I have watched rice farmers, pottery makers, carpet weavers and other professionals practice their craft with so much presence that it left me in awe. Those crafts were practiced in repetition until mastery was achieved not only over the craft itself but also over the mind. Those masters mesmerise and pull you in to watch closely as they perform their jobs gracefully leaving you sure that they were born to practice their skills and bring beauty and vitality to this world.
And there are jobs on the other side of the spectrum that are full of struggle, effort and challenges. There are jobs that leave the person performing them drained, restless or even cynical. Those jobs are filled with tasks that yield no real result. Full of to do lists, meetings, memos, documents and plans that do not end up accounting for much in the large scale of things.
And yet in most cases, the latter jobs pay better, monetarily at least. This got me thinking about why? No one profession is more important than the other in definite terms. We all need to be doing different things for our world to continue to flourish. Yet some of us have chosen one thing over the other. Some are buying presence, joy or even the sense of achievement with money. Others are buying money with time
During my latest workshop (Love the skin you're in) we explored the idea of living a truly authentic life. A life that truly reflects who we are, our mission in this life and celebrates our abilities and talents.
The joy of living an authentic life comes from the fact that being authentic is easy and not laboured. To be yourself takes no effort at all and yet, ironically, people find it hard.
An authentic person speaks, behaves, dresses, expresses and acts in a way consistent with who this person believes they are. This remains consistent regardless of what setting they are in and what they are trying to achieve. This creates a harmonious way of living where there is no internal conflict between how you wish you were and how you actually are.
Living authentically brings with it the peaceful balance between enjoying life and having purpose. An authentic person is at peace with who they are. This means they feel no need to overwork or stress in order to prove something. They understand clearly that their value is not dependant on what they achieve nor other people's opinions.
They are also so sure of who they are that self limiting beliefs do not exist in their world. There is no need to throw in the towel, no frustration, no giving up and no cynicism. They have a clear vision, a deep understanding and complete self acceptance making outside opinion and internal chatter irrelevant.
If you would like to get more tips on how to live an authentic life, write back requesting this workshop to be run again!
The world is getting both better, and worse, in so many ways. While there is still an unnecessary debate on women's rights, abortion laws and rape sentences we are doing better as human beings with gay rights (go, Taiwan!), environmental movements and spiritual awakening.
And although there is much to be celebrated there is also much to be fixed. And within that that needs to be fixed we can adopt one of two attitudes:
The first is to feel deep compassion for those suffering from our lack as a human race, engage in meaningful, practical and applicable conversations and actions of how to implement change and to be an advocate of a cause. This is an attitude of saying "I see this, it does not serve us or the planet we're on, I am willing to gather my troops and do something about it".
The second is to get offended. This is when the issue is no longer about those affected but more of how my ego self, the "I", feels that I am superior to accepting that this issue exists. It is a near useless emotion as it does not evoke change, it drives people apart rather than bring them together and fails to inspire. This is the attitude of saying "I am frustrated that this is happening and although it is pretty serious, I am making it more about how I am better than those making mistakes rather than trying to come up with a solution. In fact, my emotions have taken over completely and rendered me incapable of looking at the big picture, I will remain in my mental conversation of how I am better than those doing those mistakes!"
The reason people choose the second one is that on a very subtle level, it feels good. The rage at someone else's action creates a perceived hierarchy of righteousness. It generates a temporary feeling of grandiose and entitlement. But what purpose does it serve?
Not being offended does not mean not caring about some real and serious issues around us. On the contrary, it means that your complete attention is on the issue rather than making it about you. Not being offended means honing in the magical power of bringing people together and applying change rather than isolating groups and creating further issues. Not being offended means that you recognise that every time you get offended you are clearly looking at a quality within yourself that you have not made your peace with, and then owning that quality and healing it. Not being offended is being completely engaged, rather than resistant of reality in this moment.
I have been asked many times who I feel is responsible for my success and, filled with gratitude, I would mention a name, or two, of people who have really inspired me. People that have given me guidance in my darkest moments. People that have shown me unconditional compassion and support when I didn't like myself so much. People that believed in me even when I did not believe in myself.
And there were other times where someone I'm close to would ask "what's wrong?" and I would fall into the trap of blame, criticism and resistance of a person or a situation. And in that moment it seems that my mental, physical and emotional state can be logically explained by the events, behaviours and circumstances around that moment.
And I would be wrong in both cases. For I had met many inspiring people that I did not get inspired by. I was also in many difficult situations that did not change my state. My own inner strength, hope and faith determines how well I deal with situations.
Who I am today is a collection of who I chose to be in the face of adversity, change and fear in many situations over the years. There is not one person, situation or circumstance that I can give full credit or blame to. Everything that I am today is the bottom line of what what I was able to, or failed to, do or be when things got difficult.
The ability to turn adversity into a change to grow comes down to being open. Being open and being happy are not the same. To me, being open is about having faith, trust and surrender. When you are open you can see the potential of growth, the possibility of transformation and the beauty of being inspired when facing situations that are both challenging and nurturing.
May this Ramadhan bring you the wisdom, patience and peace that you deserve.
It is no secret that every mother, no matter how much she loves her child, had hoped for some alone time at some point. A mother's love is like no other, and yet, even in that deepest state of love, space is needed for love to grow.
That same space is needed in all our relationships, whether they are our relationships to people, careers, places, things, or even spiritual ideas and values. That space is not needed merely because of humans' inherit want of they don't have. It is also needed because it takes the pressure off.
You see, when you love something or someone so much, you invest so much time, energy, money and feeling on it that it becomes the "Original Sin". That person or thing becomes the point on which your whole attention revolves. When that happens your whole idea of happiness becomes dependant on that thing. This means that not only have you devalued the many blessings that your life brings, big and small, every single day. Not only have you put so much pressure on something beautiful and that could also be fun. You have now also been distracted from the source from which all your blessings come.
No one thing in our lives should be a single pillar on which our whole happiness is built, regardless of how noble or important it is. For our relationships to remain balanced and continue to grow it is vital that we are able to walk away from the things we are attached to, even momentarily.
Each one of us has a trigger. Some people feel sad when they feel let down, others feel angry when they feel controlled, other may feel anxiety when they feel abandoned and so on. You can mix and match the triggers with the reactions and the possibilities are endless.
The fact that both the triggers and reactions are different means that the trigger has more to do with the person that is triggered rather than the person who is perceived to trigger. It simply means that we have all taken parts of our pain stories from the past and made them a part of our current identity. This false identity has been created to protect us from future threat of similar pain.
What we ended up with is a mind that imagines those triggers. It fashions scenarios of a similar sorts carried on in the future with different people, at different times and in different settings. This imagination has made us highly sensitive, and at times even paranoid, of ever coming in contact with those triggers. To sheild us from this possible, potential and not probable pain, we have built walls around our hearts.
But when we build walls around our hearts nothing comes in, and nothing goes out. Yet we long to feel complete, so we seek in others to make us feel secure, accepted, respected and so on. When we meet someone who can fill the "gap" of where we have closed our hearts we love and grow attached. When this same person shows the slightest sign of "taking" this feeling we crave away we condemn, judge and might even hate.
Remaining open is the only way out. Realising that the part of us that is hurt is the scared part of us that can be reassured and healed. Knowing that closing is a price too high to pay for false protection, even from the deepest of pains. Our nature is open and loving, anything away from that will be more painful than any experience can bring us.
We make assumptions. All. The. Time. Some assumptions are reasonable, helpful. They help us navigate through life in a way that is practical and understandable. And many assumptions we make are designed to make us feel miserable.
When we assume that someone behaved in a way that is dismissive towards us because they don't care about us, that assumption hurts us. When we assume that we will not been given the opportunities in life that helps us achieve our potential, that assumption holds us back from trying. When we assume that our talent doesn't matter, we don't grow it. When we assume that someone is not behaving in a loving way towards us because we are unworthy of their love, our self esteem is affected and so on.
Let's be clear, pessimistic assumptions are not more realistic. They are the cynical and easy. Those assumptions are lies. And even if they were true they would be true in a very limited way, or limited to a time or a person. Those assumptions are not facts. We cannot take them seriously.
Although it is always better to seek the truth, to ask better questions, that is not always possible. So I am here to propose that we begin to make better assumptions. Assumptions that make us happier. Assumptions that might be as big of a lie as the cynical assumptions and yet they make us feel better. Can I assume that a dismissive behaviour was because that person is dealing with a crisis? Or that opportunities are on the way? That my talents will change lives? That someone is not loving because they had not been loved?
If you will lie to yourself anyway, make it a happy lie.
As human beings, we have an internal compass that judges actions as "right" and "wrong". That judgement of action is necessary to keep us aligned with our nature of peace, joy and love.
We get lost when this compass stops judging the action and starts judging the person. We confuse mistakes with the value of the person (us or others), deeming someone worthy or unworthy based on the number and size of mistakes they have made.
This idea of worthiness extends not only to how we treat ourselves or people (how much attention, love, time or even effort we put into the relationship) but also the blessings we believe that (we or) that person is worthy of.
Having transformed radically through this practice, some of my friends often said to me "you just want it all, don't you?". And my answer is "yes, I do". This is a revolutionary answer from someone who spent most of her young adult life loathing herself. I felt unworthy of anything good happening to me and when it did, I subconsciously rejected it, feeling uncomfortable in being blessed when I clearly did not deserve it because to me, I had made mistakes and was now unworthy!
Being a mother taught me that this was not true. My love for my daughter and my desire for her to receive blessings does not depend on how well she behaved that day. And if the love of a mother is a micro version of the love of God then how can God judge us or withdraw his blessings if He loved us?
The way I see it is that our mistakes do not cause God to judge us, or deem us unworthy. Our inability to love ourselves through our mistakes do. The number of prayers, meditations and hail Mary's do not determine how worthy we are of spiritual awakening. Our own understanding of spirituality does. And if God is Love then spirituality is the ability to love. And how can we love when we are busy judging ourselves, and therefore others, as unworthy.
May this year bring you the peace you desire and the love you deserve.
A question I get asked often is: I am really trying to remain positive, loving and compassionate but I am surrounded by violent, negative and judgemental people. What can I do?
And my answer is always the same. Committing to being a light worker is not a temporary display of grace subjective to how "good" things are around us. It is rather a dedicated choice we make especially in the most difficult of situations. This choice remains regardless of the many objections that come from the mind.
The Yoga Sutras say that there is a four fold remedy that ensures the success of the aspirant on the spiritual path. Those remedies are:
Maitri: friendliness to those we find easy to love
Karuna: compassion towards those afflicted
Mudita: delight at the good fortune of others and
Upeksa: disregard towards the faults of others
Upeksha is key. When the world around us is chaotic, when the people around us are unable to be their best selves, we make a choice of raising our consciousness even higher. When we are in uplifted states of being, we are unable to judge, condemn, isolate or disconnect from those around us. When we take good care of our wellbeing we become understanding, patient, inclusive and welcoming.
I was driving down a very busy highway one afternoon, and a bird was flying pretty low. My car was fast approaching its fragile body, I carried the terror of hitting it in my heart. A second before getting there, the bird flapped its wings and simply rose higher. And there it was: so simple and yet so clear. All we have to do when the chaos of so many minds around us threaten to kill the delicate fragility of the state of balance, all we have to do is go a little higher.
Why are we here? Is a question I still have not found a concrete answer to. I believe in a force, an intelligence that created us. Call that force God or love or Allah.
I don't know why that force created us. An answer that I received was that God created us because He loves us. But if that was the only reason wouldn't He have made us in a way that our experience was free of suffering?
The other answer I got was that God created us to enjoy us, just like a mother has children knowing that they would suffer. But that seemed like a cruel answer for an all encompassing, all loving God.
And the third answer I got is that we were created to help one another. Which of course gives rise to two questions:
1. If God had not created any of us then there would be no help to be give
2. Why doesn't God do it Himself?
The first question I still need an answer to, but as for the second, here's my theory:
If God solved all problems for us He would be like a "let me do it for you" parent. We would be the spoiled children who never learned to tie their shoe. We would not have built the resilience to deal with life's challenges nor the compassion to understand another's pain. We would not be able to heal through the service of others, enjoy the connection felt through both giving and receiving nor truly experience of our oneness.
Weam is the founder of Namaste. She had started a very deep and intense spiritual journey at a young age having refused to continue to suffer with the common challenges of her generation: depression, anxiety and being lost. She insisted that there must be more to life than the constant rat race she was in