meditating beyond the mosque

It will take me some time to process what I learned about myself in London. I knew it would be an eye-opening journey – I was travelling with my mother and visiting family I’d never met before – but I didn’t expect to be so confronted by my own views on family and religion.

me being a dork in a london phone booth

me being a dork in a london phone booth

I was brought up within a minority Shia sect of the Muslim faith. This group differs from the majority of (Sunni) Muslims in many ways – too many to go into here (and I’m not an expert anyway). I remember going to mosque as a child and not really getting what was going on. My grandparents were extremely religious, my parents less so – but we still attended mosque somewhat regularly.

Being Muslim was my identity. Back then, I referred to all my white friends as ‘Christian’, regardless of their spiritual belief. ‘White’ and ‘Christian’ were synonymous in my little mind.

I always resented that I had to be part of a religion that didn’t get to celebrate fun things like Christmas and Easter. But I also felt conflict and guilt that I didn’t like my religion. My mother tried to make me see the positive aspects of the faith, but it never took. I didn’t understand any of the rituals (and wasn’t motivated to really explore them), and I’d get preoccupied by the dynamics of the people around me. At mosque, I was irritated by any gossiping I heard, or excessive dressing up. It was hard to see beyond those things.

My deep conflict surrounding religion was majorly triggered in London. Several of the family members I met have converted to the more traditional Sunni Muslim path in recent years. They view this path as more ’true’ and ‘logical’ to follow. Each family gathering I went to in London involved discussion of religion and over the course of my trip I was becoming more resistant, irritated, and yes, judgmental of those around me. I was also experiencing the old feelings of guilt, alienation, and fundamental wrongness. I am so different from these people! What would they think if I started talking about ascension and starseeds and blue rays?!

On some level, I always thought that ‘someday’ I would embrace my faith and make my mother happy by attending mosque more often. What I realized on this trip is that might never happen. I mean, I really got that. I also understood that my deep resistance, guilt, and judgment was showing me that more healing is needed. I know a part of me still views the faith through the eyes of an alienated child who wanted Christmas instead – and that’s the part that needs compassion and release. I will never find peace with my religion by running away from it.

I know that there are beautiful aspects of my faith, and I’ve seen the peace and kindness in my family members who credit their religion for helping them be better human beings.

I also know that my own inner truth is longing to be heard, and that it could be very different from the truths of my parents, grandparents, and the long line of ancestors behind them. This path is lonely, scary, doubtful and, at times, filled with grief. It has felt like a betrayal of my family, and of God. But my own truth, whatever it is, isn’t going away. I love that meditating in the mosque makes my mother so happy. But I want to meditate beyond the mosque.

It’s possible that my ancestors are jumping for joy at what’s happening within me, and on planet earth in general, as many of us are finding our own ways of connecting to God or Spirit (or not). Maybe those in my lineage are thrilled that I’m rediscovering my ancient Indian yogi roots! Maybe they’re excited that I and many others are taking it beyond religion, as we expand into something that transcends any doctrine, belief, or dogma.

London is one of my most favourite cities ever…even more so now. I can’t wait to go back for more.

a hot shadowy summer

I didn’t intend to take such a long hiatus from blogging, but it’s been that kind of summer. In my part of the world, it’s been unseasonably hot…forest fires are raging and we’ve had water restrictions for the first time since I can remember.

The weather patterns reflect what’s going on in the lives of many people I know. Powerful change – wanted or not – seems to be happening all around. What no longer works is burning right out of our experience. Personally, I feel like a completely different person since my last post, but it’s hard to explain just how. A new reality is opening up, but I don’t know what it looks like.

I am learning what it means to surrender, not just as a concept, but a practice. The theme of this summer has been: Do I really believe? Do I believe that Spirit (the Universe, God, whatever you want to call it) knows who I am, is supporting me, and actually wants me to be happy? I am seeing that I have never really trusted this to be true. And I am at a crossroads, where I can continue to doubt and attempt total control in my life, or go deeper into my relationship with Source.

Enjoying high tea, London-style. I forgot to stick my pinkie finger out!

Enjoying high tea, London-style. I forgot to stick my pinkie finger out!

I write these words from London, England. I’m travelling with my mother for a couple of weeks, visiting her side of the family, most of whom I’ve never met. I feel the seeds of this journey were planted several months ago, when I began to consciously explore my relationship with my ancestors, particularly my grandmother (my mother’s mother, who died when I was quite young). In just a few days, I’ve learned so much about family history and family members I didn’t know existed, much less felt a connection with.

Days after I arrive home from the UK, I will be moving to a nearby city and starting a new job. This was a relatively unexpected move, the logistics of which came together so swiftly that the universe must’ve conspired to ensure I couldn’t overthink it. Part of me questions my eternal restlessness, but I’m also intrigued at what lies ahead.

Several powerful experiences this summer include my Ayahuasca journey in June, attending a Teal Swan workshop in July and meeting some wonderfully kindred souls there, and reviving my dormant Kundalini Yoga practice. Kundalini Yoga always creates major change in my life when I start it up again! I can’t explain how it works (yet), only that it really, really does.

But by far the greatest transformation has come from continuing my own shadow work, sinking deeper into the memories, feelings, and judgments in my psyche and, as best I can, bringing understanding to those buried places. The summer heat has helped with this process, driving my irritation and frustration levels way up, making me uncomfortable…forcing me to face what’s underneath.

And a beautiful thing is happening. More and more I’m discovering my inner child, the joyful, exuberant little me who is feeling safer to come out of her shell (or maybe ‘prison’ is a better word). Being able to feel a growing love and compassion for her has been the greatest gift of this summer.

What’s next on the horizon? I’m envisioning a more relaxed pace of life in my new city, which hopefully includes beginning my Kundalini Yoga teacher training in the Fall. My vision is to incorporate the incredible healing powers of this ancient form of yoga into sacred circles, bringing women together in creating a new paradigm that embraces the Divine Feminine and Masculine on planet Earth. I feel ready to take this step, so we’ll see what transpires in the next few months!

I hope my WordPress friends have been navigating the changes of this intense summer with hope and trust. I know that it has been a very challenging year for many.

Happy Leo New Moon from the UK!

Aleya

 

my fiction put me in debt

My first guest blog post, as featured on A Holistic Journey.

A Holistic Journey

Last week my father told me that his local Safeway had closed down, soon to be replaced with a Whole Foods. Normally this news would’ve tickled me – I’m a Whole Foods addict – but I was inexplicably sad. He now scans the weekly store flyers and shops the best deals.

Why did this conversation leave me feeling so tender, so emotional? I realized it was the first time I thought, I want to be like that. Like my father. Careful, methodical. Good with money.

The money story has always been big for me. As a small child I constantly compared myself to others – me often holding the short end of the stick. Everyone else got the best toys, the best food (hot dogs and sugary cereals), the best clothes. I got a dad who seemed to say ‘no’ to everything.

It made me angry. It made me…

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releasing my debt

This seems to be the summer of saying what I need to say, no matter how terrified I am to say it.

A couple of weeks ago, it was calling my family members and acknowledging how I truly felt about…everything.

I’ve long played the role of the ‘good’ daughter, not wanting to make waves or hurt or offend anyone. But because I couldn’t express all parts of myself – the darker, more unpleasant things – I kept them within. And there was a lurking, hard resentment building as a result.

I’m getting that when I feel such resentment towards people, they know it on some level. They feel it. And no amount of smiles or sunny disposition can cover it up. And that hiding, that suppressing, is way more harmful (to everyone) than expressing myself outright.

When I shared with my family that I had blamed and resented them for things from the past, it was said with such a desire for love, peace, and harmony with them in the NOW. And they could actually feel that, because in that moment I was expressing all of me. They could feel that authenticity and, in turn, they welcomed what I said with love.

It’s the time to stop playing roles, and live who we CREATE ourselves to be. Not who we, or others, have thought we are. I feel that a huge weight’s been lifted from my shoulders. Like something that was struggling to get out of me is finally releasing.

***

A few nights ago I did something that I never thought I could do. I told a group of 30+ people about my financial debt. I gave them the breakdown of how much I owe, and to whom. I stated the total amount.

My money situation has always been my ‘dirty little secret’. The thing I’ve keep hidden. The shame has kinda paralyzed me. It’s the story I’ve allowed to rule my life.

I revealed all this on a coaching/leadership call as part of a workshop series I’m doing on integrity (an extension of the Landmark workshop I did a couple of weeks ago). Now that I won’t be receiving a regular paycheque – I’m starting school next week – it is time to really clean up the money stuff.

It’s not that being in debt equals a lack of ‘integrity’ as most people define the word, i.e., integrity in the ‘moral’ sense. It’s more that the stories we have about ourselves (because of our financial debt) reinforce our feelings of shame and powerlessness.

Integrity is wholeness and completeness. Powerlessness and shame are not.

If my underlying feeling is that ‘I have no willpower’…how empowering is that?! No wonder most of our efforts end in self-sabotage!

My debt had become loaded with so much. It was weighing me down. Being able to share the numbers with a group of relative strangers, especially those I couldn’t see, was…well, I can’t say it felt good at the time.

But – in the hours leading up to that call, I couldn’t wait to get it off my chest. And now, knowing that once again I’ve had a conversation and spoken words I would have never fathomed speaking just a short time ago, I’m feeling lighter. Seeing those numbers as ‘what is’, and not a negative reflection of me.

I know that more and more of these conversations are possible. And it’s those conversations that facilitate real transformation.

It’s like I’m pushing myself to see how far I can go. How much I can trust people. Ultimately, it’s showing me that I feel safe with myself. Knowing my world will not fall apart when I say what hasn’t been said before. Love will still be there.

Boundaries are good. Barricades are not. I’d isolated myself in many ways, and gotten used to going at it alone.

This sharing feels good. It’s kind of addictive. It’s letting life in.

september: it’s showtime!

Thank you to my blogger friends Rob and Sindy for their tweets inquiring as to my whereabouts, and to Linda for her recent award nomination of my blog!

It’s true; I have been very quiet lately. After my last post, the urge to blog had disappeared completely. It was strange – I felt I had no words in me. In addition to that, for the last couple of weeks things have been changing at such warp speed. I’ve been so busy preparing for what’s coming next that I haven’t had the time or focus for blogging.

expansionnowopen

Probably the most monumental thing that happened for me in August was participating in the Landmark Forum. This is not your ordinary personal growth workshop. Over three intensive days, my beliefs about my life and the world were brought to my consciousness in a very powerful way. It’s difficult to articulate just how profound this experience was. Suffice it to say that I was able to express myself on a level I never could before. And this has transformed everything.

During that weekend, I had heartfelt and genuine conversations with my mom, dad, and sister. Conversations that once seemed impossible (or, more accurately, conversations I didn’t even know I wanted to have.) Conversations in which I let them see who I really am and how I really feel, which on some level I’d always hid from them. Conversations where I could barely speak through my tears, apologizing for the toxic blame and resentment I’ve carried within, and the unrealistic expectations I have held of them.

This has been incredibly freeing for me, and the timing of it all was so synchronistic, given that my job is finishing in two weeks and I am making some big plans for the future. I’m seeing how everything in my life is so interconnected. Suppressing who I am in one area affects all areas. If I can’t express my true self to my family and friends, how can I express it to the world? To step onto that larger stage, take risks, and feel safe and confident?

***

So what is on the horizon for me? My plans include studying digital communications for a couple of months at a local university (maybe I’ll finally understand twitter!), and starting my own business with a friend and former co-worker. She and I have been discussing this venture for months, and had spent many an hour at the office sharing our vision for what we want to create. (She quit a few weeks ago.) We are ready to go for it!

This summer has been full of activity – planning, connecting, preparing – and now is the time to ACT. Landmark powerfully cleared away so many stories, interpretations, and meanings I’d concocted about my life, other people, and what I am capable of. It gave me the deep understanding that those stories were never ‘real’ to begin with. It took away my sense that life is a series of problems to be fixed, and delivered the epiphany that there is nothing fundamentally ‘wrong’ with me or my life.

I am seeing everything with new eyes, and this is invaluable as I take my next steps. Yes, it does feel stressful and it does feel challenging. But it also feels electric, intriguing, and alive. I have been craving these feelings for a long time.

my ancestors made me quit

The last few weeks have been full of activity and last weekend’s super full moon was the pinnacle of intensity!

For starters, I had my amazing international family in town and for nearly three weeks, we ate, drank, laughed, cried, and learned family stories (and secrets!) that spanned lifetimes in India, Africa, Europe, and North America.

Bird Family of Inner Light (Mark Anthony Jacobson)

Bird Family of Inner Light (Mark Anthony Jacobson)

The amount of information I was given about my ancestors was extremely powerful and emotional…illuminating my own existence in the here and now. I can more clearly see my life as a product and continuation of those who came before me. And I have no doubt that these revelations had something to do with me quitting my job a few days ago.

Holy sh#t. I quit my job.

I’m still in a bit of a daze over that one. It’s no secret to some blogger friends that I haven’t exactly been happy in my current employment. In fact, I’d given my notice way back in 2013, but changed my mind at the last minute. I did the same thing this year! Instead of quitting outright, I asked for some tweaks to my position, hoping that would quell my dissatisfaction.

But last weekend, something happened. I knew without a doubt that it was time to leave my job for good. And the following Monday morning, I gave my notice.

I truly feel that learning so much about my ancestors somehow crystallized this decision. I felt so much of their pain, trauma, success, abundance, loss, and sacrifice in hearing their stories…and it made me realize how vital it is for me to create what I want in this lifetime. To know that ‘anything can happen’, yet not be passive and let life just happen to me. To not allow 3, 5, 15 years fly by in a job that’s been ‘comfortable’, but has dimmed my fire.

Family Reflections (Mark Anthony Jacobson)

Family Reflections (Mark Anthony Jacobson)

In the months before my family’s visit, I’d been feeling a real curiousity about my ancestors. A deeper interest to know who they actually were, and what their lives were like.

Being the first generation born in the West, my ancestry was always something to be hidden or avoided in favour of Western culture – of white people. Only now am I really starting to feel my ancestors as people with real lives and feelings and hobbies and passions. People I’m still affected by.

To be honest, I’ve wondered mostly about the women. Who were they? What did they desire? Did they even allow themselves to desire, and did they know what that desire was?

But, as is often the case, it is the men’s stories I’ve heard – and they have something to teach me too. I’ve learned that these men were powerful creators who started several successful companies and businesses, ultimately losing everything when they were expelled from their home country in the 70s. (There’s a lot more to it than that…but it would require a whole book!)

I can’t help but feel my ancestors’ presence reminding me: All this strength is in YOU. This is your lineage…and we’re looking at YOU now! Where are you going to take us…what are you going to do on Planet Earth this time around?

Inner Strength Through Perseverence (Mark Anthony Jacobson)

Inner Strength Through Perseverence (Mark Anthony Jacobson)

Well…I seemed to have quit my job.

And nope, I don’t have another one lined up. I certainly don’t have six months of savings to live off of. I do have some ideas on what I’d like to pursue, but these seedlings may take some time to grow.

A foolish decision? Or a life-affirming one? Either way, there is no turning back now.

I must trust my intuition, and the universe at large. Now more than ever. There is nothing wrong with ‘playing it safe’, especially when you have others relying on you. But right now it is just me that I am responsible for. And I don’t want to spend one more minute doing things that don’t inspire or energize me, for fear that there is nothing better out there.

What is life going to look like at the end of summer? I don’t know. But I do know I’m getting ideas and this delicious feeling of ‘what if?’. What if I did that, and that turned into that, and that turned into that? I know things will be challenging – no illusions there – but I also know that listening to my body and intuition is my priority.

I’m ready for a new direction. And now it looks like I have no choice but to create one!