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  • Writer's pictureLeela Kirloskar

Leaning in to Life

I want to think again of dangerous and noble things. I want to be light and frolicsome. I want to be improbable and beautiful and afraid of nothing as though I had wings. ~ Mary Oliver

It’s close to six weeks already into the new year and I’m enjoying how February always unfolds so prettily in Bangalore. Most mornings this past month have been filled with watching my new puppy, Rumi, romp around the garden chasing spring butterflies and chewing leaves, sticks and my slippers. His bright energy is infectious and irritating at the same time to Gino, our four-year old mastiff, who’s grumpily accepted this little companion who’s set to grow rather larger than he is. Rumi is a totally deaf Great Dane with a dazzling white coat (when it’s not streaked with the mud he loves to play in) and stunning ice blue eyes; his inability to hear only adds to his endearing and abundantly joyous spirit. Every day that Rumi meets life head on, as puppies do from daybreak to dusk, he reminds me that life is meant to be leaned in to: engaged with and lived fully. Part of my inner conversation recently has been figuring out what that means for me this year.

Leaning in for me is about the how of the dance of life: how do I line up the energy to play the game again? I know what it feels like. For me, it’s a shape that is filled with intensity and curiosity, helping me to become expansive as it shifts and moves my body with a vibrant energy and puts me into a lively playful mood. When I’m in this shape, my body is lighter and my language is about action and flow, taking my life forward through small and big steps, creating context that continuously contributes to my growth. I know there have been times where I’ve leaned in deliberately, intentionally, and other times when I’ve responded intuitively to the call to lean in. The start of this year is one of those times when I’m struggling to engage with life in a way that is meaningful and grounded in my commitment to a presence that is playful and curious – my leaning in shape. Knowing what it feels like is a small step to get back into it.

Sometimes it’s those small steps that are the most powerful. I’ve taken a few already this year, starting with raising a new puppy. And I can feel that energy beginning to course through again, slowly, renewing and healing my soul. Here’s what I learned works:

Staying regular with practices has often lifted my spirits when they’re touching the floor. Finding a quiet space to centre in the garden, doing yoga and meditating, flowing with my somatic movement practices and picking up the pace at the gym in the evenings all give me purpose and bring an energy that contributes to staying on a path that often feels slippery. More than anything, I trust this process for its enormously powerful impact on my wellbeing.

Staying connected in the real world more than the virtual one. Solitude, when you’re single and working as a freelance professional, can often be brutal. While I have plenty of family (and dogs) around me when I need them, my most connected moments are when I pick up the phone to speak to my two sons and to some of my closest friends, or even better, when I get to see them in person. Heart conversations are so enriching; they’re when I’ve laughed the most deeply and connected fully to another. Reaching out to the world also helps me widen my own circles, professionally and personally, and helps me to nurture them.

Remembering commitments that have slipped opens up inner conversations about action, even when I’m not fully ready to go there yet. Reminding myself of what’s important to me, why it matters and what I care about learning, doing and being is hugely powerful to create new intentions or unpack old ones that haven’t yet seen fruition.

Making space for self-care particularly when I’m tired and low and lonely and wondering how to lean in to life again. My self-care toolbox has (and is not limited to) bars of (milk, not dark) chocolate, hot milk with Horlicks, books in bed, music to suit my mood, some indulgent spa time, plenty of sleep and fresh food that’s high on nutrition. With the occasional red wine and single malt to remind me that this too shall pass.

Leaning in to life isn’t so much about waiting and wondering about whether the next season will bring about change. Instead, it’s about making the choice to lean in, fully and completely, whatever the season brings. It’s how I’ve learned we experience the brilliance of aliveness, in every single pore. Very worth playing the game.

So as I make my way back in there, how will you lean in to life this year?

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