Wisdom from other cultures to learn to live in the present

Wisdom from other cultures to learn to live in the present

“I am going to highlight something of what I have learned in my 26 years of work in the Amazon rainforest” - says José Álvarez Alonso, a biologist and researcher from the Peruvian Amazon-: “I came from a culture in which the future is almost more important than the present, where so many people are obsessed with accumulating more and more things without stopping to think too much for what and at the expense of what; where many live obsessed with the past and traumatized by the risks and uncertainties of the future; where the other is often a competitor rather than a brother or friend; (…) I can say that I have learned from the indigenous Amazonians some of the greatest lessons of my life.

Among many other things that would fill books, I have learned to relativize my Western obsessions, worries and anguish, I have learned to see life from a more human, simple, natural perspective, to enjoy much more human relationships, family, of sincere friendship, of the little moments and the little things that make life a gratifying experience instead of a way of the cross of suffering, as a Christianity deformed by European obscurantism once wanted to teach us.

As a good Westerner, heir to the culture of savings and individual effort to "overcome" and "carve out" a prosperous future and a calm and comfortable old age, (...) I came to feel guilty about worrying about an uncertain future for myself while I watched my side happy people without any security in their future; (…) who knew that for their old age they would have no insurance other than the kindness or generosity of their children or neighbors, to help them with a plate of food or repairing the roof of their ramshackle homes . " [one]

The Amazon is not the only corner of the world that knows how to live in the present. The Eastern teachings are also surprised by what they call our "Western laziness" or "doing the cleaning of the house in dreams ". This is what they call the generalized Western life, in which the sole purpose seems to be to surround ourselves with more and more goods, and to work to keep everything as safe and secure as possible, because of the constant fear and uncertainty about the future. As if we could choose the future, as advertised in the movie “Trainspotting”, “Choose your future. Choose life. "

Although we believe that we can choose, organize and manage our lives with a rigorous, previously established plan (study, look for work, get married, have children, support the home and family, and retire), all this is not real. It is "cleaning the house in dreams." The reality is that throughout life, we know, calamities occur that hit us hard, and we feel that the world is falling on us. So, we dig into the past wondering what went wrong. Eastern wisdoms, on the other hand, know that nothing has been twisted, that life is twisted, that this impermanence is the only sure thing. That everything changes, as Mercedes Sosa sang.

They tell us that nothing is durable, stable, and inherent; and therefore nothing is independent, but interdependent with all other things. This is what the Amazonians know too well, that they have no more old-age insurance than the "kindness or generosity of their children or neighbors."

Master Sogyal Rinpoche shows us, with a simple exercise, that “Although we have been led to believe that if we stop clinging we will end up with nothing, life itself shows time and again the opposite: detachment (not only material, but also mental) it is the path that leads to true freedom. "

"Let's do an experiment. Take a coin. Imagine that it represents the object you are holding onto. Lock it in a tight fist and extend your arm with the palm of your hand towards the ground. If you now open your fist or loosen your grip, you will lose what you cling to. That is why it is tightening.

But there is another possibility: it can be detached and still kept. With your arm still extended, turn your hand up so that your palm is facing the sky. Open your hand and the coin will continue to rest on the open palm. It has stopped clinging. And the coin is still his, even with all that space that surrounds it. " [2]

Paradoxically, the real hard work for us is to face this freedom, emptiness, loneliness, silence, stillness, meditation, blackout and stoppage. That is, reflection or looking "inward", the best resource we have in the face of this impermanence. Our culture is so hectic and so dedicated to distraction that all of these things remind us of the vertigo that we can feel like when we are thrown down the hatch of a spaceship to eternally float in a dark and icy void.

Yoga, we know it well, and it seems that it is one of the practices that has become fashionable. In our stressed day-to-day life, we believe that it well deserves a small part of the time to dedicate to making very complex positions listening to New Age in the background. Although embedding that activity in our busy schedule means more stress. But make no mistake, yoga is about emptying the mind so that the deep nature of the mind appears, without banal thoughts of the past or the future, as when a pond is calm and the bottom is visible. And there are many ways to achieve it: dancing like the dervishes or the blacks of Bahia with their candomblé, or at the disco, listening to the sea or the song we like, looking at the stars on a serene night, watching a sunrise or with a orgasm.

The problem is that we don't have time to enjoy these things. "Most people are empty and feel bad because they use things to delight their hearts, instead of using their heart to enjoy things" says the Taoist Lin-an. We do not live life, but life lives us. But the things of the present, the everyday things, can have an infinitely deeper meaning than we grant them.


falling gently:

Each one in its place." says a zen koan.

Thanks to Zen, which educates to be fully in what is done, in the now, concentration and skill are achieved.

- Master, what do you do to be on the true path?

- When I'm hungry, I eat; when I'm sleepy, I sleep.

- But those things are done by everyone.

- It is not true. When others eat they think of a thousand things at once.

When they sleep, they dream of a thousand things at once. That is why I differentiate myself from others. [3]

There are many cultures that do not have time. And it is not that they have that voracious rush of the present that we have, but that they do not understand the Western concept of "time" that flows independently of events, a time that can be calculated and measured by something like a clock face or a calendar. “Time is not money. Gold is worth nothing. Time is life" affirmed the economist and humanist Jose Luis Sampedro. Thus, it is not surprising that the Amondawa of the Amazon do not have a specific word for “time” or for any arbitrary subdivision such as month or year. For them the idea of ​​"working all night" does not make any sense because what matters is the fruit of that work and not the interval used. Nor do they measure their age in years, but rather refer to the different milestones in their lives and the different positions they occupy within the tribe, through rites of passage, as time passes and they acquire new responsibilities.

For the Nuer and Nandi, time only takes as a reference the tasks and activities most necessary in their culture, in this case livestock and natural cycles. As in many of our towns. One of the last inhabitants of a small “abandoned” town in Spain called Escartín, in the Pyrenees, said: “For me, every day was different, although the tasks were repeated cyclically every year. The sky that covered us varied from day to day. The landscape varied daily, only the silhouettes of the mountains remained constant. " [4]

In reality, although we Westerners may be rational, in directing both our lives and our minds towards the past and the future, we use the same areas of the brain: the areas of the imagination. "Remember" means "to go back through the heart", not through the microscope. Perhaps that is why the Baffin Inuit use the same word, "uvaitiarru", to refer to the past and the future, because it is equally distant and mythical, part of the imagination. The aboriginal tribes of Australia designate the past as a "Dream": it is the time of the unusual or wonderful, in which "the extraordinary was the rule."

South Sudan, Juba, Feb'14. Oxfam East Africa

If there is something that distinguishes us from other animals, it is our ability to dream (such as the Dream of the aborigines, or our cleaning of the house in dreams). We not only imagine stories to fantasize and highlight our identity, but also to prevent. All peoples have their own myths, and we are no less. One of them, that of Cronos (Saturn) devouring his son, the god of Time who devoured and consumed the years, the days and the hours in the inevitable passing of Time. Under these conditions, where also, like the mythical time of the aborigines, “the extraordinary was the rule”, any kind of human political life was impossible, that is, true politics: sitting down to talk, to dialogue, to legislate . Zeus defeated him, and he was no longer the owner of everything. Men were able to build palaces and temples, talk and legislate in favor of time. And so Kairos appeared, the "right time to do something." Therefore, Kairos has wings, because his mind is educated, fast and volatile; and he carries an unbalanced scale, because balance is not one of his best virtues, just as it is not one of time, just as it is not one of life. Which, remember, is impermanent.

"It is useless to chase the world, nobody is going to catch it" say the Berbers of Kabylia. And they call the clock that "devil's mill" that causes the unseemly habit of haste.

"When I get a little obsessed with my work and stress tempts me, I remember that very Amazonian phrase" tomorrow is also day! " - continues biologist José Álvarez Alonso in his story.

"When I feel inclined to get depressed or miserable because of a particularly serious family or personal problem, I think of that other" no one dies on his eve. "

Or when I tend to become a little obsessed with what will become of my old age, without a comfortable and "honorable" retirement as any Westerner aspires, I cannot stop thinking about my Amazonian friends, happy in their dignified poverty and with their multiple problems, And I feel somewhat guilty about my ridiculous worries.

And I feel a healthy envy, because their ability to live and enjoy the present is neither poisoned by the past, nor mortgaged by the future. "

By Noemí Villaverde Maza

Cover: Meditation Road, Nickolai Kashirin

Mito Magazine

Video: Jordan B. Peterson on 12 Rules for Life (June 2021).