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Blog 45 Spring

“Don’t call me lover

Stop thinking ’bout it, thinking ’bout it

I’m not the others

We could keep it simple as

La di da di da

We could keep it simple as

Don’t call me lover

Stop thinking ’bout it, thinking ’bout it” –

Melody Gardot and Sting

As within so without: celebrating spring by allowing nature to be

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Blog 44 At the river

Today at the river,

the water gushed over polished rocks,

smoothing the surfaces

until they shone like jewels

under the spring blue sky.

And high above, three seagulls,

calling in forlorn voices,

flapped across – clearly

far from home.

A little trip, would you say?

To explore what lies

beyond the realms of water

under the magical sky.

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Blog 43 Full Moon

Gentle hands of the unseen wind

pushes the veils of thready milky clouds

to reveal

a moon –

so sensuous, so full,

so white and luminous.

A lone queen,

resting, self-assured

in the generous and expansive

arms of the night sky.

And below,

the tree-tops sway,

a dance of silhouette –

dark, and yet, not quite.

A night that breathes

the restful quality

of being in your arms.

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Entry 42 Seed sowing

Seed sowing. Waiting. Believing. Trusting.

In the midst of winter, when nature lies asleep there is still a deep sense of wonder, of what is happening below the surface, imperceptibly and yet ever present. It is the feeling you get when you are completely silent, not just without but within. And you know that somewhere within life is stirring, growth is happening. In the darkest hours, when we face the deepest night of our souls, we become more aware of the tiniest signs, the quietest sounds, that unobtrusive feeling that somewhere deep within, something is changing. And it is, of course. The earth rotates, it tilts and shifts in space, bringing change all the time. Where there is a rise, there must be a fall, and vice versa. It is the way of the universe. I plant seeds knowing that in those tiny grains I put in the dirt, plants will emerge one day. It is the cycle that continues. My garden is a part of it. I am a part of it. So I sow, I wait, I believe and then finally, I trust and let go. I let go. And that for me, is where true freedom lies. As Mary Oliver said, “More room in your heart for love, for the trees! For the birds who own nothing—the reason they can fly.”

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Entry 41 End of 2020 Prayer

Trust –

and it will set you free.

Don’t wait in anticipation

for the white light

to appear.

Keep on moving,

your feet know

where you are headed.

Follow your heartbeat,

let its drum roll

keep rhythm.

And pray.

Either way,

you are carried

and held

by divine infinite love.

 

 

 

I have started a new vlog “Transformation & Awakening”, which follows my gardening journey. Join me in celebrating life in the greatest way possible, through celebrating nature: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TDW0VxTkwXY

Subscribe, share, like, so more people can enjoy the transformation that we all go through that will lead us to increasing happiness and joy. Love and light.

 

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Entry 40 New Beginnings

I began clearing up the flower beds and winter is the most suitable time to do that. Here in the Mediterranean, under a more or less bright sun, this task does not seem like a task at all. I dug up the beds, cleared the weeds and checked the soil. This is such an important task to do. Very often, we simply let the old stuff rot, hoping that at one point it will turn to mulch, which it will, eventually. But clearing space and checking the fundaments is almost like preparing the soul for a re-birth. And the great thing is that we get to do this every year, in the garden and within us.

As I cleared the beds, I removed flowers and plants that once were beautiful and thriving and had now turned to brown debris. Death came, very efficiently, as it always does, and with a sweeping hand turned the beauties into drab dead plants. As gardeners we are blessed that we can observe this life, death, life cycle in the most profound way through our gardens. I held a forlorn cosmos that had once bloomed in brilliant pinks and whites. I was reminded of the delicate phlox as it waved happily under a summer sun. I cut back dahlias, now brown and dead. And as I did, I sang for the earth to renew, I prayed for life to come back. And below the soil, something stirred, not because of me but because that is how the universe works. As we mourn the loss, deep within the earth, earthworms shift a little and all the micro-organisms prepare the soil to receive. If that isn’t magic, I don’t know what is.

I held a handful of soil in my hand, now cold and clammy, but I could feel the promise it holds. There within the palm of my hand I held the biggest promise the universe could give. That of renewal and re-birth. Of new beginnings. If we choose to look. I prepared one flower bed, made the soil receptive, checked what was missing, what needed to be added, which is manure most of the time. And sand for the trenches that will once cup the bulky tulip bulbs. I soaked the ranunculus corms, their shrivelled tiny octopus-like tentacles plumping up before planting. There was so much joy to behold these corms and anticipate the flowers that are waiting to emerge. And as I did so, a wave of gratitude filled my heart, for being allowed to be a part of this process, for being allowed to be a witness in the glorious way of the universe.

 

I have started a new vlog “Transformation & Awakening”, which follows my gardening journey. Join me in celebrating life in the greatest way possible, through celebrating nature: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TDW0VxTkwXY

Subscribe, share, like, so more people can enjoy the transformation that we all go through that will lead us to increasing happiness and joy. Love and light.

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Entry 39 Questions

I was watching interviews with Michael Beckwith recently and in one of them he said,

“Things just don’t happen, things happen just.”

What a profound statement to make and it really inspired me to take a step back and examine the current situation I find myself in. For me, this is a personal change and one that is a blessing in disguise. Often times, we don’t recognize what we receive and through my journey this year, I have truly discovered the meaning of the wisdom that the universe will never give what you want, but what you need and will always reflect who you are.  It took me the hard way round to figure this out, but now that I did, I was astonished as to how simple and true the workings of the universe is. Sooner or later, this revelation will hit everyone. It only has to happen in divine timing.

But back to Beckwith, who is a phenomenal spiritual leader, I took the step back instead of forward and looked at the situation, which I labelled as adversity. There is pain, yes. There is suffering, yes. There is injustice, yes. There is indignation, yes.  I was focusing on those and asking the wrong questions.

Why me? Why at all? Why this? Why not that? How can I change the situation so it can be the way I want?  All wrong questions to ask. Because they all come from a mindset of lack and not abundance.

Of course, there will be answers, but they will come from the ego, from that part of the self which is not in touch with the higher truth. But they are half-baked ones, ones that are not aligned to the divine. Ones that will feed our ego but never our soul.

Right questions to ask would be: what does the universe has in store for me? In what way can I be of the greatest service to the world? What is the universe’s plan for me?

Because when we recognize that beyond our human understanding, an intelligence higher than us is working on our behalf, and we can trust this power completely and fully, only then will the answers come. We are born to be abundant. It is time to embrace this and allow the universe to guide us. Take that leap of faith. And never forget to breathe, for that will guide us back to our inner self where we can lean in and listen.

Ask. Trust. Receive. Breathe.

Photo courtesy: #thewanderingambivert

 

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Entry 38 Gratitude

We are going through a huge shift globally. Be it in the workplace, at home, within ourselves. If we could put the tools that are always available to us through our reflections, our thoughts, our practices of prayer and yoga which ones would we choose?

 

Gratitude, for one. That is the highest vibration attitude that one can align to and we have a lot to be grateful for. The very fact that one breath follows another is a miracle in itself. We need not do anything about it and yet it flows. And with it, flows our life. For if the breath stops, we stop. There cannot be anything more wondrous than our breath. It is time to feel thankful for this marvellous gift that has been given to us. Our breath is our lifeline. In yoga we learn to honour our breath, hold it in reverence, use it to move our body and mind and deepen it to nurture our soul.

My breath. Your breath. Our breath. I am grateful for this gift.

Water. The element that makes up most of who I am, that makes up for most of our planet. I am grateful for that.  Not everyone has access to water, many have to walk miles for it. Many die for the lack of it. Many have to wait for hours for it. Many are denied it. And I live in a free place where I can freely have it. I am grateful for water in my life.

Family. The word conjures up warmth, love and affection. I am fortunate I have the most loving family anyone can have. Not everyone is so fortunate. Where many have none, I have been blessed with a unique and loving family. I am grateful for that. I send out this gratitude to the collective so everyone can truly benefit from the warmth and love that surrounds me. I am grateful that I can receive so much love from my family and friends. And now, I can give, just like the breath, that comes and goes. We give and we receive. The magic of life unfolds in such joyful transactions.

Overwhelming? Yes. Overflowing? Yes. Give and receive? Yes. I am grateful.

What are you grateful for? Write them down. Share them. Sing them out. Dance, hold hands, embrace. Rejoice in them. For each one, big or small, is precious.

 

 

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Entry 38 Iris

Early mist covered the river

that morning as I walked

along its bank.

And there it was,

the delicate head

of a pink iris.

As I stooped to touch

her ever so slightly,

she nodded her head

in all her loveliness.

Shy and fragile.

Graceful and gentle.

Time stopped and

I felt blessed

to have experienced

the little pink iris.

 

Photo courtesy: @thewanderingambivert

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Entry 37 Certainty

Uncertain times,

anxious world,

one belief.

I stand as the rock

in the sea, against the sky.

Unmoving, solid, firm.

Everything passes,

nothing is forever.

To resist change

Is to block life’s flow.

Each day that dawns,

brings new possibilities.

Of love.

Of life.

Of friendship.

Speak of your feelings,

share your life,

embrace the change,

and life will unfold

in rainbow colours.

 

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Entry 36 Time for change

Sometimes the feet need to move while the heart cannot. Today, as I sit at the desk and have the rare autumn sun on my back, I feel the need to move on. Start shedding some weight, start afresh. It takes courage. It takes resilience. Even in the face of obstacles, I feel the need to pray, a deep need to meditate. To go inward and feel what my inner being says.

Once that source is tapped, all answers become light and easy. The simplest way to get there is really by using the tools of yoga.

The times are challenging, worldwide and personally. We all face shifts, changes, some big some small.  We can see and feel the way our world as we knew it has changed. It is not surprising that more and more people feel disconnected, anxious, nervous, worried. The only way to move forward is through self-evaluation, self-evolution, self-work and self-love. As the world collapses into pieces around, we can hold on together by using our consciousness to rise and sing together. And already there is a perceptible shift in the rise of global consciousness.

Souls full of light and love shine every day, even in the brunt of all adversities. These are trying times, yes, but these are also times of great awakenings. So many of us contribute, help, donate, lend support to each other. The less a person has the more the person gives. It is a phenomenal change in the way we as humans have begun to interact and rejoice with each other. Stories of immense courage and love and support pour in from all over the world as the news of the devastation, disease, immigration and environment spread.

As the outside world gets ready to welcome winter, and the colourful leaves fall in the autumn wind covering the paths in golden light, so do we get ready for change. A change that promises to make the world a better place. A change that asks us to take stock every night and ask ourselves, what did I do today to make someone smile or to make someone feel good. A change that demands us to look within and discover the true spirits that we really are. A change that wants us to see the light we carry within. There is enough for all, enough love and light to go around. This is the time to share that inner light. This is the time to welcome that warmth in our hearts so we can give to others. This is the time to hold ourselves in the biggest embrace and let our feet take us where we need to go.

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Entry 35 Walk on

The earth turns and leaves fall.

A divine place to begin a new journey,

to leave a part of us behind.

As the snake sheds the skin,

and the trees shed their leaves.

The wild heart beats against the chest,

growing in sound, until it is impossible

to ignore any more.

The feet will tell when

the call comes

to end, leave and walk on.

Gathering bits and pieces as we go.

Of bones, mud, sticks, feathers.

For we are creatures of mother earth

and we walk bare feet.

The only way to walk, I think.

 

 

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Entry 34 Rituals

October: Festive times ringing in in one part of the world that was and still is home to me. Remembering times of gathering with family and friends, street food that those days were simpler and so tasty, the strong scented garlands of white tuberose and rose petals that adorned all temples, heady incense perfume that rose from all corners to dissolve in the evening sky. While life here in Europe is welcoming autumn with the gorgeous colours and a whirlwind of falling leaves, at home the land is preparing to celebrate the divine feminine in all her glory. How all the more devastating that women are still subjugated and oppressed worldwide.

Memory serves in the most curious fashion. The sight of the tall trees with their bright orange leaves in the park opposite the flat here reminded me of the trees at the lake close to our flat in Kolkata. The leaves did not turn any colour; most remained green and some shed in a fury at the beginning of the mild winter only to have tiny bright green glossy leaves appear when the scented bakul flowers scattered like light white snow on the ground. Then during the puja celebrations in October, one would pass a house where behind the walled garden a branch or two of the heavily perfumed frangipani would gracefully drape over the wall to brush the shoulders. Then there were bushes of bold red hibiscus, also used intensively in temples. Markets would overflow with garlands of white tuberose, fragile red roses that lost their perfume in a day, and heaps of petals spread on banana leaves to be bought loose. Or the smaller garlands of jasmine that women braided in their hairs in the evenings. There were so many flowers, in the markets, at homes, behind walled gardens or peeping through the wrought-iron gates, in temples and sometimes growing through concrete slabs. They were simply there, to give joy and be a part of all celebrations, big or small. Today, in my garden in the colder climes of the north a different sea of flowers overflows the borders with abundance and grace. The colours are more marked and brighter. The orange tethonia is perhaps the boldest colour I have in the garden. Then there are softer hues of pinks and whites in the various varieties of cosmos. Little bright red cherry tomatoes hang from the vines and on the gravel path, while the olive tree branches are heavily laden with green and black olives.

In these uncertain days, I have read about restrictions during the celebrations at home. There is so much anxiety in the air, so much fear and doubt and yet every year, including this, we celebrate that what binds us through our rituals, our joys and lives. I find hope and solace in that. Knowing that even through difficulties, we are still connected. And what better way to celebrate it than through festivities that bind us not just to who we are but also to each other. While my children were growing, we had these small rituals too, like the inevitable bed-time story, the pre-Christmas cookie baking, the birthday balloons that were always tied to their chairs, the Saturday mornings lying and laughing in bed. So many small and big rituals that were established that created a bond, gave reassurance of belonging and felt warm. Many, or most of them no longer exist, now that they are grown, but there is comfort in knowing that while they were there, it was good. And maybe someday, they will pass them on to their children, or better still they will create their own little dances of warm embraces, just as we did.

May the flowers always bloom.

May our homes always be warm and welcoming.

May our families and friends always be a part of us.

May our festivals remain a celebration of life.

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Entry 33 How to move forward

Tiredness flows down the limbs and joints,

draining and sucking

life’s vitality until raw bones emerge.

It is time to gather the bones

and read

the signs;

that can lead anywhere.

The journey has been long.

Now we must recognize,

and choose

our heart above everything.

That space

that I can truly call I.

Not the ego or the part that thinks it is me.

But that space, that emptiness

that says I.

How to move forward?

Listen.

When everything around crumbles,

what remains has always been there.

The source of creation

has always been beating away quietly

within our hearts.

Pause and listen to it sing.

 

Photo: Bristi Wystup, Bavaria, Germany

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Entry 32 Empty the heart

Drops of rain fall from a grey sky,

caressing each leaf of the tree next door.

Like memories that tumble ever so gently,

from the crown of the tree

to the lowest branch, that hangs so close to the ground.

In the absence of attributes and judgements,

I merely watch

the drops that fall

and the ones that are suspended

mid-air, mid-sky, mid-breath.

Sometimes, silence soothes more

than words designed to fill spaces

that increase as time passes.

The heart fills with gratitude

for the drops of rain,

for the water that flows in my veins.

For the absence, for the darkness.

Sometimes, the heart needs to empty

in order to overflow with

all the love and light in the world.

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Entry 31 Fragility

We break so easily,

like brittle autumn leaves

that crunch below the feet

in the deep woods.

As the trees turn from green

to red and yellow,

I crawl into the earth

to protect our hearts

from the storms raging outside.

Dust rises from the ground

as I fall to my knees,

holding the three precious hearts,

so full of light,

in my hands.

 

When night falls

and the moon rises in the eastern sky,

the dust motes shine like stars,

dancing, swirling, praying.

Dissolving as the sun rises later.

Bathing the hearts in golden light.

I will hold, I will protect

I will not let fall,

not let go.

For these beating hearts

Are all mine.

Fragile and precious.

Blessed to be surrounded

by so much love.

 

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Entry 29 Paths

The path beckons to the distant horizon,

I put one foot in front of the other;

slow and deliberate, mindful and aware.

As if all journeys are pilgrimages.

To go to the next mountain,

or the next country.

Or to go within.

Alive in the knowledge

that each step

takes me further from the known

and into the unknown.

Leaving only traces of footprints behind

to be wiped off by wind and rain.

 

Photo by: wanderingambivert

Mont Rochelle Nature Reserve, South Africa

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Entry 28 Waves

White stars rise and fall

in an instance,

as foamy pillowy waves

crash and recede.

I hear the beating of the ocean’s heart –

steady and constant,

loud and silent.

Each moment slides into the next,

pouring light and wonder

into my throbbing heart.

Like a lover’s kiss

that is slow and intense;

Moving, dancing, praying

through time

as if it were eternal.

And the waves continue playing,

and the heart continues beating.

 

Photo by wanderingambivert

Llandudno, Western Cape, South Africa

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Entry 27 Observe

I lie in bed and watch the autumn sky brighten from the east in the early hours of the morning.

First a faint hint of orange, then a more steady brightness.

Very soon, the low clouds blush with pink at their tips before the light changes again.

The sky changes so swiftly, or perhaps, not so.

In my perception, as I lie and watch, time loses its essence.

And with the changing colours, light, the play of the darker western sky and the breaking of dawn in the east, the entire sky with the grey clouds becomes a performing stage.

And I observe.

 

We are natural thinkers, we are philosophers, we are people of the word.

But sometimes, especially when the spectacle of nature unfolds, and it does, every day in a million ways, it suffices to be present and observe.

 

In the garden when the first seedlings push their leaves through the soil, stoop down to touch the fine and tender green.

When the clouds move across the sky, look up to see the changing colours.

When the white-tipped butterfly flits between florets of verbena, watch the carefree dance.

And when the cold foams of the waves wash over the feet, feel the cool of the water soothe.

 

And be.

 

With the butterfly.

With the cloud.

With the seedling.

And with the sea.

 

Especially, with the sea.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Entry 26 Blue Mountain

The blue of the endless sky

washes over the mountain side

until the rocks are bathed

in purest sapphire and indigo.

Sugar dust of new snow

dance on the peaks,

faint and slight, white light

that shines through.

Solitude is a blessing

and silence heals,

all past wounds

and the ones yet to come.

 

Photo by wandering ambivert

Mont Rochelle Nature Reserve, South Africa

 

 

 

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Entry 25 Palo Santo

I burn

the fragrant wood of palo santo,

clearing,

purifying,

healing.

The burnt black tip

transforms to white ash.

The process of burning

is always slow.

Even in the face of wind,

fire

takes its time.

 

I wait

and watch

in patience,

as the red hot ember

subsides,

and white ash

remains.

Through the open window

a gentle gust of wind

rushes in.

Desiring

to end the process.

 

 

The pure white ash

break

into motes of dust.

They scatter

melt,

dissolve.

Into the blue

blue sky.

Some

remain on the desk.

White speckles in the present

of what was in the past.

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Entry 24 Excess baggage

In my garden now, weeds have sprung up everywhere, which is surprising considering the dry summer heat. But in my absence, friends have said, it rained and then the sun was out and then it rained again. Perfect weather for growth, unfortunately for the weeds as well. I find myself knee-deep in weeds every morning, sorting out the wanted from the unwanted. The creepers that wind around the healthy plants, the ground-covering tendrils of light green weeds, the invasive finger-grass that winds its way even over cement. I pull, tug, dig until they are eliminated. I know there will be roots left in the ground for them to surface again, but an initial clearing is needed to actually see the beauty of the plants that were smothered by them. Very soon, the rose bushes with ready to burst buds emerged, the peonies that were lost below a jungle of creepers surfaced. I found a small avocado tree, the seed of which had silently germinated below the soil. The echinacea almost breathed a sigh a relief as I pulled back the weeds that had completely overshadowed it. Hemerocallis sprang its deep orange flowers towards the sun facing the heat and light with a bold intensity. Every weed I took off revealed a treasure below.

Of course, gardening is labour, a labour of love, but labour, nonetheless. The same is true for any spiritual work that one pursues. In these very strange days we find ourselves in, where the abnormal has become normal, it is more so true that we need to find alternate ways to navigate these waters. Sorting thought from situation is a simple but effective method to discover an inner calm. Just like removing weeds, distancing thoughts from the situations helps in revealing something very deep within us. Many of us find ourselves in situations that are dictated by outside sources over which we have no control, be it confinement in small spaces, lack of contact with family and friends, anxiousness over job and money, personal strife or unhappiness. Externally regulated situations cannot be modified and changed as we wish but we always have a choice to see how we deal with them.

Eckart Tolle has a very simple way of separating thought from the situation. He advises to acknowledge the challenge we find ourselves in, but instead of labelling it as good, bad, frustrating, terrible, we simply observe our surroundings we find ourselves in. Maybe observe the room we are in, the table we sit at, the window which opens to the sky outside. Perhaps we hear the birds on the neighbouring tree. We may see wispy clouds that float across the sky. In doing this, we give our thinking mind a break and cultivate presence. And being in the present moment is the gateway to awakened consciousness. We start shedding excess baggage, so to speak. Our thoughts that were so important once now begin to rest and we let our consciousness blossom. In doing so, the situation loses the gravity and slowly but surely it cannot dictate how we feel anymore. We start removing the weeds to discover the lovely flowers that were always there but we were blind too. Being in the presence is after all, the only truth we have. The past is gone, the future is uncertain, we can only live in the present moment. And learning to be at ease right now, right here is a way to discover life as it blossoms within us.

For there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so. – Shakespeare, Hamlet

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Entry 23 Rawness

The rawness of our times

expose the crumbling reality.

That what we know,

lie in shambles

around.

Thousand shards.

 

One must let the light in.

Rumi said:

Pay attention to the bandaged

part of your heart,

for that is where

the light enters.

 

Observe.

Develop the ability

to see the light

that enters the diamond

and breaks into

a rainbow of colours.

 

 

Generosity must

flow like a river

beneath a river.

Overflow and nurture

bruised souls

like ours.

 

And cultivate patience.

To wait for wonders

to happen.

And they will.

Existence guarantees it.

Life promises it.

 

Show me your true self

and I will love and hold.

Unconditionally.

Without buts and ifs.

And I will rejoice in the wait.

For life to reveal itself.

 

 

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Entry 22 Reconciliation

These days, it seems, the world has gone to pieces and little by little, thread by thread, it is time to weave everything back together. Maybe not to have the same pattern we had before, but new ideas, new thoughts, new ways of navigating these troubled waters. Be it on a personal, societal or communal level, we need that security, that something to hold on to, something that can feed us, sustain us, carry us through. It is time for reconciliation.

Months of uncertainty, disbelief and helplessness are about to culminate. Into what? I don’t know. But the sense of an ending lies heavy in the air. Even the sky reflects this ending in all shades of blues possible. Every tree, every leaf is transforming. Bird songs that had a certain tune last year sound different now and here. As if, universe is re-defining itself, and thus we have to re-define ourselves too. If anything, these last months have exposed our vulnerability in its most raw form. We have faced loneliness, isolation, prejudice, ugliness in all various ways. And it is not over yet. But for us to move forward, resting in the lap of universal love and grace, we have to start reconciliating. Mostly, with ourselves. I have been listening. To the inner voice, to friends, children. Each voice has hurt and pain, but each one also has the seed of hope, the innate humane attribute of precious love. There is so much heartbreak within each one, and these days, I am facing it. Facing the deepest fear, that dark place that carries everything I would rather not face. Time is a good friend, but silence is an even bigger friend. I am reconciliating, step by step, making sure I can get up and walk again. Reconciliating with myself and my shadow. So many thoughts that were a part of my life, now belong to another world, to another time and space. Things that were normal are no longer so, and I have to rebuild, re-define, learn to walk, learn to hold up, learn to accept and embrace. And to listen even more.

We stand alone, and yet together, for our uncertainty and helplessness are shared by many. I try to let the breath, just like I would in yoga, guide my movement, my thought, my action, if at all there is any. Because the sky feels heavy, and the moon is wary, so I rest back in the lap of time, which seems to be the only constant in these rapidly changing situations. I am aware of the physical and mental pains that come up, I am the observer and the observant. It seems odd not to act, but strangely also the right thing to do. The boat that I am in is on turbulent and unpredictable waters, so I have pulled the oars in and I remain in silence. These days seem strangely foreign, something out of another planet, something unknown. We have to be acutely aware of ourselves, our surroundings and people around us. We have to reconciliate, recognise and embrace. It is tuning in time, time to touch base with what is happening inside. And no matter what, there is huge joy waiting for us if we can only turn the corner. And in due time, we will. For now, we wait and listen.

The blessed and the blesser becomes one,

where the snow-capped blue mountains

rise to kiss the sky.

Under the canopy of

bright white stars of the night,

wishes of oneness

are led to fulfillment.

The longing to merge

is age-old.

Belonging to the times of

gnarled trees and ancient forests

and older.

Echoes of footsteps

rushing over mossy paths;

Like water over smooth stones.

The heart breaks

to let the morning light in.

And white light floods

the forehead,

bursting forth

to surround me in gentle

loving light.

 

Photo courtesy: Xavier Coiffic on unsplash

 

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Entry 21 What if it was me

What if it was me? What if I was the one who one day decided to stop loving, stop having affection? What if it was me who one day would turn my back and leave? What if I would leave decades of my life with you behind and walk away? Only to reach out to someone else who is new, therefore excitable? Would that hurt you too, like it does me? Would your heart break too, like mine does? Would you also feel rejected, angry, hurt, but mostly helpless? Would your world, as you knew till now, fall apart, like mine does? There are no roads that one can go that can relieve the pain that throbs in the heart. People help, people sympathise, they hold, they love, as much as they can. But no one can feel how even the tiniest cells in the body cringe and cry.

For a love story like ours that unfolded in the most magical way possible, there are other endings, but not this. The universe conspired in the most beautiful way to bring two souls together, from different continents to meet at a certain time at a certain place. There were only unlikely scenarios, and yet, and yet, something happened. All the puzzle pieces fit together and we met in the remotest, most unusual place. What followed were years of writing letters, meeting when you came to visit. What happened was magic. Days before mobile technology or social media blocked our minds, we were free. Free to imagine, free to day dream, free to let our hearts dictate. Our lives blossomed into student lives, family lives, children, dog, houses. Just like it should be. Everything, including our conflicts, were just as it should be. When lives intertwine, then there are good times and bad times. That is how life happens. It is not to ignore the bad parts, but to see how to deal with them. And in that, we grow, individually and together. How we deal with something is more important than the result. The result will always follow. The key is to allow. Allow life to flow and allow universal wisdom to guide you.

Today, you tell me you have decided to move to other shores. Today, you tell me things that wreck my life. Today, you remove your ring and forget your vows. Today, you forget our dreams, our lives, our love for each other. My naïve mind always believed we were a team and no matter what, we were strong to master everything. We would always go through everything together, be it good or bad. It did not matter what. Moving from two to one is not a path I chose, it was your decision. From together to alone is a hard road to take. Courage fails me in spectacular ways. Today, I am acutely aware of my vulnerability, and of yours too. For in spite of the dark times, you have been and will always be a part of me. There is so much of love that is still here in my heart, I am afraid of it bursting forth and flying off to the sky, never to return. So I keep this close, holding it, cradling it and hoping against all hope that one day it will be allowed to blossom again.

What if it was me? What if it was I who left and never turned back? What if I walked when I should have held you? What if I chose to leave when you chose to stay? What if I knew the hurt I was causing but still chose to inflict it regardless? What if you felt what was happening in me? Perhaps, then, and only then, you will feel both our lives as one and know that we have and always will belong together.

 

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Week 20 Trees

Every tree has a different sound. There are the waterfall trees where the wind rushes through like water over stone – gurgling, rippling, happy and smooth. Then, there are the wind chime ones. The ones that ring like hollow bamboo tubes hanging outside the door on a windy summer night – slightly forlorn and beautifully haunting. Some trees sound like the prairie at night, where the corn rustles and whispers stories that are ancient and passed from generation to generation. Stories of loss and grief, stories of joy and freedom – all the tales the land has seen and will see. Then there are trees that sound like the summer heat on a mediterranean plain. The echoing calls of the cicadas that reverberate from the bare and stony mountain sides.

I have been listening. Lately, I have been listening. Mostly to the trees. In the beginning, there were only sounds. The wind that blew through them – the rustling of leaves, the rush of the air. Then, patterns began to emerge and stories developed. There were songs, wordless at first, but words can always be added later on. There were so many stories and it took a while to decipher, distinguish and separate. What began as a gentle rush became a roar. I began to hear the stories of loss. They were the most potent ones, for grief binds us like nothing else. Loss of every kind, the deepest ones, the ones that cannot be measured or quantified. The soul knows when something that was dear is now almost gone. It is when I began touching the rough and smooth barks that my breathing intensified and all the unsaid and unsung words burst open. The trees responded. In their ways. And it resonated – back and forth, like a harp or a flute that still gives music even after the wind has blown through or the strings have rested. I exchanged. Their story for mine. And the more I listened the more I felt a calm, an ease come over me. And the trees swayed and whispered and we held on to each other until the loss and grief became one.

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Week 19 Fire

Image courtesy: Isha, Sadhguru

 

 

The heart is on fire

and like wildfire itself

burns up everything it touches.

Everything that there was

and everything that there will be

suspended between moments.

Hanging on a single thread-

fragile and vulnerable.

There is no urgency, no rush

to get anywhere, to achieve anything.

Observe the fire – flames that leap to lick the sky.

From frustration to grace, you say.

Fire cleanses, is what I say.

Light and darkness

moving from and into each other.

One is always

also the other.

 

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Week 18 Pain

It begins with a sharp pain in the left breast, before it spreads throughout the chest and then to the back, throat, legs, arms. Until you are breathless, although you can hear and feel your heart beat at an amazing rate, as if it will burst from its rib cage. And you are surprised that you are still standing, still feeling, still alive. Why doesn’t it make the deafening noise, you wonder, that everyone around can hear? But it is only in your ear – this rhythmic drumming before all that you want is to simply dissolve. Into oblivion, into darkness, into nothingness. But you remain, standing or sitting and the earth does not open to swallow you as you had hoped. In that moment of terrible instability, balancing between earth and sky are feelings of huge magnitude. You cannot find words, because each syllable is insufficient and inadequate. You know that no language can express your pain. You realise that dissolving into mother earth is the only option, but it does not happen. Your only company is the ache that begins to take physical form, and the rest of you that you thought was real ceases to exist. You wonder how anything can go on, how the next moment will continue – and yet, it does. Breath by breath, you begin to hold the pain, when there is nothing else to hold. And the pain holds you in return, cradling you, embracing you so you can collapse in it.

People around you feel, sympathise and embrace you, and you acknowledge, but from a distance. You hear their voices, as if they travel from far away. You feel their touch on your numb arms as they express their sympathy, but it does not bring comfort. But when the night sky stretches above you and all you have is your pain, it is then that the reality starts to sink in. The darkness outside reflects like a silent dark mirror what you have inside. The night shows it for what it really is, this terrible agony that throbs like a fresh wound. And that you are afraid of it, more than anything else, you fear this wound in the place where your heart once resided. Afraid also to lie alone when the spasms gain so much more power within and come to haunt you in your sleepless dreams. There is no cure, no remedy. The only healing power you can count on is time. But what do you do before the time comes? What do you do in the days, weeks before the healing can begin? Endure and believe.

The universe has a plan for you and it is only by faith and belief that you can survive. Then when your insides have burned and there is nothing left, you hear a sound. Faint at first, it sounds like music. And it comes from within your heart. You begin to wonder if on the other side of pain, this music arises from stillness. A pure deep stillness that you feel connected to, because somewhere deep within you know that it belongs to you, just as you belong to it. That exquisite place that is so profoundly honest, so pure, like the love you once felt and has actually never left you. Arising from that stillness the music sounds pure too, little by little you begin to hear what the universe whispers back. It is the singing of a very ancient kind, the one to which you respond because it resonates within you. It is the same song, the same story that you once sang to yourself and to each other. It is the song of the soul that was born before time. The universe created a hum, a tune and breathed life into it and that is what you hear. And suddenly, below all the dust and grime and emotions and feelings, there appears something else, something profound, ancient and full of wisdom. And you know that the time to let go has come. Everything you once knew, everything that was once you and defined who you were, everything familiar, everything visible and invisible has to go. That this is a part of the cycle of life-death-life. And you have reached the death bit. You know it will be difficult but not impossible. For after death there will be life again.

As you slowly breath into the pain and let go, unravelling the years, decades, maybe even centuries of you, a new you emerges. This new you is born from stillness, carried by the music that the universe whispered into your ears. Once the decision to leap arises, nets begin to form all below you. And then suddenly, everything falls in place, the whys and hows and what ifs disappear and all that remains is a pure you. Trusting and believing that the universe will always hold you.

“To be fully alive, fully human and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest. To live fully is to be always in no-man’s land, to experience each moment as completely new and fresh. To live is to be willing to die over and over again.”- Pema Chödrön

 

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Week 17 Trust

Trust. Such a magnificent attribute and yet so heavily mistreated, misunderstood, abused in so many forms. Mostly, in relationships the key element that creates destruction is trust or the lack of it. With an atmosphere of trust, all need for monitoring, surveilling and all the ugly aspects that demean human worthiness vanish. In this secured environment there is freedom of movement, speech, action such that each individual in a relationship can blossom into their true selves. Lack of it causes hasty conclusions, misplaced judgements and carries so much negative energy that a once healthy relationship shows symptoms of decay and if not held in unconditional love, even death. But how to begin if one has never experienced trust in one’s life? Childhood trauma, betrayal and hurt can cause a person to wall himself in in such a way that there is no room for trust, neither in self nor in others. Poor is the person who has never opened up to the possibilities that trust brings along, the gifts that it bears. And more to be pitied than censored, because often the cause lies very deep within and is placed in an extremely dark hidden place where no light can enter and mostly happens without the knowledge of consciousness.

Recognition of the lack of trust is surely the first step towards healing. If we sit quietly within ourselves and merely observe the emotions and feelings that rise, which can many times be actually felt in the physical body, a tightness of chest, stomach, back ache, we begin to notice the sensations that occur. Merely by observing we bring in a shift, in the way the mind works and most importantly, in the way the subtle energetic body works. Recognition of the issue that there is a hurdle in placing trust either in self or in others works like the first balm of cooling healing to a place of hurt. A development of awareness is the key essential ingredient here. All actions if taken from the quiet stillness that is accessed through awareness will always manifest as that which heals and soothes. Not just for self but for everyone around. Uncontrolled and random thought processes or actions only lead to pain and hurt. The first baby step in every aspect of life is always the cultivation of awareness.

A good friend of mine is going through a relationship crisis where after decades of marriage her husband has been unfaithful. His action is truly and deeply painful for her and the biggest breach in trust that there can be. In spite of this, my friend has acted out of awareness and by breathing an atmosphere of unconditional love, has prevented mostly herself from falling apart, such that all she felt was an aware hurt but no anger or resentment. Allowing for the past actions to be the way they are she has found unconditional love in her heart to forgive and embrace her husband. And yet, her husband is in the grip of an unconscious mind and cannot see the destruction around. This is the deepest and saddest form of acting out of complete unawareness. When one’s self happiness takes precedence over the happiness of loved ones or anyone for that matter, there cannot be truth. Momentary satisfaction hijacking the normal functioning mind is sad to experience and very sad to observe. Where the individual is blinded to what the world can see, is the place that needs particular attention, such that awareness has a chance to rise.

Hers is not the only case of lack of trust and the damage unawareness causes. This happens in so many households and so many families, friends are torn apart merely because actions were taken unconsciously. And yet, my friend, like so many others, feels the power of forgiveness and is rebuilding trust, this time from the deeper and higher self. There is understanding for his action as well. It is true that things are never the way they seem. Perhaps deep traumatic experiences from the past act as triggers on the human mind and then actions without reflection happen. Since all emotions happen within us and we create our own happiness, anger, hatred, there is always a chance to then create that what serves us best and let go of that which is no longer of any value to us. Thus, recognising that the other does not cause happiness, that it is perhaps a mere trigger, brings about the calm status quo where one can feel the own breath leading the way inward and ultimately to the highest self within.    

Trust begins with self. Do I trust myself to take the right action, maybe right is the wrong choice of word, maybe conscious action is more mot juste. Arising from that place of stillness that is our purest form all decisions and actions will entail that essential element of trust in it. Trust in the universe, in existence and in ourselves. Because only when we begin to recognise our truest self which resides in the purest consciousness true freedom can blossom and thrive.

“…feelings like disappointment, embarrassment, irritation, resentment, anger, jealousy, and fear, instead of being bad news, are actually very clear moments that teach us where it is that we’re holding back. They teach us to perk up and lean in when we feel we’d rather collapse and back away. They’re like messengers that show us, with terrifying clarity, exactly where we’re stuck. This very moment is the perfect teacher, and, lucky for us, it’s with us wherever we are.”  – Pema Chödrön

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Week 16 Kindness

To truly understand kindness and how it surrounds our lives, it is important to embark on a voyage. Sometimes even unknowingly, we find ourselves at a threshold of life where we need to choose one path from many. It is when we traverse across the thresholds that constitutes new beginnings and endings that the kindness and the generous heart of the cosmos that surrounds us becomes apparent. In our lives, thresholds mostly define the jump, the stepping into the unknown from the known and while that takes courage and probably a certain amount of naïve belief, it is because of kindness that we come across on the other side stronger, confident, alert, aware. To take on the journey of a new beginning already means that we have summoned that center within us to embolden us, we have spoken to the very depths to bless us with grace as we take the leap of faith into the unknown. For no matter how much we prepare, our path will always be a mysterious and unchartered territory. Where we go, no one has ever gone before. But the most loving matter is, is that no matter where we go, once we take the step, and maybe even before we knew of it, existence conspired and promised to hold us in kind arms, so we may take this journey as we were meant to.

Not all paths are joyous and happy. Many are full of pain and disillusionment. There may not be the endings we wished for, there may even be dejection and sorrow. Yet, there is that force that propels us, that warmth that surrounds us, that is always our companion. Kindness rests in the smile of a stranger, the smell of a rose as the hand glides over the petals, maybe the sight of old and wrinkled skin of the aged, the first swallows that return in spring, the hands of children when they clap them together, the voice of a loved one across the phone. In moments of hesitation or decisions that need time to expand, this is the kindness that the cosmos extends to us to carry us safely across. There cannot be any bigger sign of the love that surrounds us and our hearts than the eternal kindness that is a part of us too. In moments of acute vulnerability, when we are ready to begin but don’t quite know how, stop for a while and lean back against the anxiety beating within the heart. Stop to notice that deep center of uncertainty of the unknown, the unwillingness to give up the familiar, the fear of leaving behind, of letting go. The time is then ripe to watch the kindness unfold all around. See that man leaning over his garden fence, smiling and waving a good day as you walk by. Notice how the little blue tit that has built its nest now feeds the blind fledglings. The small girl next door learns to ride a cycle, a bit wobbly but with so much of determination. The big tree that was struck down by lightening now sprouting fresh greens from its side. The perfect folds of the petals of flowers.  Everywhere grace unfolds in splendid ways and kindness embraces us to whisper songs of encouragement. We can walk this terrain, we can go new ways, we can begin to dream of other beginnings. We are held in the cosmic heart.

It is a journey home, and fearful as we may be to take that decision or that first step, the way back home is always supported from a deep place within us. We are all, in a way, journeying back home. Only the paths we take differ. We all are on our own pilgrimages to discover something about ourselves, about our true nature. Some paths are more difficult than others. But there will always be kindness to carry us with its soft generosity that eases that uncertainty of new beginnings.

Back home in the house that we have never left – Meister Eckhart   

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Week 15 At the river

See the water, clear as glass
flow over green threads of silky algae
holding to the rocks at the very edge.
Our dog splashes about,
sniffing, enquiring, exploring.
Further up, from underneath the huge boulder
a tree has taken roots.
Sending its long thin stems upwards,
shiny leaves dancing under the sky.
See the canopy of green above,
shimmering and vibrant.
The water gurgles and ripples
as it rushes over the stones
on its way down to the valley.
And high above the trees
small sparrows flit here and there,
causing restful commotion.
See how I sit to watch and listen,
arching my back so I find that
place of comfort and ease.
I trace and circle the pain
in my mind over and over again.
Breathing with it, finding wordless solace
to offer and hold.
This place that is so deep within
and so wounded and scarred.
Feel the wind blow slightly
caressing the forehead,
touching the arms with so much tenderness
it breaks my heart.
Let the wind and water breath along
to embrace and reassure
that place until there is quietness.
The water still gurgles and ripples.
The dog has now walked upstream
and I call her back.
High above hear the call of the blue tit,
a pleasing song sung in duet
with the woodlark.
The algae sway
under the surface of the water,
oblivious and free.
 
 
 
 
 
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Week 14 listening in

The night is still and calm, a pleasant and welcome change from the winds that has blown down from the mountains, sweeping across the plains in furious gusts. I open the window fully to the sweet nightingale song that fills the air, travelling over the rooftops from the distant bit of dense forest. I am not sure if it is just one bird or more, I think there might be two or three. The liquid honey-like sweetness pours into the night, effortlessly, easily. The night is bright, although the moon is yet to rise in the eastern sky. Against the soft grey sky, the silhouette of the mountains rises majestically, framing the horizon from end to end. In spite of the harshness of the outline the mountains make against the sky, the quality of night manages to soften it, making the mountains blend with ease into the surrounding darkness.

Nights are special, not just for the rest that it brings, but for the softness that is its inherent quality. When the senses are not heightened by our surroundings, there is a possibility to relax, a chance to be at ease. And the night helps us by wrapping us in its gentle greyness. As I stand at the window, everything that seemed so important and so crucial by daylight, now seem far away. I welcome this gladly, because it lets me listen. When our world is filled with tasks and to-do lists and chores, there may not be an opportunity to be the observer rather than the observed. The night, with its cooling and healing attributes encourages us to practice just that, be the listener and observe. The nightingale who relentlessly sings to its mate, the owl that hoots in the forests of the mountains. The feline cry of a patrolling cat, the gurgling of water as it gushes through the canals down into the village. I breath the sweet air of abelia that blooms right next to the stone wall, allowing the heat of the stones that was stored during the day to now release the faint sweet perfume into the air. A cool breeze smoothens and caresses the forehead. And everything becomes easier. It becomes easier to breath, easier to observe. Easier to listen. For the mind that was so full of activity leans back into the restful arms of the night.

Listening to the senses outside is an easy way to start listening inside. And when all is said that needs to be said, and all is heard that needs to be heard, there is a glorious opportunity to simply be. It takes time, the mind wanders off, thoughts crowd the mind, the activity begins. But knowing these, acknowledging them and understanding that this is the way the mind works, that that is its nature, we allow ourselves to be filled with a deep compassion for what might have seemed initially disturbing. It is when we see the nature of our wandering mind and let that be, without trying to fight it or change it, but just accepting it for what it is, that change does happen. Unknowingly at first, then consciously.  The change is not in the way the mind works, but in how we respond to it. We accept our minds and when the thoughts are no longer important, for they will lose their significance, we rest back into this ease. This sukha, as it is called in yoga. Night is particularly significant in practicing this resting in awareness, when the gentle quality permeates the air we breathe and the sky that shelters us. The ease will happen, the sukha will happen, the mind will rest, the true self will observe, the breath will guide. We begin by listening and then responding to what the universe whispers back. 

   

Night is when I breathe

my own quietness

that beats in my heart.

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Week 13 paths

When I move to a new place my first need is to discover the various paths and ways that lead through the mountains and forests. I have been lucky enough to have lived in various countries and various towns and have in the course of my wanderings found deer tracks that led me across the crunchy forest floor, narrow winding paths through low grass, wild boar trails, sandy and rocky coastal paths that swept up and down from cliff tops to waves lapping at my feet. There have been straight cemented roads cut on the side of the mountain and pebbly riverbeds urging me to skip and jump over boulders. Wet sandy beaches that left footprints behind and paths that ended in streams that wound along the countryside. I never tire of finding new paths and treading old ones. Elements of surprise and beauty lie in every corner and the smile that is written across the heart bursts the physical boundaries to spill over.

And every time I follow the same path, not only do I see new things, I also create new memories. Every time I walk, I walk through the veil of time, connecting the past to the present. The deer that sat with her young one at the foot of the hill hidden amongst the tall grass, will she be there today? The snake I saw disappear in the stone wall, will it be lying under the sun today? Memory becomes an old friend, the one you open the door to and welcome in. Memory becomes a living breathing person, with stories to tell. And the more I walk, the more stories I gather. The mushroom gathering place that an old friend showed me, the baby laurel that I was contemplating digging up and planting in my own garden but didn’t, now growing healthy and strong. The place where the wild mauve antirrhinum poked its flowering heads up in spring, now swamped up by tall grass which leaves me searching in vain for the seeds to collect. Every walk becomes a track through time, each one developing, becoming richer than the one before. Each walk carries with it an anticipation, a desire, an openness, a surrendering to whatever might come my way.

In yoga too, there is always the possibility to see new things, even in the postures one knows so well. The intention is always to see the movements as something new, such that one can discover something new. What was yesterday, maybe, has to be, different today. Nothing is static, nothing is stagnant. There is always ebb and flow, we have to float with it. Acceptance. Remembering the past, fondly, or maybe not so fondly. But there is always the prospect of turning new corners, seeing new things, discovering something that I did not see before. There is also always the opportunity to let go of the old stories and make space for new ones. Or maybe, hold on to some of the old ones as well, like one would an old blanket that comforts and warms. Spreading the inner smile that transcends barriers. We go on our paths with wonder in our eyes and gratitude in our hearts. And ready for all stories to happen to us.

Messenger by Mary Oliver
 
My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird - 
equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.

Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young and still not half-perfect? Let me
keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,

which is mostly standing still and learning to be astonished.
The phoebe, the delphinium.
The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all ingredients are here,

Which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
and these body-clothes,
a mouth with which to give shouts of joy
to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam,
telling them all, over and over, how it is
that we live forever.

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Week 12 amidst insecurities

These are times when I feel equally sad and frightened. The current happenings in US cities are, if anything, a truthful presentation of the condition of our society.  It fills me with deep sadness to see the desperation that in search for justice goes berserk. I find it hard not to judge and yet, and yet, there has been wrong deeds for too long. There has been corruption, indignity, exploitation for too long. In different forms, in different countries but always the same crime.  And when today people rise, they do so because to raise voices is a human right. It is only when the indignation is misplaced that we lose our dignified focus. That is when destruction happens. Not just to material things but to us as well, our ideas, our beliefs. It takes courage to protest, but it takes more courage to not go on a rampage.

But I would rather feel hopeful, even amongst all the ugliness. I want to be able to see the light in this darkness. The tools of yoga has taught me to see the possibility of change. Even now. Even when there is so much pain and helplessness around. Now is the time to take the practice of integrity and compassion that come so easily on the mat into our lives.  When the forest burns it leaves behind the ashes that aid in the growth of new trees, shrubs. The fires clear the debris of old and decaying wood, release nutrients to the soil and thus promote a healthier ecosystem. What seems contradictory is usually not as such. The harm really comes when the fire is triggered by external factors and thus burn uncontrollably. Humans have over thousands of years used controlled fires to clear the land and start new growth. Fire is a natural element and if we use it to further soil fertility it will repay. Nature is always bountiful and generous.

Even in the midst of rage and anger and frustration, I sense hope and forgiveness. I sense the wind that can drive this fire to clear the mindscape so new light and new growth may happen. We can define how we want this growth to be. Should it be a lush green of joy and happiness? Should the new expansion be one of a sea of compassion? We can choose. We always can. Be true. Hold your breath close to your body until the body reverberates with that what you want. And then release the unspoken and yet, vital wish to fill the room, the house, the earth. The possibilities are endless because we have the capability to make changes in ways that we cannot begin to comprehend. The immense awareness that is our true nature will transform our own lives and all lives that are connected to us to blossom into beings of compassion and understanding. Amidst insecurity, there is hope. Amidst tension, there is ease. Amidst rage, there is forgiveness. Amidst grief, there is love. And amidst chaos, there is silence.

Sit.
Let the wave of compassion
wash over you.
Cleaning and healing.
Hold the ones dear
close to your heart.
And those you can’t,
hold even closer.
 
Muted. Listening. Learning. Praying.
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Week 11 being true

Today as I sit at my desk and write, the sun smiles down from a summer blue, slightly hazy sky. Summer has arrived in all its wonderful glory, from blue skies to blue seas. And the remnants of winter and spring as a slight chill in the early mornings and late evenings that comes down from the mountains is a welcome respite from the burning mid-day heat. The snow on the distant mountain tops recedes each day, as their bare brown peaks are now exposed to the sky. The once fresh green of the trees is now mature and dark, existing as if no transformation ever happened. But even beneath the seemingly stillness of the majestic trees there is constant change. Change that is now imperceptible will become visible as seasons flow in and out of each other.

As a gardener I see the changes happen in the garden each day, sometimes even more than once within a day. The rose bud that was shut tight last evening now shows signs of unfurling in the early morning and coaxed by the warmth of the sun fully blossoms by the end of the day. The beauty that it holds within and then gives to the world is heartbreaking. The tiny heads of sweet peas that were still held within their green casks now shed them off to reveal a perfume that travels with the sun throughout the garden. Amongst all flowers, the poppy is perhaps the one that changes most dramatically, often blossoming and letting their petals droop within one single day. But that day is a glorious one, from the unfolding of their papery petals, sometimes still holding on to their green hood like a cap, to the various bees that feed happily in their laps and finally as the day closes the petals that drop to the ground, leaving behind upright tight green seed heads. Even the leaves of the almond and peach trees that were once new green have now become mature, older, deeper greener, hiding the fruits that will ripen as the season progresses.

Everywhere I look I notice how the garden changes, transforms, while remaining true, true to its nature, true to itself. Can I also remain true while going through change? Can I perceive the transformation as a natural progression that only requires me to remain who I am? How can two seemingly opposing thoughts be practiced as one? Just like in yoga, where the postures require two completely different attributes, the one of grounding, the other of lifting. The beauty lies in the fact that it is possible to be aware of everything which involves all the senses and become completely still within. While the changes and transformation are all the active aspects that happen, the true self that is profound stillness continues to remain still and true at the same time.

There is so much grace in and around us, it is not possible to comprehend all of it in our lifetime. There is so much beauty that we should let it spill from our lives to touch another. Each morning that awakens carries within itself a possibility, a possibility to experience life as a sea of impulses, some good, some bad, and the possibility to remain still, to remain true. Every evening invites us to weave our stories amongst the stars and watch how they move, how they change, how each step in our lives has their own voice, their own nuances. And each day, each moment we have the possibility to rest in our stillness, to remain true. And there is beauty in that.

While I remain still
the world moves on.
Sometimes,
I move with the world too,
for this existence and me
are one.
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Week 10 forgiveness



The vastness of the sea with its ebb and flow,
the waves that forever crash on the shores,
fill me with a longing.
For I know not what.
This deep wordless isolation and unity
all at the same time.
I did not have to travel
to discover this love.
Love found me and still holds me
until there can be forgiveness.
 
I sit with the longing, rocking it
in my arms like a sleeping child.
Sending it skimming over the
surface of the water
like racing dolphins,
sometimes below and
other times above the water.
Chasing each other, playful and so full of life.
Water has no walls
to separate me from the other.
 
The heart space is wasted
with fear, hurt, grief.
Mourning, when I should celebrate.
Celebrate this longing as the sea
holds my heart in her hands.
Forgiving in the wake of homecoming.
When I find my way back
to that place of warmth and nurture.
There are numerous ways to listen
to the awakening that is destined to happen.
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Week 9 and graceful patience

My yoga mat waits while I try to find the equilibrium that has been missing the last few days. It could be the weather switching from hot to cool to rain in rapid succession, it could be the sheer exhaustion of going through these weeks of lockdown, the absence of social contact or rather the reduction of it. Although, in a way, we find ourselves skyping, zooming with friends and family more than before. In spite of that, there is a hollowness inside that comes from not seeing family for what seems like years. It is not the uncertainty, just the longing to see children, parents, friends. Distance now seems to take on a completely new dimension as we inch our way towards the ones we love, towards the ones who matter in our lives. From today, we can travel 100 kms, but is that enough? For us, it isn’t. But someday, it will be. The time I have spent in the garden and on the mat has taught me the greatest virtue needed at this time, the one of graceful patience.

I remember reading Hermann Hesse’s Siddhartha as a young person where when asked of the young Siddhartha what his qualities are, he replies, “I can think. I can wait. I can fast.” The merchant laughs dismissively at this reply, unable to see the power and strength of these qualities. I love the idea of patience and its power to transform situations and lead us to the path that we consciously choose. When I sow seeds early spring, I feel both am immense joy and immense pain. Joy, because something beautiful will emerge and make the garden sing to the sky. Pain, because one day this too shall fade and return to the soil. The cycle continues and renews itself, year after year. So, along with the plant seeds my journey begins too, from sowing to quickening and blossoming and then to the inevitable dying. And I only have to bring in the quality of patience. Wait for each turn, for they will turn, wait for one to slide into the next, for they will slide. The cycles that I take, the journey that I embark on, is not just a yearly one. This happens all the time, in all aspects of life. Today, I connect with graceful patience and the immense peace that comes with it. I walk through the forest watching as the leaves turn from tiny flushes of green to dark bold shapes. I notice the traces of wild boar where she has tumbled down the hillside to the river in the ravine. I listen to the owl as he hoots to his mate across the hills on a moonlit night. As I resort back to nature, my longing does not disappear, it just becomes a little easier.     


Peace of Wild Things
 
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
 
Wendell Berry
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Week 8 Grace in all things

Spring always brings with it an immediacy that arises from an idea of situation and place that can hardly be surpassed by any other season. This is more evident in the colder northern climes where a change is more perceptible. In the south, where winters are milder the seasons slide in and out of each other more subtly. The approximation comes from an almost imperceptible change of mood, of colour, of time and place. Which is quite contradictory, especially in this area where the weather is rough and thus distinctly noticeable. For though the Mediterranean basin is famous for its blue skies and warm seas, let that not fool you. At the foot of the mountains, another, very different micro-climate exists, with almost a fickle nature mostly akin to women. Harsh winds from the south and west can blow in any time, bringing with it the most fascinating silk like clouds that streak across the sky, indicating furious air flow. Thus, it always surprises me to see the quiet way that one season flows into another, almost effortlessly. And this is most evident not just in the change of air or sun but in nature and in the garden.

What was a bare patch or almost bare is now a sea of tiny seedlings, promises that were planted in the ground now sprouting the most encouraging bed of greens. Corms planted in winter now produce masses of spectacularly coloured ranunculus and anemones. The roses that were planted bare-root last year have put on an amazing growth. The fat buds have now burst open to reveal the most exquisitely perfumed blowsy blooms. Of the ones planted last year, Princess of Monaco has to be my favourite. An old variety that carries the distinct features of being showy but in a renaissance Dutch still-life painting way, it is one of the most beautifully scented roses of all times. I bring them in to adorn my desk and can’t get any work done, because I am busy burying my nose in its soft petals. And no matter how much I inhale the perfume lingers on and on. Roses should always have a perfume, that is my belief. Meanwhile, in the ranunculus patch, the spectacular flowers of brilliant reds, oranges, pinks, lemons, whites all put on their show daily, while fat buds like minarets on tall stems sway above them all ready and poised for their time.

Whilst they are incredibly long-lasting in the vase, I am always amazed by the changes these blooms go through while ageing. All flowers age, but none so gracefully as the ranunculus. Their petals begin by first fading at the edges, crumpling ever so slightly and gaining a paper-like quality, translucent and ethereal. They remind me of ballerinas, spreading their tutus as they dance, hovering in the air, stillness in movement. As we traverse through time, just as the flowers do, we can add a certain graceful quality to our lives, if we can emulate what nature does. I remember seeing a photograph of an older Louise Bourgeios, taken by Annie Leibovitz. Her hands that she held up as if she were to cover her face any moment were the most beautiful hands I have ever seen. They spoke of a lifetime of work, but not just that, they had an element of prayer in them. In another time, Master Shakespeare would describe them as “hands that pilgrims’ hands do touch, and palm to palm is holy palmers’ kiss.” They were wrinkled and veiny, not just from old age but from pilgrimage. For that is what artists are. They are pilgrims, who journey through their art to articulate what is inside, from a place of primeval fire of creation. I think of Louise’s hands now, as I look at the ranunculus fading. Soon, they will drop their petals and vanish. Then, new growth, new birth. There is so much hope in spring, in the re-birth and in fresh beginnings but I find the biggest promise is held in the fading, the dying down. Or, so I believe. If there was a quality I would like to embrace today it would be quality of grace. To have grace, to hold grace and to become grace on my journey home.   



On my way home, I see others who have travelled too.
Some come with me, some besides me.
Some walk far, but I know they are there.

There is unity in distance.
Alliance in solitude.
Just as there is fading in birth.

Grace everywhere, that embraces me,
holding me close so I can hear its beating heart.
And for that moment, I am whole.
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Week 7 and cultivating observance

Once upon a time, not so long ago, a younger me went walking through the forests of the village where I lived before. It was a beautiful spring afternoon, the air full of birdsong and heady perfume of hawthorn bursting in the hedgerows. My dog went scampering in front, her tail high up as she chased butterflies in front of her. It is a glorious time, spring, when nature seems to uncoil from a long sleep. Specially in the north, when winter is always longer than one remembers. This day that I had carved out free from work, free from cooking even was mine, and mine alone. The children would go to friends after school and I would pick them up in the evening. All that remained for me to do is to take my dog and walk to the forest. 

This bit of the forest was special, and I knew the paths that wound through it. And whenever the paths stopped, I knew when to cut through to join another path I knew was there beyond the trees, I stooped below the bare branches of young oaks and beech to walk over fallen leaves. My dog followed me, happy to jump over the brown leaves that crunched so deliciously under my feet and her paws, like breaking cornflakes in the palms. Here and there, we came across vast clearings where the tall trees, all swaying with fresh green, stood proud in circles. And in the middle, the sunrays fell on white wood anemone floating above mounds of dark green leaves. And right below the trees, bold and beefy leaves of foxgloves spread themselves, all poised to send spires of purple flowers shooting to the sky. When we met a path, we headed towards the valley, where the little stream ran at its bottom. And here, sunken in heavy mud, made even wetter and heavier from the molten snow lay a sea of lesser celandine, their dainty heads rocking above the delicate pale green stems. These yellow stars of the woodland floor caught the sunlight and reflected it all along the banks of the stream. We walked to the stream cutting through the wet low grass and my dog jumped into the water, skipping over slippery rocks and slurping up the cold water as she went along. I picked up a stick and threw it for her to catch but the scents in the nooks were far more appealing. As we climbed the bank on the other side, we came to the spot of the wild garlic. One smelled them first before one saw them. The long dark green leaves were just poking their heads above the brown undergrowth. But this time, I did not have a bag to gather so we walked on across the hillside, sowing seeds of wood flowers with my boots.

At the top of the small hill, a windy path led to the tiny building that managed the water supplies that the mountains provided. On this glorious afternoon, when the sun sang with the birds, and the blue sky topped the new green canopy of trees, everything was perfect. Today, I think back, not only to that day but to so many others, when the forest was always perfect. Nothing was out of place or out of tune. Perfection was merely the state of complete harmony, and I was privileged to have been a part of it. Even as the seasons change from spring to summer to autumn to winter, and back to spring, there is harmony at all times. Today, I know that as the seeds germinate and grow into beautiful blossoms and die back, in each moment that passes, they pass through aeons of endless perfection, in union with themselves and existence.

It takes so little from us to also experience this sense of unity, vibrant and calm at the same time. And also, so little to let ourselves get distracted by details that do not serve us. As we enter week 7 of our confinement, let us remind ourselves of the power of observance. To truly notice nature in its glory, to see the harmony in existence. I think of that afternoon in my beloved forest not only to reminisce about a wonderful time but to remind myself of the quality of union that exists around me. Not only was it there in the past, but it is here, with us, always, waiting for us to notice. 

Sit and watch.
Or get up and dance.
It does not matter.
 
There is always joy.
 
In life,
there is always joy. 
   
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Week 6 Thoughts in lockdown

Am I faulted? Oh, yes. Am I drinking too much wine these days? Yes, I am. Am I also feeling like a cad, doing so? Yeah, kind of. Am I wasting where I should be saving? Yes. Am I in full awareness of this. Hell yes. I choose to have more wine than I should, because that is the way my life is, and hey, if I don’t support the local wineries, they will be bought up by global investors and that might be the end of it. So, wink, wink, nudge, nudge, buy local wine and drink it. That is the huge and immediately feel good incentive to publicly support an industry in this area that has survived since the Romans. It would be pity, no, down-right disgrace to let a virus wipe out a way of living.

I recently found some nice shoes at a store, not too expensive, made by women in Spain. I asked a friend if she wants a pair. She was consciously not hoarding because this time taught her to not buy objects she did not need. That made me look around my house. What did I possess I needed? Very little, in fact nothing at all. Now I imagined everyone, well maybe not everyone, but a huge chunk of us, would not buy things because we did not exactly need it. I can’t even begin to imagine what would happen in millions of households all across the world. Today, the pandemic has actually taught us not how much we need things but how much our lives, and here I really mean lives in the global sense, depend on us buying things. It is a give and take situation, the balance has to be kept. So, in spite of all the morality and the actual necessity of things and objects, I choose to buy. Somewhere, some women will be making a living out of it. There are objects in my house, absolutely useless to the normal person, figurines made of straw and cloth from Peru, wooden statues from Africa, figures of Gods from India. I really don’t need them, but when I bought or was presented, I valued their worth, not in terms of money but because they provided me with joy and someone else with a livelihood.  Sure we don’t need much, in fact to take it even further, other than fresh air to breathe and food and water, we actually don’t need anything. But maybe if we extend our horizons a bit, then other people need the same. By supporting local industry and community I just make sure that I am honouring and respecting someone else’s need, also of fresh air and food. Giving what I can whilst I can. And when I can’t, I won’t. Simplicity can be so deceptively complex at times.

The ascetics who live in wilderness and strangely sometimes unawares even amongst us, do not need things, they seem to manage in our world with nothing or next to nothing. I suppose, very few of us have the urge to do that for it is a difficult path to be on. Their contribution to us, however, is subtle and at the same time, magnificent. They provide us spiritual guidance, they create energetic spaces for us to bathe in radiance. What are we providing? My motto has been and will always be, leave the world a bit better than what you found it in. So how am I making our world better? Today, more than ever, I am buying the shoe that will provide food for someone, I am drinking wine to keep a tradition from dying and the winemakers and harvesters from a harsh future, I am ordering food to keep the local restaurants alive. But all, with a consciousness that is alive with my breathe. Whatever road you choose to take, make it count. It matters and it will have an effect. 

Stillness.
In stillness, I listen
to the voices.
In stillness, I embrace
your story and mine.
Diverse and beautiful.
Like flowers that bloom
without you and me,
without a care in this world.
There is such freedom 
in acknowledging -  
How tiny we are;
How fragile we are;
How like a drop of water
In the ocean we are.
Life may mean something to you.
It may mean nothing.
It does not matter.
What matters is how
we hold up,
how our lives are entwined
in the heartbreaking
vulnerability,
that is truly ours.
In stillness, I accept
all of me and all of you.
 
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Week 5 Life in lockdown

Week 5, checking in. How are you my friends? Take up that space right between the chest and stomach when you inhale. It seems odd, these times, so out of place, and yet the more time passes the more we find this is normal. The daily routine, the waking up, the coffee, the news, the remote work, the lunch, the evening dog walk, the dinner, TV perhaps, or reading. Are we including some time to take care of ourselves, to take care of us as individuals? We have to tend to ourselves, because in times like these, we need that extra care, that extra hug, that extra smile. Conscious breathing, taking time out for a at-home spa day, tending to our gardens, yoga, meditating, reading, many paths to reach the same destination.

There is so much fear around, and honestly, the daily dose of news does nothing to calm it down. If anything, it just aggravates. Can we switch off the news for a while. Let the news belong to another world, just for a bit. Maybe that is all we need to give us the space to breath. Because, even in the face of everything the world is going through, there is still so much more out there and inside us that will actually nurture us. And we, just like all plants and animals, need nurturing to grow. Take time, with family, but also alone. It is so rewarding to reflect on what nurtures us, what we need, as individuals, as humans.

Solitude should not be mistaken with loneliness. They both bear gifts for us, but for now, embracing a little solitude is welcome. This is an opportunity, a chance for us to check back in. What is going on inside? How do I feel, really feel? What do I need? And the acceptance of whatever comes up when questions are asked. Allowing oneself to be, just be, is so easily said and so hard to do. There can be ease, yes, there can be acceptance, yes. I allow myself to feel the way I feel. I allow myself to be the way I am. 

 In my garden some of the tulips are over, their petals have dropped revealing the seed heads with the yellow studded anthers. Some of the varieties I had planted did not make it through the very heavy rains that clogged the flower beds for days. This is always a wistful moment for me, when the spring flowers fade, because I know that one season is over. Although the promise of a beautiful late spring and summer lies heavy in the air, I still cannot help but feel saddened to let go of the daffodils and tulips, all those first beauties that starred in the spring garden. But then nature continues her cycle. And there is comfort in that, and hope. Lots of it. Soon bright cosmos, zinnias and dahlias will sing to a blue sky. Already the seedlings are growing at an amazing speed, sending up their green shoots. The stage has been set, the orchestra in the pit, the bows all poised on the strings, the audience is waiting for the curtain to rise and for a glorious and spectacular show to begin. And what a show it will be. For now, I allow all the feelings I have, I acknowledge all the mixed feelings I have. And I let go. 

Within my mind
a thousand words rotate,
as a thousand feelings jostle;
all chaos and noise.
I surrender instead of the usual struggle.
I sit with them,
let them be.
Soon their voices get smaller
and smaller
and I can let go.
A fresh start.
A clean slate.
All ready.
For a new day
to begin.
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Day 25 Easter time in Lockdown

If I choose to be free today, what would I do?

Am I living in a bondage, a prison?

Bondage can come in various forms. I need not be imprisoned physically in a cell or room. My imprisonment, or lack of freedom, which I guess to be true of most people, is a mental state. Most of us have shackled ourselves to certain beliefs, certain ideas, habits that become so much a part of us that we are unable to shake it off. Mostly, we are even unaware of the state in which find ourselves. Let me give you an example. I love coffee and I drink it every morning. Previously, I would be irritated if I did not have my cup, and as a result the whole day would feel wasted. I had become so attached to coffee that I let that dictate my day. That is not freedom, that is a result of an “unfree” life. Freedom would be to love coffee, yes, to drink coffee, yes, but if it is not there, then to drink something else, and still be content. Easier said than done, I know. 

 I believe that binding ourselves to certain patterns and habits and refusing to accept anything else results in our constriction of mind and thus blinding us to the magic of life. I was stuck on coffee and my eyes were blind to existence unfolding around me. The same was true with my daily yoga asana practice. I practiced every day without fail until my body said it is okay to take a break now and then. So, today, although I practice almost every day, there are times when just stretching is fine. I choose what works best for me and what doesn’t. Rituals, and habits are all great and necessary in life for stability, but can we ease just a bit? Can we let a certain flexibility happen even within the routines we have established in our lives? 

Life is happening around us in most wonderful ways. If we constrain our minds and hearts, then how will we see the most beautiful dawns and dusks. If we are stuck on loving only our families, how can we see the beauty in a stranger’s eyes. If we insist on watching the 8 o’clock news, how can we see the sunset happening right outside our window. And maybe sometimes, it is wonderful to break the pattern, to be truly free. Give ourselves room in our minds and hearts to breath. 

Especially, this time of Easter and beginning of spring when families should get together to celebrate, many of us are apart. All the rituals surrounding our families won’t happen. Perhaps, this is our chance to experience a freedom from the habits that have formed. What if we saw this as an opportunity, not hindrance? As a chance not a handicap? As a new way of thinking instead of regretting what is not? 

Wishing you all a time full of new hope, freedom, joy and awareness. 

Breath.

We are alive. 

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Day 24, still lockdown, still writing

Hello dear friends, we are in day 24 of our lockdown in France. How are you feeling? Are you anxious? Fearful? Or maybe hopeful that spring has arrived. That the birds are singing, chattering away nineteen to a dozen from every bush, every tree. Are you relieved that the sun has begun to warm up the earth again. Did you see the morning break across the eastern sky, lighting up the mountains. Existence never holds itself back, it gives us the full show, every single day. It is we who sometimes fail to see it. 

I am constantly amazed and touched by all the art, writing, poems, music and even short movies shared with others these days. Especially these days. Artists all around the world are sharing their artworks. David Hockney has posted his digital art from the confinements of his home. Musicians, like the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra was the one of the first to play Beethoven’s Ode to Joy from their homes and edited to one piece. Yesterday, the students of Ravi Shankar, all maestros in their own rights, played one of his compositions. Yoga teachers are turning to live-streaming, many for free so we can practice at home. The poem of Brother Richard Hendrick Lockdown has now been made into a short film directed by 250 film makers called #choosehopestory. A spiritual leader of India, Sadhguru, is giving live inspirational sessions every day to answer questions. All around the globe people are rising, uniting, sharing in the most profound and beautiful way. In the midst of all the fear we have, there is tremendous hope and solidarity. We are showing our true selves and what we are capable of achieving. From banging pots to singing from balconies, from helping our neighbours with grocery shopping to sharing a funny video. Everywhere we look there is support and love, so no one has to be left behind. 

Existence never holds itself back, it gives everything. When the sun rises, it shines fully. The flowers that blossom, open up fully. The canopies of old trees that stand tall, gives full shade. Nothing in nature is done half-heartedly. All these wonderful people who are supporting us today with their wisdom, music, art, dance, poems, all the people who are working in hospitals and paramedics, all the factory workers, labourers, garbage collectors, truck drivers, farmers are all doing everything they can. We can do this too. 

Create. Share. All your joy and love.  

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Day 23 still lockdown, still writing

Before the dawn came
 
 
Long before the light crawled
under the cracks of the door,
the world outside
paused.
For a breath,
Or two.
 
Or maybe for
many eternities.
I do not know.
I was asleep.
I only felt the breath
of darkness on my skin.
 
And in that moment
I stood in the dark,
between the worlds
of sleep and awakening,
holding preciousness
in my palm.
 
 
8.4.2020
 
 
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Day 22 still lockdown, still writing

There was a time when I took things for granted. The dance of the sparrow, the tiny buds on a tree unfurling on a fine spring day, the rain that sang on the tin roof, the delicious fragrance of a favourite dish. Youth has that quality of unwonted carelessness, and yet carrying with it such a fragile sweetness. When in it, life was a dance, carefree and exuberant. Time simply flew then and with careless abandon I breezed through life as if it would last forever. But nothing does. The more I practice yoga and mindfulness, the more I am reminded of the delicate nature of our existence. The more I notice, the more time seems to slow down its roll and what was a gallop before turns into a slow stroll. All that happened was that somewhere along the way ignorance turned to awareness. And the more I am aware the more I am grateful for this life and everything in it.

 Practicing gratitude is such a liberating process. I started writing down gratitudes when fairly recently, I came across bullet journaling, a method founded by writer Ryder Carroll. It is a very simple way of keeping not just appointments but also our thoughts, habits and intentions. And the best part is that it is hand-written, such a blessing in this digital age. The moment we write something down on a piece of paper, we allow our mind to slow down and it is then that our awareness truly is awakened. My list of gratitudes is my favourite bit in the journal. There are small items like being able to go to the supermarket during this lockdown. Or having a cup of coffee in the morning. But it also has the bigger things I am grateful for: having friends and family in my life, whether the connection is by whatsapp or zoom. Writing them down means I can revisit and re-read. Today, my entry has to be the far-away mountains, that loom so large above the clouds. The snow-capped peaks rise majestically from a sea of misty valleys, all blue and grey and white. Like a Nicolas Roerich painting, rich in its profound spirituality. And I am grateful for every morning when I open the window and find them poised above the ground ready to kiss the western sky. 

A Haiku
 
Gratitude!
tears melting into
mountain snow
 
-Soen Nakagawa Roshi, 1931
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Day 21, still lockdown and still writing

            Years ago, I was at the Louvre and stood in line to see the Monalisa. The first thought I had in mind was how small it was. I stood on my toes to see above the heads of Japanese tourists as I struggled to see the painting now behind security glass. It was the first and only time I was at the Louvre. I had carefully planned the trip, and all the paintings I was going to see. I wanted all the Renaissance, Impressionists, Expressionists with a good measure of Fauvism thrown in. The Monalisa was a must. I cannot say I was enchanted by it, nor was I impressed. I was more surprised about the size of the painting. When seen in art books it seemed deceivingly big. I put down my experience as my lack of appreciation for a painting considered by most to be one of the most famous painting of all. Later, I bought a postcard at the gift shop and holding it in my hands could really see it. I put it in my bag and forgot about it. Later it wound up as a bookmark in one of the novels, and many years later as I pulled that book off the shelf, the postcard slipped and fell. As I stooped to pick it up, I remembered my trip and the white caps of the Japanese tourists that hid most of the bottom part of the frame of the Monalisa. I wish I was able to see the real painting up close.

            In all my art classes, we had lovely huge books with art masterpieces and their explanations, their descriptions. Inspired by our genuinely enthusiastic professor, we took trips to see art. We went to big museums, small galleries, met artists in residence, attended workshops with sculptors, painters, potters. And closer to our own creativity, we dipped our brushes in paint and coloured white canvases, we took red clay in our hands and molded into figurines. I particularly loved kneaded white fireclay before throwing it on the wheel and raising it to form bowls or cups. A kiln at the shed of the art building would then be lit to fire the bowls. We all wanted to create beauty, express a thought, flirt with an emotion. I cannot speak for others, but I find that to be true in my case, whether through gardening, writing, painting, even yoga. In a way, we are all artists in our own rights, we each try to express, impress, share that which is most important at that particular moment. Creativity is a mystery and a fabulous one at that. What would our world be like if no one painted, or made music, or wrote poetry or sang songs, cooked food. Or even let our imagination, which is the guiding force for creation, be tamed and docketed? I am a great believer in retaining as much of the unexpected as possible, in every aspect of life. Let the weed that has found its way through the path remain, admire its resilience. When winter comes, it will fade away. When the paint brush slides to make a mark where you did not intend, smile at your ineptness and paint over. If you sing off-key in the shower, then go on singing. We are not perfect, we can strive to be, of course. But along the way, we can embrace our imperfections. 

            Maybe the Monalisa did not need to be bigger. Maybe Leonardo could already capture and express everything he wanted within the small canvas. There was no need for any change. Or was there? But like all great artists and visionaries, he knew that there is no perfection. I like to think of him perched on his stool, his plank in front putting the final touches to his idealized portrait of the lady, wondering if the smile was enigmatic enough, maybe the landscape was too soft and blurry? Ah well, he thinks, wiping his brush on the cloth, for now, this is good.  

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Day 20 Lockdown in France

Are you who you are today, right now? Are you being yourself, maybe a little I-don’t-care mood. Or even, what-is-this-all-worth. Perhaps, I-don’t-give-a-damn. Because even if you feel reckless, helpless, overwhelmed, don’t judge yourself.  There is no right or wrong way to be on this path. It is okay to be who you are, embrace it. Spend some time with it. Keep it if it serves you. Let it go if it doesn’t. 

There is wind today and the gusts keep pounding on the windowpanes, sending them squeaking and groaning. The metal hinges have plastic inlets, and the wind makes them rock back and forth within that little space that holds them and a stopper in the front. I shove bits of cardboard to stabilize and stop the rocking and the noise. Mostly the noise. I look at the distant trees and how they sway, all beautifully green and lush right now. I remember of the time when I would stand outside on our terrace to welcome the tropical hurricane that came every summer. Elsewhere, in the house, my mother would run to close the windows, shut the doors, hang down the wash. Leaving all the rush behind, I would stand at the terrace and watch a perfectly blue sky turn threateningly black. Huge black clouds rushed in from the south, covering vast tracks in a very short time, bringing with it a dusty wind that blew everything off and away. The plastic roof of the tea-stall at the bottom of our house would fly down the road and people would run behind to retrieve it. Debris, dust particles would whirl about, some particles entering the eyes making them water, and in the nose, the mouth. When the hurricane came, nothing was safe. But, for me, those moments were both terrifying and enchanting. Today, listening to the wind howl outside, I am reminded of the other wind, where I stood outside, clutching the bannister, loving the inky black sky.

Am I who I am today, right now? Not really. I feel a little disconnected. A little like the leaf blown around in the wind. I am in a I-am-not-sure mood. Maybe it is time to invite a guest. Perhaps, the only one who will remind me of who I am. Then, I can take a cup of coffee and sit with her, for the guest is a she, of course. And she is not so much a guest, as a permanent presence. I just don’t see her very often, but there she is, always right behind me.

I am what I am.
The fire-eater and fire-spitter.
I walk through the woods to see her
peep behind the trees.
She follows me- silent and ghost-like.
I am curious and afraid
of this Madonna, this fiery-eyed Baba Yaga.
She is my shadow.
 
She stops by the creek 
to quench her thirst by the cool rippling waters.
She looks at me with her innocent wide eyes,
her dress is torn and dirty.
I, the fire-eater and fire-spitter
open the door wide
and hope
that she will invite herself in. 
 
- 2005
 
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Day 19 Lockdown in France

Do you have a central thought that you start your morning with and that you keep repeating to yourself throughout the day, especially in times when you are anxious or worried or angry or hurt? Today, I started with the thought: I want to be the best version of myself. And believe you me, that was the last thing I was. Sometimes, I wonder how a good and inspiring moment can turn sour or wrong with just a single argument or hurtful saying. Have you ever wondered how life takes on a very beautiful and smooth turn when you are happy and content? And how the moment can turn dark when thoughts become bitter? It is in such moments that the power of the mind becomes so evident. We can choose to be happy or burdened. If only there were ways to create sentinels to stand at the gateway of our minds, they would know what is good for us and what we can turn away. Happy thoughts? Yes, you can come in. Hurt, stay out. Joy, please enter. Arguments, no way can you have access. But it does not work that way. There are no sentinels, there are no guardians, no angels even. Just us. Just me. This is when the tools we have in our yoga belt come to the rescue. The contents of the tool belt, which I proudly wear, vary for each of us, but there are some essentials that help get us through most situations. 

As a gardener, I love using the garden as a metaphor for yoga, and vice versa. I carry my sharp snips, in my gardener’s belt, essential to cut flowers and dead head. This light-weight utensil is very sharp and probably the most useful tool to have. In the broader yogic sense, I would say this is the awareness. We all have some sort of mental snips we carry around, but to put it to use we need to know which thoughts to cut, which to dead head and when. An ever-developing consciousness will tell us when something is ripe, worth pursuing or just dead. I also have rubber-bands or pieces of cord to tie up and fix flowers that have drooped because of wind or rain. These have to be the fun part of life for sure, or have you never ever fired spitballs at your friends using rubber bands in school? These are the rescue remedy drops of life. Think of jokes, think of funny videos, think of absurd moments when you laughed and laughed and felt alive. I, particularly today, think of Baubo, the Greek mythological goddess of obscenity, and how she through her ribald jokes and lewd dances made Demeter, who was mad with grief from the loss of her daughter, Persephone, laugh again, and finally led Demeter discover where Persephone was hidden. There is a certain freedom in ribald jokes, a laughter that is both embarrassing and liberating. So, use these as well, like the rubber bands and many situations will become lighter, but please use your belly-laugh when you do. Then there is my phone. I use the camera on the phone a lot to take pictures of the flowers, the plants, the sunlight on the dew drops, the bees hovering over the open-lipped salvia, the petals of the fringed cosmos double-click. I use the camera to share and mostly to document. What was the progress? How did it grow? Like a journal, one might say. Yoga asanas do the same, each time we practice we get in touch with ourselves and we are taking notes, comparing them. How do I feel? Is my practice making my feel more and more at ease with my body. Am I documenting and keeping a chart, noting down what works and what doesn’t? The last item is of course the belt itself. That which holds all the tools together and what is it in our life but the breath itself. We only need to breathe and everything will fall in place.  

So, I use the tools when life is not quite what I thought it would be, and it is a good thing too. Challenges are stepping stones for us to grow into our potentials. I, particularly, would like to use the rubber-bands today, a joke or two, a dance, a belly shake is just what I am up to.

Share your tool. Subscribe if you haven’t already. It means a lot to me. Thanks for being my companion on this journey. 

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Day 18 Lockdown in France

            Down in the valley, where I lived before moving here, at the turn of the road where the main road swerves right into the village, there is a cottage on the left-hand side. In fact, if you drove too fast, you would not even notice it. The cottage lies far back hidden behind tall pine trees and a bit of scruffy and overgrown weedy garden in front. The only way to notice this cottage would be to walk into the village. So few people seem to do that these days. The next village is about 7 kms down the road, past vast fields of wheat and barley, mainly grown as fodder up and over the gentle slopes of the hills. Wherever the field breaks into little forest areas, one can spot the high wooden raised stand for hunters. The only reason why one could walk into the village would be if one got lost in the forest and then found the way back by walking alongside the road. So, like I said, no one would notice the cottage. Neither did I, for a long time.

            It was while I was visiting a friend of mine who had a beautiful garden at the bottom of the village, that she asked me if I knew who lived in the cottage. I did not, of course. In fact I did not even know there was a cottage. Oh yes, there is, she said. It seems like the house is on sale and she just wondered. The next time I drove in the village I slowed down to take a look and sure enough, behind the tall trees was a house, completely darkened by the shade of the pines in front. It looked dark and uninviting and honestly, uninhabited. After some months, the same friend came excitedly to my house and said, we are invited! Where to? To the cottage. I forget the real reason why and how she secured an invitation, but there it was. So, on the appointed day, I opened a small gate and walked over slippery and broken flagstones to knock on a door, where the paint was fading and peeling off. I nervously held a small bouquet of flowers I had picked that morning in my garden. The door creaked open and there stood the oldest woman I have ever seen, or so I thought. Her entire body was bent over her walking stick, but she did not seem weak. Oh no, there was a fire, a strength, in spite of her extreme old age, that I found almost frightening at that point. Now, I have to stop and tell you that Hela, as she was called, is long gone and I feel comfortable telling you about her. Where were we? Ah yes, she opened the door and bid me in with my name, properly pronounced, which does not happen very often. I walked through a dark passage into a really bright and cozy living room. It was such a change from the front of the house. This room faced the back garden with a bit of lawn and shrubs, sunlight flooding in through huge windows that were flung open. The garden sloped down to the small creek and went up on the other side which was the back garden of the church. Perched at the edge of the sofa with a teacup in her hand was my friend. She smiled brightly, too brightly I thought, or maybe it was a triumphant yet pathetic smile. I don’t remember and anyway, that is not important. 

            To this day, I remember a lot of details of that first meeting. Hela had a kind face and very watery eyes, the wrinkles on her face and hands so numerous it was difficult to imagine how she must have been when she was younger. And yet, there were photographs on a sideboard. Hela, smiling, Hela, holding a small baby, her niece, Hela, in her wedding dress, her head turned to one side, arm in arm with a man in a suit and hat, all proud and happy and beaming. Yes, she was married, a long time ago, her husband died 10 years ago, or was it 12? She did not remember anymore. No, there were no children, but she had a family. Her sister, her brother who died in the war, her numerous nephews and nieces. All grown up now, with their own families. Oh yes, they visit, they call. She even has a mobile phone, but she does not use it much. She never uses the front door, there is another door through the back garden that led right up to the road through the side lane. Ah, that’s why she is not worried about the broken flagstones. And so I came to know Hela and her life and her stories. There was tea and cake that day. I remember the cups with their floral prints and golden rim. They were old too, just like her, and fragile. Time passed and I visited Hela a couple of times, but my friend always insisted on joining me. I don’t remember why she did, because she hardly said anything, merely sat on the sofa and smiled.

            That autumn when the storms began, we had a warning one day of a particularly severe hurricane coming our way. The children were sent home early that day, and I drove to the train station to pick them up. Already, on our drive back home, we saw the treetops sway madly and gusts of wind blowing twigs, leaves, branches on the road. We drove home and in the face of the storm that had already darkened the sky to an inky black I started to secure the door to the shed, locking it shut before putting in all the pots and tools lying around. Then I put heavy bricks on top of the dust bin lids to keep them from flying off. There was news on the radio that we might even lose electricity, so while the children searched the house for candles, I quickly warmed up soup and we ate, all the while listening to the wind pick up speed outside. It was at this point I remembered Hela. Hela, in her house, surrounded by giant pine trees that might just fall on the house and crush her and no one would know. What would happen should everything grow dark? I quickly collected some candles and poured some of the soup in a container. Are you really planning on going there? But I have too, she is all alone. It is not safe. I know. Call her. I don’t know her number. And I have my mobile.

            The short car ride was terrible, the branches whipping the air violently, dust circling around carrying all kinds of debris. I drove and parked the car away from the trees. Fighting my way through the wind, holding on to the bag of soup and candles, I banged on the front door. The pines were swaying dangerously, and I heard the branches rattle on the roof, the cones falling like rain. There was no answer, so I held on to my jacket, pulling the hood over my head and protecting the face as much as I could, ran to the side lane and saw light at the back window. Then I saw Hela. She was sitting on her armchair, her eyes closed, seemingly oblivious to everything around. She had a fire lit in the fireplace, the lamp by her chair adding light to the already bright room.  I did not knock. I watched for a moment at her calm and serene face, as if she was in a different place and time. And the world outside howled and bellowed and twisted and swayed. Was she asleep, was she dreaming, did she know of the storm, did she know of the danger of falling trees, was she afraid. I don’t know, I did not have a chance to ask. As I huddled back to my car and drove back home, I did not ask myself these questions. I was only relieved that she was okay. Only many years later, while thinking of this incident did I wonder what she felt. 

            A month after this, her house was sold, and she moved. She left her new address with my friend and expressed her wish that I should see her. But I never did. Life took its various twists and turns, and I did not get to see Hela again. Today, I can hear her voice asking me why I did not knock. I could have come in, sat by the fire and had some tea. She would have told me about her family, her nephews and nieces and how they are all grown up now. Do you hear the wind outside? It is quite loud today, isn’t it? 

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