Valor

I grew up hearing about this legend every now and then. “Once a Tamil woman drove a tiger away using a winnow.” Of course, as a kid I did not think much of this “story in a nutshell” that was passed down generation to generation and invoked to demonstrate courage or questioning a lack of it. But as I heard it recently, I started having questions. Was a hand woven winnow such a tough weapon or the tiger was more like a cuddly little fellow? Who is she and what really happened? why do we not know her name at the least? Here is a little imagination as an attempt to answer these questions!

Lets travel back in time, a few hundred years from now, to a tiny place in what is now called the state of Tamil Nadu, in the southern part of India. A small mountain rises above the green Earth and kisses the fluffy white clouds. It’s slopes are thickly carpeted with lush green trees, plants and ferns on all sides. The dense forest all around are sacred home to a few hundred life forms. Birds, animals, fishes, butterflies, insects… so much variety, so much color, so much commotion! And still a sense of tranquility transcends them all. A small hut settlement, a total of ten to fifteen houses, is seen a few hundred feet from the foot of this hill. A cool breeze brushes our faces, travels past and gently plucks the fingers of the coconut tree leaves lined up majestically row after row, as if a professionally trained hand is playing harp. The combined orchestra from the songs of the birds caresses our heart. The clouds form groups, stopping and gossiping, breathing in all this beauty down below and then slowly move on.

We reach a house in the middle of this small village, with a mango tree covering the porch. Under the mango tree, there is a woman sitting and winnowing chaff from rice grains. She is holding a hand-woven winnow, widely used for this purpose even to this day. One look at her and we could say she is the daughter of this Mother Nature! She sits there as an embodiment of all this prosperity, elegance and beauty. Inside the house, her six month old baby is blissfully asleep in a hammock made out of her soft cotton wedding sari. Her luscious thick hair coiled with jasmine flowers gently curls up and dozes off over her smooth shoulder. Soaking up all this sweetness surrounding her, she reflexively hums a tune. Her husband is returning home this evening, the very thought of which fills her eyes with dreams. A faint smile spreads on her lips and she quickly buries her blush in the dimples of her cheeks. She forgets herself for a few minutes, and some more.

The gentle breeze turns faster, harder. Mother Nature’s beautiful soft face tightens up in a flash. The songs of the birds are now turned into shrieks. She peels her attention off of the rhythmic movement of the winnow and looks up. She feels a hard ball sinking into her lower abdomen. Her throat dries up and she has to forcefully swallow the saliva. She tries to find the reason for this rapid change. She scans every direction for clues. That moment, the very moment when her mind grasps the object of her quest, her breath freezes. Every strand of her body hair stands up on high alert and her eyes enlarge showing the full glory of her iris. Longingly she turns towards her tiny bundle of joy, sleeping inside, oblivious to all this perplexity.

In the periphery she feels a shadow move and her eyes dart towards that direction. It is right there, standing at the gates. It’s body shining like gold under the mid-morning sun with scars of darkness slapped as stripes all over. It’s strong and powerful legs step one after the other and move towards her, reverberating with arrogance and a strange sense of possession over her. With every passing split-second, her heartbeat races higher and higher until she could hardly feel the air move through her lungs. She is frightened and starts questioning all the protective fences that she trusted till this day. The almighty God that protects her from every trouble big and small, her dearest husband with whom she exchanged vows of safety for life, the disciplined life in an orderly society where everyone looks out for one another. How did she end up all alone? She called to her Savior Goddess, Ellaiamma, the Goddess with red eyes and eighteen hands, whom her entire village worships every new moon day, praying to fight off all evil spirits. “Ellaiamma, how did your heart agree to let me, your beloved daughter, get into this terrifying situation?”, her heart pleaded. “All the neighbors have gone to fields for work. Will they be able to hear me if I shout?”, she thought. But she could rarely find her breath, let alone her voice. “What will happen to my baby?”, she panicked.

Her eyes clouded with confusion and fear, she stood there pitifully in front of the approaching tiger. “If I beg in front of this demon, if I fall at it’s feet, will it leave me?” she started thinking in one last attempt to find a way out. By then the tiger had moved in close enough and began to spring on it’s prey. Trying to run away she moved aside slightly, reflexively bringing the winnow to cover her face. The tiger’s aim slipped and she ended up getting scratched in her arms and legs. She could not bear the assault from a 600 pound tiger and rolled on the ground curling up a few feet away. Her sun-kissed bronze limbs were bathed in blood that trickled on the ground causing Mother Earth’s face to turn red. All this woke the baby up and sensing the tension around, it began to cry hysterically.

Tiger heard and turned towards the house. Sensing this, her body tightened up. Pain and anger fueled her strength and her breath seethed like a volcano. “My house, my child. How dare you step in here?”, her heart erupted with fury. She put her right palm on the ground and in one push leapt to her feet. With a new understanding of herself she picked up the loose end of the sari and wound it up tightly around her waist. She collected her long hair and knotted it into a bun. She looked straight up, a dark strand of hair fell across her face reminding the tiger that she too is no less than a tigress in her own right. “Before you touch my child, you need to walk past me!” This very thought lifted her spirits and positioned her like a mighty mountain between the tiger and her baby. The dust from the scuffle had not settled yet but she was already up. Sensing her challenge, the tiger let out a loud roar. The sound echoed in the mountain and reached the villagers. It sent chills into their bones. They quickly remembered her and her baby and hurried to her defense.

She stood there unperturbed. The roar did not move even the strand of hair that ran across her face, let alone her heart. She turned her red eyes and locked it on the tiger. The tiger got confused. Is this the same woman who looked so pitiful a few moments ago, it wondered. It turned once again towards the crying baby inside her home. “Hey!” she let out a loud cry from the depths of her lower abdomen where life surrenders to take form. Every life form that heard this sound, submitted their obedience. The tiger hesitated for a moment and took it’s front leg half way back. This moment was right for her to launch her first assault. She moved swiftly like an arrow shot from a trained archer’s bow, splitting the dust laden air, picking up the winnow that lay on her left side along the way, collected all her mortal strength and landed on the tiger’s head with one mighty blow. The tiger went dizzy but quickly sprung back to it’s legs. It attacked her once again with rage. She held the tiger’s front paws with her bare hands and stopped it right on it’s tracks. She saw the demon eye to eye, her muscles curdling up on her arms, thighs and abs. She was that Savior Goddess now for her baby. Her body chiseled by years of hard-work is matched in strength by nothing less than the diamond. These fences, she realized, are not to save her, but she is there to maintain these for the order of her society.

The tiger, that was used to display of it’s strength all it’s life, was surprised by this resistance. It could not get a grasp of the situation that is turning out to be. It thought her strength will go only to a certain point and once she got tired, victory will be easy. It still had the picture of that weak woman slumped on the ground on it’s mind. But it had grossly underestimated her will power. Every time it assaulted, she fell. She stood up. She attacked. Again. And again. And again. At one point the tiger got tired and she got the lead. She pushed though her last ounce of strength and hit the tiger with her hands, still holding on to the winnow that was a mere rag now and the tiger started backing down. By now the villagers had reached her home and were stunned by the fierceness of the fight. The tiger seeing itself in clear disadvantage ran back to the jungle saving it’s life. The villagers erupted with cheers and applause and hailed her name. There was celebration of her bravery all around. She panted and cooled down for a quick few minutes and then raised her hand. They became quiet. She tossed the tattered winnow down and began speaking. “No, not my name. Say that a Tamil woman drove a tiger with a mere winnow!” She knew well that if her story was associated with a name, she will be a legend but then her victory will be all her’s. She wanted every mother, sister and daughter to be a part of her story, her victory. Her weakness, her assumptions, her struggles and her strengths are all common to her kind, Womankind and Mankind. She realized that a woman is not a mere person but a society. She sacrificed her name to uplift her society then and for generations to come.

So, go girl… feed thy body, mind and soul. Nourish the tigress within and live a majestic life. For, when you encounter a tiger in your own life someday, be prepared to unleash that tigress in you!

 

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The Island

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Lets go to this place
that is not too far, yet much forgotten;
This island for one
where other than you, there is none.

You are no mother or father
nor daughter, sister, uncle or a son;
Except for your one single self
You are in no other relation.

You have nothing to possess
nothing to show off to the world.
Everything there is, everything you need
just to be used and left behind.

No big house, no posh car, no shiny shoes
no branded clothes, no accessories either.
Not even banks to tally your net worth;
All in abundance, but nothing your own.

Not even a mirror
to admire your face or features
Nobody with whom you have the need to compare
You are the one and only there,
not even an audience to cheer!

Stripping off all these distractions,
you are left with your core – 
the values, principles and meaning, 
things that matter to you the most!

This person, in this stillness
when have you met him or her?
Gender too, does it really matter?
How friendly is he to you and you to him?

Other’s thoughts, words and actions fade into a low hum;
what you think of others too is no more than tides on the distant shore.
Now just within you, with you and by yourself,
soak in every drop of this magnificient silence!

Valuing this self and treating him with kindness
and planning a frequent little retreat together 
will keep you strong and grounded on shifting sands
and when riding the tide of time!

But I’m Supposed To…

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The other day I was having a conversation with my daughter and she was feeling bad that she forgot to do something related to her school. I tried to cheer her up and she kept saying “Ya, but I’m supposed to have done that.” She was into this self blaming phase for a little while which got me thinking about how much I as a woman get into this. How many of such instances have occurred in my life that left me questioning myself. One of the things we women do is ruminating, because of our biological brain build. We stick to a past shortcoming and make a mountain out of nothing. We are equipped with this capability to work through the problem and find a long term solution but most of the time, we just stick to the working through the problem part and never get to the solution and move on. This keeps us at a disadvantage in a professional race when we compete with men who think differently. Failure for them is an instance that they shrug off quickly. Their emotional part shuts down and quickly move to solution finding mode. If we have to give our girls and ourselves more confidence, we need to become aware of this and work on it.

Coming to the actual title of this post, “I’m supposed to”, this is a never ending list of expectations, some stated and some understated, that hangs in front of our eyes every time, everywhere from our parents, teachers, friends, relations, society as a whole and then from ourselves. Of course, one can not satisfy everyone every time, and this is when priorities come into play. If we are in touch with our self, we will be in a better position to prioritize what we want to do in life at that moment and life will be by choice, instead of trying to live a life to be worthy in eyes of others. As a daughter, I’m supposed to be obedient, helpful and understanding. As a student, I’m supposed to pay attention at class, get good grades. As a professional, I’m supposed to be reliable at work and constantly improve my capabilities. As a mother, I’m supposed to give the best nourishment and care to my baby. As a parent, I’m supposed to instill good values and conduct in their character. As a sister, as a wife, as a friend, as a xx relative… as a woman in a society… it goes on. Many times, there will be a clash and what you pick will have to be in line with your own values. This will give a feeling of deep contentment even if it is not viewed favorably by others involved.

As a stay at home mom, I was told that I’m wasting all my education and experience by sitting at home. I’m supposed to be at work earning money, respect and advancing my career. First, value of education is not the money you get by working a job that you get based on your education. Learning is life long and does not matter what you learn. As long as you add something new that expands your mind, it is enriching. In fact, after quitting, I could learn about religion, spirituality, science, parenting, cooking, health, people dynamics, self help and it felt like I hit a highway from an narrow inroad suddenly. Second, I stayed with my baby for not just baby’s need but my own need. I wanted to be with my kids during their foundation years, which enriches me deeply. If someone wants to work and finds fulfillment in that, then definitely they should go for it. Again, the choice should be of the person and not other’s around. That is true empowerment. True, women before us fought to get to where we are in terms of equal rights to work. But I think taking a break when a woman needs is an organic extension to this and not a setback to this fight. I mean, 3 months maternity leave, really? I dream of a way better situation for our daughters. Third, I have used my education and experience in serving what I am doing currently. When we get the knowledge, we should be able to apply it to our life situation so that it helps us do our job better, more efficiently. That, I think, is the purpose of education. It is not just what you do that decides your capability, but how you do whatever you are aiming for. If I go to work when I am not ready and give a half-baked result, that is not OK. But if I succeed in giving my 100% to my nurturing during the break, then that still is a time well spent. Fourth, there is no “supposed to”. Other’s expectations are other’s problems. I should be more in tune with my needs. As women, we push ourselves behind easily. We are the “giving” type, even when no one is asking for it! We need to learn to “take” control of our lives.

Finally, our heroes in epics, Rama was a prince. He was “supposed to” rule Ayodhya but Ramayan was not about his ruling but the 14 years spent in jungle. Pandavas were so capable and they were “supposed to” rule for the people’s good. But their story was that of the struggles they faced before they could establish that rule. Siddhartha was supposed to be a Emperor. But he became Emperor of hearts. There is no real “supposed to”. It is time to write our own stories, take our own decisions and give our heart and soul to what we do and make this world a little better one day at a time.

Reference:

Ruminating from The Confidence Code

Looking at progress and not perfection

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Corporate life was all about perfection. The perfect resume, perfect presentation, perfect pitch… I quickly got trained to give my best every single time. It started in school and then continued in professional life. Everything seemed… perfect. Until I became a parent. In the parenting world, and in life in general, perfection doesn’t exist. I was struggling by unconsciously bringing corporate standards into my household and then wondering why there was so much friction. The baby was “supposed” to sleep by this time, eat in these many minutes, be in perfect health… oh, I was miserably naive. In perfection mindset, you are skilled to do something and are expected to give the best output within the given time limit. Efficiency is tracked and graded. If you don’t measure up to a certain standard, then you are considered not skilled or capable enough. Actually, what we should be after is excellence. Excellence is reaching one’s highest potential by striving and practicing. But when we take off the striving part, the tiny failures and the time required and look at only the result, we are stuck with the perfection mindset. We expect a lot more, too soon and create burnout. This might work with a repeated task that does not need any new learning but otherwise, perfection kills growth.

When I started on my parenting journey, I had to unlearn quite a few things and work on my mindset. With life, people and kids, it is progress mindset that works. In progress mindset, it does not matter how you perform as long as you have showed an improvement over time. It is self-paced and it should be rightly so. Everyone has a potential and their path is unique to them. When we observe babies trying to walk, it does not happen overnight or on a set time frame. They try, fall, try again, fall again, wobble and stumble and over time, with all the trying and falling, they gain their strength, balance and coordination that they master this skill. Unlike perfection mindset that is binary – either it is a success or a failure, the progress mindset plots through a series of setbacks, struggles, stepping stones which then lead to a final success. Trying, perseverance and grit through these setbacks are the values that help us succeed in life.

Applying progress mindset to our own lives makes it easier for us emotionally. Instead of feeling down and beating ourselves up for failing, if we break down a task into small steps and aim at finishing that one step at a time, then over time, we will reach our goal. This helps when there is a lot of multitasking, especially when there is baby on board. My laundry task, for instance, has these series of steps. Loading the washer. Running it. Loading into the dryer. Unloading from the dryer. Folding the laundry. Storing it. I attend to one small step of the task at a time and when that step is finished, I feel I am one step closer to the final result. Certain steps can be delegated too so I can save up time on that. This way, I could multitask and cross out many to dos from my list.

From parenting to policy making, from everyday chores to exciting goals the progress mindset could be applied everywhere. It helps keep up our motivation levels too. When the tiny chunks get finished, we get a dose of dopamine more often and that keeps us going. Tiny failures are fine and are integral for learning. Instead of always thinking about getting the first place or a 100% in test scores, when a kid makes mistakes, lets discuss the learning it provided and the fact that they put in hard work and tried. Lets look at the growth, however tiny, that incident provided, instead of looking at it as a failure purely from the result point of view.

 

 

Nature and Nurture

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Many of our character traits are identified as gene strands in our DNA. These are either inherited or formed during conception and over the 10 month pregnancy period. By week 26, scientists were able to identify the formation of the genes that relate to how confident the person is. This is called the predisposition of that individual. The tendency of that person to act in a certain way to a certain situation. This is their nature.

But our DNA itself is malleable. The experiences we undergo and the situations we are put through affect our tendencies to a great extent. This effect is studied by Stephen J Suomi not on humans but on monkeys that share 94% of our DNA. Monkeys that have a specific variation of the confidence gene are naturally resilient to outside pressures. They have greater tendency to be more assertive and have leadership qualities. Monkeys that are born with the other variation of the same genes are naturally more anxious and timid. They are followers and workers in the group.

But the story does not end here. This is where the nurture part comes in. The monkeys that have mothers that are not caring or supportive have their natural tendencies deepen and play out. Babies with confident gene variation grow up to become leaders and babies with the other variant become more and more anxious and submissive. But when the mothers are caring and very supportive, give a good environment for the baby to thrive, these babies that do not have the resilience built in when they were born, not just become good, but they excel and develop to even surpass the natural born leaders. The absence of natural resilience in the DNA does not mean it is bad, it just means that the individual is more responsive to the environment. When given the right environment, they bloom beautifully to their potential. That breakthrough provides us with tremendous opportunity.

When we directly correlate this to our species, the care and support we give to our children in their foundation years seem crucial. The earlier years are when the experiences are ingrained into one’s subconscious mind. By year 6 this is mostly set. It is like designing a highway that handles most of the traffic. As one grows older, there are options to build roads to connect to different points but the highway is something we have to deal with the rest of our lives.

To hold a baby, hug and kiss them drenches them and us in oxytocin, giving them a meaningful, peaceful routine in a space they trust most bathes them with serotonin, encouraging them when they achieve tiny milestones gives them dopamine – all the feel good hormones that promote physical, mental and emotional growth as opposed to a rushed lifestyle where caring for kids are just treated as a liability, an additional workload which makes cortisol course through their veins. It is important not just for the family but for the society as a whole to provide for a nurturing environment because it is these babies and kids who will be the society, 10 to 20 years down the line! We as a society should build a strong support system for every mother during her pregnancy and a couple of years after, so that she can peacefully concentrate on the most important task of nurturing her baby with the best food and best environment that nature has designed for that new life.

 

Reference:

The Confidence Code – by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman

What should a Goal look like?

We have goals for every area of our life like financial goals, academic goals, fitness and even travel goals. We know what we want. So what is the point of spending our already limited time in framing a goal? Why is framing it so important?

Football, Shot On Goal, Door Husband, Nike, Mercurial

Psychology. What we know is in our sub-conscious mind. It is fuzzy and we feel we kind of know it. We can understand how vague it is when we start defining it. To bring our intent or desire to the physical realm and for us to work on concrete steps to move towards that point, we need to define the specifics of it. For example, I know I feel uncomfortable in my current fitness levels. I know it would definitely do me good to lose a few pounds and to get into shape. But this lacks clarity in terms of what exactly I would be doing to move from point A to point B. Goals give shape to this desire. A goal needs to be SMART. Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound.

So, my fitness goal now would be “I want to lose 10 lbs (Specific, measurable) by exercising for 30 minutes a day, 3 days a week (realistic in my current schedule). I could expect results in say 20 weeks instead of a 10 week with more rigorous schedule (achievable and time bound)”. Done, but is this enough? I know what I need to do but I just don’t have the motivation to do it or to continue through the initial few weeks of pain. I feel like I’m dragging myself through this process and not really enjoying what I am doing.

This is what I found. A goal should be challenging, motivating in itself. It should make me feel so excited that I need to jump up at the first available opportunity to get it done. I had lost enough lbs before my second pregnancy and got to a good level of fitness to help me through my pregnancy and to bounce back post delivery. I thought all I had to do was to follow the same fitness routine, diet routine to get back on track once I recover from my delivery. But I was wrong. It did not work because my current life situation and schedule are totally different. My sleep is “less than perfect” to say the least and my calorie needs, stress levels and social life are so different.  What is one to do?

I’m a low impact person especially after my sciatica and discectomy and dread high impact activities. But there was this constant feel of wanting to run. I came across someone who recovered from his accident and had the same fears like me and ended up running not just marathons but Ultra-man. I was fascinated. May be I too can run. It was new to me. It was challenging. It was testing and expanding my limits. I felt wonderful to even think of working on this. I prepared a plan to start from couch to walking to running for 30 seconds at a time between walks. Now I do 8 minutes run – 90 second walk for 30 minutes alternate days. This is amazing for me. I have new pains and give my body plenty of stretches and time to heal before I hit the treadmill again. Now my thought is no more about reaching a number on the scale. It is about expanding my capabilities.

Now that is what a goal should look like, right? We are so used to shrinking our thoughts to mediocre needs and levels because that is what everyone else around us are doing. Typical successful life is considered to be: Birth, good student in school, then graduation, then job, then marriage, children, profession, retirement, old age and end of story. And then we fight within ourselves and search for motivation outside. No! We need to learn and experience limitless thinking and gradually expand our capacity. Instead of aiming for a tree top, lets aim for the stars. So even if we fail, we will land on a mountain top.

Mother: A Symbol of Power

A mother is the epitome of love, sacrifice and service. True. This is what we see in our daily lives and these are the ideals we live by. My grandma, mom, aunt, neighbours, friends, colleagues, epics, movies, literature. Everywhere I see, hear and read, this message resonates loudly. A mother is capable of loving her children unconditionally. She gives care, affection and attention without expecting or even when she does not get anything in return. A mother sacrifices her life, her identity to bring the child to being a good human being and a great citizen of the society they live in. Sacrifice in the form of letting go of her wants, happiness and wishes to even her immediate basic human needs like sleep, hunger and even nature’s calls when handling a baby. A woman puts her life to the service of her family, her children, her husband and maintains peace in the house. When every house is addressed thus, the society and the country grows with all the nourishment – physical, emotional, moral and becomes strong over the generation. Her duties are designed for the benefit of the society as a whole. She is responsible for cooking clean, healthy and nutritious food that fuels the body and the mind. She maintains a clean, organized and stocked home so everyone in the family need not worry about their needs and can work on their dreams, their future. She nurses and counsels the family members when they fall sick so they can get back on their feet to become productive at the earliest. The mother is the backbone, the root of that family and with her strength the family advances as a whole, as a team.

But that is not what I’m going to write about. I came across a mother, from our religious text, who is the Universal Mother, the role model of motherhood. And she is not described as above. Yes, all the above are very important things that every mother does and needs to do. But the point is a mother is not limited to these! This mother along with her young daughter fights a demon and his army for the sake of the world. They describe the fierce fight between the army that she commands and how she emerges victorious. They describe her physical appearance. She is not just beautiful, but has six-packs!

பட்ட பந்த வலித்ரெயா

Translation: “Patta Bandha Valithreya” : Her core resembles a belt with 3 lines running horizontally. When I tried to imagine this and the fact that she is a warrior, instead of a looking at a flat stomach and a curvy beautiful size-0 body, I could see a strong willed and strongly muscled lady with sixpacks who can wield a powerful weapon and fight a demon.

I was totally blown away by this realization. I assumed that a woman’s body goes through a lot during a pregnancy and after her first child, she can never recover to the capabilities of her original younger self. All the mothers I had seen from my childhood till now, all these women including myself believed that our lives are to live for our family and the love we shower on our children is the gift we get in return. But this scene tells me that a woman is capable of so much more in her life and being a mother and caring for her children and family does not limit her even from developing a chiseled body. A mother is a symbol of power, strength and possibilities. She is the leader and not just a support system that works in the background. That is huge. But how capable are we to handle this? The next line says it.

நிராதாரா

Translation: “Niraadhaaraa” : One of her qualities described in the shloka is that she is the base for everything and that she does not need a base- independence. She does not and has no need to depend on anybody other than her own capabilities to fulfill her duties and protect her world. If my mother is like this, then why can’t I? With my first child, I remember how lost and anxious I was with respect to my capabilities of handling a child, a family and my life. This one word gives the moral support to us that we are sufficient enough.

I’m compelled to think that if we as mothers associate ourselves with a greater cause, and work with our family as our team, our army, to achieve it instead of limiting ourselves to a smaller circle, smaller goals, how much more accomplishing, satisfying and meaningful our lives would be?

These are just a couple of lines that stuck to my heart from “Lalitha Sahasranamam” shlokam, one of my favorites. I know many of us recite this and hear this on important days but when we get deeper into the meaning, how much more enriching our scriptures can be!

Energies and Emotions

I respect my traditions and feel that we are missing the science behind many of our ways.  If we understand why something came to be in the first place or how something was formed and evolved through the ages, we can make use of them to our advantage and needs.

I have an enormous interest and a basic understanding of Ayurveda and Yoga. It says our body channelizes it’s energy into one of the of three Agnis (heat) or manifestations of power during it’s day to day operations. The body at any given time is exclusively or predominantly in one of the 3 modes. They are digestive, kinetic and immune powers.

Digestive power: The energy goes in creating hunger and assimilating the food we intake into our system through digestion process. That is why a few minutes after a heavy meal, the body feels heavy and lethargic. This is especially evident to me during mid afternoons after lunch. The kinetic power or the ability to move about or concentrate is turned off and I would just want to slump and take a short nap. A power nap helps a lot during this time when the body is busy with it’s digestion business. The immune power is also believed to be turned off.

Kinetic power: The body is busy managing physical action such as doing a hard work or exercising vigorously. I used to feel hungry before exercising but during a session the hunger vanishes and it gets back after the session ends. Of course, it is not possible to exercise for long duration on empty stomach. The point is that the hunger is not a priority when we are involved in a physical activity up to a certain threshold limit. The immune power too is turned off during this time.

Immune power: The body builds it’s defense system and does it’s repair job when both digestion and movement is off. This happens at rest, during night, which says the importance of a good night’s sleep. This also happens when one gets into a deeply relaxed state during meditation with positive thoughts or absence of negative thoughts or distractions. Also when we fall sick and have fever, the body temperature raises and all it’s energy is channelized to work on the immunity department. And we do not feel hunger or interest to eat or to move around. The body is forced to this state as an emergency response to a pathogenic attack.

To lead a healthy strong life, it is important to help the body perform all the three modes to it’s required extent on a daily basis.

Eating at right time, enough quantity, good quality and right intervals within a day, exercising vigorously for a time limit based on the body’s needs, good resting habits and deep sleep every day is mandatory.

As part of our tradition, we even have certain days in a year when people go on fasting, as religious practice, when they forcefully restrict the digestive power and keep their activities to a minimum and increase the prayers and meditation time so that the energy is channelized to build their immunity.

The Power of Emotions:

Emotions are of 3 types: Satva, Rajas and Tamas. Each of them have enormous power and uses our body’s energy to channelize through one of the 3 ways we discussed earlier.

Satva feelings are balanced and peaceful. It is the middle line. They make us feel grateful, happy, confident, peaceful… all the good feelings. The energy is channelized through immune power. To be in this state during major part of our operating hours greatly enhances the quality of our life. Meditation, visualization, planning and scheduling to keep important goals in control  and to move in an overall forward direction are some techniques that help us to get here.

Rajas is heightened, intense emotions. It is the upper range. Emotions like anger, extreme disappointment, frustration, hatred when the energy of the person spills to create external chaos or destruction. The person may shout, act violently, throw things around, break things, hurt people physically or even emotionally are some of the symptoms we can see. The energy of the body is pumped out with enormous force and at the end of the episode, the person undergoing this emotion feels depleted and most probably feels guilty for all the havoc wrecked through them. This state acts through kinetic power. As discussed earlier, the immune and digestive powers are switched off. It is important to learn to handle this state in the best non-destructive way possible. Best way to channelize this energy is to do a vigorous physical activity and drain it out. More importantly, if we use up our energy even before we hit this spot by routine exercise, we don’t even have to deal much of this in the first place. Plus the hormones that exercise produces gives a cushioning to handle the negative effects of any triggers.

Tamas is depression. This too is unpleasant and sucks out all the energy of the person going through this emotion. Some of the Tamas emotions could be worry, anxiety, fear, inferiority complex, dealing with uncertainty or a vaccum, ruminating on negative thought patterns etc. The main way this emotion is expressed is through digestive channel. This is when we reach for comfort foods. We don’t feel like moving about or getting out of the spiral. We just indulge in binge eating until we get through this emotion or until our stomach hurts. We tend to take up any addictive behavior during this phase as a crutch to give us a temporary high. It could affect us physically, emotionally, financially or in other ways. To deal with this, we need to systematically build a positive thought process, surround ourselves with positive reminders and people, set and achieve goals that are meaningful, contribute to the society in a small or big way, work to eliminate the cause for the depression and so on.

Again, with meditation, we practice to look at our self from a distance (from a third person’s point of view) instead of acting involuntarily. This gives us more awareness in changes to our emotions and behavior thereby giving us control of the situation. Of course this does not happen over night. It takes years of practice to keep oneself in an peaceful realm from inside irrespective of the external triggers or situations.

ஆதி பொவ்திக ஆதி தைவிக ஆத்யாத்மிக‌
த்ரிவித தாப க்ஷமாணம் சித்யர்த்தம்

ஓம் ஷாந்தி ஷாந்தி ஷாந்திஹி!

Translation:

Aadhi Bauthika Aadhi dhaivika Aadhyaathmika

Thrividha thaapa kshamaanam sidhdhyartham

Om Shanthi Shanthi Shanthi hi!

External triggers from situation and people around me, triggers from  events decided by God – external powers other than people and things, triggers arising from within me – my own insecurities, negative patterns and thoughts:  Let forgiveness for all these three be blessed upon me! Om Peace, Peace, Peace! 

This is one part of my basic pooja/ prayer ritual that I love.

 

 

Focused Efforts bring Remarkable Results

The mind is fascinating. Our thoughts can impact our DNA and change the physical manifestation of our very being in this world. The process is long but the fact that this is even possible is amazing! That is the basis of evolution on this planet.

  One striking example is the marine iguanas. The documentary I happened to watch on Galapagos Islands showed how the initial species were normal lizard variety with no capacity to swim or their mouth was tapered to pick up ground insects and not to eat seaweeds. When this animal found it’s way to the Galapagos islands that did not support it’s original diet, the animal slowly tried to eat the algae on the rocks near the waters. When that got over, it slowly got deeper and deeper into the water holding it’s breadth few seconds at a time. Over millions of years, the body of these iguanas have adapted to swim up to 30 meters into water and they could hold their breath up to 45 mins under water. Their mouth, limbs and tail have also adapted to the waters more than the land.

I was particularly struck by the ability of this life form to fight back the harshest conditions to sustain itself and to adapt to the new conditions. As it keeps finding newer solutions to evolving challenges such as newer foods, newer ways to reach to that food, it not just develops it’s skill but also is bestowed with newer powers in terms of rounded mouth and ability to process the sea salt when metabolizing seaweeds, lung capacity to hold breath and so on. Single pointed focus in trying something results in such miracles. I remember the Thirukkural verse:

தெய்வதால் ஆகாதெனினும் முயர்சி தன்
மெய்வருத்தக் கூலி தரும்

Translation: Even if it is not possible for the Gods, the quality of your efforts definitely bring results.

Oh how true this is! If a small reptile like the iguana can do this, how much can a human with such developed mind achieve? How much possibility is in front of us just to be taken!

Photo Credits:

http://www.dive-the-world.com/creatures-marine-iguanas.php