The secret of happiness is simple: find out what you truly love to do and then direct all of your energy towards doing it. Once you do this, abundance flows into your life and all your desires are filled with ease and grace. ~ RS

I snorted.

Morgan looked up from the quote she was reading. She had a patient air about her. She was the perfect roommate, and at the perfect age when her ideals are still armed with childlike readiness to put up with my leathery resignation.

Or maybe she’s just English.

There is no noble love but that which recognizes itself as both short-lived and exceptional. ~ Albert Camus

Either way, I had to explain why I reacted so snobby. We still had a few more weeks together; I didn’t think it was very wise to offend a roommate, regardless of her innocence and momentary vegetarianism.

I said,

“Humans are not monogamists by nature. They fret and fettle and get bored too quickly. As soon as they decide to fall in love with one thing, everything else becomes more attractive. While agreeing that happiness is attainable by loving what you do, and doing what you love, I wonder how long does love last at all?”

And she said something that took years away and almost made me as unwrinkled as her,

“Aren’t we supposed to live in the present?”

What is happiness and love if detached from the present? What is love, even the shortest-lived, if not marked with attentiveness?

Maybe I’m just at an age where I’m too old to believe that loyalty can last longer than profit, yet not old enough to have faith in the profit of loyalty.

No matter how old, though, time remains at the speed of 60 minutes/hour. And profitable things do come off dedicated attention; the selective selling out of everything else besides.

At the speed of sixty minutes per hour.

Maybe the only fault in the quote above was to put “life” and “abundance” in the same sentence with words like “ease” and “grace”. We are too stout and old and attention-deficit to imagine ourselves gliding anywhere through life, or even through Tuesday night.

Maybe the polyamorous human is more fit to waddle and stumble over and over, instead, in short and stout and sincere bouts. Little by little, across the vast terrain. Little by little, like monogamist penguins.

Yes, that’s more like us, isn’t it? More doable.

My mother was sliding the photos she took of me while practicing asanas. The first frame that followed the asana pictures was the photo below.

PS. Ahmed is a carbon copy of his Baba.

"Who is that?" Her voice was thirteen degrees of threat.

"Ahmed’s baba," I said, snatching the phone away from her.

My mother frowned. "That is all very well, but what is he doing in your phone?"

I took a gigantic breath. I had one chance to say it and had to say everything in one breath; because her suspicion was heading somewhere dangerous.

"Because his Baba passed away seven years ago today. Because I knew Ahmed seven years ago, too. Ahmed is the eldest of seven boys. He barely finished being a teenager when he was propelled to be an older and bigger man. His Baba's passing was Ahmed's inspiration and - for so many times when I could not be bothered, Ahmed too was my inspiration. That is why I keep them close; I am one of their صدقة جارية. I only hope I could honor and make good of that memory too."

My mother said some things after that. And I said some things after that too. But the thing that stuck, the verses that I want to remember and canonize was that above. That kindness immortalizes a man when passed on by his good sons.

“At the core of all well-founded belief lies belief that is unfounded.” ~ Ludwig Wittgenstein

You know

  • that feeling that made you stay in the same hateful place just to make sure that your elders and children are in comfort?

You know

  • that feeling that stretches your patience for the little mistakes and tilted frames on the wall? That feeling you get when time and space doesn't matter anymore and all that you know is the orgasmic present, and that is all the goddamn certainty that you'll ever need?

You know

  • that feeling that reasserted your entire value system and beliefs? That feeling that bundled the cycle of life and death and rebirth in a blink of an eye, in six days of creation or a million years of evolution?

Yea, man,

  • you've just spent irreplaceable minutes of your life on a rambling prose because you've got it. You've been waiting for a conclusion. You want that validation. Concerning a feeling that we can only define when broken down into objectives and minutes, into labels and things, into kisses and diamond rings, yet never definite enough. Never enough.
  • That feeling that leaves brokers and soldiers and prosaic poets and kafirs staggered by the throngs in its absence?

That feeling?

Yea, man, we do. We really do.

We've got it too.

"All imperfection is easier to tolerate if served up in small doses." ~ Wisława Szymborska

Our tragedy started in our inability handle prolonged bouts of beauty. It’s the story told by people living around holy places (their loss of piety), and justified self-sabotages, and over-extended hiatuses.

Our tragedy started in our tendency to label things. In our discomfort with wabi-sabi.

Once we got too familiar with beauty, we lost our sense of wonder. And that loss is replaced with cold cruelty. And that cruelty is always directed first onto ourselves before anyone else, leaving us at a chronic state of dissatisfaction.

(Isn’t that why the good poets emanate from the same miserable place, themselves?)

The business of repackaging ordinariness into pretty blog posts (or ordinariness into exotic vacations and expensive purchases) started from a disgustingly beautiful place, where superfluity were a race and imperfections a shame.

Here’s a friendly tug to a (more forgiving, more accommodating) sense of beauty.

“The terrible fluidity of self-revelation.” ~ Henry James

Few days ago, I caught fire thinking about you.

That was pillar, right? Sparks that only a fellow writer could trigger are always pillars. Something to hold on to and elaborate until you grace me again with your presence. Then what? Foundation? Walls? Windows? The love of writing? Obviously. The trust in everydayness? Yes. The simplicity of being? Always.

There were so many complex ideas that poured in too; about society and culture and quagmires like that. I couldn't go there. I wanted to make love to a table. With a table. On a table. Based on that love around a mere a table, couldn't we reach other planes of writing too?

I wanted to love.

I want to talk love. Because that's the butter that is making my day so fluid. I had an awesome day. No arguments. Got my hurdles figured out. I felt hopeful, concentrated.

I sincerely believed that, “Oh this discomfort is not going to last. Everything is going to be alright again.” And I was right. Everything was fine again.

Everything was awesome, actually. Because after that, you and I talked about the things we loved. We talked about writing. About feelings and that it ain't cute. About distances and sleepy hugs.

And you called my name.

***

You called my name in a voice that only a long, long illness of nostalgia could have honed. (Nostalgia for what? For whom?) Your voice dressed me in mist and morning and mindfulness. Reminding me that - if not everything, then that very moment - was going to be fine. That, even if we didn't have forever, you won't betray me that moment whence you loved and called me from the depths of your awareness.

You gave me that moment. Fully. Openly. Systematically taking all that I had offered in return.

(Who in his right mind would do that, call my true name with so much reverence?)

Isn't that love? A form of love? A love that is true and irrefutable because, if only for that moment (and a moment could last forever,) it was true. What are great big words and promises without series of little moments like that?

***

I'm thick with failures. I've traveled too far, feared too deep and worried too much. But when I was there and you cared to attend, when we chose to be present for each other, I breathed in relief.

I got to let my failures take a break from infesting my fields of thought and take a long hike to Uranus. Or somewhere as far. 

And the good news is that anyone, anyone who cares enough to pause and attend anything she deemed worthy of even a smidge of love, could take that break too.

And breathe in the fluid relief of self-acceptance.

  • Coworking - How coworking is changing how and where we work

  • 22 Rashid St., Egypt
    Before the January 25th revolution, however, it was hard for people to gather freely to talk about politics but after the revolution, the place was more open than before because there were many people who gathered for meetings and discussed all kinds of ideas to make Egypt a better country and that led to making this place much more famous than before.
~ Ahmed Salama (Workspaces)

"We can not do great things. We can only do little things with great love." ~ Mother Teresa

I saw that table and immediately thought of my muse, "Oh Baby, we must write there at least for once in our lives."

Before the table comes, though, we must be ready.

Oh voice of my thoughts, we must be in the habit to wake up early to catch that gorgeous light. We must have slept well enough in the previous night, risen early enough to breakfast and remove the plates, for there is no fire without fuel and writing is a cold communion with indifferent solitude.

And these habits take a lifetime to form.

Oh fire of my heart, we must be smart enough, have read widely enough, and cared enough to protect and encourage our minds’ freedom and growth. For without that, we’re no better than asses, my love.

We must be healthy enough, live long enough, so that the chances for us to meet there improve. We must eat well enough, care to exercise enough, so that our bodily complaints won't interrupt our immersion in the pouring of our existence on the page.

We must be rich enough to travel there. And we must have exerted ourselves enough to be able to sit there with relative calm, with only our minds active, not our limbs and mouths and conflicts.

Oh music of my craft, we must converse often enough, have forgiven each other and ourselves even more often. We must have loved and kissed and fought hard enough to face the moment loaded with notes and knots to unwound on that table.

We must offer ourselves to the people who care for us enough to keep us afloat in the our moments of doubt. We must break our hearts hard enough to liquefy our ink. We must be strong enough for others to break our hearts and fill us with the whys and maybes that shall stir and prod in us a world of wonder.

Just enough, just about.

Moreover, we must try to keep writing daily, consistently, so that we'd remember how to tune into the music within us at a moment’s notice, to translate the marvel of our lives into rudimentary sentences without losing its forceful meaning.

Above all things, we must be good enough to each other so that when the time comes, we'd be able to hold the companionship of facing the hush together.

Oh my little brown muse, if all that is too much work for a mere table, a perfect morning to write with you in that perfect light, then what other cause is there worth living and hoping for?

What then?

Last week, coming back from a month-long rough trip and a while of not practicing, I entered seated forward bends and had to stop practicing because I could not stop crying. It raised the “WTF is wrong with me?” alarm. I blamed all the possibilities: travel weariness, meditation, fasting, PMS, dairy-product-withdrawal, etc.

Few days ago, I tried practicing forward bends again. And of course, the feelings reemerged. Though not as overwhelming as the last time and I thought, “Hey, absence of crushing social pressure really helped.”

What more, I managed to hold it down until the end of the forward bends variations, enter the twists, and whatever weepiness I felt were washed away. I felt cleansed.

Both forward bends and twists are like internal massages for the back and core muscles. Massage causes a rush of fresh, oxygenated blood into the massaged areas. It made sense why feelings (either physical or emotional) emerged after twists and forward bends; because of the mental and physical bruises stored in the muscles.

But why the contextual difference between the two? Why did I feel grief and fear in forward bends, and then felt cleansed and rejuvenated during twists?

It’s hard to go into details about body-mind connection without sounding too hippie or New Age. Enlightenments, ecstasies and orgasms are private experiences; the only measuring tool for them is the rhythmic meter in a poem. Eastern medicine is richer in vocabulary and theories about how food, feelings and form relate to each other, but the more I talk about them, the shyer I relate to things as jarring as sudden, uncontrollable bouts of weeping.

Physiology and anatomy, however, are tangible enough to dwell writing about. And the closest biological explanation to the emotional rush in deep back extensions starts from the Psoas muscles.

Buried deep within the core of your body, the psoas (pronounced "so-az") affects every facet of your life, from your physical well-being to who you feel yourself to be and how you relate to the world...Intimately involved in the fight or flight response, the psoas can curl you into a protective fetal ball or flex you to prepare the powerful back and leg muscles to spring into action. Because the psoas is so intimately involved in such basic physical and emotional reactions, a chronically tightened psoas continually signals your body that you're in danger, eventually exhausting the adrenal glands and depleting the immune system.

- Yoga Journal, The Psoas is

Since forward bending requires the kind of muscular extension that is counterintuitive to stress-reflexes, it challenges our sense of security. Getting that hurdle over with, forward bends brings forth a submissive kind of peace, kind of like the one we feel right before an orgasm. (And we stayed in that asana longer, we might, actually.)

And twists are just awesome stretches: they open our chests and bring out the booming, happy soldier in us. Try it. Try releasing your psoas. Try yoga. And experience the swing. Just be safe. And make sure you go over the weepy hurdle.

“There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi

The month I spent on Yoga teacher training was (mostly) supported on vegetarian diet, and getting off that diet felt like the Kurukshetra War in my intestines.

Mostly vegetarian. I can't tell you just how much exactly because I think that my teachers read my blog and they might have slipped a microchip in our digestive tract to monitor and report to the yoga fairies whether or not we behave yogic enough. I think.

I hated vegetarian diet from the beginning. I did not work all the way up the food chain just to end up eating vegetables. I have always been a proud carnivore; and if the custom of a certain area celebrated by serving roasted blue whale, or sautéed panda medallions, then I'm all for it. The bloodier the better this yogini shall banquet, see?

And I hated vegetarianism more because I had to fake it for a whole month in return for validation. I have been practicing yoga for a LONG time. What cow has the mind to object and tell me that I am not good enough to practice or teach Yoga because I like having her cousins for dinner, medium rare, with mashed potatoes on the side?

Of course, once I was formally off the leash, I indulged: For three days straight, everything with a formerly beating heart was swallowed, consensually or with regrets.

On the fourth day, glory!, right after a highly caffeinated breakfast with Oreo cookies, my stomach said its Hail Marys and took me aside for undivided attention in the privacy of the furthest bathroom in the house.

Me: "I don't understand! I thought you had the guts to digest skewered crocodiles and baboons."
Stomach: (Incoherent grumbling and bubbling and bursting.)
Me: (Flushing defeat.)

***

Still confused at my stomach's rejection, I had to take the car for a tune up, because the car isn’t yogic enough to care about environmental disasters like we do.

It was lunchtime, and there was a mall near nearby. The mall, of course, had always been like my second home. I have grown up and napped and ate and took my writing degree (MBA: Mistress of Blogging Arbitrarily) at the mall. Leaving the car at the mechanic, I decided to hit the mall's foodcourt.

But my stomach gave a warning rumble at the sight of every food item on the menu. In every restaurant. In the entire mall.

I'm sorry for sounding so hyperbolic. I have never been aware how every minute we spend at the a mall with our mouths open is not dissimilar to mass culinary suicide. Anything you eat or drink at a mall is either overly-sweet, overly-caffeinated, or just plain insulting to the evolutionary dignity of having taste buds. The longer I stayed there was the bigger chances I had to die from food poisoning than my a-pack-a-day smoking, and not because a woman can't smoke at the mall.

It was nearly impossible not to see a variety a cow or duck or chicken or all of it meshed together on mall food. My choices for lunch, without alarming the vegetarian demon in my belly, was left plain rice and salt. Which none of these restaurants served without the additional complimentary dirty look plastered on the waiters' faces.

I practically broke speed limits at plain rice consumption.

***

Lunch aside, I was left with another hour and fifty-five minutes to waste until I could take the car back.

Back in the days, a whole week at the mall wouldn't have been too much to bear. There's just so much to eat and drink and buy while eating and drinking and buying some more.

This isn't about vegetarianism, Sattvic dieting or being tastefully stingy. The microchip they installed in my digestive tract was too patent that the alarm went off everywhere I tried to sit. I was turning into an involuntary healthy-eating hippie because wanting to deepen my Yoga practice has indirectly lead me there.

To sit at a mall meant to do justice to that precious space that your bottom needs to rest upon, and without getting the complimentary vicious looks from your chairowner's herd of underpaid peons, you need to order something more solid than water.

But what is there to consume in a mall without risking napalm explosions in whatever is left of my guts?

To think of all the breakfasts, lunches and dinners that I spent fighting and/or silently cursing my diet Nazi gurus over this kind of garbage shiny-packaged faux-food?

***

By one miracle or another (and an expensive stroll into the bookstore and underwear departments), time and shopping-possessions were passed and I got the car home, humming happier than my diet shocked belly did all day.

And there, with his subtle teasing and smiling reproach, my master and adopted-father brought forth three kinds of bananas and counting, to keep me afloat until my stomach chose to regrow its guts and digest the dead.

“Creativity is an act of defiance.” ~ Twyla Tharp

One day I wrote, edited and sent a letter of 372 words in 32 minutes or less.

It had the length of a blog article. It had a prologue, body and ending. It had all the stages of life: birth, life, illness and death. It had a clear story arc and a vanquished hero. It was urgent; it needed desperately to be told. It was comfortable with whatever it could not say. It was comfortable with the message that it did say, gently conveyed.

It filled me with centralized cohesion. It left me with the familiar satisfaction of having something done, something important, but with the humble sincerity of an eager servant.

It felt like something that might influence someone's major decisions over the span of his life. It was written for a specific and true "Dear Reader,” dedicated to a muse; someone for whom I longed to labor and remember and love.

It was, if I remember correctly, how writing was supposed to be.

“Our stresses, anxieties, pains, and problems arise because we do not see the world, others, or even ourselves as worthy of love.” ~ Prem Prakash

We arrived late in the evening, and the morning-after greeted us with pre-fever ache. You know that feeling when all of your joints hurt and your stomach burns and you know that you're about to fall?

And I took heart. Being physically ill was better than not knowing why everything else hurt. At least it was not a "What the fuck have I done?" morning. At least the zombies and agents of apocalypse left a bite of hope in the fridge for me to chew on. And sadness had moved from the vagueness of my heart to my limbs.

Let muscles tear and bones break, but let me not face the ambiguity of anguish.

The next day, we woke to a full-blown fever. There was comfort in its certainty. But it was Sunday. And we had to serve. It was Sunday, and we were busiest. And that fever made us grin with numb delirium as the impeding forcefulness of the day clamored at our gate.

Hence, before the flood of people and their voices entered our inner sanctum, I reached to him in the silence. I reached to him, my master, who has taught me how to touch and fix without language and logic. I reached to him with my hands and whatever was left of hope between us, because I was drowning, and he was sinking and if we were going to hit rock bottom, we might as well go there together.

And in that desperate grapple for company, we floated up instead.

The fog of fever subsided the moment he let me touch his hand, his forehead, his shoulders. Every inhalation that accompanied our touching, inflated us with life and strength and courage. We felt the fever’s weight lift and float away before falling on the ground, seeping into the forgiving earth. Because my master believes in my hands and what he has taught me, you hear? And we love each other inevitably, you see? And there are things between us that will last through life and death and life again, between master and puny little midget.

And these things, these anchors of the day, do not need names to be felt. Do not need form to be held. They just need space to wedge in before the rush of life. A courageous pause to be acknowledged and embraced and cemented in the backdrop of everything else that will come in crashing.

And with someone beloved, even for just a bit, pauses like that will take us a long way into the evening. Just long enough for us to finish our day’s work and make comfortable our shells in the service of the things that we’re too tired and old to explain.

“We have lost the art of public tenderness…we have forgotten how abjectly the body welcomes a formal touch.” ~ Anne Enright, The Gathering

We waited for the prayer break to end at a café in the mall's lobby. Souma and I. It was a happy place; saturated with gorgeous daylight and a third-worldly permission to smoke in pleasantly air-conditioned indoors.

Since waiting was the main event, between coffee and nicotine intakes I pressed my hands on Souma, partially because she welcomed it, but mostly as matter of habit for the socially awkward.

I remember basking in contentedness and borderline professionalism (as is one’s usual state of mind when in tune with another’s body). Both of us sitting upright, I pressed her arms, shoulders and back. I pressed and hugged her. And – if you must know – it was utterly consensual.

All within a ten-minutes span.

What followed reminded me how inexpressive a society was Saudi, and that our exchange was prone to misinterpretation. A veiled woman came to our table, saying, "You have been flagged by the security of the mall. I am here to warn you not to proceed in such manners."

We tried explaining the nature of our relationship (imagine the stutters) and the asexual nature of touch caught in their disapproving surveillance, to which the security lady nodded dismissively and repeated, "Your behavior was unacceptable."

Hence, like all well-intending citizens when confronted with authority, we offered our gratitude. "Thank you for the reminder. We shall behave."

And we meant it.

I lack the vocabulary, but if something so brief and tender (at least to Souma and I) could draw public attention, then it might have been something important too. Something that is amiss in Saudi's vocabulary of public social expression. Something that a lot of people, whether in Saudi or elsewhere, could go by their days more enjoyably had they experienced it more often.

And that something is surely worth protecting and reapplying whenever and with whomever consents it. If only for the honest gush of gratitude and certainty that fills us afterwards. Gratitude for reasserted beliefs, for the survival of old crafts in spite of the frowning public, for the old languages of affection that might have been lost in the distance between heart and formality and abstinence.

For reminders like that – reminders that fortify our words with action and our action with dedication – we will always be grateful.

“Look at how a single candle can both defy and define the darkness.” ~ Anne Frank

I've been quiet for too long; they are jammed between my ears. Rows and rows of incomprehensible garble, each more urgent than the next, with materials that have lost its realness by overstaying in grey matter. It is entirely my fault, really; I'd spent the day ill with grief. Ill with loss and unforgiveness that only orgasms – or something quite as tragic – could purge.

I miss telling stories. I miss remembering through stories. And the riot in my head makes me long for everything else. Because everything else and this awful longing is more real than I. And what is left of my realness are mere fragments of thoughts and broken languages directed to everyone and no one.

Everyone but me. No one but me.

Which is why I am wondering about the density of the voices in your head. I'm wondering if you fancy bartering them with mine so that, perhaps, I might gain some realness by accommodating your stories in my head and you might gain some of mine – if not with reciprocity, then with understanding.

Or pity.

(Isn't that the crux of having an orgasm in someone's arms? Validation.)

Nevertheless, even if your mind is clear and your body is spent, and the voices within you are satisfied, then I'd be all the gladder for you. For your selective absent-mindedness, for you companionable busyness, I would be glad. For anything with the glimpse of movement and realness in either of us I would be glad.

Better one of us than both stuck in this riotous ether, no? And I have faith in you and your hands and sensory organs. I have faith that you're real enough to sling both of us back into the solitary flow of things.

The realness of everything that forgives and flows.

 
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