Still & Moving Center’s Operations Manager, Neela Vadivel, currently volunteers at the shelter one afternoon a week. The shelter is the only place in Honolulu where women and their children can come directly off of the street. It’s a community shelter, and they strive to be hospitable, safe, and welcoming. Providing respect and support is high on their priority list. The shelter aims to provide individuals and families with short-term stabilization that leads to permanent housing.
After women arrive at the shelter, staff members take care of the next steps: housing placement support, access to healthcare, employment support, case management, daily meals, mail service, laundry facilities and storage space.
This organization provides meals to sheltered and unsheltered homeless three times a day, seven days a week. The donations for food come from churches, private groups, Aloha United Way and Hawaii Foodbank’s Emergency Food Program. The shelter serves up to 300 per seating (or 900 meals a day) at a cost of about $1 per meal.
On the last Thursday of each month, the shelter hosts a food drop and distribution at Honolulu’s Sumner Men’s Shelter. You can bring your canned foods to Sumner Men’s Shelter to help low income community members restock their pantries with produce and canned goods.
The shelter also runs a Kokua Corner – a reclaimed items store, where people are welcome to shop at no cost for clothing, household items, toiletries, etc.
You can always help the shelter directly in 5 ways:
- Donate clothing and household items
- Bring canned foods to share
- Donate your time
- Donate your money
- Participate in Still & Moving Center’s 2020 Deep Joy Challenge.
Please join Still & Moving Center in supporting the precious women of this community and their families.
I really admire people who have highly developed themselves in a multiplicity of directions. Our devoted Feldenkrais student Ann Peters is such a person, as I’ve just had the pleasure to learn.
All that I knew of Ann before interviewing her for this article was that she had persistently attended classes throughout the course of her cancer treatment in early 2017, during which she had lost all her hair. She kindly allowed me to pet her head while it grew back in, soft and curly as baby lamb’s wool! If Ann could pass on one thing to you readers, it is not to despair: cancer is a survivable condition in most cases these days.
I decided to interview Ann recently after she let me know that two of her paintings would be in a November exhibit by the Pastel Artists of Hawaii. From that remark, as well as her photos of the pieces, I understood her to be an accomplished artist. Oh! Magnificence shining through!
As we spoke, I was startled to learn that Ann had begun working on computers at the remarkably early date of 1959. That’s only four years after I was born! I never saw a computer until my late twenties; I remember us getting a fancy typewriter for our wedding in 1979. By 1980, she was already writing and editing a book on an early home computer! She was an advanced techie before there were techies!
Having majored in Mathematics in college, Ann earned her Masters degree in Linguistics. From numbers to words – cool, eh?
What brought Ann to Hawaii? She came to Hawaii in 1966 from Wisconsin with her professor husband and got a part-time job at UH doing computer research. As a psycholinguist studying language acquisition, she used the computer to write programs to create dictionaries for Micronesian languages, many of which were just being given a written format for the first time.
To decipher the way children acquire language requires recording the child’s voice and then an intricate transcription process. Ann’s transcription, like others in her field, demanded approximately 50 hours of work for every one recorded hour. Her willingness and ability to go to this depth of study revealed to me the refined degree of Ann’s expertise in linguistics.
When Ann described her teaching to me, I realized how she had honed her skills as an educator. She made use of Meyers Briggs personality analysis to help her students understand themselves and each other better – not to mention her increased personal understanding! Based on what she learned about her students’ varying personalities, she grouped them together in ways to maximize each others’ strengths when they worked on collective projects. She also learned that she herself tends to be a big picture, intuition person, whereas she needed to also be able to present her topics to students who were more fact and detail-oriented. Sounds to me as if she was also a master teacher.
OK, so we’ve heard about Ann’s number, word, and teaching skills… what about art?!?
Ann only took her first pastel class in 2007, at the Art Academy. She claims not to be much good at line drawing or water colors, but pastels – that’s her thing. “I just love the colors! We get to paint with pure pigment.”
She admires her teacher Helen Iaea for instructing her students in the theory of color, “so that our pictures look balanced, according to the way we apply color”. As Ann explained some of that theory to me, I saw that this was yet another field of expertise that Ann had delved deep into.
By pointing out how her pastel box was arranged, Ann explained to me the concept of color “value”. Value means how intense a color is, and we can best perceive it by looking at a black and white photo of our pastel painting, for example, and seeing where the lights and darks fall, no matter what color they may be. A good painting shows a balance of values, which Ann says is a tricky thing to determine when she is working in COLOR, not black and white.
Another art concept that Ann shared with me is “atmospheric perspective”, which Leonardo De Vinci talked about and worked with so long ago. Ann explained that if you put a light coat of grey over your painting of a mountain, it looks farther away than other things in the painting, because it looks as if there’s a layer of atmosphere between you and the mountain. Ah! Brilliant. Such simple, clear explanations from Anne to me, someone who has no experience in art theory – her teacher side emerges again.
Ann volunteers at the Art Academy as a lending librarian. She informed me that teachers in Hawaii can borrow from the Art Academy any one of about 6,000 art objects from around the world: anything from toys or Christmas ornaments from other cultures, to Hawaiian implements. Ann helps to photograph, catalog, and lend out the objects, to all the islands.
When Ann’s husband died about 5 years ago, Still & Moving Center became one of her little ‘families’, like her art family, her women’s group, and the HPR radio volunteer group.
One of the things Ann and I have in common is the love of interdisciplinary studies – as she shows in developing expertise in so many diverse fields, and I show in the variety of moving meditations we teach at Still & Moving Center.
I love having such a widely-experienced, well-rounded person as part of our Still & Moving Center ohana as Ann Peters.
From an interview with Richard Powers
In teaching interactive social dance at Stanford University, Richard Powers has discovered a commonly shared experience he calls Transcendent Play. It’s a high “flow” state in which partners with a similar skillset interact spontaneously, challenging each other in inventive ways. The result is a a state of delight, being fully present in the moment.
When I asked Richard wether he had been able to carry this Transcendent Play off the dancefloor into the rest of his life, he immediately answered, “Yes, in raising my children! With them, I was able to experience the mindfulness of being in the moment.”
Richard followed the advice of every friend who was already a dad: Don’t miss a minute of it, it’s over so quickly. He vowed to himself when his boys were born to always be there for them, and NEVER say “No, I’m too busy.” He agrees with Lao Tzu that ‘time is an invented thing’, so if he were to say he was too busy for them, he would really be saying, “No, I don’t want to.” Without fail in his sons’ childhood, he always said, “Yes!”
He was careful to never impose his world view on them, and instead looked at their world through their lens. Being empathetic with their mindset, he discovered new ways of playing. He and his boys explored together and created things. They put on plays & productions. They went on outings and played together with other children whose parents were of a like mindset.
Richard’s play with his boys happened in the physical, mental and artistic realms. In their discussions they looked for the bigger picture. Playing with his children was a way of being in the moment, a state of mindfulness, that he has always treasured.
Soooo… when your kids or grandkids want to play with you, take the moment and do it!
Letter from the Director of Still & Moving Center
Something about this year’s Diwali celebration left me soaring. As I write to you, it’s been over a week since we enacted the ancient Ramayana story for Diwali, and I still haven’t landed with a thud. For some unknown reason, I still feel as if I’ve taken wing.
Each year, I forget how much I love our telling/acting the story of Rama. I remember the difficulty of recruiting a cast of characters, and I dread having to twist people’s arms to be in it. I know they are going to have a wonderful time being part of it, but THEY don’t know that.
The process starts with finding our core characters, starting with Ram, the crown prince, and his bride, the peerless princess Sita. Then there’s the demon king, the princess-grabbing Ravana, and the monkey hero Hanuman who can leap over the sea in a single bound. And we need a conniving stepmother for Prince Ram, who can convince his loving father to banish Ram to the forest instead of crowning him king. And a large supporting cast… it’s a tall order.
Our good fortune this year brought to my attention a beautiful young couple in Master Jonah’s qigong class, Clyde Bagaoisan and Charlene Miyahara. Jonah encouraged the two to participate, saying they’d be doing something they’d never forget. Neither of them had ever acted, and I was asking them to take the lead roles. As dutiful students, they took their teacher’s advice and signed on as Prince Ram and Princess Sita, not at all sure or excited about what they were heading into!
Whew! Check marks on the lead prince and princess roles! Next our tai chi chuan teacher Dr. Randy Wong agreed to go from being Ram’s father the good king last year to playing the dastardly demon king this year. In fact, Dr. Wong seemed to relish the idea of playing a bad guy! Something about his mischievous chuckle spurred me to ask one of our yoga students, an ordained priest named Moki Hina, to be part of the demon horde. Moki promptly enrolled his church friend Dixie in the horde. Where there is light, a shadow is always cast, Moki aphorized.
A lot of other characters, however, really were not showing themselves. I had lunch with Malia Helela, our hula teacher and my 9 year collaborator in pulling off this Diwali thing. We puzzled over many names for the parts we still had to fill. What about Ram’s father, King Dasharatha, who has to carry the longest single scene in the play?
We really hit the jackpot less than 60 seconds later when Al Harrington walked through the door… Was I brave or desperate? ‘Nothing ventured, nothing gained,’ I reasoned and popped the question to a famous television actor. “You know, Al, we do a village storytelling every year of a swashbuckling tale from India called the Ramayana. I call it an ‘enactment’ because nobody has to memorize any lines; people just act out the storyline as the narrator tells the story. (Gulp) Would you like to take a part… I mean, if you had time…?”
“I’m very honored you would ask me,” replied Al. “I only hope that I could fulfill the role properly, as you have in mind.” Such a humble man, and so honorable. Definitely fit for a king. Ram’s father in fact.
We already had a priest signed on, how about a minister? The king needed a queen, Prince Ram’s stepmother, to play the role of banishing Ram to the forest. So we asked Katharine Harts, our aerial and MELT teacher, who had recently retired from ministering a church in California, to pretend to lose her moral compass by playing Queen Kaikeyi. Like Al, she’s spent tons of time in front of large audiences. I didn’t tell her she’d be playing opposite a TV star, yet she rose – or rather, fell – to the challenge!
Jennifer Milholen, a dedicated, skilled performer in our Ramayana several times before, came as a natural choice for the noble Hanuman. One after another, all three members of the Jones family tumbled into our cast, with their little boy Kent making a perfect young Ram, his dad playing Princess Sita’s loving father, and his mom Eriko (Still & Moving’s Japanese translator) as a magician/deer.
My faithful assistant director Doris Morisaki and I were worrying over our last big hole in the cast, Ram’s brother Prince Lakshman, when a handsome young man entered our lobby, waiting for his mom to finish class. Aha! Like two sea birds intent on a fish below, we dropped in on the unsuspecting Senri Yoshida… and he liked the idea! We had our grown up Lakshman. Ashton Lee soon appeared for the role of young Lakshman, and thus our core cast was formed!
Mary Lowman, our flexibility teacher, newly graduated from professional stunt school, agreed to choreograph the beginning battle scene, for which three other brave souls – Michele Sugihara, Brad and Shar Bliss – all enthusiastically played demons and monkey soldiers. Four teachers, Kara Miller, David Sanders, Paula Celzo (last year’s Sita!) and Malia graciously took on the role of sages and yogis.
As our rehearsals progressed, I was thrilled to work with so much talent. I told the Ramayana story to Al Harrington at our first practice, and he listened with eyes closed, his face reflecting a myriad of emotions as he imagined his eldest son being ripped away from him by his youngest wife. When we acted out the scene, he broke down completely – as King Dasaratha does in the story. Katharine as Queen Kaikeyi was devilishly convincing in her cunning. On stage, their scene crackled with electricity – both in rehearsal and performance.
Dr. Wong’s research on his character, the demon king Ravana, taught me a couple things about him I had never learned in 40 years of studying the Ramayana – you can see the arrow striking his NAVEL instead of his heart! Nor have we ever had an actor go to such lengths to create a costume. Dr. Wong crafted a 10-headed demon out of melted water bottles and a hammer-head shark mask, in addition to making 10 arms for himself out of pool “noodles” wearing surgical gloves. Fantastic. Not to mention his laying out the final battle scene using tai chi moves, providing us with a percussion collection for creating sound effects.
The audience loved the walking sun and moon signs that Dr. Wong dreamed up and that Dr. Mark Morisaki, another gifted surgeon-turned-artist, crafted, in addition to a splendid new crown. Good things kept unfolding, and I started to remember that directing plays is one of my very favorite things to do.
Even more light than usual was dazzling out of the building by the time we arrived at performance day. Although we never managed to get everyone together before the show itself, almost 60 performers ultimately came to the stage! Between the acting cast, the dancers and keiki aerialists, the ages ranged from 4 to 84. Malia’s three kids, Ilana, Wai’ea and Kai’ehu (the twins with more Ramayana performances under their belts than than anyone other than Malia and I) gave up many precious free-from-school weekend hours to provide our DJ’ing, sound effects and slideshow.
Dozens of other staff members, students, teachers and family members added to the magic of Diwali. Stage-adverse Rosa Harrington filled in many roles during rehearsals. Eva Geueke was finally able to join us for a lovely Sita lament dance. Emily Carr-Hunt and her husband David live-streamed our performance on Facebook for the first time! Shilpa Rathi, whose little girl was our youngest aerialist, provided clothing for our young princess from her store, Island HOLI.
I can’t tell you all the sparkling moments that delighted me, but here are a few.
Laurel Pikunas – playing the part of the demon princess who unsuccessfully tries to seduce both Prince Ram and Prince Lakshman – thoroughly succeeded in charming her audience with her tippy-toe travels between one brother to the next, hips swinging and eyelashes batting. Afterwards, she gave full credit for her talented acting to our belly dance teacher Murat, who has taught her to be comfortable in her body, expressing herself.
Before the show, I had talked to new student Glady Lopez, only to discover that in her entire life, she had never performed, and she had only taken four belly dance classes from Samantha Giridhar. Yet once Gladys debuted on stage in a duet with her talented teacher, she was perfectly lovely!
Lakshman’s aikido-like tumbles and hip-hop spins.
Miss Willow Chang’s Bollywood brilliant choreography featured her long-standing, polished dancers in front with her, then opened up to form a corridor for each of her beautifully costumed performers to dance through, two at a time, toward the audience. She honored each student, from the least to the most experienced dancer, with a moment in the limelight. And they all shone. I loved the joyous exuberance of her sole male dancer, Michael Dunn.
The keiki aerialists hit such great lines in the air after only 5 weeks training with Katharine Harts, I can’t wait to see how their talents will unfold at Merry & Bright in December!
I had never seen our Japanese translator’s fun-filled side until Eriko mysteriously wrapped herself in her magician’s cape to connive with the demon king, and then transformed herself into a heart-winning deer prancing before our very eyes.
Doris carried the narration so beautifully and dramatically, I knew I had made the right decision in forsaking that role myself to be free to direct. Her voice seemed to be spilling right out of the mouths of some of the characters.
Jen so earnestly played Hanuman, it seemed as if she almost COULD fly across the sea to find Princess Sita, if will power alone were enough to defy gravity.
Zeny Ogriseg’s singing and chanting in Sanskrit, self-accompanied on the harmonium served to meld the entire performance together with a very sacred feeling, as did the sages and yogis performing their devotions. Our monkeys and demons provided comic relief.
First timers to the stage as they were, Ram and Sita easily portrayed their affection for each other, feeling that way in real life. Clyde, as a military man, carried himself with the natural dignity and honor befitting a prince. Regal in battle. Charlene slipped into the role of a beautiful and beleaguered princess as if she’d spent her whole life grooming for it, allowing her imagination to take her wherever the storyline led: torn from her husband by a demon, confined and alone until Ram managed to find and rescue her. Sita’s grace under pressure astonished me. Charlene had simply turned into Sita.
Charlene told me afterwards that she had never felt so much collective love directed at her as when all Malia’s hula ladies surrounded her and and Clyde for their wedding dance. And the audience cheered with authentic joy as Ram and Sita finally made it back to Ayodhya to be crowned king and queen. Everyone joined in, “Jai Sita! Jai Ram!” We had created an undeniable feeling of community.
View our full 2019 Diwali program with all cast and crew here.
Several of the actors didn’t even want to go home after Diwali. They wanted to keep floating, and I’m still flying high! Want to guess what Clyde’s last name, Bagaoisan, translates to in the Philippines? “To grow wings”. Of course. Our lead actor’s name means to grow wings… to soar!
Dancing in Joy and resting in stillness with you,
And you, dear reader?
Just hit reply – I always love hearing from you.
We gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which we really stop to look fear squarely in the eye. Then we can say, ‘If I could live through this, I can take the next thing that comes along.’ When we do the thing we think we cannot do, we broaden our perspective of what’s possible. In overcoming adversity and fear, we become more resilient.
In When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chödrön, a young warrior asks Fear itself how it can be defeated. Fear answers: “My weapons are that I talk fast, and I get very close to your face. Then you get completely unnerved, and you do whatever I say. If you don’t do what I tell you, I have no power. You can listen to me, and you can have respect for me. You can even be convinced by me. But if you don’t do what I say, I have no power.”
So it’s OK to experience fear, we just don’t have to let it bully us! We don’t have to be stopped by it.
An inherent challenge lies in this concept of overriding fear: when to allow fear to change my path, and when to ignore it.
When faced with this quandary, we can ask ourselves, ‘What’s in my best long-term interest?” So instead of following a blanket statement, we consciously pick our battles. Do we need to overcome our fear of getting dengue fever by exposing ourselves to it? Obviously not.
A couple tools to help us deal with fear:
- Imagine the worst-case scenario
Ask yourself, “What’s the worst that can happen?” Think through the outcome that makes you most afraid, so that you can then consider how you would deal with it were it to happen. If you can think through the worst that can happen, and live with that, there’s no need to refrain from going forward. Fear doesn’t ever really go away, nor should it. If you cannot successfully imagine your way through the worst-case scenario, that’s probably not a course of action you should take.
Psychologist Amy Bucher writes: “Just as there seems to be an optimal level of stress for growth and learning, a certain amount of fear can lead to high performance. Fear signals there’s something of consequence on the line, a reason to exert effort.”
2. Make one tiny step, regularly – maybe daily!
Systematically exposing ourselves to the things that scare us propels us forward. If we approach threatening situations with assurance that we can exercise control over ourselves within that context, they seem less scary. We self-empower.
“Exposure is hands down the most successful way to deal with phobias, anxiety disorders, and everyday fears of any sort. Repeatedly exposing ourselves to the thing we’re afraid of, ideally in a positive way, gradually brings down the physiological fear response until it’s gone, or at least manageable,” says neuroscientist Philippe Goldin.
Where Color Meets the Aloha Spirit by Shilpa Rathi
For a one-of-a-kind colorful shopping experience, stop by Island HOLI in the International Market Place of Waikiki. You will step into a different world – uniquely fusing contemporary and ancient aesthetics. Experience handmade all-natural fashion, home decor and accessories inspired by both the Aloha spirit and the world-renowned Indian color festival Holi. You’re quite likely to meet the creative entrepreneur who designs almost everything that they offer: Shilpa Rathi.
Shilpa grew up in India, where both her father her grandfather ran textile businesses. She shares, “As a child, I would play Hide & Seek in my father’s textile mill. One of my favorite hiding spots was ducking under a large pile of colorful dyed yarn. Waiting to be found, I would get lost in the richness of the various colors of hand-dyed yarn. As I grew older, these colors stayed with me.” Those vivid colors are now a major part of the inspiration behind Island HOLI.
She also recalls running outside through the sticks of brightly dyed thread drying in the sun, and hearing the sound of the weavers’ hand drills, click-clack, click-clack. She wove these memories into the fabric of who she is in this lifetime.
Still in high school, Shilpa designed interiors for her father’s and grandfather’s homes – with no formal training. Age twenty is a vulnerable time for a young woman in India, a time when the family generally decides to marry them off. Partly to escape that fate, and partly glimpsing a bigger dream she needed to follow, Shilpa convinced her father to let her leave their small town to study design in college. Indeed, she earned a design degree in Mumbai.
From there, she persuaded her family to allow her to go to the US for a Master’s degree in design, still thinking she was just escaping an arranged marriage, and not realizing she was manifesting a larger destiny. At the University of San Francisco, Shilpa was the first person in the Academy of Art and Design who wanted a Master’s in set and studio production design. So she had the school create a custom course… just for her!
Once she got to LA she was wearing natural fabrics, but working pro bono with someone else’s vision of textiles or studio production. She just couldn’t see herself developing in this context. By now, Shilpa clearly visioned what she needed to be doing.
Back in the 8th grade, Shilpa had written an essay about wanting to be a business woman. She added “wo” in the middle of “business man”. She was the only girl in her school to speak of owning her own business. This youthful vision was about to become a reality.
Shilpa knows the risk of being in business for yourself: the losses and gains are all your own, yet you get to be free and do what you believe in. She has, in fact, seen several artisan families in India lose their businesses, and mourned the loss of their artistic legacy to the world. She could see that people in the US would have huge appreciation for these hand arts if she could only connect the creators with the potential buyers.
In San Francisco, she had made friends at the University with a student named John. Now her life partner and business partner, John accompanied Shilpa to all the artisanal places in India where she had connections with artisans doing beautiful textile work by hand. Sweating in his polyester shirt in the Indian heat, John asked the artisans to design something for men in a natural fabric that he could wear comfortably. Over the course of their trip, John, too, got hooked on Shilpa’s dream of keeping these small artisans’ skills alive.
Shilpa and John returned to San Francisco, still students, and opened a small design studio there, to a warm reception. However rents were phenomenal in San Francisco, so they set off on a tour of the mainland to find a place with a decent life-style where they could make a living and raise a family, doing what they loved.
They landed in Austin, a place with lots of culture, and opened their first retail store. Once again, people raved over it, but the effort drained all the money from their small savings, and the three of them (including new baby Sienna) got terrible allergies. They were all set to reopen their store in Carmel on the coast of California when the their rental agent let the deal fell through the evening before they were supposed to move in.
“What does she think we’re supposed to do?” fumed Shilpa. “Drive to California and go where? Drive into the ocean and what, go to Hawaii?!? Wait now…. Can we do that, honey?”
Asking that question aloud activated something in her. Again, Shilpa’s life dream took charge. As John slept that night, Shilpa wrote him a note: “Dear, when you wake up in 3 hours, I will be gone. Take good care of the baby. I’ll be back in three days.” And she
took Uber to the airport and boarded a plane for Hawaii.
Island HOLI was born from that trip. Shilpa, John and Sienna moved to Honolulu, and found retail space in the newly renovated International Market Place. It was a huge and scary endeavor. The stakes were high. Plan B was looking for shelters to live in. Shilpa’s mother-in-law wouldn’t speak to her for months. And Shilpa is now so glad they have Island HOLI, she has forgiven their Carmel rental agent!
The store that they have created is breath-taking. Truly beautiful in its aesthetic quality. Filled with color-drenched, handmade clothing and household textiles, spreads for the bed and floor. On Island HOLI’s opening day in 2018, people couldn’t stop themselves from coming into the store… and it’s been the same every day since then!
Shilpa says, “We believe in what we do: providing work to artisans whose families have developed these skills and products over generations, keeping their arts alive. We just needed the right outlet for their art.”
Thanks to Island HOLI, a couple artisanal groups in India are now thriving; others are beginning to turn around. All they’ve done their whole lives has been hand sewing or weaving – how could they go from that to working in a department store or a big factory and still find fulfilment in their lives? Shilpa wonders. Their plight and also their joy in life inspires her work here.
Shilpa and John work hard. They keep the store open 12 hours a day, seven days a week, going on 15 months now, largely on their own. Shilpa figures it’s doing good in the world in three ways: giving the locals and visitors to Honolulu gorgeous, handmade products for their homes and closets; keeping traditional arts and artisans in alive in India; and providing Shilpa’s family a worthwhile livelihood.
And perhaps the dream is getting passed down to their four-year-old daughter Sienna, whose every drawing is about color and textiles, a study in contrast and lighting.
I’m personally delighted that we have such a place on island! Cliff and I recently brightened up our bedroom with a bedcover from Island HOLI made of vintage cotton saris, entirely stitched by hand. The craftsmanship is remarkable. At Shilpa’s suggestion, we topped the bed with a large patchwork scarf of silk in glad colors that sing of their colorful places of origin in India. Cliff couldn’t resist getting a large hand made bean bag that Shilpa had designed for their little girl. Sure enough, the next time our two-year-old grandson came to visit, he took a running leap and did his “cannonball” landing right into the colorful bean bag. Perfect!
International Market Place
2330 Kalakaua Ave
Honolulu, HI 96815
10am – 10pm Every Day
Eriko believes in connections. She sees that her love for meeting people has led her along the life path she is meant to go on. Besides connecting people with animals, and she connects people of one culture with people of another culture.
Eriko trusts her intuition and the connections she makes. One day while still in high school in Yokohama, Japan, she saw a TV show about dolphins and killer whales. An animal lover and a good swimmer, she determined that becoming a dolphin trainer was the perfect job for her. So she set off for college in San Diego, California, home to SeaWorld.
While at college studying biology, Eriko lived with an American family for two years, a foundational time for her to connect with this culture. Attending the International Aquarium Conference, she met the president of the Long Beach aquarium who introduced her to important people at SeaWorld. Even though her goal was to train sea mammals, Eriko’s interpreting career started before she graduated from college when Sea World needed a Japanese translator.
In her 5 years at SeaWorld, she went from interpreting to working with vultures and owls, then assisted in rescuing seals and sea lions. Eventually she graduated to her dream – training dolphins, which she did for 3 ½ years. Eriko especially enjoyed working with her fellow trainers, passionate animal lovers like her. In a competitive situation, they welcomed her warmly, even though she was from another country. She made strong connections at SeaWorld, on both the human and animal sides.
Eriko feels happy for the dolphins – they lead a joyful life with restaurant-quality fish that Eriko herself would gladly take home and eat! Most of them were born at Sea World – the trainers and other dolphins are their family. They love their trainers, the attention they get and the learning they do.
Eriko reports that dolphins are curious, smart and cute and have the intelligence and playfulness of 3 year old kids, with a similar attention span. Their training needs to be fun and energetic, so they don’t get bored. A good dolphin trainer needs to be consistent and give clear messages. This unique skill set helped prepare Eriko for her next life change.
She left SeaWorld when the Navy gave her husband a sendoff from San Diego. She was ready to have children and excited to move to Hawaii! She and Jeff eventually gave birth to little Ken, now an adorable, precocious 6-year-old with a big vocabulary. Eriko is an exceptional mom, partly because of what she learned connecting with the playful dolphins!
Part of Eriko’s attraction to Hawaii stemmed from her interest in learning hula. Here again, she followed her connections. Her mom’s English teacher introduced Eriko to a non-profit Japanese hula group called ISEC, who needed a translator for their students of Kumu Malia Helela. Eriko has been translating for Malia ever since, both in Japan and, mostly, here in Hawaii. After a couple years, Malia began working at Still & Moving Center, and Eriko then made a new point of connection… with us!
To bridge the gap between Japanese students and Americans, Eriko has needed one foot in each of the two cultures. People from Japan, she notes, tend to be reserved, and they rarely share openly or soon after meeting someone. Eriko has preserved the Japanese qualities of being respectful and humble, highly honorable, and kind to others – putting others in front of oneself.
Eriko’s evolution towards openness began with her college home-stay with an American mother who had spent the first 20 years of her life in Africa, and a father from Croatia. Eriko watched this cross-cultural connection at work in the way the couple parented their five kids, ages 3-14 years in an American context. She benefited from the emphasis on self-confidence and speaking up. It still took her 16 years to feel confident publicly speaking English. Being married to an American and raising a bi-lingual little boy has no doubt helped her assimilation process. Look at her now on the microphone at Center Stage in Ala Moana shopping center presenting a group of hula dancers from Japan!
Around Eriko, the Japanese hula students become very comfortable and trusting; they enter the fast track to opening themselves up. Having opened herself up, she’s emotionally sensitive to others, so she knows how to convey feelings. Her translating comes from the heart, not just word by word.
She also holds a strong bond with and understanding of kumu Malia. When Eriko explains what Malia has said in English, her students often weep, they are so touched. Students are grateful to Eriko for being an ambassador to Malia, and they often also ask her counsel before communicating with their kumu. She’s the cushion in between the Japanese students and their teacher.
Her cross-cultural roots make Eriko particularly valuable as an interpreter. Eriko especially appreciates the spiritual aspect of hula and Hawaiian culture. She finds many similarities between Hawaiian and Japanese cultures through the shared appreciation with nature. In translating for Malia for the last decade, she’s gained an authentic insight into Hawaii. She finds Malia’s most important lessons to be humbleness, respectfulness and GRATITUDE! She watches Malia hold a circle of gratitude before the start of every class she teaches.
People lead such busy lives, both in Japan and USA, they often forget to appreciate others and nature. The essence of Hawaiian aloha, as conveyed by Mālia, is to constantly express gratitude for worlds of nature and of the people around us. Eriko now forms a bridge between three cultures: Japanese, American and Hawaiian.
This year, Eriko has taken a more active role in Still & Moving Center’s outreach to the Japanese people living both here and in Japan. She’s translated much of our website, and interprets when we have visiting groups from Japan. Together with Katharine Harts, Eriko is spearheading an AIReal Yoga class translated into Japanese. She can see, as I did not, how beneficial and appreciated our many services can be to people from Japan – serving as the connector!
Eriko recently became a role model. The daughter of one of Malia’s Japanese students came to Honolulu to study with Malia, holding the intention to become a kumu hula. By the time she left, however, she’d changed her goal: now she wants to become an interpreter, like Eriko!
Eriko never knew she could be a fashion model until we asked her to be in a photo shoot for our new Queen of Hearts clothing line last month. And she never knew she could act until she took part in our Ramayana enactment last week. As I have found out, this lady is full of fun and surprises, and always ready for life’s next adventure that will open new doors to the next rainbow bridge.
Today is Mahatma Gandhi’s 150 birthday, born October 2, 1869 in India.
“Generations to come will scarce believe that such a one as this ever in flesh and blood walked upon this earth.” – Albert Einstein upon Mohandas K. Gandhi’s death
My first memory of Gandhi’s name was my mom saying that the only person in the world she had ever heard of who acted without selfish motives was Gandhi. The rest of us do good things because it makes us feel better about ourselves, whereas Gandhi led India to free itself of British rule with no bloodshed, at great personal risk and with no personal gain, truly for the sake of others.
Mom went on to tell me that Gandhi’s commitment to living non-violently extended to following a strict vegetarian diet. “I’d be a vegetarian, too,” she said regretfully, “if I didn’t like meat so much” – a statement that has given me much amusement over the years when I remember it!
What did my mom see in Gandhi? A tiny little brown man committed to non-violence taking on the entire great, white British Empire to free his subjugated country: India. It was a David and Goliath story, writ large, in which David refused to even use a sling-shot in the fight. Freeing India from English rule sounded like an outlandishly impossible task. At that time so many colonies in so many time zones around the world were under Great Britains’ control, it was said that “the sun never set on the British Empire”. And India with all of its riches was considered the “Crown Jewel” of that empire. How would they ever let go of it?
And yet, by the time I heard of Gandhi as a child, he had already led his people in a non-violent revolution against the Brits, in which he won their admiration for his and his people’s willingness to sacrifice their own lives without lifting a gun or sword against the English in order to earn the dignity of self-rule. In fact, the British eventually capitulated to Gandhi’s peace-filled demands and granted India independence. In the “fight” for self-governance, Gandhi had been jailed for years, fasted almost to death numerous times in protest of violence by either the British or his own people, had refused to accept any political title for himself or any financial benefit, and had been assassinated by a fellow Hindu for being too lenient with the Muslims. My child heart exalted to hear of this hero, Mahatma (Great Soul) Gandhi.
As I grew up in a godless, scientifically-oriented American household with belief in no organized religion, no personal saviors and no saints, I think our family’s commitment to social justice and a humanitarian life served as our only moral compass. How was I to conduct my life? Look to Gandhi. Gandhi’s example loomed large as a bright light on the horizon of possibilities for a meaningful, purposeful life. He selflessly worked for the poor, for the down-trodden and worked without violence, without hatred. So we marched in peace marches against the Viet Nam War, sang “Kumbaya” with Joan Baez and Pete Seager at war protest peace-ins, and sang “We Shall Overcome” in solidarity with the Civil Rights movement here in the US.
I got reintroduced to Gandhi more formally at UC Santa Barbara when I attended a course with accompanying text book called The Moral and Political Thought of Mahatma Gandhi by Professor Raghavan Iyer. Here I looked into the Gandhi’s adherence to truth and non-violence in his uncompromising approach to personal and public life.
My boyfriend at the time (now husband) Cliff, and our two best friends became vegetarians after studying Gandhi’s life in that same class. Being a huge meateater (must run in the family!) I protested vehemently over the loss of our dates to the steakhouse. However, I did read Gandhi’s views on the subject, as well as others’. One morning at breakfast in the dorm commons – about 43 years ago – I looked at the piece of bacon in my hand, had the strong realization “I don’t really need this,” and put the bacon back down on my plate. That was it. I haven’t touched meat since then – thank you Gandhi, thank you Mom!
My heart was also touched by the book Gandhi the Man, by Eknath Eashwaran, who provides photographs and a simple story line of Gandhi’s transformation from a cowardly child terrified of ghosts, robbers and snakes, to a fearless world reformer. In one instance, Gandhi calms hundreds of people at an outdoor prayer meeting at his ashram when a cobra slithers out of the jungle. Gandhi silently puts up his hand to gesture the whole audience to keep still and not break into a frantic stampede, while the cobra climbs up across Gandhi’s peaceful lap, and slithers back into the jungle. Wow! What a hero!
By the time I graduated from university and was teaching middle school, the superb film “Gandhi”, starring Ben Kingsley came into the theaters. I had the privilege of meeting Ben Kingsley as a guest artist in my Shakespeare classes at UCSB, and I saw first hand how much integrity he had as an actor. Being half British and half Indian from the same area of Gujarat, India and same social caste that Gandhi came from, Kingsley was the perfect cast. The biographical film – wonderful in its own right – made an even greater impact on me, watching someone I had personally met so convincingly pour himself into the life and figure of this great man. Such a person as Gandhi can transform us.
When our elder son Shankar was deliberating on entering military service, I remembered how Gandhi thought it was more important to be brave and a warrior than to be fearful and a coward. So I told Shankar that even as Gandhians, his dad and I would support him if he looked deep into his heart and found that his life purpose was to go into the military. I also told him that I really was not afraid of him dying in battle, as he would die nobly in his life’s mission, but I WAS afraid of the effect on his loving heart of him taking someone else’s life. Shankar decided to do battle with fires rather than with people, and has found his life calling as a firefighter. I think Gandhi would be most pleased.
While in college, our daughter Sandhya interned at a Gandhian non-profit organization called GRAVIS in the Thar desert of Rajasthan, India. Upon her return she wanted to share the Gandhian ideas with others. She invited Shashiji Tiagi to come to Santa Barbara, where the Institute of World Culture helped us sponsor a week long retreat on Gandhi & Sustainability for students, elders and adults in between.
We delved deep into Gandhi’s core concepts of Satyagraha (holding to Truth), Ahimsa (non-violence), Swaraj (self-rule), Swadeshi (community service) and aparigraha (non-possession). And we explored how we could live more lightly on this Earth using Gandhi’s principles for living.
Since that time, I’ve made close friends with Gandhian scholar Veena Howard, who has spoken at Still & Moving Center about how Gandhi’s austere code of living is relevant in our daily lives today. She’s putting on a big Gandhi celebration at Fresno State University this weekend – which I am only not attending so that I can attend our local Gandhi celebration this Saturday at the Waikiki Shell. I am so glad to have met Raj Kumar here in Honolulu, who continues to honor Gandhi’s legacy as a person of peace.
I can’t quite imagine the direction of my life without Gandhi’s influence. His shining example is a huge star in my guiding constellation of heroes and heroines.
Dancing in Joy and resting in stillness with you,
And you, dear reader?
Just hit reply – I always love hearing from you.
By Marta Czajkowska
“You may have occasion to possess or use material things, but the secret of life lies in never missing them.” ~ Gandhi
A watch, spectacles, sandals, a copy of the Bhagavad Gita and eating bowl – are about all the earthly possessions Gandhi left behind. Wow.
Born into a prosperous family, Gandhi grew up privileged, obtaining a prestigious education in England: Law at University College in London. He did not follow the path of many other british lawyers. He eventually took a vow of poverty, much like Saint Francis, with the concept of aparigraha, non-possession.
Through the course of his life he managed to let go of material trappings. He gave away or auctioned any gift that was ever given to him. Imagine cutting your possessions down to bare basics. Recycle, give things away, or auction them. Free yourself from stuff, and save a lot of time and energy by not looking after your possessions.
Gandhi followed a strict vegetarian diet and frequently cooked his own local simple food. He used a small bowl – which reminded him to eat moderately. Put your attention on enjoying the meal by eating mindfully, rather than spending big bills in fancy restaurants.
To a meeting with the King of Great Britain Gandhi wore his simple cloth. Asked by a journalist “Mr Gandhi, did you feel under-dressed when you met the King?” he replied “The King was wearing enough clothes for both of us!”
You can simplify your life, closet and spending by owning a few clothing items that are functional, comfortable and simple.
Gandhi meditated daily and spent hours in reflection and prayer. Though he was a world leader, he continued to lead a simple life with few distractions and commitments. He was known to interrupt his political meetings to go off and play with children.
By reducing his involvement possessions and need for money, Gandhi was able to totally focus on his commitment to his people and the world, to live his higher purpose. Prolific writer and powerful speaker, in private Gandhi spoke very quietly and only when necessary. His writing is punchy and concise. He preferred that his life do the talking for him.
“If one has wealth, it does not mean that it should be thrown away and wife and children should be turned out of doors. It simply means that one must give up attachment of these things!” ~ Gandhi
By living a simpler life today – you will release a lot of time, money and energy. In this free space you can create the life you really want to live.
Yeah but all this is not realistic today… is it?
I’d like to volunteer to be an example of this: I live in my van. I have a bed, sink fridge and storage in it. I own a computer and phone, have 5 pairs of pants and a couple nicer outfits put away. I have 2 towels. My camera gear, my climbing gear, a bike. Solar panel setup, and a battery to store my energy. Every item has its place. I have a 2 burner gas stove and a pot and a pan. I own 8 plates, 4 cups and some forks and spoons. I shop at thrift stores if I need to replace any of those things. To get this level of simplicity, I organized a clothing swap and auctioned off my unwanted camera and clothing. I also give a lot back to the thrift stores. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a clothing item out there in the world that I bought a thrift store, then donated to another thrift store in my travels, and now is being happily worn by someone else!
I am obviously far from Gandhi’s minimalism, yet I never give up trying!!!
Born in India, Raj moved to the US in 1989. Raj has served as a counsellor, a yoga and health teacher, in the public sector, as an author, and as a peace activist. His life tells a tale of self-discovery and deliberate self-crafting.
Terri Hefner writes, “Kumar, who has a Ph.D in clinical psychology and is the author of a number of books, had a life changing experience in 1998 when he underwent open heart surgery. ‘I went from materialism to spiritualism,’ he admits.”
Since his personal health odyssey, reports Paula Rath, “Raj Kumar lives in a world somewhere between Western and Eastern forms of medicine. Trained in the Western way of clinical psychology, Kumar, who holds a doctorate, is working his way back to his Eastern roots in India.” Raj has taught yoga and other mindful health practices for body, mind and soul.
“’I believe that spirituality is beyond psychology and religion in our life,’ Kumar said. Since a personal health crisis… in 1998, Kumar finds himself increasingly mindful of the 4,000-year old practice of Ayurveda, which employs yoga, nutrition, exercise, meditation, massage, herbal tonics and sweat baths,” according to Rath.
The 9/11 terrorist attack on the Twin Towers in New York City in 2001 served as a strong signal to Raj that something was out of balance in the world. That day, he vowed to himself to do something to promote global peace: he planted the seed which eventually grew into the Gandhi International Institute for Peace. On the next day, September 12, Raj organized a spiritual gathering for peace at Kapi Hale in Honolulu.
When a hate-driven carnage happened at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, Raj spoke out here in Honolulu: “There needs to be more love, tolerance, patience and understanding if we are going to live together in peace… Intolerance is less of a problem in Hawaii because we live in a diverse community,” Kumar said. “This is one of the best places to live on earth, but on the mainland there are still a lot of problems. We need more education so that there is better understanding of other people and other religions.”
In 2006, Raj instituted the first celebration of Gandhi’s October 2nd birthday under the Gandhi statue in Kapiolani Park.
“ Violence has happened for centuries. In those days we did not have the technology and media to expose it,” stated Raj. “ I believe we should respect all people who are practicing any faith – we should not discriminate – we should not punish them. Anybody should have the right to live the life they want to, the God they believe in… No religion is superior to others.”
Gandhi International Institute for Peace – GIIP
Gandhi International Institute for Peace that Raj first envisioned in 2001 has been raising awareness about nonviolence among youth, and promoting peace in the community. The institute annually celebrates Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday, October 2, which in 2007 was declared the “International Day of Nonviolence” by the United Nations. The Gandhi Institute’s first official celebration of the day in 2007, consisted of a peace walk from Ala Moana Park to Kapiolani Park in Waikiki. Hundreds of people, including students from various universities, and members of 20 organizations, participated in this walk.
GIIP is a non-profit and its Board of Directors consists of a variety of professionals, including social and spiritual leaders, peacemakers, doctors, psychologist, social worker, teacher, engineer and several musicians. The Board has built bridges, and developed relationships among various local businesses, colleges and universities, churches, and non-profit organizations.
Speaking of our human legacy, Raj said in 2012, “Children are the future of the nation and the leaders of tomorrow. We need to instill the seeds of love, compassion, humility, kindness, patience, calmness and tolerance in our children and teach them to follow eternal laws and principles of life. We also need to encourage them to live in harmony with others, become a global citizen and create a better and safer place to live in. Gandhi said, ‘Be a change, if you wish to see a change in the world.” When we change, the world changes.”
In April 2013, Dr. Arun Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, visited Hawaii, and shared teachings of Gandhi with teachers, students, political leaders, social leaders and interfaith leaders.
In January 2015, State Senators, Suzanne Chun Oakland and Brian Taniguchi in the Hawaii Legislature, Senate introduced Bill 332, which was passed unanimously by the Senate and House and signed into law by Hon. Gov. David Y. Ige on April 10, 2015. This wish-come-true of Raj Kumar’s made Hawaii the first State to proclaim October 2, as “Mahatma Gandhi Day”.
Hawaii – Goa as Sister States
Recognizing India as Gandhi’s birthplace, Raj believed that ahimsa (non-violence) that Gandhi stood for hearkens closely to the Hawaiian concept of aloha. To further this connection, Raj championed a Sister State connection between Hawaii of USA and Goa of India.
Per Terri Hefner, “In 2016, the state Legislature passed a resolution to establish a sister-state relationship with Goa, India, and Kumar was tapped as a liaison to promote education, cultural exchange programs, international faith and peace conferences and spiritual pilgrimages between the two countries.”
The State of Hawaii and Goa, India, signed an agreement Sept. 28 2018 to enter into a sister-state relationship. Dr. Raj Kumar is a president of the Hawaii chapter of Indian-America Friendship Council, he played a vital role in making the state sisterhood become a reality.
“This historic agreement represents a mutual commitment to begin a fruitful relationship that will promote the economic, educational and cultural development of two great states. This affiliation will unite the people of Goa and Hawaii,” Raj stated.
The agreement will promote trade, tourism, information technology; and exchange of health and wellness, agriculture, culinary art, education and cultural programs between private sector organizations and universities of both states.
“The U.S.-India partnership is an important one, and the Hawaii-Goa relationship will help strengthen this bond. We welcome people from Goa to invest in Hawaii’s economy, and share their traditional and cultural values with us,” said Governor David Y. Ige.
International Yoga Day
Thanks to the efforts of Raj Kumar and the Gandhi International Institute for Peace, the Hawaii Legislature formally recognized International Yoga Day on June 21st of 2019 and into the future. Hawaii now stands as a beacon of health and mindfulness, being the first state in the nation to do so. Through this initiative, Raj sought to honor both this historic achievement in Hawaii and the practice of yoga itself. The first official celebration of International Yoga Day in Hawaii took place at Still & Moving Center
Anger and Nonviolence Book
We look forward to Dr. Raj Kumar releasing a new book, called Anger and Nonviolence, in October 2020.
GIIP Mission Statement
Modern Science has taught us to reach the moon but we have not learned to live with our fellowmen in peace in the society. For centuries, millions have died in the clash of cultures due to misuse of ego, lack of self-control, ideological differences, war, civil riots, domestic violence, school violence, workplace violence and social crimes as people were not able to resolve interpersonal conflicts leading to violence, destruction and loss of lives.
The idea of establishing an institute for peace is to stress the need for non-violence, tolerance, full respect for human rights and fundamental freedom for all, democracy development, mutual understanding and respect for diversity as reinforcement for peace and growth of mankind.
The true vision of the institute is to provide peace education to children, remove conflicts and hatred among individuals, raise awareness to use humane and non-violent approach with others, provide moral, emotional, behavioral, educational support, and spiritual guidance to unite people from different cultures, faiths, organizations and countries to promote peace on earth. The institute can serve as a significant contributor providing leadership to diffuse crisis, create understanding, and provide options/solutions through active and attentive listening and impartial mediation, and establishing agreement, peace and harmony in the living and work environment in the world.