This economy continues to grind and we’re starting to see the ripple effects. It started with job loss and financial hardship. Now there are painful breakups, stressed out kids, road rage, and old injuries rearing their ugly heads. Maybe it’s just me but doesn’t something about life seem terribly wrong?
I stumbled upon some information over the past week that has done more to lift the veil and ease my mind than hours of hard work, multiple trips to the therapist, or countless staff meetings. I read about Christopher McDougall’s research on the Tarahumara Indians* who are considered by anthropologists as one of the world’s great unsolved mysteries. The Tarahumara live very much off the grid…in the Copper Canyon region of the Sierra Madre Occidental in northern Mexico. Like the Moken people (see above photo) who reside on the islands surrounding Burma or the austere yogis of the Indian subcontinent, these deeply primitive cultures maintain ancient tradition and seem immune to the infectious pace, ultra-connectivity, and ensuing confusion, struggle, and passionless existence of modern times.
What can we learn from these primitive cultures who seem happier, healthier, and barely connected to the outside world but deeply connected to their instincts, passion, and faith?
1. EMBRACE A GENTLE NATURE
The Tarahumara don’t like to be asked direct questions. They feel like it’s a show of force, a demand for a possession in their head. Force is considered unhealthy. In much the same way, the Tarahumara are famous for their ability to run great distances (see photo below), in some cases 300 miles in one pop. When the Tarahumara were entered in the Leadville Trail 100 race in Colorado, their 55-year-old team captain won, becoming the oldest winner in the race’s history. Team Tarahumara grabbed three of the first five places. The first non-Tarahumara finisher was nearly a full hour slower than the winning time.
When studying how they do it, running coaches and trainers marvel at the Tarahumara’s fluid, gentle running style noting that their upper body seems as if it’s gliding on ice. The yogis have a saying, “Nothing on earth can overcome an absolutely non-resistant person.” In these tough times, instead of trying to fight, hustle, and overpower your challenges…take a cue from the ancient cultures and consider the gentler approach. Kill your nemesis with kindness. Heal your embattled friend with an afternoon of love, attention, music, and chocolate. Embrace your stressed out colleague with sweet words and hopeful visions. As Albert Einstein said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”
2. TAKE THE MAGIC POTION
Fun is the magic potion to lift the veil in these tough times. For the Tarahumara, fun is the secret to their supernatural athleticism. As author McDougall wrote, “That’s the most important thing I picked up from my time in the Copper Canyons, the understanding that running can be fast and fun and spontaneous, and when it is, you feel like you can go forever.” The Tarahumara don’t run for money, they run because it’s in their blood, in their soul, because they have passion. When we lose passion, we lose strength, we lose leadership, we lose respect. John Maxwell said, “A great leader’s courage to fulfill his vision comes from passion, not position.” So if you, like me, are feeling weak and overwhelmed in the great recession of 2009, consider a shortcut on the road to recovery. Take a moment to remember what you love most in life. And go do it.
3. TURN OFF THE CLOCK
I always feel like I’m running out of time. Interestingly, the Moken people barely notice time. They don’t even have in their vocabulary a word for “when.” As Dr. Narumon Hinshiranan writes of their dreamy perspective, “To be born and raised and, to die on the sea; to live out one’s seamless days together with one’s family, wandering the turquoise waters of the Andaman Sea in a hand-built boat and feeling suffocated by contact with land or civilization—this is the heritage of the Moken.” Sharing a very similar perspective, the yogis will tell you it’s very unhealthy to always subject yourself to time. What can we learn here? Take a day, or a road trip, or a place where you forget about time. Whether it’s a yoga class, or a Sunday stroll, or a bike ride without your watch, “step out of the circle of time and into the circle of love.” (Rumi)
As we head into this holiday weekend, I challenge you as a I challenge myself, take a step back. What if, just maybe, the yogis, the Tarahumara, and the Moken know something we don’t? What if, just maybe, the iphones and blackberries are actually making life more difficult? What if, just maybe, you could restore relationships, faith, and dreams through simply having more fun? It might not make “sense” but neither does the 90 year old Tarahumara running across the Copper Canyon mountaintops.
For more on healing through chocolate, wine, music, and laughter, check out my book Yeah Dave’s Guide to Livin’ the Moment