Choices we make, make Us

Life has been a bit exciting the past few days. Unexpectedly I have come come face-to-face with old nemesis of mine. Power and bullying. I have had a tough time with it ever since my childhood. I was pretty badly bullied in junior high school. And I have done two things when encountering high-handedness and autocratic ways, withdrawn from the situation and given in or walked away. None of these reactions were choices I wanted to make, nor they leave me feeling good. Most of the times, they left a deep sense of shame, impotent rage and a sense of mistrust with the world. 
If anyone has experienced these, you know it’s a terrible, lonely place inside. When we remain passive, even if it’s the best adaptation in a situation, it leaves us feeling sad about ourselves. It did leave me that way for sometime. Though I worked through and learnt to make other choices, I knew they didn’t come easily nor naturally. That, too, didn’t leave a good feeling. 

So this time, when I faced a similar situation, I stood up. My actions had not much impact on the external situation. In fact I along with some others, was ridiculed, treated with sarcasm and isolation. Yet, despite it, I stood up and said what I deemed right about my beliefs and opinion. Respectfully and demanding respect in return. I was stunned. I am proud. Of all the things I have done in my life, there may be a few that qualify as achievements, I am the most proud of this. 

I am proud because I stepped out of an old pattern. I am proud because I didn’t let the ridicule dumped on me, turn into my shameful self. I am proud that I stated my beliefs and opinions despite the opposition. I am the most proud that when I was hurt, disappointed and angry the most, I chose to hold on to my values and integrity and yet respond in a respectful way. 

I am proud cos I chose humanity, mine and yours.

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The Wise Self

I rarely write about the outside world. It’s my belief, erroneous at times I realise, that if I focus on my inner world the outside will be more skilfully dealt with. Most time this is true. For the past few days, my idealistic self is getting a lesson in how that’s not true always. The basic principle that calling upon my resilience, maturity and self-regulation (calming) skills will certainly help, may be the best option. Yet I cannot change the outside by changing the inside. 
You know May think that’s common knowledge. It also part of the essence of the serenity prayer. I know, intellectually. But this is how I believe in my sense of agency, in my ability to influence the world outside. I realised in the particular situation I was embroiled in, this wasn’t going to bring the desired result, in fact the system seems to be much bigger than me & it may take a huge long term view to make dents.

We know how changes in society of a system takes years to show effect, most of feel despair and want to give up when we don’t see results in the present or at least while we are around. I realised to hold on to your views in face of acrimony, sexism, discriminatory behaviour takes a fair amount of self-belief, patience, eternal hope and an ability to hold on to a vision in the future. More than anything, it requires ‘daring greatly’ as Bréne Brown says. When we step into an arena facing ridicule and shame, internal or external, it’s a feat in itself. 
To hold on when there is little hope, 

To hold on when your actions seem fruitless,

To hold on when you can feel loneliness,

To hold on when you may not see changes,

To hold on when you would rather give in, 

To hold on to your integrity and resilience,

That is what daring greatly is about,

Not the result but the process.

And as I realise that, sometimes it wiser to hold on, stand back and let the truth unfold itself and it will. Karma teaches us that.

For me and for you, for us

For the past few days I am realising how human I am. That’s a strange statement to make, one would think. It is. By human I mean how easily I can jump to conclusions, how instinctive emotions come up, how much there is a push to react, how tough it is to manage high intensity feelings, how much I want to reach out, how much a compassionate word or look helps, how human I really am, how vulnerable it makes me. The more I get in touch with myself, the more i get in touch with different aspects of just being born in the human race.
I will be brutally honest and tell you I didn’t like it much. I am better today but hand on my heart, I would rather not be human in some areas of my life. It makes me feel too damn vulnerable and I would rather not. Yet, how much ever I don’t like it, how much ever I would rather put my protective shield of righteous anger, rigid beliefs, holier-than-thou attitude, mindless tv watching, chips-bingeing, folded arms on my chest, sarcasm, I realise not giving into any of the above is helpful. How so? 

The more vulnerable I am, the more I am open to receiving (sometimes even crap), the more I receive genuine, authentic feelings, the more I am at peace with myself. The more vulnerable I am and as I deal with my dislike for it, the more I ok with people around me being human. Of course, I have to let go my righteousness in being right! It is but a small price to pay. The more human I let myself be, the more compassion I feel for myself and then it extends, strangely, automatically to the people around me. Of course, there still is a whole lot of work to do internally, I am guessing it’s always going to be in some stage of work-in-progress. 

I have said this in different ways in various posts. Each time it seems to come with reinforcements. The more we accept all parts in us, the more we are ok with looking at the different parts in others. The more we can look, the less we use defensive and offensive strategies to deal with them. The more I see it with compassion, the more I can make choices that are in my best, healthy interest to deal with it. And most of the time, these choices are also respectful of others. So being human, being vulnerable is not being weak or incapable, or accepting of all. It’s holding your softer self compassionately with strength, with your back straight and chin in line, face the world head on. 

That’s a powerful picture, isn’t it?

With kind eyes

Most of the time when we hurt, we rarely turn our attention inwards. We focus outside. And if you are like me, possibly like many others, concocting revenge fantasies. The more hurt, bruised our heart is, the more vivid, detailed fantasies we weave. It helps, somewhat, in the short term. 
Chances are either the hurt comes back stronger, this time tinged with helplessness because you aren’t going to see through the revenge fantasies. May be the helplessness comes with rage. And then you an angry bear on the prowl, going through every nook and corner looking for the honey to soothe your heart, most likely destroying much in your wake. 

Another distinct possibility is you are riddled with guilt and shame for being able to even think such vivid destructive images. Or even deriving some pleasure or sadistic satisfaction out of it. Oh! My! Then you are in for the level 10 of Shame ( I like to call it that), where you decide the earth ought to just open up and swallow you, that’s how undeserving you are. Such a disgustful human being! 

Such painful inner experiences, no wonder we wouldn’t want to risk hurt. No wonder we prefer staying in our safety zones. No wonder we exercise caution to the extreme. First feel hurt, sad and then have these secondary feelings. Third to deal all these complex nuances, we may binge eat, watch television, drink, smoke, party, shop.. you get the picture. Those urges that seem to come out of nowhere & just make you do those things. Better avoid feelings altogether. 

Just imagine, when you are hurt, holding that part of you in your arms. If that’s too much for that disgusting part, may be just sit next to it. May be, just may be hear it breathe, painful breaths. As if the mere act of breathing is hurting so much. Let yourself feel some kindness like you would feel for your friend. Then may be when you can bear its presence, just hold its hand, or just lay your fingers on its. 

Chances are you feel much better.  

Do you now?

For the want of a little love 

The past few days have been difficult given the news of negligence, violence and apathy doing the rounds. Adding to that, the novel I was reading was based in the time of World War II, a peek into French resistance movement. And as would be the case, I was working through some stuff in my head. It was making me irritable, cranky and to my chagrin, sometimes a bit mean. 

As I stepped back from my at times mean behaviour and at times, the urge to be nastier, I realised, to my horror and humility, how easy it is to buy into the allure & illusion of self-righteous anger or self-pity. How easy it is to have a systemic opportunity and permission to exercise my steak of cruelty if the society around me accepts it too as their truth. I may not buy into their reasons or philosophy or the nuances of beliefs but I would get an outlet to my struggles and bottled up feelings if the society and I agree to a particular method of expression. It gets a unique sanctimony. How I had the ability inside of me to get lost in it too. 

As I struggled with the inner and outer world, plunging me into an abyss of despair and hopelessness about the state of world that was, that is and that may become, these words came to. I have a suspicion that they wouldn’t have come, had I not played tango with my despair. 

I reckon we will always struggle with our shadows. As long they seem like shadows, we will need to work hard to bring them into the light and own them. As I have said before, and as have many people before that, what we own as ours gives a choice of what we can do with it. Some took their anger to stand up for what protected the vulnerable, some took their despair to write and spread a word about it, some took their hopelessness to warn the world the perils of our misplaced sanctimony. We all make our choices, knowingly or unknowingly, about the worst that life evokes in us. 

So when life presents you with that opportunity, choose love, choose compassion, choose kindness. Make that struggle to reach that place inside. For if you choose to make that struggle outside, believing that’s it’s not your shadow to own, we become the horror that we are afraid of, and sadly learn to revel in it too. 

So, for all of humanity, choose wisely, choose consciously, struggle deeply. When you can choose love, choose compassion, choose humanity, all of ours.

To Be Seen

It difficult to show ourselves. Makes all of us feel vulnerable, at risk you may say too. It’s takes courage to show parts of ourselves that are young, hurting, sensitive, filled with doubt, New at exploring the world, may be a bit sad, full of despair, may be angry, may be envious, may be silly, may be goofy, may be happy.. 

I am sure you are getting the drift. For all of us, there are always some things that make us vulnerable in this world. Something that I saw, prompted me to think of a recent time when I felt vulnerable, really, really vulnerable. The sad part I termed it as ‘anxious’. If I had this seemingly wise hindsight knowledge, I would have dealt with myself differently. How you may ask? Well, when I thought I was anxious, I did what could to, increase my sense of competency, seek support, taking it in, remember mastery experiences, all helped but that feeling didn’t go. It decreased but went down to a mild level but I knew, I knew something was off. I may have been an anxious person, I no longer deal with it on a daily basis. 

Knowing Vulnerability would have strangely helped me protect myself better, seek help from particular people in my life in a specific manner, somehow know who and what can easily trample on my sensitive state. But the biggest win would have been I would have known that it was a given, this journey that I had undertaken would make me vulnerable and that’s ok. I would have had my own back, as I now do. When even now as I write this, I am feeling vulnerable, I know I am ok. No matter how many of you resonate, like, don’t like this, I am ok. No matter what anyone says about my vulnerability, I am ok. Because I know what I feel and that’s part of an human condition. 

And as I write this post, I am showing you a part of me that’s hurting a bit, coping with a sense of pain at all I went through because I didn’t have an idea about how I felt, and working through how it’s never too late to show up, to own up our softer parts.
For its only when you show up, you get the chance of being seen,

For only when you are seen, you feel alive,

For only when you feel alive, the world becomes worthy of living,

For when you are living, everything seems alright.

For the love of Learning

Mastery and excellence is a never ending road. This is something that I learned recently. In school, the one I was in, it appeared that featuring in the top ranked student was what was expected and what I aspired to achieve. That seemed to be the pinnacle of mastery. It never occurred that learning is a subjective journey. It’s different for each one and it’s never really over. 
As I have stepped into adult and professional learning, it appears that I keep growing. Every time I step into a new growth spurt, I heave a sigh of relief hoping to get a feeling, “there! I have arrived!”. Darn, it never happens. And I now know it never will. Furthermore I don’t ever want it to. Strange isn’t it? I have two reasons for it. 

One, I love to learn. I didn’t earlier. Now I do. Every time I encounter new information, it transfers me and propels me into expanding my horizons. Sometimes, it’s frustrating, sometimes shaming, sometimes difficult but always an eye opener. And every single time I am glad it happened. It keep me alive and it keeps the feeling of excitement and sense of adventure alive. That’s being alive, isn’t it! 

Second, it’s the nature of things. We, humans, for that matter, all living beings have developmental stages. Every developmental stage will have expected growth points and struggles to have reach those points. Like a baby is expected to walk within the age of 1-2 years. It’s the window of growth and in that they need to let the hand of adult support go, keeping falling and yet, keep trying. Most children love the new found independence of movement and most love the feeling of finding their feet, literally and figuratively. Just recall their delight and giggles and unending efforts. We are meant to grow, struggle with it, keep at it and find enjoyment in it. 

I remember this now all the times, I make a growth spurt. It will each come with its own struggles and delights. It will each teach a unique lesson and skills. It will each make life worth the journey it is.

For the love of You

I love superheroes. So I am here in a good era, where I can enjoy them through multiple media. I saw the new ‘Spider-Man’ recently. Not one of my favourite superheroes but I happened to see it. While I watched the movie, i had an epiphany. I realised why I liked them! I always thought it was the allure of the super powers. Silly, I agree. 
But as I watched the 15 year old kid, trapped under a rubble, crying for help, reacting like any other kid in a dangerous situation, he has an epiphany. As he struggles through his identity crisis (as all adolescents do), he believes he’s what his super powers are. Nothing more, nothing less. That’s what we believe what we all are, our unique powers, power of healing, power of selling, power of accounting, power of creating and so on. 

The kid looks at himself and realises the only hero here is him, just plain old vanilla him. His super spider suit isn’t functional, no one can hear him for miles. If he wants to save himself, he has to find the strength in him for himself. He had to rummage deep within, find and believe in the strengths, in the character that he, only he, brought to the super spider suit. 

As he found his core strength, I found the centre of my love for superheroes. I realised these characters found their way to strength by making tremendous journey inside of them. When and as they have discovered what they are made of, they bring their gifts to the super powers outside or enhance what they have inside. I would give a lot and more for the ability to fly, yet we all have some powers, mine may be compassion, yours may be listening or creating, or wisdom, or making sense or healing. 

Yet, no matter how many outside approve, benefit, make use of your gifts, you will not believe it till you see yourself without it or you make the journey to know you can have it even when you don’t use it for others. You will not believe in it till you know what is the price to have the strengths that you do. It’s a two sided coin and when we own our strengths, yet retain the ability to stand separate from it, we know who we are and what we can do. 

And when you see that, you will know the love that is for just who you are, not what can you do for another or bring to the table. For its a gift to celebrate you just the way you are, even if you choose not to partake with me what you have or can do. 


And that’s why I love superheroes, they struggle to know who they are, with or without powers. And then what they can do for the world knows no end. I am sure we have all superheroes in our lives, without super suit or the cape. May be we can love them for just who they are and not what they can do. May be we can love ourselves for who we are, not just we can do.

Vulnerability 

I have a story to tell you. My Story. I had a recent experience that wasn’t important in the scheme of my life, not at all. At the same time, it stayed with me like a sore muscle does and as I wrestled with it, it turned out to be a significant one. 
The story goes like this.. on my free day, one day, I was lounging in my night clothes till mid morning, lost in doing what I do best, research. As the doorbell tinkled, little did I know that the next two minutes would make a mark on my heart and mind, twining itself in my life story. A volunteer from the apartment society was helping the housekeeping staff to help segregate our household waste. A most welcome mandate from the municipality. 

A seemingly innocuous inquiry about which of the garbage bins left outside the homes on the floor belonged to me, seemed to evoke an embarrassed response in me in reference to my attire and presence of 3-4 unknown men outside. I was politely asked to step out and identify the relevant bin. A 10 second walk seemed like a walk of shame to me as I stepped out. In that moment I felt like a school child called to task, puzzling the adult in me. After I identified it, the volunteer appeared to have determined that I wasn’t the culprit who didn’t segregate the waste and turned to speak to the person concerned. I felt dismissed and set up. The volunteer knew which bins weren’t segregated. I closed my door and went back to research, a sinking feeling in my chest. This feeling ebbed as I got involved with other activities but surfaced later in the day. 

What had happened? If you are reading it, I am sure you got the same feeling as I did, it’s not a big deal. It isn’t and yet it left me embarrassed, feeling like a child who was glad she had finished her homework when the teacher had unexpectedly checked it. A child who glad that she wasn’t caught like her neighbour. I wondered what had happened and I wondered where was the adult that always is there. 

Strange isn’t it? A two minute interaction evoked an implicit response from me, a response of a child who had deferred to authority, if my reflective guess is right, in reaction to a non-verbal assertion of authority from the person opposite. My most vulnerable realisation was how easy it was for me to defer, to be subservient. I felt like a child, a child with little power, little control, hence little choice. I know I am not. How words need not be spoken to evoke an automatic response in us and how 80% of human interaction remains non-verbal. How our earlier learned patterns of behaviour make their presence known in the most routine of events. How after realising this vulnerable, fragile, shamed aspect of me, it would have been easy to get angry. Angry at the person who evoked this in me. I have no idea if the person intended to do so or it was their learnt way of behaving too. 

We all have what is called ‘implicit memory’. It’s actually very useful and important part of our lives. it holds along with learnings from early ages – namely womb upto 4-5 years, procedures that aid our daily life. Swimming, brushing teeth, riding a cycle, skills that tend to become a part of muscle memory. Even if you were to suffer from amnesia, these skills will remain with you wether you remember them or not. Likewise, our early interactions, even when we don’t have words are stored in our brains to aid our navigation into the world. They are learnings with conscious choice or thought and yet, for all of us they have the most impact. I believe when I look at the above experience, I think it’s a part of my implicit learning. To have a quick, automatic, unconscious behaviour gives us a clue to where it originates from. The first time I learned of this memory, it scared me to be honest. It appeared that a lot seemed out of my control. Remember being powerless is one of the most sensitive spots for me.  Another implicit learning, seems like? Strangely as years have passed, I have made piece with the unknown. What helped me. We all have this memory to deal with, it’s our common humanity. We all struggle, we all rejoice it too. The smell of baked cookies, the joy of playing on a beach, the calm of our favourite place in the garden are part of our implicit memories. Not all is ineffective, not all is unhealthy, not all makes us vulnerable. 

But knowing that we all share this vulnerability, helps keep my compassion in place. Helps me understand that’s the cost of being human, may be the joy of being human. May be the reason why we can always change, unlearn what doesn’t help and learn new things. That gives me hope and that makes it worth the effort to make conscious what remains under the layers of memory and that’s what it means to reclaim power back. And have choices. 

Yet now I have a choice. Choice of being mindful, mindful of what is inside of me. Of how there may be vulnerabilities inside of me where authority figures are concerned. This is a painful awareness, an awareness if I listen to will help me know what I have learnt, an awareness that will help me unlearn what I had learnt if I deem it ineffective, an awareness if I heal the wound behind the learning then I grow, an awareness that I have choices other than being a child, an awareness that choices give us power, awareness that when I have power of knowing what happens in me, anyone outside ceases to have power to ‘do’ much to me. 


Then I have the power to be me, in the here and now, just me.

The Joy of Wanting 

Making conscious choices is a tough one for me, unless it moves me in the being of my soul. Now for that one needs to be in communication with our gut feelings. For one to be in good talking terms with our gut, one needs to listen to that and trust it. But it has been my experience that gut feelings don’t have much credence, feelings not at all. Many a times they have also led us astray, if we have only looked at feelings. 
Then their is the case of how life sometimes limits our choices. Oh! We more or less have choices in our lives, but sometimes or may be many a times not the ones we would like to make or prefer. When that experience repeats a few times, it’s tough to believe we can get what we want or desire. A sense of passivity pervades our life, without realising we let life happen. You may have heard yourself day or someone say, ‘I have realised what I want comes only after I have struggled a whole lot or comes after my need for it has passed. It’s just too much to work for it.’ 

Yes, at the surface level, you may say we all need to work hard for what we want, noting wrong in that. That’s life. Well, very true. I am a great believer in hard work. At the same time, it’s also true that life is unfair. Sometimes you have little advantage, circumstances that you have no control over, where, how, to whom we are born, the experiences we have, the people we meet, so on. 


Yet, conscious decision making gives us a sense of control and we can exert will to work towards that. It is tough since it’s risk that we consciously take. Where there is risk, there is vulnerability. And a lot of the time, where there is vulnerability, there is shame. And we know shame is when we believe we are bad, loser, a nincompop, useless, worthless, piece of shit.. we all have our own personal demons in those words. 

So it becomes imperative when we plan something with no matter how much fear she trepidation, when it yields results we savour each moment, we celebrate it with joy, we let it warm our hearts where the emptiness of shame exists, for these moments are what we will recall when we feel life is unfair, when our decisions don’t yield the results we worked for, when life presents a disadvantage, when things are just tough.

For its joy and pride that may aid resilience, but it’s the missteps that teach us how to live in the world.