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dimanche 17 mars 2013


All who wander are not lost.
It is a line rather well known among Travellers, it is from a poem (once again watch the title), and all that is gold does not glitter by JRR Tolkien for the Lord of the Rings.
If you are a traveller or a wanderer in addition to being an Anthropologist, the world opens up its secret bakery to you, to savour its various secrets, pleasures and mysteries.
Add on top of that, wiling teachers from various tribes of American Indians.
I have just come from visiting Indians in Nebraska, friends in various endeavours in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap to be awarded with culinary delights of Bangkok, followed up with visits to friends in Bogor, Indonesia, Singapour and Beijing. Such a diverse group of minds, emotions, mental pictures and spiritualties exposed in a dizzying array of colours over a short period of time, certainly has a euphoric effect on your mind.
When asked in conversation what I do, my answer usually is that I am an Anthropologist working with Native Peoples, invariably the next question would be, and can you tell us about Spirituality.
This is not a light topic for cocktail conversations but with due respect one has to answer and for a short answer, it is better to say what it is not: Being Religious and Being spiritual are not necessarily the same. Most of the spiritual people I know are agnostic and to me, church and religion (as defined in the western mind) has only a small part to play in the universal concept of Spirituality.

Fortified with thoughts about meeting two remarkable beings in this past week, Mr L in Bangkok and Mr J in Bogor, neither of whom are religious but can truly be considered spiritual, in their every day lives, I wanted to write down some thoughts when I began reading this saying by a Lakota professional man, whom I had a chance to meet a few years ago:
By listening to the Inner self and following one’s instincts and intuitions, a person may be guided to safety, wrote he.
Remember, this is not a cook book approach to spirituality, the results are “may be”
So, one has to begin to live a way, long before one achieves a sense of spiritual life, an emotionally stable life. The steps towards spirituality occurs over decades through a process of controlling ones emotions, mastering the mental picture those emotions paint, not allowing the body to suffer the effects of the exaggeration of emotions while taking good care of the body (eating, resting, exercising).
Only by making your mind still can we approach the realm of spirituality. One does not have to declare it, but others would recognize that quality in you.
In our hectic world, we want to quick fix answers. That is why we have weekend spirituality courses, Stress reduction seminars, but without attending to the fountain of these problems, one achieves the dirt under the carpet trick, feel good for the moment and soon the dirt would make itself apparent.

I have had a good teacher (a Chinese accountant from KL) who introduced me to the Yogic Philosophy and never ceases to amaze me the similarity among the ancient philosophies. She recently sent me a quote from that well-known Hindu Philosopher, Jiddu
Krishnamurthy: We do not want to face ourselves as we are.
I have been thinking about that sentence and using all the philosophical and anthropological tools and my recent experiences with my Asian friends, I could understand it.
My KL teacher also told me: every time there is a negative thought (about a place, a person, an object) try to think of a positive one as well.
I have to warn all of you who wish to try this, this kind of thinking will unravel facts about your thinking which you have been hiding and the shame would flow out as easily as your tears.

I conclude this what I consider to be spirituality in Cuba, which I learned during my years in my little village of Baracoa. I will let Eduardo Galeano, the Uruguayan writer and a friend of Cuba explain:
I don't believe in charity, I believe in solidarity. Charity is so vertical; it goes from the top to the bottom. Solidarity is horizontal. It respects the other person. I have a lot to learn from other people