Photo: Norman Seef
On Saturday night, I finally arrived in Uganda. It is as beautiful and complex as I remembered. There are flocks of bats and turkey vultures flying in circles just outside my window, scary and prehistoric looking, but my eyes can't stay with them for long. What keeps drawing my attention down is the earth below. I'm always struck by the rich, red soil of Africa. It looks so fertile and dense, the perfect breeding ground for the "Motherland," and I'm anxious to go outside and feel her once again under my feet. I'm so happy to be back here and feel strangely at home. Perhaps it's the kindness and generosity of her people, or the fact that my father grew up in Northern Africa, or maybe it's the powerful feeling of spirit and tribe that penetrates this culture. Whatever it is, I'm delighted to be welcomed back.
I'm here to facilitate the Off the Mat, Into the World (OTM) Bare Witness Humanitarian Tour. With me are my co-facilitator Suzanne Sterling, our logistics team headed by Dr. Sally Brown and the 21 people whom succeeded in raising the necessary funds to award them two weeks of working with some of the most impoverished and underserved people in the world. All totaled, there are 24 of us, all women, embarking on this journey. It's taken me three planes, a bout of laryngitis and a decade of wanting to make a difference to get here.
Being of service has become a natural extension of my yoga practice. It took thousands of downward dogs, buckets of sweat, hours of meditation and prayer for me to understand that yoga is about the collective, not just the individual. Service is my way of experiencing this unity through outreach and action. In yoga, the word "seva" refers to selfless service, and although I have been deeply committed to different social and global issues, including sex trafficking and HIV/AIDS, I have yet to experience the selfless part of seva. This is because I know I continue to receive more than I could ever possibly give. I do not believe there is enough money, food or shelter that I could provide that could equal the gifts that I've been given. Each time I have been permitted to share in another person's life and support them in their health, healing or even survival, I am rewarded riches unimaginable. I have healed my trauma, reclaimed my disowned self, learned to celebrate my shadow, become more empathic, grown and experienced spirit in ways remarkable because of the opportunity to be a part of another being's life and experience.