‘I got a new tribe’, experiences from Amandla Fellowship in Rwanda

From the surprisingly short bus ride from Kampala, Uganda to an earlier arrival into the land of 1000 hills; Rwanda. This trip is something to remember forever. My first time in Rwanda, my first time to join a live meditation session, meet monks and observe Peace Revolution’s 8 acts of self-discipline without reservations. This is my story of Amandla Fellowship 2019.

Journey to the retreat venue – Muhazi Beach hotel

The bus ride consisted of a very diverse group of people all the way from southern Africa, eastern Africa to the great horn of Africa. Our arrival to a beautiful, serene, quiet and lovely place was welcomed by a very kind man, one of the participants – Felix. He might not have realized his actions, but by helping carry our bags from the bus to the reception, I was overwhelmed by the level of kindness.

The Final digital world evening

When news came in that we had to part with our phones, it became so surreal when Mulla, Nicole and the other organizers started displaying our packages for the next day. You could see people updating their WhatsApp status that they were going offline for 4 days.

Welcome Pack to Amandla 2019

Yoga with Happy

Waking up in a beautiful, peaceful place by the lake side was a good way to start a day. For a long time, I realized I had been doing yoga back home without knowing. Now that I had attached a name to my daily indoor home workout routine, I felt excited every single hour we practiced yoga. Happy, just like the name of our yoga teacher was a very kind, happy and humble person. He not only taught us yoga moves but made an extra effort in explaining the science behind every move and the bonus gifts of picking out a sticker with beautiful, encouraging words. Shout out to George and Goga for their amazing yoga training sessions too. It was amazing having to learn from three different yoga instructors.

Indoor Yoga Session
Nature Yoga Session at Lake Muazi Beach Hotel

Meeting the Monks

I met some of the coolest monks one can ever meet. I don’t know whether it was his knowledgeable ways, him being a computer enthusiast (something I am too being a computer science graduate) or it was the fact that I finally met a monk like him. None the less, it was an honor meeting and learning from Monk John. On the last day, I had a memorable talk with Monk John that still resonates with me up till today. The fact that he had been to my country Uganda made us have similar things to talk about, I am forever grateful for having met and learned from him.

With LP Tim, I was not only drawn to the fact that he was from California, or to his deep, calm voice, or that we were of the same age group. Monk Tim’s very illustrative teachings, love for nature meditation sessions and amazing signature lazy stretch made me appreciate all the interactions we had with him. Some of the things that stood out with LP Tim were the outdoor meditation session that involved kissing the ground with our feet (to mean walking so softly that your neighbor couldn’t hear your footstep), walking outside and picking up the little negligible trash we found.

Photo with a monk.

Demystifying Monks

During my personal interactions with Monk Tim, he reminded of the importance of acting than talking and the fact that friendships and spirituality are interconnected. In his words, “friendship isn’t just half of the spiritual life, but the whole of it”. At first I did not attach too much meaning since I was overwhelmed by the entire experience but when I arrived back home, I thought about these words and it came to me that besides this coming from a Buddhist, it actually is stressed in the Bible; that loving one another is one of the two greatest commandments there is.

Nature Meditation

One of the most surprising things I had never paid attention to was touching a tree trunk. I mean, why would you even touch a tree trunk? What were we supposed to listen to? What did we expect to feel? All this was quite bizarre before I started doing it, but I noticed with a still mind, it was like I was alone in that moment. It felt like I was one with the tree. I could feel my veins pumping blood through my fingers. It was an amazing feeling. Now ever since I came back home, whenever I am practicing my outdoor nature meditation, I am drawn to touching a tree, keeping my mind at the center and just being still and feeling Sabai. It’s a great feeling, if you do not have any expectations.

The whole experience with the monks helped me demystify so much I had heard, read and seen in movies. It was good to know that monks are human just like us. There was no black magic that I noticed, they were computer geeks just like most of us, technically I could refer to them as normal people just like anyone else except that they can never take a picture with a female unless a man stood in between them. (Still looking for the truth behind this).

Joining the live meditation sessions

During our Amandla Youth Fellowship 2019, we had 4 meditation sessions a day. From the sessions guided by our very own African peace architects, Henry and Dennis, to those guided by the monks. Every session was my best meditation experience. Learning how to visualize the sun at the center of my body, keeping my mind at the center, using the mantra Samma Arahang (it means the right way to purify the mind), taking deep breaths in and out helped me go back to the center whenever my mind wandered.

LP John told us not to force meditating and if sleep comes in, and we cannot hold it, we should sleep. Or meditating takes practice and should come naturally if we do not have any expectations. Well, that was a wake up call! I had come in with so many expectations that these words helped lessen my expectations.

Knowing that I could as well keep my eyes half open, half closed helped me concentrate even more. The meditation clinic, the Google with the Monks session and guidance on how to serve food to the monks for both sexes among others helped me demystify so many things I thought about Monks.

The Ice breaker sessions were also very informative, fun and something to remember forever and use in my PIPO club back home.

Live Meditation session with Monk John during Amandla Fellowship 2019.

Silent breakfast

When George, one of the participants and a professional yoga instructor, told us about the 10 days of silence retreat during our casual talks, I never thought I would get to live that way. Thanks to the agreement we made as a group, we decided to have our first silent breakfast – mindful eating session. It not only helped us reconnect more with our inner self but become mindful of what foods we choose from the menu and how we eat them. It was an experience worth remembering. And have I said, how again, I took this act home; my mother is mimicking it just like she does with the breathing technique.

Introduction to Pana

It must be a word from Thailand, this was our dinner from day 2. Pana consisted of a glass of juice and yogurt only. That was one of the 8 acts of self-discipline that we had to adapt to. In fact, we arrived expecting it as we agreed and signed the code of conduct before arrival. However, living it was so surreal. It is interesting to see that since leaving Rwanda, I have adapted to a Pana lifestyle at home.

Jab Dee

Wondering what that is? Well Jab dee, touching goodness or catching goodness was something Monk John taught us. That no matter the differences, there was something good one could pick up from every person that was at the retreat. That no matter the negatives, there was a positive you could write about someone. I had so many special moments and memories to write about that even though I did not meet some of the participants to chat in person, I had something universal for them that I thought they should be sharing deep down; kindness and uniqueness.

Filling up messages into everyone’s envelope. #JABDEE

Graduation Day

I cannot say enough about the graduation day. The final day of having official sessions with World Peace Initiative Foundation team, becoming peace rebels+, having to wear make up for the first time since we had arrived and hearing from participants their overall experiences; this was a day to remember.

Photo showing how a lady receives anything from a Monk.

Without forgetting….

The friends I made while at the center helped me not only become comfortable but also be able to live with people who believed in things I do believe in too. People who identified as spiritual and believed mindful meditation isn’t a Buddhist practice. I got a new tribe; I made a family; all thanks to Amandla fellowship 2019. I am still overly grateful for the beautiful messages people wrote to me in the Jab dee game.

Photo credits by George Okurut
A visit to the Kigali Genocide Memorial
Graduation day
Photo credits by George Okurut

My special thanks

A special thanks to the organizing team, the World Peace Initiative Foundation team, Ms. Ping Ping, the vision bearer and the co-founder (whom by the way I finally met. Her kindness and politeness make me admire her so much. She is someone I would like to grow up and transition it. Her professionalism was top notch) and others to mention but a few.

Thanks go out to Emmanuel, my peace coach, and Dennis for encouraging and supporting me to attend the fellowship. The knowledge I gained was something I can never get from any other fellowship out there. I have learned cultivating my inner peace in ways I did not know were possible and learned sharing it to others by conquering my fear and starting our first Agrolinks Academy Namasuba (ALAN) PIPO Club of Uganda.

Want to learn more on how to join Peace Revolution?

For anyone out there interested in joining the program, log on to https://peacerevolution.net/, take the 42 day online self development program that I started too, and everything else will fall into place like getting a coach, mentor and joining the online community.

This website always has opportunities to help you cultivate your inner peace through meditation, learn about the 5 Acts of Self-discipline, the 5 universal goals and much more.

See you online!

Peace Out, Dorothy.

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