Tagged: life

Taking the leap, a new writing experiment

baby_owl

Ok, it’s official. I am finally doing it.

It might be a bit early to share the news with you, yet I wanted to make my commitment more explicit and binding. I have finally decided to write a book!

I had an idea for a fiction story that stayed with me for quite a while. It stayed in my brain so long that it convinced me that it might be something worth writing about.

As with many things in life, I do not have too many expectations about it. I do not pretend it to lead somewhere, like money, fame or a champagne jacuzzi (although I’ll surely let you know if I end up in one!). But let me tell you one thing: the process has been great fun so far, and that’s all that matters!

As often happens with these types of projects I am completely pervaded by an enthusiasm that I can barely contain and I feel I need to write about it. Unfortunately I cannot write about the story itself (no spoilers!). What I wanted to share with you today are the sensations that starting a new writing challenge like writing a book can give.

It is so different

I did not expect how different writing a fiction can feel compared to other types of writing. In the past I have written poemsshort storiesfree thoughts and mindfulness posts. Writing all of this was really great fun. Writing a fiction feels so different. It is a two speed process. Sometimes words come quickly one after the other. Other times they come slowly and each of them requires pondering. Also the writing has to be carefully crafted into a beautiful and coherent whole which slowly brings the reader more and more into the centre of the action without spoiling surprises too early. It is like a door into somebody else’s fantastic world. A bit of time is needed for other to learn your language. Fantastic!

It is so hard

Writing for fiction is so hard. The difficulties are many. A text will need to be redrafted an incredible amount of times. All the characters need a level of depth I was not used to while writing short stories. The amount of description is also fundamental if one wants the reader to sink into the story (not literally of course!). More than else the challenge for me now is to provide the right psychological motivation to the characters. “Why would the characters acting the way they act? Why aren’t they reacting differently in the surreal situation they are living?”. These are the questions daunting me right now. Answering those questions is like undoing other people’s mental knots when I am not sure I can undo all mines. An exciting mental somersault.

It is so freeing

Writing a fiction gives such a strong sense of freedom. There is a whole world to develop, with its own funny, weird and colourful characters. Human emotions can be presented, twisted and taken to the extreme to see what would happen in an alternative universe with its own rules. It feels like being an alchemist in front of an unknown potion (will it work?). Also, the character development is much more fun then expected. Characters start with a mock voice given by the author. They then make a revolution, take their space and ending twisting the original plot of the story to their own will. Similarly to life things start in a way, then take a massive tangent to then appear again at the starting point with a completely different flavour. So alive!

This whole experiment (that’s what it is) is likely to take time. I do not mind if it will take the next five years of my extra time. I am more determined than ever to take it to completion. If only to see where it will lead me.

Some stories are worth writing about. I believe this story is one of them (at least for me).

I would be delighted to hear form you if you are also into a creative process like the one I describe above. If so let me know, I would love to hear about your creative work!

Best of luck to all of you out there who are committed to creative work! It is wort the pain!

 

Empty Bubbles

bubble

Do you know the feeling of those days where nothing really passes through the mind? A sort of empty space without much running through it? After a long time advocating for the usefulness of being busy, I have finally learnt to love those moments! I am now more and more convinced that life could be highly improved if we were capable of letting some emptiness in our lives.

We live in a society that emphasises business.

Have you ever used the word “I am busy” to get out of any situation? Loads of people use it in many contexts and it works all the time. Nobody would question your being busy. On the contrary, you can use it to get out of a conversation, to avoid going to a friend’s improv, or to justify your desire to spend the evening by yourself.

But what is the hype beyond this business?

Perhaps being busy provides a sense of justification and indulgence, something to look at when you feel uncomfortable about an issue. Or perhaps being busy gives a sense of fulfilment when you look back at how you used your time at the end of the day. In any case, I believe the common idea of busy-ness is overrated.

So, why do people want to be busy? To understand that I had a look around.

I have a good number of friends and relatives around me who struggle with the idea of not being busy. All of them are great people and achievers in their own way. Yet they all struggle with letting go.

In the small sample of human examples I could get the ways of being busy vary. The most common ones include overworking, sorting out their apartment too much, and heading to the gym whenever a free slot in the agenda arises. I do not know the deep reasons why the need to feel busy, yet I can testify that in the moments we spent together when inactivity suddenly rose, the tension coming from not being busy was palpable. Something had to be done to restore busy-ness.

In my life time I had the privilege to be in contact with an absolute guru of not feeling guilty for not being busy: my girlfriend.

Before knowing her I could certainly include myself in the category of busy-ness lovers. Then, my newly found guru enlightened me to the reality that busy-ness is often just plain distraction. A plain excuse to run away from achieving something valuable.

What I have learnt from her is that not being always busy does not necessarily kill productivity, it just shifts it to what is more valuable for us. Perhaps less gets done, I admit it, but what we focus on would probably matter more if we are not afraid of having empty time.

Here are some examples of where I have found taking your time to be the most valuable.

Deciding what to do in your life. Being busy might sound productive in the immediate, but it has devastating effects in the long-run. It is impossible to clearly imagine your future life, if you do not allow yourself with enough easy time to clearly see it. Also, if you feel the need to be constantly busy you would probably be driven by the need to fulfil external expectations. Bad idea.

Writing. Taking time is fundamental for the writing process. I do not how you feel, but for me it is completely impossible to do some decent writing when being busy. In that mental space my creativity simply goes away when I do not let time for the unconscious to develop stories and ideas.

Relationships. I have recently read that one of the best thing we could to to improve our relationship with somebody is to give them our full attention. Giving attention to others is the best way to make them feel valuable. Attention, of course, require time.

Connection. Taking time is also a fundamental healing process. Without taking time out our brains do not have the chance to review all they have been up to recently. Yet, there is also a deeper reason. When we take time to be by ourselves we do not base our value on something we are doing. We allow for an exception to the rule of judging ourselves based on our output. “What have you done today? Nothing, and it felt wonderful!”

So, my friends. As you can see there is plenty to gain from letting busy-ness go.

Have you got any example where doing less has improved your life or boosted your creative work?

Have fun enjoying your time!

A green ribbon for the planet

Green_ribbon

As you might be aware the next few days might be of particular importance for the future of human societies on this planet. In the next two weeks a UN Climate Summit will be held in Paris. In this occasion governments from around the world will meet up to decide a global action against climate change.

There is overwhelming evidence that climate change is already a reality.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has estimated different possible scenarios for climate change. All of them involve a temperature rise (from 0.6 to 4 more grades Celsius on average according to the scenario) [see table below].

The different scenarios will depend on whether the nations will adopt more global than a regional approach, and whether the nations will provide an higher focus to environmental rather than economic priorities. Global approaches will do better than regional approaches in terms of average temperature rise, so will environmental approaches compared to economic approaches.

Many different schools of thoughts, both religious and secular, came-up with the conclusion that we live in an inter-connected reality where the well-being of the whole system depends on the actions of the individuals. In other words we inter-are, as zen master Tich Nhat Hanh would put it. I could not agree more.

I believe there is an interesting parallelism between the scenarios developed by the IPCC and the vision of inter-dependence of philosophical and religious traditions.

This period of in history is a big chance for all of us to realise more deeply this fundamental truth. What we do affects others, both across the world and across generations. What we have is a big chance to recognise this inter-dependence and to change our behaviour on this planet to ensure we enter a more sustainable path. It is a duty we have for the whole of life really.

I hope this chance will be taken by both the world’s population and by the world’s politicians. I would love to see the walls that divide us to fall when we recognise that change is needed for everybody’s future survival and well-being.

Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh [him again, I know!] asked all mindfulness to practitioners to make personal commitments for environmental change. These might include joining a march, fasting from meat or diary products, wear a green ribbon, raise awareness as so on. Similar needs to raise awareness and take concrete actions were raised by Pope Francis. Anyway, independently of your political or religious views I would encourage to take action as well to raise awareness on this important issue.

We live in a beautiful planet. If you think about it, the changes of having a planet as beautiful as the one we have we pretty damn low. Furthermore this planet is our home, it is the source of our life and especially it is the only one we have. It is key that we treat it with respect and wisdom.

If you still are not convinced about why we need to love our planet, here are some nice pictures of it which will help you remembering..

 

Nick

And this is me being totally awesome during my first bike ride when I was 14!!!

Have fun!

Table 1: IPCC estimates of future temperature rise

Temperature Change Sea Level Rise)
(°C at 2090-2099 relative to 1980-1999)a (m at 2090-2099 relative to 1980-1999)
Case Best estimate Likely range Model-based range excluding future
rapid dynamical changes in ice flow
Constant Year 2000 concentrationsb 0.6 0.3 – 0.9 NA
B1 scenario 1.8 1.1 – 2.9 0.18 – 0.38
A1T scenario 2.4 1.4 – 3.8 0.20 – 0.45
B2 scenario 2.4 1.4 – 3.8 0.20 – 0.43
A1B scenario 2.8 1.7 – 4.4 0.21 – 0.48
A2 scenario 3.4 2.0 – 5.4 0.23 – 0.51
A1FI scenario 4.0 2.4 – 6.4 0.26 – 0.59

Table notes:

a These estimates are assessed from a hierarchy of models that encompass a simple climate model, several Earth System Models of Intermediate Complexity and a large number of Atmosphere-Ocean General Circulation Models (AOGCMs).

b Year 2000 constant composition is derived from AOGCMs only.

Source: http://sedac.ciesin.columbia.edu/ddc/sres/

No next

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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.

Sugar rush

Sugar.jpg

After years of living in London I became convinced of a fundamental truth: there’s nothing better than a Saturday brunch!

The week left behind might have been long, stressful, with many inputs of information we did not necessarily asked for. What is better then than taking some time to chill with a loved one or with some friends, and enjoy the best that local restaurants have to offer?

Well, I have recently came to a new conviction. Saturday brunch tastes so much better if eaten mindfully.

Think about  it. The occasion is among the best ones to practice mindfulness. One is under very low stress, in a friendly environment environment and with the chance to experiment many different tastes, particularly if one embark him/herself in a massive mediterranean breakfast. The perfect settings for an experiment!

With so many tastes available, this is the perfect chance to see our urge to want more. A fried egg is good. A fried egg with salt is awesome, at least according to the mind. But in the rush to salt the egg we might lose the occasion of enjoying the egg taste for what it is. The same applies to mushrooms, tomatoes, halloumi and tortillas.

These are all amazing tastes, but we risk to loose their uniqueness if we don’t pay attention reacting to urges (the urge to salt is only one of them, but you got the point!).

The same urge applies to many other areas of our lives: the urge to watch videos, the urge be busy, and the urge to mindlessly check our phones. All sources of distraction in search for the next sugar rush.

So, what might be a better alternative?

Well, one thing might be to slowdown, breathe and see the urges coming and going. Yes, even in during our Saturday brunch.

If we really slow down, let thoughts go and focus on the breathing the results might be amazing. We might for example enjoy what is in front of us, without the need for the next sugar rush!

Happy Saturday everybody!

Photo: Refined and raw sugar crystals

Power And Syred/Science Photo Library

 

Paris, no words

paris

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

Writer = Liar (?)

writer

Writing is an exceptional art, but is it an artifice, a way of searching for truth or both?

I have a confession to make, I like to make stories sound better. It is something that my girlfriend reminds me all the time.

When something happens that is alright, but nor remarkable, I like to add some details or some pathos to it to give the story some more appeal. My intent is to make other laugh or phantasise. My girlfriend hates it and to some extent she’s probably right. But does this make me a liar?

I like to write stories. Writing stories is something great in that it allows us to create a world which is not there, which is deeper, or lighter, or darker, or shining at will.

Writing is also a way to do dig deeper into one’s own self. With writing we can create characters or events that allow us to see things differently and perhaps to see parts of ourselves that we don’t fully comprehend in an environment we can control.

In this sense writing might become a mirror which, by definition, should reflect things as they are. It should, because no mirror is perfect. Even the cleanest mirror has some micro imperfection that doesn’t allow it to reflect perfectly. At the same time that same imperfection is what makes the mirror unique.

My grandparents had and old mirror from the nineteenth century which was fantastic. Time had consumed it and only a part of it was left. The same part was also corroded and oxidized. This old mirror was not functional at all, but it was beautiful to look at. It had a character which made it unique. It was reflecting things its own way.

So, to go back to the point, are all writer liars? Yes, to some extent. Yet, even now I might be lying, so it is better if you jump to your own conclusions.