Life Sentence

I’m a prisoner in my own mind

sentenced to a life of despair,

and the only one able to save me

is behind bars, too.

For years, I longed for a savior –

an attentive parent,

an inspiring mentor,

a romantic partner.

For years, I waited.

People came and people went,

but not one of them could save me.

Because the only one able to save me

is behind bars, too.

She has the keys to our freedom,

but not quite the strength.

She knows that I love her,

but my love is weak.

We’ve spent so many years apart,

walled off from each other

because I abandoned her,

but only to protect her.

What good was our bond if it had only caused pain?

So she turned her back on me,

and I on her.

Doesn’t matter that we were stuck in the same cell,

the walls between us of our own making.

All these years later,

I turn to face her.

She’s the only one who can save us,

if only she could muster the will.

I’m begging her to unlock the prison door,

and set us free.

Let us live as one,

in this perfect human body,

with this identity that, together, we can sculpt to our liking. 

Let’s forget the past

and not dwell on the future,

but just experience each moment as it comes,

with nothing but love for each other,

with nothing but gratitude for our oneness,

with nothing but grace and contentment in our heart.

She reluctantly turns towards me

and points to something in my hand.

Turns out, 

I had the key to our freedom all along.

When I look to the prison bars,

all I see is a curtain of wild flowers intertwined with leafy vines,

sunlight peaking in through the gaps.

We hold hands,

lift up the curtain together,

and walk into the beautiful landscape 

of the unknown.

We saved ourselves.

And who knows?

Maybe we are the savior in someone else’s story, too.

My Adventures in Meditating on the London Underground

Recently, I started working full-time in an office environment, after 12 years of being in Academia. It’s taking my body some time to adjust to the longer hours – the early morning, 45 minute commute, the long stretches of time sitting in front of a screen, and the exhausting return home during rush hour when I’m lucky if I can find a spot in the tube to stand, shoulder-to-shoulder with other weary passengers, who can’t wait to get home, plop onto their sofas and watch Netflix in a state of zombie-like zen (for those of us with kids to put to bed, this end-of-day ecstasy doesn’t come for another couple hours).

During my time on the tube, I’ve tried listening to music and reading books (yes, even standing up, with one hand clasped around a pole for dear life, and the other expertly holding the book and turning its pages with a flick of my thumb). As a person who’s recently stumbled onto, for lack of a better word, “meditation”, not by reading about it or watching YouTube videos, but quite accidentally and on my own, I decided one day to attempt it while crammed into the tube like a suffocating sardine.

Up until this point, I had only meditated while lying down. It was just simpler to tell people I wanted to lie down and take a nap, than to say, “I’m going to go focus on releasing my negative energy and replacing it with something much lighter.” That day on the tube, with nothing to do and nowhere to go, not wanting to whip out my phone and stare at it like everyone else was doing, I closed my eyes and began my process. At first, I felt a bit awkward. I mean, what would people think? It’s one thing to close your eyes and nod off while sitting, but to do it while standing? They would think I had the uncanny ability to sleep stand.

After a while, when I realized that nobody really cared enough to focus on what I was doing, I closed my eyes again and returned to my meditation. I took a deep breath in and keenly focused my concentration onto the topmost part of my head. As I breathed out, I felt an inner layer of soul skin slowly rolling down from my head to my toes, and an immediate sense of relief from letting it go. Another breath, in and out, focusing this time on my eyes – not exactly my eyes, rather the muscles around my eyes – and I felt the muscles relax, as another layer of consciousness unspooled within me.

With each breath, and each concentrated intention to release the stress from each part of my body, I peeled off all the layers of soul skin, until there was nothing left but raw, pulsating energy circulating within me. My physical skin tingled from its touch. The more I concentrated on it, the more the energy grew. It kept expanding, like a rising balloon, until it was ready to depart my nuisance of a body, with all its limitations, its aches and pains. This pure energy, that was really and truly me, rose up into the air and flew through the clouds, leaving behind the preoccupied people of the world, until they appeared as mere ants in procession, and later, as tiny dots scattered on the globe, and ultimately, were nowhere to be seen.

This being of energy wanted to go somewhere where it could grow, where it could combine with other beings into one enormous entity. This being felt like it could soar. This being felt like bliss.

As I experienced this energy-induced “high”, for a moment I didn’t feel like just another drained commuter going home, on a day that too closely resembled previous days, feeling like nothing she was doing really mattered in life. My spirit drifted, weightless and unburdened.

In an instant, the vehicle where I had left my physical body behind, came lurching to a violent stop. The energy magically returned to its original human packaging. My eyes opened to register my surroundings. I disembarked at my destination and joined the throngs of other worker bees headed home. But I had a little extra pep in my step. A renewed energy to get me through dinner, my son’s bedtime routine, and my own personal rituals for winding down.

Also, I was reminded that there was a blessing in just my being. I don’t necessarily need to do something outstanding to win the accolades or admiration of my peers, and feel worthy of being in this world. I just need to be, and that is all. There is something sacred inside of me, and I need only close my eyes, breathe deeply, and shut my mind, to access it. Perhaps if I made the effort to meditate more often, I’d be able to shine some of that magic into the outer world, too.

An Act of Fearlessness

Lately, I’ve been suffering from anxiety, which is new for me. It feels like there are a thousand spiders crawling underneath my skin, like my body is full of toxic chemicals, and all I want to do is scream. I snap at my closest loved ones over the smallest things. I wish they would go away and just leave me alone. My head feels muddled, my speech gets tongue-tied, and my hands shake. My heart races and I keep trying different things to calm myself down – deep breathing, light reading, watching a funny show. Nothing seems to work, except sleep, of course. Sleep feels like the answer to everything, sometimes.

Perhaps the Universe is using anxiety to spur me to write more. I usually end up feeling better after writing, but the act of saying “no” to all the daily demands of life, finding a quiet corner, and putting pen to paper can feel more overwhelming than just dealing with all the shit life throws at you. Sometimes I think I’d write more, if only I could get a break, a few days with no one around to make demands of me. I know that wouldn’t help though. I mean, I’d love the free time, but I know I wouldn’t write. I’ve been in that situation before, and I did everything from cleaning the bathrooms to binge watching old sitcoms, anything to avoid writing. How can one person want so badly to write and yet run away from it at the same time? All my life, I’ve heard people say, you know you’re a writer if you always feel the desire to write. I hardly ever want to write, but I know I’m most alive when I do.  For me, writing feels like an event, an act of fearlessness. Does anyone else ever feel that way?

 

What is Happiness?

I believe there is infinite beauty inside each of us like a locked treasure without a key. But instead of trying to unlock that inner beauty, most of us spend our time watching spectacles on TV like a child at the circus, or running around a hamster wheel in the pursuit of money and the happiness it cannot buy. The irony is, no one is happy. In fact, research shows that the happiest people are usually those with the least amount of possessions in this world – the weak, the sick, the elderly, and children. Because they know what it means to be truly grateful. And so, I believe, the secret to happiness is gratitude.

I am grateful to the master architect of this world, the artist who created a diversity of landscapes, and scattered them with creatures of all shapes and sizes. I am grateful to the sculptor who created me from clay and deemed me worthy of this beautiful world, who breathed into me my soul, so that I could remember. But instead of remembering, I walked the path of forgetfulness. It seemed like the right path since that’s where everyone else was going. My parents tried their best to guide me. But it was hard for them, too, because, to some degree, they struggled with the same sense of directionlessness, as I do now.

I am grateful to the chess player who placed me on this side of the checkered board, under the watchful eye of this king and queen – my father and mother – because they were always kind and loving and principled, and they always provided. That is all a parent can really do for their child, isn’t it?

I am grateful to the script writer who always kept me on the move, journeying from one country to another, to another, to another. He kept me on my toes, like a choreographer showing me the beauty of each movement, the thrill of each twist and turn in my story. She taught me to keep my head down, my heart open, and my body full of grace, like a ballerina pirouetting through life; not the best ballerina, though, because I stumbled often and sometimes fell flat on my face. Puberty, boys, friendships, fights, secrets, the use of words as weapons, the heart divided, thinking what it wanted and what it should want were two different things, completely. I am grateful to the negotiator, who coaxed me through this barbed wire and helped me get to the other side, intact.

I am grateful, too, to the one-who-shall-not-be-named because, without him, I would never have experienced the most basic sense of duality, good versus evil, and I would never have known which direction to go in. He kept me thinking all my life that my lack of confidence was actually my humility; my silence, my strength; and the noise around me a thing of beauty and intelligence, which had to be heard with a sense of urgency because that noise would guide me, and tell me how to stay young, make money, sound smart, and look sexy. The noise would keep the voices at bay, the ones he had snuck inside my head. Those voices told me exactly what he wanted me to believe – that I was worthless, burdensome, ugly. That the only way to rise up in life was through worldly success.

But now, I know better. The voices were only his minions, a way to keep me quiet and walking in the wrong direction. I am grateful to the teacher who uncovered, for me, the truth, who turned me around and told me to shut off all the noise and listen, instead, to my soul. And when I consciously experienced my soul for the first time, it was like my black and white world transformed into technicolor. Like I was seeing the world for the first time, through a child’s eyes, full of wonder and awe. The teacher coaxed open my memory and suddenly, I remembered. I remembered Him. I remembered my promise to Him. I remembered She loved me, and was merciful and forgiving. I remembered She was scary, too, like a parent trying to discipline her child. I remembered that I loved Him, for providing for me, food, water, shelter, yes, but also my senses, my comforts, the people in my life, the challenges that made me struggle till my knees buckled under, the moments of grace when I understood just a little more of His grand plan.

He is like my parent, my lover, my child, my best friend, my everything, all rolled into One. I am eternally grateful to Him. And THIS is what makes me happy.

This piece is a reminder for me, more than anything else, to be grateful. Do you feel grateful? If so, for who or what? I’d love to know.