Reflection on Integrating the Shelhav Method Training Experience in Johannesburg

Returning to Johannesburg after attending the final segment of the Shelhav Method training in Matsue, Japan, has been an incredibly transformative experience. The focus of this last segment—helping babies come to stand and walk—was deeply significant. This stage in a baby’s development is not only about mastering physical balance but also about navigating the emotional challenges associated with the fear of falling. In the Shelhav Method, we guide parents to support their child’s development without rushing or interfering, allowing the child to achieve these milestones independently.

Having the opportunity to relive this critical phase of development as an adult was a profound gift. Witnessing a baby’s triumph as they stand and take their first steps is an awe-inspiring moment. The joy and sense of achievement that radiate from them are unparalleled. This segment underscored the importance of allowing children to progress at their own pace, fostering their confidence and sense of accomplishment.

Since my return to Johannesburg just over one month ago, I have felt a renewed sense of achievement and confidence within myself. One notable change has been my willingness to embrace new challenges, such as creating social media reels to promote my somatic practice and launching a 10-day “Change Your Habit” challenge. Previously, I doubted my technological competence, but this experience has shown me that those limitations were self-imposed. My creativity has blossomed, and I find myself brimming with inspiration for writing—more so than ever before.

Additionally, I have become more attuned to my intuition and open to exploring new avenues of learning. A delightful side effect of my time in Japan is a rekindled passion for cooking, inspired by the exquisite culinary experiences I had there. I have started cooking for myself again, finding joy and creativity in the process. I also recognize the importance of rest and have adjusted my routine to ensure I get enough sleep, which has made my morning walks even more enjoyable. I am also continuing my journey of learning through dance. I recently attended a weekend workshop where the teacher said, “The best teacher is the best student.” This resonated deeply with me as a teacher, reaffirming my love for learning and my commitment to never stop pursuing knowledge.

Emotionally, I find myself responding differently to triggers. The skills and insights I gained have translated into my private practice, elevating my teaching to new heights. I am working with a client who had a stroke and is not able to walk without a walker. I am using the Feldenkrais and Child’Space Method to assist her in learning to walk again. I am grateful to Educational Director Orly Gat for her incredible teachings and baby demonstrations. Her passion and openness made the learning experience truly enriching. Thank you, Orly, for your invaluable guidance and support.

I also owe a debt of gratitude to Akiko for her impeccable organization and for providing me with the opportunity to return to Japan. Her support and willingness to share her knowledge were instrumental in my journey. Witnessing Akiko’s progress towards becoming a Shelhav Method trainer has been inspiring, and I am thrilled to see her step into this new role.

Reflecting on my journey, I am reminded of something I said during Orly’s workshop in Tokyo: “Becoming a Shelhav practitioner changed my life.” This statement holds true now more than ever. The experience has profoundly impacted me, and I eagerly anticipate where this path will lead me next.

Thank you to everyone who has been part of this incredible journey. I look forward to continuing to grow and share the wisdom of the Shelhav Method with others.

A Journey of Learning and Gratitude: My Experience in Japan with the Chava Shelhav Child'Space® Method

I recently embarked on a transformative journey to Matsue, Japan, where I had the incredible opportunity to serve as a Co-Assistant in a 10-day training segment of the Chava Shelhav Child’Space® Method. 

This experience not only marked my first venture into international teaching but also my initial travels abroad since the Covid-19 Pandemic, following my graduation from the Chava Shelhav Child’Space® Method program in Amsterdam in 2019. Working alongside esteemed Senior Child’Space® Trainer Barbara Leverone and Child’Space® Trainer Akiko Takao was an immense honour and privilege, making this journey a truly unforgettable experience.

My initial day at the Shelhav Method training in Matsue overflowed with gratitude, a big warm thank you to Akiko Takao’s exceptional organizational skills. As I stepped into the beautiful spacious room, the welcoming and respectful staff guided me on where to place my shoes and which slippers to wear. I was handed a mat, a name tag, and the choice of a doll to work with during the segment. The day proceeded meticulously, with everything starting and ending on time. Despite my initial nervousness about the language barrier, having a translator proved seamless. I felt incredibly privileged to be part of this experience, a sentiment I shared with the group and one I will continue to express.

I was also given the opportunity to facilitate the morning hands-on practice sessions with the students. During these sessions, I reviewed the hands-on practice from the previous day, providing students with the opportunity to practice under my supervision. On the second day, I had the exciting chance to teach my first Developmental Movement Exploration (DME) lesson on ‘extending to squat’ to a wonderful group of Japanese students. Their enthusiasm was contagious, and I am deeply grateful for the opportunity.

The third day marked a significant milestone for me as I conducted my first baby demonstration session in a training segment with a Japanese mother and her adorable 9-month-old daughter, Yuki. It was a profoundly enriching experience filled with memorable moments.

One highlight was demonstrating Yuki’s impressive movement abilities to her mother and showcasing how introducing variation to her transitions could enhance her crawling symmetry. I stressed the importance of spending quality time with Yuki, emphasizing that even dedicating just 10 minutes a day to read or play could profoundly impact her overall development, especially in socio-emotional, language, and cognitive aspects.

Each day was filled with a full and intense program, starting with hands-on practice followed by DME lessons and baby demonstrations. The afternoons were dedicated to more hands-on practice and lectures. The students also undertook their practicums during this segment, providing them with the opportunity to work with mothers and babies and practice what they had learned throughout the training. For me, teaching was a significant highlight, coupled with being immersed in a rich and stimulating learning environment.

Amidst the intensive training, we had one day off, which I used to explore the cultural treasures of Matsue. I visited the Adachi Museum of Arts and Japanese-style Garden, a sanctuary of tranquillity and artistry. Additionally, I had the opportunity to explore Matsue Castle, one of Japan’s oldest original castles and a designated national treasure. The castle’s historical significance and architectural marvel left me in awe, reaffirming my deep respect for Japan’s rich heritage. To culminate this remarkable day, I was treated to the most breathtaking sunset at Lake Shinji, renowned for its spectacular sunsets, creating a perfect ending to an unforgettable experience.

The experience in Japan not only enhanced my professional skills but also broadened my cultural horizons. The enriching environment and respectful culture have left an indelible mark on my heart. I am eager to share my newfound knowledge and insights with the mothers and babies I work with in Soweto, knowing that this journey has equipped me with invaluable tools to make a meaningful difference in their lives.

This trip to Japan was more than a learning experience; it was a journey of gratitude, cultural immersion, and personal growth. I am profoundly thankful for the opportunity and look forward to incorporating these learnings into my practice, enriching the lives of those I work with.

Arigatougozaimasu, Japan, for the unforgettable memories and the wisdom shared. Until we meet again!

Note: “Arigatougozaimasu” means “thank you very much” in Japanese.

The Power of Determination in Early Childhood Development

When I stumbled upon the quote, “When people are determined, they can overcome everything,” by Mr Nelson Mandela inscribed on a notebook I recently bought, it immediately struck a chord within me. These powerful words resonated deeply, reflecting the relentless challenges and achievements I face in advocating for the crucial first 1000 days of a child’s life.

In my journey, the struggle to convey the monumental importance of early interactions between caregivers and babies often feels Sisyphean. The term ‘Sisyphean‘ derives from the Greek myth of Sisyphus, a figure who was condemned to an eternal punishment of rolling a huge boulder up a hill, only for it to roll back down each time he approached the summit. This relentless cycle of effort without success mirrors my experiences, as I continuously strive to emphasize the critical nature of these early interactions, despite facing repeated challenges and setbacks, specifically in South Africa.

Advocacy and policy are vital, but the real impact comes from actions—those seemingly small, daily commitments made by caregivers. It’s about more than understanding the need to spend quality time with children; it’s about actually doing it—sitting on the floor to play, singing to the child, and fully engaging without the distractions of daily life that so easily pull us away.

Yet, despite the knowledge, the real-life application often falls short. The urgencies of life, the buzz of a phone, the lure of a television screen—these distractions undermine the sacred moments of interaction that are vital for a child’s development. Many choose convenience, handing a child a toy, not realizing that what the child needs most is their presence, their undivided attention.

In order for caregivers to be more engaged and present, they must get in touch with their feelings. Getting in touch with our felt sense means we have to slow down and reduce the noise from the outside world. This is the challenge humanity faces: we resist slowing down because of our conditioning to work hard. People think if they slow down they are lazy, which is “bad.” When they do slow down, they often get in touch with uncomfortable feelings. To avoid what is uncomfortable, we go back to the busyness. It’s a vicious cycle.

Inspired by the enduring spirit reflected in Mandela’s words, I reaffirm my commitment to this cause, underscoring why my role is crucial and why I must continue pushing forward, undeterred by setbacks. This sentiment fuels my resolve to fight the ease of passive parenting and disengaged caregiving. My dedication is rooted not only in inspiration but in a deep-seated belief in the transformative power of engaged caregiving.

In the face of obstacles, my determination becomes a beacon, guiding me back to my core mission. I am reminded that my dedication is not just necessary; it is essential. It is the driving force that will eventually help others see the importance of their active, engaged presence in the early days of a child’s life.

Thus, armed with resolve and informed by deep conviction, I continue my work. Each small victory, each moment a caregiver chooses engagement over ease, is a testament to the unstoppable force of a determined human spirit. Through determination, we can indeed overcome everything, paving the way for healthier, more connected generations.

If you are a parent or caregiver, what action can you take today to affirm your active presence with your child?

Empowering Through Poetry

In a world of clichés like 'be strong' and 'believe in yourself,' finding real strength means connecting these words to a purpose that truly resonates. For me, that purpose is poetry. It's not just a hobby; it's my fuel, my fire. Through the rhythm of words, I discover confidence and navigate life's complexities. Join me in this empowering journey where poetry becomes a source of strength and self-discovery.​

Embracing the uncomfortable ​

Art by Agnes-Cecile

In the whirlwind of busyness, I find my escape, Thinking it grants solace, a comforting shape. But beneath the facade, it’s a numbness that grows, A disconnect within me, a river that slows.

In stillness, I glimpse what I’ve longed to ignore, The numbness, the void, I’ve tried to deplore. Uncomfortable whispers, they claw and they pry, As I yearn to escape, to the outside I fly.

Outside, I’m absorbed in the world’s ceaseless dance, Yet inside, a battle, a relentless expanse. For going within triggers a threat deep and stark, The unbearable discomfort, an emotional spark.

But in this contrast, a lesson takes flight, To go inside gently, without inner fight. To soften the edges of discomfort’s sting, Discovering a way to let vulnerability sing.

To find that balance, a bridge to the soul, Where busyness and feelings need not be a toll. Embrace the stillness, let the numbness subside, In that quiet, you’ll find a haven inside.

By Monja Boonzaier

September 2023

Every change is a chance​

Art by Freepix

In the midst of life’s twisting dance,
The chorus of fate begins to enhance,
Every change is a chance.

Caught in webs of difficulty’s glance,
We linger, trapped in circumstance,
Sometimes we stay in difficult situations.

Bound by fear, a hesitant stance,
Holding back our emancipation,
Afraid of hurting someone else.

Dreading judgment’s sharp expanse,
Silenced by others’ expectations,
Scared of what others might think or say.

Yet, in this struggle, we must not delay,
For in stagnant waters, our souls decay,
With this comes pain, we suffer ourselves.

Embrace the courage that paves the way,
Break the chains, free will compels,
Making a change can be difficult now.

Though stormy winds may wildly howl,
New opportunities it shall endow,
But it can give us a chance for change.

To grow, to learn, to wonder and bow,
As we seize life’s wondrous expanse,
Every change is a chance!

By Monja Boonzaier

July 2023

Putting Light into a Dark Place

Art by Marlena Wels

In the depths of self-inquiry, I delve,
Exploring the darkness, ready to unveil.
My aim is to bring light to this hidden space,
To claim the truths and let them embrace.
In the vast domain of knowledge, I stand,
Feeling humbled, with an eager demand.
Though I’ve acquired much, I must confess,
There’s still more to learn, my soul to address.
A yearning propels me to explore and expand,
To grasp the truths, like grains of sand.
For amidst the wisdom that I possess,
I humbly acknowledge my need to progress.
Deep in the realms of self-exploration, a part of my soul remains unsettled, not at peace.
Yet concealed in the darkness of the night, fear lurks behind.
For fear unveils an authentic, vulnerable essence,
A distressing trial of inadequacy, unsettling and real.
What lies behind the fear, a haunting shade,
Is the constant torment of not being good enough, displayed.
It devours from within, like a relentless storm,
Driving the urge to annihilate, to reform.
In the depths of this struggle, I search for light,
To overcome the shadows, to rise and take flight.
Acknowledging the fear, embracing it with grace,
I strive to be truthful, my soul to embrace.
Putting light into a dark place, I strive,
To understand the shadows, to revive.
And as I unravel the mysteries untold,
Illuminating truths, my journey unfolds.
By Monja Boonzaier

July 2023

Celebrating Life!

Art by Jim Warren

In the realm of beginnings, where life’s story unfurls,
I celebrate not just my parents, but my own place in this world.
For alongside their milestones, another chapter I embrace,
As I turn forty-six, a year of wisdom and grace.

My mother and father, at seventy, stand with pride,
Confronting life’s challenges, separately they stride.
Through trials and tribulations, their resilience held tight,
In this celebration, my joyous space takes flight.

With courage, my father faced adversity’s plight,
Never letting setbacks overshadow his might.
His determination and perseverance so strong,
Grant me the strength to endure, to carry on.

My mother, too, endured hardship’s sway,
Her perseverance through trials, lighting my way.
In her strength, I found courage, never to surrender,
For she taught me resilience, a trait I’ll forever remember.

And as I celebrate their lives, a new life blooms anew,
For my sister, a gift of joy, a miracle so true.
Her newborn baby brings hope, a symbol of pure grace,
A testament to dreams fulfilled, in this newfound space.

Now, as I mark my own birth, at forty-six,
Embracing the journey, life’s enigmatic mix.
With lessons learned and dreams ablaze, I venture anew,
A tapestry of experiences, woven with colours bright and true.

In this mosaic of new beginnings, where freshness light imparts,
I sculpt my own sculpture, etching stories on my heart.
For in life’s intricate dance, we find our rhythm and grace,
Grateful for this odyssey, my forty-sixth embrace.

So let’s raise a chorus, a symphony of cheer,
For lives reborn, milestones surpassed, crystal clear.
May joy and radiance be our compass, as we navigate anew,
Hearts brimming with gratitude, dreams transformed into view.

To my parents and two sisters, dear and true,
This tribute, my heartfelt gratitude for you,
In life’s vibrant chase, we greet each fresh start,
Celebrating my birth, wisdom’s treasures impart.

With my sister’s newborn, a gift of pure delight,
A new chapter unfolds, colours shining bright.
A symbol of hope and love, a miracle divine,
Our hearts united, this celebration is mine.

Let us treasure these moments, as we dance our own way,
Embracing family’s blessings, come what may.
For in life’s intricate fabric, love’s threads entwine,
Binding us eternally, in the stories we define.

Monja Boonzaier

July 2023