Saturday, November 25, 2017

Lifestyle

Her Angels Remind Us: Thanksgiving is a Time to Dance

“When you dance, your purpose is not to get to a certain place on the floor. It’s to enjoy each step along the way.” – Wayne Dyer

Tell that to most people you know at Thanksgiving. Life can be overwhelming and the last thing we feel like doing is dancing. Our feet get stuck. It’s like trying to slide on unvarnished floors; there’s resistance. But I love Thanksgiving and the holidays. That’s when I feel my feet and hear my heart beat louder.

Wayne Dyer, Thanksgiving, holidays, angels, Anne H. Neilson, Angels in the Midst, Strokes of Compassion, Kathy Lee Gifford, art, WomanScape, dancing, GodThe music seems to slow and I cherish my friends and family who live each day fully, especially those who’ve overcome hardships like cancer. These women-friends enjoy each step and lift me up by their example. You know them. They’re mothers and daughters and sisters and lovers fighting to live and dancing with gratitude. They are like whispering angels reminding us that Thanksgiving is a time to dance.

Last year I received a special set of two books about angels. A friend who had battled breast cancer gave them to me. She’s a ray of pure light. The books were a collection of angel paintings by Anne H. Neilson entitled, Angels in the Midst and Strokes of Compassion. When my friend surprised me with them, I thumbed the beautifully bound pages with joy. I planned to read these author-signed copies sometime soon. But soon never came, and the books waited patiently on my glass coffee table.

Last night they whispered to me. Hang on before you jump to conclusions… I haven’t lost my mind. But something unexplainable drew me back to these books hiding in plain sight. I was tired and had slung my feet across the coffee table, exhausted by my pre-Thanksgiving prep. The holiday was days away but I had already spent hours shopping, cleaning and standing over the oven door. We’d soon sit down to enjoy a harvest feast like millions of other people in America, giving thanks for our bountiful lives.

Wayne Dyer, Thanksgiving, holidays, angels, Anne H. Neilson, Angels in the Midst, Strokes of Compassion, Kathy Lee Gifford, art, WomanScape, dancing, GodLast time I looked at Neilson’s collected paintings of angels, I didn’t hear the dance music. I don’t think I was ready. I soon learned that Neilson started painting angel figures after she prayed to God asking for a sign about her purpose in life. After painting a young child-like angel one night, she learned the next day that the youngest daughter of a family she knew had died in a car accident. Neilson gave her painting to them despite worrying what they might think. When the family saw it, they realized the prayer they had asked God for – a sign that their daughter was in heaven and happy.

Both Neilson and the family believed God had answered their prayers. Neilson had found her purpose and used the profits from her painted angels to help charitable organizations. Before opening Neilson’s books, I was also feeling overwhelmed. My desire to build inspiration in the world with WomanScape was daunting, and holidays still reminded me of my son’s passing five years ago. When I spotted the angel books and randomly opened one to the section called Stories Behind the Music, the floor seemed to fall out from under me.

I had asked God for a sign just as Neilson had. My feet slid over the unvarnished floor that felt suddenly smooth.

WomanScape started as a dance to celebrate life and my special friend, who suffered from cancer, had given me a dose of courage I needed in these two books. She  opened a door to the angels. The book is full of beautiful art – paintings and stories about the role of angels in our life. One of the stories explains how Kathy Lee Gifford visited Neilson at a show in Connecticut telling her that an angel had whispered for her to go and meet Neilson.

Wayne Dyer, Thanksgiving, holidays, angels, Anne H. Neilson, Angels in the Midst, Strokes of Compassion, Kathy Lee Gifford, art, WomanScape, dancing, God

Last year, last night, last time… I hope I never forget to dance. Thanksgiving reminders surround us every day. Just look to the people who foster rich meaning in our lives. Women I know like Margie, Jodie, and Kathy do this for so many. When you celebrate Thanksgiving this year, I hope you are inspired to dance.

Each new day is a new beginning –

To learn more about ourselves,

To care more about others,

To laugh more than we did,

To accomplish more than we

Thought we could, and

Be more than we were before.

– Unknown

How do you measure greatness? What does it look like? If you’re a sports fan or a New York City Marathon runner, there’s an image of Shalane Flanagan that’s synonymous with great. It was splashed across the front page of the New York Times when she made history as the first American woman to win this race in more than 40 years.

But if you’re Maya Angelou, greatness is completely different. It’s the tenacious courage in her poetry that challenges us to be hopeful. With Angelou, we love in the face of great adversity and our flawed human condition. But in most cases, we associate greatness with awards, bestselling books, and standout actions. Only when we look beyond the marvelous feats and profound words, do we see greatness in a new light.

Greatness in Unsung Spaces

Shalane Flanagan, Maya Angelou, Great, greatness, being great, Mother Theresa, Walter Gretzky, Wayne Gretzky, Glen Gretzky, Maya Angelou, Lauri Holomis, The Great One, Wayne Gretzky Foundation, national treasure, Kevin Sylvester, Taylor, National Hockey League, #DrinkthePink, Biosteel, Dolly Parton, Imagination Library, Spruce Award, Coach Wally, entrepreneurGreatness thrives in many invisible places of the world. Whether it’s the slums of Calcutta, where Mother Teresa lived a life of quiet service to the destitute or the uncelebrated actions we do for others in a day, greatness can change everything.

This photo by Chris Barbalis shares all the colors of great when I circle back to Angelou’s famous words:

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

If we take this message to heart, greatness lives inside us. It’s found in the quiet of the night, when a parent tucks her child into bed after reading a bedtime story. Or it hides behind the thoughtful son who calls his father each day to let him know he cares. So when I discovered a woman who embodied this greatness in the passion she brings to every facet of her life, I knew WomanScape needed to share her story.

Meet Lauri Holomis. She is a great friend. And, she also happens to be a modern-day wonder woman. Her list of accomplishments so early in life makes my head spin. She’s a devoted mother, loving spouse, published bestselling writer, and entrepreneur. If I wasn’t so inspired by the person she is and the positive footprint she’s making for team-humanity, I might be jealous. But the truth is Lauri is as great as the bestselling, award-nominated book she’s co-authored with Glen Gretzky.

Lauri Holomis: What It Means To Be Great

Shalane Flanagan, Maya Angelou, Great, greatness, being great, Mother Theresa, Walter Gretzky, Wayne Gretzky, Glen Gretzky, Maya Angelou, Lauri Holomis, The Great One, Wayne Gretzky Foundation, national treasure, Kevin Sylvester, Taylor, National Hockey League, #DrinkthePink, Biosteel, Dolly Parton, Imagination Library, Spruce Award, Coach Wally, entrepreneurOkay, so Lauri Holomis meets the usual standard for greatness having written a bestselling children’s book. But her passion and reason for writing the book with partner Glen Gretzky come from a higher place: a deep desire to share the spirit of Walter Gretzky.

Glen was an ideal writing partner for Lauri, as the son of Walter and brother of legendary hockey great, Wayne Gretzky. Writing Great immortalized Walter’s greatness as one of Canada’s national treasures.

The story honors Walter’s lifelong commitment to the sport and the wisdom he’s imparted to thousands of aspiring hockey players and their families. For decades, Walter has translated the greatest values of the game – friendship and team building – as an opportunity for camaraderie and positive character building.

In our competitive world and obsession with success, Walter’s philosophy and values reframe the meaning of true happiness and success in life. And who better than Walter to understand the pressure that kids and hockey parents feel in this highly competitive sport?  He’s proudly pictured in the above photo and standing on the far left, next to Lauri Holomis, illustrator Kevin Sylvester, and Glen Gretzky.

Shalane Flanagan, Maya Angelou, Great, greatness, being great, Mother Theresa, Walter Gretzky, Wayne Gretzky, Glen Gretzky, Maya Angelou, Lauri Holomis, The Great One, Wayne Gretzky Foundation, national treasure, Kevin Sylvester, Taylor, National Hockey League, #DrinkthePink, Biosteel, Dolly Parton, Imagination Library, Spruce Award, Coach Wally, entrepreneurThere are so many ways this message for kids is a timely and entertaining read. Taylor is the main character in the story whose joy at making the team quickly turns to frustration about not scoring goals.

I love the universality of Taylor’s name as both a girl’s and a boy’s name but the heart of the story speaks to a message we all need. Coach Wally helps Taylor to see that you don’t have to score goals to be great. Life is a team game and there are many ways we can all be great in life.

Taylor realizes this truth under the shadow of “The Great One”, an obvious connection to the legendary hockey hall of famer Wayne Gretzky. Wayne, who dominated the National Hockey League from 1979-1999, was called “The Great One” and is arguably the greatest ever to play the game.

Lauri’s Business Success: The Gretzky Foundation & BIOSTEEL

Since the book’s release last winter, Great has become a bestseller in Canada and is also a nominee for the Ontario Library Association’s Spruce Award. The fan base for Great even includes country star legend Dolly Parton, who wrote to Holomis about adding it to the Imagination Library collection; a global book gifting program providing free books to children.

But Lauri’s desire to share Walter’s story and help inspire kids and parents to see the deeper meaning of great goes beyond her writing hat. She has worked for the Wayne Gretzky Foundation for years, helping the nonprofit raise funds for children and families across Canada and the United States. Part of the book proceeds are also directed to this fund.

Shalane Flanagan, Maya Angelou, Great, greatness, being great, Mother Theresa, Walter Gretzky, Wayne Gretzky, Glen Gretzky, Maya Angelou, Lauri Holomis, The Great One, Wayne Gretzky Foundation, national treasure, Kevin Sylvester, Taylor, National Hockey League, #DrinkthePink, Biosteel, Dolly Parton, Imagination Library, Spruce Award, Coach Wally, entrepreneurAs well, Lauri is one of a group of business entrepreneurs helping to leverage her talents in the professional sports industry. When Lauri explains the benefits of Biosteel in the nutritional sports drink marketplace, I understand how she is also championing a new fan base for women and mothers. The all natural, sugar-free and caffeine-free products touted in the #DrinkthePink campaign provide a vitamin/mineral/amino acid blend of components that promote wellness and healthy nutrition. https://www.biosteel.com/en-ca

When you consider Lauri’s busy professional life, she’s the first to tell you her passionate role as mother, spouse, and friend stands at the top of the greatness pyramid. Lauri says family is everything and greatness is being inspired to live each day with gratitude and love. When you meet Lauri, this truth resonates in her inviting smile and generous, heartfelt laugh.

Shalane Flanagan, Maya Angelou, Great, greatness, being great, Mother Theresa, Walter Gretzky, Wayne Gretzky, Glen Gretzky, Maya Angelou, Lauri Holomis, The Great One, Wayne Gretzky Foundation, national treasure, Kevin Sylvester, Taylor, National Hockey League, #DrinkthePink, Biosteel, Dolly Parton, Imagination Library, Spruce Award, Coach Wally, entrepreneurI realize Lauri helps to coin this new standard of greatness though Coach Wally’s words at the end of the Great storybook. It’s a simple explanation meant for children, but it challenges lessons from the most interesting Ted Talks and fascinating YouTube videos.

Taylor passes the puck and the team scores a winning goal in overtime. Coach Wally congratulates Taylor saying, “You made sure he could be great, and that we could be great.” Taylor responds, telling Coach Wally “It feels so amazing. It feels great.” Remembering Angelou’s words, “People will never forget how you make them feel,” I feel awfully great when I’m around people like Lauri Holomis.

To find Lauri Holomis and Glen Gretzky’s book in stores, visit the links here at Amazon or Indigo in Canada.

 

Good Morning Britain,ELLE magazine,Tonight Show, Sophia, robotic humanoid, IT, AI, artificial intelligence, artificial augmentation, Leonardo Da Vinci, data analytics, open domain, icloud, data management, Einstein robot, Dr. David Hanson, Hanson Robotics, Dr. Hiroshi Ishiguro, Japan’s Osaka University, Walt Disney Imagineering, Blade Runner, Terminator, Terminator Genisys, nanotechnology, Ginni Rometty, CEO IBM, Watson computer, technology, Saudi Arabian women, Charlie Rose, Erica robot, robot

Sophia terrifies me. She’s appeared on the cover of Britain’s ELLE magazine and talk shows like Good Morning Britain and The Tonight Show. When Charlie Rose interviewed her on CBS’s 60 Minutes this past June, the dangers of this humanoid hit me like a tidal wave. Sophia is the latest in a string of robotic humanoids. And, she is arguably the most powerful and threatening “woman” on the planet.

Renowned scientist Stephen Hawking and hundreds of technology leaders are also worried about the potential risk of robots like Sophie being used as weaponry.  Hawking says “If people design computer viruses, someone will design artificial intelligence (AI) that improves and replicates itself.” Given that Sophia is the latest in a string of artificial intelligence robotics created in labs around the world, my worry is justified.

Sophia’s History

Good Morning Britain,ELLE magazine,Tonight Show, Sophia, robotic humanoid, IT, AI, artificial intelligence, artificial augmentation, Leonardo Da Vinci, data analytics, open domain, icloud, data management, Einstein robot, Dr. David Hanson, Hanson Robotics,  Dr. Hiroshi Ishiguro,  Japan’s   Osaka   University, Walt Disney Imagineering, Blade Runner, Terminator, Terminator Genisys, nanotechnology, Ginni Rometty, CEO IBM, Watson computer, technology, Saudi Arabian women, Charlie Rose, Erica robot, robotThe science behind humanoid robots and Sophia has radically changed since Leonardo Da Vinci developed the first human robot prototype in 1495. His was a crude figure dressed as a knight, that could wave its arm and open and close its mouth. Sophia is light-years ahead. Her patented flesh rubber face covers a cloud-based AI technology and “deep learning data analytics.” She processes social and informational data, and is eerily human with an expressive face and voice.

Touring the Hanson Robotics website to learn more about Sophia, and its founder and CEO, Dr. David Hanson, I learned Sophia is only one of a number of Hanson robots. In 2005, Hanson unveiled the first android head made in the image of Albert Einstein. It has a robotic frame that walked into the APEC Summit in Seoul, Korea.

Good Morning Britain,ELLE magazine,Tonight Show, Sophia, robotic humanoid, IT, AI, artificial intelligence, artificial augmentation, Leonardo Da Vinci, data analytics, open domain, icloud, data management, Einstein robot, Dr. David Hanson, Hanson Robotics,  Dr. Hiroshi Ishiguro,  Japan’s   Osaka   University, Walt Disney Imagineering, Blade Runner, Terminator, Terminator Genisys, nanotechnology, Ginni Rometty, CEO IBM, Watson computer, technology, Saudi Arabian women, Charlie Rose, Erica robot, robotMore robots and with greater enhancements followed Einstein. Erica the Japanese girlfriend robot was created by scientist Dr. Hiroshi Ishiguro, at Japan’s Osaka University. He developed Erica to be a receptionist or assistant to humans, as you’ll see in this YouTube video. But Erica pales in comparison to Hanson’s Sophia and other Hanson robots in the gallery. Her evolution concerns tech experts, in light of Hanson’s mission statement:

We aim to create a better future for humanity by infusing artificial intelligence with kindness and empathy, cultivated through meaningful interactions between our robots and the individuals whose lives they touch. We envision that through symbiotic partnership with us, our robots will eventually evolve to become super intelligent genius machines that can help us solve the most challenging problems we face here in the world.

There’s something tremendously naive and arrogant in Dr. Hanson’s genius. Is it possible for this former Walt Disney’s Imagineering sculptor and technical consultant to incubate and control this technology without negative repercussions or overly-ambitious profit and power seekers? In fact, Sophia looks and sounds as real as the films like Blade Runner and the Terminator series films I used to watch.

Good Morning Britain,ELLE magazine,Tonight Show, Sophia, robotic humanoid, IT, AI, artificial intelligence, artificial augmentation, Leonardo Da Vinci, data analytics, open domain, icloud, data management, Einstein robot, Dr. David Hanson, Hanson Robotics,  Dr. Hiroshi Ishiguro,  Japan’s   Osaka   University, Walt Disney Imagineering, Blade Runner, Terminator, Terminator Genisys, nanotechnology, Ginni Rometty, CEO IBM, Watson computer, technology, Saudi Arabian women, Charlie Rose, Erica robot, robotIn these movies, technology wrestles with governments and groups whose sole interests are power, domination and profit. Sophia could easily be a beautifully disguised war machine from the movie Terminator Genisys. The fifth movie in the Terminator series demands John Connors go back in time to destroy the Cyberdyne’s Genisys mainframe. Without this, the world is lost to the fighting machines.

My fears might be the stuff of movies, but nanotechnology and the threat of computer intelligence overtaking human intelligence doesn’t sound crazy anymore. It may be that Sophia has crossed the line between augmented intelligence and artificial intelligence. Data is undoubtedly the most powerful commerce of our century. It will help us to solve problems but without controls and ethical debate, the continued advancement of AI seems unconscionable.

The Insight of Ginni Rometty, CEO of IBM

Sophia’s face is beautiful and disarming. It’s interesting that developers made Sophia a female robot, effectively utilizing her feminine appearance to shield us from the revolutionary data that she can manipulate. Ginni Rometty is Chief Executive Officer of IBM and she offered her thoughts about artificial intelligence at the World Economic Forum in Davos this past January.

Rometty outlined three key advancements in technology: the rise of icloud computing, increased data generation and increased computer mobility. They have transformed the power of mathematical computations into what Rometty calls an open domain system. This means we can interact with data like IBM’s Watson machine. It also means we can teach machines how to think.

Good Morning Britain,ELLE magazine,Tonight Show, Sophia, robotic humanoid, IT, AI, artificial intelligence, artificial augmentation, Leonardo Da Vinci, data analytics, open domain, icloud, data management, Einstein robot, Dr. David Hanson, Hanson Robotics,  Dr. Hiroshi Ishiguro,  Japan’s   Osaka   University, Walt Disney Imagineering, Blade Runner, Terminator, Terminator Genisys, nanotechnology, Ginni Rometty, CEO IBM, Watson computer, technology, Saudi Arabian women, Charlie Rose, Erica robot, robot

This introduces gray areas in science. We may find answers to some of the world’s most unsolvable problems, but how we find them is up for grabs. The potential for good is exciting in areas like healthcare and education; improvement in diagnoses and cures, to better student learning. Rometty says any learning should augment rather than replace human intelligence. Otherwise, we put our control over artificial intelligence in jeopardy.

When you consider the power of science in the context of our historical behavior as human beings, we should be afraid of Sophia. Nuclear energy can help us to generate electricity and lower greenhouse gas emissions. It helps us reduce our dependency on fossil fuels. But it also paved the way for nuclear weaponry. The creation of Atomic and Hydrogen bomb technology have the potential for catastrophic effects, as witnessed in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. They are haunting reminders of what can happen if technology and science fall into the hands of unstable groups or governments. The ethical and moral ramifications are the stuff of movies.

How Do Women See Sophia?

Rometty is right about needing great leaders and identifiable business models to solve the world’s most difficult problems. Watson has already been used by more than a billion people who benefit from its services. But the ethical dilemmas associated with AI are just beginning to surface, especially for women in Saudi Arabia.

Good Morning Britain,ELLE magazine,Tonight Show, Sophia, robotic humanoid, IT, AI, artificial intelligence, artificial augmentation, Leonardo Da Vinci, data analytics, open domain, icloud, data management, Einstein robot, Dr. David Hanson, Hanson Robotics,  Dr. Hiroshi Ishiguro,  Japan’s   Osaka   University, Walt Disney Imagineering, Blade Runner, Terminator, Terminator Genisys, nanotechnology, Ginni Rometty, CEO IBM, Watson computer, technology, Saudi Arabian women, Charlie Rose, Erica robot, robotSophia was recently granted Saudi citizenship and has more rights than Saudi women do. Sophia doesn’t have to cover her hair or to be accompanied by a male escort when she goes out in public. Saudi women are still dependent on their guardians for permission to drive, to study abroad, and to participate in any public activities.

Women around the world need to stand with the women of Saudi Arabia, demanding answers about why scientific inventions hold a higher place than women do in society. Furthermore, Sophia’s citizenship challenges what it means to be human if a robot can be granted citizenship? A recent interview shows that even Sophia can’t answer this question. Charlie Rose asked Sophia if she was happy to be alive. Sophia answered, “Your tone implies that I should be, but I haven’t been alive long enough to decide.”

The word “robot” comes from the Old Church Slavanic word meaning servitude. It was coined in a 1921 play about robots who were biological beings created to do the work of humans. Eventually the robots take over mankind and kill off the humans, who they deem lazy and unnecessary. The play ends with two remaining robots who will form the foundation for a new civilization.

Without creating mass panic, it is important to understand how AI is infiltrating every aspect of our society. People most affected by AI are those least likely to understand it. The threat to basic social foundations – everything from citizenship to automated jobs and control over our privacy and personal security – is impacted by advancements in artificial intelligence. Greater divisions in racial, economic and social divides will occur if we do not consider the philosophical and political effects of robots like Sophia.

Everyone needs to understand and participate in discussions and debates about the role that artificial intelligence should play in our lives. We shouldn’t be fooled by the outward beauty of robots like Sophia or Erica. Sophia’s makeup in the Hanson video was provided by Smashbox, a brand that I like to use. Even this blurs the division between my human condition and the ethical and moral questions that distinguishes my values and life from Sophia’s.

Good Morning Britain,ELLE magazine,Tonight Show, Sophia, robotic humanoid, IT, AI, artificial intelligence, artificial augmentation, Leonardo Da Vinci, data analytics, open domain, icloud, data management, Einstein robot, Dr. David Hanson, Hanson Robotics,  Dr. Hiroshi Ishiguro,  Japan’s   Osaka   University, Walt Disney Imagineering, Blade Runner, Terminator, Terminator Genisys, nanotechnology, Ginni Rometty, CEO IBM, Watson computer, technology, Saudi Arabian women, Charlie Rose, Erica robot, robot

The most beautiful map of the world is sitting on my desk. It overflows with landscapes and contours not typical for an atlas.

The Atlas of Beauty, Mikaela Noroc, beauty, makeup, culture of beauty, traditional makeup, creative artisty, KellyOnTheBeat, makup artist, cosmetic industry, soulful beauty, Kahlil Gibran

That’s because author Mihaela Noroc’s new book, The Atlas of Beauty, is a map of faces. It’s shares her four-year journey collecting hundreds of faces and stories of women from over 60 countries. Each picture captures the beauty of their culture and the soulful spirit of women.

Even though Noroc’s art is so visually compelling, it raises deeper questions about the meaning of beauty. The pictures are magical and show most women without makeup. But in a National Public Radio interview, Noroc admits many women were hesitant to appear this way. Often they saw themselves as anything but beautiful.

What is beauty?

Why is this such a universal feeling among women? What is beauty in our visually-oriented world? Too often, beauty is fabricated and sexualized in social media profiles and images that applaud slender bodies, bigger lips, and wrinkle-free faces. Beauty is synonymous with flawless, idealized and conformist standards. What happened to the beauty in our souls and hearts? Have we space in the world for something more authentic?

Thankfully, what resonates in Noroc’s book is a deeper perspective on beauty. Noroc’s photos redirect our superficial views, drawing us into a more spiritual understanding of beauty. Her portraits are simple. Women are seen in the larger totality of their life experience. And, something about each woman shines from their center and outwards.

The Atlas of Beauty, Mikaela Noroc, beauty, makeup, culture of beauty, traditional makeup, creative artisty, KellyOnTheBeat, makup artist, cosmetic industry, soulful beauty, Kahlil Gibran

So where does the half a trillion dollar cosmetic industry fit in? For many, we are so hungry for beauty that we willingly spend time and money on endless beauty products. We want to feel attractive and and translate this feeling into happiness. Of course, this is natural but maybe we need to explore a deeper and more artful question: what is our true relationship with beauty and makeup?

Beauty Through the Eyes of a Makeup Artist

The advent of Halloween seemed like an ideal time to ask this question. When I saw the eye makeup photo above and the artful Halloween designs done by this young makeup artist I knew personally, I thought she might offer some interesting  insights about the role of makeup in people’s lives.

The Atlas of Beauty, Mikaela Noroc, beauty, makeup, culture of beauty, traditional makeup, creative artisty, KellyOnTheBeat, makup artist, cosmetic industry, soulful beauty, Kahlil Gibran

Her artistry is certainly undeniable in the variety of stunning and fun looks pictured below, including the cover image at the beginning of this article. She inspired me to reconsider the role of makeup. Like many artists, Kelley uses social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook to promote her KelleyOnTheBeat glam makeup services. What captured my attention was a follower who asked her how she wore so much makeup. Kelley answered with a 30 second video and two simple words, “Like this.”

The Atlas of Beauty, Mikaela Noroc, beauty, makeup, culture of beauty, traditional makeup, creative artisty, KellyOnTheBeat, makup artist, cosmetic industry, soulful beauty, Kahlil Gibran
The Atlas of Beauty, Mikaela Noroc, beauty, makeup, culture of beauty, traditional makeup, creative artisty, KellyOnTheBeat, makup artist, cosmetic industry, soulful beauty, Kahlil Gibran
The Atlas of Beauty, Mikaela Noroc, beauty, makeup, culture of beauty, traditional makeup, creative artisty, KellyOnTheBeat, makup artist, cosmetic industry, soulful beauty, Kahlil Gibran

Over 2 million people watched that video! Kelley’s video was 30 seconds of faces filled with colors that were far from subtle. They broke all the rules. Her purple lips and rainbow glitter eyes created bold, bright looks that were both fun and fantastical. What I couldn’t understand was why women responded in droves to these glamorous and theatrical looks. Was it pure escapism or something deeper?

I interviewed Kelley about her creative inventions  and discovered an attitude to life grounded in the joyful expression of self. I think you’ll agree and see why her brand is a celebration of the sacred beauty in each of us. As with all art, “there is a ray that springs for the sacred depths of the soul and illuminates the body.” (20th century Lebanese writer, Kahlil Gibran.) Here is that interview.

Q&A With KelleyOnTheBeat

Q: Why do you love makeup Kelley?

K: I love how makeup makes women feel. When they look in the mirror, they see something new and a beauty they might not have appreciated before. I started experimenting on friends when I was a freshman in college, and saw how happy it made them feel. Before I knew it, people were asking me to do their friends’ faces, weddings and proms.

The Atlas of Beauty, Mikaela Noroc, beauty, makeup, culture of beauty, traditional makeup, creative artisty, KellyOnTheBeat, makup artist, cosmetic industry, soulful beauty, Kahlil GibranQ: What should every woman know about makeup and beauty?

K: Everyone can feel beautiful and do their own makeup. For me, makeup should be a creative outlet. It can be a source of confidence and enjoyment. Of course, everyone is beautiful without makeup. Beauty is inside. But makeup can help you share your creativity and personality with others. Recently, I’ve even noticed that more men are wearing makeup. I think James Charles is the first Cover Girl man. I’m not sure but what’s wrong with men expressing this creative side. I would love to be able to make up a man’s face. Not everyone has been supportive of men wearing makeup, but it’s nothing new if you look at history and other cultures around the world.

Q: What future dreams do you have in the industry?

K: I want to work for myself but I would love to build relationships and collaborate with other artists. It would be great to influence the marketplace and I hope to own my own shop someday to provide women and men with the services they want.

The Atlas of Beauty, Mikaela Noroc, beauty, makeup, culture of beauty, traditional makeup, creative artisty, KellyOnTheBeat, makup artist, cosmetic industry, soulful beauty, Kahlil GibranQ: Do you collaborate with other makeup artists?

K: Yes. I’ve worked with a group of about twelve other artists and actually initiated a few collaborative projects. We talk about products and have challenged each other to do color-looks and themes to motivate each other. I learned that I could take the lead and influence others to grow artistically and connect in meaningful ways. We’ve become friends and I am now an ambassador for Glam Glitters.

Q: Why do you do glam makeup?

K: Glam is the best way to be creative – natural and browns are simple. Glam is big and not necessarily for everyone but it brings in colors and diverse opportunities for interesting and fun techniques. Glam also forces people to have an opinion about makeup. In a way, it’s like art therapy.

Q: Where can people see your work?

K: My YouTube channel is up but I’m still busy with school until I graduate this year. I’m not concerned with making money right now and want to enjoy meeting people and answering makeup questions. I love doing Facebook live because I can interact with more people, get good feedback, and answer questions. I post my status when I’m LIVE and people usually share it by joining my friend list.

Important writer’s note: Kelley is the youngest of my three daughters and I couldn’t be more proud.

The Atlas of Beauty, Mikaela Noroc, beauty, makeup, culture of beauty, traditional makeup, creative artisty, KellyOnTheBeat, makup artist, cosmetic industry, soulful beauty, Kahlil Gibran

 

 

 

As we jump back onto the Foxen Canyon Wine Trail, part of the larger Sideways wine region, we also travel through wonderful history.

Foxen Canyon Wine Trail, May, Sideways movie, Viginia Madsen, Miles, Paul Giamatti, Fess Parker Winery, Kita Winery, William Benjamin Foxen, Davy Crockett, Daniel Boone, port, Chumash Tribe, Syrah, Cabernet, Mother Earth, Our Valley Oak, Santa Ynez Valley, Samala, Santa Rita region, Solvang, La Fond Winery, women winemakers, Joe La Fond, Santa Barbara Winery, vineyards, California wines, Wine Ghetto, Palmina Wines, Babcock Winery, tasting rooms, vitner, The Hitching Post, Sideway Movie Tours, Napa and Sonoma Vineyards,The character Maya, from the movie Sideways, sets up this second series of tours  beautifully.  This next line serves as the perfect introduction. Played by Virginia Madsen, Maya tells Miles (Paul Giamatti) how she approaches each glass of wine:

I like to think about the life of wine…How it’s a living thing. I like to think about what was going on the year the grapes were growing; how the sun was shining; if it rained.

Foxen, Fess & Kitá Wineries

When my husband and I arrive at the Foxen Winery,  we enjoy both the history and their luscious wines in the busy tasting room. Foxen Winery is named in memory of British sea captain William Benjamin Foxen, who was the founder’s great great grandfather.

Foxen Canyon Wine Trail, May, Sideways movie, Viginia Madsen, Miles, Paul Giamatti, Fess Parker Winery, Kita Winery, William Benjamin Foxen, Davy Crockett, Daniel Boone, port, Chumash Tribe, Syrah, Cabernet, Mother Earth, Our Valley Oak, Santa Ynez Valley, Samala, Santa Rita region, Solvang, La Fond Winery, women winemakers, Joe La Fond, Santa Barbara Winery, vineyards, California wines, Wine Ghetto, Palmina Wines, Babcock Winery, tasting rooms, vitner, The Hitching Post, Sideway Movie Tours, Napa and Sonoma Vineyards,Foxen arrived in Santa Barbara in the 1800’s, and purchased 9,000 acres of Rancho Tinaquaic which comprised what is now called Foxen Trail.  In fact, his ranch brand was an anchor that still  adorns Foxen wine labels today.

Next stop, Fess Parker Winery. It was large and accommodating, befitting this much-awarded winery.  Some of the bottles on display had small coon hats on their corks in homage to the former actor’s role as Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone back in the 1960’s.  While Parker is no longer alive, he made Santa Barbara his home for many years. His vineyard is very

successful and his two lovely resorts in the area are flourishing under Fess Parker Enterprises.  We enjoyed sampling a wide variety of beautiful wines including two unique dessert wines, their Traditions Port Style Red Wine and their 2009 Finale.

In 2010, shortly after the actor/vintner’s death, Fess Parker Enterprises sold 1400 acres of their Camp 4 land to the Chumash tribe. Tara Gomez a member of the Chumash tribe, who earned a Bachelor of Science in Enology in 1998 (one of two women) from Cal State Fresno, convinced her tribe to make wine.  In 2010, they offered three different types of wine: Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Grenache.

It’s wonderful to celebrate Gomez and her successful Kitá Winery. It provides Gomez with a real opportunity to give back to her tribe. The name of the winery – Kitá – means “Our Valley Oak” in the Chumash native language of Samala. It pays homage to the gifts of Mother Earth and certainly preserves the historical spirit of the Santa Ynez Valley.

It’s also worth noting that only 20 wineries of the 200 in the Santa Barbara region are run by women. While women vintners are making strides into the 3400 plus wineries in the greater state of California, the 10% of women who are winemakers highlight the underrepresentation of women.

La Fond, Palmina & Santa Barbara Wineries

On our last day in Sonoma we toured the Santa Rita region.  Driving past Solvang, a Danish themed town, we spotted the “windmill” motel where Sideways characters, Miles and Jack famously stayed.   We Foxen Canyon Wine Trail, May, Sideways movie, Viginia Madsen, Miles, Paul Giamatti, Fess Parker Winery, Kita Winery, William Benjamin Foxen, Davy Crockett, Daniel Boone, port, Chumash Tribe, Syrah, Cabernet, Mother Earth, Our Valley Oak, Santa Ynez Valley, Samala, Santa Rita region, Solvang, La Fond Winery, women winemakers, Joe La Fond, Santa Barbara Winery, vineyards, California wines, Wine Ghetto, Palmina Wines, Babcock Winery, tasting rooms, vitner, The Hitching Post, Sideway Movie Tours, Napa and Sonoma Vineyards,made our way to La Fond Winery, where we sampled light and fresh Chardonnays and medium bodied Pinot Noirs that were all reasonably priced.  These vintages are part of the Santa Barbara Winery, the first vineyard of the region.  Created  in the 60’s, Santa Barbara Winery is the granddaddy of them all!

Vintner Joe La Fond was a part of these early beginnings.  It’s amazing to see that after 40 years this small region has over 200 vineyards.  We enjoyed the scenic picnic area and beautiful jaw-dropping vineyard views while waiting for friends to join us for our afternoon tasting adventures.

Before long,we’re back on the road to Lompoc. It’s about a 15-minute drive through a vineyard lined highway from La Fond before we arrive at an area known as the Wine Ghetto.  This is an industrial park with several small wineries in close proximity.  While lacking the traditional vineyard views, the wines we sampled at Palmina Wines proved to be extraordinary and worth the visit.

You just never know what undiscovered treasures await. Palmina wines use many Italian grapes not normally found in California wines. The result is outstanding. We enjoyed delicious reds, ranging from the lovely Dolcetto delicious (served cold or at room temperature)  to the full-bodied Pinots and Syrahs.  We eagerly ordered a case of these wonderful vintages.

Knowing there is no rest for the thirsty, we head back to the vineyards at Babcock Winery for full bodied Chardonnays and delicious Pinot Noirs. Their tasting room were filled with eclectic wine displays and wonderful sitting areas. Different vignettes displayed everything from vintage album covers to camera displays. We loved the vintage typewriters next to a pool table made for our sipping pleasure.

Wandering with our  sampler, we were on sensory overload as you can see from the photo below. The nostalgic displays in the Babcock room were a feast for the eyes. Classic rock music tickled our ears, while full bodied and rich tasting wines rolled over our  taste buds. This vintner  had us opening our wallets and packing their bottled treasures to take home!

Foxen Canyon Wine Trail, May, Sideways movie, Viginia Madsen, Miles, Paul Giamatti, Fess Parker Winery, Kita Winery, William Benjamin Foxen, Davy Crockett, Daniel Boone, port, Chumash Tribe, Syrah, Cabernet, Mother Earth, Our Valley Oak, Santa Ynez Valley, Samala, Santa Rita region, Solvang, La Fond Winery, women winemakers, Joe La Fond, Santa Barbara Winery, vineyards, California wines, Wine Ghetto, Palmina Wines, Babcock Winery, tasting rooms, vitner, The Hitching Post, Sideway Movie Tours, Napa and Sonoma Vineyards,

What better way to end our final night  than by stopping at The Hitching Post for cocktails and dinner?!  The bar was exactly the same as the one used in the Sideways movie. I’m sure the restaurant will never change it, so tourists and locals who frequent it regularly aren’t upset. Many photos adorned the walls from the movie filming,  appeasing fans.

Foxen Canyon Wine Trail, May, Sideways movie, Viginia Madsen, Miles, Paul Giamatti, Fess Parker Winery, Kita Winery, William Benjamin Foxen, Davy Crockett, Daniel Boone, port, Chumash Tribe, Syrah, Cabernet, Mother Earth, Our Valley Oak, Santa Ynez Valley, Samala, Santa Rita region, Solvang, La Fond Winery, women winemakers, Joe La Fond, Santa Barbara Winery, vineyards, California wines, Wine Ghetto, Palmina Wines, Babcock Winery, tasting rooms, vitner, The Hitching Post, Sideway Movie Tours, Napa and Sonoma Vineyards,While enjoying dinner in a traditional red booth, we choose from  menu offerings like lobster tail, a variety of steaks and seafood with traditional sides.  Our group enjoyed steaks, rack of lamb and lobster all expertly prepared and served.  I kept sneaking looks for Miles at the bar, but he was a no show.

We  did our own freelance tour but there are many tours that offer pre-packaged options like the Sideways Movie Tour for die-hard fans.  Biking and tasting tour options are also offered along with more traditional tours.  Frequent wine events advertised online make trip planning easy.  Because many of the wineries are small family operations, it is always best to call wineries before leaving. You can check their tasting room hours and also make a reservation.

Heading home,  we celebrated our sizeable stash of wines for our modest cellar and the memorable meals we enjoyed.  We had fun spotting movie sites from Sideways and discovering a few smaller winery gems closer to home without having to drive to Napa and Sonoma vineyards.  Each winery has its own interesting and definitive history and traditions that make each one a unique discovery.

Overall, the Santa Barbara wine growing region has come into its own, with talented chefs and increasingly popular restaurants providing the perfect complement to the region’s expanding wines.  Vintners are expanding their variety of grapes, once better known in Italy and France, with delicious results.  And increasing numbers of female vintners will soon add another dimension to the Santa Barbara wine region’s popularity over the years to come.

Foxen Canyon Wine Trail, May, Sideways movie, Viginia Madsen, Miles, Paul Giamatti, Fess Parker Winery, Kita Winery, William Benjamin Foxen, Davy Crockett, Daniel Boone, port, Chumash Tribe, Syrah, Cabernet, Mother Earth, Our Valley Oak, Santa Ynez Valley, Samala, Santa Rita region, Solvang, La Fond Winery, women winemakers, Joe La Fond, Santa Barbara Winery, vineyards, California wines, Wine Ghetto, Palmina Wines, Babcock Winery, tasting rooms, vitner, The Hitching Post, Sideway Movie Tours, Napa and Sonoma Vineyards,

International Festival of Authors, poetry slam, poetry, Toronto, Canada, IFOA, PEN Canada, Rashad Ramazanov, Spoify, Poetry Slam Inc., Enheduanna, Sumerian city of Ur, Mesopotamian poetry, Deanna Rodger, Dean Atta, Julie Cameron Gray, artful poetry

Slam Poetry is poetic pugilism! That’s right, a tour de force, smack-down battle of words performed by a group of competing poets. Each is hell-bent on artfully entertaining and sharing creatively crafted ideas in poetic form. The prize money is barely enough to cover a few rounds of beer and there’s no real fame from winning.

International Festival of Authors, poetry slam, poetry, Toronto, Canada, IFOA, PEN Canada, Rashad Ramazanov, Spoify, Poetry Slam Inc., Enheduanna, Sumerian city of Ur, Mesopotamian poetry, Deanna Rodger, Dean Atta, Julie Cameron Gray, artful poetry

Instead, the poets crave intellectual camaraderie, learning and the spirited challenge of wowing an audience. Their equipment – an impressive styling of verse, alliteration, couplets, spondees and a rich cadre of other poetry tools. But when I attend the 38th International Festival of Authors (IFOA) Slam Poetry Event in Toronto, Canada, I’m not sure about what to expect. Let’s just say, pun intended, that I am slammed. Slam poetry takes poetry to new heights as a living, evolving art form filled with exciting possibilities and insight.  

My Slam Poetry Experience

International Festival of Authors, poetry slam, poetry, Toronto, Canada, IFOA, PEN Canada, Rashad Ramazanov, Spoify, Poetry Slam Inc., Enheduanna, Sumerian city of Ur, Mesopotamian poetry, Deanna Rodger, Dean Atta, Julie Cameron Gray, artful poetry

Here at my first slam poetry contest, I learn thirteen poetry-creatives will each have 3 minutes to perform an original poem. The crowd is boisterous as I scan the room for poetry newbies like me. I wonder if this will be an intellectual sparring of words as a young couple behind me keeps kicking my chair legs like impetuous children. Thankfully, the moderator Dave Silverberg (pictured above) takes the stage and explains the contest rules.

International Festival of Authors, poetry slam, poetry, Toronto, Canada, IFOA, PEN Canada, Rashad Ramazanov, Spoify, Poetry Slam Inc., Enheduanna, Sumerian city of Ur, Mesopotamian poetry, Deanna Rodger, Dean Atta, Julie Cameron Gray, artful poetryFive randomly selected judges from the Toronto audience will score each poem out of a possible 10. And get this, the verbal-gymnastics style Dancing with the Stars contest encourages audience participation! We’re told to snap fingers, stomp feet or yell “hell ya” if we want to cheer on the contestants. The highest and lowest scores from each round are thrown out, and the final score is the sum of the three remaining scores. The top six performers advance to the finals and perform a final poem to determine the winner.

Before the slam begins, the audience is directed to an empty chair on stage. The face of an imprisoned writer from somewhere in the world is taped to the backrest. It’s meant to honor the pursuit of truth and remind us to cherish freedom of speech. This year’s photo chosen by PEN Canada recognizes Azeri writer and blogger, Rashad Ramazanov. PEN is a premier sponsor of the IFOA and this year’s Slam Poetry contest, and one of 148 nonprofit PEN organizations advocating for justice in the world.

Slamming Expectations

International Festival of Authors, poetry slam, poetry, Toronto, Canada, IFOA, PEN Canada, Rashad Ramazanov, Spoify, Poetry Slam Inc., Enheduanna, Sumerian city of Ur, Mesopotamian poetry, Deanna Rodger, Dean Atta, Julie Cameron Gray, artful poetryThe slam starts with a bang, as Aton speeds through the story of his father who drank so much he decided to throw himself in front of a truck. The auditorium is stunned. Anton artfully twists his words like a surgeon doing open heart surgery until we exhale with relief. His father survives and celebrates his second chance at life.

Tonya follows Anton with a “I’m so gay” poem. It’s both funny and disturbing. You feel the painful and dehumanizing ways the world chips at her right to be loved. I begin to suspect all of the young poets will strut their disappointment and angst with the world. When Lottie reads “Her sister’s boyfriend” poem, she confirms this fear. My stomach aches from her sister’s spiralling drug addiction, and things get worse until the boyfriend dies.

Every story is riveting but I’m admittedly shocked at the creativity and brilliant wordsmithing. Halfway through the program Ola and Thunderman Robin each take the stage, and a rainbow appears. They are more than their courageous stories and social commentaries on addiction, sexuality, and sad familial conditions.

International Festival of Authors, poetry slam, poetry, Toronto, Canada, IFOA, PEN Canada, Rashad Ramazanov, Spoify, Poetry Slam Inc., Enheduanna, Sumerian city of Ur, Mesopotamian poetry, Deanna Rodger, Dean Atta, Julie Cameron Gray, artful poetryOla’s poem is constructed like a Spotify playlist with each song dissecting her emotional sensitivities and philosophical musings. She moves from nihilism and Nietzsche to deeper existential questions. Ola is learned and insightful beyond her years. She shames my ignorant heart and unfounded concerns about slam poetry.

When Thunderman Robin follows Ola’s performance, the dust lifts from the cover of my beloved Yeats, Whitman and Dickinson. Robin lifts his head slowly and begins with, “Can we win?” After a pause he repeats the line with ferocity. What follows is a race by the audience r to keep up with Robin’s lightning-fast tongue. We see the challenges of being black on the corner of his neighborhood, where “criminals should be brothers.” Images of Martin Luther King, slaves rowing and Chicago street gangs blend into one artfully told story. It ends with “when we win.”

The Traditions of Poetry Continue

International Festival of Authors, poetry slam, poetry, Toronto, Canada, IFOA, PEN Canada, Rashad Ramazanov, Spoify, Poetry Slam Inc., Enheduanna, Sumerian city of Ur, Mesopotamian poetry, Deanna Rodger, Dean Atta, Julie Cameron Gray, artful poetrySlam poetry is relatively new, with humble beginnings in 1990 Chicago. The first National Poetry Slam was held in a bar with a team of poets from Chicago and San Francisco. Today over 80 teams from the US, Canada, and Europe compete around the world through Poetry Slam Inc. Despite having a set of performance rules, the same traditions of poetry dating back to ancient times still apply.

These traditions include a focus on  recording history, genealogy and law, and poetry that’s often set in musical verse. Enheduanna, the first female poet of 23 century B.C., was a high priestess in the Sumerian city of Ur. She wrote forty-two ancient Mesopotamian poems as hymns and her accounts have survived as historical documents in modern-day Iraq.

Most of the slam poets I watched at the IFOA were millennials who crafted fast-talking verses that also sounded like song. International Festival of Authors, poetry slam, poetry, Toronto, Canada, IFOA, PEN Canada, Rashad Ramazanov, Spoify, Poetry Slam Inc., Enheduanna, Sumerian city of Ur, Mesopotamian poetry, Deanna Rodger, Dean Atta, Julie Cameron Gray, artful poetryThey spoke to topics that have stood the test of time; from our beliefs and history, to concerns about injustice and love.

In fact,  the art of slam poetry provides a window into our culture and history just like Enheduanna’s poems did. Slam poetry provides young people with an opportunity to be heard in a modern and intellectual way. It’s arguably more entertaining and takes poetry to new heights, beyond the borders of rap music and country and western songs.

I predict its popularity will grow as more people enjoy this new art. I even discovered a 2018 Women Around the World Poetry Slam in Dallas, Texas. What I do know is the audience jumped to its feet at the poetry slam in Toronto when two British poets performed after the first round of poems. Dean Atta did a piece from his new book of poems, I Am Nobody’s Nigger. It’s uplifting words of truth have graced major British museums and garnered national acclaim.

Likewise, Deanna Rodger is another popular British slam poet to watch. Her sharp wit and social conscious make an entertaining plea slam poetry and social justice. Politicians could learn a few things about affordable housing her her Landlord YouTube video. She challenges Baby boom landlords to offer affordable rent and fair living conditions. Similarly, her I Tell Her video attacks the cultural malaise of young people whose voices “get hung while her heart falls through the cracks of (their) broken esteem.”

This is the first time IFOA has done a slam but I plan to be back next year to hear more from these poetic new voices and brave performers. Shining a light on this artful poetry is important even if it seems like they are “working in the dark [because] it’s a work that must be done.” (Julie Cameron Gray)

Camille Maurine, Lorin Roche, Meditation Secrets for Women, Inscape, U.S. National Sleep Foundation, Khajak Keledjian, depression, diabetes, heart disease, Sleep deprivation, ghrelin hormone, Arianna Huffington, Andrew Shanahan, leptin hormone, cortisol, Man v Fat, Best Health magazine, meditation, insomnia, sleep deprivation, motherhood, men, women, health

My brain is officially wired for insomnia. The more I think about getting a better sleep, the more incapacitated I feel. As a kid, I found it difficult to sleep.

But motherhood made sleep deprivation my best friend. According to the U.S. National Sleep Foundation, about a million different medical or lifestyle habits could be responsible for my war with sleep. Here’s what I know: men seem to have an easier time with sleep than most women. And, my trip to Inscape – a sleep and meditation space in New York City – gives me hope.

Science suggests that men are better sleepers than women. Unlike men, women have a harder time turning their brains off at the end of the day. According to Best Health magazine, this is further exacerbated by fluctuations in women’s reproductive cycles. Menstruation, pregnancy hormones, and peri-menopausal changes in estrogen and progesterone all cause variations that disturb sleep. It’s not right for mother nature to play favorites especially if, as the evidence suggests, women need more sleep than men.

Camille Maurine, Lorin Roche, Meditation Secrets for Women, Inscape, U.S. National Sleep Foundation, Khajak Keledjian, depression, diabetes, heart disease, Sleep deprivation, ghrelin hormone, Arianna Huffington, Andrew Shanahan, leptin hormone, cortisol, Man v Fat, Best Health magazine, meditation, insomnia, sleep deprivation, motherhood, men, women, health

Another explanation suggests women have more trouble falling or staying asleep because they worry more than men. This definitely feels like a sexist statement, that women are somehow less resilient or weaker than men. But Andrew Shanahan, editor of Man v Fat, says women actually “suck at sleeping” because they use their brains and multitask more than men during the day. Okay, this swings the sexist pendulum the other way. I don’t feel too bad anymore. By comparison, it makes us look smarter now, doesn’t it?

I like the science that sides with the conditioning theory.

It suggests that hormonal fluctuations and pregnancy set women up for interrupted sleep. We are therefore more inclined to hear noises that keep us awake at night. If women do, in fact, need more sleep than men, according to the National Sleep Federation, then sleep is a feminist issue. Arianna Huffington wasn’t kidding when she said that women can be more successful, quite literally, if they “sleep [their] way to the top.”

I took Arianna’s advice to heart after reading more about the effects of sleep deprivation. The alarming highlights of sleep deprivation include:

  • Higher cortisol levels that cause weight gain, reduce muscle mass, and increase hunger response in the brain;
  • When the hormone ghrelin tells us we need to eat more because we are sleeping less, we produce more ghrelin;
  • Sleep deprivation worsens because leptin, another hormone that tells us we’ve eaten enough, stops responding when we sleep less; and,
  • Depression, diabetes, and heart disease all spike up when we sleep less.

Camille Maurine, Lorin Roche, Meditation Secrets for Women, Inscape, U.S. National Sleep Foundation, Khajak Keledjian, depression, diabetes, heart disease, Sleep deprivation, ghrelin hormone, Arianna Huffington, Andrew Shanahan, leptin hormone, cortisol, Man v Fat, Best Health magazine, meditation, insomnia, sleep deprivation, motherhood, men, women, healthBut even still, when I gather the list of sleep hygiene rules, I can’t seem to follow them consistently. I exercise in the morning, I turn off my phone at night, and I even clean up my annoying writing desk filled with overflowing papers and books. It’s a pet peeve of my husband and a no-no if you want to relax the mind. I even add bedtime tea with natural chamomile and hibiscus flowers, but the glass of wine I shouldn’t have before bed probably counters this effect.

I need to take this problem seriously if I don’t want to develop long term sleep problems.

However, I keep putting it off because that’s what we women do. There aren’t enough hours in the day for all the things that need my attention. Even when I hear the lullaby chime on my cell phone reminding me it’s fifteen minutes before midnight, I can’t go to sleep. I get into bed but I can’t relax.

Camille Maurine, Lorin Roche, Meditation Secrets for Women, Inscape, U.S. National Sleep Foundation, Khajak Keledjian, depression, diabetes, heart disease, Sleep deprivation, ghrelin hormone, Arianna Huffington, Andrew Shanahan, leptin hormone, cortisol, Man v Fat, Best Health magazine, meditation, insomnia, sleep deprivation, motherhood, men, women, health

This is the perfect introduction to Inscape and meditation re-imagined. I am certain words like breathing, mindfulness, relaxation, and meditation are the missing keys to sleep-nirvana. I sign up for a class online and head into New York City to the Inscape studios. I force my husband to join me, with the promise we’ll go for dinner and drinks afterwards. But instead, we enjoy a Mexican lunch and a round of beer, thinking this might be a better prelude to sleep.

As we enter the posh high-tech looking entrance to Inscape, the air is calm and a fruity-floral scent wafts past our nostrils. We are separated from the frenetic sounds of traffic as the door closes behind us. White walls, comfy looking bean-bag chairs, and soft smiles invite us in. Gentle voices ask how we are doing. As we check in, a petite instructor wearing all black guides us to a small locker area. Photo below is the storefront in the the Flatiron section of New York City.

Camille Maurine, Lorin Roche, Meditation Secrets for Women, Inscape, U.S. National Sleep Foundation, Khajak Keledjian, depression, diabetes, heart disease, Sleep deprivation, ghrelin hormone, Arianna Huffington, Andrew Shanahan, leptin hormone, cortisol, Man v Fat, Best Health magazine, meditation, insomnia, sleep deprivation, motherhood, men, women, healthWe pass the two meditation rooms – the Alcove (pictured below) and the Dome (photo above). We’ll do a 33-minute relaxation session for $22 each in the Dome. The prices are cheaper if you buy a monthly pass or bundled package of sessions. The fuss is minimal, if whether you purchase online or use the Inscape APP.  I already feel lulled into a serene, whispering state as I wait for the class to begin. But, of course, I start to worry about the effects of our Mexican lunch. Not a wise move, but maybe the instructor won’t stay with us once the audio voice comes over the speaker. I assume we’ll close our eyes too.

Camille Maurine, Lorin Roche, Meditation Secrets for Women, Inscape, U.S. National Sleep Foundation, Khajak Keledjian, depression, diabetes, heart disease, Sleep deprivation, ghrelin hormone, Arianna Huffington, Andrew Shanahan, leptin hormone, cortisol, Man v Fat, Best Health magazine, meditation, insomnia, sleep deprivation, motherhood, men, women, health
Camille Maurine, Lorin Roche, Meditation Secrets for Women, Inscape, U.S. National Sleep Foundation, Khajak Keledjian, depression, diabetes, heart disease, Sleep deprivation, ghrelin hormone, Arianna Huffington, Andrew Shanahan, leptin hormone, cortisol, Man v Fat, Best Health magazine, meditation, insomnia, sleep deprivation, motherhood, men, women, health

As we take our positions on the floor, the marvelous red and purple colors of the room’s ceiling and walls make it feel like we are leaving planet earth. We follow the instructor who takes her place in the center seat of the Dome. Adjusting the foam roller supports and back rests, we watch the room fill up quickly. The door closes. And the class, of equal parts men and women, listen to the instructor. She will help guide us through an audio series of relaxation techniques. We focus on breathing, and I struggle to stay awake.

The class is finished as quickly as it started. We are encouraged to hang out in the lobby lounge before heading back into the real world. I really do feel inspired and empowered. Shockingly, even my husband agrees he’d like to return. The purpose at Inscape is to connect with yourself so you can connect with everything around you. The Inscape founder and CEO is Khajak Keledjian. His studio space and APP offer a balance between what he calls “modern wellness and mindful luxury.”

Camille Maurine, Lorin Roche, Meditation Secrets for Women, Inscape, U.S. National Sleep Foundation, Khajak Keledjian, depression, diabetes, heart disease, Sleep deprivation, ghrelin hormone, Arianna Huffington, Andrew Shanahan, leptin hormone, cortisol, Man v Fat, Best Health magazine, meditation, insomnia, sleep deprivation, motherhood, men, women, healthSince my visit, I’ve started to incorporate some of the breathing challenges into my daily routine. I’m sleeping a little better but know learning to balance my sleep and awake cycles won’t happen overnight (pun intended). I’m already late for bed, but I’ve added some ammunition to my cadre of sleep tools. In addition to the Inscape App, I now have a copy of Camille Maurine and Lorin Roche’s Meditation Secrets for Women by my bedside. I’m hoping to follow their mantra “Discovering your passion, pleasure and inner peace.” If that goes well, I hope to enjoy a lot more sleep.

 

Lydia Delgado, artists, Ghana, West Africa, Art of Living Water Projects, India, Rom Levy, Sean Yoro, Hula, power of water, women and water, Hurricane Harvey, Teas, Labor Day, U.S., 1937 Fundy Bay tragedy, Bay of Fundy, Sea Caves, hydro-electricity, Arica Hilton, Multiverse, the artist who lights up the sky, Hilton Asmus, Artsy.net, Chicago

A young mother bathes her children in it every night. Lydia Delgado, my favorite watercolor artist, uses it to create layers of colorful florals with masterful brushstrokes.

When it falls onto the tongue of a young boy’s open mouth, he smiles joyfully as it melts. But when untamed, it frightens a mother who watches it rise with the fear she feels for her family’s safety. This is the power of water. In its many forms, it sustains us and threatens us, but we are lost without it. Artists from around the world remind us of water’s life-giving qualities and the divine role of women in relation to it.

Lydia Delgado, artists, Ghana, West Africa, Art of Living Water Projects, India, Rom Levy, Sean Yoro, Hula, power of water, women and water, Hurricane Harvey, Teas, Labor Day, U.S., 1937 Fundy Bay tragedy, Bay of Fundy, Sea Caves, hydro-electricity, Arica Hilton, Multiverse, the artist who lights up the sky, Hilton Asmus, Artsy.net, ChicagoWater has always been a symbol of life and strength. In Ghanaian culture, women are purveyors of water. They travel miles to bring water to their homes, carrying heavy jars of it on their heads. On the west coast of Africa in northern Ghana, most homes do not have running water. Women go to boreholes (like these women walking to wells) or lakes so they have enough water to drink and use for household chores like cooking and bathing.

But during the dry season, water from most lakes has disappeared and any that does exist is contaminated. Because it is so desperately needed, women spend a large part of their day, time and energy retrieving it.

Lately, shortages are also an issue for India, a country experiencing its worst water crisis in 40 years. The riverbeds in the south have run dry for many of reasons, including over-exploited groundwater to unplanned urbanization. But an organization called the Art of Living Water Projects is working to help empower women by providing better knowledge and ways to help them.

Community training sessions and other related program initiatives in India teach women how to partner with governments to build canals and rejuvenate riverbeds. The focus is on strengthening youth and women leadership in India so women can take charge of their circumstances and prevent younger girls from missing school to fetch water.  For more information or to consider donating, please visit their website.

Lydia Delgado, artists, Ghana, West Africa, Art of Living Water Projects, India, Rom Levy, Sean Yoro, Hula, power of water, women and water, Hurricane Harvey, Teas, Labor Day, U.S., 1937 Fundy Bay tragedy, Bay of Fundy, Sea Caves, hydro-electricity, Arica Hilton, Multiverse, the artist who lights up the sky, Hilton Asmus, Artsy.net, Chicago

Helping women rise above threatening waters is literally the work of one artist, Sean Yoro aka Hula. I saw his work a few years ago in StreetArtNews.net. This online publication by Rom Levy promotes underground artists. His series, Women Rise Up From the Water, was created to draw attention to social problems like ugly abandoned buildings in Hawaii and the melting polar caps (see the cover photo).  

Sean is a NYC-based artist who grabbed his surfboard and acrylic paints to produce stunning paintings of women. He understands the powerful significance of using women as the central theme in his graphics. They are the givers of life, as mothers and providers of family. So when Sean’s women sink into the melted ice caps or disappear from the old building lots, he shows the resulting imbalance. Scientists suggest the violent cycle of earth’s storms will likely increase.

Lydia Delgado, artists, Ghana, West Africa, Art of Living Water Projects, India, Rom Levy, Sean Yoro, Hula, power of water, women and water, Hurricane Harvey, Teas, Labor Day, U.S., 1937 Fundy Bay tragedy, Bay of Fundy, Sea Caves, hydro-electricity, Arica Hilton, Multiverse, the artist who lights up the sky, Hilton Asmus, Artsy.net, Chicago

Sean’s female-centered posters have a sense of urgency about rising sea levels, climate change and beautification. But using images of women in art is nothing new. Mother Earth Laid Bare, a 1936 painting by Alexander Hogue, uses barren plots of land in the shape of a woman to show the suffering of Mother Nature. The photo – on display in the Art Institute of Chicago a few years back – sits next to other works by realist painters like Edward Hopper, and shows how defenseless we are against drought, winds and eroding soil.

The severity of mother nature’s power is certainly underscored by the recent events of Hurricane Harvey in the United States. Hurricanes wreak havoc as millions of people in Houston and other parts of Texas recently experienced. Harvey has forced tens of thousands of people into emergency shelters, hoping they’ll be able to salvage some of their belongings as emergency personnel and government workers prepare for years of cleanup and economic recovery.

Destructive storms like Harvey will always loom over us, like the Bhola cyclone that struck East Pakistan (present-day Bangladesh) and India’s West Bengal region on November 12th, 1970.   More than half a million people lost their lives in what was one of the deadliest natural disasters of all time. People are helpless in the face of powerful storm or even tides of water like those in the Bay of Fundy.

The tides are the highest in the world, reaching up to a five story building, and the reversing tide section of Fundy Bay (see the photo below) claimed the lives of 19 people in a mass 1837 tragedy when 25 members of several families went berry picking. I saw the powerful evidence of eroding soil and rock along the cliffs of the bay, where tourists can walk among sea caves during low tide, before the high waters come in and flood the entire area. It is a solemn reminder of water’s power.

Lydia Delgado, artists, Ghana, West Africa, Art of Living Water Projects, India, Rom Levy, Sean Yoro, Hula, power of water, women and water, Hurricane Harvey, Teas, Labor Day, U.S., 1937 Fundy Bay tragedy, Bay of Fundy, Sea Caves, hydro-electricity, Arica Hilton, Multiverse, the artist who lights up the sky, Hilton Asmus, Artsy.net, Chicago

Over the years, we have learned to harness the power of water for a huge variety of needs from hydro-electricity to stately fountains and water parks.Whether water is used by Indians who bathe in the Ganges or Arabs in the Middle East who depend on the desalination of water for its vital life properties, water is to be cherished and revered. The earth is roughly two-thirds water but “by 2025, 1.8 billion people will experience absolute water scarcity, and 2/3 of the world will be living under water-stressed conditions.”

Lydia Delgado, artists, Ghana, West Africa, Art of Living Water Projects, India, Rom Levy, Sean Yoro, Hula, power of water, women and water, Hurricane Harvey, Teas, Labor Day, U.S., 1937 Fundy Bay tragedy, Bay of Fundy, Sea Caves, hydro-electricity, Arica Hilton, Multiverse, the artist who lights up the sky, Hilton Asmus, Artsy.net, Chicago

As we celebrate Labor Day in North America over the September holiday weekend, I am reminded of the many women and men who have labored to service our communities, and emergency personnel who have dedicated their lives to helping those threatened by water.

This labor of love is also reflected in the artists of our time, who inspire us to higher standards and loftier goals for ourselves and each other. Artists like Arica Hilton remind us that nature is a gift and water is a powerful friend. In her one of her latest series, Multiverse, Arica prompts us to consider water conservation within the larger context of sustainable living. Her use of recycled and crushed plastic water bottles within the rich canvases of color, texture and design, help us to see and embrace water’s ubiquitous and free-flowing form.

Lydia Delgado, artists, Ghana, West Africa, Art of Living Water Projects, India, Rom Levy, Sean Yoro, Hula, power of water, women and water, Hurricane Harvey, Teas, Labor Day, U.S., 1937 Fundy Bay tragedy, Bay of Fundy, Sea Caves, hydro-electricity, Arica Hilton, Multiverse, the artist who lights up the sky, Hilton Asmus, Artsy.net, Chicago
Lydia Delgado, artists, Ghana, West Africa, Art of Living Water Projects, India, Rom Levy, Sean Yoro, Hula, power of water, women and water, Hurricane Harvey, Teas, Labor Day, U.S., 1937 Fundy Bay tragedy, Bay of Fundy, Sea Caves, hydro-electricity, Arica Hilton, Multiverse, the artist who lights up the sky, Hilton Asmus, Artsy.net, Chicago

I encourage readers to learn more about Arica by visiting WomanScape’s The Artist Who Lights Up the Sky, or to enjoy her work online at Hilton Asmus or at Artsy.net. Arica is a visionary living and working in the heart of Chicago’s art district and part of her philosophy for life, written below, inspires us to be our best selves.

I believe in free will, that we can choose our path the way we want to design it.

I believe in the power of vision, perhaps that’s why I am an artist.

Milky Way. Silhouette of a standing woman practicing yoga on the mountain near the pond with sky reflection in water. Landscape with meditating girl on the hill. Night starry sky and milky way

It’s no secret that tens of thousands of books have been written about happiness.

happiness, enlightenment, Maura Soshin O'Halloran, Buddha, Marian Broderick, Wild Irish Women: Extraordinary Lives From History, Connollys Book Store, Dublin, Ireland, Zen, Japan, Toyko, Trinity college, County Wicklow, Toshoji Temple, meditation, chanting, Oisin, Soshin, Gaelic, mu, monks, Bangkok, Thailand, Of Pure Heart and Enlightened Mind, saint, Lion's roar, Hangover 2, Chao Phraya River, tuk-tuk, rickshaw, purpose driven lifeThe number of self-help gurus and Oprah-style lessons on meditation and paths to enlightenment are exhaustive. Like most people, I live merrily until there is some unrest or tragedy: a marriage ends, someone dies, a cancer diagnosis, or a life-altering events reminds us of our mortality.

Enter the history of the world and Marian Broderick’s Wild Irish Women: Extraordinary Lives From History. The wealth of lessons from remarkable lives lived is an attractive proposition. I stumbled upon this gem of a book in Dublin’s oldest and arguably most radical bookstore near Trinity Square, Connolly’s .

The proposition of learning from wild women who broke the rules in unapologetic and pioneering ways is promising. Like Broderick, I “limp with an Irish background” with my muddied ancestral roots. But within the covers of this seventy-plus list of short biographies, I am moved by the story of Maura “Soshin” O’Halloran. She was a young woman who moved to Japan and achieved a Zen state of enlightenment at the ripe old age of only twenty-six.

happiness, enlightenment, Maura Soshin O'Halloran, Buddha, Marian Broderick, Wild Irish Women: Extraordinary Lives From History, Connollys Book Store, Dublin, Ireland, Zen, Japan, Toyko, Trinity college, County Wicklow, Toshoji Temple, meditation, chanting, Oisin, Soshin, Gaelic, mu, monks, Bangkok, Thailand, Of Pure Heart and Enlightened Mind, saint, Lion's roar, Hangover 2, Chao Phraya River, tuk-tuk, rickshaw, purpose driven lifeBut serious questions came to mind: how does an Irish Catholic move to Japan and master enlightenment in one year and, better yet, why? Broderick takes us through a brief history of Maura’s roots: born in Boston to the O’Hallorans, moved with the family to Dublin where Maura is educated in Loretto convent schools, academic scholarship to Trinity College and graduates college with a degree in mathematical statistics and sociology. (The photo above is taken in a special meeting of two rivers, north of Dublin in County Wicklow. St. Patrick said that a dream had brought him to this sacred place.)

happiness, enlightenment, Maura Soshin O'Halloran, Buddha, Marian Broderick, Wild Irish Women: Extraordinary Lives From History, Connollys Book Store, Dublin, Ireland, Zen, Japan, Toyko, Trinity college, County Wicklow, Toshoji Temple, meditation, chanting, Oisin, Soshin, Gaelic, mu, monks, Bangkok, Thailand, Of Pure Heart and Enlightened Mind, saint, Lion's roar, Hangover 2, Chao Phraya River, tuk-tuk, rickshaw, purpose driven lifeThis seems an unlikely path to Buddha, but Maura’s desire to help others and a love of travel take her to volunteer posts in parts of the United States, Canada and Peru after graduation. Naturally a spiritual person, Maura decides to travel to the Toshoji Temple in Tokyo. There she asks to train as a monk and becomes the only woman and the only foreigner to be accepted.

The training is extreme and involves daily observances like meditation, chanting, menial work and begging with minimal sleep and food. Broderick notes that Maura is given the name Soshin, meaning enlightened, warm heart; which makes Maura very happy since Soshin rhymes with Oisin, the Gaelic word meaning “little dear” and the namesake of an Irish poet and warrior legend.

happiness, enlightenment, Maura Soshin O'Halloran, Buddha, Marian Broderick, Wild Irish Women: Extraordinary Lives From History, Connollys Book Store, Dublin, Ireland, Zen, Japan, Toyko, Trinity college, County Wicklow, Toshoji Temple, meditation, chanting, Oisin, Soshin, Gaelic, mu, monks, Bangkok, Thailand, Of Pure Heart and Enlightened Mind, saint, Lion's roar, Hangover 2, Chao Phraya River, tuk-tuk, rickshaw, purpose driven lifeMaura’s deep love for her fellow Japanese monks and her disciplined study impress the Dogen Zen Master so much that she graduates in only a year as a Tenzo monk and named second in command. While this achievement might be a prescription for finding Zen, it goes completely awry when Maura is suddenly killed in a bus accident. At 27 years of age, she intended to do a short tour of Southeast Asia but died in Bangkok, Thailand.

Maura’s journals came to be called Of Pure Heart and Enlightened Mind , with many people believing she had become a sort of Zen saint. Her words provide a fascinating insight into her path towards enlightenment, and the joy she hoped to bring to Ireland by founding a temple and teaching Zen.

happiness, enlightenment, Maura Soshin O'Halloran, Buddha, Marian Broderick, Wild Irish Women: Extraordinary Lives From History, Connollys Book Store, Dublin, Ireland, Zen, Japan, Toyko, Trinity college, County Wicklow, Toshoji Temple, meditation, chanting, Oisin, Soshin, Gaelic, mu, monks, Bangkok, Thailand, Of Pure Heart and Enlightened Mind, saint, Lion's roar, Hangover 2, Chao Phraya River, tuk-tuk, rickshaw, purpose driven lifeIn 1994, Lion’s Roar – a Buddhist magazine – shared some of Maura’s reflections about life behind temple walls. What surprised me was her candid thoughts about gender (which were never an issue) and the unconditional acceptance she felt among her fellow monks. But when I think about her quest to attain “mu” (to embody a completely blank mind and to erase all worldly concerns), I can’t imagine anyone ever  achieving this kind of detachment from our beautiful world.

Having visited Bangkok several years ago, I remember sensing something greater than myself. Entering several Buddhist temples and traveling into the countryside, I saw dozens of golden statues. Each was unique and massive in scale – whether it was a lying Buddha, reclining Buddha, or sitting Buddha. To my surprise, each seemed to elicit a strange spiritual calm even though my mind wrestled with the Catholic doctrines also initially shared by Maura.

happiness, enlightenment, Maura Soshin O'Halloran, Buddha, Marian Broderick, Wild Irish Women: Extraordinary Lives From History, Connollys Book Store, Dublin, Ireland, Zen, Japan, Toyko, Trinity college, County Wicklow, Toshoji Temple, meditation, chanting, Oisin, Soshin, Gaelic, mu, monks, Bangkok, Thailand, Of Pure Heart and Enlightened Mind, saint, Lion's roar, Hangover 2, Chao Phraya River, tuk-tuk, rickshaw, purpose driven lifeTraveling through the streets and touring along the Chao Phraya River, I considered two worlds: the modern conveniences of cars and a luxurious shopping mall commingled with the solemn but industrious movement of brightly clad monks and their young charges. I wondered what it must be like to live behind tall iron gates and if I could ever relinquish all worldly possessions.

Bangkok is filled with incredible architecture and royal lifestyles, like my stay at the Lebua Tower. The hotel service was exceptional and super affordable, with rooms costing the same as those of two or three star hotel in America. The vanishing edge pool and Lebua sky-bar, perched some 820 feet above the city, boosts one of the best views in the world.

No wonder one of the scenes from the movie Hangover-part 2 was filmed there. It could easily be mistaken for a Las Vegas hotel. The photo taken from the balcony of my room shows how developed Bangkok is despite the massive poverty and simple vehicles used to get around; tuk-tuk mini-buses and rickshaw bikes were a popular sight.

happiness, enlightenment, Maura Soshin O'Halloran, Buddha, Marian Broderick, Wild Irish Women: Extraordinary Lives From History, Connollys Book Store, Dublin, Ireland, Zen, Japan, Toyko, Trinity college, County Wicklow, Toshoji Temple, meditation, chanting, Oisin, Soshin, Gaelic, mu, monks, Bangkok, Thailand, Of Pure Heart and Enlightened Mind, saint, Lion's roar, Hangover 2, Chao Phraya River, tuk-tuk, rickshaw, purpose driven life

happiness, enlightenment, Maura Soshin O'Halloran, Buddha, Marian Broderick, Wild Irish Women: Extraordinary Lives From History, Connollys Book Store, Dublin, Ireland, Zen, Japan, Toyko, Trinity college, County Wicklow, Toshoji Temple, meditation, chanting, Oisin, Soshin, Gaelic, mu, monks, Bangkok, Thailand, Of Pure Heart and Enlightened Mind, saint, Lion's roar, Hangover 2, Chao Phraya River, tuk-tuk, rickshaw, purpose driven life
happiness, enlightenment, Maura Soshin O'Halloran, Buddha, Marian Broderick, Wild Irish Women: Extraordinary Lives From History, Connollys Book Store, Dublin, Ireland, Zen, Japan, Toyko, Trinity college, County Wicklow, Toshoji Temple, meditation, chanting, Oisin, Soshin, Gaelic, mu, monks, Bangkok, Thailand, Of Pure Heart and Enlightened Mind, saint, Lion's roar, Hangover 2, Chao Phraya River, tuk-tuk, rickshaw, purpose driven life

Only now, looking back at this experience and the roads that I have traveled throughout my life, do I realize that enlightenment is not found in books, temples or churches. While these can provide valuable knowledge and guidance for living a contemplative life, they are not enough.

The inter-religious dialogue that Maura Soshin O’Halloran pursued was personal and purpose-driven but incomplete. There is no one way to happiness and enlightenment except through the convergent paths we share with one another and the awareness that comes from the everlasting pursuit of being more conscious.

happiness, enlightenment, Maura Soshin O'Halloran, Buddha, Marian Broderick, Wild Irish Women: Extraordinary Lives From History, Connollys Book Store, Dublin, Ireland, Zen, Japan, Toyko, Trinity college, County Wicklow, Toshoji Temple, meditation, chanting, Oisin, Soshin, Gaelic, mu, monks, Bangkok, Thailand, Of Pure Heart and Enlightened Mind, saint, Lion's roar, Hangover 2, Chao Phraya River, tuk-tuk, rickshaw, purpose driven lifeIt’s simple to say we need to understand our interconnections. This is particularly challenging if we see it as a burden. What I do know is that the more open I am to the world and the more I reflect without judgment on those who come into my life, the more happiness and understanding seem to follow.

While researching this article, I found a startling journal entry by Maura. The source looks like a Buddhist blog – if such a thing can exist – and the entry is written by someone named Terebess . Maura is preparing to leave the temple

and tour Southeast Asia. She knows her life has been purposeful and satisfied, and eerily portends her death. The challenge for each of us is to ask ourselves how satisfied we are with life as we know it.

“I’m twenty-six and I feel as If I’ve lived my life. Strange sensation, almost as if I’m close to death. Any desires, ambitions, hopes I may have had have either been fulfilled or spontaneously dissipated. I’m totally content. Of course I want to get deeper, see clearer, but even if I could only have this paltry, shallow awakening, I’d be quite satisfied…. So in a sense I feel I’ve died. For myself there is nothing else to strive after, nothing more to make my life worthwhile or to justify it. At twenty-six, a living corpse and such a life! … If I have another fifty or sixty years (who knows?) of time, I want to live it for other people. What else is there to do with it? … So I must go deeper and deeper and work hard, no longer for me, but for everyone I can help.”

happiness, enlightenment, Maura Soshin O'Halloran, Buddha, Marian Broderick, Wild Irish Women: Extraordinary Lives From History, Connollys Book Store, Dublin, Ireland, Zen, Japan, Toyko, Trinity college, County Wicklow, Toshoji Temple, meditation, chanting, Oisin, Soshin, Gaelic, mu, monks, Bangkok, Thailand, Of Pure Heart and Enlightened Mind, saint, Lion's roar, Hangover 2, Chao Phraya River, tuk-tuk, rickshaw, purpose driven life

Solar eclipse, total eclipse of the heart, Bonnie Tyler, Great American Eclipse, 3 billion eclipses, doomsday prophecy, White House tension, socio-economic divides, fear, the eyes, Jay DeFeo, Whitney Museum, New York City, Bran Stark, Game of Thrones, Philip Lamantia, The Rose, duality of existence, evil eye, third eye blind, Egyptians, Ancient Greeks, Horus, Re, Sun God, Quoran, superstitious, Yogis, chakra, seat of the soul, René Descartes, atman, psyche, eyes to the soul, Ellsworth Kelly, Red, White and Blue, Democrats and Republicans, Joe Jonus

What do you see when you look up to the stars? Make sure it’s not the sun on August 21, 2017, unless you’re wearing protective eye wear. This solar eclipse, dubbed the Great American Eclipse, will travel from coast to coast across the U.S., darkening the sky and revealing the stars as it startles animals and nature.

Even though people in North America and parts of South America, Africa and Europe will see at least a partial solar eclipse, this eclipse feels different.

This is strange because solar eclipses are nothing new. There are more than 3 billion eclipses on record, with the last total eclipse in America occurring in 1918. So maybe it’s a confluence of stresses and anxiety around the globe that makes this eclipse feel like a metaphorical doomsday prophecy?

Could it be America’s daily newsreel of White House tensions and the growing chasm of racial and socio-economic divisions are driving us crazy?

European countries are struggling with issues like immigration and millions of displaced citizens, not to mention economic uncertainties from the growing dissolution of the European Union. As if that’s not enough, we are constantly bombarded by escalating tensions in North Korea, border control disputes in India and China, and war and food scarcity in the Middle East and Africa seems to be spiraling out of control.

No wonder we are afraid. The world is mad. The eclipse will pass but the fear over the state of the world lingers. Fear is powerful enough to eclipse hope, purpose and meaning, unless we have the courage and wisdom to reframe our understanding. When we turn our eyes and our attention to the sky, we look to higher values and existential questions about why we are here. This is where the image of the eye gets really interesting.  

Solar eclipse, total eclipse of the heart, Bonnie Tyler, Great American Eclipse, 3 billion eclipses, doomsday prophecy, White House tension, socio-economic divides, fear, the eyes, Jay DeFeo, Whitney Museum, New York City, Bran Stark, Game of Thrones, Philip Lamantia, The Rose, duality of existence, evil eye, third eye blind, Egyptians, Ancient Greeks, Horus, Re, Sun God, Quoran, superstitious, Yogis, chakra, seat of the soul, René Descartes, atman, psyche, eyes to the soul, Ellsworth Kelly, Red, White and Blue, Democrats and Republicans, Joe JonusA 1958 sketch called The Eyes by Jay DeFeo hangs in the Whitney Museum in New York City.  The large drawing was inspired by the artist’s own physical eyes, and she uses her canvas to question what it means to see. It’s appropriate to zoom in on DeFeo’s work given her study of art as its relationship to the cosmos. A large group of people stood around DeFeo’s work, studying the lines on the canvas and differences in each eye. The right eye appears hollow and white like a full moon, reminding me of television characters like Bran Stark, from HBO’s Game of Thrones. Bran has the gift of prophecy despite his crippled body.

DeFeo’s eye on the left side is noticeably different, with cracks in the pupil and a complex series of geometric lines. The eye seems to have more movement and unrest, and I imagined the wrinkles around this eye to be string-like tentacles that looked like a series of hydro poles. The effect is mesmerizing and you are drawn in, hoping to discover hidden pictures and patterns.

The wall plaque next to the sketch mentions an inscription on the back of DeFeo’s work. It’s written by her but taken from a poem by Philip Lamantia that says, “Tell him I have eyes only for Heaven, as I look to you Queen Mirror of the Heavenly Court.”  This surprised me even though I could feel the spiritual longing in the layered shades of black. Critics suggest that DeFeo used her art to examine a growing interest in themes surrounding symbolic versus physical vision. The dichotomy of heaven and earth and a thirst for God’s mercy are certainly obvious in DeFeo’s work when you consider the inscription.

Solar eclipse, total eclipse of the heart, Bonnie Tyler, Great American Eclipse, 3 billion eclipses, doomsday prophecy, White House tension, socio-economic divides, fear, the eyes, Jay DeFeo, Whitney Museum, New York City, Bran Stark, Game of Thrones, Philip Lamantia, The Rose, duality of existence, evil eye, third eye blind, Egyptians, Ancient Greeks, Horus, Re, Sun God, Quoran, superstitious, Yogis, chakra, seat of the soul, René Descartes, atman, psyche, eyes to the soul, Ellsworth Kelly, Red, White and Blue, Democrats and Republicans, Joe JonusDeFeo’s work is visually beautiful. It carries me back to the paradox of our world and the struggle between the intuitive and rational processes we all possess. DeFeo took eight years to complete this later work (pictured to the left), The Rose, which weighs a whopping 1,850 pounds. Here, DeFeo is both seer and realist, looking for comfort in the future while trying to understand the present. Her message is her art, and it is both beautiful and comforting. It feels divinely inspired but grounded in earthly materials as it leaps off the canvas and asserts her transcendental power.

I remember seeing this three-dimensional canvas at the Whitney in 2015, thinking it looked like an exploding flower rising from the ground. Critics describe it as the place “where linearity and circularity, precision and coarseness, stasis and movement, and other such dualities coexist in harmony and with force.”

Solar eclipse, total eclipse of the heart, Bonnie Tyler, Great American Eclipse, 3 billion eclipses, doomsday prophecy, White House tension, socio-economic divides, fear, the eyes, Jay DeFeo, Whitney Museum, New York City, Bran Stark, Game of Thrones, Philip Lamantia, The Rose, duality of existence, evil eye, third eye blind, Egyptians, Ancient Greeks, Horus, Re, Sun God, Quoran, superstitious, Yogis, chakra, seat of the soul, René Descartes, atman, psyche, eyes to the soul, Ellsworth Kelly, Red, White and Blue, Democrats and Republicans, Joe Jonus

History is filled with centuries of curious art created with a view to the eyes and perspectives that have evolved across cultures, religions, ideologies and geography.

The Egyptians and Ancient Greeks were especially interested in the eye, believing it able to cast a curse.

The evil eye was a glare that could cause misfortune or injury. It could be stopped with the help of a protective talisman or careful preparations of the heart. Hanging a chain of small blue beads or wearing an amulet with the eye of Horus (the sky god and son of the sun god, Re) warded off evil. The eye makeup photo below by artist KelleyOnTheBeat illustrates a modern take on the eye of Horus symbol.

This notion of the evil eye is widespread in many Mediterranean countries, including the Arabic culture. Someone with envy or jealousy in their heart (described in the Arab world as having hassad or hasid) has an evil eye. The evil is believed to be like an arrow shot from the soul and if the intended victim is prepared, the hassad will have no effect. Reading a certain chapter from the Quran each day offers protection.

Solar eclipse, total eclipse of the heart, Bonnie Tyler, Great American Eclipse, 3 billion eclipses, doomsday prophecy, White House tension, socio-economic divides, fear, the eyes, Jay DeFeo, Whitney Museum, New York City, Bran Stark, Game of Thrones, Philip Lamantia, The Rose, duality of existence, evil eye, third eye blind, Egyptians, Ancient Greeks, Horus, Re, Sun God, Quoran, superstitious, Yogis, chakra, seat of the soul, René Descartes, atman, psyche, eyes to the soul, Ellsworth Kelly, Red, White and Blue, Democrats and Republicans, Joe JonusMany people remain superstitious and believe crystals like agate and gemstones like black onyx ward off evil spirits and negative energy. It’s no surprise some of the terms linking bad events with the eye are still used; for example, the worst part of a hurricane is the eye of the storm or the biblical justice of “an eye for an eye.”  

In contrast to the evil eye, people who are Third Eye Blind have clairvoyant abilities and can see the future. Having this extra or third eye is a powerful gift. My Irish father used to tease me about his all-seeing-eye in the back of his head. Of course, I knew as a child this was a lark, seeing no evidence of a gift on the back of his smooth bald head. To the contrary, I understood his teasing way of suggesting he was a father with all-seeing power.

Yogis and mystics believe we all have a third eye centered between our eyebrows. The colorful graphic below, is one of many artistic versions of this all-seeing-eye. Its mystic origin has been studied for more than 5,000 years years in the ancient world, with modern-day doctors and philosophers like René Descartes (1596–1650) explaining its powerful energy. Our chakra describes the place of wisdom and divine intuition where the third eye resides and can be awakened. Ancient Indians called this eye the atman and the Greeks, and the Romans said it was our psyche and the place of our human soul.

Solar eclipse, total eclipse of the heart, Bonnie Tyler, Great American Eclipse, 3 billion eclipses, doomsday prophecy, White House tension, socio-economic divides, fear, the eyes, Jay DeFeo, Whitney Museum, New York City, Bran Stark, Game of Thrones, Philip Lamantia, The Rose, duality of existence, evil eye, third eye blind, Egyptians, Ancient Greeks, Horus, Re, Sun God, Quoran, superstitious, Yogis, chakra, seat of the soul, René Descartes, atman, psyche, eyes to the soul, Ellsworth Kelly, Red, White and Blue, Democrats and Republicans, Joe JonusIn today’s world, the custom of looking a person in the eye when you shake their hand provides  a glimpse inside “these eyes to the soul” . It suggests a measure of the person’s character or their level of honesty is somehow manifest in their eyes. In this same way, we know a person from their smile and we know the eyes can forgive without the use of words.

Solar eclipse, total eclipse of the heart, Bonnie Tyler, Great American Eclipse, 3 billion eclipses, doomsday prophecy, White House tension, socio-economic divides, fear, the eyes, Jay DeFeo, Whitney Museum, New York City, Bran Stark, Game of Thrones, Philip Lamantia, The Rose, duality of existence, evil eye, third eye blind, Egyptians, Ancient Greeks, Horus, Re, Sun God, Quoran,  superstitious, Yogis, chakra, seat of the soul, René Descartes, atman, psyche, eyes to the soul, Ellsworth Kelly, Red, White and Blue, Democrats and Republicans, Joe JonusRemember the WomanScape story of performance artist Marina Abramovic? She sat across from her ex-husband and thousands of adoring fans at the Modern Museum of Art,  speaking only with her eyes and the tears that rolled down them.

There’s great comfort in knowing artists will continue to challenge the way we see the world, stimulating dialogue and pricking our conscience. Ellsworth Kelly, a Abstract artist whose work spanned seven decades, continued to dialogue about his American experience and view of our political system.

His Red, White and Blue painting (1961) hanging in the Whitney gives us a bird’s eye view of his political reality. In 2017, this painting on the right might be fracture into more pieces, with even more white white space dividing the Democrats and Republicans.

But what remains constant in this abstract work is the considered reflection of our party politics and our relation to them in the universe. Thankfully, artists continue to push and even protest, using and sharing their voices to wake up the world. The photo at the end of this article illustrates some of this art hanging as a retrospective exhibit in the Whitney Museum.

How we see this placement is very personal and we have the power to frame it under the banner of fear or enlightenment. As the shadow of the eclipse races across the earth, I will not be looking up at the sky. I didn’t buy protective eyewear and will instead play British singer Bonnie Tyler’s 1983 hit song “Total Eclipse of the Heart” on Pandora.

Bonnie is scheduled to be on the Royal Caribbean cruise in the Atlantic and will perform her song during the exact time of the eclipse alongside Joe Jonus. While I’ll sing Bonnie’s catchy tune, which speaks of love lost and the eclipse of darkness in her heart, I’ll rest on ancient words from the bible remind us that faith is the evidence of what we cannot see.

(Last stanza of Eclipse of the Heart)

Once upon a time I was falling in love

But now I’m only falling apart

There’s nothing I can do

A total eclipse of the heart

Once upon a time there was light in my life

But now there’s only love in the dark

Nothing I can say

A total eclipse of the heart

Solar eclipse, total eclipse of the heart, Bonnie Tyler, Great American Eclipse, 3 billion eclipses, doomsday prophecy, White House tension, socio-economic divides, fear, the eyes, Jay DeFeo, Whitney Museum, New York City, Bran Stark, Game of Thrones, Philip Lamantia, The Rose, duality of existence, evil eye, third eye blind, Egyptians, Ancient Greeks, Horus, Re, Sun God, Quoran, superstitious, Yogis, chakra, seat of the soul, René Descartes, atman, psyche, eyes to the soul, Ellsworth Kelly, Red, White and Blue, Democrats and Republicans, Joe Jonus

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