India and the Pandemic - Interview with Namita Kulkarni

Aug 11, 2021

 It would be great to hear about how India is doing during covid and people are dealing with it from a local's perspective.  Where is the lesson and how can India heal from this?

Thank you for asking. It’s been a hellish nightmare, to say the least. One that could have been largely mitigated if we had a government that cared about people. To vote better is definitely one of the big lessons here. Another big lesson has been that community is what you can count on when things get really bad. Not authorities. And sometimes community is a network of strangers online arranging an oxygen concentrator for your father, because you put out an #SOS tweet. 

And on a global level, if the pandemic hasn’t taught us that we are a collective, I don’t know what else will. It’s been quite tragic the way richer countries kept hoarding vaccines and not releasing the intellectual property rights over vaccines instead of being prompt in sharing them with historically pillaged countries such as India. 

What isn’t acknowledged cannot be healed, and it’s going to take a while to acknowledge the extent of our losses and grieve them. Grieving is a part of healing if you ask me, and most of the people I know (including me) have a lot of losses to grieve. I also believe that healing isn’t an individual responsibility but a community’s responsibility so we each have a role in each other’s healing. 

What are 3 tips you can give people to do when there is chaos and messy emotions that swoop over?

Great question. Yes I do have some tools for these situations, having had to deal with a ton of chaos growing up and as a woman on this planet.  

Screaming into a pillow is something I highly recommend. A friend suggested it in one of my first online women’s circles in 2020. I envy kids for the social permission they have to scream and shout i.e. embody their fears and anger anywhere. Unless you’re a toddler, you’ll have to settle for the next best thing which is to scream into a pillow. 

The messy emotions are as much a part of our emotional spectrum as the more socially approved ones. Validating and expressing them (in ways that are legal and safe, hopefully) is important. Otherwise we only stuff them down into an attic where they lift weights and eventually wreak havoc when we least expect it. 

Another tool is to notice where in your body you’re feeling these emotions. Movement often helps me release the excess emotional charge. Breathing consciously is a great way to find your center in a storm, especially Ujjayi breath and abdominal breathing.

Find someone to talk to, someone who is emotionally safe for you to open up to and be vulnerable with. It helps to have your feelings validated by someone when you share your chaos and messy emotions with them. The Latin root of the word grief is gravare, which means to make heavy. I do believe that we aren’t meant to carry our burdens alone. So lighten the load by sharing your feelings with someone who is a good listener.

How can one find joy in life when in state of overwhelm with life all the time?

A state of overwhelm with life all the time points to a dysregulated nervous system and it’s important to acknowledge that a lot of us do have dysregulated nervous systems at this point, a year and a half into a global pandemic that has lifted the veil on society’s fondest delusions and discarded so many certainties. The overwhelm comes from sensitivity and paying attention to events unfolding around us, so it’s a perfectly valid response to the world we are living in. However, our nervous systems simply weren’t designed to take in the 24/7 river of bad news that mainstream media unleashes on us everyday. So it’s on us to recognize our information limits and act accordingly. I’m all for being well-informed, but beyond a point all that information can be paralysing and it can severely undercut your ability to respond.   

As for finding joy, I would say the important thing is to be present with whatever is arising in the moment. Our capacity for joy can only be as deep as our capacity for grief. So for me the point is not to seek or chase joy, but to build my capacity for joy by being present with the entire range of my emotions. I like to think of joy as a deeply exuberant form of gratitude. 

Joy is how I replenish myself so I can be present with the grief and not bypass it. 

The more intense life gets, the greater my need for replenishment. Creativity and play have often been gateways to joy in my experience. 

 

How can we slow down and still meet all our obligations?

What we call a “slow pace” is quite often a good old human pace. Surrounded by machines, I suspect our sense of time has become mechanized as well. In my experience, “slowing down” - or operating at my human pace - is how I manage to meet my obligations in a way that fulfills me rather than depletes me. It adds a whole new layer of mental and emotional clarity, bringing precision and integrity into my actions. The chatter and noise subside and your inner knowing takes the wheel. It’s a nice feeling, I’ll tell you that :) 

We don’t realise how much extra energy we expend on things that don’t matter, until we slow down enough to get a good look. That added boost of energy from not being in a rush goes a long way in making better decisions, and those save you time in the long run as well. Because you don’t have to spend your time and energy cleaning up messes you might have made in a hurry. Speed is so overrated. 

And anything else you think would be relevant to finding peace when life is so busy and chaotic.

Do whatever it takes to keep yourself as nourished as you can, so you can be present and participating in your life to the fullest extent, not denying/bypassing or missing any of it. Direct your energies toward solid friendships that you can rely on in the darkest hours. Recognize the necessity of creativity and allow it to have its way in every room of your life. For me, creativity has been my most powerful spiritual practice and I would wish for everyone to recognize that creativity belongs to all of us. 

 

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