Yes and No

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Question 1- I’ve been getting a lot this week: What are healthy boundaries really, in a close relationship/friendship? What if I say yes, but I mean, no? Does having a sense of what I need make me selfish when others don’t meet me there?

My answer: Healthy boundaries are beautiful, open, porous exchanges between people that are willing to truly understand each other and themselves in relation to each other. Healthy boundaries are meant to be changed, renegotiated, reconversed because needs change, life changes, time changes us. They take effort and work, and care to keep up but once they exist, you feel loved and understood in a way that makes you feel like someone truly has your back as you have theirs.

What are boundaries that are unhealthy?

From “Yes doesn’t count if you can’t say No” (Googling this article will help):
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Whenever you give up what is most important to you in order to either get what you need, or to keep the peace, you are allowing your boundaries to be violated.
– :
Ask yourself if you knowingly or unknowingly violate your partner’s boundaries by taking advantage of a lack of clarity on their part. This is too common- “oh, they are unclear and needy of me, let me just get what I need from them until they clarify”
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When there is no opportunity to negotiate, when boundaries become walls without conversation
. – :
When you communicated to your best and your friend/partner just does not want to meet you there, responds with defense after defense or blames you for “making things difficult”.

– :
When you or they overpromise/underdeliver and don’t have or are unwilling to consistently learn how to negotiate differences.
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#therapy #learn #grow #becomebetter #dobetter#boundaries #no #yes #culture #relationship

 

Mental Health includes Sexual Health

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Credit: AgentsofIshq

Of Millenial Couples in Therapy

It is such an interesting phenomenon, in my couples and family therapy work, to see more and more women (25-40 years of age), across cultures, mostly middle-class, voicing their struggles in their relationships, pushing their partners to show up better, seeking therapy, earning more than their (male) partners at work, and overall having SO much ambition and drive, while more and more men in that age group are struggling with questions like- what is my passion? What is an empowered masculinity today, and how should I show up? The wiser men are seeking help, the not so wise ones are participating in the buildup of slowly exploding pressure cooker. We are really heading toward an overall crisis in relationship durability, if we don’t invest in our growth, maturity and development urgently. Catch the train!

April- Month of Pleasure Activism

Why are you so scared of prioritizing yourself? Why am I so intimidated about putting myself first? Why do we shame self-pleasure, self-love and self-advocacy as a society as if it the opposite of being in relationship? Isn’t it the most selfish thing, to enter relationships with hungry, desperate, unmet needs which are so focused on what YOU can give ME? Love me, kiss me, make me feel good, tell me I’m amazing, help me heal my trauma, make me feel less alone, me, me, me, me. We all do this to each other, in one way or the other, and wait for someone to come along to make ourselves feel whole again because we think only someone else can make us feel pleasure. And we mask this self-directedness with words like care, concern, friendship and “love”. We normalize sucking the life out of each other.
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However, it’s so rare for us to say to our own beautiful, chaotic, desperate and needy selves:
Yes, I’ll love you even when everyone pushes against you.
Yes, I’ll pleasure you well and discover what makes you tick instead of waiting for a person to bless me with time/attention.
Yes, I’ll make you feel whole because you deserve it, for you are worthy of it as you are. Giving yourself pleasure, respect and compassion are not some award-winning instagram-documenting worthy acts. They are everyday acts of strengthening your friendship with your OWN self.
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April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Healing from assault is a process of rediscovering the self. Having good, pleasureable sex is also a process of self-discovery. There’s no one who will show up at your doorstep to rescue you from your pain. A healthy relationship will support you as you evolve in your own friendship with yourself. Cheers.

India 2018

Folks in Mumbai! I’m visiting in July and currently setting up dates for sexual violence focused, trauma-informed art therapy workshops for:
– survivors of sexual violence (across the gender spectrum)
– artists that may or may not be survivors but are interested in learning about art therapy
– therapists/social workers that are curious about incorporating the arts in their therapeutic practice.

I also want to provide time to anyone in our queer communities struggling with finding a trauma-informed sexual violence focused therapist. If you have friends that would benefit from my work, please connect them to me.

Currently teaching a segment at Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai,the lovely Khula Aasmaan, an MIT Media Lab Maker Space in Powai and seeing folks and families impacted by sexual violence who contacted me earlier this year in Mumbai. I have a few dates open, so if you/your organization/your community need therapy work in the arts, gender and mental health spaces, I’m open to setting up dates until this Monday.

Thank you and much love.

Video Responses

In response to the #metoo movement and some questions I keep getting online, I have decided to start a video series addressing questions around sexual violence in the Indian context. The videos are for survivors of sexual violence and their friends/families- however the content will vary according to who it is specifically for.

 

2017

Ending 2017 in the complex city of a complex country, studying and working in a complex arts and healthcare system.

As we enter the last week of the year, I am thinking about:

– The necessity to show up for oneself everyday, outer work needs to be balanced by that much or more inner work. Especially thinking of Gabor Mate’s quote, “It’s a myth that time heals all wounds, it just freezes them. One has to put in work towards one’s healing.”

– While our ‘inner work’ systems today such as reiki, yoga, neoliberal meditation processes are tainted by racism, appropriation, casteism, religious oppression, I urge folks (especially my wonderful politically aware friends) to not give up on the search for an inner system. One that can keep the self nourished as the external work we do demands us to show up more, do more, educate more, agitate more.

– I’m spending the last week journalling each day about the people that came into my life, that left. I’m writing and remembering those that did conflict really well, (for conflict is natural in every relationship, of any sort). I’m thanking them for their ability to sit with their discomfort and hold mine too. Then, I am making space for my resentment and subsequent anger for those connections that meant a lot but could not sustain the work needed to remain in connection.

– I’m thinking about forgiveness, sexual violence, cultural trauma and how we don’t need to forgive those that hurt us. There is NO obligation to forgive. Forgiveness does not equal healing. But, we do need to be able to work with our wounds, so we can learn to nurture them as they bleed, seethe, dry up and reopen, with time.

Sending immense love to my connections globally. Hope to see many of you in 2018, over tea, long conversation, tight hugs and shared pain. I’m off social media for 2017, so email/text/dm message me and I’ll reply in the new year.

Everyday Rape Culture

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White White, Gulp, Choke, 2017, 20 x 20 inches, Mixed media on Silk and Canvas

This post was written in response to the #metoo campaign

SIX Things I do to combat Rape Culture in my everyday life:

1. Stop minimizing violence in everyday interactions. Physical, emotional, mental. I have had ex partners “push” and “shove” me in times of intense conflict, and I had to struggle against my own social conditioning to not minimize it as “Oh, it’s okay. He is hurting. I must have triggered him, so it happens”. NO.

2. Hold people (friends, relatives, partners, society) to higher standards. Test your friendships. Narrate your story of sexual violence to your existing friendships and see how you are received.
If you are further minimized, and your friend unintentionally reinforces social myths, explain and let the person know compassionately that they are contributing to Rape Culture. They are hurting you. If they freak out on you, breathe deeply and unfriend/stop engaging. The person needs to get the message that something has gone wrong.
STOP TRYING TO BE BFFs WITH YOUR ABUSERS, especially when there’s little to no repair. You are not obliged to forgive, forget or let go.

3. Be okay with people seeing you as “too much” or “judgy”. Nurture yourself with the knowing that your standards are being looked up to by some young one somewhere who doesn’t yet have the confidence/privilege/awareness to do the same.

4. See that Rape Culture shows up in small ways everyday. How you look at a body on the street to how you shame yourself for walking alone, the fear you feel on the street when it’s dark, what porn you consume everyday. Control and reflect upon what you can. Explain to those who want to understand the connections between everyday life and rape culture, leave those who don’t.

5. Call out your friends at every little sexist joke they make. If it’s not funny, don’t laugh. Don’t minimize. See point number 3.

6. Do some kind of advocacy work to counter sexual violence. Go to a gathering or read up on Rape Culture. You’ll feel less alone and more urgent. Our houses have been on fire for decades and we’ve been sleeping.

#metoo #rapeculture #smallnotsosmall #littlenotsolittle #arttherapy#dontshutup #accountability #society

I Love Men, I Love Men, I Love Men

I LOVE MEN. I LOVE MEN. I LOVE MEN.
I am attracted to many men and everyday I meet men who are kind and wonderful. I write this because that’s not enough. Being kind and wonderful and honest IS not enough, today. I want to love more. For that, I need YOU to understand.

This is a triggering time for me. Bangalore, India is my home. A group of women were molested, in masses, on New Year’s eve, on a street I know too well. Bangalore is where I came out as queer and Bangalore is where I found identity as an artist.

But this, this is not about a place.

It is about each time my breasts are pinched on a train, or my ass is groped, be it during the Chicago Cubs rally or in a tightly packed Mumbai local to Churchgate… OR at house parties or in college, with the guy who brought me to some party, or an ex-boyfriend who didn’t understand what it means to threaten violence.

It is about each time I have to share the same articles with my male friends, and help them understand, what they don’t understand…,
what it is like to walk down the streets with breasts and a backside.

It is about each time my professors, teachers, mentors, all male, have breached my personal space, hugging me too tight, asking for a kiss after a meal, telling me to “not tell.”

It is about the fact that I can count on my fingers my male friends, who openly identify as feminist. Five, five to be exact.

It is about the fact that I cannot count on my toes and fingers, your toes and fingers, and her toes and fingers, the number of times I have experienced assault and had my female and male friends experience assault through sexual objectification and harassment.

This is not about waking up each time a rape, molestation, sexual assault is reported, and asking, “Now, what should we do?” and going back to our lives earning wages, making art, until the next time, when femininity is attacked, again.

This is not about statistics. Which city is safer. Which city is not the “rape capital”. There is no such thing. Every city, every street, every house is “rape capital”. Why? Because the DAMAGING effects of patriarchy are pervasive. So invisible, so internalized, our fathers get triggered if we bring it up and our male friends call us too sensitive, asking us to forget, to protect, to dress better and not tempt. (Message me if you want to read about this)

I know nothing else but to dedicate my life, my therapy, my work, my relationships, my friendships, my parenting to lessening the damages of the patriarchy. If my posts trigger you, great. If my work triggers you, great. If my life triggers you, great.

I refuse to be exhausted. I refuse to die a death where my voice is unheard and I shall agitate, educate, organize, share, speak, build, argue till my last breath, till women can walk from their house till the grocery store without fear.

Image: The Fearless Collective

http://fearlesscollective.tumblr.com/

On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thefearlesscollective

And please note, dear readers- there is a reason I’m not saying I’ll keep working till EVERYONE can walk safe. I would love that. That would be ideal and that’s what the world must look like. But that’s not the point here. The specific trouble being addressed here is female objectification and assault by male privilege, which is one of the damaging effects of patriarchy.

 

 

Deepening Community

“Fear is the cheapest room in the house,
I would like to see you living in better conditions”

-Khwaja Shams Al-Din Muhammad

I have been working at a wonderful art library this winter, here in Chicago. As I sort through my regular duties like filing books and organizing information, it has happened a few times, that a burning question on my mind has been answered by a book, that has chanced upon me.

It’ll so happen that I’m thinking about the recent molestation incident in Bangalore, and I’ll be shelving books in one corner of the library- and suddenly, I’ll feel a need to look at the title of a particular, seemingly random book- it’ll shine out to me.

This happened today with this lovely, hazel-orange book called ‘Deepening Community’- Finding Joy in Chaotic Times.

http://www.deepeningcommunity.org/

The author has outlined some wonderful ways of categorizing communities- shallow, fear based, or deep.

In shallow community, one believes- “Take care of yourself- no one else will”

In fear-based community, one believes- “We’ have a greater right to happiness and life, than “they” do. We are stronger when they are weaker.

In deep community, we believe- mutual acts of caring build a sense of belonging. We know and act when neighbors and family are sick. Mutual acts of caring occur often.

I’d love to hear from you- where do these three types of communities show up in your life?

How would you like to be cared for?

Here is a link to the pdf version of the summary of the book: http://tamarackcci.ca/files/deepening_community_finding_joy_together.pdf