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.

success is in the heart

For the first time in my life, I have a job where people don’t say, “You’re capable of so much more.” After years of working in more junior roles at the same organization, a few months ago I accepted a management position in a field I’m passionate about. Finally, I thought. For the first time, I can be proud of what I do. I have my own office filled with plants and books – and business cards! I don’t have to explain my career choices anymore.

And yet, something feels off.

In my previous position, a colleague once said to me: “You don’t seem particularly career driven.” I don’t think this was meant offensively, but I was slightly triggered and pondered her words for some time after.

The fact is, she was right. When it came to a day job, I never wanted the responsibility that came with senior level roles. I was always content to serve in a more support-type capacity, because I didn’t want to carry home any unnecessary stress. I liked being behind the scenes. I took pride in doing a good job, and I could forget about work at the end of the day.

For the most part, I was always motivated by something else, something much deeper for me. It was a personal, inner – spiritual – search. This occupied most of my energy, and that was hard (and often pointless) to explain to those who were more outwardly focused and who questioned why I didn’t challenge myself more, work-wise.

Fundamentally, I also never cared about title and prestige. It was an interesting paradox to feel triggered by the opinions of those around me, yet know deep in my heart that it ultimately means nothing. I understood I was so much more than my career.

Now here I am poised for change yet again, and I ask myself (yet again): what do I really want? Can I feel and follow the beat of my own drum, unplugging from others’ notions of what ‘success’ looks like? Seeds have been planted, and movement in a new direction is imminent. This involves leaving the company I’ve been with for many years and starting over in a new organization.

As I previously wrote, my home environment is changing too. In these times of upheaval all around, some of us are moving back to our roots (as the wonderful Laura mentions in her comment on my post). I’ve been spending time in the very neighbourhood I grew up in and, more than ever, it feels like home.

For so many years, I wanted to live anywhere but there. I had visions of starting life over in a foreign country where I knew no one and had no shackles of the past. And now, the place I grew up is the only place I want to be. I’m seeing my childhood, and the awesome beauty that surrounded me, with new and appreciative eyes.

In a way, it feels like rewriting time and history.

My friends laugh at me for moving and changing jobs so much. And yes, I am feeling a bit exhausted and want some stability. But then, is anything really stable these days? Can we accept that flux is the new norm? Though this little birdy is looking for a place to nest, she will always be grateful for the ability to fly to new surroundings and expand her horizons.

For now, my new direction feels good and as long as I trust my heart and intuition, I can’t go wrong.

year of the jellyfish

It’s my 4th WordPress anniversary this week, and since we’re in a New Year month, it seems fitting to re-blog my very first post from 2013.

I had the sense, back then, that a new world was opening up. And now, 4 years later, with friends made around the world and so many stories shared, I have a newfound appreciation for those early words.

Reading that first post, it’s clear that I was feeling hope and relief in shedding some long-held beliefs; something had shifted within, and it was palpable. Looking back now, it’s like the stage was being set for me to discover just how deeply ingrained these beliefs were in me, and in my family, culture, and ancestry. These past few years have been about diving down, exploring, and uprooting.

I also see that my journey has taken on a new dimension since 2013: self-compassion, humility, and forgiveness have grown. I’ve learned that spirituality is not all ‘love and light’, and that spending time in the muck is an essential part of healing. Also, after years of resisting, I’m becoming much more comfortable with silence. Stillness speaks volumes.

Happy Anniversary, Happy 2017, and Happy Year of the Rooster! No doubt this upcoming year will be monumental. My intentions? To breathe, meditate, feel all my feelings, and remember I’m not alone. And oh yeah, to blog. 😉

Sat Nam, Namaste, Aloha. Thank you for reading!

alohaleya

jellyfish Image courtesy of wikimedia.org

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…

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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…

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/.

why canada’s new leader matters

Canada is abuzz with the recent election of its new Prime Minister, Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau. I’m not sure if this made major headlines outside the country, but from my perspective, it is a huge deal.

I don’t follow politics closely; though I understand each party’s basic platform, I generally stay away from the news and mass media. However, I do know what I feel, and that is deep gratitude that my fellow Canadians came out in record numbers to exercise their right to vote – to say NO MORE to a right-wing government rooted in separation, fear, and division.

This post comes from my heart. I won’t say a lot about the politics of Canada’s exiting Prime Minister, Stephen Harper. Only that when he was first elected, I felt a profound sense of dread and foreboding, which intensified when he was re-elected in 2011. It saddened me that his win reflected the dominant vibe of my country. Regardless of whether or not the majority of Canadians actually wanted him to win (and various factors indicated they didn’t), the election results were our collective responsibility.

Beautiful red October leaves

Beautiful red October leaves

A couple of years ago, I sat with my cosmically plugged-in friend AM at a coffeeshop in Vancouver. We shared our dismal feelings that our beloved Canada was changing right before our eyes under a repressive, conservative regime. At the time the 2015 election seemed so far away and we shuddered to think what could happen in the meantime. But we knew we could not slip into passivity. I’ll never forget that conversation, because it seemed so much bigger than the two of us.

In the days leading up to last week’s election, the momentum in the air was palpable. It wasn’t about a particular candidate, it was about the masses coming to life: sensing the possibility for change, and feeling the power to create it.

I may be painting Stephen Harper as the enemy, and that’s not my intention. His government’s actions throughout the last 9+ years have prompted me to examine those places in myself where I’ve identified with their patriarchal, traditionalist views. I’m able to see where I’ve been apathetic to important issues. Harper’s initiative to ban Muslim women from wearing the niqab in certain situations triggered my own conflicts with being Muslim. I can’t point fingers. In doing so, I take the responsibility off myself and my contribution to the whole.

That said – enough is enough.

I know it’s far too early to be over-confident about Canada’s progressive new leadership. I know that no political party is perfect and that many politicians never follow through on their promises. I’m not envisioning Canada as a golden age utopia that Trudeau will restore in the next four years (ok, maybe I’m fantasizing about that one a little).

I know that Canada wasn’t perfect pre-Harper, that Trudeau himself has supported controversial bills, and that politics is ultimately another duality-based game. I know that many Canadians are not happy about this decision.

But I love the fact that our new Prime Minister identifies as a feminist. I love that he brings youth, energy, and vitality to the political arena. I love that the woman by his side, his loving wife Sophie, understands that “Humanity longs for more compassion, more emotional intelligence, and less ‘ego-driven’ super powers.” I love that Canada’s Parliament now has a higher than ever number of Indigenous members (and hopefully many more leaders to come), and will soon have equal gender representation.

Canada’s new leadership matters to me because it represents something much greater: a shift in consciousness towards more balance, harmony, and inclusion. I hope with all my heart that Trudeau follows through on his promises. But it’s up to all Canadians to build a more compassionate, caring Canada. We are that powerful.