Moving Back to Jamaica

A blog about my Move Back to Jamaica after 20+ years of living in the US. Most of the articles focus on the period from 2005-2009 when the transition was new, and at it's most challenging.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Hardship and Enlightenment

Wrinke MeatSome would say that staying in the US, Canada and UK -- anywhere but Jamaica -- is the only logical thing to do.

After all, there are hardships here - as the design of our flag indicates... ("Hardships there are, but the grass is green and the sun shineth.") What it really should say is that the natural surroundings are very, very pretty, but the people dem make things too damn difficult!

The recent flurry of disruptive activity still has not caused the environment to settle down (speaking here of the hurricane, elections and the attendant rise in crime.) The everyday murder reports have a way of working on one's psyche, especially when one realizes that the deaths are happening only a few miles away, and that people that you see each day are the ones being killed.

It surely gives one pause for thought.

You don't move to Jamaica without, at some point, confronting your own mortality. Whether you believe that your place is assured in heaven, or that there is no heaven, or that there some other other alternative, thoughts of death are constantly playing in a Jamaican's mind, recent returnee or not.

When I lived in the U.S. I gave it only a passing thought -- particularly after the Rodney King killing. The few times I was pulled over by a cop, I grabbed the wheel hoping that this wasn't my turn to become a statistic.

This happened maybe only once or twice, however.

Here in Kingston, things are tougher. My wife has the honour of being within earshot of a couple of shootouts -- the second occurred while riding her bicycle through a volatile area a few weeks ago. (I was about a half-mile behind.)

I have been thinking about all this, and when bolstered by my readings of A Course in Miracles, have started to take what it says quite seriously. After all, it is way more applicable here than it was in Pembroke Pines, Florida or New Brunswick, New Jersey!

Rather than quote from the Course, I'll put my conclusions into my own words.

In a prior post, I talked about how I have begun to see "the body" as something like a playing piece from a game of monoply. I talked about how sometimes we forget that the piece is a part of a game, and we start to think that we are the piece and that the game is more than just a game.

However, there is always an end to the game, and at the end we give back our money, piece, hotels, houses -- in fact everything that matters during the game is useless after.

Well, life is the same. At the end of the game, we give everything back, and take nothing with us past that point.

I remember my cousin's funeral, getting the distinct impression that it was a joke. Obviously, Stevie was gone. He left something behind, that much I could see from glancing in his coffin. But the important part of him was gone: that much I was sure about. His essence had taken a one way trip, leaving behind something like a shell.

I have begun calling my own shell "the skin-bag." In the same prior post, I shared how I started relating to "my body" as a separate entity. Now, it has undergone a but of name change.

When I shared all these thoughts with my wife, she added in the following: "Yeah, and it has a mind of its own."

Hmm..... a skin-bag with a mind of its own.

So, here I am with my skin-bag sitting at the computer, typing. It has a mind of its own, and that mind is a fearful one that is always looking out for its own survival, concerned about how to keep the skin-bag alive no matter what. it scans the horizon looking for threats, and believes that the physical world is the only one that exists. I'll call the mind that is connected to the skin-bag the "Small Mind."

It doesn't matter that one day the entire game is going to be folded up (probably in the next 50 years for me, at most.) It still believes that its job is to prolong its life upon the earth, even though it cannot ultimately win that particular game.

It relies on deception -- while now and again it cannot hide the fact that its goal is nonsensical and futile, it nevertheless thrives by being able to trick my .... Big Mind... into forgetting.

OK, so what is my "Big Mind?"

Well, to be able to recognize the Small Mind, there must be a Big Mind perspective that is different. Earlier I mentioned the word "essence" which I think is that part of us that is, well, bigger.

It's obvious to me that sometimes I can see things from the perspective of the Big Mind, and other times I see things from the perspective of the Small Mind.

That means there must be something else involved -- whatever it is that's moving from the Big Mind to the Small Mind. I'll call that "the Awareness."

OK, most of the time:
The Awareness is stuck in the Small Mind. It has forgotten that the Big Mind exists entirely. It is concerned with protecting the skin-bag from harm. It makes sure it avoids bullets, eats well, exercises, rests, dresses well, has fun, stays away from thieves, dodges the idiots on the road and runs faster than stray dogs when needed.

Now and then:
The Awareness pops into the Big Mind. It can observe the Small Mind working hard to keep things alive, but it realizes that its work is limited. The Big Mind sees the much bigger picture, and knows that the basic building block of existence is not a molecule, but spirit. It is quite amused by "threats," and laughs when the skin-bag runs away from stray dogs.

It understands why the Small Mind likes to collect paper money and metal coins, and tries to get the approval of other Small Minds. At times, it finds that the skin-bag feels a little heavy, and like a bit of a burden that is keeping the Awareness anchored to the earth to some degree.

But most of the time, the Awareness is lost someplace in the Small Mind.

Moving to Jamaica has been useful, because the Small Mind has been working overtime to keep the skin-bag safe! All of a sudden, it is finding that it just cannot keep up with all the possible threats. It is complaining, but it can't be merely fired because it is a bit of a parasite -- it uses the fact that it can't do the "security" job as well as justification for why it needs to be given more prominence. In short, it is using its failure to secure the skin-bag to further justify its existence. "i know I am doing a bad job, but that is why I am essential..."

Thankfully, the Course (and many other spiritual paths) offer a better way.

The "better way" is just to leave the skin-bag alone. Or in other words, to unlock the Awareness from the Small Mind, and practice moving and keeping it in the Big Mind.

Not that the Small Mind is OK with that -- it thinks that all this spiritual talk is crap, anyway. It wants to get more money, better friends and a good retirement plan (with a portion invested in Olint.) It wants the Awareness locked inside its cell in the Small Mind.

It also doesn't like all this light shining on its business. As I am typing this, it is thinking of other things the skin-bag should be doing to "take care of business" instead of typing this blog. It can feel the threat of "all of this Big Mind nonsense"... because it knows that once the Awareness shifts away, it might never come back to its rightful place in the Small Mind's cell-block.

So, I have been practicing, using the Course (and also The Work of Byron Katie) to remember who I really am -- a Big Mind surrounding a "Small Mind attached to a skin-bag." But, first and foremost, a Big Mind.

The hardships of Jamaican life, and the associated increased activity by the Small Mind have helped me to become much more aware, and given me a chance to put what I have been studying in the Course since 1993 into practice. Now when I read it... more of it makes _perfect_ sense.

If anyone can relate (to any of this) let me know. I like being a bit "out there'... but the Small Mind doesn't like being out there all alone! ;-)


At 10/06/2007 1:49 AM, Blogger said...

Dear Francis,
You are never alone. The condition you describe is similar to what the Indian mystics describe as chakras, and they range from the basic (survival) to the enlightened (daily praise).

"All of life is a meditation," said Joseph Campbell. The problem is that conditions seduce us into thinking that life is only survival, sex, and power--the lower chakras.

The higher chakras of love, life mission, wisdom, and praises are discouraged and downgraded as foolish because most people live in the first three chakras.

This is often the dilemma that certain artists face. We live among people whom we love, but they have no appreciation for the work that these artists are doing because the higher chakras have not been opened. And here's the kicker--no one can do it for the audience.

And this is why teachers and seekers like you are important. By asking these questions, you educate many who may not have the courage to ask these questions and to be themselves. But it is difficult to raise the level of the conversation-c-heck out the level of conversation on Jamaican talk shows or within the Caribbean blogosphere-and you will see that "It dread out dey."


At 10/09/2007 3:17 PM, Anonymous rikki ann said...

I love your description of the skinbag its so funny and just neat that you have so humourously & succinctly observed the behaviour of the small mind as you call it. Driving in my car the other day i was thinking to myself how there is so much more to me than my body yet how i cant escape it while wishing to remain in this current state of being alive. I totally get what you're saying & im plenty sure lots of others would too. I've been reading your blog for about a year now so glad to comment at last. Discovered it whilst searching for info on midwifery in jamaica which incidentally is very difficult to find. I am a midwife living & working in new zealand & for some reason i seem to be developing a facination with jamaica... The other thing that had me thinking about the whole flesh versus soul thing is having observed & assisted lots of times the passage into life of these new people made of and emerging from their mothers blood and flesh and sweat & effort its so very real at the time of birth yet somehow its all apparently an illusion too..

At 10/11/2007 6:19 AM, Blogger fwade said...

Geoffrey, Rikki Ann,

How wonderful to read what you both have to say.

Thanks for taking the time to read, think and respond -- I am savouring your words.

I may write some more about the "adventures of my skin-bag" in posts to come.

It's all a bit weird though... what a topic for a blog...!


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