Unconditional Love?

Do you think it is possible to love someone without expecting anything in return? I mean besides a mother’s love?

We usually associate unconditional love with a mother’s love maybe because it has a selfless ring to it. From the moment that little baby is placed in our arms and I’m guessing towards all ours and their lives there is always that selfless love that treasures and put that other human being interests above our own. Their happiness above our own. I do however sometimes question if that love is all so selfless and if we sometime let our expectations and fears creep in our relation we have with our children no matter their age.

Yes, we mother’s do sacrifice without asking anything in return or is it really so? Do we expect a determined behaviour from our child because we have voluntarily sacrificed our sleep, our bodies and most probably our peace of mind to that other human being. I wish I could say no, but sometimes, I confess, I’m not sure if I create expectation because I truly wish their happiness or  because of some obscure/obtuse reason of self-gratification ( you know that I’m sacrificing myself but I have achieved a successful goal in that human being).

Besides how many of us place our dreams and fears in our children: wanting to be a ballerina and having our kids doing ballet lessons or piano lessons or whatever we had dreamed to ourselves and failed to accomplish…Or sometimes, just because we know that we won’t live forever and in that human being is the seed of some type of fantasized continuity that is showed to everyone.

So if we have all this hidden and subtle agenda when relating to supposedly what should be the most unconditional love of all, what about the love in a relationship between two adults?

Do you think it is possible to love so unconditionally without accepting and rejecting anything, without expectations or fears from what the other person does or feels, with a total willingness of unbounded freedom in relation to someone else?

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You know to love beyond that douchey/touchy grabbing feeling of being with the other person all the time, of having to know all of what he/she does all the time, to whom they speak with or sms with, to completely allow the other person to be free to do what they want, whenever they want without expecting or judging or even hoping for something in return?

To love by simply letting go? Not with detachment but simply by loving freely and with an accepting openness ?

 

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What do you think?  Just thoughts running wild ;)!

 

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The Pressure of a Role

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Sometimes I feel like I’m in a theatre called life. I don’t know about you, but I feel that I have to perform so many roles, many of them become a leading role when I start identifying and justifying “my existence” with what I assume to be the main characteristics of that role.

imgres-1.jpgYou know:  the mother role, the wife role, the daughter, the friend, the student, the writer or the buddhist. All of them co-existing like simultaneously alter-egos, well better said, simultaneously hyper-active egos. With all this “egos” comes a check-list of do’s and don’ts ready to enable or emancipate the chosen ego for that particular circumstance.

The hopes, expectations and fears that comes with the check list brings so much pressure. It confines us to this role which defines our whole existence through its composition.

Funny though, is that we are our own composer, orchestra and audience. And if the tune is a little out of tone, oh the drama we endure and put ourselves into. Well actually not only ourselves because I, for instance, tend to check other’s people music accordingly with my own.images-1.jpg

The other day I was listening to a “guided meditation” and it talked a lot about feeling compassion towards ourselves, having to have an open attitude towards us. Actually, there was a moment that the facilitator said something like ” Be in touch with that emotion or the pressure of a role ( something like that) and say to yourself :- Darling it’s ok!” I almost bursted laughing. Because really who in the middle of crises will say to oneself “Darling it ok with an imaginary pad on the back!” ( yes, let’s emaciate more our egos).

So, the solution?

Dismantle the egos. You know really what define’s us? The check-list of a mother ? The check-list of being a “good” mother?  The check-list of a good versus bad friend? The check list of appropriate conduct? Where does this “I” and all those roles come from? I know it looks like an identity crises and maybe it is. But what I’m writing here is nothing new.

Both in easter and western societies people have been trying to logically answer that question and go to the core of what make us. And being a fundamental question of our existence, many scholars nowadays are trying to follow and study those philosophies. I don’t even dare to discuss about it because it’s beyond my capacity and knowledge.

On the other hand, I, from my side, feel a big relief knowing that these ego’s are not truly me. They don’t define me and I don’t have succumb to the pressure of expectations. If I can truly logically understand this, then maybe I can embrace those roles better because there is no hidden agenda, it’s just a role in a show and knowing that should be the key.

Well, just a crazy thought from the outcome of a guided meditation. Another wild mindful thought!

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Fears, problems and trying not to drown

My seven-year old likes to read and of course it is something that I really try to encourage her. She usually loves real life stories and in time where civil rights are being talked over the world, it is quite amazing when she brings home books about the life of Martin Luther King, or Gandhi, or Nelson Mandela or even Florence Nightingale ( the first women nurse). I have to say I love when she reads this books maybe because my feminist liberal leftist (all goody side) sparkles up and sees a way to start indoctrinating her.

We ended up having meaningful discussions about the lives and the times those people lived and I have to say I have a “human rights activist” on the making.

However none of the their lives stories had such an impact on my seven-year-old as when she read the book about Anne Frank, maybe because she was a girl and she had a diary like herself.

It is very hard for her to understand why would people separate others because of their believes. She just kept asking: But why? Why mommy? Why were they considered different? As she kept asking I kept replying because they were afraid.

And then suddenly she came out with :- “Like Donald Trump is afraid of Mexicans?”

My seven-year old was born in Mexico and even though she has Portuguese nationality, she heard, somewhere in the aftermath of the American elections, of the rift Donald Trump was causing with the Mexicans ( no, it wasn’t from me). Actually, she asked me some days afterwards why was Donald Trump afraid of women ( I really don’t know where is she catching this from).

So there was my little innocent civil-rights on the making activist drawing parallels between Hitler and the Jewish and Donal Trump and the Mexicans. I could see fear in her bright olive eyes.

Rest assure, I did what any mommy would do and lied to her – “Of course, Donald Trump is not like Hitler.” I took the chance and said:” We just have to keep a good heart and show everybody that there is no reason to be afraid of what is different from us, actually that is what most people are doing now, they are showing,  like Gandhi did and Martin Luther King did, in a non-violent way, that there is no reason to be afraid.”

It seems to have worked because she relaxed and Donald Trump is no more the bogeyman in her dreams.

I guess that’s it, isn’t ? When we face our fears and find solutions for them, the weight of the fear looses quite a bit. Not that the fear is gone, it is just analysed and by doing so it diminishes its “drowning dimension”- you know when you feel stuck at a problem along with a powerless feeling.

c333ada323ff98bc3e7159e58414906a.jpgWhich brings me into another thought: What to do when the problem has no solution or when both solutions are equally bad? Because that’s it. We tend to stress or feel overwhelmed when we can’t deal with our fears or when we face a problem that causes us to have the same feeling of powerless and we are not able to choose or to find a way to gain control again.
We tend to worry over and over about what has no solution. And we tend to worry over and over when both solutions are equally bad or equally not so good. There is always an underlined pressure on our attempt to be happy. I have often to tell myself that problems will always exist. Life is hard. Some have more hazardous conditions than others, but in the end there is always this unsatisfactory feeling of needing and wanting more until we reach a dead-end.

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So I guess the solution for every problem or fear is : Face it , Acknowledge it and Let it go.

In and out adverse circumstances will always exist, but how we relate to it it’s totally up to us. It is important to understand what we feed and how long we feed our thoughts and emotions. Of course this doesn’t mean to develop a sense of apathy towards the world around us, it just means that we don’t allow what happens to overcome us and take control of our mind, in the end we might even be able to use these problems and fears to understand, in a non judgemental way, more about ourselves and others.

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Peace and Happiness has to come from within ourselves first. This contentment feeling has no other choice than to sprout when we feed our minds with compassion and understanding towards others and ourselves.

So there, a post that started with my seven-year old reading real people life stories has ended with a reminder to myself :)…another wild mindful post ;)!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Confessions of a Buddhist Practitioner

One of the things that we are told often by our teachers is that we should take everything into the path, not accepting and not rejecting just being fully aware of what is happening in our minds and in our surroundings without clinging. Of course there we are told that this doesn’t mean we stop appreciating things, it just means we don’t get attached to the emotions and continuous discourse that the “thing” brings to our mind.

Yeah right? Who are we kidding? It seems easier said than done. It is particularly difficult for me when I’m doing my mediation practice and I’m interrupted because the air condition has to be repaired.

So ok! In the beginning this interruption is just kind of  like being annoyed, it’s like a spark that under the right conditions can cause a fire and turn me into a raging beast.

Which is quite strange. One moment I’m all “peace and love”, and the other moment I’m giving hard time to the guy because he didn’t do the things properly. I mean, really who cares if the house has more holes and that he had promised you early that nothing would be seen, and that probably he was really sure of what he was saying since, obviously, he didn’t check out there was a bathroom on the other side!

See what I mean?

Just thinking about it, makes me see red again! So there I just created karma with this guy over a hole! Really can this be more ridiculous?

imgres-3.jpgSo first I got angry at the person, then I got angry at myself ( because I should know better), and now I’m full of remorse for getting angry at him and myself, forgetting that in the end all is cause and conditions.

Funny though is that I already project that I’m going to get upset every time someone from this company comes to do a repair in my house. So I ended having lot’s of sparks to add to the fuel. I have to say I was fully aware that I was angry. I was aware of the triggers, I was aware of my pounding heartbeat, I was aware of trying to control my emotions and speech  while walking back and forth, but I didn’t have the space or the presence of a spectator that is looking at a dream, I got carried away even while being totally aware of it.

So to the person who kindly tried to repair my air condition in a blazing country like Congo: I’m sorry! I know you were trying to help us !

It is said that teachers come in various disguises and I feel that this was a valuable lesson. I bow to you venerable monsieur of the house repairing company!

 

 

 

 

To be or not to be in Congo

One of the things I appreciate most in living in Congo specially when we travel  is to observe how the congolese spend their time.

Life in Congo is hard. Hard beyond concept to us – spoiled westerners used to having water at home, supermarket with all the vegetables and world-wide food at hand, not mentioning the living commodities that we all take for granted in our houses.

Life in Congo is hard specially to the congolese. I often see the women carrying heavy buckets of water followed by their shoeless children through muddy sands in roadless streets.

From dawn until dust they work. Most of the times in a slow pace and in the peak of the heat. I often think what if it was me? What if I had been born here in Congo what would my life be like? I look at these people eyes and I see my face in them, the same hopes and the same fears but under different circumstances.

Life is hard specially to the congolese. So when it’s weekend and I go out of Point Noir, I try to see what they do and how they enjoy themselves.

The answer is quite surprising. The congolese sit when they have nothing to do. They enjoy just being and sitting alone or together. They are comfortable with being bored. They don’t feel the need to fill their time with activities, they don’t look for TV for distraction, and the children don’t play with toys because very seldom they have. So they sit.

Sometimes it seems that we – raised in fast doing paced societies get usually uncomfortable with ourselves. As if we have to have something to distract us from thinking too much or maybe that is the exact problem we think too much and we need  the outside world to prevent us from looking directly at what is happening within ourselves.

The congolese have a hard life and they are acutely aware of how difficult it is.

So on the weekends I see the children sitting in plastic chairs playing with something they found near by, usually plastic garbage. And if it’s the aftermath of a rainy morning they will be playing in the muddy puddles. The elders will be enjoying their company most of the times without speaking. Other times they will be enjoying the sound of the local radio as hours fly by.

But if by any chance, we go near the beach, then some of the children will be putting sand to block the roads and if our cars get stuck we will suddenly be helped ( in exchange of a symbolic contribution) by the whole village who will do their best with shovels to release our car wheels from the sand pits they had previously built.

Sometimes when I look at the children so patiently waiting and observing what is around them, I can’t help thinking on my own children. I’m afraid that I haven’t allowed them and helped them to be bored. I am always giving them distractions or things to do, or suggesting thing to play or activities to go. So I’m trying to have them learn to be in touch with themselves respecting the silence around them and to be comfortable with the inner silence or not that it may arise for not having anything to do.

Sometimes it’s good to just be instead of doing. Life is hard in Congo specially for the congolese but in the mist of their hardships they know more about themselves than most of us. I wonder it they realise that too.

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When no place feels like home…

Since I started this life of a modern nomad one of the things in time you start to get use to is the ability to detach oneself from things and material stuff. It becomes more evident when you stay one year or less in one place. At that time the feeling of home just doesn’t ring a bell anymore.

The sense of having something secure is not there anymore.We have to say goodbye to people and friends more often than not. We sell or give away our things so many times that after a while we feel like it’s a waste of time to buy anything more. And the houses or apartments we live in always have this temporary feeling carved on it.

When I arrived now to Congo, not having  dishes, I just bought one of each and have to say I was really tempted in buying plastic or paper dishes, and just didn’t do it because of my environmental consciousness.

Don’t get me wrong this type of life has the ability to open us up, to give all sort of  life meaningful experiences but what to do when no place feels like home and we know that all this is meaningless?

Do we close ourselves trying to find that permanent feeling somewhere? Or do we open even more and try to go with the flow, allowing everything to collapse without any safety net? Do we try to grab onto an ideal of something somewhere permanent, or do we accept that life as we know it, is this constant flow of changing conditions resulting from an interdependent flux of other changing conditions?

What would you choose?

I know by now that trying to find some safety in something unchangeable will never happen. Change happens all the time, every second of our days, we are bound to change. Our thoughts and emotions change in microseconds, what is to say about everything else?

So do we bravely connect with everything and everyone around us knowing that it will change?Do we flow like the river ? Sometimes diving in its rapids? Other times following its gentle course? Or do we close ourselves in a dam with all the possible neuroses that may come from it?

What to do when no place feels like home?

For me, I chose to open myself freely to whatever happens outside while being in an inward retreat, which means I try to protect my mind while knowing the absolute ridiculousness of dwelling in ( getting attached to) thoughts and emotions

It seems more easy to say than to do because most of the times no place feels like home and, as I try to follow the direction of the teachers, I have to be aware the thought and feeling that kind of emotion brings and not let go astray in a hopeless depression.

One of the great buddhist masters of the last century Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche said:

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“When we engage in the practice of discovering space, we should develop the feeling of opening ourselves to the entire universe. We should open ourselves with absolute simplicity and nakedness of mind. This is the powerful and ordinary practice of dropping the mask of self-protection”

 

The great Tilopa also said:

“Have a mind that is open to everything and attached to nothing”

Though this seems that we stop caring about others, it is far from being that. It means to have an openness and a malleable mind that care for others while not being over run by the whatever conditions we/others are facing.

The renowned teacher Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche says: ” Happiness comes down to 
choosing between the discomfort of becoming aware of your mental afflictions and the discomfort of being ruled by them”

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So  when I struggle with this familiar feeling of “no place feels like home”, I always find some comfort  in what Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche said: “When sunlight falls on a crystal, lights of all colours appear, yet they have no substance that you can grasp. Likewise, all thoughts in their infinite variety are utterly without substance”.

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Tender Heart

Yesterday I had to say goodbye to a friend. I had been saying farewell for a few months now since she had been first diagnosed with bone cancer. Nevertheless, when the day came it was as difficult as the day I was first told.

I guess, we people, even knowing the inevitably, always have a secret hope of a different outcome. Isn’t that silly and strange? Attachment is a b*tch!

Fourteen years ago, a dog with a broken leg asked for help. She was scared. We took her to the vet clinic and after a brilliant surgery, I took her home.

Over so many years there are many stories with Rita, but there are two that show how special she was.

You see, when I adopted Rita I already had another dog. A little black  senior dog who had been suffering from hernia problems and heart disease for a while ( he was eleven years old when Rita came to our lives and he died eight years later with nineteen years old).

Pirucas was his name. Now this dog was a little crazy, specially during those days. Probably the pain that he was going through made him want to bite for no reason. I would be walking in front of him and if, unluckily, he had a pain at that moment, my ankles or legs would be targeted. I have to admit sometimes I got scared of him even though he had been my dog since I was 13 years old.

Of course, when this beautiful blonde tigress came to our house, Pirucas got rejuvenated as if he had drunk a miraculous youthful love potion and ,oh the things he would do to Rita.

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In the beginning we would separate them both. Rita would stay in the kitchen with one of those baby safety gates, but that never stopped  Pirucas. He would go under the gate, and with his back , lift the door until the lock opened. Once inside, spring would take over Pirucas and Rita would patiently suffer the harassment even though she was triple his size. No, no babies came out of that platonic relationship but not because lack of trying from his side.

Anyway, one day I was laying down in the bedroom carpet while reading a book, and suddenly Pirucas jumped on top of me while having a rage fit. One moment I was reading, the other moment I had a dog with a lunatic look showing his teeth millimetres away from my face. I was aware at that moment that whatever move I made he would attack and bite  my face off. Pirucas was out of control. But Rita was there. At the moment I thought he was going to attack, Rita jumped on top of me as well and gave an inward growl to Pirucas with her mouth close to his neck.

I was paralysed. I had a dog showing his teeth at me and another one with 30 kg threatening the first dog. I thought “That is it, I’m screwed and I’ll be lucky if I’m not bitten and Pirucas dies“. But somehow, after listening Rita’s soft inward growl and her breath near his ears, he started to relax and started to be his usual self. His eyes relaxed and both got off me.

This was the first time Rita protected me.

A few weeks after and quite early in a winter morning, I was walking the dogs before going to work. The roads were silent and the only light was the early morning dew. Rita being so young and full strength would go running to the park, while Pirucas and I would slowly walk. As we were climbing the stairs onto the park, a man was coming down. Because I was alone with Pirucas with no one at sight and no lights, I immediately felt unsafe. Worst was when the man thought it was a good idea to corner and harass me. Rita who was nowhere to be seen, must have felt something because she came back to the top of the stairs and seeing the man around me, flew over eighty steps straight to him and while barking cornered him away from me against the wall.  As I noticed he was reaching for a pocket-knife, I called Rita who followed me, this time always behind and still barking at the man who had to decided to run away.

And for the second time Rita saved me.

She would die first before allowing anybody hurt me and I knew that.

She travelled with me for ten years all over the world. Because of her I travelled inside a dog’s kennel for six hours, because of her we had a wild moose running towards us, and because of her every time there was a thunder I slept in the floor next to her. She loved snow and she loved the beaches. She was there when my first was born, and she used to ask to go to the garage during the toddler years so she could escape the crazy horse plays.

She loved to run after iguanas but what gave her the thrill was to chase after cats. She used to cry every time I left the house and suffered from separation anxiety. She was my alarm clock long before I had children.

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In the last months, when she had no strength left to go the second floor, she would gently cry if there were thunders or if she wanted me to take her walking. Somehow I would hear her, and half-sleeping, I would bring my pillow down and tuck near her in the floor.

The days that there were no thunders, and before coming down I would start listening to her tail banging excitedly, and I knew she was there waiting for me.

Few people will understand this, but what can I say she was my dog and she never left me down.

 

I hope I didn’t let her down as well.

Rita was a special dog, a one of a kind to me. She was loved and she is missed dearly. She was born is Portugal in 2003, she travelled to Canada, Mexico, Russia, and Norway. She died in March 2017 in Congo not before giving us funny stories to write about.

To all the people who have lost a friend like Rita : hang on there! Even though our hearts hurt and we miss them to the aching point, we are better people because they loved us so much.

Better to have a heart tendered with pain than never having felt at all.

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