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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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.

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.

authenticity in the cacophony

I used to think that being “too busy to blog” was just an excuse. Now I know that’s not the case. I am three weeks into my digital communications program and though I’m having fun and learning a ton, blogging has been on the back burner. And I have missed it!

Ironically, one of the things we’ve learned is the importance of blogging regularly and frequently, posting on a consistent schedule. Strike One for Aleya! 🙂

one of my class projects...making a video!

one of my class projects…making a video! (photo: colleen myers)

There is so much about the digital world that fascinates me. When I started blogging, I had no idea the amount of friends I would make, or that I would physically meet up with awesome galpal bloggers in both Europe and LA!

But being so immersed in social media also makes me see that much of it is just…noise. And that the deeper I get into this world, the more hours and energy I could waste mindlessly sifting through its cacophony.

This brings me back to something I’ve written about several times: the importance of authenticity. Finding one’s own voice amongst the inner and outer din. And using that voice responsibly and with integrity.

This means asking myself why I want to blog in the first place, and what my intentions are with social media in general. Why am I (sorta) enjoying Twitter, loving Instagram, and digging Hootsuite? What am I ultimately using these platforms for?

Okay, maybe I’m over-thinking it. But being in a program where I’m required to social network has forced me to really examine what I want to do with all this knowledge I’m gaining.

Within digital communications, there’s so much emphasis on gathering ‘likes’ and ‘follows’ and ‘traffic’. But for what purpose? Does the content honour the readers, add value to their lives? (I’m channeling my inner Seth Godin here.) Or are we getting caught up in the game of numbers?

I believe it all comes down to my core values, and how I can best use technology to express those values.

I want what I’m learning to be a force for Good. Expansion. Love. Truth. Authenticity.

I’m writing to connect. To express my uniqueness, and to learn more about your uniqueness, and to know that none of us is ‘special’ in our uniqueness. I’m social media’ing to exchange ideas and information, to understand the world more, and to move from ego into a new way of being, living, and loving.

I’m writing to share all the joys and challenges on the way there. To find all you points of light around the world, because connecting to your light strengthens my own.

I can find time for that. 😉

Namaste

some very deep questions on blogging

I started this blogging adventure about a year and a half ago, and have yet to tell the majority of my friends and family about it. I’m kind of dreading the day that someone shares it on Facebook and my mom mentions it at the next family gathering.

I’ve written about this before but clearly it’s still an issue for me – why am I ok with sharing my innermost thoughts on the INTERNET, but not with those closest to me?

please don't find my blog

please don’t find my blog

I recently watched some Teal Swan videos on privacy, openness, and boundaries. They got me really questioning my need to keep my personal life so private.

A few months ago a good friend of mine (the brilliant Eager Beaver) joked that I am “surrounded by an impenetrable cloak of mystique.” Though we laughed and laughed at her choice of words, I wonder if there is a seed of truth in there.

Is it an ego thing? Is there a feeling of power and control in not letting people have access to what’s going on inside me? Does being ‘mysterious’ mean I can comfortably distance myself from others?

Are strangers less threatening than loved ones, when it comes to expressing my truth? Do I feel vulnerable in sharing myself openly with close friends and family because I’m fearful of ridicule, feeling judged, not being taken seriously, being misunderstood, or triggering/hurting/upsetting them? What is this sense of being ‘open to attack’?

It is essential to have healthy boundaries. We all know this. But what does that really mean for me, and have I taken it too far? Have I told myself that I am ‘sensitive’, an ’empath’, prone to ‘absorbing other people’s stuff’, to the point that I’ve walled myself off from them?

Perhaps I’m holding on to previous grudges and resentments where my privacy was violated, and it now feels unsafe to share the deeper parts of me. While that’s certainly understandable, how do I reconcile that pain with my desire for self-expression and LETTING GO of that story?

And what about the fact that we can never really hide ourselves anyway, because we’re broadcasting our energetic signals whether we want to or not? We are all interconnected, so it’s an illusion to think that just because you’re not reading my words, you’re not affected by what’s behind them.

How much of an energetic toll does secrecy take? Sometimes I feel like I live a double life – my blogger life and my day-to-day life. These split parts of me want to integrate and live life more wholly.

What it’s coming down to is integrity. If I’m going to have a public blog, I can’t control who reads it or not. All I can control is my intention, motivation, and the words I choose to express myself.

I’m not really speaking my truth if I’m purposely limiting my words to some people and not others. Perhaps it’s time to get more comfortable with, and honouring of, my truth. And trusting others with it.

While this doesn’t mean that I have to advertise my blog to everyone I know, it does mean accepting that whoever finds it, finds it. And as long as I am writing in integrity, there is nothing to fear.

year of the jellyfish

 

jellyfish

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 can’t make excuses.  i can’t tell the same old stories.

but instead of feeling ungrounded or anxious, i feel peace.

i know that:

-i’m not powerless.

-i don’t have ‘bad karma’.

-i’m not being punished.

-there’s nothing to feel guilty about.

-i’m not unworthy.

-it’s not about the money.

(to name a few.)

whatever i used to say to myself that stopped me from doing what i really love to do, does not work anymore.

and saying that ‘i still don’t know what i really love to do’ (my usual fallback) is also an excuse, of sorts.  maybe i don’t consciously know, but it’s there nonetheless, and moving within me.  something inside has cracked and there’s an opening…to something that’s been closed a very long time.  the hope that maybe i can create whatever i want.  maybe, just maybe, everything i’ve believed for 30+ years no longer has power over me.  it’s subtle yet undeniable.

just the act of putting pen to paper (or fingertip to key) shows that something has shifted.  why today?  why after years and years, did some part of me decide that yes, today is the day to write?

my story that’s not a story. 🙂