Thursday, May 31, 2007

Circle of Love

Is this picture sweet or what! I just received it from a friend by email. I am impressed by the power of it's simplicity. I am also moved by the power of many to create stunning beauty, just by BEING TOGETHER.

I write simply to share this simplicity with you. In my own small way, this I reach out to you.

Please remember to connect with your goodness today. I promise to practice this myself.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Video Clips from Jerusalem Hug

It was a heavenly experience to be together in Jerusalem. Our collective energy was harmonious, which you will hear in this video. After singing, Jimmy led us in a prayer for Jerusalem in English, and following that, I led us in a Hebrew prayer for Holy City. Notice that when we begin to pray, how there is a stupendous light which appears over James' head. All that is seen is the suns' orb, everything else paels around it. From there, a halo grows as the group comes back into physical focus. I remember holding the camera very still. It did not move. Astounding, eh!!! Miracles are commonplace when we focus together upon the highest good. Listen and see one here:

Here is a beautiful man from the group hugging the walls around Jerusalem, as James Twyman and I embrace and join him and others around the walls. It was a beautiful day.

Earlier, we met in the park surrounding the old city. Spontaneous gatherings, meditation, music, dance and other activities were led by those so moved to contribute. I was witness to a beautiful meditation led by LaSara Firefox and a few other people who together, gave reverence to mother earth. You can see the beauty in their faces and hear it in their voices.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Hug Around Jerusalem

What I love about living in the Middle East is how dynamic life is. All you have to do is finish one thing, and the next event begings. Never a dull moment! The good thing about this is that it creates a sense of aliveness. I am so grateful for this quality. It makes life really fun.

So, the Pilgrims of Peace (see posts below) just left a few days ago, and now Jimmy Twyman is here with a great group of people who he brought. We had a great time together presenting on the Gandhi King Peace Train - Living Legends of Non-Violence conference. Tomorrow promises to be spectacular as well. Check out the Jerusalem Hug website here. Even if you cannot be there with us physically, you can join us virtually through the website.

In honor of the Jerusalem Hug, I am offering a free gift throughout May. For every Voices of Eden cd purchased this month, I will add in a free guide to "Your Inner Jerusalem". This is a beautiful guide to help you reconnect to those divided parts inside of yourself. You can offer it as a gift to your friends as well. Order cds here.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Images of Transformation

So many different experiences, so many varying viewpoints, plans that get changed on a dime, as is the norm in the Middle East, and these pilgrims of peace were so flexible with it all.

Following are a collage of photos from the week. There are also a few cool video clips. The first is of peacemakers Ibrahim and Eliyahu of Jerusalem Peacemakers. Ibrahim speaks to the group here. Another cool clip is that of the Bedouin musician singing in the tent on an ethnic eastern harp.

This is Sheikh Bukhari and Vanessa Karam in Jerusalem:

This photo is from the Bedouin Women's Weaving Cooperative:

Steve Puzarne and Rebecca Jupiter in Akko:

Wilfredo Benitez has a keen eye for photography. Can't wait to see HIS photos!

Jerry Stinson & Joan Waller at rest:

A bride and groom were taking wedding photos at the Port of Akko when we were there:

And a Bedouin girl who watches us from behind the chicken coop wall of their make shift home.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Whirling Emotions to Whirling Dervishes

Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare.

These are the words of Father Elias Chacour, author of the best-selling book "Blood Brothers," founder of the Mar Elias Educational Institute in Israel and three times nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

We met with Elias Abu Janina, Vice Principal of this interfaith institute, with classes from kindergarten through college, that enrolls more than 5,000 children, including Christians, Muslims, Druze and Jews, all of whom study together.

"Meeting with Chacours' place, was the most inspirational message of the day.", said Wilfredo Benitez. We were on the bus and I was taking notes for this blog so you share a more visceral experience from the participants themselves. "It was inspirational because it tells us that vision without accompanied by action leads to no where. It's stifles. It has no life, unless you put your belief into action. "Vice versa...", he added, "an action that is not inspired by a vision in the end, is an empty shell. It doesn't build anything. That is why it inspired me."

Jetlag, too little sleep, foreign smells, and group dynamics all contribute to what Day Three of a group tour is endearingly referred to as "crash day". This, in addition to the powerful sentiments expressed by people they have been meeting with would make the impact of this well known phenomenon even more likely.

The heated discussion with the Israeli-Palestinian Alternative Voice in the Galilee group stirred emotions and brought to light the various and sometimes conflicting views of how to best handle the inequality between Israel and it's indigenous Palestinian citizens.

Knowing this, we planned a meeting in the evening with the Jewish - Arab - Palestinian Akko theater company to allow for the pilgrims of peace to express their experience so far. The program opened with the dance of the whirling dervishes, and was followed by an introduction by founders Moni Yosef - Managing Director & Actor and Khaled Abu Ali - Actor & Director, and other members of the interfaith staff.

Moni asked the pilgrims to please introduce themselves and to share their impressions thus far, of their visit to Israel. With my trusty laptop in hand, I transcribed their replies (thank God for my fast typing skills - to whom I owe my eight grade typing teacher a HUGE thanks... who knew then, how practical that skill would actually become in the age of the computer revolution):

Alima Sherman: "Having a heart that is heavy and hopeful."

Rebecca Jupiter: "I am an actress and singer so it is very exciting for me to be here right now. Thank you."

Yona Weisman (tour guide): "Seeing another perspective even after being here for so many years. Every day brings another emotion, another calm."

Jerry Stinson: "Yesterday I heard the hope and the struggle. When we were at at kibbutz struggling to find hope, and then we went into the west bank and it was painful.

Paul Waller: "I have visited Israel once before doing the tourist thing. This time it is talking with real people seeing the problems and it is enriching."

Joan Waller: "I was born in Canada. I can hear his emotion and for me it is a colidescope of feelings and emotions, I appreciate that it is a crazy country and can be frustrating. At home we work with a dialogue group with Israeli's and Muslims. This has been an intense experience for us of hearing peoples pain, so I don't know where I am. But I know it is exactly what I need to be experiencing."

Steve Puzarne (group leader and tour co-founder): "I am a cantor but I have been doing peace work for a while. I had an opportunity to be involved with Rabbis for Human Rights, and it became clear that unless you come here and experience directly, you never get to see Jews and Arabs actually trying to get along. Unless I could show them first hand, they would never believe me. These are brave people. They had no track record and they came with me anyway. We are hoping that with this foundation, that we can bring hundreds and hundreds of people to share in friendship and love to change the negative impressison of what is going on."

Wilfredo Benitez: "I am American Puerto Rican and Cuban . I am Pastor of a congregation that worships in four languages, Spanish, English, Vietnamese and Korean. We have a truly multifaith congregation – everything that you can imagine. If we truly practice our religions we will have an easier time together."

Boaz Gershon: (My partner). "I moved to the Galillee 25 years ago. My wife is a lawyer. She has worked for 25 years in Akko in a Muslim law firm. We have created a start up – we are starting to do something that hasn't been done before. There are some aspects that are very simple, buses… hotel, hardware, but where we speak of the software, the people, we are writing it right now, all of this will go into the melting pot which is very advanced in what is called, the travel business. "

Pilgrimage of Peace Continues

The above photo was taken in my village of Amirim, a vegetarian health village situated in the hills of Galilee, on the road to Safed (Tsfat) in the Meron Mountains. The group had just arrived from a long day of touring and visiting with peace projects of Kibbutz Metzer and the humanitarian health project of Middleway in the village of Barta'a. The morning found them on a walking tour of Nazareth, to the White Mosque and to the Church of the Annunciation where Rev. Wilfredo Benitez lead the group in a moving meditation.

I don't know if the photo relays the energy with which they arrived to Amirim after a deeply moving day - even with jetlag from the many hours of travel the day before.
It was deeply gratifying for me to receive them at my home and the Voices of Eden Peace Center for dinner and a healing music program. After a silent meditation under the ancient carob tree to acknowledge the powerful meetings and dynamics experienced over the last twenty four hours, we sat down to a lovely vegetarian meal so lovingly prepared by Nati.

After dinner, it was not at all difficult to invite people into the healing music center to lie on the mattresses for a healing music meditation. This ancient healing and transformational music is intentionally wordless, bypassing the intellect, allowing the listener to connect within him or herself. The musicians of the project are Jewish and Arab... I was not playing for more than a few minutes before the lovely sound of rhythmic snores began to accompany my singing and drumming... In other situations, one would take this as an offence. For me, the sounds of deep sleep are a profound compliment.

After the music meditation, I took dictation from the Pilgrims wanting to add to this blog, before moving on to their hotel... and more... welcomed sleep. Unfortunately, the computer "bleeped" before the comments were uploaded... drats...

You'll just have to read the next blog to see what people had to say... I began to record the notes FIRST on a Word Decument.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Pilgrimage of Peace - Day One

The Pilgrims of Peace in this photo are so peaceful that even 20+ hours of travel from Los Angeles and New York to Tel Aviv could not dampen their spirits. The above photo was taken at Ben Gurion airport by our bus driver Ghazi, just after loading the baggage and safely bringing us to our first stop - Nazareth.

Shown in the picture (top row from top left to right) are:

Rev. Wilfredo Benitez, an Episcopalian reverend from Los Angeles who has been involved in multi-faith work for many years. Wilfredo provided us with a beautiful prayer just before our meal, which set the stage for our wonderful 1st eve together.

Cantor Steven Puzarne, Leader of this Pilgrimage of Peace, without whom the others could not have participated. Steve brings music back into the hearts and souls of Jewish congregations and has been involved in interfaith peace work for many years.

Paul Waller, a former aerospace executive, long time member of Beyond War, who retired early and dedicates his time to interfaith and dialogue work. His smile and gentle nature are clearly reflected in the photo.

Joan Waller, Paul's long time partner, a peace advocate who through her affiliation with humanistic Judaism met Libby and Len Traubman and started a Jewish - Palestinian and Multi-faith dialogue.

Vanessa Karam, a progressive Muslim from Los Angeles, who came on this tour to discover how she can better contribute to positive aspects of peace within a constructive interfaith setting.

(Bottom row from left to right):

Yona Wiseman - the wise woman of Tel Aviv, who is our fabulous tour guide. Yona has a wonderful sense of the multi-faceted, multi-layered realities which make up this incredible holy land. She shares with an open heart and spirit.

Rebecca Jupiter - a beautiful creative artist and singer from New York, member of the leading edge spiritual Jewish synagogue of Bnei Jershurun on the upper West Side (affectionately know as BJ for short.

Alima Sherman - a beautiful and sensitive woman from Southern California (who is holding the sign), member of Rev. Jerry Stinsons congregation in Long Beach and who as member of a progressive Sufi order, herself embodies the notion of "interfaith".

Rev. Jerry Stinson - Sr. Minister of the 1st Congregational Church of Long Beach, CA; first person to sign up for the tour. Jerry is a long time peace activist, who was waiting for an interfaith peace group program to visit Israel-Palestine.

Eliana Gilad - Me, co-creator of this fabulous group with Steve. I had fun making the welcome sign on the train ride from the Galilee to the airport. People watched with interest and asked about the program. It was so exciting to share with them.

In Nazareth we were met by logistics wizard & my partner at Sacred Peace Tours, Boaz Gershon with our dear friends and local interfaith Peace Leaders: Tareq Shihada, Director Tourist Office, Municipality of Nazareth and Kamel Barghouti, School Pricipal and Community Center Leader and head of the Nazareth English Camp. (They are sitting to the right and left of me.) Our welcoming ceremony and dinner couldn't have been in a better setting - that other than the Sudfeh restaurant situated just above Mary's Well Square in an ancient building.

Dinner was delicious. After our main course, before coffee and dessert, Steve suggested that each person in the group take a turn to share what had brought them to participate in this Pilgrimage of Peace, so that we could all get to know one another, and to help us create the best experience over the next week, such that everyone's intentions will be more than met - and all of us will contribute to the highest good.

I so enjoyed listening to everyone and learning about each one's different motivation for coming, as well as each one's unique way of seeing the world.

The group is about to arrive here to the Voices of Eden peace center for dinner and a healing music evening, so I've gotta go prepare. I am hoping to give the computer over to them during the evening (if they are not dying from jetlag)- to provide their impressions of their first twenty four hours.

They have spent the day in Nazareth and at Kibbutz Metzer, Maiser in Israel and Barta'a in Palestine to learn about the complex situation, a humanitarian vlounteer health clinic set up by the friends of Middleway peace organization and how Kibbutz Metzer turned a tragic and bloody terror killing as a challenge to connect with their Palestinian and Arab neighbors working together cooperatively in these very trying times.

Monday, May 07, 2007

United Nations & Healing Music with Israeli Jews & Arabs

Last week, Konstantin Pavlides and I presented the first round of the third research conducted upon Voices of Eden music, which began on April 4th in Galilee.

As part of the healing music program to address post trauma in Galilee in both the Jewish and Arab sectors, I looked for partners who could provide me with an opportunity to reach both populations in a joint venue.

I met with Tali Omer and Dalia Budinger of the Galilee Development office to see how we could maximize the use of the grant I was given to provide free music for the public health, by joint venture and cooperation for the highest good. In the aftermath of last summer's war in Northern Israel, both the Jewish and Arab populations were hit badly. My intent is to use the destruction as a spring board to create a phoenix of healing.

Dalia introduced me to Susan Niren's director of Knafayim, a non-profit group which takes physically handicapped and blind youth ages 18-21 from their homes to live together communally so that they can learn skills to live independent, productive lives and make a positive contribution to society. The group is comprised of Jews, Christians, Muslims, Druze, Ethiopian and Russian girls and boys.

Two days after I met with Susan to suggest the possibility of conducting a live research testing of volunteers from her group, she called to say that the date was set.

Konstantin Pavlides, the researcher who is based in London, decided to volunteer his services and fly to Israel to test this group before and after listening to Voices of Eden live music which I would be provided by me and my students, giving them a chance to expand their own healing music skills. We would then present these results during our presentation at the UNITED NATIONS on April 27. Joining us in the program was Amrita Cottrell, director of the Healing Music Organization who told her amazing story of healing herself of cancer through conscious use of voice. She also played the beautiful crystal bowls.

The research conducted was upon the effect of the conscious use of voice upon mind, body and spirit of the listener. The technology was developed by Dr. Konstantin Karatkov, with whom Konstantin Pavlides studied.

Here are pictures of Yossi's energy field, measured before listening to the music (notice the holes on the right side) and after (notice how the entire field has been strengthened):

I will post more later with a more detailed description of the process.

Pilgrimage of Peace arrives to Israel-Palestine

Can you say "Maklubeh"?

Maklubeh is a Bedouin delicacy that the peace activists and multifaith religious leaders from Los Angeles will be experiencing on their weeklong Pilgrimage of Peace Tour in Israel-Palestine. This pioneering social action tour is led by Cantor Steven Puzarne, a close friend of mine for more than 40 years. It has been an inspiring experience of living peace and growth to co-create this tour together.

Puzarne has gathered an intimate group of fabulous community and religious peace leaders who are courageously visiting Israel and Palestine to support the countless unsung individuals and group peace activists working at a grass roots level here in the Middle East. I will introduce you to them as we progress through their ten day visit.

You can follow them on their trip as they post to the Pilgrimage of Peace blog that Puzarne has set up especially for this tour.

Check back here as well, as I will be posting more of our experiences during their stay. You'll get to meet many wonderful peace makers here in Israel and in Palestine.

I am so excited about this tour as it is physical proof to me that peace is growing. It is the also a physical manifestation of the vision that brought me to Israel some fifteen years ago. A major part of the inner directive is to bring people from over the seas to the Galilee to share the healing which has already begun. This quiet peace, being lived by many already, is quiet and soft. It does not shout, nor "market itself" to "get ahead". You won't find it in the newspaper headlines or on the mass media screens. You'll only recognize it by experiencing it.

I am so proud of Steve and the tour group, plus my partner Boaz Gershon, and our Palestinian partners Mark Garbett and Mark Khano of Guiding Star, for helping me make this first project of the Sacred Peace Tours a reality. We are already a living example of peace in the middle east, and it is a joy to be able to share this with other open minded people.

Bast Hathor and Mippies

Bast or, the ancient Egyptian cat goddess and Hathor, the ancient Egyptian Cow goddess presided over healing and beauty and music. Through them, they helped people connect to their creative force and to bring new forms to the world.

My cat Mippies, who passed on while I was touring overseas, was a modern embodiment of these goddesses. How grateful I am to Mippies for the ten years of frienship we shared. Mippies followed on my heels to everywhere I would go. She would open the door on her own by jumping on her hind legs and push the door knob with her paw. The only frustrating thing about that, was that she never quite mastered shutting the door behind her!!!

Mippies was sent to earth from the Cat Embassy. Those who were formerly avowed cat haters, changed their minds when they encountered Mippies. She could sniff them out a mile away. She would ever so gracefully rub gently against them, and then shyly jump into their laps, purring ever so demurely. No one could refuse.

Whenever a special group of people would gather for healing music, especially during classes with my students, she would insist upon participating. Students found it cute, especially when she would speak. Now, that she is gone, I realize that she was guiding us all along.

After the first days of shocking loss and grief, I am now feeling her presence even more.

Thank you Mippies, from the bottom of my heart. For your support, your friendship, and your unconditional love. I feel it even more today.