To be a part of TED was truly an honor and a pleasure.
I mean just to say you are going to a TED gathering brings with it all those wonderful images and thoughts of all the wonderful speakers that have come and gone but never really gone out of one’s mind, psyche and being.
Among the speakers those that talk about such great things that my mind can not even register and those that spoke about such things that are so small but yet so grand.
The realizations that are made at a TED conference are truly life changing.
The friendships that I made I know are going to be touching my life for the years to come.
When asked to speak at TEDx Abu Dhabi, I knew right away that I wanted to talk about Poetry Therapy, the art and the medicine of healing through words.
I have been learning and practicing this art from a dear friend and mentor John Fox, founder of the Institute for Poetic Medicine, and through his empowerment, I have learned that this is what I am supposed to be doing in my life. Healing with words. I have no scientific proof, but sometimes a hug is more proof than I need, a smile or a tear drop that had been welled up inside but never let out.
Thank you to Organizers and Volunteers:
Thank you for all those organizers who made the event possible…. Thank you to Mubarak Al Amry for having the vision to bring TED to Abu Dhabi and to Carmen Oprea for following through. And of course nothing can ever be done with out the right team such Oksana Shumylo, Alenoush Mirzaians, Tunde Gal, Kareem Ebaid, Faris Abdulkhair, Jessica Dall’anese and Lucinda Yule and so many many more people. All the wonderful volunteers, photographers, camera groups, lights and sound technicians, and those that fed us at break and took care of the exhibition hall so it was ready and clean. Those that set out the imaginary red carpet to welcome us and those that dusted the floors after we left. A heart-felt thank you.
Thank you to Presenters:
Thank you to all the presenters that shared the stage with me and enlightened me as well as inspired me. Ahmad Al Astad speaking about Closing the knowledge gap. Yiannis Lagos talking about Five Myths for Modern Workplace. Yalman Khan and Kunal Wadhwani spoke about Feeding the future. Nayla Al Khaja spoke about film making in UAE, her talk called My shower Curtain and the Universe. She also showed us her short film Arabana about child neglect and abuse. I have written a few lines about the movie and the feelings and images it brought up for me in another blog post. Tarek S. Niazi who is a writer and scientist spoke about Earth Changes, The Tale of 3 Magnets. Mohammad Mourad who is the regional manager of Google Gulf spoke about Remaking the Arab World.
We had the pleasure of hearing Faisal Al Saari play the oud. Shaima Al Sayed a stand up comedian spoke to us of The Unconventional Bridge. Jourdan Younis made us think about “Are our buildings killing us?” Mariam Al Mazrouei spoke about a topic close to my heart, Bus Raids and Her Passion for Charity. Gus Halwani spoke about Music, Neuroscience and Education: What can we learn from the spaces in between? And Also we had the great pleausre of hearing a young musician Hamzah Jamal Saadah who had also played recently at Speak Abu Dhabi. His fingers come from a place of depth and wisdom when he is on the Qanoon. And of course a special thanks to our host of the evening Azza Al Mughairy for introducing everyone of the speakers and also the musicians.
I would like to share with you the talk I gave TEDx Abu Dhabi.
I will upload the Video as soon as it is ready.
THE CONNECTIONS BETWEEN THE SPACES AND POETRY THERAPY
There is a beautiful connection among every living and nonliving thing. That connection is the space between the breath in and the breath out. That connection is the bridge between poetry and therapy and between wounds and healing. That connection is what I will be speaking to you about.
Just consider for a moment the delicacy with which a spider makes its beautiful web and then sits upon it for days and centuries at a cave to hunt and also to protect.
Now consider the same beautiful connection as a caterpillar forms its cocoon and secures a place for the butterfly to grow into the life it never knew it could have.
That same space is the darkness in which inside an oyster with an itch and a discomfort a pearl starts to weave its life.
Do you see the connections, the connections are nothing but a web, much like the one that connected you and I and our children to the core.
The connection through an umbilical cord which feeds as it heals…. That connection is made through bringing voice to silent words as my great teacher and guide John Fox notes. He is the founder of the institute for Poetic Medicine and in learing more about the beauty of poetry therapy I am learing how so many invisible and visible connections have helped me heal through the years.
You see, I am an Iranian American, I am the one who comes from the immigrant family, who moved to the US due to the revolution. I come from a very traditional Iranian family in which there are many many big white elephants in the middle of the room and there are many many people with two eyes and a nose that have not seen the elephants for centuries. Poetry has given me the elegant voice I have needed to speak about the truth without hurting the one with the umbilical cord who carried me to life. Poetry has helped me speak of truth in dark spaces of my being.
Have you ever sat in that dark space I speak of? A place of sorrow and no hope? A place of depression and mania all in one? A space of knowing your name and your address and the number of degrees you hold, but not knowing who you really are. It is in that space that I found poetry and the wounds started to look beautiful and not scary. It is in that space and time that I found, I could weave a web of light around my wounds and heal them by sharing with others my thoughts and fears and hopes.
I started writing poetry 2 years ago, only after having studied counseling psychology for a decade or more and only after a couple of decades on the couch. Both at home alone with the self I now know and on the coach of a therapist. A family therapist, a feminist therapist, an art therapist and a sand play therapist…. I have done my rounds and it is here in the quietness of just me, and a piece of paper and a pen that I found what I am doing is poetry therapy. I knew it was working, I jut did not know it had a name.
Since meeting John, I have learned the contagiousness of this beautiful therapy or art, I have started working at the ladies safe houses and doing poetry workshops and therapy. At the safe houses we start by reading a poem… With John’s recommendation I looked up a known poem from the land of the embassy that I will visit…. I will ask a sister to read the poem, I read the translation and then we spend some time reflecting and writing. Initially everyone usually says they do not write poetry, and I believe them… since I never did…. So I just say, actually it does not have to be poetry, it only needs to be two things…. Write to me of the Images and the Feelings you are getting right now….
Often when the writing starts it is hard to stop the five, seven or ten minute writing time. Then we come back into the circle and I ask for a volunteer to read… a couple of hands go up as their notebooks or pieces of paper are handed to me… and I am asked to read, and so with respect I do, but I have also learned the importance of the VOICE… and so I ask the writer to read the piece in their own voice… after a bit of blushing and shyness, it usually happens and that is the moment that the healing starts to happen and flight of soul begins to take place….
Poetry becomes a companion for those who live together and for those who live alone.
I have recently met a fellow poetess here in Abu Dhabi. She is what we call in Iran Shir zan… which means a lion of a woman or a lioness. She has been born with disabilities into an Emirati family, who was not so happy with the situation as Hamdah says. She speaks of her difficult childhood and how she always found solace in writing and specifically writing poetry. At eight she has written a poem that she read to an audience at Abu Dhabi Theater at a recital, she speaks of her time alone and of talking to the moon and she ends the poem by saying “ I don’t want you to put yourself behind a wall or in a prison just because you are handicapped and never give up, do not abandon your dreams.”
She had a dream to go the US and study, and she applied for a grant and got it. She is happily married to man who loves her for her BEING and not for her position on the wheelchair, she speaks of growth and hope and her eyes sparkle and the contagiousness of her words grow on you and you begin to watch the caterpillar in the cocoon start to fly.
I would like to ask you…. have you ever seen an Angel who has lost his wings??? Just consider that for a moment… while I continue to weave the web between the spaces of the breath that gives poetry the power of healing…
“The wound is the place where the light enters you.”
Maulana Jalauddin Rumi
Poetry is a language that condenses things into portable packages…as if years of therapy in a line…. Listen to this title alone, I have written about an occurrence in my life. “ Sacrificing a LIFE so that ALL the LIES could LIVE”…. It is in speaking this title that I allow my wounds to heal and my wings to find their way out of the cocoon and into flight.
So I have given you examples of how poetry has helped me heal. And how poetry has helped others I know. Now remember it can be with just reading poetry that the healing occurs. It can be that AHA moment when you read about someone scratching the inner walls of their heart that makes you feel you are not alone. And it can also be about someone saying I am a speck of dust in the hour-glass of the universe that you begin to realize your smallness.
As our dear friend and Sage Jallaledin Rumi has once said: “The wound is the place where the light enters you”
Let that place be where you find your first space between the breath in and the breath out and let that space be to help you and others around you heal wounds you never knew you had…. And so I would like to leave you with a short poem called….
An Angel who lost his wings….
The Angel Who Lost His Wings
Once upon a time
there was an Angel
an Angel who had lost his wings
he was walking through life
wondering what fault had made his wings disappear
he saw the birds flying through the sky
and the bees buzzing around
he saw a rock by the river and sat
after years of sitting
to walk again and look for his wings
that is when he started to fly wingless
Go in flight, go to write images and feelings if nothing else… just write and read it for your self and for the mirror in front of you so that you give your inner core and your feelings VOICE to breath….
Enjoy the connections made through the web of light and enjoy watching the dance of the bees among the snow flakes in the desert full of sand and no snow, that is where the spider is making his web and the caterpillar awaiting flight and the pearl forming inside the darkness of the oyster called life.