Saturday, September 7, 2013

AYP Research Mission Entry Five (July 21, 2013) Embodied Living: Outreach at Mama Fatuma Orphanage

Entry Five (July 21, 2013)

 This morning was our sleep-in day. I was sure– and when I say “sure”–  I mean SURE that those of us who chose to go the Moroccan Bar and sit on pillows and have a glass of wine would miss breakfast and sleep in until noon- would do just that. Well, at 11:45 AM, I woke up. It seemed so light outside and as my mind evaluated the sensory input coming in, I thought perhaps it was late morning. I got to my phone and saw the time— “Oh NO!!!” I woke up Jerry and said, “Wake-up! we are going to miss lunch.” He was as disoriented as I was. We scrambled and got down stairs. Everyone else was awake and had been awake and in fact had already been to breakfast, the market, and were now back for lunch. I must say that this research team is exceptional in mind and body. I am impressed- each day- beyond my expectations. I am full of gratitude every minute of every day. This team is full of love, fun, and commitment to our mission (and it seems that there is also a strong commitment shopping at the market as well).
 After our lunch (which was once again wonderful), we met in a group and set our intention for the day. Susan read on the power of presence and awareness. Here is a small section of our reading:
 “….Use your practice of embodied living; connect with your breath, feet, and palms, whatever it may be, to keep you present, aware and dialed in…
 When we are aware of our body, there is a connection to the present moment and awareness to what is actually happening in the moment. Become aware that presence shifts perspectives and creates instant connection. Operate from a blank canvas and choose the opportunity to create powerful moments, moment-by-moment. Where your awareness goes, your energy flows.
 Awaken to your blind spots or your automatic interpretations so that you can see with new eyes and listen with new ears—more generously—to what may have limited you in the past. Dissolve barriers and move into levels of freedom, power and ease—operate in the NOW!”
 Susan reflected on what that meant to her and then Jerry as well. Hearing the thoughts of others opened all of our minds. We divided into our cars and headed out to Mama Fatuma Orphanage. I believe that we were all a little apprehensive. The members of our research team that are from the USA acknowledge that we have our challenges just like everyone else; still, seeing and learning the struggles that many citizens of Kenya face everyday has humbled all of us. We knew we were headed toward an experience that would move us deeply. We chatted in the car, fully aware of what was ahead.

 We arrived. I posted (and will post more) photos of the school and the neighborhood. The school was funded by the UK and the many of children practice the Muslim religion. Everyone was kind and open to us visiting. A young man, ready for the task, gave us a tour of the sleeping, eating, and study areas. I was quite impressed. The school was clean, bright, and most of the children had a space of their own to sleep. We walked through the school hand-in-hand with the children. I noticed that our team attached as quickly to the children as they attached to us. Presence—creates instant connection.

 We began Phase I, brainstorming, in the school/study area. The girls and boys worked hard (and sometimes not so hard) to listen. I think it is pretty exciting to have visitors and it is not necessarily fun to fill out a demographic form. Nevertheless we got through the demographic forms with Wanji and Masu interpreting everything into Swahili for us. Once we finished the demographic form we filed down to an outside area with a tarp on the ground and sat in a circle to share the children’s ideas about how yoga had affected them. They told us they were stronger, happier, and more joyful (among many other things). We then listened as the girls sang a welcome visitors song and then the boys practiced yoga to a flute and danced. To my complete happiness, we then played “Pepeta!” or “Balance the Ball.” It was so very meaningful to play a game in Africa that we had just played at Resurrection Church on the East Side of Buffalo. Presence—joyful presence. Check out Facebook because there are a bunch of awesome photos of us playing.
 After a long and sad goodbye we got back in our cars and headed for the Shine Center (see blog 1 for a description). We relaxed, face-timed home, and posted on Facebook taking full advantage of the Wi-Fi.
Then it was time for yoga. Susan and Joyce led one of my most favorite yoga classes I have ever been to in my life. There were only a few of us– some members of the research team from the US and some from Kenya. But I have noticed that it only takes a little fuel to light a big fire- and we did. Joyce started class with warm-up and Sun As and Sun Bs. We made big noise during yoga as we have learned to do this in Kenya. Turns out US yogis are too quiet and uptight in their yoga (ha-ha- but true, right?).
 Susan took her turn, then Joyce, then Susan- and we stretched and twisted, and did that darn high low plank thing again: ) and then Susan told her story about heaven and hell. I won’t tell you the story. You will have to come to Power Yoga Buffalo to hear it straight from Susan. I could never do it justice. Next, we moved into our inversions and had a handstand party. Fiannly, it was then time for savasana. Susan played, “I Believe in Everything” from the speakers of her phone. It was perfect. As we said, “Namaste” Jamo (who is not only a yoga teacher, but a dancer and photographer who teaches at the University of Nairobi) said that he loved the song and he would like to give us a gift that we cannot take home in our suitcases.
 Then, Jamo danced.

 We sat holding hands and crying. It was so beautiful and such a lovely gift. I will never forget that moment- Presence– lovely presence. We were all lost in the moment and deeply moved and crying. We all held each other- seriously- it was one big hug with all of us.
 The time for Indian food was next. We headed downstairs to the Indian restaurant. Susan ordered a real-life Indian beer and Nan thought it would be good idea to order a yogurt drink of some kind and a beer. I was worried for her- but she seemed good after dinner : ). We had a wild variety of dishes from spice to more spicy. We all wished we had ordered beers : )
 We are now back at Gracia Gardens. Tomorrow starts at 7:30 AM with yoga and then two outreaches.
 Today I am thankful for all of the people back in Buffalo, Rochester and Boston and their generosity. None of these moments- Mama Fatuma and Jamo’s beautiful dance would ever have happened without you. You are on our minds every day. I also want to thank my Dad and Mom and Jerry’s Mom for their big donations. I love you guys.
 I am also thankful for Presence in my life today, beautiful, embodied presence.

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