Journey #93 – Rwanda
By LP John Paramai
My visit to Rwanda is for two purposes. The first is to join an Amandla African Youth Fellowship from October 16-18, 2019. The second is to guide meditation in various PIPO sessions in Kigali as well as other cities. This time I also travelled with LP Tim who accompanied me in both the fellowship and the PIPOs.
Upon arrival, I went to lake Muhazi to facilitate a meditation training ‘Amandla African Youth Fellowship’ for 40 young African leaders from 20 countries in the east and south Africa including Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Somalia (Solamiland), Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe and also the mentors from Cameroon, Benin as well as Conga (Brazzaville).
The participants learned how to find inner peace from the practice of mindfulness and meditation. In addition, they all learn how to development themselves through a habit development model called UG5, how to empower themselves by finding their life goals, manage responsibilities and how to develop a perspective that leads to finding true happiness from within themselves before sharing with their local community, country and the world.
The African participants all meditated 4 times a day and they were interested in trying to in trying to ‘be at the center’, which is a kind of mindfulness practice. They also learned that meditation can be done not just when they close their eyes but in all activities.
Many could easily forget their body and kept the awareness at the center of the body until they found inner brightness and inner spheres that were clear and pure like a bubble.
These meditation experiences help purify their mind and make them truly understand the lesson of life that true happiness they have been searching throughout their life must be found from within.
They all take this lesson home with new friendship, positive energy and motivation to organize continue their peace club within the city and their country at last.
It was the first day of my trip to teach meditation in Rwanda. I started the first session in Presbyterian Church of Muhanga town that is the southwest of Kigali, the capital.
We spent approximately 1 hour to reach the place and got welcome by a paster that is in contact with Peace Agent Emmanuel who used to guide a mini meditation session at her house.
Knowing that I will arrive, she invited us to facilitate a meditation session for primary school teachers, pastors, church leaders and officials of the presbytery.
I showed a presentation how stress is formed when the mind is full of unfinished thoughts and some benefits of meditation both physically and mentally.
Then I guided 30-minute meditation. Although meditation is a thing in Rwanda especially in Muhanga community, some of them showed their interest, participated and got positive result.
A university student meditated by visualization the moon at the center of the body. When his mind focused properly and he felt balanced, the moon started to shine brightly in his stomach. Although we meditated for 30 minutes but he felt that it was only 5.
He said he wanted to have meditation as a hobby for now on. Normally he would go with his friends for playing football but from now he would invite them to meditate.
The pastor said meditation is important and hope that people she know will try because meditation will make them focus on their work, their study, their teaching and remove negative thoughts and feelings from the mind.
And the next session I facilitated a meditation session at Ituze Center, which is the only professional yoga studio in Kigali, Rwanda.
I began by giving a talk on time and stress management showing that the real cause of stress is unfinished thoughts in the mind.
People hardly clean and organised their mind. As a result, the mind keeps jumping between thoughts without any conclusion. This makes us feel uncomfortable and limited leading to stress and unhappiness in life.
If we organised our mind through the practice of meditation, the mind will feel more relaxed and we will also be able to organised importance of different stuff we have to do better. Then LP Tim guided a meditation session.
The participants who are yoga teachers, university students, Peace Rebels that are already doing SDP and peace club members felt relaxed as if they were meditating in an open space. Some said that they were sitting and feeling still water surface.
A lady said that she felt as if she was in another world where everything disappeared and she wasn’t there anymore. A gentleman mentioned that he felt he was drowning deep into water but he didn’t suffocate even though he was in the water. He felt relaxed and peaceful the whole time.
I visited Cafe de Nyamata in Nyamata, Rwanda for giving a talk on mind empowerment for peace for disabled people.
Most of them were victims of the 1994 genocide. I told them that their limited body should not prevent them from being great for themselves and the whole world. Stephen Hawking is one of the greatest physicist and cosmologist of all time even though the limitation of his body.
Stevie Wonder is also a great and successful singer although he became blind since shortly after his birth. We all consist of body and mind. Some people have a proper body but improper or limited mind.
But some people who have a limited body can on the other hand have a proper and unlimited mind. If we have the mind that can resize problems and make big problems small we can destroy our limitation finally. And a tool to do that is called meditation.
Then I guided 25-minute session. Many felt relaxed. Some said they were not in the room anymore. A man said he felt like he was running away from all problems … in a good way. A lady said that she totally forgot all her problems. She is a mom but one of her legs isn’t good. Because she has to take care of everyone in the family, she becomes stressed. But when she used the breathing technique for meditation she felt relaxed. She also swallowed the sun and then her body disappeared.
The sun became very bright in the centre of the body. She then understood how happiness could arise when the mind is free. Her brightened mind wanted to share the inner peace with everyone around her.
Masoro Learning Center is a nice place for a thousand Rwandans to find new knowledge, learn how to be happy and to just have fun.
It wasn’t really far from Kigali but climbing the mountain to reach its peak where the center situates takes almost an hour. There I met with almost 60 people who were willing to learn more about emotional intelligence and balanced life.
I saw that there were many young children there as well. So, I divided the session into two meditations: meditation for kids and meditation for adults. The meditation for kids took 20 minutes and I asked them to protect a star from monsters by swallowing the brightness star they could imagine into the center of the body and stay quiet.
They could do that for such a long time and the adults were doing that as well. Many said that they felt very relaxed, calm and could see a bright star inside their body that brought them inner peace. After that LP Tim guided a short exercise and facilitate a longer session for adults, almost 30 minutes.
The majority of them could meditate without moving because of some experience in Yoga practice. They just stay still. Some felt calm and could stay in the moment. Some felt moving vibrations inside the body. And some felt light and much brighter inside as well. A man said while he was spreading loving kindness to people in the world, he felt calm, joy, peaceful and very happy.
They were interested to do meditation daily and asked for the next session to be scheduled as soon as the week after.
I and LP Tim organized a meditation session in Ituze Center, Kigali, Rwanda. The topic was the art of forgiveness and letting go.
We talked about what anger and being bitter felt like and how it harms oneself. LP Tim asked them to describe Anger and being bitter, we came to the conclusion anger is a fire that burns from the inside. Being bitter like a frozen heart creating a prison in one’s own mind.
Finally, we talked about how anger and being bitter block us from being forgiving because it clouds our understanding, in conclusion, to forgive is to develop clear understanding that comes from the clarity that comes from meditation.
Then I guided them in a meditation session that lasted for 45 minutes and participants felt inner peace and enjoyed the session. Many felt that the time wasn’t that long definitely not 45 minutes.
Some mentioned that they didn’t even want to quit. A lady said that there was a moment she didn’t feel the body … like she was somewhere else and she enjoyed it very much like she was floating. Another lady said she felt like only 15-20 minutes. At some moment she felt so light and relaxed like flying and she didn’t have any thoughts at all.
A man didn’t want the session to end because he felt that it was the most comfortable and peaceful moment of his life.
**I and LP Tim went to Nyabihu, Jenda sector, Rwanda to give a lecture on youth empowerment for Rwanda Youth Clubs for Peace. **
There were many peace leaders and teachers that attended the talk. LP Tim talked about empowerment beginning from within. He started with a question about what is empowerment for themselves. They responded along the lines of expanding their abilities, opportunities. It was apparent that these young adults wanted to become better versions of themselves.
So we talked about the importance of choices in their lives and the even more importance than these choices are their own. We offered two ideas that ensure a choice is theirs, 1. Clear Intuition 2. Responsibilities.
Clear Intuition being the direct way of making the right choice. Responsibilities, the 4 responsibilities of health, social, economic and mind, a necessary parts of life to ensure they don’t become problems that can take away one’s ability to fulfill the choice. In conclusion, empowerment may come from these steps of clear Intuition -> Choice -> Creativity to succeed.
And it all begins with meditation. Then LP Tim guided a meditation session. Some felt great during the short meditation session.
A girl said that she was in the air during her meditation. Another girl said that she felt calm with no thought. A man said that he could visualize the sun the whole time. When the sun was bright, he felt he wasn’t there anymore. He then felt much love and compassion.
In the last section at Ituze center, we also have a two-day retreat where 25 participants came to enjoy two meditation sessions each day. The participants also had a chance to have some spiritual dialog with the monks.
During the meditation, there were various good meditation experiences. A lady said that she had a feeling of having two bodies. She was falling down rapidly.
A man said his body was moving forward. Another one mentioned that he was releasing all anger and negative emotions in himself, when they said to visualize the center he was able to see the sun clearly and he felt light in his body. Aline, the host, said that she could release all anger watching pictures of people who hurt her in the past with a neutral mind.
She also mentioned that during the loving-kindness her body became bigger, bigger and incredibly bigger filled with peace and compassion. The topics covered were stress management, emotional intelligence, accepting and letting go and habit development.
The teaching monk talked about developing habits together as a group or community. The participants discussed together what good habits and bad habits they had in order to emphasize that together they have many good habits to learn from each other. We talked about the steps to develop habits through commitment, self-discipline, patience, and sacrifice.
Then applying this habit system to developing Universal Goodness 5. For UG5 it was emphasized the connection of rough development to refined development.
Concluding that they should apply this practice to the 5 rooms. In the end, encouraging them to take care of each other. They decided to meet regularly for meditation practice afterward.