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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stillness in solstice snow

A few days ago, it snowed in my hometown. Since this is a rare occasion, my city was thrown into complete chaos. Streets weren’t plowed, buses stopped running, people were slipping and sliding everywhere…I made it halfway to work and gave up, turning around and heading straight home. (Most of my colleagues did the same thing.)

Given that it was the first day of Mercury Retrograde, and Winter Solstice was approaching, I relished the opportunity to stay cozy indoors, enjoying the peace and silence of a random Monday off.

snow sure makes the mountains look pretty

snow sure makes the mountains look pretty

The previous weekend, I’d gone to a party where I met the one person who actually enjoyed 2016. Everyone else I know is happy to see this year go. It’s been a time of major life changes, wake-up calls, and dispelling of illusions all around. A hugely pivotal year, yes. But not necessarily the most pleasant.

What have I gleaned from 2016? That 2017 will not be about straining or efforting to make things happen. I want to enjoy what I have created so far, trusting that I’ve made appropriate decisions for myself, and knowing that there’s nothing to fix. I want to relax into what is, right here right now.

The great thing about 2016 is that I was forced to pare down my life in many ways – especially financially. That, and my break with social media, allowed me to see where I’d been spending my energy, i.e., starving myself through over-consumption. Without such distractions, I began spending more time in silence. I realized just how difficult silence was for me, and how much I craved it.

Many of us know the running commentary that comes with meditation. The inner critic, the monkey mind, the myriad of voices we’ve heard throughout our lives, all re-playing the same old tapes. They relentlessly question my choices, convinced there is something better I could/should be experiencing.

Because we (in the western world) seem to have so much opportunity, freedom, and information at our fingertips, we can drive ourselves crazy looking for what’s more desirable than what we have right now. (Especially if we’re comparing ourselves to others on social media, just sayin’.)

These past few years, I received many of the things I asked for. And I then let them go, in search for something new-and-improved. Though I’m very grateful for the ability to create new experiences, I see that I was plagued by chronic restlessness and dissatisfaction. I couldn’t be fully present with my creations, because I was already onto the next thing. The seeds didn’t have time to germinate.

It was fear. Fear that I’d made the wrong decision (even as I told myself there was no such thing). Fear of being stuck. Fear that I was missing out on my true home, true career, true relationship. Fear that I didn’t deserve what I asked for, and couldn’t hold on to good things. Fear of imperfection. I demanded perfection in my outer circumstances, because I couldn’t accept imperfection in myself.

and my window looks pretty too

and my window looks pretty too

My surprise day off, a gift from the snow god/dess, was heavenly because I experienced prolonged peace and quiet for the first time in a long time. I’ve been having more of these moments lately…glimpses of relief, however brief, from habitual thoughts, worries, and stresses. Plans and action are good and necessary. But this is what I want to cultivate.

Love…compassion…breath…here is the fertile space for creation. Good things – maybe the best things – come from being still with life as it is right now. Maybe nothing needs to change; I can allow what’s already here to emerge in its full bloom and depth. The ‘doing’ then happens on its own. It’s a beautiful symbiosis.

Happy New Year, indeed. ❤

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…

am i a runner?

A few years ago a friend said to me in conversation, “You really are a runner, aren’t you?”  She wasn’t referring to running in the physical exercise sense of the word, but emotional running.

I was living in Australia at the time, having made the decision to travel there after a horrible past year in my hometown.  I don’t remember the details of our conversation, but it’s irrelevant.  The point was, not only did she think I was a ‘runner’ in that moment, it was clearly something she had considered before.

me and the rock

me and the rock

When I first arrived in Australia, the newness of everything distracted me from the pain I felt inside.  The dry earth, the overwhelming yellowness (as compared to the cool, damp green of Vancouver), the heat, the accents…it was all raw, wonderful, and a little confronting. But as the weeks wore on, the realization gradually settled in…wherever you go, there you are.

All those painful feelings I’d left behind hadn’t really gone anywhere, and they wouldn’t for a while.  They were in me, and no matter where I went in the world, there they would remain.  Moving to a new geographic location wasn’t going to heal what only time could.

My friend’s words have left an imprint on me.  It’s five years later, and I find myself wanting to start anew yet again.  Something has always felt missing in my life.  I’ve blamed my city, the weather, its people.  I’ve long thought my ‘real’ home was somewhere else.

I recently made the decision to leave my job this summer, and travel abroad for a couple of months.  I have fantasies of starting a brand new life in another country, meeting new people, doing something completely different.  Isn’t that what life is all about, especially in this age of awakening?  Following your heart, dreaming big, taking a leap of faith?  Saying YES?

Or am I motivated by something else entirely?  Running away…escape…an inability to be present…boredom?

I know that I can’t evade whatever is inside me. If there was one thing Australia taught me, it’s that.  Wherever I go, there I am. 

So I ask myself: am I at peace within?

My inner voice (gently): No.

Why not?

You don’t meditate.

[Sigh. Again with the meditation.] What does that mean?

You can’t sit in silence for 10 minutes without getting antsy or finding a distraction.  How can you know what is within, if you don’t let yourself experience it?  How can you have peace with that which you don’t acknowledge?

iloveithere

It’s clear why my friend’s words struck a chord (or nerve).   I have had a strong urge to flee situations that I find uncomfortable.  Not only physical places, but interactions and relationships.  Perhaps even my own emotions and inner being, which I thought I was in touch with.

I think I’m running towards something better ‘out there’, but the trajectory is usually more like a circle.  There’s a part of me that still firmly believes that when I find the right job, city, partner, etc., things will finally fall into place. I put so much pressure on myself to create this, to search for this, to make it happen.

I’m still valuing the ‘doing’ over the ‘being’.

I know better than this. I’m chasing the ever elusive.

And as crazy as it sounds, a part of me also fears that by going within – by finding peace – I won’t be motivated to change my outer world.  That I will accept things the way they are, and become passive about my life.

But does acceptance necessarily result in inaction?  And is it possible that inner peace would transform my life in a way that no amount of world travelling could? Maybe I would look at my present life with new eyes.  Maybe I’d even fall in love with it.  Maybe I’ve never felt a connection to my city, because I’ve never felt it to myself.

Attempting to mentally determine the difference between ‘running away’ and ‘advancing towards’ is somewhat pointless. There are too many competing voices vying for my attention, and they all say the same old things.

I do know there is a genuine wanderlust and love of freedom within me, and it will likely yearn to express itself throughout my life. But I am beginning to understand that only when I’m intimately familiar with my inner landscape will I be able to fully appreciate what’s on the outside.

It may be that the ultimate adventure lies in stillness.

aversions to goal-setting

The other day I was having lunch with a friend of mine and I realized what a flake I am.  I have always known that I am ‘flaky’ in the sense that I’ll get really excited about a hobby, job, project or similar endeavour, only to have that enthusiasm eventually dissipate to the point of extinction.  For a long time this seemed kind of funny to me, even quirky.  I liked the fact that I was interested in so many things, and people seemed to admire that I was always trying something new.

But over the past couple of years it’s been getting tiresome.  I’m at the point where I don’t really take myself seriously anymore, because I know that sooner or later the moment will pass and be gone forever.  And, at lunch with my friend, hearing myself speak…I clammed up.  I finally exhausted myself.  It hit me: What’s the point of talking about something that’s probably never going to happen?

hmmm...

hmmm…

Several years ago I worked in the office of a well-known yogawear company, where they were big on motivating their staff to achieve their personal dreams and goals.  Here, the concept of ‘goal-setting’ was driven home as absolutely essential for one to manifest their highest visions and ambitions.  What was my one-year goal?  3 years?  5 years?  And how would I measure progress?  How would I reward myself when I achieved my pre-designated milestones?  What was that damn acronym again?

To be honest, the goal-setting process has never worked for me and perhaps that’s why, years after leaving that job, I’m spinning my wheels in the same areas of my life.

It is very logical and reasonable to set goals for oneself, have a time plan, and create markers and rewards.  More importantly, I know it works for many people. For a long time, I thought that if I knew what I really, really wanted to achieve in five years, then I would certainly have the drive and determination to implement all those goal-setting steps and make it happen.  But maybe it’s deeper than that.  Maybe it’s fear of having big goals – what will take to achieve them, and What If I Fail?  Maybe it’s not feeling worthy that I can have the life of my dreams.  If I’ve never been taught to dream big, where do I start, and how do I really believe that I deserve it?  (Maybe it’s even my Vata nature which, in Ayurvedic medicine, means I have the body type/constitution that finds it challenging to manage and sustain my energy.)

In truth, I’m not totally sure why the practice of ‘plans’ and ‘goals’ and ‘timelines’ and ‘discipline’ and ‘commitment’ eludes me.  I know I’m not a lazy person; I’m very hard-working and in times when I have truly wanted certain things, I’ve had laser-sharp focus in getting them.  But if you ask me to think of my 5-year plan, my brain checks out immediately; I mean, it literally goes blank, zones out.  How can I possibly know what I’ll want in five years? There are countless choices I could make between now and then; how am I supposed to choose just one!?  What a boring way to live!   I change a little bit every day…who knows who I’ll be in five years!

If I knew I wanted to live in such-and-such city, in this neighbourhood making this amount of cash doing that kind of work, the goal-setting process wouldn’t be such a problem.  But there is a part of me – call it idealistic, naive, impractical – that feels like whatever ‘plan’ I come up with is just going to be limiting myself.  There is a small, yet undeniable and tenacious, belief deep within me that thinks life just might be way bigger and better than my teeny mind can presently design.  I’ve tried to ignore that little voice and ‘get real’…but it just won’t go away.

shhhhh...

shhhhh…

So where I am at now is acknowledging that I’m still clearly not in the headspace to devise a 1, 3, 5, or 10 year goal-setting plan.  However, I know for sure that changing my mind every few weeks/months is exhausting and spreads my energy around so much that I can’t bring anything significant into fruition.  So what I can do is…well, first stop telling myself ‘I’m a flake’.

What I need in the next few months is to stop focusing on ‘doing’ or ‘finding’ or ‘looking’ externally for the thing that, once I hit on it, will make everything click into place.  I don’t think such a thing exists.  In the past I have always thrown myself into the next hobby, convinced it’s what I’m meant to be doing and then…it inexplicably fades away.  I’ve rarely calmed my body or mind long enough to just ‘be’.  I don’t even know what that’s like.  There’s always been another course to take, an article to read, a coffee to drink. (A blog to write?)

It’s very interesting that I just moved into an apartment made for meditation. (Seriously, the friend I’m subletting for has been practicing yoga, meditation, and devotional chanting here for 20+ years.)  I’ve been running away from stillness for years.   Now I feel my only option, as I ready myself this next unknown phase of my life, is to stop moving so much and let my inspiration find me.