“Happy New Year,” twice a year…

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

I say “Happy New Year,” twice a year, once, for my family and friends in the West and once for my wife, extended family and friends from the East.

Several years ago I wrote a note entitled “An expression of goodwill…”. It gave a brief summary of the holiday known as Chinese New Year.

Today, I have a somewhat better perspective on the event. I gladly greet people, “Xin nian kuai le” (Happy New Year!) and “Gong xi fa cai” (Congratulations and be prosperous!) in my most perfect (?) Mandarin. Some may look at me a bit oddly, but the gesture is generally accepted with a heartfelt smile. This is my way of bringing us all a little closer…

This particular year is denoted the Year of the Rooster, according to the Chinese Zodiac, symbolizing those who are brave, responsible and punctual.

The Chinese Zodiac, aka Sheng Xiao, is based on a twelve-year cycle, with each year highlighting a different animal and its so-called characteristics. The representative signs in order are rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and pig.

One of the things I found interesting was that “one may not fare well when their sign comes up” in the cycle. I can only reflect on some of my own personal misfortunes and I am a bit of a skeptic when it comes to all of this stuff!

I was recently perusing a CNN article which had some predictions regarding the world’s top leaders. It is definitely worth a read…

Those of you intrigued to explore the possible idiosyncrasies of your own “coordinates” should check out AstrologyClub.org. It covers both Chinese and Western horoscope signs.

In the meantime, I sincerely wish all of you,

Xin nian kuai le,” “Gong xi fa cai!”

The Better Path: Indulging in Gratitude

As I reflect on 2016 and God willing, prepare for 2017, I have tried to pay particular attention the what worked well for me and what served to impede my progress this year.

The most common factor of note was gratitude. A standard definition is “the act of being grateful.”

Some of you may ask, “to whom?” I will make it perfectly clear and state, to God!

Others may pose the question, “for what?” My response would simply be: for the air I breathe with the lungs He has given me, for the fact that I am alive today. It is acknowledges Him watching over me when l am not capable of doing a better job on my own.

He nurtures and sustains and I am a beneficiary. I seek to express gratitude all He has done for me. Shouldn’t we all?

People of different belief systems often thank God for the food before they eat their meals. Many Christians will say a grace or give acknowledgment of a virtue coming from God. I recall some of my Japanese and Kendo brethren saying, “itadakimasu” or “I humbly receive…,” before we would partake of a sumptuous meal together.  Muslims utter Bismillah (in God’s name).

At times I question whether people are really sincere and truly thankful but then I pause and remember that it is between them and God. I can only legitimately seek to control my own intentions and actions…

Gratitude is increasingly a topic in social media these days. Its links to happiness and better health are now being examined.

I learned to consider gratitude as an emotion while attending meetings with Sultan Abdulhameed, author of The Quran and The Life of Excellence, years ago. He teaches that “prayer is a comfort”and that “all progress happens through adversity.” While contemplating these thoughts, a phrase I had heard earlier in life came to mind, “Let go, let God…

These notions enabled me to find peace with the thoughts that I am not in control of everything in my life, but that my circumstances are intimately connected to how I think. Now, I always think positively about all matters, no matter how grim they may seem.

One of my Dominican friends and Kendo brothers has been trying to attain the rank of NanaDan or seventh degree Black Belt for longer than I can remember. Twice a year, he would make a pilgrimage to Japan to challenge for the rank. It takes a lot of determination and resoluteness to maintain this arduous discipline and stay focused in spite of circumstances. The pass rate on this examination has always been extremely low. He was finally successful last month.! Alhamdulillah (All praise is due to God)! I remember the words of the late Nishino sensei,”Never give up!” This is a timely reminder for me. I am also happy when my friends achieve success.

You may ask what does this have to do with being grateful?    Studies have shown that practicing gratitude can lead to a greater sense of well-being and reduced depression.

I recently had a personal problem which was driving me to wit’s end. I felt powerless. Reluctantly, I shared my dilemma  with some of my friends. Together, we came up with a solution and I was truly humbled by the positive outcome…  I am forever grateful for the friends that God had provided for me! Alhamdulillah!

There is a passage in the Quran which states, “If you are grateful, I will give you more (7:14)” I am only now beginning to grasp the meaning of this powerful statement.


I thank God for watching over me.

Thou has been with me throughout my entire life.

Please forgive me for my late acknowledgment.

Please continue to watch over me, my family and my friends…

Thinking pleasant, uplifting thoughts…

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When I last checked it was 106 F in NYC. Today is the ninth day of Ramadhan. For those of you who are not aware, Ramadhan (also known as Ramadan or Ramzan) is the ninth month in the Islamic calendar. It is a period of prayer, fasting, charity-giving and self-accountability for Muslims in the United States as well as the rest of the world. The first verses of the Qu’ran were revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) during the last third of Ramadhan, making this an especially holy period.

The period when Muslims end their fast at the end of each day is called Iftar. There are no special foods that need be eaten to break one’s fast, but your body may have special nutritional needs which should be met. Traditionally, a lot of Muslims will end their daily fast by consuming a few dates. This is a staple fruit found in the Middle East that is an excellent source of fiber, sugar, minerals and carbohydrates. This will generally aid the body in maintaining health.

The important thing is to avoid over-eating! Meals should consist of some vegetables, salads, chicken or fish or lean meat such as lamb or beef, grains such as rice, bread or pasta, and a serving of fruit. Drinking lots of water is very important and cannot be overstressed!

One must remember that this is a time of introspection. It should be about cultivating better character and humility. It is about learning that one can “do without,” and reconnecting with God (SWT).

For some reason, I feel particularly “amorous” today. Everyone gets a smile from me, today. It is far too hot to exert the energy to be grim. I will place a bowl of ice cubes and water outside for the wild animals that may be hanging out in the neighborhood. Most of all, I will think pleasant, uplifting thoughts today.

I think there is a lesson to be learned during this harsh weather. We all suffer to some degree, some more than others. We can all endure the plight a little better with just a slight gesture from others. All it takes is a smile or a bowl of water for a few stray animals. Try it! You will feel better…

An expression of goodwill…

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

February 10, 2013 marks the start of a new year for more than one-fifth of the world’s population. While I do not represent that “one-fifth,” I share many links with it. We have attended each other’s weddings, funerals and other more joyous events. It is the most important of traditional Chinese holidays among us. It is also often referred to as the Lunar New Year.

The first day of the New Year is a time to honor your elders and families generally visit the oldest and most senior members of their extended families, usually their parents, grandparents and great-grandparents. This is an example of filial piety and is a tradition we could all benefit from, “paying homage to those who have travelled ahead of us.”

Members of the family who are married also give red packets containing cash known as lai see or angpow, a form of blessings and to suppress the aging and challenges associated with the coming year, to junior members of the family, mostly children and teenagers.1 I know my children would have loved following this practice, along with those of everyone else’s holidays!

Business managers give bonuses through red packets to employees for good luck, smooth-sailing, good health and wealth.

I bring some of these traditions up because it has recently come to my attention that China has surpassed the U.S. to become the World’s Largest Trading Nation.2

Isn’t it a better practice to wish your neighbor goodwill? You never know the future will turn. I say Xin nian kuai le (Happy New Year!) and Gong hai fa cai (Congratulations and be prosperous!) out of genuine respect and brotherhood with my neighbor. As I grow older, peace and harmony become ever more important and less stressful for me.

The world is a beautiful place and it grows smaller each day!

1 Wikipedia
2 Bloomberg News

Islam, Karma and the Seven Flies

I was making myself breakfast today just as any other day when I noticed that there were seven flies in the kitchen. Normally, the kitchen is bug free but there they were flying around the ceiling about to make a nuisance of themselves. I saw that one of the windows was slightly cracked open and postured that this was the way they entered the kitchen.

I wanted to eat my meal without having to experience the annoyance of these insects. Warily, I consumed my meal and watched them with the precision of a Hawk! It seemed as if they wanted to leave the kitchen but had lost their way. They flew close to the window’s opening but I wondered if perhaps if they perceived it too narrow to exit? I proceeded to open the window slightly more. Eventually all seven flies flew out the window.

I thought about this with great introspection as I finished my meal. It tasted wonderful! Allah (SWT) is Creator of all things, great and tiny. He tests and challenges us all the time. There are lessons everywhere! I believe there are Signs all around us. We must clear our minds and open our hearts to see them. I also believe that one should never give up hope. “As one window closes, a thousand more may open.” We must continue to persevere.

There are times when we may relinquish just when victory or salvation may be just around the corner! The flies were so close to the opening of the window but it seemed as if they choose not to venture out. My gesture of opening the window a little wider enabled them to escape unharmed on this particular day.

My actions cost me nothing but created harmony around me in that brief moment. Perhaps, that is a lesson as well…