I want to create a Coaching Support Group in Basel, Switzerland. It’ll be a team of 3-7 people with fantastic, open energy with main goal to create a coaching family of individuals and spread the amazing power of COACHING!
BENEFITS: 1. You are going to be part of a group and community, where you can exchange opinions, ideas and ask for help. 2. It increases your visibility and helps you build your own brand, while giving back. 3. You have the opportunity to deliver or receive free coaching during the meetings. 4. You have high-quality, high-standard, worldwide backing from a professional, English-speaking coaching institute, which offers trainings, diplomas, certificates and even Ph.Ds. 5. You get continued education and knowledge. 6. You have access to different career opportunities and increased income, i.e. you can become a mentor, trainer, etc.
Want something more in one or more aspects of your life?
Are you open, honest, and willing to take life to the next level?
Are you ready to take responsibility for your own life and turn things around?
I’ve been where you’ve been! Trust me! The road is long and challenging but coaching makes the ride smoother, faster, cheaper and worth the while!
I’m an NMC Life Coaching Diploma accredited coach, with experience in neurolinguistic programming (NLP), and the President of Coaching Support Group in Basel, Switzerland. I’ll help guide you to achieve your desired outcomes!
This is NOT for you, if you:
– want advice and expect me to tell you what to do- this ain’t mentoring, therapy or counseling.
– ‘ve got it ALL figure out.
– ‘re happy with your life as is.
– ‘re not ready to take your life to the next level.
– blame everyone for what happens/-ed in your life.
– ‘re not ready to take responsibility and accountability for your actions &/or decisions.
– ‘re suffering from a mental disorder, diagnosed by a pro MD.
– ‘re below 18.
In this case, PLEASE do us both a favor and find someone else.
Otherwise, ask for the secret link to book your appointment below.
Do you wake up, curse on the alarm clock, hit snooze, and 3 times after you’ve hit the snooze button finally find it within you to finally get up? Do you drag yourself half asleep to the toilet, wash up and get dressed ? If you are a female good luck; you will have probably changed 3 times already. Do you make your way to the kitchen -which is probably messed up cause… who has the power to clean the dishes from the day before?- and swallow a coffee as fast as you can because and before you know it, it’s already time to go to work…? AGAIN…?! And you cannot even remember where the stupid keys are! AGAIN! This sadly happens to most of us on most days -if you are living alone! Can you imagine living with more than you? Already CHAOS, PANIC, STRESS rule and take over your body!
It is a fact: Most of us go to work ALREADY stressed! Now, we also have our work, our customers, AND our bosses to worry about it ON TOP! Oh, man…!
I can honestly say that the first time at work I felt stressed was my first day at work. Or should I say first week? Or was it more? To be fair, it was a mixture of feelings, most frequently switching from excitement to fear, to stress, to being proud. So I decided I needed to put an end to the negative stuff, especially stress. I dug deep into my notes from the past and found some answers. Before writing this article, I dug a little deeper for us, just to keep us up-to-date 🙂
I cannot STRESS enough how STRESS can kill you. So I hope you and I find these stress management strategies helpful. Please remember, just because it is working for me or others, does not mean it works for you. The list is quite long -options, options ;)- but even if you apply 1/10 of it, you will probably have better chances of limiting the effects of stress -especially chronic stress- than others. Just experiment with a technique for some time -if you are open to it- and see if it is sincerely for you or not.
I. What can I do to release stress in the moment?
1. Learn the physiological signs of stress and acknowledge how your body reacts to it. Do not ignore the signs, i.e. sweaty palms, increased heart rate, neck stiffness, upset stomach..
2. Think of the stressor as an opportunity to grow and move on, rather than something negative. Shift your way of thinking and use the rush you get to focus undeniably to the task in hand.
3. Say over and over: “I got this! Done it before, can handle, time to crush it baby!” Believe me when I say, positive thinking will get you a long way! 🙂
4. Activate your yang, your parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) that is. The PNS has the ability to calm down the sympathetic nervous system (SNS), which is eventually responsible for the adrenaline rush. How to activate your PNS? A simple on-the-spot technique is the “5x5x5 deep breathing“: breath deep through your heart, feel your abdominal muscles and your chest expanding and contracting, imagine your diaphragm moving up and down. 5 seconds inhale, 5 seconds exhale, for a total of 5 deep breaths.
5. Write down a to-do list, prioritise, strategise. Everything will be clearer and you will be able to focus in no time.
6. Talk to someone you trust, someone who can listen and can give advice. Talking things through will always pave the path for a better understanding. It helps us to see the problem with a fresh eye and get to solutions faster. [PS: These kind of people are hard to find, so when you do, cherish them and show them how much you appreciate them]
7. Promote a calm aura, as if you are the Dalai Lama in the middle of a war zone. Relax your face, relax your shoulders, stand up straight, and keep your voice calm and reasonable. Why? Well, consider the last time someone talked to you in a distressed tone -for me it will always be the nurses… How did you react?
II. What can I do to relieve/release stress on the long run?
1. Take time to define on paper your code of conduct, your dreams and visions, your values and rules, your ideals, ultimate goals, and beliefs. Be honest and ask yourself these little treasures:
A. Where do I stand today?
B. Where do I want to get to?
If question C does not stir up some emotion inside of you, know it is not the right one. So, keep asking why and you will get there. Finally,
D. How do I get to B? What can I do differently?
Knowing your core self will help your focus and allow you to say no to stressful things that may not even be as important or urgent for you and where you want to be.
2. Practice mindfulness techiques purposefully, intentionally, with an open mind & heart.
– mindful breathing
– mindful STOP: STOP and smell the flowers 😉
– mindful daily routine
– mindful eating: smell, sight, sound, texture, taste, temperature
– mindful commuting
3. Pay attention to the positives, rather than the negatives: think of something or someone that makes you happy or puts a smile on your face.
4. Practice gratitude:
– Write “Thank you” notes
– Write gratitude letters
– Journal 3 times/week about 3 things you are grateful for. I have noticed that the smaller and the more unimportant something may seem to be, the more I am grateful for it.
5. Volunteer (do acts of kindness), give
6. Connect with others and empower your compassion: with people you love, with people you feel can teach you something new, with strangers.
– Guided imaging/visualisation through all our senses to get to our “Happy place”
8. Try destraction methods, i.e. cold showers (not a fan, lol)
9. Have a self-soothing, self-compassionate outlook on yourself: look at your mistakes with kindness, use constructive criticism with yourself rather than cold judgement, see the day as an opportunity for progress instead of perfection. Hug yourself.
10. Be proactive: Plan ahead, use prioritised action lists (what, where, when- even your recreation time!), use if-then statements (i.e. “If it is 20:00, then I will exercise”) and get excited about getting things done! Check out my first blog about planning here!
11. Count your little wins, give yourself a tap on the back,and celebrate your progress any way you feel like!
12. Spend time in nature, in green places.
13. Cherish & nurture your hobbies, recreation and leisure time. If possible do it away from work, and just play and have fun with others.
15. Self-reflect with the help of journaling
16. Use techniques like: Neural feedback or Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT)
17. Search and find a mentor or ask the help of a life coach
Appointment booked. I’m all set. Coach me!
18. Define your inspirations, role models and heroes according to what you want to improve on.
III. Last but not least, here are some lifestyle changes to consider:
–Nutrition: the what is just as significant as the how
The what: limit salt, sugar , “whites”, (i.e. bread, milk, sugar) & red meat, eat a “rainbow” of vegetables and fruits, go for healthier carbs & nuts, drink plenty of water.
The how: mindfully, without TV, enjoy and talk to others
– Exercise: 30 min/day moderate, aerobic exercise (which means not being able to talk with ease) & weight bearing (yoga, pilates, weight-lifting). Zumba® is a fantastic, fun way to tone, burn calories and most importantly have FUN! Check my Zumba instructor page! Check out when the next class takes place and make sure you share your love by clicking on the ♥ button!
– Sleep: 7-9 hrs/d is considered physiological.
Take care of your sleep hygiene, i.e. avoid exercise, alcohol, smoking, caffeine at least 2 hrs before going to bed. Control the sleeping environment, combat cognitive hyperactivity with breathing or meditation.
Now it’s up to you? How does your body, mind, health experience stress? What have you been doing so far? What is working, what not? What would work? Which practices, tools, ideas are you ready to give a go? Which others come to mind?
Cooking could be a anything from a necessity to survive to a loving hobby. In my family cooking is most important on Sunday as we all come together for lunch-dinner (#liner) at around 16 o’ clock. Well, at least this is how I remember it when I was living with my parents.
It was important to learn how to cook, I am proud to say I could do the basics before I went to university. During university cooking was rather more of a time management thing. And trust me I was bad at time management at 17. Even nowadays I feel like I am out of touch with time at times, wanting to escape and throw away my watch… But that is a post for another time 😉
Getting to know a cute guy- it is always a guy, isn’t it?- I was intrigued to understand better where he is coming from, his culture and his people’s habits. And what a better place to start than cooking! Before I knew it, I had found a course in Aargau, registered and a few months later I was standing in front of a group of strangers who had the same curiosity as I did. A couple had received the course as a gift, another couple were friends of the Chef (Andreas was his name I believe) as I understood it, and there was even a couple that had met through these cooking courses and got married! They even shared with us the story of their marriage and the food -yes, it was ALL about food that day- Andreas had prepared for them. With every story I was thinking to myself “Shit! How did you manage to come here alone?” But that is a story for another time 😉
In the beginning the team enjoyed a little bit of freshly made bread, which was melting in your mouth 🙂 The kitchen was smelling herby, italian herby. Wine and water were complementing our late afternoons. We were all instructed to wear white aprons and wash our hands. The aprons had a bright white color, and a rather complicated mechanism for adjusting the “tails” of the apron. You see, we were given two tails of cloth. Each had at a button at one end, which would help the tail stay fixed. The other end would go through a tiny hole of the apron. Once this was done on both holes – I feel so naughty…- we would basically tie the apron with the tails around our waist. My days… this is harder to describe than to actually do! You get the picture, the complicated picture! I was expecting to where one of those tall Chef hats as well, but I guess I am in a hurry lol. One needs to deserve “The Hat”, it is like the stars of a military uniform I guess.
The Chef and the Sous-chef explained the several dishes for us. The newbie might have felt overwhelmed in the beginning – I felt that way too, especially when hearing all those new names of dishes and ingredients and trying to remember how to do each dish. Eleven or so dishes, different ingredients, different techniques and tools. Apparently there were easy and not so easy dishes. Thankfully we were each responsible for 1-2 dishes which did not lead to a catastrophe, i.e. burning the place down, which would have been a shame because they had recently renovated the place.
Now first things first. The meat was a priority because it would have to go in the oven asap for all those beautiful spices to marry together with the protein. I do not cook lamb at home but you never know when you are going to need a recipe like this one. “So focus Sabrina and record this- in your mind that is because your phone battery just died.”
Then it was our turn. As we all began cooking, I could hear the hustle and bustle in the kitchen. Everyone was talking, trying to figure out what was supposed to go down. The uncertainty mixed with a feeling of excitement were lingering in the air. A part of me was glad because I was a bit lost as well.
In the end I prepared the desert, which was rather chosen for me – I guess I was the only one looking baklavish enough. The desert, muttabaq I think was its name, did not seem THAT complicated, it was all about understanding the steps and following the recipe. Now, understanding a recipe is not that easy, especially when there are several bowls and tools lying on your station. And you are thinking to yourself, “OK, what is this for? Well, if this is for this, then what the fuck does this do?”. Both Andreas and the Sous-Chef (sorry, didn’t catch the second’s name) were always going around, checking if someone needed help, explaining the steps. And that was lovely, because I did not really know how to start. Anyways, after I got into it and finished the sweet, I put it in the oven and then it was time for the sirup. Now a sirup I CAN do and I felt I wanted to just play a little bit 🙂
So I started using all those fascinating ingredients I could find. I was so intrigued and started opening all kinds of bottles of spices! There were some I knew but others I have never heard of. Just by sniffing a bit, one could intuitively figure out which spices to sprinkle like magic dust in the sirup, which is usually nothing but water and sugar dissolved above a heat source to speed things up and help them marry better together. The whole process was just amazing. I love playing around with spices!
By this time the kitchen was smelling like Morocco, or at least as if we were transported to a region of the arab world.
This is the end result right here:
Lucky for us, there was a Thermomix lying around and the poached peaches were made by another team member, or as we could be called in the kitchen, little Cook de Partie.
The most beautiful thing however came once we were all done cooking. The Chef and Sous-Chef had prepared a wonderful homy table for us. We all served ourselves and sat together in good company enjoying all our efforts together.
Oh, the food was so delish! And the place was smelling so appetizing, my saliva was drooling! The meat was just sliding off the bone, it was tender and smooth, smelling warmth and home. And you know, the rest of the dishes were good 🙂 Well, I didn’t mean to make it sound like that. Let me try and save it: The beautiful little pitas with spinach and hot spices in them, man I can eat that for breakfast, lunch and dinner! What caught my tongue -are we allowed to say that?- was the oven-baked aubergines with sheep’s yoghurt, zatar and pomengranate. It was so appetising to the eye, I felt my pupil was going to come out and take a bite! I still make this dish on a regular basis. It is soooo easy and just makes me happy every time I taste it 🙂
Food and cooking brought once again a group of strangers together. There was small talk of course about what we do and how the weather is – yes, we are in Switzerland, these are two favourite topics in any convo- and then there was talk about finances, and food prices and genome modification of tomatoes.
By the end, we -minus moi because of the battery- had pictures as evidence to savour the experience. Then again, that was a great way of getting people’s digits 😉
Would I do this experience again? Absofuckinglutely!
And I did, but that is a story for another time! 😉
Want my fav recipes? Follow me through email and ask for them! I am preparing handmade recipe cards for a quick download and print as we speak!
Now, how about you? What brings your family together? What connects you to the world?
Can’t wait to hear from you, my lovely Curious Creature!
“Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday dear …, Happy Birthday to you!”
Some of us have heard this song, others not. The Birthday song might be important for you and or might leave you indifferent.
When I was younger I did not really like to celebrate my birthday. I would say that the only birthday party that is still engraved in my hypothalamus is when I was turning 18. Before that I do not remember making such a fuss about a birthday party, even though I saw evidential photos of a time during my birthday party I vaguely remember. That must have been when I was 8. I was not looking excited! lol
I was born during midnight so I am blessed (or cursed, depending on how you choose to look at it) to listen to this song and accept “Happy Birthday” wishes 48 hours in a row. My sisters usually start a week ahead and prolong them for another week and at some years they have been doing it for months after or before it! A part of me disliked having all this attention, it was kind of losing its meaning. So you can imagine how delighted I was to realise that in the last couple of years, new beginnings in their lives took the attention away from me. I am now able to have some peace of mind and can be left alone to celebrate my birthday for the time I get to define.
My birthday(s) is important to me and I am always a bit taken aback when other people are indifferent, do not care or are sad during their birthdays. When I ask why they are feeling that way some say they consider it just a day like others with a typical “It is just a day, Sabrina”, others choose to stay silent and look at the floor as if they are regretting something, feeling sad or sorry they are growing up (or as they choose to see it, “getting older”). And when I ask “What do you want to do for your birthday?”, the reply has more often than usual rather the same tone and a simple word, “nothing”. Inside I am thinking, “Is that really true or are you expecting a surprise? How can you do nothing and expect nothing? Is that so bad? ” I eventually accept their opinion and switch to another topic.
Nowadays I am not the person that chooses to make a big birthday party. I would rather spend my birthday alone or in the company of special few people. And this depends naturally on which country I am and if I am actually on holidays during that time. In the past couple of years I allowed myself to be on holidays during the week(s) of my birthday and I must say it was the most I have enjoyed it, whether I was alone or with company. I prefer to be in nature, be either close to the beach or walk in the woods, up in the mountains of an unexplored, new area for me. Experiencing something new on my birthday is the most beautiful present I can give to myself and I gladly share this with beautiful people.
This year my sister Stef and I took a road trip in Scotland. Before we even began the trip I was clear that there will be a lot of walking/hiking and eating mostly vegetables, nuts and fruits. I must admit I had my doubts whether she will be willing to go with it or not. Less than 24 hours from flying we realised that we weren’t actually traveling to Edinburgh, we were actually traveling to Manchester. We were both taken by surprise! But Stef was a trooper, she booked the tickets, and soon we were on our way! My doubts were alleviated 🙂
Scotland is a beautiful land. We had the chance to visit several sites, see beautiful lakes and enjoy breath-taking views and sites. We stayed active by hiking up to Ben Nevis and around the regions of Loch Ness and Loch Lomond. We stayed -this time rather inactive-in a castle/hotel for the first time, enjoyed a luxurious “Tea Afternoon” – one the Queen of England would drool over- and stopped spontaneously throughout the road trip to practice our photography skills (mine currently at 0) and take in the views. We also managed to misfuel our little black and red Citroen, which was retrospectively one of the greatest sister bonding moments. Oh! And we managed to lose our way on the first day. Waze saved the day, or as we ended up calling the male voice behind it, “Louis” did. Within the midst of the adventure we realised that my sister could be allergic to a pinkish flower in Scotland, the ones you can see below. Well, either that or she managed to get a bit sicky. Yes, it was a new experience, full of mistakes and lessons. I would not change anything about it! It was loads of fun and a great way of unloading!
Tony Robbins teaches the so called 6 Basic Human Needs:
I stand by them because so far I am able to recognize and identify why people do the things they do based on these 6 needs. You don’t have to be Tony Robbins though to understand how each of my needs have been fulfilled by simply taking this trip. And here is where I come to the meaning of birthdays. What birthdays really mean are connection, love, either with yourself, God or others, taking care of yourself -mind, body, spirit- and learning through new experiences. Birthdays have been made to review, reflect, grow, act upon new beginnings or opportunities.
One was however missing: Contribution. Well, “What does even contribution mean to me?”, I asked myself. I am not sure I have a concrete answer yet but I knew I wanted to offer my services and knowledge for free, out of my heart. By offering people free coaching sessions I was able to start fulfilling this need. I guess, contribution is about transforming someone’s life because they choose so, because they are committed to do so, and you as their coach are there to support, accompany and help them see, touch, feel, hear and smell things they forgot how to, without expecting absolutely anything in return.
Personally I believe that birthdays are “The Celebration of the Self- Past, Present, Future” and shall you desire to experience it to the maximum, feel free to take the 6 Human Needs into consideration and take action in fulfilling each one of them, the best way you know possible.
Now, it is up to you! How do you choose to celebrate your birthday? How has the celebration of your birthday evolved or changed throughout the years? What could you do to fulfill all 6 basic human needs for your upcoming birthday?
Thank you for having trusting, having faith in me and for getting in the car on our life’s journey together!
I am honestly humbled from all the love I have been receiving through personal email, I appreciate your comments and insights. Our perception, the meaning each of us gives to certain experiences and the background we all bring in a conversation in an open, wonderful community never ceases to leave me at awe!
As a result I have decided to take a decision, a decision that a week ago seemed huge, felt like a heavy backpack. I must admit it rocked me for a while.
What if I were to put that heavy backpack down?
I am sure there is no right decision but then again is there such a thing? Somehow instinctively it resonates with my heart and spirit, it resonates with who I am. And this alone allows me to recognise that this decision makes perfect sense. And I cannot be more excited, determined and committed to see my goal through.
The “Wheel of life” is one of the most beloved tools of every coach. Even during a quick surf on the website of the most popular life coach Tony Robbins, you will encounter a message “Take our free life assessment”. Personally I find it a great tool in the sense of raising awareness, noticing or measuring progress or failure, feeling more determined, and setting goals. As a coach this helps me understand my client’s situation and general life better. Values, beliefs and areas we never realised existed come during the session on the surface.
But first things first. For the curious newbies, here is what a “Wheel of Life” might look like.
You can easily find a blank wheel of life online with a simple Google Search or create one of your own. Here is a sample to download!
What you will need: Time (30-60 minutes), will to invest on you, a blank wheel of life, a pencil or pen, coloring material (optional).
Step 1: Just look at it, take it iiiiin. At first it might seem puzzling, even intimidating. Please trust me, allow yourself time and take a breath. Stay open, trust yourself and it will be ok. Have a look at each category and sense how you feel about each category. I am sure there are thousands of thoughts running through your mind, but remember…
Step 2:Relax! The exercise in itself is easy. What is not easy, even for me sometimes, is to stay true to myself and consider what MY standards and expectations are. I try to remind myself not to think of the expectations of others. And that could be difficult at times. It is important to connect with yourself, respect and be truthful to yourself. After all, the exercise is for your eyes and yourself. It is your life, this is your wheel, chose wisely, responsibly and feel free to make this exercise as personalised as possible. Finish when you are fully and completely resonating with the result!
Step 3: Bring your gaze to the category that speaks to you the most. Is it health- or home-related? Is it money- or career-related? Let’s take for example the category “Health”.
Does it resonate with you? Really? If that’ s so, let it be. If not we can change it! How? Yes… We could delete it, but seriously who does not want to be or stay healthy? Our body is our vehicle and its health depends on us, therefore I cannot imagine someone wanting to delete this category. Even if you wanted to delete it, would you stop a second and rethink it, if I were to tell you that you can change the wording? You say “WHAT?! MINDFUCK!”. And yes, interestingly enough clients prefer to change the wording of the category or even split it. How? Well, some people prefer “Wellbeing”, “Wellness”, “Vitality”… Endless possibilities! Label it the best way it suits for you! The split might be “Wellbeing Body”, “Wellbeing Mind”, “Wellbeing Spirit”.
But Sabrina can I do this for every category? What if I end up with 9, 10 11, 12 categories and end up changing all their names? Usually I would allow a client to expand as much as they like, just to see in which way this is going. Sometimes, surprises happen and values seem more logical in comparison to the given categories. And the “Wheel of Life” may turn into a “Values Wheel in personal/work life”, a “Strengths Wheel” et cetera. And here is exactly where the coach comes in. One of our jobs is to listen actively to what the client says and rephrase it so that it makes sense to both parties. A harder part of the job is to listen intuitively and have the balls, OOPS, excuse me boldness… ehmm rather COURAGE to say out loud what is not being said!
You will know that this step is done when you can say “Yes, this resonates with me!”. A little smile might appear on your face, you might feel some pride and joy, you might feel also weird and a bit uncomfortable now that you have created something personal. Touch the paper and feel its texture. Take some deep breaths and get ready for the next step.
Step 4:What is complete satisfaction for you in each category? Closing your eyes might help the imagination process. What does satisfaction feel like in this area? What can you see at this ultimate level of success? What can you smell? What can you hear? Who is with you? What are their reactions? Stay in that moment for a minute and appreciate it. Now, open your eyes and land smoothly full of determination in the now.
Step 5: Choose a category consciously. Ask yourself this simple question: ” How satisfied am I with X on a scale from 0 to 10?” Remind yourself of YOUR standards and expectations. This is not about how your life should or could be, this is about how your life is at the current moment. This is not about the past or the future. This is not about past accomplishments/failures or future goals/worries. Stay in the current moment and mark your level of satisfaction with the number along the line corresponding to each category. Zero (0) meaning completely dissatisfied is in the middle of the wheel, ten (10) meaning completely satisfied is on the outer circumference of the wheel. Go ahead and do the same for all remaining categories.
Step 6: Connect the marked numbers of each category by drawing a continuous line. If you wish, go ahead and color the area that has been created. This is where you are right now in your life.
Step 7:Take your time and reflect!
How is the ride? Bumpy? All smooth sailin’?
How do you feel about your life when you see the wheel?
What surprises you?
How do you invest your time in each category? How would you like to allocate your time ideally?
Which 3 categories would you most like to improve?
Which 3 categories need your immediate attention?
What’s the Numero Uno you should change?
What’s the Numero Uno you wanna change?
Who and what might help and support you?
What’s the smallest action you can take to get started?
This concludes the Wheel of Life Exercise, or the Eye-Opener as I call it.
I cannot wait to know how this exercise helped you. What are you taking from this exercise?
Have questions? Need help? Please remember that as a life coach I am here for you!
Religion has played its role in my life, most significantly during the last couple of years. I guess it has been a journey for me. I would like to think that I grew up in a mixed family; 50% of my roots are arabic and the other half cypriot. Extrapolating from that, there is a 1:2 chance that I would either grow up to be Muslim or Christian Orthodox.
Religion did not bother me much until a teacher of Religious Education-yes we have those where I grew up- descriminated me in front of the class. I can still remember him asking me outloud: “You are the Maronite, aren’t you?” I looked at him puzzled; at that time I didn’t know what that even meant. I thought he was asking for my surname… I did not give the incident much thought then but I flashbacks came back of the same scene, when the actual Maronite entered the class. And I knew her surname was not “Maronite”. At that point, I decided to research it and realised that it was just an ethnoreligious minority in Cyprus. Maronites are a Catholic Christian entity, whose name comes from St. Maronas, an eremite living in Syria. A fellow student the actual Maronite, was eventually excused from class as we were going to go deep into Orthodox Christianism for the rest of the year. It was not spectacular, let me tell you that. We ended up memorising prayers by heart in order to get a good grade. Ironic how the government can blindfold children like that. Needless to say, by the end of the year I wish I had answered “Yes” to his initial question…
In my need to understand what Christianity really is, I religiously went to church during Easter time, following all the rules and listening to the chanting of the psalms to Jesus, God, Mary and the Holy Spirit. The language was hard to understand, the smell in the church was rather whoozy and the whole atmosphere felt rather heavy. People knew when to bow their heads, when to say “Amen”, when to pray along. I was lost and felt like a stranger. I stuck through it because I wanted to understand. I still remember that Easter morning, when all the black vails fell down from the icons and everyone started banging their chairs in order to let everyone know that Jesus has risen. I must say the effect was dramatic and caught me by surprise. I did not expect a sudden burst of chaos and panic in the heavy, sad atmosphere I had experienced in the past couple of days. After that I got REALLY into it. I started asking that teacher numerous questions. He gave me answers which in the end somehow did not make sense and other times contradicted each other. I was not convinced.
As time passed, I only went to the obligatory gatherings at the church organised by the school. These were typically taking place either when the school year began or before the bigger events, like Christmas and Easter. For me God at the time was no one religion. God was synonymous to love in my mind back then. The rest I did not know or cared to know. So I became agnostic. This belief carried me through university.
In the mean time, my sister had converted to Islam. I cannot say I was taken aback, as she was even more confused as I was and even got into trouble for expressing her mind back in school. She said she felt at peace once she converted. I accepted that no questions asked but was not intrigued to understand Islam until we were in Cyprus during Ramadan time. I had asked her some questions in order to understand what Ramadan meant and why she was doing it. She explained as well as she could. Later I asked her to send me a copy of the Quran.
When I was even younger, we used to visit the rest of the family, my dad’s palestinian family, who are living in Jordan. I would see my grandpa or grandma kneeling on the floor, then standing back again whilst whispering arabic. I felt that they were experiencing a unique moment and I were not to disturb them. Again, did not understand what was happening. My aunt at the time was trying to explain to me in broken English what was going on. I guess she did not know the word “pray” and kept repeating “Salah”. Dad explained it to me in the end. The holy time with Allah happened often and I had to become 28 years old to really grasp the concept of Islam.
Some people choose to believe that we all learn something from every relationship in our lives. I came even closer to Islam because of a rather dysfunctional relationship. So, once it finally ended and after a rather long illness, I had realised that Islam and the retrospectively scant knowledge I had gained about it was the positive outcome of all the suffering. I visited the nearby Mosque, met with the Imam, asked questions and now I am learning arabic because I want to understand the Quran as best as I can. Once I converted to Islam, I felt free and at peace. My religious journey is still ongoing and I am definately not the best example of a muslim woman, as I am still learning. That might be offputting or even unexeptable to some. Personally I do not care what others think of me; I accept myself as is. I realise this when I am praying, especially during the days of Ramadan. Sometimes I do get distracted and do not feel the deep connection with Allah. Other times during the day I might say or do things that Allah or other muslims might not approve, i.e. I choose not to wear a headscarf or cover my body as intended. And yes, I do not hide away during Ramadan when I can eat during my period. There are things to contemplate upon, there are others where I am learning to cross a red line.
All in all, I am getting better at it. If I were to compare only the physical and mental part during the last 3 Ramadans I can say there has been significant progress. During the first year I was simply accompanying my sister during her journey. I was doing experimentally to feel what she was going through. Of course, by the afternoon I started having a headache, nausea, dizziness, and extreme tiredness. I ended up with having something to eat and rest. The second time around I had already been converted. I believe that this along with praying gave me the mental strength to begin and move forward. As for this year, it seemed to be a piece of cake on the physical part, I was more focused on the mental part. This was actually pointed to me by a dear friend of mine and that reminded me that when faith and connection are there, everything is possible. Other priorities seem now to be more important, like the intention to connect better with Allah and learn some so-called “Duas” and prayers by heart. It is also my intention and goal to fast every Monday and Thursday.
Ramadan feels like a new beginning for me. It is like a second New Year’s Day. As I see it, it builds discipline, mental and physical strength, faith, gratitude and appreciation for the simple things in life, like water. Once it comes to an end, one feels proud for himself and stronger than the last time. Any intentions, wishes, goals and dreams are clearer and willpower is more solid and robust than before. I wish that to all of us, and mostly to the ones that feel lost either in their hearts or minds.
Dedicated to someone special in my heart
Now it is up to you! What is spirituality for you? How does it look like? What religions or spiritual thoughts intrigue you?