Learning to Love

p

​I’ve had the biggest fear of dogs and cats since I was young. I realised recently it’s because in their presence, I have no control. Don’t get me wrong – I wanted to love them. They’re so cuddly, loving and pure. I so yearned to pick them up and just hug.

But because we don’t speak the same language, don’t have the same brains, they could hurt me. They were seductive, wild and dangerous things. A dog could sense and misunderstand my fear for intentions to attack, and accidentally scratch or bite out of his fear. The cat, unable to say, “I want to play and not be held”, could scratch in her squirmy attempt to jump out of my arms and onto the couch.

And so for most of my life, I’ve missed out on the unique love and affection only a mindless animal, free of human inhibitions, can give. Even when I started getting used to kittens and puppies, I’d approach with extreme caution – and in my guarded manner, barely receive anything in return.

Until the day came, of course, when I couldn’t resist anymore the charms of the sweet kitten I live with – watching her follow me, chase her tail, and then accidentally bang into doors was simply too much for me. I had to hold this silly, adorable little angel. So for the first time, I picked a kitten up with the sole intention of cuddling and kissing her, loving fully, rather than half-way loving, half-way protecting myself.

In those brief seconds, my entire heart melted. I felt a deep love, but I also felt for the first time in my life from an animal, deeply, unconditionally loved from this tiny creature. I could feel how tiny she is, her rapid heartbeat underneath her soft white fluff, and realised she was just as vulnerable as I was. But she will still letting me hold her, despite the fact I was huge, just woke up, and looked and felt like a mess. Even if she scratched or bit, it wasn’t meant as an attack, but was simply her own form of self-protection from a larger creature she doesn’t understand.

It reminded me of the boasting ways of the flower from “The Little Prince”, when the Prince realises she simply boasts and acts cold as a means of protection – for she is so tiny and secretly aware of her own smallness in the vast flower world, so insecure, so afraid he too will realise how small she is one day and his love will go. That she wasn’t something to be annoyed by, angry at or, or afraid, but a beautiful little being to feel compassion for, just trying her best.

Did she end up scratching me? Yes, she did. She no longer wished to be held and wanted to be set free to further explore the big world that is the living room, so in her small paw’s attempts to climb out of my arms, accidentally scratched me along the way. But instead of freaking out and vowing to never hold her again, or if I do, going back to wearing armor, I simply let her go. I had some scratches, but they were tiny, and nothing in comparison to the deep intimacy I just experienced surrendering to this tiny creature.

She still scratches me sometimes. Every now and then the rare dog will growl at me as I walk past. But I don’t run across the street as I used to, or at least most of the time I don’t. Kitten’s taught me that that’s life. You can’t predict who’s going to hurt you, and neither can you always control that. Scratches sometimes comes with love, but most of the time, those scratches and bites are a form of self-protection as a result of miscommunication and differences.

Does that mean you run away or shut off a part of yourself from the experience? No, because then you lose much more than you gain.

I got scratched, but I also got a glimpse of the best part of my own human nature and life: what it’s like to be yourself, with all your fears, in your ugly pajamas with no make up, procrastinating and messing it all up, and still be hugged, seen. The sweetness of a little creature looking up at you with big eyes, terrified of you, knowing you could kill her, not understanding your language, your brain, your ways, but still trusting you enough to let you cuddle her. Her love, giving me hope in an otherwise cruel world.

 So I surrender now, and let my kitty sometimes scratch and be mad at me. (She gives cold shoulders, I close the door because I’m busy/stressed and she wants kissies etc…) But then we work it out (she snuggles into my lap, I walk downstairs and give her extra attention) , because the love means more – and is worth more – than any of those fears.

In a word or two, the kitten’s taught me how to love.

kittysheena
Originally wrote in 2014
Advertisements

I am a bigot.

A professor once told me the first, and the most important, step in eradicating racism, sexism, gender role oppression etc…is to first acknowledge it in yourself and constantly work on it. Whether it’s you acting or thinking in a discriminatory manner towards others, or yourself, we all have prejudices somewhere within us. How can we not? Our histories and lives are filled with all types of prejudice; even saints or respected figures had them ie Gandhi, Mother Teresa, MLK, Nelson Mandela etc…Mandela himself owned up to that.

So I’m always uncomfortable around self-righteous types who point the finger a lot but never look at themselves. When people judge too much, I wonder what they are repressing and thus projecting. I don’t trust them. I think most don’t, hence we roll our eyes at “do-gooders” sometimes. Many don’t feel they’re coming from an authentic place because they are not – they are annoyingly, hypocritically “holier than thou” acting out roles rather than being themselves, and coming from an honest, inspired, heart-filled place. The ones who are legit, however, like Mandela – we feel inspired by.

I get it because I was once like that myself – not just with societal issues but personally – until I realized I was so motivated by fear and sometimes societal definitions of “good”, “acceptable” “perfect”, I wasn’t really growing or self-actualizing as a person. I felt so trapped. And like a disgusting hypocrite, I was afraid others would find out the darker side of me, the side that believed more in certain prejudices or was weaker than I would outwardly convey.

Honestly, because I was like that, I thought everybody was too – politically correct, perfect beings on the outside, but not so much on the inside. I felt pretty bitter, guilty, and inferior – a huge fraud. But to admit this would make me look bad, so I tried to pretend these things weren’t there. I was so ashamed, but I had no way to communicate or deal with it, so I projected it outwards and got even angrier and judgmental of others. And I most likely alienated and turned off more people.

Now I’m more self-aware and comfortable in my own skin, I’m not like that anymore, or at least am not most of the time. And I’ve noticed now in my own life – and others experiences – that people tend to listen to and respect those who have the courage to own up to their intolerance than those who are always angry and fail to look in a mirror. Judgment, labels, self-righteousness, the words “You are so this and this”, “People, or this group, are sheep, lazy, complacent, dumb, ignorant, self-absorbed” doesn’t really do a whole lot when trying to resolve issues. It just creates shame and guilt, and as anybody with an understanding of psychology knows, those are the exact emotions people do anything to avoid – and thus will avoid anything that triggers it off, whether through avoidance or anger.

A lot of people are generally loving and caring, willing to listen, learn, grow, and change when you communicate to them from a down to earth, humble, understanding, problem-solving way/approach. Or at least that is my experience and observations. It’s just all about honest communication and self-awareness.

Painting Away Pain

Painting another canvas as a form of meditation. I’m trying to teach myself to focus on the process vs outcome – to relax and enjoy the journey – as I create both art and my life. So many self-critical thoughts emerge but once the brush hits the canvas, my mind goes blank and surrenders. Painting away old pain, you could say.

Visit my Etsy shop to view more designs like these and buy when the canvas is done: https://www.etsy.com/shop/HerSoulExpression. You can also email me at hersoulexpression@gmail.com if you wish to make a purchase.

From my soul to yours,

Sheena

Green Sky

I wrote this last year during a stressful time I feared losing a loved one. I stumbled upon it again today and was grateful for the reminder.

10305427_10154743899310160_510614814176688720_n

I went for a walk. It’s been a hard week. I needed guidance.

An hour later, my search led me back to where I began – nowhere. I found nothing.

Defeated, I stood still.

Surrendering, I bared my heavy heart to the heavens, looking up only to find a green sky.

In the Hindu tradition, green is the color of the heart chakra.

Gently, Rumi’s “only through the heart can you touch the sky” whispers to me. I smile and understand.

Be still. Go in. Stop running to the outside. Face your heart and let her speak. Let her break, so that she may break open to receive love. There lies your answer.

Love is always the answer.

Letter to a Stranger: Published in The Elephant Journal

EJ Dear Stranger 500x500

http://www.elephantjournal.com/2015/02/letter-to-a-stranger/

Dear Stranger,

I don’t care about you—I care about You.

I don’t care about the small you that you think you are, that volatile sense of self the world has fed you, where you’re riding high on greatness one day and in the dumps the next, feeling abandoned by all. Your friends, like the 15 minutes of fame, adoration, societal approval, gone the next moment when the feelings fade, and something better walks along.

I don’t care who you are in relation to everybody else—the status you may hold, the money you may have, your looks, the influence, or even whether or you’re considered a “good” or “bad” person. I don’t care if you’ve gone to jail or if you’ve just won the Nobel Peace Prize. I don’t care about what the world thinks of your potential, or lack thereof. I don’t care how far along or behind you are on the rat race, how together you seem.

I care about You, the you with a capital “y,” and who you are now as you journey through the paths that life bring at whatever pace you may need.

I like you for who you are now, not what you can be—although I know that you are capable of so much. I care about your heart, that fragile beautiful diamond whose value has not always been recognized in this cold, shut down world with all its messed up priorities and ways.

I care about that heart pain, about how it’s broken pieces feed your mind’s lies that you are not worthy, not loved, not enough, and I wish I could take them away. I care about those memories that shattered your innocence and belief in the world and yourself, in the beauty of your dreams, and I wish I could erase them all.

I care about that moment your heart closed—when he abandoned you, when she said no, when the fist met your face, when they laughed at you, degraded you, insulted you, or simply did not notice you. And I wish, I so wish, I could have been there, to catch your fall. I care about the child you used to be, how the world wasn’t there for that kid.

How the world now judges you for the physical manifestation of those mental scars when what you really need, when all you ever needed, is/was love.

I wish I could apologize on behalf of everybody.

I care about your soul and essence, the million tiny beautiful and not-so-beautiful things that make up the story of your life and the masterpiece you are. I believe in you and your innocence. I believe in second chances, that the burn was not the end but simply a part of the necessary fire in the never-ending growth of your phoenix soul.

In short, stranger, I believe in You. I love You.

If there is one thing you must take from this it is this: there is at least one person in this world who doesn’t give damn whether you’re the most successful, beautiful, together person in the world or that the only thing you accomplished today was getting out of bed. Who doesn’t care what the world might think, or what you’ve done, how many mistakes you’ve made, how many you’ve hurt out of your own in pain.

She still believes in you. She still loves you. She believes in your light, your purity, always.

You are loved.

Making the Struggle Count for Something Beautiful

Screen Shot 2015-02-09 at 6.16.01 PM

Today I felt quite soft and vulnerable so I doodled on a seashell and my hand for a few minutes. Still felt sad after but at least the pain was used to make beauty. I was glad for that. Because sometimes that’s all we can ask of life. That even if happiness is impossible to permanently hold onto, just make the struggle count for something beautiful. No matter how small.

And so today I am sad and scared and uncertain. But these little doodles, insignificant to all but my soul, saved the day. Because while I’m not happy, it meant something – namely that there’s more to life than being happy. There’s meaning, there’s beauty.

Maybe that’s enough.

Through the Fall, We Fly

Screen Shot 2015-01-16 at 8.09.16 PM

They told me to walk following the arrows and signs of other’s streets
Don’t look down, just up
And so I listened and I swallowed your maps and I looked both ways and up and up – what a good girl! – I even ran to get there faster faster faster
Following all the directions, running the race, ran ran ran

Until I fell into the forbidden Down
And stared it straight into its face
Only to find in that loud silence my voice once more
An xo and an arrow
Love now the guide, not you

Why didn’t they ever tell us that down there lies the true path we’d all been looking for?

-Through the fall, we fly

Let Go – Glimpses of Doodles I am Working On


Screen Shot 2014-03-18 at 7.44.42 AM

Every time I create one of these doodles, I feel like I am lifted into this stunningly beautiful space where I am deeply in touch with my feminine, the Indian in me, my playful inner child. My thoughts go silent and my heart takes over. The more I delve into this space, it’s like a cleansing and I can see who I am – a spiritual practice more powerful for me than meditation even. Somehow, my doodles are helping me metamorphose from caterpillar to butterfly.

That is pretty funny to me as these are feelings I searched again and again for in philosophy and spiritual books and teachers – really, in every domain of my life – yet somehow I am finding them by allowing myself to simply…doodle. I constantly ask myself questions like: How do I re-connect with my true self and intuition? Live a life that is calm, free, creative, playful and not stressed and like it belongs to somebody else? Joyful and fulfilled? Feminine and passionate?

Screen Shot 2014-03-18 at 7.44.55 AM

Then like a serious student and adult, I’d grab at every serious book or teacher on the subject I could find, or work, relationships, etc…I’d get mad at myself when my focus would stray elsewhere to the doodles on my journal. and other seemingly unimportant tasks. “Pay attention! This is serious work to help you connect with your true self, understand life, and embrace your purpose etc…” I’d sternly command to myself, only to find myself resisting even more. Until it dawned me a few months ago that this voice of resistance was not the problem but the solution – this is the voice of my inner child and true self screaming at me to get real and surrender.

So I started to allow myself to doodle and just “resist”. And I realized: How do I become playful? Drop the control. How do I listen to my intuition? Drop the control. How do I live a life of passion? Simple – just let yourself. You are already full of passion. People tell me that all the time. See it. Feel. Accept it.

Screen Shot 2014-03-18 at 4.34.17 PM

.Screen Shot 2014-03-18 at 7.44.31 AM

There is no need for so much serious speculation all the time – just play and live. I am realizing more and more nowadays it’s the adult in me that sometimes is more of hindrance to my life and happiness than anything. It’s the inner kid in me that is my true self and vibrant and beautiful – she has something gorgeous to express and she shined magnificently when she was younger, before certain painful experiences and the superficial world’s limiting beliefs got in the way. From my doodles, I am learning that the more I get aligned with her and listen to her, the more my life flows.

Funny how it is the  most seemingly insignificant, tiny things that are often the catalyst for great transformation if only we’d slow down and awaken to it.

Screen Shot 2014-01-11 at 9.36.35 PM

Peace through becoming, not fighting: India’s Independence Day

GandhiRusselSquareSheena

Gandhi used to sit and study in this area as a young student. I like to just reflect here with a coffee sometimes, pondering not necessarily him – he was both a deeply loved and controversial man, and I don’t like to put people on pedestals – but his ideas and what he represents: non-violence. Peace. Grace confronting the worst of humanity. And winning.

“We must be the change we wish to see in the world” floats through my mind, as does an “eye for eye makes the whole world blind”. Especially poignant and ironic words given that across this very street, a bus was bombed that fateful day July 7, 2005 by Al Qaeda.

For me, India’s Independence Day is more than just another holiday. It stands out from America’s Independence Day because August 15, 1947 doesn’t commemorate a battle between good and evil, like how the American Revolution eventually led to independence from the colonizer.

India’s Independence Day is a day that symbolizes the triumph of humanity over our darker, broken shadow sides. There was literally no resistance. It was simply the surrender, the embodiment of peace rather than the ironic fighting for it, that helped melt away “evil.”

Peace helping wash away the walls that harden us as humans, leading to liberation. Achieving peace through becoming, not fighting.

Peace as the way to peace.

Words for both the inner and outer world to ponder.

Happy Independence Day, India.