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!
End of Winter, cold and windy days. Some few little birds appearing as a sign of an imminent Spring.
I am a big fan of Winter times, particularly when I manage to have holidays in warm and sunny places.
Yet, there is something about this season that made me think.
It all happened while feeling cold during my waiting for an apparently far away bus.
The feeling of cold. My body has a natural reaction to it.
The feeling of cold appears and my body shakes, telling me that it is better to move, to generate energy and heat.
On that evening at the bus stop I could not seem to accept the fact of experiencing a low temperature.
Yet, there is an opportunity while feeling of cold. An opportunity to listen.
If we give the feeling of cold a chance to tell its story we might see that this feeling is not that bad. It might even be enjoyable.
Have you ever had this experience?
One starts perceiving the feeling cold all over the body. On the cheeks, on the legs, on the hands, on the neck. The cold seems unpleasant. But then a sudden shift.
The feeling of cold is not that bad. In truth it is what it is. Just a feeling.
Cold stops being unwelcomed and what appears is a chance to see it just a physical reaction of our skin to the low heat. Nothing more nothing less. It is actually a very awakening feeling.
How many other things are like that in our everyday experience? How many glares of light appear to be terrible ogres, when they are just a small play of shadows?
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].
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..
And this is me being totally awesome during my first bike ride when I was 14!!!
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|
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.
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
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.