We Disagree… The Love Is Still There: A Guide To Having Uncomfortable Conversations with Your Loved Ones

As part of the Black Lives Matter Movement, one of the things that black people are asking other non-black people to do is to talk to other non-black people about things that need addressing like racism, white supremacy, white privilege, oppression, black history… etc. The black community is asking the world to have these often uncomfortable conversations with our own community and especially our loved ones, our parents, our grandparents who often like to state that “because they are old, they are set in their ways”, our kids, our friends, our neighbours… People we care about, people we love who may be sometimes not so willing to listen to the other side of their arguments. 

Now Racism is at the top of the list for a lot of people (myself included), but in my own country, in Mexico, Sexism and Violence Against Women have been at the top of my list for years. I have had difficult conversations with my peers, friends, and family which have often led to heated discussions that end with both parties feeling attacked, offended, misunderstood, unheard, and hurt. 

I have realised that it is far more challenging to talk to the people you love than to lecture people on Twitter. 

When I called my father out on his sexist jokes, I wasn’t aiming to alienate him… I just wanted him to understand why they weren’t funny at all. I wanted him to soul-search, to become aware that words have power and that even if he thinks that “it is just a joke”, it does have further implications than that because it perpetuates sexist behaviours and attitudes that harm women. 

I was fortunate enough to have a father that listens, that is proud to learn from his daughter, and that is willing to change his behaviours and beliefs to create a kinder, more equal world. I have also learned that to make him listen I must always come from a loving place because at the end of the day… I am doing this (having these conversations) out of love, out of love for the cause I support, out of love for myself but also out of love for my father too. If I didn’t care about what he thought, I wouldn’t spend time debating with him. 

My father and I have learned to debate without attacking/offending each other and that, in turn, has helped me debate with other people I love without falling out. This post is my guide to have uncomfortable yet important conversations with your loved ones without forgetting the basic thing: that you love each other.

  1. LISTEN

The hardest part comes first. When we feel we have been wronged it is very hard to listen to others’ points of view. All we want is to be heard and understood, especially if we have been constantly silenced or if our voice has been disregarded before. It is so difficult sometimes to actively listen to my loved ones because it feels like my mouth is filling up with words trying to push each other out of my lips. Yet I hold them in, pressing my lips together, and tell myself to just… Breathe.

2.  REMEMBER THAT YOU LOVE THEM

This is just as important as the first point. Before I speak, I look at them in silence while I breathe. I notice things about them that I love, their hair, their eyes, the wrinkles at the corner of their eyes, their laugh lines, their freckles… I hold on to them and I wake up the deep-seated love I have for them. Moreover, I remember that they are not my enemy, and I remember all the parts of them that are beautiful, and kind, and loving. The fact that they may be unconscious in some regards, the fact that they may be displaying sexist/racist/homophobic/transphobic…etc..etc attitudes does not mean that they are evil, does not mean that they are bad people. They are not. The whole of them is much greater than that and if I love them, I make myself remember why. 

3. KNOW THAT IT IS MORE COMPLEX THAN WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE

It is easy to label someone this or that, it is easy to judge and condemn. It is easy, yet unhelpful, to divide the world into “good people” and “bad people”. The world is not like that. Nobody is inherently evil nor good, those are human judgements. Shakespeare said it best: “there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so” (Hamlet). To know that your loved ones’ views are the result of a number of factors such as past conditioning, family/historical background, culture, past experiences, education, character, upbringing, fears and anxieties, etc. is helpful in understanding why they think the way they think. And we must never underestimate the power of Understanding, it can dismantle anger, resentment, and hate, for understanding where they are coming from can spark in us empathy, tolerance, patience, and compassion. 

4. BE AWARE OF THE PAIN

When you and your loved ones are debating, pain may be easily triggered when having these difficult conversations. They may say something that really moves you and you may be tempted to react and say something that in return moves them and makes them react until it all escalates into a fire that will take the double amount of water to douse. Try, as hard as you can, not to talk from your pain. If you do or did, know that it is your pain talking, the part of you that is hurt, which often wants to hurt back. Know it for what it is. Most of us have it. It’s part of our shadow, but that shadow also makes our light possible. See it, acknowledge it, address it. Shining your awareness on it will make it lose its grip on you. The other person may also be talking from his or her pain, that does not concern you. Use their pain to look at your own. The other person is your mirror, you see in them what is in you. If you hear pain, resentment, fear in their voice, hear and look into your own. 

5. INFUSE YOUR WORDS WITH LOVE 

The best way to get your words across is to infuse them with love, understanding, compassion, empathy, and kindness. Even reluctant ears pick up on that loving energy, and the barriers lessen, the walls come down. And if they don’t… Understand that every Soul has its own processes and goes at its own pace. Don’t judge them or condemn them, we are all doing the best we can with what we know. Don’t assume that because they didn’t seem to hear you, your words won’t reach them. Sometimes the words stay, and they may ponder your words in silence, in stillness… and that’s when the real change happens. You must also do this yourself, even if you think someone is wrong, don’t disregard your loved ones’ words so easily… ponder them, they might help you understand your loved ones more, your relationship with them and yourself too. The words that stay with you are trying to tell you something as well. 

6. DON’T BE AFRAID TO APOLOGISE

If you said something hurtful, if you were unkind… Don’t be afraid to apologise. Sometimes we don’t apologise because it hurts to admit we did wrong, or that we hurt others. Sometimes it seems that as long as we don’t apologise, somehow, it isn’t real. Sometimes we don’t apologise because we are afraid we will lose our power. But power isn’t love. And apologising can spark healing. It shows great strength and courage in taking responsibility for your actions, words, the positive and the hurtful ones. Mean your apology and change your behaviour, words, energy. If they were unkind to you… don’t engage and hurt back. Muster courage, strength, understanding, and love. Change the energy. Remember who you are and who they are and most importantly, that you love each other. 

7. THERE IS ALWAYS TOMORROW

More often than not debates of this sort end without any conclusion. It is most likely that you won’t change their minds and that they won’t change yours by the end of the conversation. But the point is to have the conversation in the first place and to keep having them. Change takes time and sometimes it comes all in a rush. Be patient, be kind, be brave, and keep at it. If not today, try again tomorrow. Someday, you may be surprised. 

Photo by Matheus Viana on Pexels.com

Lockdown Summer Solstice Rituals

Today June 20th, 2020 is the Summer Solstice. The longest day of the year, the shortest night of the year. On this day, the Sun is at its highest, brightest, and most powerful state. In many cultures, it has been an important date which represents new beginnings, a time of fertility, renewal, and a time for setting new paths and intentions. Rituals were performed during this day by many ancient civilisations. The descendants of these still perform them today. Many people, during this day, head towards energetic portals which are found all over the world like Stonehenge, the Sun Pyramid in Mexico, etc. 

However, as we are still dealing with lockdown and COVID-19… travelling towards one of those Sun-Portals may be harder or impossible this year. 

Here are a few things you can do at home to celebrate this day instead and to use the energy of the Sun to set your intentions for the rest of 2020. I think we can all agree… We could all use some sunLight right now. 

  1. Go into the Sun

Even if it is cloudy where you are, the Sun is still there. Go to your window, stand there, feel its warmth. Close your eyes, face the Sun, and with your palms open towards it let it fill you. Ground yourself, feel your feet and your roots that keep you connected to the Earth but face the Sun. Ask the Sun to fill you up with its Energy. Ask the Sun to ignite your Fire, to elevate your energy, to give you courage, and strength. Use your power of visualisation, imagine the rays of sunlight entering you, running and shining through every part of your body, waking you up, raising you, arousing you, setting you on fire. Fire that transmutes, fire that heals. 

2. Drink Chamomile Tea 

Chamomile is associated with the Sun, it has been used by witches and healers from many civilisations for detoxing, cleansing, healing, protection, releasing, and relaxing. It is basically a magical remedy applicable for lots of things. Drink lots of it today, add honey and ginger if you want to give it an extra boost of energy. And if you are feeling more witchy, wash your face or hair with it, or better yet, take a chamomile bath. 

3. Listen to Sunny Music

Make a playlist of every song you associate with the Sun, the Summer, the Light. Of course mine starts with Here Comes The Sun by The Beatles. It also includes: Island in the Sun by Weezer, Walking on Sunshine by Katrina & the Waves, Pocketful of Sunshine by Natasha Bedingfield, Walk In the Sun by McFly… If you have more recommendations, would love to know!

4. Wear the Sun

If you have something bright, something yellow, something red, something orange… now is the best time to wear it. If you can buy yellow flowers, or just stop to contemplate them, and thank them for being little Suns on Earth, do that. Paint, draw, or colour Sunful images or pictures. Sun Mandalas are a good idea!

5. Light a Fire or… Just a Candle

This may be a bit harder to do for some of us. If you can do a proper fire, that would be awesome. If I could do that where I am now, believe me, I would be chanting and dancing around it right now. But… A candle works as well. Fire is a powerful element, it has the power to transmute, to enrich the soil, to purge, to cleanse, to warm, to revive. It has also a lot of destructive potential, but in its balanced state it is great for healing and letting go. Write a list of the things you would like to let go of… maybe it’s an unhealthy habit, or negative emotion, maybe it’s a toxic situation or relationship. Maybe it’s just old ideas about yourself. Anything that is holding you back, weighting you down, write it… and read the list to the Fire. Ask it to help you letting go, to help you transmute these into positive, to change, to renew, to be born again, like a Phoenix. If you can, burn the list. Gaze into the fire and thank all these things for they have helped you too. Let them go in peace and in love. 

6. Set Your Intentions

Ask yourself what you wish for the rest of your year. What do you want more of, what do you want to let go of, what kind of energy would you like to have, what goals would you like to reach, what dreams, what would you like to heal… Write these answers if possible, then Read them to the Sun. Go into the Sunshine again. If possible, go outside into you garden, balcony, roof, nearby forest, or park… but a window works too! Ask for these things to come into your life, ask the Sun, the Universe, Your God/Goddess, Your Inner God/Goddess, anything, or anyone you believe in… in the end… We Are All One and Divinity is in everything and everyone. Put power into your words, infuse them with energy and love. Give thanks for you receiving all that you ask for. Believe that you will, that you already have. Give thanks for all that is coming, be grateful for all that was. After you finish setting your intentions, hug them, kiss them, and let them go… Let the Universe/God/Goddess/Your Soul/The Sun/All of It do its thing and just trust.

Happy Summer Solstice, witches! 

The Healing Power of Words

Words are important. Words have power. And there is something very powerful in being able to use words consciously. Not so long ago, I discovered how healing it can be to have the right words to verbalise your experiences.

It happened while reading a book for the feminist book club I had with my friends from university. We met once a month to discuss books by different female authors. That month’s reading was Toni Morrison’s Beloved. I think Morrison is a wonderful writer and the powerful reaction I had to Beloved is a testimony of just how good her writing is.

I remember that at some point in the story (no spoilers!), the book started shaking in my hands. I felt cold, and then sick and dizzy. I looked up from the page but everything around me was calmed, just another ordinary day. Inside, I was in turmoil, struggling to breathe. I couldn’t stop shaking and I felt this unbelievable sadness that came with memories from a painful time in my past. I needed to finish the book. I told myself to swallow whatever it was and push through, It’s nothing, just a memory. I told myself but the sickness would not leave, and the more I read, the worse I felt. Memories flooded me, pain assaulted me. I was outraged, It’s been years! I am over this! I’ve done the work! What is happening? It was overwhelming. It was such a strong bodily reaction that my mind could do little to contain it. In fact, my mind only made it worse. The memories seemed tangible, they seemed like not-memories-at-all. My mind painted them over reality until they seemed more real than the book in my hands.

Finally, I admitted defeat. I closed the book and started crying. I cried all day. 

Days after, I sat quietly gripping my tea in a coffee shop surrounded by my friends. I was excited to listen more than to speak. I felt like back at university when I hadn’t done the reading for that week’s seminar and I kept my head down hoping that the tutor wouldn’t notice me. Everyone shared their first impressions of the book. I nodded my agreement when someone said that it had been a hard story to read. I hadn’t planned to share my reading experience with my friends. I felt ashamed and freaked out. I had labelled myself overly dramatic and tried to forget about it. 

But when it was my turn, I confessed:  “I couldn’t finish it. I don’t know what happened. I just started crying and then I couldn’t stop. I felt awful. It reminded me of something and… I just couldn’t go on.” 

And then one of my friends said, her voice full of empathy: “Oh, yeah. Trigger.” 

The others nodded in agreement and they all looked at me, with eyes of understanding. 

Trigger. I was struck by that word. I repeated it silently to myself, Trigger. 

I had heard it before, along with the words: Trigger warning. But I hadn’t really grasped its meaning until now. It took a bit of research to find out what exactly was a trauma trigger, or what was trauma, for that matter.

Learning these words, along with a few related ones like anxiety, flashbacks, post-traumatic stress, panic attack… helped me make sense of myself and my processes. These words became tools, they became guides that allowed me to understand my experiences, and thus, be less afraid of them. 

I now have realised that humans are so attached to words because they give us a measure of control over things, they help us shape our reality. Words are tools, powerful ones. And like all tools, their role in this world depends on the one who wields them. 

Words can be limiting, words can be hurtful. Words can create conflict and misunderstanding. They can create the opposite too. 

Words can convey love, hope, and light. They can create friendships and spark romance. They can bring about forgiveness and redemption. Words can heal. Words can soothe your soul. 

Toni Morrison’s words helped me heal by unearthing the remnants of trauma that were still buried deep inside my unconscious. And giving a word  —Trigger— to my reading experience of Beloved made me feel peaceful. It allowed me to understand and therefore, not be afraid or judgemental. It shifted my perspective from being irritated with my reaction to being loving, caring, and respectful of my feelings. I had gone through a traumatic event at a young age, I had worked hard to heal it; if it was still showing up years later the only thing to do was to continue the healing, to be extra loving, extra patient, and extra kind to myself. To be present with my feelings and to honour them. So I did just that. 

 I am grateful for that trigger because it allowed me to work on past trauma, to look at it again, and to bring it to the light of my consciousness. It enabled me to heal. Having the word “trigger” is a shield with which I can face whatever comes my way that will awaken past pain because now, I will know it for what it is and will, therefore, be able to work with it instead of being at its mercy.

I am grateful to words and I am grateful for triggers for one grants me understanding and the other provides me with opportunity. Opportunity to let go, to let out, to heal, and to move on. I am also thankful for trigger warnings because they allow me a moment to breathe, to prepare, and to choose. 

I am grateful for Toni Morrison’s words and stories which show us a traumatic collective past in need of healing. 

I am grateful for my friends whose experiences have made them empathetic and given them words to share that provide healing for others. 

Since then, I have gone back to Toni Morrison’s Beloved with a new sense of understanding of the novel and of myself. As I read through to the end and closed the book, I sighed in relief and thanked the healing power of words. 

Why I No Longer Feel Guilty When I Check My Privilege

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. 

Souls don’t get offended, egos do.

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.

Pangs of Pain: A Survival Guide to Moments of Grief

This is not the first time I feel grief. I am scared to think this is not the last time I will feel it, either, but I know it is true. The impermanence of life, of everything… is a guarantee of grief. Sometimes I look around me and I think what do I love? How many people do I love? Or animals? Or places? Or things? All of them will go someday, all of them will leave, or die, or change… How many of them will I grieve? How much will I grieve? How will I survive that?

For someone who has never experienced grief, this may sound a bit pessimistic, but when grief strikes it is all too real to write off as pessimistic. So I try, as hard as I can, without spoiling the Now (which often it does), to look around me, especially at the people, places, things, etc. that look the most solid, the most lasting, the most permanent… and I say: This too shall pass. Just like the grief of their passing. 

For all my efforts, when the moment comes, there really is not much you can do to prepare yourself for the waves of grief that assail you when something comes to an end, especially if it is something you never expected to end, or at least, something you expected to last longer. 

Abrupt grief is one of the most painful, soul-wrenching experiences one can have, and all too common.

This is not a post about what to do in those first moments, those moments of realization and just pure shock. There really is no point because at least I, in those moments, have been beyond help and all I have been able to do is sob, scream, pray, curl up into a ball, breathe, wish it wasn’t true…

But it wouldn’t be so bad if grief ended there. It stays and sometimes it feels like it will stay forever. But it doesn’t… Believe me, it doesn’t… Even if at first, it does seem that way. 

So this post is about what to do in the moments after the first huge, awful waves of grief have passed, it might be days after the event, or weeks, or months, or even years. Grief does not have a set date, each soul takes it as it can, sometimes day to day, or breath to breath. And grief is not only caused by the death of someone (though in my experience those are the hardest ones), but also by any heartbreak and loss, it can be the loss of a relationship, the loss of a job, a home, a cherished item… anything you deeply love can cause grief. Not necessarily, but if you haven’t mastered the wonder of non-attachment (which I haven’t), it certainly will.

What to do in those moments? I’ve googled this so many times in the midst of a storm and many posts give the same advice: Cry, do exercise, call a friend, start a new hobby, sleep well, etc.

All that is great advice that actually does help… but sometimes grief strikes in just a moment, maybe in between typing your essay, or in the second that it takes to pour tea from the kettle into the cup. What to do in those little moments when you feel the pang of grief in your heart, and you think, Oh God, she is gone, he is gone, they are gone, it is gone…

Sometimes I actually curl up into a ball and bawl but other times I think, Oh no, this again? I don’t have time for this right now. But it is worse to repress your feelings than to express them so I have devised a way to honor and express my feelings without going back to the catatonic state I usually am in after the shock of a heartbreaking event.

  1. ACKNOWLEDGE WHAT YOU ARE FEELING

When you first feel that pang of grief, just pause what you are doing. Feel that it is there, and see it for what it is. It may not be grief in the form of sadness, you may feel anger instead which is grief unexpressed. You may feel longing, fear, regret, disgust… or just hurt. Anything may trigger it, even things seemingly unrelated may bring memories flooding back. Just pause, breathe, and bring it into your awareness. It is sometimes instinctive to push it back, but what you resist, persists. Instead of pushing against it, bring it into the light of your consciousness. 

  1. MAKE SPACE FOR IT AND BE PRESENT WITH YOUR PAIN

After you acknowledge what you are feeling, make space for it. I know you may be in the middle of something else, but the only way over this is through. So pause for just a moment, and simply contemplate what you feel. Then take your right hand to your heart and breathe. Close your eyes and whisper gently to yourself: I am here. I am right here. I know, I know. It’s okay. I am here. 

  1. HONOR WHAT YOU FEEL AND WHAT YOU ARE MOURNING

With your eyes closed, think of what hurts, maybe you miss someone, someplace or sometime, maybe you just feel alone. Whatever it is, hold it in your awareness and then honor that. For example, if it is a person I miss, whether that person is dead or alive, I think of them and I say (doesn’t have to be aloud): I really miss you so, thank you for all the love, thank you for everything. May the good in you be blessed, wherever you are in the universe right now. Wherever your soul is… I thank you, I love you. Thank you.

Say whatever it is you need to say. Even if someone hurt you, thanking them is the best way to heal the hurt. You don’t need to actually contact that person, just communicate with that part of them that is also you.

If it is a place or a past experience, you can remember it and say: That was so awesome. Thank you so much for that. I miss it, but I am glad it happened. Thank you because that moment will forever exist in my past, in my memory, in my heart, and somewhere in time.

  1. USE THE HO’OPONOPONO

The Hoʻoponopono is a Hawaiian practice for healing. It bases itself on the belief that we are all one, all part of each other, that by healing oneself we heal others as well because we are all connected.

It consists of four small but powerful sentences: I’m sorry. Please forgive me. I love you. I thank you. 

Think of what is hurting, of the person, place, situation… Hold it in your mind’s eye and awareness, close your eyes and say: I’m sorry. Please forgive me. I love you and I thank you. As many times as you need, even if you feel like you shouldn’t be the one apologizing or don’t feel like saying I love you to that particular person/situation/thing that is making you hurt. When you are able to say this, you will notice that the ache starts to lessen. We are all connected, so by doing this you are addressing that part of you that is also the problem, the pain, the ache, and that which caused it. Try it, anytime, anywhere. It is simple and it can provide so much comfort and healing. 

  1. JUST… CRY

Often, I stop at step four because it is enough to make me feel better. However, there are times when the pain overpowers me and I have to give in. Then I just let myself cry. Tears are healing. They release oxytocin and endorphins which makes us feel better. Sometimes people swallow their tears because society has made us believe that crying is wrong, that showing emotion is bad, and that tears are a weakness. I know that tears are a sign of strength and allowing yourself to feel is a great act of self-love and self-kindness. I lost the fear of tears a long time ago, and when they come I welcome them for I know they are here to help, to express, to release, and to ease my pain. 

IF THE GRIEF IS TOO GREAT… it is always best to reach out to someone you love. I am always afraid to be a burden to others and sometimes I use that as an excuse not to reach out but I know that if my loved ones were hurting and didn’t reach out to me I would be really sad. Little by little, I am learning to reach out more and to ask for help. That is also a sign of strength. Sometimes it is easy to think that we are alone, but the truth is that more often than not, we are the ones who isolate ourselves. There is nothing wrong with enjoying your own company but the truth is that by reaching out we are giving the people we love an opportunity to be loving and to feel loved. When someone reaches out to me I feel loved too because I know they trust me and it always warms my heart when I am able to be there if only to listen or hold my loved ones. It is also an act of love to let others be there for us as well.

Do not be afraid of your grief, it is the greatest statement of your love. The more you allow it to be, the more you are present with it, the more it will heal.

“Life is eternal; and love is immortal; and death is only a horizon; and a horizon is nothing save the limit of our sight.”

Rossiter Worthington Raymond

The Beauty of Stingrays

I dreamt with stingrays again. I have never considered stingrays a significant animal but their constant presence in my dreams leads me to believe there is something about them I hadn’t noticed before. I find stingrays to be curious creatures. They are so common; they can be found almost anywhere in the sea, close to the shore and deep in the ocean, buried on the sea floor or flying through the water. They are so easily found, so common to see and yet, nobody thinks of them. Maybe it is due to their commonness that they don’t cause a lasting impression on the beholder. One may feel inclined to cling to the remembrance of a clown fish rather than that of a stingray. I, myself, am guilty of this crime. And yet, the more I dream them, the more I see them for what they truly are.

There is a beauty in stingrays that is not found in any other creature of the ocean, nor in any of the other realms, I believe. A singular kind of beauty that is not found in any of her fellow creatures that inhabit the sea, not in the intelligence of dolphins, nor in the magnificence of the whales, nor in the simplicity and variety of every kind of fish. Stingrays have a rare gift, a blessing that distinguishes their existence and makes them stand out against all other sea creatures:

Stingrays can fly.

One must not found this curious or peculiar at first; after all, any number of creatures on the Earth can fly. There are even fish in the sea to which nature has allowed to wear wings, so it should come as no surprise that even water creatures are able to reach the sky, even if just for a moment. But the stingrays’ gifts are different. They can fly, it is true, but the true beauty of their flight is that they fly underwater.

Their whole body seems to be designed for this purpose. It looks as if they are made of water wings and a sting. It is quite unfortunate that the sting is the only thing everyone focuses on. When one sees a stingray, one usually avoids it. We think of stingrays as ocean bees, who are ready to pierce you with their sword-like sting if you dare to bother their swim. But what we don’t notice, which is what most amazes me about stingrays, is that they do not swim, they fly. We are so worried about the sting that we don’t notice the rest of the ray. We don’t realise their gifts. They can fly underwater! And they do so with such grace, such dignity and easiness of spirit that it inspires peace in one’s soul. That is the beauty of stingrays; they can inspire your spirit to breathe, to let go, to fly, if you just let them show you how, if you just look.

I have seen stingrays of different sizes, colours and types. I have seen them buried on the sea floor, blending with the sand or flying through the water. They give me joy whenever I see them enjoying the waves, delighted with them like children at play. They love to surf! It is amazing to behold, the way in which they almost seem to smile whenever they catch a huge, roaring wave that carries them all the way to the shore and the way they rush back to the sea in order to catch another. It warms my heart. I see myself in them, that joy and freedom as the waves lift them up to the sky injecting life into them as they soar through the water. I only wish I could follow as they leave the shore to go deeper into the ocean.

But I have been afraid of stingrays too. I have also dreamt to have felt their sting. Nevertheless, the terror I feel when I first see them through the clear water fades away as I watch them spread their wings within the waves and I see them fly like underwater butterflies. I have touched them; their body is so smooth, smoother than water. I have brushed their sting, it is hard and spiky, so unlike the rest of their body. I have always respected their sting, I would never dream of bothering them and they, in return, seem happy enough to share their waves with me. It almost looks as if they boast of their surfing skills and want to teach me how it is done.

I love stingrays. I believe in their nobility of spirit and peacefulness of character. Whenever there is one near me I try to still myself, hoping it won’t notice me or get too close but as I look at the way she flies through the water I cannot help but stare in wonder and a peaceful warm glow enters my soul. And I cannot help but think that there is a beauty in stingrays that I had not noticed before.

Now I believe that stingrays are not short of significance. They stand for life itself. Beautiful, graceful, joyous, peaceful and dangerous all embodied in one. And yet, if one learns to control one’s fear and stay still, motionless in the water, one will notice, right away, the beauty of stingrays.

Love Through Time

Written in the summer of 2011

“He felt now that he was not simply close to her, but that he did not know where he ended and she began.”

-Leo Tolstoy.

I agree that most things said about love are true. Whether by writer or doctor, artist or lawyer, beloved or not… Everything is true; at least, for someone.

After all, we all have different perspectives and beliefs.

When talking about love there is no exception, if anything; love is the one thing that is as vast as the world itself, as the ocean and the air, the atmosphere and beyond.

But what causes love? Does the cause-effect phenomenon apply to it too? Could it be that love is the cause for love itself?

But then, it doesn’t make any sense to try to detect which one is the cause and which one the effect since you can’t know when or where one begins and one ends. It doesn’t make any sense to try to figure out how to find it if it’s what you have.

If you give it, it’s because you have it.

But you have it because you give it… or you give it because you have it?

Maybe that’s the magic about love. It’s never-ending.

It’s like the sea stretching through the horizon. The water melts with the sky at the sunrise and at the sunset. You can’t know for sure where the water ends and the sky begins. The sun is the only factor that can tell you where you stand, at the set or the rise.

“We picture love as heart-shaped because we do not know the shape of the soul.”

-Robert Brault.

True or false?

I pick true.

What does a soul look like? Does it have a shape for instance? And the heart? Who says love comes from the heart? And who says the mind is in the brain? Science doesn’t. Aren’t people always whining about anything that science doesn’t state is not true?

Nervous impulses come from the brain, and blood comes from the heart, that we are sure of. But love? Where do feelings come from?

I suppose imagining love like a heart is the closest thing we can do to shape it.

But what if it came from all of ourselves? What if it was in every part of our being, of our body, in every cell? And what if it was the same with our mind and with our soul? Or better yet, what if all those things expanded even beyond our bodies, what if they were limitless and without an end?

What if?

And then I wonder, why do human beings always need to shape things? To give them a form we can understand?

One thing is clear to me.

We are awfully scared of even having the idea of something we don’t understand, something shapeless, something we still have got to learn, something we don’t really know the answer to that we choose to give those unknown things some shape that we can relate to the way we see the world. And yet, giving something a particular shape won’t always make us understand it and that’s where fear steps in and fear leads to hate, more often than not.

Maybe that’s why we need to have an explanation for everything.

Maybe that’s why we shape love. And God. And evil. And, truth be told, every little thing that comes into our lives that we don’t understand.

We just have to give everything an explanation always, right?

And again I prove the point that men fear what they do not understand.

We always have, I only hope that we won’t always will.

I wonder what happens when someone fearless comes around? Maybe they got it best. Maybe they’re the ones who get to actually understand life in the end and to live it fully.

But then again, you don’t really have to be fearless. You just have to be brave.

“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.”

-Ambrose Redmoon.

I think we should all remember that next time we’re afraid of something, and for most people, that is every day.

But being afraid doesn’t mean we’re not brave.

I think each of us decides who we want to be, the hero or the coward.

As with everything in life, it’s our choice.

“A bell is no bell ’til you ring it,

A song is no song ’til you sing it,

And love in your heart

Wasn’t put there to stay

Love isn’t love

‘Til you give it away.”

-Oscar Hammerstein, Sound of Music, “You Are Sixteen (Reprise)”

True.

What can you do with love if you have it but to give it away? If you make your heart a cage for love to stay it will only fade away. But if you set it free to fly and to be, then it will always return to you, stronger and lovelier.

If you don’t believe it… try it.

See for yourself… But there’s a little trick… the secret of life.

Turns out 20/20 vision isn’t really that useful, so I’ve heard and so I’ve learned…

“And now here’s my secret, a very simple secret; it is only with the heart that one can see rightly, what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

-Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

That I know to be true.

When have your eyes warned you about falling? Maybe lots of times but… When have your eyes warned you, prevent you from falling in love?

Your eyes can tell you: Hey, watch out! There’s a hole in the ground! Don’t fall!

But I’ve never known someone whose eyes can actually say: Hey, dude! Be careful! There’s love! Don’t get near it or you will fall really hard!

No. If anything, you might think it is not such a good idea. Maybe because you’ve been hurt before so you are really trying to take more precautions from now on. Maybe you actually think it is better to shut every part of yourself to other people, including your heart, especially your heart, so that you won’t feel pain.

But then, you will surely miss out on many things in life because, believe it or not, your eyes can’t possibly be right of what they’re seeing since they only see the surface.

It’s like the ocean, again. You can see the surface. You can see the water and the waves. You can avoid the waves from hitting you by not standing too close. You can sigh at the wonderful sight of the dark water sparkling with the reflection of the silver moon in the night and marvel at the beautiful colors the water takes when the sun sets or rises. That’s true.

You can see many wonders and avoid many dangers by keeping a safe distance from the ocean. But, if so, you will never really know what is happening below the surface, where it matters the most. How is life developing down there? What’s moving and what is stirring? What magnificent sights and experiences may be waiting for you underwater? You can’t know unless you dive in.

It’s the same with love and we’re curious enough to dive in. I promise that. At least, once in a while.

“You don’t have to go looking for love when it’s where you come from.”

-Werner Erhard.

Exactly. That’s it. You come from love, believe it or not. But may I tell you something? You live happier believing you do.

And whatever you believe in, will become true.

If you believe it all the way through and through, it will come true. At least for you.

And really, who else do you need it to believe it?

“We waste time looking for the perfect lover, instead of creating the perfect love.” -Tom Robbins.

True.

The one thing that everyone can see, the one thing that is clear to everyone’s eyes is that everyone is looking for love.

Everyone does, at some point in our lives, at least, once in every lifetime.

But something’s wrong because even though everybody is searching it seems that nobody is finding it. They look and look and look and then… They keep looking. Some think they’ve found it but then they hurt cause it turns out it really wasn’t what they thought it would or should be. Some give up and decide they are better off alone. Some continue their never-ending search but they’re faithless. Others are faithful… So they keep searching and searching…

But do they find?

Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without.

-Buddha.

I believe it’s the same with love.

Have you ever thought that the simple action of looking for love in your life implies that you don’t have it? Because if you have something already, why go looking for it? Have you ever wondered how your life would be if you turned things around?

How would your life change if instead of thinking that you need to have something, do something or be with someone in order to be happy or loved… You started thinking that first you have to be happy and loving and then everything else will fall into place. What if it started first with a state of being? With something that comes from inside of us, instead of outside of us?

Wouldn’t it be much easier if we believed that everything we need we could find within? Then we could stop searching for love because then we would know that we already have it.

The secret… The truth? The reason why it seems love is running out on planet Earth? Is it because there are no more decent men and women left on this planet? Is it because nobody is worth the while? Is it true that trusting is just for the fools?

We all look for love, we all search for it…

Why is love so hard to find?

And the truth is…

Being a searcher is not so useful.

Being a searcher is not the path, not the fastest anyway, and that’s because of this simple reason…

Being a searcher of love doesn’t help because EVERYONE IS SEARCHING FOR IT. EVERYONE.

Everyone is searching. Then, as a result, there’s nobody left to find because they are searching too. Everyone is searching for it… there are so many searching! The world is crowded with searchers, crowded with people who think they are lacking love in their lives because they fail to find it within; and since the world doesn’t need any more of those…

Then why not being the prize instead? The treasure? The love?

Why not being the one to find?

Do not attempt to win the prize, BE the prize.

That’s my answer. Be the ones they get to find not the ones that get to search. Be all you want to find in another. Be loving, be kind, be courageous, be fun and funny, be interesting, be generous, be happy, be love. Be the one who loves and you will be loved back.

If you don’t believe it… Try it.

The Oneness of COVID-19

May 2, 2020

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