About natasha devalia

Mum of twins, yogi, dancer, living the dream on Koh samui island.

Tattoos and Red Hair

To change something,

To step out of the comfort zone;

as simple as a change in hair style,

hair color,

or to get that piercing,

or even that tattoo.

Albeit, oftentimes impulsively

Because that voice,

That of the well meaning parent, the teacher,

The coach

That voice that controls,

That asks to conform,

That feels comfort in saying NO,

Will pop up in our heads if action isn’t taken immediately

Why the need for a change

of identity?

Enjoying the double take from

strangers perhaps?

To curb a boredom that sets in from routine?

Yes it might only be a little, sometimes even invisible change in physical, outward appearance,

Yet it is a transition

It has the the power to impact internally,

It is an expression of individuality

A kind of “teenage” rebellion perhaps.

It’s about having freedom

Over our own bodies

Sometimes it takes the obedient child

A whole lifetime to move past that little voice.

And then another,

To become less reactive,

To become more authentic

Expressing the self

Peacefully,

At ease with the tattoos and red hair!

The Bird and her Guide

With a thud, the little bird fell.

The glass remained intact.

The bird was stunned.

He approached her with all his compassion,

Wrapped her in a soft, beige towel

And held her close to his softly beating heart.

He stayed that way for a few minutes as she came to;

Alive.

She, unaware of what was going on,

squirmed around.

He, instinctively loosened his grip

Spreading his pink fingers apart just a little bit.

She moved one wing,

then the other

She seemed to be testing her abilities.

He, the true guide, gave her more room

Enough for her to express herself

but not too much

Not to scare her of her own freedom.

He navigated the space with her

gradually moving her to a more open area.

He gave her a little lift

And off she flew,

Confident

Loving herself

Free and Grateful

“Wounded Bird” by Tatiana Nega

Minecraft Intrigues Me

Some conversation while walking in the national park in Penang yesterday:

We see bamboo

Rahul: Mum, in Minecraft it’s so easy to grow bamboo!

Me, laughing: In real life too!

R: You know there’s a new Minecraft, very expensive, that uses google maps and you can build wherever you go.

Me: Really?! Wow, that’s amazing.

R : Come on Leila, hurry up.

Me: There’s no hurry, we have no where else to be. Meditate Rahul!

R, really frustrated: Meditating is the worst thing on earth!

R: You know now in Minecraft there are about 12-16 trees. Before there was only oak.

———————–

At a restaurant today:

L: Mum, do you get undrunk if you drink tea?

R: No, milk can make you undrunk.

Me: Ah come on you guys, milk doesn’t work.

L: That’s in Minecraft Rahul!

R: Yeah, and you have to milk the cow to get milk.

Me: Do people get drunk in Minecraft??!!!!!

L: It’s more like magical potions….

Roots, Roots, Roots….

Roots

Deeply grounded,

Growing out and over each other

Intertwined,

Exposed,

Strong yet flexible,

Holding up a legacy,

Allowing me to discover

To step on

And move forward into the future,

Allowing me to reach out

To hold onto for support,

Forcing me to admire

To think of the time passing by,

Hundreds of years old some of these,

Those around me almost there,

Others getting closer,

My own wrinkles starting to show,

To be exposed,

Just like those I walk on,

Hold onto,

And admire today,

Life at its best

My Extraordinary Life

Sitting on my own at breakfast this morning

At one of the most fancy island beach resorts in the world, watching the light blues, purples, deep blues, even greens and reds of the ocean dotted with apparently harmless reef sharks and majestic sting rays;

where coral are being replanted in the hope of reviving not only the sea life but also in the hope of preventing entire islands from sinking.

Each guest at such a resort creates three and a half kilograms of trash.

Every single day.

A man made rubbish island is burning day and night.

At breakfast we all chatter and smile, eat Thai rambutan, Lebanese beans, and Mexican guacamole in plates and using cutlery that was shipped onto the island. Everything here is imported.

All of us eating, chattering very human, some in clothes you can only buy in the chicest air conditioned well designed shopping centres of Paris, Moscow, and Singapore, flashing perfect breasts, butts, and lips, nannies caring for their little ones day and night, others unperturbed by less fancy beach wear and their less than perfect bodies, at the core all human, laughing, feeding hungry kids, managing emotional ups and downs, building families, having the extraordinary opportunity to live this slice of perfection, all the while worried about the environment and what the situation will be for our children and theirs, well aware the part we play in it’s deterioration.

What a vantage point I have, to be able to experience the best and the worst of the world all in the most extraordinary, dreamy, movie-set like situation.

Choosing Hope, Forgiveness, and Love : A Short Story About my Father

A myriad of thoughts and feelings came up during my most recent massage. My therapist dug into my lower back, the structural, supportive area around my sacrum where I have been feeling some aching pain.

This time the memories that came up were about my father, second last born of 7 children. My thoughts went flittingly from his various traumas and the resilience he showed through them – the ones I know were the loss of his brother, the orphanage he attended in Wolverhampton – a racist area at the time he was a teenager, possibly debilitating jealousy and slander from various community members.

It is only my opinion that these were some of the parts of the story that gave rise to his alcoholism and chain smoking 70 cigarettes a day. My mind jumped to how tough it must have been to quit cold turkey as he did one fine day.

That day was August 15 1980, when his wife, my mother, asked him to stop. She was pregnant with me and couldn’t stand the smell of the smoke anymore.

His doctor had advised him to stop or else it would soon be too late, the emphysema was setting in while he was coughing out black tar regularly.

So almost 40 years on now, he doesn’t smoke, he drinks only socially.

He chose to stop harming himself. He chose life.

With his wife pregnant, as many parents-to-be start doing they make changes, they start growing up, they begin to figure out who they truly are.

My dad was faced with the prospect of growing a new family. He chose hope.

It’s not an easy or obvious thing to do when you are in the depth of your addiction, but he did it, he stopped drinking and smoking without skipping a heart beat so to say, without self-doubt, without external help in the sense of group therapies or nicotine patches and so on.

He never gave up. He continued to stand up after every fall.

The emotions around this moment were very likely deep, and painful. I only wish that my dad would share more of these stories with us. His advice to us was always “Don’t look back. Be positive.” He is an eternal positive to the point where it used to stress me out! I couldn’t understand why he rarely shared the stories of his difficulties with us, only his successes.

My massage therapist told me the story of how we all carry a wolf of darkness and a wolf of light within us, how acknowledging them both is key to living happily but that the one we feed more will grow stronger and be more present. So I see now that my dad chose to nourish and nurture the wolf of the light.

As part of his method out of darkness, he became a bit of an “exercise and health freak.” He represented Zambia as a cricket player from the age of 20-24 and then went back into the Zambian national cricket team and played with the team again from 37 to 40, after having taken back his life, fit and healthy.

Zambian National Cricket Team 1972. Ravi Devalia (standing third from the left)

He continues to focus on his healthy habits, “to a fault” is how I used to think of it. But now I see how important that was to him, as a counter to addiction, as he chose to forgive people around him, forgive himself, and chose love.

I don’t doubt now that my father’s one choice at that moment has passed on a legacy of exercise, healthy eating, and self care to the three of us as his children, into our choice of partners and probably will filter through into our children.

Aditya is the pro-footballer, respected coach, well-rounded thinker and healthy eater, Nanu the semi-pro squash champion, squash coach, ex-vegetarian and generally healthy eater, and me the yoga and dance enthusiast.

And then one has only to look to our choice in partners, my husband Maher the marathon runner, independent minded healthy eater, football enthusiast, to Stephanie the teacher, swimming coach, triathlete, and iron woman, and to Chantelle the physiotherapist, marathoner, football player, overall fitness geek and instructor, to see more of him, our father, seeping through into our lives.

Here’s a funny fact: all three of us met our life partners in a gym setting, and to top it off, our poor kids all have relentless “parent-coaches” now on their backs!

So where does this all go? It’s about the generational transmission of intention, to the ripple effect of choosing hope, forgiveness, and love.

When Hips Cry

The tears slip out of my eyes

As she pokes deep into my psoas,

Something is clearly not right

My grandma comes to mind

The one I have never met

The one who left my mother broken-hearted

Both my aunts as little girls

A traumatic passing

I groan and moan in pain, as I squirm,

Possibly trying to escape it all,

But NO!

She keeps me in it, continues as if pitiless

My mind shoots back to my mother

Who carried me in her womb

And to her mother,

And then to my daughter,

Suppressed pain passes down

Transmitted through generations

It’s not purely in the genetics

It’s in the thoughts and in the mannerisms,

It’s in the secrets

The questions begging to be asked

The pain throbs and the tears well up

Ready to flow at the slightest prod

Every thought, every feeling, every image

It’s all part of the experience

On Confidence

I always wondered what having confidence “really looked like”. As a teenager and younger woman people often considered me as confident; possibly because of the way I carry myself. In truth I rarely felt that about myself, perhaps for fleeting moments.

Then a friend of mine in Chengdu once said about confidence – that it is an ever changing experience. That some times it’s there and sometimes it’s not. So I went with that for a while. And I believe that’s true in a sense, but only part of the mystery.

The other day, my questions around confidence surfaced again because I was gradually aware of feeling more and more confident lately. I was curious as to how it would be described in a dictionary, so I looked it up online.

Confidence: a feeling of self-assurance arising from one’s appreciation of one’s own abilities or qualities.

“She’s brimming with confidence.”

Ok, but to me that still seems a little bit shallow, and if it slips into overconfidence there is the risk for pomposity.

Quite recently, what I read somewhere else, struck a chord with me. (I am paraphrasing now and possibly adding ideas and thoughts from other sources too.)

True confidence comes from knowing that you will be able to bounce-back from a failure, set-back, or loss, by taking appropriate action whatever that might mean: asking for help, taking some time for yourself, trying again, changing direction, trying to learn the same thing differently, softening into the difficulty, possibly even doing nothing, and so on. Of course this has to come with the understanding that the path will be challenging, but that the effort made is most valuable, and that things don’t have to end with the problem.

I might be leading up to hope…

But again, most importantly as Dick Moore mentioned in a talk he recently presented to some of us on Mental Health and how it affects our children today, my understanding of confidence for now is having what he calls, “bounce-back ability,” and knowing that you will be able to access it when needed.

“No Shame”

When I mentioned that I would start reducing my medication to a friend of mine a few months ago, he said something that stuck with me and that is saving me today. He said, “Well done for being stable, for succeeding, for being past the worst of it. But remember, there’s no shame in going back on the meds if you need to.”

I was fixated on getting off the meds to the point that I had not before even considered what he said. It sounds ridiculous, but often when we are focused and driven to achieve something at all cost, we can miss the simplest of common sense.

Thankfully, I was open enough to listen, and to absorb his opinion that evening. And thankfully he was willing to offer the advice.

I am quite fine, and coping very well without the anti-psychotics; I haven’t looked back once. A few days ago though, I decided to go back up to the original dose of my anti-depressant.

My psychiatrist did say that she trusted my judgement with such an increase if I felt the need was there. So until my next appointment in a couple of weeks, that’s the way I have chosen to go. My secret wish to be off the meds has been dashed. For the time being. But the realistic side of me, the “no shame” side, the part that wants to stay well and balanced, knows this is the best course of action.

Taking my medication for the last two and a half years has been a learning experience; most especially one of softening the ego. I generally don’t take medication unless I really need it and luckily I have been blessed with a rather strong immune system. The need for it over the years has been minimal. But in this case, it’s different. Looking back over the last two years I feel like a wild animal that has been tamed, but is quite happy now at the same time. I suppose the “wild” never truly leaves. At least that’s what I say in the hope of not being boring!

Reaching out to family and friends for support, “attention”, care and love is a coping technique, as is my practices of dance, yoga, and teaching.

I feel no shame in reaching out this evening or the last days, to the closest of my friends around the world and here on the island.

I feel held by a net of love and understanding.

🙏

Artwork by Beatrice Poggio

Indra’s Net II

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Paris Metro Blues

The struggles of life

Shine through the wrinkles on their skin

In their tired, soft eyes

Dark circles,

Just like mine

Mascara and concealer cover up the truth

They bring tears to mine

All of us from a different place,

Separate,

Yet we share this confined space

For a few minutes of this life,

Together,

Perhaps there’s a smile,

And then we move on,

Never to be in each other’s company,

In this same moment ever again