Even a beautiful, clear blue stream has rocks that cause the water to make detours and in that moment change the direction of its course. The water needs these rocks as its foundation, the very place in which is rests, without the rocks there would be no stream.
As I began to feel the flow of my life taking course here in Rwanda it makes perfect sense that a rock would come and cause me to take a different view of where I am going. Is it really the direction I am wanting to go and is it in line with what I feel is really who I want to be? Can I trust that I will be supported?
Learning to accept things from people has been a big part of my process and yet I know there must always be balance. What does that mean? In every situation it is different, no two situations are balanced in the same way. I also know that life itself is a constant search for balance and so it may not feel even everyday, in every situation but when we look back at our life we can see if there was balance or not. It is through the looking back that I can learn what makes my life feel balanced for me. I know what it feels like to live in that space because of the experiences that were not. I learn what balance feels like in my body. I have been feeling off balance for about 3-4 weeks now.
It was through my time at the Ashram and the study of Yoga that I realized how much I associated money with self worth, and how success, accomplishments and material possessions were taught as a symbol of my worth. I watched as I held tightly onto my position as a Nurse in a way to feel secure and like I had something to say to people who asked me what I did, a way to give me credibility and make me worthy in their eyes. It took over a year for me finally quit my position that I had been on sick leave from for more time than I had actually worked at it. It felt very unsettling to not have a career or a job but I knew it was part of the process and that it needed to be done. I stayed at the Ashram for nearly 2 years in total and for most of that time I did full time Karma Yoga, which literally means “Yoga of Action”. At the Ashram this can be anything from cleaning toilets, renovating a building, making pickles, weeding, polishing jewelry, washing cars – you name it, it is Karma Yoga! So even though I was not working as a professional anymore I was working and in some ways much harder than I had ever worked before and it was through this that I began to see my relationship to myself and to money change.
A typical day looked like this:
6:50 – 7:50 AM Hatha Yoga
8:30 -12:30 Karma Yoga
12:30 – 1:30 Lunch
1:30 – 3:30pm Karma Yoga from
4-5:30pm Karma Yoga
This is what is expected of you as soon as you arrive, it happens 6 days a week and you have one day for self-reflection. Once you do the trainings and become a teacher or extend your stay you can add a whole lot more responsibility to this list including teaching classes, making breakfast, giving Satsang talks, helping ensure the integrity of the teachings, being a liaison for new guests, being a contact person for Karma Yogi’s and the list goes on. All the while practicing awareness of your own speech, thoughts, actions and having ample opportunity for conflict and resolution!
What this experience offered me was a way to see that money is not the most important thing in the world and it was not what made me a good person or made me worthy of respect or of receiving good things in my life. My life was richer than I had ever experienced before and I had relatively nothing left from my life before. I learned to live with what I had and to trust that all I ever needed was already with me or would come to me. Being a part of a community and knowing that I was a part of ensuring something stayed alive was a lesson that will stay with me always and gave me a new perspective on how I want to live life. If we want to change we need to be supported, we need each other, everything needs everything else – we are not separate from one another. The teachings of Swami Radha are alive and thriving because of the teachers who keep them going. The Ashram is evidence enough for me that real change on a global level is possible if we are willing to do the work individually and have a common goal to keep us united as a community.
After having stripped away all that I knew of myself in terms of who I was out in the “Real World”, you know the one where money is a God and God is something outside of ourselves, it came time to reenter as a completely different person, at least in terms of how I thought about being a human in this material world. It has been over a year since I left my spiritual home and I have had experiences with living and making money in new ways, which have filled me with hope and inspiration for the life I know I want and can live. I have been supported by many generous people offering me different ways of continuing my journey such as house sitting, pet sitting, even free room and board (Thank you Aaron!) and the Ashram is always there for me as a kind of safe haven to retreat to in times of need.
My goal is not to not have a job or to not support myself, almost the opposite really, because I know that I thrive when I have responsibility but it’s a very different approach when I am following my heart and trusting that I will be given what I need (work, money, bed, food.. etc). I apply for jobs and don’t get them – that’s a sign to try something else. I looking into volunteering and it opens up right away – that’s a sign. I go to the pool and someone asks about learning Yoga – that’s a sign! I am not in control of this path but it is my job to navigate through it in a way that feels right to me and to ensure that I don’t cross that very, very fine line between selfless and selfish, which of course I do because I am not perfect but I am always willing to see it and make the needed adjustments, even though it feels like a wrecking ball hit me in the gut to know that I have done something that is not in line with what I know is right, but its these learnings that help me grow. I can always go back, I can always change, I can always make another choice – that is the gift of life!
Now here I am in Africa, a place where there is little money, everyone assumes that I have money because I am white and I don’t. I do have capabilities and education but so do the people here. There are 4 people living in the house beside me with University degrees and even Masters Degrees with no jobs. It does not feel right, at all, to take a job that there are many qualified persons from Rwanda to fill. It does feel right to be here and to be with Justin, helping him and deepening my connection to World Dance. It also feels right to teach yoga, from which all monies go back to the Ashram as it runs off of donated monies as well. It does feel right to put on a Thriller event here in Rwanda from which all monies raised goes to charity. Can I do what I did just before coming to Africa and trust that if I spend all the money I do have I will be supported in ways that will allow me to survive and continue this journey? I did just that in Nelson, BC and I still got to Africa so that gives me strength to trust that I can do it again. Being in a very different culture offers me a lot to process though and makes me see my intentions very differently.
Am I just being stubborn, lazy or making excuses for myself? Maybe, at times it feels that way. This is not any easy ride and although a lot of people comment on it being such a great way to life, it is undoubtably the most frightening and challenging journey I have ever been on. I wish I had millions of dollars so that I could repay the people who have helped me get this far, give every child here a home and an education, buy my best friend a house and help her go to school, help everyone in need but money is not the answer to my problems or anyone else’s really, at least not in the long term. Yes, it can change things in the moment. Yes, it plays a vital role in our society right now but something needs to change and that change begins and ends with our selves. But how do I live this when I am in a country where no one really has money? Who am I to come here and expect Rwanda to support me when it cannot support the people that were born here? Do I even have the right to be here asking this of Rwanda? Is this naive? Is this arrogant? Is this selfish? Yes, on some level it sure is. But my heart so strongly directed me here – why? How much can I accept and how much do I give? How can I help myself follow my heart and survive a few more months here and not depend on others? What is it that I am not hearing yet?
For me its not about having the skills to do what I feel compelled to do with this life, it about finding the confidence and the knowing that I am worthy of living life in the way I was meant to by using these skills. It takes time to really, deeply believe in yourself if you have been told the complete opposite most of your life. No one can make me believe in myself, I have to do the work to embody it and until then I am destined to repeat the same patterns that hold me back. Rwanda is a way for me to build on the foundation of strength that I have been creating within myself and take it to a level where I can go and live my dreams. It is one step along the rocky river bottom and it is integral to who I am becoming. So I will continue to trust and walk straight into the fire because the ash that I leave behind is a symbol of heart’s passion to be the change I want to see in the world. Imagine a world where everyone lives their hearts desire! I believe its possible. Can you?