A note on my three blogs

A note on my blogs

(1) vio; in love with india - this one is the main blog about my Indian adventures, which started in 2005. I don't write much on this blog these days because I prefer to write privately in the confidential blog. But check out the categories and the index to figure out your way. I have kept some older posts not about India but which I still find interesting or relevant in Old words. Also check out my new, fun category Only in India in which I post photos of funny, unique, Indian situations...

(2) vio; sounds of india - this is my blog of sounds, because India wouldn't be as incredible if it was not so vibrant and just so full of incredible sounds!

(3) vio; confidential - this an extension of my main blog in which I post entries I do not want to reveal to the entire webspace for privacy or sensitivity reasons. You must receive an invitation from me and then accept the invitation to be able to read it. You may email me if you are interested in receiving an invitation.


Monday, 27 November 2006

Back from the depths of my mind

(Vipassana meditation retreat)

I am now back from my second meditation retreat. I woke up at 4am yesterday then spend 10 hours travelling on various buses and trains from Hereford, and was rather exhausted when I arrived home at 8pm. But the landlord/flatmate told me I looked good and thinner. Thinner is no wonder as all I ate was breakfast at 6.30am and lunch at 11am for 10 days.

But the food was marvellousely, gorgeously and yummily wholesome, packed with health, energy and goodness, and I was never hungry until 9.15pm bedtime.

I have probably experienced the most intense and difficult time of my life these 10 days. But the most incredible, rewarding, beneficial one, too. I feel blessed and content, happy and joyful. These ten days, I have patiently watched very intense emotions coming out of my lower back, with my concentrated mind piercingly hammering through that moving, concrete-like block of gross, heated and suffocated sensations in my lower back. Day after day, hour after hour, moment after moment, for 10 hours a day. I cried every single day from the fourth day until the very last one. It was so hard, yet so fascinating and so rewarding. I had known from my heart before going that something good would come out of this retreat. Now that I knew what was going on, it was obvious: I could from day one identify what work I was going through - I was continuing the work on my lower back I had started during my Alexander Technique sessions with Robert. I was getting rid of that bad habit of sitting too much forward on my buttock bones, by bringing it into awareness dislocating that habit that had made me have to release my lower back after every yoga session for so long. I was strengthening my back for it to help me carry the violin. Knowing this made me so happy in my turmoil, and inspired me to keep on working and working... until the sensations finally dissolved on the very last day, to my amazement, relief and massive feeling of accomplishment. Today my lower back feels broader, and on my way home I started noticing how much lighter my rucksack felt on my back!

You never know how you are going to react to a situation until the situation happens. Even more than before I cannot say "If this and that happened to me I would react like this or that" or "I wish this and that had happened". Life is in the moment, everything else is illusion. Last year after Noble Silence ended I was so happy and laughed for hours. This time it was completely different. After the end of the last meditation I was very emotional and the "Be happy" words of the teachers when they left the meditation hall made me burst out in tears. When I left the hall, a woman asked me "So how was it?" to which I said, in tears "Oh it was so bloody hard!". She replied, "Yes, I know, I tried to send you some metta (loving kindness)." I burst out once more, touched to the heart again by those amazing words. I had to spend some time in my meditating cell letting the tears run down, focusing on my breath until I could face talking to the others. Once that stage had passed though, it was even more beautiful and joyful to speak to my fellow meditators, than it had been last year. Such wonderful and mindful people, from the year-long travelling woman from Colorado who had stopped by between Egypt and Marocco, the young Belgian guy who was sitting his sixth retreat in the last year and who was on his way to sit another one in India, from the ever so inspiring young Australian lady whom I've met and who lives in... Edinburgh!

This meditation retreat was such a deep lesson for me. It has very much deepened my understanding and love for Dhamma, the Law of Nature. Maybe I could even call it God now, but then I am still not quite sure. I will forever surrender in Dhamma, however creepy it may sound for many people who will (or not) read this text. Again, and perhaps even more than ever before, everything falls into place. I am on the right path; it is so obvious to me, I am where I am meant to be in my Life. I couldn't even be envious of the travelling American woman because really, my place here and now is in Edinburgh with my job ith people with learning difficulties. And my yoga, my singing, and my violin.

I felt amazing "byproducts" of the meditation too, of my increased awareness. How strongly I felt my emotions in my tummy, especially on the most difficult two days. Ayurveda tells me I have a Kapha/Pitta (earth+eather/fire) constitution, and I feel it in my body. My sleep was so deep that one time I woke up thinking I had slept one hour when I had slept just 10 minutes. The dreams were numerous and fast; my defunct brother kept visiting me in those dreams. But most interesting of all, I was so aware on the last two days, that I could feel myself gradually falling asleep. I wasn't sure on two occasions if I had slept, because it sort of felt like I was aware of sleeping...

The body is such an adaptable tool; if we could live inside rather than outside it, without interfering with it all the time, we would realise how reliable and wonderful a guide it is to us. The mind is such an amazing thing, yet we are so afraid of looking because we are scared of the madness within. But the madness within is a part of mind, a healthy and universal part of it. If we could just look with equanimity and acceptance that this is us, we would be so much more complete, sane and happy... Really, we don't realise how much there is to the mind until we accept to look at it. There is so, so much more than our gross senses allow us to see... Life is wonderful infinity.

May you all be happy...

Monday, 11 September 2006

Life is love

Life never seems to stop sending me Love, joy and reward, it seems. It even seems to spread into my work-life now. I had been trying to organise a meeting with another colleague and my 'client' for a few weeks - and today we just bumped into him by chance in the street, so went for the meeting from there, without having to organise it, as if Life had taken care of it for me...

On our way with my client we went passed a playground and my client said to me "I've passed that stage". I said to him that I had passed it, too, but then I finished work earlier than expected so I chose to go round to my friend Tif's after work... and guess what we ended up doing... going on the swings. Seriously, yeah we did, and we had so much fun...

She's into Aikido, and with me being more and more aware and skillful with my body through yoga, whenever I see her we show one another what we can do with our bodies. Various poses, most often inverted poses like headstands and handstands and shoulder stands or whatever it is. You know, things you used to do as kids but when you grew up you stopped doing... Today I am building, slowly but surely a body awareness I'd never had dreamt of having one day. I mean: I had "being upside down" phobia as a kid. After years of practice today I can do a fairly good headstand, and I love doing it so much! We don't realise how much good reversing gravity does to us... By letting the blood flow down through the heart and down to our heads that way. But there are various ways to come to a headstand and she does it one way and I do it my way and we explain how we do it to one another and then we learn, we try, with awareness. We fall, with awareness too. I didn't break my neck today as I was always (irrationally) scared of doing. I learnt something today - my consciousness shifted. I never knew I was ready to get into headstand without "jumping", just by shifting my gravity centre into balance, with control. It kind of happened.

Often we are scared of doing things, we think we can't do it, just from habit. Because we have always thought we'd have to do them one way and not another so we try one way, fail, carry on, but we never knew there was another way - we may not have thought of it, or Life may not have offered a new context for us to do it. And suddenly one day you may find yourself in a completely new situation and Hop! It happens, you did it this time. And from then on you can do it always...

It's just like when we learnt how to walk, when we were babies. You keep going, you keep trying. you've been trying for months or maybe years, and suddenly Hop! You do it. It seems sudden for outsiders because the manifestation of the trial couldn't be seen outside of yourself, because it was in your head, in your awareness, in your confidence... obviously invisible outside of yourself... And Hop! "Suddenly" one day, you walk.

Same with everything.... really.

So we were in the park, doing all sorts of postures around people looking and staring at us. What fun! On the grass. In the sun. With a little bit of wind. There were swings next to us and we ended up on them. And you know what? We never pass the age for swings and play. It's just one day, because we deem that we are "too big", well we stop paying attention. But go on a swing, turn round and round, feel how it feels, close your eyes, feel how it feels again. Go on a tape-cul (how on earth do you call this in English?), feel how it is to jump, let the judgement go, observe, pay attention. You can learn a hell of a lot about yourself, your body... And it is so much fun!

We stop paying attention so we desensitive our senses and our senses can no longer feel our body feedback, our taste-buds can't taste the intricate taste of an apple, we think it tastes boring when really what we do is condition our bodies to unnatural flavour just to please our unattentive senses... Just because we no longer pay any attention to whatever happens to o ur lives.

Since I have started yoga, since I have started active acceptance of whatever happens to me, since I have started being aware of that body I have and what many wonderful things I can do with it, since I have started to actively relax my body and use my energies better (i.e. no longer spending my energy rejecting what I don't like) by letting go, by focusing on my breath, by doing inverted postures when I have a cold, I can feel and sense so much more... I can love my open feet whenever they touch and feel the ground, I can enjoy stretching my hips and feel how good it is to me, I enjoy throwing my legs in the air, I can actively use my silliness whenever appropriate, I can feel when my neck is tense when I would never have noticed before and relax it again (thereby saving the energy I was using to "uselessly" tense that neck of mine!), I can feel how my back doesn't like it when I let it slouch...

I used to hate my feet because I used to look at them from the outside; today I love them because I look at them from the inside.

I used to hate my knees because I used to look at them from the outside; today I love them because I look at them from the inside.

I used to hate my legs because I used to look at them from the outside; today I love them because I look at them from the inside.

I just want to say this to the world: The truest, deepest way to happiness is this: whatever happens to you: stop, accept, and pay close attention. Honestly! Just try it! With faith, with patience, with experimentation, it all comes together... We become good naturally, because we realise how bad and violent we were to ourselves. And until you see, know, feel, realise it, you cannot undo it.

And then Life becomes amazing at all times - even when you experience pain, because you see beyond that pain.

All I do at the end of the day is walk in the sense of the wind, when most people try to walk against the wind. Go up the upwards-going escalator when most people try to go down it.

When you get to this awareness, everything seems so clear, so easy, so sensical and obvious, and you wonder how you could function otherwise some years back...

Tuesday, 13 June 2006

When work is love

Yesterday and today I was covering some shifts for another team and so had to work with people I didn't know. It was all last minute and I hadn't been told enough information about the clients so of course it's difficult when you don't know people and go blind like that, but there's something so exciting and challenging about meeting new people... And I have worked with tons of people I didn't know before at my previous work for the crappy agency, so it didn't really scare me...

Most of our clients have mental difficulties but no physical disabilities. Today and yesterday, though, I worked with an old-ish man who has no mental difficulties whatsoever but who has ataxia and is completely crippled. It is a gradual illness so he started normal in his life and must carry a lot of grief... His condition also affects his speech and so he is extremely difficult to understand, which can cause a lot of frustration and forces you to be extremely attentive and patient and understanding with him. Obviously, chatting is impossible... Apparently he scares lots of staff because many are not really trained for that kind of work, but I have done it before and I love it...

There is something I dearly love in sharing other people's pain, not in a creepy or sadistic sort of way of course, but something very deep... Sharing the pain as an understanding that I'm so lucky to be healthy so that's the least I can do for them, a way of going against selfishness, like a generous offering of my healthy limbs... An immense opportunity to give freely and unconditionally and completely, an opportunity to practise active acceptance and surrender, and of course an opportunity to offer respect, understanding and just unconditional love to another person.

With physically disabled people, once you have managed to stop judging (i.e. not comparing with your own condition or with their past), once you go beyond the judging and look only at the present and their uniqueness, there's this quietness, this slowness, that akes it all a meditation (e.g. when you feed the person)... You become so present, so attentive and mindful and aware, paying attention to every detail as to how they feel... Yeah, and everything you share is also really simple and unsophisticated, and peaceful... And a reminder that we are all human and all one, and so by offering help and love to this other person you are also offering yourself help and love.

I am clearly needing my bed tonight, but I feel so peaceful and full of unconditional love that I feel it's physically there, sitting in my tummy...

Monday, 15 May 2006

On gender & drag king

We all know that the "goth scene" is pretty androgenous. I suppose though, it's mostly the men that look feminine and not the other way round. Or maybe not so much... The women don't try to look like men in that scene... or do they? Perhaps when you consider the wearing suit-and-tie style, but I am not so convinced really as a lot of make-up is still worn, and the women in suit and tie might still wear corsets; in any case, they still express their feminity very strongly.

So what of the female to male issue? My great friend Tif is a drag king; that is, the opposite way to a drag queen: a transvestite. Female to male isn't very common, from my (limited) knowledge, I feel it is the most subtle transformation. Most subtle because perhaps least easily unmasked. Tall and bulky women are not so common but men cannot shrink in height and muscle size, whilst short and feminine men are common. Perhaps also because it is easier to add than to remove, and most relevant as pointed out by Tif, perhaps because we all started as females in our mother's womb...

A couple of month ago I transvested (sp.?) myself into a man with her. I flattened my chest, thickened my eyebrows (a painful process for me who so lovingly pluck my eyebrows!) wore baggier trousers, my army shirt, a long coat, socks in my pants (because I don't feel like investing into a silicone penis...), and especially fake facial hair. Well that was most interesting. Apparently I was pretty convincing. It was an amazing experience. On the way to the club, I couldn't look into people's eyes - especially the men. I felt like an imposter. The flow of questions this change of identity raises is massive, you'd never imagine how massive until you actually tried. I had to change my name. I called myself Devendra, and people said "he" when mentioning me. That just felt mad. Even though it was a transvestite club (we were the only real women in the club) and so people knew we were desguised women, the situation was most destabilising. I cannot imagine in a real-life situation, for instance the prospect of being chatted up by a woman (gulp!) as I am so very straight... (even though I love feminine men and especially men with some "feminine" (or should I say Yin) sensitivity...)

It was very difficult to know how to act because I had no identity as a male; this takes time to create. As a result I was suddenly extremely shy. Because I am not a "girly" woman I didn't have to change my body language too much though, although still a bit, and you don't want to overdo it as otherwise it would appear forced and artificial... I didn't want to speak too much also because I wanted to avoid pulling faces and laugh or smile too much, as I felt my big round cheeks would give me away. My big eyes did betray me - or was it just my biased perception - but there was nothing I could do about that...

I think the most difficult was that I didn't look like a man I would have fancied. I didn't look like "my kind of guy". When I looked in the mirror I found a man that I didn't find very attractive, yet it was me. Or rather (?): I couldn't find this man attractive since it was me... At times (in darkness...) I could perhaps see a guy. But most of the time I couldn't help but seeing me with stuff on. And before the end of the night I had to run to the toilet and remove all that fake beard, came back as Vio, and could breathe again... So yeah: I knew it, but I am very comfortable as a woman, there is no question. Yet still I feel I am quite masculine in some ways, definitely not a "girly" woman. And it is very interesting. I also love my hair short because somehow more masculinity comes out. Like I have more balls (huhu), well it's a feeling I cannot express in words, anyway.

It took me some time to recover from the drag king experience I must admit. But now that I have short hair I think I'd like to do it again. In a real-life context though, where people didn't know I was a woman. I want to study people's reactions/behaviour/speech towards me. According to Tif, they are a lot more different than you think, when you cross "the other side". People speak to you differently, expect different things from you. It will be extremely hard, it will raise questions I have never even imagined before. But it sounds so extremely interesting...

At a gig in Glasgow two days ago we met Diane Torr, one of the first ever drag king in the world, and a "female-to-male" transsexual. It was amazing. I love these people because they are so very open-minded, they are so "feeling-sensitive" because they have had to go through so much because they couldn't avoid it. They are people who have put themselves into question in possibly the most extreme, and brave way. And you can definitely feel it. There is no taboo. They are hemselves with a capital T, and it is all that matters. What's amazing is that the gender question becomes almost irrelevant. They may be half-male half-female who likes both male and women; they may feel more male but be attracted to either sex, they may be attracted to cross-gender people, the possibilities are endless, they cannot be categorised, but then who cares about label as long as you are yourself, as long as you are what you are. It is amazing. Amazing because, just like meditation or living in a foreign culture, going cross-gender is just another way to put socially-conditioned behaviour into light so that you can see it...

[Later edit: I never did it again!]