What I learned deep in the Yucatan
As our yearly trip to Mexico drew close, I began to prepare as usual: client work to complete, professional books to read, computer, of course, with Skype all ready to go. While I looked forward to the warm climate, ethnic food offerings and swimming in the lagoon by our property, real happiness, I decided, was going to come from accomplishment – from crossing things off of my to do list, chewing through self-assigned reading, and, basically, getting things done…in the warm, Mexican climate. Have any of you ever done what I did? Plan your happiness ahead of time, base it on external achievement and then be disappointed when the desired feelings, joy and bliss just didn’t follow? If you can relate, please read on. As it turns out, I did, indeed, find happiness…but not in the way I had anticipated.
After traveling the two days necessary to reach our destination, unpacking the items to work with and the lists accompanying them, and taking a good look at what I expected out of myself in those 10 days, I felt burdened, discouraged and miserable. I tried “pushing myself”: setting goals and insisting on staying “focused” and at task. It didn’t take long for a sense of dark depression to color the vivid days of sun and brilliance, rob me of sleep and cast a sort of “wet blanket” on my mood and disposition. Something was terribly wrong.
After some soul searching, I realized I had reached a point in my life where I simply couldn’t push myself to achieve. I felt numb and out of touch…certainly not present in the moment. I decided this was the time to make a change…right now! I put the lists into a folder and tucked it away in my suitcase. I took the books out of my beach bag, choosing only one to read on the dock: the one that called to me. And I committed to trusting emergence…letting learning and lessons come to me naturally. I immediately felt more relaxed, lighter and calm. I decided to go with my husband into town to buy a few groceries and have breakfast at the favorite local spot – a hole-in-the-wall restaurant run by a warm and friendly Mexican family.
As we sat at a table in the open air in this small town in the Yucatan, I watched the family – four generations – cooking the food and preparing the fruit drinks. It was hot and flies were everywhere, yet this family laughed and joked together, hugging each other often and delivering, with huge smiles, our plates with fresh eggs, fruit, freshly made tortillas with their special black bean sauce. The food was delicious yet the spirit of the preparation and delivery of the breakfast was the blessing: smiles and laughter, family closeness and gratitude for our business. The morning was off to a good start, for sure.
After our meal, we walked a ways down the street to the open air market. Again, the spirit of simple happiness – this time between friends: folks who managed fruit and vegetable stands together, “business partners” who joked and laughed and always gave us more than we paid for. Generosity and hospitality: such a blessing.
As we continued on our errands, we noticed youngsters playing together in the street. There were no playgrounds or fancy parks. Rather, these children were playing with an old ball and bat, tossing and hitting over and over again…laughing and teasing one another good naturedly. I felt such delight remembering my own childhood and how the simple joys of play and friendship were so sacred – and so fulfilling. We continued on our way, my happiness level rising all the while.
After our final errand, we returned home, hot and tired from the tropical heat. After putting food away and finding our swimming suits, we jumped into the fresh water lagoon at the edge of our property. Ahh – refreshed again. The water was turquoise, cool and still…we swam for an hour and felt totally renewed, cooled down and calmed. Such a simple pleasure: swimming and cooling off in limestone fresh water. As I put on fresh clothes, pulled my hair back and sipped a glass of wine on our patio, I realized I felt more than happy – I felt grateful, relaxed, blessed and joyful. Happiness, I discovered, was a given – an inside job – and all I had to do was let go of my loyalty to thinking happiness came from external reward and accomplishment. Haven’t I learned this before? Of course…yet the lesson came up again, as lessons do, and thankfully, I opened my heart and laid down my plans.
As I sat in the cool evening breeze looking out over the lagoon, I looked back on what I had learned that day. The lessons were simple and sacred and they are:
- Appreciate the blessing of a smile – and always return one
- Value friendship highly – nurture and nourish those you care for
- Never forget the importance of family – laugh and hug often
- Enjoy the simple pleasures in life – they are everywhere
- Always give more than you take – bless others with generosity and graciousness
Now go out and let happiness blossom! It is always there – like the sun, though there are clouds and storms sometimes. Still, by letting go and “letting be”, our happiness is allowed to flourish and guide our way. Though I continue to have goals and aspirations, I have learned this year, in the Yucatan, that they do not, in themselves, bring happiness. Instead, happiness is with us, always, and I bow to the dear people of Mexico who reminded me of what I needed to learn – again.