don’t hate the media, become the media

Last week I happened upon an unexpected sight: an urban labyrinth. I was walking to work on my favourite bridge, when I noticed the spiral design on the grassy bank below. Funnily enough, this was virtually the same place I spotted a random black (lucky) rabbit a few years ago.

The irony wasn’t lost on me that, in my hurry, I quickly took a photo and moved on. For it’s my understanding that labyrinths are contemplative in nature, meant to be walked purposefully, symbolizing the journey to the centre of oneself.

Several years ago, I competed a program in Digital Communications. Here we learned about all aspects of social media and design. I enjoyed the training and excitedly wrote about it here on this blog.

I’ve been pondering this experience a lot lately, because my views on technology have changed so much since then. I won’t repeat what I’ve shared in more recent posts, but suffice it to say that I’ve limited my time on social media, eliminating the platform that drained the most energy.

I’m also becoming increasingly aware of, and disturbed by, the extent to which certain sites are intentionally designed to encourage addiction and consumption through use of colour, design, and various other manipulative tactics.

So much of this happens at an unconscious level. I’ve observed my own tendency to automatically reach for my phone or mindlessly surf when I’m waiting for…anything. This mindlessness, this habitual stimulus-response pattern, feels dangerous.

What are the consequences of having our emotions and brain chemistry played with? How does it affect our ability to create true community, consciousness, and empathy? Is technology bringing to light our darkness, or creating it through repetitive stimulation of our reptilian cortex?

Loving communications as I do, there definitely are aspects of technology that tickle me. Like blogging. And when I’m beading – itself a meditative practice – I listen to inspiring interviews and podcasts. It’s illuminating to get perspectives from those with lived experience and wisdom different from my own. It’s expanding, enlightening, and feeds my curiosity.

In two interviews I’ve listened to – one featuring the fabulous Danielle LaPorte, the other referencing Jello Biafra’s statement ‘Don’t hate the media, become the media,’ the message is clear: We are the new media.

I love that. Mainstream media may be controlled by the few, and we’re extensively tracked and monitored online…but we are the users, the broadcasters. We have the power and agency to express ourselves. The mass challenge seems to be expressing ourselves with thoughtfulness, kindness, and accountability.

Perhaps more challenging: How do I bring kindness into my day-to-day interactions? It’s easy to espouse my views behind my screen, from the comfort of my own home. How do I deal with the tension that’s happening out there in the physical world? It’s often the most mundane activities – our commutes, at work, in line at the grocery store – that test us.

Circling back to the labyrinth (hehe). If I had ‘more time’, would I have stopped to contemplate it? I don’t know that I would. But hey – I noticed that about myself. I noticed that I want to feel more contemplative and in my body. I noticed that I’d like to slow down instead of feeling that general, unnecessary sense of rush.

And I noticed that I’m beginning to do that, in my own way.

In one post I alluded to stories of ancient civilizations that self-destructed because they couldn’t manage the advanced technologies they’d developed. Those tales once seemed farfetched. I don’t necessarily feel humanity is doomed to this fate, but I do think escaping it requires awareness like never before.

Destruction is not about robots or AI taking over. It’s about humans forgetting compassion.

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every exit is an entry

I saw the above street art last week while walking a new route to work. ‘Every exit is an entry somewhere else’ – yes! I immediately took a photo, loving the random surprises that can happen when I vary my daily routine even just slightly.

In my last week at my previous job, we held a three-day conference for health care professionals. For this event, we brought in vendors to sell some beautiful products. I purchased a pair of unique earrings – one of which unfortunately broke the next morning.

I wasn’t looking forward to asking for my money back, or for a repair (I couldn’t find the missing piece), even though I knew this was the perfectly reasonable thing to do. I was readying myself to approach the vendor, when the thought crossed my mind: Why don’t you make something with this?

The week before, I’d visited a crafts store and purchased a lotus-motif charm. I’d recently been spending more time in such shops, looking at all the different products, soaking up the creative potential in the air. I took apart the earring that night and reworked it to make a pendant. I liked it much better than the earrings I’d originally purchased.

The floodgates opened.

I am now obsessed with making jewelry. Reading about it, watching YouTube tutorials, dismantling necklaces I no longer wear and re-stringing them into bracelets, visiting thrift stores to repurpose items, even unearthing the beads I bought way back in my teenage years.

It’s illuminating to resume a hobby I was passionate about when I was younger. As a teenager, my biggest loves included writing, beading, and being part of a drama (theatre) group. When I look back now, it seems that these activities stopped abruptly, though I can’t pinpoint where.

I’ve been connecting with my teenage self a lot lately; that potent time where I began to discover what I was naturally drawn to. That precious window where I explored my hobbies with excitement and no filters. There didn’t have to be an end product or a known purpose; I was just having fun.

Every exit in an entry somewhere else. I’ve learned a lot in the work I’ve done over the years, and have met so many kind and lovely people…but I don’t think I will ever return to a full-time office job. Being immersed in a truly engaging, creative pastime these past few weeks – staying up late, forgetting to eat, being consumed with making – has made me realize how long it’s been since I’ve felt so much like ‘me’. I want more of it.

Here’s to budding creations, on this new moon and in this new season.

i’m a writer…?

In my new job, I’m surrounded by young visual artists, many of whom are working on their writing. At a staff meeting last week, we were asked to consider the concept of ’the writer’. What does a writer look like? Where are they, and who is around them? Next, we were asked to recall the last time we wrote, and visualize that scene – where we were, who we were with, the sounds around us, etc.

The exercise was telling; for most of us, the scenes of ‘a writer’ and ‘ourselves writing’ were quite different. One woman pictured a Stephen King-type character, drafting a bestseller on a typewriter in an old study filled with mahogany furniture and leather-bound books.

My concept of the writer was more bohemian; philosophers in Parisian cafes recording their observations on human nature, art, and politics. Though this image morphed into a modern-day version of me, it still didn’t match where I actually last wrote: my previous job, a place I was unhappy in, drafting a blog post on my work email between meetings and daily duties.

Writing got me through the day.

a collage

As I shared in my last post, I left that job a few weeks ago, largely because I had little creative juice left at the end of the day to pursue my other loves – those endeavours known and unknown, longing to be explored.

My new position doesn’t require much writing, but I’m surrounded by creative colleagues who are eager to learn more about my personal practice. And every time they express interest in my writing, I hesitate. I’m fascinated by this continual reluctance to see myself as one of these talented, artistic people!

Our meeting activity really illuminated how pervasive and insidious certain labels can be. But it also helped me realize that, when I’m composing a blog post, I am a writer. I’m choosing to write because I love to write. It doesn’t matter where I am, who I’m with, what I’m wearing. It doesn’t matter if I do it daily or how many words I type or who’s writing more or less. In that moment, I am a writer.

I could go further, but I discovered a post from my early blogging days that totally captures what I want to say. It’s a timeless reminder from 5-years-ago me to my present self (I love it when that happens!):

We are all creative.

No labels required.

choked by the pink collar

Emotional Labour. A friend introduced this term to me a while back, during a time I was employed in a job I wasn’t happy in. Well, some days I was happy. Other days – most days – I was miserable, drained, and frustrated. The constant back-and-forth in my experience – the love/hate relationship with my work and what I felt it demanded of me every day – resulted in what could aptly be described as ’emotional labor’.

I’d been performing the same type of job for years, albeit in different environments, and I was finding it increasingly hard to continue the same routine. Every day my head would battle my heart in a ‘should I stay or should I go’ debate.

I left that job a few weeks ago. I was passionate about the vision of the organization, but that wasn’t enough.

It’s not the first time I’ve quit my job; and in previous instances, I’ve eventually returned to the same type of environment. And I understand why.

Through conversations with friends and loved ones, I know that so many of us have incredibly wonderful interests and desires, innovative business ideas that we know would fill our spirits and benefit the world around us. We want to feel that our work has meaning, and brings our particular vision of beauty to this planet.

We know the old structures are crumbling. We are aware of the early conditioning and mass programming that keeps us repeating the same patterns, and we work to shift that. But transformation doesn’t happen overnight. And in the meantime, there are bills to pay.

Things have changed so much in one generation, and the world today is very different from that of our parents. What is true security, in these times?

After the novelty of each new workspace wore off, I realized how bored I was. I also found myself straining to be nice all the time. Being ‘nice’ wasn’t in my job description, of course; but given the roles I was in, it was the underlying expectation.

Women often find themselves doing ‘pink collar’ work – jobs that are service-oriented and call for a perpetually pleasant and accommodating demeanour. For a long time I prided myself on being these things. Now I realize how unnatural this is. Sitting in front of a computer screen, indoors, under fluorescent lights, supporting people doing the work they are passionate about…it had taken an energetic and physical toll.

So many of us sense there must be something more. There is a heightened sense of urgency.

For the unfulfilled among us – it is our responsibility to step out of our secure, familiar ways and create the new. We already know this. It requires courage, entering discomfort zones, finding those whose vision aligns with ours, and trusting the universe. Easier said than done, maybe. But imperative, definitely.

It’s not frivolous to want joyful work. If consciousness is evolving and a new paradigm is emerging in all this chaos, it makes sense that all our creations, including our work, would align with this energy. In most of my conversations, a meaningful career has far less to do with individual wants and desires, and more about making the human experience better for all.

The un-learning and deconstructing of the past is important. So is patience and self-compassion. I don’t have any how-to’s or solid next steps. I only know that every minute is precious, and I must get these words out.

this blog’s about me…but aren’t i you?

I’ve written numerous times that one of my favourite things about blogging is connecting with kindred spirits across the globe. Through sharing in each other’s journeys, I’ve learned much about myself and others.

For the most part, comments on my posts are supportive and uplifting. But there is the odd time an observation rubs me the wrong way. In those instances, I have to step back and contemplate why I feel triggered. Usually, when a nerve is struck, that nerve was sensitive to begin with.

In my most recent post, I refer to my blog’s tagline, ‘wearing her heart on her blog’. This is a personal blog…recording my spiritual journey and my innermost thoughts. I don’t share it with friends, nor do I post (much) on social media. But I have many moments where I question the need to share myself so openly on the world wide web. Am I seeking external approval and validation? What is the root of my desire to self-express? To be liked? To channel my soul’s essence, for some larger purpose my conscious mind may not be aware of?

A recent comment prompted me to ask myself these questions yet again. It was pointed out that my blog, and whatever else gives me online attention, is feeding my ego and stimulating unnatural dopamine production. This wasn’t written in a particularly nasty way, but I admit, I got my back up. My mind immediately came up with some defensive replies, but I knew this was the lizard brain’s habitual reaction…so I waited it out. Any strong emotional response on my part was likely due to fear that the commenter’s suggestions were true.

And you know what I felt, underneath it all? Shame. My deepest insecurities about sharing myself openly – that I would be attacked, that people would think I was narcissistic and self-centered, that I was an imposter – came to the surface. Ancient wounds activated. I felt exposed. Deeply embarrassed. How many people feel this way about me? 

This blog is about me…but my main impetus is to create and foster connection. I struggle with many things as a sensitive being on planet earth, and I sense many others do too. In writing my words, I am helping others feel less alone, and in their responses to me, I feel less alone. It’s a creative endeavor that brings some hope and relief to a psyche that often feels quite heavy. It’s a joint venture.

Does ego come into it? Of course. And this too is something I’ve addressed several times. It would be foolish to state that my sharing can be completely ego-free. I’m a human being. Ego comes with the territory. I like ‘likes’. I take things personally. I get attached. I’m working on it, but I’m also trying to be easier on myself. Ego’s a beast I wrestle every single day, and I often fight myself much too hard.

I’m glad I was prompted to write this post. I feel clearer on my own motivations, and the charge I felt has dissipated. (Writing is so cathartic!) Like it or not – and I mostly like it – technology is here, and with social media comes a level of human interaction we haven’t yet experienced. It takes adjustment. It takes responsibility and mindfulness. And it takes supreme kindness, towards ourselves and others.

In Lak’ech. I am another you.

wearing her heart on her blog

Last week I received a ‘Happy Anniversary’ notification from WordPress. In December 2012 I created my account, though I didn’t actually post till the following month. Blogging still feels like a recent endeavor; certainly not something I started five years ago! I continue to meet new bloggers and friends, and learn more about myself as I write my own process.

An anniversary is always a particularly good time to reflect. There’s no question that blogging’s opened up my life in many ways, and for that I am truly grateful. But at several points along the way I’ve thought about taking an extending break, or even quitting entirely. I’ve often felt over-exposed and vulnerable. Or, I’ve put so much pressure on myself for posts to be perfect, that I’m exhausted before I even start writing!

So for 2018, I’m asking myself: can I re-make blogging a joyful priority?

Back in my early WordPress days, I would read articles with advice on blogging. These were instrumental in helping me understand the platform, and I did learn some useful tips. But I soon realized that I needed to form my own blogging conventions, appropriate to my life and the nature of my writing.

sonia picard’s ‘technicolor durga’

For example, I’d read that to gain readers and followers, it’s important to post frequently. This doesn’t work for me. Given that I mostly write about personal topics, it would be too emotionally taxing to continually write about my inner process. To post for the sake of posting wouldn’t be authentic, especially if I was motivated by the sense that I ‘should’, or the desire to have more followers. (‘Should’ automatically invokes resistance anyway.)

In social media, it’s generally accepted that more followers = better. Maybe I’m overthinking it, but I quite often ask myself: why? What is the deeper need there…why does it matter? Will it mean something when I’ve hit a certain number? Will I feel more validated? (Actually, I’m not overthinking it. Without mindfulness, ego runs amok.)

I try to view all this with self-compassion and understanding. Of course it feels good to receive likes and follows! It’s hard to not make it about other people. We don’t live in isolation; we’re in a relational, hyper-connected world. I am choosing to share my thoughts on the Internet, after all; others are participating.

And for many of us, blogging is perhaps the only arena we feel most understood. Connecting to kindred spirits across the planet is amazing, and one of my favourite things about this medium. The likes, comments, and follows do mean something, when they’re authentically given and received.

But as soon as I’ve made it solely about other people, blogging loses its spark. When it involves comparison and perfectionism, it becomes heavy. A blogigation.

Writing the perfect post isn’t possible. There will forever be tweaks and adjustments to improve it. Someone else will have better photos, more likes, be making money off their blog, etc. Whenever I find myself questioning whether I should continue, I remember that in the actual writing process, time stands still, or flies by. That in itself is the purpose, the goal. That is creativity. There aren’t many activities where I can lose myself in this way, and it’s something to hold on to.

For 2018, I’m going to ditch the pursuit of perfectionism – not just with blogging, but with life in general. Priorities can be re-invented and reinvigorated with a new perspective. My tagline here is ‘wearing her heart on her blog’, and I’m going to re-commit to my heart being the guiding principle in all matters.

Happy Anniversary, new moon, solstice, and new year! And thank you for reading. ❤

befriending my teenage self

I’m so glad I didn’t burn my journals.

I’ve only read up to age 16, and already so much is illuminated. I see patterns emerging from a young age. Seeds of self-doubt are being planted, forming the roots of what I’ve struggled with for many years. I see a growing disillusionment with female friendships. And at 16, rage is rearing its head.

Before this point, I tried to minimize my anger – even within my own journal. When I was upset with a friend or family member, I immediately felt ‘bad’. I tried to see their point of view. I apologized to my own diary for being negative! Anger was unacceptable to me – but at 16, it spilled out on the written page.

During my twenties, the anger didn’t dissipate, despite my sincere attempts to understand it. I would lash out at those closest to me, especially my best friend and my boyfriend. I would then try to ‘make up’ for it, only to have it happen again. It was a vicious spiral and I felt powerless to stop it.

I endlessly analyzed where my anger came from. Was it because I’m a woman? Because in Indian culture – at least the household I grew up in – women were not encouraged to express anger? Was it karma, past life issues, taking on others’ suppressed emotions, too much sugar?

None of that seems relevant anymore. What I see clearly now is that, at such a young age, I didn’t have a safe outlet to express the feelings I considered negative. They were perfectly understandable feelings, but I felt such guilt and shame about them, and they festered within.

Was I ever really ‘angry’, or was I hurt and confused, particularly when it came to my friendships? I experienced what I perceived as ongoing disappointment with girlfriends. I felt abandoned, deserted, competitive…rejected. I see now that this probably mirrored my own (lack of) relationship with my biological sister, and led me to attending many women’s circles in the years to come.

These gatherings helped, but still today, my relationships with women can be strained. If the Divine Feminine is indeed returning to the planet (not that she ever really left), it makes sense that all this would be coming up to heal.

As I read my diaries, I’ve also been going through old photos of myself in my teenage years. In most pictures, I am smiling and look happy. To read about those years, and simultaneously watch the story unfold through pictures, has been a tender process. I had forgotten so many details and events, yet I can feel myself right there, back in that space and time, feeling exactly how I felt then.

Our past experiences are still very much alive within us.

I’d thought that burning my journals would clear away all my stories, help me become a phoenix rising from the ashes. But the phoenix can’t rise if I’m trying to escape the more painful parts of my journey. I must claim the entire story first.

And something good is happening. My journals have given me a second chance to re-live those years. I was so hard on myself. I can now bring in the self-compassion I couldn’t before.

In revisiting those painful emotions, I’m also re-discovering parts of my younger self that were pretty freaking cool. She was perceptive, sensitive, and spunky. I laughed out loud many times, reading her entertaining musings. She’s still here, and her inner fire is being rekindled through my presence and attention.

I’m going to enjoy being friends with her.