Connecting with the essential
It's raining. I am surrounded by green, a lot of green, there is no horizon, everything around is jungle. I am in the house of Seba, a man we met a few days ago at the port, and a few hours after we met he invited us to his place. We had also met other sailors a few days before, and they promised to take care of the boat and the cat while we were gone. Things happen like this, without expecting that. My daughter had been sick for a week, and despite we have already the bus tickets to go to the mountains, we had not decided whether to take it or not, nor had we prepared the boat neither the backpacks. Since the first fever we brought her to the village dispensary. A place full of people, not ventilated and somewhat dirty. But two days after finishing the first treatment, the fever had returned. The night before we left for the mountains, her body temperature was going from fever to hypothermia in a worrying way. I didn't sleep all night and when the alarm clock showed 6am, I woke Diego up to see what we will decide to do. We doubted. The simplest thing was to give up the trip. I was exhausted and Oiuna, too. She had started a second treatment since the first one had not worked.
However, I thought that no matter what happens with her health, we would be better off in a house, with the comforts of a house, and in the mountains, with fresh air. The feeling that the man who invited us had given me was a calm, that calm that has, as some people also has, a highly developed common sense. I was confident that we would be fine there. Taking strength from I don't know where, I packed my suitcases, prepared the boat, and went out to take that bus. Something in me murmured "There she will be able to heal, not here". And that voice that may seem irrational, that little voice deep down in me that can almost never be justified, is the voice that must be listened to, in which one must trust, it is instinct, so important, that we must continue feeding and developing. Rationally, it was crazy to embark on a six hours bus ride through Tanzania roads, without having slept for a second, with a sick girl, without knowing where we were going and barely knowing to the man who had invited us. In the other hand, we had our boat/house anchored in a safe place, and the friends from the yacht club, who had offered to help and who also had children. But I was convinced and thank goodness Diego trusted my feelings.
I have the feeling that the little ones have a highly developed instinct. They realize when a situation or a person does not suit for them, and they naturally go towards what they need, both physically and mentally. They look for caress, play, sports, laughter, music or painting, stories, dreams. Each one is different and obeys a deep inner impulse. So, what happens to an adult? It is as if through years of education, of learning the social and moral rules, one gets distances from that little inner voice. The rational remains, which is sometimes useful but which often responds more to criteria imposed by sick societies rather than that inner criteria. I spoke of common sense above: it seems as if we were losing it, too. It would be like a state of mind in which one can see the balance beyond owns desires. A state in which we can empathize with the other, with nature and with oneself body to be able to see the world with calmer and less destructive eyes to benefit one's environment and oneself. This immense instinct disconnection with our mind often leads us to build a life that is not good for us, and that is not good for others either for our environment. It is true that reason is the instinct enemy, but probably another of the great inner forces that distance us from it and from common sense is fear.
That is another voice that we have inside, which is often disguised as a "reasonable" voice. Many times it takes us the courage to dream, to imagine other paths, to return to the child we have inside and who wants to seek joy and freedom. And if despite it we manage to dream, then the fear voice shows up when we begin to think how crazy it would be to follow that other voice and go after our dreams, our fantasies and our deep desires. So we look at it as if it were impossible, we smile at it and we turn our backs on it, and we continue to surrender to a daily life that does not fulfill us, but that reassures us. We have assurances of doing like others and therefore not being able to make mistakes. We have assurances of having a stable economy and just having, without adding something to that verb. Have and not lose, because losing a space, an object, and a job terrifies us if we don't have securities behind it. What happens is nobody can underlie a guarantee on our dreams. I met people who have the capacity to dream and sustain those dreams over time. But they are not launched if there is not a plan “B” and a plan “C”. It seems like wanting to walk a path without leaving your chair to not lose your chair, like wanting to hug a tree without being able to let go the pillar to which we are embraced: it cannot be done. Great love stories ask that one let go everything, that one believes that everything is possible and with that belief one throws oneself into the abyss. And that is love a person, or a project, falling in love is what we need, being brave dreamers is what we need to draw a story that fills us and gives us sparkles in the eyes. And it doesn't matter if later things happen differently than how we had imagined. Obviously, those stories will happen as we had not imagined. What matters is the path that leads us and that we walk. I am convinced that when we get elder, looking at the life we had, the moments in which cowardice won will awaken more remorse in us than the moments in which we were brave. There is a phrase in Spanish that says "fortune smiles to the brave", and I deeply believe that it is true. We must trust in life, in the instinct that we have inside, and in our dreams. Plans “B” and “C” perhaps assure us of staying alive and with what we have acquired, but they do not assure us that we will live fully life. Youth is not a matter of age, it is the ability to dream and carry those dreams forward. It is the ability to shake off our fears, make fun of reason and leave room for our instinct.
We met an old sailor in Tanga, he has been at sea for 18 years, in his little wooden boat that he bought for almost nothing and he completely rebuilt. He was an architect, he had a comfortable life in Spain. He began to fix his boat on weekends, when he had free time, until he realized that he would never get there. So, he decided to drastically reduce his living expenses, dedicate himself to restoring the boat and go to live at the sea. He was alone, of course he wanted to travel with a partner, but that wasn't an extra reason to stop him. He was not young, 50 already, of course if he worked 10 more years he would have a good retirement. But why dedicate his next 10 years to work instead of going after his dreams, and then have a retirement that's such time could not use? He left his house in order to rent it, and went to live inside a 32 feet boat. He reduced all his expenses and realized that he did not need all the comforts that seemed essential shortly before. He had the boat ready, and two days before sailing a very rich Dutchman saw his restored vintage wooden boat, he fell in love with it and proposed to buy it for a fortune. But dreams cannot be bought. Our man raised the anchor, and went to travel around the world. A few years later in Argentina he met a woman he fell in love with and with her continued a journey through the icy waters of the south Atlantic and the tropical waters of the Pacific. Now the woman returned to Argentina, and he plans to pass Cape of Good Hope, cross the Atlantic once more, and finish his world tour in Argentina, where he will stay with her. It's not what he planned, of course. But life opens magically when you give it the opportunity.
After telling me his story, he looked at me and said, "People tell me that I'm lucky. Like you, I guess, they should tell you that you're lucky. Of course I think we're lucky, but don't you think there's something else? ”. We smile at each other. It would have seemed pretentious to continue, so we both shut up. But listen, it's not pretentious. I'm not bragging about our bravery. I'm just trying to share that in addition to the luck that one needs, one also has to be able to see it and to use it to carry dreams forward. An encounter, an unexpected proposal, an achievement, have a propitious appearance and one can get on that to start walking an unknown path. But also an accident, a failure, a loss, can be wonderful signs of life to open a new door if we are capable of changing priorities, of shaking up everyday life, if we are capable of outwitting fear. It's not that we don't know fear, we know it, of course, like everyone else. It's that we decide that we will not make our decisions from those places, from fear and normativism. We make them from instinct and desires, from ideals and fantasies, from common sense that does not respond to social rules but to both inner and secret rules that guide us through a mysterious balance.
What we need
Seba's place is a house among the trees, simple and spacious, an element that blends with its surroundings, the river water that is used and continues its course, the firewood that is used to heat the water. It is a place with an orchard full of good herbs and vegetables, scattered and varied fruit trees. It is a place where you have to move, look for firewood and light it, look for fruits and harvest them, naturally the body asks to go for a walk, return to yoga, or surrender to the contemplation of the various monkeys that approach the house, of the various birds that sing and occupy the upper parts of the trees, of the plants and flowers that vibrate and change color according to the weather. The roads are not imposed in that nature, blend into it without disturbing it. It is like the houses here. Those are made of wood, adobe and mosquito nets: a few wooden furniture, an hammock, and some musical instruments. Everything you need and nothing else.
But, what is necessary? It is perhaps a question that we should ask ourselves more daily. We have to take care of what comfort is, because in it we fall asleep, we stop vibrating, slowly, we forget and move away from ourselves, we enter into a torpor that is the opposite of life. Comfort is a trap: economic or mental. If we manage to keep our mind always open and willing to change, the body in search of unknown movements, the least known path to walk, then we manage to stay alive and away from that trap.
Seba told us how he met his wife. He told us that at the time he worked in another town in Tanzania and that every day to go to work he took a different path on his motorcycle. He had decided that he would never take the exact same path twice, in order to discover the whole town and get oriented in it. So it was that one day he got lost, and asking the way he met the woman with whom he has lived for the last 30 years. That game, that exercise, is precisely the game of not accept a comfortable path and stop seeing everything that surrounds us.
I remember a wonderful piano teacher that I had, who tried to convey to me that in a score that had been read a thousand times and played a million times, there was still something that I had not seen. I was 13 years old then, and in front of my perplexed look that wise woman had asked me, "every day you take the same path to go to school, right?" I agreed, "and you know it by heart, don't you?" I nodded again, "well”, she said smiling, “I challenge you to find a new element every day you go, that you hadn't seen before on your way and back". And that's how suddenly the path that I did every day, it opened up before my eyes. Because every day I noticed something that I had not noticed before, and it surprised me, amazed me and seemed almost magical.
A French nature photographer has said that it is not the marvels that disappear, but the ability to marvel. And that, this capacity, is nourished when one does not let oneself be carried away by the comfort of everyday life. Let us marvel, then, at everything that surrounds us and all that is not discovered yet, because despite seeing it, we forget to look at it. And let us question ourselves. This thing what I am grabbing to, do I need it?
We are in a society that from childhood makes us to believe that we need a lot to be happy. Always more, always new. Unfortunately, those needs are absolutely insatiable because those things are what feed this economic system. But, what if we need less? If so much comfort wasn't good for our body and soul? So much food, so much chair and shelter from the wind? So many hours in front of a screen that when we let it go it left us nothing? So many objects that produce the joy of novelty and then are forgotten in a corner and take up space and make the suitcase heavier until it can no longer be lifted? It doesn't matter what you do in life, it doesn't matter. Try to always be a little uncomfortable, enough to keep looking. And maybe then you will get closer to what is necessary, what is really necessary, which is love for one and for all and everything that surrounds us, and the expression of that love in a thousand ways.
We did yoga with Seba the first two days. He also showed us around the forest, he introduced us to the neighbors, because he had to go on a trip and he left us the house, just like that, with all the confidence as if we had known each other for a long time. Walking along a path, I marveled at the trees, with a cool stream in which I rinsed my feet, with some tasty herbs that grew inside a river, with a monkey that shouted at us. Mae noticed details, named the birds that he saw and identified the mushrooms and plants. At some point, Seba, smiling, told me "I knew that you would appreciate the magic of this place. That's why I'm so happy that you are here. So happy that my place is seen by your eyes. And so happy that you stay, as long as you want, in my house". I admired him because there are not many people like him. At the same time it seemed logical to me, I understood his joy, it is the happiness that comes from sharing something that one love with people who are capable of appreciating it.
So it was that Seba left for two months, leaving us his house. Since Oiuna, my daughter, was still sick despite the antibiotics she was taking, before leaving Seba left me the address of an hospital. "It's the best in the area” he told me, “Do not doubt that here you are in the best place in which you can be with a sick girl”. I had not doubted it. The night that followed Seba's departure, Oiuna got much worse. I spent the night watching her, anguished, looking forward to the sunrise when we could organize ourselves and go to the hospital. Earlier we explained to my son that we were going with his sister to the doctor. The two hugged each other for a long time, and he told her, "when you come back, there will be hot water, I'm going to make a fire". A few hours later, when she was on an hospital stretcher, with an IV and still with her face very swollen, she saw that the clock on the wall showed 12am. "Oh, Mom," he murmured, "Mae is going to be hungry, it's twelve o'clock, and you're not there to cook for him". I was moved by that mutual care, of both, that love of siblings never confessed but it is suddenly so evident.
Diseases not only have disadvantages. They are a moment to stop everything and focus again. The diagnosis that the doctor gave us was very complicated and the treatment too. Oiuna had, in addition to obvious mastoiditis and acute tonsillitis, she had severe septicemia grade 2. No matter the lifestyle you lead, when your child is diagnosed with something serious, everything stops around. On the first night of the illness, I had a vision. I saw how a window opened on a space full of love. I absorbed it all. That love, that strength, was what I had to give my daughter now. And the days and nights of care began, and in those days there were many hours of caress, hugs, many talks, a lot of tenderness like it had been a long time since I have not felt. I realized that despite spending days with her, it had been a long time since I had listened to her, that I had not laughed like that with her, that I was not present, body and mind, in the hugs that I gave her, in the listening that I gave her.
We were healing together. Meeting again. How many times are we in a place without being at all because our mind is in another place? How many times are we with someone without being at all? I realized that she had stayed on the boat for a while, saying that I was never with her, and I would answer "I'm with you all day" and I didn't stop to think about it. But if when you hug someone your mind is not there, neither do you feel the beautiful energies that flow in that embrace, nor does the person who is embraced feel embraced. You have to be there, in the presence, with all your senses, sharing. So, in the moments when she felt better, Oiuna asked me to play, and I played being in full presence there. How to explain the pleasure it gave me? Playing with body and soul is being in the game, is a joy. Playing with your mind elsewhere is boring. And we would go for a short walk, and walking she would talk to me. And listen to her fully, and see the world with her eyes, filled me with infinite tenderness and infinite love. How different it is when we walk next to a child who shares with us that treasure that is his gaze, and we are thinking of something else! And, when she proposed a caress to me, being entirely in that embrace, then I reached those moments of eternity to which love takes us, in which time and space are erased and one remains floating in that sensation of well-being and plenitude. How different, when we hug a child thinking about everything we have left to do! We have a tendency to always be in another place, in another space. And somehow, there are no moments that fill us like this. Share a yoga session with a friend and be fully there, play music and be fully there, read, write, walking, eating, hugging, making love, listening or talking, laughing, contemplating, and being fully there, at the very moment, that is a secret so those moments make both us and our environment really good. Also aware, despite how worried I was and how sorry I was for her to feel bad, about what I was experiencing with my daughter, I thanked life for hitting me like this to remind me of what is important, what should not be forgotten. And it is something that I know, that I have put into practice in my life. But nothing has been acquired, thank goodness. Nothing and much less the ability to be free and to be in the present moment. It is a daily job, and it is very easy to forget.
Now Oiuna is better. Last night she received the last injection and the nurse removed the catheter. Little by little her health returns, but we do not return to "normality" because that does not exist. Any experience lived, that is pleasant or hard, it brings us learning, and upon receiving that one cannot but makes some changes. That is the magic of life. It doesn't matter what I send you, soft or painful. We have infinite freedom to choose how we react to the circumstance and infinite freedom to decide what learning we can get from that moment. We are still among the trees, eating well, putting our mind and body in the presence, reordering our priorities. Oiuna assimilates what has been lived healing her dolls. The game is always a wonderful means of assimilation and growth. When we will feel that we are ready, that is the moment, we will return to our ship, but we will return differently. We will reorganize our life on board to reach a new balance trying to keep awake this moment of clarity that we had here. And then... then? Well, let’s the wind decide.