One Apple A Day #686 – my sanctuary

Sanctuary.

This word keeps coming back in my thoughts.

According to the dictionary, it is a “protection or a safe place, especially for someone or something being chased or hunted.”

This word also brings back memories of holy buildings, monasteries or churches where we used to go in symbolic pilgrimage when I was a kid.

My sanctuary is the place where I can detach from the mundane life and connect with my higher self. When I can listen to the universe – god, the field, the soul or however you call it – whispering. When I can ask the questions that have no answers.

In many fables, the sages live on top of a mountain. The medicine men use to go to the sacred mountain seeking answers. And religious people go to their temples.

What about now? Now that we are all locked within the wall of our houses. We can’t climb any mountains, we can’t sit in our temples. We can’t even walk out in nature. 

Yet, to me, having a sanctuary is vital. 

The environment is undoubtedly essential. Nothing opens up my mind as being in nature, being it the shore with the waves before me or the top of a mountain closer to the sky. But my sanctuary is most of all an inner state. So, I try to create my personal sanctuary every day.

I do it early in the morning, where everything is silent. I have a ritual, a sequence of steps I do every morning to get me to that place of full presence. 

My sanctuary.

Going there every morning, even if only for a few minutes, keeps me grounded.

One Apple A Day #674 – it’s all perfect

“The perfect blossom is a rare thing. You could spend your life looking for one, and it would not be a wasted life.”

This is what Katsumoto says to Nathan Algren in a scene of “The Last Samurai”. 

The quest for perfection.

This scene came up for me yesterday in a conversation with my friend and mentor, Sujith. We were reflecting on how many things that happened in our lives in the last weeks were perfectly timed. As if they were part of an invisible but perfectly crafted plan.

That image came to my mind when I realise that the quest for perfection is not an outward hunt. It is, instead, a practice through which we learn to see the perfection in everything.

When we become aware that everything is perfect, then everything becomes an opportunity. We unleash infinite creativity and abundance.

Perfection then, it’s not a characteristic of something but rather an inner state. An elusive and fleeting one, indeed. 

That’s why the quest for perfection is a lifelong practice. But, as Katsumoto says, a worthy one.

At the end of the movie, when Katsumoto is dying, he looks a the cherry blossom floating around him, finally able to find that perfection.

“Perfect. They… are all… perfect…”

One Apple A Day #670 – footprints

Last Friday morning I went walking on the beach. The air was chilly, as you would expect on a late winter morning after a stormy night. But the sun was finding its way through the clouds, opening up large patches of deep blue sky.
The sand, dark and firm for the rain of the days before, gave way beneath my feet, leaving a long trail of perfect footprints behind me. I notice how many different traces were visible on the shore. Footprints of all sizes, shapes and depth. Some neat, others messy. Some perfectly aligned on a long and straight invisible line. Others scattered around without order. Some part of a solitary walk, others involved in long conversations.
Each one revealing a unique story. A human story.
Until the sea or the rain, wipe the canvas for new stories.
I kept observing all those signature left by other human beings, while I was leaving my trace.
Thinking that we all leave a unique mark on this world.

One Apple A Day #690 – the river inside

I was born near a river. Our house was only a short walk from its banks. It’s a famous river for the history of Italy, but as a kid, I didn’t know it. To me, the river with all the woods around it was just my playground. We moved a bit farther when I was six, but anytime I was at my grandparents, I run back to her, the Piave, alone or following my grandfather in his fishing expeditions.

All these memories came back yesterday, while I was walking on the banks of another river. 

It is as if growing up near a river, create a natural connection with all of them. Anytime I’m close a stream of water something shift within me.

Everything disappears, and there are only the river and me.

The same happened yesterday.

We talked. Oh, the river can be an excellent partner for meaningful conversations. Like a blank sheet of paper or an empty document, the river is brutally honest. I ask him questions, and he mirrors them back to me. And I know I can’t hide because he knows when I’m lying.

One Apple A Day #682 – the wise cat

In the last few years, we moved many times. Different homes, cities and sometimes countries. Our beloved cat has always moved with us. Anytime we moved into a new place, he has to change all his habits and learn to move within a different environment. He had no choice. 

The other day I was observing him moving around while I was going through my morning routine. It’s impressive to watch how it looks like he has always been here, not just for a few months.

Looking back at the process he goes through any time we move into a new place, something that for him means disrupting his whole environment, I notice a few recurring phases.

  1. Accept. Felix has no words on the choice to move into a new place. He usually complains when we help him into the transporting bag, but once we are at the destination, that’s it. No more complaining, he just accepts his new reality.
  2. Assess. The first days he goes around assessing the new reality. He explores the room, discovers hiding places and advantage points of observation. He quickly becomes fully aware of where he is and how he can get the best out of the new environment.
  3. Adapt. Then he changes his habits to the new environment. He makes the new place his own place. He fully embraces his new reality so he can focus on the things that make him feel good.

He looks definitely happy, so I feel I can learn something from wise Felix.

One Apple A Day #675 – echolocation

I’ve always been fascinated by bats and their ability to fly around and find food in total darkness.
Their secret is known as “echolocation”. In short, bats use sound waves and echoes to identify and place objects in the space. They emit ultrasonic sound waves from their mouth and then listen to the echoes generated when the waves bounce back from an object. Analysing the echoes, the bat can understand the size and shape of the object.

Isn’t it incredible?
Scientists got the inspiration for sonar and radar navigation from bats.

Even if we, as human, can’t create ultrasonic sound waves and use them to move around, I feel we can learn something from bats.

I believe that conversations can work as an “echolocation” system to help us navigate through life. Every time we have a conversation with someone, we are sending signals, both verbal and non-verbal, visible and invisible. Those signals generate reactions, and if we listen carefully, they can tell us a lot not only about the other person but also about ourselves. They can tell us where we are, where we are going, and how.

That is why the quality of our conversations is so important.
They are our “echolocation” system.
If my values are my compass, conversations are my radar.


I took the info about bats and echolocation from here.

One Apple A Day #674 – comfort, change and curiosity

It was a rainy and misty day. One of those days when the best thing to do is to stay home, before a fire.

Instead, we were out walking in the woods. Nobody around, just us and the silence of nature. The light rain was making everything so soft that we couldn’t hear our own steps.

Not the most comfortable way of spending a morning, maybe. But undoubtedly, very inspiring. It was, then. When we were walking down a slight and slippery slope, that Andy asked one of his powerful questions.

How come that we call it comfort zone, yet so many people seem unhappy when they are there? If it’s a place of comfort, you should be happy. Or not?

By the way, I did a quick check online this morning. These are a few definitions I found. 

“The comfort zone is a safe place where you feel the most comfortable.”

“A psychological state in which things feel familiar to a person, and they are at ease and (perceive they are) in control of their environment, experiencing low levels of anxiety and stress. In this zone, a steady level of performance is possible.”

“A behavioural state where a person operates in an anxiety-neutral position.”

“Where our uncertainty, scarcity and vulnerability are minimized—where we believe we’ll have access to enough love, food, talent, time, admiration. Where we feel we have some control.”

Indeed, your comfort zone should be a happy and peaceful place to be.

While we were out there, our boots deep in the mud, we came to the conclusion that the reason for that unhappiness is probably due to the assumption that the comfort zone is a fixed thing. 

Change, another word starting with C, is natural. Everything is constantly changing, moving and transforming. When you got trapped in the idea that the comfort zone is a static thing, you cling to what you have and consume all your energy resisting change. Stay in your comfort zone becomes an exhausting effort. One that drains your happiness until you feel miserable in that same space you use to feel at ease.

This morning, while I was thinking about this conversation and about the boot that I still have to clean after that walk, a third word starting with C popped up. Curiosity. Curiosity is what inspires us to make questions and to embrace challenges. It is what allows us to push, shift and reshape the boundaries of our comfort zone, so it can grow with us.

One Apple A Day #649 – find your rock

Ibiza, End of October 2011.

We had some gorgeous days so far. The weather is just perfect and because the summer season ended a week ago, everywhere and everything is so quiet.

But none of this is relevant right now, here.

I’m desperately clinging to the bench while I try to avoid looking at all the other people fighting and losing a similar battle against a common enemy.

Motion sickness is winning over just everyone but the sailors managing the boat. Everywhere I turn, I see pale faces and desperate eyes.

I can’t remember why we thought that sailing to Formentera was a great idea.

I’m ready to add myself to the line of people throwing up from the edge of the boat when I remember something. 

Years before, in a similar situation, a sailor told me to find a fixed point on the shore and keep my gaze on it all the time. 

Yes, the shore is still visible over there on the right.

I lock my eyes on a rock or promontory, I don’t know. It’s still, and that’s everything I need right now.

Stillness.

Slowly, I regain some control on my body and when the destination harbour becomes visible, I know I’m going to get through this.


A conversation I had yesterday brought back this memory. When we are going through a rough sea, swaying and swinging around under external forces bigger than us, it’s easy to experience something similar to motion sickness.

In those moments, it can be beneficial to have a fixed point. A rock on which we can put our gaze. Whatever we put our attention on will expand. If we put our focus on something or someone firm and steady, that stillness will grow within us, helping us sailing through the storm.

One Apple A Day #629 – gratitude

It’s one of those cloudy mornings so typical in this part of Italy. The grey outside matches how I felt when I sat down to write. I was not feeling at my best this morning, both physically and emotionally. With my defences lowered a surge of negative thoughts was crushing my walls and seeping into my mind. I even asked if it was worth it to write anything this morning. You know, the typical questions: what’s the point? Who’s reading it? 

Bla bla bla. 

My mind was taking me down a negative spiral. But then I look forward and, there it was.

Oblivious of the grey sky and of my negative thoughts, an orange pomegranate was standing there among the leaves.

Fierce in all its extraordinary beauty. 

And I was reminded of how beautiful it is to be alive and to be able to witness the magic of nature.

So, I took five minutes to write everything I’m grateful for. And the energy of life came back. And with it, the desire to write.

A few years ago, when I was going through a tough period, I wrote a small gratitude pray. I used to read it every morning before everything else. Maybe it’s time to read it again.

One Apple A Day #604 – Connection

All of a sudden, the woods go silent. 

All the others are behind me and observing my movements, however, at that moment, I am alone.

There is nobody else. There is nothing else but me, the bow, the arrow and the prey.

It’s an incredible feeling that words struggle to describe.

Like being out of space and time.

Everything is happening incredibly slowly and fast at the same time.

I look at the prey. I choose the exact spot where I want to hit and then we are one.

The prey and me.

I can feel the connection as if there’s no distance at all.

I raise the bow, pull the cord and then liberate the arrow.

I know where the arrow is flying. I know where it is going to hit. 

I feel as if I always knew.

The arrow hits the exact spot that I visualise.

And then the world comes back.

The sounds of the woods, the voices of my friends.

I am back in the current space and time.

 

That was my experience of flow last Saturday. An utter sensation of just being one with everything. And everything happens effortless and naturally as if any obstacles have been removed.

It was not a pleasure for a good shot. That came only later.

It was a profound and potent sense of being whole.

It wasn’t the first time. I have the same experience sometimes when I’m writing, or when I’m immersed in a powerful conversation.

I’m still not sure how it happens. 

Anytime I try to deliberately create that feeling, I fail. 

And maybe that’s the secret. 

It’s not about trying more or harder.

It’s about setting the stage and allows for the flow to happen.

For sure, I’ve learned a valuable lesson.

Knowing your goal with clarity is not enough to get it. 

I must create a connection with it. I have to become one with my objective.

And then it will pull me towards itself.

P.S. Obviously, the prey wasn’t a real animal.