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Image credit: Acts of Gratitude

The Conscious Creative: “Thank you Rwanda!”

The Conscious Creative: “Thank you Rwanda!”

Image above: Lee Johnson and Micci Gorrod of The Conscious Creative with Acts of Gratitude

Micci Gorrod and Lee Johnson of The Conscious Creative run workshops in managing stress, living in the present, accessing creativity and changing your relationship to limiting thoughts and overwhelming emotions. In March 2016, they visited Rwanda to empower and train the members of Acts Of Gratitude in wellbeing and meditation. This is their story.

They call Rwanda the land of a thousand hills. I am inclined to call it the land of a million hills as the landscape is a constant rise and fall of verdant green and rich red clay. The capital, Kigali is quite developed in that rushed way that many rapidly evolving cities are. It’s a feast for the eyes with its busy streets and colourful shops and the slow pace dictated by the equatorial heat.

Kigali is where Acts Of Gratitude (AOG) is based. The organisation was founded by Jean d’Amour Mutoni – a Queen’s Young Leader who we met in Cambridge when we delivered a workshop on wellbeing.

AOG recognises the power of gratitude. They help those in need and train and support socially responsible leaders through the philosophy of paying their good fortune forward. What an amazing notion!

An inspiring culture

We were keen to understand Rwanda’s culture and history more intimately during our time there. And our hosts were keen for us to visit the Kigali Genocide Memorial and related sites, so that’s where we headed on our first day.

This was especially relevant as nearly everyone attending our workshops was old enough to have lived through the genocide in 1994 and had been effected by the horror it left in its wake.

Seeing the memorial, mass graves and photos close up aroused incredible sadness in us. The stories and images were painful and deeply harrowing. Rwandans say we should never forget, so that this can never happen again.

From our side though, seeing the forgiveness – and the ability of a country and its people to move on and be where they are socially and politically in such a short time – is astounding and beautiful. Rwandans, for the most part, have lived side by side in peace ever since this horrific event. The power of forgiveness, acceptance and gratitude for what they have now is amazing.

We still learned of, and detected, a certain reservedness in the culture which is easy to understand. Yet the amount of love and ability to move forward was more apparent – truly an inspiration to countries who are getting over troubled times.

Training AoG

After settling in, our initial weekend of training as The Conscious Creative began. This included:

  • how we perceive the world
  • how we start with ourselves in order to be the greatest help to others
  • and tools for managing our own day-to-day stresses.

We also hoped to help raise morale, confidence and productivity.

The room was filled with vibrant discussion and open, honest sharing. We were fascinated to hear familiar and unfamiliar struggles alike and helped to offer a different perspective and method for addressing these.

Serenity, healing and hope

In our second weekend with AOG we taught them The Bright Path Ascension meditation. This ancient, effortless, form of meditation allows you to rise above the chatter of the mind, into a direct experience of inner serenity and live in the present moment.

We love it because it’s easy, so there’s no need to try and “clear your mind” to experience freedom from constant thinking. Also it requires no belief, which was perfect considering we had Catholics and Muslims in attendance.

The meditation itself includes four simple techniques which can be used eyes closed, for deep rest and healing, and eyes open for clarity, focus, and being present throughout the day.

With this, the response was beautiful. Attendees quickly understood that peace from their mind and their past was available. Great healing began to occur which included tears and very full discussions.

Opportunities to play with the techniques we were sharing were followed swiftly by questions and diving into what it is to have a nervous system and a mind! Ascension meditation quickly allows you to change your relationship with your mind. Therefore, your relationship with negative thinking – limitation, stress, lack of confidence or just meaningless chatter – need not affect your ability to rest, have mental clarity and be more effective. This created a great atmosphere of acceptance and hope.

Our gratitude

We felt honoured to spend this time with such inspiring people who are really making a difference in their communities.

In being able to give our time we were given so much in terms of cultural experience, new friends and of course new learning. I’m sure this will only add to our experience and better equip us to give more training in the future as we continue to help people live without stress.

Download the transcript for the Conscious Creative in Rwanda