You Will Not Define Me by Anjal Chande

Anjal Chande Bernal Heights

My work need not be defined. If one defines it, one defies it. My work won't sit so neatly inside the frame you've allotted for it. It won't acquiesce to the tiny confines of your stale imagination. I will not be defined by you. 

The impulses of a society so keen on labeling, categorizing, simplifying the inevitably complex is not what I wish to subject myself to if I can help it. It is difficult to help it, but I try. 

It is imperative for me to know my art as I wish to know it, as an expression of something so peculiar to and dependent on my me-ness. My work, my voice, my vision is something you cannot take away from me, nor is its worth something you grant me. 

To believe this means to resist the imposition of others' perspectives; to resist others’ subconscious and conscious, unspoken and outspoken, reactions as something I must wear as a badge of audience validation. I do not need you to embrace my work for it to be what I mean it to be. I rely not on your acknowledgment or approval.

In whatever I do, I am simply trying to be myself. My work is trying to be itself. Let it, let us, be. Without the agony of trying to escape your nail that wants so badly to pin us down to one static interpretation. 

Is my work political or apolitical? Secular or spiritual? Traditional or contemporary? Ethnic or American? Raw or polished? Is it succeeding at what it is trying to do? You need not know, and it does not matter. Why try to discern so cerebrally?

I invite you to experience my work viscerally. For a moment, engage with your heart, not your head. And then, whatever experience comes forth becomes uniquely yours to hold onto. I welcome your engagement, your interaction, your pondering, your response. Yet, what you take away is yours; you will not define me. 


"To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Dare Me to Be Disciplined by Anjal Chande

Dance Room

I’ve noticed a funny relationship between motivation and discipline lately.

For me, motivation has often been the precursor to discipline. I am motivated therefore I am disciplined. When I strongly believe in the merits of, for example, carving out ample early morning time for my fitness and creative practice, then that belief translates to motivation, which translates to the discipline to do the things I want to do. While this often times works well for me, it is not real discipline, and I must disappointedly admit that I need a better foolproof technique for moments when my motivation goes awry.

Ya see, I’m the kind of person who really values doing things I consciously believe in, things I have a conviction around, things that feel meaningful to me. I can’t get myself to do things just because society says so or it’s popular or it’s what the doctor ordered. I’m the kind of person who needs to understand why something is important and purposeful, and I like to feel moved to do those things. When that understanding and inspiration takes place, then usually some surge of motivation gets me to follow through with my thoughtful desires and goals. What I am realizing now is that my aversion toward doing things “just because” and my proclivity toward doing things out of passion have prevented me from instilling true, diehard, unwavering discipline around the practices that matter most to me.

So what is true discipline? Discipline is:

  • Independent of motivation
  • Acting even when we don’t feel like acting.
  • Consistent, reliable, habitual
  • Fireproof, waterproof, overthinking-proof, cynicism-proof, “what’s-the-point-of-this-anyway”-proof
  • Willpower and self-control
  • A product of careful calculation/study/wisdom, from which there is no turning back (e.g. I brush my teeth everyday, no questions asked for the rest of my life)
  • That which trumps whims, moods, impulsiveness, vices, temptations
  • Choosing an ideal and committing to its realization

If motivation naturally ebbs and flows, waxes and wanes, jumps out of bed or crawls back for comfort, then discipline is the constant, the perpetually rotating earth, the predictably setting and rising sun. It’s the fixed variable, the habitual way, the deliberate routine.

So why do I want discipline so badly right now?

I've often felt that the only thing keeping me from achieving my dreams, both the simple and lofty ones, was discipline. I have no problem working hard, but it's not about working hard. For the self-employed, work-from-home, creative types like myself there is a critical need to structure or define a daily schedule that serves us and our goals. What discipline is really about is living the life you want to live every single day. 

We need discipline in order to:

  • Do the little things that have such big value
  • Be healthy and be happy
  • Practice our craft day in and day out, week in and week out
  • Work when it’s time to work
  • Take breaks when it’s time to take breaks
  • Stand tall when discouragement strikes us down
  • Stick with habits that support well-being and creative growth
  • Do what we care about most, even when nobody around us believes in the importance, or when nobody even knows what we're doing (Can I get some snaps from the sisters and brothers who work alone and really get me on this point!)
  • Avoid decision fatigue caused by unnecessary questions (e.g. Should I wake up right now? Should I skip meditation? Should I take fifteen extra minutes to eat a nourishing breakfast? Should I rehearse for one hour or two?)
  • Free up our mental energies and channel them through impactful, mindful pursuits
  • Achieve our goals in a grounded, gentle, incremental way
  • Compost, recycle, conserve water, eat locally (Shout out to planet Earth on this happy Earth Day!)
  • Do what we love, now not later

Sometimes people have called me highly self-motivated, but they don’t know the whole truth. Yes, it's great when it just happens magically, but many times, motivation is hard. Motivating myself by myself is haaaard. And sometimes I just hate being the only one around to motivate me. What do I do when motivation evaporates and I struggle to follow through with my grand plan of action? What I’m going to do in those moments when I'm left high and dry is hang onto discipline. Lean into the lackluster moments and lean on discipline to help stay the course.

Annie Dillard wrote in The Writing Life, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing.” I want discipline because I want my life to look like something beautiful everyday. I want it to be something I am proud of, something wholesome, that enriches me, supports me, moment by moment, and carries me to greater heights.

For that reason, I ask you, will you dare me? Dare me to be disciplined. So I may live the life of my dreams today, tomorrow, and always. 

On Taking Breaks by Anjal Chande


I’m back!

It’s understandable if you never noticed I was gone or never realized I was here before. But let me tell you, I am back!

Back from what? I’m back from a break.

I took a few-months-long break to enjoy my husband’s homemade chai, to seek a change of scenery, and to get grounded again. I needed to clear my mind, refill the well, and rediscover myself. I carved out time to prioritize all of this. Most importantly, I learned how to take a break, and that lesson was the most worthwhile outcome of all.

Breaks are hard to do. I was a high intensity artist-entrepreneur, a 24/7 workaholic, chronically ambitious, and foolish to believe in my own indomitability. Breaks weren’t in my vocabulary. By the time I started to understand the importance of days off or vacations, I had a hard time implementing them successfully. I thought I was the state of California with a water table that could never go dry, and I lived like that for eight years until I could no longer deny that I had become parched.

When I finally came to a halt, I realized very quickly that I didn’t actually understand what a break was. Taking a break was a trial and error process. It required so much self-control, as if I had to handcuff myself to a chair in order to resist the urge to set new goals and restlessly pursue them. After a day or two of rest, I wanted to believe it was enough, but I didn’t feel different. No sense of revitalization had come over me. So I stayed in taking-a-break mode until I could unlock the transformative experience I was seeking.

Here are some things I discovered, applicable to breaks of all shapes and sizes:

Breaks are NOT:

  • Merely going through the physical motions of break-taking
  • Thinking about work even while you appear to not be working
  • Clenching, clinging, gripping, holding onto an obsessively goal-oriented mindset
  • Distracting oneself to avoid facing the agony of not being “productive”
  • Leaking battery power to applications left running in the back of your mind

Breaks ARE:

  • Breaking habitual patterns of perspective
  • Expanding beyond a myopic worldview, beyond a tunnel-vision work mode
  • Detaching from anything that is not the present moment
  • Interrupting momentum, when momentum isn’t good
  • Feeling content with who you are and where you are
  • Turning off, shutting down
  • Doing nothing

People say life is what happens when you’re busy making plans, and perhaps the same can be said for when we’re busy not taking breaks. For me, the most lovely break, such as a walk around the neighborhood, is one that feels aimless, just for fun, and truly relaxing. It seems to be the only way to recharge my being and clarify my purpose, and this kind of break is also profound. It puts life in perspective because it IS life. A break contains the breadth and depth of life itself! We are so much bigger than any simple work or grand ambition we may pursue, and right there in those restful moments, we have an undistracted opportunity to behold that truth.

When I look back on how I used to live, it sounds so crazy. But it also sounds normal, because a lot of us live in a similar mad-dashing frenzy. Like maniacs, we may commonly sacrifice life, in all its fullness and glory, at the altar of a race to the bottom of our never-ending to-do lists. Yet, what my recent soul-satisfying hiatus has taught me is to never, ever go without taking a break.

I share all this because breaks are this newfound, crucial, and cherished part of my process now. Of work, creativity, and life. I feel a very assuring sense of renewal and readiness to be where I’m at, and it will allow me to be mindful of whatever I do moving forward.  I always want to be grounded as I reach out into the world to work. I always want to be centered as I give of myself to create. I always want to take breaks, intentionally and with care.

In a world where there are many advocates for sharpening one’s work ethic, working hard, working selflessly, being productive, and hustling to achieve one’s dreams, I want to be an advocate for breaks, pauses, rest stops, rejuvenation, the value of just being. Not simply because it helps you go back and work better. But because it helps you stay connected to who you really are and what life really is about – something more beautiful and more fulfilling than any fleeting worldly pursuit.

I am your break-taking cheerleader.  Take a break.