Yoga Journal Blog: Cambodia Yoga Challenge

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Off The Mat and Onto the Field (with the freakin' water buffalo!) by Nikki Myers


Twenty people together for 2 weeks in this emotionally intense environment will undoubtedly bring up 'stuff', regardless of your spiritual discipline. As we tire from this physical and emotional journey, I'm reminded of a 12-step program aphorism - 'don't get too hungry, angry, lonely or tired.' Hungry? - no problem, the food is incredible. However, as the trip winds down it seems that the others are ratcheting up. The energy this morning is tense. Leadership training last night stirred feelings. And... one group member left after falling sick. Yup, there are some feelings going on.

Today is a transition. The focus shifts to physical labor in a village outside Phnom Penh. Now it's off the mat and onto the field!

To get to our destination, we endure a 90-minute bus ride, bump-by-bump. We eventually arrive at a community housing 10 families, all formerly living at the dump. These families are here because, though destitute, they have resolved to keep their families whole and abuse free. The community also includes single Moms who made the choice to leave their abusive husbands; an exceptionally brave choice, given the culture of silence around domestic violence in Cambodia.


When complete, the community center here will serve as a campground for the CCF children with sleeping space, playground and what has become known as 'the world's largest swimming pool'. Today, our job is planting morning glories, parsnips, bok choy, and greens.

I'm an African-American and while digging and planting, my mind wanders to what it must have been like for slaves...out in the hot sun a'workin' and a'plantin'. Jokingly, I lead the group in a round of 'swing low, sweet chariot'. We laugh, sing and get really dirty. I also make it a point to befriend the two water buffalo roaming around.


Later at the hotel, I thank God for a shower; there is dirt in every cell of my being.

Then, it is time for our nightly leadership training and something special awaits. Luong Ung, author of First They Killed My Father joins us. She has returned to Cambodia for the Khmer Rouge trials.

Luong graciously shared her moving experience of surviving the genocide, her strength in adapting, healing and prospering in America, and her hope for Cambodia. While not necessarily a reconciliation, she believes that the trials have great potential to be a profound acknowledgement to the Cambodian people and the world, of one of history's most horrific crimes against humanity. She hopes this acknowledgement will initiate a 'seismic shift' for the Cambodian people. When I heard that, a prayer for the Cambodian people arose in my heart. My prayer is that they will experience the same kind of 'seismic shift' I experienced as an African-American when Barack Obama was elected president of the United States.

As we completed leadership training, the energetic shift was clear, we'd moved from irritation to pure inspiration, from agitation to gratitude. This day has been a blessing!


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Love the reference to Obama here. This is pretty fabulous.

Nikki, I am so proud of you for this journey. What an eye opening experience this must be but an incredible sharing of fellow yogis. Love it! Nedra


Beautiful...I knew when I first moved to Indy from Detroit You would be one of my greatest teachers....
The light in me honors the light in you

What a journey! I will pray along with you for the people of Cambodia to feel the 'siezmic shift' that for so long humanity has longed for!
God Bless you, Nikki!

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