The Real Me

From somewhere within,

a voice calls out

‘Yes?” I turn to look

but see no one.

As I walk down life’s path

a shy flower raises its head

but is lost in the green of the bushes

before I can know it

The real me is trying

to step up on life’s stage

and play her part

“Who are you?

Why are you here?

And are you doing that

which you were born to do?”

She opens her mouth to answer

but there is silence.

And in this silence

where all sounds drown

In this whiteness

where all colors meet

I will find her

The Real Me

How do you respond to change?

September 11, 2001. It was a ruinous attack. Completely unexpected, it was a brutal violation of trust in America, the land of the free. It would change the world, we said. And it did.

More recently came COVID 19. Unexpectedly lethal, it quickly grew in strength before our unbelieving eyes. A tiny bug that brought the world to its knees. It will change the world, we said. Right again. COVID changed how we live, work, learn, and even love (heard of Zoom dates?). The whole picture of COVID’s impact on human life will not be known for years when we will be able to look at the current situation through the 20/20 vision of hindsight. But one thing is for sure, we will never go back to life as it used to be before COVID.

Global warming is burning down the Golden State relentlessly. Every year, California’s wildfires get bigger and hungrier. What was once a distant occurrence in the wilderness is now much closer to cities. With each passing year, wildfires are burning down more homes and even entire neighborhoods. They will change the way of life in California and the world, we say. And I am sure we will be right once again.

But what if these are not isolated incidents or anomalies, but instead the norm? The world was always changing and will continue to evolve in the future. All the events we talked about may have been landmarks on the path of world evolution but not the drivers of the change.

Everything comes to pass, nothing comes to stay.

— Matthew Flickstein

Now, our response to change is diverse. What we do in response to life events is unique and distinct. Change is a constant but our response to change is what sets us apart.

Some shake their heads in disbelief at such events. They are unable to comprehend, let alone accept the transformation. They reject it completely. For their remaining life, they will reminisce the days gone by, living in the past and unable to move on.

Others move beyond denial to timid acceptance. They miss their old life but begrudgingly dig themselves out. They resentfully accept the new world order and start to live by its rules. Their acceptance of change is late and carries a sense of resignation. Still, this reluctant acceptance allows them to live a healthier life, than the one of denial or dwelling in the past.

Finally, there are a rare few with a very different response. They are caught off guard and unaware like the rest of us. They had no way to anticipate or adequately prepare for such life-changing events. But they are different (remember I said rare?).

They are different in two fundamental ways. First, in their minds, they have a clear understanding of the ever-changing nature of the world in general and their life in particular. Then big life events fail to overwhelm them. Their disbelief, if any, is shortlived. There is no question of denial in their minds. They accept life as it is and they do it wholeheartedly. Therefore their acceptance is robust and not resigned like the previous category.

Second, having quickly regained their composure, they look for ways to thrive in this new way of life. In that sense, they have not only accepted the change, they have embraced it. They possess the uncanny skill of finding ways to make their life better than before, as a result of this change. They use the momentum of changing situations to their advantage. For such people, all change becomes an opportunity to improve themselves. They use the momentum of the change to empower themselves to break the state of inertia and get to a higher state of mind, a better way of life.

This third category of people, they are the ones who get to play a part in creating the new world order. They find their way to the helm of the ship, or pick up the drawing board, or join the planning committee. They become instrumental in creating the new world order that the rest of the world will live by. It is in their energetic response to change that their power lies.

If we wish to lead a life bigger than one of denial or timid acceptance, then we need to grow into the strengths of this last category. We must learn to use the momentum of change to grow to overcome our weaknesses, acquire new skills, and explore new horizons. Then our life story will be defined not by what happened to us but what we did in response.

“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.”– Rumi

The Power of Words

Words – so powerful and so magical! Have you ever wondered what it is that draws us to our books and our journals every day? Seeking words. Words that can transform, words that can heal, and words that can uplift.

Words have a power that they seem to draw from the writer and sometimes the reader. But often, they take on a life all of their own. And in those moments, they become bigger than both the writer and the reader. The experience of those moments is what draws us to the written word – be it in a book or in a journal.

To be a writer then, is no trivial matter. It is a huge responsibility that you carry on the tip of your pen. Your words have more power than you know when you are crafting them letter by letter. Because when letters become words, words sentences and sentences become paragraphs, there has been a creation of something magical. This magic was not there when you began writing. It came to be as a result of your writing.

So writers beware. Be wary and careful that you handle this magic with skill. Hold back your ego, your personal ideas, opinions, and interpretations. Let the words speak for themselves. Your job is to faithfully narrate the truth the words will reveal. You and your pen are merely a medium.

From The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark

These words of wisdom from a father to a son, they ring ever so true centuries after they were first penned!

-From The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark

Act I, Scene 3

There, my blessing with thee.
And these few precepts in thy memory
Look thou character. Give thy thoughts no tongue,
Nor any unproportioned thought his act.
Be thou familiar but by no means vulgar.
Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried,
Grapple them unto thy soul with hoops of steel,
But do not dull thy palm with entertainment
Of each new-hatched, unfledged comrade. Beware
Of entrance to a quarrel, but being in,
Bear ’t that th’ opposèd may beware of thee.
Give every man thy ear but few thy voice.
Take each man’s censure but reserve thy judgment.
Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy,
But not expressed in fancy—rich, not gaudy,
For the apparel oft proclaims the man,
And they in France of the best rank and station
Are of a most select and generous chief in that.
Neither a borrower nor a lender be,
For loan oft loses both itself and friend,
And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.
This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
Farewell. My blessing season this in thee.

Home – A Place Of One’s Own

What does home mean for you?

Is it a building with walls, windows, a roof, a floor, and furniture? Is it a place where you can get shelter from the elements, store your belongings, and retreat after having spent the day facing the trials and tribulations of everyday life? Or is it a place where you and your loved ones find comfort, solace, and have the implicit permission to drop social niceties and finally be yourself?

To many, a home provides more than physical comfort. It is a feeling. A feeling that gives you a sense of ownership and a sense of belonging, both at once. A sense of pride in the space you inhabit – it’s walls and windows an expression of your personality, your preferences, and choices. How it is laid out, how it is decorated, and how it looks at any point in time is your active choice.

It is a place where you feel a sense of acceptance for who you are. No judgment and no criticism, just wholesome acceptance.

“A man travels the world over in search of what he needs and returns home to find it.’ – George A. Moore

And yet for so many people, for various reasons, a home, in this deeper sense, is not available. Some are homeless and others live in such constricting sharing arrangements that, there is no privacy and not even a corner to call your own. 

This is a huge psychological barrier. An unhealthy living condition, or worse still no place to call home, physically conveys to you that your ideas, your thoughts, and your opinions have no space and therefore You have no importance. No opportunity for introspection means no self-expression. And no self-expression meant a daily, constant and relentless diminution of the Self.

Therefore a home of one’s own is not just a physical need but also an emotional and a spiritual need.

‘The ache for home lives in all of us.’
-Maya Angelou

A home or part of a home, such as a room, a garden, a studio, a terrace, a balcony, or any other space that is exclusively for your use is vital. It is vital so you can repose in yourself – be with your own thoughts and feelings, do the things that appeal to you in the moment and allow yourself space for self-expression. It is a space where all sounds are subdued so that the music in your heart can be heard, all outside voices are quietened so your inner voice can surface.

How, then, can you overcome these challenges and still claim that feeling of being ‘at home’ that is your birth-right? Here are some thoughts:

Recapture that feeling

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Remember we said, a home is a feeling? A feeling that stems from being in a  certain space but a feeling, nonetheless. When you are away from home, for whatever reason, try to recollect all elements of the experience of being at home. The smells, the sounds, the colors, and the aura.

So how do you recapture it? Sometimes playing a favorite song, eating a favorite meal, reading a favorite book, or playing a game that you enjoyed in your home, can all help recreate that feeling of being ‘at home’.

Familiar objects

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If you can’t be at home, bring your home with you.  A couple of familiar objects, a favorite book, a vase of flowers from your garden, a candle that smells just like the one you have at home will go a long way to let you feel at home, even if you are at work or at some other place that you have to temporarily call home. It may be a hotel when traveling or someone else’s home when you are temporarily staying with a friend or family member.

For example, when I travel, I keep a few things with me that allow me to maintain my routine and stay tuned to my sense of home, even though I am away from home –

  • special spice mix for my morning lemon tea,
  • a yoga mat so I can do some stretches each morning,
  • the book I am currently reading,
  • my journal so I can jot down my ideas and thoughts or even write a rambling post if I need to vent my emotions,
  • my eye mask so I have a shot at a good night’s sleep even if my hotel room has bright lights

People

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A big part of the feeling of being at home is the people that inhabit it with you – your friends, loved ones, or pets. If you travel a lot, it might be a good idea to carve out some time to call people you care about, stay in touch, and share bits of information about your everyday lives. In connecting with your favorite people, you connect with that feeling that you call home.

Grief

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If you are one of the unfortunate people who had a home they loved and lost it, allow yourself to fully grieve your loss. There are no short cuts to healing and you have to begin by confronting your grief, facing the sense of loss, and acknowledging that the phase of your life when you lived that home is gone, perhaps forever. You will go on to live your life and build another home but this particular phase of your life is over and the sooner we accept this loss, the sooner we can begin our journey of healing.

Gratitude

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I know it may sound ridiculous to someone who has just lost their home. However, if you think about it, your belongings are all gone, but you are still here. You are the one who built that first home and you will have a chance to build yourself another home. All those feelings of comfort, joy, and security, really did emanate from your being.  And you will be able to recreate them in your new home. Your new home may not have all the familiar and loved objects that were in the home you lost, but you will again build an environment of comfort and safety that you can call ‘home’. It may be difficult but not impossible.

“It’s not about finding a home so much as finding yourself.” – Jason Behr

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Monday Morning Inspiration

Sun rising in the background and a black iron fence in the foreground. The sun is just starting to rise above the fence.

This poem will not fail to inspire you.

A Psalm of Life

BY HENRY WADSWORTH LONGFELLOW

 

Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream!
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.

Life is real! Life is earnest! 
   And the grave is not its goal; 
Dust thou art, to dust returnest, 
   Was not spoken of the soul. 

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow, 
   Is our destined end or way; 
But to act, that each to-morrow 
   Find us farther than to-day. 

Art is long, and Time is fleeting, 
   And our hearts, though stout and brave, 
Still, like muffled drums, are beating 
   Funeral marches to the grave. 

In the world’s broad field of battle, 
   In the bivouac of Life, 
Be not like dumb, driven cattle! 
   Be a hero in the strife! 

Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant! 
   Let the dead Past bury its dead! 
Act,— act in the living Present! 
   Heart within, and God o’erhead! 

Lives of great men all remind us 
   We can make our lives sublime, 
And, departing, leave behind us 
   Footprints on the sands of time; 

Footprints, that perhaps another, 
   Sailing o’er life’s solemn main, 
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother, 
   Seeing, shall take heart again. 

Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.

Truth Pages – How To Tell Your Truth

All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.

Ernest Hemingway

Introduction to Truth Pages

An important part of personal growth is introspection. And when we do this in writing it becomes a powerful tool of self-awareness and self-development. I call my introspective writing journal the ‘Truth Pages’.

I define introspective writing as writing that helps you express your thoughts, ideas, and emotional state in an ideological way rather than in a narrative. It is a holding place of your experiences without becoming a description of your life events.

In that sense, your Truth Pages journal is not a planner, where you plan your tasks, meetings, goals, etc. It is not a ‘diary’ in the sense that it does not hold a historical record of your day’s events, the people you met, the places you went. Rather, it is a place where your emotional and intellectual response to all that happens in your life is recorded. For instance, whereas it does not contain a listing of the places you went to, it does contain an expression of how you felt and what you thought when you went there. Similarly, the names of people you interact with are not noted here, but who you become as a result is revealed in these pages.

On the pages of your Truth Pages, you can place all the truths about your Self and your life experiences, unfiltered and untarnished. Your Truth Pages allow you to be You in the purest sense of that word. The Truth Pages are not about what you should be but rather an honest and wholehearted acknowledgment of who you are. All aspects of your personality – emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual, get full and fair representation in these pages.

An unexamined life is not worth living.

Plato

When you know where you are and have a clear idea of where you want to be, you can effectively chart a path towards your goals. This is necessary to live an intentional life. Yet, we must deliberately separate our goal setting and target chasing exercises from this ritual. Although goal setting is a natural outcome of self-knowledge, it shouldn’t both be pursued at the same time that you are trying to tell your Truth. Self-knowledge essentially comes first. Goals can only be set or revised when our self-awareness increases. Therefore it is important we learn to tell our Truth first and plan our lives next. If we don’t separate these two exercises, we might find ourselves spending precious time and energy on chasing goals that are not aligned to our life’s purpose.

Benefits of telling your truth

The biggest benefit of introspective writing is that it helps you know yourself better. It gives you a safe space to unpack and truly confront your thoughts and emotions. What can come to surface may be hidden talents, latent desires, unpolished ideas, unprocessed grief, and uncelebrated joys.

Self Knowledge and a pathway to intentional living

There are parts of you, facets of your personality that are hidden from the world. More importantly, they are often unacknowledged by you. When you establish a practice to put paper to pen every day, with the intent of examining yourself, you open the door for immense self-knowledge.

Your knowledge of your self allows you to lead an aware and intentional life.

Instead of constantly reacting to people and events, you now put yourself in a position to choose the people and events that you desire for yourself. For example, it may be that you have a difficult relationship, and every day you confront a challenge on that front. Every day you try to solve yet another issue in that relationship. But when you sit down with yourself and create a little distance from everyday events, you may find that you don’t want that relationship in the first place. Or that you don’t want a relationship with that person. In that light then, all your energy in trying to improve that relationship is misdirected. Repairing that relationship has then been a goal you did not choose but something you did in response to everyday challenges.

This practice will let you see yourself for who you are. You will see your merits and flaws as you sit in this place of objective review of yourself. For example, if, in your daily interactions, you have been acting out of fear, jealousy, or any other insecurity, your Truth Pages will serve as a mirror and show you these behaviors for yourself and impartially analyze them. You may not be aware of these counterproductive patterns when you are engaging in that behavior, but when you sit down to write your truth Pages, you will start to see glimpses of them. When you learn about such self-defeating behaviors, you have a chance to correct them.

Healing

We can’t win every battle or get everything we desire. There are failures in life and there are losses that may plague us for life such as the death of a loved one, a failed relationship, or a lost friendship. These events give us grief that we can’t ever recover fully from but when we write about these hurts and pains, we come to terms with them. Having accepted these battle scars, we learn to live our lives again and once again have the confidence to take on another project, get into another relationship, and make a new friend.

In addition to the big losses, there are the little ones – the small slights and injustices of everyday life. Although small, these hurts remain in your mind. When you let them stay unacknowledged, they can have damaging long term effects such as reduced self-confidence or the inability to establish and enforce boundaries in relationships.

When you identify these losses and talk about them to yourself, you learn to understand the source and in many cases the solution to these problems.

Latent desires

In the process of telling your truth, there will be a few latent desires that come up. All your desires may not be fulfillable. But even those that are within your reach stay unacknowledged and therefore unfulfilled in the back of your mind. Find them, and fulfill them. Be your own champion, be your own Santa.

Unpolished Ideas

As we engage in our daily jobs, family lives, and other social activities, we experience brief glimpses of what could be great ideas. During the day, fulfilling our roles and in the general business of our lives, we fail to take the time to acknowledge and evaluate these ideas. Having a quiet time each day to spend time with our thoughts and spell them out in our journal, helps surface these ideas. Some of them, you may consider unworthy of pursuit but others may become your life goals.

Gratitude

This is another virtue that we fail to practice during the day. When you start narrating your responses to life, you will notice how little attention we give to all the bountiful gifts we have in our lives. And when we are done narrating our difficulties, we will see how outnumbered they are by our blessings.

This powerful tool will help you build a relationship with your Self. By expressing yourself in a safe and non-judgemental space, you allow your deepest thoughts and emotions to come to the surface. You then have a chance to carefully examine each. Not all of that surfaces on your Truth Pages need action from you but it all needs your attention.

Telling your truth by writing

“There’s a friend at the end of your pen which you can use to help you solve personal or business problems, get to know all the different parts of yourself, explore your creativity, heal your relationships, develop your intuition”
― Kathleen Adams, Journal to the Self: Twenty-Two Paths to Personal Growth – Open the Door to Self-Understanding by Writing, Reading, and Creating a Journal of Your Life

Why writing you say? The process of writing is an act of mindfulness and is a strong tool in bringing us to the center. It helps clarify our thoughts. More importantly, when we put something on paper, we hold ourselves accountable for its authenticity. Therefore the process of writing will help you dig deeper and clearly articulate all you find within.

Best Practices

You need a quiet place where you will be undisturbed, a blank journal, and a pen. Give yourself the space to complete this process undisturbed.

I keep a separate journal for my Truth Pages and I approach it as part of my morning ritual, right after my mind is freshly refreshed by Pranayam and body hydrated with my lemon tea.

Make sure you have identified a private place to store your Truth Pages Journal. This is imperative to allow yourself to express yourself without any fear of someone else reading your private thoughts.

The words on your Truth Pages have only one objective. That is to help you surface the truth – your truth. Your truth is unique to you – the world according to you. Your words have only one affiliation, that is to your truth in the moment that you write.

Now to begin, you can set a target of writing at least three pages of thoughts and ideas that reign in your mind. It does not have to be chronological or in any other way organized. Just write what comes to mind and before you know it there is a pitter-patter of words, like raindrops, that fall from our hearts and minds and gently cascade in the form of words in our Truth Pages. Don’t stop till you get to the minimum three pages.

There will be days when you may find it hard to fill the three pages. There may be days when you keep writing way beyond the minimum three pages and the words keep pouring. Be kind to yourself and support yourself in each situation.

If you find you are stuck and unable to write, you are likely thinking too much, perhaps expecting too much of the process or worrying that what you write may not be good enough. In any of these cases, you must remind yourself to be true to the process and therefore to yourself. Your writing doesn’t need to be perfect. It doesn’t even need to be coherent to anyone other than you. It doesn’t need to be anything beyond your truth in that moment. It simply needs to be authentic. When you do that, every word that comes from your heart and onto your journal is sacred.

Read your journals

An important part of this process is going back and reading all that you wrote. If you pull up a page from a year or two ago, you will see the perspective you had back then and you can compare it to where you currently stand. You now have a birds-eye view to understand how much you have grown or allowed yourself to shrink.

Summary

This is an exercise that needs infinite patience. We share so much of our time, energy, kindness, and support with the outer world. It is time to take some of that energy back and channel it to loving ourselves. And we can’t love ourselves if we don’t know ourselves.

Life changes every day – what was important yesterday is no longer meaningful today. Who you are and what is important to you may change. But this process, of actively seeking and articulating your truth can remain your guiding star at all times.

It will take time, but this method will allow your inner self to shine again. The more time you spend on this practice, the more rewarding it will get. There may be days that you have no meaningful insight. Please don’t let that stop you. If you stop, you will have lost a lot of the momentum you built up to get into that space of personal truth. Be as good a friend to yourself as you are to your friends. Bring to yourself all the compassion, patience, commitment, you give your friends and family.

We have spent so many years turning to the world for cues on what to do and what not. We have not turned to ourselves for answers.  Now let’s give some attention back to ourselves, lend an ear to our own inner voices.

A little time, some focus, a good pen, and a few blank pages in your journal – that’s all you need to tell your truth. Because if you won’t, who will?

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Booklist

Several books will help you grow in your practice of introspective writing. Here are some great options:

Journal to the Self

Buy it on Amazon
Journal to the Self

The Mindful Journal

Buy it on Amazon The Mindful Life Journal: Seven Minutes a Day for a Better, More Meaningful Life

The Daily Stoic Journal

Becoming: A Guided Journal

Buy it on Amazon
Becoming: A Guided Journal for Discovering Your Voice