Monday, January 22, 2018

On Death and Life

Death: The Facilitator of Life

It is amazing how death is built into life. And yet, we are taught to do everything we can to deny death, fight it, avoid it. Our body is built to live by dying - as we inhale, we need to exhale. As we generate new cells, old ones need to die. As we eat, so we excrete. There is no greater facilitator of life than death. It is probably the most creative force we know of: it is our inner Feminine in her most potent form.

Yet, our inner patriarch has learnt to avoid death, because it represents loss of control. So our society teaches us to not let go of relationships that are long dead, in the name of commitment (while we are led to believe the commitment is towards a person/organization, it is really towards patriarchy). We are taught to look for stability in emotions, careers, life choices at the cost of authenticity, in the name of security (and of course, we are told the security is for ourselves, whereas it is really the system that feels insecure).

The irony of this is that the cost of avoiding death is life. In trying to stick to something we no longer resonate with, we become the living dead. Of course the fear of letting go of people and things is huge - it has been built over centuries. But this fear is not personal - it is collective. And the moment we choose to individuate into our personal power and choose life over death, the fear dissipates. I wish I could say this choice is easy and comfortable; sometimes it is, sometimes it is not. But it is certainly nourishing, energizing.

And the good news is all of are born with the key to life - our body. Our thoughts and emotions can remain in the past and future and pretend to avoid death. Our body is only capable of remaining in the present. And through this presence, we can choose to die each moment, in order to really live. Isn't it a beautiful paradox?

Here's a talk on living from imminence that I had given a few months ago:

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

On Conscious Conversations

I was invited to deliver a couple of lectures at a well known foundation for senior citizens in Mumbai recently. The lectures were on transformational dialoging with self and others and among the modalities I worked with in the sessions were non-violent communication and emotional intelligence.
One point of emphasis during the sessions was the idea of conscious communication and the power of transformation that it holds. For example, we discussed how parents often tend to compare children with their peers and inadvertently damage the child emotionally. When a child is told "Look at XYZ's child... how good he is at math" or "You must learn from Pia, she is so disciplined", the child unconsciously picks up the message "I am not ok as I am." A lot of these children carry this message as a belief well into adulthood and continue to believe they are never good enough. It does not help that social messages continue to reinforce this belief all around us: slimming pills ads tell us we are not thin enough, performance feedback in a lot of organisations says we are not as competent as our colleagues, 'motivational' speakers say we do not dream big enough.
After my last lecture, there was a social gathering with the participants and typical of Indian fashion, the conversation steered to how old I am and if I am married. In the spirit of the light hearted conversation I chose to respond and told them I am 36 and single. And then followed a barrage of advice about how it is important to find a companion to 'complete' me. They even went on to ask if I need help in finding a partner. At that point I put a firm stop to the conversation and made it clear they are crossing a boundary.
The reason I am writing this post is two-fold:
- One, I am reminding myself to stay more present in conversations and not allow my boundaries to be breached even to the extent it was breached. I must learn to be openly unapologetic of a life choice that I have made consciously.
- Two, I am putting out a call to you who are reading to reflect upon this: Are you aware of the possibility that you may be engaging in disempowering conversation?  In asking seemingly innocuous questions such as "Why aren't you married" or "why do you choose not to have a child" or "why don't you go back to employment" or "why don't you try dieting", we are reinforcing the message that "you are not ok as you are". Some of those who receive this message may be conscious enough to not get impacted. But a lot of them will get affected, even if they continue to engage in the conversation to be social and polite. And how do you respond when you are at the receiving end of such questions and comments?
As a student of psychology, one of the early lessons we were taught was that the idea of 'normal' is a fallacy. Even if a huge proportion of people in the world make certain life choices, that does not make it normal. It is just what it is: a choice. We are living in times where we can clearly see the impact of unconscious conversations: terrorists are created because the world tells a section of the community that they are not ok. Depression is rampant because people are told they are not good enough.
I am all for continuous self growth and learning. I do believe it is important to contribute meaningfully to the world. But learning and contribution happen best when we hold space for each other: not by giving advice, not by indicating what is 'normal', not by setting arbitrary standards of success. Holding space is simply celebrating another as they are. By all means, intervene if they are causing themselves or others physical or emotional harm. Apart from that, most other life choices are simply a way of learning and growing.
I do believe most of us intend well when we have a conversation. But is there a gap between our intent and impact?  Stay conscious.

Friday, March 24, 2017


They say we are all so different
Different species
Different colours
Different sizes and shapes
Different life spans.

We say we are all so similar
The same rain to bathe us
The same earth to nourish us
The same air to sustain us
The same sun to feed us.

They wonder at our coexistence
We wonder at their separation.

They fight for identity
To celebrate their existence.
We blend our identities
To celebrate ours.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

The 'locker room' speaks...

The US presidential election has been stirring something in me for a long while now. I was struggling to put a finger on it, till it distilled, with Trump's so-called 'locker room' talk. I wondered, earlier, if the election stands for what seems rather obvious: Democrat versus Republican ideologies, man versus woman and so on, till the 'locker room' stuff laid it bare. In his own obnoxious way, Trump served to haul out of the closet, for the world at large, what was deemed unspeakable. Under the guise of equality, education, social and political correctness, we have feared to name some inner wars that have raged in our minds and therefore on our planet. 
There is the ubiquitous rage of girls and women - and boys and men - against their molesters and rapists. But there is also the silent simmering of those that allow sex willingly, for the sake of money, convenience or simply because they believe they do not have a choice.
There is the overt anger of the poor against the rich, protesting the inequity of things. But there is also the imploding frustration of having lived with one's poverty (of money, love or anything else) and having spent a lifetime fighting against those that have, instead of fighting for what one could create.
There is the stress and breakdown and burnout after living a professional corporate life that does not permit emotion and softness. But there is also the wrecking guilt of not having challenged that reality and not questioning what is deemed to be professionally acceptable.
There is the numbing fear and anger about the destruction caused by terrorism. But there is also the deep shame of the weaponless terrorist in us that manipulates the world around us, unless they give in to our demands.
There is the sorrow and depression and fear connected with being a failure in the eyes of the world. But there is also the overpowering sense of truth in knowing that success is different for everyone, and yet, not standing up for oneself and voicing it.
Trump has brought out for the world, the primal nature of our universe in all its glorious nakedness: wearing only its polarities. In trying to be 'good', 'moderate', 'politically correct', 'diplomatic'... and all the other things we try to be, to be socially acceptable, we collectively pushed into the shadows the overarching truth, that the universe as we experience it in the human form has a dual nature. There is positive and negative, minus and plus, male and female, bad and good. In the name of tolerance, shame and social correctness we pretended to walk the middle ground for a long time, trying to transcend the polarities, 'fitting in'.
And now, it is laid bare. And we are asked to vote. Good or bad? Right or wrong? Judgmental or non-judgmental? 
It is not just about the President of the US. It is about what will preside in us. And it is not a one-time vote. It is a vote we need to cast every moment of our existence. Are we ready to engage our polarities, and not transcend them? Are we willing to acknowledge all that we are - a fascinating mess of possibilities - and consciously choose a stance for every moment of our lives? Sometimes it serves to be good and sometimes the bad helps too. To some I am an angel, others learn from the devil in me.
This is way beyond the elections. Are we, as humanity, ready to vote for conscious living, over and over again?

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Light and Dark - In Union

When the candle dwindled
And began to merge
With where it began
The floor lit up in union.
The darkest place
Was no longer under the candle.
In oneness
There is only rejoicing light.
And then
The satiated dark
That no longer fights
The light it was born out of.