You know how when a new car or even just a new shirt loses the emotional zing it used to give you? The emotional let down equivalent to new car smell wearing off?
That’s happening for me, as we settle in and quit moving around so much. Living in Mexico City will never be ho-hum, but large pieces of my days are taking on the inevitable sameness that comes with a routine and lots of time spent on building an online business.
I’m happy to report that Miracle Days still happen, though!
The week started out slow, I was tired Monday and Tuesday, and felt like I couldn’t catch up. Sergio had a client last week that hired him to drive all over the place, so I didn’t see him much. Our routine as a couple, which we are still working at figuring out, went straight out the window.
Like many latinos, he is a night owl who prefers to eat late and doesn’t need much sleep. I’m a cross between hibernating bear and midwest farmer. I like to eat early, sleep 9 hours (which never happens) and get up with the chickens (which usually does happen actually).
At any rate, I was alone most evenings for the first time in months, and faced with the reality that really, in this city of 22 million people, I don’t know anyone.
I seem to be more resilient about being alone than most people, yet I was thinking lately I need to meet more people here. When I first arrived in CDMX I joined a couple of expat groups and was not inspired by the experience. The timing was not right for me then.
I recently signed up for an introductory class at the Mexico City Buddhist Center. It’s a step to meeting new people, finding authentic community, and reassurance about life’s uncertainties.
Uncertainty about work and life is a constant. I’ve accepted that, especially right now as we are in startup phase of our life together and my online business.
I juggle the uncertainty with pep talks. Telling myself my business network is online, that I am meeting the right people there, both of which is true. Telling myself that we will choose a place to settle in the next couple of years and dig into a local community at that point. Enjoying my work even when it is tedious and actual revenue remains uncertain. Trying and succeeding and failing and trying again.
By Thursday some events came together with a jolt. It was a miracle day, but didn’t start out that way.
We are working out almost daily in the parks here. I spend hours on the computer, and Sergio spends hours behind the wheel in traffic. We have to get outside in the morning for a couple of hours before we settle into our sitting; the parks in this part of Mexico City are world class, so its a win-win.
This morning, I missed my alarm, which almost never happens, and we got to the park later than usual. I had almost skipped the workout, but thought, no. This is an important commitment, too, and the quality of my work will be better afterward.
We were doing partner ab crunches and a big dark bird with white tail feathers caught my eye as it swooped and landed high up in a tree. I said, “Sergio, look…!”
At the same moment he said, “Oh my god es un aguila! Its an eagle!” He hopped up, ran to grab my phone to take pics, and took off. So much for partner abs.
I could see a smaller dark spot zipping around, diving at the eagle. A hummingbird. It was harrassing the eagle, I assume trying to get it to move along. And the eagle did move along, joining its mate in another tree!
The hummingbird and the eagle are both very significant in Aztec spirituality. We were there mid-morning, not our normal time. I wouldn’t have thought eagles would be in the park mid-morning, either. It seemed like, well, a miracle.
Returning from that to my office, I settled in to do some work. This week I spent some time pitching a referral program for my first product. It is going really well and resulting in new endorsements and referral agreements.
I saw a couple of days ago that it also resulted in a bit of a backhanded endorsement in the form of a one individual who liked the positioning of my product so much she adapted some of my marketing copy and adjusted my positioning as her own and I haven’t heard from her since.
This was a learning opportunity I hadn’t budgeted for - stealing of not just my shine, but using up the time and energy needed to calibrate back to equanimity from the disappointment of someone else’s lack of ethics. I’m happy to report that the last two years of solo travel and taking risks is paying off. I’m more resilient now and it didn’t take long to shrug it off and refocus.
I was looking forward to ending the day with my Buddhism class held in an upstairs room of a creaky building in Coyoacan, home of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, an ancient neighborhood that has sheltered revolutionaries and scholars for hundreds if not thousands of years.
When I mapped the trip to Coyoacan earlier, it said an hour. To go 6 miles. That’s Mexico City traffic at rush hour.
We left and, about 45 minutes into the trip, it started raining. Traffic stopped. Now google said we were 40 minutes away instead of 20.
When we arrived, almost an hour late, the building was locked up. I was feeling guilty about being so late. I would have left but Sergio, my Chaman native of Mexico City, a place where you don’t ask, you don’t get, knocked on the glass window with the tip of his key, once, twice, three times. Finally, a young man with wild hair and calm eyes opened the door. He said, “We’re closed.”
I said “I know. Is the class meeting tonight?”
He said, “Yes, but it started an hour ago.”
I said, “I know. Hemos estado en trafico” - we have been in traffic.
Traffic is the universal magic excuse here. He said “OK just one moment” and closed the door on us.
It is drizzling and Sergio, who has an Old World sense of courtesy inherited from his father, was not pleased at being told to wait in the rain by this muchacho.
Truth be told, Sergio also has a preconceived notion that Buddhism is for ricos, rich people. He has a generalized bias against ricos, having grown up as a Have Not on the receiving end of some fairly obnoxious behavior by a few of Mexico’s Haves.
He forgets at times that his best friend from his youth is from an upper class family, and that technically my status as a gringa and my savings account makes us ricos by Mexican standards (although certainly not by US comparison), a status that is at risk on both sides of the border if my efforts to build an online business fail.
I don’t know if Buddhism is actually for ricos in Mexico, I can see where it might be compared to the alternatives. Sergio’s spiritual practice is tied to the Aztec danzante community. They don’t have the overhead of a physical location like a center, they don’t charge for practice, and classes are very inexpensive. All day events, such as a sweat lodge or ceremonia, usually include a pot luck and rarely cost more than 5 or 6 US dollars for the day.
The Buddhist Center is much more organized, starting with the fact that they have a website. They charge per activity, rather than sell a membership or hound a congregation for tithes. The activities - courses, yoga, even a charge to attend guided mediation - are expensive relative to popular alternatives - movies, street food, free local festivals, church activities, museums and soccer tickets in the nosebleed seats.
As we wait for the young man to reappear, I actually don’t feel too stressed. Mexico is teaching me to let go of that grating feeling at the base of my gringa skull when I am late. I still try to be on time, but the traffic and weather do roil unpredictably - when it rains, gridlock forms in uneven snarls that ripple out into stuck lines of bleating traffic for miles around. Also, my cultural radar is still developing, I don’t always know the real start time. Once I was furious with Sergio because I thought we were going to be two hours late to an event, and it turns out it had just started when we arrived.
Even so, just as I’m wondering if I’ve finally arrived too late even for an event in Mexico, the young man reappears. We are allowed to enter. We head upstairs, take our shoes off and enter quietly. We take seats in the back row.
I settle down onto a cushion and prop my chin on my knee. No one scolds me, of course, and I immediately feel like the 90 minute drive in the rain was worth it. It is quiet and warm in the room, the rain picks up and beats a steady cadence on the roof. I feel calmer already.
I adore this experience of living in a city with the energy of thousands of years and millions of inhabitants, at the same time it’s not surprising that my soul is seeking out the calm pockets - parks, buddhist meetings - in the hustle and bustle.
As I sit and listen to the teacher talk about the Buddha, I fall in love with Spanish again. The teacher relates the story of Buddha’s vision of a lake filled with lotus blossoms, at different levels in the water. I see it in my mind’s eye as he describes it. I’m so happy that I can understand.
For decades I carried around my Spanish verb workbooks along with a sense of loss about not being bilingual. It was strange, how can you feel a sense of loss about something you never had? It must be tied to a previous life if there is such a thing.
And now, at least once a day, I marvel at the fact that those words finally transformed from an unintelligible stream of lyrical sounds into carriers of meaning. I catch fragments of conversation as I pass people on the street or sit in a coffee shop. Even the cadence of Mexico City slang is beginning to sound familiar.
My Spanish is quite frankly a bit stalled right now - I need some intensive practice with some of the more difficult verb tenses, I need to read more spanish magazines and books, and that was another reason I signed up for this course. To force myself to speak with people other than Sergio, and to spend concentrated time listening to other’s pronunciation too.
The teacher answers some questions about karma and dharma, to be honest I think his answers are simplistic, like he doesn’t really know, either. I can see by the unsatisfied looks of the students that they would probably agree with me. Our teacher is older than I am but I believe that he may be a beginner teacher. And thats OK, we’re all beginners here.
We only meditate for about 5 minutes but I feel woozy afterward. The learning of the past week gelled in a nanosecond. I dropped like a stone into a deep meditative state, as if submerging too quickly during scuba diving, and actually felt a physical jolt when the teacher rang the bowl to signal us back.
The class ends and we walk out onto the old cobblestone streets. Old Coyoacan glows after the rain, the street lights and dark shadows soften the rough edges of run-down nooks and crannies. This area is not far from the main square and as such, has several bars and restaurants, with a heavy emphasis on the latter.
We pass a few trendy watering holes, each one louder than the one before. I think to myself, I really must be getting old, all I want is to sit and talk about what we just heard in class, in a quiet restaurant with a glass of wine and maybe pizza.
It got later and just as I was thinking, nothing is going to be open, we came around a corner at the end of a street where the concentration of busy bars was thinning out, giving way to a few dark storefronts and homes. We saw an Italian restaurant across the way, its front door open, light spilling out onto the sidewalk. A miracle.
Exactly what I was envisioning, a nice restaurant in an old house. The only other patrons were another older couple, as I have to admit we are becoming, having their nice dinner.
Now every miracle has a dark thread, in this case it was the ubiquitous big screen TVs mounted near the ceiling that all restaurants, if not most public places, seem to have now.
At least these were not tuned to noisy music video channels or sports, but instead a muted tourist reel of admittedly stunning aerial film footage from Rome and southern Italy. Sergio loves to see new places, he’s interested in Roman history, and he loves big screen TVS, so he was riveted for a few minutes. I considered feeling slighted and then I thought, no, I actually love having some mental space all to myself for a few minutes.
I thought about how miracles happen but they don’t just happen, that this day, which could not have happened a couple of years ago, was the product of some wrenching decisions and fortuitous happenstance along the way.
We have to make space for our ideal days to show up, and that usually means cutting out obligations and activities that don’t interest or serve us. This is much easier said than done, depending upon how out of alignment a routine has become. I don’t know why, but it usually also means accepting a higher level of discomfort and uncertainty, at least for awhile.
I thought about the dark threads that run through our miracle days - missed alarms, a 45 minute drive that turns into a 90 minute traffic snarl, the big screen TVS, the colleague that steals from you.
The key is to see all of it as part of a flow. At any point along the way, I could have focused on those “negatives” and chosen to let them control my reaction and the outcome. The key is to not get tricked into focusing on the dark threads so much that they steal your focus and you miss riding the wave that is flowing above.
Be like the eagle that keeps moving from tree top to tree top, ignoring the angry tiny hummingbirds as they try to engage you in an fruitless game of chase. Be the Eagle!
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