Integration The Topic Yet Again: February 3, 2023 Blog Incorporated and Enlarged Upon; Now Trying to Integrate My ‘Secular Self’ and My ‘Spiritual Self”; Recent Discovery of Old Photos Brings Back Ikebana Memories; Serenity Defined and Discussed Quoting Martin Lings’ Book; Loving Sangfroid; Photos of Three ‘Made by Alexis’ Ikebana Arrangements, in Times Long Ago and Far Away

For various reasons which shall be explored, it is time to reintegrate, I have spoken of integration in an earlier blog. The beginning words of the February 2, 2023 blog shall be repeated following after the discussion of some pertinent preliminary matters.  

At that moment in time, about two and a half weeks ago I spoke of integrating my ‘Instagram self’ and my ‘blog self’. Looking back now, the fusing, coalescing and consolidating was rather simple. However the integration which I shall speak of today is much more complicated, as it involves my ‘secular self’ assimilating with my ‘spiritual self’, with all that will entail. It shall involve integrating my past with my present, my strengths with my weaknesses, my Canadian self with the remnants of my US self, my wild and crazy self with my Islamic ways, my serious self with my crazy sense of humor, my intense need for solitude coupled with my habitual rabid sociability (when I find myself in the presence of other people. . 

Why now? What just happened? Why is this of major concern at this particular nanosecond? I suppose one thing led to another and I found myself in the midst of an existential crisis (of sorts). 

Watch out, ?here come the definitions again! 

One thing leads to another is an idiom: If one thing leads to another, there is a series of events in which each event was caused by the previous one. It is usually not a planned outcome.

An existential crisis is a moment when individuals question whether their lives have meaning, purpose or value.  It is customary to be negatively impacted by the contemplation. This was not so in my situation.  

In an attempt to understand what thing led to another it seems a good idea to look at one specific aspect of my life – my spirituality. I did have a head start as I had spoke of my pre Islamic spirituality, entitled: A Discussion of Spirituality Leading to Another Discussion of Spirituality; Ikebana Became the Source and Expression of my Spirituality; Ikebana Not Just Branches and Flowers. 

The blog began with a definition of spirituality.  “It is the quality of being concerned with the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things. Wikipedia provides an excellent overview of the topic.” I did confess to my lack of spirituality. “During most of my long life I cannot be said to be innately or even remotely spiritual. I was an atheist, first refusing to acknowledge the existence of God at the age of 19. This denial.continued up to, and until, my entrance into the Islamic faith at the age of 77. How was I able to exist, and to some extent thrive, without religion?” It seems that my need for spirituality, my expression of spirituality, was met in other ways. Most notably, in a way not common in the West. I immersed myself in the study of Ikebana.”

A discussion of Ikebana, the pivotal role it played in Japan over the centuries was discussed in the February blog. At that time I searched through my many photographs but was unable to locate anything of particular merit. I had abandoned my precious habit, my creative expression when I left for London in 2014. After finally rescuing my possessions from storage, including my vast Ikebana supplies I did resume the spiritual practice of Ikebana when living in Corte Madera 12/2020 to 10/2021). But those supplies saw the light of day only briefly – back into storage upon fleeing to the UAE. They remain in hiding. I am too frightened to return, possibly place my life in jeopardy for some furniture, art work and Ikebana supplies. That would be foolish. 

However, after writing the February blog and then, realizing the importance of Ikebana in my life I began to hesitantly think of it could be done in Edmonton. I once belonged to the San Francisco chapter of Ikebana International – there is no chapter here. There is an association but is not the same one as I was schooled in and would have to go back to the basics. (It would be the equivalent of graduating from high school and then having to go back to grade one.) It is possible to join Ikebana International on line but the process is most complicated. 

So I put that in abeyance.   

(If something sees the light of day, it is brought out so that people can see it. 

But my ‘Ikebana recovery’ got an unexpected shot in the arm. With the help of LOL, also my AAA (Amazing Administrative Assistant) I have access to an old previously defunct iPad. Much to my delight found photographs of my Ikebana glory days. At one time I did a demonstration at the San Francisco Ikebana Association. Honest!! Four students of Ikebana senseis were invited, and I was so honored. The photographs were on the iPad and shall be revealed. I remember the event in detail, as if it were yesterday. I was terrified, but very amusing. I could provide the dialogue, but it might bore you and I have other things to talk about at the moment.

I feel most encouraged. My online search continued, finding a nearby florist. And wait until you hear this!! Walmart stores advertise Ikebana vases, and of course, there is a Walmart store not too far away. “It is a miracle,” I say laughingly.  

A question remains. Is it possible to integrate this for me now secular practice with my spiritual practices? I think so as I am appreciating and thanking Allah (SWT) as I assemble the materials. It is possible for me to do this without compromising the five daily required prayers. It is just another opportunity to say thanks and express my gratitude. 

I continue my reading of Martin Lings’ book Muhammed: His Life Based on the Earliest Studies. Alternating the reading of the book and the writing of the blog. I am nearing the end of the book, the Islamic faith is growing rapidly, expanding into other regions, including Syria. The military prowess of the Prophet (PBUH) was an enormous reason, but there was another factor. This is an excerpt from the book. “In many cases the political and religious motives were inexorably connected but there was also a factor, slow-working, yet powerful and profound that had nothing to do with politics, and was also largely independent of the deliberate efforts made by the believers to spread the image of Islam. This was the remarkable serenity which characterized those who practiced the new religion….The recitation its verses, combined with the teachings of the Messenger, imbued the believers with the certainty that they had within easy reach, that is through the fulfillment of certain conditions well within their capacity , the eternal satisfaction of every possible desire. The resulting happiness was a criterion of the faith. The Prophet insisted: “All is well with the faithful. Whatever the circumstances.” (Fn. XXI.13) (pgs. 300-301). 

Reading this, at this particular time, was profound. I am struggling, no doubt about that. attempting to integrate all previously mentioned. But it is with a feeling of calm, that it will all work out. A sense of serenity has pervaded my life. Serenity is the state of being calm, peaceful, and untroubled. Some synonyms that describe my state of mind are: 

calm tranquility, peacefulness, peace of mind, peace, peaceableness, collectedness, sangfroid, equanimity, equableness, togetherness, unflappability. Not the anxiety nor the agitation. 

My three favorites are unflappability, togetherness and sangfroid. 

Me: I would love to be called sangfroid. 

Alter Ego: Would anyone know what that meant? 

Me: Probably not. But I am too unflappable and together to care. Hahaha?

Three photos follow. Two are of the arrangements made for the San Francisco International Ikebana demonstration. The rather free form arrangement made while attending the small class held in our sensei’s home in Marin County. There were only three of us, two of us women, with her for about twenty years. The other student, a man I worked with in the Probation Department, a friend of at least thirty-five years. He very died recently, when I learned this from the MCERA newsletter I was most saddened. It was a jolt to find his photo, taken one day in class. We had not been in touch with one another after 2014, when I left for London. I will write about him one day on this blog. My memories of the fun we had together, his great philosophy of life and how I came to grips with the news of his death. The blog will, of course, begin with a definition of coming to grips.