Cultural Glimpse

Enjoying diversity

Month: December, 2015

Walking For Fun, Health and Therapy

I was enjoying a pleasant walk, breathing in the lovely weather, smiling at the chubby little squirrels that swerved every which way when I saw a woman walking towards me. She was far away but I recognized her walk. It was my sister.

“What a nice coincidence,” we said to each other as we met in the middle of the road and started to walk together, stopping here and there to take pictures because, unfortunately, this was an unusual encounter.

For almost a decade, my sisters and I would get up every morning and walk for five miles, even in the freezing cold. Four of us were serious walkers, but sometimes the fifth sister accompanied us. Sometimes, my cousin came along. When it was snowing or raining, people would watch us from their windows and probably think we were crazy.

Our schedules caused us to stop this morning tradition. Now each sister walks as her schedule permits, but we all still walk outdoors. Although I sometimes do miss those group walks. For the most part, they were healthy – except when we would get into such heated disagreements that the whole neighborhood again thought we were crazy.

Despite that, a recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan found that taking group nature walks is associated with a great deal of mental health benefits, including decreased depression, improved well-being and mental health, and lower perceived stress.

Sean Gobin is a veteran who founded Warrior Hike, a nonprofit outdoor therapy program that helps combat veterans’ transition by hiking the country’s national scenic trails. Gobin recently won an award for this program which has helped many veterans who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Walking outdoors is one of the many free and beneficial gifts available to us. When we use these gifts, we have a more powerful relationship with this earth, with ourselves and each other, and we’re less dependent on medications for healing.

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Trumbo’s Communism was the Islamism of the Time

My father, a lover of words and numbers, was the head of the accounting department for Baghdad Railway Station. On the side, he did translation, from Arabic to English and vice versa. His free services included being a bonesetter and representing people who could not afford an attorney in court. People trusted him because he was a just man and he knew how to play with words as if they were marbles.

Words can be used with good or bad intentions. My father used words to help heal and free people. Some people, like government officials and media personalities, play with words to instill fear and oppress people. They will take a word like communism and flavor it with all the necessary negativity to cause an unwarranted fear and create an Us vs. Them attitude.  Anyone slightly associated with that word is the “Bad Guy” and anyone against that word is the “Good Guy.”

Let me demonstrate a specific way the government played with words to help its war campaign against Iraq. The communists of Iraq are rarely mentioned because, for the sake of showing what a brutal man Saddam was, these communists were renamed anti-Saddamists. Look at the infamous black and white televised image of Saddam at the podium. He announces that “There are traitors among us (i.e. communists).” Then he calls off a list of names (given to him by US gov.). He wipes tears from his eyes because some of these men, although communists, were his friends. But he was willing to do anything to align with his western allies and gain power.

The US helped the rise of the Baathist Party because they did not want another communist country. From the beginning, they offered a list of 800 Iraqi communists to the Baathist insurgents, and all were killed. Many communists fled Saddam’s regime. The televised image of Saddam calling out the names of these communists (later called anti-Saddamists) was circulated to convince people that the world would be safer and more peaceful without Saddam.

Ironically, removing these 800 communists, then removing Saddam, has not made the world safer or more peaceful. We’ve actually achieved the opposite effect. Yet, when I watched Trumbo the other day, I realized that we’ll be doing more of the same thing and expecting a different result (the definition of insanity). We’ll continue to be tricked into a fear-based atmosphere which will distract us from what’s really going on and rob us of our true freedom.

I write not to point fingers. I write from experience. Having grown up in a totalitarian regime, I can smell oppression thousands of miles away.  For that reason, I strongly encourage people to not only watch Trumbo, but to learn from it.

Healing Wisdom for a Wounded World

Healing Wisdom for a Wounded World3

This is the first of a four-book memoir series – Release date February 2016

When Irina Tweedie, a British woman, met with her Sufi Master in India, he told her to keep a diary.

“One day it will become a book,” her Teacher said. “But you must write it in such a way that it should help others. People say, such things did happen thousands of years ago – we read in books about it. This book will be a proof that such things do happen today as they happened yesterday and will happen tomorrow – to the right people, in the right time, and in the right place.”

Tweedie’s diary spans five years and, published as Daughter of Fire, it records her spiritual transformation. Several times I read her book with a burning desire to have a similar teacher as hers help me toward my spiritual journey.

My concern was, do I have to go to India or other parts of the world for that? The answer was no. Throughout my life, I had different spiritual teachers (from India and Native Americans) who came to my door and helped me walk out of the fog and into my bliss. They taught me a great deal, but after we departed, I felt something was unfinished.

Then I met Lynn Andrews – through a book. As a woman from Beverly Hills, who was the bestselling author of some 20 books, I figured she’d give me a bit of literary advice. I did not expect her to change my life through her shamanic school. At that time, I had never even heard of Lynn Andrews or the word shaman.

Several factors drew me to the school, most notably its ancient teachings that also reside in my heritage, ancient Mesopotamia, now called Iraq. Although it’s not easy to image this now, once upon a time ancient Iraq was the Cradle of Civilization and its land flourished with goddesses like Inanna. Two important women are from that region: the first recorded writer in history, Enheduanna, a princess and priestess, and Kubaba, the first recorded woman ruler in history.

The Feminine Power that lived there was eventually attacked and oppressed by strict patriarchal beliefs. Little by little, due to totalitarian regimes and too many wars that were, and still are, led by unfathomable greed and ignorance, the Cradle of Civilization has turned into a frightening nightmare.

It is a blessing that my parents had the wisdom to move us to America right before the Iraq/Iran war. Here in America, with the love and support of powerful western women who have walked this path long before me, I had the opportunity to heal my wounds and to do what I could never do in Iraq – openly share my spiritual journey in a book.

Healing Wisdom for a Wounded World, the first of a four book memoir series, will be released in February 2016. The memoir is about how Lynn’s school changed my life, one year at a time. Harry Potter’s Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry could not have done a better job teaching its students the creative depth and breadths, the charms, art, divination, ancient studies, the history of magic and potions needed to transform ourselves, people, relationships and circumstances.