I am… Dr. Maytha Alhassen

Follow me… @mayalhassen

I’m based in… Los Angeles.

Where does your daily inspiration come from?

My yoga mat. My daily meditation, My nephews and nieces’ smiles. In locomotion. From Donny Hathaway’s vocals and in the joy of being present. And love’s embrace.

Where does your style inspiration come from?

My commitment to eco-consumerism and supporting companies with ethical labor practices. My wardrobe is limited to vintage clothing, locally made goods, or finds from my mother’s uber chic closet. She lived in the South of France in the mid 70s and accumulated a bevy of stunning French and Italian made pieces.

Although my day to day Los Angeles-living revolves around a [seemingly less complicated] mix of jeans, jumpsuits and yoga gear, I enjoy playing around with an extreme variety of style from romantic boho, upscale classic metropolitan style (a la Amal Clooney), Los Angeles and Beiruti trademark bodycon dresses, and 50s erotic allure modeled after the likes of Dorothy Dandridge. [But quite honestly,] without the constraints of social conventions and weather, I would beach ready everyday of my life. It’s exceedingly difficult to eviscerate the SoCal from my style sensibilities.

How does your faith inspire what you do?

My tradition speaks of and prioritizes bearing witness for the cause of justice. Every morning, in my prayer and on my yoga mat, I feel called to deepen my commitment to justice–to be in service to cosmic Oneness, and I pray for signs that make the path towards Oneness clear. My faith practices have also inspired me to start my day with a gratitude tribute. In Sufi traditions (known as tasawwuf), we call this “remembering,” the active countering of the human propensity to “forget” the gifts of connecting to Divine Source. When we are grateful, we practice remembering the truth of the spirit. This is why I called my company “Remember to Breathe,” because each breath is an ecstatic invitation to remember the vitality of that connection.

You are doing interesting work to support global understanding and acceptance, specifically around the plight of refugees. Describe this work.

As a journalist, I’ve traveled and witnessed the unfolding of human atrocities, I [felt compelled] to contribute my skills, my time and an open heart. While in Athens and the Greek Island of Chios, I functioned as an Arabic translator for grassroots groups and the refugee women’s centers in both cities. There is a critical need for Farsi and Arabic translators. I also supported by distributing goods to people living in the camps, assisted a Basque food kitchen that prepared daily meals for the camps and provided English lessons.

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What do you want Americans, especially, to know about the refugee crisis?

I could give you the stats: the ones about refugee populations globally, the ones about the number of those who are children. I could even provide the numbers that indicate a dramatic rise in refugees. But, what is most important for Americans to know, is how we, and the our political choices contributed to the global refugee crisis, not just on European shores but in the Middle East, Africa and Central Asia. The crisis is much larger than refugees fleeing from Syria. It’s about global shifts of the past decades that transformed the world we live in. At a camp in Chios, Greece, I met refugees from Afghanistan, Iraq, Ethiopia, Mali, Somali, Kurdistan, Algeria, and Congo (in addition to Syrians, who also included Kurdish and Palestinian Syrians).

This is the critical point: the crisis is tied to U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and multi-national corporate resource pillaging of sub-Saharan Africa. The crisis in Syria opened the borders of Europe for a couple of months, which inspired people in desperate situations, fleeing the devastation of more than a decade of war (in the case of Congo, decades), and unthinkable labor exploitation.

If you have one, who is your role model?

This is always a tricky question for me. I feel like the tendency can be to think in vertical terms, of elders mentors and ancestors (whom I am always grateful to learn and derive plentiful inspiration from). But I tend to be inspired by the unencumbered, boundless joy of a baby, child or toddler experiences in their daily discoveries of their world. Their growth, as trying as it may be at times, is punctured by joy. How can I continue to embody that precocious spirit of childhood? Through the lens of a newborn baby, with fresh eyes attuned to the miracles of life.

What does the word “style” mean to you?

Style, to me, is a way of orienting in the world, a fluid intersection of my accumulated lived experiences; it’s the aesthetic expression of those intersections.

How do you empower others?

There are different ways I do this in my capacity as an academic, artist, journalist and organizer. The most critical role I can play in empowerment is to impart the importance of self-inquiry. We sometimes say in academia that you have to love the question more than you do the answer to that question. A practice of self-inquiry means that you are committed to the process of answering the question, and investigating the deep dimensions of questions.

When you aren’t working hard on behalf of others, you must think about down time. What’s your ideal perfect weekend include?

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Can I please be transported to a tropical island with abundant sunshine, blistering heat, free flowing naturopathic juices and smoothies, morning and sunset yoga, sea-salt drenched locks drying in the sun’s rays, experiencing that joy at the edge of the earth’s shore with my loved ones as we create circles to pray for manifesting global healing…and yes, reggae music blasting through beach sound systems….maybe even some soca and whining.

If you could be anywhere in the world right now where would you be?

Beirut always occupies a special place in my heart, but right now, as I type this in unseasonably frigid temperatures in Athens, I wouldn’t mind a one-way ticket to Tulum or a beach on the pacific side of Nicaragua.

The world is so heavy and less fluid now. What song makes you move? Why?

Ooooo. I LOVE this question! My daily routine (gratitude practice, meditation, bed-making, etc) includes morning dance sessions in surround sound. I always joke that Stevie Wonder’s “As”—one of the greatest love anthems ever record—would be my wedding song (joke because I’m not moved to have a wedding if I were to get married). Some other favorites include Luther Vandross’s “Never Too Much,” ANYTHING with Donny Hathaway’s vocals on it (his voice consistently makes me cry), Bill Wither’s “I Want to Spend the Night,” D’Angelo’s “Really Love, my dear friend Hope’s ethereal “Who Am I to Say,” and most of Sade’s catalogue. I am currently revisiting sounds from my childhood: vocal wonder that is Um Khaltoum.

Your personal mantra: Let go, let God.

My fashion must haves…