14 February 2017

Reflections on Assertiveness as a Yoga Teacher


I had a rather tough day in my life as a yoga teacher. I experienced situations in which I had to be assertive and others didn’t receive it well. I felt pressure to justify my decisions, my thoughts and actions and was even indirectly implied to be inflexible in my approach to things.

It’s funny, if it were the corporate world I was working in, despite the sexist challenges of being a woman, I would have still been encouraged by the company to be even more assertive. e.g. telecom companies don’t take it lightly when you miss a bill payment, exceed your data threshold or run out of credit. It is because this is yoga and and it is in the field of care, consciousness and mindfulness, there is an assumption that as teachers we have to give up parts of ourselves to others, and that we are not entitled to being assertive, which is not true, from my perspective, for several reasons;

Firstly, teaching yoga is my job, which I commit to and am disciplined in to the best of my capacity. I expect the people I engage with to also be committed and disciplined in order for us to have a mutual ground to work together. This commitment and discipline takes the shape of non-written and written terms of a “code of conduct”.

Secondly, as dry and unemotional as it sounds, when I run a class I am running a business and not a charity. It has to make business sense. Yes, rates, timings, terms and conditions are set in major consideration to customer needs and behaviour, and at the same time, equally important, they take into consideration the business aspect as well as the employee and employers, so businesses do not fully and completely revolve around customers. The phrase, “the customer is always right” is misleading and inaccurate. Professional relationships, like all relationships, are governed by chemistry. Certain business models suit certain customers, and some don’t. If either party is uncomfortable with a setup, they either adapt accordingly or seek what they require elsewhere.

Yet the most important reason why I stick to being assertive when needed is because I am simply entitled to, without an ounce of guilt. My needs, my wants, my time and effort are utterly valuable. I am fully entitled to, if not even obligated towards myself, to put myself first. Always. Always. Always.

Even when I am doing a job that is of service to others, if I don’t put myself first, I have nothing to offer people. It may be judged, it may be perceived as selfish or rigid, yet it’s the bare, honest truth. In a society where we are pressured to shy away from giving ourselves the attention we deserve, what I reflect on may be difficult to digest and accept. Yet there’s no space to be shy about loving and caring about myself. As flexible, adaptive and lenient as I believe I need to be, I need to be equally strong, steady and stable.

Claiming one’s rights doesn’t deprive anyone of anything. When I claim my rights, I am empowering myself, I am accepting that I deserve what’s good for me. I am creating space to receive abundance. And the universe is a magical place, because this universe is infinitely abundant.

xx,
Amal

04 February 2017

Dare

Do you have the courage
To loosen these mouldy ropes
That chain us to our minds
Do you dare chop them off?

Do you have the courage
To take a stroll with me
Along the edges of the valleys of my wounds
Do you dare
Stare at that rotting bitterness with me
And scatter jasmines and rosewater over it,
Cleanse it
Bless it?

Do you have the courage
To play with me
Do we dare
Swing from one game to another
Laugh at ourselves
Remind ourselves
How trivial we are
How much like monkeys we sway
How existence is futile, pointless, aimless,
How the best thing we can do
Is throw our heads back in laughter
In an act of rebellion
Ridicule the drama,
Laugh at the whole story!

Do we have the courage
To flung the doors of our hearts open
Do we dare
Receive the vast golden sun rays
Allow them to spread
Through our chests
In all directions
In all dimensions
Wash us over
Fill us with love
Nourish us with content

Do you dare
Be happy?

Do we dare
Surrender?

Do I dare
Just be?

Amal
Feb 2017/Dec2015

06 January 2017

I am free


I am free
I am liberal
I am liberated
I belong to no sect,
No dogma of faith
No school
No people.

I am mine
I am all's
I am unlabelable,
Uncontrollable,
Uncontainable.

I follow no rules
Everything is valid
All is possible,
The imaginable and the unfathomable.

The grand universe is my lungs
Through it I breathe,
A world of my dreams
Weaved by pure fantasy.
The cosmos is my warm sea to swim in,
My vast room to sway and dance,
The infinite space to expand into.

I am everywhere
Everywhere is in me
I am all the Love there is
For It resides in me
The Essence of the Divine.

Om Namo Narayani.

amal - Dec 2016

01 November 2016

Plump Arms. Clear mind.


I might have finally gotten there. Or reached close to where I wanted to be. So I thought after I had seen the reflection of my plump arms on a glass window as I was strolling around Adliya last night, and thought, “eh, look!”, and that was it, an acknowledgement of my plump upper arms, followed by zero judgement, nothing, nada.

Today, I have a confession to make; for quite a while, as a practitioner of yoga, I judged my body; I took pride when it “looked” fit and sabotaged myself whenever I looked more full. Being a yoga teacher didn’t help much initially, I struggled from time to time as I compared my body to those of fellow “slim” teachers, and my practice and style of teaching to theirs. The body can be a distraction sometimes, I see now, as we strive towards a calmer space in our lives.

I spill more beans; my personal practice varies greatly; some days I only practice breathing, some days I only meditate, some days I just do a few Sun Salutations, some days I mix it up, some days I just stretch in bed, some days I practice online with other teachers, some days I just lie down in Savasana, and some days I can’t stand the thought of unrolling my mat. Every month, when I am on my period, I often go for 4-5 days without practice, and it is lovely, because by day five I start to yearn for being on the mat. I try to set some “discipline” in my practice and stick to a regular form of practice, but I get bored, and respecting my daily-and-ever-changing nature and responding to what complement it is stronger and more truthful to me than doing something regularly for the sake of doing it.

During my Level 1 yoga teacher training, I was reminded over and over again to be authentic. That was the number one tip. Today I find myself sticking strongly to that as a guide, thus my personal practice reflects on what and how I teach. In class, some days we do more breathing, some days we sweat more, some days we chant more and some days we dance. This works for some people, and it doesn’t work for many, and it is ok. My mission, I figure, is to attempt to find inner peace within me, and share my path with others to the best of my ability and in the most truthful way I am capable of. Hence, when I look at the big picture, the plumpness and my body becomes insignificant, trivial.

If I want proof that what I am doing is beneficial, it is that my mind is calm, I am able to think clearly and lovingly, I am able to feel what I feel and then get over it, that my thoughts, words and actions are loving, and when they are not, I am aware of it.

“The body is just a vehicle”, I think I am finally starting to really comprehend what that means. Having awareness, being conscious, being guided by love, surrendering to what is, this is key. Everything else is furniture.


Om Namo Narayani.

Love,

Amal Jaffar

30 September 2016

رحلة الإستسلام وتسليم النفس

درمشالا، شمال الهند
Original Article in English
رحلة "الإستسلام وتسليم النفس"

خلال هذه الفترة من العام الماضي، كنت قد بدأت أشعر بمزيج من الألم واليأس والإنكسار، حيث وجدت نفسي في مواقف متتالية تحطم "الأنا" في داخلي. وفي غضم تجربتي الصعبة، كان أهم ما "أنقذني" وساعدني هو أن أستسلم وأسلم نفسي. فقد أدركت أنه ليس هناك داعي لأمتلك السيطرة التامة على مجريات حياتي دائماً، وليس هناك داعي لأكون دائماً في مكان يمنحني الراحة أو الاستقرار بشكل تام، وليس هناك داعي لأن تجري الأمور دائماً وفق مخططاتي أو رغباتي. فعندما أتخلص من دور "المسؤول" وأسلم أمري، يبدو أنني في الوقت ذاته أرحب بما يقدمه الكون لي من هدايا جميلة تفوق التوقعات، وأسمح لنفسي بأن أستقبلها وأستلمها وأستمتع بها.


في الوقت ذاته، لا أنكر بأن الطريق عبر وإلى "الإستسلام تسليم النفس" قد يكون وعراً ومزيناً بالعقبات، خصوصاً عندما يتدخل "العقل" أو "الأنا" ويثرثر بصوت عال. سألتني إحدى الصديقات مؤخراً سؤالاً بسيطاً إنما جوهرياً: كيف أمارس "تسليم النفس"؟ كيف يمكنني أن أخفف من محاولة سيطرتي على الأمور وأسمح للعالم بأن يأخذني إلى أي مكان؟


وكانت إجابتي كالتالي:


التقليل من الخوف
تتمثل أحد أبرز العقبات التي تواجهنا في هذه الرحلة في التخلص أو التقليل من الشعور بالخوف، وأعني هنا الخوف من فقدان الأشياء والناس والهوية والشعور بالأمن، الخ، والخوف من التعرض للأذى، والخوف من التغيير، والخوف من المجهول، والخوف من عدم مقدرتنا على التعامل مع ما نخشاه. وهذا الخوف - للأسف وبصراحة - عادة ما نرثه بشكل أساسي من قبل أمهاتنا وآبائنا، والذين من منطلق المحبة والإهتمام، يواصلون إسقاط خوفهم علينا حتى بعد أن نكبر في العمر ونخوض تجارب الحياة بأنفسنا. وعلى الرغم من وجود سبب وجيه لتوظيف درجة من الخوف عندما كنا أطفالاً، فنحن على الأغلب لم نعد بحاجة إلى ذلك كأشخاص بالغين.


ففي الكبر، يعمل الخوف بمثابة "درع عاطفي" نرتديه لحماية أنفسنا من التعرض للألم أو الأذى، ولكنه في المقابل يحجب المشاعر والتجارب والفرص والقدرة على مشاركة المحبة وتبادلها. وكما ينصحنا المتحدث والمؤلف العالمي "ماكس ستروم" والذي يسترسل في كتابه (A Life Worth Breathing) في شرح فكرة "الدرع العاطفي"، فليس هناك داعي لنا، ككبار وبالغين، أن نواصل ارتداء هذا الدرع.


الشعور والتقبل
في محاولتنا لتقليل مخاوفنا، من المفيد جداً أن نسمح لمشاعرنا وأفكارنا بأن تكون موجودة، ونتقبلها دون أن نحكم عليها أو نقسو على أنفسنا بسببها، لأنها ببساطة جزء من التجربة الإنسانية التي نمر بها، ومن الأفضل أن نعبر عنها في بيئة رحبة ودافئة بدلاً من أن نقمعها. قد يبدو الأمر متناقضا، ولكن عندما نسمح لأنفسنا بأن نشعر ونحس، فإننا نصبح أقوى.


يمكننا أن نبدأ من خلال الإستماع لأنفسنا ولصوتنا الداخلي بمحبة، والتعبير عن أفكارنا ومشاعرنا من خلال التحدث عنها أو الكتابة أو الرسم أو أي وسيلة إبداعية أخرى. كما يمكننا أن نسمح لأنفسنا بأن نتشاركها مع الآخرين ممن نحب ونثق بهم، إذا كنا نشعر بالراحة في ذلك.


قطرة في المحيط
من المهم أن ندرك - لأنها حقيقة ثابتة - أن الكون يسير والحياة تمضي بشكل جيد من دون أن نتدخل في كل التفاصيل. قد تبدو هذه الفكرة كئيبة للبعض، أما بالنسبة لي شخصياً فإنني أشعر أنها تخلصني من عبء ليس بالضرورة علي تحمله. فكم من وقت وجهد نصب في أمور لا نؤثر فيها إلا قليلاً، وكم من مرة نظن أننا على علم بما هو الأفضل لنا فتفاجؤنا الأحداث بما يفوق توقعاتنا. إن محاولة السيطرة على كل شيء هي محاولة غير مجدية، وليس كل منا سوى جزء صغير من عالم واسع وبالغ التعقيد والاتصال، حيث كل شيء يؤثر على كل شيء. وعلى الرغم من أن لدى كل منا دور صغير نلعبه، لسنا سوى قطرات في بحر واسع المدى وبالغ العمق.


أحد التحديات هنا هو أن معظمنا يعتقد بأنه على علم بما هو الأفضل لمصلحته الشخصية. وقد يكون هذا صحيحا إلى حد ما، لأن هناك دائما مساحة لتطويرأنفسنا وإيجاد سعادة وراحة أكبر في حياتنا. وعملية تطوير الذات هي عملية مستمرة وممتعة إن شئنا لها أن تكون كذلك، ولكن المشكلة تأتي عندما نعتقد بأننا نعلم ما هو الأفضل للآخرين ونعطي أنفسنا الحق في إنتقادهم أو إسداء النصائح لهم أو حتى إعطائهم الأوامر في الأحيان. ويزداد الأمر صعوبة عندما نكون في موقع مسؤولية أو من المتوقع منا أن نكون ذو حكمة، كما في حالة الأم أو الأب أو الزوجة أو الزوج، وتكون بعض الأمور بالفعل تحتاج إلى جهد وتدخل ورأي منا، إنما بعد نقطة معينة لا يعد الأمر في أيدينا ولا بالضرورة يعنينا. عند تلك النقطة تنتهي حدود مسؤوليتنا، وينفتح أمر الشخص على المحيط الشاسع الذي يشكله الكون. وهنا من المفيد أن نتذكر أن نسمح للناس - مهما كانوا أقرباء منا - أن يكونوا كما يريدون بغض النظر عن مدى إختلافهم عنا، دون أن نحكم عليهم أو ننتقدهم أو نعاقبهم. فعندما ندع الناس يكونوا كما يشاؤون، نتعلم نحن بدورنا أن نكون كما نشاء.


الإيمان
إن "تسليم النفس" أمر يتطلب درجة من الإيمان، وليس بالضرورة أن يرتبط هذا الإيمان بدين أو فلسفة معينة، إنما قد ينبت من قيم شخصية مرسخة في جذور الشخص. فالبعض يسلم نفسه لفكرة القدر، والبعض يسلم نفسه لربه، والبعض يختار أن يتخيل أنه قطرة في بحر هذا الكون بكل ما فيه، والبعض "يسلم نفسه" عندما يشعر أنه متصل بالكل عن طريق المحبة أو المادة الفيزيائية أو الإنسانية. ومن ناحية عملية هناك تمرين يجدي نفعاً لدى تعاملنا مع شخص أو موقف صعب، أو شعورنا بالعجز تجاه فهم أمر ما أو التعامل معه، وهو أن نردد لأنفسنا "أسلم نفسي لهذ الموقف/هذه التجربة/هذا الشخص". ولكل منا طريقته في ممارسة معتقداته بالشكل الذي يراه، وهنا يكمن الجمال، في تعبيرنا عن أنفسنا والعيش وفقا لما يريحنا.


هنا. الآن. النعيم.
رحلة "الإستسلام وتسليم النفس" بالنسبة لي كانت ولا تزال رحلة جميلة تجلب شعوراً عميقاً بالرضا وسعادة تعلمت إنني أستحقها وألا أخشاها. أن "نسلم أنفسنا" لا يعني أن نكون خنوعين أو ضعفاء أو سلبيين أو بليدين، على العكس، فإنه يعني أن نقبل كل ما تأتينا الحياة به بصدر رحب وبإيجابية ومحبة وامتنان، أن نرى كم نحن محظوظين ومباركين لمرورنا بتجارب الحياة مهما اختلفت، بمصاعبها وأفراحها، وأن نتذكر بأن هناك دائماً مجال لازدهار المحبة في العالم الذي بداخلنا والعالم الذي بخارجنا.


محبتي،
أمل جعفر

23 September 2016

When I Surrendered to You

 

When I surrendered to you
I surrendered to the universe,
And here we are
Now
In this place, these places,
Being
The most beautiful versions
Of our divinity luminous selves.

There is much silence in here
I don’t have much to talk about
My tongue seems to only want to
Listen
As if it was born to do just so
Listen..

And I..
I am a wave in the ocean that we are
That is..

And you..
You dance in your ways, with all that you are
Mesmerising..

I procrastinate in my sentences..
This present moment is profoundly compelling..
My words need not weave themselves into any fantasy
My imagination need not play
I don’t need to..
I don’t need to write a poem..
I have very little desire to do so
I observe, a witness to this..
I am the poem
You are the poem
We are divine poetry
And into the sparkling magic of poetry
We dissolve..
We surrender..


amal - Aug 2016

Kiss Your Feet

Kiss your feet
Hug yourself
Rub your belly
Taste your lips
Feel your heart
Trace the love in your in-breath
Shower yourself with your out-breath
Make love
To you
To your every cell alive
Be

amal - Sep 2016

09 September 2016

Divine Periods

  
I believe that periods are magical.

Before you start screaming at me in your head, I must say that I understand that this may sound like some hippie yoga fluff, but please do read on. You can comment once you're done reading.

I believe that periods are magical. I find the process of each phase of the monthly menstrual cycle amazing and I feel blessed to have a body capable of such intelligence. My period reminds me of how divine my physical body is, as well as how strong and simultaneously fragile it is.


Perhaps I am also blessed to have, for most of my life, experienced periods with minimal cramps, though at many times the emotional stress, trauma and drama was almost crippling. Thankfully, the more I delved into my yoga practice, the less severe the premenstrual symptoms were, and the more awareness I was grateful to develop towards my body, emotions and even thought patterns.


My Prenatal Yoga teacher, Lina Ma, once mentioned that perhaps many of us feel sad right before our periods because at some level our body has figured out that we are not pregnant this month. Maybe a more physiological version of that would be that the body had spent the biggest chunk of its cycle preparing and chugging hormones for conception to take place, then it doesn’t happen and there’s some kind of chaos to let the uterine lining be pushed out of the body and the hormones back in order.


On a related note, menstrual cups are useful tools to help us get more in touch with our cycles, bodies and emotions. Not only do we get to examine the shedding more closely, but they also teach us to accept and embrace a part of us that is often looked at as “dirty”, and that we can easily just ignore otherwise. You really do get intimate with your own blood. This is how I noticed that on the third day of my cycle, which is usually the heaviest in flow, I feel the lowest. In addition, I have more pronounced cravings and feel over attached. I want more attention and more food and I find it difficult to accept distance and space. My tendency to resist detachment shows clearly. All of this makes me contemplate all those things I need to allow to flow out of me as the blood flows out out through my cervix; stress, sadness, fears, toxic thoughts, toxic behaviour, toxic possessions, etc.


In the Hindu culture, the goddess “Kali”, who represents Mother Nature, the Divine Feminine, courage, strength and empowerment, is also associated with the days of menstruation, she captures the energy of that phase of the cycle. Kali is said to take all the darkness away and cleanses us, she [destroys only to recreate, and what she destroys is sin, ignorance and decay. She is equated with the eternal night, is the transcendent power of time]*.


Perhaps I don’t agree with many cultures that consider a woman in her period as “impure” and cast her away till she is done, but I would also say that in light of the cleansing process that seems to be happening during that time, we deserve to take the time to go inwards and contemplate what’s going on, in whatever way we see fit.


Our bodies are amazing and the observation of what they are capable of can be very insightful once we start to pay attention. As a woman, I truly feel blessed to be able to experience my cycle monthly -effortlessly and without much interference or action from me- and have that as a chance to learn more about myself and improve areas that need attention.


May we all be blessed with love and kindness, to ourselves before anyone else. May we all treasure the miracles that we are. May there be peace. May there be peace. May there be peace.


Love,
Amal

*(source unknown)

20 August 2016

Road to Surrender


Upper Dharamkot, Dharamshala, India
النص بالعربي

Last year, almost around this time, I was beginning to feel broken, hurt, abandoned, and almost hopeless. I found myself in ego-shattering situations, one after the other. The biggest thing that "saved me" and helped me get through was to surrender, to realise I don't always have to be in control. I don't always have to be in my comfort zone. Things don't always have to go according to my plan or wish. When I let go of trying to "be in charge", when I surrendered, it seems that I have welcomed the universe to deliver its gifts (ones beautiful beyond expectation), and myself to be open enough to receive them.

Having said that, I must say that the road of, and to, surrender can be rather rocky, especially when the ego-mind chatters loudly. One of my friends recently asked me a simple question; “How did you surrender, how do you stop that need to be in control and just let the world take you wherever?” This was my answer;

Diminish Fear
One of the main things preventing us from surrender is fear. Fear from losing (things, people, a sense of security, our identities, etc), fear from being hurt, fear from change, fear from the unknown, fear from not having what it takes to deal with that which we fear, etc.. This fear is mainly inherited and passed on to us (and sometimes still trying to be shoved down our throats) by our parents, bless them. Although there might have been a valid reason to practice a degree of fear when we were children, we no longer need that fear.

Fear functions here basically as an emotional "shield" that we wear to "protect" ourselves from being exposed (ref to Max Strom, A Life Worth Breathing, where he elaborates about the emotional “armor”), but it also works to block in feelings and block out experiences, opportunities and love.

Be Vulnerable
While we try to diminish our fears, one of the things we can do is allow ourselves to be vulnerable. All emotions are valid, all thoughts are valid and are part of our human experience. They are much better provided a chance to be expressed (preferably in a welcoming and compassionate environment, with us accepting ourselves fully) than suppressed. It may sound paradoxical, but when we allow our chance to be vulnerable, we are stronger.

We can start by allowing ourselves to be vulnerable between us and ourselves, then expand to also allow ourselves to be vulnerable around others, particularly those we love and trust. I sometimes visualize being vulnerable as having a wound and looking at it with love and compassion rather than hiding it, and showing it to a loved one to also provide love and compassion, without fear of the wound hurting more. We can practice being vulnerable simply by expressing ourselves, through talking, writing, painting, any creative form, or simply by accepting our thoughts and feelings without judgement.

A Drop in the Ocean
Another point is realising -because it IS a fact- that the whole world can survive and function well without our complete interference. We actually have very little control over how our lives progress. All that time we spend trying to be in control is futile, almost like struggling with a gigantic solid wall, because no matter what we do, we are but a tiny part of a vast, massively and complexly connected world. Everything affects everything, and even though we have a tiny role to play in how things go, we are but a drop in a sea.

One of the challenges here is that we think we know what's best for us, which we might, yet the universe keeps surprising us (me at least!) with experiences that we initially resist that turn out to be the "better" best things that ever "happened" to us. So if we don't even know what’s really “best” for us, we definitely don't really know what's best for others. This can be particularly difficult if we are assuming a role of control and/or wisdom, especially when you are a parent or spouse, because you are in a position of responsibility. There are some matters that require our effort, indeed, but after a certain point they are no longer in our hands. At a certain point, the borders of our responsibility end, they open up to the vast ocean that the universe is, which we are but a drop in. This is also a good reminder to let people be, to judge others less and accept people more, regardless of how “different” they are to us. When we let people be, we also learn to let ourselves be.

Faith
Surrendering to the “ocean” requires a degree of faith. This faith doesn’t have to be religious or affiliated with any particular philosophy. To "surrender" we need to surrender to something/someone. For me personally, my faith is in this big cosmic ocean that we are merely drops in, and what reminds me to keep the faith is "signs" I get from my guru, teachers, friends, strangers, animals, situations, sort of like road signs that resonate with my deeply rooted values.

I personally feel connected to all through love, and this love is what fuels the act of surrender. Speaking in more practical terms, when I find a situation/person challenging, I actually say to myself, with love and compassion, "I surrender to X", "I surrender to all that is", "I surrender to this experience", and the same goes when I feel helpless, or simply when something is beyond my comprehension.

We each view and practice our faiths differently, that’s the beauty of it, so see if you can derive faith from that which you believe in, and remind yourself regularly of it.

Here. Now. Bliss.
Surrender has been a beautiful journey, active mostly over the past 3 years. I feel so happy now, and what helps me to keep enjoying this happiness is believing that I deserve it, and rather than fear it, embrace it.

I feel blessed. By all the ups and downs. By all the things that left and those that stayed. This universe we live in is abundant in magical ways. There is always room for love to flourish, and love does wonders. In its own, crazy way, everything is perfect, whole, complete, always.

Perfection
Here's a mantra I love that captures it all, and I leave you with it:
Om
Purnamadah Purnamidam
Purnat Purnamudachyate
Purnasya Purnamadaya
Purnameva Vashishyate
Om shanti, shanti, shanti

Om.
That is perfect,
This is perfect.
When perfection is taken from the perfect,
Perfect alone remains.
Om, peace, peace, peace

Love,
Amal