Sexy Eye, Evil Eye – ALLAF 014
Find out why Arabic speakers call their lover “my eye”, fend off the evil eye, get the low-down on the classic belly dance song Habibi ya Einy, and get tips on how to wear false eyelashes.
Every day, you look right into your own eyes in a mirror. And your eyes tell your mind a story. Maybe you are tired or noticing something you don’t like about yourself. Maybe you feel inspired and full of light. Your eyes are focusing on something, and what you focus on expands. This is a phenomenon many powerful dancers in the world have leveraged to master their dance. It’s also a phrase many happy and successful people repeat to look beyond the distractions that could keep us from becoming the best possible version of ourselves.
We’re going to look into a mirror in a minute, so get close to one if it’s easy. You can do the first part of this ritual with your eyes open or closed. It’s up to you.
Take a deep breath in. Place the palms of your hands just above your forehead so the tips of your middle fingers meet at the center of the crown of your head, right where a string would allow us to dangle from the heaven. That’s a Chi Gong posture concept I love. Your middle finger tips are on the top middle of your head. Your wrists are right in front of your eyes. Left wrist in front of your left eye, right wrist in front of your right eye. Spread your fingers out a little.
Now slowly, moving about 1 inch every three seconds, slide the palms of your hands down toward your face.
Inhale, feeling the palms of your hands smooth the muscles of your forehead. Exhale releasing any tension in your forehead. Inhale as your palms reach your eyes. Exhale as your hands slide down, letting all of those muscles around your eyes release anything and everything. Inhale feeling your palms on your cheeks. Exhale feeling your cheeks and nostrils soften as your hands slide farther down. Inhale, as your palms reach your jaw. Exhale, letting your hands loosen your jaw as they slide down.
Allow the palms of your hand to slide down to your heart and stack on top of each other and rest there. With your next breath, let air fill your belly and soften the rest of your body, leaving you inspired and relaxed. Now slide your stacked hands so your fingers are horizontal, palms stacked on your lower belly, thumbs just below your belly button. That’s the spot called the Dan Tien in Chi Gong.
Your hands smoothed tension out of your face, especially your eyes. This might be a little woo woo for you, but now you have fresh energy in your Dan Tien that you can bring back into your eyes. And now you can see clearly and inspire others to relax when they look at you. You can do this any time you like.
If you are near a mirror or anything reflective right now, take a look at yourself. You can also do this without a mirror or do it next time you are looking in a mirror.
Look into your relaxed eyes.
Let a half smile lift the corners of your lips. Your eyes just changed. Smile a little more, like you would at the audience when you are just about to do a really sexy move. Shimmy your shoulders just a little, like they are shimmering in the sun. Keep looking into your own eyes, and bring your hands up to frame your face in a beautiful way. Slowly turn in place, and when you see your own eyes again do a different pose with your arms. Finger ripple out of it, referencing your eyes and looking deeper and softer at the same time. Do a half turn and peek back at yourself over your shoulder. Roll the shoulder you are peeking over a little up and back. Do it again if you like the way it looks. You can look at your single shoulder rolling back once, and look back at the mirror when you do it again. By just changing the direction of your gaze, you can change the way a move looks quite a bit.
Do your eyes look lighter? More beautiful after you relaxed your face for just a minute? I bet they do.
When you have a relaxed face, your eye contact with the audience brings them into your dance. When your face is tense or your eyes are looking far up or down, the audience feels less connected to what you are sharing. Even when you forget choreography during a performance or something unexpected happens, you can keep your eyes beautiful. Free of fear or self-doubt. This danceable ritual can help you make relaxed, inviting eye contact your default. And I bet people will like you more because of it.
Of course, cultural context plays a role here. In the US more often than not, eye contact is expected when we speak with others. In some cultures where belly dance is part of public and private life, eye contact between the sexes and between strangers may be less frequent and seen as more significant. So we can just keep that in mind when we are inviting others into our eyes. https://www.arabamerica.com/language-eyes-arab-cultures/
Whew. I like that. Now I feel Inspired and relaxed. That’s a beautiful state. Tired, not so much. Saying we’re tired or stressed over and over just makes us more tired. Our eyes communicate a lot about our state. I love sleeping, but when I feel tired I either get fired up by breathing fully, moving my body, focusing on gratitude, or a goal or project, or I go to sleep. I’m not into the tired in between state.
We decide whether we are tired or inspired. If you think that being tired is a requirement, just think about Olympic athletes in the final round of competition, ultra marathoners in pushing through their 25th mile. First Nation sun dancers, dancing for days in the plains without food or water. They choose inspiration, and we can too.
Habibi Ya Eini – or Love, oh my eye!
Ya eini means “oh my eye” in Arabic. “Yah” meaning “oh”. “Eye-n” meaning eye. The ee sound at the end of the word ein makes it possessive, I believe. Correct me if I’m wrong Arabic speakers!
It’s great that the word for eye in Arabic sounds like the word “eye” in English with an n on it. It definitely sounds different when native Arabic speakers say it, but it’s easy for us to remember. “Eye-n”
And eyes are talked about a lot in Arabic music and poetry. There’s something deeper than a body part here.
The blog ArabAmerica.com states that people in Arab cultures “call each other my eyes as a term of endearment to show that the person is as valuable as their own eyes…’you’re my eyes’ (ya eyouni) يا عيوني ) is a common expression for your beloved.” And they write that “eyes, in general, of Arab people are considered beautiful and that’s why the eyes are intricately described in Arab literature, songs, and poetry…” https://www.arabamerica.com/language-eyes-arab-cultures/
And if we think about the exquisite eye makeup that many women from the Middle East use to showcase their eyes, it could be related. Especially when hair is covered and eyes are even more noticeable.
A Lebanese friend told me that ‘ya Ayni’ can be also use as another metaphor. When you say in Arabic songs ‘Ya layli ya Ayni’, the exact meaning is ‘oh my night oh my eye’, what it actually means is the person in love cannot shut their eyes to fall asleep because they keep thinking of the lover, hence, oh my night, oh my eye as to oh my night is gone, and my eye cannot fall asleep.
On a quora.com post titled “What are some romantic phrases in Arabic?” an Arabic speaker commented that they “believe that it means that your love is your eyes that you see the whole word through.”
So there’s a little bit about what eyes can mean in some of the music we love to belly dance to.
Here’s another mini Arabic lyric lesson related to this Danceable Song Habibi Ya Eini. Habibi, as you probably already know, means my love, or my lover. Among friends and family it can mean my dear, or my beloved. Habib (referring to a man) or habiba (referring to a woman) is another word you’ll hear, meaning beloved. However, an Arabic-speaking friend I mentioned before from Lebanon said “Habiba is not possessive so we do not really use it. You don’t mention lover without possession 😉 even in English you say X is someone’s lover unless you want to say that someone is A lover but that has another word for it in Arabic.”
Habibi was the first Arabic word I ever learned because it’s said so often in Arabic dance songs. In classical Arabic the word Habibi can refer to either a man or woman.
I could do a whole show on the word and concept Habibi. Maybe I will.
So that’s what the name of this Danceable Song means literally.
Maya Yazbek version is my favorite. Maya was part of a family of musicians in Lebanon. Her father actually wrote this song along with many other songs, and her brother was a percussionist. She was famous in the 80s. This is the kind of song that involves a whole orchestra with multiple violins, and fantastic percussionists. In part of the song, she asks the drums to play, and the singer can ask whatever instruments she wants to play. It’s playful. Then the vocalist improvises.
And during the drum solo near the end the melody instruments are playing the rhythm. Dt tD t. This is something I really love about Middle Eastern music. The drums are melodic and the melodic instruments can hold the basic rhythm down while drums solo. Does that happen in Western music? I’ll have to listen for it.
There is a very popular recording from the 2004 by Nourhanne, who is also a Lebanese singer, Lebanese and Armenian, actually. It sounds like she is sampling the Maya Yazbek recording in the beginning of the remix. It’s a fun version, and she has some superpowers in the music video and that’s cool, but there’s something very special about the Maya Yazbek version. I also included an instrumental version of Habibi Ya Einy on the Belly Dance Body and Soul playlist.
The recording you hear now is from 2014 when I performed this song with a group of Cornell students under the direction of Armenian-American violinist Harold Hagopian. An all-around amazing guy. The lead drummer you hear singing is an Egyptian American named Ibrahim Desooky, now famous to every person who has taken a Zumba class from him. This guy can shake it! Love you Ibrahim!
The more modern version of the song
DAMN SEXY DANCE MOVE
See no evil speak no evil
This is another move from the Boubouka video I can’t get enough of.
This damn sexy dance move is super simple and also very cute. We’re just concealing our eyes with our hands for a moment and unveiling them.
Standing with healthy belly dance posture is always best, but if you feel like sitting and trying this move right now go for it.
Start with your forearms crossed in front of your chest a mummy. With energy all the way to your fingertips, sweep your hands down, uncrossing your wrists and opening up to draw a big circle palms down from your hips to up above your head. Up above your head, your palms turn forward toward your audience and come down in the center toward your face. Fingers are stacked vertically and parallel with hands touching, one in front of the other. When your hands reach eye level your forearms create a line right there at eye level, and your hands conceal your eyes for just a moment. Pull your hands apart horizontally sweeping past your ears and reveal your eyes again. At about shoulder level, your palms turn toward you and become loose fists, drifting back down to your hips.
Do it again. Cross wrists in front of your chest, sweep hands down and uncross them. With palms down outline that circle from your hips to halo. At halo level palms rotate forward and hands stack from front to back. The line from elbow to elbow forms at eye level, hiding your eyes for just a moment. And then your hands slide apart revealing your eyes and rotating in at chest level so palms face your chest in loose fists that drift back down to your hips
There’s a subtle thing Boubouka does with her eyes that takes this move to another level. When she raises her hands up she makes her eyes wide and exciting. When she covers and reveals them, she’s looking a little to the side and her eyes are much more closed and mysterious.
She does this move twice and close together in the video I’ll put in the show notes. The first time she hides her eyes, and the second time she hides her mouth and showcases her eyes. That’s why I call this move “See No Evil, Speak No Evil”, which comes from that famous Japanese proverb about keeping our thoughts and words positive.
So try this move one more time, this time we’ll conceal our mouths and showcase our eyes. Cross wrists in front of chest, sweep hands down and separate, draw a circle from hip to halo, palms rotate forward at halo and fall to conceal mouth, eyes are beautiful, separate hands into loose fists with fingernails facing you.
See no evil, speak no evil.
FEATURED LIGHTEN MY BODY FOOD
Carrots. Ya eye-nee. teeheehee
They have vitamin A, which is important for our eyes. They can be eaten and easily digested raw or lightly cooked or stewed. They are so darn good. And raw carrots deliver that crunch we crave, and can satisfy us just as much as potato chips or other dry crunchy snack foods. It’s so special to have moisture in with the crunch so we don’t get all dried out. And on Wikipedia they say carrots may originally be from Persia. They are certainly eaten everywhere I have ever been in the world. Colorful hardy root vegetables are like gold. Easy to store and transport with lots of nutritional benefits.
My friend May Kaidee owns a few fantastic vegan Thai restaurants in Thailand and in New York City, and her chili paste is on the moon delicious. Want to know the secret ingredient? Carrots. They’re blended in with the chilies and oil.
When I make Thai coconut curries, I boil the carrots in with the chili paste and the coconut milk the longest. Carrots sweeten the broth.
There is a soothing macrobiotic remedy sweet vegetable drink. Can you guess what is in it? We just don’t think of most vegetables as sweet right? Carrots, onions, cabbage and squash boiled together make a lovely sweet drink.
And the authors of The Great Life Cookbook, also my in-laws teehee, make this phenomenal carrot ginger soup. It’s so simple and delicious, they don’t even use vegetable broth. And it’s one of those soups you can serve cold in the summer and hot in the winter. Amazing.
Shredded carrots make a salad more colorful, and make fresh spring rolls more of a rainbow with each bite.
It’s fun to cut big similar sized but irregularly shaped chunks when roasting carrots. Some call this the French roll. You can cut an angled cross section and roll the carrot a little and cut another angled cross section to have varied angles on either end of the cut carrot.
In the Thai restaurants where I used to work, they would make flowers out of carrots a few different ways. The easiest way was to use a peeler with big teeth. You just peel the carrot so there are long pointy ridges all the way down the carrot, and then you slice thin cross sections that become flower medallions in your stir fry, salad or soup. So easy and so cute.
I could go on for a long time about carrots, so maybe I’ll even feature them again. They are easy to eat on the road, keep in coolers at festivals, and add crunch to your packed lunch. A fantastically functional vegetable.
MAKE YOU SHINE COSTUME TIP
False eyelashes can make us look like we’re really good at makeup, even when we’re not. Ahem. Referring to my makeup application skills that were better in high school than they are now. Maybe I should work on that…
Anyway, false eyelashes can add a lot to your costume and draw the audience in to your lovely, relaxed and expressive eyes.
Here are 5 things I Wish I Knew About False Eyelashes Years Ago
- The audience can see false eyelashes with a thick band and bling from far away, and they love it. My favorite lashes are glamour style lashes with rhinestones that still allow me to see. Some glamour style lashes obscure vision and tire out your eyelids more.
- Use eyelash glue with a brush instead of the tip of a tube. The brush applicator makes it easier to paint on a consistent band of adhesive without clumps, and it’s easier to get adhesive all the way to the edges of the lashes so the ends don’t pop up.
- Trim the outsides to fit your lash line (not the insides where the shape begins)
- Use a mirror down below your face so you look down when you apply the lashes instead of straight ahead
- Splurge on a tube of natural eyelash adhesive. Most adhesives contain chemical garbage. I’ve been using the same tube of standard cheap Duo adhesive for years, and it just occurred to me that it’s ok to spend $20 every 3 years on a quality nontoxic eyelash glue that is not tested on animals. So I went ahead and ordered True Glue Original – All-natural eyelash adhesive. This is not an ad. I’m just telling you what I’m trying in case that’s helpful. Let’s see if I remember to tell you if it works as well as the conventional adhesive. THIS ADHESIVE DID NOT WORK. I sent it back. Darn it.
Keep the evil eye away with humility. It is believed that bragging can attract the evil eye. And with the evil eye comes curses and subsequent misfortune. This is a dynamic concept I’m still just starting to learn about, and it must vary quite a bit among believers.
This goes both ways!
Heliodorus of Emesa in the ancient Greek romance Aethiopica wrote, “When any one looks at what is excellent with an envious eye he fills the surrounding atmosphere with a pernicious quality, and transmits his own envenomed exhalations into whatever is nearest to him.” – http://www.bbc.com/culture/story/20180216-the-strange-power-of-the-evil-eye
Envy and boasting both bring on the bad vibes. Envy is something we can identify in the eyes of another, even though it really lives in the mind. It is more concrete when envy takes the form of words, like “I wish I could do … like her” or “I wish I was … like them.”
This kind of thinking can be reframed as attainable goals. “I will practice xxx every day until I can do it.” and “I will work up to 30 pushups a day and keep doing that and my arms will be strong.” There’s no evil eye or envy energy there. It’s inspiration. Now THAT is motivating.
There is a way to celebrate and share our gifts and achievements that raises others up with us.
Some have the eye amulet in their life to keep the evil eye away.
SAINT OF TRUTH
Every episode of this podcast is an exercise in removing the letter I. For real. Sometimes I talk about myself so much that I have to edit it out. This show is really about all of us and our ancestors, teachers and mentors. So please forgive me when I spiral down the I-hole from time to time. That is my own lack of awareness at work. This show is for you. That’s why it’s all polished up and free to download with a click. Thanks for listening!