A more generous view of others

1 Aug

A protracted sparky conversation with a friend left me feeling exhausted. Besides having a ‘bumper car’ kind of effect, this ‘should have been tete a tete’ prompted me to mull over all the times she behaved unreasonably and upset me with her sharp tongue. For the nth time I decided to stay away from her.

A long walk and some introspection  led me to keep aside my smog stained glasses of labeling and egged me on to focusing on the good in her . Sure she had virtues- energy , patience and kindness. Yet in moments like this when I am all upset I fine tune my attention towards her shortcomings.

Gradually my anger began to diminish as my mind moved away from her imperfections and focused on the goodness in her . It isn’t an easy thing to do but it’s freeing.

So this uniquely flawed me has now begun to look beyond the apparent and turn my heart and mind towards the goodness in the people I interact with everyday.

Have you noticed how easy it is to take our closest relationships for granted. Some of us cannot release our grip on the grudges we bear or the wounds we nurse for years thus leading unhappy and disturbed lives.

If we only take time to bring to mind what we value and appreciate about the other person ; look out for what’s right rather than what’s wrong we would attract happiness into our lives and perhaps bring about more circumstances that allow us to enjoy these positive attributes.

In finding the light in others…. I began to brighten the light within myself.

This new found wisdom connects me to people and the words of William ward then ring true. ‘When we seek to discover the best in others , we somehow bring out the best in ourselves’

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Enduring the Change

27 Nov

Online quizzes are entertaining, and like many others, I too am vulnerable to clicking on these quizzes. They beckon you to take harmless challenges in the confines of your home where only you will know whether you are clueless or clued in on the subject being tested.

The other day I took a quiz on menopause and wasn’t quite surprised when I scored a whopping 98%.  I had to – I am in the thick of it, and paddling furiously through its agonising symptoms that currently dominate my life.

Two new accessories have taken a permanent place in all my handbags – a fresh napkin and a hand fan. Right in the middle of a conversation at work, I sometimes feel a burning sensation sweeping through my body which eventually intensifies, leaving the entire of me in a pool of sweat. People around me watch helplessly as I try hard to look attentive to whatever is happening while internally I’m dealing with ninety seconds of the intolerable heat that’s generated out of my body.

Night time presents its own set of challenges, with hot flashes and night sweats disrupting my sleep. Most of the night goes by in adjusting the temperature of the air conditioner or sipping cool water while the rest of the world sleep oblivious to my discomfort.

The joys of ageing don’t end here. Pounding of the heart, Anxiety and Mood swings – things that I never really related to, except in my teens are back with a bang.

I always thought it would be a happy thing to get rid of the painful five days of bleeding every month but now instead of five days I have thirty days of distress going on inside of me.

Doctors are clueless on how long the menopausal symptoms last. “Each woman’s journey is unique,” they say with that calm smile.  “Menopause doesn’t carry with it a fixed beginning or a fixed end period. It can be your guest and remain with you for as long as it likes”; which means I could go through years of hot flashes, crappy sleep, mood swings and selective weight gain.

I now have a stubborn bulge around my waist. It seems like the weight from my cheeks and everywhere else has concentrated around my waist by some gravitational effect.

My only favourite part of all of this is the savings I make by not buying any makeup anymore. What’s the use? With all the hot flashes, makeup don’t stay on my cheeks for more than 12 minutes. Am I glad that the sans make up look is trending these days!

After meeting numerous doctors and chatting with friends I’ve come up with a few tips I’ve used to help me tide through this midlife torment.

  • Go easy on yourself. Slow down and accept these changes. Make them your ally. You don’t need to be a cranky menopausal woman. Take some time off to explore what works in addressing your symptoms.
  • Sometimes binge watching your favourite show helps when you are in a crummy mood.
  • Make physical exercise a part of your daily routine. Getting off your car/bus at an earlier stop and walking back home or Joining a dance class or climbing a flight of stairs can help even the busiest of us to weave exercise into our day.
  • Avoiding hot drinks, spicy food and sipping a lot of cool water helped me manage my hot flashes in small way.
  • If you have trouble sleeping – take a few catnaps during the day.
  • You are not the only one who needs to understand the symptoms of your menopause. Very many times your family and co-workers may be flummoxed by your moods and forgetfulness. Talk to them about menopause – tell them about how you feel physically and emotionally so they can understand and support you in this new chapter of your life. You don’t need to suffer silently.
  • If you are someone who experiences palpitations or pounding of the heart, then it helps to sit down, relax and slowly take a few deep breaths. Visit a doctor to make certain that your palpitations are only due to menopause.
  • Put yourself at the top of your ‘To-Do’ list. Take care of yourself and your health. Take time out to think of what ‘you want’ as opposed to what ‘you must’. Reflect on what you value the most and live that life.
  • Lean onto the amazing bond we have with our tribe. Meet up with girlfriends to share experiences or to vent or to give advice or learn about ‘going through menopause’. Although a taboo subject, I’ve learnt that it helps to talk about the transition you are going through.

Menopause is a journey every woman needs to take and while one goes through it …it seems eternal.

All the symptoms we feel are not ‘just in our heads’; They are very real.

All the same it need not be all misery. Accepting that it is a natural stage of life has made me view it as a time to make changes in my lifestyle, and look inwards. And although the world at large may never understand my hormones working like gremlins, I know that as long as I hang in there and embrace it for whatever it offers, I’ll be fine.

 

 

 

 

Why Assertiveness is an Important Skill for Children.

22 Nov

Educators and parents both agree that assertiveness is a vital skill children need to have.

Yet many a time its they themselves who discourage the development of this critical skill because they tend to confuse assertiveness with independence or being defiant or having an attitude.

Assertiveness involves stating your opinion or needs, standing up for yourself or protecting your rights in a way that’s respectful of the rights of the other person.

Like any other learnt skill, assertiveness needs an environment where parents and educators are not only willing to allow it but also recognise its benefits.

Before you begin to teach assertiveness, you need to examine your own attitude towards it.

If you as a parent, believe you know what’s best, prefer obedience, don’t like giving explanations or letting children disagree with you then teaching assertiveness is not an easy task.

Some parents believe that its okay to be assertive with peers but with adults it is seen as disrespectful.

Consider a situation where your child needs to stand up to an authority figure who is goading him/her for an unreasonable demand. Your child needs to protect himself and do so with conviction. A child trained to never question an authority figure, will find it difficult to assertively stand up for himself.

A home where children are encouraged to ask questions and parents are willing to explain and engage in discussion, is one where a child feels safe and confident enough to express her opinion, be it to adults or peers.

Standing up to a bully or not giving in to peer demands or even being able to express his/her opinion when needed, requires your child to stand her ground and communicate clearly and fearlessly in a non hostile fashion.

There are a few ways to teach children how to be assertive.

Model assertive behaviour.

In your interactions with family members or friends let your child watch you being assertive.

Using I messages.

Sometimes you need to explicitly teach your child how to stand up for himself or ask for something he/she needs.

If your child is frustrated that someone is taking advantage of him/her, then you could teach him how to show assertiveness by communicating his/her feelings using ‘I’ messages like …I feel [state the feeling] when you [state the behaviour that’s bothering you]. For eg I feel annoyed when you constantly tease me

Teach him that body language and the way you speak matter. – Making eye contact, keeping your tone calm and audible enough and speaking slowly make ones communication more effective.

Remind him /her to express his feelings constructively.

Encourage children to role play assertive behaviour until their responses becomes second nature.

Create teachable moments when children can re-enact a situation where they have been aggressive or passive, this time using assertive responses.

During this facilitation ask them how they felt while they were being assertive and link assertiveness to feeling good about oneself.

No doubt assertiveness isn’t an easy skill to learn, especially in a society where putdowns are considered funny and aggression is considered macho. All the same this is one skill that help children to interact with peers and adults in an honest and fruitful manner.

As parents and educators let us assist children in learning to use their voice to change a situation, protect themselves, state their opinion or make a request

 

 

 

 

Help me Handle my Big Worries – A Childs Perspective on Managing Anxiety

25 Oct

I know that you feel exhausted trying to calm me down when I act like a complete worry worm, but trust me, this worry drains me out  too.

I can see u frustrated, and that upsets me coz try what I may, I am not able to put into words exactly how I feel.

I appreciate your trying to protect me, shield me from being unhappy, but honestly, it doesn’t help.

I know you want me to get over my distress, and you try really hard, so I want to share with you a few things you could do for me, that would help me manage my worry.

  • Please don’t dismiss my fears. My fears are very real. When you brush them aside I feel unheard. Its okay to tell me that I will learn to manage my angst and that you will help me find a way through it. That makes me feel confident of facing my fears
  • Listen to me, I need time to put my feelings into words. Your reassuring comments only help if you have listened to me. Talk to me about my school, my friends, my day, and somewhere in the middle of all of that I will be able to tell you about what’s bothering me.
  • Sometimes I am worried about happenings in my everyday life – like if I’ll be able to recite the poem in my English class or if I will be a part of the football team. At other times I worry about big things like the train accident or the shootout I saw on television. The news can be pretty scary at times. Its to clear my doubts that I ask you so many questions, so please answer them patiently. It means a lot, when you respond without getting irritated.
  • It feels nice when you hug me or tickle me or even ruffle my hair. Your smile and your voice calms me coz I know I have your love and support.
  • Remember the time I was worried about who I’d sit beside, if my friend didn’t come to class. That day you made me think aloud about what I could do if he actually didn’t come. A bit of that thinking through my worry made me feel relaxed, and I was quite convinced I could manage getting through the day without my friend. Talking about what I could do to handle my fears reduces the confusions in my head.
  • At times my mind gets stuck in a cycle of unhelpful thoughts. All I can think of is about my fears and how incapable I am in handling them. It is painful. I need to be reminded of the awesomeness in me. Would you then remember to help me focus on my strengths and talents whenever the ‘worry wart’ in me takes over?
  • Its scary when my heart beats so fast and I have this terrible knot in my stomach and sometimes I feel faint. During these times please don’t ask me to Relax. I am absolutely jittery. Instead take me through the relaxation techniques that I see you do and stay with me.
  • I do make an effort. Trust me, I do. Although it may seem like I’m being obstinate or I’m pandering for attention, I do want to get over this constant feeling of unease. I trust you and your helping me with encouragement and patience will help me manage my fears.

 

 

 

 

Feeling Valued – An innate universal need.

18 Oct

What does it really mean to feel valued?

It’s a feeling that says – You matter ; You make a difference.

It translates to feeling good about who you are and the talents and skills you possess.

It’s when you believe that your opinions and ideas are a worthwhile addition to the people who connect with you.

It’s when you have family and friends who care about your wellbeing and you can sense that care in all their interactions.

Feeling valued is different from being liked.

When you feel valued you know that your contribution to a conversation or in a relationship has been acknowledged and thought of as worthwhile.

As human beings all of us want to feel that we matter, and that people close to us care and cherish our presence –They respect and admire us, that we make a difference in their lives.

This endorsement gives us a sense of belonging and a desire to better ourselves each day.

Sadly, outside forces sometimes don’t give us this feeling of worth. Their actions or reactions or judgments sometimes leave us feeling disappointed. We begin to question our worth and feel small and not good enough.

This can have disastrous repercussions – You constantly end up giving way for others to do what they want at the expense of your needs and your happiness, You tolerate abuse and stay in the relationship because you aren’t sure of your ability to handle challenges on your own, You prefer to not take a stand on things as you don’t believe your ideas and views are constructive, you are complacent and don’t strive for greater things simply because you don’t think you deserve any better, and many such self defeating habits.

Looking for the world to give you that sense of worth is like putting yourself on trial only to be sentenced to a lifetime of self defeating beliefs.

We are all born with potential enough to live fruitfully. Recognizing this is the key to feeling valued.

The value you place on yourself is the only kind of worth that’s in your control. When you are comfortable in who you are and appreciate yourself and your worth, its then that you open the gateway to better relationships, better opportunities and a happier you.

Another key factor attached to valuing ourselves is our mental health. Feelings of shame, anger, pain are a byproduct of not feeling valued. These feelings then go on to get deep rooted and emerge as negative emotional states like depression and anxiety.

A quote that we need to keep at the top of our mind would be:

“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe deserve your love and affection.”

Buddha

It can be a difficult task to learn to value yourself after years of believing that you are not good enough. All the same it isn’t an impossible task.

Each day think of small actions you could do to remind yourself that your soul deserves nourishment and affection.

Write at least 3 things that you appreciate about yourself. Read them everyday to get a change in perspective during times when you need it most.

Get in touch with what’s meaningful to you and live by those values.

Einstein said “ if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid”.

Comparing yourself to others, is a sure way of sidelining all the awesome things you can do or have done. It undermines your own subjective well being. Be it a lifestyle choice or a faith tradition, make your own standards.

Find the time to practise a hobby. Seek out events on subjects close to your heart and make time to attend them.

Spend time each morning reflecting on what you have done or would like to do and continue the day doing most of the things that you had decided.

Practise acts of kindness. Make deeds of compassion and kindness a part of your daily routine. This simple skill is transformative in increasing your self value.

In a group get into the habit of speaking up for yourself. It may seem difficult initially but try it – it’s a liberating feeling.

Be accountable for all the going ons in your life.This way you don’t live a life of blame or justifications. Instead you take on challenges as opportunities to learn and grow.

The struggle to feel valued is very real and often the least acknowledged.

Without this core emotional need the world does not feel a safe place to live in .

The only way to fulfill this compelling need is to develop it inside out.

Start by valuing yourself and slowly you will begin to attract it from the outer world.

Celebrating the brokenness of life

9 Oct

We humans revere perfection. Right from the time I can remember, the message I received from society has been, that we are valuable only if we are perfect.

At first you want to be that perfect child — being popular and having friends; then having the perfect partner, a perfect career graph that spells success, a perfect wedding only to follow it up with a perfect home and perfect children.

But life doesn’t follow our perfect plans. It springs up surprises when you least expect, leaving you shattered and fragmented. Your cherished perfect life gets tarnished with imperfections.

If we live life on the premise that things should be the way we want them to be, then all we get is disappointment and unhappiness.

Unless we learn to embrace the imperfections in our lives, we will stifle our heads with self criticism, isolate ourselves and never feel complete.

Imperfections are a part of creation and life gets so much more meaningful when we find beauty in the quirky anomalies, the flawed and the authentic.

Be it in Nature or in the people around us or even within ourselves- there is imperfection everywhere. And that’s a good thing. Once we accept this, we no longer have the need to chase perfection — harmonious relationships, fulfilling work, or an ideal family life

Instead we begin to embrace the asymmetry of life. Our flaws needn’t be hidden anymore but emblazoned with colour ; something akin to Kintsugi [Joining with gold]

Kintsugi is the Japanese art of putting together broken pieces of pottery with gold lacquer. The beauty of this technique is that no attempts are made to hide the flaws or brokenness of the object. The flaws are highlighted as part of the design with the gold lacquer which makes each piece unique and beautiful.

Kintsugi talks about healing. Whatever is the issue you are going through- loss of a loved one, breakup of a relationship or any other tragedy, Kintsugi shows us the value behind respecting what is damaged or scarred, be it an object, we ourselves or those around us.

It calls us to celebrate our scars and reconcile with the flaws and imperfections of life.

 Reframing hardships and weaving them into our lives can transform the shattered parts of our lives into something more resilient and resplendent.

The process of Kintsugi depends on certain preconditions-

· The mindset of the artist. Only if the artist believes in the possibility of creating something exquisite out of the broken pieces of ceramic, will he be able to engage in the metamorphic process of Kintsugi.

· The patience the artist exhibits. Its after the artist takes time to collect all the broken pieces,reassemble them, use the right tools, join them together with the gold inflected lacquer and patiently wait for the healing to take place that he can create something astounding

Similarly, with our lives, its only when realize that we can live with our imperfections and transform our fault lines into something that can be celebrated and displayed proudly, then our life becomes more valuable — Our life then will be a story of victory.

To quote the Persian Poet Rumi –

“I said: what about my heart

He said: Tell me what you hold inside it?

I said: Pain and Sorrow

He said: Stay with it. The wound is the place where the light enters you”

The Importance of Wasting Time

30 Sep

For most people today, Time is the one commodity that isn’t meant to be whiled away or spent mindlessly. In a culture that rewards relentless productivity, the idea of sitting around doing nothing is considered preposterous.

My mother, a confirmed proponent of ‘Hard work is the key to success’ impressed upon me the virtues of ‘Early to rise’ and ‘Keep busy’.  She considered Down time – a complete waste of time. All through my growing years I saw her busy all day, either at work, or cooking, or running errands. To her ‘doing nothing’ was a bad habit that needed to be weeded out at the earliest.

This indoctrination stayed with me for a large part of my adult life, so much so, that on days when I paused to just ‘BE’ [Do nothing Productive], guilt stuck out his ugly head serving me a generous helping of blame and shame.

To me ‘being productive’ was linked to my self worth and this made ‘Doing nothing ‘a scary place to be in. Letting go of my borrowed beliefs, I deliberately began taking time out of my routine to do things I enjoy. It was during these times that I came to realize that Life is a process of discovery and being trapped in this busyness only stalls that process.

Whiling away my time revealed to me the things I enjoy doing, things I care about and the things that don’t matter to me.

Sometimes these carefree hours provided an opportunity to reflect – like a huge mirror in front of me – to make sense of my life; to understand how the dots connect.

Today, I have released myself from my personal Alcatraz – where doing nothing meant I’m lazy or slacking.

Now I take breaks between work.

I go out for a long walk by the beach

I sit in a café, sipping coffee and people watching

I Meet up with friends and talk just about anything

I don’t wait for weekends to to engage in my personal pursuits. I choose every day to further the discovery process that life unfolds. Its during times like these that my mind is revived with clarity and new insights.

To me, Idleness is an investment, one that involves deliberate rest; one that helps gain fresh perspectives on various matters; one that keeps me happier and more tuned into life.

I am no more a part of the ‘Cult of busyness’. The sentence ‘I don’t have time’ doesn’t apply to me anymore. I make time to be unproductive, giving in to my meandering mind and experiencing the joy and vitality that comes along with it.

This ‘wasted time’ is a pursuit in itself. It helps me recharge and ultimately get more work done – A time well spent.

I definitely recommend all my readers intermittently ‘unplug’ and have periods of time that are completely unstructured to get that zing back into life.

 

This too shall Pass.

19 Sep

Not very long ago I went through the most   distressing period of my life. Everything I understood as being a part of a stable predictable existence came crashing down in front of me. People came, empathized, consoled, offered sound advice but nothing taught me how to deal with those moments of pain.

It was at this time that a friend said to me…’This too shall pass’.

I didn’t give her words much thought then, but today whenever I sit by myself reflecting on the transient nature of life, the timeless wisdom of these words echo in my head.

Nothing is here to stay forever. Both good times and bad times are fleeting. If anything is a constant – it is change.

Each time I am reminded of this impermanent nature of the world around us I realize how important the present moment is. Immersing myself into the moment I savor every bit of the present.

I am not sure if the moment will replicate itself again and so I live a little more spontaneously, steady my monkey mind as it loops in with unpleasant thoughts of the past or catapults wildly into the future.

Each time I see a beautiful sight I don’t wonder when I’ll be there again; nor do I bother to take ‘selfies’, instead I take a deep breath, soak up the beauty and relish every moment that I get

‘This too will pass’ has been a comforting mantra during tough times too. Just knowing that the pain associated with tough times will lessen gives me hope and motivates me to stay afloat when the going gets rough.

Sitting by the beach I watch the waves lash against the rocks. Each wave comes in fiercely with all its strength as if to weather the rocks with just one blow; but no sooner it breaks against the shore that it curls over and dissolves into foam. No trace left of the gigantic wave that charged in threateningly.

Such is life – even the most menacing of times will lose its intensity over time. Nothing remains the same.

So if you are in a happy state as you read this, be sure to savor it.

If you are going through a difficult time, remind yourself that it wont last forever.

Whatever the moment- beautiful or difficult; its Temporary.

Enjoy it or hang in there and endure it coz ……’This too shall pass’