On this page, you can find my collection of (almost) daily posts. It started as a 90 days project to cure my laziness in writing — One Apple A Day keeps the laziness away — and it then became a vital ingredient of my daily practices. There are no predefined topics. Just the pleasure of daily writing practice. The project started as a Tumblr blog. You can find the first 412 posts over there.
I’m not a proper musician, but I play a bit.
Not much lately to be honest.
When I was younger, I used to play my guitar a lot more.
But I’ve never been a good musician, my technique was enough to give me pleasure and entertain some friends. That’s it.
Even with my limited skills, I really enjoyed improvising, alone or with hours. Once I got into some loop, I could go on for hours.
When there were a few of us playing, the starting point was to find a base loop. We began by setting a rhythm and then a chord progression. We kept playing that same pattern together until everyone was in synch.
Only then, we were able to start improvising, adding variations and melodies here and there. One of us, though, had to keep always the base loop. This way, the others were free to create different patterns without breaking the harmony of the composition.
I believe that the key to making those jam sessions a rewarding practice for everyone was that first boring part, where we repeat the base loop over and over until it became familiar to everyone.
That’s what repetition does. It creates familiarity, a common thread on which everyone feels safe to paint its own music.
That is the power of discipline.
It creates a familiar and safe base rhythm in our life so we can feel safe and unleash our creativity.
Last Sunday, I joined an extraordinary group of men in a one day workshop. It never ceases to amaze me the magic that can bloom from a circle of men showing up with authenticity and willing to explore their vulnerability.
One of the activities we did during the day involved the use of clay.
At the end of this practice, we all were entirely covered with clay.
No wonder that people were stopping by to admire us.
A circle of man, standing still on the shore, covered in white clay head to toe. Like a group of statues from some ancient Greek temple.
We were beautiful.
At least, this is how I felt.
The clay hiding all my imperfections.
So, I was standing there.
The sound of the waves, the warmth of the sun, the slight chill of the breeze.
And the clay was drying out.
The more the thick layer of clay was drying up, the harder it became to move. At some point, even opening my eyes was a struggle.
I was still feeling beautiful but, at the same time, I started feeling trapped.
And then I couldn’t feel the sun anymore. Nor the breeze.
Then we finally moved, the skin itching while the clay crumbled.
We entered the sea and quickly the clay dissolved into the salty water.
It was again me, welcoming back all my imperfections and all my freedom.
It was a fascinating experience.
Going through life, we add layers and layers of beliefs and stories around ourselves. And little by little, these layers become a shell, transforming us in a beautiful statue.
But also limiting our freedom to move, transform and grow.
So, sometimes we need to break that shell, to mould so we can create freedom and make space for new stories.
Like my experience with clay, the more we wait, the harder the shell gets. Getting out of it becomes painful, at the point that someone may decide that it’s easier to learn to stand still.
P.S. Talking about synchronicity. While we were there, standing in the circle becoming statues, a small crab started walking between us on the shore. And I was reminded of the story of the lobster that I love so much.
“We live in this world when we love it.” – Rabindranath Tagore
I read this quote a few days ago.
I read many quotes every day. Our digital spaces are flooded by aphorisms and quotes. Unfortunately too often they are wrongly attributed when not fabricated.
But this one got my attention because lately, I’ve been often engaged in conversation about “how things are in the world, how they should be and what can we do to change it“.
I’ll be honest, it’s a conversation that makes me a bit uncomfortable.
In part, because it can quickly become judgmental.
“Society is broken, but the majority can’t see it.”
In part, because it can easily trigger anger and bitterness.
But mainly because I struggle to have clarity about how to improve myself, imagine the world.
So, when that quote captured my attention, I asked myself some new questions: what would I do with someone I love? Would I try to change them? Or would I try to love them as they are? And what about someone who loves me, what would I desire for them to do?
I’m still reflecting upon those questions. My heart says that I would do my best to love them as they are, and show up every day living in my full potential. So I can hold a safe and sacred space for them to shine. And change, if that’s what they need to do.
My mind, as usual, is a bit more confused.
By the way, when I found that quote for the first time, it was misattributed to Gibran. In my search to find the real author who channelled those words into the world, I also found another quote that will contribute to my reflections.
“Love the whole world as if it were your self; then you will truly care for all things.” – Lao Tzu
P.S. The opening image is a photo of the Earth from the space taken during the Apollo 15 mission. I find it irresistible. How can you not love it?
It’s past nine in the morning. Quite late for my morning writing practice.
I had, in fact, I’m still having a slow pacing morning.
My weekend was quite intense, and when I woke up at dawn, my body clearly told me that it was too early.
It needed more rest. So, I decided to take care of myself before doing anything else. Including having my vital apple a day.
Yesterday I had the opportunity to reflect on one of my inner struggles; control.
I’ve learned long ago that I can’t control what happens outside me, out there in the world.
However, I’ve been struggling with my inner control.
The control over my own thoughts, emotions and behaviours.
I know I can stop a thought from emerging or emotion from surging, but I should have the control on how I respond to that thought or emotion.
And that was my struggle.
Lack of will? Poor discipline?
I don’t know.
But this week, I had the opportunity to spend a day with a group of men willing to ask tough questions and to be vulnerable.
In that space, I had a kind of revelation or intuition of some sort.
What if I change my words?
What if I replace “control” with “care”?
Instead of focusing on controlling my response to thoughts and emotions, I’ll use my energy to take care of those thoughts and emotions.
I don’t know where this shift in perspective will lead me, but I feel a sense of excitement just writing about it.
And that’s very promising.
P.S. The first image that emerged in my mind yesterday, when I thought about “taking care”, was a majestic tree. And that’s curious. A few months ago, I did a visualization exercise aimed at finding my vision for the future. The image that dominated my vision was one of a tree. That’s where the drawing at the beginning of the post comes from.
July 1987, early Saturday morning in a little town in the North-East of Italy.
The town is almost empty. It’s too early for the kids on holidays from school and too late for the workers.
In the churchyard, a family of four and an old nun are waiting.
The boy is thirteen, even if he looks younger. With his thin legs, the square glasses and the narrow shoulders, it seems like he is trying to hide from the world. He is timid, and he would prefer to be lost reading some adventurous stories than being there waiting with his family.
A few other families join them in the square, just before the arrival of the bus.
The boy has never been anywhere before without his parents. Yes, in his dreams, he has already travelled to plenty of exotic places, but that doesn’t help in the present situation.
He is going to go away to a summer camp for a full week with his smaller sister. And he doesn’t know anyone else.
He steps into the already full bus, this is the last stop before heading to the mountains.
With his sister behind him, he walks towards the back of the bus looking for empty seats.
He feels as if all the eyes are staring at him. Sure they are. They all know each other, and they must think he is a nerd from the countryside.
The only two seats left available are at the very end of the bus.
Behind them, on the last row, a group of guys who look older than all the others. All so confident and relaxed.
Among them, there’s a boy whose voice stands out.
He is the taller and the louder of them all.
With his long hair, he looks like he came straight out of a movie.
And he has a prosthetic arm.
The boy has never seen a prosthetic arm before in his life.
The bus leaves the square, with the cheering parents, the sleepy town and everything familiar behind.
The boy is scared, but he wants to play the big brother with his sister. Even if, to be honest, she looks a lot more at ease than him.
The cool guys on the back seats are having fun.
The guy with the prosthetic arm takes out a portable cassette player.
And this song started.
A song he never heard before.
He can’t understand the lyrics, but that line of bass and that voice carve their way into his heart.
I still remember how I felt that morning.
So, when this song started while I was listening to random stuff on youtube, for a few seconds, I was that shy and innocent boy again. Obviously, a lot of other songs have been played during that bus trip. But this is the only one I remember.
I know it’s just a small event in my life. Thou, that trip is one of the defining moments in my life. It was my first time really out of my comfort zone, opening up to the world.
That summer camp spent with plenty of other guys and girls on the mountain has been such a fantastic experience that I kept doing it every summer for the following ten years or so.
And in that week, I also fell in love for the first time that week. Oh yeah, a proper love story even if she never knew about it.
Definitely, this song will always have a special place in my heart.
“Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. «It’s a ghost,» they said, and cried out in fear.” — Matthew 14:25-36
Sometimes I fall prey of what I call the “walking on water syndrome“.
It happens when I feel that I can walk above the mess of reality. That I have found the answers. That I am awakened.
When I convince myself that I can cross the lake without getting soaked.
I don’t know if it ever happened to you.
Maybe it’s just a feature of my ego.
Like if I’m talking with someone who has a different perspective on something important. And within that space, I convince myself that I have figured out everything; the situation and the other person. And when that happens, when I take myself out of the mess of reality because I believe I can walk on water, when I do that the connection is gone.
I can see it in their eyes. They look at me as if I’m a ghost.
“The thing to remember is that people act in ways that make sense to them. If something doesn’t make sense to you, then you’re missing something.” — Dave Gray
Thanks to my friend Luca for helping me discover this during one of our walks in the park. I was telling him how sometimes I forget that to deal with the messiness of life, we must be ready to get dirty. And he immediately pointed me to the image of Jesus walking on water.
Image from Wikimedia.
Every morning when I sit down for this little practice of mine, I look for something to spark the writing process.
It may be a word, a song, an image, the memory of a conversation, something that happened to me or that I observed the day before. Some times the inspiration is so loud that I have to rush to the laptop.
Some mornings I sit without nothing.
No ideas. No clues. No sparks.
At the beginning I was scared.
What will I do if nothing comes?
Should I accept my failure and leave the page blank?
That fear dissolved only when I became fully aware that the meaning of this practice is not in the outcome. The posts that I publish are the visible manifestations, sure. But the real sense of this small practice is in doing it. To sit down and write for fifteen minutes, that is why I do it. No matter what comes out it.
Thou, even if I know the purpose of this practice, some times, I forget it, and I’m distracted by the need to create a valuable outcome.
This morning I want to thank the noise outside that wiped out all my ideas this morning so I could reconnect with the real meaning of this practice.
“I’ll protect you from the hooded claw
Keep the vampires from your door.”
— The Power of Love, Frankie Goes to Hollywood
When we love someone, we want them to be happy. We want to protect them from any possible harm. We want to know and to let them feel that they are safe.
We create fences, made of love and affection, to keep all the evil of the world away.
Unfortunately, fences work in both directions. And sooner or later they become cages. Maybe large ones, perhaps beautifully decorated but still, cages.
So, here’s another tension for me to reflect upon. The tension between the need to protect and make someone happy and the need to see them expressing all their extraordinary potential.
And then, while I’m writing these words, I realise that it’s my ego who’s talking. My ego with its needs and fears.
The fear of my own pain if someone I love gets hurt. The fear of my own ego if someone I love is not happy.
While I’m here, pondering on all these thoughts, my eyes go back to the card I picked this morning.
“Showing up for others.”
And that tension, all of a sudden, sublimes into something else.
It’s not about protecting. It’s not about supporting or helping.
The best I can do is to show up for the one I love.
To be fully present.
These last days I felt as if I’d been swallowed by the things I had to do. At some point, after days trying to swim my way to the other side of the river, I felt it was just too much. The current too strong for me to keep going.
During the weekend, I began thinking that maybe I just took on too much responsibility.
I woke up with all these thoughts in my head, already worried about the things I have to do.
As I always do, I did my wake up exercises, and then I sat down for my morning meditation. I picked a BeTheChange card to spark my reflections and voilá.
“If you have a source of trust, you can take on more responsibility.”
Really? The universe must have a weird sense of humour. Or maybe there is a message for me in here.
And slowly a little thought crawls its way through my tiredness and my worries.
I’ve been so focused on the things I have to deliver that I lost the connection with my source of trust.
And at some point, the things that I wanted to do became the things that I have to do. Excitement grew into pressure and stress.
So, that’s my challenge for today.
To reconnect with my source of trust.
There is a question that has been spinning in my head for quite a while. Probably since a was a teenager even if only lately I’ve been able to shape it with words.
How can I navigate changes, inside and outside, without losing my identity?
I am well aware that change is a constant in nature. Everything, including me, goes through a never-ending and never-pausing sequence of changes and transformations.
Identity, on the other side, comes from the Latin word “identitas”, meaning “sameness, oneness, state of being the same”. In philosophy, identity is the relation each thing bears only to itself.
When we talk about human beings, my understanding is that with “identity” we refer to the aspects of a person that make her unique. A set of properties and attributes through which a person recognises herself.
It looks like change and identity are on the opposite side of the spectrum.
How can I change without losing my identity?
How can my identity help me navigate through changes?
When I was a teenager, I discover what became one of my favourite characters of all time; Captain Nemo from “20,000 leagues under the sea”. The word “Nemo” is a Latin word meaning “nobody”. Captain Nemo was a prince who gave up his identity to be free. The motto of his submarine, the Nautilus, was the Latin “Mobilis in mobili” which may translate as, “moving amidst mobility” or “changing in the changes”.
As you can see, even if I wasn’t aware, the relationship between identity and change was already there in my early teenage days.
All of this to say that I haven’t found, yet, an answer to the opening question. Maybe there is no answer but staying in that tension, in the space in-between identity and change. But if you have found one that works for you, I’d love to hear it.