Author Archives: admin

The Gift of Rumi

I’m happy to share with you the gorgeous cover for my book (by all means, judge it by its cover!) — which is now available for pre-order and will be released July 26th, 2022. You can pre-order it now at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, BAM, and Macmillian. Looking forward to sharing with you the ocean of love that flows through Rumi’s majestic verses and his inspiring wisdom that our broken world and yearning hearts are desperately needing.

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Tibet to Yosemite

My little chihuahua Abutiu Khufu (aka Abu) grew up this summer hiking in the Himalayas of Tibet — so ever since we landed in America he’s been eager to take to the mountains in California and explore Yosemite National Park. Driving across all of the China (from Sichuan to Shanghai — Wuhan included!) wasn’t enough for him, so I agreed to take him on another big adventure!

Abu’s usual haunts in California include Sunset Boulevard, Los Feliz, and the beach — so he didn’t know what to expect when we hit the road to drive to Yosemite.

Abu wakes up every day hungry for a new adventure. Our first day in Yosemite, we loaded up on a big breakfast at Tenaya before heading out to hike.

Abu’s colorful poncho has been a big hit on the streets of Los Angeles (especially in our majority Latinx neighborhood), and he’s also gotten many compliments on it on his way to Yosemite and in the park.

One of Abu’s favorite new places for relaxing is The Ahwahnee in Yosemite — which is stunning inside and out (the kid’s got taste).

This lovely room (those windows!) is perfect for playing card games or reading a book — or just snuggling Abu and enjoying the view.

Abu wanted to explore every inch of The Ahwahnee before heading out to explore the famous cliffs, waterfalls, and valleys of the park.

He was impressed most of all with Yosemite Falls — where he ran into a lot of other dogs and let them know who’s boss.

As a crazy former rock climber, it was a dream come true for me to finally see El Capitan — and Abu enjoyed breathing in the crisp, clean air after having been born and raised in heavily polluted China.

I also took Abu to lakes big and small for him to soak in the different landscapes and leisure activities in the area — he even made a chihuahua friend made Roxy on these quiet banks (love at first sight!).

Our friend surprised us with this awesome new sweatshirt, which she kindly bought for us while we waited for our lakeside lunch.

Abu was surprised to find this ice cream stop on the lake has an entire pet menu!

But it was no surprise that Abu was a big hit at the lake. And this peanut butter ice cream really hit the spot!

We’ve also enjoyed exploring nearby towns — hiking through the hills to take in secluded homes and shopping in historic storefronts that harken back to the region’s gold mining days.

Turns out Abu is a fan of walking through tall grass and he’s loved watching all the new birds he’d never seen before — not to mention deer!

On Easter Sunday, when we wandered into an antique store in Mariposa, I was shocked to find they had two khanjars from the Sultanate of Oman, where I used to live. Of course, I had to buy them!

Every day at sunset, out here in the Sierras, Abu likes to hike up as high as he can to enjoy the stunning view and then head back home in his trusty bag — the raucous singing of the frogs in the creek leading us home.

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Writing in Tibet

This summer I headed to the Himalayas in Tibet to work on my book, The Gift of Rumi, and enjoy a long meditation retreat.

I was fortunate to find the most magical secluded cabin, which felt like it had been made just for me. It was truly the perfect place to write my book, immerse myself in Tibetan culture and meditation, and explore Himalayan nature with my baby chihuahua.

The cabin had air conditioning, so when the sun heated it up, I could just flip a switch and relax in the cool air. Experiencing rain storms in the cabin (from my tub!) was otherworldly.

The cabin also had an incredible roof on which I was able to do tai chi in the morning before writing or setting off to hike with my little pup.

The cabin came with a shower and bathtub option. I vowed to use the bathtub every day at sunset to take in the breathtaking view.

The cabin was surrounded by a lush and well-maintained garden on one side (so many beautiful flowers!) and a cornfield with sunflowers on the other.

My chihuahua Abu enjoyed lounging in the wicker swing while I wrote my book each day — to rest up before heading out to hike all afternoon in the Himalayas and explore monasteries, stupas, and watchtowers. Looking forward to sharing much more about our unique adventures in Tibet in my new China / Tibet memoir.

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Summer in Tibet

After my winter misadventure in Tibet, I feared I would never return — but fortunately I did this summer. It was an experience of a lifetime!

I took my baby chihuahua Abutiu Khufu with me to spend his young boyhood hiking in the Himalayas — where he eventually learned how to climb stairs and dodge cattle on the path.

Best of all, we had a pool that was truly out of this world, and we made sure to use it every day.

Of course, the weather up in the Himalayas changes so quickly — so whenever the sun was out, I tried to get to the pool before a storm rolled in.

Baby Abu was in heaven exploring the hotels we stayed at and the many trails we hiked.

As you can see, the architecture is out of this world — I have too many photos to share (a problem from having been to 60 countries and taken so many photos).

On our adventures in nature, Abu and I explored many crumbling watchtowers and mountain views. More on Tibet to come!

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My Tibetan Poetry

I am so honored to have three of my poems about my winter adventure yak herding with Tibetan nomads 14,000 feet up in the Himalayas of Tibet published in The Louisville Review.

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Yak Herding in Tibet

It was a dream come true to yak herd with Tibetan nomads high up in the Himalayas at 14,000 feet.

Yak herding is hard work — we had to get up early, pick up yak dung, milk the yaks, and then prepare to herd them later in the day.

Due to a lack of heat, I had to wear so many layers — and showers of course aren’t available.

I bundled up as much as I could to keep warm, but those extreme heights of the Himalayas are so chilling and we didn’t have heat at night.

Eventually, for reasons you’ll read about in my China / Tibet memoir, I ended up in a rural Chinese hospital with IV medicine all day for a month. My adventure turned into a misadventure! But fortunately I was able to return to Tibet this past summer — where more adventure and misadventure awaited me!

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Winter in Tibet

It was a dream come true to experience winter in the Himalayas of Tibet at 14,000 feet. I’d gone to Tibet to yak herd with Tibetan nomads — but first I had a special mission to carry out.

Before moving into a very basic shack with Tibetan nomads to learn how to herd yaks and practice nomadic Tibetan dialect, I visited as many sacred sites as I could around Tibet to carry out my mission.

My mission was to scatter my beloved chihuahua’s ashes at Tibetan Buddhist monasteries, nunneries, stupas, and sacred landscapes around Tibet after his traditional Buddhist funeral in China.

It was truly the perfect end to his spectacular life, considering that he once enjoyed a private audience with His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

In my coming China / Tibet memoir, I discuss this grand Tibetan adventure — and misadventure, as I got very sick when at 14,000 feet.

Now my blessed chihuahua is one with the occupied soil of Tibet — and many Tibetan Buddhist friends think it’s not a coincidence that he had a private audience with His Holiness the Dalai Lama at Harvard and then his remains years later ended up scattered all around Tibet’s most holy sites. So amazing.

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Making History in China

It was an absolute joy to host the first large-scale anti-racism event in the People’s Republic of China, as I wrote about in this recent article. To our shock and amazement, over 300 of our Chinese students showed up to hear directly from American civil rights legends who discussed their own brave and visionary experiences in shaping American history, as well as fostering Afro-Asian solidarity.

I am so grateful to all in China and America who made this historic night possible — and to all the students who attended and later shared their reflections on what we discussed. This unique and special evening required incredible diplomacy and sensitivity — and its success showed how liberal arts education has the power to carve out space for dialogue and connection across borders in truly radical and transformative ways.

Liberal arts education is, if done right, dialogue — with the past, present, and future. Thanks to my eclectic degrees, I’ve been able to offer a variety of courses unlike any others in China — seminars on Africa, the archaeology of death (a big cultural taboo!), playwriting, mental health awareness, and mind and machine.  On a field-trip, my adventurous students and I explored ancient Shu culture at Jinsha, a UNESCO archaeological site, where we studied Asian elephant and boar tusks, an exquisite gold mask, and the golden sunbird disc used today as the emblem of Chengdu. 

My brilliant Mind and Machine students tagged along virtually with me to attend a philosophy of mind conference I was speaking at at KU Leuven in Belgium on Posthuman Mimesis — my artificial intelligence majors in particular were enthralled with Professor Kevin Warwick’s keynote on being the world’s first cyborg and how implant and electrode technology is being developed for neural illnesses, robots, and human enhancement.  

With the help of Zoom technology, I was even able to beam into my classroom a New York Times journalist from Sudan, a cutting-edge queer Chinese playwright, a Broadway producer, an Ivy League classics professor, and a Cambridge therapist to put my students in touch with leading professionals in their fields.  My students and I even made history together — from translating Ge’ez (Classical Ethiopic) to producing Sichuan University’s first playwriting festival to bring their innovative theatrical creations to life (no ghosts allowed — they’ve been banned on stage since 1963).  

What a joy to try and give them the best that American liberal arts education has to offer!  It’s been thrilling to watch our students get accepted into the best graduate schools in America: MIT, Columbia, Stanford, Duke, John Hopkins, Cornell, University of Pittsburgh, UCLA, University of Michigan, UPenn, and Carnegie Mellon. I feel honored and blessed to have had the opportunity to teach them — before they go out and change the world.

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Abolish Kafala

Happy to share my article on modern-day slavery in the Middle East and Persian Gulf. It’s the least I could do for the enslaved women I met in Oman and the migrant workers to whom I taught English in Beirut.
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Standup in China

I launched my worldwide standup comedy tour in the winter of 2021 in the People’s Republic of China — after I had a medical emergency at 14,000 feet in Tibet while yak herding with Tibetan nomads (as one does). Laughter really is the best medicine — especially in a global pandemic!

I was fortunate to perform at a number of standup shows in Chengdu, where I kicked my standup tour off — including the Kafka Cultural Center which (for obvious reason) felt so right!

Then I got invited to perform in Chongqing — so I made a vacation out of it and took in all the sights in that happening city!

Grateful to all those who made my performances possible in China — and looking forward to continuing my comedy tour in Los Angeles (stay tuned)!

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COVID-19 Fatwas

Speaking at Tehran University

It was a dream come true to speak at Tehran University on Islamic law, specifically COVID-19 fatwas (religious opinions) from around the world. I really loved immersing myself in compassionate Islamic legal reasoning from around the globe to give my talk, entitled “Islamic Legal Production in the Pandemic: A Survey of Global Fatwas on COVID-19,” for the International Conference on Global Developments in the Corona & Post-Corona Eras.

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Muslim Magic in Malta

I enjoyed sharing my research on the history of magic and enslavement in Malta at the Middle East Studies Association Conference. On a related note, so grateful to be intensively studying Maltese!

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