By September 10, 2013 Read More →

CSW57: A Night of Healing

On March 13, 2013, during the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), a community event in honor of Women’s History Month, called A Night of Healing: Discovering Our Inner Strength and Courage was sponsored by W.A.R.M. (We all really matter) and the Brahma Kumaris. It brought together CSW delegates and the Harlem community for a discussion about using the tools we have within us to heal ourselves and heal the world around us. The central focus of this forum was to eliminate violence against women and girls, which was also the priority theme for this years CSW.

W.A.R.M.’s director, Stephanie McGraw, began this healing event by asking us to hug ourselves, ‘if no one does it’, she adds, “we do.” The event was held in Harlem Hospital Auditorium, in the heart of West Harlem, Manhattan. She welcomed the panelists, presenters, and audience (about 300), and spoke of her own healing journey out of domestic violence.

Denise C. Soares, R.N.,M.A., Executive Director of Harlem Hospital Center, Renaissance Health Care Network with 440 employees, asked a series of questions to help us identify whether we are a victim of domestic violence. She described the role of the hospital in the community.

Renee McRae, poetic empowerment speaker, delivered a long compelling poem she had composed especially for the evening addressing domestic violence. She enthralled the audience with her wisdom and clarity and set the tone for the evening: creating a safe place to address the painful stories of victims and the stories of success.

Local police officers explained that they are available and trained at the local 32nd precinct to intervene when necessary in cases of domestic violence. They encouraged victims to reach out to them with the promise of discretion and sensitivity. Call (212)690-6346. We are partners with W.A.R.M. said Sgt.Tavarez.

TV anchor for NY 1 News, Cheryl Wills, moderated the evening, adding eloquence and her own experience. Her female ancestors had been victims of domestic violence while being brutally assaulted by their partners. Her mother broke the mould when she told her partner “I dare you.” We all knew what she was talking about. Her mother moved to the Bronx and raised her daughters to be free of violence and the beautiful powerhouses they are today.

Ms Willis surprised Stephanie McGraw with the “New Yorker of the Week” award for her, and her organizations, work in the community. Stephanie had been a speaker at the United Nations that week on behalf of domestic violence victims.

The atmosphere was charged with enthusiasm and energy throughout the evening.

President Obama was hailed for signing the bill to eradicate violence against women.

Five panelists, from a wide range of countries, (USA, Australia, Canada/Mexico, and Costa Rica) had an opportunity to share their insights, as Ms Wills interacted with them asking poignant questions,.

Psychologist Cynthia Grace, Ph.D candidly admitted her realization that her father killed her mother with his insidious abusive emotional behavior. Women have changed she says, in the 21st Century, women have more sense of entitlement. We need a redefinition of manhood, and to develop healthy attitudes between men and women. Women are ready to change their lives.

Carl Murrel is the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bha’is of the US representative to the United Nations. He stated that in order to change men’s attitudes, there has to be community involvement and it must start with young boys, 5-11 year olds. Give them spiritual perspective. He described a conversation with a foreign student at an Alabama University, located in a mostly African American state. Only 5% of the students are African American. The foreign student said to him, in way of explanation, that while he had a plan, he noticed that African American students tend to live moment by moment.

Presenting a youth perspective on the panel, Juan Jesus Vazquez Milling, said that his mother and siblings were granted refuge status by Canada, after his father in Mexico consistently assaulted his mother. Juan is a homeopath and a teacher of meditation with the Brahma Kumaris. “Men have to get involved in ending this pandemic of violence against women” said Juan. When asked how he dealt with his history of experiencing violence in the home, he described how through meditation he learned to feel compassion for his father. It also led to him to become a homeopath, which helped him look at healing in a more holistic way. He felt one must get the healthiest food for the body and the soul, and for the latter the practice of finding inner peace and becoming light, brought some resolution

Marianne Lizana Moreno, a psychologist and former National Gender Advisor for UNFPA as well as a Brahma Kumaris teacher in Costa Rica has extensive connections with the public and government sector assisting in the efforts to end violence against girls. When asked what are the internal conditions to change a life of violence, she responded that more awareness is needed. Living in violence or war is not normal. This awareness is already part of people in Costa Rica, a country without an army. Developing new attitudes such as “I want to have a life of happiness and peace, and nonviolence, creates a new vision for ones self. With this new vision our response and actions follow suite accordingly. Maryanne practices meditation for two hours a day to bring peace of mind and control her own thoughts to overcome anger and fear. She helps victims of domestic violence by helping them to find their inner strength so they can find their own internal conditions to change.

Jill Shanti from Australia, has worked with women for over 20 years. A victim of domestic violence herself she was faced with scepticism that evening on how meditation can help a woman about to be violently abused by her partner. She told a story. A woman had been placed by the court system in her women’s meditation group. That woman kept herself outside the circle for a number of sessions and did not participate. One day she said she wanted to share her story. Her partner was about to punch her in the face as he had done many times in the past. She started to say to herself repeatedly, “I am peace” as she had learned during the group’s sessions. Her partner then stopped and told her that he could not hit her. “I don’t know what you are doing but I can’t hit you.” He had responded to the energy she got through her meditation at that moment.

Jill described the meditation process as a long-term practice to help find our inner strength and deal with the situation in the long term. It is not a magical instant cure. It requires commitment and willingness to change. We want peace, a safe space, so our inner space is where we find peace and security. If there is belief in God, connect with God, and get love, strength, and support. Shame keeps women in that situation, they feel what happens in the home should stay in the home. They first have to understand that the violence against them is not their fault. They have to understand the brain washing techniques and putdowns have taken away their confidence and self-respect. She suggested making a list of the putdowns and then a list of their qualities and true selves. She then gave another example of a man who told his wife that he was going to hang himself because of her worthlessness. She then read to him the list she had made of her good qualities. He stopped. His tactic did not get the reaction he expected: a woman in fear of him.

After the panel discussion several audience members were invited to speak.
An Irish sex trade survivor, who had spoken earlier that day at the UN on behalf of the Coalition against Trafficking of Women spoke of her own journey starting at age 15 as a commodity for sale. The sex trade is the most potent form of violence against women, she explained. In her book “Paid For” she describes her horrific story of survival. “Not until you discover your inner strength and believe you deserve better, something else, can you even begin to climb out of the pits of sex trade life”. She said.

A Nigerian woman wrote the story of women in Africa in her book “Sentenced by Tradition” to bring awareness of the plight of women in Africa who lose all their rights to property and children when they are widowed.

Finally, Dr. Kala Iyengar, a pediatrician now Director of Peace Village and Learning and Retreat Center in the Catskills closed the event with comments and meditation. She spoke of how when we are ill, we focus on healing and prevention. So how can meditation help the healing and prevention of domestic violence? Dr. Iyengar described the process of learning meditation as looking at the self, learning to go deep inside to find respect for the self and love for the self. No need to look outside because we are more than a body. Through meditation self-respect is re-claimed drop by drop.

Then Dr. Iyengar led the audience into a beautiful and powerful guided meditation with thoughts of who we really are . . . souls filled with divinity and strength, children of God. An audience, mostly of women from the Harlem community and members of organized religions, were given a chance to see for themselves the benefits of meditation. One elderly lady was heard in the ladies’ room later exclaiming, “I liked that meditation, it felt good.”

Posted in: Health

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