Thursday, April 24, 2014

Bunnies, watercolors and crystal essences

When creativity rules, there is always something fun to do. Applying creativity nurtures ourselves and heals any overcrowded mind.

I recently discovered amigurumi and crochet. Amigurumi is the Japanese word for knitted or crocheted stuffed animals or toys. I had never held a hook in my hands before and it was interesting to start doing chain stitches, single crochet in rounds and anything needed in order to create a cute bunny. My husband, coming back home, said that it looked like a cat had fun in our apartment!

My home is packed with natural gems and crystals (I am into crystal therapy!). I chose black tourmaline, fluorite and amber to do elixirs and essences: it is very easy to prepare one. Put the crystal in water inside a glass container and leave it at the sunlight for several hours, then put the water in a bottle (you might want to use a spray if your purpose is using the essence in the environment) and eventually add one third of alcohol (brandy is fine!) in case you're planning to store the liquid for more than some days.

Why did I choose those gems specifically? To absorb negativity and purify the environment at home: they are all very effective stones for that purpose. Black tourmaline and fluorite, particularly, protect from electro-smog (deriving from mobiles, computer and tv). Black tourmaline does even more: it doesn't absorb electro-smog, it bounces it off so that it creates a barrier of protection if put between us and the screens.

I took drawing classes about one year ago and every now and then I take pencil or charcoal again and doodle. Last time I felt that something was missing though: color! That's how I began exploring watercolors and poster colors.

As you can see from the not-that-great outcomes I got, it doesn't matter how good we are: we don't need a perfect result, it is just to have fun and focus. Great to develop concentration and overcome stress!

Creativity implies love: my biggest love is writing. Writing helps us to manage emotions and it helps us to understand ourselves on a deeper level and clearing the mind from doubts. Keeping a diary is one of the most effective methods of communication with ourselves: it is important to write without thinking too much about the outcome, let ourselves go and read only when finished. Maybe after several days, when what we wrote might be extremely clarifying.

Applying creativity, no matter how, has a soothing effect and expands our perspectives. Too often I see people limit and judging themselves: few hours distributed during the week are sufficient to be creative and benefit from that on both a physical and mental level.

Letting our creativity run free increases our ability to focus, it allows us to communicate more openly, it lets our talent express and makes us look at ourselves as the very special persons we are, enjoying the process more than the goal.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Creativity on the road

Creation is ready to serve you, if you just be you.
Yogi Bhajan

Three years in the Washington DC area: Italy, the dearest ones and a job left behind. A still life between the scenes of a movie, living the narration among the ups and downs of this new life.

Having too much time to think is like inviting your mind to an overcrowded party where you don't know anyone, with alcohol and maybe some heavy drug.
Philosophical questions start popping up, like: where is my place in the world? What will my future be? What am I missing from this side of the ocean?

Pressure is on us both when there is too much time available and when there is not enough.
Too little time to dedicate to ourselves provides stress, too much time lets us feel how much bored and depressed we can be.
It happens to everyone, because we are human beings and we live in an imperfect world and because time and space give us a life in that world.

This is how we sit on this bus on the road, terrified because we can't see where we're going, instead of driving ourselves or at least enjoy the view from the windows.

Changing seats and adjusting our view would be nice.

I visited the National Arboretum in Washington DC some days ago and I saw these beautiful trees:

Have you guessed they are bonsai?

Depending on the point of view, things can look bigger than what they really are. We put many burdens on our shoulders which make us feel smaller but, if we only allowed ourselves, we would be able to look at the trees from above.

What prevents us to fly? The fact that we keep on looking outside, without realizing that we can just be ourselves and be served by the entire creation. We can seek our own truth, not the others'.

Creativity is exploration, a journey towards ourselves, no matter where in the world we are located.
It is dancing with our eyes opened to see that we are shrugging off blocks, rigidity, fears and depression and also dancing with our eyes closed to feel that it is happening for real.
It is being ourselves, flexible and full of possibilities.
It is accepting what we can't change and finding the inspiration to build what we had not imagined.
It is pure freedom, inner strength, so much transparence that any evil passes through us without touching us while any good stays and blossoms within. Sooner or later, after the winter.

The journey is long and we don't know what there is going to be beyond the hill?
Let's keep on walking towards ourselves, not towards something outside: naked columns which don't need to carry burdens to be who they are.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Successful window

Life is much more successfully looked at from a single window.
- from The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald

A single window: what about that?
Maybe Nick would pop up in flesh and bones from the first chapter of Francis Scott Fitzgerald's novel to tell you that people who look at the world one way and are great at the one thing they do are actually the most successful type of people. He thinks that through "one window" you will get the clearest view of what you're looking at.

In some yoga techniques we focus on one thought, one sound, one object, a single element that helps us to concentrate and calm our noisy mind, crowded by so much more than a single element.
The word "yoga" means "union" and yogi is that person who finds neutrality between polarities: day/night, male/female, good/bad, etc. A neutral mind's talent is accepting the "twos" and merging into "one" so that happiness naturally comes as we are aware that joy and sorrow, ups and downs in life are only parts of the same beautiful experience that life is.

So it is not "one way", but it is all about oneness along a two-way road.
Do we agree about one single window? How many would say: if I look through one window only, won't I be missing all the stuff that I might see from another one, maybe even better located, right on the main square?
I don't know about you, but I thought about it. And things came out.
Why do we suppose there should be so many windows? Who said that our house should have many little windows and not, for example, just one huge window? More light would come in, to begin with. Anyway, who said that we should stay closed inside a house to look through a window?
We tend to look outside for things that satisfy our needs. We look for success in the world outside, expecting to see good things knocking on our comfortable house's door and dwelling in a structure that we built up exactly for that, according to our vision. But are we sure it is the right vision? Are we sure that we know what is the best for us?

What is the secret of success? What makes us happy and prosperous?

There are two possibilities: either we put windows in walls trying to let in some light and look at the world through them or we can realize that we are the window and there's no walls at all.
If we focus within, if we realize the window looks on to ourselves and not only on to the world, the view is complete.

In the biggest companies (I was a communication consultant for a couple of multinational corporations and I took advantage to observe the dynamics there) the window is very important: only it comes with different names. You will hear about external and internal communication, brand personality, vision... But it is always about the same thing: a simple, single window. The view must be looked at from the same one window, the vision must be shared with every single element of the company and multiple thoughts and ideas should merge into one common goal, in order to make effective communication happen and the company be successful.
Every company is like a person: the more oneness and cohesion there is, the more it works. When lots of people are involved, lots of minds are involved, and it is perfectly normal to have different points of view and different ideas: as soon as differences are accepted and channelled into one voice, all of that becomes the company's strength. It is possible and it actually happens everyday in good companies, with good leaders and communication teams who take care of it.

Practicing yoga stimulates the nervous system and, through meditation, we also eliminate multiple personalities so that our authenticity and creativity come out freely. In other words: we get rid of stress and all garbage we accumulated in our subconscious by playing many roles for years. All the structures and foundations of our house usually reveal how much fragile they are at the first shake, windows included.
By changing perspective, by realizing that we don't need to build any window because we are the window, prosperity starts flowing.
Yogi Bhajan said: "when you don't go within, you go without". If we focus within, everything will come in and out freely through us. Air flows, energy flows, ideas flow, creativity flows. As windows we can open up or shut down according to the circumstances, able to recognize immediately whether what enters is good smelling flowers or dirty dust from road work and then act with intuition, catching good opportunities and defending ourselves from potentially harmful situations. Our vision of the world outside is not filtered by something our mind made up from the subconscious, instead it corresponds to reality seen through our awareness and a direct view from within to outside.

"Life is more successfully looked at from a single window". Apart from Fitzgerald's novel, where Nick lives in the America of the Twenties and expresses his wish of fitting in the society and impress his family, quoting him here was just a source of inspiration to say that success comes from consciousness, unity, non-duality. Success means happiness: by keeping joyful neutrality between ups and downs of life and letting things move, liberated from blocks and stagnation, opportunities come.
The secret of success is believing in ourselves without prejudices about how our talents will find their way in this world and developing a neutrality that makes us intuitive and receptive to everything that surrounds us so that we can grab the best opportunity at the perfect moment.
Then, once we have explored our creative potential, we will put our soul into it with great honesty, commitment and transparence: we don't want to disappoint ourselves!

What is so beautiful in you that the rest of the world should know about and enjoy? Open your window, let your talent come out and communicate it to the world!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thanksgiving: angels on the road

FL-5 North, Florida

In Italy I lived in Milan for several years. Back then I was far from home for the very first time, completely on my own. I was looking for the job of my dreams, jumping from a train to the other, running next to other people. I worked hard, spent the most of my time between an office and my small apartment on the Navigli. I have been butterfly in every rainy day: little drops like waterfalls, my wings shaking every time I missed my island, the sun of Sicily in the south of Italy, the smell of the sea. I looked at the giant cathedral, Duomo di Milano, and I grew up.

They were there, even in Milano. In the subway, behind a desk, in the office, at the park, while riding the bike, in my 30 squared meters apartment.
Then in Rome, next to my bed at night, they were tall, winged and so bright that I couldn't see their face.
They were in a church to be married, next to me, in my spouse's eyes.

They have always been here in fact, since I cried for the first time, when I was born.

The sky and the ocean, flying over Peru

Today I don't run anymore, like a snail I carry my home, even in this America where there is enough space for everyone. And they are still here, on the road. You don't need to call upon them, you don't need to beg them, but if you pray you can feel those soft and white clouds pampering your heart.
They tingle at home, they lift me up from the bed and from the couch, they write messages on boards, magazines and TV, they save me twice in the same day from a too fast car, they inspire me, they attend the yoga class, they invite me at a party, they wake me up from nightmares, they talk to me, they blow on my head when it is too heavy and they refill my heart when it gets flat under pressure.

They are always there for us.
Why do we have to remember them only when there is a reason (or a festivity) to give thanks? There is no conditions in love.

Be grateful every moment, for every moment. Grateful, here and now, in opportunities as well as in challenges, focusing not only at the heavens but also at the Earth. Catching every subtlety, every spark, every divine message around us which is source of inspiration and creativity.

Thank you people I know, I have just met, whose hearts I didn't touch yet but you already smile; thank you people who give me so many possibilities, turn your eyes on me along the street, send me love from across the ocean; thank you people who pray to possess, live in my nightmares, disguise your innocence: you are people who take the worst off from me, so that what remains is the best; thank you people who give unconditionally, accept to be helped, open up and trust; thank you people wearing a t-shirt with butterflies on it and I had foreseen coming, people who see the light in my eyes, who squeeze water from the stone and smiles from my heart.

I thank you God for most this amazing day: for the leaping greenly spirit of trees and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything which is natural which is infinite which is yes. - E. E. Cummings

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Air yoga

Isla del Sol, Titicaca Lake (Bolivia)

While visiting the Lake Titicaca area, I and many other travelers experienced something that we won't easily forget: altitude sickness.
There's no way to avoid it at 4000m above sea level: the thinner air causes a speeding heartbeat, panting, headache, vertigo, nausea, loss of appetite, insomnia... Symptoms may vary, but each one of them make people miserable with equal intensity.

That kind of tragedy inspired me. While tempting to not faint at every step I took uphill, to recuperate both the pleasure of traveling and the ability to fully breathe during my daily meditation, I realized how the altitude sickness isn't that far from the challenges we face in our everyday life at sea level.

Stress, anxiety, vertigo, bad digestion, phobias, separation, deadlines, panic attacks... These are some very common circumstances and the predominant feeling is lack of a way-out and of air.

I missed air so much during my travel around Peru and Bolivia. Exhausted by hiking, I put together my resources to take care of altitude sickness: info on internet, locals and other travelers' advices, yoga techniques.
The following is what came out: a tragicomic decalogue to survive altitude sickness, but also anyone who doesn't let us breathe (including ourselves!).

Whenever we run out of air, this is the Decalogue to catch our breath again:

1. L.D.B.

It's not a synthetic drug, it is the acronym of one of the most effective yoga techniques: the Long, Deep breath.
In case of emergency it calms the mind, slows the heartbeat down and expands the lungs, so that a big shot of oxygen goes to the brain.
The breath can also be held in for a few seconds, as long as it doesn't make us feel dizzy!


Rest is a must. Sometimes we are not able to take it easy and relax, running from an appointment to the other or becoming slaves of our agendas.
Fighting unexpected circumstances only produces more stress: we'd better wait for the worst to pass by, patiently. No complain, no tension, no blame: statistics demonstrate that it just gets worse otherwise!
When the worst arrives (and it always does!) we will look it in the eye without moving a muscle, possibly sipping a hot relaxing infusion: we will be more observers and less victims.


Connected to the previous point, this one is for those who think "I can't stop, my agenda is more important than me!", people who don't know how to stay still.
While traveling I realized that resting for someone is not so easy to practice. They want to get everything done, possibly right away.
If that is what happens, at least we can try to focus on one thing at a time.
By engaging the brain on one item only, we avoid to overwhelm it during the emergency that it is already trying to deal with.

4. CALM.

The heart pumps faster to take the missing oxygen to the brain, provoking panting every time we go uphill (in life as much as on mountain trails).
Visualization, associated to a deep and aware breath, is very good to calm down in case of panic. The image of a placid and clear lake, for example, helps whenever we freak out (lake Titicaca was my best friend for a while!).


The body needs to recuperate and adapt to the new circumstances: we can't overload it by moving as usual.
One step after the other, one heartbeat and then the next one, one thought at a time and so on: movements should be sweet and aware, through tensions, stress, panic and anything else.


Get yourself distracted from the tragedy going on: the more you look for air outside of you, the least you find it within.
There are always very interesting views right in front of our noses and we might lose them if blinded by stress.


A healthy diet is fundamental to manage stress: it would take chapters to write about this but here we will go through some highlights about altitude sickness and relative stress.

First of all, eat often and light: we don't want our body to be too busy taking care of garbage we ate, otherwise it will be even more difficult to manage the sickness. Plus, if we are going up to 4000m today, let's start to eat light a few days before.

When air lacks cereals are good, because carbohydrates provide oxygen. Eating bread or crackers alleviates nausea.

Herbs: ginkgo against physical and mental tiredness and ginger for a healthy stomach. Chamomile and valerian are very relaxing.
In Peru infusions made of coca leaves are very popular. Yes, coca leaves: it looks like in very small doses it is not a drug and is actually a good remedy in case of altitude sickness and bad digestion.

Last but not least, the best remedy for a good health: drinking lots of water. It cleans the blood and improves circulation.


E stays for Early, the key word.
Have dinner early, go to sleep early, wake up early.
Digestion will thank us and so will our body consequently.


Sleeping may be very annoying when we lack of air: headaches can be more intense when we lie down because the blood goes to the brain more rapidly. The direct consequence of that is the dark force also known as insomnia.

LDB, the first technique listed here, is helpful in this case: if practiced right before going to bed it makes it easier to fall asleep and it soothes the headache if practiced as we wake up.
Breathing from the left nostril has a calming, relaxing and refreshing effect.
Laying on the right side stimulates the breath from the left nostril.

If the headache is unbearable, we can also sleep in a semi vertical position, by putting a pillow behind our back.


Dulcis in fundo, this point couldn't miss here. If it is not the mountain but a partner, relative, boss or any "vampire" human being specialized in not letting us breathe, it's time for us to communicate.
We will use few, simple, kind words to tell the vampire how much its bite is draining us.
If that wasn't enough, we would wish the poor thing a good trip on another boat, because sailing together on ours would make us flip over and drown in the middle of that huge ocean that life is.

Each one of us is on a journey and, along the path, things don't always go on as we expected, provoking frustration. Stress, panic attacks, choking relationships, blocks or obstacles along the itinerary that we had planned so passionately are part of the experience.

Altitude is good (remember the ooh aah point we explored on this blog? If not, the post is still there!). From a higher point we can see what is going on with us, including what we might not like and might react to. When our mind gets entangled with denial, the body manifests blocks by getting ill or out of our control. That is a good starting point, because we can work on our mind to heal the body also.

Meditating every day while feeling sick for the altitude, I experienced that kind of transformation.
What happens is that, after a while, the body adapts itself to the new altitude and the breath fills it with the fresh and pure air of the mountains. From that moment on, we enjoy our journey more than before.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Wow, the higher thinking!

Grand Canyon, Arizona

Along one of the South Rim trails at Grand Canyon there is a gorgeous panoramic view called Ooh Aah Point. The naming couldn't be more appropriate: it sounds like wow and the view is wow for real!
Some experiences cannot be easily described with words and we can just use sounds to express our participation. Still, what if I have to write an article about a difficult and vast topic, using a limited number of words and for which the deadline is like... yesterday?

There is a gurmukhi expression (which also is one of the most beautiful kundalini yoga mantras) that communicates that total sense of astonishment in front of the Infinite: it is Wahe Guru.
If you try to pronounce it, Wahe really sounds like wow! And that's it: a feeling of expansion and totality, an higher state from which we can see what is happening down there, where our human nature is having fun on Earth.
Guru is not only a famous brand, neither is just the Indian guru that we are used to see in pictures and documentaries on TV. Guru is the teacher and the word literally means "from darkness to light": in a nutshell, it is what enlightens us when we are totally wandering in darkness and don't know what's going on.
It is interesting to acknowledge that there is a guru inside each one of us and we all are teachers: we have the ability to see the big picture from above. Like from that Ooh Aah Point.

The topic can be difficult and the time given to us to write about it very short: instead of wandering in darkness and panic, we can take a step behind. Better, a side step. Even better, we can fly.

It is all about changing perspective: someone calls upon the lateral thinking, I would call that higher thinking instead. In place of bypassing the obstacle, we face it from above: we fly, hover and look at ourselves looking at the view. We may look like little points from there, compared to that vastness, but if we are able to see us is because we are flying. That should be enough.
To deliver as fast as possible, containing all the vastness of the topic in that limited number of words, we have to become innocent again: by forgetting our huge talents (and ego), we will simply say "wow" like a child would do (or maybe Wahe Guru, if we practice kundalini yoga)!
No efforts, just wow. The more the topic is difficult, the more words must be simple. Simple words take little space and time, both for the writers and for the readers. 

As human beings we are already microcosms who are part of a macrocosm, so we know from within the language to express that vastness in few words. We just have to work on our awareness to access those resources within ourselves, in order to have a sharp, fast and effective mind that serves our creativity.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Still Words in the giant forest

Sequoia National Park, Sierra Nevada, CA

In silence trees speak. As giant and thousands-year old sequoias they have even more to tell.
They told me about bears, deers and squirrels. About birth, life, death and rebirth. About the wounds from fire and the way they bear such a pain by keeping up in life.
I saw their blood, their scars, their wrinkles and their arms reaching out towards the sky whereas they are rooted on the ground.
I heard their breath, pet their wrinkled trunk, felt their roots under my feet, busted bears climbing on them. Like a little child, under these giant creatures I played the role of Dorothy in the world of the wonderful wizard of Oz.

Sequoia National Park is an enchanted forest like those I read about in some fantasy novels, a forest where you wouldn't be surprised to see some Tolkien's Hobbits or the trees themselves moving like human beings.
Into the wild it is easier to reach a meditative state of mind and creativity spontaneously comes up. This post comes from that wildness! Inspired by the forest I literally visualized some writing and communication techniques in the shape of trees.

How to manage the flow of our creativity? What are the steps to take in front of a blank page?
Trees are a good source to refer to: they suggest how we can stay with our feet on the ground but also reach our higher consciousness, where the best ideas come from.

Every time we draft some writing or we say something, words are like leaves. They are so many at the beginning of our flow of thoughts that we can't even count them.
If we don't want to be lost in the labyrinth of our mind, we need to realize that there are branches behind those leaves.

Branches are the grid, the structure through which we spread our thoughts and what we want to communicate. We can concretely organize this process by using a bulleted list of our ideas, so that we both leash our mind and keep the thread very clear to us from the beginning.

Branches are also connected to the trunk: if we write or talk far from our centre, we will deliver just fantasies without conveying a real message and there will be lack of personality.
The trunk is the power of connection between our pure creativity and the instruments that we use to express it: from that centre, all the points of our writing (the branches) and the words that come from those (the leaves) will be strongly anchored to the roots.

The roots are our experience, the background (or the underground stuff, we might say in this case!), the earth that ultimately nurtures our words. They also are the channels through which we connect to all the other trees (our public): words spreading from those channels express a conscious creative process.

How much better would it be if everybody trained their mind to think before speaking and let just flowers come out from the mouth?
If writing is both creative and rational, if words are under control and consciously expressed, the final product will have more chances to communicate with neutrality.
Neutrality corresponds to the ability of listening to the whole forest (environment) around us, from an higher point of view that allows us to see every detail, and also to the capacity of expressing ourselves with rooted wisdom and depth.
Neutral communication, as the result of the consciousness applied to each step of our creativity, is powerful and its feedback is long lasting. Just like a giant sequoia in the forest!