Where Do You Find Peace In This World?

Driving through a village I saw this on the wall.  It gave me hope.

You shall seek me and find me when you search for me with all your heart.

– Jeremiah

Beauty at the Burgerland Roundabout

Burgerland Roundabout

“In a sense, all the contemporary crises can be reduced to a crisis about the nature of beauty.

The media are becoming the global mirror and the shows tend to enshrine the ugly as the normal standard.  Beauty is mostly forgotten and made to seem naïve and romantic.

The blindness of property development creates rooms, buildings and suburbs which lack grace and mystery.  Socially this influences the atmosphere in the community.  It also results in the degradation of the environment that we are turning more and more of our beautiful earth into a wasteland.

Much of the stress and emptiness that haunts us can be traced back to our lack of attention to beauty.  Internally, the mind becomes coarse and dull if it remains unvisited by images and thoughts which hold the radiance of beauty.

Beauty offers us an invitation to order, coherence and unity.  When these needs are met, the soul feels at home in the world.”

–          John O’Donohue from Beauty The Invisible Embrace

Racing towards Jidhafs the other morning, I was frustrated when I missed the green light.  But as I slowed I saw this new mural painted on the side of the house.

Instantly my heart lifted.   No longer did I need to hurry.  I was surprised how how peaceful I felt as I waited for the light to change.  And I was struck by the power of Beauty.

Thank you Romantic Moments for bringing some Beauty to the Burgerland roundabout.

And thank you John O’Donohue for so eloquently articulating why we need Beauty in our lives.  His book Beauty The Invisible Embrace : Rediscovering the True Source of Compassion Serenity and Hope is “a gentle, urgent call to awaken.”

Bird Pranayama – Breathing Lessons

“Out of the clouds I hear a faint bark, as of a faraway dog. It is strange how the world cocks its ear to that sound, wondering.   Soon it is louder: the honk of geese, invisible, but coming on.

The flock emerges from the low clouds, a tattered banner of birds, dipping and rising, blown up and blown down, blown together and blown apart, but advancing, the wind wrestling lovingly with each winnowing wing. When the flock is a blur in the far sky I hear the last honk, sounding taps for summer.

It is warm behind the driftwood now, for the wind has gone with the geese.

So would I — if I were the wind.”
― Aldo Leopold, The Sand County Almanac

We don’t have any trees in our backyard.  If the neighbors’ trees didn’t love extending their branches over the twelve foot wall to touch our house, the morning sun would beam straight into our bedroom room.  Just as we appreciate the trees’ shelter, the birds love congregating among the leaves.

This morning just as the dawn crept around the blackout curtains, a bird began his morning singing.  Despite the air conditioner’s roar, his effort pierced my sleep.

Tired, I felt like cursing him but held my thoughts and listened, waiting for him to go away.

His song was full of effort.  In my mind’s eye, I could see him deeply inhaling as if lifting his wings up into the sky then vigorously closing them, forcing the air through his entire body.  The force produced his loud chirp.  He continued at least five minutes.  It reminded me of the pranayama or breathing exercise I did just the previous evening in my yoga class.

As we lifted our arms above our heads, we inhaled.  Then quickly and with strength we pulled our arms down to our sides, releasing the breath.  It was a very vigorous exercise.

The bird slowed down and I listened, wondering whether he was finished.

But he was not.

His breathing evened out and became quieter as he inhaled deeply then let his exhale gently carry the song.  The pace reminded me of nadi shodana breathing.

After a few minutes of nadi shodana, he started his third round, the vigorous bhastrika.  For the bhastrika  or bellows breath, the inhale is rather quiet as the effort goes towards strongly contracting the abdomen, forcing the air out the nostrils.  It is considered to be an advanced breathing technique.  Unlike me, the bird was quite an expert and did several rounds without passing out.

I knew the ancient yogis used to look to nature – the plants, birds and animals – for answers to their deepest questions.  In the morning sun, the bird gathered his prana for the day.  And I wondered – was it the study of birds the led the yogis to create pranayama, a breathing exercise said to revitalize the body?

Like the Taoists, shamans and yogis of millennium past, after years of carefully observing nature’s patterns and comparing conventional wisdom against what the land showed him, Aldo Leopold too came upon an answer to his deepest question – the idea of a land ethic.

In The Sand County Almanac, he described the lessons he learned observing nature and considered how man might learn to live as a steward rather than a thief.  And although he said poets did a better job describing nature’s beauty, in the end, all the hours he spent watching geese and storks while taking copious notes turned him into a poet.

For Earth Day April 22, 2012, Green Fire the documentary about Aldo Leopold makes its television debut.  It will be shown six times on Wisconsin Public Television between April 20 – 27.

The Aldo Leopold Foundation has many outreach programs for educators and interested people.  By watching Green Fire or looking at the foundation’s website, you can learn how to teach children that eggs come from a chicken and not a grocery store.

Saudi Women’s Progress in the Health Sector Webinar March 14th

If you are curious about nursing in Saudi Arabia, or women’s healthcare in Saudi Arabia, this Wednesday March 14th (I know it is late notice) Dr. Elham Al Ateeq, the Dean of the Nursing College at the King Saud bin Abdulaziz University in Saudi Arabia is presenting a one-hour webinar.  A Webinar is similar to a radio show.

 

I think this is a great opportunity for those interested in these issues to listen to a woman based in Saudi Arabia.

 

Dr. Al Ateeq has a Masters in Nursing Administration from Northeastern University and a Ph. D. in Nursing from George Mason University.  She will be speaking on Saudi Women’s Progress in the Health Sector.  The interview is to include an overview of the past and present positions of Saudi women in the health sector and a comparison of their progress in the health sector versus other industries in Saudi Arabia.

 

This offering is through the Fielding Graduate Institute’ Worldwide Network for Gender Empowerment.  My friend Fariba Enteshari just shared this event information with me.

 

I don’t have any experience with this type of seminar but it appears to be open to interested parties by simply accessing the following links.

 

The Webinar is at 9:30am Pacific Standard Time (GMT -07:00)

 

For more information go to http://wnge-gendernet.ning.com/

Or try this link to WNGE – Wednesday Webinar.

 

 

A Good Day

March 10th was a good day.

In the morning air, I felt the seasonal shift from winter to spring.

In the afternoon, yoga class was excused early and I got to enjoy the sunshine.

In the evening, I discovered Tales of Dragons, Rabbits and Roosters was viewed 149 times, the highest daily count yet.

It was a good day.

We Are Not as Different as We Think

نتركه في وأحضر حماره أيضا.

We let him in and he brought his donkey too.

Give him an inch and he’ll take a mile.

from Apricots Tomorrow

A collection of Arabic sayings and their English equivalent. Compiled by  Primrose Arnander and Ashkhain Skipwith

It is interesting how wisdom is the same.  But how we express it is based upon our experience and our culture.

Water, Eco-Tourism and the Westerner

Restroom in Swahili, Tarangire National Park, Tanzania

Eco-tourism is a popular travel option now.  But one area I feel the eco-tour operators fail to educate their customers about is water and toilets.

Developing countries rely on cash-rich tourists to visit.  But to create an infrastructure that will support large numbers of tourists, finite resources such as water are shifted away from the local population to appease the nearly insatiable tourist palate.

When I moved to the Middle East, I was as guilty as most Westerners complaining about how inefficient the toilets were.  I did not know why women filled the wastebasket next to the toilet with toilet paper.  Nor did I understand the signs that said “Do Not Throw Paper Towels in the Toilet.”

To me paper towels meant the heavy type used in the kitchen or to dry your hands.  I did not realize the owners were talking about toilet paper, or toilet tissue, or Kleenex or whatever else you might call paper used to wipe our bottoms.

It was after the Sewerage Truck backed into our driveway and began to pump out our villa’s septic tank that I began to understand the bigger issue – we live in a desert.  Water is scarce.

Masai Village in Tanzania

In Tanzania where we took sneaky snapshots of tall Masai herding their boney cattle across the nearly desert landscape, their lack of water hardly affected us.  We could pay for airlifted bottles of water ported in our van’s cooler and flushing toilets in air conditioned guest rooms.  The Masai’s daily search for water never touched our experience.

At the Tarangire Game Reserve I popped into the government supported latrine before we embarked on our four hour safari.  A busload of American tourists followed me.

The modern, made-for-tourist bathrooms had several stalls, sinks, and mirrors.  The toilets had just enough water to clear the bowl.

Next door to me I heard the woman flush the toilet several times.  She came out of the stall and apologized to her waiting friend,

“Sorry I could not get the toilet to flush the paper down.”

I could not hold my tongue.  I said to her and the dozen other women waiting,

“There is hardly enough water here for the people to drink let alone flush a toilet.  Just carry your used toilet paper out with you and throw it in the trashcan.  And only flush the toilet when it is absolutely necessary.”

Coming from America where we reclaim toilet water making it drinkable again, the idea had never crossed their minds.

“Thanks for telling us,” one woman said genuinely grateful.

Why am I writing about this?

Because when I see a clean toilet bowl clogged up by a mass of toilet paper, I realize another uneducated Westerner has been there.  Is it necessary to flush the toilet after a pee?  And why throw masses of toilet paper in the bowl?  It takes two or three flushes to clear the paper and taxes the septic system.

Unlike the West where we are unaccustomed to using bidets, I believe the Arabs and the Indians wash with the water hose next to the toilets.  Then they use a small amount of paper to dry themselves and throw that in the trash bin next to the toilet.

Masai walking alongside of the highway, Tanzania

I am uncertain what the best method is, but in desert countries like Bahrain where water reclamation does not exist and 98% of the sewage is pumped just offshore into the ocean, introducing less garbage into the water system seems like the best solution.

National Geographic did a great story on “Water: Our Thirsty World” in April 2010.

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