I just returned from Cote d’Ivoire Africa, and it’s taken me a couple of weeks to get back into my body. This is one of those ‘calling of soul’ trips that I’ve been resisting for many, many years. I’ve wanted to go for so long but, at the same time, always had the ‘I don’t have enough time/money/energy’ excuse. In March I met Maria Johansson, who invited me on her immersion trip and visit to the land where she and her husband are building a school. I was hooked in about 10 minutes. Over the next few months, I came up with all kinds of excuses not to go…..tickets were too expensive, Turkey is in the middle of a crises, not being sure about what I was going to do, the Houston hurricane airport shut down re-route…..blah, blah, blah. Somehow Maria and the Hand of God pulled me across the ocean and landed me in Cote d’Ivoire.

I immediately felt enveloped by the people, the land and the atmosphere. And it’s one of those experiences that I’m not able to share very easily because it’s more of a feeling than actual specific events that made it so special. What I would like to share with you is this: I felt such an incredible heart opening and sense of joy that I’ve not felt in a very long time. I had the pleasure of being with very incredible people (see above picture) in a very special time and space. We shared an experience in a place that doesn’t seem to offer much as far as ‘tourist’ type experiences…you know…museums, cafes, galleries, palaces, the normal venues that one would visit when travelling. Instead it was camaraderie, love for the land, and the people.

Maria had asked me to teach during the trip, which I was really enthusiastic about while I was at home, but once I got there, I realized that the d’Ivoireans have way more to offer me than I do for them. I feel like we, in our western culture, spend our whole lives working to ‘find’ happiness, peace, joy, togetherness. We go to school, work hard, buy our houses and our cars, stress ourselves out trying to maintain all of this, all for the possibility to spend time with ourselves, our friends and families, and to have some time to relax. It makes me wonder…why go through this incredible amount of pressure and stress just to end up back where we started? So, as we got closer to the yoga class that we were sharing with the neighborhood, I felt more nervous, knowing that they already possessed this huge capacity to give and share love and joy. It’s why we practice yoga, right?! Ultimately to be able to open our hearts, our chakras and find the love that’s already out in the world. Everyone I met was so ready to smile, and, along with that, this huge heart explosion of love coming my way.

I also had the incredible opportunity to serve at the SOS Village in Abidjan. This is a beautiful home for children without parents, where we visited and offered treatments to the care givers. These men and ladies work tirelessly to serve these children, ages 0-19. I was so humbled and honored to be able to work with Madame Coulibaly, head nurse at the clinic there, who totally ‘got’ my treatments and was able to explain my treatments to the other people that I saw (my French is mediocre, at best). This time spent was the highlight of my trip. And while I was working, I heard my friends outside with 30 kids doing Acroyoga (think yoga crossed with gymnastics and you’ve got a huge fan-base of little kids) and laughing and screaming for the 3 hours.

This is what I learned in Africa:

1. Love is always, always around us. We just have to be open to receiving it.

2. There are beautiful people all over the world.

3. We all have something to share with each other.

4. When we can approach each other with an innocence and willingness to listen, magic happens.

This is our team.

I know that we humans are going through a rough patch at the moment. I’d like to invite all of you to dig deep, if needed, and look beyond what’s right in front of you….take your social media time and go out and interact with people….the cashier at your grocery store, the mail carrier, your child’s teacher, the garbage pick up person, your neighbour….everyone can use a smile, a hug, there is that endless pile of trash along the road that could use some picking up, a friend could use a meal and some company. Whatever it is, I encourage you to go with folded hands and an open heart to serve. I promise you, it will make any sadness or feelings of hopelessness ease just a little.

With love and prayers,

Dr. Arjan

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