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January Blues

31 Jan

Jan has been a rather crap month. It began comically badly, with an incident on the very first day of the brand new year, and never really picked up from there. It was a different kind of bad this time, a not in-your-face bad, which is why it took me a while to catch up to the fact.

I have spent the month caught in an inertia of non-motion. The fantastic pace of work and meditation of November and December was nowhere to be seen and I struggled to, and continue to struggle to, wake up in the mornings, meditate or work on my PhD. I’ve succumbed to late nights reading endless random shit on the internet, sometimes staying up till 4 in the morning. And naturally, that means I’m waking up not before one or two in the afternoon. The backlog of work accumulates- I have 24 newspapers to read as a part of my research, and several essays and soft copies of stuff related to my research. This is stuff I should have finished last month. It isn’t a whole lot- I read a lot more during my MPhil coursework-but it builds, and begins to look scary, and I avoid.

Waking up this late not only destroys the possibilities of the day in my head, it also builds a kind of lethargy that seeps into my weeks. There have been three events that I have missed in this past month because I could not/did not want to wake up in the morning.

The worst part is that I have not been able to aggressively grab the situation by its throat and say enough! I’m not doing anything to snap out of it. As long as I am actively doing something to resist these slides I feel good and able, even though I might be struggling.

Being stuck in this kind of mental space produces a very different kind of stock-taking. I feel like my PhD is drifting, reminded anew of how I’m not presenting any papers at conferences or publishing anything related to my area of work. I feel terribly insecure about my productivity at this point.

I’m not quite as worried about having meditated only about thrice this month; I am quietly confident that I will return to it sooner than later. That part of me, my identity as a child of and lover of God is the only thing that I have till date been unshakeably sure of.

I need to flip that switch.

Quitting Coffee and other life-style changes

6 Apr

Working in coffee shops-noisy or not- is strangely productive. I’ve only done it thrice so far and the results have been too good to ignore. It’s expensive though, compared to working from the library or home- I spend anywhere between Rs. 150-Rs.300 per visit. It’s something that perhaps needs to be worked into my budget on a weekly basis.

Checklists are so comforting. You write down what needs to be done and clear the chaos in your head. Right now I need to:

1) Figure out details related to the workshop I will be presenting at. This involves a) the paper: the additional reading and fieldwork that I would need to do in order to update my earlier work. And also b) my travel plans. If I’m getting paid to travel to Germany, I can’t not travel around a bit after the workshop, no? 🙂 So I need to decide where I want to go, book places, buy tickets, apply for the visa etc etc.

A) and B) need to happen simultaneously, so I need to get all Sherlock about it: have separate mental drawers that I open and close every day. Otherwise it will create one gigantic mess in my head, I will panic, and nothing will get done.

2) Finish the rough draft of my (PhD) proposal that I must show my supervisor tomorrow. It will not be a complete proposal, but if I wait for that, I won’t have anything to show him for months! I must remember some lessons from my MPhil. An intention of achieving ‘perfection’ and ‘completeness’ is not a good motor for the writing process, in the early stages. Comments on messy drafts help them become less messy.

3) Three is actually related to 1); I need to take a long hard look at the abstract I submitted and decide what part of it I want to discuss with my supervisor tomorrow.

Ok, back to work.

***

I’m posting this five-ish hours after I wrote it. Five hours is long enough time for me to know for sure, like sure sure, that coffee really isn’t my thing, even as an occasional beverage. So, I quit. This would be a less drastic change than the one I made about a month ago with regard to my food habits: I quit meat and fish and all forms of non-vegetarian food except for eggs. Reducing the number of things I’m dependent on makes my spiritual life and practice easier.

 

 

 

 

Aside 18 Jan

Energy is crucial to spiritual practice. You cannot pray and meditate at all times of the day, and last thing at night, if you’re exhausted and dying to take a nap.

Devotional music infuses tremendous energy into a body that desires a nap.

Write a hundred times…

6 Nov

‘I will not be a feverish fool’

Or,

Some simple rules that are incredibly hard to follow…even though they are simple, because they are hard, because they are simple…

And round and round the merry-go-round we go! For that’s what it is.

Tomorrow will be a week from last Thursday, a week that was incredibly hard to deal with to begin with. Because, I panicked. I had a report to write, I was unable to make any headway on the report and started entertaining an impressive variety of doomsday thoughts. I’m becoming quite the pro at hosting these acid-laced zip zip rollercoaster gravity plunging thought-parties in my head. It was a theme party to begin with and the theme was ‘Oh You Fool’. Because, you know, going ahead and volunteering with this organisation and then not being able to give them anything and all that…

I must say though they’ve been awesome to me. I’ve been chastised for getting so worked up about it and been ordered to chill. And, the panic was clarifying in a sense because by taking away sanity, it brought me back to basics. Helped remind me that I’ve made the decision to rest and act in God, and in God I must rest and act at all times (like I said…simple rule, hard to follow…). Somehow these not-so-pleasant moments are really, really good for my spiritual journey.

The report is flowing now. Long way to go yet, but I’m writing (and patting myself on the back for being 6000 words deep), and have hit the ‘zone’ where I’m content to write without worrying about the ‘end’.

Dear self,

Kindly remember you enjoy using your brain.

Regards,

The self.

1 Nov

It’s time to retire the shorts, for autum-winter is here.

The last quarter of the year has such a festive feel to it. October onwards we go through Durga Puja, Eid, Diwali and Kali Puja, and soon it will be Christmas and the new year will be upon us. The good thing about being officially a ‘secular’ nation- secular defined not as a distance from all religions, but an acceptance of all- is that we get a lot of holidays! I’d miss this very much were I to ever not live in India. <–And that, I hope, shall never come to pass.

It’s been a month of Delhi. One of my resolutions for 2013 was to reduce my extreme need for sleep and naps. Delhi has shown me that I can do with six hours of sleep quite happily. Waking up at 5.30 is not the end of the world, 😀 The body really is subservient to the mind.

The mind is the ground where all the big boys and girls play. I’d be lying if I said I was done disciplining mine. It’s from moment to moment, day to day I exist, trying to the best of my ability to surrender all thought, all action, all effort to that most beloved non-being, God. It’s a fight of the twos, really.

Battling dualities. Negotiating opposing pulls. Struggling to unite the self with Self.

Between Godly behaviour and human behaviour.

Choices, basically 🙂

Right now, right this moment, is the choice of whether or not worry about the fact that I have a report to compile by tomorrow. What I had two days for, I now have one day for, thanks to the sore throat that kept me home today. As also, a choice of whether or not to make myself anxious about the fact that I really haven’t contributed anything much to the organisation I’m volunteer-working for right now. I’ve certainly taken much from it, directly and indirectly, but from my end? They’ve not really got much. Except for the pleasure of my company every day B-)

Meh. And I do have the choice of reminding myself that it’s the job of the mind to de-stabilise my spiritual practice until I’m fully in God.

Here’s to more meditation. *Metaphoric clink*

Post-dated cheques.

21 Oct
I have succumbed to coffee.

Just like last time.

Let me elaborate:

Way back in 2009, when I first interned here, I did not drink tea or coffee. I never grew up with these beverages, so they never became a part of my life. They were, however, an integral part of the office life here. They would drink tea, coffee, and nimbu paani (lemonade) several times a day, for shots of energy, I guess. A few months into the six-month internship, I too started imbibing caffeine. I can’t remember now whether it was to stay awake and alert or whether as a filler, a thing to do to pass time while working. My tea and coffee drinking days came to a natural, painless end, with the end of said internship.

Two years later, I ended the drought with six cups of tea, the day before my end-sem exams for the MPhil. Without milk, without sugar, thank you very much. For the next week, I repeated the endless cups of tea and discovered that I actually loved the stuff. Green tea, herbal teas, orange pekoe, the English Breakfast blend… The only thing I would refuse to drink was anything packaged by Tetley.

Two more years later, earlier this year, I realised I was getting dependent on my morning cup of green tea with lemon and honey and my occasional cups of Kangra Herbal Tea (<–divine!). I needed my cup to feel ‘right’ and that was not great. So I decided to become a tea-teetotaler again, until I could begin to feel indifferent to tea again (I never did get fond of coffee).

In office, however, I’m stuck in an oppressive, artificial environment for a good chunk of the day. I’m not wildly busy with work. Much reflection is happening about the organisation and whether or not I see myself working here long-term anymore, which, basically, leaves me needing an energy kick post-lunch.

So, I have succumbed to coffee. A very milky, lukewarm cup that I made for myself and a colleague, who was nice enough to not rib me about it. And even as I write, I hear from another colleague that I nearly busted the coffee machine in the process, having left the empty glass pot on the switched-on machine. Oops!         

A rather long ramble

4 Jul

I had a short conversation with my Guide today morning. We were talking (and laughing!) about how my first drafts have looked SO different from my final drafts. He made the observation that my first drafts are intensely personal and that I achieve the level of detachment and distance that is required in academic writing in consequent drafts. Don’t ever turn in first drafts! said he. Lol.

It was a very profound observation, not just on my writing, but also on myself. (Ofcourse, as I have discovered during the dissertation process, I cannot draw neat lines between where my self ends and where my ability to write begins. When I struggle mentally with something, my writing is impacted.) My mind, in its natural state, is an unrestful place. It is extra-responsive to my environment, to my past, and it simply HAS to work through every thought that comes to mind. Put another way, there are endless triggers that I encounter in day-to-day living, which, if not managed, can send me into a spiral of unhealthy responses like worry, anxiety, anger, grief. My mind in its ‘natural’ state teaches me to identify with my lower self and take it too seriously. And I am very glad for this, because I have often wondered if I was easily satisfied with my life, would I have sought God? Would I have realised that there is no lasting peace and joy in anything but God? Would I have made loving and realising God my goal and sole ambition? Somehow I don’t think so. Had I not been made the way I have been made, my journey in God would have looked very different.

Managing my triggers has been a big part of the journey I have made in the past two years. Around November 2012, I had written:

So when I think of work, I think I need to re-orient my conception of it. Working on MYSELF is my primary job for now, because as they say on airplanes: put the mask on yourself before you help children and the elderly. I’m no good at giving myself, till this myself learns to behave and be in God at all times.  

I am learning to become aware of and distance and detach myself from my lower self. I am learning to observe inharmonious movements of thoughts and feelings inside me and realise that these do not have to keep me from practicing the presence of God. There is a very definite parallel between the journey I have made during my MPhil programme and the jouney I have made in God. I believe very strongly that the only reason the Lord blessed me with these two years of MPhil in Calcutta is so I could learn to move further in my spiritual practice. There was no reason for me to have been admitted to this institution; the application procedure required a research proposal. EVERYBODY had a research proposal…except me. All I gave them were a few paragraphs of what I was interested in. As far as I am concerned, the MPhil wasn’t my move, it was God’s 🙂

I have not made the journey on my own; nothing is my own, not even my effort. It’s all God. And oh yes, moving my self from the first draft version of myself to my second, third, fourth versions of myself have only been possible through meditation. I have gone from ‘freestyle’ meditation to a specific technique. This is in preparation of my mind and body to receive Kriya Yoga initiation some day, if it is so willed. Nothing has taught me to activily still the mind like meditation, and without stillness one can’t receive God.

There is another long post that I will need to get out some day soon. Thoughts about the terrible tragedy in Uttarakhand. We will never know how many are dead. They are saying it might be 100,000-300,000. Most of us have never seen or heard anything like it. It’s like the doomsday movies. Assam has floods now. Canada has floods. Parts of Europe had (has) floods. Kids are dying in Kerala. A bigoted man might be the prime ministerial canditate for one of the main political parties in 2014’s elections. There is a lot of unprecedented crazy in the world right now. It is hard to feel secure in the midst of all this, but maybe this worldy insecurity will lead more and more of us to search for a more permanent, inviolate security. But, all that for another post. Back to work now.