Posted on March 6, 2014
” I go back to the reading room, where I sink down the sofa and into the world of The Arabian Nights. Slowly, like a movie fadeout, the real world evaporates. I’m alone, inside the world of the story. My Favourite feeling in the world”
Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the shore.
I always loved reading. There were times when my love was obsessive, and I would keep a chart of the books that I read in a week. There were times when my love was fading, and it would take me a long time to finish a book. There were times when my love for reading stories was dwarfed by all the amusement that the online world has to offer.
I read books for entertainment, for pure pleasure. But I also like reading to enjoy the writing. Today I finished reading Blow Up by Cortazar …it’s my third time, and it only gets better. Some books just pass through. Others, stay with me and become part of who I am. All of them touched me in different ways…even the ones I dropped…those teach me that reading doesn’t work as a chore.
I read because of it’s benefits: it’s been proven that by reading we can reduce stress, it can help us sleep better and it is also a good mind workout. It is a good thing to get out of our own mind and get in someone else’s reality. Getting out can be releasing and it also brakes the monotony. I read to get answers and new questions.
A book is an invitation to explore. It’s an open door to a whole new world created in someone else’s mind. It is a way to experience humanity in different shoes. Compassion can be cultivated by facing other people’s struggles.
Reading is also the cheapest way to travel. To the past, to the future, to enchanted mystical palaces.
As in anything we love, we need to feed it the right way in order for it grow. March is national reading month. As I am all about celebrating I am spending some time every morning getting lost in a good story. As I’ve been interested in short stories lately, I will be reading another selection of Cortazar the ”modern master of the short story”.
Posted on February 26, 2014
I looked at the clock trying not to be noticed by my classmates. Our time together was coming to an end. I could feel longing for something that was still there, I tried to embrace it and stay present. That calming, peaceful room had became my Thursday´s sanctuary. I knew I wasn’t the only one there with those feelings. We’ve been learning and practicing how to become more mindful in our daily lives for the past six weeks under the guidance of my good friend Karen. We came a long way together, but now the hardest part was ahead, to keep practicing on our own.
So what is Mindfulness exactly? Mindfulness is to be aware of the feelings, thoughts and body sensations of the present moment. Jon Kabat-Zinn explains it best : [mindfulness] is paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, as if your life depended on it. What do we need to pay attention to? it can be the breath coming in and out, it can be the feeling of the fibers wrapping up the body, it can be the anxiety to go check your email right now. It doesn’t matter what we choose to focus on, what matter is that we are “attending”.
Doesn’t sound that complicated, right? it is much more difficult than it seems. Once we stop and start paying attention we realize that we tend to be anywhere but here: we go to the past, thinking about what we should have done, we go to the future, fantasizing about how our lives will be, and so on. The good news is that it is doable and with different techniques, practice and repetition it gets easier.
Making an effort to come back to our senses and trying our best not to get lost in the tyranny of our judging mind, we can experience life in a more calm, joyful and meaningful way. But please note, life is still going to happen: we will age, we will get sick, the car will break down and what the hell, the ants are taking over the kitchen again! Those sneaky @&#% ! Mindfulness is not a way to escape misfortune or avoid unpleasant feelings, it is not a stress release technique, and it is definitely not a technique to get ahead in this competitive culture. Shining the light of awareness in dark times, can help us realize that we are not our circumstances. It can help us react to each and every moment with more kindness and compassion. It can help us make better choices.
Trying to explain here the foundations, the different techniques, all the health benefits and other facts of mindfulness would take me too long and I am also not an expert. I am just getting started on this path. I just wanted to introduce you to something that makes my life better. At the very least, maybe I can spark your curiosity.
Here are some resources that helped me get started:
This is Karen’s website, here you will find different guided meditations. Karen is an amazing teacher that really walk her talk.
Posted on February 19, 2014
The morning was still waking up by the time the bus arrived to the costal peruvian town. I stretched my cramped legs from spending the night sleeping in the uncomfortable bus seats. I am lucky to be so small, I couldn’t imagine how I would feel if I was ten centimeters taller. I grabbed my only little backpack and hung it on my shoulders. There were only four of us getting out at that stop. Stepping out of the bus, reality checked. A layer of dust took over my entire body and crept into my hair. At the same time ten different cab drivers tried to push me inside of their cabs with tempting offers.
Making my way trough the tumult I arrived to the quiet bus agency and asked the man behind the counter if I was at the right place. I was at the right place. I asked him about sleeping options. He called the only other man in the room and asked him to take me to the hostel he considered the best. With morning peace, we got in the car and started driving. The “best” hostel was on the far end of town. While we drove I looked at the town passing me by, and I tried to find the charm described in my Lonely Planet guide, but all I saw around me were ugly cement buildings.
We arrived at the hostel but the idea of walking all the way to the edge of town alone at night was not very appealing or smart. The driver decided to show me another hostel, two blocks from the beach. He explained to me that the boardwalk was the best part of town and the reason why people visited. The second hostel wasn’t much better, it was crowded with lonely males. Hostel number three was owned by an old couple. They asked me if I was hungry and invited me to have breakfast.
That was it. I was staying.
The hostel looked a hundred years old, the ceilings were so tall I wondered how they changed their light bulbs. I left my few belongings in my tiny room and walked to the kitchen. Breakfast was on the table with a little note from the hosts saying they were out doing groceries. I was the only one there. While eating my breakfast I made up my mind to leave the next morning. One day was more than plenty to wander around. With pen and paper in hand, I started sketching my plan to visit the mountains. Ten minutes later, I was interrupted by a tall skinny boy speaking to me in broken spanish:
- Hola, yo soy Alex! Estoy quedando acá. Si tu quisieras tomar un te conmigo? Yo lo traigo de mi casa. Es Earl Grey es muy bueno. No hay muchos bolsas, pero me encantaría compartirlo contigo.
With the open heart of the lonely traveller I accepted his morning tea invitation. Listening to stranger’s stories and drinking tea are some of the things I enjoy the most, not too many times I get to do them together. I learned he was from America and that he was traveling alone for two months. He was chasing waves, big waves, perfect waves, he liked to ride them. Now he was on his way to Machu Pichu, were I was coming from, he was also leaving next morning.
He was funny, talkative and curious. His tea wasn’t that good, but he didn’t know I was a tea snob and I tried not to show it. After the second cup and a long extensive life interrogation we exchanged surfing lessons for photography lessons. By the time the day came to an end our plans had changed and we made new ones together. Three weeks passed and the time to say goodbye came. With no promises we took planes in opposite directions. Six months of love letters, online calls and messages passed. The idea of living with a “what if” any longer disturbed me. With my tourist visa, my plane ticket and a little bigger bag I left home to “visit” him for three months.
Those three months turned into three years this week. Alex has become more comfortable with a camera and I have become a better surfer. We drink loose leaf tea every morning.
We’ve been celebrating Valentines and the beginning of our fourth year together since last friday, and in Latin style the celebration we will continue to celebrate for the rest of the week. In honor of year four, I decided to write down our story.
A day does not go by that I don’t think about how different my life would have been if I would not have accepted his cup of tea or decided to take the huge leap and go visit Alex in California.