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The Thing about pain is

Let’s face it, it is impossible to live life without experiencing any form of pain. Pain is a part of living as much as love and joy and fear. When we talk about the inescapable nature of living with one pain or another we must also consider healing.

Healing is not the reversal of pain. It does not come by through pleasantries. Healing is not something that we just receive by choosing to get rid of the pain. We do not simply ignore powerful profound pain, because then we are suppressing that hurt into our psyches and our cells and into every memory. Pain doesn’t leave until it is felt in the utter depths of our spirit, and explored with our minds and bodies. It lingers below one trigger maybe even 10, but it never simply leaves. It festers and grows more violent and more furious. It needs to be seen, and our bodies keep it for us, hoping that we address it so we can move on. Pain, must be felt in every form that it presents itself, with every piercing thought and emotion. We must go through it in its entirety, we must experience the fear of its endlessness, we must face it bare and respectful, because it is yet another teacher in disguise. Yet we must when the pain has served its purpose to awaken us to a truth, ultimately and unapologetically heal.

And here i tell you my beautiful friend that to heal is the biggest triumph of spirit. We break and we combust into millions of pieces of what we once were, but we are never beyond healing. We were gifted those bodies and those minds to experience living with our eyes wide open and our hearts on the verge of being crushed by the next best thing. Our bodies however are blessed by an internal and eternal grace, one that shines when we smile and when we wake up in the morning and feel a glimmer of hope that we are deeper than the deepest hole, stronger than the hardest blow, and liberated beyond every social concept that has ever been coined. We can heal, unlike anything dead. We can heal because we are alive.

Meeting Pain; a short story

She finds herself bursting awake in an alternate world. She is small and weary, her body aches and she doesn’t know how or why. In a vast abandoned piece of land she cannot see anything clearly but she knows what she must do. She presses her toes into the sand and makes her way to the darkest corner. That was her mission after all, She promised to heal no matter what that took. Unprepared but determined, the darkness grows and she starts losing the feeling in both her feet. She falls to her knees and continues to crawl out, her skin burning as she glances out in front of her. There it is with its might and glory, it sees her but doesn’t move to meet her. She is averse to it, but it holds something she needs.

Pain shows her its teeth and she falls at its feet begging it to hand her that wisdom because she cannot stand up anymore, She has finally come to see pain for herself, She is ready to learn. In that moment of surrender she removes her armor and unravels showing her eagerness for shedding her now tight old and broken skin. Pain unleashes itself into her mind, onto her body, her muscles tense and it pulls at her heart and her skin. She feels every bit of it, senses every bit of herself, She can follow everywhere it goes. and it burns with might..

She wants to ask it why. Her mind starts needing reason to carry on, but there was not enough time. She notices that with every blow and every shockwave of emotion the pain gets softer, it grows smaller as she gently gets bigger. Pain then pours itself into a glass between her shaky hands and asks that she accept it for what it is, whether it had reason is not important, whether she deserved it or not doesn’t matter; her questions will only be honored by a single exchange if she is to allow it.

“I accept, she cries out, just let me heal!”

She receives strength in return, one that was meant just for her; for this body… A strength that was there with the pain all along. Light creeps through that corner and nothing hurts when her heart continues it’s beat and she takes in a deep breath. She exhales as she pushes herself head first standing up. She finds that she had been in an arena, filled with souls and bodies that look just like hers, but her path was paved different by the walking and crawling towards her pain. Her space allowed for something new exactly where she was standing. She then feels her eyes grow wider as she towers over old skin, and all the armors she has outgrown.

She begins to heal.

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Now that we are human again, what do we do?

A thousand rivers can flow seamlessly beneath your feet, and you could still manage to find and count the rocks that are in the water’s way. The river doesn’t mind and the rocks have no qualms with their position but you do. You cannot but want the rocks out of the river, by its side where they theoretically belong so the water can flow in a manner that you deem perfect.

What else are you unable to just let be?

Has there been some sort of unspoken agreement that we were owed something by the world we lived in and continuously disrupted? Did we at some point in our assent into God like supremacy over nature stumble over a serum of immortality and immunity? There has been a sense that we as a species are becoming exempt from all checks and balances of existence, as though we are doing each other and the earth we are living on a favor by existing.

We however, are amazing creatures at cognitive learning and acquiring knowledge; yet we somehow keep on missing the mark and the point. So we make up for our lack of awareness by our over alertness to life’s problems; especially those which we are able to solve. And the species with the advanced problem solving skills eventually reaches a point where it starts creating new problems for itself because the only confirmation of existence we start to have is our incessant need to create and then untangle issues.

We find ourselves today in a situation we did not anticipate. Bill Gates warned the world five years ago, but what does he know? He is only one of the world’s most prominent problem solvers, why listen to him?

What Can We Do with Our Big Brains?

Surely, lay people like you and I are in no position to legislate or enforce any measures that can save millions of lives. So what can we do with our big brains instead of creating social media challenges that further enhance and reconfirm our unquenchable thirst for attention and being loved? We have unfortunately stopped paying attention to the world that gives us life and only view it from high rises and shiny screens as though we are detached from it. We were always part of the life cycle, that natural chain that linked us to the trees we chopped, the animals we tested on and killed and the water and air and land we polluted. How is it possible hence now for us to still be immune?

Regardless what type of illnesses befall us, they are less malicious than the fact that they can disrupt our systems, change our ways of life and ultimately remind us of our own morbidity.

This however, is not a piece about the darkness that we have all been hurled into. On the contrary it is about the light that must explode out of every corner of our being.

That light begins in the heart and travels up to the mind lights it up and sends the signal to your body to just stop and let go of that need to steer. This is not a car, this is not a man made aircraft and we are not in need of navigating any ship into safety. All of those stories, those narratives might not hold true now.

We must make a spiritual pitstop at some point. One that does not even need a God or a special universal force. We must check in with ourselves, our own sanity, our own clarity and our own assumptions about life. We must click our heels twice and realize that our lockdowns at home for the privileged among us are not difficult because of the four walls we are stuck between. They are about the body, the heart and the mind we are stuck with, and no amount of distraction and/or donuts in the world can avert our attention far enough to make us forget the fear of being simply human.

Human, nothing more nothing less. We are that, merely so and yet so brilliant when we come to terms with the powers instilled within us. We are nothing short of wonderful and inevitably remarkable at withstanding hardship.

Photo by Spencer Selover on Pexels.com

We do not need to live forever, or even be eternally immune to everything. We must however, unburden ourselves from our supreme concepts and settle into that untapped intuitive strength which helps us overcome when we can and let go where we must.

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The Illusion that We Are in Control

I am experimenting with channeling everything I have learned and believed about the energy of being human at this time. All of the meditative practices and the therapy sessions and exercises come into play, as my anxiety mocks me, telling me your worst fears are all happening at the same time. So now what? I am in India, a foreign country, during a worldwide pandemic, with uncertainty at the heart of everything and it plays itself out like a surreal low budget movie. Now what? What can I possibly retrieve to push through and accept this experience?

There is a life force within us that stops at nothing. It travels up from the base of our being, passing through the fleshy parts that make us bleed and into the realm of our minds and our thinking selves. Then it pushes through those swamps of the mind and beyond into our superhuman capacities. The energy finds itself swimming through sometimes with utmost ease and other times crossing currents of suffocated oppression.

What you need to know is that you are so much more than a body that experiences illness. You are beyond the limited capacities of your young brain. You carry the energy of life within your biology. Your physiological body is not eternal and the human experience is identified by its transience; but your spirit pulses through. Allow your spirit to take the wheel; now is a good time.

Let yourself be, let the life force within you play out it’s most beautiful harmony and let your body follow like a toddler taking her first steps. It sounds crazy, but isn’t everything surreal anyway at this point? Why not entertain an idea perhaps even two about the mysteries that surround your being here today?

The process of overcoming only starts from a singular capacity to get up and face whatever it is you are up against. One single token action spurs a series of mini actions that eventually lead to the end; because everything has an end; be it good or bad doesn’t matter. Sometimes an end is all the certainty one needs to get up, take off that frail and afraid body and put that universal spirit in charge. Allow her to travel through where it pleases, allow her to feed whichever other beings it pleases and allow her to swim cross current to stiller places.

The shift in focus requires resilience and a sense of optimism, a romanticism if you like that welcomes adversity and ease just as much. So what is to be done or decided when the authority to decide was an illusion all along?

You sit in your little body and let the energy pass through.

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How Tight Are Those Parameters of Difficulty?

How long can you keep on running away from the difficult and into the easy? All your life? Perhaps.

Will you get insanely good at it that you don’t recognize you’re doing it? Yes. Will life ever be challenging but not on your terms? No.

I’m one to talk when things get difficult my gut instinct is to bail, disappear, escape and find a way out of the situation and into the next; I’m the nearest exit kind of person, I’m the one who pays attention in the plane to the flight attendants as they tell us how to escape if we must. I consider my exit strategy one of my most reliable life skills. Or so I thought.

Turns out, this is a recipe for disastrous anxiety that seeps into the core of every belief in my body. We wire ourselves to always be on the lookout for things to go wrong, and how we could react to that, we are essentially telling ourselves that we will never be good enough or strong enough to face adversity. We are over calculating risk and undermining ourselves and what we can actually handle. The realization feels like a sick punch in the gut, but it does help open one’s eyes to what wimping out on life actually does to you.

It makes you your very worst enemy.

People don’t need to see it or get it, you do though. What becomes of us when we keep on running away? What happens when we choose to walk away from difficulty for no logical or viable reasoning but fear and a preference for the easier? What kind of message are we sending to ourselves? Let me tell you, the message becomes loud and clear. “You cannot do it” becomes the motto that you proudly parade on the back of your leather jacket while playing down the immensity of the energy you put into exiting. At times it’s actually a lot more valuable to stand your ground and face adversity. You might surprise yourself at how impressive your ability to be slapped by life is and how glorious it is to get up after it.

If I think back to all the things I’ve faced off with, I’d say I’ve done a pretty decent job at not crumbling under seemingly high-risk difficulties. Why not give ourselves some credit where it is deserved? The notion that difficulty is a good enough deterrent to living the life we deserve is self-defeating. It is hiding behind a one-dimensional opinion of ultimate weakness and fragility with no space for courage or wit.

What kind of life would we then be able to have if those were the parameters for all our actions?

The next time you have a face off with a difficult or scary situation, give yourself a little pat on the back and a nice treat for standing your ground. Bravery begins from fear, wit is created from acceptance and experience and with the proper mindset and training, we can all find the little warrior within that comes out to play when the world decides that it’s our turn now to thicken that ultra soft skin.

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Time to Change That Rusty Mindset

I have come to a shy realization that I am not the only one who’s searching for myself in this big wild world. You know? Sometimes it seems like I have it all figured out, sometimes I even forget that I am searching for anything in the first place; it suddenly all seems here, present. Everything flows, I am sure you’ve felt that at some point too. That mysterious “it” we are all wondering about falls into our laps, we are then able to touch it and hear it, to see it everywhere we look and life surprisingly becomes simple, as though it was all there all along for us to just grab, or see or whatever it is we must do to believe. And then, in a split second, it all dissipates again, as though it was never there tragically the loss is immense and our entire mindset weaponizes to begin that pursuit again.

It really is mind-boggling; because we all grew up hearing things like ” it comes when you least expect it to, or you will fall in love when you aren’t looking…” etc. So the vagueness of it all kind of bothers me, perhaps it even irks you too. I’m curious what about that is actually so annoying and tricky and unfair?

I remember once standing by the sticky doors of the N train in New York City, going home to my old squeaky apartment after a long day of NYU Masters’ classes. My head was filled with the words of international law professors and their jargon. Except until this day, I remember one thing; funnily enough not the laws, nor the jargon but the feelings. And if you’ve read me in the past years, you’d know how big on noticing feelings I am; almost to a fault! That day I felt like I had it figured out. Imagine looking out of those doors, catching a flash of the city drenched in another glorious sunset and knowing things are good. I’ll tell you, things made sense! I felt it, I had it. It was all there, all around, and I thought that nothing else would feel as rewarding, nor as good. Naturally, that changed, life changed, my days, my location, my feelings- everything became different. I spiraled, felt lost and confused and I wondered what in the world was happening? Had I lost “it” all? and to what?

You see? You have it and then you don’t. Better yet, you think you have it and then you think that you don’t. That “THINK” is the culprit. When we let ourselves rely on certain conditions outside of our control we might be setting ourselves up. The way we perceive our life becomes dangerous and fragile because it all happens through a lens framed by conditions that could simply change or disappear. Long story short, our errant thoughts and perceptions bite us in the ass eventually.

This is not to say doubt every good thing, au contraire. We must practice not searching for ourselves because that comes from a place of being lost. We can instead rely on who we are now and who we aim to become. This attitude is boundless and limitless because it allows us to be free. If I limit my pursuit to a very specific feeling or goal; I might end up on the wrong end; because things don’t always go as planned.

Wait!

Now, watch me put away my preacher hat and replace it with the “doing it” sombrero for this! I am embracing the odds, welcoming the process and trying to care less about the end goal! you can hold your applause because it is insanely difficult for someone with anxiety (aka your writer). Obviously, many of us are in the same club where we perceive the world as dangerous, as uncertain and as filled with potholes. So we tiptoe and we plan and we perfect every move to fall gracefully and not perish. We try to avoid as much pain as possible. In our heads, all that pain, along with every possible catastrophe has made itself present; and so we propel ourselves into a pursuit of safety and a perfectly aligned life that has little confusion or surprise. The conditions become immense, but that my friend is why we must try to transform and change the story!

So I go back to my opening point. I’ve been searching since I started wondering since I started thinking and assessing life’s dangers. Yet, as I search I find myself and others in the weirdest places. I however also find things when I’m not searching. When I think that I have arrived, life doesn’t stop, and conditions keep on changing. So as every spiritual teaching says; just be, and let things happen all around. I halt the pursuit and look around because it was in NYC once that I found myself, it was in Bali later, but here I am in Beirut figuring it out all the same. So where am I really? was I even ever lost? and is it possible that when I stop searching I learn more than when I’m searching like a chicken with its head cut off? – sorry for the metaphor!

I will leave this with you for now. The mystery lives on and I tag along, and I hope that you do too because, well… life happens when you don’t think about it and you never know what you will find when you aren’t looking!

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Our Way Back Home

Words had never intimidated me until recently. Words started to gain weight and lay shamelessly on pages I had grown to trust, eager to expose me and provide relief to whoever was seeking. Words slowly stopped being only mine and gradually belonged to others; using my experiences to tell stories and i sit here looking, reading in retrospect and watching as my words live on and out of my world and into yours. Knowing that, I decided to muffle myself and my words in turn would always be mine, never shared and never exposed.

I did not anticipate that that would come at the expense of drowning out my truest voice. Little did I realize that the words I used were never mine, because what is mine anyway and what is yours at the end of the day?

I write now, knowing that my words are travelers and that I no longer provide them a home, perhaps I never have. The music I had missed helps me find my voice again in hopes of catching a thread, a life line back into this empty space where you and I can leap in, without judgement without blame and say what we really mean because what else is there?

I let the writing happen through me, and I sit back and watch; ego and all, my humbleness and humility rooted in the ground; I become fingers and a beating heart capable only of singing at the top of those words that hell; belong to no one and everyone all at once.

So if you’ve been reading on with me, and living true with me, I say thank you because the space grows as we become better able to recognize one another between the lines and over the noise of everything that remains unsaid.

So pray for this world my friend and do not fret because nothing truly belongs to us after all, not these words, nor our faces or our lives. So trace your hand gently over everything you touch and remain honest and true, because what is work after all? what are words and promises and relationships but paths back into ourselves trying to find meaning and glory in the little things and in the greatest things?

So let this take form, and become something; let the world find its place inside you because in the contrast of it all; in the nonsense of it all- I write for you and through you to myself in hopes of remembering that here too in the constant shifting waves, we have a home.

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Arms Down Feet Up

You might not have time to read, but know this: The good kind of surrender is knowing when to put your feet up and wait. This is a post about learning when to surrender.

Who are we to carry all that weight all the time?

I have been thinking about surrender for some time now. As a word, as an action and as a way of life; however I keep running into all the negative possible meanings linked to that action or state, which is why I feel I must color that term a little less bleakly and show you my dear reader as I show myself how precious this exercise in learning when to surrender can be.

Surrender as a verb means to

“cease resistance to an enemy or opponent and submit to their authority.”

Surrender here stops being a soft word, it becomes a term to describe the weak, the unable and the powerless. Although surely surrender is the opposite of what one must do when faced with unfairness, injustice and threat. So fight if you must.

Why do we say “I give up” so defeatedly in our day to day life? Why do we beat ourselves up and resist so hard to stay afloat and live another day? Why is life so crushing and difficult? Why are we in constant battle? an eye for an eye, a heart for a heart. We learn that life is aggressive so we learn to become even more militant towards it. Every day becomes a struggle not just with ourselves but with those around us, everyone and everything could be an enemy; and WE NEVER SURRENDER.

I have to admit my heartbeat became faster as I wrote the lines above. My blood started to rush as I let those thoughts out of their cages and into this page. I’ve been writing about this for a long time now, and you might be expecting my next words, but ask yourself this:

“Why are you fighting?”

Who are you in battle with? and what is there to lose if you stop resisting? Is your life really constantly filled with enemies, and life threatening events? Is the world conspiring to shred you to pieces? Why you? What have you done that you feel has been so bad you cannot stop the fight? Are you a victim of your own doing?

The questions burn if one is to really consider them, but there is comfort at the end. There is something utterly gentle in nurturing a spiritual side to our lives. There is a secret, one that sometimes eludes itself, because can a secret really also be so obvious?

What if you chose to look at life as a friend, perhaps a teacher? What if you are not in battle with an opposing authority anymore? What would surrender mean then?

Imagine this for a taste in learning how to surrender.

Resisting a kiss by a beloved versus surrendering to it.

Resisting a thoughtful comment by a friend vs surrendering to it.

Resisting the urge to tell someone they are beautiful, that you love them and that you are thankful to them, vs surrendering to it.

Resisting an intellectual challenge by dismissing its wisdom vs surrendering to the conversation necessary.

See resistance is a skill. It is a strength of spirit in times of undeniable darkness and need, it is the daughter of a war mentality, an agility in survival. However, we must not allow for mindless resistance. Baseless opposition is poisonous and serving only for self punishment. If there is no war, why do you continue to resist? especially if the only one left to fight with is you.

In Arabic there is a term that says “ارحم نفسك” which directly translates to “have mercy on yourself”. That is where learning when to surrender comes in, the good kind, the soft kind that is not a matter of defeat, because it comes with an acceptance that there is no fight in the first place. There is no benefit in crushing an enemy that doesn’t exist. So surrender to the life that shows you its blessings as it shows its teeth. Learn to differentiate between lessons and battles, and train yourself to notice peacefulness wherever it presents itself. Understand your value as a warrior in the right time at the right place but not all the time.