On June 10, 13 grandmothers from across the globe were reunited in an evening of celebration, remembrance and wisdom in a minimalist Manhattan space. With their inhibition and ambivalence checked at the door, a New York crowd disrobed of their traditional black uniform, were revealed to a world of colors and rich fabrics.
The event -- an evening of blessings with The Council of 13 Indigenous Grandmothers at Urban Zen NYC -- focused on the collective responsibility that the planet's inheritors must take in the face of water shortage, pollution, war and conflict.
Speaking at the event, Donna Karan, who created the Urban Zen Foundation in 2006, hinted that her husband Stephan Weiss' untimely passing and the subsequent birth of Urban Zen were deeply connected to the work of these women. “Our mission is to create, relate and collaborate, in mind, body and spirit" she said. "In today’s world of chaos, we care for the disease -- but who cares for the patient?”
Such is the mission of the council of grandmothers, which was founded by the California-based Center For Sacred Studies. Following their initial encounter in 2004, the women vowed to reunite every six months, and subsequently traveled to their respective countries, promoting relations and encouraging the spread of their wisdom.
Theirs is a council that appears to have been riddled in prophecy from its inception: Grandmother Rita Pitka Blumenstein was nine years old when her grandmother told her that she would one day be in a council of 13 grandmothers, gracing her with serendipitous good fortune.
For many of the women, the topics of conversations of the evening hit very close to home. Aama Bombo, a grandmother from the village of Melong in Nepal, said, "People tell me, one day people will fight for water. The truth is, in most parts of the world, we are already fighting for water." Each grandmother told of her homeland, her past and our future. Unanimously, they expressed worry, yet remained optimistic. Bernadette Ribenot, a grandmother from Gabon, said “Once we heal our inside, everything else will heal; I remain optimistic. Even when I think of the difficulties, I just face them. We speak for the cause of our children and grandchildren who are born into a world very different from the one we were once born into.”
Maria Alice Campos Freire, one of two grandmothers speaking remotely from the Brazilian Amazon, said “The prophecy of the 13 grandmothers is to shake the world awake. We might be late, but we are here. My hope is that a seed has been planted in everyone here tonight, watered and cultivated, ready to fight for something.”
Speaking of what she hoped people would take away from the event, Jyoti, a traveling ambassador for the grandmothers and a co-founder of the council, told The Huffington Post, “I am always relieved to see people attending these events and learning from these women. I hope people take with them what the grandmothers are trying to tell us: We need to wake up and stand up for ourselves.”
Attendees commented that it was an evening of dance, song, celebration, awakening and re-routing to a path perhaps less walked but certainly more beneficial for both man and humanity. Elena Brower, founder and co-owner of Manhattan yoga studio Virayoga, said, “These amazing women stand for our future, for the environment, for our children. They urge us to harvest good relations, so that we can experience love for our creator and love for the beauty all around us.”