Twenty Commandments for Ethical Living

High Desert Canyon, Photo by Romain Guy

High Desert Canyon, Photo by Romain Guy

1. Rise with the sun to pray. Pray alone. Pray often. The Great Spirit will listen, if you only speak.

2. Be tolerant of those who are lost on their path. Ignorance, conceit, anger, jealousy and greed stem from a lost soul. Pray that they will find guidance.

3. Search for yourself, by yourself. Do not allow others to make your path for you. It is your road and yours alone. Others may walk it with you, but no one can walk it for you.

4. Treat the guests in your home with much consideration. Serve them the best food, give them the best bed and treat them with respect and honor.

5. Do not take what is not yours whether from a person, a community, the wilderness or from a culture. If it was not earned or given, it is not yours.

6. Respect all things that are placed upon this earth - whether it is people or plant.

7. Honor other people's thoughts, wishes and words. Never interrupt another or mock or rudely mimic them. Allow each person the right to personal expression.

8. Never speak of others in a bad way. The negative energy that you put out into the universe will multiply when it returns to you.

9. All people make mistakes, and all mistakes can be forgiven.

10. Bad thoughts cause illness of the mind, body and spirit. Practice optimism.

11. Nature is not FOR us, it is a PART of us. They are part of your worldly family.

12. Children are the seeds of our future. Plant love in their hearts and water them with wisdom and life's lessons. When they are grown, give them space to grow.

13. Avoid hurting the hearts of others. The poison of your pain will return to you.

14. Be truthful at all times. Honesty is the test of ones will within this universe.

15. Keep yourself balanced. Your Mental self, Spiritual self, Emotional self, and Physical self - all need to be strong, pure and healthy. Work out the body to strengthen the mind. Grow rich in spirit to cure emotional ails.

16. Make conscious decisions as to who you will be and how you will react. Be responsible for your own actions.

17. Respect the privacy and personal space of others. Do not touch the personal property of others - especially sacred and religious objects. This is forbidden.

18. Be true to yourself first. You cannot nurture and help others if you cannot nurture and help yourself first.

19. Respect others religious beliefs. Do not force your belief on others.

20. Share your good fortune with others. Participate in charity.

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The Bahari Paradox | Seeking Literary Agent Representation

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 17:46 p.m. EDT, 23 January 2014

Book of Magic, Photo by Catherine L MommsenAgents interested in projects similar to Malika Oufkir’s Stolen Lives will see the potential in marketing my first novel, The Bahari Paradox. This book project grapples with perseverance, survival, and the triumph of a woman journeying to realize her full potential.

Synopsis: She teeters on the top railing of her balcony certain she could jump to her death but unsure as to whether or not she should. Yes, she could end it all; splatter herself and her unborn infant across the asphalt boardwalk below. She envisioned how tourists would scream and retirees relaxing and sunbathing on balconies beneath her would be frozen with shock and fear as her brown pregnant body plummeted to the ground like a dark comet descending from the heavens.

No one in her life would know and perhaps not even care what she'd done. Her husband is missing. Her ordained Baptist mother is estranged. Her younger sister is emotionally distant. Her radical Islamist father lives a continent away. The coroner would scrape a broken, spiritless body from the concrete only to discover there is nowhere to send her remains.

Trying to summon her courage as her toes flirt with the end of the precipice, she remembers a stretch of sand along the Indian Ocean called Bahari Beach -- the last enchanting place she'd experienced, the last place she truly felt alive. Memories wash over her like crystal blue waves, salty, sharp, and sweet.

She recalled a puzzling series of childhood events that occurred in rapid succession: her father joining a radical sect within the Nation of Islam, hastily exiting the United States as the daughter of an Anti-American, Pan Africanist expatriate on the run, traveling cross-continent in a Peugeot 504 wagon from West Africa to East Africa; miraculously surviving a particularly virulent strain of cerebral malaria, and finally escaping back to America with her mother and sister after years in exile—free at last from the torment of the domestic violence inflicted upon them by an abusive, tyrannical father.

She returns to America culturally fragmented and psychologically fragile. Failing in her efforts at acculturation and re-integration with her peers, her mother sent her away to a wildness camp hopefully to heal. While there she is sexually assaulted by an older counselor and begins a downward slide into an alternate lifestyle. Here too she begins to hitchhike up and down the east coast and eventually meets and starts a thankfully brief relationship with a Native American biker the summer before starting her freshman year at college.

With high hopes for living a more stable existence, she enters a small New England college to which she has been awarded an academic scholarship. Unbeknownst to her she is pregnant. Isolated and feeling victimized after opting for a late-term abortion, she could not focus on her course work and the additional emotional distress resulted in failing grades and a year-long sabbatical.

She returns to DC thinking a fresh environment might help her to leave behind some of the demons with which she was wrestling. Here she meets her first husband, a white American with a secret heroin addiction which was revealed when she unexpected found him ‘shooting up’ in the bathroom. A bloody fight ensued, reminiscent of those between her father and mother. This devastating turn of events was compounded by learning that she is pregnant for a second time. In quick succession, she terminates the pregnancy, divorces him and moves to Florida seeking to leave behind her mounting disappointments with her life choices.

In Miami, she meets an Israeli tourist ten-years her junior. They decide to marry and live together five-years. The South Beach environs where they lived accommodated their open marriage and non-traditional lifestyle. Tiring of life in the fast lane, on a whim they move to New York. Here she exercises her option to leave him to travel and to live briefly in Europe before returning to Miami to start fresh, newly divorced and alone yet again.

Nothing if not optimistic and believing that ‘the third time’s the charm’ she meets, falls deeply in love, and marries her third husband, a charismatic German, who runs an import and export business. Their lavish wedding at the Biltmore Hotel was extravagant and elegant even by Miami standards. Then at 38 she became pregnant for the third time and they decide to keep the child.

Their idyllic life together too soon began to unravel as the lies of her past and those of her new husband begin to surface. In truth, he is a member of the German mafia involved in trafficking contraband inside high-end luxury cars. Unexpectedly, as the birth of their son nears, she awoke to find he has disappeared after she took him to the airport, ostensibly to visit his dying mother in Germany. She is devastated. It was only later that she learned that he disappeared after defrauding his business partners and embezzling large sums of money from friends and acquaintances.

Federal, state, and local detectives had been investigating their actions for some time and questioned her to determine whether or not she was an accomplice. Business partners and associates were looking for him and she couldn’t assuage their suspicions. Abandoned, clueless, and alone, she inhabits a prison of an ocean front condo of marble, glass and fine Spanish furniture. Surrounded by the trappings of wealth she finds no comfort as she calls her husband’s phone until the service is disconnected. In a desperate bid to end the pain, to bring closure to a life of false starts and bruised spirit, she climbs onto the ledge to end it.

The BAHARI PARADOX is a 120,000 word creative non-fiction memoir which bears witness to the physical and psychological struggle of a woman trying to make sense of her oppressive childhood, sort through an impaired father-daughter relationship, synthesize her African and American religious and social heritage, and determine if she can come off the suicide ledge and raise her unborn child.

Perspective agents and interested parties may contact me at +1 (202) 499-2287 or via email at ayanna@nahmiasreport.com. Thank you for your time and consideration.

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The Secret to a Peaceful House

Grandfather, Photo Ethnography, Raymond, CA, Photo by Ad Keltner

The carpenter I hired to help me restore an old farmhouse had just finished a rough first day on the job. A flat tire made him lose an hour of work, his electric saw quit, and now his ancient pickup truck refused to start. While I drove him home, he sat in stony silence.

On arriving, he invited me in to meet his family. As we walked toward the front door, he paused briefly at a small tree, touching the tips of the branches with both hands.

When opening the door he underwent an amazing transformation. His tanned face was wreathed in smiles and he hugged his two small children and gave his wife a kiss.

Afterward he walked me to the car. We passed the tree and my curiosity got the better of me. I asked him about what I had seen him do earlier.

"Oh, that's my trouble tree," he replied." I know I can't help having troubles on the job, but one thing's for sure, troubles don't belong in the house with my wife and the children. So I just hang them on the tree every night when I come home. Then in the morning I pick them up again."

He paused. "Funny thing is," he smiled, "when I come out in the morning to pick 'em up, there ain't nearly as many as I remember hanging up the night before."

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A Tale of Two Pots

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A water bearer in India had two large pots, each hung on the end of a pole which he carried across his neck. One of the pots was perfectly made and never leaked. The other pot had a crack in it and by the time the water bearer reached his master's house it had leaked much of its water and was only half full.

For a full two years this went on daily, with the bearer delivering only one and a half pots full of water to his master's house. Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments. But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection, and miserable that it was able to accomplish only half of what it had been made to do.

After two years of what it perceived to be a bitter failure, it spoke to the water bearer one day by the stream. "I am ashamed of myself, and I want to apologize to you." "Why?" asked the bearer. "What are you ashamed of?" "I have been able, for these past two years, to deliver only half my load because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your master's house. Because of my flaws, you have to do all of this work, and you don't get full value from your efforts," the pot said.

The water bearer felt sorry for the old cracked pot, and in his compassion he said, "As we return to the master's house, I want you to notice the beautiful flowers along the path."

Indeed, as they went up the hill, the old cracked pot took notice of the sun warming the beautiful wild flowers on the side of the path, and this cheered it some. But at the end of the trail, it still felt bad because it had leaked out half its load, and so again the pot apologized to the bearer for its failure.

The bearer said to the pot, "Did you notice that there were flowers only on your side of your path, but not on the other pot's side? That's because I have always known about your flaw, and I took advantage of it. I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back from the stream, you've watered them. For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate my master's table. Without you being just the way you are, he would not have this beauty to grace his house."

Each of us has our own unique flaws. We're all cracked pots. But if we will allow it, God will use our flaws to grace his table. In God's great economy, nothing goes to waste. Don't be afraid of your flaws. Acknowledge them, and you too can be the cause of beauty. Know that in our weakness we find our strength.

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The Prophet's Children | Khalil Gibran

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Child at Water Fall Wall, Photo by Cuba GalleryYour children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself. They come through you but not from you. And though they are with you, they belong not to you. You may give them your love but not your thoughts. For they have their own thoughts. You may house their bodies but not their souls, For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, Which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams. You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you. For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday. You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth. The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite. And He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far. Let your bending in the archer's hands be for happiness; For even as He loves the arrow that flies, So He loves the bow that is stable.

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Twelve Rules for Being Human

The 2011 Light of Peace Ceremony, Photo by World Peace Initiative

The 2011 Light of Peace Ceremony, Photo by World Peace Initiative

Life and maturity, willpower and reason, knowledge and virtue, station and rank, piety and reverence have all been entrusted to human beings by God. The failure to fulfill one's duties toward any of these therefore amounts to a betrayal of that trust.

Accordingly, to neglect health is to betray life; to be capricious is to betray maturity; to be obsessive is to betray willpower; to be narrow-minded is to betray reason; to be base is to betray virtue; to remain ignorant is to betray knowledge; to be oppressive is to betray station and rank, to engage in debauchery is to betray piety; to be blasphemous is to betray reverence. . . ." ~ Ostad Elahi

These simple truths of life and living can be found in almost every culture and faith. Whether a person belongs to organized religion or not, there is some calling in each of us that desires to achieve success in life.

Although, success is seen increasingly with respect to the accumulation of wealth, most people desire personal growth, for just as many seek to go to "heaven" or move forward on the karmic wheel by learning all the lessons this life has to offer before leaving the world and all whom we encountered in it, better.

There is no single attribution for the list of inspirational life lessons below; however, it is purportedly handed down from Ancient Sanskrit.

Twelve Rules For Being Human

1. You will receive a body – You may like it or hate it, but it will be yours the entire period.

2. You will learn lessons – You are enrolled in a full-time informal school called LIFE. Each day in this school you will have the opportunity to learn lessons. You may like the lessons or think of them as irrelevant and stupid.

3. There are no mistakes, only lessons – Growth is a process of Trial and Error and Experimentation. The “Failed” experiments are as much a part of the process as the experiments that ultimately “Work.”

4. A lesson is repeated until learned. – A lesson will be presented to you in various forms until you have learned it. When you have learned it then you can go on to the next lesson.

5. Learning lessons does not end – There is no part of life that does not contain its lessons. If you are alive, there are lessons to be learned.

6. “There” is nothing better than “here” – When your “there” has become a “here”, you will simply obtain another “there” that will again look better than “here.”

7. Others are merely mirrors of you – You cannot love or hate something about another person unless it reflects something that you love or hate about yourself.

8. What you make your life is up to you – You have all the tools and resources you need. What you do with them is up to you. The choice is yours.

9. Life is exactly what you think it is – You create a life that matches your beliefs and expectations.

10. Your answers lie Inside You - The answers to life’s questions lie inside you. All you need to do is look, listen and trust.

11. You will forget all this.

12. You can remember it whenever you want.

The Perspective of Life

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Looking out Window, Photo by Austin PixelAs Mark Twain said, “You can't depend on your judgment when your imagination is out of focus.” Often, if we take the time to be introspective, we will see that our perspective is colored by the experiences of our life which we project onto others and the world.