Earlier this week I ran my first two-day Living with Intention workshop in a non-English speaking country. Although I’ve spoken in countries all over the world, what distinguished this workshop from all my other speaking engagements was my audience, a large percentage of whom observed me and all I had to say through the thin slits of their black, all encasing burqas.
Last year, I’d been persuaded to run my first workshop in the Middle East through an organization called the Al Rashed Center in Kuwait. One of the regular attendees of our conferences for many years was Salah Al Rashed, who has a human development center in Kuwait and daily radio show and a television show distributed all over the Arab speaking countries. He’d been a fan of my work for many years, and although my books are not yet out in Arabic, his constant reference to my work has familiarized it to that part of the world.
A new experience
Although I had been prepared for several traditionalists in the audience, I had expected the country or anyone interested in my message to be Westernized. I was utterly unprepared for what transpired. Although I’d met my host Salah Al Rashed during a trip to England, when he was dressed in ordinary shirt and tie, on his home turf, he and his wife Sarah, greeted me at the airport in traditional keffiyeh (red tea-towel style headdress a la Yassir Arafat) and white bisht in his case, and full black burqa, complete with veil, in hers.
This, I realized with some uneasiness, was going to be a very different two days for me.
I was careful to run through all the cultural faux pas that I could make with my host and hostess - don’t shake hands with men, unless they shake with you, don’t have mixed intention groups - and as we rode to the hotel venue, I made a mental inventory of the wardrobe I’d brought along. Although I’d brought along modest, loose long clothing and even toyed with the idea of wearing a headscarf as a sign of respect, the following morning I eschewed it. They were obviously going to be authentic, and so would I be.
A different audience
The following morning, when I headed to the front of the room, I surveyed my audience with something akin to alarm. All the women had coalesced on the left side of the room and all the men on the right. As Al Rashed’s radio show had huge reach throughout the Arabic countries, they’d come from all over the Middle East and the gulf: Saudis and Emirates and Egyptians and Kuwaitis and even a smattering of Indians and Pakistanis.
Most of the women were covered, to some degree, but in an entire spectrum of possibility, from full burqa allowing only eyeslits, to black headscarves, to very colorful abayas, to ordinary Western gear. The men, in the main, had little variation on the same theme - two colors of keffiyeh and long black or white jalabiya robes.
Both sides of the room looked up at me expectedly. My interpreter was a young woman from Syria, a region decidedly unfriendly to my home country of America.
I stared at the surreal image before me in an uneasy silence. What had I let myself in for? What would these people, for whom tradition played such a central role, think of my radical material? How would any of this square with their religious and cultural beliefs?
Any apprehension soon dissipated as we began discussing quantum physics and intention. They took careful notes and followed any instructions enthusiastically and to the letter. Most of the audience had seen The Secret and read The Law of Attraction. Although the men remained with men and the women with women, they were happy to participate in experiments and to form small close-knit groups to send healing intention to each other. Their intuitive abilities were finely honed during our experiments. Clearly they were used to tapping into The Field.
And after practicing psychic ability and intention, when we broke for lunch, they made a nod to tradition, and a large group of male Saudis positioned themselves to the south, bent over on the floor and prayed.
The biggest student
For my part, I spent the two days being the biggest student in the room. Had the clothing been a matter of choice? Did it work – was there less rape and other abuse of women? How did religion square with any other modern ideas? Were women allowed careers (there were many women doctors in the audience and a goodly percentage held professional jobs)? Was the clothing more comfortable for men?
And then my questions became more pointed. How would they solve the problem of terrorism, or the Israeli conflict? What should America and Britain do now to prevent future terrorism and promote peace? Where had the US gone wrong?
They were particularly intrigued by the results of our Peace Intention Experiment, not only the fact that we seemed to have an effect on restoring peace, but also that sending intentions for peace appears to increase peace and tolerance in the sender.
They were gorgeous group – warm and funny and big-hearted - showering me with presents and food. I chatted with the men in the breaks, and ate and went out with the women. I drank in the exotic tradition of Arabia and the more modern turns it had taken.
I moved my own goalposts a bit toward then and by the end of the two days they’d move theirs a little closer to mine.
What my audience wanted from me and other Westerners, most of all, was simple acceptance - for their ways, their commonalities and their exotic differences, to be appreciated and understood.
God and The Field
Recently, I taped a show with Oprah Winfrey on her Soul Series (to be aired in April – I’ll alert you). At one point, she asked me pointedly, is the Field God? Many others ask me if believing in the Field isn’t in conflict with traditional religion.
I’ve always maintained that the information I research is more of a proving of religion – scientific evidence of the divine in all of us.
Virtually all major traditions in the world prior to Isaac Newton — pre-literate cultures such as the Aborigines; the ancient Greeks and the Egyptians; the adherents of Eastern religions such as Buddhism, Zen and Taoism; and even modern indigenous cultures — conceived of the universe as inseparable, connected by some universal energy ‘life force’. The beliefs of virtually all tribal societies about this central energy force have many similarities, suggesting that an intuitive understanding of the interconnectedness of all things is fundamental to human experience.
What I took away from this experience was simple. Far from destroying God, science for the first time is proving His existence – by demonstrating that a higher, collective consciousness is out there. There need no longer be two truths – the truth of science and the truth for religion. They can be one unified vision of the world – from wherever on the globe you happen to be.
May the truth of The Field help, as it did on this one occasion, to unite us all.
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