“Take a lover who looks at you like maybe you are magic.” — Frida Kahlo
Every once in a while, when I get lost (as in: Lost), these are my favourite principles with which to recalibrate myself.
1) I talk about this love vs fear thing a lot. Here’s how I see it:
Fear is bravado. (And trust me, I know all about bravado, my life long companion.) Living from fear means we’re mobilised or reacting, defensive, calculating, padding ourselves against risk, trying to prevent ourselves from getting hurt because we think we can’t handle it.
Love, on the other hand, is courage. Living from love means being willing to be vulnerable. Because the possible pain, rejection and hurt (and sometimes it hurts like hell) is the price of admission for the immense riches we get by moving through this world without armour.
Fear allows us to lie to ourselves about who we are and what we want. Fear makes us cower until everything is exactly right, until we’re magically (and impossibly) bulletproof. Love knows we’re human, and so intrinsically we’re all kind of fucked up, so we might as well take a chance and speak our truth.
Love acts, not reacts. Love is light, not darkness. Most of all, love is expansive. Live from love, not fear.
2) For many people, giving feels more secure than receiving. Maybe because we don’t believe we’re Enough. So we hide ourselves and disregard our human need to receive love. It’s a practice, and one of massive importance: be willing to be seen.
3) When we need to make a decision, we have to make it from our heart. We can’t look for the answer in the people around us, or on the psychiatrist’s couch, or in astrology or from the tarot, or from society or tradition. We have to find it within.
I know – it’s tricky to get there. That’s because most of the time our core is cluttered by far too much external shit, including our own mental “should”s. We can be convinced we don’t know what we want but deep down, we always do.
To figure out what that is, you can try either of these two things. One is get really, really quiet so that you can literally hear your inner voice. If that’s too freaky – and it has been for most of my life – then try the other way: flip a coin. I’m actually being serious.
Like in this scenario: you can’t choose between marrying A or marrying B. You’ve listed all the pros and cons for each, and that’s only confused you further. It’s impossible to make a decision. You’re tearing your hair out. Just as you decide on A, you find yourself dreaming about B, and back and forth you go. So you flip a coin and say: heads I marry A, tails I marry B. And as you flip the coin, before you’ve even seen what fate has ordained for you, you’ll feel a jolt as you suddenly, urgently, hope it’s going to show one over the other. That’s your soul, shrieking.
P.S. The important thing is that once you’ve heard your inner voice, you don’t override it with intellectual rationalisation. Really, please don’t. Trust yourself. Honouring yourself is a form of telling the truth. And remember: your authentic self is your grandest self.
4) We have to step up. Show up. Do our part. Nothing moves until we do.
5) Life is not a zero sum game. There is more than enough to go around. So share your love. Help everyone, especially those from whom you want nothing in return. When you’re horrible to someone, apologise immediately and profusely. When someone is horrible to you, just know that it’s about them and not about you, so continue to blind them with kindness. Choose to be kind over being right. Run your world on crazy-positive energy.
6) Own your life. No pointing fingers, no blame, no excuses. Take responsibility, assume authority, stand up for your choices. Own your own life.
7) Life gets really interesting when I know I’m going to soon leave a place. Everything kind of opens up. I feel brave and liberated; gutsy without reservations. Priorities shift, things feel more urgent, more alive. Others around me sense it too in that collected unconscious way: it’s now or never. Each moment feels increasingly precious. Instead of living cautiously, by measure, by restraint – I live life with abandon.
The trick to being in this heightened state at all times is to live life as if I’m going to leave it any day now. Which is, you know, the reality for all of us. Don’t die wishing.
8) This is something I am trying to do more of: I’ll only buy a book if I will start reading it today. If I buy clothing, it’s something I will wear immediately. And there’s no need to hoard a backup supply of anything; I trust I will find what I need the moment I actually need it. Be current, stay present.
9) I spend a huge portion of my professional hours reading film scripts. Scripts describe a series of events but not all have a story that means something. When it comes to your own life, ask yourself: do you have a personal mission, an internal purpose? Don’t let your life be a series of events without a story.
10) For some months now I’ve become motivated by how I want to feel, and not by what I want to get. I’ve been stirred by a deep yearning to put aside what doesn’t really matter, and to connect to all that does.
I want to be connected with the earth (me, an urban jungle devotee!), connected to my higher power, connected to a higher purpose, deeply connected to those around me. I have no idea where these urges have come from. But the need is strong.
It took me some time to figure out how to give shape to these desires in the form of an actual plan, but the feelings definitely came first. That’s what propelled me to move in a specific direction. (I had this flash of clarity when I was spending a week away from work, and totally off the grid – see above, point 3.)
The goal is not a thing, a result, or an achievement, but something as ephemeral as a feeling. This makes so much sense to me now. Feel your way to what you want.
11) And, lastly, in the immortal words of my best friend Ro: don’t let anyone mess with your mojo.
“Life is not a having and a getting, but a being and a becoming.” — Myrna Loy
As I was writing this post, the mother of my dear friend Aradhana Seth (whom I’ve written about here and here) passed away at age 86. Leila Seth was the first woman judge on the Delhi High Court, and the first woman to become Chief Justice of a state High Court in India. In addition, she was a celebrated writer who used her multiple talents to educate children and others about the law and their legal rights. She spent her days on this earth making a difference to the lives of those around her as well as the wider world. She was also an exceedingly kind and generous host, and a deeply inspiring woman to have known. If anyone has lived a life filled with purpose and drive, compassion and humanity, vitality and courage, it was she. Read her memoir On Balance which beautifully details her extraordinary life and remarkable choices.