Reset With Fasting

 

Fasting is one of the best reset buttons I know of to regain physical vitality, emotional balance and spiritual reconnection. Some go to it for health reasons, some seek its spiritual benefits and many go for both. Health professionals have long recommended different forms of fasting as a physical detoxification or for treating acute illness or disease. Many spiritual traditions recognize the benefits of the physical and mental detox that lend to inner mastery and higher states of consciousness. They also recognize its important preparation in performing a ritual act or rite of passage. Interestingly many of these traditions fast on the full moon, which is exactly when this blog post is being written.

How are we designed?

We are homo sapiens, much like monkeys in the way we are designed to eat. We are designed for eating fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts and occasional protein. We are not designed for pasta, bread, cookies and caffeine.

Purpose of Food?

Food is to be nourishing physically, emotionally and spiritually. The aim of our food is to enhance our vital life force energy and pass waste via principally the intestines and bladder. Junk food and excess intake oblige the liver, kidney, skin and lungs to also work in eliminating; they then can become overloaded and blocked. Tumors, abscesses and cysts form when this excess waste is stuck.

Fasting when Sick

Hippocrates said: “To eat when you are sick, is to feed your sickness.” The adage, “Feed a cold, starve a fever,” comes from the idea of the body detoxing and supporting it to do so. All animals, when sick, stop eating and even sometimes stop drinking water.

 

What Happens When We Fast?

Psychology of Fasting

  • Feelings of deprivation may arise, which can be a process of grieving the love, protection, presence or nurturance from ultimately our primary caretakers that we ideally should have received, even if that is projected on a current partner (a related article), friendship or community.
  • Frustrations, anger, loneliness and disappointment that we usually assuage with food and comfort eating will be naked in front of us and demand an alternative to working them through. Usually the bottom line is that we have not grieved something fully. In facing it, and processing it, we will develop emotional resilience and spiritual strength.
  • Tools to use to process strong emotions we usually eat over, include writing letters we don’t send to the person(s) we are activated by, writing a letter to oneself, speaking to an empty chair of our unsaid and unexpressed, doing a Forgiveness Meditation (here is a link to one I lead), meditation, yoga, walks in nature, listening to music and taking time for long, deep breathing.

 

“The spirit needs to be so free [of anything, so that the soul] may hear the deep and delicate voice of God which speaks to the heart in this secret place.”  ― St. John of the Cross, Living Flame of Love, Stanza 3

 

Physiology of Fasting

We have two sources of physical energy:

  1. Glucose (sugar)
  2. Fat

8 hours after a meal – when fasting begins – the body enters fasting mode.

  • The body then starts using the glucose/carbohydrates
  • In modern times, there is too much intake to store, so cholesterol results.
  • After 24 hours, the body uses up the storage, going from carbohydrate burning mode to fat burning mode.
  • There is a 65% drop of insulin; the body feeds on toxins and stored energy.
  • The body is then put in a post-absorptive phase, converting fat to glucose production by the liver and a switch from glucose utilization to fatty acid and ketone utilization by most tissues.
  • Once fat reserves are depleted, the body begins to synthesize proteins from muscle tissue. As blood glucose drop, the rate at which the body secretes insulin slows and the pancreas begins to secrete glucagon.
  • When glucagon is released it can perform the following tasks:
    • Stimulating the liver to break down glycogen to be released into the blood as glucose
    • Activating gluconeogenisis, the conversion of amino acids into glucose
    • Breaking down stored fat (triglycerides) into fatty acids for use as fuel by cells
  • KETOSIS results 2 days later.
  • Ketone bodies are produced and used by the brain; they  go through the brain cell membranes.
  • Cancer, Parkinson’s and Alzheimers diseases are supported in greater healing.

 

KETOSIS

  • Ketosis begins 48 hours of fasting for women and 72 hours for men.
  • Natural loss of appetite.
  • Ketosis feeds on fat deposits and abscesses.
  • A greater energy is available when we begin to burn fat.
  • Ketosis breaks down diseased tissues, cells and tumors, using them to feed on! (This is why certain treatments of cancer and other diseases respond well to fasting and the raw food diet. This is to only be followed with competent medical supervision.)
  • Ketosis repairs cells and amino acids are reused.
  • Stem cells are regenerated. This is why the more youthful look appears.

4 Days of Fasting

  • 75% of energy used by the brain is provided by ketones

5 Days of Fasting

  • The fasting process goes into tissues and extract the toxins and fat
  • True healing
  • High levels of growth hormones maintain muscle mass and lean tissue.
  • The toxins of fat stores are used up.
  • The body doesn’t burn muscle until all fat reserves have been used.
  • Fasting should be stopped when “Wolf” hunger returns.
  • Will I gain the fat back? An Invitation for a cleaner diet.
  • Reintroduce food gradually

 

Types of fasting

  1. shutterstock_120072142Water Only
  • 30 days for serious medical condition
  • 10 days – a “reboot “
  • 2-3 day reset
  1. Nutritional Fasting – includes juicing, black grape fast, apple fast; bringing in nutrients.
  2. Low Intake –  for e.g. 600 calories a day
  3. Intermittent Fasting – Ramadan* or alternate fasting. Time restrictions – eight hours only of eating for e.g.; gives time for detoxing. Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and Christianity observe forms of this.

*Ramadan is not always practiced as it ideally was conceived to be, given the excess food consumed, the cultural and social  pressure to overeat and the lack of support in certain settings or lifestyles to manage the emotional content that emerges.

Precautions

For any health concerns, one must consult with a physician for any fasting. Epilepsy, diabetes, pregnancy, children, the elderly, mental issues, malnourishment and other sensitive health conditions are obligatory considerations.

“In a fast, the body tears down its defective parts and then builds anew when eating is resumed.”
― Herbert M. Shelton, Fasting for Renewal of Life

 

To Support the Fast

  • Use Detox teas.
  • Drink copious amounts of water to flush toxins.
  • Flush the intestines with colonics.
  • Use magnesium salts with enemas.
  • Rest – sleep, nap and just Be, to allow for the integration of all that arises.
  • Gentle exercise – Walking, yoga and stretching are excellent.

 

To Break Fast

  • An Islamic saying to remember: “It’s not the fast, it’s how the fast is broken.”
  • Small portions
  • Probiotics
  • Warm water (optional with lemon)
  • Enzymes to break food down
  • Juices: ideally 20% fruit, 80% vegetable, so sugar is minimal

 

Rumi quote: “Fasting is the first principle of medicine; fast and see the strength of the Spirit reveal itself.”

 

shutterstock_283865480.jpg

 

Worldwide Traditions of Fasting

Hunters and gatherers would eat periodically and go for long periods of fasting. 1 billion Muslims fast a lunar month. Jesus fasted 40 days in the desert. Buddha and Mohammed also fasted for extended periods of time. When one fasts for these longer periods, the ego is starved and the Higher Self is permitted to take the lead. Insights, visions, dreams and inspirations come when the heightened states of consciousness are enhanced with fasting. The brain goes more readily into Alpha and Theta brainwaves.

  • Judaism
    • Yom Kippur is a culmination of a ten-day process with 24 hours of fasting.
    • The Focus is on Forgiveness and Atonement, which are significant  ways of detoxing and cleansing emotionally and spiritually.
  •  Christianity
    • There are 74 mentions of fasting in the Bible.
    • When one fasts, it is believed God reveals his purpose for you.
    • Jesus fasted 40 days in the desert, wrestling with the Devil or the Ego within.
    • Lent is a period of 40 days of restrictive fasting (no meat and other items) in preparation of Easter, or symbolically, a Rebirth.
  • Islam –Ramadan fasting is one of its required five pillars
    • Ramadan was inspired by the influence of Yom Kippur, originally 10 days, extended to the entire lunar month.
    • Taqwa, or God consciousness, is gained.
    • Fasting promotes chastity, humility, patience and self-control.
    • For my podcast interview and article on my fasting Ramadan as a non-Muslim, please go here.
  • Buddhism
    • The Middle Path is encouraged in fasting, avoiding total deprivation or gluttony for the non-monastics.
    • Theravada monks and nuns abstain from eating solid food after noon; many eat one small meal per day.
    • In certain meditation retreats, there is total food fasting.
    • Lay practitioners fast alongside monastics on the “uposatha” day, or the full moon. One day per week, many lay-practitioners avoid eating meat or eating after noon.
    • Water is always permitted.
    • The goal is to understand craving in an experiential way and to reach a state in which the mind is at peace in spite of the body’s discomfort. The goals are to purify the body, increase mental clarity and cultivate wisdom while experiencing the effects of craving on the mind.
  • Hinduism
    • Vegetarian diet
    • Ekadasi is the 11th day after the New and Full Moons, where fasting, worship and meditation are practiced. The moon’s position during Ekadasi, puts the mind at optimal efficiency, giving the brain a better capacity to concentrate.
    • Purnima (Full Moon) and Amavasya (New Moon) fasting days are from sunrise to sunset. Water is usually not drank in that period. The influence of the moon’s cycle can cause restlessness, irritability and ill-temperament. Fasting reduces the acidic content of the body, restoring the body and mind balance. One is lent more to prayer and meditation, bringing greater body, mind and emotional control, facilitating greater spiritual illumination.
    • On the full moon, the ‘yagna’ or ‘havan’ ritual is practiced, which culminates in asking for forgiveness for any misdeeds since the last ‘havan’. A physical, emotional and spiritual detox takes place.
    • Karwa Chauth is when married Hindu women completely fast for the prosperity  and longevity of their husbands from sunrise to the first sighting of the moon on the 4th day after the New Moon in October-November (or the ‘Karthik’ month). In its most evolved form, I see it as a form of devotion and support of a wife’s husband and symbolically to her Divine Husband. Diwali, the Festival of Light, follows 9 days later.
  • Confucianism 
    • Fasting believers are required to wear bright clean linen clothes and to change his or her food.
    • Fasting is encouraged for a set time during the mourning of a death, to help evacuate the strong grief.
  •  Indigenous Traditions
    • In many indigenous groups, shamans, who conduct healing ceremonies, may prepare themselves by fasting.
    • Puberty rituals also include a major fast without food or water.
    • In the Native American tradition, during a Vision Quest, fasting is the primary means to stimulate ecstatic experiences. A Vision Quest, traditionally four to eight days, is a rigorous, sacred ritual of purification and realignment. The ego is quelled and the person is opened to the higher messages of the Quest they seek.
    • For two articles on Vision Quests in a modern day context, please go here.

 

“Fasting from any nourishment, activity, involvement or pursuit—for any season—sets the stage for God to appear. Fasting is not a tool to pry wisdom out of God’s hands or to force needed insight about a decision. Fasting is not a tool for gaining discipline or developing piety (whatever that might be). Instead, fasting is the bulimic act of ridding ourselves of our fullness to attune our senses to the mysteries that swirl in and around us.”  — Dan B. Allender, PhD”

 

Overall Benefits of Fasting

  • Mind is clear
  • Intuition is more accessible and refined
  • Buzzy, zippy energy
  • Diabetes – regulated insulin
  • Growth hormone doubles
  • Hormone regulation
  • Weight regulation
  • Growth of new stem cells
  • Repair of DNA – there can be 90 percent of bacterial DNA when on a bad diet
  • Allergies improved or eliminated
  • Life span extended
  • Age-related diseases are retarded
  • BDNF increased – Brain Derived Neurotropic Factor
  • Autophagy
  • Blood pressure lowered
  • Stress reduced
  • Depression, anxiety and  neurosis are alleviated.
  • Schizophrenia had a 80% success rate where 7000 patients cured in a study by Yuri Nikolayen
  • Body chemicals rebalanced
  • Agoraphobia – known to be cured in 9 days of fasting in Russia
  • Emotionally – once the body begins detoxing, the unhealed emotions rise to also be detoxed. Forgiveness results.
  • Spiritually – higher, clear vibration; an open channel

 

“If your prayers remain unanswered, start fasting”
― Sunday Adelaja

“I believe that there is no prayer without fasting, and no real fast without prayer.”                     ― Mahatma Gandhi

 

 

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Posted in Buddhism, Detox, Fasting, Forgiveness, Islam, Nutrition, Ramadan, Raw Food, Uncategorized, Veganism, Vegetarianism, Vision Quest | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Reset With Fasting

Fasting is one of the best reset buttons I know of to regain optimal health. As the Muslim world is in the last days of Ramadan, here’s an invitation to Muslims to take Ramadan to its true essence …

Source: Reset With Fasting

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Her Son’s Likely Encounter with the Sex Trade

Yesterday I received a phone call from a friend, distraught. Her Mother’s Day, which had begun with joy, came to a disturbing close. She had discovered that her ex-husband had secretly taken their 22-year old son on a long weekend to Bangkok, Thailand for his university graduation gift. Realizing the trip was kept from her and knowing her former husband’s history in the underworld of sex, she could only suspect why Thailand was the chosen destination.

shutterstock_373716025 copyShe tried to contact them both, to no avail. I encouraged her to email a letter to her son, who was still in Thailand.

I am inspired to share what she wrote:

Dear Son,
I see that my messages to you and your father have not been responded to. As a woman, my innards are in deep suspicion, pain and panic. And as a mother, I asked myself on the end of Mother’s Day, where did I go wrong? I also have had to do a lot of self-forgiveness for being the woman I was back then, who married a man who could potentially model that kind of behavior. But for today, as the adult that you now are, I want to appeal to your sensitivity and integrity. You have two sisters, and every woman working in the pay-for-sex trade is someone’s daughter, sister or mother. I want every man to ask himself if he would want another man to engage in that kind of behavior with his sister, mother or daughter. But deep down, I know that such questioning is not enough, or this underworld trade of flesh could not flourish to the extremes it does. Most importantly, to any degree you would use a woman or girl in the sex trade, is somehow a violation of your very own self. And I am sorry for wherever I am responsible in having modeled the acceptance of disrespect in my marriage and for not having set the necessary limits when I should have. I am also sorry that I never dared to discuss the reality of the sex trade with you, because I just didn’t want to go there. 

My greatest wish for you is that you develop a sexuality that is of mutual discovery, respect, tenderness, love and delight, because you so deserve it. May you heal anything that hinders this. My prayer is that whatever you lived, if indeed you have lived anything, that it be processed with the deepest awareness and self-honesty. I wish you all the support in this world and I am here as your number one supporter, whether directly or from afar, in helping you to become the best version of yourself.  I love you, Mom

The spiritual masters tell us that every encounter is a holy encounter. In the sex trade, some of these encounters are consensual. Too often, they are not, as helpless children and disadvantaged adults are trafficked in a sophisticated, slick, international operation. At first glance, it is next to impossible to see the sacred in such forced ‘encounters’.

I have counseled several women over the years of various nationalities that have escaped the sex trade industry – some had gone in willingly, some had been tricked into it. Some had developed cynical and tough facades, some had drunk and drugged through every ‘encounter,’ and some had worked as high class call girls, living a more plush psychodrama of the same disconnect and exploitation. As children, they were all emotionally abused, neglected and/or sexually traumatized. The majority realized after a lot of healing work, that they were in a psychodrama with their childhood abusers through the pimps that controlled them and clients they had sex with. Some even came to the mighty feat of forgiving all involved, including themselves, as they mastered the art of Bold Forgiveness.

I have also counseled many men who have gone to this underworld for sex. In every case, they, too, were in a psychodrama – out of either the damage of being sexually abused, the craving for love and connection that they didn’t know how to obtain any other way, or the unconscious frenzied dance of their own unclaimed, turbulent emotions and defiant sexual energy.

I trust that my friend’s son upon his return, with whatever experiences he comes back with, along with his mother, will have an initiation into the challenge of engaging in adult, transparent, heartfelt dialogue.

For more on forgiveness, go to: Wayne Dyer’s 15 steps to Forgiveness.

 

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Forgiving ISIS’s Rape Ideology

I breathe in a measured, deliberate manner as I begin to read last month’s NYTimes article, “ISIS Enshrines a Theology of Rape.” I initially brace myself.  I then open to and accept the spasms of horror ricocheting through my uterus, heart and throat as I take in the searing reality of these innocent preteens, teens and women so far from my own daughter’s university life amongst ocean waves and articulate, savvy feminists – men and women – of an ethnically and sexually diverse population.  Given my travels and interviews of late in Palestine and Israel, I’m reminded of the dissociated, psychopathic behavior of any oppressor- the Nazis, Pol Pot, the Hutus, the South Africans or Americans for starters-  that leads to the boomerang chaos and injustice rattling innumerable societies today.

I read the article again. I prayed this time to read it with the greatest spiritual seeing. I read it mustering up every possibility of taking in this article beyond my expected, understandable human, female reaction.  I read it trying to imagine any of these females getting to a point of genuine, thorough forgiveness. I know that in order for this to happen, any of these victims would need multiple opportunities to cathartically release such extreme sexual and physical trauma embedded within a crazy-making ideology. She surely would not be spared chilling nightmares, eating disorders and self-hate along the way. And when such probable self-attack couldn’t continue another day, hopefully the first trickles of illumination will come to this blessed survivor. Maybe she will see beyond her own pain and its extensive fallout and catch a glimpse of the very same pain of the young Saudi fighter who was once repeatedly raped by older cousins or house servants, or the suffering of an Iraqi homeless trafficker who was once blown out by an unknown abuse of equal horror- whether sexual, social, physical, psychological, militaristic, religious or spiritual. Maybe in her abuser’s deluded self-convincing, no different than that of a Chilean, Israeli or Hamas soldier dutifully following orders or a factory owner dumping deadly chemical waste in his own community’s river, he will crack under the pressure of seeing his own reflection in the devastated, real female with a face – and heart – beneath his crushing body. Maybe he won’t relent in his barrage of unleashed thrusting, but that crazed unyielding in itself will be the revelation that something is very, very disturbed within. To the degree one is savagely disconnected from the abuse they are wielding, is the degree that they are ravaged by a trauma of equal abuse.

As George Eliot reminds us, “There is a great deal of unmapped country within us which would have to be taken into account in an explanation of our gusts and storms.” We have a category 10 typhoon on the loose here and monumental doses of questioning, understanding and compassion are needed to comprehend why. This unleashed storm is begging for a firm, loving embrace, much like a delinquent teen would, as he brazenly vandalizes the neighborhood’s sports cars he can never imagine owning.

Dove_of_PeaceA Course in Miracles, Ho’oponopono and Radical Forgiveness all remind us to take this violent storm even further- that once it comes into our awareness, to take responsibility for true seeing and where we have created this.

Even me as the bystander reading about it in the New York Times.

An attack is a call for love. ACIM.

(Ho’oponopono prayer):

  • I Love you.
  • I am sorry (for what is unhealed in me that has attracted this).
  • Please forgive me (for what is unhealed in me to attract this).
  • Thank you.

From Colin Tipping’s The Radical Forgiveness Invocation:

May we all stand firm in the knowledge and comfort that all things are now, have always been, and forever will be in divine order, unfolding according to a divine plan. And may we truly surrender to this truth whether we understand it or not. May we also ask for support in consciousness in feeling our connection with the divine part of us, with everyone and with everything,  so we can truly say and feel – we are ONE. 

Two points from Colin Tipping’s A Radical Transformation Worksheet, Applying the Strategy of Radical Forgiveness to World Events:

  • I realize now, too, that what was happening ‘out there’ was a reflection of something that needs, or needed, to be healed in me.
  • In forgiving the [world] situation, I have automatically forgiven myself. I am grateful for the healing.

The odyssey to go from understandable ego-identified victim to benevolent, merciful empath is defined as a miracle in A Course of Miracles. It can be an arduous, grueling journey to get there as the ego resists and holds on to resentment and self-righteousness with all its feeble might. The relinquishing of blame and the embracing of the ‘other’ or really ‘self,’ leads me to say this is so not okay for you ISIS rapists, nor for me, to inflict such unchecked devastation upon another – in my version of emotional abuse in certain personal relationships for example, and may its origins of collective and personal pain be brought into the highest transformative healing for every single one of us.

A Course of Miracles

Colin Tipping’s Radical Forgiveness

Ho’oponopono

My next blog post will be on  The Parent’s Circle in Jerusalem, an organization that is composed of bereaved Israelis and Palestinians who have lost a family member as a result of the conflict and grieve together.  They use the Truth and Reconciliation process poignantly and respectfully as carried out in South Africa, Northern Ireland and Rwanda as well as many other international communities.

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‘Beautiful Resistance’ in the West Bank

As a child,  JFK’s famous quote played on me: “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” It was also a time when the older siblings of my friends were off to the Peace Corps, a service organization still active today that helps others help themselves. Even then I understood the value of giving to one’s community and the healthiness of sustainable service rather only rescuing those in need and rendering them dependent on the volunteers. I also liked how the Peace Corps emphasized a mutual understanding of another’s culture: World Peace with one encounter at a time. In the 1980’s, when Co-dependency Recovery came onto the self-help scene, relationships and families followed this trend of more evolved relating and mature giving.

Abdelfattah Abusrour or 'Abed'

Abdelfattah Abusrour or ‘Abed’

My recent meeting with Abdelfattah Abusrour in Palestine showed me a man offering exactly this same kind of healthy sustainable service to his own people, with the long-term goals of empowerment and mutual cultural exchange. Abdelfattah, or Abed, is a Palestinian, born and raised in the West Bank’s Aida Refugee Camp. The UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine) created Aida Refugee Camp in 1950, sheltering Palestinian refugees who had been chased out or fled in fear from their surrounding villages after the UN Partition Plan of Palestine in 1947 and Israel declaring itself as a state in 1948. Aida started out as tents and now is a series of brick apartment blocks in a small area next to Bethlehem in the West Bank.

Key over entrance to Aida honoring the many Palestianians who have kept the key to the homes from which they fled or were chased from.

Key over entrance to Aida honoring the many Palestinians who have kept the key to the homes from which they fled or were chased from. Many still hope to return one day in peace.

Immediately impressed by this bright, articulate man, I was not surprised to hear that he had first earned a scholarship to study at Bethlehem University, and then in the 1980’s, earned one of three available scholarships to study in France, where he pursued a Biological and Medical Engineering doctorate and eventually stayed on and worked in research. While in the cultural epicenter of France, his love for and involvement with theater and painting grew. However, with the stateless refugees in Aida heading into deeper despair and the endless violence that comes with, he felt called to come back, serve and eventually created the Alrowwad Cultural and Theater Society. “Alrowwad,” means “the Pioneers” in Arabic and this center is truly cutting edge for its mission and activities. Abed explained, “I started with the philosophy, ‘Beautiful Resistance against the Ugliness of Occupation,’ as a way to show another image of Palestine. But Beautiful Resistance is mostly a way to give children in refugee camps, with no playgrounds and green spaces, an opportunity to tell their story and hopefully build peace within, so they can eventually build peace with others. I believe if you are not truthful with yourself, then you cannot be truthful with anybody else. And if you are not at peace with yourself, how can you make peace with anybody else? We start with theater because it is one of the most amazing, powerful, civilized, direct, truthful and non-diplomatic ways to express oneself and build peace within. And hopefully these young people can grow up and believe that they can change the world and create miracles instead of needing to carry a gun and shoot others or explode themselves up. At the end of the day, we as parents or as human beings simply want to see our children grow up. We want to celebrate their lives and successes. When the time comes, they should be the ones walking in our funerals and not the other way around. No parents in the world want to live the day where they bury their own children, and we are fed up of burying our children. So the sense of Alrowwad was initially how to save lives, inspire hope and give possibility to our children’s beautiful expression as a way to promote peace in our communities. It would then lead these young people to believe that they can resolve their issues without the need to shoot or kill each other, or anyone else.” FullSizeRender-45    FullSizeRender-46 While talking with Abed, I was reminded of Steve Karpman’s downward pointing Drama Triangle, which depicts the co-dependent dance between three key players: the Victim position is at the bottom, the Rescuer or Hero is at one top corner and the Persecutor or Bully is at the other.                                          thLynne Forrest terms it as the Victim Triangle, each role feeling victimized ultimately. The goal for any of us, regardless of whatever position we find ourselves in, is to get off the triangle. In order to do that:

  • The Victim has to move to assertiveness, empowerment and problem solving.
  • The Rescuer needs to come to a place of facilitating or coaching with trusting detachment rather than rescuing and caretaking in a co-dependent, controlling, disempowering manner.
  • The Persecutor needs to face buried pain and shame that makes him or her lash out abusively, which usually eventually means grieving a disowned, unhealed inner child. Respectful, egalitarian relating follows, rather than the previously used domineering and humiliating approach.

Abed is clear and adamant that Alrowwad be a center for empowerment and equal exchange, not a charity case, nor a tool used for a donor’s own agenda. He clearly is not falling for the victim-rescuer dance; he is determined to not even engage this drama triangle at all. He shared that in the beginning of Alrowwad and its financial challenges, he was resolute and firm in serving with or without money so as to not compromise its mission. He aligns with no political party to avoid being subject to its agenda. He is also clear in its intention to be an active partner in exchanging with other international youth groups each other’s cultural heritage and creative expression. Abed generously gave me a long interview, a viewing of a documentary on Alrowwad filmed and edited by the center’s kids, and concluded with a tour of the extensive center. Shortly into the interview, it was clear that I was in the presence of an intelligent, astute, selfless, deep man in the likes of the nonviolent greats. He sees his role as one who provokes complacency and challenges violent lashing out by giving the youth and community viable tools instead. He stated, “We create changemakers so they help themselves, instead of getting used to things. If you practice violence, you lose part of your humanity.” Abed has understood the only way out of the vicious cycle of violence is nonviolent, beautiful resistance using not only theatre, but video, photography, animation, graphic arts, drawing, painting, a media center and a mobile Play Bus, bringing games, play and art to the communities throughout Palestine. Alrowwad even has its own Internet-based radio station as well as a women’s fitness center and the first girls’ soccer team in a refugee camp. The focus is on experiential, hands-on learning as evidenced by the young children and teens I saw cheerfully playing and learning around the center. Abed is not interested in static libraries that he terms “cemeteries for books.” The kids were either playing interactive games, working on computers or taking pictures with a state-of-the-art digital SLR. The atmosphere was upbeat, collaborative and enthusiastic – all cultivating the sense of belonging that Abed is committed to as part of beautifully resisting. IMG_3050 IMG_3051

Hands-on SLR digital photography class

Hands-on SLR digital photography class

We as humans recognize healthy relating, life-affirming enterprises and a good leader. We are attracted to where trust wins out over fear, where hope wins out over despair. I was immediately moved to support Abed and Alrowwad and I’m in good company. Friends of Alrowwad in the US, UK, Norway, Sweden, France and Germany have eagerly supported Alrowwad to support itself, as well as creating joint youth partnerships and exchanging creative art forms. What’s next? Abed is aiming to build a larger space to manufacture interactive games and create a training center, so that games and creative skill building become an integral part of the educational process. With the goodwill he clearly possesses, I have full faith that he will attract the resources necessary to manifest this next stage of training dynamic changemakers in his community and beyond.

For more info: www.alrowwad.org/en (in Arabic and French, also)

An interview with Abed with Ashoka in the US More with the kids and Abed at Alrowwad

An interview with Abed visiting the US with Alrowwad kids, discussing Palestinian theater:  1st Part,  2nd Part, 3rd Part.

Beautiful video of the mobile Play Bus going throughout the West Bank

Friends of Alrowwad:  USA   UK

Part 2 of this blog series will follow soon, where I interviewed key leaders of the Parents’ Circle in Jerusalem, composed of Palestinians and Israelis who have lost a direct family member in the conflict. Instead of turning to vengeance and violence, these bereaved families take on the delicate challenge of grieving together, committed to stopping the dead-end cycle of violence.

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Holidays of Light

Over these last days, I marveled at the Merry Christmas wishes that came my way from those who don’t celebrate it. The Hindu cashier at my local grocery store, shyly but so earnestly wished me Merry Christmas. The Omani and Emarati border guards in their broken English wished us the same as we passed out Christmas chocolate while driving through checkpoints. Scores of Christmas facebook messages or emails from non-Christians and Christians that really aren’t Christians, flowed in. What makes someone decide to celebrate Christmas or any of these epic holidays? What makes someone eventually adopt any of these holidays as their own? What makes us wish anyone a happy festivity regardless of our different cultural or spiritual beliefs? Is it because we somehow recognize it’s all about Light? The iconic Totem Christmas tree- an EVERgreen, with its dazzling light, glistening colorChristmas Trees and abundance of gifts is an eternal sacred geometry triangle symbol aspiring upwards to that star at its peak, mirroring the kundalini yoga’s ascent into the upper chakras of illumination and enlightenment. It is promised that the light awaits us, no matter how dark, hopeless and lost it all seems. We know it’s not just children who get all excited about Christmas or any Light festival coming!
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On the days leading up to the new moon of Diwali- celebrating light vanquishing darkness- my local Hindu grocers are dressed up with saris, bindis and bubbly and extra happy.

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Whether in Morocco, Paris, Egypt or the UAE, I have been part of the baking of sweets, lighting of lanterns and full-on celebrations of Eid al-Fitr, as the new moon returns and the completion of a month-long fasting period is celebrated.

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Jewish friends all over the world light candles every Friday night to observe Shabat. They busily and enthusiastically prepare for Chanukkah each year as they ready for the 8-days of lighting their menorah.

A chance holiday to Singapore happened during the Buddhist Festival of Lights where buses were packed heading to the temples to celebrate. New Moon, Full Moon and Solstice ceremonies are in abundance amongst indigenous tribes and my spiritually oriented friends and colleagues, whether it be meditations, full-moon drumming, gonging or dancing away.

But what if the Light doesn’t return? We know that Christmas can be one of the most depressing and dreaded days for people who don’t have anyone dear to celebrate with or even if they do, are still reeling in the pain of a loveless past. That promised Light feels too unreachable and there is nothing to rejoice in. Instead of a soup kitchen on Christmas Day, why not a Hope Kitchen? Every spiritual teacher tells us that we all seek to discover our Divine Nature and that its Essence is Light and Love. In the density and everydayness of our being human, these sparkling, joyful markers come around in cycles to remind us, ground us and strengthen this quest in a way we can all universally relate to, clearly despite cultural and religious differences. So as we all ready to celebrate the Gregorian Calendar’s New Year and its promise of Rebirth and Renewal, may we also remember that there are other calendars observed  with a different New Year Day. We are all acknowledging and celebrating the same thing: reflection on the past- what worked and what didn’t- and a chance we all give ourselves to live more fully in that Light and Love! Happy, this version of, New Year!!

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Enduring the Death Barrier

A few evenings ago, I arrived to my weekly yoga class on the Palm’s beach. It was far from the idyllic conditions the class set off in, 2 months ago. Dubai winter has begun and brisk, chilled winds were already sending my yoga mat flying as our reduced class began. “What am I doing here? How can I open into postures when I am shivering and wanting to huddle up?” My graceful, assured teacher did come closer so she could be heard above the raucous gales, reminding me that once we warmed up that we’d be on the other side. As promised, a set of rigorous, long-held postures in no time circulated that life force and softened and unfurled my tense body. Nearly two hours later, she and I walked away, reveling in the vitality coursing through our bodies. She then so wisely commented on how we resist to anything uncomfortable, but once we go through and past the Death barrier, that release, freedom, peace and Bigger Seeing is on the other side.

This morning, a friend joined me for an invigorating sunrise swim. As we tiptoed through the cold, low-tide shallow waters, arms tucked in, staving off the inevitable plunge into the coldest temperatures yet this season, I remembered this yoga class and encouraged my friend, “Come on! Let’s just get through this death barrier and get to warmer waters and invigorated bodies deeper in.”

A former professor from grad school used to encourage us to try something new and unknown each week- whether eating a new fruit, trying a new sport or listening to unfamiliar music, to practice and prepare for a more graceful death transition when the big day comes. What would it mean to meet any death in a surrendered, trusting willingness? It would be to so know and believe my good is on the other side.

So when I swim again soon, I will untuck my arms, breathe into and feel the chill of my trailing fingers as I walk out further and further into deeper waters. When I find 101 things to do besides writing my book, including writing this blog entry, I will smile and go and open my book file and breathe through feisty gusts and frigid waters of fear and trepidation and simply write. I will remind myself that those distractions were just that good ol’ Death barrier teasing and testing me along. And when I feel the exhilaration of having written a spot-on paragraph or even an entire chapter I will laugh at the trickster Death is one more time. 

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