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 #631 – Abandon

To abandon means to give up completely something, to release any inhibition or restraint. 

There is magic in abandon. In surrendering and giving up control.

It’s liberating. It expands the boundaries of your awareness.

Unfortunately, I experienced that rarely in my life. And any time it wasn’t deliberate. It just happened.

You’re being massaged, and the masseur asks you to entirely abandon a part of your body in his hands. Like the neck or a leg, so he can apply a manoeuvre moving that part freely. 

That is something I’m not able to do. I can’t.

I can’t give up completely the control of my body. 

I can’t surrender fully to something or someone.

I don’t think it’s a matter of trust. And I don’t picture myself as someone wanting to control everything. Even if I may be blind to this.

It feels as if there is some kind of wiring in me that holds me back from surrendering, from giving up the control on what’s happening.

Yesterday evening a dear friend gave me a fascinating idea. 

I should exhaust myself out. Do something physical that burns all my energy, that wears me out and leave me empty.

Maybe at that point, where there won’t be any energy left to build resistance, I’ll be ready to surrender.

Time to plan something.

Can you surrender totally to something or someone?

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 #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 #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 #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 #610 – noise

Noise.

Every morning when I sit down for this little practice of mine, I look for something to spark the writing process.
It may be a word, a song, an image, the memory of a conversation, something that happened to me or that I observed the day before. Some times the inspiration is so loud that I have to rush to the laptop.
Some mornings I sit without nothing.
No ideas. No clues. No sparks.

At the beginning I was scared.
What will I do if nothing comes?
Should I accept my failure and leave the page blank?

That fear dissolved only when I became fully aware that the meaning of this practice is not in the outcome. The posts that I publish are the visible manifestations, sure. But the real sense of this small practice is in doing it. To sit down and write for fifteen minutes, that is why I do it. No matter what comes out it.

Thou, even if I know the purpose of this practice, some times, I forget it, and I’m distracted by the need to create a valuable outcome.

This morning I want to thank the noise outside that wiped out all my ideas this morning so I could reconnect with the real meaning of this practice.

One Apple A Day #608 – my source of trust

These last days I felt as if I’d been swallowed by the things I had to do. At some point, after days trying to swim my way to the other side of the river, I felt it was just too much. The current too strong for me to keep going.

During the weekend, I began thinking that maybe I just took on too much responsibility.

I woke up with all these thoughts in my head, already worried about the things I have to do.

As I always do, I did my wake up exercises, and then I sat down for my morning meditation. I picked a BeTheChange card to spark my reflections and voilá. 

“If you have a source of trust, you can take on more responsibility.”

Really? The universe must have a weird sense of humour. Or maybe there is a message for me in here. 

And slowly a little thought crawls its way through my tiredness and my worries. 

I’ve been so focused on the things I have to deliver that I lost the connection with my source of trust.

And at some point, the things that I wanted to do became the things that I have to do. Excitement grew into pressure and stress.

So, that’s my challenge for today.

To reconnect with my source of trust.

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 #597 – you are infinite

Be yourself, they say.

Great advice but, who am I?

Who this self I am supposed to be? How would I know that I am “being myself”?

Because the more I try to define who I am using my thinking mind, the more I wrap myself into a box that gets smaller.

And I can clearly sense that most of me has been left out.

So, you see, there is a problem here.

My mind thinks in shapes and forms, so it is used to set boundaries to divide one thing from the other. To separate me from the others and the world so I can put a label on myself.

The ancient greeks engraved the words γνῶθι σεαυτόν on the Temple of Apollo at Delphi.

“know thyself”

What they didn’t write is that knowing yourself is a never-ending journey. And that the journey is more important than the destination. It doesn’t matter how many labels and boxes you’ll be able to use to define yourself, as long as you keep exploring.

You are infinite as the universe you hold inside.