you are facing and if you are happy/content with where you are then there isn’t exactly an incentive/need for you to change anything. What’s fascinating though is that our brain and bodies are constantly taking in and processing information and in a constant state of change. Even the food we eat is nothing but information/data in a different form which is then processed by our bodies and provided to us in the form of energy.

The thought of the need to change our patterns is the connection to the video I watched. In the video they talk about the concept of neuroplasticity which is the idea that the brain is capable at any age to make new connections and therefore rehabilitate itself/heal itself. My main takeaways from the video:

  • Unless the existing pathways are blocked or rendered useless, we don’t look for new ones. Some researchers have worked with individuals who lost their ability to use parts of their bodies due to traumatic incidents/strokes/paralysis. When these individuals were brought into treatment, the doctors restrained the dominant/usable hand and began exercising the other hand making slow and gradual progress everyday. What’s profound is that the new pathways weren’t built until the old ones were restrained/blocked. More often than not in life, we create suffering for ourselves when the situations around us seem to be blocking/restraining us. For example, you are a waitress and the restaurants in our area have stopped hiring. We create pain when we say..’ What will I do now? ‘and we keep looking for the same type of jobs. What if we looked at that block as a push to find a new pathway?
  • In another study, a person who had been blind for 38 years was given a device which sent feedback to his brain using the tongue instead of sight and he could navigate a physical path with turns simply based on that feedback he was receiving via his tongue. The man reported that the feedback he was receiving formed a mental image in his brain which is the same as seeing it with the eye. The brain doesn’t distinguish between ‘how’ the input is received. This is exactly how fears are real to people. Using this imagery available to us we can imagine new outcomes which is then enough for our brain to establish those new connections. Techniques like Neuro Linguistic Programming, Cognitive behavioral therapy help us rewire our brains.
  • Brain is a neutral receptor and storage house..so what are you feeding it and storing here on a daily basis? Meditation and mindfulness are two practices that help us become more aware of our unconscious patterns and bring those to the foreground for us to then work on them. In the same breath I would also like to mention that more than 90% of our body’s serotonin is produced in the gut region. More than one third of the microbes in our gut are not human microbes but microbes from the food we eat. So, the source of your food, the way it reached you, the soil it grew in, the way you cook it and the manner in which you eat your meals all determine who you think you areJ. If you are interested to read more on the mind and gut, please read Eat Wheat , The Mind-Gut connection and The Second Brain for the more scientifically inclined.

What! I need to cater to my Body???I thought it was meant to serve me!!!

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What! I need to cater to my Body???I thought it was meant to serve me!!!

A few days ago I had written to a dear friend of mine that “ Don’t expect your body and mind to always serve you while you keep ignoring their needs.” In our fast paced and performance driven society it is very important to know our own limits. Commercial organizations may very well organize a one day workshop on stress management for their employees but seldom does one provide an environment/culture conducive for an employee to take a few minutes away from their work to de-st

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Unwind in nature

ress. To top that, we have demands in our personal lives from our children, parents, partners and friends.

There are also several schools of thought out there that teach us to stretch ourselves, push beyond the comfort zone and work on maximum performance every day. Extending ourselves into several different directions is required for our growth and we definitely need to stretch beyond our so- called comfort zone to grow physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. The only thing we are not taught is to pay heed to our bodies when it is screaming through pains, inflammations, diarrhea, persistent allergies and constant fatigue. Somehow we have not learned that there might be reason that our bodies appear limited. Every person has his or her own ideal working hours in which he/she can be productive and effective and then there are those hours that just count as ‘office hours’.

It is important to know that you are at the center of every activity you choose to engage in and the state of your health will reflect in every activity you take up.

There are some of us who are extremely capable of ignoring symptoms and putting up a ‘everything is fine’ façade. It is an inevitable vice in today’s society. Unfortunately or fortunately the body knows to scream louder and will draw your attention in several ways. Taking responsibility for yourself begins with taking responsibility for your body and scheduling break times for yourself.Allow yourself a few minutes of ‘me time’ and learn the art of saying ‘No’. Do your best to eat healthy.

Understand that it is required of us to  recognize our limitations and push ourselves within our boundaries; not those created by someone else for themselves. Our body is always talking to us, we fail to listen.

Ever wondered why Seers and other wise individuals ask us to treat our bodies like a temple? It is supposed to be the vehicle through which we perform our duties and enjoy a humanly existence. A vehicle that needs routine maintenance just as your car does!

My dirty laundry epiphany

My dirty laundry epiphany

I am beginning this blog with a confession for a change.Here it goes..

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Airing laundry, Mumbai

I spend a lot of my time denying my humanly flaws and limitations. Somewhere I nurture a belief that I am superior to others or better than others in some ways. Where I learned that from? Well, I will give myself credit for some personal work I did through self reflection and seeking feedback from people whom I placed at a pedestal. For the most part of my life ( just so you know..I am not 50 years old) I have also been what many people understand as a ‘spiritual seeker’. During my associations with several spiritual organizations and teachers I believed that I was being ‘good’ and doing ‘good’ by being of service to people in different ways. I was almost convinced that I did not have much stuff to process and that I was just a few meditations away from having a ‘halo’ around my head ( I smile as I write this). My life was hunky dory until some relationships mirrored my stuff to me i.e. rigidity, ‘I am right and you are not’, extend your wisdom only when asked. My intention in writing this here is to say that today I am willing to acknowledge my own ‘shadows’ or ‘ego issues’. I have often found myself irritated and frustrated when I have projected my issues onto other people which in itself has been a learning process. Phew! An example of a epiphany would be that I may be available to help another person in some kind of distress with insights/tools/experiences/ways to better themselves etc etc..but every individual has a choice to not accept my offering at that point. Also, I may not necessarily be everyone’s ‘teacher’ ( there’s that dreaded word). I have had to learn to hold back and offer myself only when asked. Believe me, it’s a very hard lesson. Why am I writing all of this? Today while I was in the gym, I stumbled upon the idea of relating the process of washing clothes in a washing machine / manually to our internal cleansing process if you will. Bear with me as I describe this mundane process: we take our dirty laundry, insert in a machine, choose the spin cycle depending on how dirty the clothes are or the nature of the fabric, add detergent and let the cleaning begin. The inherent assumption here is that we recognize we have some dirty laundry. If we refuse to see it (and I have lived with some roommates who stunk the rooms with their laundry…digressed, ok), it keeps piling up and the stench grows. Assuming we are fairly reasonable people, we take our laundry and begin the process of cleaning. Our detergent is our external cleaning agent to intensify the process and our helpers are the adjustments in the cycles. My aha moment happened when I thought…there is a point in the cleaning process when the dirt coexists with the cleaning. These are simultaneous occurrences and over a period of time and effort, the dirt gets washed off. Beep, beep!!! In my personal life, I have found relationships to be instrumental in highlighting my dirty laundry. It does take a couple of blows in different intensities to identify and acknowledge – ‘my bad’, ‘ I am wrong’ and the likes. I know it in my body when I am trying to deny something that has come up for me. I become defensive, feel tight in my shoulders and breathe shallow. Some individuals tend to use guilt and shame towards themselves to which I can say today ‘hey..whatever works for you’. However I love myself too much to put myself through that ‘spin’ and I tend to choose a gentle cycle. Interestingly enough, I am now fairly comfortable acknowledging my flaws and find it easier to relax knowing that ‘both are needed’ i.e. the dark and the light (I thought of the Chinese yin-yang symbol while writing this).As I work on my strengths and increase my capacity to be aware of my limitations, I need to sit with some level of discomfort on a daily basis. I can also say that ‘this is just a part of being human’. As I accept myself better, it will also reflect in the nature of my relationships. As is said in some schools of thought, once your awareness has increased, you cannot be the same person as you were. Our external cleaning agents which we can use could be journaling, meditation, talking to a friend, personal coaching and just being open to that inner voice that exists in all of us. Isn’t it much easier to be in the flow..instead of holding on to dirt and adding unwanted weight!So..what do you need to clean up? Hahaha.