Sometimes friends move. Sometimes you move. Sometimes they change. Sometimes you change. And very often it doesn’t happen at the same time for all of you. And so it seems that every friendship has its own rhythm. Unfolds in its own time, deepens at its own pace, but what all friendships have in common is that they are always moving, none remain in the same place forever. They travel as you travel, and explore new depths and horizons as you do. And all are bound to face a storm. Some end up parting ways and others grow tighter in the process. There are few friendships that have lived their entire lives on tropical islands, untouched by harsh winters and scorching desert suns. Some friendships age gracefully and mature into the finest of wines. Others die young. And others have yet to explore new territories with their friendship, to discover its boundaries and test its will. Some are friendships of grief, brought together by the unfortunate events of life. And the oldest kind of all are friendships of childhood. Like all other things in childhood, because we are so small, they are so large.
The friendships of childhood are one of the most important, if not the most important way we come to form relationships with people outside our family. They are how we observe interactions between others and how we learn to observe ourselves in the world. They are our first mirrors. Childhood friendships were our entry way into the world of complex human relationships. They introduced us to conflict. They taught us how to play, how to communicate, how to say sorry and how to share. Childhood friendships are the context in which we got to experience a complex range of emotions that we didn’t understand yet as children, for instance like how we can love someone so much and get so mad at them that we decide we never want to see them again, even if never was just for a moment. Childhood friendships taught us about the contradictory nature of people, of life, of our actions, of how we might feel we have the best toys and still want to have our friend’s toys too. Childhood friendships are where our humanity first expresses itself. It is where we perform our first kindest acts and our first cruellest ones. Childhood friendships can be ones we hold dear to our hearts and can be those too we never want to be reminded of. After all, they are one of the strongest connections to our past. And some portion of our past is bound to be wonderful and some bound to be traumatic, and some just bla. But unlike the past that cannot move forward with us, the people from our past can. And it is always our choice to carry them with us (whether consciously or unconsciously). It is us that decides how much of our past we keep close and how much we tuck away and kiss goodnight.
It is interesting don’t you think, this term friend-ship. A ship of friends. A ship that carries you across the river of time. From past to future. This river filled with people swimming and you the only permanent occupant of your ship bring people in from time to time, some are to entertain you, some to teach you, others so you can teach them, some are for your judgement, others will come to judge you, some will make you laugh, others will bring you sorrow, some will bully you, and others will offer you their hearts full of love. There is much we get from friendship, and there is much we give to it too. It is a relationship after all, one that takes and one that gives, and in that exchange creates bonds and connections that shape the ship we travel on through life.
Recently I found myself telling a friend that I don’t really understand how someone could enjoy watching other people fight. Even though my friend agreed, something inside of me wasn’t satisfied with that response. I felt that maybe my friend and I weren’t really paying attention, maybe we weren’t seeing something important that was so clearly there, that everyone else could see. A few days later, as the thought simmered and cooked itself in my mind, an answer arrived slowly, trickling through my resistance to accept something so “aggressive”. After all, I was all about peace, so how could I let myself see that there was beauty in conflict, in war, in fighting, let alone fighting as a sport. But I couldn’t not see it. It was there showing itself so beautifully and so transparently.
I had been the kind of person that tried to avoid conflict with others. I wasn’t so confrontational, and always afraid to cause upset or to cause myself upset through another’s upset. I was hiding behind peace hoping conflict wouldn’t find me. Ironically, I was already in it but just couldn’t see it. I was refusing to see the truth that I was bathing in conflict, some of it was for fun and some was more serious forcing me to grow and move forward through life. I love stories, and conflicts are at the heart of every one of them. It’s what makes a hero out of the human in every story. It is what captivates us because we understand that conflict is how we all grow, how we mature, how we get closer to those around us, how we get closer to ourselves. It is there at the centre of it all, like a sort of gravity that pulls our lives together, connects the dots between the different lines and threads. So you see, people go to see boxing matches not because they like to see others in pain or bleed but because it is a celebration of the “fight”, the fight that we are engaged in from the moment we begin to make our way through our mother’s birth canal. It is a celebration of the force that is “opposite”; it is a celebration that duality moves us forward, that the strength of our spine comes from having to resist and grow against gravity. Watching people fight reminds us that fighting is normal. It reminds us that it is sacred, that there is pleasure to be found in the pain.
Characters facing great obstacles and conflicts are an integral part of any captivating story. This is the stuff that makes for good TV. This is the stuff that we are willing to give our time and attention to. Why? Because it reminds us that conflict is beautiful, that what starts out one way will end somewhere else, that every conflict is a journey in and of itself, that it has an end just as it does a beginning. It reminds us that the fight is survivable, that we can do it, that we are all warriors in our own way. I understand now what I couldn’t see before because I was refusing to see the opportunities conflict was presenting in my own life. I had told myself the story that it was all harmful, that all conflict was painful, that it was all personal. Now, I can see a much bigger picture. I can appreciate the closeness I feel with someone who I am able to work through a fight with. Making space for conflict in our lives is not only important but it’s what makes it interesting. It’s what pushes us to evolve and change.
Watching a fight reminds us that there are always winners and losers, and that both are important for the growth of the other, and that being a part of the fight is what’s more important than winning or losing because one day you might be a winner and another a loser. It teaches us that there is meaning and joy to be made and had in the process, so we better not get attached to winning or losing but that it is best to learn to be both. Watching a fight reminds us that engaging in conflict is a creative act and that there is a big element of uncertainty that teaches us how to listen and be more sensitive. One of the perhaps more useful elements of watching or observing conflict is that even though it might look like chaos, but there are always rules; even wars have rules and when these rules are violated, people need to be held responsible. And different conflicts have different rules, and rules like your opponents are to be respected if you want to play the game and fight the fight. Of course, it could be argued that we see too much conflict in our world and perhaps we need to see more peace. But the thing is peace, resolution and unions all begin with conflict, they are the creative products of conflict. So perhaps the fact that there is so much conflict around us might be a sign that we are not following through till the end, that maybe we are leaving too many conflicts open-ended, unresolved and without an end which leads to long-term dysfunctional conflicts. And so like anything, conflict can be productive as well as destructive. You can choose how to manage your conflicts, you can choose to be brutal or compassionate. You can choose to prioritise immediate gains of winning the fight or long term gains of winning the relationship. You can take ownership of your mistakes or blame everyone else. Conflict is a great teacher, a beautiful one and a brutal one at times. But life is not just a walk in the park; it certainly can be sometimes but it is also the sand storms and hurricanes that turn and transform people’s lives. So today perhaps take a moment to recognise all the goodness conflict has brought to your life, recognise the muscles you have acquired through conflict, and the confidence with which you have learnt to protect your boundaries.
May you always have it in you to fight the good fight.
One of the most precious dreams you can gift yourself during a period of hardship is the possibility of a different future to the one you see now. Life at this point may have not turned out how you expected, but it is still happening, it is still moving, still becoming, and so are you. I personally cannot lie to you and say it is easy to grieve what may have been, what could’ve become, but I do know that it is much easier to hope differently than to keep on hoping for some old dream that will never be, even if that dream were us. What is us after all but what we are and we are not our imagined selves, we are who we are now. And to move anywhere forwards or even backwards, we must recognise first who are today. We get stuck when we refuse precisely to do that — to see the truth of who we are now. It is only in recognising our present that our past makes sense and our future becomes clear. We cannot walk if we cannot see the terrain on which we stand — is it rocky, is it sandy, is it a mountain top, or a river bend? It is painful, I know, to open your eyes to the truth. But when you feel the pain, only then can it subside. Only then can it be transformed into something else. So you must choose what to do with your pain. Only you can decide what to make of it. Perhaps you had no hand in the pain you find yourself in, but you do have all the power to make something of it and that something can be of your choosing, but only if you are willing to take the pain on, to stretch your arm out to it and say ‘Yes, I accept you. Yes, I feel you. Yes, I am willing to learn your lesson.’ Only then will the pain be willing to be transformed by you too.
Those who seek to accumulate power are often condemned as greedy but equally we must not forget that those who relinquish their power are refusing a precious gift given to them by the Universe. We are blessed with power but sometimes we forget how to hold this power and use it. We try to own it, to possess it and accumulate it, but we must remember that it is merely a current, a sort of electricity passing through us seeking to light us up not dissimilar to the way an electric current illuminates a light bulb. First though, we must recognise we are a light bulb. We are not the creators or owners of this power, we cannot collect it or send it away. If we try to hoard it or prevent it from coming in, we simply burn out and go dark. In either case, whether out of too much light or too little light, we die prematurely without the continuous flow of power. It is precisely this flow of power that helps us heat up, burn, and transform our pain. Just like fire burns wood into ashes that then nourish the Earth; it is our power that burns and transforms our pain into something nourishing that feeds us and all the other humans who are connected to our circuit. Without power, we do not have the energy to overcome. Without power, we cannot become who we are. We become who we are by recognising our ability to transform our suffering into something else. So suffering comes sometimes to remind us of a power we have forgotten to use — the power to transform. It comes to remind us of our heritage, our ancestral right to the beautiful art of alchemy, of making something out of nothing, of giving life to something that is dying, of transformation and resurrection.
When there is no pain, there is no pressure. A diamond is formed through pressure. It is all earth, but with enough pressure and heat, a diamond is formed. So remind yourself, where there is no pain, there is no pressure to transform. In our current culture though, there is this fallacy that we constantly need to improve ourselves and I must admit that I too fell and still fall under the misconception sometimes that I must change to improve, that somehow my current self is not good enough and so must become better. But the truth is that there is no good enough. There is just enough. And there is change. Change is merely a movement, like walking, like swimming, like painting, it is just a new arrangement of the raw materials already present. Like baking a cake, the eggs alone are good enough to make an omelette, and the flour good enough to make bread, and both are delicious, but together they can make a cake, also delicious but just different. So perhaps the trick is not to take change so personally, that it does not signify we are second best, but that we cannot be eggs forever or flour forever, that we must connect and merge with all that is around us, that is the purpose of change, as it is with alchemy, to combine! To combine to a point of no separation where something entirely new is birthed. Isn’t that beautiful? To be with something else, to be a part of something new, to become something entirely different together. It is the process of merging, of melting into life. Pain, change, power help us melt into life so that we can become life and finally recognise ourselves as not others roaming in life but that we are life itself. Life is us happening through us, speaking and changing via us, and merging onto and with itself so that it can be as inclusive, as containing, as whole as it possibly can.
With love and always for peace,
(P.s. I’ve missed you and apologies for the recent long breaks.)
An important part of the process of growing is learning to listen to your own inner guidance. I believe it is one of our main responsibilities towards ourselves to discover what our voice sounds like. The ironic thing is that the first phase of our lives is about the complete opposite thing. We are first born and come into the world ready to be moulded and shaped by the voices of others. We arrive ready to be parented. First, we are like sponges that absorb all that is around us — language, culture, norms, values. We become a condensed version of everything that we have been exposed to. Then… Then comes adolescence when we start to feel the weight of everything we have absorbed. Some of us react by emptying the sponge of everything that it’s absorbed, rebelling against it. Some hold on tighter to the water in the sponge, thinking they are this water, they are these values they have absorbed, but the more they fill, the more water leaks out. Somewhere along the line, whether it’s through a quarter life crisis or any other one, we are all forced to expunge the water from the sponge. We find ourselves some place where gravity no longer exists and all of a sudden any drop of water that was inside the sponge separates and exits the sponge and starts to float all around us, not in one piece, but in its individual droplets. And all of a sudden, perhaps for the first time ever, we can see each individual value or belief that has interacted with us. We see what we thought we were made of and realise that these things are not us. There is an us separate from all of these beliefs. There is an us that can choose which beliefs to hold within it, which values to embody. But how does one decide which values to give shelter to? How does one decide anything really? Deciding, how we decide, our own decision making process — that too after all is a value.
In a world that places greater value on rational thought than intuition, this becomes an important and pivotal value that arguably will shape all other values we choose. I would like to pause here for a moment on the word choose. Choose is not so different from decide, they are close cousins, synonyms. They both imply a will. They both imply a linear process from the subject making the choice to the object being chosen. What if, just what if, the relationship between chooser and what is chosen is not so linear, what if what is chosen chooses its chooser. It is possible. But it is only possible when we can acknowledge the limited way in which we perceive. Not dissimilar to our experience of time, it appears linear to us, it appears to be one-directional but it is not. And so it is with deciding and with choosing. Perhaps then the extra emphasis and value placed on rational thought comes from the assumption that we are always willing, that the flow of choice begins with us and our individual minds. But now that we have established that what is chosen can choose us as well, then perhaps we could start placing value on our listening abilities. How can we receive that signal from what is choosing us, how can we know that this thing has called for us? Is it through developing our intuitive abilities, valuing them, not belittling our natural signaling systems, giving all our systems a balanced distribution of power and importance? I really do believe we are collapsing under the weight of our minds for a reason, there is too much pressure on them. There is too much pressure on them to know, to decide, to choose. We have disconnected our minds from the wider systems of our bodies (both the physical and energetic bodies). And right now I am not calling for the opposite either, but I am calling to reintegrate our minds again back with our bodies, not only to relieve them of pressure but also so that we can receive better, so that we can flow better with life. So that we “choose” what is choosing us.
Balance is not just an important feature of outcomes, but of processes too. Balance in how we choose, how we will, how we receive, balance in our perception of our control, our power and knowing that it is always both fate and will. We need to open our minds and our hearts to the truth that listening is a form of choosing. To extend your antennae, to reintegrate your body’s type of rationality with your mind’s, to know that they are just different types of rationality — that is balance. To have values, but to know at the same time that all values can help grow us or destroy us; to know that today one value can be “good” whilst simultaneously being “bad” for another in some other place or at some other time in history — that is balance. So that means when we choose, we need to consult with our whole self – mind, body and soul. Whether you call it an inner compass or a higher self, there is a part of us that knows, senses and feels what is right for us. I must also pause here to take a moment or two to speak about rightness. Sadly, I think we are very confused about the ideas of right and wrong. We’ve been limiting them to these really rigid things. Right and wrong do exist. Right and wrong are necessary. But right and wrong, I believe, fall outside of morality. Rightness, I believe, is what is appropriate for our specific unique individual soul’s life experience. That means that to know what is right for us, we must learn through our own mistakes. And sometimes what is a mistake might be you choosing what other people would call “the morally correct way” and not doing the other thing that people would call “morally wrong”. We all have specific life lessons, life experiences and life journeys to go through and it isn’t just about us, it is about how each one of our life experiences enriches both the collective and individual experiences of all other living beings. What I mean is that sometimes poor people are not poor because they did something wrong or they chose it but poverty might’ve chosen them and Poverty with a capital P serves us all; it must exist because in its absence Life loses its balance. Without Poverty, Richness cannot exist. Without seeing poorer people than us, we eventually forget to be grateful. And it is not just poverty in resources I am speaking of here; there is poverty in joy, there is poverty in movement and poverty in sight. Without the blind, we forget how valuable our sight is to us. It is in seeing the other end of us, the opposites to us, that we can be who we choose and are chosen to be. And your life does not only serve You, it serves Us all. And not through how you think, but through every way you can be. So learn to listen deeply so you can recognise your own voice in the beautiful messed up crowd that is the entire world. Learn to receive what is for you and let go of what no longer speaks to you. Listen, so you can choose your chosen path and finally be who your whole system of being is yearning for you to be.
There are few certainties in life, perhaps the most certain of them all is that we will die. More so than that is that all those who we love will die. Everything dies, be it a living being or our youth or a marriage or job — everything ends. Even the world as we know it, at least from our point of view, ends when we die. Endings therefore shape our lives and in turn how we relate, not only to ourselves, but to the whole world around us. And as many people as there are right now, there are just as many ways of relating to endings. Endings offer some people clarity, a clean finish without which they cannot grieve and move forward; whilst for others, endings bring them anxiety reminding them that with each breath, they themselves are ending. But on the back of every ending is a new beginning. On the back of death, life is born and so how can we truly love living without loving dying first. For me personally, learning to see the beauty in death has helped me see the beauty in life. I went through a period of intense death anxiety in my mid-twenties, and one of the things that helped me overcome this fear of death was taking photographs of dead things that would cross my path, be it a bird or an insect or a flower. Slowly, I began to see beauty, I began to notice the body, its fragility, its vulnerability, yet its power to shape the kind of life we experience. It is my unique body that allows me to experience life from my eyes. It is my body too that dies when my life in it ends. But what happens to my spirit, my soul, where does it go? In all those pictures I have taken, it was clear that these were just bodies, albeit beautiful bodies, but bodies without a soul, they were left behind for the earth to consume them because to whom does a body belong but to the mother body that holds us all.
I remember my last term at university, I was so afraid all the time, not because I had exams coming up, but because I was graduating, my time in London was coming to an end, and I didn’t know what the future held for me. I was sad to leave friends behind. I was sad to leave a way of living I had gotten accustomed to behind. I was sad to say goodbye to a version of me that was dying. I would never again be an undergraduate. I would never again be 20. I would never again be so impressionable. No more blank canvases. I was all scribbled over now. I would never be new, not like seventeen year-old me. I would only grow older and older. The future —all of it — just seemed dreadful. Not that the past wasn’t difficult, but the future just seemed daunting instead of possible. I share this because I am sharing with you how endings made me feel, and still make me feel, although I must admit I am much more hopeful now than I ever was when I was eighteen. So maybe in losing youth, one gains hope or rather faith that it all works out in the end; even if we don’t arrive, we will survive. I can see clearly now how I navigate transitions — with loads and loads of fear. What I suppose is different now is that when I was younger, I used to believe the fear. Now, I just hear it out, nod a little to acknowledge it, but I certainly do not believe anything it has to tell me because I know most of the time, there is extreme exaggeration happening. So tens years on from my London goodbye, I am at the verge of another goodbye and so I wish now to meet this ending differently. I wish to be grateful to all the people, events, places — good and bad — that have held me over the past years. I would like to say thank you and offer a big smile right from the heart. I would like to say to the future that awaits me — to the beginning dawning on me — I am very excited to meet you. I would like to hope, instead of despair. I would like to let the possible pull me forward, instead of letting the impossible hold me back. I would like to move forward knowing that when I do look back, I will feel full with contentedness and gratitude — not because things were perfect but because they were a stop on my journey. When I wake up in fifty years time, and I hope I do, I want to wake up eager for another day and grateful for eighty years worth of days that I have said goodbye to. When my body dies in fifty eight years time, I hope that I can say goodbye to it and let go of my long small life.
Do you remember being asked as a child what you wanted to be when you grew up? Do you remember the answer you gave? Did it change as you grew up and realised the handyman that you wanted to be as a five year-old was not good enough for the world so at fifteen you decided a doctor was more suitable and then at eighteen you decided no a doctor isn’t enough, you need to be even more important than that. You didn’t want to be tucked away in a hospital saving lives quietly, you wanted to be seen for your accomplishments, recognised by the whole world for something great not because you were egotistical but because you needed greatness to give your life value. Not meaning. Value. It wasn’t about your life meaning anything, but it being worth something. And greatness is value. Greatness means you are worth it, it means all the mistakes you’ve done were worth it, it means your birth was worth it, the trouble you put your mother through to be born was worth it, the tremendous investment your parents poured into you was worth it. It means that the life you have lived was worth it. It means that when you come to die, you will feel like you were well spent.
But then your eighteen year-old self became a twenty-something old self, and you came to realise that greatness was not at all what you thought it was. Greatness wasn’t something the outside could give you. Greatness wasn’t accomplishing great things. Greatness wasn’t an object you could accumulate or collect. And as your twenty-something self approached your thirty year-old self, it dawned on you that greatness was in fact the complete opposite of anything your fifteen year-old self could’ve imagined. It dawns on you that greatness was never going to be found in the large things, but the very small ones. It dawns on you that greatness could never be achieved, earned, or accomplished but that it was a sort of being; a state one can access only from within. It dawns on you that you had completely misinterpreted what it meant to be extraordinary. It was right there in front of you but you just couldn’t see it. Extra ordinary. The most ordinary possible. And you realise how foolish you had been. How can something so obvious be hiding so well in such plain sight. Language indeed can be very crafty, but in its craftiness will manage to always keep it simple. And so it dawned on me that I could only become great through the ordinary. Through the everyday being, the everyday talking , the everyday loving as well as the everyday worrying, the everyday frustrations and the everyday resting at the end of it all. Being great is being really good at being ordinary. So this whole time, the only thing stopping me from being extra ordinary was my own resistance to ordinariness.
To pursue extraordinariness, I thought I needed to make a monster out of ordinariness. And I did. For so long, I had been so afraid of being ordinary. I was afraid of being swallowed, of being invisible, of not standing out, of getting lost in the crowd. And so as a result, I have exhausted my self pursuing a ghost. Now, I can finally rest, I can finally stop running, I can finally stop feeling so hungry for attention, for validation that I matter, that I am important, that I am worthy. Finally, I can see what I had been so blind to — the sheer freedom that ordinariness offered. All this time, I had attributed such confinement to ordinariness that I couldn’t see that it was in fact a liberation — a gift of being just so. I cannot say yet that I know ordinariness; I have yet to get acquainted and allow it to pulse through me. All these years of resisting must now become all these years of allowing, of giving permission to all that is ordinary within me to just be. And in doing so, I hope I can eventually get to a place where I am comfortable swimming in the greatness of my very extra ordinariness.
I recognise now that truly great people know they cannot accumulate any real power, because there is no power to be accumulated. Great people do not delude themselves they are powerful when they are in fact powerless in the face of time, nature and death. Great people are those who are aware of their nothingness and yet do not try to fill it up or mask it because they know nothing ever can. Greatness is knowing our power is not ours alone but all of Ours. Greatness is knowing that our personal strength comes from knowing we are a link, a chain, a connector, a communicator between all that is living and all that is dying. There is no person or being alive who was not born of someone. Our story never begins with us and neither will it end with us. So to recognise that even within our own story we might not be the main character but just a character — that, I believe, is greatness.
Have you ever known someone for so long and felt like you knew nothing about them? And the more time passes, you realise how little of them you really know. Take our parents for example, we don’t really know them at all and yet they are probably the people we’ve spent the most cumulative time with. We know nothing about the people we love and that’s precisely why we can love them so deeply. Can you imagine if we really knew the people in our lives, could we bring ourselves to love them, to really love them without conditions or biases. It is because we are safe from each other’s thoughts that we can bring ourselves to love one another. Have you any idea what your mother went through at the age of 5, or how your grandfather felt like as a little boy? Do you really know if they almost died or killed another? Do you know if they lied, stole or used their bodies for power to negotiate with another or with god? Do you know how ugly or beautiful they really feel, or how sick or healthy their minds really are? We don’t really know anyone for certain, even our own selves. And what great news that is, to not know, to be free of a certainty that brings judgment along with it. If we knew for certain we were good people, we would judge others based on that certainty of goodness, and condemn those who fell outside of that box of goodness we carved so precisely around ourselves. What a relief it is that we do not know what goodness exactly is, and what a relief it is to be free to ascribe it to everyone. What a relief it is not to know another and to be unable to judge them accordingly. But yet we go around judging all the time. And it is because we seek to know ourselves and in turn others so precisely. We go on seeking to know who we really are, prescribing identities onto ourselves and onto others. But you see, the certainty that knowledge illudes, the security it might make you feel to know another, the price of safety in knowing is judgment. And judgement is a hefty price to pay. It is taxing not only on us but on others. It is unfair and limits our experience of everything within us and around us.
I invite you to take a moment and try to feel yourself without judgement. It is very difficult. Now, take another moment, and remember all the people you came into contact with today, and try to feel them without judgement. It is very difficult. Let me clarify here that judgement does not only include negative statements but it could be positive or even neutral ones. For example, the clerk at a shop you bought something from recently, your interaction with them was based on the fact that they were a shop clerk, so your feelings of them were tainted by that identity you gave them. It is a very difficult exercise to feel another without any preconceived notions, to really listen to someone when they speak without projecting our own prejudices onto them. How long can you hold your gaze with another, eye to eye, pupil to pupil, soul to soul? There is a reason it is uncomfortable, and it’s not just because we’re afraid of what they’ll see but we are afraid of what we will see. To see without judgement does not mean we’ll see rainbows in each other’s eyes. We all have shadows, we all have secrets, some darker than others, but all complex, all because of things that happened to us, and all our own fault too. So you see, feeling one another, gazing into another’s eyes aren’t easy tasks. They are an exchange of information between two parties, whether they are aware of it or not, and so these moments of human connection can be very uncomfortable at first but only because we are judging what we see, and we think that whatever we might see will stick to us like some contagious disease, but it is true only if you choose to hold on to whatever you see. The thing is the world is filled with both joy and pain, most of us find it much easier to receive joy and really hard to let go of it. Pain, on the other hand, is very difficult to receive and much easier to pass on. But it all passes anyway, from one human to another, one interaction to the next, we pass it all around and around. A smile can travel the same route, though with smiles, we embrace them thinking that it is our embrace that brought the smile our way but it would’ve passed through us anyway whether we greet it or not. The same goes for anger, fear, doubt and hope. Around and around they all go until we have no idea where it all began, where it ends, if ever. This circle of information growing and multiplying, circles within circles, with no beginning and never ending. A dizziness falls upon us as we dance within and around these circles, round and round we go, a little here and a little there, but never any where in particular. March, they drum. Dance, they drum louder. Can you hear the echoes of the voices that once were, these voices of the quiet, that were never heard, never received, because they could never be loved by another. They wailed and flailed from the pain of never being loved. They screamed, and I screamed louder, until one day I stopped screaming, and they spoke to me. All this time, they had been speaking to me and I thought they were talking about another. Love me, love us, love you. That’s all I heard. For some reason I didn’t hear the I. They were screaming not for help. They were screaming to help me. I love me. I love us, I love you. I had all the love in the world inside of me. I had all this love but I had to unknow what I thought I knew for certain about myself, it is when I realised I know nothing for certain, nothing about me, nothing about life, that I was able to love myself completely. Without any conditions or biases or expectations. It was love for the sake of nothing, and that’s what I mean when I say we can only really say we love other people when we love them without any prejudices, even our family and friends we are biased with our love towards them because they are family but when we let go of the weight of that relationship and allow these biases to fade we find we are able to love them more completely, regardless of who they are, and regardless of their relationship to us, we love them just because they are here, because they are who they are even when they don’t know who they are and precisely because we don’t know who they are. Sometimes we think Knowledge gives us the power to make better decisions, but knowledge often satisfies a need to be reassured that said decision, said action, said information is the correct one, but knowledge often taints how we really feel. Knowledge suppresses emotions, our rational side often at war with the irrational side. There is purpose to knowledge but not in matters of love. Love itself cannot be accurately described in the language through which we communicate knowledge. Love falls outside of all known things. It resides in an uncertain place between feelings and sensations, a crevice so small, so deep it can hold only something as fluid and as dynamic as love. So love yourself regardless of what you know about yourself. For there is much else you don’t know about it. This lack of knowledge is an invitation to love each other more freely. Embrace the fluidity of love and hold it for a moment until it leaks through you and seeps onto another, but trust there is more to come your way, if you would only let it flow without knowing why. And the next time, you get upset because someone you love doesn’t really know you, celebrate their lack of knowledge of you, for it is an opportunity to be loved unconditionally. And what greater way is there to be loved than unconditionally based on nothing at all. It is love based on no information that is most reliable, most stable. Isn’t it ironic that the thing we thought protects our hearts from love is the thing that breaks it in the first place?
Do you remember those moments when you were a toddler and you would crawl under the table and forget that you were under one and stand up and hit your head? Do you remember what happened after? Did you cry or fall quiet? Did someone console you and assure you it’s all okay, that you’re going to be okay? Or did your mother hit the table ‘bad table, bad table‘ in your defense helping you identify who to blame in this situation? Or did your father shout at you and ask you — a mere two year old still learning how to navigate gravity and corners — the ridiculous question of what were you doing under the table anyway?
The reason I am asking you to recall this moment or moments similar to it is because there are many moments like the one I just described that happen in adulthood, not literally but metaphorically, where our curiosity perhaps led us to crawl into a cave or under a table and when we decided we needed to get up, we hit our heads and forgot the space we had gotten into had a low ceiling. The reason it is so important to recall how others reacted to our hitting our heads when we were children is because it can be very useful in helping us understand how we learnt to react to our own accidents and mistakes. It will help you understand why it might be easy or hard for you to forgive yourself. It will help you understand your ease or dis-ease at releasing yourself from the guilt and shame of making a mistake. It might show you where and when you might’ve acquired the habit of blaming others and constantly pinning them down with an it’s all your fault-a-day.
But having said that, it’s also not as simple as that. We might’ve picked up something like this in childhood but got it enforced and reinforced a million times by teachers, fellow classmates, society, culture, and one hundred and one other factors. So it is important to remember that when we look back, we are not looking back in order to find the one culprit or reason for why we are the way we are, but rather in order to know ourselves a little better and to understand how complex the making of us was, how there was no one person, or one time period, or one school, or country we lived in, or style of parenting to hold responsible for our entire being. We look back to understand that our being is complex, that it cannot be separated from the world that was there as we were being formed, and that we are still being formed, not in a vacuum but in the world. And so, as much as we can hold ourselves accountable and responsible for ourselves, we cannot hold the weight of our entire lives on our shoulders, for we will almost certainly collapse underneath it all and so will anyone who we attempt to put that weight on, including and especially our parents. Why I say especially parents? Because when we look back, parents are almost always the usual suspects. It is very easy to latch on to any one of the many mistakes parents make. In fact, I would say that the latching on to blaming the parents might be one of the necessary steps we go through as we learn to view our lives as part of the bigger picture of all of life. And so I must warn you of the threat of getting stuck in this cycle of blame. It is certainly tempting to shift all that responsibility onto someone else, and it’s not only responsibility that gets shifted but anger too. It is much easier to be angry at someone outside of us than to have all this anger directed inwards towards us. But if we do that, we must know that we have not put to rest the habit of blaming, we have merely shifted the object of that blame. One of the main learnings of this inner work with ourselves (and there are many) is to learn how to refrain from saying ‘it’s all your fault’ to anyone and everyone. Firstly, because it gets us nowhere to point fingers. Secondly, it’s untrue. Our predicament, who we are, why we do what we do, is no one’s fault. Thirdly, we always have a part to play, and it is this part and only this part that must be recognised by us and taken responsibility for. And in this way, we take our power back by taking ownership of that part we do play. In doing so, we must be careful not to inflate the size of that part and attribute too much responsibility to ourselves when much less is due. At the same time, be careful of giving anyone too much power over your life that it is all their fault. And it is not just people we blame, sometimes it’s places, sometimes even emotions. Fear, for example, is a big one people tend to blame their failures on. But it is of course more complicated than that. So the moral of the story is stay away from blame and instead take just enough responsibility for yourself, and don’t take responsibility for anyone else. In doing all of this, you give yourself back the power of choosing again, the power to alter the course of your life, and the power to make decisions boldly. This doesn’t mean you will be to blame if you hit your head again on the ceiling of a table; all it means is that you have accepted the fact that you are human and that all you can be responsible for is acting to the best of your ability at any given moment. We cannot see what we cannot see. And so it was with our parents, and their parents, and their parents.
May we all learn to forgive ourselves, our parents, our teachers, our friends, our partners, our communities, our cultures, our histories, our gods, and the whole world we find ourselves in today. May we all remember that we are active participants in the creation of this world. You, as much as I, as much as the largest corporation, we are all working together and separately to make this very world we share.
Most of us are familiar with the advice be grateful, count your blessings, say thank you. But many of us can be unfamiliar with the feeling of gratitude itself. And it is definitely very difficult to practice something you do not quite understand. A few years ago, in the beginning of my quarter life crisis, all I could feel was anything but gratitude. I was so wrapped up in my own struggles and pain, that I was finding it very hard to find anything to say thank you for. I went to therapy, read books, listened to podcasts, and they all seemed to agree that saying thank you for even the simplest pleasures like a good cup of coffee can transform my experience of the world. So I began to think about this idea of saying thank you, but to be honest with you, I was mostly contemplating gratitude from a place of intellectual superiority to make fun of those who thought saying thank you was going to solve my problems. Ironically, it was this questioning that began to shake my own certainty in how I saw the world. I slowly began to see things that were always there, but I just wasn’t looking at them from the right angle to be able to see them. It did, in fact, all come down to how you see the world and what you choose to focus on. Again, this isn’t anything knew, I had heard all of this before, but I just never experienced it myself so I was baffled by just how simple and obvious it all was. I began to see just how my close-mindedness and arrogance kept me blind from all the good in life. Once I realised that I might not really know anything at all, the world began to feel much softer. Gratitude is really as life-changing as people say it is, but we never really know it until we experience it ourselves.
Remember the ever so popular, Is the glass half-full or half-empty? It is in fact always both,but what do you choose to see? —that is the more important question. Perhaps you do not choose the fact that there is water in the glass in the first place, but now that it is there, and now that there’s nothing you can do about it being there, you can’t add more water and fill the glass up to the rim, and you can’t empty it out until it’s absolutely empty, what do you choose to see? It is that choice that is life-changing. It is that choice to see abundance rather than lack that transformed my life. It is that choice that transformed me from victim to superhero in my own life. It is that choice that gave me the power to shift how I saw myself, to shift my state of being from a passive one i.e. being someone who life happened to, to an active state of being i.e. being someone who participates in her life. That choice is how I reclaimed my power back. It is how I was able to let go of what I could not control and embrace what I could. And so, I have come to understand that gratitude does not miraculously happen to us. It is a conscious choice to be grateful, and one that requires hard work and practice like any new habit you form. It takes a lot of hard work in the beginning to let go of old cravings to complain, and it takes a lot of saying, No, not today! , to our habitual responses to pain. It takes a lot of hard work to develop a gratitude practice, but as with any practice, it gets easier the more consistent you are with it, and eventually it becomes a part of you and happens as automatically as the glass of water you drink when you’re thirsty. It just happens, every day, all day, without effort or thought. It becomes so necessary to your daily nourishment that you wonder how you went through life all those years without it. You begin to understand why you felt so hungry all the time, but just didn’t know for what. Our souls crave the goodness in life, just like our bodies crave good food. And gratitude, I believe, is how we find that goodness.
Gratitude is like a pair of x-ray vision glasses that allow you to filter through whatever shit you see in life and find the goodness in it. Like underneath all our flesh, there’s always bone; so it is in life, under all that shit and suffering and fear, there is always goodness, there is always love. But we must choose to put on our gratitude glasses everyday, because otherwise the good might be hard to see through all that dirt. That is not to say that the dirt is bad. It’s a necessary part of our life experience. It gives us the opportunity to grow, for there is no greater teacher than discomfort and that is what the dirt in life does — it exerts enormous pressure on us so that we can evolve into our most authentic self. One very important lesson I’ve learnt is that it is always much less painful to accept the invitation to be taught than to resist it. The thing is the dirt will come anyway and will try to teach you anyway whether you greet it with open arms or lock your doors shut, but what accepting the invitation does is give you power. In allowing something to happen to you, you become an equal party in the decision, you are no longer victim, and you share equal responsibility for the outcome and the journey. It becomes your responsibility to make the best out of it. You have more rights when you sign a contract than when you don’t. And declining the invitation, just means you have no contract, and when you have no contract, you don’t feel secure. By not accepting the invitation, you give your power away to whoever will take it. And who is always starving for power? Your ego. And what fuel does your ego run on? Fear. And so, it is always up to you, whether to choose fear or love, whether to look at the glass half-full or half-empty, whether to feel gratitude or not. It is always your choice what to see. It is always your choice what to experience. It is always your choice to move forward or stop.
I will leave you with one last thought. There is no one alive that is not worth discovering their most authentic self, so do not shy from any invitation to discover who you really are. Do not ever feel like you should not question or ask, for there is no discovery without questions. A journey after all is but a series of questions whose answers hand you over to the next question like batons in a relay race. So do not fear the questions, for they are the only way we can find the answers. It is a highly personalised journey and your questions will only offer answers that serve to guide you, and no other. Your questions will help illuminate your path in the darkest of tunnels so trust your questions, love them, celebrate them and most importantly thank them.
Some time ago, I was preoccupied with the question of why we have emotions. I wanted to understand what they were, what purpose they served. And all that kept coming back to me was this one word — perspective. Emotions, each of them, seemed to be articulating experiences from one specific angle. Different emotions can offer us different experiences of the exact same thing. And all these perspectives do not negate one another. Instead, they offer the insight that there are always multiple truths. I believe emotions are the tool through which we can ease into the idea of multiple realities. The wide range of emotions we are able to experience allows us to consider our lives from an equally wide range of lenses. And that means that there is no single narrative that holds true more than another. Sadness, for example, does not negate the truth of anger, and neither does anger negate the truth of joy. Emotions allow us to consider the possibility that the truth is diverse.
I only understand now what it means when they say, the truth is in your heart, because I understand now what feeling offers us. You see, when you feel, you know that what you feel is true. And there are as many truths as there are feelings. When you feel, you know that no matter how hard your mind tries to convince you that there is only one objective truth, you know without a shadow of a doubt that that is simply not true, and all because you can feel. Emotions are the eyes in our hearts that allow us to perceive and experience the real truth — that there is no truth. It is precisely this subjectivity that our emotions offer us that makes us human, that makes us kind, that makes us tolerant, that allows us to accept that the Other might also be justified in their version of the truth because that is simply how they feel. You see, when we are able to discard the idea of a single Ultimate truth, only then can every other possibility of the truth open up to us and greet us.
I believe emotions are a fundamental part of the human experience for precisely the reason that they stretch us to tolerate the idea of multiple truths, and in that way, emotions act as bridges of communication between us and other realities. They ease us into the possibility that there might be more than what each of us individually experiences, that other dimensions could exist, that anything really could be. Anyone who has experienced the world from a place of fear will tell you it is a very different place to a world experienced from a place of love. And anyone who has experienced themselves from a place of anger will tell you they met a very different person to the one they met from a place of joy. It is not only the Universe that we can experience from multiple dimensions, it is our Selves! Emotions connect all these different experiences of self together. Emotions show us we are more than who we were when we were sad, that we are not who we are when we are happy. Emotions are our gift, one that allows us to entertain the possibility that there might not be a single story to us, but rather an endless possibility of stories.