I watched a moving documentary last week – Daughter of the Lake – on Netflix. It’s about the struggles of indigenous people in a region in Peru who are being harassed to leave their land for strip-mining. The narrator is a young woman of that region who is studying Law.
Our narrator begins and ends with water – how life-giving it is – and how necessary it is in daily living, even for it’s natural beauty. She travels with us to regions where strip mining has denuded the land of everything, having diverted waterways for the sake of mining, and forcing those remaining on the land to relocate.
She is understandably worried about her people’s future, and her own future. Hence this documentary. The workers – or paid disruptors – travel to within eyesight of the homesteads, and stand there, armed with guns, threatening people with their presence. The local police disrupt peaceful demonstrations and appear to be on the side of the miners. While it’s true that there are always two sides to any disagreement, my focus here is how the narrator and her friends and family deal with their fears.
The answer? Clearly holding in her heart the meaning of the land to herself, her family and her ancestors – both for their well-being and for the Earth’s, acknowledging her fears, and taking things one step at a time. She asks for guidance from the local priest, and his response is both eloquent and powerful: “They use fear to attack your weakest side. You are not your weakest side. The people you love most are your weakness. Fear gives us a fragile dimension. It warns us, just like [this] river: when it’s very full, it’s a bit scary. It could carry you away. So a key to beating fear, is you stop thinking only about the present moment, and focus on what would happen if you stopped doing what was right. If you stopped defending what was important to you. Wouldn’t that be worse?”
We all have fear. Fear lets us know that something is important to us and we don’t want to lose it. It can stop us if we let it; it can also serve as a strong motivator in our lives – getting us up and moving.
As one wise man said: It isn’t what happens to us that defines us, but how we deal with it. We defeat fear and incidentally grow spiritually every time we keep going in spite of it, every time we put one foot in front of the other, keeping a clear view of what matters.
Final word: you may think that all of this effort on the part of the indigenous people against big business and big government was probably futile. Well in this case it wasn’t. Both government and big business eventually backed off.
Maryanne Nicholls is a Registered Psychotherapist. To find out more, gain access to her weekly newsletter, meditations and programmes, sign up at www.thejoyofliving.co .