I have been really unwell the last few days. High fever, a very sore body, thumping headache and, since misery loves loves loves company, there's a toothache doing the salsa with a sore throat as well. (How do they manage, you ask? Well, illnesses have a way of getting around.)
Now, just a few days ago I had started yoga. And this time I was determined to do yoga regularly to get fit and burn off my karmic deposits. (No, that’s not what they are calling body fat nowadays.) I wanted to settle at least that part of my karmic cycle that has kept me tied to the drama of anger. I have tried to figure out why I have so much anger inside of me when, frankly, I have around 2,800 things to be grateful for every single day of my life. And this is a list I can make up right from stuff at the top of my head.
I have tried to get to the bottom of this for a while now. A friend's sister is a hypnotherapist. Nearly a year ago, I had visited her on account of some issues that I was really tired of - like getting short with people, taking so many things personally, getting defensive about Mumbai. (It sounds crazy, I know. But that was when I had started feeling sick in my stomach. I could calmly respond to someone who accused me of being an escapist from my marriage but if he/ she made a comment on how dirty Mumbai was - man! the heights to which my hackles got raised!) Then, it reached a point where I sensed a lot of people distancing themselves from me. No-one was telling me anything but there wasn't the warmth I had felt earlier. I almost didn't notice it until one day - I did. I was with a friend and I saw a tight smile, a formal shrug and a quick, "See you later." So, I asked her what the problem was - right out - and she said, "This is the problem! You are always so aggressive and you are always so moody and you are always so opinionated! I can't handle it!"
All that was news to me. So, of course, I told her that she was a coward and constantly whining about stuff and what kind of an imbecile expects a human-being to be in one constant mood? Well, that was that. She cried, I felt horrible and we didn't communicate for a while.
On closer quarters, though, I saw that same pattern with my family. I noticed that my father wouldn't say something to me because he didn't want a heated argument, a cousin wouldn't call me up because he didn't know what mood he'd find me in, a niece would be iffy about sharing her essay because she thought I'd rip it apart (she got that impression from the others). My friends from 10 years ago went their ways without even saying goodbye. Colleagues at work started agreeing with my opinions rather quickly, without even venturing to offer their own. (Can't say I complained about that.) But as soon as I took stock of the situation, I realized that there was a problem and I wasn't very sure how to tackle it.
My friend's sister, E, helped me tremendously. She's much younger than me and ordinarily, I wouldn't have consulted her at all. I had some reservations about hypnotherapy as well. But at the time I thought - why the heck not? I was at that stage when I had done a lot of introspecting. I have usually kept a diary and I kept poring over entries to figure out what was going on. I sensed that there was a pattern here. And as a sociology student - this much I know: where there's a pattern, you look beyond incidents to figure out the reasons. Actually, even law has much the same approach. (Okay, more pedagogical analogies for another post.)
My session with E was a BIG eye-opener. As I spoke to her, some instances came to mind - those I had pushed to the back of my head because I was so busy focusing on 'main' issues such as temper. For example, I knew that I always got defensive about Mumbai. But while talking to E, I recalled instances when I have defended Delhi vehemently. I used to hate it when people called Delhi 'the rape capital' or its people loud and uncouth. Then, I noticed that there were times I went hoarse praising Pune. When people would call Pune a mousehole, I would defy them to find the kind of evolved lifestyle you find there. I have almost shouted myself out saying stuff that LA is far better than Boston. Who cares about a few universities around stupid green areas when there's far more life and action to be had elsewhere. I was indifferent about Bangalore or Ahmedabad or Kolkata or New York. You like it? You don't like it? Oh well.
That's when it hit me. I only got defensive about places I had lived in. There was something so primitive and ferocious about my territorial allegiance that it was scary. I would have definitely missed this aspect if E hadn't helped me with it. This also overlapped other areas. I could have a problem with you but if someone spoke against you in front of me, that person had had it! Somewhere, I felt the need to be a protector. I had to protect what was 'under attack'.
Then we came to the part of why this was so and what to be done about it. Both areas would take a certain about of effort and honesty which I can't summon just yet (given that I have fever, etc.)
However, E got married and moved to another city and my work of getting anger in check got waylaid. For a while it was okay, I was calm, and then it acted up again. The last straw was when I threw a glass of water on someone's face because I lost my cool. No. The last straw was when she didn't react. It was when she didn't hit back or retaliate or do anything. The last straw was when she walked away, saying nothing.
I can't explain the feelings that followed. Of course, what I did was wrong and there was an apology. But these things - they break you. In a good way. I think when I saw, in one interaction, the lows to which I had sunk and the highs which the other person upheld, it was clear. Clear like when you wipe a muddy window with a wet cloth and through that gleaming swipe, you see a waterfall. I had made a choice and she had made a choice and we both will live out the consequences of our choices.
It is odd that I felt no shame, remorse or self-loathing. Usually, all outbursts are loyally followed by this trinity. None of them are useful. I just felt that the worst has happened. It will only get better from here as soon as I decided the path. I don't care with the reasons for the temper now. My soul has truly just had it with the drama.
Many moons ago, I had read a book, 'You can heal your life' by Louise L. Hay. I read it around the time I was skeptical of self-help books and all that. However, my friend, J, (www.teerathyatra.com) had told me that this book linked diseases to a thought pattern and I was intrigued.
I strongly, earnestly recommend this book to anyone out there who wants a good read. Yes, it is one of those 'Secret' type books that speak of affirmations and law of attraction, etc. But it had been written at a time when only nut-eating, weed-smoking junkies in California believed that stuff. Louise L. Hay, perhaps, has the sweetest, most tender style of penning advice. If she were a neighbor, I would visit her everyday with treats from bakery. If she were on radio, I'd listen to her every day. She just has a way about her. Even if you don't believe in 'that sorta stuff', read her. If you have ever been in a position where you've asked yourself, "What the hell is wrong with me?" and honestly wanted an answer, read her. You will be so surprised at what you find. (Or you could meet E. It's been a while since we've been in touch but if you write to me, I could send you her contact details. She may suggest this book, too, by the way.)
So, in any case, Louise writes about certain ways of releasing a thought process and getting over things. Around the time I read her, I had started learning yoga. The two just seemed to click with me.
I'll make another strong recommendation here and then move on to the rest of my post. Please learn yoga. If you have learnt it, do it. If you're not interested, just be around people who do it. You will benefit. It is my personal opinion that you can have the most chiseled, perfectly toned body with a proper yoga routine. I believe that because I have seen that. You can have it in just as much time as you spend in a gym, if not sooner, and you can have it for life. I'm not in any shape or form to actually be the poster-girl for this sort of thing but I know of men who have six-packs and do the mayurasana like poetry. I know of women who do 30 minutes of asanas with 20 minutes of meditation and they could light up a room with the glow of their skin.
But I'll tell you why I do yoga. I do it because through my body, I realize that I was much more than it. I have to admit I am not big with the pranayams and kriyas. But I try to do a few asanas as regularly as I can. Any angry person is a stiff person with a disposition to joint problems. There are a lot of blockages that occur in the body because of what one has thought and believed over a period of time. Since I find it difficult to change my thought process internally (through awareness, meditation, etc.), approaching a mental change from ‘outside-in’ is what helps me. That means being more centred in what I practice and being more simple in what I consume. Also, I had read a book on Hatha Yoga that spoke of the link between karma and yoga. (Karma, in my mind, is an axiom. I just believe that it exists. Have been ridiculed a fair bit on this but…what can I say? That is something I have full faith in.) According to this book, when you are mindful of going through the motions of Suryanamaskar, it is not just about saluting the sun. With every motion, you are actually working off a portion of your karmic debt. That I found really interesting.
This insight particularly resonated with me. Through my session with E and learnings from Louise L. Hay, I realize that my anger issue is old and deep. It’s got to be grinded out of my psyche peacefully, firmly and consistently. I was anyway doing yoga. So why not do it with this orientation in mind? It’s far more interesting than getting a toned back! (Although I would love a toned back.)
Then, after one day of yoga, I fell ill. Very ill. That night, I felt so desolate that I cried through different thickets of self-pity. I really felt bad for myself, mainly, because just the night before I had made grand resolutions of taking charge of my life, etc. Now, taking charge of one’s life means not having anyone to blame when you are ill and aching. That is not the time for the Universe to tell you to just ‘suck it up!’ but it says that anyway. It’s hard.
The next morning I woke up even more unwell than before but I decided to do yoga anyway. I hated every single minute of preparing for it. From opening the terrace to unfolding the mat to joining my hands and starting the Suryanamaskars. Then, as I quieted down and started doing my rounds, it started to rain. When rain falls on a grey and misty world, you catch your breath. Because the beauty is so fragile and fleeting. It looks as if a child is weeping and smiling quietly in her sleep because of what she sees in a dream. It was lovely. I finished yoga in more peace than I have felt in a long, long time. I almost felt like the Universe was moved by what I’d done.
This is why I feel hopeful, at times. I feel that no matter how bad or deep my problem, there is more help around than I can imagine.
Makes me weep. Makes me smile.