Charlottte Dufour is founder of Narayan, a retreat space which followed years of work in humanitarian aid and international cooperation (LinkedIn, Twitter). She is a nutrition expert, having worked in Afghanistan in the early 2000s on child malnutrition before moving to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (a UN agency), where she specialised in Food Security, Nutrition and Livelihoods. She is also a qualified yoga instructor.
The key theme of our conversation was Charlotte’s hard-won perspective that challenges we face are invitations to not look for happiness in the fulfilment of our material desires, but to have the wisdom to find the stillness within. From that deep place we can work on what is very important:the quality of relationship between humans, and between humans and nature.
You’ll hear me say a couple of times that the perspective can sound fluffy. But if you read Charlotte’s book on her time in Afghanistan, then you would know the tough and grounded experiences from which that perspective has grown.
We recorded the interview in early Sep 2022. Worth knowing that Charlotte and I were at university together, and she introduced me to my late wife in 1999.
Listening Inspires, which Charlotte co-founded, “brings together a rich network of individuals committed to inspiring creative solutions to modern-day challenges through deep listening – to ourselves, each other and Nature.”
4SD on engaging thousands with Food Systems Summit Dialogues
Powerful Times interview with David Nabarro
Land of Eternal Hope: Ten Years of Lives Shared in Afghanistan, Charlotte’s book which tells the story of her time in the country, and also gives voice to her Afghan friends on their stories.
Polly Higgins’ Earth is our Business.
Conscious Food Systems Alliance
The Art of Possibility by Zander and Zander
0:50 – Q1 What are you doing now? And how did you get there?
10:15 – Q2. What is the future you are trying to create, and why?
18:23 Q3. What are your priorities for the next few years, and why?
28:25 – Q4. If someone was inspired to follow those priorities, what should they do next?
31:39 – Q5. If your younger self was starting their career now, what advice would you give them?
33:04 – Q6. Who would you nominate to answer these questions, because you admire their approach?
33:44 – Q7. Is there anything else important you feel you have to say?
-“[I was working in Afghanistan and sub-Saharan Africa on] how can we bring in a focus on nutrition and health within agriculture policies, how can we help people from very different disciplines and backgrounds work together so that people can be better nourished. That’s also why I’m where I’m at today. Because in this process of bringing sectors together, of helping people who see things differently, understand things differently work together, the human element is very key, there’s a very important part four, empathy and understanding where a person is.”
-“Yes, the yoga can sound quite fluffy, but actually something very, very concrete. You apply in terms of awareness of your own body and your own emotions and your own feelings and learning to calm the mind. So that you can concentrate better. And it’s very helpful for dealing with complex challenges, to have that ability to calm the mind so that you can let your intuition and your deeper wisdom come through to help find Okay, how are we where’s the thread I can pull to start unravelling this very big ball of wool that’s completely entangled. That’s how it comes together.”
-“I think I’ve learned throughout these years that what’s most important is, or what is very, very important is the quality of relationship between humans and between humans and nature.”
-When one problem is solved then there is always the next one (for instance, now we’ve built schools in Afghanistan, we need teachers).
-“If material will be where the source of happiness, maybe people in France would be happier than people in Kenya, or Afghanistan, and yet, I hear a lot of complaining around. So what I think is really key is that issue of inner peace, and harmonious and so that’s why that’s why listening inspired there, it’s really about let’s let’s look for the joy within. And that’s also where the science of yoga is all about. Yoga is not just breathing techniques, and stretching into downward facing dog. Joga is a science to find the joy, but then that’s what it’s about. And in that perspective, every challenge you face in life, is an invitation to not look for happiness in the fulfilment of your material desires, but to have the wisdom to find the happiness, the joy within that stillness within.”
-“In that perspective, every challenge you face in life, is an invitation to not look for happiness in the fulfilment of your material desires, but to have the wisdom to find the happiness, the joy within.”
-“We’re challenging the basis of our ability to exist as complex societies so much, that we’re going to force ourselves to learn that all not only is all human life sacred, but all of nature’s sacred, and out of that learning will come. A better performing society, and obviously some next challenge, because we won’t run out of challenges.”
-Priorities of Listening Inspires: “keeping on listening, spreading the word of listening, and also listening to the opportunities that come out. In a way there’s the not not planning specifics, but planning to be responsive.”
-“I think it’s important to be very grounded and concrete, and build your experiences where you are, and you know, what life puts in your way.”
-“Take your time and and trust that whatever it is you’re doing. You are building up skills, knowledge, reflexes in your attitudes that will help you grow in faith next challenges. And this other one is, I think it is important to take time for some inner listening inner work from meditation, being from Tai Chi be in prayer, or whatever your your background is, but or there’s so many tools right now in terms in the field of psychology or personal well being in personal development.”
-“I’m grateful for my younger self, my younger self, found itself in front of crossroads, often had very short notice. And took decisions on the gut and heart feeling, not on the mind feeling. And especially, you know, the road less travelled by. And I didn’t think I just went for it. And that’s how I ended up in Afghanistan.”
-“We need to be creating a new narrative and seeing what the opportunities for growth are. I think we have a very challenging times. But that’s because they’re meant to be very creative times.”