About alohaleya

a spiritual girl in the digital world

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.

just. keep. writing.

Writer’s block is an enigmatic phenomenon. I could be out for a walk, on the bus to work, heck even at work doing my job, and in under a minute I’ll mentally write an entire blog post. The words and ideas stream in so fast I can’t possibly record them, but I promise myself I will later. I’ll remember this, I think. But when I sit down to write – nothing.

Earlier this week, my colleague – an amazing poet and teacher – spoke to a group of high school students visiting our university to learn more about our creative writing program. (A post on ‘worlds colliding’ should follow this one, as the students’ teacher is coincidentally my best friend, who now lives south of the border.)

I attended the session, but didn’t expect to be so personally impacted. When I was in high school, ‘creative writing’ wasn’t a thing. I remember English classes and learning about form, structure, and grammar…and we did do some writing…but for the most part, creative expression wasn’t truly nurtured or celebrated.

Juliet’s balcony in Verona, Italy.

I can’t help but wonder how different my younger years would’ve looked, had I been encouraged to experiment with all forms and genres in writing. If studying the craft had been presented as a valuable, worthy calling.

Of course, there’s no real point in going there. It’s easy to get carried away with the ‘what if’s, thinking we were somehow shortchanged in our past. But we can’t really know how things might’ve otherwise turned out. Maybe in the end it wouldn’t have made much difference.

My poet friend was so inspiring in encouraging the students to express themselves, and I ponder why writing – a process that can literally be a life-saver for some – often remains so elusive for those who love it most.

Is it vulnerability? Putting ourselves ‘out there’ in any capacity can be intimidating…but with writing, it feels heightened. It’s our heart and soul we’re baring, opening ourselves to others’ perceptions and projections. We tell ourselves not to get caught up in likes, follows (or unfollows), and comments…but how can we not be impacted by those things?

Is it perfectionism? We might think we don’t have time, or that we’re too stressed, to write. But maybe it’s fear: fear that our written word will never look as great as we hope and envision. Fear that someone will make a negative comment, or we’ll sound pretentious or get it wrong. Or, maybe worst of all – that we’ll be exposed as an imposter.

Blogging breaks are sometimes necessary…but I am feeling the creative muse’s call – no, order – to keep writing. It doesn’t have to be blog posts; it doesn’t have to ‘be’ or look like anything. It can just be for me.

When it comes to nurturing our passions, there is always time. But it is on us to carve it out. Fortunately we now have the world of WordPress, where everyone can express themselves to their heart’s content! It’s not too late.

For all those sensitive people so attuned to the reactions of others, I say… I get it. Express yourself anyway. It doesn’t matter if you’re not experienced or published or getting paid for it. If you’ve found something that gives you even the smallest hint of joy, DO IT. Don’t even question why.

It is meaningful, it does matter, and it is making a difference. Just keep writing.

success is in the heart

For the first time in my life, I have a job where people don’t say, “You’re capable of so much more.” After years of working in more junior roles at the same organization, a few months ago I accepted a management position in a field I’m passionate about. Finally, I thought. For the first time, I can be proud of what I do. I have my own office filled with plants and books – and business cards! I don’t have to explain my career choices anymore.

And yet, something feels off.

In my previous position, a colleague once said to me: “You don’t seem particularly career driven.” I don’t think this was meant offensively, but I was slightly triggered and pondered her words for some time after.

The fact is, she was right. When it came to a day job, I never wanted the responsibility that came with senior level roles. I was always content to serve in a more support-type capacity, because I didn’t want to carry home any unnecessary stress. I liked being behind the scenes. I took pride in doing a good job, and I could forget about work at the end of the day.

For the most part, I was always motivated by something else, something much deeper for me. It was a personal, inner – spiritual – search. This occupied most of my energy, and that was hard (and often pointless) to explain to those who were more outwardly focused and who questioned why I didn’t challenge myself more, work-wise.

Fundamentally, I also never cared about title and prestige. It was an interesting paradox to feel triggered by the opinions of those around me, yet know deep in my heart that it ultimately means nothing. I understood I was so much more than my career.

Now here I am poised for change yet again, and I ask myself (yet again): what do I really want? Can I feel and follow the beat of my own drum, unplugging from others’ notions of what ‘success’ looks like? Seeds have been planted, and movement in a new direction is imminent. This involves leaving the company I’ve been with for many years and starting over in a new organization.

As I previously wrote, my home environment is changing too. In these times of upheaval all around, some of us are moving back to our roots (as the wonderful Laura mentions in her comment on my post). I’ve been spending time in the very neighbourhood I grew up in and, more than ever, it feels like home.

For so many years, I wanted to live anywhere but there. I had visions of starting life over in a foreign country where I knew no one and had no shackles of the past. And now, the place I grew up is the only place I want to be. I’m seeing my childhood, and the awesome beauty that surrounded me, with new and appreciative eyes.

In a way, it feels like rewriting time and history.

My friends laugh at me for moving and changing jobs so much. And yes, I am feeling a bit exhausted and want some stability. But then, is anything really stable these days? Can we accept that flux is the new norm? Though this little birdy is looking for a place to nest, she will always be grateful for the ability to fly to new surroundings and expand her horizons.

For now, my new direction feels good and as long as I trust my heart and intuition, I can’t go wrong.

the fires of kali

It’s curious that the things we most love to do often get pushed to the back burner during times of stress. This post is my attempt to reconnect with blogging, a bright spot in my life – but one I’ve neglected these past few weeks!

Like many others, I’ve experienced some big life changes and it’s taken most of my energy to keep up with my day-to-day routine during all the transition. Last month, I moved homes yet again. Those who know me will probably find this amusing, as I change addresses more frequently than anyone I know…but these particular circumstances were unsettling and threw me off center. The silver lining? I’ve discovered that I’m getting tired of being a gypsy. I’m craving a real sanctuary, somewhere I can land at the end of the day and truly call ‘home’. I’m intrigued at what this realization might bring!

The past is certainly coming up for re-evaluation and reconfiguration. An old flame recently returned to my life, and the relationship is evolving into something new. Is it resurrection or completion? It is hard not to ask such questions, but of course only time will tell.

technicolor kali, sonja picard

Through all of this, I’ve been feeling goddess Kali’s strong presence. Kali, the destroyer of all that is old, tired, and decayed. Her sword slashes my ego to the core, over and over again, making it excruciatingly uncomfortable to remain in habitual reactions and beliefs. She asks me: Is this really what you want? How uncomfortable does it have to get? What are you sacrificing? Is it worth it?

This all sounds intense, and it is. But there’s also been so much beauty and healing these past couple of months. My external situations are no doubt mirroring the shifts on the inside, and while this often feels stressful and exhausting, I welcome it. Things have to get completely shaken up to settle in their new and rightful places. (I’m seeing snow globes.)

Kali asks: What do you want? I usually go blank at this question. Is it because I don’t know, or I don’t feel worthy of having it, or because it’s never been about external things? Probably.

What I want is to feel my connection with my source, my creator – God – more than ever before. To use the collective chaos and turmoil as the catalyst for delving deeper into my own Self. And that means trusting my own guidance and authority, something I’ve written about before, and is more crucial than ever.

Having said that, perhaps it’s also time to start creatively dreaming about those externals! I’m feeling renewed excitement in reviving plans and projects that I shelved a while back. Doing things for the sheer enjoyment they bring, like writing and blogging. Perhaps these times present a golden opportunity, a fruitful time to plant seeds that will grow into something big. The old hardened roots have to be dug up first, leaving what looks to be a huge mess…but it’s actually the fertile soil for great beauty. Summer feels ripe for the picking.

Jai, Kali Ma.

they throw darts, you throw flowers

The world feels intense these days, and I am grateful for the little things. It never ceases to amaze me how simple interactions with strangers can lift my spirits immensely.

I was reminded of the words in this post’s title last weekend, when I bought my mom some beautiful flowers from Whole Foods. As I carried the bouquet on the bus to see her, I felt strangely, pleasantly disarmed. People around me seemed to smile more. An older woman commented on the flowers, and I responded that they were for my mother’s birthday. The woman’s whole being seemed to perk up. I should carry around flowers more often, I thought.

birthday flowers

birthday flowers

A couple of weeks before that, my city was hit with a big snowstorm. We are a city unaccustomed to snow, and walking up a steep hill early one Saturday morning, I passed several people shovelling their icy, slushy sidewalks. I smiled and thanked each of them for making it easier to walk, as many of us pedestrians had been slipping and sliding everywhere. Some of them, I could tell, were a little caught off guard.

Earlier that morning I’d been cursing the snow…but as I arrived at my coffeeshop, I realized I’d just had 5 or 6 conversations that I normally wouldn’t have. Usually I am wearing my headphones, immersed in my own world. It seemed the snow was showing me something very important. Look around. The opportunity to connect is everywhere.

After all these interactions, I felt really good. My spirit was flooded with a surge of energy. We might think that, in these heavy and chaotic times, we need big actions to effect change. But maybe the simplest connections are those that produce miracles. Who knows what quantum shifts might occur if everyone smiled at, or initiated pleasant conversation with, at least one stranger per day? Anything could be the tipping point.

They throw darts, you throw flowers. These words were repeated several times during a Landmark seminar I attended a few years ago. It’s easier said than done to live this way. It takes a lot to not strike back when we’re provoked. But with daily practice we might become more comfortable with throwing flowers in dark days.

And now I’m reminded of another Whole Foods moment. (Yes, I spend a lot of time there.) The barista making my coffee looked down and smiled serenely when I asked her how her morning was going. “It’s the greatest day ever,” she said. Her words were so calm, so quietly confident, that I really believed her. All day I repeated to myself, It’s the greatest day ever. And you know what? I had a great day. She had somehow convinced me in her undramatic certainty.

I beamed when I saw her a few weeks later, as we passed each other walking across one of my favourite bridges. Whatever she’d meant that morning, it had a positive effect.

Never underestimate the power of words in life’s most seemingly mundane situations…

I’m gonna go smile at a stranger now.

it’s not you, it’s the dopamine

It’s been several months since I went off Facebook. Do I miss it? Sometimes, yes. I wavered a few weeks ago, when my father excitedly shared photos of his home country, taken by an old school chum. (My dad doesn’t even have a cell phone.) Some of my friends are doing amazing work, and I’d love to share their projects with the wide social network I previously had. And of course, I’ve missed out on a ton of events in my community. (Not to mention, my birthday is coming up…who doesn’t love a Facebook birthday!?)

I recently watched the above Youtube in which Simon Sinek discusses the topic of millennials in the workplace. Sinek asserts that millennials, being born into a techno world where “everything has a filter,” find difficulty in creating and maintaining meaningful relationships. Virtual friendships have supplanted real ones, and self-esteem is largely based on social media popularity (or lack thereof).

The arrival of a text or a ‘like’ signals the production of dopamine, a ‘happy hormone’. In Sinek’s view, allowing young people unrestricted access to social media is akin to leaving the liquor cabinet wide open. The fixation on likes, follows, and comments – the addiction to dopamine hits – may numb whatever pain is held inside. Millennials are accused of a sense of entitlement, but deep down, many struggle to find true meaning in life. Their mobile device has become the measure of their self-worth.

I’m not a millennial; I lovingly remember growing up in a pre-cell phone ’80s world. But I can totally relate to this video. I deactivated my Facebook account last year because I didn’t like how I felt when using it. I was tired of the inauthenticity…but how could I judge others’ inauthenticity, when I myself was pretending?

Why could be so open on my blog, but so heavily filtered on Facebook? In my previous post, Infinity Beckons commented: “[A] blog is social media too, but anonymity seems not to feed the ego in the same way Facebook does…and often reveals the musings of the writers inner core rather than that of the external ‘I’”.

These words spoke to me. It’s wonderful to have a platform to express one’s true self. It’s not narcissistic; I believe it has to do with our soul’s natural inclination to expand, to self-express. Through writing, we share our unique essence with the world – how cool is that? For some of us, the blogosphere is the first place we’ve been able to do this. I’ve always seen bloggers as points of light connecting with their communities, all over the globe.

There are stories of great civilizations whose downfall was the rapid advance in technology. These highly evolved societies created revolutionary technology, but couldn’t sustain it because ego got in the way. Farfetched? I wonder.

Without this amazing Internet, I couldn’t write these particular words, and you couldn’t read them. Distance is no longer a factor in human connection, and that’s kinda miraculous. And yet, there’s a flip side. If technology is simultaneously used as a means of spreading fear and degradation, then…whoa. Look at our world today. It takes a conscious species to use this tool wisely.

I’m not anti-Facebook; I know miracles happen there too. But I have noticed that more and more people are questioning their usage of that particular medium.

I do think humans will pass this technology experiment. And I may reappear on Facebook as suddenly as I disappeared…but only if I’m confident I can be a compassionate, conscious presence.

For now, life still feels pretty good without it.