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A Visit to South Africa

By Lora Matz, MS, LICSW

I’d read about the work of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, knew that he was on the board of directors of The Center for Mind-Body Medicine and even read several articles and a book that he had written. Whatever impressions or ideas I’d formed were nothing compared to the pure presence of the Archbishop himself.

On a recent trip to South Africa, I had the privilege of attending a service with him and then spending several hours over breakfast. Jim Gordon had asked me to greet him on his behalf, which led to a lively conversation about the work of the Center. He particularly wanted me to explain to others our work in Haiti and other places in the world. It was clear that he is very supportive and inspired by the work.

Archbishop Tutu (the “Arch.”) as Jim and others who know him well fondly refer to him, is the pure embodiment of authenticity, focused, alert and relaxed attention and all that we strive for as we do the work and practices that the Center teaches. He lights up the room and everyone in his presence. His laughter is music.

I saw many parts of South Africa. We visited organizations including a program that helps children who are heads of households because of the death of their parents outside of Johannesburg. We spent time visiting an Angel Starfish, an incredible program for the poorest of the poor’s preschoolers in Cape Town. I had fun teaching them one of the songs that we teach at the Advanced Training in the Children’s track. I saw many animals in their natural habitat-which was thrilling in and of itself.

All of these experiences were life enhancing and life changing, but what touched my heart so deeply that I find myself coming back to it again and again is the hours spent in the presence of Archbishop Tutu. He is an inspirational man who emanates compassion and wisdom. He has not only profoundly influenced his own country, but in many ways, the world at large. I feel grateful and moved to be part of an organization that he so obviously and whole-heartedly supports.

I’ve been contemplating the similarities of Archbishop Tutu’s philosophy and the principals upon which CMBM has been built. One is that all are welcome. Another, is the importance of group support. A saying in Africa that summarizes this is Ubuntu.

About Ubuntu, Archbishop Tutu says the following.

“One of the sayings in our country is Ubuntu – the essence of being human. Ubuntu speaks particularly about the fact that you can’t exist as a human being in isolation. It speaks about our interconnectedness. You can’t be human all by yourself, and when you have this quality — Ubuntu — you are known for your generosity.

“We think of ourselves far too frequently as just individuals, separated from one another, whereas you are connected and what you do affects the whole world. When you do well, it spreads out; it is for the whole of humanity”

I believe that I’ll most likely never lead others in the CMBM exercise on forgiveness and not think of Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s words that,” there is no freedom without forgiveness.” I highly recommend his book on this topic.

  • Tanya Malse

    Lora, What a great experience for you! You are blessed to catch beams of light by being in his delightful company. Reading your article gave me a huge heart smile. Inspiring, holy man he is indeed!