Posted in Africa Yoga Project Blog, on September 15, 2012
I woke up this morning in my own bed after 20 days of being in a foreign land. As is the case after most long journeys to places far away I feel a sense of being different now than when I started. It is strange how this feeling always comes about, and then always seems to fade as old routines restart, old attachments reform, old friends are reunited and old desires resurface. During my last days in Africa I was excited to go home, excited to feel again that sense of being among the familiar, yet different somehow. As I woke up this morning I sensed that difference already fading---but is it??
I had the itch to travel this year. I made it known several times throughout the course of 2011: “I’m feeling restless, something’s stirring, I need to move.” And so I did. I’ve spent more time in the air these past 7 months than I’ve had in my entire life combined. First to Thailand, then to New Orleans, then to Florida, on to Kenya, and finally back home to New York. My last trip was the longest. Nearly three weeks in Africa to spend time volunteering with an organization whose name had a girl like me hooked from the beginning: The Africa Yoga Project(AYP). Their mission is to use the energy and spirit of yoga to create a transformative community of force, empowering all that choose to embrace it to change their lives and change their world. Mission accomplished! At least for the 52 Nairobi AYP yoga instructors and the thousands of people they touch every day in and around their homes in Nairobi, not to mention the rest of the world! It was a magical experience. I felt the force that was created. I was empowered. I could change my life and change the world. I already have. But now Africa is over for me, 24 hours of arduous travel away, a lifetime…but is it?
As I sit here now and reflect on my entire experience a few things come to mind; moments and people and feelings that stand out in my memory; things that I hope I will always remember and cherish. Perhaps in a previous version of myself this would generate a bittersweet taste in my mind; a knowing of what I had alongside of a knowing of what would gradually fade away. But this morning, I am a new me, and what I know is something else. Everything I did, all the sights I saw, the feelings I experienced, the people I met, the force that I felt, the changes that I underwent’ they will never fade away. They can’t, for they will always be there. It’s not a romantic notion. In fact, its physics.
Let me share with you some pictures, some of my experiences that I’ve tried to capture in film so that they would never fade away:
Ahhhh joy…or rather, sunset over Amboselli National Park after three days of a camping safari adventure. A moment I want to never forget. A feeling of utter tranquility, and connectedness that I wish I could hold onto forever. A moment that I realize now I never have to. The reality is, the sun rises and sets every single day. The sunset, is always there!
Perfect peace…Mount Kilamanjaro at dawn. A sight that I only got to experience for a few moments during my entire trip, before the clouds came in and the mountain was gone for me forever. But the reality is that the clouds don’t make the mountain go away. Even though clouds may move in front of it, obstructing the view temporarily, there is no doubt, Mount Kilamajaro is always there!
Shining light. Child of a Nairobi slum, shining his light from the dust that refuses to settle on the patch of dirt that is their yoga studio, school, and playground. If only I could bottle the joy of that moment and the fact that while teaching them yoga I was shining too! But children will always be there, the contagiousness of their joy will always be there! The opportunity to teach someone, to reflect the shine of someone else is always there!
Beautiful love: A glowing pregnant woman serving her sentence in a maximum security prison in Nairobi. Alongside of her is an AYP teacher, Irene Auma, who appears to me to live out the true meaning of love: realizing that in serving others, we serve the greater universe- the only true self we have. The love of these two previous strangers is beyond inspiring. If only I could bottle up that inspiration, the smiles that comes from unconditional love through serving our fellow man…but in reality this is always available to me! Despite no longer being among the convicted of Nairobi, people in need of love and care are always there!
The sunset is always there, I merely have to choose to look at it. A mountain is always there, I simply have to choose to acknowledge its existence. Children are always there. It is up to me to give of my time to teach them. People of need are always there, I only have to lend them a helping hand.
In the end I take away this lesson: My experiences the last 20 days do not need to be remembered, held onto, captured in a picture, or relived through my memory, for the truth is that those realities, experiences, are always there. They are there ready to be experienced again, and again, and again, as often as I choose. Joy in connectedness, Peace in stillness, Light in sharing, Love in serving - these are things that are always there!! In my heart, in my community, and always….in Africa!! Thank You AYP!!