Nothing’s New

Yesterday, I had a really bad day – everything felt stuck. Whatever I did seemed both mechanical and self-conscious. The critical voice was extra active. To the conditioned mind, nothing is really ever new, as every perception is filtered through the memory centre which in turn triggers thoughts – old chewed up patterns. Whatever we are presented with is judged and reacted to from past recordings. When one becomes aware of it, this is quite disturbing. It is like a form of generalized tinnitus. 

Yesterday, everything felt like Groundhog Day. There was no freshness, no desire to do anything as it seemed like drudgery. Nothing new really! There were memories of being like this before, yet it was mixed with thousands of memories of me feeling well and vibrant.  I did not know how to get back to my usual self. By the end of the day, my son suggested we put some order in the house together – it needed to be done – but he also knows how physical disorder really affect me when I am irritated. I went along with it trying not to contaminate other people’s moods and went to bed rather deflated.

Today in contrast almost everything seems beautiful and calm. There is more order in the house, but more importantly there seems to be more silence in the head. In reality, everything is in constant flux, changing and different, and yes the mind is active but it does not need to take over. So long as we use our mechanical auto-pilot mind nothing is going to be perceived as new.

So how does one approach the ever-changing reality with fresh eyes, ears and aware senses? God knows? How about my nose!

This is something that I have been more in touch with since practising meditation. It is possible to be aware of the air gently passing through the nostrils while meeting the complex world of inner and outer stimulus with a beginners mind.

This series of posts are part of Incrementally – a 366 day writing challenge.

PS- When proof reading this post, I was reminded of a similar post I wrote few years ago. The title says it all:
The Same Yet Not the Same

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Taking care of ourselves

Taking care of ourselves

Looking after ourselves is a sacred act. I am not talking here about occasionally treating ourselves “because we are worth it”, nor am I suggesting emphasizing self-centred activities, rather it is about caring for our mind and body regularly as if it was a temple. But what does it mean practically to take care of ourselves?

First and foremost, it is about having the right attitude. It starts with loving-kindness. We cannot properly look after anything or anyone unless we have respect. In other words, regardless of how healthy we are, we must appreciate our bodies and our minds as they are. Being grateful is the opposite of taking things for granted. It is essential that we are grateful for that heart that is beating; for all the different functions of the body; for our senses that feel, that see, that hear, that smell and that taste; for our brains and our abilities to think and question; for our faculty of adaptation and our potential to apply our wisdom.

We need to understand who we are and to have unconditional love for ourselves, and that means letting go of ideas about how we should be. It is fine to have good intentions but much too often we spend a tremendous amount of energy struggling to live up to our ideals and feel frustrated. To accept ourselves as we are – as a fact – without identifying with it or fixing it – is powerful. It is only when we really see something for what it is that we are freed up to act and go beyond the present state.

Once we have accepted who we are, it is possible to change mindfully. A good place to start is on establishing a healthy rhythm. Some of our most basic physical needs require regularity, like sleeping, eating, exercising, and relaxing. They form the basis of self-care and what the French call “hygiene de vie”. All those needs can be improved if we put our attention to them and give them space in our schedules. Over the last few months, I have managed to establish a good morning and evening routine and I am amazed about how it has impacted my overall well-being. Contrastly, I am now away from home and I have had a very erratic  rhythm and I really feel disorientated and emotionally tired.

Finally, we need to do quite the opposite with our thinking, relationships, and active life. Habits, routine and staying in our comfort zones really does not nourish our souls. Our thoughts much too often go in circles, our relations can become stale and our work monotone. Self-care in this arena is to be creative, alert and ready to take risks. Although neither supple or strong, I am currently doing a month-long bi-lingual Ashtanga yoga teacher training course in Barcelona. Not only am I learning language (Spanish), but I am also having to adapt to a whole new way of understanding my body limits. It is of course not necessary to travel or learn a new skill to renew ourselves, it just requires the willingness to think differently and the desire to meet life afresh every day. A good friend of mine once remarked:

“The body needs regularity and routine and the mind does not – but we tend to do it the other way round. We sleep, eat and exercise erratically and feed our brains the same food”.

Taking care of ourselves is about learning the art of living and addressing our physical, intellectual and emotional needs. Our bodies need rituals and our minds need freedom.


Photo: Joshua Sortino

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No control


Many of us are conditioned to think that being in control is a good thing. I am starting to question whether it is the case. When we look closely, we are very rarely in control, and the attempt to gain more control usually creates friction and frustration. What happens we let go of the idea of control?

We can plan, influence and manage projects and to some extent, this gives us a sense of control. But if we look more deeply we cannot really ever have control over situations, other people or even ourselves. We can easily control material things, but as soon as it involves the living, it becomes much more complicated. We may get better at predicting situations; we may learn how to manipulate others, and we may fool ourselves thinking that we are in control of our feelings, but the truth of the matter is that almost everything turns out differently from what we had imagined.

Striving for control is like chasing a butterfly. It is very hard to catch one when it is moving and as soon as it is still the slightest movement of air will make it fly again. Taking a picture of it or catching it with a net and pinning it on a cork board is an option, but we then have lost the magic. The day wrote the first draft of this post, I was trying to take a photograph of a butterfly and the more I tried the further it flew away. I put the camera down and decided to watch it instead. I got fascinated by the dance and then as if it got a gist of the change it came very close and landed on my hand.

Most of us spend a tremendous amount of energy trying to control everything, from our thoughts to our relationships. When we let go of the desire to control, and become more at peace with the complexity and impermanence of things, we create space for different human qualities to emerge. Trust that things are going to be OK, an openness to listen to our intuitions, a freshness to meet the world as it is, the freedom that comes with having no plans, the mindfulness that comes from not being preoccupied and the intelligence and flexibility of meeting change.

The need to control events and people is very ingrained in us, but control is mostly an illusion. The idea of control is constantly challenged by the ever-changing reality of the inner and outer world. When we let go of the desire to control, we become more in touch with the flow and can meet change more readily.

Let go of trying to capture and the butterfly may land in your hand.


One sentence journal – day 20: “Preparing my class instead of my morning routine, I set on a wrong foot; the afternoon was varied and exerting – putting me in a good yogic mood.”

Photo: Loic Lopez

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