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.

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.

stillness in solstice snow

A few days ago, it snowed in my hometown. Since this is a rare occasion, my city was thrown into complete chaos. Streets weren’t plowed, buses stopped running, people were slipping and sliding everywhere…I made it halfway to work and gave up, turning around and heading straight home. (Most of my colleagues did the same thing.)

Given that it was the first day of Mercury Retrograde, and Winter Solstice was approaching, I relished the opportunity to stay cozy indoors, enjoying the peace and silence of a random Monday off.

snow sure makes the mountains look pretty

snow sure makes the mountains look pretty

The previous weekend, I’d gone to a party where I met the one person who actually enjoyed 2016. Everyone else I know is happy to see this year go. It’s been a time of major life changes, wake-up calls, and dispelling of illusions all around. A hugely pivotal year, yes. But not necessarily the most pleasant.

What have I gleaned from 2016? That 2017 will not be about straining or efforting to make things happen. I want to enjoy what I have created so far, trusting that I’ve made appropriate decisions for myself, and knowing that there’s nothing to fix. I want to relax into what is, right here right now.

The great thing about 2016 is that I was forced to pare down my life in many ways – especially financially. That, and my break with social media, allowed me to see where I’d been spending my energy, i.e., starving myself through over-consumption. Without such distractions, I began spending more time in silence. I realized just how difficult silence was for me, and how much I craved it.

Many of us know the running commentary that comes with meditation. The inner critic, the monkey mind, the myriad of voices we’ve heard throughout our lives, all re-playing the same old tapes. They relentlessly question my choices, convinced there is something better I could/should be experiencing.

Because we (in the western world) seem to have so much opportunity, freedom, and information at our fingertips, we can drive ourselves crazy looking for what’s more desirable than what we have right now. (Especially if we’re comparing ourselves to others on social media, just sayin’.)

These past few years, I received many of the things I asked for. And I then let them go, in search for something new-and-improved. Though I’m very grateful for the ability to create new experiences, I see that I was plagued by chronic restlessness and dissatisfaction. I couldn’t be fully present with my creations, because I was already onto the next thing. The seeds didn’t have time to germinate.

It was fear. Fear that I’d made the wrong decision (even as I told myself there was no such thing). Fear of being stuck. Fear that I was missing out on my true home, true career, true relationship. Fear that I didn’t deserve what I asked for, and couldn’t hold on to good things. Fear of imperfection. I demanded perfection in my outer circumstances, because I couldn’t accept imperfection in myself.

and my window looks pretty too

and my window looks pretty too

My surprise day off, a gift from the snow god/dess, was heavenly because I experienced prolonged peace and quiet for the first time in a long time. I’ve been having more of these moments lately…glimpses of relief, however brief, from habitual thoughts, worries, and stresses. Plans and action are good and necessary. But this is what I want to cultivate.

Love…compassion…breath…here is the fertile space for creation. Good things – maybe the best things – come from being still with life as it is right now. Maybe nothing needs to change; I can allow what’s already here to emerge in its full bloom and depth. The ‘doing’ then happens on its own. It’s a beautiful symbiosis.

Happy New Year, indeed. ❤

gratitude: 5 things to share

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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…

the lady in the painting

In honour of Mercury Retrograde, I’m re-blogging a post from my early WordPress days. An extra fun twist is that I now work at the university I mention in the post. I’m loving this trip back in time.

Happy equinox-full moon-lunar eclipse!

alohaleya

Years ago I bought an art print from a poster fair that would visit my university a couple of times a year.  I was so drawn to this painting, which featured a woman sitting at what looked to be a Parisian cafe, a pensive expression on her face, quill and half-glass of wine on her table.  I loved everything about this piece: the setting, the colours, the subject matter, the painter’s technique.  I didn’t even look up the artist for some time, or explore the historical context of the work (which is strange, considering I was an Art History major).  It spoke to me, and that was enough.

The Cafe, Tsuguharu Foujita (1949) The Cafe, Tsuguharu Foujita (1949)

I felt an affinity with this woman, and I wanted to be her, but her world and life were so far away from mine.  This painting created a tension within me.  Of admiring, of relating…but also feeling…

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passion, resistance, and kundalini yoga

I’m most motivated to write a blog post immediately after I’ve published one. I feel like I’ve just conquered a beast, and I’m ready to take on another.

That beast is Resistance.

There’s a release when I hit ‘publish’. Something inside me has broken free, creating space for new ideas and inspirations. I feel almost giddy and l promise myself I’ll write more often. But as days go on, I lose my mojo. And after about two weeks, I’ll find any excuse to avoid sitting down to write.

Turns out my experience is not unique. I’m halfway through Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art, in which he lays out the numerous forms of resistance artists encounter in carrying out their sacred work. This book is rocking my world. Pressfield writes that we often meet the strongest resistance in creating that which is most meaningful and valuable to us – the work that comes from our heart and soul.

I’ve written about the pressure of passion before. Those of us who feel our passion eludes us can be so preoccupied with ‘finding it’ that it becomes a source of stress. We conclude that we must not have one, or that we’re somehow missing it. Either way, something feels wrong.

But this could be resistance in clever disguise.

Flaming Star, by my beautiful friend & artist Christyn Hall. She's painting 33 paintings in 30 days this month! See more of her gorgeous sacred art at http://christynmhall.com.

Flaming Star, by my beautiful friend & artist Christyn M. Hall. She’s painting 33 paintings in 30 days this month! Click on the image above or visit christynmhall.com to see more of her gorgeous sacred art.

The force of resistance is real, insidious, and relentless. Resistance discourages us from putting our barest selves out there, because we are then subject to potential humiliation, rejection, and failure. Resistance abhors change, because change puts us out of our comfort zone and compels us to be vulnerable. Resistance is mired in fear.

There are those who seem to unequivocally know what their sacred work is. They don’t have to search for their passion; it pulses in their bones. I used to think that they were ‘lucky’ to have their gifts flow through them so effortlessly. I envied that. I’m now seeing that they too encounter self-doubt and resistance. But they still show up to do their work.

To me, resistance is synonymous with ego. Resistance will stop at nothing to prevent us from doing what makes us feel truly self-expressed and in our power. Resistance is slippery and must be watched like a hawk. It knows all our weak spots and will even spend time contemplating the problem of resistance itself, to distract us from pursuing anything it perceives as threatening!

In my own life, I’m feeling it in the form of second-guessing my decision to begin my Kundalini Yoga teacher training. For the last ten years, I’ve seen myself becoming a yoga teacher…’someday’. Well, that day is here; the training starts next month, I’ve booked the days off work, and my application is completed.

And I’m questioning all of it.

Pressfield writes that what we most resist doing, we absolutely must do. The bigger the stakes, the bigger the payoff. This is an important message for me now. Having recently changed cities, I’m on new ground to show up in new ways. I am sensing the necessity to take more risks, to trust my inner knowing (and speak it), and do what I need to do because the time is ripe to do it.

Collectively, something big is in the air. We could look at the world today and become completely cynical and hopeless. No one would blame us. Or we could take advantage of a new energy that is growing all around us – an energy we ourselves have created in response to our collective pain and suffering. There are so many of us desiring a completely different way of being. Maybe our prayers have been heard, and we can live the lives we couldn’t before.

This new way requires trusting in the unknown and letting go of who we thought we were. And, of course, kicking resistance in the ass.

10 life lessons from mandala painting

Last weekend I stepped out of my comfort zone and into one of the most profound experiences of my life: a 3-day mandala painting course.

It’s hard to put such a deeply healing and transformative experience into words; I’m still basking in the afterglow of it all. It’s not an understatement to say it changed my life. Here’s just some of what I’m very thankful to have learned.

This is Shakti

This is Shakti

1. Everything I need is within. I was the last to pick a canvas. I didn’t rush to get my paints. I was feeling anxious, and had made the conscious decision to be patient and kind with myself. Somehow I knew that whatever was within me would come forth, no matter what external resources I had.

2. I can no longer say ‘I’m not an artist’. This process unlocked the artist in everyone who participated. Many of us were beginners, and each person created their own unique masterpiece. Everyone can do this. We just need the support and tools to draw out our inner creative fire.

3. Mandalas are a portal. We can access deep realms of consciousness when creating or contemplating a mandala. I don’t quite know how it works…but that’s the point. Our logical mind is not in control; we’re perceiving and interpreting from the heart. The process is mystical and ineffable.

4. Art opens people like lotus flowers. It was amazing to watch, and experience in myself, the joy that unfolded over the weekend. I was able to bring forth something that had been waiting for the right moment to express. Everyone was discovering this hidden place within themselves. There was a sense of wonder in the air. New life was being birthed.

5. I created it…but I didn’t. My experience flowed more easily when I let go of thinking of ‘my’ painting, ‘my’ possession – when I dropped the ego. Yes, it emerged from within me…but I like to think of it as a co-creation with a greater essence that is both me and not-me. I couldn’t grip it too tightly.

6. This is life. I felt an overwhelming sense that life could be so much more than mass consciousness programming would have us believe. Being in the zone of creativity and stimulating conversation, free from iPhones and Facebook, was such an immense, life-affirming contrast to the 9-5 matrix I’d become so accustomed to in the past.

7. Mandala painting is therapy. I’m convinced that the act of mixing colours, putting brush to canvas, being in a supportive group, and creating a personal, sacred work of beauty would heal in a weekend what might take years in traditional therapy. The mandala gave me a vision into my own soul.

8. Self-expression is a shared process. Self-expression is not a solitary act. It requires a community to receive it. Creating art with others helped me let go and trust in the group. The group’s presence impacted what I created, whether or not anything was verbally expressed. Communication transpired on an unseen level.

9. Surrender. I became anxious when I thought too far down the line, e.g., the next colour I’d choose and whether it would ‘look good’. There was a fear of screwing things up…anticipating what could go wrong instead of trusting that each layer would be reveal itself in the perfect sequence. I relaxed when I surrendered to what was right in front of me.

10. The Divine Feminine is awakening. She is here. At the beginning of the weekend, we each gave ourselves a name – a symbol for our journey at this point in time. I picked ‘Shakti’. I’d been very much feeling the presence of the Feminine, seeing coral-red colours in my recent meditations. These colours materialized in the mandala without forced effort. Magic!

I am looking forward to painting more…the portal has been opened!