Friday, July 24, 2009

Pregnancy & Meditation

One of my favorite evening meditations for the baby is a derivative of a Thich Naht Hanh meditation from his amazing book, True Love: A Practice of Awakening the Heart.

It is a simple meditation where you pick a single focal point (usually within oneself -- your heart, for example) and say as you breath in - I am aware of my heart, and as you breath out - I smile at my heart.

My take on this meditation is to put both of my hands on my belly, breath in and communicate with the baby -- "Baby, I know that you are there" and as I breath out -- "Baby, I am smiling at you."

It might seem odd to some people, but I know the baby feels it and experiences it. I often feel the baby moving inside of me during these meditations and it definitely leads me (and baby) into a calm and peaceful sleep. It's amazing how simple and yet effective it is. I've struggled with meditation in the past (due to a distracted mind), but most nights this meditation comes to me very easily.

And, in keeping with my theme of Ten, I close this blog with ten lines from True Love:

"So every time you have an energy
that needs to be transformed, like jealousy or fear,
do something to care for this energy, for this negative energy,
if you do not want this energy to destroy you.
Touch the seed of mindfulness, and then all of its energy
will be able to establish itself in your 'living room,'
like a mother tenderly embracing your pain. With that energy of mindfulness,you are
doing the true practice of meditation with regard to your pain, your emotions.
If you are able to maintain mindfulness for five or ten minutes, you will experience some relief right away." 

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Ten - An Egyptian Retrospective

It was almost exactly 10 years ago that I moved to Cairo, Egypt (6 weeks before my study abroad program would begin) and had my first encounter/experience with the Middle East. Please enjoy a list of 10 ways this experience/decision influenced my life:

10. The experience expanded my world-view and allowed me to gain a better understanding of the complexity and universality of the world.

9. I fell undeniably in love with travel and exploration and haven’t been able to stop venturing abroad since.

8. I experienced generosity and hospitality at an amazing level, which taught me to be more giving.

7. I saw first-hand the possibility that peace can exist (and has and does exist) between Israelis and Palestinians as Ramon and I celebrated Christmas in Bethlehem alongside Israelis, Palestinians, Germans, Africans and so many others from around the world, who celebrated together in an atmosphere of love and hope.

6. I gained confidence and strength as I journeyed through various parts of the Middle East alone.

5. I learned Arabic (though I must admit 10 years later, it is quite rusty and lost in the depths of my brain waiting to be recovered from years of storage).

4. I am now able to share my experience with others and breakdown many stereotypes and misconceptions that exist about the Middle East and Islam.

3. I decided that my life should be lived as a peacemaker.

2. I met amazing people who taught me a variety of wonderful things about life and gained a few lifelong friends.

1. And, of course, I met and fell in love with Ramon, who ended up being my partner in life, love, work, art and so much more. I feel so blessed to spend each day working together to grow our non-profit, to teach the arts to children, to push our creative abilities through filmmaking, to (now) be starting a family together, and to have his support and love in all that I do and to return that support and love. Being together makes each of us better.

I’m sure, there are many other ways that my trip to Egypt changed my life, but these 10 are stick out, and I am certain that when I went to Egypt, I never imagined that all of this would be the result, but I am definitely grateful that it was.

*
Though it is 2009, this year for me is the year of “Ten’s” or at least a year when grouping things in Ten or thinking about things in groups of Ten has been (and continues to be dominant):
  • Ramon, my wonderful life partner, and I will be celebrating 10 years together in December, at which point we should have just celebrated the birth of our first child (expected to arrive around Nov. 5)
  • My documentary, “Ten,” which has been swirling around in my brain for almost two years, is finally really taking shape and I am applying for development funding for the project; the application is due on the 1st day of the 10th month
  • I recently did a writing/visualization project a friend sent me that involved selecting 10 things I wanted (and there are many more examples of Ten's in my life.
With all these Ten’s swirling around and my recent awareness that my blog upkeep since my run has been less than stellar, I’ve decided to set a goal of keeping my blog simple and trying to post every 10 days with, at the very least, a list of 10 – not like David Letterman’s (I’m not that funny), but a 10 list that is relevant and important to my life. The Egyptian 10 is the first of many to come.