By Life Positive October 2008 An excerpt from ancient futures by helena norberg-hodge shows that understanding your self, while you relax and move with the flow of life, leads to contentment. I was with about fifteen Ladakhis and two students from Calcutta on the back of a truck taking us along the bumpy and dusty road from Zanskar. As the journey went on, the students became restless and uncomfortable and began pushing at a middle-aged Ladakhi who had made a seat for himself out of a sack of vegetables. Before long, the older man stood up so that the students – who were about twenty years younger than him – could sit down. When, after about two hours, we stopped for a rest, the students indicated to the Ladakhi that they wanted him to fetch water for them; he fetched the water. They then more or less ordered him to make a fire and boil tea for them. He was effectively being treated as a servant – almost certainly for the first time in his life. Yet, there was nothing remotely servile in his behaviour; he merely did what was asked of him as he might for a friend – without obsequiousness and with no loss of dignity. I was fuming, but he and the other Ladakhis, far from being angered or embarrassed because of the way he was being treated, found it amusing and nothing more. The old man was so relaxed about who he was that he had no need to prove himself. I have never met people who seem so healthy emotionally, so secure, as the Ladakhis. The reasons are, of course, complex and spring from a whole way of life and worldview – the sense that you are a part of something much larger than you are; that you are inextricably connected to others and to your surroundings. The Ladakhis belong to their place on earth. They are bonded to that place through intimate daily contact, through knowledge about their immediate environment with its changing seasons, needs and limitations. The movement of the stars, the sun, and the moon are familiar rhythms that influence their daily activities. Just as importantly, their larger sense of self has something to do with the close ties between people. Their relationships with others and with their surroundings, have helped nurture a sense of inner calm and contentedness, and peace of mind that do not seem dependent on outward circumstances. These qualities come more from within. Contentment comes from feeling and understanding yourself, to be part of the flow of life, relaxing and moving with it. The Ladakhi’s attitude is “Why be unhappy?”
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