The Silent Revolution in Uganda
Lulu Sturdy tells us the story of the blossoming of a silent revolution of self-realization, in a beautiful corner of the African nation of Uganda.
Amid the volcanic crater lakes near the Rwenzori Mountains of Uganda, a new kind of wave is spreading out – a wave of meditation and bliss. Quite a few members of the community in around this breathtakingly beautiful region have been practicing Shambhavi Mahamudra and Isha Kriya for the past several months, and gradually, many more are now joining in. The epicenter of this wave is the Ndali farm owned by Lulu Sturdy, who inherited it 14 years ago and moved to Uganda from the UK. Here’s the story of the blossoming of this silent revolution of self-realization, in her own words.
Lulu Sturdy. The roof of her vanilla factory can be seen on the left.
All of life is here in our village in the microcosm, rubbing up against us in a way that I’d only have distant contact with through the media in the UK. The murderer, the thief, the possessed, the “sorcerer,” the child abuser, jealous lover, alcoholic, crooked politician... all I’ve come across just going about my daily (farming) business for the past 14 years.
But the flip side is here too: people bursting into song, smiling faces greeting you a hundred times in a day, people with absolutely not a penny to their names rushing to help a neighbour worse off than themselves, and sage council through community meetings helping to dissipate unnecessary feuds – the type that can fester for years in the West.
Rwenzori Mountains, Uganda
And then Nature herself with a capital “N”; I’m constantly amazed by our corner of Africa sharing such similarities with Tamil Nadu: the vegetation, the weather, the trees, the insects – I’ve seen identical spiders, identical trees, identical flowers. We even have our own range of mysterious mountains overshadowing the farm and straddling the equator: the Rwenzori Mountains, meaning “Rainmaker,” perpetually shadowed in clouds and mist.
This morning, when I opened the glass double doors to our house which looks out across the round turquoise-green crater lake called Necklace, and on down to our vanilla curing “factory” wedged into the forested valley, I was enveloped in waves of Sadhguru’s chanting voice, wafting up like mist from our factory across the lake. It was exactly 7.55am, the sun just kissing the frangipani in our garden.
Inner Engineering at Kampala, 2011
Perhaps I should give a little background as to what’s been going on, on Ndali farm where I live. Three years ago 16 local people – a combination of people working on our farm with very sparse English and others living locally – did the first ever Inner Engineering program with 51 others in Kampala. The following year, 2011, the Inner Engineering program was offered to 52 participants, 14 of whom were locals from Ndali or nearby.
For two years Glenn (my partner) and I have been offering Isha Kriya to Ndali farm workers and to any of their interested friends and relatives. We’ve been taking it slowly and cautiously, not least, I am ashamed to say, because we have often got sidetracked by our own work and our own self-involved issues.
Luckily for me though, other people know better. In July this year, just two weeks before I learnt that an Isha teacher was coming to Ndali for the first time, I received a written request from Ivan, one of our vanilla workers who practices Shambhavi – who is coping with rheumatic heart disease but doing perfectly well – that a group of them would like to practice Isha Kriya every morning in the factory, so could they be given a key to let themselves in?
When Praveen Atmakur, an Isha Yoga teacher from the UK arrived at Ndali – principally to prepare two beautiful Sannidhis – I decided it was an unmissable opportunity to do an introductory talk to Inner Engineering in the factory, especially geared towards local people with little or zero English. We found a wonderful Ugandan translator, Pat, who had not done Inner Engineering, but had started following Sadhguru on YouTube six weeks ago, and on whom Midnights with the Mystic had made an impression.
We gave all our workers (about 80 of them) the day off and invited any of those who wished to, to attend the talk upstairs at the factory, together with any friends or relatives. We also invited the ladies herbal medicine group we work with.
Games on Ndali Estate before the Isha Kriya session
Over 60 people came, prompt at 8am, all dressed in their finest. The interaction and general “sparkiness” of the listeners was a joy to see. Even with my limited mastery of the local language I could see that Pat was giving a careful and well delivered translation. After the talk we all played games on the football pitch: frisbee, dodge ball and relay races – such immersion, determination and competition: I don’t think Praveen had ever seen bodies run so fast or shout so much. Puffing and in a good sweat, we all drank sodas and ate doughnuts made with amaranth flour, grown and pounded by the herbal ladies group. Then everyone returned to the vanilla factory to learn Isha Kriya.
Now every day, at exactly 7.45am, Magidu and Ivan, Shambhavi practitioners, lead the Isha Kriya at the factory for anyone who wants to attend, using Sadhguru’s voice support. There are 30 people in those sessions regularly, many unable to read or write, let alone speak English; some having to leave home at 6.30am and walk for one hour to reach the factory on time; all gradually becoming more meditative. It is the most precious thing in the world to be a part of.
Isha Kriya in the Vanilla factory, Ndali Estate
And now, as I’m just recovering from the beautiful shock of hearing Sadhguru’s voice every morning chanting out across the lake, Chris a 16-year-old schoolboy who attended Praveen’s Kriya training, has got together off his own bat, a group of 12 of his friends between 15 and 18 years old and taught them the Kriya himself. Everyday they are practicing as a group, at first on the grass under some trees at the edge of the lake, but now that the rain has set in, we’ve given them the dilapidated round hut at the end of the garden. We’ve also unearthed a mini ipod and small travelling speaker so that they too can practice with Sadhguru’s voice support, in a place with no power source.
Chris outside the hut he's renovating for his 12 friends to do Isha Kriya
Chris has thrown himself into renovating the hut: repairing the leaking thatch, levelling the floor, smearing cow dung on it, and white washing the walls. Now he tells me he wants to plant a hedge of evening rose because “the scent is good” he says. It is indeed: it is very heady, and very Isha, and Chris is headed in the right direction. “This seems to be important,” he said, the very first time after doing the Kriya, and made the unorthodox decision to miss school for one week to be able to attend the daily group sessions: that is, until he found his own, better, solution to be able to practice with the support of a group of his friends every evening, but still attend school one hour’s walk away.
Editor’s Note: The next Inner Engineering program in Uganda will happen from 23-29 October, 2013, at the Fairway Hotel, Kampala. For more information call +256-772-537891, email email@example.com or visit http://www.facebook.com/isha.uganda
Image courtesy: Rwenzori Mountains from Wikipedia Commons