this blog’s about me…but aren’t i you?

I’ve written numerous times that one of my favourite things about blogging is connecting with kindred spirits across the globe. Through sharing in each other’s journeys, I’ve learned much about myself and others.

For the most part, comments on my posts are supportive and uplifting. But there is the odd time an observation rubs me the wrong way. In those instances, I have to step back and contemplate why I feel triggered. Usually, when a nerve is struck, that nerve was sensitive to begin with.

In my most recent post, I refer to my blog’s tagline, ‘wearing her heart on her blog’. This is a personal blog…recording my spiritual journey and my innermost thoughts. I don’t share it with friends, nor do I post (much) on social media. But I have many moments where I question the need to share myself so openly on the world wide web. Am I seeking external approval and validation? What is the root of my desire to self-express? To be liked? To channel my soul’s essence, for some larger purpose my conscious mind may not be aware of?

A recent comment prompted me to ask myself these questions yet again. It was pointed out that my blog, and whatever else gives me online attention, is feeding my ego and stimulating unnatural dopamine production. This wasn’t written in a particularly nasty way, but I admit, I got my back up. My mind immediately came up with some defensive replies, but I knew this was the lizard brain’s habitual reaction…so I waited it out. Any strong emotional response on my part was likely due to fear that the commenter’s suggestions were true.

And you know what I felt, underneath it all? Shame. My deepest insecurities about sharing myself openly – that I would be attacked, that people would think I was narcissistic and self-centered, that I was an imposter – came to the surface. Ancient wounds activated. I felt exposed. Deeply embarrassed. How many people feel this way about me? 

This blog is about me…but my main impetus is to create and foster connection. I struggle with many things as a sensitive being on planet earth, and I sense many others do too. In writing my words, I am helping others feel less alone, and in their responses to me, I feel less alone. It’s a creative endeavor that brings some hope and relief to a psyche that often feels quite heavy. It’s a joint venture.

Does ego come into it? Of course. And this too is something I’ve addressed several times. It would be foolish to state that my sharing can be completely ego-free. I’m a human being. Ego comes with the territory. I like ‘likes’. I take things personally. I get attached. I’m working on it, but I’m also trying to be easier on myself. Ego’s a beast I wrestle every single day, and I often fight myself much too hard.

I’m glad I was prompted to write this post. I feel clearer on my own motivations, and the charge I felt has dissipated. (Writing is so cathartic!) Like it or not – and I mostly like it – technology is here, and with social media comes a level of human interaction we haven’t yet experienced. It takes adjustment. It takes responsibility and mindfulness. And it takes supreme kindness, towards ourselves and others.

In Lak’ech. I am another you.

befriending my teenage self

I’m so glad I didn’t burn my journals.

I’ve only read up to age 16, and already so much is illuminated. I see patterns emerging from a young age. Seeds of self-doubt are being planted, forming the roots of what I’ve struggled with for many years. I see a growing disillusionment with female friendships. And at 16, rage is rearing its head.

Before this point, I tried to minimize my anger – even within my own journal. When I was upset with a friend or family member, I immediately felt ‘bad’. I tried to see their point of view. I apologized to my own diary for being negative! Anger was unacceptable to me – but at 16, it spilled out on the written page.

During my twenties, the anger didn’t dissipate, despite my sincere attempts to understand it. I would lash out at those closest to me, especially my best friend and my boyfriend. I would then try to ‘make up’ for it, only to have it happen again. It was a vicious spiral and I felt powerless to stop it.

I endlessly analyzed where my anger came from. Was it because I’m a woman? Because in Indian culture – at least the household I grew up in – women were not encouraged to express anger? Was it karma, past life issues, taking on others’ suppressed emotions, too much sugar?

None of that seems relevant anymore. What I see clearly now is that, at such a young age, I didn’t have a safe outlet to express the feelings I considered negative. They were perfectly understandable feelings, but I felt such guilt and shame about them, and they festered within.

Was I ever really ‘angry’, or was I hurt and confused, particularly when it came to my friendships? I experienced what I perceived as ongoing disappointment with girlfriends. I felt abandoned, deserted, competitive…rejected. I see now that this probably mirrored my own (lack of) relationship with my biological sister, and led me to attending many women’s circles in the years to come.

These gatherings helped, but still today, my relationships with women can be strained. If the Divine Feminine is indeed returning to the planet (not that she ever really left), it makes sense that all this would be coming up to heal.

As I read my diaries, I’ve also been going through old photos of myself in my teenage years. In most pictures, I am smiling and look happy. To read about those years, and simultaneously watch the story unfold through pictures, has been a tender process. I had forgotten so many details and events, yet I can feel myself right there, back in that space and time, feeling exactly how I felt then.

Our past experiences are still very much alive within us.

I’d thought that burning my journals would clear away all my stories, help me become a phoenix rising from the ashes. But the phoenix can’t rise if I’m trying to escape the more painful parts of my journey. I must claim the entire story first.

And something good is happening. My journals have given me a second chance to re-live those years. I was so hard on myself. I can now bring in the self-compassion I couldn’t before.

In revisiting those painful emotions, I’m also re-discovering parts of my younger self that were pretty freaking cool. She was perceptive, sensitive, and spunky. I laughed out loud many times, reading her entertaining musings. She’s still here, and her inner fire is being rekindled through my presence and attention.

I’m going to enjoy being friends with her.

autumnal reset

In my last post I wrote about ceremoniously burning all my journals, clearing out my stories to allow space for the new. I was about to go camping on Vancouver Island, and could think of no better place to send my diaries than into the flames of a campfire, out in nature and under the stars.

Alas, Mother Nature had other plans. Due to record-breaking wildfires in British Columbia, campfires were strictly banned all summer. The journal burning would have to wait.

My time away was soul nourishing. We spent three days camping near a small logging town on the northeast coast of the Island. I hadn’t been camping in years, and was a little anxious to be out of my comfort zone. This feeling didn’t lessen when we noticed fresh bear poop on our site. Fortunately I didn’t have any close encounters, though we did spot a young black bear twice, ambling down the beach in front of us.

Despite the bear presence, it didn’t take long for me to relax and appreciate the natural beauty surrounding me. The weather cooperated and the other campers made for chill, respectful neighbours. We also saw humpback whales and porpoises, which was amazing.The absence of technology was particularly soothing to my city-jangled brainwaves, allowing my mind to breathe.

After camping, it was off to beautiful Tofino, for the wedding of a close friend. It was a sweet few days, filled with lovely people, food, music, beer (oh so much beer), and laughter. It’s hard to formulate words for the entire experience; they can’t fully capture the magic of the moments. Neither could pictures, which is why I took so few.

The journey felt like a major reset, probably amplified by the solar eclipse that preceded it. But I don’t feel rested and rejuvenated; on the contrary, since my return I’ve been extremely fatigued and lacking motivation. Even when it comes to blogging. I’ve started and stopped this post so many times and it’s been frustrating. But maybe that’s part of the reset. It feels different from resistance or procrastination. There’s no point in forcing something that’s just not happening, even if it’s something we normally enjoy.

our camping spot

And now we’re emerging from the new moon into the Autumn equinox, another potent time to focus on what’s essential. Though city culture can be wonderfully stimulating, my time away – short as it was – made me realize I’m longing for more balance. Simplification. Less dependence on conveniences, and more self-sufficiency. How would I really like to live, and what practical steps can I take to make that happen? What does living harmoniously with nature – feeling connected, having a relationship – mean for me personally, and is my life reflecting that?

Perhaps the idea of burning my journals was part of the drive to simplify. But since writing my post, I appreciate more fully the importance of honouring that journey before I let it go. This means taking the diaries out of the box. Putting them in order, lining them up, setting aside the uninterrupted time to read them.

I want to sit with all those uncomfortable emotions, giving them the attention they deserve. I can then release them with peace. And who knows, I might find unremembered moments of joy in those words. Maybe the biggest gem I will discover is the compassion for the person who wrote them.

This Autumnal reset feels like incubation and integration. The plug is being pulled on so many things, and we are waiting patiently as life organizes itself to respond to a new frequency…trusting, as best we can, that life is lovingly responding in these very uncertain times where no one knows what’s going to happen next.

As the days get shorter and cooler, and the leaves turn colour, I’m grateful to be where am, laying low and letting nature do her thing.

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.

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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the lady in the painting

In honour of Mercury Retrograde, I’m re-blogging a post from my early WordPress days. An extra fun twist is that I now work at the university I mention in the post. I’m loving this trip back in time.

Happy equinox-full moon-lunar eclipse!

alohaleya

Years ago I bought an art print from a poster fair that would visit my university a couple of times a year.  I was so drawn to this painting, which featured a woman sitting at what looked to be a Parisian cafe, a pensive expression on her face, quill and half-glass of wine on her table.  I loved everything about this piece: the setting, the colours, the subject matter, the painter’s technique.  I didn’t even look up the artist for some time, or explore the historical context of the work (which is strange, considering I was an Art History major).  It spoke to me, and that was enough.

The Cafe, Tsuguharu Foujita (1949) The Cafe, Tsuguharu Foujita (1949)

I felt an affinity with this woman, and I wanted to be her, but her world and life were so far away from mine.  This painting created a tension within me.  Of admiring, of relating…but also feeling…

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meditating beyond the mosque

It will take me some time to process what I learned about myself in London. I knew it would be an eye-opening journey – I was travelling with my mother and visiting family I’d never met before – but I didn’t expect to be so confronted by my own views on family and religion.

me being a dork in a london phone booth

me being a dork in a london phone booth

I was brought up within a minority Shia sect of the Muslim faith. This group differs from the majority of (Sunni) Muslims in many ways – too many to go into here (and I’m not an expert anyway). I remember going to mosque as a child and not really getting what was going on. My grandparents were extremely religious, my parents less so – but we still attended mosque somewhat regularly.

Being Muslim was my identity. Back then, I referred to all my white friends as ‘Christian’, regardless of their spiritual belief. ‘White’ and ‘Christian’ were synonymous in my little mind.

I always resented that I had to be part of a religion that didn’t get to celebrate fun things like Christmas and Easter. But I also felt conflict and guilt that I didn’t like my religion. My mother tried to make me see the positive aspects of the faith, but it never took. I didn’t understand any of the rituals (and wasn’t motivated to really explore them), and I’d get preoccupied by the dynamics of the people around me. At mosque, I was irritated by any gossiping I heard, or excessive dressing up. It was hard to see beyond those things.

My deep conflict surrounding religion was majorly triggered in London. Several of the family members I met have converted to the more traditional Sunni Muslim path in recent years. They view this path as more ’true’ and ‘logical’ to follow. Each family gathering I went to in London involved discussion of religion and over the course of my trip I was becoming more resistant, irritated, and yes, judgmental of those around me. I was also experiencing the old feelings of guilt, alienation, and fundamental wrongness. I am so different from these people! What would they think if I started talking about ascension and starseeds and blue rays?!

On some level, I always thought that ‘someday’ I would embrace my faith and make my mother happy by attending mosque more often. What I realized on this trip is that might never happen. I mean, I really got that. I also understood that my deep resistance, guilt, and judgment was showing me that more healing is needed. I know a part of me still views the faith through the eyes of an alienated child who wanted Christmas instead – and that’s the part that needs compassion and release. I will never find peace with my religion by running away from it.

I know that there are beautiful aspects of my faith, and I’ve seen the peace and kindness in my family members who credit their religion for helping them be better human beings.

I also know that my own inner truth is longing to be heard, and that it could be very different from the truths of my parents, grandparents, and the long line of ancestors behind them. This path is lonely, scary, doubtful and, at times, filled with grief. It has felt like a betrayal of my family, and of God. But my own truth, whatever it is, isn’t going away. I love that meditating in the mosque makes my mother so happy. But I want to meditate beyond the mosque.

It’s possible that my ancestors are jumping for joy at what’s happening within me, and on planet earth in general, as many of us are finding our own ways of connecting to God or Spirit (or not). Maybe those in my lineage are thrilled that I’m rediscovering my ancient Indian yogi roots! Maybe they’re excited that I and many others are taking it beyond religion, as we expand into something that transcends any doctrine, belief, or dogma.

London is one of my most favourite cities ever…even more so now. I can’t wait to go back for more.