Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Turnaround Woman

Have you ever thought that many modern love songs, sung to the other, could be first and foremost directed towards your own soul? Try turning this John Lennon song around..

Woman I can hardly express,
My mixed emotion at my thoughtlessness,
After all I'm forever in your debt,
And woman I will try express,
My inner feelings and thankfullness,
For showing me the meaning of success,
oooh well, well,
oooh well, well,

Woman I know you understand
The little child inside the man,
Please remember my life is in your hands,
And woman hold me close to your heart,
However, distant don't keep us apart,
After all it is written in the stars,
oooh well, well,
oooh well, well,

Woman please let me explain,
I never meant to cause you sorrow or pain,
So let me tell you again and again and again,
I love you (yeah, yeah) now and forever,
I love you (yeah, yeah) now and forever,
I love you (yeah, yeah) now and forever,
I love you (yeah, yeah)...

Wednesday, July 7, 2010


View of the Virunga Mountains from Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge

"When you awake, you cross a line of no return, and you never see the world in the same way. You are still dreaming - because you cannot avoid dreaming, because dreaming is a function of the mind - but the difference is that you know it's a dream. Knowing that, you can enjoy the dream or suffer the dream. That depends on you.

The awakening is like being at a party where there are thousands of people and everyone is drunk except you. You are the only sober person at the party. That is the awakening, because the truth is that most humans see the world through their emotional wounds, through their emotional poison. They don't have the awareness that they are living in a dream of hell. They aren't aware that they are in a dream just as fish swimming in water are not aware that they are living in water.

When we awake and we are the only sober person in the party where everyone is drunk, we can have compassion because we were drunk too. We don't need to judge, not even people in hell, because we, too, were in hell.

When you awake, your heart is an expression of the Spirit, an expression of Love, an expression of Life. The awakening is when you have the awareness that you are Life. When you are aware that you are the force that is Life, anything is possible. Miracles happen all the time, because those miracles are performed by the heart. The heart is in direct communication with the human soul, and when the heart speaks, even with the resistance of the head, something inside you changes; your heart opens another heart, and true love is possible."

The Mastery of Love by Don Miguel Ruiz

Sunday, June 27, 2010

It's The Journey....

Seeing Rwanda is not a holiday, it's a travelling experience.

Standing up on the seats of our 4x4, heads poking out of the roof, hair blowing in the wind, Rwanda passes by our eyes. Across the movie screen flows some of what must be the most incongruous scenery in Africa. Arguably, these images would be more at home on the slopes of Bali or the mountains of Swizerland...

Soon after leaving Kigali, an artist’s landscape of green terraces began to open up.

No space is left uncultivated.

Known as the ‘Land of a Thousand Hills’, the whole of West and Central Rwanda is dissected by dramatically steep mountains interspersed with stunning blue lakes.

Once a landscape of montane rainforest, tea plantations and banana trees now dominate although a huge tract of this ancient forest is preserved in the Nyungwe Forest National Park.

We arrive at Kibuye, a small port on the edge of Lake Kivu. It is serene and beautiful. We have a late meal and go to bed.

The images experienced en route stick richly in my mind.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Hotel Des Milles Collines

It was one of those pinch yourself moments and I was happy to be in a space to appreciate it.

Elton John's 'Sad Songs' drifted through the hot air as I sat waiting to order my usual poached eggs in Kigali's landmark hotel.

There is a certain familiarity to arriving, tired off a flight, and being transferred straight to an international hotel.

The expatriate bubble.

The expatriate buzz.

A group of American businessmen sat, speaking too loud and too confidently to be real.

A couple of low key, spectacled women sit on the table beside me. I hear the words HIV, extending the project and vaccination and presume they are perhaps overworked, slightly cynical aid workers. They have an asexual air to them and I wonder whether doing such a good job for society has taken them away from the stoking of their own fire. My projection perhaps..?

Then, there is the smiling black guy who said hello to me in the lift the night before. I probably looked tired after Brussels Airlines' economy class. He offered to help me with my rucsac. I was taken by his kind eyes and warmth and wondered whether it is suffering that brings people to this state of openess....

How many breakfasts have I had like this? My mind ticks over them...

I was tired and a little lonely after leaving my cousins in Bhutan.

I was a little nervous as I was part-responsible for making sure a group of 'top-end' journalists loved every minute of their tour in northern India.

I remember that high feeling of being shown into a huge breakfast room that had a landscape view of Table Mountain with its wispy white 'table cloth'...

Shabby and dull, the bread was stale. I was slightly daunted by the task that lay ahead. How was it going to be, travelling Ethiopia alone? The times you bite of slightly more than you can chew are often the most memorable..

This time it was HOTEL DES MILLES COLLINES. A famous hotel with a chilling history. During the 1994 genocide where over 1 million Tutsis were targeted and killed by their Hutus neighbours. The Milles Collines was one of the last havens of safety for Tutsis refugees before they were finally deserted by the UN troops.

My feeling this time around was undoubtedly one of anticipation.

Rwanda had first come to my attention in 1994 when the genocide was in the news. Then, five years later, I was offered a job there to teach English as a foreign language with VSO. We were to be the first ones in post-genocide.

In the same week came an opportunity to teach Geography in an international school in the Swiss Alps. The roof of the world. It was one of those sliding doors moments. The tiny village of Villars won, with its snowy peaks and lights twinkling on the valley floor as dusk settled.

I always wonder what would have happened if i'd gone to Rwanda...

Still, I have learnt that life often works in a spiral. Here I was again, faced with Rwanda, a few years later, in another form.

From teaching to tourism...

Monday, March 22, 2010


"Love is within every human being. It does not have to be brought in from somewhere. It is not something that has to be searched for somewhere. It is there. It is the very longing of life within everybody. It is the very fragrance of life within everybody."

"The artist said, "The statue is already hidden inside. There is no need to make it. Somehow this useless mass of stone that is around it has to be separated from it, and then the statue will manifest itself. A statue is not made, it is only discovered. It is uncovered; it is brought to light."

"Love is hidden inside human beings; it only needs to be released. The question is not how to produce it, but only how to uncover it. There is something that we have covered ourselves with that does not allow love to surface."

From Sex to Superconsciousness

Friday, March 12, 2010

Thank You

"If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, 'thank you', that would suffice."
Meister Eckhart

I remember clearly having a conversation with one of my first yoga teachers about suffering.

I was getting impatient with, what seemed to me at the time, my snail-like progress.

I was frustrated because I could see that all the things that were holding me back from being who I wanted to be were mental constructs. In other words, they did not actually exist. I had my money on the wrong horse. My negative thought patterns had created an external persona that wasn't really who I was on the inside. (I understand the analogy of the word 'hologram' now). I had become a pale reflection of my true self.

As Craig Hamilton said in a recent interview, "The thoughts that we identify with create reality because we act on them."

In addition, I was giving myself the obligatory hard time about all the children in Africa whose basic needs like food, shoes and a roof over their heads, were not even met. How could my suffering even remotely compare to theirs? When was I going to get real?

But, as Laura said to me, you can't compare suffering.

The conflict of restraint that I was experiencing was not less valid than a hard floor to sleep on or only one meal a day. As far as I was concerned, these imaginary negatives were my reality.

One of my early inklings that the contents of my mind were the cause of my pain came one morning. It was early and my then boyfriend got up and threw a little purple book at me. "Read that", he said. "I don't know what you're worried about. Everyone can see that you're gonna be fine except you."

I was at Oxford doing my PGCE and coming up against a fear and a lack of confidence which was to govern the course of my life.

He left me to it...

In under an hour I had read Jonathan Livingstone Seagull, my first spiritual book, from cover to cover.

"So, what do you think?" he said, hopefully, toast and tea in hand.

"I know all of this already" I said rather haughtily. I chucked the book on the floor in frustration.

"I mean I know that the only thing that is holding me back is myself, but there are no tools in here of how to get free. All it does is describe the human dilemma."

He gave me a 'well, aren't you the clever one' glance and moved on.

The desire to find the answer to this question, posed over 20 years ago now, finally led me to yoga. Here I found a very specific instruction booklet on how to break free from the negative mind patterns that haunt us all, whether English or African.

Travelling in Rwanda certainly puts things into perspective.

In Kigali, the capital, life is basic....

Water is available only at a central tap for some..

....but everything is swept clean and organised.

Children have few toys. A rubber tyre and a stick is one of the major forms of entertainment....

It is very easy to get the violins out in our own lives, isn't it, especially when our mental patterns glue us to victim mode.

But aren't we fortunate to even have the head-space to consider the possibility of freedom? And is it not a responsibility to do something useful with the answers that we find?

In the mornings, just as we wake up, we come into contact with some of the thoughts that we have pushed down during our waking hours. Negativity can begin in our consciousness before we even open our eyes.

I feel it is so important to stem this feeling so that it doesn't stunt the creative potential of a new day.

So much so, that I have taken to pausing as my feet hit the floor for the first time, bringing my hands into prayer position, and saying to myself 'thank you'.

Something changes.


"Find the beauty within, and you will see it everywhere."