The shockwaves from the election have dissolved, and while the feelings of heavy heartedness, bewilderment, and dread continue to visit me, the feelings are not as intense as they were several weeks ago. As a student of astrology, I am grateful for the full moon in Taurus and the Sun in Scorpio on November 14th. I feel this constellation is supporting us in focusing our intentions. Taurus is compelling us to reflect upon what we hold most dear, to ground ourselves in our bodies, and to take a stand. The vibrations of Scorpio are urging us to dig deeper, to look beneath the surface, to step out of our bubbles so that we may understand truths that have been buried. We are doing this on an individual and collective level. I am heeding the urges of these planetary callings in ways that resonate with me: mining for truths in my personal and planetary history, expressing my love of the mysteries of life in my art, and creating safe-enough spaces for people, especially people targeted by oppression, to share their voices.
The Dagara people of West Africa believe that every human being is born with innate gifts that if nurtured, can support [...]
They sit on thin straw mats covering the cement floor, two circles of young Darfuri refugee women wrapped in long colorful headscarves, huddled together conspiratorially. One group, calling themselves “The Lions,” are careful to lower their voices so the group across the mat, the self-styled “Intelligent People,” won’t overhear their strategizing. They are two teams of Little Ripples preschool teachers, locked in a tight race on the last day of their mindfulness training in refugee camp Goz Amer. The team that can best demonstrate their skill at teaching what they’ve learned this week will win. Yasmine (Joslyn Hitter) and I, Tahani, pretend to be the children they’re teaching.
It’s a friendly but tough competition; everyone concentrates on putting forth their best effort. While both teams do a great job, it’s the Lions who finally triumph. The Intelligent People sigh and accept the verdict. Afterward, we all come together to appreciate what we’ve done during our time together. How different the spirit of this gathering is from the fierce election contest that took place recently in the United States, watched intently by the whole world.
The upset win of the ‘Lion’ unnerved and devastated many who considered themselves the ‘Intelligent People.’ And those whose candidate [...]
Each day of our teaching in the refugee camp, we play a variation of a Susan Kaiser Greenland’s mindfulness game for children called “Mind, Body — Go.”* Our Little Ripples preschool teachers are young and they love to play! We sit and take turns rolling a ball across the circle. Each time the ball rolls to a new person, she notices how she feels in her body and her mind. Ahmed translates the answers:
“My mind is happy, my body has good energy.”
”My mind is happy, my body has fever.”
”My mind is happy, I have a headache.”
Occasionally, a teacher with bloodshot eyes says, “My mind is tired…malaria.”
As I learn more about life in the camp, I marvel at the dedication and grit of these teachers. Quite a few are also nursing little ones, and every day at home they haul heavy jugs of water on their heads, wash clothes, grind flour… Although they may have a head or body ache or a fever, they are so committed to the children’s education that they show up to greet them at 7AM, no matter what.
Well-fed and healthy, I know how I feel sitting in that same circle—sweating in 100+ degrees, thirsty flies landing by my eyes and [...]
After the soccer demonstration, the Little Ripples pre-school teachers and the soccer coaches gather for our day of mindfulness. Friday is a holiday here, there’s no school. So we work with the adults (mostly young adults!) without the children, they’re coming on their day off. We begin with a traditional blessing offered by Ahmed, who translates for us, too. We play a game to break the ice, and Joslyn and I take time to introduce ourselves by talking about our families, and why we are here. The initial greeting from the women here is, “How is your family?” So I tell about being inspired by my father’s research and training work in Africa on behalf of W.H.O.; Joslyn shares that her father was born in a refugee camp in Germany, Baumberg. Everyone is riveted by the story of her grandmother’s escape from persecution in Poland, walking all the way to Uzbekistan, and her four years of wandering by foot before landing in the refugee camp.
We are aware of the unspeakable violence and loss they’ve all witnessed in Darfur. Some of them are older and fled as teenagers, some were younger; all saw their villages destroyed, their mothers and grandmothers and [...]
Early this morning we watch the girls soccer team warm up and show us how they play. Because the soccer field is a long walk from where the classrooms where we teach are, their practice took place at the Little Ripples school. The girls have never had a chance to play before the refugee community decided they wanted iACT to help them start the Soccer Academy, and their skills are just beginning to catch up to their enthusiasm! Hundreds of children with the motivation to practice flock to the open field behind the camp after school. In the searing heat, the oldest ones practice at 3, the next oldest at 4, and by the time the little ones have their turn, the sun is lower in the sky. Seeing the children, many literally dressed in rags, have so much fun playing and cheering goals brought tears of joy to my eyes.
You’ll see in the photos that they practice mindfulness before warming up, then they stretch, practice kicks and footwork, then, without missing a beat, they flop down to do strengthening exercises on their bellies in the dirt. I can’t help but think of lucky LA kids who go to their [...]