Say it with a Song


Brand New Me

It’s been a while, I’m not who I was before
You look surprised, your words don’t burn me anymore
Been meaning to tell you, but I guess it’s clear to see
Don’t be mad, it’s just the brand new kind of me
Can’t be bad, I found a brand new kind of free

Careful with your ego, he’s the one that we should blame
Had to grab my heart back
God knows something had to change
I thought that you’d be happy
I found the one thing I need, why you mad
It’s just the brand new kind of me

It took a long long time to get here
It took a brave, brave girl to try
It took one too many excuses, one too many lies
Don’t be surprised, don’t be surprised

If I talk a little louder
If I speak up when you’re wrong
If I walk a little taller
I’ve been under you too long
If you noticed that I’m different
Don’t take it personally
Don’t be mad, it’s just the brand new kind of me
That ain’t bad, I found a brand new kind of free

Oh, it took a long long road to get here
It took a brave brave girl to try
I’ve taken one too many excuses, one too many lies
Don’t be surprised, oh see you look surprised

Hey, if you were a friend, you want to get know me again
If you were worth the while
You’d be happy to see me smile
I’m not expecting sorry
I’m too busy finding myself
I got this
I found me, I found me, yeah
I don’t need your opinion
I’m not waiting for your ok
I’ll never be perfect, but at least now i’m brave
Now, my heart is open
And I can finally breathe
Don’t be mad, it’s just the brand new kind of free
That ain’t bad, I found a brand new kind of me
Don’t be mad, it’s a brand new time for me, yeah

 “Brand New Me”,  Alicia Keys

Ivuka (Rebirth) Highlights

Although my time at Ivuka was very stressful there were also many wonderful gifts that came to me during my time there, some related to Ivuka and some not. I know how important it is to bring balance into my life and to acknowledge both the dark and the light sides of every situation. This is my way of reminding myself that even in the midst of the darkness there is always light and sometimes it takes removing myself totally from the situation to fully realize that there was in fact many brilliant memories to share as well.

Highlight 1: Pool

Last Saturday I went for a visit to Alice and Justin’s. I go every Saturday after my Thriller Practice session in Kicukiro. I took Abbey and her cousin’s Nancy, Tetea to the swimming pool (Koga au Piscine, as Abbey says!) with the help of Oliva, the housekeeper and my friend. We swam for a bit, all 3 not good swimmers at all so I had my hands full and we only lasted about 30 mins before it was time for a treat on the deck. I ordered us some Fanta and Ifiliti (fries) and they ate it up like little vaccums. Each one with a big glob of Mayo on the side of their mouth! Even Oliva accepted my offer this time which is uncommon!

These three little sweeties are bright spots in my life here in Kigali and offer me a bit of what I feel I am missing by not being in contact with my own nieces. But I know that my nieces are doing well and having all kinds of experiences that these three are not and may never have so my small amount of time here with them is worth it if I can offer them a few experiences that they can hold onto in their hearts, just as I will hold them in mine.


(Left to right: Nancy, Me, Abbey, TeTea )

Highlight 2: well in this case it was also a “lowlight”: Connection

My friend Alex, whom I lived with for a month and had a wonderful bond with, left for Paris on Friday. Bitter sweet as her leaving opened up the room that I now live in! She and I had such great talks and even though she was only 21, she was one of the most confident and courageous woman I know. She offered me insight my own life by letting me into hers. She would come into my room and just sit and talk, let me hear all her frustrations about her day and what she hoped for in the future. I would talk about Yoga and my life, my learning and lessons. It felt like a big sister relationship in some ways but in a completely balanced way, no one was more wise or more experienced. We just shared where we were at and what we knew to be true. She gave me fancy cheese from France and we drank wine together on the porch. When I moved out we stayed connected and met up for dinner, dancing, movies, or to work on her work projects together, which she was very grateful for the help and I the company.

I miss her and it is interesting being in her room now that she is gone but we all go our separate ways for a reason. We have plans to do a house swap in 10 years so I can experience Paris and she Cananda! I know we will stay in touch as she holds a sweet little place in my heart always. I love you Alex and am so grateful for our meeting, you were a gift to me on this journey. Thank you again for the poem and funky little African faces! Until we meet again….Bon Voyage Mon Amie!


Highlight 3: Family

I went to meet the dancers for a demonstration of Thriller at a pottery studio the other day, only find out that it had been canceled. As I spoke to Gilbert on the phone, I remembered that Mohammed’s parents worked at this co-operative. I turned to the people sitting on the curb and said, Mama Mohammed? Papa Mohammed? It turned out that a few moments earlier I had taken their photo unknowingly. They were leaning together against a giant pot and it was a beautiful image so asked if I could take their photo, Na photo?, to which they said yes. I was so happy to have met them and I shared with them all the photos and video I had of their sons dancing with me on my laptop – Thank you Steve Jobs for going against the grain and believing the impossible, it allowed these two parents to share in the magic of watching their children express joy and happiness through dance in the middle of a field in Rwanda!!

They enjoyed it very much, especially Papa Mohammed! I have special bond with Mohammed. To me he is absolutely beautiful in body, mind and spirit. He ALWAYS greets me with a huge smile and says my name “Amanda!” I am not sure what will come of Mohammed after I leave here but I am really drawn to offering support to him from Canada once I have money coming in to do so. He works very hard and shows dedication to himself by showing up for the practices, even when he is ill to, which I tell him to stay at home and rest!! He is engaging and very bright, his spirit shines through him light and inspires me to stay positive during difficult times. Thank you Mohammed, sweet boy!IMG_2095











Highlight 4: Colors

I was standing outside the gates of Ivuka last week taking photos of my laundry hanging on the line against the amazing backdrop of Kigali City and it drew many children to me out of curiosity. Soon they were touching me and hold me hands, asking questions and having photos taken of themselves, which they love seeing on the screen afterward! They noticed my finger nails painted fancy and multicolored they seemed  really interested. I knew I wanted to offer them the experience of having me paint their nails so we went down to my room and got my two bottles of polish.

We sat on the steps together as one by one they had their fingers and then toes painted. One of them had missing nails and all of them had dirt caked into their little feet and nails. One little boy and two girls now had red and pink nails. The look on their faces as they admired there new fancy fingers and toes and posed for photos was so sweet.I am constantly reminded of my own beliefs that every little thing counts and makes a difference in the world. Three little children had a 30 min experience with me that brought us all  joy, happiness and laughter and that, especially here, changes us all forever.

I KNOW it does because I feel it shift. I feel the lightening of their little hearts and I see it in their eyes and feel it in their arms as they look up at me while hugging my legs. This is important work. Someone needs to think that these kids are important and if not me for 30 minutes today, then who and when? These are the types of interactions that are possible here every day, all day and I am here to offer them. Absolutely no one can tell me that what I am doing is wrong, there is no doubt in my mind that this is powerful work and I wish everyone could have the truly human experiences that are offered here.






They all deserve to have a big photo of themselves posted for this story – too cute! I saw some of them a few days ago, the little one in the dress came running to me, arms open wide for a big hug and when I looked at her hands I realized it was time for a touch up! Amini, the young man who lives at Ivuka said “Oh, that’s what they were talking about….they keep coming around asking about painting with you!” These little fingers and toes so covered in red dirt  are in desperate need of more than just paint but if I can offer them this one little thing to help them feel good and put a smile on their faces I will.

highlight 5: Gifts

Amini lived with me at Ivuka in a tiny room with no window, so small the door only opens enough to barely squeeze in and lie on the bed, I had it much better than him! We began to chat late at night on the front porch when I would arrive home and  I soon realized he was waiting up for me and really enjoyed sharing his story with me. I would listen to him to talk about how his family told him to either go to university to be a doctor, or lawyer or something that he could make a lot of money at or get out. When I say get out I mean out of their life completely. His step mom and his dad have nothing to do with him now because of his choice to be a dancer, artist and follow his love of researching the culture and history of Rwanda.

Sounds familiar  to me and he is not the only one at this Art Centre alone with this story. I feel most artists, free-spirits, and change makers have to be brave enough stand in what they believe while the rest of society and our families try to keep us down out of fear in their own minds. Amini was not afraid, he was doing it all the way. He does not make a lot of money but the money he does have and how he makes it feeds his soul enough that he can survive living in a  tiny, dark room with the support of his fellow outcasts!

Art is not well supported in this country and surprisingly neither is dance, even traditional dance. The Government does not support Rwanda being “African” and very much wants it to be as modern ie: as American as possible, which I really dislike and actually find quite disgusting at times. So I am grateful to Amini, Gilbert, Inema , Ivuka and all the others that continue to keep it alive, if it weren’t for them this culture would be lacking in tradition even more than it already is.

One night Amini was sitting on the chair waiting for me. We shared a few cookies and he showed me somethings he liked in a People Magazine from 2010 that he had been reading. I was surprised when what he showed me and said was one of his favorite things turned out to be VAMPIRES!! His eyes lit up as he described things he had seen on movies in the past. I asked when the last time he saw a movie was and he said it had been nearly 10 years or so, not since he lived with his parents.


I downloaded two Vampire movies for him to watch on my computer; Interview with a Vampire and Twilight New Moon. Then next time I saw him I said “I have a surprise for you!” He was intrigued but I knew he had no idea what I was going to give him. When I handed him my computer, a small speaker and started the movies he literally jumped for joy. “Oh my god! Thank you so much!” he said through a giant smile. He was immediately in his room watching with a friend. I joined them for the beginning of  the second movie.

I love movies. I use them as tools for reflection and as a way to move emotion through my body. I also use them as a security blanket. I can watch Dirty Dancing 3 times in one day if I am feeling scared, alone or depressed. It never occurred to me that this thing that I totally take for granted could bring such joy to someone. What a feeling it must have been to experience a movie, on a computer in his own room with a friend. Seeing them curled up together watching the screen was such a sweet moment and it will stay with me in my heart as a representation of how the simplest things can really make someone very happy. I love making people happy, especially now that I don’t do it to make myself feel better. I simply share my own happiness of which I have plenty to go around. Now I know my boundaries and trust myself to give only a little and keep a lot for myself because I deserve to be happy to!


(Amini doing his scarey Vampire impression soon after receiving his gift! It’s blurry because Vampires don’t like to have their photo’s taken!!)


(two sweet young men watching a movie together. I love the fact that men cuddle with each other here, literally lie on each other. These two had shifted a bit by the time the photo was taken.)


(Watching scary scenes with Amini! He’s obviously  a more seasoned vampire movie watcher than I am!)

What ever I can do to let him know that there is support out there in the world for his choices I will  and he is an inspiration to me to keep going no matter what other people say or how they try to control me! Thank you Amini!

Highlight 6:  Projects

After having been at Ivuka for nearly 3 weeks I ran into the young woman Lizzy who lives on the other side in a different house on the same property. I saw her at Serena Hotel and we started to chat. We had not really seen much of each other or  interacted much since I arrived and this was the first real meeting. It was clear right away that we were a match! Sharing our stories, our journeys and our experiences in Rwanda. She was the one who made the hoola hoop that I found when I arrived at Ivuka! I now have a new partner for the gym and she also has Hoola Hoop knowledge  and has done the leg work for how find supplies to make them in Rwanda, so we have teamed up to get the “LOVE HOOP RWANDA” project started this tuesday!

This project is about taking my love of Hooping and movement to the streets and remote villages of Rwanda to share the  joy and passion I have for this art form. I want to introduce something new to the people, something that I can then leave behind as an offering and that can continue when I a not here. The plan is to make hoops and cover them with traditional African cloth instead of the usual tape that I use in North America, as a way of bridging the two worlds. I plan to take a photo diary and video and share them with the world as a way to further share the positive energy of this project.

Previously I had small company named “Hippy Hoops”, which I made and sold Hoops on line and through word of mouth. I also have started certifications for teacher training and plan to teach when I get back to North America, this project is a way to get myself back into the groove as I let it go while I was  healing at the Ashram. Its time to bring the love of hooping back into my life and what a great way to do it!



(Justin already loves it!)

My art projects are starting to take shape, and I have started my first painting and have learned to  stretch my own canvases. My project consists of me using all my tools in my spiritual tool box to help channel and move through the stuck emotions that lie within my body. I use chanting, dance, meditation, writing, poetry, music, water, and Asanas to take myself back to the emotions and time that I am working with and then release it onto the canvas. IMG_2235

My project is called: Family Series. One painting to represent the Past, Present, and Future of my relationship with each member of my immediate family and then of myself. With one final image to represent the hope for my family unit in the future. I also write a poem for each time period. Needless to say it is an emotional journey but is much needed and I know it is a powerful project, that is why I have been resisting getting started. I am aware that I am afraid so I am kind and gentle with the process, no pushing myself. Now that I am away from Ivuka, feeling more settled in my new space, and have more energy to direct towards this protect I will be able to go to those intimidating places with more confidence.


(Father Past)

I also met a beautiful young woman name Judy Kaine from New York city and she is doing an art project with HIV patients with the help of the Ivuka Artists. She is so strong, confident and at ease with herself and life, it is an honor to be a part of her work. She has asked me to help with designing questions for the group to facilitate creative expression and to offer any other thoughts or feedback to which I am again honored to do. I have set her up with Alice (Justin’s wife) as she is a social worker whose focus is HIV patients and she has a deep heart connection to the work. We have plans to meet and get Alice’s expertise but have had to postpone as we are both feeling a bit unwell. I am so happy to be able to connect Alice to something I am involved with and for her to be a part of a project even when she is at home with baby. She is happy to be involved.

As look back at the highlights I see how much good, how much light, joy and love there was sprinkled into my time at Ivuka and if I hadn’t gone there most of these things would not have happened. There is always a bright side to even the darkest moments and this is my way of honoring them and giving them as much energy as I do the other side. Balance does exist if I decide to see both side as equally valuable parts of the equation.

Glad its over though! Happy to be right where I am! Om Siva!

Lighten Up

I have moved back into the house in Remera and feel soooooooooooooooo much better. I had no idea the amount of stress that living at Ivuka was putting on me. No matter what I did to make it more manageable, like getting a membership to Serena Hotel Gym and spending nearly everyday, all day there, it does not make up for having a place to call home that allows me to relax, be comfortable, have my few possessions neatly put away and surrounded by energy that feeds me vs robs me. It was not just the bathroom at Ivuka, I was using that as a focus for myself, as an outlet for my unsettled energy so I could feel more safe and secure, it was everything. All I can say is that I have learned my lesson. I will give myself the things I need because I got to see how much energy was being expended on stress and how much it took away from what I really am here to do as soon as I moved back to Remera.


(Making friends at Serena because I was lonely and there so often! I never wanted to be at Ivuka)

In less that 24 hours after moving in I had written 2 articles for my column in the Opasquia Times, nearly finished my on-line fundraising campaign, made a video with the kids for the fundraiser, got groceries, bought a gift for Alice and Justin, washed my clothes, and I watched a movie and read my book while lying in bed with a sore throat. Never did I feel like I was pushing myself, I just did what I have been stressing about for weeks and it was simple. I can clearly see the relationship between my environment and my ability to be me, be happy, be productive, be successful, and to create.


Ivuka will now be the place I go to do  my art project, which I was only able to start on one of the 16 pieces I have planned to do before I go. I felt like I had no energy or time for it because I was swirling in my mind, which made me feel so busy but it was just the swirling. Now I see copius amounts of time in which I can visit friends, have some fun, do my work, create art, enjoy my journey all that much more! I really feel like I can settle into this home and I am finally able to say that I live somewhere and I do not have to leave. It has been 3 months of unsettled moving and shifting here in Rwanda and I am so glad to be able to stay put for the next 2 months.


Before leaving Ivuka I knew I needed to talk to Charles about the money that I had paid to be there, it didn’t feel right that I paid for a place that did not meet basic needs. I was told from the moment I moved in, repeatedly that the bathroom was going to be fixed “on Monday”, which it obviously never was. I felt the familiar feeling of anxiety about speaking my truth to which I simple noticed it and then channeled it into courage. I stated the facts. I did not receive what I paid for and I deserved money back. I aimed high and ask for  1/2  and was given 1/4 , he wasn’t going to give me more than that but it was the principle not the amount. I needed to stand up for myself and I did – success!

Being more settled helped me come to more clarity about my time here and what I want to do with it. I have to be realistic about money, since it is all borrowed and yet I am here and open to being here fully and completely. My roommates went this weekend up to the Northern part of the country to do a Gorrilla trek, which until now I told myself I was not interested doing but once I felt more settled in my home it became clear that  – of course I want to do it. It is an amazing experience and well worth the money. I recently watch “Gorrilla’s in the Mist” and was very inspired by Diane Fosse’s story, I related to it in many ways.

The mountain gorilla is Rwanda's leading touri...
The mountain gorilla is Rwanda’s leading tourist attraction (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I felt like I understood her, especially her struggle against sexism and fighting to be taken seriously. It was interesting to watch her struggle with issues familiar to myself and be in the same setting – Rwanda/Congo. I often identify with people who have gone against the grain, especially woman and am inspired by them to keep going on my own journey.

The energy that went into stress, the extra money on food and being out of the house all day, it all adds up. Plus being out all day means I am “on” all day with no real place to just go and be alone or be quite, even at the Serena I had made friends and so was met with conversations there are well. The was also stress that was very subtle  yet deep and kept me from doing what I wanted to do as I felt very tired all day. I was not able to blog as much as I wanted and I had many great experiences that I would have loved to share in the moment but that was not possible as I felt way too busy to sit down and write about it all. It does take a lot of energy and dedication to keep this blog going, for example this post has taken me 8 hours, nearly straight through to do because of slow internet connections. slow computer, power outages, etc.  But it is important to me  as a creative outlet and I want to do it more.  Now I feel like I will have the energy and the space both physically and mentally to do so.

My time at Ivuka was rich with learning, meeting new people and life lessons. I am grateful for it all but am really glad to be done that part of the journey! I plan to give myself time to settle in a enjoy being in my home.  I will be lounging around the house in my PJ’s, drinking tea, and spending time with my beautiful roommates on the deck with a beautiful view, one of whom likes to bake so we have fresh cookies on the counter today!! Ahhhhh! Seriously, the little things that make me so happy these days….I feel like I am back at the Ashram and we just got told we are having dinner on the beach! Happy Happy Joy Joy!

Aborting The Past

On September 9th at approx. 6:00pm Alice and Justin welcomed a new baby girl into their family! She was a week overdue and had to be coaxed into coming into the world with medication. She weighed 4kgs and has a thick head of tiny, tight black curls that are soft as down. I was surprised at how light her skin was, it matched me and Alice says it will get darker as she gets older. The family is very excited and there is a warm, fuzzy feeling at their home right now. It is a home full of love.



(Alice and Baby, 1 day old!)

A few days before she was born I was over at their home for dinner and Alice was waiting patiently for her arrival, she has known it will be a girl for months. She was very proud to show me how they had set up the room for her, which included a new queen sized bed, a pink mosquito net with flowers around the ring at the top, a new bed spread with hearts embroidered on it and the walls were covered in stickers, banners and little stuffed animals. It was very, very endearing to enter into and I could feel the loving intention behind all the work that went into making it possible. This will be the room that Alice and Baby sleep in for the next little while and Justin stays in their room alone. I asked why this is the case and was told that it is so Alice can wake up and feed baby when she needs to and not disturb Justin, also this room has the only indoor bathroom, the other one is outside near the courtyard area.


That night I gave Alice a foot rub as her feet were swollen and she was very tired, thought maybe it would stimulate something and help baby come! She was surrounded by her family, Justin’s sister Celine and children, his mother, his sister and myself all eagerly awaiting the arrival. Celine had even taken holidays from work for a week or so in preparation for the event. They were all sitting around outside on a piece of foam cuddled together and waiting! I really love the fact the culture is totally ok with just sitting around and being close with each other, I have always been a big fan of cuddling!


On the day she came home from the hospital I arrived a few hours later and met her for the first time in her new room. Baby has no name yet or at least not one that is known to anyone else, they are waiting for the naming ceremony which will take place in about a month. Until then she is baby girl! Justin and Alice choose a name for baby and keep it secret, then at the ceremony family and friends gather to welcome her officially and all try to guess the name that was chosen. They write down names on pieces o paper and If someone guesses correctly or gets on name right they….I don’t remember, maybe they win a prize?? Or maybe its good luck – we’ll find out very soon at the actual ceremony.

Abbey, nearly 3 years, the new big sister was very quite and wide eyed watching everyone coo and fuss over the new addition. I could tell she was adjusting to the shock of having mom lying in bed with another little person that would distract her further from herself! She liked to peak at baby and was carrying around her own baby doll as well.




Kenny, 1 1/2, is angry! He screams and pulls at baby’s clothes and arms trying to get to his mama who up until a few days ago was all his! Justin says he is getting better!! This is very interesting to watch unfold.


Muja, the young woman who lives with the family and works as the Nanny, carries Kenny on her back and gets things ready for Alice, like tea and cares for the all of the children’s needs like feeding, bathing, putting to bed etc. I watch as this family unit functions so well and makes so much sense to me. Although there are down sides to it as well I just truly believe that this is the way of life that I want. A community  working  together to make life more rich and  manageable. I do not feel we are meant to live alone as single unit families in our own homes, cooking, cleaning and fending for ever expanding needs as the family grows. I love the idea of living in a similar style setting and plan to in my near future. Human beings need to live and work together, the way our culture is set up now makes us all feel like we have to be able to handle everything by ourselves and that is impossible. Where did we get this idea that we all need our own everything……cars, homes, income – all separate from each other, not sharing or supporting others which in tern supports us. This is part of what made me so ill so it is has been a wonderful gift to now have experienced community and family in a new way since living at the Ashram and now in Rwanda.


I can feel something shifting inside me around the issue of birth that started even before the arrival of baby and today as I was reading a book called “The Reading Group” by Elizabeth Noble, and a chapter dealing with abortion came up and I suddenly began to cry, big, round, sad tears as I sat pool side at Serena Hotel. I realized it was time for a new level of healing around the idea of babies, sex, relationship and motherhood as well as career.

I know now that I went into a focus in the area of reproductive health with my nursing degree early on because of all the pain and negativity I felt for myself around sex. I was also really angry because of my past experiences with my family, boyfriends, and people in my life (see “Pleasure Principle” posted August 21, 2013). I once again thought that I could save other young girls and woman from the pain that I had experienced if I did this. My intention was to “Save” but my attitude was one of spite, anger, hatred and I had a real bad taste in my mouth altogether around sex, men, reproduction which transfered slowly to babies in general. This is not a great place to be in mentally, all day, everyday and to be focused on the negative aspects only was not condusive to me healing my own pain – it only compounded it.

As a child I remember loving babies, absolutely adoring them and because of the negative energy I felt around the way they come into existence (ie: sexual intercourse) I began to go numb to the miracle of life itself. I always thought that if I ever got pregnant I could never tell my parents because it would be openly admitting to them that I had had sex, which was a bad thing in my mind and something to be ashamed of and angry towards. It also would mean that I was grown up and with the dynamics in the family being that I felt I had to stay a child in order to receive love, this was not something I was willing to do, grow up. This added a new layer of fear towards my own natural feminine power.

I remember a workshop called “Life Seals” during my Yoga Development Course (YDC) at Yasodhara Ashram in 2010 where I had drawn an image of a sleeping baby to represent my sense of smell. As we were working with the “Life Seal” I was asked by one of the Swami’s (teachers), “Well, what do babies smell like to you?”. I burst into tears on the spot in front of 15 of my fellow students. I said. “They smell like death, plastic and blood.” In my world, I dealt with dying babies, dead babies or people who could not have babies (ie:deatht of the possibility of babies). Everyday for over a year at the Abortion Clinic I witnessed and participated in the process of removing live fetus’ from the mothers womb. I estimate that I saw over 5,000 fetus’ during my time there. It was an emotionally taxing job and I had no outlet for the emotions I was feeling and taking on everyday I worked there.  Full time at the clinic was supposed to be 3-4 days a week but because of the limited amount of people willing to do the work, the demand and the amount of patients needing immediate care we often worked more , sometimes up to 6 days, 10-12 hours each and full speed all day.



(“LifeSeal” is a workshop at Yasodhara Asrham in which you draw pictures very quickly to represent your senses, your essence, likes, dislikes, etc. in order for your unconscious mind to reveal itself to you. Then you learn to read the Life Seal and watch as it seems to magically reveal areas of healing in your life – amazing! for more info.)

I am the type of Nurse who will make you laugh, help you forget your worries and do whatever I can to make you trust me and feel safe in my hands. I have listened to many sad stories, taken the brunt of other people’s anger and have hid my own emotions very well for the sake of the patients and this wore me down. Not only did I have to pretend to be strong all day at work but I also had to keep it all confidential, not just this job but also my work at the Fertility, Early Pregnancy Loss and all of the nursing work I was doing. At one time, for a few months I worked at both the Fertility and the Abortion Clinic simulanteously, what a mind trip that was and all the more reason I became numb to how I actually felt about babies.

It was painful to walk into a Dairy Queen and have the young girl behind the counter look up at you with horror in her eyes because she recognizes you as her nurse from the most horrible day in her young life. To see a patient in the mall whom I have counseled after loosing a pregnancy and helped provide her with the best care I knew how, sometimes spending hours or weeks on the phone or in a room talking with them and to be totally ignored because of what  I represent hurt my heart. To walk down the street and see a baby that I literally helped create, actually inserted the sperm into the uterus and got a woman pregnant and to be ignored because the mother is ashamed that she needed help to have a baby and doesn’t want anyone to know that she knows me was really painful. It was like I was putting my heart and soul into my work everyday, I was holding other peoples pain in order to help them through the most difficult times in their lives and then outside of that setting my work, my heart, my caring, my kindness didn’t count. It was a very challenging time and it built up in my body causing me a lot of pain in all areas of my life. My boyfriend at the time had to listen to me talk about horrible things I had seen or felt that day, it was not fair to put that on him and there is no way that anyone not doing the work could understand or comprehend the magnitude of what I was dealing with, but he listened and without him I would have probably had a melt down much earlier in my life. He did a very good job of being a silent support for me and I am forever grateful for his kind, gently, loving spirit.

I have been called a “Murderer”. I have been looked right in the eyes and told I am going to Hell by my co-worker in other settings. I have been called a “Fucking Bitch” and told that I am hated for what I do. I heard someone say “Let’s kil it!” upon looking at the ultrasound of her unborn fetus. I have held woman and men in my arms as they cried. I have seen deformed fetus’ and  held containers full of dead fetus parts. I have seen the face of a 5 month old fetus pulled off its skull by steel tongs, followed by fully formed hands, legs and toes. I have opened up my mail box to find some one had placed a dead squirrel inside, can’t be sure if it is connected to my work but it sure felt like it at the time. All of these things are permanently engrained in my mind and made their way into my body as well, which bruised my heart and Soul. I am saying this as way to reveal the reality of Abortion, there are many sides to every story and every choice. This is my side of the story.

On time I was dancing with my friends and I suddenly froze on the dance floor as the weight of what I had seen and done that day hit me with full force. I looked around the room knowing that I was alone in this feeling and this experience as everyone else expressed joy and danced carelessly around the room. The work I was doing and the pressure I felt to ensure that these woman didn’t feel pain like I did lead me to a very dark and lonely place inside myself.

Yes, I chose this line of work and yes I could have chosen something else but it was my Karma that lead me to learn these lessons in this very difficult way. I have always thought and still think, maybe even more now, that if I was in that situation I would want a nurse like me to be by my side. I knew that I had a unique gift for the work  because of my personal experiences and the patients benefitted from having me as their care provider, I do not regret doing this work because of this reason. I was a very good nurse because I genuinely gave my all to everyone of my patients. But the problem at that time was that I was doing the work out of my own need to healing and it was pushing me to a place where I was about to hit rock bottom.

It was during a staff meeting at the abortion clinic that I went unconscious, but was still mentally aware, and was taken to the ER by my co-workers. This marked the first time my body said “No” to me by literally shutting down so I could not do anymore. Of course there was nothing clinically wrong, as with most Fibromyalgia patients they thought I was “faking” and treated me accordingly, so once I was back to “normal” I was discharged and never followed up on again. This was my first experience with Fibromyalgia and I was 27 years old. I had also just broken up with  my boyfriend, Chance,  and so it was a stressful time at home as well.

It I have done A LOT of healing around this area in my life but it took a lot more than one ER visit to push me to a place where I was finally ready to listen to my body’s message. I was 30 years old when I really decided I had  to change and so I did! The health care system as it is set up now would not ever be able to help me resolve the underlying issues that caused my vast array of symptoms ranging from a persistently plugged left ear, dizziness, incontinence, anorexia, depression, pain, sleep apnea, muscles so sore that even a feather light touch sent me screaming and many, many more. I now see the body so differently and I can never go back to work as a Nurse in the same way because of this fundamental difference. I believe we hold the answers to all illness within our selves because the choices we make lead us to the illness to begin with and if we listen we can find out what this amazing tool , our body, is trying to teach us so that we can live in line with our Soul. Try telling that to a medical Doctor and see what happens – HA!  I have never been convinced of the way we attempt to heal our bodies in our current mainstream system of health.

Nursing has this appearance from the outside to be a wonderful, loving caring environment in which you get to help people become well and at it roots I believe that was the intention. What most people don’t know or see is all the emotional and physical abuse, the lack of self care engrained into the culture and the duties them self that come with this line of work. I really don’t think that any of the patients I saw at the Abortion clinic were capable to seeing me as a real person with feelings, emotions and a life outside the procedure room and it is not their responsibility to do so but Nurses are not robots, we are human and we do have all of these things. For our jobs to require us to act like Robots for 8-12 hours a day is what causes us to burn out, it teaches us (mostly woman) that we don’t matter, on top of the already strong messages in the same tone already engrained in our society. It makes us as a society think that this is normal and we begin to expect people to act in this way, further removing the culture from its own humanity. The levels of how this impacts us is huge and this is yet another way that I felt I couldn’t cope with life the way I knew it, so I changed what I surrounded myself with and went to a place that brought me back to the heart of humanity and helped me to see that I can care for others but first I MUST care for myself – thank you Yasodhara Ashram and Swami Radha for sharing the teachings and wisdom with me. It is an honor to now be able to share it with the world in my own unique way.

These are my opinions based on my experiences, my healing and I am not saying that everyone needs to think or feel this way about the human body or life but what I am attempting to demonstrate by putting my story our there is that it worked for me.  I am the living proof of my own healing through this process. I believe we need to take back our power and responsibility for our own health and lives. Pills may help control symptoms or pain but they do not help us find the root cause, that is up to us! When we get a cold, we need to rest not take a pill so we can carry on with our busy lives. When we have pain it is trying to tell us something, usually something we don’t want to hear, don’t ignore it, push through it, or mask it – listen to it, even if you don’t like what it is saying.  By having my health deteriorate the way it did I was able to see that nothing else in the world is more important, without health I have nothing, I have no life. It is a practice and I do still make choices that are not perfect because I am human but at least now I really know what the consequences are and I make a conscious decision. I believe that if more people took responsibility for their own health and if it were more acceptable within our society to listen to our bodies, express ourselves fully and do what it really needed VS what is being demanded of us we would be a much happier, and healthier society.

I continue healing myself through exploring all the layers as they arise naturally, not pushing things that need to be seen away, instead intentionally going as deeply as I can into them to find the root and find healing. I am now able to do things that I am drawn to in a more authentic way and I use every experience as a tool for learning about myself and taking a next step forward into creating a new life for myself that allow me to Thrive.  I don’t want to feel this way about babies, life, sex and men so I am doing what ever I can to continue to heal. I want to be able to embrace my feminine power to create life and to do it in the way I hold inside as my ideal and I feel my journey will lead me naturally to that place and time if it is meant to be. Through this process I realized that I am actually drawn to being a Midwife, the complete opposite of the work I was doing previously  and that I was too afraid to do what I was really drawn to but again I cannot go into it until I am ready for another layer of healing and it too will happen naturally. When I listen and follow through with what my heart, my body and my spirit tell me I trust that I am on the right path.

If I do go back into the field of Nursing it will be in a very different way with a very different intention. It is obvious to me that I love to be around people and to care for them, now that I am learning to care for myself first I have more to offer those in need. I have ideas for a project involving Nurses and Yoga in the workplace that sprouted during a group discussion at the Ashram in 2011. The ways in which I can be involved in the profession are much more broad the I had previously seen and I feel that I have something to offer the field of nursing by offering my experience and my story of healing. My heart drew me to Nursing for a reason and it may be to help the Nurse rather than help the patients – although those two are always connected, everyone benefits from having a happy Nurse at their bedside! I cannot say which direction my heart will lead me next but I continue to explore and keep my mind open to possibilities that haven’t even discovered yet! My life is a Thrilling ride full of love, sharing, dance, joy, laughter, friends and it is this way because I am willing to do the work to make it this way – it is worth because I am worth it. I am Amanda (worthy of Love)!

Mind With An Ocean View

I have had a very emotional week ranging from extreme happiness to walking down the street in tears. It is all great when I look back over the week I can see how it all makes sense but it is exhausting at the same time. I have been riding this new wave of living my life with passion and I got excited, so I dove head first into it all. Now I have this pool of ideas and projects swimming around in my mind, which makes me feel overwhelmed and anxious because I want it all to be here already and/or be done. I also feel like I can’t possibly do it all, which I can’t, at least not all at once. This new found energy is very, very powerful.

After talking with my best friend Carrie, she helped me see the other ways that are mentally exhausting just by living in an different culture, like having to bargain for a price to get ANYWHERE I want to go on a Moto and having to  decide wether or not I am willing to be ripped off or standing my ground and demand a fair price, which can mean I walk a for blocks and barder with up to 10 different drivers which usually makes me late for my next stop, this is the same with buying food. Actually, and I am not sure if it is just because I am tired right now and probably hormonal but I am actually starting to hear myself use the word racism a lot in my mind, in terms of me being treated unfairly and that weighs heavy on me as well. Is it still racism if people idolize you and think you are rich just because you are white? Maybe its not the right word but it feels like it is right now.

When I first came it was kind of fun hearing “Muzungu” everywhere I went but now I hear it and I am more aware of the expectations that come with that label. I am no stranger to racism having grown up in a town that was full of it and I myself have been called a Racist many times and I have also experienced small examples of being a minority from living in this Northern community in Canada as well but this feels different and more extreme in the sense that I am obviously more of a minority here. This takes energy because it make me feel angry, frustrated and then my body gets tense and I act out of this place instead of from my heart. It also takes energy to let it go! I am constantly meeting new people, speaking a new language, and have a lot of new things on my plate so of course I am tired- how did I not see all these things as major factors in me needing to take a break once and a while.

IMG_1999  IMG_2000


(There is no Quick Cycle on this washing machine and the sunshine is the dryer always, not just for the fresh scent of summer!


(Life here is just way more difficult but hey at least I don’t have to carry large jugs of water every day from the creek below like the neighborhood kids do. They stop and take a break in front of the Ivuka entrance.)


So last week I took Monday OFF, completely turned my mind off from anything but enjoying the beautiful space I had created in my life. I gave myself the gift of a membership at the 5 star Serena Hotel and it has been such a wonderful addition to my day. I had given up  my morning routine of Yoga, chanting and dance once I realized that I really just wanted to start writing as soon as I woke up and I was doing the other things instead because I was creating a routine/structure but when a routine stops me from doing what I am drawn to or passionate about it no longer serves its purpose and needs to be changed.  Now I have another new routine of getting up early and going to the Serena Spa and gym all morning and then eating at the beautiful salad bar which offers me exactly what I want to eat and I feel great for the rest of the day. All of these things cost way too much money but I am not here to eat cheap or even to try new things, I have done plenty of that since I arrived and I know what I need to feel good so I am giving that to myself at any cost. Having this beautiful space to come to everyday with crystal clear water, a hot tub, sauna, essential oils, lush green plants and fresh squeezed juice is like a miracle but it was here for me from the start and it took me over 2 months to give it to myself.


Being in a country where it is really challenging to get what you need, never mind the things you want, or at least it is right now as I learn more about how it all works, is a gift to me because it has really helped me see how I hold myself back and do not do what I want. I am actually seeing that I am quite mean to myself and I have been told, and am aware of the fact that I am very hard on myself. How did I get like this? How did I loose my ability to act on what I want? Doesn’t matter, what does matter is that I am taking stalk of all these things when they arise and when I am in a place where I can go buy underwear when I need it, at a set price, I will feel like I am in heaven!  Oh yeah, my paint came in from Uganda but it was all the same color and missing one container – energy sucker if I let it be!!

I think about my life prior to the Ashram and anyone you asked would probably tell you I had everything I wanted and more, in many ways I did but there was so much tightness around it all in my mind and so many layers to why I wanted what I wanted that it was not really authentically what I wanted and so I wanted more..if that makes sense! My time at the Ashram really flipped all of this on its head and as with many other things in my life  I went to extremes, like selling all my belongings even giving away anything of sentimental value, that is a classic Scorpio behavior that I am coming to embrace as part of who I am. I learned so much about how I had caused my own misery and that desires were at the root of it so I nearly turned off my desires completely, which included sex, food, clothing, anything material became the enemy, even having other people in my life. I believe that anything, no matter how good the intentions can have a negative impact on me because of these natural tendencies, so even Yoga itself is something that I practice awareness with, everything really is Yoga, even Yoga! Interesting being in a place discovering that I actually do want material things again in my life but then can’t have them….

As I learn to accept the extreme that I have gone to in my choices during this journey of healing, I feel like I am getting to see just how deep the patterns run and how far I am wiling to go to learn these lessons. I do not like living here in many ways and yet it is what I need to go deeper into learning how to love myself and give myself the life I want. I know that pain is a great teacher but how much am I willing to create in order to learn this time? Life is not meant to be an easy ride but I just keep on pushing myself into places that make me uncomfortable so that I can learn more about myself and make changes that will allow me to live a life that I am meant to. But when does that life start and when does the healing journey end? Does it or are they continuously intertwined?  I don’t feel like it does ever end, at least I hope not – that sounds boring! But I will be very glad when I can be back in familiar surrounds with people who really know me – not that there are many of those people left out there after the changes I’ve made – probably only you Carrie!

It will also be much easier to do things I am drawn to doing in a familiar setting. I feel like life will be so much easier now that I know more about how much it really hurts me when I actually can’t get what I need and when I just don’t give myself what I need or want. What if I had gotten a membership at the gym right away, just like I spoke about when I first visited the place in June and what did I miss out on by not listening at the time? I will never know but these are the things I strive to avoid by loving and trusting myself more and more so I act more in the moment than 3 months down the road.



(Pool at Serena Hotel Kigali)

I was swimming in the pool today and it became clear to me on an even deeper level how I NEED to be in water, near water and working with water. It feeds my soul. It is who I am (Diane will be happy to read this!) and the work with Water Release Therapy ( is a very real way for me to do that. It is possible to be nourished by the work I do and to receive as much as I give. When I stopped lifeguarding  after 10 years and became a Nurse working in the hospital setting under florescent lights, in an artificial space with ill people for 12 +hours at a time I didn’t realize what a shift it was from my usual work space  that had a natural element to it everyday and now I see that the water is and has always been there for me as a way to support me.




(Water Release Therapy training in Santa Barbara, CA at Healing Waters Spa which was also my backyard!)

I realized that I have a tendency to want to help people that are in really devastating situations for example: the Abortion Clinic, Fertility, Teenage Pregnancy, homeless people and now Africa, which is the most extreme case for me, but what I heard today while I was hanging out underwater (my favorite place to be) was ….”What about people like you were when you were sick? You needed help too.”


(She looks pretty normal right? She is a Nurse, lives in a nice house and drives a great car but she is just weeks away from a nervous breakdown, cries for hours at a time, can barely get out of bed, thinks about killing herself everyday, can barely keep food down, is way below normal body weight, is riddled with pain and soon after this photo she began losing consciousness on her way home from work in a taxi and spent the day unable to walk or move from her couch, alone and scared……..Is she as worthy of help as much as the people here in Rwanda – I think so!)

What about the people who live in beautiful places, have great paying jobs, loving families, a beautiful home and lots of money, the ones who try so hard to appear together- they need help too! Because I have lived in that world as well I feel like I can offer help in this type of situation, the place where people don’t often admit that there is anything wrong but who are we kidding we are human and therefore imperfectly perfect. I know that there is potential for healing everywhere, we are all in need of support in our lives. I was beginning to see on a new level that I can live in a beautiful environment and still really help people, it doesn’t always have to be so extreme like in the present situation I am in. The more I learn to accept beautiful, nice, good things into my life the more I allow my own potential to grow and reveal itself to me. I can do work in both areas, literally living between the two extremes, which may make my Scorpio nature very happy!

So I will continue to go the beautiful space at Serena Hotel and live a life of luxury while I am here in Rwanda and remind myself that this IS my life. It’s not what my life can be or could be, it IS what my life actually is in this moment and it is what can continue into the future if I allow it. Do what I need  in order to allow myself to give my skills back, allow myself to shine and this will help others. So I  live in paradise while the people I help live on the streets – ok, well it is what keeps me balanced, healthy, happy and able to help them. If I continue to live in a mind space that I am not worthy of the good things that are awaiting me I cannot be an example to anyone of living their full potential. I often “talk the talk” for a long time in preparation for “walking the walk” but it is always as a way of preparation for truly believing and embodying  my intention, to reinforce the potential, the ideals and the passion that I want to uphold for myself.

Learning to live in my potential is my Karma and is not for me to Judge,  just as the people here in Rwanda are living out their Karma. It is not my duty to feel sorry for people or to try to make their lives as “good” as mine and certainly not my responsibility to hold myself back in effort to make them feel better. What good does that do? How does that help? What it created  in my life was a lot of pain, pain that was not mine and really almost killed me. I cannot take on other people’s problems as my own, I work with mine and the consequences of that will have an impact on the rest of the world because we are all connected.

The healing that I do in my own life helps me to be more aware of the kind of help that I can give to those in need. In the past, I actually thought it was my job to help people and I often took on their pain and their problems as a way to do so but now, as I peel away the layers that reveal why I felt that way, which really were self serving, I see how selfish I was being. I am responsible to myself and for my life only. I know that the only way people can truly change is if they do it themselves, all I can do is offer myself in the most authentic way possible, offering my skills to support them so they can help themselves. It is not up to me help or save anyone but if I listen to what I am called to do I will inadvertently offer something to someone who is ready to make the change they need in their life, just by being myself.


Look Again…

After choosing to say yes to leaving Ivuka and honor what I want, I was able to look at the situation with new eyes. I chose it for a reason, I knew it had a crappy bathroom, small kitchen, new puppy and kitty and that the floors were unfinished when I said yes to staying here. These are just excuses anyway or reasons my mind makes up to try to take me down the road to unhappiness. I have been able to shift my perspective and I realized I was not giving it a fair chance because I was stuck in this space of finding all the things that were making me uncomfortable instead of looking for the light. What are the positives? Creative space, creative people, cute and fuzzy critters to cuddle with, inspiring stories of people living their passion against the odds, friendly housemates, and so much more!






(This young man was painting his shoes blue just for the fun of it when I walked out!! Awesome!)

Yesterday I stepped outside while the artists were painting to be in the energy of the creating Art and something happened – I felt that I had been hiding from the inspiration that was the reason I came here. Every morning while I sleep there are artists right outside my window living the life that I aspire to. So I sat and watched, I talked and looked at what was happening. Like every other idea or seed that is planted it needs water before it can begin to grow. I am here in the seed, my investment in the space is the water and the next step is to act. There are of course obstacles to things like paint supplies and canvas but nothing so big that it needs to put me in a stand still. Practicing patience is something I have become very skilled at but Africa and this new found energy for creating my own life provide me with quite a challenge. It has taken me until yesterday to get paint ordered, all the way from Uganda, and now there is no canvas to be found in the city so again I wait while my passion for painting sits, swirling in my gut. My project includes poetry as well so I have started by letting some of the poetic juices flow but the images that need to come out of me flash in my minds eyes repeatedly throughout the day and sometimes I have the feeling like I have forgotten something all day but it is just the unexpressed visions in my mind calling my attention.

Last I spoke with my housemate Emil about my project, we showed each other our paintings and talked about goals which really helped me to see that this gift is right here waiting for me to act on it. We high 5’d as we decided to get this project started and make it happen. I want to learn everything about the process so I can work independently. There is a lot of quiet time and space in the night for me to work and that feels like a huge gift, so I will take it while I can. I am now only here for another 10 days, and will soon be back in the Remera house that offers me so much in terms of personal space and comfort. I feel that the relationship between Ivuka and myself will blossom  even more once I am in a place that allows me to feel comfortable and from there I can expend more energy into the creative process and less into “How am I going to shower today?”

Last wednesday I attended my first Modern dance class in Rwanda and as I suspected it was amazing! It is another gift that I have been eagerly preparing myself for as I know I am meant to dance this way but have not had the emotional maturity to fully embrace it until now. I loved it, I love the instructor and I love the fact that it is here for me in Rwanda – not a coincidence at all! After class the instructor, Sarah, and I went out for some delicious Indian food and shared our stories with each other. She has been a dancer all her life and in many ways lives a life that I dreamt of. Being around her as an actual representation of the fact that my dreams are other people’s realities makes it more real for me that I can live my dreams, she offered me so much in just one class and one meal. Thank you Sarah.  I am planning to have private lessons from her in addition to one class a week at the Studio. Suddenly my time here feels vast and endless, will I really return in November? How can I stay ? I feel my mind expanding with possibilities.


The classes are at City Arts Kigali, where I also teach Yoga and Thriller and it is run by another young woman from the US who brought her gifts to Rwanda and started “Ballet Rwanda”. I see how important it is to share our gifts where ever we go as it offers so much to the community. Last night I offered my first Yasodhara Yoga class to a class of one person! It was great to be back in that role and learn about where I am at as a teacher and where I want to go. What I saw was a confidence that never leaves me, I am rooted in something much greater than myself. It comes from my connection to the teachings, the Ashram community and to my own healing through Yoga. I love that I have the opportunity to push myself creatively and professionally while I am here and it offers a glimpse at what is possible in my own life when I put energy and effort into my passions. Being in Rwanda for me is not only about embracing African culture, especially here in Rwanda seeing as there is so much outside influence on the culture, I am  also learning about my personal culture.  I am learning what I how I can offer myself when I return and what I can offer from afar, after all it was coming here that gave me the confidence to ask to have a column in a newspaper in Canada. My very first edition of “Diary Of A Spirited Yogini” will be published in the Opasquiac Times in The Pas, MB, Canada on September 11, 2013 and this is a huge step forward for me personally, professionally, and creatively!


As I sit here in a cafe called “Shokola Lite”, where I have come for the last week to have breakfast and lunch I am grateful for the ones who came before to share what they are passionate about. This is another way that I have been able to be grateful for my time at Ivuka as it allowed me to make the choice to find a place that offers the kinds of things I need to Thrive and then give them to myself. So I come here for smoothies and a salad bar everyday because I can and it is what I want and what I need to feel good physically. Instead of complaining about the small kitchen and the type of food I want not being available I can redirect the energy into more important things by just making it simple – eat out! I have a lot on my plate and am really busy between all of the projects I have on the go and it is really unrealistic to think that I can do all of the things I want, all by myself plus adjust to living and caring for myself in a new country. Like Justin said to me when I moved to Remera, please come for dinner, lunch whatever you need – you don’t need to do it all alone. He was right and yet I also see how I can choose then to do what is right for me and I am willing to invest in giving myself the kinds of things I need to feel healthy and well. I have found a place that offers me fresh, raw vegetables and smoothies, I have found two sushi restaurants and a mexican restaurant – what more do I need?

I also finally found some gym clothes at a store called Mr. Price, which is actually very expensive but I am now ready to take the next step and get a gym membership for myself. Every step I take seems to take much longer than it would in America but there is something in the process of being patient that allows me to see and feel whether something I want is really what I need and is worth the wait. Justin always says “We are in Africa, be patient!” Its true, everything just flows here in a way that can be frustrating but helps me to practice being who I want to be. The more engaged in my own life and the projects I become, the more I feel old patterns of pushing, rushing, go-go-go and a kind of manic feeling that helps me to see how easily I can loose control of my energy. I see how it wasn’t Nursing or anything else I tried to blame for my out of control ways, it was me! I feel like this is what I have to learn to do in the midst of creative energetic burst (control or direct the energy) and being surrounded by the grounded, soothing energy of Africa is a blessing.  Even in terms of my art project I feel the old familiar feeling of wanting it to be done – that is not the point of art and I know it, so I sit with the feeling and allow myself to feel it, see it, look at it and then set it aside and tell it “thank you but I don’t need you anymore” or use I can channel it as a tool for creativity. When I notice it pop up during my day I bring myself back to the present moment and am able to enjoy the journey. Every step I take I learn something, I heal something and thus impact what the project will be in the end. Letting go of expectations is the work. Life is the project. The journey is the Art.

To The Heart Of It

I have found the love of my life!  After all this time begin told in so many ways that the love of my life was something external, I realized the other day that by living a life in line with what I love I am able to actually love my own life. I haven’t felt like this about my life, well to be honest I don’t remember ever feeling that I loved life especially my life and that I do it makes so much sense why it was so painful to not feel this way – this is bliss!

Helping people has always been something that I did and I am no different now but it has a very different spin to it. Today as I shared Thriller, Beat It and other dance moves with the kids at  “Centre Preshyterien D’amour Des Jeunes” Orphanage I realized that I had been trying too hard to make this Thriller Event about raising money. This was another way that I was not honoring who I really am, by this I mean that I had to create something that seemed more important than what I know to be true in order to make it worthy of acknowledging. I believe fully that human connection and dance can change the world, so the simple act of teaching the choreography to the people here alone is enough for me. What I have been doing though is discounting that belief by then trying to make the impact obvious to everyone. It is hard to really understand or see the impact that dancing with these kids has on all of us and so I somehow felt the need to make it easier for others to see or feel it by attaching it to something external like money.

This does not mean that I am not going to try to raise money but it means I am going to shift the energy that I was putting towards that part of the project and use it for other things that are more relevant to the bigger picture. I have a tendency think very big, which can make my vision almost impossible to attain at times and often leads me to feel stuck, overwhelmed and then give up. As I watched that feeling creep up on me this week I realized it was time to make the shift back to my heart and refocus my energy. “Patty Perfection” showed up again!

I met a young woman from New York at Ivuka a few days ago and today at lunch as  we talked she helped me see that the energy that I was putting into making this event about raising money was actually taking away from the heart of it. I came here to dance, spread joy and love with a group of people from California and I chose to stay and continue to do the same and to continue to heal. I came here with not much money with no intention of looking for a job and allowing my heart to guide me to where I needed to be. I believe that has happened and I have found so much healing along the way. I am now going to take my energy back and give it to myself and the other things that want to do while I am here, like my art project, modern dance, teaching Yoga, hooping, experiencing Rwanda, swimming, eating well, my new friends and writing. These are the things that make me feel good and give me energy to do the work I am doing with the kids and creates balance in my life. Again lack of self-worth showing up in a new way and I am getting really good at catching it before it takes me too far down the old path.

Last night I attended a dinner party at the house I lived at in Remera and will be returning to in a few weeks, which was fabulous. It was beautiful to be with new friends, drinking wine, talking about their lives and sharing good food. Cooking together as a community and gathering as a group of independent and strong woman was very inspiring. I need to be around these woman, they offer energy that I have had very little experience with and I am so drawn to it. I have more and more woman friends now in my life and I am slowing starting to allow myself to fully be part of the dynamics of which I once was very intimidated by. Now that I have found my inner strength and self-love I feel like I am allowing in female energy in a new and its impact is powerful. Speaking of female energy, Alice, Justins wife is 6 days overdue for the delivery of her baby and we are all waiting patiently for the arrival of a new baby girl. This will be a new experience for me in Rwanda as well and I have already learned quite a bit about the cultural norms around pregnancy and after the birth that I will wait to share when I blog about baby’s arrival!




In keeping with taking time for myself  the other day I went to Mamba Club, which is owned by a Canadian and has everything from a bowling alley, a swimming pool, yoga,  a salon, a restaurant and more. I went there to spend the day being “pampered” which meant getting many parts of my body waxed (9 months since I touched any type of hair removal device!), a pedicure and a manicure. I love going to the Spa, always have and it is something that I have not really given myself for 3 or 4 years and now feels like the perfect time to reintroduce self-care in a new way. This goes along with self-worth and the added new element of rebuilding my outward expression of Self in a new and authentic way in a foreign country.



(Beautiful Girl at Mamba Club who have me my pedicure and manicure)

I left feeling soft, colorful and fabulous which really had an effect on how I carried myself. I noticed my chest was lifted as I walked, my smile was bigger and more authentic, and I felt confidence radiating from me. In my study of Yoga, I have learned that I personally used clothing, hair, accessories as a mask, not fully but in many ways it was about trying to get people to think I was a certain way. It was a way to distract others and myself from the pain, hurt and sadness that I felt inside. I learned this by stripping away all of the things that I used as a mask which allowed me to face the things I was hiding from. Now that I have dealt with the issues that I was hiding from I feel like I can reintroduce parts of myself in a new way. As I said, not all of the outward expression was inauthentic and now I feel so much more free and capable of self-expression that is true to who I really am. I am not afraid to express the wide range of emotions, feelings, and can use things like clothes, accessories, art, dance and writing  to fully be myself in this world. I feel as though I have created a monster in a way because I cannot get enough of doing what I feel, this is what makes me feel the love for my own life.

The gift of freedom to be who I am (which I gave to myself by doing the hard work to allow this space to exist) and who I want to be in this world is something that I receive from as well as those around me. I used to think that my depression, my anger, my pain was all I had to offer the world and I lived a very isolated life because I felt exhausted pretending to be happy and shiny for others. Now I know that if I express what I am feeling in a productive way ie: dance, art, writing I am showing myself that I matter, that I care, that I love myself. When I feel loved and cared for by my self I no longer search for others to fill that void. This allows me to then bring people into my life in a way that aims to enhance my life and brings a deep sense that I can enhance their lives as well. No more hiding who I am as this leads to the world missing out on what I have to offer. Now that I see what I have to offer I feel like I am on fire with Passion and Zest for my own life. I cannot wait to share, experience, do and learn more. I now see that I can offer so much more when I am well cared for. It is not a luxury to be expressive, have material things, to dance, to do art or to live a creative life, it is my Karma and I will use all of the tools and gifts I am given in this life to their fullest in order to reach my potential and help others reach theirs.




Beauty in the Mud!

Coming home tonight and finding that the kitty had peed on my bed, right in the middle and on my pillow, somehow with my door shut and locked nearly brought me to tears because its not like in the past where I can just get a new pair of sheets and throw these in the wash. I have no other sheets and no other blankets and washing a duvet by hand is not easy in these conditions, plus it is rainy season and they may not dry in one day. The puppy also left a spot of pee on the matt in my room, which was ok until I found the pee in my bed! Funny how I can handle some things but when things compound each other it becomes much more difficult to cope with.

Sitting with Alex and Claire sharing thoughts and ideas about life, our time here while sitting on a beautiful balcony overlooking the city and watching the rain was like heaven. This really made me see how much I want to be back in that space and it too was being handed to me. So this morning as soon as I woke up I texted Lucy Anna at the other house and confirmed I was moving back when Alex leaves.  I felt so much lighter and like I had stood up for myself and given myself the respect I deserve. Now I am taking the day to myself and writing which is another way that I demonstrate self-love. 

I spent yesterday afternoon in the rain with Gilbert and his students dancing to Thriller and other MJ classics! We practiced in the mud, we laughed and we shared Joy like I have never experienced before with the kids. When I arrived they were practicing and being video taped by a friend. They waved and the smiles on their faces we so big I could see them from road!


No matter what happens with this event I know that what I am offering these children is priceless but if I can help them find people to help them that would be even better. After we practiced we stood in a circle to talk and that was when the magic really happened and I felt like Michael was raining down on us with every drop that fell from the sky. We spontaneously started to dance and sing to “Man in the Mirror” as it played on my tiny speaker in the background. These young men who spend most of their day wandering, working or just trying to survive had the opportunity to be together in this powerful moment and the glow on their faces, to me, was a reflection of the light that was radiating from their hearts as we danced. 


After we finished sharing our moves and doing the wave, we took photos for the write up I am doing for my blog and to send out to my friends to invite them to sponsor these beautiful kids. They stood proud in front of the camera and the hope in their eyes as I spoke to them about what I was going to do for them was so real it jumped out at the camera.



(This strong young man is named “Nizeyimana Janvier”)



One boy in particular, Janvier, stood out for me today and it was because he was so brave. He has no parents, only a sister but he lives on the streets alone and today that means in the rain.  He is 17 years old and full of so much potential it was heart breaking to get on the Moto in the dark and know that he had no where to go and no food. The strength that the people here demonstrate is amazing to me and very sad at the same time. I know that I cannot save anyone but I know that I can help create relationships between them and others that can help. That is one of my gifts in this life, I am a connector of people.



(Sharing music via Bluetooth with the students so they can practice on their own! Funny that we can do this in the middle of a muddy, half built building in poverty ridden areas such as this!)

As the darkness encroached our time together I requested that we stand in a circle and hold hands which is very common here and the way in which they demonstrate such ease with physical contact always makes my heart sing. I felt myself being urged to step up and offer more of  myself to them than I have been in the past and this meant speaking to them about the magnitude of what we are doing together. I listened to my own voice speaking strong words of confidence, trust, hope, and hard work. I felt the presence of MJ once again as I realized I was the leader here in this circle. I was the hope in their eyes and I represented action. I am the adult, I am the one that is capable of helping them make change in their lives, I am the one who is already educated and could easily be a mother to any of these children. It took me back for a moment and then I embraced it. I am beginning to step into the role I am being asked to play here and am humbled by the magnitude of such a task but I know I can do it. I felt myself emerge even further from my cocoon and begin to take myself even more seriously as a capable, confident woman who has a lot to offer.

As I continue planning to host the “Thrill The World”event and all that it involves, which is a lot, I see how I am rising to the occasion in a slow and steady way. This is the way I like to change as it feels more sustainable. I am being asked to be many things and bring out many personalities and I see even more how all of my life experiences are what make me exactly what I need to be in this moment. I am happy to  have so much to offer and am so excited about the next 6 weeks and what they have to teach me.





(These young men are changing my life with every interaction!)

Rainy season is upon us in full force now and this is adding new challenges to life here in Kigali. I see it as a cleansing of the past and a nourishing of the potential that has lay dormant during the dry season. The timing is a perfect reflection of where I am at in my journey. My seeds are ready for some major watering and this is what I am about to get! Can’t wait to see what blossoms!


Waiting Period

This week has been about easing myself into an uncomfortable living situation with the intention of the transition being one that pushes me to be more of who I know I am by putting myself fully into something that I usually would tell myself I couldn’t do, in the this case living at an art studio so I can really believe that I am an artist and start work on my first project. Although in this case it really doesn’t feel like the artist part is the what is making me uncomfortable, it’s the building itself.

I went from a fairly modern house with an American style kitchen, a bathroom that was almost what you would expect in a home in America, minus the shower curtain and hot water on demand. It also had real walls made of concrete, that were painted and tile flooring – yes, these are luxuries here! Where I am now I have an unlevel, unfinished cement floor that has puppy and kitty pee everywhere, my room faces the outdoor studio which is full of people doing art all day listening to music and talking, a bathroom door that is barely on hinges, a toilet that may not always flush and a shower that is just a metal cord hanging from the wall and the whole room is 4 feet squared! I am not sure if there is hot water yet as I have not dared to try the shower. I don’t want to even step foot in there. The kitchen is very small yet it has a stove top on the counter and a tiny fridge but it too is about 6 feet by 5 feet and is behind a locked door, everything is because we live in a public space that is shared with many people. This is partly why I feel uncomfortable in my new setting.

If I had to do my daily hygiene activities outside, cook on a fire and even sleep under the stars I would be fine but it’s the weird mix of modern technologies in a society that isn’t equipped to maintain them that throws me off. Who wants to risk using the washroom to have a bowel movement or a shower in a room that has no secure door, in a public space and there may or may not be water to flush the toilet or shower. Rrrrrgggggggghhhhhh!

Sometimes I do get really get frustrated with being in Rwanda all together but then I remember all the good things about it and I know I have a choice to be here, where I live and how I live, which most people here do not. I am in a room that when I walked in somehow felt like my room and I had visions of decorating it and making it my own. Was that just because I thought I finally found a place to stay for a longer time span and could settle down a bit? Was it because the energy feels good here in the sense that it is very creative, inspiring and full of life? Was it because it was what was handed to me and I knew there was something here for me to learn? Was it just another interesting thing that popped into my life and I wanted the opportunity to say I have done it? Is it a way for me to make my life harder, because for some reason I tend to do that to myself as a way of proving my own strength to others all the while not listening to what I really want. Seeing as the other option before this place was a mansion in Rwandan standards and I knew I wanted to live there, which is the extreme opposite of where I am now, I feel as thought this may be the case. Am I being mean to myself? Am I pushing too hard? What is it I am meant to learn?

The first thing that comes to mind right away is me being brave enough to step into a space that in the past I would have said I did not belong and been to afraid to even entertain the idea of. But does that mean that I am meant to stay here or was it just a test to see if I would do it and to spark my creative juices in terms of my art project that needs to happen and can still happen even if I am not living here. I do tend to go to extremes and I am really watching this one to see just how uncomfortable I am willing to get and why?

The next thing that comes to mind is past relationships that I kept myself in out of fear, insecurities and lack of self-worth. I created so much pain in my life because I was unwilling to act on what I knew I wanted. Why am I so resistant to giving myself Love? Why do I feel so unworthy or at least that is what my actions in life say to me, again my name meaning “Worthy of Love” seems to haunt me with its relevance to how I live my life. I have always put others before me and put myself last which is not the way to truly be of assistance to anyone.

When I broke up with my fiance, David, I refused to leave the house that we owned together and so did he. There was an empty basement suit but both of us refused to go down there, we were both very stubborn. I felt so entitled to the home I felt I had created all by myself and all the physical labor I had put into it alone and with my father, that I  was actually willing to live in the emotional kaos that followed for 5 months.

It was during this time that I was pushed to my absolute limit and suffered a Nervous Breakdown and was very suicidal. I went out to the beautiful garden I had created with a chain to hang a new hammock from the huge apple tree, an area we called “Hammock Heaven” and nearly hung myself instead. Every time I have considered suicide there has always been something that just wouldn’t let me go through with it. It was not my family, friends, or even fear, it was something more subtle and yet much more powerful – it was my Spirit. That part of me that knew I had bigger things to do in life and it was not going to let me miss out on my potential.

I see now that I had so many options during that time that could have prevented me from loosing my mind the way I did but I also know I had to take the path in order to get where I am now, it was really the only option I could see at the time. I had friends, co-workers and family offering me a place to stay but with all of the other factors that I had going on at the time I could not bring myself to act on those options. I was so inflexible in my mind, so rigid and so afraid. Taking the step to go to the Ashram was one of the biggest steps I took towards self-love and it was because I pushed myself to such a limit that I was able to act on it.

When this time came to my mind just now I realized how the present moment is a reflection of the same holding patterns that led me to kaos and pain and how I am doing it again but in a different way. Neither one of us was thriving is this environment and it was a way to keep the pain alive, I was festering in and with pain. I needed it to feel something, anything. But what was I missing out on? What could those 5 months have lead to if I had taken my many friends and co-workers up on their invites to go stay with them? Would I be in the same place as I am now? Did I take the long way, the harder way, the right way and does it really matter?

Staying in relationships because I was too afraid to give myself what I knew I needed and wanted, that is the pattern I am being shown. I put myself into situations to intentionally hold myself back out of fear and a deep belief that I was not worth giving myself what I need. What may seem like a way to push myself forward can also be seen as a way to hold myself back. I ended the relationships but I didn’t end the pattern it just transferred to another venue and/or is showing up in the many ways that it was always there but I couldn’t see. Now I have removed more layers and can see how the same pattern can manifest in many ways, especially if it’s root is something really deep like self-worth.

If I don’t believe that I am worth the things that are coming my way or the things that I am capable of I will never reach my full potential because I will be unconsciously pushing success from me and holding myself back due to a belief that I don’t deserve it. Is that why I also try to put the recognition of success onto other people? By doing kind things for others or making this trip about helping others I am in some way taking away the recognition of my part in the journey?  I do that as way of putting my success solely onto others, a deflection from being recognized or being seen. This feels like a visit from a personality aspect I  know well, “Reverse Ego Richard”.Like my mind thinks it’s sneaky to get attention for being a good person through doing good for others and not taking any credit – hold on, am I just being mean again to myself.? Its so tricky!

I thrive when I do for others, when I am in community and when I have a reason to give back I feel momentum in my life but why not when it comes to doing for myself? Why not do the things I want to do for myself first and then do for others? Simple things like going to the gym, hatha or eating well, things that keep me well so I can have energy to give to others. I cannot keep on putting myself last, even in this seemingly self involved state I am in right now I still manage to put my needs last. Rwanda is teaching me to really own my needs and act on them as this is the only way that I can truly give my all to those in need. I do not need to live in poverty to understand or help those who do.

As I write this I am putting the puzzle together, I see more clearly how I am afraid to give myself comfort in life because in the past it meant I was hiding from life and hiding from my truth. I also see how it is related to my Ego and a righteousness that came from needing to prove to others how strong I was when really I was needing to believe in myself. Now I know that I have healed those wounds to the point where I would not let the same mistakes happen again and this is my opportunity to slowly start giving myself the things I need to be comfortable so that I can give back to others to the best of my ability. I need a place to write my blog and my column for the paper in The Pas. I need a space to prepare Yoga classes (Yes, I found a place to teach- I need a space to have quite time alone. I need to be physically active and dance. I need to create art. I need healthy food choices and clean water. I can give myself these things, all I need to do it say “Yes” to allowing myself to Thrive. This is a challenge when I spend the evening dancing with young men who literally have no home, no food, no water, no parents but holding myself back does not make me any more caring or capable of helping, I see now that it actually makes me less helpful because of the amount of energy that goes into thinking about and processing the situations I am in, the energy that could go towards helping them.

I trust myself more than ever and what I see clearly right now is that I have a choice right in front of me that would make my life more pleasant and allow me to be better at what I am doing. I trust the feeling that I needed to experience the art center in order to realize the gifts I have been given and to realize that I am not afraid of my life, my potential, my skills and my power. I am ready to own it more fully and give myself the things I need to reach my potential so I can help others reach theirs.

What I know is that there are no mistakes only lessons, there is no right or wrong choice only choice itself and the consequences that follow are where the learning lies. So, am I in this place of uncomfortableness because I made a mistake – no, I am here because I made a choice. I made many choices that lead me to the present situation and right now I have the choice to make change.

Befriending the Fear

This morning I moved to my new place, Ivuka Art Center and for some reason I feel very nervous about it.  Partly because the house I was living in was so beautiful and I wanted to stay, the young women I lived with were great and we got along very well, and it was close to Justin and a familiar area of the city. Now I am in an art center where there are people around all the time, doing art, drumming and hanging out. This does not offer me much in terms of quite time or space. On the positive Charles, the young man that lives here as well is very kind and included me right away in his daily life by inviting me to dinner and to bring me left overs. There is also a brand new, tiny puppy named Happy and a kitty named Chloe who like to curl up together in a small box and sleep, when they are not wrestling or biting feet!



(Chloe, Happy and Me!)



Justin picked me up this morning and drove me over with my stuff. It is not far from where I was and it is another familiar location in the city, I am the next block down from Inema Art Center. I did begin to settle in quickly and heard my mind saying, “I feel at home here, like I can settle in.” I have a room to myself with a new bed, my new painting on the wall, a small bed side table and a stand up armor with room for about 10 hangers. It’s all I need. So what was it that made my stomach up set this morning as I prepared to go?



(The Studio)



(My room)

I recently have been forming a nice relationship with the young girl Alex who lives at my old house. I feel kind of like a big sister in a way and this week when she was sick I was more than happy to stay a few extra days at the other house to make sure she was ok. I am enjoying spending time with woman and have had a great imbalance of that in my life so these new experiences of living with a group of woman has proven to be very powerful.  I feel it was exactly what I needed to help me embrace certain parts of myself over the last 3 weeks including my new hair, my steps into teaching Thriller and doing more writing.

But this is not what is making me physically upset or nervous. Right now I feel like it is fear presenting itself to me, fear of taking myself more seriously as an artist, a dancer, the person I am growing into. This feels like a big step into being who I am and so it is natural for me to react this way as I know it is what my body does.

Today when I was showing Justin around I found the hoola hoop that I saw when I came to look at the room, it was made by a young American woman who lives in the other house on the property. I have been wanting to make one and show Justin what hooping is since I arrived and now was my opportunity. He had never seen anything like it before. He was intrigued and wanted to learn. I have had ideas of making them here and decorating them with African fabrics. I want to take them out to the villages and co-operatives that World Dance and Justin work with. I feel that it would be very beneficial to them as a form of entertainment, dance, expression, exercise and fun! Justin thinks it is a great idea and he wants one right away! So I have created a new project for myself called “Love Hoop Rwanda” and we will be buying supplies on Wednesday this week!



(Justin is a fast learner and had it moving in no time!)

So here it is another way for one of my skills to become much more than I had ever imagined it could be. I am living in an art center surrounded by inspiration, dedication and commitment to creative life. I am here. I arrived and now I will give myself time to settle in and see what else there is awaiting me here. Can it be as simple as making hoops that I could use to spread joy and love?  Can it be as simple as doing an art project? Can I be here teaching dance and hosting an event? Is this my life? It is everything I thought it could be and somehow it seems too simple and so rich at the same time. I feel like it needs to be more difficult than this, which comes from being shown that life is difficult and work equals unhappiness by the people around me and society. I know that I have done the hard work and that now is the time to reap the benefits, of course it will feel easier than before but it is by no means easy. Passions are not meant to be easy, actually the word itself in regards to work for me means bearing my soul and that hasn’t been an easy thing in the past and it takes practice. I have the skills, the confidence is there I just need to put myself into situations that push me further and this is one of them.

Alex, my old roommate, will be leaving September 20th which is earlier than expected and so her room is available to rent  sooner than I thought. It feels like an escape route, like a way out of the challenge and in other ways it feels like where I want to be but this is me during transition, once again, and I have to really embrace what I have been given here at Ivuka before I decided anything further. This space was handed to me and I intend to explore it. Seeing that it has already presented me with a new potential area for growth and change with Hooping, I am willing to stay put and see what else will be revealed.

I am so grateful for my ability to face fear and all of its sneaky hats that attempt to veer me from my path. It is the only way I get to see my courage, my strength and my potential truly unfold. Thank you Fear!