London: Egyptian-born actor Omar Sharif, best known for his part in David Lean’s “Lawrence of Arabia” and the lead role in “Doctor Zhivago”, died of cardiac arrest on Friday, media reports said. He was 83.
“He suffered a heart attack this afternoon in a hospital in Cairo,” BBC quoted his agent Steve Kenis as saying.
Born Michel Demetri Chalhoub on April 10, 1932 in a Catholic family of Lebanese descent, Sharif started his career in Egyptian films in 1953 with “Sira Fi al-Wadi” (“The Blazing Sun”) opposite Faten Hamama, whom he later married (they were divorced in 1974).
He worked in over 20 films before being approached for the role of Sharif Ali in “Lawrence of Arabia” (1962) which was his first Hollywood movie.
As Sharif Ali, who silently glides from the dunes early in the movie and kills Lawrence’s guide for drinking from his well before taunting him “Have you no fear, English?”, Sharif more than held his own against a star-studded cast which included Peter O’Toole as Lawrence, Alec Guinness as Prince Feisal, Anthony Quinn as Auda and Claude Rains as Dryden.
He was nominated for the Oscars but didn’t win though. Later, he received two Golden Globe awards for his role.
His most famous work was as the title role of the tormented poet in Lean’s 1965 adapation of Boris Pasternak’s “Doctor Zhivago”, opposite Julie Christie as Larissa ‘Lara’ Antipova. He again did not win any of the five Oscars the film garnered for its epic cinematography and haunting music, especially “Lara’s Theme”, by Maurice Jarre but won a further Golden Globe three years later.
Among other major roles of the multi-lingual Sharif, who was comfortable in any cultural and historic setting, were as iconic revolutionary Che Guevara in “Che”, a German officer trying to trace a psychopathic murderer among the top brass in “The Night of the Generals”, in “The Fall of the Roman Empire”, as Genghis Khan in an eponymous film, the villain Colorado in Gregory Peck-starrer western treasure hunt “Mackenna’s Gold”, and a Soviet spy in Cold War drama “The Tamarind Seed”.
On TV, he essayed the role of doomed Czar Nicholas II in mini series “Anastasia” as well as of Khuda Daad in an adaption of M.M.Kaye’s “The Far Pavillions”.
Sharif, who was a devoted bridge player and authored several books on the card game, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2012.
The retreat center is an eight day fully immersive program that include: meditation, yoga, workshops, ayahuasca ceremonies and other activities that finally allow one to confront repetitive behavior patterns to experience lasting life change.
Everything is designed to fully prepare people for the ayahuasca experience–and that includes a special “Spirit Vine” diet. While not a fast, it can be compared to the centuries-old tradition, allowing people to focus deeply and experience deep self-awareness–a spiritual purging, if you will.
“Ayahuasca is a therapy for the spirit, where we can discover the real cause of our problems. We go to places which are not commonly accessible, and it’s profound–so every element, including diet, is designed to prepare people to face their demons,” explains Silvia Polivoy, Ph.D, founder of Spirit Vine Retreats.
Polivoy even recommends that people start their vegetarian/vegan meals–organic, free of gluten, salt, sugar, fermented foods and all additives and flavorings–a few days before coming to the retreat.
“This way people can be lighter and physically cleaner before they arrive. Ayahuasca makes people purge what is not good for them anymore–both physically and emotionally–so by detoxing physically, they can cleanse more deeply spiritually.”
She continued: “Some meat-eaters are a little apprehensive at first, but then discover how wonderful eating a meat-free diet can make them feel. In fact, some of them even decide to follow the diet permanently after the retreat.”
WHAT IS THE SPIRIT VINE AYAHUASCA RETREAT CENTER?
For thousands of years indigenous peoples living in the rainforest regions across South and Central America have used the powerful hallucinogenic brew or tea known as ayahuasca, the “spirit vine” or “vine of the dead.”
The Western World is taking note, and visitors now include Hollywood celebrities, actors, spiritual leaders and well-known authors.
Ayahuasca tea is made by combining two plants known in South America for its medicinal and visionary properties.
When brewed together, these plants produce a mind-expanding, modified state of consciousness that enables the participant to experience a deeper spiritual journey, receiving messages from soul wisdom that enables one to release fears, traumas and awaken to their real life’s purpose.
Silvia Polivoy, Ph.D. is a licensed psychotherapist for, for 20 years, had her own private practice specializing in altered states of consciousness.
She studied in Mexico, spending time with the shamans there and decided to focus her efforts solely on the spiritual realm. “Everything is energy,” she says, “and even one’s dreams have meaning.”
Ayahuasca sends users into intense far-flung realms of an epic visionary quest. It offers intense introspection and piercing insight into one’s own deepest mind and essence.
The experience is deeply spiritual, intensely psychological and can be stunningly self illuminating.
A LIFE OF HARMONY
Silvia Polivoy Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist with more than 20 years experience as a therapist. She started as a psychoanalyst and moved on to transactional analysis and transpersonal psychology.
Deeply interested in the field of modified consciousness, her work led her to the investigation of the psychotropic effects of natural plant substance and their possibilities for exploring human consciousness.
While Polivoy doesn’t consider herself a shaman, she does draw from the relationship that exists between the invisible realms and the realm of ordinary life as we know it–by incorporating her experience as a psychotherapist she does employ many shamanic tools with hypnotherapy and altered states of consciousness.
Shamans, she points out, were considered the first physicians and are seen as diagnosticians, therapists, religious counselors, storytellers and performance artists.
“ The difference between them and conventional practitioners iis the way shamans manipulate energy to enter the invisible world at will through altered states while maintaining self-control as they move within and without.”
In 2004, Polivoy co-founded The Spirit Vine Ayahuasca Spiritual Center whose purpose is to bring this experience to the modern world. The eight-day fully immersive program includes yoga, meditation, workshops (such thing as past and future regressions, intuitive solutions, aligning with your higher self, and more). A gluten free, additive free vegetarian/vegan/ organic diet, with the complete elimination of salt, sugar, and any fermented foods, is included. Alcohol, tobacco and drugs are prohibited and strictly enforced.
“Safety is our main priority, ,” said Polivoy, “and we’re not commercial–we don’t sell ayahuasca nor do we just give ceremonies. We don’t accept just anyone, but only take those who understand the value of this program.”
THE AYAHUASCA CEREMONY
While they don’t just give ceremonies, it is an important part of the program.
Polivoy and a highly-trained staff lead their participants through what is called “a spirit vine ceremony, what can only be called an intense spiritual journey and awakening of self awareness, developed through uncounted centuries of traditional practice, indigenous rainforest shamans guided their people in structured sessions.
Experiencers drink the tea. “But you can still have the ayahuasca experience without it,” says Polivoy. “Often, participants will come to experience the program, but cannot drink the tea, whether for medical or other reasons. Of course it’s better to be free of all medications and chemicals, but if that’s not possible, you can still learn plenty of tools to help you get through life.”
As the subsequent powerful consciousness-expanding effects unfold, assisting guides and healers watch over them to facilitate the process.
“Some who come to partake in a Spirit Vine Ayahuasca Retreat might be struggling with depression, addiction or some kind of anxiety disorder or phobia,” Polivoy said, “while others may simply be on a spiritual journey and want to find a doorway that can springboard them into a higher state of consciousness or enlightenment.”
She continues: “They all have one thing in common; that is, they are seekers. However, ayahuasca tea is powerful and should ONLY be done in a supervised setting.
The effect is long-lasting and Polivoy says it’s common for her to receive letters from past participants, such as one who said he was still experiencing sharp perceptions, such as brighter colors, more acute hearing, and peak performances in reasoning, weeks after attending a retreat.
“Just about everyone finds the Spirit Vine Ayahuasca Retreat a profoundly transformative lifetime experience,” Polivoy said. “We constantly witness lot of peoples’ amazing transformations after only one week at our ayahuasca retreat.”
She continues: “BUT I want to emphasize that success isn’t just coming from drinking ayahuasca tea, it is the combination of that with workshops, a special diet, yoga, meditation, group shares, etc. We teach people tools to discover the cause of their behavioral patterns to they can understand, and integrate, the lessons after they go back home.”