Oncle Cacá est mort! Il est mort. Morreu. Uncle Cacá passed away.

I never met the man, but he made himself present in my life.

In a land far away, where a two-river system nourishes the soil and impregnates the landscape with the tantalizing nectar that make up the air molecules we breathe, death opened its overarching wings and glided, smoothly passing through the living with its remarkable touch that silences our souls. Loss is inevitable, and everything changes all the time, anyway.

Abby – a four-year-old girl who has been battling leukemia – marries her favorite, handsome nurse Matt, in Albany, New York. The ceremony celebrated life, the strength of the human spirit and unconditional love.

Life and death hold hands and dance around while projecting shadows on the walls of time through darkness and light. This ancestral dance speaks of our pain and suffering as we sing about our joys and loving kindness in most unexpected ways.

Oncle Cacá est mort. Ele morreu. Cacá – the uncle – passed away. The ground shook under their feet. We danced the night away at the Church of the Whirling Souls. We celebrated life. We breathed. We live.The innocent child with golden eyes seduced our hearts and sang the words of glorious poets. She married the one who loved her without conditions.

Oncle Cacá has died. WE die. We live. We go through life and we die every day in a succession of many seemingly impossible occurrences. Life is a surrealist game painted on a distorted canvas hung upside down by an artist who does not know the concepts of morality or comfortable beliefs. Nobody has answers to anything. The human experience is a world of madness covered in a veil of suspicions and flustered attempts at being right. How presumptuous of our species to even consider ourselves apt to this luxurious task.

Death makes us humble. Through the experience of death we are face-to-face with our basic fears of not being able to be remembered. We fear the false appearance of our existence. Who are we? What do we really want? How would we like to be remembered? Does it make any difference at all? How do we know? Why do we question? Why do we feel separate, distant, disconnected, aloof and indifferent?

I am following my own path of discovery, inquiring and self-love. For so long, I have been running away from myself, from who I am. The essence of who you are is the intrinsic part of the whole composition of your perception, reflection and life imprint of the universal creation, bestowed upon you, as an indispensable function of the role you play in every interaction in which you find yourself.

There is no map, no guidelines, no GPS. We find our way as we get lost in the fantastic landscape of our dreams and personal stories. We are the artists painting on the canvas of our lives. All experience comes to us as a form of seduction. The energy exorcise the fears within the abyss of who we are. We look transfigured, transubstantiated. It is a continuous dance of love infused by the obsession of passion and all-inclusive love.

We all fear loss and pain, and yet the essence of life flows through the pathways that are not always easy for us to accept. I want to be peaceful and true to the journey upon which I set myself off. Life is a shitty hole to the level that we do not accept it the way it is being revealed to us.

We can only hope to accomplish and perform the activities necessary to follow through with one’s mission and talents in every second of life, experiencing the physical reality of the body while tending to the needs of an inner calling that incites us into action and change.

When my mom died I felt liberated, in some strange way, from primeval fears. However, I also noticed a trail of uncertainty and doubt before me. Now death happens every day and I see the impact it leaves all around me through the stories of those I know, but also the faceless ones, with their own stories, that passed by me, and remind me that one day I will be gone as well.

Today we have the safe illusion of technology to create the distance from the philosophical questions that intrigued humankind for so long. It is, in my way of seeing things, through the contact with our inner emotions that we seem to get closer to an understanding of our ontological nature, and that understanding becomes materialized in our complete surrender and acceptance of what we do not know without creating devices, mental or otherwise, that mask the true nature of life. Only then are we able to rest in peace, while living.

* Featured image: Lyonel Feininger “Bird Cloud” – 1926

Have you ever felt as if your entire life you have been trying to be just the perfect individual, or say the perfect thing in every situation, or be this example of human being that you have believed all your life to be what people expect you to be? Have you ever tried to live your life based on old beliefs of success the way they are laid out in front of you by the existing norm? Well, you are not alone.

All my life I have not done what others seemed to expect from me, but then, I lived with the dissatisfaction that somehow I wasn’t following the correct path everyone seemed to do so well. The great surprise in my case came early in my life because I realized that everyone seemed to be criticizing each other and trying to pretend they were doing the very things that had been told to them, but in reality they were also living a double life where their desires and motivations fell short in face of the pre-established patterns that they had to follow; a pattern that had never actually proved to be the perfect formula for personal success and happiness. Big wake-up call!

We are born without beliefs. We simply have no awareness of what it means to be a woman or a man, or what nationality we have, or what ethnic background we belong to. As we grow up we learn how to behave within the social context of our parents, family and friends. That’s where the conflict starts. We all want to be free and act according to our own motivations, talents, inclinations and desires. When those drives are in accordance with the main social ideology our family subscribes to, and that we tend to feel comfortable navigating through, the course of our lives flows in a relatively smooth way. However, when we see life in a way that questions and differs from those around us, that’s when the road gets bumpy.

In our times the emphasis on expressing yourself and having your own identity is so intensely advertised that sounds mawkish and ridiculous. Companies have jumped on the bandwagon and are shrewdly cashing in on the philosophy of “be yourself”.

Identities are malleable and easily created. Our culture shapes the identities that will generate powerful consumers. We also have our own set of identities which we have created during the course of our lives and that were influenced by fear, trauma, need for acceptance and other general belief systems. I know, the picture seems quite grim when we observe that our lives, and what we think, are dictated by something beyond our control. It is rather depressing to think that the concept of freedom is a far cry from our dreams and ideals of being unique and expressing ourselves genuinely.

Can we sincerely answer to the ultimate question? If someone asks you: “Who are you?”- can we sincerely be honest enough to let them know who we are? Do we know who we are? What motivates us? Are we sure about anything at all, or are we simply an undistinguished mass of unknown motivations? It is my understanding through constant observation of my own self that we act as we go along with our ever-changing stories. The choices we make shape and pave the way ahead of us.

Every minute we are faced with choices. Sometimes it is difficult to make a choice when we are experiencing intense emotions and emotional drives. Our subconscious world is still a vast unmapped territory that will unleash unexpected parts of our personalities we have never been aware of. It is there, however. And, at critical moments, we experience this overwhelming power testing us out and building our character.

It is important to stay true to what we believe while keeping an open mind to accept other people’s beliefs, opinions and lifestyles without intransigence, but also without compromising our own truth. Dealing with our own drives and desires is also challenging because we need to accommodate our inner world with the objectivity of the implications of our choices in real-life situations.

When we are confronted with real situations that’s when we have the opportunity to let our true selves come to the fore. Our unaltered true nature will be able to reveal itself when there is space for the forces of desire stemming from the egoist part of our personalities subside in face of what path we would like for us. Eventually we will be able to determine the exact moment when those choices are available to us at the time that they will actually make a difference for our own improvement and happiness.

In a world that is constantly pushing everyone to be themselves, when can one actually determine that they are exercising their free will and not putting into practice the dictates of the dominant ideology subliminally inserted into positive messages of self-improvement? The answer should be found inside ourselves. We ought to be the light that will guide our own paths, and ultimately find the way that will bring us happiness while having an attitude of respect and compassion for our struggles as well as of those around us.

This post was originally intended to be the last one on a series of koan-like expanded pieces of my experiences while revisiting my native city, making peace with my past and tapping into the lucid reality of its present. I might not be able to accomplish this task exactly the way I had planned, but I will give it a try.

Going back to your native city after a stretch of time has passed since you first left can be an interesting experience; going back after more than twenty years have passed, is fraught with expectation, fear, doubts, and flaming inquietude.

I was born in Anshan in 664 BCE. At the age of six I had already crossed the seas and traveled to distant lands and explored a variety of wild jungles with my mother and aunt. Uruk became my temporary residence.  I communed with the spirits of the land, the birds, the animals, the reptiles, and otherworldly beings. The galaxies opened up a world of stars and possibilities that materialized in front of me. I was touched by the Great Eagle and learned the secrets of arrow shooting at an early age. As a trickster I had to tame the darkness of my soul. But kids are always what they are, no matter what may come out of them.

A world of fantastical creatures and monsters inhabited my space without my control. Voodoo dolls and magic potions surrounded my space in a hallucinatory and psychedelic composition. Those were the times of great knowledge and wars that shaped and mapped the history and the landscape of my native country. I was the scion of the ruling dynasty in my imaginary world. The political powers at the time generated a coup d’état to overthrow the government and bring about the downfall of the entire civilization by establishing a military autocracy, a ruthless dictatorship.

Writers, artists, poets, playwrights, educators and singers were stifled, silenced, or killed. Many fled the country in order to survive. Others simply perished while fighting and defending their beliefs and ideals. I was unaware of the many crimes committed at that time. Throughout the world, it was also a time of revolt and change.

When I returned to Anshan, I was almost twelve years old. I never met King Gudea – my father. He was the missing puzzle in this historical hodgepodge of sorts. Upon my arrival in Anshan, I had a harsh encounter with the Devil himself, or was it Ishkur, the storm-god,  striking me back to life? I will never know. My mother and aunt raised me in the city of rivers, the fertile land of ancient times broken apart from the original Pangaea. The land and the mud is within me. The spirit of gypsies, the culture of the eastern  Slavic civilizations, the Sephardim Jews that brought with their genes the Ashkenazim life into my soul. Prophet Mohammed spoke to me in my dreams, and Moses’ Burning Bush fired up in my heart with the Light of Yahweh, Adonei ha’ adonim: Lord of lords.

I am made up of all the constituent parts that inscribed the history of our civilization on this planet. I come from all galaxies above and beyond. I exist. I am caught between the crossroads of this knowledge and the evanescent seeming reality of our impermanent selves. I meet my descendants and ancestors at the same time.

Death made its first introduction in my life when it took my aunt, but left the sound of the aulos within me. Later it took my mother too, but left in me the power to see within and be in harmony with the spirits of all directions.

I left.

I got a call from “those who live at red earth hole”. The spirit world of the Pomo people summoned me here to return home for shamanic healing . That is where I belong. My roots were entwined with those of so many who came before me, and without giving any thought, I heeded the call. I came. I arrived. I answered. I drank the wine and the nectar and infused my veins with the strength and the ultimate connection with those sacred elements. I invoked them. They answered me. I showed up. I am a creature of the night. My veins are open to absorb the gaseous, billowing flow of smoke that brings the presence of spirit and light and the whole of nature in one glimpse of truth that is all too simple to grasp, and yet, it reveals the incomprehensible state of human life as we know it.

Time penetrates the incongruous spaces of the physicality of things, but can never clearly capture the essence of spirit that lives beyond the conceptualism and duality inherent in the illusion of nominalism, reality, and the metaphysical investigations of ontology and cosmology. Kant’s Transcendental Idealism weaving the history of our lives together. In the theory and principles of Monadology “everything which exists has a sufficient reason to exist”“Nothing arises from nothing”.

An overall interest in meditation has been increasing over the years all over the world. People are turning to meditation for numerous reasons. However, it is my firm belief that this interest comes from the ancient Greek aphorism “Know Thyself”. Only by careful observation of one’s own mind and intentions can one intrinsically know who they are. The true spiritual quest is the acknowledgement that we set ourselves off on a journey that begins with the spark of creation infinite eons ago. It is an ongoing process of self-actualization and evolution established upon reoccurring principles that follow universal patterns imbued with an energetic ripple effect.

My entire being rejoices with gratitude for partaking in this complex system. I follow rivers. I cover myself with the dust of time and the presence of foreign lands. The whole universe is contained in me and only in silence am I able to catch rare glimpses into the intricate simplicity of everything there is. There is nothing to know and yet so much to see. The mind must be under constant scrutiny because it is as ethereal and unsubstantial as the air itself.

I am a beginner. I am a constant learner and I am starting everyday anew, with what I have and with who I am, doing what I can, giving my best shot. And, always, trying again and again, and moving forward – certain that I am already home and at peace. I put the ghosts to sleep. Medusa has been dethroned. I survive.

There are days that we feel that we can conquer the world. There are days we feel motivated and energetic, filled with inspiration and absolute determination and joy. However, there are those many days that everything we wish for ourselves seem but a distant dim light at he end of a long tunnel. Every day is an open spectrum of undetermined occurrences and random situations that test our abilities for adaptation.

Are we willing to take upon the challenges of becoming the best we can be, or are we destined to be ruled by circumstances beyond our immediate control? Are we able to deal with fear and doubt in an objective way, step out of our comfort zone, face our dreaded ghosts and accomplish our goals that we set out to achieve, or are we going to succumb to the immobility that takes over us and renders victims of our own unbridled minds? Can we bridge the gap between the practical reality that requires our direct and objective participation and the subjective inner world of our dreams, desires and utmost potential for greatness?

It comes as no surprise to anyone that many times we feel as if we do not belong, or as if our place in the world is unfounded and compounded of a whirlpool of doubts and insecurities. A lot of times we have a set of goals in mind that seem to take up our time and involve in a way that we feel as if consumed by a creative fire that burns brightly and handsomely within us. Then, all of a sudden, we feel nothing. We are completely numbed and absorbed in muddled state of lassitude and prostration. We lose the enthusiasm we started with. This happens more frequently than we would like to admit, and we make our way to the verge of quitting.

It is easy to lose track of our goals. It is easy to lack the motivation and discipline necessary to continue on the road to success. These are the so-called bumps in the road. We need to learn how to navigate all types of terrain in order to follow our path and not get lost along the way, or lose sight of why we started on that particular path to begin with.

It is not only my personal experience on that matter, but I have also heard numerous times from my friends, and acquaintances alike, that they are often confronted with incontrovertible evidence that they, also, lack the motivation and determination to continue what they started so eagerly enthusiastic about. How many times have we started a work-out program only to stop after a few weeks due to an injury, a vacation, or any other unplanned break in our routine? Any other project we attempt to undertake is susceptible to an unexpected failure. How can we fix that so we do not have to feel bad about ourselves, especially when our intentions come across as honorable but our disposition and interests do not remain stable enough to keep up with the rhythm required to bring all the positive elements to fruition? We need to do something about it.

When opposing forces are at work during the process of any undertaking, such as the intention to change one’s life or habit, but an opposite force, in the form of an old habit, pull us back to a state of lethargy and immobility, these forces are actually pushing against each other. The situation is not stable enough and at some point, something’s gotta give. One force will overpower the other; it’s the boiling point of a given state.

It is precisely at this stage that we ought to remember what reasons prompted us to initiate an activity, a new habit or the changes we want to operate in our lives. We need to stop and get clear about the reasons that made us start  in the first place. Quitting is not an option for those who wish to find out how to break through boredom and intermittent periods of inertia. The key is to keep going and find one simple task that we can accomplish during those times so we can make a small dent in our attitude when we feel overtaken by passivity and discouragement.

We must come to terms that behavior is not set in stone and that every day, every moment, we need to look at things from the perspective that we are always beginners. No matter how much we have accomplished, we should never rest on our laurels. As long as we live, we are constantly paving the way for ourselves and others. The experience of life teaches us to stay humble while reaching for our goals.

There is a popular quote (author unknown) that inspires me every time I am beset with stumbling blocks such as fear, doubts or obstacles of any kind: “When you feel like quitting: think about why you started”. This concept always helps me to gain perspective and have the humility to admit to myself that I am a constant work in progress and a beginner at heart.

Without veering towards politics, today (June 26th 2015) marks a great victory for human rights in this country (U.S.A.). It certainly corroborates the fact that the experience of life is following an unfinished path of evolution. We are all part of this process together, and the world as a whole becomes better with each act of justice, freedom and respect for one another which, in turn, improves the consciousness of this planet of ours. The process, however, is unfinished, and it is up to each one of us to contribute, in our own unique way, wherever we might find ourselves in our lives.


* Featured image: Screen shot from the Apple mobile game “Monument Valley”

Everyone looks carefree from the outside. Other people’s lives often seem more exciting than our own. Our problems and woes feel heavier on our shoulders. If only everyone knew how each other feels. If only…

The way our social landscape is structured, it gives us the impression of some perfect model of living that is disconcerting and in opposite relation to what we see on a day to day basis for each individual. we are far from being perfect, and yet, we are perfect just the way we are. That plastic, perfect picture displayed on our TV sets, magazines, and social media galore, with all the simulacra under layers of filters, do not represent who we truly are. It only captures that idea or concept of some far-flung representation of some kind of optimum ideal or deep-rooted desire to be flawless and be able to control reality and the conditions of impermanence we are all under the influence of.

We look at each other and we back off in face of the reading we make when we come in contact with one another. Our conditioned minds respond to people and situations through the lens of the interpretations we perform filtered by our clouded minds. We judge, we interpret, we classify and we label in a vain attempt to control. Little do we know that we cannot really change people, or the reality of what we experience, based on our resistance to fully accept what is not expected, anticipated or desired. Each person is what they are regardless of what we wish them to be.

Being present in our lives requires that we abandon our attempt to change what is. We gotta move along and learn with each other; learn with our pain, and learn with our weirdness. There is simply no right or wrong. There are only possibilities, views, perspectives, choices, and the flowing rhythm of our lives together as a community. As a group we grow stronger and heal each other, with our personal stories, our experiences.

To be grounded in compassion is to be able to recognize that everyone is going through similar challenges to our own. Everyone is afflicted by doubts, emotional and physical suffering, trauma and psychological disorders; everyone is prone to disease. Our defense mechanisms, of course, will prompt us to show that we are all fine, and that our lives are going smoothly and untouched by the conditions that affect the human experience.

We only need to sit with each other, let our guard down, and look each other in the eye to realize how similar we are. When we share our stories unabashedly, we come closer to a mutual understanding that it is all right to become vulnerable and be open to trust. When this type of dialogue takes place between two people, or in a group, healing also takes place and we all become better human beings in the process.

It is overwhelmingly tiring to try and pretend that we are strong all the time and that we have super powers and that nothing affects us. It is like we are swimming upstream. By letting go and trusting, we actually get stronger in our weakness. It is tremendously inspiring to hear someone open up about their fears, struggles, frustrations and pain. When that kind of communication happens, something deeply profound becomes apparent: our interconnectedness.

Our lives are interconnected and the energy of life flows through us all in a ritual of constant evolution. Our communities are strengthened when each person is able to contribute with their unique stories.  We create bonds that  tie us together in the universal fabric of the human experience. We get in touch with our essence and we start seeing the world through new lenses. The world starts to make sense and we perceive meaning in the smallest details.

Every time I have the chance to connect with someone on that level I take the opportunity to be present and listen. I feel I grow so much from the experience of being in contact with someone in a atmosphere of honesty and trust. After all, even if the shoelaces are missing, two people are better than one to find new laces and tie them together. At times, our own shoelaces might come untied, and it is nice to have someone around to let us know of the fact before we stumble and fall.

Let’s walk together and watch our steps, confident that we can trust each other. Let’s walk that extra mile as if we were walking in each other’s shoes. Then we will know!

One of the most difficult concepts in Buddhism or any spiritual practice for that matter is that of acceptance. Notwithstanding the challenge, it is by all means,  one of the most important concepts to practice and, hopefully, master. Every element in nature attests the truth of the experience involving acceptance.

We all want to be happy and well and we often look for things outside ourselves that will give us the feeling or impression of this sought-after sense of permanent well-being and bliss. We all know so well that nothing is permanent, however. Our lives are in constant motion.

Being mindful about our lives requires that we accept each moment as it comes without refusing it. It requires from us the ability to adapt and change according to the circumstances, and we ride the waves as best as we can. Well, I am no surfer, so in this case, I would rather compare life to dance. We have to find our own rhythm at every moment. Sometimes the dance is fast and energizing; other times it’s as slow as it could be and we have to allow our bodies to flow into the movement of life with our bodies, minds and spirits always alert.

It easy to take things for granted when we are young. As time goes by, and we mature, we start to notice changes in our bodies and in our ways of seeing ourselves. We realize that there is a process taking place. Our external appearance changes, but, curiously, there is a depth of awareness that show us that our innermost essence is intact. We do not feel different inside. There is a presence of spirit that goes beyond the physical body; an energy that inhabits our bodies that seems to be aware of itself and its timelessness.

A lot of people think of acceptance as being passive towards life, but quite the contrary happens when we accept. We become full in control of our responses. It is not an act of letting life trample us as we are being tossed and blown around helplessly. It is a time to go within and work with what we have.

The path towards acceptance starts with ourselves. Do we accept ourselves as we are at every moment? Our minds are in a constant state of judgement with everything including ourselves. In order to accept oneself, the person needs to get in touch with who they are. We are not unilateral beings. We are composed by layers and layers uniting body, mind and spirit or energy. Every component is following a natural process, and, therefore, is not wrong or imperfect.

As a new day starts, we are always beginning again. We get up, brush our teeth, take a shower, get dressed and have breakfast: a new day starts. We are reborn, and we are ready to create a new path, a new way of thinking, with a new perspective. Such is the beauty of nature. It is a constant process of renewal, of death and rebirth. We go through these cycles most of he times without paying attention. We want to repeat the joyous experiences and we dread anything negative coming our way. We need challenges in order to grow, but we are afraid of them. Then, we tend to repeat self-created formulas so that we can recreate similar experiences, and we refuse to accept the new and unknown challenges in front of us. We do not seem to notice that the joy we felt after succeeding happened because we embraced life without resisting it.

By accepting who we are, or a given situation, we are not doomed to a state of passivity. We are, in reality, committing ourselves to allow change to take place and propel us forward. We are operating from a place of commitment with what is, instead of an imaginary or desired world created by our minds. We are rooted in the present moment and working with what we have at our disposal, molding and transforming energy and matter in complete awareness and presence.

It is all right to accept our emotions just as they are, without resistance or wishing they were not there. Without acceptance we will not be able to know ourselves and we get stuck. With acceptance the energy is released and there is an open space for change to happen. The concept and practice of acceptance is a magnificent tool that allows us to observe ourselves and our experiences and explore the possibilities. Acceptance is at the core of any creative process. We accept and we go beyond; it is our leap of faith.

During meditation we are constantly returning to the breath. The breath is like the thread that Princess Ariadne gave Theseus in order to find his way out of the labyrinth after killing the Minotaur. Through our breath we find our way back to the present moment. Through the breath we become alive and renewed. Through the breath we find peace.

“Whoever you are, I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.”  That’s one of the most famous lines in Tennessee Williams play “A Streetcar Named Desire”. Blanche DuBois, the main character in the play, at the point of no return in her hopeless, deranged mental state, turns to the doctor, and accepting to be immobilized in a straitjacket, surrenders to her own fate uttering these enigmatic words.

Ever since I first read Williams’ play, Blanche’s sentence got stuck in my mind and I find myself repeating it in different situations. Gratitude – with a slight ironic twist that few can quite capture, unless I explain my humorous intentions –  is the feeling that motivates me to quote and extract the juice and punch line spirit of this line. I know, of course, that Blanche was not acting from a place of gratitude, but rather a psychologically disturbed state that preyed on her targeted victims as a survival mechanism to fit her selfish motives and needs. It is, undoubtedly, a priceless literary closing line for her complex character, leaving the audience stuck in the web of a shattered mental chaos.

Now, back to how I use the sentence. Gratitude is one of the most powerful “potions” that we have at our disposal as we concoct our magical brew. The feeling of gratitude has to come from within, and then it enters and permeates all areas of our lives. When we feel gratitude, we are actually inviting the energy of abundance into our lives. There is enormous power in that.

Some may say that it is difficult at first to find things that one could be grateful for on a daily basis. It is not. Awareness is all that is needed. All we have to do is keep our senses open to everything surrounding us and observe. All we need is to give us the opportunity to stop and experience the silence within our hearts and minds and experience the spectacle of life taking place right before our eyes at every moment.

A lot of people might think that we need a tremendously positive event in order for us to be able to experience the transforming energy of gratitude. We all have heard about the terms “chain reaction” and “snowball effect”, where the amount of energy initially released will grow exponentially as the system increases entropy. The same concept applies to our thoughts and actions. Everything starts with a minimum amount of energy released that will increase the levels of disorder and finally cause the system to collapse into itself generating another system that will generate other causes and effects and so on.

Our minds have the potential to influence the reality we experience and recreate our experiences accordingly. Our minds are constantly assessing situations and labeling them in order to feel safe and in control. We feel afraid to trust, surrender and let go, and we create friction. This happens every single day. The connection we seek lies in our release of control, in our complete letting go of expected outcomes.

Many people may wonder how we can feel grateful in the midst of suffering and pain. However, it is exactly in our suffering that gratitude is most needed and its energy releases the necessary push that will turn the situation around. I have seen example of this in my life and the lives of many others over and over again.

Every single day offers us plenty of opportunity for us to change our tunes and align ourselves with the beauty that surrounds us. We have all heard the saying “Stop and smell the flowers”, but few of us have actually put this into practice on a daily basis in those moments when that pause is the one element that will shift our focus and perspective. It is all relative.

When we are in the middle of a situation that falls far short of our expectations or desires we often experience resistance, frustration and anger. All these emotions disturb the natural flow of energy in our brains creating a cycle of unwanted similar emotions triggered by our conditioned inability to stay present and perceive the “flowers”  around us that will give us the breathing space we need to approach the challenge that robbed us of our poise and peace. I know it sounds counter-intuitive, but it is exactly how the system works in our lives.

It is a concession we make when we allot the time to breathe and notice elements present in our reality that draw our attention to its beauty and change our perspective towards love and acceptance. It is a choice we can make. We are not retreating from action. On the contrary, we are reshaping our thought processes so we can reassess our situations from a privileged angle.

Gratitude is an acknowledgement that there are plenty of things that we can be grateful for every single minute of our lives. When we are grateful we become present and we notice. We act from a place of love, not fear. When in the midst of chaos we notice the smile of a child, a flower, a rainbow, a tree, a random act of kindness, the sky or anything at all, we lift our hearts and minds higher than any experience we might be facing, and transformation takes place right before our eyes. Every time we do that we are winners travelling together, and we ride the streetcar of life in the right direction.

Thank you!

The kid was running up and down the street bouncing the ball on the pavement unaware of any worries. Innocence in its blissful state and a total presence of mind in the moment. We all have moments like these from our childhood. Somehow, at some point, something snaps and trauma sets in.

The wounded part of ourselves are usually the parts we don’t want to notice or acknowledge, and, most of the times, even ignore them or loathe them. It took me a while to understand that unless we dig deeper within, do some searching for all these split-up parts of ourselves, and accept and embrace them unconditionally, we will not heal.

Suffering and wounding is part of life. As we come into this world we already experience trauma at the moment of birth. We are literally expelled out of the comfort of our mother’s wombs and into a harsh environment where we are completely vulnerable and dependent on someone else for our survival. Slowly, we start to learn to fend for ourselves. However, the process into adulthood is not without some bumps in the road that we all need to ride over as best as we can.

We certainly need to be more patient and compassionate towards ourselves and embrace our weakness and broken pieces as part of who we are. It takes time and courage for anyone to realize that all the dark areas of one’s personalities stem out of negative experiences that took place, mainly, during our childhoods. Once we identify the source of the pain, we should adopt an attitude of respect for the experiences we had, and honor and protect those wounded parts as we would do for a scared and defenseless child.

That is how we heal. We look at that child we once were, and we lift them up in our arms and we assure them that they need not be afraid anymore. We are now taking the fundamental steps of becoming our own parents. Our personalities have been formed around the traumatic experiences from the past. These negatively charged emotions stay with us and get imprinted in the complex structure of our limbic system, in our brains. This complex system is responsible for a series of functions related to our behavior, emotions, motivations and memories. Our scared and defenseless child is imprisoned, so to speak, in this area. We ought to rescue our primordial formation as a child from the dictates of the automatism stored in that part of our brains.

Illustration by Arthur Rackham, 1909 (Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)

“Hansel and Gretel” – Illustration by Arthur Rackham, 1909 (Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)

We make amends with all the abuse we feel we suffered from people or situations and we detach any feelings of guilt, shame or self-victimization from the experiences that marred our sense of Self. In reality, our Self is intact, but the negative experiences create the illusion that we are inadequate and inferior. We feel fragmented and we struggle to find our way amidst the our emotional chaos. We are lost in a hostile environment much like when Hansel and Gretel found out that the birds had eaten the trail of bread crumbs they had left along the way so that they would be able to find their way back home. In our stories, we are by ourselves, but we are definitely able to find our way back home to our hearts, where we belong.

Like a lot of people, I have many fragmented parts of my Self, and I made the commitment to put them together and make myself whole again. I trust myself that I am capable of doing this work. For me, it is the only way I can live. It is worth the journey, and I feel that is the reason for which I am here. The components of my story make up the necessary landscape that will bring me to the stage where I can make a difference in my life. It is a choice I have at my disposal. I am finally ready to take my inner child in my arms and take care of him. I am finally able to address that child and let him know that he is who I am and there is nothing to fear anymore because now I understand. We are not separate anymore. We are one and the same. I am proud of my inner child and how he handled things. Now it is time I led the way with the knowledge and wisdom he gave me. We are whole and unadulterated. We now hold hands and walk together healing each other. The bread crumbs are not needed. We are creating a new path, our own path.

The journey can sometimes be arduous, but it is the peace of mind that I can only do my best at every moment that guides me through. My intentions establish the foundation for my victories. And I intend to continue. I intend to survive. I intend to live.

We all want to be listened. We all want to be understood. The relationship we have with everyone and everything affects our lives as well as others. Our connections happen within the space of gratitude or refusal to be with our pain.

Nobody lives in isolation. We are constantly in relationship with things, people and ideas. Life is about relationships. When two people generate another being, relationships are being formed in a cellular and energetic level. Throughout our lives we will form relationships with the world around and, most importantly, with ourselves.

We are certainly part of an organic and cosmic evolution that have puzzled the minds of many who marveled at its mystery. All organisms are evolving together in a cycle that are subjected to basic physical laws that govern the universe we inhabit. We are all born under similar physiological circumstances; we are all impacted by the random vulnerabilities, we all fight for survival. We all experience pain, suffering, joy and success, and we all get transformed along the way. It is like that with everyone, regardless of social class, race, personal beliefs, gender, evolutionary species or geographic location: we learn through experience and observation.

The encounter between two beings (human or not) is a magical moment where something greater takes place and adds meaning to our lives. That’s where life takes place: through encounters and interactions. Our interactions with everything, other people, animals, the environment, circumstances, food, entertainment, technology, work, objects and ideologies form the basic foundation upon which our personalities, inclinations and identities will develop. To me, every encounter is an opportunity for me to bow in reverence for the chance to learn from the experience of connection.

Every encounter we have, be it with another human being, an animal, a situation, the objects of our desire or any phenomena, for that matter, offers the chance for us to step out of ourselves and be 100% present with the other. We live most of our lives involved with the inner conversations going on in our minds and we forget to pay attention to what is taking place in front of us from an objective and fresh standpoint. Instead we are often too preoccupied with what to say or involved in our personal stories and needs. We fail to experience the moment for what it is and bask in its full potential and possibilities.

When we listen to each other, or when we are completely present in a situation – without judgement, rejection or attachment – we are able to see things clearly and respond accordingly. It is really not about ourselves anymore, but about the interaction and the responsiveness that will allow for effective communication to take place.

When we interact with another being (or anything at all), we must enter that sacred space with complete reverence for the experience. We need to be open to allow the flow of energy and the range of emotions we experience with serenity, poise and accountability for our thoughts, words and actions. Being present and mindful will guide us through this journey as we keep our reactions in check, and respond, instead, in a more balanced and integrated state of mind.

Usually when we listen to people we are constantly relating what they say to our own personal stories and experiences and we label what they are telling us and categorize it to fit our perceptions and opinions. Instead, we should allow the possibility of a conversation where we just listen and let the other person communicate their perceptions without any personal meaning attached to what they say. After all, it is their experience, not ours. We are there to listen and try and understand how they see it, and what makes them feel the way they do.

When we are present we step out of ourselves and become one with the person who is interacting with us, another being, or a situation. There is no need to pay attention to the incessant need that our minds have to label and relate whatever we are experiencing with something that took place in the past. The mind needs that in  order to survive through its logical categorization, but we do not. The key to understanding this process is in itself  the doorway that will enable us to become more mindful and observe our minds thinking, and realize that  those stories are only stories and that we do not need to be prisoners of automatic reactions based on those ingrained acts of labeling and old habits.

It is not an easy process in any way, but I find it interesting to observe and have the compassion to accept myself just as I am. Fear lies at the foundation of our reactions. It’s our wounded personification of ourselves as a child. We need to nurture those disconnected parts of our selves and integrate them as a whole. It is who we are and we should honor that. But we can also find the space to heal and become our own parent.

Interacting with people, all beings and situations gives us the opportunity to simply listen and observe, and step out of our self-centered need to relate whatever someone is saying, or whatever we might encounter in the form of experience, as negatively directed towards us. We are all in this together and we heal each other as we give our time and full attention at every moment. As we look into one another’s eyes we recognize ourselves as part of the connected organism we are.

In the end, as we look at one another and recognize how similar and familiar we are, we can only smile and bow in reverence and gratitude for the many ways we touch each other with our presence and attention as we all heal together in this wondrous process.

Life is an ongoing exercise in overcoming our deepest fears. We all have fears, but they are basically imaginary fears. We create fears all the time, and by doing so we create our identities around them.

The mind is constantly trying to label every experience and place it into a category. The thoughts we have about an experience does not accurately represent that experience. It only points towards the interpretations we make based on fear. It takes a daily practice for us to actively be aware of all our thoughts and observe them without attaching meaning to them.

We need to take a leap of faith every single day and start anew. Every day is a new opportunity to be reborn, fresh and unencumbered by the experiences we had before in similar situations. It takes observation and a total state of presence in order to transcend the myriad of thoughts that run wild in our minds, stories we keep telling ourselves over and over again.

I always think about the old bumper cars when I think about how the mind operates. The most common bumper car designs uses a conductive floor and ceiling. Contacts under the vehicle touch the floor while a pole-mounted contact touches the ceiling, completing the circuit. Our contact with reality send information to the brain that uses significant neural pathways according to the thoughts triggered by the experience. In our case, it is as if we were wired to connect to certain electrical, neural pathways and then we react accordingly.

The practice of mindfulness will enable us to become aware of the thoughts in our minds and be able to discern that they do not represent the experience and stay away from the story that’s being generated. In every situation, it all boils down to how we respond. Typically, two types of energy establish the quality of our lives: love and fear. We are in constant relationship with the world and we either respond with love or react with fear.

When we react, we are at the mercy of our thoughts and emotions without the inner awareness necessary to make effective and functional choices. When we respond, however, we are operating from a neutral standpoint where we are no longer following the dictates of the unbridled flow of thoughts. We recognize and are aware of their presence, but we no longer attach meaning to them. As soon as we become mindful of this dynamics we set ourselves free and are able to make choices that are poised and centered.

We are free to choose in every situation how we want to respond. We need to practice mindfulness in order to exercise this power and make our lives richer and more fulfilling. It is a constant practice of ongoing observation. Whenever a thought comes we need to question the validity of that thought, and transcend it.

There’s a constant chatter inside our minds and it is up to us if we want to pay attention to it, or let it dwindle away every time we disconnect our attention from that thought. After all they have no real substance; they are all thoughts, stories, jabbering. The image they create might seem initially real, but when we look closely, they dissipate. In the end, those seemingly sharp knives are rather dull, and they vanish as soon as we dare to touch them.