“If you think you’re enlightened, go and spend a week with your family.” ~ Ram Dass
I don’t think I’m enlightened. In fact, at this moment, I know I’m not. I’m roughly halfway through a two-and-a-half-month visit to my husband’s hometown in Southern Colombia.
We’re living with my in-laws, and I’m about to lose my mind. So, instead of insanity, I choose mindfulness practices.
I have ample opportunities to notice the everyday discomfort that arises from my resistance to this chosen change in lifestyle and location for 10 weeks. Living in someone else’s home—and in a small city with a frigid climate—for an extended time is a major challenge for the freedom-loving, forest-dwelling introvert I’ve become.
My husband and I met in rural Guatemala, where we now make our home, although I’m from Texas and he’s from Colombia. We’d both escaped our home cultures, countries, and overbearing Latina Catholic mothers around the age of 30, over a decade ago.
Our daughter is now nine. She has two grandparents, three uncles, two aunts, and six cousins here in Colombia who all live within a five-minutes’ walk from each other. Like most Colombians, they’re a loud, jovial, loving, argumentative, and lively bunch.
We only visit every few years, so we stay for a couple of months each time.
I appreciate the hospitality (and also really wish that Airbnb were a thing here). I am grateful for the amazing fruits and fruit juices I get to drink every day. I love the hora de café, the daily coffee and sweet bread break that happens nationwide at 4:00 or 5:00 p.m. without fail. I am grateful for the free Wi-Fi I’m using, which enables me to work and write and watch Pedro Almodóvar movies on Netflix. I am glad my daughter is getting to connect with her South American roots.
At the same time, I miss my home, being in my own space, my own kitchen, my own balcony, and the beauty of the lake.
I miss my kitties and dogs. I miss my friends and the friendly strangers on the path. (Most strangers here aren’t so friendly and many look at me sideways since I’m the only North American within 50 miles at least.)
I miss eating salad. (The diet here is invariably meat, rice, and potatoes.)
And I know that five more weeks isn’t really that long in the grand scheme of things.
Life is short, and it’s important to visit family and spend quality time with the elder generation. Even if they drive us a little crazy.
Every day is an opportunity to cultivate love and practice patience and gratitude.
I’ll leave you with this truly awe-inspiring Prayer of Gratitude from the Lakota Sioux Nation. (I personally need to recite it every glorious day of this long, strange trip.)
Aho Mitakuye Oyasin—all my relations.
I honor you in this circle of life with me today.
I am grateful for this opportunity to acknowledge you in this prayer.
To the Creator, for the ultimate gift of life, I thank you.
To the mineral nation that has built and maintained my bones and all foundations of life experience, I thank you.
To the plant nation that sustains my organs and body and gives me healing herbs for sickness, I thank you.
To the animal nation that feeds me from your own flesh and offers your loyal companionship in this walk of life, I thank you.
To the humble nation that shares my path as a soul upon the sacred wheel of earthly life, I thank you.
To the spirit nation that guides me invisibly through the ups and downs of life and for carrying the torch of light through the ages, I thank you.
To the four winds of change and growth, I thank you.
You are all my relations, my relatives, without whom I would not live. We are in the circle of life together, coexisting, coependent, cocreating our destiny.
One, not more important than the other. One nation evolving from the other and yet each dependent upon the one above and the one below.
All of us a part of the Great Mystery.
Thank you for this life.