Nicolae Tanase: Zuleikha, what is the meaning of life?
Zuleikha: In the way of the world, these days, when shootings and bombings and all types of violence are inflicted on people, plants and planet, this is a question I don’t really think about. However, I can say that for me, life begets its meaning as we take part in it.
In my own life, I have found that spending most of my time in the study and practice of music, dance, and story takes the enormity of thinking out of the picture, and brings the energy of living life into my being.
Where does this take place? In the body. We are born into this magnificent ”suit,” especially tailored for life on this planet earth, and it is so incredible that science has been studying the way the body works for many years.
In the ancient systems of music, movement, painting, and being, the master teachers called these types of learning, ‘sciences’. The ‘science of movement’ is a way of understanding the place where emotion, body, color, rhythm, and sound come together inside of the stories.
Stories are one of the ways we learn. Stories hold information from the past. Stories are ways we tell ourselves how to remember. Stories can act as a container. In the meaning of life, things that have happened help shape who we are. These can be seen as our stories.
In my own life, I have found the feeling of deep meaning inside movement, music, and healing from my explorations and studies with master teachers in western and eastern traditions
I have had some periods of my life where my body wasn’t able to move. I couldn’t walk for quite some time, due to an illness that developed from a poorly performed operation.
As I became able to learn to move again, I spent a lot of time doing what I jokingly called ‘inner movement research.’ Through movement I learned that the way I thought I should move was not what my body felt like doing. As I learned to listen to the way my body wanted to move, incredible revelations happened. Little things like: I moved away from the place where the scar tissue was, internally, and while moving, my body wanted to move through the scar tissue. I was afraid, and tried not to do it. Then I became witness to something different, something unknown, a softness began to happen inside of the hardened scar tissue. I remember weeping, and learning new movements through my body, ways I didn’t know. Things like this happened a lot. I never dreamt I would share this with anyone.
Through a depth of integration, movement and awareness, this has become what we refer to now as the BodyListening ©MAP, (Movement Awareness Practice).
As well, through my work as an Artist-in-Residence, in the New Mexico Public School System, and then around the USA and different international sites, during assembly programs of my ‘storydance,’ I kept seeing the students getting uncomfortable sitting too long. I began to get groups of hundreds of students at a time to stand up—in the cafeterias, or gymnasiums or classrooms, doing kinds of stretching and simple movements that relieved the stress of sitting for long periods of time. After introducing this technique into our meetings of the New Mexico Governor’s Health and Physical Fitness Council, and in other group settings, these exercises have become known as “Take A Minute ™ For Your Life Everyday Self-Care Exercises.”
Back to the meaning of life. Often, when people do these exercises, they feel better, happiness comes, a smile, a laugh, and a surprise in the way they feel. When I started our non-profit organization, The Storydancer Project, an international artistic health resource organization, I had the idea that it is possible to ‘take a minute’ in the middle of a stressful moment, and that this could help others to feel better.
In The Storydancer Project, (TSP) we serve girls, women, children and families challenged by life circumstances. Serving up these simple movements in the midst of ‘the way things are’ has become an invitation to the Feast of Being—joyful awareness in the moment.
Feeling good in ‘the one you came here in.’ That’s what I like to say to people after the laughter and relaxation takes place. With survivors of domestic abuse, teachers, nurses, doctors, counselors, students, women sold into trafficking, offenders of domestic violence, caregivers, people in the last stages of cancer…the list goes on and on.
The meaning of life becomes revealed in me as I work with all kinds of humans, experiencing together the possibility of resilience and rejuvenation.
For dessert, I get to dance and perform, and the cycle continues.
Gratitude brings meaning—gratitude for better health and well-being, for teachers and students, and for the learning that continues to help us take the next step.
~Zuleikha is an international performer and educator whose work inspires dynamic creativity and rejuvenation through the profound art of movement. Renowned for her global work with women, children and families, “storydance” performances, innovative classes, and collaborations celebrating the poetry of Rumi, she is also the creator of Take a Minute™, an exercise program to increase vitality and resilience. Founder and executive director of The Storydancer Project, a non-profit organization that serves girls, women, children and families facing challenging life circumstances, Zuleikha is a recipient of several awards for her outstanding work in the world promoting positive personal and social change, including first place at the Indian International Palliative Care Conference for her abstract on her Relaxation Therapeutic Health Exercise Program© for palliative care patients and their families, created in partnership with CanSupport, Delhi, India.
Excellence Reporter 2016 © Zuleikha