One Apple A Day #625 – Inhale and Exhale

Inhale and exhale.

Breathing is such a simple action. So simple most of the time we don’t pay attention to it.
Yet, it is the essence of life.
Inhale; new air is pulled within your lungs, oxygen is taken all around through your blood feeding your cells.
Exhale; the stale air that has finished its job is flushed out, the carbon dioxide is released back to air.

Inhale and exhale.

It is so easy to forget to breathe. Sometimes, while I’m doing something intense, like a physical exercise, I realise that I hold my breath.

So, this morning I was sitting in my usual place, waiting for the inspiration to come so I could start writing. But nothing was emerging from the chaos of thoughts spinning in my mind.
Then I realised that I was holding my breath again.

Inhale and exhale.

I’ve been holding my creative breathing lately. Exhaling maybe, but forgetting to inhale. Flushing out a lot of ideas and words without breathing in new inspirations through experiences, reading and conversations.

Inhale and exhale.

One Apple A Day #624 – whatever

The other day I was reading an article on what is the best way to exercise. There are so many disciplines, theories and methods out there that you can spend days trying to understand which is best for you. 

I got to the end of the article, still not knowing what the best way to exercise is. They all have pros and cons.

Then I remembered a short video interview of Arnold Schwarzenegger – yep, the terminator. They asked him what was better between kettlebell and dumbbell. To which he answers: “it’s the same because your muscle doesn’t know what you’re holding in your hand“.

These two moments made me think of how easy it is to get lost in the quest for the right way. It’s like waking up with the desire to go somewhere, and then spend the whole day analysing all the possible options to get there. Until the sun sets down, the day is gone, and you postpone the trip to another day.

How often did I spend all my time to understand what was the right or best thing to do and ended up doing nothing?

And how often, did I decide to start big because I wanted to make my effort worth it? I want to get fit so, let’s run for one hour three times a week. And then, the second week it’s only two times, then 30 minutes one time before giving up completely.

So, I found an easy trick that works, most of the time, for me.

The answer to “what should I do to get there” is “whatever I can consistently do long enough to make it stick“.

My rule of thumb is anything I can keep doing “every weekday for 3 months“. If it doesn’t stick, that’s not it, and I look for something else. If it holds, but I can’t see the results I want, I tweak it until it works. In any case, I’ll have learned something valuable.

One Apple A Day #623 – stop barking and get out

Last day of September, a foggy Monday morning outside. As usual, I pick my BeTheChange card, and it says “Integration”. What a powerful word to ponder and write on upon.

I fold in my favourite position on the sofá, I start the soft music to create the right atmosphere, I close my eyes, and I focus on my breathing. I let the word sink and move freely, so new connections can manifest and words for my morning writing emerge to the surface of my awareness.

The loud barking and snarling of my dog pull me back abruptly in the here and now. The barking spreads to the other dogs around. It looks like we are under attack. I stop the music and get up. If someone is invading us at least, I want to look them in the face.

And there they are, the scary enemies; a group of kids walking to school outside the gate. 

I don’t know if it’s common to all dogs, but mine has this funny feature. When she’s inside the garden, behind closed gates, she is incredibly alert. Anytime someone gets close to the entrance, even if they are only walking by, she goes crazy as if her kingdom is under attack.

When we take her out for a walk, she becomes just the cutest and most quiet dog. Nothing is a danger, and everything becomes something to discover. It is as if one she’s out of the boundaries of the garden, fear is replaced with curiosity.

I sit back on the couch to write this post, and this thought keeps spinning in my head. Isn’t it the same for everyone? If we close ourselves behind the gate of our own world of stories, ideas and beliefs, fear is triggered when someone approaches our gate. At least until we’re not sure they’re friends. But if we cross that threshold, if we get out, then curiosity takes over. With nothing more to protect, we open up to the infinite magic of the universe.

This small story is also a reminder that inspiration can hide in the most unexpected places, like a dog barking and disrupting your meditation.

P.S. the one in the photo is my dog.

One Apple A Day #622 – the beauty of chaos

I am a messy person in the material world. I leave things everywhere, I keep stuff scattered all around the room. My messiness is one of the reasons I’ve decided to own as little as possible. It’s easier to keep my messiness under control with fewer things to manage.

Anyway, I love chaos. And most of all, I like to make sense of chaos. When I can connect apparently disconnected things, when I can find a shape or form that allow understanding something messy, then I’m happy. 

I’ve always been like that. I think it started when I was very young. I was a shy, goofy and solitary kid. I spent a lot of time on my own reading, dreaming and trying to make sense of things. Somehow, it was my superpower, what makes me unique among all the other kids. And also not one of the most popular, but that’s another story.

However, growing up this burning desire to make sense, to understand everything that happens, became a weight holding me back. I was spending all my energy trying to understand life instead of living it. I thought that if I could make sense of things, then I would find happiness. And in doing that, I wasn’t really living. 

I was observing chaos from the threshold without stepping in.

Then, a few years ago, the chaos hit me like a surge. 

My life went upside down. 

Nothing made sense anymore. I’ve been pulled into the messiness of life and forced to live it.

At that time, I felt lost and hurt. But I’ve also learned the beauty of experiencing life as it is, without the need to make sense but just allowing for the magic to emerge from chaos.

“Babies are born in blood and chaos; stars and galaxies come into being amid the release of massive primordial cataclysms.” — from Do the Work by Steven Pressfield

One Apple A Day #621 – confrontations

For the second time this week, my morning card talks about confrontations.

How do you deal with confrontations?

Honestly, I don’t like them.

Too often they trigger in me the desire to come out as the winner, to prove I’m right, no matter the topic.
As a result, I tend to run from confrontations. Sometimes I use humour and laugh to distract everyone. Other times I just ignore it, and I walk away. A few times, I jump into the confrontation to solve it as soon as possible. Not even to solve it, the real goal is to leave it behind in a way or another.

Yet, I know there is a tremendous potential in a confrontation. When different perspectives collide, and the pressure from all side opens up new cracks on the surface of things.

So, I’m learning to stay.

Just stay, at the edges of it. Within and without the confrontation at the same time. Observing how it evolves, listening to the sound of the cracks opening, feeling the itching on my own wounds awakening.
It’s not easy.

Sometimes I fail beautifully only to realise later that I’ve missed an opportunity.

But when I do, when I stay with the confrontation, then the harvest is extraordinary.

A significant help comes from reminding myself of my vision and my values. Or the shared vision and standards of the group I’m with. It helps reconcile any tension with something higher, and it gives me the strength to hold it all.

How do you deal with confrontations?

One Apple A Day #620 – good fences

They say that “good fences make good neighbours.
But is it?
Do they really make our neighbours better? If yes, how?

We build walls around us made of rules, policies and laws to feel safe. To protect what we have from others. To be sure that we can collaborate with others even if we don’t trust them fully.

But that’s the trap with walls. They close you in as much as they keep the rest of the world out. They protect your world, but at the same time, they make it smaller.

I believe that within every human being, there is this bigger extraordinary WHO longing to expand.
Like any substance, to expand it needs space.
Our bigger WHO also needs structures that can support its growth.
But it’s a delicate balance. Because if we don’t pay attention, those same structures become walls and fences that closed ourselves in. And without space to grow, we shrink.

So, that’s my challenge.
How can I make good fences that really make us good neighbours?
Fences that help all of us expand our bigger WHO instead of shrinking into our walled garden?

Searching for the source of this proverb, I found out it became common after Robert Frost used it in his poem “Mending Wall” published in 1914.

 

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 #618 – Goals and Aspirations

The man in the photo is Tyson Fury, a controversial British boxer and heavyweight world champion. His story is remarkable on many levels. He suffered from mental health issues after reaching the top of the world. He almost killed himself, and then he came back. 

You can find plenty of articles and videos online about his story, and as much as I’d like to write about it, I have only 15 minutes to finish this post.

The reason I’m writing about him this morning is a short video about him that I saw yesterday on Instagram. I think it is a short montage of this longer documentary about him (in case you want to watch something different tonight).

“It was all about winning bells and being a champion, but when you’ve done all of that, what’s about you then […] but if I train every day and I’ll stay in shape, then I’ll be happy forever.”

These words he shared in that video made me think at the difference between having a goal and having an aspiration.

I found the following definitions in an online dictionary.

  • Goal: the end toward which effort is directed
  • Aspiration: a strong desire to achieve something high or great

The way I read them, the goal is about the object we want to achieve. The aspiration is about me. Is about the vision I have for myself and my life. 

They are both fundamental and connected. To realise my vision, I have to divide it into goals on which I can act. To make my goals meaningful, so I won’t fill empty when I get them, they must be aligned with my aspiration.

“While goals can leave us feeling deflated and disappointed once we’ve achieved them, aspirations are never fully completed; we can get up every morning feeling motivated by them all over again.” — from Insight by Tasha Eurich

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 #616 – repeat and create

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.

 

 

Photo by Lee Pigott on Unsplash