Exploring My Thoughts on What Should the New Year be About?

Tea cup on a table with a diary saying new year goals.
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Since 2019, times have been very taxing for all of us. We were challenged beyond our limits on one hand and deprived of social contact on the other. When we felt burdened by deep thoughts and feelings, we hardly found anyone around to share them with.

Covid with its lockdowns though made us slow down amidst a life of rush and ponder over the meaning of life. When it comes to our life, what is it that matters in the end? Is every part of our life worth rushing back to? What is it that truly makes us happy, should we have good health on our priority list along with our material goals?

This January has been mostly a period of hibernation and retreat for me. I found time to blog again, it’s a joy in itself. I finally mustered up the courage to get my wisdom tooth extracted, it had been causing me discomfort for a very long time. I was also lucky to get some days off from work (winter vacations) and deemed it an opportunity to take care of the needful, including my dental surgery, my children’s upcoming assessments and some reorganizing. My family time includes watching a few movies with my kids and going out for nature walks.

2022 I feel is going to be better in many ways. It’s going to be about gaining courage, respect and recognition as most of us have been putting in a lot of effort in our work. A lot of us have come to realize our inner fortitude as a survival strategy and have learned to thrive on our own merits.

I think this year will be about dreams coming true. To cause this to happen, we must be as open to ourselves as we are to others, and be someone who no longer feels they need to camouflage themselves or disappear altogether in order to be accepted. This is a normal part of growing and maturing. I feel we are ready to set aside our velvet gloves and reveal the iron fist inside, we’ve grown stronger ferrying through the tumults of life.

2022 is about valuing and respecting ourselves, letting ourselves flourish in nourishing and healthy ways. We must rid ourselves of all old patterns that don’t serve us anymore. Keeping away from people and environments that don’t offer constructive support and silencing our inner critic, is what will lead us to success this year. Let’s embrace our authentic self, giving way to healthier ways of expression to who we are, as we grow strong and powerful every year.

There are many different ways to stand up for ourselves, including removing ourselves from harmful situations. This year is one of standing our ground and not apologizing for being ourselves. This should be our way forward.

Happy new year everyone, stay safe!

Lovely Golden Autumn

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Being an October born person, I’ve always been a fan of autumn. The sun in the summer is harsh, but there’s something very lovely, warm and soft about the autumn light. The blanching shades of fall foliage symbolise both the fading of a season and a renewal of sorts, the trees tell us how significant it is to let go of the old in order to embrace the new. Autumn is all about nature showing us how graceful it is to accept change and grow.

When I go out for my evening walk nowadays, I feel that there’s a touch of fall in the air and I see that the leaves are slowly turning yellow. The breeze outside is as lovely as the golden light in the evenings. It’s so beautiful to witness this season coming in, no wonder many poets chose to write about autumn, including William Shakespeare. Poets have often associated autumn with ripeness, maturity and adulthood. John Keats called autumn the ‘season of mists and mellow fruitfulness.’ Some autumnal poems will make you fall in love with this season, and surprisingly, also with the notion of getting old.

Though I haven’t tried to write a poem about this lovely season myself, I can share one that I really like. It’s written by Robert Louis Stevenson. I hope you’ll enjoy the poem and the lovely fall season. Happy reading!

Autumn Fires

Robert Louis Stevenson

In the other gardens
   And all up in the vale,
From the autumn bonfires
   See the smoke trail!

Pleasant summer over, 
   And all the summer flowers,
The red fire blazes,
   The grey smoke towers.

Sing a song of seasons!
   Something bright in all!
Flowers in the summer,
   Fires in the fall! 

Nature and Well-being

A woman walking in forest
Photo by ib rama on Pexels.com

“The natural world and its processes has much to teach us about the flexibility, creativity, and resilience that’s already within us, just waiting to unfurl.”Kelly Barron

Have you ever looked closely at those dense dark forests? There’s a lot we can learn from observing nature, specially plants. Lodgepoles and ferns dot landscapes and forests despite facing adversity from nature in the form of wildfires and lack of sunlight. They grow both in cold, wet winters and dry, hot summers. The wildfires help lodgepoles with their propagation strategy, it helps unlock the seeds in their hard cones, which otherwise would stay trapped inside. Ferns, no matter how small, make their existence felt in dense forests by availing every little spot available to grow. This small insignificant ancient plant “fern” grows everywhere among the large tall trees, including the barks of dead trees, hence populating and flourishing in the forest like no other species.

These plant species due to their resilience, claim to be the “real” kings of the forests where other tall trees hamper growth being dominant. Lodgepoles and ferns don’t just survive catastrophes. They thrive in their aftermath, says Kelly.

Endlessly inventive, unrelenting, and forever evolving, nature’s hallmark is resilience.”

According to Kelly, “Nature is more connected, collaborative, and communal than we realize. Survival of the fittest refers not to the competitive strength of a species but to a species’ “fitness” to adjust to its changing environment. We too can apply nature’s wisdom to improve our mental, emotional, and physical well-being. Learning to adapt, collaborate, and renew ourselves will not only help us live more sustainably on earth, but also—like a towering lodgepole pine—flourish in the face of adversity.”

Many species face conflict when it comes to preying for food and mating, but it takes more energy to fight than adapt. Hence, these conflicts are short-lived. Nature can thrive only through cooperative relationships. A single wolf faces difficulty in bringing its prey down, but a pack of wolves works together so that everyone can have food. Similarly, many flowering plants build a relationship with fungi that helps colonize their roots. Due to this wood-wide-web which is an example of “underground connectivity network”, every plant and tree in the forest receives its share of nutrients.

As humans our primal need is that of connection, we die when we are alone. Covid-19 has been an epidemic of loneliness for us. It has reinforced the idea that humans crave togetherness, they are interconnected. The social distancing has affected our mental health adversely, because we are by nature social beings, we thrive when we socialize.

On the other hand, Covid-19 has also taught us how we have an innate ability to collaborate for mutual survival. Wearing masks, keeping distance, using sanitizers and getting vaccinated are forms of social solidarity that we are going to fight this together for our safety and survival. The give and take in nature exemplifies that we need to deepen friendships and create supportive networks.

Nature also teaches us to rest, renew and regenerate in order to grow and survive. Life is hard, but it persists like nature. Nature faces disasters, it breaks down, lets go, and allows the next generation to continue growth. We as humans have a hard time accepting change and loss in life. We do not see life-shattering events as divorce, death of a loved one, job loss and sickness as an opportunity to grow strong and renew ourselves. We tend to dwell on our past mistakes and mishaps. Kelly says that “by observing nature’s cycles, we can learn to accept the disruption and renewal that occurs in our lives. We can acknowledge the messy middle of transitions and the inevitable growth they foster.”

Catastrophes propel us towards a new level of growth, we struggle through transitions but nature shows us that it allows time for restoration. Alex Soojung remarks that “Rest is not work’s adversary, it’s work’s partner. They complement and complete each other.” Just like some animals hibernate, shed skin, trees lose their leaves, the sun rises and sets, we must acknowledge the wisdom of following activity with rest. We too can withstand the tumult of life, endure with hopefulness and renew ourselves.

Take a nature walk whenever you feel down, and you’ll feel a renewed sense of faith and purpose in life.

Being Free, Being True, Being You

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I just felt like sharing some thoughts that came to my mind today when I was looking at birds flying in the sky. They’re so full of freedom and this freedom means a lot to them. Birds that are caged and imprisoned forget how to fly, it’s like you’ve taken away their wings from them, you’ve deprived them of their most precious gift. Birds are wary of humans that catch them and cage them, that’s why they fly away when we try to approach them. They feel so free with those wings spread wide, flying and gliding in the skies. It must give them such a heavenly feeling!

“Freedom” is such a rare blessing without question, nobody would ever wish to lose the freedom to be themselves.

I think it is not fair or just to not let others live their lives and be themselves. I have come across such people, and I’ve become wary of them. I don’t think that controlling, imprisoning and caging people is a likable quality. People who do this would never like to be treated the same way, if it came to them. So it’s better to treat people respectfully as equals, as humans with minds and thoughts of their own. This attitude can earn you respect, trust and credibility. It will also emanate compassion and justice, and win you more friends.

I’ve always been a student of human nature, I love analysing why people do what they do. In another way, you can say that I am quite interested in people in general. I want to find out what people think about different things and what goes on in their minds. I love people for who they are, I try to see the goodness in them. But I make sure to keep away from toxic people who drain my energy and positivity, because it takes me long to heal when I’m wounded. I don’t like being bullied around and caged, my well-being thrives on mutual respect. Life has taught me a lot of things about people, and I’m glad that I’ve set boundaries and have learnt my lessons well. I don’t give second chances to toxic people I’ve tried and tested over and over, and my research into their nature concludes they remain who they are inside.

On the contrary, people who are good innately remain so. You can sense them from the vibes they give out, they are beautiful on the inside. Beautiful hearts and good humans can be found everywhere, you may come across them very casually in unexpected situations, but they DO exist.

I personally like to be free and be myself, and this is what I choose for other people too. Everybody is born free and different, and it is likable and fair to let people be who they are as individuals. True beauty lies in being oneself without pretence, without fear and judgement.

Though I have always outwardly appeared as a shy person, I consider myself very observant of people and surroundings. I observe every little nuance of a person’s personality as if it’s a window into their being. I admire people with good hearts, kind demeanour and humble attitude, I value humanity over every material possession.

On a funnier note, I’m actually so much into studying and observing people that they usually find me quirky and different, but the things that make me different are the ones that make me ME!

Have a nice day everyone, don’t let anyone drain your life force!

Be free, be true, be YOU!

This Makes the Bohemian in Me Want to Wander

Khyber Hills on flicker.com

I had to disappear from the scene for a while owing to the nature of my job. Have been busy as it’s the start of a new semester here at the university. Lots of work to do, and hence no time for blogging as frequently. But I love my job nevertheless, and I enjoy teaching. Nothing like it.

So, I have been taking pictures of a lot of things lately, thanks to modern cellphones that come with an inbuilt camera. It’s spring here and there are flowers everywhere, our university’s campus is blooming with flora and fauna of sorts. I wanted to share with you a very beautiful view that I came across, and also felt like writing about it.

Peshawar city, where I’m living now, is one of the oldest living cities in South Asia, and many of its residents feel nostalgic when they look at the historic buildings of the city like the Kissa Khuwani Bazaar, Masjid Mahabat Khan and Bala Hisaar Fort that date from the Mughal Era. Hundreds of years ago, Peshawar was a very touristy place famous with merchants from Central Asia, who dealt in dried fruits, woolen products, rugs and carpets. The city was under British control from 1849-1947, and several residential areas, especially the Cantonment feature buildings dating from the British Era.

Peshawar is surrounded by hills and mountains from three sides that make it look like a valley. The hills are an amazing sight to see, and have history associated to them.

While commuting to and from work, I’ve always stared at the hills that are visible from the road and our campus. They look majestic both in the morning and in the evening, particularly because of how bright they appear in sunlight when it falls on them, or peeks from behind them during a sunset.

These hills aren’t the lush kind, they’re kind of rocky. Mostly covered with grass, and having limestone and gravel, these hills are still no less than a marvel. I call them a “marvel” because they have the historical “Khyber Pass” running through them. The most northerly and important of the passes between Afghanistan and Pakistan. The pass connects Kābul, the capital of Afghanistan with Peshāwar. The pass has historically been the gateway for invasions of the Indian subcontinent from the northwest. Through it have passed Persians, Greeks, Mughals, Afghans, and the British, for whom it was the key point in control of the Afghan border.

I’ve always been a traveller at heart, and the view of lofty hills and mountains stirs a wanderlust in me. Whenever I find my routine tedious, I feel like leaving the conventional lifestyle of the city and go live in the mountains like a bohemian. I think taking a break away from this noisy world where we’re overly occupied with worldly affairs is what can truly clear and purify our mind, body, and soul.

Living in the mountains with no T.V, cellphone and modern facilities means you’ll have a minimalist lifestyle and hence will have more time to savour the natural beauty around you. How peaceful would it be, ah!

Have you ever felt that there’s a bohemian — a wanderer, a vagabond, and an adventurer in you? Do you crave going away somewhere far?

Sometimes not knowing where you’re going is the best way to get somewhere you’ve never been!

Khyber Hills at daytime

Image captured by Maria A.

Here’s to the Crazy Ones, the Misfits, the Rebels…

Yes, I am mad and insane! (Sometimes there’s a method in madness)

Aristotle once said “No great mind has ever existed without a touch of madness.”

Photo by Sachith Ravishka Kodikara

Today a random thought just crossed my mind regarding “madness.” Sometimes it is very easy for us to label “different” people as crazy, mad and insane. Whoever seems to challenge the norms is called a troublemaker, we vilify him/her and in trying to do so we selfishly want ourselves to feel sane and more normal.

We often pronounce some forms of art as “madness” and we also call some very talented men and women as “mad.” It is so because the culture we grew up in defined the “normal” for us. Culture has been constantly manipulated to support certain things and repress others. Though some cultural practices must be respected, there are others which must become obsolete. I say so because every person has a different story based on their experience of life. By the way, culture is a human construct just like our language is.

If it is madness to live one’s life according to one’s own preferences, then let it be..

I think the person who tried to make the first airplane was mad too, and the women who went to war were mad as hell!

The bitter truth is that we basically envy free-spirited people! We don’t like people who dare to chase their dreams, because we never had the guts to materialize ours. We are so used to staying in our comfort zones, that people who’re free of the shackles we were brought up in, people who question rules, people who assert their independence, people who have no respect for the “status quo,” disturb us. Those who function with a desire to bring change, seem “mad” and out of their wits!

One of the famous science fiction writers named Philip K. Dick, who thought his wildest fantasies had a way of becoming scientific facts, said:

“Maybe each human being lives in a unique world, a private world different from those inhabited and experienced by all other humans. . . If reality differs from person to person, can we speak of reality singular, or shouldn’t we really be talking about plural realities? And if there are plural realities, are some more true (more real) than others? What about the world of a schizophrenic? Maybe it’s as real as our world. Maybe we cannot say that we are in touch with reality and he is not, but should instead say, His reality is so different from ours that he can’t explain his to us, and we can’t explain ours to him. The problem, then, is that if subjective worlds are experienced too differently, there occurs a breakdown in communication … and there is the real illness.”

Similarly, Rob Siltanen once remarked that “The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.”

There’s always some reason in madness.. and I leave it to you find that reason. Let all mad people live their life to the full. Let us all have the courage to be MAD and insane! 🙂

Scrawls of an Archaeophile, a Lover of Old Things and Places

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Jonathan Safran once remarked “Time was passing like a hand waving from a train I wanted to be on…It is strange how we hold on to pieces of the past while we wait for our futures…”

The human mind has this wonderful ability to think about its own thinking. In Psychology, they call it “metacognition” — becoming “aware of one’s awareness” or higher-order thinking skills.

Nowadays, I often find myself looking in the mirror trying to see those fine lines around my eyes. Time flies for sure and at this stage of my life, I find myself thinking more about my own thoughts, my “old” thoughts.

I would say it is quite interesting to try to understand one’s own pattern of thoughts and musings.

Catching myself gravitated towards old things and places, I reminisce some fine lines from Charles Lamb’s essay on “Antiquity” :

“Antiquity! thou wondrous charm, what art thou? that being nothing art everything? When thou wert, thou wert not antiquity – then thou wert nothing, but hadst a remoter antiquity, as thou calledst it, to look back to with blind veneration; thou thyself being to thyself flat, jejune, modern! What mystery lurks in this retroversion? or what half Januses are we, that cannot look forward with the same idolatry with which we for ever revert! The mighty future is as nothing, being everything! the past is everything, being nothing!”

Lamb knew what it felt like to be nostalgic! Nobody can put it more exquisitely in words than him.

You find a lot of people telling you not to live in the past, but Oh! the pleasure of taking that walk down the memory lane — nothing like it!

I would rather embrace my past, the old days, the old things and places that are now memories to be relished, I would never try to cut them out from my experience of this world. They made ME. They are pure gold!

I would rather be myself, my “evolved self” than pretend to be something I’m not. I won’t part with my old self, and still keep my new self. I think most of you would agree with me. You are what you are because of what you’ve seen and gone through.

Visiting museums, witnessing old architecture, and strolling through antique shops has somehow become an addiction to me. These places are the “nothing” and “everything” that my soul craves, I desire to take them in like a breath of old air, like a scent, that soothes me somewhere inside. Everything seems to be time-kissed after all these years!

A part of me surprisingly feels young again when I visit the school I once went to in my childhood, and the bazaars I used to shop in. A part of me also mourns, when I recall the people who are not there anymore.

As the winter nears its prime, I sit in my cozy lounge chair and read poetry .. I contemplate how life has been. As I sip warm tea from the mug, I peek from the window at the grey sky with a hazy sun, and once again get reminded how all things old and beautiful, are also shrouded by a mysterious haze which renders them a charm incomparable.

Time has callously ensnared a lot of beautiful things and places around me, or should I say, transformed them into something more lovely, more admirable by its sacred touch!

Maybe I should just greet the passing of time like an old friend…

Antiquity! thou wondrous charm, what art thou? that being nothing art everything?