Finding God

Crochet contemplations

I learnt crochet in high school, and by the time I was in college, it was an addiction. Every winter, I would churn out a couple of caps for the men in my family (the women in my family didn’t wear caps, and I don’t know why. Maybe they used dupattas or scarves to cover their heads back then). Interestingly, every time I got down to making a cap for myself, winter got over and the woollens were put away.

Marriage and motherhood made me cast my crochet needle aside for 20 years. This winter I took it up again; I started with a cap for my husband and then a second one for my sweet, strong mother-in-law. It has been a deeply de-stressing activity at the end of hectic workdays. Here is what’s been going on.

Unweaving karma: I bought unrolled yarn from a wool wholesaler, so the first task was to make balls of it. Since I was doing it for the first time, I had no clue how to go about it and ended up with a pile of knots on the first evening. I nearly gave up in helplessness — it was 11 pm and I wanted to sleep but here was this big pile of wool on my mattress and my cap was nowhere near beginning. But then I decided to finish what I’d set out to do. Slowly, painfully, I unravelled one knot at a time, and had the idea that I could use the next hour to visualise myself evolving spiritually, unravelling the knots of my karma. Each knot taught me a lesson that I accepted with gratitude and humility, moving patiently further without giving up. Patiently, patiently, persevering, persevering, as if I was living out all the karmic debts of this lifetime. Until finally, I got to a point where the going became smooth, the lessons stopped and the act of winding up began, and I went faster and faster, only a hiccup here or there, and then it was all done. I had a smooth, unknotted ball of wool in my hands, and it was over.

Stilling the mind: Then, of course, the real task began. On day one, I could not sit still for more than 15 minutes. It was as difficult as meditation: the monkey mind would jump from one point to another. I was restless and fidgety, my fingers were clumsy and cold. But within days, I was able to build up to 20 then 30 minutes of continuous crochet, and then over an hour. In the process I noticed that if it was as hard as meditation, then it was just as rewarding. Every time I would put down the needle, I was at peace, still, my mind an ocean of calm. The day’s worries and anxieties were wiped clean. I began sleeping better, and I am more rested now than ever before.

Opportunity to give gratitude: Those many minutes of keeping one’s hands busy have been a wonderful opportunity to give thanks: I take Krishna’s name with each stitch as often as I can remember, before the monkey mind begins roaming again. I imagine filling the cap I am making with loads of blessings and love. These are sacred caps, like our lives are supposed to be.

Seeing better: A few days into my hobby, I noticed that I was able to see much clearer with my husband’s glasses. He has a number for reading, and his glasses made the stitches appear larger. Assuming I had also developed near-sightedness, I went down to the optical store in the neighbourhood and allowed myself to be duped into getting new expensive glasses with moderate reading power. But when I came home and used them, I realised things were pretty clear even without them; they merely enhanced the crochet stitches like a magnifying glass. I made a resolution to myself: I should not make up issues when they don’t exist. Stop creating unnecessary knots in life.

Falling down and waking up: The best time to crochet for me is on a weekend morning, sitting on top of the steps leading down to our verandah in the pleasant winter sun. The light and temperature are wonderful, and having my dogs sitting calmly next to me is soothing and cute. This Sunday, a couple of stray cats took turns sleeping at the foot of the stairs near me as well (and surprisingly, the dogs weren’t bothered). I was able to go into something of a trance out there with the animals and my wool. I spent almost two hours in vivid gratitude and peace, moving one stitch at a time, in awe at how beautiful life is. Then, suddenly, my ball of wool rolled down the steps. Absently, I reached out for it, and since my eyes were out of focus (I was using my husband’s glasses then), I lost my balance. I took a tumble down the stairs, landing (thank God) safety on my bottom, completely unhurt. The cats took off in a flash, the dogs stood up in excitement wagging their tails ready to play, the peaceful moment was gone. I laughed. God was telling me: “Keep your balance. See things clearly before reacting. Don’t be so lost, and don’t drift away; you are still bound by the laws of life.”

I am on my third cap now, this time for my daughter, and the winter is going by in a daze of peace, other-worldliness and newness. Every time I look up, I feel like I am seeing the world for the first time, a world full of wondrous things. I feel old as if I have lived a lot, and I feel like a baby who takes joy in the smallest of things, finding something to marvel in the way the wool moves through the hook, the way a cap takes shape out of nothing but a string. I am in deep gratitude for discovering crochet again.

This time I will make myself a cap.

UPDATE, 27 March 2016: I have made 22 caps this far, besides a scarf, and all my colleagues and family members have one. Nope, I still haven’t made a cap for myself.

Finding God

Birthday wish

One of my colleagues J asked me why I don’t write posts the way I used to on my blog — with anecdotes from my personal life, with all its trials and joys. I told her I don’t have the urge to do that anymore but for old times’ sake, I decided to write one today.

I turned 41 yesterday. It was my day off from work, and I spent the first half of it wrapping up pending woodwork at my present apartment. (We’re going to move in a few days and I didn’t want to leave behind loose hinges and broken door locks.) It was pretty intense — there were four workmen around the house, my husband was fast asleep on the sofa, the kids were busy messing up the kitchen, the phone kept ringing as my loved ones called to wish me, the computer made pouty faces urging me to sit and do some work, and the doorbell was at its incessant best as delivery boys or the landlord dropped in. My office sent me a cake and flowers. I got several birthday wishes on Facebook.

By afternoon, there was a lull as the activity died down. The family kept asking what I wanted to do with the rest of the day. I couldn’t think of a single thing. So we just hung around and ordered Subway (but I still ate leftovers because no one else wanted them) and we watched some TV and I talked a whole lot on the phone — one call after another, and another, and another. Then another colleague sent a Whatsapp joke: “What did the Buddhist say to the man behind the Subway counter? Make me one with everything.” I loved it. I think it was the most wonderful birthday present EVER.

Before I slept at night, I decided to make my day REALLY special, so I turned off the lights and as the husband snored away (yes, he seems to sleep a lot on the weekends), I talked to God. And my day flashed before my eyes as my whole body beamed up waves of gratitude.

I thanked God for the carpentry work — I was able to tie out the loose ends before ending one phase of life. I prayed to die with such utter completion, like my aunt, whose house burned down and she learnt to give up material attachments a few months before her death. She passed away painlessly, laughing, playing a game of cards with her daughter and full-time help. We die as we live.

I thanked God for my family and for their presence on my big day, for the sense of love, meaning and belonging. I thanked God for all the other abundances in my life, the homes, the jobs, the relationships, the friendships, the phone calls, the cake and flowers, the opportunities, the blessings, the magic, the furniture, the clothes, the angels, the sheer miracle of being alive.

Intensely moved, I cried my heart out with pure gratitude for nearly an hour, thanking the universe for the supreme privilege of having me, for every single step of the journey that has brought me here, for all the little and big lessons I needed to learn before I could appreciate my gifts. I begged forgiveness for grudging my sorrows and begrudging my challenges. All of my existence made perfect sense — from the moment of my conception to the moment I sat down to pray my birthday prayer. It was God’s plan for my life and it was just…. perfect.

Tears running down my face, I began repeating over and over again, “Make me one with everything. Make me one with everything. Make me one with everything.”

It was an intimate moment that I wouldn’t have shared had not J brought it up. But now I guess she knows why I no longer share so much of my life out in public. There’s so much happening within.

Often, dear J, at the end of each day, I feel one with everything. And then there is no need for words. Except maybe one.


Seeking God

We got a drooling kinda love

I have been reading a lot lately, and one of the books I read extolled the virtues of meditation (not that I was difficult to convince). So I sat down the very next morning at 4.30 am to enjoy 30 minutes of silence while everyone was asleep.

Surprise, surprise. It was a cacophony in my head. Doesn’t matter how quiet the house is, I realised, when the space between the ears is noisy.

Still, I forgave myself since it was day one of meditation after a very long time, and tried again the next morning. This time, I didn’t make it past even a few minutes, so difficult was it to sit still. I became so disillusioned, in fact, that I gave up meditation completely.

Today, though, my perspective shifted.

Doggy love: When it comes to living in the moment, you gotta hand it to dogs. They probably pioneered the concept. If I leave home even for 30 seconds to go get something from the car, they jump all over me as if they’re seeing me after years. When I come out of the shower every morning, they drool all over my feet in happiness to have me back after a mighty long time, unconcerned that — hello?! — I’ve just washed myself squeaky clean. If I scold them for barking too much from the balcony at the neighbourhood strays, they put their heads down for precisely three seconds before they’re wagging their tails and expecting me to do something exciting (like tickling their ears) instead.

They’re never sad for long; they never hold grudges; they are quick to forgive and always ready to receive adoration. There’s no ego or shame or pride in their relationships. It’s just pure, unadulterated, unconditional LOVE ME RIGHT THERE BABY.

Why yoga: Then today, at my Gita class, the topic came up about Krishna extolling yoga as the path to achieving Him (or enlightenment). The teacher elaborated that one of the key lessons in the tome is: “All of life is yoga. There is no part of it that is more or less important than others. Everything that happens, all activities, all relationships, all events, can be used for yoga.”

In other words, yes, yoga is the path. But whatever path you are on is also yoga.

I considered my sweet dogs and their mindfulness meditation of being 100 per cent present in every moment of their lives. I considered my restlessness as I sat down to meditate in the silent darkness a few days ago. I looked at my cravings, my habits, my fears that drew me in directions I didn’t really want to go any more. I dwelt on the changing landscape of my desires, always wanting something more, always seeking something new, always in a state of flux.

And I thought to Krishna, “This, too, is my path, isn’t it?” All these colours, too, are what life wants to paint through me.

My dreams, at the moment, have got drool all over them. I can mourn the mess, or I can use this opportunity to turn yikes to yoga, and tickle Life’s ears back.

Love me right there baby.

Seeking God

A needle in the hay

This last week I had the good fortune of visiting a yoga retreat in Bangalore called Shreyas. It was a short break from a month that had begun to look like a typhoon had swept me up and smashed all semblence of peace in my daily existence. My mind whirled with work and home issues, to-do lists, pressures of urban living, chores left undone… And then suddenly, I was on a flight to a silent nature resort for 50 hours. It was like an unlikely full-stop in the middle of a garbled sentence.

Besides learning yoga asanas at dawn in a manmade forest; having my limbs stretched out by an expert guide whose name Ramakant means ‘beloved of (Lord) Rama’; being pampered with a loving massage by a gentlewoman named Vidya (‘knowledge’); eating wholesome saatvik vegetarian food; and getting much sleep, I also had an intense session of yoga nidra with a meditation instructor called Bala, whose name means ‘young one’ and who had the look of agonized innocence on his face, a sort of worried wonder, as if he is in a state of perpetual seeking. He not only led me through this meditation but we also later had a deep discussion about ‘perceptions’ and ‘beliefs’ that end up defining our identities and desires. I would like to share excerpts from this session here lest I forget:

A question of craving
We talked about why I felt that I ‘compensate’ a certain lack of something in my life with food. He said most overweight people have a ‘craving’ for something, some expectations that were not being met, and it’s often to do with love.

“But I feel an abundance of love in my life,” I said. “I feel like I am surrounded by people who love me, who cherish me very truly.”

“Then you don’t love yourself,” Bala said. “If you don’t love yourself, it doesn’t matter how many people out there love you. You will always be in a state of craving.”

Identity crisis
When Bala guided me to imagine my most cherished dream, I visualized myself as a huge big heart-shaped entity of love, generating loving waves to all my family and the world while not getting depleted myself. Then later, Bala asked me to go back to this vision after the entire healing process was done, and have a re-look at it. He suggested I ask myself, ‘Where did this desire come from? Who put it there?’ Those questions stopped me dead in my tracks. Who put those desires there? Who decided I am a ‘giver’ of love? Where did that dream come from? I live out my life based on this ‘vision’ of myself, but when and how did this ‘vision’ originate?

Bala exlained that these visions of who we think we are define our actions in life and our reactions to every situation. The aim is to differentiate between ‘reaction’ from past conditioning versus ‘action’ from your truest self. “It is you who has to discover and decide whether that vision is an identity created from conditioning or if it is your true purpose.” If I am being ‘depleted’ while acting out an identity I have created for myself, then there’s something I’m not doing right.

I was stunned when he said all this. I began to question, ‘If I am not this, then what am I?’ It is like my identity has been stripped away and I have to begin afresh.

The big question
After coming back home, I am once again inundated with ‘stuff’ to do, things to be organized and the dread of my domestic help’s impending week-long holiday. But there is a new space created in my head, new questions that will prod me to seek more truths within myself in the quest for their answers. To be honest, though, at the moment it feels as impossible as searching for a needle in a haystack.

Who am I? Who do I think I am? And where did this identity and these dreams come from?