It is April. My birthday month. And I am coming to a time of great reflection over the way my life has been so far, especially in the last year or so. Where the only word to describe life would have been….sdkofhisiodhfaliuohlsidhaifdsgajsbfaoaaksdnflsl. And not in a good way!
I was a very sad person for a long time. I felt like I was stuck on a merry-go-round, spinning uncontrollably round and round, and it was making me sick to my stomach, but I just couldn’t get off it.
My life was hanging low, hanging dark and deep for a long time. Like the mist that blankets a lake on a cold winters morning. But now the winter has lifted, and heaviness of my own breath is gone. A new sunlight glitters delicately where the shadows once slept.
It was not/is not an easy journey to take. And every step required some kind of internal strength that I didn’t know I had. I wanted to share with you my reflections during this time. And a few of the things I did, some of the steps I took, that helped me move forward in life. I hope they will be helpful for you. I will also post this post in a few instalments as it is quite long. Here is the first part.
1. Developed a Spiritual practice
I think what helped me the most was to develop a spiritual practice and try to faithfully follow it. Once the novelty wore off (as it quickly did) it was not always my favourite part of the day, but I knew in my heart that it was the most important.
The best thing about having a discipline is that even when you have bad days, which I often did, days when I felt down and lacked the energy to follow through on any good plans, at the very least, I was able to engage in spiritual practice. Because it was my habit. It was my commitment to goodness. It was my commitment to a goodness that I didn’t always feel, but I worked for it anyway.
So then even on the worst day, as long as I have done this, I know that I am I am still moving forward in the right direction.
All I knew is that I wanted to live my days with a higher ideal in mind, rather than myself and my problems.
So I started small. Really small. As small as lighting a candle every evening. Then maybe saying a small prayer, a wish. Then I slowly added small elements to my practice, as much as my heart allowed, until it was how it was supposed to be.
Eventually the desire to start yoga again was awakened in me. I wanted to find a yoga class to go in the evenings but because my schedule at the hospital is so random, I decided I needed to create my own space.
And so I did.
There were times I wanted to resist yoga too. But I started small and slowly I started to fall in love with my practice and aching bones. I spent more time working on my alignment in various postures and asanas. Alignment was not important to me in the past, but now it was. I felt this inner yearning that my body should be aligned, as it is supposed to be, and then my internal energies can flow easy.
I felt like I had started to dip my days into a pot of gooey goodness. I noticed that as I added more elements to my practice, it started to take up a greater proportion of my evenings. But I liked that.
2. Became a more positive person
When you are told to just “try and be a positive person”, it feels almost impossible. How do you become a positive person when you have grown so accustomed to a negative mindset? “Being positive” feels false and takes a lot of effort. I just didn’t know how to think about the things that worried me in an uplifting way. Sure, I could structure the sentences and put together positive affirmations, but they never really sunk in, it never really made me believe in my own false positivity. And that was proving to be frustrating, and made me feel even more negative. In fact, I noticed that I started feeling more negative the more I tried to feel positive.
…..But one thing I did, actually did help me lift the heaviness of negativity from my mind.
I simply started to dedicate time in my day towards things that were positive. I didn’t force myself to feel positive, but I could at the very least read about positive things. Or watch a positive show. And so, I started reading, watching, and listening to positive things. I started spending time with happy people who were excited about life. I started doing things that were uplifting. I didn’t put much importance on whether these activities actually made me feel uplifted or not, I just decided to recognise activities that should be uplifting and tried to do them.
And you know what, gradually, my thoughts started shifting. It wasn’t an obvious change. It was more like a feeling of lightness; my thoughts became lighter, less dense, less heavy, less dark and gloomy. Positivity was scheduled into my day, and gradually it started to leak into other parts of my day too. Gradually I noticed I started to feel more uplifted in my day to day life, and my thoughts would take a more positive tone. I even surprised myself.
3. Got busy
I started to get busy with life, and it wasn’t because I was inspired. It was simply because I was afraid of being alone with my thoughts. I knew I didn’t have the strength to overcome them myself. So, I guess essentially – I was trying to avoid my inner problems, but actually this time provided a chance for me to build internal strength (when accompanied with my other efforts) so that eventually I could face them.
So, I got busy in the hospital. I stayed late when I could, and in the mean time, I actually had a good time there! I got to spend more time with my friends at the hospital, and became closer to girls who I have not talked to much in the years before. We had fun in this strange new hospital world, talking to patients, getting quizzed by the doctors, going to tutorials, taking histories, examining patients, staying on-call, going for many hot chocolate breaks.
This also resulted in quite a positive change in my work/school life. Since I had no where to rush off too, I became more dedicated to whatever I was busy with, and as I result, I think I performed better.
It was also important for me to stay busy at home too. I made routines and rituals that kept me going. I just thought of all the things that needed to be done and tried to do them. And you know what? It was not even exhausting. It was actually such a nice and refreshing feeling to be busy with living life again and not just be busy thinking about it.
On the weekends I would give myself small tasks to do that always felt good to accomplish. Even the simple things like going for a walk and picking flowers for my apartment kept me busy and also brought joy to me. I made everything into a sacred ritual. Things like cooking a delicious meal, cleaning my home, preparing my outfit for the next day and simple art projects.
4. I cared for the rose, not the thorns.
First off, I realized that we all have both good and bad qualities, and we can choose which one we give more significance and power to. For example, a beautiful rose is covered in thorns, yet we still call a rose a rose and not a thorn plant.
Self development can be seen in two parts; getting rid of bad qualities and developing the good qualities.
I realized that for quite a while I had been shown and focused so much on my bad qualities and it was a bitter pill to swallow. I tried desperately to change my bad qualities but found it difficult. I just didn’t have the strength to do it. Thats when I realised that maybe the orientation of my self development does not have to be done in such a harsh manner. Maybe there was a way that I could be more gentle with myself but still try to improve myself. I realized that I was too busy chasing punishment and repentance, rather than putting my efforts into blossoming.
What makes a rose plant a rose plant and not a thorn plant? The rose. The flowering of beauty and goodness, despite the thorns.
This is when I understood that though I do have bad qualities in myself that I want to change, I can also choose to develop my good qualities too! So I started thinking about that more than feeling bad about other things.
This doesn’t mean I deny my bad qualities, I know they are there, but I think that if I develop goodness, just like the power of the rose can overcome it’s thorns, I hope that I too can do the same one day.
This made self development much less impossible task for me. and helped me to focus on goodness rather than pain.
As soon as I made this shift, I started to follow JOY rather than punishment and fear. I stopped putting myself into painful situations. And for the first time in a long time, I tasted the sweetness of FREEDOM.
There were things in my past that had troubled me. Well come to think of it, there were things in my present and also my future that troubled me too! So I knew that something had to be done. In my case, there were no serious issues, but just areas in my life I decided I needed to contemplate, take action towards and bring to a higher level of understanding.
The best way I found to do this was by being good now. I tried to conduct myself in the best way possible, in regards to the past, the present, and the future, and somehow, this started to alleviate any guilt I carried with me. It slowly started shifting events in my past, present, and future, and everything settled at a new frequency, a new level of harmony. And then there was a soft kind of peace in my life.
6. Cleared out the clutter in my life
I started off by spending a little time every day clearing out that which no longer served a good purpose in my life. I cleaned it all out. My room, my schedule, my online life, my expectations, my grievances.
I just slowly started to pick and choose what I actually wanted to be in my life again.
I remember when I first did this, it felt horrible. I had this sinking feeling in my stomach. I felt so attached to my old painful life and I did not want to let it go. Pain and agony had become part of my identity. Who would I be without it? Could I survive without it?
But the relief after my first “clear out session” encouraged me to continue along this path. And gradually, it got better, and it felt so good to clear out. And finally all that was left were the things I wanted, loved, needed, hoped for, wished for. And most of all, there was a lot of empty space. Space that allowed me to breathe again. Space that waited for something wonderful to fill it.
7. Started making decisions based on my values.
During my “scheduled positivity” (see number 2) I started to think about my values and feelings that are important to me. Thinking about this helped me understand why I had succeeded in some areas of life and failed in others. It was a pretty simple but stark realization that I succeeded in the areas that were in alignment with these values, and failed in all the others. So I decided it only made sense to cut out the things that were not in alignment of my values, and thus reduce my life fails. I wanted to stop saying “yes” to things that meant nothing to me, or that broke my spirit, my true essence.
I decided that from this point onwards I should try to mould my life around these things that I consider valuable.
8. Relate to all things calm way.
I quickly realized that if I wanted to cultivate calmness in my life, I had to start relating to all things in a calm way. That means accepting everything that happens, accepting reality for what it is, accepting my responsibilities, accepting myself. I literally just tried to calmly accept all aspects of my life. I breathed through the difficult moments. I endured my inner demons. I tried to do everything I had to do calmly, even if I didn’t feel very calm on the inside.
I told myself that everything is okay as it is. I have to wake up at 5:00am. That’s okay. I have to stay late at the hospital. That’s okay too. I have to walk home in the rain. That’s okay. I feel awful/sad/overwhelmed today. That’s okay.
When I started accepting life as it came, I started finding harmony in these moments. And my inner calmness became strong, it became an inner vortex of peace that I could access at all times.
I stopped fighting. And when I stopped fighting, the war had ended.
That’s all for now. I will post the other parts in the days to come. This post is very close to my heart so thank you all for your words of encouragement. I am so blessed to have each and everyone of you in my life in this special way. And I shall keep writing, for you.
I wish for happiness. For all of us!