How Morocco Changed my Mind
Relationships ebb and flow. People move in and out of our lives – We are in a constant state of flux. I realised this when talking to a favourite aunt. It was Christmas time, amid the crush of family. Our conversation explored new territory where we discovered common ground: Holistic health. We both had a fascination with organic food, mindfulness and natural beauty.
Just like that, the tides turned, and we moved from family to friends.
My aunt said something like “It takes a personal crisis to change the way you live”.
I thought about this. For a while. Undoubtedly I had changed since last Christmas. I struggled, however, to pinpoint my crisis.
Now I see: Morocco was my crisis.
I guess that I am lucky. My Aunt had changed because of drastic health issues. On the richter scale, moving to Morocco barely registers.
What happens when the path to enlightenment and our career path intersect?
I followed my work to Morocco, yet it was in Morocco that I learnt that my work does not define me. I came to recognise myself in my body and in my breath. I learnt to dream in the present tense. I saw the difference between having a full mind and being mindful.
In the year since I left Morocco I have met so many people who live these truths. Some were old friends with whom I found a renewed bond. Others where strangers who became confidants, even if we would only meet once.
All of them are braver than I. They made a conscious decision to dedicate a part of themselves to this reality. In a world mapped by social norms they chose to go off grid.
This is where my experience was different: Morocco left me with no choice.
This is the art of change. I was only trying to feel my way through life in Morocco. I ended up finding a lifestyle.
I followed the sun. Desert nights are cold. There was no TV and scant internet. I slept when it was dark. I woke when it was light. The sun is the source of all energy, and for the first time I really understood this. I realised what it really meant to seize the day.
I ate what I could find. I shopped at the market from the local farmers. That’s where everyone shopped – there were no supermarkets. As if by osmosis, I gained an education in organic farming and fair trade. Foreign, packaged food was expensive. Local fruit, vegetables and fish were cheap. So I stopped eating processed foods. That’s when I felt the difference in my body and my energy. There was no going back.
I ate mindfully. We had no fridge. The markets were at the other end of the bay. At sunset each day, we would walk with our groceries across the beach. As night fell we would cook on a fire that we made ourselves. This is how I came to recognise the rituals that we create around food. I discovered that food is nourishment, for both our body and our relationships.
I made do without makeup. Inevitably, I squeezed the last drop from my cleanser. My perfume dried up. I didn’t know where to find replacements. I did know where to find argan oil. There was a medicine man who sold natural remedies along with, what looked like, wishbones and spells. I also knew where to find amber. The man who sold spices would anoint my wrists with the natural perfume. I discovered a wealth of tradition around natural beauty. I began to concoct my own remedies. This is when my skin cleared and my eyes brightened. I became aware that with cosmetics I had been treating the symptoms rather than the cause.
I caught my breath. I felt culture shock like a weight in my body. Unsure of my French, my shoulders hunched in conversation. Ill equipped to navigate gender politics in a Muslim society, I tried to make myself smaller, less conspicuous – My body folding in upon itself. I found my cure in Yoga. With each breath in I felt myself expand. With each breath out I recognised the energy that I put into the world. I became mindful of my own physicality. This was a source of pure strength.
With hindsight, I thought of these changes as miracles – extraordinary phenomena. When I spoke with my aunt, my view changed. This was not a miracle, it was a natural progression. I realised that I am not alone. There is a whole community of free spirits who had their own ‘Morocco’ – that moment of crisis that gives you the freedom to change your mind.
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