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How Music Brought Me Peace In The Middle East

How Music Brought Me Peace In The Middle East

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 August 12, 2020

      When Should You Trust Your Gut and How?

      When Should You Trust Your Gut and How?

      Learning how to trust your gut, otherwise known as your intuition, can keep you safe. Your gut can guide you and help you build your confidence and resilience. My own gut instinct has saved me on more than one occasion. It has also guided me into making sound career choices and other exciting, big decisions. I’m also aware of the times when I’ve gone against my instincts and really regretted it later, wondering why I didn’t tune in to that valuable internal voice that we all have within us.

      In this article, we’re going to explore why and how you should listen to your gut, as well as some concrete tips on how to make sure you’re making the most out of your gut instincts.

      How to Listen to Your Gut

      The key when making any big decision is to always take a minute to listen well to yourself and your inner compass. If you hear your actual voice saying yes while inside you’re silently screaming no, my advice is to ask for some time to think, or simply take a breath and pause before the yes or no escapes your mouth.

      Use that moment to breathe, check in with yourself, and give the answer that feels congruent with who you are and what you want, not the one that always involves following the herd. Trusting your gut means having the courage to not simply go with the majority. It can be about holding your own. Here’s how to hone that skill for yourself and reap the rewards.

      1. Tune Into Your Body

      Your body gives you clues when you’re faced with a big decision. There are many visible and obvious symptoms that we feel in uncomfortable situations. Our body’s reaction is often something that we might try to hide, for example, blushing, being lost for words, or shaking. There are things we might do to try and hide that physical reaction, whether it’s wearing makeup, having a glass of wine or coffee to perk us up a bit, or learning to control our nerves.

      However, paying attention to your body when you experience these feelings of anxiety can teach you so much and help you to make sound choices. Some people will experience an actual “gut” feeling of stomach ache or indigestion in an uncomfortable situation.

      Ask yourself what’s really going on here, and explore what is happening behind your body’s response to the situation. What can your reaction or instinct teach you? Understanding that can be a clue and can help you either learn something about yourself, the situation, or other people. The answers are often within us.

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      Sometimes we’ll get this “something’s not right here” feeling and cannot quite put our finger on it or explain it. That can still be incredibly useful and really guide us away from danger, even if we don’t know the reason.

      In his book, Blink, Malcolm Gladwell also argues this, making the point that sometimes our subconscious is better at processing the answer we need, and that we don’t necessarily need to take time to collect hours and hours of information to come to a reliable conclusion[1].

      2. Ensure Your Head Is Clear Before Making a Decision

      Energy, sleep, and good nutrition are so vital to nourishing our minds, as well as our bodies. There are times when your instinct could lead you astray, and one of these is when you are hungry, “hangry” (angry because you’re hungry!), tired, or anxious. If this is the case–and it may sound obvious–do consider sleeping or eating on it before making an important choice.

      There is, in fact, a connection between our gut and our brain[2], which is where terms like “butterflies in the stomach” and “gut-wrenching” originate from. Stress and emotions can cause physical feelings, and ignoring them might do more harm than good.

      3. Don’t Be Afraid to Say What You Think and Feel

      Listening to your gut and really paying attention to it might involve standing up and being counted, calling something out, or taking a stand. As someone who works for myself, I’ve become used to following the less-travelled road, and that’s given me the chance to strike out on my own in other ways, too.

      As they tell you in the planes, “put your own oxygen mask on first,” and part of that self-reliance is knowing what you really want and like and what is safe and good for you, including what resonates with your personal and business values. Making good decisions with this in mind means making choices that do not go against your own beliefs, even when it may mean taking a stand. This is part of trusting yourself and trusting your instincts.

      This does not always mean taking the “safe” option, although keeping ourselves safe is an important part of the process. This is how we learn and grow, by following our own inner compass. When you do take risks, go outside of your comfort zone, or choose the less popular option, spending some time researching the facts can stand us in good stead, too.

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      4. Do Your Research If Something Feels Off

      As well as listening to our instincts, we can also back up the evidence for our chosen course of action before taking the leap. I had a gut feeling about the need for a learning and development network when I noticed my clients getting stuck with the same problems. I set up and now run such a network, but instead of simply going for it, without evidence, I followed up on my instinct with research.

      Having confidence in your gut instinct through these kinds of tests can help to minimize your risks, as well as spur you on. It will encourage you to trust your gut again in the future and trust that you are an expert with foresight and experience. You are!

      5. Challenge Your Assumptions

      When you look at the assumptions your making, this could be the clue to mistakes you are making.

      In order to check that our instincts are wise, we need to ask ourselves what blanks we might be filling in, either consciously or unconsciously. This is true not just when it comes to our own decision-making. It’s also true when we are listening to someone explain a problem or situation, and we’re about to jump in and give some advice. If we can learn to be aware of our own assumptions, we can become better listeners and better decision makers, too.

      A useful tool to become more aware of your assumptions before making a final decision is simply to ask yourself, “What assumptions am I making about this situation or person?”

      6. Educate Yourself on Unconscious Bias

      Unconscious bias is something we all have, and it can trip us up big time!

      There is a vital caveat to bear in mind when wondering about whether you can trust your gut and the feelings your body gives you, and that’s having an awareness of your unconscious bias. Understanding your own bias–which is hard to do because it literally does happen in our subconscious–can help you to make stronger, better, decisions instead of re-confirming your view of the world over and over again.

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      Bias exists, and it’s part of the human condition. All of us have it, and it colors our decisions and can impact on our performance without us realizing.

      Unconscious bias happens at a subconscious level in our brains. Our subconscious brain processes information so much faster than our conscious brain. Quick decisions we make in our subconscious are based on both our societal conditioning and how our families raised us.

      Our brains process hundreds of thousands of pieces of information daily. We unconsciously categorize and format that information into patterns that feel familiar to us. Aspects such as gender, disability, class, sexuality, body shape and size, ethnicity, and what someone does for a job can all quickly influence decisions we make about people and the relationships we choose to form. Our unconscious bias can be very subtle and go unnoticed..

      We naturally tend to gravitate towards people similar to ourselves, favoring people who we see as belonging to the same “group” as us. Being able to make a quick decision about whether someone is part of your group and distinguish friend from foe was what helped early humans to survive. Conversely, we don’t automatically favor people who we don’t immediately relate to or easily connect with.

      The downside of that human instinct to seek out similar people is the potential for prejudice, which seems to be hard-wired into human cognition, no matter how open-minded we believe ourselves to be. And these stereotypes we create can be wrong. If we only spend our time with and employ people similar to ourselves, it can create prejudices, as well as stifle fresh thinking and innovation.

      We may feel more natural or comfortable working with other people who share our own background and/or opinions than collaborating with people who don’t look, talk, or think like us. However, diversity is not just morally right; having a mix of different people and perspectives that can be genuinely heard is also a valuable way to counter groupthink. Diversity stretches us to think more critically and creatively.

      7. Trust Yourself

      It is possible to learn how to truly trust yourself[3]. Like any talent or skill, practicing trusting your gut is the best way to get really good at it. When people talk about having great intuition or being good decision-makers, it’s because they’ve worked at honing those skills, made mistakes, learned from them, and tried again.

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      Looking back at decisions you’ve made, what you did, what the outcome was, and what you’ve learned can help you become a stronger decision maker and develop solid self-trust and resilience. Making a mistake does not mean you are not great at decision-making; it’s a chance to grow and learn, and the only mistake is to ignore the lesson in that experience.

      If you are in the habit of asking others for their input, then the trick here is to choose your inner circle wisely. Having a sounding board of people who have your best interests at heart is a valuable asset, and, combined with your own excellent instincts, can make you a champion decision maker.

      The Bottom Line

      The above tips are all actionable and easy to start immediately. It’s simply about switching your thinking around, slowing down, and taking great care of this amazing machine that is your body and mind!

      Learning how to trust your gut is one of the most fundamental ways to make decisions that will help you lead the life you want and need. Tune into what your body is telling you and start making good decisions today.

      More Tips on How to Trust Your Gut

      Featured photo credit: Acy Varlan via unsplash.com

      Reference

      [1] Science of People: Learn to Trust Your Gut Instincts: The Science Behind Thin-slicing
      [2] Harvard Health Publishing: The gut-brain connection
      [3] Psych Central: 3 Ways to Develop Self-Trust

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