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“Looking Back” – My Final Blog

Twenty hours ago I departed from the Entebbe Airport in Uganda and I’m still one flight away from home. As I sit here in the Newark airport Starbucks I’m filled with a flood of emotions and memories: the joy of being only hours away from seeing my family, the sadness of leaving so many behind, the smiles of the Shanti Uganda women in Kasana who danced and sang for us, the looks in the eyes of the HIV/Aids positive children at the New Hope orphanage when we said good bye to them, watching my fellow seva challengers work so hard in the mud and rain side by side with the men, women and children of the surrounding villages to help build a school through Building Tomorrow.

Going to Uganda through The Off The Mat Into The World 2010 Seva Challenge was a little like doing a strong shot of Tequila. It was fast and furious, incredibly powerful and once it began there was no turning back. And like downing a strong shot, while I felt the initial jolt of the experience immediately, I have a feeling that my strongest responses are still to come. Not only am I certain that we made a difference in the lives of so many, but that I gained invaluable insight into myself: both where I shine and where I need to continue to work to break down the walls that keep me from truly stepping into my own power, my own truth.

I look forward to the days, weeks, months, and perhaps even years that I will spend digesting these past 2 weeks. I know that the ripples of this experience will carry me to new and beautiful places filled with the deep waves of joy and inner peace that can only be felt through our continuous efforts to serve others and to serve the God that dwells within each one of us.

If anyone out there reading this blog is trying to decided wether or not to participate in next years 2011 Seva Challenge, I would like to put in a strong vote for, “Do It!”. The process of fund raising can be difficult at times but as Krishna teaches us in chapter 2 of the the Bhagavad Gita:

“On this path of Yoga, no effort is wasted and there is no failure. Even a little effort towards spiritual awareness will protect you from the greatest fears”

In other words, any amount money and awareness you raise will carry with it them karmic seeds of positive change both for the recipient of your efforts and for you. Take that first step. Make the commitment to try and see where the universe leads you.

May Peace Prevail,



That which connects us is Sacred – My day at the Acholi slums

Today was my first day in Uganda and we went to visit the Acholi slums located outside the Kampala, the capital of Uganda. We had brought with us lots of clothing and supplies from home to give out to the families living there. Like so many other times in my life that I have faced the new and unknown, the experience I had there was much different than I had imagined it would be.

The first thing that struck me was the strong sense of community that I felt there. It was truly inspiring. We gathered with many of the women in a meeting house of sorts which was no more than a large dark cement structure with some make shift wooden benches. There they welcomed us with a song that was filled with so much joy and gratitude that I felt my heart open up and soak it in like a sponge or like a thirsty dessert animal who had stumbled upon a cool stream and was drinking in the life affirming water. This was not the vibration of sadness and despair that I had imagined would be so palpable in the slums that I wouldn’t be able to breath. We answered their song with our own rendition of Amazing Grace. I had never offered a song as a gift before but it felt like such an honest exchange of loving vibration. It was powerful to say the least.

The second part of the day involved splitting up on our own and going to visit the homes of two families and delivering to them what we had brought. This part was challenging for me. For starters, where as most of the other members of my group were paired with two women (one from each house hold), I ended up two men. At the first house, and I use the term ‘house’ lightly as it was no more than a two room shack which housed 6 family member, no english was spoken. Luckily, the four children with who lived there were of the ages 2-6 and I was equipped with a bottle of bubble’s … need I say more?

The second house, however was a very different scene. Nine boys (who were a mix of brothers and cousin) lived there along with 1 baby girl and a Mom and Dad. The house was, again, only two rooms and I can’t fathom where they all slept. I didn’t ask because I was afraid it would be somehow embarrassing for them. The father spoke only a little english but explained how his brother was gone and that he had taken in his 3 nephews. He was working to support all 10 kids and when he couldn’t think of the english words to express his situation I offered some help. “Hard”, I said to him. He looked me in the eyes and said, in a deeply burden ridden voice, “Hard”. Then there was a silence that lasted for so long that I felt my whole body contract with uncomfortableness. No one was speaking. The teen age boys (ages 13 – 18) had the same vibe as my teenage step son and his friends – totally great kids but probably were being forced to be home and hang out with their parents and me when all they really wanted to do was to go out and hang with their friends. At least this is what I imagined. The scene felt tense. I felt stupid just sitting there but couldn’t think on anything to say. We all just sat there. Time seemed to drag on forever. When the father explained that the boys new english very well but were just to shy to say anything I looked at them and told them that I was feeling shy do. They smiled and though I could have imagined it, I can almost swear that we all shared a big group exhalation. I felt my muscles loosen, my breath began to flow again. We had found our common ground. They were nervous and I was nervous and it was okay.

At first I felt disappointed in myself that I had frozen up in their home but now I feel okay about it. It’s where I was at the time and I am just so happy that my heart allowed me to be vulnerable enough to express what I was feeling to them. They say a smile is a language that we all share but so are songs, tears, hardships and even moments of shyness. Whatever it may be that allows us to connect is Sacred and today, in a place where I had imagined that I would feel so different and separate from those whom I would be meeting, I had a taste of that first hand.

Live, love and learn,


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