Report from the streets of America

Published November 14th, 2014

My book tour of the USA was an eye-opening experience for me. Since my return to the States two years ago, I had been listening to the news and statistics about how challenging life has become in America, and how people are reporting stress levels not seen in decades. Getting out of my oasis in Coconut Grove, Florida and hitting the streets allowed me to really see where people are at in a good part of this (huge) country. Wow. People are busy…REALLY busy. So many people have packed schedules, even on weekends; I now understand why our clients who come on safari in Tanzania from the States have a difficult time ‘doing nothing’ for an hour or two. The treadmill of production and consumption truly has sped up so fast that any hamster surely would get dizzy, let alone my fellow Americans. Whew! Where are we heading my friends?!? My first clue should have been when my publicist advised me to cut down the 15-minute meditation I started my events with in Africa to 2-3 minutes. She explained that people have a hard time being still and silent. Two minutes is even a challenge. At first I couldn’t believe it; now I understand, after plunging into the hectic rhythms of life in the urban, and not-so-urban areas of America. Some people told me that being reflective and moving consciously is a luxury, reserved for those who have ‘made it’, financially-speaking. They are the ones who can take time for yoga class, walks in the park, and even having morning tea or coffee sitting down at a table with family or friends. This came as a surprise to me. For over a decade, I lived in communities in Africa that were far from materially ‘making it’. Yet, we always had time to listen to each other (in-person, not on screens), drink tea, and live life on purpose. Even if people only had enough resources to cook a pot of rice and some vegetables, we invited everybody to share together. How did it happen that living a rich and meaningful life is perceived in the United States (and in a growing number of other ‘developed’ countries) as being for only those who have ‘made it’? Don’t we all have a right to living life in peace, joy and love?