We are all different. We like different things, believe in different things, like different kinds of people, settings, food, colors, clothes, everything.
It is common sense. We all know that. And many of the ways in which we are different doesn't bother us. If someone for example, told you they didn't like sushi, you wouldn't be offended. You wouldn't think any less of that person just because you like sushi. It wouldn't bother you. You would not seek vengeance or call them names behind their backs nor will you generate tremendous amount of hatred towards them because they don't like sushi.
But this begins to change when it comes to preferences in terms of beliefs. When someone chooses to believe in something you don't believe in: a religious concept, an ethical choice or even a social obligation our reaction becomes much more personal.
For some reason we gave ourselves the permission to decide for other people what they should be believing in and how they should be living. We took it upon us to decide what is best for someone else when we know nothing of what it is like to live as them. And when we find it in us to bite our tongues and grudgingly allow someone else to practice their own belief, we self rightously call ourselves "tolerant".
Human beings know, before belief systems what is right and what is wrong. Those are things that all human beings agree on: not to kill, not to steal, not to harm one another, not to lie, etc. Those are things that human beings feel bad doing anyway.
Beyond that point, who is the judge? Who assigned who to become the judge of other human beings? Why do we insist on shoving our own beliefs down somebody else's throat? And why do we choose specific parts of our belief system to defend so relentlessly and sometimes even violently?
I believe that belief systems that we try to force onto somebody else are belief systems we cannot force onto ourselves. We are insecure in our own belief and therefore project that insecurity by trying to control someone else.
If someone came up to you and said "human being have green skin", you would not invest a lot of yourself trying to convince them otherwise. You are so sure that humans do not have green skin that you find it ridiculous to try to convince someone else of something so obvious.
The same applies to your truth. If your faith, your codes of conduct, your life choices were so obviously right. If you were so sure of them that another person cannot stir any doubt or insecurities then you will not, for a moment, entertain the idea of trying to sell to someone else your own truth.
May we all recognize the power and beauty in the diversity of our truths.
I had always been fascinated by the way Yogis and Yoginis move. I don't only mean in the practice but also the way they carry themselves outside of the practice.
I remember how, during my teacher training days, I would wake up from my savasana (final relaxation pose) after our morning practice and find that the room had been completely cleared up from all the props. I couldn't believe it because as I lay resting with my eyes closed for 10 minutes, I did not feel my two teachers move in the room. They move with so much grace and awareness, that not once did they disturb our rest.
It also fascinates me because it is a display of grace. The way they move displays a true residence in the body. There is nothing happening in their body (good or bad) that they are running away from.
The way that many of us live is quiet the opposite. So disconnected from the body, accepting chronic pain as a reality, the body's need for rest as an inconvenience and the cries of the body for certain kind of nutrition as a faint whisper that is often ignored.
Have you had and ignored a knot in your throat? Your racing heart beat? The fire in your belly? The build up of a headache? The heaviness in your heart?
In Yoga it is believed that wherever your attention goes, prana (life force) flows. This means that if you pay attention to your body, you will become better attuned to listening to the signal of things that cause your suffering (physical and mental). You will also be naturally healing your body simply by completely living in it.
I wake up as the sun rises to teach a retreat of self healing in the beautiful setting of Nai Harn Beach at Phuket. I am surrounded with people that took the time off their jobs, families, social duties and many responsibilities just to stop and re-evaluate their choices, their thoughts, their lives aiming to heal, grow and transform.
I admire those beautiful souls for making this choice as it is so vital for us to feel our own value. To feel that we deserve to invest the time to check in and ask ourselves where and what are we lacking? What is our vision for ourselves? Where are we heading and what hurts?
This self work is important both to ourselves and to those around us as there is no way for us to give anything that we lack. It is impossible for us to love another unless we love ourselves. It is impossible to give peace, acceptance, tolerance or forgiveness unless we do that for ourselves first.
Spiritual teachers often talk about "putting on your own gas mask" first before helping others, establishing a strong foundation from which to help others before even attempting to do so. And this is no news to many of us.
But what I'm here to talk about today is a different angle to selfishness. An angle that hit me as I was listening to a lecture by Abraham Hicks when he affirmed that he "really, really, really does teach selfishness", and here's why.
Abraham explains that when someone accuses us of being selfish they are actually saying "how dare you choose your happiness over mine?". Isn't the accuser then, the selfish party in that argument? Isn't it selfish to ask someone to go against their own understanding of what makes them happy simply to conform to our expectations?
When did we lose track of this and accept the conditioning that we must ignore our own understanding of happiness in a hallow attempt to "make" someone else happy? When did we lost sight of the fact that each one of us can only be responsible of their own happiness. Why were we conditioned to think that it is noble to assume our own needs are less important than others? When did sacrifice become something we felt proud of instead of a clear sign of distorted self worth.
I wish you all a life in which you are clear on your vision for yourself and you have no guilt or shame of doing what it takes to achieve that.
Om Shanthi Shanthi Shanti.
Spiritual teachings tell us that everything we need is within us. We do not need to seek a partner, a friend or even a family member to complete ourselves. Spiritual teachings also tell us that our sole purpose is to love so completely, so unconditionally, with no discrimination to whom this love is directed towards.
This seems contradictory in the beginning. What is our job then, as lovers (romantic and otherwise) towards our loved ones if they are meant to feel complete without us?
The way I see it now, after being so rigid about independence for so long, is that our spiritual awakening is not complete without the other. Our spiritual awakening is not consistent in its growth because we as humans, are forgetful. We forget that we are complete. We forget that we are worthy of love. And those that love us (although don't have to at all!) anchor us back into this remembering.
The way I see it now is that my job as a lover is to remind the ones I love of the thousands of reasons they deserve to be loved, and to remind them of how they will also be loved once those thousands of reasons disappear.
5 years into following my dream of doing what I always want to do I know this more certainly now. None of this is possible without the people around me. As Namaste turns 5 this month, my heart is bursting with gratitude for the hundreds of students that allowed me to learn from teaching, my heart is overflowing with love for the space that held this sacred practice and witnessed transformations and my heart is content in the thousands of hours that I spent sharing this beautiful practice with all of you. Thank you from the bottom of my loving heart for being a part of this collective waking up!
Om Shanthi Shanthi Shanti.
Namaste just graduated its fourth batch of Yoga teachers in February, congratulations gurujis!
But that's not what I'm here to talk about. During the training, I was, once more, teaching the philosophy part of the course. This is a topic very dear to my heart as I get to share concepts that I know deep in my heart, work. Concepts that as a human being, I do not always succeed at applying but nonetheless, concepts that never failed me.
But what I struggled with this time around, surprisingly enough, was finding the words. It wasn't that I was not inspired. I am. It wasn't that I didn't do my research, homework or that I didn't intellectually understand it. I did. The problem was that more than my mind, my heart understood it.
As I sat in front of those beautiful trainees with their eyes full of wonder waiting to receive so many profound ancient teachings that I know rung true, I kept finding myself questioning the need for so many pointers when in the end, it was all pointing to one thing. All human struggles, desires, suffering, needs and ambitions can be solved by solving one thing. Our ability to heal, to find joy, to become free, to find health, to connect with others, all of it pointed to one thing. If we desired all of that we only had to do one thing.
And so I sat finding less desire to talk about it as it was an experience that had to be felt. I knew that in my moments of despair I had to withdraw within myself and find a silent space in my heart that knew no discrimination. I knew that this space had no preference, no agenda and no restlessness. I knew that this space was always available to me so long I remained aligned with Divine harmony, so long I remained aligned so capable of loving and accepting myself and everyone around me.
I struggled to fill hours of Yoga lectures with words when all spiritual teachings can be summed up in a few words: "Expand your capacity for love"
We sometimes struggle to make decisions. We are unsure of the outcome of moving one way or another and that can be a paralyzing state that awakens unsettled feelings.
We are told to "listen to our gut" but sometimes the "gut" and the "mind" sound the same. How do you know what is the choice of the soul, the heart, the universe and what is the choice of the mind, the ego, fear?
I asked my teacher this once and she said that the soul is always "sure". That there is no hesitation with the soul, it will speak clearly and with confidence, while the mind hesitates, questions and confuses.
Eckhart Tolle says that we sometimes cannot make a decision because we do not have enough information. However, sometimes that even with enough information we cannot make a decision because we cannot create the space in which we can ask the correct questions to base our decisions on. He says that the problem with decision making is not that we cannot make the decision but that we are not asking the correct questions.
From a Yogic perspective, our intuition, which is the sound of the mind closest to the soul, can only be heard when the lower mind (ego) is silenced. In order to go into the space that will ask the correct question, and find the correct answer, the ego, our selfish desires and fears must be quietened.
The ego mind is only quiet in one moment in time: now. The ego mind cannot live in the present moment and this is where complete awareness on the current moment, the breath or how we feel in our bodies at any given moment contains within itself the power, the space and the knowledge for us to make the decision that our soul is directing us to.
We hear people talking about their countries with so much passion you begin to believe it's the most magical place on earth. We hear mothers speak about their children like they're the smartest, funniest most beautiful creatures that ever existed, or ever will for that matter. You see people defend their religions not only with word but with money, time and blood.
And yes, it is partly because we have egos that identify with places, concepts and people that we have emotionally invested in so deeply. But there's also something else...
What we often fail in doing, often jumping into conclusions and comparisons is that we don't take the time to fall in love. I believe that if you approached any country, religion or person with an open heart for long enough then you are sure to see the beauty, build a tolerance and fall in love.
But we are both, to an extent, emotionally closed down and hasty. We don't allow concepts in whenever we feel they will threaten our own. We don't let people in when we feel they will reform our ideas of what is acceptable and what isn't.
And so we walk through this life clinging to what we know. Sacrificing the magical for the familiar. May the new year bring you fresh perspective, a willingness to love and the strength to shed your burdens.
I burned myself out.
I'm one of those people that feel that in order to feel accomplished I have to conquer every challenge that is thrown my way. This means that I would work till I could work no longer, I would attend all the functions I could and I most definitely wouldn't ask for help in the process.
This meant that as time went by, I did less and less of what I loved (apart from work) and took less and less care of myself.
But what shook me the most was that I was suddenly becoming fascinated by human kindness. It fascinated me because all my hours spent outside of my time teaching, I felt restless, rushed and agitated.
And I knew that this fascination I had with how people took the time to listen to one another, to help one another and to spend leisurely time enjoying each other's company came from a deep longing.
This longing came because my mind, in its endless movement and seeking, stood between me and my very excellent ability to flow with the rhythm of life. I knew that I was able to function very efficiently and be nourished when I slowed down, when I didn't spread myself too thin. And yet I kept getting in my own way.
I had to awaken a side of me that sounds firm and sure that says "no" at the expense of approval and self validation to a desperate "yes" that knows that life is about the little moments of being there for someone, being present enough to look at clouds, have the time to color with your daughter, mindfully make your breakfast or leave your phone behind when you walk your dog.
After years of being unable to slow down I promised myself to focus on what will really matter in the end: being kind, being loved and loving in return.
I watch many of us walk around, including myself, hunched over. We walk looking scared, rolling our shoulders in to protect a heart that's been wounded. We hunch over like we're trying to avoid yet another blow right into the gut from a source we still don't know.
And i watch children walking: glorious, proud, open. With a posture that adults only obtain after deliberate and dedicated practice.
And I often feel like offering a hug to say "I know you felt pain in the past, but you can now let it go now. You need to take the shield off so you can let a gentle breeze in"
My teacher visited Bahrain a couple of years ago and noticed how I taught back bends in nearly every class and I think that's partially why. I look at adult bodies shrinking in fear, contracting in past wounds so bad that I take great pleasure watching them unravel like lotus flowers on pleasant evenings.
And students often report a feeling of restriction, of an inability to breathe deep into the chest, of difficulty taking in the breath. To me that's a sign of not only physical restriction, or merely habit of shallow breathing but also a sign of an inability to "allow life in" so to speak.
Can we trust enough to allow the breath to move in? To allow our feelings to take over us like a temporary wave that will have to eventually pass? Do we trust our hearts to take us through so we can emerge lighter, calmer and willing to try to once more, love like children do?
Many of us are impatient. We are too impatient to rest when we are sick, waiting to get better. Too impatient when we are hungry for the food to arrive. Too impatient to find the right person, fall in love, buy a house, get fit, have a baby, get promoted, buy our dream cars, whatever it is that we think will make us feel happy.
The curious thing about waiting is that it often carries with it a promise of satisfaction in the future. But when we finally get what we were dying to "get" for so long it ends up being ordinary.
That satisfaction, in reality does not exist in the future, for every moment is fluctuating and changing and so are we. Our desires, attention and emotions shift from moment to moment so to spend our lives waiting for something is to give up our lives to a false promise of eternal gratification while in reality, it is only momentary.
Yet at the same time, waiting sometimes is an act of surrender and complete trust. Sometimes we struggle, try and resist too much. When we surrender and patiently allow, our desires are granted the moment we are ripe enough to receive it.
"The blocking mind tries to assure satisfaction. Most thought is based on satisfaction of desires. therefore much thought has at its roots a dissatisfaction of what is. Wanting is the urge for the next moment to contain what this moment does not. When there's wanting in the mind, that moment feels incomplete. Wanting is seeking elsewhere, completeness is being right here." Gradual Awakening by Stephen Lavine
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