A guest blog by Sandy Naimou
The births of my children gave me less and less reasons to travel. The pandemic helped me to embrace being home-bound. But now, my children were two thousand miles away and so was the comfortable quiet solitude of my home. It was time that I take the next step in my life.
It was my first trip to the Krotona Institute in Ojai, California, where a small group of us were there to take on various projects that would keep us busy for the next year. I was going to take a series of related classic texts written in the early 1900s and produce them into audiobooks. Audiobook narration was that “next step in my life” and I was in the middle of producing Weam Namou’s book “Pomegranate,” which had to take a back seat while on this trip.
On the Krotona campus, the first early morning was still and chilly. The rest of the residents were tucked away in their respective adobe-styled dwellings, but the birds were actively singing and fluttering about. Michigan’s bitter January weather was behind me, but I was grateful on this first morning in the mild winter of the Ojai Valley that I had my light winter jacket where I could hide my hands away.
I walked through the Sanctuary of Connections on the campu, a garden for contemplation. Step by step, my eyes sensed the newness in my surroundings. At the start of the path a statue of a Lioness stood to greet those who entered. Weathered, but revered, various offerings were placed around her majestic stance. The plaque on her throne read:
“Touching the forehead of the lioness
Speaking the name of one who suffers
Forming the connection to nature
Embrace healing powers.”
Then I found I was moving to a statue to symbolize a world religion, and another statue and another. Great traditions that hope to uplift humanity: Buddhism, Islam, Christianity, Taoism, Sufism, Indigenous traditions, Hinduism, Theosophy, Judaism, Baha’i, Zoroastrianism, Jainism, Sikhism, Confucianism, and the teachings of Krishnamurti.
As I approached the end of the path, a small shining sphere caught my attention and brought me closer to the tree from which it hung. I felt a deep connection to the tree before I realized what I was seeing and sensed it pulling me in, rather than being pushed by my own curiosity. The sphere glistened within its small, bare, and modest foliage, the branches of the tree thin and the leaves spare. I walked closer, still not knowing what it was. There it was, the smallest pomegranate I have ever seen, and the only one I have ever seen on an actual tree. The fruit’s skin had burst open, and its seeds were exposed.
I was surprised, no, I was astonished. There I was, experiencing a parallel path with the fruit staring at me and my own life, and that moment moved the lines to create a clear intersection.
After deep soul searching in 2021, I realized that I wanted to shift away from teaching Yoga full-time to narrating audiobooks. It was very much a “mid-life crisis” experience and through deep inner listening and self-observation, I began to realize this was the next step. Although, when do we actually truly “know” this sort of thing? All we can do is be open to continue learning about what the steps might be. For instance, when I began, I thought I would only be able to work on non-fiction books since I don’t read fiction and I’m not a trained actor. And then it occurred to me that I was avoiding the things I had, once upon a time, loved to immerse myself in, but stopped doing when I was prohibited from going away to college to study acting. I was avoiding fiction and I was avoiding acting. When Weam was impressed with my initial reading of her book in October 2021, I realized that I couldn’t, and shouldn’t, avoid either one anymore.
And standing there in the Sanctuary of Connections, looking at the little ruby red pomegranate, I understood that the steps I have taken through the garden of my life are moving me in the direction that I am to go.
As a second-generation Chaldean-American immigrant, Weam’s book spoke to me, a book which I know quite intimately after multiple readings, recordings, and analysis. In portraying the characters, I was eventually able to incorporate their personalities within my own being, bringing me closer to these cultural roots.
But more than that, the book spoke to me on a spiritual level, one that goes beyond imagined lines of nation, culture, religion, and gender. Immersing myself in it, I was able to incorporate the character’s souls in my own being. Their desires and struggles brought me to the Sanctuary of Connections within my own heart. Weam’s experiences and the story she shares with us, helps us to see that these desires and struggles transcend all the societal labels, these imaginary lines, that we are exposed to everyday which make us feel separate from each other.
For ages we have been trying to teach each other that we are all One, through traditions, religions, stories, and laws. And yet, it seems that these teaching tools, in our limited ignorance, have been used to create divisiveness in our hearts and minds. But there is hope. And beautiful stories like “Pomegranate,” which holds within its center the Sanctuary of Connections, will help us create a future of Unity instead.
Author Bio: Sandy Naimou has a B.A. in psychology & M.L.A. in women’s and gender studies. She teaches Yoga, serves on the board for The Theosophical Society in Detroit, and, as you already know, is an aspiring Audiobook Narrator.
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We are exploring the effects of global war and trauma during May.
Here’s the guest line-up for May 2022: