you are irreplaceable

“You’re replaceable,” a colleague said to me last week.

These words, seemingly harsh, were delivered with fierce caring and passion upon my return to work after being away for back pain. “I’m replaceable,” she continued. “If I die tonight, my job will be posted by Friday. But I’m not replaceable to my family and loved ones.”

I’d just expressed that I felt ‘bad’ for having missed so much work, after only recently starting in my current position. “Let me tell you right now,” she responded. “Nobody is thinking that but you. Nobody cares. I mean, we care…but we’re all too busy and wrapped up in our own little worlds.”

It was clear I had limited mobility and was still in some pain. “Don’t push yourself,” she cautioned. “Nobody is going to take care of you, but you. Are you taking care of yourself?”

This is perhaps the biggest lesson I’m learning from back pain: the need for self-care. I had been pushing myself, but didn’t recognize it. ‘Pushing myself’ was just so…normal.

The emotional root of low back pain, I’ve read, is feeling unsupported. There were many factors leading to my injury. I didn’t take enough work breaks, I sat improperly and for too long, my yoga practice had lapsed. But the emotional explanation resonated. I’d long felt I was ‘going it alone’ in life: I was misunderstood, my financial situation was a bomb, relationships with men were painful, God was disappointed in me.

But was any of that actually true? Or was it that I felt deeply unworthy of receiving support?

I know this is about my experience of being a woman. I haven’t wanted to be a burden on others, to take up too much space or be seen as too demanding. I’ve tried to be independent and accommodating. On the occasions I have been called ‘selfish’, it’s kicked me right in the gut. For a woman, there can be so much loaded in that word.

Hence the compulsion to people-please, to over-accommodate. The all-consuming worry about what others will think, the inability to make a decision because I’m weighing in so many voices. These aren’t conscious behaviours; they’re deeply ingrained, woven into my cells after many years – probably generations – of conditioning.

My body had long been giving me warning signals, straining against the push to live up to expectations that were largely my own. I felt so responsible to do a good job, and guilty when I let others down. Breaking my back, bending over backwards. How bad does it have to get?

stop and notice the pink

There have been many blessings inherent in this pain. I’ve had to be vulnerable in relying on loved ones for help with everything from cleaning to driving to putting on my socks. I’m physically vulnerable to strangers. Walking to work on the downtown sidewalks, people barrel towards me. I see how fragile this body can be; one random bump could re-trigger the pain.

I’m used to being the one rushing, becoming impatient with slow walkers. I’m now one of them. I’ve discovered that it’s a relief not to rush – to have no choice but to go slow. Some people give me space, and sympathetic smiles. These are small things…but they’re not.

I hope I can hold on to all this, as my back heals. I like being vulnerable. I’m self-protective, but not on the defence. I feel softer, more raw and trusting. And my vulnerability gives others, particularly my loved ones, the chance to show kindness to me.

In receiving this care, I’m realizing that I’m the only one who saw myself as a burden. And I no longer wish to carry that belief. I’d rather be irreplaceable.

from karma to dharma

Through completing the final session of my Kundalini Yoga teacher training program last weekend, it’s become clear that my views on karma have significantly changed these last few months. Karma used to have very negative connotations (mostly surrounding punishment), and my chronic thoughts about it hung over me like a heavy cloud.

In my very first training session last October, I was hesitant to wrap my hair in a white cloth. I knew many Kundalini Yogis wore turbans, and in all my years of practice, I never saw myself doing that. But after a few days, I began to question why I was so resistant. And, near the end of our five-day session, I wrapped my hair on the top of my head.

My beautiful training group. I'm on the right.

My beautiful training group. I’m on the right.

It was very emotional for me. As a child, I was desperate to hide the fact that I was Indian. I wanted nothing more than to be white. I did everything I could to blend in, which, being brown-skinned, never really worked.

My intense feelings of powerlessness and separation – of feeling inherently inferior in my brownness – had become, in my mind, my karma. I didn’t belong anywhere on this planet, and there was nothing I could do about it.

These past few months have taken me on a journey of discovering the jewels of my ancestry, and what it means to be a woman – an Indian woman – in this day and age. It has been one intense, beautiful roller coaster ride as I unearth emotions buried deep within me, and in my ancestral line. Planet Earth is reawakening to the Divine Feminine – we know this. What truths can I now speak, that my ancestors could not?

Wrapping my hair was symbolic; it marked a return to myself.

A new path is emerging, one my childhood self couldn’t see. I have renewed hope of living from the oneness of which I am a part. I understand that I can’t be separate, because there is no separation – no matter how convincing the illusion, the maya, appears. Of course, my ego has a hard time with this. It wants to stay separate…to believe I’m inferior or superior, but never the same.

Karma used to feel like a curse, a burden – but I now see it as a gift, in that I’m totally responsible for all my thoughts, actions, and reactions in this here-and-now. I can do my best to live from my highest truth and consciousness, and correct anything I feel needs correcting. That doesn’t mean I’m always successful or that I live in ‘love light bliss’ all the time. It means I do my best.

And instead of obsessing about karma, I can choose to live my dharma.

My dharma is my purpose. It is the guiding factor in my life. It remained elusive for many years, but I’m starting to see it now. It’s what I’ve been doing all along. My dharma is not a job or a business or a project or a baby or any ‘thing’ out there. It is within. It is transforming all those things I once hated about myself into sources of strength, beauty, and love – in service to all.

Words cannot express my gratitude for my teachers, friends, and the sacred Kundalini Yoga teachings. I bow in deep reverence. Sat Nam.

reflections on a cringeworthy post

One of my most-liked posts now makes me cringe. At the time of writing it, I was overjoyed to have reconnected with an old flame. I felt inspired to share the role I’d played in our breakup, and express my gratitude for having him back in my life. Our relationship had ended years before that, and I’d had other love interests since then…but I’d long held on to the secret wish that he and I would someday end up together. So when we reconnected, I had some pretty high expectations.

We disconnected shortly after that, and I was crushed. And then, a year later, we reconnected and disconnected again. It was dawning on me…this relationship was probably not going to happen. I had to let those last tenacious strings of hope disintegrate.

mosaic rock

That post makes me cringe because I can now feel how damn hard on myself I was, for so long. Yes, I behaved badly at many points in our relationship. But I had no ability to see myself as innocent, hurting, and capable of anything different. I was ashamed of myself while we were together, and blamed myself long after we parted. Self-compassion was not on my radar.

I desperately wanted forgiveness, but I was seeking it externally. Eventually I realized that I couldn’t wait for someone else (including God) to forgive me. I had to forgive myself first; only then would I allow myself to be forgiven by others. (And be okay with them not forgiving me at all.)

In letting myself off the hook, I have to let others off the hook. I can’t proclaim to know why things do and don’t happen, what the bigger purpose is, or what’s to come. At a certain point all I can do is be okay with not knowing why. My ego hates not knowing why. It doesn’t want to love this other soul, and love myself too. It wants to create a power struggle, and it wants to win. It wants analyses, justice, closure, and completion. But those things don’t necessarily bring peace or freedom.

I do thank this man for being a catalyst for my self-growth; no one else got that deep. I do believe that our relationship was divinely orchestrated. But now I must focus on all that is good and true about me – not what needs to be ‘fixed’. It’s time to release him (and anyone else) as an excuse to not move forward with my life.

Funnily enough, this post wasn’t supposed to be on relationships. I’d intended to write about my blog being a platform for my shifting perspectives – the cringeworthy post being one prime example. My ideas are never meant to be static, but rather expressions of my consciousness at a given time. The act of writing itself often elicits new insights…and these will surely change as I learn and grow.

So, having written all that, and re-reading that post…it doesn’t make me cringe anymore. I feel softness for it. Those words still ring true, and they’ve led me here, to this new vista. And even when my ego’s fighting it, I know that here, love rules the day.

Namaste.

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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a letter to my friends (speaking my truth part 2)

Dear Friends,

I know I haven’t been the greatest friend lately. It used to be that you’d email me, and I’d respond right away. I might even answer my phone, or call you back in a timely manner. But something shifted when I quit my job last summer. Removing such a central element of life – one that had been in place a very long time – affected everything else, in ways I wasn’t expecting.

I’d quit my job with big ideas of future career directions…starting a business and finally being my own boss. I would be doing the kind of work I’d always done, I was good at it, and the demand for my services was high. It was a no brainer.

But it seems the universe had other ideas, and removing my 9-5 created the space for it to show me something else. Spending so much time with my own self, with nowhere I ‘had’ to be, plunged me deeper into my spiritual journey.

Quitting wasn’t just about becoming an entrepreneur, I now see. It was about aligning me with my authenticity and integrity. It was showing me those long forgotten places my true desires lay buried. Was this new venture something I really wanted to do every day? Or was it a more palatable variation of something that had never made my heart sing?

I see more clearly where I’ve been compromising myself in life, particularly in relationships. Most of you, my dear friends, haven’t seen the whole me – what I’m truly passionate about, what I deeply believe, what I want to do in this world, the role of the Divine Feminine in my life. I’ve compared myself to a lot of you, wondering why it’s taking me so long to get where you are. I haven’t fully understood the power of what’s taken place within.

We live in a material, 3D world where much of the planet is operating in fear, scarcity, and doing what’s always been done. It’s not ‘real’ if we can’t see or prove it. This mass consciousness is like a magnet, and we often get sucked into its programming, losing our hope and momentum to create a new paradigm based on love, interconnection, and empowerment.

The necessity to pay my rent is a reality, and I’ve been fortunate to have small jobs these past few months to get me by. But I’m hesitant to find something more permanent; intuitively it feels like a slippery slope. Months can easily turn into years, and I don’t want to act from fear and survival, putting myself in the same situation I was before. Doing something that doesn’t resonate with my soul takes an energetic toll that’s difficult to articulate.

What kind of work do I really want to do? What does it look and feel like? Do I believe it’s possible, that I’m capable and ready? Can I charge for it? Will people actually pay? Do I need more training? Am I good enough? What if I fail…exposed as an imposter?

Stop. Breathe.

If I don’t value my work, I won’t find those who will. There is a sense of urgency that compromising, in any form, is no longer an option. This planet is shifting and consciousness is evolving. Transformation and intensity are the norm, and the universe is ramping up what doesn’t serve. We can no longer fake it!

Many of us stand at a crossroads. We’re on the verge of something big, but we don’t have all the information. Sometimes all we have is a tiny shred of hope, and we must hang on to it with all our might. We’re creating a new reality in every moment, with every thought we think and action we take. It takes major courage to unhook from the old and put our faith and trust into something so brand new.

The more I speak my truth, the more I find others who are speaking theirs. And it’s a beautiful thing! This is the ultimate act of self-love…expressing our true selves because we value what is within us.

Friends, I’ve been given myself some much needed space and solitude. But I’m slowly emerging from my cocoon. Ready to show up as the real me, as she’s being revealed. Ready to see the real you in my reflection.

feel it all

I love these words. So often we put pressure on ourselves to be positive and think happy thoughts when we really don’t feel that way. Being a human being on this planet means feeling the full spectrum of emotions available to us. This is what makes us multi-dimensional, authentic, complex, wise, compassionate, and oh yes – soooo much more interesting.

Namaste.

high school reunion pt. 2

For my blogger friends who asked for an update on my high school reunion last weekend – it was an amazing evening and one I’ll remember for a very long time.

As some know, in the days leading up to the gathering I was feeling some major anxiety. It was as though my inner 16 year old was speaking progressively louder, and I was almost frozen in that state. All the relationships and insecurities of my teenage years took centre stage, and I could only perceive the situation through that lens.

Even though I knew I’d come a long way since those days, I was afraid it’d all fly out the window in the moment!

I’m not sure what it was…perhaps meeting up with one of my best friends beforehand, or having read the encouraging blogger comments earlier that day…but most of my anxieties had dissipated by the time we actually reached the venue. I was feeling more intrigued by what might lie ahead. (Ok, maybe the red wine had something to do with that…hehe.)

I was immediately blown away by how many people had shown up. The energy of the room was electric…everyone seemed so happy to be there.

There is something about going through such formative years with others, that when you reconnect with them after so long, there is a strange sense of familiarity. Of course we’ve changed big-time, but we know each other on a level that’s hard to explain. There is compassion for the vulnerability and challenges we all felt as adolescents, which we now have the wisdom and perspective to see.

That’s how I felt, anyway.

I had conversations with people I hardly spoke to in high school – those who generally didn’t associate with anyone beyond their own clique. One exchange in particular struck me…a guy who had wished certain people would have come that night, so that he could apologize for being a ‘dick’ to them in high school. This interaction was probably the most meaningful and unexpected of my whole evening.

The night was particularly gratifying on another level, in seeing the tangible results of what I’d been organizing the past few months. I had many classmates express their appreciation for my planning the event, and this was very fulfilling. I definitely want more of that in my life…to create fun times and special memories for people!

I feel the universe now gently nudging me to get ‘out there’ in ways I couldn’t before. To know that it’s safe to be vulnerable; that I’m no longer a 16-year old girl riddled with feelings of self-doubt and inferiority. I can finally put that story to bed.

Whether or not we’ve actually gone to our high school reunions, I think it’s safe to say that many people do soften over time – including those we’d least expect.

And for those who don’t really seem to have changed…well, we realize we are not so affected by them anymore. They don’t seem as big and powerful as they once did.

The fact that the reunion happened on the summer solstice makes the experience that much more amplified. I am deeply grateful for the opportunity I had to step back in time. And I’m curious as to what universe will orchestrate as a result!