I arrived to this beautiful country of Rwanda, known as the land of “a thousand hills,” just a week ago. The landscape is breathtaking with lush green vegetation and rolling hills surrounded by a wide open, blue sky that makes this world we live in, feel small. Although the scenery alone sends visitors into a state of awe, I have found the people are even more extraordinary.
While coming to this land with one of my main goals being to teach yoga, I am surprised to find that Africa and those who reside here have taught me infinitely more about yoga then I could ever teach them:
Being Present. Life is slower here. To some extent, the society and culture provides no choice. But, even having spent time in the capitol city of Kigali, I find that many people I’ve met DO choose this way of living. The teachers, students and residents in the village nearby are consumed with whatever task they pursue, whether it be studying, planning lessons, spending time with children or tending to the gardens. It is this act of being present in the moment that we in America tend to lack the ability to do, because often times, either knowingly or not, we choose distractions. The distractions, be they work, money, or technology, keep us from sitting quietly with the discontent and discomfort within our lives and our spirits.
Gratitude. The people I have encountered exhibit a pure and limitless joy. The smiles and laughs are contagious and freeing for any observer to witness. Living in a culture where people endure war, poverty and death, they are continuously grateful for health, livelihood, and opportunity. Rather than being trapped in a state of comparison of what our neighbor has that we lack, we instead need to learn lessons from those who are truly happy, those who have the ability to find joy in everything, persevere continuously and direct energy on that which they do have. By leaving the possibility for that which we want open–while not becoming attached to a certain outcome–we free ourselves from that which binds us to control and unhappiness and brings us to a place of gratitude for whatever it is we experience.
Unity. Everywhere I go, I am overcome with a feeling of one-ness. Languages, customs, skin colors, and ideas make us all “different” but we are all united in spirit. If we take the time to look beyond that which we see and direct our awareness towards that which we feel, we are able to connect with each other in a way that can only bring us to this profound realization.
People come to Africa and say that it will change someone forever. But, what people don’t realize is that when you connect with humanity, genuinely and honestly, regardless of where you are, the impact that Africa has to offer is everywhere. This union with humanity has left me with the surreal feeling that Africa and every person in it is already a part of me. And, I think that I would feel this way no matter where in the world I was. This ability is within us all. When we mindfully intend to be a part of the limitless web that joins ourselves and the rest of the world, we become one another.