What Is The Migration Project?

February 14, 2011

 Made up of a core group of 7 women from diverse continents and cultures, we are currently involved in a pilot project, whch will perform on March 20, 2011 at 7:30pm at Miles Nadal JCC (750 Spadina at Bloor, Toronto) in room 318. This performance has been built from our improvisation and has the motivation of bringing benefit to others.

We are using the stories of our own migrations, geographic, emotional, and spiritual, as source material for the improvisations through which the showing has been built up.

Yael Reshef, who founded the project, is a vocalist particularly interested in working with new immigrants from Africa, women who will benefit from an orientation to Canadian culture. Franci Williams is a gerontologist, certified 'Aging to Saging' practitioner, and sound therapist. I am involved with the work of Hospice Toronto and am interested in supporting those involved in grieving, or facing life-threatening illness, to express themselves through creating a performance using their own voices and movements.

We are using a thematic basis of 'awakening moment' (identifying the point at which an individual realized that something had to change), and then moving through the universal cycle of loss, transformation, and renewal. Bringing in the elements of spoken word, vocalization, and simple movement, we are crafting a performance that wll last under an hour. The process involves taking their building blocks of improvisation and organizing them into something that has a repeatable structure.

The other element is audience involvement, and we visualize the performances as intimate and suppotive co-creations between the identified players and the members of the audience, who will be able to participate to some degree in their own way.

The inclusive nature of the format is open enough that those participating can experiment with language, their voices, and physical movement without the necessity for prior artistic training. The intentions of this work is to evoke creative responses to challenges and create conditions in which friendship and problem-solving can flourish. While not a 'therapy group' per se, we most certainly feel that the work benefits the participant's sense of well-being, and so in a widening-ripple effect also benefits the community to which the women belong.

We welcome communication from those who are interested in partnering with us. Please direct correspondence to: the.migration.project@rogers.com


The Moment: The Dark Night of the Soul and Other Radical Moments of Revelation by Franci Williams

January 5, 2011

Iam calling this talk 'the moment'! The moment for you and for me when the journey, the migratory story began.

To begin our project story or narrative we thought we would start with our personal moments of revelation, of recognition, of awe.

There have been many in all our lives. What I want you to think about now is just one heart-rending, heart-wrenching, or soul-stirring experience that caused or inspired a shift within you in consciousness, or a move away --a migration, a journey.

Mythology tells us repeatedly stories about cyclical destruction and creation; and death and rebirth.

Usually for a journey to begin there must be a pivotal moment, an epiphany, a moment of self-realization, or a dark night of the soul, resulting in the unconscious and conscious need to grow, to change, and to transform.

In short, the evolutionary impulse embodied in soul-infused work shifts us to a new and higher plane of awareness, a new order of relatedness, a new level of consciousness, a deeper and higher perspecive that is always unimaginable until the moment it explodes into existence.

Sigmund Freud believed that the seeming irrationality of myth arises from the same source as the disconnectedness of dream; they are both symbolic reflections of unconscious and repressed fears and anxieties. Such fears and anxieties may be both universal aspects of the human condition as well as part and parcel of the creative impulse -- the dark and the light.

Being caught between the old way of life and the new possibilities, your sense of alienation will intensify and then the transition point is reached and the shift in consciousness occurs.

It is useful to be reminded that the Greeks and Romans incorporated aspects of their ethical codes in their myths. In a sense, these stories are manuals of morality, providing models for correct conduct with examples of which behaviors are rewarded and which are punished.

The Hero's quest is another example -- a hero is faced with horrific challenges and he or she accomplishes heroism despite the circumstances.

Beauty, Love, and Art are all features of mythology and religious tales.

The Dark Night of the Soul offers through struggle another response to redemption -- Through an individual's initiatory time in the underworld of soul, she uncovers a dream, a vision, or a revelation that will inspire, guide, and drive the action toward release and liberation or at least resolution until the next deep challenge arises.

"Suffering, sadness flies on the wings of the morning and out of the heart of darkness comes the light." -Jean Giraudoux


The Positive Power of Creativity, by Franci Williams

December 29, 2010

Creativity represents a miraculous coming together of the uninhibited energy of the child with its apparent opposite
and enemy: the sense of order imposed by the disciplined adult intelligence.
Norman Podhoretz

If you ask me what I came to do in this world, I, an artist, I will answer you:
I am here to live out loud.
Emile Zola

Imagination is more important than knowledge.
Albert Einstein

Creativity is seeing what others see and thinking what no one else has thought.
Albert Einstein

As you are aware, more and more attention is now being given from the discilines of psychology, physiology, gerontology and the arts, to name just a few, to the potential power of creativity to significantly ease the challenges of life and moreover, enhance every aspect of our lives.

The word Wisdom (Hochma) in Jewish mysticism helps me to conceptualize creatiity. Wisdom encompasses the realm of innovation, creativity, and the bursting forth of new ideas and forms.

Accordingly, participation in the arts, being creative, in any way you define it, stimulates the senses, evokes emotions, develops the imagination and adds a flow and presence to our lives like nothing else. We can be radically awakened through creativity no matter how lost we might feel. Feeling creative empowers us to develop our full potential and extends our inner resources to withstand difficulties whenever they appear.

Creativity can be described as a flame that heats the human spirit and kindles our desire for inner growth and self-expression.

Virtually every form of artistic expression provides optimal utilization of the benefits of simultaneous brain involvement--integrating left and right brain capacities. Additionally being creative synthesizes and intensifies the mind/body/spirit connection par excellence.

Being creative thus has benefits reaching from the social, getting us out, to the spiritual, effectively enhancing meaning and purpose, and covering all aspects of our lives in-between.

Creativity is the key to an examined and empowered life. Being actively connected to ourselves and our communities, we are enabled to communicate effectively within and between generations, making sense of and reconciling life experiences, understanding and celebrating the present, and creating a legacy for the future. Creativity also allows us to experiment without fear of failing - to be challenged - and to succeed in learning new skills and discovering latent ones.

A flame/spirit/inspiration connects purposeful and positive living with the process of creative activity. Additionally being creative synthesizes and intensifies the mind/body/spirit connection in a dynamic way.
When we are engaged in creative action, the conscious mind and the unconscious mind are engaged, often simultaneously. Thus to recognize that, in varying degrees we can employ these great forces of the mind to help liberate our creative potentials.

Creativity increases with the doing. The unconscious (and the conscious) informs the work, the experience, thus the unconscious during the creative act has the potential to bring your inner issues to the surface - to consciousness and then through creativity you are able to work through them, possibly resolving many repressed inner conflicts and barriers.

Sensory memories of creative people are generally very strong. Scenes from childhood can be vividly recalled. Subtle distinctions of touch or taste are possible. What you notice, what you bring into closer focus-whether it be a tree, an insect, the way our friend moves her hands, the noises a child makes while playing - triggers in you a response. The response is not a duplicate of what you see, hear, taste, smell or touch; it is a reaction to it and reinvention of it.

The gift of your perception, which can recreate what you see, is both vital and compelling. Encourage it to be active, call it out, and let it enrich your life.

Experience what is possible when we let go and open our sense to sound, singing, music and joy.


感覚は魂の言葉, by Yumi Onose

November 22, 2010

Feeling is the Language of the Soul, by Yumi Onose

Feeling is language of soul.

Feeling never lie.

Be simple.

Taste the feeling inside your body.

Let any emotions go.

Enjoy communion.

Enjoy connection.

Enjoy compassion.

We are naturally exchanging energy each other.

Sharing this beautiful moment.

We recognize who we are.


Gypsy Dance Migration, by Yvonne Bloom

November 20, 2010

The documented history of Raks Sharki is very sketchy, but I have gleaned this information from many years of interest and study in this area. Each recount of the story is personally coloured by nuances, flavours and colours which are lost through the written word. That being said, may I patch together the bits and pieces I have learned over the years, and offer you a picture...

Oriental Dance, Raks Sharki, Belly Dance

These movements were borne out of an ancient time when women honoured their bodies, nature and the spirit world. We lived together in community and functioned in harmony. The people planted according to the moon, and listened intently to the voices of the earth, energies and plants. In so doing they balanced their light and dark sides. Their dance was more of a sacred dance, They socialized, cooked and cleaned with other women. Men provided lovingly for their families. Men and women lived in harmony.

However, there were those who felt the need for control. Using force and brainwashing techniques, a particular group of men disrupted these rituals, and caused them to become taboo. Weaker minds gave in. The men in control convinced the majority to ostracize those practicing these rituals, and as a result drove them underground. Weaker minds gave in, and the stronger minds who resisted, and were determined to maintain their ancient ways, were forced to live on the outskirts of society.

This gave birth to the Gypsies, men and women who became trouble makers as they scoffed at the ongoings of mainstream society. Gypsies stayed around for as long as they could, however if they became too uncomfortable in an area, they would drift to other regions, as control and dominance spread like a disease from region to region in the East.

Gypsies from one area would connect with gypsies from other areas, continuing to dance, practice their ways, and learn from each other. This helped to evolve the dance. It became more versatile as it migrated through North Africa, Greece, Turkey, Persia (Iran) and 22 cultures in all. As this happened, the dance took different shapes, with many different flavours.

Eventually the West caught wind of this "exotic" dance from the East and wanted to bring it home with them. But they quickly discovered that it did not have the same ambiance as the Gypsy dance. Romanticizers from the West spun hypnotic tales, though the Gypsies were very poor, and with little means of a balanced diet, were suffering imbalances resulting from undernutrition and poor dental and personal hygiene.

Any money they did have, they sewed into their clothing. Dances which had been performed in small groups on the earth were taken to the stage, and absorbed Western elements. Rags took on glamour and glitz. Bra, skirt, and coin belt all became part of an image and developed into a costume. Eventually a dance evolved that encompassed elements of East and West. Because of this you can Belly Dance to any rhythm imaginable. You do not need a partner, and I call it "moving yoga". Bellydance is structurally correct for the human anatomy and is a fun and wonderful way to strengthen the body in proper alignment. You can see this in the ease with which professional belly dancers go into a full knee bend, and the looseness of the hips.

In the East today, you are frowned upon if you bellydance in public, being regarded as a stripper. However, you can dance with other women, in private...

UNLESS, of course, you become a professional dancer. THEN you are showered with gifts, adulated, given cars, travel the world and houses, asked to perform at weddings. Imagine what a man whould have to endure to become a dancer, especially if he wanted to dance in a female style...You can check our Tito on Youtube under 'Bellydance Tito'. Tito is an amazing dancer who had to endure insurmountable odds, but now has a huge following, and teaches many women the feminine style of belly dance.

Belly dance is a way of connecting to a community of other dancers who are there to help you find and draw out the Goddess/God or light within you. You do not need a partner for this dance, nor do you need an audience. This dance is a way to escape the ordinary bounds of life, to ignite your creativity, experience freedom, and help create a life you are passionate about living.

If you are performing, it is a means of self-expression that goes beyond words, and relays many different forms of energy.I always say that technique is not as important as passion in terms of how well you connect with your audience, and what they feel when they are in your presence as you dance.

I have had the privilege of teaching (actually they taught me a thing or two) students with Downs Syndrome, and they ended up performing for a large audience. They could not easily remember the moves, but the way they danced was unclouded by expectation. They were able to connect with the audience and get them going, bringing audience members out of where they were and into a community where everybody is important.

My Downs group did a demonstration or mini-lesson after the performance where one of the audience members said, out loud, "This is hard", and one of the Downs dancers said, with all her love and enthusiasm, "Don't worry, be happy".

As the audience roared, there was instant understanding and connection, and a miracle occurred in that moment.

Don't worry. Be happy.

Yara Ma'ab
Yvonne Bloom


Enlightened Aging, by Franci Williams

November 15, 2010

Rarely do we see images of an enlighted concept of aging. In fact, the two prevailing models of aging are firstly, one of disease, frailty, uselessness and dependence; and secondly, one of older people that act and look young--called 'successful aging'. Both are extremes and both are stereotypes.

Thomas Cole points out in The Journey of Life that the 'successful aging' model gives priority to physical health as the plan to salvation, but leaves out the spiritual dimension. He says that modern gerontology treats aging as a problem of social engineering to be solved through technological means. This one-sided drive to alter, reverse, or somehow control the biological process of aging actually impoverishes its meaning. So-called positive aspects of aging turn out to be disguised efforts to restore youth, rather than attempts to appreciate growing old as an important and fundamental part of human existence.

However I have discovered a new perspective on aging, a revolutionary paradigm, that has not only offered me a positive direction, but also opens up the aging experience to be a transformative one, of living a life of joy, meaning, service and love, In short to become more of who we are--our authentic selves, rather than society's expectations of who we should be.

In elderhood, we can derive our identity more from the level of being, rather than doing. As we become more contemplative, we can rely less on finding self-worth through our performance/status in the work world. Gradually we find another dimension opening up in which our identity comes not from what we do, but from who we are, from being rather than doing. In lives dedicated to inner growth and development, our physical appearance and even its functioning become less important.

Spiritual Eldering offers a new model of aging whose goals are to reclaim and transform our elder years from our socialized notions of aging as useless to valued, from empty and alientated; to involved, fulfilled and full of meaning. Spiritual eldering seeks to reverse society's ageist attitudes so that we may live our older years as vital, dynamic and useful, complete human beings.

According to Rabbi Zalman Schacter Shalomi, elders are wisdom-keepers who have an ongoing responsibility for maintaining society's well-being and safeguarding the health of our ailing planet. They are pioneers in consciousness, people who practice contemplative arts from our spiritual traditions to open up greater intelligence for their late-life vocations. Using tools for inner growth, such as meditation, journal writing, and life review, elders come to terms with their mortality, harvest the wisdom of their years, transmit a legacy to future generations and prepare for death. Serving as mentors, they pass on the distilled essence of their life experience to others.

In Jewish tradition, our older years are particularly a time of quest for a life of meaning. This message is embodied in the concept of mitzvah. Through mitzvah, or religious obligation, the older Jew can achieve a profound sense of self-worth and social value. Abraham Joshua Heshel suggested that it is through being obligated that one truly exists. Older adults who believe that they are still obligated see themselves engaged in the central human task of tikkun olam; repairing and redeeming their world through observing the mitzvot. In turn this practice shows them that their actions matter, that they can transcend the narrow confines of their current lives, which may have been influenced by debilitating messages from the culture around them.

Thus, spiritual eldering affirms and nurtures the potential of elders, encouraging and teaching them to become more aware of the wisdom from their life experience and to use this wisdom for the benefit of themselves and others. There is a special purpose to this stage of our life cycle which is unique and different from the other stages.

And I, like Betty Friedan (in The Fountain of Age) began this quest with my own denial and fear of age. And for Friedan it ends with acceptance, affirmation and celebration. I'm not quite there yet, but I do look forward to every birthday with gratitude and pride, and yes, a lot more fun too.



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