Seeking God

Real work

Last weekend, I asked my fiery young Ayurvedic masseuse, “A job like this needs much strength, doesn’t it? And you’re so slender.”

She stopped in her palm tracks across my tummy. “The strength is in the wrist and hand, not in the body.”

“But don’t you ever get tired massaging so many clients a day?” I insisted.

“A long time ago,” she said, “my friend told me, ‘the massage doesn’t happen from here (pointing to her biceps) but from here (pointing to her heart)’. That’s all. I never forgot that. Strength is in the heart, not the hands. If you work this way, you’ll never get tired.”

I cherished this lesson all this work week. There is no fatigue, no burn out, if you work from the heart.

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Seeking God

Lessons in domesticity 2

Continued from the previous post… Here’s more of what I’ve learnt in the past few months.

4. Your circumstances reflect your thoughts.

My fears, which as mentioned earlier revolve around domestic drudgery, manifested in my environment. So the more I worried, the more acute crises I had to face. My dream help, who lived with us 24/7, went on holiday and never came back, so I got my mother’s help to work half-a-day while I did the rest. My mother’s help left too once my parents got back from the US, so I got the dog-walker to come in and do the dishes and cleaning, while I did even more of the rest. And now, he’s leaving too for a holiday! So not only will the sky pour housework down on me just when I’m stepping into a new work life, but there’s going to be no support all day for the kids and dogs, a thought that leaves me with panic attacks. To top it, we have some kind of water shortage so housework has to be coordinated around the time the water comes in. It would all be very comic if it weren’t so devastating for me.

Yesterday morning, though, I was hanging the clothes out to dry (yes my laundry area seems like a great place for epiphanies, maybe the east-facing direction has something to do with it), watching a new building being constructed behind our house, and it struck me: The universe is only reflecting my own fears. If I don’t want any more domestic issues, I’ve got to stop obsessing about them. “Whatever you fight, you strengthen, and what you resist, persists,” says Eckhart Tolle. If I want a stress-free home environment, I’ve got to be stress-free first. I’ve got to learn to chill.

I may think I’m indispensable around here but no one is, really. If I don’t do the dishes, or cook, or put away the clothes, or feed the dogs, someone else will… eventually. They’re all grown up and it’s alright. I’ve just been holding on to what I assume is my sense of value in this house. But I am valued and valuable even beyond my domestic abilities (or lack thereof). I’m allowed to let go.

5. Tears are treasures.

One of my aunts passed away a couple of weeks ago, someone I cherished greatly and wrote about, even on this blog. Around the time of her death, I was embroiled deeply in my home saga and work commitments, and though I was there in the night for my bereaved cousin and in the day for the funeral, a part of me was distracted, elsewhere. I was not in the moment.

Two days later, my cousin called me and ordered me to deliver my aunt’s eulogy at the prayer meeting the same afternoon. I flipped out. How would I manage to write and learn all that, while also struggling to cook lunch and send my magazine to press… And one of the kids missed her bus back from school and said she’d come in an auto… She didn’t have the key so I’d have to stay till she got home… I’d be late for the prayer meeting…

But I gritted my teeth and sat down to write the eulogy anyway. And before I knew it, the tears began to flow; the grief that I’d bottled up for two days unleashed itself and I was overwhelmed with sobs and sighs. I cried all through the writing of the piece, and later, through several parts of delivering it to hundreds of people too. But at the end, I felt released; I felt like I had paid my final respect to a beloved aunt with complete sincerity and attention. I had grieved myself out.

When I was younger (and even now), my family teased me for being too ‘sentimental’; I cry at the slightest thing. I even cry just seeing other people cry, or while reading a sad story, or watching a sad movie scene. They called me ‘weak’, and told me to ‘toughen up’. But if anything, I’ve learnt that tears are our strengths. They cleanse us, connect us to others and to God, and make us truly human. I would be only half the person I am if I didn’t have this God-given gift – to be able to cry in sorrow and cry in joy, to be able to cry at a niece’s wedding or at an aunt’s death. My soft sentimental heart is Krishna’s presence in me. I am whole because of it.

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Some may call the recent events of my life ‘negative’ or ‘bad luck’. But I’ve also learnt that in every sadness lies the seed of joy and in every challenge lies the seed of a new opportunity. We cannot enjoy Delhi’s sunny cool winter if we haven’t lived through Delhi’s sweltering summer heat. If things were hunky-dory all the time, we’d just take them for granted and cook up new issues to worry about.

Tough patches are just that — patches in the rich tapestry of life, which also has great swathes of beauty, colour and magnificence. Let me cherish the grandeur of the big picture instead of cribbing about the little things. They’re just details.

And, ah, God lies right there in them.

Finding God

The presence of love

I’ve been working from home the past couple of weeks, managing a magazine from 2,160 km away (thank God for technology). Instead of a stuffy, airless cubicle, I now look out at an expansive manicured garden as I work from my younger one’s bedroom (and it’s grinning lush green in the rain today). Instead of fixed timings of signing in and lunch hour, I work, eat, read, write and rest at my own sweet pace. Instead of giving housekeeping or parenting orders in a frustrated voice over the phone, and then coming home to disappointment that none have been carried out, I never lose my temper at all. It’s all real-time here. I am no longer living two lives — one at the office, the other at home. Work-life is rolled into one big bundle I’d call peace.

In the mornings, everyone’s away and the new domestic help gets busy watching Hindi soaps on TV. The house is quiet. I have no one to tell me what to do, I must self-motivate. In all this new work-life routine, an unexpected relationship has taken center-stage — my two dogs have become closer to me than ever.

They sit on both sides of my mat when I do yoga, until I shoo them away — and then they come back and sit a few inches further in compromise. They sleep at my feet when I work in the bedroom, and move with me when I shift to the dining table. I cannot scrape my chair for hurting them, or move my feet about too much; I must stir gently, carefully. Even if they are snoring away, they immediately sense when I tiptoe out of the room to take a shower, and are sitting outside the bathroom door when I come out squeaky clean. At lunchtime, they are my face-gazers, especially Ronnie who is always up for a bite. When I lie down on the sofa to read a book, they align themselves alongside, tilting up their chins so that I can stroke them before they settle back down to sleep. Never do their eyes leave me.

I am not more loving than I was before. I hug them and cuddle them about the same. I scold and cajole and tease them just as I used to. But my sheer presence has endeared them to me (and me to them) in a way that absence can only aspire to. Something’s new. They have become addicted to me, my love. They cannot resist sticking close if I am around. And as the days go by, I am becoming addicted too.

It’s not just the dogs, of course. I am suddenly closer to the kids after years of being an office-going mom. I am suddenly the wife-waiting-back-home after years of being a busy girlfriend. There’s a whole lot of equations being altered, a whole lot of priorities shifting across space and time zones, new kinds of love addictions going on. I am glad I have the silence and ease to absorb it all, to allow it to grow on me instead of being forced into it.

Things change, and they change you. And then you change things because you can’t imagine it being any other way. Then one day, you work for a few hours on the computer and then look down at your feet and see two content big goofy dogs sleeping there with their paws spread out in front, and you realise that no matter how much you do or achieve or transform or desire, it’s really always about just one thing.

Love.

Everything else is either just an expression of it, or a distraction.