Cynicism is separatist

Some time ago, I had an exchange with a blogger elsewhere and there was a term that jarred not for its descriptiveness but for its cynicism. As a descriptor, it was spot on but the spirit of it seemed one of jaded mockery, of the self and others. Cynicism is separatist.

Since then, I’ve found myself straying into thinking about how easy it is to slip into its viscosity. It’s a familiar mindscape, I guess most people go through it either in phases or then as a way of seeing the world, I’ve occupied that space too. It’s a comforting worldview to have, there is no expectation of anything good so one cannot be disappointed. But it is also limiting in its reluctance to be open to the vulnerability of hope. Cynicism tends to be based on outcomes rather than process and braces for dissatisfaction. In a way, it is an expression of fear, a fear of possibility. And therefore the mental posturing is usually one of looking in from the outside, strengthening separation in an already divisive world.

It is an immobility which could become stasis ultimately leading to decay. That is a loss, for oneself and the people in one’s orbit. When I consider it through the lens of asana, cynicism might express itself as I’m never going to be able to get into that pose so why bother. It throws a spoke in the wheel of progress if one does not even attempt because the mind has already decided the end result. But there is a parallel dimension where transformation happens even when it seems impossible. The hundredth attempt perhaps lifting you up effortlessly into a headstand. I see it in a seed growing into a tree, a human breaking the 2 hour marathon barrier and so on.

“There is freedom waiting for you,
On the breezes of the sky,
And you ask “What if I fall?”
Oh but my darling,
What if you fly?”

― Erin Hanson

There’s much that is wrong and terrible in the world but there’s also much that is good and joyful. Every time an icon passes away, there is collective mourning. Perhaps, it is a mourning for the loss of hope in a world where it is easy to be trapped in the desolation of cynicism. If I stop to consider how those people lived, what I see is a forging ahead. There is no place for cynicism in that march. It’s just stepping into the next right thing that is possible. It calls for creativity, ingenuity and fortitude and the ability to laugh at oneself, dust oneself up after a fall and climb up that tree again. I write this as a note to myself if ever I need a reminder.

Poking through for an all too brief season but what a joy!

Converge

A few days ago, I ended up reading bits and pieces from different books at various points during the day and there were three themes that sprang up. Dying, Forgiving and Love. I found the three again soon after in an endearing movie, A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood.

A cynical, jaded journalist who is known for ripping people apart is disarmed by the kindness and love of a stranger. Tom Hanks as Fred Rogers brings the gift of his complete presence to his interactions and invites people into his mindscapes of difficult emotions. He does this through the weathered puppets who have accompanied him on his journey as a host for a children’s show. The movie revolves around difficult parent-child relationships through the lens of death and abandonment. A dying father finds it necessary to make peace with his estranged son. Ultimately, an autumn funeral is one of love that finds redemption in the character of Mathew Rhys wanting to be a better dad.

Dying

About 8-9 years ago, I became interested in Indian philosophy and since then dying has had fascination as a thought for reflection. B.K.S. Iyengar’s words probably express it best, “Live Happily, Die Majestically”. It is considered inauspicious to talk about death and dying but that’s what we are heading towards the minute we are born. I’ve found being aware of mortality, my own and that of loved ones has been a way to live more intensely and joyously in the present. Now more than ever it seems urgent to reflect on what it means to die and therefore how one should live. In the context of yogasana, I remember Geeta Iyengar asking if one is willing to die in the pose? Change happens in that moment and space of a breaking point. Stick around, walk into the pain and you cross over into an unimaginable freedom.

Forgiving

Forgiving has always been a contentious word for me. Who am I to forgive anyone? But while sitting with the thought, it automatically split into ‘for’ and ‘giving’ and that made sense. Service. Giving like the flower gives, giving like the bird sings, giving like the sun shines. Giving wholly of oneself is its own reward. Often, it means just sharing our stories as they are. At the end of a life, the holding back of their ability to connect and heal don’t matter and just make for a dead weight kind of living in isolation. Vulnerability is like having the shell ripped off a soft body and the fear of being crushed is very real but it is also a taking one’s place under the sun in one’s fullness. That’s a brilliance which touches everything around it.

Yehudi Menuhin’s foreword in Light on Yoga is one of my favourite passages and a sentence in there expresses it best. “Whoever has had the privilege of receiving Mr. Iyengar’s attention, or of witnessing the precision, refinement and beauty of his art, is introduced to that vision of perfection and innocence which is man as first created- unarmed, unashamed, son of God, lord of creation- in the garden of Eden.” I’ve experienced this sense of innocence in my yoga teachers too. It’s a clarity of a clear stream in which they allow all to enter, the good, the bad and the ugly without any discrimination and with compassionate detachment. So, the stream remains unsullied even while allowing all who enter it to wash away the accumulated dust of tendencies.

Love

Love was the first theme I had encountered during the course of that reading day but while reflecting on all three, it made sense to see it as the last and encompassing the other two. My reading was from The Prophet and one of my favourite lines from that prose poem is, ‘All these things shall love do unto you that you may know the secrets of your heart, and in that knowledge become a fragment of Life’s heart’. Recently, I got a lovely note from my daughter where she spoke of a state of flow, desire, abundance, detachment all aligning themselves with one’s destiny. She ended with I love you. Three simple words and I was grateful to be the recipient of those beautiful words while also keenly aware that I haven’t been able to say it to my parents.

There’s one point in the movie where Tom Hanks asks Rhys to hold a moment for those who loved us into being. It’s a moment where the other patrons in the restaurant also pause and I found myself pausing. But, that was a hard minute. One that also flowed into thinking about who do we really know as our parents. My mother reminisces about her childhood and youth and I listen. I also listen to my daughter about her young life impressions and switch between the roles of child and parent even as the individual me relates to my family members as individuals. As I listen to my mother, it is easier to understand how a young person was shaped through life experiences and inherent attitudes to meeting them. And my daughter’s words allow me to see that process as it is unfolding.

Kindness as a mirror

In the movie, Tom Hanks becomes the kind mirror we need to see ourselves and our frailties. The puppets in his bag are a poignant reminder of our lives alluding to the way we are played by the strings of our hurts, anger, fears, victories, loves, losses and a gamut of memories and inabilities. Often, they are patterns so firmly entrenched that it seems nigh impossible to even consider the possibility of another way of expression. Tom Hanks seems too good to be true and when Mathew Rhys likens him to a living saint, his wife points out that that would make what he has seem unattainable for people! She goes on to say, “he works at it all the time, it’s a practice. He’s not a perfect person, he has a temper. He chooses how he responds to that anger. He does things every day that help to ground him… reads scripture, swims laps, prays for people, writes letters, hundreds of them.” Letters really jumped out, I find them almost a meditation that can be shared with another and they have been a constant especially in the last few months.

Lately, I’ve found that all my loves converge and compartmentalizing them into neat little web notebooks is becoming harder. They seem to spill into each other and perhaps it is time to bring them all as a singular offering. Call it the yoga of words perhaps or sound. Writing is really speaking on paper or a screen, a silent sound if you please.And I find yoga in every moment of living, in music, musings and movement. It makes for a rich living even in the bleakest of times, providing an anchor to meet whatever comes or goes with a light heart and steady gaze filled with love.

I wish you love.
I wish you light.
I wish you life.

A day in words

How many word universes does the mind inhabit in one rotation of the planet?

It was an interesting sort of journey through words beginning with a long reading of The Divine Song early in the morning, some poetry bordering on erotica, a comic book on menstruation, an account of a modern woman’s search to unpack traditional wisdom with regards to women’s health and a dipping into an anthology of women’s writing as well as a translation of a hindi novel.

Most of it was reading and a small portion was writing. There was also a long phone call with my soulmate and in our conversations, we discovered that we laughed so hard to avoid looking at the fading mind of a mother we never knew. They say there’s a tumour that is benignly placed and comfortably on its way to senility. Alongside, a brain shrinks into singsong inappropriateness and manic energy. Now that’s a book that will remain unwritten and unread.

In the meanwhile, I splash words wherever I can.