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March update

23 Mar

You can never predict when the tide will turn on the PhD, can you? I’ve been searching for a sense of urgency in the chapter-writing process- the kind of urgency that I felt during the MPhil dissertation- but it was nowhere to be found for about two years. All of a sudden, a Canadian grad student I follow on instagram announced a 100 days of dissertation challenge, and boom! Enter urgency. A combination of participating in that challenge with over 400 other PhD students, and starting to use the magical pomodoro method of working, has done the trick.

Now that the urgency is here, I need to figure out other stuff around it. Like, how to balance the other aspects of my life with the dissertation work. How do I incorporate my meditation schedule, yoga/walks, a bit of pranic healing here and there, and entertainment by way of fiction and/or happy shows and movies, into my day?

It is spring, and the sun is already blazing hot. Tisn’t the most ideal weather to be outdoors, but I need to be properly outdoors atleast once a week. Cabin fever is building much, much faster when I’m spending hours indoors concentrating on Chapter One.

Overall, March has been ‘properly’ productive, in a very capitalist sense of the term. Went live with my website and got solidly underway with Chapter One. With regard to the website, it is ‘live’ only in that it is officially declared on my instagram handle. Phase two is telling people about it, and printing visiting cards (which I have already sort of designed). I have warm hopes and dreams of adding to that initiative by way of more writing on my part, and more importantly, facilitating creative writing workshops with young adults. Maybe in time it can become a paying side-hustle of sorts. Though I’m not yet sure whether I’d like to professionalize it that way. We’ll see 🙂

 

 

 

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28 Feb

There is a war-like situation brewing in the sub-continent and it is really distressing. India and Pakistan are both nuclear powers- we all know what happens when you nuke a site. Even without nukes, war is a ravenous beast. Is life- human, animal, ecological- so cheap that we can fan the flames in a volatile situation? I’m stunned, appalled, almost near despair at how many in my community- neighbours, school friends, relatives- seem to want war. Ofcourse, none of these people have any real stake in the eventuality of war- none have dear ones in the defense forces. The thirst for war seems to be overwhelmingly concentrated in those with the least to lose.

Anyway, what can I do by airing yet another opinion on facebook? I’ll stick to praying really hard that there isn’t a war, that the situation de-escalates fast.

Feeling the need to watch/ read something heartwarming and wholesome to drown out the aggression and uncertainty, I started watching Call the Midwife yesterday. It is heartening to watch something that celebrates the goodness of life, and service to community, good to be reminded that the state can play and has played a positive role in society (the NHS in the UK, in this case).

In other matters, February has gone by, and I have had very few days that I’ve been able to work on anything, forget my PhD. I’ve spent most of the month tending to the fragile state of my mind and nerves. I’ve read a few books, many blogs and instagram posts, heard a very healing series of podcasts, and worked 2-3 days on my creative portfolio website.

This coming month I need to try something different- I need to nourish and feed my soul in a different way, if I have any hope of approaching a healthy space of work and writing. I need to consciously allocate time every week go physically go out and about in the city, visiting new places, ticking off items from the Calcutta bucket list, taking some photos and generally wandering about the city with a sense of wonder. I need to treat that as important as the desire to write my chapters. I have seen in the past that does a lot for my sense of well-being and ability to work at tasks that are difficult.

As for today- I’ll commit to finishing the work on my website and going ‘live’. New month, fresh start.

A Very Happy New Year, all!

8 Jan

Dear reader,

I wish you a very happy new year. I wish you the symbolic renewal that every January brings, and hope you are able to take that and translate it into every day, so that every morning becomes a new year, a renewed chance at doing better, trying again.

In the past I’ve used the last day of December to sum up my year (mostly for myself) and write down my hopes for the coming year. The quintessential year end activity that many bloggers and social media users engage in (I love reading them!). This year though The Year That Was post was relegated to the back of my mind for a very good reason: my family was visiting and I learnt on the 31st that I have been approved to receive the technique of meditation my spiritual practice has been building towards since 2011 (and in a way, since I was born; in another way, many lifetimes in the past…)- Kriya Yoga.

It all happened very unexpectedly, because as I’ve noted several times on this blog, I’ve not yet managed to become a regular meditator. A pre-requisite for Kriya in the organization I take my teachings from is twice daily practice of the preliminary techniques.

(This is with good reason because Kriya is powerful, and one doesn’t want to fry one’s nervous system. Besides, the preliminary techniques do many important things like give good training in interiorizing your consciousness, becoming aware of energy and learning to move it at will, and building an attunement with Guru and God. They are powerful in themselves, and speaking for myself, I haven’t even come close to exhausting their potential, if that is even possible.)

Owing to my lack of regularity, I had not applied for Kriya and would not have done so this year either, had my steps not been guided to a monastic for counselling one Sunday in December. I love how these things happen- inner promptings that nudge you towards where you need to go, almost independent of ‘your’ self. The monastic suggested applying despite lack of regularity, so within a few days I did.

And oh, the melodrama of human emotions! First I was so happy and excited at finding out I had a shot at Kriya now, when mentally I had become prepared to wait for who knows how long, given my massive struggle with regularity, that it was as if someone had switched on a motor inside me. I couldn’t sleep properly for a week. And then my hopes plummeted when it turned out that the review of my application would happen differently from what I had been given to understand, and I thought that meant it was all a mistake, I’d have to wait for eons after all. Resigned to that, I put it out of my mind and focused on enjoying my family’s visit to the city and the year-end festive feeling. And then on the 31st I found out that I was eligible, and that initiation would come in four days time! And now joy mingled with dread, when the longed for thing was within reach.

Anyway, I am initiated now. It was lovely. I wasn’t sure if the initiation went as it was supposed to go for a while (predominant fear being ‘did I fail?’), because I didn’t have anything to compare it with. Hurrah for the internet, eh? As things settled down, and as I came across what looked like reliable accounts of experiences of others, I am at peace with mine. It was lovely, it went as it should, I have what I need. The techniques themselves will need a bit of practice before I get them right, but I am finally feeling at peace there too- my massive fear of cocking things up has been replaced by an awareness and reassurance that Guru will guide.

So here I am! Eight days into 2019, with an intention of making this an active year. Actively embracing good health practices like regular exercise, and cutting out food deliveries (made easier by the fact that I’ve finally run out of my savings, ha!), actively engaging with my writing in a bid to finish my dissertation by year end, and actively embracing regularity in meditation. Actively exploring the freelance employment market, and putting my creative work out there in a semi-professional blog. Active, conscious movement will be the goal for 2019.

And, because it does serve a purpose, the highlights of the past year, for me, include:

PhD life:

*My book review being published in a journal.

*The book review leading to the planning of chapter structure for my thesis that will most probably stay stable.

*Applying for a year’s extension on my PhD.

*Sorting through and organizing five years’ worth of PhD material.

*Coming to peace with the possibility of staying within academia at the end of this, and not fantasizing about running away at the earliest opportunity. This was aided in part by a tarot reading a dear, generous friend did for me, out of the blue.

*Being selected to attend a philosophy workshop at Bangalore, and being thoroughly stimulated by the experience and Bangalore.

*Being invited to consult on a research project in Bangalore relating to my area of experience/expertise (slightly chuffed about this!).

*Womaning up to facing one supervisor at the end of the year and sharing with her, yet again, my lack of writing progress. Full honesty about having lost my way again, and feeling a lack of meaningful connection to the PhD, but having found some resolution to these problems towards the end of the year, led to a very good exchange. She was understanding, especially of the existential angst, and so we move into the next phase of work with no secrets, so to speak. This exchange might be required with my other supervisor too, but it’s going to be harder to do it over email.

 

Spiritual Life:

*Getting back to the full sequence of routines for my meditation practice, for the times when I did sit down to them.

*Briefly resuming the practice of Pranic Healing, and this time being guided to a place where I lost the fear I used to have while doing it. A more devotional/prayerful approach to the techniques is more suited to my temperament I find.

*Having a friend to meditate with for the first time, in Delhi. Her influence led to my returning to the ashram space with more regularity. And helped me return to the Dakshineshwar ashram space nearly two years after I last went. It was time.

*Discovering the existence of Quantum Hypnosis Healing Technique (QHHT), and reading a book on the laws of the spirit world (by Khorshed Bhavnagiri) that added new dimensions to my understanding of life and the world of energy and spirit. QHHT is too expensive for me right now, but in the process of making enquiries, I consciously experienced the manner in which deeply and intensely posing a question to one’s inner self makes it certain that the answer to the question will come. And how identifying the question itself is a big movement towards the answer.

*Becoming eligible for Kriya!

 

Personal Life:

*My father’s surgery and consequent healing.

*My mother’s retirement.

*Taking up the making of art again, and finding newer directions creatively speaking.

*Resolving to put my creative work on a blog and a visiting card. The friend’s tarot reading helped here too with the decision that I had been dithering over.

*Having a dear friend and kindred spirit in the city for the whole year, making a nice change from being kindred-spirit less (in the flesh) in Calcutta.

*Ticking off some items from my Calcutta bucket-list.

 

This isn’t a blog which is very generous to its potential readers, by way of material. So if you are still reading, thank you!  You are very patient, and I value your readership. All the very best for 2019!

 

Warmly,

The student in Kolkata

To be writing again

11 Sep

It’s been a while, and perhaps it would be good to write a little post in here. I’ve been estranged from my words recently, not just in here but also in my journal. I’m doing that millennial thing of drowning in the internet, consuming shtuff. Most of what I consume is immemorable, although I have to say The Office was not. The Office, the US version, was surprisingly heartwarming, funny and wholesome. I might be in love with Dwight Schrute 😀

While most modern TV is designed to induce binge watching, The Office seemed to be an exception. Most episodes stood on their own and didn’t leave you frantically wanting to know what happened next. The Pam and Jim romance was not milked for the usual kind of drama (I’m looking at you, Grey’s Anatomy!), there was a stability to even that story line! I guess this shows there are ethical ways to keep a show popular and one doesn’t have to programme in a binge watching element to narratives! Which is not to say that I DIDN’T binge watch, hehe. It is just that when I needed to, I was able to limit myself to one episode per day.

What have I been up to? Well, I spent two months in Delhi as my father underwent the surgery we were waiting for since December. The whole thing ended up being more complicated and serious than hoped for, though we were warned by the surgeon of all possible outcomes. Through it all, before, during and after, we felt the unmistakable hand of God and Guru carrying us physically and emotionally. We were calm, we felt prepared, and the post-surgery finding feels manageable. There is a road ahead of us to be journeyed, and we will embark on it with prayerful gratitude in our hearts.

I felt zero inclination to even try and work on the PhD whilst there. I wanted to make my full self available to my father and family. To an extent, I met the goal of setting myself aside and diving into small acts of care. But I won’t kid myself that outwardly it translated into a whole lot. In my ideal world, good caregiving translates into keeping the home in order, making warm and nourishing meals, and cultivating an environment of peace and joy that infuses positivity and joy into hearts. And alongside that, most importantly, regular sessions of pranic healing. I found that all my energy went into ensuring semi-regular pranic healing sessions. Order in the home, meals etc all fell on my mother as I quickly became overwhelmed by it all. All I did was that semi-regular pranic healing. One blessing from this season was that I lost my fear of healing. I received good advice, and now I feel more able to perform the healing as worship and prayer, which suits my temperament more than performing it as a ‘healer’, one who can do damage if the channel through which God’s healing comes isn’t pure and holy.

I’m back in Calcutta now, and have just applied for an extension on my PhD registration. This has sort of become the norm now, everyone seems to be doing it. Next week I head to Bangalore for a workshop. And then, I need to find a way back to my writing, a way past-or through?- the many worries and anxieties about my future and my decisions that are becoming my steady companions.

As always, there is but one way ahead- regular meditation. It has been nearly a month since I meditated. The time and situation are right to begin again.

 

How to not evaluate your life through the sole lens of your PhD attempt

12 Mar

Or, How to Not Miss the Forest for the Trees.

One of the biggest temptations during a long, full-time PhD where your only commitment is to the PhD (and not, say, also simultaneously providing economically and emotionally for dependents) is to answer yae or nay to the question ‘Am I making progress?’ based on your progress with the PhD. Or maybe on whatever else you are prioritising with the PhD, which in my case is my spiritual practice. This might not be a very good way to do things because hey, those are just parts of your life, not the sum total of.

So, fellow yumans, take note of all the the little wins that will come in handy in doing life. You can’t put ’em on a CV, but you can put ’em on social media with saccharine filtered photos and flowery new-age prose-poetry.

To my list I’ll add: earning mum’s approval for single-handed maintenance of domestic premises, including the newly gained ability to jhadoo-pochha whenever needed.

 

26 Feb

It is 2 AM, and I am reading through a World Bank report on urbanisation while drinking lightly brewed (in deference to the hour) Earl Grey tea from my favourite mug.

I am on a deadline to submit whatever is ready of a rough draft of my first chapter, and it has been a while since I’ve done the night owl thing for work.

Feels good.

The night is the best time for work, and everything else \m/.  Too bad I’ll go back to attempting healthy normal hours from tomorrow :-/

A PhD student’s guide to health and nutrition

17 Feb

P.S.-This also works if you’re stupid lazy. Or on a budget. Or all three.

Need to eat? Concerned that your idea of a balanced diet now includes Uncle Chips and dahi? Be not concerned. Buy yo’self some beans. Chop said beans and toss them in a pan with butter or ghee. Done.

When the mood strikes for something more elaborate, find a vegetable seller who will give you coriander for free. Then buy from him carrots, cauliflower, potatoes, more beans. Chop them all (yes, cauliflower stems too, what are you, like Richie Rich or something?) and simmer in a pot of water with all the coriander. Fry leftover cauliflower pieces, if any, in leftover ghee, if any. Eat as soup or, this part is not for those on a budget, in a bowl with melted cheese and chilli flakes on top.

Need to have clean floors? Get a broom and a long-handled twist mop, in orange if you can.

Need to work out? Put aside orange long-handled twist mop, and bring out the normal mop and get to it, Indian style. As you move crab-like from tile to tile, you’ll discover muscle groups you never knew existed.

You’re welcome.