Tonight, I will meditate and pray for all of the people on this planet suffering. A dear friend of mine reminded me many years ago after I returned from trekking in Nepal, shocked by the extreme poverty I witnessed…small children begging just for a pen, shoeless in the hills…”suffering is relative”. I thought then: surely not! But twenty years have taught me that suffering is relative and the feeling is one and of the same.

If we are cut, we all bleed. If we are fearful, our bodies all go into a state of stress. Some of us escape its effects better than others. If someone we care about dies, the grief response is natural and even if we do not know the people, if we come to learn of their stories and those people’s stories remind us of our commonalities…what if it had been my loved one? it could have been us? this is my town…my city…we feel at one with that person, that predicament. This is empathy and, as painful as it is to have sometimes, it is the best part of us. It is what makes us undeniably powerful as humans.

As a friend said many years ago, in response to a moment of war on this planet, when innocents died, this planet needs more humility. Yes, we need a swift and firm response to the forces of unconscionable evil in human beings who have lost touch with anything good. But I know at the heart of me, we must soul search deeply now and do more than pay lip service to the idea of standing together. I love most of what you see on the media about Manchester today: people being kind to one another…people being reflective…people crossing barriers to learn that homeless people ARE human. Two panhandling men were there and helped when the bomb blew up. The stories just get to me. One cradled an elderly woman as she died. And he wrapped a girl who lost her legs in a t-shirt. The sheer weight of these stories must press down on us all as we really take in the scope of this madness.

But already the backlash has snuck in, and the Muslims of South Manchester and others who had nothing to do with this are under attack by some, it seems, and now we have fear facing fear. Violence or the threat of it and defacement of property because people cannot or will not find the words. Words, words, words. Precious words. People need to rise to the occasion to find the words to talk through those fears and to move through their differences. Because this is the work of healing and that work, for obvious reasons, is neverending and requires much more than words though they are hugely important.

I can’t help but think of the cholera outbreak in Yemen, the lack of electricity in Syria, the hangings of gay people in Iran, the persecution of the Baha’i in Iran, the still missing girls kidnapped by Boko Haram, the sex slaves and enslaved workers as well as the unsolved murders of indigenous women in Canada who went missing after being picked up on a certain stretch of highways.

I also cannot help but think of a friend who told me this week she may be battling Lupus or kidney disease, a former student who ended at 10-year relationship with a man she thought would marry her, a friend who has these past few years gone off the radar and who will not respond any longer to my emails because coping with her life up close is all she can handle…people in her world are dying or fighting for their lives…I’m missing her and she has long been one of my best friends, but we ALL cope in different ways, so I’ve let go of my expectations and I quietly support from a distance…and I think of my noble friend battling multiple myeloma. Cancer is a scourge. I think of a friend battling to get a kid through school and of my parents’ (and my) unsettled feelings about aging. I think of a friend who just lost a medical-legal case against a corporation in America and what that will mean for her now. On Facebook many tragedies are revealed. I am so aware of the information overload. But we dip in and out and read and switch off, talk or just observe. But if you’ve read this far, then you know we are connected.

Many years ago, I read that to live is to suffer. It is a key Buddhist principle I’ve never forgotten and never will. What we do with that suffering is up to us. Buddhism prescribes the idea of Right Speech, Right Action. Other faiths offer beautiful prescriptions for healing. At this point in my life, I feel a hunger to know how it is we can heal this world. Saying that, I know and we all know, we can only heal ourselves and tackle this on a scale within our reach. It may be that reach is one person at a time. Maybe with words over the internet that reach is to a few hundred or thousands.

We must find a way to heal ourselves inwardly, I think. For everything follows from that. It is why I am such a fan of dialogue. As a therapist I once saw in Canada said to me after I was suffering some PTSD from being in a war zone (Lebanon in 2006) and also from a few too many encounters with bigoted parents of my students in the Middle East and equally bigoted American songwriters (in a forum online) who truly did my head in with their hatred of Arabs and Muslims en masse (it can be tiring waging a war of minds and pussyfooting around assholes), “You need a safe place to talk for it is through talking that we make meaning.” At the time I was seeking answers about why the hatred on this planet. Why the self loathing made manifest in this manner?

I was seeking an interfaith answer to my questions. She told me to look at groups like Women in Black…Muslim and Jewish women who protest publicly in silence for peace. But they gather in closed quarters to share their pain. I never sought out this group in Edmonton. It was enough somehow to realize I just needed a safe place to talk and be heard…to make sense of my thoughts at the time.

So, I’m a big fan of words and I’m a big fan of the therapeutic effects of talking and examining these stories of our lives. I devour the news and, yet, know we – I – must take care with what I put in my brain. While I seem to be almost alone in grieving or feeling the sadness of Manchester at school – no one discusses this story, bizarrely, though the other Mancunian in the high school was also watching the vigil during his prep today and then could find no words to talk about it – I have learned silence and meditation are equally potent. Meditation. Prayer. Contemplation. Whatever works. And that’s how I’m going to end my day.

Returning to the silence. Sitting in the present moment. Trusting all forces in the UK and universe to take care of this…terrorist business. Trusting you all to take care of each other. Trusting the strength of the will for peace and harmony to lock arms with wise action so that better days come again soon.


This is Manchester. This is my chosen home. I may be abroad, but I am one with that city and this image drives home everything I love about it…its spirit, its faith in hard times, its commitment to the ideals we all aspire to live by.

I hear Manchester is having vigils across the city, in mosques, in houses of every faith, in the streets, in homes, online, over the phone. I love you, Manchester. May this solidarity support the poor people today who are fighting for their lives in hospital, those who have lost their loved ones at a pop concert, of all things, and those who are injured in any way.

I sit here in a darkened room with candles by my side, reading, thinking, feeling you, Mancunians, and it makes me feel good that the world is all eyes on you now, for this is how we remind ourselves that humans are better than what one lost individual did last night. We can demonize him and we will, but somewhere something really sick and broken let this happen.

Manchester, you are cups of tea in tragic moments and hands held and hugs and Samaritans. You are social to the core and this is your roar. Manchester, the beautiful, stay together. Show the country that’s what we’re all made of.

Hey, UK English teachers…you don’t need to settle. Move on.

I used to work 60-70 hours a week. It made me absolutely miserable.

I was an English teacher in England teaching English to students who hated English. Every six weeks they had to do a ‘controlled assessment’, which was an essay exam with strict perameters, and over my week off for the half term I had to mark the papers.

It took days to get through 120 papers; it was no way to live. My British colleagues would take a few days off then spend the rest of their days half marking, half enjoying their families and loved ones…hating their lives, dreaming of retirement, staving off or taking personal leave for recovery.

They were burned out or on their way to becoming burned out. 

I looked into the situation. While writing papers for my master’s degree in business management, I did some research and discovered that 60 teachers a year kill themselves in the UK.

As a volunteer in suicide prevention, I found this highly disturbing. This terrible fact became my new mantra for change.

“60 teachers a year kill themselves in the UK. In 2015, 50,000 left the profession, leaving the system in crisis.” I announced, disturbed and determined that people should think about it.

What could be learned from this?

I learned that I could not change the system. Every time I tried to be an individual in an English department in the UK, it backfired. The kids loved the classes but some resisted heartily. It was too strange to them, too demanding for some – writing a one-page letter in an hour was too much to expect from one Year 7 class. I’ll never forget it. I had too little time to exact change and my competence was questioned.

It just wasn’t going to work. The system wasn’t conducive. My passion was being drained dry.

I loved being Head of English for 11 years in Saudi Arabia at an American international school where I could and did teach an array of creative and academic skills pertaining to the subject – creative writing, filmmaking, essay writing, presenting, debating, literary analysis and response to literature using multiple modes of communication including technology based deliveries.

My students in Canada and Saudi wrote 50-page family histories in their last years with me, kept journals, wrote letters, wrote persuasive and analytical papers and walked away equipped for university, self employment and more. They work today in tech companies like Texas Instruments and Microsoft inventing things. They are doctors and scientists, artists and humanitarians. One works for the UN with refugees in Jordan. One is a philosopher. Another works with unwed teen mothers. My students of English in Saudi Arabia achieved top grades in American SAT exams, and today they are teachers and more.

Teaching English in the UK…in a non-project based system where I had absolutely little to no freedom to develop my own classes…drove me nuts.

I also learned…

I need to be able to create as a teacher, not merely deliver a ‘canned’ curriculum. Pre-written units in full that could not be deviated from were problematic.

Sometimes they were not well written or inspired. No wonder the kids hated the study of English.

I needed to return to my passion. My first love was drama and theatre and I am an artist at the core. My passion is and has always been the arts because of the great power of artistic expression and the freedom of interpretation in these subjects.

So, I quit my job with a supply teaching (substitute) agency that kept me barely employed (you cannot live on supply teaching in the UK). Long term contracts weren’t paying off; no one was giving me a permanent job.

I was being used by administrators who wanted to hire the next top gun to come out of university…for literally two-thirds of my salary. The system makes teachers sick, literally, and I wasn’t in the position to take sick leave (as an ancestry visa holder and immigrant).

My British English teaching friends watched as I went to London one weekend with Search Associates, got myself a top-paying job teaching theatre in a top-tier school in the Middle East – and KAPOW! Instant happiness.

I love them for their fortitude (and obvious – I believe – passion for teaching their subject). They watch as I have grown my drama program exponentially since arriving in the desert to ramp up things in my school.

I teach full time drama and theatre as part of a fine arts team I love, I am district leader for fine arts innovation in our school district (7 schools).

I put on three or more shows a year with my students. Meanwhile, I sadly hear from colleagues in the UK that their administrators are cutting back time for the arts while I get to teach drama and theatre for 70 minutes, three times a week.

Takeaway: don’t bang your head against a brick wall. Life is too short. Take a page from this and either protest the working conditions in the UK. Or move on.

Sir Michael Wilshaw: Teachers leaving for classrooms abroad is “brain drain” on talent

There are great jobs everywhere but possibly not where you live. If you’re afraid to get moving, don’t be. Take a risk, get a job somewhere else, aligned with your passion.

Make sure the company’s values are aligned with yours, too.

And fly.

If you need help sorting out  your plan, I’m here for you. Get in touch. I coach professionals ready for change.

PS. Seems nothing has changed since 2015. Another teacher shortage is projected for 2017 in the UK. Meanwhile, my best friend’s son in Canada was almost recruited to go to London. I told him: don’t bother unless you’re armed and ready for the conditions. He found himself a job he loves in Canada.

My Spiritual Mentor: Dr. Sue Rubin

My spiritual mentor, Dr. Sue Rubin

My spiritual mentor, the wonderful and effervescent Sue Rubin – Dr. Sue Rubin – of Truth Tidbits (her website and a nod to the most remarkable stories of people she meets at Starbucks and the lessons to be taken from these encounters, now shared on Facebook) has just turned 89. She is a beautiful soul, still going strong. As I look at her in this recent video, the thought “ageless, timeless” comes to mind.

Our Sue (as they say in the UK, where ‘home’ is when I am not in Saudi or Canada) is as she always was: curious, vibrant, wise, a master storyteller, respectful of all faiths, compassionate, uplifting, glamorous, dignified, down to earth, self-disciplined (to an unbelievable degree), generous with her time and so much more. People flock to her for good reason.  Continue reading My Spiritual Mentor: Dr. Sue Rubin


It is with the heaviest of hearts that I write today: a friend took his life this week. It left me reeling and so concerned for his partner and their children. How…why…what…?

Though I have worked in suicide prevention as a ‘listener’ for the past three years, nothing makes this easier…really. It’s the saddest, most shocking thing. Then you talk to people and find out how many people have lost someone to depression. It makes me want to write about it here.

Some general understandings about suicide…

Men are more likely than women to end their lives, because they suppress their pain, hide it and act decisively. Women eventually communicate sooner…what is going on…and can be helped. It is amazing what a confidential, trusted listener can do to help you figure out solutions…it is amazing. But people must reach out first.

One thing no one likes to talk about is this: if someone has reached the point of wanting to take their lives, that person will, and there is nothing you can do to stop this. That’s probably the most damaging thought for the loved ones left behind. You can try and prevent this final deed, and though we do try and it is our mission at, we know that this can sometimes fail. There is a certain respect we hold for a person in that much pain, and it doesn’t diminish our sadness, but we remain aware of the truth – our lives are fundamentally in our own hands.

Samaritans do all that we can to raise awareness about the factors that cause a person to ultimately give up on living, and we offer 24/7 services to support anyone in need. Samaritans even has an international email address for this purpose. If you need help, please reach out. The service is 100% anonymous, I can assure you. Your phones and email address are not tracked at all. Please reach out for help.

Continue reading Suicide

Ask for help. Watch what happens.

It’s interesting. Building a business. Teaching students. There’s an illusion that we should present ourselves as the experts, as if we know it all, or people will not have faith in us.

But then there is another school of thought that recognises we are all on a learning curve, and asking for help is, in fact, an act of bravery. 


I’ve waffled back and forth between these two views, and suddenly had an epiphany. It was a moment of truth that came after watching a friend die this summer.


Life’s too short. 

Let me explain. Continue reading Ask for help. Watch what happens.

Filipino Jeepney Art – Soon to be Extinct?

I have a fascination with these share taxis called ‘jeepneys’ in the Philippines. They’re leftover jeeps that have been sold to the Filipinos and decorated and dressed up by the owners and drivers. No smog protection, but cozy.

Warmups – Breaking the Ice

I am attending a drama teachers’ professional development conference – part of the EARCOS Teachers Conference in Manila, Philippines. Incredible way to end the day. Gives a whole new meaning to ‘reach out and touch someone’.

On Paris and Beirut

The news in Paris is grotesque and unfathomable. My heart goes out to that nation and to those directly affected by the terrorist attacks where at least 8 suicide bombers shot and then 7 blew themselves up in densely populated areas of the city on a buzzing Friday night. And where the story of this, the events, are still unfolding. This is not over. The world we live in…I cannot begin to finish that sentence. It is too big. It is much too big.


The news has not reached the world in the same way, but there was a Da’esh (ISIS) terrorist attack yesterday in Beirut, Lebanon also Continue reading On Paris and Beirut

Instrumental Guitar Music ▶ Meditation, Relaxation, Yoga, Work, Sleep, Stress, Mind by OCB Relax Music

A lot of instrumental music purports to relax the mind and body. Not much of it delivers. This does.

Note: serious events transpired to prompt this post.

So, I’m working on curriculum design for my drama classes. It is report card time. And the horror of world-breaking news and events around me takes a toll in ways I sometimes can’t quite sense but know it is there, if nearly intangible.

ie. There has been yet another deadly bombing in Qatif, Saudi Arabia, 45 minutes from where I live, yesterday. Embassy alerts will come tomorrow morning. You understand. Tragic. My heart hurts.

I’ll borrow a quote from my good friend Shane, the photographer who took the portraits for my first album Endless Contradictions now: “If this world doesn’t drive you to your knees, you don’t live in it.”

One must not bury one’s head in the sand of life, but one must take care…turn off the ‘noise’ of the mind, the news, the worries, the propensity to obsess. Life happens as we go about our business. We cannot control everything.

Time out. It is important to switch off.

Music is healing. We should not forget this. My choice of streaming music is Spotify. But YouTube plays a not-so-distant second. A friend sent me this today. Enjoy. Take care of you.

Be the change you want to see in the world. 

PS. An extra: a co-write between a friend and I. Love song to a terrorist. No, really. ‘My Heart Goes Out to You’

everything you want is on the other side of fear. jfdi. live to love. lead as you would follow. shoot for the stars.