Cockroaches and me II

Ok so remember the last post about cockroaches? Remember when I said I didn’t know how I would react once I saw it again?

Well now I know!! It was inevitable!

I have been having encounters almost every day, and I have to say it’s a test! Honestly, how much can one person handle a phobia cockroach???

So the first time after written the post I saw 聽a cockroach, it was adventurously climbing the stairs up to the bedrooms. It was 5:00 in the morning and I had already done my sitting meditation, so life was good. My son had just woken up and had asked me to go downstairs and he was the first one to see it.

At that time I was able to skip through it, open the house door’s and take it outside without having too much of a disgust. The most important thing at that time was to take it out of the house before it faced a certain death at someone else’s foot. So I was feeling quite proud of myself when we putted it outside, my children were cheering and we were ready to go to our daily tasks. But then I realised that when I had brushed it outside, I was unsuccessful and the cockroach stayed upside down at the front door. 聽Again it would face death if it stayed like this for a long time, so I decided that I had to put back on the right position so it could run away, preferably far from the house ( remember it is important for Buddhists not to kill any being accordingly to our beliefs). So with the children cheering up for their mom with words of support, I was able to put it back on its feet. At the exact moment I did it, a flick of pride run through me and at the exact moment one of house securities came up to it and crashed it with his foot.

*Sh*t* was the word it came to my mind. Both the kids and myself just stared looking at it, still absorbing the loud sound of the smashing and looking at it’s cracked body under the security man shoe who was at that time brushing it of at the side-walk. The crazy thing, was that the sound of the cracking body was so loud that both the kids and I were unable to talk for a few minutes.

The other time, I had a cockroach encounter was today! Which inspired me to write another crazy post about cockroaches.

Today, I hadn’t done my sitting meditation yet, my son woke up early and not in the best moods. Then it was time for breakfast, prepare the lunch boxes, and get them dressed. After being ready, my son was a little bit disappointed because his sister hadn’t let him touch her telescope, so to make him feel better I went to the room in search for a kaleidoscope that is also much fun to see through, and that is when we saw it!

It was so near me, it was pure luck I didn’t step on it with my bare feet! This time I screamed, I shivered and I had all the disgusting feelings one can have when seeing a cockroach!

So again we had to put it outside but this time it revealed to be a harder task than other times before.

imgres.pngWe need to put a flying cockroach in the little shovel. I think I must have shivered all the time and with my four-year old holding the brush we were able to place it inside the shovel in the right running/flying position. Of course, at this time I was just saying to myself kind in a mantra type: “Don’t fly now, don’t fly now, PLEASE DON’T FLY NOW”.

Somehow it didn’t fly and we were able to put outside near a tree. I closed the door with a big relief by which at that time my seven-year old daughter came to me and asked me for something that I can’t even recall at the moment to which I replied : Wait a second, mommy needs to breath out all this cockroach emotion “. My daughter being very spirited just kindly replied : “like all mornings mommy!”

Yes, I believe this won’t be the last of the cockroach series. Maybe the next time I will take a picture for guys to see it 馃槈 !!!!

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A mother’s love in a world full of orphans II

imgres.pngYesterday I was at the orphanage, and as usual the children are always very happy when they see us coming through the door. They know that when we go they will have something to eat, but more important someone to play with them and hold them dearly.

But sometimes, for a few seconds, it can be heartbreaking. Usually, when we leave we have to take away the toys and everything we brought with us. We don’t want to, but rules are rules and the children are left with nothing to play in a closed space, until someone goes back again.

 

Most of the times, the children know the drill. When it’s time for us to leave they have to put everything back in the bag but, yesterday, they were enjoying so much to play with the cars and the musical instruments that when was to time to pack, some of them were quite sad. Hurtful tears shed on a toddlers face, with no more than 18 months, when his little car was taken away. And it broke my heart with him. I grabbed him as he held tight to me and we stayed like this until it wasn’t painful anymore.

I, often, think if we are doing a good thing. This children already go through the loss feeling of not having a parent, and then they have to go through the same feeling when we leave them there and take the toys away. It almost seems like a repetition of that feeling over and over again, specially when they become attached to us.

Recent studies have shown that if a child was cognitive at the time of abandonment it may affect afterwards his/her ability to deal with loss and to create healthy relations. Some studies almost seem to say that it is better for the 聽child in a long run to be place in an orphanage as an infant while there is no cognitive memory of abandonment. At the same time, these studies show that in terms of brain development its is better to have an individualized care for the first three years, which most of the time doesn’t happen in the institutionalized system.

The tragedy of the orphan’s culture is to big: high psychological needs with deficient psychological care while having an increasing ratio of multiple children for multiple rotational caregivers that are unable to give specialized attention.

The effects of this compounded suffering in the children are:

  • Superficially charming behaviors
  • 路 difficulties with eye contact
  • 路 indiscriminate affection with strangers
  • 路 destructive tendencies
  • 路 hoarding or gorging
  • 路 manipulation
  • 路 lying and deceitful behaviors
  • 路 fear of abandonment
  • 路 difficulty making decisions
  • 路 aggressiveness
  • 路 entitlement issues
  • 路 power struggles
  • 路 self-soothing behaviors

And the life long effects might be:

  • 路 difficulty in relationships
  • 路 legal problems
  • 路 occupational problems
  • 路 homelessness
  • 路 depression and anxiety
  • 路 abandoning children
  • 路 sexual acting out
  • 路 drug/alcohol addictions
  • 路 poor coping skills

The solution?

Studies suggest that the best option would be 聽to make the “orphanage more family-like by integrating groups by age and disability status, changing caregivers’ schedules and assigning two “primary caregivers” to each group, and training caregivers to care for the children more like they’d care for their own children (sensitive, responsive care)”.

slide_4.jpgBut what to do when we live in Africa? And being an orphan is a quest for survival? When most of the times they don’t know what or if they will eat? And should that be surprising when most of the population is starving anyway?

When the orphan culture is already so difficult in western rich countries, what to say when we come to Africa?

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I often wonder if we are doing good to this children. We might be as well increasing their sense of loss, but I have to remind myself that even though we volunteers are always changing, even though they have to say goodbye to us often, we are the close they have of an individualized care and those hours that we go there during the day is the only time that they can be like any other child. At least, that is what I say to myself every time I have to leave and each one of them asks me to hold them tight.

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Read more: http://www.rageagainsttheminivan.com/2011/03/psychological-impacts-of-abandonment.html#ixzz4W0jji2Rq

 

 

When being mindful is exhausting

Mindfulness is everywhere nowadays. From life coaches to the small business man, to even big companies like Google and Facebook are now trying to implement a new culture directed to a new approach of seeing oneself.

When the stress and the increasing demand of instant responses on a technologically fast society cause people to try to find solutions to slow down and connect to oneself, mindfulness techniques become a very viable answer.

But what if mindfulness itself becomes a cause to become exhausted?

What I’m seeing lately is that people everywhere are trying to do some type of awareness. But they use mindfulness like any other tool to achieve an immediate response, as if it was a physical exercise that you do in order to achieve a certain typo of body or weight.

The thing is that we can’t deal with our mind and emotion the same we deal with our jobs or our bodies.images-4.jpg

Because if we put too much pressure in our mind the opposite effect will happen, that is, it will become tight and it’s tightness, in a long run, will prevent us to relax in that awareness or to see the emotions that arise from our mind.

Mindfulness is a sweet balance of being aware without putting too much effort on it. From the moment we stretch our minds to be aware, we are causing a pressure and it will, eventually, like a pressure pot, need to blow steam.聽imgres.jpg

We are so used to thriving for perfection and so fast goal oriented that we think we can deal with our minds the same way. News flash though! We can’t! If we deal with our minds in the same way we deal with all aspects of our lives, then mindfulness itself will burn us out!

Actually, what I have come to notice is that many of us put so much effort that when we become stressed of the mindfulness then we tend to give up and go to our regular habits, and many of us, even may think, that it’s just like a diet pill -” good for the firsts day, ineffective after a while and will make it worst when we stop taking it”

images.jpgWhen trying to be mindful we must first of all know that this cannot be goal oriented, it won’t be fast, it will have its up’s and down’s moments and it’s an exercise that, if we are really serious about it, we will do for the rest of our lives. It cannot be any other way because of the聽normal functioning of the brain. Being aware or doing meditation doesn’t mean that our thoughts will stop or that emotions will subside, sometimes it seems quite the opposite.

Actually, because we are now trying to be aware of all that happens inside our minds it can even become overwhelming. And this is when we need to relax and be compassionate to ourselves.images-1.jpg

Here are some tricks that I use when it becomes really difficult:

  1. When a really strong emotion or thought arises I pause. I, literally, have to pause everything I’m doing. Sometimes, when I’m having a really bad day and the kids are not being very helpful, I have to stop everything that I’m doing and go to a quiet place. Even if it’s just for 5 minutes I have to be alone, so that not only I can digest 聽what is happening with my mind ,but also so that my emotion doesn’t backfire to someone.
  2. Other times because I’m aware of what’s happening inside my mind, and seeing the thoughts and emotions quiet negative, I tend to judge myself. And that’s when it 聽becomes even worst. Not only then I had a bad thought, I’m also judging myself for having it. The solution: looking at the thoughts and emotions like a flick of a candle. They are not us. They don’t define us, and after a moment they are nowhere to be found. So why judge ourselves? It will remain longer in our minds if we start a neurotic dialogue after the first emotion. Then it will be like an exhaustive wandering mind that builds endlessly emotions and thoughts.
  3. I found out that being kind to oneself is of the most importance. And the only way we can relax in our minds, is if look at ourselves with kindness and let go of what ever comes to our heads.

Relaxing in the open space of our minds as if we were gently noticing the fury of the waves at the wide limitless sea, or as if were 聽paying attention to the wavering clouds of the infinite sky, is truly what being mindful is all about.

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A mother’s love in a world full of orphans…

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The first time I went to an orphanage was in Mexico. And now that I think of, probably one of the best so far in terms of conditions provided to the children. It wasn’t the orphanage itself that had an impact on me but the children’s stories. Most of the children had never been happier since living at the orphanage.

I remember once sitting down with one of 12-year-old girl who laid her head on my lap while telling me her life story. She had been sexually abused by the uncle and grandfather after the death of her own father while her mother was beaten constantly by them. This child had known nothing of kindness until arriving to the orphanage. And as she confided in me her horrific story, I, 聽who was less than 3 months pregnant, had my heart-broken for her. What could I say to ease her past and her story? I had no words to give, so I just listened while caressing her hair. She had no tears and I think I spent all of mine once I arrived home. I could not understand what makes people do such things. And then there was the boy who was taught to pick pockets and would be spanked if he didn’t bring any valuables back home.

e2c2c1f4ef21e3e45df3d3c029f44e10.jpgAll of them had a big difficulty in trusting strangers. Why wouldn’t they when the ones who are supposed to love us dearly ,treats us in such inhumane way? So I suggested a dance workshop where they could express their feelings and emotions through movement. And if at the beginning they were shy and reluctant, some just blew my mind away with their movements and joy. As if, little by little, they were allowing their wings to mend again.

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In Russia, however, orphans are the outcasts of society very much like Charles Dickens book “David Copperfield”.

What shocked me most was, when I was told that all who is orphan have a special mention at their citizen cards as if they were branded for their rest of their lives. I was told that orphans in Russia are usually the abandoned children of alcoholic parents and will, most surely, fall at their parents fate. At the age of 16, the teenagers are forced to leave the orphanage and live by themselves and sustain themselves without any help. Most of them end being caught by the organised crime; the girls for prostitution and women trafficking, the boys for drug errands.

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But, now and then, group of people, who seeing the conditions the children are in and what they have to face when leaving the orphanage , decide to act upon. One of this groups is the “House of Hope” in Sakhalin. They take care of these teens when they leave the orphanage giving them the opportunity to heal and to have a safe house until they can face the world by themselves.

In Africa, orphans have little chance, they are not only the destitute, but all their lives is a quest for survival. In countries where the food is so scarce, having a little bit of bread is itself a reason for happiness. Where the food is so little, the healing of the mind is of no importance. But sometimes, when I go to the orphanage here and their bellies are full, all they want is a mother’s hug, someone whom they can place their heads and rest. To stop being in a fighting mode and to feel safe.

I often, think about how lucky my children and how unaware of this they are. Of course, they are so little how can they be aware of the challenges and difficulties other children their age go through. Maybe, at this time, should be enough for them to be able to give away the toys that they don’t play with.

As for myself, they say that a mother’s heart can be as big and wide as one chooses it to be. Even though they don’t have my eyes or colour of my hair, the moments that they choose to embrace me are as sweet as my own children’s hugs. I know that one day, I will leave this country and I will have to let go of them, but like, previously, their stories and their faces will go with me where ever I am, and maybe through their stories I can be the best possible mother to my own children, and, hopefully, one day they will appreciate.

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Dopamine, Facebook and Marketing- the three sides of a Roller Coaster

I have previously written about Social Media and Mindfulness, but recently I have found that to exert mindfulness when we engage in our social media is more important than never.

imgres.jpgRecent neurological studies have shown that social media, like Facebook, can trigger on the human brain an organic chemical release called Dopamine which means Facebook causes in our brain the same addiction that drugs or alcohol do.

The way Dopamine works as a neurotransmitter is closely linked to the induction of a reward-motivated behaviour, which means the likes, sharing’s and comments our posts may have 聽contribute to the increase of our expectations and addiction to be always connected to Facebook.images-1.jpg

In the studies done by the State University of California, it was found that the Facebook addiction triggers the amygdala and striatum which are brain regions that are involved in impulsive behaviour. However unlike the other types of addictions, the brains of Facebook users showed the normal functioning of the brain systems responsible for inhibition in the prefrontal cortex. So basically accordingly to the study authors: ” (…)They have the ability to control their behaviour, but they don’t have the motivation to control this behaviour because they don’t see the consequences to be that severe.” (1)

So by knowing the neuro effects that continuous Facebook logging may have in our brain, it is even more necessary to engage in mindful actions.

Living in an increasing online society, means that we as consumers also face an increasing targeting by the marketeers . If before, the marketeers already studied human behaviour in order to increase the potential of their publicity. Now, they have at their hands all this information regarding our choices and, more than that, the 聽possibility to menage our addicted behaviour towards intended messages.imgres-1.jpg

I found particularly disturbing when reading an article on American Marketing Society entitled “Social Media Triggers a Dopamine High”. The article author refers to an associate 聽professor of phycology at Rutgers University at Newark called Mauricio Delgado who says regarding the future of marketing “(…)There will be a time when marketers need to understand the basic concepts of neuroscience. They might not need to understand it the way a neuroscientist understands it, but they need to understand a little bit more about how the emotions of the human mind work, and how they can align their messages around it(…)”

Is it only me that find this idea concerning?

imgres-1To have marketing closely enhancing addicted behaviour seems rather unethical to say the least. Of course the goal of marketing was always to encourage a certain type of behaviour by appealing to the buyer throught the characteristics and qualities of the product, but to engage in actions closely related to the biological functioning of the brain of the product-target is not to enhance the product, it is to enhance the biologically need of the product in the target’s brain. Saying it simple it is to transfer the addition that Facebook might have in someone’s brain to the need of having a certain product, or to influence people’s choice in all aspects of their lives.

Now, more than ever, we have to learn mindfulness and be aware of all these triggers so not only to be pawns of 聽our emotions and thoughts, but also of other’s peoples or branches desires.

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(1) Live Science, “What Facebook addiction looks like in the Brain”, by Thia Ghose

Cockroaches and me

I find this scene to be 聽one of the iconic moments at the film “Seven Year in Tibet” that reveal the 聽profound compassionate ideal buddhists 聽should have, that is not to harm any being even the tiniest that nobody thinks of, like worms!

While living in Congo I have to reflect on a daily basis on those ideals, since I never had problems with spiders or mosquitos or any other insect for that matter, but cockroaches ?! 聽You see, along with all the possible and impossible insects that you can imagine exists in Congo, cockroaches is one that you will find quite often. And they are hairy, big and sometimes can fly…and when they do and fall on top of me it’s usually my worst nightmare coming true!

I’m not afraid of them per say, it’s just that there is something about them that triggers an involuntary reaction of disgust.

When I was barely in my teen years and lived at Alexandria in Egypt, I didn’t have this feeling. Actually, the house, where I lived with my father, was always over-crowed with cockroaches. I would find them at the bedrooms, inside the closets and, of course at the kitchen which seemed to be their favourite spot to hang around. In fact, sometimes there would be so many, that when I would go to the kitchen I would politely paid respects and run off, or other times if I had to go deep inside to a far away counter to pick something and one of them was one my way, I would politely asked to pass. After sometime, the cockroaches were like tiny pets that were annoying but fun – I mean for me at the time it was fun to find ways to skip them !imgres-12.jpg

When we went to Mexico I faced the same ordeal. There would be cockroaches even inside the clothes washing machine or sometime I would find an unpleasant surprise inside a shoe. Honestly, can anyone imagine putting your bare foot inside your shoe and feeling the touch of the tiny antennas or legs being squashed by your toes? Thankfully it never came to that with me, can’t say the same about my husband though…

So when we came to Congo, of course one of the things I was warned about was the cockroaches…and I have had a few encounters. Most of the times, I just choose to let them be and wait for someone to take them away, but this week I decided it was time. Once and for all, I had to overcome this.

As I came downstairs and saw a tiny and actually, now that I think of, quite fluffy cockroach, turned upside down, the first thought was of repulse followed by relief, followed by regret that I was happy that it wasn’t live. All this came to my mind in fractions of seconds! I very skillfully skipped over it straight to the kitchen, and would, from time to time, peek just to see if it was at the same spot, kind as if I was reassuring myself that the tiny cockroach wouldn’t attack me any time soon even though I thought it was dead.

And then the kids came back down. And my seven-year old screamed :”Mommy, its alive !”

My heart stopped and I freezed!

There were only three options: 1) leave the house with the kids in pyjamas and run as fast as I could, 2) have a death duel, either I would kill it or die of a heart attack, 3) find a way to get it out of the house.

I chose number 3 option. The first thing I did was to wide open the house doors. Then I went to pick 聽a window-clean broom. Finally, I had to think about all my beliefs and if it rang true or not for me, and with determination and wish not to kill the cockroach I brushed it outside, stopping along the way every 5 cm with a few screams from my side and reassuring again myself of my thoughts.

It was working until it jumped to the broom.

That was it! No option now, I could clearly see it, so I stopped and rested on that feeling, I looked straight at it -the cockroach and the powerful disgust that was overflowing me – and then I successfully brushed it outside the house. At the last moment, it tipped and stayed with legs upwards, so with a final breath and a tiny inward scream I helped go back to its normal running position, and still saw it running away free from danger.

Yes, I know, most of you, who are reading the post, must be now thinking I am complete loony. In my defence, I can only say it was the way to face one of my deepest and irrational fears, and the result was happiness. Happy because I was able to do something besides running or having someone kill it.

I don’t know how I will react when I see again a cockroach, maybe I will be fearful again but now that I know what I can do, it’s just a question of habit until it doesn’t matter anymore. But, I think I will check my shoes before hand just in case!

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What do you want to be when you grow-up

imgres-7.jpgHave you recently asked yourself “what you want to be when you “grow-up”?”. I mean this is a question we often ask our children and we are always expecting some amazing answer in return. The world seen through the innocent eyes of a child can always be such a wondrous experience!

images-7.jpgI often make this question to myself, and, if I’m truly honest with myself, the answer is not ” be successful”, “be a good writer”, “be known”, “have money,” not even “be happy”. I want to be like Gandhi, or the Dalai Lama, or Mother Theresa or Pope Francis. I mean, have you ever seen more inspiring people nowadays?imgres-8.jpg

I believe their inspiration is drawn by seeing themselves as one of us, without arrogance or pride, they open up to other’s people’s problems and dilemmas as if it was their own, and out of profound compassion try to kindly act upon it.

It is like this ideal of what being a human being means. They reflect the goodness that we all have and are afraid to let it shine.

Most of the times I feel like a total scam. I mean I’m a buddhist right? Nowadays, the ideal of buddhism, specially in western countries, is very much linked to the idea of having to be always peaceful, always attentive, always kind and with a warm smile towards everyone. The problem is that I am buddhist because I took refuge in the Buddha, however I am a human being first, which means I have an untamed and uncontrolled mind, and it’s hard work! Knowing that unhappiness comes from an untamed mind and uncontrolled emotions, I have to be always aware of my thoughts and what triggers my worst disposition. Sometimes, it’s a split of a second, recognising and then letting it go.

We have the potential for goodness but most of the times we choose to reflect the worst that we have self-conditioned, and we don’t even notice it.

images-8.jpgI think that inspiring people like the Dalai Lama or Mother Theresa are/were able to do their compassionate work because of their tamed minds and emotions. To face all the ordeals that Gandhi had to go through was surely because his mind was steady and so he could feel this immense compassion without being overwhelmed by the outside circumstances. Of course, having a tamed mind doesn’t mean we stop feeling, it just means we are not carried away by our emotions like a wild chimp running after something.

If we could be a little more aware of what happens inside our mind then, in the end, the question “What do you want to be when you grow-up” becomes meaningless since we will be able to be happy no matter of what we do and to be able to help other’s no matter what they are going through. Being aware of what happens inside my mind is hard but in the end quite rewarding because it makes me understand that I can move forward in whatever conditions appear to me without loosing faith in my and other’s inner goodness, even if, sometimes, I just want to vent out my frustrations.

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