What is it that makes babies so spiritually powerful?

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I will never forget that very first feeling I had when Daya was born.

That rush of spiritual energy.

It was indeed immense – throughout the entire process of birth – filled with no small amount of love, high emotions, gratitude, focus, relief, and pure joy.

But at the very root of it all, there was one particular feeling that stood out when I first held my daughter in my hands, all gooey, and sticky (and ever so calm, come to think of it).

Awe.

I was in awe of this being  that had a spiritual power far superior to anything I could ever hope to possess or be.

I was in awe of this entity that seemed to be able to look right through me and calm me down when I started getting scared.

I was in awe of this tiny little baby that felt like I was holding the spirit of the earth herself.

So fragile.

Yet so radiant and powerful.

This feeling of awe has never left me. But it has also resulted in some strong spiritual beliefs.

For instance, I am of the firm opinion that the souls of babies are quite possibly the closest we will get to a living embodiment of divinity.

(Of course those souls will eventually get the ever-loving shit kicked out of them, especially in boys, due to patriarchy and sexism…but you know, I’m in a happy place here, so am going to focus on the cute and cuddly side of life for now.)

Needless to say, I am and continue to be in total awe of my daughter and the strength in her soul. I doubt that will ever stop being the case.

My little baby warrior and freedom fighter.

I have often thought long and hard about why Daya is so spiritually powerful. Indeed why all babies are so spiritually powerful.

And I realize that they are the embodiment of the very essence of humanity.

They teach us that love is the only entity that can save us from ourselves.

Equally importantly babies teach men that love should never, ever be taken for granted.

They tell us, in no uncertain terms:

I don’t care about the way things have been all these years.

I don’t care if you’ve lived your life taking the love that has been showered upon you from birth for granted.

I don’t care about the unearned privileges of patriarchy nor the pyrrhic benefits of sexism that have swaddled you for thousands of years.

Love me, and love me properly.

Because I and humanity deserve nothing less.

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A brief thought on Dravidian matriarchal spirituality

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A recent article I read on institutionalized transphobia in India sparked a little thought journey for me around gender identity and indigenous spiritualities.

Specifically it led me to realize how little we know of the inherent gender egalitarianism and fluidity in Dravidian and other indigenous spiritualities of the subcontinent (and by “we” I mean those of us utilizing neocolonial, Eurocentric, patriarchal norms of understanding sexuality and gender).

Probably this is because these matriarchal spiritualities only exist in corrupted forms in India and South Asia now (albeit having sizeable influence still) – having been brutalized by many centuries of Aryan patriarchy, caste-based Manuwadi Hinduism, and misogynistic Abrahamic religious dogma. This has resulted in a multi-generational, multi-millennia erasure and subversion of these indigenous, Dravidian, feminist spiritual practices and norms…norms rooted in Dravidian matriarchy and liberated, fiery goddesses (who would normally kick the ever loving shit out of any fair skinned male god, bearded or otherwise).

In India and South Asia as a whole (not to mention parts of East Asia, Africa, the Americas, Europe, and the Mediterranean while we’re at it), I do believe if we go back far enough we will realize a time when we all were part of matriarchal societies that worshiped various versions of the divine feminine as well as the earth and non-human souls – and those times could well give us templates to engage with in order to reject current patriarchal religions (all of the major ones today across earth) and the oppressive social, political, and economic ways of thinking and living that these religions spawn.

Currently I’m particularly interested in South Asian Dravidian matriarchal spirituality because it’s personally very dear to me. And it’s not as much of a stretch as one might imagine to reach back in time to understanding these matriarchal spiritual roots. A brief exploration of Giti Thadani’s Moebius Trip reveals a stunningly beautiful glimpse into past societies in the South Asian lands, mostly Dravidian-rooted societies, even going as far back as the Indus Valley/Harappan Civilization (which many now consider to be a proto-Dravidian civilization) where the divine feminine, as well as matriarchal and/or matrifocal or at the very least gender-egalitarian and/or gender just norms prevailed.

Of course, ever since the invasion of Aryan patriarchy – the foundation for the current misogynistic, Manuwadi caste-based Hinduism – and the strong global influence of the major Abrahamic patriarchal religions, the older matriarchal forms of spirituality have been marginalized, subsumed, and heavily corrupted by the major patriarchal and misogynistic spiritual forces of today.

But the great spiritual matriarchs still live on – in the subcontinent and across the earth. Kali, Durga, Lakshmi, and Saraswati are still prominent goddesses across India and especially in the South and East but with major influence in the North as well. In many regional societies and cultures, again especially in the South and East as far as I can tell, goddesses like Mariamman, Yellamma, Periyachee and many others provide spiritual foundations for countless people.

No doubt, many of these practices are steeped in regressive traditions, but I’m sure that as we slowly move towards genuine matriarchal societies, the more oppressive practices will be whittled away – and these goddesses can help subvert the multi-generational patriarchal narratives from within the heart and soul.

For I do strongly believe that it’s not much of a stretch of imagination to refashion our matriarchal roots for the modern era, an era where we dismantle (occasionally with fire) the dominant patriarchal social, economic, political, cultural and – perhaps most crucially – spiritual frameworks of today.

Referenced texts (and recommended readings):

Thadani, G. (2007[2003]). Moebius Trip: Digressions from India’s Highways. Spinefex Press.

Harris, R. (2007). “Aryan Patriarchy and Dravidian Matriarchy” in Integral World: Exploring Theories of Everything. Link (accessed on June 5, 2016): http://www.integralworld.net/harris32.html

Why I believe all Indians should support Kashmir’s liberation

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An opinion piece published in the June, 2016 Issue of The Kashmirwalla:

Why I believe all Indians should support Kashmir’s liberation

(here’s the url in case the link doesn’t work: http://thekashmirwalla.com/2016/06/all-indians-should-support-kashmirs-liberation/)

 

Dear daughter, this world we’ve brought you into…

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What can I say about this world we’ve brought you into my love?

What can I say about the privileged misogynistic scumbags, and their fathers, who populate the elite hallways of this world?

What can I say about a world that is built for the benefit of men and white people (and the few privileged women and people of color that the colonial structures let into the club)?

What can I say about the hostility we as a family face from white men everyday we step outside the bubble of our home?

What can I say about the evil inherent to the male of the species that evidently the majority of men are blind to?

What can I say about the soullessness inherent to colonial society that evidently the majority of white people are blind to?

What can I say about the fact that there are times when I daydream about gutting the life out of any man who dares cast an evil eye on you (empty and horribly masculine though those flights of fancy might be)?

What can I say about the harsh sadness I’m trying to mask with that anger – a sadness stemming from the fact that, try as we might, your mother and I cannot protect you from all the evils of the world?

What can I say about this all-consuming fear that I will fail in providing you the tools and weapons you need to fight the evil blanketing this world?

What can I say about a world of nation states and borders, where patriarchy, privilege and profit take us ever closer to a likely violent resolution?

What can I say about a world where people in the dominant colonial power are choosing between a demagogue and a plutocrat  to be their “elected” leader (both as white as freshly driven snow in a wealthy suburb)?

What can I say about a world where nationalism, religious fundamentalism, and misogyny seem to be the go-to bastions for the fearful majority of people, privileged and vulnerable alike?

What can I say about a world where I truly believe humanity and the earth would be better off if 80% of the world’s men would simply drop dead  – proportionately across all countries and communities (I am extremely egalitarian when it comes to hating men)?

What can I say about a world where I often up that figure to 90%?

Well…

When I’m at a loss to say or do anything about the oppression and evil in this world we’ve brought you into…

When I feel depressed and weak in the knowledge that this oppression and evil is so vast and deep…

When I feel the urge to build an impermeable, self-sustaining life pod for our family to live in forever…

When I feel the need to embark on a multi-generational, quantum physics research project to transport us to an alternate universe where matriarchy, freedom and egalitarianism prevail…

I look at you and I see the power of your soul…

And the warmth of your heart…

And the depth of your mind…

Only matched by your mother’s (in all three departments, mind you)…

I then rest a little easier…

For I know the evil flourishing in the world today is ultimately no match for your divine strength.

Dear daughter – I’m sorry for my failures (but know that I won’t fail you)

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Hi love,

As I hold you in my arms and see those rascally, angelic eyes slip into a deep sleep following a majestic poop explosion, I often reflect on yet another parenting cycle – a cycle usually consisting of three very regular stages:

Stage 1: a general failure to address your immediate needs with my efforts, followed by…

Stage 2: a blundering,  occasionally teary, attempt at redeeming myself, usually by adhering to the grace and wisdom of your mother, followed by…

Stage 3: simultaneously amusing and irritating the crap out of you with energetic, puppy-like adoration – a manifestation of this fascinating new spiritual feeling I have; I think it could be paraphrased as the deep, singularly unique, and mind-boggling love a parent has for their daughter or something.

Now, it’s easy for me to get caught up in stages 2 and 3 of the cycle – it’s generally more pleasant to focus primarily on the redemption and love.

But truly if I want to ensure that, despite my failures, I’m still being the best parent I can be, then I absolutely must focus on the failures themselves.

And I think the first step is to name them and apologize for them. But don’t worry, I won’t stop just at this perma-sorry for my myriad failures. I will actually try to learn from them. I just need to retrain my hitherto dense and regressive brain, swaddled as it has been in patriarchy for so many centuries. You are way too awesome for anything less.

Plus, your mother and I are hell-fucking-bent on ensuring that we as a family (cats included) fight for the freedom and happiness of all souls on earth. Thus, as your parents, we especially want to fight for that kind of life for you, and it takes some honest reflection to keep fighting well.

So, let me begin by first apologizing for the times I get frustrated, irritated, even angry when nothing I do seems to meet your needs. For the most part I’m frustrated, irritated, and angry at myself, but let’s face it, the feelings inevitably home in on you. When I step back to think about it, I feel shame, my darling. I – your adult father with over three and a half goddamn decades of life experience – actually get frustrated and irritated at a 2-month old kid whom I love beyond life itself. All because you, divine soul, try very patiently (and in the only way you know how) to communicate to your father, guiding him to hold up his responsibilities properly. I know I keep the frustrations “inside” or at least try to, but I also know that I cannot ever fool the spiritual bond between us.

Because I know it upsets you.

For that (and all the other fuck ups, just to be on the safe side) – I am so very sorry my love.

Please don’t mistake this for false humility or something. I can’t stand that shit. I have a galactic sized ego, and really have no real issues with self-confidence or thinking I’m the coolest (i.e. luckiest) guy on earth. I get the big picture. As your parents, I know that your divine mother with me as her pet lout and loyal sidekick, will strive with every sinew of our beings to engulf you in love, joy, health and happiness. We also have an awesome transnational community of family and friends who will provide a very privileged safety net for all of us. So life will likely be more good than bad for the most part.

However, having plied my trade as a trauma therapist and community health worker across three countries for many years now, I am well aware of the numerous forms of abuse and violence that parents and adults in general can impart on children. No doubt, all violence exists on a spectrum – with the horrendous sexual, physical, emotional, and mental abuse existing on a particularly traumatic side of the spectrum. We as a society have this dangerous tendency to think that abusive parenting solely consists of those egregious acts of violence – and we forget that patriarchy is not just egregiously violent but also insidiously covert.

I know that, no matter how sincere and loving and caring, I will make mistakes that will hurt you. It is violent when my frustrations are directed at you. How can it not be? Your capacity to harm me is pretty much non-existent. You didn’t choose to grace our lives with your glorious presence. You’re not the one with decades of human experience. Most importantly though, patriarchy has made our relationship unjust from day one, with you getting a really shitty deal.

But while patriarchy is indeed guided by power and oppression, you, your mother, and my mother, among others, have taught me that patriarchy can be challenged, undone, and eventually dismantled with love, liberation, and a veritable fuck ton of struggle.

So I make this simple, and hopefully ever-evolving, promise to you (very much extended to our larger family and community and, oh what the hell, the world in general):

  • I promise to spare no effort in being the best parent I can be and ensure that our relationship is always egalitarian and just.
  • I promise to love you, nurture you, and fight behind or alongside but never ahead of you for your inviolable rights to freedom and happiness.
  • I promise to dismantle internalized patriarchy and oppression from within me, no matter how many lifetimes it may take.

Ok, so I might have been a little hasty to classify this as a “simple” promise but whatever. I assure you, I will keep this promise even if it kills me because it’s neither political revolution nor mass social change that motivates me, but love. And without love, my soul would cease to exist. So, please feel free to whip my ass into shape whenever your powerful self desires, because you already know more about winning this fight than I ever will – and I would never say no to being guided by your wisdom, your spirit, and your courage.

But, sweetheart, I think this piece needs to be ended because you have just had another poop explosion.

And a fresh diaper – maybe even that gorgeous smile of yours – beckons.

The Valley that stole my heart

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I wrote a political travelogue about Kashmir during a trip made a while back. It was published in The Kashmir Walla in their 5th Anniversary Issue, hot off the presses this month! Please click on the following link for the piece and do peruse their lovely publication:

The Valley that stole my heart

(or if that doesn’t work, here’s the url – http://thekashmirwalla.com/2016/05/the-valley-that-stole-my-heart/)

 

Loss (and subsequent reconnection)

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Some dear loved ones recently experienced the loss of a beloved family member – the kind of loss that takes a while to engage and make peace with, but also the kind of loss that sharpens and cements the beautiful memories one has of the dearly departed.

The passing away of their loved one reminds me of how much I have been thinking about that specific point in the cycle of life. I’ve been directly or indirectly thinking more about loss in the past few weeks since the precious birth of Daya (the only human being who currently ties with Sus for the title of Greatest Person on Earth). I know it’s the fear of losing everything. I guess when one is surrounded by love, the thought of loss is an inevitable background score simply because it serves as a reminder that the future is unknown. Of course, a lot of that unknown consists of yet-to-be-experienced moments of happiness and joy, and we do what we can to ensure that’s the case. But there’s no denying the fact that the loss of loved ones, and pain in general, also exists as a part of that unknown future. Loss is a very real and inevitable part of life.

And all of us deal with loss in different ways, traversing the spectrum of health or lack thereof.

When my younger brother left this world due to a drowning accident almost a dozen years ago, I started off dealing with my loss at a very unhealthy point in the spectrum – by hitting the bottle and deciding to let myself go to waste. He then gave me a bit of a spiritual kick in the ass and got me to chill the fuck out. I finally made my peace with his departure from this world by realizing that my relationship with him had just shifted onto another realm; one with different modes of communication than what I use with my loved ones on earth. The pain still resurfaces from time to time but I’m also much more spiritually grounded now and happier in the loving relationship I share with my dead brother. (Some may call me deluded. Some may even say I’m batshit insane. But I’m fairly sure I’m happier and more loved than those people so it’s all good.)

Now, regardless of what you think about my own personal spiritual shenanigans, I do believe there are some commonalities across the board regarding loss that I think are useful to come to terms with in order to get some peace of mind.

High on that list is the very real fact that it is gut-wrenchingly painful and likely to be that way to some degree or the other for the rest of our lives on this earth. This acceptance of pain is only the first step in a lifelong journey of healing. One of the most important aspects of any healing journey I have found is a certain degree of acceptance of that which we can control and that which we cannot. Pain, especially emotional and spiritual pain, is one of those things that tends to fall into that which we cannot really control, but so desperately want to. I sometimes wonder if an acceptance of the pain of loss is what we wish to avoid when we stay stranded in the dangerous limbo lands of either wishing our loved one would come back or trying to make sense of why they died or both. I know I did that when I lost my brother, and am certain that had I stayed rooted in those modes of thinking I would have been a lot more miserable, and maybe even have blamed him for dying (always a dangerous mindset to fall into).

Another commonality I’ve discovered is that loss is and always will be personal. No matter how much another loved one might have shared in the relationship with the one who just died, the bumpy journey towards making peace with the loss is a solo one (with loved ones close by of course). It often involves long periods of self-reflection in order to find ways to build a relationship with the pain, find some peace of mind, and get spiritually grounded.

There are also going to be special aspects of the relationship to the loved one who passed away that no one else is going to understand…or even be able to hold space for. For instance, with my own experience of loss, there were some who thought that because my younger brother happened to be a cousin and not an actual sibling, it would somehow make the loss less painful. I know that people who have non-human loved ones certainly experience a similar kind of callous thinking from society in general. Should I outlive my feline brothers, which is a likely scenario, there will be people in my life who think that, because they are animals or “pets”, their inevitable passing will be easier to handle compared to the loss of human loved ones. They would not know that I can barely bring myself to think about the day when their time on earth comes to an end because of how painful it is.

That inevitable (and very personal) pain is what brings me to what I believe is the most important commonality regarding the loss of a loved one, human and non-human alike, that all of us share – one that’s been usurped by organized religion and religious fundamentalists. I speak about the spiritual or soulful aspect to loss. Personally, I’m of the opinion that without a liberating way to engage with this element of loss, our healing journey will always be incomplete (or at least a whole lot tougher).

Ever since I started knowingly or unknowingly engaging with the idea of losing a loved one (something I experienced only in early adulthood), I’ve found that those people who have experienced loss but have something spiritual or soulful in their lives tend to make peace with the loss in more resilient ways than those who have experienced loss and don’t have something spiritual to help them with the journey towards healing.

Now the reason I say this is because over the years I found this to be the case even with folks who believed and participated in fundamentalist and patriarchal religious practices – Christian, Hindu, Islamic, Jewish and others. I wasn’t quite ready to believe that it was actually because of their messed up religious practices that they had found some measure of peace. Partly, this was because I was a more militant atheist at the time than I am now (I know there’s no god, at least no male one, but I do know that goddesses exist).

However, I realized eventually that it wasn’t their religion, whichever one it was, that was the key to understanding this resiliency to loss (or trauma or violence or any other kind of pain we might face in our lives) but the fact that their beliefs provided some kind of resolution to the soulful aspect of loss. Cutting out the fundamentalism and patriarchy from the spiritual process helped me realize the importance of engaging with the soulful aspect of loss – I didn’t need to throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater (which is a weird and morbid saying, but whatever).

I am and always have been of the firm belief that a relationship with any loved one is ultimately a bonding at the soul; not because of blood lines, or familial ties, or cultural moorings, or anything else. We love our loved ones and they love us back because there is a spiritual connection between the two individuals. Sometimes that bond is so intense and so powerful that we have soulmates – usually our intimate partners, our children, our best friends, and our non-human family.

Thus, when we lose someone, we experience a spiritual loss, a painful gut punch to the soul. It is an experience that has to be engaged with at that level while reconciling with the pain and the very personal nature of our relationship with the one we have lost. I believe in doing so by reconnecting with my loved one – a soul who underwent a transformation with their physical departure from this earth. The journey can take on different paths for different people, but I think it is the process of reconnection with a departed beloved that constitutes the apex of healing from loss, and also happens to be one of the most beautiful journeys one can take.

Because that reconnection, however it may happen for each individual, reveals in no uncertain terms just how awesome that soul was (and still is), how much joy they brought to our world (and still do), and how brilliantly shone their light, even in times of darkness (and still does).

For the most important realization that occurs with the loss of a loved one is that we can never have too much time with those we love.

And thankfully, love can never die.

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This writeup is dedicated to Missy.

Journey onward oh glorious foot cuddler and wise little yapper.

Thank you for the beautiful memories during our brief time together.

And know that my love and I will always be there for your human family.

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