Monday, December 24, 2012

Loving Yourself: How to?

When I wrote my earlier post on Loving Myself – Is is Vanity or Necessity and shared it on my FB wall, a former student commented that it would be good to learn about the “how to” also. Therefore this post. I hasten to add that all these are tried and tested ways when I went through a “low self esteem” phase.
(I hope this is useful, Swati.) 
1. Discover yourself.
Ask yourself these questions: Do you know yourself well? What are your strong points? What are the areas where you have developmental needs? Write them all in a private journal. The more you know about yourself, the better you can accept yourself.
2. Smile often.
Research says that one uses less facial muscles to smile and more to frown. Therefore smile should come to us easily and naturally. It is not for nothing there is this saying that exhorts one to smile, for ‘it adds to one’s face value.’ Smiles beget smiles and what an amount of happy cheerful energy surrounds you! This is the most positive aspect of smiles. They are like sunshine – life giving and radiating.
3. Cultivate acceptance.
You are what you are physically. Technology has advanced so much that there are costly quick fixes like Botox or tummy tucks and the like to enhance one’s body image. It is also worth remembering that such alteration comes with heavy prices – the actual cost factor and the after effects that can be even life threatening. Look at yourself in the mirror and lovingly tell yourself “I love my … “ (fill it with every body part from head to toe). Look at yourself with new eyes. What a marvel you are thanks to each and every invisible part in your body! Take the case of your heart – it does the job silently. Should it stop, we cease to exist. But have we ever thanked our heart for keeping us alive? Our legs, for taking us from place to place? This exercise of thanking each and every part of our body will help us with not only acceptance but also fill us with gratitude.
4. Learn from mistakes.
Society abhors the ‘F’ word – failure I mean. Historically educators as well as adults have created a climate that does not encourage errors. Failure is pictured as a bottomless abyss from which pupils / people can never come out. No wonder then that many young teens are hope-less and despondent even before they have entered the brave new adult world. Whether it is homework, test taking, making friends or playing games, learning is enriched through making mistakes. It is here that a parent /mentor/educator can play a vital role – encourage all even when they make mistakes. This will prompt them to try again and not give up in despair.
5. Be kind & positive to yourself.
Many cannot forgive the lapses they make or that of others. Research says that ruminating about the past and about mistakes committed releases so many negative emotions and expressions, increase cardiac reactivity and impair the body’s parasympathetic calming response. Compassion and forgiveness on the other hand generate a host of positive emotions and responses, giving the body comfort, control and the right social orientation. So, it is worth letting go of bitterness and grudges. The moment you do that you stop being and acting like a victim. More importantly, forgive your own trespasses. Close your eyes, take a deep breath and say, “I forgive myself for——.” Another technique is to write a letter to your own self about the transgression. Burn it (be careful and prevent accidents of fire). This is symbolic of burning the thoughts of guilt and being reborn from its ashes, like the proverbial phoenix.
6. Silence the inner critic in you.
Is your negative self with its nonstop chatter, chiding you at each and every step? Stop this; else it will kill your self-confidence, and leave you at the very edge of depression and anxiety. Such an inner critic is all about the past and looks for blame. Replace that which beats you up with something new that will make you feel good – something constructive, positive. Accept your imperfections and be grateful that you are you and not anyone else. Remember it is perfectly ok to not be perfect.
7. Affirmations – use them lavishly.
“I live in the present, here and now.”
“I am very contented and happy.”
“I am fit and healthy.”
“I am me, I am ok.”
Words are expressions of thought and repeated positive and fostering expressions send positive vibrations to the Universe and make thoughts happen. So use suitable affirmations to develop love for yourself.
8. Look after your Body.
Eat healthy. Nurture it with proper nutrition and exercise. Treat it with utmost respect and care. Nourish it with Love. Very often many body image issues occur because the body lacks love and care.
9. Stay away from the comparison trap.
Can you ever compare apples with oranges? Each has its unique features. Never compare yourself with others. Comparing results in judging and leads to resentment, hatred. It evokes either inferiority or superiority, besides a host of other negative, damaging feelings. How do you stop comparing? Count your blessings! Focus on your positives, your strengths. To love yourself is to stop comparing.
10. Journal and plot your shift.
This is a highly reflective and effective exercise. Look at the good and the bad / the high and the low of each day. Jot it down in a private diary. It is an amazing stress buster and helps to release all pent up emotions. The consequent reflection empowers you by clearing your mind and giving you focus. When life hits unprecedented lows of change, hurt, loss and pain, journal writing can detoxify and heal. It can be an observation journal or the very effective gratitude journal.
So, there we are – love yourself first. When nobody celebrates or compliments you, learn to do them to yourself. Learn to enjoy your own company. The more you like yourself, the less you will want the lives of other people. The more the encouragement comes from within you, the more wholesome you will be. And the more wholesome you are, the more you will love yourself!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Loving Myself - Is it Vanity or Necessity??

From childhood most of us Indians are taught to love others. Show consideration for others. Even at the cost of harming ourselves, we do that to the T. Yet many a time we are never taught to love ourselves. Loving oneself is such a wholesome thing to do; yet, it is branded as being selfish. Why is it so?
For starters I look up the thesaurus for a synonym for self-love; I find a number of words all of which have a negative connotation. Look at this visual thesaurus below and you'll understand what I mean!
Some other synonyms are words bordering egoism, self centeredness, pride and vanity! No, these are not words that I am looking for. Plain love and liking for oneself which will give each one of us tremendous boost of self esteem. A feel-good pill. The harmless and free  medicine to combat vexation and depression.
Everyday I come across young people who hate themselves because they are not like someone else. They have poor self image because they think that they are not like zero size models. They believe that they are a cursed lot because they are not as "fair" "shapely" or "beautiful" as say, glamorous actresses. How should we handle this situation, as parents and as teachers?
The secret lies in developing a sense of self worth in these young minds. Listen to them and their plaints. Patiently talk to them about loving themselves as they are. Personality is about character and one's inner self and not the peripherals. The bottom line is to help them learn to enjoy their own company. The more they like themselves, the less they will want the lives of other people; be like other people.
For if you can't love or like yourself, how can others love or like you???

Friday, January 6, 2012

Confessions of a Novice-Meditator!

I have had a see-saw relationship with Meditation till very recently. I have been initiated into a variety of meditations including Transcendental Meditation (TM) which had in fact created waves all around the globe and has been validated by over 600 scientific studies by institutes, Universities and colleges over nearly four decades. However, the crux of the matter is that I have not been able to do regular meditation for I got busy with the goings on of day-to-day existence and life. Each time I learnt a meditation I would do it enthusiastically for a few days and then the activity would lose its sheen. Like a rubber band, I would stretch myself and come back to the point where I started and back to square one – a thoroughly Arian trait, wherein I lose steam and go for something new that captures my eye.

Meditation or “Dhyana” has been an age old practice. In fact Hindu religious texts even as old as 2000-3000 BC are replete with descriptions of instances of meditation indulged in by Gods, Hermits and Seers. Buddhism, which the eminent philosopher-cum-former Indian president Dr. Radhakrishnan says, “in its origin at least is an offshoot of Hinduism” also had meditation as a key practice to cultivate tranquilty (Samatha) and insightfulness (Vipassana). Yoga Sutras and Patanjali also speak eloquently of the innumerable benefits of Meditation.

Synchronicity is the coming together of inner and outer events in a way that cannot be explained by cause and effect and that is meaningful to the observer, said Carl Jung. I read of the word Synchronicity in “Synchrodestiny: Harnessing the Infinite Power of Coincidence to Create Miracles” where Dr. Deepak Chopra says that there is no strange coincidences. Everything happens for a purpose. The word Synchronicity itself was coined by Carl Jung and refers to an apparently meaningful coincidence in time of two or more events that are causally unrelated. In a society where we need validation and proof to believe things, we find it difficult to believe in synchronicity. We think that things don’t happen out of the blue. But I am convinced that the latest meditation came to me through the magic of synchronicity.  

Jobs took me to different places and now I am in the UAE. Being an administrator in education, like any other profession, I too feel the heat of work stress. The frenzied pace of life here can really get to you if you allow it to. Then you would end up day in and day out poring over Microsoft Outlook & responding to the messages, planning a host of things to improve teaching and learning, activities – curricular & extracurricular - and also engage teams in professional development. When this kind of a life started affecting my health and mental well being adversely, I took a vow a couple of months back – that on reaching home after over 10 hours of work, I will not check office mail / do official work. I realized that with a little planning and organization I can actually make this happen. When I succeeded in this, I must say it brought a broad grin to my face and a spring to my steps. I now had free time for myself – the most important investment that one can make in the hustle and bustle of life.

Initially I was able to stick to my decision but gradually work pressure started stalking me again. By end on November, I realized with consternation that even my sleep pattern was getting affected plus the tell tale black rings around my eyes. It was difficult to video chat with near and dear ones – for all were asking me what I was doing to myself! One such night I woke up at 3.45 am. Sleep evaded me and I tossed & turned. I switched on my mobile phone and heard the click of a message in my gmail inbox - the wireless was on. It was from Isha Foundation – I am a subscriber to their newsletter. Scrolling down, my eyes were riveted to a title – ISHA KRIYA – Video of the month. What attracted me most was the very enchanting tagline – BE BREATHE BLOSSOM. Having been initiated into yoga, I am more than aware of the power of the breath. By now, I was wide awake. I clicked the link and it took me to It said, “Learn Isha Kriya now, View and Download Free”. There was a sign-up post for keying in your name, email address and country. I entered the details. Barely within a minute, I heard another click. Another mail had come to my inbox. As expected, another one from Isha with the download link. I downloaded the audio link with its introduction. By then it was 4.10 am. Listening to the introduction made me want to do the meditation and the next 20 odd minutes was spent on that. A new feeling coursed through my veins. The only “Guru Dakshina” so to speak was the resolve to do the meditation, twice a day for the next 48 days (a Mandala) or once a day for the next 90 days. I decided to go for the former. Thus from 4th December onwards I have been religiously investing time on this meditation twice a day – immediately after I wake up and just before I go to bed.

What benefit have accrued unto me, sceptics and cynics may ask. I have become much more composed. Peaceful, nay, serene should be the right word. I have more clarity of thought and vision. There are times when I feel an extra surge of energy coursing through my veins and especially activating the energy centres or Chakras. I am happy most of the time and have practically stopped worrying. I even perceive that I engage myself in some kind of mindfulness while doing my daily chores which I earlier used to do very mechanically - in fact, so mechanically that sometimes I won’t even remember to have done it at all. From pre-hypertension readings of 130/90 my blood pressure has stabilized to a healthy & robust 120/70! I definitely feel the compelling urge to continue all my good practices. So now I go for walks in the nearby Al Ittihad Park, find time for prayers, reading, blogging, and of course for meditation! What more can I ask for? And I am grateful that I stumbled upon Isha Kriya at a time when I needed it the most. If this is not synchronicity, I don’t know what else is!

PS: As I finish this post, I just saw this link on my FB wall courtesy, Music for Deep Meditation, a page that I have liked. This should help all the scoffers! :P And methinks this is yet another... yes, you said it, SYNCHRONICITY!!!