My name is Amandine Roche.
Within ourselves we have a guide that just asks to talk to us, but our monkey mind is so loud and strong that it overpowers the guide. Our monkey mind is fed by emotions and thoughts from the past and future. Here and now is inner peace and happiness.
The goal of meditation is to go inside and listen to your soul; the soul is always peaceful. The mind likes to be at war, it likes to destroy; so when you make a decision, double check who’s talking to you. If it is super negative, you are sure it is the monkey mind talking. But if it is full of wisdom it is your soul. Listen to your soul, it is magical and deep. If I kept thinking about what happened to me in the past I would never have been able to move forward.
Every Afghan could write a book on suffering, everyone here has a story to tell, from the Russians, to the Mujahudeen and civil wars, to the Taliban regime to now with all the American bombings. How can we ask them to be happy if the psychological wounds have not been tended to?
And this is why I set up the Amanuddin Foundation, which tries to bring yoga and meditation to the Afghan population. At the moment we are mainly working with detainees but we are beginning to work with American soldiers and would like to work with former Talibs, the Afghan Army and women and children.
I first came to the idea in 2009 after my fluctuating relationship with the country came to a head. I myself had become traumatised by this place and had seen so much darkness. The foundation is based on the spiritual teachings I learned meeting the Dali Lama when I was 18 and on a spiritual retreat in India where I went after being diagnosed with cancer.
I was not yet 30. I decided on an ancient Indian technique, Ayu Veda, as treatment. For three months a guy massaged my belly with oils and herbs. He told me to meditate. I laughed in his face. I mean, I smoked, I drank, I was always busy and active and on edge. I didn’t have time to meditate.
I went on a 10 day retreat of vipassana meditation where you don’t speak or write or have eye contact. You just look inside yourself.
It was April 1st 2007 when I finally understood my own mind and thought, I could bring this to Afghanistan? Real peace starts with inner peace on humans, why couldn’t it work on a country?
So I had this idea of meditation but didn’t know how to implement it. I was working in the South, dealing with former Talib fighters who had been with Mullah Omar or Bin Laden. I spent time with them and I ended up teaching them meditation and they loved it. I taught it to my body guard, a former British soldier who had PTSD and he loved it too. It works for everyone.
And then this idea came to me; why not teach meditation to the Taliban and International Troops? I wanted to start with the most violent and challenging because if it works with them, it will work with anyone. I want to work with international soldiers as I know the suicide rate amongst them is high. I know they are trained killing machines but at least they will be able to confront their conscience.
I don’t bring any Gods or mantras into it. It is mainly a mental health project; no one has taken time to heal the minds of Afghans. Some sources say that meditation originated in Afghanistan long before Buddhism.
I am finding it difficult to find donors. Either because agencies are leaving soon and wont see the fruits of their labours, or they don’t know how to classify meditation. My own meditation helps me to deal with it all. I’d love to have a private donor who believes in the power of meditation.
I don’t want there to be a civil war in 2014. There is no need to take arms again. We have to teach them to say no. It is within people’s power to control their urges of revenge and anger.