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.

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.

the summer of my ancestors

Well, we all know we’re living in intense times. It has been said that 2016 is the year of purification, but it feels more like the decade of purification.

A couple of months ago, I began a 40-day practice of Kirtan Kriya, a Kundalini Yoga meditation designed to clear subconscious patterns buried deep within the psyche. About halfway through my 40 days, I went off Facebook and most social media. I rediscovered my love of fiction, reading books mostly about Indian women and their historical and current lives in India and in the west. I’m obsessed with learning more. It seems this has become the summer of discovering my ancestry.

IMG_1012

As the first generation of my family born in the west, and very much steeped in western culture (aka a ‘coconut’), I’ve vacillated between rejecting my heritage and embracing its more western-approved aspects (e.g., yoga). My Indian ancestors have felt very distant, even non-existent. I haven’t known much about my female ancestors in particular…maybe because I never asked. I viewed them as probably repressed and somewhat backwards. Silent, and living in a less evolved land.

Now I can’t stop thinking about them. Who were these women? What were their lives like? What dreams, desires, and talents did they harbour? What did they suppress in themselves, in order to stay alive? Hinduism, Sikhism, Islam…I think about conquests and conversions. How did they feel about God? About caste and karma? Were feelings even acknowledged in a world of immovable roles and responsibilities? What brought them joy?

I can feel that I hold memories of being restrained, constrained, burned. I see where I’ve felt like a burden, not wanting to ask for too much or take up more than my ‘fair share’ of space…somehow apologizing for my existence. I can feel the bitter resentment of unlived desires. I can also feel the patriarchy and misogyny embedded in my own psyche. In this female, brown-skinned body, I see where I’ve idolized the white male.

I’ve written on this blog about the Divine Feminine rising. Truly embracing Her means owning how deeply we’ve denigrated Her. I’ve uncovered a new layer of this within myself. All I can do is sit with it.

‘Purification’ used to mean cleansing myself of everything I thought made me inferior. But I now view it as the inner and outer distillation of all that is not resonant with highest truth: love. And that means witnessing and experiencing all that is not love within ourselves, and in the world around us.

This entire process requires trusting my intuition and feelings. I do question if I’m making it all up. I doubt my role, if any, in the healing of my lineage. I wonder if ‘purification’ and ‘divine feminine’ are just more new age concepts that distract. I catch myself in spiritual shadow (superiority/inferiority) all the time. I don’t know what a woman’s life is like in present-day India; I don’t want to speak on anyone else’s behalf.

During my 40 days of Kirtan Kriya, I experienced some very dark and hopeless states. But I see now that the meditation did exactly what it was designed to do – bring to the surface what longed to be healed. Though it hasn’t been comfortable, it feels like what I’m here to do, and that brings me peace. I am very grateful for my opportunities to choose and to heal.

If we are in times of purification, then darkness and chaos will continually rise to the surface until every last corner is exposed. I don’t know what will become of humanity, but I know that right now, I must listen to the long lineage of voices rising from within. I’m trusting my feminine instincts on that.

understand through compassion

Image courtesy of Vaughn Lewis (with my modifications)

Image courtesy of Vaughn Lewis (with my modifications)

I was very happy when Elysha asked me if I’d be interested in answering some questions on Kundalini Yoga for her blog at at Mind Body Soul Stylist. Upon completing my yoga teacher training program back in May, I entered a major blogging slump…so it was wonderful to have the opportunity to discuss my love for these sacred yogic teachings!

It’s been said that 2016 is the year of purification, and I am really feeling this. I’ve found it difficult to write about all that’s happening within (and without) – so much intensity! I have many things I’d like to share, but until the words flow again, here’s our interview. Thank you, Elysha!

http://elyshalenkin.com/styling-from-the-inside-secrets-from-a-kundalini-yoga-teacher/.

And Happy Canada Day, too.❤ I’m grateful that this beautiful country accepted my parents, and many other Muslims, as refugees back in the 70s. Time will tell how humans choose to live out the drama unfolding on the world stage. I’m constantly reminding myself of the fourth sutra of the Aquarian Age: Understand through compassion or you will misunderstand the times.

Sat Nam. Truth is my identity.