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.

the sword of the feminine

A few years ago, during my first Ayahuasca journey, I was shown the image of a sword. I’d never seen anything like it before. It was a work of art, beautifully silver and encrusted with jewels and crystals. I understood that this was not a weapon of destruction; it was the sword of love, cutting through all illusion. The sword of the Feminine.

I think about this sword often. Sometimes I feel it as an etheric presence behind or above me. The image was/is so pristine and powerful, merely remembering it brings me comfort and relief. The sword itself is a remembrance of something I intuitively understand but can’t quite articulate.

It’s interesting to think about the sword now, because my perceptions of the Divine Feminine and Masculine are shifting. I’m realizing that I don’t actually know what the Divine Feminine and Masculine are. It’s kind of humorous and humbling to admit that, because I’ve written about these concepts numerous times on my blog.

shakti's garden by sonja picard

shakti’s garden by sonja picard

For several years, I took part in women’s circles and gatherings. And during my Kundalini Yoga teacher training, I had many ideas for women’s workshops. But something happened earlier this summer. I went off most social media and entered major hermit mode. I had no desire to participate in or facilitate women’s gatherings. I actually felt hostile to the idea. I found myself going within to what seemed like a very frustrated, depressed place. Was this self-sabotage? Fear of change? Remnants of ancient patterns? Addiction to familiar emotions?

I realized that despite all the work, at my core I didn’t feel anything ‘Divine Feminine’ about myself.  How could I then encourage the divine in others, or see the divine in men? It’s not that I felt like a fraud…but ‘Divine Feminine’ and ‘Divine Masculine’ had become concepts I’d used and heard so many times that they no longer held meaning for me. I had thought that these spiritual principles, and others, transcended duality – but perhaps they just reinforced it.

I do believe in a Divine Feminine and Masculine essence within each one of us, which we project outward to co-create reality. But experiencing our essence is a deep and personal journey that goes beyond ‘spiritual’ or new age concepts (e.g., idealized depictions of gods and goddesses). And it takes time. Humanity has run on certain archetypes and beliefs for eons; some are loving and some are not. Can we create new archetypes, and are we ready to?

There is tremendous power in women’s circles, and I know these will re-emerge in my life, in some form, when the timing feels right. I know I don’t have to have all the answers, because I never will (and that’s so not the point). I also think more men’s groups and retreats would be very helpful. The men I know who’ve participated in such groups embody something that is truly…well, ‘divine’ is the word that comes to mind.

I believe the sword of the Feminine is guiding me to her truth and essence, which is in harmony with the Masculine. That harmony creates something new, beyond the labels and categories of duality.

We have seen so much of humanity’s darkness coming to the surface this year. I have my thoughts on the force of patriarchy, but I don’t want that to keep the ‘us against them’ dynamic alive in my psyche. I have observed the darkness within myself and, as uncomfortable as it’s been, it does feel like my process is creating more space within.

The challenge for me is to remain open and trusting in this space, not wanting to immediately fill it with anything, even ‘love’ or ‘light’ (which can be further conceptualizations of the mind). The space itself is highly intelligent, and from this place we can create relationships beyond what we’ve ever known.

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.