When I was 19 years old I went to Africa to help build a medical clinic in Tanzania during my summer break. It was a trip that shaped the rest of my life. There were three lessons in particular that I learned in Africa that have stayed with me. Even though I didn’t full appreciate the lessons when I was younger, the nuances of what they offered are becoming stronger as I begin to face the personal and global transitions ahead for all of us.
- The Masai are fierce warriors. The boys are not accepted into the tribes as fully developed men until they have proven their courage by killing a lion. Until then they have not shown their ability to protect their tribe. I spent much of my time in the Rift Valley with the Masai warriors and watched the bravery that was present even in their youngest boys. They taught me the lesson of courage and to always face the “lions” that are in our path with unwavering ferocity and courage.
- The women who worked in the fields sang the most beautiful songs as they performed some of the most back breaking labor imaginable. They taught me that no matter how hard you have to work, there is always a way to do it with joy. No one can take away our abilities to experience joy, except ourselves. Even today, during some of my busiest, labor-intensive moments I try to find my song so make every endeavor joyful.
- The villagers that we worked with lived in devastating poverty. Although we were so much wealthier than them, they showed us amazing generosity. One family invited us over for dinner in their mud hut and served all of us sodas, which cost them several months worth of wages. One of the girls in our group who came from America ended up stealing from all of us—she stole souvenirs and money from our luggage while we were away working in the clinic. The lesson I learned is that freedom and abundance have nothing to do with the life you live. It is a state of mind. Even when someone has everything, they can feel deprived and take from others. Even when someone has nothing they can feel fulfilled enough to share what little they own with others. So today I always look for the abundance in my life, which is everywhere.
Africa has so many lessons to offer anyone who goes to visit her. But all the lessons we need are present in our daily lives. Anywhere you go, the challenges that are facing you now will follow you. This is the blessing of life—it always offers us a chance for evolution and freedom by not allowing us to escape the illusion that keeps us from our true freedom. This is the gift of Divine love that each one of us enjoys from the first moment of our life.
Wishing you health and happiness,
Dr. Kulreet Chaudhary