Today's guest post is by Sue McClam. When not in the United States, Sue spends a a great deal of the winter months in Huatulco where she teaches her language courses. She has a Master of Arts in Teaching Spanish, and has recently retired after 22 years of teaching at Columbia College in South Carolina. www.huatulcolanguagecourses.com
When I am here in Mexico, I take my time. I put into practice what the Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh tells us about being mindful. I try to remember that “when I am walking, I am walking.” I am present to the sights and sounds of the street, the smell of the flowers, the cracks in the sidewalk. I take a minute to greet my neighbors as they pass by. At home in the US, when I hit the ground in the morning I am already planning my day, three steps ahead.
When I am in the US, I drive a car, my own car. I drive to my destination, complete my errand and return home. Once I close the door, it is highly likely I will not have anyone “popping over” to say hi unless we are on one another’s “to do” list. And when we do find the time to meet, there will be a limit to our time together as pressing schedules will disrupt the conversation just as we settle in.
I will think, as my friend pulls away…in Mexico we would have talked until we were finished. We would not have planned to meet for a specific amount of time or “fit one another in.” Here when I meet someone after work by chance or by design, I do not have a set plan or time allotment in mind. We let the evening unfold. If it’s the weekend that could mean hours under a palapa at the beach, a long meal, a drink (that always includes a limón) and perhaps a walk or a swim as the sun goes down. I do not check my watch. I do not schedule three events for one day. When we are there, we are there; we are not planning the next thing.
As author Wayne Muller puts it, “Life is not a problem to be solved; it is a gift to be opened. The color of the sky, the song of a bird, a word of kindness, a strain of music, the sun on your face, the companionship of friends, the shape of clouds in summer, the red of maples in fall --- these and a thousand tiny miracles punctuate a single day in a precious human life. If we are so preoccupied with plotting our future success or failures, we unintentionally impoverish ourselves by ignoring the astonishing harvest of these small gifts, piled one upon the other, that accumulate without our awareness or acknowledgement.”
Perhaps this time when I return in May, I will concentrate on being mindful in the US too.