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Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Ayudha Pooja of the Mind

A few days ago, I spoke to a group of women at their Mahila Sangh meeting. The topic we had agreed upon was “Secrets of Holistic Well-being for Women.” The organizer allotted me about 30 – 45 minutes and agreed to my suggestion to include a few games that would drive important points home.

As I eased into the topic, it quickly came to my notice that these middle-aged and senior citizen homemakers were a lively lot and very well-informed about aspects of physical well-being. Some of them said as much, and one lady was quite vocal, saying, “I know that going for a walk everyday is good for my health. What I need help with is pushing myself up from bed every morning to take that walk.” Taking their cue, I modified my discussion to speak of ways to stay motivated to stick to a routine.

Next, I brought in a game, making a small group of women play passing the ball, gradually introducing a second and then a third ball. As the number of balls increased, there were more misses than catches. We used this as an analogy to understand that the greater the number of things we have to handle, greater is the stress, and more the chance of things getting out of control. We had used balls of different sizes in this game. As I likened the balls to husband, children, career/hobbies etc, tongue firmly in cheek, one lady wanted to know which of these exactly the big, medium-sized and small balls represented. Getting into her spirit, I quipped that it totally depended on the individual woman, sending them into peals of a knowing laughter.

Later, we played another game in which 6 women, with closed eyes, followed my instructions on folding and tearing a small piece of paper. No one was allowed to ask questions and because their eyes were closed, they could not see what the other participants were doing with their papers. When everyone finally opened out their paper, they came out with totally different designs.

I used this game to highlight how different people interpret the same talk to mean different things and that unless there is open, two-way communication, we’re doomed to misunderstanding and ill-will.

As they digested that, one woman laughingly asked, “What if we are doing all we can to be open, but the other party is totally closed?” Everyone else joined in with her laughter, and yet, in that moment of shared mirth, I sensed a deep sadness in the eyes of the one who asked the question. Without letting on, I used that moment to segue to the next part of the talk about how some form of spiritual practice can help us come to terms with things that are beyond our control.

Much later, as I mulled over how the talk had gone and what I could improve upon, I remembered one WhatsApp forward and rued not using it. This message was doing the rounds during Navaratri. It said a woman was applying “Haldi-Kumkum” to her tongue and when her husband asked why, she replied, “Ayudha Pooja!” Hilarious, right? But an unfortunate and sad comment on the state of affairs in many a relationship; and to be totally fair, it’s not just the women who use their tongue to wound. Hurt, pain and anger know no gender or age and plagued with any of these, tongues of both women and men can let loose a volley of harsh words, seeking retribution of one’s pain by causing hurt to the other.

How low would be the world’s anguish if only we could learn to quell this tongue. But to do that, we must first learn to control the reflex connection between it and the mind. Perhaps an “Ayudha Pooja” of the mind is what we actually need!

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