About alohaleya

a spiritual girl in the digital world

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.

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.

from karma to dharma

Through completing the final session of my Kundalini Yoga teacher training program last weekend, it’s become clear that my views on karma have significantly changed these last few months. Karma used to have very negative connotations (mostly surrounding punishment), and my chronic thoughts about it hung over me like a heavy cloud.

In my very first training session last October, I was hesitant to wrap my hair in a white cloth. I knew many Kundalini Yogis wore turbans, and in all my years of practice, I never saw myself doing that. But after a few days, I began to question why I was so resistant. And, near the end of our five-day session, I wrapped my hair on the top of my head.

My beautiful training group. I'm on the right.

My beautiful training group. I’m on the right.

It was very emotional for me. As a child, I was desperate to hide the fact that I was Indian. I wanted nothing more than to be white. I did everything I could to blend in, which, being brown-skinned, never really worked.

My intense feelings of powerlessness and separation – of feeling inherently inferior in my brownness – had become, in my mind, my karma. I didn’t belong anywhere on this planet, and there was nothing I could do about it.

These past few months have taken me on a journey of discovering the jewels of my ancestry, and what it means to be a woman – an Indian woman – in this day and age. It has been one intense, beautiful roller coaster ride as I unearth emotions buried deep within me, and in my ancestral line. Planet Earth is reawakening to the Divine Feminine – we know this. What truths can I now speak, that my ancestors could not?

Wrapping my hair was symbolic; it marked a return to myself.

A new path is emerging, one my childhood self couldn’t see. I have renewed hope of living from the oneness of which I am a part. I understand that I can’t be separate, because there is no separation – no matter how convincing the illusion, the maya, appears. Of course, my ego has a hard time with this. It wants to stay separate…to believe I’m inferior or superior, but never the same.

Karma used to feel like a curse, a burden – but I now see it as a gift, in that I’m totally responsible for all my thoughts, actions, and reactions in this here-and-now. I can do my best to live from my highest truth and consciousness, and correct anything I feel needs correcting. That doesn’t mean I’m always successful or that I live in ‘love light bliss’ all the time. It means I do my best.

And instead of obsessing about karma, I can choose to live my dharma.

My dharma is my purpose. It is the guiding factor in my life. It remained elusive for many years, but I’m starting to see it now. It’s what I’ve been doing all along. My dharma is not a job or a business or a project or a baby or any ‘thing’ out there. It is within. It is transforming all those things I once hated about myself into sources of strength, beauty, and love – in service to all.

Words cannot express my gratitude for my teachers, friends, and the sacred Kundalini Yoga teachings. I bow in deep reverence. Sat Nam.

when does karma become an excuse?

Karma’s been on my mind a lot lately. Through my yoga training these past few months, I’m opening to the idea of my dharma transforming my (perceptions of) karma. Given that it’s a full moon weekend, and the tail end of Mercury Retrograde, I thought I’d share this post from early in my blogging days. Though I can still relate to these words, I also see where so much has shifted. Here’s to transformation that serves our highest potential!

Sat Nam

alohaleya

The concept of karma has long played a central role in my life.  It imprinted on my psyche at a young age and has since shaped my identity.  My theories about what ‘my karma’ is have defined who I am and what I see myself as capable or deserving of in this lifetime.

Life experiences, mundane and significant, are often filtered through the lens of how they might relate to my karma. Maybe I have ‘unfinished business’ with so-and-so.  Maybe I did this to someone in a past life, so they’re doing it to me now.  Future plans and decisions are made with a cautionary inner voice: Maybe it’s not in your karma to do/have this.

Gold Parvati. Artst: Sonja Picard (www.sonjapicard.com) Gold Parvati. Artst: Sonja Picard (www.sonjapicard.com)

Where did this obsession with my karma originate? Ancestors, religion, society…an innocuous comment someone once made, which caused a fundamental rewire in my brain?

Does it…

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woman has to understand her role

Mary Magdalene, by Toni Carmine Salerno (with my modifications)

Mary Magdalene, by Toni Carmine Salerno (with my modifications)

“Woman has to understand her role. Her role is not to worship God; her role is to be the very self of God. Her oneness can affect and open every heart.” -Yogi Bhajan, 7/15/84

One of the reasons I’m most drawn to Kundalini Yoga is the emphasis on the exaltation of women. When Yogi Bhajan arrived in North America to introduce these teachings to the west, he did so with the intent of transforming women ‘from chicks into eagles’.

I do believe the Divine Feminine is making her presence known on the planet at this time. And for women and men heeding her call, it is not necessarily a gentle, airy-fairy, new age ‘goddess power’ experience. In fact, it is anything but that. It takes major guts, heart, and intuition to disentangle from a paradigm that’s been in place a very long time. (And radical self-honesty to see where we’ve played into it.)

I won’t lie: much as I love, and am very grateful for, all Yogi Bhajan’s beautiful words, I’ve also resisted them throughout these last few months of teacher training. Being of Indian ancestry, and experiencing its intense paradoxes about women, a part of me has become deeply cynical and mistrustful of male gurus (perhaps all men?) who extoll the virtues of the feminine. I.e., the philosophy hasn’t always matched ‘real life’.

But – all this is part of the healing. The Divine Feminine flame is compassionately melting those hardened, jaded places within me. I must acknowledge and feel the pain and grief that underlies any rage I’ve carried. I must be willing to release whatever has given me a false sense of power, so that the sacred feminine and masculine can manifest within, and on this planet. I must give up the compulsion to people please, and the need for approval. Survival no longer depends on it.

It’s not easy. It doesn’t happen overnight. But my glimpses of freedom keep me going. Shiva and Shakti are alive and well indeed.

Sat Nam

 

human teachers, spiritual honeymoons, and lone wolfs

A few weeks ago I published a post sharing some websites that I’ve been following for a while. Since that posting, Jenna Forrest has removed the majority of videos from her YouTube channel. In a recent message, she explains that she continually receives new information, and that some of her teachings (particularly those on twin flames) may have done more harm than good.

Jenna’s videos brought me much hope and comfort, and I was a little surprised that she took so many down – but I applaud her integrity and in some way feel relieved. We can easily become dependent on spiritual teachers, investing ourselves in those who are going through their own processes and who may not have the answers we seek.

if your presence doesn't work, nothing works

I believe that as a collective, humans are becoming more open to receiving knowledge that was once reserved for a select few (or intentionally kept secret). We’re realizing that we all have access to this information; we don’t need a spiritual ‘authority’ as an intermediary.

But this means there are a lot of people out there saying a lot of things…and without discernment we can become easily influenced and eventually disillusioned. Learning from each other is essential – but we’re still human beings with egos, motivations, and intentions we may not be consciously aware of. (Spirituality and yoga are big business.)

In general I’m finding that messages I was once very drawn to now hold less pull. I’ve written about spiritual information overload, and honouring the inner teacher, before – and this theme is only getting stronger in my life. With so many teachings at our disposal, our own voice can get lost in the noise.

I’m certainly not discounting teachers or teachings as a whole! I’m very grateful to those who have shared their knowledge with me. Kundalini Yoga in particular has helped me tune into my inner knowing in ways I couldn’t have imagined. I’m nearing the completion of my teacher training program and, since last October, I’ve meditated, practiced, and breathed more than I have in my entire life! At many points along the way, my mind, karma, and beliefs have felt more claustrophobic than ever…but then there’s an opening, and I find an expanded state.

I’ve met some amazing women and men, and seeds have been planted for future collaborations. I’m trying to not think too much about the future; many times I’ve gone through spiritual honeymoon phases, becoming enamoured with a particular teacher or teaching, only to have it fade away as something new is revealed. I wonder if this will happen here…and then stop myself. For now, I am enjoying this process immensely, and with much gratitude.

One theme that has repeatedly come up in our training: the time of the lone wolf is OVER. For humanity to evolve, it’s all about group consciousness. This can be tricky for those of us comfortable in our private little spaces, the introverts who are just fine going about this spiritual journey alone, thankyouverymuch.

This has been one of my main challenges but I’m slowly learning that it’s safe to come out of my cocoon and connect with others. It’s a vulnerable, uncomfortable, beautiful thing. I’m not saying we have to give up our privacy completely – but we do need to know when we’re isolating ourselves to a degree that’s not serving our highest purpose and potential.

Just some random thoughts. Life has been very busy with work and wrapping up my program. The next step is teaching an actual class! Pretty amazing to have reached this point.

Sat Nam (Truth is my identity)

[2017 update: https://alohaleya.com/2017/06/24/technology-the-divine-search/]

the heart is not what i thought

After publishing my post on the heart I didn’t know what to blog about next. Everything I attempted to write seemed conceptual and slightly pretentious – ironically, coming from my head and not my heart!

My mind has been my albatross, but for the most part it’s felt more comfortable than my heart or body. The torture of the mind is strangely safe, familiar. At least I know what to expect, and its endless analyses make me feel like I’m in control of my experience. Shifting the power to my heart is venturing into unknown territory. It’s a blank, open space in which the rules are totally different. (And I can’t know the rules in advance.)

infullbloom_bf

Of course living from the heart is about love. But so many of our ideas about love are bound up in the emotions. Most of the time, I don’t walk around in an emotionally loving state. I get highly triggered on a daily basis. And for a long time, I felt bad about this. But at some point I accepted that I just wasn’t capable of more. So I started to take the pressure off myself in situations where I felt upset. Spirit, I can’t feel loving right now, so help me be neutral. Neutrality is the best I can do.

It’s like I thought being neutral would take me into a more ‘loving’ state, i.e., it was step two of three. Trigger – neutrality – love. But through my yoga and meditation practice these past few months, I’m wondering if neutrality is the loving state. Perhaps the heart, at its very essence, is less emotional than I thought.

A neutral heart-space is the gateway for spirit. Divine love can enter more easily when we’re not jammed up with habitual thoughts and emotions (especially self-judgment or self-blame). We have more room to be the vessel for service and healing. We are purer channels of consciousness when our minds don’t hijack the process with ideas of how love ‘should’ look and feel. Neutrality allows higher truth to flow through, and the heart is the portal.

Neutrality can be very uncomfortable. Emotions want to rush in and fill the space, because being ‘empty’ can feel almost cruel, like we’re robotic or don’t care. We’d rather have a negative emotion than no emotion at all! But neutrality is not boring or apathetic or lacking feeling, as I long thought. It’s not suppression or avoidance. Neutrality is the willingness to fully feel all our feelings and let them work through our body and psyche, so that we become more clarified. From there we can access more refined states of compassion and empathy.

Emotions don’t disappear…they are beautiful. But the intense waves subside.

I think we need to be as clear, neutral, and calm as possible these days, in this volatile world. There’s a bigger picture at play – the shadow of humanity is being unearthed, and it’s easy to get swept up in the highly charged fears and emotions. Playing into the collective drama of separation only feeds the perpetual game of duality.

I don’t want to dissociate from the game, but I try to remember my limited human perspective. Staying neutral, while seeing our own shadow reflected around us, is perhaps the most loving thing we can do for ourselves and the planet.