Sunday, 14 July 2013

Weekend in the North

     Last weekend I had the wonderful opportunity to travel up north with Juditta and meet with some amazing women that play a major role in the ToWo project. After figuring out the train system, I made my way to the beautiful city of Haifa. Sitting by the beach, I met with Itaf- a muslim woman that shared some wonderful stories with me about her work with Palestinian and Israeli young adults. Her stories were very touching. It was the first time that I was able to hear a muslim women's view on the situation in Israel, especially her opinion about the minority women. 
     After a relaxing lunch, Juditta took me to her village- Clil. I was surprised to learn that most of the community lived off of solar energy- some people even lived in tents! It was a very relaxing village- different from anything I have ever experienced before, especially back in the states. We even walked to a woman's small farm to get eggs and cheese for dinner! For dinner, Juditta invited two of her friends over and we talked and sang while playing the guitar. It was a very peaceful evening, despite the bees that kept attacking our dinner table. I even tried liver and heart for the first time.
     On Saturday Juditta and I took a walk to visit a woman named Olivia. She is a body therapist that recently moved to Clil. She was involved in a project that was very similar to the ToWo project. From Olivia, I collected some information and tips about grant research. 
     Our last stop of the weekend was to an Arab city called Shfaram. In Shfaram I had the pleasure of joining a christian arab woman named Suhila for a dinner filled with shwarma and a sweet dessert that reminded me of the american breakfast food called grits. Suhila also shared some touching stories with me about her clinical work in the Arab villages. 
     All three women participated in the video that I am creating for funding purposes. 
Overall, the weekend opened my eyes up many different perspectives of life in Israel- outside of the one that I am used to. 

Watch a short clip about the weekend here!

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Mindful Awareness and Somatic Experiencing

What is Mindful Awareness?
         According to the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center (MARC), mindful awareness "can be defined as paying attention to present moment experience with openness, curiosity, and a willingness to be with what is." Mindfulness invites [one] to stop, breathe, observe, and connect with one's inner experience." One can bring mindfulness into his/her life through activities such as meditation, yoga, nature walks, art, etc. 
        In the last ten years, significant research has shown mindfulness to address health issues such as lower blood pressure and boost the immune system; increase attention and focus, including aid those suffering from ADHD; help with difficult mental states such as anxiety and depression, fostering well-being and less emotional reactivity; and thicken the brain in areas in charge of decision making, emotional flexibility, and empathy.
Understanding Somatic Experiencing 
        Somatic Experiencing is based on research and hands on development by Dr. Levine. It is a body-awareness approach to trauma that relies on the realization that human beings have an innate ability to overcome the effects of trauma. Somatic Experiencing is often used on combat veterans, rape victims, post surgical traumas, victims of violence, war and other natural disasters. The goal of Somatic Experiencing is to restore self-regulation, return a sense of aliveness, relaxation and wholeness to those that have been through a traumatic experience. (Information provided by 

Mindfulness on YouTube
Mindfulness meditation teacher and author Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn speaks about mindfulness and his book "Coming to Our Senses"

Saturday, 22 June 2013

The "Ghandi of Sri Lanka"

Dr. A.T. Ariyarante, founder of the Sarvodaya movement,
with ToWo volunteer Elissa Schooler
In the hills of Neve Shalom, a community in which Israelis and Palestinians live side by side, many spiritually oriented people, including members of the ToWo group, gathered for a conference that addressed ways to promote social change through listening co-creation and cooperation. The conference featured Dr. A.T. Ariyarante, the founder and visionary of the Sarvodaya movement, which is the largest community development movement in the world. Meeting and speaking with him is like speaking with the “Ghandi of Sri Lanka.”
Sitting barefooted and cross-legged on pillows, we listened to Dr. Ariyarante talk about how he focused on breaking through the caste system in Sri Lanka (in an elegant and constructive way) and how he views the world/population as one, we are all Human. Sarvodaya movement started with the women in the villages, educating and installing trainers for young kids, as the women then will spread it to the whole community. They offered a new way of communication and governing within the villages, one that supports their voice and self governing skills. He stressed that humanity needs to let go of our strong egos, which will then lead to less greed. We need to work together for the common purpose and never take revenge- this will ensure that people do not destroy others.  These are a few of the postulates of a healthy leadership, apparently after the Buddha. Dr. Ariyarante also spoke a lot about acceptance- and looking within us, that even though the same components make up the mind and body, we use these components in different ways
 Following Dr. Ariyarante’s inspirational speech and stories, we heard from some local social activists about projects and events occurring around Israel. Interestingly up until four months ago, the peace groups in Israel never united. However, now 15 social action peace groups joined together into one cooperative.On Sunday, July 23, in front of the Tel Aviv Museum Center, these peace groups will meet together and invite us to create peace circles and dialogues around Israel. There will be a few of these on the 23rd, one in the Galilee, in the city of ShfarAm.