7 for Spring

The idea for this post had originated on Facebook which I had likened to my virtual living room. It started simply enough. After visiting mail jail again, I had put an update out that went something like this “Don’t be an email hoarder. Junk those emails that are more than 6 months old. It aint relevant no more.” Soon my friends were commenting and I thought hey maybe there are more tips out there.

Here are Shaku’s Magnificent Seven as my limerick loving friend, Manjul puts it.

Spring cleaning tip #1
Keep what is important throw away the rest. Or the trivial will make all what is important trivial.

As I had to start clearing out emails from years past, I was horrified to find out that I was a secret email hoarder. These emails that were jamming my inbox and my outbox about things that nobody even cared about. Though I tried to have folders, I realized that if you don’t clear regularly, you end up cramming your life with so much that is trivial that you lose sight of what is important. This applies from emails, to tasks, to meetings, to lists, to pantries, to refrigerators. I love the Stephen Covey big rock little pebble analogy. Attend to the important and the trivial will sort itself. Ask that question. Is this important? Should I waste XX time over this. Is this argument important or is it trivial. Can I let it go? Do I have to add another after school activity for my kids, can we not just focus on a select few. Once you decide, make peace with the decision. I was watching Robin Sharma’s vlog and he says that every year his team decides on what they should focus on and then even if opportunties come by they get tough and only pick up what aligns with their focus areas.

Spring cleaning tip #2
Apply the 70:30 relationship principle. Spend 70% of your time with the 30% who matter.

This is so simple, right. So how come we have trouble applying this principle. I know some folks who make this a priority. Others think they have all the time in the world. Growing up, all I remember is my Dad telling us that we were the most important people in his life and that he was happy spending his time after work with us. Of course, that meant that we would get dragged to all these boring parties with people who would peer at us and say “Oh Selva, what charming daughters you have.” or “So when are you getting her married.” Like I was some invisible object waiting to be auctioned off to the highest bidder. But, the point is, he made it clear that there were a few people who were important to him and that was that. We all know about Harry Chapin and the Cat’s in the Cradle. “When you comin home, Dad.” “I don’t know when. But we’ll get together then, son. You know we’ll have a good time then.” Who, why, when and where. You and in the now with those you love because time flies.

Spring cleaning tip #3
Make friends with yourself. If you don’t enjoy your own company then why should anyone else be interested in you.

Ask yourself this key question. If you had one hour to spend. Would you spend it doing nothing or rushing off to make a phone call, picking up groceries or making a long to do list that made you feel good. Of course, you have to do all the things you have to do. Or bills would be unpaid, careers floating in the toilet bowl, dishes piled up, laundry languishing in the dryer etc. Yes, yes, I know. Been there, doing that and keep doing that everyday. But do you seek yourself out. Do you enjoy just sitting down and allowing your mind to roam. To think, to understand. To replay your reactions to certain incidents. Take a ten minute walk alone everyday. If you can’t walk, then go out and sit in a quiet space. Lock yourself in your closet. You don’t need to close your eyes and Om. You just need to get one step to understanding yourself and your motivations. Why, because understanding yourself brings you one step closer to understanding your reactions to others. When you do that constantly you will stop being on the defensive.

Spring cleaning tip #4
Let go of toxic emotional cellulite. Get rid of BAGgage. Bitterness | Anger | Guilt.

Travel light.

This one belongs to a good friend of mine. Rules of engagement for relationships. Like that Katy Perry song, hot and you’re cold, up and you’re down. We fight we make up, we kiss we break up. This is true for most relationships. Friends, family, lovers. Over the years we have accumulated so much emotional cellulite that sits like a camel’s hump on your back. This cellulite is a living, breathing alien that is made up of bitterness, anger, guilt, jealousy and it is dormant and when you least expect it, it will send out a volley of spite. How do you break regular cellulite, by regular exercise, eating right and it takes time, but at some point your body starts to show the results. With emotional cellulite you have to pretty much do the same. You make a conscious effort to trace the affected areas. Recognition is key. Awareness. Followed by honesty. You have own it and then shield, forgive and love. Forgive yourself and ask for forgiveness and then let it go. Every day is a new day to do it differently.

Spring cleaning tip #5
Recall faded dreams and unused gifts. Plant new seeds of possibility. Doesn’t Spring symbolize resurrection?

This one is my personal favorite. I was wandering in my garden discovering new plants and amazed at how quickly growth took place with branches sprouting green. I felt like Jack waking up to that overnight beanstalk. You go for a walk and you see more people smile at you because that is what fairweather brings with it. Spring, flirting birds, blue skies and butterflies make people happy. Just like nature is resurrecting around us, this is fertile soul environment to start something new. Plant a project dear to your heart in the garden of your heart. Invest in it and feel the emotional wellness. The common thread is people saying well I don’t really know what I like or what I want to do. But if you go to tip # 3 and spend some time with yourself you will figure it out sooner than you think. There is something that each one of us will do before we tackle the mundane tasks in our lives. For me, I am sitting here on a Friday night, writing. Some like scrapbooking, others want to open their own restaurant, others want to play in a band. So you may not be able to fund a restaurant, perhaps you join a cooking club. You may not have time to play in a band, perhaps you could learn an instrument. Or you may decide to leap and follow, like Martha Beck would say, your North Star.

Spring cleaning tip #6
Go 3D. Drop the entitlement. Defend your boundaries. Deny energy vampires.

The problem with entitlement is that makes us all a bunch of whiners. It is quite tiring to hang around people who constantly expect to be served a slice of some imaginary pie that was supposed to be baked by someone else.
We have heard this many times and we still let people invade our boundaries. We end up getting into a loop where they invade, we submit and then we complain.
What can I say about energy vampires that hasn’t been stated so many times. These aren’t even Edward Cullen cute. You don’t have to wear garlic around your neck but you do have to figure out the Debbie downers and disengage. According to James Redfield and his ground breaking novel The Celestine Prophecy, we typically steal energy from each other engaging in four key control dramas. So ask yourself, are you dealing with a “poor me” or “the aloof” or “the critic” or “the intimidator”. Each one has a way of drawing energy and each encounter will leave you tired.

Spring cleaning tip #7
Create and own your personal mantra. If you want it, chant it.

Find a quiet spot and create your affirmation to bring renewed energy to that area of your life that needs a makeover. I can’t tell you how many times, I have written it down and let it go. A year would have passed and when I go back and read it, I am always amazed at the gifts that have come to pass. Say you want to sell your house, write down exactly what you want from the sale.
But there has to be a clause that is part of every mantra that you ask for it to be aligned to your greatest good. Many times we can’t see the bigger picture. We can only see the present because the past is over and we are not meant to peek into the future.

There is a common link across the wisdom of ages, that you have to align with the passion for life. Nature resurrects every spring. Demeter goes insane looking for Persephone during winter and finds her and rejoices in Spring. She unveils her Spring masterpiece every year…without demur, without fanfare, without complaint, without resistance, without judgement.

When you do what you do just because you enjoy it, that is the spark that sets off a chain reaction. The more you fret about what everyone thinks of you, the less you are able to trust yourself.

This quote from Joseph Campbell sums it up so well “When you go through life … it all seems accidental at the time it is happening. Then when you get on in your 60s or 70s and look back, your life looks like a well-planned novel with a coherent theme. Incidents that seemed accidental, pure chance, turn out to be major elements in the structuring of this novel. Who wrote this novel? You did.”

Image

The Arrival of the Flower Ship: Picture courtesy Vladimir Kush Art

Staying Alive

Dreamcatcher
Dreamcatcher. Picture courtesy Vladimir Kush

No, it’s not about Travolta doing his famous hip shaking walk in Saturday Night Fever.  It’s about how a year comes around all fresh and dewy simmering with promise of do overs and do gooders.  It’s basically about what you have to do stay alive not emulate the zombies in night of the living dead.

I asked a question on Facebook (much promise here for qualitative research) on what you would do if you had one guilt free ME hour everyday.  Let me define that even better.  A ME hour basically means no strings attached to the various roles we play in our lives.  Now if someone gave me an extra hour, I would immediately grab it, of course and then spend it doing what I do best.  Chores, pruning down the “to do” list or trying to finish some work emails.  But suppose you are given an hour where you are NOT allowed to spend it on anything other than yourself.  The answers were enlightening.  Nobody cited exercise.  Nobody cited organizing closets or doing laundry.  Nobody breathed a word about work.

I think everyone sighed, breathed and might have smiled to themselves with the possibility of one full hour everyday to do as you please.  The answers were simple.  Nobody said, “Well I would like to climb Mount Everest.” or “I want to break some long established record.”  Instead, folks wanted to read, sleep, sing, write, race, sit in silence, retreat into nature, meditate.  It was very clear that if you ask the right question, you get the instinctive answer.

What is it that you need now?  The answer to this can be found only if you go to that space again and again everyday.

In The Power of Myth, the visionary Joseph Campbell says “People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonance within our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive. That’s what it’s all finally about.

And this is why, you have to take your own pulse everyday.  Am I alive.  What part of me have I let die because I couldn’t find the courage to keep it alive.  Of course, we also have to shed outworn habits, beliefs, memories, issues.   This ongoing dialogue happens only when we go to that sacred space where for that time, we shed everything that the world has pinned on our sleeve of care.  Like the many identity badges that summarize what we are supposed to be doing throughout every day.  Be mom, be dad, be daughter, sister, brother, son, aunt, wife, husband, friend, doctor, lawyer, Indian chief.  As time goes by, other than January 1st when we are swept by the tide to review our life and make a resolution, we go back on the zombie track and look at it with tired eyes.

David Whyte says “When your eyes are tired the world is tired also. When your vision has gone no part of the world can find you. Time to go into the dark where the night has eyes to recognize its own. There you can be sure you are not beyond love. The dark will be your womb tonight. The night will give you a horizon further than you can see. You must learn one thing. The world was made to be free in. Give up on all other worlds except the one to which you belong. Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet confinement of your aloneness to learn anything or anyone that does not bring you alive is too small for you.

So here’s the two step path that I want to focus on for 2012

1. Take an hour everyday.  It could be my lunch time.  It could be before the crack of dawn when the world’s asleep and nobody knows your name.  It could be an hour after everyone’s asleep and you are too tired to remember your name.  Claim that hour.  Connect.  Many of us don’t like being alone with ourselves.  It’s hard in the beginning.  What is the conversation here.  Why am I wasting this time.  It’s been so long since we spoke.  I have nothing to say…etc etc.

What you cannot do:  Do not watch TV.  Do not check your cell phone.  No calls.

2. Revisit goals on the 1st of every month.  Typically we will give the grand talk on January 1 and by March, it back to the old way of managing life.  Which for many of us is keeping up with the race that never seems to let up.  If we use the beginning of every month to bring us back to track, there is a higher chance of not sliding back into the ditch of deflated dreams.

That’s about it.  Take the one hour to stay alive every day and a monthly check on what you promised your self and how you can get back on track.

Let’s face it.  There is a reason why on January 1 we are full of hope.  There is a reason why we sat down in December and promised ourselves to make the year ahead count.

On that note, here’s to your New Year, to staying alive and to the Year of the Dragon which is the most powerful of the Asian signs, signifying good fortune, success, achievement and new beginnings.

Seven for Spring

The Miracle of Life. Painting by Vladimir Kush. http://www.vladimirkush.com

Saw shoots of spring today, tender, green on branches bare.
Heard birds chirp away, a plea to Nature awake
Each leaf pushing through, from winter’s deep slumber.
The heart again in hope grew, dreams in hibernation slowly wakening

Showers wash away the dust, the grime that hides
Layers of memories and rust.
Tenderly another cycle starts
The spring of hope.

Copyright © 2007 Shaku Selvakumar

Reposting this one that started again as a status update on my wall.

After visiting mail jail again, I put an update out that went something like this “Don’t be an email hoarder. Junk those emails that are more than 6 months old. It aint relevant no more.” Soon my friends were commenting and I thought hey maybe there are more tips out there. Here are Shaku’s Magnificent Seven as my limerick loving friend, Manjul puts it.

Spring cleaning tip #1
Keep what is important throw away the rest. Or the trivial will make all what is important trivial.

As I had to start clearing out emails from years past, I was horrified to find out that I was a secret email hoarder. These emails that were jamming my inbox and my outbox about things that nobody even cared about. Though I tried to have folders, I realized that if you don’t clear regularly, you end up cramming your life with so much that is trivial that you lose sight of what is important. This applies from emails, to tasks, to meetings, to lists, to pantries, to refrigerators. I love the Stephen Covey big rock little pebble analogy. Attend to the important and the trivial will sort itself. Ask that question. Is this important? Should I waste XX time over this. Is this argument important or is it trivial. Can I let it go? Do I have to add another after school activity for my kids, can we not just focus on a select few. Once you decide, make peace with the decision. I was watching Robin Sharma’s vlog and he says that every year his team decides on what they should focus on and then even if opportunities come by they get tough and only pick up what aligns with their focus areas.

Spring cleaning tip #2
Apply the 70:30 relationship principle. Spend 70% of your time with the 30% who matter.

This is so simple, right. So how come we have trouble applying this principle. I know some folks who make this a priority. Others think they have all the time in the world. Growing up, all I remember is my Dad telling us that we were the most important people in his life and that he was happy spending his time after work with us. Of course, that meant that we would get dragged to all these boring parties with people who would peer at us and say “Oh Selva, what charming daughters you have.” or “So when are you getting her married.” Like I was some invisible object waiting to be auctioned off to the highest bidder. But, the point is, he made it clear that there were a few people who were important to him and that was that. We all know about Harry Chapin and the Cat’s in the Cradle. “When you comin home, Dad.” “I don’t know when. But we’ll get together then, son. You know we’ll have a good time then.” Who, why, when and where. You and in the now with those you love because time flies.

Spring cleaning tip #3
Make friends with yourself. If you don’t enjoy your own company then why should anyone else be interested in you.

Ask yourself this key question. If you had one hour to spend. Would you spend it doing nothing or rushing off to make a phone call, picking up groceries or making a long to do list that made you feel good. Of course, you have to do all the things you have to do. Or bills would be unpaid, careers floating in the toilet bowl, dishes piled up, laundry languishing in the dryer etc. Yes, yes, I know. Been there, doing that and keep doing that everyday. But do you seek yourself out. Do you enjoy just sitting down and allowing your mind to roam. To think, to understand. To replay your reactions to certain incidents. Take a ten minute walk alone everyday. If you can’t walk, then go out and sit in a quiet space. Lock yourself in your closet. You don’t need to close your eyes and Om. You just need to get one step to understanding yourself and your motivations. Why, because understanding yourself brings you one step closer to understanding your reactions to others. When you do that constantly you will stop being on the defensive.

Spring cleaning tip #4
Let go of toxic emotional cellulite. Get rid of BAGgage. Bitterness | Anger | Guilt. Travel light.

This one belongs to a good friend of mine. Rules of engagement for relationships. Like that Katy Perry song, hot and you’re cold, up and you’re down. We fight we make up, we kiss we break up. This is true for most relationships. Friends, family, lovers. Over the years we have accumulated so much emotional cellulite that sits like a camel’s hump on your back. This cellulite is a living, breathing alien that is made up of bitterness, anger, guilt, jealousy and it is dormant and when you least expect it, it will send out a volley of spite. How do you break regular cellulite, by regular exercise, eating right and it takes time, but at some point your body starts to show the results. With emotional cellulite you have to pretty much do the same. You make a conscious effort to trace the affected areas. Recognition is key. Awareness. Followed by honesty. You have own it and then shield, forgive and love. Forgive yourself and ask for forgiveness and then let it go. Every day is a new day to do it differently.

Spring cleaning tip #5
Recall faded dreams and unused gifts. Plant new seeds of possibility. Doesn’t Spring symbolize resurrection?

This one is my personal favorite. I was wandering in my garden discovering new plants and amazed at how quickly growth took place with branches sprouting green. I felt like Jack waking up to that overnight beanstalk. You go for a walk and you see more people smile at you because that is what fairweather brings with it. Spring, flirting birds, blue skies and butterflies make people happy. Just like nature is resurrecting around us, this is fertile soul environment to start something new. Plant a project dear to your heart in the garden of your heart. Invest in it and feel the emotional wellness. The common thread is people saying well I don’t really know what I like or what I want to do. But if you go to tip # 3 and spend some time with yourself you will figure it out sooner than you think. There is something that each one of us will do before we tackle the mundane tasks in our lives. For me, I am sitting here on a Friday night, writing. Some like scrapbooking, or open their own restaurant, or want to play in a band. So you may not be able to fund a restaurant, perhaps you join a cooking club. You may not have time to play in a band, perhaps you could learn an instrument. Or you may decide to leap and follow, like Martha Beck would say, your North Star.

Spring cleaning tip #6
Go 3D. Drop the entitlement. Defend your boundaries. Deny energy vampires.

The problem with entitlement is that makes us all a bunch of whiners. It is quite tiring to hang around people who constantly expect to be served a slice of some imaginary pie that was supposed to be baked by someone else.
We have heard this many times and we still let people invade our boundaries. We end up getting into a loop where they invade, we submit and then we complain.
What can I say about energy vampires that hasn’t been stated so many times. These aren’t even Edward Cullen cute. You don’t have to wear garlic around your neck but you do have to figure out the Debbie downers and disengage. According to James Redfield and his ground breaking novel The Celestine Prophecy, we typically steal energy from each other engaging in four key control dramas. So ask yourself, are you dealing with a “poor me” or “the aloof” or “the critic” or “the intimidator”. Each one has a way of drawing energy and each encounter will leave you tired.

Spring cleaning tip #7
Create and own your personal mantra. If you want it, chant it.

Find a quiet spot and create your affirmation to bring renewed energy to that area of your life that needs a makeover. I can’t tell you how many times, I have written it down and let it go. A year would have passed and when I go back and read it, I am always amazed at the gifts that have come to pass. Say you want to sell your house, write down exactly what you want from the sale.
But there has to be a clause that is part of every mantra that you ask for it to be aligned to your greatest good. Many times we can’t see the bigger picture. We can only see the present because the past is over and we are not meant to peek into the future.

There is a common link across the wisdom of ages, that you have to align with the passion for life.  Nature resurrects every spring.  Demeter goes insane looking for Persephone during winter and finds her and rejoices in Spring.  She unveils her Spring masterpiece every year…without demur, without fanfare, without complaint, without resistance, without  judgment.

When you do what you do just because you enjoy it, that is the spark that sets off a chain reaction. The more you fret about what everyone thinks of you, the less you are able to trust yourself.

This quote from Joseph Campbell sums it up so well

“When you go through life…it all seems accidental at the time it is happening.  Then when you get in your 60’s or 70’s and look back, your life looks like a well planned novel with a coherent theme.  Incidents that seemed accidental, pure chance, turn out to be major elements in the structuring of this novel.  Who wrote this novel?  You did.”

On stories and legacy

Islands of Memory. Picture courtesy Vladimir Kush: http://www.vladimirkush.com

Tell me a story that I can hold against my soul and hold on to it forever.

Sticky stories can be cautionary, exemplary, inspirational or even tragic. A good storyteller manages to communicate the essence without preaching. Very often the silence, the untold, the material left to your imagination is what absorbs and grabs your attention.  Most stories carry the essence of change as what started somewhere in time transforms the actors, the storyteller and the audience and leaves an indelible mark on the psyche.

When I was growing up I loved to listen to my grand aunt’s stories. We knew she added many layers to keep it rich but it enthralled us anyway. We loved it most when she talked about their days in British India. She had us spellbound when we listened to her father’s exploits, the exotic clothes, the jewelry and the lifestyle they led. Big houses, wide open fields, joint families and fates that were often decided by the elders. We would rush to corroborate the story with my Dad, who would absentmindedly say “Oh your Chinnama talks too much”

From my mom’s father, I learnt about the Partition days, when there was fighting and how Delhi was in turmoil with families torn apart and living in fear. We also heard the stories of the Gods and Goddesses, their dramas, and the cliff hangers which decided the balance between the three worlds.

Fast forward to the present day and I realize that we rely more and more on the idiot box and sadly have lost the art of story telling. The gathering, the passing of knowledge and wisdom from elder to the young. We live such harried, hurried lives, striving constantly to fight time that we have sacrificed the ritual of storytelling. That which is a key element of the rites of passage. That which provides children with a cultural and personal map which highlights critical bends, stop signs and detours. That which teaches that the future can be lit through the teachings of the past.

As poet David Antin says “Stories are different every time you tell them – they allow so many narratives.” Retelling is also a reminder to ourselves…not to forget that which should not be forgotten. The connection that there is mystery in this universe, that thread that binds us, helps our children appreciate community in a world that increasingly emphasizes individuality. The hero’s journey is never without allies.

Cantadora, Jungian poet and writer, Clarissa Pinkola Estes notes “The craft of questions, the craft of stories, the craft of the hands – all these are the making of something, and that something is soul. Anytime we feed soul, it guarantees increase.”

Dig deep enough and each family has a treasure trove of triumph, heartache, joy and love. There are black sheep, everyday heroes, love stories and adventures. “How uncle got kicked out of school for cheating on his exam” is as relevant as “How your grandfather migrated to America with $25 in his pocket”. Narration and interaction also helps them understand the principle of cause and effect.

Similarly, the myths that we have grown up hearing are still relevant in the digital age. When we were in India a little while back, I saw a statue of Ganesha with a laptop instead of the traditional book. We had a good laugh but it also brought home the fact there is nothing wrong in updating our myths.

As the visionary Joseph Campbell underlines “We need myths that will identify the individual not with his local group but with the planet”.

As we delve deeper into the stories, personal and multi cultural, we can truly understand that which binds us together is far stronger than that which isolates.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes on why our stories matter.

Telling a true story about personal experience is not just a matter of being oneself, or even or finding oneself. It is also a matter of choosing  oneself. ~ Harriet Goldhor Lerner

Our stories matter… Your stories matter… For you never know how much of a difference they make and to whom. ~ Caroline Joy Adams

Everywhere, everyday, someone is changed, perhaps even saved, by words and stories. ~ Roxanne J. Coady

Star Wars has always struck a chord with people. There are issues of loyalty, of friendship, of good and evil… The theme came from stories and ideas that have been around for thousands of years. ~ George Lucas

 

Happy New Year! But what is happy?

Hola shiny, happy people,

It is a new year and it is about that fresh lease of hope.  Hope that we can make something better, something stronger, something brighter.  Hope is about superlatives.  As are wishes.  That is the best part of being human.  As I wished so many folks today, yesterday, three days ago, I wished myself as well.  That is important too…

To be able to articulate to yourself what it is that will add up to your own happiness.  We can argue about the whole concept of happiness at this point as those are wont to do.  We can define it from the eastern POV or take the western view, either way the fact is that if we are alive we may or may not state it but we normally want to be happy.  Nobody prays for sadness. 

So in my earnest wish to be happy I first had to outline what it is that would make me happy.  It’s not so easy you know to actually pinpoint the exact factors that will take you to your bliss.  Which brings me to Joseph Campbell’s wonderful quote

Follow your bliss.
If you do follow your bliss,
you put yourself on a kind of track
that has been there all the while waiting for you,
and the life you ought to be living
is the one you are living.
When you can see that,
you begin to meet people
who are in the field of your bliss,
and they open the doors to you.
I say, follow your bliss and don’t be afraid,
and doors will open
where you didn’t know they were going to be.
If you follow your bliss,
doors will open for you that wouldn’t have opened for anyone else.

And what is your bliss?  If you know what it is, what steps are you taking to find that bliss so doors will open and birds will sing. 

I don’t make many resolutions.   I tried the lose 50 pounds in a week or master a new language and I realized that I had to make one resolution.  Just one.  I had to commit to writing everyday.  EVERY SINGLE DAY. 

On this blog, I hope to bring you stories.  In prose or verse.  About those who are trying and those who have followed their bliss. 

The art of change lies in the open invitation.