Sons of Roses

I recently had the honour of writing an article for Must be Kismet (a leading South Asian magazine & bridal show in Toronto) about queer weddings, featuring Haran Vijayanathan and Humza Mian, two amazing South Asian men who portray two grooms on their wedding day.

The entire article and accompanying photos can be found here:
http://blog.mustbekismet.com/index.php/2018/06/19/sons-of-roses/

It’s funny how things come about. My friend Saira who I met at one of my favourite coffee shops, Balzac’s, many years ago when I’d quit my job and was looking for adventure, always complimented my writing and told me that she’d love to have me write about some of her projects. She does henna on brides and on women just looking for adornment (who needs a reason to glam up?!), and she also profiles men and women who have stories that need to be told, through art and makeup and photography and a whole lot of love and inspiration.

Saira asked if I was interested in this project, and of course I said yes! (even though I was freaking out because of the short timeline – 4 days!) and because I didn’t want to let anyone down. Also, the subject matter really touched my heart – highlighting queer weddings and the challenge in reconciling religious/culture identity with coming out.

I received the notes from the interview that Saira and Rajen from Must be Kismet did at the shoot, and then reached out to Humza and Haran in order to clarify some of the points and get to know them better. Writing based on personal connection is the best! I’m so glad I called them, because I learned so much and was even more inspired. Haran mentioned to me that Hinduism is gender fluid and gave me a few surprising examples involving Krishna and Shiva. It reminded me of a book I’d read called the “The Two Krishnas” which actually touches on those themes. He also talked about how gay couples can be hyper-sexualized and exploited, and how he tries to stay away from that, and projects that are looking for that angle.

Humza was ordering lattes while we chatted on the phone. We talked about his journey and how his parents still don’t know about his alter drag persona (Manghoe Lassi) even though he’s public on Instagram and has a zillion followers. He also said that he commonly receives negative comments on posts, but he’s learned to ignore them and not let it get him down. Life is definitely too short for that!

My sister Roshni helped me out a lot with the article, thank god she was around! Feedback is so important, because when you’re writing it, you can only see it from your perspective, you really need a fresh set of eyes (and someone with patience) to review it.

Overall a really fun experience… looking forward to the next article! (does this mean I can call myself a ‘writer’? Hee hee).

The Magic of the Gayatri Mantra

Today at the Sai Centre, we sang the Gayatri Mantra, which is an ancient Sanskrit hymn that dates back thousands of years. It originates from the Rig Veda, a sacred text in Hinduism, and is dedicated to the Savitr, the Sun god. According to Hindu mythology, this prayer was said to be given to the sage Vishwamitra as a gift for his years of dedication and penance. The lyrics are as follows:

Om Bhur Bhuva Svaha
Tat Savitur Varenyam
Bhargo Devasya Dheemahi
Dhiyo Yonah Prachodayaat

There are many translations of the mantra, some that are line by line and word by word, and others that are more interpretative. Some of the ones that resonate with me are:

“We meditate on the glory of that Being who has produced this universe; may He enlighten our minds.”  — Swami Vivekananda

“We meditate on the effulgent glory of the Divine Light; may it inspire our understanding.” — S. Radhakrishna

“Oh Creator of the Universe! We meditate upon thy supreme splendor. May thy radiant power illuminate our intellects, destroy our sins, and guide us in the right direction!” — Unknown

My Mom and I chant the gayatri mantra nine times in a row at 12 noon every weekday. It’s an opportunity for us to stop what we are doing, join forces, and align ourselves with cosmic energy (at least that’s what I think we’re doing!). It definitely reminds me of God and the universe and ancient wisdom, and returning back to my true self. With all the different mantras available, having discipline and establishing a routine are very important.

Speaking of universal energy – the craziest thing just happened. As I am in the middle of writing this post, I received a text message from my friend Gayathri (who I haven’t spoken to in months) saying Happy New Year and that she is happy to see my different profile pics on Whatsapp. Is that not a crazy coincidence?! She is also a Sai devotee, and a vibrionics practitioner (but that is a story for another day). The universe works in mysterious ways sometimes – but then again, maybe that’s just how life goes when you are blessed.

I Am

I am beautiful
I am worthy
I am raw and wild and untamed
I am intelligent and rational, spiritual and intuitive
I am dignified, yet when it comes to love
willing to throw it all out the window.

I am love incarnate.
I am submissive, yet defiant;
sensitive, yet callous –
I long to experience the joys of love and union,
yet value my independence above all.

I am WOMAN.
I have eyes that can see through the depths of your being,
hair that falls graciously beyond my shoulders,
hips that sway to the rhythms of the earth.
I am everything you think I am and more,
yet can be magnificently misunderstood.

I am logical, yet open to forces much greater than me
I am powerful, yet acknowledge that the black hole of doubt
can drain me of my strength.
I am an artist, seeking his muse.

I am everything at once, yet deep down I know that I am nothing.
I am spirit and soul, earth and water.
I am never-ending….

***

“I AM” is the strongest creative statement in the universe. The universe responds to this as would ‘a genie in a bottle’ – it knows no other way to behave. My friend Melinda once asked me to summarize what I thought about this statement and this is what I said:

I always say that “I AM” is the most powerful statement in the universe. It has the power to change your body and mind, which can be rewired simply by repeating this basic mantra. It can be as straightforward as “I am love, I am light”, or as intricate as “I am the being that recognizes the God in you.” The repetition is important, especially in times of doubt and when you don’t believe what you are saying is true.

This is the passage from Conversations with God that first introduced me to its power:

“When  your  thoughts  are  clear  and  steadfast,  begin  to  speak  them  as  truths. Say  them out loud. Use the great command that calls forth creative power: I am. Make Iam statements to others. “I am” is the strongest creative statement in the universe.  Whatever you think, whatever you say, after the words “I am” sets into motion those  experiences, calls them forth, brings them to you. There is no other way the universe knows how to work. There is no other route it  knows to take. The universe responds to “I am” as would a genie in a bottle.”

Another cool fact about “I AM” is that the reverberation it makes in your body has a realigning effect. In every enlightened being, and in every major religion, you will find the sound “I AM” – in Hinduism it’s AUM, in Islam it’s Ameen, and in Christianity Amen. They all derive from the same universal source/sound, and are one and the same. Cool huh?

Here is a recording of me saying “AUM Shanti” – have a listen and pay attention to how you feel when hearing it. Then when you have a moment on your own, take a deep breath in, and on the exhale, let out a long “AUM”. There are lots of different opinions on how to say it properly, but I just say it the way that feels right to me.

As you go about your day, keep this AUM sound with you, and let it lead you to the place of peace within yourself.

May We All Be Flutes

This morning I went to the Ottawa Sai Centre with my parents. The Sai Centre is a spiritual centre that is devoted to the teachings of Sri Sathya Sai Baba, a messenger of God, who lived in India for all his life and passed away a few years ago at age 85.  I love going there because there is so much devotion, love, and joy – the people there are committed to serving others and are always so friendly and helpful.

On Sundays my Mom teaches a class for special needs students, and I usually play the role of her assistant. We prepare crafts for the kids and sing with them – my Mom has a song called “Start the Day With Love” that the kids absolutely adore.

One of my favourite parts about being there is taking a tea break, and chatting with people and hearing what’s going on in their lives. Babies on the way, sharing spiritual lessons, talking about work (or in my case the hunt for work!), and being around the adorable kids that attend the classes.

My Mom, Dad, and I had decided that we were going to leave after three bhajans, but then someone began to sing a beautiful English bhajan, so we changed our minds and decided to stay. The song is called “May We All Be Flutes.” Kind of reminds me of my post from way back when, that I wrote around the time when I first started blogging and sharing with my friends and family. Here are the words from the song today:

Let Us Be Your Melody, We’ll Sing at Your Command
Krishna’s Flute We’ll Be, We’ll Sing His Melody
When Desire’s Gone We Will Finally Sing His Song
Song of Love, Song of Truth, Let the Melody Flow Through
Song of Love, Song of Truth, May Our Lives Be One with You

Krishna, the blue God, is known for his enchanting flute playing. His flute entrances the gopis (cowgirls) in Vrindavan, and especially Radha, who forgets even her name when she hears him play. I love the words of this song – it’s a reminder that each of us has a beautiful melody inside of us, and that the vibration of these words on your lips has a purifying effect.

After the bhajan we stopped to see the Christmas display. A volunteer from the Centre had assembled it that morning, and it was a sight to behold!! All the kids loved it, and the adults as well.

IMG_6277
Christmas Display at the Ottawa Sai Centre

Overall a wonderful Sunday morning. Hope you all had a great Sunday too!

First You Relax Your Toes…

I’m so excited! My all-time favourite meditation teacher, Jon Kabat-Zinn, is coming to Ottawa on Sep 21 to lead a mass meditation on Parliament Hill in honour of the UN International Day of Peace (“Peace Day”). This year’s theme is TOGETHER and is focused on showing support for refugees and migrants, and to stand up to discrimination and xenophobia.

I was first introduced to Jon Kabat-Zinn’s meditation years ago, when I took the Mindfulness Meditation and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy course at the Toronto Western Hospital. Jon Kabat-Zinn helps his patients to stay present and pay attention to their thoughts and emotions without judgment. This can be especially challenging if you are suffering from anxiety, depression, or chronic pain. I remember doing the “raisin meditation”, where we were each given a raisin and asked to pay close attention to it, from how it felt in our hands to how it looked to how it felt inside our mouths (slowly experiencing the burst of flavour on our tongues).

Fast forward five years, and I still rely on his “body scan” meditation to help me stay grounded and to bring my awareness to my body, where I can deeply feel any suppressed emotions. We often think that meditation is only useful when going through hard times, but I find that it is also extremely useful during times of joy, to bring some calmness to our over-excited minds. When I hear his voice, I instantly feel at home – it is a voice I’ve come to trust completely.

When I do the body scan, I wear comfy clothes and lay down on my bed or sofa, covered by a warm blanket. I listen to his voice tell me how to relax each part of my body. First my left toe, then the bottom of my left foot, then my ankle, the top of my foot, my lower leg…. you can see how it takes 40 minutes to get through every part of the body. My dad learned this type of meditation when he was 21, and often uses this technique to fall asleep. I find myself falling asleep too while doing this meditation….the ultimate relaxation.

Jon Kabat-Zinn founded the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts in 1979, and for the last almost 40 years, has been helping millions to deal with chronic pain and to develop meditation practices that help to deal with emotional/physical pain, as well as nurture compassion, empathy, and love (the natural state of our hearts). I love how he has a PHd in molecular biology and is also a devout Buddhist. His combination of the two worlds is what we need right now – people who can bridge the gap between science and alternative medicine.

Here is his definition of mindfulness:

Mindfulness is about paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment and without judgment.

Mindfulness is also about having an inner knowing of who you really are… it is a way of coming back home to yourself.