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."

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Observe to Understand

"Creative reality - call it God, truth, or what you like - comes into being, not through a technique, but only when the mind has understood itself. And do you know how difficult it is to understand oneself? It is difficult because we are dilettantes; we are not really interested. But if you are really aware, if you give your whole attention to understanding yourself, then you will find an indestructible treasure. You don't have to read a single book about philosophy, psychology, analysis, and all the rest of it because you are the total content of all humanity, and without understanding yourself, you will go on creating innumerable problems, endless miseries. To understand oneself requires, not impetuous urges, conclusions, but great patience. One must go slowly, millimetre by millimetre, never missing a step - which doesn't mean that you must everlastingly keep awake. You can't. It does imply that you must watch and drop what you have watched, let it go and pick it up again, so that the mind does not become a mere accumulation of what it has learned but is capable of watching each thing anew. When the mind is capable of looking at itself and understanding itself, then there is that creativeness of reality, and such a mind can use technique without causing misery."

As One Is

Talking 'Bout A Revolution

"So, if one can listen to what is being said, not as an American, a European, or an Oriental, but as a human being who is directly concerned with all these problems, then together we shall create a different world; then we shall be really religious people. Religion is the search for truth, and for the religious person there is no nationality, no country, no philosophy; he does not follow anybody; therefore he is really a revolutionary in the most profound sense of the word."

As One Is

Monday, February 15, 2010

Willing To Change?

"Everybody wants to be enlightened but nobody is willing to change."

Friday, February 12, 2010


" love something there must be a total cessation of all ambition, of all desire for the recognition of society, which is rotten anyway."

"...when you love a thing, there is no occupation with it."

J Krishnamurti

Thursday, February 11, 2010

No Effort

"Creativity is something that comes into being only when the mind is in a state of no effort."

J Krishnamurti

Sunday, February 7, 2010


"Real love begins when people are seen not as individuals but as the beholder's own self."

Vishnudevananda Upadesa

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


"Intimacy is a song inviting two people to come and share their spirit together.
It is a song that no one can resist."

Imigongo is textured art work featuring geometric prints.

As is so typical in Africa, local materials are used for the most imaginative arts and crafts.

Imigongo is created from cow dung applied to wood pieces, baked, and painted, in either black and white schemes or earth-coloured hues.

Apparently the dung of youthful cows is the best...

The dark green cow dung is taken by hand - in clumps - and molded into wood planks, like clay. Paint is then applied

A small factory might produce about 20 pieces a day.

There are the dung molders and then the painters...

Which one would you rather be..?

Monday, January 25, 2010

Human Star

"You will see in the temple of your heaven a face of light, your face, my brother, my sister, shining amidst the dust of human stars. You are a star. Do not forget it. Lift up your eyes!"
Irenee Guilane Dioh


"Delicacy of gestures attests to delicacy of feelings".

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Chosen Ones

"The body of a man is very small compared with the spirit that inhabits it".

Dance in Rwanda is instinctive and its roots stretch back through the centuries.

We had just had a good look around the National Museum in Butare. It contains a beautiful collection of exhibits on Rwandan history and culture. Outside the museum were a line of drums. I wondered up to them and started photographing. I had no idea what a treat had been planned for us as we were led around the back of the building to a stage area.

We were about to see one of the finest examples of Rwanda's traditional and dynamic dance styles.

The Intore Dancers have been dancing for centuries. At the time of the monarchy, before the arrival of the Europeans, the Intore Dancers at the royal court were selected young men who had received a privileged education and choreographic training in order to entertain their masters and to perform at special functions. The name intore means 'The Chosen Ones' signifying that only the best of them were chosen for this honour.

Traditionally their performances consisted mainly of warlike dances, such as ikuma (lance), umeheto (bow) and ingabo (shield), in which they carried authentic weapons. In the 20th century dummy weapons were substituted, the dances were given peaceful names and rhythum and movement (rather than warfare) became their main feature.

It is always interesting to ask at the end of a trip what the highlight was for each person. The answers are always so varied. We all have such different ways of seeing, according to our nature.

For me, these 2 hours spent watching and photographing the Intore Dancers was a complete turn on.

They were inspirational, but why so?

Words, once again, are inadequate.

I can only say that once they stepped onto the stage they were free spirits and took on a god-like quality.

Total involved, totally present and totally in tune. Their bodies pulsed to the beat of the drums and the sound of the women's voices. It was an honour to watch them as they bathed in their own spirit. They shared themselves so openly and naturally.

Confident, strong, dynamic but at the same time so delicate. One felt drawn right in to their celebration.

That's what it was really - a celebration of spirit....

Saturday, January 23, 2010


"Watch an animal, a flower, a tree, and see how it rests in Being. It is itself. It has enormous dignity, innocence, and holiness. However, for you to see that, you need to go beyond the mental habit of naming and labeling. The moment you look beyond mental labels, you feel that inefable dimension of nature that cannot be understood by thought or perceived through the senses. It is a harmony, a sacredness that permeates not only the whole of nature but is also within you".

"The plant that you have in your home - have you ever truly looked at it? Have you allowed that familiar yet mysterious being we call plant to teach you its secrets? Have you noticed how deeply peaceful it is? How it is surrounded by a field of stillness? The moment you become aware of a plant's emanation of stillness and peace, that plant becomes your teacher".

Eckhart Tolle in

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Hollow Bamboo

Do naught with the body but relax.
Shut firm the mouth and silent remain;
empty your mind and think of naught.
Like a hollow bamboo, rest at ease with your body.
Giving not nor taking, put your mind at rest.
Mahamudra** is like a mind that clings to naught.
Thus practicing, in time you will reach buddhahood.


**Melting into the source of being. A total orgasm with the universe.

On the way from Kigali to Butare, we stopped for a bite to eat. In the entrance to the restaurant, we found some bees who had made their home in some pieces of hollow bamboo...

Monday, January 18, 2010

No Roots

The clouds that wander through the sky
have no roots, no home;
neither do the distinctive thoughts
floating through the mind.
Once the self-mind is seen, discrimination stops.

And once you can see that thoughts are floating - you are not the thoughts but the space in which thoughts are floating - you have attained to your self-mind, you have understood the phenomenon of your conciousness. Then discrimination stops; then nothing is good, nothing is bad, then all desire simply disappears, because if there is nothing good, nothing bad, there is nothing to be desired, nothing to be avoided.

You accept; you become loose and natural. You simply start floating with existence, not going anywhere, because there is no goal; not moving to any target, because there is no target. Then you start enjoying every moment, whatsoever it brings - whatsoever remember. And you can enjoy it, because now you have no desires and no expectations. And you don't ask for anything, so whatsoever is given, you feel grateful. Just sitting and breathing is so beautiful, just being here is so wonderful that every moment of life becomes a magical thing, a miracle in itself.

Tantra: The Supreme Understanding

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


An intellectual is all the time showing off.
Lovers dissolve and become bewildered.

Intellectuals try not to drown,
while the whole purpose of love
is drowning.

Intellectuals invent
ways to rest, and then lie down
in those beds.

Lovers feel ashamed
of comforting ideas.

You’ve seen a glob
of oil on water? That’s how a lover
sits with intellectuals, there, but alone in a circle of himself.

Some intellectual
tries to give sound advice to a lover.

All he hears back is, I love you.
I love you.

Love is musk. Don’t deny it
when you smell the scent!

Love is a tree.
Lovers, the shade of the long branches.

To the intellectual mind, a child must learn to grow up and be an adult.

In the station of love,
you see old men getting younger and younger.


Wednesday, January 6, 2010


"Without the community, the individual is left without a place where he can contribute. The community is that grounding place where people come and share their gifts and receive them from others".

Market day on the road from Kigali to Butare.

Sunday, January 3, 2010


"Forget the dancer, the center of the ego; become the dance. That is meditation. Dance so deeply that you forget completely that 'you' are dancing and begin to feel that you are the dance. The division must disappear; then it becomes meditation. If the division is there, then it is an exercise: good, healthy but it cannot be said to be spiritual. It is just a simple dance. Dance is good in itself - as far as it goes - it is good. After it, you will feel fresh, young. But it is not meditation yet. The dancer must go, until only the dance remains. Don't stand inside, don't be an observer. Participate! And be playful. Remember the word playful always."

Saturday, January 2, 2010


"When people recognise that they are spirit in a human body and the other people are spirits, they begin to understand that our bodies are sacred and that sexuality is far more than a means of pleasure; it is a sacred act."



"Rwanda is a country of hills, mountains, forests, lakes, laughing children, markets of busy people, drummers, dancers, artisans and craftsmen. We manage to squeeze thousands of hills and eight million people into our 26,338 square kilometres. Our land is rich and fertile, the climate pleasant. This has been our home for centuries. We are one people. We speak one language. We have one history."

This was the first paragraph of the first stand inside the Genocide Memorial, Kigali.

We had just six days to see, feel and understand.

Friday, January 1, 2010

New Eyes

"The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes."

As I pick over the last 10 years and look forward to the next decade, I find more and more drive to live in the present, without judgement, without barriers.

I long to be free of the filter of the mind that causes so much suffering.

I long to have new eyes.

As I bid farewell to Mozambique, my mind flicks over some of the stand out images...

1. Snorkelling over a big purple star fish who was hugging a rock on the sea floor. The rays of the sun were hot on my back as I stretched out my arms and legs to mirror the star shape below. The sun's rays penetrated the clear water and for a few moments there was a stillness. There was no separation between us.

2. Walking out to sea under a full moon, knee deep in water. We were close to the equator. The tide was low and our shadows, as we walked and talked, were tiny. The sand was white and rippled under foot and our skin, in the florescent light, was a dark brown.

3. We walked up the steps into a huge thatched sala tucked away on the other side of the island. Stakes surrounded us burning with fire, the table was laid on the beach, the stars were huge above and a campfire blazed. A gasp at the beautiful sight found me spontaneously holding hands with a man I had only just met. The innocence of it was childlike.

4. As I stood on the roof terrace of Ibo Island Lodge the energy vibration of a pink sun setting was palpable. With rock shandy in hand, I curled up on the bright cushions laying my head sideways on the cold white washed stone. I looked out onto a bay dotted with the shadows of fishing boats. Friends were chatting in the background and there was a moment of peace. A short but welcome release from the underlying anxiety that had been hounding me.

5. The swing chair at Ibo Island Lodge reminded me so much of lazy summer days in my hammock as a child. The sky was so blue as I spread my hand open in front of it, looking up. The palm trees were swaying in the background and cast beautiful shadows onto the ground below. It was as if nobody could see me there. I could have stayed there forever in that space. The white, colonial building, the wind in the trees, the swimming pool, the bright colours, the birdsong...

Farewell blue, hello green.......

Turtle Power

"Everything living has a soul".

The Maluane Conservation Communities Programme, established in 1998, supports the most advanced turtle conservation programme in East Africa. On Vamizi Island there are no predators and so the baby turtles are allowed to hatch naturally.

We walked along the beach to the nest. The sun was low and orange in the sky and the moon was full and rising opposite.

Abu, the Malawian conservationist, had been watching this particular nest for a while and hoping that it would be ready for our visit. The nesting season runs from between January to July. It was April and so the timing was perfect.

Hatchlings ready to emerge wait just beneath the sand surface until conditions become cool but in this case, for our benefit, the team of experts were giving the newborns a helping hand by digging them out. A rich, stale smell rose from the nest as they dug.

Sea turtle hatchlings have an inbuilt tendency to move in the brightest direction. More often than not, this is towards a sparkling sea as the light of the moon reflects off the water. The guys carefully took each turtle from the nest and handed them to us to place on the sand. These tiny little creatures then started off on their journey seaward.

I could see that the 20 m journey from the back of the beach to the lapping waves was a long and arduous one. The little crests in the sand that I just scuffed my toes over were like mini mountains for these guys! It's all about perspective.

Only 1 out of 1,000 turtles survive. They are only really safe after they are at least 40cm in size as every fish that has a mouth bigger than the little turtles can eat them. Even then there is the threat of poaching (most of the Vamizi population live below the poverty line and turtles are valuable for their shell), sometimes the turtles get accidentally caught in the fishing nets or the ingestion of plastic bags is not uncommon.

In an attempt to protect the turtles, a 4 dollar reward is offered to every fisherman who returns a turtle from their nets to the conservation project. In 2006, 4 rewards were given. In 2008 that number went up to 80 and so the awareness grows....