Cultural Glimpse

Enjoying diversity

Marriage of Self to Self

front-cover-of-book-3

As I leave to join great author and mystic Lynn Andrews at a gathering, to learn and share more wisdom, I also announce the release of my next book. Healing Wisdom for a Wounded World: My Life-Changing Journey Through a Shamanic School (Book 3) highlights the third year of my apprenticeship in Lynn Andrews’ four-year shamanic school.

The third-year work focuses on balancing one’s emotions, building endurance, working deeply with the chakra systems, and celebrating the marriage of self to self. Through my journey, you will gain insight into these ancient holographic teachings where the past, present, and future exist simultaneously as our reality. This is a theory which goes back to the indigenous people who believed that we exist in a dream or illusion. Physicists across the world are now thinking the same thing and people are awakening to the possible idea of birthing a new story for our planet.

Link to Amazon page: https://www.amazon.com/Healing-Wisdom-Wounded-World-Life-Changing/dp/1945371978/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1474533590&sr=8-1&keywords=Healing+Wisdom+for+a+wounded+world%3A+My+Life-Changing+Journey+Through+a+Shamanic+School+%28Book+3%29

A Conversation with a Native American about Shamanism

shaman

This is a conversation I had with the Native American man I’ve known for decades who I call in my books the Red Indian. This portion is about shamanism and is taken from my memoir series but one day I will write a book solely about him because he has fascinating perspectives worth sharing.

When we spoke about shamanism, he said, “Shamanism was like a society that made sure people stay well. The society policed themselves. All Natives have different societies inside their tribe, a group of people that study the same things, like the plants, the animals, the stars, the rocks. It’s like your writers group. It’s a society.” He paused momentarily before he continued. “You know what the dreamcatcher is? It was a society that disbanded, and the dreamcatcher was given away to the people. That’s why there’s a dream catcher hanging in everyone’s car or in their house or key chains.”

“Why are some natives very angry that people use the word shamanism to describe healing?” I asked.

“Because some people are belittling everything around them to look more powerful than everyone else when in fact it’s the other way around. Everyone is more powerful than them.”

“But if it’s a good thing, wouldn’t it make more sense for natives to share this knowledge with people and educate them?”

“We’ve done this all along. We shared everything with people. We felt it was our duty to share and as soon as they found out, they put us in jails and killed us. As it says in the bible, don’t throw your pearls before swine. We were a very giving people. We fed people and gave information, and what came back to us was some guy hanging on the tree. Wow! It went from giving good things all around the world to receiving back very, very bad things. Most native people that I know are pretty quiet on what they say. It’s not that it’s a secret, but it’s a society, like doctors in the hospital who no one sees. They gather and discuss certain issues and no one knows about it, not even the nurses.”

“I read somewhere that one reason natives get angry about how others use the word shamanism is because Hollywood misuses and abuses this word.”

“Natives had a very hard time with Hollywood,” he said. “You know what Hollywood is? Holly wood is the stick that comes from the holly tree, and Merlin was the king’s magician in Europe who would go around the country like a politician telling people what’s good for them and why they should vote for him. Historically, magician’s wand is made of holly wood. Magicians were good at what they did and made people believe there was magic behind it all when it was really an illusion.”

“Couldn’t an illusion be the same as reality?”

“If you want to believe that way, yeah,” he said. “It’s like believing the sun comes up at six o’clock at night. It’s not real. It’s an illusion. If you believe it, it’s real to you but it’s not real to nature. That’s what an illusion is. It’s a trick. So people who call themselves shamans are for natives just an illusion, trying to call themselves something that’s not real. On the other hand, there are people that can do a cause-and-effect on earth here. It’s usually not personal. Of course, it’s a prayer. You ask the Creator to do something. If people say they can do it themselves, they’re probably a pretty big devil. It’s one evil person trying to cause something for themselves or other people and that’s not good. When you ask something from the Creator, then it’s the best thing for you. It might not be what you want, but it’s the best thing for you. Oh Lord, I need patience, and I need it right now!”

He laughed at the irony, and we were silent for a moment.

“The reason I mentioned Hollywood is because that’s the magician’s wand, and it’s not real. The whole Hollywood thing is not real. They depict something and tell a story, have you believe it’s real and of course it’s not real.”

“It’s like that movie Captain Phillips. They made him a hero when he jeopardized the lives of his crew. Even though the people on the ship came out and told the truth, no one did anything about the non-truth. They did not boycott the film. It was accepted as is.”

“That’s what I mean,” he said. “There are people that relish in the thought of shamanism. Anyone with this much authority that can create the cause-and-effect of things is very humble, and they wouldn’t want you to think of them as a magician. They wouldn’t call themselves shamans to begin with and they would have much experience because they take care of a lot of people, children and grandchildren and those who come to them with problems. They’re normally wiser people. Generations of people make wise, not fifteen minutes of class.

“Just because a person is old doesn’t mean they’re wise. Some portray elderly native people as very wise, bla, bla, bla, but to native people, a baby could be very wise. No one person is greater than another. Wise people make decisions with consideration to the seven generations that are not born as opposed to what I need right now. I can make a decision for something I want right now, but it might not be a good thing for my grandchildren. A decision can be made by looking at the seven generations behind and the seven generations to come. It’s harder to look into the future than it is to look at the history. It’s still a consideration for the future.”

Legendary Iraqi-Born Author and Publisher

 

IMG_7857 (2)I’ve been freelancing for the Chaldean News for about ten years. Oftentimes when I interview people, they’ll ask me, “Is the publisher of this magazine the son of Fouad Manna, otherwise known as Abu Jibran?” I’d say yes and they would then list Abu Jibran’s wonderful qualities and mention his accomplishments and contributions as a writer and publisher. Their descriptions made me want to one day meet him in person.

Well, yesterday I had the honor of doing that. We met at the Chaldean Community Foundation and then taking advantage of the pleasant weather, we walked the short distance to Ishtar Restaurant for lunch. For approximately three hours, this legendary and kind man shared with me some of the most fascinating stories, starting with his childhood.

Fouad Manna was born in 1936 in a Christian village which had 96 homes, 500 residents, and no schools. It was during a time when families easily and naturally shared one big home. In his case, there were three families, each with about seven to eight kids. For the most part, they lived off the land, through agriculture or herding. Everyone worked, even the children. But Manna wanted something else. He wanted to go to school.

“I went up to my mom and said, ‘I want to go to school,’” he said and she and her husband helped fulfill his desire. They registered him in a school that was two miles away in walking distance.

He continued in this educational path, and after graduating, studied journalism for a year. One day a man was pushing a three-wheel cart, selling used books. A book that stood out for Manna was by an author named Khalil Gibran. He was drawn to this book and decided to buy it.

“Reading Gibran’s book mesmerized me,” he said. “I felt an immediate connection with the author. It was as if he knew my thoughts and feelings.”

After that, he searched for more books by Gibran and read each one several times.

At the age of twenty, Manna also began his writing career by working for one of Iraq’s newspapers. This was during the Hashemite Kingdom which he describes as “The best government Iraq ever had. Every government that has come since then has been worse and worse.”

During this period, a writer could write whatever they wanted as long as they did not attack the government. The Kingdom of Iraq was founded on August 21, 1923 under British administration and following the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in the Mesopotamian campaign of World War I. It was established with King Faisal I of the Hashemite dynasty receiving the throne.

After the Hashemite Kingdom’s overthrow on July 14, 1958, the new government closed all the newspapers associated with the Kingdom and arrested the editors-in-chief. Manna eventually continued to write in different papers until 1963, when the Baath Party came into power. They too closed newspapers, but they did something entirely different with the editors-in-chief.

“These people were gone, just disappeared,” said Manna.

This reminded me of the Mural of the Revolution in one of Baghdad’s famous squares. The Mural is located on the other side of where the Freedom Monument stands and it depicts, among other beautiful things, a woman whose hands extend upward as she holds peace doves. In 1963, when the Baath Party began to come into power, they considered certain art dangerous, so they removed the doves and left the woman’s hand empty.

Manna realized that he could not live under this type of government, especially not given his writing profession. “Journalists have to address the negativities of the community, to shed light on it,” he said.

So he prepared to leave for America. He arrived to the United States on January 11, 1969 and he has since then made an incredible legacy for himself and his family. His story is uplifting and the lessons he learned over the decades are full of wisdom, the details of which will be included in the upcoming book, Iraqi Americans: The Lives of the Writers.

When Women Owned Bathing Suits in Baghdad

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Six Detroit area-writers gathered Sunday to share their work (memoir, fiction, poetry) during the monthly reading series organized by Detroit Working Writers. The theme for July was water and I shared two passages from my new book, Healing Wisdom for a Wounded: My Life-Changing Journey Through a Shamanic School (Book 2).  

The first passage was from Chapter 7, where I recount a story that took place in the 1970s. In our neighborhood in Baghdad, almost every home had some sort of bathing attire because the families had a membership to Al Zawraa Swim Club which had two pools outside, one for children and one for adults. This made it useful when an out-of-towner who did not possess a bathing suit was invited for a swim, as so happened with one of my cousins. My cousin spent the night over our house and the next day my siblings wanted to take her swimming. Because she did not have a bathing suit, they ended up borrowing one from a neighbor who was somewhat my cousin’s size.

 

As many know by now, Iraqi women who grew up in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s had much more liberty than the women who grew up during the 80s and the 90s. They enjoyed higher education, independence, and positions in the public work force. Many even dressed in miniskirts and bikinis. Men imitated the Western style of a shaggy moptop hairstyle, and dressed in bellbottoms and disco shirts. Women dressed miniskirts, cropped pants, and had fancy updos.

When Khairallah Talfah, Saddam’s paternal uncle and his father-in-law and the brother-in-law of then President Al-Bark, became the Mayor of Baghdad in the early 1970s, he ordered the security service and police force to spray paint the legs of any woman wearing short skirts and to tear the bellbottom trousers worn by any male or female. These actions against any westernized contemporary trends only lasted a few weeks and were terminated abruptly, when Vice President Saddam Hussein intervened. These trendy fashions subsequently spread all over the country and ironically had been worn even by Tulfa’s own sons and daughters.

My Life-Changing Journey Through a Shamanic School

Front Cover (large)“The school helps you to be heard not just by others listening to you, but by you listening to yourself,” said Lynn Andrews during the second year of her four-year shamanic school. “You have to do that in order to create a mirror for yourself, for your act of power. We’re peeling away the clouds of ignorance that cloud your vision. Then you begin to see that you really do have something important and wonderful to say, and more and more you’re appreciating yourself. Patience and diligence are important in this.”

In the second year of the shamanic school, we focused on understanding how to bring form into the world; to experience holding energy and moving it out into the universe; to develop the ability to move energy into objects for healing and sacred work; to learn how to use sacred tools in a powerful way without manipulating ourselves or others; and to prepare for the building of dream bodies and develop the skills for lucid dreaming.

Lynn said to me, “You need to stay focused on one project and just get it done. You need to have faith in it and see it being strong and wonderful. I think you have a fabulous project. I wouldn’t blur it with other projects. And if you can, stop worrying about it. Just do it. If God wants to help you, He wouldn’t know what to do. You’re kind of all over the place.”

Her preciseness and honesty tasted like sugar cookies. They were sweet and light and yet extremely important. They helped me see why I kept hitting a slump.

“Stick with that, with the book,” she said. “Do it! Live it! You’re really onto something wonderful. If you were speaking to God, what would you tell him you want? Tell God what you want!”

I did.

 

Book 2 of my memoir series about this school was released today. It’s my 10th book to date and it’s available in paperback and eBook.

Healing Wisdom for a Wounded World: My Life-Changing Journey Through a Shamanic School (Book 2)

https://www.amazon.com/Healing-Wisdom-Wounded-World-Life-Changing/dp/1945371994/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1469275283&sr=8-1-fkmr0&keywords=Healing+wisdom+for+a+wounded+world

A Lavenderly Writing Experience

 

IMG_7397 (2)The world news was infused with negative stories and my kitchen had dust galore as men tore down one of its walls. I could not be happier to leave this chaos and the news behind and transport myself to the Detroit Working Writers Boot Camp which was hosted at the home of author, gardener, educator, and my great mentor Iris Underwood. Her home being in an organic lavender farm, I knew I was in for a treat.

Within half-an-hour, I was out of the city noise, driving through unpaved roads of a small town that still has a post office that has been in operation since 1884. I found the home tucked amongst a thick silence, with the only sounds coming from the rustling tree leaves and the bees over the flowers. I walked around the house and down a hill of green pastures to where the writers gathered outside. They sat on large wooden bench tables under a large canopy and were surrounded by lavender plants.

Author Cynthia Harrison led the workshop, discussing Character, Conflict, and Setting in a most vivid, humorous, and loving way. She shared her experience of when one day, shortly after she got married, there was a storm in the 1970s that flooded her basement, where a box of her notebooks was stored. Needless to say, her poetry and other writings were drenched and, for the most part, disintegrated. While at that moment she reflected on her career, her then husband wanted to know, “What’s for dinner?”

She brought us much laughter and inspiration to write from the heart. We later enjoyed a delicious lunch of salad, lavender scones and lavender brownies. We took a tour of the farm. I visited the little building with a yellow door and sign that read “Girls Only” and found it was occupied by four pretty healthy hens. We were offered scissors to clip the lavender plants and take some home. We then sat beneath another canopy where two musicians sang country songs while playing the mandolin and guitar.

Iris started this farm because lavender had healed her in several ways. Lavender oil is known to reduce anxiety and emotional stress, heal burns and wounds, improve sleep, restore skin complexion and reduce acne, alleviate headaches, slow aging with powerful antioxidants, and has many other beneficial effects. No wonder I walked out of her property feeling like I’ve just walked out of a therapeutic, a magical, bath.

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

A Poetic Visit

 

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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

 

 

 

A Nostalgic Walk through the Arabic American National Museum

Museum

I visited the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn last week with some friends and colleagues. Although I had been to the museum many times since it opened in 2005, to attend conferences, watch movies and concerts, and to participate in forums, this was the first time I took a tour of this three-level, 40,000 square-foot building. The experience was quite nostalgic for me, especially after walking through the second floor, called Living in America.

Our tour guide, Petra Al Soofy, said that every person who took this tour, regardless of their background, at the end of the tour said, “That’s the same story my family told me.”

The land people came from is different but the story of immigration is basically the same.

“This community is a very vibrant, successful immigrant experience,” said Hassan Jaber, chief executive officer of ACCESS, a nonprofit organization which started the museum project. “Before 9/11, Arab Americans were individually successful. After 9/11, that shifted completely and a debate arose of why is this happening to us in our name and how do we correct this, how do we care for each other and deal with issues that affect us on a daily basis. It became more urgent to find our place in society and to tell our story.”

Many organizations, such as the Jewish Federation, were very supportive of the museum and helped it come to fruition. This type of support and the staff’s hard work and optimism has led the museum to recently be accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, which is truly impressive since only 6 percent of the America’s 21,000 museums are accredited.

“The Japanese American museum was one of our strongest supporters,” said Petra. “They helped make this museum happen because, given what they had gone through, they saw that history was repeating itself.”

One exhibit on the second floor had various size luggage, or trunks, from different eras and personal items that people brought along like a pair of beaded shoes from 1923. Photos of people’s journey and pictures of their naturalization papers were framed on the wall. Rana Abbas, director of communications and marketing at ACCESS, pointed out a long list of names of the Arab Americans who died on the Titanic, two of whom were her relations.

We learned about the first Arabic speaking slave, captured probably in 1511 when Portugal invaded his city in Morocco. He was brought to the U.S., where he eventually became a famous healer, interpreter and explorer.

There were endless fascinating stories about this community, including on how Arabs ended up being classified as “white” but they are too many for me to recount in this post. My friends and I agreed that we needed to have a second tour to fully digest the stories available at the museum. We then took a nice stroll to Sheba restaurant where we enjoyed a delicious Yemeni cuisine.

My 3 Poems Published by The Transitional

The Transitional

The Transnational has published 3 of my poems (in German and English). This is a bilingual literary magazine which publishes authors from all around the world who offer a new approach to the political and social landscape of the 21st century. Worldwide. In English & German.

It describes itself as such: Texts which are published in the Transnational can dissolve existing boundaries or suggest new ones. They can make us question our beliefs, champion social justice and human rights, war and psychological violence, giving rise to provocative or soothing thoughts. We believe that all great literature is revolutionary and necessary. Great writers are honest. They call upon us as readers to experience the intangible.

USA: https://www.amazon.com/Transnational-Vol-bilingual-Literary-Magazine-ebook/dp/B01GIDZJQW?ie=UTF8&qid=1464934461&ref_=tmm_kin_swatch_0&sr=8-2

 Germany, Europe: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Transnational-Vol-4-Weam-Namou/dp/3844810412/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1464934474&sr=8-1&keywords=transnational+4

 or Hugendubel (Thalia und Co.):  http://www.hugendubel.de/de/buch/weam_namou_christian_knieps_markus_gragert_thomas_orszag_land_cassandra_ricard-the_transnational_vol_4-26232857-produkt-details.html?searchId=1070551207

 UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Transnational-Vol-4-Weam-Namou/dp/3844810412/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1464934474&sr=8-1&keywords=transnational+4