One Apple A Day #634 – of a blank canvas, greed and awareness

I did it.

Even if I knew the consequences, I did what a very wise Vincent van Gogh recommended not to do. 

“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.”

Seconds, minutes were ticking away, but nothing was coming out of my fingers. The white screen expanding and taking over my mind. 

Until I felt as if Vincent himself slapped me in the face telling me to wake up. 

So, here I am. Jotting words on the keyboard, hoping that in the end, they will fit together and make sense. 

Greed.

Yes, greed is the first word popping up.

I try to stay away as much as I can from the news. It is a way to protect my energy. But it’s impossible to ignore all the awful things going on in the world. I can’t understand how some human beings can be so cruel. Then I see small things happening around me. Good people, with good intentions making choices that hurt others.

And the word greed keeps coming back. 

But time is almost running out.

And I don’t want to close this post with negative thoughts. 

So, I balance greed with the word awareness.

In the end, it all goes back to expanding our awareness.

One Apple A Day #619 – The Golden Rule

Do you know about the “golden rule“? 

I didn’t. Or better, I’ve been taught this rule since I was a kid, but I didn’t know it has a name.

Using Wikipedia words, “the Golden Rule is the principle of treating others as you want to be treated“.

It’s a rule taught in many religions and cultures. You surely have heard it in one of its many forms:

  • Treat others as you would like others to treat you
  • Do not treat others in ways that you would not like to be treated 
  • What you wish upon others, you wish upon yourself

Being raised a Catholic, I’ve learned it as a Jesus teaching; “Love your neighbour as yourself“. And when Jesus was asked “who is my neighbour?”, he said that “your neighbour is anyone in need“. 

I’ll be back to this in a second. Before, let me jump to an ancient Mesoamerican civilisation.

“In Lak’ ech Ala K’in” is a famous phrase in the Mayan tradition. In the traditional Mayan interpretation it means “I am you, and you are me“. A modern-day version is “I am another yourself“.

Whatever the meaning you prefer, it is a statement that recognises the oneness in human beings. It is a way of greeting someone else honouring the oneness and connection. 

It’s the recognition that we are one.

Funny enough, I found this word in the comment to a song on youtube. And searching for info about it, I discover that what I’ve been told as a kid is a “Golden Rule”.

Back to my upbringing. I grew up thinking that this rule was all about reciprocity. If I behave well with others, then others will do the same with me. But there is a profound difference between setting rules for our behaviours and expanding our consciousness, so no rules are needed.

Rules, like the golden one, are useful as long as they help us raise in consciousness. Extending the concept, forms are effective when they help to grow and expand our energy. If we put all our focus on the form, the energy dries out, and we will be left with an empty shell. Maybe a golden one, but still empty.

Loving others as yourself, it’s a not a rule, not even a golden one. It is an exercise to train your humanity and expand your consciousness.

One Apple A Day #617 – Turning adversaries into partners

Yesterday I began reading a new book, “Conversation Intelligence” by Judith E. Glaser

Only a few pages into it and I’ve already found a small gem; a sentence that stood out and got me thinking.

“Turning adversaries into partners.”

Just four words, so simple yet so powerful. Reading the news, I feel I am surrounded by conflicts. Everyone is against something or someone else.

It’s all a big competition to stay on top. 

We’ve been so good at convincing ourselves that being first is the goal that we are all competing for that small place above. So, we grow jealous and protective of what we have and what we know. Yeah, we may collaborate or use the others, but in the end, the race to the top it’s a solitary race. 

Does it really have to be like this?

What if we stop seeing others as competitors?

What if we transform the idea “we all want the same” from a reason to compete into a reason to connect?

I am aware that I can’t change my world without some kind of corresponding change to my self. 

So, where do I start?

Judith Glaser suggestion is to start by changing our words. 

It seems an excellent starting for me.

What words do you need to change to turn your adversaries into your partners?

One Apple A Day #615 – out of the clay

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.
Really.
At least, this is how I felt.
Beautiful.
The clay hiding all my imperfections.
So, I was standing there.
Still.
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.

 

Photo by Karen Maes on Unsplash

One Apple A Day #613 – from control to care

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.

Taking care.

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.

One Apple A Day #611 – do you walk on water?

“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.

One Apple A Day #609 – love and presence

“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.

One Apple A Day #607 – identity and change

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.

One Apple A Day #601 – from collecting to connecting

Our society is based on what I call the “collecting paradigm”. In this paradigm, success is defined by how much you can collect; money, power, knowledge, land, people, connections, ideas.
You name it.
The critical factor is how much you can amass.
Wealth and success are measured on what you have, material or immaterial. Potential is defined in terms of how much you’ll be able to collect.
In this paradigm, a lot of energy is then spent on protecting what you have accumulated. When you live into this paradigm or mindset, often what you have defines also who you are; your knowledge, skills, role.
The collecting paradigm is one of scarcity and competition.

What would happen if we shift to a new paradigm? One that value connections above collections.

In this paradigm, it’s all about connecting people, ideas, things, places, knowledge. The aim is to keep the infinite energy of the universe flowing. When we collect, we are stopping this flow by removing something from it. When we create a new connection, we expand the possibilities to flow exponentially.

It’s a paradigm of abundance and collaboration.

I know, it’s not easy. It requires each one of us to rethink the meaning of success and winning.

It’s not about me anymore. It’s about everyone.

Are we ready for such a shift?

ONE APPLE A DAY #594 – a clean start

I took a few days off from this little project of mine. Even more, I paused the whole morning routine for a week.
No exercise, no meditation and no writing.
I understood that it was necessary after writing the previous daily apple last Monday. At the end of my fifteen minutes writing process, I was spent. I had to push the words out instead of letting them flow, and that depleted my energy. I’m not sure when it started, but it wasn’t energising anymore.
I needed to rest. So I put the morning writing on hold.
And with it everything else.
In fact, this recovery pause made me realise that this tiredness was affecting everything in my life.
My to-do list was crushing me. I had things in it that I’ve been postponing for weeks, some even for months.
And they were hunting me, pushing me to keep doing stuff even if my energy was gone and I wasn’t really able to take any step further.
So, I did something a bit crazy.
I didn’t just pause the to-do list, I wiped it clean. I deleted all the things to do that I wasn’t doing. I thought that if they were still there after weeks than the key to making that happen surely was not that busy do-do list.
So, I cleaned it.
And you know what. The day after I cleaned my to-do list, I completed one of the tasks that I’ve been dragging for months.
Maybe it’s a coincidence, but I think it’s not.
Sometimes we put so much weight on things that we aren’t unable to move them forward. The moment we give up, we lift that weight and voilá, the magic happens.