The Shortest Day, The Darkest Night

So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.
~ T. S. Eliot

Last week, we marked the winter solstice. The shortest day of the year. That is also to say, the longest night. Which means we were immersed in darkness for the longest period of time in the year.

I attended a shamanic drumming circle a  few weeks ago in which we explored The Dark and the concept of Darkness. Most of us think of darkness as this negatively charged, depressing, or angry place or feeling - something to be afraid of. But we were encouraged to leave our judgments at the door in order to learn openly about the dark and the darkness.

We started off by discussing the concept of Yin Yang, which, in Taoist philosophy, relates to opposites and balance. For our purposes, dark and light. The visual representation of Yin Yang is the circle of light and dark with a dot in each side. So there is dark and there is light, but within each is a speck of the other. Basically, the concept is that opposites are interdependent, and only exist in relation to each other, so both are present in everything.

So without darkness, we wouldn't know light.

This resonated with me.

I have spent so much time fighting my darkness, associating it with depression and anger and all the things that go bump in the night, but there I was being told this may not be so. That I might have to throw everything I thought out the door. That I had to stop thinking all those horrible thoughts I had about the darkness, and give in to the idea that I could be completely wrong about it all. And if you know me, admitting I'm wrong isn't exactly a piece of cake.

But I tried it anyways. We did an exercise to explore what darkness meant, and when I came out of it, I had this huge realization:

The universe is dark.
Light came afterwards.

There I was, sitting on this deep well of understanding and I didn't even know it. And just then, something inside of me let go and surrendered to this knowledge. I began thinking about what I had just learned and how it could be applied to me and my life. And these thoughts started creeping into me:

Darkness isn't bad or angry or depressing or miserable. Just like the universe, the darkness just is. And it is only against this darkness that the light can be seen. So the universe is made of this all-pervading darkness and the stars are just microscopic reflections of light against it.

And it was this thought that began leading me towards accepting me as I am.

If I equate the darkness inside of me with the darkness of the universe, that means the universe is inside me. And my darkness may be necessary so that I can see the light in others (and myself).
And in terms of the Yin Yang, that means there is always a light inside of me, keeping me balanced.
And all of that sounds like something I can live with.

Since the solstice, the light in our days has lasted a little longer, and will continue to tomorrow, and the next day, and the next. And as we travel in this circle of Yin and Yang, remember that wherever there is darkness, there is always a speck of light.

And I will dance with the idea that maybe my darkness is my light.

What does darkness mean to you? 

Telemarketer Compassion

Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle.
~ Plato

Today, like most days, the phone rang and the caller ID had some weirdo name and number - which is when I know it's going to be a telemarketer. My heart starts racing, blood rushes to my head, my entire body stiffens, and I find myself in this angry place. And that's before I pick up the phone.

This whole reactive process is new to me. When I was in Montreal, I never felt this level of aggravation with telemarketers. Since I moved, though, I've had some pretty heated phone encounters with highly aggressive and annoying callers who leave me dizzy with anger (literally). So like Pavlov's dogs, I guess it didn't take long for my body to adapt to the auditory and visual cues of impending disaster.

It was weird today, though. I felt most of the physical and emotional things before I picked up the phone, which led me to be slightly curt to the caller. But as he was talking to me, something came over me. He gave me his shpeel and I told him I wasn't interested and then there was a silence. And just as I was hanging up the phone, I had a fleeting thought that caught me off-guard: I was thankful he had a job.

I have no clue why I thought that, or what was different at the end of this particular conversation, but I wasn't dizzy. I wasn't angry. My heartbeat was normal. I thought of how he must have felt after not having made the sale. Deflated, perhaps. I wondered what his life was like, somewhere in the world. If he had a family, parents, a wife, kids, and was just trying to make it by. And I got this feeling of empathy. And then I became glad that he was making an effort. And then I felt grateful that he had a job.

Maybe he was trying to sucker me into a scheme, and maybe the people he works for are crooks, and who knows, maybe he is one, too. But maybe he's not. And maybe he's just doing what he needs to do to get by.

That's when I remembered the Buddhist virtue of compassion, and how if you go through your life with compassion for everyone on your path, you won't have space for any other emotions. Everyone is struggling with their own problems, and if you understand that and approach everyone with compassion, it gets harder and harder to be angry. The next time you are faced with an angering situation, try imagining that the other person just lost their job, and react from that place of compassion instead. See how different it feels.

I hadn't intended on being compassionate with that caller today (though I wish I had), but it came to me anyways. And the feeling of compassion was so much better than the feeling of anger. And I hope the next time the caller ID says telemarketer, I remember the guy sitting in a room on the phone just trying to feed his family.

And I hope I smile before I pick up the phone.

Is there any situation in which you wish you had been more compassionate towards someone?

Of Traffic Jams and Monkey Gods

Stillness is what creates love. Movement is what creates life. To be still and still moving - this is everything.
~ Do Hyun Choe

I can't stand traffic.
I go a bit mental.
And by a bit, I might mean very.

I've tried to figure out what exactly it is that gets me so worked up, why my heart starts racing, my blood starts pumping, and I feel like I'm losing my mind, and I've come to the conclusion that it's the stagnancy of it all. The desire or need to go somewhere, get somewhere, and the inability to move - forward, backward, whatever. I think I can't handle traffic because it reflects the stagnancy I sometimes feel in my life.

I know it sounds crazy (especially because I keep talking about other me's), but I often think about this little me that lives inside this big me, restless, paralyzed, stuck, unable to move, because the big me encases her and she cannot go anywhere. Little me screams and bangs on big me's chest and begs to come out and live fully but this big me, she just sits there, unable (and I think secretly unwilling) to move. She crosses her arms and just sits there. And I just want to shake big me and yell, "What are you waiting for?! Move, dammit! We have a finite amount of time!" But she just stares at me blankly. Frozen.

I think traffic reminds me of feeling frozen.

When my husband and I visited Kuala Lumpur, we went to see a cave temple outside of town. At the entrance to the area was a massive statue of Lord Hanuman tearing open his chest to reveal images of Lord Ram and Goddess Sita. Legend has it that Lord Hanuman had immense powers, but due to a curse, he would forget about them and need to be reminded before he could use them. When Lord Ram was sent into exile for 14 years, he met Lord Hanuman, who used these powers to help them through various trials and tribulations. Lord Hanuman was such a strong devotee of Lord Ram and loved him and Goddess Sita so much that it is said they lived in his heart. And when Lord Ram returned home after having slain his demons, Lord Hanuman was there to embrace him and remain by his side.

I think I'm a little like that. If I ripped open my chest, you would see the exiled little me living in my heart, just waiting to return to the world. I want to tear away my boundaries, set her free, and let her do the great things she dreams of doing and go the great places she aches to go. And I think I forget that I have the power to do this, to do whatever I want to do and be whoever I choose to be, if only I could be reminded of it sometimes. And hopefully when my true self returns after so many years away slaying demons, I will embrace her, and we will remain side by side for some time... like maybe forever.

So this is little me reminding big me that I have the power to make a change. And though it might take me 14 years, I accept that that might be my path, and it will happen - one step at a time. After all, happiness is a journey, not a destination. And maybe sticking me in traffic is the universe's way of teaching me to appreciate the stillness of where I am instead of always needing to get somewhere else.

And maybe if I embrace this stillness, I will find what moves my heart.

How do you feel when you are faced with stillness? 

It's all a blur

And then the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was greater than the risk it took to bloom.
~ Anais Nin

This is how I feel sometimes.

Like there is this ecstatic me somewhere in the distance, waving her arms, laughing, dancing, and screaming for me to notice her. But she is just a big blur.

Once in a while, she comes into focus, and I revel in her presence. I take her all in and I feel light, and care-free, and full of the excitement of love, peace, and inspiration. And I so desperately want her to stay, but eventually, she starts to fade.

I think I'm secretly scared to have her around for too long. Darkness is a place my eyes have become accustomed to, and I'm not sure how to function fully in the light.

Those who know me know that there was a point in my life when I was the best version of my then-self. After dealing with a lot of darkness as a teen, I worked hard for 7 years and finally tapped into my endless inner source of light. With my friends, I often refer to that version of me as Happy Rachna or Buddha Rachna, because I feel I had mastered life and the art of enlightenment.

Then, something happened.

I don't know exactly what happened, it's all just a big blur, but something shifted. The true me began to move out of focus. Like water toward a drain, I started flowing helplessly towards the darkness again. And the biggest mistake I made was to succumb. The path of least resistance was to ignore the inner awareness that something was amiss.

Looking back over the past 7 years, I have a lot of theories about what happened, but only one truth:
I am no longer living my best life.

And I think that's what matters. I could postulate on all the reasons why I am where I am in my life or why what has happened has changed me but I don't know if it matters (unless I'm working through something major that I need to release). What matters is that I am not satisfied with the way things are and I need a change.

It was brought to my attention that our lives run in 7-year cycles, and scientists have said that the cells in the body regenerate every 7 years. If all of this is true, that means my time is up. My 7 years of darkness are coming to an end. Finally.

I know that Buddha Rachna is still in me. She never left. She just took a backseat for a while as I went through the things I needed to go through to bring me here. Now, I'm ready to tap into that light again. I've learned even more since that ecstatic time in my life, and I'm ready to bring forth an even better version of me. Like a Buddha Rachna 2.0. Yeah!

Everything is slowly coming into focus.

I am ready to bloom.  

Are you living your best life? What change have you been aching to make?

My Saboteur

I once had a garden filled with flowers that grew only on dark thoughts but they need constant attention & one day I decided I had better things to do.
~ Brian Andreas

Everyone has a saboteur. That inner voice that whispers bitter everythings into your ear whenever you try anything. It's that miserable, berating part of yourself that tells you exactly what you really think about you. Even if you didn't know that that's what you thought - your saboteur knows, and has no qualms about telling you. 

Yesterday, my saboteur started whispering into my ear again. She started telling me what a fraud I am, how no one wants to read my words, how I'm not going to inspire anyone, how no one cares about what I have to say (since, what do I know, anyway), and on and on (and on) she went. She told me what a failure I am, how people don't really like me, and how I am actually (and will always be) all alone with no one on my side.

Man, she beat me up real bad.

She was relentless and unforgiving. Pulled out all the stops, brought up all my insecurities, and wouldn't stop until I finally broke down and believed her every word. She talked and talked until she completely alienated me from me. I mean, how can you argue with your own stubborn self? She had an answer for everything! Talk about always getting the last word - I finally understood how my husband feels!

So there I was, broken and defeated, wallowing in my own self-created pity - and my victorious saboteur walked out on me, her job done, my demons reawakened.

Once the dust settled, I noticed a little old woman sitting quietly in the corner of my heart, smiling. My saboteur had been speaking so loudly that I didn't see this 'Buddha Rachna' - this wise old woman who knows the real truth about me - just sitting there, silent, watching the whole charade unfold.

I figured now that my saboteur had done her damage, Buddha Rachna would sweep in and launch into a counter-attack, giving me a lengthy speech on believing in myself and ignoring all the negative messages my saboteur was telling me. And so a war would ensue between darkness and light, good and evil - well, you get what I mean.

But she did no such thing.
She said no such thing.
Actually, she said nothing.
She just sat there, unfazed by the whole event.

That was when I realized, it was so simple: She wasn't listening.

While my saboteur was in battle, my true Self had surrendered to silence. She had no armour. Because she knows my saboteur can't fight if there's no war.

So this is me, putting down my armour.
Uprooting my garden. 
I surrender.

I have better things to do.  

What self-sabotaging thoughts do you believe about yourself? 

Like a moth to the... light bulb

I wish I could show you when you are lonely or in darkness the astonishing light of your own being.
~ Hafiz

Every night, I turn the light on in my bedroom. And without fail, every night, a little grey moth finds its way to my window screen and settles in for the night. Sitting on our window pane against the backdrop of night's darkness, this moth curls up to the light that spreads from my room, and goes to sleep. And every night, I turn off the light to go to sleep and I wonder if she stays, the moth, asleep in the comfort of knowing the light existed once and will exist again - in some form or another.

This is how I feel sometimes. Surrounded by darkness but curled up in the light that emanates from someone in my life. And it is at times like these that I try to remember that there was once a light inside of me that shone brighter than I have ever seen. And though I sometimes feel engulfed in darkness, I know the light was there once and will be there again. So maybe this is my attempt to finally change my light bulb, and once again be illuminated by my own true self.

I wish we could all see, when darkness surrounds us, that somewhere in our world, there is a light, and curl up with that knowledge in our heart, and fall fast asleep. 

What darkness are you trying to overcome? Share with me.


If the only prayer you ever say is thank you, that will be enough.
~ Meister Eckhart

Yesterday, I sent out an email to all of my family and friends who have supported me through all of my (sometimes whacky) decisions through the years. I sent them the link to this blog and a little blurb about my reasons for starting it (I've included the original email below for anyone who would like to read it).

Immediately - and I do mean immediately - my inbox was flooded with encouraging, supportive, and loving emails. My friends and family sent me encouragement; people I never thought I would touch shared stories of their struggles; people opened up. And I guess that's what happens when you open up and extend your hand - everyone in your life will reach out to hold it.

You know how, sometimes, you feel like you need a release? Something that will empty you so you can be filled again? Well, I was so inundated with love that I cried. This was a cry I have been wanting to cry for a long time. But when you're not living your best life for so long, you start to go numb. It starts to move up your body, slowly, stealthily, until all of a sudden, you have no emotions left. And that's what happened to me. I was a zombie. All I had in me was blame, and anger, and misery, and grief - but even all of those were empty. So I was empty.

But an empty cup can be filled, if you let it. An empty cup has hope.
I had hope. And I finally see that my cup is (and always was) overflowing.

I forgot, like we often do, that there is a whole world of people out there who are rooting for me. Who love me for me, miss my presence, support me in my choices, and want me to be my best me for me. And I am so grateful for everyone in my life.

And though this is not the only prayer I will ever say, I want to tell everyone who has loved me:
Thank You. 

What are you thankful for? Extend your hand to me; I promise, I will hold it.


Family and friends,

After a long (and painful) hiatus from writing, I have finally decided to pick up my pen (or keyboard) again. I've started up a new blog called Loving Imperfection and I hope for it to be as much an inspiration for you to read as it is for me to write. At the end of every blog post, I submit a question to you for consideration. If you're inclined to (and I sincerely hope you are), you can respond with your thoughts in the comments section after the post. I'm hoping to make this a community of inspiration and of working together towards being our best self.

Why start something new at the end of the year? Well, I chose December to start this blog, instead of the customary January for a new beginning, because it is in the darkness of endings that we most need to see the light. This blog is my light, and I hope it will be yours, too.

Here's to new beginnings just when we think we've reached the end.



Finding direction

If ever in doubt as to where you were meant to be, just look down at your feet.
~ Buddhist Proverb

For a few nights in a row last week, I kept having dreams of being lost. Trying to find someone or some thing or some place, but not being able to. I was given maps and directions in my dreams, but the maps made no sense and the directions were all wrong, and the place I had to reach kept getting farther and farther away from me. I would wake up breathless, frustrated, anxious, but none the wiser as to my path.

I think my subconscious is trying to tell me something.

Yes, I feel a little (ok, a lot) at odds about my space in life right now. I recently got married, moved to a new city, with the bare minimum of friends and family, no job, no social life, no space to call my own, no inspiration (and therefore no poetry - ack), and the list goes on.

Alright, I'm lost. Totally and utterly.

In Hindi, there is a verb "bhatakna" - in context (and it is very hard to translate the true meaning of foreign words, so bear with me), I guess it kind of means the equivalent of "to wander" or "to have missed the path" or something equivalently depressing and lost. I guess, to hinglicize it, I would say I have been "bhatak-ing" in the darkness (an apt verb usage, I'm sure).

The good thing about the dreams, and about the attention I have finally decided to pay to them, is that I realize the place I am in. And since awareness is the first step to change - I am one step closer to the light. After all, if you don't know something is off-skelter in your life, how can you work toward making it better?

So I am finally looking down at my feet. And I am trying to remember that this is exactly where I am meant to be. Now, all I have to do is start walking. No maps, no directions. I'll find the way. I know the way. My heart has a universal GPS for finding the light.

What nagging feeling have you been ignoring? Look down at your feet, and share with me.

The perfect imperfect

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.
 ~ Marcel Proust

The universe tends towards chaos. Which means that imperfection is actually perfect. And just like the universe isn't perfect - neither am I (or you).

(uncomfortable silence...)

But here's the doozer: It's ok.
Gasp... it's actually OK?!

Yes. Which brings me here.

The universe has been trying to send me this message for a very long time, but I wasn't listening. I thought it was 'just my luck' when the first painting I bought - of the Buddha, no less - had a tiny rip on it. Or the flower-girl statue my sister bought me was chipped. Or the TV I bought my parents got a huge scratch on the side while being installed. Or the frame I got for my wedding picture was damaged. But they're all still working; still serving their purpose. And I spent so much time looking at the rip, the chip, the scratch, that I looked right past the beauty of it all: the Buddha, the flower girl, the fact that we can afford a TV, the warmth of finding a life partner (and how awesome we looked at our wedding!).

And don't we all do this? Focus on the negative. See the flaw. Look past.

I had been waiting until this 'perfect time' when all the stars were aligned to start making changes in my life. So it simply wasn't happening. I wasn't happy, but I also wasn't doing anything to not be not happy. Finally, on this random day in November, I decided enough was enough. That tomorrow (i.e. today) was going to be the day I changed it all (slowly, of course). And what a perfect day it turned out to be. The first day of the last month of the year. A time for reflection. A time for anticipation. A time for acceptance. I woke up this morning, in a warm blanket, in a beautiful house, to look out at the expansive sky and mile-high leafless trees swaying in the wind outside my bedroom window. And I see it's all perfect... because it's not.

So here I am... looking for new eyes.

Today, I choose to love imperfection. I accept my ripped Buddha painting. I accept my chipped flower-girl statue. I accept the scratched TV. I accept my damaged wedding frame. After all, I have the means to buy things; I have two loving parents and two considerate sisters; I found a kindred spirit to spend my life with; and the list goes on. If all of that isn't perfect, nothing else can ever be.

But most importantly, I accept me. In fact, I love me - rips, chips, scratches, and all.

What imperfection can you accept and love today? Find one, and share it with me.