The Lone Soldier

Do you know what it feels like to feel empty?

I feel that right now. Empty. Helpless. Hopeless. Weak. Vulnerable. Useless.

It is irritating. It is irritating to know that I cannot even understand what, why and how I am feeling.

I’ve been wanting to do so much for the past few weeks and I have not done any of it. Something is stopping me.

I am not happy with something and I cannot put my finger on what it is. My ability to think creatively has been slowly declining.

I am scared to get up and dance because I’m scared that I am not good enough.

I look at all my dance videos from over the past year, and I cannot associate with that girl on stage. I feel like I am looking at someone else.

As I write this, I have tears rolling down my eyes. I don’t know why I am crying but I am. I am going to let the tears flow as long as it takes for my eyes to dry up.

It always helps me to take my mind off all of this clutter by watching a movie, so that is what I am going to do now. After which I will make myself a cup of tea, sit down with a piece of paper and make a list of things which I need to accomplish in the next 2 days.

I am writing all of this down as I think it through because this is what I have learnt over the past few weeks during which I spent time reading all sorts of spiritual and motivational books.

It’s okay to cry. It’s okay to put all my emotions down on paper. It’s okay to use all of that as a fuel to pick myself up from this emotional mess.

PS: I am not being an attention-seeking drama queen – because I know many of you may be thinking this. I am a human with emotions and insecurities which I am working to address.

The Gold Complex

I decided to write the piece after being inspired by a conversation I had with my friends when I met up with them yesterday about the role of gold in our Tamil community. I am not sure whether this is applicable to any of the other cultural groups, but as a Tamil girl, I thought to address some issues which are very evident in my community.

Before I move on to my main arguments, let me take a moment to address some apparent benefits of gold – and by this I am talking about the benefits of wearing gold jewellery.

1) Wearing gold is thought to improve overall well-being because of its healing and relaxing properties.

2) Gold can apparently improve blood circulation and regulate one’s body temperature.

3) Gold also is thought to help alleviate symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.

4) It is also a fashion statement to wear gold jewellery, and this dates back decades to centuries.

Okay, so I know what you will be thinking now – Gold is great! Yes, apparently it is. However, I am here to talk about issues which extend beyond health and fashion. I want to use this space to talk about an issue which highlights flaws in our society’s thinking.

The Thaali (The Sacred Thread)

The Thaali is the sacred thread which is tied by the Groom on the Bride’s neck, to mark the ultimate union of the two souls. It is the main aspect of the Tamil Hindu Wedding ceremony and is honestly my favourite and most awaited moment because of how many emotions are felt by the Bride, the Groom and all their family and friends.

How many of you, however, know that there may be a huge social drama associated with the making of the ‘Thaali Kodi’ (the actual thread/chain on which the thaali sits) in particular?

Let me explain. The ‘Thaali Kodi’ is something which the groom’s side provide. Therefore to prove their financial worth, they will always strive to get as thick of a ‘kodi’ and as expensive of a ‘kodi’ as possible. I understand that families want to stick to cultural norms, but we are living in a society where girls, and even women married for decades, hardly wear their ‘thaali’ around. So all I want to ask is, is it worth investing so much into something which is not even worn so much, or is it better to invest that in something which will be more useful for the couple – like a house maybe?

Now, I might have a whole heap of individuals who disagree with me, and of course they are entitled to because I am now questioning a belief which this culture has held for centuries. Now however, practical living has become more important than a ‘show-off’ one. Therefore, I am putting out there right now in front of everyone – if and when I get married, I would like a yellow thread to be tied (none of this chain screwing business). Then, if and when I do decide to change the yellow thread to a chain, I will make sure the chain is the thinnest it can be.

Ultimately, I do not want to be suffering from a chronic neck pain which doctors find difficult to identify the cause of! (This is real talk).

The Bride’s worth

Asking for dowry is not allowed anymore, yet I know the bride’s family feel obliged to give whatever they can to their daughter once she is married. Obviously the reason for this is because they want to do whatever they can for their daughter and this comes from pure love. On the hand other, there is an element of pressure they may feel from relatives’ who may talk about how much the bride’s parents did for her daughter.

In many cases, this comes in the form of gold jewellery.

So here is my biggest worry, which is something further addressed below. Why is a bride’s worth dependent so much on how much gold she wears and other materialistic matters? Why do we live in a society where the bride’s family feel obliged to ‘send’ their daughter off with some gold?

Again, this dates back to centuries ago. Nonetheless, in the same way that each and every one of us appreciates fashion and car trends, we should be respecting the more open-minded society in which we live in.

One day I may be a bride. That day, I want my worth to be defined by my personality, my education, my talent outside of just studies, my hobbies, to name a few – all of which my parents worked day and night for to ensure I excelled in.

When you are not the bride nor the groom

Just when I was thinking such a gold-obsessed culture only exists in the wedding scene, I started noticing it more often in day-to-day life.

I went through a whole phase as a teenager when I went to weddings and I had aunties ask me ‘Why aren’t you wearing any gold?’. They would then take this further by questioning my mum and making statements along the lines of, ‘You should be wearing gold, only then does it look nice.’

Firstly, I am worth a lot more than gold. Therefore, I do not need to wear gold to prove my worth. If anyone is of the opinion that the amount of gold they wear is what proves their worth, then this is a sign that they need a MAJOR life check!!!

I guess the only reason this has all toned down and women have cut down wearing gold jewellery as much is because of the horrific stories we hear of very scary thefts which happen on the streets. Sad but true.

To conclude

I am glad we see these issues crop up less so nowadays, but it still exists; even if not so much in this country, it may be more common in other countries. I am not saying ‘Do not wear gold’. I am saying that no one should be judging anyone’s worth based on how much gold they wear or own. It is a matter of getting to grips with the idea that some like gold and some do not. That does not mean one person is more superior than the other.

I can tell you all straight up that I am not a massive fan of wearing and having gold. I would prefer to invest that money into buying books! Yes, many of you at this point may find me bizarre, but I am very happy about my preferences. For me, books are a more worthwhile investment than gold jewellery for example, only because I hardly wear any accessories as it is, let alone more pricey things.

It is interesting to note that this blog started off being about the value of gold in my community. Through this small discussion, I have managed to identify deeper issues which need to be addressed – understanding ours and our family’s worth and protecting it.

If there is anything I have learnt from writing this piece, it is that I will try not to ever fall victim to other people defining my worth based on material matters – whether that be through money, gold, houses, cars or gifts. I know my worth, and I believe that my worth is something which cannot be defined by a price-tag.

My Biggest Insecurity – My Body

I was never, as people liked to call it, a ‘lean’ child. I mean as a baby and a toddler I was the chubbiest kid you could ever find. See below for some of those badass poses I pulled off back then.

As I started to grow up, however, things started to change. This was the root of all that insecurity. I had every relative of mine compared me and my body to my super skinny sister and cousins and made remarks which went along the lines of, ‘Praveena is the chubbiest of them all isn’t it?’, ‘If she loses some weight and her belly, it will be perfect’. Some of my male uncles even went to extent of poking fun out of my weight. I remember one of my uncles came to our house a day or two after my Arangetram (my debut Bharathanatya performance) and was comparing me to my slimmer cousins and said, ‘Praveena you are fat aren’t you?’ – if you think this sounds bad in English, then it sounds 100 times worse in Tamil. See my arangetram photos below and you tell me if I was in anyway overweight, because honestly speaking, I think I looked sickly skinny.

At this point I want to remind you of a few things. Even if you are joking, do not make such remarks to anyone, let alone a child or teenager. It is horrible to say such things and you are horrible to think and say such things. It is so easy for anyone to make these remarks without any thought about what the consequences are – you are indirectly helping them to feel more insecure. So who is the bad person? YOU.

Anyway, back onto what this blog is about. Me. Well, I went through bad phases when I starved myself because I wanted to prove a point that I can be ‘skinny’ too. This was particularly the case when I started university and my mum was not there to make me food.

Do you know when things started to change for me? When I started taking dance more seriously in 2nd and 3rd year of university. For me at the time, I started to realise that starving myself was extremely harmful for my body, and jeopardised my ability to dance. During this whole realisation, I found out that if I want to build up my stamina and have ample energy to dance, I need to eat plenty and healthy. That is when things started to change. People thought that I was losing weight in the past 2 years, but in fact I have remained the same weight for the past 3/4 years. The difference is, I have started to tone up.

Here is my second point I want to remind you about. Your weight should not be defined by a numerical value, but by how healthy and happy you feel. This is different for each person. So when people ask me why I love dance so much, aside from the fact that I love dancing, I actually learnt to respect my body. I learnt to love my body. Weird right, that dance has made me feel all these things. Well it has, which is why I put dance at a very high place when it comes to my mental well-being.

Yes, I still do go through ups and down when it comes to my body. Even recently, I went through a whole phase where I started feeling very insecure about my body. The reason for this was because I was eating so unhealthily, so two weeks ago I started to cut down. I started: cutting down on white carbs, eating more fruits, drinking more water and hula-hooping more. The result of it is I FEEL amazing. I do not know whether by body has changed, but I do not care. When I feel my healthier body, my mind naturally is happier and healthier.

For me diet and exercise is not about losing, but about toning and most importantly feeling happy and healthy.

The Blame Game

We have all fallen victim of ‘The Blame Game’.

If the cooking goes wrong, we blame the quality of the ingredients or someone who apparently distracted us. If the dance performance was not good, we blame the lighting or the costumes or the stage. If the relationship did not work, we are all brilliant at blaming the opposite party. If we get into an accident, we blame the other driver.

These are just a few examples showcasing humans’ horrible tendency of blaming others when something goes wrong. Whether we realise it or not, we tend to play ‘the blame game’ a little too often in our day-to-day lives.

In many cases the opposite party may be at fault, but my point is what good is it for us to waste our time and energy blaming others, when we could actually use that energy and drive to work on ourselves. I always tell myself, the hardest yet most rewarding part is to look at yourself, identify your mistakes and work to fix it. How else are you going to grow as an individual?

I do want to mention that this does not mean that you have to be harsh on yourself and blame yourself for every bad incident. Not at all. Think of it as an opportunity to build yourself and grow.

I wanted to keep this piece a short one. Find ways in which you can learn and improve as an individual, because that is your responsibility and no one else’s. In the same way that you would never let your success be defined by someone else, when something goes wrong or you fail, look at where and how you can improve. This is how you can start to think positively and move forward positively as well.

My dad’s amazing taste in Sarees!

So I attended my friend’s wedding and wedding reception recently. For the wedding reception I wore a saree which many people seem to have really liked. Therefore, I thought to share that with everyone.

Here is a picture of the saree (Sorry I do not have a proper picture of me in it – and sorry best friend for cropping you out so terribly!):

Everyone’s favourite seems to be the saree. The saree was one which my dad got for me very recently from Sri Lanka. The moment I saw it, I fell in love.

As many of you who follow my Instagram and Blog may know, I am a fan of simple, plain sarees. This saree is a simple one, but with sequins, prints, ombré touches, multi-colours…yet the combination does not look tacky at all. In fact the complete opposite – it looks elegant and sophisticated.

I then paired this saree with a crop top which you all may recognise from before – the one which I wore with my pink/purple ombré saree a couple of weeks ago. And Voila!

So at this point, seeing as it is Fathers’ Day today…thank you Appa having the best taste in sarees and buying ones which make me feel like a Princess! ❤

PS: I am definitely grateful for a lot more than just his ability to select and buy nice sarees! For the purposes of this post however, I did not want to wander into different realms!

Solo or team?

When I started my journey as a Bharathanatya dancer, solo performances were heavily encouraged. I took part in dance competitions on my own, I obviously sat my dance exams on my own and of course I did my Arangetram and further professional training on my own. Yes I did perform in groups as well, but generally the whole training process was very individualized.

Therefore, since I was child I was very much used to dancing on my own and having the total limelight to myself when I performed. My stage fear started to decrease gradually. When I was on stage, I did not have to think about anyone else. All I had to make sure was that I did my level best and if I forgot choreography, I trained myself to be confident to improvise. Easy stuff.

This started to change a lot when I started doing team performances as university. As both a dancer and choreographer, I started facing massive challenges. The biggest challenge I faced was that I had to think for each person on that team, whether it be for Bhangra where I was just a dancer, or for Gaana performances/TDC where I had to also think as a choreographer.

As dancer, I had make sure my chemistry with every dancer around me at any one point was strong, reflecting the positive team dynamics. As a choreographer, I had to ensure that every dancer was comfortable with the routine, and understood the individualized feedback I gave them.

Every performer is different, has a different skill-set, has different stage experiences. My job was to understand all of this and ensure these differences were not shown on stage – ultimately the team had to function as one, rather than 15 to 20 separate dancers. Yes, this was a HUGE challenge. I am still in the process of improving these skills, but I know for sure I would not have been able to hone these skills if it had not been for me dancing on teams.

So would I chose to do solo or team performances? I could never choose between the two because at the end of the day, performing is performing. However, team performances give me an opportunity to develop a skill-set which I would not have had the opportunity to do as merely a solo dancer.

‘The Four Agreements’

Don Miguel Ruiz wrote a great book called The Four Agreements. My friend was the one who recommended me this book, and honestly, it has been my best investment I have made in the last month! Thank you to my beautiful friend for letting me know of this book.

As with all my recent blogs, I am going to use this space to showcase the take home messages which I have gathered from reading this book. The content of it is so rich; so I would recommend anyone interested, to read it for yourself, because what you gage from it may be completely different to what I have learnt.

1) Domestication. I find this concept so fascinating but real at the same time. The biggest fear humans have is the fear of living our lives the way we want. The reason for this is because of how we have been ‘domesticated’ based on the so-called social, cultural or religious norms. We need to learn to step out of this vicious cage called domestication and learn to live the life we want – and not the life which our ancestors wanted. Only then will we be on the path to finding our true self and being one with self.

2) The power of word. The reason for why I started blogging was because I found the power of words the most enthralling and life-changing. Every word we speak or write has an impact. Remember that! Every positive word we speak has a positive impact. Every negative word we speak has a negative impact. I value words so much and therefore have all my life tried to avoid swearing as much as possible. The reason for this is because it has very negative connotations. If there is one thing which I would like to kindly ask all my readers, try and get out of the habit of swearing, if that is something you struggle with. Let this be the first step you take to embracing and utilizing the power of word to its fullest.

3) Acceptance. I do not have the need to be accepted so what others say to me or about me does not phase me. I am leading as much of a proper life as I can. I am minding my own business and avoid talking about others because I do not have time to pay attention to others, when I have my own life to think about. I do not try to hurt people. If people hurt me, I move away. The most important thing for me is to accept myself. That is all that matters, and that is all that should matter. I want to be a better version of myself every day.

I have been writing so much recently, and so I am likely to take a break for a few days at least – (I say ‘likely’ because knowing me, I do not know how feasible that will be!). However, over the past 2 days I have read 4 spiritual texts. All 4 texts have taught me different practices and principles which I will slowly but surely incorporate into my daily living.

Being ‘spiritual’ has become fashionable. It is inevitable to note that people feel ‘wise’ when they call themselves ‘spiritual’.

What I have learnt is that being ‘spiritual’ is more than a fashion statement. It is more than a trend. It is real. A truly spiritual being will need not say they are spiritual, every action and behaviour and word they speak will showcase it. You may think it is ironic that I am saying this. I have never claimed that I am a spiritual being. As I mentioned in my previous blogs, I am still on the path to uncovering what spirituality really is. I am applying it to my daily living and truly feeling the essence of it. I am in the early stages of practicing it. This may not have been clearly communicated in my previous blogs, but now I have. I am on an infinite journey of discovering what spirituality and the power of the universe really are.

‘The Secret – The Power’

The Power, by Rhonda Byrne, is another book which falls into the category of The Secret series. I read this book today and I wanted to make this piece a short one. The reason for this is that The Power focuses on the one and ultimate power which humanity possesses – the power of love.

Do you remember the reason for why Lord Voldemort could not kill Harry Potter? The love from Lily Potter protected Harry and carried him through until he was powerful enough to defeat the Dark Lord. Something so trivial for many, such as Harry Potter, intentionally or unintentionally had the secret to life. The power of love!

(I obviously wanted to use the Harry Potter example because I mean, it is Harry Potter after all!)

Anyway, jokes aside, this blog will be short one, portraying to you some of the key principles I learnt from this book.

1) The law of attraction is the law of love. Learn to love. Learn to love in every situation. Love is a very strong positive emotion. When you start practicing love in every way, you view of life becomes that much more positive. You also start to notice all the good in every situation. You strengthen from within, and therefore have the courage to face negativity that much stronger.

2) You get what you give. This is a simplified way of describing the law of attraction, but ultimately the energy which you emit is the energy which you get. I have seen this a lot in the relationships which I have formed whether it be friendships or romantic relationships. My circle of friends have changed over the years based on the energy which I emit. The more I start finding myself and my true potential, the more I start getting friendships which reflect those ambitions of mine. This is also the case with romantic relationships, where you attraction the type of relationship vibration which you emit. If that relationship was unsuccessful, before the blaming the other, look at the energy you were attracting. It’s that simple.

3) I wrote in my previous blog about how The Secret taught me the importance of gratitude. This book taught me that gratitude may not change the life around you, it changes you. Therefore, as stated in the point above, being a grateful human means you naturally will start emitting more positive energy which in turn means you start attracting that positivity. Change begins with you.

The term love is something which we take for granted. It is the strongest and most positive emotion human-kind can experience. Our love should extend from material matters to human-kind. Love, in every shape and form, sends very positive vibrations to all matters of energy around us, drawing that much more positive vibes towards us.

It’s okay to cry

Yesterday evening my emotions got the better of me. My thoughts started to take control of me and I just sat in bed crying endlessly until I had no more tears to shed.

I have spent the past few days spending time with no one else apart from myself. I have been reading books constantly and writing about them. Most of the books I have immersed myself in have been spiritual ones. The main point which they all have been championing is to love. Replace anger with love. Replace anxiety with love. Replace sadness with love. You get the point.

Somewhere, deep down, I had fixated on the fact that we should avoid feeling sad. We should avoid feeling angry. We should avoid all negative emotions. Yes we should, especially if they are detrimental to our well-being let alone others’. Nonetheless, I came to realise yesterday that sadness is a human emotion; it is a human energy.

When I was crying yesterday with sadness looming over, I tried my best to stop this negative energy. I tried to convert this energy into something positive. I struggled. Maybe I was doing it wrong, but the fact that I could not think of anything positive at that time, made me drown myself into more tears.

I cried myself to bed and woke up as a renewed person. My day has been very jovial and productive. This is when it clicked to me that humans are a manifestation of changing energy levels. We wax and wane in energy vibrations throughout the day. We cannot always radiate that energy with happiness and joy. Sometimes it is okay to cry and let out that negative energy because the aftermath of it is a 100 times more positive.

This does not mean however that we should cry and be angry most of the time. No way! Not at all. We should constantly aim to emit positivity, but remember…sometimes it is okay to cry.

‘The Secret’

I think there was a particular order to reading the three books I ordered by Rhonda Byrne yesterday: The Secret, The Secret – Daily Teachings, The Secret – Power. As I discussed in my previous blog, I completed The Secret – Daily Teachings yesterday within 2 hours. Today, in a matter of 2 and half hours, I completed The Secret.

I do not want people to treat this blog as a review of the book. I am in no position to provide adequate reviews. However, I wanted to used this space to discuss some of the key points I learnt from this book as well as my thoughts about this concept which is the ‘law of attraction’.

1) Energy. The concept that human beings are all forms of energy baffled me – the fact that we can not be created nor destroyed, only changed. It means that we are eternal beings. We have immense power and our spiritual life will never end. I have naturally, since reading this, started to respect all living beings that much more.

2) Time. I am a huge Doctor Who fanatic. Therefore, the concept of time always made me more curious about the universe. Several years ago, I read The Time Machine, by HG Wells. In that book, time was described as the fourth dimension – a dimension through which we were travelling. This made sense to me at the time to some extent, but it never answered my questions about time travel and parallel universes. The Secret provided me with that answer – Time is an illusion. Time does not exist. We are all living in the now whilst our past and future are existing as parallel universes. This means that our future is already set in stone – the positive, and of course negative, is already sketched out, and it is our responsibility to ask the universe for it. This therefore supports the book’s argument that the ‘law of attraction’ is real and can be achieved.

3) Wealth. Before I started this book, my friend told me to take it with a pinch of salt because of how the book was very much tailored towards bringing to one materialistic matters through this law, wealth being one. Yes, my friend was right! I would like to give the benefit of the doubt that such examples were given because material matters are helpful for the wider audience to readily appreciate the happenings of the law. This law, I believe, extends beyond material matters. If money, objects and relationships, are the sole reason people start practicing this law, their understanding of the law of the universe and spirituality are very limited. This law has one overarching concept which I will discuss further in my next point.

4) One with self. The measures that one takes to achieve this law is actually mindfulness. The individual is taught to be one with self and keep their mind clear of all negative emotions. I have read this in numerous spiritual texts, and my main concern with all of it was how people would relate to it and apply it to everyday life. And this is where The Secret came in. The population was given material tools to focus on and achieve this mindfulness. Yes, I believe in the law. And I also believe that we need to work on ourselves first. In doing so, we will not even have to think about the three steps of: Ask, Believe and Receive; instead the law will be shaping around us so naturally. Therefore, the change comes from within; and the law of attraction can be viewed as merely a label, which we control, and not vice versa.

5) Thoughts. Our thoughts can be our biggest enemy. They cloud our mind constantly and make us believe in things which are not true most of the time. But because we constantly think such thoughts and start believing them to be true, our energy vibrations change to emit ones which draw people and things to us which make those false, negative thoughts a reality. We need to work to clear our mind and take control of it, which means naturally we emit a positive and confident vibe which will only attract the same.

The above 5 points made me really think about the ‘spiritual’ person. I have seen many individuals who have read The Secret, and such texts alike, and then gone around calling themselves ‘spiritual’ beings. I am not here to doubt that at all, but their actions and behaviour say something different altogether.

I have been reading spiritual texts for nearly a year and half now. I am in the phase of slowly learning about spirituality and the spiritual mindset. I do not consider myself a spiritual being yet; I am in the very early stages of learning about it. I am proud of it and I want to continue to learn.

I do not meditate regularly. I just read texts. So the next stage for me is to start incorporating meditation into my daily living, which is something I will work towards. Ultimately, I do not want to be a person to showcase my spiritual growth to the public for the sake of it. Let my life be an example of the impact that spiritual knowledge has had on me.