"Out Beyond the ideas of wrongdoing and right doing there is a field. I'll meet you there."


Spring Lessons

April 11, 2012 by  
Filed under Happiness

I was totally disconnected from nature until I was 30 years old.  Up until that time, I would barely notice a bird, a tree, and found documentaries on animals or nature very boring.  Though I turned vegetarian few years prior to that after feeling the soul of a sheep recently slaughtered as I was helping a family in Bosnia cut it in pieces and distribute it to the poor, I still never paid much attention to non-humans if you may.  I thought of the sheep experience as very unique and personal, but I still did not reach out to animals or nature around me.  All of this changed when one day I was lying down on the ground in the wilderness alone.  That’s when I first felt earth’s heartbeat.


I had enrolled in a leadership retreat thinking that I would be getting lectures on leadership, only to be surprised that the whole experience was around wilderness.  It entailed 24 hours of being alone in nature with nothing but a sleeping bag and a plastic sheet for cover in case it rained. After hours of restlessness, I finally started to calm down, and eventually I lay down on the ground in silence with nothing but nature surrounding me.   In that silence, I felt I was listening to a tone, a rhythm, a language that I have not heard before: nature’s language.  I remember hearing Angeles Arrien saying that we need to adjust our rhythm to nature’s rhythm, which is slow to medium, and that our fast rhythm is both unnatural and lacks synchronicity with nature, thus missing so much of what is being communicated around us.  I honestly didn’t get that until I finally slowed down in those 24 hours and started witnessing, feeling, smelling, and hearing all that is being communicated from nature around us.  That’s when I felt the mother of earth and our interconnection with each aspect of it.  That’s when I realized we are all part of it, and there is no such thing as us humans and the rest of earth (nature, animals, water, all of it). We are all connected, and all it takes is us slowing down so we can learn and listen from all that is being communicated in nature around us.


Once I felt that heartbeat, I could never go back to my isolation.  It’s not that I don’t find myself at times so immersed with the fast speed of modern urban life and completely disconnected from nature as that happens often especially as I live in the city.  It’s just that I am more aware now.  I know when I am moving so fast that I am no longer listening to all that nature and animals are communicating and teaching.  I  know that when I don’t slow down and take the time to spend in nature, I feel  incomplete, depleted, even  empty  at  times until the moment I can go and touch that ground and  touch the earth and feel the heartbeat of Mother again.


It’s been more than 10 years since I became conscious about the importance of truly listening to nature and animals and realized it’s like a book that holds so much knowledge and is never ending.  So I keep on reading and reading and listening and listening, and the more I do that the more I want to listen and read and learn from everything else besides humans that are teaching us every single day.  In this spring, I found myself paying a different kind of attention to all the new emerging flowers and blossoms.  I find a clarity about every plant that is emerging out of this earth in this spring, a clarity that I sometimes doubt or question when I have it about myself. Yet, I am of the same mother and the same roots. So what do I learn from what this spring is trying to teach me…. teach us….  I am not a poet, but here is what came out of my heart when I paid attention to the tulips around me in this beautiful spring.




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 sting 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.


4 Comments on "Spring Lessons"

  1. Nina Schick on Tue, 1st May 2012 10:26 pm 

    Masha Allah Zainab!

    What if you ARE a poet?
    So let it be SAID!

    Wishing you much happiness :) xo

  2. Dr. Sherie Gache on Wed, 2nd May 2012 7:46 pm 

    I just came across your blog through twitter.
    I totally agree with your words in this powerful post. After writing almost 100 rights, I have concluded that working towards certain causes is just a band-aid. The Right to Respect and Right to Life for Humans need to become basic social norms in the society.

  3. LTC Ingrid A. Parker on Fri, 8th Jun 2012 11:46 pm 

    Hi Zainab,

    My name is Ingrid Parker. I am an active duty lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army and doctoral student at University of Maryland Baltimore County. For my dissertation topic, I plan to write the oral histories of some women I met Baghdad. I will go to the Regional Oral History Office conference at University of California, Berkeley this summer to discuss the project. These women were amazing women and left this impact on my soul. It sounds dramatic and for me, it was. I am writing today because I hoped to interview you sometime this summer or fall. Not for publication, but to chat and help me with direction on my dissertation. I want to record this interview, transcribe it, and use it for a academic paper – nothing more. For my dissertation, this is what I’ve thinking…

    Alone with myself,
    So much comes into view.
    Life and my purpose.
    What is and not true.
    Who does what and what I do.
    And why and how all of this is connected.
    Alone with myself,
    I feel a power within.
    I wish to find a way to express it.
    A way to address…
    And share with those who comprehend,
    Self-actualization among those lost of identity
    They will never understand or come to see.
    And ‘why’ is that important to me that they do?
    Alone with myself, praying!
    Lawrence S. Pertillar, Self-actualization

    Like the poet, there was a day, perhaps a month, when I self-actualized. It did not happen in the grime and sweat of the army. It did not happen in those particularly female roles that I often found myself encumbered with, nor did it happen in the midst of familial duties traditionally reserved for daughters. It did not happen in my societal placement as a woman in a largely patriarchal society while nestled in a hyper-hegemonic organization too. It did not happen in my role as a woman of color living in a color-conscious and a race-obsessed America. It did not happen with my gendered body striving to meet sex standards that I was not that fully committed to—those of body, hair, beauty, marriage, and motherhood. So what, then, drove me to see myself clearer than I ever had before? It was more than one moment. It was the moments within moments. It was the interactions and more interactions with Muslim women. They were brown-skinned women living in what, to me, was a foreign place, but they were unmistakably me. These women did what they wanted to do and did not apologize for taking ownership of their lives and communities. They were not nurtured, and in most cases their actions, lives, and work choices were expected to fail or fade away due to the lack of sunlight, nourishment, and mentorship. I wondered why I had to travel 7,000 miles from home before I was able to see myself so clearly. And what was it that I was seeing? These thoughts would drive my intellectual journey, as they still do today.
    It was a cold day in mid-January 2010 when I met the first Iraqi woman on my deployment to Baghdad. She was the general contractor and owner of a local company that provided contractual services to my forward operating base. There was nothing particularly unusual about this woman—except that she was a woman I might see in the United States. At the time, I found her appearance remarkable when, in reality, it was not remarkable at all. Instead, my ingrained perception of “who and what other people were” was more remarkable. After that chance meeting, I started to ask myself questions: How do women participate in this world? How do I know the world? What is identity? At that moment of introduction, this woman challenged all I thought to be true—ideas of self, the world, my independence, religion, and gender. Before that moment, I felt the “triple paradox” of gender, race, and class. The “triple paradox” was more surreal than real because it has a transparency, which renders an invisibility on its subjects (DuBois, 1093, p. 5). This chance meeting uncovered my invisibility and unconsciousness that I lived—as did she—regardless of our redefined bodily markers that were in opposition to our societies’ norms (Lopez & Hasso, 2007).

    I hope you consider a simple interview to flush out these ideas.

    respectfully Ingrid Parker

  4. Glenda on Tue, 19th Jun 2012 10:25 pm 

    Thanks for wirtnig such an easy-to-understand article on this topic.

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