Day 8 - Mindful Women
Finding time to simply be was the theme today. We were to enjoy watching the women of the Seven Women centre experience moments of calm, happiness, curiosity and flow.
In co-ordination with Anita, the director, we had planned today to run some mindful colouring sessions, meditation and stretch classes, and for Liz to spend some time highlighting basic nutrition principles so that all women cared for there will have the best opportunity for good health. These are women who have had many, many difficulties in life. They may have been born disabled, married young and then abandoned, or have been victims of domestic violence or destitution.
Our desire was to bring to them some moments of peace and awareness of their own special attributes. On the first visit the women had loved being guided through a short meditation session the floor. So I conducted another session together today. I simply use a technique that involves some initial deep breaths to start to calm the breath, then we bring awareness to acknowledge our five senses and notice what can be heard, felt, smelt in the nearby environment. Following this is a body scan to release tension and calm the body. Then it is simply focus on the in breath and out breath, to calm the mind. This time there was a great deal of background noise of hammering and sawing in the new Seven Women cooking school that is being built next door. I needed to explain that noise is a normal part of life and to not be distracted by it but to simply notice it and allow it to be there, and come and go from our attention. The same attitude is used for dealing with constant chatter and thoughts in the mind; not to be frustrated or distracted by them but to simply notice them and allow them to pass by, with the next out breath.
Naturally my mastery of the Nepali language is not quite up to these simple instructions of how to meditate and I’m pretty sure some was lost in translation! But it didn’t matter as the women were more than happy to simply be in the moment and enjoy a new experience. After the meditation we moved into a mindful colouring activity. This was designed by Liz and myself to combine the concepts of sharing compassion to others and also to self. The mandala of compassion was created by the Dalai Lama for meditation focus on world peace. The woman settled quickly into doing something they had never done before: colouring in. Silently and mindfully their pencils followed the shapes, curves, symbols, and repeating patterns of the mandala. For 30 minutes they were completely absorbed in colouring and creating and enjoying the simple flow of being focused on a task. It was actually very poignant to watch them at work. There was a simply innocence in them that belied the harshness of their existence before coming to the Seven Women centre.
We had done $1200 worth of fundraising for Seven Women by selling the Mandala colouring books as a pay it forward approach of buying one for self and one for each of these women. They were so appreciative of the gift.
When we returned later in the day, we had to negotiate the streets flooded by lunchtime monsoon rain. It was a deluge as we ran ankle deep through the streets running with water. Whilst I usually find the experience of walking in rain very mindful, today the additional stench of sewerage made me realise it probably wasn’t just rain water we sloshed our way through!
Back at the Centre, it seemed that the women had put down their sewing tools for most of the afternoon and the pencils had dominated. Already they had decoratively filled pages of their new prized possession- a colouring book. It was humbling to watch how much pleasure this small gift brought today and again for many hours in the future. A group from a Women’s Wellness Weekend in Melbourne had coloured a mandala page each to give to these women with each book. The pages done today by the Seven Women will be attached to Mandala books that will soon be delivered back to those same Melbourne women. The cross-culture sharing of mindful moments is an acknowledgement that women need to find some time to stop and settle our busy or fearful minds, and take some time for simply being. Mindful colouring was the opportunity for simply being.
The lower part of the colouring sheet was blank for the women to draw an outline of their hand and then to write five words that best describe their values and who they really are or want to be. This activity was also repeated on squares of calico to be hung as bunting around the workshop room. With their names, creative hands and core values displayed, it was to give a sense of belonging and sharing to all who come to the Seven Women Centre. Whilst some did not have the literacy skills to write the actual words they felt, they were assisted by Anita if needed. One woman asked for the word grateful to be written on her handprint as this was her way of expressing to Liz and myself the gratitude she felt for the opportunity we have given her to experience such new and wonderful things since we arrived. Another word seemed to keep appearing on many of the handprints of the twelve women as their core value in life. It was freedom. It was my heart-wrenching realisation that this is what it means to be a marginalised woman: the absence of freedom. It struck me that I have taken for granted my status as an independent western woman who is free to choose safety and protection, happiness and health, and a certain measure of peace in my life. The life of a Nepali woman is so hard. But whilst life offers difficult times, it can offer beauty too. Today there was beauty in the simplest of things.