7 life lessons from back pain

I was all set to write another post on blogging a couple of weeks ago, when I threw my back out. Not for the first time…but this was unlike any other episode. Excruciating spasms. Unable to stand up on my own. Putting on socks? Forget it.

I’ve been thinking about a good friend who was in near-constant back pain for months. Most health care practitioners were unable to help, and she eventually had surgery. I remember meeting with her while she was struggling with pain. I see now that I was unable to be truly present with her. I wanted there to be a solution: I wanted her to discover the emotional root of her issue, the ‘why’ of it.

Artist: Maxine Noel

And now, as I write these words, I realize I don’t know the ‘why’ of my own pain, and how presumptuous it was to think I could know it for anyone else. But I have come to some insights about what this experience is teaching me personally.

Listening to my body’s warning signals: as mentioned, it’s not the first time I’ve thrown my back out. I’d had warning signs for years, and knew what I needed to do to prevent future pain from happening. But I always put it off. This time, my body made sure I was paying attention.

I am vulnerable: I never knew just how much I need my lower back. Now I need help with so much. I’ve had to reach out to friends and loved ones for assistance with the most simple of tasks. I’m not used to this, and it is humbling.

Which brings me to Gratitude: I am blessed that I have people in my life to help me, and who ask nothing in return. This is no small thing, and it’s probably the biggest gift of all.

Compassion: I think of all those who don’t have caring support. I see where I’ve missed opportunities to be compassionate and helpful. When we’re feeling good and healthy, it can be hard to understand what it’s like to be in pain, especially chronic pain. I wanted to fix my friend’s problem by helping her discover the emotional root, but that wasn’t what she needed. She needed to feel validated and understood for what she was feeling in that moment.

Meds can be a good thing: Is there an emotional root to my pain? Probably. Low back pain is suggested to indicate a lack of support. And I have felt that, for many years. But it’s interesting that the pain is also revealing to me the support I do have. Beyond the mind/body connection and my holistic practices, I’m grateful for the medication that’s reducing my pain. This is noteworthy, as I’ve always been somewhat anti-medication – you wouldn’t even find an Advil in my home – and had a bit of an ego about that.

I am not in control. I can play my part in my healing, but my body is on its own timeline and will recover at its own pace. This has required patience and surrender that I’m not accustomed to. Forcing anything is only going to set me back.

Self-care is a priority: I’ve never missed so much work, or relied on others to take care of me. I notice how guilty I feel about it. Thoughts that I’m a burden on others, that I’m taking ‘too long’ to get better, surface repeatedly. No one has given me this message. It’s been eye-opening to realize just how hard it is to take care of myself first.

This entire experience has been very humbling, and I’m learning to trust that my body knows what it’s doing, even when my mind objects. I’m thankful that I’ve had no choice but to slow down and listen.

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.

[2018 update: I no longer follow Jenna’s channel as her message changed significantly in 2017. Read my post https://alohaleya.com/2017/06/24/technology-the-divine-search/ for more on that]

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…

kundalini + mantra = miracles

Shortly after my first Kundalini Yoga class over ten years ago, I passed a woman on the street just outside our local studio. She was about my age, clad all in white, her face glowing as she chanted a mantra to herself. She looked completely blissed out and in her own world. Wow, I thought. I want some of that. But not too much. It’s a little weird.

That memory hit me a few days ago, when I found myself walking down the street, chanting a mantra, completely blissed out and in my own world. Wow, I thought, a little giggly this time. Thank you, Universe.You really don’t forget.

Blue Saraswati, by the amazing Sonja Picard

Blue Saraswati, by the amazing Sonja Picard

It’s been almost a month since I began my Kundalini Yoga teacher training program. I’ve skyrocketed from infrequent, intermittent meditation pre-training to a 45-minute (minimum) daily practice. My red wine consumption has decreased dramatically, and I’m now tackling my sugar addiction.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that my life is scheduled around my homework, and probably will be for the next few months. I wouldn’t say it’s been easy…but it does feel right.

I’ve discovered the joy of mantra meditation. Kundalini Yoga centres on chanting in sacred languages (Gurmukhi and Sanskrit), and my monkey mind is loving it. I’ve generally found it hard to meditate in silence; the thoughts come barrelling in, much too fast to control, and I can’t seem to get ahead of them. (Can anyone relate?) Focusing on a word like ‘love’ or ‘peace’ is sometimes even more difficult; if I’m not in a peaceful or loving state, my mind vehemently resists. Who are you kidding? You don’t feel that way! This is pointless and excruciating, let’s check email instead!

The uncontrolled mind is a tricky, sly beast. It knows all the little crevices to slip in and transport us somewhere far, far away – nowhere close to the present moment.

What I love about chanting in a language other than English is that the words bypass my mind and download straight into my cells. My DNA recognizes the ancient truths embedded in the unfamiliar sounds. My mind cannot object or protest because it doesn’t know what it’s protesting.

Chanting taps me into my multi-dimensional self – the ‘me’ beyond form, language, and conditioning. I can’t get enough; it’s like I’m being fed after years and years of starvation, and my system is lapping up every last bit.

I’ve been chanting for purposes beyond homework too. There are so many fear tapes playing on repeat in the collective consciousness right now, and I want to be vigilant in overriding this mass programming. I feel humanity can transcend this dark cycle, provided we don’t buy into the untruths we are being sold by those who have a vested interest in keeping us feeling deflated and powerless.

***

I was hesitant to start my teacher training program; I didn’t want Kundalini Yoga to take over my life. I very much wanted to retain my ‘Aleya’ personality, her likes and preferences, her idiosyncrasies. I feared that committing to a spiritual path would strip away my individuality.

And of course, it is doing just that. Our earthly identities are just a finite fragment of our infinite selves. But Kundalini Yoga is not really stripping Aleya away; it’s helping her access her limitlessness, while flooding her finite self with more love, compassion, and kindness than she’s ever known.

What’s not to love?

india is awakening within

Adjusting to ‘normal’ life after completing the first module of my Kundalini Yoga teacher training program has been…well, there are no words. And there are so many words. My whole being feels very full of insights, knowledge, understanding, and gratitude.

Being sequestered for five days in a house full of yogis, with daily meditations starting at 4am, physically challenging classes, and yes, a snoring roommate, put me out of my comfort zone in a big way. I embraced it all as gracefully as I could – though there were definitely a couple of clunky moments!

Me in India, in 2010

Me in India, in 2010

My Kundalini adventure is just beginning. I have three more modules to complete, plus daily homework of yoga, reading, and meditation till the program finishes in May 2016.

I’m seeing why it took the amount of time it did for me to get here. The seeds of this journey were planted over ten years ago, when I took my first Kundalini Yoga class and knew there was something very special about the technology. Even then I knew that this path couldn’t be pursued halfheartedly; it requires a level of commitment and discipline that I wasn’t prepared for until now. Actually, I still feel unprepared – but that’s a story of limitation I’m ready to break through.

I understand why I’ve spent so many years alone, exploring different teachings, and delving into my shadow and dark feelings. It’s all been preparation for a new way of being.

‘Surrender’ and ‘trust’ are recurring themes in the blogs I read. If humanity is indeed evolving in consciousness, we must let go of the idea that God/Universe/Source is out to get us. That is an old paradigm. We’re moving into the deep knowing that we are fundamentally good and not fundamentally flawed (as many traditional religions would have us believe). We’re much more than the duality we live in.

To surrender and trust means giving up the need to control every facet of our lives (or rather, releasing the illusion that that’s even possible). During our morning mediations, I felt so much tension in my face…clenched jaw, scrunched up eyes…the stress of thinking, worrying, and holding on. My body is so ready to let that all go.

Our beautiful teacher training room

Our beautiful teacher training room

We don’t need to try so hard; the universe remembers connections we’ve made and seeds we’ve planted. Last month I received an unexpected email from a former employer, asking if I’d be interested in writing a blog post for her spiritual travel company. For a time I’d worked as the company’s social media coordinator, and blogging was my favourite aspect of that role. I was very happy to have that opportunity arise once again.

I found myself writing about India. She is playing a very big role in my life right now, as I study the yogic teachings and feel the presence of my ancestors all around me. I’m discovering a part of myself that I buried a long time ago. India is awakening within.

Nothing is ever lost, if it’s in alignment with who we really are and what we love to do. Things are always cycling back to us in newer, more refined forms as we experience, learn, and clarify. It’s about shifting the power from the mind to the heart.

Time to head to my local Kundalini Yoga class – today’s homework! 🙂

Until next time,
Aleya

Here’s my guest post for Sacred Earth Journeys: http://www.sacredearthjourneys.ca/blog/indias-cosmic-winks-a-story-from-a-past-participant/.

the healing sea

healing sea

The ocean soothes and contains me. I grew up surrounded by water and can’t imagine my life without it. It is not an ‘it’, but an alive being whose consciousness I feel more and more. She feels feminine to me. Receptive, open, pulled by the moon…

Water is my conduit to the Divine, and her expansiveness holds all my hopes, dreams, prayers, fears, tears, and desires. Today I say ‘thank you’ to the healing sea, for always holding me in her loving depth.

saturn, i’m listening

Today I am living in the fifth place I’ve stayed at in the last six months.  Tomorrow will begin my last week of work before my Leave.  Next week I depart for my six-week trip to Europe, 4-5 of which will be in Italy.

I’ve barely had time to catch my breath and last week the ‘good’ stress manifested into physical and emotional haywire. Thankfully this weekend has been hugely restorative, as I’m housesitting a friend’s spa-like pad, and caring for her two very sweet and rambunctious kittens.  (These creatures have been very effective at taking me out of my own thoughts as, for example, I watch them fight over a crumpled piece of paper for half an hour.)

technicolor lakshmi, sonja picard. www.sonjapicard.com

technicolor lakshmi, sonja picard. http://www.sonjapicard.com

In Vedic Astrology there’s a phenomenon called ‘Saturn Transit’ (Sade Sati) in which the planet Saturn enters one’s moon sign (and the sign before and after) for a period of approximately 7½ years and, depending on who you ask, either makes your life miserable or inspires great growth and change. I’m exaggerating…but it’s essentially known to be an intense period of shift, and the best thing to do is just go with the changes with an open mind and willingness to learn what Saturn teaches.

Saturn is known to remove all that no longer serves us, whether we want it gone or not. Saturn makes those changes we’ve been dragging our heels on making ourselves. Saturn is a disciplinarian; he can seem cold and harsh, but ultimately the changes are for the better. (This by no means fully explains Sade Sati; you’d have to ask a Vedic Astrologer for the expert analysis.)

I was advised that my Saturn Transit was coming, months before it actually started a couple of years ago.  Whether I believe in Sade Sati or whether it’s the power of suggestion, I cannot deny that since that time there has been enormous change in my life, not only on an external level, but even more so internally.  Remembering the lessons of Saturn has brought me some grounding.

Saturn demands that we pare down, de-clutter, simplify, and organize. He forces us to examine: what is truly important to us?

For most of my life I’ve been on a spiritual search, and I’m sure this will continue throughout…eternity. But this search has often been a bit heavy, wrapped up in analysis and trying to understand things intellectually, or wanting to ‘heal’ things in my life (past, present, and future).  In other words, the spiritual path has often been so serious. And while this has served me perfectly in the ways it’s needed to, I’m ready for more fun.  For more lightheartedness.  For more joy.  For more beauty.

And what better place to experience and integrate the pleasures of life, than Italia?  The food, the scenery, the language, the wine, the art, the people, the…all of it.

This trip represents my intention to enjoy life without figuring out all the why’s. To let beauty absorb my senses.  To, as the kitties do, fully experience and embody what’s right in front of me without figuring out (worrying) where I’m going next.  To accept this beautiful gift from the universe without questioning my worthiness for receiving it.

Saturn is known for his heaviness, for putting pressure on us; but maybe he’s teaching me that I am the one – in fact, the only one – who can diminish the pressure and heaviness in my life, by cleaning up all my own self-imposed ‘stuff’.  I like this, and I gleefully accept Italy’s role in the metamorphosis.

Namaste.

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. 🙂