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 #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 #615 – out of the clay

Last Sunday, I joined an extraordinary group of men in a one day workshop. It never ceases to amaze me the magic that can bloom from a circle of men showing up with authenticity and willing to explore their vulnerability.

One of the activities we did during the day involved the use of clay.
At the end of this practice, we all were entirely covered with clay.
No wonder that people were stopping by to admire us.
A circle of man, standing still on the shore, covered in white clay head to toe. Like a group of statues from some ancient Greek temple.
We were beautiful.
Really.
At least, this is how I felt.
Beautiful.
The clay hiding all my imperfections.
So, I was standing there.
Still.
The sound of the waves, the warmth of the sun, the slight chill of the breeze.
And the clay was drying out.

The more the thick layer of clay was drying up, the harder it became to move. At some point, even opening my eyes was a struggle.
I was still feeling beautiful but, at the same time, I started feeling trapped.
And then I couldn’t feel the sun anymore. Nor the breeze.

Then we finally moved, the skin itching while the clay crumbled.
We entered the sea and quickly the clay dissolved into the salty water.
It was again me, welcoming back all my imperfections and all my freedom.

It was a fascinating experience.
Going through life, we add layers and layers of beliefs and stories around ourselves. And little by little, these layers become a shell, transforming us in a beautiful statue.
But also limiting our freedom to move, transform and grow.
So, sometimes we need to break that shell, to mould so we can create freedom and make space for new stories.
Like my experience with clay, the more we wait, the harder the shell gets. Getting out of it becomes painful, at the point that someone may decide that it’s easier to learn to stand still.

P.S. Talking about synchronicity. While we were there, standing in the circle becoming statues, a small crab started walking between us on the shore. And I was reminded of the story of the lobster that I love so much.

 

Photo by Karen Maes on Unsplash

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 #612 – sweet memories

July 1987, early Saturday morning in a little town in the North-East of Italy.

The town is almost empty. It’s too early for the kids on holidays from school and too late for the workers.
In the churchyard, a family of four and an old nun are waiting.

The boy is thirteen, even if he looks younger. With his thin legs, the square glasses and the narrow shoulders, it seems like he is trying to hide from the world. He is timid, and he would prefer to be lost reading some adventurous stories than being there waiting with his family.
A few other families join them in the square, just before the arrival of the bus.
The boy has never been anywhere before without his parents. Yes, in his dreams, he has already travelled to plenty of exotic places, but that doesn’t help in the present situation.
He is going to go away to a summer camp for a full week with his smaller sister. And he doesn’t know anyone else.
He steps into the already full bus, this is the last stop before heading to the mountains.
With his sister behind him, he walks towards the back of the bus looking for empty seats.
He feels as if all the eyes are staring at him. Sure they are. They all know each other, and they must think he is a nerd from the countryside.
The only two seats left available are at the very end of the bus.
Behind them, on the last row, a group of guys who look older than all the others. All so confident and relaxed.
Among them, there’s a boy whose voice stands out.
He is the taller and the louder of them all.
With his long hair, he looks like he came straight out of a movie.
And he has a prosthetic arm.
The boy has never seen a prosthetic arm before in his life.
The bus leaves the square, with the cheering parents, the sleepy town and everything familiar behind.
The boy is scared, but he wants to play the big brother with his sister. Even if, to be honest, she looks a lot more at ease than him.
The cool guys on the back seats are having fun.
The guy with the prosthetic arm takes out a portable cassette player.
And this song started.
A song he never heard before.
He can’t understand the lyrics, but that line of bass and that voice carve their way into his heart.


I still remember how I felt that morning.

So, when this song started while I was listening to random stuff on youtube, for a few seconds, I was that shy and innocent boy again. Obviously, a lot of other songs have been played during that bus trip. But this is the only one I remember.

I know it’s just a small event in my life. Thou, that trip is one of the defining moments in my life. It was my first time really out of my comfort zone, opening up to the world.

That summer camp spent with plenty of other guys and girls on the mountain has been such a fantastic experience that I kept doing it every summer for the following ten years or so.

And in that week, I also fell in love for the first time that week. Oh yeah, a proper love story even if she never knew about it.

Definitely, this song will always have a special place in my heart.

One Apple A Day #600 – rituals and celebrations

This morning I picked the card “Ritual” for my morning reflections. Then, when I opened the laptop to write this post, I realised this is the apple number six hundred.
This ritual has been going on for quite a while now.
When I started, I planned to do it for 90 days in a row and then stop. But then it was such an enjoyable experience that I’ve decided to keep going. Every now and when I ask myself when will I stop. Will I ever reach the destination of this journey? Is there a destination at all?

I don’t know. What I know, or I should better say what I feel is that this small ritual of mine is aligned with who I am. I’m an explorer, and like any explorer, I have my journal or logbook to keep track of my discoveries so one day I’ll be able to share them with the world.

I’m well aware that celebrating significant milestones is essential. And this is one of those. It means I’ve spent 600 mornings in the last two years or so, writing and sharing something. Who would have known that someone like me, who gets quickly bored, would have stick to a habit like this one for so long? I know now that this is possible only when the practice becomes part of our identity. So, this morning post is definitely part of who I am.

With that in mind, I’m already thinking about the next post. The one I was planning to write today before I realise it was time to celebrate.

So, be aware, I have no plan to stop.

One Apple A Day #598 – I slipped

The ache in my back woke me up early, a good half an hour before the planned alarm.
I lurch to the kitchen with my eyes half-closed. It was still dark outside. Or at least, it looked dark to me
I remember thinking that I needed just a few minutes on the couch, to let the pang in my back dissolve before doing my morning exercises.
So, I slump on the couch.
Just a few minutes.
The next thing I recollect was my partner telling me there we were late for our appointment.
No time for my morning practice.
“Nevermind”, I thought, “I’ll recover late, we will have plenty of waiting time through the morning”.
Reality is that I felt slow and sleepy all day. I even struggled to find enough energy to read a novel for more than 10 minutes.

So, yesterday I slipped.
No exercises, no meditation, no daily apple.
Nothing.

It happens. It’s not the first time, and it won’t be the last.
And there is always something to learn, in particular when we fail.

Yesterday, I learned that the twenty minutes I spent every morning doing some physical exercises are not only beneficial for my health. They literally awaken my body and my mind. It’s like sending an energy shock through my whole system re-activating it after the night.
Having skipped that, I’ve been sleepy and sluggish all day, unable to focus on anything.

I’ve also learned that my morning practices are now part of my identity. So, even if I miss one day, I can effortlessly get back to my rituals the day after.

“The ultimate form of intrinsic motivation is when a habit becomes part of your identity. It’s one thing to say I’m the type of person who wants this. It’s something very different to say I’m the type of person who is this.” — Atomic Habits by James Clear

ONE APPLE A DAY #595 – shine through defeat

Yesterday I read a short and powerful piece by an Italian teacher. A friend posted it on facebook but mistakenly associating it with a famous Italian poet and writer.

The words immediately resonated with me, so I wanted to learn more about them. This is how I discover that the real author is Rosaria Gasparro. She’s a teacher in primary school, but she’s also a lot more obviously. For sure she’s a beautiful writer.

This small story made me wonder about the infinite potential that lives within each one of us. We just need to crush the walls of our limiting beliefs and allow for our extraordinary self to shine. Then, we would make the world a brighter place.

Below, my humble translation of the words of Rosaria.

THE PRAISE OF the DEFEAT

I think it is necessary to educate the new generations on the value of defeat. On its management. On the humanity that springs from it. On the creation of an identity that can perceive a commonality of destiny, where one can fail and start over without value and dignity being eroded. On how to not become a social climber, on not to walk over the body of others to get there first.

In this world of vulgar and dishonest winners, of false and opportunistic doers, of people who count, who occupy power, who rob the present, let alone the future, to all the neurotics of success, of appearing, of becoming … to this anthropology of the winner, I instead prefer those who lose. It is an exercise that I do well. And it reconciles me with my sacred little.

You can read more from Rosaria here (in Italian).

One Apple A Day #567 – lesson learned

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.

One Apple A Day #557 – Romeo & Juliet

I’ve spent a few hours strolling around the streets of Verona yesterday. One of the main attractions for tourists is the famous Juliet’s Balcony. People from all over the world come here to see this symbol of love, maybe in the hope that it will bring more love in their lives.
But Juliet’s house and the balcony are nothing more than props. Not much different from the ones I saw outside the Arena when they were setting up the stage for the Aida.
Romeo and Juliet existed in the fantasy world created by Shakespeare’s creative mind. Yet, as Juliet’s balcony proves, if we believe a story long enough, it becomes real. That balcony in Verona feels very real.
This can also happen in our lives. If we tell ourselves a story long enough, that story will shape our reality.
“This can’t be done.”
“I’m not good at this thing.”
“Oh no, I can’t draw, sing, write.”
And so on.
How many “Juliet’s balconies” do you have in your life?
What would you be capable of, if you move past those stories?