pleasure and paradox in paris

At the Musée d’Orsay, pressing my face close to a Monet painting, practically inhaling the brushstrokes, I felt a mixture of profound gratitude and nostalgia. The pale pinks, lavenders, and yellows were indescribably soothing. I wanted to merge with the work. Escape into it.

I was mesmerized by the art of Paris to a degree that surprised even me. I’d studied Art History many moons ago at university, but standing in front of certain works – I could easily touch them, were it not for the ever-present security – left me deeply affected.

Until that point, I’d felt somewhat ambivalent about my impromptu trip to Paris. Though I had the time off work, cash saved in the bank, and a great deal from Air France, I questioned my decision to travel to the City of Lights. Surely there were more responsible things to do with my money.

In my hotel room that first night, I tossed and turned as the jet lag (and in-flight wine, no doubt) sank in. Habitual thoughts about work, relationships, and family pounded in my head. Paris, I thought. Why am I here? What can I learn from you?

Pleasure. Presence. Enjoy life, she answered. Be in your body, not your head. You already know this…but I can help you. In fact, you need me to. That’s why you’re here.

You think you’ve lost your intuition, she continued, but you haven’t. Don’t focus on my image or the tourists or the incessant honking and police sirens, or the camouflaged men with machine guns standing on the corner. There is an essence of me that is much deeper than all these things. Be with it.

I didn't make it to the top, but I had to get the Eiffel shot!

I didn’t make it to the top, but I had to get the Eiffel shot!

I spent a week exploring various neighbourhoods in the city. I walked along the Champs-Élysées and the Seine. Apart from food (and chocolate presents!), my only purchase was a 4-day Museum Pass, which I’d picked up at Charles de Gaulle airport upon my arrival.

Viewing the paintings of Monet, Degas, Manet, Cassatt, Morisot, Seurat, and Renoir (and so many more), I felt deep nostalgia. Nostalgia for the time in my life when I initially studied these works. Nostalgia for historical periods of great art, music, and beauty. Most of all, nostalgia for an era where artists truly sat with their inspirations. Focused and present, devoting hours, days, even years to the execution of their visions.

What must it be like to have that kind of patience? It is hard to imagine. My attention span is much shorter than it used to be, a deterioration I blame on technology. All around me, people flitted about with iPhones, snapping photos and selfies. I tried to take some pics, but they never did the moment justice. And trying to capture that moment would just take me out of it.

Jardin des Tuileries - I couldn't resist including this

Jardin des Tuileries – I couldn’t resist

I wondered what these artists would think of this modern world. Would they be disturbed, fascinated, inspired? Life cannot be as it was in nineteenth-century Paris, of course. And even then, things probably weren’t as idyllic as the dreamy vistas suggest. Still, I long to sit in front of a landscape or sunset, or at a cafe, for hours, just absorbing my surroundings. Not thinking about work or emails or how I should be doing something.

Paris reminded me of India, in that it’s a paradox. The Divine Feminine presence, which surely exists and spoke to me that first night, was accompanied by a rough, almost aggressive energy throughout the city. It was an interesting, and often unsettling, experience.

But visiting Paris was very, very good for my soul. In recent months I’d been feeling some grief for so many lost years where I didn’t trust myself as my own authority, where I sold myself short. This last decade in particular – I don’t know where it went. Paris reminded me to be gentle with myself and look ahead. Not everything in life has to happen at once, and my process won’t look like anyone else’s. Nothing is lost. There is still time.

The art, the red wine, the Autumn sunshine, the walks along the Seine…that’s who I am. Sitting in front of a canvas and feeling where the colours take me…that’s who I am. Doing my best to heal resentments, forgive, and live in divine love…that’s who I am. Willing to learn, be humbled over and over again, and create grand adventures for myself…that’s who I am.

Thank you, Paris, for reminding me who I am.

 

gratitude: 5 things to share

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There are so many wonderful gems on the internet and I would never run out of blog posts if I were to write about all of them. In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, it feels right to share just a few things I’m grateful for.

Blog: I have several WordPress faves but wanted to give a special shoutout to Linda at litebeing chronicles. Linda’s posts are deeply insightful, with a good measure of pop culture thrown in. There’s also astrology. 🙂 Linda’s been a big supporter of mine since early in my blogging days, and I’m very appreciative of her friendship, encouragement, and always thoughtful comments. Thank you Linda!

Just after writing this I found out Linda is in the hospital. We are sending you well wishes Linda.

Book: Dancing in the Bamboo Forest. This was written by DJ at djahariahmitra.com. After DJ read some of my earlier posts about India and my inklings to begin yoga teacher training, she generously sent me a copy of her memoir documenting her travels and yoga experiences in India. I resonated deeply with so much of her inner and outer journey. It rekindled my desire to visit Mother India again, hopefully soon…

DJ’s book also inspired me to keep writing. So many of us want to write a book – let’s just do it! Who knows who our words will help. The purpose of creativity is to share.

Youtube: emergegrowprosper. I’ve been following Jenna Forrest’s teachings for about a year now and I’m so thankful for this channel. Jenna shares the (love) awakening process from the point of view of a highly sensitive empath. Her teachings are clear and profoundly healing in their depth and simplicity. For such cosmic and spiritual subject matter, she is very down-to-earth and practical. Jenna doesn’t advertise and she’s not on Facebook; her channel is growing primarily through the strength of her classes and messages.

[2018 update: I no longer follow Jenna’s channel as her message changed significantly in 2017. Read my post https://alohaleya.com/2017/06/24/technology-the-divine-search/ for more on that]

Documentary: The True Cost. Thanks to my friend AM for telling me about this one. This documentary explores the impact of the fashion industry on the environment and the human beings who produce the clothes. It is a game-changer in the way I shop, and the stores I visit. (Whenever a friend  tries to get me to go into H&M, I mention this documentary.) As an Indian woman, the film hit me especially hard as I saw how I’ve been playing into the suppression and violence of my Indian sisters across the globe.

Many of us are already aware of this issue – sweatshops aren’t exactly a secret – but for me it was a major wakeup call.

Website: What can I say, I love The Power Path! I’ve been trying to not overdo it with the spiritual articles and websites, but Jose and Lena Stevens’ moon updates, monthly forecasts, and monthly articles are always inspiring and insightful. They don’t sugarcoat the chaos of the paradigm shift we’re all experiencing (and co-creating), and their shamanic perspective and practical advice helps me navigate this grand adventure on planet earth.

Thank you, Internet! ❤

And of course, I’m grateful for the teachings of Kundalini Yoga. I’m currently immersed in the next module of my teacher training program, now in a different city, with all new people. It is a complete contrast to the intimate, cozy retreat setting I’d become accustomed to. But so far I’m enjoying the shift in perspective, and meeting some amazing yogis. The only constant is change…

six weeks off spirituality

About a week after I returned from my travels in Europe, a friend asked me whether I did any yoga in Italy. I shook my head and gave him a little smile. My response: “I didn’t want to be spiritual on this trip.”

It’s kind of humorous really: what does that even mean? Is spirituality a quality we can just turn on and off? Clearly, in this interaction with my friend, I was defining it in terms of my actions (or lack thereof). No, I didn’t do any yoga. I didn’t even think about it. I didn’t meditate or listen to Abraham-Hicks or do any of those other things I consider ‘spiritual activities’ at home. I drank wine and coffee and ate all the unhealthy things I avoid in my day-to-day life, and I partied until the wee hours with my favourite Italians of the trip, G and V, whom I met on the full harvest moon in Naples. (I just had to mention them here.)

In short, I didn’t restrict myself the way I usually do.

an awesome photo taken by Vaughan Lewis, a fellow traveller i met in Bologna.

an awesome photo taken by Vaughan Lewis, a fellow traveller i met in Bologna.

I’m reminded of one of the most challenging moments of my journey. I was in my tiny hotel room in Florence. Being so far away from my life back home, feeling so free to do whatever I wanted, feeling so overwhelmed by the adventure so far, and feeling so much wonder and gratitude and yes, frustration at times…everything seemed to come to a head. After a particularly unsetting experience that served as a personal wake-up call of sorts, that night I felt incredibly alone, powerless, and in fear.

I realized that for years – my whole life – I’ve been playing various roles, and most of them aren’t ‘me’. I hear the voices of religion, culture, family, friends, books, spiritual teachers…but where is mine in this cacophony? Would I even recognize it if I heard it? I’ve flown around much of the time, literally and figuratively, without a real grounding or knowing of who ‘I’ am…let alone being strong and confident in that knowing.

Not hearing my own voice has prevented me from having a really open and authentic relationship with God (Source, Universe, Love…I call it by many names). God has been ‘someone’ I’ve had to convince, impress, seek favour and approval and permission from. And that night, I felt the intense anger – and pain – surrounding that. I felt the heavy toll that pretending and judging (myself) has taken on me. I have not been living freely and authentically.

I see now that what subsequently took place was probably the most honest and real conversation with God that I’ve ever had. I thought I disliked Florence, but maybe the city’s deep beauty and religiosity and emotion and history stirred something completely unexpected within me that was just waiting for release.

another great shot by Vaughan.

another great shot by Vaughan.

I’m getting that my notions of spirituality have been limited, and limiting, for me. I’ve been applying the rules, doctrines, and opinions of others to how I perceive myself, and judging myself for falling short of those standards.

And now I ask: Why have I kept ‘spirituality’ and ‘pleasure’ in such distinct, mutually exclusive categories? Even though in theory I’ve believed they can be intertwined, I’ve never fully allowed it in my own life. There’s always been some sense of guilt or wrongness there. That is, until this trip, when I allowed myself to just be ‘Aleya’ the person and not the spirit. Enjoying doing everything she wanted to do, not obsessing about her higher self or past lives or karma or what-if’s or ‘what would they think’, etc.

To take a break from those intentionally spiritual acts I’ve been so accustomed to (either through practice or in telling myself I ‘should’ do more of them) was, somewhat ironically, what my spirit had been calling for. To bring me back to balance, to help me examine what truly works for me. It was a reset.

Will I get back into yoga and resume all those other activities that took a hiatus in Italy? Yes. But I think everything will feel lighter and more fun. Spirituality won’t be so serious. I’m intrigued that my life may take a direction where spirituality and pleasure are more meshed, in a way that is most meaningful and perfect for me.

***

I am giving myself permission to create my own relationship with God. One where we’re more equal partners. Perhaps even friends. Maybe that night in Florence was the game changer.

I hope to hang on to this feeling as long as possible. I like to think that on a deep, unshakeable level, it can never escape me.

i could get used to this…

Day 3 Diet:
Chocolate croissant, two cappuccinos, spaghetti with pesto, pizzeria pizza, red wine, and pistachio gelato.

Viva Italia!

now i get what she was talking about

now i get what she was talking about