Blog

The Oud Player

 

It was Nineveh Cultural Night. As I set my books on the author table, I heard the sound of the classical music of the legendary singer Abdel Halim Hafez. It transported me to the days of long ago, when I was a little girl in Baghdad, Iraq. Television was programmed for only several hours a day and the rest of the time my family listened to the radio.

After I finished setting my books, I turned around and was surprised to see a young man playing the oud. Not having paid any attention to my surroundings, I’d assumed it was a stereo. He then sang the songs in their original Arabic language even though I learned later that he was born in America.

This event, where I was a speaker, occurred shortly after my mother had passed away. Listening to him brought so many heartfelt memories that, for me, it became the most notable part of the evening. I sat there and enjoyed the sound of the oud, a musical instrument that’s some 35000 years old, the oldest found in Persia.

Brian Polis3.jpg

Brian was lucky to be born to a very supportive mother who taught him and his siblings several languages and encouraged his music career. At 12 years old, he cried to her that he wanted an oud so she took him to a small warehouse in Dearborn where he was given the option to choose one of two ouds. He loved the design on one of them, they bought it, and this became his favorite oud.

Brian Polis

Brian was soon taught by Abdul Karim Badr, who I happened to interview in 2010, and who has since passed away. I’d had the pleasure of visiting Badr at his home and listening to his story and music. Badr was born in 1921 in Lebanon to a Lebanese mother and a Syrian father. Yet much of his music career was spent in Iraq, during the country’s “Golden Age,” where he said that King Faisal II was so moved by his music that he granted him an Iraqi citizenship. Badr said that during that time, “People wished to have the good fortune of attaining a visa to Iraq.”

Times have changed, haven’t they?

Badr had said to me, “Today’s music has no meaning, depth or talent. Authentic singing and those who value true art are gone, replaced by too much noise.”

I find this to be the case even in writing, where people spew whatever comes to mind without consideration for authenticity and literature.

Badr felt that the media attributed to this problem. He’d said, “The media has become a school for people. Children imitate and become attracted to idols like Michael Jackson who sometimes behave in an obscene fashion while performing.  And the words singers these days use! Dressed in fine clothes and wearing lots of makeup, female as well as male singers sing about their loved ones abandoning them. Why are pretty singers singing about lost love? Because they are not so pretty on the inside.”

Brian Polis 2.JPG

In the olden days, when legendary singers like Um Kalthoum or Abdel Halim Hafez sang, there was no food or drink served or any other distractions. It was pure music. Back then, when one turned on the radio, one knew a singer’s origin, whether they were Iraqi or Lebanese or Egyptian. Later different singers began mixing things up and using others’ songs and music. Today, many singers and musicians are forced to do the music people want of them, to know everyone else’s songs, in order to make a living and survive in the industry.

In August of 2005, Abdul Karim Badr was given the Golden Oud Award for his fine artistic work, teaching and inspiring a rising new generation. And on August 12, 2006, he was awarded the Michigan Heritage Award in Lansing by the Michigan Traditional Arts Program of the Michigan State University Museum. While he has made many contributions to the arts, he credits his greatest achievement to having married his beautifully elegant and supportive wife of over four decades, Evelyn, who was born in Iran to a Chaldean family.

Brian was very fortunate to have had such a teacher. And the Iraqi American community is fortunate to have a young man like Brian continue the art of music which reminds people, such as myself, of our ancient birth land’s richness. In 1932, Iraq was awarded first prize for music in the Arab world by the Egyptian Music Award. In 1956, the first Arabic television in the Middle East was set up by the British Museum.

Art is important for a healthy democracy. That is it is such a threat to some countries who want to keep their citizens oppressed.

Brian can be contacted on Facebook “Oud player in Michigan  خضر العواد.” By phone 586-424-7101 or email brianoud6@gmail.com

Literary Atmospheres

Literary atmospheres are important at home and outside it. Writing is a solitary act and being in groups will not finish an article let alone a book. However, the support, inspiration, and education that a writer can receive from workshops, conferences, retreats, and other writers help us move forward with our projects. It keeps us going.

I’ve taken as much care in my personal literary atmosphere – my home office – as I have with my outside literary atmosphere – my writing communities that go back decades. There’s a whole world out there to explore, but to have a sense of sacredness and get things done, local organizations provide the type of human relationships that keep us grounded and connected.

In the mid-1990s a university professor advised me to join a writers group that met at Barnes and Nobles in Rochester, Michigan. I was very shy about showing my work to anyone outside of my niece and my then teacher/editor. Finally, I gathered the courage to attend and for the first time read aloud Chapter 1 of my first novel, The Feminine Art. The constructive feedback I received was amazing and the friendships I made from that group was priceless. I’m still close friends with the author who led the group, Marie Gates.

The Rochester Writers Group eventually folded and then Michael Dwyer formed the Freelance Marketplace Writers Group at the same Barnes & Noble location (2800 S. Rochester Road). They meet on the third Tuesday of the month at 7:30 pm and have different topics and guests each month. However, the main conversation is always about the business of writing as it’s not a critique group.  

Rochester Writers2

At the time he started the group, Michael was already an established freelance writer, with articles published in local newspapers, national print magazine and online news outlets. I met the late Hawke Fracassa at one of these meetings. Hawke was an award-winning journalist and mayoral candidate who had several newspapers, the Macomb and Oakland Observer, where I had a column for a few years. Soon, Michael saw a want and need for professional development in the Southeast Michigan for new, working and published writers, so in 2008, he founded and organized Rochester Writers’ Conference.

The first conference, which I’m proud to have presented at, was held at Rochester College. In 2010, it moved to Oakland University where it continues until today. By then, Sonya Julie had come on board, eventually becoming the executive administrator for Rochester Writers. A voracious reader since the age of five, Sonya has been writing creatively for decades. She has published columns in company newsletters and created freelance content for print and digital publications about health, fitness, spirituality, lifestyle, travel, adventure, and community.

Sonya is a passionate believer in creative growth. She enjoys teaching, sharing, coaching, and encouraging people to find their inspiration. She loves interacting with the Michigan writing community and that love has nourished the growth of Rochester Writers. Her support has also allowed Michael a little more free time to do things that he loves, including brewing coffee kombucha, watching Doctor Who, teaching skiing, and feeding peanuts to squirrels out of his kitchen window.

With Michael and Sonya working as a team, the conference quickly grew to being held twice a year – in the spring and the fall – as well as now including tailored workshops throughout the year. The annual fall event in October is a traditional writers’ conference for fiction and non-fiction writers with a variety of genres presented in lecture, workshop, and panel discussion formats. The annual spring event is more of a focused approach – topic, genre, business – that changes every year.

Rochester Writers3

What’s so special about this conference? It’s an easy one-day event for a reasonable rate. You don’t have to travel to New York or L.A. to find good, effective writing instruction, to meet other authors, and to move your career forward. Local writers’ groups and regional authors are involved with making the event happen each October.  Most presenters are Michigan based or have a strong connection to the area. The event is truly Made in Michigan.

I’m happy to present at the upcoming spring conference (March 30) where my wonderful colleague, Sylvia Hubbard, will be keynote speaker. I’ve had her on my show before and she’s truly a great inspiration for emerging and established writers. This year’s theme is “All About Self-Publishing” and other speakers include Lev Raphael, Mel Corrigan and Colleen Gleason. 

A writing career can be quite a struggle, but it has many rewards. Aside from the ability to express ourselves on paper and share our stories with people we may never meet, the lifestyle is beautiful, contemplative, and permits us the opportunity to meet creative writing souls who are worth our time.

For more information or to register for the conference, visit https://rochesterwriters.wordpress.com/conference-registration/

Encouraging and Fostering Writers

Once a retired professor of Middle Eastern Studies said to me that the highest thing any of us can achieve is to be human beings. “Al-Inssan,” he said, is an Arabic word that means more than being man or woman, but being humane, caring, governed by reason and searching for purpose. This man did not try to sell anything to anyone. His motives were simple: “to encourage and foster as the end of my life is nearer than the beginning.”

I learned much from this man and people like him who make it a priority to encourage and foster others as they make their dreams come true.  One such person is Terry Hojnacki, author of I Can See With My Eyes Shut Tight. Terry is an award-winning flash fiction writer, children’s book author, poet, novelist, editor, and lover of words. When not lost in her own words, she edits manuscripts, reads, and encourages other authors to improve and promote their work. Although she had written for decades, with stories getting published in various publications, last year was the most productive year for Terry.

“You never know what moves timing along,” she said. “A great motivator was showing dad something I produced so I got it done.”

The founder and editor-in-chief of Sterling Script: A Local Author Collection, Terry feels that this book is one way she can promote her local writing community.

“In Detroit we have an incredible writing community,” she said. “So many people don’t know that and many writers are afraid to submit their work. Sterling Script was my way of opening up that opportunity for the community. The reward was seeing these authors of diverse background and stories see their name and work.”

Amazon link to Sterling Script

Terry's Book2

Terry is involved in a multitude of writing communities. She is a member of the Detroit Working Writers, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, the Rochester Writers, and the Tuesday Morning Writers. She is the facilitator of the Creative Writers Workshop and volunteer event coordinator for the Local Author Book Sale at the Sterling Heights Public Library. Check out this link for scheduling https://www.sterling-heights.net/590/Library

Her current projects include a contemporary fiction novel, a middle grade adventure, and the 2019 edition of Sterling Script.

The secret to good writing is simply to continue to write and write. If you write a book, continue to the next and the next. For that matter everything comes from plugging away at it. Artistic projects like other endeavors of creativity start with the author and when shared with other collaborators gain life as opposed to being mere words on a page. When the work is finally produced it becomes about the audience. Like the words that you see before you, it’s all about how they can move life forward in the manner where you can find them useful.

We all have something to learn from each other. What’s most important is the singular focus on being the best person you can be and let that reflect upon those you come in contact with. Knowing who you are solves the problems of purpose and your reason for being here. Labels do not serve anyone while you’re in the grave.

Those closest to you are the most important people. Here in America there is too much focus on fame to the point of distraction. The process is more relevant than the fame and fortune because the love of doing something with passion lasts longer. The saying goes, “Be patient with most things, but mostly with yourself.” I wish you success in a whatever field you’re in, but most importantly to find fulfillment in whatever you do.

To learn more about Terry Hojnacki’s work, visit http://www.TerryHojnacki.com

 

Conversations in Silence

Narenda (Nick) was a customer at a family video store I managed for 12 years, called Video Castle. He would often have long conversations with me about God, meditation, and how to live a healthy and well-balanced life. He eventually invited me to his meditation group where I met interesting people from all backgrounds who were in professional fields and dedicated to spiritual growth and connections. Originally from India, Narendra was an engineer so his practical concepts were easy to understand.

“True spirituality is simple, contemporary and practical,” he would say. “It never loses the yardstick of common sense.” 

He introduced me to life-changing books such as Conversations with God and Daughter of Fire. He later wrote his own book, Conversations in Silence, which is a diary of three years which reveals his transition from a fairly typical, stressed-out businessman to a blissful, loving man eager to share his newly spiritual gifts. 

Conversations in Silence

To learn more about Conversations in Silence, click here:

The book focus on his experiences with spiritual master, Mother Meera. Narendra met Mother Meera through a picture. He noticed something extraordinary loving and mesmerizing about this young Indian lady’s big eyes. He learned that she lived in Germany and hoped that one day he would get to meet her. That opportunity came when his work sent him on an assignment in Germany.

Born in a small village in India, she allegedly had her first samadhi, a state of complete spiritual absorption, at the age of six, which lasted for a whole day. When she was 12, her uncle met her for the first time and was convinced that the girl had already appeared to him in the form of visions. He came to believe that she is the Diving Mother and started to take care of her, allowing her to unfold her inner experiences. In 1981 she made her first trip to West Germany, where she settled with her uncle. She married a German in 1982.

Mother Meera.jpg

Mother Meera is an embodiment of the Divine Feminine, the Divine Mother on earth. She gives thousands of visitors her unique blessing of Darshan – in silence – and teaches the unity of all religions. Everyone can go their own ways. It is only important to be connected with the light (the personal spiritual role model) every day by praying, reading or meditating. She doesn’t charge any money for her work and she will not give lectures. Her reported task on Earth was in calling down a dynamic light-force from the Supreme (Paramatman – the supreme Self) in collaboration with other saints and diving beings, as she says, making spiritual progress on earth easier. About this light she says, “Like electricity, the light is everywhere, but one must know how to activate it. I have come for that.” 

Narendra’s accounts in this book, his determination to attain enlightenment, are inspiring. After work as an engineer, he is anxious to drive for hours to sit – even if briefly – in front of Mother Meera. One wonders how this world would be if we gave as much attention to our spiritual growth as we did to the physical and mental aspects of our lives.

In her presence he had numerous supernatural experiences, including many healings. When fully convince, he accepted Yogananda as his Spiritual Master. Through Mother Meera’s help, he was put on fast track and given many spiritual gifts. Most of his spiritual education came in the form of pictures during meditations. One of the gifts is his ability to measure a person’s consciousness level. As a Perceptor, Narendra has the ability to quickly transform people of all faiths and Masters, as ordered by the Divine. In his workshops, he uses everyday language, graphics, and common-sense approach. 

He notes in his book: Reading holy books is a great; the practice of prescribed values comes next. Beyond a point, an individual spiritual journey is so unique that copying someone else’s path alone will not help. During the advanced stage, one cannot join a spiritual club and expect faster results. This journey has to be completed alone just like a surgeon performing a surgery himself. During training, however, a surgeon must be in the company of other experts. Similarly, the spiritual journey requires that we accept our unique true-self once we have been “normalized.”

Here’s a video where Narendra talks about meditation and he holds workshops on some Saturdays in the mornings at the Rochester Library.

Chaldeans and the Theosophical Society

There are times when we stumble upon places that feel like home. These places may have an ancient aura that speaks to us and remind us who we are and what our purpose is on this earth. They inspire to expand and create. Most of these places are right around the corner from where we live, though we might not have ever noticed they exist.

The Theosophical Society is such a place for me. Over a year ago, my niece Sandy invited me to speak at TS about Mesopotamian priestesses and goddesses. Sandy Naimou is a board member of TS. She teaches yoga full-time, primarily at GM, holds a B.A. in psychology, a M.A. in women’s and gender studies, and is currently a TSD board member. She stumbled upon TS when her older son’s Waldorf School was going to close.

“He’d been there for three years,” she said, “and I jumped on board with other parents to save the school.”

She ended up learning from the parents about Rudolph Steiner and his spiritual philosophy of anthroposophy. Sandy went to the library and checked out books about Steiner which talked about theosophy.

“It was mentally challenging reading but I had to know more,” she said.

One day, she had a conversation with a man at the farmer’s market about TS and was surprised when he said, “It’s only a quarter mile from here, around the corner.”

She couldn’t believe that it was so close to her home. Eventually her son’s school did close, but it introduced her to a world she wouldn’t have otherwise known existed.

“The books at the Theosophical Society address so many of my questions,” she said. “As a Chaldean, I found an ethnic tie to the past. I learned that Chaldeans are a part of this history of ancient wisdom. There are Chaldean Oracles and Chaldean magicians and Nestorians, words I’d never heard of before because they were kept hidden.”

 

TS Board Members.JPG

When I spoke at TS about the priestesses and goddesses of Ancient Mesopotamia, I realized how important it was for these deities to be further researched and brought together in a book. I started to work on this subject immediately, using resources from the TS library, such as The Chaldean Account of Genesis. I learned a great deal about my heritage, the history of my birthplace, and I published my 13th book, Mesopotamian Goddesses: Unveiling Your Feminine Power, which was released January 6, 2019. Through the process, I felt the blessings of Russian noblewoman Helena Petrovna Blavatsky.

The Theosophical Society was founded in late 1875 in New York City by Madame Blavatsky, Colonel Henry Steel Olcott, William Quan Judge, and others. Olcott was its first president and continued until his death in 1907. In 1879, Madame Blavatsky and Col. Olcott moved to India, where they eventually set up international headquarters at Adyar on the Bay of Bengal.

The first Russian woman to be naturalized as an American citizen, Madame Blavatsky was widely traveled and she published Isis Unveiled, a book outlining her Theosophical world-view. She described Theosophy as “the synthesis of science, religion, and philosophy,” proclaiming that it was reviving an “ancient wisdom” which underlay all the world’s religions.

TS-Helena Blavatsky

The Detroit Lodge was formed on August 14, 1897, was very active and its meetings took place in various places until the late 1970s when it moved to 27745 Woodward Ave in Berkley which has been its location ever since.

“The Theosophical Society is not a religion but a way of life,” said Mary Jo Kokochak, current president of TS who has been a member for over 44 years. “It encourages individual research, is non-dogmatic, but also provides essential principles on which to build an intelligent philosophy of life. It is practical and emphasizes service, living a ‘harmless’ life, and compassion for all beings.”

Mary Jo formerly worked for the department of social services in Detroit and for vocational rehabilitation services in Pontiac. During those years, she lived in Southfield and traveled every day to the inner city. The discrepancy between how people lived in the inner city and in Pontiac was so different than the comfort she lived in Southfield, it bothered her and caused her to question the situation of life. She wondered, “Why do some people experience poverty, hardships and suffering and why I’m fortunate to have a happy life? Why are some people born healthy, others with physical handicaps?”

One day, browsing the aisles of the May Flower Bookstore in Ferndale, she came across a book called Egyptian Book of the Dead.

“It like fell on top of me,” she said. “Another day another book at the bookstore fell on top of me.”

She began reading these books at a time when she was going through traumatic experiences.  Within two years, the doctors discovered a tumor in her breast; then she got a divorce; followed by a car accident where she had a near death experience and saw white light; and she lost all possessions when her home burned down.

“I ran out barefoot in my bathrobe,” she said. “That’s when I finally got the message and started seriously searching for the meaning of life.”

She joined the Theosophical Society where she immediately felt at home.

“I realized that each individual comes to this world specific to their life as well as general purpose in all of life,” she said.

She later moved to TS’s headquarters in Wheaton, Illinois and got a Master’s degree in library science. She worked as a librarian for seven years, got married, and moved to Ojai, California where she worked at Krotona Institute of Theosophy as a librarian. Eventually she returned to Michigan.

Today the International TS has members in almost 70 countries around the world. Their three objectives are to form a nucleus of the Universal Brotherhood of Humanity, without distinction of race, creed, sex, caste, or color; to encourage the study of comparative religion, philosophy, and science,; and to investigate the unexplained laws of nature and the powers latent in man.

Since my first time speaking at the TS, I’ve had many wonderful opportunities to give talks and do workshops about my areas of expertise in writing, shamanism and mysticism. I’m looking forward to my next talk there on International Women’s Day, March 8th at 7pm, where I’ll be discussing Mesopotamian Goddesses, the Untold Stories.

To learn more, visit www.tsdetroit.org

Theosophical Society Theosophical Society2.jpg

A Night in Nineveh

Nineveh was an ancient city on the eastern bank of the Tigris River in Mesopotamia, which is modern-day Iraq. It is one of the oldest and greatest cities in antiquity. The area was settled as early as 6000 BC and by 3000 BC had become an important religious center for worship of the goddess Ishtar.

“Nineveh was the superpower of her day,” my pastor once said during a church sermon. “It required three days to circle metropolitan Nineveh. And the Ninevites lived large. They enjoyed the best chariots, the finest food, and the most exotic entertainment. It had an extensive business and commercial system like none in the world. In addition, it had ruled the world for 200 years and was the strongest military power. Sounds familiar?”

Yes, very much so.

Nineveh is where Jonah was swallowed for three days and three nights by a whale. It’s where he was called to preach, to help its people repent and change their ways. Despite its great power, this ancient city was attacked and reduced to rubble by a number of groups as Nahum had prophesied. Nahum was a minor prophet whose prophecy is recorded in the Hebrew Bible or Old Testament. By 612, the city was left lost and buried until its rediscovery by archaeologists in the mid-19th century.

What happened in recent times to that region is truly tragic. After the advancement of ISIS in 2014, most of Nineveh was emptied of the Assyrian Chaldean Syriac people for the first time in thousands of years. 12,970 homes, 363 churches and 140 public properties were destroyed. The people who fled ended up living on the streets and in tents in the city of Ankawa, Kurdistan. Every effort was made by ISIS to destroy one of the oldest and most influential cultures in world history, bulldozing cemeteries, desecrating ancient churches and burning irreplaceable books. Without a country, minority groups were, and still are, bombarded from every angle with Arab, Kurdish, Iranian, Syrian, and western influences.

In response to this catastrophe, a young group of Americans of Mesopotamian heritage quickly formed a nonprofit organization called Shlama, which means “peace.” Peace is what they ultimately wanted to give back to their community so that they can thrive and prosper in their native lands. Today, most families who remained in Iraq have moved back to their villages. Shlama continues to be fully committed to supporting them in rebuilding their lives.

The organization’s board members are very creative. They provide a spreadsheet that states the name of the donor, the amount they donated, and a link to a short YouTube video that portrays how and for whom the money was used, with photos of the receipts.  In each video, the recipient(s) express their situation, thank the donor by name and address how the money has touched them. This not only shows where the money went, but it also creates a relationship between the donor and the recipient.

shlama1  shlama2

Currently Shlama is organizing a mission’s trip to Iraq in March and before that, they’re having a fundraising event on March 1st called A Night in Nineveh where I’m honored to be the guest speaker. I’ll be sharing stories about the women of Ancient Mesopotamia, the history of education and schools in that region and healthcare and doctoring, and I’ll be talking about the marriage customs of the olden days. At this event, there will be lively music, great food, and a number of fun stations where you get to experience the colorful and rich traditions of ancient Mesopotamia.

The name Mesopotamia was changed to Iraq by the British in the early twentieth century when they occupied the region. Up until the 2003 US-led invasion, the general public was not aware that this area is the cradle of civilization. Writing, the first school, law, literature, a map of the world, and the idea of dividing time and space into a multiple of 60’s started in this historic land. Man’s most important invention, the wheel, was devised in Mesopotamia, as was plumbing, the plow and the sailboat. Iraq is the birthplace of Prophet Abraham, supposedly the site of the Garden of Eden, and where many biblical stories occurred. The first writer in recorded history was Enheduanna, a woman from ancient Iraq. She lived, composed, and taught roughly 2,000 years before Aristotle and 1,700 years prior to Sappho. Before the “golden age” of Greece.

It’s unfortunate that the region where science, astronomy, and numerous inventions were a prominent way of life has become the exact opposite of what it once was. But it’s inspiring that the youth connected to its ancestors have not forgotten their heritage and are highlighting it in celebratory and humanitarian ways.

For more info about the event, visit https://www.shlama.org/events

3ec4ff5b-ede7-44ec-a3bf-5ca9dd62bc84

The World of Wellness

I was at the hospital a few days ago, waiting for my mother’s procedure to be done. She had a blood clot in her left arm which needed to be removed in order for the blood to flow through the arm. I decided to take the stairs from the fourth floor to the first floor to grab a coffee from Starbucks. On each level, there were signs encouraging one to walk and take steps to maintain a strong heart and have a good night’s sleep. That’s interesting, I thought, that we, the two-legged ones, are encouraged to do a movement that ought to be a regular part of our routine when other animals, especially the non-domesticated ones, don’t need to be reminded. I take walks every day unless something urgent prevents me from doing so, like being here with my mom in the hospital.

Over the centuries, humans have steered very far from doing the simplest tasks that bring us joy and good health. The proof of the pudding is in the eating. It’s rare for us these days not to encounter obesity at every corner, even in children. People have become obsessed with food and, for the most part, abandoned nature and exercise, not necessarily a regiment exercise but the act of, for instance, mopping the floor in an old fashioned manner. In Iraq and even here in America, the woman in my family mopped the floors using the famous posture known in yoga as downward facing dog. It was an excellent way to clean and stay fit and we didn’t have to go to a yoga studio to do it.

“As both a stretching and strengthening asana, downward dog provides incredible balance for mind and body,” says Lauren Weisman, senior yoga and Core Fusion teacher at Exhale Spa in Santa Monica, California. “It also targets your upper and lower body at the same time, so you’ll feel it in your hands, arms, shoulders, back, calves, hamstrings and even the arches of your feet.”

world of wellness 2

Our relationship with food and nutrition is tumultuous, to say the least, and it has created thousands of harmful diet fads. The word diet first appeared in English in the 13th century. Its original meaning was the same as in modern English, “habitually taken food and drink.” But diet was used in another sense too in the Middle and early modern English periods to mean “way of living.”  

What is your way of living? That’s what matters. How do you care of yourself in a world that is bombarded with unhealthy ways of living?

Given my upbringing in an eastern country and my teachings of shamanism and other ancient traditions that were passed down to me, I have learned quite a bit about health and wellness. I have learned the importance of balancing our yin and yang energies, our Sacred Wheel – the physical, emotional, spiritual, and intellectual aspects of ourselves. As a storyteller, I see how our words and stories affect our way of life. I’ve been sharing these ancient teachings through my books, workshops, and spiritual and writing retreat, and I’m very happy to see the world embracing this new but technically old way of life as, frankly, they’ve come to realize they have no other choice.

Over the years, I’ve met and collaborated with many practitioners and experts working to help people transform their lives and to make this world a better place. Diane Dovico is one of them. She and I have formed a friendship based on our desire to serve.

Diane is the Integrative Wellness Program Administrator at the Alliance of Coalitions for Healthy Communities. She creates and facilitates educational programs, initiatives, and campaigns for all who live in Oakland Country. Diane spent 21 years as the Executive Director of the Royal Oak Community Coalition, a nonprofit and has over 40 years of experience facilitating successful collaborations between individuals, families, businesses, schools, and social organizations to address challenging social conditions and creating sustainable solutions.

Diane played a pivotal role in helping me with the administrative aspects of The Path of Consciousness, the spiritual and writing conference and retreat that took place last October. This year, she invited me to be one of many wonderful speakers at the World of Wellness (WOW) Symposium taking place on Saturday, February 9. WOW’s goal is to equip the audience with take-home skills they can do on their own.

Diane asked me to discuss narrative therapy as she’d attended one of my workshops at the Royal Oak library and found the topic fascinating.  The other speakers have many fascinating topics as well, from the powerful role that art can have on your overall health and healing to mindfulness medications to promote greater mind/body healing. This event is a beautiful way to be reminded of the ancients, of techniques that were used thousands of years ago which need to be brought into our daily lives today.

The World of Wellness Symposium is Saturday, February 9th from 9:30 am to 2:00pm at UFCW Hall – 876 Horace Brown, Madison Hts., MI  48071. The doors open at 9:30am and the program begin at 10:00 – 2:00.  A light breakfast and lunch will be served. Early registration is encouraged at: www.tinyurl.com/ACHCWOW2019 For more information, like us on Facebook: www.tinyurl.com/infoonWOW2019

world of wellness

Avatar: The Compassion Project

There are so many people doing great work in our neighborhoods. Do we know who they are? Do we utilize their skills and talents or do we spend our day in front of the television and on our electronics, viewing and complaining about what isn’t going right thousands of miles away? 

If we try, we find what we’re looking for. It might take days or years, but in the end, we connect with that which lives within us – whether it’s love, fear, success, or the desire to do good in the world. And most of the time, we find it in our backyards. Myself, I keep connecting with people who are interested in improving their lives and the lives of those around them. They want to raise consciousness, knowing that that would lead to a healthier and kinder humanity.

Bestselling author and yogi Sadhguru said that if we want a better society and not just better laws, we have to create a more stable life for our youths. We need to find profound thought-out solutions and not simply react with one violent act against another violent act. The world will not change with stricter laws and more protests, he said, but with individual transformation. A transformed person lives in a cultivated way not because they fear the law, but because they have magnificent ideas about themselves that go beyond their physical nature. Each time a person transforms, they then can help someone else transform, and so on. Then violence would go down considerably. 

I truly believe in that, and I also believe that we don’t do the world any justice by constantly holding up negative images for people to see. Yes, there’s a dark side that should not be ignored, but the way to heal our earth from that and shift it to a better direction is by creating conscious solutions. This is why I love organizations such as Avatar.

Avatar is a series of self-development courses founded in 1986 by Harry Palmer. It enable you to rediscover your self and align your consciousness with what you want to achieve. It’s a way to experience your own unique insights and revelations. In this program, no one will tell you what to believe or who you are. It’s you finding out about you. 

One of the best parts of working with Avatar is that it is tailored to people’s own interests,” said Derek Stottlemyer. “People work on areas that are meaningful to them.”

Derek had attended one of my talks at the Theosophical Society last year, and during the fall, I saw him again at the Unity Church of Farmington Hills. That’s when he told me about Avatar. Derek has been a licensed Avatar® Master for 4 1/2 years, delivering the material to students locally as well as at four International Courses each year in Orlando. He is active in many groups locally and is promoting the development of Conscious Cafe’s in the area.

Derek is involved in the Compassion Project, often working at expos and events to share the compassion exercise and invite people into further explorations with the Avatar tools. This effort takes the compassion exercise (one of 30 in Section 1 of the Avatar Course) and makes it available on a folding card that is easy to share. The original goal was to reach 1 million people, and now we are going for our 6th million. It has been translated into 34 languages and has been shared all over the planet.

Prior to Avatar, he had been a Peace Corps volunteer, spending a little over three years in the Dominican Republic working with small farmers on sustainable practices. Upon returning home he taught himself programming by creating software for guitar players which introduced him to web-entrepreneurship. He has been the tech lead for several startups as well as global projects.

“The Avatar organization believes we can create a better world by raising human consciousness one person at a time. In alignment with this goal, The Avatar Course is a nine day, non-religious course that allows a person to reconnect with their true spiritual self. And along the way, students on this course discover the source of their issues, problems and concerns, learn ways to resolve and eliminate those issues, problems and concerns, and as a consequence gain the ability to create the life they want. This is known as living deliberately.”  — R. S.

Derek had me do the Compassion Exercise during our interview and it’s really something you should take the time to do, especially as you prepare for the New Year. 

Avatar Card

If you would like to know more about Avatar or to schedule a free info hour (by phone or in person) feel free to contact him at (248)635-8216 or at derek@explore-avatar.com

To learn about the compassion project, visit: https://theavatarcourse.com/the-compassion-project-eng.html
To learn more or request a personal Avatar experience – visit: https://explore-avatar.com/derek/info-request

 

The Healing Power of Memoir

A few weeks ago I sat next to Angela Rochon at Marcus Grill, enjoying the Christmas luncheon hosted by Detroit Working Writers. Angela recently had her first book published, a memoir called Fatherless. I remember many meetings over the years where Angela shared her writings for this book with the DWW critique group. I always enjoyed reading about her Italian relatives and the kitchen flooded with various ingredients and aromas. It reminded me so much of my Chaldean family and culture. 

Angela’s book is really about her father, Angelo. His family was joyful, hard-working, devout, and kindhearted, except for Vito, the murderer. Born to a widwo who was widowed again, Angela helped raise his half siblings. Sicilian immigrants in steel-city Youngstown, Ohio cherished this thoughtful boy. World War II brought him to Algonac, Michigan, as a leader of men.

“Hope and love were his signature features,” said Angela. “The village embraced him, commending his kindness.”

Angelo became wealthy, but haunted by the memory of hunger. He built a church and treasured his family, who soon became fatherless.

During our lunch, Angela and I spoke about how we each felt writing our memoirs, the healing power in the process. We traveled centuries back, visited family stories we never knew existed, understood the root of some feuds, and in our hearts, reconciled a lot of relationships. Through our memoirs, we also shared beautiful memories, including our culture’s customs, cooking, and celebrations.

Fatherless, which spans two centuries, describes Ellis Island immigration, world wars, the Great Depression, national prosperity, and recessions. In it, there’s a reconciliation after a fifty-year feud. Angela writes, “Instead of Ancestry websites, Aunt Agata and I researched our ancestry at Ellis Island, sharing the date with our family. We discussed details. Our memory mining conversations became her gifts to me. Mine were her brief diversions from her deteriorating health.” 

In writing memoir, happy scenes comfort us while difficult ones arouse a painful past. But they also help us understand and stop reliving that past. When you take the time to look at a situation from beginning to end, when you write it down, you’re able to see it from a different perspective. Maybe you blamed one parent for an incident without having sat down and putting yourself in his or her shoe. Taking the time to look at your memories objectively and to make sense of them helps you come to terms with your feelings, with old wounds. It shows you family patterns, such as in Angela’s case, sudden deaths at early ages, resilience, and reconciliation. 

Angela9-page-001.jpg

As a psychiatric therapist and an educator who held management positions in university and secondary schools, Angela’s experiences led her to teach memoir writing, guiding reminiscence groups, grief support, and doing public speaking. She continued writing throughout this time, winning awards for her poetry, as she published work in newspaper columns, magazines, and academic journals. She earned the Toastmasters International DTM. 

For her memoir Fatherless, Angela went as far as doing genograms that placed six generations in relation to each other, prompting memories and giving her reader concise visuals. Genograms graphed generational effects of tragedies and joys and focused on medical, genetic, or emotional relationships.

Writing memoir is healing, and it’s also fun. Angela recalls a grandchild calling the Statue of Liberty “the Statue of Literally.” 

“It is,” said Angela. “All my genes literally are from Italian immigrants to New York City.” 

Angela2_WeddingPicture.jpg

Contact A. M. Andino Rochon at a.m.rochon@aol.com to comment or schedule Mining Memories or Introduction to Genograms events or speeches.

Some upcoming events:

 

02/07/19:

Legacies of Life Memories, 6 PM, Algonac/Clay Library, 2011 St Clair River Drive, Algonac MI 48001, Reservations requested at 810 794-4471

 

02/21/19:

Legacies of Life Memories, 6 PM, Algonac/Clay Library, 2011 St Clair River Drive, Algonac MI 48001, Reservations requested at 810 794-4471

 

02/28/19:

Legacies of Life Memories, 6 PM, Algonac/Clay Library, 2011 St Clair River Drive, Algonac MI 48001, Reservations requested at 810 794-4471

 

03/05/19:

Legacies of Life Memories, 11:30 AM, Port Huron Senior Center, at 600 Grand River Ave, Port Huron MI 48060, 810 984-5061, 800 297-0099

Embracing Your Passion

As 2018 comes to an end, I’ve been winding down and reflecting, looking back at a fulfilling and productive year with family, friends, and work. Some of the highlights were starting my weekly show on January 2nd, having my first spiritual and writing retreat, called the Path of Consciousness, and establishing a nonprofit organization, called Unique Voices in Films. Through the process, I met the most wonderful people and invited them on my show to share their inspiring stories. One of these people is Joseph A Drolshagen.

Joseph is an author, transformational coach, and a speaker, sharing the stage with world-renown teachers such as Mary Morrissey. For over 23 years he has worked with individuals, helping them build their dreams. He has appeared on numerous radio programs, writes a monthly column called “Coaches Corner” in the Magic Happens magazine and has a Youtube Channel. Check out Thursday’s Coaches Corner with Joseph A Drolshagen!

During the summer Joseph led a workshop at the Unity Church in Farmington Hills where he talked about some of the challenges he faced growing up in a society that places pressure on men to make a lot of money to succeed and to be competitive and winning. Earlier in his life, he did what was expected of him, had the ideal corporate job, but he knew deep down that he was living someone else’s dream. He one day decided to throw away the expectations, embrace his own passions, and live his own dream. His decisions transformed his life, leading him to live in the mountains of South Carolina, to write a book, called Life’s Lessons, and to provide coaching in an effort to help others transform their lives as well.

To learn more, visit Joseph’s website www.IFGTcoach.com

“I’ve worked with people who dread Mondays and the work week ahead,” he said. “They start the week already feeling worn out and tired. I help ignite their dreams so they feel re-energized with passion and excitement toward living their dreams.”  

Joseph asks,

  • How would it feel to wake up Monday mornings excited about how you’re spending your week?
  • What would being creative look like for you?
  • How can you breathe life into our dreams on a daily basis and do so with ease and enjoyment?

“Some of my clients who were in a relationship lacking passion or seeking to bring an awesome relationship into their life, felt lonely and let down, and craved a love relationship,” he said. “I helped them build a strong vision of the relationship they want in their lives.”

Joseph asks,

  • What is your vision for a special love relationship?
  • How would it feel to have a real closeness and true heart connection?

“I’ve worked with people who have struggled with their health and wellbeing,” he said. “Through building the dream of a life of vibrancy, health and true happiness, their lives are literally transformed. Some have come off of anxiety medications and moved from a life of worry and fear into soaring into their greatest vision and dreams.”

Joseph asks,

  • How would you feel to wake up in the morning with vibrancy and excitement to get your day going?
  • How would you spend your day based on having energy, health and passion?

“I’ve worked with clients who battle with time and money freedom,” he said. “They work so hard and are so tired by the weekend that they didn’t have the time or energy to enjoy the benefits of all their efforts. But through opening up their dreams and bringing those forth with passion and abundance they had the chance to enjoy traveling to wonderful places with breathtaking surroundings like Alaska, Hawaii, National Parks, France, waterfalls, and camping.”

Joseph asks,

  • How would you feel waking up seeing the ocean and taking a morning stroll on the beach, or enjoying sitting near a breathtaking waterfall?
  • What is that dream place for you?
  • Where would you go?
  • What would you do if you knew you had time and money freedom on your side?

“It all starts with a clear vision, with a single decision,” he said. “Some people live for 90 years. Other people live one year 90 times, and continue to repeat the same patterns holding them back. The number of years we live is limited, but your life doesn’t have to be.”

Joseph2
Sharing the stage with Mary Morrissey in L.A. during a Life Mastery Institute event, to inspire and motivate over 400 people.

At the end of the workshop, Joseph did an exercise that I found really effective. I ended up scheduling a one-hour Strategy Session with him where we talked about my wanting to create more of a balance between family and work. He’s offering anyone who sees this interview a complimentary Strategy Session (just tell him you saw his interview or read this article).  

I’ve been fortunate, and smart enough, to work with some of the best coaches, and it has helped my life on a personal and professional level. If you want to build momentum for 2019, take advantage of this generous offer, to really ignite your passion and dream, and to have a blessed New Year!

Joseph6

To learn more, visit Joseph’s website www.IFGTcoach.com

Joseph4.jpg