THE WAY WILDFLOWERS GROW

wildflowers02It seems like another lifetime when I was standing barefoot in cool spring water, marveling at exotic, virgin wildflowers. They fascinated and inspired me. The way they grew indiscriminately, in random places. The way their beauty shone. And all of a sudden, I wanted to be like that; to grow unforeseen, in ways no one expected. It gave me a vision and I brooded on it for days. As the year comes to a close, I’m revisiting that moment and sharing it with you. Because letting yourself grow is the best New Year’s gift you can give yourself.

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The last post was supposed to be my final one for 2014. But I couldn’t resist another one; a little something to end the year with. It’s just that I’m so full right now. There’s pure joy, genuine appreciation and indefinable eagerness. When you’re so filled to the brim, it’s bound to spill a bit. And, why not?

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Christmas was beautiful as usual. The home was speckled with sounds and smells. My overworked little oven emitted tantalizing buttery aromas that wafted out windows and into corridors. Flour was everywhere, over kitchen counters, under my nails, in my hair. Lights twinkled and magic flowed into every empty space. And then there were the neighbourhood kids. They thronged my living room every evening, essentially for carol practice. But honestly speaking they sang less, jabbered more, squabbled even more. I feigned annoyance and made threats but the truth is they were the balm to my tired soul.

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I love that Christmas comes at the end of the year. The exultation that this season brings just washes away all the tears and pain and disappointments of the months gone by. It’s impossible to feel anything but triumphant and joyous. That’s the kind of sentiment you need to embark upon a brand new year.

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At the end of every year, I like to separate the red, blue, green and yellow blocks, take stock and make plans. But this isn’t a perfect Lego life. And perfect it shouldn’t be. Like my little nephew, Ethan, I just want to fix the pieces together intuitively without thinking too much. Logic can take you from A to B. But intuition can take you anywhere. I read that somewhere. That’s how I want to go forward.

I shall continue to share my victories and failures with you. As I go along, gingerly testing new paths or merrily treading familiar ones, you’re welcome to join me all the way, drop out mid-way or come and go as you please. Together or alone, it doesn’t matter. What matters is this: That like those wildflowers we stay true to our identity. That we grow freely in beauty and joy. That we celebrate ourselves.

Here’s wishing you all a brilliant 2015! Believe fiercely that the best is yet to come.

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BEGIN TO BE FREE

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2014 has been a roller coaster year. I have an intense dislike for roller coasters, but as I cruised along, hitting the lows and then being hurled up into the clouds, I grasped the thrill of it all. It’s December now. That time of the year when I unintentionally get caught up in waves of reflection. Even as I’m busy hanging up fairy lights on Christmas trees or looking up yuletide recipes, I tend to gasp. It’s the falling-off-the-bed-in-a-dream kind of gasp. And yet, all I feel is gratitude.

The 100happydays challenge on Instagram gave an effervescent start to the year. A few days into it though, dark clouds appeared without warning. It was hard to keep the challenge going but somehow I managed to find the silver lining every single day. Gratitude is a powerful thing. It urges you to notice the little miracles, ungraciously take for granted otherwise. And as you do so, new miracles happen.

At one point, I realized that liberation is very important. I mean the kind of liberation that frees you from limits on thought or behaviour. Not necessarily in the big stuff but in little, everyday kind of things. When you let go of the old, you make room for fresh starts. I resolved to make changes so there was room to do the things that were worth doing. I let go, delegated and freed up valuable time. It isn’t easy to break up old habits, but once it’s done, you feel light and free. That’s the kind of liberation I was after.

For years I’d been a control freak. And I see how it had muddled up my life. From making crease-free beds to deciding schedules, I’d always wanted to do it all. Little did I realise that working in military fashion was actually cramping up my style. I finally empathised with my vagabond mind. Change seems hard. But if you pick one thing at a time that you want to change and focus on that, it is doable. There might be a rough agenda, but more often than not, where it feels like home, I follow the path.

So yeah, you evolve some and mess up some. I guess a lot more could have been achieved but it’s not too late yet.  Some of the resolutions got a little left behind, but others came up impromptu and I stuck with them. Like this blog, for instance. All my life, I’ve scribbled onto scratchpads and journals, making notes, jotting down ideas, penning lyrics, expressing myself. A whole lot of crap, but I did it anyway. It was only when I started this blog that things finally started making sense. It’s just the beginning though. The culmination is yet to happen. Even if it doesn’t, I’m clear about one thing: never stop doing your best just because someone doesn’t validate you. There’s peace and joy in doing things you love. Greatness will follow.

Now and then, we all get waylaid by inevitable questions of purposes and paths. It’s up to us to respond. Most times, we might be caught up in inane stuff. And we can drone on and on about missed opportunities. But you never know, the next one could be just round the corner. So as the year closes, let’s just tie up the loose ends; quit worrying and live one day at a time. Let’s catch up with where we need to be. Let’s just begin to be free.

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MONSOON MEMORIES

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I have memories; random memories, that spring on me at odd times. I hardly ever remember the big stuff. It’s always the in-between moments that seem to be buried in the recesses of my demented mind. They crawl out of their hiding places, playing peek-a-boo; taking me off-guard, bringing a smile most times and dousing me with melancholy at others. And right now, it’s all about rain-soaked memories.

The skies finally opened up freely this week on the dry earth. The drizzle a few days ago had brought excitement and then disappeared somewhere. Dust had gathered on the leaves once again, anxious eyes were turned heavenwards with a prayer and spirits were wilting with heat and fatigue. But the lashing rains have righted all wrongs and the world seems fertile and happy again.

Last year during this season, we roamed about a lot. My nephews were visiting and we took them around, exploring parts of the city that even we rarely visited. South Mumbai seemed like a beautiful dream even as we were living it. The breakfast banter at Mondegar Café, the parched throats being washed down with cold beer at Leopold’s, the hair going wild with the breeze of Marine Drive, a walk through the Prince of Wales Museum and all along the drizzle sprinkling its charms on us – it was the kind of day that you write songs about. And yes, I did.

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A few days later, we were hiking in paradise; exploring ancient Buddhist caves, slipping on mossy rocks, climbing to the peak, gasping at the view and getting drenched under the waterfall, as if the rain wasn’t enough. On our way back, and spent with all the activity, we had stopped at the dilapidated canteen there and gulped down hot, deep fried savouries and sweet tea.

 

But these are recent memories and so I remember the details. But there are haphazard flashbacks that come and go. I see a bunch of kids playing an odd game. They are taking turns throwing a reedy iron rod at the soggy ground. And one of them is me. In another scene, we are making paper boats and I burst out crying because mine doesn’t float as well as the others. There’s a memory of me and my colleagues (fast forward a few years) slurping ice-cream outside a music shop while puddles form at our feet. Another day I’m lounging on damp grass atop a knoll with friends, tired after a long trek. The sun is dipping into the horizon and rain songs are playing on a radio somewhere in the distance.

 

So it goes on. Monsoon memories are going to flood my mind every now and then until it’s time to bid them adieu. Then I shall welcome another season, another kind of randomness. Until then, let me enjoy the raindrops, the intoxicating smell of sopping wet earth, the glistening leaves and bowls of steaming soup. And maybe make some new memories.

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© Renica Rego

A LITTLE RANDOMNESS

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When I recently wrote about my rule of learning one new thing every year (you can read about that here: http://m.speakingtree.in/spiritual-articles/lifestyle/hey-aren-t-you-bored), a lot of people responded saying it inspired them to question their priorities and think about how they could do the same. It proves that we all have the desire to go beyond the mundane and experience our creative side. That’s where the passion lies.

Working hard and being ambitious is a good thing. But a little randomness is critical to your personal growth. Say hello to yourself every now and then. Go a little retrospective on yourself. When you are in touch with your inner self, you will gravitate towards things that interest you naturally. If something appeals to you, dig a little deeper. If it fascinates you enough, go ahead and try it.

Believe me, I was clueless myself.  Like most people, I did not even know what I wanted until much later in life.  Even when I did, I procrastinated. But one fine day, I woke up and decided that I did not want to feel like that anymore, or ever again. When I acknowledged who I was and what I was meant to do, it all fell together like a jigsaw puzzle.  The picture on the box was already there, all I had to do was pick up the pieces and fix them together. No one is going to fix you; you have to do it yourself. Sometimes one little step in the right direction ends up being the biggest step of your life.  It doesn’t really matter if you’re going at snail’s pace, as long as you don’t stop. There is so much beauty and creativity out there. It’s crazy not to enjoy it.

This whole minimalism and mind declutter idea too is just a way to make sure that the inspiration has enough room to settle in.  All I’m doing is giving it a shot. Try and do the same.  See what touches your soul.  Feed your creativity. You will be surprised where it takes you. You put yourself out there, you explore the outer world, and slowly but surely you end up discovering your inner world.  That is where you are supposed to be. That is your destination. That is where you will feel alive!  Let things play out the way they’re meant to be.

Recently I was rummaging through some old books and found an old, dog-eared copy of ‘The Thorn Birds’ by Colleen McCollough.  That book had mesmerized me when I first read it. I leafed through the yellowed pages and it was like living the tale all over again. That’s how I feel about life.  I want to pick it up, brush off the dust, iron out the ends and recreate the magic.

NOT ABOUT THE WARDROBE

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As I practice living with less, I am gradually discovering a positive change in my life.  Simplifying little areas in your home can lead to simplifying larger areas of your life.  I am hardly qualified to preach yet, but my baby steps are leading me to a better place.  That much I can certainly vouch for.

When I kicked off my journey towards minimalism, one of the first things that caught my attention was my wardrobe. That has always been my primary obsession. No points for guessing that I am a chronic shopper. But I came to the realization that my wardrobe couldn’t contain my chronicity anymore. I’m not quite Rebecca Bloomwood from ‘Confessions of a Shopaholic’, but that’s hardly any consolation.  Funnily enough, consolation was my mild to medium OCD that came in handy while arranging my piles of tops, pants, dresses, etc., so at least my wardrobe was never messy.  But there’s only so much that space can hold. No amount of spring cleaning and giving away stuff seemed enough.  And despite having so much, the ‘I have nothing to wear’ syndrome hounded me all the time.

Just as I was contemplating how to fix this predicament, I happened to stumble upon the http://theproject333.com.  As the site states: Project333 is a minimalist fashion challenge that invites you to dress with 33 items or less for 3 months. You donate, box or trash your other clothes.  As the 3 months draw to an end, you can pick the next 33 items and so on.  The challenge of stripping down my wardrobe to only 33 items appealed to me.  But of course, I knew it wasn’t going to be easy!  I have to sheepishly admit that despite my best efforts, I still haven’t managed to bring down the total count to 33, but I’m getting there.  My wardrobe is now so much simpler and easier to navigate!

The point, however, is minimalism.  The idea of creating a capsule wardrobe and making it work, is not so much about the wardrobe.  It is more about simplifying your life and being content.  It’s a step towards decluttering the mind.  And it works!  I don’t stand in front of the wardrobe anymore, clueless about what to wear.  When there is less to choose from, it’s easier to pick.  The same thing goes for everything in life.  Less is definitely more.

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It is said that the poor are the most generous.  I don’t know if that’s entirely true, but generosity does seem more profound when you have little and yet give. I was raised in a modest neighbourhood.  We were probably the most well-to-do family as compared with the rest, and believe me we weren’t doing that great.  My next door neighbours were a family of six – mother, father and four sons.  They had a meagre income and were always struggling to make ends meet.  Even then, I remember bowls of steaming food arriving for us before they had eaten themselves.  I especially looked forward to the festivals.  That was when the best food was served.  There was not a single festival when they ate without sending us food first.  The other neighbours were big-hearted too; so open-handedness and simplicity was a staple we grew up on.

Now when I’m getting attracted to the concept of minimalism, it’s probably me going back to my roots.  If you have experienced the beauty of a simple life and simple emotions you will understand this better.  If you haven’t, you’d probably want to know what the fuss is about.  At the end of the day, all we ever want is peace, happiness and good health.

My friend just forwarded me this very beautiful story.  An anthropologist proposed a game to a bunch of African tribal kids.  He placed a basket of fruit under a tree and asked them to stand about 100 metres away from it.  Then he announced that whoever got to the basket first could have all the fruits.  As soon as he said, “Ready, steady, go!” guess what the kids did.  They held on to each other’s hands and ran towards the tree together.  They then divided the fruit amongst themselves and happily relished the meal.  When asked why they did so, they replied in unison, “Ubuntu”.  Ubuntu in their language means: ‘I am, because we are!’

When I imbibe this philosophy of ‘Ubuntu’ fully and honestly, I would have crossed an important milestone in my journey towards minimalism.

© Renica Rego

SWITCH YOUR FOCUS

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I have always loathed summers.  But this year, I’ve decided to pay as little attention to the heat as possible.  I cannot afford to run the air-conditioner all the time (besides it isn’t healthy), so I am trying to figure out ways to remain cool, especially in the kitchen.  A couple of days ago, I got a small wall fan fixed over the sink.  Okay, that’s only a wee bit helpful, but what’s actually proving to be precious is random chats with friends and some peppy music.  And before I know it, I’m through with the day’s cooking.

De-cluttering the mind isn’t as daunting as it first seemed.  It’s a good thing that little things enthuse me, so all I need to do is learn to focus on those and ignore the rest.  Just watching the birds in the morning, humming a song and appreciating the view from my window brighten up my mornings.

The little things are way more important than we are willing to concede.  Reading a good book, writing (of course), a good movie or TV show, random conversations, a day out with friends, walking barefoot on grass, bird-gazing, star-gazing (nature-gazing, actually), getting creative in the kitchen, giggling at silly things, laughing uncontrollably until my cheeks are flushed and my stomach aches, dressing up even if it’s just to pick up groceries, hugging people, cuddling with loved ones….my list is long.  If I’m happy, the world around me looks happy.

This past weekend I conducted a small survey.  I asked my friends this simple question:  What are the top 5 things that excite you?  Some of them replied promptly, some took their time and the rest seemed floored by the question.  Maybe some even dismissed it thinking: ‘She’s got nothing better to do!’

But hey, think about it.  If you do not know what excites you anymore, it means that you have taken the focus away from you.  And it’s not a good thing.  It’s a new-age trend to splurge on expensive vacations or frequent mini holidays just to de-stress, but most people ignore the little things that can actually dilute the stresses of their daily lives.

In the words of Rhonda Byrne, author of ‘The Secret’, “Switch your focus to the things you love, the things that excite you, and then you’ll be on track to a really good life”.

Go on, give it a try.  ; )