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Simply Free Minds


We design creative language teaching tools that inspire mindfulness, social responsibility and compassion.

Thief or Teacher?

awareness Posted on Tue, January 26, 2016 02:02PM

So, yesterday morning my backpack was stolen. Luckily I had my phone, keys and money on my person. My more sentimental items, on the other hand, were inside of the bag that had accompanied me to most places (and classes) during the past few years.

First of all, let me explain that Barcelona is notorious for professional pickpocketing. They even say that it used to be one of the places that sneaky people would come to learn the art, that there was actually a “school” for thievery. I have been here so long and have had so many encounters along the way with being robbed, helping people who’d been robbed, hearing stories about people being robbed, and so on…

I have been highly trained in the art of keeping an eye on one’s belongings and NEVER leaving them set down some place, not even at a party with “cool” people. I’d had things gaffled at those places too…a jacket, phoneS… I even did my own test once at a festival…I went to the bathroom and on the way in I saw a group of peers sitting outside that I thought might enjoy my amazing kaleidoscope. I asked them if they’d like to have a look and just hang onto it for me for a moment while I went into the powder room. Sure enough, in less than 5 minutes, they were gone.

I have experienced all different levels of thought and emotion around this subject and have had countless conversations about it. The general rule of thumb in society seems to be that thieves are vulgar nouns and that they deserve this and that sort of torture, blah, blah, blah… That has never resonated with me. No, I correct myself, it did when I was 12 years old and wanted Saddam Hussein done away with.

I hadn’t been robbed in many years up until yesterday, when I somehow acted completely out of character. I consciously placed my backpack on top of my friend’s that was nicely nestled in the stroller in the corner of one of our favorite local vegan spots, Gopal. IN PLAÇA DE TRIPI!!!!!!!!!! (also known as Plaça George Orwell) What?????? THAT is probably the most famous place to be robbed in the city, besides on the metro… I really don’t know how that happened being in my right body and mind. I guess my higher self said, “Hey, we need to check in here with you about your reactions to this type of violation on the physical plane,” and guided my hand. I don’t even put my bag down like that in the U.S. in places where only my friends are around, out of such strongly engrained habit.

So, shortly after this confusing behavior, I look at that place and sure enough it is gone. The acrobatics behind this type of thievery is so bewildering. None of us can figure out how it happened. How was the person not seen? How did the people from our group (almost on top of my bag) not sense anything at all? How did they reach my bag? How did the stroller not fall over? What the heck happened? Then the feelings come. Disgust, fear, sadness, anger…

This time it was very quick for me to process and let go. Gratitude quickly came and acceptance too. I think I suffered for about a minute and a half, maybe less. And not until the end of the day, about seven hours later, did I think about the person who’d taken my belongings and check in with myself about what I felt about them. In no moment did I ever feel any negativity toward them, although others that I shared the story with did. I also realise that any time an image of who that person could have been came to the movie screen of my mind, it was male. Interesting…

What was in my bag? (to give some perspective)
-my favorite wallet designed with emblematic Barcelona flowers
-my “important” cards (bank, bicing, I.D., health, etc.)
-pictures of my loved ones
-really cool pens that I got in the states
-a really cool book and game that I got in the states and was going to use in class with my students that day (I teach English.)
-10 felt roses that I have on me for fundraising for our project
-a very special journal with art and personal thoughts
-my agenda!!!! (good thing it’s January!)
-my lipsick and other makeup
-my tiger balm
-my thinking putty (that was a gift from Carlos for my last bday)
-homemade flash cards and papers for classes
-my favorite sock monkey hat (that was gift from the family I nannied for 17 years ago)
-my favorite gloves (that were a gift from Diana!!! She and I had matching ones!)
-the beautiful scarf that my mama gave me last time I saw her that I wear every day
-my USB stick
-a great book, 7 Spiritual Laws of Success

Blah, blah , blah….stuff, (and my attachment to it…)

This has been a great sort of “exam” for me. I can clearly see where I am on the forgiveness scale. I was only angry at myself. How could I be so careless??????
I was quick to forgive myself, in my opinion. Forgiving the thief was instantaneous. I can only imagine how much suffering they experience in their own heart and mind, and I wish them peace and freedom. We are all one, right? The form of their consequences are in the hands of the Universe.

I could also witness and observe the amount of bio-chemical alteration in my being once the reality hit me and where the feelings were gross and where and when they were subtle. The subtle feelings of disgust for being watched and taken advantage of lasted a bit longer, as the memory continued to appear in my mind throughout the day. The subtle feelings of sadness and fear also lasted throughout the day. These subtle feelings were very very sublte. So that shows me that the meditation that I am doing in my life is really benefitting me. I don’t know that I’d be able to objectively observe these things without a daily practice.

I feel like I have passed the test with flying colors and am super grateful for the experience. I do not wish for any more experiences like this in the future, but I am sure that I would not have been able to gauge my state of mind in such a way without an experience of its nature. And I can be sure that I will NOT be leaving my bag around Barcelona again, unless the Universe decides to guide my hands to what I can only call unexplicable nonsensical behavior.

Hope you have enjoyed reading this and that you continue to shine your light to the world! AND If you ever make it to Barcelona, PLEASE don’t think you are so experienced at traveling that it won’t happen to you. It’s sort of an “initiation” to Barcelona, as many of us longtime locals say… Don’t leave your valubles on tables in cafes, restaurants, etc. NEVER put your bag down without some form of attachment to an aware person. Be extra cautious on public transport, in crowds, and when people randomly start talking to you on the street, for ANY reason. I have seen this type of pickpocketing on numerous occasions. You are also a million times more likely to be a target if you’re inebriated. I hear people getting robbed in the middle of the night all the time from my bedroom window in the center of town.

People used to get their bags stolen so often in the Ciutadella park that a good friend Buzz, (who was actually visiting and with me when I got robbed the other day) planted a backpack filled with poop as a decoy, and sure enough…it was taken!

Before I moved in here in 2000, I divinely stumbled upon an article online that said “Before You Come to Barcelona, READ THIS!” Thankfully, I did. It was a long and descriptive text about all of the “normal” looking con-artists (with photographs of some of them) that have been making their livings on the streets here forever. Many of them were from the states. It also stated where they usually hung out. I took that pretty seriously. Yet I proceeded to have my own “INITIATION”. All I can say is that I think I have learned my lesson already. 🙂

Thanks for listening. If you have your own Barcelona theft stories, we’d love to hear about the lessons learned! Please comment below! 🙂

I found this great video today form the excellent Gabrielle Bernstien about instantly changing our moods from negative to positive. This technique can be especially helpful in these types of situations! Enjoy!

Patience and La Sagrada Familia…

awareness Posted on Tue, January 19, 2016 11:33PM

It’s the first card that came to be in our deck…that of patience.

People used to always tell me, almost daily, that I was such a patient person… I used to make jewelry a lot, every day, and much of the time in public. I also teach grown-ups and children. That requires a lot of patience, I am told.

People always say “I don’t have the patience.” I hear this phrase all the time, and when the people tell me how patient I am, it is usually followed by a “I don’t have the patience for that!”

It’s funny how people look at themselves and each other. Sometimes my ego says, “Oh yeah Jaime, you are so patient…”, and I feel very proud and satisfied. Other times, it says, “What is wrong with you? Why are you so impatient?”. Then I usually feel a lower frequency sensation, although sometimes this one is very subtle and hard to detect without a bit of stronger attention, as I have been training myself quite consistently to not go with my negative thoughts about myself for around twenty years now.

It’s only in the last ten to twelve years that I have been checking that first feeling of pride and satisfaction too. I try to be aware of that feeling, or those feelings, and to be equanimous with them. I am still very far away from the equanimity that brings true peace and harmony, but each moment I have the intention to be equanimous and so closer and closer I get. Patience…

It seems to me that everything in life requires patience, so why not start affirming and cultivating that quality as much as possible? I’d love to hear more, “I am becoming more and more patient every day,” or “I had a lot of patient moments today,” or “Waiting in this line gives me the opportunity to practice patience.”

I am so grateful that patience has come “easily” to me, as I think it has saved me a lot of unwanted suffering. I am also grateful to know where I am in relation to patience, and that is, STILL LEARNING.

Yesterday we played a game in my English class where we had to pick the best word for patience, either “caveman” or “director”. My first idea was “director”, because naturally, we are evolving and we must be getting better at patience. Then I realised how undistracted we must have been during the time of cavemen. They REALLY had to be patient.
I am learning a lot about patience with this project. Patience with other people, patience with the flow of money, patience with the creative process, patience with my own expectations and limits…patience in a LOT of areas. Antoni Gaudi’s spirit helps me when I feel unnerved or impatient. His greatest work, La Sagrada Familia, is projected to be finished somewhere around 100 years after he died…People always ask, “Why has it taken so long?”, and the reason is mostly surprising to me…It has to be built purely from the hearts of the people, from their contributions. No big companies or brands can sponsor the building of it. At least this is what I have understood…
May each of us grow more patient each day and enjoy the process. Good things take time, they say, and in my experience, it’s mostly been true.