Just for a change, I thought I would write this newsletter in English.
Though not my mother tongue, it comes more easily to me than any other language that I know and is the language in which I am most at ease expressing my thoughts and feelings.
The newsletter is also a little longer than usual, but then, it’s the end-of-year holidays, so I’m hoping people will be more inclined to relax, get a cup of tea and settle down for ‘a read’!
The days are at their shortest now and we’re coming to the end of the year. These longer hours of darkness have a function.
This is the time to retreat into ourselves, to think about the things that have come our way, crossed our paths, to make plans for the foreseeable future and to ‘ponder on the meaning of life’!
A few weeks ago I was on holiday in Colombia. Though I have lived in South America as a child, it was my first visit to this country with an incredibly old history and culture.
Long before the Spanish turned up, the Americas had been inhabited by many different tribes (or First Nations as they’re called in North America), spread over the whole of the two vast continents. Each tribe or nation had its own identity, language, customs and history and rather than grouping them all together as ‘indians’ (a wrong name in itself as Colombus thought he had arrived in India), you can look at them as being as diverse as comparing Greece (for example), with Sweden.
Part of my trip took me with friends to San Agustin, a place that was high on my list to visit as it is an area where they have discovered a huge amount of pre-Colombian burial sites, sculptures and other artefacts which could reveal clues to the way people there lived many thousands of years ago.
This fascinates me. How did people live hundreds and thousands of years ago? What moved them to adopt particular habits and customs?
I strongly believe that knowing the reasoning behind rituals that today we might consider barbaric or cruel, can kick-start a process of understanding between peoples of different cultures, a quality much needed in the world as it is today.
In the archeological park we visited, we hired a guide in order to understand as much as possible of the history and customs of the people who lived in that area over a period of between three hundred and three thousand years before the birth of Christ.
An incredibly old culture you have to admit. difficult even to conceive.
Of all the stories the guide told us, of all the artefacts we saw, one particular tale stuck in my mind, largely because it related to my own field, yoga.
The guide was careful to say that the story he was relating was one interpretation only and obviously others were possible, even feasible.
His interpretation came from his Shamanic background and he ‘suggested’ that several of the sculptures, the way they were depicted, the positions in which certain rocks were placed and carved on mountainsides were references to the Chakras, the wheels of energy spread throughout our bodies and mentioned frequently in yoga.
Not surprisingly, I pricked up my ears!
The idea that over three or four thousand years ago, people on opposite sides of the world might have held similar beliefs of how our bodies work, of our relationship with the world in which we live, is something that inspires hope and trust in me.
Hope that, no matter how far apart we live geographically, we are not all that different from each other; and trust that if we can understand this, one day we will find our way back to ‘togetherness’.
Now one of the friends I was travelling with has the habit of bringing me solidly back to earth when I threaten to float too far away in my dreams and thoughts.
When I started waxing lyrical aobut this ‘incredible coincidence’, he turned to me and said:
“ Sudha, you realise this interpretation of the archeology of thousands of years ago, is made by people who live in this time, who have knowledge of the world acquired in the twentieth and twenty first centuries, helped by media, by the internet? The people who are putting their theories forward, comparing rituals of cultures in South America to cultures in the Far East, are people who have present day knowledge of the Eastern cultures and as such, their interpretations can ever be untainted, nor absolute proof.”
As you might have guessed, my friend is a scientist and very alert to theories put forward without unbiased and empirical evidence.
This is what makes him a good friend. Neither he nor I let our differing natures and views of the world stop us from listening to each other, challenging each other, from always questioning the world in which we live and our reactions to what happens around us.
So after mulling on this for a while, I have come to the conclusion that it all comes down to ‘choice’.
To be able to choose is one of the most amazing gifts we have been given. There is always a choice. If not in how a situation in life plays out, at the very least in how we react to it.
So what do I choose to believe? Or hope for? Or trust in?
Is there a larger connection between the peoples of the world, something we may hope for and trust in, but as yet have no physical evidence of?
Or do I wait to believe until the evidence is handed to me on a plate?
Choice is often closely connected to faith:
Faith – to believe without having absolute proof.
So today and in this case, I choose to have faith.
I have no absolute proof and I am sure there are plenty of arguments which could argue for the opposite, but I choose to believe that we are all connected in some way of which I have no understanding at all.
I choose to have faith.
In the coming year, may I wish for you that you always feel free to make the choice that works best for you in that moment, but equally, that you remain open to and respectful of the choice of others?
After all it is all the differing views the world brings forth which make our world such an interesting one to live in.
I hope you all have very happy times in these ‘dark’ days, whether you spend them with friends, family or in peaceful aloneness. Most of all, I wish you a healthy and peaceful new year in 2020.