One hard good-bye

So this weekend, after ages, I drank quite a bit of alcohol. I got drunk to an extent that I was vomiting and passed out. I can’t remember the last part of the night. All I remember next was waking up in my friend’s flat.

I honestly have not got that drunk in ages! I have actively been staying away from alcohol for some time. I drink small amounts when I go out for meals, but that is about it.

Honestly, this experience has been an eye-opener (no pun intended). I feel embarrassed, and that feeling of what could’ve happened when I was completely out of it, gives me anxiety. I’m getting mini-panics every time I think about what others would’ve thought about me. I know these thoughts of what others think do not define the person I am, but I cannot help it can I?

I just thought to write about my thoughts and feelings. In the past 2 days, I have been doing a lot of self-reflection about what I want out of life. Alcohol is not on that list anymore. Having fun with alcohol is definitely not a priority for me. I have realized that I have so much to achieve and accomplish, and alcohol is proving to be a hindrance to that. It is slowing me down. Most importantly, it is the biggest barrier to my current spiritual growth.

I am not against alcohol at all and I will definitely have a glass of wine socially with a meal. However, drinking to get drunk and have fun is definitely not me. I’ve been there, done that. I’m turning into a different person, and I’m proud of this self-reflection and awareness of my spiritual, emotional and physical needs.

No one told me it would be this hard

It is so difficult to focus on this present moment when I was programmed all my life to think about the: ‘what if’, ‘what next’, ‘how will it’.

I sat down to meditate today and I really struggled to hone in on the Now. I had a flood of thoughts about what I had to do next, and what I had to do tomorrow. I felt like I was physically fighting my way against thinking these thoughts which drained more of my energy.

Accept it. Don’t resist it. What I had learnt today is my thoughts do not define me. I cannot start judging myself for not being present. Actually thinking those thoughts was my present. The more I resisted, the more I hated myself for resisting. I just have to accept that that is what my mind is thinking of at this moment, be at peace with it and continue. I believe that slowly that will help to calm my mind down.

I can see that this journey to awareness and presence is going to be a long one, but I know I will get there eventually.

Don’t take for granted freedom of speech

Words are so powerful. They have the ability to make or break any situation.

I’ve seen so many use words so powerfully to create such an impact in society. That is what I call inspirational.

In contrast, there are people who use the term ‘freedom of speech’ to talk bad about others and harm/hurt others. This is what I call an embarrassment to humanity.

If more and more individuals understood the power of their words and how to tailor it to meet the needs of society, we would all be growing at an exponential rate!

Love with no judgement

Spiritual practice is not easy. It takes time. Praying, meditating and chanting mantras are a fraction of this vast world.

I believe spirituality comes from a place of love, where our thoughts, words and actions are positively in line with each other.

Spiritual practice and spirituality is truly tested in the way we think of and treat those who have done harm to us, or those we have a reason to dislike. If we turn to them and embrace them with love and forgiveness, that is when our spirituality is truly rewarded.

Walk yourself to Peace

Who else likes going on walks on your own?

I do!

I get moments when my mind feels very cluttered and I therefore find clarity by taking time to spend time with myself. This can be via walks, temple visits, reading, colouring… It gives me an opportunity to breathe and embrace the beautiful world we live in.

Truly grateful!

Love,
Praveena

Lost in thoughts

‘The MIND acts like an enemy for those who do not control it’ ~ The Bhagavad Gita

The power of our mind is just unbelievable. When we can control the negative and feed the positive, we can truly feel empowered mentally and spiritually.
A few years ago, I decided to feed my mind in the form of prayer, good people, memorable experiences and gratefulness.

When you have got that clarity, everything looks that much more beautiful.

Love,
Praveena

What is prayer?

Many of us invest a lot of time into prayer, and many of us do not. That is a personal choice and there is no right or wrong about the need to have to pray. However, a statement in a book I read recently made me think a lot deeper about what prayer actually is:

‘Prayer is about [focusing] less on ourselves and more on others’.

I found this statement very interesting indeed and made me realise the difference between meditation and prayer – both of which I do practice.

Meditation enables me to focus on myself. It is all about me and bringing my energies back to neutral. When I pray, I pray to focus on the world around me and makes me aware of those closest to me.

So does prayer have to be considered a religious practice? Absolutely not. Praying has always been associated with religion and there is nothing wrong with that at all. I do nonetheless believe prayer does not always have to be a religious practice. Our thoughts of well-being for others is a form of prayer isn’t it not?

Prayer I think is a practice for humanity to focus, love and grow.

I pray for love across the world!

Daily Musings

Social media has helped me a lot with my professional dance career. I do not of course depend on it, but it has for sure given me a portal through which I can interact with fellow lovers of dance which I never had before. 

I use my social media now not just to post about my dance work, but to also to use it as a way to convey my thoughts about general life, in the form of inspirational, motivational, thought-provoking quotes. Everything I post has a reason but I never share it so here goes with some of my favourites. 

‘Are you really happy or just really comfortable?’

This is the deepest question one can ask themselves. Do not settle for a life that looks good on the outside. Do not settle for a life where a roof over your head, financial security and everything materialistic are set out for you. Work for it. When you work for it and can say to yourself, ‘This is something I have built’, that is when you will feel truly happy and accomplished. Until then keep hustling. 

‘Success does not come from what you do occasionally; it comes from what you do consistently.’

Especially in the scene of performance arts I’ve come across many who pursue something for a short while and call that success. For me, success is a journey and there is no end point. You need to practice something consistently to really unleash your potential in it!

‘You can speak spiritual eloquence, pray in public, and maintain a holy appearance…but it is your behaviour that will reveal your true character.’

I call such people hypocrites. I say this very confidently because I used to be one myself. Until 2 years ago I realised I need to own up to what I really feel and act on it. It is no good saying that ‘I am this…I believe in this…’ when your actions say the complete opposite.

There are several people who just act in a way to seek public approval. With social media, the number of likes and followers seems to be used to quantify whether you are being approved by society or not.

How many of them will, including myself, actually practice what they preach?

‘Generally people like to bring up your past, when your present and future appears to be better than theirs.’

I dislike people who bring up another’s past. But now, the more they do it, the more I am like ‘Is that the only thing you have against them?’

Some people are so stuck in their bubble they refuse to accept another’s success in any way, shape or form. Therefore to bring another down they use their past.

Just think. If I did that to you? How would you feel? How ‘clean’ is your past? I can guarantee that those who act in such a way do not have the best of pasts. So if you believe you have changed, then give others the benefit of the doubt that they have changed as well. It’s that simple.

‘A private life is a happy life.’

Over the past few years I have become more and more aware of people who use social media to post about there private drama and unhappiness.

Question 1: Is posting on social media going to resolve that problem? Will it give happiness?

Question 2: Are you the only one in the world who is going through problems?

Question 3: What is the purpose of you posting your personal problems on social media? If you feel like that is giving your control over the situation, look at yourself and your attitude towards life.

Question 4: Do you actually think people care when each and everyone one of us is going through our own problems? I mean some may acknowledge by liking your post, but what does a ‘like’ mean? If a ‘like’ is the validation you need, then go ahead and keep posting. But I am secretly feeling sorry for you for reasons other than for the ones you wanted me to feel sorry for.

‘A lot of people want to make the institution of marriage a substitute for a real relationship.’

Marriage is not something which should not be a result of convenience.

Do not enter marriage because the current situation you are in warrants a marriage, so it is considered socially and culturally acceptable.

A marriage is a process which should occur at the right time, with the blessings of the right people, for the right reason which is nothing but true love!

Final thoughts:

Each of these thoughts are ones which I started to think more about based on the events which were taking place around me. I am not perfect, but I’m working on myself to think bigger and wiser so I can constantly reflect and grow myself. That is what life is about. Have a reason for every action and make sure you do not hurt anyone!

Time To Tie The Knot

Please do not get shocked. I am not getting married and will not be getting married anytime soon! However I am a Tamil girl, which means that in the future I am bound to get married.

Over the past three to four years I have been involved in the wedding industry. Initially I started off helping out with wedding exhibitions and fashion shows but now, as most of you know, I have started my own venture into establishing Wedding Choreography as an entity of its own, combining my passion for dance with that of my love for weddings!

As I have been working with couples and families with regards to their weddings’ or their relatives’ weddings, I have become deeply involved and more interested in the traditions which lie embedded in these weddings. One which is key for all Tamil weddings is the tying of the sacred Thali (described below).

I wanted to find out more about the Thali and its importance. I think knowledge is vital; it may not be useful for the here and now, but one day it will prove to be our biggest weapon and for that reason I let my inquisitive mind wonder. This led to me contacting one of the most popular and one of my favourite Tamil jewellers in London, Western Jewellers – I say favourite because ever since I became aware of the world, they have been the go-to place for my family. Additionally, what inspired me to write this and contact Western Jewellers in particular was the fact that I saw their work online and was stunned by the creative and stunning work in the realm of Thalis. With over 20 years of experience in the field of gold jewellery and Thalis, who else could I have asked to educate me about it. What I revered greatly was how cultural and traditional ideals were always core to their unique pieces.

Therefore, I decided to pose a series of questions to Western Jewellers about the Thali and their experiences of making them. I have learnt so much and I hope you will find this just as educational as I have done.

(For your information, I was not paid by anyone to write this piece. I have done it of my own accord because I love my Tamil culture and tradition; I wanted to know more about it and wanted to be involved in writing something which would educate and inform others as well).

What is a Thali and what is its significance?

“A Thali is a spiritual ornament for marriage that marks love, respect and dignity. It is a bridal pendent presented to the wife by her husband during an auspicious time on their wedding day. Every Thali needs a Kodi, which is woven gold thread that holds the Thali. Together, the ‘Thali Kodi’ makes an auspicious gold thread which holds religious symbolism in Hindu and Christian culture.”

What are the different types of Thali? What do each of these types represent?

“There are numerous types of Thalis available for various communities however the most common Thalis we make are the Kombu, Amman and Christian Thalis.

“The Kombu Thali is made when the Bride and Groom’s astrological charts match. If you notice carefully the Kombu Thali is in the shape of the groom himself. For this reason, during the Ponurukkal (an occasion when the gold used to make the Thali is melted), the groom will be present to sign to the gods that he will love, look after and cherish his bride till the end. Then during the Wedding ceremony, the Bride and Groom unite when the Thali is tied across her neck by the Groom showcasing that he will guard her for the rest of her life.

“The Amman Thali is used by Tamil Hindus in the instance that the Bride and Groom’s astrological charts do not match or have not been looked into. This is particularly seen in, what Tamils call, ‘love marriages. Amman is the symbol which is seen on the Thali.

“The Christian Thali has the same quality as the Kombu and Amman Thali, but differentiate its shape and symbols. Most of the Christian Thalis will have the three precious symbols which are: The Bible, the Holy Dove, the Holy Cross.”

Can you tell me a bit about the ‘Ponnurukkal’ ceremony?

“An auspicious day and time is selected by a family astrologer or priest for a gold melting ceremony otherwise known as the ‘Ponnurukkal’ ceremony or ‘Ponnurukku’. This takes place before the main wedding day. The ‘Ponnurukku’ is conducted by the groom’s family and is witnessed by family and friends at home. The bride-to-be is not present. According to Tamil traditions, the Thali is handcrafted by a gold smith that is happily married with a united family.

“The ‘Ponnurukku’ begins with the breaking of a coconut, followed by a embedding a gold coin in milk. The symbolic moment is when the gold coin is melted. It is thought that the rounder the coin is shaped, the better it is for the couple. The guests are then asked to bless the melted gold. A tree is then planted in the garden of the groom’s home to symbolise the couple’s life together. Vegetarian food is then served to the guests to mark the start of wedding celebrations. From this day, the couple are traditionally not meant to see each other until their wedding day.”

What is the most creative/interesting Thali you have made and why?

“The most creative Thali made at Western Jewellers was a white gold Thali. We were the first to design a white gold Thali in the world. It goes without say that it was challenging to make but was definitely worth it. We had to train Italian gold smiths – the masters of white gold – to make the Thali Kodi to perfection.

“This year at Western Jewellers, we decided to bring ancient traditions of the gold melting ceremony and Thali making from start to finish in the comfort of your own home. This took approximately 6-7 hours of hand craftsmanship but also allowed family and friends to witness the making from start to finish.”

I just wanted to add here that if you have been up-to-date with their recent work, they have created the world’s first rose gold thali a few weeks ago!

How much do the younger generation know about Thalis, if anything? Why is this the case?

“Here at Western Jewellers, we have been handcrafting Thali Kodis for over 20 years therefore have seen the Sri Lankan Tamil community still observing many ancient traditions during their matrimonial ceremonies which are to be followed by the Bride and Groom. The younger generations continually show an active interest to understand the symbolism behind the Thali. We have also found mixed religion marriages are more open to keeping the sacred Thali as a symbolic bridal Gold thread.

“As we live in a westernised society, we have seen many customers modifying their Thali Kodis with diamonds or gems to keep up with current trends. We thoroughly enjoy welcoming the younger generation to explain the ancient traditions followed thousands of years ago by their ancestors but also are intrigued to making more creative Thalis in the years to come.”

What are your thoughts about the ‘Manjal Kayiru’ (a yellow thread) instead of the Thali Kodi (gold chain)?

“The ‘Manjal kayiru’ is more for the south India Community. At Western Jewellers, we have created a similar Thali chain called the South Style.

“The ‘Manjal Kayiru’ was mainly used in the olden days to tie the three knots, whereas in the past 100 years there has been a rise in the screw-based Kodis. The South Indian Community uses the ‘Manjal Kayiru’ for the first year of their marriage after which they will change it into a gold chain.”

So…how interesting was that?! I have learnt so much and I hope you all feel that much more thrilled and informed after having read this.

I personally did some reading before and after reading these responses from Western Jewellers, and also had a chat with mum about what she knew about the Thali. In addition to everything mentioned above, one point which she told me about was how the Thali, when worn, should be tucked inside and should not meet another Thali. There are two reasons for this. The first is the belief that when the gold from the Thali touches the woman’s skin, it is meant to be very beneficial for her health. Secondly, there is a common belief that when one Thali meets another, apparently one has the possibility to cast an evil eye on the other; at the end of the day we are talking about religious jewellery and religious beliefs. To what extent this is correct, I do not know, and I will take more time to find out. For the time being, however, the main learning point for me is that the Thali has to be taken care of all year round and thought has to be put into why and how it is worn.

I believe in making the Thali significant to oneself, but one should never lose sight of the traditions and values which are behind it. It is not a fashion statement; it is a symbol of religion, culture, tradition and love.

Of course, if you want more information about Thalis and are looking for people to make your Thalis, do not hesitate to contact Western Jewellers. I would like obviously like to thank the team for agreeing to be a part of my infinite journey blog and for working with me to get this write up done.

The Gold Complex

I decided to write the piece after being inspired by a conversation I had with my friends when I met up with them yesterday about the role of gold in our Tamil community. I am not sure whether this is applicable to any of the other cultural groups, but as a Tamil girl, I thought to address some issues which are very evident in my community.

Before I move on to my main arguments, let me take a moment to address some apparent benefits of gold – and by this I am talking about the benefits of wearing gold jewellery.

1) Wearing gold is thought to improve overall well-being because of its healing and relaxing properties.

2) Gold can apparently improve blood circulation and regulate one’s body temperature.

3) Gold also is thought to help alleviate symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.

4) It is also a fashion statement to wear gold jewellery, and this dates back decades to centuries.

Okay, so I know what you will be thinking now – Gold is great! Yes, apparently it is. However, I am here to talk about issues which extend beyond health and fashion. I want to use this space to talk about an issue which highlights flaws in our society’s thinking.

The Thaali (The Sacred Thread)

The Thaali is the sacred thread which is tied by the Groom on the Bride’s neck, to mark the ultimate union of the two souls. It is the main aspect of the Tamil Hindu Wedding ceremony and is honestly my favourite and most awaited moment because of how many emotions are felt by the Bride, the Groom and all their family and friends.

How many of you, however, know that there may be a huge social drama associated with the making of the ‘Thaali Kodi’ (the actual thread/chain on which the thaali sits) in particular?

Let me explain. The ‘Thaali Kodi’ is something which the groom’s side provide. Therefore to prove their financial worth, they will always strive to get as thick of a ‘kodi’ and as expensive of a ‘kodi’ as possible. I understand that families want to stick to cultural norms, but we are living in a society where girls, and even women married for decades, hardly wear their ‘thaali’ around. So all I want to ask is, is it worth investing so much into something which is not even worn so much, or is it better to invest that in something which will be more useful for the couple – like a house maybe?

Now, I might have a whole heap of individuals who disagree with me, and of course they are entitled to because I am now questioning a belief which this culture has held for centuries. Now however, practical living has become more important than a ‘show-off’ one. Therefore, I am putting out there right now in front of everyone – if and when I get married, I would like a yellow thread to be tied (none of this chain screwing business). Then, if and when I do decide to change the yellow thread to a chain, I will make sure the chain is the thinnest it can be.

Ultimately, I do not want to be suffering from a chronic neck pain which doctors find difficult to identify the cause of! (This is real talk).

The Bride’s worth

Asking for dowry is not allowed anymore, yet I know the bride’s family feel obliged to give whatever they can to their daughter once she is married. Obviously the reason for this is because they want to do whatever they can for their daughter and this comes from pure love. On the hand other, there is an element of pressure they may feel from relatives’ who may talk about how much the bride’s parents did for her daughter.

In many cases, this comes in the form of gold jewellery.

So here is my biggest worry, which is something further addressed below. Why is a bride’s worth dependent so much on how much gold she wears and other materialistic matters? Why do we live in a society where the bride’s family feel obliged to ‘send’ their daughter off with some gold?

Again, this dates back to centuries ago. Nonetheless, in the same way that each and every one of us appreciates fashion and car trends, we should be respecting the more open-minded society in which we live in.

One day I may be a bride. That day, I want my worth to be defined by my personality, my education, my talent outside of just studies, my hobbies, to name a few – all of which my parents worked day and night for to ensure I excelled in.

When you are not the bride nor the groom

Just when I was thinking such a gold-obsessed culture only exists in the wedding scene, I started noticing it more often in day-to-day life.

I went through a whole phase as a teenager when I went to weddings and I had aunties ask me ‘Why aren’t you wearing any gold?’. They would then take this further by questioning my mum and making statements along the lines of, ‘You should be wearing gold, only then does it look nice.’

Firstly, I am worth a lot more than gold. Therefore, I do not need to wear gold to prove my worth. If anyone is of the opinion that the amount of gold they wear is what proves their worth, then this is a sign that they need a MAJOR life check!!!

I guess the only reason this has all toned down and women have cut down wearing gold jewellery as much is because of the horrific stories we hear of very scary thefts which happen on the streets. Sad but true.

To conclude

I am glad we see these issues crop up less so nowadays, but it still exists; even if not so much in this country, it may be more common in other countries. I am not saying ‘Do not wear gold’. I am saying that no one should be judging anyone’s worth based on how much gold they wear or own. It is a matter of getting to grips with the idea that some like gold and some do not. That does not mean one person is more superior than the other.

I can tell you all straight up that I am not a massive fan of wearing and having gold. I would prefer to invest that money into buying books! Yes, many of you at this point may find me bizarre, but I am very happy about my preferences. For me, books are a more worthwhile investment than gold jewellery for example, only because I hardly wear any accessories as it is, let alone more pricey things.

It is interesting to note that this blog started off being about the value of gold in my community. Through this small discussion, I have managed to identify deeper issues which need to be addressed – understanding ours and our family’s worth and protecting it.

If there is anything I have learnt from writing this piece, it is that I will try not to ever fall victim to other people defining my worth based on material matters – whether that be through money, gold, houses, cars or gifts. I know my worth, and I believe that my worth is something which cannot be defined by a price-tag.