A year ago my assignment was to bridge to communication gap between east and west. In eastern cultures there is a pattern of hiding behind a wall of silence when something is asked. In western culture this is experienced as frustrating, impolite, anti social and awkward, to name a few. We just don’t get it. “But there is nothing you can do about it” is the dominant western discourse. What I found out is that the Chinese guys would like to speak up but they have never learned how. They all could see the benefits but we also found what caused the silence: Chinese parents slap their children into obedience. It is hard to speak up to your boss when you have been conditioned to never argue or disagree with your parents.
New York is an addictive place, I felt that in the very first minutes I put my feet on the pavement. When I got off the subway in Canal Street and walked into the neighborhood of my friend Jessica I felt something creeping up my spine for the first time during my journey. It was a feeling of ‘yes’ and of excitement. It felt like entering the house of someone you feel attracted to and you know you will make love that night for the first time: a tingling in the stomach and a pleasant desire to perform and impress. It felt quite magical to me. I don’t find it hard to imagine how people will start making sacrifices to be part of that magic You have to work hard and make a lot of money to be able to afford living here.
The more I love myself with all my flaws and weaknesses, the more I am able to love the other. Judgment, arrogance and bravado are just ways to mask insecurity and inferiority. There are masking mechanisms in many shapes and sizes and they are at work in everybody all the time. So instead of waiting for the mechanisms to go away or to wait for somebody who is free from flaws it I feel it is better to see them in myself and understand them. Then I can see it is not personal. It makes things so much softer when I don’t take the patterns of others as an invention just to hurt me. People are not busy hurting others; they are busy protecting themselves. We only need protection because we feel wounded.
I like the idea of not taking the self (ourselves) so fucking seriously. So we make mistakes, so what? In the case of my reader, she told me she has a hard time with boundaries. Well, that sucks but it is not the end of the world.
After spending a couple of hours in the mountains and after burning the offering (during which I was left alone with the fire to pray and meditate) I felt very silent and peaceful (to my surprise). Don Basilio, guide and translator Luis and me had lunch together and afterwards Don Basilio told me to go to my hostel to sleep. Indeed I was very tired when I was back at my room. I took a nap. I didn’t really sleep. I snoozed. I got up a couple of hours later.
And I felt totally crap.
I felt defeated. I felt empty. I felt black and dark. I almost felt soulless. I didn’t know what to do and what was happening to me. I walked around like a zombie, doing the things I had to do. I went to bed early with a headache. I didn’t sleep too well. Obviously I hoped to feel better in the morning. But when I woke up I felt just as bad
The highlight of the day was when my guide in Chan Chan told be about the beliefs and superstitions that are still alive today. The entrance of the ruins consists a quadrant of small spaces: a ticket office, a room with information and some aerial pictures, a men’s room and a ladies room and a couple of souvenir shops. Turns out that one owner of a souvenir shop went to a shaman after having no clients for a month. The shaman told him that his competitor was using witchcraft and that he could break the spell for a certain amount of money. He thinks it is working but has to go back every month for an ‘update’ of his magic protection. The other shop owner is not so much into superstition. The guide told me they are not friends and always gossiping about each other. There is maybe 1,5 meters between their doors and they sell exactly the same merchandise to exactly the same customers. But since half a year they have a new, common enemy. A lady on the other side of the ‘complex’ (5 meters away) opened up a shop too, with souvenirs and cold drinks. Every morning she perfumes her part of the sidewalk, confirming the ideas of the older man that she is using witchcraft.
I spent the whole year of 2012 traveling and giving workshops on warriorship, leadership, courage, integrity, mindfulness and personal growth. I lived (for 1 or 2 months) and worked in Israel, Beirut (Lebanon), Baghdad (Iraq), India, Hong Kong, Thailand, Australia, the US and, currently, in Colombia. Among many things I noticed on my journey was that in guy-talk all over the planet the psycho bitch from hell pops up, that I am treated differently because I am a tall, muscular, blue eyed and – most importantly – white man (all highly valued traits in male dominant cultures) and that women are treated poorly and unjust in most cultures that I have seen. I realized that I am blessed to be born on the Western European side of the world. I also realized that my female friends have easier lives then their Indian, Arab or Chinese counterparts, even if they are going through horrible divorces or devastating diseases (which has happened and is happening). The reason is – I think – that in the western world we at least have agreed on the fact that a woman is a human being and that she therefore has equal human rights.
My lesson of today is that cultivating an open heart is not only a source of wisdom, beneficial for our personal well being, our relationships and friendships and offers an amazing and exciting personal life journey. It also touches and heals others, strangers, passengers in our life, in ways we cannot imagine. It breaks down cultural barriers and creates connections that transcend age, class, religion and race. People are hardly interested in meeting another ego. But meeting another human being charms the hell out of most of us, especially if we can relate to him or her even though he or she comes from a part of the planet that is alien of perhaps even intimidating or frightening to us.
The third ayahuasca ceremony did not go as I hoped. Although the gates of the plant had opened themselves slightly in the second ceremony and I was quite hopeful not too much happened even though I took 3 cups. I was pondering if I should take a 4th cup or not. It is always a big decision because I that last cup can throw everything upside down. Actually, every cup is a gamble. It could be heaven and eternal wisdom, it could be hell and it could be apparently not much at all.
I decided not to take the 4th cup and to no be too disappointed. I just sat by the fire buzzing a bit. Then Kajuyali tapped on my shoulder.
In the afternoon there was a Sun Circle: a meeting for men. The women had their Moon Circle. I was not exactly looking forward to this meeting because I thought we would go into the ayahuasca experiences. The thing is: I can’t lie or pretend anymore. I physically can’t. So if I am asked to share my experience I will do that. I can only hope that I won’t be put on the spot. But the meeting took a different turn: it was about masculinity and relationships. Initially it didn’t sound too exciting: I am single and have not so much questions or doubts about my masculinity. But to my surprise I heard a couple of interesting stories: stories that resembled mine. Ok, they had happier endings but the struggle seemed to be very similar. Again: I felt not alone.
What helped was that I chatted with one of the shamans and he told me that some people are more gifted in certain areas than others. He gave me the feeling that I was perfectly fine, even if the Universe doesn’t open up to me in ceremonies all the time. ‘The Creator all makes us uniquely different’ he said. Later that day he said in a talk that he blesses the spirit guides of people because he happens to be in touch with those guys and makes them (the spirit guides) feel good. It made me remember how many blessings I received this year from dozens of people from all religions and how many mind blowing experiences I already have under my belt. So I felt some simple inner peace. I shouldn’t really complain, should I?