Thursday, April 30, 2009

Every cloud has a silver lining?

I have never been a particularly religious person. Born a Sikh, I have gone to Gurudwaras with my family. As a student in England, I attended chapel twice a week with the rest of the school. And, India being a predominantly Hindu country, I have participated in pujas and prayer ceremonies in the mandir (Hindu temple). I did not dislike these experiences, but none of them inspired in me any sort of religious fervor.

Lately, however, I find myself being drawn towards spirituality. By spirituality I am not speaking of organized religion, but of an awareness of the self and of the soul/spirit/divinity/faith that lies within us all. I don't have the correct words...perhaps what I am speaking of can be best described as a search for our true selves.

I think I can trace this slow journey towards 'spirituality' to when I first started yoga for my Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Before CFS, I was a classic type-A personlity. A typical day went something like this - wake up at 5, go to the gym for an hour, work from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. (good ol' dot com era), go clubbing after work, and start the whole cycle again the next morning. Any wonder my body decided to give up?

No one is sure about what causes CFS. But I believe that stress has a lot to do with it. Both physical and, especially, mental stress. When, after I got CFS, I was forced to slow down, it was as though my entire world had collapsed. And the stress of not being able to do anything about it made the fatigue worse until I was bedridden.

Yoga helped me recognize the importance of relaxation for perhaps the first time in my life. As I continued with yoga, I started feeling a little better. But, brought up in the 'science' culture, I was reluctant to accept that a "mystical" concept like yoga could actually be helping me. Where, I demanded, was the proof?

I started studying yoga more seriously and soon realized that yoga is an extremely scientific practice. Yet it's spiritual aspects can't be ignored. And so I started reading more - what is spirituality? Is there a God? If so, why does S/He allow suffering? The usual questions. I can't say I've discovered the answers, but I'm actually grateful to the CFS for having made me slow down enough to ask the questions.

I recently read a wonderful book - 'Autobiography of a Yogi' by Pramhansa Yogananda. I'm not going to go into the details of the book, but I can honestly say that it's one of the very few books that has changed the way I think. I would sincerely recommend this book to anyone interested in question like - 'are there miracles?', 'does astrology really work?', 'do we have a predetermined destiny?'.

At first the book may seem a bit too fantastic, but if you continue, it becomes a fascinating read.

Another subject I've been reading more about is Buddhism. What I especially like about Buddhist teachings are that they are more a way of life than a religion. Anyone, from any religious background can practice basic Boddhisatva virtues like compassion, generosity, patience, non-violence and truthfulness. For an easy-to-understand, modern yet thought-provoking read on the basics of Buddhism, I suggest 'Awakening the Buddha Within' and 'Buddha Is as Buddha Does' - both by American born Buddist teacher Lama Surya Das.

I know that this post has been a bit more serious than usual, but I'm in an introspective mood. Also, doing yoga, reading book on spirituality and learning to accept things gracefully are really helping me cope better with my illness. I can focus on everything that's good in my life, not on all that I can't do. But best of all, I have (mostly) accepted CFS as a teacher, and not as my enemy.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Travelling divas

A very dear friend of mine - Smita - has just started a new travel company for women from India who want to see the world.

Her travel packages are exclusively for women, safe, easy on the pocket, and bound to be great fun! She is currently offering 2 packages - to Bali & to Malaysia.

Do check out her website:

...and let all your friends know abt it too!

Thanks! :)

The Good, the Bad & the Ugly

A lot has happened since I was last on my blog...some good, some not so good and, some, let's just face it...ugly!

One of the saddest things this trip was the death of my 11 yr old German Shepherd Dog - Roxy. Roxy had been living with my parents in India, but I was the one who had first brought her home when she was a puppy, slept with her on the floor for those first few days so she wouldn't feel lonely, and shared my pillow with her when she got older.

I have been in the US for 7 of Roxy's 11 years. Yet, every time I came home, Roxy behaved like I had never gone away. When I was away, she slept with my parents in their room, but from the day I returned, she ignored everyone else and followed me everywhere. In fact, when my husband & I came to stay with my parents for a couple of days immediately after our wedding, Roxy insisted on sleeping between us, cuddled up with me.

I could go on about Roxy, but I can feel the tears welling up. So all I'll say is - I love you Roxy, Rest in Peace.

OK, onto happier news! I have now got the naughtiest, craziest, loveliest little black lab pup for my parents in Delhi. She was a present from my in-laws when they saw how upset I was at Roxy's death. We've named her Zaara, and Zaara who is all of 10 weeks old, is busy terrorizing the household as I write this. All I can hear are screams and shrieks of "No! No! NO! ZAAAAARAAAAAAA!". She rly is a li'l devil! But more abt Zaara in another post (I will also post her pics when I can).

Other than trying to train Zaara, I've been pretty busy getting acupuncture treatments done. I've being going to Dr. Raman Kapur in Delhi. He had helped lot with my migraines a couple of years ago, so I'm really hoping he can do something abt the chronic fatigue. I'll let you know how it works out.

I'm also back to doing yoga regularly, along with eating lots of healthy fruits and freshly cooked veggies (SO much easier in India where there is domestic help than in the US - esp on days when health is bad). Overall, I am feeling a little better, but I don't know whether it's the acupuncture/yoga or simply the rest and pampering I've been getting in India.