One of Gandhi’s most famous insights, and what is preached by other wise minds, is that to change the world we have to start within: our thoughts and our actions to ourselves and then to the closest around us. Below is the story of part of my journey within, but mostly an introduction and an invitation to everyone to share theirs.
Yes it is cliché, (and I’ll be honest I am not too fond of admitting clichés in my life) going to Asia opened that “spiritual” door for me. I went for the first time when I was 23 looking to go as far away as possible from home. I was looking to explore a world as completely different from mine, also, I just wanted to proof everyone and myself I could go anywhere, but particularly (and perhaps the greatness motivator to endure an awful job for a whole year in order to save for the trip) I wanted to be admired to dare to go so far, alone. My intentions were selfish and in no way included spiritual awakening.
Rock climbing, diving, and just exploring, became my day to day for the 4 months I was backpacking through South East Asia. Whoever has travelled alone knows, travelling by oneself by no means means being alone. I had different groups of “party” friends in each stop, partnered with about 4 different girls to go on trips or cross borders, and rarely did I ever eat alone. An extrovert by nature, but also, a hermit by heart, by the third month I was tired of having to have friends and having to make them over and over again…as well as bored of my introductory speech –From Ecuador… 23…travelling indefinitely… boyfriend is in San Francisco…no he won’t come… I rock climb…I looooveee Radiohead!- Tired and been so far gave me the courage, for the first time, to not give in to the social pressure of been accompanied, and I followed my need to be alone. I don’t know why, I just wanted solitude, a book…silence.
I went off the beating track, I read a book in 3 days and just slept, walked, read and ate at the only hostel in a town in the middle of nowhere in Laos where it was so cold, I didn’t even take a shower (no hot water available). The solitude of those three days wasn’t itself the awakening, but it allowed me to meet the person within me, it gave way for an inner voice to be acknowledged. Being 23 and growing up catholic, I had had an education that “good” meant giving to others, with the side effect of harshly judging me and the others I was supposed to give to. I left home at 18 to go to a very liberal college in the US; two years after focusing my studies on left Marxist theory political science and Latin American revolution history, I was self-declared “non religious.” To my eyes religion had traumatized me, taught me to be extremely judgeful, was boring, and had not done anything good for “my people.” Spiritual to me equaled religion, and having thrown my “God” and beliefs out of my life, I decided I would figure out how I felt about “all these stuff” sometime in the future.
Yet, acknowledging that voice during those three cold days unexpectedly made my perception of the world different. After three months between Laos and Thailand, suddenly, I just began to notice the abundant Buddhist messages. Usually in tourist “new agy” stores, these messages were so simple and obvious, and preached different forms of what I understood as the following: Accept and love yourself entirely and all your problems go away, problems are not problems, live in the present, cultivate peace of mind (the key to happiness).
-Of course! I have to accept myself, my mistakes, give a fuck about what others think, of course! Obviously, I have to live in the present, I do that! Wait…do I do that?
None, nothing, in my up to that point 23 years of western upper middle class latin American and US college life, had told me such simple and obvious revelations.
But wait, who was I? At home those around me claimed I was a confident girl. Was I? I was miles away mainly looking for admiration and approval, sooo no, probably not that much. What did I have to accept that I wasn’t accepting? Peace of mind? What’s that?
Yes, I did not know what peace of mind meant.
I did not become Buddhist, I did not even begun to explore these questions any further. I was still, miles away from home looking for admiration and approval from the rest of the world. But a door opened, a seed was planted.
Years after, I have constantly wondered my place in the world. What is my passion and where I can have a real positive impact. Courageously I have dived into different professions, cities, countries, boyfriends and friends, absolutely loving them all and passionately succeeding and many times, making a complete splash. No, no spiritual digging took place, no exploration of those questions planted years back. They were simply denied.
However, the time came when one of those splashes involved so much I had to disconnect again from my side of the world. Sick, ashamed and hurt, once more Asia was my destiny, this time, my scape. The messages, this time in Bali, started resonating. I plunged into self- exploration, self-love, self-acceptance, and the understanding and construction of peace of mind as I urged to get out of the hole I had fallen in.
My intention is not to go into detail of that journey within, at least not in this post, but just to say that the obvious messages, so simple as “love yourself” –and basically “Fuck it” to everything else and just follow your heart- have been so incredibly challenging and difficult. Yet, they are, no doubt about it, the key to what has been the greatest accomplishments and happiness of my life.
Changing the world is possible. There is good out there, and this site aims to show it all to inspire us all. But no positive change is possible if it does not take place with our sincere conviction, which can only stem from our love. Loving our body, loving what we do, loving ourselves, loving our life. Sounds simple, but try doing it sincerely, no exceptions allowed, do you, do you know who you are? My spirituality is this: Change starts within, with ourselves, figuring out who we are, accepting us so we can accept others, so we have peace. Only then can we plant peace and love in others, and that is the key to it all.
I believe change within is the most important step towards evolving into the kind of society we need to keep living on this Planet. We have all been hurt, and to consciously learning to heal (by accepting ourselves) without having to hurt others, we cut the vicious cycle that boycotts our kind. If we can live our lives conscious of the impact our decisions and actions have on others we can begin to act together, act for ourselves and each other. We may have outstanding laws, but if most people don’t comply with them, then the damage done hurts the entire community, the entire Planet. On the contrary, there may be no laws to enforce good behaviour, but if we are conscious enough we can behave in ways that benefit us humans as well as the natural world that allows our life. I am no saint, I am no elevated wise mind, and I am for sure not a person who has achieved peace of mind or whose actions are entirely “evolved.” I am constantly working on this all, the path to a loving peaceful mind is a treacherous one. Yet, I am sure I am on it, and that is enough to create good.
This section *Evolution Within* is dedicated to changes within. Stories, tools, sites, people, and everything that we do around the world to change inside…so that we can be our greatest on the outside.