Wearing a flowing black abaya
, my head covered in a black hijab
, I enter the gracious dome of the Grand Mosque of Bahrain. Under the high, intricately designed ceiling, a massive open space appears to welcome us – Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Free Thinkers from over twenty countries – with arms wide open, into the frontiers of Islam. We gather in a circle, around a scholar of Islam, ready to fire questions related to the religion, that we have harbored since stepping foot in Bahrain, or much before.
Arabic coffee is served, sip by sip in the traditional Bahraini way, and the topics slowly change from conversion to after-life, from karma
to the morality of fornication and stone pelting.
Al Fateh Grand Mosque, Bahrain.
I choose to kill the elf in the room by asking about the inequality of rights among women and men, and below is a snippet of the conversation that ensues (in my own words):
Me: I’m curious to understand why the interpretation of Islam is different in different countries, when the Quran is considered the ultimate word
It was on a flight from Las Vegas to San Francisco, a flight I had made countless times over the years, when I had a deja vu moment about aging. As I glanced over to the woman to my right, I suddenly remembered all the times I had watched the older women in my life as a child and felt as far removed from them then as I do now from a 15 year old male skateboarder from Detroit.
On that flight, a surreal feeling swept over me…as if I was her or could have been a dear friend of hers in a previous life. The moment was short lived but vibrant and incredibly real, and it made me incessantly aware of aging and this precious thing called human life.
She was probably 70 or so, the woman was a petit, short Asian woman with beautiful silver hair, strands of black scattered throughout as the only remnants left of her middle age life. Her skin was glowing despite her obvious fatigue and you could tell she was once a stunner in that way you can about some people; there’s a certainty, a quiet sauciness, and a knowing…
The National lantern festival is in Zhubei, this year. The lantern festival is a traditional holiday that occurs two weeks after Chinese New Year.
There are actually two things of importance that take place on the Lantern Festival day. There is the traditional release of sky lanterns in Pingxi, in Northeastern Taiwan. People write a prayer or a blessing on the outside of the lantern and release it into the sky.
These lanterns usual are a bag with a cross piece on the bottom where a candle is placed. The candle is lit and the air in the bag heated causing it to rise up into the sky. They will continue to rise until the candle goes out and the air is no longer heated. The lanterns are released simultaneously and thousands on lanterns rise into the sky, it’s quite a site and Pingxi is famous all over the world for the lanterns.
But there is the other festival where lanterns are created but not released into the sky. My wife had an opportunity, this year, to take the train with a number of her friends and visit the National Lantern festival in
The World Sufi Spirit Festival
in India kicks off this month, an amazing spiritual and musical journey in the historical forts of Jodhpur and Nagaur in India.
The prestigious sites of the Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur and the Ahhichatragarh Fort in Nagaur open their doors to an extraordinary sacred and historical musical journey. Lit by the sparkling incandescence of a thousand candles, magnificent, inherited and spiritual arts will carry you to the very origin of a tradition linked to those pilgrims of the past, travellers of the spirit, who brought to civilisation a sense of inspiration and meaning.
Through dance, music and singing, treasures of the Indian culture from Rajasthan and Kerala, nomadic poetry of the Silk Road from Kazakhstan to Afghanistan, Sufi rituals from Turkey or Egypt, will be revealed during this new festival.
Pilgrims from the past, travelers of the spirit, making their way through mountains, deserts and oceans, brought to civilisation a sense of the sacred in daily life.
Today, facing a confusing world based only on materialistic values, it is through art and music that one can relate to a deep feeling of ecstasy – an ecstasy…
Somewhere in the land of Persia, a man sits in the bleak light of a setting sun, and in the khumar
of the Beloved, he writes verses of remembrance. Another one, centuries later, sits under a tree in Afghanistan and perhaps, driven by the same remembrance, plucks his Rubab
to a deep, expressive music.
Close by, two girls bind the same verses into a melodic song & somewhere, in the far off land of the Ottomans, a hand stretches out, towards the sky, as if soaking in all the energy from the vast expanse through its spread open palm. And the other hand reaches out to give to the earth what the first one asks from the skies.
Slowly, as a Ney
weaves out a soulful tune behind him, the man with these hands suspended mid-air and his head inclined on one side, turns & twirls. And his white gown whirls in space, like his longing soul that sways somewhere between two worlds. As the poem in Persia grows, from love to pain to nashey
, and the fingers on the Rubab
pluck even faster than before, the singing grows graver and the feet in the Ottoman land…
On December 12th 2012, I had the privilege to lead a group of five adults, in an activity focusing on the needs and gifts of the inner child. At nearly mid-day we clustered around a fallen stone inside the ruins of the Khnemu temple in Aswan Egypt, and colored like school children on a field trip.
I choose butterflies as our objects, and colored pencils as our tools. Each of us, rubbed, scratched and glided about the page. Turing a blank outline into a truly embodied symbol of rebirth, as an offering to Khnemu the god of rebirth. On December 21st 2012 the stars aligned and our entire planet was reborn. As we take our first steps into this new paradigm. We are asked to face one final challenge. We are called towards being child-like without being childish.
Imagine a world not devoid of conflict but devoid of criticism. A world not flattened by homogeneity, but textured by infinite diversity. Where everyone has a specific and special place, where simply by being rooted in our best selves, we effortlessly serve the grater whole.
This world already exists in nature. Having separated ourselves from it…
People are shocked at the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI although it is not unprecedented; its just a rare occurence in the history of the Catholic Church. In other words, it hasn’t happened in nearly six-hundred years.
Here’s a little history of it according to IBTimes:
“Pope Gregory XII resigned in an effort to put an end to the so-called ‘Western Schism’ in 1415 – a complex web of affairs in which two others — the Avignon Pope Benedict XIII and the Antipope John XXIII – also claimed the papacy.
The schism erupted in 1378 one year after Gregory XI was named the Pope in Rome, ending the sixty-seven year reign of the ‘Avignon Papacy’ during which time seven pontiffs ruled from that city in southern France. (Gregory XI was actually named Pope in 1370, as the last of the seven ‘Avignon popes,’ but he did not move to Rome until seven year later).
Following the death of Gregory XI in March 1378, under pressure from Romans to elect a Roman leader of the church, the cardinals named Pope Urban VI who was from Naples. Urban VI quickly fell out of favor, leading
All the positive things you’ve heard about New Zealand… are true. The scenery, clean air, wide open spaces and people are gorgeous, breathtaking, welcoming and cordial (in that order). And indigenous Māori culture is everywhere.
After driving 3,550 kilometers (2,205 miles) around the north island – from verdant coastlines to volcanic craters, my overall impression was of a dynamic land shimmering with vibrant contrasts; from piwakawakas to penguins, forest falls to fjords, hobbits to hipsters. I recommend you consider going there some day, and if you’d like some details – keep on reading!
San Francisco to Auckland flight time is approximately 12 hours, generally with a headwind, so the return is shorter. My month-long visit was in their late spring (mid-November to mid-December) which affords the luxury of reasonable weather and essentially no crowds. Only in Auckland did I see locals on the beach and in the water since the summer switch over was still underway.
Being a hiker, I was in heaven exploring dense rainforest trails, traversing spectacular vistas and ascending sleeping volcanoes while staying at well maintained campsites with few if any other people. New Zealand’s Department of Conservation
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