This weekend, Harvard University's Leverett House invited Leonardo J. Stoute to Lecture and lead a Workshop on the Natural Healing Methods of the Minang people of West Sumatra, Indonesia. Mr. Stoute, also known by the honorific Bapak Waleed, is the Founder and Director of the International Silat Federation of America & Indonesia, a group dedicated to sharing the beauties and traditional culture of West Sumatra through educational and community programs based at Universities both here in the States and abroad. He comes to Harvard University as a Visiting Professor from Andalas University in Padang, West Sumatra.
The event, entitled "Traditional Wellness & Rehab Methods: Movement & Healing of the Ancients" and hosted in the Leverett House Old Library, saw faculty and staff from Leverett House in attendance, as well as students past and present, and even potential prospectives. Prof. Stoute opened the event with a Lecture and overview of the Natural Healing methods of the Minangkabau culture, touching on aspects such as meditation and breathwork, the native Jamu (herbalism), joint therapy and rehabilitation and also cardiac rehab therapy. The Minangkabau culture is one of the oldest and largest matrilineal societies still in existence today, and their ancient “movement healing” methodology of Silat Tuo traces its roots back to the 5th century.
No event discussing the Minang people of West Sumatra would be complete without addressing their current situation in the aftermath of the devastating earthquakes at the end of September 2009. Prof. Stoute was in Padang before, during, and after the earthquakes in the fall, and described in detail the extent of the destruction caused by the quakes. His discussion was accompanied powerful live footage of the quakes and their aftermath, even bringing tears to some eyes in the audience. Prof. Stoute emphasized the importance and need for ongoing, consistent efforts in the recovery and relief endeavors. At the same time, hope and healing can be found by many different paths, and Prof. Stoute encouraged the participants to ponder the meanings of health and wellness, in terms of their physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects.
Prof. Stoute then transformed the classroom into a workshop environment and introduced the participants to the basic movements of Silat, including breathwork, stepping and hand movements. He even touched upon other aspects of the Silat movements, including self defense applications for any person regardless of their size, always emphasizing the importance of feeling and sensitivity over rote memory or techniques. The participants felt firsthand the alignment of the muscles and joints that occurs in the natural stepping movements of Silat and the benefits of concentrating on one’s breath in every moment. Among the participants were several interested in alternative medicine and healing, and each gained both new knowledge and experiences through the program and Prof. Stoute’s expertise. Several expressed a desire to learn more, and Prof. Stoute encouraged them to continue practicing what they learned so they can be prepared for future classes and workshops.
At the end of the event, Lauren Brandt, Allston Burr Resident Dean of Leverett House, presented Prof. Stoute with a letter of invitation and appreciation, personally thanking him for sharing his time and expertise. She was accompanied by one of the Leverett Wellness Tutors, Carolina Jara, who was in attendance with her children.
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