I have inaugurated an online bilingual (English-Spanish) bookclub that will meet monthly on Zoom to discuss the chosen book of the month.
The Wandering Bookclub is born with the purpose of motivating people to read, of bringing together like-minded individuals, and connecting people across the globe through books!
He inaugurado un club de lectura en línea bilingüe (inglés-español) que tendrá reuniones mensuales en Zoom para discutir el libro que se escoja cada mes.
¡El Wandering Bookclub nace con el propósito de motivar a la gente a leer, de juntar a gente afín, y de conectarnos de todo el mundo a través de los libros!
Join us! Únete!
Who can join the bookclub? ¿Quién puede unirse al club de lectura?
Anyone. Everyone is welcome! / Todos y todas! Todos/as son bienvenidas!
How does it work? / ¿Cómo funciona?
Through the blog’s instagram account ( @thewanderingwriterblog ) and the Facebook group of the Facebook page for the blog I will post some options for choosing a book of the month. These books will be subjected to a vote through polls on the FB group and the IG stories. Members can vote on both polls. After 24 hours, the book with the most vote will become the chosen book of the month.
Members of the bookclub will have about 4-5 weeks to finish each book. I will post a Reading Schedule members can follow if they wish to, though everyone can read at their own pace. Members can also read the books in whatever format they like better (ebook or physical book). Members can also read the books in whatever language they prefer.
Members are responsible for acquiring the books.
At the end of the month there we’ll be two one-hour Zoom sessions to discuss the book of the month. One session will be in Spanish and the other in English, both sessions will follow the same dynamic. The conversations will turn out differently, of course, but the guidelines will be the same. Each member can join either one or both. It’s a great way to practice any of these languages!
A few days before each session I will post some questions you can ponder before the meeting which will also help guide the conversation.
A través de la cuenta de Instagram (@thewanderingwriterblog) y el grupo de Facebook de la página de Facebook del blog, yo anunciaré opciones de libros para escoger cada libro del mes. Estos libros estarán sujetos a votaciones que se llevarán a cabo en el grupo de Facebook y en las historias de la cuenta de Instagram. Los miembros pueden votar en ambas encuestas. Después de 24 horas, el libro que tenga más votos será el elegido para leer ese mes.
Los miembros del club de lectura tendrán alrededor de 4-5 semanas para terminar cada libro. Subiré un post con un Calendario de Lectura que los miembros pueden seguir, aunque todos pueden leer a su propio ritmo. Los miembros pueden leer los libros en la forma que se les acomode (en línea o en físico). Los miembros pueden leer los libros en el idioma de su preferencia, también.
Cada miembro es responsable de adquirir los libros.
Al final de cada mes habrá dos reuniones de una hora en Zoom para discutir el libro del mes. Una sesión sera en español y otra en inglés. Ambas sesiones seguirán la misma dinámica. Las conversaciones serán diferentes, claro, pero las premisas serán las mismas. Cada miembro puede unirse a una de las dos o a las dos. Es una gran forma de practicar cualquiera de los dos idiomas.
Unos días antes de las reuniones, subiré un post con algunas preguntas para que las reflexiones y estás preguntas también nos ayudarán a guiar la conversación.
What kind of books will be read? / ¿Qué tipo de libros se leerán?
The books will vary in genre and themes. The book options for each month will have something in common. For example, the books for January 2021 have in common the fact that they are short novels. In November, because in Mexico we celebrate Day of the Dead, the books will be gothic literature, etc. etc.
The genres will be varied: fiction, non-fiction, the classics, memoirs & biographies, children’s literature, YA literature, world literature, women’s literature, black and people of colour literature, queer literature, literature from different literary traditions, genre literature as in science fiction, gothic, romance, crime, etc.
We will read mostly novels but also sometimes collections of short stories, poetry, plays, etc.
Los libros variarán de género y tema. Las opciones de cada mes tendrán algo en común. Por ejemplo, los libros de Enero 2021 tienen en común que son libros cortos. En Noviembre, porque en México celebramos el día de muertos, serán libros de literatura gótica, etc. etc.
Los géneros serán variados: ficción, no ficción, los clásicos, memorias & biografías, literatura infantil, literatura juvenil, literatura universal, literatura escrita por mujeres, literatura escrita por autores negros/as y de color, literatura queer, literatura de diferentes tradiciones literarias, libros de géneros como ciencia ficción, gótico, romance, crimen, etc.
Y leeremos en su mayoría novelas, pero también serán colecciones de cuentos cortos, poesía, obras de teatro, etc.
What happens if we don’t finish a book on time? / ¿Qué pasa si no termino el libro a tiempo?
Nothing! It’s okay! Join the discussion anyway! If you don’t manage to finish you can participate still.
A tip: you can read the summaries, and watch the movies, too! Just in case, you don’t finish 😉
¡Nada! ¡Está bien! ¡Únete a la discusión de todos modos! Si no terminas a tiempo aún así puedes participar.
Un tip: ¡puedes leer el resumen, y ver las películas, también! En caso de que no terminarás el libro a tiempo 😉
How will the book online discussions be? / ¿Cómo serán las discusiones online de los libros?
They will happen via Zoom, I will upload the link here, on the Facebook group and on Instragram a few hours before the session. One session will be all in English and another all in Spanish, anyone can join either or both. They will last for an hour each.
A few days before the discussions, I will upload on the blog, on the Facebook group & on Instagram a post with a few questions that we will use as guides for the online discussions.
The Zoom meetings will go like this: We will start by saying hello (members are encouraged to turn on their cameras throughout the whole session). There will be a brief introduction to the book and whoever wants will be invited to share their first impressions. Then the discussion will be guided by the questions and will take its own path from there. Anyone can participate, anyone can share their views, one at a time. It’s a wonderful opportunity to socialise, connect, and have a good time!
Las discusiones serán por Zoom. Subiré el link a este blog, al grupo de Facebook y a Instagram unas hora antes de la sesión. Una de las sesiones será toda en inglés y la otra toda en español, todos/as pueden unirse a una o a las dos. Cada sesión dudará una hora cada una.
Unos días antes de la discusiones, subiré a este blog, al grupo de Facebook y a Instagram un post con unas cuantas preguntas que usaremos como guía para las discusiones en línea.
Las reuniones en Zoom serán así: Empezaremos por saludarnos (se recomienda que los miembros tengan prendidas sus cámaras durante toda la sesión). Habrá una pequeña introducción al libro y quien guste será bienvenido/a a compartir sus primeras impresiones del libro. Después la discusión será guiada por las preguntas y tomará su propio camino a partir de ahí. Todos/as pueden participar, todos/as pueden compartir sus puntos de vista, uno/a a la vez. ¡Es una oportunidad increíble para socializar, conectar y pasar un buen rato!
Does it have a fee? / ¿Tiene algún costo?
No! For now, it’s free! So make the most of it 😀
¡No! ¡Por ahora es gratis! Así que aprovechen 😀
An example of a past reading / Un ejemplo de una lectura pasada
The book of the month for January 2021 was: Momo (1973) by Michael Ende!
Momo is easy to get. It’s in any good bookshop and of course, Amazon. It’s a wonderful philosophical book and a classic of German children’s literature!
El libro del mes para enero 2021 fue: Momo (1937) de Michael Ende!
Momo es fácil de conseguir. Está en cualquier librería buena, en México está en Gandhi, por ejemplo, y Amazon, etc. ¡Es un gran libro filosófico y un clásico de la literatura infantil alemana!
Here is the Reading Schedule for Momo
Aquí está el Calendario de Lectura for Momo
The online Zoom discussions was on the last weekend of January 2021: Saturday 30th & Sunday 31st.
Las discusiones en Zoom fue en el último fin de semana de enero 2021: sábado 30 & domingo 31.
Here are the questions that we discussed in the Zoom meetings, you can ponder them while you read to add depth to your reading.
Aquí están las preguntas que comentamos en las reuniones de Zoom, puedes ir reflexionando sobre ellas mientras lees para agregarle profundidad a tu lectura.
Today I visited the Tate Britain Museum in London and I stood in front of one of my favourite paintings:
John Everett Millais’ Ophelia (1851-2)
It shows Ophelia, drowned, carried by the current. Her flowers are strewn on the surface of the dark water.
The colours are beautiful – the vibrant green of the riverside, Ophelia’s fiery red hair, and striking blue eyes that still have light in them. She has her hands open as if accepting her fate, letting the water take her. Her mouth is open as if she would speak…
If you’ve read Hamlet, you know this.
Ophelia suffers a lot in this play. She is in love with Hamlet who denies ever having loved her. She is ordered about by everyone, Hamlet, her brother, her father, Polonius, the Queen, and the usurper Claudius. She is used as a pawn against Hamlet. Her needs and desires are disregarded and she is given little room to speak even narratively by Shakespeare himself.
When her father is killed by Hamlet… she goes ‘mad’.
Her speech becomes ‘incoherent’, her songs become ‘inappropriate’. In her madness, Ophelia finds freedom – freedom to speak, freedom to express, and to emote: grief, desire, longing… Because one of the things ‘madness’ does is that it frees your mind from this mad world’s constraints and fears. ‘Madness’ makes you fearless and therefore you can speak.
It is in her ‘madness’ that Ophelia is finally able to speak. She sings songs and gives different flowers to each of the characters:
“There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance.
Pray you, love, remember.
And there is pansies, that’s for thoughts …
There’s fennel for you, and columbines.
There’s rue for you, and here’s some for me.
We may call it “herb of grace” o’ Sundays.
– Oh, you must wear your rue with a difference.
There’s a daisy. I would give you some violets,
But they withered all when my father died.”
(Hamlet, Act IV, Scene 5)
Her flowers have meaning, they are symbols. Ophelia’s songs and flowers speak for her.
In Millais’ painting, Ophelia’s flowers are still with her, speaking to the viewer in her stead. I wonder what each of us hear…
Ophelia’s death is left ambiguous. It happens off stage and we are only told of it by the Queen who implies that it was an accident – “an envious sliver broke”, and she “fell in the weeping brook”. “Her garments, heavy with their drink, Pulled [her] to muddy death” (Hamlet, Act IV, Scene 7).
Ophelia drowns… her death as passive as she was in life.
This is one of the readings.
However, suicide is also suggested further along in the play.
We may never know what really happened, we may never know if her death was intended or an accident. I wish I knew Shakespeare (and that he was alive, of course) so I could ask him this and a few other million questions.
I thought of all of this as I sat on the almost-empty gallery, looking at Millais’ Ophelia. The fact that today, October 10th, is World Mental Health Day made it twice as significant for me to be there in front of Ophelia.
For the longest time, I paid no mind to my mental health… Until something happened to me that made it impossible not to. Since then, I’ve realised the true importance of caring for our minds as much as for our bodies. Both are precious tools with which we, spiritual beings that we are, manifest in this world. It is our responsibility and privilege to care for them.
Your mind needs love. It needs care and nurturing. Be careful of what you hear, see, watch… all that is the food you give to your mind.
Your mind needs you, it needs your presence and awareness. This world needs that too.
I am sad to realise that there is still a taboo about mental health in most parts of the world. This makes people ashamed to address it, to share their experiences, to seek help.
I am pleased to realise that in the UK, mental health is taken seriously and a lot has been done to raise awareness and to open up the conversation about mental health.
I hope that in my own country, Mexico, we can break the taboo and start doing this too, more and more. I believe we are, slowly but surely.
However, it is not enough to open up the conversation. We have to actively care for it. And it isn’t just about sharing your own experiences or listening to others’ experiences. It’s about taking a look at your own habits, your mind diets, your thoughts…
I’ve realised that most people only really care about their mental health when they start to suffer because of it. Only when they start having anxiety attacks, or when they get triggered, or when depression sets in… It doesn’t have to come to that… it shouldn’t have to. Preventive medicine is the best kind of medicine.
So, share, talk, seek help. Please do. But also, on a daily basis, meditate, exercise, make sure you get enough sleep, find ways to destress, eat healthy food, connect with others… Do everything you do with mindfulness. Care for yourself. No one else will if you don’t. (I am saying this to myself as much as I am saying this to you, I too need to prioritises my health – mental, emotional, physical)
And if something has happened to you, or if something is happening to you right now, I send you lots of light and love with these words. You are a brave soul, your heart is courageous to be braving this world. And you are not alone, even if you think you are. You are not crazy. You are not mad. You are not a bad person. You are not a misfit. You are not sick. You are not weird, or strange, or too different. You are none of these things.
You are a perfect soul. And don’t let anything or anyone convince you to feel otherwise.
And do reach out. Even if you feel ashamed or worried about what others might think… I can assure you, there is someone who understands, there is someone who has been there too, and there is someone who can help. Write it, cry it, say it, feel it. You are not alone. No one really is. Because ultimately, We Are All One.
I feel extra happy that I was able to behold Millais’ painting today. It reminded me of what I have been through, of what I’ve learned, of how much I’ve grown, and of what’s important. It made me happy to be alive. I wish Ophelia was too, but her flowers and songs will forever remind us of what was in her heart.
Thank you, Shakespeare. Thank you, John Everett Millais. Thank you, Ophelia, may your flowers speak forever for you.
Shakespeare, William. Hamlet, edited by Ann Thompson and Neil Taylor, Bloomsbury Arden Shakespeare, 2006.
John Everett Millais. Ophelia. 1851-2. Tate Britain, London.
I recently spent a few days in Dorset, in the south of England. I had never visited it before and I cannot think now why… It is so beautiful and it is definitely underrated. It seems to me that whenever people think of nice beaches or coasts, they all mention places like Spain, France, Italy (if talking about Europe), the Caribbean islands, my own dear Mexico, Hawaii, etc. Nobody really mentions England as a place where beaches and coasts are worth visiting. I too never thought they could be so beautiful.
But now I can say that the Jurassic Coast is definitely worth a visit, several in fact. I would love to visit again sometime and wander through the many towns, beaches, and paths, just admiring the view, feeling the ancientness of the place. As you walk in the Jurassic Coast, especially in places like Durdle Door, you can feel the waves of history that are stored in the memory of the place, in the rocks, in the cliffs, in the very grains of sand, and the seawater.
Durdle Door has now become one of my favourite sites in England. It is simply magical. No other way to describe it.
To visit Dorset, we chose Weymouth as our base, a small town by the seaside (just 3h 45m by bus from London). I am glad of that choice, I found Weymouth to be enchanting. It was quiet and calm, perfect for a brief escape from busy London. The weather was good, it was windy but not too cold. It was only cloudy one of the days but the rest there was gorgeous sunny weather and the occasional fat clouds that look ready to be painted with oil on canvas.
Plus, we stayed in a cute inn called The Tides Inn. I had always wanted to stay in an inn. Something about them makes me feel like I am in a book. Also, having the pub downstairs can be fun, not only for the cider or the Pimm’s but because you get to watch people and weave stories out of them.
To get to Durdle Door from Weymouth, we took the bus (X54) which is £4.50 (single) to Durdle Door. The bus ride (30 min approx) was full of wonderful views of Weymouth Bay and the countryside of Dorset with its bright green fields, its tall trees, horses, cows, and sheep. (I do love a good countryside view).
We got off at Lulworth Cove which is also worth visiting. There are pubs, inns, and stores about to take a break. The water is a breathtaking deep blue I didn’t know existed in English waters. It is wonderful and on sunny days, it is perfect for a swim.
From there to Durdle Door is a short climb/walk that is worth doing because of the views and the good exercise your body gets out of it. While I was walking along that path towards Durdle Door, my mind got quiet (finally). It is almost a meditation to walk on those cliffs. The wind and the ocean overpowered my mind chatter and I could finally rest in all that beauty. The contrast between the green of the countryside, the white cliffs, and the deep blue ocean is beautifully striking. Taking photos almost seems futile because no matter how good the camera or the angle, it feels like no photo will ever do justice to the beauty before your eyes.
I still tried.
But more than pictures to remember the place, I think it is always better when I close my eyes and through memory, I go back to that moment, and I feel the wind, and I see the sun sparkling on the surface of the ocean, and I hear the waves crashing on the cliffs. I can almost breathe it in, all that beauty that makes you happy to be alive.
And then when we finally reached Durdle Door, I smiled in awe and pure joy. Durdle Door is a natural limestone archway that is one of the most iconic landscapes of the Jurassic Coast which (thank God!) is a World Heritage Site and therefore cannot be touched. Durdle Door reminded me of el Arco de Cabo San Lucas in Baja California, Mexico. Though el Arco is just as beautiful as Durdle Door, I started thinking about the difference in names, and how much I love that this particular limestone arch is called a Door.
Names are important, and there is a difference between being an Arch and a Door. A door opens. A door allows you to enter somewhere else, something else, sometime else. The fact that this place in the Jurassic Coast which houses millions of years of geological history is called a door makes it twice as significant. It is then a great place to visit not only when you want to visit a place of historical and cultural importance or to bask in the beauty of it, but it is also the perfect place to go to when you want to go through a door (a metaphorical door in this case) towards something new, something else. That’s what I felt when I was there. I felt like that place was helping me go through the door.
Doors can be scary sometimes, especially if you don’t know what is on the other side. Sometimes we hold on too much to the past, not because it is the best, but because at least it’s known. If the past was good, we hold on to it in a futile attempt to keep what must flow. To let go has been one of the biggest struggles of my life, time and time again. And because of this, I believe doors help. They are ways out and ways in, they are full of possibility, they symbolise freedom, hope, and courage, for it takes courage to go through them.
Sometimes doors can be frustrating though, especially doors that just won’t open no matter how hard or constantly we knock, or pull, or push. Still, I believe we should always knock at least once or twice. Even try to push or pull or turn the doorknob a little bit. If it won’t budge, then you know, it is not your door, it is not your way, and that is fine. It is more than fine, it is good because it means there’s a better door for you. I believe the Universe/God/Goddess/Love/Light/Soul (call it what you will) loves us. It never takes away from us what mustn’t go. Even if we can’t understand it, even if at first we can’t accept it. Though I know that the longer it takes us to accept it, the more it will hurt. Doors and walking through them help in accepting that what is past is past, but that there is always something else coming, something new. And I believe that what C.S. Lewis said was true: “There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind”.
Walking through a door shows courage and more than that, it shows trust. Trust in life, trust in you, trust in everything. It shows belief, faith, and strength for it makes you realise that you are willing to move on, to let go, to keep moving forward with life, to step into the unknown, into the new, into the Now.
Durdle Door helped me walked through my door, into the next chapter of my life. I have yet to discover what it is called but I don’t mind the uncertainty so much now, nor the unknown. I embrace it, it excites me, it scares me too but I know I have the strength and the courage as we all do, to face whatever comes next.
If you ever go to Durdle Door, if you feel the place calling for your presence, make it a conscious visit and with willingness and soulful awareness walk through the door.
A few days ago, I woke up thinking “Today I need more Yang”.
I was out of balance. I felt too emotional, too sensitive. I no longer label that as bad, or wrong. I have worked hard to realise and accept that feeling emotional and being sensitive is good, that it is a strength, not a weakness. I know that, I accept that and honour it. But I needed to come back to my centre. As much as I love being emotional and sensitive. I also want to feel strong, centred, resilient, and powerful. Those qualities reside in me also and I’ve had opportunities to show them time and time again. I needed them right then. I needed more Yang to rebalance my Yin.
The Ancient Chinese concept of Yin-Yang shows a Whole made of two opposites that instead of fighting against one another, complement each other. Many people have associated these opposites with moral values of good and bad. However, neither the Yin nor the Yang is inherently good or bad energy. They are just different energies, both are needed for both to exist. Without the Yin, there would be no Yang, and vice-versa. There are so much depth and wisdom to be derived from this Ancient Chinese concept, especially in our current times.
Wherever you look, “opposites” are fighting against each other. Attacking, defending, pushing back, one trying to overpower the other. We forget… without our opposites, we wouldn’t be. We are not here to fight each other, in fact, we all need each other. There must always be Yin in the Yang and Yang in the Yin. If there isn’t, we go out of balance, it becomes too much Yin, or too much Yang. And too much is as unhealthy as too little. The balance of either can only be achieved by raising and working on its opposite.
While the Yin is associated with the internal, with the female energy within ALL of us, with the night, the Moon, the stillness, the cold, the Water, the Earth, the Heart, Spirituality, the Divine, intuition, the Right Brain; The Yang is linked to the external, to the male energy within ALL of us, to the day, the Sun, the Movement & Action, to Fire, the Sky, the Mind, Science, matter, reason, the Left Brain.
Even though yes, the Yin embodies the female energy, and yes, the Yang represents the male energy… Another misconception that has had serious implications is to associate these energies with the construct of gender. This misconception has caused an awful divide between men and women categories, and disregarded everyone outside of these boxes. It also has made it so that, historically, men, have been supposed to be action-focused, externally-based, energetic, analytical, determined, disciplined, authoritarian, dominant, strong, all mind no heart because they were bullied into giving up their intuition, their flexibility, their fluidity, their emotion, their internal world, their stillness, their calm, their creativity, their female energy which is part of EVERYONE and which is also our basic right, the Yin. And without their Yin, men’s Yang went out of balance, and in its unhealthy state, too much Yang becomes aggressiveness, fury, anxiousness, brutality, violence, addiction, restlessness, hate…
Women, on the other hand, were allowed their intuition, their sensitivity, being in touch with their emotions as long as they weren’t unbridled because then it was called hysteria or madness, they were allowed to come from the heart but were disregarded as inferior minds. We were allowed our Yin but not our Yang and it is because of that that our Yin ended up overflowing… our emotions raged inside us, our whole beings begged for balance, for our lost Yang… and what do we all do when we are suppressing or repressing one of these energies within us?
We try to search for it outside of us.
So men… with repressed Yin and overflowing Yang… search for women with overflowing Yin and suppressed Yang. This is an unconscious attempt to find balance. This is the typical “macho man” with the submissive woman. But of course, too much Yang in someone, or too much Yin ends up being unhealthy, toxic, and not-functional. That is why we have toxic masculinity (too much Yang, out of balance, in need of Yin) but we also have a trampled Yin that overflows into depression, over-sensitivity, over-emotionality, drama, and doesn’t find structure and cannot function either. We sometimes try to rebalance ourselves unconsciously finding a partner that seems to embody the energy we need. The problem is that when we are too much of either, the moment we get the other energy, it will also be too much, out balance, and unhealthy.
So people who have too much Yang and are therefore aggressive, controlling, dominant, authoritarian, despondent, condescending, arrogant, when they tap into Yin they switch to Yin’s unhealthy, overflowing state so they become emotionally manipulative, dramatic, depressed, hurtful, clingy, needy, etc… Also, people with too much Yin, when they switch into Yang, they get the Yang in its unbalanced state too and they become aggressive, anxious, vindictive, violent… etc.
Or for example, this is very typical… a man who has a very present Yin, because historically and socially the Yin has been repressed in everyone but especially in men… Men who have a very active Yin are afraid of it and use their Yang to beat their Yin out of themselves, or target people who embody Yin energy more clearly, for example, women. This is the reason behind misogyny, gynophobia, transphobia, homophobia. This is also the reason why some people cheat on their partners, drink, bully, fight… Those people try to get more Yang, but because they do so unconsciously they end up using Yang in its unbalanced and toxic state and with that they try to further repress their Yin, to get rid of it. If they would only embrace their Yin instead and balance it with healthy Yang… the world would be a very different place.
Too much or too little of either is not healthy. We need both. And most importantly we need to understand we ARE both. Sometimes we think we are only one part of the whole, that we are the part that has the Yin with a bit of Yang and that someone else who will complement us or rather “complete us” will be the Yang that has a little bit of Yin, or vice-versa.
This is not true. It is unhelpful, unhealthy, and it keeps us dependent on another external source to become balanced, functional, fulfilled, structured, and whole.
We ARE the Whole, we ARE the Yin AND the Yang. All OF US.
Both of these energies are intrinsic parts of us, and we need both to be centred, balanced, and healthy. We are entitled to both, we deserve both, all of us, regardless of our gender identity, our appearance, our genitalia, our hormones, our bodies… ALL OF US ARE BOTH.
But because we are led to believe that we do not have one of these, or even that we are not entitled to one or deserving of one, or simply not allowed to have one of these… we go through life oscillating between both energies in their unbalanced state, going through toxic and codependent relationships with others, and making unconscious choices that cause us to lose out on a lot of life’s opportunities and happiness. This is also why we say “opposites attract” when we refer to someone who seems to be with another one who is very different from them. That relationship is an attempt to reconnect with that part of you that is lost, that you need, not necessarily with another person but with yourself. And this is why many relationships fail because there is no integration of these parts of the self, but rather co-dependency on others to provide the energies we need in order to become balanced which ultimately never works unless we find both energies in ourselves and embrace them, heal them and restore them to the centre.
I realised that to stop your Yin from overflowing, you have to add Yang. And to stop Yang from overflowing you have to add Yin. But not go to the unhealthy state… do this CONSCIOUSLY so you can use the energy you need in its healthy state to balance the other and restore it to the centre.
So I had been feeling out of balance. My Yin was overflowing, my Yang was nowhere to be found. I needed to help my Yin come back to the centre, I needed to help it heal and I instinctively knew I needed Yang to help my Yin. However, as I realised all this about the Yin and the Yang within me, for the first time, I resisted the impulse to go looking for my Yang outside of myself. Instead I made a little experiment. So a few days ago I decided: Today I am going to be Yang. All day.
I wrote all the characteristics I associate with Yang in its healthy, balanced state and sought to embody them for a whole day. My list went something like this: Strength, determination, assertiveness, action, ambition, spontaneity, adventure, excitement, courage, protection, discipline, confidence, productivity…
That day I engaged in all kinds of activities that would wake up and sustain my dormant Yang energy within me and gave me opportunity to embody these qualities:
I woke up early, took a cold shower, put on working trousers, and shoes (I usually have just been wearing leggings and flip-flops during this lockdown), I tied my hair (I usually love it free and flowing), I power walked to the supermarket, looking straight ahead without ever stopping. I did not say sorry like I usually do when someone allows me to pass first (why do I usually say sorry for that? I wondered afterward), I just nodded and said thanks. I was surprised that my voice even sounded stronger, firmer, lower. I looked at my finances that day, paid all my credit cards, figured out my budget, worked with numbers, I got work done too. When it was time to do exercise instead of doing yoga or pilates like I usually do, I chose something that helped me develop my strength so I did body pump, lifted weights, worked on my core. I went outside to explore the countryside and took new paths that I hadn’t even seen before.
By the end of my day, embodying Yang, I felt so good… so centred, so balanced, so strong. When I relaxed in the evening, I tapped into my Yin consciously again and I no longer felt over-sensitive. I did Yin-like things: I wrote, I took a bath, I did a bit of stretching and looked into my feelings. I felt surprisingly at ease. For days I had been crying, I had been feeling depleted, lonely, and sad. Now I still felt sadness because of recent events in my life but it was not overpowering. I cried, careful not to repress my feelings… but just two tears rolled down my cheeks and I found that I didn’t need more. I felt at peace. My Yang had helped my Yin. And it had been my Yin, my intuition, that had allowed me to find my Yang by telling me all this and creating this experiment, in the first place. It is just so wonderful to see that we have all this power of balance within us. We always did, but now that I know it and I can use it CONSCIOUSLY… I feel so… grateful, so relieved. I feel grateful that I am not only Yin, I am grateful that I can be Yang. And I am grateful to know that everyone is BOTH. If we understood this, truly… everything would change… gender roles and binaries, misogyny, gynophobia, toxic masculinity, homophobia, transphobia… all those fears would transmute into understanding, freedom, compassion, joy, and celebration of the wholeness in difference. I believe that we are moving (slowly) but surely towards that… and may the YIN-YANG within ALL of us help us on our way.
I found this later on the internet. I find it helpful to make my own list but if anyone wants to tap more into their Yin or their Yang, here is a quick useful list.
May you stay WHOLE always and may you use your Yang to heal your Yin and your Yin to rebalance your Yang.
Nowadays, privilege is a word we hear in many contexts. There are so many privileges people can have: the colour of your skin can bring you privilege, your social status, your income, your place of origin, your passport, your visa status, your language, your accent, your facial features, your gender identity, your sexual orientation, your body, your family background, your health, your religion, your education…
I used to get defensive when I heard variations of “Check Your Privilege”. When people have thrown this at me with resentment in their voice, I couldn’t help but feel a bit attacked. I used to get upset by it. After all, I can’t even control or take credit for some of my privileges. Still, I used to try to excuse myself: “I didn’t choose this skin”, “It’s not even my money, it’s my parents’! I had nothing to do with it!”, “Hey! I worked hard for my education!”… All I really wanted to say was: “It’s not my fault!”
It took me a few years to realise that it is not really about “fault” and that denying my privilege wasn’t helping anyone.
As I grew up I learned of the many ways I myself are oppressed… because I am a woman; because how “white” I am depends on where I am in the world; because while in Europe “I am not-so-brown for a Mexican woman but definitely someone of colour”, in my own country I am “a whitexican (White Mexican)” and hence, part of the privileged sector in Mexico; because I speak “good English for a ‘Hispanic’” (whatever that word means); because it is impressive that I can travel to other countries and be so educated for “someone from a Third World country”, and other things people have said to me.
Then I learned the names of the structures and systems in place that shape/shaped our world and which have set the social hierarchy that gives privileges to some at the expense of others: Patriarchy, Colonialism, Imperialism, Neocolonialism, Structural Racism, Heteronormativity, Capitalism… just to name a few.
Learning these names and what they mean gave me insight into how the world perceived me and how my identities intersect and give me a place in the world in the eyes of others.
I understand now why the people who told me to check my privilege sounded so resentful. And I must admit, I was afraid of their resentment. I kept arguing because I wanted them to know that I wasn’t their enemy. That is why I kept making excuses for my privileges and even tried to convince them that life had also been hard/difficult/unfair to me. It came to a point where other people and I even engaged in the Who-Is-Less-Privileged Game as if it were a competition to see who is more wretched than who and therefore deserves more… What? … Praise? Credit? We didn’t even know what we were fighting for.
Now a wonderful word comes to mind: Empathy.
We all need Empathy. Empathy is Key. So are Kindness, Understanding, Open-Mindedness, and Compassion.
I realised that I didn’t want to engage anymore in the Who-Is-Less-Privileged game, its podium wasn’t one I wanted to be on and, moreover, the competition was too great… There is always going to be someone less privileged than I, there is always going to be someone more privileged than I.My complex intersectional identity has made me face both wonderful and difficult situations throughout my life and I thank it for I have grown from these challenges.
I don’t shrink back from “Check Your Privilege” anymore. I have realised that when people point out your privilege they are not saying that you haven’t worked hard or faced difficulties before, it just means that some parts of your identity (maybe your whiteness, maybe your heterosexuality, maybe you being male, maybe your nationality, etc) is not a factor for which you will be oppressed or discriminated. What helps now is to shift our perspectives from feeling guilty for what we have to feeling grateful for our affluence.
The problem with some privileges though is that they often come at the expense of others because when creating the ONE as the norm, the OTHER suffers. If we find ourselves in the position of the ONE, the best thing we can do is not to bring ourselves down but to raise others up, to make it so that they are not THE OTHERs at all, to USE our privilege to bring attention to what needs to change in order to live in an equal world, to listen to other people, to stand with them, to pass them the microphone. Yes, the resentment in some voices may still be there. Just know that feeling guilty won’t help nor will it help to cancel them for their resentment. Reproaching others for their privilege doesn’t help either but making them aware of it will.
Nevertheless, no matter how careful we are sometimes in these talks and debates and exchanges… people can still be offended or feel attacked, walls come up, defensiveness kicks in… Survival mode. Every man for himself. We must strive to change this, we must if we want to live in a better world! If someone says something that moves you, that makes you react first just… Breathe. Rather than engaging in what can become an argument try to listen, hear their perspective. Don’t take it personally, a lot of people talk from their pain. We must strive to put our ego aside and just listen rather than defend.
Know that if someone is reproaching you, insulting you, or verbally attacking you, it’s a sign that they are hurting. And for some reason when humans are hurt… they tend to hurt other humans… as if that would lessen their own hurt… but it doesn’t. We all need to remember that the next time we want to hurt as we have been hurt. When that instinct kicks in just… Breathe into it. Breathe into your pain, it will help lessen its sting.
And if we want to change the world for the better we have to be willing to listen to those whose voices have not been heard before. All the riots… they are screams, pleas to be heard… Maybe if we listened, they wouldn’t have to shout so loud.
And if we truly want to help we must muster all our empathy, all our kindness, all our open-mindedness, all our courage, and bravery to listen to others but also to look inside, to check our privilege, to acknowledge it, to see what behaviors, attitudes, ideas within ourselves do not serve to create a kinder world, and to care enough to change them. More than anything, what could heal us most of all is to realise the Oneness of us all. Oneness doesn’t mean we are the same because, in truth, we are all different, but it just means that spiritually, energetically, soulfully We Are All One, we are all divinity expressed in different individuations. We have all been in each other’s shoes before, we have all been everyone. There are no victims and villains, we are all here just trying to wake each other up and to evolve. We are all mirrors of each other and what we give to others we give to ourselves because there is really only one of us. So let’s give each other Understanding, Empathy, Compassion, Solidarity, Kindness, Help, Love… And watch the world change.
What the COVID-19 virus has helped in making more evident than any other event that we have had in the last centuries is that WE ARE ALL ONE.
This sentence which I have heard from different spiritual leaders, religions, philosophies, literatures, is more evident now than ever.
For the first time, it is clear that we are all indeed one and that what affects one of us, eventually, affects all of us.
The rapidity with which this virus spreads has now made it a global pandemic which now ails all of the globe. The fact that it can cause death for vulnerable people causes concern and those people are whom we stay home for, because we all know somebody who could be seriously affected by the virus: maybe our grandma whom we love so much, maybe our friend with asthma, or maybe our teacher who is a single mother and has to take care of her kid so cannot afford to get sick. We all have someone we care for, someone we are worried about. Then there are those people that worry us not particularly for physical health issues but for their mental health and wellbeing in general. I think of my friends from university, most of them shut up in tiny rooms in student residence halls, with not enough space to even have a good, long stretch. I think of my friends who live alone and do not even have cats or dogs they can hug just so they can feel another body warm and alive. I think about every person, such as myself, who has gone without a hug for more than a month, let alone a hug, not even a high five. I think of all the people who are separated from their families by oceans, borders, and closed airports. And then I think of the ones that I do not want to think about, the people that are sick, self-isolating in their homes and I wonder if they have enough strength to cook a hot, comforting soup for themselves. I try to send them good energy with my thoughts, to tell them to push through, they can do this. And the ones at hospitals… I don’t even want to imagine what they are going through. But worst of all, the unthinkables, are the bereaved ones. The ones who have actually lost someone because of this virus and couldn’t even say goodbye, couldn’t even hold hands, or hug, or kiss for the last time.
It all seems surreal. Part of me wonders if it is all truly happening or if maybe we all jumped down the rabbit hole together. I have gone down the rabbit hole by myself before, but the difference now is that we did it together. Together. All of us.
Consensual reality is now madness. Global pandemic. A collective psychotic episode. I wonder, when will we wake up?
And here is where my broody, glum thoughts stop. And I feel a small shy smile start to form at the corner of my lips. I guess we are… waking up, I mean. This global pandemic, this virus, this shadow is forcing us to become light. It is the setting, the background, the context, the darkness, in which we can become stars instead of planets. Instead of being rocks floating in the universe, we can become suns, sources of light. Do you know how stars are born? They are created when their elements are under enough pressure to undergo fusion. Same way with diamonds, graphite needs to be heated and compressed in order to turn into diamonds.
COVID-19 is definitely a source of pressure, it is our wrench, the darkness against which we can shine. Like every other “bad” thing that ever happened to us, it is a blessing in disguise.
I know, I know, whenever I use this phrase, I always get a few eye-rolls. I would do the same if every “bad” event in my life had not shown me after many dark nights, tears, pain, and fear, that this is in fact true.
The worst things that have ever happened to me, with time and a looooot of growth on my part, have turned out to be the best things in my life. Things from deaths of loved ones, to illnesses, to heartbreaks, to failures, to all of life’s frustrations… all of them have shaped me, made me who I am, and each time one of them comes along, another “bad” event, (I call them alarm clocks, because they wake me up, a little bit more, every time), I become stronger, kinder, wiser, more empathetic, more understanding, and more loving than before.
This virus is no different. The only difference now is that it is an alarm clock for everyone, everywhere.
I remember when it was only in China. We mostly thought, Oh my god, that sounds awful, I hope they will be able to solve it soon, and then we went on with our days. It wasn’t until it affected us, personally, or our loved ones that we started giving it a second thought. We think of ourselves as separate from each other, us and them, always the one against the other and never the twain shall meet. How much damage has that thought done in the world? If you think about it, all human conflicts have stemmed from this exact idea of separateness at an individual level or on a global level. Every war is fought on the basis of separateness. It is truly madness. And yet, it is very hard to think of each other as one because we are used to thinking that to be all one means to be “one and the same” and we are definitely not all the same, we all are wonderfully different from each other, we are all walking worlds that often share common aspects. I believe our differences enrich this world, they should be a cause for celebration, not division, not discrimination, not segregation, not separation.
We are definitely not the same, but that doesn’t mean we are not one. I believe all life is one, we are all part of each other, just in different individuations. I see this clearly when I look at a toddler running around and I feel this flowering feeling in my chest, or when I hear a babbling brook, or see a tree shaking its leaves aided by the wind, I feel this when a stranger is kind to me, when a friend from the other side of the world lets me know I am not alone, I feel this when I with all the neighbors go out to clap into the streets for the many people who are working to save lives in this pandemic, I feel this when I look at the stars at night and I remember who I am. I feel this and I call it love.
That’s what we are, ultimately, at the core of our beings, and I can only hope that that is what we chose to be at every moment, with every thought and word we say. And I believe that this pandemic, this virus, will speed us on our way.
“Behold the darkness, yet curse it not. That the moment of your greatest darkness may yet become your grandest gift.” -Neale Donald Walsch
“Every atom of me and every atom of you.” – Philip Pullman, The Amber Spyglass.
Someone I love hurt me, deeply hurt me.
I thank that someone for he is my mirror. He cut me open and the light got inside.
All this light, it whispered to me. It reminded me of the bargain we stroke a long time ago, In another time, in another state, in another space. A bargain that would make us love, laugh, hurt, and part. A bargain that gave him the role of the villain and me the role of the victim, Roles neither of us wanted but that we were willing to play in order to help us remember who we are, who we were… In order to make us remember there is no such things as villains or victims in this world. Only friendly souls intending to wake each other up.
A bargain done in love, for love, and with love. A bargain that would merge our souls and then tear them apart to help us remember that We Are All One And that unity allows for separation, independence, and individuality. To help us remember that to love is to be free, to love is to let go, to love is to let be. A bargain that returned us to ourselves, a little bit more whole, a little bit more grown, a little bit more loved.
And then, after all the pain, we can finally agree that the bargain wasn’t in vain. It was worth the darkness, for it brought forth our light.
I thank you soul, My Friend, for making that bargain with me, Such a long time ago, For keeping to the script, for playing the villain, a role I know it is even harder to play. I thank you, I love you, I let you go in Peace. Remember. Remember the bargain, remember the love, hold on to the light, let go of your role, be who you are and shine through. Let us forgive and never forget all the light we give and gave, all that was done in love, and all the lessons that the pain has shown. As long as we remember, all the pain has not been in vain.
And so, I will never regret the bargain that we stroke such a long time ago In another time, in another state, in another space. A bargain that would make us love, laugh, hurt, and part. A bargain that returned us to ourselves.
A bargain between friends, a bargain between souls. A bargain done in Love. And that is more than just enough.
Ixtapa Zihuatanejo is my idea of heaven. I have visited this place every year since I was born. It is home to me more than any other place in the world and it forever holds my heart.
It’s a beautiful natural place that is full of breathtaking sights, kind and warm people, and exciting activities. More than that, it is full of peace. It has a wonderful ambiance that makes you feel as if all your troubles are fading away with each wave. It’s truly heaven on Earth.
It also offers many beaches that are each amazing in their own way. Each has its own special beauty, so here is my list of 6 paradise beaches in Ixtapa that you cannot miss!
The main beach in Ixtapa is beach El Palmar. It is my favourite beach in all the world. This is where all the main stays of Ixtapa Zihuatanejo are. You can stay in a hotel or you can choose to stay in one of the many luxurious apartment buildings on this beach. Whenever I go to Ixtapa I always find the perfect place to stay through Hero Host, a wonderful accommodations service in Ixtapa that can help you find the best places to stay according to your needs. I’ve lived in different apartments along El Palmar with Hero Host, and I’ve loved every wonderful stay. I’ve stayed for months at the time and every day feels like a gift when you wake up in such a breathtaking place.
El Palmar is known for its big waves, its excellent atmosphere, and for the rocks that rise above the ocean on the horizon giving it a distinctive look that everyone can recognise. Once you’ve seen it, you can’t forget it.
Here you can relax, sunbathe, meet people from all over the world, bodysurf, play volleyball, parasail, have long romantic walks on the beach, and if you’re lucky you might get to see baby turtles hatching and making their way into the big blue ocean. There’s a baby turtle sanctuary on this beach so if you’re set on meeting baby turtles you can always stop by and say hello.
In the map you can see La Majahua a bit further north from Troncones beach (blue pin).
This small but wonderful beach near Troncones is a hidden paradise. When you visit, make sure to look closely at the sand, it sparkles as if it has specks of gold mixed in with it. The sand is soft and warm. Walking on it I felt like my feet were sighing in relief and joy.
This beach is perfect to relax, bodyboard, or drink something while you look at the waves. There are also a few local restaurants you can eat at.
The beach is very quiet and it’s family-friendly as well as pet-friendly. Kids enjoy playing among the rocks and the waves are not so strong as the ones in El Palmar. There are, however, no palapas (big beach umbrellas made with dried palm tree leaves), nor lounge chairs, so remember to bring towels, or folding chairs with you for more comfort. La Majahua is the kind of beach I go to whenever I want to find some quiet, peace, and beauty.
The main attraction on this beach is…. the surf!Playa Saladita is one of the most famous surfing beaches in all of Mexico. This is a common destination for Americans, Canadians, and Latin Americans that love surfing. On shore you will find a growing, friendly, bilingual (English-Spanish) surfing community who is always ready to offer a tip or two on how to best catch the waves, and in the water you will find wonderful waves that can delight both experienced and beginner surfers.
Truth be told, the sand is not as comfortable as in other beaches in Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo as it has quite a few pebbles and stones, so does the ocean floor. However, the water is the main attraction!If you have always wanted to learn to surf, Saladita is the place to be. There are several schools of surf that offer classes and rent equipment. If you are a surfer but you forgot your board at home, you can also find lots of places around where they rent all kinds of boards.
For surfers: this beach is known for having one of the longest lefts in Mexico. You can often catch rides of over a minute. But this means, of course, that the paddling out is quite long, so make sure you’re in good shape to do all that paddling! If you get lucky, you will see a few big sea turtles on your way to catch the waves, as they often swim among the surfers. You will see their heads popping out of the water or their huge shells among the waves.
I assure you, once you’ve surfed here, you’re going to come back for more!
Troncones is one of the most iconic beaches near Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo. The ocean here is as wild as it can be. You can walk for miles and miles in this beautiful, unspoiled paradise and feel at one with nature. Here, you are transported into another world, one where nature was unbound and undisturbed by humans. On this beach, turtles lay their eggs unseen and undisturbed. Here, whales come close to the shore during the winter to mate. Here, all kinds of creatures live quietly in peace.
The community in Troncones lives in harmony with the ocean, making efforts to ensure that Troncones remains as paradisiacal as ever, unperturbed by too much human intervention. If you want to connect with nature and escape for a while from the human world, Troncones is the place to visit!
As its name in Spanish indicates, Playa Larga is a “Long Beach”. It stretches for miles and it turns into Playa Blanca (“White Beach”). Similar to Troncones, these beaches are known for being natural paradises with little human intervention. However, there are many rustic and cozy restaurants in which you can find delicious food, especially fish and shellfish yummy dishes.
One of the main activities you can do here is horse riding.It’s a magical thing to ride at sunset on this wonderful long beach. Your spirit is set free by the wind, the speed, and the view. You can also enjoy a lively conversation with your friends as you ride together through nature.
We booked this amazing horse riding experience with Hero Host as one of their services is to arrange experiences for their guests. Riding the beach on horseback had always been a dream of mine, and I am so happy now it’s come true.
Barra de Potosí is at the end of Playa Blanca and it has access both to the ocean and to the lagoon. This place is known for being a good spot for whale watching! It is also a wonderful place for an adventure since the intersection between the ocean and the lagoon makes it an exciting place where you can find both the soft side and wild side of nature!
Next to the lagoon you will find several restaurants where you can enjoy the view while drinking coconut water or a margarita!
I would recommend Tony Macarrony’s Restaurant. The owner and his family provide very good customer service and their food is great.
A great activity you can do on this beach is to take a tour of the lagoon. You can book a boat tour that will take you deep inside the lagoon where you can photograph and enjoy the local wildlife. If you fancy an adventure, you can also rent a kayak and explore the lagoon on your own. If you’re feeling daring, you can kayak out to sea.
The lagoon is quite shallow in some parts so you can also enjoy relaxing in it as you would in a pool. Families come here to enjoy the day out. It is very safe and it is a place where you can find everything together: relaxation, adventure, good food, drinks, and an amazing view.
For me, Ixtapa will always be my favorite place in the world. And whichever beach you decide to visit, you can never go wrong in Ixtapa. It is an amazing safe haven where people from all over the world can find peace in communion with nature. Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo is developed enough by human intervention to make it a comfortable place and yet it has also remained a natural paradise in which nature is still unbound, wild, and abundant to make it exciting, life-renewing, and magical.
Come visit Ixtapa, once you’ve stayed here, you will keep coming back!
Even before a human is born, society establishes specific roles based on gender that will define the person’s actions and decisions throughout his or her life. These impositions determine how a child will be educated and what actions and responsibilities that person will take in every stage of his or her life.
For us women, life is difficult from the very beginning for multiple reasons. Most fathers do not want baby girls because “they are too delicate” or “they will always need someone to look after them” or (in my opinion) the worst reason of all: “because my last name and legacy will eventually disappear”. Also, we are forced to attach to “femininity standards” from the moment we are born, such as getting our ears pierced, being tucked in a pink blanket, and arriving home to a beautiful pink crib. From that moment on, our life will be based on what others decide for ourselves: what colors should we wear, what toys should we play with, what movies or TV shows should we watch, and so on.
Unfortunately, it does not stop once we leave our childhood behind. When we become teenagers, we experience a lot of changes in our bodies, our minds, and our environment. Things that we used to love as little girls become boring, our parents seem to be our worst enemies while friends become our allies. Our body also changes: we grow, breast development takes place, hair appears in places it did not exist before, and menstruation becomes part of our lives. This transition implies new impositions established by society, for example, how to behave as a young woman, how to keep menstruation as a very, very intimate –and sometimes- forbidden subject, how to dress in order to avoid young men from getting distracted and old men from catcalling at us (as if it was our responsibility to worry about this). We are taught not to be loud, not to curse, and not to speak our minds when we feel the need to do so. We are forced to believe that we are subordinated to men, meaning that we should serve them for the simple reason of being a wife, a daughter, a sister, or any other family member, and we are obliged to believe that every action or decision that we make will be judged or celebrated by men.
We carry a burden on our shoulders for all of our lives. Our parents and our environment teach us that we should grow into accomplished women that are able to balance personal and professional life without hesitation, to make sacrifices in order to keep the members of the family happy, even if it means losing ourselves in the process.
So these questions emerge from deep inside my mind: what are the expectations that society determines for each person based on gender? What is a superwoman or the superwoman syndrome? The answer might be easy, but let us remember that we live in a patriarchal society, and we are often blindfolded and tend to minimize things due to the level of internalization that we have.
I have already mentioned some examples of social impositions to little girls and teenagers (the list is longer, of course, and if you are a woman reading this, I am sure you will find more examples based on your experience), but for now, let us talk about the socially established role that adult women play nowadays, which, by the way, has been played for centuries.
In the American society of the 1970s and 1980s, women’s traditional role shifted from being a housewife to a more professional or business-oriented way of life. This became a remarkable phenomenon because women were pursuing a balance between both traditional female roles and traditional masculine roles. Then, women found themselves struggling with housework, raising children, and marriage while chasing a career in business, politics, law, or any type of industry, for example. This gave origin to the terms “superwoman” and “superwoman syndrome” used in sociology and psychology to refer to a condition or pattern of behavior that causes a woman to believe she can do anything and everything at the same time. This means that society pressures a woman into thinking she has the responsibility to accomplish personal and professional tasks by herself flawlessly every day of her life.
In the culture that we live in (mainly influenced by the United States and Europe), female identity means engaging in multiple activities and excelling in all of them. Whether it is domestic or professional work, women are forced to achieve perfection as mothers, wives, employers, employees, students, caregivers, and leaders.
Once we reach adulthood, rules and norms are established by the patriarchal society exclusively for women. We are told that as adults, we “should” know how to cook, clean, manage a family budget, raise a child, pay the bills and be responsible for a household. We are also told we “should” be competitive workers, leaders, students, and athletes. We are so coerced into merging all of these in order to be successful, that we become slaves of our own lifestyle.
Perhaps we could all say that our mothers suffer from the superwoman syndrome and even ourselves as adult women. I think many of us can picture our mothers as individuals trying their best to master the gigantic duty of taking care of a family, cooking, cleaning, and grocery shopping while at the same time trying to succeed in the professional field as employees, leaders, CEOs, or freelancers. Many of them are full-time homemakers and mothers, which is not an easy job, and they have to balance housework with their own individuality.
But then I wonder: what are men obliged to do by the patriarchy? They are not forced to do any of the housework or family activities and responsibilities I mentioned before. They are educated into believing that their “only” duty is to provide, whatever that implies. They are not forced to raise and educate a child, or to know how to clean a house, not even to know that a house needs to be cleaned every other day!
As children, teenagers, and young adults, men learn that the house tasks are taken care of by the mother, while the father works outside from home. They learn that the mother keeps the house tidy, feeds the whole family, and helps them with their homework while having a big smile on her face and that the father comes home late at night, tired of a hard day at work, waiting for his wife to tell him dinner is ready. They do not learn that what their mother does is also work, and a very difficult one, with no profit and no weekends.
What the patriarchy teaches men is that they do not have the need or responsibility of doing the same activities as women, because “it is not their job” to clean, or do the laundry, or feeding a baby, because they are educated to think those are exclusively female duties.
Women trying to perform and balance professional and domestic chores often suffer from stress, eating disorders, anger, depression, sleeplessness, and other psychological alterations. This is completely unfair, as we already have many things that represent a disadvantage in comparison with men.
Some women try their best to be excellent workers and still suffer the effects of the wage gap; they also try their best to be great mothers, taking most of the responsibility by themselves, while their male partners say they “help” with the raising process.
For me, one of the saddest things in this particular topic is that we always carry a label given by society, whether it is the label of “mother” or “wife” or “daughter”, each with specific characteristics and responsibilities. But where is our individuality left? Why is the bar so high for women and so low for men?
Let us try to answer these questions every day, with the intention of deconstructing our minds and building a new society in which the only superwomen are the ones found in comic books.
More About This Author
If you would like to know more about Sandra Estrada visit her on LinkedIn.
It seemed so simple, didn’t it? You had a dream when you were little and the only plan was to follow it. It was going to come true eventually because in stories… dreams always do. Even for the people who at first didn’t believe they could, in the stories, in the end, they are convinced otherwise. It was simple. Just trust. A little bit of magic and fairy dust and voilà! Happily ever after. Granted by grace, without a lot of effort though with suffering involved for all those characters suffer first before things get better. And the plan was always the same, be a good person, keep believing, follow your dreams, be true to your heart.
Same thing with love. He or she will arrive, someday out of the blue. You’ll get your very own meet-cute. One day, when you’re ready, he’ll bump into you and he’ll spill something on your shirt. He’ll say sorry, you’ll be pissed but your eyes will lock, and then… just like that. You fall in love. Magic. (Hope your meet-cute is a little bit more original than that). And then the story follows, some ups and downs, tears and misunderstandings that cause pain but the ending is always the same… happily ever after. So we were told.
And then you start growing up and realize that life lasts longer than the movie or the story and that the “happily ever after” is, in reality, a “happily just for now“… because in a moment, in the blink of an eye, everything changes. You get fired, or you have to leave things or people behind, the business idea fails, they hurt you, your health declines, he dies, or she leaves you. Or it simply goes slower, downhill until it crashes and burns.
You feel it’s the end. It must be. How much pain can it take to die? Pain doesn’t kill you though. You keep on living, even though at first, it’s hardly living. Then slowly you start to glow again, your first rebirth. Welcome to the world. Now you are more grown-up than before, now you are wiser, and kinder, hopefully, if you’ve not let your first death wilt your heart.
A new start, a new dream. This time you know better. But even so, not everything is under your control. You have to learn to trust… again. You’re scared, so scared that maybe you mess up. Let’s hope is not too bad and that you can fix it. If not, then make sure you don’t let fear stop you next time, because there is always a next time, if you let it.
The next time comes around and you’re not ready. But in life, we hardly are. You learn on the go. And this time you are prepared to trust. A leap of faith. What if you fall and crash? Well, yeah, that’s a possibility. But hey, you’ve fallen and died before… And here you are again! Death, the metaphorical and physical kind, is an illusion anyway, so they say. And it’s coming, it’s certainly coming for you, for them, for this, for that, for everyone. So why not? We are all going there anyway. Why not try to make the road to Death more enjoyable, more daring?
So you decide to trust. Wholeheartedly.
Dear, brave soul, you did well in trusting. It became everything you’d hoped for and more. You’re happy now. Happy again. Happier than ever. And you think, this time, you’ll be happy forever… This time is for good. It has to be.
Then a little voice at the back of your mind is whispering to you: Remember, it’s all just for now. It’s not a threat, it comes with love. It’s a snippet of wisdom from the depths of your soul. You know it’s right. For a second, you feel the pain, the grief, the fear of losing what you’ve got, though it’s still here. But you know, it won’t always be. But then again, neither will you. It’s coming closer every day. So, why not…
You look around at all you hold dear with newfound love because you know it’s not for good. Tomorrow it could all be gone. Tomorrow it could all be different. There is only today, only this moment. And happily ever after was never to be “ever after”. It is only just for now. Tomorrow you might die again as you did before and after that, another rebirth will follow either in this life or the next. It’s a cycle, it’s a wave. It comes and goes. A breath in and a breath out. It all comes and goes.
So you look at them, you look at her, you look at him, you look at it, at the place, at the meal, at the scene, you listen to their voices, to the music, to the laughter… Really look at it all, really listen to it all, really take it in to imprint it in your heart, so at least there, it will live forever. And you give thanks, also to voice in your head because you realize that you’ve only taken this moment to truly love it all because you know it’s not going to last, and that makes it all the more precious.
It’s strange, this life. Maybe all those stories and all those movies were just parts of unfinished stories, like chapters that were never meant to stand for the whole book. Maybe all those stories keep evolving after you’ve reached The End. Maybe all those characters keep on living in their imprint world. Maybe they lose their happiness, maybe they lose each other, maybe their dreams do fail after all. Maybe they die, and then need to be born again, as you’ve done before.
The good news is that you’re not alone. You realize that we are all here doing the same, growing older, growing wiser only because we realize how little we truly understand, and that’s how our mind widens to allow a little bit more light in every time. Life will change again, maybe tomorrow, maybe the next day, but it doesn’t matter. Tomorrow hasn’t come, and you still have now. You love it, embrace it and you give thanks. Because no matter what happens tomorrow, in your heart you will always have now.
The other day I was talking with a friend over coffee. We were both comforting each other after talking about our often traumatic anecdotes of our past relationships with men.
Has it ever happened to you that you meet a man and you think that he shows himself to be different than other men? Maybe he shows attention to detail, or he is kind, or he treats his mom well, or he calls you on the phone instead of just texting you… or any other number of things which for some reason make you feel as if this man is “exceptional” and “rare”, “an extra-ordinary man”. And this, in turn, makes you hold on to him although he may not be really good for you or to you.
After numbering all the reasons why we often think men are “good men” and “good partners”, my friend and I then asked ourselves if these actions or qualities actually make them “good men and partners” or they simply mean they are decent, functional human beings.
After pondering this, we realized the truth. And the truth is that the bar is so low for men that anything they do showing a little bit of attention or kindness or thoughtfulness suddenly becomes like a super amazing wonderful act of love that really shows how much they care about us, and we end up convinced that these men are special, rare, and not to be found easily again (and if that is true then it is even sadder), so we have to hold on to these men because they are “special”.
And this belief actually makes us lower our standards which often leads to us accepting the bare minimum or even taking and excusing abusive or toxic behaviors from them.
Why do we expect so little from our boys and men? Why is the bar so low for them?
Are men not as capable as women? Are men not as capable to be loving, affectionate, thoughtful, caring, and nurturing as women? I believe they are. If they haven’t taught to be so, I believe in their ability to learn. So, the patriarchy is not an excuse anymore for men not to show these qualities. In fact, a man showing these qualities shouldn’t be a rarity, not in their eyes nor in women’s eyes, not in anyone’s eyes.
So here is a list of these “praise-worthy qualities or actions” that men do which make us think they are exceptionally precious when they are simply decent, good, functional human beings.
1. He listens
Have you ever said something like… “What I love about him is that he listens to me!”. Well, of course, he should listen to you if you’re dating, it’s not something that makes him extraordinarily wonderful. It just makes him a normal human being who is having an affective and effective human interaction with someone he cares about. If he doesn’t listen to you, what are you doing there?
2. He “helps” with the kids
He is not “helping” with the kids. He is simply taking responsibility for the lives he created too.He is simply being a responsible father.
3. He cooks
As any other functional adult human being should for we all need to feed ourselves. Cooking is a survival skill, not something to praise. If he cooks exceptionally well and has taken the time to improve his cooking skills so that he can make delicious and yummy dishes then, by all means, praise. But if he can only cook like every other adult should then praise him as an adult, not as a man.
4. He cleans, “helps” in the house
Like every adult should. I know many grown men who still don’t know how to do their own laundry (certainly neither of my grandfathers knew how, and I loved them dearly but it’s very clear to me that they wouldn’t have survived without my grandmothers) and yet mothers can’t wait to teach their daughters how to do all the housework. But being a woman makes you no fitter for housework than being a man makes you fit for the workplace. These are all old ideas about gender roles which are artificial, created, constructed by society, and which are often adapting and changing which only exposes their artificiality.
5. He doesn’t cheat
Well, that doesn’t make him an “extraordinary man or an amazing partner” that you have to applaud. A man not cheating shouldn’t be a rarity because if it is, it means we expect men to cheat and the truth is that in many cultures we do, it’s the boys-will-be-boys idea that we need to leave behind for our sakes and theirs’ as well. Not cheating is not something out of the ordinary, it’s a basic condition of a healthy, loving relationship. Not cheating means he is a decent human being with integrity and values who knows that betraying another is also betraying oneself and who is mature and conscious enough not to hurt another human being in this way.
6. He cares about my feelings, opinions, likes, ideas, etc.
So do any of your loved ones, and that is exactly what partners should do. Caring is a must for a relationship to work. He is not being in any way special or particularly praise-worthy, he is just being a caring human being who is interested in having an effective loving relationship.
7. He treats me with respect
Why should this be a surprise? All human beings should treat each other with respect. I know it doesn’t always happen… but the fact that we praise it only makes us realize how we make a basic thing like respect for a woman an “extra-ordinary thing”. This hurts both men and women because for women it makes them believe they have to settle for being treated with minimal respect and for men it sets the bar so low that they can get away with just doing the bare minimum and being applauded for it.
8. He talks about his feelings
As any healthy human being can and should. We have all struggled with feelings and how to express them. We all need to learn how to communicate feelings in an assertive way. This helps us evolve and become better at human relationships. This applies to both men and women, and it shouldn’t be an extraordinary thing for a man to do or to be praised about.
9. He cares about stuff, he is passionate about something
Like any other interesting human being. Having passions, drive, dreams, and ambition doesn’t necessarily mean he is a good partner. Does it make him an interesting and attractive human being? Yes. But not necessarily a good boyfriend. Him being good at his job or having a great hobby or passion doesn’t necessarily mean that he will be a great partner… that remains to be seen with time.
10. He is loving, you know, like he tells me I’m beautiful and tells me he loves me, etc.
Yes, loving men exist and loving men are precious just like loving women are. But being loving should also be a must in a love relationship, not an “extra-ordinary quality of a man”, because what does that say about men? Are they not capable of love and of being loving? Of course, they are! They are also humans capable of loving and showing affection! It is not something to wonder about, it is a human quality to be affectionate. And we should believe that about them and they should believe that about themselves too for all our sakes.
11. He cares about my and his sexual health
As all adults definitely must! Him buying condoms, wearing them, using any other contraceptive measures, or taking action if one of you gets an infection or an STD doesn’t make him a wonderful, super awesome, and special man, it just makes him a functional, sensible, responsible, mature adult.
If he in any way does anything to deter your health or goes against your wishes, or violates consent then that is a major red flag. It’s violence and abuse and please get out of there!
12. He takes care of himself, you know? He has good personal hygiene, he showers, and he smells good, dresses nicely, works out…
Sister, so do you! Men, women, society… expect women to be beautiful all the time. We are expected to smell nice, to be clean, to shave, to style our hair, to be thin, and yet have lots of curves, to use make-up and yet to look natural, to dress nicely, to have perfect skin, etc.
We are slowly learning to do this for our benefit and not for others. But the pressure is there, and it is not so easy to ignore.
I understand men have other expectations and pressures which just goes to show just how the patriarchy affects us all.
But having good personal hygiene is only another feature of being a healthy, functional human being, not something to applaud though it’s definitely something to be desired in a partner regardless of gender.
These are only a few of the things men get applauded for when they should really be just normal, ordinary, basic things all adults should do.
Putting the bar so low for men is detrimental to both men and women because for women it means that they always have to settle for the bare minimum effort, that they have to lower their standards, and accept less than they give or are willing to give.It means that they won’t have ‘equal’ partners, but that they will have to content themselves with the scraps of love, attention, respect, and care they can get and be thankful for it which is not fair,and also not necessary. There are great men out there, we can have faith and believe in their capabilities and abilities to be functional adults and to be loving, caring, and affectionate as well as have a good life of their own.
For men, having the bar so low is also hurtful because when not much is expected from you, you don’t feel inspired to grow, to make an effort, to challenge yourself, you end up becoming less… not more.
One time I was talking with a student who was telling me about a great math teacher he had. Before this teacher, he had never been good at maths nor did he like them. He had almost failed math in previous years so he never thought he would do well on maths, nor had his previous teachers expected him to so he made zero effort to change.
But this new teacher expected him to understand the topics, she expected him to get good grades, to ask questions, and show interest, she expected excellence from him as she did from all of her students. She made a point of letting him know that she wasn’t going to accept any less from him and that it was in him to make a change. She let him know she believed it was within his abilities and capacities to do so.
And what did he do? He leveled up, he made the effort to pay attention in class, did his homework, he even went and got extra hours of tutoring when he didn’t understand well. He made sure to become the student his teacher was sure he could be. And he was grateful for it, he passed maths with excellent grades, and his ideas about himself changed: He was now someone who was good at maths and smart enough to get good grades.
He always remembered this teacher fondly.
He told me “sometimes all you need is someone who believes in you and who is not going to accept your bare minimum but who actually believes you are capable of great things. It makes you want to make a real effort.”
I think about this conversation often and I think it applies to life and to relationships as well.
No one is born to fulfill all our expectations, this is true, it’s not like that.
But it’s great when somebody inspires in us the desire to do better, to be better. And that is exactly what good relationships do, they bring out the best in us, they bring us back to ourselves, and help us to connect again. They help us to strive, to grow, to expand, to evolve… not the other way around. Having standards gives both men and women an opportunity to grow, to reach high and far, to level up.
If we all show standards and we are all willing to work and care for a partner who will meet us at our own level, not accepting less or the bare minimum, then maybe all of our relationships can improve for all of us.
For women especially who have always been taught to accept and expect less, to conform, to decrease their value to fit into boxes made by smaller minds… it’s especially important to remember the value of having standards because those standards reflect the way in which you view your own worth.
It is always important to remember that when a man dates you he is not doing you a favor. If you are a wonderful woman who is willing to care for others and for yourself, who puts in the effort to know someone at a deep level, who is willing to trust and love… then any man who dates you is not doing you a favor by dating you but in fact, he is having the honor to date someone like you. And the reverse is true too. If you are a man who is not only doing the bare minimum, who has integrity and values, who is a decent, functional adult and who also is willing to go the extra mile and to work on yourself and create a deep, multi-layered relationship with someone who is your equal partner you also definitely deserve someone who is willing to do the same and not settle for less.
We say we want equal partners but until we are ready to let go of people who just won’t do the effort, and be brave enough to meet someone at our level and work on ourselves to be better each time and to make a relationship work our words are just empty wishes.
We need to be the kind of people we wish our partners were and then don’t settle for anything less.
To women: be not afraid to show standards, to say no, to establish limits. Stop applauding things that should be a must and start believing in your own worth.
And to men: be not afraid to be all that you can be and that includes being vulnerable, sensitive, nurturing, loving. Be not afraid to let go of anyone who devalues you and please expect more of yourself. Don’t settle for just doing these basic things, strive to be better in your eyes. Level up. Be conscious, be mature, be brave. Evolve.
And to all the men and women who always go the extra mile, who are kind and loving, who work on themselves, who go to therapy, who heal their wounds, who take responsibility and let go of the victim mentality, who want to give rather than take, who are willing to learn and to evolve: thank you for being in this world, your presence is appreciated. And if you do not feel it is sometimes, then appreciate yourselves because love really does start with oneself.
I sit there, my heart pounding, my fingers clutching my clothes without realizing they are, as the sound of guns continues, bone cracks, someone screams.
I hate this. Why the hell are we watching this?! Or better yet, why are we watching hell?
Too many times I’ve suffered through movies that include violence (movies of course, that are not chosen by me but that some person in my life wanted to watch). Violence ranging from guns, and explosions, to torture and rape, and fists and kicks, and blood, and knives, and swords… and emotional abuse and verbal abuse as well.
I know that violence is part of our lives, Even nature, some people have argued can be violent (if we want to label it like so) but there is a difference between nature-violence and human-violence.
We could look at a cheetah hunting and eating an antelope and think “That’s violent”, but is it? The cheetah is just doing what it does, it hunts, it eats, it lives, and survives.
Human violence is a willful act. Human violence is a choice. Human violence can and should be unnecessary, and yet human beings choose to be violent and choose to hurt each other, with the knowledge that they are doing it so. The difference between an animal and humans is our conscience. We know we can avoid violence and yet we choose it. And not only choose it but encourage it, find it fun or even funny, pay to see it, encourage others to see it. It’s madness.
And I understand violence can have a purpose. I understand that all people who have gone to war have thought of themselves as “the good guys” who were defending something, who were fighting for what’s right, or what’s fair, or freedom, etc., etc. We are always the good guys, aren’t we? Does anybody ever really think of themselves as the villain? Not really.
Violence begets violence, and in the end, the fire it creates cannot be quenched. Sure. Wars started. Wars ended. But has the fire been put out? No! Can we truly say we live on a peaceful planet? No, and yet those wars are over, right? But actually, there are wars going on right now. Can you believe it? I really wish I couldn’t.
And okay, let’s say we are lucky enough to live far away from those places where there’s war right now. Let’s say that we live relatively peaceful lives… We still bring violence into our lives. How? Or when? Every day in several ways. In this post, I want to write about violence in movies and series, specifically.
I have never really understood people’s fascination with it. I really want to know because I simply can’t understand. So please… answer me… why? Why do people enjoy watching movies where there are people doing awful things to others?
I have sat there in the cinema, with my hands over my eyes, trying to reach my ears too to shut out the noise as people are being killed, tortured, hurt, stabbed, beheaded, shot down, punched… And all I can think of is why?
I have even heard laughter during violent action films.
I really have a hard time finding films during which I can keep my eyes open the whole time because I still shut my eyes when Rocky and Apollo are going at it. People have called me too soft, too sensitive, too innocent, too weak… I don’t care. I would rather be that than someone who laughs when people are getting killed on screen.
And nowadays, we are so used to violence, so desensitized to it, it’s hard to find anything mainstream where there is no violence.
Lately, even children’s movies are full of violence. And I wonder how my 8-year-old nephew can stand to watch what I can’t.
It makes me think what are we doing, to ourselves, to our youths?
Because people have told me, “Relax! It’s just a movie!” But, is it?
Aren’t movies also a way to not only represent but to create reality? Are we teaching our children that we live in a world where all that violence is normal, or worse, desired? That it is something excited to look at and to participate in? Because children learn from example, they want to see themselves in the characters they watch, they want to emulate them too.
What are they looking at? Is it really just a movie?
I don’t think so. As someone who loves stories, written or on-screen, I know the power they wield. Our world is created through stories, our identity is created through the stories we tell ourselves and of ourselves. Everything is a story. Reality is a story in itself.
Why do we want to include violence in our stories? Why do we find that entertaining?
And I don’t want to be so binary as to see violence in black and white terms. I don’t want to judge it as something good or evil. Violence exists and like I’ve said, it often serves a purpose, sometimes we could say a helpful purpose. For example, the film La Vita e Bella (Life is Beautiful) directed by Roberto Benigni, a wonderful movie that I hate because it’s heartbreaking and real in a heartbreaking way, and love because it’s beautiful as it is awful. There is certainly violence in that movie, but it’s a violence that is meant to make us aware, to shake us awake… to say, “Hey! This happened! Look at it! It can’t happen again! Don’t let it happen again!” That kind of violence serves a purpose and a useful one if you ask me. I do let violence shake me awake.
These are not the kind of movies I am thinking about now.
I am thinking of movies with unnecessary violence, and not only unnecessary but movies where violence is depicted as something exciting.
The truth is…. A looooot of movies and series include violence that is just gratuitous, a violence whose only purpose is to entertain the audience.
And there are many movies that film violence in a “cool light”, where people kill each other and that makes them “cool, tough, the heroes”. Where the more you kill the better/cooler you are. What is wrong with us? There is nothing, NOTHING, heroic about killing others. There never has been, there never will be. Period.
I do ask of the world and of myself…. Why are we entertained by violence? Why is hurting each other entertaining? What is sooo entertaining about people dying at the hands of other human beings? Please, do ask yourselves because I ask myself the same things.
I believe what Neale Donald Walsch says when he says that ‘we can know how evolved a civilization is by what it finds entertaining’. If that is the case, and I do believe it is, looking at today’s entertainment I am sad to say that we are in fact… Not that evolved. At least, not as we sometimes think we are, not as we could be.
I know I can’t erase violence from films. It is increasingly difficult to find movies I can watch without cringing. Lately, I’ve found myself leaving cinema rooms mid-movie because I just can’t stand it. Other times I simply fall asleep with my earphones on. Other times, I simply leave the sitting room where my family is watching a violent movie and as I close the door to shut the screams out I think, ‘Why… why??, if we’ve been so lucky enough to escape violence in our lives, why do we call it into our lives through the movies and series we watch? Why, if we have been untouched by that underworld, why the hell do we let it into our mind? Because sometimes that is really hell right there on the screen.
If we really want to live in a peaceful world, we have to start by looking at what we look at, by questioning our own views, and likes. We need to see ourselves reflected in the movies we watch because what we let into our minds has an effect. What we feed our mind, we are feeding our beings. Do we want to feed us violence? Is that the way to create a peaceful world? It is not.
It’s about time we start de-mythicizing violence as something to aspire to, to clap at, to laugh at, to condone, or worse, to encourage. Because this world is burning, it’s not the time to fuel the fire, it’s the time to quench it, in our screens, in our stories, in our minds, in our hearts, in our lives, and in our souls.
At the beginning of a year, people usually set goals for the new year that is starting. These goals usually include things like: start a new hobby, learn a new language, learn to play an instrument, lose weight, go to the gym, or maybe more specific goals like run a marathon, get into university, get a job in this or that place, visit Barcelona, etc.
These are all great goals that inspire us throughout the year. However, 2020 taught us that sometimes these goals can get frustrated by external circumstances that we cannot change nor control. 2020 was a very frustrating year for a lot of people – goals, dreams, plans, holidays – a lot of those got frustrated for a lot of people. I was one of those people too.
Because of this, 2020 also gave us an opportunity to become more resilient, more tolerant to frustration, and anti-frigile. Despite the difficulties, well, in fact, because of the difficulties of 2020, it was a year that had a lot of opportunity for growth, awakening, consciousness, and self-awareness.
I remember that when 2020 started everyone was specially excited. We all sensed that the number 2020 meant something. Because it does. 20 + 20 = 40. 40 is a special number. It is the number where the word “quarantine” comes from. And we all were in quarantine in 2020. It is also the number of days and nights that, according to the Judeo-Christian tradition, Jesus spent in the Judaean dessert while he was being tempted by the Devil. I probably do not read this as a Christian would since I do not believe in the Devil as this evil entity hoping to make everyone fall and fall again. The Devil for me is just the Ego, that part of us which we sometimes confuse with our identity. The Ego is also that part of us that gets hurt, offended, corrupted, etc. … that part of us where fear, self-doubt, sense of unworthiness, and lack reside. For me that is the Devil, and it is not evil, it just is. If anything, it is our teacher, it is our greatest challenge and without it there would be no point to this human experience in the first place. The Ego gives us the opportunity to evolve, to connect, to awaken.
Looking at 2020 this way truly adds more meaning to it for me. Nothing has any meaning by itself save the meaning we give it. This is the meaning I decide to add to 2020: a year of challenges that gave us the opportunity to grow, to evolve, and to awaken further. Everyone is responsible for the meanings they add to anything, I just hope that any meanings you choose will help rather than hinder, will inspire rather than frustrate, will empower rather than victimise.
Even though we hadn’t ascribed a specific meaning to 2020 at the beginning of the year, I do remember that a lot of people were saying things like: “This is it! This will be my year!“, “This is the year when I finally do this, achieve that, make this…“, “This is going to be the best year of All!“.
A lot of people were so excited for 2020, me included, we all had high hopes, great expectations, lots of goals and desires and then… Covid-19 came to tell us “Mmm no“. “No to this, no to that, no.” “Just no“. A lot of frustration, anger, depression, anxiety, fear arose from this but also a lot of resilience, growth, self-love, forgiveness, tolerance, awareness, and hope.
2020 was different for all of us. For some it was hell, for some it wasn’t that bad. We all have our own realities but I think we can all agree it was challenging, to say the least. It seems ironic to me when I remember how we all started the year, full of dreams/hopes/intentions/goals… I don’t think that was bad or that it somehow jinxed it as some people have suggested, it is just something we do whenever a year starts and I think it’s a good practice but the ever-changing, unpredictable, and uncertain 2020 got me thinking that for 2021 I want to do something different for my 2021 New Year’s Resolutions List.
Instead of setting specific, external-based goals I want to learn from last year and focus instead on inner goals and intentions that can remain unmovable whatever happens on the outside. I want to share my list here with you, I hope this list will help me throughout the year and will remind me that my happiness, peace, fulfilment, etc. doesn’t have to depend on anything external because if it does, then I will be forever at the mercy of the changes of this world, the uncertainty, and the inevitable mortality of everything and everyone:
So, here it is: My 2021 Alternative New Year’s Resolutions List.
1. Be present.
Most times when we are suffering it’s not because of something that is happening right now at this moment. Eckhart Tolle says that if we feel anxious is because our mind is in the future, and if we feel depressed it’s because our mind is burdened by too much past… in neither case are we fully in the Present Moment which is really all we ever truly have. Of course, the Present Moment is always this second… and now this second… and now this one… so being Present is practicing flowing, going with life, hand in hand. This means embracing change, uncertainty, non-attachment, which can prove challenging but this is exactly why I think it’s a wonderful, mindful Alternative New Year’s Resolution for 2021.
2. Be Grateful
Last year was hard on all of us, but to some it was worse than others. Wherever we are in the scale of “who got it worse”, or “who got it better” (doesn’t really matter), I think we can all agree we all have things to be grateful for. The simple fact that we survived last year is something to be grateful for. And I know some people not only survived but thrived. There is so much to be grateful for even amidst all the tragedy. Maybe you have a loved one that got Covid but got over it, maybe you accomplished something awesome, maybe you made it out alive… whatever has happened or is happening or will happen… there is always something to be grateful for and feeling grateful will bring more wonderful things into your life in a virtuous circle.
3. Do You
Last year, my gym coach became another spiritual guru for me. Once, when we were doing spinning, we had one of those soul conversations that speaks directly to the spirit. I had been holding on to something for quite some time so I asked him: “How can I let go?”. He smiled and said: “Just do you. You do you and you will feel lighter with time”.
A short, sweet, powerful answer that I sorely needed. That day I pondered what does doing me mean… I realised it can include any number of things. I took it to mean loving me always and in all ways. It means practicing self-care, self-compassion, and self-kindness but it also means challenging myself, push myself to get out of my comfort zone (sometimes that comfort zone is not only a place or a habit or a relationship but it can also be a state of being like feeling melancholic, or feeling sorry for oneself or playing the victim, those can be quite comfortable too because it doesn’t require us to take responsibility for ourselves). Doing me also means taking care of my body, my mind, my soul.Doing me means doing things I love and enjoy, spending time with people I cherish. Doing me means having a healthy, loving, nurturing relationship with myself, a relationship that will be the blueprint for all my relationships with others. Doing me is living my life in love.
4. Be Responsible for Yourself
This means being or working towards being self-aware,self-sufficient and conscious. To be willing to acquire knowledge, discipline & practice in matters that have to do with our well-being. For example, creating a budget, or learning how to deal with stress, or increasing our water intake, etc.
It implies becoming mature, self-aware, and reliable.
In relation to external matters that can take the form of so many things but it mustn’t stop there. We need to take responsibility for our actions yes, but also for our thoughts and feelings.
I have in the past tried to make others responsible for what I feel. I have in the past hoped that others would somehow “fix” me, that others would read my mind and know what I need, etc. I have realised that it not only is impossible to make others responsible for ourselves but it is frustrating and tiring to try.
On the other hand, taking responsibility for ourselves (our inner and outer world) isempowering and motivating. You move away from the “victim” chair and you sit yourself on the director chair instead where there are more options, more space for creativity, where there is healing.
To do this we have to first be self-aware and make sure we notice when we are delegating our own power to someone else or when we are pointing fingers and trying to make someone else responsible. Only if we are able to notice this can we then make ourselves responsible.
Also, responsible doesn’t mean guilty. You don’t have to feel guilty for your actions, behaviours, thoughts, etc. But you do need to take responsibility for them. The difference between guilt and responsibility is that the former is self-deprecating, useless, and full of fear, it is another way to make ourselves into the victim… while responsibility comes from a place of maturity, empowerment, self-awareness, forgiveness, consciousness, strength, willpower, and kindness.
5. Prioritise Health
Covid showed us last year how fragile we are and how much our health matters, not only physical but mental health too.
A lot of people got Covid but I know that even more people suffered from anxiety or depression.
Our health is all connected. Your body won’t be fully healthy if your mind is not and vice-versa.
For this year I have decided not to write down for my resolutions things like: “going to the gym everyday”, or “compete in a 10k race”, or “getting abs”. Though those are all great doable objectives for many people, Covid showed us that races can be easily cancelled, gyms get closed, and abs won’t help you if you get a virus.
I felt it more necessary to simply prioritise health and yes that implies eating better and doing exercise but it also includes meditating, sleeping enough hours, drinking enough water, cutting off toxic relationships, working on my past wounds, learning how to rest and relax, etc.
Prioritising health means making many little and big decisions everyday at every moment from reducing my screening time to doing yoga in the morning to stop comparing myself to others on social media, etc.
6. Embrace Death
This one is the big challenging one. The reason Covid is so alarming is because it shows us our own mortality. It shows us that death is just one breath away sometimes. It makes us aware of the one simple statement that is true for all living things: We are all going to die.
We know this, we say this… but rarely do we actually let ourselves really know it. Why? Because it’s scary! The thought of not existing, the thought of the process of dying, the pain of facing our loved ones’ deaths. All of that is just too much for our human brains who have constructed an ego that gets by thinking that somehow it will outlive death. That’s why some people sometimes obsess over their legacy or want to have children or want to create something: art, a company, a book, a monument, a reputation, etc. that will somehow keep them alive because the inevitability of death is too much to bear.
Yet it’s something that we will all face and, what’s more, it is something as natural as being born, as breathing, as eating… there is nothing more natural than death.
But the fear of it drives us to do crazy things. However, the awareness of death can also lead us to create amazing things too. If we think about it, death is what gives meaning to it all. It’s worth getting up yet another morning because maybe tomorrow we won’t. It is worth living in the present moment because maybe in the next we won’t. It’s worth writing that book, creating that artwork, speaking your mind, telling them you love them, forgiving yourself, doing your job in a way that satisfies you, quitting the job that doesn’t fulfil you, pursuing your dreams, challenging yourself, loving yourself and others… Because maybe tomorrow we won’t be able to. Because maybe tomorrow it won’t matter anymore. Because our death is always there, it is our one true certainty. And to be honest, I for one, find that reassuring if scary at times. Knowing that I will die makes me want to live well, not only to survive (because I won’t, none of us will) but to thrive.
In my favourite book, The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman, Lyra, the protagonist, meets her death (not as in ‘she dies’, but she actually meets her own Death) when she goes to the World of the Dead. Her Death tells her that when a human is born, his or her death is born with them and that they accompany their person through all their lives. And when the time comes, their Death just gently taps them on the shoulder and lovingly lets them know it is time to go. Lyra asks a sickly woman if the thought of her Death following her everywhere scares her, the woman says it doesn’t. Knowing that her Death is with her always spares her the trouble of having to look out for it all the time. It helped them become friends.
Embracing your Death allows you to embrace Life. Embracing other people’s death helps you embrace them too. I choose to believe that Death is not here as our ultimate enemy or doom, I choose to believe that Death is here as our friend, as our motivator, as our reminder that Life is precious and short, that we are mortal and vulnerable, that we can choose how to live because in the end we will die anyway. Whether we fulfilled our dreams or not, whether we challenged ourselves or not, whether we create something that outlives us or not, whether we have power, money, love, joy, peace, health, success, etc. etc. We will all die anyway, so we might as well enjoy life while we can. We might as well be happy, we might as well pursue our dreams, we might as well play, laugh, succeed, fail, cry, break, heal, relax, love, forgive… We might as well try it all because Death is there and no matter how careful we are, how much power, or money, or success, or importance we think we have, Death won’t pass us by. So we might as well be the best version of ourselves while we are still here. It’s not a matter of when we die or how we will die, or how not to die, it’s a matter of how we live in this moment right here, right now. Because that is all we really have.
P.S. If you want to read a couple of fiction books that might help you gain a new perspective on Death, I recommend The Amber Spyglasswhich is the third volume of the trilogy His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman (I recommend the whole trilogy, it’s a masterpiece), and The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, this last one is narrated by Death and that is just awesome! I never thought I could actually like Death so much.
Happy New Year! May 2021 be a year full of life for you and all that life has to offer… Not everything will be easy, or comfortable, or happy… but may you do the best with what you’ve got! It’s all in your hands! And I do wish you lots of light, love, abundance, health, joy, and happiness!
I recently spent a few days in Oaxaca, one of the most-loved states in Mexico.
It’s to the south of Mexico City, about 5-6 hours away (by car).
Oaxaca is known for its wonderful natural landscapes, its delicious food, its traditions, its artisans, its dances, and its people.
Three of my grandparents are from this state so it has always felt close to my heart.
I had visited Oaxaca before several times but this time I went with the purpose of connecting with the people. I went to the City of Oaxaca, the capital of the state which is known as a colonial city for all its colonial architecture and heritage.
As I walked the many beautiful, cobblestoned streets of the city, I found many people who were willing to have a conversation. The people of Oaxaca are very warm to visitors. Even though I am Mexican, they could tell right away I was not from there (which I didn’t like one bit, but okay). They were all kind, welcoming, and warm, and their faces lit up when I told them my grandparents were from Oaxaca, from a tiny town called Chilapa de Díaz (Díaz as in Porfirio Díaz, one of the most famous presidents of Mexico who was in power for 30 years). After I told them this, I felt like they talked to me more at ease, as if I was one of their own. I liked that more.
I love being from Mexico City, it is such a huge city with lots of everything. It is convenient to be from and live in Mexico City but I think it must be enchanting to be from and live in Oaxaca.
I spent my days in Oaxaca sightseeing, taking pictures, looking at art, eating and eating and eating delicious food, drinking hot chocolate (Oaxaca is known for its excellent hot chocolate – it can be done with water or milk), listening to live music, getting sun-tanned, and talking with the local people.
I interviewed them. I wanted to know how they felt about their city and their state. I wanted to see their culture through their eyes, too. Here is a list of their experiences, wisdom, and light they shared with me:
Trabaja como mesera en Tres Bistros / Works as a waitress in the restaurant Tres Bistros.
Lugar de origen: Oaxaca (estado) / Place of origin: Oaxaca (state)
¿Qué es lo que más te gusta de Oaxaca? / What do you like the most about Oaxaca?
Mayra: ¡La comida! No sé que sería de mí sin las tlayudas! / The food! I don’t know what I would do without tlayudas!
(Tlayudas are a Oaxacan dish, with a big crispy corn tortilla, with a spread of refried beans, lettuce or cabbage, avocado, meat, Oaxacan cheese (quesillo in Spanish), and salsa. It’s one of the most iconic Oaxacan dishes).
¿Qué más? / What else?
Mayra: ¡Los bailables! / The dances!
En mi pueblo tienen la Danza de la Pluma. Los hombres bailan representando a Moctezuma que baila con dos mujeres, una española y una indígena. Este baile representa un encuentro entre dos mundos, entre los colonizadores europeos y los nativos indígenas. Se baila cada año en la Guelaguetza.
In my town, there is the Dance of the Feather. The men dance as Moctezuma (the Aztec emperor that ruled over Tenochtitlán, the Aztec capital, when Hernán Cortés came to colonise), and he dances with two women, one Spanish woman and one indigenous woman. This dance represents the meeting between two worlds, between the European colonisers and the native indigenous people. It is danced every year in the Guelaguetza.
¿Qué es la Guelaguetza?
Mayra: Es un evento cultural indígena que se celebra cada año en Julio en Oaxaca. Vienen varios equipos representativos de muchos pueblos y bailan en el Auditorio Guelaguetza, en el cerro del Fortin. Cada pueblo tiene su propio baile y sus propios trajes típicos. Sólo los mejores son escogidos para que vengan a participar en la Guelaguetza.
It is a cultural annual indigenous event that it is celebrated each July in Oaxaca. Teams from various towns come to dance in the Guelaguetza Auditorium in Fortin Hill. Each town has its own dance and their own costumes. Only the best are chosen to come and dance in the Guelaguetza.
¿Te gusta vivir en Oaxaca? / Do you like living in Oaxaca?
Mayra: ¡Sí, me encanta vivir en Oaxaca! Aquí siempre es fiesta, fiesta, y fiesta. ¡Aquí celebramos la vida! ¡También celebramos la muerte! En noviembre, en Día de Muertos (1 & 2 de noviembre) honramos la memoria de nuestros seres queridos que ya murieron, celebrando su vida, comiendo sus platillos favoritos, bebiendo lo que les gustaba, oyendo su música favorita! ¡No es triste, es un festejo que celebra la vida del que se fue y de los que siguen aquí!
Yes, I love living in Oaxaca! Here it is always party, party, and party. Here we celebrate life! We also celebrate death! In November, on Day of the Death (November 2nd) we honor the memory of our deceased loved ones by celebrating their life, we eat their favourite dishes, we drink what they liked, we listen to their favourite music! It isn’t a sad thing, it is a party that celebrates the life of the ones that are gone and the ones that are still here!
Mujer indígena zapoteca / Indigenous woman – Zapotec (Zapotecs are an indigenous Mexican group)
Lengua materna: Zapoteco / Native tongue: Zapoteco
Segunda lengua: Español / Second language: Spanish
Conchita es una mujer zapoteca que trabaja en la Ciudad de Oaxaca vendiendo comales de barro que ella misma fabrica.
Conchita is a Zapotec woman that works in the City of Oaxaca selling clay comales (flat griddles) which she makes herself. In Mexico all kitchen stoves have a steel comales and we use them to make or heat up tortillas. (When I moved to London I was shocked to discover that not all the stoves of the world have comales. In London I was first like “Where is the comal??!” haha. I guess I should’ve known since not all countries are big on tortillas like we are but well… it was a very big shock for me haha)
Yo hago mis comales con mis propias manos. Me tardo tres semanas en hacerlos y vengo a venderlos a la ciudad. Yo casi no fui a la escuela. Pero te puedo decir un dicho en Zapoteco: Jun navies quinsao (Esta no es la escritura correcta, sólo que así se escucha en español).
Quiere decir estar bien consigo mismo. Eso es muy importante.
I make my comales with my own hands. It takes three weeks to make them and I come to the city to sell them. I didn’t go to school much. But I can tell you a saying we have in Zapotec: “Jun navies quinsao” (This is not the correct spelling, but it sounds like this in Spanish). It means “to be at peace with oneself”. That is very important.
Lugar de origen: Chiapas / Place of origin: Chiapas (Southern state of Mexico)
Trabaja en la ciudad de Oaxaca vendiendo piedras, aretes, cristales, y brazaletes con su hija Azul y su esposa.
He works in the city of Oaxaca selling stones, crystals, earrings, and bracelets with his daughter, Azul (Blue), and his wife.
¿Por qué veniste a Oaxaca? / Why did you come to Oaxaca?
Miguel Angel: Para trabajar. Yo soy ingeniero de innovación y desarrollo pero no pude encontrar trabajo en Chiapas, allá no hay, así que nos venimos para acá, para trabajar, buscando salir adelante de manera honrada.
To work. I am an innovations and development engineer but I couldn’t find work in Chiapas, there aren’t any jobs, so we came here to work, to look for a way to live in an honest way.
¿Qué es lo que más te gusta de Oaxaca? / What do you like the most about Oaxaca?
Miguel Ángel: Hay mucha fiesta, muchas tradiciones, las ruinas arqueológicas. La música, los bailes, ¡la comida!
There is a lot of parties, lots of traditions, and the archeological ruins: Monte Albán, Mitla, etc. The music, the dances, the food!
Si les pudieras dar un consejo a la gente jóven, ¿qué les dirías? / If you could give young people some advice, what would you say?
Miguel Ángel: Que disfruten la vida, sin vicios, sin alcohol y sin droga.
That they enjoy life without vices, without alcohol, and without drugs.
I bought a beautiful necklace and bracelet from him and his wife made of piedra luna which can attract positive things and patience. He also told me that amber (ámbar) can ward against envy. He also let me hold little Azul who was smiling at me the whole time, melting my heart.
Maestro en la Universidad Mundo Maya de Oaxaca / Teacher at the Mayan World University of Oaxaca
Lugar de origen: Oaxaca / Place of origin: Oaxaca
¿Qué es lo que más te gusta de Oaxaca? / What do you like most about Oaxaca?
Ángel: ¡La comida! Las tlayudas con tasajo, las empanadas de chileatole. Los postres – las donas, la lechecilla. La arquitectura colonial y el Art Deco. Las playas – Puerto Escondido, Huatulco, etc. La artesanía hecha a mano. Las tradiciones como el Día de Muertos, Semana Santa, etc.
The food! The tlayudas con tasajo, the empanadas of chileatole. The desserts – the doughnuts, la lechecilla. The colonial architecture and the Art Deco style. The beaches – Puerto Escondido, Huatulco, etc. The hand-made art. The traditions like the Day of the Death, Easter (Holy Week), etc.
¿Qué más me puedes contar de Oaxaca? / What else can you tell me about Oaxaca?
Ángel: Aquí hay un hombre llamado Alfredo Harp Helú (aunque aquí le dicen el Tío Alfredo) quien es un hombre de negocios que ha invertido mucho en la Ciudad de Oaxaca. Por ejemplo, él hizo el Museo Textil, el Jardín Etnobotánico, etc. Trabajó con Francisco Toledo, un artista zapoteco de aquí de Oaxaca y juntos hicieron mucho por Oaxaca. Harp Helú ponía el dinero y los recursos y Toledo las ideas. Por ejemplo, hicieron el Instituto de Artes Gráficas de Oaxaca (IAGO) y el Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Oaxaca (MACO). Francisco Toledo también es muy querido aquí, se acaba de morir en el 2019.
Para honrar a los 43 estudiantes desaparecidos de Ayotzinapa, Toledo hizo una exhibición de papalotes aquí en Oaxaca. Sus obras siempre eran para el pueblo.
There is a man here called Alfredo Harp Helú (although here he is known as Uncle Alfredo) who is a business man that has invested a lot in the City of Oaxaca. For example, he made the Textile Museum, the Ethnobotanic Garden, etc. He worked with Francisco Toledo, a Zapotec artist from Oaxaca too and together they did a lot for Oaxaca. Harp Helú provided the money and resources and Toledo gave the ideas. For example, they founded the Institute of Graphical Arts of Oaxaca (IAGO) and the Museum of Contemporary Art of Oaxaca (MACO). Francisco Toledo is also very loved here, he has just passed away in 2019.
To honor the 43 disappeared students of Ayotzinapa, Toledo made an exhibition of kites here in Oaxaca.His artwork was always for the people.
(Back in 2014, 43 students from the state of Guerrero in Mexico were kidnapped and ‘disappeared’. Though the government claims otherwise, most people believe it was the former government who not only kidnapped them but killed them. They haven’t been found nor their bodies. And their families are still searching for answers.)
Artista / Artist
Lugar de origen: Oaxaca / Place of origin: Oaxaca
Brenda makes beautiful wooden artworks. They are wooden puzzles that make shapes like animals, geometric shapes, or trees that can stand as ornaments. She sells these in Oaxaca City near the Church of Santo Domingo.
¿Qué te gusta más de Oaxaca? / What do you like most about Oaxaca?
Brenda: ¡Oh, muchas cosas! ¡Qué difícil pregunta! Pero yo diría que mis tres cosas favoritas serían las playas, las calles bonitas y las zonas arqueológicas…. ¡Hierve el Agua, también!
Oh, so many things! What a difficult question! But I would say that my top three are the beaches, the pretty streets, and the archeological zones… Hierve el Agua, too!
So you can have an idea of what is Hierve el Agua, here are some pictures:
¿Cómo haces tus artesanías? / How do you make your artworks?
Brenda: Primero compramos la madera, usamos caoba y huanacaxtle. Luego, hacemos los cortes depende del diseño, y se hace el calado. Después se lija y se trata la madera para que brille. Mi diseño favorito que vendemos es el del árbol, inspirado por el Árbol del Tule.
First we buy the wood, we use mahogany and huanacaxtle. Then, we make the cuts depending on the design and we make the calado (the technique to shape the wood). Then we sand the wood and we treat it to make it shiny. My favourite design is the tree, it’s inspired on the Tree of Tule (Tule is a town near Oaxaca City that houses the widest tree in the world which is an Ahuehuete – in English this type of tree is known as Montezuma cypress).
The Árbol del Tule is a must-see for when you go to Oaxaca! And now, it has a baby tree near it! It’s child! (Fun fact: Trees also have families).
Here are some pictures of the Árbol del Tule:
And street art of the Árbol and his baby:
Si les pudieras dar un consejo a la gente jóven, ¿qué les dirías? / If you could give young people some advice, what would you say?
Brenda: ¡Que se arriesguen a salir, a conocer, a viajar! / That they must dare to go out, to know, to travel!
I bought one of Brenda’s art pieces: a beautiful wooden puzzle elephant that now stands on my bookshelf guarding my books. I love it!
20 años / 20 years old
Lugar de origen: Oaxaca / Place of origin: Oaxaca
¿Qué significa tu nombre? / What does your name mean?
Ilantli: Es Náhuatl, y significa ‘la vieja consejera’.
It’s Náhuatl, and it means ‘the old adviser’ (as in someone old and wise that gives advice).
Ilantli: ¡Ya sé! / I know! (She smiles.)
¿Me puedes contar un poco sobre ti? / Can you tell me a little bit about you?
Ilantli: Yo estudio en la universidad Enseñanza de Idiomas y Psicología. Hablo 4 idiomas: español, zapoteco, inglés, y francés.
I study in university Teaching of Languages & Psychology. I speak 4 languages: Spanish, Zapotec, English, and French.
Wow! ¡Eso es increíble! / Wow! That’s amazing!
¿Qué son las tres cosas que más te gustan de Oaxaca? / What are the top three things that you love about Oaxaca?
Ilantli: La comida – ¡las memelas en salsa de chapulín! La historia prehispánica y las cosmoviciones mesoamericanas. El clima.
The food – the memelas in chapulín sauce! The pre-hispanic history and the cosmovision of Mesoamericans. The weather.
Si les pudieras dar un consejo a la gente jóven, ¿qué les dirías? / If you could give young people some advice, what would you say?
Ilantli: La educación es lo único que puede cambiar el mundo.
Education is the only thing that can change the world.
Here is a photo of Ilantli with her Xoloitzcuintle dog, Navi.
Xoloitzcuintles are native to Mexico. Have you seen the Disney-Pixar movie, Coco? You know the little dog that Miguel has, Dante? That’s a Xoloitzcuintle or Xolo dog, they are usually hairless but not always, certainly not Navi.
Trabaja como mesera en el centro de Oaxaca / Works as a waitress in the city centre of Oaxaca
Lugar de origen: Oaxaca / Place of origin: Oaxaca
¿Qué te gusta más de Oaxaca? / What do you like most about Oaxaca?
Leonor: La gastronomía. ¡Los chiles rellenos, los siete tipos de mole, el chocolate caliente, el pan de yema! También que las personas son muy trabajadoras, honestas y amables. Y lugares como el Templo de Santo Domingo.
The gastronomy. ¡The stuffed chillies, the seven types of mole, the hot chocolate, the egg-yolk bread! Also the people are very hardworking, honest, and kind. And places like the Church of Santo Domingo.
Si les pudieras dar un consejo a la gente jóven, ¿qué les dirías? / If you could give young people some advice, what would you say?
Leonor: Que sigan estudiando para que se superen. Yo desearía haber seguido estudiando, tal vez estaría haciendo algo diferente…
They they keep studying so they can better themselves. I wish I had kept studying, maybe I would be doing something different…
Abogado / Lawyer
Lugar de origen: Ciudad de México. Su madre es Oaxaqueña / Place of origin: Mexico City, his mother is from Oaxaca.
¿Qué te gusta más de Oaxaca? / What do you like most about Oaxaca?
Jesús: ¡La comida, claro! Los valores de la gente, son gente buena, buenos hombres y buenas mujeres, aunque la sociedad sigue siendo muy patriarcal aquí. Mi suegro era un gran ejemplo de un buen oaxaqueño, trabajador, honesto, inspirador. Nunca se arrepentiría nadie de contratar a un oaxaqueño. Pero no hay que subestimarlos porque no se dejan, son muy dignos. Admiro mucho a la gente de aquí, es honrada y muy valiente, ¡son bravos!
The food, of course! The values of the people, they are good people, good men and good women, though society here is still very patriarchal. My father-in-law was a perfect example of a good Oaxacan man, he was hardworking, honest, inspiring. Nobody would ever regret hiring a Oaxacan person. Though you must not underestimate them because they don’t let themselves be taken advantage of, they are very dignified. I admire people here, they are honest and very brave, they are courageous!
¿Qué sientes al estar aquí? / What do you feel when you are here?
Jesús: Paz. / Peace.
One of my favourite parts of the trip was our visit to a nearby town called Tilcajete, known for its artesanos (artisans) who make alebrijes. The alebrijes are wooden figures of fantastical creatures that are made up from the mix of different animals. They are made with copal wood. They have bright colours and each artisan has their own style and they pour their feelings, emotions, and intentions into their work. The alebrijes have their origins in the traditions of the carnivals in which people used to wear wooden masks. In Tilcajete there are around 157 workshops where the artisans produce alebrijes which are known throughout the country and abroad. When we were there, they received us with open arm and were ready and eager to answer any questions I had.
They explained that there are three types of alebrijes (which is the umbrella term for all of them):
Nahuales (humanos que se pueden transformar en animales – humans that can transform into animals)
Tonas (animales protectores – animal protectors)
They also told me that some alebrijes have a particular meaning for example, el colibrí, the hummingbird.
El colibrí significa libertad y es un ser del inframundo pero no en un sentido negativo, es un ser que tiene la habilidad de visitar el mundo de los muertos y el mundo de los vivos. En culturas prehispánicas se creía que cuando aparece un colibrí alguien que amas que ya se murió te está viniendo a saludar.
The hummingbird signifies freedom and it’s a being from the underworld but not in a negative sense, it’s a being that has the ability to visit the world of the dead and the world of the living. In pre-hispanic cultures, it was believed that when a hummingbird appears someone you love that passed is saying ‘hello’.
The artisans are very proud of their work and they are happy to give people a tour of their workshop and to answer any arising questions. I can attest that what I heard about Oaxacan people it’s true, they are kind, hardworking, and honest.
Plus, if you are an art enthusiast you will also love to walk around the city of Oaxaca finding and admiring the beautiful street art.
Here are some pictures of Oaxaca’s street art:
Overall, my trip to Oaxaca was full of exquisite food, delicious hot chocolate, lively conversations, beautiful art, and wonderful sights. If you ever come to Mexico, Oaxaca is definitely worth a visit!
I have always believed in the power of meditation. I know that I am not my mind, I know that I am not my body, nor I my name, my career, my relationships, my earthly possessions or any label that I or others put on myself. I am none of those things. I have always (or at least since I remember) not only known, but felt in the core of my being that what I am surpasses any of those things. I know with certainty (for it is a certainty in my life, it doesn’t have to be a certainty to the world, but to me it is) that I am infinite, that my Soul (I call it soul, you may call it spirit, essence, energy, God/Goddess, etc.) is unlimited and that there is no place where I begin and I end just like there is no place where my sister, the elderly couple next door, my deceased loved ones and the living ones, etc. begin and end. All of them, all of us, are infinite because We Are All One. We are individuations of Divinity, manifesting right Here and Now, in this form. And yes, this form is limited, this form is finite, this form is made of dust and to dust it will return. It is precious nonetheless for it is what my Soul uses to be Here, right Now. And so is my mind, another precious tool that allows me to move through this live, to interact, to use my free will. This Divine Trinity – soul, mind, and body – are what make me me in this life, and I am so thankful for them.
Since we are little, we are taught (sort of) how to take care of our bodies. Eat healthy food, execise, rest, sleep well, drink lots of water, etc.
Yet, little is taught about how to care for our minds. We actually are never even taught that our minds need caring, we just think that it is an abstract thing that just receives input, stores it, and also gives, shares, learns, and commands. We never think of it as another kind of body that also needs to eat healthy food (mind food), to stay hydrated, to rest, to sleep well….
And some people never really mind their minds until well… something happens that leaves them no choice but to mind them. Maybe they fall into depression, maybe they suffer an anxiety or panic attack, maybe they experience a flashback, or they have negative or catastrophic thoughts that make them feel small, afraid, and in constant danger.
And yet, we might think… Hey! This is life. It happens to everyone. And we continue with our day.
NO! The natural state of life is not one of stress, fear, and pain. We didn’t come to this earth to just struggle and then die. We are here to experience our divinity, to express, and share, and create, and recreate anew. To birth life, dreams, light, love. To be all that we can be.
Fear, pain, anxiety, stress… yes, they are here too in life, and they can be part of our lives if we choose them but they don’t have to be our constant companions. They have their uses, for sure, but they are here to teach us, not to bully us all our lives into submission.
We need to use our mind, not let it abuse us. For the longest time, I have felt that I am at the mercy of my thoughts… as if they just come to me and torment me. For the longest time, I’ve let my mind abuse me. I hadn’t really believed that I had a say in the matter, until one day, it was too much and there was nothing left to do but to seek help, get better, face the darkness, and return to the light.
One of the most wonderful tools that helped me on my climb up was meditation.
There are so many benefits to meditation, and even though I know it is good for me and it has helped me a lot since I learned how to do it… The truth is I still struggle to do it everyday. I sometimes auto-sabotage myself. I think things like: Oh, no, not today. Too tired! Or, Oh, no. I don’ t have time right now! Or, Twenty minutes? That’s too long!I have so much to do!
Even though I know that meditating will make my whole day better, and my life too, I still struggle to do it. Sometimes it is laziness, sometimes it’s lack of willpower, but sometimes it is fear… fear to quiet my mind, fear to be quiet with my soul. We all have constant mind chatter and what meditation does is to quiet the mind, but we are so used to think that we are our minds, that, unconsciously, we associate quieting the mind with ceasing to exist, and that fear of death sabotages our efforts to go within, to connect with our Soul, and the true energy and source of our life which is infinite, and can never not exist.
Lately, I have managed to meditate everyday. And it isn’t as hard as it used to be. I realised that I adjusted some things in my thinking and other practical matters that have made it easier to get it done. So I have compiled a list of the things that have helped me to meditate daily and I hope with all my heart that it can help someone else too.
Here are my 7 tips to meditate daily
Value its worth
A quick Google search can let you know about all the benefits of meditation.
Here are just a few (the ones I value the most):
Brings you back to the Present Moment
Connects you with your Soul
Helps manage negative thoughts and emotions
Makes you feel safe and loved
Regulates your breathing and heartbeat
Helps with anxiety and depression
Enhances your self-awareness
Improves your self-esteem
Improves your mood
Helps control pain
Helps you manage your emotions
Increases your ability to focus
Helps you practice self-compassion (the fact that you take the time to meditate shows the love, care, and compassion you have towards yourself)
Creates feelings of peace, love, and kindness towards yourself and others.
Lets you see that whatever your life situation is… it is not you. (This means that that problem you have at work, or that fight you had with your boyfriend, or that debt you have to pay, or that uncertainty you have about the future, or that past trauma, etc. etc… That… whatever that is… is not YOU. It is not who you are… The real you is here and now, meditating, with all of his/her pieces, fully here, fully now, safe, and loved. )
It raises your vibrations to a higher frequency in which you can attract other positive things, people, experiences, etc.
It puts you on a positive, loving mindset to face the day.
If you look the benefits of meditation up, you will find that many of these are not only abstract things but that there are many science-backed benefits of meditation.
When you start to realise all the benefits that meditation has in your life in the short-term and long-term, it is easier to make it a priority. Realise that meditation for your mind is as important as exercise for your body. Meditation is actually the mind’s exercise as well as its rest. If you recognise its worth, you can then prioritise meditation in your day as a practice of health, self-care, self-love, and self-compassion.
2. Choose the meditation that suits you better
There are different types of meditation.
I started meditating, as many of you may have done too, by searching for guided meditation on YouTube and such. They can help, there are good ones, and there are many of them. However, one must also be careful when dealing with certain types of meditations such as the ones that promise to hypnotise you or cause a regression or stuff like that. I wouldn’t recommend doing that, at least, not if you are a beginner. Though it may be tempting to try a meditation that promises to show you who you were in a past life or to help you deal with the trauma of being born by regressing you to the womb, or to speak to your deceased grandfather, etc. etc. I wouldn’t advise to embark on such ventures without having a proper anchor and training.
Although, yes, some people can do all that… those are people that train to do those astral journeys, and they know how to stay rooted in their body so as not to lose themselves in the psychic world. So, please, be careful. The mind is powerful and there is so much we don’t know or can’t even comprehend with our tridimensional mind so for now, it is good enough to meditate to stay in the present moment, to reduce stress, and become more loving, healthier, and happier.
Search for mediations to deal with stress, to relax, to focus, etc.
I also recommend trying apps like Headspace, Calm, and my personal favourite the Chopra App. If you are more serious about meditation you can even purchase a small meditation program on the Chopra App. They are really good and they base themselves on Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s Transcendental Meditation.
I have used all of these resources, and I enjoyed all of them.
However, when I realised meditation was something that would help me greatly and speed my way back to health, I chose to learn how to do Transcendental Meditationproperly. I enrolled on a short course in which a certified instructor showed me the technique, explained all the benefits and the science behind it, did a brief ceremonial ritual where she gave me my own mantra (everyone gets one) and helped me practice it. If anyone is interested in enrolling on such a course to learn how to do Transcendental Meditation, here is the link: https://www.tm.org
There is nothing out-of-this-world about Transcendental Meditation:
It is basically a practice that you must do daily, twice a day (mornings and afternoons), for 20 min in which you have to repeat to yourself your sanskrit Mantra.
Before the 20 min you must allow 1 min for getting ready and after the 20 min you should add 2 other minutes to your timer during which you should drop the mantra, and just rest while you breathe.
That’s it. After that, you can go on with your morning, and afternoon, with a better, more positive attitude towards life. When I do it, I have noticed that after I finish, I feel like I am waking up after a good nights’ sleep, I feel just as rested and refreshed. I always end up saying: That was a great decision for my day, and that convinces me to make the same choice to meditate the next day.
You can choose whatever you feel comfortable with and whatever works for you best. It is your body and your mind, so you must decide what to feed it. These are just some of the choices I have tried.
3. Find the time that works for you
When you make meditation a priority, you make space and time for it in your life.
What has helped me the most for mediating everyday, it is doing it at the same time and place everyday.
I often have an anxious mind. My mind tries to talk me out of meditating by saying things like: Oh, but if we take those 20 min out of our day now, we will not have time to exercise, or we will not have time to shower, or we will have a later breakfast and then we will get late to work, and so on and so on.
I know all of those are just excuses, but my mind says: No! I’m serious! We can’t possibly spare 20 min, there is just so much to do!
Sometimes I fall into that trap. But lately I have found a way to make that stop.
I realise that if I meditate after the sun has come out, my mind guilts me into thinking I am wasting precious day-time. So, I have now been meditating before sunrise, when there is still the darkness of the night sheltering me and convincing my mind that I am not wasting time, that I am just taking some time designated to sleep towards meditating instead. That quiets my mind, and I have been able to meditate everyday without feeling guilty, anxious, or afraid that I am wasting time.
Of course, meditation is never wasting time. Like I mentioned, the mind comes up with every excuse it can to stop you from quieting it. Don’t listen to it, and do it anyway or devise a way in which you can meditate without feeling any of those anxious feelings.
For me it works to meditate before sunrise. I would usually wake up at 7 am (I know that that is late for a lot of people, but what can I say? I am not a morning person, though I would love to be one). However, I have lately woken up at 6 am to meditate, so that by 7 am I have not only meditated but showered, read, written, and I am ready to start the day.
Find the time that works most for you. Open that space in your busy schedule. Prioritise it as you prioritise anything that has to do with your health.
Whether it is in the morning, afternoon, or before going to sleep, meditate as an act of love and kindness towards yourself. You will be better for it.
4. Make your own meditation corner
You can meditate anywhere, yes, anywhere. Well… you do have to choose a safe space. Please do not meditate while you are waiting for the traffic light to change to green, or at least, don’t do it with your eyes closed!
But yes, you can meditate anywhere, anytime. However, it is much easier to feel like meditating when you have a nice comfortable space to do it.
Usually your bed, or the sofa, or the mat are good enough places to meditate but if you have the space to make your own meditation corner, that would be awesome! And it would inspire you to meditate more.
If you can, set up your mediation corner in a usually quiet, out-of-the-way space in your room/apartment/house, preferably with good light.
Here are some things that can go in your own meditation corner:
A meditation cushion (no need to buy a fancy one, any cushion will do, or just buy one that makes you feel comfortable)
A rug or mat (I prefer to do meditation on a soft rug but a yoga mat can do just as well)
A timer (you can use apps for that on your phone, there are many free ones that have those nice sounds of chimes for when the meditation begins and ends)
These can be it. As I have said, they are also not essential (except for the timer) but by creating your own meditation corner you are not only making space for it in your home but in your life.
Here are some extras you can add:
Incense sticks with an incense holder or burner
A small indoor water fountain
Crystals (You could for example have a small table with a clear quartz which helps with focus, concentration, releasing, and balance)
Plants or flowers
By creating this meditation corner you will also be creating a space for yourself which you are infusing with care, love, peace, and good energy.
5. Make sure to have no distractions
If you live with other people, you can simply let them know your time for meditation and ask them to not disturb you during that time. You can even make a cute Please, do not disturb sign, or Meditation in progress, do not disturb. Or simply, I’m meditating, go away! (kidding haha)
Also, make sure you silence your phone. Believe me, the world won’t end just because you will be unavailable for 20 min.
Make sure there is nothing important that you need to attend to during those minutes. For example, don’t plan your meditation at the time when the milkman usually comes by, or if you need to defrost the chicken for today’s dinner do all that before or after the meditation. In other words, clear your schedule to make time and space for your meditation practice.
If you can, turn off any electronic devices in the room.
Paying attention to the distractions sometimes is another trick of our mind to sabotage our meditation, so turn off the distractions, welcome and embrace the silence because it is what will help you go within.
6. Let go of your shields
During the meditation, especially at the beginning, thoughts will assault you, they will scream for your attention, your body might even twitch. Do not worry, this is normal. It happens to everyone. With time, it becomes less and less so. If thoughts come just let them pass, like clouds floating away.
Easier said than done, I know.
I have also found that sometimes I use these thoughts as shields. For example, a negative thought will come during my meditation, and it is so disturbing that I immediately think of something else to fight off that thought. And then another comes and I come up with another thought to fight that off. Meanwhile, my mantra is there forgotten in the back of my mind, as my thoughts battle for my attention and energy.
I have become more self-aware and I am now able to observe this and not simply re-enact it every time I meditate. I have found that what has helped me to let go of this pattern is simply to lower my shields, to let them go, and fall to the ground. My shields are my thoughts, I put them up because somehow it feels like if I let them go, I will be overwhelmed… Overwhelmed by what? Well, the truth is I don’t even know! It feels like if I don’t think, I leave my mind defenseless, and like this big wave of nothingness is going to come and crush me.
This, of course, is not true. It is again, another false understanding of who I am. I am not my thoughts, but we live in our mind so much that it feels like we are them, like we are that person that has that constant inner monologue. In my core, I know I am not that. But it is hard sometimes to find who we are if we are not that. Meditation helps us to reconnect with our true selves, and that is why our ego fights it so much.
Visualising myself holding shields and then lowering them has helped me during my meditation. I see myself letting go of these war shields, letting them fall to the ground, and deciding to take the wave. The crash of the wave never comes though when I lower my shields, the only thing that comes is a sense of calm, of peace, and of stillness. I feel myself in my body and beyond it. There is an unmovable calm that whispers: That’s it, I am here.
And then I smile… and a few moments are blissfully quiet and peaceful and then…..
Bla bla bla bla bla bla bla …..
My mind wakes up again with its chatter and fear. And I have to lower the shields again.
Sometimes it is a constant circle but other times it is just once that I need to lower the shields.
However, it gets easier and easier every time because like with everything else, meditation also takes practice and practice makes better.
7. Track your meditation practices
If you keep a bullet journal, you can include meditation in your habit tracker.
Alternatively, you can make a meditation calendar to track you progress. You can simply buy or make a calendar and tick the days that you have meditated or make a cute, creative one that will inspire you more. There are so many beautiful ideas on Pinterest you can try.
Having a habit tracker will motivate you to meditate, and it will give you a sense of achievement too. It can also help you track your progress, and how you have been feeling since you started meditating. Besides, it is an opportunity to be creative and practice mindfulness as well.
Have fun making space in your life for meditation, and may your meditation practices reconnect you with your being! I wish you many happy meditations ahead!!!