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Expat Life

Conscious living: Family values or the gringo ego?

By Louis Bourgeois

Carolyn Myss influenced my understanding of the evolution of consciousness and my awareness of the energy body. She describes the basic three levels of consciousness as the tribal mind, the egoic mind, and the spiritual mind. In North America, especially after World War II, a dramatic shift in the consciousness and culture began to take place. The tribal values of family and community slowly shifted to a concentration on education and independence.

I was born in 1952, and can remember how eager I was at 17 to leave the family fold. The same was true for each of my three sisters, and we would one day be scattered all over the country, two of us living in San Francisco and Seattle, about as far away from our family home in Connecticut as one could get, and still be in the U.S. My two older sisters went to Ivy League schools, never married or had children, focused instead on their careers.

Ecuadorian families retain traditional tribal values.

The difficulty many gringos have in living in Ecuador, which would hold true for all the Latin countries that I have explored, is that the local people are still happily entrenched in the tribal mind. Their values are clearly about family and community and the Catholic Church. We might appear to be egoic monsters to them, and they likely appear to be relatively uneducated and unsophisticated to us. I married into a local family, and I marvel at how, for example, my father-in-law enjoys watching many of the old television shows that I enjoyed as a child.

Conscious living calls for us to embrace these differences. Remember from the first blog that our new earth consciousness is described by acceptance, appreciation, and enthusiasm. It’s my challenge with my wife’s family to accept and even appreciate how they think and how they live. They have a treasure that I lost in my life’s devotion to independence and exploration.  When I ran into some financial difficulty some years ago I attempted to reach out to my two wealthy older sisters for help. They refused to help me, criticizing my life choices. This is indicative of the egoic mind, which is critical and competitive. When my wife and I decided to buy a van for our business a little over one year ago, members of her family stepped up to give or loan us all the money necessary to buy the vehicle. There was no question that they would help. When my wife’s sister wanted to buy her own home, even though it upset the paradigm of an unmarried woman remaining with her parents until she married, the family chipped in to make the down payment on her condo.

So, though I could never truly go back and live comfortably in this tribal world, I appreciate it and enjoy certain benefits. I know that for my daughter’s life, the integration of the tribal and egoic consciousness will offer her the best of both worlds.

I mentioned one of the key principles of Conscious living in the first blog, that being simplicity. A second important principle is balance, or integration.  It is a clear sign of our personal development, our evolution, that we learn this principle and apply it in our daily life. The principle is reflected in the Serenity Prayer: paraphrased as: “Give me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”


21 thoughts on “Conscious living: Family values or the gringo ego?

  1. “We are not physical beings having a spiritual experience, we are spiritual beings having a physical experience”
    Teilhard de Chardin
    We have to learn the difference.

    1. Tielhard de Chardon. One of the great thinkers. “The Phenomenon of Man” Classic. Nice! Though quotes oversimplify. I still do not understand what the word spirituality means really. I do get the gist of the message away from an assumption of thinking – that I think is meant by it – cheers!

  2. Lovely piece, I’m reading Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs & Steel it too talks about this subject. Thanks

  3. Beautiful. I married a marvelous Ecuadorian lady I met at UMASS in 1970. When we moved to Guayaquil in 1988 I left a similar environment, sister in Alaska, brother in NY, and with 22 years military service, I felt like a real gypsy. Now, with almost 30 years as an ‘accepted’ member of the local tribe, I understand exactly what you are saying and also understand both ideologies. Well said.

  4. I can appreciate much of what Louis has written and experienced. However, I am reminded through my (many) years of experience, that there is a reason many a cliche’ survives year after year after year. One of them is that “There is always 2 sides to a story”. When people tell of their experiences they have a tendency to enlighten others with only positives, and rarely the negative side of the ledger. And there is always a “negative side”. Kind of like what you would expect from a travel agent. So, although I do enjoy reading about the experiences of others regarding foreign lands, I am always aware that there is another side to the story.

    1. I can only speak to my perceptions and what I am learning about the ‘culture’ in Cuenca. Many younger people are rebelling against what they feel is a suffocating family. Young women are pushed and encouraged to marry and have a child. So–they do. Then they promptly get a divorce and tell the parents “I did what you wanted–now leave me alone to live my life!” The younger generations (A, B W, Z…whatever) in the USA are very, very different from my world (born in WWII). It’s probably a world-wide phenomena. (And it must be stated–where were you on this, Louis??–there is a huge difference between rural and urban.)

      1. WoW, LadyMoon. Very interesting. Quite in contrast to what I perceive here in Esmeraldas. It’s very normal here for 14 & 15 year-old girls to be pregnant, and I don’t believe it has anything to do with “suffocating families”. Here, it is more about boredom, peer-pressure, and a lack of hope for a bright future. The young daddies typically don’t hang around once someone mentions “responsibility”, so the families are left to support both “children”. As far as I’m concerned this hopelessness is caused by a lack of adequate education and lack of opportunity. Generation after generation just continues to play the same record over and over again. Very sad.

        1. What I failed to add was–these are educated young women. As we know, educating women changes everything. I think the change is for the good!

          1. Couldn’t agree with you more. I wrote a guide to learning English. The title is “Knowledge is Power”. Yours is the perfect example. Great stuff.

  5. Well said Louis. Thanks for the insight on some of the differences of assimilating into the Latin culture. Certainly is food for thought.

  6. If U R fascinated by human consciousness evolution and your place in it, you’ll like this: Spiral Dynamics.

    Each level has its own Personal Values, Life Goals, Coping Strategies, and so on. Each level builds upon the previous one, enriching ones life and providing a broader point of view of Reality. You can see that the levels have emerged over time, with the higher levels having come into being fairly recently. Also note that, if examined over an “ideal” human lifetime, each level can be seen to emerge at different developmental stages and ages, eventually coming into full adulthood. As such, it is apparent that most people progress and mature up to a certain point, then stop there. They live out the remainder of their lives at that level, gathering experiences and cultivating wisdom; i.e. a typical 60-year-old may very be a 13-year-old with 47 years experience, slowly mastering that level of existence.

  7. Louis, your candor seems to elicit candor from other commenters. I like that. Very insightful piece. Thank you.

  8. I would think that the tribal mindset is still in tact in North Americans as well. Looking at statistics most North Americans don’t travel outside of their origin of birth. Less than 15% have passports. This may be a myth we are not conscious of. Then Ecuadorian family values may have as much to do with non existent social systems and the neccesity of protection in family and neighborhood. I couldn’t say one is better than the other – tribal vs egoistic. After all our biological family is just that our true family is the world community Ideas and word classifications seem to represent one thing against another – one being better to the mind of the observer.

    1. Exaggerate much?

      Our citizens can be our best diplomats by showing the world who we really are, but we have to leave our own country first. According to the State Department, there are 113,431,943 valid passports in circulation, which means 36% of Americans own a valid passport (and therefore 64% do not)

      Still, only 36 percent of Americans hold a valid passport, according to the State Department, compared to 60 percent of passport-holding Canadians and 75 percent for Brits and Aussies

      You rank just below faulkner and globetrotter for making up stuff you post as facts here. No, I take that back. You are also behind Berger.

      1. Seems to me that the best way out of human prejudice and small-mindedness is for everyone to get out of their insulated, shielded lives, and see the world for what it is. It would be very sobering for every teenager to travel the world, seeing the best and the worst, up close and personal. That could be a part of ongoing education for everyone.

      2. The number of US citizens with passports undoubted shot up when they became necessary to visit Canada and Mexico… The number I learned about 25 years ago was 17% (which was a shock).

        1. You raise a good point, but 25 years is a long time and things change—————– even the provincialism of Americans. I’ll bet that 25 years ago, you never dreamed you would expat to Ecuador, yet here you are.

  9. Insightful reading, I see there are bunch of brilliant Gringos residing in Ecuador, I am sure most of you been around. Integration of knowledge we learn from the past and present is a great gift to humans. We can share our learnings. However, as an individual I mess some attributes from the tribal era. Sometimes modern development suffocates humans to some extent that we forget the values from the past.

    1. Emilia – Your comment highlights the reason why (polite and mature) conservatives and liberals are both necessary. Conserve-ing the best of tribal values and practices, while also liberal-ly seeking out even better ways of thinking, creating and acting. However, when conserving turns into overprotectiveness, stagnation and rot, and liberal-ing directly contradicts and undermines that which IS worth conserving, it all breaks down. What is left is even more primitive existence, having lost nearly all that was good.

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