One Apple A Day #670 – close the book

Over the weekend, I had a few conversations about the ending of things.  

We give a lot of attention to the beginning. We remember and celebrate the first moment of something; a relationship, a job, a project, life.

I feel we are not as good at dealing with the end.

I’ve been taught how to start something, but I can’t remember anyone teaching me how to end anything.

Though, the end of anything is a crucial moment. One that will have a defining impact on anything that will come after. 

The destination plays a vital role in giving meaning to a journey.

I see so many people, and I am one of them, doing their best to avoid the end. Sometimes running away, or ignoring it. But mostly just jumping on new things. And in doing so, they drag the unfinished old ones with them. 

But how can you live fully what you have in the present when part of your energy is spent carrying the past?

The end of everything is so important. There should be classes at school on how to properly end or deal with the closing of something. So we can take all the value from the experienced that we lived and use it to nurture the present and build the future.

“A wise man once said; When you come to the last page, close the book.” — Mr Wu from The Love Bug

I was this movie when I was a kid, and this scene at the very end is the only thing I remember. There are really lessons in the most unexpected places. The space on my desk is limited. So, if I don’t close a book when I get to the last page, after a while, I won’t have enough space to open a new one.

One Apple A Day #696 – the magic is in the question

Yesterday I was writing an article about “the daily question process” created by Marshall Goldsmith. It’s a straightforward yet powerful practice to improve ourselves based on a set of active questions answered every day. You can read how and why it works here from Goldsmith himself.

This morning, while I was meditating and creating space for the seed of this post to emerge, I had a small Aha moment when my thoughts went back to the daily question process. Goldsmith does not say anything about what he does with all the answers he collects. 

Every day he asks, or better he has someone asking him 32 active questions to which he answers with a yes or a no. That’s a massive amount of data, but he never talks about it when he describes the process.

All that really matters are the questions. Just by asking the right questions in the right way, we can trigger a series of constructive thoughts and nurture our self-awareness. The answers are merely incidental in this process. The thoughts and the emotions that the questions spark are the real gold in this process.

And as Goldsmith says in his post, “even the process of writing questions will help you better understand your own values and how you live or don’t live them on a daily basis.

One Apple A Day #695 – my little book of questions

A few weeks ago, I went to this coffee place nearby for the first time. It’s a lovely place, perfect for morning conversations. When I went to the till to pay, there was this little black book laying there over the counter. Quite thick, with a leather cover and the title “The book of answers” engraved in gold on the cover.

It’s a delightful book to play with. You probably know how it works. You think about a question, open it randomly and read the short answer on the page before you. 

Then, it’s up to you to decide what you want to do with the answer you get. You can laugh and dismiss it. Or you can take it as a sign.

To me, the best next step is to take the answer as an inspiration to an even better question.

“Creativity rarely begins with an answer.” — from The Way of Nowhere

I’ve been thinking about the magic of questions lately, and about how much, when I encounter a challenging one, I feel the pressure to find an answer. However, it is only when I let go of that urge to answer, and I stay with the question, carrying it with me and allowing for it to do its work, that magic happens.

So, I’ve decided to carry a small notebook with me. I’ll call it my little book of questions

Welcome 2020

We’re already one week into this new year and, after a short break to refill the batteries, I feel the need to get back to my practices.
But, before I restart my small thing called One Apple A Day, I thought it was a good idea to welcome 2020.
It won’t be a long post like the one I wrote to say goodbye to 2019. With last year there was history.
The new one is like a big blank canvas.
I don’t know what will happen this year. What colours will end up on that canvas and what images will appear at the end.
I don’t know, and it’s a gorgeous feeling. One of anticipation and excitement.

So, this welcome message to the new year is concise. It’s more like a letter of intent. And I’m writing it in my usual 15 minutes morning slot, to be sure I’m not wasting time with clichè or trivialities.

My guiding word for 2020 is Sustainability.

I’ll write more about it in the next days, but in short, it’s a word that speaks about balance and transformation. It’s about small daily steps and consistency. It’s the ingredient connecting identity and discipline.

Welcome, dear 2020.
I’m ready. Let’s begin.

One Apple A Day #683 – concentration

To me, these days going from the 27th to the 31st have always felt weird. It as if this year is done, so there’s nothing more to add. At the same time, the new one is not here yet, so I have to wait before I can start anything new. 

I like to think about these five days as an opportunity to slow down and reflect. But then, I don’t. I don’t know, maybe because my energy is low, or because it’s the only time of the year where I can reconnect with people I love. Or perhaps it’s because the festivities disrupt my routine.

Whatever the reason, I struggle to focus and concentrate. My space is full of half-read, half-written and half-done things. 

Two days ago, I was reading an old and small Italian publication about yoga, shiatsu and martial arts that has been lying on my desk for a while. It’s a few pages essay, and I thought it was the perfect solution to keep me away from my laptop for an hour or two.

Who would have thought that I would have spent the whole time highlighting half of the rows? 

Anyway, a thought, in particular, got my attention. It is part of an article on shiatsu by Alfredo D’Angelo.

“Concentration is the dynamic reunification of all the constituent parts of the human essence.” (translation is mine)

I know he was talking about pressure in shiatus, yet these few words really hit me. Concentration is the act of bringing things into or about a central point. So, to concentrate means to bring all of me, not only my thoughts, around a centre. It means to align my mind, body, heart and soul around a single point. 

That may explain why I struggle so much these days. I’m trying to focus my mind, but all the other parts of me are distracted. It won’t work.

Only if I bring all the parts together, I can achieve the focus I need to create.

One Apple A Day #679 – practice detachment

“The only difference between stumbling blocks and stepping stones is the way in which we use them.” – Adriana Doyle

Yesterday I had an enlighting conversation with my dear friend Umberto. We were talking about how tough times can be unique sources of learning and growth, or heavy stones dragging us down.

It is up to us to decide what to do with our pitfalls.

I was also sharing how things that I experienced as massive failures when they happened years ago are now events that I cherish as part of my growth.

Yet, to put failures and tough times in the right perspective when you’re living them, it’s definitely hard.

As usual, Umberto shared a fascinating metaphor to explain this.

“It’s a matter of volume occupied. The more space something takes within your life, the heavier you perceive it. When you widen your space, that same thing becomes smaller and smaller, until it’s almost irrelevant.”

Quite obvious, no? If you put any object right in front of your face, it looks huge, but as soon as you put some space between you and the object, it becomes smaller until it almost disappears.

But how do you do that? It looks like time would be the only thing needed to gain a wider perspective on things. However, it’s not. How many people do you know who are still chained to their past failures and can’t see beyond them?

I believe the key is to practice the art of detachment. Your not your failures, and you’re not your successes. Only when you learn to detach from the outcome of what you do, you can walk away from it. And gain the perspective needed to transform failures in learning.

One Apple A Day #676 – don’t let anger poison your soul

I read somewhere that being angry with someone is like drinking poison, hoping to hurt them. It won’t affect the people you hate, but it will surely and slowly kill you.

It happens many times in my life. I allowed negative emotions and thoughts to grow within me until they became toxic and poisoned my soul.
The irony is that while I was getting sick from my own doing, nothing was changing with the situations or the people that sparked my anger.

A few weeks ago, it happened again.
On a Saturday, someone did something that really hurt me. Knowing that there wasn’t much I could do to change the situation, I tried to convince myself that I could let go and enjoy my weekend as planned.
On Sunday morning, my partner and I went visiting some friends. We went exploring a lovely Christmas market to find some inspiration for gifts.

All the time, my mind and my heart were somewhere else.
Pain became a disappointment.
Disappointment became anger.
I was poisoning my own soul.

On the way back home in the afternoon, I realised that I was wasting my energy and my time. For nothing.

When I got home, I immediately went talking with the people who hurt me. From a practical point of view, that conversation was pointless, and it didn’t solve anything. The wound and the pain are still there.
But it helped me pushing the toxic thoughts out of my system, replacing anger with compassion.

One Apple A Day #673 – Do the work

You have to do the work.

I don’t know where these words came from, but they appeared in my meditation, shining in my mind like a glistening Christmas sign.

I’m an introspective and curious person. I triggered by anything that engages my imagination. I hear or see something, and my mind immediately begins making connections and creating stories.

Most of these stories never leave that space. They begin and end within my mind.

Though, I’m well aware that it is only when I transform my thoughts into actions that things really happen.

As Stephen Covey said, “to learn and not to do is really not to learn. To know and not to do is really not to know.

To do the work means to manifest my potential. 

Maybe, those blinking words emerged to remind me to be more intentional in transforming my thoughts in actions.

As Steven Pressfield wrote in his book “Do the Work”, “We can always revise and revisit once we’ve acted. But we can accomplish nothing until we act.” 

One Apple A Day #672 – I need to love more

Power + love.

Again.

Since I wrote about it last week, this Be The Change card has been coming back almost every morning. This morning again, I shuffled the cards, closed my eyes and picked one. 

Power + love.

The card comes with this inspiring quote by Martin Luther King Jr.

“Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anaemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.”

For a while now, there have been tensions in my neighbourhood. Someone has stepped over the collective interests to pursue their own benefit. As with many things, they used a legal loophole to achieve their desired outcome. But with that, also came more conflict and tensions.

Looking at the whole situation with the lens that this card, “Power + Love” gives me, I can see that in this situation, the balance is fully tilted towards power.

I have the power to do it, then I do it. If you have the power to stop me, then do it. And so on.

And power, without love, is reckless and abusive.

Love is the missing factor in this equation. But how do I bring love back into the picture?

What does it mean to love more in these circumstances?

These are the questions I’m going to carry with me today.

Power + Love.

One Apple A Day #671 – practice wisely

My morning writing ritual is made of different elements. 

Almost every day, I write in the same place, at the same time and following the same process. This routine helps me get in the inner space I need to write.

This morning, however, my routine got wholly disrupted. I’m away from my writing place, and so far, I did many things but the ones I used to do to start my day.

I was even wondering if I wanted to write or not until I found myself sitting and ready to start. As if my body knew what I really wanted before my mind.

It is the power of practice. 

Practice is what transform something you do in who you are. It’s the way through which your behaviours shape your identity.

I witnessed the power of practice yesterday evening. I attended a workshop of Taiko, it’s the Japanese art of drumming and percussions. But it is a lot more than drumming. It’s a practice of the mind and the soul as much as of the body. 

Observing the teacher playing the Taiko was a unique experience. He was not doing the movements, he was the movements. Even the smallest gesture infused with all of who he is. 

It was as if every muscle of his body knew exactly what to do and how to do it.

Years of deliberate and intentional practice has transformed his doing into his being.

The power of practice.

This is why it’s essential to be present and aware in everything we say and do. 

“Success is nothing more than a few simple disciplines, practiced every day; while failure is simply a few errors in judgment, repeated every day. It is the accumulative weight of our disciplines and our judgments that leads us to either fortune or failure.” — Jim Rohn