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On Darkness Within

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Conversations on all the bombings and terror that are happening around the world have been dominating not only news channels but also all my conversations with friends and colleagues.  This fear that is spread by ISIS around the world is bringing all kinds of feelings in people.  From those who are retreating and saying we have nothing to do with this terror and we just want to be left alone, to those who are saying we need to engage and bomb the heck out of ISIS and win the war, to those who are consumed by conspiracy theories about the origin and the funding of ISIS.  Middle Easterns are blaming ISIS on Americans (yes, that is a true widespread belief in the Middle East), some just call ISIS crazy dysfunctional people who are gathered from all over the world to join ISIS as it provides a sense of purpose to them, to those who are trying to understand the underpinning behind ISIS growth from economic to social and ideological.   There is a place for all of these arguments of course and sometimes they co-exist together.  What they all have in common is pointing the finger at ISIS as the “other”.  And of course they are the “other” but we will never be able to understand the darkness in others unless we understand the darkness in ourselves.

As a matter of fact, unless we dare to see the darkness within ourselves, each as individuals as well as a collective society, we will not be able to address the darkness in others and transform what is happening in the world to a more peaceful and stable place than it is at the moment.   This is much easier said than done.  Each individual and society has a sense of self-righteousness about oneself.  It is easier to believe I am good and this person is bad.  I am ethical and this person is not, etc. But that scenario is always impossible. There is no such thing as any one individual or society as fully good or fully bad. We each have both co-existing within ourselves and within our society. Now I am not saying we all have ISIS values in us.  But I am saying unless we understand the darkness within us, it will be hard to engage with the darkness of ISIS or even another individual who may be hurting you at work or in your personal life.

In a way, we each need to embrace the Batman within ourselves and take on the black mask to explore the darkness in the caves in the midst of the night be it that of the Joker or the shadow itself.  You see, unlike Superman who is a hero from another planet who wants to save humanity, Batman is a human who has been hurt.  He understood to go to darkness, he needed to explore the darkness of himself and even wear it as the mask whereby he enters into others’ darkness and stop it from all its crimes.  You may think this is getting weird. This writing starts with ISIS and ends with Batman.  But bear with me here, it ends with each one of us as individuals and asks ourselves where is the arrogance in us? Where is the racist or the classist in us? Where is the bigot in us? Where is the bully in us? Where is the anger in us?

This is an uncomfortable discussion and even a scary one to embark upon.  And frankly, it is hard to do it in public.  In my personal case, I can only do it in the safety of few friends before I explore it in public discussions.  But I feel it is an inevitable journey that I have to explore for myself as an individual if I am to try to show up in the world at a personal, community or global level to contribute in whatever way possible. You see, ISIS and the likes are ultimately about making “ugly” public.

There is a cynicism in that attitude and even anger.  For most people are not comfortable with “ugly” be it a feature in our body or a behavior of our beings or others.  But “ugly” be it ISIS or the Joker in Batman is consistently making “ugly” public and even celebrated in an arrogant way.  But behind that arrogance, is the scarcity of “ugly” and the fear that comes with scarcity.  We all hide “ugly” as something to put in the basements of our lives or societies.  “Ugly” most people believe exist outside of us. But then there comes a time where a group of people build an identity for “ugly”, gives us acknowledgment, respect and more importantly show it publicly without shame.  Every society has such group that makes “ugly” popular and gives it and those who associate with it in a primary way to be respected.  But that respect can only be implemented from a point of arrogance that drives with the fear of scarcity.  In other words, “If I am not arrogant then I won’t be accepted for who I am”.  So “ugly” becomes a bully; “ugly” becomes an arrogance; and “ugly” can eventually become terror itself.

There is a way out of this though. This can only become a vicious circle of violence and terror within our personal or collective lives if we continue to dismiss “ugly” within ourselves and our surroundings.  What if the “ugly” part of us and of each other is acknowledged with respect rather than hidden in the basement?  We can only do that on the individual level as a path to learn what it means and how that means for the collective level.  In other words, in order to understand the arrogance of the bully be it ISIS or an individual in my life, I need to understand the arrogance of the bully within myself.  I need to explore arrogance, where does it stem from within myself, what is the opposite feeling of my arrogance, where is that scarcity and fear is coming from, etc.   Suddenly when one let themselves simmer in the feeling rather than judging it, you will even understand the enjoyment one can actually get from arrogance.

It is in that moment of enjoyment and the power it gives the individual that one can start to explore what it means to be in it and then how to control it: when it’s good to use it and when it’s good not to use it and ultimately how to transform it in the larger collective.  In other words, we cannot transform the darkness and arrogance of ISIS or the Joker if we cannot understand that darkness and how it really feels within ourselves.  In our understanding of our own “ugly” is the healing for the “ugly” outside of us.  In our respect and control of our own “shadow” is the point where we can start to transform the larger “shadow” of what is surrounding us.

As Rumi says, what cleans the dirt is dirt itself.  I never understood this until recently. What if the “dirt” of ourselves is the path to heal and transform the “dirt” we are feeling in out world these days? That exploration is where the journey starts and may it be a journey of healing.

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On Beauty

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I’ve always thought of myself as a woman who was not good looking. Sometimes I thought I was ugly, and other times I thought I was fat. Perhaps there were momentarily feelings of beauty, but mostly those emotions were punctuated with clear awareness that I was not beautiful. When I tell this to friends they find it surprising, and sometimes they think I am exaggerating or lying. But I am not. Not identifying as beautiful was part of my truth for most of my life until recently.   The transformative magic was not due to exterior change. It was not related to losing weight or changing my hair cut; and it was definitely not about considering plastic surgery. The shift in my understanding of personal beauty took place within a very internal process. I wish to extend great gratitude to two female friends who work in the hearts of the fashion industry and helped me take a different look at myself and see the beautiful part I have always ignored or denied.

In the process of this most recent transformation, I learned that what mattered the most was my own attitude towards beauty. To start with, I thought beauty was something to be hidden and that triggered a relationship of shame rather than celebration. It also prompted me to cover up my body with loose and baggy outfits. I would often go out of my way to “uglify” by hiding as much of myself in my choices of clothes and the way I walked, with a hunched back—almost wishing to disappear into the background. I did all that was possible to make sure that people see what is in my mind as opposed to any aspect of natural beauty. And that entails often talking a lot and putting the confidence in my opinion, as expressions that distract from any definition of beauty. Now, mind you, this may very well be a mind game that I played with myself without others being aware.  But again, what mattered was not the outer world’s perception but my own self-image and feelings.

When I hang out with other female friends I perceive as beautiful I never feel jealous. I respect and admire their beauty and always feel that it was something that is just not related to me. I am comfortable with what I observe as my physical disappearance. For example, if a group of female friends enter a restaurant together, I always assume that I am the one who was not seen by others. And I was always comfortable with that. It’s always surprising and even shocking to me when I’m told that I was noticed. And that story goes as back as my teenage time in Baghdad Iraq.

You may think of some of my behavior as modest and good but that was not how it landed in my heart. When the relationship with beauty is out of shame rather than celebration, it leads to a form of self-torture and denial of the most essential blessing of God.  As a woman’s right activist, I particularly took on the “lack of beauty” as a form of identity. I wanted no one to pay attention to how I look and everyone to hear only what I say. But that way I only took on one way of expressing change I wanted to see in women’s lives, as I was only speaking through the power of words and actions.

The change of attitude first happened when the women I was working with in war zones started asking me to bring them lipstick. When they saw my flabbergasted reaction, they quickly explained to me that lipstick is the simplest way to show beauty. It helped them feel good about themselves and that, in turn, was an essential part of their resilience. That captured my attention and I started noticing women who witnessed and survived the worst acts of humanity in the wars of Congo and Afghanistan were carrying themselves with such graceful beauty. That’s when I first noticed that beauty is not to be denied. It should be encouraged and celebrated, as it is a core source of human spirit. It was then that I started applying my own lipstick and paid a bit more attention to my clothes.

Still, the change that occurred in my relationship with beauty was more out of my activist self rather than the primary woman within me. The relationship with beauty may have transformed within but it was still not a settled matter within my heart. But unsettled matters are also the source of our vulnerabilities, where our insecurities lie, and in our securities there is always the risk of our own self-betrayal. I know I betrayed myself by denying the peace of beauty from within for way too many years until my friends started helped me, at the age of 44, to transform my relationship with beauty from within. Not as a political aspect. Not as a goal to help women—but as a process from within to create inner peace.

That is when I started working out as my duty towards my body. That is when I started paying attention to what I ate and showing respect to the body that God gave me. And that is when I started wearing clothes that celebrated my entire being and worked with my body instead of shapeless outfits whose purpose was to hide and deny. This led me to walk with a straight back rather than the old hunched one. I am neither denying nor fearing whatever sense of beauty I feel towards myself. Indeed I am grateful for it every day as I wake up and put my feet on the floor as I step out of bed. In that moment I start my gratitude towards God for giving me a functioning body from my smallest toe to my big nose. Suddenly, I love every part of myself as part of my gratitude towards God’s gift. How dare I deny my blessings for so many years and consider it a source of shame. Beauty, as the saying goes, helps us get closer to peace and, consequently, peace helps us get closer to God.

I only attained this attitude about a year ago. Yes, believe it or not, only a year ago. It took a series of events, some pain, and immense openness to the possibility of being wrong in my past attitude and letting a new one in. As my friend Donna Karan always says, “Clothing is not in the mere act of dressing. It takes dressing and addressing for women to feel beautiful.” And, indeed, she was one of the critical friends who helped me address my inner sense of beauty to arrive at the outer comfort with it.

That transformation revealed other realities. First, I buy much less clothes than ever before. Now that I am actually comfortable with loving myself, I do not feel the desire to buy clothes at all. The few pieces I have—and I promise you my entire wardrobe fits four medium suitcases—is more than enough for me. The pieces I buy are ethically produced and fitting for me. They are less about the new fashion and much more about what my heart desires. And I could not feel more beautiful than I am feeling these days. Secondly, the pressure to constantly change one’s appearance is so huge that it can easily lead to self-doubt and more buying-obsessed behavior. I am constantly asked to dye my hair, adjust my look, get new makeup, change my nose, buy a certain color, and do this and that. And if I listen to everyone around me I would easily slip back into an unhealthy relationship with myself. My own self-love and comfort within my skin is the only foundation that keeps me centered and released me from succumbing to pressure to change anything.

Ultimately, one qualification or another does not measure beauty. I am convinced beauty is a source of inner light and that light knows not a color or size or shape of any body part. A light is a light and it is that beacon that is the source of beauty. I am in my mid-forties and I love my gray hair, my big nose, my big thighs, and I welcome these kind wrinkles around my eyes. What I see of myself is not the imperfections. I recognize my beauty unconditionally and I cultivate that understanding from a source of love and peace within myself and to God.  If I could do this transformation then any woman and man can. It is all in our hands and has nothing to do with what we purchase—but who we are.

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Of continuing your knowledge the importance

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Healthcare CONFIDENTIALITY Introduction What the heck is Health Confidentiality? Healthcare Confidentiality is usually a requirement for overall health treatment suppliers to maintain personal the patients private wellbeing detail. It really is undoubtedly one of the real key obligations of any clinical practitioner and is particularly a necessity that may be intended for improvement on the patients assurance and upkeep of trust inside of the well-being treatment service supplied to them. Confidentiality will help sufferers to always be way more open up in sharing a good deal more sensitive related information designed to influence on their treatment. Continue reading “Of continuing your knowledge the importance” »


On Vulnerability

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Most people are uncomfortable with showing vulnerability to others. As humans, we are used to presenting the strongest and most positive images of ourselves rather than the vulnerable parts we all possess. We are more likely to talk about the things that are going well in our lives than the things that are bothering or challenging us. More attention is put on our positive accomplishments rather than failures and obstacles, on our happiness rather than our sadness, and on our strength rather than on our weakness. And yet it is in our vulnerability, the very thing we avoid sharing with others, where stronger and more truthful connections between people reside.

I have had the privilege to live in various countries and cultures in my life. And in the process I learned that each culture deals differently in which emotions they show and how they choose to show them individually. Americans’ first response to the question of “How are you?” is always “Great!” to Middle Easterners, on the other hand, always put a melancholy tone on the answer by saying “Thank God”—mostly as means to avoid saying “I am bad” or even “I am good” for cultural reasons that combines a show of gratitude with a worry that of being envied by others. Some cultures like to brag of happiness (mostly Western cultures), while other cultures like to speak of sadness (mostly Eastern cultures). I know I am highly generalizing here, but I do so to make a macrocosmic point that what people in various cultures choose to show or not to show does not always equate with openness.

The concept of vulnerability transcends all cultural boundaries. It is a human emotion that deals with our doubts, fears, and worries—something that each human being has no matter where you live and what you have or don’t have in this world. Our vulnerabilities stem from our individual stories and life narratives. Particular uncertainties may vary from one person to the other given their backstories, but fears always revolve around the concept of whether one will be accepted, loved, safe, and successful. Although we all have these emotions running in our minds, we worry about revealing them for fear of being judged.

To show vulnerability—genuine and truthful vulnerability—is the exact opposite of learning what societies have taught us for so many years, which is to hide our weaknesses deep in ourselves. But if we do not show vulnerability, we continue holding the mask over ourselves and, therefore, alienate others as opposed to sharing connections. So what happens if you expose your most intimate worries? Perhaps you fear not being accepted or loved by others if you speak your truth, or you’re concerned that you cannot achieve what you perceive as the expectations others have for you and who you are. Being fully vulnerable is like being naked with no clothes to cover the most private parts of the self.

That is not an easy task by all means. As a matter of fact, it requires a leap of faith in the goodness and the love of people around—something that cannot be guaranteed. Yet to avoid expressing your true self and desires is to be stuck in the shell of your fears and often leads to self-fulfilling prophecy where your worries become manifested. This can lead to isolation from authentic relationships and friendships.

Showing vulnerability started with the journey of truth. I couldn’t be truthful to who I am if I didn’t also expose my hopes and fears honestly. The responses I got each time I showed vulnerability varied. Sometimes people were uneasy seeing me vulnerable, and would rush to try to make me happy and tell me everything is OK. Some felt a duty to “save” me, which was not necessary needed. Others felt uncomfortable and turned the other direction immediately. But, thankfully, more often than not people showed up in the most loving, kind, caring, and generous ways. People listened and helped me reflect as I processed. Often just their presence and the smallest acts of kindness would make a huge difference in my life. The gift of that connection with some helped me filter through the meaning of friendships in my life. Knowing friends in happiness is a very different experience than knowing people in times of trouble. Vulnerability forces facades to be broken down and with that we encounter another reality of the self and the people around us.

Still, you may wonder, why should we show vulnerability? After all it is indeed a very uncomfortable feeling to share. Well, it is because you accomplish two things. First, you can at least cathartically reveal what is inside your heart and be in your truth no matter what the issue may be. And second, instead of living in fear and worry based on your own assumptions of how people may respond, you gain insight into the people around you. You will indeed go through some process of sorting that will tell you with more clarity what is worth going through. I know that in my experience witnessing the vulnerability of others—even someone who I perceived as a distant friend at first—made my relationship with them so much closer and real. It has lead to the most beautiful friendships with the most unexpected people.

The way to deal with vulnerability is not to worry more, but to open your heart and with that your mind and connection with others will follow. When it was I who showed vulnerability, the process felt like vetting through the “truth” verses the “bullshit” of people around me. In the time of thoughtful language brought by the life coach industry, expressing yourself helps you distinguish between those who only “speak” from those who actually “act.” The experience will always lead you to a more truthful place with yourself and with others around you. And the taste of truth is always, always worth it!


The Benefits of Heartbreaks

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How could heartbreaks have benefits you may wonder?  It is almost an oxymoron concept. In many ways it is; for heartbreaks are deeply painful, confusing, angering, full of tears and the desire to just be swallowed in pain.  All true! But with every pain, there is a gain somewhere and heartbreaks do bring some gains with them.

There is a Sufi saying that says, “Oh break my heart. Oh break my heart again so I can love even more.”  I loved this saying when I first heard it for it suggests such passionate commitment to love. I had said so many times in a warrior like manner not fully knowing or maybe not remembering the pain of a heartbreak.   But when the heart got actually broken, I was left confused at that saying.  How could I trust love again? How could I open up to love again and be even more committed to love when heartbreaks hurts so much?    But at one point, I started noticing all the things that were happening, the people who started reaching out, the steps I had taken and suddenly I thought hmmmm, there are benefits of heartbreaks and I was slowly starting to understand the Sufi saying.

To start with and at the very vain level there is weight loss! Nothing beats that in my opinion.  I had been struggling to lose few kilos in the last few months and suddenly they all disappeared in a matter of a month.  Wow! I thought to myself as I started to feel better at least about my body.  That triggered the second benefit of a heartbreak:  a new look.   Though again on the vain side, a new look is always uplifting and fun to do.  The loss of weight encouraged new buys for a new look from makeup style to clothing and shoes.  I went for things I was always curious to try but didn’t get to it from black nail polish to a different eye shadow.   Enough of a difference that I started loving the exploration process of what is the new me looks like. This allowed for spasm of fun moments and allowed for new remarks I was getting on my new look and where I was able to hear and take it in.

A heartbreak leaves one so vulnerable and at one point, one has to do something with that vulnerability.  In my case it started with a dream where I told fear “I release you” and all of sudden fear had no role in the circle of my life and walked out.  That morning, I woke with a lightness to my heart and I decided to embrace the dream in my daily life.  So every time I encountered fear, from fear of loneliness to judgments I kept on telling it “I release you!”  Within a month, I started noticing a lightness to the heart.  If fear is what keeps us stuck in our own beliefs about ourselves then releasing it gives us the freedom to just be, accept and explore.  And there’s nothing more fun than the exploration process of self to find one’s center again. Sometimes we lose ourselves in others, around us or in the work we do.  We stop asking when we last danced, when we last sang, and even when we last visited friends we love.  A heartbreak is like a cleanser of the soul.  It leaves us empty looking around to see where have we been and where are we in this emptiness.  That starts a new journey of exploration of “who am I, where am I and am I where I want to be, with who I want to be with and what I want to be.”  The emptiness, like the weight loss, allows for new arrivals of visions, learnings and dreams free of all inhibitions and restrictions with the sky as the limit if even.

That’s when love shows up over and over again.  And that is when the Sufi saying started making sense for me.  Love came from so many directions.  From friends who reached out in the most kind, loving and generous ways.  Each reach filled my trust in love and each a reminder of the beauty of this life despite all pains and challenges.  Love came with every sunrise and every fresh breath of air and every time I encountered nature from mountains to seas.

Heartbreaks are a part of life that is unfortunately unavoidable.  It is most painful when it is least expected and from people we love dearly.  But it is also one of the big teachers of life.  For it is in these moments that we have a choice whether to close up to love thinking that we can protect ourselves from all the pains that it may bring with it or to open up again and again and knowing that with each opening there is a risk of a heart breaking and the benefit or a tremendous heart expansion.   There have been many heartbreaks in my life, from the loss of my mother, my country, to romantic loss.  In all cases, I found myself on a cross road of a decision of whether to close my heart to love or to risk love again.  I say:

I will not close up to love

I will always love and love again

I will always be there

In love


Standing on a cliff

Not knowing

Falling forward or backward

Or standing still


I will always see love

I will listen to the tunes of love,

I will see it in the sun rising

For the sun rise up again and again

I will always soak in the bath of love

For water flows and flows again.

I will Love over and over again.


Who is Rabaa Adawiya?

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Rabaa Adawiya Mosque has become a symbol for Muslim Brotherhood protests in Egypt after military took over in June 28 preceding the June 30 revolution, which led to the deposing of former president Mohammed Morsi. After more than a month of persistent protest, this historical Mosque has witnessed much killing and fighting and is now left burnt out after one of the worst bloody day in Egypt’s history where more than 830 people were killed by the army and the police in what is now called “Black Wednesday.”

The irony is that Rabia Adawiya, the woman — yes, the woman — who the mosque was named after, was known for being one of the first people in Islam to have introduce the idea of “divine love” and for the relationship to God be out of love and not out of fear. If that mosque was built out of love in 8th century then it was burnt out of hatred and fear in 2013. Today when you search the name Rabaa Adawiya, news of the protests and the killings dominant all search results rather than the woman who has dedicated her life to love of the divine.

Born in 715 Julian in Basra, Adawiya was known to have born into a poor family. Her father believed in his daughter’s spirituality since her youth and had conveyed that to the ruler of the time who joined him in his beliefs and cared for the family. Upon her father’s death, Adawiya’s life changed as famine hit her city and her path eventually led her to be stolen by robbers of a caravan who sold her into slavery. Despite of her misfortune, though, Adawiya’s love for God grew more and more so much so that the very master who she worked for released her after hearing her prayers and being touched by her love and dedication for the divine. Adawiya then spent the rest of her life in the deserts of Arabia loving God not out of fear of hell or desire for paradise but out of absolute and unconditional love for the divine. She has inspired so many people both religious scholars of the time and eventually followers of her spiritual path and history, who later honored her by naming a mosque after her in Cairo, Egypt.

It is most ironic that today, the mosque of the woman who preached love, forgiveness and grace despite her hardships became the epicenter for hatred and fighting among Muslims in Cairo, Egypt, today. The hatred and anger that has taken over the streets of Cairo stand for the exact opposite values of the very place that became the symbolism of the demonstrations in the past month. If Adawiya preached for the love of God, fear of God is now the dominant value that has spread among those who argue that religion is at the heart of politics and that God or rather a handful of people’s interpretation of what God stands for is to rule the politics of governments.

Back in her time, Adawiya was remembered for her prayer: “O God! If I worship You for fear of Hell, burn me in Hell, and if I worship You in hope of Paradise, exclude me from Paradise. But if I worship You for Your Own sake, grudge me not Your everlasting Beauty.” These very values upon which that woman was honored has been replaced with men who justify bombings and killings not only in Egypt but in many parts of the Muslim world over promises of paradise and have prosecuted other Muslims who dare to have a loving, happy and joyful relationship with God, questioning their religion and their devotion if not fitting of a very restrictive image of what a “Muslim” mean. Fear and the desire for political power in the name of God and actions and promises for heavenly rewards have hijacked much of the beauty of Islam and definitely what Rabaa Adawiya advocated for hundreds of years ago.

Love of God is now almost viewed as blasphemy when said out loud. I once said it to an Egyptian taxi driver and my heart skipped a beat as he stared at me with both confusion and anger. Many in the region who see themselves as Muslims and good ones indeed complain about how their values and beliefs have been questioned if not fitting a very restrictive views and very particular practices defined by few political parties of what a “Muslim” should be. The relationship of love has been replaced by fear. And if we all agree that God is above all of politics than those who are fighting and killing and burning in the name of God have corrupted the very value of God, and that I would say is the biggest blasphemy.

Rabaa Adawiya Mosque is now burnt and destroyed from inside but apparently the outside walls are still standing. Perhaps her voice and her values can be a call, an appeal, for Egyptians and all Muslims who have mixed God up with politics to remember that the only way to honor God is to return to love as a guiding relationship with the divine and not hate, fear or anger and the only way to honor God is to leave our individual political ambitions out of manipulating the meaning of the divine. May we be able to return Rabaa Adawiya’s name to the woman who wrote the following and not to the mosque that witnessed one of the worst bloodsheds among Egyptians. I look forward to seeing the day where the mosque is being rebuilt and I pray that it will be rebuilt with the same spirit Adawiya stood for.

“I have two ways of loving You:
A selfish one
And another way that is worthy of You.
In my selfish love, I remember You and You alone.
In that other love, You lift the veil
And let me feast my eyes on Your living Face.”

-Rabaa Adawiya


August Poem

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Of the same mother

Fed from the same roots

Yet a tulip does not question its right to come out in its full beauty, but I do.


Of the same mother and from the same roots,

Yet a water spring never questions its right to come out in this spot or that spot, but I often do.


So what if I allow myself the same clarity a tree has when it blossoms in spring

What if I allow myself the same peace a water fall has in its strength


What if I spread my wings in its fullness without hesitation or fear. 

How will the air feel?

Where will my heart take me to?


What if I know that I am the rose and the thorn in it as well.

What if I am OK with the best part of me and the worst part of me. 

What if I see fully me and still love what I see.

What if I see fully you and truly love the full you. 


What if I let the energy of my volcano erupt fully in its roar

What if I let the sweetness of my spring to nourish all

What if I let my peacock feather to open in its beauty and seductiveness

What if I am OK with the bee inside me to stink when attacked. 

What if I know when my rose is cut off, it will come back again and again. 


Of the same mother

Fed from the same roots

Yet I spent too many years depriving myself of what my mother has always given me:  the clarity of the tulip,

strength of the water fall,

sweetness of a rose smell,

defensiveness of the bee sting,

beauty of a peacock,

and the softness of a water spring.


What if in this spring I am clear

with an open, full, strong, vulnerable, beautiful heart.

What would life be.

So let it be.

data mining


What Do You Do With Those Who Betray You? Love Them!

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I remember myself as a youngster playfully repeating “Et tu, Brute?” to my friends after reading Julius Caesar.  Regardless of Shakespeare’s brilliant description of betrayal, I still had no idea of the deep pain betrayal causes when I first read about it.  When I experienced the feeling myself later on in life, I realized it is like a dagger that digs deep down into alleys of the heart no one knows about except those we willingly let in.  Betrayal can only happen when there is love and thus trust.  For in the act of love, we let people into the most intimate aspect of our hearts, letting down our walls and protections.  That’s when we risk hurt and betrayal but that’s also the place of utter love.

Whenever I felt betrayed by people I love, for it can only be triggered by those we love, I was left with a very confused feeling.  The shift from a place of love to a place of hurt and anger triggered by betrayal is a radical shift over a short period of time.  It feels like an earthquake has shaken the foundation of your love and it leaves one desperately trying to grab on to any solid land to get a grip of what has just happened.  I usually grab the land of sorrow first, then anger, then disappointment.  Eventually, I realize that all of these feelings eat my heart from within and I come to the realization that the only way out is through love.  But love? Really? You may wonder how one can transform the pain of betrayal into love.  I too did not believe it could happen at first but now I do.

Cambridge Dictionary defines betrayal as the “act of not being loyal when other people believe you are loyal.”  In “The Ballad of Reading Gaol,” Oscar Wilde describes betrayal by saying “each man kills the thing he loves.  By each let this be heard.  Some do it with a bitter look.  Some with a flattering word.  The coward does it with a kiss.  The brave man with a sword.”  I see it simply as the lack of courage at being truthful to oneself or to others.  Betrayal for me is not in the act of abandonment but in the lack of ability to communicate the truth, one’s truth, with integrity and grace to those we love.  Only when we tell the truth can there be true healing.  And the truth, no matter what it is, resonates in people’s hearts even if it sheds light on the worse aspects of who we are.  For, the worse information, when told in the simple and honest truth, can be taken with the grace and love truth carries.

There was a few times in which I felt betrayed in my life.  My first experience came from my mother the day she tried to commit suicide when I was a child, and then again when she pushed me into an arranged marriage later on in my life.  Other betrayals came from friends and romances, people I deeply loved and trusted. As I am writing this, I am thinking to myself, “Well, it’s not so bad.  I am almost 44 years old and I only felt betrayal 5 times in my life.  Once for each decade.  Not so bad really J.”  I can laugh about it now but I can assure you each was a very painful experience that left me confused at the whole world, not knowing how to make sense of it all.   I held on to the anger I felt towards my mother for many years for example.  How could the woman I loved the most in my life, betray me so deeply, I often asked myself?  But that question kept on repeating itself every time I felt betrayed.  How could this person that I loved so much betray my trust and my love?

I was told once that a horse’s biggest act of love is when it lets humans caress it in between its eyes.  I am sure there were times in which there were violations of this most intimate moment for the horse.  We violate such spaces when we are afraid, insecure, feel powerless, or even jealous.  I have a hard time believing people we love do things out of meanness.  Hurt can only come out of hurt.  Maybe I am wrong, maybe not, and maybe there are exceptions to this theory.  Whatever it is, I am sure there were horses whose eyes were injured or even blinded in that moment of violation which can be seen as betrayal.  If I was a horse I could only process what happened to me if I understood the feeling that triggered the person I loved so much to violate my space in such a painful way.  Suddenly, I wondered if a horse would so easily let people come into that space.  And that’s when I started wondering if I have ever betrayed myself?

Things started shifting from seeing any point of betrayal from inside out (its all about the others who betrayed) to seeing it from within the self.  When have I betrayed myself?  I started asking.  What were those moments?  What triggered me to betray myself?  Ouch!  For the journey to the self is always the hardest one. Here, I am embarking on yet another inner journey to see what I needed to discover, heal, love and accept about myself.  Just as I was hurt, angry, and disappointed at the loved ones who once betrayed me, I became angry and disappointed with myself for all the times I let go of my instinct and did not trust it; for all the times I did not stand up for my rights or own my voice and power; for all the times I justified sacrificing myself and my well-being in the name of love; and for all the times I tried to protect my vulnerabilities by creating illusions and projections of the people I loved, rather than addressing and seeing my true needs and what I was seeking thereby seeing the true being and who they were.

I continued to dig and dig and dig deeper until I found the little girl in me that was acting out of her pain, vulnerability and fear rather than from the strength of the adult woman that I had become.  The betrayal of me came from my own injuries.  Some go back to my childhood and are still working themselves out in my adult life.  Suddenly, the anger and the disappointment I felt towards myself transformed into deep love and affection right down to the vulnerable part of me that was acting out of pain, for I understood that pain and its source.  As women we are trained and so used to being hard on ourselves and almost fearing self-love that it can be seen as selfish, not motherly, or as not giving enough.  Fluctuating the self and punishing it for all the wrong we have done is so much easier than loving it.  But then again, there cannot be healing, true healing, without love.  And I had to consciously go into love to heal myself from the time I had betrayed myself.

In order to heal and love, one has to forgive.  I once had a dream where I heard someone telling me, “We must forgive even when not asked for forgiveness.”  I objected to that line in the dream.  “This is too much,” I said.  “Is it too much to ask to forgive those who have not asked for forgiveness?” But, the dream kept on repeating, “We must forgive even when not asked for forgiveness.” Finally, I calmed down regarding the saying, rested in it, accepted it and understood why we need to do it.  It’s the only way we can heal ourselves and let the self be free of all resentments, anger, pain, and hurt.  People hurt each other out of their own pain just as we hurt ourselves out of our own pain.  So only when we release ourselves from that pain, see it, love it and forgive it, can we truly love the essence of the self in its most beautiful aspect and also in the aspect we are most embarrassed of, our own shadows, for that is the true meaning of love.  That’s when I could love, truly love, those who have betrayed me and love them from their very point of betrayal.  If they betrayed me out of their pain just as I betrayed myself out of my pain then I can understand, sympathize and I can love without needs or expectations but for what it is and what that person is, without any illusions or projections.

So yes, it is possible to forgive even when not asked for forgiveness and even when people betray their own courage at telling the truth. Though I still believe that only when we tell the truth can there be true healing, I also understand that it takes much courage to tell that truth and sometimes it will entail revealing the most insecure, frightened aspects of ourselves.  I can only go through this process for myself.  I cannot expect it at all from others.  To each his or her own.  For me, it is a journey of love.  For I believe love is bigger than all.  And love is the only true healer.  That includes deep, utter, and true love for the self so we may give it the respect it deserves and not betray it again.  At least hopefully so…  Is it possible to love those who betrayed us?  Absolutely YES!  I LOVE each and every single one of them, most importantly my mother and also the friends and the loved ones who later came in my life. parental guidance  And in that I found my healing.  I am sure a horse would have done the same.


Celebrating the Ordinary

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Rumi once said that “silence is the language of God, all else is poor translation.” As a lover of God, I always seek God in the wonders of the world, in serving other people, and in the exploration of all kinds of spiritual practices. I felt like these were attempts to catch a glimpse of God but in the process I could not hold onto that glimpse as I returned to my daily life. That glimpse was always somewhere else outside of me. Sometimes I saw it in the beauty of humanity amidst the worst of human atrocities. Sometimes it was in an act of kindness by someone we may know or may not know. The glimpse has always been like a jar that poured water of hope and belief into my heart. It was that belief that kept me going even as I worked in wars for many years. Other times that glimpse was in spiritual retreats I explored as I tried to make sense of all the wars in the world and the stories I was being exposed to. Other times I found it in my daily meditation and prayers. All were beautiful experiences but I also wanted to hold on to the sensation during my ordinary routines, be it attending a meeting, giving a speech, or traveling.

But recently I decided to explore that silence in the ordinary of every moment in my life. Instead of only separately carving some space for my meditation and prayers each day, I decided to integrate my seeking of the presence of God in every inhalation and every exhalation I take. So instead of checking my phone and my emails as I sat in the taxi or the subway, I just focused on my breathing—and with that, I focused on God. And so the practice spread throughout my day: in the shower, while walking from one place to another, and with every meal. And suddenly I noticed a beauty—a new beauty—I had not experienced before and that is the beauty of the ordinary.

Ecstatic feelings came out of the simplest experiences: the sensation of my feet touching the ground as I walked, the softness of every breeze touching my face, and even the drinking of a glass of water. And when everything was so beautiful, my seeking of the divine turned into the exploration of the ordinary of everyday life with no more separation between that, my prayers, and my daily activities. All became one.

And with that came a new curiosity. A curiosity to see everything in all its truthfulness for I figured that is where beauty lies. For example, I am someone who always put nail polish on my toenails because one of my nails broke a long time ago and never grew back normally. Therefore I always covered it up with all kinds of colors. But when the ordinary became so beautiful, I took off all my nail polish and was enjoying my broken toenail in its fragility, beauty, and even ugliness. I shaved my head and took all my makeup off. I know this is a bit extreme, but it is an extreme I can afford and am willing to do. Soon I started noticing how makeup felt like a mask that I was putting on every day: sometimes for good reasons, sometimes to cover up sad stories, and sometimes to pretend everything is perfect. It is not that I stopped putting makeup on, but at least I laugh at my silly attempts at masking. And “why mask?” I started wondering to myself. It is in our vulnerability that we connect to each other as people. It is in our joy and our sorrows, in our light and our shadows that we connect, learn, and grow. Suddenly those in my life who covered their shadows, as I covered the dark circles under my eyes with concealer, stopped being of interest to me. How can I connect with those who hide their shadow so deeply? It feels as unreal as the perfect looking woman who is full of plastic surgeries. She is beautiful! But everyone knows it is not real, natural beauty. And it is hard to connect with the unreal. For God is only in the real!

So here I am starting my 2014 with the most obvious knowledge that I have not paid attention to all my life: the beauty is in the ordinary. It is in the ordinary of our behavior of love, generosity, and kindness. The beauty is even in our behavior that triggers shame, embarrassment, and anger. For these moments help us grow. And in the cracks of the self, new light eventually comes. And with this, I started experiencing God with every breath: not separate from my daily life but part of every movement and every step I make. And for that, I am grateful!

May 2014 helps us all see the beauty of the ordinary.


Why there is more desire to live the life of a celebrity instead of the life of Gandhi?

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Everything around us is inundated with news about celebrities: their lifestyles, what they wear, what they did, their homes and boats, their love affairs, and everything in between. You can’t actually escape such information even if you are not interested in the subject. What I don’t understand is idealizing the life of a person we know nothing about beyond their acting skills. We do not know the individual behind the celebrity—their hopes, dreams, desires, accomplishments, feelings of inner peace, and who they are as individuals in their hearts. We see the masks and we are obsessed by it. We desire it thinking it is the real thing—perhaps thinking it is real happiness and peace. In the meantime, we look at people who have walked the journey for real peace of heart and mind, such as Gandhi and Nelson Mandela, in an admiring way but we leave them alone on a pedestal to admire and maybe criticize but not to aspire towards.

Do you see the absurdity of our obsession with the masks rather than what is behind the masks? Do you see how convoluted our understanding of happiness and contentment is? We think we desire only the mask: the lifestyle, the glamour, the clothes, the cars, the houses, the travels, and the beauty. And we want the mask for we think that is the journey that will get us the joy we all seek in our lives. And so we leave the journey that is behind the mask alone, and with it we leave Gandhi and Mandela alone too. We respect them but rarely do I meet people who want to walk their journey. “Why?” I wonder.

All I know is that the journey to truth and inner happiness is a hard one for you cannot buy it no matter how much money you have. You can only work on getting it from within and that entails confronting yourself, your demons, and your heart’s truth. In that journey, no material possessions matter.  You can have it all, as many celebrities do indeed have it all, and still do not have joy and happiness.

How ironic, the thing that is accessible for all, for rich and poor alike, is not popular and the people who have walked that journey are just studied in history from afar. You see that inner peace and happiness does not require buying anything.  That desire to help people, and to speak truth to power, requires a lot of courage and even sacrifice at times. But it allows the person to sleep soundly at night and when the moment of death comes, there is no resistance to it.  To get real joy is to surrender and release our egos, as well as desires to being acknowledged or loved. Oh, it is so so much harder to walk that journey than it is to make money and buy that fancy car. And it is so much more joyous to feel that peace–and to dance with joy in your own skin–than it is to buy that gorgeous dress that you can’t afford. The first gives you a prolonged taste of that joy and the latter gives it to you momentarily, maybe daily and maybe only hourly.

Seriously, we’ve all experienced the excitement of buying a beautiful new dress or a new car. But if you are just slightly like me, that joy lasts no more than a few days for a dress and maybe a month for the car. That joy stops when what you already possess becomes the norm. And so you want to buy a new dress and another new thing over and over again to give you that taste of that joy rather than reverse the journey and do the hard work to achieve inner peace, where the self lies blissfully in silence.

We know nothing of celebrities and who they are as individuals. What we know is the mask they wear, as we all have our masks, and the obsession with how beautiful their masks are. Rather than viewing role models as those who have historically excelled in living his or her truth, our society asks us to idolize the mask of a celebrity. Are you with me? I think this is weird.