"Less can be More" ... by Michael Pearson
It is July 6th, 2004 and I am visiting the Casa de Dom Inácio for the fifth time in three and one half years. Since January 2001, I have actually flown here from my home in New England six times and could justifiably claim to be here on my sixth visit. In my heart I know, however, that two of my six round trips were part of a single trip, the one in April, 2003 when I returned with my younger son after a healing here (see story on this website) to meet my wife and trade children at Logan Airport, simply to return to the Casa with my older son on the next flight back to Sao Paulo /Goiania / Abadiânia. That's another story, however, and I mention it only to underscore how important this place has become for me, and to explain something of my sense of the history of this place.
Abadiânia has changed markedly since January 2001. As many people mention these days, the Internet cafes, 1+US area code dialing, pizzerias, properties owned by foreigners, and most disturbing, big-city crime and added security at many pousadas - all are part of a striking "gentrification" that has resulted from an influx of people from outside Brazil. It is the result of money coming to a place originally with little money. It reminds one of changes wrought to poor beachfront areas in the United States over the last twenty or thirty years, except, of course, for the pattern of crime and punishment. Here, before the changes there was little or no crime. As with other manifestations of gentrification, the poor people find themselves having to move out. In Abadiânia, it's a matter of moving across the highway - not such a traumatic thing, perhaps, but if not as troubling as the newly installed video cameras and security guards, still the source for quite a bit of food for thought.
One thought is not to hand oneself over to negative thinking in the face of these social and economic changes, but to meditate on the fact that this influx of wealth and western commercialism is a burden to the beauty of this place, stress on the Casa and the work of Medium Joao and something to be aware of and something to be coped with. It is important, I believe, for me and all foreigners coming here to realize these things and to understand the fact, however, that "less can be more".
Consider the showerhead in the bathroom of my pousada. As anyone who has visited here knows, warm water is provided in the bathrooms of Abadiânia pousadas by electrical showerheads. For four of my last five visits, I was always distressed having to take cold showers. The electric showerheads never were able to provide anything but a slight increase in temperature over what comes out of the faucet. On this trip, however, I came to realize that by reducing the flow of the water to an absolute minimum, the water is not only hot but almost scalding! And the water is in sufficient quantities for a nice shower.
The pousada where I am staying is not a "gentrified" one. It is unchanged since I first saw it a year and a half ago. The prices are the same as I remember from 2003 and may well be what they were in 2001. No one in this pousada speaks English, however. The walls are not polished and painted, the furnishings are minimal to the extreme.
Bear in mind what Arthur shared last Sunday at the regular 10 a.m. prayer service at the Casa - that someone working in a pousada in Abadiânia makes 260 Reals a MONTH. Although fifty Reals may seem like nothing to a visiting foreigner, it is a great deal of money for most people in Abadiânia. Just pulling out a wallet full of reals is an unskillful act here. According to Arthur, the coming to Abadiânia of foreign money has attracted professional beggars who actually rent children and by collecting 10 reals here and 10 reals there from groups of 40 foreigners can make over 400 Reals in an hour. One such "beggar" last week took the money out of an American woman's purse and the result was an arrest and legal proceedings. How the local police hated to be confronted with this! How much additional and burdensome work for the good people of the Casa to attempt to assist in these matters! They even had to try and find the mother of the child who had been "rented". All due to money... too much money stored and exhibited in one place ("put a little money in one pocket, a little in another and some more in a third", entreated Arthur. "Please remember that 260 Reals a MONTH earned by a worker in a pousada!"
So I only carry a little money and in different pockets. I try to walk and not take taxis everywhere. I eat most of my meals in this humble yet wonderful pousada. And I realize that the people here, although not rich, have very rich, very sacred lives. The food they serve is simple but abundant, fresh from local soil and delicious. The joys they take are of family and of spirit. They are not being enriched by foreign money, security systems, separation from others.
Less can be more. Here it was more. Silence is a Prayer! Less talk can mean richer communication. Meditation instead of TV or internet or newspapers or magazines can mean more joy, not less. "O Silencio e uma prece" (Silence is a Prayer). Count how many times these words appear on the walls of the Casa's assembly area.
The Casa's work is still strong. John Teixeira de Faria, a man born under the poorest of material circumstances is still serving as an instrument for Spirit as he did forty years ago. Because of books and modern communication systems, however, thousands are now coming from all around the world to this place that was literally not on the map ten years ago. And even though Abadiânia is now on the Yahoo weather map, the Casa and the work of Joao de Deus are the same as those days when Joao's work was unknown outside Brazil. The value of the gifts here are still beyond all monetary calculation. In coming here, we should remember the sacredness of this place and pray for the continuation of Joao's mission. With the advent in Abadiânia of network film crews, western egoistic mind and all the associated support systems of western egoistic mind, it is more important than ever to empty our pockets, remove our watches, cell phones and our judgements... We should speak with everyone we meet as if we are using a talking stick... mindfully... thankfully... while honoring stillness and simplicity above all.