A Musing On Endings

Dear quarter lives,

There are few certainties in life, perhaps the most certain of them all is that we will die. More so than that is that all those who we love will die. Everything dies, be it a living being or our youth or a marriage or job — everything ends. Even the world as we know it, at least from our point of view, ends when we die. Endings therefore shape our lives and in turn how we relate, not only to ourselves, but to the whole world around us. And as many people as there are right now, there are just as many ways of relating to endings. Endings offer some people clarity, a clean finish without which they cannot grieve and move forward; whilst for others, endings bring them anxiety reminding them that with each breath, they themselves are ending. But on the back of every ending is a new beginning. On the back of death, life is born and so how can we truly love living without loving dying first. For me personally, learning to see the beauty in death has helped me see the beauty in life. I went through a period of intense death anxiety in my mid-twenties, and one of the things that helped me overcome this fear of death was taking photographs of dead things that would cross my path, be it a bird or an insect or a flower. Slowly, I began to see beauty, I began to notice the body, its fragility, its vulnerability, yet its power to shape the kind of life we experience. It is my unique body that allows me to experience life from my eyes. It is my body too that dies when my life in it ends. But what happens to my spirit, my soul, where does it go? In all those pictures I have taken, it was clear that these were just bodies, albeit beautiful bodies, but bodies without a soul, they were left behind for the earth to consume them because to whom does a body belong but to the mother body that holds us all. 

I remember my last term at university, I was so afraid all the time, not because I had exams coming up, but because I was graduating, my time in London was coming to an end, and I didn’t know what the future held for me. I was sad to leave friends behind. I was sad to leave a way of living I had gotten accustomed to behind. I was sad to say goodbye to a version of me that was dying. I would never again be an undergraduate. I would never again be 20. I would never again be so impressionable. No more blank canvases. I was all scribbled over now. I would never be new, not like seventeen year-old me. I would only grow older and older. The future —all of it — just seemed dreadful. Not that the past wasn’t difficult, but the future just seemed daunting instead of possible. I share this because I am sharing with you how endings made me feel, and still make me feel, although I must admit I am much more hopeful now than I ever was when I was eighteen. So maybe in losing youth, one gains hope or rather faith that it all works out in the end; even if we don’t arrive, we will survive. I can see clearly now how I navigate transitions — with loads and loads of fear. What I suppose is different now is that when I was younger, I used to believe the fear. Now, I just hear it out, nod a little to acknowledge it, but I certainly do not believe anything it has to tell me because I know most of the time, there is extreme exaggeration happening. So tens years on from my London goodbye, I am at the verge of another goodbye and so I wish now to meet this ending differently. I wish to be grateful to all the people, events, places — good and bad — that have held me over the past years. I would like to say thank you and offer a big smile right from the heart. I would like to say to the future that awaits me — to the beginning dawning on me — I am very excited to meet you. I would like to hope, instead of despair. I would like to let the possible pull me forward, instead of letting the impossible hold me back. I would like to move forward knowing that when I do look back, I will feel full with contentedness and gratitude — not because things were perfect but because they were a stop on my journey. When I wake up in fifty years time, and I hope I do, I want to wake up eager for another day and grateful for eighty years worth of days that I have said goodbye to. When my body dies in fifty eight years time, I hope that I can say goodbye to it and let go of my long small life. 

With love and always for peace,

S.A.

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

Knowing nothing about the people we love is what allows us to really love them

Dear quarter lives,

Have you ever known someone for so long and felt like you knew nothing about them? And the more time passes, you realise how little of them you really know. Take our parents for example, we don’t really know them at all and yet they are probably the people we’ve spent the most cumulative time with. We know nothing about the people we love and that’s precisely why we can love them so deeply. Can you imagine if we really knew the people in our lives, could we bring ourselves to love them, to really love them without conditions or biases. It is because we are safe from each other’s thoughts that we can bring ourselves to love one another. Have you any idea what your mother went through at the age of 5, or how your grandfather felt like as a little boy? Do you really know if they almost died or killed another? Do you know if they lied, stole or used their bodies for power to negotiate with another or with god? Do you know how ugly or beautiful they really feel, or how sick or healthy their minds really are? We don’t really know anyone for certain, even our own selves. And what great news that is, to not know, to be free of a certainty that brings judgment along with it. If we knew for certain we were good people, we would judge others based on that certainty of goodness, and condemn those who fell outside of that box of goodness we carved so precisely around ourselves. What a relief it is that we do not know what goodness exactly is, and what a relief it is to be free to ascribe it to everyone. What a relief it is not to know another and to be unable to judge them accordingly. But yet we go around judging all the time. And it is because we seek to know ourselves and in turn others so precisely. We go on seeking to know who we really are, prescribing identities onto ourselves and onto others. But you see, the certainty that knowledge illudes, the security it might make you feel to know another, the price of safety in knowing is judgment. And judgement is a hefty price to pay. It is taxing not only on us but on others. It is unfair and limits our experience of everything within us and around us.

I invite you to take a moment and try to feel yourself without judgement. It is very difficult. Now, take another moment, and remember all the people you came into contact with today, and try to feel them without judgement. It is very difficult. Let me clarify here that judgement does not only include negative statements but it could be positive or even neutral ones. For example, the clerk at a shop you bought something from recently, your interaction with them was based on the fact that they were a shop clerk, so your feelings of them were tainted by that identity you gave them. It is a very difficult exercise to feel another without any preconceived notions, to really listen to someone when they speak without projecting our own prejudices onto them. How long can you hold your gaze with another, eye to eye, pupil to pupil, soul to soul? There is a reason it is uncomfortable, and it’s not just because we’re afraid of what they’ll see but we are afraid of what we will see. To see without judgement does not mean we’ll see rainbows in each other’s eyes. We all have shadows, we all have secrets, some darker than others, but all complex, all because of things that happened to us, and all our own fault too. So you see, feeling one another, gazing into another’s eyes aren’t easy tasks. They are an exchange of information between two parties, whether they are aware of it or not, and so these moments of human connection can be very uncomfortable at first but only because we are judging what we see, and we think that whatever we might see will stick to us like some contagious disease, but it is true only if you choose to hold on to whatever you see. The thing is the world is filled with both joy and pain, most of us find it much easier to receive joy and really hard to let go of it. Pain, on the other hand, is very difficult to receive and much easier to pass on. But it all passes anyway, from one human to another, one interaction to the next, we pass it all around and around. A smile can travel the same route, though with smiles, we embrace them thinking that it is our embrace that brought the smile our way but it would’ve passed through us anyway whether we greet it or not. The same goes for anger, fear, doubt and hope. Around and around they all go until we have no idea where it all began, where it ends, if ever. This circle of information growing and multiplying, circles within circles, with no beginning and never ending. A dizziness falls upon us as we dance within and around these circles, round and round we go, a little here and a little there, but never any where in particular. March, they drum. Dance, they drum louder. Can you hear the echoes of the voices that once were, these voices of the quiet, that were never heard, never received, because they could never be loved by another. They wailed and flailed from the pain of never being loved. They screamed, and I screamed louder, until one day I stopped screaming, and they spoke to me. All this time, they had been speaking to me and I thought they were talking about another. Love me, love us, love you. That’s all I heard. For some reason I didn’t hear the I. They were screaming not for help. They were screaming to help me. I love me. I love us, I love you. I had all the love in the world inside of me. I had all this love but I had to unknow what I thought I knew for certain about myself, it is when I realised I know nothing for certain, nothing about me, nothing about life, that I was able to love myself completely. Without any conditions or biases or expectations. It was love for the sake of nothing, and that’s what I mean when I say we can only really say we love other people when we love them without any prejudices, even our family and friends we are biased with our love towards them because they are family but when we let go of the weight of that relationship and allow these biases to fade we find we are able to love them more completely, regardless of who they are, and regardless of their relationship to us, we love them just because they are here, because they are who they are even when they don’t know who they are and precisely because we don’t know who they are. Sometimes we think Knowledge gives us the power to make better decisions, but knowledge often satisfies a need to be reassured that said decision, said action, said information is the correct one, but knowledge often taints how we really feel. Knowledge suppresses emotions, our rational side often at war with the irrational side. There is purpose to knowledge but not in matters of love. Love itself cannot be accurately described in the language through which we communicate knowledge. Love falls outside of all known things. It resides in an uncertain place between feelings and sensations, a crevice so small, so deep it can hold only something as fluid and as dynamic as love. So love yourself regardless of what you know about yourself. For there is much else you don’t know about it. This lack of knowledge is an invitation to love each other more freely. Embrace the fluidity of love and hold it for a moment until it leaks through you and seeps onto another, but trust there is more to come your way, if you would only let it flow without knowing why. And the next time, you get upset because someone you love doesn’t really know you, celebrate their lack of knowledge of you, for it is an opportunity to be loved unconditionally. And what greater way is there to be loved than unconditionally based on nothing at all. It is love based on no information that is most reliable, most stable. Isn’t it ironic that the thing we thought protects our hearts from love is the thing that breaks it in the first place?

With love for absolutely no reason at all,

S.A.

It’s not your fault.

Dear quarter lives, 

Do you remember those moments when you were a toddler and you would crawl under the table and forget that you were under one and stand up and hit your head? Do you remember what happened after? Did you cry or fall quiet? Did someone console you and assure you it’s all okay, that you’re going to be okay? Or did your mother hit the table ‘bad table, bad table‘ in your defense helping you identify who to blame in this situation? Or did your father shout at you and ask you — a mere two year old still learning how to navigate gravity and corners — the ridiculous question of what were you doing under the table anyway? 

The reason I am asking you to recall this moment or moments similar to it is because there are many moments like the one I just described that happen in adulthood,  not literally but metaphorically, where our curiosity perhaps led us to crawl into a cave or under a table and when we decided we needed to get up, we hit our heads and forgot the space we had gotten into had a low ceiling. The reason it is so important to recall how others reacted to our hitting our heads when we were children is because it can be very useful in helping us understand how we learnt to react to our own accidents and mistakes. It will help you understand why it might be easy or hard for you to forgive yourself. It will help you understand your ease or dis-ease at releasing yourself from the guilt and shame of making a mistake. It might show you where and when you might’ve acquired the habit of blaming others and constantly pinning them down with an it’s all your fault-a-day.  

But having said that, it’s also not as simple as that. We might’ve picked up something like this in childhood but got it enforced and reinforced a million times by teachers, fellow classmates, society, culture, and one hundred and one other factors. So it is important to remember that when we look back, we are not looking back in order to find the one culprit or reason for why we are the way we are, but rather in order to know ourselves a little better and to understand how complex the making of us was, how there was no one person, or one time period, or one school, or country we lived in, or style of parenting to hold responsible for our entire being. We look back to understand that our being is complex, that it cannot be separated from the world that was there as we were being formed, and that we are still being formed, not in a vacuum but in the world. And so, as much as we can hold ourselves accountable and responsible for ourselves, we cannot hold the weight of our entire lives on our shoulders, for we will almost certainly collapse underneath it all and so will anyone who we attempt to put that weight on, including and especially our parents. Why I say especially parents? Because when we look back, parents are almost always the usual suspects. It is very easy to latch on to any one of the many mistakes parents make. In fact, I would say that the latching on to blaming the parents might be one of the necessary steps we go through as we learn to view our lives as part of the bigger picture of all of life. And so I must warn you of the threat of getting stuck in this cycle of blame. It is certainly tempting to shift all that responsibility onto someone else, and it’s not only responsibility that gets shifted but anger too. It is much easier to be angry at someone outside of us than to have all this anger directed inwards towards us. But if we do that, we must know that we have not put to rest the habit of blaming, we have merely shifted the object of that blame. One of the main learnings of this inner work with ourselves (and there are many) is to learn how to refrain from saying ‘it’s all your fault’ to anyone and everyone. Firstly, because it gets us nowhere to point fingers. Secondly, it’s untrue. Our predicament, who we are, why we do what we do, is no one’s fault. Thirdly, we always have a part to play, and it is this part and only this part that must be recognised by us and taken responsibility for. And in this way, we take our power back by taking ownership of that part we do play. In doing so, we must be careful not to inflate the size of that part and attribute too much responsibility to ourselves when much less is due. At the same time, be careful of giving anyone too much power over your life that it is all their fault. And it is not just people we blame, sometimes it’s places, sometimes even emotions. Fear, for example, is a big one people tend to blame their failures on. But it is of course more complicated than that. So the moral of the story is stay away from blame and instead take just enough responsibility for yourself, and don’t take responsibility for anyone else. In doing all of this, you give yourself back the power of choosing again, the power to alter the course of your life, and the power to make decisions boldly. This doesn’t mean you will be to blame if you hit your head again on the ceiling of a table; all it means is that you have accepted the fact that you are human and that all you can be responsible for is acting to the best of your ability at any given moment. We cannot see what we cannot see. And so it was with our parents, and their parents, and their parents. 

May we all learn to forgive ourselves, our parents, our teachers, our friends, our partners, our communities, our cultures, our histories, our gods, and the whole world we find ourselves in today. May we all remember that we are active participants in the creation of this world. You, as much as I, as much as the largest corporation, we are all working together and separately to make this very world we share.

With love and always for peace, 

Shahinda  

On Gratitude

Dear quarter lives,

Most of us are familiar with the advice be grateful, count your blessings, say thank you. But many of us can be unfamiliar with the feeling of gratitude itself. And it is definitely very difficult to practice something you do not quite understand. A few years ago, in the beginning of my quarter life crisis, all I could feel was anything but gratitude. I was so wrapped up in my own struggles and pain, that I was finding it very hard to find anything to say thank you for. I went to therapy, read books, listened to podcasts, and they all seemed to agree that saying thank you for even the simplest pleasures like a good cup of coffee can transform my experience of the world. So I began to think about this idea of saying thank you, but to be honest with you, I was mostly contemplating gratitude from a place of intellectual superiority to make fun of those who thought saying thank you was going to solve my problems. Ironically, it was this questioning that began to shake my own certainty in how I saw the world. I slowly began to see things that were always there, but I just wasn’t looking at them from the right angle to be able to see them. It did, in fact, all come down to how you see the world and what you choose to focus on. Again, this isn’t anything knew, I had heard all of this before, but I just never experienced it myself so I was baffled by just how simple and obvious it all was. I began to see just how my close-mindedness and arrogance kept me blind from all the good in life. Once I realised that I might not really know anything at all, the world began to feel much softer. Gratitude is really as life-changing as people say it is, but we never really know it until we experience it ourselves.

Remember the ever so popular, Is the glass half-full or half-empty? It is in fact always both, but what do you choose to see? —that is the more important question. Perhaps you do not choose the fact that there is water in the glass in the first place, but now that it is there, and now that there’s nothing you can do about it being there, you can’t add more water and fill the glass up to the rim, and you can’t empty it out until it’s absolutely empty, what do you choose to see? It is that choice that is life-changing. It is that choice to see abundance rather than lack that transformed my life. It is that choice that transformed me from victim to superhero in my own life. It is that choice that gave me the power to shift how I saw myself, to shift my state of being from a passive one i.e. being someone who life happened to, to an active state of being i.e. being someone who participates in her life. That choice is how I reclaimed my power back. It is how I was able to let go of what I could not control and embrace what I could. And so, I have come to understand that gratitude does not miraculously happen to us. It is a conscious choice to be grateful, and one that requires hard work and practice like any new habit you form. It takes a lot of hard work in the beginning to let go of old cravings to complain, and it takes a lot of saying, No, not today! , to our habitual responses to pain. It takes a lot of hard work to develop a gratitude practice, but as with any practice, it gets easier the more consistent you are with it, and eventually it becomes a part of you and happens as automatically as the glass of water you drink when you’re thirsty. It just happens, every day, all day, without effort or thought. It becomes so necessary to your daily nourishment that you wonder how you went through life all those years without it. You begin to understand why you felt so hungry all the time, but just didn’t know for what. Our souls crave the goodness in life, just like our bodies crave good food. And gratitude, I believe, is how we find that goodness.

Gratitude is like a pair of x-ray vision glasses that allow you to filter through whatever shit you see in life and find the goodness in it. Like underneath all our flesh, there’s always bone; so it is in life, under all that shit and suffering and fear, there is always goodness, there is always love. But we must choose to put on our gratitude glasses everyday, because otherwise the good might be hard to see through all that dirt. That is not to say that the dirt is bad. It’s a necessary part of our life experience. It gives us the opportunity to grow, for there is no greater teacher than discomfort and that is what the dirt in life does — it exerts enormous pressure on us so that we can evolve into our most authentic self. One very important lesson I’ve learnt is that it is always much less painful to accept the invitation to be taught than to resist it. The thing is the dirt will come anyway and will try to teach you anyway whether you greet it with open arms or lock your doors shut, but what accepting the invitation does is give you power. In allowing something to happen to you, you become an equal party in the decision, you are no longer victim, and you share equal responsibility for the outcome and the journey. It becomes your responsibility to make the best out of it. You have more rights when you sign a contract than when you don’t. And declining the invitation, just means you have no contract, and when you have no contract, you don’t feel secure. By not accepting the invitation, you give your power away to whoever will take it. And who is always starving for power? Your ego. And what fuel does your ego run on? Fear. And so, it is always up to you, whether to choose fear or love, whether to look at the glass half-full or half-empty, whether to feel gratitude or not. It is always your choice what to see. It is always your choice what to experience. It is always your choice to move forward or stop.

I will leave you with one last thought. There is no one alive that is not worth discovering their most authentic self, so do not shy from any invitation to discover who you really are. Do not ever feel like you should not question or ask, for there is no discovery without questions. A journey after all is but a series of questions whose answers hand you over to the next question like batons in a relay race. So do not fear the questions, for they are the only way we can find the answers. It is a highly personalised journey and your questions will only offer answers that serve to guide you, and no other. Your questions will help illuminate your path in the darkest of tunnels so trust your questions, love them, celebrate them and most importantly thank them.

With love and always for peace,

S.A.

Emotions as bridges of communication to multiple realities

Dear quarter lives,

Some time ago, I was preoccupied with the question of why we have emotions. I wanted to understand what they were, what purpose they served. And all that kept coming back to me was this one word — perspective. Emotions, each of them, seemed to be articulating experiences from one specific angle. Different emotions can offer us different experiences of the exact same thing. And all these perspectives do not negate one another. Instead, they offer the insight that there are always multiple truths. I believe emotions are the tool through which we can ease into the idea of multiple realities. The wide range of emotions we are able to experience allows us to consider our lives from an equally wide range of lenses. And that means that there is no single narrative that holds true more than another. Sadness, for example, does not negate the truth of anger, and neither does anger negate the truth of joy. Emotions allow us to consider the possibility that the truth is diverse.

I only understand now what it means when they say, the truth is in your heart, because I understand now what feeling offers us. You see, when you feel, you know that what you feel is true. And there are as many truths as there are feelings. When you feel, you know that no matter how hard your mind tries to convince you that there is only one objective truth, you know without a shadow of a doubt that that is simply not true, and all because you can feel. Emotions are the eyes in our hearts that allow us to perceive and experience the real truth — that there is no truth. It is precisely this subjectivity that our emotions offer us that makes us human, that makes us kind, that makes us tolerant, that allows us to accept that the Other might also be justified in their version of the truth because that is simply how they feel. You see, when we are able to discard the idea of a single Ultimate truth, only then can every other possibility of the truth open up to us and greet us.

I believe emotions are a fundamental part of the human experience for precisely the reason that they stretch us to tolerate the idea of multiple truths, and in that way, emotions act as bridges of communication between us and other realities. They ease us into the possibility that there might be more than what each of us individually experiences, that other dimensions could exist, that anything really could be. Anyone who has experienced the world from a place of fear will tell you it is a very different place to a world experienced from a place of love. And anyone who has experienced themselves from a place of anger will tell you they met a very different person to the one they met from a place of joy. It is not only the Universe that we can experience from multiple dimensions, it is our Selves! Emotions connect all these different experiences of self together. Emotions show us we are more than who we were when we were sad, that we are not who we are when we are happy. Emotions are our gift, one that allows us to entertain the possibility that there might not be a single story to us, but rather an endless possibility of stories.

With love,

S.A

A Prisoner named Anger

Dear quarter lives,

This might be the story of my prisoner, but there are many similar stories out there where one captures an emotion, a memory, a person, and hides them deep in the dungeons within. There is no man, no woman, no human without a dungeon. They form inside of us when we are children. They are as old as our breaths. They help us feel safe, like an army of sorts. As children, it was how we dealt with what we didn’t know how to deal with. We felt safer knowing that all that was dangerous, all that was unwanted was locked up inside, deep within us, in a room far far away. We tied these rejected emotions to heavy iron chains so that they would sink forever with no way to escape or surprise us.

But something happens when they have lived there long enough — we get attached to them. It is ironic indeed that what we have chosen to hide away because we were afraid of, we now become so attached to and dependent on that we might actually only feel safe when they are with us, a Stockholm syndrome of sorts. And so at this point of attachment, when you can no longer separate your sense of self from your prisoner’s sense of self. Your identities now intertwined, you have now merged. A new symbiotic relationship now exists, you become each other’s hosts. Your prisoner resides in you, and you reside in it. And so it was, after many many years of holding Anger captive, I realised that I am as much a prisoner to him as he is to me.

And for all prisoners, the goal is always freedom. But not all prisoners are created equal, some become vengeful, others are more forgiving and spare your neck. And those prisoners are the wisest because they remember, unlike us, who they really are. No matter how blurry the lines get, they remember that they are not us. That we are not the fear we hold within. That we are not the anger we have suppressed. They remember that their purpose is to express our experience but they are not us and we are not them. The danger comes when the prisoner is angry. Angry at us because we have not allowed them to speak, to express themselves. Instead we have blindfolded them and hid them in places so deep and so dark that they became so sensitive to the light that it becomes dangerous for them to leave even if they wanted to without getting us a little sick first.

And so with Anger, especially with Anger, when we come to make peace with it, we must show up ready to surrender, ready to assume responsibility for the abuse we have inflicted on ourselves by holding back our anger. We must acknowledge the abuse we have allowed our prisoner to endure by hiding them away so absolutely that we forgot they even existed. In those cases, where the attachment is not even acknowledged, the prisoner’s pursuit to freedom becomes even more complex, even more dangerous, to us and to them. They begin to plan for our death. They decide that if they cannot see the light through merging with us, they must seek desperate measures, they must seek the light by removing the physical barriers of us, by removing our bodies, by destroying them, by killing us. Only then is all energy within us released back into the Universe, and when that happens, Anger can finally be free.

And so when we refuse to communicate with our prisoners, they have no way of even warning us, or threatening us. Sadly, we have cut our own ears. We have refused to listen. And now, we must bear the consequences of seeing the storm only when it is too late. We must too realise that who and what we decide to lock away in our dungeons is always our choice, even though our choice could’ve been the result of serious hardship. Often it is due to a heightened sense of the perceived threat from that particular thing, be it an emotion or memory. We might’ve witnessed an unpleasant expression of Anger growing up and vowed to avoid it at all costs. And so within us lives this exaggerated fear of expressing our anger thinking it might injure or even kill us. Ironically, that is exactly what it does when we cut off all contact with it. And so the only way to approach Anger, I believe, is with love and with a lot of trust. We must trust that our anger does not exist to hurt us. We must communicate with it. We must listen to it. And when we do, we will realise that Anger actually came to protect us. Like a house alarm, Anger acts as a signaling tool when our boundaries have been crossed. Anger alerts us to take action. To speak up. To better assert our space.

Anger has long been misunderstood. It has a bad rep because it often presents itself as aggression and violence. But it is not the anger that does this, it is what we do with the anger. It is our reaction to Anger that has been aggressive. But we have instead pointed the finger at him, deeming him the unwanted/unpleasant emotion and locking him away as if to punish him for his bad behaviour when in fact it is our behaviour that has been bad. So to heal this complicated relationship we have with Anger, we must first open our hearts and go deep deep within until we reach the dungeon, and then we must consciously and intentionally choose to unlock it. We must choose to free our prisoners. We must choose to set Anger free. And as we do so, we must apologise. We must open our entire body to listen. And as we listen to the wounded within us speak, we must give them our love for they have given us theirs all these years.

Before I go, let me just remind you of one final thing — our prisoners’ pursuit to freedom is also our pursuit to freedom. For when they are free, we become free. It is always us who are the captors, the torturers, the unreasonable tyrants, never the victims. It is us who hold prisoners, not us who are held prisoner. So let us never forget the fact, for it is a fact worthy of our memory. It is fact through which our power can be realised once again, and our choice recognised. It is always up to us! Remember that, always, if you are ever to be free. 

May you be free forever,

Shahinda

Some days, we just need to be Hermits

Dear quarter lives, 

Indeed life does not remain the same, and neither does our youth. Us, twenty-somethings, will soon enter the beginnings of mid-life. It is not far. It does not come slow. Everything we have worked to push deeper within ourselves will begin to emerge, just as everything we have worked so hard to resolve will reward us greatly. So think about what you have prioritized in your twenties and what you have intentionally  delayed for later, and what you hope to delay forever but know you cannot. Think deeply and think wisely. Do not escape, for there is no escape. Do not whine, for it is of no use but to paralyze you by getting you thinking you are a victim of life’s circumstances. You are not. You may cry, for that has many good uses, particularly for releasing tension from the mind. Cry and cry a lot, because that is how you get your power back. Cry, because you deserve to feel again. Cry, because it is natural. Cry, because you are human. Cry, because it is how you realize you come from God. And when you have cried all the tears necessary for your mind to calm and your body to relax, sleep. Sleep well, like you have nothing else to do and nothing useful to wake up to. Sleep, so you can finally rest. Sleep, so you know what it feels like to rest. Sleep, because you’ve been awake for too long. Sleep, so you can finally become who you really are — peaceful. Sleep, because that is how you transform. And when you’ve finally slept all you needed to, wake up and see what a beautiful life you really have. 

Love, 

S.A. 

We survive because our hearts speak, not because they beat

Dear quarter lives,

Inside there is a map. Of us. Of who we are. Of why we are who we are. And how we survive all of it. And this map is not hidden away in some dark deep dungeon inside of us. It is right here beating in our centre, keeping us alive. Our map is not in our hearts, it is our hearts. And to be able to understand the language of this map, we must discard everything we know about maps. We must let go of ideas like:

  • we must know where we are going
  • forward is the only way to go 
  • we can only walk one path at a time.

When we choose to follow our heart, we choose to trust a very specific kind of wisdom, one that is only wise for us. There is no universal heart language we can learn. Each heart speaks the language of the body it resides in. And each body is housing a unique soul. So what I’m trying to say is there is no secret language you must discover to understand your heart, your heart was made especially for you to speak to you, so you already know what it’s saying but you just need to tune into the right frequency to be able to hear it, the same way you would to hear a specific radio station. 

And how we tune into our hearts is through our intention. And intention is just a fancy word for wish. So all we need to do to tune into our hearts is wish to tune in. We don’t need to know how to tune into it. We just need to want to hear it to be able to. We must wish to trust it to be able to follow its guidance. We must wish to say goodbye to being lost and intend to be found instead.

Recently, I have been thinking a lot about how I survive, about what keeps me going and how I know where to go. And the same answer keeps on coming back to me: go to your heart. I probably don’t fully grasp yet what this means because I am still in the process of going to my heart. I have intended to connect but I’m not fully there yet. All I know is that if it comes from the heart then it’s the truth. But the truth is no good if we don’t believe in it. Faith, I am coming to understand is the way to the heart. Faith is helping me trust my heart again. And trusting my heart is what allows me to listen to it when it speaks. I, now, know that I survive everyday not because my heart beats but because it speaks to me.

Love, 

S.A. 

A Story about Donkeys, Humans & Panic

Dear quarter lives,

Once upon a time on a planet right here called Earth, there was a disease called Panic that infected and killed everyone except for the Donkeys. Panic spread very fast. No one knew exactly what caused this kind of disease or how it spread so fast, but everyone knew that the Donkeys were immune to it. So the Humans began to kidnap the Donkeys and lock them up in laboratories, carrying out all sorts of experiments on them. So much new fancy equipment was built especially for these experiments, but unfortunately it didn’t help the Humans understand why the Donkeys weren’t getting infected by Panic. So instead the Humans started to hunt the Donkeys and eat them. Many Donkeys were orphaned, and many others widowed. But the Humans didn’t care. They were so afraid of dying that they were blindly killing other innocent creatures. Rumours began to spread speculating why the Humans were engaging in such brutalities. Some declared that the Humans didn’t even carry out experiments on the Donkeys, they were just so angry at God for not killing the Donkeys as well they decided to even out the scales themselves. Others dismissed such claims suggesting more believable ones such as it was the disease that was doing that to them, that the Humans have gone mad. You see not everyone died from Panic, many more people in fact stayed alive but the fear of death would never leave them. Panic, you see, was an incurable disease because it went right to the mind and there was no coming back from an infected mind. That’s why the Donkeys didn’t get it. They had no minds because what was the point. They didn’t have any use for them since they were always keen on remaining exactly where they were, just here in one place at one time. They had no desire for time travel like the Humans did. The Donkeys couldn’t understand why the Humans put in so much effort to plan to go somewhere that didn’t exist. For The Donkeys relaxing and having a good time was all that really mattered so they had no use for worry because everything that mattered was already here and happening. They weren’t an ambitious bunch like the Humans. They were happy exactly as they were and that self-satisfaction and contentedness is exactly what saved them from Panic. Panic tormented the Humans for centuries. Now because of Panic, the Humans are going extinct. If only a Donkey would tell them to relax, the Panic would all just come to an end. But the Humans burnt all their bridges with the Donkeys. And the Donkeys aren’t a resentful bunch, they’re just keen on staying alive so staying away from the Humans who butchered them was one way they made sure of it. But the Humans still had one last hope. They too had burnt that bridge but since God isn’t worried about being killed then He might just be the One to call on. So the Humans began to do just that. They started calling God. At first, He didn’t answer. He wanted to be sure this was a genuine call. He wanted to see if the Humans really cherished Life, if they were so grateful for it that they were prepared to surrender their egos for Life’s sake and beg. And beg, the Humans did. They began to beg God to answer their prayers. They would even wake up in the middle of the night to pray. Finally, the Humans were so desperate and felt so powerless that they all began to cry. They cried so much that all the rivers that had dried up were filling up and returning to the planet once again. The air that was so dry and hoarse began to soften and feel wet again. The earth they stood on was quenching her thirst and drinking once again. The hot fires raging in the Humans’ bellies for centuries were finally put out by the their tears. They began to cool down. And as they cooled down, their fevers began to disappear. And as their fevers began to disappear, their minds began to settle, and as their minds began to settle, their eyes slowly opened. And as their eyes opened and light came rushing into them, they realised they had been blinded by Panic and that they were finally cured. They had survived the plague that had devoured their species for centuries. And all they had to do was cry. It wasn’t God that saved them, it was the crying for Life that did. You see for the Humans to be able to cry, they had to surrender their power over to something they believed was more powerful than them. That’s why they called for God. And since then, the Humans on Earth have had crying ceremonies to celebrate Life and to make sure they regularly surrender to God.

So dear quarter lives, the morale of the story is that the remedy for panic is to cry a little. Tears are a great way to release some of those pent up sensations and emotions that we lock into our bodies, dangerously so, to the point that they begin to leak into our minds. So for the sake of both your physical health and mental health, give permission to yourself to cry whenever you need to. No one is too strong to cry; in fact, it takes a tremendous amount of courage to cry. So be brave today and let it all out.

With love, 

S.A.