One in Four – A Walk through Shadow and Flame

According to statistics, one in four children in the US have been sexually molested. I don’t know what the statistics are in other parts of the country, but that is a big number. It means that every fourth person you meet has been in some way or other, sexually taken advantage of. I don’t know what the statistics are in Malaysia or in the UK where it happened to me but it could be similar. And yes, it did happen to me.

This was 29 years ago, when parents thought that the world was a safe place and that you could allow children to play securely and innocently. He was an acquaintance of my mother’s, someone she was taking a course with in Manchester, UK. It was already a rough time, as my father had sent me to my mother along with a letter that he was leaving her for a younger woman. She was devastated and I was confused.

How does a six year old even begin to describe the situation? It was a public place, and there was no pain involved but something about the situation didn’t feel right. I couldn’t even find the words to say what had happened and my mother was already upset, so I kept it quiet. Keeping it quiet however, did not mean that nothing manifested of it.

I’ve lived my life panicking every time a man stands too close behind me, and when a man assists me in child’s pose, my initial reaction is to stop breathing and freeze up until the message gets to my brain that I know the person and that it is OK to relax. It took me years to get used to the assist in downward facing dog where someone grabs you from the hips and pulls you back. Even now, there are only a few men I can relax into the assist with and I am extremely sensitive to the intention behind the touch.

It was never spoken of, but it has always been somewhere in the shadows.

And it wasn’t until two years ago that I had a vivid memory of the experience. My abuser had come from behind and he wasn’t rough, but he did touch me in an inappropriate way. A child might not know it in their mind, but children are sensitive receptors of touch. It was a lucky thing that there were other people around on the other side of the room or it could have been worse. I wanted to look out the window and he carried me until I could see. It was subtle but I did feel violated.

The event has been playing in the back of my mind for all this time.

‘When the student is ready, the teacher appears,’ old Buddhist proverb.

And so I must have been ready as the right teacher appeared. She had been through a worse experience than I had, relived the memory and come out the other side. I remember being in her class over a year ago, and the feelings surrounding the situation for me came up. Even from the first class, she noticed that I had trouble connecting to my sacrum and was coaxing me to bring breath into the area. It has been a slow process and part of the thing that made is so was my fear to face the assault.

It takes a lot to face these things but last Wednesday, something clicked. Ana Forrest, my beautiful teacher coaxed us to go on a quest towards identifying the blockages that keep us from being whole. In case of a traumatic event, a part of you remains in that time until you go back and free them. Ana said the magic words, telling us that the worst was over. We had survived and we were alive.

That, I think was what did it for me. I decided at the beginning of class that I would chase this fucker down so he could have less power over me. That intention must have been potent because even from the beginning as I was bringing breath down to my sacrum and pelvic area, the tremors began. They continued through core work and most of the class. Finally, when we got into Shavasana, they took over, wrecking my entire body and causing me to panic to the point of not being able to breathe. Luckily Claire, Ana’s assistant, lovingly stayed with me, gently touching my head and cueing me to keep breathing. As soon as we were out of Shavasana, I was a sobbing wreck.

It did not finish there.

Through the day, when I got home, I would sit down, start breathing into my sacrum and the shaking would start followed by sobs. Emotionally, I had to revisit that time of being confused, scared and betrayed. That feeling of being left alone overtook me, and most of all were the very strong feelings that as this was happening to me, my father, the one who was meant to flex his muscles (he was an ex footie player) and protect me was busy starting a new romance. He had let me down, and that’s where my belief that men leave you when you’re weak started.

There were some positives to it though. I was finally able to speak to my mother about it and gave the six year old a voice. She has been a rock through these times. She continues to be amazing, caring, calling me and supportive in my determination to get through this. She’s stuck through me in my crazy quest and called every day since.

We women are so much stronger in our compassion than we give ourselves credit for.

On Thursday I went back. The tremors started early, and towards the end, we were in a compromising Frog pose with a big roll under our bellies. That’s when they fully took over my body. A big part of me wanted to leave the pose and run out of the room. Another part of me was absolutely adamant to chase this fucker out of my body. Ana stayed with me through almost all five minutes of the tormenting ordeal where there were moments when I truly believed that I might die.

But I didn’t and here I am.

I’ve been a gaping wound all week. The memories, and the feelings surrounding them rise and fall like waves. They take over me and I am a shaking mess all over again. Sleep has been sometimes easy but most of the time not. I’ve had nightmares and gone to some really dark places in my mind, but as much as it scares me, I don’t want to put a temporary salve on this.

This will be a tough ride but I want to live my life fully so I am choosing to go through this. The other option is to live my life behind a safe wall where ‘fine’ and ‘comfortable’ are good enough. They are really not so I am living the days occasionally getting thrown into my past knowing that only by facing the nightmares will I be able to shine light on them.

The first 200 Hour Yoga Teacher Training I did, I was recovering from a breakup. This time, I will be so much more vulnerable as I head into another time of big change. Sometimes though, it is in times of darkness like these that you learn to find your own light. I could bury it and stick a positive affirmation on it, but that’s not where the work is done. There is greatness and magic in the world however, as what you need always gets provided to you. In my case, I have a strong and loving bond with my family even though they are far away, a generous and solid community that holds me in their arms, wonderful friends and a nuturing yoga practice.

I am also taking steps to protect myself now. Where I would spread my love without fear of backlash before, right now, I am a bit more cautious. Where I see threat of unnecessary hurt, I step back. Some friends will taper away. This is when you know the ones who are leeching on your life force, the ones who only want you when you are light and easy. If you have a partner, this is when you know a weak person from a strong one.

It is a process of riding the waves day by day, and a transformation through fire. At the other side awaits a stronger person with more compassion and so much more love for self and others.0c136b5c56fd13046766ee65c4826572-d6ha2cv


Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about this concept of ‘home’. Now my understanding of this concept is about the same as my understanding of motherhood. It is a mental understanding, but emotionally, there is so much mystery and ambiguity. My mother is so certain of her home. She is certain of where she comes from, where she belongs and where she will end up. Growing up, she used to tell me that I should feel such and such a way towards a place, a country etc., and yet, at 34 although I know my history, culture, where I came from, I am still unsure of what home is.

I’m certain I that I am not the only one who feels this way.

Perhaps this is the plight of children whose homes were broken early on in life or whose parents moved around through the early years. You are barely able to land before being uprooted again, a new adventure, a new journey and new people coming in and out of your life. Comfort zones get shifted so much that when you grow up, you don’t quite know where it is. Connections are built and then shortly thereafter they are lost in the ether. It gets a bit easier but you wonder if it is because you have grown quite desensitised or if it because you just don’t have the courage to let your connections get as deep as they used to.

Perhaps, there is a fear that if you let yourself land, the earth will again be ripped out from under you and you are free falling through nothingness.

But does that mean that you never want to stay?

Does that mean that you have not the desire to ground down and know that you are safe, that you never have to go anywhere else again?

Perhaps to stay is what you want, but you have become so used to not having that comfort zone that it somehow has become your comfort zone. To stay, to trust, to come up against barriers but to wait it out and keep moving in one direction instead of changing course has somehow for you become the uncomfortable.

At some point if you’re lucky, reality hits. Something prompts you to sit down with yourself and look, really look at where you are and what you want in your life. The decision needs to be made to stay or go.

Starting over is always an option but to what end?

But to stay?

To let people into your life again?

To open your home to friends and allow them to become family?

To open your heart to another person and in extension their family, friends, culture, history? Trying to navigate two lives, two personalities.

Oh how terrifying!

In the end though, it comes down to a decision.

You, the rootless wanderer, do you dare put your roots down and let them grow?

Can you commit to your practice knowing that in time your views, your body, your limitations will change and truths will be uncovered that might not be so easy to digest. Could you jump into the ether of meditation knowing that it gets deeper and deeper. Are you brave enough to say ‘yes’ to something two months, six months or a year in advance as a way of saying to someone, ‘I want you to still be in my life in that time.’ Can you stay with a job as the responsibilities increase and you become more of who you were meant to be. Could you possibly be with a person, going forward, hitting a barrier, waiting it out and then going forward a bit more, to hit another barrier again, your patience tested to the limit but your heart given the chance to slowly expand.

Perhaps this is your version of transformation to fire. A situation so scary you just want to close your eyes, your soul, your life again, but you know who you are. The reason it was so hard to commit was because you knew that once you did, you would give it everything that you had.

Through fear, so you committed.

So here you are.

Giving it everything you have, everything you are, risking your heart, your soul and the only life you have ever known.

Open and vulnerable, you just put your feet down finally and let yourself land in the unknown.

And perhaps, that is the only way to know ‘home’.


Between Chihuahuas and Children


Yesterday, I was on the phone with my mother, and she said that she wanted grandchildren. Of course she’s said this before, countless times and sometimes I humour her, sometimes I ignore her and sometimes I just annoy her by saying that I’m going to the pub to accidently get her one.  Yesterday, I asked her why, and her reply, “I keep seeing my cousins/friends with them and they’re so cute!” The way she said it, it was like her cousins and friends had acquired pet Chihuahuas for their handbags instead of actual little people.

My aunt, who is like my second mum is the same. There’s a lot of talk of wanting grandchildren, and how babies are so cute. Unfortunately, although her oldest son is 26, the grandchildren talk is more aimed towards me. (Settling down at any time before the age of 29 is unheard of in my immediate family). Even my father, who is barely done parenting as my youngest brother is only 14, goes on about grandchildren. About 10 years ago, they were going on about my uncle’s kids. They turned out to be monsters however, so everyone lost interest pretty quickly. All the offers to babysit, gone, just like that.

I do wonder sometimes if people who are of grandparent age have forgotten about the real deal of being parents to newborns. The general statements are, of how babies are so cute, and God forbid you mention your apprehension at having one. It’s almost unsaid that if you’re in love, and you’re with someone, then the next step would be to have children. To be honest, I don’t think the previous generation thought very well and hard about having children.

You’re old enough, you get a job, you get married, then you have a baby. It was just the way. Sometimes, there was slight consideration about how much it would cost to raise it, but very minimal thought about education, attention and being emotionally strong enough to be a supportive parent. Schooling and medical costs were the government’s problem and getting a scholarship into a good university was the child’s problem. When I was growing up, there was no thought to medical insurance or even having a backup plan for university costs. It was all dealt with when it happened, and whoever was available just pitched in and took care of the kids. Sadly enough, this situation has produced a rather stressed out person in me (as is proven in this piece).

Don’t take this the wrong way. I do like children, and I don’t see them as a waste of air, but in spite of all the fluffy talk from my mum and aunt, they are hard work. It’s not just a matter of falling in love and having a baby. It’s so much more than that. I’ve seen some great kids and I’ve seen some kids that have not turned out great, and a lot of times, you can’t blame the kids. It’s more than just popping them out, and I think before embarking on this journey, it is so important to go through a period of self enquiry. Sometimes you realise that you’re ready, and sometimes, you might find that you’re not, and you never want to.  It’s important to understand that it is fine to not have children.

I have a couple of friends who are getting married but don’t want children. Everyone they have told has acted like it’s unheard of, but it is their choice, and I command them for being honest about it.  We are not talking about an accessory here. We are talking about a real live human being who will grow, who needs attention and love, and who will need to be supported for at least 16 years of their lives. Children, these little miracles, are so pure, perfect, sensitive and intuitive. If you are angry, they will absorb that anger, if you have image issues, they will absorb that too, when you are confused, you will confuse them, and when you can barely take care of yourself, it will affect them too. It is the biggest commitment you will make and although you hope they will love you, they might not.

A lot of people think that having children proves that they are OK, that they have reached a certain point in life. Like the shoes, handbags, cars and houses, children have become a status symbol.  It’s a certain kind of child who plays a certain sport, goes to ballet lessons or plays a certain instrument. The problem is all this showing of statuses does affects the child. Add to that the constant stimulation – TV, iPad, endless video games. And man, have we created some really over stimulated, highly stressed out children in this world.  Why? Because mum and dad are over stimulated and highly stressed as well.

There is a lot to think about for parents. As for grandparents I don’t know what it is.  Maybe it’s the second chance for them without the messy bits. Maybe it’s the child they can return at the end of the day – something cute and cuddly to play with without having to then deal with night feeding, diaper changes, tantrums and potty training. But the decision really must lay with the people actually having the child. This is not a gift you can return, and it’s not even a gift that keeps giving. This is a person. Someone with thoughts, feelings and needs, and if you can’t fill your own needs or if your own needs are your only consideration then maybe think again. If you feel that you (either alone or both you and your partner) are ready to give and keep giving, then it is time, but if you’re unsure, perhaps get a pet. And get one for your parents, a young active one they can show off.

The Choice to Take on the Responsibility – Thoughts on Motherhood

I don’t think of motherhood in detail. My theory is that if it was meant to happen, it would happen.  However, with Mother’s Day coming around the corner, it gets me wondering – if things had turned out differently, would I be celebrating it in the capacity of a mother instead of a daughter by now?  This week also in particular has been a specially blessed one where I have had quite a few good friends, friends who I think the world of, announcing births of little ones or early pregnancies. There is no doubt in my mind that these amazing people will make wonderful parents, and the news had filled what was beginning to look like a dreary week with a soft glow of hope.

Motherhood –a turning point in life.  A few good friends have crossed over, a few are on the way, a few don’t want to, and a few are saying “not yet.”  It’s become a political issue, a gay rights issue, a normal everyday issue, a choice, a responsibility, a right of passage, an accident, a mistake, a yearning, a desire, a fear, a risk, a journey and everything in between.  It’s highly debated, and yet the details are mostly hidden behind a door where only women who have been there have the key. According to those who are there, it’s the one thing you can read a million books on and yet still have no idea how to deal with when it happens.

Apparently, no matter how you try not to have ideas of what your children are going to be like, they always end up surprising you (sometimes its closer to shock than surprise).  Sometimes, your children turn out to be just like you in their views and ideas, and at other times, they turn out to be the complete opposite.  It’s times like these that I think of my mother, and how although I sound just like her when I laugh and have inherited her smile (minus the dimples), most of the time I am a complete mutant compared to her.

My mother, the most settled and grounded person I know, while I can’t seem to land…. Yet.  We are literal opposites. She keeps her heart guarded while I choose to wear mine out there on my sleeve. She lives attached to her land, her country, her roots, while I chose to fly away.  She knows who she is while I am constantly rediscovering myself.  I know that sometimes I scare her, especially with how I do things with no regard of how I might get hurt, especially with the way I just fall in love and remove all barriers to my heart. Yet, as different as we are, she has always tried. She listens when I speak about natural healing, drinking teas instead of ingesting medicines, why I refuse to take painkillers and has even come to a yoga class with me once. We fight like crazy when we are together, but we love each other fiercely anyway.  It’s a crazy journey but what do you do? You try, then at some point, you just let go, knowing that the world will take care of your bundle.

I think of and look at motherhood from a distance, always feeling a bit like I had missed a momma gene. So far I have been the crazy aunt who smoked cigarettes and does what she wants. Now the smoking is gone but I still do what I want, and I am comfortable in that space.  Then yesterday, someone asked me if I would become a mother and I had to look at it from close up, and it was no longer an issue of equal rights, politics, or rights of passage.  It became about me, a choice and a responsibility, or rather a choice to take on this responsibility.  And what I felt was a killer cocktail of emotions – love, fear, trepidation, doubt, desire, excitement, and a million other emotions in between.  It was like stepping into the complete unknown, and this coming from a person who left everything she knew to go do her own thing.

At the end of the day, before looking at the political, medical, educational and financial system, motherhood comes from somewhere inside, something deeper and bigger.  It’s that moment when you step walk into a door having heard stories of what lies behind but not really knowing anything about it.  You wonder what kind of mother you will become, but the truth is you will never know until the time comes, because at this point in time you don’t know what this new person coming into your life will be like. But you know you will love him or her with all your heart.  You know there are things you would like them to be but you must also be ready to let all your expectations go so that they can become the miracle they were meant to be.  You will know tears and laughter, and you will know extreme sadness and extreme joy, and it will all be within a cocoon of love enforced with the strongest bond.  You will never know what they are up to, but you will always know when they need you. They will push you away but they will always come back, and you will be there.

And one day, they will come to a point when they are faced with choices.  They might leave, or they might stay. And no matter what their choice, no matter how much you want them to stay, it will be about their lives, and you will need to let them go. Why? Because only by letting go will you be able to let them fly.  And even for me, that seems like the hardest part – letting go.

So, do I see myself as a mother someday? One way or another – either through the good old fashioned way, artificial insemmination or adoption, the answer is yes.  Still I stand by my original philosophy that nothing will happen until it is time to happen. And for those of you whose time has come, congratulations. Know that whatever you do, however you do it, even if you choose to give your blessing away to people who you know are better equipped to care for them,  it is always right, and through birth or adoption, you are a mother nonetheless.

Happy Mother’s Day, especially to my mother – thank you for letting go but always being there in case I crash and burn. Image

Citizens of the World

The year is 2012.  The wheels of commerce, globalisation and technology have opened the world up for us.  Compared to the 1920’s where our grandparents lived in small communities made up of people from the same race and religion, the world we now know is very different.  Through all these open channels, we have become part of one big community, and it seems as if non-conformity is the key.  When we look around now, it has almost become the norm to see couples from different backgrounds and children of mixed parentage.

Recently I read an article about the decline of the Western world  Being from a country that was once colonised by the British, we were in a way brought up to believe that the Western culture had the answers to all the questions.   But the world is changing, and in 20 years, we don’t know which country is going to be the super power.  Somehow this current situation has made me think of the term “survival of the fittest”.  Modern medicine has made it possible for the sickliest of children to survive.  Could it be that to be one of the “fittest” in the future means something else completely?

Closer to home, what does this mean for us? Professionally, we know that if we are not able to communicate and work with people from different backgrounds, then our days are numbered.  I almost wonder if having a partner from a different background gives you an edge nowadays.  But life is not just in the office.  When you look around now at areas that were once predominantly made up of people from a certain racial background, you will realise that in the last 20 years, the community has changed.  Your neighbour, who was once your grandmother’s best friend and spoke the same language as her could now be someone from a completely different background.  The smell of grilled meats coming from their house could now be replaced with the smell of incense.

Sometimes it seems like these changes in the world have pushed people to act out in confusion.  I am not intending any disrespect, but merely commenting from my observations.  When I look around at my friends, there is a distinct difference based on who their closest circle are made of.  Those whose close circle of friends are made of many different cultures and backgrounds are often more “worldly” and open to new experiences.  They are often very interested in different ideas and get comfortable in situations easily.  These people often find it easy to assimilate but are generally non-conformists. On the other hand, the ones who have stuck with a group of friends made up of the same race and religion often find in difficult to accept new ideas, and are often bound by racial stereotypes and what they should be or do to fit in, but only with people from the same culture.  Thrown out of their comfort zone, they often find it hard to adjust.  Sadly though, although they blindly follow the traditions of their forefathers, they do so out of habit and often know nothing about the myriads of different colourful traditions in the world.

The article above notes that Westerners have lost their old beliefs and not found new ones to replace them, thus causing them to be confused, and to bring confused children into the world. I don’t think this is limited to Westerners as we are all being touched by globalisation in some way shape or form.  However, when you look at food markets, department stores and books it seems like globalisation has opened things up so that we can experience all sorts of different cultures.  Traditions, cultures and religions are rich and beautiful, and the only reason they could be lost is if we let them be lost.  Perhaps the key to a richer experience in life is to not be “typical” anything, but to be open to everything, to absorb and learn about different cultures and to be able to see the beauty in it all.  Personally, being a Muslim, September 11 and all the propaganda in the media has made it difficult and sometimes, if you are a first generation immigrant it’s almost like you’re a second class citizen, but when I think about it, I am so much luckier than a lot of people.  Being open to different cultures from Hinduism, to Buddhism, to Christianity has made my world so much more colourful.

The future will be such a different place.  While the Occupy movement is making itself heard in a lot of places, the people we once looked at as “hippies” or “alternative types” are making themselves heard in other places.  Are we heading towards another Renaissance-ish change? Or perhaps a reverse Renaissance? Maybe it doesn’t matter, but if you are looking to become a parent in the near future it probably should.  If survival of the fittest no longer means being physically fit but being mentally and emotionally able to cope with alternative ideas and deal with change, what will your children be? Will they be racial stereotypes stuck in a comfort zone, or will they become citizens of the world?  It all depends on what you are and how you choose to bring them up.