Change and personal truth. I have learned a lot during the six months I have spent in Iquitos over the last two years, lessons around personal truth and change. Everybody has a personal truth. Your personal truth are the things only you and the Father above know about you; things you say and do when nobody is looking, the person you see in the mirror each morning, no smoke screens, not the person you pretend to be or the fairy tale you find yourself believing from time to time. The person you know lives in the body you inhabit.
I remember when the Greenhouse team was here last year, soon after we arrived in the city I had grown to love, I turned to Ashlie and asked her “What do you think?” Expecting her to love the wild west as much as I did without missing a beat she said, “Dad this is the most broken place I have ever seen.”
At first I was a little offended, like someone telling you your child is ugly or the feeling you get when a fly lands on your ice cream cone. It wasn’t what I expected but after some reflection I had to agree with her. I came to the realization that I loved this broken city because I am also broken, searching for a way to repair a community while I repair myself.
Most of the travelers who come into Iquitos are escaping or searching for something. Twenty five percent of the tourists are here to do ayahuasca, a local jungle remedy used by shamans to connect with the spiritual world. Some find what they are looking for, some don’t, most just pretend.
I find it interesting when I ask the expats who have settled here if they feel like they have achieved the nirvana they came looking for, many say yes. In most cases I know it is just a smoke screen. I’m not sure if I will ever reach the place I want to be, I know now that I can’t do it alone. For me looking for peace in the place God seems to have forgotten is exactly the place to find him; helping myself by helping others.
Change is hard, like pouring plaster in a mold, early it is easy to shape and mold, as time moves on it becomes harder, more and more difficult to change. Eventually you have to use a chisel to make alterations. I’m at the chisel stage.
I tell the Greenhouse kids that when you step into a new and different environment you can shed your old habits, friends and history, moulting like a reptile, leaving all the preconceived expectations other people have behind. When you go to a place where no one knows you it’s much easier to present a new image, a start fresh and it can help but it doesn’t change your personal truth. Changing your environment, removing external forces allows you to focus on yourself but it doesn’t change what is inscribed on your heart. That kind of change requires heavy lifting, relying on faith and pulling out the tools to start chipping away.
Real change can only occur if you open your heart. It requires getting rid of the rigid ways of the past, thinking that you know the way things work, how people should act and how the world should be. Change requires flexibility, openness to new ways, new things and new experiences. It’s called learning, something we forget to do when we get older. When you close your heart, you close your world and open yourself to frustration, pain and fear. Frustration, pain and fear turn into anger and the door closes to new learning.
I hope as I reenter the civilized world I can keep the tools out, chiseling on a heart made of stone. I know that as I move forward, I will continue to stumble, fall and smack my thumb with the hammer of life. My thumb already hurts. I pray that someday I will find that new level I have been searching for. I am sure that I can’t do it alone, opening your heart requires focus, hard work and a key; a key that rests in the hands of the master of the universe, Our Father.