Love is in the air, especially today. But what is love really? A test of love is longevity. There are many who say they are in love- but a few months or years later, it is gone. That is not love. Love stands the test of time and age- if we can love someone’s wrinkles that is true love. True love is about loving someone’s warts and wrinkles. That could be anyone from your granny to your partner. Love is about giving some time to another person.
Since the few days, I have been thinking about ‘grace’, being ‘gracious’ and being ‘graceful’. It is quality which is not talked about much, except in reference to movement or dancing. I am talking about grace as a way of life. Grace is about being polite, about being accepting of others and of being kind. I have been thinking about how to bring grace into my life and these are the things I thought of-
1. Time and space– one needs to have time and space, gaps in schedule, peace and reflection to have grace. People who are always rushing, bustling off or are abrupt are not graceful. Therefore always keep a little space in your life in order to be graceful.
2. Be expansive– Think big, even magnanimously of others, even if they have done you wrong. Do not go into their level, forgive and let go. Imagine yourself as a big hearted person, not grasping, not wanting approval from anyone but yourself.
3. Be generous– Take time to listen to someone without telling them all about yourself at the same time. Give generously, even if that person may have been mean to you. Imagine the universe as a benevolent entity, always kind, always giving. Even if you give and do not receive back from that person, you will get a gift from someone else. If you can’t give or buy presents, give your precious gift of time or your creativity, draw or write something for someone.
4. Do not boast– Your qualities and achievements will come to light without your needing to shout about it. It is much more effective and powerful when another person comes to know of them through other means than you- it is very powerful! No one likes boasters.
5. Finally, always be polite, even if you are provoked- I find this quite difficult sometimes. Just the other day, someone wrote a very rude email to me and my first reaction was to answer them back rudely. I am glad I didn’t and I continued to be expansive and generous in my thoughts about them. I have just received very good news about a piece of writing I did some years ago. This news was totally unexpected. I have risen above this person’s demeaning email through the good recommendation I have had about my work.
Lately, it has been difficult to concentrate on creative tasks. For one my health has been bad and secondly, I have had other things to do. I have a deadline to finish writing two books by summer next year. So what I have been doing is doing small baby steps- like reading something on the train on the way to an appointment and then transferring my thoughts on to the manuscript when I get back. Or when I meet someone new, I ask their opinion on what I am writing. What they might say might trigger off something else and I put this into the writing too. This might be a sentence or two, but at least it is something to keep me on track. Work can be play and play can be work. As L P Jacks said
“The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his education and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him he is always doing both”
The best work does not feel like work. You do not feel tired, heavy, bored- it feels like you are doing nothing extraordinary, it feels like you are playing! As LP Jack says-
The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his education and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him he is always doing both.
To find out what you are good at, see how you spend your time and then check to see if you can make your living from it. I love reading and writing- so I found that I was getting free books to read and getting paid to write!
What is your best work?
Like many others I had read about procrastination and how to stop it, how I was frittering away previous time that would never come back and look at my life in term of minutes and seconds- not years. Those ideas certainly helped but what helped me the most was my watch.
I had stopped wearing my watch for many years because someone had impressed upon me about being ‘free’ from time constraints and being ‘natural’. So I did not wear my watch and even if I did, I developed a strange aversion to looking at it! I would even strain to look at watches of fellow commuters on a train to tell the time. So I was running late, not paying attention to what time it was and making excuses. I do a lot of desk work and there are clocks on my computers which I use. But I never looked at them or ignored them.
However, when I started wearing my watch, it all changed. I became more conscious of the passing of time and how I was spending it. There is this (slight)weight on my wrist which forces me to look at it. While I don’t panic or become a compulsive looker at my watch, I use it consciously to be creative and contributive. My time is my life!
This the lovely sage tea that the local residents used to bring for us when we worked on an community garden in Palestine. It was hard work and it used to get cold in the winter evenings so this was very welcome. This photo reminds me why we must remember to be kind to all- loved ones or strangers and of Goethe’s words, ‘Kindness is the chain by which society is held together.’
My aunt died recently. With her passing, I remembered the many times I had been unkind not only to her but also to many others. As a child, I made fun of my grandmother who could not hear or see. Now many years later, as I struggle with my own eyesight and as a mother, I wonder how my grandmother coped with 11 children in spite of her disabilities. I did not pay much attention to my aunt and now I know nothing about her life, her thoughts, her wishes and what she even liked. Influenced by adults around me who should have known better, I made fun of her too. She is gone but these awful memories live inside me. Kindness is essential to our spirit and creativity. I stilled my own life with my lack of kindness. I am the one who has lost. So in remembrance of my past unkindness, for the last month or so, I have been trying to be consciously kind. This video also jogged me-
I know that in this world where there are people trying to kill each other at the slightest provocation, it is not easy to be kind or to have good thoughts. So kindness has to be an active, conscious effort in our everyday living. How can one be kind? There are three steps, I have decided-
1. Empathy- try to find something common with the person or try to see their point of view. This is a good ice-breaker too.
2. Politeness- Alain de Botton said that kindness is politeness (or perhaps the other way around, it doesn’t matter). The kindest people are also the politest.
3. Time- one can’t be polite if one is in a hurry- slow down! Acknowledge the other person and empathise with them and then say something polite. All this takes time.
I have been trying these three steps for about a month- it is not easy but it has definitely made my life easier and sweeter. Thanks to my aunt and my grandmother for making me a little bit kinder!
These are couple of embroidered items made by my mother when she was in her teens. All hand stitched with amazing colours and details. My mother is now 75, the cataract in her eyes do not let thread a needle and her fingers are no longer nimble and active due to arthritis. Knowing how much I value her handiwork, she gave me many items- as have other relatives too.
I believed that my mother was not a creative person. Yet not only did she make these exquisite items but also all our clothes and underwear. We were poor and did not have the money to buy ‘ready made’ clothes. With remarkable ingenuity, she made the best of each length of cloth and left overs which she got as a special deal and re-purposed items of clothing we outgrew. I still have a blouse that used to be pyjamas once. My mother made use of every scrap of food too- we were a zero waste household long before this became a fashionable term. Couple of days ago, she told me that she had 15 tomatoes growing in her little container. How did she manage that when I have tried special seeds, fertiliser and pot and achieved not much? Her technique simply consisted of throwing ‘soft’ unusable tomatoes in the soil and watering it with water left from washing vegetables, using used tea leaves and other green waste for compost.
I used to think that creativity needed a studio, materials and time. My mother’s everyday creativity did not need any of these things. These were her everyday acts of creativity defying the lack of money and time, achieved in between bringing up three children on very little. I am humbled by her and ashamed that I did not realise this before. Let us celebrate the miracle of everyday creativity of people – we are all creative people!
Joseph Conrad asked us to run towards something we love, rather than run away from something we hated. The difference is very important for our life energy and direction.
Running away from negativity is a panic reaction- we simply run without knowing where we are going and mostly we end up being in the fire right from the frying pan. Recently I had many people were asking me for help in resolving a negative situation created by someone else. Although I had some interest in this and usually I would have jumped right in bursting with righteous anger and wanting ‘justice’, this I time I felt a different approach was needed.
I felt that rather than getting involved in denials, accusations and bad mouthing that others were in, it was more productive to be silent and just do something positive instead. This has saved me from being implicated in slandering and negativity while I have continued to be engaged creatively and constructively. I am sure this situation will resolve soon and I wish everyone happiness. I have run to happiness and creativity myself and feel at peace. I have not let the negativity of others affect my own creativity. I feel I am doing good by being creative and peaceful. This is my conviction. Justice comes in different forms and not at the time when we may want to see it. But it does come and we don’t have to spend our life energy all the time on dispensing ‘justice’ to others. We must trust that the universal law of cause and effect will work. In the meanwhile, ‘Do good, be good and think good’ and spread positive energy ourselves.
I don’t remember where I got this from but this sums it up-
An important feature of conviction is that it’s for something, e.g., the wellbeing of loved ones, justice, fair treatment, or equality, while resentment (derived from feelings of certainty) is against something – mistreatment of loved ones, injustice, or unfairness. The distinction may seem subtle, but it’s crucial. Those who hate injustice want retribution and triumph, not fairness. They fantasize about punishment of their unjust opponents, who stir “justifiable” contempt. Being for something creates positive feelings of interest, passion, or joy, which tend to improve health and relationships.
Recently I was working on an piece of writing which felt like dragging a large stone, pointless and painful. I had worked on this writing for weeks, thought about it endlessly and yet, when I was working on this, it felt like such a chore. At one stage, typing even one letter of the alphabet seemed like a days work. Did I have to do this? No. Did I like doing it? No. Was this going to help me in anyway, financial or even fame? No. So why was I doing it when the answers were a resounding no? I reflected about how pig-headed I was at times. I figured out that the only reason why I was doing this was because I had started it- and so I had felt, it ought to be finished. Don’t all the self-help books say, finish what you started?! But what a stupid reason this can be.
So here was my big lesson. Certainly things or project that we start and don’t finish can offer a big lesson to us about why we don’t like doing something. They can tell us what we like doing- because we will for sure, bear the pain and finish something we love doing. It won’t feel like a chore, like a piece of stone dragging us down. Work will become play and play will become work. So if something is feeling like a stone, stop, and reflect. Only do it if you really enjoy it. Otherwise it is such a waste of your time- your life!
“The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his education and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him he is always doing both.”
–L P Jacks
From my last post, you will read that I bought two books after a lot of thought because I have been trying to decrease the numbers of books I have, not increase them. These two books have turned out to be quite amazing, just right for me. They go to show that when you buy something with thoughtfulness, then it truly is the right thing for your life.
I am writing about the first book- ‘Works of Henry David Thoreau’. I love his writing- ‘Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in. I drink at it; but while I drink I see the sandy bottom and detect how shallow it is. Its thin current slides away, but eternity remains. I would drink deeper; fish in the sky, whose bottom is pebbly with stars.” Pure poetry in that prose!
However, it was not just Thoreau’s writing that captured my attention. That book had been a gift to someone visiting India (I am from India!) from his parents. On the frontispiece which I have photographed above were these inscriptions and I reproduce them as they might be too small to read. The mother had written, ‘I hope you will enjoy the readings of Thoreau and through his writing, gain a better understanding of his words, “simplicity, simplicity, simplicity.” ‘ The father had written, ‘Open the book anytime and read anywhere in it. Just read a line or two; it is not necessary to do more than that. Thoreau’s words are as timely today as when he wrote them. If you do that you too will soon possess the more perfect Indian wisdom.’
Perhaps the son was going to India in search of spirituality and wisdom. Perhaps his life was complex and difficult. Perhaps he was nervous. Perhaps he did not like to read too much or he would not have enough time. His parents were worried about the journey and gave him this book as reminder of their love and encouragement. How beautiful! Even more beautiful that this book came my way as a reminder, ‘Open the book anytime and read anywhere in it. Just read a line or two; it is not necessary to do more than that!’ I am doing just that- thank you to the parents and the son who made this possible for me.