stillness in solstice snow

A few days ago, it snowed in my hometown. Since this is a rare occasion, my city was thrown into complete chaos. Streets weren’t plowed, buses stopped running, people were slipping and sliding everywhere…I made it halfway to work and gave up, turning around and heading straight home. (Most of my colleagues did the same thing.)

Given that it was the first day of Mercury Retrograde, and Winter Solstice was approaching, I relished the opportunity to stay cozy indoors, enjoying the peace and silence of a random Monday off.

snow sure makes the mountains look pretty

snow sure makes the mountains look pretty

The previous weekend, I’d gone to a party where I met the one person who actually enjoyed 2016. Everyone else I know is happy to see this year go. It’s been a time of major life changes, wake-up calls, and dispelling of illusions all around. A hugely pivotal year, yes. But not necessarily the most pleasant.

What have I gleaned from 2016? That 2017 will not be about straining or efforting to make things happen. I want to enjoy what I have created so far, trusting that I’ve made appropriate decisions for myself, and knowing that there’s nothing to fix. I want to relax into what is, right here right now.

The great thing about 2016 is that I was forced to pare down my life in many ways – especially financially. That, and my break with social media, allowed me to see where I’d been spending my energy, i.e., starving myself through over-consumption. Without such distractions, I began spending more time in silence. I realized just how difficult silence was for me, and how much I craved it.

Many of us know the running commentary that comes with meditation. The inner critic, the monkey mind, the myriad of voices we’ve heard throughout our lives, all re-playing the same old tapes. They relentlessly question my choices, convinced there is something better I could/should be experiencing.

Because we (in the western world) seem to have so much opportunity, freedom, and information at our fingertips, we can drive ourselves crazy looking for what’s more desirable than what we have right now. (Especially if we’re comparing ourselves to others on social media, just sayin’.)

These past few years, I received many of the things I asked for. And I then let them go, in search for something new-and-improved. Though I’m very grateful for the ability to create new experiences, I see that I was plagued by chronic restlessness and dissatisfaction. I couldn’t be fully present with my creations, because I was already onto the next thing. The seeds didn’t have time to germinate.

It was fear. Fear that I’d made the wrong decision (even as I told myself there was no such thing). Fear of being stuck. Fear that I was missing out on my true home, true career, true relationship. Fear that I didn’t deserve what I asked for, and couldn’t hold on to good things. Fear of imperfection. I demanded perfection in my outer circumstances, because I couldn’t accept imperfection in myself.

and my window looks pretty too

and my window looks pretty too

My surprise day off, a gift from the snow god/dess, was heavenly because I experienced prolonged peace and quiet for the first time in a long time. I’ve been having more of these moments lately…glimpses of relief, however brief, from habitual thoughts, worries, and stresses. Plans and action are good and necessary. But this is what I want to cultivate.

Love…compassion…breath…here is the fertile space for creation. Good things – maybe the best things – come from being still with life as it is right now. Maybe nothing needs to change; I can allow what’s already here to emerge in its full bloom and depth. The ‘doing’ then happens on its own. It’s a beautiful symbiosis.

Happy New Year, indeed. ❤

the sword of the feminine

A few years ago, during my first Ayahuasca journey, I was shown the image of a sword. I’d never seen anything like it before. It was a work of art, beautifully silver and encrusted with jewels and crystals. I understood that this was not a weapon of destruction; it was the sword of love, cutting through all illusion. The sword of the Feminine.

I think about this sword often. Sometimes I feel it as an etheric presence behind or above me. The image was/is so pristine and powerful, merely remembering it brings me comfort and relief. The sword itself is a remembrance of something I intuitively understand but can’t quite articulate.

It’s interesting to think about the sword now, because my perceptions of the Divine Feminine and Masculine are shifting. I’m realizing that I don’t actually know what the Divine Feminine and Masculine are. It’s kind of humorous and humbling to admit that, because I’ve written about these concepts numerous times on my blog.

shakti's garden by sonja picard

shakti’s garden by sonja picard

For several years, I took part in women’s circles and gatherings. And during my Kundalini Yoga teacher training, I had many ideas for women’s workshops. But something happened earlier this summer. I went off most social media and entered major hermit mode. I had no desire to participate in or facilitate women’s gatherings. I actually felt hostile to the idea. I found myself going within to what seemed like a very frustrated, depressed place. Was this self-sabotage? Fear of change? Remnants of ancient patterns? Addiction to familiar emotions?

I realized that despite all the work, at my core I didn’t feel anything ‘Divine Feminine’ about myself.  How could I then encourage the divine in others, or see the divine in men? It’s not that I felt like a fraud…but ‘Divine Feminine’ and ‘Divine Masculine’ had become concepts I’d used and heard so many times that they no longer held meaning for me. I had thought that these spiritual principles, and others, transcended duality – but perhaps they just reinforced it.

I do believe in a Divine Feminine and Masculine essence within each one of us, which we project outward to co-create reality. But experiencing our essence is a deep and personal journey that goes beyond ‘spiritual’ or new age concepts (e.g., idealized depictions of gods and goddesses). And it takes time. Humanity has run on certain archetypes and beliefs for eons; some are loving and some are not. Can we create new archetypes, and are we ready to?

There is tremendous power in women’s circles, and I know these will re-emerge in my life, in some form, when the timing feels right. I know I don’t have to have all the answers, because I never will (and that’s so not the point). I also think more men’s groups and retreats would be very helpful. The men I know who’ve participated in such groups embody something that is truly…well, ‘divine’ is the word that comes to mind.

I believe the sword of the Feminine is guiding me to her truth and essence, which is in harmony with the Masculine. That harmony creates something new, beyond the labels and categories of duality.

We have seen so much of humanity’s darkness coming to the surface this year. I have my thoughts on the force of patriarchy, but I don’t want that to keep the ‘us against them’ dynamic alive in my psyche. I have observed the darkness within myself and, as uncomfortable as it’s been, it does feel like my process is creating more space within.

The challenge for me is to remain open and trusting in this space, not wanting to immediately fill it with anything, even ‘love’ or ‘light’ (which can be further conceptualizations of the mind). The space itself is highly intelligent, and from this place we can create relationships beyond what we’ve ever known.

vancouver beauty

In my corner of the world, it’s been rainy for weeks on end. The days are getting shorter and darker, and we have some months to go before we see the first signs of spring and warmth.

But that’s ok. Last weekend I ran into D., a soul sister from my Kundalini Yoga teacher training program. We talked about our shared preference for solitude (our ‘lone wolf’ tendencies) and the heightened inclination to stay indoors and go deep within this time of year.

We also agreed that Vancouver is an amazing city. No place is perfect…but this is a pretty sweet place to call home. Seeing D. added lightness to my day and reminded me that there are surprises waiting where you’d least expect them. Our encounter was also a gentle prompt for me to move forward with my visions for teaching yoga workshops and classes in the new year.

As a child, I loved the rain. There was something so soft and feminine about it; the rain somehow understood me. These days, when the excess moisture becomes a bit much, I tell myself it’s what keeps our city so fresh and green – especially the trees of Stanley Park. (Oh, those trees…there’s nothing like them.)

And when the sun does come out to shine, the whole city positively sparkles.

It’s quite amazing to think that after generations of ancestors living in India and Africa, I was born here on the bountiful west coast of Canada. In the spirit of gratitude, I’m sharing some of my favourite photos of my hometown, taken on my walks over the years. Bridges, geese, and sunsets feature prominently.

Wishing you peace wherever in the world you are. Namaste.

All photos in this post are property of the author.

it’s no shock he won

My first thought when the twin towers fell was, Oh, fuck. My last name’s Abdulla. Actually, it was more like intense dread imploding my gut. I knew in that moment life would never be the same. My last name, which had always felt like a curse, was more loaded than ever.

It didn’t help when, a few years later, my name mysteriously appeared on a no-fly list. I was issued a redress number, which I now must quote every time I fly to the United States, to prove I’m not a terrorist. Apparently it was a case of ‘mistaken identity’.

Right.

Prior to the no-fly incident, when I’d explain to friends my ongoing hassles at the border, most would brush it off. Oh, they do that to everyone. Well, no – they don’t do that to everyone. I found myself shutting down in such conversations, as I had for years. It was difficult to articulate the subtle (and not-so-subtle) discrimination I experienced. People thought I was overly sensitive, imagining it, or – my personal favourite – “too angry”. I told myself those very same things.

An Indian Game (Juggling the Books) - Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun

An Indian Game (Juggling the Books) – Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun

I wasn’t the least bit shocked Trump won…and truthfully, I’m not as upset as others. And not just because I live in Canada. Trump is the glaring, heinous expression of what we have collectively suppressed and brushed off for too long. Maybe now people will truly wake up and realize there’s a problem here. One that affects everyone and has become so gargantuanly big it can no longer be swept under the rug; in fact, it has become “the leader of the free world”.

This shit has gotten real, and it’s about time.

I don’t believe Trump could’ve won unless a huge amount of people (including some identified as spiritual, liberal, democrat, etc.) didn’t hold his patriarchal, racist, and misogynistic views somewhere in their psyche.

I include myself in this group. For years now, I’ve been facing my own inner patriarch, and what I’ve uncovered hasn’t been pretty. It is a long process. The inner bully is loud-mouthed, yet stealth and sly, and hides in pockets. Patriarchy, racism, and misogyny run deep in humanity, and reflect eons of false conditioning. They’re not going to go away without a fight. And when someone like Trump wins, there can be a sense or failing, futility, of wanting to escape it all.

Which is, of course, exactly what the patriarchy wants you to feel.

Most of us avoid facing the grief that underlies our programmed fear. It’s much easier to eat or drink or point fingers or hate. But look at the world we create when we shun our own pain. Who were we before we starting hating ourselves and others? Are we ready to travel the layers within to reach that place?

Are we willing to let go of whatever privileged status we have? Do we secretly cling to it like a security blanket? Have we become so accustomed to privilege that we don’t even recognize it as such? Are we ready to move past experiences of discrimination and forgive, at a time when discrimination has reared its most ugly head?

Here in Canada, we suffered through our own version of Trump for over nine years. Things appeared to turn around when Justin Trudeau was elected Prime Minister in 2015, but not everyone was happy about it. Only time will tell of significant change.

For Americans, now is not the time to immigrate to Canada or move to a foreign country. There is work to be done right where you are. It is a huge challenge, which contains the seed of a huge blessing. Now you know what you’re dealing with: the collective shadow stands right in front of you.

I’ve heard some beautiful sentiments expressed these last few days; those resolving to be more kind, more caring, more compassionate. I myself have felt very raw and open in my interactions lately. We need each other more than ever. No one is exempt.

This is a catalyst for humans to discover their true power. We can choose to connect with others in creating a new paradigm…or we can sink into fear and apathy. That’s the beauty of free will, and it ultimately has nothing to do with who is ‘leading’ the country.

To live in love consciousness, the volcano must explode. Will we be part of the wreckage or the cleanup?

 

pleasure and paradox in paris

At the Musée d’Orsay, pressing my face close to a Monet painting, practically inhaling the brushstrokes, I felt a mixture of profound gratitude and nostalgia. The pale pinks, lavenders, and yellows were indescribably soothing. I wanted to merge with the work. Escape into it.

I was mesmerized by the art of Paris to a degree that surprised even me. I’d studied Art History many moons ago at university, but standing in front of certain works – I could easily touch them, were it not for the ever-present security – left me deeply affected.

Until that point, I’d felt somewhat ambivalent about my impromptu trip to Paris. Though I had the time off work, cash saved in the bank, and a great deal from Air France, I questioned my decision to travel to the City of Lights. Surely there were more responsible things to do with my money.

In my hotel room that first night, I tossed and turned as the jet lag (and in-flight wine, no doubt) sank in. Habitual thoughts about work, relationships, and family pounded in my head. Paris, I thought. Why am I here? What can I learn from you?

Pleasure. Presence. Enjoy life, she answered. Be in your body, not your head. You already know this…but I can help you. In fact, you need me to. That’s why you’re here.

You think you’ve lost your intuition, she continued, but you haven’t. Don’t focus on my image or the tourists or the incessant honking and police sirens, or the camouflaged men with machine guns standing on the corner. There is an essence of me that is much deeper than all these things. Be with it.

I didn't make it to the top, but I had to get the Eiffel shot!

I didn’t make it to the top, but I had to get the Eiffel shot!

I spent a week exploring various neighbourhoods in the city. I walked along the Champs-Élysées and the Seine. Apart from food (and chocolate presents!), my only purchase was a 4-day Museum Pass, which I’d picked up at Charles de Gaulle airport upon my arrival.

Viewing the paintings of Monet, Degas, Manet, Cassatt, Morisot, Seurat, and Renoir (and so many more), I felt deep nostalgia. Nostalgia for the time in my life when I initially studied these works. Nostalgia for historical periods of great art, music, and beauty. Most of all, nostalgia for an era where artists truly sat with their inspirations. Focused and present, devoting hours, days, even years to the execution of their visions.

What must it be like to have that kind of patience? It is hard to imagine. My attention span is much shorter than it used to be, a deterioration I blame on technology. All around me, people flitted about with iPhones, snapping photos and selfies. I tried to take some pics, but they never did the moment justice. And trying to capture that moment would just take me out of it.

Jardin des Tuileries - I couldn't resist including this

Jardin des Tuileries – I couldn’t resist

I wondered what these artists would think of this modern world. Would they be disturbed, fascinated, inspired? Life cannot be as it was in nineteenth-century Paris, of course. And even then, things probably weren’t as idyllic as the dreamy vistas suggest. Still, I long to sit in front of a landscape or sunset, or at a cafe, for hours, just absorbing my surroundings. Not thinking about work or emails or how I should be doing something.

Paris reminded me of India, in that it’s a paradox. The Divine Feminine presence, which surely exists and spoke to me that first night, was accompanied by a rough, almost aggressive energy throughout the city. It was an interesting, and often unsettling, experience.

But visiting Paris was very, very good for my soul. In recent months I’d been feeling some grief for so many lost years where I didn’t trust myself as my own authority, where I sold myself short. This last decade in particular – I don’t know where it went. Paris reminded me to be gentle with myself and look ahead. Not everything in life has to happen at once, and my process won’t look like anyone else’s. Nothing is lost. There is still time.

The art, the red wine, the Autumn sunshine, the walks along the Seine…that’s who I am. Sitting in front of a canvas and feeling where the colours take me…that’s who I am. Doing my best to heal resentments, forgive, and live in divine love…that’s who I am. Willing to learn, be humbled over and over again, and create grand adventures for myself…that’s who I am.

Thank you, Paris, for reminding me who I am.

 

is life better without facebook?

Life feels much simpler since I went off Facebook a few months ago.

I didn’t plan it; one minute I was scrolling through my feed, the next I was searching for the ‘deactivate’ button. It wasn’t necessarily about ads or privacy or even the horrible trending stories. Something in me had finally had enough. Enough of the noise. Enough of my inauthenticity.

By inauthenticity, I mean feeling removed from my heart centre, my inner aliveness. I felt like a machine while using Facebook: addicted, robotic, consuming, judging, comparing. I’d stopped posting regularly some time ago, but I could still feel the desire to be seen, liked, and validated. These are human needs, and they’re understandable – but they got a little out of whack. Facebook made it hard for me to get one step ahead of my ego.

befunky-collage

Of course, none of that is Facebook’s fault. Social media obviously has positive aspects, and our experience is our own responsibility. In other words, you can’t blame Facebook for your misery! I’m sure some people have figured out how to have a balanced relationship with it.

But I personally struggle to feel the real connection to others, maybe because there are so many connections. A constant stream of photos, opinions, inspirational quotes…Where is the space to digest it all? What’s true and what’s contrived? In all this hyper-connectivity, how much of our real selves are we actually sharing?

Are humans ready to handle all this information about each other?

A while back, an acquaintance created a ‘Truth Day’ event. She proposed that for one day, people would post how they authentically felt, not how they wanted to be perceived. One woman immediately objected, stating that Facebook shouldn’t be a place of airing “dirty laundry”. It struck me that she equated authenticity with airing dirty laundry. Is that how we regard our real feelings and emotions – as something dirty, something to shield from others?

But then, I had to wonder how authentic I myself would be on Truth Day. As open as I am on this blog, I was not so real on Facebook. Occasionally I’d share my blog posts, but always to a limited audience, and never the more personal subjects. I wasn’t ready for all those people to see all of me.

Many of us crave true sharing and intimacy, and social media might give us a taste of that…without us having to be too vulnerable. The online world can distract us from pursuing relationships where we could experience real pain or rejection. ‘Social’ media ironically locks us into further isolation (under the guise of connection), and it becomes harder to leave our comfort zone.

For now, life does feel better without Facebook. I’m not getting sucked into a huge time-waster. I’m enjoying reading actual books, and savouring prolonged moments of silence. I’m tuning into my inner self more. I’m realizing the importance of my real-life relationships. I want to nurture these things as much as possible. Maybe then I’ll have a more enjoyable relationship with social media. I’m open to that.

full moon eclipse: lightening the load

A couple of weeks ago I received the results of an Ancestry DNA test I purchased earlier this summer. I was pretty sure the test would confirm I’m all Indian, but I was intrigued nonetheless. My family hasn’t actually lived in India for the past four generations, so it seemed possible that there could be a surprise or two!

The results estimated 95% South Asian DNA, the remaining 5% being a mix of Central Asian (2%), European (2%) and Native American (<1%). That last one is quite implausible, given that my family didn’t come to North America till the ’70s, but the test analysis does acknowledge that such trace percentages are likely due to chance.

Me, first day in India, 2010

Me, first day in India, 2010

Whatever the results or their accuracy, taking the test was yet another step in embracing my roots. As I wrote in my last post, this summer has been all about my ancestors. As I continue to read about the lives of Indian women, I see with more clarity and self-compassion why I’ve struggled with the things I have. It just makes sense. This has mostly to do with the denigration of the sacred feminine. Deep pain and trauma has been locked inside for generations…and no one’s had the key.

All this is somewhat hard to put into words; it’s largely an intuitive process. From the outside, my ancestors’ lives could not be more different from my own. It would appear that I have choice, freedom, and control that they could not imagine. But the internal programming does not change overnight. And clearing the ancient patterns held within my psyche has been my life’s work.

Having said that, there must be space for celebration. Life has always been so serious and I’m wanting to shift that. I think many of us on a spiritual path become so used to ‘the work’ that fun seems indulgent and frivolous – and unfamiliar.

Sensitive people especially can feel so responsible for clearing, healing, being accountable and in integrity. And while those are all good things, we also need to relax and acknowledge ourselves. (And let go of the gripping fear that as soon as we let down our guard, something horrible will happen.) The point of this heavy work is to lighten the load.

If my ancestors are watching me now…do they want me endlessly re-living their fears and traumas, their guilt and shame? I doubt it. I can feel them lovingly drumming their fingers. Okay…you’ve worked really hard. And we so appreciate it. You’ve done more than you know. Now please start having some fun. For all of us!

They want a new story: one of self-worth. They want me to take our rich history and do something even more beautiful with it. They want me to put my own creative twist on life, without approval-seeking or apology. They want me to stop seeing muck where it’s already been cleared. They’re prodding me to step out of my comfort zone of familiar old feelings, and stand on new ground. It’s safe here. You will not be abandoned. Trust us.

I am the living manifestation of my ancestors dreams and wishes. My life is not random; I am seen. The highest service to my ancestors (and to myself) is to continue to forgive and love, and enjoy life with gratitude. There is no greater gift to, and from, my lineage.