Emily Peterson is back from a life changing trip to Kenya. Read on to learn about her experience, from Reiki and baby elephants to future plans.
Where were you and what were you doing there?
I was in Naivasha, Kenya doing phase 1 of a TIMBo training. We were working with Widows of the Rona Foundation who will eventually learn how to be facilitators of this program and will run their own groups.
What was the greatest challenge teaching in Kenya vs. Boston?
The greatest challenge was probably the language barrier. We needed to use translators so sometimes there was a delay in impact and understanding. That being said, in this program we teach and practice how to hold a compassionate space for each other in silence at times so words don’t always matter.
What was your favorite moment of this trip?
Oh boy, I had so many favorite moments!!! One of them was the first morning of the training when we arrived at the YMCA where it was being held. I was pretty nervous, I think we all were, but the widows came out of the dining hall singing and smiling. They had such joy on their faces and they just surrounded and enveloped us – took our hands and we all started dancing. It was such an incredible welcome and cut through all the trepidation and worry. I still get goosebumps thinking about it. So much love.
Another favorite moment was when an orphaned baby elephant wrapped his trunk around my arm while I was giving him Reiki. As a lover of elephants, this was a defining moment in my life.
Is there a memory that you will treasure forever?
We also went into Mathare, the slums as they are referred to in Kenya, where the first Kenyan TIMBo group ran last year. We met the women who participated in the program, shared tea and community. They took us to show us their community and houses and we did TIMBo yoga in the street with about 100 children. There was a lot of singing and dancing and again, so much joy. I love to dance, so to be able to dance and high five all these children was such an incredible gift. It was such a lesson for me about being in the present moment and getting away from my own stories and perceptions.
What impact do you hope the TIMBo program will have on the community you just visited?
When women lose their husbands in Kenya they lose all of their rights and suffer all sorts of horrendous violations and traumas. First and foremost, I hope the widows with whom we worked will find some healing, which I think they did. Also they will recognize their incredible strength and resiliency as they practice these tools and access more self-compassion which will lead to personal impowerment and changes in their lives and the lives of their families and communities. When they finish the training and are able to run their own programs, they will have even more of an impact.
What impact did the community have on you?
Wow, I mean I learned so much. A huge lesson for me in being present to what is in front of me and connecting in the moment and not being afraid to show up without letting my fears dictate how I interact with people. It was also a reminder of how nothing is just one thing…. That there can be trauma and grief and heartache, but also song and dancing and rejoicing. Not only that they can co-exist, but how crucial it is to continue to celebrate life even though we struggle and how that celebration can actually help us heal. They epitomize the verse in the Bible that says “there is a time for everything… a time to weep and a time to laugh… a time to mourn and a time to dance.”
Having been a TIMBo participant how has it positively affected your life?
It has helped me so much with my sense of self worth. It has taught me how to use my traumas as my asset – everything I have gone through I can now use to support other people in their healing process. Before I just used to feel shame about all of it. It has helped me learn how to breathe through difficult moments and re-wire my nervous system so I have less PTSD, anxiety and depression. It has helped me in my relationships and in my work. I could go on. In short, I use the principles and tools all day every day and it has changed my life. I might even say it has given me back my life. I think I am now living the life I was meant to live. It is a gift and I am so grateful to be able to share it with others.
Where is the next place you hope to bring TIMBo?
We will go back to Kenya which is exciting. We are talking about Cambodia and Nepal, as we’ve been contacted by a few organizations that would like us to come. I also very much hope it spreads in the United States and that we begin to run the program with men. We need it, everywhere.