Tag Archives: reflection

Searching For Light

Favourite books I read as a kid were stories about ancient civilizations. Stories about humans of far away lands with rich cultures and heritages. That being said, I did not hear the words racism or slavery spoken until we moved to Canada from former Yugoslavia in 1993. I was almost 12. In an immigrant family household, survival was the main priority (we were refugees for over a year as a result of war prior to the big move across the ocean). As a 12 year old girl, I was figuring out who I was while at the same time learning about the society we were now living in. We moved to a diverse and multicultural neighbourhood and it was reflected in the students of the middle school and then high school I attended. In fact, I was a minority amongst students in a high school of just over 700 who attended, and looking back on it, I was blessed. I learned about the richness of different cultures from around the world and experienced beauty, intelligence, creativity and friendship of human beings who were mostly not white. I also felt like I was amongst my people – people who were new immigrants or first generation Canadians, people who were trying their best to study and set themselves up for some sort of a stable future, like I was.

We are shaping our tomorrows by the choices we make today. And we are accountable for those choices.

Fast forward to 2020. I am a healthcare worker who works in an inner city trauma health centre, on the frontlines of a pandemic. It is mid-June and the last time I hugged a human being was mid-March. With the exception of my brother who I’ve seen in person three times from a six feet distance, the humans I regularly interact with at work and the essential workers at the grocery stores and market I see weekly, I’ve only spoken to my friends and family via text, phone or video call. At work, I wear a mask at all times except when on break. We are advised to social distance with one another, and I wear full PPE (gloves, gown, mask, face shield, bouffant) when in contact with any patient for their exam. I’m dehydrated often and I’ve had many breakouts as a result of wearing a face mask for long stretches of time. I developed contact dermatitis on my forearms from a hand sanitizer with a high alcohol content. I am constantly tired and find it difficult to catch my breath at times (I’m basically rebreathing my own carbon dioxide for seven hours a day, five days a week). I’ve been swabbed twice for COVID19 and was negative both times, thankfully. (In case you’ve not experienced it, it feels like someone is trying to tickle your brain for five seconds.) As a healthcare worker, I am at high risk for contracting COVID19 as I come in direct contact with patients who are being tested for or are positive for the virus, yet the current Ontario government did NOT include my profession in the pandemic pay. As a healthcare worker I feel a social responsibility to be very diligent in practicing social distancing outside of my home, for I could be an asymptomatic transmitter of the virus OR I could contract the virus and then spread it to sick patients or coworkers. I feel exhausted, spent, segregated, excluded and undervalued, and I am starting to experience what I can only describe as mild depression, as I experience frequent periods where I cry often for no reason, have very little energy or motivation to do anything on weekends except rest and sleep, and often feel as if I am searching for something to grab hold of and pull myself up and out of this. This is how I feel as a result of three months of new work and social norms, three months of no human contact other than what I disclosed, three months of no hugs, three months of coming home from work exhausted and every night carrying out full decontamination and cleansing (includes shower and hair washing, placing clothing I wore that day into the washing machine for laundering, disinfecting my phone, washing my glasses etc). This is my personal experience, only if you speak to other frontline healthcare professionals, you may hear a similar story. I know because I’ve heard them.

In the midst of a pandemic, our society is highlighting injustices and societal conducts which need to be abolished and changed. Root causes of injustice began over 400 years ago and evolved into what can only be described today as institutional racism. Let’s explore a few examples, shall we?

Do you know who Kalif Browder is? Kalif is a black boy who spent more than half of THREE YEARS in solitary confinement at Rikers Island Prison without a trial after an arrest at sixteen years of age for allegedly stealing a backpack. He became depressed, felt isolated, anxious and paranoid after he was released. Can you even imagine his experience? Neither can I. (I haven’t hugged a human being in THREE MONTHS while free to move around and I am feeling depressed.) As a result of the trauma he endured in prison and unable to cope, some time after his release Kalif transitioned by suicide. My heart aches for the injustice this young soul endured. And this is just one story of a young black male getting arrested and placed in prison for an alleged crime, in this case robbery of a backpack. Why is a TEENAGER in PRISON and in SOLITARY CONFINEMENT over a backpack? (The Kalif Browder Story is playing on Netflix.)

Have you heard of Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Antron McCray, Korey Wise and Raymond Santana Jr? In 1989, these young black boys were wrongfully accused, convicted, incarcerated and almost 20 years later exonerated, of rape and assault of a white woman in NYC Central Park. All five teenagers were sixteen years of age or younger (!) at the time of the incident. Korey Wise‘s story is especially heartbreaking – he was tried as an adult because he was 16 years old and as a result, he was sent to Rikers Island Prison, served the longest sentence and spent time in solitary confinement. Can YOU imagine going to prison as a CHILD for a crime you did not commit? (You can watch When They See Us on Netflix to learn more.)

Have you heard the name George Floyd? Breonna Taylor? Eric Garner? Trayvon Martin? Tamir Rice? Ahmaud Arbery? Philando Castile? Sandra Bland? Michael Brown? Emmett Till? These are human beings, and are just few of the souls who are no longer with us, as a result of violence by police or citizens who they encountered for the first time the day they died. Human beings who died because they have black skin.

If you found yourself exhausted when you read the paragraph about my experience of being a healthcare worker during a pandemic over a period of three months, I would think that human beings born black are exhausted from the grief, anger, and sadness of the aforementioned (and not mentioned) injustices and tragedies black people, communities they live(d) in, and their families have sustained throughout history AND in the three months we’ve been under lockdown and isolation during this pandemic. A universal truth is that we are shaping our tomorrows by the choices we make today. And we are accountable for those choices.

BLACK LIVES MATTER.

I named this blog A Rainbow In The Clouds after seeing Dr Maya Angelou speak in Toronto in 2011. She opened by sharing a folk song: “when it look like the sun wouldn’t shine anymore, God put a rainbow in the clouds”, eliciting the possibility of hope. Hope, which I seemed to have allowed to slip from my grasp, or was it taken? I’m not sure, but I want it back. Hope of light shining through is what will carry all of us through this time in history. As will the courage to keep going. Do you have hope and courage? Are you contributing to equality, inclusion, healing of your Self? I have learned that when you want something with your whole heart, the universe conspires to help you achieve it. (Paraphrased from The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho.)

My spiritual director encouraged me to revisit a book I have read, Man’s Search for Meaning written by Viktor E. Frankl, a psychiatrist who was imprisoned in a Nazi death camp as a Jewish man in WWII. I opened the book to a random page and started reading. There I found light:

“…intensification of inner life helped the prisoner find a refuge from the emptiness, desolation and spiritual poverty of his existence…”

“As the inner life of the prisoner tended to become more intense, he also experienced the beauty of art and nature as never before. Under their influence he sometimes even forgot his own frightful circumstances.”

“…I sensed my spirit piercing through the enveloping gloom. I felt it transcend that hopeless, meaningless world, and from somewhere I heard a victorious “Yes” in answer to my question of the existence of an ultimate purpose. At that moment a light was lit in a distant farmhouse, ….and the light shineth in the darkness.”

And I remembered my own inner light, and the inner light which shines in EVERY human being, irrelevant of their creed, skin colour, religion, sex, gender. That inner light is the grace, courage and strength which is accessible for each of us to learn, grow, evolve, elevate and do better. Then I recalled a spiritual teaching which was taught by all great teachers, and introduced to me by Caroline Myss – What’s in one, is in the whole. That means that the need for AND the unravelling of past societal structures which are shown to us through news media and social media, are happening within each of us. Human beings are angry at the injustices black human beings have endured throughout history and in present time! Would you not be angry if you saw a human being murdered, asking for mercy, while handcuffed on the ground with someone’s knee on his neck, and MERCY not being granted?! (Caroline explains this eloquently in this video.)

I don’t know what it’s like to be of a different skin colour other than the one I was born with. I’m perceived by society we live in to be a white woman. I understand that comes with privilege. I also can only extrapolate a little bit of the feelings from my experience of THREE MONTHS working in healthcare during a pandemic, (mainly feeling segregated, isolated, exhausted, not seen as equal by the government, because of my work,) into what I imagine is a life long emotional space for many experiencing Earth school as a human being with black skin. Again, I don’t claim to know this for sure, I am only grasping the feelings expressed by those who have this experience, what is felt by the collective and my own limited understanding. Remember this Oprah show?

Although I don’t have the experience of being in Earth school with black skin, I KNOW that black people are not being treated the same as white people. I KNOW that more black people live in poverty than white people. I KNOW that more black people die as a result of racial prejudices and violence than white people. Those are heavy truths. Also, I am not an appointed government official who can better fund our healthcare system and put laws, policies, and people in places to abolish institutional racism. But I have something in me, which every human has, that NO ONE can touch. That is my own inner space, my own personal power. I can use mine to elevate, learn, transform and impact change in the relationships around me, which will reach all corners of the globe (think how a virus did that). I can educate myself and use my VOTE as a voice, for ultimately that IS the loudest voice. I can stay connected to my inner space, move with integrity, be loving, compassionate, move in light. And so can you. Remember, standing in light does not mean not standing up for what you believe in. Rather, stand in your light in a way that brings change, draws justice, and creates a society where a human being can go outside feeling safe to do so, no matter their race, sex, creed, religion, gender. A human being is a human being. Bring your humanness to light.

All my love,

T


Questions of Flow

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“As you get older, you are more set in your ways and harder to be in a relationship with” I’ve heard many people utter. Perhaps this is true for some. But I started to think about the WHYs. Why do we say that? When we say it, do we say it because someone stated this as a truth we accepted, or do we truly believe it, or is it an actual truth and if so, why is that our truth? And if we accept this as a truth when we’re in our 20s or 30s or 40s, do we take it on and manifest this rigidity unconsciously? Where does this rigidity come from? And perhaps more importantly, are we fully aware of it?

During this contemplation, I chose to reflect on my own experience of rigidity. In my journey thus far, I’ve observed great changes in my body – normal weight, overweight, underweight, overweight, normal weight – sort of in that order. I firmly believe that the changes in my body reflected the status of my inner world, and of course my family, friends and coworkers easily observed the physical changes. However, what no one could fully perceive was the lack of flexibility, or the energetic heaviness of the rigidity and stiffness in my mind and spirit, which was reflected in my body, but only fully experienced and felt by me. Of course, I also created it. I created it with my thoughts, choices, words, what I chose to do and not do. When I look back on those spaces in my life, I realize that I was not allowing the natural flow of my being to navigate the spaces I needed to manoeuvre, or make choices which served me, or even think thoughts which were of my own contemplation and discernment. Instead, I was either fighting my true self in order to conform to, or ignoring my intuition and rebelling against, something that was set out as ‘right’ by society or my family and culture. That constant push and pull, building walls, crossing lines, running away, keeping busy for distraction, created an emotional, spiritual, and mental paralysis in the extremes, was reflected in my body. Physical pain, stiffness, rigidity/lack of flexibility, tightness, being blocked, congested, and isolated from the enjoyment of life and others, were my personal experiences in my body as a reflection of my inner world. I found glimpses of joy and beauty and even calm during this experience but they were just that – glimpses. I did not know how to fully engage in anything other than the stagnant state of being I had experienced up to that point. It was not until perhaps a few years ago, when I finally began to open up and allow the natural flow of my being, my intuition and spirit to guide my healing, that I began to experience joy, beauty and calm more fully and consistently. But I do not consider my experience to be unique or isolated.

Since I was a child, I’ve been an observer of everything and everyone around me. This served me greatly when I began a daily meditative practice over a year ago, for meditation is a space of observation of our inner world, of the status of our soul, our mind, our heart, which we enter at that moment in time. Having worked in healthcare for almost a decade now, I’ve interacted with many human beings and I’ve observed some things which I am not intending to use as examples to generalize anyone’s life or existence, but rather as patterns I’ve observed some humans engage in.

I’ve observed that as we get older, some of us take on things we accepted to be true in the early years of our life and development, which restrict our flow. We don’t question things our child or teenage or 20-something-year-old self accepted to be true, though our experiences and observations thereafter suggest otherwise. For example, as a child, the experience of my parents suggested that relationships must have the experience of X, Y, and Z, and they must lead to A, B, and C, in order to be ‘real’ relationships. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that that experience of relationships may have been true for my parents but that is not necessarily a reflection of the flow of a relationship that may serve me. Often, in conversation, people will reveal that their ideal relationship is that of their parents or grandparents or a couple they saw in a movie or met when they were on vacation, and that they are working towards having a relationship like that, but they don’t actually take the time to figure out what best serves them as an individual. And I’ve observed, myself and others, to be addicted to relationships in search of the IDEAL we decided on when we were 12 or something, as the experience we want to have, rather than being present and discerning, in the experience that we are actually having. I’m not saying that in every case the relationship that we decided is our ideal does not serve us. I’m just saying that we didn’t take the time to figure out for ourselves why it does (or doesn’t). As a result, many of us find ourselves somehow ‘stuck’ in a relationship or friendship where we aren’t able to grow or learn or be ourselves fully and completely. And we project the rigidity we experience in that friendship or relationship, onto others or it gets extended in our habits, schedules, rituals…‘the way that things MUST be’, rather than allowing.

I’ve also come to understand that EVERYTHING is in constant flux and motion so much so that we change every day, yet we stick with things we decided we liked when we were kids. For example, we may have decided when we were five that our favourite colour is red and as adults have maintained this without exploring the experience of other colours – whether in the decor we chose for our homes, our clothing, our art etc. – and because we immersed ourselves in that one colour our entire life, the lack of exploration of the energetic quality of another colour is simply lost on us. Perhaps the calming quality of the colour blue would really serve us in the space we are presently exploring, but we don’t allow it to become a part of our experience because when we were five, we decided that red is our favourite colour and the only colour we want around. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with red, I’m just saying that there are so many other colours we have the privilege of experiencing, yet we decided when we were five that for the next 75/80/95 years, we are going to stick to red and only red without asking why. We also may have decided that we only like one type of music, and we only listen to that genre and never explore others, thereby limiting our music experience for our entire life. Though there is something beautiful to be found in stimulation of every one of our senses, I’m not saying that we are going to love all colours or all genres of music but that there is value in allowing ourselves to explore.

It has become apparent to me that our inner world is also constantly changing. Think about how differently you feel each morning you wake up. Some days you wake up feeling energised and ready to take on anything that may cross your path, and other days you just want to stay in bed and not talk to anyone. Yet most often, we ignore how we feel and push through our day without acknowledgment of where we are, of how we feel, or of what we need in order to find our centre and balance. What serves us most may be finding the stillness, movement or flow to navigate the newness without judgement or imposing boundaries we fought against or accepted when we were younger. For example, maybe when we were younger we decided that our discomfort gives us permission for everyone else to experience it and project our own emotional states on others (think of a toddler in the grocery story isle having a meltdown because their parent is not giving into their ice cream request), rather than being accountable for the understanding of why we feel/think/act the way we do at this moment in time. After all, it is our own personal experience so only we can answer our own why, and finding our centre in the spaces of meditation, yoga, reflection, contemplation, creative or other practices, may be ways that can help guide our inner exploration. When I was in high school, I remember going to school while having a temper tantrum which had nothing to do with anyone but me, but I had decided that it was acceptable for me to act out and take it out on others for months until someone told me that my behaviour was unacceptable. I was projecting the discomfort of my inner world outwards, however, not only did it not calm my inner, it also created chaos in my experience of friendships. It is not anyone else’s responsibility to sort through or experience the discomfort we may be feeling but our own. And at some point, we have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable in order to grow, learn and elevate.

In my healthcare practice, I’ve dealt with adults of different age groups and I have observed that age does not play into how difficult it is for me to navigate the unfamiliar space the patient is about to experience. I’ve interacted with 20 year olds who are more set in their ways and stubborn in what they feel they should receive from me, than some of the 90 year olds I’ve interacted with. I truly believe that getting older does not mean we become more difficult to be around or set in our ways, but that it is a choice. And I think that choice is as much a reflection of what we have accepted to be true, what we have decided we should experience or how we should experience something, than it is of the reality of our actual experiences. It is true that we are born with things or born into situations we did not choose, but no matter what, as an adult, we have a choice in what we carry, how we perceive, react, act, think, speak.

I believe that the experience of our body and the state of our physical world, which we can perceive by the limitations of our five physical senses, is a reflection of our inner, spiritual and mental state. I believe that the interconnectedness of mind, body, spirit is a reflection of the interconnectedness of all things in the universe and across universes, for what’s in the one is in the whole and all things in our universe abide by the same laws (of physics, mathematics, energy, quantum mechanics, balance, reciprocity etc.) the universe itself abides by, and the same laws the atoms, which make up our cells and our bodies, abide by. Each entity/thing/being/energy is not separate from another. Specifically for human beings, there is a continuous flow of creation as a response to a thought, a choice, an emotion, an action or a lack thereof, which is being directed by each and every one of us. And those choices can further support or hinder our own flow.

What supports your flow?

What hinders your flow?

And why?

Be kind to yourself and others.

Love, T


BIG Questions

 

There are a few big truths I’ve learned about being human thus far:

Understanding ones Self allows an understanding of others.

Trusting ones Self fully allows one to trust another.

Empowering ones Self allows not just the ability to empower others but to practice self-esteem and speak one’s truth.

A lot of these lessons I understood through my own reflective practice, though I’ve read and heard many teachers hand these priceless jewels out in their writings and lectures. Of course you can only fully understand something if you sit with it in reflection, practice and experience it.

I have come to understand that a reflective practice is vital in our growth however I only learned to ask the big questions, questions which served me and my growth, in the last year. These questions stem from an awareness and a big truth which is that nothing anyone ever does is about us but is an extension of the space in their Self in which they dwell. However, asking why someone does, says or thinks something, is not a question which serves us or helps us grow.

The only place you can surely settle into and, if you choose to do so, learn intimately is your own Self. Immersing ones Self into the depths of your soul or spirit, whether through a meditative practice or a reflective practice or through creative expressions etc, is a sure way to centre oneSelf. However, to navigate these spaces, even through different practices,  one must ask questions which serve you.

I have learned that some of the big questions which serve your growth include:

Why do I think this or think in this way?

Why do I feel this way about an event?

Why did I say this during a specific event?

Why was this my internal reaction to an event?

Why do I believe this?

What is it about this person/place/situation that makes me feel the way I do?

One of my favourite teachers, Caroline Myss, would say that these questions are not small but “they’re great big huge and you cannot possibly answer them that quickly.” I feel that the list of questions above are good starting points for reflection.

In my own reflective practice, asking these questions has provided a lot of clarity for me, but more importantly, they have acted as an anchor to my centre, my true Self. These questions have also brought up inner work I wasn’t aware I needed to do. I found that awareness painful at times, but the more I’ve done it, the easier it has been to be centred even during events that have in the past taken me far away from that space.

Our humanity dictates our imperfections, and thereby demands courage to grow, learn, evolve, allow, and ultimately, to fly. To me, the greatest representation of freedom are birds in the sky – they can fly anywhere, see things from different altitudes and perspectives, experience different horizons – and I view finding one’s centre to be like a bird in flight, gliding across the sky, without attachment, free and prepared to experience anything, anyone, in any weather. For me, dwelling in big questions, objectively and without judgement, has allowed my own freedom of flight and, so far, the views have been illuminating.

Wishing you love, light and a soaring flight,

T


Vulnerability…Recovered

A page from my journal entry:

“Dec 1st, 2014

I spoke with my sister this evening and I recalled a memory my mom shared with me, of me, when I was a child. My mom described me as this little girl who just did not want to go into the sandbox with the other kids, to play and get dirty, but would instead cross my hands behind my back and observe the other kids playing. It’s an image that parallels a lot of the struggle I experienced as an adolescent, a young woman and an adult in my friendships and relationships with others. I was the observer who didn’t really feel that I BELONGED anywhere, and instead observed others and their interactions, but was somewhat scared of being ‘known’ so I simply kept my true self hidden from others. It wasn’t until recently that I thought about displacement as a result of war (I am from former Yugoslavia, the region of Bosnia), and what that truly did for my spirit, understanding of self and others, my lack of the sense of belonging anywhere, and its effect on any relationship I attempted to participate in, that it dawned on me… THE one thing I thought I wanted, truly wanted, was the one thing I was truly afraid of – BEING LOVED.

I was afraid of being loved.

Why? Well I did not love or like mySelf for a long time, which is a starting place for reflection. But when I looked into it deeper, I realized that: 1. being loved means that someone is making a ‘commitment’ to me which they may not be able to maintain consistently; and 2. that would involve vulnerability on my end, and on that person’s end, and I simply wasn’t comfortable with it. That basic human essence – birthplace of creativity, love, nurturing and mindful relationships, a true display of courage – was very uncomfortable for me.

Why was it uncomfortable? Why is being vulnerable so scary? Because you put your true Self in the spotlight, on display and it may not be everyone’s ‘cup of tea’, so you open your Self up to criticism, rejection, ridicule… Except when you decide to face your fear, be vulnerable in showing who you really are, you find that people respect you more and are more accepting OF you. And that’s love.

So I’m stepping forth on my intentions of building mindful, respectful, nurturing, loving relationships, and allowing mySelf to simply BE ME, my true self, in all situations and people I encounter.

That does not mean that everyone deserves, or will be given, a backstage pass to my life, but it does mean that the right people will be invited to know ME.”

In order to get a hug, you must give a hug…

Love, T


Window Seat…

A moment of reflection, St Mark's Basilica, Venice

I’ve been thinking about reflection and how valuable of a practice it is for inner peace. Some may say that I am writing about something obvious but there is a depth there which often goes unacknowledged, in my opinion.

I, just like many who live in large North American cities, lead a busy life. Of course this is by choice but the fact remains – we stay busy. In the midst of that chaos (because at times it really can feel chaotic) we somehow ‘have to deal’ with whatever is going on in our lives, with whatever has happened that’s not been dealt with, and with whatever else comes up. Often, I have found that I do the minimum not because I don’t want to deal with an issue or a situation (although sometimes that IS true) but simply because of lack of time I make for self.

Recently, me, myself and I traveled abroad for four weeks and got to spend much-needed quality time. I wasn’t even aware that I had that actual need to spend time with myself, until I was there and all the things that have happened in my life in the last few years finally surfaced…but you could say, I finally allowed them to. They were all pretty major things – passing of my grandfather who was one of the biggest loves of my life; getting out of an unhealthy relationship which left scars and damage that I realized during my alone time I had buried deep and hadn’t allowed myself to feel; coming into my own as a woman and an adult which is complex on its own; and dealing with all the matters of the heart which I tried to run from or ignore….

I’m not interested in writing about personal details of people, situations or moments which happened on my trip or in my life because it is not necessary. If you are going through or have gone through something which you’ve not been able to, or have not allowed yourself to deal with and feel, then you already understand my words and all of what I’m trying to say.

The thing which has become obvious to me however, is that all those things I ‘have to deal’ with but don’t make time for, eventually DO need to be dealt with, reflected on, digested, discussed, released…for me to keep going and most importantly to be able to grow and to be able to feel. I am not talking about every day stuff we have to do but big things like relationships, death of someone close to us, love, etc. All that ‘stuff’ requires and deserves time with self. YOU deserve time with YOURSELF.

Sometimes it is just a feeling  – you know you must spend time to reflect and to feel in order to move forward. And it doesn’t even have to be that you are unhappy about anything in your life or about yourself. It’s really just about you taking the time to reflect and I mean REALLY reflect on whatever it is that your soul and your heart are telling you is important.

I’ve come to appreciate my own ‘stripping’ of outer layers and being emotionally and spiritually ‘naked’ with myself. It is a scary thing, I won’t lie but what scared me more after-the-fact is that I had not allowed myself to feel up to that point. The inability of feeling had crippled me emotionally, spiritually and somewhat mentally without me even realizing it. It’s strange because before I left for my trip I felt great about everything in my life – I was happy and content. After I faced my fears and allowed myself to feel, by reflecting on things that I thought I had ‘dealt with’, I realized how much growing I still had to do as a person. More importantly I realized that I can be my own best friend or worst enemy depending on the amount of realness I serve myself and how much time I allow with myself.

To some of you reading this, you just read a bunch of gibberish. But to others who are dealing with ‘stuff’ and yet haven’t really dealt with anything, I hope you allow yourself time with yourself to reflect. My biggest wish for you after that time with self which I hope you find, is that you allow yourself to feel all of that which you need to. Know that we all have a story and that someone else has gone through what you’ve gone or may be going through – the details may be different but the feelings which you were left with are the same. It isn’t an easy road to travel on but it’s the most important one to follow….

Much love and peace,

T


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