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Universal Multicultural Dialogue, Guadalajara, Mexico, 2012

by Elias Gonzalez

Elias González is a student of philosophy at ITESO (Guadalajara’s Jesuit University) and a volunteer at the Dialogue. His moving reflections (beautifully translated by Bill Quinn) on this extraordinary inter-faith gathering offer us a chance to witness the impact of the event on an individual and raise hope for that Better World so many humanitarians have dreamed of. This article first appeared in the magazine Xipe Totek, XXI-4, No. 84. 2012.  John Pint

Elias GonzalezThere I was, trying to validate, to make sense of what I was experiencing. But I couldn’t believe it. The atmosphere was cosmically festive, harmonious, with infinite potential for a transcendental change in consciousness.

I’m convinced that I was in the midst of a peak experience in my life, and I still haven’t managed to assimilate everything that took place; years from now I’ll still be discovering the ways I was transformed. It’s hard to sleep the night before the great birth. There are people who have been long awaiting the arrival of something, something that they can’t name; at a certain point in life that nameless thing comes out to meet you, and it becomes absolutely familiar as it opens its arms and comes up to you, because it is an encounter. Searching is not about finding, but about letting yourself be found. I was a few hours away from being found, and that was keeping me awake.


I can remember the months before the Dialogue, even a year before. Coincidences are the way the Universe— that immanent God in the cosmic Whole— shows us a path with heart; they are magical invitations. The time will come when we stop thinking of coincidences as random events and start seeing them as divine gifts, and a gift is always free and at the same time part of something like a perfect plan. My own existence is an example: Holy Week, 2011, in Torreón. I’d spent days in silence. Casa Íńigo had helped me discover so many secrets of life and of myself, as I did the highly recommendable Spiritual Exercises. It was my turn for an interview with Father Luis, a great Jesuit from an Ignatian family with a sense of humor that is rare among priests of his age, but common among the soldiers of the Society. The conversation revolved around my likes, my dreams, my passions; the Tarahumara came up, the life system and sensitivity of the indigenous, spirituality and other things that have been beacons on my journey. The topic of interreligious dialogue came up, the fact that ever since I was little I’ve loved reading about religions, cultures, history; how I see myself as syncretic: sometimes I feel I’m too Catholic to be Buddhist, too new age to be Catholic, and too Buddhist to be new age. But I can’t help but wonder, are these three positions really so separate that they can’t co-exist? Luis listened to me carefully, as if my talk were familiar to him, a part of him, or at least he knew what I was talking about. He gave me the telephone number of a woman named Gabriela (Gaby), from Guadalajara, who works in interreligious dialogue. I felt excited, and had every reason to, because even though at that time I couldn’t foresee the change that this telephone number would bring to my life, I felt the consolation of the Good Spirit as I took the piece of paper that would lead me to this moment in which I make my feeble attempt to express what I experienced.


I went back home, and the first thing I did was contact Gaby. We arranged an appointment and met one afternoon at the Compostela Cultural Center, José María Vigil 1336, an address that I would not forget. We talked for a long time. I told her about my enthusiasm and interest in interreligious dialogue, and she explained how Carpe Diem Interfaith, the name of the organization she belonged to, was working for a world where we could all find a place. I found something that filled me with joy, with astonishment, and at that moment I realized that everything made all the sense in the world: in what could be called the dining room or living room of the Compostela Center, there’s a round table. This is not a coincidence: it would be illogical to imagine a rectangular table at a dialogue among equals. There’s also a piano and many pictures on the wall that allude to Jesus, our indigenous brothers and sisters, consciousness raising, and other such topics. For me, participating in the organization of the 2012 Universal Multicultural Dialogue “Human Crucible” was no coincidence. It was the destination that a certain path was leading to;a series of events in my life led me to that moment, to that peak experience that was to change my way of being in the world. The Dialogue was not limited to those five magical, wonderful days, because it began the moment I set off down that path.


Once before, in a workshop on Dionysiac experiences, I had come to realize many things. It was an almost complete transformation of my beliefs, of my way of living the world, and it was the first big step I took in a serious and coherent way down the path that I am now walking. That was when I succeeded in shaking off many restraints that kept me from flying, but only after making my way through a great darkness: coming out of the “Dionysiacs” I fell into one of the most severe depressions of my life, as a result of realizing that I wasn’t free, that I was merely a being who had been highly conditioned by my upbringing and by values imposed onto me from outside. As Kierkegaard says, I looked into the abyss, and had no other option but to make a leap of faith, a blind leap into the absurd emptiness of belief… and I believed. It was a life-changing decision. I leaped into the loving current of the Universe, instead of trying to swim against it. Since then, wonderful things have happened. I returned to Compostela, this time to take a course in pragmatic meditation with Manuel. The course lasted almost two semesters, and I continued the de-structuring work that had begun in the Dionysiac experiences. It demanded effort and discipline, but like all great things in life, it was worth it. I decided to participate in the organization of the Multicultural Dialogue. My heart jumped for joy. “Get in touch with Inés,” Gaby told me. I knew Inés already: we had competed and spent a lot of time together in Chapala, and to top it off, Inés is my aunt, even though we’re the same age. I got in touch with her. What excited me the most was interviewing the different spiritual and religious communities in Guadalajara. My heart jumped even higher for joy.


For four months I interviewed many wonderful people. I met new people, full of wisdom, who shared the most sacred thing they had: their tradition. Buddhists, Bahá’ís, Shamans, Hindus, Hare Krishnas, Catholics, Jews, Protestants, a little of everything. I couldn’t wait for the interview days to come, and my heart couldn’t believe that I was really living this experience. Little by little I was being transformed. It was an inner change that was subtly taking place in me, and I didn’t even realize until a person asked me in one of the interviews, “And what have you learned from all the interviews that you’ve conducted?” The question stopped me in my tracks, my mind started turning, and I searched for a logical answer, perhaps a piece of poetry, or a deep phrase. I remained silent for a few moments, my eyes looked around the meditation room. I saw images of Jesus, staffs of authority, feathers, colors, snail shells and other sacred objects. “I’m transcending form and finding the foundation,” I answered. Ana Tere smiled at me; in the depths of my heart I know that that was the right answer, not because another answer would have been wrong, but because that was what was really happening inside of me.


The university took a back seat: all my energies were concentrated on these interviews and the learning they afforded me. A great teacher once told me, “Study, Elías. Study always in the many ways that there are to study.” I studied like never before during that experience. The days passed by, and little by little the long-awaited date drew near. Dressed in the sacred purple garments of the event, all of the volunteers in the service of dialogue and peace went forth to shout out the name of the spiritual celebration that was to take place in our city. The streets, the radio, television, newspapers and social networks bore witness to our strenuous work of bringing the invitation to as many people as possible. We were all interested; it’s something that I think concerns us all. I made new friendships, and also strengthened old ties. I invited many of my brothers and sisters who have walked the road with me, and many warriors of the light answered the call. We can all attest to their dedication and commitment before and during the event. The promotional work we did was intense: weekend after weekend, Saturday and Sunday, day and night dressed in purple calling out the name of the event. I spoke of the event before the entire Philosophy Department, just after being interviewed, together with Jorge and Eneyda, for the Cruce magazine at ITESO. I presented it to the ITESO student association in a room reserved for only the most outstanding students. We also created attractive packages for the general public. Something was appearing on the horizon. It’s hard to sleep on the eve of a great birth. But even though I slept little, I was ready. It had been months of preparation, even years of journeying to reach this moment. And there we were, Wednesday, August 29, 2012, Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico.


It was the second time I had visited the museum. Days earlier I had gone to see it, and felt a strange energy. Hours before the event got underway, the Museum of Archeology of Western Mexico needed cleansing. I seemed like an old tree that had witnessed much, far too much hatred and violence; there was a heaviness, an overwhelming gray atmosphere. When I arrived, I ran into Manuel, my pragmatic meditation teacher, together with a marakame and other people in a line, carrying out a cleansing ritual in the dark, old building. I joined them. If the energy I had felt was dark and old, when I opened channels to carry out the cleansing, a surge of feelings rose up in me: the place had been a seminary, and then a military headquarters. Lord knows what went on in that space, but the energy was clear enough. It was Mexico in miniature: its wounds and sufferings were concentrated there, and that’s what I felt as we filed into the library and I saw an encyclopedia of the history of Mexico. The atmosphere was suffocating, I couldn’t breathe, and only the strength of all of us together could cleanse and heal something like that. We finished the cleansing ritual, I put away my things (I had arrived in such a rush) and I got to work. We began just a few minutes behind schedule. The drum beat intensely, vibrating through the walls of the timeworn museum. The heart of each of us began to beat in time, and the feeling spread that something big was at hand.


Dancers from the ancient past, purifying the stage with divine, ancestral movements, their meaning lost and recovered generations before. Their feathers fluttered through space; hundreds of people had gathered in response to the call to a change of consciousness –fewer than hoped but more than I expected. It was the right number. The sound of the drum ushered in the guests of honor—government officials, representatives of the Parliament of Religions with its headquarters in Chicago, and members of Carpe Diem walked up onto the stage one by one to take their places. One of our indigenous sisters, of the Purepecha people, of universal blood and voice, spoke first. She gave permission, expressed her emotion and gratitude, on her own behalf and on behalf of the indigenous of this earth… she gave permission, and then the deluge was on us. The tent was of no use: enormous hailstones tore through the plastic and water flowed freely everywhere. People ran and shouted, and the volunteers jumped into action with a mix of frustration and rapid response as we set about controlling the people and saving the electronic equipment. I spontaneously hugged a friend of mine and laughed, laughed for joy: this wasn’t “bad luck” or cause for frustration. It was the necessary purification. Our cleansing ritual had not been enough: Tláloc himself had intervened to finish the purging of the premises. It was a beautiful spectacle, a display of humility in the midst of so much paraphernalia and superficiality with which we had surrounded ourselves. The message was that this event was to be simple, without so many flashing lights, without so many exterior things. The inauguration took place in an adjacent hall while a chorus of angel-like voices sang “En son de paz” (“In peace”)[1]with all their strength, without microphones and without background music, with just a natural amplifier and an unmatched symphony of rain and hail. The rain stopped—it hadn’t lasted long, just enough. It had not rained all week, but the impact of the words of our Purepecha sister and the Aztec dances made the clouds want to attend our event as well, and they came in for all they were worth. We let them sing and dance—who can say no to Pachamama? She gave us a lesson in humility, and once it was over, the purple shirts ran to dry off the chairs, one at a time. The inauguration resumed in the main courtyard: the children sang, the young people sang, and at the end we began to take away the chairs to leave the courtyard open. The Xipe Totec dancers, with whom I have had the privilege to dance, did the most beautiful prayer: the dance of Quetzalcóatl. Many people had run from the museum when the rain came;nevertheless, the dance drew a crowd. We all took hands and shouted, “Eiaeiaaaa! Eiaeiaaaa!” Energy and ecstasy flowed through each one of the participants. We became a single feathered serpent dancing and flying over the Earth, purifying the building and the place where the event would truly take place, transforming the hearts of one and all. Day one came to an end, but not for the volunteers. I went to sleep at Compostela, along with Robert – who sleeps two or three hours a day at most but has more energy than the Sun itself—and with Mickey, a new friend and companion in this adventure. The cleansing, the shouting and the rain had taken their toll on me, and my throat started giving me trouble. During the entire event, my throat was killing me—it burned intensely, and the congestion and coughing didn’t help matters.  But that made no difference; or to be precise, it only served to heighten the experience.


Day Two dawned. A taxi would take us to the museum, where my real work would finally start. After having conducted the interviews prior to the event, I was in charge of rituals, and worked hard with Martha, a great teacher and friend who put in long hours with me; she was actually my boss, but she acted with the same humility and disposition to serve as any volunteer. My other workmate was Julia, whose support was vital. I had three rituals that Thursday morning: Nacho, from Yoga Devanand, would do an active meditation;PremGarima would do an Osho-style meditation; and Evelia Padilla, together with maestra Susana, would do a ritual with five-thousand-year-old skulls, recently discovered in Mexica lands. The hour was not the best, and we were pained to have to cancel PremGarima’s meditation. He surprised me, however, with his kindness and understanding under the circumstances; instead of being annoyed and throwing my ineptitude and my mistakes back in my face, he gave me a hug and expressed his understanding for what I was going through… One of the many examples of kindness and elevated awareness that we witnessed at this event.At eleven o’clock I took a walk with Pedro Pablo, a grandfather of the Mayan culture, to the public square outside the museum, where the kids from Preparatory School No. 1 come out to play and relax. I decided to do Pedro Pablo’s ritual there, simply to bring this gift a little closer to the street. It was a success: a lot of people came out of the museum to take part in the ritual, and many of the high school kids joined in. With that my heart calmed down; I had felt a little nervous that it wouldn’t work. I talked for a long time with this wonderful Mayan grandfather, and I felt appreciated by him. He recognized my work and I recognized his. I told him about my plans to travel through Latin America and he recommended places and cultures that I should visit. Every time I listened to these people whose lives are a real example – an example that I thought only existed in books or far away—I slowly realized the nature and magnitude of what I was experiencing. It was only the second day and I was on the brink of exhausting my reserves of energy. Every day of the Dialogue I arrived at seven in the morning and stayed until nine at night—fourteen hours of intense work. My intervention was actually required only at certain hours and in one area of the organization, but I was so in love with the event and with what I was experiencing that I helped out everywhere, moving chairs, plugging in equipment, providing support for thespeakers, setting up book stands and food tables, etc. All the volunteers did the same thing: we all did a little of everything. The separate areas blended into a single coordinated body. The fatigue was evident on our faces, but also the joy and pleasure we felt. We treated the speakers and guests with warmth and affection as if we were all one big family. It was really the volunteers that made the event happen, and I don’t mean just the young people: I’m including Jorge, Gaby, Lety, Abelardo, Martha Aidé, Magali, Guadalupe, Monique, Carlos and all the young at heart who spent long hours preparing this celebration and making it a reality. We were all volunteers; nobody was forced to work, and nobody was in it for money. Everything we did was from the heart, freely given for and with the World. This is what Ms. Hart had to say about the volunteers:

I try to go to all interfaith events. I feel the need to put my efforts into ending religiously motivated violence. I came here not only to share our successes, but to learn from others so I can bring it back and better our work. This particular conference I feel was very special and groundbreaking. I felt elevated at this event, something I didn’t expect. Most interfaith events are pretty much ‘preaching to the choir.’ We listen to poetic ways to express the need to get out there and do something, but we rarely hear how to do it, about the tools for doing it. But never in my life have I witnessed such a beautiful spirit of volunteerism as I have seen here, inside this cultural center, so pure and so consistent, so welcoming and warm and comforting. Seeing these young people gave me regained hope in humanity. I didn’t get this from the speakers, because I have heard it all before, year after year, but I got it from the actions of the volunteers. To me, that was glaring: it’s not our words; it’s our actions. This is something I hope to take back with me over the border.


Her words say it better than I ever could.


I had two more rituals on Thursday afternoon, one with Elizabeth Torres and another with VerónicaSacta. Verónica is married to a great teacher whose lecture was the only one I managed to hear in its entirety: Alberto RuzBuenfil “Coyote.” He re-awakened a dream in me, a longing for change and adventure, every time he told his stories about his journeys and his eco-villages; I fell in love with the project and felt a strong consolation seeing myself participating in it. His eyes conveyed peace and harmony, experience and wisdom. He called me a neo-hippie, which I take as a great honor considering what an exemplary hippie he was and is. From Day One I worked shoulder to shoulder with Chuy, who was in charge of the artistic side of the event. I came to respect and admire him in a huge way; in my opinion, he represents the essence of volunteerism, and it was a privilege to work at his side. The schedules were driving us crazy; there was so much work to do, and together with Robert, Ana Pau, Mariana, Potter, Inés, Moch, Sarah, Fabián, Ruelas and so many others, we spent the whole day, sunup to sundown, in the museum, giving everything we had to give. The second night I spent at home; I took advantage of the fact that my parents were going to the workshop with Father Carrabús – a big success at the event – and I slept in my own bed. There’s nothing like sleeping in your own bed... My cold kept bothering me, but to be honest, that’s what I remember and cared about the least.

On Friday there were more rituals: in the morning I was with a Geshe who came with Mario, a representative of Mahayana Buddhism, a teacher who was to become a great friend. We meditated for a few minutes; the Geshe pointed to Potter and me as examples of posture. We remained still for a long time, and our legs went numb. The ritual was a success: many people attended and liked it. It reminded me of my love for Buddhism, everything that I had learned from it, and I again felt the joy of emptiness, of Rigpa. There weren’t really many talks or lectures that I could attend. Aside from Coyote’s, I listened for a moment to a panel with Jorge, Rabbi Joshua, a minister from the Anglican Church, a priest from the Catholic diocese and Ernesto, an expert in music. Jorge surprised everyone with his soccer metaphor, in which every player on the team represents a different tradition: the Catholic is the goalkeeper, the Buddhist plays midfield, the striker is from the Bahá’í faith, and so on. Jorge posed the following question: “If the Jew makes a bad pass to the Bahá’í, who then misses the shot, who loses the game?” The answer made a deep impression on all of us: “The whole team,” said a member of the audience. Correct answer. In the final analysis it doesn’t matter what our tradition is. The fact is we all play on the same team, competing in this world to make it a kinder, more compassionate place where love and peace reign. That’s the common goal, the goal that we all want to score. But we have to do it as a team knowing that it’s the only way. If one misses, we all miss; if one scores, we all score. I was also able to poke my head into lectures with the Geshe, with shamans, with scientists and philosophers like Fernando Malkún andFraijó. Theory is easy to forget, and I can’t say that the learning that I took away from this event was theoretical or that I now knew my way around a lot of new books and thoughts. Real teaching and wisdom is interior, it is lived and acted, and as Ms. Hart says, that’s what we volunteers experienced: a gradual, inner, structural change. At eleven o’clock I had a ritual with Professor Akamazíhuatl, a Náhuatl grandfather who guided us on a journey to our ancestors, forgotten by so many of us. Chuy and I also did a ritual with Manuel de Inkarri while everyone enjoyed their food. We asked for everyone’s attention, we stood up and held hands—about one hundred people who set aside their lunch to form a chain of love that lasted just a few minutes, but that filled us with beautiful sentiments.


In the afternoon, Jagannatha, who had become my friend and whom I have accompanied in several Hare Krishna chants, harmonized all of us in the consciousness of God and brought us together. I think it was a very moving ritual for all of us who participated. At the end everyone was invited to take a piece of the fruit that was used in the ritual. Jagannatha offered me the pineapple, the biggest fruit, saying, “It’s for your family.” Over all the days that the event lasted, we had countless experiences, one after another: dances, rituals, talks with speakers and among the volunteers ourselves. Sometimes I’d sneak off to the press room, which had the most comfortable chairs, to take a break by talking with Sarah or Moch, my sister and long-time traveling companion, a wonderful teacher and friend. I was so glad to see my whole family participating in the event, either in the workshop with Carrabús, or my sister as a volunteer for a few hours. Sharing what you love the most is a priceless experience; that’s what life is all about, that’s where vitality comes from. That same Friday I ran into a friend of mine, Ana Tere, from Lahak House, with whom I had gone on retreat after we became friends when I interviewed her. She had returned from Europe and was very eager to participate, so Chuy and I looked for a slot for her, and she was scheduled for Saturday afternoon. Another arrival on Friday was Sebastián, a Quechua priest from Cusco, Peru. I formed a wonderful friendship with him and his companion, comadre and translator. It may be because of my love for Latin America or the fact that I’m about to make a spiritual journey to his homeland, but the connection and relationship that grew between us was profound and beautiful. During the lecture, Sebastián needed someone to man the stand where he sold woven bags, caps and bracelets. I offered to help him out; I had an hour off and felt like giving him a hand. In gratitude, his translator gave me a bracelet, a beautiful one that I still wear today in remembrance of what I experienced.


The nights were intense. There were artistic events like concerts, dances and singing. This was the time of the day – aside from eight in the morning— when there were the fewest people, so the volunteers had a chance to enjoy these concerts and dances. They were moments of catharsis, of letting loose, and having funafter long hours of hard work. I had a great talk with Moch, and a healing experience with Sarah, and it’s because we had these experiences that the volunteers began to feel like a family.


Saturday arrived. At eight o’clock in the morning Sebastián had his ritual. We started a little late, but in the end everything worked out fine. Everyone present felt the force of his words in Quechua, and the energy he transmitted to us carried with it a profound ancestral respect and wisdom. When he finished, I ran to the second floor –the museum has three floors and we volunteers ran up and down about fifteen times a day. The dialogue tables started. On Thursday they had been canceled, but this time we were determined, even if we only succeeded in organizing one. Fortunately we managed to put together three tables, with a total of about thirty people. There were representatives from the Bahá’í faith, from the Mandála group, plus Carlos and many volunteers such as Paty, Cristian, Víctor, Romina, Fabián and Caro. The topic for discussion was “Spirituality with or without religion?” Diverse opinions were expressed, ranging from outright rejection of any organized religion to a fusion of spirituality and religion. People commented that spirituality is a fundamental human dimension, quite independent of religion, but that religion helps us exteriorize and live that spirituality in community. The topic went round and round, as might be expected; ideas about God were brought up, and about society, morality and ethics, a little of everything. It was an experience full of new knowledge and dialogue, which is the important thing. Everything was running a little late, and the volunteers’ and organizers’ nerves were stretched. I had to “telescope” three rituals: at two o’clock in the afternoon the Bahá’í faith led a prayer that gave me peace to continue working; at two thirty Rafa, from Tibet House, locked himself in Room 3 and directed a meditation that I couldn’t attend, but those who went called it “magnificent.” And at three o’clock I experienced something entirely new: a Celtic ritual by Sofo. That ritual had a strong impact on me. I had never had contact with this tradition; it reminded me of my childhood, as if something of me came from that Celtic magic. In general, the whole event was running about fifteen minutes behind schedule, but at an event of that magnitude, fifteen minutes is nothing. Still, we all felt a little rushed. Ana Tere, from Lahak House, came in with her drums. We started late and had to cut it off early, but everything worked out fine. Naupari took the stage to give his lecture, and we all breathed a sigh of relief. What followed was the culmination of the event, when I realized what I had been experiencing, when tears were shed, when years and years of work were on the line.


Saturday night the whole museum came to a halt and the attention of all the participants, speakers and volunteers was concentrated on the central courtyard. It was the blessing ceremony. José Antonio, a great teacher whom I had just met at the event, and I were in charge of backstage operations. The speakers and representatives of the cultures and traditions took their place on the stage: Sebastián, Ana Tere, Mario, Guadalupe, Susana, Evelia, Jorge, representatives of the Ecumenical Church, the Anglican Church, Pedro Pablo, Andras, Lauro (Peruvian shaman), Muslims, Jews and representatives of the Parliament of the World’s Religions, one by one, in their own spiritual language, gave us their blessing. Drums sounded, holy water was poured on us, the wind and the Peruvians’ bells moved us, the chants of the shamans and the Celts surrounded us, and the wise, poetic words enlightened us. It was at that moment that Jorge told us, “And may your faces always be beautiful and happy.” That’s the way it was and that’s the way it will be, because the energy that came to us in each of the blessings will urge us on for the rest of our lives. Every time I feel I can’t go on; that the struggle for justice, faith, peace and love is blocked and sabotaged by the corruption and suffering of this world; every time my strength flags or quits me entirely, the memory of that night will be with me, when a few gathered in representation of many. We gave everything we had for a common aspiration, the desire to live together, the desire of love. When the time came, Carlos spoke. I can’t remember his exact words, because I was holding a sign with the Golden Rule: “Treat others as you would treat yourself.” I held it high and with pride so that everyone could see it as we listened to Carlos, the director of Carpe Diem and father to us all. The applause was long, the longest I’ve ever heard in  my life; people’s hands and arms did not tire; we took our energy from the atmosphere, and everyone standing, with our feelings stuck in our throats ready to make us burst into tears, we applauded without knowing when it would stop. I can still hear the clapping of all those people, dreamers but realists, mystics but activists, peaceful but committed… We were one sound, one song, a mythical melody, a story, a legend. We lived a legend, a legend whose wind will continue to blow and motivate each and every one of us individually in our particular struggles for peace, and it will motivate us as a community to celebrate once again in two years’ time. The date is set, the invitation has been sent out, the participants are dressed in their festive garments. It was something that knocked all of us out of our accustomed orbit; we made a quantum leap, had a peak experience, opened our eyes, awakened our consciousness. I couldn’t help but feel it inside in the midst of all the work and rushing around. It was the most beautiful thing.


I returned home. My body couldn’t take another step; the exhaustion and the sore throat were giving me chills. I thought I wouldn’t be able to get out of bed the next day, the last day of the event. But I couldn’t let that happen. Even if it meant ending up in the hospital on Monday, that Sunday I was going to live to the utmost. So I made a special concoction to drink and got into bed. I felt better the next morning, much better. It was the final stretch. At nine o’clock in the morning I had a ceremony, the five hundred candles with Tibet House. We had planned to do it in the public square outside the museum, but it was too windy. We moved it to the handball court, which turned out to be the best decision we could have made. We lit more than five hundred small candles; the heat was intense, but pleasant, like the warmth of a womb. Every time a candle was lit, a petition wasmade for someone or something, and three by three we took turns reciting mantras. The people really liked it, and in small groups they came up to light their candle and recite their mantra for a brief time. At the same time – the whole event was like this – there was a Hare Krishna chant. The circumstances threw us into a constant Kierkegaardian anxiety as we were forced to choose among countless possibilities of lectures, artistic events and rituals that competed for our attention. A teacher of mine called it the “Starbucks effect”—so many options, you end up pulling your hair out. I had the opportunity to experience both, and it was beautiful. I finished up the jobs that I had been assigned; each of the rituals and dialogue tables had worked out great. These were moments when the essence of the traditions could be felt – not just discussed. I chanted Hare Krishna, I meditated on Buddha, I danced like my indigenous ancestors, I drank from the sacred gourds of the Mayans, I greeted the four cardinal points like the Nahuatls, I prayed with those of the Bahá’í faith, I recited mantras, I embraced Pachamama in the Quechua language, I joined my hands in a chain of love, I did active meditation and I connected with the gods of the Celtic north. And deep down, in each and every one of these rituals I experienced the same thing: peace and a feeling of transcendence and union with the All. A silent dialogue emerged from these rituals, as those who took part with me in the sacred ceremonies came to realize that while the forms may be different, it’s the same thing we love. That answer that I gave to Ana Tere months before the event, my inner sense that was transcending form, took on a life of its own and now I realize, now I truly understand. I had finished my job, in theory, but the love was so strong that that I refused to leave until it was over. Chuy had been left practically alone; there were very few of us volunteers left, just Chuy, me and the photography team, which had worked from sunup to sundown every day and deserve a hearty applause. Together we pulled off the last day of the event, which after midday was all about artistic events. There weren’t many people, but the few of us that were still there drank in everything. As one of the songs at the event said, “We’re just a few hairs, but expertly combed.” I hadn’t eaten anything. I missed out on material food during those days, but spiritual food provides more energy and nutrition. Before going off to eat, I saw Sebastián putting his things away. I went up to him, embraced him, and asked for his blessing. He took out his bell, folded my hands in his and blew on them. He blessed me. I felt his energy, his love and his gratitude toward me and toward the event itself, but I was also infinitely grateful and my heart was beginning to feel the nostalgia of the end. As Che Guevara put it, “Farewells are divided between two sentiments: on the one hand a profound melancholy for the moments we’ve lived and the friends we’ve found, and on the other hand an immense joy for the moments to come.” I miss that man, Sebastián, the Quechua sage… In the end he gave me another bracelet; on my left and right wrists I proudly wear his gifts so that they may give me strength and continue to remind me of my path and above all, remind me that I must follow my heart. We reached the end of the Multicultural Dialogue with a lump in our throat, and the event ended the same way it began, with a dance of our ancestors. Sebastián’s translator congratulated me and thanked me for everything. Her thanks were also for all the other volunteers. And I had a very nice talk with Mario, from the Mahayana tradition. The event was ending, or was it just beginning? The end found us dancing, happy, fulfilled, with a sensation of profound change in our hearts. I went home; it wasn’t so late. I went to bed early.


A few days have passed. It’s been only a week since the end of the most transcendent event of my life. The fatigue is still there, as I had to return to the real world right away, to the everyday routine where we have hidden the magic, the magic that was so latent and so tangible in every event. We left the museum more cleansed than ever; every ritual, every drum, every snail shell, every dance step, every om in every meditation, served to purify that space, formerly so defiled and so sad. At the end, that Sunday, after Jorge had embraced me and congratulated me, all I could do was drop to the ground in the museum in reverence and express my intense thanks for everything I had encountered, which even today, even after this reflection, is still not completely clear and understandable to me. Why did this happen to me? What does it mean for the world and for my own journey? What comes next? Will I keep being the same? What awaits me, and what is expected of me? We can’t experience something like this and go on living the same way. All of us who participated, in any way, in this transcendental experience have a commitment, as Carlos said in the blessing ceremony to enthusiastic applause. This means being witnesses to this fount of living water that was the 2012 Multicultural Dialogue. Just as Jesus sent his disciples out to preach the Good News by their example, so we were sent, because we were touched by grace. What we experienced was grace and a gift from God, the God of Life and of Love. We simply can’t go on being the same; this experience can’t just pass us by. It can’t just be something interesting I did once in my life. It has to be a social commitment. The path of the snail shell is inward and outward, the way of the spiral. We have to go out into the streets singing the holy name of love, and be lovers, partners, friends, children, parents, companions and citizens who bear witness to this dialogue. In the midst of so much diversity, we need to be witnesses to the fact that differences don’t have to lead to violence. It’s up to us to turn them into an occasion for union and communication. Let us give thanks to Life, “the only universal path.”I’m sure that I’ll never stop giving thanks for the 2012 Universal Multicultural Dialogue “Human Crucible.” Thanks, and see you in 2014.

[1]A song by our beloved songwriter Paco Padilla. (Note by Carpe Diem Interfé).