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In a previous post I wrote about my experience of being guided to take certain actions that I would not otherwise have thought to take had it not been for the guidance of the creator-of-all-that-is, who I refer to as The Mystery because it’s a complete mystery to my small human mind how the creative force is aware of the needs of each one of us. The experiences that I have had have led me to three conclusions: 1) that I am guided in all my actions by The Mystery, 2) that at those times when I stop paying attention I receive firm reminders (God’s two-by-fours) to help put me back on track once more; and 3) that I am just “being done” and ultimately have no control over what happens in my life.

After six months of travelling around India and Southeast Asia Alison and I spent four months resting and recuperating in La Manzanilla, a small fishing village on the Pacific Coast of Mexico. We got very relaxed while we were there and while we still made sure that we locked our valuables away whenever we left our casita I became a bit complacent about the security of the things I carried with me in my backpack, such as my money belt, my cell phone and my top-of-the-line reading glasses, when we went out: I just stuffed them all in one of the zippered pockets of the pack.

Then we left La Manzanilla and came to the city of Oaxaca de Juárez to attend a huge two-week-long festival of ethnic music and dance called Guelaguetza. I still felt relatively safe in Oaxaca and continued to carry my cell phone and reading glasses in my pack, but wore my money belt around my waist. Every afternoon at 5:00 there was a free dance performance at a large square, Jardin del Pañuelito, and if we didn’t have tickets to another performance we’d go to the free one and sit right beside the stage so that we could take close-up photos of the performers. Alison would move around a lot more than me to take photos and would always carry her camera case with her that contained her spare camera battery, spare memory chips, and tucked away in the very bottom of the case under everything else, a tiny purse containing her cash, bankcard and drivers’ license.

On this one occasion, however, and quite out of character for her, she left her camera case with me before she went wandering. So I asked her if she wanted me to put her purse in my pack for safekeeping. She, quite out of character for her, agreed, and we transferred her purse to an inner pocket of my pack, that I then put on the ground in front of me. Then the music began and the performers arrived and we were instantly entranced. The crowd watching the dancers grew larger and larger behind me and I kept checking to make sure that her camera bag and my backpack were still there at my feet, and they were. Later on when there was short break between acts Alison came back and took her camera bag, but didn’t take her purse.

Then the dancers that I had wanted to see ever since I first saw photos of them many years ago, the Danza de la Pluma, came onstage and I was gone. I felt so excited and joyful: taking dozens of pictures of these astonishing performers as they leapt and twirled around. I was so excited that I never thought to check my backpack, until I looked down and it was gone! I shouted to Alison to ask if she had taken it, but of course she hadn’t. Someone had stolen it. I looked all around where I’d been standing but there was no sign of it, so we went to look for a police officer to report the loss. The police were polite but not optimistic about the chances of recovering my pack.

So that was it, and then we began to take an inventory of what we’d lost: Alison’s purse containing 1,000 pesos (CAN$90), her drivers license and her bank card, my cell phone, my reading glasses, my sunglasses, my camera bag with spare battery and memory chips, my set of keys to our storage locker in Vancouver, both sets of keys to our apartment in Oaxaca, and various other bits and pieces. Plus, of course, my backpack itself, a beauty from Mountain Equipment Coop, that had a separate compartment for my computer, and many zippered pockets to keep my valuables safe.

What did we not lose, you may ask? We did not lose our computers, backup drives, passports, credit cards, or our Vancouver cell phones, because we didn’t have them with us that day. So we did not lose things that would have been difficult or impossible to replace. Alison cancelled her bankcard and will get a new one when we’re back in Vancouver. She reported her Drivers License stolen and will apply for a replacement one. We still have Alison’s key to our storage locker, plus the storage company keeps an extra key for us in case we ever lose one. My reading glasses were two years old and my eyesight has been gradually changing, so I’m about ready for new glasses, and I have a spare pair of sunglasses. I can get another spare camera battery and memory chips.

So why, you may ask, do I think that what happened to us was a message from The Mystery and not just the result of our own carelessness? Because we both did things that were completely out of character for us: Alison never leaves her camera bag just sitting around on the ground, even when I’m right there: she always wears it everywhere she goes, except on that particular day she didn’t. Alison never gives me her purse to take care of because she always keeps it in the depths of her camera bag, which she always wears, except on that particular day. I am always very vigilant about my backpack. I never leave it sitting on the ground, particularly when crowds of people surround me, but I did so on that particular day. So the only reasonable conclusion I can come to is that The Mystery had a message for us.

What is The Mystery‘s message this time around? Clearly, it’s for us to be more vigilant about our possessions and to take better care of them when we’re out and about. We had become complacent about security. We go to Mexico City from Oaxaca and we’re planning a trip through South America this fall. We need to pay better attention to our surroundings so we don’t lose things that are irreplaceable.

Probably the biggest lesson from the events of this day came from the thought that immediately popped into my mind at the moment I discovered my pack had gone. It was one of my mother’s basic teachings, that that it is not safe to feel joyful because if you do there’s sure to be sorrow just around the corner. It had proven to be true once again. I’ve gone through most of my life living as if this teaching was true: being careful not to feel too much joy as a way of avoiding too much sorrow. Well the sorrows came anyway, and I missed out on a whole lot of joy.

Alison already knew about my mother’s teaching, and when I told her what had popped into my head at the moment I discovered my pack had gone she offered a reframe: perhaps this was The Mystery’s way of reminding me that I still had this to clear from my psyche, that it was time to let this old belief go and embrace joy anyway. So the very next afternoon we went back to the Jardin del Pañuelito to watch a different dance performance. I took Alison’s small pack with me this time, and we sat in the same spot beside the stage as we’d done the day before, but this time with one of my feet through the straps of the pack. I enjoyed the performance and didn’t let my mother’s beliefs spoil the moments. The day after that we went to see a huge parade of dancers and musicians from every pueblo around Oaxaca and followed the crowds of performers as they danced along the streets. There were huge crowds lining the streets and we were walking between the crowds and the dancers, keeping up with one particular group. Once again I had a pack on my back, but I was able to derive the maximum amount of pleasure from every moment without worrying that something bad was going to happen.

Yesterday we went to the huge Auditorio Guelaguetza to see a reenactment of one of the great legends of the Zapotec people, about the life and death of their beloved Princess Donaji. There were about 10,000 people enjoying the spectacular pageant and dance. I had Alison’s large backpack and she had her small one with her, but we kept a close eye on them and I enjoyed the show immensely. Even walking down from the Auditorio with Alison’s pack on my back, jammed together with hundreds of strangers, I felt no sense of danger or concern or worry that something bad might happen.

Every day now I am taking small but practical steps to challenge the validity of an old belief system that never served me, but only prevented me from enjoying life to the full, and I’m continuing to appreciate the opportunities that keep being presented by The Mystery.

Photo of the day: Danza de la Pluma, Guelaguetza Festival, Oaxaca, Mexico.

All words and images by Alison Louise Armstrong unless otherwise noted.
© Alison Louise Armstrong and Adventures in Wonderland – a pilgrimage of the heart, 2010-2015.