Both Sides Now

Working for Indian people is not like working for anyone else, I think.

Take for example last week, when I had an 11 day stretch of day work and night gigs and rehearsals, so my back half way through Tuesday afternoon last week just simply stopped functioning properly.  and shooting pains brought me to my knees, which made me think:

“Well hey – maybe I should take a break”. I have been accused of ignoring my own needs in the past.

Unable to even get to clients coming into the store, I was reduced to admitting that “I think I need help”.

I texted Aman, the store owner who responded within seconds that she would be there in fifteen minutes.

I sat down on the chair and hoped no one would come into the store as I didn’t know if I would be able to actually walk to the racks to show them anything. It was pretty bad. A few came in and there i was waving like the Queen of Sheba not moving from behind the cash upon my perch, my back inordinately straight.

Thirteen minutes after my text, and after a few more people had begun to come in and mill about, Aman and Romy came stampeding into the store, with their eldest daughter in tow. It was like an efficient  military swat team operation.

Aman looked at me, with her grouchy concerned face, marched immediately  to the back of the store, grabbed a Nepalese blanket, tossed it down on the floor between the middle of the store and a changing room, and quite literally threw me down to the ground on my stomach.

“You stay”. she said all business, and began issuing confident sounding  orders in Hindi to Arpita, who also snapped into action as her mother’s habitual other right hand.

” Hindi hindi Coconut oil…hindi hindi hindi …terrible dry skin!! ….hindi hindi” is what i heard allot of.

I often wear the things in the store that we are wanting to show people the most, so that day i was uncharacteristically wearing a short “business like” dress, maybe mid thigh length. Beige.

But as I lay there my dwindling consciousness told me there we people in the store. Lots of people.

Romy and Arpita held them at bay showing them things to stay interested in at the front of the store,

Suddenly my dress was half way up my body and my underwear were half way down.

On the floor

In the store.


I felt a little uncomfortable but the pain won and I tried muttering supplications.

Can I give you some advice?

Never ever supplicate an Indian.

I tried speaking to her – thank her. I don’t know.

What the hell do you say to someone when they have laid you down on the floor and are covering your body in coconut oil to ease the aches of decades of physical self abuse?

If you’re me – you minimize.

“Oh Aman I’ll be fine…don’t worry! ill just go home and have a ba…”

I’m sure Aman heard sometime like

“Blah blah … blah blah blah…”

She snapped…

“You don’t speak now! ok? Understand? Shh”.

I could hear the concern in her voice and let myself sink back into painless bliss.

Suddenly her hands were on my lower back and the pain was absolutely gone. Poof. Eliminated. She hadn’t actually done anything yet, just the fact that she knew EXACTLY where the pain and went straight to it, I think it began to dissolve.  Over the next half hour, with my new dress now covered in coconut oil, as was the entire rest of my body,  Aman managed to perform some miracle on me, relieving pain and bringing my dry and sad skin back to life. I left he store relaxed and disheveled,  my hair now a massive mane of shiny greasy mess piled on top of my head and went home.

I cancelled a gig to rest, because I’ll tell you it got worse before it got better. I spent four days basically immobilized in some weird fog, sleeping or awake sketching was all I could muster.

I did an afternoon gig where the music started to revive me, and then I was back at work, feeling better than I have in years.

I am sharing this story because not only does it illustrate to me all of the things I am learning about the Indian people, how they take care of each other, and there is a genuine concern for every person’s well being.

I have grown up in a culture where we talk about how nice that idea is on Sundays and act like assholes the rest of the week.

These people are completely different.

To have an opportunity to see a loving example of how people truly incorporate compassion and community into their lives is probably the greatest thing I have ever experienced.

It is frustrating to me when I see people come into the store treating Aman like something less, thrusting things at her to hold, not saying please or thank you, never making eye contact or talking to her as though she is an idiot. It is hard for me to bear.

But I am fortunate to see both sides, and it is obvious that there are a many preconception that interfere with our ability to get to know each other as people.

One is who we think we are and the second is who we think each other is.

Very often I see the Montreal dwelling unlingual french canadians that treat Aman  with the greatest disdain. I hear them hammering her to speak better french and being angry and obnoxious when they confuse her (fifth) language.

I had one person ask me in french if “the English here were friendly”?


I had another ask me if “bosses pray four times a day”

Seriously. No.

I love that they support me in everything. Even what others have called “my bad temper” has come to good use.  Like with the lady in a failed attempt to negotiate (which I disdain)  who said she wouldn’t even pay two dollars for this “Indian crap” – to the hand beaded dress in her sweaty little palms.  It was my pleasure to show her to the door.  Aman is too polite for this but we have a rule: No amount of sales equals our dignity.

I’ll tell you honestly, when I was a kid, I was frequently horrified by my fathers treatment of people who worked in boutiques and restaurants. It was his way of “commanding respect”. Old school and often ugly.

More than once I remember wanting to crawl under a dinner table in a fancy restaurant as my father carried on in his indignant manner, obviously horrifying the poor waiter or waitress who had the misfortune of crossing his path on a “need to feed the ego” day.

The irony that now, at least five times a day I get to be on the receiving end of people just like him, who make me change their shoes while they talk on their cell phones (that never goes well) and who speak to me as though I am their personal attendant and no need for common courtesies are required. We don’t put up with that either.,

Maybe our store is special in another way – that we will provide free instruction on kindness if you seem to require it.   The place is steeped in it.

You just have to come in and breathe.

F.L.Y. Away Home

Arguably, the worst scenario for a parent is having a child who does not love themselves.  As a way to help me find some form of self-love and belay the devastating effects of depression in my early life, my mother would urge me as a self-love exercise to stand in front of a mirror and declare out loud to my own self “I love you” ten times every day, but I was never able to do it. It felt like just a lie – too much bullshit that was for me incredibly uncomfortable.  As a seriously rebellious teenager, everything about me felt wrong – I definitely wasn’t fitting into the `recommended mold`of thinking and behaving that my family and culture were teaching me.  At that time,  I could barely make eye contact with myself in the mirror without feeling completely ridiculous. I told her she was way over the top when she suggested I do this exercise naked – holy hell! I couldn’t even wear a parka and feel insulated enough from the accusing gaze of my own eyes.  The eyes that said – if she really knew me inside she wouldn’t love me so much. The eyes that said – you really are just a selfish bitch – useless, ugly, incapable, looser.
Now, let’s face it. If someone would have come up to me and actually said those things, it would have gone very badly for them. In general we would never allow someone to speak as badly to us as we do to ourselves. For many people often these thoughts run as a pervasive dialogue back and forth through the mind without even conscious recognition. Like a fire burning you from the inside out. Eventually, if you don’t get a handle on whats happening in the mind, it will leave you in cinders.

You’ll be making dinner or doing something equally mundane and there is a white noise of dialogue happening just a breath out of reach of your aware mind – so you feel terrible without knowing why.

This familiar “background noise” is a pandemic in Western women’s culture.
Vapid feelings of not-enough-itis. A belief that even if you are doing everything you can be, it is not ever going to be enough.

Like so many others, I suffered from depression and overwhelming feelings of inadequacy and self reproach in such a way that actually became life threatening. But like my mother, I also have children who mean everything to me and seeing them have strong sense of self worth is the most important thing to me.  But you can`t teach what you don`t know and I certainly knew I couldn’t teach what I didn’t have inside me in the first place. Learning to love myself was initiated by my deep love for my children. Ironically, this lesson meant that I needed to become very “centered in self” by putting my needs first, dropping relationships and activities that were causing me to feel unhappy and were energy depleting, unbalanced or interfering with what I consider to be most important – my personal sense of serenity. Energy zapping relationships began to fall away once my focus shifted. This is necessary since our relationships reflect our intended focus of our lives, and so when focus changes, so does your circle.

When my children arrived at young adulthood, I was somehow set free of my daily responsibilities for a period of time – the universe shifted and supported my need to be able to stand in front of that mirror and say I LOVE YOU – to my own face. But 30 years later – I still couldn’t do it. I thought maybe moving to the other side of the planet would help…but there could be no distance between me and what I perceived as my “problems” – since my problems seemed to follow me everywhere. Wherever I went…there I was!

Geographical distance aside, I discovered that everything I thought was wrong with me at home – still existed in some form on the other side of the world. How could this be? I didn’t have the door knocking, phone ringing, email buzzing chaos of my home life – and yet I still felt the same background droning stream of unhappiness. I quickly saw that it wasn’t “life” that caused me problems, but the way my mind worked with my life. The “problem” was my mind.

The mind is a funny thing. Essentially, there are two ways to look at your mind. First, it can become “who you are” – so, whatever you think you will believe. The mind is the mouth piece for the ego. It tells you all sorts of things, based on unconscious assumptions and over layered old beliefs that you have not yet taken out for inspection to reassess their current validity.
The mind is a history book – it has never existed in the present, and only can access the past as reference for a current situation.
The mind is exhausting – it doesn’t need sleep and if you participate in any way with its games, it will keep you up all night too.
The mind is the center of fear. It is the place that speaks in hushed tones in the quiet recesses of your receptive places to tell you how things wont work out, how you cant do it, how small you are – incapable inadequate.
The mind exists on the left hemisphere of the brain. It doesn’t like to play with the right hemisphere – the land of creativity and love.
The mind tells you pursuing your hearts desire – your true creative calling whispering seductively in the right side of your brain – is not enough. That you can’t “survive” and should be “more realistic”. Maybe the mind is your parents talking? Maybe it is a teacher in school who had nothing better to do than to tell you that you weren’t smart enough? Maybe its the voice of an abusive relationship long since put aside but still following you to bed at night.
Whatever the mind is doing, the mind is not WHO YOU ARE. In other words – what you think is not who you are! But, it will govern every part of you, define you to yourself which effectively governs the choices you will make, in accordance with what you believe about yourself.

Now that you know about this “secret mind” – sit with it for a second and really listen. Shhhh….do this often every day. Taking moment to just stand still and listen. Don`t judge…just listen.

You will hear your thoughts, don’t be afraid of them They cant do anything to you unless you take them seriously. Maybe you are thinking about mundane things like dinner, groceries, watch a show, go on face book, practice music, draw a picture, get a job pay your taxes. Maybe it is reflecting on how your day went – You didn’t do enough, you did that wrong, you are too ugly for him! You are too stupid for that class. Don’t write a book – you are worthless and have nothing to say…
Any of this sound familiar?
That’s because the bullshit spewed by the mind is universal and make no mistake – its only mission is to stop you in your tracks!  It always tries to play on inhibiting you from finding your greatest creative potential in this life. Ironic since that is your only purpose by being here in this life – to find out what turns your inner light on.
The mind is a dark shield over the great light of your amazing beautiful heart.
The mind is also your dear friend. Your very best FRENEMY! You know that we couldn’t even understand what day time was without having the comparative experience of night time. So, the mind is your `night time`and your heart and intuition is your day time.

The truth is though, to love yourself there are very important basics:


Make LOVING YOURSELF the prime directive of each new day! Including your mind. You have to love every part of yourself; the good, the bad and the ugly. So, the mind is also a friend – because emotions translate to us what our needs are and the mind is what initiates the action of fulfilling the need. It can be a great ally and can help you navigate the waters of this human existence quite effectively, as long as you don’t let it run as background noise, and only allowing it to come forward and be a part of choice making when you have scanned it with your powerful intuition. Only then can it be part of your decision making process and choices.
2- APPRECIATE OPPOSITES The mind shows you what you don’t want – you DO want. No one wants self hatred, feeling depressed and self recriminating, guilt, sadness, powerlessness, self reproach, unforgivable. No one wants to feel like this. These negative emotions only come when we are a- not mindful or present and b- have unresolved and unaccepted issues. So, the mind is beneficial because sometimes we learn best by opposites. If I say “I want to be happy and not feel depressed when I wake in the morning”, it is obvious that the first issue that must be addressed is the mind. I can take the thoughts that Mind produces and use them as pointers or prompts to show me what my unconscious mind is prattling on about. Then I can make choices based on the present and not on past resentments, sadness, unresolved sadness, grief or whatever other illusion helps me to make more self-loving choices.

3- LOOSE CONDEMNING JUDGMENT of EVERYTHING.  stop telling yourself negative things. In fact stop telling anyone negative things.  Drop complaining, criticizing from your daily experience.  try it! For one day, don`t criticize ANYTHING. Not in your head and not out loud. I’m not saying loose your `discernment` – for example we all need to `discern`who is good for us to be around and who is not. Deciding someone or something is not for you is not a negative judgement on a person, or situation – it is you using your god given ability to figure out what gives you energy – and what takes it away.  The going rule is if it makes you feel good and harms no one – then go for it!  If it makes you feel crappy and causes you harm – RUN DON’T WALK. And don’t think because someone is related to you by blood they are exempt from this personal discernment.  Very often it is those blood relationships that have been intimately connected to your misguided programming.  No one is more important than your own peace of mind.
4- DO IT ANYWAYS; How many times I have spoken with a woman on this topic, of self care, of putting herself before her kids and husband and friends, of filling her own cup – only to be faced with the same objection each time. Somehow women have gotten it into their minds that if they put themselves in a martyring self sacrificing position by being mindful of everyone else’s needs and slowly but sure disconnecting from their own – that this is effective parenting and marital life. Somehow this martyr attitude is to be congratulated in our culture, producing more depressed women and men than at any other time in history. Self sacrificing yourself is the most ineffective way of manifesting happiness either for you or for your family. The only way for balance and happiness is to put yourself first. Imagine being able to teach this to your kids through example so that when they grow into they will be able to find happiness inside themselves by your good example and wont feel the need to look outside, in relationships, jobs, drugs and alcohol to fill their lonely spaces. They wont have any. People who love themselves are never lonely – they always have great company! I don’t know about you, but I want my kids to enjoy their own company.

Martyrs are professional victims. Quit this job – it does no one any good.

So many women are superb at running around doing things for everyone else, they like to direct the show, giving advice out like lollipops. They are “on” when there is a disaster. However, left to time on their own, in their own mind, or given an opportunity to fulfill their own happiness they will stand mutely and confounded. Their purpose has become defined by the role they play for everyone else.

First, if you are one of these martyrdom superheroes who sacrifice all for family, husband, wife children job – let me tell you what a terrible burden you place on everyone you claim to love. Since you have conceived that your happiness is so intertwined with their happiness – have you considered that you are only teaching them an unreasonable and unrealistic responsibility?
In fact the truth is, self sacrificing by putting your needs and personal balance aside for others is a very effective and manipulative way of staying in a victim mentality. And I have never met a happy or successful victim.

“I do it all for you!” screams the angry husband after he had not seen his family for six weeks.
“I live for my family”, says the exhausted wife.
“I study for my parents” says the approval seeking teenager
“I hate my job – but I have a family to support”,
No one ever got anywhere like this.
“I live for my children” –
really? One day they will not be living for you – what will you do then?

Fill yourself – only THEN do you have anything REAL to offer.

YOU CAN BE SO WEALTHY! While in Africa I noticed that children were never burdens, but an integral part of the daily joy and work of each village. Small children would gather firewood with their mothers, while fathers stayed around the village doing other work. Afternoons are spent all together, doing the things that need to be done for the good of the community.
Do you think women in an African village part of such a community have self esteem issues?
No they don’t because people who live near nature and on the land of the world know how divinely miraculous their existence is. There is no false humility or martyrdom – there is balance and communal joy.
I would like to see this effect wash over north America. We are very very poor compared to many of these nations.

In North America we have learned from television, radio and other forms of popular culture what is to be important to us as members of our own communiti4es. \the problems is – none of it is effective in promoting greater personal happiness. We very often hold the opinions of our community, friends or family as MUCH more important than our own.
This must stop.
It is critical for you to become aware of how much importance you have placed on what others think of you and your choices.
No one is more important that YOU.
And frankly, not even your closest partner, sister friend, husband, parent – not ONE OF THEM can understand why you do what you do and what is best for you.
You have full responsibility – and full FREEDOM.

Your happiness is none of anyone’s business.
So, if you\re waiting for the perfect man, woman, job, education, geographical cure, substance anything outside of yourself to bring you that contended feeling – you’re going to wait forever because it doesn’t exist.
You think if you could fall in love it would all be OK?
If you made more money and didn’t have to worry about paying your bills it would all be ok?
Maybe if you didn’t have a terrible illness it would all be ok?
But it wouldn’t.
The only way anything is ever OK is in the way you think about it – and how your mind processes it.


The thing is, everyone can give you advice – but in your mind you think what you have gone through is unique, what you are doing is “different” – that maybe what I am saying here is applicable to everyone else – but not you! You have suffered more, you have more problems, you have secrets or some magical need that no other human on the planet can relate to.

That was what my mind said when my mom asked me to stand in front of that mirror…
Yeah – you wouldn’t love me so much if you knew what a mess I was.

Make no mistakes – your mind is a liar.
Do you like Liars? Are you usually close intimate friends with liars? Do you take their advice? Hang out with them?
Or do you prefer to be around others who are positive, and honest and who have an open heart?

It’s important if you are reading this that it be useful – not just esoteric blah blah. There are good writers in the world, and nothing I can say here is really unique – but I do want it to be useable.

Suggestions for self love:
– Say it in your head, first thing every morning, repeat and repeat
” I love myself, I am wonderful, I am fantastic, I am beautiful I am perfect and I am divine” – just do it. You don’t have to believe it – do it anyways.
– Remember to put yourself and your amazing talents and availability when reviewing your gratitude of the day! “I am so grateful I can play guitar and have so much fun with people!”
– Keep in mind that the “mind talk” is your ego – the ego seeks to separate you from everything that is alive – this is ALSO necessary since you wouldn’t fully understand how we are all the same living thing – if you did not at once feel separate. Its part of how we humans learn.
– Develop a practice of gratitude. For example, write ten things you are grateful for each day in your journal, or upon awakening just list 5 or ten things you are grateful for before getting out of bed. This can help start your day off on a more vibrant note.
– NEVER EVER speak ill of yourself out loud. If you do, tell yourself you are very sorry. Go buy yourself an ice cream.
– Don’t try to be perfect – you already are.
– Hang around self loving people

Just like the other 7 billion of us on this planet, we are all on the path towards self love. I doubt any of us can ever perfect it. Change comes slowly, but if you stick to it, it will come. You’ll see it in small moments
It is clear that the more I have learned to love who I am, despite anyone’s opinion thoughts or bad teaching – the more I am able to feel great love in my heart for other people, other places, situations, the world, the planet.
This “self focus” isn’t just a nice idea to make you happy – it is a CRITICAL idea necessary for the healing of the entire planet. It makes sense – the more one person is able to connect with themselves them more they will connect with the earth around them. Love of self necessarily flows into everything around – the people, animals, plants. People who love themselves don’t become terrorists, don’t have jobs creating bombs, don’t become alcoholics and addicts, don’ spend all their waking hours judging themselves and others. People who love themselves are warriors brave in their journey, courageous to change the mindset of how they have been taught to perceive the world through the filter of their frenemy – the mind.

Become friends with yourself – I’d love to meet YOU!