I would like to share with this group a small project I have initiated this past year. I am an Israeli yoga teacher living in Jerusalem and I began last year to teach yoga to Palestinian women in East Jerusalem. This project was born from a deep inner and outer journey to find my purpose and way to contribute towards peace here. For all of the women I teach, and for me, it is a beautiful and enlightening experience of touching the light, the love and the peace, within our difficult situation here in Israel and Palestine. Below is a draft of my vision. Thank you for your attention.
"SALAAM YOGA!" PROJECT VISION:
* To teach Yoga to Palestinian women, as a tool for empowerment, expansion of consciousness, peace of mind, body and well-being.
* To connect between Israeli and Palestinian women through facilitating a common space and activity, promoting communication and sharing, thereby building bridges of trust, truth, friendship, solidarity and mutual support.
* To recognize the need and promote the empowerment of women of different cultures, religions and nations
* To plant seeds for a future culture of peace, where consciousness of unity, oneness of humanity, and the interconnectedness of us all, prevails.
1) To initiate group/s of Yoga for women in different Israeli Arab/Palestinian neighborhoods or villages, teaching a course of 3 month / 6 month / one year of weekly classes, or adapt to their possibilities.
2) Within the Yoga classes, to facilitate sharing and integrating of the experiences of the class.
3) To identify people willing to learn to teach Yoga in their own communities, and facilitate Yoga Teachers training.
4) To hold a 1-2 day Yoga for Peace Workshop, (including other activities, such as Dance, Bodywork etc) open to Jewish Israeli and Palestinian women to meet and connect.
5) To have a weekly Yoga class for mixed Jewish and Arab women together.
6) To find Palestinian participants for an International Project of Yoga for Peace (see www.hoypeaceproject.org
) and to participate in the Global Yoga Mala on the UN International Day of Peace 2009! (see www.globalmala.org
7) To widen the project interests to include other healing practices such as arts, dance, bodywork, nutrition, ecology, permaculture, community building, etc.
1) There is an interest for mind/body healing and empowering practices in the Palestinian communities, and there is a lack of qualified teachers.
2) There is a lack of money to pay qualified teachers in Palestinian communities.
3) There is a growing community of spiritual practitioners, willing to act for peace – to take steps towards building a culture of peace.
4) There is a need for more frameworks for Israelis and Palestinians, looking to act towards co-existence and living in peace.
Yoga is a tool for developing inner peace. Yoga is a way of connecting to one's self - to mind, body, heart, soul and spirit. Beginning with cultivating a healthy, vital, stable, balanced, flexible, light, relaxed body, through the practice of Yoga Asana, we come to a peace and harmony with our physical body. We learn to cultivate the life force energy, learning to regulate, channel and balance the energy flow within us, producing sufficient energy to vitalize the whole system. The mental practice brings concentration, self-awareness, balance and peace of mind, positive thinking, and an overall sense of well-being. We learn to connect to our heart, to the love that is present. The way of life in Yoga is one of truth, non-violence, compassion and consciousness of unity. Through Yoga we can reach a state of BEING PEACE. (See full essay below)
Strategies for "SALAAM YOGA" Project
Stage One – Teaching Yoga to Palestinian women
1) Network with Palestinian communities in East Jerusalem, to establish needs and interest in different courses (e.g. yoga for beginners, pregnant women, older women, children, teachers training)
2) Identify possible venues, which can provide a safe space for the women to practice.
3) Run a series of trial classes and then together with the women write a description in Arabic of the classes that can be acceptable in the public (e.g. exercise and relaxation for health), and an evaluation for themselves and for their community
4) Use this description to market and publicize classes.
5) Locate an interpreter with whom I can work (until I can teach the classes in Arabic). This could also be someone who has a more serious interest to study Yoga.
6) Teach weekly/bi-weekly classes in a 3-6 month/ or one year course.
7) Initiate groups that other Yoga teachers can come and teach. These must be people who work the same kind of spirit.
8) Eventually do a teachers training course to enable to teach within one's own community.
Stage Two – Bringing together Israeli and Palestinian women in joint workshops
1) To facilitate within the groups also communication and expression, encouraging the women to share the experiences in a way of truth and building trust within the group.
2) To bring the groups of Palestinian women to meet each other for 1-2 full day yoga workshops, also possibly including additional activities such as dance and bodywork, art, singing, theatre etc.
3) To bring together the group of Palestinian women to meet Israeli women yoga practitioners in joint workshops and to build bridges of dialogue and friendship between them through the common activities.
4) To cultivate and nurture the friendships through further co-existence projects, building community.
Currently running classes
Three yoga classes for Palestinian women from the different neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem have been started. I am working to form consistent groups who become more stable in Yoga practice, and am learning key Arabic words to teach the classes, unless someone translates from English to Arabic (no Hebrew!). At a later stage, when trust is established between the women and I, the Yoga is more deeply instilled, and the timing is right, I will move to the next stage of bringing them to meet Jewish Israeli women.
The classes have been started in the following neighbourhoods:
1) Jabel Mukaber, East Jerusalem
2) Sur Bakhar, East Jerusalem
3) Sheikh Jarrah, East Jerusalem
Contact has been established with other neighbourhoods, who are interested and willing to go for it, but cannot provide any payment, so it is currently on hold until funding can be obtained.
Affiliated with project
1) Israel - Israel Yoga Teachers Organization – moral support of the project
2) International -Heart of Yoga Middle East Project (www.hoypeace.project.org
) – possible sponsorship
What is needed?
1) To find Peace NGO's, International Yoga organizations; Women’s organizations, who are willing to provide a moral support to this project.
2) To find sponsors willing to financially support SALAAM YOGA! project.
Links to INTERNATIONAL YOGA ORGANISATIONS INTERESTED IN YOGA for PEACE:
Essay: Why Yoga?
In order to change the world, we have to change ourselves. For there to be peace in the world, we have to begin with seeking and finding the peace within ourselves. To heal the world, we need to start within ourselves, by developing compassion, tolerance, respect, non-violence and love, towards ourselves and fellow human beings and nature. We need to cultivate our minds and our hearts to bring peace, one person at a time, until the world reaches a critical mass of peace-workers instead of war-makers.
When one person at a time realizes that the choice between war and peace is in one's own mind, realizes that ALL IS ONE, we are all connected, and that one's own well-being is connected to the well-being of all humanity and nature, realizes that when one cultivates good positive energy and thoughts, one contributes to the collective consciousness of humanity, and therefore one must take RESPONSIBILITY to create peace, and plant seeds for a future culture of peace.
Yoga is a tool for developing inner peace. Yoga is a way of connecting to one's self - to mind, body, heart, soul and spirit. Beginning with cultivating a healthy, vital, stable, balanced, flexible, light, relaxed body, through the practice of Yoga Asana, we come to a peace and harmony with our physical body. We learn to cultivate the life force energy, learning to regulate, channel and balance the energy flow within us, producing sufficient energy to vitalize the whole system. The mental practice brings concentration, self-awareness, balance and peace of mind, positive thinking, and an overall sense of well-being. We learn to connect to our heart, to the love that is present. The way of life in Yoga is one of truth, non-violence, compassion and consciousness of unity. Through Yoga we can reach a state of BEING PEACE.
Through Yoga we study the mind and consciousness, and hence Yoga is a tool for transformation. By turning the mind inwards through meditation and awareness, we achieve inner stability and awareness of our psychological patterns. We can learn to change our behavioral patterns through practice of awareness of our thoughts and conscious choices of the direction of our thinking. One by one we can come to the awareness that I AM the turning point. I am the mirror of the whole. I am responsible for adding either positive thoughts or negative thoughts to the collective consciousness of humanity, and therefore I have to take responsibility and learn to deal consciously with my thoughts. One human being at a time, we can discover and recognize the inner war structures within our own minds, the matrix of violence, the patterns of thought which lead to the direction of war/destruction/disempowerment. And when we are aware of these thought patterns, we can learn to make conscious choices to change - to switch the direction of the energy of the thought towards peace and empowerment –to cultivate the opposite. We can learn to recognize those micro-points within ourselves, where we need to make the switch from war to peace, knowing that we have a responsibility to the world, by making our own inner change. How can I be the change I want to see in the world?
Yoga is a tool for an inward journey towards self-realization, of fulfilling our highest potential, and knowing our true nature - the realization that all is ONE, where consciousness of unity, oneness of humanity, and the interconnectedness of us all, prevails. If one by one we could realize our soul, our divine inner core, our unique being that each of us is, we will become an enlightened humanity.
Yoga is a tool for personal transformation, and "the approach of personal transformation is the idea of the future for ending war. It depends on the advantage that people of peace have over war-makers: sheer numbers. If enough people in the world transformed themselves into peacemakers, war could end. The leading idea here is critical mass." (Deepak Chopra, Peace is the Way). May we begin to plant seeds for a future culture of peace, where consciousness of unity, global oneness of humanity, and the interconnectedness of us all, prevails, and where peaceful awareness expands in our families, neighborhoods, nations, and the world.