Push Stress Away

Let’s face it, stress happens! Between working, participating in civic activities, taking care of your home and family and managing your business, stress is bound to creep up somewhere in your day. Even though there are signs that the economy may be starting to turn around, this has been and continues to be a stressful year for most business owners. After many years of ups and downs, I have some tips on how to deal with stress in productive ways:

First and foremost; forgive yourself! – Business is not easy, and there is no way that you can do business and not make mistakes. Wasting energy on looking back and feeling ashamed is an exercise in futility that you cannot afford. Stop feeling guilty.

Identify the real problem – Entrepreneurs often say they just need more sales or more credit. From my personal experience and from looking at other businesses, I have found that this is frequently just the symptom. More often, the problem is bad marketing, bad management or poor financial management.

Don’t try to control things that are uncontrollable – instead adjust, respond,adapt.

Increase self-awareness of personal moods and feelings – anticipate and take steps to avoid stress build-up before it becomes more serious.

Explore and use relaxation methods – they do work if given a chance – yoga, meditation, self-hypnosis, massage, a breath of fresh air, anything that works and can be done in the particular situation.

And of course, remember to think positively. If you think negatively, you will fail. In order to attract what you do want, you need to allow it to come to you. And stress is the very antithesis of allowing. Stress is pushing it away. So if you want to allow the good stuff to come to you, push stress away!

Empty Bowls: Compassion with Creativity

Empty Bowls is a deceptively simple idea that has generated millions of dollars towards alleviating hunger in communities across the United States and abroad. A project of Imagine/Render, Empty Bowls is “an international grassroots effort to raise both money and awareness in the fight to end hunger.”

There are millions of ‘empty bowls’ around the world because hunger is an endemic problem in every community. Artists, craftsmen, and community members create and donate bowls that are later distributed at an Empty Bowls Luncheon. Participants sit down to eat a simple meal of soup and bread and go home with a handcrafted bowl as a reminder of the presence of hunger in the community. Potters, craftsman and artists also craft special bowls that are auctioned at the event. The food is sponsored by local restaurants and/ or community members and a hundred percent of the proceeds from the tickets of the luncheon and auction are donated to a local food bank, soup kitchen or charitable organization. These events are sponsored by local churches, potters and artists’ organizations, and schools. Each community creates its own unique Empty Bowls event while remaining true to the original idea.

I was extremely impressed not just by the simplicity of the idea but by the immense barakah that could come from making Empty Bowls a recurring event in Muslim communities across the States. A group of us friends in Jacksonville, Florida decided to make bowls and donate them for the local Empty Bowls Event that was hosted by the Lutheran Services. One summer we purchased supplies, taught ourselves to make clay bowls and decided to invite the community to have some fun. Almost a hundred people showed up and we sat down and crafted bowls from clay, painted them and had them fired at the kiln in the local museum. As our fingers kneaded and formed the clay, smiles and chatter filled the room; everyone had a wonderful time and went home slightly dusty but with the satisfaction of having contributed towards a good cause. Our donations were well received but we felt this was not enough.

Next year we decided to host our own Empty Bowls Luncheon and alhumdolillah it was a great success. It brought the community together for a worthy cause, we were able to raise a significant amount and simultaneously create awareness of the problem of hunger. Our event had a distinctive Islamic flavor to it: we were motivated by the desire to please Allah subhanawatala by serving the people and our responsibility as Muslim neighbors to help those around us:

“And they give food in spite of love for it to the needy, the orphan, and the captive,

[Saying], “We feed you only for the countenance of Allah . We wish not from you reward or gratitude.”

(Surat Al-‘Insān 76:8-9)

Samosas and humus somehow made their way onto the menu and exquisite Islamic calligraphy graced the items on the auction table. The children sang Nasheeds and the Imam spoke about the importance of charity in Islam. A representative from the local food bank updated us on details about hunger in the community.

Empty Bowls is dawah, art workshop, and charity all rolled into one! Allah subhanwatala has blessed each one of us with unique talents and abilities and we have an obligation to use the skills at our disposal to further the cause of social justice in our communities. Explore Empty Bowl Events in your area and then host one at your local school or Islamic Center. We have developed a blueprint for the event and would love to share it with anyone who is interested.

Author: Sabeen Mansoori

[Review] Up A Notch – Personalized Islamic Gifts

_DSC6092Up A Notch is a company that provides customized gifts for Muslim families. They started off with custom candy wrappers and, seeing a need for customized gifts for Muslim kids, they have branched out.

What it is

Have you ever been into those souvenir shops and seen the display of keychains with names on them? It was always fairly easy to find ‘Emma’ but it would be pretty hard to find a Muslim name like Iman or Aisha. Enter Up A Notch, they thought about this problem and decided to create products customized with Muslim names. There are several categories of products from Baby to Occasions to Grandparents.

What I like

First off I love the idea! I had never thought about it until I saw the product, but when I saw it, it made sense. It might not be a “need” per sé, but it is something that people will want. I know my kids were more than pleased to receive a candy jar with their names on it! Continue reading “[Review] Up A Notch – Personalized Islamic Gifts”

[Documentary] Islamic Art: Mirror of the Invisible World.

Islamic Art: Mirror of the Invisible World is a new documentary from the award-winning Unity Productions Foundation (UPF) that brings to life the art and architecture that makes up a significant part of the legacy of Islamic civilization. I was so excited to be able to preview it thanks to Hewar and UPF, so I could report back to you all!

The film is clearly an exercise in understanding and the bringing together of cultures that often fail to realize how closely linked they really are. Beautifully narrated by actress Susan Sarandon, the film features passionate and informative commentary by many in the field and absolutely stunning filmography.

I’m often nervous about films discussing Islam and especially topics that can be controversial (such as certain kinds of Art), so I naturally watch with a critical ear and eye. I found this documentary was not only visually stunning but it presented Islam as a culture of beauty and tolerance and dealt with possibly controversial subjects, in an understanding and honest way.

Islamic Art: Mirror of the Invisible World is the ninth film by Executive Producers Michael Wolfe and Alex Kronemer and UPF (Muhammad: Legacy of a Prophet, Cities of Light: The Rise and Fall of Islamic Spain, Prince Among Slaves). The film was produced to nurture a greater appreciation for the exquisite works of art that Islamic culture has contributed to humanity. “I believe all viewers, Muslim and non-Muslims alike, will be pleasantly surprised with what our film uncovers,” states Alex Kronemer. “As a window into an often misunderstood culture, this film has the ability to be a real catalyst for understanding and perhaps offer a new perspective on Islam’s values, culture and lasting legacy,” continues Kronemer.

I agree completely with Mr Kronemer, this film will appeal equally to Muslims and non Muslims and to people of all cultural backgrounds. We learn about the unique use of written word as an art-form and a form of architectural decoration, the connection and influence of Christian and Hindu art on Islamic artists of the day, the inspiration taken from descriptions of paradise and the use of light to enhance the decor. I especially loved the deep connection obviously felt by commentator D. Fairchild Ruggles of the University of Illinois.

Michael Wolfe says, “Never before have viewers had the opportunity to explore such richness of Islamic art and history with commentary from some of the world’s most renowned experts who have the ability to explain just why these works are so important.”  “We hope watching the film will result in Muslims feeling a source of pride, aswell as celebration in their heritage,” continues Kronemer.

Pride and a connection with my adopted heritage and the heritage of my half Arab children, is exactly what I felt. Bravo to Mr Wolfe and Mr Kronemer, this film was clearly well researched, well thought out and made with care and love for the subject and the message.

See the film!

‘Islamic Art: Mirror of the Invisible World’ will be broadcast nationally on PBS July 6th at 9:00 p.m. EST as part of the new PBS Arts Summer Festival, a multi-part weekly series that will take viewers across the country and around the world.

Join @islamicartfilm on Twitter the evening of the premiere, July 6th, for a tweet chat using the hashtag #IslamicArt.

Win the DVD!

We’re giving away 4 DVD copies of Islamic Art: Mirror of the Invisible World to our US readers. Enter our ‘Islamic Art: Mirror of the Invisible World’ giveaway.