Nov 19 2012

Tatiana Zamir Wants to Touch You…

“Truth is a part of our foundation…even though pain may come from being vulnerable, beauty will surely follow.” –Tatiana Zamir

Tatiana Zamir wants to touch you.

Yes, you read that right.

Not only does Tatiana Zamir want to touch you, she wants you to know that it may be one of the most moving experiences of your life.

The word touch carries a lot of meaning for us humans. Being touched is a basic human need—but because so many of us have been injured or betrayed or abandoned in our quest for intimacy, we have forgotten how uplifting and nurturing it is to allow ourselves to feel the healing and serenity that comes from letting another human authentically meet our need to be touched.

Zamir, who is a graduate of  UCLA’s renowned World Arts and Cultures Program (and  is also a licensed massage therapist and graduate of the Institute of Pycho-Structural Balancing),  believes she is on earth to remind us not to lose our vulnerability.

Talking about truth and touch and vulnerability with this multi-talented healer, dancer, teacher, writer and theater producer reminds me of the opening quote from the Oscar-winning Paul Haggis film Crash a movie which, at its core, was about how we hide our truths and our vulnerabilities in an effort to feel safe:

“In L.A., nobody touches you. We’re always behind this metal and glass. I think we miss that touch so much, that we crash into each other, just so we can feel something.”

Zamir is on a mission to change that—one human being at a time.

Whether Tatiana is transporting a client to “another realm” via her “Healing Hands” massage therapy practice, or delivering messages of hope and healing to packed audiences through her sold-out theatrical dance production, “Moonlight Reflections, or teaching her students to “sweat joyfully” via her popular “Afro-Hip Hop Dance Class,” Zamir has made it her life’s work to share her temple and her truths in ways that are healing, inspiring and spiritually uplifting.

Afro-Hip Hop Dance Class 

“I grew up dancing and I always hated going to dance classes in Los Angeles because they were so competitive and I just wanted to have fun. Then I found this class and I couldn’t be happier. Not only is it dance, but it is a serious, fun workout!

The best thing about the class is, the studio is filled with students from no experience to dancers, so the instructor, Tatiana, creates an incredible workout and choreography that allows you to either just keep up or stylize it to your own skill set. Tatiana is sweet, challenging, fun and super talented.” –Ashley L, Afro-HipHop Dance Workshop student

“This class is the most enjoyable cardio style dance class I’ve taken in my 20 years of taking classes at various studios and gyms in LA.  It’s a great workout whether you are a beginning dancer or a professional. Tatiana is a knowledgeable teacher with great energy and she creates such a welcoming environment.  Everyone is there to have a good time and a good time is ALWAYS had!  I always walk out of this class with a smile on my face.” – Tracy M, Afro-HipHop Dance Workshop student

 

Moonlight Reflections

“Through a diverse range of topics, from the female African American experience, to spirituality, materialism and struggles with family and the pains of growing up, Tatiana Zamir weaves these dramatic vignettes to tell a story of love, creativity, roots, forgiveness and healing that is truly inspirational…I left the theater floating on a higher physical and spiritual vibration!” ~Dustin G.

“[Moonlight Reflections] was AWESOME, I was moved!!! I laughed, cried, danced, etc.!! The entire cast… amazing. Folks NEED to see this work…” ~Leslie G.

Healing Hands Massage Therapy

“Tatiana truly has a talent of transporting your body and mind to a whole new level of bliss with her intuitive touch. “ – Taylor D, massage client

“I have traveled the world, literally, getting massages and body treatments everywhere I go. I have had just about every type of massage; shia-tzu, swedish, thai, spa pamper. Throughout every experience I always find something to complain about; it’s too hard, not hard enough, not long enough or just not all around complete. Healing Hands by Tatiana is the only time that I get to fully let go, not think and enjoy the love my muscles receive. ” -Yaani King, massage client

If the ultimate Purpose of Life here on earth is tied in any way to how effective we are at using our bodies, our minds, our talents and our time to inspire growth and healing in others, Tatiana Zamir is setting an excellent example of how to get that done—and how to have a great time doing it.

I recently sat down with Tatiana for an in-depth discussion that reveals how and why she is so committed to and effective at touching others, and why she is so good at telling the truth:

KC: Why are you on earth?

TZ: I’m a truth teller. I’ve always been a fan of the truth. It’s always come easy for me to express it, and I hope to inspire others to be closer to the truth–whatever that looks like in their own lives.

Why is truth telling so crucial to you?

In the Baha’i writings it is written that “Truthfulness is the foundation of all human virtue,” so we can’t really grow or develop spiritually if we cannot be truthful about where we are now. We are essentially spiritual beings and part of what helps us to be spiritually successful is to be truthful.

If Tatiana Zamir were a brand, what would that brand represent?

Vulnerablity. Truth. Healing. Creativity. Inspiration.  I’ve been hearing so many people say how inspired they were by Moonlight Reflections. Whether inspired to go create something themselves, or to finally address some situation in their lives that required truth telling and honesty. I think people saw on stage tangible examples of how being vulnerable can be the foundation for real change in our lives and in our relationships.

What does vulnerability mean to you?

There are no walls. Or fewer walls. I have a couple of walls as an artist and as a human, but there really are not many emotional boundaries I won’t cross. I’ve had people tell me that creatively and emotionally I’m really brave and courageous, though I don’t really feel that way because it comes so naturally to me.  Sharing is not something that’s hard for me. I think vulnerability is letting your walls down and not being afraid of what people will think and knowing that the truth is part of our foundation and that even though pain may come from being vulnerable, beauty will surely follow.

The ways that you reach for your fellow human beings are very tangible. Why are you so open to sharing your temple in such visible and tactile ways?

What else am I here for? If I can’t fully be myself and fully share myself with the world why do we even exist? Because I’m so attracted to the truth, I always want to get to the core of who people are and I want them to see me right away. I believe it gives people permission to be their true selves when I do that.

What inspired you to want to be a massage therapist?

It’s something I’ve always loved to do and I was always really good at it even before I received formal training. I hadn’t really considered massage as a career, but I have always been attracted to healing, and I know that when I massage a client I’m literally making the world a better place. Healing touch produces so much good in the world.

Your clients really do rave about your technique. What makes you such an awesome masseuse? There are a bazillion massage parlors in L.A., why do your clients come back to you?

I think people come back to me because I’m really in tune with what’s happening with people and I really nurture them while I massage them. That may sound like “duh doesn’t every masseur do that?” But, unfortunately, the answer is no, they don’t. I get massages myself all the time and I’m often disappointed because I feel like people are so disconnected from the touch they are putting on your body and the work they’re doing is not reflective of the frequency your body is at. I’m really good at connecting with people and being present with them. People often say to me “I’ve had massages all over the world and I’ve never experienced that before.” My clients say they go into a zone. They go to another realm. They get their muscles worked on but they’re having an out of body experience as well.

You are a person who lives and breathes dance. What are people missing out on when they have no dance in their lives at all?

I really feel everyone’s life would improve tremendously if they danced every day, and I believe that so strongly because of what it does for me. Dance really takes me to a higher place. No matter what frequency I’m at, when I dance, it takes me to an even higher one. If I’ve had a bad day, after dancing, no stress can touch me. If I’ve had a great day, I’m just that much happier. I don’t know if it’s from releasing endorphins and relieving stress or what, but I feel closer to the Creator. I feel a real spiritual high.

Can I experience that spiritual high vicariously through watching others dance, or do I need to experience it by actually dancing myself?

I think you could have a piece of that high by witnessing it. I think you can feel that and I think you can experience some of what we’re feeling. I think you take it to another level when you do it yourself. You’re feeling things that are unique to you and depending on how your body’s feeling and where you are, you’ll experience it at a uniquely personal level. It’s a different experience when you put yourself out there.

If I attended a session of your Afro-Hip Hop Dance Workout, what would make me want to come back?

I believe my students come back week after week because they get a great workout–they’re drenched at the end–but they’ve had an amazing time doing it. They’ve told me they really love the music. I mix up my playlist with Afro beat, dance hall, salsa and hip hop, and I”ll mix contemporary radio hits with old school artists like Common and the Roots. You would love the intimacy of the class too, and the uniqueness. It feels like family. Everyone is supportive and loving and you don’t always get that in a dance or exercise class. But my class is like a family reunion every time. People say they feel very supported and supportive there.

Your decision to create, choreograph and produce Moonlight Reflections must have been a huge leap of faith. Is this a new direction for you? Will you venture further into dance theater?

In the process of creating that show I felt a happiness I had never experienced before. It felt so right and it was clear that it was where I needed to be. It’s very new for me to even be thinking about this right now. This is a new dream for me. I had a burning desire to bring my ideas to life in a theater and have people witness it. I had no idea it would sell out two weeks in advance and that people would call for me to stage it again. I don’t know yet how this calling will continue to express itself in my life, but I do see myself in the future as a producer of work that heals and hopefully inspires others to heal and inspire others.

What did you learn about yourself in taking that risk?

Being a producer requires bringing a lot of skills to the table that I might not really need to use too often in other areas of life. Hiring and assessing and critiquing the expertise of staff for example. I had endless learning experiences, but the thing that really floored me was that I never anticipated how deeply moved people would be by my work. It’s inspiring and humbling to see how sharing truth can ripple out into other lives in meaningful ways. I am still receiving letters from people who were moved by Moonlight Reflections. And, I mean written letters sent in the mail. In this age of technology, that is so stunning to me. People must have been really moved and inspired for them to sit down and write me letters and share their stories with me. I’ve had so many parents say the show made them think twice about their relationships with their children. They really want to be different and open and truthful and work harder at nurturing their relationships. I also had many young people come up to me after the show to say they felt like I told pieces of their story so truthfully, without me even knowing their actual story.

A significant part of Moonlight Reflections entailed the abusive-turned-estranged-turned-healed relationship with your mother. Through movement, music and spoken word you told many truths about your childhood experiences with her that were not cute or sweet. You really exposed some hurtful things that many mothers would not want exposed. How did your mother feel about that?

Her friends were like “I can’t believe you let her say these things about you.” My mom’s response was, It wouldn’t have been as powerful if she didn’t. What Tati shared is the truth. It’s what happened. The healing part of our story is so powerful because the painful and uncomfortable part was truthfully and fully shared. The show created even more healing and love between us. I had never had so much support in my life from my mother as I did with developing and producing this show.

In the successful Kickstarter project you launched to fund the planning and production of Moonlight Reflections, you talked about how your mother’s transformation as a parent began with a spiritual experience. In a state of prayer and meditation she suddenly became you and she felt the tiny heart of a little girl that was so shattered by her actions. How did your mother begin to heal your injured relationship?

Our healing occurred because my mother was able to finally tell the truth after she was in denial for so long, and she was able to truly apologize for hurting me all those years. A true apology is when you really mean it, and I knew for the first time in my life that she meant it. In the past I felt her apologies were followed by a million excuses. “I’m sorry but I was a single mom and this and that…”

This apology was different in what way?

It was something I truly felt. It was genuine. It wasn’t an angry apology. It wasn’t an I’m sorry, but…”  It was genuine and it was beautiful. And, more importantly, after my mother apologized, she actually changed. She actually became a different mother. She doesn’t yell at me. She doesn’t verbally abuse me anymore. She came to a place where she really wanted something different for us. 

So many people were touched in amazing ways by your journey. What do you think we can all learn from your story of injury and healing?

The truth really will set you free, if you allow it to.  That saying has a whole new meaning for me now.

www.tatianazamir.com
twitter.com/tatianazamir


Jul 20 2012

She was 10, He was 19: I Will Call Him ‘Snake’

Angel of Tranquility by Christine Munroe

This is a true story. The names have been changed to protect…

…Well, I’m not really sure who gets protected here; maybe you can help me with that.

I know someone who violated a child sexually when he was a teenager. She was 10, he was 19. For the rest of this story I will call him “Snake.”

I didn’t know about it until recently when the now grown girl that he targeted (I’ll call her “Angel”) told me what Snake did to her. Some might euphemistically refer to what happened as “child molestation” because of Angel’s age at the time, but I will call it what it is.

Rape.

Angel said she never told. She’s not completely sure why. She was a little girl who craved affection, and when Snake began paying attention to her she thought the attention was a good thing. He was a close friend of the family. She thought it was safe to hug him. To sit on his lap. She didn’t know he would turn into a reptile. After he violated her she felt ashamed. She was too ashamed to tell.

Over the years Angel’s and Snake’s families remained close. She saw Snake at social and religious functions—many of them held at her own home. He acted as if nothing had ever happened. He laughed and barbecued and Pictionaried with Angel’s mom and dad. He even electric slid at Angel’s wedding.

One day, Snake actually apologized to Angel for what he’d done. This was after his own daughter was born. Angel accepted his apology and buried the secret that much deeper.

There is a sad reason why, after so many decades have passed, Angel finally told me about what Snake had done—she and I recently learned that a young man we both know, “Worm,” “molested” a little girl we both know, “Dove.” This happened to Dove almost twenty years ago, and like Angel, Dove didn’t tell. Like Angel, Dove tried to heal her injury on her own.

And, these two women have something else in common.

Worm is Snake’s son.

Dove was 11 when then 16-year-old Worm violated her. Dove was not the first little girl (and was not the last) Worm abused. Several adults in Worm’s family (including his father, Snake) were aware that Worm had raped a young family member months before he targeted Dove.

I’m told Worm was “reprimanded” for what he’d done to his cousin, but no therapy was mandated and the police were not called.

To make matters worse, not one of the adults who knew what Worm was capable of thought it wise to warn Dove’s parents. If they had, Dove’s injury would have been prevented.  Dove says she knows of at least two other little girls he victimized as well.

Worm is now a grown man, married, respected in the community, with children of his own.

Worm, like his father Snake, acts as if he did nothing wrong.

Over the years, I have genuinely loved, laughed, barbecued, Pictionaried and prayed with both of these men and their victims. I have warmly hugged them at social and religious events. I have trusted them with my own children. Now I must question all of my grown daughters to determine if they were sexually abused in this family’s home?  I feel violated.

Should I alert the unwitting parents of other little girls who spent time there? Are there other now-grown women who have kept painful secrets buried like Dove and Angel did? Is my use of the monikers “Snake” and “Worm” (instead of using their names) yet another violation?

I can’t come close to imagining how Angel, Dove and the other survivors feel and have felt over the years. All this hugging and praying and laughing and pretending that these little girls were never injured. How complicit in their injury we all must seem.

Some might say this is all water under the bridge. Too much time has gone by. The statutes of limitations on these crimes have long expired. How does discussing this now add value? What good can come of bringing this back to life?

Really?

What good can come of burying crimes against children? What healing or caution or justice is there in that?

I am not writing this out of a call for vengeance. I acknowledge the possibility that one or both of the men in this story committed those crimes as teenagers and never re-offended as grown men. Perhaps they received therapy and/or prayed to God for healing and forgiveness–and perhaps they received that from Him.

Or, not.

What if these men continue to struggle with an impulse to have sex with little girls? What if the fact that their secrets are still “safe” make all of our daughters the opposite of that?

Does it add insult to the survivors’ injury when years pass and men like these are viewed as great family men and/or admirable members of their communities—even as some of their victims are struggling as adult women to find moral footing under the weight of their unattended shame?

I wonder how many reading this tragic story have survived a similarly tragic one? How many were left unprotected and vulnerable while the names, reputations, and secrets of abusers were safeguarded? How many have had to face their perpetrators over and over again at religious, social and/or family events?

I wonder how many more children must be inflicted with these devastating slow-healing wounds before we find the will, courage and methods to address this issue more openly and proactively in our families and in our communities? How can we work together to preserve our children’s innocence?

The sexual abuse and exploitation of children is one of the most vicious crimes conceivable, a violation of mankind’s most basic duty to protect the innocent. –James T. Walsh

Snake and Worm, if you recognize yourselves in this story, please know that I cannot keep your secret.  For legal reasons I won’t name you here, but I will warn parents whose children might be left in your care and I will speak frankly to you about this when our paths cross again.

If we have learned anything from the Sandusky crimes (and the many adults who knew something was very wrong, but did nothing) it is that SILENCE does not protect children. The awful combination of shame, silence and secrets is like a magic serum that makes sexual predators indestructible.

Truth is the only kryptonite.

Tell.

It.


Apr 25 2012

If You Noticed My Silence…

My last few months were spent being pounded by monster waves in this beautiful and at times ferocious sea of life. But I have, at last, found calmer waters, have surfaced for air, and am back at the keyboard.

Thank you to all who sent healing prayers for my little one and hang-in-there prayers for me.

After 5 emergency room visits, 28 days of hospitalization, countless “pokey things” (e.g. any procedure in which a needle is used), too many Xrays, 3 bone scans,  2 MRIs, 2 surgical bone biopsies, one unnecessary picc line insertion (inserted and removed the same day), a terrifying incident in which we learned Jadyn is allergic to morphine, and more hours of excruciating pain than any toddler should ever ever ever experience…

Jadyn is doing really WELL!

No more IVs or Xrays. No more wheelchairs. She is back to her happy, dancing, skipping self and has not had any pain at all since her recent diagnosis (a super rare inflammatory bone condition) and treatment. She is doing so well, she started school this morning, and she’s one happy little girl.

Actually, Jadyn remained happy throughout this entire experience. I, however, with my grown-up fears, judgments, doubts and, at times, RAGE was emotionally and spiritually exhausted after months of mis- and missing diagnoses. I focused on maintaining an outward expression of parental calm and faith in the Divine, while inwardly fearing that I might drown.

Through it all, I learned some great lessons from Jadyn’s awesome little self.

One night around 2 a.m., Jadyn’s pain medication wore off (again) 30 minutes before she was due for another dose. She cried and cried and repeated “It hurts too much” over and over while we waited for the nurse to hear back from the doctor with authorization to give her more medicine. Watching any child suffer is excruciating, but when it is your child and she is turning to you for relief? There are no words to describe that. I silently begged God for mercy and I tried to be strong for her, but I couldn’t hold back the tears, and when she saw that I was hurting, Jadyn forgot about her own pain for a moment and said to me with absolute certainty, “It’s going to be okay, Mommy.”

She said it like she knew something I didn’t.

The morning of her (2nd) bone biopsy, she emerged from general anesthesia (with all those wires still connected to her), opened her eyes and smiled at me. Her first words: “Do you think I could go to the playroom today?”

The following day a physical therapist came in the room with a miniature walker. I’d seen one of those (the adult-sized version) plenty of times, and so had Jadyn. My 84-year-old mother has one that she uses when her arthritis and fibromyalgia get the best of her.

Did I mention Jadyn is 4?

She was pretty excited to get her hands on the thing, but I was demolished by it. I had to leave the room for a minute to pull myself together. I interpreted the walker as a symbol of defeat. I feared that whatever the monster was that was crippling my daughter was winning the battle, and this little contraption looked to me like the monster’s Iwo Jima flag.

Jadyn had no such misconception. She saw the “crutch” for what it was–a chance to run again. Here she is taking it for a spin for the first time:

It occurred to me as I watched my child limping through the halls of Children’s Hospital with her new found freedom, that I was watching with dread and self pity a scene another mother might be begging God to witness. My daughter’s “curse” could be a wheelchair bound child’s blessing. And, even the wheelchair bound child’s “curse” is a blessing many the mother of a terminally ill or deceased child would give her own life for.

Jadyn’s name means “thankful.”

That. Says. It. All.