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.

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)

passion, resistance, and kundalini yoga

I’m most motivated to write a blog post immediately after I’ve published one. I feel like I’ve just conquered a beast, and I’m ready to take on another.

That beast is Resistance.

There’s a release when I hit ‘publish’. Something inside me has broken free, creating space for new ideas and inspirations. I feel almost giddy and l promise myself I’ll write more often. But as days go on, I lose my mojo. And after about two weeks, I’ll find any excuse to avoid sitting down to write.

Turns out my experience is not unique. I’m halfway through Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art, in which he lays out the numerous forms of resistance artists encounter in carrying out their sacred work. This book is rocking my world. Pressfield writes that we often meet the strongest resistance in creating that which is most meaningful and valuable to us – the work that comes from our heart and soul.

I’ve written about the pressure of passion before. Those of us who feel our passion eludes us can be so preoccupied with ‘finding it’ that it becomes a source of stress. We conclude that we must not have one, or that we’re somehow missing it. Either way, something feels wrong.

But this could be resistance in clever disguise.

Flaming Star, by my beautiful friend & artist Christyn Hall. She's painting 33 paintings in 30 days this month! See more of her gorgeous sacred art at http://christynmhall.com.

Flaming Star, by my beautiful friend & artist Christyn M. Hall. She’s painting 33 paintings in 30 days this month! Click on the image above or visit christynmhall.com to see more of her gorgeous sacred art.

The force of resistance is real, insidious, and relentless. Resistance discourages us from putting our barest selves out there, because we are then subject to potential humiliation, rejection, and failure. Resistance abhors change, because change puts us out of our comfort zone and compels us to be vulnerable. Resistance is mired in fear.

There are those who seem to unequivocally know what their sacred work is. They don’t have to search for their passion; it pulses in their bones. I used to think that they were ‘lucky’ to have their gifts flow through them so effortlessly. I envied that. I’m now seeing that they too encounter self-doubt and resistance. But they still show up to do their work.

To me, resistance is synonymous with ego. Resistance will stop at nothing to prevent us from doing what makes us feel truly self-expressed and in our power. Resistance is slippery and must be watched like a hawk. It knows all our weak spots and will even spend time contemplating the problem of resistance itself, to distract us from pursuing anything it perceives as threatening!

In my own life, I’m feeling it in the form of second-guessing my decision to begin my Kundalini Yoga teacher training. For the last ten years, I’ve seen myself becoming a yoga teacher…’someday’. Well, that day is here; the training starts next month, I’ve booked the days off work, and my application is completed.

And I’m questioning all of it.

Pressfield writes that what we most resist doing, we absolutely must do. The bigger the stakes, the bigger the payoff. This is an important message for me now. Having recently changed cities, I’m on new ground to show up in new ways. I am sensing the necessity to take more risks, to trust my inner knowing (and speak it), and do what I need to do because the time is ripe to do it.

Collectively, something big is in the air. We could look at the world today and become completely cynical and hopeless. No one would blame us. Or we could take advantage of a new energy that is growing all around us – an energy we ourselves have created in response to our collective pain and suffering. There are so many of us desiring a completely different way of being. Maybe our prayers have been heard, and we can live the lives we couldn’t before.

This new way requires trusting in the unknown and letting go of who we thought we were. And, of course, kicking resistance in the ass.