Monday, March 24, 2014

Top 10 Tips for Transitioning to a New Life in a New City

I wrote this a while ago upon request for transition advice, but never shared more widely. Perhaps this is useful to someone out there today.

1. Sleep sleep sleep sleep sleep. Sleep a lot, as much as you can, especially for the first 6 months, but ESPECIALLY for the first week, month, 3 months. During sleep, a lot of integration happened for me. The move had been desired for almost a year, in the works for 6 months, and planned for 6 weeks once I got a job offer. Still, things of this magnitude are experienced as life rushing at you, and I'd be really curious to meet anyone who has experienced this differently. So, once I was on the other side, I kept dreaming of the those last few months for the next few months - that is where I paused to notice my feelings and interactions with various people close to me in the process of the move. Hidden feelings emerged. I had time now to absorb them.

2. Ground your spirit. For me, that meant continuing a Thursday night practice of being in my faith community. Even though it was a new place, having a structure to rely on was so helpful. I listened to shabads (powerful, peaceful, spiritual songs), cooked langar and made chai prasad (blessings in the form of food), and marked out an hour to sit, with my Self, with God. Whoever you are and whatever your spirit-grounding practices are, nurture that on at least a weekly basis. Transition is not just a moment in time, we are talking about transitioning a life. So continuing practices that make up that life are what help to ease the transition. 

3. Energize your body. I don't usually like to separate the spirit and body because well-being is a Wholeness issue, but, I think of this one as multiple strategies for maximum benefit. With the support and motivation of a friend, I started doing yoga every morning. I mean, from never having had a physical movement routine or gym membership in my whole life, I started doing yoga every single morning. In 21 days, I was amazed at myself, and could already feel my body getting stronger and energy flowing through it. I heard somewhere that it takes 21 days to form a habit. A year later, I'm still doing it. This practice has become a fundamental part of the new me.

4. Embrace not-knowing as an opportunity to wake up. In a life routine, we get used to where things are how we do things - where the coffee mugs are kept, the commute to work, the view from your window. When you move out of state, you probably purged a lot, and will start fresh in a new place to live. You have to re-learn how to make coffee in this kitchen. Walk each step slowly with a new awareness. No autopiloting possible. You have to pay attention. And you can distinctly notice all that you don't know. It really slowed me down in a wide-eyed way, that I appreciated.

5. Prioritize, and take one step at a time. One day, one week, one month, one quarter. Prioritize what you want to focus on building first - physical home space, work / new job, community, exercise, cooking. Figure out what you absolutely need now, what you cannot do without, and focus on that. For me, in the first quarter that was apartment-hunting, settling into the new job, and a weekly spiritual practice. That took up all my available time and energy. Sometimes I managed to eat dinner with a friend, or go to a movie, or sleep enough. Twice I even ventured out dancing.  

6. Balance what you need to do with what you want to do. Hopefully there is some overlap already, but try to maximize the efficiency to joy ratio of the situation. Energy is fixed and so is time. Time is the same everyday, and yet it is a fluid magical creature. You cannot do everything,  and I tended to focus too much on what I needed to do. So I really struggled. In order to have peace, sometimes you need to surrender the struggle. In hindsight, I wished I slept and rested more and watched more movies.

7. Accept what is and let go of what you want/thought it would be. Accept the fact that you will not and cannot be settled in a fixed amount of time decided by you. I tried that, but the Universe has other plans. What I needed to learn to slow down. What I also learned and have grown so much from is the understanding that all things happen at the perfect time. Life is tastier at the ripest moments. Practice patience.

8. Do something significant to mark this time and direction of your desired transformation. Get a tattoo, write your self a letter, take a picture and frame it... something that is tangible for you to see/touch. I was walking in the East Village one day, and had been looking for a ring for a long time. I hadn't found quite the right one, but that day, it found me. Bold blue in silver metal. I bargained the seller down from $10 to $8 on the basis of shared ethnic identity and speaking the same language. That ring reminds of that day, when I was still new in NYC, and new to my newly becoming self, and was finding my feet while on the go.

9. Call a friend. I still remember spending hours laying in bed chatting with a friend on the phone, because my body was on a different time zone / life zone. It was surprising to me at times, who I was thinking of, or who thought of me and called. And we'd get to experience a long-distance hangout that we didn't get enough of before the move, or it was a new friendship forming as I was leaving.  

10. Know that you'll be lonely, and it's necessary. It's very isolating to move to a new city, even if you have friends there. You still have to form a community, and get into a life flow where you feel a sense of belonging and have a circuit of social events to attend. It's lonely. But remember why you moved - you're brave and bold and wanted to go after a new life, and in your deep inner self, you knew it would change you and your life needed that for its next season. The aloneness is where the change and opening is happening. Seeds of desire are being planted for the new life, aches are being felt and rubbed out of the old life, and being with yourself is an important part of all that. Try not to resist or hate it :) Try to appreciate it as the down time before you find your busy, happening groove. This is not just about a new city, it's a new life, and a new you. Make friends with your new self. Best advice I got here - Read "Letters to a Young Poet" by Rainer Maria Rilke. This is how I learned to love my solitude, for the first time.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Have a Good Day / Do whatever it takes

It was my birthday recently and I've never been so un-excited about it. Which is fine, a birthday is a day in a year, it has a place in time and in season and in calendars, so chances are that it's going to more or less reflect the heart-season that the person is in. I've been up and down and medium, so that's how March 13 went too. It also involved birthday surprises (well, 2 kinds of surprises - the ones I liked which was people loving me with hugs and messages and cards/gifts, and the ones I didn't care for which was the terribly cold day and not getting to the things I had wanted to do and the absence of some people and and feeling lost and without purpose in life). I ended the day in faith community, and by that time I was totally distraught and consumed by my mind and feelings. As I sat there in silence listening to the shabads, I felt the concave emptiness in my chest and felt tears bubble up in my closed eyes. I was, at the end of it, once again distracted by cake and singing, fortunately.

Later I decided I didn't care about anything anymore. That was an excellent turning point.

Since the day I realized I don't care about anything and life is meaningless and I may not have a purpose or significance here, BUT since I'm alive and do care about staying alive, I can do whatever the hell I want. No more goals. No more deep seeking. No more anguish. Just have a good day. In each moment, I will not weigh multiple factors like the spiritual and emotional benefits of X action (like withholding coffee) versus the instant gratification of giving into a craving. Nope. No deep thoughts here. The only question is - Will this make me happy right now? Is this what I want to be doing right now? If the answer is yes, I'm going for it!

First I thought about quitting everything. I reflected on my job, but decided to keep it because I like it so much, and I like my coworkers too. It's actually a place that still has good meaning and a clear role for me. Then I thought about other commitments, and decided to feel things out. I decided to keep my volunteer board commitment too, it's extremely inspiring and energizing. I need more of that!

What I'm realizing now is that because of mental blocks, some things get twisted. I like to write and cook and dance and make art and perform, but I hardly do any of those things anymore. So when I have some free time, I think about how I "should" be blogging etc. That kills the joy and creates pressure. But right now, because I only do things I want to, I realized over and over that I still wanted to write and share all this right now.

This has greatly simplified my life.

Obviously, it's going to be harder moving forward because everyday I will still do things I don't want to (like commute), but keep in the mind that the rule is broader than that - I accept some of the things I don't like (i.e. commuting) because I like what I'm going to. Also, nothing is permanent so that takes the pressure off too. I won't have this exact commute forever, just for the coming 15 months. And having things be new and confusing is a great lesson in getting present and focused on "right now".

Coming back to how I felt lost and confused about the meaning of life and my role within the grander scheme of things, the update is - that's still true, and I'm cool with that. It's both okay to be confused, or lost, and it's also okay if I can't relate to grander meaning. Maybe I was always looking too deep and need to be more present-day, and get better at day-to-day living. Life is right now. I am no longer thinking of it as LIFE or Life - Life is no one big thing. It changes too much and perhaps this is loosening my attachment to what I want LIFE to be like. It's shaking up the old ways of doing things, and some of my core beliefs. That's totally ungrounding and chaotic, but perhaps necessary for me right now for something new to emerge.

It's also helping me let go of expectations - of myself and other people. My decision to be happy, no matter what, means I take charge of my day, and I don't depend on others or hold others responsible for how I want to feel or what I want to do. This is freeing.

So, do whatever it takes to have a good day today, and tomorrow.

Friday, February 21, 2014

On the Other Side of Sadness

I have been wondering what would make me happy.

There are 5 things I can think of, actually, that would help get me to the other side in the short term -

1) Being in sunshine, warm weather and the magnificent, magical vastness of the ocean

2) Getting done with this never-beginning, never-ending housing move - the hunting is done, the lease is signed, packing is yet to begin.

3) Settling into a new home with space, sunlight, and people I like and care about in close proximity. Creating a space where I can write, smile, breathe, pray, dance, make art, heal, and cook with others.

4) My professional work continuing to go as bloomingly as it has been, thanks to many other people.

5) Making art - Although mentioned as a tidbit in #3, I am coming to realize the power and potential of this one in releasing my sadness and stuck emotions, and in healing and creating beauty and joy.

Obviously, some of these things are in my control, some are not. Some are inevitable even if I do nothing, some require intense labor in a short amount of time.Some of these things are about the absence of what's been hard, and some are about the presence and creation of what brings joy. Both require intention and effort. I'm willing to do those things, but I'd rather do them with an attitude of "I am fierce and badass in the midst of so much tough shit going on", rather than a more disempowered approach like "I overwhelmed and have so much to do I wish it was over". I've gone back and forth between these feelings, and I'm trying to remember more often that I am badass and can handle and accomplish a lot.

Note to self: Attitude matters. It matters a LOT. Not just because it can give one actual fuel (which is significant), but because then the doing is as strengthening and positive as being on the other side (the outcome).

I can think of tons more things that would make me happier, but I will leave them alone for now because I am too disheartened by the magnitude of those, and the limited potential for change.  Right now I'm trying to focus on the next 1 week to 3 months, which is another good strategy for keeping things manageable.

Good luck to you, if you are doing a lot and trying to stay afloat and perhaps even swim. My heart is bonded with yours in the yearnings of my prayers.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Powerful Collection of Quotes

The first pose is always breath. - source unknown to me

Everything comes to us that belongs to us if we create the capacity to receive it. - Rabindranath Tagore

You are here so that someday you can look yourself in the eyes and bow to your own grace and strength. - source unknown to me, quoted on Syd Yang's blog

A dream is a poem the body writes. Even if we lie to ourselves in the day, the body is compelled to speak its truth at night. - Sandra Cisneros, Caramelo

What is to give light must endure burning. - Viktor Frankl

To complain is always nonacceptance of what is. It invariably carries an unconscious negative charge. When you complain, you make yourself a victim. Leave the situation or accept it. All else is madness.-- Eckhart Tolle
Overcome any bitterness that may have come because you were not up to the magnitude of the pain entrusted to you. Like the mother of the world who carries the pain of the world in her heart, you are sharing in a certain measure of that cosmic pain, and are called upon to meet it in joy instead of self-pity. – Pir Vilayat Khan

Your body is not yours alone. It belongs to your ancestors, your parents, future generations and to society and all other living beings. Keeping your body healthy is an expression of gratitude... if you are healthy physically and mentally all of us will benefit. - Thich Nhat Hanh

Forgiveness does not mean that we have to continue to relate to those who have done us harm. In some cases the best practice may be to end our connection, to never speak to or be with a harmful person again. Sometimes in the process of forgiveness a person who hurt or betrayed us may wish to make amends, but even this does not require us to put ourselves in the way of further harm. - Jack Kornfield
True forgiveness does not paper over what has happened in a superficial way. It is not a misguided effort to suppress or ignore our pain. It cannot be hurried. It is a deep process repeated over and over in our heart which honors the grief and betrayal, and in its own time ripens into the freedom to truly forgive. - Jack Kornfield
Hope isn't about believing that we can change things. Hope is about believing that what we do matters. - Vaclav Havel 

My body cannot withhold truth. - Nitika 

The erotic is a resource within each of us that lies in a deeply female and spiritual plane, firmly rooted in the power of our unexpressed or unrecognized feeling. - Audre Lorde

Have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don't search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer - Rainer Maria Rilke

Meditation is the medicine of the mind. - Yogi tea bag


Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The soul never dies

I finished reading a powerful book recently - Many Lives, Many Masters by Brian Weiss. He's a psychotherapist who does regression therapy with his patients to discover forgotten/repressed traumas, which can help relieve current symptoms like unexplained phobias, anxiety, depression and so forth. One of his patients starts recalling past life memories, and there begins a profound spiritual journey for both of them. Twenty years later, he has regressed over two thousand people into past life memories and learnings, and written 5 books. The core messages -

1) The soul never dies.  In each life we are surrounded by souls we have reincarnated with before, to settle our karmic tabs. This also includes souls we have loved over lifetimes, who love us dearly. They may or may not be part of our circle of biological family and friends, but they are part of our life, right now.

2) Love is of ultimate importance. Forgive, let go of fear and insecurity and anger and hate, and love whole-heartedly.

I don't have much else to say today. Sometimes it's enough to read and reflect, right? :)

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Why I haven't been blogging daily (and yet I still like myself)

Sometimes I feel bad that I made the commitment to blog daily for 2014. Because -

  1. It makes me feel like I made a hasty, grand commitment, then forgot about it.
// my inner voice shouts - No! i had (have) a sincere intention, but i've been so overwhelmed and frozen on public writing.

     2.  It was not a SMART goal. Daily blogging?? When I haven't been writing for months??? Clearly not Attainable / Realistic.

// inner voice - well, that's real. Because blogging makes me feel connected to the world, and is a practice that nourishes me, i thought that the early days would be hard but soon i'd get into a groove that would make me feel great and purposeful. but, this sounds like "hindsight is 20/20". So, this is the nature of practice. i learned by doing (or failing to do). 

    3. I should keep my lofty intentions to myself, and when I've manifested them all, then I can proudly reveal to the world!

// inner voice - yeah, right. that sounds SMART (did i mention my inner voice is a funny bitch?). if there's one thing i've learned from Resource Generation and Maya Angelou, it's that nobody, but nobody, can make it out here alone. Sitting in a hole secretly working on big goals is not realistic or a pleasant experience. Fear of public "failure" is what drives that kind of behavior. It's also the pressure that we have no room to fail, or we will be judged and discarded. Our imperfections will become visible. But I am trying to love my imperfections as much as I try to love yours. 

And this, my friends, is why it's helpful to name our fears. I started this post to share with you all where my sincere intention came from, to be accountable to why I haven't been blogging daily. But in writing things out, and giving both my internal judgements and resisting voices equal space, I feel much more grounded in the human effort of it all. I'm trying.

I won't say I'm trying my best yet, but that's the nature of practice too. We try a little, build the muscle, try a little harder, more confidently next time. As you'll see from above, my inner voice got chattier and louder and more confident. So much of writing is not about writing, it's about working out your issues! We all have internal voices that speak judgmentally or lovingly to us, and honestly, the difference is not so stark sometimes. Sometimes we don't know which voice to trust. If you don't know, here's a piece of advice - Do you know what being loved feels like in your body? Try to learn to recognize that feeling. The relaxing, a breath of light that flows, I can feel my heart smile in the same moment that I can feel my toes squirm with energy. I recommend you trust the voice that makes your body open towards the light.

I modify my daily blogging commitment to this - A daily blogging intention. Currently, I'm working out i.e. building the muscle that gets me there. Sometimes that muscle involves writing an email or in my journal, sometimes it require other practices (like lying down, or talking to a friend about the struggle, or crying), and sometimes it requires space and patience (which can look like staring at my blog).

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Clear seeing: Acceptance of Truth and your True Self

We do not become anything overnight. We are who we are, and our essence is always waiting to be uncovered, to be freely expressed in the world.

Extreme situations are catalysts that can bring our best and worst selves to life. In fact, they bring the potential for both. So, if you have enough awareness to make an intentional choice, choose your best self. Choose forgiveness, healing, and love. Everything else will take you away from your own health and happiness.

Only love is real. All barriers to love are defenses and illusions - hate, prejudice, anger, judgement, fear.

Hate, Prejudice and Judgement are all the same feeling along a spectrum. Don't hate, don't judge. When we do that, we are closing ourself off to someone or something. We can disagree, but when we hate, we engage with that person karmically. We take their actions personally. It is very hard to have a zoom-out level of the situation once we are personally triggered. It is best to maintain a safe distance and see what is happening as that - what is happening, what the other person is doing. Keep a protective energetic shield around yourself, and stay in the picture with the energy of love and compassion. Don't give up either - in your heart, whether you materially engage with the situation or not. Energetically, you can always radiate love.

Anger stems from unmet expectations. Try to be aware of that, and let go of expectations. Then you can see other people more clearly for being who they are - imperfect beings on a journey, trying the best we know to get our needs met and to be happy.

Most people live in a lot of fear all the time without being aware of it. Fear of getting hurt, fear of pain, fear of people's reactions or judgements, fear of people being mad at us for something we did or didn't do, fear of failing, fear that our innermost feelings about our goodness and our immense potential are not actually true, fear of living, fear of expressing ourselves, fear of life and all its unknowns, fear of death, fear of making the wrong choice. Fear is a very draining energy. Brian Weiss says "fear blocks understanding", which blocks our gut from communicating with us, from guiding us in a strong and pure way.  Try to recognize it when it happens, and see that there is truly nothing to be afraid of (unless you are in a situation where your physical safety is at risk, in which case use all protective safety-planning measures). Try being free. Try to let go of what people think, and follow internal truth. It may lead to greater openings for all. And that's a risk, for you, and because it threatens the status quo. Choose true freedom - from expectations and obligations.

Accept people as they are. This will help you accept and love yourself as you are.

Accept yourself, know yourself. This will help you accept others as they are.