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Thursday, 28 November 2013

What will you allow into your mind?

When I lived in Argentina we would watch the news daily. It was in 2001, the height of the Cavallo financial crisis. The news got personal. It wasn’t that a politician had been found to be corrupt, a law change or lacy knickers found in the wrong place, it was much more personal. They didn’t say ‘Julia you will not be able to get your money out of the bank tomorrow there is a freeze’ or ‘Julia’s bus was held-up today with men with guns who went round person by person taking their wallets’ or ‘A lady in Julia’s village, Maipu, was killed today by children because she would not give them sweets.’ They didn’t use my name, but they could have. We were all watching, eyes glazed with fear, about what they would say about our worlds, about our lives.

That was how we began to walk with hunched backs, constantly looking over our shoulders. I didn’t like to stop at red lights in my little blue Fiat 500 when other cars weren’t around: it was just dangerous. My boss’s son had been shot like that, and it was only the fact he jammed on the gas knocking the barrel of the gun from his temples to his leg that he wasn't killed. Our very own road-side chicken stall, Angelitos Parripollos, was held up twice, while we, the proud owners were on holiday. The first time Pollo, my cunado, in shock, just handed over all our hard earned cash, the second time, feeling indignant, he didn’t and el suegro (the father) got shot in a lung and my brother-in-law in the leg. By sheer miracle the suegro’s workplace, a bodega that he had been working for for 40 years, had paid his social security that month (they hadn’t paid any wages for about 5 months) and he was able to be admitted into a hospital. If not?

This was life. It was scary. It was impossible not to be aware of what was going on, you could feel it. Watching the news only made it worse: I started to become paralyzed and in that shut down state couldn’t bear the thought of leaving my own house.

So I made a decision to stop watching the news, and if it happened it happened. But when it didn’t happen (which in my case was never): it didn’t happen. I decided I could NOT stop using the bus to get into Mendoza just out of fear. We had to continue to live, to work, to meet friends. I mean, if it’s going to happen then it’s going to happen, independently to if you have read the news or not. But while the horrible, terrifying things weren’t going on, why live in terror as if it were?

I had a similar experience in Nepal in 2004. There was a Maoist uprising, and often we couldn’t teach in the orphanage’s school. We were forced to ‘strike’. If they found you teaching they would burn down the school. We all heard, as the news spread from village to village, that there were riots outside the University. This went on for months. Meanwhile we had to continue to live, to eat, to play, to teach the children how to draw.

One day I had to go into Katmandu. I wanted to buy games for the children, I was starting up play time, something the orphans had never heard of. Trundling back to the bus, I took the direct route back by the University. And as per the grapevine, there were students out there burning tires and making black smoke, and police men at the end of the road trying to look important, but actually looking a bit bored, while students in the university threw toilet paper out of the window making waterfalls of white paper stream through the black smoke. They had also thrown nails down on the road so that cars would not be able to circulate. To me it all seemed rather pathetic to be honest, a sort of crazy bonfire night, though it was a street I really wouldn’t want to walk down.

I got home to the village and visited my friend who happened to have the television on. I saw footage of the riots in Katmandu, they had capture that fear of being too close to death and my mind said ‘Ohh I wouldn’t want to be there, that looks so dangerous!!’ until with a jolt I realised that I HAD been there, only an hour before, and that it was nothing like they were reporting. It wasn’t safe as houses, but it wasn’t the war zone they were capturing. I wondered what angle they had used. How they had managed to ramp it up so much?

So I realised that the media’s direct effect on me caused either unnecessary fear, or escalated my fears into immobility. It seems to me that the real danger of fear exists more than in the mind. I mean, last year many, many tourists (millions) didn’t come to Greece because the media showed it to be so dangerous. I walked through Sygmata Square in Athens and thought it was exciting. It was just like the week before when I had passed through La Plaza Catalunya, in Barcelona: tents, and camp stoves and hippies all smoking joints and lots and lots of people getting excited, thinking they were making history. Knowing they were making news. And then once in a while some uncover cop would come along, be violent and create a problem to stir everything up, so the media could put the wrong slant on it all. Again.

It started to get really ridiculous thinking about the ‘danger’ reported in the news while swimming in the beautiful clear azure seas, still and peaceful, and wandering back to my little sweet house in the lazy sun, past Micro CafĂ© to say hi to friends who were contentedly having a little drink as the news continued to say how dangerous Greece was, even away from that one square in Athens. The worst that could have happened is that you could trip over a bougainvillea bush.

Ohh the news! The news! Telling me how to look at the world around me! Why listen? I don't need messages that say I am impotent to change the world, even my own world. I don't need messages based on fear, impossible situations and no solutions warping my views of myself and the world into weakness and uselessness. I refuse.

Why allow ourselves to be disconnected from the peacefulness of natural reality, making us forget the quantity of love that flows through the world and of communities all over the planet making a difference. I will not allow the news to make me think that I am not powerful within myself.

But when my own mind does it to me, for some absurd reason, I believe every word.

Me and my mind. Not listening any longer!

PS A lot of people responded to this post in private messages as if I were going through a 'dark night' but the idea came to me while on a 10-day Vipassana...it is an idea of liberation! A way out of the monkey mind. I know I have one, and I'm pretty sure everyone else who hasn't worked extensively on their inner mind does too. Opera's such as Wagner's Parzival and Verdi's Magic Flute attest to the feminine character sleeping or under the harsh rule of a cruel tyrant (ego impurities of the mind), Sleeping Beauty awakens from her curse, Snow White gets out of the woods (the unconscious) with the help of her 7 little worker dwarfs, Psyche on her journey separates the grain from the chaff with the help of ants...

I feel as if facing the monkey mind as a monkey mind is an awakening, knowing that the mind sends these messages and being able to stand firm enough to be able to see them for what they are: propaganda not based on reality. It is liberating (to me at least) to think we can begin to recognise what is and what is not real.


Gaby Guerrero said...

Beautiful Julia!
I sent you a lot of love!
Me gusto lo que que escribiste de Argentina gringa! Digo, yo siento lo mismo, es mi pais, pero yo no miraba el noticiero alla tampoco, mis viejos lo viven mirando, y vivian (cuando yo estaba alla e iba a la universidad etc) con el corazon en la boca pensando que algo me podia pasar.... y eso no es vida, es estar en una preocupacion constante, cuando en realidad cosas malas pasan, si tienen que pasar, en Argentina, Holanda o la China...
los medios distorsionan, vuelven locos a quienes se dejan hipnotizar por sus cinematografias.. me acuerdo una vez en un curso de historia del cine nos mostraban como los medios usan los mismo recursos (la musica, los angulos de la camara, los efectos, etc) para NARRAR y SHOCKEAR al espectador.. lo loco es que ni yo me habia percatado de esos recursos que usaban, hasta que no fui a ese curso, y ahi empece a prestar atencion a la MUSICA que usan, los tonos, el relato, los encuadres.. todo... es ficcion!

en fin... te queria decir que gracias por compartirlo por mail, gracias por expresarte, y que te mande un beso enorme!


Unknown said...

Im glad I read this julia - you put into words (so well) something that I try to do, ie try to protect my mind. I sometimes accuse myself of being an ostrich, but know it is how I function best, without fear. I feel affirmed by this peice you wrote, and more informed. Ta!