Reflections of light

Late October, just before I left, I looked up at the sky, noticed the clouds passing by carrying the promise of rain, I greeted the sun, the ocean and the mountains. I took a deep breathe in and put my hands together in prayer as I gave thanks to my surrounding, to the people who I’ve met on this retreat, to my mentors, to mother earth. When I received an invitation from the Global Peace Initiative for Women (GPIW), I was on a scientific field expedition in Indonesia working on my PhD research, little did I know that this would be an invitation that would touch my heart deeply and change the way I look at my journey in this life.

The Inner Dimensions of Climate Change – Middle East gathering was organized by GPIW in joined partnership with Dharma Drum Mountain Buddhist Association, facilitated by fascinating spiritual mentors from across the globe from different backgrounds ranging from Sufism, Buddhism, the Vedic Tradition, Indigenous Lokota knowledge and Greek Mythology. What made the gathering special for me was (1) it brought together individuals from across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region and (2) its purpose – a retreat that brought together people who work with earth from different walks of life in an effort to shift human consciousness to one that is finally in harmony with nature.

The conversation in pursuit of healing begins…

The conversation started with sharing local impacts of climate change and examples of various local actions being taken in different areas within the MENA region to address these challenges. We had a mind opening presentation by Walid Ali from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) who brought in actual numbers to showcase the extend of damage in the region as a result of climate change. The group shared personal stories where every individual present allowed themselves to be vulnerable as everyone else held space which brought the group together for a much deeper much needed conversation. This brought things into perspective as all the previous conversations brought forward all the impacts, the problems, issues and challenges which presented a very daunting and depressing bleak future.

The world is filled with chaos but amongst the chaos there are spaces filled with peace, we just have to open our inner eyes to find them. One of the lessons that really stirred something in me was the concept of “the importance of having faith”. For when we have faith, it removes the ego – so there is no need to think, no need to migrate from the heart to the mind, no need to worry – because when we have faith, we do what we can surrendering what we can’t to the universe, for then we are finally – naturally – in peace.

Every session started and ended with a short meditation, creating space for peace and finding our center.

During one of the small discussion groups, Tiokasin Ghosthorse, a native Red Indian from the indigenous people of Lakota said, “When I first arrived, I took a moment to look up at the sky as I noticed the clouds and the birds flying by. I greeted the mountains, the trees, the ground below and the ocean. I saw the waves coming in and hitting the shore – connecting.”  This made me realize that even though when I first arrived I couldn’t help but admire the stunning natural landscape around me, I didn’t really think about noticing and greeting the elements of nature not just in front of me and behind me, I failed to look up at the sky and down at the earth below me. I failed to look around me and connect to every molecule of life in its various forms. This made me realize that even though I thought I was awakened in my life, in reality I was only awakened in a narrow path following the obvious lite way, forgetting that light is all around me and all I had to do is look around and acknowledge the space that I’m in.

Element of Air:Our thoughts, feelings and self talk inhibit the space within our bodies and around us. Science has succeeded in measuring our human collective consciousness and how our thoughts actually impact the world we live in. I didn’t know this was possible until I heard about it from one of our mentors Sraddhalu Ranade, a scientist and scholar in Vedic philosophy. There is a lot of skepticism when it comes to things beyond the basic human rational mind especially when it comes to individuals who live their lives from the mind rather than the heart space. The Global Consciousness Project, which is led by and has originated at Princeton University in the US. Even if you do not believe in this, for the benefit of your own life, watch your thoughts, stay positive, don’t entertain negativity and egoistic mindsets. We create our world, so make sure it’s a world that you want to live in. One filled with positivity, kindness, peace, love and good health.

Creating space for peace to enter and for hearts to connect

Element of Earth: Dena Merriam the founder of GPIW introduced the meaning of “interconnection” with earth. Interconnection means that we are connected to the heartbeat of nature. The universe is one and together, we are one being. Many people spend their life looking for themselves, not realising that they already know themselves; they just have to remember their essence. Exactly like when in the movie Moana, the heart of Te fiti returns and life suddenly thrives because Te fiti remembered who she really was.

Similarly, it is not about finding the connection with earth but instead it is about remembering the connection we have. There is a narrative that we (as a human collective) have been following till now – it’s me (as an individual) on this earth and I can use its resources. 

Therefore, if I am not the world (I am separate – an individual) and the rest is something different to me, then I can objectify it – I can use and abuse it. 

However, if we are one, if I am the earth, then automatically I cannot use it anymore because it is not different than me. Instead I will care for it, because I would be caring for myself through my acts of self-love.

When we understand what interconnection is, we begin to change the narrative of how we as environmentalists should act. Instead of using the past narrative of “we cut trees because we need to utilize them and we plant trees because we need them”, we begin to change this violent and consumerist narrative to one that vibrates with love and compassion, one that says, “we are the world, so instead of working for the environment, we work through the environment because we are one with earth.” 

Creating invisible lines of interconnection into visible to the naked eyes through personal story telling and sharing.

When I stepped into the realization of what the concept clearly outlines, something clicked in my head as if a switch was finally turned on, all those years in Bahrain, every time I saw a site being reclaimed I always felt like I was physically being buried alive. I never understood what I was feeling nor could I rationally explain it, but now I know that what I was experiencing the entire time was due to being interconnected with earth. I feel her pain, her peace, her heart beat wherever I go, and to be interconnected with earth is truly a blessing. Hearing the ocean call when I was merely three years old, and never understanding why I needed to be close to it until that day felt like for year I was seeing a beautiful flower and now I was finally able to see the entire garden. During that circle, many of us were having aha moments when we listened to each other’s stories. We have so much to learn, and a deep need to connect with and support each other. So in that rhythm of interconnection and inter-dependence on earth, how do we envision a “sustainable society”? What would it look like? What do we need to change in our minds and in the current systems? The conversation did not have an end but that was the beauty of it, the conversation had a beginning and as our great minds connected allowing our thoughts to entwined and begin to paint the future we want on this planet. Our mind’s brush continues to paint that future as we continue serving earth from our hearts and on ground actions.

Element of Fire: Under the gorgeous Cyprus sky showered by the full moon light, our group was blessed by experiencing its first fire ceremony led by Tioksain. The wisdom shared with us is something I find hard to put in words. One of the things that struck me is that in the Lakota language there are no nouns, everything is a verb making it a living language that is in a constant state of movement. Your language is a reflection of who you are, the language used is an expression of the level of consciousness. Watch your words, speak with kindness, speak the language of nature that thrives. Speak the language of love, of generosity, of harmony.

Tioksain playing his flute as we began the fire ceremony under the full moon

Element of Water:On the final day our group preformed a water ceremony following the Lakota Tradition. Water, the essence and origin of life; we as humans experience the start of our life immersed in water within our mother’s womb. There is so much I want to say and share – but for now I just want to pause to reflect on the experience of that water ceremony that saw the women, the carriers and givers of life hold each other as they walked towards the ocean to offer it a drop of each one of us as the men stood behind, watching, protecting and holding space for blessings to come through. 

Immersed in this beautiful bundle of love and joy

Cyprus, you have truly been a box of surprises, a bowl of blessings and a fire of love. Thank you for 5 days of soul rejuvenating and learning – of connecting with inspiring people and the opportunity to grow. Much gratitude to GPIW for finding and inviting me to this sacred place and union. It was a blessed gathering with the visit of rain to wash away all that is no longer needed, the dawn of the full moon signaling the completion of a phase making room for new beginnings and a rainbow that smiled across the sky as we all departed to return to the areas of the world in which we serve earth. 

Namaste world. 

Om shanti shanti shanti

Deep gratitude goes to Gauri De Santis for her valuable feedback on improving the original draft of this blog post. Disclaimer: Photos displayed in this post were taken by the GPIW Middle East Summit Participations and hence not my own.

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