Photo: Main plaza in Kiev (Nov. 2013)
At four years old my father did a PhD in England so my family moved from Mexico to Oxford for a year. My mother says I use to have waves of anger where I would say: "no one consulted before moving here", "why is it so cold and grey all the time?". I didn't know how to integrate the impact of the new climate, clearly as a metaphor of having left the warmth of my extended family in Mexico. However, this "new weather" without knowing, was re-shaping my psyche, and little did I know the lasting imprint it would leave.
During that period, I discovered the skin color black and was fascinated by this possibility, I had never seen a black person before. At first, I asked my mother, had my friends been too much under the sun? My reference point from my own brown skin was that if I was under the sun skin would get darker. Black became a "normal" part of my existence since two of my favorite people in Oxford where two African young siblings that use to play with me and my sister. This might have not happened in the same way if we didn't have this experience as part of our daily life. After that point, all skin colors became part of being a member of the human family and it wasn't even a question for that little girl inside.
At 13 years old, my father was sent to a job in Tokyo, Japan and off we went again. My reality at 13, became the Pagodas, the Shinto temples, prayers in the temples, riding the subways with hundreds of people around me, and so much more. The Japanese sense of beauty, silence and respect became part of life and creating beauty around me one of my highest values, the pains of history part of a reality after being in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as well as Japanese nationalism became a sense of pride and admiration, Japanese food became part of my food repertoire, and I could go on and on. Again my psyche and system got expanded and stretched.
Many years later I left Mexico to be with my partner in Kenya, Nairobi.
Again a new way of looking at the world. We witnessed the concept of circular time like we had never witnessed before. While at times from the linear western perspective frustration increased, from the Kenyan way, everything made sense and was accomplished in it's own right timing. We got used to more and more to following this way of being. Another striking experience was witnessing some very harsh living conditions, while at the same time witnessing the most raw pure sense of joy and aliveness. A deep sense of the incredible extremes and contrasts that our world presents us with. My mother in law at the time said to me, "Mireya you are so adaptable". Her comment made me reflect how there was truth to that, and how that "adaptability" came both, from an inherent part of my personality but also from having to stretch in these ways from a very early time.
As I traveled across the oceans on my way to Ukraine three weeks ago, I felt a known sense of comfort in my body, the sense of something I have known for a long time that had been missing. The comfort in feeling the discomfort of the unknown. The sense of passion for the mystery of the unknown in a different culture, and the joy of discovery in meeting a new way of seeing and living life. The relaxation in knowing that my way is not the only way, and the excitement in feeling the expansion of consciousness that comes from meeting a different way of seeing and experiencing the world.
In this way of viewing "difference", everything becomes part of the new adventure and all the senses get heightened. Listening to the sounds and rhythms of a new language, curiosity for the new environment from how people drive to all the sights around, the tastes of new food, the way of expressing or lack of expression in the realms that we might or might not be familiar with. All of this becomes part of a new landscape that imprints in our psyche a newly met space that includes the reality of so many others.
As this happens and the days pass, this starts becoming part of my world as well, and without even knowing my inner world and consciousness get stretched. And by taking in everything new around me in this sensory way, my world becomes much larger.
This morning a dear friend sent me a copy of the BBC news about protests in Kiev yesterday. As I read it, I felt I was part of it and could relate to the struggles being confronted there. I saw the beginnings of the protest three days ago as we drove by one of the squares in Kiev, and my friend shared with me how she understood everything that was happening. Today, while sitting in Berkeley sipping my tea, we used Skype and she reported on her attendance to the protest. I felt close to her and a feeling that our worlds could meet once again. I felt so much gratitude for the shared experience of our common humanity, one that allows us to share difference while being connected through the experience of the heart and the connection we have established. Could this become the language to understand what is different from us? A language that comes from a sensory meeting with the reality of the other and a "child like" curiosity that wants to get to know the other and discover rather then push away or discount.