understand through compassion

Image courtesy of Vaughn Lewis (with my modifications)

Image courtesy of Vaughn Lewis (with my modifications)

I was very happy when Elysha asked me if I’d be interested in answering some questions on Kundalini Yoga for her blog at at Mind Body Soul Stylist. Upon completing my yoga teacher training program back in May, I entered a major blogging slump…so it was wonderful to have the opportunity to discuss my love for these sacred yogic teachings!

It’s been said that 2016 is the year of purification, and I am really feeling this. I’ve found it difficult to write about all that’s happening within (and without) – so much intensity! I have many things I’d like to share, but until the words flow again, here’s our interview. Thank you, Elysha!

http://elyshalenkin.com/styling-from-the-inside-secrets-from-a-kundalini-yoga-teacher/.

And Happy Canada Day, too. ❤ I’m grateful that this beautiful country accepted my parents, and many other Muslims, as refugees back in the 70s. Time will tell how humans choose to live out the drama unfolding on the world stage. I’m constantly reminding myself of the fourth sutra of the Aquarian Age: Understand through compassion or you will misunderstand the times.

Sat Nam. Truth is my identity.

the heart is not what i thought

After publishing my post on the heart I didn’t know what to blog about next. Everything I attempted to write seemed conceptual and slightly pretentious – ironically, coming from my head and not my heart!

My mind has been my albatross, but for the most part it’s felt more comfortable than my heart or body. The torture of the mind is strangely safe, familiar. At least I know what to expect, and its endless analyses make me feel like I’m in control of my experience. Shifting the power to my heart is venturing into unknown territory. It’s a blank, open space in which the rules are totally different. (And I can’t know the rules in advance.)

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Of course living from the heart is about love. But so many of our ideas about love are bound up in the emotions. Most of the time, I don’t walk around in an emotionally loving state. I get highly triggered on a daily basis. And for a long time, I felt bad about this. But at some point I accepted that I just wasn’t capable of more. So I started to take the pressure off myself in situations where I felt upset. Spirit, I can’t feel loving right now, so help me be neutral. Neutrality is the best I can do.

It’s like I thought being neutral would take me into a more ‘loving’ state, i.e., it was step two of three. Trigger – neutrality – love. But through my yoga and meditation practice these past few months, I’m wondering if neutrality is the loving state. Perhaps the heart, at its very essence, is less emotional than I thought.

A neutral heart-space is the gateway for spirit. Divine love can enter more easily when we’re not jammed up with habitual thoughts and emotions (especially self-judgment or self-blame). We have more room to be the vessel for service and healing. We are purer channels of consciousness when our minds don’t hijack the process with ideas of how love ‘should’ look and feel. Neutrality allows higher truth to flow through, and the heart is the portal.

Neutrality can be very uncomfortable. Emotions want to rush in and fill the space, because being ‘empty’ can feel almost cruel, like we’re robotic or don’t care. We’d rather have a negative emotion than no emotion at all! But neutrality is not boring or apathetic or lacking feeling, as I long thought. It’s not suppression or avoidance. Neutrality is the willingness to fully feel all our feelings and let them work through our body and psyche, so that we become more clarified. From there we can access more refined states of compassion and empathy.

Emotions don’t disappear…they are beautiful. But the intense waves subside.

I think we need to be as clear, neutral, and calm as possible these days, in this volatile world. There’s a bigger picture at play – the shadow of humanity is being unearthed, and it’s easy to get swept up in the highly charged fears and emotions. Playing into the collective drama of separation only feeds the perpetual game of duality.

I don’t want to dissociate from the game, but I try to remember my limited human perspective. Staying neutral, while seeing our own shadow reflected around us, is perhaps the most loving thing we can do for ourselves and the planet.

a selection of awakening experiences part II

I write these words the day before the February full moon, also my 40th birthday. For weeks I was looking forward to participating in Barbara Franken’s awakening challenge – I picked a pretty auspicious day for reflection – but now that the moment is here, I feel blocked. There’s so much to say about awakening, yet it all feels like concept. How to write about the ineffable?

Touching Her Potential, Hans Walor

Touching Her Potential, Hans Walor

I moved away from my current city last summer, only to return a few weeks ago. I’m living in the same apartment building as before the move, and this week I’ll likely return to my former place of employment. My favourite cashiers are still at the Whole Foods down the block, giving me extra stamps for my coffee. I hear the familiar sounds of birds chirping outside my window, and a siren in the downtown background.

It’s like I never left.

Back in August, I couldn’t wait to get out of the city. I was so tired of honking horns, screaming sirens and noisy neighbours. I was on edge all the time, and desperately wanted to be somewhere quieter, more removed. I needed to hear my own heart and voice, and I just couldn’t do it where I was.

And the move was good for me. I started my Kundalini Yoga teacher training program, met some wonderful new people, learned valuable work and life lessons, and, two weeks before moving back, ‘randomly’ reconnected with a soul mate for some much-needed healing and completion.

But overall, I didn’t really find the peace I was searching for. In perfect universal order, all the sounds I’d resisted followed me to my new place. I got it – changing the externals wasn’t going to change much. It was time to come ‘home’.

Knowing What She Wants, Hans Walor

Knowing What She Wants, Hans Walor

Since last October, when I began my teacher training, I’ve gone from sporadic meditation to a daily practice of yoga, breathwork, meditation, and/or mantra chanting. Specifically, for the past two weeks I’ve been doing a meditation designed to calm the heart.

As I become more attuned to my body’s signals and sensations, I can feel the bracing of my heart. For many years I’ve held my breath, hypervigilant, steeling myself from any potential hurt or shock coming my way. Lying in savasana, deep relaxation, I’m aware of how difficult it’s been for my system to just…relax.

Throughout my spiritual journey, I heard the words ‘listen to your heart’, ’trust your heart’, and ‘open your heart’ so many times that they lost meaning for me. I was frustrated. I didn’t know how to hear my heart. I didn’t know how to access that soft, still place that knows, I’m okay wherever I am. The voice that knows me better than anyone.

Genesis, Hans Walor

Genesis, Hans Walor

With patience, practice, humility, commitment, and discipline, I am becoming stabilized in my own heart. This is my awakening. My breath is clearing the way. My heart was never closed to begin with. It has always been strong, open, pounding, wise, knowing, and loving – waiting for me. And now I get to live in that place.

The sirens don’t bother me so much anymore. The loud noises aren’t so jarring. Since participating in Barbara’s first challenge, I’ve learned and unlearned so much. I’m a different person than I was two years ago, six months ago, two weeks ago. Nothing has changed these past few months, yet everything has changed. My experience of awakening will surely change too. And it’s all perfect.

Thank you for this opportunity, Barbara. Next up is Sue at http://suedreamwalker.wordpress.com.

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/.

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!

floating into nothingness

I’ve always known I have an active mind. But I never knew how screamingly, relentlessly active it was until a couple of weeks ago, when I spent 90 minutes alone in a sensory deprivation (isolation) tank.

It was quite serendipitous, really.  Last month I was on my way to a good friend’s place to begin a 4-week cat-sit, and I thought of an establishment that recently opened in my city – home to five such sensory deprivation tanks.  I’d like to try that someday, I thought.  The first thing I saw upon arriving at my friend’s place?  A voucher for a visit in one of these ‘float tanks’, as they’re also called.  She left it as a gift for me.

BeFunky_DSCN09751.jpg

I wasn’t sure what to expect, as I’ve never considered myself claustrophobic.  Being enclosed in  complete darkness, floating in a pool of water (would I really float?) sounded either completely relaxing or mildly terrifying.  On the day of my visit, the guy on staff was very friendly and (not surprisingly) extremely chill.  He gave me and another newbie a tour of the space, and showed us to our respective rooms.  My tank was filled with epsom salts – 800 lbs! – dissolved in water, which felt pleasantly warm against my skin.

As I closed the tank door and began my session, anxiety quickly crept in.  I was relieved that I could indeed float with no effort on my part, but the profound blackness and quiet was totally foreign to me.  As the minutes wore on, my uneasiness grew.   I have to lie here for 90 minutes?!  Holy shit, I am claustrophobic!  I began to panic.  I felt a million miles away from everyone and everything.  The most irrational fear-based thoughts engulfed me.  Some too embarrassing to mention here.  I felt completely alone and small.  What if they forget about me?   

Fortunately, a part of me could also see myself experiencing all this.  In those moments, I remembered that this was my mind and ego turned on full tilt as they – probably for the first time ever – had nothing to distract them.  And they were not happy about this.  They tried to convince me I was bored.   They tried to attack me with all sorts of flimsy arguments and crazed rationalizations and justifications and projections about…anything.

How do people find this relaxing?!   This is the most stressful thing ever!

And yet, there was no way I was leaving that tank.  This is your mind.  This fear of nothingness, of separation, is the undercurrent of your everyday life and you are seeing all the ways in which your mind tries to distract you and numb you from this fear.  And I understood that no amount of affirming or reading or philosophizing or Abraham-Hicks’ing will work if I am running from this place.

For 90 minutes I would experience waves of anxiety, panic, deep breathing…and relief when the mind actually would stop.

I’m pretty sure my experience would’ve been a whole lot different if I meditated more in general.  Even in meditation, though, my surroundings seem a lot closer, more palpable.  I can just open my eyes and everything will still be there.  I can still hear everything around me.  (My meditations obviously aren’t that deep.)  In the tank, there is nothing.  No escape, short of exiting the tank.  So the insanity of my mind was felt all the more intensely.

When it was time to emerge, I felt like I’d been through the wringer. I was practically hyperventilating.  After showering and getting my things together, I left the room in a slight daze. “That was intense,” I told the chill staff guy, now folding towels.  “Isn’t it great?” he responded.  “I love watching people come out of the tanks.  They’re always so glowing.”

I looked in the mirror.  He was right; I was glowing.  I walked home, still buzzed, and had the deepest, most relaxing sleep that evening.

***

Now that I’ve had some distance from the float tank experience, I no longer view it as terrifying.  Because now I can more identify with the space that contained it – with the part of me that was witnessing my struggle.  I caught a glimpse of something I cannot ignore. I feel relieved.  Instead of being scared by the nothingness of it all, I’m intrigued by what that space, that void, holds.  Is it really ‘nothing’, or just unknown to me?  Maybe I don’t need to fill it with anything.  There is a peace and curiousity within me.

The really funny thing?  Chill staff guy had informed me that I could have another session on the house, as construction had been taking place next door and it might have interfered with my experience.  (If it did, I didn’t notice.)

Something is clearly drawing me back into that tank.  I wonder where I will be carried to next…

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. 🙂