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In Limbo

I've avoided writing for some time because, frankly, it was starting to feel like I was regressing. Regressing in my mental peace, my ability to control my emotions, and maintain a positive outlook. I guess when you transplant yourself to an entirely new environment with new people, like I did in Bali, it's a whole lot easier to recreate yourself. Over the last 30 days I've definitely questioned whether I was just acting in a role or truly coming into myself.

After leaving the US, I had a lot of downtime in Dubai -- I was trying to figure out what I felt I had accomplished in the 2nd third of my journey. I reconnected with friends and family, yes, but what I had done for myself? For my soul? I was getting increasing inquiries of why I wouldn't just move back home. It was clear that was where I was comfortable. My family is there, my friends are there, a community I feel like I belong to, my pick of career opportunities, and a city I'm constantly longing for: New York. For a period of time the answer was that I was simply running away. I didn't want to return to a life of constant reminders of the life I once had. Then I went through a time where I felt like going home would prove failure...failure that I couldn't do this on my own. And now I've found myself entering a new phase.

Rather than making excuses for all the things I "hate" about home (ie. the professional rat race, the bubble we grew up in, the sheltered nature of people in that bubble, etc.), I've embraced the fact that I truly love my home. It's nurtured my existence as a dichotomy of east and west, liberal and conservative, Arab and American, etc., etc., etc. It's a place where I'm truly at ease and feel closest to my truer self.

But right now, it's just too comfortable. That comfort makes me complacent. It makes me feel like just another number in the line up. Living abroad has come with so many challenges...from feeling out of place, to living in a transient lifestyle where friends disappear overnight, to influences that can uproot the most grounded of beings. But that discomfort has pushed me beyond what I believed were my limits. It's forced me to approach everything without judgment and coming to not only a realization, but an acceptance, that there are entire realms of beings so different than myself and it's up to me to decide what is right for me here in this life. I am not confined by expectations, by the molds set forth by my culture, religion, household, whatever. I can explore new sides of myself without judgment or friction. Feeling like you are in some limbo of identity is terrifying, frankly, but more and more I realize everyone is trying to figure it out. Some people are just better at pretending, that's all.

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Ramadan & Home

It's been a while since I've posted. I'd like to say it's because I've been insanely busy, but truthfully I've been quite lazy. I spent some time in Dubai for the first 10 days of Ramadan, and then hopped over to Jersey for the rest of the month.

I'm here now, and feel this has been an incredibly important time for me -- just as reflective and eye opening as Bali. I've embraced a new comfort in my spiritual journey with religion, something I've struggled with my whole life. My faith has always remained strong, but my approach has always been a bit of all or nothing, teetering between guilt for lack of devotion...or full devotion. Similar to many other goals I have in life, diet, physical health, social media, whatever... I'm now adapting an 80/20 (sometimes 70/30...60/40...) rule. If I can live my best life and be the best version of myself MOST of the time...it's surely better than none. That way, I'm not setting lofty expectations for myself that I'll never meet 100% of the time.

I've also found myself much less anxious than I typically used to be. This could be the fact that I now have 24 hours a day devoted solely to myself without the distraction of work and crazy travel, but I'm a lot more free flowing about how things unfold. I've surrendered to the will of the world, to God. As I type this I realize how ridiculous it sounds and how unlike me it is to feel this way. I don't feel like a transformed human being. But something is different. And I like it.

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Dear Noha

At the start of my trip to Bali, we were asked to write ourselves a letter that we would get back at the end of the month. 

When I received it in the days leading up to my Bali departure, I was in the company of others and had put it away in my bag without reading. Today, I was unpacking at home in Dubai, and found my letter. It was wrinkled, the ink had bled (I got stuck in many a downpour in my final days in Bali), and something about the condition of this letter, a full 30 days later, was so poetic to me. 

Bali, you didn't heal me. You didn't save me. You didn't give me everything I came to you asking for. But you soothed my soul. You filled my heart. You brought me closer to finding peace. Your sunshine brightened my darkest days. Your rain cleansed my wounds. Your spirit reopened mine. I'm forever thankful our paths crossed at this time in my life. 

My letter to myself:

Dear Noha,

I hope you realize how incredibly lucky you are. You have been awarded a beautiful life with beautiful people and spectacular experiences and you should always reflect on just how fortunate your life has been, despite the bumps in the road.

I hope you leave here feeling more at peace.

  • At peace with what has lead you here.
  • At peace with your independence. Being alone is not failure. Love of another is an extra, a nice to have, but you need to love yourself first, to be content with your "aloneness".
  • At peace with who you are. You have more power than you think. You are smart and thoughtful and deep and keenly aware of others in a way most people can't fathom. Always know that you are enough. Your voice has meaning. Your presence matters.
  • At peace with the unknown. What job will you have? Who will you marry? Where will you live? You don't need to solve that today.
  • At peace with your journey. Find happiness in your days. Stop always looking ahead. Find contentment and solace in today.

Let God take over. Let Him handle the difficulties. Always have faith that you will be okay. Be a good person and you will be okay. Always.

Love,

me

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The Zahir

My time in Bali is coming to a close and I decided to spend some time away from blogging. About half way through my trip, I realized there was still so much more I wanted to accomplish and that I'd really need to be alone with myself in order to do it.
I did a pulse check on my challenges to see where I was and how I was tracking to some of my goals. Not surprisingly, I was quite behind on some, and others, I had made strides beyond what I could have imagined. Nonetheless, I chose to take my status check just as it was and not as a qualifier of how I should feel...disappointed or proud.
In this time, I started and finished the book, The Zahir, by Paulo Coelho, who is one of my favorite authors. The book came to me by way of suggestion from my friend Luce -- someone who has not only been a professional confidant but has come to be one of my very good friends (and someone who I respect and admire greatly). 
For anyone unfamiliar with this book, it's about a novelist whose wife of ten years goes missing and the book follows his journey to finding her. At face value, you may take the book for a mystery, a thriller of some sorts, traveling through the novelist's mind and investigations to uncover where his wife has disappeared to. But I connected with this book on so many more levels. There are consistent running themes of anxiety, obsession, expectations, self-discovery, companionship, and love. There were so many moments where I would just read  and reread lines over and over, and stare up, and think of all the ways it connected to my life and my circumstances at this moment in time. I couldn't stop highlighting gems that I feel I need to keep with me forever as a reminder to stay true to myself, to not obsess over what I can't control, to let my soulmates (friendly or otherwise) drift in (and more importantly, out) of my life just as they are meant to, to never be complacent...and the list goes on and on.
Whether you've read the book or not, I highlighted some of the excerpts that resonated with me the most. I hope to read them often to remind myself of these lessons.

"While I was fighting, I heard other people speaking in the name of freedom, and the more they defended this unique right, the more enslaved they seemed to be to their parents’ wishes, to a marriage in which they had promised to stay with the other person “for the rest of their lives,” to the bathroom scales, to their diet, to half-finished projects, to lovers to whom they were incapable of saying “No” or “It’s over,” to weekends when they were obliged to have lunch with people they didn’t even like. Slaves to luxury, to the appearance of luxury, to the appearance of the appearance of luxury. Slaves to a life they had not chosen, but which they had decided to live because someone had managed to convince them that it was all for the best."

Lesson: breaking free from societal norms, breaking free from expectations, living a life true to oneself, and not wasting any time on people who don't add value to your life


"Until one morning, I’ll wake up and find I’m thinking about something else, and then I’ll know the worst is over. My heart might be bruised, but it will recover and become capable of seeing the beauty of life once more. It’s happened before, it will happen again, I’m sure. When someone leaves, it’s because someone else is about to arrive—I’ll find love again."

Lesson: time will heal


"I don’t know what the rest of my life will be like; that’s why it’s better to live cherishing a dream than face the possibility that it might all come to nothing."

Lesson: I particularly connected with this. I often find that I do not pursue things out of fear of failure. I want to find courage in the experimentation and value in the failure.


"People do their best not to remember and not to accept the immense magical potential they possess, because that would upset their neat little universes.” “But we all have the ability, don’t we?” “Absolutely, we just don’t all have the courage to follow our dreams and to follow the signs. Perhaps that’s where the sadness comes from."

Lesson: There is a magical potential in all of us, some so great that it can be paralyzing, until we find confidence to harness that energy positively.


"The two travel along together in their symbolic worlds, two impossibilities who have found each other, and because they overcome their own natures and their barriers, they make the world possible too. That is the Mongolian creation myth: out of two different natures love is born. In contradiction, love grows in strength. In confrontation and transformation, love is preserved."

Lesson: This one just makes me smile. Love has a way of growing in those most unexpected of places, and that is such a beautiful thing.


"First, that as soon as people decide to confront a problem, they realize that they are far more capable than they thought they were. Second, that all energy and knowledge come from the same unknown source, which we usually call God. What I've tried to do in my life, ever since I first started out on what I believe to be my path, is to honor that energy, to connect with it everyday, to allow myself to be guided by the signs, to learn by doing and not by thinking about doing."

"No one should ever ask themselves that: Why am I unhappy? The question carries within it the virus that will destroy everything. If we ask that question, it means we want to find out what makes us happy. If what makes us happy is different from what we have now, then we must either change once and for all or stay as we are, feeling even more unhappy."

Lesson: Find what makes you happy. Do not fear the answers.


"If I behave in the way people expect me to behave, I will become their slave. It requires enormous self-control not to succumb, because our natural tendency is to want to please, even if the person to be pleased is us."

"I feel both things at once, I don’t have to choose. I can travel back and forth between the oppositions inside me, between my contradictions."

Lesson: I am in constant travel between my contradictions. I do not have to choose.


"I must try to enjoy all the graces that God has given me today. Grace cannot be hoarded. There are no banks where it can be deposited to be used when I feel more at peace with myself. If I do not make full use of these blessings, I will lose them forever."

Lesson: Grace cannot be hoarded. I must enjoy and use my blessings today.


thezahir

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Alone vs Lonely

Today I dined alone.

I wasn't hungry, it wasn't because I had no one to go with, but it was because I chose to spend my time that way. I realized as I was staring out from this little cafe in central Ubud, it was the first time I had done that. I've spent years traveling alone for work, dining alone out of necessity, but never by choice. Frankly, the thought of it has always made me uncomfortable. What do I do with myself? What do I look at? What if people feel pity for me that I'm sitting alone with no one to enjoy the romantic ambiance? What if people think I'm alone and assume it's an invitation for company? I've always had a discomfort with the idea, until today. I kept my phone away, pulled out my travel journal, and enjoyed my meal in absolute peace.

As of late, I've been fighting a recurring battle of loneliness, a new feeling for me actually. I've had years in the comfort of close friendships, ever present families, and companionship until now. At this moment, the closest person to me is at least 5,000 miles away...in different timezones, in different cities, in different places (literally and figuratively). So if we are all in this ever-dynamic swirl of placements, how does one fight those nagging pangs of loneliness? 

And here I am, in Bali, purely by choice, where I doubt anyone would refute my self-proclamation as an independent woman...but the truth is I've always "belonged" and therefore have never felt the discomfort and discontent that can come with isolation. But I'm starting to think it's a necessary discomfort. How can I feel confidence in myself if I, alone, am not enough? I need to be whole, and then some, before I can give to others. I've been a collection of fragments of my relationships, and therefore, when one goes...I feel a deep sense of emptiness. The cracks show. They painfully glare, actually.

Tackling this feels overwhelming. I carry a lot of sadness for what I've lost and what I love, but is no longer with me at this time, but I need to forge on...a table for one at a time.

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"Leeching" & Self-love

Week 2, and where am I? I'm in bed. With pink eye...in both eyes. I've got a nasty cough and potentially a rising fever as I write this. I've decided at the risk of delirium, the upside is I could produce some of my best writing. I always think about that artist who creates self portraits on various drugs. Though the results are at times frightening, they never cease to fascinate me. The idea that by altering the mechanics in your brain, you could unleash such drastically different creations, from the same being, is so mind boggling and cool to me.

I've had a lot of time to self-reflect over the last week. I've learned a lot about myself and the new friends I'm making and I've become keenly aware of a particular trait that I have. I have a keen sensitivity to those around me. It means, at any given time, I find myself watching and observing, sometimes so caught up in body language, in facial expressions, in trigger words, that I've completely lost track of the conversation at hand (clearly another battle of remaining present). At times, I think it's a gift that I have this deeper understanding -- it's made me more intuitive, a better friend I suppose, a natural empathetic, and then some. On the flip side, however, my quest for this understanding leads to a bit of an obsession of proximity, of comparison, and ultimately of self-consciousness (obviously being conscious of others means I have x2394872349 consciousness of myself). This is not to be confused with envy -- while I can't wholeheartedly affirm I'm free of envy, I find that I'm just simply fascinated that someone carries an ability that I don't have. I want to understand so I can unlock those parts of me as well. So conversations with me (or in my head) can sometimes go like this:

"Wow! You traveled for a year alone? I really admire that. I don't think I could do it. How did you get past loneliness? How did you make friends? Do you feel like you came out a better person having had that experience?"

Wow, I love the way that she commands a room during a meeting. Her voice is strong. Assertive. Well thought out. Uninhibited. She confronts sexist remarks without apology. I will train myself to be like that.

"I love how positive you are all the time. What do you think contributed to this disposition on life? Religion? A book? Your parents?"

I find myself trying to unlock the environments and the influences people have experienced that have shaped them into the admirable human they are today. I want to absorb the best of people, letting their positive habits, outlooks, mindsets, philosophies, whatever sit with me so that I can become the best version of myself. As a self-proclaimed introvert, I feel that it's necessary and only worth my energy to surround myself with people I can learn from. And in turn, I always hope I can reciprocate. The self-conscious, self-deprecating voice in me at times will tell me I have nothing to give, but as I focus on being kinder to myself, I'd like to think that what I give and put out the world just isn't definable. I have a beautiful family, and lots of loving friends, and the respect of people I admire, so I must be doing something right.

Edit:

Interestingly, one of my suggested reads for this month came from one of my closest friends Matt (who is one of the most positive, all-loving, ambitious people I know)...a poem titled Desiderata by Max Ehrmann. A particular part resonated with me.

If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. 

While my comparisons stem from a place of good intentions (self-betterment), I think it's important to be keenly aware of the sobering fact that I can't do everything. I can't be everything. I can't be everywhere. There will always be someone smarter, more creative, more talented, etc. and I have to learn to celebrate those achievements in others and stop at admiration; say masha Allah for the gifts they have (and swiftly followed by an Alhamdulillah for the gifts I have) and move on.

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    Mind Over Matter

    Week one in Bali down.

    I can't say this week has proven to be how I envisioned it. I thought I'd be laying out all my challenges, creating a strict plan to follow, and knocking things out one by one, and bragging to my friends and family about how productive I've been.

    Reality: Of seven, I had four completely sleepless nights. I slept through yoga twice. I missed a workout I signed up for. I didn't journal. I only went to the co-working space twice. I didn't do a lot of things I thought I would.

    Also reality: I met 26 new people. I publicly unveiled my insecurities, my hopes, and my wishes for the month. I did make it to yoga (once). I went to something called Ecstatic Dance (more on that later). I tried a ton of new food. I meditated. I earned my PADI Open Water Scuba Certification. I slept in. I relaxed. I forgave myself for the alternate reality I could be brooding over.

    By day 2, I realized week 1 was going to be about adjusting. Adjusting to this new setting, adjusting to all the new people, adjusting to a new schedule, etc. And so I forgave myself for not really having a plan, and just went about my days. I referenced my tasks, keeping mind to dabble in things here and there. And today as I reflected over this last week, I realized there was a common theme in many of the challenges I faced these last few days.

    My mind.

    Now a little bit about this one. For anyone who knows me, you know I have a racing mind, one that gets away from me so quickly, I never even get the chance to digest what is happening here. In the present. I'm anxious, I'm over analyzing, I'm worried about the past and the future. I'm ON -- constantly. I like to think of my mind as this spoiled, little child that I've allowed to run rampant, destroying things in his path...courage, confidence, ambition, comfort, love...and all I ever do is apologize to those around me. "Sorry. Forgive me. He's special." And time and time again, he runs away, so far from my reach, that I end up just hunkering down in pure exhaustion and defeat like, "Just go. Do whatever you want. You've already made a mess of things anyway."

    A comparative chart of the speed of my mind

    A comparative chart of the speed of my mind

    I've always felt like, my God, if I could just harness this energy, these abilities, I could do so much good. I could move mountains.

    So as much as I want to create discipline in my diet, my physical activity, my whatever...it became so evident that quelling my mind and being present was by far my biggest demon to conquer. I had a few glimpses of what that looks like.

    • Yoga - I've dabbled in the past but decided to opt for a Yoga for Beginners class at Yoga Barn to get the foundation down solid. Somehow, I stumbled into a class lead by Mark Whitwell, who apparently is a big deal. He spent a lot of time talking in the beginning, which I wasn't keen on until he started asking members of the class questions, in efforts to get to known them and applaud the various parts of the world people had traveled just to practice yoga in Bali. He came across a man from India. A muslim. And the instructor followed with, "You're so lucky, you know. Islam is the most Yogic religion out there. You get to perform the act of supplication and movement 5x/day." It made me smile. I never once thought of it that way. We watch so many people buy into the hype of yoga (myself included -- and don't get me wrong, it is a beautiful thing for those who sincerely practice), and I felt silly realizing I had some of these conventions sitting right at home for me. The rest of the class was spectacular. I lived in the present for an hour.
    • Ecstatic Dance at Yoga Barn - Well, I was in for a treat when I signed up for this class at the same yoga studio. Every Friday, they host Ecstatic Dance, which is two solid hours of straight dancing. Free dancing. No speaking. Just dance. I went with some girl friends from the retreat, and wow, what an experience. If you haven't experienced Ecstatic Dance at least once in your life, you're missing out. I spent the first 30 minutes completely in my head. Watching the regulars go wild...some were stretching on the floor, some were just walking around the room, some were partnered up in interpretive dance, some were making snow angels in what was clearly pools of their own sweat...honestly it was just an anything goes, no judgment zone. Drug free. Alcohol free. And full of a whole lot of I honestly don't know. Once I got past the judgment (and probably a little bit of envy that anyone could just let themself go like that), I made my first attempt to remove all restraint. I closed my eyes and just moved. I moved however I wanted, wherever I wanted, and very quickly realized not a single soul was looking at me. No one cared what i was doing (even if they did, there's a no speaking rule). It was SO freeing. I lived in the present for two hours.
    • Meditation - Oddly, or not so oddly, in reviewing my challenges, two of my most highly valued mentors had suggested meditation. Both are BOSSES. Both are female. Both are powerful. Both make me want to be the baddest B I could possibly be when I'm in their presence. Katia, one of the cofounders of Birchbox, where I used to work, and Joanne, a dear friend and colleague, were telling me to shut my mind OFF and be present through daily meditation. And I wasn't going to say no. Since last Tuesday, I've meditated for 10 minutes every day. I'm not good at it. I hate it. It's frustrating. But I think that means I'm doing it right. I think. I'm taming the child. I fought to live in the present for 70 minutes total.
    • Diving Certification - I hate to admit this to most people because of how ashamed I am, but for an incredibly long time, I have had terrible fears of open waters. I got a really bad jelly fish sting when I was 8 that left me motionless for a week. Ever since I've stayed away from open waters, never truly learning how to swim, and only in recent years feeling comfortable enough to tread water in the deep of a pool. Along with numerous occasions of quelling the impulse to burst into tears when someone playfully pushes me into a pool or dunks me under water. Anyways, I've spent the last 3 days determined to get over the fear and get my open water diving certification. There's a lot of anxiety surrounding studying and preparing for worst case scenarios in staged settings, but the moment I got to experience schools of fish swirling around me, I didn't have any room for worry. There's something incredibly soothing about being forced to control your breath until it becomes second nature, understanding your body at a deeper level and the physics of respiration under water, and just getting so lost in a world that is your not your own. You're just a spectator. For the first time in a long time, I realized my mind was completely still -- just living in the presence of this parallel universe of life. I lived in the present for 72 hours.
    Grinning ear to ear knowing I don't have to do any more under water assessments

    Grinning ear to ear knowing I don't have to do any more under water assessments

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    My 30-Day Challenge(s)

    Within days of sending my request out, I started to see the challenges rolling in. I was seriously impressed with the range; from suggested must-reads to daily meditation to a 30-day arm challenge (clearly, this person knows how soft I am), I had no shortage of tasks and goals to fill up my day.

    I was astounded with just how supportive, how creative, and how thoughtful each submission was. Many were accompanied by heartwarming outreach, cheerleading my initiative and I realized that the support system I have could never leave me for wanting. People I hadn't spoken to in years unloaded their own personal stories of loss and longing, friends I feel I had neglected as I selfishly healed were quick to contribute, and with nearly 50 submissions and a long thread of emails, texts, calls to respond to, I hit a sobering moment of love, appreciation, and belonging. 

    I am endlessly thankful for the good people I have and have had in my life.

    So without further ado, I compiled my challenges below. Some are daily challenges, some are one-off tasks, and some are overall themes to focus on. There is a lot. Enough to fill up my days and then some. A lot.

    I probably forgot to mention how beautiful Bali is, how distracting the lush setting is, how easy it is to sit with my feet dipped in the pool while I stare up at the sky, how easy it is to get lost in yourself, and how easy it is to forget that you've been tasked to finish 50 things in the next 30 days. I am a walking dichotomy; I want to be lost (but on a course), I want to be free (with a bit of structure), I want to do everything (and nothing at all). 

    The intention of all this is not lost on me, however. I plan to tackle most of this on my journey, and I leave it here for accountability, for motivation, and for a reminder that when I'm down, I have a village ready to pick me up.

    While I won't be chronicling my progress on every single task (if you're curious, just reach out!), I will be sharing my experiences over the course of the month as I tackle and focus on different tasks.

    While I won't be chronicling my progress on every single task (if you're curious, just reach out!), I will be sharing my experiences over the course of the month as I tackle and focus on different tasks.

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    A crowd-sourced affair

    When I was looking ahead to a month in Bali at a "coworking retreat" without any actual work to do, I was a little worried I'd be twiddling my thumbs while all my new Bali friends spent hours tirelessly focused on their big, important jobs.

    I knew I wanted the month to be relaxing, but productive. I knew I wanted to achieve something. I knew that I wanted to feel like I've gotten a piece of myself back that I lost so long ago. Over the last two years, I feel like I've drowned my soul in sorrow, in work, in negativity, (in take out food), in distance from God, and I wanted to find a way back to my true self. A place where I was at peace, in heart, in mind, in body, in soul.

    I kept thinking back to this concept of surrendering -- how could I embrace this concept while still feeling like I had a plan, something to work towards?

    And so I decided to make it a crowd-sourced affair. I gathered a list of my closest friends, my most esteemed colleagues (past and present), mentors, and family. And I clicked send.

    Dearest of dears,
    For some, it may be minutes since we've spoken, and for others, years. No matter which, I hope this email finds you in good health and happiness. 
    Surprised to hear from me? If I can sum all you need to know, it's that I'm looking ahead and will be embarking on a journey of self discovery (vision: 90% vegging on my couch watching E!, 10% self discovery). I don't know what's ahead, and if you know me at all, I hope you can sympathize with how much it pains me to not have a plan. The truth is, however, this is purely self-inflicted discomfort, and I figured if I am going to commit to a period of uncertainty, I'm going to need to find some loopholes to maintain my sanity.
    I've decided to carefully select a range of important people from my life, past and present, professional and personal, like-minded and so far out of my spectrum of understanding, to help guide the way. Since I can't plan my own life, I might as well put someone else to the task, which is where you come in.

    To start my journey, I'll be spending 30 days in Bali (how Eat, Pray, Love of me, I know). Doing what? Who knows. I just know where I'll be May 1 - May 30. After that? I'll know June 1st, I suppose.
    You have each impacted my life in a positive way, having helped shape the person I am today. You've imparted some wisdom, showcased your talents, and left a piece of you with me that has stuck. 
    THE ASK
    30 days in Bali isn't a whole lot, but it's more free time than I could have ever dreamed of just a few days ago. I hope to walk away from this experience stronger, or even perhaps softer, than the day I walked in...whether physically, mentally, spiritually, or professionally. I am asking that you challenge me to complete something in my first 30 days in Bali. It can be as committed as a daily practice or as "small" as reading a single powerful excerpt that has moved you.
    THE RULES
    Your challenge should benefit my mind, body, and/or soul somehow. For example: 
    • physically daily yoga, run 3x/week, someone please task me to finally complete the 30-day squat challenge
    • emotionally recite a mantra daily, speak to one family/friend on the phone daily, read a powerful essay
    • spiritually read and interpret one ayah from the Quran daily, practice mindfulness, download the HeadSpace app
    • intellectually listen to Episode X of Podcast Y, read a book
    • professionally finish a 20 hour SQL course, overhaul my resume
    • anything so long as you believe it will have a positive impact
    THE MANY THANKS
    Words can't express how much I care for your relationships, friendships, mentorships, and more. You've each carried me in ways I hope to continue floating on during this period, so your support now is much, much appreciated.
    Catch you on the flip side. :)
    Love,
    Noha

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    Day One

    I woke up in Bali.

    Should I say that again?

    I woke up in Bali.

    My first thought this morning was absolute thankfulness for the gifts I've been awarded to have this opportunity.  The truth is, I went to bed last night restless, nervous, anxious (clearly, thankless) about what lies ahead for me. I've experienced a lot of losses in the last year, and I had a moment of panic that I just couldn't possibly endure another loss. I tossed and turned thinking of all the possibilities of where my life could turn. All negative. And all I could think of was I don't have the energy for this. I'm tired. I'm worn. I'm beaten. I'm sad.

    This tends to be my every night. At least lately.

    Then it started raining. Pouring really. And there's just something so comforting about the rain. The sound drowns out my thoughts. The smell reminds me of home. And all I want to do is crawl into bed, nestle under the covers, and let the sensations completely overtake me. So the rain put me to bed last night, and it was the greatest gift I could ask for.

    I woke up this morning and remembered where I was. Where I was waking up. What I had ahead of me. I have 30 days in Bali. With an incredible group of people. Strangers still, yes, but incredible nonetheless...coming from all walks of life, a little lost as well, ready to give, ready to take, and I didn't feel so alone anymore.

    Today was my first official day with Unsettled and my co-retreat members. We had a beautiful morning, breakfast by the pool, making small talk about our lives, our experiences, our travel until we were shuffled away to our co-working space at Outpost. To say the space is impressive is an understatement. Never have I seen a place so beautiful, so lush, so calming. I felt at peace immediately and very much so looking forward to being productive this month and immersing myself in something (more on that later).

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    In a short morning, I've already made plans to take a motorbike course tomorrow (apparently the best way to get around the island), signed up for yoga & meditation for the month, take diving lessons, attend local events, and despite my tendency to anxiety and constant swirls of the mind, the greater part of me is aware that I am so incredibly lucky to have this experience.

    So today, my mantra is Alhamdulillah. 

     

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    at sea.

    "One doesn't discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time." -Andre Gide

    One also can't express just how much I hate starting anything with a quote, but as soon as I came across this one years ago, it resonated with me and I don't think I knew just how much it would mean to me until now.

    The truth is, I hate open waters. I'm a shore clinger. The shore is fixed, it's visible, and most of all, it's safe. I've lived a long life on the shore line, resting on a variety of steady everythings. But every so often, the tickle of the sea would lure me, and my God though it's been the slowest of courtships, I'm finally ready to set sail.

    As of two weeks ago, I took a leave of absence from my job. Prior to that, I've also had a year that arguably is deserving of throwing in the towel, and just saying, "alright...I surrender." And for a long time surrendering felt like giving up. It felt like failure. But now I see things quite differently.

    Surrendering means not feeling the need to solve every problem at this very moment.

    Surrendering means letting the will of the world take over.

    Surrendering means letting go, and letting God.

    Surrendering means finding peace.

    And Lord knows, I want peace. So I'm embarking on a 4 month journey, and will chronicle my adventures (or lack of...at this point, whatever!) here. My intention is to keep this as a forum where I can share my experiences, hopefully lending a bit of ease to anyone else out there in the world facing the same.

    At this very moment, I'm about to board a plane to Bali, where I'll live for the next 30 days. I wish I could say I am pumped and positive and ready for the adventure, but the truth is I'm terrified...

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