I was not born strong or zen. I have my moments of struggling with life and I certainly have my share of moments of weakness. Crying is also a way to release myself from any bound-up energy around me. It has taken me a lot of self-reflection and self-confrontation over the years, together with time spent alone and with people who support me along the way to strike a balance in life, to get to where I am – where I generally feel whole and one. I don’t get it right all the time and, at times, I need my friends or my husband to kick my butt to get me going again. It was one of my dearest friends who told me to go back to writing the blog when I felt so poorly for myself after getting pregnant last summer. I was ready to use it as an excuse to stop but am glad he told me otherwise. So thank you, Peter.
In different stages of life, I make use of different tools to help me regain my strength. The source of strength is available everywhere if only we open our eyes to see without judgment and our hearts to feel without reservation. It’s important that we look after ourselves before we extend our service to anyone, and I mean anyone. With a full tank, we are good to go. When the tank is not full, we need to replenish it. Sadly, many of us don’t do that. In fact, more often than not, we let ourselves run empty, at times even in “debt”. By then we probably need some serious TLC, if not an IV drip to get us back on track. That empty tank not only negatively affects our physical well-being, but also our mental, emotional and spiritual ones. It’s our bodies, it’s our souls, we are the ones who are solely responsible as the caretakers. That task does not belong to our husbands, wives, partners, parents or anyone for that matter. And the same goes for our happiness.
When I was in the financial world, I refilled my tank by going out to parties, nice dinners, happy hours, etc. It worked for me and that’s what I wanted at that stage. Until the moment came when I felt something was missing, all those activities became meaningless and empty. I then moved on to find other sources of my strength. It was then the period of self-inquiry – doing meditation, energy healing, drinking green juice and eating vegan food. It filled my soul and helped me find peace within me. Then came my calling for taking a leap of faith to go to Los Angeles with nothing with me. That was probably one of the best times in my life, as challenging as it was, and I turned to physically demanding yoga sessions, together with time spent alone on the beach in Santa Monica as my refuge. Journaling also became a big part of my life. My best friend was me. I spent numerous hours sitting on the beach writing my journal and have a lot of materials from this period for writing my book.
When I moved on to the next chapter of life in Dubai, it was about having fun with my girlfriend Prati and my adopted family, Tony and Sarah, who were also there for work. During weekends, we often dined in somewhere nice together as a group and then went to a dive for some music and dancing. Prati and I were just beach bums during the day on our day off and at night we usually were at home having a chit chat, watching a film and smoking a cigarette or two.
As life changes, as we grow and evolve, we need different things from different sources to nourish and refill us. Hanging onto something, someone or some relationship doesn’t help us. When we are with the right company, what we do seems to matter less. But when we are on our own, we need to choose wisely and carefully what works for us.
My source of strength has changed over the years as I change. However, a few things always stay the same albeit the forms may vary.
– Take time in the morning. I never like rushing first thing in the morning. It seems to set me up in the wrong way for the day. I love getting myself ready at my own pace, followed by my lemon juice with warm water, then my brekkie. I try to stick with it even if I have to catch a very early morning flight somewhere. I am happy to get up an hour and a half earlier so that I feel good and ready for the day.
– Sit quietly alone and do nothing. Yes, even if you only have 5 minutes. I do that whenever my daughter sleeps during the day these days. I make myself sit down and just look out to somewhere to empty my mind and allow space to fill me. Thoughts do come and go and that’s ok. It’s not meditation but enough to calm the mind down. Often, my writing ideas come when I sit quietly. When we are in the middle of going through something, we make our decision better with stillness and peace on our sides.
– Do something daily that stimulates and nourishes your soul. At the moment, I don’t have a big window of time to write daily. And at times when I do, the creative juice doesn’t always flow. However, I do spend at least a few minutes, if not longer, each day thinking about my writing. Sometimes I get a line or two in, sometimes nothing at all, other times a few paragraphs just come out naturally. Each day, I revisit what has been written previously and I often make changes. I never knew writing a blog would take so much effort and time but it fulfills and stimulates me in some way. We need to feel good about ourselves otherwise a full tank is an empty tank.
– Exercise. It can be any shape or form. I can’t quite do the vigorous body exercise these days (long story). Walking up and down the stairs at home when I need to get something is pretty enough for now, together with a supported supta baddha konasana when in bed. I always love this asana, even more so now as I need to do some heart-opening pose to counterbalance the growing weight of my belly and chest that make me tend to slouch.
– Talk to yourself. I am not joking. I talk to myself daily, either in my head or saying something audibly but obviously not loudly. When I have thoughts that I don’t feel require to be journaled, I tend to talk to them. These thoughts come and go and I need to entertain them, or else they keep coming back with very little purpose other than being clutter in my head.
– Friends and partners. We don’t need many friends. I have a few dearest ones who are all scattered in different parts of the world. We don’t talk often but whenever I am in need of a chat, they are always there. They all feed me with different things in different ways so I know who to go to and for what. No one person on earth can give you everything you need. Life is a bit like a buffet – we give and take in different sections with different people. We need to know who to approach and for what purpose or else you just risk of losing a valuable relationship because of falsely imposed expectations.
It’s the same with our partners. Frankly, I don’t always go to my husband for help or a chat. I choose, as he does. Sometimes, I feel many relationships end not because we don’t work on it, but because we have too many expectations from that very one person.
Choose your friends wisely and don’t be afraid to distance yourself from anyone. I don’t mean to harm or hurt anyone’s feelings but it’s better to be alone and bored than being with any company that doesn’t serve you. It may feel like nothing at a time but it does consume you in a subtle way.
– One task at a time. I used to multi-task, too. However, the more multi-tasking I do, the more scattered my well-being is. That doesn’t mean I don’t multi-task at all these days. I only do it when I have to. When I eat, I don’t read, nor do I check my phone or iPad unless there is something urgent. I try to eat mindfully, with both feet firmly on the ground and I chew slowly. Many people like reading whilst eating alone. If you are one of them, give it a try for a few days, eat mindfully and see how different you may feel.
When we are out with friends, try leaving the phone aside unless you need to attend to something urgently. It’s become such a norm to chat with someone face to face and have a different conversation with someone else on the phone. It may be fun, or even productive, having several conversations at the same time and then we wonder why we are so knackered at night when we have done so little during the day. Small and trivial tasks can drain us to no end without any signals. Try having a few mindful days and see if you can feel any difference in your mind and your well-being overall.
We can always start somewhere in finding our own source of strength. One thing at a time and one day at a time. The more and the longer we practice this, the bigger our own source of strength will become. We will find navigating life becomes easier when we are strong and zen. When we are in our centre, we have an unlimited source of strength coming from ourselves. When we need a top-up, don’t be afraid to ask for help. We are all here to give and take amongst us and there is no definite rule in how much and with whom as long as we also practice ahimsa – nonviolence. Nature knows the limit, and when that limit is broken, nature will take over. One can only manipulate so much if we don’t do the right thing.
Whatever support we need, start looking from inside us. If we always rely on others, we are basically handing over our lives to others and our survival will be in their hands, not ours. It’s not easy to find your own strength constantly but it is possible with constant practice.
When we are strong, we also empower people around us to be strong. We look for inspiration from each other. The more we practice this together, the stronger we will become as a unit. When we are strong in ourselves, the need to look for security, the envy that we have for others’ lives or possessions, the fear for the future, the need to look for companions….. All will diminish and dissipate gradually as the most powerful thing that we truly need is already with us, and that’s You.