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.

Unexpected things happen to us all the time. If only we took the time to pay attention to the small miracles of life manifesting in front of us all the time we would be able to live happier and more fulfilling lives.

Every moment we have the opportunity to respond to a given situation with love or fear. It is our choice to pay attention to what goes on inside our minds and be able to discern what represents a danger and what doesn’t. It is part of the natural activity of the mind to generate thoughts. It is part of our innate ability to grow and improve to connect to the reality around us without reacting to our interpretations and ensuing attachments or rejections to any situation.

Life unfolds before our eyes, and we, often enough, are too busy in our worlds to pay attention to the abounding experiences that come our way to enlighten and enrich our lives. It is a  lack of awareness that impels us towards a passive interaction with the people and situations around us.

The connections with other beings is the most fundamental experience we will ever have. we are in relationship with every single element in the world. We crave for a deeper and meaningful connection with people and situations, but when the time comes we hide behind our social masks, our self-imposed identities, and we fail to let the other person in front of us to see our genuine self.

Our lives flow naturally through the sincere connections we form with one another, and we are more connected than we think we are. We share the same compound of emotions that defines the parts of our personalities which share a common bond with those of others. Our lives are more similar than we are ready to admit.

When we look deeper into each other’s eyes, we can see ourselves reflected in their aspirations, goals, sufferings, hopes, pain, and above all, the love that bonds us all. It is when we truly connect that the magic happens and fear dissipates.

Our self-imposed beliefs of who we think we are creates the separation, the doubts and the fear. We need to let go of these fears with the constant awareness that we have the option to look at things differently, without judgement, attachment or rejection.

Respect for all beings, in all forms, is indispensable for healthy relationships to be established. When we look at one another we are looking at ourselves. If we are afraid we will look with fear in our hearts. If we are compassionate towards ourselves, then we will interact with the eyes of compassion and relatedness.

We need to look with eyes wide open. We need to pay attention. We need to help each other heal knowing that we do not live in isolation, but as a part of a connected organism. We need to remember that after us, others will use the bathroom.