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.
In building habits, I discovered that consistency is more critical that intensity. The key is to keep the ball rolling even when you can’t perform your practice with the intensity you’d want.
For me, it means to do my best to write my daily apple even when I’m tired, I wake up late, I don’t have enough or whatever other reason is making it impossible to create something with the quality and focus I’d love.
Showing up consistently is the most important thing.
So, here I am. It’s late, I’m sleepy, and I have to squeeze this post in five minutes. But I’ve decided to keep it this practice flowing.
And to give it a bit of substance, I’m playing smart adding the lyrics of a song that I love and that I was listening while driving the last weekend.
With golden streams
Our universe was clothed in light
Pulling at the seams
Our once flaring world now friends with fire
We may fall in love
Every time we open up our eyes
I get spaced in time
Takes violent things, angry things
& makes them kind
We are the dust of dust
We are the apple of God’s eye
We are infinite
As the universe will hold you inside
From Sun by Sleeping at Last
Before the challenges of life – the small and personal ones, so close to us to fill up our vision, and the big ones that are shaping the future of humanity – we usually ask ourselves “what can I do?“.
What can I do for climate change?
What can I do for the dear friend who’s going through a tough time?
What can I do to be happier with my partner?
All powerful and essential questions without an easy answer.
As a result, too often the answer is “nothing“.
So, I am wondering. What if “what can I do” is the wrong question?
What if we turn the direction of our quest inward by asking “Who can I be“?
Or, if you want to make it more practical, then you should ask “How do I show up?“.
How do I show up amid climate change?
How do I show up for my dear friend who’s going through a tough time?
How do I show up with my partner?
But be aware, because these are challenging questions. They ask you to look inward, to check your intentions and, above all, you can’t use “nothing” as a valid answer.
Neither you can postpone the action that comes with the answer.
Because this is about your identity, your being.
“The word identity was originally derived from the Latin words essentitas, which means being, and identidem, which means repeatedly. Your identity is literally your repeated beingness.” — James Clear
The way you show up here and now, is how you show up every day in everything.
Sometimes I have the feeling that all our doing, our being busy, our effort in filling up our lives with things, with people, with experiences, it’s just a way to avoid listening to what wants to emerge.
You may give it different names depending on your culture and your upbringing; call, vocation, purpose.
Whatever the label you decide to use, you know what I’m talking about.
It is that feeling like when you fall in love with someone.
And no matter your will or your reasoning, it’s a force that pulls you towards the other person.
It is a beautiful feeling, but it is also scaring.
Because to live it fully we need to let go of our desire to control, we need to surrender and welcome the not knowing.
So, we fill up every space in our lives to block that force from emerging.
What if what wants to emerge is too challenging?
What if it pulls us towards places we don’t know how to reach?
What if it challenges us to step away from the things on which we built the lives we have?
And yet, can you think to something more blissful than falling in love?
What it takes is just slowing down a bit, taking a pause, a step back creating an opening in our crazy life, so we can make space for what wants to emerge.
I’ve spent a few hours strolling around the streets of Verona yesterday. One of the main attractions for tourists is the famous Juliet’s Balcony. People from all over the world come here to see this symbol of love, maybe in the hope that it will bring more love in their lives.
But Juliet’s house and the balcony are nothing more than props. Not much different from the ones I saw outside the Arena when they were setting up the stage for the Aida.
Romeo and Juliet existed in the fantasy world created by Shakespeare’s creative mind. Yet, as Juliet’s balcony proves, if we believe a story long enough, it becomes real. That balcony in Verona feels very real.
This can also happen in our lives. If we tell ourselves a story long enough, that story will shape our reality.
“This can’t be done.”
“I’m not good at this thing.”
“Oh no, I can’t draw, sing, write.”
And so on.
How many “Juliet’s balconies” do you have in your life?
What would you be capable of, if you move past those stories?
Yesterday I visited a place called “I cadini del Brenton”. It is a series of 15 potholes (the “cadini”) carved in the stone by the water of a stream (the Brenton). Flowing down from one cavity to the other, the water creates small waterfalls. As if the river takes a little jump, then rest for a minute in the silence of nature before taking another plunge downwards.
While I was there, listen to the lulling sound of the water and the wind playing with the trees, I can’t help but admire the relationship between the river and the rock.
The course of the stream is moulded around the shape of the mountains and the rocks. The water twists and jumps and dives adapting its path, but in doing so, it also digs, carves, erodes and smooth out that same stones. Millennials of this dance between the water and the mountain, have gifted us with the beauty that we can admire today.
That view reminds me of how our behaviours and words, like streams of water, are moulded on our identity. But at the same time those behaviours, over time, shape and carve that same identity. The person that I am today is the result of this never-ending dance.
This is where self-awareness plays a vital role. It helps us see how our identity informs our behaviours, so then we can create the habits and rituals that will help us shape the person we want to be.
“Within you is a stillness and a sanctuary to which you can retreat at any time and be yourself.” – Hermann Hesse
When I breathe into stillness.
When I’m carried away by a song.
When I’m staring at something beautiful.
When I’m walking in silence along a river.
When I’m completely immersed in a conversation.
In all those moments, time dissolves.
There is no before and after.
Just me being me in the present moment.
That is the experience of eternity.
There are concepts for which we don’t have words.
Concepts like eternity or infinity.
Words are a product of our mind, and our mind thinks in forms and shapes.
Eternity can’t be explained.
It can only be experienced.
Directly, or through art.
but what I could smell and touch
and hear in the minute
eternity between sounds or the long
shimmer of the barley’s
green-gold dance on the wind,
my life a spreading ring
of quiet, like the trout’s brief
at the surface of a river,
like the slow
outward movement of a raindrop
spreading on a still lake…
By David Whyte – From ‘Death Waits’: in ‘River Flow:
New and Selected Poems’
“Dare to let go of control”.
This is the card I pick this morning.
I’m trying to understand what this card wants to tell me. And I’m doing it while I write. I decided to make this empty page my listener and my mirror.
I’m sitting on an uncomfortable bench in a noisy airport. I’ve been awake for 5 hours already, and this is the first moment I carved out to do my daily writing practice. Maybe it is about this? To remind me that when I travel, things happen outside my control, and if I’m not ready to let go of the control, I won’t enjoy the journey?
Nope. It’s not that. I don’t know how I know, but I feel there is something more.
The outcome. Yes, this is what this card is about. The tension that I experience anytime I focus on the final result.
When I do that. When I put all my attention on the outcome, then the need to control kicks in. I want to achieve that or, even more insidious, I want that outcome for others.
That’s when the need to control grows and ruffles my emotions.
To let go of control, I need to shift my attention into the process.
No, it’s more than that. I need to fall in love with the journey.
How do I do that? I just jump in.
When I’m immersed in the process, in a journey or in a conversation, then I become courageous, and I can easily let go of control.
This morning I draw a Be The Change card that says “Invite multiple perspectives“.
I’m well aware of the power of finding and having multiple perspectives on things. It is the only way to go beyond the “flat” reality created by our beliefs and assumptions, and give substance to the world.
But this card uses the verb “invite“.
So, it is not inviting me to seek new viewpoints. Instead, the card challenges me to draw different perspectives to my life.
The best way I know to do it is by creating space for a “conversation”.
An open and enriching conversation.
One in which everyone feels invited to contribute.
I’ve been lucky to experience the wonder of such conversations.
And I’ve learned that to make those conversations happen, we must direct our energy on creating the space for the conversation, not on having it.
It’s not about talking, it’s about being open and ready to listen.
If we create a listening space, then that space will draw multiple perspectives, and a transformative conversation will start.
This is the word that emerged and filled up my mind this morning.
Not a fanciest or most inspiring word in my dictionary, for sure.
I have a complicated relationship with bureaucracy. At any levels and in any context.
Sure, the worst experience is when I have to do with the public administration. In those cases, I feel as if bureaucracy has been carefully designed to create uncertainty and doubts.
But to be honest, I struggle anytime some rules and procedures overshadow human relationships to make things happen.
To me, bureaucracy is the epitome of a form depleted of the energy from which it manifested.
So, I woke up with this word in mind, and I want to do something with it, not just vent out my annoyances.
I remember a quote that I read a while ago.
“Bureaucracy is a construction by which a person is conveniently separated from the consequences of his or her actions.” ― Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life
That made me immediately think about the relationship between freedom and responsibility.
In a workshop that I did a few months ago precisely on this topic, I’ve been reminded that responsibility is the “Ability to respond” to situations.
“Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation.” — Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search For Meaning
So, freedom and responsibility are strongly linked.
“Freedom, however, is not the last word. Freedom is only part of the story and half of the truth. Freedom is but the negative aspect of the whole phenomenon whose positive aspect is responsibleness.” — Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search For Meaning
If we don’t feel free, we won’t take responsibility. But if we don’t take responsibility for our words and actions, we can’t be free.
I recollect many conflictual conversations in different organisations, where employees were asking for more freedom and the manager were asking for more responsibility. And they couldn’t find an agreement; apparently, they were asking for two different things without realising that they were just talking about two sides of the same coin.
Great! So, where do we start? From responsibility or from freedom?
It looks like a typical chicken or egg problem.
“The first step toward personal freedom is awareness.” — Don Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements
My feeling is that we should always start by expanding our awareness.
“Just slap anything on when you see a blank canvas staring you in the face like some imbecile. You don’t know how paralyzing that is, that stare of a blank canvas is, which says to the painter, ‘You can’t do a thing’. The canvas has an idiotic stare and mesmerizes some painters so much that they turn into idiots themselves. Many painters are afraid in front of the blank canvas, but the blank canvas is afraid of the real, passionate painter who dares and who has broken the spell of `you can’t’ once and for all.”
Vincent van Gogh wrote this passionate advice to his brother Theo. As I shared yesterday, I have the same experience when I stare at the blank document on my screen before writing anything. This is why I spend a few minutes to find a starting point before opening the laptop. Some mornings I look back at the experiences or the conversations I had the day before, other mornings, I use the BeTheChange cards, or I can start from something I’ve read.
I believe inspiration is within us, it is a state of the being. All those sources of inspiration are just triggers that allow for something, a story that is already in me to find its way out.
So, this morning I did the same process. But nothing came out. To be honest, I had many ideas, but no one stuck. I find myself staring at the black canvas within. It soon becomes paralyzing.
At that moment, when I felt lost before the void in my mind, I remembered that quote from Van Gogh.
How often in life, we feel stuck staring at a blank canvas? That canvas take may many forms: the story we want to tell, the love we want to share, the journey we want to start, the future we want to paint. And we stand there, without an idea on how to begin while the void of that blank canvas grows into us.
I know the feeling, I’ve been there. And I don’t have an easy trick to get out of it. In the end, the only way to begin something is to do it.
I know, this doesn’t make it any easier.
Though, maybe the first step can be to acknowledge that we are stuck. That we have no idea on how to begin our craft.
Who knows, maybe in accepting our humanness we may create the space for an unexpected story to emerge.
An untitled one.