For the first Sunday in seven months, I don’t have backlog work or unending domestic chores to catch up on. Yesterday I was excited. Imagine Sabbath in which every single minute is not planned. “I am going to chill out and relax to the hilt”, I told my daughter last night.
Come Sunday. My minimal life-sustenance chores are done. No office backlog. Yes, I have some teaching to do, but that is not “work”, I enjoy it. And that’s only later in the evening. I have a few hours to myself to do what I want, to relax, to calm down, and to let the brain go on slow-mo. Sit on the easy chair in my veranda, read a book to the background music of rains. Easy, right? Wrong. I have forgotten how to relax. I sit for about half a minute, and then I am up and about, wandering pretty aimlessly and rudderless, stressing about relaxing. I ask my daughter what I must do to relax and she throws my stuff to her back at me “Take a deep breath”.
Still on the loose end, I sit to write and the calm descends. Writing is the only source of relaxation for me, it seems. Is it pathetic that writing is both work and play to me, and my life starts and ends with words that I put on screen?
My other non-work activity these days (reading has been relegated to bedtime so much so that the moment I pick up a book, my mind gets ready to sleep, sad life) especially when I am doing mundane activities like cooking and cleaning , is listening to podcasts, tedtalks etc. A few months back, I listened to news podcasts, but they depressed me too much, and so I switched to other types of talk. Depending on the day’s mood, I listen to talks about health, nutrition, brain, neuroscience, traditional medicines, meditation, Taoism/buddhist philosophy, lifestyle, minimalism, and positivity/passion. Yeah, middle age.
This morning, as I was washing the dishes, I listened to a surfer talk about her passion of saving whales and dolphins. I silenced the mind’s pesky questions like “how is making thousands of origami whales helping to protect whales?” and “who protects the trees that are cut to make the origami whales?”, and instead chose to focus on “passion”. I didn’t see the talker, but she has been surfing for forty years, so she must be as old as or older than me. Yet, she has her passion – she surfs, she travels around the world talking about and making origami whales. While I feel wistful at the kind of impassioned life these people lead, I also feel a bit irritated. These people are a privileged lot, who can afford to do it. For a start, this woman is American, which means that she doesn’t need a visa to go to many countries in the world and has a strong dollar value, which makes it affordable for her. I, on the other hand, belong to a country that needs a visa to go to the toilet, and as much as I might like to spend my life making origami animals and call it a passion, I can’t.
Another talk I listened to was about the blue zones in the world – places where people lived longest. Much of it is common sense. Active life, eat healthy, and have a healthy mindset, along with being blessed with long-life genes (yes, there are long-life genes) – all contribute to long life. Two particular Japanese concepts practiced in Okinawa, a blue zone, intrigued me (if there’s rebirth, I want to be born in Japan)…ikigai and moai. Ikigai, I feel, is just the Japanese version of our “Karma Yoga” – do your duty without attachments to outcomes – one of my aspirations at which I consistently fail.
Moai is a group of life-long friends, who meet frequently “to gossip, experience life, and to share advice and even financial assistance when needed”. Traditionally, children as young as five years of age are grouped and they make a commitment to each other for life to meet regularly with their moai for both work and play and to pool resources.
I can relate to the concept of moai. I have my own moai. I have two friends who have stayed with me from kindergarten -that makes it 45 years now. We live in different continents now, but still run to one another (digitally), for fun, venting, support, comfort and sometimes just because. It’s not like we can do anything for each other in a physical/materialistic sense, but I find that just a small chat helps me deal with the curve-balls better.
I also have two other friends I have picked up along the way. These two are also my in-person moai. I meet them regularly, and can feel a mental reset whenever I do. So, I think there’s some legit about the concept of moai afterall.
Do you people have moais?
Navrathri began yesterday. This year, I have not gone full-monty and merely placed a few dolls at the prayer nook rather than the big extravaganza of other years, thanks to covid. I can’t invite people, so what’s the point? There’s always next year.
Happy Navrathri folks.