When the going gets tough, start mining gold! Part 5 of 5

Paper.Project.21 2

Take a chill pill. Easier said than done, but there is a lot of wisdom in this phrase. Taking things lightly is second nature to some people. I have an aunt, who takes things so lightly, that she makes a joke of crisis situations. I could make assumptions about her emotional intelligence, but I am in awe of the ease with which she handles emergencies and crisis. It is pretty straightforward, the way she looks at it. ‘We do our best about things that are in our control, the rest we let go.What the point in worrying/being about something that is beyond our control.‘  By and large she has the presence to navigate through pretty much anything, without her world crashing around her. And, she is the odd one out in our family. The majority of us are worriers, we make life difficult for ourselves, we panic over the littlest of things, and we put our lives on hold indefinitely during crisis.Most our decisions are driven by fear and emotional impulsiveness. We have learnt the hard way though, since we have had lots of opportunity to practise. 🙂

We are always at choice; we only need to accept it. Certain events drastically change our life situation where some tough decisions might need to be taken. We might have to quit our job, relocate to a new place, move to an unfamiliar location, give up our career temporarily, start caring for a sick family member, scale down financially, all of which will throw our life for a spin. We find ourselves doing what needs to be done or the right thing to do, but also feel stuck and not at choice. Eventually, we end up feeling resentful.  I recall complaining to a friend about something I felt stuck and resentful doing. She then told me, “If you don’t want to do it, and you are feeling miserable, don’t do it.” I then argued and gave her reasons for why I felt convinced that I had to do it. She then pointed out that I was choosing to do it. And if that a choice I was making, I had to accept that choice and do it gracefully and stop torturing myself. Sometimes we need to make hard decisions, They don’t necessarily feel good, but they feel right as they are driven by our values. If we continue to feel miserable, then it is time to get curious and revisit those values.

We are moving, even when we are stuck.There was a time when  I felt like my life was in limbo where all I was doing was recovering from one crisis only to be pushed into the next one soon after. When I looked around, it felt like everyone else I knew was moving forward, going places, accomplishing things,  while I was stuck in the same spot. Truth is I was still moving, just that it was along a different dimension. Forward movement is not the only way forward. Sometimes we need to go deeper. Each of us is on a different journey, and there is no point comparing our path with someone else’s.

It’s all made up.This might be a contradiction but here goes. We unconsciously make up stories to make life more dramatic. We are attached to drama. This is a hard one to accept, but we tend to create stories about everything. An event is an event, that’s all it is. How we respond to life depends on the stories we tell ourselves about these events and more so on the climax we create to those stories. The key is to keep dropping the story and sink into the present moment.

Complexity is simplicity dressed in costume. What we experience as complexity is more so because of our attachment to how we want things to be. Learning to navigate complexity is much like training for a marathon as opposed to a sprint.

Once we increase our  tenacity and let go of expectations of how life should be, we get creative and also learn to juggle more balls effortlessly. Complexity then becomes simpler and more natural! Complexities are just life’s way of simplifying itself if we allow ourselves to be guided by it.

My brother makes his this funny joke all the time. He would tell someone, “Don’t worry,   it will be quite challenging and difficult for a while but after that its going to be fine”. Just when the the listener is about to sigh in relief, with a naughty grin he will quickly add, “because, by then you will get used to it ! “

So how do we know if we are mining gold? I don’t have an answer to that as it’s not a destination, it is only a perspective towards life. I guess the key is to check in with ourselves and see how we are feeling. When our hearts have opened up, and we can feel it’s  tenderness and warmth; when we are allowing flow into our lives; when we feel that our experiences have been humbling ;  when we’ve turned our lives around; when we are feeling grateful; when we feel lighter about life; when we can experience joy, music and laughter despite all of the complexities, when we still forward with HOPE, then we most definitely are on that path.

Life is unpredictable; we never know what the next moment has in store for us. So what are we waiting for? Why not live fully until we die, and make every breath count, especially the challenging ones!

Sheena Yusuf
Life & Relationship Coach (CPCC)
Professional Photographer


When the going gets tough, start mining gold! Part 4 of 5


Everything is energy. All of the emotions we feel (seemingly good, bad & ugly), it’s all energy. It is best to let that energy flow rather than have it be stagnant and stuck in our bodies to manifest as physical ailments. Vent, scream or cry or just about anything that let that energy flow through you. Don’t fight, block, intellectualise your emotions. Allow that energy to pass through you. Nothing is permanent!

Grief functions in a different time zone, we need to give ourselves time to adjust to it. One day it might feel like we are feeling ready to move on, and the next day, suddenly hopelessness takes over; or we might have a mental breakdown where it feels like we are stuck in a different dimension with no way out. As I said earlier, nothing is permanent. Allow grief to take its course; surrender to it.  Allowing and surrendering are is not a passive experience.  In fact, it is the very opposite! Grief is mourning over lost hope or dream that was cut short due to fate, circumstances or choice,  and does not discriminate.  So, one could be grieving, the end of a relationship, loss of a job, life changes like a move or relocation, a chronic illness,  or a scary diagnosis, not just the passing of a loved one. Each of it might feel equally gut-wrenching.

Please try not to be strong. Be ‘weak’, allow yourself to feel what it is like to just let go.  Trust that the ‘feeling’ weak does not mean we are going to be emotionally crippled forever. It is only a passing phase. We need to remind ourselves of that. Nothing is permanent; nothing remains the same. Even the most painful situations or feelings, eventually pass.

Moreover, ‘staying strong’ has a significant impact physically in our body. We accumulate stagnant toxic energy which causes stress and ailments. There are no prizes for perfection. I come from a family of high functioning perfectionists who think we’ve got it all under control. That hasn’t worked so well for us. So, we are now redefining ‘perfection’ means to us.  What is possible for us at this moment, without breaking ourselves in the process is perfect enough for now.

Notice the loaded labels. Events happen in our lives, tough, hard ones; they might shake us, might even break us. And we have within us the capacity to always begin again. There is no guarantee that we might not fall again, but we can eventually develop the tenacity to bounce back up quickly after a fall. Most times though,  we create labels for our experiences, those are the ones that kill us. Words or phrases such as ‘abandoned’, ‘doomed’, ‘ the end of the world’, ‘misery’,  ‘irreparable’,  ‘irrecoverable’, ‘fight’ a disease,  ‘stuck forever’, ‘betrayed’, ‘untimely;’ etc. hold a certain energy. They create automatic reactions within the body and mind and have the power to taint our perspectives as well as significantly impact our experience. They don’t invite flow into our being. We need to continually bring our awareness to these labels  as and when we keep naming them.

Comparison kills joy and creativity. Let is stop comparing to what it was like before this, before the loss, before the problems, before the diagnosis, before the accident, before the breakup, before the disease etc. What is the point of comparing something to what was? When is it not that anymore?  That’s our mind trying to block or deny the present. Comparison only drags us back into the past and takes away any hope of the future. If we must compare, then let’s compare our current perspective towards life as with how it was the past. How have we shifted?, has that shift been empowering or disempowering? We need to accept that this is where we are right now! What would we like to do about it?  How do want to be with it? Where do we want to go from here?

Know when its time to get help. At times we might notice that we have all these insights, they make sense to us on an intellectual but we can’t seem to apply it in a way that is serving us. Hopelessness becomes a constant partner, like a dark cloud following us. We get so glued to our thoughts and are unable to step outside of them. Sometimes we are able to overcome them on our own and other times we are not. If you think or a loved one is struggling with depression, it is crucial to get help.

Faith is that pillar which keeps me rooted in the strongest of storms. Whether you are following an organised religion or being spiritual or both, whether the word that works for you is God, Universe or Nature, you undoubtedly would have experienced the power of unshakable faith, trust and surrender in some form. I know I have! When I connect to that infinite source, it feels like being linked to the endless flow of love, wisdom, compassion care anything that I ask for. So pray, be thankful for what we already have,  ask for what we want,  demand it and then let go. Surrender and trust that whatever happens is what we need and not necessarily what we want. Accept the gift wholeheartedly, even if we don’t know what to do with it.



Sheena Yusuf
Life & Relationship Coach (CPCC)
Professional Photographer


When the going gets tough, Start mining gold ! Part 3 of 5

Paper.Project.23-4Self-Care is life saver while navigating complexity. I cannot stress enough on self-care. Those of us who walk around with the responsibility chip, need to pay particular attention to caring for ourselves. Self-care is not about being selfish.

I recall when my brother and father had passed, we had friends, family and acquaintances, visiting us around the clock to offer their condolences. It is quite hard to multitask grieving a loved one and playing host at the same time. There were cultural expectations to continually play the host, which took a toll on us emotionally. I am thankful to friends and family who came over to offer solace, as well as take some responsibilities off our shoulders. They took over the kitchen, served tea, organised the meals.

Also, some conversations gravitated toward people’s curiosity about events leading to their passing, and the what ifs. It would be a one-off conversation for them, but for us, it was repetitive;  we were reliving it over and over again, until one day, I snapped.

Being assertive to take time-offs, discouraging conversations that were not helpful, sleeping and eating on time, and being mindful to not make sudden emotional decisions etc. were part of my self-care routine during that period.

Self-care might translate into creating some physical distance for emotional clarity;  alone time or solitude;  getting enough rest and sleep; listening to music; going for walks, exploring creative or physical activities, reaching out and having conversations with close friends/family, venting out frustration, and asking for help.. etc.

Caregivers need care too. If you are a caregiver for someone, who is struggling with health or grieving a loved one, one of the things you would notice is that the priority is always the visibly struggling person; caregivers are usually ignored, by themselves and others. I have seen some caregivers going into a deep depression as they neglect to care for themselves and don’t know how to ask for help.

I want to share a powerful example of self-care and caregiving with a short story about how my uncle, proactively navigated circumstances around his mother’s illness. They are a family of nine children, with him being the oldest male child. After their father had died when he was 18 years old, he took on the role of caring for his mom and siblings, the youngest being only 14 months old.

When the realisation came upon him that their’s mother’s health had taken a downturn, he called a family meeting with all the siblings, including five sisters who lived in India. He discussed with them, the possibility of their mom being bedridden for a few years until she passed. He suggested that they each take turns, in whatever form that worked for each of them, in caring for their mother. He also assured them that any inconvenience they might face during this period, financially or otherwise, would be taken care off. More than just inconveniences being addressed, he wanted to make sure each of their needs was met.

His perspective was that none of the siblings should put their lives on hold at any point in caring for their mother that resentment about being a caregiver might creep in. His vision was for their mother to live peacefully with the best of energy around her, until she untill she breathed her last, and the family to stay connected through this journey, so he worked backwards from there to create that experience for her as well as each of them.

Help was organised, Palliative care arrangements were. Their mom was moved to another independent home where each of them had the freedom to come and go as they pleased, without inconveniencing the others.

He wanted to make sure that their emotional needs were also taken care of, and did not want this to be a stressful period of any of their lives.During four odd years that she was bedridden, she was well looked after, the siblings took breaks, were sent on holidays to let off steam and relax; life was as normal as was possible under the curcumstances. Finally, when she passed, it was she had all herchildren were around her.

One one level it might seem depersonalized and rational when we hear of siblings being compensated to care for their own mother. As I recall, his suggestions did create some discomfort in the family. What I appreciate and admire about his approach was that he courage address and have much needed conversations most of us think about but might not voice out.

Not everyone has financial resources to handle situations in sich a manner, but the perspective of self care while caring for a loved is what I wanted to bring attention to.

Explore what self-care looks like for you. Ask yourself, how am I doing? What do I need n to do to take care of myself.


Sheena Yusuf
Life & Relationship Coach (CPCC)
Professional Photographer



When the going gets tough, start mining gold! Part 2 of 5


I share some wisdom and insights from my journey through complexity, hoping that it will be of value to you. Do feel free to add to it from your own experiences. Listing them down as a reminder to myself for the future. You, my dears, could also look at it as a sort  a bag of ‘mining tools’, from a fellow traveller,  should you find yourselves on this path at any point.

Be kind, compassionate and loving to ourselves with the kind of tenderness and warmth, we would have towards a little child. Talk to ourselves as if we are talking to the child in us who is having a hard time with something. This is what I do while comforting my son, I would hold my son close, rub his back,  just be with him in silence, sometimes tell him that I understand its tough, but everything is going to be okay. I want him to know I will there for him come rain or shine. Some of the toughest of times, when I felt down and beaten,  I have practiced that with myself and it has been an empowering and profoundly healing experience since I was taking the ownership of loving and caring for myself when most needed, rather than leaving that up for grabs.

Accept the law of Polarity. Positive and Negative are both inseparable parts of the same continuum. So is life & death, sickness & health, rise & fall, beginning & ending. Everything has its pair of opposites. A lot of us tend to favour pleasure over pain. The moment we face anything out of the norm, we tense up as though bracing for impact. We need to remind ourselves and accept that each is a part of the same whole.

Stop looking for reasons of why something happened. One of the typical things we do is to look for reasons why and how something happened the way it did. This process only throw us into a never ending loop, which keeps us from addressing the present. Haven’t you heard the story of the man who lost the keys in the dark but is searching for under a lamp post only since its brighter there?  There is no reason why something happened. It just happened. How do we want to be what IS? What do we want to do about it?

Stop trying to normalise things that are not normal.Imagine, when a dog loses one of her legs, she has physically lost her equilibrium and balance. She is going to be struggling with a limp until she has adapted to this new reality. It’s the same for you and I. It is going to take time. What is right here and right now is the new normal. A lot of us continue to function as through life is ‘business as usual’, when it is most definitely not. Give ourselves time to adapt to and accept the new normal as the status quo has most definitely shifted. Since we are not functioning at full capacity, to make like easier, we might have prioritise on what really important and let go if things that bog us down,

Ask for help. We don’t have to do it all our own. We can and must ask for help, for the sake of our wellbeing. Asking for help is highly deprioritised when people find themselves in a bind. ‘Asking for Help’ can mean different things to different people. We might need help with chores;  Help with routine or mundane tasks which we currently don’t have the emotional and physical bandwidth for; Help with finances.  Ask for help! Logic proves that there is more chance of us receiving aid/support when we ask for it as opposed to not.

Blaming is not going to get us anywhere.It has us going through a never-ending loop that prevents us from exploring our experiences to the depth of it. And yet it is an essential stage of dealing with grief or complexity. When we stay curious about, it helps us to uncover and understand our real emotions and need, beneath the blame.

Be gentle with our relationships. Be compassionate and kind to each other and ourselves. Relationships become quite fragile during a crisis; they need to held with a lot of tenderness. When everyone is under pressure or firefighting, we don’t realise we end up triggering each other without even intending to so. We need to remind ourselves that we aren’t our usual selves neither are our loved ones. The environment is fertile conducive to causing misunderstanding, hurt, judgment, miscommunication etc., so let’s cut ourselves and others some slack.

Never underestimate the power of touch. We understand that our children feel soothed and comforted when we touch, hold or hug them, and yet we forget that as adults we need the same. The power of touch is miraculous; holding or being held can do wonders to shift our energy space, and have us feel calm and nurtured. Touch can be in the form of a stroke on the cheek, a rub on the back, a tap on the shoulder,   a kiss on the forehead, holding hands,  leaning against someone or even a massage. These are all little that makes a huge difference.

Find our support system, who we can lean on. We might have a huge circle of  friends, acquaintances and family, but when things get rough, there are only a few of them who have the capacity and time to be there for us. We don’t need to take it personally, no nobody is perfect and no one can meet all of our needs. I have been gifted with a great support system of family and friends, who have been my pillar and rock, whether it was about needing  a shoulder to cry on, help running errands, financial support.  someone to just listen to me patiently while I ramble like broken record,  or someone who tells me buck up, pick myself up and get going when the venting turns to self pity. We will know when we  are with our people, all we have to do is to be ready to  trust, receive and give.

To be continued..

Click to read  – When the going gets tough, start mining gold! Part 1 of 5


Sheena Yusuf
Life & Relationship Coach (CPCC)
Professional Photographer


When the going gets tough, start mining gold! Part 1 of 5


A note to you dear souls out there who are navigating complexity in your life right now and are feeling overwhelmed by the extent or the enormity of it.

We’ve all heard the saying, “When it rains it, it, pours! Everything is going fine until suddenly something goes haywire in our lives; like the loss of a loved one, financial loss, a challenging or fatal health diagnosis for us or a loved one. While we are in the midst of ‘handling’ it, something else adds to our already chaotic situation, and before we know it, it feels like we’ve been run over by a bus. It then feels like no matter how many times we get up after being knocked down, we get knocked over again! After a while, it gets exhausting getting back up, and it takes a toll on us, mentally, physically and emotionally!

The inspiration to do this writing now grew from witnessing life situations of a few close friends who are in that place now, facing a few challenging circumstances. I could relate to where they are and how they might be feeling, as I have orbited this path a few times myself.

Life was going pretty smooth for a ‘while’ until one of my dear cousins got involved in a car crash. We had all practically grown up together, so the word ‘cousin’ doesn’t do justice to describe the relationship we shared.  After many days of being in a coma, he passed away,  survived by his young wife and two sons. This incident was like a wake-up call for our family to get present and reconnected with each other.

Many little and big events followed, which shook the ground beneath our feet. The diagnosis our grand-aunt with colon cancer; the sudden passing of my brother in a crash; watching another dear cousin grapple with a  brain tumour (GBM); losing an aunt to heart disease; and the sudden, unexpected diagnosis & open heart surgery of my father was bit too overwheming for each of us. If that wasn’t enough, all of these events were shortly and eventually followed by the passing of each of these beautiful and fierce souls one after the other.

Even though these were isolated incidents, the timing of each them had a domino effect on various areas of each of our lives. They say relationships either make or break during a crisis. Some of our relationships were sadly broken and hard to recover from, while in some, the bonds grew even stronger than before, some others got redefined and renewed.

Such circumstances have far-reaching impact not just on our lives, but it also our loved ones, especially the children, because they usually not great are at understanding and vocalising their emotions. So they make assumptions about what they witness and experience, coming to crazy conclusions about life in general. Much invisible damage happens here. Within a span of two years, my 10 year old son had lost two uncles who absolutely adored him,  had to shift schools twice during this period, come to terms with what had happened, whilst also watching us parents grieve. These are too many adjustments for an adult to come to terms with, then imagine what it must be like for a child.

Consciously or unconsciously, each of us has different ways  of dealing with complexity.

 Here are a few –

  • We don’t allow ourselves ‘feel’ much about what’s happening. We fear that if we allow ourselves to explore our emotions, we might break, which might affect the capacity with which we are currently functioning.
  • We aren’t even aware that we have feelings, we chug along and do what needs to be done. Feelings? Emotions? What are they?
  • We avoid or run away from such situations as we cannot handle the pressure. As long as we hide our head under the rug, we don’t need to face anything. Or we find distractions that aid us in doing the same.
  • We kick and scream in protest of what already is, which is like swimming against the current.
  • We become overly responsible, carrying the entire weight of handling the situation/ taking care of people, on our shoulders until we break.
  • We become the worst version of ourselves, losing touch with reality as our repressed emotions get channelised in the strangest of ways.
  • We get stuck in the loop of blame, blaming circumstances, blaming others, blaming God, blaming fate, blaming ‘time’, blaming ourselves!
  • We become numb, shut down; we don’t know any other way.
  • We go into shock or depression and don’t recover from it.
  • We feel so sorry for ourselves that life comes to a standstill and believe that life cannot move forward  until these challenges disappear.
  • We skip a few steps and spiritualise our experience a little too soon.


We go through one, many or all of the above but eventually, choose to go deep and start MINING GOLD.

By mining gold, I mean, using the complexities we face as a doorway to experiencing life for what it is, getting up close and personal with all our emotions, giving space to them,  striving to bring presence to each of our moments and allowing ourselves to evolve gracefully to the highest versions of ourselves. Mining gold is about getting intimate with life,  letting it break us and make us all over again, where we drop all the walls of separation that keep us from being present, open, vulnerable and authentic and connected.

To be continued..

Sheena Yusuf
Life & Relationship Coach (CPCC)
Professional Photographer


Umpteen Shades of Grey


A “note to self” for many of us who look at things as black or white a lot of the time; and to those of us who are constantly judging what we experience, through ‘our’ perspective towards life. And also to those of us who are reading this now, and making a quick mental note with pride, telling ourselves “I don’t judge !” Let me gently break that bubble for you; If you are human then you fit the bill, you are one of us too.

Judging is an essential life skill that helps to discern and differentiate the various experiences we encounter, enabling and aiding us in making healthier choices. How we use it in life or how attachment to our judgements tie us down is a different conversation,

We usually seem to have an opinion on how someone ought to conduct themselves or live their lives. We become moral police of the ‘rights’ and ‘wrongs’ of humanity. As long as we are looking outward, we avoid looking inward. As long as we are making it about someone else, we avoid looking at ourselves.

I went down this path a couple of weeks ago when I started to judge a friend on her choices about various aspects of her life and about something she did that hurt me. Not only did I judge her but I also wanted to fix her. I am sure that at some point I even thought it was my duty towards humanity to have her see the “light”! It all sounds ridiculous, right? That’s only a start. The follow-through of that thought is even more ridiculous. I also got on a mini-mission to build evidence to support my views. When we get on the Ferris-wheel of moral high ground, it does take us for a big spin.

And then, it suddenly hit me once again that it’s not my business to fix her or change her. I had to revisit a couple of old agreements.

  • People are fully capable of making their own decisions.
  • People are naturally, creative, resourceful and whole. Nobody needs to be saved, not even us.
  • We cannot change anyone. That was not in our manifesto when came to this life. We might be able to influence change by walking our talk or leading by example, but that’s as far as it goes.
  • We each have our perspectives towards life. We don’t know what motivates someone’s actions. We don’t know their story or their pain. We don’t know their ‘whys’, and it’s arrogant of us to make assumptions. So let us not take anything personally.
  • Each of us here is on a unique process and journey. We have our demons to face, and many layers to shed as we walk our path. We have our challenges, and lessons to learn from the consequences of our choices. Why would we want to take away from someone’s natural life experience by interfering in the process? That’s a gift life is giving them. Why are we controlling or manipulating the natural flow of life?
  • People, things, situations and LIFE cannot be classified merely into just categories such as right & wrong, or black & white. That’s just an automatic way our mind works to sort uncomfortable information to avoid confusion within ourselves. There is no black and white. There are umpteen shades of grey, seamlessly blending with one another.

So, finally, after a few weeks of trying to play God, l finally came to my senses, I let go. I dropped my attachment towards how she ought to be. Yes, good for her. No more advice and subtle manipulation from my end. But it was the best act of service I did for myself as I felt so much lighter about not carrying so much mental baggage and responsibility.

If an act of one, is not hurting or causing harm to either us, them or another or taking away from the core of humanity, do we need really to have a say? Do we have to have an opinion on everything?

There is a blindside to this, though. These feel-good larger than life ideals can have us have us embrace the Utopian philosophy. Get slapped on one cheek and show the other one because we have so much compassion for the world. When we are striving so hard to not to take anything personally, and are accepting of humanity, we might end up being passive observers and recipients of another’s behavior at the cost of our well being.

That is why boundaries are so essential. If boundaries could speak, I imagine, they would say, “I accept you, I understand you, I don’t judge you, I don’t take things personally AND….this does not work for me, and I would like you to respect that”. The dialogue would begin from there.

We need boundaries to feel safe enough to be open and authentic with others. I mean boundaries, not walls! Our values, the awareness of what does or doesn’t work for us and shades of grey we can currently tolerate can/could/will/would drive and influence our boundaries. If we stay conscious and present, our tolerance to the range of greys will keep getting higher. And in the end, it all comes down to love right?

Somewhere beyond right and wrong, there is a garden. I will meet you there.”― Rumi

Going around in circles?

FullSizeRender 22

Have you ever asked yourself why you face some specific challenges over and over again, tripping over the same stone? Why does something hit you over and over again that you feel battered, beaten and cannot take it anymore? And if that weren’t enough, you go into a ‘poor me’ mode feeling sorry for yourself. Or even step into the “entitlement box” where you believe you deserve so much more from life, people and circumstances. Or you think that you have been dealt the same lousy set of cards, feeling enough is enough, and you cannot take it anymore?

If so, welcome to the CLUB! I have been here many times that I am now quite a familiar figure here  They even considered giving me a lifetime membership at one point as I was one of their frequent members in the early days, but I politely declined as I didn’t want to get too comfortable. Even now there are those special occasions where I will show my face at the club, just to make sure they haven’t forgotten me. (it helps to add a humorous spin to things :-))

The next time you are wondering why you’ve been going around the same loop for long, do remind yourself of this quote.

“If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.”― Henry Ford

I believe that life hands us lessons in the form of life circumstances or challenges we face in our day to day life. And as we work through these lessons; we move towards newer ones.We don’t all necessary do the same lessons, we each have different starting points but nevertheless they are lessons given to us to work on.

The good news is that we don’t have a teacher grading us or waiting to see if we have finished our work. It’s a self-study program. So we are liberty to skip some chapters that we find, tedious or challenging and move along towards easier and quicker ones.

The bad news is that cannot copy notes from anyone or have someone else do our work for us. Neither can we give an excuse that the dog ate our homework. Any lessons we have skipped will come back to us in the form of new challenges, possibly even harder ones, forcing us to work through before we find peace.

The good news is that we are not alone, we can always get help, we have access to teachers and masters, and get pointers from others who seem to have completed these lessons. And it is enormous motivation just to know that people just like us have found their way around the hard lessons or even harder ones, so there is hope.We are not working on the impossible.

The bad news is that some lessons are pretty challenging, and it will take a toll on us physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually, but if we stick through the hardest bits, we will see the value of it eventually.  One guiding question is  to ask ourselves, “What am I supposed to learn from this that will ease my suffering?. Sometimes even when we think we have completed the work, life will throw us a few more challenges that will throw us off guard.

The good news is we repeat some lessons again just to make sure have crossed the t’s and dotted the i’s. Its only small test so that we can evaluate how thorough we are in our work.  The better news is that the lessons we learn are tailor-made individually for each of us so that we can shed some old unwanted layers and polish our souls a little more every time. How lucky are we! I am not trying to throw an optimist spin on things, and this is not some utopian philosophy. I do believe it and have had the experience of it with many situations in life.

Some of my challenges were around fear, anxiety, death, loss and perfection. Or should I say that the most prominent lessons I did were on the topics mentioned above? Sure enough, I have worked through many challenging experiences, as I lost many loved ones to death and other reasons, I have had to come face to face with my fears, and also my obsession with perfection. Honestly, I don’t know how far along I am with the chapters, but I would like to believe that I am now at the level crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s.

When I find that I am stuck I ask myself these questions:

What am I afraid of?
What would I do, or how would I handle this if I wasn’t scared?
What action can I take to be at integrity with myself?

When I am ready to listen to the answers and choose act on them, they always guide me home.

Some tips from a fellow student, as you navigate through your lessons:-
Show up and do your work.
Ask for help; there is enough help to go around.
Try not to take the easy way out as it will most definitely turn out to be a long way out.
Don’t let your mind play tricks on you, convincing you to give up.
Be open to the learning
Go easy on yourself – Be kind to yourself
And finally, remember, at every point, you have a choice, you can always begin again!

At the end of it, it not like passing through different levels of a game to get to the BUMPER PRIZE. Our prize is in developing fluidity towards life, going with the flow, surrendering to what is, and having the tenacity, grace to live through it all and most of all being at integrity with ourselves.

Sheena Yusuf

Life & Relationship Coach (CPCC)
Professional Photographer


January 3, 2018

“How are you?”


“How are you?”

An interesting question it is! I am sure most of us will agree that our response to this question is almost always an automatic one. Rarely do we blink an eye before we reply with an “I am good”, “I am okay” or “I am fine”. Even when we are feeling a bit low, our response to the said question might not indicate our actual state.

Likewise, we also don’t give much of thought when we ask  (or say) ‘How are you’. It is just an extension of a ‘hi’ or ‘hello’, and it not a question. Most of the time we aren’t waiting for an answer.

I recall my son telling me. “when I am walking across campus and run into friends, they casually ask me how I am, my response is, ask me like you mean it and I will respond!”

As a teenager, I had a friend who used to ask me how I was doing, every time we met and without pausing to hear a response, she would go on about what was happening in her life.  It bothered me for a good few years before I told her not to ask me how I was unless she was genuinely curious,  as I did not want to a meaningless exchange of pleasantries with her.

Since then, I have been pretty conscious of the how are you’s I asked, as well as the ones I have responded to.

With my inner circle of friends, this question makes a world of a difference to my day. It could help ground myself and get present,  bring me back to some feeling that I would have been avoiding or it would have me feel genuinely cared for. This question is not some passing phrase anymore.

It was a dear friend of mine, let’s call her Tiya, who brought depth and meaning to this question. When I ask her how she is, her responses are always varied and not the standard ones. There are times that she would pause before getting into a deep conversation on a particular topic in her life that needed airtime, trusting that I was all ears listening to her, helping her unpack things. And at other times she would refuse to respond to the question and request that we come back to it later as she wasn’t in the space to go deep. Likewise, when it was my turn to share, she would show such genuine interest and curiosity in my stories that I always walked away finding more meaning in my own stories, let alone feeling heard and seen.

What is essential is, rather than it being a meaningless set of questions and automatic responses, our words should drive conversations into unknown terrains that call for more authentic interactions.

How are you?


Sheena Yusuf

Life & Relationship Coach (CPCC)
Professional Photographer


December 29, 2017

A dance of a different kind

A friend messaged me a few days ago asking if I had sometime to chat or skype. He also mentioned that it was about relationship advice. The first thoughts that went through my head were “Me and relationship advice ? Now ? Are you serious ?” Jokes apart, we got skyping in the next few minutes as I did have time on my hands that evening. 

When we spoke, he shared how he was feeling claustrophobic in his current relationship and wanted to unpack what it was all about. He was recently divorced after fifteen years of marriage and over the last two years, had been on a quest of finding himself. He was currently in a long distance relationship with someone who lived in a different country. They travelled to meet each other every few weeks. 

He spoke of how, lately he had been feeling wound up when it was around the time to meet up with her. He said that the last time they met, it took him a while to let down his defenses and when he did he loved the time they spent together. After their intimate time together, when he got back home, once again he found himself withdrawing from her and shutting her out. That’s when he reached out to talk to a few of his close friends, including me.

When I asked him about her, he shared that he enjoyed her company and that she was a light hearted and energetic person. He described her as one of those people who was always curious to experience something different and found enjoyment in the little things.

My question to him was, “What are you afraid of ?” It took him a while to respond. He said that he feared losing himself in the relationship, losing his time, freedom and space. He was afraid of giving in too much, more than he wanted to. He was afraid that she was more invested in the relationship than he was. He wasn’t ready to make a long term commitment and he was afraid of this leading to that. He found the distance between them long but also feared the closeness. He liked things as they were now and wasn’t ready for or needed more. 

I wanted to ask him (or react) at this point, “So you want to have your cake and eat it too? ” 😊

I did not ask him that though. What I did ask him was if she knew all of this? And shouldn’t he be having this entire conversation with her?He said he hadn’t considered doing that as he was afraid of losing her. What if she heard all of what he had to say and decided to end the relationship. At this point I should have told him, “So you do want to have your cake and eat it too ! But yet again I did not tell him that. 😊

I was useful though. I pointed out to him how “fear” ruled his relationship almost to that point where it seemed like it was Fear who was in a relationship with her and not him. His fear was impacting all his present moments with her and definitely killing any future they would organically have together or otherwise.   

It’s easy to stand on the outside and make such an observation about others and we often forget that we also function from that same premise a lot of the time. At least I know I have done that. If you are a regular reader of my blogs you would already know that about me. I recall sharing once that I have done a PHD in fear. 

Fear drives and ruins most relationships. A woman I was coaching a few years ago shared that even though she suspected something fishy was going on with her husband, she did not want to get too curious as she was afraid of what she might find out. She was in fact more afraid of the decisions she might have to take if her fears were confirmed. 

A client of mine was afraid of leaving her nonexistent marriage as she feared losing the security she had. She had a life already in place and she knew her way around it. She was afraid to step out and explore a life beyond what was familiar.

This obsession with fear takes away the spirit of being in the present. Living in fear is like living a lie. Most people choose to close their eyes and live in fear rather than face the truth, that is staring at their face. 

Another dear friend of mine feared conflict so much that he avoided having much needed conversations with his wife which hugely contributed to the breakdown of his marriage. He ended up creating the very thing he strived to avoid, because he let his fear take control.

I challenged my friend to have that conversation with his girlfriend, share his feelings, his dreams, his fears, his anxiety, all of it and at the same time urged him to keep an open mind to anything that was going to unfold from that conversation. She deserved that kind of transparency from him, and had the right to choose how she wanted be with it. Moreover she was a big girl and he did not have to protect her from his truth. 

He was so afraid of repeating the mistakes from his past that he was ruining his present with his caution. And at this point, even though they were a “we”, he was fiercely protecting himself, I, my time, my life, my space, my freedom etc. 

I shared with him something I had read about fear a while ago. It was something along the lines of .. “If you fear losing something, you are not yet ready to experience that in your life. Fall into fear and willingly let go of anything you are afraid to lose.” How liberating is that ! And.. easier said than done. 

There are so many delicate layers interwoven in a relationship. One truth is that we cannot be in an authentic relationship with another unless we are in a right relationship with ourselves. Most of us are looking to fill in the missing pieces in ourselves through our significant relationships hoping that would have us feel whole. Do read the book or watch the video, “The Missing Piece Meets Big O”. It’s a beautiful book and a quick read, which beautifully explains what I want to convey.

Here is the link. http://youtu.be/Af-jZUR3ua0

The other aspect is that we tend to focus on ourselves a lot especially when there is a difference in opinion, our individual wants and needs, and to a large extent our ego gets in the way of being fully present.

When we shift our focus to what the relationship needs, and not our individual needs, we would be naturally willing to stretch more. For example, if a particular relationship is important to me and when I see that some action of mine is going to positively impact that relationship, I would be more willing to do what’s needed to create that. On the other hand, the same situation would be a war of egos if it was about “what I want” vs “what you want”. 

At the end of the day, relationships basically boil down to taking that deep dive, baring ourselves, giving all of ourselves and yet not losing ourself or that thing people naively term ‘individuality’ and better yet becoming more of who we are. And through all of this, creating  magic together.

It wouldn’t be just on my part if I kept you people hanging. So yeah, my friend had the ‘talk’ with his girlfriend which actually turned out fine to his surprise. All is well in their world. 

Sheena Yusuf

September 2, 2017

Life lessons from my niece, Nyla

Nyla is my 6 year old niece. Every time I spend time with her, there always something she teaches me from her way of being. When we are together, sometimes asks me the same questions. One of her most favorite ones is “Why do we call you Shemama?” and I give a typical look as she has asked me that question about a hundred times already.  

She will then smile and say, “Ah I remember now, it’s because you have no daughters to call you mama and you were sad then, so you wanted us to call you by that name right ?” 🙂 
Another question is, “Who is Aqil kaka’s and Alif kaka’s father?” (my older boys Aqil and Alif are from my first marriage). She is just beginning to understand concepts of divorce and hence is always fascinated and curious about it. 

When my sister is away, on good days she would come up to me and tell me, “Now that my  mother is away, you are my mother, and I am so happy that you are here.” But that would shift the moment she was upset with me, where she would say stuff like, “You aren’t my mother, you are only Shemama. Only my mother is my mother.” Translation – don’t tell me what to do or you have no right to talk to me like that. 🙂 

It’s always a joy to be with children of this age as they say the sweetest and most profound things and there so much wisdom in them if we pay attention. I might even be biased to say that my niece says the cutest stuff. 
My sister has taught her to articulate her feelings very clearly. She would walk up to us and say, “I have a pain in my heart since you spoke to me like that” or “my heart is smiling and happy today”. The metaphors she uses to describe her feelings are just amazing. Such is her language of emotional expression. 

She is at that age now where she has lost her front teeth and the new ones are slowly but surely on their way out. Yesterday I accompanied her in the car to drop her off somewhere. Before she got off the car, She looked at herself in the mirror and we had this dialogue. 

Nyla: Shemama, aren’t these earrings the most gorgeous earrings ? 

I: Yes, they are and they look beautiful on you! 

Nyla: That’s what I was thinking too ! I look so gorgeous

I: Yes you are Nyla, you are absolutely gorgeous.

Nyla: “Isn’t everything about me gorgeous, even my front teeth? ”

I (smiling): Yes my darling! Everything about you is gorgeous and I am happy that you already know that about yourself”.

As she gets off the car, she looks me, smiles ear to ear,  and says, “I am so happy and lucky that I am so gorgeous”. She then gives me a tight hug and runs away. 

By now, I am guessing you’ve  already picked up that “gorgeous” her newest and current favorite word in her dictionary. What a joy it was to witness her in her gorgeousness, to see her so confident and sure herself, and just love herself the way she is. 

I do like the way I look. And, I have good days and bad days, There are days that I hate looking at myself in the mirror.

There was an exercise I did in a leadership program two years ago, where we were each given a small handheld mirror and we had to look at and appreciate ourselves for a good ten to fifteen minutes. I vividly recall that the initial five minutes was pure torture. I would look at myself and pick every minute detail that I did not like in myself, dark circles, pigmented skin, funny nose, scar on eye brows and so on. But after a while it began to shift, I began to smile as looked at myself. I could find what I liked about my face. I began to appreciate myself. I can now say with confidence, I have ‘gorgeous’ eyes and a ‘gorgeous’ smile too 🙂 

When was the last time you looked at yourself in the mirror for that long? A lot of us aren’t comfortable with the way we look, we have good sides and bad sides when we have our pictures taken. 

The mirror exercise is a great exercise to try. If you aren’t comfortable with your body, take off your clothes and stand in front of the mirror and do the same exercise every day. Soon you will see the shift. 

The hard truth is that,  this is the physical form we were born, there was no choice there. The sooner we begin to accept and appreciate our ‘gorgeousness’, and help our children see theirs the simpler life gets.

Sheena Yusuf 

August 26, 2017