By Krista Hiser, Nia Black Belt, first degree

My first encounter with Debbie Rosas left me sweating and crying afterwards: “I just feel so happy!” Although I had already discovered Nia and taken a Nia White Belt training, I had never danced with ‘the source’ of Nia, the co-founders Debbie Rosas and Carlos Rosas. My experience with the two of them at a fitness conference in La Jolla, California moved me powerfully.

Now I know that my felt sensation went beyond happiness to what Nia calls Joy. Now I know that I relate to Debbie as I relate to Joy, with a deep, always present connection. That first day, Debbie was a “star” to me, but now she is the light of that star, someone I can always access in my mind. In other words, she is a wisdom teacher.

Debbie terrified me the second time I met her, in my Blue Belt Training at Nia headquarters in Portland. She wasn’t even leading the training, but she click-clacked into the room in black thigh high stiletto boots, a tiny Starbucks cup perched in her palm. She no doubt taught something, but I only recall being scared of her.

Now I know that my response was attraction, not terror. Being around someone with a very powerful vibration can cause me confusion. I’ve since learned that Debbie’s vibration comes from years of consistent dedication and work, from practice. Debbie lives Nia; she literally embodies her work. Her practice results in tremendous personal power that emanates from her continually.

I have since experienced many different emotions in Debbie’s presence: in large intensive trainings (my Black Belt and First Degree Black Belt), at round dinner tables and online webinars, in phone calls, on Nia TV, and taking many, many Nia classes from her.

At some point, as a professor of writing, I took courage into my hands and summoned the nerve to offer to edit one of the Nia manuals Debbie had written. Her warm response has since given me the unique privilege of assisting Debbie with some of her stunning work, including Nia training manuals, a memoir, and The Awakening Project.

I once spent an incredible week working with Debbie in her hotel room. She sat on one sofa, I sat on another. She talked and told stories, and I typed. I listened to her stories and did my best to shape them into narrative. I visualized each story that she told as being in its own bowl. Crystal bowls, brass bowls, wooden bowls, finger bowls, salad bowls. So many stories spill out of this woman!

Her early childhood stories of intuition and compassion especially stand out to me. Debbie suffered terrible illnesses in early childhood that pushed her to develop intense sensory awarenesses. As a young child, she once tugged her mother’s hand at a crosswalk and said “wait” because she sensed that an accident was about to happen to a woman crossing the street; and it did. Her mother gently, supportively informed her on the spot that she was “fey”, intuitive. Later, volunteering as a teenage candy striper in a hospital, she held a baby with no arms and no legs. The wave of love and empathy that she felt for that baby deeply stirred her compassion and influenced the teacher that she would become.

In school she struggled with extensive learning disabilities and met those challenges by opening new forms of intelligence, learning, awareness and wisdom. In other words, everything that Debbie brings to her art of teaching, and to the content of Nia, comes from her lived experience. She is the most creative person I have ever met.

Debbie studied art at a community college and took a job early in her career as a medical illustrator. She continues to perform medical dissection of cadavers at least one week a year. Debbie’s fascination with the human body – whether in the stillness of death or while moving and dancing through life – is a signature part of her life path.

Married young and having two children, she at first lived a rather traditional life. After the overwhelm of becoming a mother, Debbie had her first fitness experience. This is my very favorite Nia story of her: the “ladies gym” she attended sported weight machines and pulleys lined with pink fleece – yes, pink fleece! She was so exhilarated by this first experience of “exercise” that she changed her life forever.

Debbie created a fitness company called the “Bod Squad”, became incredibly successful with a traditional high-impact aerobic studio, then gave it all up in 24 hours, defying the entire fitness industry to start a more holistic, barefoot, truly healthful movement practice… and the rest is Nia history.

Debbie stands at the center of a community of thousands of Nia teachers around the world who have made deep study, lifelong practice, and livelihoods from what they have learned from Debbie. If you can ever take a training with her, or join her Awakening Project – which starts this March, or dance with her on Nia TV, you should jump at that chance! But even if you never meet Debbie Rosas, you are learning from her through any Nia teacher you may take class with. Debbie is the teacher of the teachers, the leader of the leaders, the cherished friend and mentor and inspiration to many many people, including, I’m grateful to say, me.

Author, Krista Hiser dancing with her daughter at Still & Moving Center

 

To learn more go to:

debbierosas.com

nianow.com

 

 “If you can’t be with the one you love, honey, love the one you’re with.” – Stephen Stills

For the first time since our elder son was born in 1984, Cliff and I faced Christmas alone this year. Not one of our three children was with us in Kaneohe, instead scattered from Colorado to California to New Zealand for the holiday. It happens, right? But it had never happened to us.

Fortunately for our very empty nest, a number of other folks – as if guided by some magical force – landed at our home in the middle of the Pacific to cheer in the Christmas week with us. We were quite a hodge-podge of folks, all landing to interconnect like a jigsaw puzzle of pieces from all over the globe, ultimately creating a lovely, if brief, whole.

Our dear family friends the Howards (Veena from India, Don from Kansas) arrived with their two irresistibly dear, whimsical daughters, Mira and Gita. Between their friends and ours, we found ourselves with FIVE vivacious young people going on adventures together and gathering around the dinner table – a very well-filled nest after all, even if not with our own beloved children.

Perhaps you’ll enjoy a ‘fly on the wall’ perspective, listening in our one of our conversations when I asked them all the question: What gives you hope for the future? What inspires you as we move into the new year?

Gita: age 22, half Indian / half American, currently in law school in Miami. A journalist, feminist and natural philosopher who intends to use her law degree for social justice causes.

“What makes me most happy these days is seeing people who have been marginalized, especially native Americans and LGBTQ people, turning things around. They take the very thing they’ve been marginalized for, and hold it up as a positive, a rallying point of pride, and use it for forward momentum.”

Francesco:  age 30, warm, thoroughly charming, and wise beyond his years, far from his family village in Northern Italy, currently on sabbatical from teaching school in Auroville, India where he instructs children in a somatic practice called ATB, or Awareness Through the Body.

“While traveling in different countries recently, I sometimes meet people discouraged about institutions that never seem to change. I see things differently.
I imagine an outdated system as an old, dying tree, and what I see is the many little seedlings, full of life, shooting up around it. Wherever I’ve traveled, I’ve seen such a profusion of small groups doing good things for the world, my heart feels good.”

Mira: Age 26, Gita’s sister. A life-coach and art gallery manager in Venice, California. An avid outdoors woman who loves mountain climbing and swimming with sharks – a great fellow adventurer who enjoyed night hikes and rambunctious canoe paddles with Cliff over the holidays.

“And when the big tree falls, it creates a super rich eco-structure for all the other saplings and life forms growing up around it. It’s that way in all the ecosystems, on the land or in the sea.”

“Our generation gets criticized a lot for being on our phones all the time, but it’s part of our social ecosystem. I see communication as something very important to interconnectedness. Yates and I met each other 8 or 9 years ago and then lived too far apart to spend much time together, and we always stayed in touch through our phones. Getting to see him again and do stuff this Christmas is like we’ve never been separated, we’re still such good friends.”

“I do a lot of my coaching by phone. My clients don’t have to be so worried about what they look like, what impression they are making, when we’re on the phone. Just communicating by voice feels safer for some of them.”

“We can all share a lot of different perspectives and experiences online. I love seeing Eastern ideas and philosophies becoming more widely known and accepted. Even though technology can be a problem when overdone, it can also help us communicate, and relationships are super important for moving into the future.

“The best thing, though, is spending time together in person – like we are doing now with Yates and all of you.”

Katie: Age 17, a wide-eyed high school senior in Albuquerque, New Mexico, preparing for college next year. A Christian who enjoys visiting the nuns at a nearby monastery.

“This is an exciting time for me because it’s the closest I’ve come yet to seeing my dreams come true. My friends and I are all about to go out into the world, and that gives me a feeling of hope and promise.”

Yates: Age 28, a Cambridge/Harvard graduate of Swedish/English descent with a decidedly feminine look and demeanor. Quite amused on the plane to Honolulu by the flight attendants addressing him as “ma’am… I mean sir… or ma’am…”  Currently working in Lithuania curating a museum. With the price of cabbage being about $.25 per kilo and wages being abominably low in Lithuania, he cooks many one-pot cabbage meals in his rice cooker, whom he fondly refers to – with his wry British humor – as ‘Condoleezza’.

“I’m touched by radical hospitality, by openness. I see hope in intergenerational dialogue, not just in our generation interacting with each other. I was feeling pretty hopeless when I landed here in Hawaii – it’s been a rough year – and now I’m inspired by the people around me that I see giving to the world.”

After that go around the table, Cliff and I felt great about the future and not so lonely after all. There are so many marvelous, kind, funny, daring, philosophical, caring people in this world. Our sons and daughter were all fine, experiencing wonderful times and adventures elsewhere with their spouses. And here we were with so many great kids coming through our door this Christmas. Francesco seemed like a long-lost cousin we were just coming back in contact with. Katie and her newly single mom felt grateful to spend the holiday in a happy home filled with laughter. Gita and Mira exclaimed to us, “You’re like the aunt and uncle we always wanted to have around!”  As Yates departed, he performed his Swedish family tradition of literally kissing the walls of our house!

Steven Stills’ rock classic refrain from 1970 no doubt road upon the coattails of the hippies’ free love movement in the 1960’s, yet a Platonic, plural version of his message helped me through the holidays this year. The whole week, a revised mantra kept rising up, telling me that wherever I am and whoever is near me:

“If you can’t be with the ones you love, honey, love the ones you’re with!”

Dancing in Joy and resting in stillness with you,

And you, dear reader?
Just hit Reply – I always love hearing from you.

 

We enjoy some delightful neighbors in the trailer parked next door to Still & Moving Center. They always serve us great food with good cheer and a big scoop of smiles: Thyda’s Tacos.

Thyda, originally from Cambodia, grew up in Fresno, California, where she developed a passion for Mexican food. Her partner says Thyda is the real cooking talent behind the business! Her dream was to make food for people that was inexpensive, healthy and tasty.

Thyda met Majed Alabdali in Venice, Ca. He and his younger brother Abdullah, born in the U.S. to Saudi Arabian parents, came from California to Hawaii in 2013.

In 2015 Thyda’s Tacos moved to town from North Shore. The three of them built their trailer from scratch. According to Majed, “It’s a good way to earn our living. We three are the only ones who work here, we have reasonable work hours and can maintain our healthy lifestyles.” This tiny powerhouse provides fast good food for construction workers, condo owners, nearby offices and others around the neighborhood…including grateful, hungry students and teachers from Still & Moving Center!   

One yelper was impressed that they “provide cheap tacos to all the bros in the area.“ Thyda’s Tacos won Best Tacos in the state of Hawaii with Yelp and Best Food Truck in Hawaii by the Book of Lists!!

Majed has his bachelors in Economics. After having a corporate career, he wanted to be his own boss. This taco truck is most fun he’s ever had working. His favorite part of this business is to feed people. He loves person-to-person interactions. “When people eat good food, they’re happy” he says. He is so friendly, that he has gained a nickname “Magic” from his customers.

For Abdullah, Thyda’s has been his first non-corporate job. It works well for him because the flexible schedule allows him to indulge in his love of surfing. He also loves working with his brother.

Thyda commits herself to a healthy lifestyle. She serves fresh food with good ingredients. This last year she helped Majed convert to veganism and to cut sugar from his diet. Since then he has lost 35 pounds and – more significantly, perhaps – his gout has subsided as a result!

They provide a fairly extensive menu for a food truck. My go-to is the vegetarian jackfruit bowl!

Call 310.666.4671 to make an order. They are generally open Tues-Thurs 11-5 and Fri-Sat 11-3. They are considering opening on Mondays as well – depending on whether that allows them to continue their happy life-style. Happy cooks make happy, good-for-us food!

Email: Leonixiam@gmail.com
Facebook: Thydastacos
Instagram: Thydastacos

 

Most of Master Chin’s many students at Still & Moving Center know him as an inspiring, talented qigong and kendo teacher. They probably will not be surprised to learn that he’s also a remarkably skilled, caring healer.

Jonah and his wife Lina arrived at Still & Moving just over two years ago from the Seattle area to provide an intensive 3 week martial arts training to their students, some local, and some who came with them.

They also used their time here to get a feeling for Oahu: Would this be a good next landing spot for them? Fortunately for us they decided to sell their house in Washington and move here!

Jonah’s own training has taken him on a long and deep journey, eventually into an ancient lineage of Taoist philosophy. He started taking martial arts as a young kid, first with the Korean taekwondo, and then taking on one martial practice after another over the years. I’ve watched him include tai chi in his qigong classes, as well as practicing with the bamboo kendo sword, metal Japanese iado sword and a thin, flexible, double-sided live blade that moves like a hissing dragon’s tongue! (English: Dao sword, Chinese: Dao Jian, Korean: Doh Geum). His methods range from quietly intense to vigorously thundering, always calculated to train the mind/body connection and direct energy intentionally.

Intriguingly to me, Jonah himself doesn’t refer to his movement practices as martial arts, with ‘martial’ meaning war. Instead he employs them as the training ground for his healing work. The deliberate focussing of energy lies at heart of Traditional Chinese Medicine comprised of acupuncture and other hands-on treatments.

When my 88 year old dad came to visit this autumn, his legs and ankles swelled up dangerously before he was to leave again on the plane. Jonah opened up his schedule and gave him 3 treatments and a private training session in four days. His treatments included acupuncture and hands-on therapy to take down the swelling, with Epsom salt soaking at night to release toxins. The private training set my father up with an exercise regimen that he follows daily to augment his circulation of qi as well as blood. Dad flew home with almost normal-sized ankles and a safe flight.

As a devoted son as well as healer, Jonah flew to LA when his own father was going through chemotherapy this last year. Jonah stayed by his side throughout the course of his treatment, making sure his kidneys continued to function healthily. His dad is well again now.

I’m personally indebted to Master Chin for helping me through an injury sustained by falling on a boat. Jonah’s expert application of his needles and focused attention in hands-on treatment greatly relieved me of back, shoulder and hip pain. And he gives me a hug at the end of every treatment!

When I asked him recently what it is he likes about living here, he replied: “The people. It’s easier here than anywhere else I’ve been to talk with people on a spiritual level.” I’ve watched Jonah become much more open and light-hearted since he arrived, which is good, since his personal health goal is to have more fun!  He even gets silly with us in Diwali performances!

Master Jonah Chin earns my high esteem for magnificence in both healing and teaching!

Bud’s love for glass is as clear as the material he works with. He finds every aspect of it satisfying.

“What I love about glasswork is its unlimited possibilities. I can make it into any shape, any color, whether transparent or opaque. I can capture and hold light with it, refract light and cast wonderful patterns. I can make sculpture out of it or even a painting with glass. The material is so seductive, so beautiful all by itself.”

Not only does Bud enjoy doing glasswork, he loves teaching it to others. He began teaching art and sculpture to kids at the Honolulu Museum of Art 15 years ago, which was so exciting he pitched a glass-fusing class to the director. He filled the first one then added a second, then a third, and bought bigger and bigger equipment.

With a Masters in Fine Arts and over 30 years experience in making glass art, Bud can now pass his learning on to others, teaching people how this unique material behaves, showing them that there are infinite possibilities, teaching them to enjoy the creative process itself. It’s a chatty class with students asking each other how they achieved this effect and that. “It’s pretty hard,” Bud says, “to make ugly glass!” So it’s very satisfying for even beginning students.

Bud also appreciates that the relatively small glass community on Oahu embodies spirit of aloha, collaborating with and helping each other. He especially enjoys working with Professor Rick Mills at UH Manoa.

Some of us fondly remember the Gallery at Ward Center, where Bud and his fellow artists of all ilks collectively displayed and sold their art and interfaced with the community for  27 years. Bud had a blast talking about art with everyone who came in, whether or not they actually purchased anything.

Paula Rath has written, “Creating art is normally a lonely pursuit. Art happens deep inside the individual artist, in a place where no one else can go. It’s all about the artist facing the blank canvas or sheet of paper or block of wood.”

So when Bud and watercolor painter Roger Whitlock – both of who worked with transparency – decided to collaborate, it was an intriguing moment. Bud provided the glass shards, Roger “painted” with them on clear glass, and Bud fused the painted shards onto the background piece. They displayed their finished pieces in a show called Trans Luxe.

“Sometimes I like to indulge in commentary on the human condition or create objects that are a focus for contemplation,” Bud mentions.

Looking back on his many works, Bud is particularly proud of the 12 foot tall bird sculpture that the State Foundation for the Arts commissioned him to make. If you can manage to get onto Kaneohe Marine Corps Base, you can see the art piece at Mokapu Elementary School. It’s made of stainless steel and glass in the shape of the Ae’o, the Hawaiian stilt bird that lives nearby at marsh on the Mokapu Peninsula where the Marine base is located.

 

Bud has two Holiday Sales to purchase his art for the holidays:  


  • “Spectral Fire,” hand blown glass made by Bud Spindt

    The Holiday Art Sale

December 5th & 6th, 4 – 8 pm

At the Atkinson Residence

603 Ahakea Street, Honolulu (in Kahala, near Elepaio Street)

  • The Glass Art Holiday Sale!

December 7th, Friday 5:30 – 8:30 pm & December 8th, Saturday 9 am – 7 pm

Wesley United Methodist Church, Kimata Hall

1350 Hunakai Street, Honolulu (in Kahala, mauka of Zippy’s and First Hawaiian Bank)

Get in touch with Bud:

Bud invites you to view his work on Instagram (@budaroonie)

To contact by email: bud@budspindt.com

To call him directly 808-256-0633

 

You can sign up here for his glassmaking classes, with new classes starting in January 2019 at the Honolulu Museum of Art. 

This fascinating video shows how Bud blows vortex vases – see here.

 

Inspired by others to inspire others.

Who knew that our friendly, and unassuming tai chi teacher, Dr. Wong, has a long history of charitable deeds that he keeps under the radar? I only know a few of them…

Dr. Wong is a medical doctor who back in the 90’s went to Vietnam with the Aloha Medical Mission to perform hand and face surgeries for people who could otherwise not afford it. He mentioned to me how satisfying it was for him to offer only 45 minutes of his time to repair a boy’s cleft lip that would drastically shift the boy’s future life experience.  Last year, Dr. Wong donated his anesthesia machine to the Aloha Hawaii Mission to Nepal and contributes monthly to The Spring at charitywater.org providing needed clean water to third world communities.

Throughout his medical career, Dr. Wong has continued to augment quality of his patient care with concepts he has learned in the martial arts. For example, while performing surgery under a microscope at medical school, Dr. Wong applied his Aikido training and focused on his “dantien,” or “one-point” center.  As a result, he was the only surgeon without magnified hand tremors. Nowadays he approaches his patients with the Taoist concept of recognizing what is out of balance, and once he helps to restore that  balance, the disease disappears on its own. He also employs his knowledge of energy fields by using both sound and light therapy on his patients to encourage synchronous resonance in their cells, enabling his patients to heal twice as quickly as previously. Such techniques so effectively help his patients, many other doctors could benefit learning them. 

Dr. Wong takes time from his full work and teaching schedule to volunteer at Men’s Shed (HawaiiMensShed.org) on Saturday mornings, doing wood crafts with retired men who talk and bond over woodcrafting projects that they do together. The Men’s Shed brings camaraderie, laughter and purpose to retired men who miss their previously busy, interactive work lives. One member of the Men’s Shed lost his ability to walk and speak in a terrible accident. His buddies brought him regularly to the program, where he found little ways to contribute until – lo and behold – in less than a year he surprised all his doctors by regaining both his ability to talk and to walk!  Dr. Wong is on the Board of Directors of the Honolulu Men’s Shed, the first such organization in the United State, started here 2 years ago, and inspired by the 20-year-old Australian Men’s Shed progam. 

Dr. Wong is currently working to restore an historic, aging boat back to a sailing vessel. He was  touched by the boat’s brave tale. Shortly after the tragic Japanese tsunami of 2011, a 75-year-old Japanese gentleman, Ikuo Tateo, came up with a plan to encourage his fellow countrymen and women to keep up their spirits in the face of the crisis. He christened an old boat with the slogan Ganbatte Nihon, meaning “Japan, do your best!”.  He then shipped the boat to California and set out across the Pacific towards Hawaii by himself… with no mast, no sail, no motor, sculling over with only a rudder, arriving in Honolulu after a 48 day trip. The elderly Tateo accomplished this seemingly impossible journey to encourage others to keep fighting the brave fight. Tateo then donated his boat to an educational non-profit for children, asking only that the boat be used for kids educational outings and that they keep his story alive. Dr.Wong, an avid waterman so inspired by the man’s story, is working to restore the boat in honor of its noble history.

We are honored to have Dr. Wong Kai Ming as part of our Still & Moving faculty.

Nature can be a remarkable teacher when we open ourselves to learning. I recently did quite a bit of walking on a short little path in the desert. I walked on that path numerous times a day for the ten days of my silent meditation course.

The little gravel path was delineated with small pebbles and little rocks, up to a size of an apple. One morning, when the sun was just cresting the horizon, I noticed the shadows that these small stones cast. Their shadows were HUGE – easily 20 times the size of the pebbles, maybe more.  A simple thought arose in my mind… “Wow, sometimes my fears are huge like these shadows, while the real problem is as small as these rocks”.

As the day progressed and the sun traveled across the morning sky, the shadows slowly grew smaller. At twelve noon they almost completely disappeared… only to start growing again, this time casting themselves to the east of the pebbles. Sometimes, I reflected, the same circumstance gives rise to opposite fears! Wow, my metaphor just kept on giving.

How often do I see only shadows and react to them? What if I could keep shifting and adjusting my perspective on the challenges that life brings? I’ll give it a try.

Being alert to nature provides me with instructive insight. Especially when I’m struggling with anger, worry, fear or anxiety, if I notice and take in Nature’s built-in lessons, I can dispel my mind’s imaginings, which may be untrue, useless or destructive. Thank you Nature for the reality check!

 

How often do we encounter someone who really does not act from the standpoint of the ego? Rarely, right?

As we approach Mahatma Gandhi’s 150th birthday in 2019, I’d like to tell you about Shashi Tiagi from India, a living, breathing, working Gandhian whom our family is privile ged to know and to have recently spent time with.  We call her Shashiji, adding the respectful “ji” to the end of her name.

I can imagine that in her moments of doubt, she asks herself not, “What’s best for me?” but something along the lines of Gandhi’s suggestion below.

A slight woman wrapped in a faded blue and white cotton sari, with serviceable pink tennis shoes, Shashiji wears a single red plastic bangle on her wrist, scratched by hard work and desert sand. The holes in her earlobes, beneath her home-dyed henna hair, have long grown over since the passing of her younger days of gold earrings. Her dark eyes miss nothing, bright, perceptive, warm at their depth.

As a young woman, her family chose a husband for her with the right credentials per their respective families, and Shashi agreed to the match. She soon came to learn that her husband – Tiagiji – was involved in the Bhoodan Movement, started by one of Gandhi’s most effective devotees, Vinoba Bhave.

The plight of India’s rural poor – working for nearly nothing as virtual slaves to the landowners of the time – greatly concerned this compassionate man, Bhave. Shashiji tells us of the first meeting Bhave convened with some wealthy landowners. He went straight to their hearts, saying, “If you have 4 sons, think of me as your 5th son. Whatever land you would give as an inheritance to your 5th son, give it to me. I will distribute to the poor farmers of your community who are struggling to barely feed their families.”  The room went quiet until one landowner stood up, taking all by surprise.

“Vinobaji,” he said, “I will take you as my 5th son. Here is my gift: At dawn tomorrow, come to my land and begin walking. Keep walking all day. Whatever land you walk upon between sunrise and sundown, that land I will give to you on behalf of the farmers.”  Bhave accepted the offer, walking over 80 acres of his land the next day. With that generous gift for the poor, the Bhoodan Land Gift Movement commenced.  Within 13 years, Bhave “owned” more land than any other person on earth – though he continued to walk in sandals, loincloth and a shawl, without any personal possessions, giving every inch of the land away.

Shashiji mentions her parents’ worry when they learned that her new husband was connected with Bhave. To be associated with such a movement, Shashi and her husband were going to have to live like the poor themselves – as Gandhi had done and Vinoba Bhave continued to do. All her nice saris and gold jewelry – where Indian families generally stored their wealth – would be given away to feed the poor. They would live without luxury or convenience. This Shashi did, as a devoted wife and as a person of conscience.  We can imagine her as young bride discovering the harsh life style in front of her – though we have never heard a word of complaint from her.

Following in Bhave’s footsteps, Shashiji and her husband L. C. Tiagi, or fondly known as Tiagiji, carried out their own arm of the Gandhian campaign to gather land for the poor. They were particularly drawn to the Thar desert of Rajisthan. There the farmer families could barely eke a living where there was only a possibility of rain one month of the year, and whatever water they managed to catch had to last them the remaining 11 months. The scattered community of about 50,000 inhabitants had no access to healthcare and no schools.

As a college graduate, Shashiji created a school for the children. Her husband set out to help the desert villagers more effectively catch and sequester water. Here women often died in childbirth, girls were treated as property, the “untouchable” cast had no rights, and workers in the mines died young of lung disease. In 1983, the Tiagis founded a nonprofit organization called GRAVIS near Jodhpur to address the pressing needs of their struggling brothers and sisters on the Thar desert. See their website here.

Shashiji tells of a time near the beginning of their efforts when the wealthier people resented the help and empowerment the Tiagis and their co-workers were bringing to the underprivileged. Some teenage sons of the rich people took it upon themselves to break into their simple huts, stole or destroyed whatever they found and smashed their roofs. This continued for 4 nights – with the GRAVIS people never responding in kind – before the police finally stopped the young marauders.

Another time as Shashiji and her husband took different paths through the town, Shashiji looked back and saw a young man with a knife approaching her husband. Without a moment’s hesitation, Shashiji ran up to the youth and grabbed his arm, refusing to let go while he held the knife. When the police intervened, she and her husband refused to press charges. The young man was ashamed of himself, and what he had contemplated doing to these good-hearted people. He changed his life.

Life on the desert is hard on women in any case. Walking to collect water can consume many of the waking hours of a woman’s day. One day, Shashji and a co-worker met a village woman and asked about the bruises on her face, which the women explained as having come from a fall. However, when they left woman’s house together to collect water, the woman unfolded the true story of how her husband mistreated her.  Later the husband later came to Tiagiji to complain that Shashiji and her co-worker were corrupting his wife and turning her against him. Tiagiji asked the man how long he had been married. Eleven years, the man replied. “Eleven years!” cried  Tiagiji , “And yet in eleven years you have not won your wife’s trust as these two women have in a day?!? They have succeeded where you have failed.” The man bowed his head and conceded that Tiagiji was right. From then on, he gave his wife freedoms that other women did not enjoy, and she became one of GRAVIS’s workers herself, with her husband’s blessing.

GRAVIS has done enormous good over the past 35 years, creating 98 schools, building a hospital, getting higher educations for some of the village boys and even girls, helping to secure water rights, and now serving 1.5 million people.

Our family came to know Shashji 11 years ago when our daughter Sandhya did a internship during her junior year of college. In an eye and heart opening few months, Sandhya learned a lot about service from Shashiji and her son, lived a simple lifestyle, and helped to further GRAVIS’ efforts to help the rural poor.  Sandhya and I later invited Shashiji to California to help us lead a weeklong Gandhian retreat on sustainability.

Just recently we all had the chance to reunite with Shashji where she was being interviewed at the Metta Institute in Petaluma, California. Shashiji and Sandhya then spoke to a class of at-risk youth about the work GRAVIS is doing to improve people’s lives on the Thar desert. The American kids were especially interested to hear about the child marriages GRAVIS had helped to prevent.

Before Shashiji flew back to India to resume her work, Sandhya, Cliff and i spoke with her about the idea of bringing fat tire bikes to the desert to make it easier for girls and women to gather water. Cliff was particularly wondering how to convince the mine owners in the desert to improve their drilling practices to protect their workers from lung disease. No challenge seems too daunting to Shashiji. We said goodbye feeling so privileged to have spent precious time again with Shashi Tiagi, this strong, humble crusader, for the less fortunate of the world.

Dancing in Joy and resting in stillness with you,

And you, dear reader?

Just hit Reply – I always love hearing from you.

Get to the Honolulu Art Museum School by this Sunday, November 11th to see on exhibit the ceramic work of Still & Moving Center’s student Domenica Sattler. Her piece, called “me too!”, she says might be better entitled “me too, not alone”. The museum was so taken by the piece, they have purchased it! Three cheers, Domenica!

The figures in Domenica’s ceramic piece express how different women/people deal with sexual harassment and more severe matters. She explains that looking at each of the figures sitting there, we get a feeling of what pain has done with each of them. Each has a unique story to tell – whether minor or more painful – and yet, they are sitting together, not alone.

Dominica invites us all: “ If you have time please drop by!” And of course you can find smaller, similar figures of Dominica’s work at our Boutique-E!

Domenica says of herself: “My creations are varied – from the stillness of a classic Ikebana vase to sculptures reflecting the grace of movement and feelings. With my figures and faces, I like to describe unspoken feelings and relationship to ourselves and others.

“I was born in Switzerland and have traveled through Europe, Asia, South and North America throughout my life. I always imagined myself working with clay. Having settled with my family in Hawaii, I finally took my first sculpture class in 2005. The technique and art of ceramics have held my attention ever since. Now it is my sincere effort to combine my love of dance and the compelling beauty of Hawaii and what touches me while living my life, in each ceramic creation.”

The Hawai‘i Craftsmen 2018: 51st Annual Statewide Juried Exhibition features artists from throughout the state at the Honolulu Art Museum School, formerly known as Linekona School.

Hawai‘i Craftsmen 2018:

51st Annual Statewide Juried Exhibition

Honolulu Museum of Art School

1111 Victoria St, Honolulu, HI 96814

Exhibition hours:

Tue – Sat: 10am–4:30pm,

Sun:  1–5 pm

until Sunday, November 11th

 

Sign up now!

Sunday, Nov 11

5:30-7:30 pm

Indian meal $10 at 5:30 pm

Free performance at 6:15 pm

 

This year marks Still & Moving Center’s 8th celebration of the Indian festival of lights, Diwali. Each year members of our faculty, staff and student body joyfully contribute their energy, creative juices and enthusiasm to this joyous fête – celebrated in our unique multicultural way. This year is no exception!

Perhaps Malia Helela, our kumu hula, is the sole 8 year participant. Even director, Renée Tillotson had to miss a year! Malia has choreographed special hulas for either trained or totally untrained (!) dancers, narrated our enactment of the Ramayana epic, acted, given solo dance performances herself, and cooked tasty dishes! Her sons Kaiehu and Waiea graduated in their roles – or perhaps demoted! – from young princes to members of the demon hordes, and this year for the first time perform with the hula kahiko group doing ancient style hula.

Sooriya Kumar of Mouna Farm Arts and Cultural Village has also regularly participated, usually chanting a Sanskrit mantra, often providing Indian food from his organic farm, once hosting our Diwali at his farm for an overnight celebration, occasionally providing beautiful copper art pieces.

Doris Morisaki – like many of her fellow students – has danced hula on repeated occasions, with Doris making the additional contribution of coordinating practices and filling in for nearly every part in the play during practices. Ms Willow Chang frequently features her Bollywood dancers and has even performed the female lead Princess Sita. Yoga teacher David Sanders has appropriately played the part of a yogic sage.

Dayl Workman has made her mark on the stage with memorable performances of the demon princess and bitter step-mother, this year roaring onto the stage as the demon king Ravana. Nia Black Belt Krista Hiser and her aerialist daughter Violette Skilling have often contributed their talents, with Aerial teacher Kezia Holm coordinating airborne performances.

Members of the Indian community of Honolulu have frequently lent their talents, with Abhilasha Garg providing costume consultation this year, and India Cafe often catering the Indian dinner.

Some of our memorable performances include Jivatmata Messageur and Sarah Hodges each as the beautiful Princess Sita. Both Amit Heri and Bharat Das nobly carried the role of Prince Ram. Unforgettable Ravanas include Jerome Mester de Trevino and Murat Demirtas – both powerful dancers. Our notable battle scenes have included Kung Fu by Bruno Ballestrero, and Kendo contributed by Master Jonah Chin’s students this year.

One of Renée’s favorite Ramayana experiences was playing the flying monkey hero Hanuman!

Everyone is reserving seats early… only 108 places. We’ll see you there if you can make it!


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