W is for Wound, Willingness and the Warrior

Day Twenty ThreeApril A-Z Blogging Challenge 2015  : Mental Health Awareness — layers and nuances

  
The wound of the soul:

Who is not wounded by life ? Physical, mental, psychological, spiritual — we carry the scars of so many wounds. Some healed, some raw, some on their way to be healed and some neglected and suppressed deep within. Pain is a part of life and wound its manifestation. Since we anyway have to live with these let us then make the best of them. How, one might ask? Ah, therein lies the great enigma of life. How does one embrace something painful and why must we do it anyway? The answer to ‘why‘ lies midway between — the choice to heal or the choice to become bitter from all that wounding.  It is ‘midway’, because though the desire to be healed is universal (who wants pain ?) no one can shake away bitterness or negativity completely from the mind. It is a constant battle between the desire to move past and the urge to just give in. Well, I am talking here of mental wounds, some forgotten, some suppressed, some alive and festering, some healed naturally by time. A wound brings alive the awareness that all is not well — pay attention! Were it not for that niggle of uneasiness and that stab of agony or even that numbing grief, we might never even look within. So wounds force us to pause and take a survey of all that has been stuffed away underground, in the deepest recesses of the mind. Some define these aspects of ourselves as archetypes —  the ‘inner child’, the ‘victim’, and so on. The answer to ‘why’ is then, embracing a wound will ultimately lead to a healing. It is the first step in this process.

To make wounds a step in healing needs the quality of willingness. This is the ‘how‘ part. Long ago, I read in that insightful book by Louise L. Hay, You Can Heal Your Life, some words that have stayed with me all these years. She had written this universal answer to the question ‘how’ that said, ” Be willing and the Universe will take care of the HOW” ! I still feel a thrill when I read these words. Instead of getting caught up in the complexity of the ‘how’ of embracing the wound, of the intricacies of healing and getting caught in a mental loop, this sentence advices us to let go, to be willing, to be open and simply ALLOW universal forces to act. This is not some random, fatalistic act, but one that is full of resolve as well as openness.

This attitude then makes us spiritual warriors on the path to wholeness and healing. We are warriors who have decided to take on the ‘evil’ forces that disrupt our minds and lives. It needs the initiative and intrepidity of a warrior to face inner enemies that threaten our sense of well-being. But if we wish to heal, this is one choice that we have to keep making!

Writing 101: Day SIX: A Character Building Exercise

Writing 101: Day SIX: Character Study

Today’s Prompt: Who’s the most interesting person (or people) you’ve met this year?

Our stories are inevitably linked to the people around us. We are social creatures: from the family members and friends who’ve known us since childhood, to the coworkers, service providers, and strangers who populate our world (and, at times, leave an unexpected mark on us).

Today, write a post focusing on one — or more — of the people that have recently entered your life, and tell us how your narratives intersected. It can be your new partner, your newborn child, or the friendly barista whose real story you’d love to learn (or imagine), or any other person you’ve met for the first time in the past year.

Today’s twist: Turn your post into a character study.

In displaying the psychology of your characters, minute particulars are essential. God save us from vague generalizations! – Anton Chekhov, Letter to Alexander Chekhov; May 10, 1886 

Don’t just list their features. Tell us something about how their physical appearance shapes the way they act and engage with others. For example, see how the author of this moving photo essay, which documents the final weeks of a woman dying of cancer, captures the kernel of the woman’s spirit with a short, masterful statement: ‘Her eyes told stories that her voice didn’t have the power to articulate and she had a kindness that immediately made me feel like we had been friends for years.’ Give us a glimpse of what makes this person unique. We all have our own quirks, mannerisms, and individual gestures, both physical and linguistic. 

My Grandmother 

I can still see her in my mind’s eye, sitting placidly by the window or in her comfortable cushioned chair, surrounded by her prayer books, rosary and other spiritual paraphernalia. Sometimes it would be some women’s magazine from which she would be jotting down recepies or beauty tips ! I still remember the one where you smeared sugar over acne or pimples, for a quick way to smoother skin, or swathed a burn with toothpaste to avoid blisters ! A typical ‘grandmother remedy’, albeit borrowed, that always worked. My grandmother was not the overtly religious, ritualistic kind. But she was spiritual — exceedingly so. Those times that I sat with her, taking a break from routine, hectic activity, a calm descended on me. Something peaceful crept into all our interactions! She had that effect on people. Was she pious then ? I wouldn’t say so, not in the way it is usually meant, which is being sanctimonious. With her gentle eyes and soft voice, humorous and wise at once, she filled people with a reassuring delight. Her keen observations on life and situations, tongue-in-cheek opinions on people, punctuated by that candid comment or an unexpected insight — my grandmother never ceased to surprise me.

She was loving and caring to all of us, her five grandchildren, but I like to think she had a soft corner for me, her eldest grandchild. Out of all the compliments that I cherish is the one from my granny saying appreciatively to me, “you are the prettiest, today you look like a film star” ! Was it merely a sardonic tongue-in-cheek observation, a loving exaggeration or was it to boost my morale, during a difficult time? I’ll never know and it does not matter, for, that after-comment glow lingers on still !

When she passed on, gently, as  in life so in death, something imperceptibly caved within me. I knew I’d lost a kindred soul, a person who understood me at my core, more than my parents, siblings or friends. I could stop to grieve as I did many a time in the past, but when I close my eyes and think of her, I see her bright, twinkling eyes in that wrinkled face lighting up when she smiled. I see her willing me to believe in myself and move on.

Q is for Quest, Quality and Questioning norms !

Day SEVENTEENApril A-Z Blogging Challenge 2015  : Mental Health Awareness — layers and nuances

Also including this post in the WordPress writing challenge ignoring the prompt but going along with today’s twist: pay attention to your sentence lengths and use short, medium, and long sentences 

Writing 101: Day ELEVENLength Matters (in sentences)

  

Quest, Quality and Questioning norms:

In the busy world that we inhabit, the word ‘quest‘ has a quaint sound to it. It throws up images of knights on horses and maidens waiting in castles to be rescued from ferocious dragons by the said knights ! We do not have time for all this romantic stuff that was better suited for a more relaxed world. And yet, knights, dragons and damsels in distress are who we face everyday in life. Come again, you might say. Yes, even in this world of crazy routines and endless tasks, damsels in distress and dragons breathing fire do exist. Times have changed and it is we who need to be rescued from dragons, the mental dragons inhabiting the subconscious, subterraneous terrains of our mind. We are the ‘damsels in distress’ and we are the ‘Knights in shining armour’ too. 

So how does it all fit in ? To be truly healthy, to be physically as well as mentally fit, to live lives of quality and not merely of quantity (by the mindless accumulation of material wealth), the subconscious has to be faced, nurtured and healed. Mental illness in any of its several manifestations, mild or severe, is a ‘wake-up call’ to undertake this healing. It is the deep calling to the deep. Something within desires that the conscious mind undertake this task of healing for the greater good of the person. The knight in shining armour, full of purpose is our will and the damsel in distress is the inner creative being seeking release to fully and authentically express itself. When the two meet, the psyche celebrates at this restoration of health ! No one else can undertake this journey on our behalf. It is a deeply personal, private and intensely spiritual quest that ultimately leads to great inner fulfilment.

What of those who are not mentally ill? Are they not called to this journey? No easy answers, but perhaps the inner journey becomes possible when one yearns for something more meaningful in life. When one tires of this endless rigmarole termed ‘life’ and stops wearing masks and the constant indulgence in frenetic activity, life will respond with an opportunity to go deeper. Interestingly, when you start questioning hitherto accepted norms of society and life, when you are no longer willing to let life go by, things start moving, sometimes in unexpected ways. Sometimes this may very well happen through pain. Perhaps a wound to the psyche sets this off. Ultimately, it is all good.

© Lakshmi S. Menon & VOICE’nVIEWS

Writing 101: Day FIVE: Be Brief

 Writing 101: Day FIVEBe BRIEF

Today’s Prompt: You stumble upon a random letter on the path. You read it. It affects you deeply, and you wish it could be returned to the person to which it’s addressed. Write a story about this encounter.

Today’s twist: Approach this post in as few words as possible.

None of us will ever know the whole story in other words. We can only collect a bag full of shards that each seem perfect.

— From 100 Word Story‘s About page

Brevity is the goal of this task, although “brief” can mean five words or five-hundred words. You might write a fifty-word story, as writer Vincent Mars publishes on his blog, Boy in the Hat. Or you might tell your tale in precisely one-hundred words, like the folks at 100 Word Story — an approach that forces you to question every word.

For writers who tend to write more, a longer word count may be considered concise, too. At Brevity, writers publish nonfiction of seven-hundred-fifty words or less: there is space to develop a piece, yet a focus on succinctness.

The Note

The shop was closed. I sighed in exasperation and was about to stomp off in a huff, when I saw the little note tucked into the window sill. Curious (I know, it was none of my business), I opened it and read:

I waited and you didn’t come. Nothing’s changed. You are still the same. All talk and no . . . . If you want to see me before I leave, be at the station by 8.    Lily”

A scrawl no doubt, but the letters were legible. My sleuthing instincts and detective-thriller-loving brain conjured up endless possibilities. I looked around, the next shop door was ajar. There was a girl at the counter idly watching a mini TV. She told me what I needed to hear. I ran out like a mad woman and hailed the first cab that came by lazily. It was 7.45 a.m.

Luckily there was only one train expected at our small station at 8.00. I scanned the platform, looking for a girl, a woman, anyone who could be ‘Lily’. Nothing, nobody. The train was being announced. A young man got up nearby, heaving a heavy bag onto his shoulders. He seemed strained and anxious. He dropped his wallet and a photograph peeped out. While picking it up for him, suddenly it all clicked into place.

‘Are you Lleweyn?’, I asked him. ‘Yes’, he said, surprised, ‘how did you . . . .’ I cut him short. ‘She’s in the hospital and unconscious. Yesterday morning as she stepped out of her shop, a hit-and-run maniac pushed her off the kerb . . . .St. johns’, second floor’, I yelled after him. He disappeared as the 8 o’clock Intercity pulled into the station. I looked at the photograph I was left holding. Lleweyn and Marisa, the antique shop girl, were smiling into the camera and on top there was this legend: ‘Llly and Mark, Lleweyn loves Marisa’ !


Writing 101: Day Three: Songs and Commit to a Writing Practice

Writing 101: Day Three: Free Writing

Today’s Prompt: Write about the three most important songs in your life — what do they mean to you?

Today, try free writing. To begin, empty your mind onto the page. Don’t censor yourself; don’t think.  Just let go. Let the emotions or memories connected to your three songs carry you.

 Today’s twist: You’ll commit to a writing practice. The frequency and the amount of time you choose to spend today — and moving forward — are up to you, but we recommend a minimum of fifteen uninterrupted minutes per day.

“The basic unit of writing practice is the timed exercise” – Natalie 

The Fragrance of Love:

The three songs that sing to me and always make me smile are, you guessed it, songs on LOVE! The most beautiful emotion in the world is love, the most beautiful sentiment that can overcome any barriers, that can restore any loss, that can heal any wound and make life lovable and liveable again is love. Love is perhaps the most sung and performed topic in the world!

Here are my three favourite songs on Love that I could listen to without ever getting bored:

PERHAPS LOVE‘ sung soulfully by the fabulous John Denver and Placido Domingo — a duet by a country singer and an opera artist

Another Year has Gone By‘ sung by the inimitable Celine Dion

Nothing’s Gonna Change My Love For You by George Benson

To choose three songs is very, very difficult especially if you love listening to music and can speak and understand five languages ! There are so many favourites to choose from. Songs could be happy or sad, silly or sublime, inspiring or depressing, romantic, nostalgic, bitter, angry, grieving and anything else that has to do with human emotions. I choose today to remember three songs on love that speak to me about endurance in love. 

In the fast-paced world that we live, change is a constant. From phones and gadgets to dressing styles, from food fads to car models, from holiday destinations to movie picks, nothing seems to have a quality of constancy about it. We are all in a frenzy to keep up with changing trends and shifting equations ALL the time. We are always paranoid that we are ‘missing out’ on something and sadly this has crept into spiritual pursuits too. Nowadays, instead of sticking to a chosen spiritual guide or a path of faith, people merrily convert their beliefs at the drop of a hat or indulge in what is called, ‘ashram hopping’ say in a country like India. They move from Guru to Guru or from Church to Church, or from temple to mosque, in search of quick hearings and miracles, sensationalism and excitement and instant gratification, when the source of all peace and love lies within. It is a very sad state of affairs and amusing too. Reminds me of the words of the 19th century mystic-saint of India, Shri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa (whose disciple Swami Vivekananda introduced Vedanta to the Western world), who used to advise his followers that to get water from the ground, one should dig in one place and persist till you strike water. Instead, out of boredom and impatience, you dig several holes, you will never find water and you just waste time and dissipate energy.

I believe love too is like that. To discover the treasures in love, you have to give up the constant search for excitement or ego and sense gratification and instead persist in loving what is there in life. People are like oysters, the pearl within is revealed after many layers are uncovered ! Endurance in love though rare nowadays is something that I would personally cherish.



Writing 101: Day TWO: A Room with a View

Writing 101:  Day Two: Description of a Setting

Today’s Prompt: If you could zoom through space in the speed of light, what place would you go to right now?

A place belongs forever to whoever claims it hardest, remembers it most obsessively, wrenches it from itself, shapes it, renders it, loves it so radically that he remakes it in his own image. – Joan Didion

Today, choose a place to which you’d like to be transported if you could — and tell us the backstory. How does this specific location affect you? Is it somewhere you’ve been, luring you with the power of nostalgia, or a place you’re aching to explore for the first time?

Today’s twist: organize your post around the description of a setting.

Nostalgia: One Day, in a Field

Where do I want to be? My fugitive memory takes me back to an evening when I was an undergraduate student, more than two decades ago. Staying in a hostel away from home, but never homesick, I was discovering the pleasures of solitude, where I could be anonymous in a crowd. It was a time and a place when I came close to myself.

Evening, and I was with a team of girls, playing basket-ball. Games in the evenings and yoga in the mornings were compulsory for us. I’d signed up for basketball, an unlikely sport for a bookworm like me! There was this ground behind the college and hostel buildings — a vast stretch of open land, ringed by the distant hills , including one that we called, ‘the lion mountain’, since it’s peak resembled a lion’s head! The silence of the evening and the glorious views of the setting sun (each day a panorama) were interrupted by the excited cries of young women — playing ! Away from prying eyes, breathing in the sense of a fresh freedom, we dribbled the ball, passed it and threw it around, till it found its mark in the ‘basket’, hanging enticingly above — not too high, not too low! Hair flying, muscles straining, limbs unwinding, we played — lost in motion and movement, mental-emotional clutter and chatter held at bay, mind focussed on just one thing — how to get at that basket — and time stood still through all this.

When the game was done, I often felt I’d just been to another land — a place, a state of mind when thoughts were in abeyance and the mind almost did not exist. I finally understood why people play or join a sport — why athletes run and footballers risk injuries, why a Michael Schumacher dares death again and again in Formula racing, why a Saina Nehwal puts in those gruelling hours going through intensive coaching or why the movie ‘Chak de INDIA’ a movie about women’s hockey became such a hit. And yes, before I forget, why that over-rated game called cricket has normally sane people glued to TV sets for hours ! 

It’s all for that state of mind — notwithstanding the pride of country or spirit of adventure– knowingly by the players, unknowingly by the fans.

Writing 101: Day ONE: Unlock the mind

Writing 101: Day One:  stream-of-consciousness writing

The prompt quote:

You write because you have an idea in your mind that feels so genuine, so important, so true. And yet, by the time this idea passes through the different filters of your mind, and into your hand, and onto the page or computer screen — it becomes distorted, and it’s been diminished. The writing you end up with is an approximation, if you’re lucky, of whatever it was you really wanted to say.

– Author Khaled Hosseini, “How to Write,” the Atlantic

A ‘free write’ on  free writing

So my mind just blanked out for a minute there, and I thought — good place to begin ! Right now, I’m wondering about the four simultaneous challenges I took upon myself, through the month of April, spread out on two blogs. Did I bite off more than I can chew ? Hmmm. As I plod on, daily, with a crashed laptop, (writing everything on my mini IPad and enjoying learning my way through it!), power shutdowns — minor ones thankfully, but wifi does go off then,  water scarcity situation during these hot summer months, minor insomnia brought on by determination to somehow write my posts, no matter what the deadlines and how many times, I break them — deadlines! Remember a poster that I had gleefully stuck to my wall a few years back that said, “deadlines: they are dead lines!”. Still, deadlines are necessary as are routines and structures to let life move along somewhat smoothly amidst all the chaos around. Structured routines, however irritating are a place you could go back to when life feels ‘out of control’ ! Never thought I’d ever say this ! 

Are para breaks allowed in such writing?! Doing it for the convenience of readers who happen to visit! Does such writing warrantee a topic ? Surprisingly, ‘stream-of-consciousness writing’ and ‘free writing’ (is there a difference?) have their own ‘method in the madness’ type of logic. Somehow, the mind creates its own sense, after a while at least, as we evolve, I suppose. Anyhow, I’m not new to this. Many years ago, chanced upon a lovely book on creativity by Julia Cameron, titled, ‘ The Artist’s Way’, where she describes a process called, ‘Writing Pages’, to unlock creativity and kind of clear out from the subconscious whatever blocks the clear flow of thoughts. Simple really — get up in the morning, take a long notebook and without much ado — start writing with a pen or pencil, whatever comes to mind! This first task reminded me of this. I found it very, very cathartic. I found years of grief and pain pouring out of my pen and then they finally left me leaving behind some revealing insights and a vastly decluttered mind space. TRY IT everyday and some amazing things begin to happen.

Writing in -process !