On being extra ordinary

Dear quarter lives,

Do you remember being asked as a child what you wanted to be when you grew up? Do you remember the answer you gave? Did it change as you grew up and realised the handyman that you wanted to be as a five year-old was not good enough for the world so at fifteen you decided a doctor was more suitable and then at eighteen you decided no a doctor isn’t enough, you need to be even more important than that. You didn’t want to be tucked away in a hospital saving lives quietly, you wanted to be seen for your accomplishments, recognised by the whole world for something great not because you were egotistical but because you needed greatness to give your life value. Not meaning. Value. It wasn’t about your life meaning anything, but it being worth something. And greatness is value. Greatness means you are worth it, it means all the mistakes you’ve done were worth it, it means your birth was worth it, the trouble you put your mother through to be born was worth it, the tremendous investment your parents poured into you was worth it. It means that the life you have lived was worth it. It means that when you come to die, you will feel like you were well spent.

But then your eighteen year-old self became a twenty-something old self, and you came to realise that greatness was not at all what you thought it was. Greatness wasn’t something the outside could give you. Greatness wasn’t accomplishing great things. Greatness wasn’t an object you could accumulate or collect. And as your twenty-something self approached your thirty year-old self, it dawned on you that greatness was in fact the complete opposite of anything your fifteen year-old self could’ve imagined. It dawns on you that greatness was never going to be found in the large things, but the very small ones. It dawns on you that greatness could never be achieved, earned, or accomplished but that it was a sort of being; a state one can access only from within. It dawns on you that you had completely misinterpreted what it meant to be extraordinary. It was right there in front of you but you just couldn’t see it. Extra ordinary. The most ordinary possible. And you realise how foolish you had been. How can something so obvious be hiding so well in such plain sight. Language indeed can be very crafty, but in its craftiness will manage to always keep it simple. And so it dawned on me that I could only become great through the ordinary. Through the everyday being, the everyday talking , the everyday loving as well as the everyday worrying, the everyday frustrations and the everyday resting at the end of it all. Being great is being really good at being ordinary. So this whole time, the only thing stopping me from being extra ordinary was my own resistance to ordinariness.

To pursue extraordinariness, I thought I needed to make a monster out of ordinariness. And I did. For so long, I had been so afraid of being ordinary. I was afraid of being swallowed, of being invisible, of not standing out, of getting lost in the crowd. And so as a result, I have exhausted my self pursuing a ghost. Now, I can finally rest, I can finally stop running, I can finally stop feeling so hungry for attention, for validation that I matter, that I am important, that I am worthy. Finally, I can see what I had been so blind to — the sheer freedom that ordinariness offered. All this time, I had attributed such confinement to ordinariness that I couldn’t see that it was in fact a liberation — a gift of being just so. I cannot say yet that I know ordinariness; I have yet to get acquainted and allow it to pulse through me. All these years of resisting must now become all these years of allowing, of giving permission to all that is ordinary within me to just be. And in doing so, I hope I can eventually get to a place where I am comfortable swimming in the greatness of my very extra ordinariness.

I recognise now that truly great people know they cannot accumulate any real power, because there is no power to be accumulated. Great people do not delude themselves they are powerful when they are in fact powerless in the face of time, nature and death. Great people are those who are aware of their nothingness and yet do not try to fill it up or mask it because they know nothing ever can. Greatness is knowing our power is not ours alone but all of Ours. Greatness is knowing that our personal strength comes from knowing we are a link, a chain, a connector, a communicator between all that is living and all that is dying. There is no person or being alive who was not born of someone. Our story never begins with us and neither will it end with us. So to recognise that even within our own story we might not be the main character but just a character — that, I believe, is greatness.

With love and always for peace,

Shahinda

Everyone wants to be Superhuman – what about being just Human?

To be just human, we need to remember what it means to be a human being in the first place. Unfortunately, I think we have lost track of that but I don’t think it’s too late. In fact, I think the world is giving us an opportunity now to take a look around us and really take in what this desire to be superhuman has cost us, not only us as humans but Nature too along with all her elements and beings.

From a very young age as children, we have been primed to desire to be more, to be better, to be stronger, to be smarter, to be like all those superheroes we watched and read about. Superhuman wasn’t just a fantasy. It became the epitome of what we believed the future held for us. It was the expected course of progress — we would evolve and become Superhuman. And what a let down this pursuit for more has been. We wanted to be on top of every other species to the extent that we disregarded what Nature wanted completely. We took charge of something that wasn’t ours to control. We forgot that we share this planet with so much other life. And when we remind those who abuse the Earth that this planet is not theirs for the taking, we are often ignored or told we need to be more practical if we want to be part of the “real” world. But you see this thing people refer to as the “real world” is precisely the fantasy world of superheroes which is made up of conglomerates which are made up of individuals all so scared to be “just” human, all so desperately trying to prove that they are better, that they are worth more than they actually feel. I am definitely not sorry to say that there is nothing more real, nothing more realistic, nothing more practical than Nature herself. Yes, perhaps life is about nothing more than eating, drinking, sleeping, having sex, having babies, dying, and living again. Perhaps all the fun and all the purpose is in telling stories about all those ordinary things. And it is those everyday things that give meaning to that which is otherwise meaningless. To be just right, to have just enough, to desire nothing more than what is around you, to just be exactly who you are, an ordinary human being is perhaps the most humane thing you can be and do for the world. To be just human is what we were born to be. Being just human is how we can fit into the bigger story of this planet and find our place in Nature once again.

We weren’t created to be the greatest. We were created to be a part of something great. We were created to cooperate with Nature, not to compete with her. So I say relax, let go of the pressure to be more than human and enjoy being just human. Of course, it’s not a button we can press and just relax. It takes a lot of work to get to a place where we can trust ourselves enough to relax. We have to undo decades of telling ourselves not to relax. So many of us carry so much stress in our bodies and put so much pressure on our minds all in pursuit of a “better” us. We need to ask ourselves why we feel this need to become better. We need to ask ourselves what is it that we are hoping to achieve from all this pushing of ourselves? These are some of the questions we might ask ourselves before we can just trust and relax into a new set of beliefs. I suggest communicating with your ancestors, (especially those that you’ve never met) who walked this Earth centuries ago, those who knew the Earth at Her rawest. Sit with them. Write to them. Ask them for guidance. Ask them all the questions you have, whatever they are, and however ridiculous and “unrealistic” they may seem. And when you have asked everything you want to ask, just sit back and listen deeply. Listen to the answers already within you. Listen to the yearning inside of you to return home, to return to your roots. Listen to what it is you are really longing for. Listen to the sounds of your limits, to the beautiful boundaries that protect us. I believe we all long for the return of joy. We all long for peace of mind. We all long for a body that can play. And I believe too that all those things do not come when chased. In fact it is quite the opposite, they come with stillness, not physical stillness but a stillness of heart. A stillness inside that washes over us when we finally stop running and escaping, when we finally accept that we are part of this cycle of life and death, that no one is special enough not to die, that no one can invent something to bypass death, that we will all perish just like Nature does. And Nature does it so gracefully, so why can’t we? I believe it is living with grace that prepares us for dying with grace. Shamans say we die the same way we live. And what a privilege it would be to live consciously and to die consciously. When we can finally open our arms and our hearts to greet death, only then can we step in and fully experience the state of being alive.

I share my words with you always with the intention to share and spread peace. I share these words with you with the intention of deconstructing our fears until they are palatable enough to digest and transform back to love.

Till next time,

S.A.

Who Am I?

Who am I? It is one of the first questions we ask as children. It is the question parents dread and seldom know how to answer. For many of us, the answers offered to this question were far from satisfactory, and if anything, derailed us from finding our truth. Parents often assume that what they say to a little child with such a big question isn’t that important; that they should keep it simple for our sake, for the child’s sake, for surely a child cannot grasp a complicated answer like “I do not know. Only you know.”

Instead of being encouraged to explore our questions further, our curiosity is stunted by our parents’ own fears of that question. Parents often think they cannot answer a question with “I do not know”, because they think it would scare the child, but the truth is, it scares them. It scares them that they don’t know, so they hold on tightly to what they do know and that is that we are their children. But we are much more than that. They think by telling us they do not know something, they will rattle our sense of security, our trust in them. On the contrary, by pretending they always know, parents unconsciously create this expectation from us that they know everything, that everything they do is right, that they couldn’t possibly make any mistakes because they know. And so, when they do make mistakes, it traumatises us and shatters our world, because we were not warned of this possibility that they might not know everything. We find it hard to trust them afterwards because they unintentionally lied to us about their knowing everything. They didn’t give us a heads up that they are human, that they are imperfect, just like everyone is, just like we would grow up to be. And so, they instill this expectation in us that when we are adults, we will know everything too. But we quite quickly reach adulthood and realise we know very little, and then we panic. We feel like failures, like inadequate people who do not know everything but should know everything according to what we were told directly or indirectly by our parents, and then we grow grievances towards our parents, disappointed that they let us down, that they lied and made the world seem simple, that they refused to expose us to its complexity because they thought we couldn’t handle it, that they sheltered us and never taught us how to swim through life then expected us to be able to navigate its storms.

And so, to all parents, to all prospective parents, and to all quarter lives soon to become parents, I ask of you for the sake of your child’s survival to always speak the truth, the complex truth, the truth that we do not know everything, and that we must get comfortable with not knowing, that until the day we die we will not have known everything and that that is absolutely okay. To make your child comfortable with the unknown, to teach them how to surf its waves rather than fear them, is the greatest gift you can give your child. 

So let us discard the answers that attach our children to false identities that they must later work very hard to unlearn. Let us not answer them when they ask “Who am I?” with “You are my little genius.”, “You are my happy child.”, “You are my beautiful girl.”, “You are my funny boy.”. Because they are more than that. They are much much more. So do not let them believe that their worth depends on these labels. For it does not. For their worth is infinite, it is eternal. And they should know that. They should know that they are love. That they are light. That they are the sun, the moon and the stars. That they are everything and anything they want to be. And leave it to them to realise what it is they are, what it is they want to be, what it is they are not. Like you expect your children to trust you, the parents, you must trust them too. You must have faith that they can find themselves. You must allow them to discover their own answer, not what you think the answer should be, or what you think the safest answer is. You must trust that deep inside they have a knowing that will guide them to it. All you need to do as a parent is to encourage them to listen to themselves, to hone that skill of listening so that they can discern the answer from all the noise. It is that connection to their inner voice that will guide them through life. You, as a parent, are there to hold space for your child to grow. You are there to witness their growth; you are not there to grow for them. And so, it is this deep knowing that we all have inside of us that eventually screams to us from the deep depths within, that alerts us to the inadequacy of the answers we were given. It is this knowing that always brings us back to this question. Whichever phase of life you find yourself in, whichever age you are, you will always ask yourself this question — Who Am I?. And I believe that we never truly stop seeking answers to this question. It is our guiding light. It is the question from which all other questions come. It is no ordinary question, and neither shall its answer be.

As the question extends the span of our lifetime, so does the answer. It is always formulating itself, showing us just a little more every step of the way. And so, we should never stop asking it. What we should stop doing is expecting an answer so finite, so limited that it must be expressed in words. For there are no words that can begin to express this answer. The part of us that asks this question does not speak the language of words. It is that part of us that is infinite, and so lacks the capacity to fit into words, for they are too tight, too small, too two dimensional. Just take a moment and imagine all the words that exist, all those words that have been invented to describe and communicate all the things that these words represent. And then imagine all the words that don’t exist, that have never been invented, the words that could not have been invented because they could not represent the things they would represent in just words. And so for these things, there are no words. No words with definitions adequate enough to describe them. For words themselves need to be as limited as possible in order to serve their function. Every word must be so limited, so precise in its definition, that it excludes all other definitions, all other possibilities of things it could represent so that it only represents one thing. And so, given the natural limited nature of words, do you think it’s even possible to try to answer the question of Who am I using them?

I continue to ask myself this question Who am I? everyday, not as a luxury, for it is who I am. It is no small feat. There is a reason it is one of the first things we ask as soon as we are able to ask. It is why we are here. It is how we grow our connection to Self. It is how we find our own voices, our unique vibrations. For this connection to our Selves is the most vital of all connections. It is the connection of a lifetime. It is why people who are disconnected feel so isolated. It is why those who spend time alone, but are connected do not feel alone. It is not solitude that is lonely; it is disconnection from one’s Self. 

Leo Tolstoy once proclaimed in the diaries of his youth that the entire essence of life can be encapsulated by two questions: “Who are you? What are you?”

Till next time,

S.A.