Hello Dear Readers,
I am writing you from a kind of grey and still a bit cold London. It is the first day of Spring today yet the Sun is a bit shy in showing its full rays.
After much pondering I have taken a decision that I would like to share with you. I have decided not to write on this blog anymore.
Let me tell you that this did not came as an easy decision. Writing on this blog gave me many pleasurable moments. It was great to think at stories, writing them down and then see the conversations arising. It has been great fun!
Yet, as much as I have loved this blog, this space was born as an experiment. As every experiment I feel that this one too is ready to stop.
Two major points led me to this decision.
First of all, during my time as a blogger I have seen many types of other blogs. I had the pleasure to read personal development blogs, creative writing blogs, spiritual blogs, yoga blogs, space blogs and blogs on miniaturized worlds (no kidding!). The more I read from other blogs, the less I could pick a structure to follow for mine. You may argue that the name of this blog is the Italian for Thoughts Out of Shape, therefore I should probably not care about shape too much. Although, as much as I enjoyed this freedom of expression, I need some time to redirect my writing efforts. I need a new space and a new vision. I need to find a different shape that would allow me to grow.
Second of all, and most importantly, I feel that I need to devote some time to speak to myself. I need to do writing, plenty of it, and direct it to myself to find my voice. I want to understand in a deeper way which type of writer do I want to be. I feel like I need to experiment a lot and it is difficult to do so in a space which is there mostly for others. To fully explore my new purpose in writing I feel that I need to do some writing that is directed first to myself for a while, before coming out again to a public, for small as it may be.
I hope you understand this decision.
As you can see this decision does not mean leaving writing on the shelf. It means redirecting it, exploring from another perspective to then decide how and when to come back. It is a strong act of freedom, if you like.
It has been a great pleasure to dialogue with all of you. As I said above, I had a lot of pleasure in writing for all of you. I wish you all the Best!
And who knows.. We might see each other again some day in the future!
I have recently contemplated a thought: what if there was no next?
This question might seem detached, distant, or fatalist if you want, but it is not. Or at least, not in the way I mean it.
My question is a genuine investigation of how we perceive things.
In almost everything we do we search for a next. While travelling we fantasise the next city, when learning a new skill we want to see improvement, when starting a new project we to picture its completion, or perhaps we already think at the next one.
There is nothing bad in all of that. This is just the normality of a dynamic life. But, just for a second, I would like to ask what would it feel like to have no next?
What would it feel like if we knew there was no other thing to wait for, to aspire to, or to desire in any possible way? Would we feel empty? Would we feel content? Would the whole world end as we discover that we are something different from what we have thought?
I don’t think so.
To imagine that there was no next might also lead to a lot of appreciation for what has been and what is right in front of us. In a sense it can be liberating.
Having nothing to achieve might mean to have nothing to be distracted by. There would be just ourselves, our breath and the things we really value.
In the last period I have practiced letting go of expectations. It is not easy to let expectations go, for a very simple reason. We are trained to have expectations and when we feel discomfort in not having something to cling to. Yet also this is momentary.
When one expectations go there is a chance of just staying with what is in front of us. When doing the dishes there’s just the washing of dishes. When working on a job there’s just the task in front of us. When writing there’s just the stream of words in our heads. When looking in somebody’s eyes there is just the looking in the eyes.
Where would it lead to having no next? A very simple life made of thousands of beautiful moments.
This is what remains when we let the next go.
I deeply sorry for this city I love.
I wanted to write, to write a lot.
I wanted to speak about people like me,
and about the cowards who took their lives.
I wanted to write about the discomfort
that one can feel now in a big city
upon hearing the minimum noise.
I wanted to speak about the West
and its ability
to generates its own enemies.
I wanted to write, to write a lot.
A river of words about all,
about people I knew, even if barely,
about people who are now gone.
I prefer to be quiet,
at least for this time,
and let the world cry its children.
In Photo “Peace for Paris” by Jean Julien
Life’s most urgent and persistent question is, what are you doing for others? Martin Luther King
There is something I have realised recently by speaking with people in my life as I was getting closer to them: You never can tell.
You never can tell what people went through in their lives. You never can tell what formed them as individuals and at what price.
There might be somebody who looks extremely strong, or confident and secure. What you can’t see, though, is what it took to that person to be who they are today.
Other times you can see somebody that appears open, loving and caring. What you can’t see in that case is the fragility they might hold inside and that might lead to act unexpectedly.
There is a girl I know from a job place I was in some time ago, let’s call her Erika, that always appeared to me as being strong, committed and irradiating a sense of authority. I was extremely surprised when I gathered that she conquered that sense of authority through the difficulties of losing some loved ones in the range of few months.
Another friend of mine, let’s call him Tim, is a big and strong guy. If you look at him he’s the emblem of strength. Muscled, secure, fun. The perfect gym buddy. Well, that same guy has fall down a mountain not so long ago. No kidding. Not even in a metaphorical sense. He actually feel down a mountain. For some five hundred meters I believe. Well that person is still on his feet, going to the gym and keeping a positive attitude about life.
Another friend, Andrea might be her name, is currently going through a break-up with a guy that didn’t deserve her. She’s feeling so bad right now, yet going through is what is right for her at the moment. I still don’t know what person she will become once she’ll find the strength to grow from the ashes.
You never can tell what people went through. For this reason we need to treat everybody with compassion. For the same reason we have to commit to never give up on others.
If you somebody going through a hard moment, never give up on them. You never can tell what lovely person they will become.
If you truly get in touch with a piece of carrot, you get in touch with the soil, the rain, the sunshine. You get in touch with Mother Earth and eating in such a way, you feel in touch with true life, your roots, and that is meditation. Thich Nhat Hanh
In the last few months I have made a conscious decision that changed my life: I’ve turned vegetarian.
As with many important things in life, this decision was one of those things that lied on the back of my mind for quite a long time. I was too shy to commit to it until I’ve reach a moment where I couldn’t delay anymore. I simply had to change.
Soon after taking this decision, a good friend of mine, another veggie, told me: “This will influence every other aspect of your life. You’ll see”. At first I didn’t catch the extent of what he was saying. Now, some months afterwards, I finally got what he meant.
Being a vegetarian is not easy. Now in big cities you tend to have many dietary options. What is more difficult, though, is to defend your choice in the eyes of others.
Coming from a traditional family from back in Venice I can testify that one true thing about Italian families is that they take food quite seriously, almost like a religion. For this reason it hasn’t been the easiest thing ever then to stand in front of my family and friends to state “I am a vegetarian”, right when we were celebrating a birthday in a traditional restaurant which has been cooking fish for the last 200 year!
It had been terrifying and indeed a bit comic (admittedly my mom went a bit dramatical there!).
Despite the initial struggles of being accepted I have to say that doing something you feel to be true has an immense liberating power. I now feel lighter, stronger on my decisions and much more aligned with my beliefs. More than else turning vegetarian allowed my to bring a lot of attention to the eating process. I came to realise the following:
What we eat determines who we are. The same is true for how we eat.
Eating is such a fundamental area in our life. It keeps us alive, it is an enjoyable activity we have to repeat every day and it is also a fundamental element of the way we interact with others. It would be such a waste not to be conscious while eating. We need to bring attention to essential areas of our life if we want to live a meaningful life. This is regardless of whether one has a vegetarian diet or not.
For this reason I have recently made a vow to myself to be conscious while eating. I would recommend you to do the same, or at least to give it a go.
If we pay attention while eating we can really savour the food which is in front of us and we can realise that everything we eat tells a story. The grain that makes our pasta has been grown by somebody somewhere else in the world. It is there because clouds were gentle enough to give it the water it needed and the Sun was kind enough to provide it the energy required for its growth. Food is also a story of people. Pasta is there because somebody, somewhere, invented it. It might also remind of those that, unlike us, cannot afford that food.
To be conscious of our food means to be conscious of the world around us.
The zen master Tich Nhat Hanh told a very beautiful story of of the Buddha teaching a mindfulness lesson to some kids soon after his enlightenment. This story was about the Buddha explaining those kids how to savour a tangerine, In short this story was all about the person eating the tangerine not being real if he/she was not there with full presence while eating that fruit. This story is such a powerful one in that it reminds us that if we do not decide to be present to the moment, than nothing can really have value.
How to start eating with mindfulness then? Well I am not an expert, I can only tell the results of the experiment I did by myself. If you know any better way, please let me know!
What I do, before eating is to stop for a moment. Look at the food in front of me. Say a small thanks inside for what if offered to me in that moment. While eating I try to be conscious of the flavour of the food, its smell and the sensations it gives me while I eat it. This is my way of saying thanks for that offer. If I have more time I will give a thought to where that food is coming from. Only after this will I pass to the next thing.
If you are already eating mindfully please let me know your tricks! If don’t, but you are willing to give it a go, then good luck and well done, and let me know how it goes!
To eat is such a great privilege in this world. We simply can’t relegate it to the side of our consciousness.
Sometimes we can get the feeling of being overwhelm by thoughts, by things to do, by business. All of these things might feel like a burden or as a reason to run with no limit in every direction.
All of these feelings, emotions and restlessness are tiring and ultimately they waste much of our spontaneity, creativity and time.
More than anything else, all of these things are just a symptom of us being caught in the bubble of our ourselves. We believe all of those impulses to be important, when ultimately they are not.
From that perspective we see things as constrained by the images we have of ourselves, of what we have to do and of where we should be. Not really a nice place to be in.
So, what could be a way to get out of that bubble? How to regain spontaneity in what we do?
One possible way is to give back.
To give back means to stop, to relax, to get out of our thought processes that want us to be at the centre of the universe and then for a while to think at what is that we can do to release the suffering of others, or simply to look at things from their perspective.
By giving back we have a change of putting ourselves to a side. We can allow ourselves to be present for somebody else. We could speak in such a way we could not speak like when being busy being busy.
Giving back doesn’t have to be something exceptional, on the contrary.
To give back might a very simple action, like a smile, a different attitude in performing our work, a volunteering activity on a Sunday, or even more simply an evening spent with a friend listening to what that friend has to say.
To give back is an opportunity for us to find value and purpose, both for ourselves and for others.
To give back can show us that we are one of the many. We have our colours, and in this sense we are special, but not more special than others.
To give back doesn’t take long, but it can make all the difference.
The process of taking out all of impurities was not an easy one, this is what Mahir was realising in his practice.
He realised all of that as he gathered with that company of Sufis, as they called each other, right outside the city of Izmir.
Mahir heard quite a lot about those sufis before deciding to join them. He heard so many different things on their behalf. He heard that they had lost their common sense, that they were mad, that they ruined their family’s reputation by leaving everything else aside and by joining this unconventional path.
Mahir did not fear of all this. He heard deeply in his hearth the burning desire to join that unusual fellowship. He knew when his hearth was telling him something he could not doubt. As a brave young man, he was rebellious enough to follow what his hearth whispered him.
“Remember Mahir”, once told him his uncle, “the rebellious ones are those who, over the centuries, gave humanity new ways of seeing things. All the prophets were not accepted by their fellows at their times, yet they did not give up. This is how things go”. Who knows, perhaps his uncle’s words plaid a part in his decision to join the company of dancing holy men.
Joining the Sufis was exactly how Mahir expected it, at first. A bunch of joyful people, dancing in circle and repeating the name of the Beloved. Everything was perfect, ecstatic, joyful. Nothing seemed to impair that bliss that Mahir had always experienced in the background of his consciousness and that finally seemed to have found the right foundation on which to grow.
Months had passed since he joined the Dervish. Mundane preoccupations were just a memory of the past. The future seemed to be one of bliss and divine enjoyment. Until the day were the unexpected happened.
On that day Mahir woke up early. He was going all the way to the central hall to start his daily work, as it was the rule of the community. As he was walking from his house to the hall something from the inside struck him. A deep sense of pride suddenly struck him like a thunderbolt. This feeling overcame to him quickly and deeply that Mahir did not even had the time to hide this feeling under some momentary distraction.
It was just unbelievably obvious to him how much his life had always been centred in his sense of superiority to other human beings. Even the holiest of his decisions, the one of joining the company of dancing dervishes, appeared to him as driven by a desire to gain importance, power and prestige, not in material terms, but in much subtler ways.
The more Mahir looked at this feeling the bigger the feeling seem to get.
After a few time the feeling grew so strongly that Mahir had a clear sense of exploding. Inside his brain a thousand voices suddenly appeared. Those voices were telling him how much he deserved to be recognised, that he was the holiest of his family, that he was the holiest of that company of dancing dervishes, that the was the holiest of the whole world. The voice was not stopping there. It started to remind him how well he did in school and that if he wanted he could start his studies again so that the whole world could benefit from the knowledge that was naturally flourishing in him.
Many other promises arose on that day in Mahir’s mind, many of which we cannot speak about because of decency.
Luckily for Mahir not all of his good will disappeared in a instant. He remembered what he had read on the Quran. He was well aware of the tricks that demons could play to the people in the search for God. He knew what had to be done. He had to visit Jalal, the headmaster of the dervish company to tell him all of his doubts and temptations.
“Beloved Master”, started Mahir. “Joining this company was the choice that most drew me closer to God. This is, at least, what I used to think before this day. Since this morning, however, there is a voice inside of me that screams so strongly it can’t be ignored. It tells about me. It tells about my place in the world. It tells about how you should sit at my place and how I should stand on your throne. It tells about all sort of unworldly things. I know that this voice is not true, but yet it won’t stop. I know that I am sinner. I am still the same sinner I was when I first joined. Oh Master, all of my search is just pure pride and I deserve nothing!”.
“Very well”, stated the Master, “I was waiting for you to come to this place. To be a Dervish is to accept God’s gifts, both in light as in darkness, as there is not without the other”. The Master stated.
“The human hearth is like a raw metal”, continued the Master, “to come to purity the metal has to suffer. It has to be put in hell’s fire and be beaten a thousand and more times. No metal has been born pure. Nor it is you, Mahir”.
Upon hearing those words Mahir’s pride intensified, just to quickly lead him to confusion and then desolation.
“But then tell me, beloved Master, what shall I do to overcome my pride? Because this pride squeezes me, like a bug under a shoe. Yet, I know there must be more. I have seen it in the past!”.
“You shall dance, Mahir”, stated the Master, “with your right palm asking for mercy and your left offering the world the blessings you’ll receive. In your dance you shall rotate, to remember that all in this world is a cycle in God’s will”.
From that day Mahir started to dance. He danced and danced and then he danced some more. He danced so much he could not remember his name. He danced so much that even his feeling of pride fell off. He danced until there was nothing else in this world apart for the dance itself.
Mahir finally became that dance, and the people looking at that dance, and impulse leading that dance. He became everything and only because Mahir was no more.
When the dance finally stopped Mahir returned to be who he was. He returned as Mahir, the dervish, with a hearth filled of gratitude. He knew in his hearth that that was just the beginning. The beginning of a wider dance in which to give roots to what he saw in his whirling bliss…