010: Anupa's Life Tips

"Leave the glamour of self-sacrifice behind" 🙅🏾

I’ve never seen myself as goal-oriented. I’ve always been a dreamer, with big ideas and values. A friend recently described me as “a seeker.” This perspective has definitely given me a sense of purpose, but I’ve often felt crushed by the weight of my own lofty dreams. In past newsletters I wrote about skipping steps and the healing benefits of doing ‘nothing’ as a by-product and solution to burnout. I think I needed to go there before I could get to a place where I can filter out the internal and external distractions in order to get shit done. To take baby steps, or participate in what a person more patient than myself might describe as ‘the process.’

But I’m learning! I’m learning how to sloooooow down.

I didn’t check in here for over a month because I took a yoga teacher training program (!!) and wanted to focus on what proved to be a physically and mentally intense process. I mean, I guess I could have just typed something out, but I spend time on these and that would have defied the goal of trying to slow down!

The other reason for making this yoga goal is a bit more complicated, but it also speaks to baby steps and process. Modern yoga culture’s relationship to Hindu spirituality, ‘Eastern’ philosophies, and brown people in general is weird and exploitative. This isn’t about white people doing yoga, but more about how that perpetuates the lack of brown people who are able to speak, move, get paid, or just comfortably participate in a discipline that connects to our traditions. For years I stayed away from yoga but last year, while practicing at the very wicked Sacred Brooklyn in Bed-Stuy, I dug my heels in. I wanted to move past feeling powerless and alienated. I didn’t even know if I wanted to teach, but trying seemed like the best way to figure it out. So I took a baby step and set a goal.

And I’m not just CHUFFED AF to have accomplished it — I’m banging on the furnace of god’s frickin’ basement! I’m proud of myself because it was scary! I faced my values and ego, my body, anxiety, cultural identity, professional fears, and my own damn impatience.

I’m slower in life too. Earlier to bed, and earlier to rise — not to get a head start on the day but to let it unfurl quietly before my attention is hijacked. Moving intentionally with new friendships. Taking hot baths in the morning, and going to sound baths at night. IDK. Enjoying… life? ((FYI, that was weird to type but let’s just go with it and add “I didn’t know I could enjoy life” to the list of strange admissions this newsletter has unearthed 🤦🏾‍♀️))

Last week in training, I ‘yesssss’d as we moved into a restorative pose. A new friend on the next mat over started cackling about my sloth-y love of bolsters, and eye pillows, and lying in stillness. “You really pamper yourself,” she said. My Taurus moon just popped out 🌚

Rest matters though! And I don’t just mean sleeping/napping, or meditation and movement. For me this includes small tasks that allow me to feel more rested throughout the day. Meal-prepping, taking a short walk to return a library book on time, cooking and washing up as I go, doing laundry before a trip so I come home to fresh sheets (pro-tip 😎), or making the damn BED in the first place.

Khalila put me onto Naimonu James, who recently wrote this: “There is radical justice in rest. Leave the glamour of self-sacrifice on behalf of others behind. Listen within before doing without.” Tara Brach would get somatic with it and say something like, “Feel from the neck down.”

Even when I was practicing yoga 10 years ago, I never spent much quiet time with my body. Instead I learned to minimize, control, berate, overwork, and ignore it. On top of that, my dad didn’t allow my brother and I to sleep in when we were kids! From where I’m at now, it feels like a betrayal to forego relaxation in favour of being clenched, servile, distracted, defensive, aggressive, and acquisitive all of the time. Our bodies send out a lot of signals that our external lives help obscure, and yoga allowed me to start decoding some of that. The point of this whole meta-ass story about slowing down is that maybe that’s what I can contribute as a yoga teacher, you know? Not to rebrand myself as a social justice yogi — there are lots of others working on that! — but to simply rehabilitate the self-abnegation of my body, and maybe help other people (like my parents) with it too. Slowing down makes me feel more secure in my intuition, which is the stuff big ideas are made of :)

Lots of love,

Anupa

P.S. My summer anthem: “Secret” Burna Boy Ft. Serani and Jeremih

009: Wholeness is no trifling matter

🐣->🐥->🐔->🍗->💩->🌱

It’s a quickie! I’ve been thinking about this Toni Cade Bambara quote for the last 24 hours because I’ve been kinda down since the Raptors win (it’s weird, I know). Lately when I’m bummed I’ll invariably get to this point in the process where I realize that I wanted this! I decided to finally let myself feel feelings, and how small is my self-perception that I thought this would be a simple task! 🤦🏾‍♀️

In the spirit of hard work and knowing yourself, here are three new episodes of Burn Out, the podcast. I’m very proud of these ones because all three women I spoke to — Alanna Stuart, Akua, and Zaki Ibrahim — gave up equal parts soft and hard. There’s determination and mastery in their stories of music-making, as well as a lot of womanhood. Because wholeness is no trifling matter. (There are a looot of wicked tunes too). Click:

Listen, subscribe, share — and maybe hit reply to this e-mail and let me know what you think. Or consider investing in this project of learning how to be well, together, with a paid subscription :)

Lots of love,

Anupa

PS: More writing incoming — here’s a short essay for one of my favourite websites, The Creative Independent, about my last year and why I decided to make this podcast and newsletter.

008: I think I'm growing up

*stage whisper* vulnerabilityyyyyy

God, I hate the phrase ‘adult-ing.’ What better way to convey the total inadequacy of human progress by turning a natural life phase into a verb. To take something inevitable, perhaps even pleasurable, and infantilizing it as if we have a choice. I get it: the tasks of adulthood — taxes, eating properly, going to bed sober and on time — feel restrictive, or frightening even, after the relative hedonism of youth. Maybe I’m just ‘adult-ing’ here but I don’t know if this word does its user base any favours, beyond providing a semantic shield for avoiding what will come.

Hello. I’m an adult now. May tore me up. It made me realize many things I’d been avoiding, but specifically: how much I’d been avoiding myself! How bizarre after spending my teens and 20s drenched in narcissism as many of us naturally do while learning to ‘adult.’ I guess it’s no different from babies who celebrate their second year of life outside the womb by screaming a very dissociative “ME!!!!” But I think that in asserting yourself there’s also a process of negation. I’ve started thinking about what I’ve pushed aside in order to ‘assert’ ‘my’ ‘needs.’ Assertion is a form of personal fanaticism, that doesn’t have to necessarily be destructive, but can be when paired with extreme narcissism and presumed list of desires and demands.

I’m not speaking to specific context here: there are myriad reasons why I (and many other people who are systemically oppressed or marginalized) feel that at times I have to be more assertive and tussle for whatever material needs might gratify my internal equilibrium. But how much of those needs are informed by desires that aren’t necessarily our own? What desires have we absorbed from our parents, our culture? What desires have formed in reaction to our fears? What does it means to assert needs that have been manufactured in response to the fear of growing up?

Because we don’t actually need very much. And I guess what I’m trying to say is that in focusing attention on our external selves, and how other people or organizations or items can reinforce or strip away that selfhood, we lose sight of what is within our control. The needs we might fulfill without anyone or anything else.

Don’t worry! I know how this sounds. Do you know what I did in May?! In addition to doing a lot of yoga, I went on a silent meditation hike, did a sound bath, and also went to a chakra reader/acupuncturist (Thx Rina!). Oh, also, one morning after yoga I took a long, hot bath instead of waiting until night time. A TRUE LIFE HACK. I realize that in disclosing all of this, approximately 50% of you will close this tab and go back to your lives, but what I wanted to insist by sharing those details is that all of these various activities gave me permission to focus on myself, my emotional state, body awareness, and internal cosmos. It turns out there’s a lot of information there that I spent a long time not paying attention to because of the ways that emotions, body-mind connection, and sitting still are codified in the world. Codified as non-productive, as retrograde/traditional/pseudoscience/too feminine, or self-indulgent and woo woo.

No wonder so many of us — with all of our multifarious identities, including cis/str8 men who are taught to actively ignore all the stuff that’s happening inside — are out here repetitively, defensively asserting ourselves like we’re Draymond Green. (Had to get one in, sorry).

So what would happen if we made care for ourselves, which is not the same as #selfcare, a priority, instead of something to fight for only when we’re in crisis? If you, like me didn’t grow up with a lot of leisure or money (a.k.a. time) to sit quietly, to escape, to start or end your day slowly and in deep thought, how can you begin to reclaim some of that loss in a way that doesn’t also ask you to put your energy and body on the line? How can ‘adult-ing’ be regenerative? How can it bring us closer to our friends, family members, and colleagues? How can ‘adult-ing’ be pleasurable even?

Lots of love and Raptors in six,

Anupa

Related: In March I went to Calgary to interview the queen of knowledge of self, Lido Pimienta. When she talks about protecting your energy, your cultural power, your personhood — I felt that.

007: TBH you have hella hours in a day

I'm not even joking.

It is May and the sun is nowhere to be found. ☔️

I’ve spent the past two days trying to remember the origin of the wine mom rise and grind mantra, You have as many hours in a day as Beyoncé. I can’t work it out! Who was the first person to say this? How did it end up as the e-mail signature of your most annoying co-worker? Who was the first person to make it into a cross-stitch to sell on Etsy? All that my fruitless Googling revealed is that the phrase became popular around 2014, and that ever since we have been living under some pleasantly cross-stitched mandate to work as hard as, literally, the hardest working person on earth.

We def know this now because we’ve all seen the Homecoming documentary, right??? As usual, we only learn what Beyoncé wants us to know, which is that she began to prepare for the Coachella performance eight months in advance when she was just a few months postpartum. There’s this part where she shares her gruelling diet and performance regime in a voiceover (no sugar, meat, alcohol, etc.) as the camera trains on her hungrily gnawing at an apple. AN APPLE. With nary a dab of peanut butter on top!!!! And then she says something we’ve never heard Beyoncé, who somehow has as many hours in a day as us, say before: “I’ll never push myself that far again.”

It took me a minute to process that she actually said that when I first watched because, tbh, I was dramatically, pre-emptively mourning the thought of ever having to give up coffee and almond croissants. But weeks later, her admission is still on my mind. No doubt it was intended to be a ‘humanizing’ moment in a documentary that exemplifies the grit and determination of a woman who continues to best her own career, by working body and spirit to the bone. But it gave me the same frisson of excitement as Rihanna’s thickening frame, like, damn Beyoncé is overrrrr it.

It feels like the most effective message Beyoncé might offer at this moment, where surviving calamity — physical, financial, mental, spiritual… — demands more and more of our attention.

Right now I’m reading Jenny Odell’s excellent book How To Do Nothing: Resisting The Attention Economy. It’s not a guide to logging off; instead it’s about the “rhetoric of growth,” and the small ways we might actively resist the undertow of digital neoliberalism, which has helped codify behaviours, addictions, and anxieties into our neural networks. We’re literally addicted to being productive all of the time, even if we don’t participate in social media or check in with the 24-hour news cycle. Our virtual and physical landscapes have been cultivated for maximum attention deficit and reactivity. Odell’s book sounds cynical but it’s not — it’s smart and lively and curious, and encourages us to escape “laterally toward each other,” instead of remaining myopic and distracted by all that we can, could, and probably won’t do.

This is a circuitous — and hopefully not illogical — way of saying that if Beyoncé is tired, perhaps we aren’t too far off from bunting and mugs and wine charms or whatever that bellow, in whatever disgusting font is available, “I’LL NEVER PUSH MYSELF THAT FAR AGAIN.”

I’m kidding. I absolutely don’t think that Beyoncé is advocating doing nothing — but neither is Odell really. What I see in Bey’s confession that Odell’s book affirms is that we need boundaries around what deserves our attention. For Bey it’s family and physical health; for Odell it’s birds and the art that can be discovered within the most mundane of human behaviour. For me, it’s not allowing fear and anxieties around work and success and how much time is left!!! to leech into my relationships with others — and myself. When we affirm healthy boundaries we are transmitting important information to other people, information that can trigger connectivity, sensitivity, and other radically human values that the attention economy and productivity has numbed.

I’m highly in favour of doing ‘nothing.’ It’s why I wanted to do Burn Out, the podcast, the way that I did — with no sponsors, not timed to a release cycle, featuring conversations about just how hard it is to make art. It’s also why, for weeks now, I’ve ‘forgotten’ to tell you that there’s a paid option for this newsletter — so that you might donate some money in exchange for my time. Because the truth is that the real pleasure for me is in having a small group of people who might enjoy hearing what I have to say; I don’t want to put a tax on your time and attention.

Lots of love,

Anupa

PS: If you need some help setting boundaries (I know I do), then I recommend checking out this Mad Map on mental health, which I learned about via the Healing Justice podcast.

BURN OUT 006: Work with what you've got

👩🏾‍💻👩🏾‍🎨👩🏼‍🚀👨🏻‍🔧👨🏿‍⚖️🏋🏼

Hey — It’s been a while. The last month was filled with a lot of work, perhaps too much. I felt tired and frustrated, distracted, less present, closed off. I loved what I was spending my time doing — writing, producing, traveling, seeing friends — but I also noticed that my moods were seesaw-ing again, and that I was getting more anxious throughout the day. It felt like all of the good work I’d done on my brain over the last six months was being dashed away by the demands of returning to ‘regular life.’

And then I asked for an extension on a deadline, and said no to some things, and got some extra sleep. And then I got a rejection letter for a residency I’d applied to. All of a sudden the future-casting I’d been getting high on, the same future-casting that was making me feel lowkey anxious instead of present, just dissipated. I’d intervened (and life did too) in allowing my old ego-based patterns of seeking validation, mastery, and comfort, to run the show. Turns out I still want to be some undefined person, instead of being who I already am.

(Also, Khalila’s newsletter gave me permission to accept that transitioning to warmer weather can sometimes be a battle between optimistic mind and winter-weary body. Be patient if you need to move slow for a sec!!)

I meant to send this note out last night but then I heard about Nipsey Hussle’s death. Writing an inane note about my feelings felt stupid so I spent hours watching videos of various interviews he’d done over the years. What I admired about Nipsey was his consistency in message: even as he grew older, made more money, became a father and a businessman, got involved in local government and in advocacy work, his moral clarity never wavered. Whatever cynicism he might have had, it wasn’t a distraction. You might say he was a real one. This is a quality inherent to the people I admire most, from Bill Withers to Sarah Schulman to my friend Rodrigo. I’ve always hated that old refrain that people ‘grow out of’ their politics — it’s so derisive. Something I find beautiful is how, if allowed, our morals ripen as we age into new forms of nourishment. Being a better person isn’t solely for the young.

And part of being a better person is not taking shortcuts. It is working with what you have, not as a kind of scarcity performance art but because that is the closest way of ensuring your vision — your goals — aren’t tainted by the narrow or incompatible vision of others. Or, as Nipsey put it in this interview: “You could watch what other people are doing… and it’ll start poisoning your process and you want to skip steps. When I didn’t have a deal, we did mixtapes because that’s what we could do — we could buy some equipment, pay a producer to use the beats, and put it out. When I didn’t have a fanbase or the internet, we sold out the trunk. I just believe in embracing what you’ve got around you, and as your resources grow — level up.”

All of the tension I’ve felt over the past month is because I wanted to skip steps. Even while pouring my energy into work that felt more truthful — that feels more truthful — my mind was hoping to speed up what felt boring, or uncomfortable, or invalidating. In true Sag style I was impatient… impatient to be better.

On that note: I wanted to share something with you that I made and debuted at A Space gallery in Toronto this past weekend as part of Pamila Matharu’s solo show, One Of These Things Is Not Like The Other. I was so nervous about this because I don’t know how to edit video, and because I didn’t want people to think I was trying to be something other than a writer, and because my parents came to the event. Those were all of the feelings I was trying to mitigate, while also knowing I wanted to do this because it felt right.

Click for a more detailed description of this piece, the inspiration, and the ‘tracklist.’ If it resonates with you, please feel free to share, embed, etc.

Thank you, as always, for subscribing to this newsletter and taking the time to read.

If you’re in Toronto, I’ll be speaking at Trampoline Hall this coming Monday, April 8 at The Garrison, curated by Emily Keeler and Charles Yao. Tickets go on sale Thursday, April 4 @ 10 a.m. I’ll be talking about yoga :)

Lots of love,

Anupa

Loading more posts…