I'm almost two weeks back from my trip to Cote d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast, in Engligh), Africa. This is a place that doesn't leave my soul easily. I just went to see Marvel's 'Black Panther' last night with my family, here in Espanola, and it brought back all of the reasons that I love this continent so much. There is a deep-rooted love for the land and the family unit, and an intense spiritual strength there. I also felt this on my first trip to Africa this past September, 2017.
Let me back up just a bit. Somehow I landed in West Africa, which, in all of my dreams of being in Africa, was not the place I'd imagined myself ending up. Kenya, Mozambique, South Africa, yes. Safarai, the Massai, mountains and forest were what I'd had in mind. West Africa—what was I doing there? Everyone was asking me that, and I myself wondered how I'd booked a ticket to go to meet up with someone that I'd met for 10 minutes earlier that year while I was facilitating a White Tantric Yoga® course.
Somehow the hand of God dragged me to this place in spite of my protests about lack of money, time, energy and with a kid in boarding school. During the months leading up to the trip, I'd searched all over the internet for 'points of interest' that I might like to visit while there. I found very little, even on 'Trip Advisor,' which is my go-to for touring. So, getting on the plane, I took a deep breath and said a little prayer to get me there and back safely—that being my entire goal for this trip because I had no idea what I was getting into. All we'd read was that there was a military mutiny earlier in the year. Although they'd been experiencing political stability for the past 6 years, it’s not what I would consider a tourist destination.
But there's a silver lining to this uncertainty.
As soon as I landed, my heart opened to my group as they opened their arms to me. Waking up the next morning and doing Sadhana with my earbuds in, listening to Hari Rai Kaur's 'Guru Ram Das' chant and the djembe players starting their morning call to the dancers outside, I had tears of joy streaming down my face that wouldn't stop for the next 30 minutes. Cote d'Ivoire had me at 'Akwaba,' which means not only 'welcome,' but what I inferred by their statue at the airport is 'we-welcome-you-with-love-and-open-arms-and-we-are-so-happy-that-you're-here-sharing-our-beautiful-land.'
Throughout the week, my host, Maria Johansson, held daily Sadhana for our group in her living room (I think I made it once because we were going to bed after midnight every night). I could hear two or three voices filtering into my Amrit Vela time dreams and felt so enveloped in that coziness.
Within about a day and a half, I came to the realization that the people I was planning on sharing my yogic teachings with were already living in the heart space, sharing what they have with all of us. They were living for each other within their families and communities. Wasn't that what I was supposed to be sharing with them? It's one of the greatest teachings that I've taken away from my 22 years of Kundalini Yoga experience: working to open our hearts, sharing with our fellow humans.
We had intended to teach classes several nights, but as life goes, we stayed in the flow of our group and started with one class held in Maria's courtyard with about 15-20 people in attendance from our group and the neighborhood (plus one little dog that had never been seen before or since). The tune in with 'Ong Namo' was chanted so powerfully and clearly by all of the guys and the few tittering ladies in dresses sitting on chairs, purses in laps.
Instead of teaching a whole set like I'd intended, we spoke a little bit about how energy flows in our bodies and how Kundalini Yoga is really about becoming more aware of ourselves and our surroundings. We did a bit of Humanology, talking specifically about foods for health and healing and using plants and foods found in the markets for healing digestive issues, headaches, and fevers. We wrapped up with some Life Nerve Stretch, Washing Machine, and Spinal Flex. I felt really good about this class, and I think that everyone else did too, from the serene looks on the faces in the circle.
I had two days of doing my Chiropractic work at an orphanage called SOS Children's Village, with many of the caregivers for the children and folks from the surrounding neighborhood. These were some of my favorite days while in Cote d'Ivoire. We had a system set up in the clinic: Madame Coulibaly (the head nurse at the orphanage had people lined up for me to work with. I did my work and then had them sit with Cedric to work on some easy chair yoga to alleviate headaches, neck strain, and upper back tightness. He taught them Spinal Flex, Shoulder Shrugs, and neck rotations—super simple but effective.
My security guy, Siriki, who was holding kids for us while I was working on their caregivers, surprised me halfway through the day by chiming in when my translation of 'drink ginger tea with lemon for those stomach pains' wasn't making it to my client. He'd been listening all morning to my recommendations and had heard me tell several people about ginger tea and its medicinal properties. By the end of the morning we had our little 'clinic' running smoothly.
The challenge that I've been facing then and since returning is that my French is mediocre at best. I was able to teach probably half of the class in French and then had Maria translate the other part when my brain started getting tired or I stumbled on some word or phrase. English is my first language, but French is widely spoken throughout most of West Africa. I don't have easy access to Kundalini Yoga manuals written in French. For me to be able to teach more widely, and to be able to share with my d'Ivoirean friends, we'll need manuals in French.
I reached out to Hari Charn Kaur from KRI, asking her how we could get some manuals to take over for my trip this past February. And because this trip for me is something of a passion-service-spreading-love trip, I'm asking for help wherever there's someone willing to give a hand up for me and for my friends in Africa. We're so grateful to Atma Singh from France for donating four Kundalini Yoga manuals in French.
While I didn't have any big classes organized for this trip, we had our own small classes on the garden terrace in our Airbnb in Abidjan. Cedric was so grateful for the manuals and for the opportunity to continue his practice without having to translate from the English manual I'd given him in September.
I don't know where this journey will take us from here. I know that my new d'ivoirean family has embraced me, and I them—and with me, all of our world-wide 3HO Family. We are forever entwined within each other's destiny. I have a vision for my beautiful Africa and my even more beautiful family there. I see these already joyful, graceful, strong people sharing with us what they live every day.
I see myself and others sharing the love of the Guru and Kundalini Yoga to offer even more tools for them to meet the challenges faced by those living in poverty and oppression—because I believe in Africa. I believe that there is something rich, hidden and special there that the world hasn't, at large, discovered quite yet. The Africans themselves may not even know it. I think they do, but they've forgotten. My intention is to help each of us remember and share the deep wisdom of Africa—to remember the passion and love that is Africa and to bring that to the rest of the world.
My prayer is that we, as a community, continue to reach out to those countries that are ready for what we have to offer, and that we can all expand in our giving, prosperity, and service to include these 'outposts.' And whenever you're ready to join me on our next trip, I'd love to share this experience with any of you.
Dr. Arjan Khalsa comes from a family of Chiropractors and has studied the healing arts of Chiropractic, Applied Kinesiology, CranioSacral Therapy, Kundalini Yoga, meditation, and Nutrition for over 20 years. For several years, she has been posting health tips for people to be able to use food, herbs, and self-healing techniques to be able to improve their health, decrease pain, and to lead to more vital, fulfilled lives. www.drarjan.com
Maria Johansson is founder and director of 'L'Ecole des Enfants,' a Boston based non-profit organization aimed at building and creating Waldorf inspired schools in West Africa. She is a Kundalini Yoga teacher and healer from the King Salomon lineage, and also holds a masters in Robotic Surgery and a MBA. After many years working in corporate fields, Maria recently moved to live full time with her husband in Ivory Coast to devote her energy to building her school to start the kindergarten in the Fall of 2018. For more information on the school building project or to connect with Maria you can reach her at [email protected] or www.lecoledesenfants.com.