Seven for Spring

The Miracle of Life. Painting by Vladimir Kush.

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 Derailment and Discovery

Growing wings picture courtesy O magazine columns

Last quarter was just a frenzy of doing and running. It seemed to me that between the launches at work, the festivals, kids, schools and their calendars, the puppy and her training, an advisory board and the madness of the holiday season, I was on some Red Bull trip. Then as is typical when you race too hard, your brakes do get worn out and wheels are wobbly, you will hit that proverbial wall.

I have never had a traffic violation or a speeding charge. So last Feb when the cop told me that my car didn’t have the inspection sticker updated, I thought ok cool, I’ll get it done and went on my merry way. Little did I know that you had to show up in court with evidence. Apparently the reminders went to the wrong address and on the first day of November, we had one of those visits. I wasn’t home but suffice to say, I was shaken up. Of course I got it resolved the next day but that is neither here nor there.

We tend to operate in this invincible mode till something goes out of whack, then we step back and say…whoa, didn’t know that I forgot to do this or missed that and then you realize that you are finite, bounded by the laws of time and space.

That juggling is really for clowns and pacing is for adults. You figure out that if you don’t pace yourself, set your boundaries or set aside time for thought, the rollercoaster ride that you are on can soon derail on any silly Tuesday of the week. Life does hang by a thread and the thickness of the thread depends on your bank account.

Sometimes you need the derailment. It can be quite painful. Suddenly you are not on the constant journey, rushing from one destination to another, from one task to the next, from one person to another. Derailment can throw you out on the pavement and have you curled up in a fetal position waiting for the internal instructions to come through to help you deal with what needs to happen next.

Now internal instructions aren’t always scripted for perfect assembly like that IKEA DIY manual. And if that is not a bummer, internal instructions can also be blocked from our access. It depends on whether while you are in that fetal position, you decide to move forward or decide that the past though uncomfortable was comfortable enough.

Assuming you decide during derailment to seek that instruction manual, then along with a torch light you need some brutal honesty. Light can illuminate or light can be blinding depending on your vision for your journey. Brutal honesty can help you figure out what habits constantly sabotage you. Do you give too much and then complain? Do you take on too many responsibilities and feel overwhelmed? Do you procrastinate and feel the stress? Are you too passive? Are you too defensive? Are you resentful? Are you a victim, a critic, a martyr, a cynic, a interrogator? You can play 20 questions and if there is enough honesty as the answers come forward, the next steps become more intuitive. Of course, that does not mean that the next steps will be easy or that you can see the entire path unfold within sight of that pot of gold.

But that is the journey of discovery. We always think that we can change for someone else but what is more important is to change for your self. That is the only change that is believable and sustainable.

To sum it up, here is a great extract from Martha Beck

I used to think I knew how some caterpillars become butterflies. I assumed they weave cocoons, then sit inside growing six long legs, four wings, and so on. I figured if I were to cut open a cocoon, I’d find a butterfly-ish caterpillar, or a caterpillar-ish butterfly, depending on how far things had progressed. I was wrong. In fact, the first thing caterpillars do in their cocoons is shed their skin, leaving a soft, rubbery chrysalis. If you were to look inside the cocoon early on, you’d find nothing but a puddle of glop. But in that glop are certain cells, called imago cells, that contain the DNA-coded instructions for turning bug soup into a delicate, winged creature—the angel of the dead caterpillar.

If you’ve ever been through a major life transition, this may sound familiar. Humans do it, too—not physically but psychologically. All of us will experience metamorphosis several times during our lives, exchanging one identity for another. You’ve probably already changed from baby to child to adolescent to adult—these are obvious, well-recognized stages in the life cycle. But even after you’re all grown up, your identity isn’t fixed.

Read more here