Internal Family Systems

We are not one-dimensional, and our multiple dimensions are not static. Just as our bodies are made of many parts that form a dynamic, interwoven system that works together, so it is with our psyches. We are more awake, alive, and complex than we know.” ― Ralph De La Rosa

Today I had one of the most impactful therapy sessions of my life. In my session with my therapist, we visited a part of me that has stayed in the darkness for a long time, hiding from the world, unseen, too scared of all the pain it had experienced, and feeling too alone in the dark. This part of me was a little girl hiding in a dark room, crying for years and waiting for me to come and rescue her. When I asked her what she needed from me, she hugged me and asked me for love. She, then, showed me the place I was born, letting me know she was just 3 when she went into that dark room. Since, then, she has been hiding, afraid of the dark and too alone to feel safe. As soon as I realized her age, I started to cry uncontrollably realizing how long the pain has stayed in my body. She, then, took me to another room, this one filled with light. When I asked her if she could let off some of that pain, she told me that she was afraid that I will forget her. I told her I wouldn’t and held her hand to reassure her. Still sensing her hesitation, I asked her how old she thought I was, and she said I was 9. When I told her I was 30, she put some of that pain in my hand which looked like a black blob, telling me that she could trust an adult. When I asked her what she wanted to do with that black blob, she asked me to burn it and let it leave. After we burnt it, she hugged me again. When my therapist asked me what that experience felt like, I told her I felt like I was a mother to this little girl and that’s all that little girl needed – for me to be my mother.

Last year, I had a similar experience with my Shamanic teacher who had taken me to my childhood and helped me recall parts of my life that I had completely forgotten. Today, when my therapist did something similar, I asked her how she knew how to do it since she is not a spiritual therapist. She told me that the practice is based on Internal Family Systems and has proved to be extremely beneficial in helping people heal.

IFS was developed by psychologist Richard Schwartz. In his work as a family therapist, Schwartz began to observe patterns in how people described their inner lives. Internal Family Systems (IFS) is an approach to psychotherapy that identifies and addresses multiple sub-personalities or families within each person’s mental system. These sub-personalities consist of wounded parts and painful emotions such as anger and shame, and parts that try to control and protect the person from the pain of the wounded parts. The sub-personalities are often in conflict with each other and with one’s core Self, a concept that describes the confident, compassionate, whole person that is at the core of every individual. IFS focuses on healing the wounded parts and restoring mental balance and harmony by changing the dynamics that create discord among the sub-personalities and the Self. (Source: Internal Family Systems Therapy)

With today’s session, I didn’t just bring that little girl to light but also realized something about my own psyche. Since the last year, when I first experienced my spiritual emergence, a shift had happened in the way I dream. There have been several dreams where I could see a lot of people talking about me, advising me on how to tackle a challenge. Some were criticizing me, some were shaming me, some were protecting me and some were loving me. It almost feels like a debate is held on what’s best for me while I get to decide what I go along with. It’s overwhelming, to say the least. I see some friends who help me decipher what’s going on with my life and body, acting like guides and companions especially when the dreams would otherwise scare me. I see my mother as two very distinct personalities – a mother who tries to protect me by asking me to hide parts of me and a mother who cares for me and tells me how much she cares for me by allowing me to be my whole self. While I always tend to run away from the former, I tend to phase out the noise of my dream with the latter and listen to every word she says, intuitively knowing that I can trust her.

In spiritual practices, the Mother is a Goddess of the Universe, the creator, and the nurturer. Last year, I told my Shamanic teacher how I had started to see a woman in my visions who told me she was Mother. Every time I asked him to do a Shamanic journey for me, he told me that Mother was with me for some reason. While he didn’t know why and I didn’t ask him to clarify, I could not understand what that meant to me. Until today, when I experienced and embodied that energy unintentionally.

Outside of my very interesting dreams, last year I also experienced something that blew my mind – I could place the origin of different thoughts in different parts of my body and brain. Each thought had a different tone, a different associated emotion, and a different message. Thanks to some research done by the University of Wisconsin on meditation practices, I could understand that this is something that meditation can sometimes result in – creating separation from our thoughts and emotions. IFS helps in identifying and connecting with these parts, understanding them better, recognizing the role they play in our psychological development, and helping us integrate these parts in a way that helps us heal and grow.

I still don’t know what all this means and I am still trying to figure out how my brain works, how my body works, or how my spirituality works. However, I again realized today that it’s all interconnected somehow. That Mother energy/archetype/Goddess/part of my psyche helped me release some pain and bring me some much-needed peace.

I think it will never cease to amaze me how much wisdom exists out there in the world and how connected spirituality, science, and psychology are. At the end of the day, we all have the answers and support we need within us, accessible all the time. We just need to try and trust ourselves to bring ourselves into the light.

Judgements & Limitations

“Butterflies can’t see their wings. They can’t see how truly beautiful they are, but everyone else can. People are like that as well.”
― Naya Rivera

Our brain is a very interesting organ. At times of distress, it is our savior, a guide when we have to make decisions, and our go-to place for reminiscing our past and exploring the possibilities of our future. However, at times, the same brain can bring us much un-needed chaos and can bring us dismay to a point where there is only darkness and no clear path forward.

Last night, I had a dream that was a bit stressful to witness. In the dream, I was surrounded by people I love. We had entered a huge bungalow to seek shelter in the darkness of night but from the very beginning, I had a bad feeling about the place. While everyone enjoyed the new place and soon got accustomed to this place, I kept struggling with how people had started to forget about the outside world. When I asked others to leave the house and tried to remind them of the bigger world outside of the bungalow, everyone declared that they didn’t want to leave. They started to tell me how much they enjoyed the house and that the bungalow was too beautiful to leave. Their response did not sit well with me and I kept asking them to come with me even if for a few minutes. A guy, who looked like no one I know in real life, came toward me and told me that even if people tried to leave the house they couldn’t because something was keeping them inside and “controlling” them. He told me that I could do an experiment with him and force him outside of the house but to be cautious because even though he loved me, he won’t be in control once I try to force him out. I did as he suggested and as soon as we got closer to the door, he got so angry that he tried to break my hand. Fortunately, he could stop himself from going any further but only when I told him that he was hurting me. He stopped and, then, I woke up.

Needless to say, I woke up terrified after the dream. It was too detailed and seemed too real. Unlike in the past, when I would have succumbed to the fear that the dream induced, I took a couple of deep breaths and decided to try and decipher the psychological meaning of this dream and what my subconscious was trying to tell me without attaching a meaning to the dream. I thought of all the “characters” in the dream as various parts of my personality, psyche, aspirations, and dreams. I thought of the house as a box in which these parts of me were trapped and had found solace. A part of me wanted us to step out of this box, a box that I had created for myself, and recognize that there was a bigger world outside where all parts of me could be free to be themselves. That part of me could see the plethora of opportunities available to me outside of this box and wanted the whole of me to take a step. However, whenever a part of me tried to step out of this box, my “fear” kept stopping it and it kept succumbing to the “limitations” that I had placed on myself. The “something” that was stopping me from going outside was not an outside force but the fear of stepping out of my comfort zone and the fear of losing control.

My takeaway from the dream was simple – I am only limited by my beliefs. If I believe that I don’t have a way out of my current predicament, I will continue to find solace wherever I am stuck and find reasons to continue to be stuck there. However, moving out of this place into the unknown requires courage to go beyond fear and determination to keep moving. Even the guy in my dream who wanted to hurt me for forcing him out of this box eventually stopped as soon as I told him that he was hurting me. All I needed to do was make him aware of how his succumbing to the fear was hurting someone he loves. In other words, all I had to do was tell myself how I was hurting myself by limiting myself and by surrendering to my fear.

Judgments about self and limitations of our capabilities come from various sources within and outside of ourselves. The way we talk to ourselves day in and day out determines our sense of self-esteem and invariably affects our chance to expand psychologically, mentally, and spiritually. These judgments become so intrinsic to our way of life and sense of self that we start to overlook the different ways that we’re hurting ourselves. We start to look at ourselves and our experiences from the lens of all these judgments and become prisoners to our own minds.

Let me share a personal example. I learned swimming when I was around 7 years old. I am a good swimmer and I love the feeling of being immersed in water, shutting out the outside noise, and staring at the sky for unlimited time. Swimming for me has always been a cathartic exercise that I have loved more than any other activity that I have ever participated in. Despite my love for this activity, I stopped swimming a few years back. The last time I entered a pool was some 6 years back. Since then, I’ve had numerous opportunities to indulge myself in a swim but have always figured out a way to not do it – weather is too cold/I don’t have the right swimsuit/no one else is doing it, etc. So, when I moved to an apartment complex that offers a huge swimming pool in a city with the perfect weather and I was still reluctant to take a step inside, a friend asked me why? I looked at her and confessed – “I don’t look good in my swimsuit. I am on a heavier side and I don’t want people to see me that way and make comments.” Before she could respond, I heard myself say, “But I don’t think that’s the real reason. Maybe it’s not about what other people say about my looks. I think it’s more about how much I criticize my looks. When someone else goes inside a pool, I see a person enjoying an activity that I hold close to my heart and it makes me feel happy for them. However, when I feel like doing the same thing, I tell myself I am too fat. I’ve been depriving myself of indulging in an activity that I love so much just because of all these judgments that I have about myself. No, it’s not what other people will say about me. It’s about how negatively I look at myself and my body”.

You see, a lot of our limitations for ourselves or others are nothing but judgments that were at some point in our lives passed on to us that we’ve started to believe to be true. We hold these judgments so close to our hearts that we start to identify with them. We judge others based on these superficial beliefs about what’s good and what’s bad, what’s right and what’s wrong, what’s pure and what’s impure, and what’s true and what’s untrue. Worse, we force these judgments on ourselves and deprive ourselves of things that bring us joy claiming that we’re scared of what society will think. The truth is that society will think whatever it will think. What matters more is what we think. If we see ourselves as bad, ugly, corrupt, wrong, or unworthy, even the changes in society’s way of thinking won’t be enough to influence our beliefs.

Self-judgement is worse than being judged by others because we can always disconnect from others but we can not quiet down that voice in our head that judges everything that we say, do, or feel. I have, at times, felt paralyzed by this voice of judgment that loves to tell me how fat I am, how ugly I look, how I don’t dress well, how I am not smart enough, or how I am not worthy enough. When I show my vulnerable side to someone I am close to, this voice tells me that I am weak. When I express my opinion, this voice tells me that I am dumb. When I express my beliefs, this voice tells me that they are invalid. When I share my concerns about a situation, this voice tells me that I am paranoid or that I am over-reacting. When I write a blog on this topic, this voice tells me that I am craving attention.

I spoke to a life coach and separately took some help from a therapist to try and understand what I could do to shut down this voice. With their help, I realized that shutting down this voice will be similar to shutting down a part of me. Instead, a better way would be to become aware of this voice, give it a personality, hear it and see how this voice affects other parts of me, thank it for its feedback, and talk to the other parts of me that feel demotivated and de-energized by the judgments passed on by a part of me.

So, I took a moment to focus on this voice and allowed it to pass judgments while trying to identify the sources of this voice – there were many. These were judgments passed on by my relatives, family, friends, acquaintances, media, passers-by, etc. Next, I gave this voice a name – Mr. and Mrs. Grumpy. I, then, attributed a few characteristics to this couple – they’re a couple who have always hidden in the shadows, have experienced several setbacks in life and have been hurt numerous times by their loved ones, and have never had anyone give them unconditional love. So, now, Mr. and Mrs. Grumpy, find solace in finding judgments in other people so that they can force others to feel the same pain that they’re experiencing. The other parts of me are parts of me who are trying to enjoy their lives and have no ill intention toward anyone else. They want to take a stab at life and want to create the life of their dreams. When Mr. and Mrs. Grumpy take out their frustration on these parts, they feel demotivated and hurt. My role as an observer of this relationship is to provide compassion to these parts of me and provide them the courage that they need to experience life. For Mr. and Mrs. Grumpy, it’s my role to hear them and recognize the hurt that has been caused over years to this couple, provide them the love that they have been deprived of and thank them for protecting me at times when I could have faced some humiliation from the outside world.

Self-judgement comes in various shapes and forms. It’s tough to love others and provide a space for others to be themselves if we can’t even provide a space for ourselves to be free. Love for community starts with the love for ourselves.

Mother Terresa once said, “If you judge people, you have no time to love them”. I say, “If you judge yourself, you have no time to love anyone.”

Unconditional Love

Unconditional love is not so much about how we receive and endure each other, as it is about the deep vow to never, under any condition, stop bringing the flawed truth of who we are to each other.” – Mark Nepo

“I love you” – these are probably the most overused phrases in today’s society. We go around throwing these words at everyone and anyone who makes us feel good or does something good for us. Be it a friend, family member, partner, spouse, child, pet, or a crush, any small act of kindness on their part prompts us to let the other person know that they are loved. The beauty of the word “love” is that irrespective of who the speaker or the receiver is, it has an equally powerful impact. It induces a feeling of self-worth and belonging in both parties.

Unconditional love is so different from the love we are used to receiving and giving that most of us don’t even know what it is and are not able to recognize it when we experience it. When we feel the power of true unconditional love, we feel completely seen, understood, forgiven, accepted, and loved just as we are. We don’t have to hide our identity, our past, our flaws, or our mistakes because we know we will be accepted for who we are. In fact, unconditional love is the most healing energy in the universe. It’s a love where no matter what another person says, does, feels, thinks, or believes in, we continue to love them unconditionally without expectations. Unconditional love can be offered to all platonic and romantic relationships as well as to animals. But perhaps most importantly, unconditional love can be applied directly to ourselves. It’s a force that makes us feel so wonderful and completely ourselves that it makes us want to heal ourselves, confront our shadows and be a better version of ourselves. Irrespective of whether we grow or not, unconditional love remains the same.

Love in itself is hard to define and given the unique experiences that all of us bring to a relationship, the way we express love differs from person to person and from relationship to relationship. As per Gary Chapman, the author of “The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts“, there are primarily five unique styles of communicating love – “Words of affirmation”, “Quality time”, “Acts of services”, “Gifts” and “Physical touch”. The language we use in our relationships is primarily influenced by our childhood experiences and who we are as a person. 

I have always found it difficult to pin myself down to one love language. I love to let people I love know their value and worth in my life. I love to encourage them and remind them how wonderful they are. When I see the effect that my words have on those around me, I feel happy. When I love someone, I love spending time with them, learning more about them, and offering them my time, energy, and support whenever and in whatever capacity I can. If it’s a friend or a partner who I cherish, I love showering them with meaningful gifts to let them know how special they are. 

Before I moved out of my home country, I gifted my closest friends $1000 worth of gifts because I was struggling to put into words how much I was going to miss them. Fortunately for me and unfortunately for them, they did not want these gifts because they knew me quite well and knew how much I loved and appreciated them (I could have done away with a letter each and saved those $1000 😀 ). Finally, while physical touch is a language I take some time to get comfortable with, once that comfort is reached, that’s another language I love to show my appreciation to those around me. For myself, I guess the most important love language is quality time but all others are appreciated too.

A friend and I send random texts to each other letting the other person know how amazing they are. The same friend and I sometimes drunk text to tell each other that they’re missed but find it too difficult to say it when we’re sober. Another friend and I send each other hateful messages for not giving enough time to each other, end up having a video call and never tell each other that we miss or love the other. Yet, another friend and I randomly call and talk for hours at length. This friend puts into words their love for me to which they always receive a smile. Again, fortunately for me, they know what my smile means. With my parents, we’ve never put our love for each other into words. It’s always quality time or an act of service. With my pet, I was guilty of overdoing all the 5 love languages and smothering her with my love which was not much appreciated. 

What is common among all these love languages is that it shows the other person (or a pet) your love for them without expecting the gesture to be returned. And that’s something that I don’t think most of us understand. We’re so used to being loved with conditions that when someone does something for us out of pure love, we tell ourselves that we have to do something for them to return the gesture. When we do something for someone expecting a certain condition to be met or something in return in the pretense of love, that’s Conditional Love. It’s a love that lets the other person know that they have to earn their love by proving their worth. Similarly, when someone does something for us, we force ourselves to do something for them because even the thought of being loved without conditions is so uncomfortable for us that we don’t believe that we deserve it. We often think that we love our partners, friends, or family members unconditionally. In truth, however, we are all guilty of having this “strings attached” love present in our relationships where we withdraw our love if our demands are not met. Conditional love is the opposite of unconditional love. In fact, conditional love isn’t even “love” in the truest sense of the word, because it comes from the ego, not from the heart.

A few common phrases or thoughts that come with conditional love are:

  • “You have to make me feel good because I love you”
  • “You have to maintain your attractive looks because I love you”
  • “You have to act this way because I love you”
  • “You have to believe me because I love you”
  • “You have to let me control your decisions because I love you”
  • “You have to let me control what you do in your life because I love you”
  • “You have to love me because I love you”
  • “You have to give up your dreams/beliefs because I love you”
  • “You have to forgive me because I love you”
  • “You have to endure how I treat you because I love you”

We all have experienced these kinds of relationships. While sometimes we have succumbed to the conditions of others, sometimes we have been the ones putting our conditions on others. Sometimes in our relationships, we give these conditions so much importance that if they are not met, we withdraw our love. We make the other person suffer for not meeting our expectations. We punish them for not being our image of perfection and we make them feel bad for our own lack of understanding of love.

However, unconditional love does not mean loving someone without boundaries. Healthy boundaries are essential for any and every relationship. That’s simply because unconditional love is essentially an energy flow between those involved. We can’t love someone unconditionally without loving ourselves. And if we’re not valued in our relationships and if the relationships fail to meet our basic needs – kindness, respect, and safety, then, we do a disservice to ourselves and to others by not allowing ourselves and the other person to grow. We act out of co-dependent love where we’re so scared of losing the other person that we let go of our own needs and happiness. But we can’t love another unless we love ourselves. We can’t love another unless we learn to stand up for ourselves. We can’t love another unless we encourage each other to be a better version of ourselves without forcing our image of “better” on the other. 

There is a sense of freedom and acceptance that’s felt when we start to accept the unconditional love that resides in our hearts. When we stop judgments and let go of expectations, we free ourselves from the burden of changing ourselves or the other to be the perfect image of who we think we or they should be. When we allow the other person to be completely and authentically who they are, we set their hearts free and we set ourselves free. We start to recognize if that is the person whom we want to spend our time and energy with without expecting them to change them to meet our needs. All of a sudden, the feelings of insecurities and jealousy leave our systems. We don’t tie our happiness to the other person because we love ourselves so much that we recognize our responsibility towards ourselves. We don’t hold ourselves responsible for the other person’s happiness because we realize that they’re fully capable of taking care of themselves. We act on the love that we have for them without expecting them to meet our demands because we have no demands from them. We just love.

So how do we experience the power of unconditional love? By starting with ourselves. 

  • Embracing every part of ourselves – Letting go of the “shoulds” and accepting the reality. Letting go of the image of perfection that we have in our minds and cherishing who we are. Stopping ourselves from running away from those uncomfortable “wrong” emotions & thoughts, and taking the time to sit with them to understand what inner wound needs healing or what parts of ourselves we are ignoring. Allowing ourselves to be led by our hearts and finding the balance between being logical vs being emotional. The more we love ourselves, the more love we find within ourselves to love those around us.
  • Forgiving ourselves – Imagine having a friend who could never forgive you for your mistakes despite all your apologies. It sucks, doesn’t it? To lose someone you’d always love and cherish who doesn’t want you in their life anymore? Now imagine yourself to be that friend and remember the mistakes that you haven’t forgiven yourself for. In an ideal world, every mistake deserves a proportionate punishment. A slap for a slap, they say. Now, ask yourself how many times have you punished yourself for the same mistake, thought, or emotion? Once we start to accept ourselves and get the courage to forgive ourselves for everything we’re angry with ourselves for, we develop empathy for those around us. Forgiveness becomes a way of life because we start to see ourselves in others and the burden that we carry gets lighter and lighter over time
  • Acting out of love – Immerse yourself in self-care. Take that vacation, allow yourself some me-time, meditate, breathe and pamper yourself like you would someone you love dearly, go for that kiss, tell someone you love them, and indulge in that activity that your heart desires but you’re too scared to do. Do for yourself what you would do for someone else with one goal alone – showering yourself with love. The more comfortable we get with loving ourselves, the easier it gets for us to show love to those around us without expecting anything in return. Small acts of self-love also show ourselves our worth so that we stop tying our worth to someone else’s expectation of us. We start to realize how wonderfully beautiful we are just the way we are. Slowly, we also start to love others for who they are. At the very least, we start to see clearly whether our relationships are built on conditional or on unconditional love and we get to decide our next course of action. If it’s a relationship that we want to mend, we change our definition of love and start to act without conditions. If it’s a relationship where we’re not valued for our authentic selves, we set our boundaries to allow the other person to grow. If we still don’t feel the energy of unconditional love flowing from ourselves through them, we can set ourselves free from the illusion.

Unconditional love is the absolute acceptance and openness to ourselves, others, and to reality. It is a love that allows us to be happy irrespective of what our circumstances are. It frees us from our expectations of perfection and lets us see perfection in everything around us. Unconditional love is not something that we get from another person, location, job, or object. It’s within us and starts with ourselves. The more we love ourselves unconditionally, the easier it gets to recognize unconditional love when it’s directed at us. When we encounter the power of unconditional love, it has the power to change our worlds.

Forgiveness

“All major religions carry basically the same message; that is love, compassion, and forgiveness the important thing that should be a part of their lives.” – Dalai Lama

I was talking to a friend about how forgiveness and compassion are the keys to mending a relationship, letting go of past hurt, and moving on. We were both trying to understand how we could heal from our individual pasts where we were hurt by people we felt very close to – family, close friends, and even past romantic connections. While we both agreed that forgiveness is about setting ourselves free from our past, she asked me a question that made me think – “Are we truly ready to move on when we still find it hard to let go of an individual, and still want the two of us to find a way back to each other in some form?” The question made me take a pause and made me wonder if we are, in fact, ready to let go if we want things to work out with an individual or were we fooling ourselves into thinking that we were healed and were fine with not having these people in our lives anymore. Turns out, I hadn’t really understood what it means to forgive.

Our conversation forced me to look at forgiveness beyond the realm of psychology or human society. It forced me to look at it from the lens of spirituality and the interpretation that I got made more sense to me than anything else ever had regarding this topic and this individual. When I thought about forgiveness, I often related it to be putting aside my pain and hurt, trying to empathize with the other individual, and letting things go. In other situations where I am hurt by the actions/inactions of an individual, I ask myself how my expectations would change from that individual going forward – “Do I want them to be a part of my life?”, “Do I want us to break contacts completely?”, “Do I want them to apologize and prove to me that they won’t make the same mistake again?”, or “Do I not care about this relationship anymore?”. These questions have helped me in the past to deal with certain relationships. At times, I have chosen to close the doors. At times, I have chosen to move forward and told myself the famous saying – “Let bygones be bygones”. At other times, I have given myself time to process the hurt and let time decide how the relationship progressed. But, when it comes to some individuals, none of that works.

So, what do you do when you are hurt but want to forgive someone from all your heart because you can’t imagine them hurting? What do you do when you can’t be angry with someone but know that it would be so much easier to move on if you were angry? What do you do when logic, psychology, and science fly out of the window? What do you do when your brain and heart are in a continuous struggle? What do you do when you don’t even know if they care? I asked myself if I can’t do something, then, is there something that they can do to mend it? Can they do anything or say anything that will help me let it go? The screaming answer from all of my being was – “No”. They can’t because, at the end of the day, it was never about them. It was always about me.

From the lens of Spirituality, we’re all souls having a human experience. Our conscious mind determines how we interpret a situation, what actions we take, what we think, and how to react. Our subconscious mind is a different game. It is here where we have all of our emotional patterns stored. It is here where we process emotions. It is this part that determines what triggers us, how we see ourselves, and how we see others. These two parts magically come together to define our entire personality – the one the world sees and the one we hide. But, there is another part, the part that can’t be measured and does not have a scientific term. The part of us that’s defining the experiences that we choose to have in this lifetime. The part that goes beyond any logic and cannot be detected by any known technology – our soul.

We all come to this world to follow our purpose that’s hidden somewhere beneath the layers of our conscious and subconscious minds. We come to this world to work on the baggage that we’ve carried for so many lives. We come to this world to learn lessons that our souls have decided for us to learn. We come to this world to free ourselves from this world.

If our soul decided all our encounters, if our soul is the one deciding what experiences we have and our human selves are the ones who have to learn from these experiences, then, that would mean that every single interaction in our lifetime is an opportunity for us to heal ourselves. It’s an opportunity for us to get more in alignment with our authentic selves and it’s an opportunity for us to release all that is not us.

So, if that’s the case, how can I be angry with someone for doing what my soul needed them to do? How can I keep hurting myself by reminding myself of what happened and how I wished things were different? How can I blame the other for doing what they needed to do to help me heal? How can I blame them for not recognizing that at the of the day, I too did what their soul wanted me to do? How can I continue to feel hurt or guilt for what is essentially the actions of two souls in a human body, both trying to free themselves and each other from the illusion of this reality? How can I blame someone for hurting me when they can’t see what their souls are asking them to see when I, myself, can’t let it go despite hearing and seeing what my soul is telling me?

No, it does not make any logical sense. It does not even make any psychological sense but it makes perfect spiritual sense. I can’t be angry with someone because my heart does not allow me to be angry with them. I can’t continue to remind myself of the past, of their actions, and feel hurt because that’s what they had to do to bring me where I am today and push me to where I am meant to be. I can’t continue to hold onto this guilt of hurting them because, unfortunately, I too couldn’t listen to what my soul was trying to tell me. I can’t continue to hold onto that guilt because I was also had to act a certain way to hopefully push them to where they needed to be. I can’t hold onto a specific scenario or timeline, and I can’t even hold on to certain expectations because it’s as out of my control as it is theirs.

I can only choose how I respond in the now. I can choose to let bygones be bygones, I can choose to hold onto that hurt, I can choose to claim that I know how to forgive them or myself, I can choose to be angry, I can choose to hold a facade to show I have moved on and I can choose to not care. The truth, however, is I can’t choose to be fake. I can’t. I don’t understand how any of this works but maybe I don’t have to. I still hope and still believe. I still have faith and that’s all I have. I don’t know how to navigate this but maybe I am not supposed to. Maybe this is the lesson that I had to learn all along. Maybe sometimes it’s not about forgiveness. Maybe sometimes it’s choosing to align with what’s not of this world and letting it be.

Doesn’t that, somehow, make forgiveness easy? When you can see a person’s action as an act of their human form but know that there is something that’s “asking” them to take that action will you still blame them? When you can tell yourself that a person’s actions are not about the physical you or the physical them but is a way to help heal both of you in ways that you can’t comprehend (yet)? Isn’t it easy to forgive when you can choose to respond or react when something hurts you because you know that whatever a person says or does is helping both or one of you align with your higher self? Isn’t it poetic to see that we’re all working towards the common goal of healing ourselves and each other without realizing how? Isn’t it beautiful to experience the human experience of our souls without judging people or experiences and just knowing that there is a lesson at every step? Doesn’t acknowledging that people’s actions do not always indicate who they are but are a result of a misalignment between who they are and what they think of themselves to be, make it easy to surrender and let things be?

Throughout my journey, I have asked a question – Why was I meant to experience it when the others don’t? Why was I punished and left alone? Today, I got the answer. It was not a punishment but a blessing. A blessing that helps me see through a situation and determine for myself if something is about me because if it is about me, then, I can heal myself – a win for me and a win for us. If it’s not about me, I can let it be and pray that it heals whatever needs to be healed in the other person – a win for them and us. Isn’t that a marvelous gift? I can free myself of karma that’s not mine and I can free myself of karma that I have been carrying around for decades and centuries? Isn’t it beautiful to know that I can always see the “good” in others because I can always choose to see who they are vs what they portray to be? Isn’t it beautiful to not have anger and hatred and have a love for everyone and everything around me?

My friend is right. Sometimes, we are not ready to move on because there is nothing to move on from. There was never anything to forgive. Forgiveness came as soon as the hurt came. It was just our conscious selves trying to provide us some justice that our soul never needed. Some connections are just that, spiritual. All we can do is see ourselves in these individuals, see their souls, and believe that we will always help each other because forgiveness, compassion, and love are always the key. I guess that means that we just continue to wait and see.

I Am Worth It

“Most people give up finding their soul mate, and settle down to just having a flesh mate.”
― Anthony Liccione

Data-driven decision-making is one of the most sought-after skills these days. As a professional with a background in data, I love to get as many facts as I can get before making a call. I also love to take inputs from the relevant audience before making a critical decision. This approach helps me at my work and is appreciated by my colleagues as they know I would have done my homework before going with a specific decision. It helps me guide my colleagues too when they’re struggling to make decisions. Data tells us a story that oftentimes is not obvious. It brings into awareness the reality while ensuring that people’s emotions don’t get in the way of making a decision.

Then, what makes it challenging to apply the same framework to make a decision when it impacts me personally? A few months back, I had to decide which city I wanted to move to. People say, at times of confusion, follow your heart. The problem was my heart and mind were equally torn. On one hand, I had an opportunity to move to a city I had wanted to live in for years. On the other hand, the city I was living in was providing me with opportunities that I couldn’t have imagined. After countless discussions with friends and family, hours of research, and introspection, I decided to move to the city of my dreams. However, a week after signing my lease with my new apartment, I started to dread my decision. All of a sudden, the city I was in started to look better, the opportunities that it offered seemed unparalleled and the city of my dreams stopped to look as appealing. A week before I was about to move and just when I had convinced myself that there was nothing that I could do but move, I got a call from my apartment manager telling me that there was a problem with my application and my signed lease had not reached them. It took me a second to tell them that I wanted to withdraw my application and was not interested in moving there anymore. Now, you would expect that I would have stayed back in the original city. Not really, I still chose to move to the city of my dreams but to an apartment complex that I had an emotional connection with – an apartment more expensive than the one I was planning to move to but an apartment that I couldn’t get out of my head. So, what changed? I was still moving to the new city albeit at a better apartment. The original city still offered more opportunities than the new one. While I didn’t realize it when I made this decision, I realize it today – I was not fine with settling for an apartment that didn’t meet my expectations. It was a more reasonable and logical choice but it didn’t satisfy my desires. My discomfort with moving to that apartment had me question whether I even wanted to move to the city of my dreams. My heart wanted to make the move but wanted to do it in a way that met my expectations. It did not want me to settle for something less than what I deserved.

This is not the first time in the past year that I have come across a situation where I have found myself struggling to follow the same decision-making process that I have followed throughout my life. In the past, where I would have made a decision solely based on “what’s the most logical choice to make at this moment”, I seem to be struggling to settle down with something that doesn’t meet my expectations and wants even if it means making a tougher choice. Recently, a similar situation played out in my professional life where I got an opportunity that a few years back, I would have been extremely enthusiastic about. Yet, I have spent the last two months, struggling to find the same excitement. The day I got this opportunity, I called a friend and gave her the good news. Her immediate response was “Why are you sounding sad? This is such great news!”. I said, “I am not sure. I should be happy, right? It’s such a good opportunity. But, it’s not inducing any excitement or even happiness in me. I mean, I am not sad but I am not thrilled either.” It took me two months of doing an in-depth pro cons analysis, discussions, retrospection and everything in between to realize – “I am not sure if this is what I want. It’s not good and it’s not bad. I am just not sure if this is the best that I can get. I am not sure if this is worth it. I am not sure if this is worth me.”

Not settling for whatever is available to you is a new concept for me. Before writing this blog, I didn’t even know that this was the reason behind my feeling unfulfilled. That’s not to say that I am not ready for a change. But, that means that I am ready for something worth my time and effort, and that better aligns with what I want and what I am worth. I have grown so accustomed to settling down for whatever I can get that sometimes I don’t expect or ask for more. It does not mean that I’ll happily sabotage myself for others but just that I never believed in my value or self-worth enough. I didn’t believe in my capabilities enough and didn’t give myself enough credit to go after what I truly want.

A person becomes an accomplice in their dissatisfaction when they constantly settle for less than what they want. Settling isn’t the same as accepting something/someone as is. It isn’t a noble martyrdom. It’s a way to trap ourselves in something that makes us unhappy, but doing it anyway out of insecurity, fear, or a reluctance to go against the opinions of other people. It’s the opposite of self-love. It’s letting your fears and other people dictate the direction of your life.

Settling for whatever I am given has been a behavioral pattern throughout my life and today when I write this blog I can see how this pattern has affected all the areas of my life. In professional life, I have settled again and again with whatever I could get rather than asking for what I deserve. I would do my best in projects, go above and beyond for my team and colleagues, but when the time came to reap the benefits of my work, I wouldn’t appreciate myself enough. I can’t recall the last time I celebrated success at work. When my peers were off celebrating our graduation ceremony, I was telling myself that it was not a big deal. When I was applauded for my contributions to a project, I told myself that anyone could have done it. When I was told I will be recognized for my work, I told myself that I didn’t care. When accolades were handed to me, I told myself I didn’t deserve it. I have often given the credit for my achievements to everyone around me except myself. I would recognize and remember every small contribution that anyone has ever done for me but would never sit back and congratulate myself for a job well done. I can still recall every tiny gesture that my mentors and managers have made that has contributed toward my progress, but I can’t recall any time I have thanked myself for my contributions or told myself that I deserved to be valued as a colleague/employee.

I follow the same pattern in my relationships. I have settled for relationships where I was not respected for who I was – both platonic and romantic. I have settled for connections where my contributions were overlooked and where I was not appreciated or valued. I have settled for connections where I kept giving without stopping to see if I was being given the same level of love or support or even the respect that I deserved. A few days back, I told a friend that I am a giver in romantic relationships. I always thought that this meant that I loved to keep my partners happy and that their happiness made me happy. What I overlooked was that I have never been comfortable with receiving the same love. If I valued someone, they could do the basic minimum for me and I would continue to give them the same level of energy, time, and love. For me, that’s what love and friendship were all about – being unconditionally available for those you love. However, if someone openly showed me their love, I would feel incredibly uncomfortable and run for the door. My best friend came up with this psychological technique a few years back – She never openly declared her love to me, would not hug me, or even tell me how important I was to her. She would patiently wait for me to show her that love, and only when I did, would she open up. She told me that she had learned this about me only a few weeks after knowing me – I was not comfortable with receiving love, and the only time when I wouldn’t run away was when I was in the “showing” mode. Give it to her for recognizing this in me even before I did! I always thought that that’s just who I was. But, I am starting to see that it wasn’t about feeling uncomfortable with love. It was about my believing that I didn’t deserve it because I was not worth it. I didn’t realize that there are always two people in a connection and that they both deserve an equal give and take. I didn’t realize that unconditional love always starts with self.

Today, I realized that the reason behind me settling down for less had nothing to do with the opportunities presented to me or with people around me. It had to do with a simple truth about myself – I just couldn’t see or realize my value. I never have. Ever since my childhood, I have had this innate need to prove my worth. Everything had to be perfect because if it wasn’t then that would mean that I failed and people around me would be disappointed. But, the truth is, I was not afraid of disappointing others. I didn’t want to disappoint myself because I was already my worst critic. When it came to any form of love or recognition that was directed towards me, I’ve always preferred to settle for something rather than ask for what I truly deserve. In my mind, a good enough opportunity was all I deserved. A good enough relationship that checked a few of the boxes was all that I could get. A good enough friendship that served a little of my needs was all I needed. Because something was better than nothing and that something was all that I was worth in my eyes.

But, I am worth much more. I am worth receiving the love and recognition that I deserve. I don’t have to give more to something or someone when my wants and needs are not met. I don’t have to keep giving to people, connections, relationships, jobs, careers, or anything where I am not valued the same way. I don’t have to give more to something/someone when I am not getting the same in return. I don’t have to pretend to be someone else to meet someone else’s image of who they think I am or what they need me to be. I don’t have to pretend to be happy in a situation when I am not happy. I don’t owe my time and energy to anyone but myself. I don’t owe my love and appreciation to anyone but myself. I don’t have to be a giver all the time and I deserve to be given what I want/need, and if I don’t, then, I don’t have to settle. My worth cannot be determined by something or someone else. It comes from me and I am worthy of whatever I want or need.

Unconditional self-worth is the sense that you deserve to be alive, to be loved and cared for, to take up space” [Source: How to cultivate a sense of unconditional self-worth/]. Unconditional self-worth is taking a step for yourself and believing in your worth even when no one else does. Unconditional self-worth is choosing yourself when no one else does. It’s choosing to forgive yourself every step of the way, it’s choosing to believe in yourself when things get tough. It’s choosing to become your supporter and taking your side when it feels like the world is against you. It’s telling yourself that you will be there for yourself no matter what. It’s choosing yourself even if that means letting go of something or someone precious who doesn’t value you enough. It’s letting go of statements like –

“I will feel worthy when…”,

“My dreams and feelings are not more important than….”,

“My aspirations are not worth fighting for”,

“This relationship/job/connection is more important than myself”,

“This is all I deserve because this is all I am worth” (settling),

“At least it’s better than…”

“No one is completely satisfied”

Dear Reader,

What is it in your life that you’re settling for? What is it that you see in others that you wish you had? What is that dream that you’ve always wanted to go for but stop yourself from going after because you believe you cannot do it or are not worth it? What is that life that you’ve always wanted to live but are actively choosing not to so that you can meet someone’s expectation of who and what your life should look like? Finally, what are the “shoulds” in your life that you apply to yourself but won’t want the person you love unconditionally to apply to them?

While my therapist tells me to avoid questions like “What If” to avoid thinking traps, I believe there are certain situations where it can be successfully used to our advantage. When making a critical decision, try and ask yourself – “What if there is something better? If there is, what will it look like? How does this <decision> compare with what better looks like to me?”. When deciding to not take an action towards your desire out of fear, ask yourself, “What if it works out?”. When deciding to settle with someone/something, ask yourself, “What if I am letting go of something I deserve for something that does not align with me completely? What if that something was here, how will it differ from what I am settling for? What if my best friend was in the same situation?”.

Today, choose yourself. Choose to be you and choose to love yourself unconditionally. Believe in yourself and believe that the one person who deserves your utmost attention, love, time, and energy is you. You are worth everything you set your heart and mind to. You are worth everything your desire. You are worth that promotion, you are worth that recognition, you are worth that undivided attention, you are worth being cherished for who you are, you are worth being your whole self. You are worth that unconditional love. You are worth it all!

Surrender

It was July 2019. I was taking a ride home with a friend and watching the aimless cars driving by and wondering to myself – “How does everyone know where they’re going?” I turned to my friend and confessed, “I am not sure where my life is headed. It feels like I am aimlessly wandering around and trying to find some meaning but I don’t know what that meaning is.” After a moment, she said, “One day, it will make sense. Give it time.” In 2020, a friend and I were deep in conversation about a similar topic. I found myself telling her too, “I am not sure what I want in life. I feel like I have no purpose. It won’t matter if tomorrow I am alive or not, life will go on.” Judging by the look on her face, I think my words had scared her a bit. But, in my mind, there was nothing to be scared of. My rhetorical question meant – “What is it that’s going to give my life a purpose that if I am not around, no one can or will be able to do? What is it that I can bring to the table that no one else can so that my existence matters? So, that I matter?”

For the longest time, I have struggled to find this purpose. I have tried different jobs, projects, spoken to people who live their dreams, have read countless books and articles on self-help and spirituality but I must say, it got me nowhere. If anything, over time, I had convinced myself that I was not doing any good to myself or to those around me. All my habits needed to change. I needed to change to be “successful” and to be “accepted”. When I had too few emotions, I convinced myself that there was something wrong with me. When I had too many emotions, I convinced myself that I felt too much. When I didn’t think things through, I was told I don’t care. When I started to think things through, I was told that I overthink. When I didn’t care about where my job was taking me, I told myself that I was being complacent. When I started to care about the future of my job, I told myself that I am bringing in unwanted stress. How in the world can someone know their purpose when everything and everyone including themselves keeps sending the same message – “No matter what you do, you will never be good enough?” It’s either the wrong job, wrong place, wrong behavior, wrong mindset, wrong gender, wrong direction, wrong priorities, wrong person, or the wrong life.

Last year, my guide had told me to surrender. I had recently been introduced to a world that I couldn’t make sense of, didn’t understand how the world of spirituality differed so much from this reality, found it extremely unfair that I was given insights into a world that others could not even believe and was struggling to understand the point of people striving to gain any clarity when our spiritual selves and lives didn’t align with the truth of this world. Just like my friend, my teacher had also told me, “It will make sense someday” but that answer continued to disturb me. The term “surrender” never made sense either because, for the life of me, I couldn’t understand who and what to surrender to. That was until a few weeks back, I heard myself say – “It’s time to surrender.” So I did without questioning who or what to.

My surrender started with my visit to my home country after two years. I had been apprehensive about my trip because of the pandemic but something in me kept pushing me to go. So I did. I expected the trip to be full of struggles because of all the restrictions and regulations. But, it turned out to be quite a pleasant trip. Travel went seamlessly both ways and, most importantly, I got what I needed – a chance to heal my past. Seeing my family and friends after years felt like I was going back from a self-ordered isolation. Connecting with my friends reminded me of the deep meaningful relationships I had developed over time but that I had started to oversee in the past few years. The unconditional love that I had started to doubt met me again in the form of friendship. These friends have been by my side every step of the way and have, in their own way, guided me throughout my journey without judgments, with open arms, and with nothing but love. When I could meet one of my oldest friends only for a couple of hours, she took it upon herself to make sure that I spend my last night with my family and her family just so that we could spend some more time together. Another friend made sure that I stop neglecting my physical health and guided me about my next steps to take care of myself. Yet another, spoke to me about nothing in particular for hours and helped me meet the love of my life again – my dog, Muffin. Finally, another friend put aside her plans to move to a different city so that we could have enough time to share our stories. After hearing mine, she gave me the same message that I had heard all those years back – “I loved you before but I love you more today if that’s possible. I am so glad I get to witness this you. Regarding what happened, I know it doesn’t make sense right now. But, it will one day. I’ll just ask you not to wait for that day.”

Another part of the healing process was meeting my family. We’ve had some rough times in the past few years. We’ve had our set of struggles that not many people in my life are aware of. Sometime in the past, I had stopped opening up to them. When my friends felt excited to go back home, I used to wonder how their home life differed from mine. There have been times when I was met with a conflict of missing home and not wanting to go back. I had started avoiding speaking at home because I felt like I couldn’t be open to them about what I felt or who I was. When any person I knew witnessed this, they couldn’t understand why I didn’t talk much with my family, and I never explained. This time when I went home something felt different. I sat with my mother for hours and opened up to her without holding anything back. I explained to her the reasons why I had slowly started to pull back. I told her what I had experienced since I left home for the first time. I told her everything that had ever hurt me, the unhealthy measures I had taken to cope with that pain, and the way therapy had helped me regain parts of myself. I opened up to her about my spiritual journey and how I had lost and am still finding myself along the way.

Perhaps the most surprising aspect of our conversation was me coming out to her about my sexuality. And, perhaps the most surprising aspect of that conversation was her response, “We have both masculine and feminine energies. Gender does not matter. What matters is what energy clicks with which person. Maybe when you feel for someone, it’s their energy that you’re aligning with. You fall for someone’s soul, not their gender. Isn’t that more evolved than those who go by genders?” I kept staring at her blankly for a few minutes while she explained to me how our souls do not care about a person’s gender. Throughout my life, this has been a part of me that I have ridiculed myself for and had hidden from most of the people in my life. Hearing my mom say that this is natural and that I am normal has by far been the greatest gift of my journey. While she still dreams that I find an eligible person from the opposite gender someday :D, her acknowledgment and acceptance of me was the highlight of this entire trip.

This 10-day trip brought with it more realizations and healing than I could have imagined. With my dad, I opened up about how our relationship had changed in the past few years and, for the first time, saw the man behind my father. For the first time, I saw how my dad is just another human being, trying his best to get through life and meet the expectations of himself and his family. My conversations with him also helped me realize another reason behind my pulling away from him. My dad is a protector. Whoever he loves, he protects. Be it a friend, his family, or anyone in need. Sometimes, at the cost of his mental and physical health. My dad loves to solve other people’s problems as if they’re his own. He loves to take it upon himself to help shape a better life for everyone around him. If he doesn’t, he feels like he has failed the other person and himself. Whenever I tell him a challenge that I am facing, my dad goes into this problem-solving mode. While I could recognize that he did it out of love, I always took it to mean that he didn’t trust me enough to take care of myself. This meant that over time, I stopped sharing my stories with him. I couldn’t tell him that I just needed a listening ear, and he couldn’t tell me that his providing me guidance was his way of showing me that he will always be there for me. Well, that realization rang a bell and made me realize how I am more or less a carbon copy of my dad. I love to protect people I love and I love to solve their problems. When I asked my dad to sometimes just be a listener and not offer advice, I realized that while this aspect of our relationship had pulled us apart, I had somehow subconsciously learned this as a way to show my love and appreciation for the people around me. While protecting and helping people solve problems is a good trait to have, doing it without being asked for help can sometimes smother those we love. Like any other aspect of life, protection and guidance also require balance. It means that if someone is not asking for help, then, not to provide them help and let them find their way while letting them know that you’re there if and when they need you. Speaking to my dad helped me realize, that I don’t have to be this protector or problem-solver anymore. I realized how I have a choice to change this pattern in a way that does not hurt me and does not make people around me think that I don’t trust their capabilities. Sometimes, you just need to have faith and let the other person know that they can tackle any challenge in life and that you’ll be there if they need you. Sometimes, we have to realize that we don’t have to protect everyone we love, and just trust that they will reach out when and if they need or want us.

With my brother, well, things were a bit different. We got into an argument a day after my arrival, had a full-blown “fight” a day later which resulted in me again leaving my house for 3 whole days. However, our argument this time was not like it had been in the past where we argued over things that didn’t matter. In this heated argument, we got to the crux of what had pulled us apart. Words that were never said were put out. Feelings and emotions that had long been held back were shared/yelled at openly. The result of this argument was seen a day before I was about to come back when he gifted me some 5 items and a card. That was his way of saying sorry and telling me that things will change. After a long time, I felt like I saw my brother again. After a long time, I felt like I had a family again.

There was another part of this trip – Me sharing parts of my story and healing journey with my family and friends. Surprisingly, there was no encounter where a conversation around mental health didn’t come up. By the 5th day, I had started to see what I was bringing to the table while I was telling my story. By the time I was about to leave, a friend had started to look for therapists, another had decided to give her a life a try, and yet another had started receiving Reiki as a way to de-clutter her mind. My parents are now 1st Level Reiki practitioners and my sister is planning to give meditation a try. My brother has promised to introduce some long-needed changes and for, myself, I went through long-due hypnosis with a clinical hypnotist to heal parts of myself that I was too scared to encounter.

I had started blogging in March of 2021 with one aim – creating a repository of items for someone who I thought might need it someday. Well, I must hand it to myself to try and protect someone else when I was the one suffering. However, that blog had evolved into my personal journal and had helped me heal myself in more ways than one. After writing more than 50 blogs, I had reached my limit. I couldn’t write anymore because, with every blog, I was healing a part of myself. Healing is totally worth it but it can be emotionally and mentally exhausting. And, I just wanted to take a break. I had reached a point where the inner healing process had taken away every ounce of strength I had left in me. The wounds that had surfaced got too much to bear. And, after I wrote my final blog, I was done. I wanted the healing to stop and I wanted to rest. I tried to not blog for several days but kept coming back as if something was pulling me back to write more. So by the October of last year, I had deleted the original website along with my social media to stop myself from blogging again. I just wanted to go into a shell and not come out for the foreseeable future.

This trip back home gave me the break that I had needed for a long time. It brought into reality at least a version of me that I had been waiting to bring to life. Hearing my friend tell me how much I have changed and transformed was the motivation that I needed to know that I got something right. Taking a step to healing my relationship with my family helped me see that there are more ways than one to live our lives. It helped me see how oftentimes we let go of something meaningful because we’re scared of being vulnerable and don’t understand the importance of communication. It helped me see how all it needs sometimes is a simple apology, a simple confession, or a simple chance to mend that we have deemed as broken. It helped me see that at the end of the day we’re all humans and it is our birth-right to make mistakes and learn. Most of all, it helped me see, that we can’t heal ourselves or our relationships until we are our authentic selves and are true to ourselves about who we are, what we want, and give ourselves a chance. I realized that after all, we’re not alone in this world and that all it takes is a leap of faith and a step into the unknown to find that unconditional love that rests in all of our hearts. I have been scared of being myself for a long time because of the expectations that I had put on myself and because of the fear of being rejected for who I am. I had been scared of acknowledging my emotions, my reality, and accepting myself for who I was because I was scared that my reality would not go well with those around me. In my fear of rejection, I had continued to reject myself. This trip brought me back to telling my story in the best way I know right now – through my blogs.

So what is my purpose in life? My sister from another mother had told me years back, “Maybe our purpose of life is just to make a small impact on someone’s life. Maybe that’s it but won’t it be worth it?” Well, I will say it’s worth it. If healing myself is a way to heal my relationships and provide someone a few tools to heal themselves, then, it’s worth it. If my story can influence a single life, if my words can reach a single person and give them some hope or guide them through their journey, then, it’s worth it. I found my purpose by surrendering to that inner voice and giving myself a chance to speak my story. My purpose was here all along, nothing big, nothing small – just me using my words to tell my story and help heal whatever needs to heal.

This is me surrendering to myself and finding the meaning that had eluded me all along.

Rewriting The Past

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.” – Steve Jobs

I came across the above quote back in 2014 while sitting at my work desk and trying to observe my life as an outsider. I had been questioning why certain things had panned out the way they did and what had got me to where I was at the time. This quote had inspired me to look at those events without judgment and just observe how seemingly unrelated events had propelled my life in the direction that it was going. More than anything else, it helped me find peace with events that I had been too angry with the world about – a road accident, losing my job, leaving the city I wanted to live in, doing a job I didn’t enjoy, and dealing with an injury for life.

However, once I became an observer, I had started to notice those things from a different perspective. While the accident was horrible, I was already not enjoying my life in that city despite it being the city of my dreams. I was struggling to find myself and slowly losing the motivation to continue doing the work that I was doing or even find meaningful connections. The accident forced me back to my hometown and forced me to take another job that while I didn’t enjoy, gave me the flexibility to continue working while working on my physical health. Here, I also met the guy I would eventually fall for, and, most importantly, I got another chance at life. Almost a year later, I went back to the city of my dreams but with a job that I liked and got an opportunity to meet some of the best people of my life. This comeback was more than what I could have imagined. I was doing great physically, I had a strong social circle, I was doing well professionally, I picked up sports that I had given up on, and picked up hobbies that brought my creativity to life. Life was good.

Had it not been for that unfortunate event that shook me to the core, who knows where I would be today. I am not underplaying the impact of that injury and the emotional pain that it caused me because it did and I won’t wish it on anyone. However, the same incident also showed me how emotionally strong I was. It showed me how I was a fighter and how I could get whatever I wanted as long as I believed in myself.

The start of New Year is usually the time when people make yearly resolutions, goals, promises, and set expectations for the months to come. While a few people join classes that they rarely attend, make plans that they often don’t follow through, and introduce changes in lifestyle that are soon forgotten, there are also those special few who bring those visions to life. They create a vision for themselves, make small changes at a time, and slowly but surely meet their goals.

I also made a resolution this year – a resolution to be my biggest motivator and strength. A resolution to be my best friend at every step of the way, to be my guide, and to love myself to the core. I’ve made a resolution to love my whole self in a way that there is no space for lack. I’ve made a resolution to give myself a fair chance at life and to be alive.

The first step towards this resolution starts with me making a conscious decision to once again be an observer in my life. This is me re-writing my past and connecting the dots.

In my previous posts, I had mentioned how my Spiritual Awakening had started after a series of events took place. I’ve acted like a victim to what happened with me and how I didn’t ask for this awakening and definitely didn’t ask for the way it came about. It has not been easy and it had its ups and downs, forcing me to radically change the way I went about life without even giving me chance to take a breather. However, over time, I’ve come to realize that there is no specific event that leads to a person’s awakening. Awakening starts the moment we take a pause from our everyday life and take the first step towards self-realization. The experiences that we have during a spiritual awakening don’t start to happen suddenly out of anywhere rather the spiritual awakening happens when we are still enough to observe these experiences. It happens when we take the first step towards becoming aware of ourselves and of the world around us. That’s what had happened all those years back when I had started to question everything about this world and about myself. I had started to take a pause from the chaos of life and started to observe that something had to change. What I thought was wrong with society and the world, was my inner world coming to light. Awakening happens when we become aware that our outer world is a reflection of what’s happening within us.

I made a decision four years back to travel to a land miles away from home where I didn’t know a single soul. A land I had only heard of or seen in the media. What had inspired this decision? Well, it was a series of events. I was at a point in my life where life’s struggles had started to seem unfair. I had started to question the morality of the human race and the skewed inflexible way in which society operates. I had started questioning the reason for our existence and above all, I had started questioning my purpose in life. I had always wanted to step out of my comfort zone and live in a foreign land to learn about their culture and explore more of this world. For years, I had wanted to give myself a chance to be myself without fearing judgment. I also wanted to take the next big step in my career and be at a place where I could enjoy some of the freedom that I felt I could not at the place I grew up in. So, when I felt betrayed by a close friend and my love life started to hit a rocky patch, I decided to run away from somewhere familiar to somewhere unknown.

For years, I have been upset with this friend for what I referred to as a betrayal of trust. She had made a life-changing decision without involving me in the process. Here, I was opening up to her about myself and about my life journey, and there she was, hiding parts of her while calling herself my best friend. I was devasted. It was probably the worst heartbreak I have ever experienced. Some people find it difficult to understand this but somehow when a very close friend betrays our trust, it sucks more than if it’s someone else, even a romantic partner. I felt like I was taken for granted. I felt like I was not valued or trusted, and that I couldn’t trust this person anymore. It took me until recently to come to a point where I could finally see that her actions were not a reflection of our friendship or of me. I had taken her hesitation to share her vulnerable side that inspired that decision as a betrayal of trust. In my hurt, I couldn’t see the pain that she had been carrying for a long time and I couldn’t see how our friendship had provided her a space to step away from that pain. Her action and her hiding parts of her from me did not mean that she didn’t value our friendship. I remember asking her why and I remember her teary-eyed response – “I didn’t know I would get so close to someone and I didn’t want to. But, we kept getting close and I got scared. I am not this open to people I work with. I just wanted to leave but then you came out of nowhere, and I didn’t know what to do.” To me, her words had not much sense then but today they do. Just like me, she was scared of being vulnerable and scared of getting hurt. Just like me, she was going to miss her best friend and she didn’t know how to make it less painful for either of us. Just like me, she was looking for someone she could trust, and just like I would eventually do for myself, she was trying to give herself a chance at life. If she was here today, I would just tell her this – “I get it now. I am sorry I didn’t understand it back then. I finally forgive you and myself for hurting each other. I hope you found what you were looking for.”

This incident with my friend had pushed me to take a long hard look in every area of my life. I was at a place in my career where my work didn’t inspire me, I felt stuck in my daily routines, I didn’t know where my life was headed, I didn’t feel good about myself in my relationship, didn’t even know where it was headed and I felt like I had put my life on hold for way too long. Just like my friend, I had also found a place in her to overlook everything that I wanted to change about my life. This incident forced me to make some radical changes in my life and without looking back, I headed to a foreign land to seek some meaning.

Coming to the United States had been a dream for far longer than I can remember. People come here for various reasons. For me, I was looking for freedom. Freedom to find me and do what my heart desired. Since I was a kid, the freedom to be themselves enjoyed by people of this country had intrigued me. So, when I got a chance, I took it.

My introduction to the country and its culture started with a rocky start. In my frustration with my friend and my eagerness to look for an escape, I didn’t emotionally or mentally prepare myself for the move. I moved to a land 8000 miles away from home with a week’s worth of preparation. By the time I realized what I had done, it was a little late. The lack of support system, cultural shock, hectic schedule, and bittersweet weather took their toll on me. There was one more reason behind this depression though. For the first time in my life, I could see how a part of me had stayed hidden for years and how it desperately wanted to come out. How desperately I wanted to come out. Without much support or knowledge about how to go about it, I ended up getting frustrated and disheartened every step of the way. My inner unhappiness was reflected in my interactions with the world and the people around me. I started finding faults in everyone and everything around me and unintentionally started to isolate myself. It felt like I was surrounded by a dark cloud wherever I went. I felt judged in whatever I did and felt worthless about my existence. People could put me down and I would consider it my fault. I started putting some people on a pedestal and tagged some people as terrible. This went on for a while until one day I got the strength to ask for help. Even in the darkest moments, I could trust myself to find a way and I did, by asking for guidance.

My therapy sessions have helped me reveal parts of myself that I didn’t even know existed. What I thought was my struggle with my environment became a mirror to my inner world. What I thought I hated in other people, became parts of me that I didn’t like. What I thought I loved about other people, became parts of me that were waiting to be discovered. With therapy, my inner world started to come to light and with that light, the dark cloud around me started to dissipate. My body became a natural part of me that embodied me, my mind became my solace and a powerful part of me, my emotions became my bridge to the world around me and myself, and slowly Tanu started to come to life. Slowly, parts of my life that I wanted to change, started to fall apart. Relationships that didn’t value me, started to fade away. Opportunities I was passionate about, started to come to light. Parts of myself that I had neglected, started to resurface to be given a chance. Life as I knew it, started to change one day at a time.

Right when I thought that I was getting a better hold of life, a series of events happened. I took it hard when I didn’t get a job that I thought I deserved. I felt undervalued in my relationship and I felt dissatisfied with myself. I have blamed my ex for a long time for not putting enough effort into that relationship. I have finally come to a point where I can say that I am grateful to my ex for forcing me to make a decision. Had his inactions not forced me to make a call, I would have remained stuck in a relationship that was sucking the life out of me. I had not been happy in that relationship for years. I constantly felt like I was not good enough, felt like I had to constantly prove my worth, felt like I couldn’t be loved for who I was, and felt like I couldn’t be my whole self while I was in that relationship. I felt like I couldn’t grow in that relationship. I felt suffocated and stuck. I felt like I didn’t belong in it anymore. I understand now why I remained in that relationship for as long I did – Yes, I loved him. But, that was not the reason I stayed. I stayed because I was scared of being with myself. I was scared that I won’t find someone else. I was scared of letting go of something stable which was supposed to turn into something long-term. I was scared of letting go of all the dreams we had built together. I was scared of the unknown. Whether he realizes this today or tomorrow, he did me a favor by forcing me to make that call. He allowed me to allow myself to be free. If he was here today, I would tell him this – “I forgive you. It was not meant to be.”

That breakup gave me a chance to step out of my comfort zone and live life a little. The free time allowed me to pick up hobbies, meet new people and focus entirely on myself. Therapy introduced me to breathwork and body scanning which helped me get in touch with my body. I started making connections that brought a smile to my face. I started doing things that made me happy. I started to let go a little and started to find a piece of me every step of the way.

When Covid stuck, I was at a point of my journey where I still didn’t know where I was headed or what made me happy. While I had started to observe the behavior and thought patterns that were bringing me down, I still attributed my state of mind to the world around me. I was still allowing my internal world to be dominated by my outside world. When I lost my job due to Covid, I broke down as I had never before. My best friend witnessed me cry like never before. To this date, I don’t know how I got the courage to continue but I did. I remember feeling like my choice to move to the US was my biggest mistake because it had resulted in me going into the worst depression of my life, losing my identity, breaking up, and, now even losing my career. I was a mess but I kept going. And that strength to continue came from myself and the support of another friend.

When I had accepted that I would never seek out emotional support from another person because of my past experiences, I met a friend who’d defy my expectations. This friend gave me the support that I didn’t even realize I needed at the time. She supported me at a time when I had lost trust in everyone and everything around me. Her presence helped me find the strength to keep going. In a few weeks, I had 3 offers at a time when job loss during the pandemic was at its peak. In a few months, I will find a manager who’d lift me like no other, a job with the kind of exposure I could only have imagined, build a life in the city of my dreams, and live a kind of life I had always dreamt of. I would spend the next few months, further working on myself, identifying parts of myself that I had labeled as weak or undesirable, and introducing small changes that will set the basis of what was to come. Spending time with this friend made me feel alive again and gave me that sense of belonging that I had lost years ago. Opening up to this friend and learning from her and about her gave me a look into a life that I had given up on. A life filled with inner joy, innocence, happiness, and friendship. To this friend, “We were not perfect in the traditional sense but we were quite fun to be around. Thank you for pushing me to stop being at a place where I was constantly hurting. Thank you for showing me that there is always a choice. I was not happy in that situation. Thank you for recognizing that and for doing what I couldn’t do for myself. Took me a while but I understand you today. Thank you for introducing me to a world where I could get in touch with myself. I forgive you and wish you a world of happiness. You are a star among the stones and I’ll continue to cherish you.”

I became aware of my spiritual experiences and started to acknowledge them as more than just coincidences or imaginations at the beginning of last year. The answer to my purpose in life all those years back came to me in a way where I couldn’t overlook it anymore. The version of me that I wanted to become, came to look at me in the face showing me that it was just waiting for me to take a step. These experiences were an answer to my lifelong quest to find myself and find a place to call home. I found a place called home but it was not a physical place. It was within me all this time just waiting for me to recognize it. My desire to find myself didn’t require something extraordinary. It required a simple step for me to uncover the layers of what made me and find myself behind and within all those layers. I was not lost in a world of chaos, I was the one introducing chaos to my world. I was not abandoned by others, I had abandoned myself a long time back. I was not scared of being vulnerable, I was scared of being myself. I was not scared of getting hurt, I was scared of recognizing my strength. I was not scared of losing my identity, I was scared of embracing myself and stepping into my power. I was not looking for someone to validate me, I was denying my individuality. I was not scared of dying, I was scared of living. I was not scared of losing control, I was scared of letting go. I was not scared of losing, I was scared of recognizing my true potential. I was not scared of being judged, I was scared of being me. I was not waiting to be rescued, I was waiting to surrender to my whole self. I was waiting to be born and to be alive.

So when did my spiritual awakening start? It started the day I decided to take a pause and decided to live. I was right. Coming to the US helped me find myself in more ways than one. My spiritual awakening started the day I started to see myself for who I was. It started the day I decided to take a hard look at my life, it started when I dared to look beyond the surface, the day I decided to give myself a chance, the day I owned up to myself, the day I took accountability for my actions, the day I felt my emotions, the day I decided to be less scared, the day I felt brave enough to confront my emotions, the day I saw myself in others, the day I dared to live and the day I dared to look within. It was not a series of events that brought it out of nowhere. It was me all along, slowly peeling the onion and taking every opportunity to push myself to be myself. And it was this realization that brought me back home – brought me back to myself.

Radical Acceptance

“Pain is not wrong. Reacting to pain as wrong initiates the trance of unworthiness. The moment we believe something is wrong, our world shrinks and we lose ourselves in the effort to combat the pain.” – Tara Branch

There is a sense of freedom in accepting things as they are. A sense of liberty is felt when we stop resisting reality, accept the facts and allow ourselves to feel and let go. We often confuse acceptance with approval of what is or what was. When we approve or reject our past or present, we hold on to the regrets of the past or the worries and expectations of the future. When we accept our present as it is, we free ourselves of the burden of what was and how we wish our present was or how our future should be. We just surrender to what is.

Radical acceptance is a psychological concept inspired by the teachings of Buddhism. In simple terms, radical acceptance is the acceptance of our past and present, fully feeling our emotions and letting them go without getting caught in the web of regret, blame, guilt, expectations, and wishful thinking. We often tend to spend months and years wondering what could have been and what should be. When we reject our present and past, we enter a state of lack. A state that tells us that we’re not satisfied with what we have. While it’s normal to feel dissatisfied from time to time, constantly thinking about what is gone or what is missing is a thought pattern that makes us feel stuck with no way to move forward. When we tie our happiness to how we imagine our past “should” have been or how our future “should” look like, we limit ourselves to our idea of a happy life without permitting ourselves to just be and make the most of what we have. Who knows our future might turn out to be even brighter than what we imagined? We won’t know that until we allow ourselves to get there.

A few months back I met someone who helped me realize the importance of maintaining boundaries. Their resilience and charisma are unmatched. Add to that their networking and relationship-building skills and they will make a great asset to any team that they are a part of. One thing, however, I find myself struggling with is the constant complaints of their current circumstances, the lack of willingness to change their situation, and the lack of appreciation of things that are good. While I enjoy certain aspects of my conversation with this person, I feel drained and get a stomach ache every time they start with their complaints. I tried everything from helping them improve their situation when asked for advice to just providing a listening ear when I could. But, it doesn’t help that every time I interact with this person, I feel drained as soon as they get into their complaining mode which seems to never end. As per them, everyone and everything around them is acting against them. Everyone has a hidden motive and no one cares about them. I started to feel myself getting sucked into their world of cribbing and I didn’t like what I experienced. So, a few days later, when the same thing happened again, I asserted my stance to maintain a boundary and decided to not engage whenever this person complains about their lives. I realized that there was nothing else that I could offer to help this person without getting demotivated myself. It took me a while but I realized that their complaints didn’t come from the dissatisfaction of their circumstances rather their complaints come from their affinity for struggling and victimizing themselves.

You see unless it’s a life-threatening situation or unless we’re limited by our capabilities, we always have a choice. If a marriage/relationship/job does not meet our expectations but we continue to be in one, we’re making a choice to stay. This choice is not easy and the alternative normally involves a lot of emotional and mental pain, fear, guilt, confusion, uncertainty, and unwanted judgment from those around us. However, it’s still a choice. If we continue to remain where we are at to avoid dealing with the hurdles that come with the alternative, then, that’s a choice that we consciously make for ourselves. If it is a conscious choice where we have decided not to take any action, then, why crib? Why not accept it and our circumstances for what they are and take whatever actions we can take to make the best of the situation? The same goes for any other aspect of our lives. At any point, if we have decided to not take an action towards changing something even when we are dissatisfied with how the present looks like, then, that’s us telling ourselves that our circumstance is out of our control. If something is out of our control, then, we can’t influence it anyway. If we don’t have any control or influence over a situation, then, why spend time and energy crying over something that cannot be changed? Instead, why not focus on aspects of our lives that we can influence to make something better for ourselves?

Radical acceptance is the acceptance of what is, what was, what’s in our control and what’s not. At the end of the day, all we have control over is our thoughts, emotions, and actions. Nothing beyond that is in our control, it never was. We can influence a situation but that’s all that is – an influence. It’s not a directive for our situation or for people around us to change to meet our needs. If we tie our happiness to the presence/absence of someone/something beyond ourselves, we make ourselves a prisoner to the mercy of those around us or to our external circumstances to provide for our needs. But it’s not up to someone else to make us happy. No one beyond us can even know what makes us happy. We have to meet our needs and we have to take responsibility for our actions. And for us to meet our needs, we first need to see and accept our reality for what it is.

Something happened during my childhood that had resulted in a trauma whose influence followed me around until recently. Without going into the details of what happened, I would like to share the impact of that experience on my life. To start with, I had blocked out that memory for years until one fine day my someone took the initiative to ask me about my deepest insecurities and provided me a listening ear to talk about what I had never talked to myself about. It’s been years since I first opened up to someone about this experience, however, it took me 6 years to finally come to a point where I could allow myself to fully remember the experience, feel the depth of emotions that had been lingering around in darkness since the last 26 years of my life and come to terms with the fact that I am finally ready to move on.

While there are several reasons behind why it took me so long to allow myself to heal from this experience, two primary reasons were my lack of trust in myself to handle my emotions and the rejection of what was a past and what is my present. When my therapist had first tried to help me uncover those memories and the emotions associated with them, I had accused her of causing me pain. During a session of EMDR, I had taken out all my anger on her. She had to stop the session and ask me to do some air boxing to let out my anger. Once I cooled down, I started to cry not because the memories came back but because, for the first time, I realized how much pain I had been carrying with myself since I was a kid. It took me two more years to bring those memories to the surface, accept what had happened, feel all the hidden emotions, acknowledge the impact that the experience had on my psyche and accept the changes that I had gone through over the years.

A wonderful miracle happened the day I lived my past and allowed myself to grieve over the years I had lost. I broke down and accepted what had happened. I accepted not just the past but also the way the experience had shaped me over the years without judgment. I accepted why I am the way I am, I accepted my mistakes, and above all, I accepted myself for who I am. For the first time, I realized that the safe place that I had been desperately searching for throughout my life was within myself because I had been my biggest strength and supporter throughout those years. I saw how I had fought for myself, how I had never given up on my dreams, how I had continued to protect myself, and how I had continued to inspire myself to be a better version of myself. The day I accepted my past was the day I freed myself from my past and embraced my present.

My acceptance of an experience that was completely out of my control, freed me of the anger, pain, regret, fear, and sadness that I had been carrying around throughout my life. It freed me from constantly wondering “why me” and brought me to a place where I can say that my past does not hold me back anymore. It allowed me to liberate myself from the disappointments I had faced along the way, the energy that I had spent blaming myself and those around me but above all, it allowed me to fall deeply in love with myself. My choice of not running away from my reality and working on myself to heal my wounds gave me the freedom that I had been searching for since I was a kid. 

One thing that I have realized from my experiences and from talking to those around me is that change cannot happen from wishful thinking or from only pointing out everything that’s wrong with a situation or blaming others for how they did us wrong. It happens through action. And we can’t know what actions to take without accepting ourselves, and our past and present for what it is. Anytime we get caught up in the web of can’t, shoulds, fair vs not fair, wishful thinking, blame games, assumptions, and self-victimization, we give away our power to heal and move on. We tell ourselves that we’re victims of what has “happened to us” and forget what we can do in the present moment to deal with whatever it is that life throws at us. Anytime we choose to ignore our fears and pain, we make a conscious choice to abandon ourselves. We can blame the world for causing us pain but the reality is we’re the ones to blame if we choose to continue to live in ignorance, avoid feeling our emotions, and not do what we can do to make the required changes in our lives. It might not be possible to completely change our circumstances today but a single step towards our dream brings us closer to the life we want to create for ourselves.

When we’re stuck in a job/relationship where we have no influence over our environment, the best we can do is accept the situation for what it is and decide to either continue and make the best of the situation or put an end to what’s not serving us anymore. If we lose a job unexpectedly, crying or feeling angry over what’s gone is a normal human reaction. If a relationship does not work out as expected, feeling sad and upset for feeling abandoned is completely normal. However, continuing to keep these feelings within us without fully engaging with them, blaming ourselves or others for what happened, not taking responsibility for our actions, not taking an action to make any changes, telling ourselves the “if onlys” of what could have been, and cultivating imaginary scenarios of what “should be”, makes us a prisoner of our past and a hindrance to our future. Radical acceptance is a tool that lets us accept what happened in the past or what is there today without the need for us to approve it. It’s not us surrendering to our suffering, it’s not even forgiving others if we’re not ready rather it’s us liberating ourselves from what’s causing our suffering. It’s a way to see the situation for what it is without being clouded by our emotions or our desires, an opportunity to identify what’s not in our control, and permission to ourselves to take actions in areas (if any) where we can have an influence so that we can finally start to heal and be happy with our present.

Dear Reader,

What is that in your past or your present that you wish was different? What is that you’re struggling to come to terms with? Is it a relationship, friendship, job, or a long-held dream? I ask you to allow yourself to see things for what they are without judgments and assumptions. Take things at the face value without letting your emotions cloud your vision. Permit yourself to feel all those emotions that come to the surface when you accept the situation for what it is. Ask yourself what you can do to make it better and what’s not in your control. If you can take an action to make it better, then, do it for your happiness. If nothing is in your control, allow yourself to grieve and, then, let it go. I ask you today to not create imaginary scenarios of what could have been and what should be. I ask you to take your power back and stop being the victim of your circumstances. Your present is when you can choose to either take actions to make it better or to completely accept it for what it is. The fact is, you don’t know what could have been because that never happened and you don’t know what should be because that is yet to happen. Your expectations of what should be will continue to evolve with your experiences. Be present and surrender to the reality of what is while allowing yourself to heal. See the magic of accepting your truth. You deserve to be happy and only you can make yourself happy. The future is bright but to live it, let go of whatever it is that’s holding you back from experiencing what’s waiting to happen.

Bridging the Gap

“Like the physical, the psychical is not necessarily in reality what it appears to be”
― Sigmund Freud

Someone asked me recently what is the difference between Spirituality and Psychology. I took a pause and surprised myself with the answer, “I don’t think anyone can give you an absolute answer today. I can only tell you how I relate Psychology to Spirituality. 

Spirituality talks about three elements or bodies or whatever you want to call it – mind, body, and soul. Psychology is the study of mind and behavior and primarily pertains to three parts of the cognitive triangle – thought, feelings and behavior. Our mind pertains to our thoughts which can be ours or can be picked up from our circumstances. Our mind influences our emotions and feelings which get stored in the various parts of our bodies. Our actions or behaviors are, then, influenced by what we think and feel, and vice versa. Psychotherapy is a way to help people with a broad variety of mental illnesses and emotional difficulties so that a person can function better and can increase well-being and healing. It seeks to help an individual become aware of their thoughts, emotions, and behaviors so that they can eliminate patterns, unlearn and learn new ways to help become what they might have been had they not experienced the difficulties that they did throughout their lives. It’s also a way to see flaws in the way an individual has lived his/her life so far so that they are more aware of themselves and can take action to live their authentic selves. What remains after removing any thought, emotion, or behavior that does not align with what we truly are is what I believe is the soul – our authentic self. So in a way, psychology is the scientific mirror to spirituality. Both have the same goal – getting in touch with our authentic selves.”

My answer surprised me because I had never before been able to put into words how I relate to spirituality and psychology. Yet, it made so much sense to me. Neither of the two fields can exist without the other. What we don’t understand today and what lacks any scientific evidence, is often ignored, rejected, or condemned by those who like to limit the understanding of the world to what scientific books can explain. Similarly, those who choose to look at science as the enemy and only believe in what spiritual books or beliefs state, tend to overlook the power of scientific methodology and give in to fear. I don’t think there is a need to make a choice. Parts of spiritual experiences that science can’t explain today are a realm that’s waiting to be discovered as science and technology progress.

In 1990, Newberg, a pioneer in the field of neurotheology, began his work in the field by scanning what happens in people’s brains when they meditate. He studied 150 brain scans, including those of Buddhists, nuns, atheists, people speaking in tongues, and mediums practicing psychography—the channeling of messages from someone “other” than oneself. He found that practices that involve concentrating on something like a mantra, tend to activate the frontal lobes, the areas chiefly responsible for directing attention, modulating behavior, and expressing language. On the other hand, when practitioners surrendered their will, such as when they speak in tongues or function as a medium, activity decreased in their frontal lobes and increased in their thalamus. This suggests that their speech is being generated from someplace other than the normal speech centers. (Link: The Atlantic). Till today, we don’t know how or what causes this to happen but even being able to recognize that there is something in our brains that’s causing us to enter an “alternate” state is something that science could not acknowledge until recently. 

During the early modern period (1450–1750), approximately 90,000 women and men were accused of witchcraft in Europe, about half of whom were executed. The vast majority of those accused did not identify as witches, while some did come to think, after being tortured, that they may have unknowingly practiced witchcraft. Witch-hunting as a practice is still continued in many regions of the world. According to India’s National Crime Records Bureau, more than 2500 people in India have been tortured and killed in these hunts between 2000 to 2016, most of them being women. However, people say that the “number is much higher because most states don’t list witchcraft as a motive of murder”. So there is no concrete number of people that have lost their lives to being accused of a witch. On average, an Indian woman is “killed every other day after being accused of witchcraft, according to government statistics”.

Sounds torturous, doesn’t it? Humans never cease to amuse me. On one hand, we don’t believe what we don’t understand. On the other hand, we destroy whatever it is that we don’t understand and can’t explain.

Science has proven that our heart has an electromagnetic field. The heart’s magnetic field, which is the strongest rhythmic field produced by the human body, not only envelops every cell of the body but also extends out in all directions into the space around us. The heart’s magnetic field can be measured several feet away from the body by sensitive magnetometers. Research conducted at HMI suggests the heart’s field is an important carrier of information. (Source: Research Paper). Yet, before this could be proven scientifically, a skeptic would have refused the idea of our hearts doing anything other than pumping blood. Similarly, a believer would have believed in anything superstitious to “prove” that it’s true. 

So who’s right? The scientist who rejects what science of their time can’t explain or a believer who blindly believes in a superpower? I would say they’re both right and both blinded by the limitations of their ways. I believe the scientist is right to not believe the superstitious reasons for a phenomenon that a believer believes in and the believer is right in not rejecting something just because science can’t prove it today.

In 2013, a 70-year-old scientist and journalist Gian Paolo Vanoli argued that vaccinations cause people to turn homosexual. We all have heard similar claims when Covid Vaccines were rolled out. A German superstition declares that if you cheers with water you’re actually wishing death upon the people you’re drinking with. In Turkey, an itchy right-hand means you’ll come into some money but an itch on your left means you’ll lose money. Getting a haircut in India on a Tuesday is said to bring bad luck. 

Surprisingly there are few practices that both science and spirituality have started to agree on. Reiki, a Japanese spiritual practice, is solely based on the principle that the therapist can channel energy into the patient using touch, to activate the natural healing processes of the patient’s body and restore physical and emotional well-being. It believes in our soul’s energy chakras and universal healing energy that can help living beings heal. As per this study conducted in 2017, Reiki is a safe, gentle, and profoundly relaxing healing modality that can be practiced by anyone who has received an “attunement” from a Reiki master. This study has found reasonably strong evidence for Reiki being more effective than placebo, suggesting that Reiki attunement leads to a quantifiable increase in healing ability. It’s interesting to observe that the same therapists might have been termed “witches” in the 1450s. 

Today, we can’t even say for certain what role our DNAs play in our evolution. For years, the vast stretches of DNA between our 20,000 or so protein-coding genes – more than 98% of the genetic sequence inside each of our cells – was written off as “junk” DNA. The “Encode” project started in 2003 found that the “junk” DNA is far from useless: within these regions, they have identified more than 10,000 new “genes” that code for components that control how the more familiar protein-coding genes work. Imagine talking to a scientist in the early 2000s and questioning how evolution didn’t get rid of this “junk”.

So where does that leave us? I believe our minds, body, the universe, and nature are much more complicated than what today’s science or blind faith can understand. What can’t be understood by science and is rejected by the “bright” minds, does not need to be false. It leaves people who have nothing else to turn to but religions and superstitions to fear the unknown and blindly follow what society tells them to. What someone believes blindly to be caused by a superpower, can similarly be explained by the science of the future. Who knows the science of tomorrow might be able to confirm that ancestors’ “memories” are carried over to the individuals over generations via DNAs which impacts our psyche and it is when a specific condition is met, that some individuals start to “recall” past lives and “speak” to their ancestors or “other spirits” resulting in what is today called “spiritual emergence”. Quantum theory states that a small particle on Earth can have an impact on a planet situated somewhere else in the Universe. If a particle can have such an impact on a vast body of mass, is it that difficult to speculate that humans can have a similar impact on one another without realizing it? Highly sensitive people till a few decades back would have been termed “abnormal” because of their increased sensitivity to others and their surroundings. Who knows science of tomorrow can finally explain what altered states of minds are and why some of us have “gifts” that others don’t?

I find myself in a weird predicament. Having experienced what science can’t explain today, having seen for myself how my psyche relates to my spirituality, having experienced outwardly experiences while performing and receiving Reiki healing and feeling my patient’s emotions while doing so and having seen what my brain can do, I find it hard to limit my understanding with either today’s science or with the blind beliefs of others. I am a student of science and yet the only comfort I could find for myself was within the spiritual community because the “logical” minds could not understand my experiences. Yet, it was the science of today that could help me confirm that I was not going “crazy” and get a better hold of my situation though I have started to doubt that any one of us is truly crazy. At the same time, I find it difficult to believe that there will never be a science that can explain all of my experiences. I hope that tomorrow comes sooner than later because I believe that the more strides are made to bridge the gap between science, psychology, and spirituality, the more “enlightenment” we’ll experience as sentient beings. I just wish that in the battle of the egos of the “learned” and the “believers”, we don’t lose our humanity.