Cultural Glimpse

Enjoying diversity

Category: Spirituality

Provoking Americans to Think and Become One Team

 

rainbow-flowerI was scheduled for a 20 minute interview at 2:30 pm by award winning talk show host Ed Tyll on Starcom Radio Network. Within a minute of our interview, I realized this was not the typical interview. It was a political rumble (one of my listeners called it egotistical bullying). I held my ground, threw my own political punches and 80 minutes later, he said, “You’re the most provocative person I’ve interviewed. You’re intelligent and brilliant and you never lost your femininity. I haven’t gone this much over an interview in 3 or 4 years.” He has been in this business for over 40 years. Oh, and he also invited me out to dinner.

Overall, the interview was fun, engaging and I saw, once again, how the lessons I’d learned from Lynn Andrews’ 4-year school about feminine power could be used as a tool to create harmony between people and in the world.

Today, I shared a recording of this through social media. Soon I discovered that, as so happened yesterday, people were having difficulty listening to it because of the aggressive way Ed Tyll started the interview. But keep this in mind: it’s important to listen to the other side in order to create the change. And in this 80 minutes, a big transformation occurs in our conversation.

Ed Tyll said that he does this to provoke Americans to think. Caring about this country, the earth, and world affairs, means that we have to do some independent thinking and open up our hearts. My teacher, Lynn Andrews, often says, “We’re all responsible for the wars in the world. How are you responsible? Because there is a war inside each and every one of us.”

If we don’t heal that war within ourselves, within our own country, it’ll always be us vs. them and we’ll never resolve our differences.

Ed asked me in the end who I believed would win the elections in November. I had difficulty answering, and he said, “What does your gut tell you?”

“My gut tells me that if the democrats don’t resolve their differences and become a team, then Trump will win.”

Link to Interview: http://theedtyllshow.podomatic.com/entry/2016-06-22T23_41_35-07_00

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A Poetic Visit

 

photo (71)

As he tours different parts of the country, poet and publisher Michael Czarnecki of Wheeler, New York graced our home yesterday by his lovely visit. He arrived shortly after I brought my children home from school, we had a nice lunch together, and then over cardamom tea, he spent quite some time conversing with my flamboyant children and my husband.

At night, we made a bonfire and had barbecued hamburgers. We shared childhood stories and information about our neighborhoods. We live in an Iraqi American community. He lives in an Amish community. Hours passed and before we knew it, it was too late to make S’mores. It was time for bed.

Michael is the author of nearly a dozen books and his publishing company, FootHills Publishing, has published over 500 chapbooks. I met him about 5 years ago through a wonderful instructor/friend at Oakland Community College. I followed his work ever since and was always inspired by his poetry, his interesting and authentic lifestyle, and his breathtaking photography which you can read and view by visiting his website: http://foothillspublishing.com/poetguy/

This morning Michael left after breakfast, heading to Richmond Library where he’s doing a workshop called “Palm of the Hand Memoir Writing.” In the evening, he will be doing a reading at the same library, then he’ll be driving back home to Wheeler, New York.

Michael left us with a wonderful memory – my children announced to the school that we were having an author stay at our house. He also left us with a jar of homemade maple syrup, 8 of his books to read over the summer, and this touching poem, #588 of his “daily spontaneous” poems.

Daily Spontaneous Poem #588
6/14

conversation
meaningful
literary life
spiritual life
life in Iraq
life in America
stories told
from here
from there
three generations
under one roof
night barbecue
whiskey on rocks
one more
vibrant experience
on poetic road

FootHills Publishing is currently seeking poems for an anthology to celebrate birds: their natural history, their place in nature and in the environment they share with poems. Deadline is June 30, 2016 and for more information you can visit http://www.foothillspublishing.com/birds

 

 

 

Ancient Wisdom Council

Weam

Photo by Zanna Pillars

One thing I learned in Lynn Andrews’ shamanic school is that if you feel something is missing in your life, become that something. In October 2014, I was at one of our gatherings with Lynn in L.A., and I asked whether there’s a council in Michigan that I can join. There are numerous councils in the United States and abroad that come together every month and pass on the teachings of Lynn and the Sisterhood of the Shields.

I was told there is not one in Michigan, and someone easily suggested, “Why don’t you start a council?”

So I returned home and started the Ancient Wisdom Council in early 2015. Each of our gatherings have had a unique, magical, and learning experience. Last week, during our April gathering, my council had the honor of receiving the Rainbow Bridge Altar Cloth, which was weaved together in 1990 at one of Lynn’s gathering at Joshua Tree. Since the time the cloth has been made, it has traveled the four directions, to the councils and certain individuals all over the country. This year it is also traveling in Europe. June Milich, the woman who weaved it wrote, “A journal travels with the cloth each year, carrying many of the magical stories which have been weaving themselves into the cloth.”

She adds, “In my heart I know this rainbow colored cloth is meant to be an inspiration – a bridge from what is now to what can be, a bridge from feeling separate and alone to feeling whole and all one.”

This, in my opinion, is a definition that also applies to the teachings of the Sisterhood of the Shields. And this is what the women experienced at the Ancient Wisdom Council gathering as they wrapped the rainbow cloth around them and, those who brought them, around their children.

 

To learn more about the councils around the world, visit http://lynnandrews.com/councils/

Shabbat Shalom Olam

A Wolf Song

I want to share this powerful prayer, which for me reads like a poem, by Lisa Osina, author of A Wolf Song: A Story of Forgiveness. She too is a graduate of Lynn Andrews’ shamanic school and has been using words to spread awareness, joy and peace into the world.

She wrote this prayer in honor of Shabbat, an observance in Judaism that’s primarily a day of rest and spiritual enrichment. It’s a time when people set aside all of their weekday concerns, engage in restful activities, and devote themselves to higher pursuits.

Her sacred words help us see how our attachments to manifestation often spoil our peace and enjoyment (sometimes even our relationships).

*                              *                          *

Shabbat Shalom Olam

Friday, Saturday and Sunday are sacred days
Each celebrates and observes in their own way.

The common is prayer and each individual has a way.

I am working on shifting the way I pray and how the manifestation of Prayer requests happens.

The first thing I learned is that it doesn’t manifest.

Prayers are not ‘answered’ the way we’ve been told
Prayers do not bring health, happiness or good fortune.
Prayer opens a person to God, the Universe and the energies that rule our world.
When we pray to a force outside of ourselves our wishes and dreams become scattered and unfocussed because our intent gets lost in the thick of it,

Relying on another will only bring you their wishes.

My prayer today is for peace within me
Because we cannot expect peace in the world until we’ve come to peace with ourselves.

Oh dear great Sprit
What is it within me that holds the peace?
Where is it stored, how can I pull it out and share?

In this day when battles are raging inside and outside
I pray for the flower to bring beauty
I pray for the people to see it
I pray to be open to for what I don’t know
and let questions be answered with echoes and mirrors.

On this night of sacred air, soft rain and dew
I see the peace, I feel the peace
Oh Lord let me be the peace

To which Lord do I speak?

She lives in the cloud on the outskirts in shades of pink and purple
He lives inside the wolf beside me
They live amongst the fairies and the elves
Where wonder thrives and rules won’t go.

I dream of light, I dream of good
Where we open to love, she returns the food.

When we ask out loud, to whom do we speak?
But her tiny self inside the heart
Her womb is ready for birth.

Where wind blows and shifts my thoughts
Where rain washes away the sorrow
and Sunshine dries my spirit from wet rag to riches.

I pray, I honor, I trust
the new day will come and I accept the unknown it holds.

I release it to the heavens.

HO

For more information about Lisa Osina and her work, visit http://www.lisaosina.com/

 

 

Black Filmmakers have it Made – Compared to Us!

First Day of Filmming

First day of filming The Great American Family, a documentary which is currently in post-production.

Most people know me as an author and journalist, but I’m also a filmmaker, one who has to almost work underground, using my own flashlight, like a miner. It’s difficult enough being a women filmmaker let alone one with Middle Eastern background. So when Chris Rock talked at the Oscars about the lack of blacks in Hollywood (in films, receiving awards, etc.) I thought, “They Have it Made – Compared to us!”

Over ten years ago I was at the Surrey Writer’s Conference in Vancouver and I met with three producers, one who’d produced Father of the Bride II, one who produced Pay it Forward, and the third, I forgot what he produced. Anyhow, I pitched to them and their reactions to my stories were quite unique. Even though the U.S. had been politically involved with Iraq for decades, even though my stories were of modern day Iraqis and Iraqi-Americans, these producers didn’t see how they could possibly adapt them into film.

“It would be difficult to cast an Arabic movie,” one said. “Who would we cast for the leading role? Tom Hanks?”

As if Tom Hanks is the only actor in Hollywood! It was not a problem to cast him in The Terminal, a sweet and delicate comedy, similar to my type of work – where Tom plays a man from the fictional country of Krakozhia who is stuck at John F. Kennedy International Airport.  It was possible to cast Dustin Hoffman and John Travolta as women (Tootsie and Hairspray), but it is impossible to get a good actor to play a normal Arab?

Plus, the roles of “bad” Arabs have been easily played by other western actors, starting with Rudolph Valentino. In the 1920’s he starred in The Sheik and Son of the Sheik, two films which set the stage for the exploration and negative portrayal of Arabs in Hollywood films. They both represented Arab characters as thieves, murderers, and brutes.

Jack Shaheen, in his book Reel Bad Arabs, surveyed more than 900 film appearances of Arab characters. Of those, only a dozen were positive and 50 were balanced. Shaheen writes that “Arab stereotypes are deeply ingrained in American cinema. From 1896 until today, filmmakers have collectively indicted all Arabs as Public Enemy #1 – brutal, heartless, uncivilized religious fanatics and money-mad cultural “others” bent on terrorizing civilized Westerners

I didn’t make such remarks to that particular producer, who smiled at me as though I was a naive little girl. In the middle of our conversation, he had actually winked to his colleague, as if to say, “Isn’t she a darling creature to have such profound visions?”

I walked away, uninfluenced by their discouragement, but over the years, I saw how negative images keep certain communities in the dark and without a voice. When I watched the Oscars the other day and listened to the emphasis on the lack of black peoples receiving roles and awards, I thought, they have it made – compared to filmmakers of Middle Eastern and Arab backgrounds. For us, we can’t even get our stories in the industry let alone be given roles and win awards.

Stereotypical representations of Arabs and Muslims are often manifested in a society’s media, literature, theater and other creative expressions, and often have real repercussions for people in daily interactions and in current events. Though not legally prohibited, stereotyping could put innocent people in danger.

I’m glad that black people are at least bringing this subject to light, because for humans to survive, diversity must have a home. With millions of Middle Easterners living in the US, making them the fastest growing group of immigrants, and with so many social, political and religious issues regarding that region – Iraq in particular – happening on a daily basis, it is becoming absolutely essential for Hollywood to provide film audiences everywhere true stories of the lifestyle and culture of the modern Middle Easterner. In this way, cultures will develop a better understanding of each other, and thus, the world will be pushed into another, a more diverse reality.

 

 

 

 

 

Lush’s “Hand of Friendship” Soap

Lush
We’re at Partridge Creek mall, enjoying the nice weather, observing the fancy dogs, some of which had spent more time getting ready for this little expedition than I had, when my daughter and I decide to stop at Lush to buy handmade bath soaps which are made from natural ingredients. Heading in that direction, I notice a big sign written in Arabic. It says, “Ahalan Wa Sahlan” – “Welcome.”

Intrigued, I wonder why they’d chosen Arabic in particular to welcome their buyers. Inside, I learn that Lush, which started in the UK, has introduced a limited edition soap to raise money to help refugees resettle. The soap, called “Hand of Friendship” shows fingers interlinked in the shape of a heart. It’s only $5.95 and all money raised from sales will go to families being settled in Canada and the US. Their sign says, “Extend a hand of friendship to our new neighbors.”

I bought one, of course, not only to support the cause but to have this beautiful reminder at home, whenever I wash my hands: that most humans are good at heart, always finding creative ways to make beautiful things and to give. Especially in western countries and certain spiritual societies, where creativity is encouraged and nurtured, people are always finding ways to say “Ahlan Wa Sahlan” to love, to giving, to acceptance!

While I was unable to do anything to prevent innocent people from torture and suffering at the hands of unnecessary wars and political greed, I can at least say to those who were lucky enough to escape the misery, “Ahlan Wa Sahlan.”

Shamanism, Bringing This World from Darkness into Light

Healing Wisdom  (FRONT COVER) (1)

For a long time, I struggled to fit into two worlds, my birth country of Iraq and my home, America. The process made me feel like a yo-yo, and oftentimes, like I was living a double life. It was especially difficult when I had to witness the wars on Iraq, the sanctions, the suffering that these political acts created, a suffering that still trails into our lives through television sets and other media outlets, holding up mirrors on how conflict can leave such awful residue on our souls.

From the time I was in my early twenties, my priorities have been family, writing and service. Though it had its challenges, combining family and writing was something I knew I could do and do it successfully. Combining writing and service, however, was questionable, especially after the 2003 U.S. led invasion when, for the first time in my life, I doubted the work I was in. While I loved being a writer, I figured what was the use of articulating thoughts and facts on paper when women were kidnapped and raped, men slaughtered, and children orphaned?

On the radio, on TV, in newspapers, online, everyone, including myself, put their two cents in. But women were still kidnapped and raped, men slaughtered, and children orphaned, in a place that I’d visited only three years prior, during a time when a woman such as myself could step out of the house wearing her Western clothing without anyone batting an eye let alone threatening to kill her, or simply killing her, if she didn’t veil and remove her makeup. True, people were tired then because of the UN imposed sanctions and Saddam’s regime but they were safe from the senseless and random violent acts that grabbed hold of the country like coyotes attacking a chicken hen. That also grabbed hold of me.

The violence drained my creativity and led me to a dark place where I lost my literary voice. Then I met a shaman, I met Lynn Andrews. Her teachings dusted off the residue that clogged up my creativity, one by one removing the particles of fear and sadness, eventually bringing me from darkness into light. These teachings also brought me, through my writings, to a place of service.

Once someone asked, “What is shamanism?” To me, shamanism is a healing, through love, through nature, through the Creator. It’s a natural way of living which had survived harmlessly for hundreds of thousands of years, for even longer, until the agricultural revolution occurred in ancient Mesopotamia, now called Iraq, when people began to control others through food production. Shamanism opened my heart and healed my voice, to where I was able to write full-time, today publishing my eighth book. It’s an ancient teaching that works in the twenty-first century, and I believe, will continue to expand and be embraced because we’re beginning to realize the benefits it offers our world.

 

Healing Wisdom for a Wounded World: My Life-Changing Journey Through a Shamanic School http://www.amazon.com/Healing-Wisdom-Wounded-World-Life-Changing/dp/0977679047/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1454348624&sr=8-2&keywords=Weam+Namou

The Truth About the Veil

The Veil

Last week, I did a radio interview with Stu Bryer of WICH in Norwich, Connecticut. We talked about several subjects, including the Syrian refugees and the veil. While I believe that veils that completely disguise people are problematic for safety purposes and unnecessary in a Western country where people choose to live, I also feel that we should explore the issue of veiling in a more historical and personal context.

During my trip to Baghdad in 2000, I visited my parents’ Christian village in Mosul and asked my cousins to find me an abayya in the souk. He found one I liked, disputed with the merchant over a few dinars, wanted to walk out, and at my plea, agreed on a price. I left with an abbaya that today still has some of the spices I’d carried in my luggage in a journey that lasted from Baghdad to Detroit three days.

What’s an abbaya? It’s a veil that reminds me of my mother and the neighborhood women who’d sometimes wear it when they went to the market. Since Saddam encouraged women to wear western clothing and he was against Islamic fundamentalists, the burka wasn’t allowed in Iraq. Usually older women wore the abbaya. They did so for religious purposes, as Islam requires women to dress modestly in order to keep the focus of beauty on spiritual and not superficial attributes. Wearing the veil was also a way to avoid harassment. But mostly, they wore it because it was part of a culture that predates Islam by many centuries.

In the Near East, Assyrian kings first introduced both the seclusion of women in royal harem and the veil. Prostitutes and slaves, however, were told not to veil, and were slashed if they disobeyed this law. This practice also appeared in classical Greece, in the Byzantine Christian world, in Persia and in India among upper caste women. It’s suggested that afterwards it spread among the Arabs.

Muslims in their first century were relaxed about female dress. As Islam reached other lands, regional practices, including the covering of women, were adopted. Yet it was only in the second Islamic century that the veil became common, first used among the powerful and rich as a status symbol. Muhammad’s wives originally dressed in veil in order for people to distinguish them from other women.

Throughout Islamic history only a part of the urban classes were veiled and secluded. Rural and nomadic women, the majority of the population, were not. The veil did not appear as a common rule to be followed until around the tenth century. In the Middle Ages numerous laws were developed which most often placed women at a greater disadvantage than in earlier times.

For 2,000 years, Catholic women have veiled themselves before entering a church or any time they are in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament (e.g., during sick calls). It was written into the 1917 Code of Canon Law, Canon 1262, that women must cover their heads – “especially when they approach the holy table”

For many centuries (until around 1175) Anglo-Saxon and then Anglo-Norman women, with the exception of young unmarried girls, wore veils that entirely covered their hair, and often their necks up to their chins. It was in the Tudor period (1485), when hoods became increasingly popular, that veils of this type became less common.

Sometimes a sheer was draped over and pinned to the bonnet or hat of a woman in mourning. They would also have been used as a simple method of hiding the identity of a woman who was travelling to meet a lover, or doing anything she didn’t want other people to find out about. Veils were also sometimes worn to protect the complexion from sun and wind damage (when un-tanned skin was fashionable), or to keep dust out of a woman’s face. Conversely, veils are often part of the stereotypical image of the courtesan and harem woman where the mysterious veil hints at sensuality and the unknown.

Among the Tuareg of West Africa, women do not traditionally wear the veil, while men do. It’s believed that the veil wards off evil spirits, but most probably relates to protection against the harsh desert sands as well. This veil is worn from 25 years of age and is never removed, even in front of family members.

What about the origin of a bride’s veil? Some say that the veil was introduced in ancient Rome to keep away the evil spirits. It’s also said that it was a symbol of purity, chastity, and modesty. Other say that the origin of the bridal veil was due to the circumstances of an arranged marriage. In days past, men bargained with an eligible young lady’s father for their hand in marriage. After the ceremony, the veil was lifted to reveal the bride’s features. This was to keep a groom from backing out of the deal if he didn’t like what he saw.

With my mother, the veil was used for convenience, when she didn’t want to change from her nightgown in order to go to the bakery and buy bread. Or when my cousin wanted to meet her lover without anyone noticing her. Or it was worn by those who found it attractive or simply liked having it flutter around their ankles.

When I was a little girl, I used my mother’s veil to play house. I couldn’t wait to grow up and have my own veil, not knowing then that one day wearing fabric in such a manner, or not wearing it, could cost women their lives.

 

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.

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.