Journey from rage to peace and happiness
Best-selling American author and founder of the Stress Reduction Clinic, Jon Kabat-Zinn, defines mindfulness as, “paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment as if your life depended on it, non-judgmentally.”
The renowned scientist further teaches, in his book ‘Mindfulness for Beginners’ that this ancient practice is, in simple terms, “what comes out of paying attention on purpose in the present moment… nothing more than awareness.”
This week, Voice Woman sits down with local mindfulness coach, Oagomotsa Gabaikanngwe, for an enlightening conversation about this universal practice. The certified coach trained with Mindful Revolution in South Africa.
Inspired by her own journey and a desire to help others heal and improve wellbeing, the spiritually oriented 37-year-old founded ‘I Am Woman 2two’ in July 2021, an organisation which raises awareness about mental health.
“My name, ‘O_a_gomotsa’, means ‘she comforts’ or ‘the comforter’. I believe my life experiences, from being suicidal to now being in a happy place, have led me to realising the purpose in my name. As such, I’m a mindfulness teacher, mental health activist and also a motivational speaker.”
The soft-spoken mother-of-two girls took this path, when, after her own mental health journey to finding happiness and inner peace, she realised life is enjoyable.
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“Bathong, botshelo bo monate (Life is beautiful); I didn’t want to keep that to myself! The foundation’s mandate is to heal others through our stories because what does not kill us makes us stronger.
“As you know, in our culture, we do not talk openly about a lot of issues; they are swept under the carpet. Ra re, ‘batho ba tla reng’ (We ask, ‘what will people say’). These are the things that lead to depression and undesirable behaviours. I’m talking about abuse, infertility and other taboo topics we rarely freely discuss. When I invite people to talk about their experiences as part of their healing journey, it makes it easier for sufferers to begin healing because they get to realise they are not alone. Therefore, if Oagomotsa has gone through such adversity and can cope, I, too, can cope. In our workshops, we encourage people to go for counselling and to practise self-awareness and self-love,” she explains.
Oagomotsa says it is imperative that as one is present and reflective, one does so without judging or criticising oneself.
“Mindfulness looks at breath work: how do you breath when feeling a certain emotion; what do you say to yourself? Be there, with yourself, in the present moment. It is part of the healing strategies of mental health; meditation is a similar practice.”
Taking us through her personal journey, Oagomotsa reveals, “Like I said, our culture promotes suffering in secret; we don’t expose things to people for fear of being judged. We don’t want people to know the weaknesses of the family; that it is dysfunctional. However, for instance, if I were to disclose my HIV status, the truth is, it minimises the power of those who like to gossip about or cast aspersions on the morality of others. The secret is out, they are deflated, as they have nothing to use against you.
“So, I was the black sheep of the family. Since I am expressive and love people, I was stepping on a lot of toes in the family, unaware that it would result in a strained relationship with my mother. I felt that I wasn’t getting the motherly love I so yearned for hence we resented each other. I wondered why my father couldn’t sit us down to resolve these issues. I later realised that my mother was going through the same struggles and needed my support as well. Ultimately, I grew up with a lot of anger, which then affected my relationships. I felt unloved, so I started wanting to fill that void. It became evidently clear that the anger would later affect all aspects of my life, resulting in failed relationships, in the workplace, friendships, et cetera. I was a very angry person, but I now channel that energy into productive pursuits.”
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At a crossroads in her young life, six years ago, Oagomotsa started going to church. As a member of Bible Life Ministries, she would turn to prayer and the Good Book, remembering all of God’s promises, thanks to her counsellor and confidante.
“My spiritual father, Apostle Dr. Enock Sitima, became my mentor, the emotional missing part in this puzzle. Despite my parents being wonderful providers – we went to good schools and never lacked – emotionally, they were neglectful. Apostle Sitima sat me down and encouraged me to open up about my issues, subsequently proposing solutions and strategies. I remember a few months into the mentorship, I thought I was ready to start my foundation, but the Apostle advised me to heal completely so that once I had dealt away with the pain, I could be able to heal people lest I broke down and further hurt them.”
Oagomotsa says her mother used to tell her, ‘happiness is in your own hands’.
“I never really understood what she meant until I became suicidal. The turnaround was when I realised that I had children who needed me, so I began by cutting off toxic people and behaviours. I also started listening to motivational speakers to learn what it really means to love oneself, to heal. From there, I began to shift my attention to positive things instead. I also grew appreciative of my mother; I mean, she gave birth to me. God chose her to bring me into this world for a reason. She could have aborted me if she didn’t want me. I realised that the more I radiated beauty and positivity, the more I attracted happiness into my life.”
Through her organisation, she started hosting kgotla meetings where topics such as sexual violation, motherhood and co-parenting were discussed. Key speakers included social workers, psychologists, teachers, legal practitioners and community leaders, while attendees got the chance to exchange contact information for further professional assistance.
“We hosted another discussion in September about women evolving: how do women relate, how do women leverage each other’s strengths to our own advantage, being mentally present and how self-love is core. The third discussion was about victors of sexual abuse, where a participant shared her story of overcoming trauma to help those still struggling with the pain of it.”
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Oagomotsa’s dream is to work in close collaboration with government departments across the country to help address mental health, especially in hard-to-reach areas.
“I’m accessible on Facebook – I AM WOMAN 2TWOO. I’m also available to speak at intimate social gatherings or group sessions like bridal and baby showers and can be reached on 72548402 or at email@example.com. I also aspire to have a mindfulness center where people can just walk in and learn breath work, relaxation, how to be present, stress reduction techniques, et cetera. I thank my mother for naming me ‘Oagomotsa’, I believe that’s my life’s purpose, I shall comfort my family as I intend to do things differently!”