The Death Cycle

Yesterday I attended the funeral of my grandmother’s sister.

The cycle of life and death comes at you fast.

As they lifted her body out of her house into the Arabic inscribed kaatel and carried her off to the neighbourhood masjid, I felt a pull in my heart and my eyes began to pierce with tears. I will be carried off to the masjid on the shoulders of my male loved ones as well.

As they recited salawat and adhkar over her deceased body, yet very alive soul, so too will they be reciting litanies over me.

I went into the restroom and my nose led me to the camphorated white towels that lay in the corner; my eyes fall on the half sliced lemons with cloves poking in it to mask the smell of death, so too will I be washed and cleansed with camphor.

I kissed my great aunt one last time, and thought, so too shall I be kissed one last time.

I exited the room and looked at my grandmother,

who bears a striking resemblance to her late sister, who is only a few months her senior, and prayed

that my eyes and my heart will be graced with her loving presence for a little bit longer.

 

 

Reflecting on Yuval Harari’s 21 Lessons

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The human soul has held my interest for the longest time. More than that, the soul who has achieved its full potential peaks my interest the most. Earlier today, whilst the floor was a little quiet, I hopped onto the work’s pc and googled the author of the revered 21 Lessons for the 21st Century; to say that I was pleasantly surprised by the findings is an understatement.

Aside from Harari’s leading research in biotechnology and AI, I was more curious as to how he made such an astounding breakthrough. He credits his accomplishment to his teacher who taught him ‘important things’ and to his fifteen years of Vipassana meditation. I also find it apt to mention that he is a vegan and does not own a smartphone. For someone who is so intimately connected with the challenges of this age, he is a stalwart in his conscious decision to disconnect from the noise.

The subtle details of our actions matter more than we know. Whether it’s spending an hour aimlessly on the gram, we are unconsciously being shaped and moulded into conforming into someone else’s higher order. In James Clear’s Atomic Habits, he so brilliantly writes that the ‘quality of our lives often depend on the quality of our habits.’

From the mystics to the enlightened intellectuals of our age, time and time again I am shown that detachment from the world and inward reflection are the keys to unlock the doors to the soul’s greatest treasure.

During his most recent visit to Cape Town, I asked Imam Afroz Ali to elaborate more on meditation and its connection to the multiple spiritual traditions across the generations. He looked at me – for what seemed like forever – and simply answered ‘mutawatir doesn’t lie.’

So similarly to the Muslim theology that has been rigourously sanctified throughout the ages, so too has meditation. Uninterrupted quietude that springs forth from the decision to consciously unplug has proven to yield enormous results.

By God’s mercy, we are all capable of more than our minds could possibly conjure up. My own personal favourite of the inner sojourn is that of God’s beloved, Muhammad (may peace be upon him) who had a habit of retreating to the cave of Hira in order to meditate. And he has achieved more than any human has ever set out to accomplish.

It is amazing what the human being is fully capable of once it realigns itself to the Beautiful and keeps toward the Light.

The Ambiance of Spaces Pt. 2

Slow Saturday Mornings

Saturday mornings in the city bowl is quite something.

From the bustle of the activities of the working week to the slow movements of the weekend is a transition that I have come to love. It may warrant a safety precaution but I quite like the slowness of it all. I can breathe a little deeper, walk a little freely without incoming cars at every corner and I am able to move at my body’s natural pace, instead of that of the young professional rushing to his next appointment.

Naturally, it’s still the CBD so work doesn’t come to a complete standstill; the construction supervisor and the two girls in hijab walking in the street are one of my anchors. They remind me that I’m not physically alone. The couple sitting at the far end of the cafe window with their breakfast spread and pour-over coffee are my anchors as well.

We’re not really ever alone.

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I turn my head to my right and I witness the sun pouring in from the window, and in this moment I can’t think of anything more glorious than that of the trickling in of the sunshine kissing the wooden furniture.  This life is quite a simple one, and sometimes, we forget this in the ‘terrible debris of progress.’ I’m guilty of it too! But places of beauty remind me that this life is much more meaningful than simply going through the motions; I need to be alive too. I know that being alive is not the easiest thing. You take a few deep conscious breaths from the pit of your belly and suddenly you’re subject to your feelings and unexpressed past emotions.

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Working your way through the complexity of your emotions can be a sore inconvenience but I assure you with my life that there is nothing more cathartic than letting the tears roll down your cheeks after experiencing a moment of sadness. I’d rather find an appropriate outlet for my emotions than having it manifest as chronic pain in my knee or in my gut. I’d rather take time off and retreat on day one of my period than return to my normal routine. The body takes revenge when you don’t listen to its subtle messages, PMS is a manifestation of not listening enough.

Not fitting in the mould of modern life doesn’t phase me. But what does, is the state that I find myself in right now. The state I’m in when I’m present with my partner, my friends, my studies, and the energy and heart I bring to every facet of my life. The cultivation of the inner life isn’t an impossible task but like all the fine things this life has on offer, it requires time and devoted attention.

External distraction can sway you from the important task that is the self-sustaining work of the soul. One of the ways you can do this, in the words of Yoga with Adriene, is to find what feels good.

 

The Novelty of New Beginnings

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I love the novelty of new beginnings.

Whether it’s the start of the new week, the first of a new month, the birth of the new moon or even the crispness of the early morning that marks the new day, there is much to glean from the beginning of things. To paraphrase a line of Rumi, he says that the morning, specifically pre-dawn, has secrets to tell you, so don’t go back to sleep. Like the new day, beginnings in and of itself holds enormous possibilities, but only if you allow it to.

Today is the first of October and to mark the occasion, I tried out a new coffee shop and sat my butt down and I reflected, along with a strawberry and rooibos smoothie.

2019 has been a glorious whirlwind of a year and I couldn’t be more grateful. A lot of things worked out in my favour, and a lot of things did not. Naturally, my heart ached, and in some ways, it still does; yet I still look forward to the new day with shining eyes and an open heart. One of the things I’ve taken from this year is that the present moment is all you’ll ever need, and the X spot that you spend your life searching for, is right beneath the soles of the feet. So with the present moment at my disposal, it’s up to me and my two hands to make the most of it.

Near the end of September, I was left with feeling bouts of unfulfillment. This year has been great but the feeling of inadequacy and not expressing myself fully gnawed at me. I longed for the feeling of working in congruency with my soul’s purpose, yet I’ve spent large chunks of time reading and learning. I read so many books on the soul that I would be able to write my own book, yet I still felt a lack of alignment. I wasn’t doing enough. Seven days of reading compared to zero days of doing doesn’t yield to much.

As a kid, I loved reading, but I loved drawing too. I’d get lost in a sketch and run to my mom ecstatically shouting ‘mommy, mommy look what I made!’ We played in the garden a lot. I’d draw and watch my sister climb the tree in our yard. I’d climb with her but I never reached the top of it as quickly or as often as she did. The protruding ants successfully warded me off and I’d happily retreat to the page.

My grandmother was a dressmaker and I’d often sit by her and sketch to the obnoxious background noise of her industrial sewing machine. Not too long after, I too became interested in the craft of design and the making of clothes. My family recognised my inner flame and enrolled me in an art school where I studied design, and made clothes, or at least attempted to. Afterward, I applied to study my BA in Fashion but I took a different pathway and studied English. I don’t regret it, but I do miss my previous self. We’ve been separated for nearly four years.

The beginning, the middle, or the end of day/week/month/season provides you with a new opportunity to start over or to relish in but it comes down to choice. As long as you’re breathing you still have time to live according to your heart’s song. This October, I hope to reconnect to my true self by forming new habits; for 40 days, I am committing to daily drawing and conscious movement. As the saying goes, you are what you repeatedly do – so I hope, by my reinforced habits, to get back into my body through daily movement and to reconnect with my nature by going back to what I loved most as a child.

Is there anything in your life that you would like to reconnect to?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Ambiance of Spaces

At the end of the working week (or school week in my case), the one thing I look forward to most is walking out of the school’s doors, with my hijab flying, hips in swaying motion as I exit the rotating doors of the building with the endless possibilities in mind that lie before me.  And by possibilities I mean a solo coffee date with a book in hand and pen and paper in the other.

glorious.

But my thoughts and feet come to a halt as I quickly decide which direction to take. Cape Town’s CBD is saturated with coffee shops, and an influx of choices mostly necessitates mental strife. The ego thrives on choice and leaves my head exhausted. This Friday I’m not in the mood to walk too far, neither am I mentally equipped to take on Long Street so I direct myself to Bree. I’ve been wanting to try out this cafe ever since the two girls in my class mentioned the word ‘coffee shop’ and ‘gallery’ combined.  It’s Red! too. A couple of months and a few failed attempts later, I took a right and finally sat myself down and ordered a cappuccino to stay.

Now, I don’t usually care for the enclosure of buildings but the four walls of a coffee shop will always remain one of my favourites. I walk into one with the intention of being consoled, in whatever form the space I’m in delivers.

The cafe I’m in is particularly spacious, with its high ceilings and it’s enclosed with glass. I’m mostly taken in by the art that hangs around me and the smell of buttered bread hitting the heated pan.

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At the front counter, I was greeted by a friendly waiter, next to him is a lady – who looks like she could be the manager as her eyes roamed searchingly. She seems to be in a daze. The other waiter on her left looks like she’d wish she were somewhere else.

Next to me, in the corner of my eye, I spot a guy diving into his egg sandwich, and in front of us, a lady is about to tuck into her leafy wrap. On my left, there are two young professionals talking all things work; I don’t know what they’re eating but I do hear the incessant clink of silverware.

Not too long after, those people left, others streamed in for takeaway coffee, and here I am, only on my fifth sip.

There are subtleties that make up a space; they have a specific soul quality to them. Some spaces feel grand and others feel cold. Taking a walk to the coffee shop in my neighbourhood doesn’t feel as luxurious as coffee shop hopping in the CBD on a Friday afternoon. And even in the CBD, different coffee houses possess different personalities. You can almost feel it as soon as you step in.

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Your environment, like the company you keep, has an effect on you. Most times, it’s so unconscious, and other times it’s so obvious to you that you rush to tear off the veil so you can let some light in.

It’s important to know the spaces that elicit beauty from you and to frequent them for as long as you possibly can.

 

 

 

Being

The struggle that is being fully present.

I find myself complaining most of the time. Not wanting to attend school all five (and sometimes all six days), struggling to get up in the morning because my head feels really heavy (I should sleep earlier than 11 pm, to be frank) and I find myself not having enough time to do all the things I love to do which leaves me exhausted (is it me? no/yes? my poor time management duh)

I could be doing the things I’ve always wanted to do and still lament over the fact that it’s not what I envisioned. I had to come to terms with the universal law of not everything will manifest the way you picture it in your head. For example, I love learning but the systems that are put in place before students and the dullness of the pedagogical method causes a streak in me to rebel. to surf the internet during a lesson. to let my mind wander about that Ebook I could have been reading, or the coffee I could be drinking just up the street in beautiful Bree if only I wasn’t in class. I have these thoughts at least twice a day, sometimes more when I’m not with a teacher who aligns with me.

This is a gross attitude to have.

And also a waste of time. I’m not getting that coffee and neither am I benefitting from what is before me, so who is winning? Not me that’s for sure.

I read endless amounts of books on mindfulness and instead of practicing it, like the student of life I ought to be, I am left with a load of guilt (this is what happens when you don’t walk your talk heyoooo)

Your time will always be your time, even if you’re working for an absolute dictator of a boss or you find yourself in less than desirable living conditions (be it emotionally or physically) Your time is always yours in the same way that your breath will always be yours. The more you breathe (and I’m talking about those delicious deep wholesome from the pit of your belly breaths – or just really conscious breaths) you will start to feel. And you will feel. The more you breathe, the more you allow yourself to feel. The more you feel – guess what, the more alive you’ll be! In a male-dominated society that prizes itself upon busyness and endless productivity, we are like auto machines – constantly doing, and not being enough. Let’s turn to the feminine and bask in the experiences and glories of life!

the glories that are

learning. your teacher’s sacrifice a whole lot to dedicate their time to transforming you

your limbs.

your breath. your breath. your breath.

to know the Truth (and to dedicate your life to implementing and working toward it)

coffee. and lunch break

connection! community! people! (we are not an island. repeat after me: I am not an Island)

and when you realise that you are not an island, even the people who irritate you will become known to you as blessings for they manifest something within you that needs some careful attention. how glorious

and God’s mercy. for letting the earth work and move in a way that it sustains us without our knowledge and for allowing our bodies to work the way it does without wanting anything in return.

Breathe, smile, and give thanks.

When you pray, make sure you are praying.

When you’re talking to a friend, make sure you are talking to your friend.

When you’re eating, make sure you are eating.

And when you’re on your phone… limit that shit.

Breathe and move like you mean to! And don’t forget to celebrate life every second, even through the grief and even through the spilling happiness.

🌸💛💐

An Evening in Lower Plein

It is a winter evening in Cape Town, with heat that feels like summer, but with the colours of winter because the night enters swiftly.

With heavy feet and tired eyes, I step on the Bellville bus at past five. I find a seat near the front because, after 5 months of commuting on my own, I still become anxious over the fact that perhaps my body memory might fail me, and I’ll miss my stop. So I sit near the big window. The anxiety of missing my stop is a different type of anxiety. I think different modes of public transportation, along with its benefits, elicit different types of anxieties. And at different times too.

At peak hour, the bus station feels a little eerie. It’s packed to capacity but the collective aura of people wanting to get home after a tiring day of labour, makes the hair on my arms stand up, and it makes my hand clutch my pepper spray a little tighter.

As I settle in my seat, in the background I suddenly hear an oncomer, a man who takes on the role of a walking tuck shop stroll down the narrow passageway of the bus, and he recites:

cool drink, cool drink, coooool drink

bicycle

chipscaramelpopcoooooorn

how does he alter his voice like that?, I think to myself

he spots a customer and

caramel?

R2 each. Two raaaaaaaand

she makes a purchase.

thank you.

cooldrink?

R10?

he doesn’t buy.

Okay, have a lekker evening.

tenks, driver!

he says, as he hops off the bus with a spring that is unknown to me.

As I look around the, I’d like to think that the Lower Plein is quite literally the scum of the city. Cape Town’s unclaimed baby. However, despite sharing the same dark cloud that is the hustle for provision, its people are as diverse as the rainbow nation that South Africa claims to have.

In it (the terminus) there are:

miserable people,

people who eat caramel popcorn before supper time,

people who read,

people who block the world out with their earphones,

babies who hang on their mothers back,

aunties who get off at the Woodstock stop,

and men.

In between the uncomfortabilities, I find comfort.

In the strangeness, there is familiarity as we all journey downwards Voortrekker Road.

I try to look at life through a rose-coloured lens, especially, when it comes to Cape Town’s public transport system. It’s the only way to stay alive.

I have no idea where this post is going but I want to share this:

In the seemingly inconvenient, you can find an opening for creativity.

In the outward unsafeness of it all, you will find profound strength and increased trust in the One who made you.

In the chaotic separation, you will find an inner flame of gatheredness. The gatheredness is in you. It always has been.

In the same way that all the answers and the cures are within you.

It’s all in the body. Whatever is reflected inside the body, is manifested outwardly.

As is the body, so is the self.

And this self is over-burdened

And this self is starved

And this self is polluted

And this self is begging. Constantly begging

for a new life.

Lower Plein Street may not be the prettiest sight, but it shows more truth about the Mother City’s inner state.

 

 

 

 

 

Life in the in Between

Life and the human being is funny in its innate contradictions.

You might find yourself visiting a graveyard in order that it reminds you of the next life, but shortly after that, you let it slip and lose your temper over something silly. You’d be reading the Meaning of Man, but emotions of annoyance slowly stir within you because while you’re reading on the science on the foundations of knowledge, your inner voice is being overpowered by a group of men, talking with such earnestness, on the fiqhi issue of pre-cum. In all honesty, it’ll leave any passerby feeling slightly irksome and leave them with a sort of…distaste. There are so many other important things that needs to be discussed with that same vigour.

Life is seemingly comical in its contradictions. I hope to always be this amused and to always carry such lightness. It’s a waste to take these contradictions up with such force – mustering up a whole lot of ego (and energy) that could have been put to better use elsewhere. It’s very easy to lose your glorious efforts used to attain inner centredness over things that don’t sit well with you, or over things, you can’t necessarily consciously control – such as your hot temper in the spur of the moment or the negative responses of others. It takes time to transform the self but at the end of the encounter, it helps to recollect and to keep the nafs in check.

However, lately, I’ve found myself sort of living in between all the contradictions.

in between tradition and postmodernity,

in between overwhelming guilt and entitled innocence,

in between gatheredness and scatteredness

and in between love and all that is not love.

I am quite comfortable in the in-between, partly because I don’t know what it’s like to not be in between. However, I am also hyper-aware that I do not belong there and that I should not prolong my stay unnecessarily. I also try to carry the awareness in me (as a reminder) that God has made certain things explicit in what’s permissible, in the same way, He explicitly states that there are grey areas – and that those grey areas are not to be questioned nor tip-toed in.

Whilst I lifted that Hadith and placed it ever so tenderly to suit my own context, I find it incredibly apt to apply to our postmodern way of life as well and the disruptive effects it has on our current social order.

For the past few years, I’ve exhausted myself. I’ve exhausted myself in trying to find ‘the Truth’,

in trying to find God,

in trying to find the over-flowing love I should have for this Dīn

and for His Messenger (ﷺ),

and in trying to find the birr I should have towards my family.

Instead of taking the ‘simple route’, I’ve exhausted myself in seeking it out through complex ways, thinking that this demanding route would appease my heart as well as my insatiable mind too. Now, this has exhausted me but it has also kept me critical, kept me on my toes – and unfortunately, kept me reluctant to submit easily.

This exhaustion pursued until I found the sweet honey pot that is: complete submission. Complete submission to the judgement of Allah that came through His Beloved (ﷺ.) There’s simply no other way around submission except, to hear and obey. 

Now, this is not an open invitation to do taqleed, but there’s incredible relief in the simple things and in getting it profoundly right. God has made the Path to Him clear and the Path is straight. We have all the tools to follow and the Prophetic model to emulate in order to safely secure the Garden.

I’ve come to the realisation that instead of wracking my brain, it’s sweet and less exhaustive to embark on the simple way. However, it’s difficult too. Getting the basics so fundamentally right is difficult. The act of taking account of your month, your week, your day, and then your breath. The act of simply not being heedless as much.

Heedlessness is a characteristic of the time we’re living in, but by committing ourselves to daily litanies, establishing the prayer, fasting with the goal of Taqwa, hopefully – through God’s divine grace – some of the veils of our eyes can be lifted and our hearts opened to perceive His signs.

We live in a dark age that doesn’t allow us to cultivate goodness with ease. Our society is not conducive in sustaining or creating an ambiance for the practice of righteous deeds. However, the heart is the instrument that moves. May Allah turn our hearts towards Him.

 

 

 

 

Transformation in Ramadan

In less than a few hours, we (Muslims) will find ourselves in a new timezone. A timezone inextricably connected with increased blessings, expansion of provision, and an overwhelming heart at ease with the One who created it.

I’d hate to limit Ramadan to a ‘timezone’ but language fails me, or I fail language, and the words aren’t always at my immediate disposal but I felt nudged to write regardless.

A month prior to Rajab, I had this firm intention that this Ramadan, I’d do things differently. I’d prepare at least two months in advance. I was so fixed. But after attending a seminar on Time Management a week ago, I’ve realised that maybe I didn’t take myself, or my time, seriously enough. If we’re in the business of self-transformation, we need to get down and dirty and do the ‘boring work’ as Jamaaludeen Khan likes to call it. It takes a whole lot of grit to rewire yourself.

At the core of it all, time-wasting, unfortunately, leads to regret. I was swimming in regret as we were getting closer and closer to Ramadan. Instead of being in the present moment, and working with what I have in front me (this wounded heart and scattered mind) I was mulling over my lack of action taken in previous months. All very very counterproductive, to your heart and to what your sincere intention could potentially yield.

To try and remedy all of this, I am making this month a priority. It also only makes sense because when you put God first, everything else will soon be made easier. It’s the only prioritisation that the soul knows. When you decide to go contrary to its nature, you will experience dire consequences. At the end of the day, it’s what your own hands have wrought. Don’t pity yourself.

Prioritising Ramadan can manifest itself in different ways for everyone. In a Facebook post by Mohamed Ghilan, he said that we believe that ‘getting close to God entails active worship.’ This was in response to a Muslim sister asking him if it was permissible to stop her menstruation via the pill. He added that there are moments for what he terms as ‘passive worship.’ Just because you’re not making the masjid your physical home of worship doesn’t mean that you’re any less grateful to God. Just because you aren’t fasting (due to a preventative condition divinely placed upon you by God) doesn’t mean that your worship is any less valid. There is wisdom in the things you aren’t able to comprehend.

So instead of feeling bummed that you’re not able to do five complete readings of the Quran in 30 days or exert yourself every night in the night prayer (I’m not saying that those things aren’t noble – they really are and may God continuously bless your ability to fulfill your capacity and hone your discipline to seek His Face) but what I am saying is that you shouldn’t despair. Especially if you’re a student and especially if you’re a Muslimah, and even more so if you’re a homemaker who simply cannot find the time to even establish prayers on time.

Instead of being a victim to your mind, lend your focus to cultivating an inner awareness that God is watching you. And move in a way that you know that He is. In my view, I find that even more strenuous. You’re constantly having to check your breast. Shaykh Hamza Yusuf says that people who take their ‘breasts to account’ do ‘dhikr with their essence’. In essence, that is Ihsan. It’s a weighty station to reach.

Cooking with salawaat on the Prophet, spreading salaam lovingly to everyone you pass at campus/work, dealing ethically with the environment and with yourself and others is an under emphasised part of worship. You break your nafs when you withhold it from nourishment in the form of food, imagine breaking your nafs by consciously putting your ego aside and practicing adab. Your world and subsequently the world will transform.

The goal of Ramadan is taqwa (this not a dars) but taqwa isn’t something that the mind can easily capture and limit with a translated word in your home language. After last week’s seminar, the facilitator taught us that you need to become pliable in order to reach the goal of taqwa. In other words, you need to develop habits within the month, and through your acquired habits, who you become, takes you to the goal.

God recognises your efforts. You should start to recognise your own capacity too. If you know you’re able to fulfill more than what you’re currently doing, then you’re doing a disservice to your soul and short-handing yourself of God’s blessings during Ramadan. Lastly, take heed of your company. Accompany people who will uplift your spiritual state. You’ll find their energy to be contagious.

I wish you a blessed Ramadan. May you reap what you sow, and more than that.

Consistency

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We’re in the month of April and I have no idea how we got here so quickly.

We’re in the month of April and I still find myself struggling with consistency.

I am still inconsistently consistent with trying to show up for myself, trying to take better care of this temporary body that I’ve been entrusted to look after. And to also take care of my heart, what a wild beast it is.

The first three months of the year has been pretty linear. Linearity is not something I’m particularly used to. In that same breath, it’s been overwhelming in its narrowness. So much has changed, yet the effects and traces of those changes are intangible. You’ve got to cut open up my heart if you’re looking for real progress.

My year has been pretty mundane: wake up at 5am, followed by an 8 hour school day, home, pray, study, read, sleep. However, in the mundanity, I’ve found a grounding, a sense of stability that I didn’t know I was craving. You could say that my daily routine is my consistency, but I’d like to think that my routine chose me, instead of the other way around.

Through my routine, I’ve gained an invaluable skill of being efficient with my time. And even though I don’t have much time to myself, this has forced me to intentionally prioritise where my energy goes. Instead of other people’s lives, I invest in love, health, and faith.

As a result, I feel much quieter. My mind is less busy. I am calmer. A calm mind gifts you with a sense of clarity. Clarity is what we all burn for.

As reassurance for myself first is that even though I write sporadically, read according to my mood, yoyo with my yoga practice, I am still grounded. And that is okay.

These things won’t necessarily lead you to your destination if you aren’t the one who is consciously in control. These means (healthy eating, daily movement, incense sticks) help you along the way but you need a center that will ground you and bring you back to earth to do the work that you are called to do. There’s no point in embarking on a health journey when you’re not healthy mentally; that’s called a fad. Fads may work for a while, but they leave you feeling even worse when it proves to be too much of an unnatural upkeep.

This post isn’t here to tell you what to do, but what I am saying is that we need to unplug and prioritise. We need to return to a way of living that is in line with our soul, a way that is pure and good. You’ll know it when you see it and then you’ll feel it.