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 #633 – waves

This morning I’ve been reminded of the disruptive power of emotions. Usually, I’m quite good at protecting this private space of reflections and writing. When I sit down to seek inspirations, I let everything that is running in my mind to wander free so that peace can emerge.

But this morning is different. Yesterday, I became aware of something that struck a nerve. I’m not even sure why, to be honest, but this is another path to explore. The point is that I woke up with these emotions flowing in my system. No matter how hard I try, I can’t get over them, and I can’t keep them away from this space of reflections. They keep coming back and engender thoughts that fill up this space.

No doubts that they are telling me something.

But even more than that, they remind me of the significant role that emotions play in our lives.
When an emotion surges, it is like a wave washing out everything in its way. Trying to resist can be exhausting. For sure, it has been for me this morning until I decided to ride that wave.
And when I stopped resisting, when I gave up the idea of controlling it, peace came.
And with it the words for this post.

 

Photo by Tim Marshall on Unsplash

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 #628 – being wise

Every day I learn new things. Information that I acquire, process, evaluate, connect to previous ones and store in my mind. Some of them stick over time, and some got lost or forgotten. 

If and when I need the ones I retain, I dig them out from my memory.

I have the feeling that my memory is not infinite, so over the years, many things got lost, and I can’t retrieve them anymore. Anyway, this is another story.

Have you ever the feeling that you know something even if you can’t find that thing among the things you know?

It is a powerful feeling when you realise that you know something in your bones, not in your mind. As if the knowledge has slowly become part of who you are. 

From something you know to something you are.

From knowing to being.

That is my idea of wisdom. 

When something you know becomes part of who you are.

The tricky thing, in my experience, is that sometimes what you know in your mind can get in the way of what you know in your cells. Your knowledge creates resistance to your wisdom.

“To attain knowledge, add things every day. To attain wisdom, remove things every day.” ― Lao Tzu

P.S. I just realised that yesterday post was titled “Being Silly”. In my knowledge, they seem so different, yet in my body, they are fully interwoven.

One Apple A Day #627 – being silly

Silly: having or showing a lack of common sense or judgement; absurd and foolish.

Somewhere I read that our brain is a powerful predictive machine. It is endlessly evaluating everything within and without us, looking out for cues about what will happen. All of this to reduce uncertainty, avoid pain and, when possible, achieve success and joy.

We are always predicting what will happen in the next moment.

The problem I see is that all those predictions are based on our past experiences. We predict the outcome of something in the future based on our memories of what happened in the past. 

I can sense a high risk of repeating ourselves, trapped in some kind of pleasure loop. This predictive approach makes our brain blind to everything possible but improbable.

That’s why some silliness is desperately needed. As Steven Pressfield wrote in his book “Do The Work”; “Ignorance and arrogance are the artist and entrepreneur’s indispensable allies. She must be clueless enough to have no idea how difficult her enterprise is going to be—and cocky enough to believe she can pull it off anyway.

I believe that most of the ones we celebrate as explorers, artists, pioneers, inventors, innovators are just silly people who delivered a result. But before getting there, before achieving a recognizable outcome, they were all most probably regarded as silly or foolish.

When we go for the impossible, we may find something possible but unpredictable on the way.

“A child has no trouble believing the unbelievable, nor does the genius or the madman. It’s only you and I, with our big brains and our tiny hearts, who doubt and overthink and hesitate.” — form Do The Work by Steven Pressfield

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?