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. 

On Suicide & Our Ailing Minds

Dear quarter lives,

Do you know we are more likely to kill ourselves than anyone else is? Suicide kills almost one million people every year, more than twice as much as homicide*. Yet we spend more money and resources on protecting our homes with locks and security systems, our societies’ with policemen and women, but what do we do to protect ourselves from our own hands?

It is outrageous that despite all the social and technological progress we are witnessing in the world today, our humanity is still stuck in a place where suicide remains a taboo. We owe it to our communities to ask questions. We owe it to our youth to listen without judgement. We owe it to ourselves, because it could be us and if it is not us, it is a family member and if not a family member, then it is a friend and if it is not a friend, it’ll be a neighbour or colleague. We owe it to our mind to learn more about its ailments. There is no pain more dangerous than the one we cannot see. We cannot say it is this organ that is sick; it is that tissue that is dying. With emotional pain, you don’t know what exactly is dying but it certainly feels like you are. You feel the pain but cannot point at it. You know it is there but can’t show it to a doctor on an x-ray. You know you are broken but not the kind requiring surgery. You know you need help, but you don’t know how to ask for it, because you don’t know what to ask for. I believe though that we can learn how to see it, but only if we educate ourselves. It is our ignorance that prevents us from recognising when the mind falls sick.

And the only way we can tackle these ailments of the mind is together, as a society. We must find a way to cooperate. We must believe that it is a worthy enterprise to design support systems that can stop these invisible diseases from spreading. And to do that, we must believe in the value of every human life. Unfortunately, we live in a world where war remains legal and its media coverage a profitable enterprise. So it is expected that people don’t believe they are valuable because they observe it. Young people live in a constant fear of not being special enough in a time that is constantly hurrying them to achieve more so that they can become special enough. And if you don’t prove you are valuable, you risk being replaced by another. And it is precisely this realisation that we might actually be insignificant that wrecks havoc in our minds. If  I am insignificant and all roads lead to insignificance, then what’s the point in carrying on? And in this dangerous chain of thoughts, people forget they have focused on the destination instead of the journey itself. It is true we might be born insignificant and die insignificant but there is much that happens on the way that is significant. So as a society we must adjust our expectations of each other and what it means to be “significant”.

The problem they keep on saying is disconnection, isolation, and loneliness. The solution they postulate is supposedly simple — Connection. “People need to connect to each other more deeply”, they say. “They need friends.”, they add. “They should form bonds.”, they insist.  

But have you not thought that if the solution is so simple, why aren’t people doing it? What if this disconnection is a choice? Perhaps one might not choose consciously to be depressed, or anxious, or hopeless to the point of suicide. But perhaps we choose to do so unconsciously. If we are avoiding connection on an unconscious level, why are we doing so? What is it about connection that we unconsciously perceive as harmful? Why is it that the act of disconnection is unconsciously perceived as more advantageous than the act of connection? I think we are missing the point by focusing on telling people to connect more without understanding why they have abandoned it in the first place. Why is it safer to be disconnected than connected? What is so dangerous and harmful about connection? These are the questions we should be trying to answer if we are ever to tackle depression, anxiety and suicide head on. The problem is not technology, the problem is that we are afraid of true human connection. The problem is that it is easier and safer for us to hide behind our screens, tricking our systems into thinking they’re connecting. But our system is no fool. If anything, we are the fools. 

So why are we so afraid of connecting? Connection, like everything else in life, has its downside. When we form attachments to other people, there is a lot we risk. We risk our hearts being broken. We risk pain. The more real the bond, the more real the risk of pain is. We learn this from such as young age when acts of kindness were often perceived as acts of weakness. In school, the more fear a bully induced, the more power they had. And you didn’t even have to be a receiver of bullying to witness that “nice” humans are less powerful, less popular (which translated to a child means “less lovable”), and weak. So you grow up believing that humans are a possible source of pain. And in no time at all, this belief forms into a full blown fear. And the result: a whole generation of young people who fear fellow humans now on an unconscious level. We fear being made fun of, we fear being vulnerable as it is mistaken for weakness rather than its true strength. And so, it becomes that just existing around real people causes hardship. There is a real price to pay for connecting, and because we are a society that seeks comfort now in everything, there has become a more comfortable version to real people — virtual people. People prefer connecting online whether via games or social media. Even friends sometimes would rather confront each other online than face to face. I mean it’s easier so why not do it? People dump each other via text message all the time, why? Because it’s more comfortable; it’s easier. We live in a world now where there are comfortable options for everything that is uncomfortable, so any behavioral economist would tell you that it makes perfect sense that people are choosing to connect in the more comfortable virtual world. It is absolutely the rational choice to choose the less painful virtual bond. The opportunity cost of the comfortable choice is now much higher than it ever was before. Only a mad person would choose discomfort. Only a mad person would willingly choose to risk so much pain instead of the almost assured safety from pain of the ‘no real friends, only virtual friends‘ choice.

Only through understanding why people are so afraid of attachment and connection can we even begin to comprehend their ailing minds. Many young people today are making the conscious choice to stay single; some do it for their career, others just like it better that way. But regardless of the specific reason, it is fair to say that the comfortable preference now is to be alone, the logical choice is to avoid an experience of deep connection because it comes at a very high price. People are afraid to get hurt now. They think their hearts won’t survive it. It’s too painful compared to the alternative now. Comfort has become the villain; the cure has become the poison. Too much of anything, even of comfort, can kill us. So to tackle depression, anxiety and suicide, we must tackle our fear of discomfort. We must encourage people that it is in fact desirable to feel discomfort, that there is growth to be made in discomfort, that actual discomfort is not as bad as the fear of it. We should encourage children and adults that a regular practice of leaving their comfort zones is necessary if they are to keep their minds healthy, just as it is necessary to regularly exercise if they are to keep their bodies healthy. This is not an option anymore. If we want to live a long and healthy life, this is a necessary exercise for our psychological wellbeing and resilience. There is more than just a healthy body that is needed to stay alive, and this is no more evident than in those aged 15-29 years, where suicide is the second leading cause of death**. So the real choice now is: Leave your comfort zones regularly, or leave life early. I find it extremely sad that people have become more afraid of each other than of death. Doesn’t that make you sad? It makes my heart break when I realise just how much we have turned into monsters in each others’ eyes. And that is exactly why we need to be very conscious in our interactions with each other. Kindness and love are needed more than ever before. ‘Love thy neighbour’ used to be enough. Today, we must add: Love thy stranger. It’s no longer enough just for adults to be aware of the acts of kindness or unkindness they inflict upon other people, children should be too. Both children and adults should be aware of their responsibility and the impact they have on the wellbeing of their community. It is no longer adequate for the depressed person alone to be held responsible for their own mental state and to lift themselves out of it alone. We are all responsible for the mental health of our communities, and so it is only appropriate to act accordingly.  ‘Be kind’, ‘Love one another’, ‘Keep each other safe’ — these are the solutions. These are the acts that will dissolve our fear of connection. These are the acts that will help achieve mass connection. These are the acts that will save lives. You need not be a hero or a doctor to save a life, you need just to be kind. 

Love,
S.A.

* Hannah Ritchie, Max Roser and Esteban Ortiz-Ospina (2020) - "Suicide". Published online at OurWorldInData.org. Retrieved from: 'https://ourworldindata.org/suicide' [Online Resource]
** Silva, Lucía. (2019). Suicide among children and adolescents: a warning to accomplish a global imperative. Acta Paulista de Enfermagem32(3), III-IVI. Epub July 29, 2019.https://doi.org/10.1590/1982-0194201900033

On Why We Need To Declutter Our Memories

Remember not that which has passed. Remember not the memories. But the lessons. It is only for that purpose that we remember, that we have memories, to understand what we need to learn, to then go ahead and learn it, and when we have learnt it, we must forget now. To forgive is not to forget the memory itself. To forgive is to forego any further action in reaction to that memory. It is to forget the need to respond. And if a memory no longer warrants an action or emotion from you, it no longer belongs to you anymore. You must give it back. You must create space for new memories by emptying out the old. If your closet is full, it cannot take on any new clothes. And it is the new garments that nourish, that allow for change, that bring a sense of excitement and newness in our lives. If we don’t actively pursue changing the contents of our closets, upgrading them, assessing and reassessing to see what we still need, what we no longer need, and what we are struggling to throw out, we won’t be able to see what has gone bad and is infesting the rest of our closet. We must always revisit our closets, and clean them out, just like we would our home. We must regularly declutter our souls to create space before we add new furniture.

Clearing our souls is no different than clearing our homes. Can you redecorate a house full of its original contents or must you take everything out first and start fresh? Then after you have decluttered and cleaned out your house, it is then that one can start to paint the walls and add picture frames and a coffee table. If one’s house is full to the point it compromises your movement, you risk getting stuck inside. You grow isolated and lonely because you can’t visit anyone and no one can visit you. There’s no space to move just like in a hoarder’s home. This is how people get sick, how they begin to feel at dis-ease within their own bodies all because there’s no space for their soul to move. And to move, one needs to create space for movement. So creativity is key to maintaining a healthy home for your soul. Our bodies are the homes that our souls inhabit and our souls can only endure a dirty home for so long. Many have died because they have resisted change. Many have died because they held on to too many memories, to too many emotions, to too much pain. They refused to let it out. To let it go. And that I believe is what suicide is. Our soul choosing to leave the dirty and congested house. The house where so much space is taken up by the past, by pain, that there is no more room for our soul to move. Our souls fall to overwhelm. They become tense, stunted, and unable to grow. And soon our soul chooses to open the door, or perhaps if it can’t reach the door it will opt for the closest window to leave. It is a choice yes. But it is one out of desperation. So let us clean our houses regularly, let us make a celebration out of it, let us set an example for our neighbours, for our children and our friends. Let us show that it is fun to declutter, that it is spiritual to forget, that it is an act of love for our souls to forgive.

It is for all those souls that have died because their houses were too full, their bodies too suffocating that I write this. It is for all those souls looking for the window to leave, I write this. It is for you that I say: Hold on just a moment longer. I had almost left my home through the window too, but someone had knocked on my door at the right time, and said, “Hold on. Wait a second. Do you need a hand cleaning up?”. And that saved my life. It is a moment of kindness that saved my life. A moment of mercy from the Universe. A second chance at cleaning my home. But I needed help. And I had to ask for it. So I would like to emphasise this point particularly that it is not enough for us to recognise we need help, but we must be intentional in our desire to receive help and actively pursue it. Help isn’t just therapy. Help comes in many shapes and sizes. Help can be admitting to a friend that you are not as okay as you might seem. It could be going on a hiking trip. It could be a dance class or a cooking one. It could be just writing in your journal. For me, writing helps me create space. Without it, I couldn’t move. It was writing that knocked on my door and said, “Wait a minute…we’re not done here. I think you could use me as you clear your house.” And indeed I used it to clear out so much. I will forever be grateful for that knock. Today, I would like to give back the knock that was once so kindly handed to me. As it is with our breaths, we must always exhale what we inhale, we must give back tomorrow what we receive today. And so let go of the love of yesterday, let go of the happiness of your childhood, and the sadness too. Make space for new emotions, new memories, new people. Even the most wonderful of memories held for too long will ferment, grow mold and eventually go bad. So let go and begin this new year clean, clear and light. It’s time for you to redecorate.

With Love,

S.A.

Believe in nothing and Ignite the Joker within

I have yet to find words that can articulate the marvel and genius that is this piece of art. I’ve seen the film 3 times in 4 days, and I still haven’t had enough. And I don’t think it’s just about the story, but about wanting to be in close proximity to magic. The thing about this movie is that it is exactly the kind of movie that has the power to change the world, and to be in the presence of that power is extremely nourishing. You see, it is a story about all of us. About the darkness that has befallen our world because of our need to other. Take today, for example, it is a day like any other, as are we, each one of us, a human like any other. And to that extent, it means we have all othered and been othered. We are all an other in some way to some one. It is the natural product of the language we use. As each word has an opposite, each idea too. Good the opposite of evil, and god the opposite of devil.

The reason this film is so important today is because our humanity is at a crossroads. Change is here, and it is now up to us to listen closely to the aids that come our way, the mirrors that are reflecting us back to us, warning us of our demise, the mirrors offering us an out, an escape. But listen we must. Open our eyes, we must. It is not enough to just observe anymore, for we have observed for too long. We have given power to a select few to take action on our behalf and forgotten that each one of us can take action too. It is no longer sufficient to point fingers at those representatives of state whom we’ve elected or doctors we’ve trusted or teachers we’ve surrendered our minds to. It is up to us now. It is up to us to reclaim our power. That is what Joker is about in my view. It is about re-empowering our selves. Reclaiming what is ours. Not taking back what others have taken from us. But taking back the otherness we have imposed on others and on the world. It is not about being anti-state or anti-rich or anti-corporations, it is about embracing the anti. Whomever and whatever we’ve anti-ed. The world, politics, history — all narratives told of one side versus another. It is time we come together and relinquish the need to tell our story versus anything at all, for it has all in fact been versus ourselves. It starts with embracing the other gender, the other race, the other human. It all begins with us, and it will all end with us. The question is do we want it to end by us now?

Whatever views and whatever beliefs you hold so tight and so dear to your identity, this film is inviting you to un-identify, for it is the identifying in the first place that has caused this otherness. It is when we so rigidly subscribe ourselves to a belief that we exclude ourselves from others, thereby othering ourselves. It is not the otherness that is done unto us, it is in fact the otherness we do unto ourselves. The whole point of the film, in my view, can be summed up in a single line where Joker expressed his lack of belief, “I don’t believe in anything”. That is exactly what transformed Arthur Fleck into Joker. And that is exactly what he’s inviting us to do to ignite the Joker within us. It is precisely the I don’t believe in any(particular)thing that is inclusive of everyone. It is that lack of attachment to beliefs, that lack of particularity about what you do and don’t believe that brings people together. It is what unifies us into an “us” rather than splitting us into a “they and them”. I know this might be a little too philosophical, but the state of the world, of nature, of our internal lives is in dire need of deep reflection. We cannot ignore what is right in front of us. Like it is a crime to watch another kill another without doing anything, it is too a crime to watch our societies kill each other, kill nature, kill our minds without doing anything. It is an action too to chose to do nothing. But it isn’t nothing we should do, rather nothing we should believe in. It is our belief in no(particular)thing that will save our humanity, that will fill our hearts once more with compassion and our faces with kindness.

I hope that love finds our world once more, for it has been gone too long. And not because it has been taken from us, but because we have been choosing to give it to particular people and refusing to give it to others. By discriminating with our love, we have chosen to only love some(particular)things and refused to love every(particular)thing. And to love everything, we must be inclusive with our love and not love any(particular)thing. And you see the only way to be open to not love any(particular)thing is to be open too with our beliefs and not believe in any(particular)thing.

One last important takeaway from this film – which I think has been gravely misunderstood and the reason too it is so controversial – is that we need not set actual fires or fire bullets to ignite change, the destructive power of creativity is more than enough to transform anything. And the film itself is exactly that — it is the creative bullet that has ignited a fire within all of us and threatens to destroy our belief systems more than any actual bullet or fire can ever do. The story is about the internal life of a person, and so the violence too is metaphorical and reflects the destruction and the movement that creativity ignites within all of us. This film is about waking up the Joker within all of us, and the power and unity that comes when we break free from our deep need to associate with anything, that is how we all become the clown, one human indistinguishable from another, united! Isn’t that what shedding our egos is all about?

Thank you for reading! And please share and help spread the love.

S.A.

Some advice from a Clown…

” It is true. It is always the most fun when it is without purpose. To write these words, to observe these faces, and to breathe in these smells. It is with humour that we must take it all in. This is the best advice I can give you on how to be a clown. And there is no better advice than that for how to be human.

A clown must always be colourful, silly, and in costume. A clown should never take himself too seriously. He must always remember he is in character and not the character. A clown must be clear to be funny. A clown must always direct the crowd. It is this that is the most difficult task. For a clown cannot see oneself as he acts. He can only see himself through his observers, their reactions, their eyes and giggles. So to be a clown, one must learn to read oneself from the crowd, one must learn to see oneself in others without judgement, without prejudice, for any judgement and any prejudices will be made in fact against ourself. It is an attack upon ourselves when we attack another with judgements. And so, one must always observe with humour. Humour is not only the product of a clown’s presence, it is the process by which they attain presence. Humour is the guide. It is the light. Follow it like a clown, and a crowd pleaser you will be. A crowd pleaser is not one that fulfills the expectations of the crowd. A clown, a true crowd-pleaser, is one that fulfills desires unknown to the crowd, it is a clown that fills the space with laughter, spaces thought of as absent before, but now with laughter they are present, they have been brought into the light. It is humour with which we can truly engage with what we lack, with empty vessels, empty people, for they are not lacking because something is wrong with them, they are just absent, they have less energy than is required to be present, and what better way to refuel your body, your soul than with laughter.

Laughter is the grandest of all energies. It vibrates, produces sound and even movement. It lights a fire in the belly, producing a light within. Humour is the air that keeps the candle burning inside, for otherwise it would be too dark, too dark to see anything, so everything falls into nothingness, into absence, so laugh your way through it all. Learn from the mighty clown, and laugh a little. Laugh a little and laugh always. For there is no issue too important, no issue too serious that it cannot be brought into the light with some humour. All wants to be funny. All wants to induce laughter. All wants to make light. So do not resist it, let it be what it wants to be. Let it make you laugh, and cry tears of joy. Let it shake your belly like an earthquake. Let it burn through the darkness within, and bring a lightness to your heart. Let Humour carry you. She would love to. “

With laughter,

A (fellow) Clown