Everybody knows that I am always stressed. I stress about being treated unfairly or without dignity. Whenever I feel someone has mistreated me, I never stop thinking about it.

I heard Ernest teaching in a class that putting on a smile during stressful situations made the challenge seem lighter, but that meditation was the best way to deal with the stresses of life. I was eager to deal with my stress so i went to the student centre, where we meditated with Ernest and Julie every morning. I didn’t know what to expect when i went for my first meditation class. My teacher, Ernest, gave very simple instructions; to sit up, with my back straight and to be aware of my breath. During the meditation he said to not chase after thoughts, to just let them come and go. Like a visitor passing by. When I opened my eyes, i felt like I was surrounded by so much calmness. My face and my whole body was so relaxed. Niliskia kama nimetulia kabisaaa!

Closing my eyes and sitting with my back straight was easy. The real challenge was trying not to chase my thoughts although the more I tried, the easier it became. Like i said, I am get stressed about what people say about me and how they treat me, but I found that the calmness I felt inside sort of helped me let go of the past. I could concentrate on working hard in my course. I also noticed that I was learning faster in class. One morning, my aunty called me complaining about the horrible treatment she was getting back home. I empathised with her because we are very alike and I knew that if meditation was working for me, it would work for her too. So I remembered Ernest’s instructions and explained to her how to do it. The next day she called me with many questions about meditation and reported that she felt very calm after her first session. When we closed school, I found her transformed. My family cannot believe it. She used to get sick from just being angry and now she hums songs while working.

There was a period when I had stopped meditating and I noticed my old habits coming back. I was thinking about what people said about me again. When I tried letting go of the negative thoughts they just kept coming back. I guess it only works when I meditate. One day after hearing a rumour about me, I went to my friend, Irene, with tears and she suggested that we meditate. It was in the middle of the day and we could not find a suitable place, so we sat next to the dinning hall water tank and for some reason it was a great session and I felt better 10 minutes later.

I haven’t stopped meditating since that day.

MEGGY, 19

" When I opened my eyes, I felt like I was surrounded by so much calmness. My face and my whole body was so relaxed. Niliskia kama nimetulia kabisaaa "

We have made quality our habit. It’s not something that we just strive for – we live by this principle every day.

While most of the things about the creative process will be forgotten, the excellence of our products and services will be remembered.

I was spaced out. I was so absent minded that I attended the pre match training barefoot! I play in defence. Within a few minutes of the game, my team fell behind and I still couldn’t find the strength to be present for the game. During the second half, I was fouled and things instantly changed for me. My opponent, tried to kick the ball and missed it. All all the energy landed on my abdomen. I felt unbelievable pain. I limped out of the pitch with the help of two team mates and I didn’t think it was anything to worry about. I received some first aid and sat pitch side waiting for the game to end. When the game ended, most players came to me to wish me a quick recovery. For some reason, my team mates decided to carry me to the bus. The school bus took hospital and I received some attention before returning to school.

At first I thought my injury did not need this much care. I tried to tell my friends that I was ok, but I guess they wanted be there for me. So I let them. When my pain got significantly worse during the night and I had to go back to hospital the next day, I was grateful to find that a group of my friends were outside ready to carry me to the bus. I really needed their support on that day as I was unable to stand up on my own. I just wanted for the pain to be over, to go back to being healthy and for everything in my life to go back to normal. But normalcy had to wait because the doctor decided to admit me in hospital for further check up. I just felt like life was so unfair to me. I reluctantly went to the ward as I planned on how I would ensure the shortest stay possible.

My hospital room mate, Philemond, was a young man who had suffered a stroke. I had never seen a stroke patient and I found myself staring at his dead right side. I couldn’t believe that I had the ability to move my entire body and yet had been carried to hospital. First thing, gratefulness. Suddenly my life seemed so much better. I could move my whole body, speak without slurring my words, go to the toilet whenever I had the urge, I had the chance to go back to school. My brief interaction with Phil also taught me that I am not assured of a young healthy life therefore I should appreciate my current situation as it is. Secondly, I was caught very off guard by the emotion and compassion that I felt for him. I don’t see men crying or showing emotion. What I haven’t told you is that while I was staring at Phil, felt wetness on my face only for me to realise that I was crying. After all those classes with Ernest and Julie, I had finally understood what compassion was.

I am mostly healed now, and am aware of the privileges I have that I had taken for granted. My life though challenging is good enough to enjoy as it is. I can’t wait to get back to playing football again.

ELVIS, 20

"My life though challenging is good enough to enjoy as it is."

I started experiencing lack of sleep when I was pregnant with my second born. I used to try and sleep at 11 pm. I would toss and turn for hours without sleep. My first born was only 6 months old then. I would watch long films on my phone just to pass the time. I preferred films because I wanted something that would make me laugh and forget my many thoughts. I used to stay up waiting for my husband to come back home. Most nights he would stumble in way past midnight. Even if I had wanted to go to bed, my son would keep me up most of the night too. What was annoying was that I was up before sunrise everyday, no matter what time I had slept. During the day I couldn’t think! My mind seemed to have no space for proper thinking. I had a job as a sales person and I couldn’t even read and understand the brochures I was distributing because my brain felt full to capacity. I also only listened to loud and fast music, never slow. Life felt boring so the loud music was exciting and gave me some little energy. I felt very low on energy. Also my skin was dull and i had a lot of rashes on my face.

Ernest encouraged me to have an evening routine. So I started with running in the evenings. This made me physically tired. And then I would take a shower and then eat my dinner. By the time I was sitting down to read, my mind was already getting the message that I was powering down. I already had a meditation practice so my mind was fairly calm. On day 1, I couldn’t believe it when I fell asleep before 11pm. I thought it was just a fluke so I continued to monitor for 2 weeks and indeed I started dozing off when I was reading my book! Its months later and I can confidently say sleep problems are a past problem now.

First of all, having enough sleep has opened my brain. I really enjoy reading story books now. Also am grateful for the opportunity to be able to think and make future plans. I am even a leader at school thanks to being able to coming up to solutions that are affecting my community at school. I formed the Kamkwamba Group based on the lessons I learnt from ‘The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind’. In the film, William Kamkwamba is a high school drop out whose community is experiencing the country’s worst drought. His father can no longer afford his secondary school fees as a result of the drought. Soon enough their family runs out of food due to theft, worsening drought and high cost of buying food. He looked around and asked himself how he could get water to irrigate his fathers farm. His solution was to build a wind mill which he built with the help of his father and his friends. He built the windmill using scrape metal and his fathers bicycle.

He was only 14 years old. That meant that he didn’t have much education. He trusted his simple solution to solve a big problem. His story showed me that leadership is not about age and its not about telling people what to do. While leading the Kamkwamba Group I have learnt to communicate my vision to people, how to fundraise and how to be a humble leader. I noticed that a lot of time was being wasted waiting for the singular mop in the hostels. As a result people were arriving to their morning lessons late. I called a meeting with my meditation group and pointed out this problem. My solution was DIY mops . We agreed on a low enough contribution to buy the raw materials. We were able to create 10 mops. Now each hostel had a mop and we even had extra!

The Kamkwamba Group also come together to sponsor a fellow student who’s humble background couldn’t afford him basics such as blankets, mosquito net and soap. He was a new student and we wanted to making him feel like he belonged and that he was one of us.

LAVENDER, 25

" Am grateful for the opportunity to be able to think and make future plans. I am even a leader at school thanks to being able to coming up to solutions that are affecting my community at school. "

A migraine is an intense throbbing of the head on one side. It can feel like your heart is in your head. There are days when I had them so bad, it felt like someone had put some weight on it. I am currently a plumbing student. Plumbing is not an easy course, in fact it’s a brain bursting course. Other than plumbing am also sharpening my computer skills and starting to self learn simple coding. At the same time I am interested in learning photography and videography. All these things require focus. Having frequent migraines meant that my concentration was compromised. That meant I couldn’t retain much of what I was reading and I also had difficult time connecting my thoughts.

During Ernest’s lifeskills class on “Meeting the Brain” he mentioned how meditation could improve my focus and I wanted to try it out. Also during the class, he explained what happens to the brain when we are suffering. I hoped to heal my headaches through the power of meditation. It felt awkward for me because I had never tried it before. I also found it hard to keep my focus on my breath and I found myself having lots of thoughts. I thought I was doing it all wrong. And then as if Ernest knew, he said that if any thoughts came in, I shouldn’t fight them but just let them pass like water flowing in the river.

I felt like I had been a balloon and I had been popped so now I was slowly floating down. It was a a wonderful feeling.

I wanted to feel that floating feeling again. It was quite soothing. Also I wanted to experience the benefits of meditation for myself. I noticed that I was having less migraines. That automatically improved my concentration because now I could focus on my studies and not only think about the headaches. I used to sleep a lot in class as a way of distracting myself from the headaches, so now I don’t sleep in class anymore. I still experience migraines but now am more aware of my body. So whenever I feel a migraine coming, I take a few deep breaths for a few seconds. That relaxes me and prepares me to be able to accept the pain and indeed, the headaches don’t last long nowadays and because they are less intense, I can still work through them.

I personally know what I gain from meditation therefore what my peers thinks does not matter to me because decisions are made by individuals.

PAUL, 21

" ... whenever I feel a migraine coming, I take a few deep breaths for a few seconds. That relaxes me and prepares me to be able to accept the pain and indeed, the headaches don’t last long nowadays ... "

Meditation!

I was attracted to the word itself. It sounded like something nice, so I gave it a chance. When Julie taught her first meditation class, I woke up early on that day. I was at the student centre before most people. I was very eager to know what meditation was. Only for Julie to say we close our eyes and concentrate on breathing. It felt like a very boring exercise. When I first closed my eyes and observed my breathing, I felt like things were going in slow motion and I could hear the birds singing. I could hear the vehicles passing on the road and all those sounds combined just felt so peaceful. So peaceful that I fell asleep! I felt like I had lost some weight. I felt very light. After a meditation session I always feel sharp. I find myself writing a lot on my journal immediately after a session. My mind feels clear and I retain a lot of the knowledge. I even look forward to going to the library now.

While attending Ernest and Julie’s classes on ‘The Attitudes of Meditation’ I was introduced to the idea of ‘non-striving’. This has taught me to not crave other people’s things. That whatever I have, even though little is good enough. When I joined college I didn’t have a phone and that’s all that I could think about. I couldn’t even enjoy the other opportunities that I had in my life. And then I started feeling that I needed to use make up because other girls looked so beautiful. I created excuses and believed that ‘I did not have a place to meditate’. With time that changed to ‘I didn’t have the place and the time to meditate’. And I believed in these excuses until I stopped trying to make it happen. Any time is meditation time. If the teacher is late to class, that’s a perfect time to meditate. I use it to calm my mind to receive the lesson better.

As long as I have my body and my breath, I can meditate anywhere, any time.

IRENE, 19

" As long as I have my body and my breath, I can meditate anywhere, any time. "

There is a Poem, The Autobiography by Portia Nelson, that perfectly describes my life before Julie and Ernest introduced me to meditation. I resonate with its darkness. I remember feeling hopeless, with no way out. I was just tired of life! I didn’t see the purpose for living. I had given up on all my goals and dreams. I felt useless. I kept things to myself because i feared the betrayal of a friend sharing my stories. As a result of keeping things to myself, I didn’t have someone else who could point out the positive side of things. When I was done being angry at myself, I took it out on my loved ones. Learning meditation gave me the tools to come out of the darkness.

About a week into practising meditation, I noticed my mind was growing calmer. I found that my thoughts started to become clear and I was starting to feel less angry and frustrated. I wasn’t as harsh to my children and I criticised them less. I also realised that I was becoming kinder to myself. My confidence also came back. This calmness and clarity showed me the importance of being in the present moment. The only place from which I can affect the future. It’s amazing how just being aware of how my breathing makes make me feel calm. I have enjoyed the practice so much that I have even taught my children. We do it together sometimes.

Nothing much has changed about my daily life challenges if you are looking at it from the outside. But when you take a closer look, you will notice that my attitude towards getting out of the challenges is staying calm when things are going good and staying calm when things aren’t too good. My mentor Julie always says that you suffer less when you know how to suffer!

A calm and peaceful mind has given meaning to my life.

Cathy, 27

" A calm and peaceful mind has given meaning to my life "

Mindfulness and Meditation has taught me how to forgive.

When I was young, around 12 years old, there is a woman from my village who contributed to the breaking up of my family. Its now 8 years later and my family is still separated. I have a younger brother that I have not seen since the woman took me away from my father’s home. I hated her for years, for subjecting me and my loved ones to such coldness, I imagined saying nasty things to her just so she would feel the hurt and anger that I felt. When Ernest and Julie came to teach us how to open the heart, one of the skills they taught us was how to forgive.

Forgiving does not come easy. Depending on the mistakes, it can get really difficult if someone is not showing any remorse towards their wrong doing. It’s easier if the person who has wronged me shows that they are sorry for what they have done. Not just saying the word. Both of us benefit. If somebody has wronged me, I benefit from forgiving them because it means that I have started healing therefore I can move on. The wrong doer benefits because they now know that I don’t hold anything against them and can find peace. Both of us find peace of mind. I have learnt that as human beings, we all lack skill-fullness and this leads to us doing both big and small mistakes. Because I am a human being, it means that I am not perfect and that I also wrong people every now and again. I know what it feels like for someone to hold something over you for an accidental or mindless mistake that you are not proud of. I therefore choose to forgive the unskillfulness and in this way, I let go of all the hurt, anger and pain.

I have enjoyed Julie and Ernest’s teachings. Especially how they use films to teach us different topics. It makes the lesson stick. Now whenever I want to remember an alphabet of opening the heart, I don’t only remember the word alone. I also remember how the characters in the film made me feel. 127 Hours was my favourite film because it teaches how to maintain calmness at all times. When Aron first got stuck he started out frantic and shouting out for help but he realised quite quickly that was not helpful. He only moved forward when he accepted his situation and then came up with a plan to save himself. Aron would not have survived without staying calm. That allowed him to think, observe then come up with a way to get out of his situation.

Maureen, 20

" Mindfulness and Meditation has taught me how to forgive. "