“We Are Together”

Povo school

Povo school students who let their love shine.

I heard these three little words many times while I was in Mozambique. Friends and colleagues would often say to me “we are together.”

And the way they said it was….special.

For example, I might say “can you help me get home after the show,” or “will you be at the cafe” and they would look at me and say, almost reassuringly, “we are together.” It would make me feel calm and safe somehow.

One day I asked Chico where this expression comes from. It is translated from the Shangaan word “hixikanwe” (pronounced hishi-kung-way).

It is one of the most beautiful expressions I have ever heard. The words…the context…the sentiment.


Johaness…a security guard I met one night in South Africa…such a beautiful soul who I connected with instantly.

So this week’s post is dedicated to some of the wonderful people I met during my African journey, who helped make it so memorable. You have changed me.

To them I say “hixikanwe.”

Charlotte and Seamus, and Liz and Rel

Charlotte and Seamus. Young souls who taught me so much. And of course their parents Liz and Mike who were so very generous and welcoming.


Jose..artist, creator, and nice guy.

Tomas and Miguel

Tomas and Miguel from the office…and there were so many more friendly colleagues who made me feel welcome.


Helder who always had my back.

Domingues and Orlando

Domingues and Orlando from the hotel. Always so open and friendly. “We love you Mr. Jona!”

Me and Jackson just outside Nelspruit, South Africa.

Jackson who drove me around Nelspruit and shared so much of himself with me.


And of course Chico….words cannot express my gratitude.

Into Africa–March 14, 2013

035“Goodness in your life does not come to you from someone else. When you see this, you will be free. Have courage, for what you seek is not outside of you. It is not a gift from another person. It is yours to give, not to acquire. Let no one, therefore, hold you hostage. Not your partner, not your boss, not your family…and certainly not your God.”

–Neil Donald Walsch

There is something about Sundays for me in Africa. Windy and stormy on the outside, unsettled and anxious on the inside. I think I felt it even stronger this week because it was also my 4th wedding anniversary. I’m sorry to be missing the day, my love, but I will be home very soon now. Home is close now, and it can’t come fast enough.

Aside from that, it has been a wonderful couple of days outside of the city.

My friends Mike and Liz and their kids Charlotte and Seamus joined me for my last weekend in Africa. We travelled to Bilene, a beach town about 180 km. north of Maputo in Gaza province, not far from the recent devastating floods in Chokwe. Bilene surrounds a natural salt water lagoon, fed by the Indian Ocean just on the far side, over the huge dunes. The beaches are relatively clean, the water shallow and warm. Nice, but it’s not quite the ocean. We all took Friday off and made it a long weekend. We arrived around noon on Friday in scorching hot weather, high 30s and no wind.

We finally found accommodation, a great big three-bedroom beach house with a massive deck, just steps from the water. It felt over the top given where I am. But it was nice and comfortable. There are no real deals to be had here, unfortunately, even in low season. Surprising as most of these places are South African run, and I would have thought they might have more business sense.

008By the time we got settled, we were all a little grumpy, so into the lagoon we went to cool off. We met a really nice guy named Jose walking along the beach. He is a local artist who works with wood and stone. I made plans to try and see him the next day on the beach or at the beach hotel nearby where he works.

Saturday was even hotter. Liz and Mike headed off for a long early morning run while I watched the kids. Although challenging at times, as all kids can be, I really enjoyed my time with them playing whatever games they wanted. They are so pure, unfiltered, and in the moment at that age, something I have lost, as most of us inevitably do. But it’s nice to know that I can go back to that place sometimes.Good for the soul.

Then I went wandering to figure out boat rides and alternate accommodation, as my plan was to stay on an extra night on Sunday, make my way to Macia on Monday, be picked up by my colleagues (Suzanne and Helder), and continue north past the capital of Xai Xai to Chidenguele for a conference.

022Although I had a small bottle of water, a sunscreen and a hat, the heat was crazy and I began to feel disoriented. I knew there was a hotel not far off the beach but I just couldn’t find it, walking almost from one end to the other. I finally found Praia del Sol, this cool and comfortable place, rustic grass huts scattered around the property, for only about $40 a night. “This feels more like it,” I said to myself. Yes I do this, quite often it would seem. I also found my artist friend Jose here, in his workshop at the hotel, and bought a few little things from him.026

After a cold beer and some agua, I headed back to find my friends who were happily splashing around in the water. Then the wind started to pick up, which is very dangerous in this kind of heat because it makes you think it’s cooler than it is. I should have taken this time to take the boat to the ocean, but figured I could do this myself the next day after they had gone.

But Sunday turned out to be too windy with no boats making the trip, so I was out of luck. My friends dropped me off at Praia on the way out and here I was, alone again, anxious, unsure, and unsettled. I walked the lagoon beach for a few hours…the beach always settles me down. Then back to Praia where I found Jose and spent the rest of the afternoon chatting with him, learning about his life, learning Changaan, and thinking of ways to help him earn a living. He has been saving for years to buy blocks, steel, and cement to strengthen his house. He calculates he will have enough in 3-5 more years. He carves and teaches other kids to do the same. He teaches them the value of work and to be proud of a craft, a positive alternative to begging and stealing. A really good and kind man.

028I was also greeted by David and Dino who manage the hotel. Two really nice guys as well. Dino earns 3,500 mets per month, the equivalent of about $120. On that he cares for his mother, two sisters, and two brothers. Can you imagine all of these people surviving on $4 a day? His father died about 10 years ago. I could see the stress in his face as he talked about it. But he is grateful to have a job. He is not bitter, and smiles a lot. A good guy with a good heart.


View from entrance to the bathroom to sink and outdoor, screened in shower. It gives a whole new meaning to room with a view!

020As night fell, I have to say I was a little nervous. The hut was comfortable, but certainly not “hermetically” sealed, with only a flimsy screen separating the back half from the outside. And all kinds of little creatures in my neighbourhood. And then the lights went out. Stay calm. Don’t focus on things you don’t want to have happen. And then it passed. I began to appreciate the sounds of the night, and the the wind whistling through the treetops to the screened windows of my stilted hut. And I finally drifted off to sleep.

I was up very early Monday morning to figure out a way to get to Macia, about 30 km. away, where I was to be picked up. My options were to hire a car which would not be cheap, or ride he local “chapa” which is Mozambique version of mass transit. Jam packed, open trucks where people pile into the back. Cheap, but not the safest or fastest way to travel. But as it so often has happened here, the universe responds. I met Christo, a South African staying at the hotel who just happened to be going in that direction and he agreed to give me a lift. Perfect! It turned out to be a wet and rainy start to the day, so I was happy not to be riding in an open-air chapa.

032I had heard negative things about South Africans in general, and felt that pre-judgement starting to sway me. So I stopped it. Christo is a mechanic who works for a group called JAM (Joint Aid Management) who provide a number of relief and sustainable development programs to seven African countries, including Mozambique. What I love best about their model is that they help people help themselves, so it’s much more than a handout….it’s a hand up. One of the food programs for example (which Christo is involved with), feeds 700,000 children, but only if they go to school. Right now their team and the entire area of Chokwe has been decimated by the floods I wrote about a few weeks back. So the remaining $200 I have left from funds I raised before I left Canada will go to to the feeding program there.

Anyway, a very nice man doing some wonderful work. We had a really good chat on our way to Macia. He dropped me off, and minutes later my colleagues Helder and Suzanne picked me up. Divine timing. We continued north about 90 minutes to the school management conference at a lake resort in Chidenguele.

The speakers were hard to follow (make that painful!) because everything was in Portuguese, but still interesting to see how they do things here, and to watch the non-verbal stuff going on. For a little while. We were introduced as the two Canadians visiting. One person, a professor, introduced himself to me. Non inclusiveness was to become the theme of the day.

At coffee break, I was amazed that the snacks were completely cleaned out within seconds, with people walking away with piles of food, and many others, like me, getting nothing. It pissed me off at first–how rude, how inconsiderate–but then I realized that although the people attending this conference have relatively well paying jobs, perhaps they weren’t always comfortable. Maybe they have been hungry before. And maybe the feeling of going hungry never leaves you, that feeling that there will never be enough. And it’s not the first time I have experienced this hoarding effect in Mozambique. But I take for granted that I will eat, and somehow know the food will be there. Probably not so for them.

I shared a two-bedroom apartment at the conference with Helder. I though it was perfectly natural to expect that each of us would have a key to the apartment, so that we could come and go independently. But not at all for Helder. It did not cross his mind to ask for another key, and he saw no issue with sharing one. When I asked the front desk, it was like the thought had never occurred to them, or they had never been asked the question. I have noticed lots of little things like this–an unwillingness or inability to think differently about things. To me it seems like a lapse in logic, or common sense. Like they have been taught one way, and that is the only way. Don’t colour outside the lines.

I spent the afternoon working on my own. Then a quick late early evening jaunt to the beach. I could hear it, and feel it, and smell it, but it was too dark. I would have to come back. I headed back for dinner. The language barrier was very noticeable tonight. And so were the cliques. And the politics. And I &%#* hate these. Over dinner, Suzanne and I were sitting with a few of the top people, most of whom I have worked with over the last few weeks. We were completely shut out of the conversation and the celebrations, barely acknowledged. Maybe my veneer was wearing thin, or I was feeling fragile or sorry for myself…but maybe not…regardless, it really felt isolating, and it really bothered me. I felt…resentment. And I haven’t felt that in quite awhile. It turned me off everything. My friend Jules warned me there would be low moments, and this was definitely one of them. But why do I feel the need for their approval? But as upsetting as it was, I knew that I couldn’t allow this incident to taint my entire experience here, so I wrote about it and went to bed. It will be better tomorrow.

I woke up Tuesday and decided not to put myself through that again. My wife gave me some good advice (which I cannot repeat here!). I skipped breakfast and the morning conference, and headed to the beach with Helder. I have been longing for the beach since I arrived and this was my last chance. It was only about 5 km. from the resort, but through narrow, bumpy roads.

There were many people of all ages walking along the road, on their way to school or work. Many were making a hand gesture to us…kind of like praying, but their hands were cupped. “It means thank you, deep gratitude, with all my heart,” Helder explained. Their way of asking and expressing gratitude for a lift.049 It’s a beautiful thought and gesture. We stopped and picked up a bunch of young girls on their way to school–nine km., each way, every day (see top photo)! Then we picked up some older folks on their way to work. “Welcome to Helder’s chapa,” I joked. The smiles from them all, and looks of curiosity they gave me were priceless. What a way to start the day!040

Minutes later we pulled up to an oceanside hotel, up high on a dune, overlooking the magnificent Indian Ocean. Breathtaking. I could hear the waves breaking in the background. It was a spectacular moment. 047We hurried down to the beach, and quickly I was in the water, minding the rocks, rip tides, and marine life. I even managed to body surf a couple of really good waves. And not a soul in sight, except for Helder. Magic.053

Most of the yuck of the previous day had passed. And I was so grateful for that morning at the beach. Feeling better, I decided to go to the conference lunch. And guess who I just happened to sit with? The universe works in mysterious and interesting ways. I approached them with fresh eyes and no resentment, and it was OK.

Tuesday afternoon, we headed back to Maputo, about four hours or 250 km. On the way Helder talked about the problems most Mozambicans have in business. Although many are involved in selling goods of all kinds, when it comes to quantity discounts, standards, caring for the client, thinking differently, and solving problems from a business standpoint, they can’t or don’t do it. This is a big problem. This simplistic or naive approach to business may begin to explain (and I’m extrapolating here) why so many Africans have been ripped off and taken advantage of. And with the eyes of the world on Africa’s plentiful natural resources, the consequences of not being business savvy, and allowing others to pillage will be dire.

We made a few stops along the way, connecting with some of the road side folk. Again I noted how much my behaviour and attitude affects outcome. When I approached these people with uncertainty, that’s exactly what I got back. As soon as I caught myself doing that, and turned on the “MoJo,” the whole interpersonal dynamic changed….smiles, jokes, handshakes…connection.

Wednesday and Thursday…back at the office, finalizing reports, and saying my goodbyes. And the weather has been mercifully cool and comfortable. First time in my two months here.

I had one final (let’s hope) brush with corruption walking back to the office from lunch on Wednesday. A policeman pulled me aside and asked to see my documents. I always carry a copy of my passport with me. He looked at my paper and said: “no, no…this is a big problem.” We went back and forth for a few minutes, arguing, clarifying, BS. He was clearly looking to be greased. I looked him straight in the eye (I had to look down) and said: “diplomatica de Canada…do you want me to call them right now?” “You can go,” he said, looking defeated. Jonathan 1. Corruption 0.

I closed out the week with two very heartwarming conversations. Wednesday night, in the hotel lobby, I was chatting with Domingues, the receptionist. “Your first time in Mozambique?” he asked? Yes…first time. “You have really learned about us, and our country, Mr. Jonatan.” And then with Ida, at work Thursday morning. “We have really enjoyed you,” she said. ”You are different. You have tried to become one of us. You care about us, you have brought empathy.”

One for the road
Here’s a really nice piece from Tiela Garnett’s blog. Something that is starting to click with me, especially after two months on the road:

“Our suffering as human beings comes from investing our focus in the external illusion rather than the internal reality. When careers, activities, and possessions become more important than humanity, compassion, and kindness, we know we’re in trouble. Our daily activity needs to be an expression of our true nature, rather than a way of defining it. We need to be who we are first and then allow our activities to flow naturally from that source.”

I have met many people and observed many different things over the last eight weeks. People who I have really liked, some not so much. People whose character I admire, others not so much. Customs, traditions, practices, and behaviours that are wonderful, others that have driven me right round the bend. They say that what you see in other people is simply a reflection of those same characteristics in you. This has given me lots to ponder. But overall, it has all been consistently positive energy, at least that’s how I have chosen to experience it, which tells me something.

Life on the road, immersed in the unfamiliar and unstable, seems to bring out the best in me. And yet I know the dark side is still there, as it lurks to varying degrees in all of us. Mine has a tendency to come out more often closer to home. I need to change that. I need to think about why it is that I become complacent with the familiar. Maybe I need to find ways in everyday life to keep myself off balance.

Whatever happens, I know that I have definitely tested and pushed the boundaries on this trip, in unfamiliar territory, in so many different ways, on so many levels, and that I have used all my skills to do it. Even some I had no idea I had. This has been a very expansive way to live my life: aware, conscious, and open to what is happening now, and recognizing how this will affect who I am moving forward. And there is no question that I have felt more alive than I ever have before. As Chico said to me a few weeks back, “don’t think, just do it.” And I have.

I’ve never really given much thought to the chakra energy centres of the body, but maybe this is what it feels like when they are open and energy is flowing. Four in particular I am aware of because of my journey to Africa:
–heart chakra…I nourish the universe and the universe nourishes me.
–throat chakra…detachment…expression of authentic self…my actions are blissfully free from the outcome.
–intuition chakra…connection to purpose…my life is in harmony with cosmic law.
–crown chakra…pure potentiality….I am a field of all possibilities.

I have observed people doing their thing. Living their lives. Animals doing their thing, going about their business and simply being who they are: crabs being crabs, birds being birds, elephants being elephants. The lesson for me is that I need to do the same…simply be who I am, and not allow anything or anyone–including and especially me–to muddy that.

I begin my voyage home in two days, and will be reunited with my wife, son, friends, and family. I know she is proud of me, but I am also proud of and grateful to her for giving me the room and encouragement to take this journey, thousands of miles away from home, into the heart of Africa. But perhaps more importantly, I have also made the journey within, into the heart of who I am.

Two months is a long time. In some ways it has gone quickly, but in other ways it has felt like a year. In a good way. I have tried as best I can to become part of something here, and succeeded for the most part. But I am ready to go home now.

Although this will be my last post from “inside” Africa, I still have lots of information to process. I will be back a few times over the next several weeks with some closing images and thoughts as I re-adjust to the life I knew, incorporating some of what I have learned.

Thank you for sharing the journey with me.



Into Africa–February 28, 2013

Me and Jackson just outside Nelspruit, South Africa.

Me and Jackson just outside Nelspruit, South Africa.

I finally took a day off last Friday, and travelled to South Africa for the weekend. Liz was running a race on Saturday, so I hitched a IMG_4738ride to Nelspruit, about 200 km west of Maputo. I felt the difference as soon as I crossed the border–from third world, to what seemed to be more like my normal. Roads are in good shape, the land is irrigated and cultivated, buildings are well maintained, no garbage, malls, good medical services, everything is stocked, etc. Ironic that in Nelspruit it is not safe to walk alone at night.

Liz dropped me at Jorn’s B and B…an immaculate little place where everything has been carefully thought out; everything is just so (run by a German). This cute little dog was there to greet me and Johannes, a very gentle, man made me feel welcome. IMG_4740A very nice man–Jackson– picked me up and brought me to a mall for dinner. Safer that way he said. I had a nice steak and a huge glass of wine for about $14. In fact food and accommodation here in Nelspruit are quite inexpensive, and top-notch quality and service.IMG_4742

I had not planned ahead, and unfortunately was not able to get onto any local tours of what they call the “Panorama Route,” but negotiated a deal with Jackson to bring me to a few places. He picked me up at 10 am Saturday morning, with our first stop being the Sudwato caves, a huge system of dolomite caves inside a mountain, formed hundred of millions of years ago. Stalactites, IMG_4756stalagmites, and all kinds of other formations that have taken millions of years to create. The guide pointed to one that was quite small, but grows only 2.5 cm. every 100 years! Part of the cave system had been excavated to build a 400 person amphitheatre where they have concerts and other events. Something about the type and porousnous of the rock make the acoustics incredible. I hadn’t really thought that I’d enjoy the caves, but it ended up being a pretty cool experience.

IMG_4760Then onto the chimp sanctuary where they rescue and rehabilitate abused chimps from all over Africa. Some come from circuses where their fingers have been cut off. Some were bought and sold as pets, and become abused once they are not quite so cute and cuddly anymore, and clearly can’t be kept as pets. Many have been fed junk, given booze and cigarettes; in fact many arrive at the sanctuary as full-blown alcoholics (maybe a whole new clientele for my wife!). Sorry…not funny.

Each of the 34 chimps had a very unique and tragic story of being abused. Cozy is regarded as the crazy uncle by one group of chimps. He was given experimental “test” drugs for many years by a drug company. When they did not need him anymore, he was sold to a circus. Then he ended up on the street of Italy, beaten, castrated, and abused by his owner so he would perform tricks. No wonder that now he is a little crazy and not fond of humans. In fact none of the chimps are. No surprise.

Chimps are now being poached by the truckload in different parts of Africa. Their numbers in the wild have dropped from 1 million to 120,000. Apparently chimp meat is an expensive delicacy, but I can’t imagine eating something that shares about 98% of my DNA.

But really the best part of the day was spending it with Jackson. He is from Zimbabwe originally, and has been in South Africa for about 20 years. He is married with three kids, and is about 43 years old. he is VERY talkative, with a very easy temperament. And very wise. He talked about all kinds of things during our time together, about his country, culture, traditions. But he also had some simple but profound wisdom on life, relationships, marriage, career, purpose, business. Jackson is not much of a listener granted, but that was OK by me. I was happy to just soak it up. I mentioned surfing at one point, and how much I love it, but that I’m not that good at it. “Not that gewd (good) implies comparison to someone or something else,” Jackson said. “And that just doesn’t matter.”

While I was touring the chimp sanctuary, Jackson picked a bunch of leaves from the gum tree, and gave me a whole pile of them. You boil them and inhale the vapour, and apparently cures colds, the flu, chest problems, and congestion. I tried it Sunday night, slept like a baby, and woke up feeling great Monday morning.

It is very curious sometimes how and why we meet certain people. Jackson was put in my path for a reason and I am grateful. “I’m happy to see the sights,” I said to him, “but the best part of the day was spending it with you.”

Saturday night I enjoyed a lovely meal and wine tasting with Liz and her friends at their B&B. Beautiful food and wine for $25. And on the way back Sunday, we had to slow down for a family of baboons crossing the highway, from one banana plantation to another! It didn’t really phase Liz, but it certainly got my attention!

All in all a real treat. I welcomed change if scenery, and a nice break from the big city and everything Maputo. Although it did make me think…I travelled from third world to “civilized” country in a couple of hours, and yet it’s not safe to walk the streets at night in much of South Africa apparently. A mugging here could easily be a murder. Not so in Maputo.

But what both countries have in common is what little value they place on human life. Everyone is expendable. If I got knocked down by a car in Mozambique for example, life would carry on, and there would be few repercussions. About two weeks ago, a woman jumped from an apartment building, landing on a car many stories below. This happened steps from my office. Two hours later, some people showed up to clean up the mess (not really sure who they were). The way they treated the remains was appalling. They unceremoniously scooped up the remains and shovelled it into the car. No human dignity.

Life means very little, but the pursuit of money means everything. And money means corruption, which starts at the very top. It’s really quite depressing. So if you live in this environment, how do you not become cynical? How do you not get overwhelmed by an overriding feeling of futility?

Working it out

On the work front, we hosted an international conference this week. Organizing something like this here is very different from home. Everything is last minute, and many things don’t get done. Getting a quote, approval, or signature is a major ordeal. There is rarely the sense of urgency I am used to when approaching a deadline. Everything takes much more time, especially if you need other people. Internet is unreliable, as are printers and other office basics.

Helder and Ilate the night before the conference. We just stuffed a conference bags!

Helder and Ilate the night before the conference. We just stuffed a conference bags!

Just trying to get a few extra tables set up at the conference took three separate meetings with a total of eight people! WTF! One of the only times since I arrived where I kind of lost it, but at least they don’t understand English swear words. I get overwhelmed by it all sometimes and wonder how we will ever get the job done, but I have also learned to surrender to it. I flip back and forth between maddening frustration and surrender. At times I have been very critical of some people and situations and that does not feel good.

I am trying to break down barriers and create relationships everywhere as best as I can, including work, and that has taken me a long way here. But I also realize that I will not succeed in connecting with everyone, and not everyone will like me (as hard as that may be to belive!). But that’s ok. I am learning not to care so much. I do the best I can and try not to get too wrapped up in the outcome.

IMG_4775One (of many) though-provoking moments was at the opening. There were 12 African musicians in full costume playing and dancing. Having been here now for six weeks, it seemed like the most unnatural thing to be happening in a conference centre. But I guess if I were a participant travelling from another country, I can see how this might feel like a fun, typical, and “cultural” way to kick off the conference. We also managed to get lots of media attention….TV, radio, newspaper, and online which was a big plus.

And on the first day, this paraphrased thought from Neil Donald Walsch came my way. The timing was perfect:

Although conditions on the exterior of your experience will change, your highest benefit will come when your conditions on the interior remain the same.

In the end, the conference came and went and was successful. Certainly not exactly the way I would have wanted it in a perfect world, but well received overall. I am and proud of what we were able to do under the circumstances, and in particular, the in depth media coverage by Mozambique’s biggest TV station. I worked this one really hard, and this story will be a very important example to demonstrate the power of working with media to shape the message on why education reform is good for the young people of this country, and how they can access these new programs.

With two weeks to go, I still have lots of work to finalize

And thoughts of home are swirling around in my head.

He shoots….

A bit of a tangent here, but I will wrap up a story I watched on CNN that really bothered me about the Israeli soccer team. They recruited two Muslim players for the first time ever, and the reaction of many fans has been nothing short of hateful, and the hate is spreading. Many are violently opposed to this, and will only support a purebred team. In the words of one fan “muslims are my sworn enemy, even if they are a good person.” Somewhat ironic given what their ancestors lived through. This hard line, inflexible, intolerant approach reflects what I think is perhaps the biggest problem in the world today. How can their ever be peace with this attitude?

I will close this week’s post with a short but relevant and poignant story from the Dalai Lama:

Someone asked the Dalai Lama, Why didnt you fight back against the Chinese? The Dalai Lama said with a gentle smile, Well, war is obsolete, you know. Then, his face grave, he said, Of course the mind can rationalize fighting backbut the heart, the heart would never understand. Then you would be divided in yourself, the heart and the mind, and the war would be inside you.

Til next week,


Calming the Monkey Mind

“Be master of mind rather than mastered by mind.” ~Zen Proverb

I wrote this note last week for two very special people in my life, and thought that maybe it would be helpful to others. Sort of an intro to meditation and how it can help in life. I am still very much a beginner, and am not yet as disciplined as I would like to be, but I am so grateful to have discovered it. At first I thought it was too freaky for me, but gradually it has opened new pathways for me. I wish I’d learned this 20 years ago, but better late than never. This will sound dramatic, but I am coming to believe that calming the monkey mind and finding the peace that is already within you is the key to everything. Only good things flow from this.

Meditation is a way to calm and slow down the incessant chattering and busy-ness of the monkey mind. Think of it as your quiet time. Only for you. Like a mental spa. A way to clear and reset your mind. A time to focus. A time to heighten your awareness. It will help you tune in to something bigger and more powerful. And this will spill over into the rest of your day.

The key is to be open, and that you be willing and disciplined enough to try to be still, if only for a few minutes every day. Especially when your mind is in overdrive. Try not to judge the process itself…your initial reaction might be that it’s kind of “out there,” but try to see beyond that. Try to accept the possibility that there may be other ways of being which may not yet have been revealed to you. Meditation is simply a relaxation and rejuvenation technique. The first, second, or third time might feel a little weird, but stick with it and you will start to feel its effects. You will feel different–better, clearer, more focussed, more balanced, and calmer.

The idea is to simply focus on your breathing, be still, and in doing so you forget about the past and the future, and focus on being here, in the now. God knows we need it, because the mind generates 60,000-80,000 thoughts a day. That’s about 60 every minute, or a thought every second! No wonder we’re freakin’ exhausted most of the time!

Meditating will help your mind slowly empty. When you empty your mind, it is then available to you for new thoughts, ideas, ways of being. When your mind is empty, you can find solutions to problems that you can’t access when your mind is crammed with shite.

There are many ways of doing it. With practice, some people can just sit and take themselves through it, wherever they happen to be, regardless of what’s happening around them. I am certainly not there yet, so I prefer to have someone guide me through it. I try to focus on my breathing and what the guide is saying, then let myself float to the sounds or music.

Without a doubt your mind will want to do what it is used to doing…churning away, solving problems, creating scenarios, reviewing, and on and on. This is what it likes to do….it likes to be in control. But remember that you are much more than your mind. You are much more than your body. The essence of you is so much more. And there are many parts of the mind which you can access in addition to the crazy, spinning part that will help you settle down.

So when you become aware of your mind trying to take over while you are meditating, slowly and gently bring it back and “place” it on your breathing.

Breathe in. Feel yourself lifting higher, connecting to something bigger.

Breathe out. Feel the negative energy exiting your body. Feel yourself becoming more and more grounded.

Above all, do not allow yourself to become frustrated when your mind starts thinking because this is normal. Remember that there is no wrong way. Resist the temptation to think you can’t do it or it’s not working. This is your mind trying to take over again. Simply and gently bring your attention back to your breathing. Even if you are able to focus on your breathing for seconds at a time during your meditation, this is progress. Over time the churning mind will become less and less, the chatter will die down. It’s just practice.

Once or twice a day, maybe morning and night. 15 minutes or so. Whenever you need it. When you are feeling overwhelmed or anxious. When your mind is cloudy.

Over time you will emerge from your meditation with clearer head. You will feel calmer, better able to make decisions. Better able to be present. More balanced and in tune. More peaceful for longer stretches at a time. You will find yourself not being controlled as much by your negative emotional states.

So…are you ready? Sit comfortably (nothing crossed), press play, close your eyes, bring your attention to your breathing, let your spirit float, and enjoy the ride.

“Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet, still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.” – Franz Kafka