Mantras to Live By in 2014


In the Name of the One who created all.

As 2013 closes and 2014 prepares to open, I stand at the edge of the year looking back over the last twelve months in awe of the immense tidal wave of change that I’ve experienced.  There was loss, growth, learning, creativity, risk-taking, self-discovery, determination, and resilience.  In reality, 2013 is a pretty good reflection if this experiment called life.

When I asked myself whether I wanted to set News Years resolutions, I realized that most of all I wanted to collect some of the big life lessons from the last year and carry them into 2014.  While not extensive, I present my learned mantras (sayings) from 2013 to live by in 2014:

1.  Pain and suffering are a choice.

Mhmm.  Hard pill to swallow right?  Indeed.  I have concluded that the Buddha and the thousands of sages that came after him were right.  If you are in fact experiencing pain and suffering, it will stop the second you make a choice to change your life.  Shift your perspective.  Take new decisions.  And move to the beat of a different drum.  My life is blossoming into the life I only dreamed of through a deep understanding of the mental and behavior patterns that no longer serve me.  With a regular dose of meditation and mindfulness I observe, reflect deeply, and spring into action rebuilding, reshaping, creating the life I live now.  And I’m just beginning.

I have to admit, this was a hard lesson to learn and practice.  But as my teacher reminds me, not more difficult than charting the same course that is not working.  And once you begin to move in a different way, the second you are back at the door of old habits it burns.  And it burns badly!  Think pain and suffering times three.  Why?  Think Wizard of Oz and the knowledge that the wizard is actually a man behind the curtain rather than a powerful spirit.  Kind of hard to forget that realization Dorothy!  The Wizard can never be the same.  And neither can old habits.  Once you know them, you can’t ignore them because deep down inside you know.  And when you repeat them…well, I have a new appreciation for the saying old habits die hard.

In 2014 I’m interested in continuing to undo old habits, leave the repeat cycle, and choose joy rather than pain and suffering.

2.  Only you can limit yourself.

Well here’s a heaping scoop of responsibility.  This year I realized how much I’ve limited myself.  How I boxed myself in from taking risks necessary to leap to new heights of peace and joy in life.  Another habit that dies HARD.

For years I was a pro at limiting myself.  I had all sorts of excuses.  I did not have the right certification, years of experience, connections, capital, time…  You name it, I listed it.  I had the longest lists and largest heap of limits.  When I realized that the one in fact conspiring from letting me realize my full potential was myself I experienced ecstatic joy and crushing disappointment.  Joy that I in fact could take the steering wheel and redirect things, setting myself onto a new road in life.  Disappointment that in fact the one directing the car off course was me, myself, and I.

After getting over my drop in my gut, I decided to take the bull by the horns and kick limitations to the curb.  I’ve been pushing my limits and comfort zone as much as possible.  Like forcing myself to talk about money which I’ve had a longstanding “let’s pretend you don’t exist…ok?” relationship with for most of my lifetime.  Like practicing yoga poses I convinced myself I never could do.  And taking the decision to pursue teaching on a full-time basis (website launch imminent!).

Kicking limits is all about working a muscle that has been under worked, or perhaps even ignored over time.  It’s about acknowledging when your ego is completely terrified, embracing it with a loving hug, and then doing what needs to be done.  Freeing yourself is about ratcheting it up a level when you’ve plateaued and taking your practice to a new level. When in doubt, just shut up and listen to Rumi:  “Stop acting so small. You are the universe in ecstatic motion.”

3.  What would Love do?

Love and compassion played a huge role in my life over the last year.  Love and compassion for others…for myself.  I could have been really angry at my ego over the last year given everything that I uncovered through my meditation and mindfulness practices.  But being angry would have been a choice to experience pain and suffering.  And most of all, it certainly would not help me move past those parts of me.  Instead I chose…I’m choosing, to learn to embrace the pieces of me I dislike the most and give my ego a hug.  Not because I want to continue practicing them, but because I empathize and can understand where they are coming from.  Until I create new patterns, my mind only has the folders that it has developed through my life experiences over the last several decades.  I cannot blame it for it’s limited library.  But I can help it expand the books available to pull from.  By accepting it for what it is now, it triggers less often and removes a sense of threat that perpetuates…in fact often exacerbates the patterns I want to change.

Love and compassion is also about others and putting yourself in their shoes.  Spell it…EMPATHY.  I discovered the profound practice that asking the simple question, what would Love do has on choices.  Whenever I’m facing a difficult situation where my ego tells me a story about someone else’s actions I ask what Love would do.  I know that Love gives everyone the benefit of the doubt.  And that above all, Love forgives.   Love does not hold grudges.  Love does not keep a scorecard.  Love can always understand the “other person’s shoes.”  And Love understands above all, that life is grey.

2014 will keep this question close to my heart.  A permanent go-to mantra when my mind is  drawing conclusions about agitated e-mail from a friend, the unreturned texts, the impatient co-worker, and the man who cuts me off on the highway.  What would Love do indeed.

4.  Everything is Perfect

We always seem to want more, to decide to be happy “when” and “if,” and to forget the moments of bliss we experience when life appears to be a bit of a mess.  One of the biggest lessons I learned, truly, in 2013 is that everything is perfect.  This mantra is always taught and repeated to me by my teacher and Sri Dharma Mittra when I attend classes and trainings.  Easier said than done right?

I came across this quote from Rumi recently which just simply explains it all:  I asked, “Why have I received only this?” A voice replied, “‘Only this’ will lead you to That.”  I cannot think of one obstacle, moment of retreat from moving forward, or holding pattern that was not necessary to get me to This.  Like the polishing of a diamond over time, removing the grind is not so easy and not always fun.  But the good and bad…I’ve decided to take it all because it all is absolutely, positively perfect.   In all of the bad I’ve learned.  In all of the good I’ve learned.  And in all of the in-between I’ve grown.  Life is absolutely perfect when you decide to show up for it right here…right now.  When we decide to savor every moment.  When we allow ourself to sit with the bad.  And when we allow ourself to experience transition in the in-between.  But most of all, life is perfect the moment we decide it is.


5. Walk like a Buddha.

During the last time my teacher came to Washington, DC to teach we stopped by a local bookstore between classes and saw a book entitled “Walk Like A Buddha.”  I can’t speak for the book, but the book title spoke to me.  Printed and posted, it is a reminder I have at my desk and in my home that I see every single day.

What do I mean by walk like a Buddha?  I mean the steady, unconcerned, movement to do what needs to be done.  Unattached from specific outcomes and free from emotionally charged baggage.  During my recent teacher training module with Sri Dharma Mittra he reminded us during difficult poses to remain unconcerned and just do your practice because it needs to be done.  It is the teaching in the Bhagavad Gita and Yoga Sutras to embody equanimity…unswayed by the highs and lows of life.  The Quranic practice to be in a constant state of remembrance, intending every action for a Higher Purpose. The choice to move untouched by the drama that often accompanies life and above all the secret to true freedom.

6. Silence is the gateway to intuition.  Trust it.

So here’s the deal…I have fallen madly in love with silence and silence has fallen madly in love with me.  We were made for each other, but for the longest time I had no idea.  Like best friends who eventually date and ask, what were we doing all of this time?!  and then end up getting married and living happily ever after.  I appreciated silence in small amounts, but never knew I’d make it the first thing I meet every morning and the last thing I meet every night before I sleep.  And if I don’t, life just does not seem the same.

Silence has a profound ability to connect you to your deeper intuition…to your True Self.  To the Sacred.  It connects you with that Space deep within that is like having a wise sage on speed dial 24/7.  Once again, Rumi was right:  “Silence gives answers.”  Not just any answers, but answers you can trust.  Answers you must trust.  Silence gives a compass to support your walk like a Buddha so that when you move unconcerned, doing what needs to be done, you know in fact…what needs to be done.

Don’t believe me?  Try it!  Experiment with silence in your life and see what it has to offer.  And be patient.  Don’t just go on one date and then write it off.  Give it some time to grow on you and you might be surprised by the results.  You too in a year may write to me about your love affair with silence.  After all, anything is possible.  Spend just five or ten minutes each day and see what emerges.  Perhaps you will surprise yourself as much as I did myself.

7. I don’t know.

“I don’t know” is probably one of the most important multi-faceted lessons I have learned from my teacher.    My ego is a control freak, always trying to predict what will happen in the future and cling to that.  But I have seen time and time again, no matter how much it tries to predict, it’s never going to get everything right.  And the outcomes of life are often way more interesting that what my mind could conjure up.  Recognizing this is letting go of the need to control and giving in to the ocean that is life.  This doesn’t mean sitting in your chair in the corner watching life go by.  But it is the deep recognition that the information you have about any situation is limited.

“I don’t know” is also the ability to admit and accept the limited nature of our mind to understand the Universe.  I remember having a conversation with my teacher about this recently when I asked “why does God do this or that?”  His answer…”just because…just because.”  Just because is understanding any reason we try to conjure up is really not the answer, but an idea our mind has constructed for us.  And the mind is a limited tool, to this lifetime.  Gone the moment we leave our bodies.

“Existence is a mere process of physical and mental phenomena within which, or beyond which, no real ego-entity nor any abiding substance can be found” ~ The Longer Discourses of the Buddha.  Whatever you conceive and perceive is a function of your mind. The Truth lies beyond that which the mind can comprehend. Giving yourself away to This is perhaps the most terrifying and liberating act of faith in this human life.   


Loosing the North Star


In the Name of the One who created all.

I have a confession to make.  I’ve been pushing the snooze button and it’s time for change.  No, I’m not referring to my alarm clock.  I am referring to running full speed ahead to live the awesome life I’ve been building.  And I am talking about the snooze button that is my ego.

So I’ve been going through a lot of change the last two years.  Did I mention a lot?  And I committed to changing my life.  My health was horrible, I was unhappy, and feeling trapped.  Suddenly I was staring at myself in the mirror and did not recognize the woman I had become.  So I started the long road of hard work and change.  I’ve been getting a lot of momentum.  Life has been moving at what seems like the speed of light since I put my intentions out into the Universe.  And the Universe keeps conspiring to support me.  I keep making commitments to hold my feet to the fire.  But along the path I keep taking these moments to hit the snooze button rather than show up on time for training.  And well, I’m over it.

In her book “You are a Badass,” Jen Sincero refers to the ego as the “Big Snooze.”  Perfect.  Because that is exactly what mine has been doing.  It’s freaking out.  Momentum is building and I’m running.  Meanwhile my ego is scared to death and conspiring by any means possible to slow this train down.

Self-sabotage is a habit I realize I’ve mastered.  This observation has been slowly unfolding over the last two years, but it hit me head on this week.  Some of the most amazing moments over the last couple of months has been my mom’s interest in what I’m learning.  Sometimes we end up talking for hours on the phone as we explore different challenges in her life.  This is one experience that has empowered me to connect with the Teacher within that I always wanted to be.  This week as I listened to myself give my mom some advice, questions to consider, and practices to explore I thought well shoot…this is for me too.  God is awesome like that.  The mail He delivers through you is often mail for the deliverer as much as the receiver.


Apples don’t fall far from the tree.  No kidding.  My mom is super mom.  Growing up she worked full time, went to school, raised my brother and I, had hobbies, and supported us in all of our hobbies.  Gymnastics, art classes, music, dance, journalism, track…that was just my list.  We were busy.  And the woman she has become is remarkable.  Inspiring.  As a teacher, she is often visited by previous students of hers’ who share the impact she continues to have on them a decade later.  Pardon my French, but my mom is a badass.  But somehow she misses that fact.  Everyone else sees it, and she only sees it in tiny pieces, moments…and then it’s lost.

Mom is also a professional self-sabotager.  I studied with the best and then perfected it.  Think PhD in self-sabotage.  No one chooses to be a self-sabotager on purpose.  It serves a purpose in our mind.  It keeps us “safe” and therefore, surviving.  As I listened to my mom tell me how she was spending so much time concerned about whether she was approaching a teaching situation successfully and that she would start to make time to flesh out her post-teaching dream in a couple months I thought, STOP THE TRAIN.  Hold up.  A couple months?  Why not now?!  She’s been teaching for twenty years.  She could teach a group of the most difficult kids blindfolded, walking a tightrope, and playing a kazoo.  And that would be the easy version.  I mean seriously, she’s got this.  But yet there she was questioning herself and a decision on her teaching.  Consulting others when she knew she what to do.  Meanwhile time ticks away and she doesn’t give herself permission to dream big.

This story is all too familiar to me.  I was doing the same thing for a long time.  Now that I’ve committed to living out my dream, I find the Big Snooze sneaking into the party with different clothes and I’ve been falling for it.

I’m also a professional thinker and analyst.  Useful at times, not useful when you are committed to living your dreams because you overthink everything.  Professional over researcher, over consulter.  My latest practice has been to think less do more.  Counterintuitive to someone who values analysis so much.  But the over analysis and over research gives space for the Big Snooze to get cozy and coax my hand to push the button.  And it works every time.

Why on earth am I writing about this?  First, I’m committed to up the ante and commit to running this path to live my dream…fully.  I’m committed to being authentically me and not asking permission to do so.  And I’m committed to tell the Big Snooze no thanks.

Second, I know I can’t hear the GPS of my North Star Internal Compass when I’m too busy paying attention to the Big Snooze.  When I spend time on how other people are living their dreams.  When I’m considering every single possible option for a project I’m working on.  When I’m comparing my ideas to others ideas in a similar area.  I miss the GPS’s signal to turn right and risk jumping the curb and getting stuck in the mud.

The fact is the most brilliant people I know that inspire me every day do not pay one ounce of attention to what other people are doing.  For them, external research is overrated at the expense of internal research.  Information is at the expense of understanding.  Thinking is at the expense of reflection.  And thinking is definitely not doing.  Because they are so committed in an unwaivering way to living their purpose, and being authentically them, they have a clear radio channel to the Source.  A clear view of the North Star.  I know this not in theory, but in practice.  When I’ve ignored the Big Snooze the static on the line gets quiet and everything becomes more and more clear with each passing moment.  But yet somehow I fall for the latest trick in the books of the Big Snooze and push the button.

Life happens now, not later.  And when we push snooze to delay living an awesome life, we miss life.  Our opportunity to show up is now.  Our opportunity to listen is now.  Our opportunity to follow that Compass is now.  And our opportunity to be the badass that we are is now.

Following that is scary, downright frightening to the Big Snooze because it involves the largest leap of faith one can do.  Complete faith in God and jumping headfirst into life.

So, here’s to committing to not pushing the snooze button.  Here’s to asking those who support and love me to keep my feet to the fire and hold me accountable.  Here’s to the Universe for setting up all the pieces in place to enable me to live an awesome life now, not later.

So I invite you to ask yourself with me where you’re pushing the Big Snooze button.  Where you’re saying “I’ll get to that later.”  Where you’re not trusting your own Compass and researching the opinions and experiences of others.  Where you’re watching other people live out their dreams while your’s remain on your internal bookshelf.  And then I invite you to drop it.  Drop it…all.  Let us journey together on being the best we can be.  On being authentically ourselves.  On being the puzzle piece that God created us to be in life.  On living an awesome life now. Not later.  Here’s to no more snooze buttons and taking more leaps of faith.

When Greatness Happens


In the Name of the One who created all.

Everyone has moments in their life where greatness shows through.  Their best self shines and the presentation they gave moved people to tears, or the article they wrote inspired someone to change their life, or friendship they showed healed hearts.  Whatever it is, big or small, greatness visits everyone during their lifetime when they connect with their true self.

What happens when greatness strikes?  Is it true that some people are inherently born for greatness while others are not?  Is it true that some people should be admired while others ignored?

I think greatness has a little to do with me, you, or anyone else and more to do with the source of that greatness.

I’ve learned the most about greatness from great teachers on my spiritual path.  Teachers that inspire, move you, that strike a chord deep at the center of your being with every word they say.  These teachers are neither the most popular, the richest, or the trendiest.  They often don’t have the top “credentials” or the impressive connections that other teachers do.  But they are great.  Great is not even the greatest of words to describe what are to me and so many people.  They have changed my life and the lives of many.  And I consider them “true teachers” for the authentic self they bring into the room time and time again.


So why are they so great?  Because they clearly recognize the source of their greatness.  I remember one of the first meetings I had with my spiritual teacher as he asked me profound questions that turned my life upside down and inside out.  They made me ponder the Universe deeply, decisions and patterns in my life, and removed the rose colored glasses that fogged my view.  I remember thinking to myself…where have you been my whole life?!  During that first meeting I sat staring, brow frowned in concentration, he paused noticing the perplexity on my face and said, “I’m just a hose…this is not me.  I’m not the one speaking.  I’m just a hose.  Just a hose.”  Just a hose? I thought. This statement stopped me in my tracks.  Just a hose…for who?  For what?  From who?

A couple of years later I met a yoga teacher who always avoided students after class that tried to say thank you, or seek his praises.  When someone would successfully corner him he would say, “thank you.”  Implying that the thanking should be directed to the one thanking, and then he would slowly walk away.  I saw this happen many times as the student stared sometimes blankly wondering what had just happened.

The teachers I respect have many traits in common.  One of them is the confident humility they carry in their way of being.  Confidence and humility are a strange combination.  Like salty and sweet.  It is not a “I’m worthless” humility, or a “I’m going to pretend to put myself down so you can put me up” facade.  Those acts can be found regularly in spiritual circles.  Their irony is a confident understanding of their self, a disregard for whether people love what they have to say, and above all an understanding of the Source of their greatness.  In reality, they don’t attach themselves to whether people like or dislike what they have to say.  Or whether 5 or 100 people show up to their classes.  Because in reality they know that what people are showing up to see, to hear, to learn from has nothing to do with them and everything to do with them.  It has everything to do with their skill and ability to dissolve more and more into the Source of all greatness…the One and Only.

I understood theoretically through studying that the Light reflected in people’s greatness is really the Divine reflecting Itself back to you.  So that we may come to know the Divine.  So we may come to know our Self.  This can be confusing since what we are seeing with our eyes is teacher “x” and teacher “y,” so it is easy to attribute the lecture that turns something deep inside of you to just them as you see them with your human eyes.  But in reality the only thing it has to do with teacher “x” and teacher “y” is that they are doing their job of being the vehicle for the Boss to do the job.

Now theory is one thing and practice is another.  And information is one thing, and understanding is another.  Practice and understanding started to hit me when I started teaching myself.  It started in yoga teacher training.  If I thought too much about what I was teaching I would stumble through practice teaching.  When I let go and stopped “thinking” magic happened.  Now teaching, recently a student for her teacher training requirements came to observe my class one day.  She came up to me after class going over her notes and asked me about several things I shared in class.  She said, “you said something very interesting during (whatever part of the yoga practice we were in)…what was that again?”  And for the life of me, I could not remember.  Like a blank canvas in my brain, there was nothing to pull from.  And I almost couldn’t even remember being there in that part of the class.  I was in the flow…in the zone.

This place of emptiness is a place I find myself when I do things I love.  Not realizing it until later when someone may ask me to repeat something I said that touched them deeply.  Like during a teacher training I attended I was asked to reflect on a session I taught and I could not come up with much to say about my teaching.  It was not because I thought it was perfect.  I know that I’m a forever student and I always have more to learn, more room to grow until the day I die.  But it was because I could not remember much.  And I think that was a little jarring for my observer.  Perhaps they expected me to repeat exactly what I did.

Most people know this place of flow and yet don’t know it.  Where you sink so deeply into the present moment that past and future dissolve.  This place of empty fullness where you are missing and present at the same time.  Think about the last time you drove somewhere, arrived, and had no idea how you go there.  Who on earth was driving the car?  You know you were fully present, engaged, awake.  But you can’t explain how you arrived.

This is the experience of presence.  So simple, yet so easy to miss.  The experience of dancing with the Divine.  Of allowing the Source to move through you.  Of letting your ego take a bow and step aside.  And when we do that, greatness happens.  It is the flow that amazing musicians connect with that produce moving pieces of art.  It is the voice that a speaker connects with and moves the crowd to jump to their feet in agreement for a standing ovation.

When greatness starts to shine through, no matter what area of work or life it shows up in, it is easy to mistaken this greatness for ourself.  Because our ego would love to attach itself to this greatness.  To feed on it and indulge in it.  And as a result it requires a great level of practice to keep yourself in check.  This is dangerous territory often tread in spiritual circles.  It never fails the longer I hang out in the realm of spirituality, the bigger the egos I encounter.  Even I find myself constantly reminding myself of the True Source after classes when students come up to tell me how much they enjoyed the class.  I must remember that rather than a signpost to tell me I’m great, this is a signpost to tell me to dissolve further and further away.  To let my ego step aside so that the One who’s truly Great can use my body to fulfill It’s purpose in that moment.

In reality, we are just vehicles for the Source.  Shells in the scheme of life to be filled with Spirit.  Our purpose, be the vehicle that we were designed to be.  Be the piece of puzzle in this Divine puzzle called Life.  This is what it means to be your true self fully and what people are encouraging you to do (whether they realize or not) when they encourage you and create space for you to be you…truly.

My teacher often reminds me that as long as we are on this Earth, the ego remains.  It will always be with us, a part of us, and can be useful.  But even if you have a great ego, even if I have a great ego, in the end…everything comes from the same Source anyways.  Anything and everything…  Which is precisely why greatness has nothing and everything to do with you, me, and everyone else.  Keeping this reminder is our back pocket is useful.  Useful for cultivating the soil for Greatness to Shine through.  Useful for melting any ounce of jealousy, comparison…frustration as you see the Source of all Greatness in every living being.

Be your self…truly.  Open up.  Step aside.  Be the vehicle that you are.  Let the Source flow through you.  And recognize the Source of that Greatness.   Repeat.  Over and over again. Every moment, every breathe.  This is a true act of faith.

The Elusive Pursuit of Happiness


In the Name of the One who created all.

Happiness and the pursuit of it has been on my mind lately.  Primarily because I’ve had conversations with several people I care recently as they’ve been struggling to find what makes them happy.  And also because I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on “happiness” over the last several years during a major transition.

What is happiness anyways?  Is it what society tells us it is?  Or is there some deeper unexplainable state.  I connect this deeper state with the concept sakeena in the Islamic tradition.  The tranquility.  Actually, a state of unwanting.  One of my favorite examples that my teacher shares in classes is the example of what happens if someone gives you that phone you always wanted.  People attribute their happiness to getting what they want.  What he reminds them is that in fact, it is in the space of unwanting that they find happiness.

So first, when we are unhappy, perhaps it is because we are wanting something.  We perceive we live in a state of scarcity rather than abundance.  We perceive a lacking.  A void that needs to be filled.

Happiness is also always this thing that is in some far off land.  In ten years, when I do x, y, and z…I’ll be happy.  When I find the right partner.  When I get the right job.  When I finish my degree.  When I move to the new city.  When I start a family.  The list goes on.  This trap of living in the future is totally miserable because you are missing life move by right in front of your eyes.  The beautiful sunset.  The fall leaves falling.  The smile from the stranger on the sidewalk.  The soft cotton of your pajama pants.  The moment of silence alone in your house.  Small and big things happen now.  Every second.  Of every day.  And when we live in the future, we give our happiness away.

So happiness…true happiness also requires a shift from the focus on “when I” to the now.  Because the future will always be elusive, uncertain, unknown, and never actually here.  But the now is concrete, observable, liveable, and always here.  Which means if we find happiness now…perhaps happiness is also always here.

My experience is that true happiness takes work.  At least at first.  It requires a recognition of problematic thinking patterns and behaviors that take you out of now, that cloud your perceptions of reality, and that make you miss out on the amazing gift of life.  For me, that was a huge investment of time and resources like mental and emotional energy to face the facts.  And it also sometimes required outside help.  Through the observation of another person about something I was doing myself.  But also through the mirroring that we all serve for each other.  Mirrors reminding each other of that which is beautiful in ourselves and that which needs more polishing.

I found happiness when I found myself.  My true self.  And understood who I truly am and that perhaps my ego was not entirely me.  When I started to embrace my ego, imperfections and all, this freed me to face my ego and the trouble it had gotten me into.  The unhelpful thoughts it generated.  The unhelpful behaviors it provoked.  The unneeded pressure it put on me connected with some future state.  The unneeded behaviors that took me from being happy right here right now.  The false beliefs of reality.

I believe happiness, true happiness, is a choice we make each and every second.  Do we choose to create our own suffering?  To languish in what should be?  What shouldn’t be?  What will be?  What won’t be?  This choice is not just about shifting to the present.  But just as much about being ok with the uncomfortable moments.  Two weeks ago I went through almost a week and a half of strange insomnia.  I have never had difficulty sleeping.  And I found myself with so much energy that I thought I could run ten marathons each night.  Wired, as if I’d drank five espressos (mind you I don’t drink coffee), I struggled to sleep.  My meditations were scattered.  My ego was really loud.  Unfocused.  My sleep was filled with vivid, intense dreams, and interrupted every hour by waking up.  I was waking up each day exhausted, as if I’d been hit by a train.  I was on the verge of getting very sick all the time.  I became irritated with this state and wished for the day it would go away.  Finally one day, exhausted from trying anything and everything to get myself to be tired, I sat on my meditation cushion and completely surrendered.  Ok, I thought, so this is the new me.  Here I am, intense energy and all.  I radically accepted this strange new state as my new reality.  And once I did, it suddenly started to fade.  My meditation actually became meditation again. My mind started to slow without any effort.  And I, for the first time in a week and a half, got sleep.  God was reminding me of the power of nonjudgemental acceptance.  Acceptance of my faults and the choice to just observe.  And every time I just accept what is, whatever was previously bothering me some how becomes easier and just fades away into the sunset.  And as it melts off of my consciousness I eventually find myself sitting in the seat of my true self, true essence…peace.

This includes moments of uncertainty.  When I had no idea which direction to go.  Right or left.  Up or down.  Take this decision or that.  When I got over the uncertainty, and just allowed it, eventually I found clarity.  Because in the settling of my ego through acceptance, I reconnected with my true self.  And in the space of true self, we find God.

God wants us to be happy right here right now.  He wants us to escape the cycle of suffering that we create over and over again through our egos.  Through the perceptions that we establish and the lines that we draw.  Through the expectations that we hang on ourselves, weighing us down, making it difficult to walk forward.  He wants us to accept that we don’t know what the future holds.  But we do have a choice on how we want to spend, live, and perceive our life now.  As I was visiting a lovely sacred retreat center this weekend, a shaykh from Jerusalem was visiting.  His reminder…that God told us that we can reach the state of the Garden now.  That it is not something that we just find later after life.  But that right here, right now, we can live in the Garden.  And that if we die before we die, perhaps we can live.  If we allow the false perceptions, ideas, beliefs to die off, to allow our true selves to shine bright, to allow ourselves to soak in every moment like a curious child, we can live in the Garden right here…right now.

So if you are seeking happiness, consider where your attention is right here right now.  Are you worried about the future?  Stuck in the past?  Setting conditions on your happiness that some algebra equation is necessary for happiness to be born?  Is it dependent on another person?  Or a material state of being?  What if all of that was a bunch of lies?  What if happiness was as simple as waking up to right now?  To accepting yourself?  To accepting uncertainty?  To accepting discomfort?  To choosing happiness?  What if it was all a matter of perception shift?  What if you sat in the seat of your heart and discovered that you sit in the seat of peace?  That in fact you sit in the Garden.  Because happiness, God, peace, the Garden are all available right here, right now.  It’s up to us to make the effort to open our eyes.

Choosing happiness and radical acceptance are active action. It is not a passive state of pulling up a chair in the corner and hanging out.  But understanding that how we choose to spend and perceive our time each and every moment is a choice to be happy or not.  So a true state of joy may require some changes in life.  Ultimately that is what my life required.  But what I found when I started to make changes, was happiness in the process.  Even though I hadn’t reached a destination.  As I was in the difficult transition, and I surrendered to the uncertainty, to the difficult emotions, the transition got easier.  And true happiness started seeping into every ounce of my being.

Happiness is a state that is chosen at each moment.  It can be lost in a second.  Regained in a second.  And it is supported through an active practice of observation, reflection, and a recognition of when we are moving from the seat of ego versus the seat of our hearts.  So I invite myself,  and you, to choose happiness.  Every second.  Every day.  And to live life fully now.  Because now is all we have.  “Don’t worry, be happy.”  Indeed!

Radical Trust


In the Name of the One who created all.

I was sent a note from someone today about the lack of radical trust in relationships.  The way that jealousy sneaks in the back door and takes over.  And the interesting question, what would it be like to just trust?  To radically, completely, trust someone in a relationship?

I was curious about this question myself and started to reflect on what it would be like to radically trust people.  My first reaction was that it could open oneself up to being taken advantage of.  To becoming an easy target.  And perhaps a lot of pain.  Maybe.  But maybe not.  The concept or radical trust may be deeper than that.

To concede to radical trust does not mean to open yourself up to people who have broken your trust in the past.  Nor does it mean ignoring the necessary boundaries one needs to be true to oneself.  But it does mean radically opening yourself to others until they show you they do not respect that opening.  Until they break your trust.

When I reflected on this kind of heart-wide-open, come-into-my-world potential reality I considered for a moment a humanity where trust rules.  Where radical trust was a regular practice and where people were always innocent without the presumption of guilt.  And I was reminded of some of the teachings of the Prophet Mohammed and his example of radical trust.

The Prophet Mohammed taught to always assume the best of intentions.  To assume ikhlas (sincerity) of actions.  And to be unwavering in this observation of goodness in each and every living being.

What would life be like to move from a place of radical trust?  Where fear did not rule our interactions?  Where we no longer created stories in our head of destructive scenarios about our partners, co-workers, friends, or strangers?  Where people and actions were taken objectively for what they are?  Where the text message to one’s partner from someone else is just that…a text message?  Nothing more, nothing less.

When we ask ourselves, who doesn’t want to trust, it becomes obvious.  The wounded ego inside of all of us distrusts this idea of radical trust.  It tells us that to let our guard down we will experience the same pain we experienced before.  The painful scenarios of our past, bound to repeat themselves in the future.  When in reality by believing that, believing the patterns will repeat, perhaps we actually repeat the conditions that created that pain in the past.

The key here is pairing radical trust with absolutely, positively, no expectations.  A way of being where we open ourselves to radical trust and give everyone the benefit of the doubt.  Where radical trust is the place we begin and end from each day.  Where we give the benefit of the doubt paired with with a heaping side of absolutely no expectations or attachment to a particular outcome.  This would mean we move from trust, assuming ikhlas (sincerity of others), but do not attach ourselves to that panning out.  We leave ourselves open to what is, to what God has in store, and the reality that unfolds in front of us.  Because the only place we have any semblance of “control” is from where we start and end inside ourselves.  And that is our responsibility.

From this place of unattached radical trust of the heart, if the tides of life reveals that someone breaks our trust, we objectively move accordingly and create the necessary boundaries to remain true to ourselves.  And if they don’t, thank God we gave them the benefit of the doubt rather than closing ourselves off from a beautiful being and connection.


This week I invite myself and others to be curious about how you can open yourself to radical trust.  What shifts in relationships?  And most of all, what shifts inside of yourself?  Is there more joy?  More peace?  Less friction?  Perhaps even more faith.  Faith that radical trust in a practice worth practicing and that deep inside every living being is an Essence worth trusting.  The same Essence that I explored faith with.  The same Divine that moves through the flow.


Keeping the Faith


In the Name of the One who created all.

This week I was reminded of the power, grace, and ease of faith.  Faith.  A huge word, perhaps that many of us “strive for,” but forget.  As someone who has spent hours on my practice, hours reflecting on the Divine, and hours reorienting myself towards Him, I am always surprised how the ego can so quickly let us forget the true practice…faith.

My teacher was in town, and every time he is the schedule is intense.  Driving him from event to event, organizing and checking in appointment after appointment.  There is always a lot stacked up, back-to-back workshops, private sessions, car rides.  And yet there is always this perfect dance that happens in time to the music.  And it all boils down to this…faith.

My teacher has unnerving, unwaivering, unstoppable, give yourself away completely, faith.  Faith in God.  Faith in the Divine.  And all that He has planned.

I think most people have pockets of faith.  Moments of faith.  Some for minutes.  Some for an hour.  Some for days.  But most of us trip along the way.  And the question is why?

When I have complete faith and I put my life in His hands, life is easy.  Even the most difficult of circumstances are manageable because I recognize…deeply…that I’m not in charge anyway!  So I mine as well sit back and enjoy the ride, as my teacher always reminds people during workshops.

The flags of lacking faith are easy to recognize:  worry, anxiety, stress, and fear.  The banners of ego that fly high and distract us from keeping the course.  Distract us from the climb up the mountain to take a detour down a road where faith evades us and so does peace.  If even for a moment, the consequences are felt, as your heart races from worry or your mind fills with scenarios from fear.  Clouding our connection with the Divine.

Faith allows us to stay in the steady hum of What Is.  In the steady flow of the Ocean of the Divine, allowing Him to carry us along the waves, floating gently.  Faith provides the space to step into the deep silence where the Divine resides.  And faith is ultimately the key to peace.  To life.

Faith becomes pretty clear when you recognize what it feels like to float in it contrasted with what it feels like to follow the flags of the ego.  In faith their is ease.  In faith there is peace.  In faith there is perfection.  In faith there is nourishment.  In faith there is movement. In faith we find the flow.

Faith is not a nice concept to think about or pontificate.  Faith is that which to live by.  To guide every step, every heart beat, every breath.  To guide every decision.  Like shooting the arrow towards the bullseye and trusting it will land where it may.

With faith comes trust and with trust comes faith.  And behind it all is the deep recognition that we are not in control and that absolutely nothing is a coincidence.  To give ones self away truly to God is to live the experience of unwaivering faith.  To walk the path to God is to embody faith.  And this week I was reminded of this by the embodiment of faith in every breath of my beloved teacher.

The next time you see worry, anxiety, stress, or fear in your life, know that these are markers of a lack of faith.  Markers of a break down in the Flow.  And warning flags to help you turn back.  To recognize that your heart is not in the driver’s seat and that the keys have been given over to your ego.  Recognize the weight of standing in the presence of God and pretending that you know better.

So here’s to faith and living it fully.  To watching for the warning flags the ego throws up to distract me.  To walking the path of God.  To true spiritual practice.

The Curious Nature of Relationships


In the Name of the One who created all.

Relationships and impermanence.  A strange pair together, or perhaps not.

I’ve been reflecting on the nature of relationships and their role in our lives.  It is a topic particularly front and center for the past year and a half of my life.  First, faced with the question is love enough before my divorce.  Second, what relationships are true when people began leaving my life after the transition.  And third, why do relationships unexplainable “fail” despite our best efforts?  It was a puzzle for some time until I was faced recently with a difficult reality that previously would have left me in pieces on the floor.  But for some reason this time was different.

To be clear, when I speak of relationships, I mean relationships broadly.  Romantic, family, friends.  People who are important in our lives…broadly.

This year I got divorced, a dear friend unexplainably walked out of my life, an old friend lost their life, my sense of community was challenged, and just two weeks ago, one of the dearest people in my life asked for space.  With each shift in my relationships, I found myself open and raw to emotions.  And surprisingly each one less devastating than the first.  Not because they were less important.  Not because I was building thick skin.  But because something about the way I understood relationships was shifting.  I became curious.

As I’ve been practicing mindfulness in my every day life I observed the transitory nature of this life.  Emotions, like waves in the sea come and go.  Plans, sometimes working out, sometimes breaking apart at the seams, sometimes are born of fertile soil we did not know existed.  Patterns of life, shift and evolve over time.  Priorities rearranging, revisiting, reevaluating.  People, growing older, growing taller, happy, joyful, sullen, skeptical.  Trees and flowers blooming, falling, hibernating, budding.  Impermanence is the name of the game.  And it is everywhere.

So what is it with relationships and the way we are socialized to understand the permanent nature of them.  Happily ever after.  Friends forever.  Well…maybe.  Maybe not.  And that’s ok.  But why are we not ok with either ending, or an alternate ending?  Or multiple “endings” which are really just curves in the latest bend of life?

The impermanence of relationships is something I know well.  It is a lesson that God has included in the playbook of my life over and over again.  I suspect it is the same for most people.  The long distance boyfriend from high school who I dreamed would be with me happily ever after who betrayed my trust.  Love lost.  Friendship dissolved.  The best friend for years who suddenly stopped returning the phone calls and e-mails.  The soul sister who messaged to tell me to “have a nice life” without explanation.  People change.

The fact is we all change and the idea that we will be the same forever is an illusion.  If at a biological level every cell in our body is constantly changing, how can we expect our life not to change?  Key word expect.  There’s the problem.

I grew up expecting the happily ever afters and best friends forever.  When those illusions faded in my life I found myself disappointed, shattered, and confused.  But for the first time with some of the hardest news to date, the need for space from someone so dear, I understood.  I was not disappointed.  I did not shatter.  And strangely, I was not confused.

In the past I would have tried everything I could to get an answer to the question why.  I would have tried to patch up every wall or hole whether they existed or not.  I would have jumped through burning hula hoops to prove I was worthy of no space between us.  To prove that taking space may be the biggest mistake.  But none of this ever crossed my mind.

I understood the impermanent nature of everything in this creation.  Including that which is most dear to me.  And I felt an immense freedom.  For to live truly in the present moment is not to dwell on the past or worry about the future.  And to build relationships without attachment is to be untouched by the ups and down and to expect absolutely nothing.  This is not easy.

When this person I cared for so much asked me for space I was reminded to ask myself, what would Love do?  (“Be Love” is my mantra and baseline for reflecting on everything.)  I knew Love would appreciate the honestly, the courage, the rawness of this request for space.  I knew Love would extend selfless compassion to honor this request, even if it makes no sense.  I know that Love Knows that relationships are ever evolving and that maybe the space between us will diminish in the future, or grow.  Either way, Love is unconcerned.  Love is only interested in extending Love and receiving nothing in return.

So bowing to impermanence I’m thankful for each relationship I have in each moment.  In each second.  Each minute.  Each hour.  Each day.  And for those that fall away, I am thankful.  And for those that stay, I am thankful.  And for those that change, I am thankful.

For Love I give space to those that ask.  For Love I forgive.  I forgive others.  I forgive myself.  For Love I am the best I can be in every moment.  And for Love, I accept what is even if my ego tells me otherwise.

The transitory nature of relationships can be one of the most difficult realities of life…if we allow it to be.  Or, we can see the beautiful Divine perfection in it all.  The mystery that perhaps one day He will Whisper the secrets of into our Heart.  And perhaps not.  Either way, true faith is to remain steady, unmoved, regardless.

What would it be like to be thankful for each relationship truly in each moment?  The co-worker that you have a good laugh with?  The stranger on the subway who you share a smile with?  The friend who answers your call?  And for once, never expect the same again.  So that if you share a laugh with your co-worker again.  Or a smile with the stranger.  Or your friend answers the phone, it is blissful.  Because you are grateful for each moment and each relationship as it is right here.  Right now.

The Search for Steady Waters


In the Name of the One who created all.

Balance.  Something that we find some times and others cannot.  Balance is the foundation of all life.  The house that is built well.  The dinner that satiates the hunger.  The relationship that fills the soul.

I’ve been reflecting on balance because I fell out of it.  The realization came knocking on my door when I woke up from sleep feeling as if I had been hit by a truck.  A horrible head cold had taken over my body and I had one person to blame, myself.

I know a lot about balance.  I know a lot about imbalance too.  My ego loves imbalance.  It loves to push me beyond the edge.  To stretch every last inch within until something breaks.  I learned this lesson over and over again in college.  Burning myself out with a present at the end of each semester like mono, pneumonia, upper and lower respiratory infections, you name it, I caught it.  And I kept pushing.  Eventually I started being more kind to myself and listening to my teacher within.  The teacher that told me to get more sleep, to not take on another class, to eat knowing my food was my medicine, and to preserve silent personal time to regenerate and heal.  I know all of this, and yet sometimes I ignore.

I have a habit of being a purpose and service junkie you could say.  Filling every last minute of my day with something that will help me fulfill my purpose, serve others.  But beautiful intentions do not always results in beautiful results.  Because the fact is that the last two months I indulged in greater and greater fixes which slowly drained away seconds, minutes, hours that I needed to spend sleeping.  Time to allow my body to do what it knows how to do best, heal.

And so I robbed my body of its energy for healing and eventually it caught up with me.  For the first time in months, I got sick two times in the span of four weeks.  It is time to learn because I know what happens next based on my own history and it is not pretty.  Sooner or later if I don’t pause, my body will force me to take pause whether I want to or not.  And the 4-7 day cold or respiratory infection may become the 3 week virus that I just can’t kick.

The mind is a tricky partner in this game called life.  It is always evolving, vastly intelligent, and able to outsmart us if we do not pay attention.  And every time I think I have it figured out, the truth is I just don’t.  Life is one long teaching session.

Balance plays a role in this latest lesson of life, but underneath it all is the true teaching that bliss, joy, everlasting sakeena (tranquility) is found in steadiness.  The steadiness of a rock untouched by the calm or stormy waters that brush up against it.

The waters we occupy are the oceans of our Heart.  The weather forecast is determined by our mind.  Sunny with clear skies?  Thunderstorms with high winds?  Why do we allow the weather of our minds to affect the ocean of our Heart?  But most of all, why do we allow ourselves to believe that our Hearts can be affected, when our essence is steady, unconcerned, bliss?  And that, is who we truly are.  What we are.

When I opened up the pandora’s box of balance that kept visiting me over and over again, I discovered many trinkets inside.  I discovered the harsh reality that I was a sunny weather junkie.  What I mean by this is that I noticed my addiction to highs.  Spiritual experiences, moving towards my purpose, spending time with people I love, serving others.  All things worthy of my time.  All things that would make sense to make me happy. All not so different than their opposites.  All things that can in fact create a dependency, an addiction.

See the addiction was trickier than normal.  I did not have gapping lows per say like perhaps I may have in the past if these pieces were not filling my time.  But I did have an addiction that caused me to push myself off balance, to do more of these things, to make a tradeoff of doing what I love, over doing what was essential…sleep.  And it was done in such a subtle way that it seemed not to be a problem.

In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna teaches Arjuna about the secrets of serenity and the dangers of the mind:

“For the exciting senses, Son of Kunti, forcibly steal the mind of even a learned man who exerts himself.” 2:60.

There I was.  The learned man, well, woman, who exerts myself every second I can for God.  And there I was, my mind stolen by the addiction of my efforts.  Good intentions and all.

I practice yoga.  A lot.  And now I even teach.  Giving back, giving away what has changed my life.  But yoga is so much more than even all the practices combined.  Yoga is the affect of all the practices.  And with this latest lesson I was reminded of that.

To find inner peace, we must be steady.  Unconcerned with the weather of our mind.  Unaffected by our ever changing life circumstances.  While I felt like I understood this, and had developed a good practice of being unconcerned, unaffected by the lows, I was not unaffected, unconcerned by the highs.

The true practice of yoga is remaining steady through them all.  The true practice of remembrance of God is remaining steady through it all.  The true surrender of one who submits is remaining steady through it all.  The true practice of one who gives themselves away to God is remaining steady through it all.  Because when we are steady through it all we are directing our attention truly to one thing alone…God.  And with God there is Bliss, there is Love, there is Tranquility.  And above all, there is Steadiness.

How are you affected by highs and lows?  Are you a high junkie?  A low junkie?  Someone who repeats the same problematic patterns over and over again because it has come to be how you define yourself?  A victim?  An optimist?  Pay attention to the waters of your Heart and the weather of your mind.  Be curious and observe whether the weather is affecting your shores.  Be curious about the opportunity to allow the weather forecast to be  just at it is.  And to allow yourself to be unconcerned, unaffected, sitting deeply in the seat of Steadiness.  Observing as the witness that you truly are.

“Perform your actions with mental discipline, without attachment, remaining equable in success and failure.  Equanimity is called Yoga.” ~ Bhagavad Gita 2:48

To Find A Teacher


In the Name of the One who created all.

“You are the Soul and the medicine for what wounds the Soul.” ~ Rumi

Rumi is my muse.  The one that speaks most to my heart.  But why?  Is it because he is such a master with words?  A True Beloved of God?  Certainly these play a role for me.  But perhaps also, what I find in Rumi’s writing is what I find deep within myself.  And it surprises me.

It is not because I or anyone else is some particularly special being, but yet we are.  We are all perfectly designed puzzle pieces in this place called life.  Perfectly designed by the Divine to do one and only one thing…serve as mirrors to remind each other.  Of what?  Of all that is best in the world.  Of all that is beautiful.  Of that which keeps us veiled from the Divine.  And ultimately all of those paths point to one thing…Him.

This teaching has been reflecting itself back to me over and over again recently.  First, the realization that the reappearance of difficult women in my life in and outside of work.  All who serve as mirrors to remind me that they do not value me because I did not value myself.  They saw me as inexperienced, young, unworthy, because in fact I believed that about myself.  The unlikely teachers that I never knew I’d meet.  All of whom I finally “met” when I really took a moment to step back and explore the pattern.  Non-judgemental curiosity observing the reappearance of the same pattern, manifested in women older than me over and over, and over again.  Cycling back.  The Divine revolving around once again to Hold up the Mirror.

Other times the person who annoys us, seeming to be ridiculously impatient, or blaming others for their suffering, are mirrors as well, to help us see the dirt that cakes our Hearts and prevents us from Seeing That which we seek most.  That which our Heart yearns for.  The One.

After years of searching for teachers, and sitting at the feet of teacher after teacher, I was surprised to find myself surrounded by so many unsuspecting teachers.  No turbans, fancy shirts, cushions, stages, microphones, or books needed.  Just hearts and pure presence.  Whether they meant to be or not.  That is the best part.  He was using them as the perfect puzzle pieces that were meant to be.  We are being used as the perfect puzzle pieces we are meant to be for each other.  To teach.  To remind.  To connect.

But the most surprising realization for me was to find the teacher that has been with me the longest, but I so quickly ignored.  So quickly forgot.  So quickly pretended was not there.

You know those moments during a class, a lecture, a conversation, a deep meeting, when you smile to yourself at that which is said and a deep Knowing melts over your presence.  Yes…yes.  Exactly.  Those mind melding moments.  What are those mind melding moments anyways?  Why do they feel so familiar?  Why do they curl the corners of your mouth up into a smile?  Because you know deeply.  You Know much more than you allow yourself to know.  Fitra, original essence.  Original Knowing.  The origin of being born and Knowing everything.  Your Origin, your purpose, your path, your Being.  That you are nothing more, nothing less, than a vehicle for the Divine.  To serve as that perfect puzzle piece in the world whether you want to or not.  To teach others, but most of all, to teach yourself.  To leave little breadcrumbs for yourself to bring yourself Home.

To find a teacher within is perhaps the most surprising discovery of all.  For so many of us feel ourselves unworthy.  Unlearned.  Inexperienced. Unholy. Unhindged. Imperfect.  And God there is so much perfection in our imperfection.  The entire process is so Divinely Perfect it stops me in my tracks.  In awe, jaw dropped open, unable to utter a word, tears streaming, lost, spinning, the Divine Majesty that Is.

Me a teacher, of myself…how?  Of course this is something that we all know.  At a basic level, the voice within that tells you to call and check on your friend to find out that they are not well and your call lifted their spirits.  Or the voice within that you do not listen to, reminding you to move your phone so you do not drop it in the bucket of water, to which you ignore, and seconds later it goes tumbling in.  Leaving it totally in-operatable.  True story.  But that’s the easy stuff.  The voice within is much deeper than that.

This voice within stuff seems all New Agey.  I certainly thought it was.  I also thought the “guru within” was a bunch of fluff that I could just blow away.  It all seemed too easy.  Too simple.  It all was…is, completely counter to the value of more degrees and more names to add to your list of studying with.  And it is not that any of those things are useless.  They can be useful.  But they are not the ticket to the deepest knowledge that one can discover.  They can only serve as fingers pointing as my teacher once reminded me.  But to find what is at the end of the finger, one must move through experience.  We must live life.  Explore with curiosity.  Sit with ourselves.  And explore the depth of Silence.

This is precisely why meditation practice is so important.  It turns down the radio of our mind, so we can hear the other station.  So we can hear the voice, the teacher within, which ultimately connects us with the Divine.

How do we know we have tuned to the righ station?  Everything moves smoothly, in complete peace and tranquility.  Our movements leave marks of peace, love, light, and we spread that more with every step we take.  Not because we are some special being, but because we are connecting in a deep way to our original essence.  To those qualities that are reflected back to us to open us to some tiny crack in a window of light into the Divine.  Which Is so Immense and Beyond our minds, our comprehension, beyond everything.  Beyond absolutely, positively, everything we every imagined.  Beyond anything I can ever imagine.

So the path of sacred knowledge winds around.  Like a deep forrest that we walked through and acquired some battle wounds along the way.  Some scratches, scraps, and burns.  We found beautiful flowers that created a fragrant walk.  We met beautiful creatures that reflected back to us a glimpse of the Divine and guided us back to the path.  The path to ourselves.  To our Teacher.

Teachers are immensely important on the sacred path.  And I will continue to be grateful for the opportunity to sit with them.  Not because they are other worldly, or “higher than you,” but because they serve as fingers pointing back to yourself.  To their hearts.  Which is also your heart.  Because we all, each and every one of us, are just vehicles for the Divine to do His work.  To remind each other of ourselves.  To remind each other of Him.  To serve as teachers to find the Teacher within.  And when we discover this, the sacred path of knowledge is no longer confined to some lecture, or some teacher, but suddenly expands to…life.  To all beings everywhere.  To all of creation.  To ourselves.

To start, we can look for the patterns in our life and be curious.  We can pay attention to those people who we love the most and dislike the most and wonder why.  What they may be revealing to us.  We can sit in the deep luminous sound of silence.  And create space for God to unearth the most Holy of teachings written on your Heart.  To bring you back to Him.  To bring you back to now.  To live life as the one long prayer that it is.

Curiously, one of the most powerful mirrors for me lately was the documentary Kumare.  The story of a spiritual skeptic, who pretended to be a guru to prove you do not need a guru, only to meet his greatest teacher…within.

When Everything Became Grey


In the Name of the One who created all.

It has been a long time since I’ve written.  Partially because I have been extremely busy and partly because the last few months have been spiritually intense and hard to capture in words.  It is at the edge of Divinity and experience that words seem to limit and pale in comparison.

I’ve learned many important lifes lesson over the last couple of months.  One of them that I wanted to share is that everything is grey.  Nothing is black and white.  And when I say everything, I mean…everything.  Now, if you are one of those anti-everything is relative kind of people, give me a minute.  Because this lesson is not as simple as it seems, and probably one of the most profound realities I have experienced in my life.  It has changed the way I understand relationships, conflicts, interactions, and most of all God.  I am sure I cannot do it full justice through words.  But if I can provide a small peek into this experience, enough to create some curiosity, it is enough.

Nature teaches us this every day.  Consider the snake that eats the mouse.  The snake needs to get its dinner, the mouse looses its life.  Who is right?  Who is wrong?  Aren’t both experiences legitimate and meaningful?  Don’t they both serve a purpose?  If I believe that God is in control of everything and that nothing falls outside of His Divine Will then every being, every action, every movement has a purpose.  Yes, even those that we do not like.  In fact, the experiences that make us the most uncomfortable may have the deepest messages for us from Him.

Throughout this neverending transition, evolution, transformation of myself, God has given me deep encounters with people in my life.  Difficult conversations.  Windows into realities previously unseen.  Complexities hardly understood.  The apparently perfect relationships with demons in the closet.  The loving leader with no love for themself.  The unreligious, unorthodox friend who sits at the seat of Divinity every breath more than the most “religious” “orthodox” person I know.  Even now I find the depth of this reality difficult to capture because behind this lesson are deeply personal stories of friends, family, colleagues that cannot be said.

What I can say is this.  First, in even the most difficult of circumstances, damaging of actions, people always have the best intentions.  Beautiful intentions.  Intentions of helping self, helping others, changing circumstances, improving lives, serving causes, serving God.  I have yet to find someone with truly, admitedly bad intentions.  Let’s take an example from nature.  Remember the snake.  From the outside the snake’s intention may simply appear to be the squandering of the mouse’s life.  Ruthless, chilling, lacking mercy.  But if we look beyond the surface we see that the snake’s survival depends on the mouse’s life.  Maybe it has a family to feed back at the nest.  Maybe it needed to move quickly before becoming the lunch of a small wild cat.  Easy to see in nature, difficult to see in human interactions?

Let’s take a deeply personal example from my life.  After six years of covering my hair with a headscarf I recently decided to take it off.  Over the years, when seeing other women take off their scarves or move between wearing and not wearing a scarf I understood their situation to be simply a lack of faith.  A movement away from God.  A giving in to social pressures.  It looked pretty simple from the outside.  Until I found myself facing the same questions and then I realized just how grey everything really is.  I found myself questioning my scarf and decision of whether to continue wearing it not coming from a place of lacking faith, but a place of deeper faith than I’d experienced before in my life.  I found myself drowning myself in Divine presence every moment rather than just during my five daily prayers.  I found myself moving deeper and deeper into a space where every breath in and of itself was a prayer.  Each breath one more moment to serve God…to give myself away.  But yet here I was questioning something I was taught was so sacred, so fundamental to my relationship with God.  It all made no sense.

It all made no sense because it did not match the black and white picture I had of understanding a headscarf.  Of what it meant to wear it versus not.  And what it meant to take it off.  Of what the experience of faith, the Divine, and life meant.  My decision to take it off is multi-layered and could be many blog posts in and of itself.  The point is that I realized that I was facing a serious decision and found God chuckling back as I stood stunned at the complexity of my own reality and experience.  A perfectly designed reality to shake any sense of simplicity from my mind and any concept of little “k” knowing.

When I decided to take my scarf off, reactions came pouring in.  Some said they felt a sense of lightness in my presence, a glow emanating from my face, and freedom from my movement.  Others sent me messages of concern, questioning the stability of my faith and emotional situation.  I knew where they were coming from because I was once there before myself.  I knew the love they were trying to express and perhaps simplified conceptions of the actions I decided to take that I once previously held myself.  I decided to take space to see the beautiful intentions and love pouring through their messages rather than allow my ego to come into the picture and be insulted by what could appear to be a religious judgement of my character and standing with God.  Something I hold so sacred, so dear, something that defines my very being.

The truth is I find God in the grey.  In the confusing decisions to take scarfs off to get closer to God.  In the meeting of people who are not Muslim, but are more Muslim than many Muslims I know.  In the deepening of spiritual experience where labels like Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, Hindu etc. no longer serve as guides but limits. In the grey, I find immense Love and Compassion.  In the grey, I find Divine Mystery.  In the grey,  I find Divine Purpose.  In the grey I meet God.

The next time you find yourself in a situation that seems black and white, take space to look for the grey.  I promise you that it is there.  It is always there.  Like a beautiful teacher patiently waiting for you to come back and learn.  There you will see His Face.  There you will uncover the mysteries that cannot be said.  Cannot be typed.  Can only be experienced.  Because in the grey and the meeting of God you see that God is beyond…everything.  And that’s why everything is grey.