My Visit to Oaxaca

No lo dudes de Manuel Mijares

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. 

Camino al Auditorio Guelaguetza

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.

Street Art

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. 

Dancing in the square

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. 

Oaxaca Hot Chocolate

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:

Mayra

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! 

Tlayuda con tasajo

(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!


Conchita 

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)

Conchita:

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. 

Comales de barro – Clay comales

Miguel Ángel 

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!

Archeological Site: Monte Albán

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. 

Piedra Luna

Ángel Segura 

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.

Día de Muertos

¿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.)


Brenda Gandarilla

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.

Brenda and her artworks

¿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:

Street Art – Árbol del Tule con su hijo/a – Tule Tree with its child

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!

Wooden Puzzle Elephant

Ilantli

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).

Wow!

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.

Ilantrli & Navi

Leonor

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. 

Templo de 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…


Jesús Torres

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. 

Street Art

Pueblo Mágico de Tilcajete

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):

  • Alebrijes (seres fantásticos – fantastic creatures)
  • 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. 

Alebrijes de colibrí – Hummingbird alebrijes

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. 

Artisan with his alebrijes

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!

View from the Auditorio Guelaguetza

7 Top Tips to Start Meditating

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

  1. Value its worth
Photo by Elly Fairytale on Pexels.com

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
  • Reduces stress
  • 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 sleep
  • 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. 

Here is a link to the blog of Headspace (an efficient meditation app) where you can read about the science behind mediation and get reference to other medical articles and journals: https://www.headspace.com/science/meditation-benefits

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

Candlelight Buddha

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. 

Also, keep a lookout for Deepak Chopra and Ophra’s 21-Day Meditation Experiences… they give them every so often for free. You can look for them in the Chopra Centre Website: https://chopracentermeditation.com/experience

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 Meditation properly. 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

Dawn

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

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:

  • Scented candles
  • 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

Meditating

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

Calendar

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!!!

The Commute: A London Poem

Step outside. It’s raining, nothing new. 

You take out the umbrella, you always have it with you.

On the sidewalk, a river of umbrellas stream by, most of them are black, there’s the occasional colourful one that stands out, that one makes you smile. 

On the street, black cabs, grey cars, and the bright red double-deckers. The world is grey and red. 

Walk fast, walk faster, don’t stop, people don’t like it when you stop in front of them. They must walk fast, they must walk faster. There is somewhere to go, somewhere to be, always, all the time. 

Stop. Wait. Push button. Wait. Look left. Green. Go. Cross. Walk, walk faster. Keep walking. There it is. Red circe crossed by dark blue, so iconic, and yet so mundane.

Underground

You better have it ready, don’t hold up the line, they don’t like that.

It better have credit on it too. 

Tap it on the yellow pad. Beep. You’re in. 

Down you go. Stand on the right. Keep your arms squeezed in so people rushing on the left won’t push you. 

Stand on the Right

Down, down, down, deep, deep, deep into the Earth. 

Heads, faces, and voices blur. Some go up while you go down. 

It’s warm in here. Warmer than outside. No rain in here. Umbrellas down, dripping, making it slippery. Take care. Mind the gap. 

Take a step. Now walk, walk faster. Keep left. Know where you’re going. Follow the arrows, the colours, and the names. Red, westbound. Walk, walk, walk, up some stairs. 

The next train will arrive in 2 minutes. 

Underground train

Wait. Stand back as the train approaches. It screeches to a halt. 

Move in but stay to the side, let people off first. 

Doors open. 

Mind the Gap

Mind the gap between the train and the platform.

Footsteps, off the train, minding the gap. 

Mind the gap, please. 

No one else? Then in you go! Hurry, or the door will close. 

Mind the gap, please. 

Find a seat. Not on the corner. Sit. Look down. 

Doors close. On the way. 

Don’t look at them. Look up. Look left, or look right. 

Look at your phone, take out your book, look at the page. Look anywhere but into their eyes. They don’t like that. It makes them uncomfortable. 

Commuters

Smiling? Useless. Speaking to a stranger? Unthinkable! Forbidden?

By who, you ask? Why, by the law of politenness, by the law of social awkwardness and common sense. Just leave everyone to themselves. You will be happier that way, so will they. Withdraw. This is not the place to make friends.

Oh, don’t look so sad. Look at their shoes instead. You might learn something about them that way. 

Oh, and look! Poems on the Underground! Everything changes.

“Everything changes. We plant trees for those born later”.

Everything Changes

There are things that are worth in this world. You smile. There’s hope. 

You want to tell them, but you don’t. Best leave them to it. Mind the gap, please. Mind the gap between the train and the platform. Mind the gap. Mind your businesss. Mind the gap between us all. 

You feel eyes on you. You look his way, he looks quickly away. 

You smile to your shoes. If he only knew… 

The next station is… Yours. 

Get up. 

Doors will open on the right hand side. Walk to the right hand side door.

Mind the gap, please.

Step off, minding the gap. 

Now walk. 

Way Out

Way out, follow the yellow sign. Fall in line. Merge with the crowd. Footsteps, all grey and black. Step on. Up you go. Stand to the right, or rush on the left. But you are done rushing. You decide to stand. Let others rush by. Late for work, late for class, late for life. Late, eager, or only rushing for rushing’s sake. Because this fast-paced life is the meaning of success. 

Is it?

I will still decide to stand. 

You’re on the top. 

Now wait your turn, have it ready, tap it. 

Minus £2.40. Sigh. No time to dwell on it. Keep walking.

Step outside, it is raining, nothing new. 

But maybe for you, everything is.

“Once in a Blue Moon”: 7 Things to Do for this October Blue Moon

Claire de Lune by Debussy

Soon a gentle light stole over the heavens and gave me a sensation of pleasure. I started up and beheld a radiant form rise from among the trees. I gazed with a kind of wonder. It moved slowly, but it enlightened my path…

– Mary Shelley (Frankenstein)
“Moonlight Comfort” Watercolour. Painted by Martha Segura in 2018 to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

Have you ever heard the idiom “Once in a Blue Moon”? We use it to refer to things that do not happen very often, like a Blue Moon which, unfortunately, is not truly a blue moon, it merely means that there are two full moons in a calendar month, in this case, October, my favourite month of the year. It is just so beautiful and magical!

Photo by SevenStorm JUHASZIMRUS on Pexels.com

Full moons are powerful energetic times, and this blue moon is twice as intense not only because it is the second full moon of October but also because it will happen on October 31st, the day when a lot of cultures celebrate Halloween. Halloween has its part of its origins in the Gaelic festival Samhain which marks the end of the harvest season and the beginning of wintertime. It was believed that Samhain was a liminal time, when the boundaries between worlds thinned, when doors opened, when glimpses could be caught, and lines blurred. 

Even nowadays, in the Western culture where Halloween is celebrated as a festive, fun day, there is always a sense of the otherworldly which fascinates us as much as it can spook us. 

However, fear doesn’t need to come into this day. It is an intense day with lots of energies but at the same time… it has a lot of potential for light. The full moon is the brightest phase of the moon, therefore it brings high energy, clarity, and strength. Nevertheless, from this point onwards the moon starts to wane, so the full moon is not only a time for clarity and putting things into motion, it is also a time for release. The full moon is perfect for releasing anything and everything you don’t want to carry into the next phase of your life. This Blue Moon, together with the charged energy of Samhain, will be a time where the lines between what is tangible and ethereal, what is clear and what is hidden, what is outside and what is inside will blur, doors will open and an open door has two main functions to let in and to let out. Use this time. It is the perfect time to look inward, to let go of everything that no longer serves us, and to seek clarity. 

Here are 7 things you can do to make the most of this day’s intense energy:

  1. Do a Clarity Meditation

The full moon is the brightest, it brings about illumination and it lets us see things we couldn’t see before, or didn’t want to see. To seek clarity you need only ask and be willing to see.

You can do a brief clarity meditation. If you want a guided meditation, there are many of them available online for free on YouTube. But you can also simply do your own meditation.

Sit somewhere comfortable, preferably under the moonlight, close your eyes, breathe and concentrate on your breathing. Just breathe for a few minutes and then ask your higher self, your soul, God/Goddess, the Universe, the angels, anything you believe in, (after all, these are all One and One with You) and if you don’t believe in an external entity  (which is fine because really We Are All One anyway), just ask your higher self, that part of you that thinks higher thoughts, that feels lovingly, that is in contact with your own divinity, that part of you that is connected and infinite, that deep-seated source of energy that resides in every one of us, that I call God, but God is just a name. Call on that energy, on that part of yourself that is awake and conscious, that is One with everything. Ask it to give you clarity and guidance, to help you see clearly. You can ask for clarity in general or be more specific, maybe you want clarity about your life’s purpose, or your current relationship, or past relationships, or your health, or your career, or your future plans. Ask for clarity in these matters, and state that you are willing to see, even if the truth is not what you wanted or expected. I know from experience that when things don’t go my way, I know that how it went is how I needed them to go to advance my evolution. I may not have wanted those outcomes, but it is what I needed. I know this, even though sometimes I wish I didn’t know it so I could just feel sorry for myself a bit longer, but I also know that hurts more than trusting that everything happens for a Soul Purpose and that things that may look “bad” are really only here to help us evolve, to help us remember, to help us grow. They are stepping stones for becoming a more awakened, empathetic, wiser, kinder, and truer version of ourselves. So, don’t be afraid to see with clarity, it may be hard at first but it will free you in the end. 

After you ask your higher self for clarity, be willing to let the light in. Visualise the light reaching you, visualise your eyes opening in a clear realisation of what is there and what is not. Be honest with yourself, the truth is there, and we always do know it, even if sometimes we wish we didn’t. It is always there just waiting for you to muster up the courage to want to see it. 

2. Write a Letting Go list

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The moon is one of our greatest reminders that everything changes, that there are cycles to life and that transitioning is always good. It reminds us that nothing will and nothing must stay the same, that life must flow, that change is life, and that life is good. Use this energy and learn from the moon how to change with life and how to let go. 

In a piece of paper, write everything you want to let go of. It can be anything: a feeling, a belief, an emotion, an experience, an object, a habit, a place, a memory, a past event, even a person. After you have the list, thank each of these things for they have also been in your life for a reason and you letting go of them is also an opportunity to learn something your Soul needs you to remember. Letting go is hard, I know. But it is also what can heal and free us the most. However, it doesn’t happen by itself, we must be willing to let go. Time can and does help, but still, letting go is always a choice, as much as holding on is. So on this powerful day, let go of everything you don’t want to carry with you further, anything that is holding you down or back. Thank what you want to let go for what it has shown you, for what it has taught you, and let it go in peace and with love. 

After you thank these things and willingly choose to let them go, burn the list, and ask the fire to transmute any negative energy into positive. Let all those things return to the light, in peace and with love. When you no longer hold on to them, they no longer have a hold on you. You are free. 

3. Journalling: Reflect on the Summer, Set intentions for the Winter

Moon Journaling

The full moon is a time of high-sensitivity and it can be very emotional. It is a time of completion but also of releasing, it is the highest point, the summit, before starting down the slope. 

Use this day to write and reflect. Connect with yourself. Write about the past few months, what you’ve learned about life and yourself, what you’ve felt, what you want more of, what you want to let go of… and then set intentions for the upcoming months. Write about what you want to work towards, what you want to achieve, what you need/want more of, what changes are you going to make…

Write it all, while asking the Moon for clarity. It will help to make the next steps clearer and it will help you get ready for the next phase of your life. 

4. Take a Moon Shower

The best way would be to get into a natural body of water under the moonlight, like a sea, ocean, river, etc, but this may be too hard for city folk. You can instead literally (if you can) take a bath under the moonlight (that would be awesome!), but if you don’t have a bathtub or if you do but it is not possible to put it under the moonlight, simply spend some time under the moonlight. Sit, lie down, play the piano (I do this often), dance, sing, stretch, under the moonlight. You can also simply contemplate the moon, that is always for me a meditation in itself, a divine moment where I commune with the Moon and she tells me only good things.

5. Talk to the Moon

There is a reason why humans have always felt moved by the Moon. Everything is energy, even if the moon is (for you realists) just a rock that functions as a satellite for our planet, the moon is also an astral body that has and gives and receives energy. The energy of the Moon has always been associated with the female, with the water, with fluidity, with transitions, with change, with phases, with light and darkness, with the silence and cycles. Since I was little, I have always talked to the Moon. She has comforted me in the darkest nights, letting me know that I am not alone and that she connects me with my loved ones even if I am halfway around the world from them. The Moon is loving, and she lets me know that she is always there even when I can’t see her. The Moon gets me back to myself, she reminds me to trust, to hope, to smile. Everything will be alright, the darkness is never bad, without it, the moon wouldn’t shine so bright.

6. Make Moon Water

Moonlight

Moonlight is powerful and it has a special connection with water since the Moon affects tides. A way we can channel the Moon’s power connection with water is to make Moon Water. During the full moon simply fill up crystal water bottles and leave them all night under the moonshine. As you do this, ask the moon to fill the water with clarity, with light, with love, with acceptance, and healing. Drink it in the morning, and remember what you ask for. Drink with consciousness, letting the moon-liquid fill you with clarity, light, love, acceptance, and healing.

7. Relax and Listen to Moon Music 

Piano in the Moonlight

Make a playlist of music that reminds you of the moon, there are so many songs about her! 

Here are some of my favourites:

  • Moon River
  • Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata
  • Debussy’s Claire de Lune
  • Blue Moon
  • Dancing in the Moonlight 
  • Fly Me to the Moon
  • Barking at the Moon

There are so many more… make your own playlist, and relax. It is time to let go. 

A new phase begins tomorrow and this full moon will help you get ready for it. 

World Mental Health Day: Ophelia’s Flowers

Tate Britain Museum in London

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)

John Everett Millais’ Ophelia (1851-2) Oil paint on canvas

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. 

Ophelia’s flowers

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. 

You are not alone

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. 


Bibliography:

Shakespeare, William. Hamlet, edited by Ann Thompson and Neil Taylor, Bloomsbury Arden Shakespeare, 2006.

John Everett Millais. Ophelia. 1851-2. Tate Britain, London.

Photo by Irina Iriser on Pexels.com

Walking through Doors: My Visit to the Jurassic Coast

The pains that you suffer, the loneliness that you encounter, the experiences that are disappointing or distressing, the addictions and seeming pitfalls of your life are each doorways to awareness. Each offers you an opportunity to see beyond the illusion that serves as the balancing and growth of your soul.

Gary Zukav

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.

Man O’War Beach
Man O’War Beach

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. 

Durdle Door

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. 

Weymouth

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.

The Tides Inn
Sea View from the Room

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. 

Lulworth Cove

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.

Path from Lulworth Cove to Durdle Door

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. 

Durdle 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. 

Durdle 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”. 

Durdle Door

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. 

Demons Within: Eckhart Tolle’s Pain-Body in Marvel’s Venom (2018)

Based on the character of Marvel Comics, the movie Venom (2018) follows the story of Eddie Brock, a journalist who tries to expose a fraudulent company doing experiments on humans that attempt to unite human beings with an alien race called “symbiotes” in order to colonise other planets. (Aside: I can’t help but roll my eyes at the idea of colonising other planets. It is so sad that the imperialist spirit hasn’t died, right? People from former colonised countries can tell you, it isn’t fun or fair and… nor is living a postcolonial situation and let alone a neocolonial one. But okay, back to the movie now) 

Accidentally, Eddie gets bonded with one of these symbiotes called Venom who gives him extraordinary abilities and together they take down villains from both races, humans and symbiotes. 

When I first watched this movie, though I liked it and found it funny and entertaining, I must admit, I also got a bit scared. The scene that scared me was the one where Venom makes himself known to Eddie (Venom 57:34-58). My hair stood on end when Venom’s head comes out of Eddie Brock and, still attached to him, faces him. He looks so frightening, with his demon-like grin and empty, milky white eyes, it sent a shiver down my spine. But it wasn’t just the visuals that did it, it was the idea it represents: the demons within. 

Eddie meets Venom

It struck a chord. That scene made me think of the demons within ourselves that we may not know they are there but which speak to us, bringing out the worst in us. And yet, those demons eventually show us the path to enlightenment when we manage to bring them into the light.

I believe this movie hinted at the concept of the pain-body introduced by spiritual master Eckhart Tolle in his world-renowned book, The Power of Now. If you haven’t read it, please do. The world would benefit immensely if everyone heeded Tolle’s words of wisdom and put them into practice.

In The Power of Now, Eckhart defines the pain-body as the accumulated pain that  we carry within our mind and body, “the shadow of our ego” (45). He also states that it can be dormant or active, and that its awakening can be triggered by situations that resonate with past pain (45)

He writes:

“Some pain-bodies are obnoxious but relatively harmless, for example like a child who won’t stop whining. Others are vicious and destructive monsters, true demons. Some are physically violent; many more are emotionally violent. Some will attack people around you or close to you, while others may attack you, their host. Thoughts and feelings you have about your life then become deeply negative and self-destructive. Illnesses and accidents are often created in this way. Some pain-bodies drive their hosts to suicide” (45). 

I find lots of parallels between the pain-body and the character of Venom. 

In the movie, at first, Eddie is not aware that he has Venom inside him, thus, he is completely at his mercy, just as we are when we confuse our pain-bodies with our own selves. We become the negative thoughts, we become the pain, the anger, the resentment, the fury, the sadness, the anxiety… in whatever form your pain-body manifests, physical or emotional pain… we often mistake it for our true selves. Just like Eddie does at first.  

Even though he gives him super strength and agility, Venom also enhances Eddie’s most destructive aspects of his being and endangers his loved ones. He not only attacks people and eats them but also turns against Eddie and harms him. He tortures him with negative thoughts: “I know everything Eddie, everything about you. I am inside your head. You are a loser, Eddie” (Venom 57:34-58). In this scene, Eddie squeezes his eyes and attempts to cover his ears, trying to shut Venom’s voice out for it verbalises Eddie’s worst thoughts about himself just like our pain-bodies do to us. In fact, Eddie later discovers that Venom is killing him from the inside. 

It is only until Eddie meets Venom and they face each other that they start to work together and eventually become friends. This is a story about befriending your demons and it encourages us to do the same with our pain-bodies. Eckhart Tolle suggests that when we get out of identification with the pain-body and align with the Presence within us, we become the watcher, the observer. And when we observe our thoughts/emotions without labelling them, aligning with them, or mistaking them for our identity, when we become “the watcher, the observing presence (…) all that is unconscious in you will be brought into the light of consciousness” (35).

The solution is to disengage from the pain-body, to look at it, to face it, and to see it for what it is, to bring it into the light. To watch it, to observe it and thus, to be able to work through it and to dissolve it so that we are not at the mercy of our thoughts and emotions, reacting all the time to external events and internal conditions but rather to be able to tap into that state of Presence, of absolute Stillness where peace and light quietly reside. And it is in this state that we can become aware, awake, and alight. The pain-body is nothing more than a tool to get us into this state. The bigger, meaner, more destructive your pain-body is, the more you will have the urgency to connect with the Presence within yourself to be finally free of pain. With this awareness, just like Eddie, we can befriend our Venom, thank it for its purpose in getting us back to ourselves and let it go. 

Even though I know that as a Marvel movie, Venom’s main goal is to entertain, more than launch people into a whole spiritual wondering… I think Venom’s creators were fully conscious of the parallels between Venom and the pain-body. It doesn’t seem a coincidence to me that when, at the beginning of the movie, his life is going downhill, Eddie turns to meditation, and he lays on the floor of his apartment and listens to an audiobook. That audiobook is The Power of Now, and Eckhart Tolle’s voice is heard saying one if his most quoted quotes:

Realize deeply that the Present moment is all you ever have

Eckhart Tolle

At this, I smiled at the screen as I thought, Okay, I see what you did there. 


Bibliography & Filmography:

Fleischer, Ruben. Venom. Marvel Entertainment, 2018.

Tolle, Eckhart. The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment. New World Library, 2004. PDF.

Love is (not) enough

How many times have we heard things like ‘love is the answer’, ”love is all you need’, etc.

I used to believe love was enough, I used to believe that if someone loved you then it would work out. That if someone loved you and you loved them it would all be alright, that you would be able to overcome anything. Yes, I am talking about romantic love in this case, though it applies to other types of love relationships as well.

I recently realised this is not true because love is not enough.

My inner child is rebelling against these words I am writing and she screams inside me, How can you say that? So I have to explain it to her.

In life there are only two basic core emotions, love and fear. Total opposites. Sometimes people believe the opposite of love is hate but no, it’s fear. Hate is just fear disguised in anger and violence. Love and fear are the two basic core emotions from which every other emotion emerges.

The Positive emotions such as joy, empathy, hope, understanding, trust, open-mindedness, peace, strength, wisdom, courage, gratitude, happiness, etc. all stem from love. Love sponsors these emotions so whenever you feel them, if you dig deep you will find love as the roots of the emotion. On the other hand, the Negative emotions are sponsored by fear: hate, fury, resentment, guilt, betrayal, hurt, jealousy, shame, apathy, despair, sadness, anxiety, etc. They all come from fear, if you dive deep you will find fear at the base. And if you ponder the question: fear of what? The answer is always the same one: fear of death. Not only fear of our own physical deaths, but fear of the ego, fear of losing anything or everything we identify ourselves as, sometimes it’s an image we portray, sometimes it is material stuff, sometimes it is our position, our body, our job, or even our relationship with someone. Sometimes unconsciously we identify with all these things to the point to which our very own selves seem created by them so the fear of losing them would represent death of that image of the self we have created in our minds.

So, with everything in life we have only two basic choices: fear or love. Whenever we do something, or say something, or think something, or feel something we are either doing/thinking/saying/feeling it out of fear or out of love. All your actions are sponsored by either of these forces and if you go inward and dig deep enough you can always know which has been your guide. Needless to say that to create a better world we would all have to choose love, every time, consciously. But to do so, we have to be aware of all this. That is the first step.

So if we take love in this sense, this all-encompassing love then yes it is enough…

But I mean the love in romantic relationships, the one when people say “I love you” but they cannot support that statement because they… we… I include myself for I have too done that before… because we lack self-love.

Love is not enough to make a relationship work. Not in its one-dimensional aspect. Love needs to be unfolded in order to succeed. For a relationship to work, you need love, yes, but you also need strength, understanding, wisdom, honesty, trust, respect, confidence, integrity, courage, loyalty, self-esteem, assertiveness, forgiveness… All derivatives from love but unique and important on their own. And most importantly, self-love, for we can only love another to the extent we love ourselves and others can only love us to the extent they love themselves.

This is why Stephen Chbosky’s quote in The Perks of Being a Wallflower hit us all in a soft spot, because we all know intuitively that this is true. What is in reflects our outside. The love we have for ourselves will also manifest in our relationship with others, and we will only be able to love others as much as we love ourselves. And sometimes, when we find something good, something worth while, something worth working for… we mess it up. Feelings of unworthiness will make us sabotage good relationships. So will the fear of being hurt again. This fear will prevent us from even seeking a relationship in the first place. Fear destroys love. And the fact that we messed it up will only reaffirm our low self-esteem. It is a vicious cycle, hard to see, even harder to change but not impossible.

We can choose love instead. If we see our fear for what it is we can shine the light of our consciousness on it. We can feed it love instead. Where fear breaks, destroys, kills… love creates, heals, and grows anew. Fear is not our enemy, it is our teacher. Fear is our catalyst for change and even if we need twice as much love as before to rebuild our self-confidence, to heal our broken heart, it will be worth it. And the next time someone breaks our heart, or tries to, we will know, we can always choose love again. Self-love first and foremost, and the rest will follow. And if we healed once, we can do it again. Every time you suffer heartache, you also become better at healing, you become more whole, more capable of loving. Any heartache only adds to your heart the capacity to feel, and to love.

Yes, love is enough, my dear inner child, but only if you dare to seize it whole in all its aspects and embody all its attributes, with every one of your thoughts/choices/words/actions. Be loving, but also be brave, be strong, be kind, be honest, be loyal, be decent, be respectful, be conscious, be resilient, be flexible, be selfless, be trustworthy and trusting, be reliable, be assertive, be confident, be joyful, be fun, be empathetic, be understanding, be open-minded, be caring… and be these things for and towards others, yes, but most importantly, for and towards you. You can only be these things towards someone else, truthfully and genuinely, to the extend you are being these things towards you and for you. If you are not kind to yourself but you are kind towards others, you may not be kind because of kindness’ sake, but to secure other people’s love and appreciation, which ultimately means that your actions may be coming from fear… fear of losing love and when someone is afraid of losing love, or being abandoned, or feeling unloved, or being rejected, then they take abuse from others which leads to more self-doubt or even self-loathing.

The person who needs you to be these loving things the most is yourself for yourself and towards yourself. And I am talking about the love that puts yourself first from a place of love, because it knows that you taking care of yourself and giving yourself love will ultimately make you a more loving and caring person for others for you won’t do things to please them, to enchant them, to make them stay, but because you are so full of love that you need to share it, it overflows, it fills you up and expands towards others, naturally, effortlessly.

Yes, love can be enough but only if we choose love… every time, with every word, every choice, every thought, every action. And the first step to do this is to observe our thoughts/actions/words/feelings, to monitor them and when one arises to ask ourselves…. Is this coming from love or from fear and if it is from fear how can I shift to love? What would Love do/think/say/feel?

Love is enough as long as it is based on love, not fear. If you love someone out of fear… fear of loneliness, fear of emptiness, fear of unworthiness, then that is not really love… that is a statement of the lack of it.

If you love someone because of who they are… instead of who you are… your love is akin to fear as well because it will depend on the other person being who you need them to be, and if they fail you, and they probably will because no one is perfect, and no one should be expected to be… that love will fail.

If you love someone not because of who they are but because of who you are… then that love will stay (I am no saying the relationship will stay, necessarily, but the love will) despite what they do or don’t do for the love you have and are is not dependent on external circumstances. That love will not be so much a statement of the relationship but a statement of who you choose to be. And regardless of whether they leave or stay… if the love remains -love for yourself, love for them and who they were in your life, whether a great love, a wonderful companion, a teacher, a guide… all they were. And gratefulness for what you lived together, for the good moments, but also gratefulness for the lessons you learned in the tough moments- if all that love and gratefulness and light which is all part of the same energy, the divine energy some call simply Love, remains… then no matter what happened, happens or will happen, it was all worth it. And regardless of who stays, who goes, who comes, who leaves, the love will remain for it becomes you, you become it. All that love, the love you give, gave, the love you received, the love you share or shared… it BECOMES YOU. You become that love itself, and then it will always stay for it is not only part of you or part of your story, it is you. All the love in your life will guide you through every moment, in every Now. That love which remains, the love that is you, will allow you to see your past, present and future with bright eyes, with love and gratefulness, and hope.

So yes, my darling inner child, love is enough, it is always enough, but make sure the love you profess is rooted in love as well and then and only then will it truly outlive every heartache and every pain and it will shower you with beauty and more love, for evermore.

Book Reviews June-July 2020

Postcards to the Universe: Harness the Universe’s Power and Manifest Your Dreams by Melisa Caprio

Genre: Self-Help, Self-Care

Breathtaking pictures, practical advice, and words full of wisdom. Postcards to the Universe is a wonderful book that offers guidance to experience health, love, abundance, and fulfilment by using one’s own power of manifestation. One of the things I loved most about this book is that it not only offers wisdom and insight, but it also gives you wonderful activities, tips and beautiful rituals to try. It gets you moving! It starts you off on the path to manifest what you want.

The writing flows and the words and pictures are infused with love. Reading this book is like having coffee with a good friend who has been where you are and wishes to share with you what has helped her in the past. As you read the book you go inward, and you can feel things shifting once you start exploring within, just by answering the questions that the book poses. It is a deep, personal, soul-searching experience.

The cherry on top is the collection of beautiful pictures of the many wonderful postcards made by different people who also share the stories. This is a book you want to buy in printed form to enjoy the wholeness of the pictures. The stories of all these people inspire and also let you know that you are not alone, that many go through similar experiences as you, that everything changes, and, more importantly, that we have a saying in the direction that change will take by using our own power of manifestation. Overall, a wonderful, enjoyable, and helpful book!


I Work for Me: 7 Steps for Successful Entrepreneurship by Snehal R. Singh

Genre: Self-Help, Business, DIY

Snehal R. Singh’s book I Work for Me: 7 Steps for Successful Entrepreneurship is a wonderful handbook for anyone who is self-employed, anyone who wants to start a business, has a project in mind or simply works from home (which a lot of us are doing right now). She gives practical, eye-opening tips, and advice that will lead you to become a more organized, more confident, more dedicated version of yourself. I especially loved the ideas she suggests about how to set up a positive, professional mindset for running your own business. For example, she suggests for you to write to yourself an offer letter appointing yourself as whichever role you will be fulfilling in your own business, whether that is just one role or multiple. This kind of simple but powerful acts, I believe, can help us take ourselves and our job/passion/business/brand seriously, they lead us to root for ourselves and to give our dreams the importance and priority they are due.

The guidance Singh provides in this book ranges from business technical advice to self-care which is as important as managing your social media accounts when you are working for yourself since you are both your employer and employee and your wellbeing will also influence the affluence of your project. Reading this book, I felt motivated. It reminded me of the power we have to build the lifestyle and career we want, and it gave me the clarity I was seeking to take the steps needed to put my ideas into action. Singh’s voice is compelling, friendly, clear, and kind. I recommend this book to anyone who feels daunted by the prospect of setting off on their own. This book is a source of encouragement, clarity, and guidance. After you close the book, you definitely feel more confident, determined, and ready. It feels like by reading this book you are already taking the first step into making your dream a reality.  


Becoming by Michelle Obama

Genre: Memoir

Michelle Obama’s memoir Becoming humanises the controversial world of US politics and life in the White House. I read this through Audible, and it was a pleasure to hear Michelle Obama narrate her life not only through her own words but with her own voice. Her voice is clear and kind, I recommend buying the Audiobook version. She talks about racism in the US, sexism, politics, and the hard balance between work and family life. She also gives insight into the pressures a life in politics entails and her strength, her courage and wisdom are admirable.

The only thing I didn’t like about this memoir is the aggrandising of war. As the kind woman she is, Michelle visited war veterans in the hospitals which is great, but the whole idea of fighting a war “to protect” your country has never sat well with me. It makes no sense to me that there is still war in the world and that the US has a part to play in wars that are not even inside of it. The idea that going to war is an admirable thing to do for me is part of a brainwashed ideology based on separation psychology: us vs them. To save our world we don’t have to win more wars we have to stop them altogether and stopping the idealisation of war in movies, books and media is one step towards that. But I do think it is great of Michelle to visit veterans in the hospitals, though I think it would be better if the US just stopped sending soldiers to war altogether and stopped making soldiers in the first place, and stopped making guns and weapons while they are at it… But I know that is one of their most successful businesses, so, for now, it is just wishful thinking.

Even before reading this I had wished Michelle to be president. How nice it would be to have a woman like her in the steering wheel of the most powerful country in the world, instead of … Well, you know.

My heart sank when, at the end, she states that she will never ever run for president. After reading her memoir, I already expected that but I was still disappointed.

Nevertheless, it is nice to know that women are starting to be more heard, that they are starting to be more recognised and placed in positions of power. I think Michelle’s story can inspire us all to raise our voices, to become visible, to take up space and to share what we have to give with the world.


The Flat Share by Beth O’Leary

Genre: Romance

Spoilers coming up. 


I must admit I only got to this book because it was the daily deal on Audible and as a bookaholic I couldn’t resist the temptation of purchasing a book for £1.99, especially on Audible where they tend to be extra expensive. I also thought that if anything, it would keep me amused on the underground while commuting, and it did. The premise of the story -two strangers who share a flat/bed but occupy them at different times of the day- seemed formula for funny/awkward/drama/disaster sort of plot and it was. As with most romance novels the plot is quite predictable and some of the characters (especially the villain) are very one-dimensional. I also cringed at the male-saviour moments.

Nevertheless, it is funny, and entertaining. I found refreshing that the abuse the female protagonist suffers at the hands of the male villain is not romanticised like in other novels but criticised in accordance with contemporary rising awareness of abuse and mental health issues. This book, while following the romance novel formula, deals with serious issues such as gaslighting, PSTD, codependency, trauma, violence and rape within relationships.

I recommend it as nice and-they-lived-happily-ever-after kind of story that also raises awareness of issues most of us have had, have to, or will have to deal with in our relationships.


Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge

Genre: Non-Fiction; Racism

Like a lot of people wanting to support the Black Lives Matter Movement, I purchased this book on Audible hoping to educate myself further on racial issues especially concerning the UK, the country I am living in now. On Audible, this book is narrated by Reni Eddo-Lodge which makes it twice as enjoyable. I totally recommend buying it in its audiobook version.

I chose this book because it is very specific to the UK and the racism that exists here. I wanted to know more about it especially because I have heard a lot of White English people say things like: “Oh no, there is no racism in the UK”, or “Oh, there might be a little racism, but nothing like in the US”. And the truth is that pointing the finger to the US as an epicentre for racism isn’t helpful in changing the racism that is still very much present here as Reni Eddo-Lodge’s book evidences. The first step into stopping racism is recognising that it is there.

Even though this book talks about the UK’s situation, it encouraged me to look at the racism that exists in my own country, Mexico. Mexicans are a mixed race. Our skin colours are as diverse as the cultures within our country. It is sad to say, however, that Mexico is full of Colorism: the darker your skin is the more discriminated you are. This is also the case in many African countries and other Latin American countries. Racism, Colorism is everywhere, and criticising others for their racist attitudes doesn’t help if we don’t look into our own. This book made me question myself and it put me on the lookout for any internalised racism that may manifest in my thoughts, words, or actions. It encouraged me to dissect myself, to look in the mirror, to keep learning and unlearning because we are all here just trying to do our best. Nobody is born knowing everything there is to know about sexism, racism, transphobia, xenophobia, etc. In order to be able to help, we have to first educate ourselves in these matters, and Eddo-Lodge’s book is a wonderful guide to do that. I recommend it, even if you don’t live in the UK for it is an important reading which raises awareness, encourages soul-searching and sows empathy.

Happy reading, everyone!

Coffee Shops and Strangers

I love a good coffee shop. Who doesn’t, right?

They are cozy and perfect for catching up with a good friend, read a book, write, or work. I find the background noises of coffee shops and the soft chill music they usually have on soothing and helpful for concentrating. Then you have the added pleasure of good coffee or a chai latte, in my case, plus a cookie or a shortbread cake. It is the perfect work/study/reading environment if you feel like a bit of social company. Not that it is not as wonderful to stay home in your very own home office with your cute tea set and cactus in the window.

Sometimes days in coffee shops are uneventful but what I love most about coffee shops is that it can also be a place for new things to come your way.

I was in a coffee shop in Kensington earlier this week, writing my dissertation, or trying to. I had writer’s block which came from pure dissertation page fright. So I kept reading, looking at my phone, Shazaming the music on the coffee shop to add to my playlist titled ‘Coffee Shop Vibes’, and doing any number of stuff to keep me from actually starting to write the first chapter of my dissertation. A man with his dog came into the shop and the dog made my day by coming to my table and letting me play with her. The cute dog saving me once again from the blank page. Then the dog left and I was still not ready.

As I was having this procrastinating turmoil inside, a young woman suddenly approached me.

“Hey! Your keyboard cover is so cute! Where did you get it, it is so colourful!”

I get that a lot. My keyboard cover is cute and colourful, but the reason I have it is due more to my clumsiness and expensive habit of spilling my drinks on my laptop than my aesthetic inclinations.

I told her she could get it on Amazon, and that it was quite cheap too, and would save money by avoiding spilling accidents. She said thanks for the tip and then simply started making conversation.

Now, I am usually someone who doesn’t mind talking to strangers as long as I get good vibes from them. I listen to my intuition and this girl, I knew, just wanted a friendly conversation. Or maybe, she just wanted a friend.

The reason it surprised me more was that in London, I found soon after I moved here, people just don’t talk to strangers. If you do, everyone around you will gawk, especially if you do it on the bus or god forbid, the Underground! You can see they all go visibly surprised and uncomfortable.

Coming from Mexico, a country where people are ready to smile at you as you pass by and wish you a good morning, I felt the loss of that easiness of day to day social connection. After a few months in London, however, I got used to it. I avoided eye-contact in the Underground like every one else, more for their benefit than mine. I looked at people’s shoes instead, like Forrest Gump, and wondered where they had been and where they were going. I buried my nose in my books as usual or sometimes just my phone if there was no room to read.

In the street, I also stopped smiling at people. I learned to walk looking straight ahead, becoming a ghost like all the others. Sounds awful, I know, but it also has its perks. You feel free, unwatched (which is so not true, there are so many cameras in London), anonymous, small and grown up at the same time. It is nice, actually. Different, but cool in its own way. It took a while but now I am used to it and even appreciate this anonymity and freedom.

Nevertheless, I do believe it is sad. It is so sad that there are so many people in London, sometimes very close to each other and yet so disconnected, so far apart and just lonely. If I didn’t have friends in London that made me feel connected I know it would feel like a very different city. It wouldn’t feel so much like home. But I know that is not only specific to London but to every city or really, every place in the world. Friends, family and love (in any of its versions) are what make a place feel like home.

But now, in this COVID-19 world, I think we can all agree that making friends just got a little bit harder which is why I admired that this girl took the first step. She kept to social distancing measures and was funny and kind. We talked for a bit more than an hour, I didn’t do any work but I did smile and laugh a lot.

When it was time for me to leave, I thanked her for starting the conversation.

“More people should do that,” I said. “Especially here, especially now, in these times.”

“Yeah, I think so too.” She said. “And you look like someone with a good heart, that is why I talked to you.”

That made me smile. That’s the intuition and vibes I talked about. It’s nice to know I give them out too.

“Ditto.” I told her and she smiled back.

I walked home, with that freshness that good human connection gives you.

I realised that maybe now, especially now, we are all feeling a bit lonely, a bit disconnected, a bit far away… maybe now, especially now, it is the time to get over that ghostlike existence, now that we have to keep distance, it is more important than ever to make eye contact, to smile at each other from across the street or across the room, to wave at each other from opposite windows and sometimes just to say hello and start conversations with strangers with good vibes in coffee shops.