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  

Free to express

Dear quarter lives,

There are people in this world who express themselves well, and there are people in this world who wish to express themselves well. Then there are others who think they express themselves well; it is those that require the most work. It is those that are most resistant to work on themselves, because they already think they are there. One should never stop working on themselves. That does not mean that one is never good enough. It simply means that there is always further to go and higher to grow. It means that our expansion is limitless. It means that if we wanted, we could grow forever. It means that if we wanted we could be as big or as small as we liked. It means that growth is not an automated process as it might appear when we observe our physical growth from child to adult. It means that growth is a choice. It means that growth happens only when and if we will it. And it means, too, that we are free to will whatever and whenever we like.

You see, to be free to express oneself is not about the ability to say one’s opinions eloquently or share many words or even articulate what you think is yourself. To be free to express oneself means to recognise one’s freedom of will in choosing this life, in choosing to grow or to stop growing. We always have the freedom to choose, but we don’t always recognise we have it. And it is the recognition of our own freedom that frees us from our own limiting beliefs. It is not the “big bad corporations” that shackle us, it is our own selves that hold us back, because they are scared, and understandably so, for the weight of responsibility is not an easy one to carry. It is much easier to throw the responsibility of one’s life over onto someone else — often it is a parent and often too it is a government. You see, to be free to exercise our own will means we must recognise we have will, and to recognise we have will means taking responsibility for all of our life — the whole thing without exceptions. And it is the weight of that responsibility for ourselves that scares us away from our own freedom. It is the fear that if we are accountable for all of it, then we cannot blame others anymore, we cannot point fingers at an-Other, we cannot say anymore They are the reason my life is this way or that. And when we begin to turn this disappointment, anger and resentment inward, there is always fear when we realise that it is not others we have disliked, it is ourselves. And unlike other people, we cannot get away from ourselves so instead of facing ourselves, many who cannot endure the confrontation with Self try to escape from seeing themselves for who they really are and project themselves instead onto the outside world. But there is no running away, because YOU are everywhere.

The universe has gifted us this year with time, time to reflect, time to reconsider our choices, time to recognise our freedom to express our will. We have been blessed to collectively be going through something together. Community in hardship can sometimes be sweeter than community in celebration. There is community all around you, but you must choose it, you must want to be a part of it. Wait not for it to come to pick you. Do not give away your power to something else to come find you. Reclaim your power from all those you have handed it over to. It is never someone else that takes away our power, it is us who choose to give it away and it is always only us who can return it back to ourselves. You free yourself when you choose to see yourself. You can only see yourself when you are ready to take responsibility and own every part of it. You are not a product of someone else’s choices, you are a product of your own choices. Only when you can see that will you be free to express your truth and make choices that are in alignment with that truth.

Always for peace, 

S.A.