Really chuffed to be sent these cool designs by Ahmed Jaabari!
Please check out his work here: http://issuu.com/jaabari/docs/portfolio2#
I just watched and listened to a very interesting TED talk given by French biochemist turned Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard, who speaks of the value of mind training to reach a truly fulfilling state of happiness.
Highly recommend giving it a listen:
(Thanks to my sister Marilyn for sending the link! :))
I found it very interesting to read the comments below the video, as people discussed their views on attaining happiness, some agreeing with the talk, and others maintaining that for them happiness derives from another purpose such as work or family, or from community.
What I find interesting is how much the Western model of happiness has been imprinted into our minds, and how transient the conditions are.
How many of us would deny the notion that having more money would make us feel more secure and therefore more happy?
Or that finding love would make us happy?
Or that being really successful at work would make us happy?
Of course those conditions would make us happy- so we strive and strive for it!
But, what if those things aren’t going to happen? or what if they do happen, and then we lose them? What kind of feeling are we left with then?
We would probably feel unfulfilled, depressed, unworthy, unconfident, unloved, unsuccessful.. we would probably feel a lot of ‘un’s!” and it’s no wonder really, when our inner state is dependent on conditions that we cannot always control.
[While in the state of trying to achieve those things, we also feel some of, or all of the above! Some of you might be feeling some of these feelings as you read these very words, I have also from time to time!]
We are also in the habit, it seems, of blaming ourselves when these outer conditions are not met. Negative mantras pervade such as ‘I didn’t find love because I am not attractive enough, I am not successful because I’m not good enough’. We need to work harder, look better, earn more money… be perfect somehow so that happiness can be ours.
The next question is, are we really happy once we get those things, or are we just onto the next condition to make us happy? Do we really need all that stuff to be happy?
When you get a new job or a promotion for example, what does that happiness taste and feel like? Is it permanent, or is it like a boost of energy that subsides with time? Are we talking about happiness now, or are we talking about pleasure?
The next question is, could we be loveless, jobless and alone, and still feel fulfilled?
It seems, according to Ricard, by the off the radar results from the Buddhist monks, that indeed we could. And I agree too, knowing people with some far from perfect life events and conditions who are happy, and others with ‘perfect’ conditions, that are not.
These monks have practiced years and years worth of meditation for very long periods of time. Perhaps their example is an extreme one. In todays western society, it would be very hard to spend 12 hours a day meditating when one has a family to feed and/ or rent to pay. But could we spare 20-30 minutes a day? Or even simply practise mindfulness? (Read ‘The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle to a very good guide to what that is ;))
I think we can, and I think we should. We practice to achieve other things in life and happiness is pretty important. It is not selfish to seek happiness. After all, if one feels truly happy and loved within, you will naturally extend that to the world around you. I strongly believe that a person who feels loved, happy, fulfilled, would not inflict pain onto another person, and will in fact act with kindness, compassion and love.
I agree with Ricard that we can train our minds to achieve a greater sense of fulfillment, as he suggests; by noticing feelings such as anger- watching them from a distance, and gradually letting them pass by.
It’s not about suppression or being emotionally immune to the circumstances in our lives, our emotions make us human. It’s about being able to detach, rather than fuel the feelings with more power. Anger comes, let it come- watch it, and then continue, and then expand, by aiming for it’s opposite- which is love. Let the fire of anger calm down, let love transpire, rather than fuel the fire with more heat and coal.
This is what I understand mind training to be. And eventually with training one becomes aware that emotions come and go, but you can be less deeply affected emotionally by each thing that happens to you. For our own sake and others, at some point we must accept, forgive and move on. For bitterness serves no one, but compassion and love serve us all.
Meditation is talked about a lot here, but for many meditation is an abstract concept. Indeed people have different opinions on what it is. Some depict it in a complex way and give it so many rules that it’s alike an elitist sport, not achievable by all people. I think the act is very simple and everyone can do it.
For me meditation is to simply be silent, in a quiet place (or with soft music), alone, or with others (as Quakers do), sitting or lying down (sitting better because when you lie you tend to sleep ;)) in simple quiet contemplation; waiting.
Waiting? What for?
Essentially I am waiting to sense the unity of all life and experience a profound sense of joy, connectedness and fulfillment, This has happened occasionally during meditation but not always, in small to intense doses.
However, with practice at doing nothing but waiting, you will find your mind becoming less busy with mundane stresses and worries, or random thoughts.. and more in tune with ‘nothing’, and closer to ‘heaven’.
This happens over time generally, and with practise. Sometimes you give up out of boredom after 10 minutes. Sometimes you spend 20 minutes anxiously wondering how long it has been. Sometimes you listen to your own mind battle through all the things you need to do, or your worries, your pressures. It can be hell! Sometimes you fall asleep, which is nice and relaxing. But gradually, with practice at this sitting in silence doing nothing but waiting, your mind will calm down and you will be left with a tranquil space and a deep sense of peace. aka. happiness.
I imagine that those that have achieved enlightenment (often through practicing meditation regularly) sense that feeling all of the time, and that it is truly heaven on earth! I think I have tasted that sense of unity, joy, inexpressible ecstasy, a handful of times in my life. It really is greater than any circumstantial feeling that you could feel otherwise in life. I could liken it to a great sense of inspiration or a feeling of wonder and awe from a great landscape in nature… or really any moment in which you seem to ‘lose yourself’ but ‘find yourself’ at the same time.
I imagine that some people we know, who are not buddhist monks, but every day people who seem to be happy all the time, have also achieved enlightenment, but may not be aware of it; those people that are not easily angered, feel compassionate always, and smile at the simplest things. They are the ones whose aura you simply want to bathe in.
I would agree that some societies are more conducive to this state of being; as somehow in the small villages in the Philippines and the mountain tops of Nepal where people live in tight knit communities with very little, people seem to radiate with more positive energy than most people in western culture or even those living in the cities of those same countries.
My guess is that the energy from nature (natural beauty, fresh food) as well as having more time to appreciate life and naturally meditate in your day to day life, gives that sense of fulfillment.
It’s of no consequence then, that Buddhist monks go to remote beautiful places in the wild to meditate.
Recently I caught up online with friend and fund raiser for Typhoon Yolanda victims- Coolie Dread. I’ve mentioned before the ‘Typhoon Yolanda vital relief and livelihood missions’ group before, comprised of locally based people from Cebu/ Leyte, doing great short term and long term relief work for the victims; Coolie Dread is one of those people involved.
I thought it would be interesting, having been to Leyte and seen the devastation first hand, for him to give us more information on what the group have been doing, and what it was like being there so soon after the storm.
Here is what he had to say…
After Typhoon Yolanda, you and a group of friends from Cebu went into Leyte to do your own relief work. Tell us about how you know each other and how this came about..
We were just a small group of 5 people who went to Leyte on relief mission. We’ve known each other for a long time, especially Ryan, the team leader and co-owner of DWLE (Driftwood Local Enterprises). Back in the day, we were part of this group of friends who would often go on skim boarding tours.
The rest of the guys–Epos, Dandoy, and Mikmik–are members of the GrupoNopo, a group of Professional Longboarders in Cebu. I’ve been working on a project with them recently shooting Grupo Nopo skaters’ profile videos.
The relief mission came about when a friend of mine from the U.S. Stephen Carpenter asked for my help in trying to contact his pregnant wife and daughter who live in Tacloban. He was in the US during the typhoon, so you can just imagine what a hard time that was, trying to comfort a friend who doesn’t know whether his family are still alive. All of Tacloban was shut down, so I was his only connection at that time, and we were just communicating through Skype. At that time I was fully focused on the internet, trying to look for survivors and making calls day and night.
Thankfully, they survived and were able to evacuate to Cebu. Unfortunately, the rest of the family were left in Tacloban and badly needed basic supplies. Since the Grupo Nopo and I have common friends in Tanuan, Leyte who we also wanted to check on, we finally decided to do a relief mission ourselves. I’ve also been doing aerial photo and video, so It was a chance for me as well to shoot my own aerial footage of the disaster.
You mentioned that you are involved in the skim boarding community. For those that are unaware- what is skim boarding, and can you tell us more about the skim boarding community in that part of the world?
Skimboarding is like surfing, except it’s done just on the shoreline and with much smaller boards. Basically, you glide the skimboard on the shoreline, then ride on incoming waves, or shore breaks.
I was fairly active in skimboarding from 2001 to 2006. DWLE founder, Juan Duazo, was a very close friend back then and he was very much into surfing and mountain climbing, so I was influenced as well. It was hard for us to afford surfing that time, since the boards and travelling to surf spots were pretty expensive. Luckily, we saw a feature in ESPN about skimboarding, which was the closest we could get to surfing.
After I got hooked, I self-studied making skimboards using plywood and fiberglass, and eventually I was able to commercially produce skimboards under my own line. After spending some time riding the flat beach shores of Mactan, we met Dave “the Wave” who’s a local from Tanauan, Leyte. Little did we know that there’s a small group there who had been skimboarding way way back since the early 90′s.
From then on, we started to organize skimboarding competitions around the country, but mostly in Tanauan, Leyte, which is the best skimboarding spot I’ve seen so far in the Philippines. A few years later, more and more locals have been getting into the sport, until it became a community. Thus, we named Tanauan the Skimboarding Capital of the Philippines.
That is why it was so personal for me seeing Tanauan so damaged after Yolanda. It was hard to believe it was the same place after the destruction of the typhoon.
Your videos show us some of the tragic destruction to Tanauan in Leyte … how long after the storm was this footage taken, and does it capture what it’s like being there, or is there more you can say to describe the devastation having been a first hand witness?
The footage was shot from November 19 to 22, 2013, more than a week after Yolanda struck. Before leaving for the relief mission, I actually tried to “condition” myself by looking at all the pictures and videos of the typhoon aftermath that I could find, and trying to somehow immerse myself in them and get used to the scenario. But I can tell you, it was no help at all. Actually being there and trying to shoot photos and videos when there is just massive destruction all around you, it was just so difficult. I had to stop filming at times just to catch my breath because I was literally holding back tears. It was overwhelming. The pictures and videos do not do justice to what you can really see and feel by being there.
Did you seen the evacuation centers? Are people still staying in them or have they been able to return to their homes?
I’ve seen some evacuation centers–schools and government offices–well what’s left of them anyway, but we didn’t have a chance to closely check them out. Majority of the places we went to, and also helped out at, were private groups that do their own relief work, turning their warehouses into feeding stations.
Though I’ve seen lots of people who were able to make do of the remains of their homes, using available resources to patch up their roofs and walls. Some were just camping out on makeshift shelters of tarpaulins and rubble, as you can see on the footage.
From your experience there and your friends that are there now, what is needed the most at this time?
Shelter and livelihood, most definitely. The people there were left with literally nothing. All the food and clothing relief are just temporary. What they ultimately need is the help to begin again by providing means to a livelihood.
What would your advise be for those wanting to help?
I would suggest getting in touch with private sectors or groups of independent volunteers. Some of these groups are even able and actually more intent in going to “unreachable” places that have barely seen help from the big, organized groups. Even a little help, may it be in cash or kind, would go a long way and you would even see results right away.
What are the next steps for you and your team?
For now, we plan to continue to give out hammocks and basic building materials. The crew went to Leyte again just before Christmas, and as far as their assessment goes, the victims still don’t have any means to rebuild their homes. That is why we think hammocks are a great help to at least alleviate their sleeping solutions.
But my thoughts still go out to their source of livelihood. Fishing is one the main sources of livelihood there, as it’s a coastal area. Donations of fishing tools for the fishermen there will be a great help.
A Skateboarding program for the kids is also in the works. Some International friends of ours are sending used skateboards and helmets so the kids will have some fun activities during the day.
As for long-term plans- solar lighting, bamboo shelters, and mangrove reforestation are being considered. We are currently working on an ironed-out proposal for these.
Thank-you! We look forward to hearing more.
You can check out Coolie Dread’s incredible aerial videos here:
Do sign up to his youtube channel for updates, as their work is ongoing.
Last Saturday my sister and I booked a table for the Dubai Flea Market in the lovely Safa Park to raise funds for the Philippines.
We woke up around 5.30am to prepare for a 8am market start!
We had about 10 huge super heavy jam packed bags. (My shoulders are still aching! haha)
Now when the doors open, the place is crazy. People are grabbing items, pleading for AED.10 on an item you planned to sell for AED.50… At first we started with items around AED.20-30 and ended up doing a AED.1 sale at the end to flog the items left!
Highlights of the market include selling a donated Justin Beiber biography (a friends joke secret santa gift!) to a very very happy little girl. and a fully covered older woman rushing to buy my spiky gold stage bra from New york… !
Woohoooo that moment after 7.5 hours of selling items that we sold it ALL! =D
In the end we raised an impressive AED.4000! Not bad for a days work hey?!
We would like to say a huge THANK-YOU to Haruka, Mary, Pauline & David, Elina, Lucy & Joe, Mustafa for your amazing donated items, you guys rock!!!!
The money raise will be going to the completion of the GOFUND ME REBUILDING PROJECT for our cousin’s home, RISE ABOVE CEBU & SOUL AMMO!
More news to come on how those various projects are making a difference! =)
As I reflect on your passing, I feel grateful that you walked alongside us.
As a child my father introduced me to your story. He told me about his days at LSE university protesting against apartheid and boycotting oranges from South Africa. This inspired me to read your amazing auto-biography ‘Long walk to freedom’. I was captivated.
Then I was lucky to see you speak live at Trafalgar Square when I followed my fathers footsteps and also studied at LSE. There I met my best friend whose father is South African. She told me tales of him, a Jazz musician who during Apartheid would perform behind a curtain with the white musicians at the front in a concert for white people, and in front of the screen with the white musicians behind the curtain for a performance for black people.
Apartheid. The very idea was so ridiculous, I couldn’t believe it wasn’t that long ago…
Last Summer 2012 I finally had the chance to go to Johannesburg South Africa, to record my debut single ‘Unite’ with the incredible Soweto Gospel Choir.
The Soweto Gospel Choir were particularly close to you. They performed at the first of your 46664 concerts! And regularly performed for public and personal occasions for you- you had good taste in music!
It was a real honour for them to sing on my song, and to know that they were so close to you had a deeper meaning to me, as the song Unite is about us being one human race and the immense positive power we can form when we live for one another; you lived by that.
The choir took us to Soweto to see the house where you grew up and to eat some traditional food in one of their homes. We also visited the apartheid museum, which tells the story of apartheid and shows more on your story. It was truly an amazing experience I will never forget.
Then strangely enough, during one evening at a small bar in Melville in Johannesburg we got talking to a few local guys that the waitress had put us on a table with as there were no free tables. We chatted for hours and hours about music, race and South Africa and later we exchanged emails… and there I discovered that one of them was one of your grandsons! It felt like I was never too far away from you!
Mandela- as I go through my life I will continue to be inspired by your great capacity for forgiveness, your fight for justice and your compassion. Many people will call themselves Christians, but truly ‘loving your enemy’ is something many do not achieve to do earnestly, and that I think you did, along with a smile that lights up the world, and gives the darkest souls hope…
You light has allowed others to shine, and now it is time for you light up the heavens and rest in heavenly peace…
Love & Light,
“And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
― Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom
Having some fun with great musicians, playing a few cover songs..
Planning to reshoot soon so we get a separate quality audio quality, but I think Maz did a great job filming, so here’s to not wasting!
Melisa Le Rue – Vocals
Stoyan Stoyanov- Keys
Rami Lakkis- Bass
Artur Grigoryan- Sax
Ayman Boujlida- Drums
Video by Maz Rutherford