As so many people and/or nations gear up for battle, denounce “others” as the enemy, and contract with fear, we need to take a deep breath and reflect on our situations from a very different, and much more helpful, point of view. We cannot hear too many times that defensiveness does not make us safe; quite the contrary. Many disciplines remind us that only when we are open and accepting, rather than closed and suspicious, are we truly safe. Long ago my husband and I had an opportunity to put this philosophy to the test, one I will never forget. We were touring several South American countries, including Ecuador. As we had planned our trip (pre-internet), I remembered reading in National Geographic about a tribe of indians that lived only in a small area of Ecuador and nowhere else in the world. Dubbed the Colorado Indians, they were so named because they painted themselves up with red berry juice (Colorado in common usage means “colored red” in Spanish), and since we were from Colorado, it seemed like a great idea to find these name-sake Colorado indians and have a look for ourselves.
After we had settled in, engaged in a day or two of local sight-seeing, we rented a little Volkswagen, got the decidedly insufficient directions about the indians’ whereabouts and headed off on the two-hour, utterly harrowing drive from the city of Quito, situated at more than 9,000 feet, down to sea level and the jungle home of our indians. Of course, there was hardly a sign that said, “This way to Colorado indians,” so we followed as best we could our meager directions. Finally, we were successful and entered the alleged jungle home of our indians via a nearly invisible dirt road. The already narrow trail became even more so and the thick foliage brushed the sides of our little car as we twisted and turned onward to who knew what! We peered into the underbrush and any little clearings as we proceeded but not a single sign of an indian. There were no turns or intersections in this jungle so no possibility of an inadvertent wrong turn. And we felt sure we had followed the directions and were in the right place.
As we made what was to be our final left turn, to our dismay up ahead was a small open clearing where the road literally ended in a swampy mess with thick trees beyond and on both sides. Since we were literally encased in jungle foliage, there was not an inch available to negotiate a turn-around. Then suddenly out of nowhere, six Ecuadorians - not the indians we had traveled to find - appeared on the right side of us some yards away with very large machetes in hand. I’m sure they were stunned and alarmed to find us in their midst, as were we! Before we had a chance to consider our dilemma and what to do about it, my husband, a tall, blond, handsome blue-eyed man, who probably appeared to hail from another planet to these small native men, instinctively hopped out of the car with a smile on his face and confidently walked toward these fellows as if he were going next door to visit his favorite neighbors.
I watched with fascination and relief as these men visibly relaxed, dropped their weapons, and walked toward my husband with growing smiles on their faces, as well. He pointed toward the car, obviously in need of assistance, and these six fellows plus the two of us picked up that little VW and turned it around! We all waved, smiled, and set off to continue our adventure once more. But still no indians - such a mystery.
That mystery was later solved. Shortly after commencing our trip back up the mountains to the hotel, my husband pointed to a tiny little hovel/shack some distance off the road with chickens running around in the yard and said, “I think that’s a bar. Let’s go in.” We did investigate and told the proprietor, in what few Spanish words I knew, that we were trying to find the Colorado Indians. He smiled, ran off, and returned a few minutes later with an Indian in tow, looking just like the pictures in National Geographic. We communicated as best we could and thereby discovered that we had been in the right place but at the wrong time. It was siesta time and we were driving right through their territory, probably only yards away from them, while they rested with no inclination to make their presence known. Quite an adventure in every respect!
This experience presents a graphic and powerful example of the truth that living an undefended life produces marvelous results. Had we approached those men with fear and the presumption that they wanted to harm us, we would have implicitly sent an energetic message that they were guilty, we presumed their intent to hurt, and in effect, declaring them the enemy. And the downward spiral would have dangerously continued. Under the circumstances, deciding to pencil them in as “the enemy” would have been a very poor choice on our parts!
The dynamic at work is that all humans carry an innate sense of guilt, often unconscious, and when people are treated as the enemy or with the presumption that they are dangerous, this latent sense of guilt is activated and hostility is aroused. Presuming someone/something is the enemy becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
On the contrary, when we live openly and in a friendly manner, assuming the best about people or our situations, that too plays out with an increasingly happy and enjoyable outcome. That is because being open with people sends the non-verbal message that they are not guilty, but safe to be around, which tends to bring out the best and most helpful in them. Anytime we assure anyone, verbally or energetically, that we trust them, feel safe with them and that all is well, everyone gains, no one loses, and we have done our small part in adding positively to good will on the planet. I have done this countless times - presuming the best with strangers - in ways both large and small over many years and never has it failed to have a happy outcome. Best wishes in leaving a trail of smiling strangers behind you - your contribution to peace on the planet!
Carol Howe is one of the original and most respected teachers of A Course In Miracles. A personal friend of co-scribe Bill Thetford, she wrote his biography, Never Forget To Laugh. Throughout her 40 year career with ACIM, she has guided many thousands on their journey to inner peace. To download a free copy of her latest book “The Best Guide Ever to A Course In Miracles,” visit https://www.carolhowe.com/p/ebook.