You know those “Oh, my aching back” days? I was a couple hours into preparing a big Indian meal for guests last week, and all of that leaning over and lifting, chopping and stirring caused my back to scream at me. My solution? Gravity. I turned down heat under the pots, walked out of the kitchen, and gave myself time to lie down directly on the floor. On my back.
Gravity can work wonders. It just allows all the kinks to fall out if I give myself the chance to do nothing but lie on my back. Sometimes I have to start with my knees standing up, soles to the floor. Often I do the “horse roll” my mom taught me, hugging my knees while rocking side to side on my back, as tired horses do with their feet in the air, after shedding their riders. Eventually I end up fully extended on my back on the floor. Lying on the bed doesn’t do the trick – it’s too soft.
My friend Marta often sleeps on the ground when she’s out rock-climbing, and she swears by it. That’s a little hard-core for me to spent a whole night without a lot of padding. Cliff sometimes takes 10 minute power naps on this back during the workday, sometimes on concrete. Malia finds it healing, especially when she has a headache, to lie on the grass in direct contact with the earth, the ‘aina. And plenty of research backs that up the positive effect of coming close to the earth itself.
For me, I usually only need 3-7 minutes of lying on the floor to find out that, yes, gravity’s got my back!
Puahi Benzon and Michelle Iha-Yu create unique, energetic, intention-filled pieces of jewelry with healing stones, top-quality materials, uncompromising standards of workmanship here in Honolulu. I’m proud to say we are the only brick and mortar establishment currently carrying this beautiful line of products! Being creative and spreading love is basis of Puahi and Michelle’s Shining Soul Jewelry.
In my experience, Shining Soul Jewelry definitely holds an energetic signature. When Puahi and Michelle first brought their pieces to Still & Moving Center, I was immediately drawn to a gorgeous bracelet (pictured here) called Equinox. I call it my power bracelet, and I feel reinforced wearing it whenever I need to be ON in public.
Our kumu hula, Malia Helela, knew Puahi back in high school when he was making jewelry out of safety pins. Then, as now, he wanted to put his creativity to work and stay fashionable. A time came in his life when things needed changing and he realized how much he liked stones and liked collecting them. Once he started making jewelry with crystals, the energies from the stones helped him to communicate and feel better about situations in his life.
Puahi’s quest to hone his jewelry-making skills led him to The Bead Gallery, in Honolulu, where he met Michelle, a veteran beader who had over 18 years of experience in teaching, designing and selling jewelry. Puahi evolved as an artist and also put more heart into his work.
When I asked Puahi about his creative process, I learned that he starts each work session with a short meditation and breathing to let go of the negative. He sends of highest intentions and love and light and positivity to fill his jewelry.
Puahi goes by the feeling when he’s creating his pieces. Sometimes the stones feel as if they don’t want to be put together – he senses a kind of heat. And sometimes a certain stone falls away and doesn’t want to be found. When the stone gets found later, it may easily go into a different piece of jewelry with other stones – it’s all about the feeling.
Sometimes it’s hard to let go of his unique pieces once he makes them, but Puahi knows they are going to a good home and will benefit their new owner. It’s all about spreading the love!
In addition to our boutique and local crafts fairs, you can find Shining Soul Jewelry online at www.shiningsouljewelry.com. They’ll even create custom pieces for you!
Eva dove into the Feldenkrais Method more than three decades ago as a young professional dancer who wanted to dance better. She saw the potential of this brilliant, gentle practice to become more conscious and more efficient in the ways she moved her body. After healing both her knees from a painful martial arts injury, Eva enjoyed tremendous improvement in her dancing. Little did she realize at the time what powerful self-healing ‘medicine’ she would provide to others over the years with this subtle Feldenkrais way of moving.
Since earning her certification, Eva has taught the Feldenkrais Method to thousands of people in Germany, mainland USA and here in Hawaii, including 7 years at Still & Moving Center. The clients she has treated privately with hands-on Feldenkrais – called Functional Integration sessions – include folks with long-term spinal issues like I have, children with congenital disabilities, surfers and other sports people with injuries, PTSD sufferers with long-held physical symptoms, elders with arthritis, and myriad others. I’ve seen her take a young woman lying on the floor crying with a fresh back injury from pain level of 9-10 down to a level 2-3, enabling her to stand up and walk downstairs. In my experience, Eva’s touch always brings relief.
Recently, Eva has spoken powerfully and publically on behalf of the benefits of Feldenkrais to reorganize our ways of moving and retune our nervous system. She eloquently describes Feldenkrais in this video by Justin Bolle (see below). On KHON TV news a couple weeks ago and again at our Lifetime of Vitality Award for legendary Hawaiian kupuna Al Harrington, Eva led compelling Feldenkrais sample lessons. At last week’s Super Block meeting of the General Managers of the high-rise condominiums in and around Kaka’ako, Eva got a whole roomful of business people to slow down for 10 minutes in their chairs, and with a few simple movement patterns, make themselves feel MUCH better than before she started. Watch KHON segment here.
When our Nia Green Belt intensive training started this September, Eva gave us such an effective on-the-floor lesson on taking time to relax the nervous system, that our Nia trainer Winalee Zeeb contacted Nia Headquarters to report that ALL future Green Belt trainings worldwide should begin with a Feldenkrais class like the one Eva had given us in Honolulu!
Already well recognized in Europe, the Feldenkrais Method is little known here in America. Thanks to Eva, people here on Oahu are becoming more enlightened on how much freedom of motion they have to gain – and how much pain they have to lose! – from this gentle, mindful practice.
When did we cease to ‘talk’ with with our animal kin? Why can so few of us still understand them? And how can some of us not comprehend that the animals and fish and birds and insects have any sentience at all? And of course there are so many times when we forget that our fellow humans feel what we feel… how can this be and how can we heal it? “Love and Bananas”, a film made this year about elephants in Southeast Asia, aroused in my heart all these questions.
Lek is a small Thai woman born to a family that has captured, broken and trained Asian elephants for generations. She came to the point where she simply could not bear the cruelty of the methods systematically used to quell these noble beasts. Defying her family, she went to the media with torturous photographs of how every elephant in captivity is crushed into submission. She then went on to start her own elephant sanctuary in Thailand.
The film, with its protagonist Lek, is a worthy successor to one of my favorite books, “Elephant Whisperer”, about the author who saves a herd of wild, raging African elephants from being killed by the government, and eventually gains these giants’ love and trust in his animal sanctuary in Kenya.
As our movie unfolds, a young American woman comes to visit Lek and her elephants, learns their plight, and gets to go with Lek on an elephant rescue. Our hearts ache at the mistreatment of these magnificent animals, and thrill with the realization of how intelligent, sensitive and loving wild animals can be. Then there’s the remarkable Lek, who was cast out of her human family for protecting her elephant kin. What a sterling example of a human being in rapport with the animal kingdom.
Are we born able to commune with the creatures around us? I can’t remember. I look at how easily our one year old grandson gets along with the family dog, who is a big bruiser twice his size, brushing past him on his unsteady little feet and never actually knocking him down, going into distress when she hears him cry. I watch him feed her off his highchair tray as naturally as he feeds himself. Neither of them can speak a word. Do they ‘talk’? I wonder.
What do I remember? I recall having an ant farm where I could watch these busy, dedicated workers create their elaborate tunnel home in the sand between two pieces of plexiglass. My best friend at school and I used to save bits of our cafeteria lunch and then feed the anthills out on the playground. One of my most connected animal moments happened in the wee hours of the morning when I was present for our cat Miss B (for Beautiful) giving birth to a litter of tiny wet, blind kittens. I felt as exultant as I imagine she did!
I recall raising silkworms, which are actually caterpillars, and feeding them mulberry leaves until they spun their silk cocoons. Thank goodness my mom had us watch them go through their natural life cycle to emerge as heavy, fluffy whitish moths, rather than plunging the living cocoons into boiling water to be able to unroll their silk thread, unbroken.
That’s not to say I was always kind-hearted with creatures as a child. I guiltily recall the sick glee I took in pouring salt onto garden snails and watching them fizzle to death. Now THAT is just the kind insensitivity to the animal world I am lamenting.
My keenest early recognition of the sentience of the animal world came when I was a young teen. I collected what I thought were old barnacles from the beach, then dropped them into a pot of boiling water to sanitize them. As I peered into the steaming water I saw them send out delicate little feelers, feather like, reaching out as if to call ‘Help! Save us’, and I knew it was too late to rescue them. Such a heavy thud of feeling inside me that I was unintentionally boiling these innocent creatures to death.
I didn’t have the sensitivity to realize there was a living being inside the barnacle to begin with though. So whether I was ever able to communicate with animals, I don’t really know, but I couldn’t by that time. I’ve USUALLY been kindhearted to their suffering, and I eventually had to become a vegetarian in college, realizing I could not kill the fish, chicken or cow, so had no right to eat it.
Really though, I didn’t have any sense of animals’ intense awareness level until my experience trying to save our dying koi fish a few months ago, when she opened up for me a brief heart view into the living universe that I had never known before. Click here to read that story. Whether my young child self could talk with the animals, I don’t remember, but as an adult my consciousness has been too dense, too insensitive to normally pick up what animals have to ‘say’. I see that it’s time to change that.
People like Lek and an animal communicator named Anna Breytenbach – see her remarkable video below – are deeply attuned to the animal world all the time. In one of the most touching scenes of the film, Lek rescues not just an elephant, but the heart of an elephant trekking company owner who, like his family before him, has been mistreating elephants his whole life. It must be possible for all the rest of us. If you haven’t already, inspire yourself by watching “Love and Bananas”!
Dancing in Joy and resting in stillness with you,
And you, dear reader?
Email me – I always love hearing from you.
Motivated by compassion, this marvelous non-profit organization located on the westside of Oahu gives sanctuary to unwanted horses in Hawaii who have been abused, injured or neglected. Equine 808 Horse Rescue provides emergency relief, medical treatment, rehab and adoption services.
Their education programs seek to enlighten community members on responsible care and ownership of horses – in a fun, outdoors setting where they meet resident horses and other farm animals.
Some children get their first exposure to a ranching lifestyle here. Many come to Horse Camp, for birthday parties, or on field trips with Boy or Girl Scouts, etc. The site also boards outside horses as space allows. Riding lessons teach adults and children horse care, riding management and the responsibility of owning a such an animal.
Volunteers carefully record each horse’s information on a clipboard – much like a hospital clipboard for each patient – so that they can track the horses’ recovery. The horses receive unique care according to their individual needs as they are rehabilitated, re-trained and prepared for adoption.
Michelle Blacconiere, Equine Behavioral Specialist, assumed her position as Site Manager about 5 months ago. As the owner of her own business, Honolulu Horse and Carriage, Michelle saw that although there are many dog and cat rescue organizations, Equine 808 is the only horse rescue facility on island. She therefore understands the importance of her role, guiding a team of about 35 volunteers. As she says, these horses cannot feed and care for themselves!
For those interested in assisting these animals, many more volunteer positions are available – working with the animals, in administration, on ranch maintenance, public awareness, and fundraising. There’s even a rebuild going on that could use helping hands. Volunteer orientations happen the first Saturday of each month at 10 am, the next orientation coming up October 6th.
94-1108 Kunia Road, Lot #21, Kunia, Hawaii
Most of us at Still & Moving Center know Kezia as a fantastic aerial teacher and performer in her own right. She LOVES climbing, dancing and dangling from aerial silks, hanging in aerial yoga hammocks. Scratch the surface of this ardent aerialist though, and you will find a devoted horse woman, and animal lover in general.
Sometimes she finds ways to combine her passions, doing yoga on horseback, for example, which is high enough off the ground to qualify as “aerial yoga” to me, but not something we’ll be able to offer indoors at Still & Moving Center!!!
On horseback since before she could walk, Kezia rides, grooms and cares for horses daily. She considers herself blessed to own her horse Herbie and to care for numerous other equine friends of hers.
Not only does Kezia do the customary cleaning, brushing and feeding of horses, she works with them at a deeper level. Just as she provides medical massage to human beings in pain, she also offers it to horses. I’ve felt her touch; it’s both strong and gentle and truly healing. But for those of us mere mortals, imagining how this beautiful young woman – even though certainly very muscular – can get that kind of traction on a body the size of a horse is mystifying! Nevertheless, island horse owners in-the-know seek out Kezia’s massage services regularly for their four-legged rides.
Kezia can be found at horse stables between Hawaii Kai and Waimanalo. She’s an important part of the horse community on Oahu.
Horses are just part of Kezia’s animal family, which also includes a cat named Bart and a newly adopted feral kitten called Snow Fox. Kezia valiantly defends all animals who are treated cruelly, from a tiger kept for gawkers at a truckstop, to an inhumanely singed kitten, to abandoned caged animals of all sorts. Watch her social media and you’ll have plenty of opportunities to sign petitions to save these innocent creatures who have come to Kezia’s watchful attention.
My advice: don’t mess with this lady when she’s protecting her beloved friends in the animal kingdom!
Contributed by Kezia Holm
Cats can help those who are lonely feel a connection with another life. Coming home to a cat can provide welcome company to those who are single or widowed. A cat’s purr of contentment has a contagiously calming effect. And caring for another creature – such as a finicky cat – can help you take your mind off your own worries, especially when the cat settles into your lap for a snuggle.
Horses sense every emotion that you’re feeling and respond back to it. They give you a very palpable reflection of whatever emotion is traveling through your system. They notice such things as when you’re holding your breath. Researchers have shown that horses not only can recognize facial emotions and body language but also retain a memory of those things.
Go for it, get silly, and chase around the living room with a puppy or a frisky dog. Tug on a toy with a dog, wrestle her to the ground over it, and get covered with slobber along the way! Dig a hole to China in the beach with your furry friend. Jump into the water with a dog and race him to see who gets ahead. Get out and shake all the water off as vigorously as the dog does. No matter if you don’t own a dog – there are plenty of them just a tail’s wag away who will be happy to come out and play with your inner child!
I often call him Eeyore – you know that droopy eared, sad-sack donkey in Winnie the Pooh. His real name is Bob, and he’s my husband’s step dad – the only grandfather our kids ever knew on that side of the family. Seldom, if ever, the life of the party, Bob’s a quiet man who verges on stubborn and grumpy more frequently these days. And yet, sometimes he surprises me.
At age 62 myself, I’ll have to live another half of my current age to catch up to where Bob is now at age 91. That’s a long time to live! He sleeps and takes some of his meals at a very nice senior home in Santa Barbara, California. He’s just recently had to give up bike riding, and his long walks have gotten much shorter.
He drives home during daytime hours to the house he lived in with Cliff’s mom for so many years. Our son Shankar and his fiance DD who now live there, welcome him daily with good cheer. They always seem able to find the humorous side of Grandpa Bob. Well, not always. Shankar finally had to set Bob straight about being curt and demanding to the waitresses when they went out for dinner together. Bob has since mended his ways on that front… most of the time!
Finding subjects of conversation with Bob is not easy for most of us. He holds politically and socially opposite viewpoints from every other person in the family – so that closes off most topics regarding the daily news. Shankar and he like to occasionally travel to Los Angeles to take in an A’s baseball game. Not being a sports person, I lack that area of dialogue that Shankar shares with him. Oh dear, what to talk about?
Bob is intensely interested in the weather, and keeps a rain gauge at the house. As a professional scientist and a former sailor who spent many happy summers taking friends on boating excursions, Bob studies weather news intently. So at least there’s that. When I call him every Sunday morning, I get a lengthy description of the changing temperatures and general drought conditions there in California. Of course the Santa Barbara flooding (rare) and fires (frequent) add spark to those conversations, especially when Shankar is out fighting those fires. He’s so proud of his grandkids.
The recent volcanic activity on Hawaii island fascinated him when he came to visit the last couple weeks. Bob wanted to track the lava flow mile by mile when he was here visiting. We even set up a trip for him, accompanied by a much younger friend of ours, to helicopter over Fissure 8 and see the lava flowing down to the sea. He loved that!
He most enjoyed going to work with our younger son Govi to his construction job sites. Our usually taciturn Bob was so thrilled about spending time with Govi, being part of the workflow, he came back to the house saying he’d just spent 2 of the best days he could remember in years. He was jubilant!
It’s rough being a widower. Cliff’s mom Sue was the sunshine of his life, and she’s been gone now for nearly four years. He’s managed to keep himself on a pretty even keel, psychologically and physically, by assiduously following his routines of getting out and about. But he’s still quite a loner. Even living in the senior home for all this time, sharing his dinner in the dining hall at tables with other residents almost every night, he still hasn’t managed to learn the name of a single other person in the facility. He’s just not what you would call a cozy, easily approachable guy.
Then there’s the matter of his health, which he frets over constantly. He keeps up a constant regimen of doctors appointments, checking his own blood pressure daily. He self-diagnoses all the time and then takes himself to the emergency room for “consultations” as he calls them, when he thinks it will be too long until his next appointment. Of course, he always thinks he knows more than the doctors do, so that can lead to interesting developments. And who am I to say? He’s made it into his nineties with a sharp mind and functioning body!
On the last day of his visit here, the rest of the family was all off island for Govi’s paddling race. I was determined to devote the majority of my time to making it a great day for Bob – on my one day off of the week, and yes, I was feeling like something of a martyr and feeling ashamed of myself about that. Anyway, I planned a trip to Bishop museum, a nice drive, a good dinner somewhere…. Some things we could enjoy together.
Bob started the day with the papaya he had asked me to buy as a special treat he never gets in Santa Barbara. He found that delicious. And that was the last enjoyable part of the day.
He next asked to be taken to the emergency room for a “consultation”. When I came to pick him up, they told me he was back in the emergency room because he had undone a procedure the doctor had performed to begin with. No time was left in the day by the time we got home, and of course he was tired, poor guy. After dinner, he asked for a third E/R visit of the day, which got us out shortly before midnight. (He’s doing fine now, thanks for wondering.)
We left for the airport the next morning at 5:30 am to put him on his flight home. Here’s when I got surprised. He apologized for leaving such a big mess to clean up – I wasn’t expecting that. Then our normally non-demonstrative Bob gave me not one but TWO big bear hugs, thanked me for being such a good hostess and told me he loved me!!!
That from Eeyore. Wow. I like it when people don’t easily fall into my expectations of them.
When I told our son Shankar this story, he was not surprised by any of it, including the happy ending. Shankar summed it up: “He has the redeeming value of being a great grandpa. He may not get along well in bigger groups but one-on-one it’s not hard to see he has a pure soul and heart of gold.”
And so I continue on my journey to more fully understand the human heart.
Dancing in Joy and resting in Stillness with you,
And you, dear reader?
Just hit Reply – I always love hearing from you.
Murat comes across with an unassuming, almost humble, old-world air when you first meet him. Then you discover he’s actually outrageous, earnest… and a remarkably self-confident, fun-loving professional devoted to people’s fitness and self-esteem! This unusual combination of qualities allows him to cultivate his students’ and clients’ confidence – whether he’s teaching Turkish bellydance, Pilates, foam roller or he’s coaching personal fitness. He’s comfortable in his skin, and people simply look and feel their best when working with Murat. We celebrate his multi-faceted contributions to Still & Moving Center and his enthusiastic boost of camaraderie to the Honolulu bellydance community.
We applaud Murat for recently bringing his mentor, the internationally acclaimed dance teacher and Pilates instructor Roxy Menzies, to Still & Moving for 10 days of workshops and private bodywork. Murat has also served as a choreographer for Still & Moving upon request for private parties, and has now added personal fitness coaching and private bellydance to his offerings here.
Murat and his dance students appeared on Ala Moana Mall’s Center Stage this Spring in front of three stories of onlooking shoppers. Performing bellydance to slow-paced Korean music, Murat sought to break through typical stereotypes about bellydance with this message: You don’t have to shake and shimmy all the time, you can just DANCE. Not using traditional mid-eastern music, he bridged two cultures while emphasizing the quality of the dance itself.
At our 7 Year Re-Birthday Celebration in March, Murat with his bellydancers and Kumu Malia with her hula dancers joined artistic talents in a single musical piece! Murat sought to demonstrate his respect for the dance tradition of the native culture, as the two groups took turns dancing to the same Hawaiian song.
When the Middle East Dance Association of Hawaii (MEDAH) put on their Hafla this Spring with many bellydance teachers and their students performing, Murat was there cheering everyone on, with enthusiastic support for all.
When I asked Murat how he learned to bellydance, his learning seems to have been completely organic, as if through osmosis. His mother and especially his aunt were beautiful bellydancers in Turkey where he was born and raised. He loved watching them dance, and even though he did not actually dance with them, when the need arose later in life – as you shall read – he knew instinctively how to perform and teach bellydance.
For those not graced with learning bellydance through their mother’s milk, so to speak, Murat gives a systematic presentation of the basic elements of Turkish bellydance in his classes, assigning numbers to the various moves, so that students can progress as if in a school course. As of this year, Murat is in fact offering three levels of instruction: Turkish Bellydance for Beginners, for Fitness, and for Performers. His dream is to eventually offer instruction online to reach his students back in Turkey, as well as many others. He hopes to eventually offer international teacher training.
Few people here, perhaps, know Murat’s unique life story in Turkey. As a child and through college, Murat did gymnastics. People became so impressed by his gymnast physique, they eventually convinced him to start show dancing – not bellydance – to DJ music at the biggest, poshest nightclub in Istanbul when he was 20 years old. Soon he was dancing with European dance teams.
A high-end fitness studio in Istanbul then hired Murat to teach his own style of nightclub show dancing. Between his teaching and his performances, Murat became so popular he was featured on a magazine cover. He meanwhile became a personal trainer.
Up until that time, Murat still had never publicly bellydanced. One day, a well-known bellydance teacher at the sports club was suddenly absent and management begged Murat to sub for her. Suffice it to say that he was such a big hit with the students, they insisted that the club add Murat as a regular bellydance teacher.
Backtracking to another couple threads of Murat’s life story, we find that this guy has a bright mind to go with a beautiful body! About the same time he began show dancing in the nightclub, Murat also entered law school in Istanbul, which he successfully completed, and then passed his bar exam. Once he became national news as a dancer, the conservative Turkish bar said he had to either stop doing dance shows or stop being a lawyer. Murat is not one to be thwarted. He simply went underground with his dancing: no interviews, no videos, no social media postings.
As a lawyer, Murat specialized in branding and franchising, eventually deciding he needed his own brand. On vacation, Murat ate his first fortune cookie in San Francisco Chinatown – it was a completely new experience for him. So he opened a fortune cookie factory when he returned home, the first in Turkey, first in Middle East. He used the name he had already well branded for himself dancing, so everyone ordered cookies from him. He made a fortune with his fortune cookies, then sold the company.
Murat came to Hawaii in 2016. I recognized a talented teacher as soon as I met him at one of our Sunday Satsangs, and hired him instantly. He’s been a valued member of our faculty and community ever since, unsurprised by his classes’ ever-growing popularity. We love this guy!
Our current guest trainer Carmen designed AIReal Yoga™ to use an aerial hammock as a yoga prop. She also became the first to offer an aerial yoga teacher training recognized by Yoga Alliance. After the birth of her second child, Jude, Carmen was determined to heal her body from the extreme sport of gymnastics, as well as heal her spirit from abuses she had suffered along the way. The practice of aerial yoga became her saving grace.
Carmen never expected to have her own studio or brand… it all arose out of her impulse to be of service. Growing up doing highly competitive gymnastics, she endured physical, mental, emotional and sexual abuse from her coaches. Then going to UCLA on a full scholarship for gymnastics and competing on the National Championship team, Carmen experienced coaching as loving support – a complete change of approach that showed her how teaching and mentoring should really be done.
Carmen emerged from being a victim to being someone who is both more resilient and more compassionate as a result of her many life experiences. She gives special credit to two of her teachers in life. Her coach Valorie Kondos at UCLA gave Carmen and her teammates the safe space to grow into strong women and strong leaders to others. Gurmukh of Golden Bridge Yoga taught Carmen that the purpose of life is to love and serve. Service – it’s the greatest love.
Carmen is joined by her husband Gregg in this shared inspiration. As they give-back to others, in 2012 Carmen and Gregg opened The Aerial Studio in Ventura, California, offering classes in AIReal Yoga™, the aerial performing arts and theatre, acrobatics, dance, parkour, trampoline, and yoga. A unique and inspirational space, The Aerial Studio is a place to enjoy fun, health-filled forms of fitness, as well a place to train to become a professional cirque performer. At a deeper level, their studio is a haven for community, for people to laugh and learn together with loving, supportive teachers.
Carmen and Gregg also adore being parents and consider Zoe and Jude to be their best gifts to the world!