Roaring Waters

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The water is roaring. The riverbed can’t hold her in. She’s rushing… flooding… running… trickling way past her usual edges. Like a delirious child, madly colouring outside the lines. Her container is no longer suitable. It’s too constricted. But here’s the beauty – she doesn’t try to fit into it. She just builds a new one.

I put one foot in front of the other. I can’t tell if my hair is made of snakes. I’m not sure if that’s the sound of my heart, or the wild thumping of the core of the earth. And I don’t want to know. My skin feels soft and loose, yet I’m bursting at the seams. There is rage, and power, and excitement. There is magic, unbridled joy, and the deepest trust in all the things. There is mourning also. Sadness. Disappointment. Fear, trying to hold me back. But the current is tenacious; it’s way too strong now. My vessel is too small. It’s time to build a new one…

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I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You


There is something I have been meaning to tell you. If I say it out loud, you’ll know. It won’t be a secret anymore. The hear-me-roar of the tiger’s teeth I’ve learned to wear around my neck won’t deceive you any longer. I’ve taught myself how to trick you, you see. I’ve tricked you into thinking I am strong beyond belief. I’ve fooled you into thinking I’ve got it under control, I’m not easily bruised. I am stillness on the lake at dusk, undisturbed beauty and calm, a three hundred year old cedar.

It’s true. Sometimes it’s not an illusion at all. Sometimes I walk in the skin of a panther. I feel my hips sway to the rhythm of my cool, powerful strut. It’s true. Some days I am fragile like dew dropping blossoms in the morning sun.

I know you understand. I can see your thoughts spill out of your sensitive eyes. You don’t always know you are sharing your joys and your pain. You do it all at once in technicolour codes. I’ve learned how to speak that same love language. Some days I am a crow feasting on your leftovers. Don’t turn away. It is still me, I promise. Don’t be fooled. I am the owl, only my wings have been tied down for a while.
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Perhaps, if you and I no longer hide, we will meet by the riverbed and drink the lovetruth serum. We’ll see our intimate fears transformed into the filaments of gold that they are, pulled up into the vastness by the moon of our eyes. We’ll know that we already are our magnificent selves. We’ll understand that our brokenness is a magic carpet ride that leads us back home to the light.

I am preparing to lose a piece of my body. The puss will be drained, the tissue will be cut out. There will be bleeding and pain and scars.

I will be forced to rest.
And I will be reminded I am not these bones.

I will be asked to choose. I could wrestle myself into un-wholeness. Instead I will step fully into my altered casing. I will learn and relearn and learn again. I am not my breasts or my curves or my sex or my organs. I will know, from the depth of my darkness, from the heart of my heart, from the fire of my belly, I am the universe inside this skin. I will see what I already see. My light cannot exist without my shadow.

And I will continue to try, by and by. I will coax myself into letting you see my fragility. I will ask you to let me in to your secret hiding places, to invite me to play and sing and dance by your side.

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Falling In Love in the City of Love

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It all started one morning as I lay on the makeshift bed, trying to plan my day. Metro stops, directions from here to there, frantic notes taken in my book and on my phone, all to ensure I wouldn’t get lost.

photo by Myriam Khouzam

I realized I was wasting precious moments, my mind slowed by the fear of being disoriented. It was enough to move me out of doubt.  I slipped into my favorite jeans, wrapped my heart in my scarf, and headed out the door.

The magic opened up before me. She found me instantly. She guided me through winding streets, reminding me patiently to trust my intuition.

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There I was, lost among the crowds of tourists. They were missing the beauty, their noses so perfectly buried in guide books. There I was, found in the beauty of my surroundings.
For a few days, I learned what it felt like to be truly present, one breath, one step, one bite at a time. The past and the future chose to forget me and I saw myself reflected in windows and flowers and beautiful eyes looking back at me.

I ate croissants and watched lovers kiss. I felt the sun, and later the rain, tickle my cheeks. I navigated the streets of Paris waiting for my heart to be swept away, searching for romance.

And I found it.

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the company I kept. We made the most of those few days we had alone together, lost in time for a while.

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We took each other on long walks, talked to locals as though we were one of them, and they believed us. We sat for long, delicious meals, allowing the wine to go to our heads and mesmerize us by our collective beauty. We told each other fairytales and they melded so perfectly with reality that we could no longer separate the two.  We teased each other and laughed. We learned the language of soul-speak and without a single word, absorbed the history around us, communing not only with our own selves but with those who had taken these very same steps before we had even inherited these bodies. We looked at old photographs and tombstones and knew we had been here before, many times.

At night, we shared our discoveries with our beloved and her smile became a reflection of our own.

We were me, and I am all of us.

I know, with the cells of my soul, I am in love with each of you and with the moon reflected in our eyes.

 

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*all photos by me. see more here

The Universe Inside Our Heart

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We sat in a circle.
Ten souls new to each other,
As old as the world.
The tears of the world flooded our eyes and our mouths.
We became a conduit for the suffering, and in turn,
The healing of the earth.
We sat in the darkness,
The rain challenging us to step up to the task.
And they came
By the thousands, they came
Checking us out,
Wanting to be a part of the conversation.
We let them in.
We held each other through the storm.
We lifted the curtains and
Entered beyond the veils.
We tasted immense beauty
And knew that our love was not enough
We can always (always!) love more.
So we sat with ourselves and each other.
We struggled with feeling alone and small.
We marvelled at our bigness.
We became immeasurable.
And we knew.
Beyond words, we understood.
It is our darkness that allows the light.
It is our light that stirs us to the knowing.
The entire universe is inside our heart.

We don’t know how lovely we are.
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Rehab for the Soul – A Step by Step Approach.

imgresAbout a month ago, I realized I’d been in the mud. My feet were sinking in just a bit deeper with each passing day. Nothing was wrong as such, but I felt stuck. I’d been there before. We all have. You know the place. Maybe for you it is sitting in front of your computer screen or your sheet of paper or your blank canvas. Maybe you’re facing the monotony of your kitchen cupboards. You’ve strayed from that intuitive creativity and the words and ideas are lost to you – for a while.

I’ve just been so busy. I hear the ridiculousness of the words as I say them. They feel shallow and weightless. I’ve been caught up in work and school and routine. I’ve been caught up in lack of routine too. I’ve walked around like a zombie. Sometimes I’ve tried to make eye contact, sometimes I’ve desperately avoided it. Looking around I’ve caught myself thinking ‘I just don’t get it’. And yet there I was amongst them; lost amongst us all. I’ve been tired. I’ve sat in front of the television knowing full well it was dulling me. If you’re sensitive like me, you can justify it – sometimes you need to be subdued and put to sleep.

And so the cycle went. Or so it goes. Some of the time.

During those few months, I caught myself trying to get off the ride. I stuck my hand out of the window of a moving car and said something brilliant but nobody heard it, not even me. I skimmed my fingers against the soft feathers of the dream catcher hanging by my bedroom window.
I realized my disconnect.
I longed to find the light again. I knew she was there, hiding behind the veil.

And so I went to the source.
I drank the medicine of the earth.
I pulled cards to clear my vision.
I burned sage and cedar and sweetgrass.
I listened to the messages; I heard them in the deepest corners of my heart’s heart.
I’m listening still, and navigating the beautiful cacophony – and the harmony, all at once – of my own song.
The lessons are for me. They are for you. They are for all of us.

First, become the hermit.

wings_in_solitudeIt’s time to incubate. Like a hamster caught in a wheel, you’ve been going nowhere except further away from your light. Take the time to stop. Say no and take a break from external activities for a while. Those who love you will understand and support you. Take a walk in the forest and pick some cedar. Soak in a warm bathtub full of the branches you’ve brought home and sing yourself a love song. Listen to the beauty of your own voice and the wisdom of the silence. Take the time to remember your self. Turn your energy inward and rediscover your magical inner beingness. In order to truly feel good, you must learn to occasionally retreat from everything and let yourself be replenished in solitude. Tune in to the rhythms of your heart, you breath, your life force. Welcome the pause. Renew your strengths.

Be open to what arises.

In your solitude, recognize your individual awareness and its connection to global consciousness. Give yourself permission to face your fears in order to shed them. Trust that you have a rightful place in this world, that your gifts are as bright as your heart. Be open to the inevitability of transformation, like a snake shedding it’s old skin and transmuting into a soft, shiny, new self. Let your inner mountain lion guide you back to your spirit. Listen to the buffalo from your dreams. He will answer your prayers and renew your grace. Reconnect with your inner teachers and embody every stage of relearning yourself.

Let go of your past. Thank it, bless it, but don’t carry it around so much. Trust that what truly belongs to you will always be available. Trust that your past is made up of memories that are meant to give way to an infinitely more fulfilling present. It’s time to wake up to a new direction – one where your fears and doubts no longer hold you back.

Welcome change.

Now that you’ve met yourself again, learn to go with the flow. Attune to your forces and allow the metamorphosis. There is no need to complicate things anymore. Once you are in harmony with your self, change becomes an ally and you can see it for what it is: perfection in action. Trust that every turn, every door that opens or closes, has the potential to make you shine brighter still. Allow each success and each failure to become great teachers. Know deeply that there is immense wisdom in not identifying too strongly with any of your experiences. The river is always flowing back to the sea. All you have to do is let her carry you.

Shine like the bright star that you are.

tumblr_ma3wskfMlB1rps2rbo1_500You’ve tuned in. You’ve listened. You’ve learned a few things. Now it’s time to hold your self in beauty, to walk with grace, to speak with openness, to give with generosity, to live in gratitude. Recognize that to give is a gift from the divine. Allow the life that is now freely pouring out of you to guide you. Let is show you how to pass on what you are constantly receiving. It is in the giving of yourself – back to your self as well as to others – that you will generate profound contentment and kindheartedness. Trust that your source is endless, that the earth is replenishing it, that the circle of giving and taking completes itself. Look up at the night sky and see your reflection as the brightest star. She will show you how brilliantly your heart shines. Let her remind you of your own gifts, whatever they may be. Know that your wealth is immeasurable.

Be the mother of air.

From the earth’s perspective, the air or the wind personifies the divine messenger. Step fully into self-awareness and trust your innate intelligence. Give yourself permission to be in self-respect, in inner strength, in clarity, in creativity, in courage. Be who you truly are, not who you should have been, could have been or are supposed to be. Be naked to the world. Drop your masks and vow to never pick them up again. This is the only way to fully return to your centre. If you listen with honesty, you will find you have the intrinsic courage to express yourself with unmistakable clarity. This does not mean pushing anyone out of your path. Instead, it means being kinder to your own heart. It means shedding those preconceived notions you have bought into. It means recognizing your own worth and acting accordingly. Honour, respect and take care of yourself in order to become an example of how others should treat you.imgres-1

How to Starve the Soul

mirror_messageI started school a few weeks ago. It has been quite a transition, getting used to reading and studying and retaining information again. Some days it hurts my brain, but I’m excited about the material and even more excited to start putting it into practice.
The thing is, I’m feeling a little vulnerable too. You see, I’m taking Holistic Nutrition.

My relationship to food has never been an easy one.

Apparently I was a picky eater as a kid. I didn’t like veggies, I didn’t like meat. I still remember sitting alone at the table after everyone else was done, trying to finish those last few bites. Rules were rules and I had to finish what was on my plate!

When I was old enough (14 was old enough, according to mom), I took the leap and became a vegetarian, but no one told me how to do it. I just ate whatever was served, minus the meat. It was the first time I was making my own rules around food, and that appealed to me. I started to experiment with tofu and veggie burgers and soy-dogs. And I started getting chubby. Those extra few pounds were only a small part of why I felt left out and alone in high school. I spent my days wrestling with this feeling of sadness I just couldn’t quite shake (or understand for that matter).

By the time I was 18, I was carrying around an extra 50 pounds. My self-esteem was shot which just seemed to exacerbate my food choices.

When I moved to Montreal, things continued to spiral. I was living in the most beautiful city in the world, surrounded by the most beautiful people (Montrealers are seriously HOT)! Inundated with beauty, all I could see in the mirror was ugly, fat, not quite likeable and just not smart enough. I hid behind baggy clothes. Every time I sat down with someone, I lifted my 5643293149_5c5fb85bdf shoulders up to my ears and forward a little so that my shirt would fall in the perfect way that would hide my stomach rolls a tiny bit. It didn’t matter what they looked like or how much they liked me, my friends were always thinner, prettier, smarter than I was. Always. And I still couldn’t shake the sadness that hung over me like a cloud.

That’s when I took my yoga practice to a new level. Though I still remember my 14 year old self in my very first yoga class, I had never committed to it in a serious way. I finally found a class that I wanted to go to regularly. We were only ever 4 or 5 students, which was enough for me to get over it and twist my flabby self into some seriously compromising poses.

And you know the story from there on… I was inspired to see myself differently, to learn about self-acceptance, to make healthier choices. Ah! The joys and rewards of being a yogi!

Except that’s not really how it happened.

The reality is that I still felt ashamed. I still felt sad. I still felt lonely.
I had already lost a few pounds when I decided to talk to my doctor. She told me I was fat, and I believed her. binging-isnt-a-good-coping-mechanism-so-why-do-i-do-it-21599033So I went to see a dietitian and I wrote down every bite of food I took. I made bargains with myself: have these fries for lunch, eat a pound of spinach for dinner. I ate low fat cheese, fake crab, fat free salad dressings, chemically seasoned rice cakes. I counted every calorie. I became obsessed with taking the weight off. And I did! It was working, and I could measure my worth through my size 4 pants. I was skinnier than I had ever been, and ever would be again…

When I finally ditched the food charts and the dietician, I managed to keep most of the weight off. I (thought I) ate perfectly – in public that is. I made low fat choices all day long. I vowed never to eat poutine or avocados again. But in the privacy of my home, I ate 20 cookies at a time. I finished whole bags of potato chips, walked to the street corner to hide the evidence and promised to have nothing but celery for the rest of the week. I didn’t realize at the time that I was starving my body from the fat that it needed to function properly, but I had enough sense to know that things were out of whack. There was so much shame attached to what I was doing that I couldn’t talk to anyone about it.

After traveling the world for a year eating delicious vegetarian foods, doing yoga in ashrams, orphanages and on beautiful beaches, I decided to make some serious changes. Again.

I moved to Toronto and made some amazing new connections. I was part of an incredible community of yogis, lived in a fantastic neighbourhood, biked everywhere I needed to go. Avocados became my new best friend. I discovered the wonders of coconut oil. I bought local, organic foods as much as possible. I continued to learn about how my food choices affected the world around me. I felt more satisfied. And from what my friends and family could see, I was the picture of happiness. Like a good yogi, I lived on almond milk and kale and hemp seeds.

2294352895_2cc833d639And yet I still felt sad and lonely. I knew I wasn’t speaking my truth. My throat was in a permanent state of tension; never allowing my voice to come through… I didn’t even know what I wanted – what I needed – to say. So I dealt with it the best way I knew how. I hid to eat doughnuts and cheese buns. When we’d buy cookies and they’d be gone the next day, I would lie to my boyfriend saying friends had been over for tea. I biked to places nobody knew me and bought fast food. I ate standing next to garbage cans so that I could get rid of the evidence as soon as I was done. Sometimes I felt full but still had dinner when I got home rather than explain that I’d already eaten. I hid it so well… I didn’t put any weight on because I was doing 3 hours of yoga a day, riding my bike to go to my teaching gigs, and taking spin class with my boyfriend in the evening. I was determined that no one find out. And though I didn’t realize it at the time, the food was a way to (literally) keep shoving down the sadness and the words that just didn’t know how to come out.

My boyfriend and I moved to Guelph. We bought a home. We were excited to start over again. I was opening a yoga studio! More proof that I was a true yogi! In that first year I had the house to myself. He had an interim job in the States, and I needed to be here so that I could make our home and put down roots.
Except the loneliness and the sadness came flooding back, hitting me from behind like a tidal wave. There was no way to escape here. No friends to have tea with, nowhere to hide from myself, and too much pride to reach out. So once more, I did what I knew how to do. I ate. urlI stuffed all of my emotions down with as much food as I could take in, and then I sat alone in the dark, holding my shame, my guilt, my aching belly and my many, many tears. I felt so incredibly ashamed.
I had all the books I needed on my shelves. I had helped students from my yoga classes with their eating disorders. I had pointed them in the right direction, given them the right practices, introduced them to services and people they needed, said all the right things. I couldn’t bare the shame and embarrassment of coming out with my little secret… Until one night, I binged so much I actually threw up. And it scared the shit out of me. That’s when I picked up the phone and made an appointment to talk to someone. The whole process didn’t take long, because I already new what to do. I was already awake, I had all the tools I needed under my belt. All that was necessary was a little push in the right direction. I realized quickly that my little dance with that ‘official’ eating disorder was a final attempt to repress my emotions a little further, to not look at the truth of who I was, the deep hurt I was holding, the feelings of being unseen, unheard. I was trying to push down my truth, not wanting to face what I wanted and needed in my life and what I was erasing about myself in order to fit into the picture of who I thought I should be.

So I threw out all those stupid magazines. You know, the ones that promise to show you how to ‘loose those pesky last 5 pounds’, or those that help you ‘master vrskchikasana in a few easy steps’. They made me feel like crap. They reminded me that I was never thin enough, pretty enough, organized enough, a good enough yogi… And instead of keeping my fridge and shelves free of temptation, I allowed myself to buy the cookies, the chocolate, the good cheese. And I ate them regularly. Whenever I had a craving I had a little piece and soon enough, I wasn’t craving them anymore. I started to learn – actually no, I started to remember – that it’s ok to have a treat, that there is no need to feel guilty or to hide, and that your body tells you what you need, if you listen. I remembered that the person in the mirror was actually my best friend, I had simply become estranged from her. In this process, I realized how much I had erased myself in those last 10 years, trying desperately to fit into a mold that I thought was ideal. I didn’t even know who I was anymore, I didn’t know what movies I liked, or what music I wanted to listen to… I had been making all these choices so that other people would like me, but I had completely forgotten how to like myself. A yoga teacher who doesn’t know who she is!? Talk about a shoemaker with bad shoes…

I’ve told you part of the story before. The bomb went off, my life changed in so many ways and so fast I could barely keep up. But I started to find my voice again. I started to get to know this sweet woman who’s been hiding inside me. I started to listen to her wisdom and her experience and her guidance. I saw her looking back at me in the mirror and I liked her more and more with each passing day. I allowed myself to do things I’d always held back from. They may seem insignificant to you, but saying ‘I would rather see this movie instead’ felt like an act of freedom and rebellion. I lost some people in the process, but found others that truly love me for who I am: people who support me, and encourage me, and laugh and cry by my side.

So why am I sensitive about the wonderful information I am learning in school right now? I am concerned because I don’t want to lose myself again. Food can be a trigger and a crutch. It has been for me in the past, and it has the potential to be one again. break-the-rules-in-life-quoteYet I know that the knowledge I am gaining has the power and potential to free me even more, and to help others break away from the grips of food and shame. What I have learned is that moderation is always best and when we start to make rules around anything, we inevitably end up wanting to break them. As I learn about the process of digestion and how foods affect us, I feel the pull… that temptation to make rules, to cut out certain foods: never eat sugar again, never drink water out of the tap. But here’s the thing. I know it’s a slippery slope. All I can do is remind myself to look in the mirror, admire my curvaceous body, smile at myself and be proud of the work I do, the studio I own, the words I write (whether or not anyone reads them. Ha!), the life I am creating.

I am still learning to let go of the guilt and the shame. I’m still learning to trust my voice. I’m still learning to get to know myself again. It’s amazing how much we change over the course of time and what an incredible gift it is to make friends with ourselves over and over again… In the process, my throat is feeling freer than it ever has, and the sadness is lifting. It’s still there and likely always will be, but I think that’s a good thing. Pema Chodron said that “the genuine heart of sadness can teach us great compassion”, that it is only through getting in touch with our deepest sadness that we can feel true happiness and act with loving kindness towards ourselves and others… So I choose to keep it in my heart: that wisdom-sadness, that love-sadness, that I-am-beautiful-in-my-truth-sadness. I choose to trust my darkness and my light. I choose to do the work and piece together my fragmented parts, to stay awake, and to eat kale, and hemp and chocolate cupcakes. original

is it spring yet?

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the equinox was just a few days ago, a reminder of the constantly shifting seasons and an opportunity to shed the heaviness and sow the seeds of light.
it’s cold and gray out today. it has been for a while now. but somehow i know spring is here.
or at the very least i feel it coming up inside of me, breaking through the silence.

i’ve been silent for a long time.
too long.
now i want to hear the sound of my own voice and share it with you.
i want to hear yours too and have a conversation.

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in the last few weeks i’ve taken some leaps of faith. i’ve decided to plant some seeds and let them flourish with the promise of spring.
i’ve been getting creative again.
i’ve been spending some time in the kitchen, falling in love again with dates and coconuts and my kick-ass new ninja blender.
i’ve decided to go back to my guitar lessons. i have this vision of me playing around a campfire. i’m singing some Beatle’s song and my long blond hair is flowing in the summer breeze… funny if you know me, curly dark hair and all.

in any case, i’ve been stepping out of my comfort zone and trusting that i will land well. i’ve been talking myself into doing things i’ve been tentative about in the past.
so last week, i sent in two articles to elephant journal and they’ve been published! it has been my own little success story (yay me!). it’s been a lesson in trusting that what i have to say is important… or, at the very least, interesting to some. (thanks for reading mom!)

so this small journey has lead me here. i wanted to create a place where i can write a few things and perhaps we can have a little conversation, do a little dance, spread a little love!

if you’d like to read what i’ve written, you can do it here:
the dichotomy of silence
and here:
moving train: now here bound

let me know what you think!
and tell me what seeds you are planting this spring.

xo