Back in 2010, I traveled to Africa to assist in the building of an eco-birthing center. Today, Shanthi Uganda welcomes 30+ laboring women per month so they have a safe and supportive place to birth their babies.

During that trip, I took a 2-hour yoga practice where the teacher brought into question how we’ve been showing up and expressing love in our own lives. She asked questions like, “How do you express authentic love?” And, “What do you need to accept about your past in order to truly let go and love bigger?”

A lot of people in the class had an emotional release. It took me a while to get there, but eventually, with the help of the Beatles playing in the background, I did. I realized that I was still holding onto a lot of the sadness from the year before, which was making it challenging for me to express love. My partner and I experienced many deaths in our family in 2009 and I was grappling deeply with the fear of my own death. I discovered that I was always making acute adjustments in my perspective so that I can better handle this fear, but it kept showing up again and again in the faces of the women and children I met in Uganda. Despite their contagious joy, my sadness lingered.

The women I met on that trip did not appear to attach themselves to their traumas or their exceptionally challenging circumstances. Many of the women I had the opportunity to sit with, even if we didn’t speak the same language, gave off such a grounded, peaceful vibe, unlike many of the people I’ve met in America. I did not get the sense that these women were stuck on their own personal emotional roller-coasters. I wondered if there was a correlation between my one-on-one experiences with these women and what we witnessed as a group– a consistent releasing of emotions through beautifully passionate song and dance.

Most of the local Ugandan men were written off as aggressive due to various drug and alcohol addictions. I wondered if the men were ever invited or encouraged to engage in these song and dance rituals that give them permission to release tension in healthy ways. I imagine the pressure must be crushing at times. Humans naturally find ways to act out and turn to our vices when we fail to move negative energy out of our bodies.

I can certainly relate to this struggle and am so grateful for the support systems in my life that encourage the release of tension in my heart and in my hips every day.

That trip illuminated so much to me at the tender age of 25. Since then, I’ve had more tremendous loss and strayed far from my true-self at times. But again and again, my dedication to making self-care practices (like yoga!) a non-negotiable is what has allowed me to access the same energy I felt in the presence of those women in Uganda. As a result, I am less critical of myself and manage to be kind to others most of the time.

Since that memorable trip, I now do my best to consistently keep an attitude of gratitude and peace in the front of my mind. Loving myself and trusting in my deepest truths is one of the few things in life I have control over and as long as I have a healthy mind, it is not something I intend to give up. This commitment allows me to serve others from a place of love and compassion rather than resentment and burn-out. I am again comfortable with expressing authentic love for others in the various ways love can manifest and make itself known.

What experiences in you life have helped you maintain your ideals? How do you express authentic love? I would love to hear from you in the comments section of this post!

Thanks for reading! ~ Megan

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