Dr. Katia Sol

cultivating transformative leadership and learning


January 2011

The Sweetness of Surrender

Last night at yin yoga, after an hour already of slow movement in a gently heated room, with live music filling the space, I found myself bent over in pigeon pose, hip and knee open to the side, body bent down over my leg, face pressing into the mat. It was a seemingly terribly awkward and uncomfortable position. I was on my right hip, which ever since 10 hrs of back labor with Mateo has never been quite the same. But as I moved slowly into the pose over 3-4 minutes, I suddenly found myself in this fascinating moment of surrender, suspended between the challenge of the posture and total relaxation.

The hip itself was hurting, but in that “this pain is good” sort of way, and as I breathed into it I actually felt my entire body let go even as the hip was screaming. It actually reminded me vividly of labor itself with Jalen, during which I moved fluidly between contraction and total relaxation, actually falling asleep between contractions as I breathed in and totally gave myself over to the process. It is an altered state of reality, this kind of total letting go, in this case amplified by the live music and energy flowing through the room. Despite the fact that my body was bent into a totally unnatural seeming position, for those moments I was totally surrendered, amorphous, one with the mat, one with the floor, one with the bodies surrounding me. I could hold the balance of the pain and the joy of the stretch all at once. All I needed to do was keep breathing.

In reading the Seven Valleys by Baha’u’llah, which describes the seven levels through which a wayfarer passes in pursuit of the Divine, I was initially surprised that the “Valley of Love” was only the second valley. How could it be? Isn’t love the highest level of connection? I mean, “In this city the heaven of ecstasy is upraised and the world-illuming sun of yearning shineth, and the fire of love is ablaze.” But in fact, “the steed of that valley is pain,” for in that valley the seeker is still driven by passion and his own desire, and tormented by his own longing for the Beloved.

Finally, if the seeker makes his way through the valleys of Search, Love, Knowledge, Unity, Contentment, and Wonderment, he reaches total peace in the “Valley of True Poverty and Absolute Nothingness.” Baha’u’llah writes, “This station is the dying from self and the living in God, the being poor in self and rich in the Desired One. For when the true lover and devoted friend reacheth to the presence of the Beloved, the sparkling beauty of the Loved One and the fire of the lover’s heart will kindle a blaze and burn away all veils and wrappings. Yea, all he hath, from heart to skin, will be set aflame, so that nothing will remain save the Friend.” Total surrender. In Buddhist terms, this is Emptiness. For others, it might be Enlightenment. The giving over of one’s self so fully that we realize we are in fact one with it All…there is no room left for our own unique desires and longings…we just ARE. everything and nothing, all at once.

So as I lay there last night, literally melting into the floor, I wondered to myself…in what areas of my life could I give myself over to total surrender? How could I take this “off the mat and into the world”? To completely allow the mystery to fill my being and to be in such an open state that I move from that place? It calls to mind this short prayer, again from the Baha’i Writings:

“O God, Make me a Hollow Reed from which the pith of self hath been blown, that I may become a clear channel through which They love may flow unto others.”

What would it mean to you to surrender today, and every day? Is that a scary idea? What about all of our ideas and plans and desires and intentions??? How do we achieve what we are working for if we fully surrender?? How to hold it all in the balance?

I am interested to hear your thoughts on this, beautiful people….

*love and blessings*


Sunshine in the Mud

If in last week’s note I was walking on sunshine, today I felt more like I was sludging through the mud, or to be exact, through very cold, wet snow and slippery ice, upon which I literally fell directly on my *@#$)(*.

As I sludged and slid, I was reminded of two of my favorite scenes from the movie “500 Days of Summer.” In the first, Tom has just fallen in love with Summer, and after he first spends the night with her we see him skipping down the street bathed in a golden glow. Everyone is smiling at him, the birds are singing, people are breaking out into a coordinated musical acts- the world is a beautiful place.

Flash to the same scene, several months later, but this time it’s the day after Tom and Summer have broken up. The streets are grey. The music is gloomy. Everyone is frowning, bumping into him. The world is dismal.

I always thought that this scene sequence was brilliant, because what’s different here, of course, is Tom.

Wait a minute, it’s not the WORLD’s fault??? No fair! Wouldn’t that make it easier, so we can just wake up another day in another situation and everything will be fine? But indeed, if I look back at my two days, many of the circumstances were largely the same. Pack dawdling children into 18 layers of snowpants, snowboots, snowjackets, hats, mittens, neckguards. Rush first child to school while carrying very heavy second puffball. Return home and try to stuff second child into carseat that barely buckles because of all the layers. You get the idea. One day this all feels manageable, easy, even joyful. And another it is the most frustrating experience of your life. As put beautifully by Anais Nin, ‎”We don’t see things as they are. We see them as we are.”

So if it’s all about me, what to do on those grey days?

First reflection: Realize that it’s perfectly okay to not always be sunny! It’s important to honor our natural cycles – our darkness as well as our light, and to know that we need both in full depth in order to be whole human beings. Kahlil Gibran writes, “Your joy is your sorrow unmasked. And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears. And how else could it be?

Second, instead of pushing the grey away, remember that it’s an invitation to deeper knowing and Truth. So keep this in mind next time you feel the urge to mask the grey by visiting the tanning booth for some simulated sun (or starbucks for an oat fudge bar, as my favorite soulshaper likes to say ;-)), or the mall, or the tv, or other comforting fall-backs. What if instead we took this as an opportunity to ask what might be obscuring the sun from reaching you brightly today? One technique for doing this is take a few minutes to breathe deep and go within, and use your own inner trust, knowing and curiosity to ask, “What is beneath the grey that is wanting to come up to the surface?” In my experience, I have found it amazing how I can try and try to push a feeling or mood away with no result, but when I tune in and really feel into what is at the root it instantly lifts. “Truth is the gateway to the present moment.” (Jeff Brown)

Third, when the feeling continues to persist, as I know sometimes it just does, it’s an opportunity to up the self-care and to to pause and allow for the processes of healing and purification to occur, just as they do for the earth on shady and rainy days. Sometimes these things just take time. So what can you do today, or on any grey day, to nurture your body and spirit? Perhaps cozy up, take a bath, talk to a good friend, be gentle with yourself and others – anything that is naturally nurturing to you and that will create a supportive environment for your healing.

And finally, one surefire way to lift your mood when all else seems dim is to expand your attention from yourself and your own dark patch to others that need some light. Step out of the shade of your own shadow and you might find your connection to the light is all around. As said in the Baha’i Writings, “The more we search for ourselves, the less likely we are to find ourselves; and the more we search for God, and to serve our fellow-men, the more profoundly will we become acquainted with ourselves, and the more inwardly assured. This is one of the great spiritual laws of life.” And by Rabindranath Tagore: “I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.” I certainly found this to be true today, as in the middle of my muddy day I saw a mom on the playground who looked like she was having a hard time. I really wanted to get back to my own stuff, but instead I invited her for tea, and it turned out that she really needed the support. And through our conversation I felt my own spirit and sense of self lift back to its normal place of truth and light.

With the last suggestion, I’m certainly not saying that we should mask our own inner problems and avoid the deep work by acting outwardly…the processes described in #2 for clearing from within are crucial. But it is ALSO true that as we arise to serve, our spirits become aligned with the divine and we become conduits for that greater Light to shine through and within us. Change yourself, change the world. Change the world, change yourself. I think these both are true.

Dare to Be Yourself

I have a new hat.  I love my new hat.  It is warm and cozy.  It is spun in winding, spiraling circles of beautiful shades of purples and blues and a flash of turquoise at the tip.   It’s a fun hat, and when I wear it I can’t help but smile and feel cheerier as I move through the normal day’s activities, be it rushing to get the kids to school or stopping for a coffee or just driving around in my car.  In my hat, I feel like an elven fairy, outwardly navigating the streets of suburbia but secretly wandering the woods of Lothlorian.

My hat makes other people smile too.  Maybe they just like my hat.  It is always easier to talk to new people when you have a fun accessory (people with dogs and babies will agree – and yes, I am using the word “accessory” to refer to my children, tongue in cheek of course).  But with my new hat on, all of a sudden my neighbour who never looks up when I come outside is waving to me.  I am making new friends on the playground as I drop Jalen off at school.  Everyone is talking to me.  It’s a whole new world.

Maybe it’s just the cool hat.  So first lesson of the day, is dare to be different.  Dare to wear and do things that stand out.  Express  your own unique spirit in every way, including the way that you adorn your physical temples, be it your bodies, your homes, or other spaces.  Life is just much more interesting that way. When my mom used to drive around in her 100% purple convertible (purple exterior, purple interior, purple leather), I can tell you that she made a lot of friends. In fact, we had a lot of crazy colors and objects in our home growing up, and it always made for fun conversation.

Or maybe, the hat gives me secret superpowers.   A friend of mine in my cultural production workshop (@Sara Mohammad) is a mask-maker.  She made an interesting point the other day in class – usually therapy work talks about taking OFF the masks that we wear – unarmoring and showing our vulnerability by de-masking. However, she talked about how using masks can be empowering, such as for women who have suffered abuse, and can help them to take on a persona with a little extra strength to tell their story or to confront their abusers. I thought this was amazing – and as I reflected on it, it brought me back again to the superhero theme. Bruce Wayne wasn’t Batman without his costume and Batmobile.   Jalen and Mateo definitely feel more powerful as they parade around in their capes (dishtowels tied around the neck) and superhero gloves (dishwashing gloves) and shields (pot lids) and swords (spoons).  So maybe my hat has magic powers.  Superfriendliness at 8 a.m. in the schoolyard before I’ve had my morning coffee.  Superwarmth in the face of biting Canadian cold.  Supercheer to face the day.

But I actually think the first piece, the fact that I’m happier in the hat, makes a even bigger  difference.  It feels like ME.  So I feel like ME.  And that’s a good way to feel.  Whenever we are truly standing in our most authentic selves, be it through the words we speak, the actions we do, the energy we put out into the world, the choices we makes, or even in the silly hats we wear, we are at our most powerful.   And those are superpowers we all can access, in our own unique way.

Year of the Sacred Warrior

Marking the turn to the year 2011 feels like the beginning of a significant new phase in life’s journey for me.

The past ten years, from 2000-2010, have taken me from living in California to  Israel to Calgary, Toronto, and Guelph, Canada, and have included journeys to South Africa, Italy, Turkey, Mexico, Bolivia, Guyana, Dominica, Spain, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, and my regular circuit of Toronto-Florida-Maine-Bonaire-Vancouver-Calgary-California-Guelph. They have included a foray into the worlds of marriage and mortgages and motherhood and all that each of those worlds entails, including the birth of my two beautiful children, Jalen Ali and Mateo Knight. They have included time in sacred ceremony and cultural sharing in more than 30 indigenous communities north and south, with Elders and youth who have offered me deep teachings and even deeper friendships.   They have meant an exploration of academia and teaching and the contours of my own mind.  They have been significant for identifying my calling as a community builder, as I have moved from city to city and in each place slowly and with determination found like souls and worked to build a community of mutual interest and friendship and love and encouragement, even here online, in which people I have never met in person have reached out and touched me and perhaps I them.  They mark my first ten years of true adulthood, bringing me from my university graduation into my early 30s.  They have included learning from incredible teachers and mentors, and the opportunity to participate in amazing circles, ranging from the Six Nations Sacred Fire to Ocamora, New Mexico.  They been full of the highest highs and my lowest lows, each of these sacred in their significance and instrumental to carving out the unique shape of my soul, deepening my capacity for joy, love, grief, compassion, and growing wisdom.

Above all, these past ten years have been about learning to turn inward and deeply recognize and commit to my own sacred truth, propelling me ever forward towards identifying my soul’s mission and the fulfillment of what I was uniquely brought here to earth to carry forth in this lifetime.

As I enter into 2011, I call upon all of this learning and at the same time let go of it entirely.  I have the distinct feeling of experiencing sacred separation and of stepping boldly and somewhat blindly into the unknown.  In the past few days I have been unusually emotional, crying easily, feeling the cleansing and release, feeling even my body come to a standstill as I let go of all that has not served me and even that which has in preparation for the new.  I feel myself getting ready to step into a great new unknown, and yet feel amazing calm and equanimity as I step towards that mystery.  Just as I could have had no way of predicting what these past ten years would hold at their start, I sense that these ten years will be equally full of surprise and beauty.

As I step into this new year, I am called to summon the sacred warrior as a guide.  This warrior is rooted deeply- her feet each sending a tap root deep towards the core of the earth, tuning into the centre of the earth’s fire (I will need that passion, heat and power), up through the rich soil (I will need those nurtrients, fertilizers and grounding softness), up through rivers of cool water (reminding me even as I am rooted to also flow and move and release like water), bursting up into the air, which fills my lungs with strong, steadying breath and centers me in my oneness with the rhythms of all life.

This warrior is a sacred warrior – she is not seeking violence with anyone or anything external, but rather demonstrating the deepest discipline and commitment to her own inner truth and the waging of her path.  She IS invincible in spirit, knowing that that which is truly sacred (her own spirit!) can never be destroyed.  She IS fear-less, knowing that the warrior on her path will confront any battle or opposition with total confidence and love.  She is COURageous, embracing her own inner vulnerability and wearing her heart open wide for all to see and touch.  She is rooted down, unshakeable, and at the same time flowing constantly, receiving continual guidance from the light within and above and with every breath moving deeper towards the Truth that is our ultimate Oneness.  She is the embodiment of balanced surrender and total commitment, softness and solidity, nonattachment and searing passion, yin and yang, the masculine and the feminine, heaven and earth, the Wisdom which knows that I am Nothing and the Love which knows that I am Everything.  She is Me. 

This warrior has been arising regularly lately, which affirms for me the relevance of this teaching at this time.  Michael Stone spoke two weeks ago about our supernatural powers, which  as defined by Pantanjali include nothing more or less than:

-absolute faith and confidence
-boundless energy/enthusiasm
-wisdom (knowing that everything changes)
-integration (feeling of oneness)

Jeff Brown wrote today of the role of the Benevolent Warrior, whose white flag drives us higher up the Mountain of Consciousness:

Abdu’l-Baha writes:

And now I give you a commandment which shall be for a covenant between you and Me — that ye have faith; that your faith be steadfast as a rock that no storms can move, that nothing can disturb, and that it endure through all things even to the end….As ye have faith so shall your powers and blessings be. This is the balance — this is the balance — this is the balance.”

Even Jalen and Mateo are obsessed right now with superheroes, so I figure that if I have to contend with Superman and Batman on a daily basis, I might as well become a superhero of my own.

So as a Sacred Warrior, I take my stance, looking forward towards what is to come, feet rooted to the earth, arms reaching to the sky, heart bursting open and strongly full of faith, ready for wherever the path takes me.  Yes, I have an inkling of what is to come…moving to a place that feeds my soul and my path,  rich in natural beauty and forests and oceans and culture and community and deep friendships and spiritual possibility.  The completion of my doctorate, and the commitment to fulfilling that task in a way that both gives back and nurtures my own growth through rich learning and collaboration.  Stepping into a career path that fully enlivens my gifts and begins to live out my calling of bringing forward a new vision for the world.  The rising of an expansive, heart and soul-opening love partnership, development of new friendships, and deepening of the soulsister and brother-ships I already hold dear.  The continued nurturing of my children’s spirits and the co-creative process of learning from and with them as we evolve together.  All this I am sure the next decade will hold, and so much more.

As I take this journey, I know that I will not be alone, and take comfort in the growing army of INlightened, INheartened, INearthed, INspirited, INspired souls who are soaring alongside me in the battle to forge a beautiful new world.

2011, Here We Come.

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