For the past month, I’ve been sifting through the Abu Dhabi experience I had this February (read My Middle Eastern Story of Sensations). As I allowed the process to unfold, simmering thoughts only once they bubbled to the surface, I had one major intuitive insight: the feeling of emptiness that overtook me when I spotted the black silhouettes in the mall was the result of one main sentiment: disconnection.
You see, I, probably just as you, have a deeply-seated need for connection. Not only do I need to feel like I belong but I also need to feel like I have the power to influence others. If you know the DISC personality assessment tool, you can tell that I’m an ‘I,’ in fact, a ‘high I.’ Yes, I thrive when I can openly express my enthusiasm and optimism, build trust-based relationships, and persuade others, with integrity bien sûr! On the other hand, I struggle when I’m unacknowledged, feel useless or, worse, when I’m perceived to be less than what I am or think I am…
What Is Connection Anyway?
You may know of Dr. Brené Brown, a captivating research professor at the University of Houston, whose TED Talk on vulnerability went viral a few years ago. Through her research and natural ability to tell stories, she has lots to say on the importance of connection which she defines as:
“…the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.”
So, it was not surprising that when I laid eyes on the Muslim women, I felt l was being denied connection. From my model of the world – read: pure judgment – the niqab (black veil) is, amongst other statements, one of fear. To me, the dark cloth establishes a boundary between the person wearing it and her social environment. It marks a blunt separation. Obviously, with these and many other thoughts – by no means do I consider these absolute truths – running in my mind mill, I created my own emotional cocktail which led to the feeling of emptiness and disconnection.
Had I gone home after the excursion to the mall and chosen not to revisit the experience in my head, I would probably still be harbouring conscious and unconscious judgements about Muslim women who opt to add the niqab to the hijab (head scarf), abaya (robe), and gloves. Evidently, by definition and logic, this prejudicial attitude would make any future connection with this cohort almost impossible. Considering that I will be living in the UAE for the next 5-10 years and that my mission is to help others leverage emotional awareness, this was not a desirable option. I need connection!
The encounter with the covered women has been a valuable opportunity to expand my perspective of the Muslim faith and the practices of the women of this religious group as well as to examine how I handle differences in general. The process of rewiring my beliefs will take some time but it now has great momentum.
I am grateful that my first trip to the Middle East happened when I had enough emotional awareness to know that a growth opp was before me as it is always the case when we feel low vibration emotions. Choosing to feel the emotion of ‘acceptance’ rather than ‘fear’ (learn how with the Emotional Scale by signing up – see right sidebar), I know my work is to stay open so that I may nurture an environment that will be conducive to connection with those who are ready to reciprocate, niqab or no niqab. Gandhi’s mantra of being the change we want to see in the world is my guide in this quest.
I just love the way the Universe works!
During the weeks of my travel and the ones following my return to Canada, an inspiring woman in my network and founder of the Women’s Information Network, Dr. Paula Fellingham, made her way to Bahrain. There, she touched the hearts of several Muslim women and confirmed that trust nurtures connection and connection nurtures trust. Upon her return, knowing of my plans to move to Abu Dhabi in a few months, she presented me with the opportunity to speak at the Global Women’s Summit which will be held there on October 24. On that day, a handful of guest speakers and myself will have the privilege of addressing a diverse audience of determined women who crave knowledge, inspiration and guidance but, most of all, connection.