Tag Archives: Gratitude

Mother-Son Duo Deliver a Message of Gratitude

After their first children’s book on diversity, We Are One which was published in 2017, San Francisco Bay area-based mother-son duo Pinky Mukhi and Param Patel are back with their new book on diversity and gratitude I Am Grateful. Pinky, who works as an I.T. professional, loves working with children, teaching them Gujarati, and engaging them with stories, arts, and crafts related to festivals celebrated by different cultures. Her curious nine-year-old son, Param, is interested in arts, computer games, music, reading, and sports.

A simple tale told through bright and colorful illustrations by Devika Oza, the book is a journey into the daily lives of children and what they feel grateful for. The story trails a day in the life of a child, examining all the things he has around him to be grateful for—his parents, grandparents, school, lessons, teachers, art, music, playtime, bath time, books, stars, trees, and flowers—in other words, the little things that we often take for granted.

The book was conceptualized when Param was six years old and is based on a conversation with him about what he feels thankful for. When Param was eight, he along with his mother, added further to the story by imagining what children in different nations may appreciate. They then decided to include in the story some of the countries Param had visited and the continents he had studied about.

For this reason, the book is sprinkled with some charming illustrations of various well-known landmarks in different countries–such as the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Sydney Harbor Bridge, the Taj Mahal in Agra, the Stonehenge in the UK, the Masai Mara Reserve in Kenya, the Sugarloaf Mountain in Rio de Janeiro, the Bamboo Forest in China, the Cappadocia in Turkey, Mount Fuji in Japan, and the Keukenhof Tulip Gardens in the Netherlands. 

The book ends with these powerful lines, accompanied by pictures of children belonging to different cultures, with their palms folded in prayer:

“I am grateful for love.

I am grateful for friends.

I am grateful for Mother Nature.

I am grateful for sunshine and moonlight.

I am grateful for food.

I am grateful for home.

I am grateful for learning and stories.

I am grateful for toys.

I am grateful. I have everything I need!”

After a month of Thanksgiving and Diwali, the book which is sure to resonate with children between the ages of four and nine, serves as a much-needed reminder of optimism and gratitude, especially during these challenging Covid times. 


Neha Kirpal is a freelance writer and editor based in New Delhi. She is the author of ‘Wanderlust for the Soul’ and ‘Bombay Memory Box’. You can access all her published work under different categories in various publications here: www.nehakirpal.wordpress.com

Being Thankful & Keeping My Sunny Side Up

Fall is my most favorite season of the year. I love seeing the leaves of trees change colors, and the pleasantly mild temperatures encourage me to take long walks. As we celebrate Thanksgiving at the end of November, we reflect on our blessings in life. This year, it has become all the more important to be grateful for all that we have, with the world being caught in the grip of an invisible monster that is shaking the world!

Every day, I wake up with a thought that is not at all comforting. A question arises as to how long the cloud of uncertainty will be hovering over us. It was mid-March when I first wrote an article on the COVID-19 situation, and 8 months later, we are still battling it.

In the wake of this crisis, the issue of mental health is one of grave concern. What has emerged as a very crucial requirement for all of us is the need to be happy. I don’t know if it’s the few strands of gray that have made me older and wiser, but the pandemic has made me look at life from a different perspective. I’m pleasantly surprised that I have emerged as a more optimistic person than I was before.

Learning is a continuous process, and at times, certain events or circumstances reinforce what we have learned in the past with even greater strength. If I were asked what are the values the world needs to learn the most from the pandemic, I have an instant answer. Gratitude, positivity, and acceptance are the values we need to embrace. I have definitely made them my mantras.

We pass the test of humanity when we conduct ourselves with grace and dignity during turbulent times. For a change, let’s divert our minds from the negatives and focus on the brighter side of what life has to offer. This is my personal viewpoint, yet I am confident that there will be many who will identify with me.

The pandemic has definitely turned our lives topsy-turvy, but we could be in a much worse situation. I came across a beautiful piece “Be Happy You Weren’t Born in 1900” which asks the reader to imagine a hypothetical scenario of being born in 1900 and living through a spate of unfortunate historical events. The story starts with the beginning of World War I on one’s 14th birthday and ends with the conclusion of the Vietnam War upon turning 75. The examples of the Spanish Flu, the Great Depression, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the Cuban missile crisis are also put in that timeline. Truly, would it have been easy for someone to live through tragedies that happened so close on the heels of one another?

Although it is the human tendency to complain, we need to take into account all that we have at this moment. If there’s a roof over our heads and food at the dining table, we need to consider ourselves blessed. One should be happy if there’s a monthly check coming home rather than evaluating how satisfying or not his or her job is. If we are together with our family members, we need to appreciate those moments.

“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade,” goes the proverb. It is certainly possible that we can beat a lot of the current COVID-related stress with a positive attitude. What can be a more opportune time to unravel and discover what we are capable of doing in order to sail through this storm with ease? And along with discovering our creative sides, we need to add that special dose of humor to make our days even sunnier!

Writing has always been my passion, and I have utilized this period to the fullest in order to give vent to my creative side. I have written more than I ever did because I have been spending a lot of time at home. My daily schedule has been a disciplined one, with daily yoga and pranayama being added to the routine.

So many people are discovering their hidden potential! It will perhaps not be an exaggeration to say that the world is buzzing with new singers, chefs, poets, artists, and other talented individuals during the corona crisis! On my family front itself, it is so heartwarming to see that my 24-year-old boy and my nieces have turned into accomplished chefs during this period. So isn’t it time for me and my sister-in-law to rejoice that our kids are ready to take over the kitchen and give mommy a break? One of my nieces has also rediscovered her childhood love for painting and has come up with brilliant pieces of art.

All human beings under the wide sky need to be treated as equals. As much as we know that, we tend to forget. As COVID-19 is holding the world in its frightening grip, the whole of humanity is on the same footing. The invisible monster has not made any distinction with respect to gender, status, race, religion, or sexuality. If this is not the time to practice kindness and acceptance, I don’t know when it’ll ever be.

Every small action counts. If we can spread some happiness by giving others a listening ear to their problems or perform some act of kindness, let’s do so. We all need to shed labels, cast aside prejudices of all types, and accept our fellow beings for who or what they are.

Adversity does not last forever. There will always be light at the end of the tunnel. All that we need at this moment is patience and composure. The mosaic of our lives is made up of all those small pieces that contribute towards making it a meaningful whole. So let us live in the moment and raise a toast to the tiniest of things that bring us happiness and make us smile, for the rainbow after the storm will definitely emerge!

Here’s to wishing all a safe and happy Thanksgiving! Be thankful and stay blessed!


Rashmi Bora Das is settled in the suburbs of Atlanta, GA. She has written for various platforms including Women’s Web to which she regularly contributes. 

We Called Them Blessings

Desi Roots, Global Wings – a monthly column focused on the Indian immigrant experience.

The word ‘privilege’ that has become popular in debates and discussions worldwide, reminded me of an old quote. 

The hardest arithmetic to master is that which enables us to count our blessings.

This quote by Eric Hoffer appears in my autograph book, a relic from my school days in Mumbai. Amidst pages filled with colorful drawings, and silly messages from classmates, these words, neatly copied out by a soft-spoken nun who taught math, looked incongruous, but apt. 

I grew up in a small apartment in a suburb of Mumbai. Our multifunctional living room, filled with conversations and laughter during the day, would transform into a bedroom at night. The space where my brothers and I watched TV, played and argued, was always noisy. Whenever I whined about the lack of quiet, my father would tell me about how he and his eight siblings studied under a street light. Even as a young girl I could sense that a room with adequate lighting, if not ambience, was a definite step up.

When I was ten years old, a new girl joined our class. Petite and soft-spoken, Bina was the second of five siblings in a family with a difficult financial situation. The charitable arm of the community to which she belonged paid for their tuition and books. In return, she was required to earn good grades to ensure funding for the subsequent academic year. Bina’s diligence and good cheer made me less inclined to grumble about the hand-me-down textbooks that I received from my older brother.     

In my teens, our apartment was upgraded by enclosing the fairly large balcony that bordered the living room. With the addition of an antique desk, installation of a wall-mounted fan and a table lamp, the rectangular room became a study. And the quality of my student life improved manyfold.

The living room was no longer flooded with morning sunshine but the new sliding glass doors of the balcony helped keep out the dust from the adjacent plot. A narrow abandoned stretch of land overflowing with litter, weeds and stray dogs, was being developed into a new apartment building. 

Among the workers who toiled day and night was a young girl about my age, who carried freshly-mixed cement in a shallow metal tray held atop her head. A coil of cloth protected her scalp from the heavy load. When our eyes met, I responded to her open smile with a wave. I felt compelled to connect with her, despite warnings to stay away from the bustle of a construction site.

‘Shobha’ although a few years older, had never been to school. During our summer holidays, two friends and I taught her to write Hindi alphabets using a small black slate and a piece of chalk. We brought her snacks, a notebook, and pencils. She enjoyed spending time with us, probably more as an escape from her hard life, than from a desire for education. When the building came up, she left with the crew, having learnt how to write her name. 

Urban poverty was real. Inequality was an inescapable consequence. It was impossible to not acknowledge the benefits conferred on me by the accident of my birth. For every pretty shoe or school bag I coveted, I could always find someone who was happy to receive my outgrown clothes and dog-eared books. 

Years later, as a graduate student in the US, I was surprised to find that some of my peers were the first in their family to go to college. My eyes had been trained on the wide range of opportunities available in America. Inequality, although not as visible as in India, was an unacknowledged reality. 

Time changes many things, including vocabulary. 

In today’s parlance, would my childhood, which I considered modest, be classified as ‘privileged’? The dictionary defines privilege as ‘a special right, advantage or immunity granted or available to a particular person or group’. 

Every child has the right to be educated. Yet, not every child receives education. I learnt this lesson early on. 

With no accumulated wealth or ancestral property, my parents decided to invest in quality education for their children. By opening the gate to learning, they put the key to a better life in my hands. 

My ‘privilege’ was not the schooling but the recognition that the opportunity itself was a gift, one that I should not take for granted or frivolously forfeit. By diligently applying myself in school, I participated in building the foundation for my future.

Was I blessed? Fortunate? Lucky? Entitled? 

The words being tossed around in the debate over privilege are powerful, pedantic, and sometimes, petty. But they are just words. Semantics can only go so far. 

The words written by my teacher lodged in my consciousness decades ago. I tried to master the arithmetic of counting my blessings at every major crossroad in my life. And each time, it stirred in me the long-buried desire to help others, just I had done with Shobha that long-ago summer.  

Actions speak a different, more powerful language.

Whether I offered to read books for the blind in Baltimore or volunteered at the adult literacy center in California, I tried to do my small bit, knowing that it might be just a drop in the ocean. 

There will always be much more to do than what a mere individual can accomplish. 

For me, the first step towards building a more equitable world begins with gratitude, not just for my blessings but for the people who taught me to focus on the right things. 


Ranjani Rao is a scientist by training, writer by avocation, originally from Mumbai, a former resident of USA, and now lives in Singapore with her family. She is co-founder of Story Artisan Press and her books are available on Amazon. She is presently working on a memoir. Medium | Twitter | Facebook | Blog

Introspection on the Road to Self Discovery

Presently our lives are topsy turvy and we are dealing with the reality that the coronavirus will be with us for a long time. The whole world has paused. The new normal is one of uncertainty as our lives have been disrupted. We are unable to meet our friends, vacation, go to work, or school. We wake up hearing more disturbing news of the stock market, unemployment, rising number of cases, and deaths.

Before the pandemic hit us, we took things for granted. We did not value the simple things of life. Being able to walk and breathe without a mask, meeting friends and family, hugs, eating at restaurants, shopping at stores, have become luxuries.  

Many of us felt fear for our lives and our loved ones when we heard of the COVID -19 virus, then came a feeling of frustration and irritability which led to the anger of being locked down. Gradually our communities have started to open and some of us step out cautiously with paying attention to social distancing and wearing a mask. Life has changed!

This has been a difficult time for me too, but as time goes by I have realized that I have to make the most of what I have. I nurture my mental physical and spiritual health. This lockdown has made me aware of my inner strength, resiliency, and compassion.

We are caught up in our busy schedules and many of us are unaware of who we are. During the pandemic, things have slowed down and we have time to tune in to our thoughts and feelings. Use this as a time of self-discovery, to dive deeper into understanding who you are. This time of self-isolation is to search for answers to get to know your true self. 

Many of us are naturally anxious or unhappy at this time and find it difficult to move towards balance and peace, but it is possible. Consider making one or more of these methods an integral part of your life. They may help you with your own self-discovery.

Meditation: The practice of mindfulness, a practice for mental health and clarity. Self-discovery meditation could be done in a simple manner. It is a way to calm the mind and body with relaxation and to get in tune with your inner self. By regularly meditating you will be able to live a more thoughtful and introspective life.

  • Find a quiet place with no distractions. Do switch off your electronics.
  • Sit in a comfortable position and close your eyes.
  • Breathe naturally, in and out. 
  • In your relaxed yet alert state, ask yourself a few questions to stay focused.
    • Questions you can ask yourself could be, “ I would like to know my strengths; I would like to know my weaknesses; who am I: how do I achieve my goal, etc. 
  • Or you can use one word or mantra such as discovery, belief, knowledge, etc to help you focus.
  • Focus your attention on the mantra and drop into the depths of your inquiry where the answers arise. if unable to do that then bring yourself back to your breath.
  • Feel the sensations in your body of each inhalation and exhalation and let it flow.
  • After 10 to 15 minutes open your eyes and sit still. Try and recall if you felt anything that helped you understand yourself just a little bit more.

This requires daily practice, time, and patience to move towards the path of self-discovery. As you move towards this goal, meditation will help calm your mind.  

Journaling: During this unprecedented time, try to pay attention to your mental health. Journaling is a very effective and simple manner of tracking yourself over a period of time. You just need a pen and paper or you can journal on your phone.

Journaling helps you look back and see your progress, patterns, emotional triggers, and what you have overcome. If you see yourself feeling negative often then journaling will help you identify this pattern. You can train yourself to write positive affirmations and think with a more hopeful attitude. It can help you identify your aspirations and overcome your fears.  

I have found journaling to be like self-counseling which has put me on the path of self- discovery and getting to know the authentic me.

Walking: An exercise for our physical well-being and also for our mental health. Walking in nature, absorb what is around you through your senses  Do not have any distractions with headphones or any electronics. Get more introspective and let your thoughts wander. If your thoughts continuously move to the negative then try and bring it back to the one thing which made you smile.

For example, you are irritated with something happening at work and it keeps expressing itself repeatedly. What do you do? While walking, observe your breath and focus on it, till you are calm. Then start appreciating where you are and enjoy that moment. When your mind goes back to the irritability bring it back to the breath and the beauty around you. It takes practice but soon you will find that you are in the present moment while walking.    

Gratitude: As life has changed for us, it is not easy to feel gratitude.  

Try and have compassion for yourself at this time and when you are able to do this, you will feel that you are able to express gratitude for yourself and others. Gratitude is a positive emotion and can help let go of the negative emotions which we feel during this time.  

I have a gratitude jar in which I write the simplest of things I am grateful for. After a week I look at them and feel that I am fortunate in so many ways and this helps me move forward.  

Mindfulness:  Mindfulness is when you take notice of what is happening right now and when your mind wanders, then you bring it back to the moment.  I urge all of you to engage in mindfulness throughout the day. Be in the moment of what you are doing and observe it and your feelings but do this non-judgmentally. 

Some of us don’t realize the strong emotions of sadness, fear, and anxiety which the pandemic has brought on. With the practice of mindfulness, we can reduce these triggers slowly and move towards feeling more balanced.

Get in touch with your soul. Keep searching for answers, look within, and find your courage, passions, dreams, and happiness. Keep introspectively exploring till you find your true self. Go on, raise your consciousness, and be a higher version of yourself.


Geetanjali Arunkumar is a writer, artist, life coach. She is the author of ‘You Are The Cake’.

Nexts Steps to Reduce Anxiety

Are you feeling anxious during these troubled and difficult COVID times? Anxiety starts to affect our mental and physical status. We worry about our families, friends, and ourselves. What if something happens, what next? Fear, and anxiety, come from thinking of the future.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a motivational theory in psychology comprising a five-tier model of human needs. In the traditional Maslow pyramid, we see that the basic physiological ( food, water, warmth, rest) and safety needs ( security, safety) are not met for many of us. Many have lost their jobs, do not have a roof over their heads, or even food to eat. This causes immense anxiety, frustration, anger, and fear. However, even for those whose primary needs are met, there is still a tremendous amount of anxiety. To help understand and cope with this feeling in these unusual times I have redefined the upper part of the pyramid.

In these uneasy COVID times, it is necessary to ease our minds. What are our emotional needs during a difficult time like this? Here is a simple diagram that helps explain it. During this time it is good to go within us.

Let’s look at this diagram. We need to accept this situation as it is. It may not be what we anticipated or wanted, but with Acceptance, it will be easier to deal with the situation, rather than fight against it. 

Routine is a sequence of actions regularly followed. In these times it would be beneficial to create a healthy routine. Pick things that you have control over and make them an integral part of your routine.  When new things show up that are not in your control, let them go, and don’t let it affect your routine. In this process of not being able to be always in control of happenings, anger, and frustration arise, which need to be slowly released. 

Would you like to connect with others? We have been asked to social distance. The effects of this have brought about sadness and a feeling of loneliness. Even though you are social distancing, you can nurture your relationships with emotional Connections. Go on, pick up the phone, and speak with a friend, text, or use social media. Share your feelings and know that you are still connected even though you are physically apart. This is not forever.

The world has slowed down so that you can discover yourself. Think about taking a pause and figuring out what is the new normal.  When you Reset, what you thought meant something important to you may have changed. What seemed normal no longer seems useful to you. 

For many of us, it is hard to concentrate on our emotional needs when we are filled with anxiety and fear.  Use these next steps to reduce your anxiety first so that you can take care of yourself and the needs within.

  1. Reduce watching and listening to negative news.
  2. Enjoy family time with a feeling of gratitude. I understand it is difficult at times being under the same roof. Cooking, cleaning, teaching kids (homeschooling), video conference meetings, loud music, dogs barking. Once this is over you will realize that this was an opportune time to bond with each other. So make it happen now.
  3. Be in the present. Anxiety, worries, and fear come from thinking of what will happen in the future. Just live for the moment as life is precious and should not be taken for granted. 
  4. I find yoga, meditation, and most of all a good night’s sleep valuable to calm my mind.  Many apps and sites offer meditation sequences. 
  5. Practice gratitude. Gratitude for being you, for having the smallest of things. Gratitude for the frontline workers, researchers and so much more. 
  6. Exercise helps release your feel-good chemicals. If you are allowed to and it is safe then, walk, run, cycle with 6-foot social distancing in a non-crowded area while wearing a mask. Come home and wash your hands. 
  7. It is time to take on a new hobby, or even learn a new language. All the things you always wanted to do but didn’t have time for. 
  8. Charity is giving. Giving makes you have a feeling of purpose and control. Donate to an organization, assist the elderly, support those who need your help. 

I keep asking myself what is troubling me. Is it the fear of my fragile life, that my loved ones or I am locked down at home? So many things keep flitting through my mind causing anxiety, but the best approach is to look at what I have and be thankful. Be in the moment. 

Geetanjali Arunkumar is a writer, artist, life coach. She is the author of ‘You Are the Cake’.

Five Reasons to do Yoga this Holiday Season

Holidays can be a busy time to say the least; in spite of the joy surrounding it, you are pulled in different directions physically, emotionally and financially. For me, every year when the holidays come around, I resort to yoga. Yoga has been a constant thread in my life, one that I seek especially when my cup is overflowing.

The term yoga comes from the Sanskrit word Yujir which means ‘to yoke.’ The Bhagavad Gita says, “Yoga is said to be equanimity” (2.48); “Yoga is skill in action” (2.50). The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali say, “Yoga is the suppression of the activities of the mind.” An asana practice helps us achieve the higher goal of yoga. For me, asanas create equanimity which furthers my intention and understanding of utilizing that skill in all action that Lord Krishna is talking about. Asanas help calm the mind to take on the world a little better everyday. So if you are overwhelmed with love, joy, stress, foodlists, shopping lists or just too much on your plate, consider yoga this holiday season. 

Here are five reasons to give yoga a chance.

Stillness

What I crave most is silence when I’m consistently going to holiday parties and hosting guests. Carving out a few minutes for silence can really reset the body and mind’s rhythm and re-center me so I can face life’s busy-ness again.

Poses I love: Balasana ( Child’s pose), Viparita Karani (Legs up the Wall), Shavasana(Corpse Pose), Surya Bhedana (Sun-Piercing Breath) and Chandra Bhedana (Moon-Piercing Breath).

Detox

Who does not need a mind and body detox after the holidays? Inversion poses are really helpful for blood circulation and thus promoting detoxification and moving fluid to the lymph nodes.

Poses I love: Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downdog), Eka Pada Adho Mukha Svanasana (One leg dog), Salamba Sirsasana(Headstand), Dolphin pose

Digestion

All that turkey and stuffing along with endless gingerbread men keeping you bloated all holiday season? I find that my digestion is sluggish, especially paired with the colder temperatures. A few simple poses that aid digestion can go a long way. 

Poses I love: Bharadvajasana (Seated twist), Pavanmuktasana (Wind Relieving Pose), Salabhasana (Locust) and Agni Sara.

Gratitude

The economic commercialization of the holidays makes us forget the true reason for their existence. Yoga makes me stop to give thanks for the opportunity to have and love family, community and God in my life. Giving thanks makes the chaos of my life worthwhile.

Poses I love: Apanasana (Knees to chest), Malasana( Yogic Squat), Ustarasana (Camel Pose), Balasana (Child’s pose), Padmasana (Lotus Pose).

Burning Calories

Okay let’s get real, everyone puts on those extra pounds during the holidays and everyone is seeking to burn calories. No time to go to gym? Yes yoga can help burn calories too! A vinyasa flow including the following poses can help tone and strengthen.

Poses I love: Plank pose, Utkanasana (Chair pose), Surya Namskar (Sun Salutation), Chattaranga Dandasana (Four Limbed Staff Pose), Navasana (Boat pose), and Agni Sara.

Preeti Hay has been a lifelong student of yoga. She has written for Yoga International, Yogi Times, India Currents and Khabar Magazine among others.