The Erbil Citadel (Qelat), at Erbil, the capital city of the Kurdish Regional Government in Iraq, stands strong, invincible, and indestructible. It is a representation of the relentless drive to live that the local people have.
From the citadel, there is a remarkable and breathtaking view of the city, and just below the castle, there is a beehive of activities in the various brightly colored bazaars. Every possible item or service can be found in these bazaars
We visit the citadel, a marvel to behold. It is believed that the castle is over 5000 years old, and even older, and so much has happened in there, that has changed the trajectory of life for both the local people and the entire world at large. There is so much history in this castle… and some of it untold.
After the visit, my colleague invites me to descend to the bazaars and take the traditional tea, in a historical family teahouse that has been operating for decades, a meeting place where people socialize and catch up with the latest. The teahouse is booming with activities, people coming in and going out, savoring the traditional tea and exchanging pleasantries. I happen to be the only woman there, and I feel a bit uncomfortable, but my colleague reassures me that it is OK, so I go in…for a moment, then go out – it is too busy in there, so we take our tea outside the teahouse, on our feet, real tea, strong tea, good tea. It is ceremonial, has a great meaning for the people, not just any ordinary tea.
Walking along the bazaars, you find all types of foodstuffs, and my colleague talks freely with the people, picks up a date here, some nuts there, some cheese sticks over there, some sweets here, and offers me. I am astounded – how can you even touch the sellers` stuff? He is surprised at my reaction – this is normal here he says, no one will get offended by this, we are open, free people, and we can taste whatever we want and are not obliged to buy anything. It`s normal, it`s OK, we live a day at a time! This statement penetrates the deepest part of my being – and I put it aside to ask for further clarification once we are outside the busy bazaars.
I want to buy something small for my children, and I am about to pay for it, and my colleague looks at me sternly and says: “What are you doing? You will embarrass me! You are my guest. You can never pay for any item when I am your host!” Strong words indeed, but extremely meaningful and touching. So I let him, and I feel humbled, but for him, this is normal, nothing outside the ordinary. We move out – and hear the Mu`azzin announce the Adhan – the Muslim call to Salat, (prayer), and people start closing down their businesses to go to the mosque. And everything slows down, like in slow motion, and the noise level decreases, and it is a sacred moment…
As we walk past the mosque, I ask my colleague what he meant by “we live a day at a time”. He says that we who live in Europe plan things years ahead of time. For the people in this part of the world, that is not possible – we do not know what is going to happen tomorrow, so we live our today in the best way possible, because today is all we have. We live our life to the fullest today. Tomorrow is not guaranteed, so why plan for tomorrow if you do not know whether you will be alive or not, where you will be, or what is going to happen around you? I empathize with him, but this sends me on an emotional tangent… thinking seriously about it and figuring out what that really means to the people in this part of the world.
I teach people Mindfulness, to be fully here, in this moment, to savor the minute at hand, but my colleague shakes my status quo… he gives me a new meaning of living the here and now, he shows me, in his very casual and simple words, that there is a deeper meaning to this phrase.
According to APA, mindfulness is defined as
…a moment-to-moment awareness of one’s experience without judgment. In this sense, mindfulness is a state and not a trait. While it might be promoted by certain practices or activities, such as meditation, it is not equivalent to or synonymous with them..
This presupposes living in the current moment and savoring all that it offers. It means being fully alive now, not worrying about the past or the future, but being and doing the best in the here and now – this is all we have, we do not have the past, we do not have the future, but the present is here, a breath at a time.
Living the here and now frees us from stress, and all the consequences that are attached to stress. It offers us the opportunity for being grateful, and laying the foundation for our future. Gratitude and depression cannot co-exist, it is either one or the other. My colleague demonstrates to me this concept, he is always full of life, with a positive sense of humor, which is contagious.
Through mindfulness, we stop to smell the flowers, we notice those small joys and make them count, we notice the smile on the face of the other person, we notice the silver lining in every cloud, we savor the flavor of the Iraqi tea… We discover our raison d’être, and live today as if it were the last day of our life! Thank you Sarok!
30th November 2019