Sunday, July 12, 2015

Three ways of parenting

There are three ways of parenting.

The first one is the conditioned parenting. The parent has very little ability to self-reflect. She is so disconnected from her emotional being, and has very little or no idea about how her parents' treatment of her has impacted it. She does everything to her child the way that her mother did it to her. Her mom had spanked her. And so, she spanks her daughter. When you ask her about it, she's likely to say "My mom did this to me, and look, I've turned out just fine!" 

The second one is the reactive parenting. The parent self-reflects and understands to a fair degree the damage some unhealthy treatment by his parents has had on his emotional being. He says "I will never do to my child what my dad did to me!" and swings to the other end. His dad had constantly violated his space.  And so, he will let his life be organised around his son's life, and give up his space for his son. 

I see parents who have a lot of difficulty in saying 'No' to their kids, in drawing healthy boundaries for them, fall in this category. They seek their permission for everything. They "sacrifice" their space for their sons and daughters. Oh yes, and decades later, say with resentment "I gave up everything for you, and look what you did to me!" Playing the victim and the whole works, you know?

The third is the healed parenting. The parent neither behaves out of conditioning, nor reacts taking the opposite stand. The parent aspires to heal from both conditioning and reacting, and learns to draw (and teaches by learning and living with) healthy boundaries on both sides.  

I am the second category in my unconscious moments (which is most of the time), and the third in my conscious moments. 

Where do you locate yourself?

Monday, May 25, 2015

There are many ways to run a supermarket.

Isha’s latest interest is in playing ‘shop-game’. If she could, she would play it all day long everyday. All kinds of shops – cassette, book, medicine, food, toy. We’ve made some paper currency called ‘Zoni’ that we use when we play.

One day last week, she wanted to play a ‘Supermarket Game’. She was going to be the customer and I, the shop-keeper (because she does not know how to write a bill, she told me.) After setting everything up, she entered the room and I said “Welcome to our supermarket! How are you today?” She started bawling saying “That’s not what you say when someone enters your supermarket!” Not whining, or crying, but bawling. To a stranger, this might seem bizarre that a perfectly cheerful kid could suddenly start bawling over something so trivial. But I’m quite used to it, since I know that in her world, especially when she starts playing a ‘pretend game’, she takes every detail very seriously. It took me a long time to understand that she had a very specific kind of exchange between the customer and the shopkeeper in mind. When that didn't happen, it upset her. I tried telling her all sorts of things “Different supermarkets are run in different ways. Doesn’t Sajee mama greet and welcome people when they walk into restore?” Nothing seemed to console her a bit.

Now, when I’m also relaxed and in the right space, such situations, which are not at all rare, become interesting challenges to my creativity. I was put on the spot, and I had to come up with something.

I started talking about how there are many different ways to do everything. I said “There are many ways to smile.” making funny faces smiling in different ways. “There are many ways to scratch your nose!” and did the same. In a second, her bawling turned into intense laughter from her belly. The supermarket game, which we never resumed after that, turned into a song. Her life is like a musical, where she’d often break into a song in the middle of a conversation! We started enacting the many different ways one could do each thing. (Some of the words are hers, and some are mine.)

There are many ways to cry, there are many ways to fry,
There are many ways to fight, there are many ways to light,
There are many ways to run, there are many ways to have fun,
There are many ways to run a supermarket.

There are many ways to dance, there are many ways to advance,
There are many ways to sing, there are many ways to ping,
There are many ways to taste, there are many ways to waste,
There are many ways to run a supermarket.

There are many ways to eat, there are many ways to greet,
There are many ways to tie, there are many ways to die,
There are many ways to laugh, there are many ways to cough,
There are many ways to run a supermarket.

There are many ways to stitch, there are many ways to bitch,
There are many ways to sit, there are many ways to knit,
There are many ways to see, there are many ways to be,
There are many ways to run a supermarket.

By the end of this song, she seemed to be quite convinced that there were indeed many different ways one could run a supermarket. In the end, she laughed saying “If someone thought there was only one way to run a supermarket, that would be so ridiculous!” :) 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Change. It's happening elsewhere!

Noisy Minds 
anxiously hoping for Change!

The Design for Change is being made in the stars
waiting to be recognised as mystery 
so we can silence our arrogance.

The Secrets of Change are being carried by the soft flutters of the butterflies
waiting to be heard in the silence
so we can listen to the voice of life.

The Levers of Change are stuck within the layers of the subconscious
waiting to be delved into and released
so we can heal and shift consciousness.

Ideas for Change come floating as colourful bubbles
waiting to be called forth and be popped 
so we can receive the treasures in them.

The Power for Change is resting with the divine
waiting to be surrendered to and claimed
so we can resolve.

The Energy for Change passes by as colourful waves of varying frequencies 
waiting to be tuned in to
so we can channel.

The Vehicle of Change resides in our bodies  
waiting to be disciplined and trained
so we can be available.

And the Blessing for Change is abound
waiting to be invoked
so we can manifest.

All the work we really need to do is to 
be available,

Noisy Minds 
anxiously hoping for Change

Change, it's really happening elsewhere!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Party time for Mr. GDP!

When we
sit by the beach watching the waves,
spend silly times with our friends,
sow a seed and watch it sprout,
spot a new bud on a plant we’ve been watering everyday,
watch the sun rise,
watch a baby play and giggle,
forgive someone,
write poetry,
bake bread,
toil in the sun and get sweaty creating a garden or building something,
attentively listen to toddlers narrating stories,
serve without expectation of reward or recognition,
watch a sparrow perched on the window sill,
trek through the forest,
feed someone hungry,
stand under a waterfall,
listen to soft and slow music,
have a meaningful or cathartic conversation with someone,
resolve a conflict,
read a book that gives us aha! moments,
visit a sacred place where we feel a calming energy permeating our being,
go for a walk alone or with someone we connect to,
watch the night sky,
cry out loud from the belly,
eat wholesome and flavorful food,
receive an email from an old cherished friend,
read news about how a group of people came together taking responsibility to do something meaningful,
it gives us joy.
It makes us feel more peaceful.
We feel something within us settle.
It awakens something inside us.
It makes us come alive.
The nourishment that our spirits yearn for all the time.

Since we have all created living contexts (homes, schools and workplaces) which are so often bereft of nourishment, we feel pained but remain unconscious about it! I rarely see very basic needs of children, adults and the elderly being met these days. Our need for silence, for communion with nature, with meaningful connection with people, for trust, for true knowledge, for respect, for love, for leisure, for artistic experience, for nourishing food, for sweating labour, for sunlight, for fresh air and so on often goes unmet in our busy city lives. When we don’t get nourishment, we go against the flow of life. When we go against life, it leads to a building up of pain.

What do we do with this collectively created cultural pain? We do one of three things.

1. Numb it. We watch fast TV, play video games, consume alcohol, take to drugs.

2. Indulge in things that give us a false sense of ‘power or security’ by winning the race run by the popular culture of the pained. We dress up following fashion, buy expensive clothes and jewelry, go shopping in malls and supermarkets, seek praises and rewards from authority figures, seek recognition as being “successful”, throw our “weight” around those we perceive as less powerful than us, chase wealth, want to be the first, the best, the largest, the strongest, the fastest, etc., get into institutionalized religion, and so on

3. Over-stimulate our senses so we get distracted enough from the pain. We get addicted to sugary drinks and salty snacks, watch thrillers, drive fast, watch thrilling games, listen to fast and loud music, and so on

All the three create what we call ‘pleasure’. Pleasure gives us a ‘kick’ as some people call it. We feel ‘excited’. We feel a semblance of ‘control over the situation’. It shoots up our adrenalin levels giving us a ‘high’. It feels like a disco-light, colourful and flashy. 
But, if the adrenalin shoots up, it has to drop. If you hit a high, you have to then come down and hit a low.

The problem with ‘pleasure’ is that not only does its effect wear off, it actually creates more pain. We constantly feel the need to feel more powerful, we need newer and more stimulation, more drugging and numbing, more distraction. We get bored with ‘old stuff’. We cling on to our memories of pleasure and try to see how to recreate those experiences again. With every clinging to a memory of pleasure, there is more anxiety and insecurity. When we cannot re-create pleasure, we get pained and depressed. Or we get frustrated, angry and aggressive. We feel low self-esteem. We feel bored. We blame. We suffer.

Today’s misplaced motivation is nothing but a sophisticated form of stimulation. It says “See you will get rich, powerful, noticed, rewarded, recognized, praised, excited, thrilled … if you do this”. Very rarely does anyone motivate us by saying “If you do this, you will feel joyous, free, peaceful, calm, alive….” That is because seeking all these is our true nature. We are naturally drawn to them. We need no motivation for seeking them. But when we feel beaten up by life, we might need inspiration: a word of reminder, support and encouragement to help us tap into our inner strength to try again. This encouragement and inspiration is different from external motivation. Motivation is usually done without any real understanding of why the person is bored and pained in the first place. And that is why it is shallow, unhelpful and detrimental. Detrimental because when we feel the effect of external motivation wear off (which, it will over time) we feel like terrible losers! We end up believing the society’s story about who we are, what we are capable of, etc. We get caught in a downward spiral. That is why the younger we are, the easier it is to get motivated; the older we get, the harder it gets.

In my own life, 'pleasure' has a very interesting place. I find it always being available for me to make use of, no matter where I am in my life. When I feel depressed and find it too much hard work to stay with all the pain all the time, I resort to it – food, place, person, activity or thing. 'Pleasure', a form of comfort, can be used to heal and recharge when used moderately and mindfully. It is only when we settle down there basking in it, refusing to step out that it becomes detrimental to our own growth and well-being. We become complacent and desensitized. Life is constantly pushing us out of our comfort zones. When we refuse to step out, we say ‘No’ to life. Whenever I have resorted to comforts with awareness about what is, using the space to stay with my pain, I have found it helpful. Whenever I have resorted to comforts with a lack of awareness, it has become another distraction from what is, making me more desensitized adding more layers of pain, pushing me further down the spiral. 

The question we all need to collectively and carefully look at is this: “What part and how much of our individual lives is fed with nourishment vs pleasure? What part and how much of our society has structures and spaces that enable nourishing vs pleasurable experiences? How much are we impacted by them? How can we reorganize both our individual and collective lives (and their interfaces) to wean ourselves away from pleasure, and co-create spaces and structures that can provide nourishment? Until we do this, we will want to buy, waste, consume, build, wear more and more of what we don’t really need. Party time for Mr.GDP! 

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Kill The Bees

Wow, it's all looking very good!

Let's get in and pretend like we're the ones doing it.
Let's spray pesticides on crops!

Oops. They're finding out unpleasant stuff about what we sell! We're in a mess! 

Ok, let's pretend to care.

Now that there aren't any bees, 
let's start companies to provide 'pollination services'.

Let's write a story book for children saying that it's really not the pesticide, 
but the varroa mite or some such thing.

But hey, we need to sell more neonicotinoid pesticides to answer our shareholders!

What, the US-EPA says it's too bad for the bees? We'll take up the fight with them!

Oops! They're still at it. Fighting us...

... and keep exposing our tactics!

Well, all we'll need to do is to tell the world, 
"We're increasing wealth, increasing the GDP, every step of our way!"

Step 1: Find the self. Step 2: Give it up.

Being on the spiritual path, we often talk about surrendering the self to the divine. But there is great danger in attempting to do this without reclaiming the self in the first place; reclaiming it from all the conditioning, fears and beliefs.

Most people I see around are very opinionated; not as a result of their own enquiry, but as a result of conditioning by the society (parents, teachers, priests, the media). Either this, or they take the counter point in reaction. For instance, if they’ve been indoctrinated about the need to be God-fearing, they become atheists. Reacting / taking a counter-stand, without any real enquiry into the nature of the mind that experienced oppression, and of that which it feels oppressed by, is another form of conditioning too.

In this process, we lose ‘the self’ to the unconscious. When ‘the self’ is so lost, is so entangled, how can it be surrendered? I am reminded of the story about the king who the tribals refused to sacrifice simply because his one finger was missing. “We cannot offer to God that which is not whole, that which is imperfect!” they said.

So, the first step in the process of surrender is to recognize that it is lost, that what it thinks are ‘its thoughts’ are not it’s at all in the first place. The second step in the process is to very badly want to disentangle it, find it, and humbly pray “I am completely lost! I don’t have a clue about what to do. I need help!” Patanjali refers to this state as the basic requirement for a yogi, someone to get onto the path of spiritual enquiry. Revelations and healing follow on their own. ‘Atha yoga anushasanam’. (Now, you are ready for yoga). The Mother calls this process ‘Personalisation’ / ‘Individuation’. “It is only after you learn to personalize the self, that you can understand surrender.” Through intense personal enquiry / tapas, when one starts recognizing the entanglement, getting in touch with what one really feels and thinks about things, absolutely fearlessly, as if nothing else mattered, then the process of disentanglement has begun. 

When we talk of and attempt surrender, with all our pains unrecognized and unowned, all those knots in the stomach still intact blaming this, that and the other for them, in whatever or whosever name, we enter a very dangerous space called Branti Darshanam (False vision / Delusion) Another name for it is ‘spiritual bypassing’. The sense I get from most people giving ‘spiritual discourses’ today. One cannot attain pandityam in advaita and think one has “arrived”. One needs to stay with all the deep shit of his life, take complete responsibility for all his emotions, do his tapas, be willing to stay with the flame of discontent, stay with the tension of all the unresolved stuff. And this inner work involves a lot of work with the body as well, for that is where such ‘stuff’ is stored. In biological terms, embedded within our cells. In this way, when he starts healing from the collective unconscious, when he learns more about ‘the real nature of his self and the many layers it comes packaged in’, when he learns to find strength, safety and security from within, when he learns to pick up the courage to speak his truth, to be clear about his thoughts without being conclusive, and be vulnerable, all at the same time, it’s only then that true surrender even becomes possible.

I find this perfectly correlating with the current talk about how globalization is helping us become citizens of the world; the need to drop our identities as individual nations to start identifying with the world, etc. Words like ‘global citizens’, ‘global oneness’ are liberally used, especially in the economic and cultural contexts, without any understanding of its implications. I am very convinced that it is only when we really find our own roots, reclaim our own cultures, strongly locate ourselves in the local, that true global oneness is even possible. I can truly embrace global oneness, only if I truly embrace my location in this form as an Indian. 

But we are in a very messy situation right now. What is generally called ‘India’ and ‘Indian’ is often misplaced - misinterpreted, misused. All around us, we see two kinds of people. 1. Those who use their idea of ‘India’ and their identity as an ‘Indian’ with such wrong intentions / ignorance, fueling fear, separation, pain and suffering. 2. Those who are disgusted by this and have taken a strong counter stand to disown our roots. Understandable. I’ve done that too.

Connecting being whole, strong and unique;
Golden ball in the centre represents 'The Truth'
By embracing, I don't mean blindly accepting. By embracing, I mean enquiring into the nature of my Indian identity. And from this empowered and aware place, recalibrating my relationship with it. It involves critically assessing it, understanding its strengths and limitations, challenging it, reorganising it where necessary by discarding what is not relevant and building on its their strengths, integrating and rising beyond. Over the years, finding my own empowerment and healing from the oppression in my culture, I’ve felt less and less of a need to disown my roots. For, I realize I am part of a larger collective consciousness – the Indian consciousness, more specifically, the Indian female consciousness. My personal healing is deeply connected to the larger healing of these collectives.

Rejection of our local identity in the process of 'moving on' only builds more pain, which will eventually come out in side ways and burn us out. 

Connecting being fragmented, weak and homogenous;
Black ball in the centre represents
'Falsehood / The Mass Unconscious' 
There is a great and urgent need to really enquire into ‘What is India? What does it mean to be Indian? How do we firmly root ourselves in the local. (Another interesting term being used these days is ‘Glocalisation’.) It is only after we have done that, only after we have truly learnt to get in touch with and celebrate (which also comes packaged with mourning) our own soil, can we talk about ‘True Globalisation’. Otherwise, we will continue to mistake ‘homogenization’ for ‘global oneness’. A collective Branti Dharshanam we need to urgently recognize and heal from.

Prof. Herman Daly in his beautifully articulated essay explains why the current form of globalization, with nations (and cultures) having porous borders, is actually tearing the world apart, intensifying suffering. He proposes Internationalisationas opposed to ‘Globalisation’, on very similar terms that I’ve explained here.   

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Bala Kailasam

The first time I met Kailasam was during the two-day residential exploration on 'What is India?' that he graciously hosted in his house. We watched a series of insightlful films directed by him, along with a few others 'on India' that helped us take a critical look at how 'India and Indian are grossly exoticsed and misrepresented' through the western lens. The most impactful of his films was 'Vaastu Marabu: A Shilpi Speaks'

The two days were filled with insight, laughter, wisdom and authenticity - a lot of it inspired and anchored by Kailasam's lovely energy. I was deeply moved by the intensity of his quest, passion, commitment, willingness to learn and share, and most of all, his humility. He was a dreamer, like most of us. And there was an immediate unmistakable connection because of that.

The second and the last time I met him was in May, at a meeting which was about enquiring into the nature of the 'Indian psyche', its relationship to the election results, and India's future. Kailasam had been in the ICU until recently, and had been discharged from the hospital only the day before, and I was quite shocked and pleasantly surprised to see him there. He said "But, this is too important to miss!"

He could not sit through the meeting after about two hours (for very obvious reasons!) As he was leaving, he said "Sangeetha, I've been meaning to stay in touch and call you all over to my place for a get-together. I'm sorry I've been out of touch. I'm really looking forward to us all meeting soon!" I really looked forward to it too, but soon started hearing news about his being very unwell again; and later about his death.

Though my encounter with Kailasam was a very brief one, my life has been deeply touched by it. He's most definitely one of the most beautiful human beings I've met. As much as I am sad and I mourn, I am also deeply grateful for having met him over such an important question of our times. It's almost like he flagged off my / our journey into the exploration and took leave. I am carrying his inspiration as I pursue the path.