new shoots in the dark

In my part of the world, summer has taken a while to show up. It’s now here in full force: temperatures are high, and wildfires are burning all over the province. A smoky haze envelops my city, where there should be blue sky. Tonight is a full moon, and later this month a total solar eclipse, partially visible from where I live.

What does all this mean? Nothing, maybe. At one time I would’ve written about this as a chance to burn away what no longer serves us individually and collectively. The heat is kicking up tension, the smoke obscuring the path, the full moon marking the opportunity for completion.

Perhaps this is true, but I can’t say anything with certainty. On one hand it seems things are too unpredictable, on the other I feel completely stagnated. I’m noticing a chronic, underlying disgruntlement, triggered more often these days. I am impatient and anxious much of the time.

a smoky, hazy sky

It’s been on my radar to write an updated ‘About’ page. Mystic, wanderer, tantric, yogi… would I still describe myself this way? Possibly. But these words have formed an identity, an image, that no longer fits. Defining myself as ‘spiritual’, however earnest and sincere my intentions, has also – in some ways – disconnected me from others.

For a long time, I perceived the dominant, external reality as negative, and feared that focusing on this negative would only reinforce it, thus bringing more of it into my life. (The Law of Attraction.) I didn’t watch the news, and I unplugged from most social media. It was important to focus on the light.

But did it make me a happier person? No.

Because resisting something only strengthens it.

Because fearing negativity, and suppressing that fear, takes a lot of energy.

Because we are all connected, and living in a bubble doesn’t work.

Thanks to Leigh for sharing a recent Oprah interview with author and speaker Charles Eisenstein. Oprah and Charles discuss that hate is a ‘bodyguard’ for grief. The low-level suffering many of us experience is due to profound disconnection from our communities. Everything that’s happening to the world is happening to us….and we’ve numbed ourselves to the feeling – the knowing – that we’re all connected.

If we are evolving into a more conscious and empathic species, it’s important to know what’s going on with the rest of humanity. I want my feet on the ground, aware of what’s happening on (and to) the planet. I want my eyes opened where I’ve previously shielded them. We hold light where we can; but we also allow ourselves to feel the darkness. This can open the doors to empathy.

We’re all co-writers in this planetary script. Oprah and Charles discuss that we will hold on to our stories the hardest just before they completely collapse. This is happening on a mass scale. Where do I see my own beliefs playing out on the global stage? My stories have shaped my life, and it’s difficult to let some of them go. But they hold a me-against-the-world slant, and I don’t want to tell that tale anymore.

No matter who we are, we’ve inherited ancestral beliefs, religious conditioning, tribal fears and shames, and a collective worldview that for the most part stems from division and separation. Creating a new story is a massive undertaking.

I know so many kind and caring people who do their best to live in integrity and harmony with the natural world. They work hard every day to live by their values and take personal responsibility for their actions. I am inspired by them, and want to learn more from them. They give me hope that seeds of empathy and compassion are being planted in what appears to be the darkest of days.

Perhaps this moon is indeed a fortuitous time to end one chapter and begin writing the next.

human teachers, spiritual honeymoons, and lone wolfs

A few weeks ago I published a post sharing some websites that I’ve been following for a while. Since that posting, Jenna Forrest has removed the majority of videos from her YouTube channel. In a recent message, she explains that she continually receives new information, and that some of her teachings (particularly those on twin flames) may have done more harm than good.

Jenna’s videos brought me much hope and comfort, and I was a little surprised that she took so many down – but I applaud her integrity and in some way feel relieved. We can easily become dependent on spiritual teachers, investing ourselves in those who are going through their own processes and who may not have the answers we seek.

if your presence doesn't work, nothing works

I believe that as a collective, humans are becoming more open to receiving knowledge that was once reserved for a select few (or intentionally kept secret). We’re realizing that we all have access to this information; we don’t need a spiritual ‘authority’ as an intermediary.

But this means there are a lot of people out there saying a lot of things…and without discernment we can become easily influenced and eventually disillusioned. Learning from each other is essential – but we’re still human beings with egos, motivations, and intentions we may not be consciously aware of. (Spirituality and yoga are big business.)

In general I’m finding that messages I was once very drawn to now hold less pull. I’ve written about spiritual information overload, and honouring the inner teacher, before – and this theme is only getting stronger in my life. With so many teachings at our disposal, our own voice can get lost in the noise.

I’m certainly not discounting teachers or teachings as a whole! I’m very grateful to those who have shared their knowledge with me. Kundalini Yoga in particular has helped me tune into my inner knowing in ways I couldn’t have imagined. I’m nearing the completion of my teacher training program and, since last October, I’ve meditated, practiced, and breathed more than I have in my entire life! At many points along the way, my mind, karma, and beliefs have felt more claustrophobic than ever…but then there’s an opening, and I find an expanded state.

I’ve met some amazing women and men, and seeds have been planted for future collaborations. I’m trying to not think too much about the future; many times I’ve gone through spiritual honeymoon phases, becoming enamoured with a particular teacher or teaching, only to have it fade away as something new is revealed. I wonder if this will happen here…and then stop myself. For now, I am enjoying this process immensely, and with much gratitude.

One theme that has repeatedly come up in our training: the time of the lone wolf is OVER. For humanity to evolve, it’s all about group consciousness. This can be tricky for those of us comfortable in our private little spaces, the introverts who are just fine going about this spiritual journey alone, thankyouverymuch.

This has been one of my main challenges but I’m slowly learning that it’s safe to come out of my cocoon and connect with others. It’s a vulnerable, uncomfortable, beautiful thing. I’m not saying we have to give up our privacy completely – but we do need to know when we’re isolating ourselves to a degree that’s not serving our highest purpose and potential.

Just some random thoughts. Life has been very busy with work and wrapping up my program. The next step is teaching an actual class! Pretty amazing to have reached this point.

Sat Nam (Truth is my identity)

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…

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

lessons in creative writing

Tonight I have my Creative Writing class, which started in late January and has only three sessions left.  I had a feeling the class would stretch me out of my comfort zone, and that has proven true.  It’s a good thing.

In this small workshop-style setting, we are given the opportunity to read various assignments aloud, if we so desire.  However, our instructor has repeatedly told us that contrary to what we might think, we’ll get more value in giving rather than receiving feedback. It’s the art of providing (non-judgmental) feedback to other writers that will ultimately make us better writers ourselves.

I’ve become quite comfortable with giving supportive feedback but, apart from sharing a piece in the earlier weeks, I’ve clammed up when it comes to being on the receiving end. It’s an encouraging group and I don’t feel I’ll be criticized harshly or unfairly in any way.

But it’s so interesting what such situations bring up.  The mean inner voices that come alive.  You think you’re a good writer, but maybe you suck. They won’t get it, so they’ll pick it apart. They’re not perceptive enough to know what you’re trying to say.  Everyone here is way more talented than you.

Sometimes it’s exhausting to watch my ego in action!

The class has helped me explore my intentions in writing.  With blogging in particular, there is often much emphasis placed on getting ‘likes’ and ‘followers’.  But why?  What is the end goal of that?  What are we chasing?  The ego can be sneaky here. (Or blatant.)

Writers have been called narcissistic, and I wonder about that.  Writers know that it’s not really in our control – the words must come out, or we’ll explode.  Blogging is an amazing platform for this vital self-expression.  But though my blog is largely about ‘me’, it’s not because I think my life details are that important, or that people should care about those particulars.  It’s just what I know best.  It’s where I can write with the most authority.

In the piece that I shared with the group earlier in the course, some feedback I received was that as I read aloud, people started to think about their own lives.  It was thus suggested that my work lacked a certain element that would keep listeners focused on my words.

When I reflect on the piece, this was/is a valid critique, and through the discussion that ensued, we learned the importance of balancing core elements in the craft of writing. In the assignments I’ve worked on since, I can see where I’m missing pieces that would make my writing stronger and more powerful.  Connecting with other writers in this way has been eye-opening, inspiring, and humbling.

I want to be a better writer, in the technical sense; I want to be clear and get my message across; but I don’t want it to be all about me.  I want people to think about their own lives.  My measure of personal success is that my words will spur others to reflect on their own experiences and ponder their own journeys.

***

Writing is a shared experience.  I love finding our parallels and connections, and using them to bolster each other.  That’s the point.  That’s what drives me and fires me up about the whole thing.

It’s very cool that this class is clarifying my values – and showing me when my ego is running the show.

I’m looking forward to sharing my words tonight.

the burning loneliness

In Reveal, Meggan Watterson writes of her spiritual pilgrimage to France, where she discovered that, without a partner/lover travelling by her side, she was challenged to maintain her own self-worth: 

I found myself on a treacherous see-saw, vacillating between the extremes of feeling free and entirely independent – like Salma Hayek in the movie Frida, when she cuts her hair and becomes her own after her husband has betrayed her – to feeling totally alone and ineffectual, my life devoid of purpose and meaning.

While my experience was not so intense, I resonate with Watterson’s words.

misty fireball

There were times in Italy when I was just so cool with my aloneness. I loved being on the trains, listening to music and watching the landscape pass me by. These were some of my favourite moments. I loved doing whatever I wanted each day, even if it meant doing nothing. I loved getting up early and walking for hours with no real destination, which might have been harder with a travel partner. Sitting at a cafe and just observing my surroundings was a favourite pastime. This is when I often met people; in that open, receptive state, content in being one with everything around me.

But at times it was incredibly challenging to be alone. That is, it was lonely. As in, I’m in Italy and there’s all this beauty around me and yes, I’m grateful, but man, what is the point of it all, if there is no one around to share it with? I remember walking amongst the intense crowds in Venice and thinking, How can I possibly feel alone right now, with all these people here, all of us enjoying this beautiful place together? And while I felt that to some degree, I was also fooling myself. Venice was hard.

lonely venice

At times, I was so sick of my own company. Of entertaining myself, of thinking my own thoughts. I realized there’s a limit to how much of myself I can take.

I thought about those I love, my friends and family back home. I missed them. And, more profoundly, I felt how I shut them out when I am at home. Well, maybe that’s too harsh. Rather, I felt how I don’t really make the effort to spend more time with them, to show them how much I care. Why don’t I do more to maintain those loving, vital connections?  Do I expect/assume that others will do it?

One of my most challenging moments was in a restaurant in Sorrento, on the Amalfi Coast. As I sat down and ordered my meal, the room quickly began filling with people. Groups of people. Families, friends, couples. Maybe it was because I was towards the end of my trip, maybe because I’d made two strong (soul) connections a couple nights before…but I felt my aloneness intensely. Like I was in the middle of a 360, my solo status blatantly on display for all to see. Spotlighted.

I could feel my face and body burning with it; that no matter how cool I attempted to look, people could see right through me. Wondering why this girl was alone, here of all places. Maybe feeling sorry for me, embarrassed for me. I was practically hyperventilating with self-consciousness. Regardless of whether anyone even noticed me that night…I couldn’t get out of there fast enough.

a new door

I realized in Italy that I need people. And that I want to need people. Be dependent on them.  Be softer and more vulnerable.

I think I have overrated my independence. I’m glad that I can be happy in my own company…but I can see now how I’ve gotten too comfortable with it. As more and more friends find partners and start families of their own, I see that years can go by in flash. I haven’t known for sure if I want marriage and/or children, but I recognize I could be on the trajectory of not allowing them at all. And that’s a big wake-up call.

Now that I’m home, whether or not I invest more energy in creating/sustaining my relationships is totally up to me. It means questioning: what is truly liking my own company, and what is not being comfortable in – avoiding – the presence of others? Is there a fear of rejection in ‘putting myself out there’? Have my ‘introvert’ and ‘high sensitivity’ labels merely become (un)comfortable excuses to avoid deeper interactions? Does being ‘reserved’ make me feel somehow powerful, untouchable?

***

Or maybe it means not questioning any of it anymore. Maybe the whole point is that it is not so complicated at all. Love is not complicated. It’s the ego that wants to make everything an issue, a puzzle, a problem to be fixed.

I think the Italians would recommend that I stop thinking about it, and live.  Right.  Okay.

Grazie Mille, Italy.

Images courtesy of Vaughan Lewis.

ode to my royal abode

Well, the time has come for me to vacate the little jewel I’ve been residing in these past few months.

I spent most of yesterday cleaning, de-cluttering, laundering, gathering boxes, and packing.

And bawling.

siwash

my next door neighbour

This is the first time I’ve felt truly sad leaving a place.  A close friend has been travelling overseas for the last four months, and I’ve been subletting her beautiful top floor/corner suite/adjacent-to-my-favourite-park apartment.  I’ve moved around my city many times, but it’s always been my decision when to leave, and the timing has usually felt right.  And though I knew this date was coming, I didn’t expect it to happen this fast, or hit me so hard.

This sweet suite has been a blessing in so many ways.

Living here has helped me appreciate, and cherish, the peace, power, and necessity of having a personal sanctuary to come home to.  Because I’ve generally been so transient, I’ve never invested a lot of time and energy into creating a perfect and sacred living space.  Buying furniture just hasn’t fit into my temporary lifestyle.  But having spent four months in this little suite filled with carved deities and plants and yoga books and pillows, my formerly “zen and uncluttered” style now feels a bit sparse and sterile!

My friend has lived in her apartment for about twenty years, and I can feel her steadfast love and energy imbuing its every corner.  My max in any given place has been about a year and a half!

I also re-fell in love with my city in these months.  This is not hard to do – it’s one of the most beautiful cities in the world – but nevertheless this was no small feat. Over time I’d become very jaded and could see only the ‘negatives’ in my environment.  Being nested in this oasis of calm in the midst of relative chaos brought me much joy and gratitude as I explored my surroundings, as if for the first time, from this quiet centre.

I hadn’t felt this way in a long time. It’s really not a nice feeling to be so disconnected to – to want to escape from – where you live. And strange as it sounds, as I began seeing with new eyes, I felt like my city was responding to me positively in kind.  I have been feeling an underlying and energetic symbiosis in this deepening relationship, and it feels really good. (And, interestingly, my trip to Europe became revived only after I’d come to this place of peace with my surroundings.)

Oh, and the ducks.  Let’s not forget the ducks. 😉

these guys haven't seen the last of me

these guys haven’t seen the last of me

So what happens now?  My friend is back in two days.  I leave for Italy in five weeks, so the next little while will be hugely busy with housesitting/cat-sitting duties (I intend to live rent-free till I’m back!), preparing for my leave at work, and, of course, planning my trip.  Everything seems to be happening on its own momentum and I’m just going with it while doing what needs to be done everyday.   All the while trying not to get too overwhelmed!

It sounds dramatic, but its apt to say that my spring/summer abode has been a godsend.  I had a feeling it would be a powerful stay, but I can’t believe how much has changed in four months.  Actually, I do believe how much has changed, because my desire for change was so strong at that time.  In fact, reading the post I wrote when I first moved in is a little eerie.  In a really cool way.

Maybe it’s good that I’m leaving now, when I am still so in love with the ‘princess pad’ (as my dear friend G likes to call it).  In my heart it will always be the space in which I grew leaps and bounds and really saw the beauty around me, on a very deep level.  And though I am sad to leave, I know that change is inevitable and, more importantly, the desires and realizations I’ve had here are now leading me somewhere else, where they will unfold in a perfectly different way.  Right on schedule.

***

After writing all this, I wonder: is it really about the apartment or the city?  Or were they simply the positive catalysts (and reflections) for the growing love and connection I’m experiencing within?  Hmm…

I’ve asked for change, and change is certainly what I’m getting.  And I’ll tell the universe what I’ve told it many times before:

Bring it on.