Poems: Break Out

Bronze Sculpture by M.C. Escher

A long, long time ago
There arrived the thought
That love was something dangerous
Mysterious and unreliable:
It led to all kinds of grief, tears,and loss

That there was no way to tame it
Contain what it brought:
The confusion, foolishness
Futility of unending fears
Inconvenient changes
It sometimes wrought

And that day it was decided
By the previously innocent mind
Be careful! Guard yourself.
Impose restrictions
Safety measures, gates and limits,
Not everyone or everything is kind.

There came into place a cage
Of all these imagined fears and plots
Counter-strategies to play safe
Keep out what the heart sought

Confined by these boundaries
Fluid nature became ice
Hard and cold as stone
Brittle and fragile…
That was the heavy price.

So an identity took form
Gradually fleshing out stories
Fixating upon other characters
Making them out to be solid and real too
This is how the idea
Of a separate, vulnerable self grew.

Here, the idea of safety and territory took root.
Before this, in a seamless, flowing world
There was no question of a me or you….
Simply different possible locations
From which to experience life
As a temporary point of view.

But now we have forgotten all that
Forgotten what was felt and known true
That nothing real can be threatened
And all the angels and demons
We run obsessively from or to
They are all but a dream,
An illusion we have bought into.

All because a prison was imposed,
Love was titrated fine:
“Just enough to keep one alive
Too much and one goes blind”.

What would change
If that were not the case?
If love and foolishness
Were no longer confused?
If the pointlessness of damming flow,
Of defending and attacking
Was realized and understood?

What kind of a paradigm
Would this one transform into?


(Bronze Sculpture by M.C.Escher)

Poems: Light And Shadows

Afterlight by Jan Kriwol

We blink in and out of existence
Ephemeral and unreal.
How one shows up can change
Every moment, fresh and malleable.


Like the dance of shadows
Cast by playful fingers 
Filtering clear sight
Becoming a rabbit, or eagle
Just as easily.
With each breath
We decide.


Whether to be trapped
As a singular heavy shade
Or be a conduit of light.


Image: Afterlight by Jan Kriwol

What Values Do You Live By?

Woman cycling - Tanushree Vaidya Photography

Values are not what we talk about. They are how we live. They determine why we make and live the choices we eventually do.

Quite often, we don’t live what we advocate. We may express certain preferences and ethics in our self-talk and external debates. But when it comes to walking the talk, these may be less present and more absent than we would like.

Any such split within us causes us stress, discontent and keeps us disturbed. Without knowing it, we are living by one set of principles and measuring ourselves by another. Whereas acknowledging any such dichotomy helps address the gap and us move to a more integrous, hence more peaceful, fulfilling and enjoyable way of life.

This gap within us may be something we see clearly, or it may be something we have not realized. When subtle or unconscious, it may display itself in the form of dissatisfaction, angst or apathy. Procrastination or indecisiveness may be keeping us in a long state of ‘stuckness’. Also, look out for an emotionally charged reaction towards others displaying behavior contradictory to your stated values. Any such triggering is a good hint of us being unable to notice, and or forgive that in our self. (Click here for a more detailed write-up on this.)

In order to address this split, we need to clarify our values. The truth is that understanding our personal values is a tricky business. What we want and what we think we want can be two radically different things.

 Everything has its pros and cons. In theoretical discussion, we tend to discount the discomforts accompanying ‘nobler’ choices, as also our non-adherence to the same. In practice, it may be more challenging to live with the price one has to pay or the changes these aspirations demand of us.

Illustratively, one may believe in minimalism but rationalize the need to hold on to dozens of books; one may advocate fitness or environmental issues, but take the car for even short distances; one may value fairness, charity or generosity, but pay cost or less at the ‘pay-what-you-want’ cafe; one may aspire to forgiveness and yet be unable to let go of an old disagreement with family.

Often, what we think we value is more indicative of what we expect from others and the world than of ourselves.

A thorough, methodical examination of how we use our limited resources of time, energy and attention can be quite revealing. Such a deeply honest inquiry can help us discern the values we live (find comfortable or doable) at this point, as against those we aspire towards. There are several online questionnaires that can help you with this task.

Below is a list of some useful questions that I had noted a while back (sorry, I can’t recollect the source). Initial, reflexive answers may come from habit and conditioning. So make sure you spend a little time reflecting and revisiting these before you list at least 3-5 answers to each one:

  • How do you fill your space?
  • How do you spend your time?
  • How do you spend your energy?
  • How do you spend your money?
  • What do you think about most?
  • What do you envision or visualize most?
  • What do you internally dialogue about most?
  • What do you externally dialogue about most?
  • Where are you most organized?
  • Where are you most disciplined?
  • What do you react to most?
  • What do you set goals towards most?

 This should have helped you gain a fairly good idea about what you currently find comfortable or doable and live by.

Now compare this to who you thought you were or would like to be and how you would like to live. Some areas will already converge while the contrasts in other places may surprise you.

A more complete alignment can be attained in one of the following two ways:

I.  By updating our list of values to reflect reality as it stands.

A deeper understanding of who we are, where we are and how things currently stand helps us find truer, more peaceful self-acceptance. Broadly speaking, there are two possible explanations for the places our values turned out to be different from what we thought prior to the exercise:

  • There may be another set of priorities that we understand the merits of but are not yet ready to shift towards. For example, valuing generosity or co-operation, but displaying stinginess and competitive traits. In such case, discovering and releasing the underlying fears, unhealed wounds and insecurities is necessary before there can be any change in priorities.
  • We actually judge what we thought we valued. For example, we think we value ‘gentleness’, but demonstrate ‘aggressiveness’ because the former is judged as being ‘weak’; or we thought we value ‘freedom’ in work and relationships, but find this to be ‘impractical’ or ‘shallow’, and consequently ‘commit’ to unhappy jobs or marriages. 
In such a case, it is useful to check if the judgments are truly our own, or our way of ‘fitting in’. There may have been instances of being say ‘gentle’, or announcing your ‘need for freedom’, that led to disastrous consequences. Or that one has now come to respect the ‘power’ that ‘aggression’ brings, or the ‘comfort’ and ‘reliability’ that ‘commitment’ brings. ‘Rights’ and ‘wrongs’ are a matter of opinion but where we stand today needs to be admitted.

By being honest with ourselves, we cease wasting energy in the denial of our hurts, and rejection of our current experience and opinion. We are then able to re-examine how we would like to live the rest of our life. This further guides us in our inner work of releasing filters, limiting beliefs and emotional baggage.


II. By implementing choices and actions that incorporate our true values.

Even if they be baby steps, one must start actioning the shift.Radical changes in lifestyle, career, home, health, finances, etc. may seem like a daunting task. Such changes can be challenging, time-consuming and disruptive to the comfort of familiarity we have chosen thus far. But a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step, as they say. Well begun is half done.

How you choose to be is a choice you make from moment to moment. Whether one is being mindful or running on auto-pilot makes all the difference.

As long as every step takes you closer to your idea of who you believe yourself to be at heart – regardless of what ensues and how long it takes – you begin to experience greater happiness and contentment.

Lastly, a side-benefit of clarifying our values is healthier relationships: Like it or not, we gauge others using yardsticks determined by our values. Being aware of our values gives us a better understanding of our reactions and thus helps make things less personal. For example, someone who values hard work will likely find a Taoist lazy or irresponsible. Or someone valuing extroversion is likely to see an introvert as boring, shy and so forth. Recognizing that we are referring to a completely different framework enables us to be less rigid and demanding of others, thereby bringing greater harmony into our relationships.

I hope this article helps you discover a greater clarity and ease. If you find it useful, please share it with others.

Photo: Tanushree Vaidya Photography

How Are You Affecting Others? – 16 Things You May Want To Stop Doing

Land Art by Richard Shilling

Tools For Empaths’ is the most highly viewed and shared post on my blog. It seems that many of us(myself included) often feel that we are at the effect of other’s energies. However, nothing is a constant and nobody is one thing all the time. It is only fair to examine the other side of the coin and see if we may be impacting another in a less than positive manner.

For better or worse, our interactions shape each other. Energies(much like water trying to find its own level) tend to move in a way that achieves resonance and balance.  When these shifts move us to a higher vibe, we describe it as harmony and flow.  If we find ourselves moving to a more agitated state, the experience is unwelcome and off centring.  While we tend to find harmony more easily with some and feel less resonant with others, it is best not to make this personal.

Contrary to popular articles, I don’t think that a great majority are narcissists, self-centred, or ‘energy vampires’  wishing to gain strength at the cost of another. The energy drain itself may feel real but is often unconscious and usually unintentional.

Everyone has their ups and downs.  A respectful and sustainable way to support each other is through an open, transparent and synergistic way of operating.  Herein, both parties feel free to voice their needs without fear of backlash, comfortable offering wholehearted support when possible, and also uninhibited in admitting inability or disinclination to do so – if that be the case at that time.  Healthy friendships and families learn how to do this for each other. 

An ideal space is where all concerned can simply rest together, in deep acknowledgement of the presence and grace that is omnipresent.  In this state, there is no give and take, nor orchestration of balance.  We taste our true nature and know that all is effortlessly well.

However, when we are not in that space of being, it is sometimes practical to take proactive measures. In addition to energy tools, meditation,  prayers such as Ho’oponopono, practices such as heart coherence and Tonglen, it is also necessary to examine our way of communication and interaction with others.

After all, we take life far too much for granted. What if you don’t get another chance to meet this person?  How would you like your last interaction to be?

Listed below some ways in which we end up hurting others.  Are you demonstrating any of these behaviours? How much more joy, ease and harmony would become available to you and your loved ones if you stopped?

  1. Not being in touch with your own thoughts, emotions and feelings. 
    The more that you are self-aware, the less likely you are to thoughtlessly react, or project onto another.
  2. Neglecting your inner work.
    Being aware of our patterns, beliefs and trapped emotions is the first step. A constant discipline in such awareness itself helps to dissolve the same. Yet, some pro-active clearing work is usually helpful and called for, as neither denial, nor pretension can make our hurts and patterns go away. The less baggage we are carrying, the less we need or demand of others.
  3. Playing The Victim In The Blame Game.
    Making another responsible for our misery is exhausting for both. It perpetuates the perception of victimhood and will have you constantly targeting the other with anger, resentment, accusations and guilt.  Imagine fending off such silent (or blatant) onslaught and you can well imagine how draining you are being to the other person.
  4. Making The Other Responsible For Your Happiness.
    A more subtle version, this is normally harder to spot – until the other no longer delivers what we want and we shift to the ‘Blame Game’.  Here, the object of our affection is made solely responsible for our happiness.  If we have little life and love outside of what they mean to us, you can be sure its one hell of a burden to shoulder.  Again, imagine being in their shoes – one wrong move and you bring someone’s world crashing down.  It will have you rethink common notions about love, and the attachment and dependency they often imply.
  5. Continual Judgement And Criticism.
    Holding up the mirror is what good friends do for one another.  Bringing things to their awareness is helpful, but it is better received when accompanied with loving encouragement. More stick and less carrot, and all your good intentions will be forgotten by the tired other. We are hardwired with a negativity bias and without healthy doses of genuine appreciation and celebration, the receiving party often ends up remembering only what they didn’t like to hear.  The more that your opinion matters to them, the more it will weigh them down.
  6. Not Listening.
    Few of us know how to listen deeply.  We are usually busy formulating defence or attack in our head, paying little attention to the non-verbal cues and underlying energies. We may also have our minds already made up and can’t be bothered with the facts. It doesn’t matter who does this first. When we stop listening, differences only escalate.
  7. Being Insensitive To Another’s Vulnerability
    A corollary to inattention is missing the other’s vulnerability, especially whilst revealing their authenticity, regrets or fears. If you are not present to their vulnerability, you eventually lose their trust.
  8. Unexplained Silence and Disengagement.
    A favourite habit of those prone to passive aggression, or playing the Aloof in the Interrogator-Aloof drama, this one can be particularly damaging to any relationship.  The one at the receiving end runs through endless scenarios and emotions in attempting to understand what is happening.  Your lack of communication can leave them thoroughly lost and drained.  If you feel unable or unready to communicate, at least let them know that you need some time out. It is an indication that you wish to build, not break down bridges.
  9. Revisiting History Repeatedly.
    If you tend to replay the same story again and again, whether your own, or any other complaint, it can be quite taxing for the other to remain patient and tolerant. Do the work required to free yourself from the past.
  10. Disallowing Space and Silence.
    This is true especially if you are dealing with an introvert or Highly Sensitive Person.  Silence and space are rejuvenating in small doses for almost everyone, and more so to such people.  Practise a few minutes of sitting together in silence and see how much it benefits your interactions.
  11. Manipulations, Deceit and Secrets.
    Our energies speak louder than our words. When we indulge in any form of deception, others tend to intuitively respond to the underlying truth.
  12. Violence.
    Suppressed emotions tend to erupt at the most inappropriate time and in the most inappropriate manner.  A repeating pattern of physical or verbal abuse is unacceptable for obvious reasons.  Even minor incidences take their toll, with the other living in anxious anticipation of an escalation.  Work on your anger management.  Learn to respond to your own stressors differently.
  13. Needing To Be Right All The Time.
    Variations include the need to have the last world, to be superior, to be smarter, and so forth.  You don’t have to come out being top dog all the time.  Defence and attack are a waste of energy. Complete alignment of perspective on all matters is an unrealistic expectation. Agree to disagree, when so required.
  14. Being The Uncrowned Martyr.
    Believe it or not, your constant rescuing, serving, mentoring, sacrificing, or whatever other ‘selfless’ behaviour you think you are demonstrating, can leave the other feeling guilty, inferior worthless, overwhelmed and even resentful. Remember that the other is made of the same essence and is as capable and self-sufficient as you.
  15. Enforcing Love.
    Quite an oxymoron.  For here, one person is demanding the demonstration of caring while the other feels imprisoned by expectations.  Love has to flow of its own volition, it cannot be insisted upon. Know and accept that there are times to peacefully part ways.  Ebb and flow is natural in life.
  16. Withholding Love.
    By far the most punishing of all, withholding love is deeply hurtful to all concerned. When we wall ourselves in and others out, we are fighting against our very own essence.  Recovering from such energetic disconnection can be a long, painful process.  Whenever possible, to whatever extent possible, in whatever manner possible, allow love and appreciation. (Sending good energies, love and prayers are all valid and sometimes the only possible ways.)

It takes a strong intent and self-discipline to change our deep-rooted habits.  While learning and evolving seem to be a life long journey (at least for me), we need never procrastinate as to how we choose to be in this moment

For myself, if I am a little more conscious and kinder than I was yesterday, I consider myself headed in the right direction. So if you have any suggestions to add, please leave them in the comments below. And if you like any of the above, please share with others.

Land Art by Richard Schilling

Who Do You Become In Your Closest Relationships?


I love you,
Not only for what you are,
But for what I am
When I am with you.

Roy Croft’s incredibly beautiful and profound poem goes on to describe one of the most loving and honest ways of relating that one can imagine.

Love in itself requires no particular guidelines or conditions to exist.  But relationships are a different matter. They involve a mutual give and take that honours both person’s needs and boundaries while encouraging each one to blossom in the shelter of togetherness. No easy feat this. No wonder we often find ourselves struggling in our closest relationships.

We tend to make a handful of relationships ‘special’, with the mistaken belief that this particular person is responsible for our happiness.  Ironically, however, as long as we believe this, undoubtedly, when they fail to co-operate and give us what we ask of them, these very same person/persons become the focus of our maximal anger and blame.

Mistaking another as the source of our happiness results in us prioritising the survival of the relationship, over anything and anyone else.  Investing in any fixed outcome, results in tremendous stress, fear, anxiety and insecurity.  This can drive us into weak, needy, sacrificial, pretentious, insincere, dishonest, dominating, suspicious, violent and other such behaviours.

Thus, instead of being authentic, and or evolving ourselves, we find ourselves becoming someone that we neither approve of nor accept.

When the going is smooth sailing, we tend not to worry about these things. But when we run into rough weather, all our energies seem to drain away. Our attention being captured by the other person, their behaviour, our own perspective and emotional reactions, this underlying reason for our discomfort usually goes unnoticed: We do not like who we have become.

Roy Croft’s poem can serve as a pointer to approaching matters in a wholly different way, right from the outset. They can be used to transform our understanding and experience of relationships.

Make no mistake about it, all relationships require work. As individuals, we are changing all the time. Neither of the two is the same person they were from before, say a few months or years back. Continual, co-operative adjustments are usually essential to discover comfortable meeting points. The trouble happens when these changes are made from a fear of losing the relationship. 

Love, acceptance, and forgiveness cannot be found in a space where fear rules.  Neither inspiration nor flow can be allowed, as we are fixated on a particular idea of relating.

If instead, both people start out committed to embodying a higher consciousness – then everything that unfolds can be used to facilitate one’s evolution. Such an intent helps build trust and faith in each other.  For here, we know that we share a common goal that is larger than the betterment or validation of individual personas.  We allow a higher intelligence to be present and guide us to a greater good.  The ‘other’ becomes a conscious partner, with both aware that we are all manifestations of the same Source – and from this remembrance – help us mirror, uncover and address aspects of ourselves that we may be blind to otherwise. The inner and outer worlds are both dealt with honesty and transparency. 

When we get caught up in the illusions, our personas and favourite stories, as we often do – a trusted connection like this is invaluable in helping us wake up. For authenticity, vulnerability, and difficult conversations – the very crucibles of our evolution, can now not only be risked but embraced.

Such clearly shared intent tends to nurture deeper, truer, lighter and more joyful relating, than happens in our otherwise habitual, fear-based interactions.

Society, conditioning, our great expectations and erroneous interpretations have had us confusing love and drama for long enough. Antoine de Saint-Exupery offers an appealing alternative to the more common, unconscious notions of love:

Love does not consist in gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction.

Perhaps it is time to reflect on what kind of relationships we would like to co-create now?

Related links:

Home Is Where The Heart Is
Stepping Out Of The Cage
Resigning From Playing Villain
Changing Your Calling Card to – ‘Meet The Real Me’
Being Together

Image Source: Lotr.Wikia.com

5th Blog Anniversary – List of Select Posts

Mykonos lighthouse by Tanushree Vaidya

Today is the fifth anniversary of this blog, which I started writing on Sameer’s 6th death anniversary. In my first post, “Light House”, describing a mysterious happening after his passing, I wrote:

Death is an unarguable inevitability.  And there will  be questions and emotions when a loved one moves on.  However, those who stay behind – can celebrate the life lived.  Through greater love,  deeper understanding in their own lives.

In light of that start, today, I look back with satisfaction on the 147 posts thus far. Each one sharing a little bit of myself and what I have learned.  In the hope that it will be of some help to someone else.

And I dare say, the articles have lived up to this intent.  As a repository of resource articles, the blog has generated a great deal of soul-satisfying feedback from its small, but regular group of followers.  That makes all the hours of composition and writing worthwhile.

A heartfelt thanks to all those who read, experiment with the suggestions, like, share with friends, and write back with their feedback.  You motivate me to continue.

I shared a List of Select Posts last September, for the ease of bookmarking. Here are some additions from the current year, (based upon the response they received) in no particular order:

Looking forward to our continuing interaction!
Good wishes to all and thank you.

Photo Credit: Tanushree Vaidya Photography

Don’t Let The Language Barrier Keep You Home.

UFO Bridge, Bratislava

I was seated at an old wooden table, in one of the proverbial, European open, road-side cafes. The evening was now dark, chilly and breezy, with persistent, musical sounding rain. Equipped with only a light jacket, I was happy for this warm, sheltered space. My apartment was at least a thirty-minute walk across the windy Novy Most bridge, in the newer part of town.

With the rich, red Slovakian wine and the homely pasta plate before me, I had no complaints.  The smiling waitress had been kind enough to bring an English menu and a napkin that said, “Ladies, Rio loves you.” Back home, this old town restaurant’s slogan would have seemed discomfiting. Here, it felt like a thoughtful welcome for the solo woman traveler.

The fact that I didn’t know a single soul in this city, or for that matter, for hundreds of miles in all directions – was not disturbing, but strangely comforting. I wondered at the oddness of that thought.  I considered if spending the morning with a Segway tour guide meant he could be counted as an exception. Or if the non-English-speaking landlady who handed the keys to my apartment stay counted as an acquaintance.  I decided not. 

She had, after all, failed to introduce me to the resident poltergeists.  Only after they tripped my electric range and kitchen lights a couple of times in succession, did I figure out how to negotiate a peace treaty with them.  (They finally agreed to limit themselves to the small drying balcony while I stayed there.)  So no, the landlady didn’t count.  Her daughter, who had earlier pretended to be her mother, and corresponded with me before, and during the stay, over email and phone – now perhaps she could be counted as an acquaintance. But soon after I arrived at the local station, did I realise that she was in fact away, studying in the States. 

So it was true. Here I was, late on a stormy evening, alone in a city who’s souvenir t-shirt reads, “Where the F#$@ is Bratislava?”.  I could have laughed out loud.  But I restrained myself to a content smile. 

The stranger who happened to walk in at that point thought I was smiling at him and nodded back with a smile.  He sat across me, a couple of tables separating us. From the discussion over the menu, it became clear that he knew neither the local languages nor English. Through gestures, he managed to have food and wine come to his table. Other groups came in and went while we shared our solitary meals in quiet acknowledgment of our similar situations.

It seemed to be the flavour of the day.  Companionship with strangers who don’t speak your language. 

Most of the afternoon had been spent with an international group of mathematicians.  Their English speaking host had decided to take me into their fold, soon after we met on a cruise down the Danube river. Impressed with the fact that I was traveling alone, he wanted to know how I was managing despite the language barrier. Himself a local, who had returned after a stint in the States, he explained his interest in communication to me.  Given the complex history of the place, it seems between his wife and their parents, they shared a lineage of five different languages.  He said, “They say New York is a potpourri of different cultures, but they don’t know what’s been happening here in Bratislava, in every family!  I could relate to this, thinking of the myriad languages and cultures intermingling back in my hometown, Mumbai.

Devin Castle, Slovakia

We soon reached the geographically and politically significant site, Devin Castle.  It has witnessed many wars – something which is extremely difficult for the heart to comprehend. How do humans engage in such violence, and that too at a place so awe-inspiring and breathtakingly beautiful? No short answer there. As we had to return to Bratislava by the evening ferry, unfortunately, there would be no time to explore the extensive natural park around the castle grounds.

While there was some conversation with an Indonesian family on the boat, I explored the ruins largely on my own.  Without any formal agreement, one of the mathematicians accompanied me around. Besides a nod, we exchanged no other communication.  Distinguished, handsome and with sparkling, alert eyes, he seemed well respected amongst his peers.  He, and I, though had no scope for any verbal exchange and nor did we seem to feel the need for it.  Despite that, after several hours of comfortable silence and walk together, I left the ferry with the odd feeling that we had really met each other in a very meaningful manner. There was also an inexplicable sense of closure at the end of the day.  As though a long pending conversation and been completed.  Perhaps it was a karmic connection or a matter explained by modern day heart coherence findings. Whatever it was, the time together was memorable.

As I happily reminisced the satisfying day over my candle-lit wine and dinner, with the other solo diner similarly ruminating a few feet away, I thought this in itself was one wonderful, powerful benefit of solo travel:

To remember that it is possible to communicate with others without words. To find kinship with strangers and warm hospitality in unknown lands. To meet without an agenda, to befriend without reason and to part ways without regrets. 

How wonderful, these opportunities!

Back home, when I sometimes struggle to converse, either because of the superficiality of the content, or the seeming impossibility of finding the right words that will reach to another what we experience in our own individual bubble – I remember such days and feel reassured:

It’s okay to be quiet.
Silence can indeed be golden.
And completely adequate for bridging divides.