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 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.

a compassionate february

I have been waiting for February. February feels like fresh air and moving forward. Not ‘moving forward’ as in doing a bunch of things; in fact, as I write these words, I feel utterly exhausted. I can barely grasp the gravity of what’s happening in the U.S., and the tragedy of the Quebec mosque shootings. It’s all slammed me in a way I wasn’t expecting.

Which is why I’m taking extra care to be aware of, and conserve, my energy as much as possible. 2016 brought into sharp focus the consequences of not honouring my energy. So much of my attention was directed outward, and I felt the severe financial, emotional, and spiritual impact. What I thought made me feel good was actually draining my life force, slowly but surely. By the end of 2016, I was running on empty.

It’s hard to imagine 2017 being more intense than last year – but it likely will be. How are we going to handle it? I don’t tune in to social media or the news, but that’s not necessarily the solution. This isn’t a time to bury my head in the sand. (It wouldn’t work anyway; I’d still feel what’s going on globally. We are interconnected.)

purple-tulips

January was about wrapping up loose ends and completing, or moving forward with, projects and commitments I’d procrastinated on. At times it felt like a bit of a slog…but I’m glad I took care of these things, because the more I clear the energetic cobwebs, the greater space I have within. And the better equipped I am to handle what 2017 will bring. The good, the bad, and the ugly/beautiful.

On another note – or maybe it’s completely related – I recently attended some mental health training sessions as part of my new job. Though I registered in these courses to assist those I work with, the training unexpectedly helped me on a very personal level. Not only did I come away with a greater empathy and understanding for those with mental health issues, I felt self-compassion and insight into my own journey.

We never know what’s going on in someone’s interior world. Our assumptions, wounds, and projections are so strong that we can completely miss the humanity in another (and in ourselves). These past few weeks I’ve realized that I often assume others are ‘okay’, when maybe they’re really not. This all feels very timely and relevant to the world stage.

Many of us are grieving. Collective healing begins with self-compassion; when we acknowledge our own vulnerability, we recognize it in those around us. Compassion dissolves our hardened walls. When we cut out the superfluous ’stuff’ of our lives, we draw on our inner resources and share them with others. We become creative in totally new ways…creative with people, love, and relationships. We become leaders in our own lives.

Reaching out to others is courageous; it’s much more comfortable to stay in our cozy little spaces. But withdrawal and isolation won’t work. Our survival as a species – if that’s what we want – hinges on the awareness that we need each other, now more than ever. Baby steps quickly become leaps and bounds. Compassion is the way.

I wish everyone a peaceful February.

year of the jellyfish

It’s my 4th WordPress anniversary this week, and since we’re in a New Year month, it seems fitting to re-blog my very first post from 2013.

I had the sense, back then, that a new world was opening up. And now, 4 years later, with friends made around the world and so many stories shared, I have a newfound appreciation for those early words.

Reading that first post, it’s clear that I was feeling hope and relief in shedding some long-held beliefs; something had shifted within, and it was palpable. Looking back now, it’s like the stage was being set for me to discover just how deeply ingrained these beliefs were in me, and in my family, culture, and ancestry. These past few years have been about diving down, exploring, and uprooting.

I also see that my journey has taken on a new dimension since 2013: self-compassion, humility, and forgiveness have grown. I’ve learned that spirituality is not all ‘love and light’, and that spending time in the muck is an essential part of healing. Also, after years of resisting, I’m becoming much more comfortable with silence. Stillness speaks volumes.

Happy Anniversary, Happy 2017, and Happy Year of the Rooster! No doubt this upcoming year will be monumental. My intentions? To breathe, meditate, feel all my feelings, and remember I’m not alone. And oh yeah, to blog. 😉

Sat Nam, Namaste, Aloha. Thank you for reading!

alohaleya

jellyfish Image courtesy of wikimedia.org

a few years ago a relative told me i reminded her of a jellyfish.  i was confused and she explained: she saw me as translucent, a pearly bubble ready to burst with all the colour and potential and goodness inside me.  she said i couldn’t see it, but she could.  it was a sweet conversation and one i remember once in a while.

maybe it’s all the end-of-2012 talk, but lately i’m beginning to feel those colours emerging.

something has shifted. like i’m breathing a sigh of relief. like i made it to the other side of something. i don’t feel quite so intensely compressed, like i’m a tube of toothpaste and someone is trying squeeze every last bit out.   although everything looks the same, something unseen and profound feels to have taken place.

i can’t hold onto anything anymore. i can’t blame anyone anymore. i…

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