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12 Lessons from The Art of Possibility

12 Lessons from The Art of Possibility


“A shoe factory sends two marketing scouts to a region of Africa to study the prospects for expanding business. One sends back a telegram saying,


The other writes back triumphantly,


Anyone interested in shifting his or her perspective when facing challenges or in changing the framework through which he or she sees the world should pick up The Art of Possibility: Transforming Professional and Personal Life by Rosamund and Benjamin Zander.

The Zander duo consists of Ben, who is conductor of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra, and Roz, a family therapist. The Zanders point out that if we draw a different frame around the same circumstances in our lives, we will see new possibilities and options.

“Find the right framework and extraordinary accomplishment becomes an everyday experience.”

The book offers 12 practices to help you shift your perspective and open new possibilities for your life. You may not be able to change the circumstances you’re facing but you can change how you deal with those situations.

Here are brief descriptions of 12 lessons from The Art of Possibility:

1. It’s all invented.

When you’re looking at a problem, all the assumptions you make about it are in your mind. The Zanders remind us that a problem is not simply a half-story you tell yourself, but rather something you make up entirely.

“The frames our minds create define – and confine – what we perceive to be possible. Every problem, every dilemma, every dead end we find ourselves facing in life, only appears unsolvable inside a particular frame or point of view.

Enlarge the box, or create another frame around the data, and problems vanish, while new opportunities appear.”

2. Stepping into a universe of possibility.

Imagine no limitations exist; the universe is abundant, open and infinite.

If you have an attitude of abundance instead of a mentality of scarcity, you’re more likely to find new business, new opportunities and new possibilities.

If you participate joyfully in tasks and projects, you’re more likely to be successful.

If you are inclusive and passionate in your life, you’re likely to see greater abundance.

The Zanders encourage you to step away from the world of measurements and scarcity. “In the measurement world,” they write, “you set a goal and strive for it. In the universe of possibility, you set the context and let life unfold.”

3. Giving an A.

“You can give an A to anyone in any walk of life – to a waitress, to your employer, to your mother-in-law, to the members of the opposite team and to the drivers in traffic,” the Zanders write.

For example, Ben Zander, as a conductor, found many of his students in a state of anxiety and stress over their performances. They wouldn’t take risks and feared failure. To combat this kind of energy and thinking, Ben gave every student in his class an A at the beginning of the course.

To retain this grade, each student had only to write a letter telling Mr. Zander, in as much detail as possible, what he or she had done to earn the A, and how the student had changed and grown by the end of the year. The student also had to describe to Mr. Zander the kind of person he or she had become.

An automatic and advance-graded A breaks barriers and enlivens a person’s actions. It lets him or her speak freely about his or her thoughts and feelings, and support others in their own dreams.

The practice of giving an A transports your relationships from the world of measurement into the universe of possibilities,” the Zanders write.

“This A is not an expectation to live up to, but a possibility to live into.”

4. Being a contribution.

In this practice, you wake up every morning with the idea that you are a gift to others.

Contribution actually involves two practices: “1) declare yourself to be a contribution and 2) throw yourself into life as someone who makes a difference, accepting that you may not understand how or why.”

When you contribute, you forget about scarcity and dwell in the pond of abundance. You go from self-concern to making a difference for others.

Notice how the things you do help others. See and imagine how everything you do sends out ripples beyond the horizon.

5. Leading from any chair.

The conductor is not the only leader of an orchestra.

You can lead from any chair you’re sitting in. The act of leadership is not limited to people in leadership positions.

Anyone can lead – “the player who energizes the orchestra by communicating his newfound appreciation for the tasks of the conductor, or a parent who fashions in her own mind that her children desire to contribute, is exercising leadership of the most profound kind.”

How do you know if you’re fulfilling your role as a leader? You can look into the eyes of the players you’re leading in the orchestra or on the work team and ask yourself, “Who am I being that their eyes are not shining?

As a leader, you “can invite information and expression. [You] can speak to their passion. [You] can look for an opportunity to hand them the baton.”

It doesn’t matter who you are and where you sit; you can inspire and lead others from anywhere – even without a title or position.

6. Rule Number 6.

The Zanders relate a joke in which two prime ministers converse about Rule Number 6. When one prime minister hears the continued reference to “Rule Number 6,” he turns and asks the other, “Would you be willing to share with me the secret of Rule Number 6?” The other responds, “Rule Number 6 is ‘Don’t take yourself so goddamn seriously.’”

Rule Number 6 is a reminder to lighten up and not take yourself so seriously!

When you lighten up, you release yourself from egoistic and self-limiting beliefs.

“When we follow Rule number 6 and lighten up over our childish demands and entitlements, we are instantly transported into a remarkable universe. The new universe is cooperative in nature, and pulls for the realization of all our cooperative desires.”

7. The way things are.

This involves acceptance of what is, as well as presence and making the best of any situation.

When you’re present and not resisting the current situation, you are free to turn to the question, “What do we want to do from here?”

“…the capacity to be present to everything that is happening, without resistance, creates possibility. It creates possibility in the same way that, if you are far-sighted, finding your glasses revives your ability to read or remove a splinter from a child’s finger. At last you can see. You can leave behind the struggle to come to terms with what is in front of you, and move on.”

When you accept that things are the way they are, instead of complaining and resisting, you’re in a position to make the best of the situation. You’re allowed visions, dreams and appreciation for your current place. You’re more open to finding solutions or to making the best of the situation in your mind.

Being present with the present lets options and dreams come alive.

You’ll live in a place of freedom and possibilities when you’re comfortable with this moment.

8. Giving way to passion.

To give way to passion, “participate wholly. Allow yourself to be a channel to shape the stream of passion into a new expression for the world.”

Life has made many of us conformers, and has given us structure and limitations. Urban life highlights our rigidness and lack of vitality.

Your life will change when you “transcend the barriers of personal survival and become a unique conduit for its vital energy.”

Access the electric socket of passion, energy and possibility in your life.

Participate, engage and immerse yourself in your passions.

9. Lighting a spark.

This practice talks about inspiring others to pursue passion. It’s about spreading passion and lighting possibilities in the eyes and lives of others.

Imagine that others want to feel the same spark and electric sense of possibility that you feel. Be available and invite others who are ready to catch their spark and live their dreams.

The Zanders describe this idea as playing together in a field of light. The steps include being ready to participate, being willing to be moved and inspired and offering that which lights you up. Also, know that others are willing and eager to catch the spark.

When others say “no” to your idea or passion, they might be saying simply that they don’t see the same possibility you do.

Inspire others and share with them the very things that light you up.

Encourage and motivate others who are ready to join you.

10. Being the board.

Declare, “I am the framework for everything that happens in my life.”

As Roz mentions to Ben in a particular situation in this chapter, “You can always grace yourself with responsibility for anything that happens in your life. You can always find within yourself the source of any problem you have.”

This practice isn’t about blaming yourself or feeling at fault for your circumstances. It is about exploring the assumptions you make about what’s happening in your life and, ultimately, taking responsibility for them.

When you’re “being the board,” so to speak, you question your assumptions, determine how your perspective or outlook led to the situation at hand and take responsibility for how you got there.

You’re not looking to place blame elsewhere or on others. You are doing the constructive work of understanding how you got to where you are – and without blaming yourself, either.

Gracing yourself with responsibility for everything that happens in your life leaves your spirit whole, and leaves you free to choose again.”

11. Creating frameworks for possibility.

The practice in this chapter involves creating frameworks that cultivate possibility.

The Zanders suggest the following: “Make a new distinction in the realm of possibility: one that is a powerful substitute for the current framework of meaning that is generating the downward spiral.”

Don’t go with the flow toward an idea or concept that’s spiraling downward to the abyss.

Come up with bold, visionary missions and ideas that stand confidently in the world.

Find the courage and boldness to stand with your ideas and to face the direction where you’d like to lead people.

Look at the magical powers you have. Become more conscious of the way you use words, and define new frameworks of possibilities. Stand out and advocate for your bold ideas. Bring out the part in your audience that is the most contributory, most free and most open to participation.

12. Telling the “we” story.

Can you move on from the story of “you and me” and “us and them,” and get to “we”?

Can you go from a place of division, conflict and hostility to a place of enthusiasm and togetherness? A place of friendship and cooperation?

The Zanders write, “The WE appears when, for the moment, we set aside the story of fear, competition, and struggle, and tell its story.”

Ask: “‘What do WE want to have happen here?’

‘What’s best for US?’ – all of each of us, and all of all of us.

What’s OUR next step?”

Permit the barriers that separate us to dissolve and act from a place where all of us benefit, together.

All of us can find solutions that work for everyone. This involves taking the individual “I’s” and meshing them into a powerful, collective “we.” This is something we can practice from any chair, on any day, in any room or any environment.

“The practice of the WE draws on all the other practices. And if you attune your ear, you will hear the voice of the We singing through each one of them in harmony.”

While I’ve tried to explain the many practices the book outlines, pick up a copy of The Art of Possibility to understand the examples and the reasoning behind each of the practices I’ve described.

If you’re ready to open your mind to new ways of thinking and to an abundance of possibilities that make all your dreams come true, this transformational book is a must read.

How I Went in Search of Myself and Found Jesus Instead

How I Went in Search of Myself and Found Jesus Instead

found Jesus

Note to readers: I respect all religions and love all people. This post is my personal experience I wanted to share with you, not a topic I’ll be writing about regularly.

I grew up a Hindu, visiting temples regularly, praying at home daily and attending my two weekly Hinduism-based religious classes, called Bala Vihar, on Friday nights and Sunday mornings.

Like many Indians in the U.S., I remember attending pujas and kirtans at homes of friends and family. The devotional singing and fellowship included chanting, prayer and always food – plenty of delicious, homemade Indian food.

The earliest memories I have of Jesus involved my parents attending Christmas Eve Mass when I was a kid.

No, we weren’t Christian, but my parents’ attempts to receive blessings from all divine entities led them to pay tribute to Jesus annually.

They had grown up attending Catholic schools and didn’t feel out of place in a church.

I also wasn’t surprised when we went to relatives’ homes and saw depictions of Jesus on the cross or the Virgin Mary in their prayer rooms.

No one in our family ever questioned or expressed anything critical about Christianity – except me.

Believe it or not, writing Vishnu’s Virtues while growing up (ha ha, yes, this has been around a lot longer than you think, as I wrote it for a family newsletter), I was the one who questioned Christianity more than anyone else.

(What do you mean, “Who has a family newsletter?” That isn’t normal??)

Some of my articles for the family newsletter questioned the evangelical practices of Christians and the over-zealousness of Christian missionaries.

Other than that, I had no beef with Christianity.

And I recall this particular verse from the Bible, which stood out for me as a teenager after I read it in a news magazine:

“For what shall a man be profited, if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul? Matthew 16:26 (King James version)

I reflected upon that quote from time to time as I began college in San Diego. While in college, I found the Hindu temple more inconvenient to reach than the local Self Realization Fellowship (SRF), which Paramahansa Yogananda had founded. I became acquainted with SRF when I read Yogananda’s spiritual and inspirational memoir, Autobiography of a Yogi.

The spiritual book about Yogananda’s life, plus the proximity of the SRF temple, led me to attend weekly sessions there in Encinitas. I became more interested in spirituality during this time because I found the university experience a struggle. I think that being away from most of my family for the first time and not fitting into a university filled with science-oriented, competitive students pushed me to seek meaning and fulfillment elsewhere.

I attended services once a week at SRF, where I regularly saw images of several gurus at the devotional alter. Not only did I see photos of Yogananda and his spiritual masters, I also saw that of the Hindu Lord Krishna – and, yes, even Jesus.

Throughout the years, I practiced SRF meditations and followed weekly at-home study lessons, but never felt a real connection to SRF. For three years, I tried to meditate, focus on the third eye and take up Kriya yoga-inspired teachings, but ultimately moved on from SRF.

Later, while married, I attended temples occasionally and prayed at home in my own makeshift prayer room. And because I enjoyed the music and worship so much, I created my own tradition of attending Christmas Eve Mass.

My journey to Jesus


Fast forward a few years to when my marriage started falling apart. I, like many millions of Americans, tuned in to Joel Osteen’s Sunday sermons.

I’m a tiny bit embarrassed to admit that Joel Osteen was the person who inspired my journey to Christianity, but I think his Christianity-light approach and heavy focus on practical application of spiritual principles in everyday life is why I tuned in.

I watched him religiously for a year after my separation, relying on his messages of hope and redemption more than his message of Jesus.

Joel Osteen didn’t necessarily lead me to Jesus but he did incite curiosity in me. He mentioned Bible passages that I looked up and became familiar with.

A few months after my divorce, I decided to travel and visit friends who had moved to Costa Rica. After a relaxing month visiting, seeing the country and enjoying the most scrumptious organic vegetarian food, I decided to brush up on the mediocre Spanish I had learned over the years.

I was hoping to study in Ecuador, but found this idea logistically difficult, as I would have to cross the Panama Canal. Instead I opted for Nicaragua, which was north of me. I did some research and picked the city of Granada, where I would attend a few weeks of Spanish school.

I had no idea what Nicaragua held for me but once I reached the capital city of Granada, I felt right at home. I fell in love instantly with this devout town that preserved much of its history and contained some of the most magnificent Catholic churches I had ever seen. I recall at least six churches that I had to walk by daily to get from my host family’s home to Spanish class.

Every day, I would stop into a different church to pray. Yes, it may have been unusual for a non-Catholic to drop into a Catholic church and pray, but, once again, with my Hindu upbringing (i.e., all religions are the same and all paths lead to one truth), I didn’t hesitate to do so.

I found out about the noon Masses, which started right after classes ended for the day. Later, I found an evening Mass that gave me another excuse to roam the town. For a good six weeks, this is how I spent my days: Spanish classes and then Mass twice a day.

I loved the churches because they had such a sacred vibe. And I felt that I could take solace in the Virgin Mary, who appeared in every church in town. At that point in my life, I found the Virgin Mother to be healing, compassionate and interested in all my prayers.


I prayed to Mary, I prayed to Jesus and I often tried to pray whatever prayers the Spanish-speaking clergy were reciting. I was lost among the advanced Spanish that the congregation spoke at Sunday morning Masses but was enamored with the Nicaraguan people and the amount of devotion I saw at the churches there. The people’s faith and devotion inspired me to show up more often and pray ever more deeply.

I was in Nicaragua and visiting churches during the most painful and confusing time in my life. I was ill-prepared to deal with the changes I was facing and I felt my life was spiraling out of control.

My pain and sorrow brought me to the church’s pews.

I prayed to end the suffering and pain. I prayed for healing and I prayed for understanding. I prayed for direction, forgiveness and compassion.

My Nicaraguan Catholic church experience led me back to California, where I was open to attending church services. When I moved to Southern California, a friend, who I will be forever grateful to, invited me to his non-Catholic church service at the Calvary Chapel in Chino Hills.

I started attending regular Wednesday evening worship and Sunday morning sermons. I loved the music worship and the celebration of Jesus in the church. I ate up the weekly sermons and the powerful message of love, forgiveness and salvation.

I read more about Jesus and his life story. His simple life and his bold call to surrender our lives to Him inspired me. Many of the lessons in the Bible about love, humility and forgiveness resonated deeply. I saw how much Jesus suffered as he tried to spread the word of God and the way in which he paid the ultimate price for others – with his life.

In Christ, I saw that I could start anew. I could give up the life I had been living: a life that was spiritually void and in which human frailties and shortcomings abounded. A life filled with mistakes, confusion and worldly pursuits. A life spinning out of control, without much direction or purpose.

The Bible became my solace and comfort.

The Psalms changed my life.

Every word of the Psalms, like Psalm 23, jumped off the page and blanketed me with hope and newfound peace.

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
He leads me beside quiet waters, He refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me
.” (Psalm 23, 1-4)

While the word of God was convicting me and Jesus was blessing me, I wasn’t so hot on some of the political issues that the church was in the news for. When the pastors spoke of the sin of homosexuality or the sin of abortion, I shuddered.

These teachings contradict my personal views toward equality and women’s freedom.

In spite of these teachings, I continued attending church for some time, and also found myself, by simple circumstance, living with a Christian housemate who had weekly devotional meetings at his home.

You get the picture here: church twice a week and fellowship on Friday evenings in my living room!

The first home fellowship I attended was the most significant and life-changing one for me.

I didn’t have to walk very far, as I attended the meeting in our living room.

I wolfed down the delicious food and the soulful devotional music that the worshippers enjoyed after our meal. The shared group readings of Bible passages were also uplifting.

I felt great as the service ended and reflected that, here it was, my birthday, May 2013, and I was celebrating it with uplifting fellowship and praise of God.

Toward the end of the evening things became slightly uncomfortable – and my life changed.

As we finished the final reading and were about to call it a night, one of the attendees who had just met me asked openly if I had accepted Jesus into my life.

Imagine a joyful and noisy room halting to pin-drop silence as all eyes focused on me.

I had about 0.2 seconds to think about this question, which I had no answer to. I thought about it for a quick half second, weighed the pros and cons of my answers, reflected upon the wonderful food I’d eaten and the lovely evening I had enjoyed and went with – “yes”!

“Yes, I had accepted Jesus into my life.”

“I had?” I asked myself moments later.

Over the next few days, I reflected upon my proclamation. Had I accepted Jesus simply because of a vegetable stir-fry, chocolate cake and an evening of devotional music?

Had I sold my soul to Christ for a little food and fellowship?

And that’s what led to the next 10 days of my life, when the most joyous feelings slowly overcame me. I was excited about something, and felt like getting out of bed regularly and jumping up and down. (I literally did that several times in the week that followed.) I saw the good in everyone, felt happy all the time and thought the world was miraculous.

I’m not a heavy drinker and I don’t use drugs (no matter what you think!), so I wasn’t sure what was going on, but I began to tune in more acutely to that feeling. After church a few days later, and after consulting a friend with whom I was reading The Purpose-Driven Life by Rick Warren, I came to the conclusion that, Holy Christ, I was a believer.

The Holy Spirit had seeped into my life and I had, in fact, accepted Christ. It began, I concluded, after I publicly accepted Jesus.

Throughout the next year, I continued attending church, reading the Bible daily and praying regularly. The idea of being a Christian seemed normal and fitting to me, although I had no idea how I would explain it to anyone who knew me.

Outside of my small circle of friends, I hadn’t told many people that I had become a Christian, and definitely did not talk about it here on the blog.

I find it a little ironic that one of the reasons I started blogging was to share spiritual truths and examine spiritual matters, but more from an Eastern perspective and philosophy.

I was on a spiritual journey to myself and wanted to share the discoveries I was making about that journey. What was the difference between the different kinds of Yoga in the Bhagavad Gita? What did enlightenment or nirvana mean? What was presence and mindfulness all about?

Instead, here’s where I am today: a Christian.

Exactly one year after my first experience with the Holy Spirit, I experienced it again before my trip to visit family in 2014. I felt the spiritual vibrancy and joy of the Holy Spirit for another 10-day period, which led me to speak to a pastor so that I could make sure I was okay and shouldn’t get checked out (mentally, I mean).

I felt it was a confirmation from God that I was, in fact, on the right path and that what had happened a year earlier was no fluke or wild flight of imagination.

To top things off and really take the plunge, this happened in October 2014, as I marked my journey to Christianity.


Yes, I was baptized in holy water a small swimming pool at church. I accepted Jesus and publicly declared my inward faith.

How do I feel about the whole experience?

I feel like all of this happened without me really wanting it to happen.

I didn’t set out to become a Christian and I’m probably just as surprised to tell this story as anyone who’s reading it.

Maybe I was seeking Jesus for comfort and faith, but I sure wasn’t seeking Christianity.

Also, I’m not sure how this whole thing will go over with my Hindu family. It’s a devout Hindu family that has started temples in Malaysia. My grandfather led efforts to build the only temple in town more than 50 years ago. Ten years back, my dad built the second one in the town I was born in.

And I’m not sure how the Bible will fit into my political and social beliefs. I’ve not had any major change of heart about equality for all people or women’s freedom. My personal beliefs remain contrary to church doctrine and the Bible.

I don’t know the answer to these questions.

All I  know is that I’ve accepted Christ into my life and felt a profound transformation.

I know that I had to share this story with you because I want to be completely honest and transparent with you.

This blog talks a lot about overcoming adversity and making comebacks in life. It wouldn’t be fair if I didn’t tell you a big part of what changed my life and helped me get centered again. I wanted to share with you what helped carry me through my most difficult time.

 “One night I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord.
Many scenes from my life flashed across the sky.
In each scene I noticed footprints in the sand.
Sometimes there were two sets of footprints.
Other times there were one set of footprints.
This bothered me because I noticed that during the low periods of my life
When I was suffering from anguish, sorrow, or defeat,
I could see only one set of footprints.
So I said to the Lord, “You promised me, Lord,
That if I followed you, you would walk with me always.
But I noticed that during the most trying periods of my life
There have only been one set of prints in the sand.
Why, when I have needed you most, have you not been there for me?”
The Lord replied,
“The times when you have seen only one set of footprints
Is when I carried you.”

Mary Stevenson

Thank you for reading, your friendship, support and understanding.

Should You Marry Someone from the Same Caste or the Person You Love?

Should You Marry Someone from the Same Caste or the Person You Love?

caste or love marriage

caption = “I love you and our caste, dear

You can’t stop thinking about him.

You can’t sleep at night.

You can’t eat more than a single roti for dinner.

You’re love struck. The only problem is that you’re Indian.

You’re Gujurati. Punjabi. Parsi. Bengali. Rajasthani. Tamil. Telugu. Kanarese.  Maratha. Malayalam.

Your parents have repeatedly evangelized since your birth: “Don’t embarrass us and shame us by becoming an author or an artist.”

“Don’t fall in love with someone you meet in your honors classes or at those Godless Ivy League colleges!?! unless maybe he’s a doctor…”

And most important: “Please, dear Bhagavan, don’t marry outside our caste and ruin our family name for generations.


As many of you know, the caste system (which divides people into different social classes) is alive and well, in India and around the world.

You’ve got the age-old Bollywood-movie question on your hands – what do you do when you’re madly in love with someone outside your caste?

When your heart screams, “Yes, by the grace of Krishna!” to your lover, but your parents scream, “Over my dead body!” and threaten to burn you alive.

Do you follow your heart and marry the man of your dreams (bringing tears, shame and disappointment to your family)?

Or do you squash your feelings and marry the person your Mummy and Daddy set you up with?

Your soul mate or your parents’ pride?

I myself fell in love with the person I wanted to marry, and stood resolute in my decision. But I had the benefit of marrying someone from my community which made the parental approval process much easier.

My parents still relented but ultimately, gave in.

In your case, the person you’ve fallen in love with might be from a different caste, culture or race. If you have a close-minded and intrusive family, you’ve got a problem on your hands.

Should you marry the love of your life or the man your parents love?

Why marry the love of your life?

You know yourself best. You base your decisions on your heart and your intuition. You know what’s right for you, and every fiber of your being is saying that this is the guy you want.

You want to choose your own Subway toppings man. The power of freedom and choice. Your parents have never let you buy your own clothes or pick your own toppings at Subway. They’ve controlled your life. They love you and they know what’s best for you. That’s why they’ve “helped” you make every decision in your life. But enough is enough. You want to make at least one major, life-altering decision. You want the option of living with the person you’ll spend every day of your life with.

He’s your soul mate. He shows up in the middle of the night with boba tea. He zooms across town at any hour to mend your heart. He stays up late to video chat with you. He’d throw himself in front of a bullet train to declare his love for you (so long as the train’s stopped, of course).

You know yourself enough to realize that he’s the one for you. He’s your Shah Rukh Khan, Aamir Khan and Hrithik Roshan all rolled up into one.

Why marry the man of your dreams parents’ dreams?

I’ve written an extensive post about the benefits of arranged marriages here, but let me now get right to the point about how marrying within your caste might be a good life decision.

Love is fleeting. Research says that the release of dopamine leads to feelings of infatuation with your lover. This chemical infatuation doesn’t last long: from a few months to three years.

Chemical-induced love will not save the day. Shared values, compatibility and similar relationship goals ensure wedded bliss. These are the things your family knows about.

Love can blind you to the things that make for long-term relationships, including your partner’s kindness and generosity (traits that research has proven make marriages last).

You stay alive and so do your parents. They won’t kill you, which is a major plus. They also won’t take their own lives by overdosing on medication, suffering heart attacks or falling down a flight of stairs in pure horror. They won’t sue you.

You’ll save them from becoming social outcasts and recluses who lock themselves in their homes so that they don’t have to talk about a child who went rogue and committed the crime of inter-caste marriage.

They know the things that truly matter in life. While you focus on his eyes and his height, your parents will conduct a top-to-bottom, your-life-depends-on-it background check. They’ll find your beau’s DNA information, bank records and property holdings, and also search for mental illness in his family.

They’ll inquire about your future spouse’s family: their emotional states, psychological states, financial states and spiritual affairs. Through an elaborate system of snooping, gossiping and legal investigation, they’ll determine how compatible you and he will be. They’ll ensure your values match and your tastes align, and that he can afford the type of lifestyle they want for you.

The wedding’s on the house. (The gifts and the whiskey flow freely.) Marry the person you love, who is outside your caste, and you’ll be lucky if anyone in your family attends your wedding.

Marry the person your parents love and you can bet that every relative and quasi- relative will be there. Won’t such an affair cost tens of thousands of dollars?

No worries. When you take the plunge on your family’s terms, they bear the costs and the bling. They pick up the tab. It’s a small price to pay for a priceless gift: a golden family name.

On top of all this, don’t forget about the opulent gifts and bundles of pounds/dollars you’ll rake in.

Here are 6 questions to help you decide between “love” marriage and marriage to someone from the same caste:

1) How important is family to you?

How close are you to your parents and your extended family? Do you value your relationship with them and need their constant presence in your life? Have you always had a close and loving relationship with them, or has your relationship been rocky and strained?

Can you make it without your family’s financial and emotional support? Is it okay if your family doesn’t support your marital decision? Are you willing to sacrifice your relationship with your parents for the person you love?

2) How experienced are you in relationships?

Is this the first relationship you’ve had? How confident are you that this man is the one? Have you had previous relationships that you can compare your current relationship to, determining what works and what doesn’t?

How well do you know yourself?

Are you trying to get out of a bad situation in terms of your parents’ constant presence in your life? Are you really in love and committed to the person you’re dating, or are you simply trying to escape your parents?

3) Can you wait it out?

What’s the rush? Can you give yourself a little more time?

If your parents are insisting that you get married, can you find excuses to stall your nuptials?

Time will give you more perspective about the relationship you’re in. Is this the person you want to be with, the right person for you?

Time will also help your parents take deep breaths and calm down. It will give them the ability to determine whether they actually hate your non-caste suitor or whether they can hold their noses and accept the relationship.

Will they be able to let go of their judgments and hostile behavior toward your man? Probably not, but anything is possible over time.

4) What does your gut feeling say?

Your intuition is important, but so many contradictory thoughts flood it that you don’t know what it’s saying anymore.

Is your ego trying to make a point? Do your thoughts revolve around standing up to your parents and showing them that you can make decisions on your own?

Does this relationship feel right or do you just want to be right?

If your gut feeling is telling you that the relationship you’re in is not the right one, will you be willing to listen to that voice?

Listen to your intuition, but more importantly, make sure what you’re listening to is actually your intuition. If it’s saying the opposite of what your mind or your boyfriend says, be willing to trust and respect your intuition.

Imagine your older and wiser self. Visualize yourself and this relationship 20 years down the road. What do you see? What does this relationship look like when you visualize it?

5) How compatible are you with the person you love?

Is your current relationship filled with compassion, kindness and generosity? Or are you constantly feeling as though your partner doesn’t hear you and that you’re continually pushing and pulling?

Are you fighting and bickering all the time?

Are you with your partner because of your heart, or because you’re looking for an escape?

Does this relationship work?

Do you have shared values? Mutual interests? The same long-term goals?

Do you see happiness, or red flags and signs of danger?

6) Are you choosing this person out of spite or out of love?

Are you certain you’re with this person because you have strong feelings for him?

Or, once again, are you trying to prove a point to your parents? Are you choosing your suitor simply out of spite?

Is this an act of love for your sweetheart or an act of revenge against your parents?

It’s something to think about.

In conclusion…

Your intuition knows what’s right for you.

And sometimes it may tell you that the person you think is the love of your life isn’t the person for you. Listen to this strong voice within, even if it doesn’t give you the answer you want.

Remember that, in life, nothing is permanent. As much as your parents insist that marriage is a life-long decision and as much as you believe that this decision is for eternity, know that nothing is permanent. People make mistakes. And things fall apart.

I’m not saying that the decision you make will be a disaster and that you’ll be miserable the rest of your life.

I’m saying that this is a big decision, but not a life-or-death one. If you choose your lover and the relationship fails, you’ll find a way to get through the breakup and move past it.

If you choose the partner your parents pick and the relationship doesn’t work, you’ll go through some pain, but you’ll get through it and move on.

You don’t know if the person you’re marrying today will be the same person in ten years. Change happens. Couples divorce. Couples break up.

You can’t see your future, but you can maintain a healthy perspective toward love and relationships.

Forget passion-filled Hollywood romances and sentimental, slightly neurotic ‘til-death-do-us-part Bollywood marriages.

Make the best decision you can under the circumstances you’re facing.

Check with your intuition and make a decision you feel good about.

If you enjoyed this post, check out 2 books I wrote on this topic. If you’re not sure about arranged marriage, pick up Arranged Marriage: Run to the Altar Or Run For Your Life (affiliate link). And if you’re in love with someone who is not Indian, read  How To Get Indian Parents to Accept Your Marriage Proposal.  

*Photo Credit

Transform Tears Into Healing: 10 Practices for Getting Over a Breakup

Transform Tears Into Healing: 10 Practices for Getting Over a Breakup

Getting over a breakup

 “The first step towards getting somewhere is to decide that you are not going to stay where you are.” Unknown

Time doesn’t heal all wounds.

Neither does vodka, when it comes to getting over a break up.

Your life won’t just get better. And you can’t just move on.

Or find another lobster in the sea.

I haven’t had many break ups in my life.

Just one.

But the one I did experience wasn’t a breakup. It was a knockout.

It was a personal tsunami, hurricane and flash flood, all rolled into one Full Throttle ride at Magic Mountain.

It made me question my existence.

The breakup violently shook me to the core and turned my life upside down.

It made me question my identity. It led to a career change. A move. A change in lifestyle. A spiritual awakening. This blog.

While today I am grateful for my break up, divorce and my ex for everything, both during and after our relationship, I wouldn’t be entirely honest if I didn’t say the break up was like swimming in a shark-filled ocean without scuba gear, oxygen or the ability to swim.

I felt naked, breathless and like life was eating me alive.

Are you getting over a breakup in your life?

Your break up has likely left you with a shattered heart, anger, frustration, helplessness and feelings of mourning: the most unimaginable pain and loss.

While I can’t make the pain subside or dry your tears of grief, I can offer you a process that will help you recover from the heartbreak you’re experiencing. And no it has nothing to do with shotguns or harming your ex!

Here’s what worked for me on my journey from heartbreak to joy.

Here are 10 practices for getting over a breakup:

1)    Own your pain.

Stop resisting your pain and your pain will stop resisting you.

Following my breakup, I didn’t want to experience pain. I did everything possible to avoid it. I tried to deny that the relationship had ended. I didn’t want to accept the truth. I wanted to believe a future for the relationship still existed.

I found creative, unhealthy and distracting ways to avoid accepting what had happened. I used denial and excuses to avoid the pain of loss.

But let me level with you – you can’t move on until you’ve experienced the pain. You’ve got to embrace your feelings.

Although you’ll suffer and feel the pain’s sharpness for a bit, it won’t last.

If the thought of experiencing pain makes you feel scared or vulnerable, I encourage you to let yourself go there. Feel the pleasures and the sadness of the past. Experience the sorrow and the physical piercing, and cry about the helplessness you feel.

When you let yourself feel the deep, throbbing pain that washes over you, you realize that pain no longer holds you captive. You’ve confronted it, welcomed it and experienced it, and will watch it reduce in intensity.

When you experience pain, you transform your sorrow to your joy.

2)    Create your team of personal healers.

This was probably my biggest mistake when I went through my divorce.

I was in so much pain and was so embarrassed that I decided to go through the process alone. I didn’t want to open my heart or show my weaknesses to anybody. That was hard.

When you share your pain with others, your burden becomes a little lighter. Sharing allows you to let go of the pain that you’re holding on to so tightly. It allows you to breathe a little easier and recover a little quicker.

As you can tell from this blog, I’ve come a long way.

I went from hiding my pain from everyone to sharing it with you.

You don’t have to blog your sorrows to the world or write about them in your next country song.

Create a support network of friends and family who understand you. Share your pain with people you trust and who will understand what you’re going through.

If you find the pain unbearable, talk to a therapist or grief counselor.

Think about working with a coach to help you overcome the grief and start taking positive actions to improve your life.

Try not to shut out others; be willing to let them in. People are more understanding and helpful than you think.

3)    End all communication with your ex.

If you’re serious about moving on and healing, you must let this relationship go. One of the best things you can do for yourself is to let go of your ex.

This is something that I got right, and I’m glad I did not communicate with my ex much after our separation and divorce. Everything we needed to say to each other, we said during the relationship. It didn’t work out and things ended.

You will have a million and one excuses to speak to your ex, but in reality you have no good reason to continue the conversation. You can be friends down the road, but not now. Your ex doesn’t need your help; he will manage just fine. You don’t need anything back from your ex, or need to give anything back to him.

Unless you’re facing a pressing legal matter or a situation that could seriously affect one of your lives, resist the temptation to contact your ex.

Your healing can start only when you’re willing to say goodbye. And you can’t say goodbye to someone still in your life.

4)    Treat yourself with the utmost care and love.

Now is the time to take care of yourself. The best way to do this is to treat yourself as though you are someone who is suffering and in pain (which you are).

Treat yourself like you just came out of a trauma or life-changing circumstance (which you did).

If you’re feeling pangs of self-loathing and self-hate, you might want to treat yourself badly, but resist this urge. Do not eat badly, be around harmful people or stop taking care of yourself.

Start doing things that make you feel good physically, emotionally and mentally.

If going on vacation to a certain spot refreshes you, do it.

If hanging out with certain people brings you peace and calmness, make the time to be with them.

Eat better, exercise, get involved with your passion, and start taking care of yourself.

5)    Slow down.

You know how you were too busy for life itself? Well, now that your relationship is over you have a lot of down time.

Even with children, you might find that you have a clearer schedule because the kids are spending half their time with your ex.

You don’t have to pack your schedule and run around town in a mad rush to avoid your pain or your healing.

Create more time in your life by declining invitations, saying “no” to additional commitments and reducing your current commitments.

You need time, so find a balance between work, family and yourself.

Slowing down is one of the gentlest and kindest things you can do for yourself when getting over a breakup. If you have a job that doesn’t allow you to slow down, consider whether now is the time for a career change. Or even just a career sabbatical.

At the same time, don’t slow your life to a hare’s pace. You don’t have to go to work, come home to a few shots of bourbon and hit the covers.

Slow down, but live your life. Take life at your pace, not life’s pace.

6)    Write away your tears.

Every therapist, mental health professional and self-help guru you come across will tell you to journal. There’s one reason you hear this advice so often – it works.

As you know, I decided to not only write for myself in a journal, but also for you through this blog.

When you’re writing, you’re thinking about your experiences, you’re processing your feelings and you’re putting your life down on paper. You’re watching the process of suffering and healing that you’re going through – essentially, another form of mindfulness.

Sit down daily or a couple of times a week and write about your experience with heartbreak. How are you feeling? How are you healing? What are you thinking about? How are you able to move on? Reflect, think, process and write!

7)    I’m sorry and I forgive you.

One of the most important things you can do to move on from grief and pain is to examine the relationship and its many ups and downs. What stood out about this relationship? What hurt, and what do you feel guilty about? What part did you play in ending the relationship, and what was your partner’s role?

Once you’ve reflected on or written about the mistakes and choices you both made, write a letter of apology and forgiveness.

Take responsibility for the things you did, and ask for your partner’s apology in writing. “I’m sorry for x.” “I’m sorry I behaved like y.” “I’m sorry I was z in our relationship.”

You may not be ready to forgive, but the sooner you reach the point of forgiveness, the sooner your healing starts.

You’re not forgiving for your partner’s sake, but for yours. When you hold onto anger, pain and bitterness, you suffer. Sadness, sorrow and rage fill you.

Let go of those feelings by writing a letter of apology. Oh yeah, and one major point – do not send the letter!!

In the second part of the letter, you have the opportunity to forgive your partner. “I forgive you for doing x.” “I forgive you for having said y.” “I forgive you for being z in our relationship.” Forgive your partner for all the ways they hurt you, for all the mean things they said and for all the things they did to make your life miserable.

While you’ll probably resist writing a letter like this, just trust me on this one. I wrote a letter early on in my divorce (within the first month) and found it to be the most helpful thing I did in terms of moving on.

When you ask for forgiveness, and you forgive yourself, you let go of so many toxic emotions and scars. By letting go of the pain, you truly begin the healing process.

8)    A spiritual practice for in-the-moment living

If you’re not a spiritual person, don’t be afraid of this suggestion.

If you think words like “meditation” and “mindfulness” are for hippies who spend their free time at Deepak Chopra retreats or who listen to Thic Nhat Hanh audio books during their commutes to work, you’re probably right.

But almost anyone can practice meditation and mindfulness.

And you don’t have to take part in either of those practices. You just have to find a practice or an exercise that helps you live in the present moment (in the now) for a period of time every day.

Meditation is the natural means of achieving this, but if you’re just not into meditating, try any practice that helps you stay present.

Yoga, your favorite sport, walking, reading or even eating can become mindfulness practices. If you focus on the task without thinking about the past or future, you have the right idea.

Remember, as Eckhart Tolle has said, “The past has no power over the present moment.

But reducing the past’s power takes work. It requires that you be present and focus on the now.

Stay present. Let go of the desire to relive and experience good times and bad times from a period that no longer exists.

To move on today, practice letting go of yesterday.

9)    Lessons in growth and learning.

While you must let go of the past, do not overlook the lessons it can teach you.

What did you learn about yourself? What did you learn about the way you handle relationships? What was your role in the relationship and the way it ended?

What wounds did your ex open within you?

What did you learn about your character? Your personality? Your communication skills?

An ability to reflect on and understand the mistakes you made, as well as determine what you can improve upon, will help you move on to your life’s next chapter and relationship.

Be honest with yourself as you journal about mistakes you and your ex made, unhealthy behaviors in your relationship and your role in ending it.

What do you need to work on? How can you improve?

10)  What are you thankful for?

When you get to the point of thankfulness in your healing process, you’re ready to move on.

Everything happens for a reason. Even your rocky and bittersweet relationship served a purpose.

You had good times along with the bad. You had happy memories along with the sad ones.

Everything that happened made you strong. Because of your ex, you’re probably in a better place now.

Are you ready to acknowledge the reasons you’re grateful to your ex? Are you ready to accept that this relationship led to happy times and positive outcomes?

You know more about yourself. You learned things about yourself you never would have known. You gained insight about relationships and wisdom about people.

You’re ready to move on with your life and complete the healing process. You can do so once you recover and let go of the past.

If another relationship is in your future and you’ve done the healing work that I talked about, you’ll be in a much healthier place to love again.

If you need more guidance for getting over a breakup, check out my book, The Sacred Art of Letting Go here (affiliate link).

Photo credit @slalit.