Do you have the courage to go looking for the magic in you?

breatheMany of us have been taught to be safe. The world is scary, unpredictable. Do the safe thing, for who knows, what might happen. And so we are safe. We don’t take risks. We don’t speak our truth. We skim life, instead of diving deep and getting engrossed in the juicy, messy business of living our life. We do the best in the situation we find ourselves in, instead of choosing to put ourselves in worlds where we want to be. Sooner, or later, we find that we  can’t hear ourselves anymore. There’s a deafening quiet where there should be an inner radar. And then, because we don’t want to feel like hiding our gifts and our voice and our  idiosyncrasies in the treasure chest that stays locked in our hearts anymore, we start…opening up. We begin, in the search for ourselves, and in search of the magic hidden inside of us.

I believe this is one of the oldest and most generous tricks the universe plays on us as human beings, both for its own amusement and for ours: The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them.

The hunt to uncover those jewels-that’s creative living.

The courage to go on that hunt in the first place—that’s what separates a mundane existence from a more enchanted one.

Elizabeth Gilbert

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Strange, weird problems

say wha

It seems like we all suffer from strange / weird problems. Today, I was speaking with someone who shared his problem with me: he remained calm and unperturbed in stressful situations. While the rest of the team scurried in the face of an impending audit at his office, he remained calm and unfrazzled. The problem? The head of the office found his behavior strange – it seemed he wasn’t as engaged as the others. This is not the first time I had heard of this – my husband suffers from the same cool cucumber syndrome.

Other strange problems I’ve spotted include:

  • finding it easy to yes, but hard to say no
  • being harder on yourself, but more understanding of others
  • easily advocating for others, but not being able to advocate for yourself
  • knowing how other feels, but being clueless about what you feel
  • being able to see a situation from so many perspectives, that your own is just one of them, instead of being the most important perspective

What are some strange problems that you grapple with? Would love to hear in the comments.

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Getting rid of the golf ball stuck in my throat

throat chakraSometimes it feels like a golf ball is stuck in my throat – the words I want to speak don’t come out. They go back down, sometimes lodging heavily in my heart, sometimes weighing heavily on my mind.

How do I open up my throat chakra, I ask my husband. Practice everyday, he said. He doesn’t know about much about chakras, but he knows me, and he knows the answers. The only way I can unblock my throat chakra is by practicing, starting to speak. Maybe a thin voice comes out, squeezing around the golf ball stuck in my throat; thin, like a singer’s voice on the decline, but I hope it grows stronger with practice.

We were on holiday recently when I rediscovered the beauty and restorative power of music: sufi songs; old hindi songs with a word or two in urdu, maybe, just maybe, the most lyrical language on the earth; new songs, some with personality, some with a sameness that blended into each other.

I sang along as we drove through the vast majestic mountains of stone and sand and multiple colors. At first, my voice was weak and limited to a narrow band from years of being forgotten, but as I sang, it grew stronger. Maybe it was the strength of the mountains seeping into me?

I feel compassion for my voice. It has been suppressed on occasion and so it is scared.  It takes some time to make it past the golf ball stuck inside, and when it does come out, it wavers, it is shaky. I send it out, shaking courageously into the world.

I draw on the first day of art class. It is my attempt at a self portrait and after drawing what looks like a sad woman, I scribble some crosses on the neck. The teacher knows when she sees my work, that I am showing her what is inside, telling her something about me, but she does not know exactly what. Do you have a thyroid problem, she asks – she has noticed the dark squiggles? No, that’s my throat chakra – it’s blocked.

I try and open it with sodalite and lapiz lazuli, and singing in the mountains, and saying I don’t like this, and I will not be treated this way.

The throat chakra is expression and expression is creativity. With my throat chakra blocked, I fear creating, I fear making mistakes. Maybe the golf ball stuck is perfectionism?

So, I give myself, little by little, permission to not be perfect. I give myself permission to write shitty first drafts and say rambling sentences which have a seed of an idea that may take root – or may not, and that’s ok too. I give myself the permission to wreck my journal, to squirt it with lemon juice, and stitch some pages together, to doodle all over it, including the edges, to rip out pages and lose them because loss is part of life, and part of creation. I give myself the permission to break an egg and squish it, shells and yolk and all, letting the shards dig into my hands to see if it really does unblock me as it is touted to do, and find that heart does feel lighter and the censor in my hands that keeps a finger on the backspace is a little bit more relaxed, like after a few glasses of wine.

My throat chakra opens slowly in the midnight hour as I sit on laptop and go clicket-y click. I type to know what I think, what I feel, and what I must do. I type to become.

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Oil pastel therapy and imaginary planets, far far away

I bought a little box of oil pastels for the new art class I’m taking on weekends. The class was yesterday, and all of us drew a vase the instructor had arranged stylistically on a table in front of us, with a few kitchen utensils thrown in for an interesting composition.

We drew, first with a pencil, and then colored in with the oil pastels: the moss green and deep green and pale yellow of the leaves in the vase; the grey for the steel utensils that glistened in the background; the blue for the cloth that made the makeshift backdrop of this arrangement.

I am a novice when it comes to drawing and sketching. My main motivation to join this class was to nurture the butchered creative in me; to learn to be more in the moment; and to pay heed to the solid world around me, not just the world of thoughts and feelings and ideas that I am used to living in.

When I started the class a month or so back, my attention was at the lowest its ever been, fleeting, darting from here to there. It was difficult for me to hold my attention long enough to sketch what I saw in front of me: to make sure the opening of the vase was wider than the base, to make sure the curves I drew mirrored the curves of the vase, to see where the sunlight fell and which parts needed shading in and which didn’t.

Art is therapeutic. Across the last few weeks, I can sense my attention becoming deeper, and less runaway. Holding a crayon and the repeated motion of filling in the colors is soothing; it fills in wounds in a way that thinking and analyzing does not. As I fill in the colors on the page, I fill my wounds. I am learning to be ok with being less than perfect, which I am obviously so in comparison to my more advanced peers in this class. I am learning to create something from nothing, and becoming more comfortable with the process being messy. I am learning also to be more risk-taking: the instructor remarked yesterday as she did the rounds of the class, looking at our work, that we seemed afraid of colors. Don’t be afraid, she said, don’t subdue the vibrancy of the oil pastels, the drama. Let it out. So, I did. I filled in the blue till it was deep and dark and not a drop of white peaked from the paper below. Why should I be afraid to let the boldness of the deep blue stand out? Why should I be afraid to have it be noticed? Why, really, should I be afraid of showing the vibrancy of all that is me, not just the softness of the blue sky on a sunny day, but also the darkness and deepness of the stormy nights.

Today, I sat curled up reading Gretchen Rubin’s Better Than Before in the bedroom. When I ventured outside, I saw that my husband had caught hold of my oil pastels and was busy composing his own creation. Don’t look, he said, give me fifteen. Fifteen minutes later I went to see his painting. Unsurprisingly for someone who loves all things space, he’d drawn a picture of the night sky with a planet and some galaxies.

abhinav drawing

This is Saturn, right? I said noticing the ring around the planet. The ring is from Saturn and the red spot is from Jupiter, he replied. A combination planet! So this is…Supiter…said both of us together. Other than Supiter, the Andromeda is there too, or at least a galaxy he drew, which he now thinks is the Andromeda. There are also a bunch of other galaxies and some shooting stars.

The black of the night sky is jet black, unafraid. The colors are what he imagines them to be. The subject, an imaginary planet. I realize that my husband’s creativity flows, without being clogged by too many rules.

At one point of time, Supiter would have stressed me out. It’s not a real planet, I would think. It doesn’t exist. You can’t just combine planets. But now I love it. It exists because I see it on the paper in front of me. It is real because it came from my husband’s imagination, as he closed his eyes to imagine it, or maybe realized post facto that he’d combined the features of two planets.

As I walk the creative path, I can find myself unfurling, little by little. Learning that creativity means more play and less judgment. Learning that I don’t need to know what I will write in my blog post but trusting that when I start to write, the words will flow, or sputter, depending on the day. Learning that the tap is really more open than I give myself credit for. And learning, most importantly, that in creating lies the deepest healing.

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