About alohaleya

a spiritual girl in the digital world

you are irreplaceable

“You’re replaceable,” a colleague said to me last week.

These words, seemingly harsh, were delivered with fierce caring and passion upon my return to work after being away for back pain. “I’m replaceable,” she continued. “If I die tonight, my job will be posted by Friday. But I’m not replaceable to my family and loved ones.”

I’d just expressed that I felt ‘bad’ for having missed so much work, after only recently starting in my current position. “Let me tell you right now,” she responded. “Nobody is thinking that but you. Nobody cares. I mean, we care…but we’re all too busy and wrapped up in our own little worlds.”

It was clear I had limited mobility and was still in some pain. “Don’t push yourself,” she cautioned. “Nobody is going to take care of you, but you. Are you taking care of yourself?”

This is perhaps the biggest lesson I’m learning from back pain: the need for self-care. I had been pushing myself, but didn’t recognize it. ‘Pushing myself’ was just so…normal.

The emotional root of low back pain, I’ve read, is feeling unsupported. There were many factors leading to my injury. I didn’t take enough work breaks, I sat improperly and for too long, my yoga practice had lapsed. But the emotional explanation resonated. I’d long felt I was ‘going it alone’ in life: I was misunderstood, my financial situation was a bomb, relationships with men were painful, God was disappointed in me.

But was any of that actually true? Or was it that I felt deeply unworthy of receiving support?

I know this is about my experience of being a woman. I haven’t wanted to be a burden on others, to take up too much space or be seen as too demanding. I’ve tried to be independent and accommodating. On the occasions I have been called ‘selfish’, it’s kicked me right in the gut. For a woman, there can be so much loaded in that word.

Hence the compulsion to people-please, to over-accommodate. The all-consuming worry about what others will think, the inability to make a decision because I’m weighing in so many voices. These aren’t conscious behaviours; they’re deeply ingrained, woven into my cells after many years – probably generations – of conditioning.

My body had long been giving me warning signals, straining against the push to live up to expectations that were largely my own. I felt so responsible to do a good job, and guilty when I let others down. Breaking my back, bending over backwards. How bad does it have to get?

stop and notice the pink

There have been many blessings inherent in this pain. I’ve had to be vulnerable in relying on loved ones for help with everything from cleaning to driving to putting on my socks. I’m physically vulnerable to strangers. Walking to work on the downtown sidewalks, people barrel towards me. I see how fragile this body can be; one random bump could re-trigger the pain.

I’m used to being the one rushing, becoming impatient with slow walkers. I’m now one of them. I’ve discovered that it’s a relief not to rush – to have no choice but to go slow. Some people give me space, and sympathetic smiles. These are small things…but they’re not.

I hope I can hold on to all this, as my back heals. I like being vulnerable. I’m self-protective, but not on the defence. I feel softer, more raw and trusting. And my vulnerability gives others, particularly my loved ones, the chance to show kindness to me.

In receiving this care, I’m realizing that I’m the only one who saw myself as a burden. And I no longer wish to carry that belief. I’d rather be irreplaceable.

7 life lessons from back pain

I was all set to write another post on blogging a couple of weeks ago, when I threw my back out. Not for the first time…but this was unlike any other episode. Excruciating spasms. Unable to stand up on my own. Putting on socks? Forget it.

I’ve been thinking about a good friend who was in near-constant back pain for months. Most health care practitioners were unable to help, and she eventually had surgery. I remember meeting with her while she was struggling with pain. I see now that I was unable to be truly present with her. I wanted there to be a solution: I wanted her to discover the emotional root of her issue, the ‘why’ of it.

Artist: Maxine Noel

And now, as I write these words, I realize I don’t know the ‘why’ of my own pain, and how presumptuous it was to think I could know it for anyone else. But I have come to some insights about what this experience is teaching me personally.

Listening to my body’s warning signals: as mentioned, it’s not the first time I’ve thrown my back out. I’d had warning signs for years, and knew what I needed to do to prevent future pain from happening. But I always put it off. This time, my body made sure I was paying attention.

I am vulnerable: I never knew just how much I need my lower back. Now I need help with so much. I’ve had to reach out to friends and loved ones for assistance with the most simple of tasks. I’m not used to this, and it is humbling.

Which brings me to Gratitude: I am blessed that I have people in my life to help me, and who ask nothing in return. This is no small thing, and it’s probably the biggest gift of all.

Compassion: I think of all those who don’t have caring support. I see where I’ve missed opportunities to be compassionate and helpful. When we’re feeling good and healthy, it can be hard to understand what it’s like to be in pain, especially chronic pain. I wanted to fix my friend’s problem by helping her discover the emotional root, but that wasn’t what she needed. She needed to feel validated and understood for what she was feeling in that moment.

Meds can be a good thing: Is there an emotional root to my pain? Probably. Low back pain is suggested to indicate a lack of support. And I have felt that, for many years. But it’s interesting that the pain is also revealing to me the support I do have. Beyond the mind/body connection and my holistic practices, I’m grateful for the medication that’s reducing my pain. This is noteworthy, as I’ve always been somewhat anti-medication – you wouldn’t even find an Advil in my home – and had a bit of an ego about that.

I am not in control. I can play my part in my healing, but my body is on its own timeline and will recover at its own pace. This has required patience and surrender that I’m not accustomed to. Forcing anything is only going to set me back.

Self-care is a priority: I’ve never missed so much work, or relied on others to take care of me. I notice how guilty I feel about it. Thoughts that I’m a burden on others, that I’m taking ‘too long’ to get better, surface repeatedly. No one has given me this message. It’s been eye-opening to realize just how hard it is to take care of myself first.

This entire experience has been very humbling, and I’m learning to trust that my body knows what it’s doing, even when my mind objects. I’m thankful that I’ve had no choice but to slow down and listen.

autumnal reset

In my last post I wrote about ceremoniously burning all my journals, clearing out my stories to allow space for the new. I was about to go camping on Vancouver Island, and could think of no better place to send my diaries than into the flames of a campfire, out in nature and under the stars.

Alas, Mother Nature had other plans. Due to record-breaking wildfires in British Columbia, campfires were strictly banned all summer. The journal burning would have to wait.

My time away was soul nourishing. We spent three days camping near a small logging town on the northeast coast of the Island. I hadn’t been camping in years, and was a little anxious to be out of my comfort zone. This feeling didn’t lessen when we noticed fresh bear poop on our site. Fortunately I didn’t have any close encounters, though we did spot a young black bear twice, ambling down the beach in front of us.

Despite the bear presence, it didn’t take long for me to relax and appreciate the natural beauty surrounding me. The weather cooperated and the other campers made for chill, respectful neighbours. We also saw humpback whales and porpoises, which was amazing.The absence of technology was particularly soothing to my city-jangled brainwaves, allowing my mind to breathe.

After camping, it was off to beautiful Tofino, for the wedding of a close friend. It was a sweet few days, filled with lovely people, food, music, beer (oh so much beer), and laughter. It’s hard to formulate words for the entire experience; they can’t fully capture the magic of the moments. Neither could pictures, which is why I took so few.

The journey felt like a major reset, probably amplified by the solar eclipse that preceded it. But I don’t feel rested and rejuvenated; on the contrary, since my return I’ve been extremely fatigued and lacking motivation. Even when it comes to blogging. I’ve started and stopped this post so many times and it’s been frustrating. But maybe that’s part of the reset. It feels different from resistance or procrastination. There’s no point in forcing something that’s just not happening, even if it’s something we normally enjoy.

our camping spot

And now we’re emerging from the new moon into the Autumn equinox, another potent time to focus on what’s essential. Though city culture can be wonderfully stimulating, my time away – short as it was – made me realize I’m longing for more balance. Simplification. Less dependence on conveniences, and more self-sufficiency. How would I really like to live, and what practical steps can I take to make that happen? What does living harmoniously with nature – feeling connected, having a relationship – mean for me personally, and is my life reflecting that?

Perhaps the idea of burning my journals was part of the drive to simplify. But since writing my post, I appreciate more fully the importance of honouring that journey before I let it go. This means taking the diaries out of the box. Putting them in order, lining them up, setting aside the uninterrupted time to read them.

I want to sit with all those uncomfortable emotions, giving them the attention they deserve. I can then release them with peace. And who knows, I might find unremembered moments of joy in those words. Maybe the biggest gem I will discover is the compassion for the person who wrote them.

This Autumnal reset feels like incubation and integration. The plug is being pulled on so many things, and we are waiting patiently as life organizes itself to respond to a new frequency…trusting, as best we can, that life is lovingly responding in these very uncertain times where no one knows what’s going to happen next.

As the days get shorter and cooler, and the leaves turn colour, I’m grateful to be where am, laying low and letting nature do her thing.

burn the journals

I moved a couple of months ago, and my box of journals followed me. I’ve carted this box around for several years, unsure of what to do with it. A part of me wants to burn these diaries, all at once, in some ritual release ceremony. But if I do that, I want to read them first – and this would take a while, given the sheer number of them. And the fact that it would be an emotionally exhausting process.

Why am I holding on? I’ve written about this in a previous post, and I’m still facing the dilemma. For the most part, my musings weren’t happy. I certainly don’t want anyone else reading them. And I don’t feel particularly joyful when I look at that box; if anything, it makes me anxious. I think of it whenever I hear the safety announcement on a plane. What if I died suddenly? Do I really want my innermost thoughts just floating around?

the box

I know what it is. I have this sense, this hope, that the diaries might provide a clue. A clue about what, I don’t know. Maybe they’ll contain a hidden gem that will give me some heightened self-awareness. A lightbulb moment. A traumatic memory unlocked, the key that brings missing pieces together.

Or maybe not.

In my last post, I wrote about it being the time of a full moon and an opportunity for completion. That weekend, I found myself going for a long walk, unexpectedly winding up in my childhood neighbourhood. I walked past the apartment building my family lived in at two different times; once when I was 4 and again at age 8.

I felt both light and heavy. When we lived in this small place, my family had not been in the country for very long. So many years later, I could more fully appreciate the trauma and uncertainty that my parents must’ve experienced during those early years. My heart exploded with love for my mother and father, and my childhood grief that I couldn’t make them feel better.

I love that this building is still there, but I have a feeling it will be gone soon, as the whole area is being redeveloped.

Somehow the timing of all this feels pertinent. If the full moon a couple of weeks ago was about completion, we’re now in the birthing period of the new moon and total solar eclipse. Given that it’s Mercury Retrograde too, it’s the time for inner reflection. Whatever we’re intent on releasing, whatever new thoughts we want to implant… it’s a cosmically potent opportunity to do so.

The little girl in the apartment, the teenager writing in those journals, the woman on her spiritual search…what is she ready to let go of?

The need to apologize. The need to people please, the fear of rejection, the feelings of not enough, the ancient pain in feeling so responsible for others. Letting go of those physical reminders, those powerful words in written form, frees her to experience more of the real her: the woman unbound by old self-definitions. The woman who laughs more, who truly values herself and doesn’t needlessly worry about others.

Perhaps there is no more auspicious time to set those journals aflame. Instead of fearing what I might lose – my childhood, my identity – I can imagine the space created from releasing those (mostly sad) words. My being extends far beyond the letters on a page.

As I walked past my old apartment that day, it occurred to me that I never knew the building’s name. I went up to the main door. “Le Chateau.” The Castle. Seeing that made me smile. It seemed very fitting.

new shoots in the dark

In my part of the world, summer has taken a while to show up. It’s now here in full force: temperatures are high, and wildfires are burning all over the province. A smoky haze envelops my city, where there should be blue sky. Tonight is a full moon, and later this month a total solar eclipse, partially visible from where I live.

What does all this mean? Nothing, maybe. At one time I would’ve written about this as a chance to burn away what no longer serves us individually and collectively. The heat is kicking up tension, the smoke obscuring the path, the full moon marking the opportunity for completion.

Perhaps this is true, but I can’t say anything with certainty. On one hand it seems things are too unpredictable, on the other I feel completely stagnated. I’m noticing a chronic, underlying disgruntlement, triggered more often these days. I am impatient and anxious much of the time.

a smoky, hazy sky

It’s been on my radar to write an updated ‘About’ page. Mystic, wanderer, tantric, yogi… would I still describe myself this way? Possibly. But these words have formed an identity, an image, that no longer fits. Defining myself as ‘spiritual’, however earnest and sincere my intentions, has also – in some ways – disconnected me from others.

For a long time, I perceived the dominant, external reality as negative, and feared that focusing on this negative would only reinforce it, thus bringing more of it into my life. (The Law of Attraction.) I didn’t watch the news, and I unplugged from most social media. It was important to focus on the light.

But did it make me a happier person? No.

Because resisting something only strengthens it.

Because fearing negativity, and suppressing that fear, takes a lot of energy.

Because we are all connected, and living in a bubble doesn’t work.

Thanks to Leigh for sharing a recent Oprah interview with author and speaker Charles Eisenstein. Oprah and Charles discuss that hate is a ‘bodyguard’ for grief. The low-level suffering many of us experience is due to profound disconnection from our communities. Everything that’s happening to the world is happening to us….and we’ve numbed ourselves to the feeling – the knowing – that we’re all connected.

If we are evolving into a more conscious and empathic species, it’s important to know what’s going on with the rest of humanity. I want my feet on the ground, aware of what’s happening on (and to) the planet. I want my eyes opened where I’ve previously shielded them. We hold light where we can; but we also allow ourselves to feel the darkness. This can open the doors to empathy.

We’re all co-writers in this planetary script. Oprah and Charles discuss that we will hold on to our stories the hardest just before they completely collapse. This is happening on a mass scale. Where do I see my own beliefs playing out on the global stage? My stories have shaped my life, and it’s difficult to let some of them go. But they hold a me-against-the-world slant, and I don’t want to tell that tale anymore.

No matter who we are, we’ve inherited ancestral beliefs, religious conditioning, tribal fears and shames, and a collective worldview that for the most part stems from division and separation. Creating a new story is a massive undertaking.

I know so many kind and caring people who do their best to live in integrity and harmony with the natural world. They work hard every day to live by their values and take personal responsibility for their actions. I am inspired by them, and want to learn more from them. They give me hope that seeds of empathy and compassion are being planted in what appears to be the darkest of days.

Perhaps this moon is indeed a fortuitous time to end one chapter and begin writing the next.

technology & the divine search

It occurred to me that I deactivated my Facebook account around this time last year. How does it feel to be Facebook free? It’s still working for me. That doesn’t mean I’m anti-Facebook. It means I know my tendencies, and must limit social media for my own peace of mind.

Technology is a double-edged sword. While it’s mind-bogglingly cool to have this worldwide venue to express ourselves, the open-forum Internet easily becomes a platform where many react from defence and ego when their beliefs are challenged.

Using social media responsibly requires conscious attention and self-awareness. If we are not wise to our own projections, we might attack the other instead of looking within.

from my trip to paris, centre pompidou: františek kupka, ‘around a point’

I speak for myself more than anyone. For several years, I followed a woman on YouTube who regularly posted on spirituality and emotional healing. Her videos were targeted to sensitive people, and they brought me much comfort and guidance.

But in recent months, her channel has changed direction. She now posts exclusively on Jesus Christ and the Bible as the (only) true path to God. Her messages have included warnings to not practice yoga, for example, as it is ‘Luciferian’ in nature and invites demonic spirits in. Having studied many forms of new age spirituality throughout her life, she now views these as the ‘false light’.

I was very triggered by all this. I didn’t even know this woman, but her previous teachings had been deeply healing for me, and I felt an odd sense of betrayal and emotional pain. I began to doubt my own spirituality, including my views on yoga and ascension.

I was angry…but at who?

When I’m feeling threatened, it’s usually not about the other person. If I’d been truly secure in my own beliefs, maybe I wouldn’t have been so upset by this woman’s new messages. I’d understand that others have free choice to believe whatever they want, and it can be truth for them. I’d trust that there was room enough for all, in a way my linear human mind couldn’t comprehend.

I’m not contesting the Bible or the life of Jesus here, and I mean no disrespect to this woman. But I recognize that her new content had activated my old feelings of guilt and shame for rejecting the religion I was born into, and for pursuing a more ‘new age’ path. And I felt fear. Paralyzed by the ancient notion of God watching, judging, and waiting to punish me for one false move.

It is my responsibility to deal with my reactions and responses. So I’ve been asking myself: What do I truly believe? What do I know? I’ve previously written on honouring the inner authority, yet here I became so invested in another’s experience. When it comes to God and spirituality, have I taken others’ word for it, to the point where I don’t even know what mine is?

Am I allowed a direct relationship with the divine? Do feelings of unworthiness block me from receiving this? Can I be unshakable in my faith, but not so rigid that I proclaim my way as the only way?

My spiritual search has been about undoing the ego – a constant, likely never-ending process. And with that comes humility. The ability to admit that I don’t know.

Here in the west we have so many philosophies, including yoga, to choose from. But does one or the other make me more ‘spiritual’ or ‘ascended’? Perhaps I don’t need to do so much, to try so hard. (I’m reminded of my trip to Italy, where I felt very connected to God while taking a break from all things I considered spiritual.)

On this planet of limitless preferences, I would think that there are endless ways to express and embody love. If God can feel this frequency in us, this sincere desire, maybe little else matters.

And here, technology becomes the blessing. Through sharing perspectives, it raises questions that – with conscious awareness – bring me deeper into my own truth.

a brand new set of keys

In the past week, every key on my ring has changed. I have a new job and place to live, and even the lock at my parents’ place – my childhood home – has been replaced.

I can’t help but feel this is somehow metaphoric.

Those who know me well are not surprised by these life changes; my good friends find my constant activity highly amusing. Others have commented that I’ve experienced two major life stresses – moving and a new job – in a very compressed period of time. (I didn’t tell them about the relationship change too.)

The shifts have been stressful, but also exciting. And they feel different somehow; like there is new energy coming in, rather than recycling the old. In recent months, I’ve been longing for a place to truly call ‘home’. I now see that having to unexpectedly move out of my previous place several weeks ago was a blessing in disguise, as it allowed me to find a more sacred, soul-nourishing space.

I’ve also been feeling the call to perform work I can be proud of, something that contributes to the greater good. For many years, I spent time in long commutes to jobs that, after a short while, stopped being inspiring and stimulating. I’m currently working for an organization whose vision and mission I am passionate about, and it’s deeply satisfying to be part of something that feels historic and groundbreaking.

But within these changes, I’m ultimately craving simplicity. In a world that’s going madder and faster by the day, getting back to the basics – discovering what’s truly important – is essential for staying sane.

In synchronistic timing, during all this transition I read Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Kondo writes that putting one’s home in order can have dramatic, transformative effects in all areas of life. Like information overload clogging the mind, having too many possessions makes it unclear what we actually love…and so much of that extends way beyond material goods. If we don’t know what we love, how can we nurture it?

As I’ve sorted through clothes, books, papers, and miscellaneous items accumulated over the years, it’s become clear that holding on to belongings often stems from strong attachment to the past, or anxiety about the future.

And as I introduce items into my new space, I’m being very discriminating. Do I find it beautiful? Does it have some key functional purpose? Am I hesitant to let it go because I might need it someday? Will releasing it create room for something better (not necessarily a ‘thing’)?

One astrologer has referred to 2016 as the year of purification, and 2017 as the end of illusion. On a global level, it’s been said that horrific, unsettling events represent the darkness – the illusion of ego – coming to light. Will this pave the way for a golden age of humanity, as some suggest? I don’t know. There is a new age tendency to ‘acsension-ize’ things, and many ideas I once believed no longer resonate. My views on spirituality are transforming too.

Discernment, more than ever, is key. For me this means limiting my intake of the news and social media. I don’t think this is denial; it’s consciously being aware of fear propaganda and human programming. I’m taking more conscious responsibility for all my daily interactions and relationships, as this is where my real power lies.

My life experience is a projection of my inner thoughts and feelings…so if humanity truly is connected in oneness, I have faith that strengthening my piece of the hologram will have a positive ripple effect.

As I adjust to these new spaces, starting over again in many ways, all I can do is be easy on myself, trust that these changes are aligned with the greater good, and know that I am doing my best.

And enjoy opening some new doors.