On the Journey towards Self

Self-discovery is undersold and oversold. To know and understand we are dynamic in nature and constantly changing if we allow ourselves to see is not much known piece of information. On the other hand, given the renewed interest in ‘self-help’, it appears to have a strong streak of commercialism in it. So we are privy to things that have the possibility of profitability. A lot of times.

Yet, if we chose to look closely, self- discovery is needed. In fact I will go as far as to say cannot be avoided. If we choose not to look at, it like a persistent, demanding uninvited guest keeps showing up on our doorstep. At first they may just be gentle reminders. The more it is ignored, the more it persists and finds unusual ways to make its presence felt. Self-discovery is best taken on willingly. It has most chances of success and opens the door to unbridled joy, peace and excitement.

Alas, before we let it in. We may need to look at some not so pleasant emotions or beliefs. Most of us may feel fearful of what we may find if we look closely inside. If we have been at the receiving end of being told not-so-nice things about ourselves in not-so-nice way, we may dread finding a monster beneath. If we have been told we are really special, can do nothing wrong. Well, you would think that may make it easier. Ironically, buried deep, deep inside we may find the same fear and dread that we may have a monster inside. If we have never been told much about ourselves, we dread we will find nothing but emptiness inside, for we don’t much matter.

Whatever we have been told, we never even find that. Ever. In the myriad journeys, I have taken inside of me, some you have witnessed over the last year. In the myriad journeys I have accompanied others take inside of themselves, no one ever found that monster inside them. Most times, the monster like figure almost always seemed to protect a lovable, kind and capable, very worthy being inside.

And most times, the collateral gain we make while we traverse the dread, fear, despair, may be shame to find that totally cool being deep inside of us, we have such collateral discoveries about ourselves.

I found my love for nature, plants, art, books as I journey along.

What did you find on yours?


Your Story Matters

To bond, to build relationships is one of the most innate human actions, a need hardwired to ensure our survival and also to give us a meaningful existence. What proves to be life sustenance, what makes our life a possibility of colourful rainbows, what can be a strength, a joy; at the same time can make us the most vulnerable, make us open to the most pain, make us not like ourselves or/and others.

One of the ways we bond, attach is when we share our stories. It’s in the understanding, the resonance, in the empathy the glue that binds us together. That’s also the glue that can easily come undone and leaves us a gaping hole of vulnerability.

It’s been my toughest line to walk, what to share and how much. I realise when someone asks me about my work, it being very close to my heart I tend to speak unabashedly, openly without looking at who’s asking. Are they really interested? What can I sense? How much is ok? Is this a safe relationship? Is it safe enough? Is what I am saying resonated with or dismissed?

Most times, it’s my naive belief if you have asked more than 2-3 questions, you are interested. Well, it’s not so. It took me some hard lessons, some pain to realise that sometimes you are being set up. I really really want to tell people about what I learn everyday, how much an honour it is to be a part of someone’s story, how healing it is to share pain, how human it makes me feel, everyday, without fail. So in my eagerness to share, to bond, to build a connection, I forget something very important. A question?

Have you earned the right, the honour, the privilege to hear my story? Do I feel safe with you? Do I feel respected? Do I feel heard? Do I feel a lightness of heart when I share? Do I see my heart reflecting in your eyes? Do you see me?

Till I feel all or at least some of the above, my story is my right. I forget this, for I would like to bond, to be valued for what I am. When I am not, I feel pain. Yet, when I share and am not heard, I feel pain.

So often now, I ask myself, what pain is better for me in the long run?

The pain of not sharing my story or the pain of sharing my story when the right is not earned by the other.

Most of than not, I get a healing painful answer.

I matter,

My story matters,


The Story of Shame

The emotion of Shame is such a difficult emotion to bear especially, in our world today. It’s something that has been routinely used to discipline, ensure good behaviour, punish, to connect with people (strange but true) and strangest of all, motivate or encourage!

Shame is an useful emotion, it helps us to act according to our values, it helps be ok to make mistakes, to learn from them since we really don’t want to make them again.. but this is when it’s a healthy form of Shame.

Most Shame we know is toxic which like the annoying drone of a pesky mosquito tells us how bad, unworthy we are, how short we fall of good standards, how unlovable we are.. I could go on.

And some of us who have unfortunately been at the receiving end of Shame-based encouraging behaviour, tend to imbibe it in our very character. We may not think twice and dump this toxicity on others as our right and entitlement to feelings of hurt, sadness, Shame and anger.

For some of us at other times, we accept this shame dumped on us by others, at times erroneously believing we deserve it.

Both are toxic to our inner world and both do damage. Both have the same core difficulty at heart, we believe we aren’t worthy enough. And we can’t connect to people healthly.

Whether you chose to deal with toxic Shame by dumping it outside or taking it inside and owning it up, remember the message remains untrue.

You are worthy, always are. By just being born.

And you have a right to feel so, for the ones that externalise it, learn to bear your real feelings of hurt, sadness and anger. For the ones who internalise Shame, learn to be ok with all feelings. Feelings are ok, they are not you. They just are the messengers of what you need in that given moment.

You are ok.

Like the picture below, Shame paints a bleak picture. But night doesn’t have to be scary. It has its own beauty and it’s own purpose. Look for that, you will amazed at how calming and fulfilling and alive you will feel.

We are different, yet the same 

It’s common to hear the refrain, “let’s not get emotional about it, think practically”. Well, I spend majority of my life doing just that. Working hard to keep my emotions aside and use my enhanced thinking brain to solve the problems of my life or even advance further. Being ‘emotional’ even as an emoticon is a crying face, so it’s known that in common parlance, it stands for being weak, swayed detrimentally by feelings. As the British do, maintain a stiff upper lip, it has great social value, you looked up to as the ‘strong one’.
So we know why and how we came about not liking emotions. Now research time and again shows that the human brain works in its entirety to make pragmatic decisions. The prefrontal cortex or the thinking brain doesn’t work in isolation to give you the wonderful decisions you take, it needs to take the emotional part of the brain and the reptilian or the oldest part of the brain into account. Cos it’s the reptilian brain that takes in information from the environment, passes it through the part that seats our emotions and memory and then, what seems ‘emotionally significant’ is passed on to the upper management, the thinking brain. There is no way you can surpass the part of the emotions. If you try to, and believe me, a whole lot of us try very very hard; it either makes the emotions take over and make faulty decisions. Or it doesn’t take into account much of feelings and hence, makes skewed, rigid and robot like decisions. If anyone has a boss with the latter characteristics will know how touch it is live with it. 

So emotions remain vital. When we take into account what we feel, it makes for a complete, wholesome decision and collateral gain, you will feel good and content inside of you too. 

When we are in touch with what we feel, it’s also easier to see another being, see them with their unique likes, dislikes, beliefs, preferences, eccentricities and still be ok with them. It’s easier then, to see it in the background of their life, their circumstances, their stories and it’s easier to be accepting, it’s easier to connect, it’s easier to find compassion, it’s easier to love, it’s easier to be humane, it’s easier to realise and know,

What makes us unique and similar is the same, our ability to feel differently yet with the same emotions.

The dish is different tasting for each but ironically made with similar ingredients.

The Joy of Health 

Being healthy, both mentally and psychologically is a huge gain in itself. When we get into the cycle of looking after our health and start seeing results, it becomes a self-perpetuating cycle, albeit of a good sort.
I recently started linking my physical self to my mental health in a conscious, systematic manner. My biggest gain out of my increased self-care is my ability to breathe through my pain. Pain is something we turn away from and try to make as many efforts to keep away. For a whole lot us, life is about keeping pain away. In that quest we keep joy and excitement and a host of wonderful emotions and life experiences away too. The moment I could learn to breathe through my pain and bear it, I knew I could do it. I could believe in myself,

In ability to ‘handle’ things. It didn’t kill me, it didn’t break me. Did I take a step or two back? Yes. Did it hurt? Yes. Did I learn? Yes, in time. Did it feel good to be alive or present through it? Yes, you bet. Would I keep doing it again? You bet, yes, yes, yes!!! 

I note both physical and mental aspects of well being separately even though they are intrinsically linked, as we rarely look at Mental Health. As I have said above, when I pushed my physical self, I learned much battle is psychological. 

Mental Health is more than illness, it’s about being in touch with your psychological self, knowing your inner world, being able to bring up joy and bring down distress, it’s your ability to tolerate pain, it’s your ability to breathe through pain, it’s about enjoying life’s full range of technicolours, it’s about being friends with your emotions, it’s about accepting different aspects of you, it’s about growth, it about exploration,
Mental Health is about life, 

Yours, mine and our shared humanity.
The hope is when we take care of your psychological selves, we take care of all of ours. May be, just may be, peace and authentic connection to each other may not be just an utopian concept. May be, just may be we will ourselves and each other once again. 


I am not my story 

There are two roles that I have played all my life without as much awareness, I realised with a shock in the last two weeks. I challenged them, made other choices and lived through the implicit, morbid fear that it was going to kill me psychologically. I survived and now, I can begin to thrive. 
I challenged my pull to be passive and give in, largely driven by shame and guilt. Another role I challenged was driven by fear of separation or panic. In this role, I would keep a connection with another being alive no matter how badly I was treated or how much my needs weren’t looked at. Both were automatic, implicit – outside my conscious awareness and both were beautifully working like an automated robot. It’s reward was accepting the shame and panic, time and again. It was reality that was being reinforced just by feeling and giving into the feelings. Every single time. It functioned like a well-oiled machinery. It’s purpose was to ensure I was safe and surviving. As an adult it doesn’t make much sense. But look at it through children’s eyes.

Separation or disconnection feels like a death to a young child. Visit any nursery or first school year to know the truth. Tears of children like their heart is ripped out will evoke in you a similar sense of hopelessness and grief.

Shame comes up like a trusted friend whenever there is a threat of being cut out of the herd. Always. It’s a threat to human survival, being alone. We are social beings with the brain at the helm as a social organ. Being a part of a group, having a sense of belongingness is vital to our mental and physical well-being. That being threatened will evoke shame, that will help us curb whatever behaviour we are enacting that is threatening our connection with the group. Shame inhibits action, it’s major function. But when used and evoked repeatedly turns it toxic and passivity becomes us. 

There were two roles I had owned, long long ago. As fate would have it, they came to the surface, leaving me gasping for breath. As I struggled to understand it, my life story made sense. Though not before, I weathered the storm of overwhelming pain and emotions. 

After two weeks of emotional rollercoaster, I can assure you I am glad I went into the storm instead of letting the well-oiled machine take over. I am glad for the roles to be questioned. I am glad for saying goodbye to shame and panic as my constant companion. I am sure we will meet in healthier, more appropriate circumstances. 

I am glad to find courage, authenticity and worthiness in its stead.

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.

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?