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7 Things I Learned in the Middle East

Recently I was blessed to take an adventure with my family to the Middle East. Now most people wouldn’t think of the Middle East as a vacation destination with two small children. However, my husband has worked there for the last decade and getting away for a partially paid for work/vacation trip sounded perfect.

Along the way I kept my heart and mind open to beauty, lessons, and joy. Here are a few of the things I learned.

Dubai-Full-Moon1. There are blessings everywhere if we only look for them.

I find this especially to be true in nature. Nearly everywhere we went from the city to the dessert, country to country we were blessed by natures offerings. A gorgeous full moon over Dubai, sun rays shining through the clouds as we entered Jordan, the clarity of the Red Sea, and so many beautiful sunsets over the desert.

Dead-Sea-Floating 2. One will float, even when you are at your lowest.

The Dead Sea was by far my favorite experience of the trip. With 30% salinity the human body literally cannot sink in its waters. I like this metaphor, even when we are at our lowest we are bound to be lifted up and rise again. As hard as we try (or don’t try) God really wants us to succeed. If we are open to higher guidance we will find what lifts us up.

Jesus-Baptism-Site3. Don’t lose your roots, even if you don’t like them much. They are a part of you.

I was born catholic. I decided as a teenager that Catholicism wasn’t for me. I just couldn’t deal with the church’s lack of integrity. For a long time I’ve mostly ignored the Bible and its wisdom because being catholic didn’t work for me. But, being in Jordan and seeing some of the sites of its stories like Moses on the Mount and the Baptism Site of Jesus, really connected me to the authentic nature of it. I threw the baby out with the bath water, so to say with the Bible. I don’t need to. I can be my spiritual self and love and honor my Christian roots. There is a lot of good that has come to the world because of Christianity and the Bible.

Do you have religious roots that you have thrown out? Can you focus on the brightness of your roots instead of the parts that didn’t serve you? Take a look again at anything you have judged and pushed aside, there may still be a golden nugget waiting to be discovered.

Kevra-Plane-Ride4. Sometimes, breaking the rules can be good for everyone involved.

Having a two year old on this trip presented its own unique set of challenges. The 10 hour time change, the 18 hours of flight time there and back, completely different food, etc. Any parent that has traveled with small ones can tell you the worst is when they are screaming on a flight and are seemingly inconsolable. We were sitting on the jet way in Turkey for an hour with the seatbelt sign on, ready to leave at any time. This was our third flight that day and Kevra, my 2 year old, had had it. She didn’t want to sit still, eat, nurse, relax… nothing. She was screaming her head off and I was trying to keep her in her seat. After about 20 minutes of this a nice Turkish man sitting in the next row back came up to us and said “Why is she locked up?” and reached his arms out to her. Feeling flustered and like I was just trying to follow the rules, I gratefully accepted his help and let her be free. She stopped crying and roamed around between our seats as we waited to take off. And everyone was grateful that she had settled down.

Be aware of the rules you abide to in your life that cause more pain and suffering than necessary. If they don’t work for you, perhaps it is time to find a new way of approaching them and even breaking the rules to find you path towards peace.

Zella-and-Kevra-Light-and-Joy5. Love and kindness flow around and through children.

My daughters are blond haired, blue eyed and beautiful. As you can imagine they stand out in the Middle East. They receive so much attention, men and women smiling at them, coming up to them and rubbing their blond hair, pinching their cheeks… On our trip to the Middle East last year I was concerned for my girls. I didn’t want to have my girls snatched up and taken from me. This year, having some experience behind me, I had a slightly different perspective. All the attention that was being offered my children was coming from a place of love and joy from each of these fellow human beings. Just the presence of my children (and to extrapolate, the presence of children in general) brought light into the room. Their purity and joy spread effortlessly to those that surrounded us. It was beautiful to see.

View the natural sense of wonder, joy, kindness in the children around you today.

6. Disconnecting is one of the best ways to connect to yourself.

Our trip was three weeks long. I took my phone but received zero phone calls. The only person I texted was my husband whom I was traveling with. And the hundreds of emails waited until the end of the trip to be dealt with. I took myself out of the world of electronic connection (I made a few facebook posts while away to keep people in the loop) and went inside myself to find a fresh perspective on myself and my life. I connected deeply with my family as we spent every minute of three weeks together. It was fantastic!

Even if you don’t have three weeks to disconnect, do it for a few hours at a time or for a weekend getaway. It really is worth the discomfort of turning your phone and computer off in order to get back in touch with what is truly important.

Petra-Arbuckle-Family7. You don’t always get to where you want to go on the first try.

Petra, one of the Seven Ancient Wonders of the World, was a destination we were all looking forward to seeing. Finally the time had come and on the drive from Amman, we were stopped on the highway by two police officers. They asked where we were going. “Petra” we replied. “You can’t go. There’s a problem.” Ok. That seemed fishy. So we kept driving. We turned off the highway down the road to Petra and again we were stopped by Jordanian police officers. This time we figured it was real. They said the same thing but wouldn’t give us any information about why we couldn’t continue. “Turn around. You can go back to Amman or to Aqaba.”

Amman was three hours and we had no desire to go back. Aqaba is Jordan’s only port city so we kept heading south. It was a beautiful little town on the Red Sea. We found a nice hotel to sleep in, swam in the sea and by morning the “problem” had cleared up. We were able to make it to Petra, even with the detour.

If something is good enough it is worth the effort to overcome the obstacles that will inevitably come up along the way. Persevere and you will be rewarded.

I realized while I was away that I wasn’t missing my yoga practice because I let my life and my trip turn into my practice. I viewed the world around me from a place of mindfulness and awareness. I observed my biases, my struggles and my joys from a place of lightness and centeredness instead of fear and doubt. I found contentment (samtosha) in living in a small hotel room with four people and changing locations every few days. Everywhere I went there was joy (ananda) even if things didn’t work out the way we had originally planned.

May you find inspiration at every turn of your journey.

In Light and Love,
Mindy Arbuckle

Founder of Maitri Yoga Center

4 Responses

  1. Kerry Lynk

    Dear Mindy,
    I so enjoyed reading this piece. I spent 7 years living in the Middle East as a child and loved your reflections on it. In this day it is hard at times to explain to people how beautiful the region and people are. May I never lose sight of this. What a gift to give your children that you chose this adventure…I applaud you.
    Kerry

  2. Sonia

    I cannot help to feel your joy and love
    Your experience is one of kind one that can be experience by every human if they give themselves a chance without judgement and from a place of compassion
    I am very bless to know you

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