multicolored abstract painting

Photo by Art by Lu00f8nfeldt on

One side-effect of enjoying family reunions is… gaining weight. There’s nothing more enjoyable than sitting in the shade of a tree and drinking hot tea with a wedge of lemon. You have to have it with your siblings and juicy sweet bakhlavas, of course. And then one glass of tea turns into three, at every opportunity, several times a day.

So when I returned home, those extra kilos have suddenly rekindled my love for exercise. Pressed for time, I went to a class I’ve never been before. Within the first minute, the instructor swooped towards me and admonished me for a lack of trainers.

‘I didn’t know I need to wear trainers.’

‘We know these things happen.’

What things? ‘Can I wear my sandals?’

‘No, you are not allowed to wear them either.’

Great. She really wanted me to leave. I really wanted to exercise. So I told her, and she grudgingly accepted that.

Except she came up to me at every opportunity to say I couldn’t do that exercise. I must admit, I felt unwelcome in the class. It got worse when the entire group was running in a circle. Needless to say the instructor chased me and said she’d rather I didn’t run.

I stood on the side and watched a large circle of 20+ old years running in the room. It was a visual representation of how I didn’t belong with them. In that moment, the feeling of being an outsider washed over me and I felt pretty uncomfortable on the side-line.

This is how life operates. It shows you your patterns at every (in)convenient moment.

You can take it personally and walk out of the class. Or you can choose to see it and say, right, I better do a bit more healing around this theme.

Because this one is an old pattern of mine. I never belonged fully with anyone or any place. In my family of origin, I was brought up by my grandparents. I never quite belonged with their family unit even though they treated me as their own child. Nor did I fully belong with my mum’s second family. The theme continued through my school years and work situations too. I remember working for an American organisation in Azerbaijan. I wasn’t quite part of a local team, as somehow I stood out, but not quite in with the American crew either. Since I moved to England, I had a feeling that I didn’t belong in Azerbaijan anymore, although I always say I go back ‘home’ when I visit it; nor do I belong in England yet, despite living here for almost 13 years.

You get the picture.

Some patterns keep repeating themselves because they run deep. And they show up in every aspect of your life.

Let’s say, you struggle with a fear of rejection. Perhaps you felt rejected in the family of origin because you were too different, somehow. Chances are that this feeling gets triggered in all areas of your life: you may feel rejected by a person you fancy when they say ‘no’ to a date with you; you may feel rejected when a university of your choice says ‘no’; you may take it very personally when an agent or publisher says ‘no’ to your manuscript. Of course, you can legitimately feel the sadness, upset or anger arising out of these rejections, but if there’s a deep wounding around rejections, the intensity of your feelings will be that much stronger. And it will feel like a recurring theme in your life.

If you notice a repeating pattern, chances are there’s a deep wounding that calls for healing.

I’m running a free call on healing creativity blocks on 21 June 2018 at 10:30am UK time. Drop me a line at and I’ll send you call details.


A Habit of Not Speaking Up

black and white black and white depressed depression

Photo by Kat Jayne on


I’m lying on a yoga mat, relieved to finally catch a moment of stillness after a hectic week of travels, family reunion, and childcare, when the title of today’s post pops into my head:

‘A habit of not speaking up.’

It’s to do with a brief encounter a few days earlier, something that’s been bothering me ever since. As I lay still, I notice resistance surfacing. No, I can’t share that story because…. A string of objections comes up and I mentally wave at them like they are annoying flies. My stillness is gone and all I have left is that old habit of not speaking up.

It’s not a particularly dramatic story either. We were away in Turkey for a couple of days to meet my family (much easier than having them travel to England because of cost and visas). On the last day, we went to visit a waterfall not far from where we stayed. As I strolled with my husband and the kids down a humid narrow cave to view the waterfall from behind, a group of men was walking towards us. Excited, my son had his back towards them and blocked the path for a minute or two. I tried to move him, but he was too keen to tell me something first.

When one of the men swore at him in Turkish, I felt a jolt. OK, coming from a similar cultural background, I know people use that swear word in almost ‘affectionate’ way. Still, as far as I’m concerned, it’s a swear word.

What did I do?


A part of me wanted to speak up and say, hey, that wasn’t necessary. I’m pretty sure he assumed none of us understood him. Mind you, I was in shorts next to my very British looking husband with my son speaking English.

But something in that encounter has been nagging me. It’s that old habit of not speaking up, even when someone offends my nearest and dearest.


Because there were four of them. I was not likely to win this battle. I assumed it would turn into a battle. I was wearing shorts (wow, I could really feel that old fear of judgment based on how I was dressed). The list went on, and to be honest, it wasn’t even fully conscious.

In that moment, I was simply speechless.

It was only later when I caught myself ranting at them in my head, I ‘unpacked’ the situation to find all those old beliefs and fears. Sure, not speaking up might have been the right thing to do in the circumstances, but the point is I didn’t feel I had a choice. I simply froze.

As with any habit, you need to consciously choose to act differently. So, telling this story today is my way of undoing this pattern, in the hope that next time I might act differently and stand up for my son.

But that’s not enough.

What it highlighted for me is that I need to do more healing around feeling safe: safety around men in dark narrow caves, my anticipation of their aggression, fear of judgment if I’m not dressed in accordance with cultural expectations, and even judgment around my choice to marry a foreigner.

Your ‘unhealthy’ behaviour is often a symptom, not a cause. My habit of not speaking up is a symptom of long-held fears. It’s problematic, but it’s not THE problem.

Let’s say, if you are stuck with your creative project, stuck-ness is a symptom; there’s something beneath your inability to move forward. Fear of judgment? Fear of criticism? Fear of exposure? It’s nearly always fear of one sort or another, and in my healing work I help you to uncover and heal those fears so that you can move forward with ease.

If you’d like to experience my work, I’m running a free group healing call on Thursday 14 June at 10:30am UK time. Email me ( if you’d like to attend, and I’ll send you call details.

P.S. If you enjoyed this post, consider joining my community over here.
P.P.S. Do you know anyone who could do with reading this post? Please, feel free to share.

My Big ‘WHY’

‘I had one session with Gulara and I wrote a play.’ – Rebecca.

Last night I had a privilege of watching the final rehearsal of that play. I laughed, I cried (mostly at home afterwards because for once I had mascara on), I felt validated as a woman and a mother.

At long last, someone can see and hear my pain. It’s not trivialised. It’s not self-indulgent. It’s real.

It’s not buried deep inside in case the authorities decide I’m not fit to care for my child and take him away. I wasn’t crazy to feel the way I felt – it was hard, and I was suffering. And apparently, I wasn’t alone in feeling that way.

It’s dark, and it’s a lot of fun too, with songs which will make you jig and sing along and with a message so powerful it will take your breath away.

It’s the story of my post-natal depression.

It’s a story of so many women (and some men) who put a brave face on while doing by far the most important and demanding job on the planet.

It’s about fear, doubts and overwhelm, that nagging feeling that you are not good enough to mother this amazing being that landed in your arms and you are fully responsible for.

It’s about the loss of your identity as a woman because suddenly you don’t have a name anymore, you are someone’s mummy and people see you only through the prism of your child.

It’s about ‘mother’s little helper’, a small pill that’s supposed to make the pain go away and fix your life. Failing that, there’s a whole range of other options. Right, about that… I don’t actually have words for that section of the play, it’s so hilarious, you have to see it for yourself.

It’s about finding your voice and reclaiming yourself as a person.

For Rebecca, it’s a life mission now to raise awareness about mental health issues and to take the show on the road. If you live in Birmingham, go watch it. It’s in the Kitchen Garden café (in Kings Heath) on 6 June (you can buy tickets here). I promise it will move and entertain you in equal measure.

And this brings me neatly to my big ‘WHY’. My big mission in life is to help people feel heard.

  • I do it in my academic work, by advocating for the rights of marginalised people, like minorities and refugees.
  • I do it in my own book, by giving voice to women in Azerbaijan who may never be heard otherwise.
  • I do it in my healing work, by holding a space for people to heal their fears, find their voice and have courage to express it in the world.

It felt so amazing to see what Rebecca created after our session. When she came to me, she had an idea, but the songs didn’t want to come. We cleared the blocks, and one by one songs came to her, normally around 3am.

For me, there’s nothing more satisfying in life than knowing that I played a role in this process, to see another person’s full expression in the world, and to realise the snow-ball effect it has on others, because by watching that play last night, I felt heard, and I’m sure many other women will feel that way too.

P.S. If you enjoyed this post, consider joining my community over here.

P.P.S. Do you know anyone who could do with reading this post? Please, feel free to share.



How your biggest wounds can turn into your greatest gifts



The other day I was in a session with one of my wonderful clients. We were moving quite a lot of heavy stuck energy.

‘It feels lighter now,’ I said after we sat in silence for a few minutes while she was processing.

‘How do you know?!’ she exclaimed.

This wasn’t the first time I’ve been asked that question.

‘I don’t know. I just feel it.’

But of course, I do know. It just wasn’t appropriate to share it at the time. But it got me thinking about this topic.

You see, I grew up in a violent household. For years, I prided myself on the fact that unlike the rest of my family members, I’ve never been beaten up (OK, I had two hard slaps across my face from my grandma, which still make my face tingle when I remember those incidents, but it’s as nothing as to what everyone else had experienced).

The way I did it was to feel people’s mood.

It wasn’t a conscious decision. It was simply self-preservation. Over the years, I got so skilled at this survival technique so that I could tell what people wanted before they knew it.

When I left home, I took the skill with me. It came in handy in dysfunctional relationships I had for a while. To stay safe, I constantly ‘palpated’ people’s energies (which is pretty exhausting, to be honest and kept me hyperalert). I wasn’t even aware I was doing it. For years, I thought it was being considerate and empathetic towards people. I didn’t think much of it, and, at times, felt frustrated when people didn’t reciprocate.

It’s only when I trained as the Compassion Key master facilitator, I started putting this gift to good use. I honed my ability to feel people’s energetic blocks, and can tell how people feel on the other end of the line in the UK, Australia or the US.

Can you relate? Perhaps, you channelled your wounds into poems or writing prose. Perhaps, you are a better parent, because you know how it feels to be on the receiving end of feeling hurt. Perhaps, you help others heal in your own way.

“The wound is the place where the Light enters you.”
― Rumi

You are not your wound; its job was to open you to your own light. Let your light shine. It’s time.

P.S. If you enjoyed this post, consider joining my community over here.

P.P.S. Do you know anyone who could do with reading this post? Please, feel free to share.

Why Does Love (and Writing) Hurt?



I was chatting to a dear friend of mine the other day and a question came up:

‘Why does love hurt?’

‘Love can never hurt,’ I blurted out before old memories kicked in: excruciating anguish while waiting for a call from certain someone, constant anxiety that somehow I’m not enough [beautiful, clever, funny, sexy, innocent – fill in the blank, I had them all], pointless worrying about what to say and how to look….

In other words, being in love was hell! Of course, it hurt.

But did it really? When I paused and reflected on it, I realised that love itself doesn’t hurt. It opens you up and that can make you feel vulnerable. In that state of vulnerability, your fears can easily get triggered: fear of abandonment, feeling not good enough, fear of rejection – to name but a few. Because your emotions are heightened, those unresolved fears can feel intense and overwhelming.

I realise the same is true of writing. If you are a writer, you know the ecstasy of those moments when you let writing pour out of you – unedited and uncensored. There’s a sense of release and channelling your writing. Sure, you might read it back and think – what a load of rubbish, but in the moment, it uplifts you and maybe reminds you of feeling in love.

When you show that writing to someone else, that can feel vulnerable. You expose yourself to potential criticism and if other people are not kind and sensitive enough, it can leave lasting scars similar to an unrequited love.

The act of writing can’t be painful in itself.

If you journal for yourself, it’s not charged because chances are no one would read it and start correcting your grammar or suggesting a better structure. But the moment other people start passing judgments on your writing, your insecurities get triggered. Your old feelings of rejection, abandonment and not-good-enough, feelings which originally had nothing to do with writing, surface and can be intensely painful.

I’ve heard people advising writers to get a tougher skin. Rejections and disappointment are part of this game, so get used to them. Eat them for breakfast, I’ve heard them say.

I disagree.

Toughening up equals shutting down.

Of course, you feel disappointed when your piece is rejected. Let yourself feel that disappointment. If you stuff it down, it’ll keep re-surfacing with every rejection, and each time it’s gonna be stronger.

Let yourself grieve that missed opportunity – when your emotions flow, you can move through that feeling within a matter of minutes or even seconds. If the feeling doesn’t pass within minutes, it’s probably not *just* about this rejected piece. Chances are you felt rejected at some point in your childhood and the pain gets triggered by your present-day experience. In that case, find a way to deal with that pain. Because if you are in the writing business, the combined effect of that unresolved pain can snowball with every rejection, blocking your creative efforts.

I’m running a workshop on Thursday 3 May at Isbourne college in Cheltenham. Come along, heal your fears of failure, exposure and success, and fall in love with writing all over again. The early-bird rate of £40 expires tomorrow (30 April 2018).

Book your place here:

All the details are below:

3 Secrets to Overcoming Writer’s Block with Ease and Grace
Thursday 3rd May 11am-3pm; Isbourne College, Cheltenham
Early bird £40 (until 30th April); full price £55

What gets in the way of your writing or sharing your work with the world. Procrastination? Perfectionism? Low self-confidence? So-called ‘writer’s block’ can have many different causes. But what if you could set yourself and your writing free with ease and grace? In this self-enquiry workshop, you can experience this first-hand. Through a unique set of exercises, you will have a chance to learn how to heal your creativity blocks by using simple and powerful techniques.







A Birthday Gift

It’s my birthday today and I’ve got a present for you.



With my mum in Baku 10 days ago


In the past, I used to struggle with birthdays. For a few days before the ‘big day’, I felt a sweet anticipation building up in my chest. Deep down I hoped that the day would be magical. I didn’t quite know how a ‘magical’ birthday would look from the outside; it was mostly a feeling. Then the day would arrive, and I’d end up crying for one reason or another. It was because no matter what happened on the day, it never measured up to the longing inside of me. So, even when people celebrated me, I still felt disappointed.

The first time I felt content and at peace was when I turned 40. I was with my family and beloved children, and instead of anticipating magic, I started counting my blessings. My gratitude for what I had in life was so powerful, I felt like I was gifted the whole world. For a few hours that day, I walked in love.

So today, I’m counting my blessings again, and your presence here is one of them. Thank you for all your love and support.

My gift to you is in the link below. It’s an exercise on overcoming procrastination from my forthcoming online mini-course. I’d love to hear what you think and how you get on. If you choose to take it, please give yourself 20-30 min to complete it.



And if you prefer working with me in person, I have three forthcoming live events (details below). I’d love to see you on the day, but if you can’t come, would you consider sharing this information with people who could benefit from my work? If you are not local, then I can offer 1:1 sessions over Skype, WhatsApp, FaceTime, or Zoom. Details are here and I’m happy to have an exploratory call to see if we are a right fit.

That’s all from me for today.
Many blessings,
Gulara x


Friday 23rd March, 10:30-12:30
Bournville, Birmingham, B30 (venue TBC)
Early bird £35 (until 16 March); full price £40.
To book: email Gulara at

Do you feel disheartened by rejections and struggle to get your work out to the right places? Yes, sure, the industry is tough and to find the right competition, agent or publisher may take some time. But what if you are accidentally blocking yourself by sending your work out to places which are not the ‘right match’? Or maybe, just maybe, you are too scared of success, so deep down you’d rather they didn’t notice you? Come to this workshop to heal your inner saboteurs. You may not be able to control the external circumstances. You can, however, learn how to get out of your own way.

Saturday 14 April, 15:30-16:00
Tree of Life Festival, Bournville, Birmingham
Tickets £10 (£15 on the day).

I’ve designed a three-step process to help you unleash your creativity.

Thursday 3rd May 11am-3pm
Isbourne College, Cheltenham
Early bird £40 (until 30th April); full price £55

What gets in the way of your writing or sharing your work with the world. Procrastination? Perfectionism? Low self-confidence? So-called ‘writer’s block’ can have many different causes. But what if you could set yourself and your writing free with ease and grace? In this self-enquiry workshop, you can experience this first-hand. Through a unique set of exercises, you will have a chance to learn how to heal your creativity blocks by using simple and powerful techniques.


How to Live fully


For a year now, I’ve been feeling an intense desire to live more fully.

But how do you go from feeling in survival mode to living fully? The analogy my mind conjured up was of a large swimming pool. You are in a survival state when you dip your toes or maybe even stay out of the water. Living fully is the deep end. For someone who’s never even been in water diving in at a deep end may feel a shock to the system, I thought. Isn’t it better to take one step at a time, adjust to the temperature before taking the next one and the next one?

As I said that to someone recently, it didn’t feel quite true, but it sounded convincing enough in my head.

Well, I was wrong. On reflection, living fully is not about highs or lows. It’s not about full immersion into the waters of life. Nor is it feeling high and being always happy and positive with a big smile plastered on your face.

Yes, we can feel fully alive in a peak moment. But that’s because we are out of our depth and comfort zone and we ‘feel’.

Living fully is simple (not easy).

It’s your capacity to feel whatever is going in your life – the highs and the lows. If you shut down to grief, you shut down to joy too. If you avoid anger, your passion can slip away as well.

Living fully gives you freedom to be you and to speak your truth. You are not constantly self-editing to avoid an unwanted response from others, because that might trigger a certain emotion in you. Nothing is permanent, especially your emotions, if you let yourself feel them in the moment (by the way, feeling your emotions is different from acting on them; for example, you can feel your anger without shouting at someone). If you welcome it all, you get to have a much richer life. It’s moment to moment. No easy fix in one big go, like plunging in at the deep end of a pool.

I remember attending my grandmother’s funeral last February. It was a sad occasion and I cried buckets. And somehow letting myself feel the intensity of my loss opened me up to joy I had not experienced in a long time. I laughed so hard that the muscles of my face were scrunched up and at some point I was even rolling on the floor with my sister. It was the most alive I had felt in years.

Living fully is about being authentic and relating to your experiences. It’s allowing life’s beautiful messiness, connections and flow.

What’s your take on living fully, dear reader?

P.S. I’m sending a brand-new post on ‘Why Does Love (and Writing) Hurt?’ to my mailing list next week. If you’d like to read it, please sign up here.
P.P.S. I’m still working on my academic publications, so likely to be quiet on my blog for a bit longer.
P.P.P.S. I’m attending my grandmother’s memorial service in about ten days’ time.
P.P.P.P.S. I’m also celebrating a lot of good things this month – like my husband, sister, son and daughter all have their birthdays in February.