Another great storyteller once told me that a good story begins with the first lie you ever told.
Whether that is true or not, i recall back to kindergarten, on the swings. i was trying to test the myth whether one could swing fully up and around the swingset. in the height i acquired, i was asked by a fellow class mate who was watching me from below, "how did you learn to do that?!" without batting an eye, i replied, "oh, this is nothing! i grew up flying on eagles!"
my dad's jaw would have probably dropped at seeing a lie flee so effortlessly from his little daughter's mouth, but just like that, it did, as if i had believed it to be true myself.
i did not make it up and over the swingset. i also never had flown with eagles for those of you who are perhaps still trying to contemplate the wild enchantment of my childhood. but in my mind...the idea of freedom was such a core part of my yearnings and endeavors, that i still find it a driving force in where i derive meaning out of life.
this sky is a poem by hafiz, a great persian sufi poet. this is poetry passed down through my family through generations. during winter solstice, iranian families would gather for what we call 'koorsi' time, which basically means a giant cuddle puddle of loved ones family friends and neighbors. there would be a fire in the middle, and everyone would be under a sea of warm blankets, snuggled side by side. tea, treats, and story telling danced alive through the night as great aunties became skilled at pinching the rowdy and squirmy little ones with their toes under the discretion of the blankets (ame batool is notorious for this in the story that my dad tells so vividly).
it is tradition to stay up and read poetry by firelight on the longest, darkest night of the year. this poem has always spoken to me. perhaps it was my taking to birds and wings and freedom. but as i became older, i realized that it meant far more. i began to realize a balance between using my wings, and then giving others my wings. i existed a lot of my life giving others my wings, and it wasn't until i had fallen quite a ways, did i realize that i never knew how to use my wings so i gave them away.
my journey has been trying to find a way back to my wings, and in that journey i have begun to unravel the complexity of this sky where we live.
With all this talk about healing....
I have learned, more importantly, that you do not have to be "healed" in order to be powerful. In order to be whole. In order to be ready to do your life's work and calling.
If you have put off living, because you feel unworthy or incapable of living up to your potential because you believe you are broken and not yet 'fixed,' I feel your pain. But we can't live that way.
Because we will never be perfect. We will never be done with healing work. We will never be done learning.
Just like a chrysalis contains the blue print of the butterfly it will become before it even materializes, we also have everything we need to become our potential, which means that at any given moment, we contain every latent molecule, capillary and limb of our wholeness.
It doesn’t interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dream, for the adventure of being alive.
It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon. I want to know if you have touched the center of your own sorrow, if you have been opened by life’s betrayals or have become shriveled and closed from fear of further pain.
I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it, or fade it, or fix it.
I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own; if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful, be realistic, remember the limitations of being human.
It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me is true. I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself. If you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul. If you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy.
I want to know if you can see Beauty even when it is not pretty every day. And if you can source your own life from its presence.
I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine, and still stand at the edge of the lake and shout to the silver of the full moon, ‘Yes.‘
It doesn’t interest me to know where you live or how much money you have. I want to know if you can get up after the night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone and do what needs to be done to feed the children.
It doesn’t interest me who you know or how you came to be here. I want to know if you will stand in the center of the fire with me and not shrink back.
It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom you have studied. I want to know what sustains you from the inside when all else falls away.
I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.
-Oriah Mountain Dreamer
There is a reason why I believe so strongly in somatic work and the mind-body-spirit connection. As a story gatherer, I look for stories far deeper than just the words they are told with. Our spines hold stories not just of our own life, but of our ancestors, and of others who influence us.
How have I learned to walk through this world? Chances are, that whatever narrative you were convinced or told yourself, is visible in the way you carry yourself. And the longer you have carried yourself that way, the more ingrained it becomes in your posture, in your chronic conditions, in your bodily being.
Have you ever began to cry in pigeon's pose during yoga, and didn't know why? Or maybe you attributed it to just having a stressful day? Did you know that we hold trauma in our hips? Our psoas muscles are what we engage during fight, flight, freeze (and appease) mode. If you are someone who has constantly been in this state, imagine the toll it would take on your body. You begin to tighten. To guard. To protect. Sometimes we encounter moments of physical release, and those moments may have come to also surprise you with tears, or rage, or grief.
Then there is the trauma that we carry, that is not ours. The trauma we carry as empaths that we acquire from other people.
Then imagine this. Imagine that you are apart of a marginalized identity, that for decades, or centuries, that aspect of your identity that runs in your blood was oppressed through violence. How do you think the first member of your ancestry to experience that trauma had to adapt their way of walking through the world in order to survive? How do you think the way they physically carried themselves changed? Now imagine that being passed down from generation to generation as the oppression remains, and the trauma still unliberated. How deeply in our bodies do we carry the stories of others? And how has this maybe held you back in ways you wished you could move past or move forward?
Imagine if you could identify what was yours to resolve, and what was not yours, to give permission to release? What if you knew what needed to be done to be able to embody a full transformation of not only mind and spirit, but of the body?
Somatic Story Telling and Coaching involves a lot of courageous deep opening, but it is not for us to delve into the trauma, it is not for us to even know the answers. The liberation begins with the awareness and the uncovering of its hidden parts nestled away in forgotten spaces within you. If this speaks to you, let's discuss possibilities of embarking on your own Somatic Story Telling journey together
I love being a girl.
I can feel what you’re feeling
as you’re feeling it inside
I am an emotional creature.
Things do not come to me
as intellectual theories or hard-shaped ideas.
They pulse through my organs and legs
and burn up my ears.
I know when your girlfriend’s really pissed off
even though she appears to give you what
I know when a storm is coming.
I can feel the invisible stirrings in the air.
I can tell you he won’t call back.
It’s a vibe I share.
I am an emotional creature.
I love that I do not take things lightly.
Everything is intense to me.
The way I walk in the street.
The way my mother wakes me up.
The way I hear bad news.
The way it’s unbearable when I lose.
I am an emotional creature.
I am connected to everything and everyone.
I was born like that.
Don’t you dare say all negative that it’s a
or it’s only only because I’m a girl.
These feelings make me better.
They make me ready.
They make me present.
They make me strong.
I am an emotional creature.
There is a particular way of knowing.
It’s like the older women somehow forgot.
I rejoice that it’s still in my body.
I know when the coconut’s about to fall.
I know that we’ve pushed the earth too far.
I know my father isn’t coming back.
That no one’s prepared for the fire.
I know that lipstick means
more than show.
I know that boys feel super-insecure
and so-called terrorists are made, not born.
I know that one kiss can take
away all my decision-making ability
and sometimes, you know, it should.
This is not extreme.
It’s a girl thing.
What we would all be
if the big door inside us flew open.
Don’t tell me not to cry.
To calm it down
Not to be so extreme
To be reasonable.
I am an emotional creature.
It’s how the earth got made.
How the wind continues to pollinate.
You don’t tell the Atlantic ocean
I am an emotional creature.
Why would you want to shut me down
or turn me off?
I am your remaining memory.
I am connecting you to your source.
Nothing’s been diluted.
Nothing’s leaked out.
I can take you back.
I love that I can feel the inside
of the feelings in you,
even if it stops my life
even if it hurts too much
or takes me off track
even if it breaks my heart.
It makes me responsible.
I am an emotional
I am an emotional, devotional,
And I love, hear me,
love love love
being a girl.
From Eve Ensler's "The Secret Life of Girls Around the World."
"The impulse to play is instinct. No play, no creative life." -Dr. Clara Pinkola Estes
"She climbed until she saw..." -unknown. Taken off of a little notebook for sale in a small bookshop in Moab, Utah.
Taken from Dr. Clara Pinkola Ests in Women Who Run With the Wolves
"Story is far older than the art and science of psychology, and will always be the elder in the equation no matter how much time passes.
For me, stories have run free in my imagination since I was young and barefoot. Stories are medicine. And I have been taken with them since I heard my first. They have such power. The remedies for repair or reclamation of any lost psychic drive are contained in stories. Stories engender the excitement, sadness, questions, longing, and understanding that spontaneously bring the wild human archetype back to the surface.
Even more so than hearing stories, they set the deepest yearnings of our heart and spirit free when we allow ourselves to tell them."
It was towards the end of our expedition in the Karakoram.
One frozen evening, the clouds parted and the night sky unveiled a beautiful canopy sprinkled with stardust. I couldn’t take my eyes off of it in a mesmerized state of wonder. I had brought my watercolors along and hadn’t really given it much time to paint let alone to journal since my hands could not stand being outside of their gloves longer than a minute. But something about the solitude I had to myself, perched on a little rock and craning my neck to the Milky Way, warmed my body to a state of action.
I pulled out my watercolors and ink pen and let my thoughts hit the paper for the first time the whole expedition. These were the thoughts I could muster before my hands became too cold to write anymore.
Lessons in the Karakoram
PC: Gol Muhammad Baig
I have struggled to know how to describe what this experience was like. This was nothing short of epic.
It was absolutely freezing and I neglected to journal every day, but here is my experience in a nutshell.
The main theme of this women lead winter expedition was in solidarity of women empowerment and to continue towards gender equality. Many encountered hurdles before even arriving, but persisted to show up. Not to mention the obstacles we faced during, but we always found a way to sing and dance about it every night. It was a cause beyond ourselves, and in that was born our strength.
The original plan was to make a winter ascent of Mingligh Sar. However, winter conditions in that area were harsh and we could not get enough porters to make a journey that far away. We considered our options. We eventually agreed we were capable to go for a first ascent, so why not try?
Although, in the end, not everyone physically stood on the summit, we collectively as a team made a first ascent of an unnamed, unclimbed peak, establishing a historical event in Pakistani history as an all women-team. The peak was named Koh-e-Zamiston, which means Mount Winter in the native Wakhi tongue of the Shimshali village.
That is one of the many lessons the mountain teaches me. That when we invest in our team, we result in reaching new thresholds as individuals. And it isn’t always the summit every time. But growth nonetheless. When I say collectively we reached the summit, I literally mean the nursing to health of one member to her sick counterpart for hours, the hand holding during difficult times, the sacrificing and sharing of gear, and the scrambling around of women in the morning as the others were departing to High Camp to pass along their most useful items; the delivering of hot tea and last minute massages and the endless hugs and tears. “Your success is my success,” I heard constantly.
Throughout the training, competition, and expedition I met women who had never seen snow or ice, never been camping, never left too far from home. We braved freezing temperatures (-35 to -42C to be exact), some lacked proper gear, got sick and yet many lead their first ice climb after just a week of training. Some reached an elevation of 5000 m for their first time ever being exposed to high altitude. Samina is a woman of graceful grit and humble power. Who chose a path with no examples before her, but with her brother, achieved something that had been perceived impossible. Now giving the confidence to thousands of girls and women across her country to take jumps into the unknown as she. I met an incredibly inspiring woman from Norway who jumps into adventure to show her children that a life of adventure is the only one worth living and that requires taking some risk. Some got respiratory infections, altitude sickness, an injured knee, and frost bite. But we all wanted to change the narrative around gender equality and braving those obstacles felt pretty trivial compared to the weight that women collectively carry on their shoulders worldwide and historically.
What was serendipitous about it was that the summit was made the same week as the Women’s March on Washington. And, as fate would have it, both held the same vision and both operated under the same principles for success. That neutrality is the static. It means lactic acid build up and frost bite. Laziness and letting others do the work means you’ll never develop the muscles you’ll eventually need one day when your mountain comes. Discomfort means vulnerability, teamwork means strength, perseverance means progress.
And with every step, we never forgot out roots.