A “serra”, the mind and the slow steps to recovery

I felt slightly apprehensive yesterday. Could I drive all the way to the beach alone? When I woke up from being sick in september 2013 I did not speak, read, I hallucinated. It seemed to me that two worlds existed.

I returned to Brazil and was in hospital again. I remember so well my first meeting with Dr. Getulio once I was back from Asia. Though he worked so hard on being gentle. I understood him but I could not focus to explain anything.

I am never tired to explain that I will be forever thankful to Dr. Getulio Dare Rabello. And I know I usually shock him 🙂 It is not even because we agree in our visions of life or medicine. But because that day that I could not speak he tried as he could to give me hope. That day I knew why he was considered the greatest neurologist in Brazil by so many. It is not because of all he has done and is doing. Some people call him Dr. House. He is not Dr. House. Having seen every single episode now I can say that. I like Dr. House. But I adore Dr. Getulio. They are very different people. Dr. House is a work of fiction and Dr. Getulio is real. But if he was real, Dr. House is very lost. Dr. Getulio is in place. Getulio cares profoundly about the well being of the mind and “soul” of his patients. That is why I admire him. It is not just one more case to solve.

Why do I speak about this again is what my father would say now 🙂 It is because recovery comes in stages. And sometimes there are set backs to it.

Once I could verbalise enough I wanted to go back to my old life. I wanted to climb, to drive, to travel on my own and go back to Asia. Every single battle with my dear friend, who is my doctor taught me new things. The process taught me new things.

And so I went alone climbing, went to the Amazon without plan. I came to the beach alone, I swam in open water. Every single decision of this left me apprehensive. Could I die there? Till I did the action.

I remembered that Annette Karmiloff-Smith in the baby lab in London once said she felt concerned about how parents treated their children once they discovered they had a condition. Sometimes their extra protection created new problems. I thought about that a lot. So in spite of the general concern I did those things.

My mom met Dr. Getulio in the hospital this week. I missed him because I was with my grandmother. I lamented missing him because we always debate the basis of our very different beliefs.

I was not in hospital it was my grandmother who was. She did not want to go. And seeing her for days made me realise she was definitely not well. I bought lots of coconut water to see if she would improve and then realised she was not well. So I asked her whether she wanted to go to hospital. She said she was OK. I said something that shocked my cousin.

“Grandma, the indigenous say life does not stop because the heart beats weekly or strongly. It stops when the air stops being there. I know you are 90 and maybe you are tired of life, but if you are not tired of life and you want to live I believe we have to go to the hospital. If you are tired, just let me know so that awarengly we stay here and wait.”

So we went to the hospital and I discovered that one of the things that most kills the elderly is dehydration. My grandmother had Dehydration. So if you realise someone is not breathing, is loosing balance, has head-aches, etc it might all have been associated to dehydration.

The heat in sao paulo is enormous. So is the loss of rain. It is very frightening. There is no rain in winter in Brazil. The rainy season is in summer. It will be the second year without rain. We were never concerned about long showers. Now there is almost no water to wash one’s hands. As usual poor people are more affected by it. Good neighbourhoods don’t feel it so much. Yet everybody is concerned about it.

The air feels dry. Sao paulo is a huge concrete jungle. So as soon as my grandmother was better I decided to go back to the beach. There it must rain, or at least there will be more wind.

And then I took my yet to be braver decision after being sick. I decided to drive alone to my beach house.

Dr. getulio told me once I could not loose more neurones and that I should spare my guardian angel. He does not believe in the existence of a guardian. The sentence meant I should use more caution. I explained to him there was no possible thing that he would say that would make me miss less Asia. All doctors I know consider my recovery miraculous. Yet I am not prepared to abandon the life that I enjoy living. Set backs should teach you things, not stop you.

I confess I was concerned. I barely told anyone about my plan. I simply packed and went. I even thought maybe I would no longer know the way. After all I did loose neurones. My concern lasted till I reached the road. Then I drove.

So many thoughts came to my mind. Body perception and analysis come from different parts of the brain. We should not follow just dopamine nor just and idea. We should just choose the middle path in that too. The observation of all.

And as I drove I went through the path without thinking. I remembered my Phd. Once I realised without thinking I remembered it was embodied. I did not need to think about it consciously. Just like i don’t need to think about how to drive, or play, or do yoga or ride a bike. The process of embodying knowledge is amazing.

As I rode I was shocked by the fact that the path I naturally took seemed unfamiliar. It felt like that for seconds. I decided to not feel nervous, but to observe why was that the case. I realised. There was no water in the rivers nor lagoons and some changes in the road. I felt happy it made sense.

The coast between Rio and Sao paulo is called the green coast. We call the road that leads the top of the state of Sao Paulo to the sea Serra. The city of São Paulo is located on a small plateau, over the mountains from the Atlantic Ocean. It is above 750 meters above the sea level. We call it Serra because it means Saw. The green coast has mountains that look like a carped saw. So we have to go down one of the mountains to reach the beach.

It literally means to go around a mountain.

As I entered the Serra I was amazed. Every single time I am amazed by the beauty of it. When you drive you really have to pay more attention. You go trough a rain forest that has many trees and sometimes bamboos and sometimes you are just next to the sea. From the mountain you see it.

The sky was blue. The rainforest beautiful. I was once again amazed by it. My concern had long time ago disappeared.

As I arrived here I was met by the same heat but there was more wind. I sat to drink loads of coconut water in the Kiosque where I know everyone. They told me that here it does not rain here either.

It was too hot do do yoga. I waited for the sunset. I did yoga while the sun was leaving the sky painting the sky in soft coulours.

It was the best practice ever. I could do so much that I couldn’t do before. I had heard a dog barking far away. I meditated. I practiced hearing the sea and with closed eyes. For such a long time I did it. And suddenly as I was doing a rather hard variation of an Asana that dog came and licked me. I decided that that meant I should stop. I sat holding the dogs beating heart and meditating. He stood there with me.

For a long time we stood there calmly seeing the waves. His owner called him nervously. He peed in front of my house and went after him.

I was brought back to thinking. I thought of tibetans and neuro-science. As he barked close to his owner I thought he had embodied that behaviour. The man was hyper. Buddhist say it is all about practice.

Close to the sea I was brought back to the rhythm of nature. I slept deeply. As I woke up knowing I had reached deep sleep I felt joy.

I decided to write because we must share what we have learned. Recovery comes in stages. Treating the other as a sick person slows there recovery enormously. Lack of patience with one’s own time too.The greatest exercise is to calm one’s mind.

If you can try to be close to the nature it always helps.

Ps: I fully recommend the book the monk and the philosopher by mathieu ricard and revel.


Inbetweeners in the world of Islam and humour.

Sometimes I wonder whether those of us who have run all over the world can ever feel really in place. My abandoned book was supposed to be called “Inbetweeners” and then as the time passed it became “Mosaic, the path in between.”

There was a reason for that. I felt that as broke and scattered we all become through life we should attempt to make a work of art of that of whom we had become. Maybe in that title though I spoke of a path as in an homage to Tao and Buddhism I always also searched for home.

HH Dalai Lama has a famous quote that goes something like ” Give to those you love wings to fly, roots to come back and reasons to stay.” In Betweenners might have no roots or maybe they have too many. I am not sure.

Some people tell me one should feel at home wherever they are. I find this beautiful but to me this idea is possible simply for higher beings like HH Dalai Lama. As the average human being I find home in others. And what can you do when those are so spread all over the world. I realise attributing roots to people will always lead you to profound experience of the impermanence of life.

I have a profound relationship to very specific people. Mark, my dear friend from my Phd, in his brilliancy and deep knowledge of it all and of my own sorrows feels like home to me. Sabrina and Laura searching different paths in different places and fields all over are home to me. Andrey with the absolute goodness of his soul is what I take to be one of the most admirable human beings I know. He makes me feel at home. Adriana and Mariana in their cruel laughter feel like home. Leila should arrive here soon to expose photographs that she has collected of those who are like us…. in Betweeners. Leila is home to me. Mustapha who has taught us to really see people feels like home. So are some specific indigenous, and tibetans I know. They taught me it was fundamental to learn how to differentiate things, to not say yes to it all, to observe what you import in. They seem to propose that compassion might be sometimes cruel.

How could that be? It is because they attempt to bring consciousness to one. Being aware is way far from a pleasant thing. Yet it is the path to responsability.

There is no pride in being an inbetweener. There is no field. There is no country. There is no language. There are encounters. Values. Respect. And when we encounter one, we simply know it. I actually know many. They recognise it in me. I recognise it in them.

Should life be movement? I am not sure. How do we accept the impermanence of things in life?

Sometimes I feel we have become entirely indifferent to it all. What we call freedom seems like indifference to me. I guess it is easier this way.

I arrived in NY a few days before 911. I saw two wars being fought. I decided to learn about the middle east. Then I became friends with Palestinians and Israelis and so many other middle easterners. And then I started to go there. And then to Asia. Even if you feel the Middle East is Asia it is not. And suddenly the west seemed to import itself there. In its worse version.

I honestly never know why I write till I sit and write. And as i stopped to think of the simultaneous feelings I feel now I realise this post comes from two places.

A message of love from someone I met years ago and who like me misses Asia. Someone who feels also out of place.

And from Charlie. I am not Charlie. I suffer for his death, but I suffer even more by imagining how much harm it will be done to muslims because of that horrible act.

I once sat in a talk by an Iraqi. The war against iraq had just started. He was a student at Harvard and he spoke of laughter. I still remember it. “Humour is the last refuge of pain.”

That man had done Medicine in Syria. Then he was in Harvard while libraries were being flooded, museums robbed, the country destroyed. Could I even speak of the population?

I sit here and think what would he say now? When Damascus, Allepo and all that he has touched no longer exists?

I think of Edward Said. The great palestinian author who has written many books, but I think of the book “Covering Islam”. He asserted in that book that this is exactly what people do. They cover as in they put something over it, so that it makes it impossible for the outsider to understand that Islam goes through a huge area. There is no way of speaking of Muslims in an unity.

So, I think of my dear Muslim friends who come from all over the world. Some of which embody literally the word Islam. Islam means peace.

And because I respect peace I cannot support the murdering of anyone. Nor can I endorse discrimination. I cannot do it in any form.

That is why sometimes I wonder whether those of us who have run all over the world can ever feel really in place. Can we even feel in place when those arounds us abide by a distant past that has not been experienced by anyone living?

I breathe in and try to remember it is all impermanent. I breathe out and hope for peace. Internal and external. Then, I realise my book should be re-written. It should be called Mosaic of Inbetweeners.