Jerusalem. City of Sensual Overload. Thursday, Nov 7 2019 

DIMG_3985.Old JerusalemStalls packed with brightly colored scarves, carpets, and clothing. Whiffs of olives, spices, and humanity. Ancient art and centuries of architecture intermixed with current signage and walls of graffiti. Heavy military presence controlling the massive crowds. Narrow cobblestone streets streaming with people from all over the world. Arabic, Hebrew, and English along with Russian, French, Italian, and countless other languages ring through the air.

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I just returned from a pilgrimage to Israel and Italy and the impact of the trip has left my head full of images, sounds, and smells. As Dorothy said to Toto in the Wizard of Oz, Americans such as myself quickly realize that in Israel, especially in Old Jerusalem,  we’re not in “Kansas” anymore, an expression that indicates things are very different than our norm.

Jerusalem is the largest and poorest city in Israel. Located between the Mediterranean and Dead Seas, it’s also one of the oldest and perhaps, holiest, cities in the world. The first human settlers are believed to have arrived in the Early Bronze Age around 3500 B.C. In 1000 B.C, King David conquered Jerusalem and his son, Solomon, built the first temple.

 

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In only about a third of a square mile, numerous locations are considered significantly important to Jews, Christians, and Muslims which has resulted in a long history of conflict.

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  • For the Jewish community, Jerusalem is recognized as the site of Mount Zion, the traditional site of King David’s tomb, and the Western Wall.
  • Christians hold the city sacred because it is where 12-year old Jesus impressed the elders in the temple and later spent the last days of his ministry, was sentenced, scourged, taunted, crucified, and resurrected.
  • Muslims also are religiously connected to Jerusalem because it is where the prophet Muhammad ascended into heaven from what is known as the Temple Mount.

In adition to being emotionally and spiritually moved, Israel was fascinating for me because I’m intrigued with other cultures and religions and appreciate the opportunity to learn from them. Personally, I never felt unsafe but often did not feel welcome by the majority of Israelies. When traveling, I strive to be a good guest and representative of my home country. I’m not sure how much this mattered to most people I encountered. Greeting Jews in Hebrew rarely resulted in anything other than a blank stare. Currently, more than 60% of its residents are Jewish, 36.5% are Muslim, and only 1.8% are Christian. (The other 1.2% are unspecified.)

The religious tension in the country is evident, even among the Christian denominations. Everyone vigorously defends their sacred site and appears to be reluctant to allow others to visit. Without the assistance of our experienced and knowledgable guide, navigation through the country and entering sites at the best times would have been difficult, if not impossible. Our guide also protected our money by pointing out where we could safely use a credit card and deal fairly with merchants.

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Most of our meals were prearranged and buffet style. Typical meals consisted of stews, fish, grilled vegetables, salads, and breads. My favorite foods were those common in the region including falafal, schnitzel, shwarma, hummus, olives, herring, and dates.

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Stay tuned for more to come on this adventure! Faith-related posts will be posted on my other blog, Mary K Doyle Books.

 

 

Bring in the Dogs Wednesday, Jul 24 2019 

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Flight delayed? Bradley International Airport in Hartford, Connecticut has a remedy to keep everyone calm—pets to the rescue.

While waiting in BDL for a flight home that ended up delayed more than six hours, handlers and their therapy dogs remained available for petting. I definitely can attest to the positive affect the Australian Shepherds had on the initially irritated crowd. Grunts and groans quickly transformed into oohs and ahs once the dogs appeared. The animals’ mere presence was helpful, and after a few strokes of their luxurious coats, travelers magically became significantly calmer. Smiles blossomed across the gates between travelers and the staff working diligently to accommodate everyone.

Pet Therapy, also known as Animal Assisted Therapy, involves a handler and an animal trained to assist people with physical and emotional issues. The therapy is found to help lower blood pressure, release endorphins, alleviate pain, reduce stress, improve motor skills and joint movement, and improve verbal and social skills. Dogs and cats are the most common animals used as “therapists,” but fish, guinea pigs, horses, and even dolphins are trained.

The only drawbacks to pet therapy may occur when people are allergic to animal dander or sanitary issues arise. Pets also may be at risk from unintentional harm from people.

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Have you seen my last post on Mary K Doyle Books, “Speak to Me?” 

Slow Down to Speed Up Friday, Jun 14 2019 

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How often have you wished for a few more hours in a day? Most of us practice a fast-paced regimen of hustling from work to activities and running errands beginning with the moment we rise to the time we go to bed. And yet, at the end of the day, we feel we haven’t accomplished enough. As quickly as we cross off an item from our to-do list, several more spring up. That never-ending cycle is frustrating and exhausting.

But counter to what most Americans may believe, slowing down from time-to-time increases rather than decreases productivity. We have to periodically veer off that highway to end up where we really want to go.

My friend, Sister Chris, says that we’ve lost the understanding of our need to retreat. By engaging in periodic self-assigned time-outs, we are not slacking from our responsibilities but increasing our performance. In general, the removal from the hectic daily schedule most of us engage in can promote clearer thinking, a renewed and more positive outlook, and a healthier way of life which results in better efficiency.

The separation from technology and daily problems during retreats helps to reduce the flight of flight reaction to ongoing events and the accumulation of the stress hormone cortisol. Our hearts become more open which enhances the ability to release sorrow and pain which benefits our overall health.

In addition, the resting brain is essential to self-reflection and stimulating creativity. We gain clarity as answers come in silence improving our decision-making capabilities. An added benefit is that we often make life-long bonds with other participants as like-minded people will be in attendance at these retreats.

And retreats are longer lasting than even a “relaxing” vacation because they are more focused. They also omit the need to schedule activities or seek dining options. Typically set in calm locations, everything is planned for participants.

To find your perfect retreat, consider what you would like to improve. Retreats are targeted toward specific goals. For example, business retreats strive to identify individual talents, increase confidence, and promote team-building. Yoga retreats’ goal is not only to develop better yoga practices but also mindfulness and meditation. Retreats that focus on overall well-being can assist with better eating and exercise habits, work/life balance, and emotional release. Whereas spiritual retreats focus on increasing inner peace and a greater connection with the divine.

(Do you follow my other blog, Mary K Doyle Books?)

 

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