This Moment, This Breath, This Life

It’s Thursday evening and I’m trying to recap Monday’s walk. What always stands out are the people I meet along the way. As I headed out, I ran into Meher Pavri in the long hallway of my building. I first met her years ago at the very first We Are Your Sisters yogathon that my friend Retu organized. We Are Your Sisters is an initiative to show support with the women of India and around the world who are victims of sexual violence. Retu was inspired to start it after she heard about the gang-rape of Jyoti Singh Pandey. At the time, I was deeply affected by it, but it wasn’t until I watched the play Nirbhaya that it became seared in my heart and psyche. Seeing Meher brought up all those emotions, and it was difficult trying to explain the walk to her and why I do it. She was dog-sitting for the weekend, so we went up to her friend Rahim’s place to pick up his dog Rumi (named after the Persian poet/mystic, also “roomie” like a roommate). She was telling me about a play she was in recently called “Arranged Marriage” written by author Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. Here is a pic of her and one of the lead actors:


The same author wrote one of my favourite books of all time, The Palace of Illusions. I’ve read it multiple times, and it is just as fascinating every time. It is the story of the great epic the Mahabharata, told from the perspective of Draupadi. The other day I was lending a book to my sister and she was debating between that one and Days of Abandonment. She chose the latter and is loving it, but I really think she will love the Palace of Illusions too!!

Meher joined me on my walk for a little bit, but poor Rumi couldn’t keep up so we decided to meet up the next day instead to finish our conversation. I continued on for what seemed like a very long walk. I walked up University and stopped at the Starbucks at 525 to take a break. Then went to Mercatto near University/College where I had some yummy fried asparagus and tea, and read from the Underground Girls of Kabul.

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Azita is at her lowest, having been accused of adultery by her husband and for the first time being physically abused by him.

“Shut your mouth or I will make it silent,” he warns her. He will not hear of any more. He reminds her of how simple it would be for him to shame her, ending any of her political ambitions for good: “I will go to people and say that you are not a good wife and that you have relations with other men.”

Jenny asks her if she’s ever tried to kill herself, and she admits that she has, many years ago when she first got married. Her body told her that it wasn’t right, that he was wrong for her, but she didn’t have a choice. Her body went into shock. She had panic attacks, seizures, chest pains, and shortness of breath. Her body would go cold and numb. It reminded me of how my body reacted so violently years ago, when I was misdiagnosed with dystonia. What I thought was a neurological condition was actually a severe reaction to stress. It’s crazy how your body can react like that.

I made it to Balzac’s and I tried to work on my writing assignment but it was really difficult. I am taking Life Stories I at U of T, taught by Beth Kaplan. This assignment was to write a letter to someone, dead or alive, that will never be mailed. I decided to write one to Tsege, a lady that I had tutored through the refugee centre, who committed suicide this past January. There was so much left unsaid. I couldn’t remember our last session together. I told her that I admired her so much because of her ability to go on no matter what, which seems a little odd now considering how it ended. Suicide is a funny thing I guess. There is a stigma because people think that it is a weakness, but it just indicates extremely intense pain, where the person has finally had enough.

Then I stopped by the reference library and read a bit of Naked Imperfection, a memoir by Gillian Deacon who is struggling with cancer, and through her journey realizes her obsession with perfection. It is beautiful and raw. One of the lines that struck me was how she says that one day today will look perfect in a photograph. Oh how true that is. If only we could experience it as perfect while we are living it, rather than after. That is my goal right now, to experience the perfection of this very moment, this breath, this life.

On the way home I walked through Nathan Philips Square and was mesmerized by the reflection of the Toronto sign on the water.

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Shakespeare In Love

Walk In Her Shoes Week 19. I think I’ve reached the tipping point where I’m feeling pretty confident that I’m actually going to complete all 52 weeks!

Yesterday was really great. It’s funny how it seems great in retrospect, however when I awoke I was really distraught. All this uncertainty has been making me crazy, and although I know that everything works out, somehow my mind has developed this negative-thinking pattern. When it’s really bad, I start to believe it rather than just seeing it as a pattern. Luckily Tashana called and told me to stop by her place before I headed out for my walk. I went over and her dog was clamouring all over me and barking like crazy. She looked fresh and happy, and I got to see her little place that she had moved into after the divorce, that she shares with her two kids. We put up a painting and talked about her dating life (which is quite exciting!).

I set off along University, and the weather was so beautiful, warm and barely a cloud in the sky. I found myself stripping off layers of clothing as I walked – well just my scarf and jacket, and then rolling up my sleeves. I stopped at Osgoode Hall and lay down underneath a tree, propping my head up with my bag that I padded with my scarf, and spreading out my jacket on the grass. I basked in the sun and I read for about an hour. I’m reading the Self-Illusion by Bruce Hood, and it is making me aware of a lot of things about myself, and about all of us. How we are conditioned to often act irrationally and blindly because of other people and the need to fit in. However when I read these books I always feel like something is missing. It’s based on something Sadhguru said, that most psychologists study average people with strong karmic patterns, and rarely do they study enlightened beings or those that have transcended their karma and reached the heights of human potential. It’s really encouraging to know that those possibilities exist, and I’m confident I will continue to reach new heights if I stick with Sadhguru and continue my kriya meditation. Haha, I just noticed how I veered off onto the subject of ‘spirituality’ and it reminded me of a comment that my friend Tally said: “your blog is a little too spiritual for me”. Lol!

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My view from under a tree at Osgoode Hall

I continued to walk up University and at around SickKids Hospital I ran into my old friend Nadia Rashid, who I used to work with at Cancer Care Ontario. She looked wonderful and was just heading back to work after a meeting. She now works at Ontario MD, which is an organization that supports physicians in implementing electronic medical records. We had worked together on a project at Cancer Care, to collect data from hospitals regarding wait times in emergency. I had recently been thinking of her because I went to the Hot Docs festival on the weekend and saw a movie called “What Tomorrow Brings” about girls’ education in Afghanistan. A few years ago, Nadia and I had watched a movie called “Beyond Belief” by the same director about two women who lost their husbands in 9/11, and instead of holding grudges, they reached out to women in Afghanistan who had also lost their husbands in war. Both movies are extremely powerful and I highly recommend them.

I made my way to Balzac’s and spent some time researching CAMH, since I’m hoping to get a job there soon. I read about their mission, vision, and values, and it made me cry, because of all that I’ve gone through and the thought that there are people who understand and are trying to ease people’s suffering and reduce stigma. Lately I’ve been realizing that the worst stigma is the stigma that comes from yourself. I’ve done so much to deny my own experience, and it makes me so angry that I do (both suffer and deny), as if it is a sign of weakness, but it’s not, and I know that there are lots of people who experience the same types of thoughts and emotions, and that I’m not alone.

In the evening I went to a talk at the Reference Library about the Stratford production of Shakespeare in Love! It was such a great conversation, conducted by a well-known theatre critic Richard Ouzounian. The two lead actors, Shannon Taylor and Luke Humphrey, were riveting and spoke about their love scenes and the amount of trust they have with each other in order to feel comfortable and do the scenes right. I had a crush on Luke – he was so charming and I got lost in his answers. He spoke about how there is a bit of nudity in the play, and after awhile you just get used to being in your underwear or showing your behind, and that he was kind of like a stripper that speaks eloquently. It’s funny because he actually looks a little bit like Channing Tatum, so that totally fit. Shannon talked about her character and how it was difficult to relate to her, because she was naïve and a virgin, which would not be likely in a contemporary setting. Overall it was such a treat listening to them. Theatre is so exciting and I love actors because they are so intensely present!

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Luke Humphrey, Shannon Taylor of Shakespeare in Love, interviewed by former Star theatre critic Richard Ouzounian

I stopped by Chapters after the session, and there was a book signing by author Chris Guillebeau. He quit his job a few years back and travelled the world, volunteered in Africa, started his own business, and has been working independently ever since. I picked up one of his books and there was a line that caught my eye.

There’s no rehab program for being addicted to freedom. Once you’ve seen what it’s like on the other side, good luck trying to follow someone else’s rules ever again.

It’s so true! I’ve been off work for over three years, doing whatever I please, and I’m a little frightened that I’m going to lose that freedom once I start working. Although Roshni said something to me that I think is true and I keep reminding myself of. She said that maybe work will actually enhance my creativity rather than hinder it. Because really work is also creative. Everything is creative. It’s all about the energy that you bring to the task. And doing what you love is important, and surrounding yourself with good people, and having a mentor that can help you develop your skills and guide you. I’m really excited to get back into the workforce! More excited than scared now.

Chris Guillebeau, author of The Art of Non-Conformity

I also talked to Neil Pasricha while I was there, the author of The Book of Awesome. I’d met him a few years ago at a book-signing at my favourite Chapters (on Richmond & John) which no longer exists. I was telling him how I had thought that by following my interests, money would magically come my way, but that hasn’t seemed to be the case.

On the way home, I stopped to smell the tulips everywhere!! The city is filled with them!

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Tulips on University Ave