Ours is a continent often branded with violence, poverty, and conflict. After teaching meditation for several years, I have a deep conviction that the potential to change lives, to change the world, lies in us changing our minds and bodies. The soft techniques of yoga, meditation, and breathing techniques are anchors to help make that internal shift.
The transformation of a country & continent first begins with individual transformation. The process of individual transformation begins when we turn inwards. This inward journey can bring lasting wellness.
It’s often been my belief that in tackling the challenges facing Africa today, from issues around crime, violence, and conflict, the benefits of meditation should definitely be given more serious consideration as part of peacebuilding. Building inner safety and security is imperative in order to address outer security. Meditation is not the answer to everything, but it provides one with basic inner strength and stability of mind. Behavior, attitude, decision making, teamwork all stem from inner strength and clarity of mind. In this regard, meditation becomes a useful tool in peacekeeping strategies & general peacebuilding.
Many years ago, I facilitated a program in Mozambique for the former Mozambique Minister of Foreign Affairs who served under Former President Joachim Chissano. I quickly learned about the Meditating African President.
The Former President of Mozambique, Joachim Chissano, was a leader who came to power as a president after a devastating civil war. He learned meditation in 1992 and quickly came to understand the vast benefits of meditating every day. He encouraged his family, his cabinet ministers, and his wider government to meditate. He further encouraged, under his presidency, military and police personnel to meditate daily for 20 minutes. This was so inspirational to me and sparked a flame to take meditation into Africa in a big way.
In 2013 we initiated a peace campaign, I Meditate Africa across 23 African countries to celebrate Africa Day. The campaign was to simply take meditation into schools, colleges, prisons, police stations, NGOs, youth organizations and corporates.
Each year countries like South Africa, Ivory Coast, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Botswana, Uganda, Senegal, Rwanda, Nigeria, Angola, Ghana, Togo, DRC, Tanzania, Tunisia, Egypt, Malawi, Mauritius, Namibia and Morocco have reached out to organize mass peace meditations across the continent, all through the spirit of volunteers.
In the beginning, schools & colleges were reluctant to bring meditation into their campuses even for just 10 minutes. Fear of the unknown, the possibility of conflict in faith and a host of fears rooted in not having experienced meditation. Six years later, schools are calling us back to see how the techniques can help with bullying, focus, improved studies, depression & overall mental and emotional wellness. There is a 360-degree shift in viewpoint. The world has changed so much in the past years, so yoga and meditation are not foreign to Africa anymore. It has become part of the fabric of society with much awareness about its enormous benefits.
Through I Meditate Africa, meditation has reached every nook and cranny of Africa. Prison inmates from Luzira prison in Uganda have joined Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar to meditate for Peace for Africa via webcast on Africa Day. Something unheard of in Africa! The whole world is searching for the perennial truth of “who am I?” and meditation and yoga are the pathway to the answer. So, man is naturally moving towards it.
Twenty years ago, when we spoke of meditation or vegetarianism in Africa, people used to laugh at us. Today meditation is learned across Africa and yoga is as popular in Africa as it is in the West. The Art of Living has reached out to close to 3.5 million people from 2013 – 2018 through I Meditate Africa, during Africa Month.
Vani Pavadai is an Art of Living teacher teaching in prisons, townships, and drug rehab centers. Former chairperson of the International Association for Human Values (IAHV).