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.”

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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!

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

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The Goddess Within

It was such a joy to connect with a woman writer who shares my Mesopotamian roots and my interests in the role of feminism within a patriarchal culture where, Helen Talia says, “We need to end the finger-pointing and place ourselves back on the roadmap to honor our feminine power as we turn to self-care.”

Helen is a CPA, Assyrian feminist, and writer and contributor for the Chicago Tribune. I read her article “Gender and Engenderment” published by the Tribune in 2013 and, appreciating her perspective, felt I must quote her in my upcoming book Mesopotamian Goddesses: Unveiling Your Feminine Power (publication date January 6, 2019 and available for pre-orders). I also invited her to come on my show to further discuss this topic.

The land of milk and honey, known as ancient Mesopotamia and the cradle of civilization, is located between two rivers: the Tigris and the Euphrates. Mesopotamia is mostly modern-day Iraq and Kuwait and parts of Iran, Syria, and Turkey. It is the setting for much of the Old Testament, including the Garden of Eden, the birth of Adam and Eve, and Prophet Abraham.

Some of the most significant developments or inventions credited to the Mesopotamians include writing, the wheel, agriculture, beer, sailboats, irrigation, religious rites, and separation of time into hours, minutes, and seconds (the clock). Many “firsts” were discovered there: laws, contracts, written music, doctors, bicameral congress, mitigation, mathematics, astronomy, and much more.

A great number of stories come from that region, but up until the last hundred years or so, it seemed as if the men had single-handedly built the civilization that influenced the city-states as we know it today. What role did women play in the building of this great empire that gifted us with our modern-day lifestyle? Well, they had plenty of roles which ranged from writing to brewing beer. Every male triad had its feminine counterpart, wrote Russian noblewoman and co-founder of the Theosophical Society H. P. Blavatsky in Isis Unveiled.

In her article, Helen writes that in ancient civilizations such as the Sumerians (3500-1750 B.C.) and in Hinduism (2000 B.C.), where spirituality was more customary, women were regarded in high esteem and hailed as deities, mainly due their ability to procreate. Yet as man strayed away from spirituality and scrimmaged into organized religions, the divine being engendered a male-image (one supreme being), ruler of all, heaven and earth. The dominance that birthed Judeo-Christian, and later Islam, three domineering religions, all founded in the Middle-East, gave way to the very woman, once hailed, to became the ultimate sacrifice – veiling, stoning, honor killing, and female genital mutilation.

Chapter 5 - Innana and Ereshkegal

Through the research for Mesopotamian Goddesses, I discovered that there was a design and rhythm to the Garden of Eden, a balance and harmony. Then, women lost their power through a pattern of falsehoods. We live in a time of vision when people are searching for a new and more balanced way of life. To create that balance, we first have to heal the earth by opening up these stories and putting them back onto the page and into our collective memory. To bring forth a transformed understanding of feminine consciousness, and create a healthy marriage in society that’s based on equal male and female energies.

“In the Assyrian culture, without a doubt, motherhood is hailed as the highest role that a woman will take on in her lifetime,” says Helen. “However, in the Western societies, the Assyrian woman has also taken on additional roles, mainly working outside of her home. And while this is a highly praised socio-economic role, the Innana in all of us, without a question, has been neglected… due to pressed schedules, competition, or our own desertion.”

In the year 2013, she pointed out that women who take on social issues are likely to be more outspoken and have a proactive approach that offer change in present systems, yet are also quickly shunned and cast out by their societies which lack democracy in their backbones. And that it is in these same climates that you will find the only women who climax to power are the ones who stand on the crutches of men.

She is right, but things are quickly changing, especially in America where we’re witnessing a rise with women in political, social, and religious roles. Women are stepping up to help restore peace and balance into our lives. Together with their male counterparts, we have a wonderful opportunity create a beautiful future for our children and grandchildren.

The Authors Guild Co-Ambassadors

The Authors Guild of America, the nation’s oldest and largest professional writing organization, with approximately 10,000 members, has served the collective voice of American authors since its beginnings in 1912 in New York. Earlier this year, the Guild expanded its national outreach by launching 14 regional chapters to host a variety of programs serving members in their local writing communities.

Twenty-eight Guild members were chosen to serve as ambassadors to lead the first group of chapters, in Los Angeles, San Diego, the Bay Area, Washington, D.C., St. Petersburg/Tampa, Chicago, Boston, Detroit, Raleigh-Durham, Las Vegas, New York City, Cleveland, Philadelphia, and Seattle. The two members selected to serve as ambassadors in Detroit were myself and Violet St. Karl. The first time I met Violet, we enjoyed discussing ways to design literary events and programs and we discovered we had so many other interests in common.

Violet’s first novel in her series, Collection of the Negatives, is available for pre-orders. The book will be published January 11, 2019, making her the first Albanian-American science fiction and fantasy author. St. Karl is a German translation of her Albanian last name, which is the surname she writes under, as her Albanian name has four constants in a row and is often too difficult for English speakers to pronounce.

Violet’s love affair with science fiction and fantasy began at the tender age of four when she was introduced to the film Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, but it took nearly three decades and nudges from the universe to focus on writing. While living on the Upper West Side of New York, Violet learned her apartment was the former site of Edgar Allen Poe’s farmhouse, where he completed writing The Raven. Although an interesting fact to share, she shrugged it off as coincidence and was unconvinced to give writing and the stories in her head any attention. It wasn’t until the following year that her mind changed, as she once again, without prior knowledge, found herself living in the former residence of a famous writer. After learning that not only the flat but the room she was sleeping in belonged to Mercè Rodoreda i Gurguí, a famous Catalan writer, Violet believed it was a bold attempt from the universe to push her to write because, she says, “Coincidence doesn’t strike twice.”  

The dictionary describes coincidence as two or more events coming together in a surprising, unexpected way without an obvious casual explanation. There have been many studies about coincidences. Austrian biologist Paul Kammerer believed that coincidences arise out of unknown forces, or waves, that he called seriality. Psychiatrist Carl Jung in the 1950s came up with a similar idea, his so-called synchronicity theory, to describe these remarkable occurrences. Regardless of the scientific meanings that try to define them, these experiences can be valuable or worthless depending on how we listen to them.

Many good writers I know have fallen short of materializing the articles, poems, or books they want because they’ve ignored numerous nudges from the universe. They felt paralyzed by fear, lack, inferiority, or dependence on a person or an institution to validate their work. In Violet’s case, she stopped to think of what’d occurred, looked at the situation, listened to the message being communicated, and took action. Today she’s celebrating the result of her hard work.  

Violet lived for over a decade in New York, and after her return, she’s proud to be representing the Authors Guild as co-ambassador. When not writing or focused on strengthening the local literary community, she is planning which country, city or restaurant to explore next. She says that outside of writing science fiction, travel and food are her other two passions. I’m very excited to work with her to help nurture and expand the literary community in Michigan.

Recently, we met up with Andrew Raupp, also an Authors Guild member, at Skyline Club’s monthly event in Southfield. Andrew is the founder of STEM.org, a credentialed journalist with over 15 years of international experience, and he’s the organizer of Skyline Club, which is hosting our next Authors Guild event on Tuesday, December 11 at 6 pm. Our guest speaker will be Joseph Drolshagen, the author of Life’s Lessons.

Joseph

Joseph will discuss how to explore your creative passion in the New Year. (light refreshments will be served) For more information, visit https://leadership.pagecloud.com/ Please RSVP by emailing detroitchapter@authorsguild.org

Special thanks to those who support our literary world! 

Authors Guild             Dec. Event2 Dec. Event

A New Chapter in Female Reproductive Physiology

Over three decades ago, Dr. Kuldeep Verma invented an entirely new medical concept in women – that the oxidation reduction status of the uterus at the time of conception influences the outcome of fetal gender. This redox status alternates between two consecutive mental cycles. Conception in one kind of environment leads to boys and vice versa. This led to the development of the world’s first real preconception gender planning test as well as earliest fetal gender detect test.

“All women have alternating boy-girl-boy-girl specific cycles naturally,” said Dr. Verma. “And this phenomenon is genetically controlled. Hormones in their natural concentrations are extremely powerful.”

Dr. Varma successfully tested about 1500 preconception samples to prove the point and 92% couples were naturally getting the baby of their choice just by conceiving in the right cycle. The success rate has increased today to 94%. This is without any medications, gender diets, douches, moon theories, etc.

“I discovered that the conception locks the existing redox environment till the fetus is miscarried or delivered,” he said. “She stops alternating after conception just like she stops menstruating. This is a new chapter in female reproductive physiology which will soon find its way to medical books.”

Dr. Varma has long history of accomplishments as a biochemist. In 1976, he won President Invention Award in India for inventing a portable micro filtration as little as two drops using in-built vacuum as well as pressure.  As a research associate in molecular biology in North Carolina State University, he successfully created genetic libraries, isolated and validated a gene for esterase enzyme from pesticide resistant insect and recommended its use in soil bioremediation. Now it’s a full-fledged department at NCSU. It is there that he also developed a new way to manufacture an iodinated chemical and demonstrated its effectiveness in deactivating reverse transcriptase enzyme of HIV virus.

“This has the potential of controlling HIV virus,” he said. “My son used this data to get admission to medical school”

For a decade, Dr. Verma worked for the Detroit Wastewater Treatment Plant, which process one billion gallons of water per day. He observed that the management is being played by corrupt suppliers and contractors by selling harmful and useless chemicals to the plant. The plant was buying chemicals worth $150 million per year and then spent approximately $75 million per year to repair the problems caused by these chemicals which including enormous foaming, explosions and corrosion of machinery and tank walls.

“Foam used to come out of building and filled the roads,” he said. “I suggest to the management that I can solve these problems if I am allowed to study the redox potential of water throughout the plant. There were some visionaries who agreed. Within a year, he provided effective solutions to dewatering and foaming problems in the plant. Since then, the foaming issue has been completely eliminated. DWTP won an award on efficiency in 2017. He continued developing and patenting new approaches to wastewater processing, advising operators to add chemical based on oxidation reduction potential of water rather than pH, BOD, DO.

“The local steel industries and chemical suppliers hated me because they could not now dump their ferrous chloride waste in rivers or lakes due to EPA regulations and also because I exposed them for selling inferior product to the City of Detroit,” he said. “They forced the management to kick me out. I preferred to retire and pay full attention to my own business, Urobiologics. I’m so glad I did.”

His dedication to this work has helped thousands of couples from all over the world, for an affordable cost, have a balanced family. Couples in current economic conditions cannot afford large families. The practice of just keep trying to get one baby of desired gender leads to multiple babies of same gender.

“Soon the blame-game starts and leads to domestic violence,” he said. “In absence of any scientific method, this continued, but no more. We think that smaller balanced families will make happy communities with lesser spousal abuse or domestic violence.”

Dr. Verma explained that whereas man provides both X and Y chromosome bearing sperms, the uterus preferentially selects either X or Y, depending upon the kind of cycle she is in. By collecting urine samples at home, women from any country can ship them through couriers of their choice at their own cost. It is perfectly legal to ship urine samples across international borders under “Exempt human Specifications.”

“Pregnancies are occurring anyway, why not target the conception to balance the family?” he asks, adding that it’s simple. “To conceive a boy, try in a boy cycle. To conceive a girl, try in a girl cycle.”

To learn more, visit https://urobiologics.com/ or contact (313) 574-7500 drverma@urobiologics.om

This is how PreGender Preconception test works.

Interview with USA Today Bestselling Author

Janel Gradowski is a USA Today and Amazon #1 bestselling author who emailed me earlier this year inquiring about the Path of Consciousness spiritual and writing retreat. Checking out her website, I was impressed by her accomplishments and immediately drawn to all seven of her book covers. They portray a smart, strong and unique woman who is creative in many ways and places, including in the kitchen.

“My book covers always hint at what will happen in the story,” she later told me. “It could be the culinary competition that my main character, Amy, is competing in or events that are happening in her life. Since it’s a cozy mystery series, there’s also a skull and crossbones included somewhere on every cover. I love that my cover artist, Lyndsey Lewellen, always does a good job in conveying Amy’s confidence and creativity.”

Janel and I have several similarities: we care how women are portrayed in our books and on the book covers; we are both prolific writers; coffee is an integral part of her writing process; exploring new places and going on culinary adventures are a few of the passions that fuel our creativity.

Beyond her culinary mystery series, Janel has also had many flash fiction stories, her first writing love, published both online and in print. Her next book will be in the women’s fiction genre. The main character is a solo entrepreneur who has worked so hard to establish herself in the business world that the rest of her life has fallen apart.

“The new story will detail how the main character will go from living only for her work to enjoying her life again,” Janel said. “I think it’s something that a lot of women can relate to, putting ourselves last in order to help everyone else.”

I definitely can relate to that. In my four-part memoir series, Healing Wisdom for a Wounded World: My Life-Changing Journey Through a Shamanic School, I share how hard I worked on myself to establish boundaries, follow my dreams, and allow myself self-care.

After a few months of emails, I met Janel in person at the spiritual and writing retreat. We connected on a deeper level. Within a matter of three weeks, we saw each other several times even though the drive to my side of town is some 90 minutes. One reason is that, outside of writing, we have a love and appreciation for a lot of similar things. In our last gathering, we barely discussed writing and yet we had a great time because, after all, there’s more to life than writing. There’s life!

I’ve often advised emerging writers that, along the writing journey, it’s important that they keep their priorities straight and have a balance rather than obsess over their writing. What’s the use of having a great book if you have a lousy life? These days especially, having a great life can easily translate into a great book.

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At the Path of Consciousness spiritual and writing retreat

Janel lives in rural central Michigan surrounded by farm fields and wildlife, a community that has a yearly Corn Festival. Her family consists of her husband, a son, and a daughter. She has a plant named Hitch. She followed her intuition, started her writing career later in life but easily succeeded. She’s into things like energy healing, aromatherapy, malas, mantras, journaling, law of attraction, manifesting, energy crystals and smudging. She loves that her hair is turning gray, says that “Silver hair rocks!” and her favorite quote is by George Eliot: “It’s never too late to be what you might have been.”

Given her personality and involvement in spiritual work, Janel and I evidently also have many similar beliefs. Janel believes that the right thing to do is not always the easiest; the more one uses their intuition, the stronger it becomes; a person is in charge of the vibes that he/she projects into the world; we get what we focus on – thoughts become reality. And my favorite belief of hers – which I learned through my shamanic apprenticeship and which I’ve been teaching for years now – is “When I change the stories I tell myself about my life, I change how I live my life.”

http://www.janelgradowski.com

The Value of Your Attention

Written by Sandy Naimou
Yoga Teacher,
B.A. in Psychology and
M.L.A. in Women’s and Gender Studies
https://www.sandynaimou.com/ 

Your attention is your greatest asset and everyone is trying to get it.  Your partner, children, boss, parents, family members, friends, are all trying to get your attention.  You agreed, on some level, to give them your attention.  In some way, you all agreed, and you have chosen to give your attention in exchange for theirs.  

Others are trying to get your attention and you don’t know who they are.  You haven’t chose to have a relationship with these people, but they’re forcing their relationship on you.  For example, advertisements are everywhere and they are forcing themselves on you.  It sounds violent, doesn’t it?  It sounds like a physical assault, actually.  It very well is a form of assault on your mind, especially in the way that it can be done; in the way that changes your values without you realizing it.  Similarly, in the way that advertisements are meant to make you do something that benefits others (those who are advertising on you), it is a robbery.  

Now, you and I both market to others.  I understand.  So this is a sensitive topic, but I have to go forward.  It’s too important.

In all ways, your attention is your greatest asset.  It’s like a precious rare and unique jewel, a gem, a diamond.  We all have these jewels, but each one is so unique and so powerful, making them beautiful and highly valuable all at once. 

Making them most valuable, is the power that these jewels hold.  That power is what everyone is trying to get from each other.  Why?  Because once someone has taken that jewel, that power, they can control us.  Yes, that sounds dramatic.  But, it IS dramatic.  Controlling our attention can lead us to a seemingly insignificant decision of making a small purchase.  It can also lead us to significant decisions like supporting an idea that will affect billions of human lives and multiple generations.  Attention is a big deal.

Recently I was learning about crystal singing bowls to make a purchase.  I felt that the bowls people are selling on Amazon didn’t have enough information; it seemed incomplete.  I felt that many sellers didn’t really understand the bowls, but they were advertising them as if they did.  So, I decided I needed to research singing bowls to make the right purchase.  In the process, I found a seller, Zacciah Blackburn from Sunreed Instruments, who has been working with sound healing instruments for decades.  He could explain what I really wanted to know.  His knowledge got my attention and I chose him because of his expertise.  That’s what I was looking for, and with his help and expertise online and over the phone, I purchased two bowls to harmonize with the single bowl I already had. 

Through him, I learned that it was the computer industry that first created frosted crystal singing bowls in order to grow silicon.  Silicon quartz crystals are used to grow silicon chips.  The purity of the bowls made for a beautiful sound that was discovered in the tossing of the leftover bowls.  Single-crystal silicon is described as “the most important technological material of the last few decades” because of its semi-conducting properties and affordability which changed how we make electronics and led to the wide availability of our now, everyday devices.  It’s amazing to me that we use a by-product of the computer industry for sound healing.

Focusing your attention.

When you listen to a crystal singing bowl, your attention is with the bowl.  You hear the sound that captures your attention.  It’s hard to focus anywhere else.  The sound is so soothing and depending on the size of the bowl, it has a beautiful resonance that can last for minutes after the bowl player has stopped singing the bowl, which is done with pressing the mallet around the bowl in many revolutions.  When you’re in the same room as the bowl, it enraptures your senses – your auditory sense and your touch sense.  You can feel the vibrations embrace you.  Getting closer to the bowl makes the touch sense much more apparent, but as the room fills with these vibrations, they eventually are felt consciously.  Nonetheless, you feel them, whether you’re aware of them or not.  The vibrations soothing your senses, also soothes the vibrations in your mind, and so directing our attention becomes more available.  It’s easier to work with attention when the mind is relaxed.

This is one way to learn to focus your attention.  To listen to a sound and be with the sound.

When you are not focusing your attention, your attention is being pulled and pushed.  Forces around you, people’s ideas and desires, forces, are pushing and pulling your attention.  When we don’t claim attention as the precious jewel that it is, it is taken and thrown around as if it is expendable.  It’s like others are playing monkey in the middle with our minds.  Once the push and pull occur, getting a hold of our attention becomes a more difficult task and that can create more mental tension if we don’t already practice relaxation.  

I’ll say it again but more directly: Attention is not expendable.  When we act as if it is, we can easily easily so easily lose ourselves.  We lose who we are, what we know, what we want to know, what we care about.  We lose meaning.  We don’t know why we do anything.  All meaning is lost.  We become robots and do what the programmers around us tell us to do.  It’s a depressing thought, but that’s why so many people seem to be asleep.  Because they haven’t held their own attention as the jewel that it is, as the gem, the crystal, the diamond.  

Attention is precious.  When we see a billboard, commercial, magazine advertisement, and allow our attention to get sucked into it without awareness, we become vulnerable to the messages.  Those are the subliminal messages that marketers learn and employ – working with your subconscious mind because you are not aware.  Awareness, attentiveness, counteracts the forces of manipulation.  I’m happy to make a purchase if I consciously make the decision and I know what, why, how, when the purchase will be good for me or others.  But consider when advertisers who sell addictions slyly get into our minds.  It’s a dangerous game that is being played.

Ask someone who knows that they can’t keep their attention focused, someone who believes they have ADD or ADHD or has a brain injury.  They’ll tell you how painful it is.  Maybe you already know that first hand.  How painful is it to not be able to direct yourself, to control what you think about, why, how, when, and where you think about it?  We take attention for granted.  When we know that we struggle with holding our own attention, we understand its true value.

All of us can strengthen our attention, and hold such a jewel with respect.  But our attention doesn’t begin as a jewel.  It begins as the “diamond in the rough,” an unshaped stone that has potential to be shaped.  

Meditation is so powerful because it aims to completely focus and shape attention; that’s the purpose – to come to a “razor-sharp focus” or an attention as focused as a laser-beam.  

Meditation

This razor-sharp focus is what cuts the rough stone that our attention begins as, and shapes it into the beautiful gem it always had the potential to become.  It just needs practice and yes, attention.  With this gem, we ourselves can cut right into the matter at hand and shape an idea with more intention.  We can shape ourselves with more intention.

So, we have to practice being attentive to our attention if we want to shape our own lives.

There are ways to ease into meditation practices.  We ease in because holding our own attention is a learned task that requires practice.  “We need more practice,” says my son’s martial arts teacher.  It’s written on the wall as the school’s motto.  

We need more practice.  What if each of us live by that motto?  What happens when we practice holding our own attention, not easily swayed by those around us who have their own motivations?

We live how we want to live, not how others want us to live.  Again, we shape our own lives.

So, here’s a way for you to focus your attention on a daily basis so that you strengthen this muscle of attention daily, you shape this diamond in the rough little by little.

Daily Exercise for Attention 

This is a journaling exercise I’ve been committed to since about 2007 when I was trying to complete my thesis for graduate school, which life had interrupted.  I can attest to this method.  It’s probably one of the most important things I do daily and little by little it creates huge effects in my life.  When I don’t use this method, or I do it lazily, I live lazily too.  My priorities get shifted and spun around and my actions can easily go against myself, against my intentions and my values, which affect me and those around me.  You’ll want a dedicated journal for this practice alone, though important daily notes can be written here too.  

I call this my “work journal.”

Journal

Begin every morning setting an intention for your day and write it down in a journal.  Let the intention focus on how you would like to feel, what state of being you want to be in for the day.  For example, to feel joy around me, to feel connected to others, to feel love at all times, to be calm, to be relaxed, to be energetic.  In my journal, I title this the “Thought for the Day.”  Add any other descriptions, reasons, understandings, reflections in this section.  Now and then, I write my thought for the day in a poetic voice.  Those speak to me the most.

Consider some of the actions, no more than three actions, that would be in line with that intention.  You’ll write these in the next two sections.

Title the next section for the day “Personal Goals” for some of the things you will do to accomplish that intention and any other things that need to be done.  Being a “personal” section, you’ll be thinking about yourself, your family, friends, personal responsibilities.  

Title the next section for the day “Professional Goals,” and identify some of the things you will do to accomplish that intention as well as any other things that need to be done.  Being the section focused on the “professional” aspect of your life, you’ll be thinking about the work you do.

The personal and professional intermingle, but for attention’s sake, we’ll keep them in separate sections.

For the rest of your day, bring your attention back to that intention and the little steps that you recognized in the personal/professional goals that would help fulfill it.  

Notice what happened when you kept it in mind and acted accordingly.  Notice what happened when you forgot about it, got pushed or pulled in another direction, and acted in opposition to that intention.  We only notice, we don’t need to judge it.

At the end of the day, or the very next morning, you’ll write a “Review and Reflection” to reflect on how the day went and what you noticed.  Did you stay on task?  Did you get pushed or pulled around?  Ask yourself questions here, what helped you stay on track and what took you off track?  

Whatever method works for you, go with it.  Focusing on sound and intentions are two available ways that have worked for me.  

With time and practice, your attention will be shaped into the beautiful gem it could always become.

Sandy(3)

Devoted to Art

I learned about Qais Al Sindy, a renowned artist, some four years ago when I was working on a book called Iraqi Americans: The Lives of the Artists. He lived in California so I was only able to interview him over the phone. This year he made his first visit to Michigan and we had the chance to meet in person.   

What I admired about Qais was not only his artwork but also his work ethics. He’s very disciplined, with a confidence that nourishes his talents and enables him to succeed and therefore sustain himself by being a full time artist. This is despite having come to the United States a little over a decade ago.  

The following is an excerpt from Iraqi Americans: The Lives of the Artists which highlights Qais Al Sindy and 15 other Iraqi American artists. 

Qais was born in Baghdad, Iraq, in 1967 and started painting when he was about fourteen years old. At his teacher’s suggestion, he made reproductions of master painters such as seventeenth century Diego Velasquez, Vermeer and Raphael. In college, he studied engineering at the University of Baghdad. He excelled in his studies, but he soon discovered that this field was not for him.

After graduation in 1989, he applied to the Academy of Fine Arts. He told the administration, “If you force me to be a Baathist, I will study outside this country and you will lose me.” 

They made an exception to his non-Baathist affiliation and enrolled him. In 2002, he attained a diploma in French language from the Cultural French Center in Baghdad and in 2004, he graduated with an MFA from the Academy of Fine Arts. His thesis was about Christian paintings from all over Iraq. This led him to take a big tour of Iraq, to visit all the monasteries and different cities from Zakho (in the Kurdisan region) to al-Faw (marshy region in the extreme southeast of Iraq).

“It was dangerous to travel, especially since I did not have a sponsor,” he said. “I paid from my own pockets and drove my own car. Because I speak English very well, I managed well at American checkpoints. I received harassment from the insurgents and extremists, but at that time, it wasn’t very severe. I managed, but I did leave the country shortly after graduating.”

Qais image 1

Qais has held art exhibits all over the world, his artwork drawing so much attention that nearly a dozen books have been published about it by various venues, including Kuwait Cultural Center and Iraqi Cultural Center in Washington, DC.  As I mentioned earlier, he lives in California where he has no other profession than that of an artist.

“I don’t do anything else in this world except for art,” he said. “If you are able to do the art that you like and find a way to sell it, this means that you believe in yourself.”

Qais says that when he paints, he tries to get his resources from overseas, his homeland. He is also known to engage audiences in his artwork. An example of this is in his Mamdooh series.

“After I left Iraq, I lived in Jordan, where I taught art for the students in the architectural department,” he said. “One day I heard that one of my dearest friends in Iraq, a talented portrait artist named Mamdooh suffered injuries as a result of a car explosion that injured and killed many people. He was transferred to the hospital where he struggled against death for one week, then died.”  

This led Qais to do a series of four paintings. The first one, he did a portrait of Mamdooh, using an expressionist style that focuses on his appearance. The second painting is a ghostly figure with transparency like his character, full of hue colors. It is the moment which Mamdooh suffers and dies. In the third painting, he brought some ashes and charcoal from the ruins of the car that exploded and drew Mamdooh using those ashes. That means Mamdooh is gone. The fourth painting is a pure blank canvas.

Al Sindy 1 - Mamdooh

“Everyone is well aware that it’s prohibited to touch the art works in galleries and in museums,” he said. “But in this artwork, I came up with something new to complete the fourth painting.  I asked the viewers to wipe their hands on painting number three. Of course, now their hands are stained with charcoal and ashes. They want to clean their hands, but I ask the crowd to wipe their hands on the blank canvas, on painting number four. The fingerprints on the canvas mean that you’re a participant of this crime in Iraq.”

Qais says that this was his way of asking his audience to live this moment as a kind of sharing and participating to the message that he wanted to deliver.  He wants to tell people that it is up to us to make this world the best place to live in.

He showed this series in more than ten countries, and people insisted on participating in the artwork. So when you see the fourth one, you see more than a thousand people’s fingerprints.

“Everyone wants to show that they are responsible for us not having peace in this world,” he said. “The frames are cracked and damaged because they toured many many countries. I kept it as it is.”

Qais’ biggest challenge is having to do everything himself. He even made an eleven minute documentary about the burning of the Iraqi library, called Letters Don’t Burn. Projects that he works on today have more of a humanitarian theme. They don’t only encompass the Iraqi subject, because he wants to do something for our globe, not just for Iraq. One of the projects he did was called the Bridge. It showcased the work of forty seven premier and emerging Arab, Persian and Jewish visual artists around the theme of what “bridges” us to each other.

Qais’ synopsis was to collect stones and bricks and, instead of hitting each other with stones and bricks, to build a bridge out of them that would start a cultural dialogue between different countries.

“This would help create love,” he said, “because if I love you I will not fight you. If I love you, then I will put my hands with your hands and we will build something together. All the problems in this universe are the result of us not loving each other. People’s desires for opportunism, greed, for looking out for themselves and not each other, are the reasons we don’t have universal peace.”  

Al Sindy 2 - The Revivification of Music

To learn more about Qais Al Sindy and his exhibits, visit his website: http://www.qaissindy.com/