Your Gift

My every breath is for you,

but also,

from you –

a gift that often feels like a curse.

You gave me life,

when all I really want is to be with you.

The irony, though, 

is that when we re-unite,

I’ll be too far gone to know it.

You’ve given me this gift of the human experience,

that I may be aware of pain and pleasure,

that I may chart my own path,

creating heaven or hell on earth.

You’ve given me distractions, too,

responsibilities and relationships,

agonies and enchantments.

You insist upon this gulf between us,

making sure that when I get embroiled in this earthly existence,

I will forget you.

But, here, too, your penchant for irony abounds,

because if I don’t forget you,

then how will I ever know the ecstasy that comes 

with awakening to your memory,

of realizing I’m not alone,

and never have been?

Like a child in her mother’s warm embrace,

a lover in her partner’s adoring gaze,

I will feel the relief that comes with surrender.

No matter how far you send me, 

I will find my way back.

Being apart from you is excruciating 

but exquisite, too.

You are the only thing 

that fills the void within.

I see you everywhere –

in the people I love,

and the people I try not to hate.

I see you in the movies I watch

and the books I read,

in mankind’s evolving knowledge of science and space,

their growing wisdom of the mind, body and spirit.

I see you everywhere

and nowhere,

and all I have to keep for myself,

as undeniable proof of your love,

is your gift.

This breath.

I will honor this breath as best as I can.

I will honor this breath as best as I can,

but even when I can’t,

when I mix up my realities

and mess up my priorities,

your gift will still be with me,

never judging,

only loving.

I’ll know that as long as I follow the trail of that breath,

and remember you in my every step,

I will never be lost.

In this moment,

with this breath,

I am yours.

I am yours.

I am yours.

All Stories Can Be Summed Up Into This One Line

We are one.

Whether it’s a Regency-era novel or reality TV, self-help books or Sufi poetry, indie movies or Insta highlights – every story we read/hear gives us a peak into someone else’s life.

The story might be set in a past or future landscape, and take place halfway across the world from you. It might be an encapsulation of one person’s emotions or her description of a moment in time. Whatever the story, each one shows us another perspective, another life into which we could have been born. But just because we weren’t, doesn’t mean we can’t try to understand what it’s like to be “other”.

Stories create empathy. They allow us to see ourselves in others. And if we can truly see our reflection in another person, or in several other people, or, indeed, the whole of mankind, we would realize that we’re all the same. We each have a human body with a soul or consciousness. We all go through the same cycles of life and experience the same laws of nature.

If you walked down the street today, and passed by someone who looked exactly like you, perhaps you’d be more likely to smile and say “Hi!” If your enemy suddenly transformed into your mirror image, you’d probably be more likely to resolve your conflicts and forgive him. What if you saw yourself on the news, being attacked or oppressed in some way; wouldn’t you be more likely to help yourself? To speak up, to tell your story, to call out injustice. To create an uproar.

We are one. And like some idiot who hammers nails into his feet and sets his hair on fire, we’re only hurting ourselves by not taking care of each other. It’s only natural for our world to be in pain right now. It’s a symptom of all the damage we’ve inflicted on each other. What’s unnatural is for us – all of us – to not be screaming out in anguish.

Dayton. El Paso. Chicago.

Kashmir. Palestine. Syria.

The Amazon Forest. Our polluted oceans. The toxic atmosphere.

There is no lack of stories to be told, people and places to be cared for. And the great thing is, there is no lack of love in this world, or positive energy with which to spread that love.

So next time you’re walking down the street, see if you can spot yourself – your thoughts, your emotions, your experiences – in the person that passes you by. Then take a moment to wonder what that person’s story might be. The tingle that you feel in your heart? It’s called Empathy, and it’s just another word for Love.

My First Prose Poem Performance

About nine months ago, I shared a prose poem with all of you entitled, “Bare Naked”. If you didn’t get a chance to read it, you can find it here. Today, I’m sharing a video of myself for the first time, in which I’m “performing” it. This is new to me, so thank you, in advance, for your views and comments!

What Does it Mean to be Free?

Sometimes I wonder what it would be like

to evaporate into the air,

transform into a molecule of oxygen and join the rush of wind

as it enters my house through an open window,

flowing past me in a wave of ecstasy,

before rushing out again.

I wonder what it would be like to fly,

to feel the coolness of the breeze and the warmth of the sun at the same time.

But not just to feel the breeze,

to be the breeze,

leaving everyone I pass in a state of bliss.

I wonder what it would be like to feel my own self so fully,

my own little universe in my own tiny molecule,

but also, to be a part of something greater than myself,

the collective expanse of air that makes up our atmosphere.

I wonder what it would be like to fly through the world,

and go anywhere I wanted,

not rooted to any spot,

not bound by the limitations of geography

or the human body.

I wonder what it would feel like

to own this world.

All my life I have felt unanchored,

adrift at sea,

and uncomfortable,

in a way that disturbed me when I was growing up.

The fact of the matter is,

I’m still growing up.

I used to spend each day

trying to figure out why I felt this way,

why I couldn’t feel at peace in the security of my family,

the walls of my house,

knowing that I was loved

knowing that I was taken care of.

Why wasn’t that enough for me?

Now I’m starting to think

I was never actually meant to cling to anything so tightly in the first place.

I was meant to be free,

I just never understood how.

Why would I want to hold on so fiercely to things,

to relationships,

to moments,

to concepts of home,

that are all just constructs of my imagination,

none of them permanent?

No matter how precious they are to me,

I have no control over any of them.

In fact, I have no control over anything.

And that’s why I need to learn to be okay

with just being that free-floating molecule of air,

whether I’m lying stagnant on a hot summer’s day

or whipping about in a fevered frenzy,

or even being thrown from one side of the world to the other

in what feels like a catastrophic storm.

I have no control over what happens in this world.

So why am I trying to grasp so fervently onto what are,

essentially,

clouds,

reassuring and ephemeral,

beautiful yet banal.

I need to learn to let go.

I need to learn to let go

and just enjoy the ride.

Maybe then being unanchored will feel more like freedom.

I am larger than what my body allows me to be.

I am a force of nature, bursting at the seams,

as if I’m trying to get out,

not out of this world, mind you,

but, out of my body.

I’ve always known that there was something precious inside me –

inside all of us –

but for years, I hid it away like a dirty secret

under all these layers of my own making

and now that I’m trying to strip away those layers

and tear down those walls,

that sparkling and buoyant Being is expanding inside of me.

It wants to grow larger than humanly possible.

It wants to bend reality and challenge the limits of my imagination.

It wants to break free,

as if this combination of body and mind is some kind of prison,

but it’s not.

At least, it doesn’t have to be.

It’s only a prison if I allow it to be one.

It’s meant to be a vessel that I borrowed for a short time

which will help me experience what it’s like to be human,

to experience pain and pleasure and everything in between

the way only a human can.

But this growing Being inside of me

isn’t quite content with this arrangement.

It wants to be free.

Of what, I’m not sure.

How can I be both a human of this world,

and a Being far harder to describe, from some other world,

at the same time?

One foot here and one foot there.

How can I be in two different places at once,

two different beings in one?

Please help me

to be both human and spirit at the same time,

to find the balance to float freely between worlds,

as seamlessly as the wind blowing in and out of my window.

Please help me to unanchor myself from my limited understanding of the world,

and to be okay with it.

I long for the truth,

but I don’t need to know it all,

at least not yet.

Please help me let my Being evolve as much as it can,

even if that means it grows larger than the confines of my body,

as enormous as the Earth itself,

as inexhaustible as the universe.

Who says I can only be a human who exists inside the universe?

Why can’t I be something greater?

Something shiny yet invisible, full yet free, everywhere and nowhere at once, 

with the universe inside of me?

Fragmented

Do you know what it’s like to feel fragmented?

Like your brain has been chopped up into several chunky pieces and simmered into stew.

I can almost see the steam rising out of my ears,

as the wheels in my head churn endlessly,

processing all the data being thrown at it,

from a child’s tantrum to a boss’s email

to the 100+ Whatsapp messages waiting for me each night.

When did I start using my head more than my heart?

My poor, simple heart,

that yearns only for one thing:

connection.

The same connection we’re promised when tricked into buying fancy phones and faster Internet,

shiny cars and sappy Mother’s Day cards.

It seems like everything advertised these days promises a feeling of connection,

which never really comes,

does it?

So instead, the head tells the heart to be quiet and stop whining;

it’s distracting the head from calculating, assessing, judging, and overthinking everything.

The heart learns to be quiet and wait patiently,

but wait, it still does.

For magic?

For a miracle, maybe.

For a feeling of oneness that will render the mind speechless.

Then we’ll see whose turn it is to be quiet.

The Wind

What is wind but the air in transit,

from one part of the world to the other,

constantly on the move,

thoughtlessly sweeping across deserts and meadows alike,

not knowing where exactly it’s going, but going, nonetheless?

How does wind decide where to go?

Does it go where it is needed most?

Where it can provide a respite to people drenched by the heat of the sun,

or a gentle breeze to lovers by the lake?

Does it go where it can blow seeds from one section of the soil to another, to maintain the cyclical nature of life?

Or does it go where it can do the most damage?

Awe-inspiring, beautiful chaos,

an upheaval of everything we hold dear?

Where it spirals maniacally and sucks up everything in its wake,

or thrashes the shores like an abusive parent wanting to teach his children a lesson,

one they’ll never forget?

Where it joins forces with other elements, like rain, electricity, and fire,

creating the perfect storm,

a thing of magnificent power, destruction the world could never anticipate?

But most days, the wind is just the wind,

sometimes pleasing, other times a nuisance.

It moves thoughtlessly through the world, with no understanding of just how much power it yields.

On noiseless nights, if you listen very carefully, you might hear what the wind is saying.

“Look at me. Feel me. Hear me.”

Just because you can’t see me, doesn’t mean I don’t exist.”

So look. Feel. Listen.

Is that the whisper of the wind you hear, or a stirring in your soul?

Do you feel the uneasiness that comes with realizing how much power you yield,

and how little you’re doing to channel it in the right direction?

If you’re reading this post,

then you know it’s no longer good enough

to just get by in life,

like a light breeze picking fallen leaves off the ground and scattering them willy nilly.

It’s time to wield your power,

to gather your invisible forces,

and channel them with intention,

always listening to the silent stirrings of your soul.

Don’t just let the wind whip you around at its will.

Hold strong.

Pay attention.

All around us are signs

for those who can hear.

There is a Space

There is a space

where words run out

and logic meets emotion,

the metaphysical meets the metaphorical,

and our entire human experience can be distilled into one basic premise:

Oneness.

Logic tells us we will thrive if we unite, and suffer if we divide.

Emotions tells us it is when we feel connected to, and loved by, others,

that we feel our best.

Science tells us that the planets revolve around the sun,

the electrons around the protons,

and everything around the universal laws of nature.

Our storytellers describe the paths of protagonists as being arduous,

yet surpassable if conquered with others,

and the outcome of villains to be loathsome and lonely.

Just as there exists a soul within each of us,

there exists a collective soul in the entire human race,

an unfolding story,

from Creation till today,

a developing vision,

of tomorrow and beyond.

There is a thread that connects us all,

our predecessors to our progeny,

one race to another,

from tribe to tribe,

and warrior to warrior.

If we acknowledge that bond and base our life around it,

there is no obstacle we cannot overcome,

no goal too far from reach.

But if we ignore the thread, or worse,

forget about it,

even snip ourselves free from its “burden”,

then we are on our own,

each man for himself,

survival of the fittest,

law of the jungle.

Who do you want to be?

What is really in your best interest?

Sure, success is a valid form of measurement,

so long as it’s based on the prosperity of the whole,

not the wealth of the few.

How far we’ve come,

yet how far we’ve fallen.

Do you think there’s still hope?

Well, we are still standing,

at least for now.

Let’s give it our best shot.

Let’s let go of all this disingenuous “othering”,

and allow ourselves to melt into the earth,

and meld into each other.

Magnify our One Voice.

Manifest a future free of fear.

Let’s immerse ourselves

within the space

where words run out

and logic meets emotion,

where what I want

is what you want,

and all we have to do is get there,

together.

Bare Naked

Bare yourself naked, they say.

Be who you really are.

Allow yourself to be vulnerable;

only then will you achieve genuine happiness.

No matter that you’ll feel genuine sorrow, too,

and pain and love and passion,

the whole gamut of emotions.

What does it mean, though, to be vulnerable?

Should you unpeel yourself like a piece of fruit?

First, the outer, strongest layer,

the one that protects you from pain,

but also the one that prevents you from truly mixing with the others who are so like and unlike you,

the banana with the mandarin,

the apples with the strawberries,

the pomegranate with the pears?

If you strip away this outer layer of ego, what will happen?

Only the pulp will remain,

the substance,

the spirit.

Imagine unpeeling even further,

till you get to the core,

till you understand what exactly is at the center of your being.

It’s a mystery, and yet, you want so badly to know, don’t you?

Is there a black hole inside you, swallowing your emotions,

leaving you feeling alienated and numb in this world,

a black hole that, one day, will swallow you up entirely?

Or is it more like a white light, which illuminates your mind,

and pours through your pores,

making you shine like a gemstone,

dissolving your outer surface,

the sharp edges and rough texturing,

to reveal the hidden quartz inside?

What will you find at the core of your being,

if only you would examine it,

excavate it,

empower it?

You have a theory.

You think God might be hiding inside of you,

playing the longest ever game of hide and seek,

and you haven’t been able to find Him

until now.

He’s hiding inside you,

but also inside him and her,

and within the bark of the trees and the veins of the leaves.

He’s hiding in a light bulb where a moth will burn if it gets too close,

and in the center of the sun,

where you’re warned not to look for fear of going blind.

He’s hiding in your parents and grandparents,

in your children and grandchildren,

in the puzzle pieces you used to play with,

clapping in triumph when you’d finally put them all together.

He’s hiding in books and movies which have moved you to tears, laughter, and awe.

He’s hiding in the music which lifts you, and makes you want to dance,

or meditate on meaning.

He’s even hiding in your enemy, isn’t He?

Showing you what it means to be “other”,

because only then will you know what it means to be human,

and how to bring the world closer together.

What does it mean, then, to be vulnerable?

It means just letting yourself be,

travelling deep within and unlocking the gates,

exposing whatever there is inside –

the dark, the beautiful, the glistening, the gray –

allowing people in and allowing people out.

It means learning to become comfortable with being uncomfortable.

It means doing the things that scare you the most,

‘cause what’s life without a little adventure?

It means using your voice to change the world,

but first,

going in search of that voice.

I bet it’s hiding in there somewhere,

maybe right next to God.

Go find it and don’t come back till you do.

 

Bare yourself naked, they say.

Well, are they ready to hear what’s coming their way?

Are they ready for you?

Are YOU ready for you?

It’s about damn time.

Home

What is home?

And if someone knows, can he/she please tell me where mine is?

When you’re young,

home is simply mother.

The giver of all your milk and love.

The receiver of all your poop and tears.

Slowly, home grows to include father,

and then siblings,

and finally,

the concrete walls within which you sleep and wake every day.

Home stays that way for a while, and continues to impress itself upon your memory,

with its smells of mac’n’cheese and aloo gosht,

the sounds of your brothers practicing with their band in the basement,

the sight of sunlight pouring in from specific angles every day,

just so,

the feel of your fuzzy stuffed animal collection,

or the soft, pink hairiness of the carpet in your room.

But what happens when you’re suddenly uprooted and swept away to another continent?

Does home remain where it was,

something to be nostalgic about in later years,

something that will seep into all your future dreams?

Or will it become this new city, where, apparently, you were born,

and everyone tells you how much you’ve grown?

The place your parents called home, before the idea of you even existed?

With time, this new place turns into home,

with confiding friends, loyal cousins, first love, and hating homework.

In this new home, no one needs to keep asking you how to pronounce your name,

or where you’re from,

or where that is.

Things are good.

Things are really good,

until you leave again,

this time, by choice,

for the sake of education, on the surface,

but really,

for adventure.

This will be temporary, you think.

So it doesn’t matter if your new, makeshift home keeps changing from one claustrophobic dorm room to another,

because this is a rite of passage,

and you know you’ll fly home one day.

Then suddenly you wake up and realize

seven years have passed

and you never went back.

When it’s time,

home changes, yet again,

from your parents’ home to your husband’s.

This home is lovely,

new and exciting, but fraught with its own tensions.

This home will stay, you hope.

No matter which part of the globe you’re in,

no matter how many cities you visit,

or how many times you have to buy new furniture,

this home will stay.

Does that mean home is not a place then,

but rather, a person?

People can be so unpredictable.

They come and go.

They have their own tales of home to deal with.

They’re fickle and hard to control,

in fact, not at all within your control.

A decade on, and you start to feel that home is not a person or a place.

It’s you.

Because you’re the only one you can really control,

and trust to be there during every up and down.

Your body, the skin and everything within,

this is your home.

But wait!

Even this home is starting to feel different.

It’s no longer as energetic as it once was.

Aches and pains have erupted in hidden corners of the body that you always took for granted.

This body is aging,

and you realize it won’t be around forever.

What, then, is home?

Not a place,

not a person,

not a human body you think you control.

What is home?

Home is still you,

you eventually conclude,

just not the physical you.

That part is only temporary.

Home is the source from which you came,

and where, hopefully, you’ll one day return.

Home is an invisible being

who embraces you every day

especially when you need it most.

Home is the soul and all that it’s connected to,

which, very conveniently, follows you around the world,

without any moving fees,

or emotional goodbyes,

anxious first days,

or troubling sighs.

Your home was here all along,

the one place you didn’t think to look.

Silly rabbit!

Now that you know where home is,

you need to make sure you take care of it.

Clean it, regularly, of clutter and toxicity.

Warm it with kindness. Beautify it with light.

Take the time to sit in your home for a while,

even on your busiest days.

Really sit

and reflect

on your home,

so that, with time,

this home will show you the way to your next Home,

and everything you must do before you get there.

This home will never leave you.

At the very end,

you’ll be a home within a Home

which will feel like such abundance, because

you started out so clueless,

with no idea of what home is,

and you ended with an infinite array of possibilities.

You learned that you’re the creator of your own home.

You learned that you are home,

but also that

you are home.

*My lovely readers, what do you think of when you think of home?*

Most Days

 

Most of my days are mediocre,

going through a cycle of pre-planned routines,

relying on handy little coping mechanisms,

sneaking in predictable bad habits like eating a hidden stash of sweets or sleeping later than I should.

On most days,

there’s child-rearing,

tv-watching,

phone-talking,

errand-walking,

job-searching,

journal-writing,

food-prepping,

mortality-facing:

all the usual suspects.

And throughout it all, a feeling of boredom I have come to depend on

because boredom is better than being in a black hole.

 

On my best days,

I feel like singing.

I’ll imagine my life is a musical with a song and dance for every occasion,

and romance,

oh-so-much romance.

I let go of all my anxieties

and instead of feeling depleted,

I have so much love to give.

Wisdom and warm hugs abound.

On my best days,

I feel like my best self,

and I want so badly for that feeling to last.

I’ll read uplifting stories, listen to inspirational music, watch intelligent videos.

It’s not long, though,

before the monotony of life sets in again,

and the feeling of being free is gone.

 

Most days,

I won’t sing out of fear someone will hear me

and think I’m tuneless.

I won’t write or share my work for fear someone will read it

and find out I’m a fraud.

Most days,

I avoid difficult conversations and distressing confrontations.

I’ll wear the veneer of an optimist who’s got it all together –

a fulfilling family life, a successful professional life, even a peaceful spiritual life –

but in reality, I’ll steep myself in the negative,

the fatalistic,

the frightening.

Most days,

my mind is like an obstinate child who will not listen

as I try to guide it towards positivity and love.

However, the mind has a mind of its own, and,

when left unchecked,

has the power to seduce me into a black hole of my own making.

 

On my worst days,

my mind is like a dominating overlord who takes joy in my torture.

I feel invisible,

isolated,

ignored.

I am weak in the face of all those voices in my head that tell me I’m useless,

that I won’t amount to anything,

when actually, I’ve already amounted to so much,

that I’m lazy,

when actually, I’m scared,

that I’m talentless,

when actually, I’m the only person in the world

who knows how best to be me.

On my worst days,

I feel unloved,

and that is the worst feeling of all,

because if nobody loves me,

then what’s the point of my existence.

On my worst days,

I wish I could just disappear.

I forget that there is someone out there who loves me,

the same being that made me,

that deemed me worthy of creation

and a place among the cosmos.

I forget

that to some people

I am the whole world,

and to others,

I’m important,

though perhaps misunderstood.

I forget that the people around me aren’t all out to get me,

but are flawed themselves,

and just want to be accepted for who they are,

despite their quirks and occasional cruelties.

They have their own black holes to battle.

On my better days,

I realize all this,

and I see the world through the eyes of an observer, not a performer.

I sense the beauty all around me,

in the human capacity for kindness,

and the majestic presence of nature,

the miniscule place our planet occupies in the universe,

and my ability to forgive.

There is beauty in every moment,

if only we could feel it.

 

On my best days,

I don’t fully inhabit my body,

and float, rather than walk.

I feel at one with the universe

and allow my spirit to guide me,

come what may.

“Just try to enjoy the ride,”

I tell myself.

“Coast through calm waters,

navigate around the rocks,

hang on tight during waterfalls,

but be sure to soar through the skies

with eyes wide open.”

 

On my best days,

I feel like singing,

and so,

without giving it a second thought,

I do.