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.

a compassionate february

I have been waiting for February. February feels like fresh air and moving forward. Not ‘moving forward’ as in doing a bunch of things; in fact, as I write these words, I feel utterly exhausted. I can barely grasp the gravity of what’s happening in the U.S., and the tragedy of the Quebec mosque shootings. It’s all slammed me in a way I wasn’t expecting.

Which is why I’m taking extra care to be aware of, and conserve, my energy as much as possible. 2016 brought into sharp focus the consequences of not honouring my energy. So much of my attention was directed outward, and I felt the severe financial, emotional, and spiritual impact. What I thought made me feel good was actually draining my life force, slowly but surely. By the end of 2016, I was running on empty.

It’s hard to imagine 2017 being more intense than last year – but it likely will be. How are we going to handle it? I don’t tune in to social media or the news, but that’s not necessarily the solution. This isn’t a time to bury my head in the sand. (It wouldn’t work anyway; I’d still feel what’s going on globally. We are interconnected.)

purple-tulips

January was about wrapping up loose ends and completing, or moving forward with, projects and commitments I’d procrastinated on. At times it felt like a bit of a slog…but I’m glad I took care of these things, because the more I clear the energetic cobwebs, the greater space I have within. And the better equipped I am to handle what 2017 will bring. The good, the bad, and the ugly/beautiful.

On another note – or maybe it’s completely related – I recently attended some mental health training sessions as part of my new job. Though I registered in these courses to assist those I work with, the training unexpectedly helped me on a very personal level. Not only did I come away with a greater empathy and understanding for those with mental health issues, I felt self-compassion and insight into my own journey.

We never know what’s going on in someone’s interior world. Our assumptions, wounds, and projections are so strong that we can completely miss the humanity in another (and in ourselves). These past few weeks I’ve realized that I often assume others are ‘okay’, when maybe they’re really not. This all feels very timely and relevant to the world stage.

Many of us are grieving. Collective healing begins with self-compassion; when we acknowledge our own vulnerability, we recognize it in those around us. Compassion dissolves our hardened walls. When we cut out the superfluous ’stuff’ of our lives, we draw on our inner resources and share them with others. We become creative in totally new ways…creative with people, love, and relationships. We become leaders in our own lives.

Reaching out to others is courageous; it’s much more comfortable to stay in our cozy little spaces. But withdrawal and isolation won’t work. Our survival as a species – if that’s what we want – hinges on the awareness that we need each other, now more than ever. Baby steps quickly become leaps and bounds. Compassion is the way.

I wish everyone a peaceful February.

it’s no shock he won

My first thought when the twin towers fell was, Oh, fuck. My last name’s Abdulla. Actually, it was more like intense dread imploding my gut. I knew in that moment life would never be the same. My last name, which had always felt like a curse, was more loaded than ever.

It didn’t help when, a few years later, my name mysteriously appeared on a no-fly list. I was issued a redress number, which I now must quote every time I fly to the United States, to prove I’m not a terrorist. Apparently it was a case of ‘mistaken identity’.

Right.

Prior to the no-fly incident, when I’d explain to friends my ongoing hassles at the border, most would brush it off. Oh, they do that to everyone. Well, no – they don’t do that to everyone. I found myself shutting down in such conversations, as I had for years. It was difficult to articulate the subtle (and not-so-subtle) discrimination I experienced. People thought I was overly sensitive, imagining it, or – my personal favourite – “too angry”. I told myself those very same things.

An Indian Game (Juggling the Books) - Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun

An Indian Game (Juggling the Books) – Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun

I wasn’t the least bit shocked Trump won…and truthfully, I’m not as upset as others. And not just because I live in Canada. Trump is the glaring, heinous expression of what we have collectively suppressed and brushed off for too long. Maybe now people will truly wake up and realize there’s a problem here. One that affects everyone and has become so gargantuanly big it can no longer be swept under the rug; in fact, it has become “the leader of the free world”.

This shit has gotten real, and it’s about time.

I don’t believe Trump could’ve won unless a huge amount of people (including some identified as spiritual, liberal, democrat, etc.) didn’t hold his patriarchal, racist, and misogynistic views somewhere in their psyche.

I include myself in this group. For years now, I’ve been facing my own inner patriarch, and what I’ve uncovered hasn’t been pretty. It is a long process. The inner bully is loud-mouthed, yet stealth and sly, and hides in pockets. Patriarchy, racism, and misogyny run deep in humanity, and reflect eons of false conditioning. They’re not going to go away without a fight. And when someone like Trump wins, there can be a sense or failing, futility, of wanting to escape it all.

Which is, of course, exactly what the patriarchy wants you to feel.

Most of us avoid facing the grief that underlies our programmed fear. It’s much easier to eat or drink or point fingers or hate. But look at the world we create when we shun our own pain. Who were we before we starting hating ourselves and others? Are we ready to travel the layers within to reach that place?

Are we willing to let go of whatever privileged status we have? Do we secretly cling to it like a security blanket? Have we become so accustomed to privilege that we don’t even recognize it as such? Are we ready to move past experiences of discrimination and forgive, at a time when discrimination has reared its most ugly head?

Here in Canada, we suffered through our own version of Trump for over nine years. Things appeared to turn around when Justin Trudeau was elected Prime Minister in 2015, but not everyone was happy about it. Only time will tell of significant change.

For Americans, now is not the time to immigrate to Canada or move to a foreign country. There is work to be done right where you are. It is a huge challenge, which contains the seed of a huge blessing. Now you know what you’re dealing with: the collective shadow stands right in front of you.

I’ve heard some beautiful sentiments expressed these last few days; those resolving to be more kind, more caring, more compassionate. I myself have felt very raw and open in my interactions lately. We need each other more than ever. No one is exempt.

This is a catalyst for humans to discover their true power. We can choose to connect with others in creating a new paradigm…or we can sink into fear and apathy. That’s the beauty of free will, and it ultimately has nothing to do with who is ‘leading’ the country.

To live in love consciousness, the volcano must explode. Will we be part of the wreckage or the cleanup?

 

milestone: teaching my first yoga class

My Kundalini Yoga practicum – teaching a ‘real’ class at our studio – took place last week. All trainees in my program taught over a 3-day Yoga-thon, me being placed in what I considered the least desirable spot – late Sunday afternoon. As someone who likes to get things over with, it was somewhat agonizing to wait around all weekend for my class to begin!

On one level, I wasn’t at all nervous about teaching. There was nothing to fear; I’d done all I could to prepare and I knew I’d be in a supportive environment. I didn’t have to be perfect. I’d never done this before!

But on another level, there was everything to fear. I could sense my ego kicking into overdrive, anticipating all that could go wrong. I knew the havoc this could wreak, so I took advantage of my extra time that Sunday morning and let myself fully feel all my nerves and anxiety. As if I had an internal dial, I turned all the uncomfortable sensations up to ‘Intense’.

Yup, I look pretty happy up there!

Yup, I look pretty happy up there!

The usual suspects turned up. Humiliation. What if I panicked on the spot, forgetting everything I’d memorized, and getting my notes all mixed up? Pride. I was afraid of losing face. I feared the pity of others – or their secret satisfaction – if I failed. (That’s a fun one to admit!) Shame. I feared being exposed as a fraud, an imposter. The list goes on. Ultimately, I feared failing God.

I knew this wasn’t just about the yoga class. These fears are deeply embedded in the human psyche. In such states we can’t access the knowing that we are eternal and infinite, fundamentally unaffected by whatever ego construes as danger. I prayed for humility, trust, self-compassion…and to have fun!

In true Mercury Retrograde fashion, there was an element of ‘expect the unexpected’. The trainee scheduled before me had become ill, and I was asked to teach her class as well. Two classes in a row?! I did not see that coming. I swear I could hear Yogi Bhajan chuckling in the ethers. Surrender.

And – things went well. It was a wee bit distracting to have my lead trainer evaluating me in the back of the room, taking copious notes throughout both classes…but the time flew by and I was provided wonderful feedback that bolstered my confidence and helped me see where I can improve. To be honest, once I got up there, things felt quite un-dramatic! I don’t recall my heart pounding as furiously as it had during my practice sessions. Yes, there were nerves – but it mostly felt comfortable and natural.

That’s not say it wasn’t a big deal. I’d accomplished a goal I’d dreamed about for years. This was a huge step!

Some passions are so obvious that we’re certain of them from a young age. Others, like my yoga journey, are more subtle and reveal themselves over time. Those dreams often take years of cultivation before they germinate. Even if feels like ‘nothing’s happening’, on some level, we know exactly what we’re doing. The dream itself wants to ensure we’re ready to receive and take good care of it. It deserves the best ‘us’ we can bring to it. And so, we have to prepare.

I’m not quite finished my training – I still have a final exam and another training session to complete – but regardless of what my Kundalini future brings, in my book, I’ve already succeeded.

***

On another note, I LOVE that this is my 108th post! 108 is a sacred number in yogic tradition, and this seems like a fitting opportunity to thank everyone who reads, follows, and comments on this blog. It is such a blessing to connect with, and learn from, you all. Thank you!

Sat Nam. Truth is my identity.

human teachers, spiritual honeymoons, and lone wolfs

A few weeks ago I published a post sharing some websites that I’ve been following for a while. Since that posting, Jenna Forrest has removed the majority of videos from her YouTube channel. In a recent message, she explains that she continually receives new information, and that some of her teachings (particularly those on twin flames) may have done more harm than good.

Jenna’s videos brought me much hope and comfort, and I was a little surprised that she took so many down – but I applaud her integrity and in some way feel relieved. We can easily become dependent on spiritual teachers, investing ourselves in those who are going through their own processes and who may not have the answers we seek.

if your presence doesn't work, nothing works

I believe that as a collective, humans are becoming more open to receiving knowledge that was once reserved for a select few (or intentionally kept secret). We’re realizing that we all have access to this information; we don’t need a spiritual ‘authority’ as an intermediary.

But this means there are a lot of people out there saying a lot of things…and without discernment we can become easily influenced and eventually disillusioned. Learning from each other is essential – but we’re still human beings with egos, motivations, and intentions we may not be consciously aware of. (Spirituality and yoga are big business.)

In general I’m finding that messages I was once very drawn to now hold less pull. I’ve written about spiritual information overload, and honouring the inner teacher, before – and this theme is only getting stronger in my life. With so many teachings at our disposal, our own voice can get lost in the noise.

I’m certainly not discounting teachers or teachings as a whole! I’m very grateful to those who have shared their knowledge with me. Kundalini Yoga in particular has helped me tune into my inner knowing in ways I couldn’t have imagined. I’m nearing the completion of my teacher training program and, since last October, I’ve meditated, practiced, and breathed more than I have in my entire life! At many points along the way, my mind, karma, and beliefs have felt more claustrophobic than ever…but then there’s an opening, and I find an expanded state.

I’ve met some amazing women and men, and seeds have been planted for future collaborations. I’m trying to not think too much about the future; many times I’ve gone through spiritual honeymoon phases, becoming enamoured with a particular teacher or teaching, only to have it fade away as something new is revealed. I wonder if this will happen here…and then stop myself. For now, I am enjoying this process immensely, and with much gratitude.

One theme that has repeatedly come up in our training: the time of the lone wolf is OVER. For humanity to evolve, it’s all about group consciousness. This can be tricky for those of us comfortable in our private little spaces, the introverts who are just fine going about this spiritual journey alone, thankyouverymuch.

This has been one of my main challenges but I’m slowly learning that it’s safe to come out of my cocoon and connect with others. It’s a vulnerable, uncomfortable, beautiful thing. I’m not saying we have to give up our privacy completely – but we do need to know when we’re isolating ourselves to a degree that’s not serving our highest purpose and potential.

Just some random thoughts. Life has been very busy with work and wrapping up my program. The next step is teaching an actual class! Pretty amazing to have reached this point.

Sat Nam (Truth is my identity)

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)

solstice, samskara, surrender

As we enter the winter solstice, I’m in awe of nature’s rhythms. Last week, my city was struck with back-to-back severe windstorms and heavy rains. It was evident that Gaia was doing some serious clearing and cleansing.

The dramatic weather perfectly mirrored my internal state as my frustrations, irritations, and limitations thrashed about. I felt uncomfortable and angry, like a caged bird. A prisoner in my own home, and in my own mind.

It took all my might to tune into a quiet, still voice from within. Is this how you want it to be? Do you realize you can let some of this go, once and for all?

A beautiful solstice labyrinth created by my friend G.

A beautiful solstice labyrinth created by my friend G.

The comments from my last post got me thinking about attachment to our emotions, particularly our pain. To me there’s no question that to become whole, essential beings, we must feel all our feelings – the light and the shadow, the joy and the sorrow.

But some of us get so comfortable processing the darkness that it becomes our identity. We don’t know when or how to give ourselves permission to stop. We drown in our samskaras, our karmic patterns and habitual tendencies. We can’t tell if we’re healing or wallowing.

Even though we want to feel lighter, brighter, and more carefree, we’re more at home in melancholia. Heaviness feels real, because we’ve practiced it for so long. The ‘light’ feels unknown, an empty space. For some of us, this emptiness evokes annihilation.

We don’t want to shun the darkness, but we would like some relief.

Obviously it’s a personal journey and one that demands radical self-honesty. Only we can know for ourselves when we’re avoiding painful emotions, when they’ve become a crutch or habit, and when we can let them go. This knowing happens in the heart and not the mind. It has many subtle layers.

For me it’s required a higher level of trust in something beyond ‘me’. It’s required humility in acknowledging that I can’t navigate the journey alone. It’s required the acceptance that I am not in control, I don’t know why things happen the way they do, and that I’m totally Spirit-dependent. It means having to let go of who I thought I was, and be willing to start anew. My ego hates all of that.

View from my apartment window

View from my apartment window

The thing about the howling wind and pouring rain…there was no question that it would pass. It had to. The real question was, would I allow the light that was sure to follow? Am I going to take myself out of my present hermitage and isolation, and embrace the love that’s all around? The love I once judged as ‘not good enough’, because I myself felt ‘not good enough’? Am I going to trust that grace exists?

I recently completed a 40-day meditation as part of my Kundalini Yoga homework. My samskaras – chronic anger, frustration, and reactivity – rose to the surface in a big way. As did the realization that it is totally in my power to release them, if that’s what I want. It may take time, discipline, and commitment…but it can happen.

I feel blessed to have lived on this island for the past few months. There aren’t words to describe what has opened for me. It was here that, fifteen years ago, I first discovered I was an angry woman. I’ve come full circle, and I’m ready to move forward.

It’s time to unburden ourselves from the weight we no longer need to carry. We’re allowed to surrender it to the light…the light of the solstice, the light of the Divine, and the light of the collective consciousness. We can trust that what’s ready for release will be transformed for the highest good. Once and For All.