In the Basti Nizamuddin, a primarily Muslim community filled with many smaller “villages,” or areas of the most poor, The Storydancer Project collaborates with The Hope Project Charitable Trust. The Hope Project is located around the tombs of very well-known Sufi mystics. The area is named for the revered saint and servant of the poor, Nizamuddin Auliya. Here, we partner with the Hope Project to bring TSP Everyday Self-Care Exercise Programs to women and girls who otherwise have had no experience of how good it feels to move in a healthy way.
This marginalized community is now seeing the fruits of our yearly ongoing programs: more than 50 women have been trained, bringing Self-Care to every part of the Basti. From one-on-one sessions in the Health Clinic, to on-site visits with women of the area’s inner villages, the trained facilitators join with Zuleikha to share stress relief and offer a new kind of experiential health education to this community. In the Girls Non-Formal School of the Hope Project, the TSP exercises now comprise the morning exercise program for the students, serving as a model of joy and self-care that can help prevent chronic problems from developing.
TSP Everyday Self-Care is ‘medicine’ for fragmented times—helping to recharge the body, energize the mind, and make space for the heart.
I am in Delhi, working away. It is pretty amazing, and this year, I can tell that some kind of groundwork is present; I don’t have to introduce the whole thing again and again. The poor who are rich, and enriched, the colors of the cloth, the light in the eyes—all these things happen when we step into the body, and find our way home to the heart.
The different branches on the tree of self-care grow out of the need in the moment. When I go into the tiny home of a woman in the Basti who has several children and no time, then we do exercises like the “Opposite Push and Stretch.” She gets more energy, and smiles and laughter arise.
These are ancient ideas, in a new package. The need is greater than ever. How to tune in, in the midst of the clamor of everyday life? And it is getting louder.
Friday, March 10, 2017 – A Kind of Communion
Parveen, a Hope Project social worker who works in the Health Clinic, has been taking me inside of homes in the Basti community to work directly with the women. My esteemed mentor said it was good to “selflessly serve the poor.” Somehow, it has come to pass that I find myself here working here with these amazing women.
When I write that, it seems sad, to think of “poor women.” It is anything but sad! Actually these visits are highlights among many of my days here in Nizamuddin Basti. Often when I write, I am overwhelmed at the honor it is to serve in such a way.
We go into a home where nine people sleep on pads rolled out on cement during the night, and rolled up for free space during the day. Sometimes there is running water, sometimes not. Parveen and I share the exercises with the women. During our session, the women become bright-eyed. We laugh, and they say that they feel some relief from the everyday back pain and shoulder/neck pain. It’s a kind of communion. For that moment in that house with these people, there is a connection that supersedes everything.
I have been engaged in this process for some time. It takes time. Now, when I walk around this area, women often look at me, and say “…exercise?” By now I know that when a woman in the greater community says this to me, it means she has some problem and has come to understand that exercise may help. This is a sign of progress.
Saturday, March 18, 2017 – Women Caring for Women
Yesterday I was standing in the room where the Micro-finance women’s Self-Help Groups meet at the entrance to the Hope Project. A woman walks into the room. She looks at me and asks, “Zuleikha?” I nod. In India there are different kinds of nodding for different kinds of answers. In the west we nod up and down. In India, they nod side to side one time, two times, many times fast, half a nod; all of these things have different meanings when used in conversations, a kind of unspoken shorthand. I nod yes.
She then asks, “exercise?” So I ask her in Hindi, “What is the problem?” She makes a face of pain and points to the area at the top of the shoulder, connecting to the neck, “cer-veye-acle.” (Here it is pronounced with an “eye” sound, and in four syllables). “Ah,” I say, which implies that I understand. Then she shows the pathway from the shoulders, down the arms.
I recognize the pathway of this pain, and show her right on the spot something she can do. In less than a minute, she is smiling. I explain that she can do this anytime and daily and that it doesn’t matter if your stomach is empty or full.
The other women staff members in the room go on explaining the finer details to her, and it is just great—they understand and can carry on. Soon everyone is talking at the same time at a highly-pitched volume, very excited to explain everything to this woman, and she is talking back, asking questions, and they are all going back and forth and everyone is quite happy. This is sustainability in action, this is women caring for women. This is the Storydancer Project at work.
Circumstances have been teaching me to adapt myself to “what is,” right in the moment. This makes the impossible not only possible, but more fun! I have been taken in, and fed and served many cups of chai and have had so much kindness shown to me—I feel like sharing what I am able to is the least I can do!
Some days I ask myself, is love enough? I mean to say, is it enough to share love with human beings? I have not the means to give everyone food or running water or shoes or clothes. Yet after the stress diminishes somewhat through moving, it is this Loving feeling that gets communicated and, in sharing it, we all feel much better.
This Love connection happens again and again, and I learn that this is what connects the dots in my life, this makes the doorway of the heart open. It is through the dance, then the dance being taken away due to physical illness, and the dance being given back, over a long period of time, that I found within myself these precious and easy-to-do self-care exercises and movement practices that are now helping others feel a sense of freedom and relief. I have been telling the people we work with, “exercise is medicine,” and “these exercises are not a cure for the problem, but if you do them every day for a moment now and then, it will help.”
Through the kindnesses of my mentors who have pushed me to practice my art, and cultivate heart awareness, and to become a better person, I hope these gems can help others to feel better in the midst of whatever circumstances we may find ourselves. The sunshine in the Art of The Dance is a great Love in my life, and this work is one of the ways that can reach out, bring some relief from the stress of being human, and touch the wonder of life.
Wednesday, March 8, 2017 – Joining Hands—International Women’s Day in Delhi.
Well, Women’s Day over here was outrageous! Four of us, women’s micro-finance group leaders from the SHG (Self-Help Groups at Hope Project), took two bicycle rickshaws to another part of the area I work with women—another slum area. It was terrifyingly hilarious: the driver was going so fast down the hill so he wouldn’t have to work as hard to go up again, and we were yelling at him and laughing at the same time. It took about 15 minutes to get there, yet it is still within the SHG area. So big, and so many people.
When we got to the celebration, it turned out I was one of the guests of honor, and had to give a talk. Everything here is quite formal in the way things flow. Poor or rich, there are ways things should be done, and everyone knows them; the proper manner of greeting, serving water immediately, welcoming, talking, serving food, a ‘vote of thanks,’ giving a talk when asked. Everyone can do this; it is just how they do it—off-the-top, kind of, of life, with mobile selfies and recordings all along the way. A roomful of about 50-75 women, all dressed in saris and pants and tops. Since it was a celebration, they were in vibrant color—just beautiful.
I gave a talk about women taking care of ourselves, and how it works: women-families-communities-world. The organizers and president supervisors of this group were nodding yes, and thanked me for bringing this noble work to them. This is the group that is running the early childhood schools in all of these places. It is a government organization, which has its pros and cons, but the women who run it are just powerful and amazing. The current supervisor/president turned to me and said that she is overseeing over 200 centers. Can you imagine?! So much energy. Then we all did exercises and laughed a lot. One of the other organizers talked about how women are coming together to fight for our rights. Then, surprisingly, another of the organizers sang
“We Shall Overcome” in Hindi—all the verses—with English in between. Everyone sang! So moving.
Then they asked me to sing, so I sang a call-and-response song I have made that the women really like, and they sang with gusto. It has no words, just “la la la”, and a good melody, and then I added a set of words in Urdu, which says, “we shall see each other again, god willing.” Everyone loved it. Then one of the women sang ghazal poetry, and all the women sang in response to each line. It was basically off-the-charts amazing, funny, huge talking all the time, and laughing…
We ate, took photos of each other, and ate more, and took more photos. It was just grand. Poor women, who are wealthy of spirit, eyes shining, and heads nodding. So uplifting.
On the way back, we took a new battery-run cart, which ran out of charge. The guy called his cousin and swapped carts, all the midst of huge traffic—really!
Love and Happy Women’s Day. May we be joining hands around the world to support and protect the vulnerability that is beautiful, and the strength that is natural.
March 2017 © Zuleikha
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ZULEIKHA to PERFORM February 14 -18 2017
at Love and Compassion for Human Unity Conference
Dargah Hazrat Inayat Khan, New Delhi
“The message we seek to spread is an antidote to violence and a balm to the beauty of the human spirit.”
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Friday, May 27 – Wednesday, June 1, 2016: RADIANCE – In the Country of the Heart. Join Zuleikha & Friends at the 34th Annual Spring Ozark Sufi Camp in the beautiful Lake of the Ozarks State Park in Osage Beach, Missouri. Register by the early deadline of May 1: https:ozarksuficamp.org/registration/
“The heart of man is like a globe over the light of the soul. When this radiance shines out, it shows itself not only through the countenance and expression of a person, but even in one’s atmosphere.” ~ Hazrat Inayat Khan
Jessica & Akbar Miller
Together with Allaudin Ottinger, Khabir Kitz, Nuria Sabato, Firdousi Wyrick, Hakima Greentree, Habiba Dollard, and others, sharing with us Sufi Teachings and Practice, Zikr (Remembrance), Music, Singing, Dances of Universal Peace, Prayer, Meditation, Healing Temple, Music, Choir, Teen Camp, Kids Camp, Kids Play, Tea Ceremony, and more.
MORE in JUNE, 2016
Friday, June 3, 2016: SpiritAlive – A Celebration of Dance, Music & Story.
Gerald Trimble ~ Viola da Gamba & Kamancheh; Amory Bottorff ~ Violin & Oud; Allaudin Ottinger ~ World Percussion
FRIDAY, JUNE 3, 2016 – 7PM
Kansas City – Unity Temple on the Plaza
707 West. 47th Street Kansas City, MO 64112
Contact – (816)561-4466
Tickets -$15 at the Door
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TSP at HOPE PROJECT 2016 Self-Care for the Whole Community – There are now 50 Hope Project trainers learning TSP’s Take A Minute™ exercises for Self-Care and how to teach them! Every aspect of this community is benefiting, from tiny nursery school children, to teenagers, vocational students, community women and clinic outpatients. We are so grateful for our partnership with the Hope Project Charitable Trust!
This first picture above is of a new group of about 25 young mothers. They are domestic workers who place their little children in the Hope Project Crèche while they work. The Crèche Director, Rajvanti, and I got inspired to start a self-care program with them, once a week, before work. They really enjoy the exercises—most of the women have never done anything like this.
The Girls Non-Formal School – Girls Lead!
I go to the school assembly program in the mornings at 8:00, and have chosen several girls to stand in front and lead the exercises. The teachers take part as they are inspired to, coach the girls and cheer them on.
Children’s Support Classes and Kindergarten & Nursery Classes
Four Support Class teachers have successfully completed the Take A Minute™ Training. They understand how to lead, and how to adapt the sessions to the circumstances of the day. 60 plus children are benefiting.
Four kindergarten and nursery school teachers in training here are learning to implement these simple and fun exercises in their classrooms for learning readiness throughout the day.
This year there are two community groups with which we have been working. The first is SHG, the 79 Self Help Groups, women’s micro-finance groups consisting of 1000 women total, who practice the self-care exercises regularly.
I feel that the community women are accepting the concept of ‘taking a minute’ for themselves, for their lives and well being. It is exhilarating to see it take hold.
The second group is community women I’ve connected to through the social workers of the health clinic. I have been going out every week to a new part of the community, and sharing exercises. The women are very poor, and for most, it is the first time they have done an exercise. We laugh a lot, meeting outside, sometimes amidst clotheslines and overhead electric wires reaching every which way. Children come and join. This year, after so many trials of different ways of entering, we are now really inside the community. It is a wonderful feeling.
The Outpatient Health Clinic
TSP’s collaboration with Dr. Luna, the Hope Project Outpatient Doctor, continues this year, allowing me to see many of her patients regularly (10-20 per week). Women, and men now, come in for help with cervical spondylitis, back pain, fat-shedding exercises, and overall wellness.
© Zuleikha, Swan Lake Publishing, 2016Read More »
KALPATARU UPDATE – TSP/New Light collaboration, Kalpataru – Safe Spaces for Sex-Trafficked Women program, coming up in a few days in Bengal and Jharkhand, India, is featured on Razoo, our crowdfunding site:
“This program is a gift of joy to women who have absolutely nothing.” – Urmi Basu
JUST 7 DAYS TO FUND KALPATARU. SHARE WITH YOUR FRIENDS and networks. Find out more at https://www.razoo.com/us/story/Kalpataru-Program-For-Trafficked-Women
At no point in history have more people been enslaved than are currently forced into labor and the sex trade by human traffickers. Women and girls comprise 98% of all those trafficked into forced prostitution. Urmi Basu, Founder/Director of New Light, Kolkata, India, and Zuleikha, Founder/Director of The Storydancer Project, have collaborated to create Kalpataru—a groundbreaking restorative program for women trafficked in the sex trade.
OTHER NEWS from TSP/ZULEIKHA – CANSUPPORT’s ANNUAL WALK FOR LIFE
Sunday, January 31, Delhi came together at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium for CanSupport’s 9th Annual Walk For Life: Stride Against Cancer. TSP/Zuleikha participated in performances and self-care demonstrations in solidarity with CanSupport’s amazing work to help people with cancer and their loved ones. TSP is humbled and honored to count CanSupport among our partnering organizations.
Zuleikha dancing her offering to cancer patients, friends and families worldwide at Walk for Life: “May All Beings Live in Joy!”Read More »
This year our partnership with The Hope Project in the Nizamuddin Basti, Delhi, India, includes ongoing work with the community women’s Self Help Groups, training for the Girls Non-Formal School, sessions in the Health Clinic, and regular work with the Mobile Health Unit.
We are seeing results of the Core Wellness Exercise idea taking root here along with the Master Trainers program. The women being trained are beginning to understand how to teach the exercises and which exercises help for which problems. The community is beginning to see the benefits. This is really a big deal in a place like this, where self-care is not even a notion in the list of priorities.
Anyone who enjoys moving knows that it ‘frees up the heart’ and the body follows. What I have been doing here is to break simple movements all the way down to how to move very easily through the joints, connecting the joint movements. This leads into fluid full body movement without trying to look a certain way.
When we add sense of humor and connection with each other, something happens. Often people say it is a magical feeling, because everyone is surprised to feel relief. Yet it is not magical in practice. I think the magic is the connection with other human beings, coupled with a humorous way of sharing the information, creating an atmosphere of ease.
Even in the poorest circumstances, I have seen ease unfold.
~ Zuleikha©Read More »
Heart Matters at Zenith
In late July, Zuleikha goes to Zenith Institute in the Italian Swiss Alps with HEART MATTERS, her BodyListening© MAP Movement Awareness Practice seminar. Join Zuleikha this summer in the Alps where mountains meet the sky and there is room for inner space to unfold.
JULY 20-25, 2015 ZULEIKHA Seminar
For more information read this link:
"Dear Zuleikha, thank you so much for a riveting performance."
January 5, 2015 - First Meeting of 2015 with Hope Project Director and Staff in Delhi, India.
Samiur Rahman, the executive director, is wonderful. He is able to to decipher each person’s code to really understand how they would like to see the Core Wellness work take place. Each woman in the meeting has her own expression and is listened to.
I am excited, as what we are planning this year will catapult us into participating in the bigger picture of this community. Here, many families are living in one room with all the children, and often no running water. To see a woman experience relief of stress and body pain through stretching and moving in a simple way is its own work of art, and a privilege.
Tomorrow I will go to CanSupport where we work with palliative cancer patients, their families, and the Home Care Teams to begin scheduling this year’s expanded programs. Will keep you posted! ~ Zuleikha