Best time of my life..

A while ago one of my friends,  from college degree days made a post in Facebook. It was a photo of avalosu podi. (fried rice powder, a staple food). When she got it from her neighbor she thought about our degree hostel days and all seven of us  and the way we used to eat it. Our gang mate Deepa was the source of our avalosu podi then . After every vacation Deepa would come back to the hostel with many big jars of avalosu podi lovingly prepared by her mother . Every weekend one of us would make small avulose balls by mixing it with banana and we all used to sit together and eat it . So it was not at all surprising to see a comment by Deepa saying it was the best time of our lives and then she added saying  “ didn’t know it then”

When  the question “the best time of my life ‘popped up, my memory too went back to this college time. I should admit that it was a fabulous time with no responsibility as such but tons of great friendship, pure enjoyment and mischievousness.. A time when nothing else mattered much. But I didn’t realize it then ..

So it seems most often we associate the best time of our lives as something that happened in the past. I asked myself. Why is the best time to me associated with something in the past  ? Why it is not now ? It must be that we are constantly either living in the past or in future in our mind and that we are not grasping or enjoying what is happening right now in the present  moment . Our minds are in constant motion thinking of things that have occurred either in the past or things that may occur in the future. Therefore we miss seeing what life is offering to us right now in the present moment.

Mindfulness is all about being in the present moment and appreciating and being grateful for what we have. By appreciating the present moment we are able to accept what we have without fighting against it and change what we can, without resisting it. In the bible Jesus said to the people who came to listen to him to be like children then heaven will be theirs .To me the interpretation is all about being in the present moment. If we look at a child we can see the mindfulness the child displays. When he plays he is in that moment, neither in the past nor in the future and he immerses fully in what he does.

In 2007, Washington Post conducted a social experiment. In Washington D.C., at a Metro Station, on a cold January morning , a man with a violin played six Bach pieces for about forty-five minutes. During that time, over 1000 people went through the station, most on their way to work. After about three minutes, a middle-aged man noticed that there was a musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds, and then he hurried on to meet his schedule. At 10 minutes a  3-year old boy stopped, but his mother tugged him along hurriedly. The kid stopped to look at the violinist again, but the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk, turning his head the whole time. This action was repeated by several other children, but every parent – without exception – forced their children to move on quickly.. For 45 minutes the musician played continuously. Of 1097 people who walked by, only seven stopped and listened for a short while. Twenty more gave money but continued to walk at their normal pace. The man collected a total of $32.17  He finished playing and silence took over. No one noticed and no one applauded. There was no recognition at all.

No one knew this, but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the greatest musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, with a violin worth $3.5 million dollars. Two days before, Joshua Bell sold-out a theatre in Boston where the seats averaged $100 each to sit and listen to him play the same music. People who were passing him was in hurry, most were not being aware about what was happening then and there around them.  They were preoccupied and didn’t even hear the music by the one of the best musicians in the world.

 The easiest way to reorient ourselves to the present moment is by taking a few deep breaths. When you find yourself thinking about dinner while playing with your child take a few breath look at your child and focus on your surroundings and reorient yourself and enjoy the present precious moment you have. When we do a task, instead of labouring through and constantly thinking about finishing the task, we can  try to become aware of every step and fully immerse in the progress.

Let us be mindful and aware about the present moment and circumstances that we are in today. Let us be aware of the choices that we make each day. Let us observe and accept what we have and change what we can. By not seeing the precious present and what it offers today ,I think in years to come I may say that 2016 was the best time in my life, but didn’t even know it.

Thinking about a dear friend of mine  who says the best time of his life is every day, when it brings him lots of smiles and laughter, from simple daily things. Like him, let me say today is the best time in my life..

 

 

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When attachment dies formalities begin..

She knew it .

She knew that she had to move in to the new house at certain point from the house that  she had been living in for the last 50 years . She knew that she was going to get all the  modern, brand new things and gadgets in her new house .  Yet it was not going to be an easy process for her to discard her old things and move in to the new place. For her, each object in the house carried a story behind it, a story of struggle and effort spend on obtaining  it .  For her, raising  four children on her own with very minimal income has not been a cake walk. She showed me a big round copper wok. Her eyes filled with tears while explaining the struggle and years of saving which it took to buy it. Her eyes sparkled with pride, recalling the first time she used it to make some deep fried banana. Each object regardless of how old it was, had a deep emotional connection which made it all pricelessly precious to her.

In contrast to this , the other day  I conducted a home visit.  The house was filled with junk and  random things, boxes were piled everywhere. Even brand new things were in unopened boxes.  Bed rooms overflowed with things and it was difficult to walk inside the house as there was not enough space. Yet all this junk was very precious to my client.  He enjoyed the company of all the mess around him. He felt he is not lonely anymore. He didn’t want anyone to clean his house. He was very much attached to this stuff as it provided him a reason for a meaningful existence.

It seems we do develop attachment in various degrees.  When we feel an intense emotion towards something, we find time to be  with the things that we are attached to, take good care of it , marvel at it often and talk about it . We momentarily forget the difficulties in life that we face, and feel a belongingness and sense of pride when we see the things that we are attached to. Whatever it is that people are attached to, the reason must be that these objects must be supporting a meaning to their existence, a feeling of accomplishment and sense of happiness.

Then what happens to these attachments once the circumstances changes.  If we look at the first story, now it has been months since she moved in to the new place. Most of her “soo much” attached things in the old house are a distant memory to her now . Many were given away. She is enjoying new things , better things which life has given  her and she is not missing her old things anymore.  And in the second story, while he was at the hospital we organised a cleaning of his house. He doesn’t miss his junk any more.

I guess this is what happens in human relationships too, particularly in relation to our own parents and siblings once the circumstances changes in our lives.

From early on in life, we develop an attachment to our primary caregivers that tends to remain constant. This attachment style has a profound effect not only on our emotional development, but also upon the health of our relationships. Regardless of how we are now,   most of us must have been very much attached to our parents at one stage in our lives. But are we still having the same attachment in the way we felt before? When I read the news of the son who had abandoned his elderly mother on the highway in Kerala, I thought to myself, when was the moment that he had lost all his attachment towards his mother and his mother had become “just a thing” to him. When might be that moment in his life that that his attachment had become a formality.

So it seems when attachment dies formalities slowly begin to set in.  Things start getting dusty, discarded or get moved to the attic. The once daily phone calls become once a month, the once one hour conversation becomes a 10 minute one. The once  long conversation with parents and others back at home becomes a simple matter of fact phone call to just one person. The once “children-willing-to-look-after-parents” started fighting to avoid the responsibility to look after his/her parents. YES, an attachment has become a formality, a responsibility.

On the other hand, I do agree that instead of clutching too hard and struggling to let go, it is good that we  possess  “adjustment and acceptance”  in our life, or life would have been too difficult to navigate through. But where should the boundary be, the boundary which determines that the attachment towards our loved ones remains as a healthy attachment and not as a mundane formality.

Between obsession and disdain, there is that “oasis” which promises genuine love and sustenance, like a cool oasis in the middle of a desert. Like everything else in life this oasis too needs careful tending or before we know it, our oasis may blend in with the desert leaving only a mirage,  a mirage which only promises false hopes and  formalities. Once in that mirage, it may not be long before that the person begins to view someone as “a thing” thus choose to abandon that thing, who once played a very crucial role in his/her life.

 

Why don’t we give a little space to each other..

The other day I was talking to a friend. He is someone with an artistic mind. He loves to paint, read, write and travel. He also loves to spend his time with his family and friends and at times by himself too. On this day when I spoke to him he seemed to be gloomy in his demeanour.  With a bit of my prompting, he shared the following. Recently he had taken a solo trip for two days. He wanted to write on a specific subject and he thought it was essential for him to be alone for two days to collect his thoughts and be relaxed without any responsibilities. Upon his return he ended up having an argument with his wife as she finds it difficult to accept his involvement in activities such as writing and travelling. She can only see it as his time away from his family. As she does not share these similar interests with him, it is getting more and more difficult for him to do something that he likes, as the expectation is that everything should be orchestrated as a family or in the interest of the family members.

Was I surprised? Well, I guess I have seen enough instances either as an issue from a wife’s perspective or as an issue from husband’s perspective. When two individuals come together to start a life together, both of them adjust to the needs of another.  Then as kids come in, the relationship spins to a different level. Both partners usually sacrifice many of their interests and activities, and adjust to each other’s needs even more to raise the family. This slowly strengthens the expectation of doing everything as a family. When eventually one  partner pursues an activity or an interest of her/his own, these are all seen as “time away” from the family and questions are raised as to why you are doing this or what benefits it gives you. The question is, when love is expressed between two partners without bearing an element of individual respect which allows them having a little space in the relationship, can we still call it true love, or is it an expression of mere possessiveness coming out of jealousy and fear?

A long term US study of marriage called the Early Years Marriage Project,  has been following the same 373 married couples for over 25 years and the researcher Orbuch reports “When partners have their own set of interests, friends, and time for self, that makes them happier and less bored,” . “Time alone also gives partners time to process their thoughts, pursue hobbies and relax without responsibilities to others.” It seems that when we give space in a relationship it freshens up the relationship as well as preserves and strengthens an individual’s sense and identity while still being together as a couple .

 

In one of his novels, notable author Bennyamin compares family as a petty shop on  the street corner. He says this is not a place that gives you everything, and for many other things we have to look for other shops. What he meant was that there is no point in expecting that our partner is there to fulfil all of our needs.  For some interests like a discussion on literature, writing or even may be cooking we may need other good friends or may need to be alone.  Bennyamin pointed out that our expectation that every need of ours should be fulfilled by our partner and demands for the same are slowly destroying many of the marriages. He said once the relationship raises to a level where each party is comfortable in letting the other fulfil some of his/her interests from another group of friends or family members or on his/her own  the relationship will raise to  another meaningful level.

Yet why it is painful for many of us to give this space to each other in a relationship? Studies show this as lack of self-esteem which may come from childhood experiences. If the child was raised in a insecure attachment environment, the child in his/her adult life gets anxious about loosing his/her partner when he/she lets the partner pursues an  activity by himself or herself. The other reason can be, partners who have nothing much to do on their own always depend on their  partner to fill their time, to fill their need.

At some stage in our life our children also may become a partner to another person and what role model are we to them? Don’t they need to learn to respect their partner and give a space to them? For that, I think they should have their own interests, activities or hobbies they can pursue. To know how to play an instrument, or sport activities or to have an interest in  painting reading or cooking can help them  to occupy themselves in such a way that they don’t feel abandoned or left alone when their partner pursues an activity or an interest of their own.

Let us accept the fact that our need to have little time for ourselves has nothing to do with our relationship or how much we love our partner. Let us learn to respect each other and learn to give this space to each other rather than to suffocate each other. Let us understand that “giving space and time is the best recipe for a long term relationship to work “

 

When travel becomes solo

A book I recently read called  “Wild : from lost to found”, by Cheryl Strayed made me  ponder on the  healing process a person goes through when they take the plunge of  solo traveling . In this real life story, 26 yr old Cheryl embarks on a hiking  journey of 1100 miles after she loses everything which made her who  she was .  Just when  she thought she couldn’t take it anymore , she decided  to commence  a journey of redemption and resumption by hiking 1100 miles on the Pacific Trail Crest , a wilderness spanning from Mexico to Canada over nine mountain ranges.  She accomplished this odyssey in 96 days and she did it alone. When the journey was over, she was able to forgive herself, forgive others and was ready to begin a new chapter in her life.  Such solo journeys are nothing new, Elizabeth Gilbert, author of “Eat, Pray, Love”, set out on a journey for a year comprising four months in Italy, four months in India, and four months in Bali after she lost everything in her life following  a bitter divorce . Both books are true stories of loss and forgiveness, surrender and renewal and finding one’s “true self “and starting all over again.

It does seem that solo travel benefits a person when they think they need time to reflect and sort out things in their life. Travelling alone probably gives enough time to think about who you are and what you want to be and help  to see things ‘as they really are’ thus  slowly takes the person through a  process of healing and  recovery.

A friend of mine went through a thorny divorce. It was really a difficult process for him and the reality of having a non secure job, less money and other issues around his divorce made his ordeal even more complicated. So it was not surprising that the advice and suggestions that he received from his near and dear ones were all about finding a secure job, paying his debt and dealing with other “important” matters in his life. Thus it came out as a big surprise to everyone when he announced that he was going on a journey for 2 months.  He backpacked to Laos and Cambodia,  stayed in youth hostels, made friends with strangers and went on a walking  expedition for a few days. Once he was back it was obvious that that he was ready to start a new chapter in his life.

When life takes its toll, the yearning for a healing and recovery process is often what attracts people to religious retreats.  People go to a specific place, completely surrender themselves to what is being taught there, pray hard, try to work through their difficulties and thus try  to come home as  a better person. For some, solo journey gives them a similar relief, except I think  it must be much more profound and long lasting , as the long stretch of silence and being oneself slowly prepares the person to face the inevitable and work around it.

I asked my friend, what did you achieve from your solo travel. He quoted Oscar Wilde to me  “I think it’s very healthy to spend time alone. You need to know how to be alone and not be defined by another person.”

Yes I agree. When we are not defined by another person, we get to know other people, hike, dance, smile, talk to strangers, eat new food and see the sunrise on the beach and finally look into ourselves. In  those moments of quietness when the mind is still and when the silence speaks its  loudest  the answers we seek come to us and  it is  just  a matter of choice whether  to follow it or not…

Fear can be one reason which prevents people from taking up the challenge of solo travelling. The fear of the unknown. But the solo traveller’s experiences reveals a different reality and they vouch that ‘All of the worries and misgivings you initially had when you set foot on the airplane will disappear the moment you reach your destination’. You break down the idea of comfort zone, gain confidence and independence, and you learn and evolve in your understanding of love. Finally you understand what is most important in your life.

In my own case, I am yet to set out as a solo traveller.  But I often enjoy long stretches of solo driving with  light music in the background, or a solo walk  to reflect on  my situation . It often helps me to focus on what “really it is“ thus helping me to accept what I can and what I can’t in my life. And I am looking forward to a solo travel in the near future.

 In the enchanting masterpiece book, The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho a shepherd boy set out his solo journey in Egyptian desert in search of a treasure buried in the Pyramids.  What starts out as a journey to find worldly goods turns into a discovery of the treasure found within. “When you really want something, the universe always conspires in your favour” .is the key phrase repeated over and over in this book . There is no doubt travel brings power and love back into your life and  all you need is, be brave enough to start , then you will..

 

Meaningful Relationship

I was convalescing in the hospital after a minor medical procedure. It was around 9.00 pm at night. The nurses had finished their rounds and the lights were turned off.  I could hear the random sound of the monitoring machines from the far end of the corridor. The hospital ward finally became quiet.  A sense of peace engulfed me and I was trying to sleep. Suddenly I heard someone asking a question “Do you love me “. I opened my eyes and looked around …Then I heard it again. “Do you really love me? “. The sound was from inside the blue curtain just next to me. I could see the light of a mobile phone.  I realised that the elderly lady there, was talking to someone over the phone. She was crying. She had been very happy in the morning when her children and grandchildren visited her. They brought balloons, gifts and flowers and I saw them sitting on her bed, laughing and sharing a meal. Also, the volunteers from the nearby church were there too, to pray for her.  What might have prompted her to ask this question, was she feeling lonely?  Why was she crying?….. I thought to myself. What would make a recovery faster, gifts and prayers or feeling of being loved by someone.. I fell into sleep while contemplating these.

In this current Social Media era, it only needs a click  to find friends and establish friendship. Yet why, even more and more people feel lonely. ..It seems, it is not the lack of relationship which makes someone feel lonely, rather it is the lack of meaningful relationship that makes people feel lonely. Many years ago, a study was conducted among married older adults in the US which revealed that 62 % married people feel loneliness.  When marital couples stop sharing their thoughts and feelings between each other and when conversations become mere formal questions and answers, they feel disconnected and lonely. People may express this loneliness in different forms; some can show physical symptoms of fatigue and headache, or others may show signs of depression. Some may try to use drugs or alcohol to overcome this. There are people who may even put an end to their lives. Often, we don’t understand their difficulties and are therefore unable to intervene on time. It was not long ago that a young poet in Kerala who used to write poems on death and dying, committed suicide. When I heard this news, I thought about the severe loneliness he might have gone through, before taking his own life. Yet none seemed to notice it.

It is meaningful relationship which gives the feeling of belongingness and happiness to people. Many social researchers have demonstrated this fact. It is when people put an effort to see each other, hear each other and value each other, that a meaningful relationship is created. This process needs conscious effort. It is very important that we need to find time to meet and be with our friends and family, listen to them on regular intervals and value them, in order to establish a meaningful relationship. It is a ritual which needs conscious effort. A National Geographic study has identified five places in the world called blue zones where people live much longer than average. One of the reasons for their happiness and longevity was identified as feeling of belongingness. They were observed to be keeping meaningful family and social relationships. Another 80 years long Harvard study found that our relationship and how happy we are in our relationship has a powerful influence on our health. This study revealed that close relationships, more than money or fame, are what keep people happy throughout their lives, None of these studies found wealth, a major factor for happiness.

“Do you love me”?…the question still echoes in my ear…I don’t know what the reply was, yet  I wish the answer was “yes I love you”. “I love you so much” . I hope this answer made her smile and that she slept peacefully.  It is deep and meaningful relationship which gives happiness and nothing else can replace it. Let us remember that “relationships don’t develop automatically or don’t deepen on their own. It needs effort”.

 

 

Life is a never ending search

Is this life an experiment…an experiment to search the unknown and to experience the unknown,, where you may fail or succeed? If everything we do an experiment and every experiment is a new experience, then, why the regret? Isn’t it senseless to wish “ I could have done that differently or to think that I was a fraud, or that I didn’t live up to the mark. We simply did our best and unless we experiment how do we know that , this would be the outcome?

It seems in our life’s laboratory we perceive something and develop a feeling on it and this sparks a reaction which leads to an action….Yes an experiment has taken place. And are we getting that pale pink liquid that we ought to in this our life’s lab when we add that alkali from the pipette into the beaker drop by drop?…well not really. Most often…shrrrr..here comes the alkali in a rush even though we were careful and thus end up with a purple liquid in the beaker , instead of the pale pink liquid that we were hoping so much for. Nevertheless, we learned.

Should this view make us less responsible towards our action? Not really. No one does anything by completely believing that they were doing something wrong. While thinking back to a few of my actions, the lessons I learned and the decisions for the future can be seen as the best outcome from the experiments that I had done. There is no failed experiment. Every experiment was simply an eye opener to see what happens if I would do it this way..
Together with these experiments and experiences make my life worth living

Thinking of a friend who said
തോരാത്ത തിരയൽ ആകുന്നു ജന്മം ….(life is a never ending search..)
Yes..
The search continues…so does the experiment…
yet, the pearls i come across in my search are priceless.

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Beyond my comfort zone

My ice skating experiment ..

When ever I read about people who have gone beyond their comfort zone to achieve things , I have often wondered about the feeling they went through while undertaking the tasks they did , thus decided to explore it by joining an ice skating lesson . . It proved to be a perfect activity to test my comfort zone theory due to the following reasons:
1.The notion that “Malayali family women” do not do these kind of things !!
2. My classmates will be little kids (the same age as my own kids) as I was unable to attend adult classes due to work time limitations .
3. To most people I spoke to ( malayalees obviously this activity didn’t sound like learning a new skill, and most laughed at me!!

In the very first lesson I realized that, going beyond our comfort zone hurts bad- as i fell down countless times . Since many people from the gallery were watching this ordeal I should admit it was embarrassing , thus learned, “beyond our comfort zone”often makes people embarrassed

In the following classes I slowly gained confidence and balance though occasional falls were still ongoing . My break time was spent looking around and admiring those older people balancing perfectly and dreaming of the day when I could skate like them . The important lesson I learned was when you go ” beyond your comfort zone” it is very important to look at people who have gone beyond their comfort zone than those who simply laugh and advice but never do anything like this in their entire life !!

But the biggest learning came when in the 7th class I fell down and broke not only my arm but my ego as well. I finally came to the conclusion that before venturing out on your adventure you need support from your own family . Finally it hit me.. it is not possible to “change our family” in order to go beyond our comfort zone!!

But will it stop me .. Certainly not 🙂 And life will move on 🙂

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