Out of the Crossroads

FEELING ALIENATED IN THE CROSSROADS

Make It happen. There are no mistakes, wrong decisions or setbacks. Each new moment is a new opportunity.

How did I end up living in one of the most beautiful places in the world with my daughter? If you believe in destiny, its just the way things were going to turn out. Specifically, it was my quest out of the crossroads (my reference to a state of angst, confusion and dissatisfaction with no finite expiry date). Getting out of the crossroads meant wanting to do things my way and finding a way to live, personally and professionally that is deeply fulfilling.

Part I: Being Canadian 

The theme of alienation began at a young age growing up in southern Alberta within multiple cultures. One of those cultures was Canadian, evolving with the rampant multiculturalism of a liberal immigration policy at the time but still a predominantly white Anglo-Saxon protestant culture. Largely reserved, self-conscious, polite, kind, gentle, repressed and honest. There was a prominent belief of putting in your ‘dues’. I hated this belief. I didn’t want to put in dues. I was impatient. I wanted to just do it. In fact there were so many things I wanted to do, I didn’t have time to put in dues! I wanted to feel free. I wanted to be different. I didn’t want to fit in. And I wanted that difference to be appreciated, respected and accepted. Because I grew up in a mostly Mormon town/city in the bible belt of Canada that included significant numbers of Mennonite, Hudderite, Evangelical Free, United and Catholics, people were accepting and kind, even if they didn’t understand the differences because those were the Christian values they were taught. As a Pakistani Muslim, it was a relatively easy place to grow up. As far as rules go, Mormons had even more rules and restrictions than Muslims, at least we could drink coca-cola and coffee and eat chocolate, so there!

I escaped as soon as I could. I continued my studies in Montreal, where I appreciated not feeling weird and different and that I belonged. Finally, I could wear black every single day, even in the peak of summer and no one would make a disparaging comment! I felt relieved and happy to be experiencing this cosmopolitan, multicultural and urban world. At the same time I began to understand and appreciate that growing up in a community that was mostly white, rural, sheltered and innocent was a great privilege because it gave me a fuller and sharper perspective of different kinds of people, ways of living, how we are the same and how we are different. Throw in the South Asian background, and it was an invaluable education.

Part II: The American Dream

Ultimately the Canadian culture, for all its simplicity, security and kindness felt limiting. After graduating law school in Montreal I unintentionally pursued the American dream in New York City. The restlessness and frustration that always plagued me dissolved the moment I stepped out of the bus into Port Authority, New York City. My heart was singing with the pulsating energy of the city. I felt a combination of exhilaration, relief and peace. There was so much stimulation, so much going on, that I felt I could finally relax.

New York opened its arms to me, and has ever since. I arrived an immigrant with little money, very little professional experience, no visa and no NY qualifications. Within a year I was earning a six-figure salary as an associate in a large, prestigious American law firm – the definition of the American dream. Even in long absences, I come back to a long lost friend who accepts and appreciates me, as I am, all of me. The city and I understand and each other; we know how to be with one another.

New York provided a refuge as I grieved the loss of my mother. I was an orphan and an emotional refugee in a city of orphans and refugees from all over the world. Most people I knew didn’t have families to visit on the weekends and their families were too far away for Christmas holidays. We were each other families.

We shared brunches, dinners and Sundays. New Yorkers are comfortable with people, they’re straightforward, they feel free to express whatever they feel and think of you, whether you want to hear it or not. For that freedom of expression, I will never ever complain about a stranger yelling at me or criticizing me. Because with the negatives comes the love, the help, appreciation and laughter.

The city was a huge distraction which I was seeking and longing for at the time. Between work, parties, friends and activities I didn’t have to spend so much time ‘sitting’ with myself. Although I did sit. In those 7 years in New York City, I had 9 different lives, marked by different jobs, lovers, best friends that came and went, the neighborhoods, the bartenders I befriended.

A significant fixture of those 9 lives was having an apartment that was my sanctuary: itsy bitsy, bright and joyful. In that apartment I could cry when I felt like it, lie on the floor and close my eyes and disappear, take a time out. Those times were quickly interrupted with work to do, people to see and places to go. But it was a step, a start to being comfortable with the sadness and loneliness I felt, with the solitude.

After nearly 30 years of feeling alienated and restless, I enjoyed those years in New York fully, appreciating all of it, but eventually the ‘void’, the angst, the dissatisfaction returned. It’s as though New York had been my band-aid, it helped me get through the loss of my mom, who was also my best friend, sister, everything to me. I learned to manage life without her in a place that was free of her memories. But there I was, nearly 34 living a life many admired and dreamt about. I felt empty. I was at a crossroads. I felt my options were to suck it up or to make a drastic change.
I reasoned:

• Money comes and go.
• Change is positive, even when it’s difficult because it makes things interesting.
• An interesting life is better than a safe, comfortable one.

And so I left my home that was my refuge, my urban sanctuary.

Part III: Asia Bound

I took the risk. I quit my job with no concrete plan. I had to be open to giving up the identity of being a lawyer and ending my relationship with the city that was the first place I had felt truly at home. Within six months I packed up my apartment and with 5 suitcases I set out to work for an American humanitarian agency providing aid to families suffering from natural disasters and military operations in Pakistan.

It was an incredible year, possibly one of the best years of my life: friends, family and romance all against the backdrop of this volatile, beautiful and tragic country. The emotions I felt for this place: the passion, the joy and the sadness that it ignited it in me were powerful. I conducted field visits to projects in places that had been destroyed by the military conflict, met people who were full of love and optimism, simply because they had no other option. I was struck with Pakistanis’ acceptance of chronic insecurity and danger. Whether they were Christian or Muslim, they had the same unwavering faith. It was a profound period in my life.

Part IV: Shift to the New Paradigm

During that time, on a trip to a beach in Thailand, I discovered a small, tropical alternative oasis of wanderlust travelers. It was a point of no return. A community and world opened its doors and I happily entered. I was drawn into a world of mysticism, spirituality, alternative healing, a world very much outside of conventional society. I met ‘my people’. They came from all over. Some were refugees from the corporate world who had burnt out too soon (like me), some were taking a break from their regular jobs, realigning and renewing, others were lost, searching for inspiration, purpose and they were those who had no other place where they fit and could just truly ‘be’. I found an eclectic community existing against the backdrop of natural beauty of breathtaking beaches, jungle, coconut trees, new moons and full moons. I didn’t want to leave.

Eventually I packed up my life and moved further south and east. The move was transformative. I still held on to the possibility that I could return to my old life, that my law degree wasn’t going anywhere; that I could go back to the big city, friends, security and comfort. In the meantime I went deeper in this other world of alternative healing and new age spirituality, moving between the beaches and jungle of Ko Phagnan and the lush beauty and spiritual energy of Bali.

I explored various forms of energy bodywork: reiki, quantum touch, source awakening; I discovered traditional eastern medicine: chi nei tsang, gua sha, acupuncture, tak sen. In Chiang Mai, Thailand I studied with Thai healers who had helped me with life-long chronic ailments. I studied Kundalini yoga in Nepal. I took neuro-linguistic programming workshops in Singapore.

During this time of experimentation and exploration I lost my anchors: my professional identity (even though I had tried so hard not be identified with it, it was still there), friends and family. Everyone was far, far away. I was truly on my own. When there were rough times, I had no person or thing to turn or hold on to. In retrospect this was the shift, a big turning point.

There were times I wanted to back out, forget this quest, go back to security. But for one reason or another, I kept on moving. In time confusion and angst slipped away. Doubts and questions were replaced with certainty and peace. It was a process.

Even though my life was moving forward as life does, internally something had profoundly changed. I had always prided myself on going with the ‘flow’, being spontaneous, seeing what would fall in my lap. To others it seemed that things always ‘worked out’ for me, I make a decision and take action. However, those decisions were not based on a long-term plan or a vision nor did they bring deep, inner fulfillment. They were stepping stones that took me from here to the next destination. I knew it was time for me to truly live in my purpose – personally and professionally. This meant I had to do more than figure out how to get from A to B. It meant figuring out what I wanted for my life in 1 year, 2 years, 5 years, 10 years. Most importantly I had to ‘own’ what I wanted. I had to stop fantasizing about the life that I wanted and create and live that life. Deep down, many of us know what we really want but have difficulty acknowledging it. We continue to repress and ignore for so long that we forget how to access our deepest dreams and desires.

Fear of what happens when we deconstruct social conditioning and the insecurity that could possibly flow from that prevents us from owning our dreams and keeps our truest desires hidden, even from ourselves. I did not want to be bound by social and cultural conditioning and the restrictions that come with it.

I wanted two things:

(1) I did not want fear and conditioning to prevent me from acknowledging and thereby creating the life that I really wanted.

(2) I wanted to exercise the freedom to pick and choose aspects from the different cultures and approaches to life I had experienced that appealed to me and use that to build the life that I wanted. To me, this meant fully living in the new paradigm: the new way that people relate to one another (family structures, relationships), the new way people are working (digital nomads, growth of start-ups and entrepreneurship).

When I let go of this fear, feelings of clarity, lightness and freedom came into my life. The switch flipped and the light came on. I knew what I wanted to do in a much deeper sense than ever before. I was making my way out of the crossroads. Clearly, I was passionate about everything I had been exploring, studying and learning the past several years. I needed to share this with other people, in fact, there was no option; there was nothing else I could do. I was moved to help people feel strong, connected to themselves and others, to be self-aware, to be at peace, to feel light, clear and free using the skills and knowledge I spent many years acquiring and developing. I have been told that my perspective is unique and valued precisely because I have lived many different lives. I empathize because I have experienced the same challenges, confusion, insecurities, fears and frustrations. I have journeyed through my own crossroads and emerged on the other side.

I ended up in one of the most beautiful places in the world because I wanted to raise my daughter in a place where she is surrounded by stunning, lush nature, where the sun shines nearly everyday and where people adore children! I wanted to be in a place where there is no ‘one’ way to be. Where friends have time for a coffee during the day, despite work and responsibilities; where there are many different kinds of families; and where people are very much living in the new paradigm.

Most importantly I wanted to live in a place where I can host and facilitate other people through various life transitions: to get out of the crossroads, to connect with themselves, to take time for physical and emotional nurturing. The word ‘Ubud’ translates to medicine and is home to renowned traditional healers, international therapists, delicious healthy food, warm people, unbelievable natural beauty and deep-rooted spirituality and connection to the ‘other world’.

My Mission

Let go. Get clear. Feel free.

My mission is to help people reconnect to themselves to figure out what they truly want and let go of what is holding them back. I help people through life transitions such as facing a Crossroads, wanting to have a child, being pregnant, dealing with personal crisis such as getting over a relationship.  I provide the mental and physical space and tools for emotional and physical healing to help you reconnect with yourself. This involves treatments to help with physical pain, sessions to help sort out the confusion and malaise in your mind and heart, good food, some fun and time to just be, without having to make any decisions, a break from daily worries and obligations. It’s about remembering yourself, getting some perspective to feel lighter, clear and ultimately happier.

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