PDA, what…?

Back in the days, before I became a mom, I used to travel a lot, that was (and still is) one of my passions…I remember often sitting at the airports and watching people come and go. One of my favorite things was to watch the smiles, kisses, hugs and even tears of joy when people were reunited.

pda

So, one day, I was at an airport in the US, waiting for family members to arrive when I saw a young couple run into each other’s arms and kiss passionately, they were clearly happy to see each other, I felt their joy was contagious! and then, I heard the lady next to me (who had also witnessed the encounter) say with a dismissive tone and a grimace on her face, P-D-A!

At the time I was new to the US, and my knowledge of English did not encompass all the many acronyms that people love to use here! so I had NO idea what she meant, but I knew she was referring to that couple. I was puzzled, wondering what could have possibly triggered that lady’s negative reaction.

So, a few days later I asked a friend what this “P-D-A” meant, she told me it was short for: Public Display of Affection!

I had to ask her twice, I could not believe it! I was in TOTAL shock!…

How could that couple’s tender embrace, and that moment of pure human joy be seen as a bad thing? and coldly labeled as P-D-A! I just could not make sense of it… maybe that lady at the airport was just very bitter and lonely, so her reaction was out of anger and frustration at her own life… I wondered.

However, I came to realize over the years, that a lot of people in this country frown upon “PDA” and I still have a hard time with that. I come from a culture where public displays of affection are commonplace, not only among couples but between friends, family members, co-workers, etc. We easily hug and kiss our friends in the middle of the sidewalk if we feel like it, and everybody else does…

OH how I miss that!!!

Is affection between human beings something we should be ashamed of? is there something wrong with it? what is it that makes Americans frown upon it…?

This is still a mystery to me (and probably will always remain a mystery), I just can’t get into that mindset, even though for as long as I have lived in this country I have had to adjust to the culture and therefore limit my “PDA” to the minimum, which is really hard for me!

In recent years, however, I realized that I could not hold back my own nature, at least not all the time, so I decided to show my affection more freely to people (especially those who seem open to it) at the risk of been misunderstood or frown upon.

I truly believe that affection, kindness, compassion, love, etc. should be applauded, should be part of our every day exchanges, and it should be modeled for everyone to see, especially our children! When we are sharing a special time with friends, family or partners, wherever that is, why not show them our love and connection through our bodies? It is one of the most natural and powerful ways to connect after all.

Should there be a limit…? Sure! I certainly do not advocate having sex in public, or being sexually explicit in front of everybody, but other than that: hugs, kisses, winks, holding hands, kind caresses, etc. are all beautiful signs of affection that can be contagious and very beneficial for people. If we could offer these loving expressions freely, I am sure it would have a positive effect on people’s mood, health, and level of happiness all around!

I am a 42-year-old woman, and I am not ashamed to say that when I walk on the street with my dad side to side, we are likely to hold hands or have our arms around each other, same with my mom; just as much as I would give my partner a long kiss in the middle of the street if I feel like it, but this is natural for me, as I grew up in South America, there is nothing weird about it. If you think of it, what is wrong with that? If you do find something wrong with that, please write to me! I am interested in hearing your thoughts and start a conversation!

Today, I encourage you to go public with your displays of affection, my guess is you will feel liberated and the people who receive your affection will be happier!

Anyway, that is just a thought from the mind and heart of the outsider that I am!

Have a Great Week! (hopefully with lots of hugs and kisses!)


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Gratefulness as a daily practice

As we have just celebrated Thanksgiving in the US, I thought it appropriate to write about gratitude today.

gratefulvideolink

We have all heard the common expression: Is the glass half empty or half full? which is used rhetorically for any given situation. Our answer to this question reflects our outlook on life, we either see what we have (the half-full glass) or what we lack (the half-empty glass), and… we always have the choice.

Every day is an opportunity to see “the glass” half empty or half full. Every day and in every situation we get to decide what we want to focus on. By focusing on what we have as opposed to what we lack, we are practicing gratefulness, it is as simple as that!

By opening our eyes to the things we do have, even in times of crisis, we are hanging onto what is good in our life, and that will help us see through the hard times more effectively and find the resources we need to solve problems and overcome difficulties more easily. This does not mean being in denial, not at all! we can be aware of the struggles, we can honor our emotions, we may need an outlet for tears and grief, and all that is normal and is totally OK; but we can still practice gratefulness in the midst of it all, by acknowledging the good things that we have (however few they may be).

Making gratefulness into a daily practice is very important, and we can do so by establishing a daily ritual so in time it will become second nature. A good time to do this is every morning when you wake up or every night before bed, it only takes a few minutes at most!

You can simply acknowledge all the good things you have (or have experienced), or if you prefer you can give thanks to God, the Universe, etc. I usually write a list of things I am grateful for or simply say them our loud.

Some days it may be harder to find things to be grateful for, when everything seems dark and hopeless (we all have those days), but there is always something! For instance: I may give thanks for my eyes, that allow me to see, for the big smiles my kids greet me with, for my parents’ unconditional support, etc. We can ALWAYS find something, always!

We can also be thankful for the small things that happen in our days, for instance: spending a couple hours with a good friend, or sharing a good meal with a loved one, or the smile we got from a stranger… every day gives us an opportunity to find something good, but we need to be aware of it! People often take those things for granted, and focus only on what they lack or what is not working in their lives, so they diminish importance to the, sometimes small, gifts that are around them all the time. They don’t even see them!

Once you become aware of the importance of simple gestures and actions, you also become more willing to offer them to others. When I realize that a smile can make me grateful, I chose to smile more, because that might make other people feel grateful, so gratefulness is also a way to expand your own heart and to give off good vibes around you. Gratefulness is a beautiful thing! Its effect in our life is much greater than we can imagine.

According to the law of attraction, we attract what we focus on, so if we focus on the good things, we will attract more good things, and if we focus on what we lack we will attract more lack… the law really works. If we think of it, it makes total sense, we are made up of energy, so the energy waves that we emit are like magnets that attract the same type of energy, if we vibrate at the frequency of abundance (focusing on what we have) we will see more abundance in our lives, and vice-versa.

Being grateful is very important especially in times of crisis, as it helps us remember that there is always something that is good, something that is working in our lives. This will help us navigate the difficult times much better by keeping us connected to the good things, so we don’t sink into total despair or hopeless mode.

As long as this practice is part of your daily life, you can tap into it whenever you need some comfort and relief.

I would like to share an excerpt I found in the Magazine Psychology Today.

The Benefits of Gratitude

Gratitude is an emotion expressing appreciation for what one has—as opposed to, say, a consumer-oriented emphasis on what one wants or needs—and is currently receiving a great deal of attention as a facet of positive psychology. Gratitude is what gets poured into the glass to make it half full. Studies show that gratitude not only can be deliberately cultivated but can increase levels of well-being and happiness among those who do cultivate it. In addition, grateful thinking—and especially expression of it to others—is associated with increased levels of energy, optimism, and empathy.

So I encourage you today to start a daily practice of gratefulness, it doesn’t take more than a few minutes and you will see how it magically brings more and more blessings into your life. You don’t need to wait till next Thanksgiving!!

Here is a video that may inspire you to be grateful every day!

Have a good week!

Everyday Miracles

I just finished the 21-day Meditation Challenge from the Chopra Center and this particular one was called: Miraculous Relationships, so it got me thinking about the true meaning of “miracles.”

daisy

According to the dictionary a miracle is something attributed to a supernatural, or so called “divine” agency, and it often refers to something good.

To me, life itself falls into the category of a miracle. I truly believe we all come from a divine and supernatural source. From that belief, it is easier to see the many little miracles that surround us every single day. In my life I can think of many: the beautiful smile of my children when they see me, the songs of the birds in the trees when I walk by, the warmth of the sun on my skin, etc.

We don’t need to go too far to find divinity in our life, we just need to look, to really look around us and see that every step in our human journey gives us an opportunity to find a miracle, but for that we have to make an important choice. As Deepak Chopra says, we always have a choice between a miracle and a grievance.

This excerpt from A Course in Miracles illustrates this point nicely:

“Perhaps it is not yet quite clear to you that each decision that you make is one between a grievance and a miracle. Each grievance stands like a dark shield of hate before the miracle it would conceal. And as you raise it up before your eyes, you will not see the miracle beyond. Yet all the while it waits for you in light, but you behold your grievances instead.” ACIM

Every experience we have, good or bad, yields a valuable lesson, or like one of my favorite teachers says a blesson (fusion between a lesson and a blessing). To me, seeing that blesson is a miracle. Also, If we believe in synchronicity and the fact that there are no coincidences in our lives, we can see miracles happening all the time.

One of my favorite authors: Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross devoted her life to studying the terminally ill and wrote more than 20 books on death and related subjects. In one of her later books she talked about Spirit Guides, Channeling, and other subjects that were not very well received by skeptics, however, she wrote something that stayed with me: “Only those who are ready can really see.”

If we look at the actual miracles in religion traditions, such as: Apparitions, Angel Encounters, Weeping and Bleeding Icons, the Healing Power of Prayer, etc. an other unexplainable events, one can argue that those who see the miracles do so because their faith is so strong that they believe they see. However, we can also say that only those who believe can really see and experience the miracles.
It becomes a Chicken and Egg situation, what comes first: the seeing or the believing?

I think that our beliefs definitely shape the way we process our perceptions, and maybe that process shapes the reality of what we perceive? This goes along with scientific discoveries in the field of quantum physics, which state that the eye of the observer affects the nature of what is observed.

“One of the most bizarre premises of quantum theory, which has long fascinated philosophers and physicists alike, states that by the very act of watching, the observer affects the observed reality”
Source: http://www.sciencedaily.com

So if indeed the belief comes first, when we believe, we are ready to see the miracles, to experience them in our own lives. Of course, our beliefs can be of any nature, we can also believe we are doomed, in which case we might be.

When I talk about belief here, it has nothing to do with any specific religious faith but rather our acceptance of what is true or real; a firmly held opinion or conviction, about anything and everything.

To me, there is no doubt that our beliefs shape our perceptions, and our perceptions shape our life, if we realize that, we can indeed choose between a grievance and a miracle, every step of the way!

Have a good week!


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Coming to terms with my human fragility

I took the picture you see below, as I was walking through a beautiful wooded path leading to a lake, just minutes before I suffered from a heart attack on Friday June 21st. The whole thing still seems surreal to me, and in the aftermath, I am reflecting a lot about the meaning of it all.

woodpath

There are few times in life when everything seems to tip over, when we feel we are hanging from a very thin thread and that a subtle blow could throw us into the dark. I have had those moments, but never related to my health and my own human existence in this planet, until now.

I have faced my own human fragility for the first time, I have been reminded of the impermanence of my life, and even though deep inside I knew of it, it has become more real, more tangible, more present. I believe one of the lessons of this experience is precisely to remind me that every day in this earth is a gift.

I could feel angry or revolted by this whole thing, not only because it happened at a time when I felt so incredibly happy, healthy, alive and joyful, but also because I did not fit the profile for a heat-attack patient at all, as every Doctor I came in contact with told me, I was a total mystery to them. However, to my surprise, I am embracing this whole process with a lot of peace, I feel calm, content, pretty good in fact…

I still have to find the reason behind this event, not so much the causes of it, but rather the hidden message behind it, as I believe that the lesson from this experience should somehow guide me for the remaining of my journey in this earth, or at least give me some clarity on the steps to take going forward at this time.

The week prior to having the heart attack, I was just reflecting on the nature of our life, the infinite cycle of “ups and downs”, of hope and despair, happiness and sorrow, fear and trust, darkness and light, etc.

I like the concept of Yin and Yang from Chinese Philosophy, which states that opposite or contrary forces are interconnected and interdependent in the natural world; and they give rise to each other as they interrelate to one another.

If we look at it this way, we can understand that there can’t be “ups” without “downs”, that we have to accept this cycle and flow along with it in peace, knowing that after the darkness there is light, and after despair there is hope, and that after the tears there is laughter… it all comes… and goes…

This continuum is what makes up our human experience and we need to embrace both ends as one, since there is not one without the other, there is no sense in trying to separate them.

If we accept life as this infinite cycle of ups and downs, we are closer to finding true balance and peace, as we stop resisting the events that we consider negative, for we see them as the prelude to positive ones and we can flow with more ease between them.

So today, in my human fragility I also see my strength, and within my limits I also see my infinite potential. I have a new kind of hope, and a new awareness that makes me even more alive than I was before, and I definitely feel that life is beautiful with all it brings to us, and we are beautiful with all our flaws.

Have a good week!

PS. For those of you who are wondering, my arteries are functioning perfectly well and my heart should be back to normal in a month or so, what I had is a very rare event called: Spontaneous Artery Dissection, which means that a layer of an artery collapses. Luckily for me, this happened to a very tiny artery, so there are no consequences and as my nurse reassuringly told me: “Think of it as being hit by lightning, it should only happen once in your life“.

Simplicity as a way of life

To my US readers, I hope you all had a wonderful Memorial Day weekend!

After a short break on my writing, I am back with thoughts on simplicity as a way of life.

daisy

According to the dictionary, Simplicity is the quality or condition of being simple, and simple in this context means: uncomplicated, easy.

There was a lady that always carried a large handbag which was filled with things she thought she needed, but in reality she rarely, if ever, used any of them, and yet she carried the heavy bag every day. The weight of the bag was dragging her down and causing tension in her back and neck. Just as that lady, we often burden our lives with unnecessary loads (which can be mental or material.)

Most modern societies have become more and more complex and along with progress has come material comfort and the constant need to gather more and more stuff, as a result, people often find themselves overwhelmed by stress, anxiety, and pressure.

Ten years ago, I spent a few months traveling with my husband and living off a backpack…we could not really gather much stuff because we had to carry everything in our shoulders, so we had to make it all fit in one backpack. This experience gave me a whole new sense of freedom and made me realize how little I needed to live happily.

People often end up owning so much stuff that their spaces become cluttered and their minds become too distracted by the stuff around them.

I like the description of clutter by Peter Walsh (Motivational Speaker and Organizing Expert):

Clutter is all-encompassing: It means anything that stands between you and the vision you have for your best life. It could be a pile of inherited furniture or a jumble of kids’ toys all over the living room. But it could also be the constant self-doubt that creeps into your decision-making, anger about how you’re treated at work, shame about your weight or looks, or a tendency to respond defensively and critically when your spouse challenges you. Whatever the case, you have to ask yourself, “Does this item or thought or response move me closer to my vision for my best life?” If it does, great. If it doesn’t, what is it doing in your life?

In order to bring new experiences and even new things into our lives, we need to open up space for them, but if we are buried in stuff (whether material or mental) there is hardly any room for new ideas, people, or things that can enrich our experience. So it is important to clean up the clutter around and inside ourselves on a regular bases.

Sometimes, I feel so overwhelmed that I would like to sell or give away everything I owe, move to the countryside and grow my own food! At this point in time however, that is not an option for me and I realize it may never be, so I try to find ways to make my life simpler, easier, fluid, uncomplicated, and uncluttered… one day at a time, and I would like to share them with you.

When it comes to material clutter, I try to own as little as possible and I am not attached to what I own, I like to clean up my home often and I donate things or give them away to other people that may need them. However, I know people for whom it is really hard to get rid of stuff, luckily there are many resources out there to help people un-clutter their space, and it is important to do so often and seek for help if it becomes to difficult to do. Here is a cool article you may want to read: 12 Ways to Unclutter Your Life.

When it comes to mental clutter… it is a little trickier, but just as important to clean up, if not more!!!

I personally practice meditation and it really helps keep my mind clear and my thoughts under control, but I also use basic ways to help my mind be still and are easier to do than establishing a meditation practice. I basically try to be aware of what is in front of me, and to take the time to enjoy it. Here are a few examples I use everyday:

  • If I am walking in a busy street and see a beautiful rose bush, I will stop and smell the roses and take in their beauty… (I know it sounds “cliche” but I do it!, I don’t care) most people have no time for this or would be embarrassed to do it, some don’t even notice the roses, but I feel that the extra minute it takes me do this, suddenly brings me to the present and connects me with nature, it makes me aware of the beauty around me.
  • If I am about to eat, I try to do it mindfully, not on the run, not on the go, not in a rush…. I sit down, look at my food, the colors, the shapes, etc. I sometimes even decorate my plate (If I cooked at home) and I eat bite by bite, enjoying it fully. Nowadays eating is such an automated action that most people don’t even know what they eat and, as a result they don’t enjoy it much and they eat in very unhealthy ways.
  • When I am talking to another person, I look at them in the eye, I listen to them patiently and pay attention to their body language, I am not checking my smart phone every 5 seconds, nor am I thinking about the things I need to do later in the day… I am there with them and my mind is there too.

By doing these simple things, I suddenly disconnect from everything else and I find that every moment in my life is quite simple indeed.

We can simplify our life by many means, and by doing so, we will feel lighter, freer, unburdened.
So I encourage you today to look at what is cluttering your life and find ways to clean it up! Make simplicity a way of life!

Have a good week!


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Relationships… Our Greatest Teacher!

A few days ago I saw a quote that somebody shared on Facebook, and I have been thinking a lot about it…

girl-dolls

I was looking for it again, but of course I could never find it on Facebook (too many things going on there :). So I looked around, goggled a bit and finally found something that sounded pretty close:

“In life, God doesn’t give you the people you want. Instead, he gives you the people you need – to teach you, to hurt you, to love you, and to make you exactly the way you’re meant to be.”

Some people will argue that God does not send others to hurt us, of course not, I agree, but we can’t take this quote so literally, the whole idea here is that every single human being we come in contact with, is, to a certain extent, our teacher.

In our lives, people come and go all the time, with some of them we may only share a few minutes with others we may share a lifetime, and we have everything in between, but each and every one of them crosses our lives for a reason.

I once met a guy in a train, he made a comment on the book I was reading, and we shared a brief conversation in which he recommended another book to me; our conversation lasted just a couple minutes, I never saw that guy again, yet the book he recommended to me was a life-changer. This is an example of a quick encounter that brought something very meaningful and long lasting to my life.

Then, we can all think of more obvious examples, for instance: friends or family members that helped us through difficult times or teachers that were mentors to us at some point. But what about those relationships that we may have seen as negative, toxic, difficult; or those that did not last as long as we had hoped for and left our hearts broken. Well, even those relationships where there for a reason.

The truth is, our lifetime on earth is nothing but a journey of growth, a journey in which we have to find ourselves and find peace, contentment and ultimately happiness. But this journey is also a journey of struggle, loss and grief, because it is often on the moments of hardship that we can really grow, renew, restart, transform, etc.

And since relationships with our fellow human beings are probably the most important source of emotions in our lives, there is no mystery that it is through relationships that we can learn the most, and grow the most. Every relationship in our lives is to some extent a reflection of what we need to learn at any given time, sometimes the lesson is clear and easy to grasp, other times it is hidden and complex, but it is there nevertheless.

The loss of a relationship is probably our greatest teacher, because with grief comes new understanding and from new understanding comes growth and transformation.

A couple weeks ago, I went to a group meditation with Tara Brach, and she shared a story that brought tears to my eyes. I would like to share it here because I think it is relevant to the topic of grief and loss of relationships:

It is said that Kafka one day found a little girl sobbing desperately at a park, she told him she had lost her doll, he then told her the doll was not lost but rather went off to travel the world. Week after week Kafka saw the little girl at the park and brought her a letter from her doll, sharing her wonderful travels and telling the girl not to worry because she was happy.

Finally, a few months passed and Kafka brought a doll for the girl, it looked totally different, so he told the girl that her travels had “changed” her.

It wasn’t until the girl was a grown woman that she found a little note hidden inside the doll, and the note read:

“You will loose everyone you love in life, but love will come back to you in different forms

I am actually crying as I am writing this… Although we may not actually loose everyone we love, the last quote really hits a note of truth for all of us. Life is made of small and big losses that can break our hearts over and over again, when we see dear friends move away, when we leave our parents house for the first time, when we fall in and out of love, when we loose a loved one, etc. All these are part of life and we have to live through each and every one of them.

So, no matter how long a relationship is in your life for, it is important to cherish it, take the best of it, give the best of you and let it go when it is time for it to go. Living in the present or rather living “in presence” (there is actually a big distinction between the two!), can help us see every relationship with more clarity, as well as enjoy every person in our lives without any attachment to them.

Relationships are one of our best teachers, so be thankful for each and every person in your life and what they bring to you, in whatever form they do, remember, they are there for you to grow and become a better version of yourself.

Have a good week!

It is not because we can’t see it that it isn’t there…

It is not because we can’t see it that it isn’t there…

willardwigan

The four little princesses you see above, are inside the eye of a needle… this picture was taken with a powerful microscope because we would not be able to see it with the naked eye. The sculptures were made by Micro sculptor Willard Wigan.

In one of his interviews, the artist said two things that got me thinking, one was that, at an early age he realized that there were a lot of things out there that we could not see (that is what inspired him to explore the micro-world;) and the other thing he said was that he was made to feel like a failure in school (by teachers and peers) because he wasn’t performing well academically.

His micro-sculpures are invisible to the naked eye, just as his genius was invisible for his teachers and peers rationale.

Not only is he remarkable, but he is also an example of what we are all made of, we are all capable of remarkable things, but we rarely explore the kingdom of possibilities that lives inside ourselves, because we only believe what we were told or what we know through our senses. Only if we allow our minds to open up to the “unseen” can we truly achieve our greatest potential.

Most people believe mainly what they see, taste, feel, hear or smell; or those things that they understand (and if they don’t, at least they have been scientifically or statistically “proven.”) Our 5 physical senses; although wonderful, they are limited and they can bound us to a material (3 dimensional) world, and make us totally unaware of everything else.

Nowadays, I don’t dismiss anything as impossible or untrue, because I feel like there is so much we don’t know, that we should give everybody and everything the benefit of the doubt.

Like Socrates said: “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing” a very humbling statement indeed.

Now, the idea of knowing nothing is not very empowering, so instead of feeling in the dark thinking we know nothing… how about we open up to the realm of all possibilities, seen and unseen which, in contrast, can be incredibly empowering, but it certainly takes a leap of faith.

In order to open our minds and hearts to this realm of possibilities, we need to acknowledge other ways of “knowing”, that go beyond our 5 physical senses and our intellect, in fact it is not so much about knowing as it is about experiencing.

Some practices can get us closer to this realm by increasing our intuition and our connection to our true self. They are simple practices, yet sometimes really hard to do because of our conditioning and limiting beliefs, here below are some of them:

Non-judgment
Just as Willard wasn’t given any credit in school, and was judged by his peers and teachers as a failure (simply because they could not see his genius), it didn’t mean he wasn’t a genius in his own way. So it is important to practice non judgment of any kind towards others, because every human being deserves our respect and the benefit of the doubt!

Non-reaction
When something happens to you, whatever it is, try not to react immediately, if you can take the time to just breathe and empty your mind, you will be able to calmly respond as opposed to blindly react on impulse, and as you do this you will see a great difference in the outcomes.

Silence
By this I mean real silence, the one that we can find within, even in the middle of a busy street! We need to stop and quiet our minds from the background noise in order to enter true silence. A good way to do this is through meditation.

Distance oneself from emotions, thoughts and fears
You can certainly have emotions, thoughts and fears, but don’t let them rule you, stop identifying yourself with them, you are NOT them. The less attention you give them, the less they can survive, and the less they’ll have control over you.

These practices will help you experience a greater realm of possibilities as well as higher intuition capacities, both of which will guide you to live a much more peaceful and joyful life and open up to the inner kingdom that awaits each and everyone of us!!!!

Remember, there is a whole unseen world out there and within, believe it! explore it and enjoy it!!!

“One sees clearly only with the heart.
What is essential is invisible to the eye”

– Antoine de Saint Exupéry

Have a great week!