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Over the years I have heard, read, mused, cried, laughed, feared, hated and loved so much about writing that one would think that by now I would have reached a space of detachment. 

It is not true.  I am still terrified of the blank page, I still agonise over the word count, I still over-analyse my characters, and scenes. After twenty plus years, one would imagine that I could float in a sea of calm and buoy my way through the next book with a smile and a wave. And say hey! Easy peasy, it all came so naturally! But it doesn’t come naturally, it takes effort and patience and self-discipline to write, and then to carve out the useless bits, to sculpt and skin. It takes time and deep concentration. 

I still read about writing, how to get better at it. I read other books, and learn from the style and prose of the author. I am glad for the books that have helped and motivated me to improve and enrich my writing. And taught me how to love the process of creating. It is indeed a calm flow. I have experienced it many times, and I think it is that feeling that keeps me going back to writing. This inner journey has been so important to me.

But in the outer world, there are many rules on how one must be perceived as a writer. One must stick to one publishing house, one must not stray from one’s genre, one must market and promote like an egotistical maniac. I have broken those rules. I follow the path of least resistance when it comes to the flow. As a creative, I cannot be placed in a boxed space and told how to behave. It’s not how I function. If an idea gets my heart racing, I will follow through and write the book, whether there’s money in it or not. 

There is one particular book that touched my heart and drove me to pen it into a memoir: ‘A Gift from Above: Harini and Haresh’s Journey in Adoption‘. It is such a heartfelt sensitive story, so deeply emotional and feel-good that I simply had to write it. An instinct took over and said ‘Write!’ And I listened. It was the same feeling for when I wrote ‘Dada Vaswani: A Life in Spirituality‘. It was a gut feeling that I had to write this. No matter how overwhelming or challenging, my inner compass steered me to write the book. When I look back, I realised that it was a deeply transforming process. I had changed, I had epiphanies of my self that needed to be addressed. I was sorting a number of inner conflicts.

To write those two nonfiction books, I put one of my novels aside: Blue Jade, a thriller, a story about the black market art trade, a story that intertwines Mirabai’s journey. I feel every book has it’s destiny and Blue Jade, my tenth book, had to wait five years before it saw the light of day. It was worth the wait.

Welcome, Blue Jade! May the readers love you as much as I loved writing you.

Been a while since I’ve posted anything.

I had two novels in the back burner when I was busy writing Dada Vaswani: A life in Spirituality.  Two manuscripts to dust and polish : Trikon and The Blue Jade. I started on them last year, finished, and are in the process of being published. At the same time, I began a very interesting non-fiction book on adoption. I have completed it, and the book will be releasing soon. But, I want to share something else first…something I discovered about my self, about the way I use writing to distract from facing something else…

Our lives are web-centric. There’s so much awareness. Our health and body have fitbits and apps to check on our status at any given moment. I’ve never seen so much attention put on how many steps one takes, 10,000 being the optimum per day, so that one can eat a portion of fats and sugar, guilt-free. The key is guilt-free. We spend so much time assessing what feels good, what makes us comfortable, and how we can be happy.

It’s an ever growing space, this need for little perks of the feel-good state.  This is the psychology of our conditioning. We cannot get candy unless we do well in our studies/work/exams/body shape. But what about burnout or disappointments and obstacles. Nothing in life is smooth and easy, everyone faces some issue or negativity within their journey towards their goals.  In that goal-oriented journey, we become slaves to these perks. Apps are available for any number of dopamine fixes to keep us high through the winding paths of life. But all that is external.

So back to the writing as a distraction. I was avoiding some unresolved stuff.

An internal audit is what I needed. There are many undusted, cluttered, cobwebbed parts of my mind which needed attention. Past moments that I wish I could completely erase. For many years, these memories have been left unchecked. It was time to address them – face them with courage – acknowledge their existence, no matter how painful. I faced many of them, memory by memory. It was cathartic but necessary, I let go of some, hugged my younger self, asked for forgiveness, forgave, accepted with gratitude. In that process, I had greater clarity of my personality type. I realised that I need my space to think and reflect regularly, to audit and let go of many conditioned beliefs. In this phase of my life, I am rediscovering the joy of being an artist. I am consciously writing, without the angst of a restless mind.

In her book ‘How to be an Artist Without Losing Your Mind, Your Shirt, or Your Creative CompassJoAnneh NAgler says:

We must as artists, nourish the creative space around us. …We are sensitive creatures and we feel everything on an intense wavelength. Suffering, it turns out, is not good for us. It’s like running too much electricity through already-delicate circuits….So we have to put the supports under our soul and body that allows us to move with some peace in the world. We must do it as an artistic strength and wisdom.’

I am an artist – I discovered this after writing for 20 plus years. I have taken it as something everyone can do. But, no, it is not easy being one. Any creative activity takes energy, time, effort, and self-deprecating moments. It takes years of practice, it is an intense process. I shall respect this gift of writing, use it diligently, wisely, and accept the accolades with gratitude.

If I had a fitbit for the mind, I would use it a lot more diligently than the one that I have that counts my steps.

Any kind of change is change for the good, because it turns our preconditioned beliefs on its head. I have discovered that we may think we know everything, or understand people, or are aware of all the good and bad in the world.

But in reality we know nothing.

What I mean is that things change so fast, that in a blink, what we thought was right, is actually wrong. And all of it is happening on a global scale, there’s been so much change that sometimes, when I look at myself in the mirror, I see a stranger.

Change is inevitable, but when we get stuck, it get’s traumatic to move on.

So much buzz about so many topics. The major issues of protecting the planet, from ocean to land life, and plastic mania, where it is predicted that because of plastic by 2050 sea life will seize to exist. Not to mention, oil spills, and chemical dumping.  There’s so much under the spotlight :  environmental protection, social acceptance, partiality to LGBT people, the rampant drug trade, the crazy Sino-US trade relations, the bold hackers of government sites, social media storms about what people wear and do, and what their pets wear and do, there’s also the fake news, and of course if you want to believe, then there’s the alternative reality, parallel universe, and that the pyramids are the creations of advanced civilization or aliens.

But forget that, here on earth, people are so complex and powerful that they have the ability to sway public opinion, creating millions of followers just on one insta hashtag post. I have realised that as much as I thought I understood society or trusted what most people said, I realise I was wrong, I still have a lot to learn.

In order to adapt to the pace of this fast changing world, I have decided to follow a few guidelines to protect my sense of balance:

  1. Detach from expectations. There is so much happening around us that what you think you know is good, is actually not. American President Trump is a disappointment, Modi turned out to be less than what he claimed to be, Rahul Gandhi seems to be making a comeback, Brexit is on-off or not sure, all of these situations result in ‘Oh no!’ and ‘Damn it!’ So, best course of action, carry no expectations
  2. Be prepared to communicate with machines. Relationships with mobile devices carry more value than relationships with humans. If you want to interact with humans, get a mobile device. The future in hi-tech communication is changing so rapidly that I wouldn’t be surprised that by the end of next year, I will have a chip embedded in my wrist and I will be able to communicate, type and access my emails through this device.
  3. The art of being unique. As much as people want to conform, I also believe they want to stand out, they want to have an identity that is unique. We see that in fashion, in films, in books, and every other creative field. This is what I feel is my domain. This is where being different, being a misfit, fits right in with the modern world. I will not change that part of me, or am I defying point no. 1?
  4. Freedom to choose. I constantly try to conform, but then I prefer to have the freedom to be different, without being judged. It is so important to be accepted for whatever we choose to be or do. Whether we want to be happy or not, vegan or not, believe in a God or not, it is a personal choice. Live and let live. Do what you want, I will not judge you.
  5. Nobody is perfect. And nobody needs to be perfect, because perfection is unique to each individual, what maybe perfect for you may not be for me. Acceptance is a choice. The world is getting smaller, we have to make space for every unique kind of soul that lives on this planet – without judgement.

Here’s me, staying ahead of the game. Happy 2019!

Me

When faced with a situation, person, or decision we react or behave in a preconditioned way, there’s the self-talk and the trigger response based on our personality type and self-image.

I have discovered that, we have to pay attention to our bodies -and their language. At times, I feel a constricting feeling right in the middle of my chest, under my ribcage it’s a feeling that comes from fear. This is a bodily sensation. Previously I only paid attention to the verbal language of the mind, but ignored the language of emotional experience.

For many years, I have let fear be my first reaction to face situations in life. In many ways, I’ve put my personal viewpoint aside, and chose to be a follower, I have trusted judgments of others when I should trust my gut. It happens when we doubt ourselves. Having said that, I have discovered that the body’s reaction is unique to each individual’s thought processes. There is a purpose for everyone and the life experiences differ from each individual and therefore the triggers of physiological responses will be different too.

While one person may feel totally exhilarated on a roller-coaster ride, another might freeze at the thought of it.

Which brings us to the point that we must train ourselves to listen to the deeper inner worlds.

I’ve learnt that an instant dissolver of a negative physical response, is deep breathing, sitting quietly and listening to the body’s language, and giving one self some positive self-talk. Understanding a reason behind the body’s response to a situation is necessary for self-growth and overcoming preconditioned responses.

Sometimes, because of childhood experiences, we become conditioned to respond in certain ways. Overcoming those preconditioned responses is necessary to find clarity. Emotional responses are automatic. But, our understanding of the underlying cause or trigger response will help us transform to adjust to any situation.

Human nature is a mystery as we are always interconnecting with the inner and outer worlds, it is made more complicated by social norms and cultural traditions. We are unique creatures learning to adapt to a world that is changing at breakneck speed.

Small steps.

 

 

Why would an action thriller writer write a spiritual book

From as far back as I can remember (reading Amar Chitra Kathas as a kid) I wondered about God and his purpose. There was an innate curiosity about religion. My mother was a follower of Guru Nanak. Daily she would reverently read the Granth Sahib which was in the original Gurmukhi script. Besides the Jap Ji Sahib, which I can recite some pauris by heart,  there were other Hindu rituals that I followed. I didn’t question, but deep within, I was confused about what God expected of me and my life. After marriage, the religious ritualistic worship continued. I followed the elders without questioning them, or when I ventured to ask,  I was told  that they had been following the same rituals for generations. It was the path to follow. I did follow for decades, but, I must admit, not with sincerity.

When the opportunity came about to write about the great humanitarian, Dada Vaswani, I was totally enamored. From my limited knowledge about him, I learnt that he did not preach a particular path, but said that we must find our own spiritual path through our own understanding of the self. I loved the concept, and I wanted to learn more. I had to write about this great man of science who gave up everything to become a disciple and a lover of the Divine. And, at the same time I hoped to discover the true meaning of God.

A different genre

It was a challenge to switch from fiction to nonfiction. When I started on the research I said to myself, ‘what was I even thinking ?’ how could I do this, especially since Dada Vaswani is such a revered saint, evolved soul, and me being such a novice in matters of spirituality. How could I, a non-follower be able to write this?

So I spent a few sleepless nights thinking, and thinking. Worrying restlessly.

Then I realised that the best approach to structure the book would be to convert my doubts and make it the very strength of the book, my perspectives would be different, one of an unenlightened person.

There are many who are unaware about Dada Vaswani and his great work. My process of discovering, as I wrote this book, meant that I could be a companion to my reader, as we both learn about his life journey together. So I dove into writing the first draft.

Panic mode

In the midst of writing, suddenly I froze – I was overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information. I was bogged down by the long list of Dada’s achievements, selfless deeds, talks, recognition, awards, and so on. There was so much Dada Vaswani had achieved that I wasn’t sure how to cover all his meaningful moments without ending up like a shopping list of dry facts.

There was a key element missing in my book. So I took time to ponder and reflect.

From my first few drafts, I felt dissatisfied and insincere and unsure…I turned to Dada’s closest devotees for help. With their guidance I realised what was missing: amidst Dada’s many external achievements, I neglected to show his deeper traits, the true persona of Dada Vaswani –  the personality of the man who is innately humble, compassionate and accepting of all pain and suffering (which I have mentioned in the book). He is extremely in tune with the feelings of others, and a deep thinker and a wise soul. And more than that, a disciple to his Guru (His uncle Sadhu Vaswani) and a lover of the Divine.

I am grateful that I did this. During my eighteen month journey in writing and rewriting this book, I renewed my faith. My doubts are somewhat cleared up. In the process, I discovered that a simple prayer, a simple positive thought, a simple attitude of love is all that one needs to do to connect, it’s all a part of being spiritual. In addition, doing anything: work, pray, or love – with sincerity – I repeat sincerity from within – is what matters the most.  It’s a way to connect with a Higher Power. I believe it to be true.

My Reflections 

I realise that being spiritual is not about being a certain type, it’s not a whim or a passing fad. It’s not about fitting in or rebelling. To be spiritual is to accept, to learn, to develop and adapt to circumstances and life situations. Daily living involves multiple thoughts, decisions, and actions. And in daily life, it becomes necessary to constantly monitor those thoughts, lest they evoke negative feelings.

Being spiritual involves multiple aspects of our being which tests our self-discipline, tests our sincerity, our self-honesty. It is a way to get real, to deepen, and reconnect to our true selves. We live a superficial existence, we follow norms, we make decisions that may not always be right for us. We need to find clarity. And clarity can come in silence. Sitting quietly and observing our thoughts is enough to make us realise what’s happening within, and what needs to be changed.

To bring a grounding within, is to realise that what really matters is discovering our own reality. In that process, there’s no wrong or right, no judgement, no faults or criticisms. Being honest with oneself, faults and all, is a place to start.

I have discovered that how you feel inside is what matters more than the image projected. And being grateful is a way to understand, that being perfect is not the primary importance. It is being happy in relationships, in daily routine, and accepting, that’s what makes life meaningful, and yes, in helping others in need. These aspects also lead to a subtle way of understanding oneself.

I cannot live outside of my mind, sometimes I wish I could. But we live within ourselves forever, with all the past experiences, the present moments and future plans. We carry regrets and remorse, pains and pleasures. All of those emotions can weaken, or they can make us wiser. We have to understand this and have the strength to transform, discipline and evolve ourselves. Being spiritual is empowering.

Dada Vaswani: A Life in Spirituality

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Like most writers, inspiration strikes on different levels. Not necessarily a story idea, but a way of life, an experience, a life lesson. It buzzes in the brain and insists on being written. So, I pen my random thoughts, which I energise with short snappy words and phrases. Not more than 300 words of peppy motivations.

Sometimes I think the moon cycles influence my spontaneity. Other times, it could be an inner resilient rebellious mood swing. Maybe, words flow because it is a normal extension of being a writer, that one cannot just sit mentally still. I’ve tried meditation, which incidentally, opens up a treasure chest of ideas.

I’ve been feeling restless lately, I want more people to read my work. I’m also lazy when it comes to promoting on social media. In addition, I’m not familiar on how to increase traffic, which people have told me is very important. In that case I decided to piggy-back.

Recently, there was a lot of hype surrounding a portal created by Alibaba Group in India. They’ve come up with UC News – We Media Program for publishers and content writers. I signed up and have written some articles. So far, there hasn’t been much following. But then I’ve not been updating regularly. Anyway, do have a read in UC News. And yes, it’s available for public access on UC News Android app. Be a follower if you can.

Create Your Own Power Pedestal

It is Okay to be Enough

Positive Approach in a Negative Zone

Unflinching Devotion to One’s True Self

Clinging and Desiring Vs Patience and Detachment

Here’s the latest pic of me on my birthday. A moment of happy – content.

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Sitting is the norm, it is what you do everywhere and probably more than 10 hours of the day involves being seated, whether at work or socially. My chiropractor gave me an eye-popping advice, he told me that sitting for extended periods of time is as bad a smoking. Can you believe that? As bad as smoking!

That very day, I got myself a standing desk.

It’s been six months, and the process of writing as I stand has been an inspiring experience.

I discovered that the mind needs physical movements to stay alert, to be constructive, to be inspired. So every few minutes, I would stroll around the room, stare out the window, stretch my arms and bend forward and touch my toes. It feels good, then I crack my knuckles and I am back at my desk, inspired in both body and mind.

Generally, we are wired to be in a state of rest, but rest doesn’t mean lazy. It means resting a physically exhausted body and overworked mind. But, when that extends to complacency, into couch-potato mode, than the body and mind become sluggish. Unless, you lack in some vital nutrients or suffer some other deficiency you cannot let a healthy body and mind turn to sludge.

Mealtimes are when you must sit, and not stand and eat, bad for digestion. So, when I say stand longer than you sit, use that phrase wisely.

Here are some tried and tested tips to keep your mind and body moving, and useful when you tire of standing:

1. March on the spot, raise your hands up in the air, stretch and say: I’m blessed with all I have. Keep doing this for about a minute

2. Bend forward, try to touch your toes. Don’t think early morning stretches are enough. Stretch your body every few hours.

3. The spine needs to be erect, posture needs to be correct. Or pain sets in. So, be aware, are you slouching? Are you hunched? And conciously stand straight

4. Bend your neck backwards for a count of hundred, why? Because you are cricking your neck in the opposite direction all day long…and you don’t need me to tell you why!

Be well in mind and body