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How Music Brought Me Peace In The Middle East

How Music Brought Me Peace In The Middle East
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It was the day of my birthday and I was in a bomb shelter. This was the last place I expected to be. The day started like any other day in Israel.  I was excited not only for my birthday but to meet my girlfriend’s cousin who was visiting Israel for the first time from England.  My girlfriend’s cousin was a bit worried because an escalation had started and Israel was starting to receive rockets. I was living in Tel Aviv and assured her that no rockets would hit Tel Aviv because our adversary did not have the technology to do so which I knew was not 100% true.  I added that even if they did, they wouldn’t have the courage to strike us here in Tel Aviv which I really thought was true.

As we went over our itinerary for the next 3 days, we heard a loud alarm. The alarm sounded slightly different to the typical ambulance or police car but I ignored this. After 10 seconds the sound did not get further so I looked outside and did not see a police car or ambulance.  This is when I immediately knew the unthinkable was indeed happening. This was the “code red”  alarm informing us to get to the nearest bomb shelter immediately. Not only did I experience rockets for the first time, I was officially on my girlfriend’s cousins sh*t list.

The Piece Of Me I Left Behind

Let’s go back 4 months. I was so excited when I landed in Israel and saw an HP building across the street as this was where my internship was going to be. I got in a taxi and headed towards my apartment. When I got to my apartment  the first thing I did was drop off my bags. I then left the apartment. I knew I would be out of my comfort zone and needed that piece of me that I left behind.  I started to walk down random streets in search for a music store.  After an hour of aimless searching I found a small hidden shop no larger than my bedroom in the USA.  They had a harmonica and small instruments in their display window. I walked in and bought the first guitar I laid my eyes on.  It was not the same piece of me that I had left behind but it would do.

The Everyday Life

During my stay it was a very normal and relaxing time. I loved my job immensely, my roommates, the food and the Israeli culture as a whole.  I played my guitar everyday for around 15-30 minutes which is how much I normally played at home. Every weekend a group of around 10 of us would go to the beach, I would play some guitar and we all just had a great time. You never heard of any terrorism activity at all in fact I felt much safer in Israel than I did at home near Miami.

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The Escalation

After having lived in Israel for 4 months, a series of actions unfolded that led to a full blown war. In the intro above, I said that I had spent my birthday in a bomb shelter.  This was on July 8th 2014 which was the start date of Operation “Protective Edge”. Despite the fact that from that point onwards there was on average over 100 rockets fired towards Israel a day, we carried on living our lives as we normally did. In my apartment there were 3 bedrooms. One of the three bedrooms was a bomb shelter. If a rocket was ever coming our way an alarm would go off throughout the whole city and we had between 45 and 60 seconds to find a bomb shelter. We even had an app on our phones that would play an alarm and tell us if a rocket was coming to our city in real time.

The Iron Dome

It’s important to know what the iron dome is, as this is what saved our lives countless times.  Whenever a person sends a rocket to Israel, Israel sends a rocket which hits the opposing rocket in mid air. Sometimes there is debris that falls back down but nevertheless there was over an 90% chance that the iron dome would protect you from a rocket.  I would like to show you how I experienced this in action.

I was walking home from work one day and was in a residential street.  I took out my phone and got cover as I had 45-60 seconds to do this.  Below is the video I took.  There will be a point where you see two big white poofs of smoke in the sky.  This is what it looks like when one of the iron dome rockets hits an opposing rocket.  Because this particular rocket was far away it takes a little time to hear the rocket explosion.

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The Close Call

The phone started to ring. This was terrible, this meant that my alarm didn’t go off. Getting to work took me a little over an hour because I had to take 2 buses and walk around half a mile. I had a work friend that lived not too far from me who had started taking me to work with him.  He called and was ready to pick me up and head to work. I told him my alarm didn’t go off and to head to work without me as I would take the bus.

I got up and started to get ready for work.  It had been about 3 minutes since my waking phone call. I was brushing my teeth when the siren went off.  I immediately thought why couldn’t this happen 15 minutes ago because although I never want a rocket to come, the siren would have at least woke me up in time for work. I started to go into my roommates room (the bomb shelter) as I always did when a siren went off. We heard the iron dome hit the missile and a couple seconds later I was getting ready to leave the room when I heard a loud noise and screams coming from outside. I immediately threw on some clothes and ran outside. I turned to my left and what I saw is the picture you can see below.

How Music Brought Me Peace In The Middle East 2

    The iron dome did its job and hit the rocket but left a huge piece of debris that fell to the ground. Thankfully no one was hurt. In the picture below you can see a news reporter at the same gas station that the rocket hit. If you look behind the man with the camera you can see a yellow apartment building. This was my apartment building.

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    How Music Brought Me Peace In The Middle East 1

      There is something particular to me here. The rocket hit the exact spot that I get picked up from in the mornings by my friend to go to work. That rocket would have fallen either on me or on the car if my alarm had been set correctly. Later that night my alarm went off. I had put PM instead of AM.  This mistake that I was so mad about when it happened may have saved my life.

      The Anger

      Nothing brought me peace like being able to play music at the beach.  It had been over a month since I had been to the beach. I really missed this. I finally got incredibly mad and called my friend and told him no one can stop us from living our lives, I’m going to beach to play some guitar and you should come. He came with me. When we got to the beach it finally started to hit me how sad this really was. There were less than 30 people on the beach. Usually you cannot find any sand to put your foot down at this beach because there were usually so many people. This was understandably the right thing to see as when on the beach, there is nowhere to take cover if an alarm goes off. But all I could think about was all of the people living in fear.

      The Music Brings Peace

      From my birthday onward, I started to play the more guitar than I have ever played in my life. Because there were so many rockets we spent a lot more time inside our house. This is because we had a very easily accessible bomb shelter in our apartment. The music helped me so much with my stress. I started to go to restaurants with live music a lot more and started to go to concerts.  This became something that was really important to me.  I was even lucky enough to see The Rolling Stones and Steve Vai live in Tel Aviv which meant a lot to me because my father was roommates with Steve Vai at Berklee School Of Music.

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      When I saw Steve Vai and The Rolling Stones there were many Jews and Muslims there. It was incredible to have both sides agree on one thing which was great music during such controversial times. Nothing can bring the people of Israel and Palestine together like music can in my opinion.

      The Ending

      When I got home I was extremely motivated to spread the teachings of music. I kept thinking of that time I went to the beach and was thinking of all the people living in fear. I wish they had peace like I did by playing an instrument. I got together with my dad who owns a music school and we formed an online music, art and technology lesson company called Skype A Lesson.

      I have talked a lot about my personal times in Israel. Everything stated is 100% true. War is very controversial. This is neither a pro Israel or pro Palestine post. This article does not reflect the normal feeling in Israel. Contrary to belief, Israel rarely has times of war and when they do its extremely rare that its more than a month.

      Featured photo credit: Kimberly Richards via unsplash.com

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      Last Updated on July 20, 2021

      How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

      How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)
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      You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

      Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

      Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

      Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

      1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

      According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

      “Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

      Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

      Warming up

      If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

      If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

      Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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      1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
      2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
      3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

      Stay hydrated

      Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

      To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

      Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

      Meditate

      Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

      Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

      Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

      Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

      2. Focus on your goal

      One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

      Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

      Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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      Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

      If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

      3. Convert negativity to positivity

      There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

      ‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

      It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

      Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

      Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

      Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

      4. Understand your content

      Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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      However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

      “No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

      Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

      Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

      One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

      5. Practice makes perfect

      Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

      In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

      Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

      6. Be authentic

      There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

      Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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      Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

      To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

      With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

      Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

      7. Post speech evaluation

      Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

      Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

      We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

      You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

      Improve your next speech

      As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

      Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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      • How did I do?
      • Are there any areas for improvement?
      • Did I sound or look stressed?
      • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
      • Was I saying “um” too often?
      • How was the flow of the speech?

      Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

      If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

      Reference

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