Sunday, February 14, 2016

Love is spirit, Love is liberation!

In the spirit of a revolutionary V-day, here is a short collection of quotes on the spiritual and liberatory aspects of Love.

The moment we choose to love we begin to move towards freedom. - bell hooks

An honorable human relationship, one in which people have the right to use the word love, is a process of deepening the truths they can tell each other. It is important to do this because it breaks down human self-delusion and isolation - Adrienne Rich

Ahimsa is the practice of non-violence, which includes physical, mental, and emotional violence towards others and the self. We create violence most often in our reactions to events and others, habitually creating judgment, criticism, anger or irritation. (from here).. 

Protecting ourselves and others does not violate ahimsa. Practicing ahimsa means we take responsibility for our own harmful behavior and attempt to stop the harm caused by others.… Practicing true ahimsa springs from the clear intention to act with clarity and love. (from here)

there is a deeper love between and amongst our people that lies buried between the lines of the roles we play with each other. it is the earth beneath the floorboards of our homes. we must split wood, dig bare-fisted into the packed dirt to find out what we really have to hold in our hands as ground. - CherrĂ­e Moraga

I wish I could show you when you are lonely or in darkness the astonishing light of your own being. - Hafiz

After heartbreaks and mistakes and vulnerabilities, I am not jaded about love. In fact, I believe in love more than I ever have before. My love is not homonormative, it is not love that fits into binaries, and it is not love that promises to complete a half moon. My love is queer and stunning and radical. My love respects who you are and doesn't try to change you. My love listens to you. My love is an eternal student. I dream of loving with a decolonized heart. I dream of full moon love. I dream of love that makes our ancestors sing with joy and wonder. - Yumi Tomsha

 The role of the artist is exactly the same as the role of the lover. If I love you, I have to make you conscious of the things you don’t see. - James Baldwin 

Love is a state of Being. Your love is not outside; it is deep within you. You can never lose it, and it cannot leave you... Love is not selective, just as the light of the sun is not selective. - Eckhart Tolle

There are four elements of true love. 
  1. The first is maitri: loving-kindness or benevolence. Loving-kindness is not only the desire to make someone happy, to bring joy to a beloved person; it is the ability to bring joy and happiness to the person you love, because even if your intention is to love this person, your love might make him or her suffer.
  2. The second element of true love is compassion, karuna. This is not only the desire to ease the pain of another person, but the ability to do so.
  3. The third element of true love is joy, or mudita. If there is no joy in love, it is not true love.
  4. The fourth element of true love is upeksha, equanimity or freedom. In true love, you attain freedom. When you love, you bring freedom to the person you love… not only outside but also inside. – Thich Nhat Hanh

Friday, November 20, 2015

On Truth, on Feelings, on Love

On Truth

Either exhale,
or speak.

Do not
swallow or
eat your truth.

On Feelings

Feelings are a source of power, they have great energy.

Repressing our feelings suppresses our power, it limits our freedom too.

We then live & act in fear of our own force of feeling, hiding from ourselves.

I am my free-est self when I allow myself not just to feel all my feelings, but to be moved by them.

On Love

Love is pure energy, all light.

Love is healing.

Love is filled with beauty.

Love brings life.

Love is a divine expression. Never block it.

Love is our inherent right and gift, the thing we knew before we were born & also after we died. It is eternal. It is an energy that cannot be created or destroyed. It only shifts, it flows and transforms, changing us along the way.

I am my fiercest self when I am my most compassionate self. To me, compassion is wrapping our heartfelt understanding around the wound of another being. That love has the ability to illuminate, to connect, to repair, and to heal.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Solitude, Sadness, and Self-Love

At some point of time, all human beings feel a deep sense of aloneness. Such a universal experience, and yet, it's experienced in painful isolation, at least internally even if we are surrounded by people who really love us.

I believe that's the point that we need to turn inwards, and be okay with what's there. The fear is many a time greater than the actual experience. Facing inwards, being okay with a vast expansive space. Perhaps similar to floating off into the outer space in an unknown galaxy, no gravity. Where are we, if not anchored by a pulling weight that keeps our feet on the ground? Who are we, if not in relationship to other human beings? What are we? Why do we exist? What is the purpose of our lives? These are big scary questions. And we often stay outwards in the daily hustle to avoid questions that can seem unanswerable.

A few years ago when I had just moved to New York, I was looking for a great book recommendation and a friend gave it to me - Letters to a Young Poet, by Rainer Maria Rilke. There are 10 letters in that book that Rilke wrote to a young mentee he had never met. I think everyone who reads that book feels like Rilke has traveled across time and space to join us in this realm, and that he wrote that letter to that particular reader. I too felt deeply spoken to, deeply moved by his words. He spoke to me of solitude, of the vast expanse we have inside of us. To paraphrase, he said that most of us spend our whole lives in just one room of the house, whereas there is so much more to discover. He spoke of sadness too, with such respect for how it is to be treated and how it changes us in meaningful ways. Sadness, like solitude, is a universal experience and also like solitude, many of us spend our time in hyperactivity to avoid those feelings.

Through this book, I came to make peace with my sadnesses, and came to love the spaciousness of solitude, that can allow one to feel as expansive as time itself.

Nowadays, I lose myself in hyperactivity fairly regularly, but then something reminds me of this question - what or who am I trying to avoid, when I could be with all of myself all of the time?

I invite you into yourself. Sometimes that can look like meditating, or it can look like taking a walk, or dancing. Meditation changes too, it is a medium to access something eternal and still, and anything we lose ourselves in can create that pathway. Do not be attached to one path, but take the step now that moves your whole being forward. You can enter yourself from many realms - the physical, the emotional, the spiritual all are connected. You can touch your body in a new way and discover that you have changed. Your own hands may be touching differently, infused with awareness of self. You may look in the mirror everyday and not really see yourself deeply. You could do that now.

Whatever you do, invite love into it. Love is attention, time, presence, unconditionality, no judgements. Bring love into yourself, from yourself, to yourself. When we are filled with love, it is what we offer out too. And within us, it can help us hold all our experiences with compassion. 

Friday, September 4, 2015

Letting Go

A while back T and I were moving and we were in a purging frenzy. I donated so many clothes, shoes, household items, kitchen things, and more. Asking myself daily - Do I need this? Do I use it? Am I attached? - I got into a practice of letting go. I had mentally been preparing for this for some time, because I am a recovering sentimentalist. But I was ready. So we purged a LOT. And on the other side, in the new place, it felt good. There was less stuff to unpack (could be lesser still), and less space so it all fit better too.

At times though, I wonder if we went too far. Whenever I am wondering what to wear that I don't need to iron and and will keep me cool in the summer, I might have a flash of memory of a dress I let go of. And I might regret that decision. Or I might stand by it. Either way, I've been reflecting on letting go, and both the joys and pains of it. I've been wondering what it takes.

What does it really take to let go of someone, or of something? Of an experience, or an expectation, or a memory....First I think it takes that mental commitment, the readiness to move on. Second, there has to be an active component - perhaps there is a dropoff to Goodwill, or the burning of a letter. Perhaps it's deleting pictures, or someone from your facebook friend list. And then third, is the rest of the journey with no finite end, which is practicing letting go over and over. Each time you are reminded of the thing or longing for it, you remind yourself why you needed to let go in the first place, and why it was bold and brave and true to do so. Perhaps you have to remind yourself a lot. Perhaps you never look back.

And sometimes you need a fourth stage - if you're truly unable let go, then try acceptance instead. I'm sitting with all of this, from the mundane (missing my old sneakers and excited about new ones!) to the deeply emotional (wishing some of my relationships were deeper or closer, but accepting and being present to what is).

Even our skin sheds completely every twenty-one days. How can we refuse to participate in a process so natural and adaptive? If we didn't, we literally wouldn't heal and be able to recover from wounds. So, in that spirit, I am facing, learning, and trying to let go a little more every day.

I hope there is something you can release today. Maybe a regret about something you did or didn't do,  maybe it's a mug that you don't need anymore. Tell yourself what you need to let go of, and more importantly, why. Then release, and notice how you feel. Or if you're not ready to let go yet, that's okay too, notice that and explore what's underneath.

Write to me about it, if you like.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

When I'm Happy!

I'm happy when I write and I write when I'm happy!

Today I write after many months of not.

I reflected recently in a "sharing about ourselves" that I didn't share I am a survivor of sexual violence. I considered it and I forgot or I chose something else to share. For some reasons. I'm reflecting now on what those reasons were.

One, these words do not define me. Yet, the experience has been significantly shaping of my life path and in fact, laid the groundwork for a later politicization. But that was actually my first politicization.

I have worked long and hard on my journey with shame, throughout my life. It is only now, at 33, that I've come to another place that feels more restful. I have struggled, so I know my own strength.

I think the same about chronic pain. The struggle expands one's worldview and deepens and experience of self. You cannot help but question (God, why? Why me? Can people die from pain?) and you cannot avoid the spiritual or physical work, for that experience is so intense. Then you become very strong. And once you have seen your own strength, you only get inspired to keep working and becoming stronger.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

A Beautiful Cleanse

Cleanse is a beautiful word. I love the vision and feeling it evokes. When I think about a physical cleanse, it's an image of water rushing through pipes where my body is a long wide pipe, open from both top and bottom.  No ends, just water gushing from the universe into me with force and flowing on & out rapidly.

I have been thinking a lot about cleansing at a deeper level through my recent dietary "restrictions" (I'll explain in a moment).  I got the flu and had other health challenges 10 days into it the first time, so I'm doing it again, re-setting the clock on the two-week cleanse. Today is day 3. I made vegan chai yesterday, this time with coconut milk and coconut sugar. It's quite nice actually.

The foundation of this cleanse is learning new things, and practice letting go as a path to freedom. While this letting go of the old ways brings up feelings of loss and restriction for me, ultimately it is allowing me to expand my self-awareness, which can only bring greater freedom and choice.  These are the lessons I need to learn to evolve as a human being.  Some qualities to cultivate along this path - curiosity / eagerness to learn, humility at not knowing, acceptance of oneself as an imperfect and attached/addicted human being, willingness to try again with beginners mind after getting things wrong.

Some of the more physical and practical things I'm learning -
  • Because of eating much fewer foods and food groups, I was feeling hungrier and emptier a lot of the time. So to supplement, I was scavenging for snacks and sides that would fill me up, and via their absence I noticed all the usual go-to's that I was NOT eating [chai/cappuccinos/mochas (dairy, caffeine, sugar), crackers (processed) and cheese (dairy), not adding yogurt (dairy) to indian meals, chips/cheetos (processed, dairy), chocolate/desserty things (sugar, dairy)].  So basically, a lot of dairy and sugar was making up my snacks / fillers, and now I am eating nuts, seeds, rice cakes, fruit (more protein and fiber). A real shift in my nutritional balance. 
  • I feel highly attuned to how everything lands inside my body - from food to feelings. I notice every headache (or absence of), every stomach hurt (or lack of), and when my heart feels full of joyous overwhelm, or heavy and contracted from sadness. I can better respond to all these sensations and feelings, and I have become more mindful of how I respond. Basically, I'm not eating my feelings as much. Emotional cleansing.
  • During the hardcore cleanse period I didn't eat out at all - this means that I didn't spend money on eating out. Financial health boost, and spending cleanse!
  • Not eating out also means that I know every single ingredient that I consume, having read nutrition labels carefully or having prepared everything myself from whole, unprocessed foods. Having that much intimacy with food preparation and careful consumption makes me treasure my body's insides more, I have more respect for the organs and internal processes.

On a deeper level, this feels like fasting. It feels so, so hard in some moments (not all the time though). I have strong cravings, so much that I can even convince myself that it's okay to have a little tiny something (chai / chocolate...) outside the guidelines. But then I feel like I would be cheating myself, I would miss the opportunity to practice restraint and simply witness my strong attachments/addictions. Yes there are addictions. Although caffeine and sugar are certainly addictive, there are also attachments to the idea of how we eat and drink. I like to read a nice book as I sip a hot, creamy, caffeinated drink. I like to eat dessert after a meal, it feels like it "completes" it. I am witnessing all my weaknesses, and know that God wants to strengthen me inside out. This is a small container of two weeks within which I practice sitting with my feelings of loss and my cravings and I rage at my restrictions, and I still maintain the fast. Breaking it feels like crossing a sacred line.  

What I'm holding to as an anchor this time, is words from Gina Sharpe, teacher at and cofounder of NY Insight Meditation Center: renunciation as freedom.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

10 Principles of a Great Cleanse

On Day 5 I made paalak daal (red lentils with spinach) and aloo baingan (potatoes and egglpant). Ate with brown rice. Yumm times three.

I've realized that there are certain things one must do to create the foundation for a cleanse. I'll share a few of the things Im learning, and would love to know more from others who have done this before.

#1: Planning
I have to plan when I'm going to buy groceries, and when I'm going to cook. This is kind of basic for life anyways, when one is managing multiple priorities - work, food management, family time, social time etc. I recommend buying an epic amount of groceries (including the chia seeds, flax seeds, cans of coconut milk - things don't perish quickly etc.) a few days before you begin such an endeavor. Also get your fresh batch of vegetables and fruit, whatever you're planning to make for your first couple of meals. Cook the first big meal before day 1, so that you're ready to go on the first day and have some ease with starting a new big thing.

#2 Commitment and follow through
When it's time to cook, I gotta cook. If I don't, I'll eat nuts all day and be hungry!! Or, I'll break down and eat something that breaks the cleanse. That won't do. So, not a lot of room for slacking off. This process is teaching me commitment and timely follow through. You gotta do what you gotta do when you gotta do it. The effort is worth the results, and the lessons in discipline are priceless. I have less room/time for mental self-talk and negotiations, because I accept there's no other alternative so I just roll up my sleeves and get to it. This is a powerful skill to wield in other areas of life where you could use it.

#3 Cook frequently and eat fresh
I don't want to make a large batch of something and eat it 3 times a day for 5 days. Nope. I need variety in flavors, and I want to eat fairly fresh food as much as possible, at least during this period, in the spirit of a cleanse. So, that means cooking frequently, and it's been every other day so far. This is fine for now because I'm unemployed (for 5 more days!) and because I like cooking. No onions no garlic also makes the actual cooking much faster and simpler.

#4 Get creative! Change things up
A friend reached out to me after reading my previous blog post, and invited me to cook with her. I hope to do that soon! This makes all this more fun, involves other people so I'm not doing it alone all the time.  I've also been scouring the internet and sourcing friends and cookbooks for new recipes and creative food combinations. I was going to make the daal and eggplant (from day 1) again on day 5, but I added spinach to the daal and potatoes to the eggplant, and used slightly different spices and herbs to mix it up.

#5 Drink a lot of water
I'm really bad at this. I don't realize when I get sluggish from dehydration, and I barely drink water during the day. My nutritionist said to drink 4 big bottles per day. So, I'm carrying my Swell bottle container around, so I'm actually noticing how many bottles I drink. You can do whatever works for you. But having the same shimmering teal tower of hydration helps me remember my intention, as well a practically supports this intention.

#6 Focus on what you're consuming, not what's missing
It's easy and distracting to focus on what's missing. This is a loss perspective, which doesn't serve me in this process. So, instead of thinking about the cheeses and yogurts I am most craving, I think about which vegetables have a naturally creamy taste or texture (roasted smoked eggplant, mashed butternut squash....mmm). Delight in the tasty goodness of what is. And by focusing on what you are actually eating and drinking, you're paying more attention to new tastes and noticing how they feel in your body. This is the purpose - to notice how foods make us feel from within.

#7 Engage with the true spirit of a cleanse
There are so many ways to do this. I could eat gluten-free bread with dairy-free cheese everyday for breakfast. But this is not in the true spirit of cleansing. This is just eating more processed foods that are not wholesome or healthy. The real focus here is to make our bodies conduits - to shake up and release the old stuff stuck inside, and to pour in a lot of water to clean things out and get them moving, and to add nourishing elements that build us up from the inside - immunity, good bacteria, bone health, strength etc.

#8 Get support from your people
This is a big deal for me. I'm making an effort I haven't in a long time, and have been pretty averse to any kind of food restriction. While I'm not thrilled about that part, I am more focused on the things I'm gaining by cleansing. No stomachaches. But I need help, and something I've found useful is to talk to people in my life about it, give little updates on my progress, share successes, and even the struggles. Naming them to a friend helps to externalize them, so that you aren't thinking about the heavenly smell of those fresh home-made biscuits anymore.

#9 Remember: This is your choice 
I can end the cleanse whenever I want. But I am so determined to see it through. Nobody's asking me to do it. My nutritionist certainly recommended it, but I am quite skilled at ignoring what various health professionals have said to me. But I want to do this. I've been mentally and physically preparing for it for a while, and I got to the point of readiness where I was actually excited to do it. So, when it feels hard, I remind myself of 2 things -  1) I chose this. I want to do what's in my control to feel better 2) It's only 3 weeks. I can do this. 3) Once it ends, I will have a new set of choices to make (continue? long-term or short-term? no dairy or reduced dairy?), and also new skills and recipes for my daily life.

#10 Try to have fun with it!
This is a challenge right? Have fun beating it! Enjoy learning new things, pretend you're a chef on a cooking show (I do this all the time), narrate your new recipes to your imaginary audience, invite friends to taste test things, in fact, have a soul food dinner party! Invite everyone to bring one dish that uses allowed ingredients,  and share why they love it and how it feeds their soul. We are most poised for success when we bring ourselves fully into the world, and take the world with us where we want to go. Don't do this in isolation. And don't do it as a chore. Life is meant to be enjoyed, so enjoy everything, even the challenges.