We sat down at the table in the tiny garden restaurant. I'd been there once and eaten the best mole' of my life, mole' so yummy I wanted to take a bath in it. But then it's location had eluded us for weeks (the location of the restaurant--and the mole' too for that matter.) Just about the time we'd given up searching for it, it appeared.
We pulled in, elated, and ducked in under the grass roof where tables made from exotic hardwoods shared space with red and green leafed bushes, colorful bougainvillea, and empty wine bottles hung like those really cool, long African birds nests in the trees.
Flowered pottery bowls lined the bar--each filled with something wonderful to stuff in a taco--and the smell of hand made tortillas and wood smoke drifted in from the traditional grill to the left of the bar.
A young man in his twenties lifted the covers of each pot and explained to us the different dishes while his father, his long grey pony tail seeming a bit out of place in a Mayan village, looked on approvingly.
We asked about the mole'. It wasn't there.
Luis was the old man's name. He came and sat at our table after we made our choices and settled down not too far from the trailing wood smoke. The mole' he explained, was made by his wife's family in Oaxaca. The chilies were roasted and the spices crushed by hand in a fashion that created a delicacy difficult to duplicate. Every week, the spicy, chocolaty sauce was delivered by the family to this little hidden restaurant and if we wanted some, we would have to come back the following week.
This week's stash was already gone.
We would come back. The mole' was a treasure. The restaurant was a treasure too. But the real treasure was the man, Luis, with his grey pony tail, rock and roll t-shirt, and almost shamanic air.
He talked about happiness.
I have been on a quest for the roots of happiness for a long time now, and as Luis shared, my attention hung on his every word.
"To be happy is the most important thing in life," he said.
He talked about owning a big business in Mexico City and selling everything and moving to this quaint village to offer something better to his family. A life of simplicity, where he had time for his children and peace of mind. Time to go to the beach and watch the sunrise. Time to breath deeply and inhale fresh air and the scent of grilling chicken and simmering pork smothered in red sauce made from fresh tomatoes, garlic, and sweet chilies.
"You don't need a lot to be happy," he said and immediately I could see thoughts quickly flashing through his mind. Images of homes that didn't have a lot, in fact, didn't have anything. Pictures of struggling families who could not feed their children and the thankfulness that comes with the next meal, even if it is just rice with no beans. Quickly he qualified his statement with, "But you don't need to be really low either." His palm went down near the brightly tiled floor of his haven-like restaurant and his slight, yet muscular seventy year old body leaned forward just a bit.
Then he straightened up and a deep knowing settled over him.
"Enough is the right amount," he declared.
And in that simple phrase, a profound understanding came to me. Happiness was made much easier by lack of stress. Yes, stress came from the pursuit of things, of materialism and worldly success. But the raw truth of it is that stress also comes from not having enough to eat. There is no glory in real poverty. Watching your children die from disease caused by horrific living conditions, while it teaches you the very basics about what is important in life and what isn't, does not fundamentally make you happy.
There is tremendous blessing in having enough. Enough to feed your family. Enough to stay warm and dry. Enough to have the leisure of watching the stars blaze in a black velvet sky at night and knowing that you have a safe place to sleep.
"Enough is the right amount." The words stuck with me.
What wisdom can come from an unassuming man in a tiny garden restaurant that hides right there on the main road and only reveals itself to those who are ready to eat what it really has to offer.
Enjoying the feast,