My Aunt, Habuba, used to greet me by asking me, “how is your soul doing today?” She never greeted me with a simple, “how are you?.” She insisted, instead, on inquiring about the status of my soul each time she saw me. Looking back, that opportunity to stop and reflect is one I am grateful for today. Aunt Habuba, would ask me with genuine curiosity, fully intrigued to hear what my soul would say in response. She would then ask: “And what have you done to love and support your soul?” 

I used to laugh and smile, uncomfortable with her questions, and unsure how to respond. Nonetheless, she never stopped asking, and I never stopped wondering: what on earth is she talking about?! 

As a child, I was often told that I asked too many questions. I was raised — as most children are — by being told what was right, wrong, socially acceptable, and unacceptable, not to mention who I am, what this life is, and how to be at all times. Adults really seemed to know it all, and I really knew that I wanted to explore beyond what was being offered to me. 

This feeling continued into my adolescence; I did not feel like I was where I belonged. I put immense effort into getting high grades, hoping that my father would stick with his promise of allowing me to leave Saudi and study abroad for university if I maintained high grades. As challenging as this agreement was for both of us, we somehow managed to fulfill our promises to one another. And just like that, I found myself at university in Southampton, UK. 

Southampton is a port city that is home to many confused, eager, curious, and young souls that make up its student population, which comes from all over the world. Southampton is also home to beautiful nature, not to mention several stories that shape the city and its inhabitants. You can cycle your way to Southampton Common, a huge green area filled with wildlife and mystical trees that allowed me to listen and learn from their being. You can dine in the same hall that once fed those who continued their journey to the port of Southampton and off to the famous Titanic, reminding you that nothing is everlasting. You can walk around touch, feel, and hear the stories of the walls that were heavily bombed by the Nazi German Luftwaffe during World War II. 

Southampton or life — or perhaps both — had so much to share with me. And I had so much to learn. Together, we redefined what home was, what home truly meant. It was so empowering to realize that no one could ever take home away from me, nor could I ever lose it when my body — the place that houses my soul — became my home. 

Though leaving Saudi provided me with many answers, it did not stop me from questioning. On the contrary, it actually made me question even more. I took it as a chance to reassess what once was given as a fact, but never fully convinced me. It was a struggle. You end up shedding, and shedding sometimes feels like losing. I lost a lot. Some nights, I felt I had absolutely nothing, except the dark of the night. 

It was around this time when a friend gave me a used copy of “The Celestine Prophecy” by James Redfield. She told me her aunt gave her a copy and it changed her life. Her eyes told me she was being honest and I was excited to begin reading. She was right. I started understanding why I was the way I was. I started understanding how our cultures, parents, and the contexts we are raised in shape us unconsciously, and how it was my duty — now that I was aware — to start consciously shaping who I am, who I want to be. 

I realized that I was unhappy previously because I was not allowing myself to listen to my soul, to my true calling. My calling was loud; it was certain of its existence, and yet it was suppressed and not allowed to express itself. It wasn’t allowed to simply be because I was stifling it without even realizing it. I started taking action. I started researching and practicing.  One book led to another. I found myself gravitating towards nature more and more. I found myself connecting to trees, daisies, and the grass and I would melt into one. I found myself light and free. And happy to lose. Because now loss meant gaining my true self back. 

I celebrated my loss, I also learned to create space for the pain that came with it. Respect your pain, life taught me. Once the eyes of love are open and that’s how you look at and interact with life, nothing is ever the same. I remember feeling this on a visceral level when I looked at my naked body in the mirror for the first time, and actually saw myself with no judgment. I simply accepted and realized that this is my body at this age, at this moment. I hugged it, and I started talking to my future daughter, documenting the way my body felt at this exact moment in time through our conversation.  I wanted to share the story with her; perhaps she could learn to love herself earlier than I did. Perhaps she would learn sooner than I did to have courage — the courage to look at yourself, to face yourself, to love and truly see yourself. 

I looked at myself in the mirror, and I offered myself the apology that I needed in order to accept, heal, and evolve from the past. Before this moment, before these lessons, I could never have looked at myself in this way. Not necessarily because I didn’t like my body, but because it was simply too hard to face myself before now. I used to allow myself (and the way I saw myself) to be shaped by others; it used to feel like I could not really protect myself or do anything about this. But now, my body – the home of my soul – was mine. I was finally seeing it through my own eyes.

I started taking good care of myself. I started exploring my potential physically, emotionally, and mentally. I tried as much as I could — from taekwondo to boxing, yoga, reiki training, meditation, and breathwork. I started listening to my body, talking to my body, and learning its language. I learned about my dosha, and I began realizing the immense potential of being human. I realized how limited I once was. How I was raised in a culture where love is so misunderstood: “انا خايفة عليكي”. We know how to fear, not how to love. We act out of scarcity, not out of abundance.

In the chaos, in the abstract art of it all, is when I heard the ONE telling me “you’ve looked for me in the hearts, minds and the words of everyone, except yourself. “

وَإِذَا سَأَلَكَ عِبَادِي عَنِّي فَإِنِّي قَرِيبٌ ۖ أُجِيبُ دَعْوَةَ الدَّاعِ إِذَا دَعَانِ. فَإِذَا سَوَّيْتُهُ وَنَفَخْتُ فِيهِ مِنْ رُوحِي”. It all started hitting me. Year after year, my calling started becoming clearer and louder. The signs were everywhere to guide me. I started crossing paths with other seekers. Truth and love seekers. Everything I do is an effort to make sure more and more people can also consciously be. I want to meet the روح within “فَإِذَا سَوَّيْتُهُ وَنَفَخْتُ فِيهِ مِنْ رُوحِي”. I want to meet all its colors. I want to experience all that it is. 

Habubati, in your own words, I call you and tell you  يا أيتها الروح الطاهرة و يا محبوبتي في الله 

My soul sings and dances celebrating its existence in various fields, especially in the field of love. You ask me what it says? It says: 
You are a being of love, my dear. Listen to the voice within. I usually say people are my favorite books. So, imagine everything you heard, every conversation you had and every book you read is the reference list of your book (who you are). Clean that reference list, reassess, and question constantly. Restart, update, and invest in yourself. You will be asked how well you took care of this soul. Taking care of your soul is a responsibility, indeed, but it is a fun and a magical one if you simply choose it to be. So, enjoy the journey. And see you on the other side, where the lovers are. Where the lovers dance. Where the lovers live. Where the lovers love. Where the lovers energize and simply start. I urge you to be. Be!