Tag Archives: Emotions

Looking Ahead for Hope

It’s just one month, I tell myself.

After one month, things will get better.

You’ve booked a staycation in May (with flexible cancellation dates. Just in case).

You’ll get to meet your friends again and sit in the cafes to have coffee and people watch through window seats. In the meantime, you can still journal at home. You can make art. Music. Read. You have Zoom. And Skype. You can finally do all the online courses you’ve always wanted to do but never had the time for. You’ll have all the downtime you’ve always dreamed off and not have to feel guilty about it! You’re not going to be bored to death. You’ve always been able to find things to do at home. It’s just the mindset of having to stay at home now that’s making you anxious and feeling trapped. And that’s understandable.

It’s ok to feel scared and anxious, AND also remember that we don’t have to panic and that this will pass. We’re in the storm now, knowing that this storm won’t last forever.

Hang on!

Remember This

Dear Self,

At this point in your life you are standing at a seemingly significant point in your journey. A point where you have plenty of memories to look back on, enough of life’s experiences to learn from, and a future potentially vast enough to look ahead to.

Remember this feeling.

Remember the contentment combined with restlessness, the mash of hope and worry, the mixture of excitement and reluctance.

Remember all these feelings, because they are all you.

They come from what you have experienced, and they will shape what you will experience.

Remember them, because they are unique and you’ll probably (hopefully) never get to experience anything like them again.

Remember them so that when you look back on your journey, another milestone distance later, you can pick out this point and period in your life, and smile. Because you have become better, stronger and braver for having embraced all these feelings at this point.

Breathe into them. Smile at them. Embrace them.

Remember this moment and smile.

(Everything is going to be alright.)

Your Self.

The Gap

“The most frustrating, agonizing part of creative work, and the one we grapple with every day in practice, is our encounter with the gap between what we feel and what we can express… Often we look at ourselves and feel that everything is lacking! It is in this gap, this zone of the unknown, where we feel most deeply – but are most inarticulate.”

– Nachmanovitch, 1990

At least with art, photography, music, poetry, dance and the innumerable forms of aesthetic expression… With their beauty of subtlety and space for interpretation, we come that little bit closer to bridging this Gap within.

Places and Emotions

“The places in which any significant event occurred become embedded with some of that emotion, and so to recover the memory of that place is to recover the emotion, and sometimes to revisit the place uncovers the emotion. Every love has it’s landscape. Thus place, which is always spoken as though it only counts when you’re present, possesses you in it’s absence, takes on another life as a sense of place, a summoning in the imagination with all the atmospheric effect and association of a powerful emotion. The places inside matter as much as the ones outside…”
‘A Field Guide to Getting Lost’, Rebecca Solnit
These lines very concisely sum up why I feel the way I do towards, in and at certain places.
Sydney, for me, will always be associated with a sense of hope and potential, the place I came to to embark on my dreams and aspirations. The place which gave me the opportunity to experience a life I never thought I could lead.
India, more specifically, Amritapuri – will always be the Home I can return to, as long as I’m there with the ones who mean the most to me.
photo 3(4)
Then there’s the Home of all homes, the country where I was born and raised. So many layers of emotions associated with it, that I can’t even begin to think of where to begin. Within that place there are more places and infinitely intricate emotions, as expected from a place you have spent so many years with – all making up who I am and continue to be.
photo 1(3)
And so I realize it is true – emotions have their landscapes, and landscapes have their emotions. And it is through these relationships that we grow and develop unfathomable depths of human emotion, some of which we might not even be aware of until we come face to face with those places.

lake shot


The Last Leaf

The last leaf quivered and shivered.
The autumn wind blew.
She looked around, knowing the other leaves have long gone.
They said their goodbyes, bade their farewells,
Floating peacefully to the soil below,
Fulfilling life, fulfilling the cycle they are all supposedly a part of.
The last leaf
Quivered and shivered.
Why has she held on for so long?

Because sometimes
We prefer Familiar Misery
Rather than the Maybe of an unknown reality.

The raindrops come.
Harder and harder the wind blows.
The last leaf musters up all her courage.
She lets go.
She floats away, free.

From Life to Grief

Just before Monday afternoon’s session, I got a sudden call from R, the supervisor.

“I’ve got rather unfortunate news… Susan (not real name) passed away.”

To say I felt shocked is an understatement. The last time I saw Susan (one of the group), a strong-willed woman in her 60s in a motorized wheelchair, she was still in all her loud jewelry and clothes, singing her heart out, cursing and swearing to everyone’s amusement, and playing around with her iPad and cursing and swearing even more when she couldn’t get it to do what she wanted it to do. She apparently had a lung infection, not uncommon for people with spinal chord problems, and that eventually led to pneumonia, and her feelingly untimely death.

“Do you still feel up to having a session with Di?” The supervisor asked. “Yes… As long as she’s willing to come”, came my hesitant reply. In my mind I was wondering what could I do for Di, who was a close friend of Susan? I knew she would be distraught. They had known and lived together in the facility for at least half a decade, and had shared many aspects of their lives together. Losing Susan was going to be a great loss of emotional support and friendship for Di. R was very supportive in giving advice and pointers on how to approach the situation, encouraging me by saying that he trusts me enough to know that I’ll know the best way to go about it.

Finally, they arrived, we went into our room, and I sat down in front of Di. She spoke quietly, tears filling her eyes.

“It’s so hard,” she said. “I know I have to let her go, because if I keep wishing she’d come back, she can’t go in peace…”

We continued talking for a while. I knew there was nothing I could say that would take away the pain, and this quote came to mind, kindly shared by the Comrade a few days back:
I tried to do that, just being there inside the pain, with her, as close as possible. We then played an improvisation on the keyboard, a peaceful, lyrical attempt at depicting the journey of life and how we’re never sure when each journey will end, but how we’re fortunate to meet our friends and loved ones along the way, making our journey that much more meaningful and memorable.

As the last note faded away, she whispered, with a hint of tearfulness: “It’s a pity we have to stop.”

We sat in silence for a while more.

“The music… Is able to take me away for a while”, she continued. I added, after some contemplation: “Yes… It reminds us that there is something bigger than ourselves”, thinking of all the times when I turned to musical expression to fulfill what the world couldn’t do for me.

“Well… Time will heal all wounds, won’t it?” Di spoke with a sad smile.

“But sometimes we don’t want the wounds to heal completely, do we? We want something left… to remind us of the one we loved.”

“… Oh, yes, that’s true.” And she said that in a more uplifted tone than she had since the beginning of the session. She turned to half-smile at me. “Thank you for that.”

We ended the session shortly after, with her saying that she did feel lighter. But I know the process of grieving is a complex one, never a one-track route. There will be days when one feels that the pain has passed, that life can finally move on, and there are days when the realization of losing that loved one hits you mercilessly all over again, and one feels thrown back into the depths of never-ending sorrow.

I feel bad that I won’t be able to see her over the next few weeks (due to the upcoming hospital placement), at this time when she needs the support and therapy more than ever. I suggested that she try to put her emotions to words, and perhaps we could work on creating soundscapes in the second half of the year. She seemed agreeable, and I hope it will be something that could help her cope over the next few weeks.

Praying for strength for Di to get through this period, and for wisdom to do what is right and best for her.

To Judge Not

A few weeks ago, a relatively young MT with a few years of experience, C, came to give us a lecture on working with adult populations from her perspective.

In one of the case studies she shared with us, involving a young lady with complex emotional issues, C said that one of the personal hurdles she had to face was the fact that this young lady took a long time to trust C.

“People generally trust and feel comfortable around me easily, and it’s important to me that they feel that way. It was very confronting for me to realise that here was a person who didn’t trust me, and it took me awhile more to realise that it stemmed from the problems within her as well, not just solely with me.”

I found that to be a rather startling revelation, as I’ve always thought C to be one of the most confident people I know. And when you are confident, you generally don’t care too much about whether people trust or like you or not, right?

Well, wrong. Upon some reflection and thinking, I realise that the link between displayed confidence and a person’s inner desire to be liked and trusted need not be related at all. It was just a presumption on my part, fed by years of social conditioning – “Be confident, and don’t care about what others think of you. And you will be a successful person.” How wrong could the world be.

In this field (as in other industries), it is of course important (to a reasonable extent) what people think of you. How else can the therapeutic relationship be established and beneficial? But I think the being liked and trusted should not be the goal – They should be the by-products of a sincere, genuine and authentic relationship. And that is what C eventually managed to achieve through her musical interventions.

I truly appreciated her honesty in sharing with us her vulnerabilities. While some may feel that it might diminish their professionalism in getting emotional, what it did was in fact make us respect the fact that she was aware of her own emotions and took steps to overcome them.

Overall, a reminder for me to not judge people based on what they choose to show to the world, and to be sincere and authentic in all relationships to achieve those important by-products.

Journey With Di

“Di” is a late middle-aged lady, one of the group members I was privileged to meet last year.

I started individual sessions with her last year, grateful that my then-supervisors trusted me enough to allow me to work with her alone, and let me continue with her this year.

Di’s goals started out as simply wanting to learn the keyboard, to play the songs she enjoys listening to. Underneath that surface, we discussed her therapeutic goals to be increasing confidence, self-esteem and allowing expression. As the sessions progressed, so has our therapeutic relationship. Di is normally a very private person, and the fact that she is opening up during sessions, telling me about her emotional issues, talking about the way she was “just after my accident”, has been very humbling for me. In addition to learning songs on the keyboard, we started including a short improvisation segment at the start of every session, as a form of warm-up, and also as a platform for her to express any thoughts or emotions she might have been feeling. Even though she wasn’t the one who initiated them, she expressed enjoyment at these improvisations, as she realised them to be a chance for her to explore the range, sounds and dynamics of the keys without being confined to a song structure, or the “right” and “wrong” notes. When we first started, the improvisations were usually based on generic themes, like “trees”, or “clouds” – nature-related images which she often said she could relate to. This year, she surprised me by indicating that she was comfortable with the idea of exploring her emotions during her improvisations. I had no intention of going there so soon, but was happy to support her since she seemed ready.

And so, the recent session we had was exceptionally profound.

After a few minutes of our usual, light, casual Aussie-small-talk chat, I asked: “So what are you thinking about this week?”, wanting to give her the opportunity to set the theme for improvisation.

She replied by saying that she had been thinking of a particular resident at the Home who had been having a rough time, becoming violent and eventually needing the police to take him away. She seemed pretty affected by it. “He seemed really angry, and I feel for him, and I hope he’s ok, wherever he is now.” She also went on to talk about how she was feeling sad for the people affected by the recent natural disaster. Her level of empathy for people she barely knew really touched me.

After she finished expressing her thoughts, I spoke slowly, forming and framing my train of thoughts at the same time: “Would you like.. We could create a piece of music. To evoke a feeling of peace. For that man, and for the world?”

Di agreed, and we started. Sometimes I think our improvisations are pretty generic themselves, and it’s actually the discussion before and after which frames the music’s context and meaning. So that day, with the goal of evoking peace in mind, we started. The improvisation flowed, with Di at the higher registers and me at the lower. I chose to use just 2 chords – a plagal cadence ostinato- to ground the bass, adding embellishments from time to time. This structure proved to be stable and safe-sounding support for Di to improvise freely at the treble. The music increased in rhythmic intensity and density, but kept it’s flow, and the tempo didn’t vary too much throughout as well. We continued this exploration for about 10 minutes. I felt that Di was allowing herself to become more open as she played, reflected in her willingness to explore playing some black keys and not just sticking to the white keys, and also in her increasing melodic range (playing notes at wider intervals).

When the music finally faded away and stopped, I sat there in silence for a second or so, wanting to let the vibrations sink in before disrupting the air. I was surprised that Di spoke almost immediately after it ended.

“That was… Rather emotional for me.”

Turning to her, I noticed that she had tears in her eyes. After gently validating her expression of emotion and offering her some tissue, we talked about the music some more before reaching a sense of closure, and then moving on to the keyboard learning segment of the session. I don’t want to feel happy that she was tearing, but I do feel really glad that the music we created touched her and helped her express her emotions.

I wish we had recorded the music we played that day. But then again, maybe the beauty of some things lies in their transience, not their preservation. I’m very grateful that I have been given the chance to work with a beautiful soul like Di, who has taught me so much about sensitivity, empathy and getting through tough times in life. She says that our musical conversations help her express herself, and learning the keyboard has put a positive spin in her life, which is really something, given her history with depression, but I think I am learning as much, or maybe even more, from her than what she is learning from me.

Who knows where this journey will bring us?
I am just so thankful to be in it.

Tiny Beautiful Things

I felt my heart soften, and harden, and then soften again… For innumerable times as I read this book. The stories and replies seem to reveal some of the deepest emotions and feelings human beings could experience. Reading the stories made me slightly pessimistic at first. Why is there so much suffering in the world?
But towards the end of the book, I felt a change. It was no longer “why is there suffering”, but more of “there is suffering, BUT..”

But there is always a choice. But there is always a way out, as long as we want it badly enough. But things will get better. But we will survive. But we will get there. But it’s ok!

As I introspect, I go on to realise that I myself, like so many of the letter writers to the column, suffer mainly because of the difficult emotions within, because we don’t know how to handle them, and allow them to manifest in dysfunctional thought processes and words and actions which end up harming ourselves and others more.

I am reminded of some wise words, that we need to learn how to embrace our difficult emotions as well as the “good” emotions. Because our difficult emotions are part of us too, and like everything and everyone else, all they want is to be accepted. Embraced. Validated. We need to learn how to take care of our emotions, instead of bashing ourselves up over them. This is one point of living “Tiny Beautiful Things” has highlighted for me. Only when we have accepted the presence and of our difficult circumstances and emotions without judgement, can we begin to move forward and make changes in the direction we want.

Norwegian Wood

Norwegian Wood Screen shot

I once wondered what is it about rain that makes people love it so much. Where did the romantic idea of sitting by a window, reading a book in silence, while the rain falls outside, soothing our souls with its falling rhythm, come from?

I found the answer in Norwegian Wood. Murakami has never failed me yet.

“When it’s raining like this,” said Naoko, “it feels as if we’re the only ones in the world. I wish it would just keep raining so that the three of us could stay together.”

And it dawned on me that perhaps the nature of rain does have an inert power to make us feel safe, to make us feel as if we’re  enveloped in a cocoon, which nothing could ever penetrate. As long as the rain keeps falling, time will stand still. We are safe.

And in our world of constant changes, in our world where so many of us have been hurt because we trusted wrongly, where so many of us have been disappointed by lack of stability, we yearn for the security of the rain, falling in the distance, wrapping us in an invisible cocoon. We yearn for it, even if we know it will not last forever.