Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Armed Against Anger

It was like a battery of bullets being discharged, a sten gun in action. Ta-da-da-da-da she went. Anger bubbled. She felt so wronged at her wishes not being given due respect, of being forced to do something she did not want to year.

And then when something she liked presented her with an opportunity to be a part of it, the person coordinating it did not take the initiative to make it happen. He did not allow her to take the initiative either. That further sent her on a spin, and the new anger rekindled the old frustrations.

In that state of mind, my soothing words, my reasoning and my solutions did not give any satisfaction. For every suggestion, she raised a new wall. For every positive, she showed me a million other negatives. Silencing her with authority - it wouldn't have worked in any case. But the disappointment and confusion were so obvious that it seemed unfair to use that final devise here.

Love - oh, that wonderful emotion which we think can wipe out every hurt and disappointment - also falls short. It can comfort, it can give strength, but it can also fail to reach that deepest point where the hurt lurks. Because it cannot change the stimulus - especially if you are also viewed as being cahoots with the perpetrators of that situation. "You cannot understand!" she declared decisively.

"But I do! Even I would be roped into dance every time in school programs, but I wanted to act in plays!" I tried empathise.

Even that was not good enough. The sense of being wronged, the anger at being forced would not go away.

Seeing as I did - that she was entangled in her own web of arguments and anger, that it was a maze from which I could not bring her out unless she wanted to, I used the only final instruction that I have been finding effective in the last few years. "I understand, but since you are in a situation from which you cannot back out, the best is to accept it. Sit down tonight before going to bed and focus on your breath." I feared I would find resistance, but she agreed docilely.

Not only was she able to accept it, but she enjoyed it too. I had to stop her from practicing at night 10 after a grueling session in school.

Mind plays games, dragging us into unpleasant emotions, closing all doors of escape. I have found simply asking my children to spend a few minutes with their breath has helped them overcome negativity and deal with life situations better.

Also Read:

Fighting Fears
The Child-like Mind

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Fighting Fears

My seven-year-old started crying whenever we asked him to take bath. He would want me to sit in the adjoining bedroom. This, after two years of taking bath by himself!

Used to the independence of not having to monitor his bath, I fought against his tears and pleas. Anger, cajoling, indifference, nothing worked.

And then I slowly found the reason. A Tamil movie, 'Kanchana', which I thought was a comedy and allowed him to watch in his friend's place, turned out to be a horror-comedy. The ghost comes in the bathroom, and hence his fear!

I tried to fight it through logic. I showed him the pictures of the actor and also how I found him handsome. I told him other stories to distract him. I even made him say Hanuman Chalisa and other slokas.

But while the lip moved, while the ears heard, while the eyes saw, the mind kept returning to the image that had caused the fear in the first place.

This couldn't go on! Bath sessions were becoming a melt down time - too much water in his eyes!

So then, I sat with him in the puja room. I told him to focus on his breath and slowly painted a scene with greenery and lake and serenity. I don't remember how long it took, but the Drama Before the Bath stopped and calmness returned.

It is never too early to teach children to focus on their breathing to deal with troubles of any kind. Solutions may not present themselves in any miraculous fashion. But they will be less stressed about it and that in itself may resolve half the problems.

Soon to follow: Armed Against Anger.
Also read:  The Child-Like Mind

Friday, September 9, 2016

Not As In...

"How did your day go?" Vivek asked when Sadhana returned from work.

"Mmmm..." she replied noncommittally.

"Is that a yes or a no?" he asked, more from masochistic intentions of needing evidence to lament later on.

"It was good," Sadhana answered, but her tone did not reflect 'good.'

"It doesn't seem to have been good, from the tone of it."

"It was good, but not good as in good."

Vivek threw his hands in air. "What is that supposed to mean? Was it good or not?"

Sadhana didn't reply. "Women!" Vivek complained to the universe.


"You stayed till the end? I am surprised! The movie must have been good..." Vivek observed when Sadhana returned from an evening show.

Sadhana laughed... "It was ok..."

Vivek interpreted, "It was bad?"

"Noo..." Sadhana drawled doubtfully.

"It was good?" Vivek asked impatiently.

"It was not good, not bad..."


"Not so bad..." Sadhana said thoughtfully.

Vivek frowned.

"It was bad, but not as in bad..." and then she chuckled, seeing Vivek's frustration.


"Oh, are we going to the party? I thought you said we had not be invited!" Vivek smirked.

"No, she sort of invited..."

"She either invited or she didn't. What is this sort of?"

Sadhana opened her mouth to explain. "No! Please don't tell me 'invited not as in invited...' blah blah blah!" Vikram intervened.

"You never understand," Sadhana grumbled.


"Hi Madhu! Long time! I believe you are working now?" Vivek greeted a friend.

Madhu greeted him with a hesitant smile and hugged Sadhana.

"So tell me about the job..."

"There is nothing to tell," Madhu said dismissively.

"Oh, errrr... you are working, right?" Vivek asked, confused.

Madhu flicked her wrist. Vivek's eyes widened in confusion. Did she or didn't she have a job. He looked at Sadhana for help.

"Oh poor dear," Sadhana put a hand on Madhu's shoulder. "You don't sound happy about it."

"Ya man... nothing to write home about..."

"It's just a job," Vivek started but was glad that his voice was drowned by Sadhana's softer question, "Why do you let it bother you?"

"This is not what I wanted to do... but yes, I should be thankful that I have a job..."

Sadhana put an arm around Madhu and the two moved away, talking about the job. Vivek stared helplessly, wondering why women couldn't speak straight.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Mars is the Next Earth

Suddenly, my older one burst in on me with this theory - that Mars will be the next earth.
Photo courtesy: Srikant Ranganathan

In her words:
"Kalki avataram is the last of the incarnations after which the earth will be destroyed. Mercury and Venus are going to merge with the Sun, and earth is becoming the next Mercury - hot - as it is getting closer to the sun. Mars will come to Earth's position. Already snow capped mountains, underground water and atmosphere conducive for life have been found on that planet. So that will be the next earth. Then after sometime, that will also move closer to the sun and the next planet will become the earth, and this will go on till all are consumed by the Sun."

I listened with a thoughtful smile, thinking how close she is to the theory of expanding and contracting universes. I quoted:

 पूर्णमदः पूर्णमिदं पूर्णात्पुर्णमुदच्यते
पूर्णस्य पूर्णमादाय पूर्णमेवावशिष्यते ॥
 शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः ॥
Om Puurnnam-Adah Puurnnam-Idam Puurnnaat-Purnnam-Udacyate
Puurnnasya Puurnnam-Aadaaya Puurnnam-Eva-Avashissyate ||
Om Shaantih Shaantih Shaantih ||


In 'Vashishta's Yoga', the idea that the whole cosmos begins from a mustard seed  - a complete circle, that expands in creation and contracts in dissolution - seems to be indicated. What she told me, not based on any scientific fact or even with any understanding of what is given in the scriptures, seemed to reflect this same thought. Though this will mean that the sun will also move and so the relative cosmic distances with other stars, planets and galaxies will change, it is quite possible that in a contracting world, earth will eventually go back to its progenitor - the sun.

We will not live to see this, but I was pleased to see the radiant smile on her face when I explained what little I understood to her. And I was glad of the opportunity to give this self-generated nascent thought a direction.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

The Child-like Mind

An unexpected statement, and my mind flared up. A root thought went round and round in circles, taking over my mind and emotions. My hands went about their work, but the thoughts - a thought, in fact - split into different hues like light passing through prism, scattering into a million other thoughts.

One hue resulted in a debate; another pulled up past offenses; a third imagined a friend to whom I poured out my heart; a fourth thought objectively and judged itself petty for the frenzy it was getting into.

These further splintered into a myriad subthoughts. And, oh, a part was getting bored and sought to distract itself. So wave dipped and peaked, dragging the mind down while another sought to remain neutral and a third tried to boost it up.

The thoughts fueled the morning chores, which got done early due to the anger energy flowing with the blood. A refreshing bath changed the direction of the thoughts. A brief yoga session later, the mind started singing a song and presto! the mood had changed. Like a child that saw a new toy and forgot its tantrum, the mind now easily flowed to other, more pleasant thoughts.

'Dil to bachcha hai ji' - suddenly this line flashed through my mind (the very same, the very same). The mind is indeed a child, pretending to be mature and adult-like, but really a child that sways with whims and fancies. It throws tantrums, becomes stubborn and clings to its views without any rationale sometimes. The ego stands like a guardian - a short-sighted parent - assuring the mind of its perspicacity and encouraging it in its rash and unreasonable behaviour that becomes self-destructive eventually.

A little bit of sugar can distract a crying child. A little focus on our breath can distract our child-like mind. But just like the child enjoys the tantrum, we enjoy our spiraling thoughts.

I bow to our ancestors who identified the gentle guide, the guru - our breath- that calms us, guides us, releases us from the vice grip of our thoughts and emotions without much effort.

The One who gave us problems gives us solutions too, it is said. Most of the times, problems are of our own making. And yet, we have been given a solution in anticipation. Let's at least use that well.

Do problems go away? No, but they cease to become a problem - just a situation that needs to be faced and will pass... A child needs its games. Let it have its fun. Like a mature parent, smile and watch but don't get too involved. The next fancy will change the direction of the thoughts in any case.

Also Read:
Fighting Fears
Armed Against Anger

Sunday, August 14, 2016

A Prayer, O Mother

Rising sun, shining forth
Spreading light, and hope
Colouring earth with saffron hue
Riding in the sky ever so blue

White, pure and bright
Filling hearts with divine light
In the middle a blue dot
Representing the Ultimate Truth

The lush, cooling green
And the trees, life-giving
For farmers who toil
Shedding sweat on my soil

The three stand out
And yet are ever together
Fluttering proudly in the wind
Making my heart sing

My eyes well up
When I look at you
Sometimes with pride
Sometimes with regret

May we be worthy of you
May we make you proud
Every day, every year
I offer you this prayer.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Pleasure and Pain

From feeling intense anguish
It is no more even a deep wish
Oh! This pain cherished
Has all but vanished.

In this journey through life
Of being someone's mother and wife
Facing day to day strife
Which cuts one like a knife

As old wounds slowly heal
With new ones one has to deal
In layers that don't peel
And yet pleasure in this ordeal

Yes, the pain that gives pleasure
Cherished secretly, like treasure
Not to be revealed even under pressure
And relished with love at leisure

One day that pain too deserts
As better sense reasserts
Living in the present needs efforts
Memories come and go but in spurts

Let go, for past is of no use
To accept pain, heart will refuse
Grab the moment and pain will diffuse
Then in heart will joy suffuse.

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