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.

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. ❤

when does karma become an excuse?

Karma’s been on my mind a lot lately. Through my yoga training these past few months, I’m opening to the idea of my dharma transforming my (perceptions of) karma. Given that it’s a full moon weekend, and the tail end of Mercury Retrograde, I thought I’d share this post from early in my blogging days. Though I can still relate to these words, I also see where so much has shifted. Here’s to transformation that serves our highest potential!

Sat Nam

alohaleya

The concept of karma has long played a central role in my life.  It imprinted on my psyche at a young age and has since shaped my identity.  My theories about what ‘my karma’ is have defined who I am and what I see myself as capable or deserving of in this lifetime.

Life experiences, mundane and significant, are often filtered through the lens of how they might relate to my karma. Maybe I have ‘unfinished business’ with so-and-so.  Maybe I did this to someone in a past life, so they’re doing it to me now.  Future plans and decisions are made with a cautionary inner voice: Maybe it’s not in your karma to do/have this.

Gold Parvati. Artst: Sonja Picard (www.sonjapicard.com) Gold Parvati. Artst: Sonja Picard (www.sonjapicard.com)

Where did this obsession with my karma originate? Ancestors, religion, society…an innocuous comment someone once made, which caused a fundamental rewire in my brain?

Does it…

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milestone: teaching my first yoga class

My Kundalini Yoga practicum – teaching a ‘real’ class at our studio – took place last week. All trainees in my program taught over a 3-day Yoga-thon, me being placed in what I considered the least desirable spot – late Sunday afternoon. As someone who likes to get things over with, it was somewhat agonizing to wait around all weekend for my class to begin!

On one level, I wasn’t at all nervous about teaching. There was nothing to fear; I’d done all I could to prepare and I knew I’d be in a supportive environment. I didn’t have to be perfect. I’d never done this before!

But on another level, there was everything to fear. I could sense my ego kicking into overdrive, anticipating all that could go wrong. I knew the havoc this could wreak, so I took advantage of my extra time that Sunday morning and let myself fully feel all my nerves and anxiety. As if I had an internal dial, I turned all the uncomfortable sensations up to ‘Intense’.

Yup, I look pretty happy up there!

Yup, I look pretty happy up there!

The usual suspects turned up. Humiliation. What if I panicked on the spot, forgetting everything I’d memorized, and getting my notes all mixed up? Pride. I was afraid of losing face. I feared the pity of others – or their secret satisfaction – if I failed. (That’s a fun one to admit!) Shame. I feared being exposed as a fraud, an imposter. The list goes on. Ultimately, I feared failing God.

I knew this wasn’t just about the yoga class. These fears are deeply embedded in the human psyche. In such states we can’t access the knowing that we are eternal and infinite, fundamentally unaffected by whatever ego construes as danger. I prayed for humility, trust, self-compassion…and to have fun!

In true Mercury Retrograde fashion, there was an element of ‘expect the unexpected’. The trainee scheduled before me had become ill, and I was asked to teach her class as well. Two classes in a row?! I did not see that coming. I swear I could hear Yogi Bhajan chuckling in the ethers. Surrender.

And – things went well. It was a wee bit distracting to have my lead trainer evaluating me in the back of the room, taking copious notes throughout both classes…but the time flew by and I was provided wonderful feedback that bolstered my confidence and helped me see where I can improve. To be honest, once I got up there, things felt quite un-dramatic! I don’t recall my heart pounding as furiously as it had during my practice sessions. Yes, there were nerves – but it mostly felt comfortable and natural.

That’s not say it wasn’t a big deal. I’d accomplished a goal I’d dreamed about for years. This was a huge step!

Some passions are so obvious that we’re certain of them from a young age. Others, like my yoga journey, are more subtle and reveal themselves over time. Those dreams often take years of cultivation before they germinate. Even if feels like ‘nothing’s happening’, on some level, we know exactly what we’re doing. The dream itself wants to ensure we’re ready to receive and take good care of it. It deserves the best ‘us’ we can bring to it. And so, we have to prepare.

I’m not quite finished my training – I still have a final exam and another training session to complete – but regardless of what my Kundalini future brings, in my book, I’ve already succeeded.

***

On another note, I LOVE that this is my 108th post! 108 is a sacred number in yogic tradition, and this seems like a fitting opportunity to thank everyone who reads, follows, and comments on this blog. It is such a blessing to connect with, and learn from, you all. Thank you!

Sat Nam. Truth is my identity.

when the student is ready…

Last weekend marked another session of my Kundalini Yoga teacher training program. When I started the training last October, spring seemed so far away. And here I am, planning my practicum, which means teaching a ‘real’ class at a studio next month!

One of our first discussions last Fall surrounded the shift from the Piscean Age to the Age of Aquarius. One of the principles of this transition is the emphasis on the Inner Teacher. The era of looking to an external source of religious/spiritual authority is ending. We are learning to access our own inner knowing and become sovereign beings. We self-initiate.

art face

the inner teacher awakens

Many of us who grew up within organized religion – even if our parents weren’t extreme – were programmed to follow rotes and rules, obey authority, and please God. The concept of Judgment Day plagued me from a young age; I learned to police my every thought and action early on in life, because I knew somehow, somewhere God was keeping a tally.

You’re playing with fire, I’d tell myself, when I thought about following my own inner voice. I didn’t even know what that inner voice was, but I sensed it didn’t involve a punishing male authority figure who demanded that I pray a certain way at a certain place, while others prayed in their own designated places. Deviating from my religion filled me with ambivalence, fear, and guilt. Who am I to mess with God’s plan? I must have been born into this religion for a reason. I’m hurting my family with my defiance. When will I stop being so stubborn?

Last weekend’s training required that I practice teach in front of the group. In perfect universal order, I was assigned to lead the very meditation I’d choked on a couple months ago – only this time in front of more bodies! I had to laugh (sorta) at the universe’s humour. It is keeping a tally, but in the most loving way.

This entire training has required me to be continually out of my comfort zone…resisting the process, surrendering to the process, and coming out stronger and more confident.

I’m learning to accept my own inner knowing, and my capacity and readiness to share these sacred teachings. I think we all carry much more information than we know. What if a treasure trove rests in our DNA, the knowledge of lifetimes past and lessons learned? What if we’re here not to be punished for previous ‘bad behaviour’ but, with our own self-mastery and innate tools, awaken realms of information we already posses within?

Are we ready for the magnitude of this? It sounds pretty cool, but it means dying to an old way – and this can be terrifying, despite our greatest desires to be free from our limitations.

Honouring the Inner Teacher doesn’t mean we don’t learn from each other, or honour the teachers around us. For they often awaken and inform our own knowing. We don’t write off those whose style or teachings differ from our own. The Inner Teacher is not about arrogance (though it can slide into ego if unchecked), and it doesn’t mean rejecting religion, if religion brings us joy and comfort.

It does mean we honour all knowledge as different frequencies of the same oneness. (Truth be told: I find the word ‘oneness’ somewhat problematic. It’s used so often in spiritual circles that for me it’s meaning has become diluted.) Honouring the Inner Teacher is about valuing our piece of this big cosmic fractal, and knowing we have something to contribute.

Our existence is not an accident, and we’re not here to merely exist. We did not arrive on this planet to follow along and be sheep and obey authority. (Unless that’s what you really, really want to do.) As an astrologer told me many moons ago: You signed the contract. We came here to change life as we know it, at a time where we – the human race – could make our break ourselves.

No one said a dramatic shift in consciousness would be easy. What is your Inner Teacher telling you?

delusions in love and money

A couple of weeks ago I returned to my hometown after five months living in a much smaller city. I’m happy to be back. Though my time on the Island was powerful, it was also quite challenging. I missed my native city’s buzz and beauty, and my friends and family.

Wherever you go, there you are. It’s true. Moving to a new location may seem like the solution to our frustrations, but once the novelty wears off we often find our old thoughts and behaviours creeping back in, like weeds growing in our minds. The same dynamics appear, but with new faces and places.

On the other hand, new scenery can give us a reset or fresh perspective. Many people are now being guided to relocate. Maybe we’ve learned all we can where we are, and it’s time to move on.

Personally, so many of my own illusions and delusions came to the surface these last few months, especially in terms of finances and relationships. I became aware of how intertwined my views are on love and money, and where I’ve buried my head in the sand about each. Reality can feel too painful or overwhelming to confront, so we make up stories to avoid it.

Some painted tree posts from my Island 'hood

Some painted tree posts from my Island ‘hood

I’ve never felt totally at home in 3D. I’ve preferred to spend time in realms beyond the physical, seeking the bigger picture ‘why’ of things. But I can see that over-spiritualizing – looking for a spiritual explanation for everything – doesn’t always serve. I’ve dismissed physical reality as somehow inferior to the ‘higher’ realms. It’s all just an illusion.

Yet we are in the physical, material world on planet earth, and my struggle has been with scarcity. Survival. Poverty. Not enough. I’m not enough. This has manifested in bank balances and romantic relationships that could do nothing but reflect this lack. I’ve blamed ‘evil financial corporations’ and fantasized about ‘twin flames’. I’ve been terrified that external sources had so much power over me, and that I couldn’t wriggle myself out, despite my best efforts and intentions.

It’s been essential to dive into my emotions and memories to understand where my limiting beliefs originated, and how I’ve created experiences of lack over and over. I’ve been on my self-healing journey for many years, and in feeling the pain and emptiness for so long (especially these last few months), I’m now sensing that it doesn’t mean anything.

All the stories I’ve told myself about love and money, and my worthiness (or lack thereof) to receive them, about lessons and karma and suffering, are simply not true. It seems like a paradox; we must feel the intense realness of our darkest places, our deepest lack and shame, to realize it was never true to begin with. Not for us, our parents, or our ancestors.

There is grief in this. We’ve invested so much time and energy in our stories, hopes, and delusions that we resist letting them go. We have known and loved those stories, even if they’ve caused pain. Letting go feels risky, as so many of our loved ones are invested in these same stories. We doubt ourselves. What if I’m wrong? What if God’s testing me, to show how much I care? What if I’m quitting two minutes before the miracle?

Letting go means we give up our attachment to being powerless. We don’t get to be so sad and moody anymore. A whole new range of experience awaits, and we have to be responsible. Who knows what that will demand of us!

But holding on to what’s not working eventually becomes so draining that we simply do not have the energy to continue. It’s not worth the consequences to our body and spirit. We have no recourse but to throw in the towel and trust the tiny shred of hope that something greater just might be on the horizon.

I’m open to miracles, 5D living, and quantum shifts in consciousness. Bring it on! But I’m committed to not living in la-la land. I intend to see the physical, material world with more crystal clarity than ever, knowing I have the resources to handle it. I’ll see through 3D’s illusions (and yeah, it is all illusion), so that real truth can shine through.

Happy February!

the rising voice (speaking my truth pt. 3)

I’ve just completed the second module of my Kundalini Yoga teacher training program. Once again, twelve of us yogis were cocooned for five days in a big rustic house overlooking the ocean, immersed in deep teachings while eagles flew overhead and community members lovingly prepared us delicious meals.

I was not looking forward to this module. I knew my resistance was the ego’s fear that change was coming, and that I would be put majorly out of my comfort zone. I dreaded doing what could not be avoided: getting up in front of a group of people to practice teaching Kundalini Yoga.

I felt nauseous every time I thought about it. My head spun and my heart pounded. I felt shaky. I even cried at one point. Though I’ve spoken in front of groups of people before, this was different. I couldn’t put on a persona here. I had to be authentically, vulnerably, me. The stakes felt bizarrely high, too. This was a dream ten years in the making…what if I choked?

Starry Flower of Life, Elspeth McLean

Starry Flower of Life, Elspeth McLean

Well, I did choke. On our second day, we individually chanted a mantra out loud, providing each other feedback on our tone, pitch, and pronunciation. When it came to my turn, my voice wavered so much I could barely make it through. When I opened my eyes, there was such compassion and love in the faces around me. I was embarrassed and somewhat heartbroken.

I went within and became present to the deep emotions that had come up. Aside from the normal nerves of the situation, the experience had triggered something from my family and cultural upbringing. Women were not encouraged to raise their voices, to speak loudly and freely. I’ve never really had a place where I could just let my voice go. Being in the spotlight heightened just how foreign it felt.

I sensed all this in my genetic line…an ancestry of women whose voices were chastised and clipped. I felt the grief of those who loved to sing.

I now had the opportunity to transform all that. To lovingly accept the fear, and allow myself to move through it. To trust in the support of my group and know that it is safe to be heard, loud and clear.

Over the next few days, I had a couple more practice sessions. The nerves were still there, but they had lessened. My voice began to emerge and I was even having fun. There was a remembering of doing this before…an ancient knowledge awakening within.

In Kundalini Yoga it’s emphasized that our personality is not teaching – ‘the teacher’ is. We take the role of teacher and share the information so that others can experience their own inner teacher. ‘Aleya’ may be riddled with fear – but the teacher aspect of her is not. The ego must step aside.

Becoming a yoga teacher is a goal I’ve had for years, but the training couldn’t have happened a minute sooner than it did. I had to explore many things in between – different courses, workshops, and studies. I had to be primed and shaped to receive these powerful teachings, to carry them forward responsibly and with integrity.

I’m reminded that the universe doesn’t forget what’s deep in our heart. We must do our part, then surrender to its timing. Even if we feel something strongly in our blood and bones, we may still need patience, practice, and humility to bring it to fruition. It is then that we truly appreciate it.

I still have some months of training to go, but I feel I conquered a beast this last round. I’m inspired to share what I’ve learned and feel blessed to serve in this way.

Sat Nam (Truth is my identity)