Archive for the ‘Seeds for the Soul’ Category

SEEDS FOR THE SOUL: Priorities

septiembre 2, 2010

Our weekends are relaxed. On most Saturdays, while my husband plays golf, I work on our garden, write, sew, cook or read (and sometimes spend hours on the phone catching up with old friends or our families). More often than not, we go to the movies and then dinner. Every now and then, on any given Sunday we take an early morning walk at the beach with Smoky, our pooch. But as a rule, Sundays are days of leisure, without defined plans, nor agendas. No emails, virtual communities, blogs, Web pages, calls to the Orient or crisis that involves delayed, back-ordered, or stuck-in-customs merchandise. Thus, Mondays arrive in supersonic train and often without brakes.
On this particular Monday, we are a merely twenty-four hours away from my parents’ imminent arrival in Cozumel. My list of errands to run and projects to complete is as long as the Great Wall of China and the hands of the clock are moving at the speed of the light.
I have time for everything and for everything I have time, I repeat under my breath, trying to maintain my calm as I go up and down the stairs carrying towels, sheets, soap, shampoo, disposable razors, body lotion and shaving cream.
I have time for everything and for everything I have time, going from room to room, arranging flower vases, napkin holders, books and candles; connecting the refrigerator, making sure the water valves are on, that the fans and the A/C are working, that the lamps have fresh light bulbs. Ready! Next item on the list…
Darling, where are we going for breakfast, asks my husband. Breakfast?!! I take a deep breath and nail my eyes on the list in front of me. Breakfast is not there, but I must understand that even though breakfast is not a priority for me, it is a fundamental part of my husband’s day. I am debating whether to tell him to go by himself so I can go about my own business when, capturing my hesitation, he comments, how are we supposed to do everything we have to do without energy? And then he adds, with an innocent tone, besides, you better eat something before you get too cranky, his mischievous eyes inviting mine to participate in a dance of mockery.
He’s got a point. But sometimes (only sometimes) I wonder what makes him think that his priorities are more important than mine. Then again, what makes me think that mine are more important than his?
It happens to all of us, and to many, more than once a day. Take for instance the urgency of that client or friend who has called you five times in two hours to ask for something that you assured him or her from the get go, that you would call back as soon as you had it. Or the colleague who interrupts what you are doing to ask you for advice or an opinion on something that is far and remote from what you are doing right at that moment.
Priorities are relative and subjective. For the person that has the urgency, that urgency is the most important thing at that moment. But for the person on the other side, the perspective is very different. Keeping a flexible attitude can rescue us from loosing our course in the ever changing tides of our daily lives. Flowing with the moment instead of sinking with frustration often opens our minds to ideas and possibilities that we had not considered in the first place.
That Monday my husband invited to me to have breakfast in one of our favorite restaurants. Once there, he said to me when he suggested the place, we are already in downtown, on our way to run our errands. Together –hum, I had not considered that option!
As if by magic, the ticking of the clock returned to its normal pace, our two lists became one; we enjoyed a delicious breakfast and accomplished everything we set out to do –all in a spirit of cooperation and affection that made our tasks a pleasurable experience.
Plant seeds of flexibility in the garden of your life. Make it the top of your priority list, flow with the moment and you’ll find that most days you have time for everything and for everything you have time.

©2010 MYRNA CLEGHORN / ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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SEEDS FOR THE SOUL: Tea with a Twist

mayo 19, 2010

Article first published as Tea with a Twist on Blogcritics.

Most foreigners living on the Island do it. We learned it from the locals. At first, a believer of natural remedies and the power of mind over matter, I resisted. But since my horrible bout with stubborn, nothing-but-chemicals-will-get-me-out-of-your-body-amoebas, I have joined the ranks of people that take medicine to treat parasites every six months, religiously, whether or not we know for a fact that we are suffering from parasites.

However, I have not being discouraged from searching for alternative treatment. When I heard that epazote, an herb widely used in Mexican cuisine to enhance the flavor of certain dishes, is also an effective natural remedy to keep parasites at bay when taken as tea, I made it a point to sip a cup or two at least twice a week. Yet I was still suffering from stomach discomfort when a friend introduced me to his wife, who happens to be a doctor.

When I casually approached the subject of parasites, she was quick in recommending epazote tea. I told her I had been drinking it to no avail and she proceeded to initiate me on the wisdom and ritual of using this ancient remedy successfully. As it turns out, its effectiveness depends as much on the tea itself as on the sagacity of the person that administers it.

While the tea is prepared, she explained in a solemn tone, the “patient” must be in a place that is totally out of reach from the smell of the infusion. Once ready, it is imminent that you keep the cup tightly covered until it is in the hands of the patient and then it must be gulped down swiftly.

If you are not about to blurt out why!?, then perhaps you should stop reading, but if like me that day, you are holding your breath waiting for a break in the story to ask, here is your answer: should the parasites catch a whiff of the tea before it is swallowed, they will twist around to protect themselves from certain death, rendering the treatment totally ineffective.

Intrigued as I am, I have not been able to test this method, since my husband, a veteran Navy SEAL that takes pride in the legendary effectiveness of their battle skills, favors modern warfare –a single pill taken every six months. Ambushing a parasite is not his cup of tea!

Proven method or fallible theory, fact or fiction, surefire remedy or old wife’s tale, it is up to each one of us to believe it or not. What I find truly fascinating is the thought of intestinal worms with more common sense than many people.

Really, how many of us have the sense to twist around when we smell something funny or protect ourselves when we feel something destructive coming our way? It seems to me we have a lot to learn from these parasites. We can start by “twisting” to another channel or changing the subject at the mere mention of the word crisis.

Don’t let the smell of lack or hopelessness kill your expectations for a great future. Affirm abundance, trust the universe and when in doubt, sit back, relax and sip a cup of tea. Believe that this situation too, shall twist!

© Myrna Raquel Cleghorn and Ese Gusto Por La Vida, 2009-2010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Myrna Raquel Cleghorn and Ese Gusto Por La Vida with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

A Different Kind of Stress: Living the American Dream in a foreign country is not a walk in the park –it is more like an adventure on Mars!

marzo 4, 2010

It is my second visit to this office in eight days. Today, as the last time, there are not many people waiting. I say good morning as I enter and the words bounce against the faded institutional posters that decorate the walls, one listing the documents one needs to present to contract service, another reminding customers of their rights and a third one depicting the achievements of the company, always working to improve service to the customer, in the last several years.

When my turn arrives, I approach one of the two ladies sitting behind twin desks, each with her eyes set on the computer screen in front of her. I say hello before I sit down, finally catching her attention. Noticing she is not the same person that took care of me the last time, I explain the purpose of my visit. I need to request additional service, but the last time I was here it was explained to me that, for that, I need to fill out a form, which was not available at the time, so I was invited to come back in a week or so.

She does not know if the forms are available now, but I can check myself, with the person that handles that area. I find that person sitting behind another desk in an office with a closed unmarked door. She hands me the form and a list of the paperwork I need to submit before they can consider my request. Copies, not originals, of passport, proof of address, property taxes receipt and the deed, along with a croquis (a rough sketch of a map) to our house and a list of the appliances we have. I can bring back the paperwork anytime, Monday through Friday, between seven and ten AM.

Two days later I return with all my paperwork in hand. The service I am applying for is two new electric meters and the company I am dealing with is Mexico’s one and only electric company. The person that handles the requests for new and additional service receives my paperwork. Once checked and stamped with the date, she hands me a copy of the request form and tells me to come back in a month.

A month? She explains to me that presently they are out of meters and that a month is the timeline for the main office to review and respond to this kind of request. “Will I be contacted if you receive the response any quicker than a month?” I ask, knowing in advance what the answer will be: “No, that’s the timeline.”

To most of our friends we lead a life of leisure, with no stress and no worries. My husband and I did what every other man or woman dream of, the true realization of the American Dream: we sold everything we owned in the States and moved to Cozumel, Mexico.

My life is a vacation, I often joke. I no longer live for Fridays, my lunch brake can run into dinner and the only permanent things on my agenda are yoga practice, belly dance classes and writing. I take care of our home and garden, let my creativity run amok in our spacious airy kitchen and spend endless hours at the grocery store, where one can run into dozens of acquaintances in one single trip. A self-proclaimed domestic diva, I do not miss the stress of my former life at all, but that does not mean we lead stress-less lives. It is just a different kind of stress.

Far from retired, we own and run a business down here and that is no walk in the park, it is more like an adventure on Mars! If that is the paperwork and the time of response to get two new meters, imagine what it entails to open bank accounts, import products, file taxes and apply for and renew licenses. This is a place where if the bank teller cashing a check decides that the signature on it does not match what they have in file, he or she can and will turn it down; a place where I can not file the request to set up banking online because the main name on our personal account is my husband’s, even though my name is on the account and the bank customer service representative that helped us open it is the same person that would help us through the set up.

But things have improved. It used to be that going to the bank, paying your phone bill and paying your electric bill had to be done on separate days because it took that long to stand in line. Nowadays, there are more banks and both the phone and the electric companies have twenty-four hour service machines where you can pay your bills.

Grocery shopping used to take another day and planning a menu ahead of time was out of the question since one had to go supermarket-hopping to find the basics. With four big-chain-name supermarkets on the Island, we now have an array of choices and one can find almost anything from peanut butter to arugula and smoked salmon to low-sodium soy sauce.

Progress may be catching up with our little piece of paradise, but some transactions can still take over thirty days to be resolved. When I get home I put a note on my calendar, on a date a month from now. Between now and then I will continue riding my bicycle to run errands, juggling domestic diva-ness, business co-owner responsibilities and writing aspirations with long walks by the beach and periodic visits to the electric company to follow up on the status of our request –just in case!

Yes, it is a different kind of stress –the kind that strengthens your spirit.

SEEDS FOR THE SOUL: Driving in Paradise

febrero 20, 2010

There is no sacred space when it comes to the road.

As I approach the intersection, my hands claim autonomy; all ten fingers tighten around the steering wheel, jerking my body up and forward, eyes wide open. Ah, to be a dragonfly and be able to see all around me without having to turn my head!

I look from one side to the other several times, holding my breath, right foot firmly pressed on the brake pedal. It is the furious blare of a claxon that finally propels me to move on, but not before looking up and down the street one more time.

Years ago I exchanged my business suits, pumps and Honda Civic for shorts, flip flops and a bicycle. I live in paradise. But even in these 24.21 by 7.94 miles of heaven called Cozumel, it is necessary to drive a car every now and then. And when you do, no amount of defensive driving classes can prepare you for the experience.

There is no sacred space when it comes to the road. One shares it with tricycles, horse-drawn carriages, parked cars, street vendors, left-their-common-sense-at-home tourists, and mopeds carrying up to five passengers swirling around like flies in a garbage dump. Sometimes there is one of each, lined up side by side, all in one lane, waiting for the traffic light to change! If there is a rule, it is to be alert – and you can never be too careful.

If the experience of driving here is challenging, try to imagine what it is like to be involved in an accident. There was a moment in particular, or rather a series of moments that culminated with a crucial meeting in an intersection that will forever be rooted to my spirit.

One splendid morning, due to road repairs, I was forced to take a detour. Unfamiliar with the area, focused on finding my way around, I hit a lady on a moped, sending her to the hospital and me to the police headquarters. Thank God, her injuries were not serious, but my sorrow for having hurt her was and continues to be beyond measure.

The police headquarters in Cozumel is not a cozy place, as I imagine neither is any other police headquarters in the world. It is a place inhabited by egos inflated by the false power of authority. A moment in this environment can be devastating, but it can also feed the spirit.

With hundreds of minutes at my disposal without anything more to do but wait, I devoted myself to concentrating on my breathing, convincing myself with every inhalation that everything was going to be okay, and with every exhalation, obliterating all doubt. More than ten hours had passed when the possibility of spending the night there became almost certain. It was then that I thought “anywhere but here” – pleading with the universe to remove me from my immediate reality.

At the mere idea of having to spend the night there (in jail, if we are going to call things by their name) my mind became a growing monster of images fed by stories told by other people and the thousands of movies that paint horrific scenes of the jails of the world. My knees began to tremble like castanets and all I could think was how very unpredictable life is. Short of getting on my knees and begging for forgiveness, it took a lot of persuasion and goodwill to convince the Public Ministry legal representative in charge to put through the paperwork for my release that same night.

The whole ordeal lasted all of fourteen hours, but there, where I experienced so many anxious moments, I also found compassion from a few public servants. Among them, police women who radiated humanity in their smiles, an official who insisted on bringing me something to eat (scrumptious pork chop tacos that I ate without reserve in spite of the fact that I claimed not to be hungry) and a Public Ministry aide who turned off the air conditioning when she noticed that I was shivering – gestures that one may expect to find anywhere, but there.

There were moments that day that tested my level of tolerance; one of them, finding out that had I called my insurance agent sooner, I would not have had to go through the whole judicial process. But who can assure me that things would have been different had I lived somewhere else?

We all have experienced the desire to escape, to be in another place, under different circumstances… But to evade the moment is to evade the essence of life itself. Good experiences and not so good ones coexist in the same moment; it is a question of being alert to discern and to choose what helps us to remain calm.

Sometimes, one has a plan, but the universe has another. Accepting the plan of the universe can unveil great surprises. Driving in Paradise can be hell, but frankly, there is no other place I would rather be than here.

SEEDS FOR THE SOUL: The House of Mirrors

febrero 4, 2010

A walk through the streets of Cozumel can cause a collision of the senses. One could measure distances in smell, sound and colors.

Upon leaving my house this morning, the scent of fresh fried fish from the fish market across the street reverberated through the air competing with the snap and crack of the pork rinds that another neighbor was cooking. The aroma from the fried turnovers sold at the house on the next corner clung to my nostrils until I passed the tortilla factory. Within half a mile I had been lifted up by the smell of slightly toasted corn, subjugated by the whiff of black waters and rescued again by a bouquet of freshly squeezed citrus juices. Further ahead, that scent of firewood that reminds me of the trips to the beach of my childhood seized my memory shrouding it in seaweed, saltpeter and laughter.

The ever changing colors of the sea tease the imagination with waves of pulsating jade, indulgent turquoise, aged indigo. The sky reflects a violent peace that intensifies in the rainy afternoons of summer. The streets, cracked with the passage of cars and the seasons, ooze conformity and ambivalence.

Even with the use of clichés one is short of adjectives and analogies when trying to describe the essence of the neighborhoods…a rainbow display, a painter’s palette, a melting pot, a Crayola box… Here even the mausoleums show off spirited hues –an ode to life in the final resting place of the dead.

The walls that have not been touched by dazzling synthetic colors have been sprinkled with the ashen passage of time and no matter how simple or humble a place is, color is always present in the form of flowers that add the shades of cherry, banana, carrot, lime and guava so favored in this region. There are facades covered with tile, stoneware, wood, cardboard, love and hope and there is a house with a column covered in mirrors.

The house of mirrors is located on the corner of an intersection that I pass almost every day. A majestic bougainvillea crowns the garage entrance and two rectangular columns demarcate the terrace of the second floor. One of these columns is lined with mirrors.

For years the little perfectionist in me has hoped that one day the owners would cover the other column in mirrors, if only for the sake of uniformity, while my curious nature had almost lost all hope of finding an explanation to the use of mirrors on such an unusual place until I finally met the owner.

It turns out that the mirrors have a purpose and an end, she told me, in the mischievous yet solemn tone of one who is used to explain what others may consider odd or flat out bizarre: to return wishes to the wisher.

Aha! Love, good luck, envy, jealousy, health, good or ill fortune –any positive or negative thought sent in the direction of this house, will be reflected in the mirrors and returned to the source.

It is what captivates me about Cozumel. This is a place where magic and religion coexist, where superstitions in many instances drive faith, where the ordinary is extraordinary and a façade can give or take away from you that which you wish upon others. And isn’t this, after all, a good rule to live by?

The Universe is a palace of mirrors. What we wish for our neighbor, will affect us. What we see in another person is a reflection of ourselves. Our environment is a manifestation of who we are. Our words, thoughts and actions are a kaleidoscope of desires that can cut and hurt or build and heal.

Take a look around you. What image does the mirror returns –a spot or a spark?