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.

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 I 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.

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.

gratitude: 5 things to share

IMG_1030

There are so many wonderful gems on the internet and I would never run out of blog posts if I were to write about all of them. In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, it feels right to share just a few things I’m grateful for.

Blog: I have several WordPress faves but wanted to give a special shoutout to Linda at litebeing chronicles. Linda’s posts are deeply insightful, with a good measure of pop culture thrown in. There’s also astrology. 🙂 Linda’s been a big supporter of mine since early in my blogging days, and I’m very appreciative of her friendship, encouragement, and always thoughtful comments. Thank you Linda!

Just after writing this I found out Linda is in the hospital. We are sending you well wishes Linda.

Book: Dancing in the Bamboo Forest. This was written by DJ at djahariahmitra.com. After DJ read some of my earlier posts about India and my inklings to begin yoga teacher training, she generously sent me a copy of her memoir documenting her travels and yoga experiences in India. I resonated deeply with so much of her inner and outer journey. It rekindled my desire to visit Mother India again, hopefully soon…

DJ’s book also inspired me to keep writing. So many of us want to write a book – let’s just do it! Who knows who our words will help. The purpose of creativity is to share.

Youtube: emergegrowprosper. I’ve been following Jenna Forrest’s teachings for about a year now and I’m so thankful for this channel. Jenna shares the (love) awakening process from the point of view of a highly sensitive empath. Her teachings are clear and profoundly healing in their depth and simplicity. For such cosmic and spiritual subject matter, she is very down-to-earth and practical. Jenna doesn’t advertise and she’s not on Facebook; her channel is growing primarily through the strength of her classes and messages.

Documentary: The True Cost. Thanks to my friend AM for telling me about this one. This documentary explores the impact of the fashion industry on the environment and the human beings who produce the clothes. It is a game-changer in the way I shop, and the stores I visit. (Whenever a friend  tries to get me to go into H&M, I mention this documentary.) As an Indian woman, the film hit me especially hard as I saw how I’ve been playing into the suppression and violence of my Indian sisters across the globe.

Many of us are already aware of this issue – sweatshops aren’t exactly a secret – but for me it was a major wakeup call.

Website: What can I say, I love The Power Path! I’ve been trying to not overdo it with the spiritual articles and websites, but Jose and Lena Stevens’ moon updates, monthly forecasts, and monthly articles are always inspiring and insightful. They don’t sugarcoat the chaos of the paradigm shift we’re all experiencing (and co-creating), and their shamanic perspective and practical advice helps me navigate this grand adventure on planet earth.

Thank you, Internet! ❤

And of course, I’m grateful for the teachings of Kundalini Yoga. I’m currently immersed in the next module of my teacher training program, now in a different city, with all new people. It is a complete contrast to the intimate, cozy retreat setting I’d become accustomed to. But so far I’m enjoying the shift in perspective, and meeting some amazing yogis. The only constant is change…

india is awakening within

Adjusting to ‘normal’ life after completing the first module of my Kundalini Yoga teacher training program has been…well, there are no words. And there are so many words. My whole being feels very full of insights, knowledge, understanding, and gratitude.

Being sequestered for five days in a house full of yogis, with daily meditations starting at 4am, physically challenging classes, and yes, a snoring roommate, put me out of my comfort zone in a big way. I embraced it all as gracefully as I could – though there were definitely a couple of clunky moments!

Me in India, in 2010

Me in India, in 2010

My Kundalini adventure is just beginning. I have three more modules to complete, plus daily homework of yoga, reading, and meditation till the program finishes in May 2016.

I’m seeing why it took the amount of time it did for me to get here. The seeds of this journey were planted over ten years ago, when I took my first Kundalini Yoga class and knew there was something very special about the technology. Even then I knew that this path couldn’t be pursued halfheartedly; it requires a level of commitment and discipline that I wasn’t prepared for until now. Actually, I still feel unprepared – but that’s a story of limitation I’m ready to break through.

I understand why I’ve spent so many years alone, exploring different teachings, and delving into my shadow and dark feelings. It’s all been preparation for a new way of being.

‘Surrender’ and ‘trust’ are recurring themes in the blogs I read. If humanity is indeed evolving in consciousness, we must let go of the idea that God/Universe/Source is out to get us. That is an old paradigm. We’re moving into the deep knowing that we are fundamentally good and not fundamentally flawed (as many traditional religions would have us believe). We’re much more than the duality we live in.

To surrender and trust means giving up the need to control every facet of our lives (or rather, releasing the illusion that that’s even possible). During our morning mediations, I felt so much tension in my face…clenched jaw, scrunched up eyes…the stress of thinking, worrying, and holding on. My body is so ready to let that all go.

Our beautiful teacher training room

Our beautiful teacher training room

We don’t need to try so hard; the universe remembers connections we’ve made and seeds we’ve planted. Last month I received an unexpected email from a former employer, asking if I’d be interested in writing a blog post for her spiritual travel company. For a time I’d worked as the company’s social media coordinator, and blogging was my favourite aspect of that role. I was very happy to have that opportunity arise once again.

I found myself writing about India. She is playing a very big role in my life right now, as I study the yogic teachings and feel the presence of my ancestors all around me. I’m discovering a part of myself that I buried a long time ago. India is awakening within.

Nothing is ever lost, if it’s in alignment with who we really are and what we love to do. Things are always cycling back to us in newer, more refined forms as we experience, learn, and clarify. It’s about shifting the power from the mind to the heart.

Time to head to my local Kundalini Yoga class – today’s homework! 🙂

Until next time,
Aleya

Here’s my guest post for Sacred Earth Journeys: http://www.sacredearthjourneys.ca/blog/indias-cosmic-winks-a-story-from-a-past-participant/.

(spiritual) information overload

Back in March, a dear friend invited me to a new moon/birthday celebration where we were treated to a heavenly meditation in a salt cave, divine live music, and a beautiful despacho ceremony.

As part of the evening, we also chose angel cards and shared them as a group. I picked Archangel Metatron, whose message for me was ‘Prioritize’. Ugh, how boring, I thought. I would’ve preferred something much sexier, like ‘Cosmic Power’ or ‘Twin Flame’…but looking back on the past few months, I see just how apt this card was. I’ve lived in three different places since then, and life has been an ongoing process of clearing out, paring down, and de-cluttering.

It hasn’t just been about physical ‘stuff’. Over the summer I began to feel overloaded with commitments that my heart wasn’t into anymore. Thinking about all I ‘had’ to do left me feeling drained, with little drive to pursue any of it. So bit by bit, I let certain responsibilities go. It wasn’t easy. I felt guilt that I was letting down people whom I’d committed to. I felt like a flake.

But now, settling into my current living space, with minimal possessions around me, clarity is sinking in. I can see that I’ve been whittling away the outer noise in response to my soul’s desire to be heard.  I’ve chosen to bring with me the things I find most beautiful…the colours and books and art I truly love, that harmonize with me.

One of my favourite images, from my trip to India

One of my favourite images, from my 2010 trip to India

There’s a lot of information out there about a new earth – a 5D paradigm we are collectively awakening to.  Sitting here in my temporarily Internet-less apartment, I know I’ve been on information overload. I need to digest rather than consume these spiritual concepts. I’m understanding that this new world can only be created from within me. I need to feel that world in my body rather than compute it in my head.

I’m also seeing themes of sloppiness versus integrity in my life. Where have I been cutting corners and settling for ‘good enough’ when I know more is possible? Where can I take greater personal responsibility and create a higher standard in the way I interact with others, myself, and the planet?

And when does taking personal responsibility morph (in my own mind) into being ‘too hard’ on myself? Am I really being too hard, or am I being brutally and lovingly honest, sensing my divine potential to live more compassionately, joyfully, powerfully, simply?

Since registering for my Kundalini Yoga teacher training program, I’m feeling all this more intensely. I’m nervous, which could be a good sign. I sense I will be confronted with things I won’t be able to ignore, numb, or justify. I know the training will take me deeper into myself and enable me to stand more firmly in my own truth, as it is being revealed. For this I am grateful, excited, and hopeful that the world(s) I discover within will manifest without.

Now to find some wifi…