I should pause and describe the scene of our Academy program in the village of Byimana. I sometimes forget to do so, as much of what I experience, which would be so exotic for another, is something that I have come to find so comfortingly familiar here in Rwanda: The women in their beautiful multicolored wrapped skirts; a sweet child sitting on the floor of our classroom while his mother takes notes; ten children and men peering through the bars in the windows of our classroom wondering what we are doing; giggles from small children as they ask to have our empty water bottles. We are teaching in a small building used by Byimana local government. It is a single room with plastered walls and a cement floor. Narrow benches form our seating, and though the women are more comfortable setting up the room for me as if I am preaching to their congregation, we rearrange the benches in a circle so we can all address each other. They watch me with curiosity, but they are open-minded and willing to participate in whatever I initiate for our class.
I’m feeling more grounded. I’m grateful for all the visitors with me – they’re challenging me and bringing really valuable ideas to the table. And the tension that marked our first gathering – a combination of nerves, anticipation, uncertainty about how my offering would be experienced – has left me now.
On our second day, we went in depth into the personal transformation portion of our work. We started out by exploring our own desires and aversion to change and the emotional reactivity that sometimes causes us to create harm inadvertently. We considered how perspective and preference can cause angst and how trusting the intuitive sense can help us access inner wisdom. And then we breathed.
I’m utilizing a technique called Coherent Breathing and a program called Breath~Body~Mind which was developed by Dr. Richard P. Brown and Dr. Patricia Gerbarg to relieve stress and trauma. This program includes Coherent Breathing (influenced by Stephen Elliot) and Qigong movements from Master Robert Peng. Coherent Breathing sets the optimal pace of breathing necessary to enable your body to rebalance the autonomic nervous system resulting in greater calmness, energy, and resilience. Our women have taken an assessment to measure their level of post-traumatic stress, but through simple observation, I can see the stress melt from their shoulders, feel the energy shift in the room, and hear their comments afterwards that they feel deeply rested. One rather heavy-set, beautiful, enthusiastic woman even exclaimed that she felt so light she must have lost several pounds! The woman have already asked how they can teach the technique to others, including children in their communities. I am encouraged.
Tomorrow we explore power.