Cultural Glimpse

Enjoying diversity

Combining Yoga and Journaling

Journaling

I love journaling and I love yoga. So when my niece Sandy, a yoga instructor, asked me to participate in a trial yoga and journaling class for her upcoming studio workshop, I was delighted to do so. I have been doing yoga for over ten years and many instructors have incorporated creative ideas along with this practice but journaling was never one of them – although it makes perfect sense to combine the two.

Many times in my yoga class the instructor would say a profound statement or I myself received an inner message, a revelation which I wanted to jot down. I would remind myself to take note of these things at home, only to get too preoccupied. I’d leave the yoga studio, pick up my children from the daycare center, and arrive home to a list of unfinished household chores. By nighttime, whatever I wanted to write left my mind and like a bird flew into the sky.

When Sandy led this yoga and journaling class Tuesday afternoon, I enjoyed the moments in between the meditations and yoga movements where we had the opportunity to look within and write about certain experiences.  It was a lovely, meaningful and deep way to start the day, with its positive energy spilling over into the evening and night.

As I write this, I recall an interview with Billy Hayes, who wrote a book about his life in a Turkish prison, Midnight Express. The story was later made into an award winning film by Oliver Stone.  Hayes says that yoga saved his life in jail.

“Stress kills,” Hayes said in the interview. “Yoga keeps me healthy, helps me chill. Emotionally, it keeps me balanced. It saved me in jail. In prison, you have no control over anything except you; you still have yourself, your own body, so yoga gives you back that control that the prison takes away.”

Today Hayes works with James Fox on the Prison Yoga Project.

Writing has had a similar healing, growing and thriving effect on people.

“When you write down your ideas you automatically focus your full attention on them. Few if any of us can write one thought and think another at the same time. Thus a pencil and paper make excellent concentration tools.” Michael Leboeuf

Imagine the power of combining these two activities into our regular routine.

For more information about this workshop, visit www.sandynaimou.com

pure intention 2-26-15

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International Coffee Hour

Coffee Hour

My husband normally drops off the kids at school in the morning. Once they’re out of the house, I usually start the day with writing, cleaning the house, cooking, and then it’s 3pm and I have to pick up the kids. Yesterday morning was different. I volunteered to drop off the kids because I wanted to join a new coffee hour event at 8:30am.

Over coffee and donuts, I sat with the principal of the school, Mr. Slancik, and the community’s favorite priest, Father Matthew, along with several teachers and parents. We discussed politics, religion, and community news. I noticed for the first time the flags that hung on the walls of the cafeteria. I counted forty-one flags, each from a different country around the world.

I asked the principal what these flags represent. The principal said that according to what he was told, since Schcuchard Elementary was built, students from that many nationalities had at one point or another attended this school. I was happy to know the school had such rich diversity. The more diverse a place is, the more opportunity to meet people from different backgrounds and learn new things. This is precisely what I loved about traveling overseas. I always attained a new perspective and returned home with greater and deeper knowledge and appreciation of the world, as well as my home.

I carefully observed the flags, each distinct in its symbolism. One in particular caught my attention and I asked, “Does anyone know what country that red flag belongs to?”

The English teacher beside me said, “That’s an Albanian flag. It’s from my birth country. The symbol is a double-headed eagle.”

The eagle was used for heraldic purposes in the late middle ages by a number of noble families in Albania. The Kastrioti’s coat of arms, depicting a black double-headed eagle on a red field, became famous when he led a revolt against the Ottoman Empire that resulted with the independence of Albania from 1443 to 1479. This was the flag of the League of Lezhe, which was the first unified Albanian state in the middle ages.

I did not know that like Iraq, Albania was once occupied by the Ottoman Empire. People are always focusing on our differences, allowing our similarities to go by the wayside. More coffee hours would help cure that.

Tea5

Create a Paradise

Paradise

From Walk in Balance by Lynn Andrews – a book of daily meditations

You see, in a way I have created my own paradise. What we create in the world, we must first create within ourselves. A long time ago, I realized that we can either live in hell on this earth or we can live in a land of peace and joy, what one might call a paradise. There are really only two ways to live. If one is to find heaven, one has to open one’s heart to love. That is the moon gate that one has to walk through to find eternal peace.”

Shakkai  Shakkai, Woman of the Sacred Garden