“Let´s go to San Agustinillo.” That was my brilliant suggestion after our airline sent an email cancelling our flight out of Mexico back to our home in Spain for the first time. While staying for three nights in a five-star resort where our wedding is (was?) supposed to be held, in Playacar, Mexico, my fiancé and I had little to no information on what was actually happening with the COVID-19 crisis overseas, and to base our last-minute decision which led to one of the craziest experiences of our lives.
Neither of us had ever been to that tiny town in the Oaxacan coast. I came to Zipolite 15 years ago, when I was searching for the meaning of life and all I found was a Scotsman to travel with for a few months. This time I was returning with another Scotsman – my Scotsman and now future husband – to the unknown land where everyone told us we would be safest, where the pandemic probably wouldn´t touch us. They were not entirely right.
With only our intuition as a guide, we arrived in early March to this little piece of paradise. Only about 200 people live in San Agustinillo. A lovely, laid back, quiet beach where the heat knocked us for the first few days in our rustic Airbnb Rapunzel apartment by the sea. For the first time in my existence, and believe me, I´ve been to many beaches, the waves were so loud they hurt my heart. Stage one.
An angel as the owner of this place took us in, while we had morning chipotles in her downstairs restaurant. Italy was already in lockdown and somewhere around that time, the country we actually reside in, Spain, started to show signs of shutting doors. The possibility of us heading back by April 7 was looking slimmer. And what did we care? Not so much. Arrogantly, I believed we weren´t going to be affected at all in this small, beachside paradise.
Who knows if it was divine faith or my own anxiety reflected in the outside world, but the ocean sound was too much for me, and we had to move. We negotiated a price in another wonderful hotel in a calmer bay, but there were still a lot of reservations, meaning it would be an unstable stay. Little did we know our flight was going to be cancelled two more times. The prospects of getting out of Mexico anytime soon seemed slimmer and slimmer.
One morning, I was woken up by the manager outside my bedroom window. The entire town was shutting down Nobody was allowed in, nobody was allowed out.
15 years of meditation from my training as an Ishaya monk were desperately trying to prepare me for this moment but to no avail. No one in, no one out. Jesus H Christ, my worst nightmare manifesting in front of my eyes, in the scenario of my perfect dreams. No one can say I don´t create masterful events! This might mean nothing for you, but for me who always chokes at the slightest sign of entrapment -claustrophobia I think they call it – this meant absolute meltdown. Hundreds of thoughts flew by my awareness. What do you know! It turns out being a monk doesn´t give you a free immediate pass to perpetual bliss.
Although my rational mind understood that we were being locked up to protect our health, this meant nothing to my emotionally shattered, panic-attack ridden self.
Anxiety crept every cell in my body. The feeling was similar to when my mother passed away, or when I went through devastating breakups. Grief. Despair at the unknown. Defeat.
My rebel soul was screaming while I kept hearing the new living conditions: no walking on the beach, no swimming, no going to the bigger nearby towns to shop for food, no pharmacies, and don´t make me laugh about hospitals – they don’t exist here. And, unlike in other countries where at least they kept the liquor stores open — no alcohol sales either. Word on the street was no airports were going to be operating either, and even if they were open, good luck trying to get by all the blockades installed in all towns. And did I mention as a tourist you have zero voice here?
So, we are stuck. And, after the initial shock of the situation and in the midst of what appeared to be never-ending panic in my body, I realized once again the only relief was going to be found within. I have committed my life to waking up – to transcending any limiting thought. To find the stillness within and make it more important than any flying monkey of emotion. What if this whole situation was created for me to finally transcend the last train of thought that shakes me? What if this wasn´t a cosmic mistake, but actually the universe pushing me to a higher level I never thought I could reach? Even though suddenly Spain seemed less limiting and my hometown more inviting, what if I was creating this whole scenario so I could transcend the idea that anything on the outside has the power to strip me from my freedom?
With that as a goal and moving towards what I wanted, the thoughts started to lose strength. I stopped jumping at them and having a full-body reaction to the entrapment. It is what it is. Surrendering to things as they are brings a whole different level of freedom I didn’t know before. No, it doesn´t mean I’ve put my head down. It means I value my inner freedom way more than the external one.
I discovered the magic of resting my attention beyond the sense of time and space. It´s only when I realize we have been in Groundhog Day for weeks and possibly we have more weeks to come, that I encounter a problem. It is only when my thoughts wander in space that the grass can seem greener somewhere else. When I rest in the here and now, when I surrender everything to this moment, there is no problem. There is only perfection.
We haven´t left in weeks. Lockdown has been extended indefinitely. Every day I get to look at one of creation’s biggest gifts, the ocean, and I am not allowed to touch it. It itches in my soul. Every day we don´t know if the fish guy or the chicken guy or the meat guy will be allowed in. Our packages are always with a question mark, and we can only hope they make it here. No, I don´t think this house arrest is completely necessary. Yes, I do believe sunshine, fresh air and ocean will do best to a population that is not only protecting themselves from this virus but also losing their only income, and I don´t get why they can´t get it.
But I also see how more and more people are waking up because of this crisis. Craving for a different reality. Some of them are looking into the world, researching for a deeper truth, maybe for the first time in years stepping away from entertainment and into information. Some of them, desperately trying to find the right inside door that leads them to a quiet mind. Peace beyond chaos.
Luckily, I´ve known that door for years. It’s infallible. It takes contrast sometimes to want to walk it, but the silent presence never leaves your side if you pay attention to it.
I am blessed because I know that true freedom is closer than our next breath. Because I know true peace will never be dependent on any external circumstance. Getting closer to that truth has strengthened my ability to let go of the dark thoughts. My body has stopped responding to them. As the rules of this town keep strengthening, so does my one-pointed awareness to the space beyond thought.
Find the truth within.
Maharani is an Ishaya Monk and the author of the book Whole-A**: Whole-Ass: Stop living a half-assed life and enjoy an extraordinary existence. So you can play your part in making the world a better place. For more information, visit maharanimonk.com, or connect with Maharani on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter.