Why We Take All Those Online Quizzes!

People are curious…about other people! Some are so curious they end up getting a degree in Psychology (like yours truly) and others simply ask a lot of questions. “How are you?” “What do you do for work?” “Why do you do that?” “What do you do for fun?” “What was it like to grow up in another country?” “What movies do you like?” And it goes on. Really, the art of getting to know each other is based on spending time together, observing behaviours and asking questions.

Guess who else we’re really curious about? OURSELVES! We take these random online quizzes to learn about our personality type, our perfect career, our spirit animal, and even which Sex and the City character we are most like. We love learning about ourselves and we should. Because if we know what makes us tick, if we know what brings us down, if we know what fills our life with purpose, we can forge an authentic path. And you know how much happier you are when you are being true to yourself!

When was the last time you spent time with yourself? Unplugged, I mean. Truly been present with yourself. When was the last time you turned your attention to your own behaviours and asked YOURSELF questions?

I’ve been journalling for 27 years so I know something about talking to myself. I know about questioning and observing. And spending time with myself is one of my favourite things! I have found this practice to be ground-breaking at times and pure fun at other times. But most importantly, it’s allowed me to make decisions that create a life and a legacy that I am happy with.

Asking yourself questions is simple; answering them can be a journey. I’ve made it a little more simple and a little more of a structured road for you by creating What If…?: 52 Questions Designed for an Entire Year of Self-Discovery.

It’s a portable journal with 52 questions that will have you thinking about your values, the lessons you’ve learned and your dreams for the future. Knowing these parts of yourself will help you make choices for your own best outcome.

Although this journey can begin at any time, with a new year coming up many of us are thinking about our intentions for 2016. If your intention is to know yourself better, live more authentically, add more joy and purpose to your life, consider picking one of these up. The What If…? journal also makes a great Christmas gift, birthday gift or just-because gift.

I don’t want to sell you on self-discovery. You know when you’re ready for it. It looks different for everyone. But I’m sharing because I’m passionate about creativity, authenticity and kindness – and this journey is all of that rolled into one!

Here’s a ‘what if’ question for you to answer in the comments (from the book): What if you had to leave behind all your worldly possessions except one? What would you take with you?

I’d love to hear your answers!

taslim jaffer, let me out creative

 

5 Reasons Why We Need Poetry

Poetry has a weird reputation; people are both fascinated by it and afraid of it. We want to know: what do people write in their darkest moments, in secret places. We want to decode the language of the senses and emotions and visit other worlds. We want to lurk in the smoky, dim spaces of people’s minds. But we don’t know how. Do we need a special code word to enter? Do we need to know something before we can know something? Is this an invite-only type deal reserved for those who wear dark, horn-rimmed glasses and hang out in cafes? Would we be looked upon as imposters if we dared sneak into the world of poetry?

One of my objectives as a writer and teacher is to make poetry accessible to everyone who seeks it.

Why? Because we need poetry for at least these 5 reasons:

1. “Poetry gives you permission to feel.” ~ James Autry

What you end up sharing is the whole, complex human experience rather than simply stating facts. You can state your visit to the doctor, the serial tests that followed and the resulting diagnosis as ‘things that happened’ or you can explore them, invite others in on the journey and truly experience them with poetic language. The latter fulfills your human need to feel and forms the foundation for a place of healing.

2. Poetry helps you tap into that intuitive part of you that knows things; when you write, you may be surprised by the wisdom that spills onto the page. This is useful in healing yourself and others who have the opportunity to read or hear your work. The more you practice writing, the stronger your poetic voice becomes and the more easily these revelations write themselves.

3. If you have ever attended a poetry reading, you may have noticed that at points during the recitation of poems, members of the audience have a physical reaction to what is being read. You may hear gasps, mmmmm’s, aaahhhh’s, and other reflexive sounds. These are declarations of sharing space. When we listen to one another, we create an intimate world where we visit each other’s hearts. This type of connection creates a community where joy and healing can take place. Isn’t it comforting when you realize you aren’t alone in feeling something?

4. When I talk about poetry as healing, I don’t mean it will shrink your tumour or cure your addictions. I do mean that it will heal your spirit in a way that gives you the strength to deal with physical illness and problems. Think of it as building the terrain that makes it possible to navigate tricky situations. Or a creative tool for helping you see things in a light that lead you to feeling whole again.

5. If you need a friend, poetry will never fail you. What is it that you seek in a friendship in your darkest hour? Or in a moment of great triumph? Or even those times when you don’t have something extraordinary to say, but you want to say it anyway? Someone who will listen and who makes you feel…like you exist. Like you’re known. Like you’re understood. Writing words on paper will do that for you; it will be your companion when you need one.

Are you more fascinated by poetry, or afraid of it? I’d love to hear what you think in the comments!

taslim jaffer, let me out creative

The Best Way I Know To Connect With Creativity – We Can All Do It

I grew up with meditation all around me. And Rumi – a lot of Rumi! Aside from daily prayers and abiding by principles like kindness and service, as an Ismaili Muslim I was always taught that there is a way to merge with my Higher Self/God/Love that I have access to at all times; that ‘way’ is through meditation. Obviously, this is not limited to any one religion, any one faith group or any one person.

Whenever I have spoken up to educate about religion, it has been about just that: education. Building bridges through knowledge, because knowledge is power and eradicates fear. But I don’t propagate one religion over another and to be honest, I am irked by door-knockers, billboards and radical statements about there being only one person who can lead us to ‘salvation’ or one path that leads to nirvana. It makes me sad that people are divided over something that is supposed to remind us to be kind and loving.

Russell Brand nails it when he says in this video, “God is not something that’s about thinking you’re better than someone or a reason to have a war with someone. It’s that within us, beneath our and beyond our identity as human beings driven by fear and desire, defined by the realm of the senses and the material self which is transitory, there is a divine self that is connected to all living things, that is part of an infinite source of creativity.

I talk and write primarily about that connection to one’s Self – that creative, authentic, kind part of us that when released can bring a lot of good to us as individuals and communities. One of the best ways I know to connect to this infinite source of creativity is to meditate.

Meditation has become kind of trendy and hippie-chic, making it almost a commodity. But I invite you to look at it this way: meditation is simply getting quiet and still enough to be open to your own Wisdom. That idea alone is empowering, isn’t it? That we each have the Wisdom we need inside us, and that we each have the power to access it. That puts us all on an even playing field, too…which is why I teach my kids about all the different religions as subjects to study and learn from – but why I teach them about their individual relationship with Source as the truth which they must nurture and value.

I remember when my daughter was around 4 or 5 years old, we were sitting at the dinner table and suddenly she held up her hand and said, while looking at it, “Is this real? Sometimes I feel like this isn’t real. Like there’s something ELSE that’s real.” I paused, not able to swallow my bite; I had said something along those lines to my dad around the same age. I actually distinctly remember holding up my hand, and noticing the space between the fingers, the outline of this mass that seemed so heavy and clumsy…and not real.

Her experience, and mine, affirmed for me that as children we are pretty open to this idea (that our bodies aren’t ‘real’ but our soul is), especially in an environment that allows for outside the box thinking. If we shove that knowledge into a tiny space inside us, then as adults we might ridicule such ideas or even fear them. If we are encouraged to stay connected to our authentic and creative Self throughout childhood and adolescence, then as an adult we don’t fear it – we embrace it.

The benefits of meditation/connecting to one’s Self are numerous; they are physical (an increase in gray matter of the brain), emotional (we have a better handle on our emotions and experience a decrease in anxiety and fear) and spiritual (we are always aware of the finite-ness of our existence on Earth and subsequently, aware of our spiritual desires to help and serve others).

I was spurred to write this because, last Thursday, after quite some time, I spent much of the night and early morning connecting with my Self this way. It was a night that was set aside just for that and it wasn’t an opportunity I would have daily (nor would I have the strength and stamina to do it!), but it was a reminder that I do have 10 minutes a day, 15 minutes a day, 20 minutes a day to not just ‘be by myself’…but to be WITH my Self.

trees, nature, connect with creativity, creative, authentic, kind, ismaili muslim, rumi, jalalud-din-rumi, shams tabriz, soul, russell brand

And yes, I could totally benefit from more gray matter, decreased anxiety and more spiritual awareness. But I don’t need to do it for any other reason than it is simply something my soul wants. And since that is the ‘real’ part of me (the authentic Self), I choose to honour it.

I hope these words resonate with you in some way and I love hearing your thoughts in the comments. In a nutshell, this post sums up what Let ME Out!! is – what exactly it is we are striving to ‘let out’, how it‘s connected to creativity, authenticity and kindness, and the importance of recognizing and valuing our relationship with that limitless pool of potential.

 

 

Video: Guest Salma Dinani Of The Write Balance Chats Creativity, Authenticity and Kindness #LMOChat

I took the opportunity to ask popular blogger and writer Salma about her thoughts on being creative, authentic and kind. She not only agreed and gave some great responses to my questions, she also helped out her non-tech friend put together this video. There must be ‘an app for that’ that I have yet to explore 😉 (Thank you, Salma!)

It’s important to me to be able to share with you real-life examples of how people are staying true to their creative Self, and tied up in that is being authentic and of course, kind. (Because being kind is our true nature).

So, without further ado, please check out this really short video and let me know what you think. I found it interesting what Salma said about how she stays creative. It’s a great tip if you’re ever experiencing writer’s block!

 

A Fun Way To Get Your Literary Groove On!

It’s amazing how the more we take a little dip in the creativity pool, the more inspiration pours in. And that inspiration can seep into many areas of life: parenting, career, relationships…I definitely see an increase in ideas when I take the time to practice thinking outside the box.

Today I’m sharing what is basically a game that will set you up with countless writing prompts for daily 15 minute creativity breaks (kind of like the ones I share on the Let ME Out!! Facebook page). Totally suitable for teachers, parents, students, writers, and anybody who wants to play with their imaginations!

This can be put together over a number of days/writing sessions depending on your energy level and available time. If you are doing this with school-age children, I highly recommend doing this in small chunks.

Ok, so let’s create character sketches, settings and phrases as the components of the game.

Character Sketches

Grab some paper and answer the following questions to create a character:

1. Is your character male or female?

2. How old is your character?

3. Describe your character physically. Think of details like hair colour/type, shape of eyes, clothing…be as precise as possible. You never know when certain physical characteristics can be dropped into a story to make things interesting and visualize-able!

4. Where was your character born? Do they have an accent?

5. Name at least 3 unique qualities about your character. These can be quirks, idiosyncrasies, a significant event they have gone through that has shaped them in some way. This step is to help you dive a little deeper into your character’s life.

Repeat these 5 steps for at least 5 characters. Each character should be on separate paper.

Settings 

Now we’re going to come up with 5 different settings on 5 separate pieces of paper, by answering the following questions:

1. What is the name of the city or town? (It can be real or fictitious).

2. What time of year is it?

3. What time of day is it?

4. Name a specific location in the city or town. (eg. DeeDee’s Diner) Add about a paragraph describing this particular location.

Phrases

Phrases can be things the character (or a secondary character) says, thinks or overhears. Or the phrases can be part of the prose that must be worked in word for word. Come up with at least 5, on separate pieces of paper.

Some examples could be:

1. “Do you have a pen I could borrow?”

2. “What’s there to do around here?”

3. The moonlight created shadows.

4. A loud bang startled her.

5. This wasn’t rocket science.

And now for the really fun part…

Make clear piles separating the character sketches, settings and phrases. (You can put them in freezer bags or brown paper bags or shoe boxes). Randomly choose from each pile until you have a character, a setting and a phrase in front of you.

writing practice, writing exercises, character sketches, writing games, students, teachers, therapists, art therapist, writing,

Set a timer for at least 15 minutes and incorporate the ideas into part of a story. The end result could be just a stretch of the creative muscle, or it could be the beginning of a longer story.

Whenever you have 15 minutes for a creativity break, you can add to either the character sketches, settings or phrases, or you can grab one of each and work them into a few paragraphs.

If you have any questions, or want to comment on this activity, I’d love to hear from you! Contact me privately or leave your thoughts below!

 

 

 

3 Things To Write About: Inspiration For Your Writing Practice – #3ThingsThursday

June was a bullet train. It was a fun ride but I am looking forward to the slower-paced, long days of summer. I talked to the kids yesterday about ‘the plan’ that will allow me to work and give them some independent free play time, and they seemed excited about it. Mostly I think they are happy that there is so much play in store for them. But I have to give them props. These kids have always been amazing cheerleaders, coming to my poetry readings, celebrating big and little accomplishments and listening to my ideas with such patience and interest, even when I am sure a lot of it was going over their heads. In fact, THEY have taught ME so much about what it means to celebrate someone else; everyday I hope that they feel I am doing the same for them.

When I came to them with the plan and said we would need to work together, I knew they would be fine with it, but still it made me feel grateful…I just don’t take it for granted that we’ve grown together this way.

Looking back over almost 8 years of motherhood, I see such huge changes in me. Maybe you’ve noticed them, too, if you’ve been reading my blog long enough. I used to feel like I was swimming upstream, ‘fighting the shackles’ that were keeping me from being…I don’t know…I don’t know who or what I was trying to be. And I think it was the not knowing that had me feeling like I wasn’t being or doing…anything. When really, what was happening was some of the greatest shifts of my life.

I’ve softened. I’ve shifted focus, perspective. I’m much quicker to say, that’s not as important to me as this moment, right here, with my family. And I am so grateful that this realization has come to me while my kids are still this young and I hope the awareness only grows.

But wait, that’s not what I meant to blog about today! But I’m not deleting it. I am, however, going to tell you about one of the great experiences I have been blessed with on this authentic and creative journey.

For the last almost 5 years I have co-hosted a free, drop-in writing group in the South Surrey/White Rock area. The group is called Word Whips by the Water and is an initiative of Pandora’s Collective. On the first Wednesday of every month, from 6:30-8 pm, at the White Rock Public Library, my friend Karen and I share writing prompts with the crowd that shows up. Everyone has 15 minutes to write to each prompt, after which sharing is encouraged, but not required.

So, for today’s #3ThingsThursday, a linkup hosted by Pink Chai Living, The Write Balance and Love Laugh Mirch, I’m going to give YOU 3 things to write about! If you’re a blogger and would like to link up, please visit any of the hosts’ websites!

Grab a piece of paper, or open a Word doc, set your timer for 15 minutes and write poetry or prose, fiction or non-fiction to any or all of the images below. You don’t need to use the words I give you, but you can if you wish.

1. Palm trees in Anaheim, Californiapalm trees, anaheim, disneyland, california

2. The embers of a campfire

embers, campfire, camping, dying embers, hot,

3. Looking up at pine trees.

pine trees, against the night sky, camping, looking up at trees, trees, looking up

 

An Exercise To Encourage Creativity & Self-Expression – For Kids & Adults

feature image courtesy of stockimages from freedigitalphotos.net

Those of you who have been around long enough may remember that I used to give you a ‘task’ every Tuesday to stimulate your creativity. Just a little something that could be done in a short time to remove some of those cobwebs from your creative channels. From that, Tuesday Tasks: 52 Activities Designed for an Entire Year of Creativity was born and is now selling online and in stores.

One of my personal favourites is what I call the Feelings Poem, an exercise I did when I was in grade 6. This morning I had the pleasure to go into my daughter’s grade 2 classroom and facilitate a mini poetry workshop using this poem. As an introduction to poetry, I asked the students to list reasons why people write them. Basically, the responses centred around:

– because it’s fun (YES! Enjoyment! It’s so important to do things simply because they are fun!)

– so we can tell people things (YES! Express ourselves – super important to be able to do this!)

– so we can make people happy (YES! Invoke feelings in others! I went on to explain that we can make people feel anything with the words we use…what a great lesson in kindness and a preventive measure for bullying.)

I also talked about the uniqueness of poetry: how even if two classmates decided to write on the same topic, their poems would be totally different because each of them is special. And that is SO AWESOME!

Poetry helps us describe things in a way that other people can relate to, even if they haven’t had the same exact experience as you. It’s like using words to paint a picture in other people’s heads. With an older group of kids, more time and without my toddler in class with me, I would have loved to go into more of a lesson on poetry. I’m realizing just how much I have to share about writing as a therapeutic tool of self-expression.

Here’s how the lesson went:

1. First we brainstormed a list of emotions: happy, sad, excited, surprised, worried, nervous, grumpy, scared, jealous etc. This is a great thing to do with children of all ages, but keep in mind that the younger ones will have a more limited vocabulary for their feelings. I wouldn’t spend too much time on this part for now – your child will be working with one emotion that he or she knows a lot about.

2. Next, each child chose an emotion and wrote it down in the first blank (see template below).

3. Then I asked everyone to close their eyes and think about the word they had just written – even imagine feeling it. I asked, “What colour is this feeling?” The colour went in the next blank.

4. We moved through the template, line by line, so that I could give a little prompt at the beginning: Think about the feeling you chose: if it had a smell, what would it smell like? etc.

5. The ‘And reminds me of _____’ was a bit tricky for this age group. I prompted by asking them to think of a memory associated with the feeling.

6. The last line should begin with the chosen feeling.

I’d love it if you’d try this with your child and then give me feedback on how it went. (Be sure to tell me how old your child is). Also, please do this yourself! It’s really fun and will let you stretch those creative muscles!

Stay tuned for more exercises and videos for kids and adults that will release your creative and authentic Self. To be sure not to miss anything, please sign up to receive my blog posts straight to your inbox, and receive a free mini e-book! Thank you 🙂

 

 

Why Unplugging Gives Me The Goosebumps

After Saturday morning’s 5 am feed, I couldn’t fall back to sleep. My head was a jumble of thoughts that chased each other like clothes in a dryer. It was pre-dawn and I was tired, but I knew these thoughts would add to my fatigue. I had to do something.

My laptop was in the living room on the ottoman, where I had left it the night before after finishing off some work. I let it stay there. I was doing this, unplugged. Entering my studio, it looked like a magical place. The porch light outside my windows and outside the French doors along the far wall streamed in to kiss my sparkly chandelier, and lit a rectangular path on my soft, white carpet. There was something ‘extra’ about the room, and yet, I realized it was because the laptop was missing.

I sat down at my desk and turned on the lamp, staring for a minute at the soft glow cast upon my dark grey tabletop. Look at this space. It wasn’t just the writing desk that looked bigger; the possibilities felt greater, too.

I grabbed some loose leaf paper and a pen, and alone – without a world of other people sharing information or social gab with me – I had the quiet I needed.

It’s only in that quiet that I could have heard the messages I received that morning.

I thought I would start by writing out all the things that were bugging me, but instead I ended up sculpting a paragraph of my gratitudes, which honestly surprised me. I thought the whole reason I got out of bed was to have a great big rant. It was thrilling to be in that place again, that feeling of being slightly out of control, not really knowing what would flow from my heart to my fingers as my head slowly got out of its way. Once the gratitudes were out, the dryer in my head stopped tumbling; the pen and my hand worked together to pull everything out. The paper offered a space for everything to land and finally, when I wrote out my first question, in that gorgeous quiet without technology and conscious thought, I heard things. Bits of phrases, loving words, directive language. As I heard, I wrote – as fast as I could to keep up. I kept asking, and writing, feeling loved and cared for and so very un-judged. It wasn’t like someone was listening and nodding and showing understanding. There was nothing to understand or validate. Whatever I was feeling just was. It wasn’t good or bad and I was simply loved through it all.

It might sound crazy, but you’ve heard things, too. I’m convinced none of us gets through life without gut feelings and lightbulb ideas that come out of ‘nowhere’. If you journal, you have probably had similar experiences to the one I just described. Maybe it’s the same for other artists. I know songwriters who say the music comes to them ‘from somewhere’ and they simply transcribe. My husband has built sound business relationships based on his gut. I’m sure your gut has gotten you out of trouble at times, too. (Or maybe into trouble, if you didn’t listen to it!) What I’m saying is, there’s nothing special about me that these messages came through. Or rather, we’re all that special. We just need to get quiet.

What does that quiet feel like? To me, it feels like sitting under old-growth pine trees, in front of a clear lake, watching the sunlight dance on the small ripples. It’s like hearing birdsong – and  distant childhood laughter – as I feel the warmth on my shoulders. I feel peaceful. Calm. Relieved. Content. Healthy. Loved. Significant.

On a daily basis, I can’t be exactly in that scenario physically, but I am convinced I can have more of those feelings if I unplugged more. What about you? Or does unplugging make you feel more anxious? No judgment. Just want you to think about it.

Of course, I write for online publications, including this blog! I provide social media and web content for businesses and non-profits. And if I have a how-to question or need a recipe, I turn to Google. The internet has certainly brought me a lot – I wouldn’t have gotten involved with Pandora’s Collective 5 years ago, which led me to doing all kinds of awesome things with my writing, if I hadn’t Googled ‘poetry readings+Vancouver’ in an effort to find community.

But at what point did it become too distracting? At what point did it take away my quiet? And how can I exist with it, but still live my most healthy, peaceful, content life? Where are you on that barometer, by the way? On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being sitting-by-the-lake calm, where are you today? Is this related to how often you unplug? I just want you to think about it.

Because I certainly am thinking about it. I’m thinking a lot about what keeps me relaxed yet inspired.

[Tweet “I want to be grounded, but still chase my dreams while my Spirit soars. “]

Speaking of which, I spent a good chunk of time in my studio this morning photographing these beauties while the baby rolled around on my carpet. Can we take another look?

What are your thoughts on unplugging? How do you stay grounded? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments! Thanks for reading!

 

 

P.S. There is a Canadian TEDx speaker, Christina Crook, who did unplug…for 31 days! She’s written a book called The Joy of Missing Out which she is launching tonight in Vancouver. If you want to swing by and ask her how and why she unplugged for so long, go to The Charles Bar in Gastown between 8 and 10 pm tonight (Feb 17). I’m waiting with bated breath to receive my copy so I can tell you my thoughts on it!

A Wonderful Way To Connect With Friends – And How I Can Help!

Earlier this year, I launched a book called What If…?: 52 Questions Designed for an Entire Year of Self-Discoveryand it was a lovely, lovely day! If you haven’t held one of these in your hands yet, you have a chance to win your own copy at the end of this post – but first, I want to tell you about a vision – and special promotion –  I have for these books!

 

 

 

What If…questions are designed to stretch your perspective, rotate your view a bit so you see things differently, or dive into yourself deep enough that you discover something you’d either forgotten, or didn’t quite know was there.

Answer one question a week (directly into the book, if you wish) – and learn a LOT about yourself.

Like this: “What if you were given the opportunity to address a college graduating class and share with them some wisdom you have gained? What would you talk about?”

One of my visions for this book was that it would be a place to connect with others as well. Self-discovery does not need to be a journey we take alone. Discussing our thoughts with others we trust allows us to learn even more – the way we answer, how we feel when we are talking about our truths…these are all part of the process.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a trusted group of friends meet once a month and share their responses to their favourite questions?

If I were to hold a What If…circle, I would suggest we take the first 4 questions and answer them on our own, in our own spaces, throughout the month, then meet and share our favourite one with the group (or more if time permitted). Then the next 4 questions for the next month.

I think it would be the perfect way to make 2015 a year of connection – both with ourselves and with others.

When I picture these What If…circles, I imagine at least 5 people sitting together. So, to honour the number 5, I’ve decided to host a time-limited special! Buy 5 What If…? books, and get 20% off the entire order. This is basically like buying 4, getting 1 free. In other words, each member of the group gets the book for just $12!

All you have to do is click HERE to head over to my online store, add at least 5 What If…? books to your cart, type in the promo code WhatIf and you’re good to go!

Would it be a bit difficult to share deeply with people you know? Then why not start a What If…circle with complete strangers? You could meet at a public place (the public library often has rooms available if you pre-book) and use the same format. If I were to start a group this way, I would post something like this on community centre bulletin boards, free space in online or print community newspapers, at the library etc:

Do you want to embark on a journey of self-discovery, and be accompanied by others doing the same?

We are looking for people to join our trusted circle, inspired by Taslim Jaffer’s What If…? journal.

For more information, contact _____ at ________.

Let’s make 2015 be a year of connecting, learning and new perspectives!

Of course, you can throw your own spin on it, or don’t hesitate to drop me a line for help getting started!

If you don’t think a circle is in the cards for your new year (I understand – it can be hard to fit one more thing into your month!), you can still take advantage of this discount. Get some friends together and share in the savings – or make 4 other people really happy on Christmas morning!

Here are a few testimonials from the authors, thought leaders, moms and entrepreneurs who took this book for a test drive:

“I’m a busy mom of 2 kids, but after reading only the first question in Taslim’s What If? workbook, I found my thoughts drifting back to it throughout my day. The profound questions give the readers an opportunity to be enlightened about how they view the world. An excellent source of discussion for book clubs and wherever people gather.”

~ Shay Meszaros, mom and entrepreneur

“Ask yourself ‘What if…’ and all of a sudden a whole world of possibility that has been aching to be known to you shows up! Taslim Jaffer is a wizard at posing the perfect prompts to unlock the creative, the bold and the genius in all of us!”

~Farhana Dhalla, international bestselling author

“An eye-opening experience! Emotions effortlessly flowed as I fondly recalled forgotten moments. Even a second time around with this book, it was a new journey. Treat yourself to these 52 fabulous questions!”

~Georgina Grace, author and entrepreneur

“Simple yet profound – journeying through these questions will transform your world! Don’t miss out on this experience!”

~Azim Jamal, international speaker and author

“Through life’s journey, we are bound to question our thoughts, actions and beliefs. Taslim Jaffer’s new workbook, What If?, allows us to do just that in a structured format. For every week of the year, we are given a what if question to ponder and asked to jot down our thoughts. What if this is the best activity we could do for ourselves this year?”

~E. Patricia Connor, author and co-founder of Kindness is Key Training and Publishing, Inc.

Click on the image below or HERE to shop! Thank you for your support – and I would love to hear your feedback or questions any time.

 

 

P.S. Leave a comment below about your favourite way to connect with yourself OR those you love and be entered to win your own copy of What If…?: 52 Questions Designed for an Entire Year of Self-Discovery!

**Giveaway open to U.S. or Canadian residents only – thank you! Contest closes Tuesday Nov. 11 at 12 pm.

 

 

 

Pinned In A Space Between Two Cultures

I’d like to take credit for the title of this blog post, but it originally sat boldly atop an article written by Anne Bains, published in the Toronto Star on January 3, 1994.  Her descriptions of being a hyphenated Canadian university student mirrored my own experiences and up until that point, I had felt there was not a single soul who knew what it felt like to be caught between two worlds with such vastly different value systems.  At least, I hadn’t ‘met’ anyone brave enough to try to grasp the issue with both hands and blurt it all out on paper.

 

 

 

 

 

 

My adolescence was a lonely time during which I didn’t feel I fit in with my friends at school or with my friends at the mosque.  I no longer felt like my parents were the ones I could turn to for understanding.  It’s not an exaggeration or an attempt at being dramatic when I say that my journal was my best friend, without which I’m not sure how I would have made it to the other side of my teen years.  The article written by Anne Bains sits on the table beside me now as I type this, taking a short breather from its home between the pages of one of the journals I kept in high school. Pulling it out today has evoked the same feelings of isolation and sadness I felt at that time my dad placed it on my study desk some 20 years ago.

I can go further in my personal history and pull out stories of being Indian in Victoria, B.C. in the early ‘80s.  By the way, at that time, not only people who were from India were called Indian, but also First Nations people.  That was confusing as a child, I can tell you that!  I knew from the get-go in Kindergarten that I was different from the other kids.  For one thing, because English was my second language, there were still several words for which I didn’t know the English word.  I became painfully aware that my skin was a different colour than the other kids’ when a group of older boys threw dog poop at me on the playground because I was ‘brown like it.’  (They stopped laughing when my best friend, Leah, got her older brother to have a word with them.)

Experiences like that followed me to the mainland when I was told in Grade 3 to “Go back to Pakistan, you Paki!”  Well, that really threw me because as far as I knew, no one in my family had even visited Pakistan on a holiday.  My roots are in the state of Gujarat in India and we had a three generation stopover in Kenya before making Canada our permanent home.  My parents and I came to Canada when I was less than a year old so it really was the only home I’d ever known.  So when someone left a note at our front door telling us we weren’t wanted in Canada with our devil-worshipping ways I began to wonder where I truly belonged.

In the tween years, that gulf between my Canadian and South Asian identities widened as my ‘Canadian’ peers (those whose parents were born and raised here) were enjoying sleepovers, co-ed parties and hanging out at the mall or going to the movies unchaperoned.  The few Indian families I knew who allowed that kind of behaviour were categorized as trying to be ‘too Canadian.’  Within my home, there wasn’t just a generational gap anymore, but also a cultural one.  This gap only grew in my teen years.

What was difficult for me was that I truly identified with both cultures.  I could wear either hat and feel the part.  I have always held in high esteem particular values from each system and felt they fit me.  But neither side seemed to accept me as one of them.  And that’s because, as Anne so eloquently put it, I was pinned in a space, dangling sometimes by a sad, lonely thread, between the two cultures.

I’m bringing all this up now because of an inaugural event coming to Vancouver on April 28, 2014 known as G Day for Girls.  This modern day rite of passage is for girls between the ages of 10-12; it’s a day to celebrate their individuality as well as arm them with wisdom about how to thrive in their uniqueness.  I could have used a day like that, a group of women mentoring me, making me feel like I could navigate the years ahead with support and understanding.  If you love a girl in that age group, please check out their website for more details.

I’m going to tuck this article away now – maybe I will even try to find Anne Bains and tell her that her words made a huge difference to me when it really mattered, and that I looked up to her without having ever laid eyes on her.  I was lucky.  I had a strong connection to my Self through my writing and found hope in hers.  Let’s all work consciously to be that connection for our girls.