Love Hoop Heal Documentary Trailer


This is a preview of what I am working towards.

I have been holding onto all of these beautiful memories and images for years, unwilling to let them be shared as it was too painful to feel them let alone look at them or talk about them. After 2 years of shedding old baggage, I am feeling ready to let go and move into a new, fresh space within myself. There’s a lot to come forward but it needed the time to process so when it does come through it is pure and heartfelt. It feels like a birthing from within and the energy inside me needed time to gestate, to gather itself into a state which could survive on its own outside of me. It has a life of its own and my job is to simply be a vessel for its manifestation.

I look forward to sharing the finished product with you in the near future and for future projects to come forward.


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!

Another Part of Me

There is a side to me that has never really been revealed, even to myself and as I feel her begin to emerge I feel the strength that comes along with acknowledging all the different aspects that lie within me. It feels like an egg shell cracking and I am on the inside witnessing the tiny spec of light that is being let in by the breaking of this hard outer coating. It is a shell that I have used as protection, security, self-preservation and as a boundary between myself and others. I have always had trouble being myself fully out of fear of rejection or love being taken away and some experiences in my life made that fear a reality and so the shell got thicker. So to now be witnessing my own birthing of a new aspect is amazing because it means that I have done enough work to feel safe to emerge from a place of hiding.  It may look familiar to some people right now, even I have seen glimpses of the things that seem to represent this aspect but what is different and what no one sees or feels but me is the inner dialogue, the beliefs, the words I tell myself in my mind and the true confidence that I am beginning to feel. Many people would tell me that they saw me as free-spirited, creative, outgoing and someone who did what they wanted in life but that was from the outside. On the inside I was constantly telling myself I was a bad person, I was fat, ugly, stupid, lazy, no good, not worthy and not capable to doing what I really wanted. Even with these words and thoughts  going through my mind, beating myself up, I managed to let parts of myself shine. I don’t believe that my spirit can ever be crushed completely and I am proving to myself everyday just how strong my spirit is, it is why I am still alive today.

I know that brothers are supposed to pick on their little sisters and I know it is a normal part of growing up, kids can be mean, myself included but now as an adult looking back on the way I was treated and seeing the impact it had on my entire life, I get really sad and angry. To have the nickname “ugly” from your loved ones is not appropriate even as a joke because the mind does not differentiate between real and not real, a joke or not a joke. To be called fat or told that you look pregnant in that sweater that you thought you looked pretty great in, is really painful and does have in impact on self-esteem. When you run over to someone you love and say “Its my Birthday!”,  only to be met by him throwing a nickel on the ground and saying “Oh yeah” as he walks away with his friends, this is not just emotionally damaging but spirit breaking. To be walking home in the freezing cold and see my brother drive by in a vehicle and give me the finger feels heartless and told me that I am worthless. To ask for a ride home only to be dragged from the truck by your brothers friends so they can get in and have my loved one stand and laugh is also demeaning. Obviously, I can go on and on and I won’t but the point is these are the things that happened on a regular basis, the name calling, the ridicule, the belittling and more that had an impact on me at a very deep level. What can look like child’s play can still be very damaging, wether it is your brother or a stranger, actually I feel like it may be more damaging when it is a loved one because it really rocks the sense of family and security within.

One time my sister in law said to me “I don’t know how you have any self-confidence at all…” in reference to the way my brother treated me, to which I smiled and said “I guess I just know he’s kidding and it makes me more tough knowing that if some else says something mean to me I can handle it.” This of course was not true. That was all I knew, it was my normal to be treated that way and when I look back now at her saying that to me it makes me very sad that this pattern of behavior went to such an extreme. In saying this, there was of course a sense of protection and love at times with my brothers but for me there was no balance at all and the negative much out weighed the positive. It is very difficult for me now as an adult to let these things go, especially when they are not given any validity. Many a therapist would and have disagreed with the idea that these things can just resolve themselves.

So how does this relate to now…..As I stood in front of a blank canvas the other day at Inema Art Center preparing to paint, I felt energy sitting on my chest like an elephant. I noticed my fists were clenched and my jaw tight – What was this? Fear, but why? Isn’t this what I want to do? Isn’t this who I am? Why am I so fucking scared? I am so sick of begin trapped by this fear and it is at times enough to make me scream. The good thing is that I am here standing in front of the canvas facing it, walking into it and not running away. The thing is though, it is not really fear because I don’t believe we are designed to fear ourselves, it is all the times I have been laughed at, joked about, belittled, told I couldn’t do something and ridiculed for doing something that was truly an expression of myself that then evoked a feeling of fear and created a pattern in my mind that told me not to express who I was because it was connected with rejection.



(This painting is called: Breaking Through 41. It is a representation of my Nervous Breakdown that happened in 2010.)

At first I tried to express my new self through making dramatic changes physically, like shaving my head, which was a very necessary step in creating real changes but now I feel that my life is becoming a representation of the new found courage to be myself. I am freeing myself from the limitations that I created in my mind as a way to keep me safe and feeling secure by doing the work to figure out why I felt unsafe and insecure and then letting it go. The gift of this work is the freedom within myself and only I can give this to me. I do it because I love myself and I know that I can create a better life, no one else can do that for me. If we don’t believe in ourselves, I mean really believe way down deep inside that we are capable of doing whatever we want in life  than there is nothing that anyone can do or give us to make it happen. We are responsible for our own lives. The trick for me was not only learning to believe this fact but also realizing that it was a pointless struggle trying to get others to see that they are not responsible for my life. It is my life, my choices, my mistakes, my desires, my likes and dislikes and they are not meant to match up with what others feel are right for me. That is why we each have our own life, our own mind, our own set of beliefs and desires and I believe we each have our own Karma to work out in this lifetime.

In saying that, everything that makes up my life is then perfect as it all provides the tools needed to do the work I am meant to do in this life. I chose my parents, my brothers, my extended family, and anyone who came into my life was there for a reason – to teach me something. After years of not being aware of this or unconsciously living, it finally made sense when I began to study Yoga. If I see everything as a tool, a sign and a potential for learning it changes my outlook completely. It takes away the self-pity and replaces it with momentum for learning and growth. I no longer felt helpless in my life and instead realized I was, in some ways, the master of my own ship. I am the Captain and I had created everything that caused me pain as well as Joy and so there was no one to blame.



(This was my second painting and it is called: Cosmic Power! It is a representation of where I am right now in my life.)

Here I am living my life in Rwanda with a knowing that I was directed here and because I have chosen to listen for and to the signs that guide me, I feel calm and centered even in the midst of unsteadiness. The healing that is taking place is at a slow and constant pace, which makes it easier to manage and digest. I have this image of what is possible with my life in my mind and I know that things don’t always turn out as we imagine them but it is more about how it feels when I imagine this life and how I am in it. I am powerful, I am strong and I am confident inside, I do and say what I want to do. I have a voice and I express myself truthfully, creatively and unabashedly. This is the part of me that I have kept hidden out of fear of growing up and letting my parents down for not being their “little girl” anymore, which is a big factor in a lot of my repressed emotions, feelings, talents and desires as well as just me growing up healthy and well adjusted. I am not a little girl, that is obvious but I have always had an intense desire to make others happy, even before myself, so when I pick up on something like sadness, pain or anger I want to try to fix it, even if it meant holding myself back. What I didn’t realize was that it is not my job to provide emotional maturity for people and I cannot do it for them. I can only do it for myself.

Maturity is something that I am just now beginning to feel authentically in my life. By living my life as a “little girl” to please others I kept myself in a very immature state in all aspects of my life. It kept me dependent on people for financial support as well as emotional. I never really believed in my mind I was capable of being independent but man did my spirit struggle to show every one that I was! Now here I am living alone in Rwanda, making a life that includes dance, art, helping others, independence, community and so much more. I am learning to believe, on a cellular level, that I can do what ever I want in my life and the only person or thing that can really stop me is ME! I choose to move forward, further into this wonderful space I am creating within myself and am happy to share it with the world!

Simply Symbolic

I have finished the paperwork for my new Visa, an extension of 3 months has been requested and paid for as of today. It buys me time in the country to see what is next for me here. Justin, my host, has been such a great help to me during my transition into living in Rwanda. He is a Christian and yet somehow he understands everything that I speak about in terms of my process which for me is the practice of Yoga. Yoga literally meaning “Union”, the union of the Divine Self and the Human self  and is really a search for understanding the pure light nature  that exists within us all. Some people call it God, Light, consciousness, Spirit, Soul etc. Whatever you call it, to me it is all the same and we all have different ways of finding it within our own lives.

At Yasodhara Ashram ( Swami Radha’s teaching focus on symbolism and I learned to see that my mind had created stories and ideas about things in life including myself, other people, even objects. The mind likes to label, judge, categorize and color things with imagination in order to make us feel safe and secure. By unraveling these stories and looking at the symbolism that I had created for my own life I began to see how those stories kept me stuck in a lot of places in my life. A simple example would be: “I don’t like peanut butter.” Sounds harmless enough but the fact is that I love peanut butter and had as a child as well. Somewhere along my life I created a story that I didn’t like it and it became a fact in my mind that I believed. It wasn’t until I was living at the Ashram and had very limited control over what I ate that I began to explore eating PB with the apples we were given for snack once a day. When I was faced with the reality that I had limited access to things that made me feel comfortable ie: favorite foods, I had to challenge that story and see where it came from and if it still served me. Although the possibility now lies in the fact that I now have created a story that says I love PB, it at least serves me better in my life as it opened up my mind to all kinds of other foods and ultimately experiences.

Can you imagine coming to a new culture with a story like “I don’t like……such and such?”  For me, I know it limits my ability to explore new things and have a full and rich experience and I know that I learned this lesson by having my comforts taken away from me so I could really look at why they were there and if I wanted to keep them. Having something that comforts me is not a bad thing but if they hold me from living the life I want to live then Yes, they need to be worked with. So here I am in this culture that has very few things that comfort me but yet I search for them daily. I wake up every morning wanting to have a classic style breakfast with bacon, eggs, toast, and hashbrowns but that is not what I get, nor will I get at some point I need to be able to either let that go or just honor the desire for comfort and provide it in some other way.

What I know about myself is that I crave structure and routine. I also know that I have a hard time creating this for myself and sticking to it. Why is it so hard to give myself the things that make me Thrive? When I am in community with others who are working within a routine I do much better but since leaving the Ashram I have seen just how hard it is to do it on my own and without the community support. It all comes down to self-love and self-worth for me. If I love myself I do things that demonstrate that love. If we all loved ourselves we would give ourselves  what we truly needed everyday, first not last! I see how creating a routine for myself that I can do anywhere I go will provide me with the structure I crave and allow me to Thrive in any situation. So that is my plan for the next week, to come up with a small practice that will help me to fee more secure within myself and stop seeking (so much) external things to do it for me. The truth is that nothing external can last forever and the only real thing I can count on is within myself. I know this from experience and my spiritual practices can be as simple as waking up every morning at the same time and saying “I am the change I want to see in the world!” but make all the difference in how I feel for the rest of the day.

Today I decided to love myself even more than yesterday and put it into action so I went out for a walk to get lost in the city of Kigali. It was a wonderful adventure and it lead me to a greater appreciation for this experience that I have created for myself in my life. Bravery doesn’t have to look at certain way or be a certain thing, but today I felt my courage being demonstrated to myself by my confidence and ability to navigate my way around in the city. I am seeking now how much this experience for me is about empowering myself to live life the way I truly am meant to. Take a risk, jump right in, have compassion, and enjoy the every moment of the journey!

Finding Nataraja!

Living life symbolically is a wonderfully rewarding experience and it reached a peak yesterday when I meet the very sign that brought me on this journey – World Dance Calf Nataraja! It took until the end of a very long, hot day but when it did happen it was an amazing experience that lead to spontaneous singing and dancing by the locals!  (see Nataraja)

Before I left Canada I had a dream about a a scarf and a few days later I walked into a store and there it was! I just bought it without even really looking at it. I knew I needed to bring it to Rwanda but I wasn’t sure why and it didn’t make sense until I got to California and I realized that it had an image of Nataraja on it and it was meant as an offering for him.


So when I walked up to him and presented him with scarf by wrapping it around his neck, the locals went crazy with laughter and clapping! Justin B. explained the story I had just told to the camera man about the significance of the scarf and they were even more elated. As we walked away the group of men and the pastor spontaneously burst into song and dance! It was one of the most amazing experiences I have been a part of!  I immediately joined in and celebrated in joy with them. I am honored to be here and to be sharing in these magical moments with these beautiful people. I am again learning so much about what dance really means to me and how powerful a tool it can be.


Earlier we had joined the Never Again community in the fields, walking a few kilometers through the open hills to find a colorful patches of people working joyfully together. The image of water being thrown through the air in large fan like shapes to the buzz of community engaging together in the work is something that I will never forget. I was handed a watering can and began to sing the “numbers song” that our group now has replaying in our heads! The large group of people that had gathered around me all began to laugh and join in! They love to just watch what the Muzungu (white man who wanders around aimlessly) is doing. I balanced the watering can on my head and they laughed even more. Soon it was time to move onto the next field and I said my goodbye (Murabeho) and thank-you’s to the group (Murakoze).


The next group is where I met my very confident French, English and Kinyarwanda speaking friend Julliet and gave her my card as promised. I am not so sure what she will do with it but I am happy to follow through on my promise to her. We gathered with this group and to my delight, I was again handed a baby (from one of the girls who hoped on our bus the day before!), all of the dancers were spread out amongst the people when singing started and dancing began once again! We trekked up the side of a hill with the members that followed, some were small children with full water jugs on their heads. These small men of the ripe age of 4 or 5 not only worked as hard as any adult I have ever met but they do it with the same stoic nature. One little boy was so determined to hold my had that he let water drops drip into his eyes as we walked up this steep hill. I stopped to wipe his eyes for him and was met with a look that resembled confusion as to why I would do this for him but then a small smile appeared and I knew he understood it to be a loving gesture towards him.

I am not a naive person and I am not here with any delusion that I can “save” anyone but what I do know for sure is that the exchanges of Love between these people, myself and the entire World Dance group is making changes in the lives of everyone involved. Some people are not supportive of my being here and feel I am being selfish but what I know is that I trust my heart and this is exactly where I am meant to be right now. I know that love is a powerful tool and it works in ways that we may not be conscious of – yet! Human connection is a necessary and vital part of making the world a better place and it has made the support of World Dance even more real to the Never Again Fellowship and they deserve that and they are worth the trip.

Oh yeah, I lost my camera today while dancing so no photos to share of Nataraja 😦 Oh well, I was just saying I would really like a better one anyway! Om Shiva

update: Thank you Bess Brownlee your fabulous photos!

Meeting myself in Turkey

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I have no words that can truly describe how I feel in this very moment but I will do my best. This strange sense of calm has come over me since  I arrived in Istanbul, like I have been here before or somehow know this land. I feel so comfortable. I am heavily reminded of my love for Middle Eastern dance that was a very big part of my life from around age 27. The colors, metals, intricate patterns, the rich culture, the food and the history all seem very familiar. Whatever it was that drew me to that style of dance all those years ago is being reignited by being here now. I am reawakening to parts of myself that I had forgotten about or thought I would not see again.

I am also reminded of my dear friend Kristen and her journey here a few years ago. I now see the magnitude of what a journey like this can bring into someone’s life and  how much personal growth can come from the simple act of getting on a plane and stepping out into a totally new world. There really is so much more to our reality than we can even conceive. I am filled with gratitude for everyone who helped make this possible in my life. I feel like I don’t want to leave and I just got here!

My mind has begun to open up even more possibilities for what my life could look like. Imagine, a small town girl from Northern Manitoba roaming the streets of Istanbul with her Dance group spreading love and joy – this was not even something I ever allowed myself to think was a possibility but now it is my reality. I have never loved my life more than I do right now and it just keeps on getting better. I am in awe of how much diversity there is in this world and it makes me feel very humble. Stepping outside of my own country gives me an actual physical reminder that there are many ways to look at and experience the world. My appreciation for  other cultures deepens and cultivates even more respect and intrigue.

I feel like I am finding out more about who I truly am meant to be in this world  with each step of this journey and am even more aware that I am not my past or my future but simply me, right now! The more I know myself, the easier it is to be in new and strange places because I am solid in that knowing. The fact that I am so comfortable here is all the evidence I need to demonstrate the personal growth that I have been working so hard over the last 3 years to achieve. There is no fear, only hope for more life to come. This really feels like living.

Being with this wonderful group of people has made this trip such a heart warming adventure. We look out for each other, we care for each other, we accept each other and we love each other. I am usually a solo traveller and this is a very new experience for me which I am very grateful for. The wisdom in our combined group could rule the world!! And its nice to have someone beside me that I can lean on while sleeping on a 12 hour flight!

Tomorrow Turkish Bath, Hooka Pipe and then back on the plane!