“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” — Heraclitus
Two weeks ago, I moved into my family’s home.
I left this house 18 years ago and this small town four years later.
After that, I’ve been to many places, I’ve lived in a few different countries, I’ve met many fantastic people, and I’ve been blessed with a lot of incredible experiences. Some good, others not but all have contributed to me becoming who I am today.
And now I’m here, again.
Everything should be familiar around here.
But it’s not.
From the very first moment, I felt a weight on my chest.
Something was off, but I couldn’t understand what.
It took me a while to realise that my mind was picking a few known inputs and trying to retrieve existing patterns from my memory.
But it wasn’t working.
Those patterns are not mine anymore. New ones need to emerge.
Only when I stop trying to go back, and I decided to move forward that weight started to lift from my chest.
In the end, we are born to move forward.
The human gait is designed to propel a person forward.
This morning I picked a card with a yellow bird flying away from an open cage, towards its freedom. With the image, there are also a few coloured words saying “Engaging + Freeing all the energy!!!“.
Yesterday, a dear friend reminded me that sometimes, driven by the fear to lose our freedom, we build our very own cage around us.
It is a kind of paradox about freedom. And if you’ve read me before, you know my fascination with paradoxes.
The more you’re afraid to lose your freedom, the more you lose it.
You are so suspicious of any potential cage that you trap yourself within an invisible one.
I’ve seen this thing happening many times to friends, and I did it too. I carefully avoided commitments, I steered away from some choices only for fear of finding myself trapped into something from which there was no way out.
And in doing so, step by step, I was creating an invisible cage.
One from which there really no easy way out.
So, I think my personal learning here is that freedom must not be protected, it must be lived and engaged fully.
The other day I went outside into the shared backyard. The neighbour was there, staring at some plant that he is cultivating.
When he noticed my presence, he called me over to show me something.
He was observing a pumpkin plant growing and climbing a net. Its stems were crawling on the net, curling and revolving around the wires. The plant was clinging on the net to expand and stretch its branches.
“See? She knows what to do. Nobody teaches her, she just knows what to do. Plants are si wise.”
I was listening to the old man while observing that small sign of nature’s wisdom.
Plants know what to do. Unfortunately too often their natural wisdom doesn’t match with our desires.
We want more and faster.
We seek order.
But nature it’s often slow and messy. So, instead of letting the plants follow their natural wisdom, we force them into our idea of order. We impose our control on them.
While I was there, talking with the old man, I realised how often we do the same with anything that doesn’t fit our idea of how things should be.
Like with kids anytime we want for them to behave like adults.
I just had the fortune to witness the incredible beauty that sparks from a group of people when you give them the space to shine. It was amazing.
Sometimes, the best thing we can do to foster the culture of an organisation is nothing.
We should just step aside and, for that liminal place, hold the space where the natural wisdom and beauty of the people can emerge.
It’s not easy, I know.
It requires a lot of trust and strength.
But when you do it, magic happens.
Just let them be.
The other day I was walking in a park surrounded by the sound of thousands of cicadas. A typical soundtrack in the Italian summer.
But this time, a friend showed me all their abandoned skins on the side of the trees.
I’m fascinated by these transformation processes in nature, so I had to learn more.
Here’s what I’ve learned.
The female cicada deposit her eggs within slits in the bark of a tree. When the eggs hatch, the newborn nymphs drop to the ground, dig and hide into the soil.
The nymphs live underground for most of their lives. They have strong front legs for digging. They create their home close to roots, and they feed on their sap.
At some point, when they are ready to transform in their final nymphal state, they create an exit tunnel to the surface and emerge into the light. The find a tree and start climbing. During the climb, they shed their skin – a process called moult – for the last time. The new adult cicada emerges, the one we can hear in summer. The abandoned skins still clinging to the bark of the trees.
I find the whole process magical. When the cicada is ready to move into the adult life, it leaves behind the old skin so the new self can emerge to bring its magic to the world.
What do you have to shed and leave behind to bring your magic into the world?
Change is inevitable. Change is constant. -Benjamin Disraeli
Yep, it’s again that day of the year.
An opportunity to look back with gratitude and acknowledge all the changes I’ve been through.
The ones I choose and the ones that I tried to avoid.
The delightful ones and the painful ones.
The ones that I embraced and the ones I resisted.
And also the ones that didn’t happen or I didn’t remember at all.
They all contribute to getting me where I am and making me who I am.
In this morning card, my friend Vanessa wrote, “if nothing else, you can rely on change“.
I want to use this birthday’s apple to celebrate “change”.
So, here’s to changes and to life.
When you’re finished changing, you’re finished. -Benjamin Franklin
Imagine that you have a field full of crops, and they need water to grow. Luckily for you, there is a big lake close by that can provide all the water that you need. To carry the water where you need it, you build a pipe from the lake to your field.
Because there is quite a distance to cover, the pipe is formed by a few segments. Unfortunately, the terrain is uneven, and the parts do not align correctly. As a result, a lot of water goes wasted while flowing from the source to the field, your crops struggle and they don’t produce all the fruits they could.
Sometimes, I feel like that pipe struggling to get enough water to the crops.
The lake is the infinite source of my human potential, and the field is the manifestation of that potential in the real world.
Only when all the parts of me are aligned, that energy flows freely and fully into my actions. Those parts are my soul, my mind, my heart and my body.
When they are not fully aligned, part of my energy goes wasted, and I can’t express my full potential.
But when they all aligned, oh dear, I can feel the energy flowing through me like a forceful river.
That is the feeling of “flow” or “being in the zone” to me.
Have you experienced it?
I confess. This morning I’m so sleepy and sluggish that even moving my fingers on the keyboard requires a lot of effort.
I almost fell asleep during my morning stretching exercises.
You can imagine how hard it has been to find something to write about this morning. All this struggle to think straight and to write brought back a recent memory.
Tuesday morning we took a taxi in Barcelona to go from the train station to the port. The taxi driver was a lovely guy, and we had a chat on our way through the traffic. Nothing special, you know. We started talking about the traffic and how it has changed in the last few years. When we asked if he likes to live in Barcelona, his answer was a small gem.
Of course, he loved to live there.
But the reason he gave was unexpected for me.
He told us that he is always happy; that’s why the city smiles back to him.
His grandmother – abuela – told him something when he was a kid that has been his mantra since then.
“Si tienes comida, come. Si no tienes comida, no come.”
If you have food, eat. If you don’t have food, don’t eat.
Life is simple, he said, just take what you have and get the best out of it.
So, this morning I’m following the advice of a taxi driver from Barcelona. I’m going with what I have, my sleepy brain, getting the best out of it.
I just started a journey that will move my life to a new place. So, know I’m in a space in-between of some sort. Where everything is temporary, changing and moving.
It is from this place that I am writing this morning. So, this post may come out confused, or maybe crisp and clear. I don’t know.
I’ll go with the moment.
I am writing from the space in-between.
Everything that lies behind me has prepared me for this moment. Everything that lies before me gives meaning to this moment.
This moment, this place is all that exists, the here and now.
Isn’t this how life is?
Standing like acrobats on the unstable rope between past and future.
Don’t look down, they say.
Just breathe and keep walking.
There is only this moment.
There is only the next step.
We all have experienced failure. We lost our balance and slipped on that thin, unstable rope.
So, we need to choose how we want to look at the past because it will inform how you deal with the here and now.
I choose gratitude because it makes my feet steady.
They also say that to keep my balance on that thin rope, I should point my gaze to a fixed point before me. Though, often the way ahead is lost in the midst. What do you do when the future is uncertain?
I choose to look ahead with wonder because it makes my feet lighter. And if no clear point is visible ahead, then I’ll create it with my imagination.
In and out.
Gratitude and wonder.
Another step forward.
“Poetry is a deal of joy and pain and wonder, with a dash of the dictionary.” — Kahlil Gibran
When I read this quote from Gibran, a word stands out; “pain”.
I can’t really say why, but I feel a deep connection with that word.
Maybe because nowadays everyone seems to focus mostly on happiness, considering pain a momentary condition to overcome as soon as possible.
Or maybe it is because it is “pain” that taught me the most powerful lessons in my life.
I’m well aware of the inspiring power of wonder or the energy created by joy. But we should never underestimate the creative potential of pain.
Pain is part of life. When we feel pain, we can do everything we can to get rid of it. Or we can explore it to find the lesson it carries.
I believe that to awaken the artist within, we must be willing to delve into pain and sadness, to explore our shadows, to face our dragons.
“Our fears are like dragons guarding our deepest treasures.” — Rainer Maria Rilke
It’s scorching everywhere in Europe so, if like me you don’t like air conditioning, having a sound and refreshing sleep is not easy.
This morning I woke up, went out in the terrace and sit there to do my morning meditation. Often, it is through this practice that the ideas for these posts emerge.
But this morning, thanks to the cool sunrise breeze, I fell asleep.
This mundane experience made me think about the importance of having a regenerating rest. How many people are unable, for many reasons, to rest properly?
Isn’t this somehow a measure of wealth?
This question opened up a new stream of reflections about the idea we, or maybe I should say I have about wealth.
Wealth is typically measured in money and stuff.
You’re wealthy if you have money in the bank, houses, cars, clothes, technology and so on.
But what about other essential things like health, love or fulfilment?
Over the last years, I’ve witnessed many times the resourceful support of family and friends through tough moments; that kind of richness can be bought, but it also doesn’t happen on its own. It must be nurtured investing your most significant resource; yourself.
Maybe, we should have a more holistic vision about wealth, one that includes your finance, sure, but also your health, your emotions, your mind and your soul.