On this day, just before Valentine's Day, I am being pulled to share this experience with all of you again because it is a huge influence on my yoga teaching. Just the other day I was walking to a park in Collingswood NJ and ran into one of my teachers who I studied under during my 200 hour and it made me realize that it has been 7 years since this life changing experience.
Some of you may not know that as part of my 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training with Beyond Asana in 2014 I personally raised almost $7,000 for buildOn and my training group raised over $50,000 (I could be wrong on the group total).
We then traveled to Malawi, Africa, in January 2015 to take yoga off the mat and into the world. We stayed in host homes, assisted in breaking ground on a primary school in the Mchereka village, immersed ourselves in a different culture, laughed, cried, danced, sang, broke our hearts open and changed our lives forever. After our time in the village some of us went to explore Lake Malawi along with a wildlife preserve. It is a difficult task to choose photos to represent this awe inspiring experience, but included are the school- before/after, my family, my friends, and pieces of my heart. Below is a blessing I read to the village before we left (you can see I used the butterfly symbolism even back then) and a poem I wrote upon my return. It's hard to believe that it's been 7 years. My heart is overflowing with love right now as I soak in these memories.
Chitu School Intention and Blessing
By: Veronica Carpenter
"Brothers and sisters, we stand together, side by side and brick by brick we built this school. Let this school represent the joining of two cultures, learning from one another and supporting one another. The beginning of this project through its completion is like the life of a butterfly. First Stage- The egg lay on a leaf. This represents the idea of the school being born, we individually and collectively decided to join this project and then we “hatched.” Second Stage- Out popped the very hungry caterpillar. In America the fundraising began, individuals, friends and family fed our dreams of building this school. In Mchereka you gathered items/supplies and got your homes ready in preparation for our arrival. Third Stage- we then rested in our cocoon, prepared to travel, traveled to/arrived in Malawi, broke ground, laid bricks and began putting all the pieces together.
When Chitu School is finished- the butterfly emerges- beautiful wings, rainbow colors, for all the world to see. All of the boys and girls will have strong walls and a roof to learn under. The men and women will have literacy programs to continue their education.
This school represents hope, change, transformation and love.
We bless this school and fill it with light and love.
We are all a part of this- no matter how far away we may go, we will always hold this experience, the people, family and Chitu School in our hearts." Written and read at the blessing of the school in Mchereka Village, Malawi 2015
Living In A Land Without Mirrors
By: Veronica Carpenter
To live in a land without mirrors is to begin to see the soul in others-
Their reflection in your eyes is your soul coming back to you.
True blue love.
Only the light remains.
Finding the perfection in everyone’s flawless imperfections.
The beauty is in the differences.
The truth is in the connections.
The commonalities are in the humanity.
Curiosity. Openness. Sharing. Joy.
Witnessing without changing.
Everything is as it should be.
Just because it’s different doesn’t make it wrong.
There are many ways to live a life,
How glorious is the variety.
How thankful I am to get a glimpse of the other side of the world.
Family. Friendship. Brotherhood.
Tearing down boundaries.
Learning from one another.
Building new sturdy foundations.
A strong core to carry everyone through.
We sleep under the same stars and the same moon.
Our humanity unites our hearts in love.
To live in a land without mirrors allows the eyes of others to be our guides.
Trust. Faith. Breath.
Blood pumping through our veins.
How grateful I am.
How joyous I am.
May I always remember the time we shared.
May I always see through the eyes of The Spirit that lives within.
Zikomo Kwambiri (Thank you from the bottom of my heart)
Written in February 2015 upon returning from the Trek and read allowed at a friend's Art Studio on Valentine's day 2015.