It’s all in the mind

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Mind control. That would be cool, wouldn’t it? To be able to focus the mind to a point so sharp you could cut rock with your eyes. Or knock a puma off a tree for shits and giggles, or plant thoughts into people’s heads, like some kind of reverse mind-pick-pocketer. Or, let’s be honest, even to be powerful enough to listen to what your friend is saying rather than imagining what the lingerie demographics are in the bar you’re in. Me – I don’t have much in the way of mind control. In London, the peak of my mind mastery was buying 2 bottles of posh beer from Waitrose instead of 3, for which I usually congratulated myself with a 3rd bottle of said beer. So, hardly Professor Charles Xavier from ‘The X-men’.

Here, everyone thinks they are Professor Charles Xavier from ‘The X-men’. It’s relentless. One guy, ironically called ‘Truth’, told me with a totally straight face that he could make people turn round by staring at their backs. And that wasn’t even a good day. No, when he was really cranking up the Gandalf, he could make clouds dissolve with his brainwaves. Not now though – the energy is all wrong now. Sorry, should’ve known. I clearly have much to learn. Why isn’t there an app for that? There really should be an app for that – the ‘Psychic Energy” app, complete with downloadable forecasts – ‘And there’s a front of low psychic energy moving in from the east, so you might want to take a stick of incense out if travelling. Other than that, there’s a strong Karmic outlook for the rest of the country. Until tomorrow, Namaste.’

Another, otherwise gorgeous, sinewy Viking lady cornered me in our dormitory last night to tell me that drinking the local cacao opens a door in your mind to the ‘real’ you, and did I want to walk through it? Sensing my keen-ness to hear more (I’d turned away from her to face the wall), she went on to explain that she had had many, many past lives. She didn’t seem to hear me when I asked her how many. Guess she was busy controlling the mind of a poor indigenous kid or something. Apparently they too, are prone to sporadic bouts of mind-fuckery. A few years back, whole class-loads of the poor things started spontaneously convulsing and frothing at the mouth, before scraping themselves off the floor to copulate with each other. But that’s school for you. Intense boredom makes you do weird things. In Maths, I used to ask the teacher to turn up the heating so that the girls would take off their school sweaters. We all had fun with it, teacher included (I’m using my mind to intuit this, rather than anything real in the world that would suggest that it’s true). It’s the same kind of thing, though I feel the Guatemalan version is a little bit OTT. Not to mention selfish – just think of the clean-up.

And just today over breakfast, I was told, with a heavy heart, that my vibrations were low, or slow, or lop-sided or something. I think I was being told this because I questioned the wisdom of David Icke, a conspiracy theorist most famous for telling people he was the second coming of Christ, then backtracking when no-one bought into it. I think his mistake was saying he was the second coming of anyone. Much easier to say you’re the first coming of yourself, and much harder to dispute. Anyway, as I was being lectured once more on the power of my mind to poach eggs, I realised that for all their preaching, their cacao-based hysteria and connecting of dots that don’t really exist, I have a much stronger mind than all of them. Why? Because I can sit and soak this stuff up all day, day after day, and not laugh once. And that, my good friend, is real mind control.

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The 3 unwise men of Christmas

imageWithout Christmas, I don’t think I would have made it to the age of 14. For those first glorious 14 years before Santa was crucified in my mind with as much core-shaking brutality as you-know-who, every December shimmered with the promise of the supernatural. Santa, if anyone or thing has ever been, is pure magic. Not pretend magic like adults have when they read Harry Potter books, or stoned people have when they watch Lord of the Rings but real, actual magic that gave me shivers during the day and kept me up at night. Before Gandalf rocked my world, and to a lesser extent, Derren Brown, there was Santa.

It didn’t matter that he broke all the maths, seemingly able to visit nigh on a billion kids over the course of a single night, most living in houses without chimneys, and let’s be honest, without the requisite offerings of mince pie and carrot (I won’t name names, but I’m looking at you, the 3rd world). It didn’t matter that he wrote in exactly the same style as my Mum, and against all the odds, managed to build and distribute Super Nintendos with such a primitive production line (elfs). Honestly, it didn’t even matter that he once royally fucked up and got me cassette video games for my Amstrad instead of the requested cartridges. No, I was too loyal a servant of santa to let that
break the spell. All that mattered for those perfect 25 days of every year was that I believed, despite knowing that it wasn’t true. It was my own secret with myself, and there was no way I was telling. That was someone else’s job.

So, 18 harsh, grey years since Santa’s death, I find myself further away from the magic of Christmas than ever before. No stockings stuffed with surprises, no Granny and Papa beaming from a sofa as the room fills with the sound of ripping paper, no half-eaten mince-pies. No magic. Perhaps subconsciously I was looking for it, like fatherless daughters look for father-figure boyfriends. Or the religious look for the face of Jesus in blooms of mould on walls. The magic of Santa had left a vacuum that needed filled. Maybe that’s what happened. Or maybe I just met some interesting people at Christmas. Or as I’m calling them, my ‘Three Unwise Men’.

The first unwise man to enter from stage-left was the self-titled ‘Hat-man’. Looking like a cross between a scarecrow and an acid-riddled circus M.C., Hatman wore a top-hat chequered with all the colours of the rainbow. The soles of his shoes were coming off (a tell-tale sign of self-neglect bordering on madness, or straight-up trampery), his leathery skin hadn’t seen suncream for too long for it to matter any more, and he had those glassy eyes and easy smile that just screams ‘crazy’. He looked….unwise. Yet as he spoke, I could feel myself ignoring all of that real stuff, and just listening. He had been eating some food in Guatemala City – a notoriously shitty, unfriendly place, where the Lonely Planet guide more or less guarantees that you’ll be mugged at gun-point. However, seeing him sat on his own, a nearby family invited him to eat with them. Ten minutes later, they had invited him to stay at their family home for Christmas. As he spoke, tears welled in his eyes and trickled down his face. He was 66, with a white beard, and by his own admission, the kind of otherworldy strength that enabled him to haul his heavy rucksack 28km down a dusty road one day. Not Santa then, but perhaps his less-task oriented brother…

Then, from behind a puff of incense smoke emerged the second Unwise man, who wasn’t actually a man, but a Shaman. A squat Italian woman with several feathers hanging from her head, a backpack full of peyote and God knows what else, she immediately struck me as a loon. A lot of Rum later though, and suddenly I was all ears. Hers were stories I had not heard before, with a turn of phrase, and language-trancending clarity that made a believer of me once more. She spoke of a conversation she once had with ‘Lucifer’. She said he was an old man in a cave, wearied by his centuries of toil. She said that she asked him to come out of his cave and let go of his burdens, to release himself and the souls he had turned to his ways. He wouldn’t though. That’s so Lucifer. All me, me, me. So she entered his cave and hugged him, and after a few moments he started to cry. Moments or hours later, he had dissolved into thin air, released from whatever world they were in by his guilt. And so for her, there is no Lucifer. Talk about magic. (She also scoffed at me when I mentioned ‘that she might exorcise my demons’, and merely stated that were no more demons. Not any more.)

I had my frankinsense, I had my myrrh, now all I needed was my gold.
This man was just a man. A man who, when I sat down opposite him before the massage I had booked him for, had a tiny spider yo-yo-ing from his ear. Kinda like you would imagine a witch might have, but from her nose. I made a very conscious decision not to tell him about it.

‘How experienced are you with spirituality?’ he asked. ‘Well, I do yoga’, I replied, looking anxiously at the pack of tarot cards in his hands. I had 90 minutes with this guy and I didn’t want to waste any of it blabbering on it about ambiguous messages from the other side. ‘You know what crop circles are?’ he pushed. ‘Only that they look too complex for most farmers to do, and that we naturally (I meant to say ‘lazily’) look to the skies for answers.’ ‘Yes, they are beautiful, but it doesn’t really matter who did them’, he parried with the kind of deft vagueness I expect from these types. ‘My friends made a book of graphic visualisations of the crop circles.’ He didn’t go on to explain why, or what the link was with the cards in his hands, but merely handed them to me and told me to ask myself a question. I won’t tell you what it was, but I will tell you that the answer in the book that corresponded to the card I picked made as much sense as Santa. So, no sense but also total sense, depending on what you want to believe.

Thankfully, he sensed that I wasn’t 100% on his wave-length here, and perhaps because of that, gave me the closest thing to a beating in massage-form that I think it’s legal to give. Felt pretty amazing afterwards though, like I’d been knocked out and instead of the cartoon tweety-birds circling my head, I had real butterflies. The phrase ‘walking on air’ feels appropriate. A bit like the reindeer used to do back in the days of real magic.

How to be a traveller

imageRight, ok, I admit it, I was never going to be a traveller, not really. My eyes aren’t sparkly enough, my backpack way too packed, and my self-protective instincts far too strong for me to ever be considered one of the unwashed. Where a traveller sees a sparkling, sacred Mayan lake, I see possible infection. Where a traveller sees a mystical Mayan elder presenting an offering to a sacred fire on the first day of a new era, I see a short man with a great tan throwing seeds into a small fire for a photo. You can see it in my face, and you can see it in theirs. We are different animals, and try as I might to be like them, I can’t.

Or so I thought….Turns out, being a traveller is a piece of piss. You just need to know the rules. So after a mere 10 days of casual observation, here are the definitive and until now, unwritten rules of how to pass as a traveller:

Rule#1: Lower that crotch

The lower the crotch, the more of a traveller you are. When I waddled into my first Guatemalan night, the crotch on my trousers was so high I looked like a gay cowboy with a man camel-toe. It was very uncomfortable, both to endure but also to witness. They were not friend-making trousers. At least, not the kind of friends I wanted to make. Ten dollars later and not only does that special area have the kind of air flow it needs and deserves, but I’m already halfway to passing as one of ‘them’.

Rule#2: Get some dirt

Good, solid, indeterminate, caked-on, could-be-dog-shit dirt. Get it on your clothes, in your hair (as far as I can tell, the only redeeming quality of dreadlocks is their ability to accumulate dirt faster than real hair), get it on your hands like a farmer, and of course, get it on your feet. Barefoot is the only option if you want to be taken seriously out here. Seriously, why do you want to put something between you and mother earth? Do you hate her or something? Do you hate this beautiful, abundant, living, breathing earth that has given you so much? No, of course you don’t, so get em off, traveller. Get connected, yeah?

Rule#3: Pretend that all belief systems have credibility

Ok, deep breath. Some people out here genuinely believe in reincarnation. And, at least for the time being, most of them seem to be buying into this Mayan stuff too. To be clear, that means they believe that throwing some seeds into a small fire has a causal effect on the world. Ok, let me be even clearer – they think throwing seeds in a fire stops earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Seeds. Into a small fire. It would be funny if it wasn’t so tragic. You’d think after 5000-odd years (not an exact figure) of being shat upon by the most quake, eruption and hurricane-prone area of the world, they’d re-evaluate the whole seed-throwing stuff, but no. Love is blind, especially divine love. And THAT IS THEIR RIGHT. Why? Because you are a traveller. Now keep your judgement to yourself and pass the foot-long Mayan ceremonial cigar.

Rule#4: Go everywhere else before being here

What? You haven’t been to Bali? India? Pakistan? Afghanistan? Timbuk-fucking-too? Oh don’t tell me you’ve honestly never spent a month meditating in an igloo with no food, water or wifi?! Pccchst, you little baby, you. So much to see and do. So much to learn. Not like us, though, no. Because we are the travellers, and we have already been there and done that. We have more ‘given’ indigenous names than fingers on our hands, which for those who’ve lived in landmine areas, isn’t saying much. With pretty much all of it already done, it’s a wonder we keep going. Are we running from something? Or are we trying to find something? Mmmmm, I feel some self-analysis coming on. Which brings us neatly to….

Rule#5: Share YOUR STORY

Oh Christ. Oh Jesus Mary mother of Christ. Today, I was all set for a writing session – I had my cup of coffee, my hips cracked wide open from morning yoga (laptops rest better on open hips), and most sacred of sacred, I had peace. Peace for about 5 seconds, before those pesky Mayan Gods, in flagrant defiance of the seeds-into-fire tactic, whipped a gale into the bar, forcing the loudest Australian I have ever met onto the seat beside me. But it wasn’t the volume that was so irksome. With my very un-traveller-y earplugs, volume is a problem of the past (WHAT?! you don’t want to hear mother earth’s marvelous chorus?! after all she’s done for you?!). No, it was her persistent, overwhelming need TO TELL EVERYONE HER STORY. Of course she had been everywhere, of course she had, single-handedly, with no training, written a book on past lives and the ‘ancestry of the soul’. Of course she had wept for several hours when she saw a piece of rock in a desert and took this as evidence of her being reincarnated. And of course, after her weeping had abated, her guide had turned to her and said, with the tenderness and innocence only an indigenous could muster: ‘I love you’. And of course, we all had to listen. Which of course, as a traveller, I was more than happy to do.

Rule#6: There are no rules

Rules are for the ones back home, you fascist. Didn’t anyone send you the email? Um, sorry, no – the wi-fi is shit around here, ‘brother’. Let’s go and light a candle on a hill for the gods and maybe it will be better tomorrow, ey? The first one’s on me. Catch you up there – I just need to have a wee word with my chakras – they’ve been playing up all day.