Think Peace

How can we bring peace to our minds? It is something that many of us have wondered after being burdened with the seemingly endless stresses of modern life. Depending on the kind of person you are, you may have taken a scientific approach to achieve a calm and quiet mind – perhaps trying to get the correct amount of sleep in order to wake feeling refreshed and restored or choosing endorphin-rich foods and exercise.

Meanwhile, others look to spiritual practices, using meditation and candle-lit baths to shake off the mental weight of the day. Recently, however, neuroscience has been connecting the links between the two disciplines and finding that Buddhists may well have a point.

 

Feed the Mind with Positivity

Ever heard of the Mind and Life Institute? A collaboration between the Dalai Lama himself and a team of scientists, the group was set up in the late 80s. Together, they have shown that mind training is a very real tool and that we can all use it to our benefit.

So, if you have ever stood in front of your mirror repeating positive affirmations to yourself, you have been working to train your brain. Whether you felt silly, or not, repeating this process on a regular basis will have had a great benefit to your mind, leaving you feeling more confident and happier in the long run. Meditation is also proven to help bring peace to the mind, as the brain is emptied of negative thoughts. With several types of meditation, the focus is on the breath, which, by releasing physical tension, also measurably reduces stress and anxiety.

Back in 2013, Barbara Fredrickson from the University of North Carolina, a positive psychology researcher, published a landmark paper that provides fascinating insights about positive thinking and how it effects our life skills. Her work is among the most respected in her field and it is surprisingly useful in everyday life.

She took groups of people and showed them different films. Some groups saw positive images while others saw negative images of fear and anger. Then each group had to come out and write about their experience and how they would react in a similar situation.

The groups who saw images of fear and anger wrote down the fewest responses as they saw less options. Meanwhile, the participants who saw images of joy and contentment wrote down a significantly higher number of actions that they would take. So positive emotions broaden our sense of possibility and open your mind up to more options in life.

She discovered that those who meditated daily had more positive thoughts than others who did not but that was just the tip of the iceberg. With her team of scientists, she found that people who experienced joy had useful side effects to their feelings that lasted far beyond the event.

In other words, when you are experiencing positive emotions like joy, contentment and love, you will see more possibilities in your life. These findings were among the first that suggested positive emotions broaden your sense of possibility and open your mind up to more options.

Fredrickson believes this is due to the happy emotions enabling you to see all the possibilities surrounding you. The more you feed your positive thoughts, the better you become at reading situations and taking advantage of what life has to offer. Noticing all the options available to you at any time enables you to build new skills and flourish through life, even if you are not having the best day, because you have trained your mind to see the positives whenever possible.

Indeed, this research only confirms what wise teachers have always known. Buddha began the Dhammapada with the words: “We are what we think” and science has since proven that our thoughts are creative and essential for creating peptides that become part of new cells in the brain, with positive thoughts creating more positive peptides and negative thoughts creating negative ones. So, the more you practice being positive and peaceful, the more natural it will eventually become.

 

Give the Gift of Peace

At Peace Gifts Shop, we want to help you train your brain for the better, which is why many of our products feature a quote about peace and how you can achieve it, while others feature a beautiful image to remind us of peace. We sell t-shirts, mugs, and posters, amongst other items, with phrases from well-known teachers, authors and poets from various religions, traditions and cultures around the world. Every time you have a cup of tea or put on your favourite outfit, you will be reminded of the phrase or peaceful image and it will become further ingrained in your memory.

Of course, once we have discovered peace for ourselves, it is natural to want to share the joy. Our products make fantastic gifts for your good friends and all members of the family. Despite our reasonable prices, these gifts will become priceless to the recipient, helping them to think positively and feel at ease with the world.

Even better, every penny we make from the sale of our items is put towards our charity which provides education, inspiration and action to promote inter-religious harmony in our multi-faith society and in the Holy Land. So, help us to spread the love, since a world full of peaceful people is all we could ever hope for.


Ramadan Iftar Peace Dinner

There is a peace that passeth understanding and abides in the heart of the one who knows “I Am”

 

The Abrahamic Reunion’s 14th Annual Multi-Faith Ramadan Iftar Peace Dinner

Dear Friends of the Abrahamic Reunion,

We are still receiving recognition and accolades for the events of the Week of Healing the Heart of the Holy Land.

It was great to finally get top-tier involvement from Israeli Jews, Christians, Muslims, and Druze religious leaders.  The work we did with the Young Peacemakers and in our very first Families Forum will continue on a regular basis supported by quarterly visits to the Holy Land by Sheikh Ghassan and Anna.

Just to reiterate the scope of the work that we are doing, we spent the morning with a bereaved Bedouin woman, the afternoon in an Israeli Settlement Yeshiva that had been attacked, and the next morning in the oldest Palestinian Refugee Camp, all as part of Healing the Heart of the Holy Land.

During this time of violence with many deaths in Gaza and rockets landing in Israel the need for our work is so very critical. We have proven that a concerted effort on a grassroots level to bring diverse groups together can produce profound results. We have witnessed, last month, people who a short time ago had very narrow and separatist views, coming to a much more balanced place as a result of our efforts.

This Year we are featuring two 200-Person Dinners,
one in Israel and One in Palestine In 2018.

We are once again hosting an interfaith Ramadan peace dinner for 200 people of the four major faiths in Israel, and a parallel Iftar dinner in Palestine for another 250 people. Both of these events have a combined budget of about $18,000. This includes renting large busses, food for 450, getting adequate banquet spaces, paying our peace-building project managers, flying Sheikh Ghassan and Anna to the Holy Land, photography, and many other expenses that make the event successful.

There are hundreds more who want to come to these breaking of the fast dinners – we actually have a waiting list of hundreds of interested people for these events – so this year we are doubling our Iftar capacity to try to meet the demand.

Please bear in mind that we now know that if 450 people are touched, the word will get out to ten times that many people, and the idea that peace could prevail becomes more of a reality every time we have a major event.

Many of you are donors already and we deeply appreciate that. But the need seems to be ever-present.

We really are making a difference and by donating you become part of something that you can truly be proud of.

All of us are fortunate in that we live in places that are not overly traumatic, and we are helping to create more places of peace and healing rather than trauma and tragedy. Please give what you can. 

A $100 donation will cover 3 people, $1000 will cover 33, and $10,000 will cover either dinner, start to finish, from planning to reporting. All this money will be spent on these programs in the Holy Land. Please give.

With profound hope,

David Less
Co-Founder & Chairman of the Board
[email protected]

Please consider supporting the Abrahamic Reunion and all the bridge-making, peace-building, and grassroots multi-faith networking that it creates with a recurring monthly donation.

How To Donate

Thank you for your years of support
 Please Donate Now!

 

To read more about the Abrahamic Reunion see these links below


The Zohar, Ibn Arabi, and Interreligious Text Study at Cambridge University

UK Speaking Tour, November 2017

Sheikh Ghassan Manasra and Rev. Cherag Anna Less Phd travel to London and the UK for a late-autumn speaking tour which also includes National Interfaith Week in the UK. They are joined by Sheikh Ghassan’s daughter and AR young adult leader Zeynab Manasra, Rabbi Mordechai Zeller (trustee to AR UK and Rabbi in residence at Cambridge University), and Michael & Amanda Kenton, co-founders of AR UK.

The Zohar, Interreligious Text Study at Cambridge University with Rabbi Mordechai Zeller, and Ibn Arabi
Today we traveled to Cambridge to meet with Abrahamic Reunion Peacemaker Rabbi Mordechai Zellar who is currently the Jewish Chaplain at Cambridge University. It is interfaith week in England, and Mordechai has invited the Abrahamic Reunion, and the Cambridge University Islamic Society (ISOC) to his weekly Zohar study group.

The word Zohar means “splendor” or “radiance” and it is considered to be the core text of Jewish mystical thought known as Kabbalah, which offers a mystical interpretation of the Bible.

Composed by kabbalist Rav Shimon bar Yochai, the Zohar is a set of twenty-three books that provide a commentary on biblical and spiritual matters in the form of conversations among spiritual masters. On the one hand it is a vast, comprehensive commentary on biblical matters, and on the other hand it is intended to be a guidebook for the lost divine nature of our souls, and the Zohar describes all of the spiritual states that the sole experiences as it evolves. At the end of this process, the soul achieves what Kabbalah refers to as “the end of correction,” the highest level of spiritual wholeness.

Often written as a cipher, the codes, metaphors, and cryptic language of the Zohar are designed to provide channels for spiritual energy.

Hidden for 900 years between the 2nd and 11th centuries, the Zohar began to be shared in the 16th century when The Holy Ari, Rabbi Isaac Luria (1534-1572) stated that from his time onward, the wisdom of Kabbalah was ready to be opened to everyone.

The topic of today’s interfaith study group will be the relationship between Abraham and his nephew Lot from the perspective of Judaism, and Islam.

Mordechai, Ghassan and I have had a few conference calls to prepare for this evening. When Ghassan mentions to Mordechai that he would like to use Ibn Arabi’s book “The Bezels of Wisdom” as his source for speaking about Abraham, Mordechai not only runs out to get Ghassan a current copy of the book from the store, he makes arrangements for us to visit Cambridge University’s research library to study some of the earliest known copies of this precious book.

Called by Muslims “the greatest master,” Ibn Arabi was a Sufi born in twelfth-century Spain. At the end of his life, while in Damascus Ibn Arabi had a vision that prompted him to write this book. He describes the experience in his preface.

“I saw the Apostle of God in a visitation…He had in his hand a book, and he said to me, “This is the book, “The Bezels of Wisdom”, take it and bring it to men that they might benefit from it.”

A “Bezel” is a setting on a ring, and in Arab culture this “Bezel” would have been set with a gem and engraved with the wearer’s name, to make the ring into a seal.

The “setting” that holds Ibn Arabi’s gem of spiritual wisdom, describes the author’s mystical insights through the lives of each of the prophets, and Ghassan wants to share with our group Ibn Arabi’s esoteric commentaries on the life of Abraham.

As we walk on cobblestone streets, through Cambridge’s medieval neighborhoods, we feel as though we have already begun a journey back in time.

Outside the Cambridge Library Itai Kagen, the son of Rabbi Ruth Kagen and Michael Kagan, who have participated in many Abrahamic Reunion events in Israel, comes running up to us to embrace Ghassan. Visiting from Hebrew University, Itai is living in London to do Biblical research. He has heard that Ghassan will be teaching with Mordechai in Cambridge, and has traveled with his wife 2 hours by train to attend Mordechai’s Zohar class so he can hear Mordechai and Ghassan teach together. While we use the library’s research room to study Ibn Al’ Arabi, he will be here to study an ancient Hebrew manuscript found in Egypt.

We enter the library bearing 2 forms of ID. Security is tighter here than at the prison we had entered together two days earlier.

We are escorted through a series of locked doors that require pass codes, to a room containing Cambridge University’s most valuable and precious books. Photos are forbidden as two ancient volumes are offered to us on pillows. Only one person, Estara, the research specialist has permission to touch the books, and turn the pages, which have been mounted on special paper to preserve them. One book was composed in the 14 century, and the other one was written in the 16 century. Several different scribes hand wrote each volume, as Estara points out where the script of each different scribe changes. We hover around Estara, as she turns the pages, and Ghassan begins to read out loud when he comes to the section on Abraham. Certain pages contain blank symbols in the midst of the hand written script. Ghassan explains these esoteric symbols are ciphers and amulets used to transmit realization and messages to the reader. The margins of the pages contain hand written notes in Arabic, Hebrew, and other ancient languages, the work of long ago scholars deciphering the esoteric contents for their own research.

Ghassan reads aloud to us and translates as he goes along. The whole experience has a mystical quality so different than reading on the Internet, or from a modern mass-produced book. And we are mesmerized by the experience.

We also take time to visit Itai at the table behind us, as he carefully sifts through the fragments of an ancient Hebrew manuscript that have been suspended between large sheets of plastic. He and Mordechai and Ghassan read it together and Itai explains that he can speak at least eleven ancient biblical languages, and he is here to do research for his professors at Hebrew University. He says he and Estara will meet us later at Mordchai’s Zohar class.

As we gather for our meeting about 25 people enter the room. As they introduce themselves I am quick to realize that this text study group is not going to be like any text study group I have attended before. This will be a meeting of biblical scholars. Although many are still students most are postgraduates doing advanced biblical study.

Mordechai begins by telling the story of Abraham and Lot’s relationship, in a historical context, then Mordechai begins to use the Zohar to peel back the outer layers of the story and interpret the symbology and metaphors it contains to reveal the story’s luminous esoteric core

After Mordechai speaks, Ghassan begins to share Ibn Arabi’s spiritual interpretation of these stories.

I am stunned by the similarities and I wonder what is the connection between these two authors? What journeys have transpired, and what exchange of knowledge has taken place to inform these two great works? Surly the influences must be there. The similarities are obvious to everyone, and the scholars offer informed speculations, that may have transpired, and identify scholarly connections within and between these two spiritual lineages.

I have participated in many text study groups before, but I have never experienced such a profound, spiritual state as I have had in this text study group, I am left with a luminous sense of awe, and a powerful sense of spiritual truth as I listen to these two interpretations.

I feel grateful that the enlightened spiritual leaders in the Abrahmic Reunion such as Sheikh Ghassan Mansara and Rabbi Mordechai Zellar, are able to guide participants in these text study programs to break through the academic shell that can imprison the spiritual experience that the authors intended their readers to have.