A Longing of My Soul

Religion is beautiful when it nourishes the human spirit and inspires the believer to help their community, to value their family, to engage with other humans in a just way.  Often people use religion to suit their own interest, manipulate the truth and exploit and oppress others.  But in fact, religion isn’t complicated at all. I have been very fortunate to have a circle of friends and acquaintances from many countries, cultures, and religions.  A few lessons that I learned during my spiritual journey:  We human beings no matter where we are from, no matter what religion we practice, we are very similar than we are different.  Our basics needs are the same.  The most important lesson that I learned during my spiritual journey is that love in itself is a prayer and our relationship with our creator is very sacred.  Only God knows what’s in your heart, what our intentions are. I believe every human being has a part of God within them.

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This past summer I went to Philly and while wandering around , I came across this beautiful church.  I went in and prayed.

I am constantly learning and evolving and reinventing myself, living in a Muslim country, I have realized that there is not one face of Islam, not one way that people worship.  Within every culture and every religion people live their lives in a multitude of ways.  Therefore, there is a diversity within Islam itself, that transcend the limits of race and ethnicity.  Some people will make you feel like you are not Muslim enough or Christian enough. Ignore them!  It only emanates from their lack of faith.   I also learned that prayer isn’t about asking for help, it’s a daily admission of one’s weakness, it is a longing of the soul.  The value of persistent prayer is: one day you will finally hear your creator.  Although one might label me as a Muslim, in reality, I believe in all religions.  I am much more than the labels people use to identify me.  So I leave you with a little prayer:

I pray that I have eyes that see the best in people and a heart that forgives the worst and a soul that never loses faith.  

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This  beautiful mosque is in Washington D.C. 

 

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So Many People Use Your Name in Vain

We think about it, dream about it, lose sleep worrying about it, and when we don’t have it, we search for it and when we find it, we don’t know what to do with it. Love! Love can engulf you, imprison you, torment you. img_20150721_101150

“Love is an untamed force. When we try to control it, it destroys us. When we try to imprison it, it enslaves us. When we try to understand it, it leaves us feeling lost and confused.”-Paulo Coelho

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There are some of us who spend our whole life, seeking love, chasing it, often waiting for it. For some of us this lifelong quest to find that perfect love story is exhausting, and more often it is more tragic, but at other times gratifying. For months on end, I surrendered my heart to a potent type of love, the type of love that leaves you anxious, powerless, defenseless. Somewhat like an addict, addicted to what hurt me. If only I recognized the situation for what it was, or if only I was stronger at the time, I would have left with my dignity. But I was in love with him or maybe the idea of him as the man I wanted him to be, which kept me prisoner. I held on to his promises, I justified his excuses. It was like waiting for Godot, holding on to the hope. I tortured myself and he tormented me. In retrospect I always wondered why I held for so long, maybe it’s because I had faith in him. I gave him the benefit of the doubt ‘till his true colors came out. For so long I waited for his apology, for a sorry, for a thank you. I finally made peace with the fact that I may never get an apology and even if he did, his words are worthless now.

Looking back, I mistakenly thought that this vulnerable feeling meant that I was madly in love, but in fact, love isn’t meant to make you feel weak, it isn’t meant to cripple you, or make you feel helpless. It should make you feel stronger! It should make you feel secure! It should empower you! If you ever feel this constant unsettling feeling, don’t ignore it or mistake it for love. I know this might sound cliché but from my heartbreak experience, and I have learned the best lessons in the best and hardest way possible. I learned the hard way, after having my heart torched like a flame by a so-called ‘love’. What hurt me the most was that I thought I was losing a friend. I was disillusioned into thinking if ever I needed someone he would be there for me. But when you love someone, you just don’t treat them badly or hurt them. It pains me to say this, but the harsh reality and truth is he never loved me!

So, I pressed the restart button, and now I see myself through different eyes, I am in love again and now, more than ever, I know its different type of love.

It’s the type of love that makes me dance in my underwear, start a bonfire, take adventurous trips, and laugh about life. It’s the type of love that makes me feel like I am untouchable. See, this love, that I am feeling, no type of man is capable of providing it.

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My heart is free of him at last! My heart is at peace, at ease knowing that what was meant for me will never miss me. I don’t regret meeting him, my only regret was caring for someone who didn’t care about me.i-dont-love-you-anymore

For so long I was scared of accepting the emotions that I ever so often feared. The pain! I feared actually feeling the pain. Most human beings by nature are very afraid to feel pain. But often the thought of pain is actually worse than the pain itself.

I went through fire, agony, disappointment, to learn this: that your salvation will not come from the outside it will come from within.

Say this out loud with me: I AM ENOUGH, I AM WORTHY!!

You are enough! You are worthy! You don’t need another human being to validate your existence.

Let go of all the things that are holding you back in life! Let go of the self-judgment, the criticism, the control. Stop beating yourself up, pleasing others, comparing yourself to others. Be kind to yourself! Once you have forgiven yourself, you can forgive others. Peel off your layers and let go of the toxicity. Take time to heal from the past. Accept it, grieve it, and forgive. You can’t get over the heartbreak until you let yourself feel it. If you don’t go through the grieving process, and you bury the pain, you will eventually encounter the same people with different faces, the same exact situations reoccurring. The pain will keep on resurfacing.

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“If you’re brave enough to say goodbye, life will reward you with a new hello”.

A lot of people are scared of spending quality time with themselves, they are scared of being alone. How do you build a friendship or a relationship? It’s by spending quality time with that person. How do you expect another human being to enjoy your company when you can’t enjoy your own company? Know who you really are. Love yourself fully. Allow yourself to meditate, be in nature, write, relax, listen to music. Being alone will make you realize that you don’t need other human beings to validate your existence and when you are surrounded by the others you won’t seek their approval, you will find them gravitating towards you, you will become much more enjoyable, lovable. You will become the best you, that you can be! You will become powerful beyond measures! You will find people flocking towards you, wanting to know your secret.

I will leave you with this: The most generous and greatest of lovers is one who feels fulfilled.

The Ultimate Summer Playlist

Drop tops, long hot nights and summer love!

After a long hiatus, I have decided to revive my blog by starting of with my 2016 summer playlist.

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DJ Khaled ft Drake – For Free

Drake –One Dance

Calvin Harris ft Rihanna – This is What you came for

Lloyd-Tru

Craig David – One more time

Drake – Controlla

Alicia Keys – In common

Justin Timberlake- Can’t stop the feeling

Beyonce – Hold up

Sia ft sean paul- Cheap thrills

Partynextdoor – Come and see me

Jeremih –Oui

Bryson Tiller- Don’t

Mike Posner -I took a pill in Ibiza

Charlie Puth ft Selena – We Don’t Talk Anymore  ( I hear this song everyday at work….so it was bound to make it on the playlist)

Beyonce- Sorry

Major Lazer ft Justin Bieber & Mo – Cold Water

Fifth Harmony ft Fetty Wap  – All in my head

Adele – Send my love

Astrid S- Hurt So Good

Drop a comment below and let me know what you are listening to this summer.

When the Sun goes down, the stars come out

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Hola! Bonjour! Marhaba! Howdy! Hello! Halla! Ola! I know it’s been awhile since my last post. I’m sorry for my sporadic posts, I’m currently in a transitional phase in my life, so I truly appreciate your patience and support.

One evening, I heard my brother whisper a prayer: “I thank you for everything that I have, for the blessings that I am aware of and the blessings I am unaware of. I thank you for what is ahead and what the future holds”. Tears began to flood my face, like lava pouring out of a volcano that had just erupted. His words had struck a chord in my soul. I then realized a fundamental truth about life, only when you count your blessings and give thanks, only then will we start feeling fulfilled, and happy.

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My cousin used to always say: ”I would love to drink from that happy juice, you are drinking, can you please give me the recipe?” I wish I had a simple recipe that would instantly give you an adrenaline rush or make you instantly happy. Viola some magic! I am sorry to disappoint you, I don’t have that recipe, but what I do know is something simple, the secret to staying happy is gratitude.

Gratitude is the feeling of thankfulness, it means gearing your attention to the things you have, as opposed to the things you lack. Gratitude not only determines your attitude, it determines your latitude, and how far you get in life. When I wake up every morning my heart is overwhelmed with gratitude. I am thankful to be alive. I am thankful that I get to see another day. I am thankful for the roof on top of my head, for the bed I sleep in, for the food in my fridge, for my amazing family, for the eyes that I see with, for the air that I’m breathing, for everything that I believe in. I am thankful for every person that I have crossed path with, whether good or bad. In every experience in our lives  there is a lesson to learn from.

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It is easy to feel grateful when things are going smoothly in your life, but even in our darkest hours, we have to remember to be grateful because behind every lesson there is a blessing. Yes, I do have some really bad days but even on my worst day I know that after the storm the sun will shine. This might be the best piece of advice that I will probably ever give you. Last year I had one of my best years, simply because I kept a gratitude journal. I wrote three things every day that I was grateful for; I encourage you to do the same. I also wrote thank you cards to people who had impacted my life. I promise you this: giving thanks will make you happier, more resilient; it will also strengthen your relationships and improve your health. For all the men out there since I know you don’t like keeping journals, just use a voice recorder and record three things you feel grateful for everyday or maybe use snapchat as your outlet.

“If the only prayer you say in your life is ‘ thank you, ‘ that would suffice.” – Meister Eckhart.

Taking back the streets of Beirut

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Photograph: Yazan Halwani’s ‘Fairuz’ in Gemmayze

“There is an alternative voice rising,” says Yazan Halwani, the young Lebanese street artist. “I’m not going to say that what I do is going to free Lebanon or change the sectarian political system, or fix any regional problem, it’s far from that. But it tells people that you don’t have to accept what’s already there.”

Halwani has just finished university for the day when we catch up, his English carrying more than the hint of a French accent. On occasion he talks 19 to the dozen, such is his passion for graffiti, calligraphy and the reclamation of Beirut’s streets from the clutches of the city’s myriad political parties. For an alternative voice, he is both endearing and charismatic.

Following a brief misunderstanding in February this year, the possibility that much of his work – and that of other graffiti artists – would be removed by Beirut Municipality has receded, leaving him free to plan a spring and summer offensive on the city’s battered and bruised urban landscape. He’s also free to continue to replace the imagery of political propaganda that plagues Beirut with more inspirational cultural icons.

“This is the main objective behind my work. To try and loosen the political grip,” he says. “That is why I paint Fairuz or Mahmoud Darwish or Ali Abdullah, the homeless man who used to live on Bliss Street. Because for me these are the true faces of Beirut and with whom Beirutis should identify. The true figures of our society should not be political, but rather cultural or artistic.

“For Fairuz, I always knew that the people living around the mural really identified with it and protected it from posters or from being painted over. But if you grow up in this city, as a kid you might see these political parties and their leaders and think they’re heroes. They’re everywhere. The real people that control the city are not – if you want – cultured, or the biggest icons are not cultured. They’re mainly political. That’s because of how well they diffuse their messages in the street. So the idea is to – not myself reclaim the city – but try to replace them with more positive figures.”

Is it working?

“Well, they have weapons and political parties are particularly territorial, so if you do something they feel is loosening their control they can get angry, and they have the upper hand. You have to know how to navigate by just talking to them; tell them that what you’re doing is not there to replace them, although for me personally that is what I’m trying to do.

“There has been, if you like, a rise in the street artist’s opinion. It’s not only artistic, it has a larger impact. It’s about culture, but the work has a political voice too without actually supporting political factions. It’s about being engaged in the community actively and not just saying that ‘oh yes, this is a pretty wall’ and that’s it. It’s more about taking control.”

Originally a traditional tagger, Halwani has embraced calligraffiti, merging Arabic calligraphy with graffiti art, and has sought to create murals that solidify the link between the people of Beirut, their culture and the Arabic language. His style incorporates Kufi (an angular script that is made up of short square and horizontal strokes), Diwani (a complex cursive style of Arabic calligraphy) and Thuluth (a cursive script designed with curved and oblique lines), while his process of creation utilises numerous techniques. These include stencilling, the use of string and chalk for certain geometric patterns, brushes and acrylic paint for calligraphy, and spray paint for the portraits themselves. He also incorporates calligraphy into faces as a means of shading, with the words relaying messages. For example, the Darwish mural included the quote ‘On this Land, there’s what’s worth living for’.

“I’m not trying to replicate or just push a bit what graffiti is, I’m trying to invent a style that’s culturally appropriate to the region and is different,” says Halwani, who studies computer and communication engineering at the American University of Beirut. “It’s not just taking something and slapping it on the city. There should be, if you want, an appropriation of mural painting or street art as something that solidifies the link between the people and their culture, especially that in Lebanon, and even the Arabic language itself, which is currently passing through a cultural crisis. This is why I picked up a calligraphy book. This is why I’m moving towards an Arabesque, Oriental appropriation of the space. It’s far from the street art feel of going against the system, because we don’t really have a strong system. It’s more about making graffiti for the people of the city. It could be Beirut, it could be Tunis, it could be any city in the Arab world. It’s about landmarks or pieces that the people identify with because graffiti is not about the artist, it’s more about the people that live around it.”

It is easy to detect a sense of responsibility towards public spaces when talking to Halwani. No doubt other Beirut street artists feel the same way, including Ali Rafei and twins Mohamed and Omar Kabbani, who go under the name Ashekman. He often removes posters before doing his work, and one of the successes of the Fairuz mural was its integration into the buildings around it. It sits well not only with the colours of the streets, but with the architecture of the building itself. Interestingly, Halwani sometimes views himself as politically incorrect, inasmuch that he attempts to beautify the city without taking permission, whereas everybody else destroys the city without taking permission.

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“There is this kind of mentality sometimes in Beirut where you feel that public spaces are there for citizens to abuse. This is the general thing that is accepted in Beirut – the streets are not yours so you can abuse them. This is something that I’ve always felt when I’m in the street and someone sees me painting and they ask me ‘why are you doing this? Why are you wasting your money on a wall that is not yours? Go spend it on yourself’. There is some kind of individualism that gets questioned by the act of painting a public wall in the street out of your own money.”

In a sense, those who believe he is wasting his money have a point. Graffiti is not cheap for an artist to produce. As such, Halwani has delved into the commercial world, creating work for galleries and art fairs, as well as individual commissioned pieces for private collectors. His mixed media work on canvas of the iconic Syrian singer Asmahan, produced for the 2013 Beirut Art Fair, is an example of the kind of sought-after work he produces, although it is possible to level criticism at a graffiti artist who moves from the street to the gallery.

“When you work on canvas it’s not like working on a wall,” he says. “It’s a different media, it’s a different challenge, but it’s also a challenge and this is the most important aspect. For me it makes sense for several reasons. The type of graffiti that I do, in Lebanon especially, and in the cultural context, is no longer a kind of anti-system thing, it’s more about graffiti for the people. Street art has an ephemeral nature, so I see canvases as several things. The first one is the concept of creating work that is not going to disappear. It’s like taking a picture to save my work, because in the street it might get destroyed, it might get painted over, it might fade away. Canvases are snapshots of the graffiti I do.

“The second – to be very pragmatic about things – is that the canvases are also a source of financing for the murals in the absence of cultural infrastructure in the region. In Lebanon especially, you cannot finance your work in the street unless you do work for advertising companies and brands. Although some people do it, I do not like to associate my style with a certain brand. I do not want to promote something that I do not believe in. This is the most important thing. An artist has a concept, an idea. It’s not about making a product and selling it. It’s about a concept, a message and a belief, a strong belief. This is why the only way to continue creating artistic murals in the street in the absence of cultural infrastructure is to actually do some gallery work.”

The third reason cited by Halwani is the challenge of creating work that will be critiqued. “If you want to develop your style as an artist and be criticised and make sure that what you’re giving to the streets is the best thing you can do, you have to go to a gallery and be criticised,” he says.

Either way, his work has moved far beyond the early days of tagging. His creative process is hectic. He sketches, reads Arabic poetry, listens to the news, uses public transport wherever possible, and walks. Walks a lot. Mainly to identify potential walls for future work.

“I have this collection of locations, of calligraphy, of patterns, of quotes, of poetry, and of portraits most of all, and I just collect them without anything in mind. Then, whenever I find a good location and it’s contextually relevant, I try to group these elements. I group them on a sketch, but the most important thing is for it to be contextually relevant.”

And there’s no trouble with the law?

“No.”

So what happened with Beirut Municipality back in February?

“There was a bit of distortion of the actual story,” he replies. “The actual story is that they were removing political emblems and signs and flags because political parties in Beirut have a somewhat aggressive presence on the street. By accident the municipality removed some graffiti and rumours spread that the municipality was going to remove my work specifically, or the works of a few other people. But then I went to a talk show with the governor of Beirut and what he actually said was that there was no decision to actually remove the graffiti and that this was a mistake. He then invited graffiti artists to apply for permission to get their graffiti done and said he would re-issue the permits for the graffiti that was erased.”

So Beirut largely tolerates graffiti?

“It’s true, we have always been lucky in that sense,” he says. “It’s easier to do than in other countries and there is no formal penalty even if you do it illegally. I guess we are kind of a graffiti heaven.”

* Published in Emirates Man, June 2015

Written By Ian Akerman. Iain Akerman is a writer,  journalist and editor based between the UK, Dubai and Beirut.

Source: Taking back the streets of Beirut

Black Summer Nights

I haven’t been able to post lately; the month of August was an eventful month. My friend was visiting from Saudi Arabia, so I was busy showing her around, I was also trying to soak up as much sun as I can get before the summer departs. So I spent most of my spare time outdoors.

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I kicked off  August, by going to a  concert by one of my favorite artists, so far it’s been the highlight of my year. When I was 15, I also attended a concert by the same artist, I still remember the dress I wore, my fashion sense was a little questionable at the time. For those R&B old school lovers, I went to see Joe Thomas. Better known as just Joe. Here is a snippet from the concert.

If you know me in any capacity you probably know that I breathe music. Music is like food to my soul, when I hear a good song,  it moves something inside of me and I’m automatically transported to a beautiful mystical place.   Music replenishes your heart, it soothes your mind, it nourishes your soul, whether you are having a good or bad day it can alter your mood, it can let you escape . Unconsciously, when you turn on the radio and you are on your way to school or work,  a good song can help shape your day, it can boost your energy or it can help you relax when you’re feeling anxious.Ticket

I believe that one of the most powerful instruments that can help unite human being is music.   Have you heard a song in a different language  and instantly  felt a connection without even  understanding the words?  It is because  music is a universal language we can all speak.   When all fails, music will bring us together.

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I probably know the lyrics to every R&B song out there (O.K. so,  I am exaggerating a bit) but I am definitely a music addict. I’m always jamming to something even when I am getting dressed and its 6 am. Maybe in my past life I might have been a musician or a DJ. Below I have compiled a list of my favorite summer jams and I also want to introduce you to some Arabic music, so I have posted  one of my favorite Arabic music videos, as of lately, I think it’s a pretty creative music video.

Summer Playlist :

Gemini ft Nick Jonas- Good thing

Ciara – Dance like we’re making love

Robin Thicke ft Nicki Minaj- Back together

Trey Songz- About you

Gallant – Weight in Gold

Joe- Future Teller

Omi- Cheerleader

The Weekend- Cant feel my face

Drake –Energy

Omarion ft Kid Ink , French Montana- Im up

Janet Jackson ft J.Cole- No sleep

Nick Minaj- The Night is still young

Chris Brown ft Tyga- Ayo

Fifth Harmony ft Kid Ink-Worth it

Jeremiah ft J. Cole –Planes

Major Lazer & Dj Snake – Lean on

Pia Mia ft Chris Brown, Tyga- Do it Again

Miguel -Coffee

I want to know what your jamming to this summer or what you liked from my playlist. Leave a comment below.

Deceiving The Masses

Growing up, my father had the most annoying alarm clock, it was an alarm clock combined with a radio. Every time it would go off , the sound would travel throughout the house , awaking the whole house with the sound of the BBC broadcast. Now, looking back I actually miss that annoying alarm. Watching the news here in America is more like watching a reality show with Donald trump as the lead. I can’t help but laugh whenever I turn on CNN or Fox News.

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I used to wonder why American’s didn’t know much about what was happening outside the U.S. But now,  I know how tainted the media is here. Like the great Malcolm X once said, “The media is the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent and that’s power, because they control the minds of the masses.” Most of what’s being aired on the news is intended to distract us from what’s really happening around the world.watching tv3

This past week, Obama was in Kenya and Ethiopia on a very important, historical visit to his father’s homeland and to the African Union. It was his first official visit as the President of the United States, it was also the first time for a sitting U.S. president to address the African Union. I found the news coverage here in America to be very disappointing, lacking and straight out racist. Instead of covering these important events, the media here were more focused on Donald Trumps campaign, and when they did mention anything regarding Obama’s visit to Africa, they managed to distort Africa’s image by making racist remarks and calling it ‘the land of terror.’

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Africa is the cradle of humanity, the birth of civilizations and everything beautiful. It’s a shame that they would depict it in such a despicable manner. Obama made it back alive from Africa, and to be honest with you , I have never seen him happier then on this visit. In both Kenya and Ethiopia, he was greeted with crowds of people on the streets. I also think he gave some of his best speeches to date. Thanks to France 24, I was able to watch his speech at the African Union. I won’t get into the nitty-gritty details of the speech, but all I have to say is watch out China, America is coming to compete with you in Africa.

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On a daily basis finding the real news here is a struggle, you have to check out multiple sites, or either subscribe to cable packages with foreign channels. I am ashamed to say this, but some days I am so busy from start to finish that I can’t be bothered with the news. I guess the system here is made to make you forget about the world around you, it’s made to distract you, by work, bills, your personal social life, and the Kardashians.  So, I don’t blame anyone for not knowing what’s happening around the world. However, being unaware of what’s going on in the news is extremely dangerous because it makes a person become more individualistic and eventually you become less compassionate because you can’t be bothered by other peoples problems or concerns and eventually it could lead to ignorance. So when you are having an extremely busy day like me, at least skim through the headlines.

If you can relate drop a comment below.  I want to hear your thoughts.