Running Away To Discover Yourself

Farid Yusof is a student of the world. They speak with Charna about the way culture impacts our freedom of self-expression and how they use their art as a resource to find healing. Farid’s travels were a mechanism for finding themselves and they use social media as a tool for coming out as gender nonbinary while quarantining with their conservative family. This conversation highlights how developing rituals around self-care can help anyone thrive, even in isolation, during the pandemic.

Farid Yusof (He/They) grew up queer in the small religious nation of Brunei. In trying to find freedom in self-expression, they decided to pursue the nomad life in 2013 and traveled the world. With all the self-healing and wisdom they gained through this experience, they now identify as nonbinary and facilitate heart-sharing circles online with the mission to reconnect people to their hearts and to their authenticity.

In addition to holding heart space, Farid (art pseudonym Faridunia) also works as a freelance brand designer and print artist, creating work with themes around spiritual growth & healing, sex, and kink liberation, pushing gender norms, LGBTQ+ rights, and the concept non-duality.


IG @theearthtribe and @queerandconscious

Show Notes

Hi, this is Charna Cassell with the laid open podcast and today my guest is Fareed, for read yourself grew up queer and the small religious nation of Brunei and trying to find freedom and self expression. They decided to pursue the Nomad life in 2013 and travelled the world. With all the self healing and wisdom they gained through this experience. They now identify as gender non binary and facilitate heart sharing circles online with the mission to reconnect people to their hearts and to their authenticity. In addition to holding heartspace Fareed, aka Farah Dunia also works as a freelance print artist creating work with themes around spiritual growth and healing sex and kink liberation pushing gender norms, LGBTQ plus rights and the concept of non duality. Their work can be found on 30 duniya.com and also on the earth tribe and queer and conscious on Instagram and third duniya by the way is spelled F ar IDUNI A welcome for eat learn in life is about to start isn’t it great? Honor deciders calm?

Hello, Charna how are you?

I’m so good. And I’m really happy to have this conversation with you. I want you to know how much I love your art.

Thank you very much. Thank you for having me here on your podcast. And I love what you’re doing. I love I love how you are merging, like spirituality and also sexuality all in one. Because a lot of times people always, at least for me, I always separated the two. Right? Why it’s like it’s important for me now that I’ve discovered how to merge that all into one because essentially, in like, the works of like, gender work is all about just being everywhere on the spectrum, isn’t it?

Hmm. And I’m so curious to hear from you. And we can get more into into this, if you have questions for me about that. But how did you move from being in a space of perhaps I don’t know what your religious background is or what you were raised, like culturally and religiously. But if you can share some of that and how you move from that to the space of where you are now, in terms of non dual.

Okay, well, um, just a little background about myself, I actually was raised, I was born and raised as a Muslim person. And as you mentioned, I’m from Brunei, which is a very conservative Islamic country. So even though it’s even though, I grew up in a quiet westernized culture, because we were actually colonized by the British, and they left in 84, which is very recent. But, but Brunei has an identity crisis, I guess. So are they are they westernized? Are they modern, or either Islamic, so me as a person who grew up there also, I felt this confusion, this crisis in my identity, am I supposed to be like a strict Muslim, and also being a gay, young person, like back in the day, that was very confusing. And so I was trained, at least I trained myself to kind of compartmentalize these two things. And at one point, I kind of rejected religion, like altogether because it created a lot of like suicidal ideation and tendencies as a young person. But eventually, as I grew older, as, as I said, As you read, in my bio, I left to travel the world, I discovered more like spiritual faith and religion, and philosophy. So just combining what I like, or what I believe, from all of these faiths, and how it fits with my queerness and my identity, and my gender, and my basically everything about myself, so it works now. So it’s been a journey. It’s been a journey, but I’m at a very good place right now.

Oh, I’m so glad to hear that. You know, I think that it’s is a very common, especially when you’ve been raised with heavy handed or any kind of rigid notions around how you’re supposed to be to be right or be an okay human in the world. Yeah, that there can be this feeling of, you know, suicidal ideation or feeling of, like, I’m bad. And I don’t, I don’t get to take up this space, I don’t get to belong, because I’m told I don’t belong. And so it’s such a process to land where you are now. And I’m, I’m looking forward to hearing more about the practices and the resources and things that you’ve done to and the people that you’ve even met that have helped you fully embrace yourself.

It’s been a journey, as I mentioned before, it’s been a journey met a lot of people a lot of resources. And actually, a lot of my being comfortable in my own self. I have been taught by social media actually, which is quite strange, like because, you know, you always assume that social media, there’s a lot of garbage. But actually, it has been very useful for me. Because there’s a lot of like, political, like gender politics that’s on there, like LGBTQ rights issues. So it’s been very life saving even

i. So I love that because I was one of those people who didn’t come to Instagram until a couple years ago. And it’s what I love imagining that, you know, like, there are these people that are in different cultures, or countries, and they might be more isolated and not have access to role models, or representations of queer people. And then now, because of Instagram, or Tiktok, or whatever, you get so much more access. And that’s like, that’s the beauty and the good stuff, right?

It is. And there’s also like, it’s this the importance in like seeing somebody who is similar to you like, what we’re just seeing yourself in another person. In media, even in social media, like, you can see yourself in there, which means like, it just gives you so much more validity in your identity.

Right? Feeling what one of those stages as you’re when you’re a little child, that’s really important with with your caretakers is being mirrored, right? That’s what you’re talking about. And it doesn’t stop there. It’s like, as adults, we want to experience the same thing, because we are we are pack animals, and we want to belong to a PAC. Right? And so, growing up, did you have when you were in those struggles, when it was darker times for you, as you described? Did you have people that you knew that you were like, Oh, this is an option, I can be queer in your culture, you had to leave in order to even meet anybody?

Yes. Basically, this was like, you know, like, when you hit puberty is when you discover you’re, you’re, you’re homosexual, or you know, your sexuality comes into light. And so I was like 12, or 13. And this was still back in the early 2000s. And even in the Western world, during that time, like it was still very oppressed, like, we were very oppressed people. So even on media, you couldn’t see anything. So it was, it was very difficult, it was very difficult. And I only found comfort. And I came out and I found comfort was when I went to Australia to do my university studies. And even though we were still very discriminated, and publicly, you know, people would throw ice at us, you know, just by walking down the street, it was like during those times, but at least I had my community, no matter how small it was, we had the gay clubs, we had a group of queer friends. And it’s, even though it still wasn’t a safe world, or a safe space, but at least you could find comfort with each other, you know, within this community. Right? It’s like you had your little pack. Exactly, exactly, which is very important that you mentioned before.

And so at that time, you went from being in school in Australia. And then you were living in different communes, in kind of communities around the world. Yes. What was your introduction to doing more of the kind of self work? You mentioned shadow work in your bio? What was that process like for you and starting to turn towards those things?

Well, actually, again, this all relates back to feeling so confused, like with my identity, as a queer person, as a gay person, or whatever you want to call it, because growing up, I always felt like I didn’t belong anywhere, which is actually why I left to travel the world back in 2013. But in hindsight now, I realized it wasn’t because I want to travel the world I’ve been I don’t even like traveling actually. It’s just that I needed to run away. Right. So running away. I don’t know where I was running to but I just needed to leave. So I thought that just by leaving I will eventually find whatever it was I was looking for. I decided You know, once you get into this like backpacking traveling life, you start to get into like, look for like little farms or communities. And eventually I found like hippie, like a hippie community, they’re called the rainbow gatherings maybe. Yeah. So like I would, I would go to all these rainbow gatherings here and there, maybe it’s worth mentioning that once I arrived in Europe traveling, I actually had $0, I had no money, nothing in my bank account and nothing in my pocket. And that in itself is also a very spiritual experience. You needed to rely on people’s kindness, you needed to trust the universe. So combining all of this, like feeling lost in myself in my identity, and like, really try to trust the world, the kindness of the world, especially growing up where I always felt that the world was unkind to me. So it was a very powerful kind of, like, few years. For me,

that’s really significant that shifting from a perception that the world is unkind to me to be able to surrender and trust that the resources you need will find you. What were some moments, significant moments that helped you in that transition and shift in perspective.

Well, growing up, I always felt that, you know, I was always discriminated against people bullying me. But then like, during my travels, I always keep in mind that, you know, as a person, as a traveler who had no money, I still needed to keep going, because the other option would be to return back to Brunei, which was not an option for me. At least I didn’t want to. So I did to rely on other people’s kindness. But I made it a point to never ask for money, I realized that nobody wants to see another person hungry. If you ask for money, nobody wants to give you money. But if you are hungry, nobody wants to see another person hungry. So I would just go to a restaurant and ask people like, um, do you have any leftover that you were going to try out and people would like, really happily give it to me, hitchhiking across Europe, people who just invite me to their homes, just because they’re so curious to get to know me just because they really want to help a stranger out. And even the hitchhiking people assume are people you know, I mean, of course, it’s a valid, valid fear to be to be taking a paycheck. But it really is a very eye opening experience, just just traveling with no money and just relying on the kindness of people, just people sharing their food, even though they don’t have much people opening their homes for you to sleep on their beds, that that put my trust back into people.

You were in a beautiful, whether it was conscious or not at the time, but you are in a beautiful daily practice of surrender and trust and rebuilding a sense of belonging. That’s beautiful.

Exactly. I actually have a tattoo here, just to remind myself that says surrender. I have to surrender to the universe to surrender to the flow to surrender to whatever happens to me, because eventually, it’s still a good thing. If I know how to kind of dig underneath whatever is happening.

It’s it’s one of the essential things, you know, I so I’ve been working with people for about 20 years now. And a good portion of that time I’ve been doing trauma work. And one of the things that I see in that helps people heal more quickly and reach a place of embodiment and more freedom in their life is some kind of spiritual connection. Right? Not necessarily religion, but just what comes with spiritual connection is the capacity to surrender, and trust and receive and a lot of that is broken, right is taken from people during trauma, all kinds of trauma, not just sexual trauma, or sexual abuse, because I think of sexual trauma as all these different things impact our our sexual self expression, right. And, you know, it’s it’s something that is just it comes up. I see like eight clients a day, and it comes up with everybody. Right, my my dog Toshi, is this remarkable being that is a little healer. And, you know, my clients very commonly comment on what she models like, she’s just like, hanging, she’ll do this and she was like, hanging off the side of the couch with her head or like, lay in their lap and she’s just like water, and she just shows them. You. I just trust you immediately and I want to receive all the love you have to give. That’s really beautiful. My prayer is that we can all find a Toshi space at some point in our lives.

Exactly. You know, actually speaking of animals, a lot of times actually, you know, you see a random cat just licking themselves and making their private parts. Yeah, and sometimes I just envy envy them. How I wish we as humans, we have so much boundaries that we have created for ourselves like how I wish we could just be like an animal again, you know, I feel like just licking myself here because I’m feeling dirty in public. That sounds beautiful to me that freedom. I don’t know, what do you think of the I don’t know how? Oh, yeah. procreate that is but

oh, I don’t think no, it’s it takes a lot for me to perceive something as inappropriate but no, I often, either two year olds like what a toddler is doing in public or what a dog is doing. I often like to picture a more buttoned up adult doing that thing, it cracks me up, it’s

it’s just that part of the things that I’ve just been like, thinking about lately is how the norms and the standards of you know, like societal living all of these walls and these barriers that we have created, you know, to live in our proper society. Those are the things that I’m trying to understand. Are they necessary? Should it be deconstructed, especially in the topic of like gender norms, for example, the male or the female roles, and also like sex and kink liberation? Or like, what is normal in like sexual activities? What is not normal? What is inappropriate, what is too dirty? So these are all like, very fascinating issues that I like to think about or like, just discuss with my friends and random people,

when speaking about gender and sexual fluidity and freedom. And you identify now as gender non binary. I’m curious how you landed in that space?

Well, Oh, I like this. Actually, I recently claimed myself as a gender non binary Person A few months ago. And it was a very empowering claim, when I spoke it out loud, just think myself, you know what I am gender non binary. And also, after learning a lot about like, what being a non binary person is, it’s not about how you look, it’s not about how to be it’s not a way of expression, because gender expression is a totally different topic. Also, for me, being gender non binary is about not subscribing to the gender roles, and not even, like, for example what it is to be a man, there’s there’s no criteria of what it is to be a man and there’s no criteria, what it is to be a woman. And I don’t even want to identify as either of those, I’m just here floating around in the spectrum. Maybe tomorrow, I want to be wearing a dress, and that’s okay. And maybe the next day, I want to be growing a full beard. And that’s also okay. It’s just not subscribing to the binary, basically, is what it is. When I said to myself, You know what I am gender non binary. It suddenly felt like the bars have been lifted, like the doors have been open, the walls have been demolished. And I just felt a sense of freedom. I don’t know if you can relate to this. But you know, as a gay person, or as a gay young person coming out is one of the most empowering things that a gay person do, or a queer person can do. And now coming out myself as a gender non binary person, that’s also the same it has the same effect.

Yeah, right. It is a second a second coming out.

Exactly. Exactly. It’s a very powerful feeling. And oh, is

it looks like he got like a little, you know, you got excitement. And you’ve got this great smile on your face. And yeah, and and, you know, it’s, it feels like peeling off the extra layer. Exactly. I was teaching a class on gender and sexuality at a city college. And I was talking about how, you know, lesbians can have sex with men and men, men can have gay men can have sex with women, I was describing these different things. And this one teenage boy, because there was someone the ages were like, 17 to 75 in this class, right? So such a range of different eras, right of acceptance, and this was also probably about 15 years ago, and this one teenage boy was having fit. He really really wanted to have these rigid boxes, and I was talking about this, like the box of masculinity. Yeah, how there’s so much more fluidity actually, for women while while women may be oppressed, there’s like this. It’s like these boxes that we want to put people in. Yeah, right. And he just was like, oh, like, uh, he just looked like he wanted to break his pencil. He was so frustrated with like, unlike it’s just not black and white. Yeah. Exactly. You know, obviously, it takes it’s such a nuanced process and There’s, there’s all these discoveries when you’re doing self work. And when you’re meditating, and when your consciousness is expanding, you start to see all the constructions, right? Like, what you’ve been fed by your culture and by your religion, and what you have just assumed is true. start to realize they’re just beliefs. And they’re not necessarily truths. Right, exactly. And so was there any particular moment or thing like what happened a couple of months ago, that allowed you to claim this much more freedom.

I have recently moved to Istanbul, Turkey. But before then I was back in Brunei actually, for 16 months, just just because of the pandemic. And because at the time, there was zero cases in Brunei, so I thought it was just, you know, just safer, or at least the craziness of the whole situation wasn’t wasn’t there in my face. But being 60 months living with your mother, again, back in your childhood hometown, where you are faced with so much memories and trauma, I actually kind of secluded myself, I put myself in isolation, so my whole world was actually on the internet. Yeah, I’m not really a social being, actually. But when you’re actually back in your childhood space, I really was in isolation, I really didn’t want to see people, I was afraid that I may start to kind of compromise myself just to fit in to the society that I didn’t want to be part of, or that didn’t feel authentic to me. So I was on social media a lot, which is why I told you before, like social media has helped me a lot. And this past 16 months was when I learned a lot about like, the construction of gender, the construction of like, what’s actually proper, what’s actually acceptable in the world, and a lot of them are not acceptable to me. And that’s just by being on the computer on the social media on the Internet.

What’s What’s incredible. I’m always fascinated by the, by the creativity, that can can come from restriction. Yeah, and necessity, right. Like, growing up, I had a scholarship at a private school, and I was one of the only kids I knew who had worked, you know, since I was 14. And I always wore used or vintage clothing. And I would paint my own boots and like, do these, you know, there’s just this creativity that came out of the restriction of finances? Right, or, you know, I remember doing a film class in college, we were doing video it was, it was called film, but it was video, right? Yeah, you have to edit inside the camera. And then, so the restrictions of like, these are the tools that you have, this is what you get to work with. Right? And so here you are in picturing you, you know, in isolation, and because you want to stay true to yourself. Right, you reach for the resources that are available. But yet there’s this this interesting, you know, it’s like even though it’s totally restricted, you have the whole world and all the information available to you that people are sharing. Yeah. And inside this, again, this restriction that COVID has provided, I feel like it’s actually been this. And I don’t mean to minimize the losses that occur, because there are a lot of losses on many levels for people. There was also this remarkable freeing up because people were forced to make hard decisions. Exactly. You know, like, because of circumstances because of finances because of where they had to live because of all these different reasons. So I just love that you’re like, you found incredible freedom inside of restriction.

Yes, yes. Right. Yeah, I actually did the past 16 months. Again, it was extremely, it was not the most exciting 660 months, it was actually very draining. But maybe looking back now it’s I feel like it has been the most kind of not powerful, but the 16 months gave me a lot like I learned a lot about myself like you know, the you know, the saying like, you know, like diamonds, something about divers pressure and then

they saw Yeah, cool. Cool with pressure turns to diamonds. Yes. Yeah, yeah.

So basically, I was just putting the pressure on myself like I was a cold, but then I came out like a diamond. And now I’ve come into myself and even actually, last last year, in December, I actually fell into a deep, deep depression. And this is when I actually stopped doing the coaching work because before getting back into the art, I was actually doing like one on one coaching mainly to connect to the highest just like this could be reconnecting the heart returning to love just really connecting to your authenticity. And a lot of my clients were actually cisgender heterosexual men, and I never actually advertised mainly for the men But I guess like they felt, you know, me as a male presenting masculine looking person, I guess they felt safe that I was a, I was free to just be a bit more flamboyant. And so I guess a lot of them felt safe. And also like, a lot of a lot of my videos I talked about just being emotional, like being vulnerable is okay, it’s actually quite harmful. So I guess it’s attracted a lot of men. But also with this work. It forced me to go further into my spiritual practice, it forced me to go further with into myself quicker than I was ready for. That makes sense. No, it

definitely makes sense how so? We all

we all grow in our own at our own pace. Yeah. But then you know, when people just come with you, and he’s expecting you to want to help them. So basically, you kind of have to, like really reflect on your personal journey to help them. Sometimes some of these things you are not ready to reflect on. Yeah. Yeah. So which is why I went into depression. So I decided, You know what, I’m going to take a pause from this work. And I’m going to go back into art. And so now I actually feel a lot of like, freedom and there’s less pressure and, and also, actually, I’m sorry, I’m just jumping. No, go ahead, here. No, that’s actually how my head works. Being being a spiritual development or meditation coach. Also, I always felt that there’s this box or this this certain way you need to be to be a spiritual person, or to be a spiritual coach. And even like, being a queer person, like, it feels like, there’s a certain way to be queer. Also, you need to be like, you know, like, Hey, girl, hey, you know that. So, this depression that I experienced last December, I felt, you know, what, I’m gonna break down all of this was like, There’s no right way to be spiritual, there’s no right way to be queer, I am going to marry the two. So now like I identify as a conscious, queer, vegan, spiritual artist, and I can embody one at a time, I can embody all of them at the same time, and it’s a lot more fun.

Yay. Yeah, you know, it’s so important to find it’s like, what are the ways that we can access more pleasure and fun and that are particular to us? Because I think what you mentioned is so important, which is, okay, so you step outside of dominant cultural norms, and values around like sexuality, or gender. And then you go into the subcultures box. Yeah, and then you’re supposed to act this way. I came out when I was 15. And I came out as first is bisexual, and then I identified as a lesbian, and a queer and dyke. And I was femme, right, I wasn’t, I actually didn’t feel comfortable embracing my femininity until I came out as queer. And even so it probably took over a decade for me to feel safe in a female body, and in a body in general, and in a body that was visible and desired. And, you know, part of it was like, I saw what my mom went through, I saw her being dominated and in abusive relationships, and I defined myself in opposition to it. I’m like, that’s never gonna happen for me. Yeah. And so inside of that, I actually have always, even as a four year old had crushes on boys and was attracted to men and but you know, you’re talking about a second coming out? Well, for me, embracing in my late 20s, the desire to have sex with men and like, that brought up so much more shame for me, then originally coming out as bisexual or, or queer, right, it’s not logical. But for me, the fear was, it’ll mean that I wanted the abuse to happen. Right? And I was abused by men growing up sexually, right? And so that if, if I now say that I’m attracted to men, it meant that I created the permission, you know, even as a child, right? And so there are these different things like levels of safety or levels of self acceptance that we have to reach inside of ourselves before we can take that next step towards, you know, living on in the gray living on the continuum.

Exactly, right. Yeah. May I know today, if you even identify as anything, but how do you identify like, yeah, in terms of like sexuality or gender?

So I’m, I’m attracted to and this is even this is even loose, but I would say I’m attracted to masculine energy. Right? When I dated women, it was more masculine women, masculine presenting women. I used to be in what I called my men’s group, it was like a group was a chi gong group. And we all happen to be therapists and everyone’s a man in the group besides me. And I at times felt like I was more masculine than many of the men in the group I did. definitely have a lot of masculine energy, but I present as very feminine. And I’ve and trauma has had me, I think, well, it’s both I think there’s a certain amount of like, a astrological impression, right. Like, who I came into this world as had a lot of like whoosh drive, and we label that as masculine. Right. But then trauma also had me, you know, choose action as a strategy for safety. Right, like, go into action. And you mentioned flight earlier, you’re like, I just had to get out of there. I had to move I needed to get away. I didn’t know where I was going or what I was going towards, but it’s getting away from something. Yeah. Right. So that’s a flight response. And so you can also see, like, productivity and action, and all of that is its own flight response. You know, yeah, yeah. But But I, you know, I hadn’t been with a woman in a really long time until last year. And so for me, it’s very much person by person. Although I do enjoy a hairy chest. That’s just one of those. I have discovered. I by five, I discovered that that’s one of my, and I don’t know if you could even call it a kink because it’s not that unusual. It’s like in the 70s, I would have been really happy.

Actually, today, like everybody’s doing their chest hair again. It’s good to be alive today.

That’s so funny. No, I know. It’s like, you know, the the pressure to be hairless over the last, you know, 2030 years. Yeah, there’s there’s a lot of pressure that both men and women have with beauty standards. And so I’m, I’m glad to hear that, you know, while women’s armpit hair has been it has been coming back for I think, probably the last five to 10 years. Yeah, I was surprised traveling around Costa Rica to see how many men shaved everything.

Yeah, we’re actually here to find the fact like in the Middle East, especially also like here in Turkey, the men shave their armpits. Ah, do not to not have your armpits shaved is kind of like a dirty thing. Or kind of strange. Aha. So I don’t know how I feel like for me, like I, I’m very pro body hair, even for women. Now, if they don’t want to shave, they don’t have to shave. But it’s kind of strange that now over here, the men it it’s kind of like you feel pressured to shave, you’re under arms also. But then you can have your hairy chest but then you’re under arms. Like it needs to be shaved, which feels very wrong for me.

Interesting. What about what about and I imagine you’re not getting to see this unless you’re going to like, you know, bath houses or something. But what about bushes?

Bushes? Well, they most of them keep it actually very well manicured or even like, almost like almost clean shaven like the men. The ones who are quite hairy or bushy? Are are actually the ones who are more progressive. Right? Yeah, yeah. Who are actually in the sex movement in the sex liberation movement, all of that stuff. Like myself, for example. Like I even though sometimes I want to shave myself, but I feel like I don’t. Yeah, I cannot do that. Because I have a pool. I have

a point. Well, so this is what’s so interesting, right? The left, there’s like these, there’s like all this liberation in space. And then you bump up against some kind of restriction. Like, when I was in college, I found myself having crushes on different men. But I identified as a lesbian, and I, you know, was the assistant in a queer visions, you know, film class, and I like my identity, I felt pressure to remain queer. Because I didn’t want to be a flip floppy. You know, oh, girl, you know, girls in college. They’re just in a phase. Yeah, but But it’s like, Okay, so where do politics become oppressive in our sexuality, rather than like, we are, we can be fluid beings. And maybe this week, you want to shave? And maybe next week? You don’t?

Yeah, yeah. That is a very good point. Actually, I’ll keep that in mind.

Well, you know, one of my good friends and in my last year in high school, was a friend who at the time identified as a dyke. She came out when she was 12. And then this friend ended up coming out as a boy. And it made a lot of sense to me. It didn’t it was just like, I was 21 when he came out, and so he was my confidant in college, and I’d be like, I’m so confused. I have a crush on this guy. And he’d be like, Charna lesbians can have sex with men. Right? Like there was this level of like, Oh, that’s right. I don’t have to just plop myself into this one slot. No pun intended. So I’m curious. Totally change. Changing the subject from slots to art and spirituality and practices, you were speaking earlier about going into a depression. And first I want to acknowledge, there’s a lot of integrity in taking yourself out of the one on one coaching, when you feel like I might be out of my depths here, I need to do more of my own work before I can keep guiding people. So Good on you for that. And, and then you turn towards your art. Right, you went internal. And so I’d love to hear more about art as a resource for self exploration and connection to spirituality for you.

Well, for me, art has always been something that felt safe for me, especially I don’t know if this this information is, is relevant. But my mother told me that at one point, like when I was like, in kindergarten, after like a year, my teacher spoke to my mother, like, for the parent, teacher, whatever. My teacher asked my mother is your son mute? And so my mother said, No. Why? Because one year we I never heard him speak at all. So that my teacher assume I was new. So this actually, this, this information has been playing a lot in my head, like, I keep coming back to this, like to see like, if there’s something different about myself. And so with that said, it makes sense that because like social, social situation, or even being in a crowd has always been quite scary for me since I was a kid. So art has been a sanctuary or like a refuge for me since I was a kid. But throughout throughout high school, I wasn’t allowed to pursue art into college, because the Asian culture, you needed to be an engineer, or you need to be a doctor, you know, the stereotype, which is actually quite true. I went to school, I went to university to business instead. But I read like once I started traveling, I returned to art, like my main medium is actually painting like acrylic painting watercolor. So anyway, as I said, during the Depression, I felt lost. So I needed to go back to a safe space. And I needed to kind of learn how to relay a message on my art, because for me, like a lot of my previous work has always been kind of surreal, abstract key, which only I understood. But now if I want to do it, if I wanted to do to be a friend, or this is how my work and like really send a message, I need to kind of like learn how to channel that information, the thoughts, the emotions to make it more understandable, if that makes sense. So I guess that safety, that refuge became my work now because I learned how to really teach people instead of doing coaching, because I still feel like I want to share with them, I want to share love, I want to share information, I want to share whatever I learned in life. And now I can share it through art.

It’s also you know, so first of all courageous move to go against what your culture or your family says you’re supposed to do. Right? So you’ve overcome a lot of shoulds. Right? Like, you should be a doctor, you should be a business person. And And how has that has? How has that gone over? I mean, I imagine you’re doing a lot of art at your mom’s during that quarantine period.

Well, actually, here’s an interesting story. I said, like, when I traveled the world, I actually ran away. And when I was, I was 27. I think 2627. So I ran, I ran away from Brunei, I actually also ran away from home, I didn’t tell anybody that I left the country. So I stopped communication with my parents, my family, except for one sister, I stopped communication and I only returned back home to reconnect with my mother three years ago. And so because of the separation and a lot of things hanging between us, so I guess we went through our own separate journey of healing, right? Yeah. And even though like because even though me and my mother our relationship have always been okay. But it’s not it’s not like a parent son relationship, at least in my opinion. Like she’s there. She raised me, but she never felt like a parent to me, even though she was a very responsible mother. But which is why I said like, it’s something maybe something is wrong with me. Like, I can’t really connect with people if that’s not authentic.

Yeah, I mean, when you say something’s wrong with you, I think that that’s actually to really honor your own values. Right? You’re like, no, this doesn’t feel right. I would rather not do it. And it sounds like you know, maybe there’s some introversion but it’s like it feels that that’s very common, right? Like, there needs to be depth for it to feel worth my time. Exactly. And if, if your mom, if that’s not how she was raised, and she doesn’t know how to do that, it’s like she may show her love by making food for you. Or she may show her love by a certain thing. But it’s like your love languages depth, right, and authenticity. And you’re like, I want to know what makes you tick. And you know, what your heart wants? Not, I don’t want more stew, you know?

Yeah, yeah, that that’s exactly the thing because again, our culture like being raised in like Southeast Asia, and also in an Islamic Southeast Asian culture. That is not something that we do. It’s just like a lot of, you know, you cook, you buy the nice stuff that you it’s just basically like, there are rules to be a good parent. But like being deep and reconnecting with your child connecting with your family is not one of them. That’s actually kind of very strange. And for me, like, I actually crave that. And I can see posture, you know, you feeding me too, is it because you think it’s your duty, or actually you really want to love me like these are things that have always been in my mind,

there was this period of separation, which actually sounds like it was liberating, because maybe both of you did your own healing. And what I’m hearing is, you know, in your absence, she probably was like, do your thing be who you are, I’m just happy to have you back in my life. That’s what I’m assuming.

After we reunited even though our relationship, it’s not like the strongest, but we have kind of come to terms with who we are, who each other are. And we have learned to live with it. And maybe even though we don’t like really fully embrace it, but we live with it, we understand, like, I accept you for what you are accepting for what you do. It’s show live, we’re two separate people. We’re not responsible for each other, but we can maintain a relationship.

Beautiful. Yeah.

Yeah, I actually just remembered something like I listened to your podcast with Nate. And you mentioned that I grew up in a very hippie, kind of like household. Am I correct?

Yes, yes.

How was that?

Well, you know, I think that one of the things that I’m very grateful for that I never, I never felt pressure, neither of my parents ever got married. Right. I never felt pressured to be a certain way. That was definitely not my trauma, but the the pieces. So there’s a certain kind of freedom, that’s beautiful. And then, you know, like growing up, I spent a lot of time alone reading, writing and making art, I felt supported in that my mom would help me get supplies, she really respected my individuality. There was a real lack of structure, the lack of boundaries, created a real lack of safety. So there were certain things that were really problematic for me are inside of that. Luckily, I had a lot of internal structure. All my step siblings all ended up with drug and alcohol problems. And my mom had taken me out of this one household that we lived in, she left that kind of boyfriend quote, quote, unquote, stepdad so yeah, you know, I think I I craved spiritual structure. Like, I’m like, Mom, we have to get home and light the candles for Hanukkah, and my mom would kind of laugh at me like, Oh, please, you know. And so I had a lot more of that inside me than I had in my environment. So we kind of had the opposite, right? Like, there was almost oppressive structure. Yeah, cultural, religious, etc. Yeah, for you,

which is quite fascinating, actually. Because, as you said, like you have what, like a life of, you know, like, not so much boundaries, but then you crave the structure. But for me, like my life, I grew up with so much structures and boundaries. But then I broke free. And I craved for a life without boundaries and structure. In doing so, now, I’m living a life of no boundaries, or at least I’m striving, I’m trying to do that. But I still know how to be structured. I do know how to like be organized externally, internally. Internally, it’s a whole different story. Like, I don’t know how to structure myself, I didn’t know how to organize myself. I don’t know if that makes sense.

No, it does. And I think that that’s again, I think that some of that is what we’re born with, right nature versus nurture. But then I do think that it is when it’s a tricky thing. It’s like a both and right. So sometimes I watch my friends, parent, their children, and I My mind is blown by how much they support them. Like my mom would be like, You’re smarter than me. You can do it yourself. Yeah, like I never had anyone telling me to do my homework. I just did everything on my own. So some of that external structure really enables people to be able to stay on track and some sometimes that external structure when it’s too much, people, they don’t have internal guidance. They don’t know how to trust themselves and be disliked. stuff.

Yeah. Because you’re so dependent on that external structure to keep you straight. Is that what you’re saying? Right?

Yeah. Like, you know, like, some people are overly reliant. They don’t know how to make their own decisions. They don’t trust themselves because their parents were so controlling.

Yeah, I relate to that so much, actually. So this

is the next piece of your healing, right? You’re, you’re in a place of expanding boundaries, pushing breaking beyond. Right. And then, inside that expansiveness, how do you deepen practices that help you listen to your body, and you know, your body can guide you and tell you this feels good. This doesn’t feel good. Are there? So we’re going to, we’re going to wrap up in a moment, but I would love to hear from you. Are there any practices that have really made a difference for you in your life? And I can also share if you’re interested, yeah, a little bit about like, what I was just speaking of like using your body as a pendulum, to give you answers.

I’m interested to hear what your practices are. Because I’m also always trying to expand my own personal practice. Also, for me, like I always do like, like now because I’m in I’m in a transitional phase. In my life, my practice has been like, kind of like, minimized a little bit. But I always keep it constant. Like it’s always I and I and r&r, which is invitation and intention is for the morning. And at night. I do like, reflect and release. It’s part of my meditation. Yes. So I like I always invite positive energy also, like posting, when I wake up in bed, even like, I don’t really have a certain like time that I need to meditate, like, whatever feels good to me, as long as I invite positive energy. And I really like because I do have practices, but I do believe that I have like a throat chakra kind of clog. So I always do like a lot of eye on this to kind of just clear it out a little bit. And then I do an intention setting I do intention setting every day. So there’s a lot of other practices within my meditation, a lot of like, sequence is really my meditation practice, but at night is also very important. Because I need to reflect on my emotions, I need to reflect on my, my thoughts, my activities on the people I met on what I thought of, in spiritual practices, also, like you get used to the just observing yourself, you know, even like, it becomes a habit, you know, whatever. When you’re walking, you’re still observing yourself walking, if you’re eating, you’re observing yourself eating. So you’re even reflecting on observation. Yeah, so I do reflection, and then I release any negative energy that I have. And then I would light up palo santo or sage. And then that’s, that’s my practices for the day. But the reflection also is always about like political issues, not but not even unnecessary political issues, just like encounters of gender, thoughts, sexual thoughts, whatever thoughts, actually, but a lot of emotions.

I also want to say I want to point the listeners to your Instagram accounts, again, because you share some of those videos, and they’re really lovely. And that’s an important resource for people. So again, I just want to mention the earth tribe on Instagram, and queer and conscious on Instagram. So I was just curious, because there’s making mental decisions, right? And then there’s making decisions from our body and our body doesn’t lie in it’s always giving us really good information and guidance. Yeah. And so what I’ve gotten into over the last however many years, is I really tried to not make any decisions from my head, I tried to always check in with my body. So even if it’s taking on new clients, going on a date, eating a certain food, I asked my boss taking a certain vitamin, like yesterday, my body wanted vitamin C, and today, it doesn’t necessarily need it. Yeah, right. Versus like, you’re supposed to take these vitamins every day. And oh, I’m really attracted to this person. But does my body think it’s in my highest best to go on a date with them? Right, so do you know about using a pendulum, you can buy an external pendulum, right? You can get even you know, on Amazon, they sell them even and you can use it and you know, my mom did it when she was pregnant with me with like a thread and a ring. So something you wear that has your energy. Yeah, right. And you can hold it about of of your heart chakra and ask a question asker yes, no question and start to get what is yes. What is no yes. For me, it goes back and forth. No goes in a circle. Okay, so I ask a question. And it moves right. So is my name. Fareed is my name and then you know, it’ll give a no is my name Charna it gives you Yes. And so once I’m Once you’re clear on what yes and no, are you okay? and ask other questions. Right? So you ground yourself first. Because if you’re not grounded, then you’re not going to get a clear answer. I used to use just my heart, right? Like, I would ask a question, I could get a sense of my heart moving forward, or my heart moving off to the side for yes or no. And then what I do is I use my whole body, you can stand up, and my body goes forward for Yes, pretty dramatically, and goes back for no. So people who have systems that are more numb it this may take time, it might be very subtle, if you feel a lot, it could be quite traumatic, like the movement. And, and so then it’s evolved for me that I don’t have to stand up and do that I just asked the question. And I get kind of my guess is like, it feels like a spark, like, like my whole body gets shivers. And my and my no is it’s just neutral, and nothing really happens. So I might double check that by standing and doing it with my body, you can triple check it with an external object, but it’s something to play with to start to make decisions based on what is what’s genuine. For your spirit, for your body, versus an external should because our heads, even if you’ve deconstructed a lot, your heads have an attachment and an agenda and often influence from history. Exactly.

I actually also like, I mean, I don’t use a pendulum. Like for me, if I were to kind of sum up my main message, the main message of my work is just to return to the heart to return to love. Because for me, especially as a person who have dealt with anxiety, so it’s very mind focused. So I’m always trying to refocus my attention to the heart. What is my heart telling me? What is my heart one thing? Like even though even if it’s just mundane things, like do I really want like to eat a bag of potato chips? What does my heart want? But I actually have this quartz earring that I’m going to attach to a string. I’m going to try this pendulum method. Tonight actually

beautiful. Yeah, it’s it’s been so good. Getting to know you.

Yeah, it’s been a pleasure getting to know you. You’re so lovely. Your energy is so beautiful. Charna Oh, thank

you. I just got shivers all over when you said that. Thank you so much. So yes, I would love to stay in touch with you. Is there anything else that you want our audience to know before we say goodbye for now?

Well, for now, I know there’s nothing much actually if anybody wants to support an artist purchase my work, like they can always go to my website, which is part of jr.com and also just follow my Instagram, if you just want to see art and just fear I feel empowered and inspired by my work because all of my work comes through the message uplifting messages. And I just, that’s all I want to do. I just want to spread the love. I just want to spread the positive messages. Awesome.

I love it. Thank you so much.

Thank you so much. Sorry now.

I really do hope that you go and check out for reads beautiful art. It feels like it really stands out on Instagram as deep and connected and heartfelt. And I hope it inspires you to be your genuine self and connect more with what authentically feels good for you and true for you. Whatever that is. This has been another episode of The laid open podcast with Charna caselle You can follow me on Instagram and Facebook at laid open podcast or check out more of my work at passionate life.org or laid open podcast.com sending lots of love. Take good care.

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© 2022 By Charna Cassell, LMFT. Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. MFC 51238.

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