She has taught in public policy on planning and strategic management from an integral systems approach and was previously founding coordinator of a Masters program in Qatar; senior lecturer at the Department of Politics and International Studies, SOAS, University of London; and research fellow at the London School of Economics (LSE), UK. Wanda is the author of Women in Civil Society, New York: Palgrave-Macmillan; and Civil Society and Women Activists in the Middle East, London: I.B. Tauris
Please share some of the best memories of your childhood
My best memories are with my family out in the wilderness. My father is a wildlife photographer and would take us out with him often into the “bush” in the Yukon and Alaska. These are my best because if I sit with them awhile they get my heart in an open, loving, appreciative state. These memories are those where we are up on mountains, sometimes together with Dall sheep, and I am looking onto beautiful cascading glaciers and I feel the expanse of it all. Others are where I am out in nature with no humans around anywhere, watching animals like bears or moose. I get the feeling of both fear and excitement in my heart.
And these memories stay also because I knew very well how masterful nature is. When I walked through the wilderness alone as a child I would call out to the bears when I sensed I wasn’t alone and tell them I am their friend. My father was charged twice by bears, a third time when a bear charged at me, my mother and brothers when he basically threw himself at the bear to protect us, and once by a moose … very oddly I have also watched a wolf chase a grown man. So, I was fully aware that I was always at the mercy of the forests’ top of the food chain list but so full of trust and awe of the enchanted forest and its ultimate mastery.
About your education
I studied in three countries: Germany, Canada and the UK and did my research during my graduate years in Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. I first did a double BA (English and German) with even a double minor, a bit much, … the minors were in social-psychology and Arabic. Then I went back to do a year in Political Studies and continued with an MA in Political Science/International Relations and a PhD in Politics of the Middle East from Exeter University.
And all along I was also studying reiki and crystals, so I became certified in crystal therapy under wonderful teachers and went onto a reiki master/teacher level.
I was moving along these two streams that seemed separate in my own mind, but then I studied system’s philosophy with a few mentors and books and I am continuing now with integral theory (Ken Wilber’s philosophy) to pull all this together. And yes it all comes together. This education is a part of what I fall back on now to inspire and motivate the kind of well-being and passions that I hope will serve global well-being and peace… just a part. I have learned that the greatest education of all will always be your life’s experiences.
What hurts you most in this world
Betrayal of trust… in love, and by others. The challenge of being hurt in love is trying to see past all the pain into the wisdom, the lesson the betrayal offers. I believe all betrayals in love are gifts but it takes courage, self-love, forgiveness, and trust in a Higher Power to recognize what is being offered through such experience.
Betrayal is happening everywhere through. It is hard to understand why right now children in Syria are freezing to death and all we need to do is send a little money or warm clothing. We can skip that stop at the coffee shop for just one day – it won’t hurt. It is just hard to wrap my head around why we haven’t picked up on how many hundreds of thousands of children are being worked in the Congo to supply metals we use in some of our phones or computers. We can start asking where parts are being supplied from. It doesn’t take much effort. While I was in India a few months ago I spoke to an activist who let me know that honor killing has increased in both India and Pakistan where he works and that the number of girls killed in honor killing in Pakistan alone reached 10,000 in 2012, an unpublished fact. We sure can do more to support the many programs out there that are already in places such as these working hard to eradicate child slavery and honor killing.
There are beautiful people out there and I know many people are getting their act together. We just saw an example of solidarity that is growing with the typhoon in the Philippines. Obviously, we have much more to do. But people are waking up and opening their hearts, I can see it with several examples. I think part of this is that we are also viewing ourselves as globally connected. And are we ever!
If you had to live a day of your life as one of the living or dead personality, who would it be and why?
That would be Albert Einstein. I was never that great at math, yet I would read these books on the universe during my teen and undergrad years, and continue to read on metaphysics. I wish I could understand so much more. There is so much mystery that I think math can solve. We are on a tiny little planet in the midst of so much life and part of so much. I would love the opportunity to make sense of so many abstract concepts and formulae that relate to how our world and universe works. Einstein grasped the metaphysical parts to matter and reality.
Which of your work has been published so far? Would you like to share a synopsis of your work?
I have published three books and edited one. My most recent book published in Dec. 2013 is called Spiritual Activism: Keys for Personal and Political Success. I would be glad to share a synopsis:
In an interview on 60 Minutes Overtime, Bill Gates was asked to assess what made Jobs successful. Gates—who also dropped out of university—who, again in 2013, is the richest man on earth after giving away most of his wealth, answered: “He had an intuitive sense for mar- keting that was amazing.” He pinpointed what he valued as essential. Jobs had confirmed his source for deeper knowledge and his drive to seek something larger than himself. Reflecting on his early search for the meaning of life and influences on his life direction, he told his biographer, Walter Isaacson, “I began to realize that an intuitive understanding and consciousness was more significant than abstract thinking and intellectual logical analysis.”
He and others like him that I have observed or studied around the globe teach us about a higher or inner knowledge and about the use of spiritual keys for success. These keys work because they are linked to universal laws that govern our universe regardless of whether we choose to learn and live by them or not. Our actions all have consequences. People who choose to recognize the consequence of success use keys governed by basic physics. They consciously choose actions according to notions of principles. I call all such people who have learned these keys or principles and actively use them spiritual activists. They move beyond the material to embrace a higher intelligence—and experience real success. (p. xvi).
What four top most things you take care of while writing a book?
I focus on family. I have a tendency to work unstoppably when I am passionate about a new project. I have learned through experience that something will fall if I juggle too much. Now I choose what will have to wait. I used to be so proud when people would tell me that I am a super mom because I knew I could handle lots. But there is no such thing as a super mom. And handling lots doesn’t mean you’re having a positive effect on all the things you are “handling”. I remind myself what to prioritize when I feel that burn to work all night and into the next day. It took me two years to write Spiritual Activism and I did spend some long days writing but had several days in between to attend to whoever needs attention, among the myriad of other commitments.
I focus on myself. This is so hard to do for many women. We are taught to sacrifice for family or to constantly stretch that thing called career to new heights. But with practice, focusing on the self becomes part of one’s necessary schedule and I have learned why it’s just so critical. I don’t just mean manicures, hair, and other spa stuff although those are in my schedule. I mean real focus on nurturing the spring within that family, my book, my passions, everything is going to rely on. If I am not replenished, others will get the short end of me, including myself.
I actually write in my diary what I need to do in my day to recharge. These are a few of my must do items: spending 5 minutes in a flower shop smelling flowers, healing with a crystal for 5 minutes, having a friend send reiki to me or doing it myself, sitting with a cup of tea for 10 minutes staring out the window, laying on the grass for 10 minutes, contemplating for 10 minutes or more, prayer, meditation, walking in the woods for an hour, silently sitting and watching the woods come alive, attending my favorite taebo or kick-boxing class… (yoga just isn’t for me), sledding, skiing, a self-development course, a spiritual or politically important book. Some of these are daily items and some are interchangeable but I write them down every day to be accountable to myself.
So, if I have to split them up, the top four things I focus on are my family, my own spiritual and emotional replenishment, my health and continued learning. But they all feed into one another for balance, joy, inner growth and outer productivity.
Your dream destination on Earth?
I have been to almost 30 countries and hope to visit many more, but there are two I desire most to see: South Africa and China. I have met several South Africans, including a person who was in jail with Nelson Mandela for the same ambitions and dreams. I have known wonderful people to come from that part of the world, people with big dreams, spiritual awareness and who work hard to make life better for others. There is something about that place. Something about the Wall of China, every time I see a picture of it, captivates me. Many years ago, since I read Ismail Al-Faruqi’s romantic account of the trip he made along the wall with his wife, I have made it my dream destination. I don’t know why visiting is a dream for me, but I look forward to finding out.
The last line of your autobiography would be… “When she got to the top of the ladder she looked around and exclaimed ‘Thank God, I put it against the right wall!’”