THE ROAD LESS TRAVELLED…EMOTIONAL & MENTAL SUPPORT DURING COVID-19

“Everything can be taken from man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude under any given set of circumstances.” Viktor Frankl

I am reminded of this quote every time I hear a TV anchor announce one more person tested COVID 19 positive. There is an increasing feeling of dread and disaster when someone is infected. What I hear is anger about the person infected.

I would like to state upfront that I am not condoning the actions of people who have not followed precautions or directives by the government or healthcare professionals. They deserve to be treated accordingly. However, there are many who had no idea they were infected and discovered they were carrying the virus only when they tested. We have all read numerous accounts on social media about how people have contracted the virus. It was not a deliberate attempt for them. They were in the wrong place at the wrong time – just sheer bad luck.

Having said that, how do we treat people who have tested positive in our own family, friends circle or neighbourhood? Yes, physical isolation is a must, to keep everyone else safe. Is emotional isolation warranted? Do we have the right to treat affected person/family like pariahs at an emotional level?

No. We do not have the right. Remember, it could have happened to any of us.

A National Crisis

COVID 19 is a national crisis, a global crisis. It is a war that humanity is waging against a virus. I am not getting into where it came from, which country is responsible for spreading it, how & why. I am looking at our collective ability to help people deal with this trauma when they discover they are infected.

A crisis can occur on a physical or psychological level. The physical aspects of a crisis tend to be obvious, particularly if they involve human injury or death. The psychological aspects of a crisis tend to be significant and more widespread. However, the psychological aspects of a crisis are hard to identify and often overlooked.

A crisis is defined by three factors: negative events, feelings of hopelessness, and events beyond normal control. Crises are perceived as being negative events that generate physical emotion and/or pain. People who experience a crisis, experience feelings of helplessness, powerlessness, and entrapment. Those who have lived through a crisis also feel as if they have lost control over their lives. Crisis events tend to occur suddenly and without warning. The lack of time to adjust or adapt to crisis generated problems is what makes the event so traumatic.

COVID 19 presented us with such a crisis. The containment process itself is stringent and a strict one with two important factors:

  • Social distancing
  • Lockdown

Human beings are not used to both factors. It has been tough to understand and accept for so many people. Especially in a society like ours, where we tend to feel, “This won’t happen to me.” It can, it may – happen to me, happen to you. If it does, I know what I want from people around me.

 Emotional Support

 The corona crisis has slowed us down enough to make us think about what we want Rythmfrom ourselves, how much are we willing to give and our own expectations.

There are provisions being made for physical & medical support for a COVID 19 patient. I can get admitted to a hospital and treated. However, the single most important expectation, besides good medical care, is emotional & mental care. I would want emotional support from my family and friends. I would want help to deal with the trauma of going through an illness like this. I would not want to be ostracized emotionally or mentally.

Sadly, in India, we do not have the framework or infrastructure to deliver that emotional support. From what I hear, the doctors and nurses are doing a fabulous job of counselling their patients. I know professional counsellors are willing to help. My counsellor friends have told me to refer anyone seeking help in these times and they will gladly handhold. The keyword, however, is to seek. Believe you me, these are times when we need that help. We need that ‘someone’ who will counsel and guide us to get out of trying situations. There is no shame or stigma attached to it.

A crisis like this affects us at different levels – medical, physical, economic & social. Underlying all these is the psychological impact. The impact can be felt in any of the following:

  • A positively diagnosed person.
  • A person undergoing financial problems due to the lockdown
  • People working from home (a lot of people have broken homes and may not know how to deal with the situation)
  • The so-called stigma of being a corona patient or a member of the patient’s family

These are but a few circumstances.

How Can We Help?

  • We can start by not being judgmental about people we know who are tested positive. I am sure they did not go around wanting to be infected.
  • Let us show them kindness & empathy, besides giving them the physical help of providing food, shopping for them or getting their medicines.
  • Please do not isolate them emotionally. A quick telephonic chat, a message or a video call will assure them that you are around.
  • Positive reinforcement goes a long way and helps people become optimistic.
  • Patients & their family members can be sensitive to and less capable of coping with the irrelevant humour floating around as forwards. We can be empathetic to that. Do not brush it off as ‘soft’ behaviour.
  • Those of you who can collaborate through your organisations to help small business owners generate revenue for themselves, please explore such opportunities.

In times such as these, vulnerability is not a weakness. When we encounter an unexpected challenge of threat, the only way to save ourselves is to hold on tight to people around us and not let go. Life does not make sense without interdependence. We need each other and the sooner we realise that the better for us all.

After all, Paul Romer said, “A crisis should not go waste.” Let us use this to become more compassionate, helpful & non-judgmental human beings.

A Friend For Life – Bonding With the Son In Law

Dear Akash & Vasu,

I wondered what to write as my first blog for 2020. Thank you both for being my inspiration!

In the stereotypical world that we live in, many articles & write-ups can be found about the mother in law/daughter-in-law relationship. The son in law somehow never gets written about.

You both became part of the family even before your respective weddings took place. I do not mean this superficially. Your attitude and the way you simply blended in with all of us endeared you right away. From attending golden jubilee anniversaries to birthdays to poojas at home, you both went with the flow. Not just that, you rolled up your sleeves and worked side by side with all of us. This is in stark contrast to how some other sons in law behave – remain aloof towards their in-laws’ side of the family.

As a spouse, your ability to accept our girls as they are and encourage them to pursue their dreams is phenomenal. I have observed intelligent conversations between you all and it gladdens my heart, not just as a mother, also as a woman. In observing you, I have found you to be of complete integrity, true character, loyal & honest. I have seen you rationalize situations even when your wives were being a little stubborn about the same. Today, I would like to salute that and praise you unabashedly.

All marriages have to be worked on. It is not easy. It is everyday work. A lot of times, women believe they are the only ones who invest in a relationship and work at it. I am proud to say that you both have done the same in so many different ways. I understand the pressures you may go through, the uncertainty & insecurities that crop up once in a while. You have handled a lot of that with aplomb and I feel happy that we have established a relationship where we can talk about it comfortably.

We have raised daughters who love you wholeheartedly and who understand marriage is total commitment and a covenant that goes beyond broken promises and hearts. It is not be taken lightly and I know, they will stand by you. Yet, some aberrations will happen, mistakes will be made, by both of you. You know the best part, I trust you all to deal with them and handle it to the best of your ability.

You may have understood by now that we women think a little differently. For a wife, if the husband makes an effort to build a relationship with her parents, then she feels cared for and secure. Our girls are no different and you have made them feel secure & cared for. Thank you for doing that.

There is a saying – a man who treats his woman like a princess is proof that he has been born and raised in arms of a queen. I have often told both your mothers, that we are blessed to have you both as sons in law and a part of our family. As a mother, I would like to thank Archana & Rama for the value system they have given you. And today I can happily say…

son-in-law-quotes

Thank you dear Akash & Vasu for being who you are and how you are. Stay happy & stay blessed!

Love & hugs

Uma

A Promise To Stand By…

I ended my 2018 by watching Nathicharami on 31st December. It was one of the best things I did on new year’s eve. 

I must admit, the desire to see the movie was because I heard the music before and Nathicharamiloved  every bit of it. Then I saw the official trailer and my curiosity was piqued. I do not know of other Kannada directors having explored the subject of what two young Indian women go through in a particular phase in their lives. I saw the movie & spoke to some friends who had seen it. Most of them emphasised on the theme as “awakened sexuality of the young widow”. I beg to differ here. 

To me, the entire experience was going through Gowri’s journey after she becomes a widow. It is about how she battles loneliness, sleepless nights, parents who pressurise her to get married again (perhaps for the wrong reasons), a predatory boss and her own desires that make her feel guilty. Salvation comes in the form of two office colleagues & friends who help her with a dating app and connect her to Dr Carvalho, the psychiatrist. He helps her peel the layers of her emotions, and, deal with the mental conflicts. Loved his metaphors and one liners!

A parallel story unfolds with Suma, an educated woman from a village, yearning for her husband, Suresh’s love & affection. I appreciated the unfurling of this marital relationship, where Suresh is always condescending in his behaviour towards Suma and criticises her supposed “village mentality”.  The director, beautifully leads you to question Suresh’s frustration at one level & audacity at another level, because he also displays “village mentality” in the movie.

Yes, sexual desires or sexuality has been used as a subject to bring out deeper issues like guilt, societal reaction & gender sensitivity. Nathicharami is metaphorical, refreshing & relevant. Metaphorical, because it shows Gowri anchored to a time & relationship in the past. Refreshing, because it talks about consent for sex in a marital relationship & sensitively explores predefined notions of morality & desires. Relevant, simply because it opens up a sea of questions that ordinary women today face in the many facets of relationships. 

The movie by award winning director, Mansore, has good cinematography and amazing music by Bindhu Malini. Her unique voice is what you hear in the songs and her ease of combining various musical instruments to create hauntingly beautiful music is testimony to her musical expertise. The use of the trombone, drums & guitar is melodious and it is the kind of music I would love to play while I sit in my balcony or on my terrace, sipping a glass of wine and watch the sun go down & the moon come up with the stars shining. 

I wish more and more directors, producers and actors give us such wonderfully crafted & engaging movies like Nathicharami. We will promise to stand by them. 

 

Cheers To The Joy Of Living…As We Were Meant To!

I am overwhelmed with the amount of positive reinforcement I have got for my blog “I’m Motivated…Therefore I’m”. I’m truly truly grateful for all the kind words that all of you have said, or rather written. It just inspires me to write more 🙂 secret to happiness

A lot of times I am asked this question – “how do you stay happy, cheerful and joyous all the time?” My counter question to such people – “is there any other way to be?”

However that question got me thinking about why is it that most people feel down in the dumps or sad or low or less energetic or unenthusiastic about life? To me, life is beautiful – an everyday adventure that gives me an adrenalin rush, makes me happy and helps me spread smiles 🙂

Part of my role as a coach and mentor to budding entrepreneurs allows me to ask them pertinent, yet, relevant questions. And I get all kinds of answers to those questions…seldom answers based on feelings…mostly thoughts. Life to me is a healthy combination of both. One question I get asked invariably in those sessions is, “what are some of the things you do that allowed you to change in life?” My response, “some things I have changed, some others I have transformed.”

Here is my 4×4 matrix that allows me to lead my life the way I want to lead it…full of happiness, cheer and joy!

4x4 Matrix

4×4 Matrix

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Despite all good intentions, I did not make a huge transition till about a year and half ago. Months and years of self talk did not help – only practice did. Real change happens from the inside, not outside…that leads to transformation. My travel around the country and the world has helped me realise in a world where the only constant is me, it becomes spectacularly obvious where—internally—I struggle or thrive. And that is how I arrived at the above matrix.

1. What do I want?

How any of us really really have answers for this one? We are so caught up in the humdrum of life and everyday situations, that we forget what we want out of life. I have very often paused and asked myself this question and I have found my answering changing every now and then. Initially, this used to upset me as I thought I was fickle minded. Eventually, I had to tell myself, wanting different things at different stages in life is absolutely ok. How can I constantly want the same thing day in and day out? And obviously, once I get what I want, it is natural to want something else!

2. Belief.

The universal laws operate based on belief. Yet, we mere mortals think we know best all the time. How many times haven’t we started with faith and waited…only to stop believing because something didn’t happen when we wanted it to!!!  We must believe that what we want is possible; that it can happen and we can do it. I remember for a very long time I had stopped believing that I will find my soul mate back in my life. Till I continued to remain in that state, he did not come back into my life. The day I changed my thoughts, reinforced feelings of happiness as I visualised him back in my life…the situation changed. I met him again and life has never been the same. So, keep the belief on!!!

3. Intentions.

Our intentions determine that we don’t waver so easily from our path. Life is full of distractions – both internal and external. How we deal with these, will determine how steadily we move towards fulfilling our goals. I begin each morning with one clear intention: concentration, generosity, gratitude, peace, joy, energy, clarity, balance, or whatever it is that I want for that day. Throughout the day, I keep reminding myself of this intention. The more I remember my intention, the more effortless living it becomes.

4. Live life purposefully

This is very closely associated with the first point of what do I want? All of us have a purpose…a purpose beyond the obvious lives we lead. Discovering that purpose itself is a wonderful journey…you meet so many beautiful people as part of that journey. All our actions must become sacred rituals that yield intentional results. Which means, we must focus on that purpose. Our means of achieving that purpose can change as we grow older and mature. Mine did…and I know it will in future also. However, the basic value system of that purpose remains the same – to help as many people as I can in their endeavours, in whatever manner I can. Writing this blog is one such manner.   move

5. Be positive.

Huh??? “Everybody is saying this me…how can I implement this?” I will share how I do this all the time. Two years ago I discovered a wonderful book called The Magic, which taught me to be grateful for every small and big thing in my life. I put my heart and soul into the 28 day practice of being grateful for everything in my life. One of the toughest practices in those 28 days was the practice of gratitude even when I heard negativity all around me. For example, the sound of an ambulance automatically brings negative thoughts, which allows the mind to wander in that space. But, The Magic taught me to be grateful that it wasn’t me or my near & dear ones in the ambulance. Boy! Was that tough!!! Yet, I learnt to look at things positively and to be grateful for everything, everyone and every situation in my life. 🙂

6. Be selfish.

Do we pay compliments to others? Do we tell others that they are wonderful people and that we love them? My question to all of you out there – how many times have you said I love you to yourself???

Go ahead, be selfish…if you don’t love yourself enough, how on earth will you love others around you? I am selfish enough to chose to be happy everyday, healthy and wealthy everyday…nobody can give that to me. I have to gift it to myself. I do one thing everyday that is absolutely selfish…could be listening to my kind of music, taking a long soothing bath, a massage, curl up in my favourite chair & read something I enjoy….something that makes ME feel good! I call it self therapy 😉

7. Be Aware.

Life is all about living in the now…too much in the past, you are history, too much in the future, you are lost. Being aware of who you are and most important, why are you doing what you are doing is critical. I have learnt that the whys of life are more important than the hows of life. If your why is clear, the how will automatically happen. The universe creates a path for your why. Live…and live in the present most of the time. Use the past as life’s lessons and learn. Visualize the future you want. Act in the present – that’s my mantra to move ahead.

8. Be habituated.

For things to change, we have to do certain things everyday… regularly enough that it starts becoming a habit or a pattern. Choose something that you really want and do it Every Single Day. Today I’m habituated to a lot of good things – reading is one such habit. Writing also is another one. I make it a point to write something everyday…either my blog, a poem, a few thoughts & feelings. It is only habits that bring transformation. I’m researching for a book that I want to write. It took me a while to build in the discipline to research everyday for an hour and half and compile the information…otherwise I know the book will remain a pipe dream.

9. Breathe.

Funny right? Most of you must be wondering why is she talking about something that we do sub consciously. Exactly! We breathe because we are used to it…it just happens. But, now, take a deep breath and become conscious of your breath. Let go slowly…feel the exhilaration. Get out into the open, watch the sun rise in the morning and breath in the early morning fresh air. You will feel lighter and in heaven. Meditate and concentrate on your breathing…play around with your pace of breathing and then settle into a rhythm. You will find a different you!!!

10. Feel.

I know most people will say “oh no!!! not that again!!!” We are a world of people who are afraid to feel. Everyday we have more and more tools to feel less and less. The moment we experience intense feelings, we hide behind these tools – television, internet, food, alcohol, drugs, small meaningless talk. We are never taught to deal with uncomfortable emotions – loneliness, boredom, fear, hope. We all build our own coping mechanisms that may or may not be good. Seldom do we express what we feel….we just cope. I know my man is going to roll his eyes and say,”there she goes again”. My only earnest request to all of you – do not numb yourself to feelings. Feel and feel more…it’s all you in any case.

11. Eat.

We all have our own version of soul food. Food cures a lot of things emotionally for us. And no, I do not refer to binge eating here. I am talking about simple pleasures like biting into a juicy crunchy apple, sipping a chamomile flavoured tea & breathing in the delicate aroma, digging into a healthy crisp salad or a cheesy macaroni. When I eat, it’s not just my tongue. My nose, my eyes and most of all, my heart savours every delightful morsel. Feel what you eat!!!

12. Move.

Walk. Run. Jump. Dance. Climb. The key here is to keep movement on. Our body is filled with multiple energy channels. When we don’t move, we block those channels. As long we we keep up steady moves, energy is flowing through out our body. Nature did not create this body to be desk bound all through the day and couch bound in the evenings. Moving our bodies is physically detoxifying. So, go ahead and stretch and make some noise while you are at it! You will feel liberated.

13. Set boundaries.

We have to determine what we want to receive and what is unacceptable to us. And then communicate this to others. This will naturally set boundaries for all. Everyone will then know what is to be expected. We should not expect others to behave in accordance with our wants or desires. This also shows the other person that you are sure about what you want. They may not like it, but, believe me, they will respect you for expressing it in the long run.

14. Don’t take things personally.

A very tough call. It becomes a tough call because we do not understand that nothing in life is personal. It is only our reaction to a certain situation or person that triggers a reaction or response, as the case maybe. What someone says or does that strikes an emotional chord with us is always a reflection of our own insecurities, values, and perceptions.Knowing that nothing is personal, releases the burden of what other people think and how they behave. We have to look within and ask ourselves what our thoughts and our behaviour say about us.

15. Spend time alone.

There is a clutter in our minds, an incessant noise that drowns everything else that we ought to listen to. The only way you will listen to your inner voice is when you stop the external voice. The external voice can be stopped when you spend time alone. My alone time fuels and energizes me when I return to the social world. Years ago, I used to wonder what will I do if I’m left alone…I did not enjoy my company even for a short duration. Then I met a wonderful lady called Dr Prema Panduranga, who in her discourse asked all of us one question – if you cannot spend even a few minutes in your own company, how should others spend hours with you?

Take a long walk by yourself… no music. Go out to dinner and sit at a table alone. Enjoy your meal and drink. Sit by yourself in nature and just stare at what surrounds you. Notice what you feel in your body. Notice where your thoughts go. Realize that you are not only capable of manoeuvring the world with your own strength, you are cable of manoeuvring your thoughts and your feelings. Find complete freedom to be you when you are alone.

16. Let go.

The most difficult and yet, the most transformative act is letting go. Letting go is akin to cleaning your cupboard and throwing out the unwanted stuff. If I don’t clean my cupboard periodically, how will I make place for the things I buy? It’s the same with emotional letting go. If I don’t let go of my old experiences, how will I have new ones? Let go of everything that is not making us better individuals…and it includes this matrix too. If this doesn’t work for you, create your own matrix and share it with us!!!

Live joyously 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Language Of The Souls…

Music is the shorthand of emotion…the language of souls – Leo Tolstoy.  

When we seek to express or evoke emotion we turn to melody. It is on this premise that entire movie industry is based on. How else do we account for heroes & heroines breaking into a song at the drop of a hat :). There is an inner connection between music and the spirit. When language aspires to the transcendent and the soul longs to break free of the gravitational pull of the earth, it modulates into song. Music, said Arnold Bennett is “a language which the soul alone understands but which the soul can never translate.” It is, in Richter’s words “the poetry of the air.”  Goethe said, “Religious worship cannot do without music. It is one of the foremost means to work upon man with an effect of marvel.”

Words are the language of the mind. Music is the language of the soul. Take a music bath once or twice a week for a few seasons.  You will find it is to the soul what a water bath is to the body, said Oliver Wendell Holmes.

We use music in every aspect of life and one of music’s most prominent and most important role has been within the realm of religion. In various world religions, whether it be Christianity, Islam, Judaism, or Hinduism, music plays a significant part in the way that the believers relate to their Gods, to other believers, and in how they understand and pass down their religion. Music works as a means of expressing passion and gratitude to the subject of worship and for religious adherents to convey their feelings to the deity of choice.

Every day, in Judaism, the morning prayers are with Pesukei de-Zimra, the ‘Verses of Song’ with their magnificent crescendo, Psalm 150, in which instruments and the human voice combine to sing God’s praises.

The most important texts in Hinduism are the Vedas. The Veda “is regarded by some Hindus as a timeless revelation which is not of human authorship, is eternal, and contains all knowledge, while others regard it to be the revelation of God.” The original four Vedas, the Rig Veda, Yajur Veda, Sama Veda, and Atharva Veda are all comprised of hymns, songs, and mantras. Hindu devotional music is called Bhajan and finds it roots in Sama Veda.  With easy lilting flow, the colloquial renderings, these are sung in a group comprising devotees, with a lead singer.

Christian music is music that has been written to express either personal or a communal belief regarding Christian life and faith.  Most Christian music involves singing, whether by the whole congregation (assembly) or a specialized subgroup—such as a duet, trio, quartet, madrigal, choir, or worship band. One of the earliest forms of worship music in the church was the Gregorian chant. Pope Gregory I was acknowledged as the first person to order such music in the church, hinting the name “Gregorian” chant. The chant took place around 590–604 CE (reign of Pope Gregory I). 

While the question of permissibility of music in Islamic jurisprudence is historically disputed, and there are two perspectives, music nevertheless does exist as part of offering praises to the Lord. Certain sects of the mystic Sufi Muslims, believe that music impels a person to seek the spiritual world.  It is said that, “the nature of music’s influence on man very much depends on the basic intentions of the listener (Shiloah, 1995). Therefore, music is not inherently evil: rather, the listener’s interpretation of musical experience can be evil.”

Irrespective of what the source is, whether it is religious music, instrumental music, pop, rock, classical etc, one common factor is transcending racial, cultural, and ideological boundaries, music is a universal language that brings together human beings from all different origins, backgrounds, and ethnicities. Used in many cultures and traditions as a vehicle for inner reflection and contemplation, music invigorates the spirit and strengthens higher love. In addition, in recent years musicologists have explored numerous therapeutic and psychological benefits of music.

In his book, Musicophilia, the neurologist and writer Oliver Sacks tells the poignant story of Clive Wearing, an eminent musicologist who was struck by a devastating brain infection. The result was acute amnesia. He was unable to remember anything for more than a few seconds. As his wife Deborah put it, ‘It was as if every waking moment was the first waking moment.’

Unable to thread experiences together, he was caught in an endless present that had no connection with anything that had gone before. One day his wife found him holding a chocolate in one hand and repeatedly covering and uncovering it with the other hand, saying each time, ‘Look, it’s new.’ ‘It’s the same chocolate’, she said. ‘No’, he replied, ‘look. It’s changed.’ He had no past at all. In a moment of awareness he said about himself, ‘I haven’t heard anything, seen anything, touched anything, smelled anything. It’s like being dead.’

Two things broke through his isolation. One was his love for his wife. The other was music. He could still sing, play the organ and conduct a choir with all his old skill and verve. What was it about music, Sacks asked, that enabled him, while playing or conducting, to overcome his amnesia? The answer was that when we ‘remember’ a melody, we recall one note at a time, yet each note relates to the whole. Victor Zuckerkandl, who wrote, ‘Hearing a melody is hearing, having heard, and being about to hear, all at once. Every melody declares to us that the past can be there without being remembered, the future without being foreknown.’ Music is a form of sensed continuity that can sometimes break through the most overpowering disconnections in our experience of time. 

Music is also like faith. Music integrates. And as music connects note to note, so faith connects episode to episode, life to life, age to age in a timeless melody that breaks into time. I will say music is a signal of transcendence. So, every generation needs new songs. The history of human spirit is written in the songs we sing. The words do not change, but each generation needs its own melodies.

When the soul sings, the human spirit soars!