I’ve come upon a woman whose husband wanted to leave her for another woman he was desperately in love with. The marriage was an unhappy one and the love he felt for the other woman was true and grand. But despite their mutual misery, the wife cleverly convinced him that she would kill herself if he left. An emotional blackmail his conscience was not prepared for. She reassured him that she would put the affair in a box and that she would pretend it never happened. She commanded that the show, this facade must go on, and gave him the marching orders to give up his own happiness and livelihood. “KILL THE LOVE!” And kill he did…. But… neither of them realized that it was like chopping the colorful pedals of a beautiful flower. True love is endless and it always grows back.
When you break it down, you realize there are so many layers to this tragedy. It says a lot about how blurry the lines of masculinity and femininity can get. About the courage it takes to leave the herd and follow our true calling… and how easy it is to get off the road to true happiness when we are not grounded. How tempting it is to retrieve back into our old comfort zones out of fear of the unknown. And of course, our desperate and pointless need for control,
In the end, it’s a cautionary tale. It warns us that denial makes a bed for our own demise. It tells us that being attached does not mean true love. It mirrors how destructive it can be to build our own self-worth and identity on the shoulders and opinions of others. It reminds us that, as Ovid said, “The Gods favor the bold.”
The rich themes of this story reminds me of, and remarkably parallels, a very very very long chat I once had with life coach Aylin Sofia Deniz.
Think of your subconscious as a labyrinth. In the depths of its intertwining corridors are your deepest scars and desires, your inner-child, the ghosts of your ancestors. It’s fearful to be lost with the shadows. It’s scary to step inside. It is easier to stay in the comfort zone of your previously designed image of life and self.
If you’re lucky however, such a moment comes in your life, that you are left with no other possible choice, but to face your fears and do something about this sense of disconnect that is gnawing at you. Somethings have to change. And with this intention, you take a brave step into that labyrinth.
This is where Aylin is there for you. Not like a friend who is holding your hand and telling you what you want to hear like a best friend character in a romantic comedy. As if you were going through an unknown land, she is there to guide you through the extremely challenging exploration towards your self and femininity. She holds the flashlight in the dark by asking key questions whose answers will light up the darkness corners of your soul. In that light, when you see what has been going on deep within you, an awareness falls upon you. Awareness is waking up. And once you are awakened, that’s when the road begins.
Here is our chat. I hope it will give you the courage to wake up and the inspiration to go on the difficult journey of finding your true self and calling.
“I DIDN’T ASK YOU WHAT YOU THOUGHT, I ASKED YOU WHAT YOU FELT…”
Basak (B): You’ll probably remember that I came to our first one-on-one session only because my sister was pushing me to do so. As I was talking to you self-certainly about my issues on the surface, you asked me, “How does that make you feel?” That stopped me in my tracks. It made me pause because I didn’t quite know the answer. When I said, “Give me a minute. I’m thinking,” you replied, “I didn’t ask you what you thought. I asked you what you felt.”
That simple distinction immediately took me out of a trans I was living in. As a person who believed she was aware of everything, claimed she can control everything, and trusted that she could solve anything with her mind, I woke up with the harsh realization that my self and feelings were completely disconnected.
THE MODERN WOMAN is living in a trans. Success at work / proving herself / pressure of getting married and having children / ambition to make everything perfect / competing over the number of Facebook likes… In this cultural noise and visual chaos, she can neither hear nor see herself.
Yet the real source of this disconnect is not the internet / work life / kids / where is this world going politics. The real issue is that the chaos we unconsciously create turns into a “normal” way of life, and we accept this state of mediocrity just for the sake of not being on our own and feel what lies in our core, The real handicap here – and it takes guts to accept this – is that we are running away from our own true selves.
WHY ARE WE RUNNING AWAY?
Aylin (A): First of all, the issue of running away from self is not limited to women. Men are on the same boat. You described the current condition of humans in general. But since our focus here are women, we can see this dilemma in them much more intensely.
The modern woman is trying to accomplish everything. She is in a constant mode of needing to do something and in a constant move to be somewhere. On one hand, she is trying to win her economic independence by focusing on her career. On the other hand, she is focusing on her body because she believes that she must look beautiful. In the meantime, there is also family, kids, marriage, social life… Because she is trying to do everything at once, she is in a constant state of turbidity.
If you slowed down, even for just a little bit, you would start to notice certain things. You would say to yourself, “I’m continuously in action. I’m constantly doing something. BUT what am I doing all this for? Is this really for what I want to do? For what I want to live? OR, am I doing all this automatically, as a reflex pre-conditioned by what I was born into?” And that is the essential question.
B: But this is such a scary question because there is no guarantee if we are going to like the honest answer to that or not. And we make up tons of excuses not to be left alone with that very question. And those excuses turn into an escape from the truth.
A: We live in molds and patterns. There are countless shoulds that we live by. There are definitions of “the modern woman” that society approves of. We do numerous things just to fit into those labels. “You should go to a school like this / and then get a job like that / get married / have a baby / go there / do this” etc etc….
If there is one single item missing from that list, like a job or a husband, we tie our unhappiness solely to that. We conduct our lives with formulas. When we slow down and really, and I mean really look at ourselves and start to examine our lives, there is a risk of that mold breaking.
BREAKING THE MOLD
A: Breaking the mold is not an easy task. Because you become different. While all the people around you live by a certain formula, you start to question it. It’s not easy. When you try to leave the herd, you may not get approval, you may be judged, you may worry people. Those very people may think this is just a passing fancy or think what you are doing is straight out wrong.
Therefore, when you begin to wake up from the customary way of thinking and living, you need to remain grounded. And you need to know why you want to leave the herd and break the mold. Otherwise, external circumstances will force you to fit back in to the old mold.
B: Yes! When I first started to feel awakened and share my feelings and experiences, I was faced with an unexpected resistance:
- I’ve already solved that issue within me after I read that book / took a class / began yoga!
- I don’t have time to deal with such things. Besides, what can change in the end? Job is the same job. Man is the same man. Country is the same country.
- Oh c’mon. Energy / Synergy… Are you kidding me? Go get a drink, get laid, and everything will be fine.
A: It’s interesting. Sometimes the people who try the hardest at preventing you from change and evolving are the very people who are closest to you. Because when one person begins to change, others inevitably get in touch with their own internal resistance. If everyone is asleep, no problem. But even in a system that drags everybody down, if one person within that system begins to wake up, this bothers others because they begin to feel what is really missing within themselves.
Actually, deep down, everybody knows that they are disconnected from their essence… that they want something else from life. They know… but they run away from questioning it. In that system, everybody is playing pretend. And most of us aren’t even aware that this is a game, a facade. We think this is what we really want. That is the real issue. That’s why even being able to say, “I am aware, but I am not ready yet,” is a huge step. Because it is a sign of self-awareness.
B: And the roles that we play within that game or system are determined by the labels that we were discussing before. More and more I notice people who claim that they know everything. They enunciate that everything is so perfect. Yet in reality, behind those strict images that society approves, people actually suffer from enormous self-doubt.
So more and more I understand that instead of examining what lies beneath their true core, they judge themselves so cruelly by what others do / wear / say / think… What injustice they do to themselves! People make the roles they play in accordance with other people’s values and standards instead of their own.
A: We come upon this quite a bit. We always expect external conditions to make us happy. We live the spring/summer season of our lives when those external conditions match those labels and our ordinary surroundings. We say “What should I change? Why should I bother with digging up anything? See, everything is just fine.” Yet we deceive ourselves by thinking that summer will stay forever.
Yet life goes through cycles. If we look at nature, there isn’t a constant, one season. In order for summer to come about, first there has to be winter where the soil retrieves, and the land is fallowed.
B: This reminds me of an Arabic proverb that I love. “Constant sun makes a dessert.”
REACTING INSTEAD OF RESPONDING
B: Yes, just like the cycles of life, when a person slows down, asks the right questions and stops running away from herself, then this time she tends to withdraw from her mind and focus solely on her emotions.
A: This is a very important phase, but the extreme of anything is destructive, When we live solely by our feelings, we then start to react extremely emotionally.
When you say something like “From now on I’m only listening to my heart,” you are not actually listening to your heart. What you are listening to are the feelings that emerge from reacting to a button pressed within you. We think, “OK, right now I am very angry so I should act angrily.” Or “I am so depressed so I should act depressed.” Our emotions begin to dictate how we act.
B: Another kind of should.
A: Yes, it is still a should. In the other scenario, we were the hostages of our thoughts. In this one, we are the prisoners of our feelings. Instead of responding, we start reacting. We declare, “This is what my heart wants.” But what is beneath the heart is far beyond our emotions.
In our Returning to Feminine Strength workshops, whatever emotion we may be in, we actively work at remaining awake in it. What I mean by being awake is bringing awareness. This is the most critical point. If I’m grieving, I need to stay awake in my grief. If I’m enraged, instead of repressing my rage, I need to come back to my center and respond from there. If I’m depressed, I need to bring awareness to my depression.
Only if we remain awake within our emotions, can we let go of the need to control the weather.
B: When you say weather, you mean our feelings?
A: Particularly as women, we feel deeply. Our anatomy is built for that. Breasts are extensions of the heart. But most of the time, we mistake the weather conditions to be our condition. So we try to control the weather.
Like the outside, there may be a storms or earthquakes within us. The danger is to assume that very storm or earthquake is who we are. When in fact, it is just a feeling. It will pass, just like the storm. It will change. What we fundamentally work at is to be aware of our emotional state, accept our emotions, but to remain calm and awake. To respond, rather than react.
MASCULINE & FEMININE
B: The title of the workshop is “Returning to Feminine Strength.” We were talking about the anatomy of women. We said breasts are extensions of the heart. What is your definition of femininity?
A: In fact in this workshop, we step into a space that is beyond the Woman / Man / Masculine / Feminine. The closer we get to that point, the more meaningless these types of distinctions become. But in order to be able to work through certain things, separating male / female helps to understand ourselves.
You know, like Yin and Yang. It represents antimony. Masculine and feminine together make a whole. Just like light and dark. Day and night. One cannot exist without the other. And one isn’t superior or better or more important than the other.
However, when we look at the times we live in, masculine values are being prioritized. And when I say masculine, unfortunately I mean the dark side of masculinity, In societies and in our selves, the unhealthy masculine side takes the lead and creates an imbalance. Because of this, we feel the need to remember our feminine side and try to re-create that delicate balance.
Feminine energy also cannot be all light. It also has a dark side. So while being aware of that, we plant the seeds of light. What we are essentially trying to find is balance. To harmonize. Just like day and night.
DEFINITION OF STRENGTH
B: What about “strength?” Can you define that? The reason why I’m asking is because certain concepts lose their true meaning through time. Similar to the way when one says “female,” stereotypical connotations like sexy or delicate comes to mind, the concept of “strength” is often associated with symbols like muscles or money.
A: Our definition of feminine strength is very different from the accustomed definition of “strength.” By feminine strength we mean a type of power that is a lot softer. One that doesn’t have a condition of Win/Lose, one that can let them selves fall into the unknown. Far from controlling, a completely different type of power that gains its strength from love and true calling.
B: True calling?
WHAT ARE YOU LIVING FOR? WHAT DO YOU WANT TO SERVE?
A: What are you living for? What do you want to serve? You need to see these questions like the north star. These questions are there for us to stay grounded in life, to connect with our roots.
I can make the analogy of the tiger. It’s mighty challenging to ride an animal so potentially dangerous. Horse riders know this well. When your actions contradict your feelings, when you worry or try to be too controlling, the horse immediately senses any inconsistencies within you and can throw you off itself.
So when we are connected and grounded like that, we get this strength that can ride even a tiger. Powerful while simultaneously being soft. The accepted definition of “strength” is strained. There is always tension. The type of power we are talking about can be flexible, it can stretch, it can let itself fall. It doesn’t fear the unknown because she gets her strength from love as well as from whatever she lives for, whatever she wants to serve.
B: So in one way, we can think of this flexibility you mention as the ability to let go of the weather control…
TO BE ABLE TO DANCE WITH LIFE
A: Absolutely. It’s the ability to stretch and adapt to whatever life brings, To be able to dance with life. With the weather. With the experiences life drops in front us, Not trying to control them. Not insisting, “but this is what I want!”
It’s about doing what needs to be done by being flexible to the situation at hand. When we try to control everything, show resistance to change that comes with time, we stop the natural flow of things. So again, feminine strength enables us to step aside and allow the true source to come forward, We facilitate its manifestation and we dance with it.
When we let ourselves be in the unknown with a creative energy, we connect with a power that is far beyond ours. What I mean by riding the tiger, is to be able to manage that power.
Sometimes we can get lost. We can fall. We can be swept away from our center with a storm. What will bring us back to our center is your calling. To be certain of what you can and cannot live without. To know what you live for and to be connected to your roots.
B: In the beginning of our chat, we talked about running away from ourselves and being afraid of asking the right questions. I believe one of the major reasons for this is the fear of the unknown.
A: Oh, the ambiguity. The unknown. One of our top fears. We want to know everything. We want to control everything. When we settle for only what we know and can control, we settle for a tiny teeny fraction of our true potential, what we can reach and what our lives can be! In fact, deep down somewhere within us, we all know that we are beyond our concept of “I” and that we are not this small and separated.
We try so hard to make do with the tiniest portion of our essence and potential, that we are always searching for more. We try to fill that void with things from the external world. The only way we can fill that void is to stop blocking the true source from reaching us. But instead, we constantly try to make our egos and our sense of “I” grow bigger and bigger. We are terrified that our self-image will fall apart.
B: Like we were talking before, the labels we assign to our self-image and identity.
A: …Our image, masks we wear, our ego, our self-definitions and labels. We are mortified at the possibility of any of these collapsing. But what we really need to do is to allow them to collapse and step into that space that is much larger than us. True strength comes from jumping into that unknown. But again, we are very fearful of this.
That’s why most of the time we attempt to take one step forward while still trying to keep control with the other. This is where we feel helpless. Because we reach a point where we say, “This is not it. This is not enough.” We realize, “These are plastic. These are not real….”
A: …You realize things you thought would give you happiness just don’t anymore. You hear your calling yet cannot find the courage to respond. This is the source of our biggest challenge. This is where we feel most desperate. Because we understand that things that we thought satisfied us were only an illusion. Yet we are too scared to take a step towards change. This is where we live hell.
Only when we step outside the comfort zone that is defined with our limited minds, and take a leap towards the unknown, can the doors open to possibilities that are beyond our dreams, limits and self-image. Here, courage is a must.
I AM NOT ALONE
B: In that regard, within the circle of trust that is created with the other participants of your workshop, you find miraculous support at your most vulnerable and helpless self. It is reassuring to feel that we are not alone.
A: It is especially important for women to feel, “I am not alone! I don’t have to do this alone,” At their most stressful times, men prefer to retreive into their caves. They feel the need to be alone in order to examine and get in touch with their vision again. Contrarily, women need to share their emotions in order to release the stress. So they are more open to support in that way.
TO RECEIVE DOES NOT MEAN TO DEMAND
A: But women of our times are so far from being able to receive. The inability to “receive” is a big epidemic. We took strides to be equal to men in every aspect. But because we haven’t been able to digest this, we are in constant competition with them. By declaring “I can stand on my two feet. I don’t need help from anyone,” we withhold ourselves from truly receiving what is given to us. In this way, we also castrate men. Men actually want to give. But we resist it because we mistake being open to support as a weakness.
Going back to the beginning, because of our misunderstanding of what strength means, we struggle with showing the side of us that is true and vulnerable.
One of the biggest struggle of the modern woman is not being able to receive. This reflects on the sex life as well. When we look at men and women anatomically, vagina receives, penis penetrates. Yet we are getting further and further away from this anatomical structure and what is natural. As women, we also need to learn how to receive.
By receiving, I don’t mean demanding. We live our lives demanding things. But because we can’t truly digest them, we don’t feel full even when our demands our met, We live in the time of hungry souls. In Buddhist mythology, the hungry souls have a characteristic. Their bellies are very big but their throats are extremely thin and small. Consequently, no matter how much food they are given, they always remain hungry.
This is the point of greed and we see this more often than not in our contemporary times. We keep asking for more and more, but we don’t register what is given. It is critical to realize that we are full. There is enough. That’s why it’s important to be open to receiving.
WE ARE DRYING UP
B: Actually, like a domino effect we’re stuck in a vicious cycle. Because we live by our minds alone, we cannot feel. Because we can’t feel, we can’t receive. Because we can’t receive, we are not satisfied. Because we are not satisfied, we are lost in a constant search for things in the external world to fill that void. The type of life we live becomes one that is so disconnected from our own roots that we are not even aware of the vicious cycle we are stuck in.
A: We are extremely disconnected and the majority of our energy is spent by our minds. Energy doesn’t even flow down to our legs and feet. We almost live as decapitated heads. Not feeling our roots, we think we can resolve everything with our minds, Yet when you begin to feel your roots, when you become grounded, you realize how intelligent our bodies actually are. We live far from this awareness though.
B: So we don’t even receive the messages our bodies are sending to us. We don’t hear it at all.
A: Absolutely. Our bodies constantly send us messages. But we don’t feel them. As if we are driving and it starts blinking that we’re running out of gas. Instead of going to the gas station, we put a gum over the warning light. We either don’t feel, or don’t want to feel. We ignore it and through time our instincts begin to rust.
We struggle with accepting life. There is no good/bad/right/wrong in life. Because we want everything to be defined by our own truths, opinions and definition of happiness that we dismiss everything else, We don’t see that everything we ignore begins to form a shadow around us. In the name of not feeling pain, we don’t realize that we are actually giving up our own gifts, and emotions that are far more divine than “fine.”
We can’t bury our darkness alone. When you bury the dark, you also bury the light and begin to lose your vivaciousness. When we look around us, the thing we hear the most is the syndrome of exhaustion. Our life source, our sexual energy, they all disappear. We are not able to receive life as is. We are drying up. This is why it is so critical to get in touch with our life source.
THE SOURCE WITHIN
B: This reminds me of yet another wake-up call I had in one of our sessions. “I have so much love within me but I’ve got nothing (lover, child,etc) to give it to,” I cried. And you said, “You are trying to fit a waterfall into a straw.”
A: Because we are not aware of the source within us, like the hungry souls, we are trying to nurture ourselves with a single straw. And when we don’t possess that straw, we think we are going to starve and die. If only we could feel the resources within us, instead of trying to feed ourselves with that straw, there would remain no sense of hunger vs fullness. We are starving because we don’t realize the existence of that source that is already in us. We are trying to depend on external factors and are terrified of the possibility of losing them.
B: And with that fear, we try to control life. I realize more and more that we don’t trust the natural flow of life. This is what you must mean by hell. Because even when we are mistrustful, our instincts continue to whisper otherwise…
A: Or we hear something from a workshop, we read something in a book. Still, if we don’t jump into the unknown with both feet, we are bound to be stuck in limbo. It’s easier to stay in the comfort zone, without realizing the price we pay.
B: And we pay that price without realizing that comfort is temporary.
A: Of course. Once the circumstances we were able to control change, we fall into the abyss again and start to feel unhappy and dissatisfied.
FORGET WHAT YOU KNOW
A: The thing that I say in the beginning of every workshop is, “Forget everything that you know. Be like a new-born baby. Do everything like you’re doing it for the first time.” Because majority of the time, what we know becomes our biggest obstacle. We know so much, our minds are so full that we lose our capacity to receive.
Going into anything in life, if we only bring our minds and try to understand and control everything, we receive only within the limits of our own minds. There is no space left for surprises. Only when we can take a leap to the unknown can the miracles that would shock us happen. That’s why it’s important to get out of our familiar zones and have the pure intention to go beyond our minds and feel our hearts.
B: Is it ever too late?
A: “I’m too old to change anything, What’s the use?” Another one of our molds. It is never too late. Whatever has happened till now, no matter how much you have suffered, there is no obstacle for you to take a step forward.
Everything happens in the now.