MiguelAngel Vergara speaks about the Mayan culture in Guatemala
[Nyerges is the author of numerous books, including “How To Survive Anywhere,” "Til Death Do Us Part," "Self-Sufficient Home," etc. He can be reached at Box 41834, Eagle Rock, CA 90041, or www.ChristopherNyerges.com.]
I have often wondered how the commemoration of All Hallows Eve, or Hallowe’en, has devolved into a day of choosing to face our fears in a fun way, and to eat a lot of candy. It is what I did as a child, dressing up in a costume, screaming, pretending to be frightened, and collecting lots of candy. Yes, it was fun, but it was also somewhat unfulfilling. As I grew older, I wanted to know what it was all about, and why we all went through the motions of the day, year after year.
When this time of year was commemorated by past cultures, it was believed to be a time when the dead are very close, and perhaps could be contacted. It was a day to confront our fears and conquer them, and a time to acknowledge our dearly beloveds who have passed away.
When we speak of conquering our fears, it is worthy to note that the root of the word “conquer” is “with” and “query,” meaning that “to conquer” is not so much about vanquishing an enemy, as it is about seeking knowledge, with others, about those things which trouble us, of which we know little.
In that sense, part of conquering our fears means that we should not pretend we have no fears, and avoid the subject, but we should face them directly, and seek the root of the fear.
When I was in Guatemala a few years ago, one of our teachers was a man who operated a jade store and Mayan museum. He talked to us about the creation myth from the Popul Vuh, and then began to speak about the Long Count of the Mayan calendar.
“But it seems like a lot of people really want the world to end!” he said, as we all laughed. He went on to explain – as my group heard over and over – that there are no predictions from the Mayans about the “end of the world” or doom and gloom, referring to the infamous 2012 date that so many were frightened about. Some poor journalists must have thought they heard “end of the world” when it was only “the end of one calendar cycle.”
“Yes, anything could happen,” he continues, “but it’s good to stick to facts. The Maya don’t say anything about the end of the world. In fact, they have dates listed for several thousand years from now. If they thought the world was coming to an end, why did they use those dates?”
Our main teacher, my mentor, Miguel Angel Vergara, spoke after the laughter died down.
Vergara asked us to list our fears – in general, and about the 2012 date – as we wrote them on the board. It was a very predictable list.
Vergara then addressed these “fears” one by one.
Yes, the unknown is a mystery, he told us. He paused, and then emphasized to us that the past is the past, and is over. The future is the unknown. It is only the present that is our real gift. There fore, we need to simply focus on the present, and not let our minds run away in the past or the future.
Death. Yes, we will all die. We will. And so? Accept it, and then live your life fully.
Suffering and pain. Again, Vergara said, yes, life is full of suffering and pain. That’s life. It has nothing to do with 2012.
Concern for our families. Vergara smiled and said, “They will survive without us.” He acknowledged that everyone is concerned about their families and this is natural. But we need not have an imbalanced worry about whether or not someone else might or might not survive a situation. Just carry on with living your life.
Lastly, he addressed the notion of losing things. We will lose things, he said. That’s life. Whether in catastrophe or in ordinary life, we lose things. And when we die, we don’t take physical things with us!
Vergara paused and said loudly, “Think! You all of us have ALL that you need. (He was speaking to an audience of mostly Americans and Canadians). You have cars, money, homes, and you still suffer. What are you fearing? You are all like millionaires [sometimes he would say billionaires] compared to most of the people in the rest of the world.
“We buy what we need at the supermarket,” Vergara told us. “We have lost our inner warrior. We are weak and we are comfortable. We don’t want to fight. So what should we do, asked Vergara. What is the best formula to recover this part of ourselves?
He offered many solutions. He described ceremonies that we could perform to reconnect with the earth, and our divinity. He said Love, Real Love, is a part of our solution. Vergara added that “Ninety-nine percent of the time we fail to solve our problems because we don’t knock on the door of divinity. We think that our ego will solve our problems. We know all the things of the outside world, but we don’t know our Self. Are first task is to Know Thy Self.”
Vergara emphasized the need to avoid fear, and go forward with our purpose in life. He explained that most people in the poorer and lesser-developed parts of the world are not worried about “the end of the world” predictions. Why? They are working hard, every day, for basic survival. “Always keep in mind that the main purpose of life is Self-Realization.”
During my studies with Vergara, and other Mayan teachers, I found that they never shied away from talking about death, or fears in general. They taught us to look forward with open eyes, and to embrace others who are on the same seeking-path. As Eric Fromme stated in his classic “Art of Loving” book, Love is the solution to the problem of human existence.