As I go about my daily walk in the neighborhood surrounding my home in Cuernavaca, Mexico I am filled with awareness. Today, I am more aware than I was during my early life and my move to Cuernavaca has increased my awareness tremendously. I cannot remember a more phlegmatic time in my life; calm, serene, tranquil, but yet with a sense of excitable emotions in everyday occurrences.
I have lived in some great places during the past seventy-years of traveling several times around the globe, but I have found that Cuernavaca, located on the southern slope of the Sierra de Chichinautzin mountain range, provides the perfect place to live. The temperature is kept at a fairly constant 72˚F year round and we have no need of air conditioning or heating. In the early morning, the warm air flows up the mountain from the valley below to remove the slight chill from the night before. In the late afternoon, the cooler air flows down from the higher elevations allowing a pleasant sleep unencumbered with the weight of blankets on the bed.
As I walk about the neighborhood I am aware that with all of its blessings Cuernavaca has lain in a sort of stupor, ravaged by 4000 years of an ever changing civilization since the Olmec, the mother-culture of Mesoamerica first came to the area. In 1100 AD, the Tlahuica indians arrived and began building Cuauhnahuac as a settlement. They constructed the Teopanzolco Pyramids, just two short blocks behind my home, where they could observe the valleys below with their crops.
However, with the increasing aggressiveness of the Aztec emperor Moctezuma Ilhuicamina, they decided in the later part of 1100 AD to move their settlement so as to mount a better defense. Moctezuma conquered the peace loving Tlahuica in 1427 AD with a huge force and they were obliged to integrate into the Aztec Empire and participate in the Aztec military campaigns. Then, in 1521, the Spanish arrived from Europe and conquered the Aztec Empire, freeing the Tlahuica to begin farming again, although still in the debt of others to pay tribute for the right to farm their land.
The Teopanzolo Pyramids, forgotten on the hill behind my home languished in ruins. The winds brought dust until nothing was left but a mound of dirt that completely covered the pyramids, hiding them from civilization for another 760 years, until the Mexican Revolution of 1910.
During the revolution, the forces of Emiliano Zapata installed cannons atop the hill to shell federalist positions in the center of Cuernavaca. The cannons shook loose the soil, revealing the stonework below.
However, it would not be until 1956, when Mexican archaeologists Román Piña Chan and Eduardo Noguera investigated the temple of Ehecatl and provided a sequence for the site. Further archaeological investigations began in 1968 by Angulo Villaseñor and in 1980 by Wanda Tomassi. The National Institute of Anthropology and History begin maintaining the site in 1985.
Today, as I sit in the protected park of Teoplanzolco reading one of Gabriel García Márquez novels, I am aware that what was once a battlefield, today provides peace, serenity and tranquility. The place, like myself has been transformed with time.
As I walk about the neighborhood I become aware of the myriad jumble of the sidewalks that remind me not to shuffle along but to carefully raise my feet lest I stumble on the uneven surface. The combination of loose soil, which makes gardening a delight, coupled with the tremors from earthquakes some 200 miles away near Acapulco cause the sidewalk to heave unevenly here and there. As I watch my footing I become aware how what was once smooth has become cracked and pitted, much like the skins on our bodies as we move through time towards the peaceful end.
On every street there are friendly dog-tribes of two or three, who wander about in search of a few scraps of food. In the afternoon, they plop down on the cool sidewalks providing a barrier to pedestrians who must step around them. Or, during the late afternoons as the temperatures begin to drop, the dogs may choose to lie in the street where they can soak up the heat from the asphalt. Drivers weave left and right to avoid the sleeping dogs who pay no attention to the cars. There are animals everywhere in Cuernavaca that lie about seemingly unworried - even the birds do not take flight from people as they do in other places.
For me, the dogs in the street, the birds in the garden, and the jumble of the sidewalks bring awareness of the importance of all around me. The ability to trust that we can control the actions of others by paying them no mind.
At small corner grocery a half block from my home, my friend Geobany Lopez serves up tacos for the neighbors and taxi drivers who stop to take away the hunger pains of their stomachs.
In order to get to the store, I must cross over Amacuzac, which is quite busy with traffic. I am aware that I must look carefully look both ways and determine the speed of the approaching cars, which have the right away in Mexico, in order to avoid being hit by an oncoming car.
I am encouraged by the fact that the drivers pay attention to small children and the aged residents, and the fact that I am no longer young and with my gray hair I have acquired a certain right to move more slowly across the street. All that is required is to pay them no attention. If you look into the eyes of the approaching car, they sense that you know of their existence will fear them because their car is larger, more powerful. Avoidance, along with awareness, brings about control of the situation. Even the smallest matador can face down a huge bull.
In Mexico, you do not have to attend mass, or church services. Faith comes to you in the sense of awareness as we move through our daily life. Awareness is everywhere, the ambient temperature of a place, the solitude of a serene park that was once a battlefield, the aged and crumbling sidewalk, a sleeping dog, a bird pecking away in the garden, or the driver who will respect you if you avoid his eyes. They are all a constant reminder to be reverent, or at least aware, of all of life and it's wonderful possibilities.
In India, they have a saying,
"Care for and watch over a cow for six months and you will find more spiritual awareness."
I learn from those everyday things around me as I learn to think and think to learn! I invested in my life so that I can live well today. We cannot change today, but we can prepare for the future.
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