NEWS FROM THE FIELD ~ SELF CARE, RELIEF & JOY THROUGH MOVEMENT
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India, The Storydancer Project, and me
MAY 5, 2021
India is in our hearts and on our minds. We are heartbroken for the people and our partners there.
The Storydancer Project (TSP) has been working in India for about 20 years. Through the first few years we had the opportunity to work inside of many organizations that serve women, girls and families. Some of the many places I have had the privilege of bringing the self-care work to have included nurses and staff at the Aurovindo Eye Hopsital through contacts with the SEVA Foundation, peace projects for thousands of students in Kolkata schools, and, through our friends at New Light in Kolkata, continuing programs with trafficked women in Kolkata and the tribal regions on the border of Banladesh. All the while, we have been in formal partnerships with two important organizations, CanSupport and The Hope Project in Delhi, India, where the pandemic situation has now affected the hearts of the world community.(thestorydancerproject.org)
One nurse who is looking after the home care visits at CanSupport, which runs the largest home-care based palliative care program in India, told me this week that not only are they going to the homes to help the patients, but different nurses, doctors and field workers have also contracted Covid-19. Some are caring for family members simultaneously. We have developed trainings and the works of TSP are being used to help thousands in self-care for patients, families and staff living in stress. (cansupport.org)
The Hope Project works in education, mobile and stationary health clinics, and vocational trainings with villages (300,000 in a village) and is located around the tombs of the Sufis in Nizamuddin basti, as well as in outlying very poor areas. Here we have trained facilitators who are continuing to work with women, students and families even during these times.
A social worker from the Hope Project said to me,”Zuleikha, no house has been spared.” Many I ask about have Covid. Many have died. We all know about the lack of oxygen. (hopeproject.nl)
From what I hear, trafficked women with whom I work through New Light in Kolkata have been all but forgotten. People I know are running food programs. It is harder to get the food to the women and their children, due to the dire time that is happening. We can’t work together on Zoom now, because of the pandemic. (newlightindia.org)
Through TSP in India, I have been leading seminars, working with self-care exercise that brings more energy into the nervous system, thus allowing the mind and general disposition to be uplifted. Throughout this strange and heavy pandemic year, I have been doing this with our partnerships on Zoom. As well as working with Navajo Nation and nurses on the front line in our country and Europe, I have had the good fortune to laugh and move and find some stress relief in our partnerships in India.
Here at home, in my Zoom Studio, I am finding ways to bring this work to people around the world who may feel stress, and who may have a longing for expressions. Through the creative process in on-line retreats and sessions, we move, we write, we feel, and find ways to let go of the load we are carrying. And though it may seem invisible, it is a heavy load we are all carrying, whether we know it or not.
Donate today to TSP for the programs that continue during this pandemic. Join me in a class session or half-day retreat. Or if you have an idea for a private gathering, let me know. The great thing is no one is watching, and there are no steps to learn. As we practice unburdening ourselves the more we can serve in whatever ways we are called, known and unknown, to the world.
Wonderful to be working online with our partnering organizations in these challenging times. We will keep you updated. Now, our team is bringing online self-care and stress relief free of charge to:
Doctors, nurses, counselors on the front line in India and nurses on the front line in the US
Advocates in the field working with Navajo mothers suffering from COVID-19 and post-partum depression
TSP creation of online self-care video sessions for Navajo Mothers
Teachers and students in Delhi, India and Navajo Nation
New projects in the works, stay tuned!
A Virtual Retreat - Self-Care Session
OCTOBER 16, 2020
Friday Morning, bright and early, I was invited to lead a Self-Care Session at a Virtual Retreat.
The company that invited me works with social justice world-wide. About a hundred people from different global centers joined. I got online to check everything at
6:45 am Mountain Time. That meant getting up much earlier to have tea, stretch out, and set up the tech details. Checking microphones, lights, and my zoom or matchbox studio, as I have been calling it, we got underway.
The tech director was an upbeat savvy woman who signs her emails, ‘with optimism’. How wonderful during this down trodden time, to find out that things are also moving in an upward direction. Then everyone came online. They entered with a sentence in the Chat, about the music being played, or some way to say “hi!” to the whole group.
We spent about an hour together. All of the teams who were here, today, work with social justice, and I enjoyed sharing about my work in our non-profit,
The Storydancer Project. We work with people in marginalized areas of the world here at home and across the seas. Trafficked women, battered families, palliative cancer patients, students in the slums of India and the Navajo reservation. Mothers in muslim areas and new mothers struggling in NM Navajo Nation. We train people to work through a transformative Self-Care program which I have created. It works wonders.
After an intro, we started. Stretching, opening the joints, and talking about what happens when one just sits there and eats to take a break.
I made some jokes, we did some simple exercises standing up, and sitting down. I showed everyone how to look over the screen sometimes, and then we touched on a few other short cuts to get some relief for screen eyes and what some call Zoom fatigue.
Then we moved into the fun part of shaking off the collective doom of the pandemic, with lively music, and as well, feeling what happens when we do this. Learning to pay attention to the signals of the body is not a one-stop shopping trip!
Every little bit helps.
That is how I created TAKE A MINUTE® , my registered – trademarked set of transformative a one minute resiliency reset. Not exercises in the sense of athleticism, but an actual moment to, as I like to say, Reset, Relieve and Refresh, the 3 R’s of TAKE A MINUTE®.
We explored little joint opening exercises which ‘oil the joints with nature’s own WD-40. And I spoke about living and taking care of ourselves in this Mind-Body-House.
A lively time was had by many. In these times when everyone is sitting on computers, or standing for that matter, we all need this. If you are interested in bringing something like this to your teams, please get in touch with me.
Keep well and keep moving in this Mind-Body-House!
“When we move together, the stuck places open and joy can arrive.” —Zuleikha
Zuleikha leading palliative cancer care nurses in Self Care for the Care Provider at CanSupport Foundation Course 2020
1.21.20 Jaypee Hospital, Noida, India
Today I went as a part of the CanSupport Foundation Course to the Jaypee Hospital in Noida, outside of Delhi. It is a two-day certificate program for nurses in Palliative Cancer Care, filled with all different subjects, taught by a team from CanSupport. I am invited to bring the component of Self Care for the Care Provider whenever I am in Delhi during this Course. I have trained Savita Luka, a nurse/counselor/educator, and if I am not here, she leads the TAKE A MINUTE® Self-Care Exercises for the nurses.
If I am here to go with the team, they generally put in a request for me to lead the exercises, and then to do the free-style group movements I have developed for these types of programs in schools, hospitals, health-care centers, etc. Nurses in every country I have been in are generally very surprised to find themselves skipping and jumping and running. We go across the floor as individuals, and then I like to put people in partnerships that grow to groups of four, five or six, whenever possible. This is not only fun, but allows for concentration, awareness, and teamwork.
Since I was given a good amount of time today, about 40 minutes, I finished the session with my Painting Exercise. This is something I have developed over time. It involves feeling, moving, and concentration, and can lead to a kind of meditative awareness. We use hands and feet as “paintbrushes.” The “paint” is made from envisioning colored light that can extend for millions of miles. When moving and “painting” at the same time, a spaciousness can arise, bringing relief and relaxation.
Palliative cancer care nurses practicing one of Zuleikha’s exercises in CanSupport’s Self Care for the Care Provider
As we have been finding, the nurses reported feeling “more energized, and more relaxed” simultaneously. When our team first heard of this awareness, people were confused. Some asked “Isn’t it a contradiction to feel more energy and more relaxed at the same time?” Repetition of the work has proven that this is indeed the case. It makes people smile, relax into themselves, and then they feel ready to go back to work.
TAKE A MINUTE® can do this.
At the end of the session, in India, they do what is called the “Vote of Thanks.” In this case, a Senior Palliative Nursing Professor got up and talked about all of the points that had been touched during the day. It was really impressive. She cited each session leader, and brought to light their gifts to the nurses. She spoke very highly of my work, and said that though she couldn’t attend the whole session, the part she was there to join gave her such a lot of good energy, and that there was a lot to learn from the Painting Exercise about spaciousness and relaxation.
I thought to myself, wouldn’t it be great if this was inside of all hospitals, so nurses would be able to re-charge regularly in this simple way?
We had a meeting of the TSP Facilitators Team: Parveen, Asha, Zeba, Shaheen, Hira and myself. We laughed a lot.
In the beginning I asked the question, “In this past year, what has worked for you and your groups? What is too hard to do, or doesn’t work?”
This turned out to be a great doorway of conversation, and for all of us together to understand where we are now. It turns out that in addition to our ongoing programs for women and girls, more men and boys have asked to learn the Self-Care Exercises, expanding the family aspect of our TSP mission to serve “women, girls and families.”
Zuleikha working with boys and young men at the Hope Project
Parveen explained to us that when she goes out into the community, men are now interested in the self care. They seem to be understanding and liking it as a practice now. It has become more than a one-time experience. She continues to have success with the women. In the health clinic, she is beginning to work with the geriatric community of the Nizamuddin Basti (70,000 people live in this “village”), and has asked me to focus on this with her. Next week I will accompany her in the community, which I love. It is a chance to meet women directly, and help her to address their needs.
Shaheen shared that doing the exercises with the kindergarten classes is a gift to her; she gets a lot of energy from it. We are going to meet regularly to work on varying the exercises—challenging and fun for me.
Zeba reported that the vocational classes are going very well. The exercises really help the women who are sewing and cutting; the shoulder exercises are especially beneficial. The Self-help microfinance Groups (SHG) are like everybody; many women saying they are too busy and don’t have time to do the exercises. I proposed offering an invitational session for the Officers of all the groups, and I will give several Exercise Classes for all members of SHG. Not trainings, but fun open classes. I think this will give an energy boost for Zeba and all.
Asha has set up a schedule—her inspiration—to take me twice a week to Seelampur and Zafarabad. There are vocational and student support classes. She wants me to work with everyone in a short period of time. As well, I will be formally training some teachers in each place. This is a first and I am excited.
Hira is the coordinator of all of the activities and the liaison between The Hope Project and The Storydancer Project. She told us that each facilitator and some teachers successfully learned how to work with the new Canon camera for better photos. As well, Hira has set up a way for each facilitator to gather feedback and comments about this program. And it is working—the evaluations and the program. Hira has a great way of interacting with everyone and being able to oversee what is going on.
After such a wonderful sharing, I said something like, “we should go out for lunch!” Everyone got really happy. I made a lot of jokes, and said we could all go shopping—I‘ll bring the bags. This caused great laughter. They are going to choose where we should go for lunch, as well as plan an outing to a park in the sun when it gets warmer.
I can honestly report that this long-time partnership of TSP with Hope has reached a new level of bonding, and the Hope-led facilitation of TSP programs inside the curriculum is solid.
I have learned from the administration and teachers that the outlook at Hope is growing in response to the community’s needs. The Basti is interested in girls and boys learning how to work together, to prepare them for entering the workforce in life ahead. Hope is bringing in gender trainings, classes about domestic violence, and is working with all aspects of boundaries. This is inspiring.