The despair of windowless house…

imgresHave you ever felt so overwhelmed that you either feel like punching a pillow, scream in despair, or simply just run away towards the unknown and far from whatever is driving you insane?

Have you ever felt that all your will to be mindful and aware of your thoughts go down the tube when someone or something pushed that “button” that you so willingly try to control?

Yes, I know that uneasy familiar feeling when everything seems to escape to your control…it might not only be outside events but when you are oblige to stand up and acknowledge that you can’t control everything, and that in fact most of the time, if not all the time, you don’t have control over anything not even over your emotions and thoughts that come and go through  your mind like a whisper of a wind, sometimes gentle, other times as a hurricane that splits all your good intentions.

Those times I feel like I am on the brink of having a serious tantrum, and all my thoughts and emotions are everything but mindful and usually it starts :-” I feel like this, I feel like that, and why is this happening to me” -and my favourite of all- “I can’t handle this anymore…”

Then somehow, when I am at that breaking point where I don’t know If cry, scream, run, that split of a second when I stop and am trying to decide how  should my tantrum evolve, I realise how many times I have said “I”, how my crazy monkey mind has manipulated me to the point that I although I feel as a victim of everything outside, I am truly my own demon, and the suffering is done my myself alone.

Suddenly, a sense of freedom feels me up, and even though my house might literally be falling upon me, I am still able to write it down.

Does it matter that I am living in a house with no windows? Probably not.

So I sit and look at the blue sky through this windowless house of mine, hearing at close distance the cars and the street noise below, trying to listen to something long forgotten, that sense of inner awareness that reminds you how everything is but an illusion.

Je sui Charlie and everyone else

Anarchy is ideal for ideal men; passionate men must be reasonable. Like so many men have done before me, I examine the bases for a society of men and women who want to be free but who recognise the inherent limits that social interdependence places on them.-James M. Buchanan, The Limits of Liberty: Between Anarchy and Leviathan

Nowadays, specially in the western democratic societies, freedom of expression and speech are considered a given right and one of the pillars that sustains society.

With the signature of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Paris 1948 by 50 member states of the United Nations, western societies were carved to this Declaration.

Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes the freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media regardless of frontiers- Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948

Upon this principles, we consider that it is our inherent right as Human Being to  express and say whatever we want using whatever mean, and so when the unfortunate terrorist attack on the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists was perpetuated, a rise of solidarity and firm conviction of the right to freedom of speech took place in France and in most countries of the western world.

However, though I strongly condemn any act of violence and it shouldn’t be used to justify what was done,  I cannot stop thinking that with any freedom and right  comes along a great responsibility sometimes or most of the times forgotten.

Does our freedom of expression include the right to cause pain on other’s minds? Even, as I have heard, that art by itself and due to its nature can sometimes offend and cause disturbing feelings on others, do we have the right in the “name of art” to do this? Aren’t we defending to an extreme an idea that causes pain on others even if not physical?

Do we have a human right to cause distress on other human beings even by words or drawings?

“In the end, more than they wanted freedom, they wanted security.  They wanted a comfortable life, and they lost it all — security, comfort, and freedom.  When … the freedom they wished for was freedom from responsibility, then Athens ceased to be free.” – Sir Edward Gibbon  (1737-1794)


I strongly believe, no matter the means, we haven’t the right to cause any pain on another person  either through weapon or either through a pen.

“Liberty does not exist in the absence of morality.”
― Edmund Burke

Freedom and Social Responsibility are two sides of the same coin. One should not exist without the other under the token of transforming gold into cheap copper .

Our freedom as human beings should most of all be embedded with an intrinsic human quality : compassion corporate social responsibility

Je sui Charlie and everyone else!

Social Networking and Mindfulness

“If someone comes along and shoots an arrow into your heart, it’s fruitless to stand there and yell at the person. It would be much better to turn your attention to the fact that there’s an arrow in your heart…”
― Pema Chodron, Start Where you Are: A Guide to Compassionate Living

Being mindful is to be always aware of our thoughts, emotions, to focus on the activity we have in hand, or to listen tentatively to the person who we have in front of us, or even to to pay attention  to our own steps instead of drifting along the pavements without noticing the tiny bulbs underneath our feet.
But how can we mindful when we are on a social network? I often think that social networking is by itself a deviation of mindfulness.

Should we focus on each item that the “news feed” gives us and give out total attention to it, do we truly connect with each other more when we post and reply on Facebook or are we just connecting to something posted in voidness?

“Mindfulness isn’t difficult, we just need to remember to do it.”
― Sharon Salzberg, Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation

facebook_1823287bI like Facebook. It allows me to follow organisations, projects and people that probably I would have not heard about it before, but at the same time I often think that although it has its merit as an “information tool”, it often causes me distraction and when I’m tired it works as a “time out” moment as it occupies my awareness with things that causes my distraction, simply by saying: “I fully engage in reading posts, I am totally focused in what I am doing and I’m not being mindful at the same time”. Funniest paradox of all !

At the same time, it makes me understand how important it is to be mindful when we use Facebook or any other social network. I was reading that the man who posted on Facebook the video of the murder of the policeman killed in the Charlie Hebdo incident was feeling great remorse, and that he only had done it because he had nobody to talk to about what happened and it felt as if, by posting the video, he was being heard by a friend.  It took 15 minutes for the video to become viral and 1 hour to be on youtube.

It is easy to post and say things through a computer and Facebook is powerful on that. But being a social network the impact of everything we post is much bigger even if the feedback is not immediately. So even if we are not being mindful when we “are”on Facebook, it is imperative to be when we write and publish things because our voices can reach much further than if we only had a friendly conversation over coffee.

Often as well, not only on Facebook but in comments to news or in sites, there is a tendency for people to write whatever comes to their minds engaging in non stop offensive debacles over an issue. Actually it is so much easier and less repressive to say things to others through a computer, but it doesn’t mean it is less hurtful.  Being mindful of this is of the most importance because our written words can cause as much damage as the ones that are spoken, with the seriousness that it can be replayed for undefined time.

images-1Being mindful when using social networks is to use the “THINK” rule. Before posting or saying anything, just think to yourself if it is true, if it is helpful, if it is inspiring, if it is necessary and if it is kind? If you have a YES in all questions then post and publish at will.

I, on the other hand, will do my best to give myself some “Time-in” as I enjoy in full attention the silence of my mind.

Being mindful of our planet resources

images-13Long time ago there was a connection between the human family and the planet. As the Hopi Nation says there was respect for everything around us, we could feel the planet  underneath our feet, we could sense the trees under the touch of our hands, we could listen to the birds and how they sang each day a different tune, we could sleep under a clear bright sky and count the stars above us, we could even feel the gentle kiss of the wind in our faces, and we could hold hands with each other in a universal embrace where there was no need for words.

But then all that changed. We become hungry and in our hunger we are deploying our planet and our chances for survival. We no longer connect to the earth, and we are reducing our connection with each other. More words are needed, more gadgets are required as if it was the only way we could embrace each other.

In 2013, the world population was already over 7 billion, which means the ecological footprint of the human population exceeds the biocapacity of its environment, not only the growth of the human population but its demands exceeds the capacity of the environment to sustain its population. Recent studies have shown that Earth’s resources are enough to sustain only about 2 billion people at a european standard of living. imgres-1

Other studies have shown that if the world’s 7 billion people consumed as much as an average american, it would take the resources of  five planet Earths  to sustainably support all of them. They concluded, as well, that even the poorest countries are deploying their biocapacity by over 10%.

What becomes of the surplus of human life? It is either, 1st. destroyed by infanticide, as among the Chinese and Lacedemonians; or 2d. it is stifled or starved, as among other nations whose population is commensurate to its food; or 3d. it is consumed by wars and endemic diseases; or 4th. it overflows, by emigration, to places where a surplus of food is attainable.

-James Madison, 1791, U.S. President

Pressures resulting from unrestrained population growth put demands on the natural world that can overwhelm any efforts to achieve a sustainable future. If we are to halt the destruction of our environment, we must accept limits to that growth.

-World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity, signed by 1600 senior scientists from 70 countries, including 102 Nobel Prize laureates

If we don’t halt population growth with justice and compassion, it will be done for us by nature, brutally and without pity- and will leave a ravaged world.

-Nobel Laureate Dr. Henry W. Kendall

It isn’t only the growth of the global human population, it is also its growing needs and demands that overcomes our natural resources, and jeopardizes the balance that exists in the world.

When I think of the conclusions of these studies, the image that comes to my mind is that we, the human population, have become a plague of grasshoppers to the planet and it will eventually succumb or fight back.

images-12The only solution is to be more mindful of the resources and of our buying options. Do we really need so many technological gadgets made of compounds that harm our planet? Do we need to consume so much energy and water? Do our children need so many toys? Are we grateful for what we have? When we buy something, do we think how it was made and of the conditions of the people who produced it?

I for instance want to change. I want to help my children to be more connected with the earth around them. I want them be able to play with little and to be grateful for what they have. I want them to learn how to respect what the planet gives us, and as the story foretold by the Hopis, I want them to be rainbow warriors, to care about the earth and its beings. I want them to know how to connect with other people without having to go to Facebook. I want them to have compassion for everything around us.

The other day, I faced a dilema. Somewhere inside my house there must be a hive of bees. Every other day a bee comes to my children’s room causing panic. I called a company to see if they could find the hive and take it to a safe place for them and for us. Unfortunately the experts couldn’t find it, so the only solution they gave me was to kill one and to take it to them for them to analyse.

Honey bees are responsible for the pollination which continues the life cycle of a plant or tree. If there weren’t any honey bees left, there would be no food on our planet to produce. Mindfully I chose to take one by one the honey bee out of the children’s bedroom, and eventually we will live in another house.

I decided to change. I want to be more mindful of the planet and what it gives me. And although I have no knowledge of gardening, I’m even willing to give it a try. What about you? What will you do to help our planet survive? What will you do to be in touch again with the sacredness that exist around us?


Compassionate Richness

A poor man asked the Buddha,”Why am I so poor?”

The Buddha said, “You did not learn to give.”

So the poor man said, “But, if I don’t have anything to give?”

The Buddha said, “You have a few things:

The Face, which can give a smile;

The Mouth, you can praise or comfort others;

The Heart, it can open up to others;

The Eyes, they can look at the other with the eyes of compassion;

The Body, which can be used to help others.”

                                                 H.E. Tulku Yeshi Rinpoche, Bodhi Tree Leaf
When I read this short story told by H.E. Tulku Yeshi Rinpoche, a sense of amazement came upon me. It is amazing  how we have the tools to help and work for benefit of others, tools that don’t require anything except a deep awareness of how we use our body and our physical senses.
Sobo_1909_260_-_Zygomaticus_major_muscleStudies, such as the ones conducted in Lund University by Sweden researchers,  have shown that a smile can cause happiness on others due to a process called mimicry and emotional contagion, which means that when we see someone smiling we involuntary move our zygomatic major muscles, and when we see someone sad we tend to move the muscles called corrugator supercelii muscles responsible for our frowning. As well, the same researchers have proven that there is a contagious response regarding the emotions felt every time one of the muscles responsible either for smiling or frowning moved, as if by mimicking the other person physical response we would mimic the emotion felt by the sender.
This is a very important because  now we have scientific evidence that our facial and physical expressions are felt by others. Imagineimages-10 the impact we can have on others when we consciously decide to spread happiness, when we become full aware of our emotions and how they reflect on our body and others.
When we choose to listen attentively to others, when we choose kind words, when we use our touch to help and to give support, when we become aware of the other person and we choose to be in the present moment with a compassionate empathic attitude towards that person, when we freely give ourselves openly then our riches become unmeasurable.
I remember once, in my early twenties, I had little money with me. I had just bought an apartment , and I still had to pay bank credit of my masters degree, plus all the bills that having a flat implied. Little money was left for buying food. But one day while I was walking in the streets of Lisbon a very old lady came to me asking for food. I listened to her, I felt her pain and anguish, and knowingly that I had nothing more left on me except 25 euros for the rest of the month, I chose to go with her to a coffee shop and give those 25 euros to the coffee shop under the agreement that they would give her everyday some soup and whatever she asked to eat until the 25 euros finished. The old mendicant lady was so happy, her eyes glittered with a mixture of relief and gratitude. But in the end she was the one who gave me everything, because after that all my worries disappeared and a sense of joy overcame. I felt more rich than ever even though I would go home to an empty fridge.
So as the story says once we learn how to give fully, we will become the biggest receivers of the happiness that we chose to spread.

Compassionate Mindfulness: The complementary view of zen and mahayana approach

(…)Where there is hatred, let me sow love;

Where there is injury, pardon;

Where there is discord, harmony;

Where there is error, truth;

Where there is doubt, faith;

Where there is despair, hope;

Where there is darkness, light;

And where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, Grant that I may not so much seek

To be consoled as to console;

To be understood as to understand;

To be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;

It is in pardoning that we are pardoned; by Saint Francis

images-5To be mindful is to live in the present, in the now. To be mindful is to be aware of our actions and thoughts through out our daily lives, and by doing it we enhance not only our connection with others but everything around us. It’s obvious consequence is that we become more tuned to the feelings of others, our attention of what happens in our surrounding increases and we became capable of empathizing more and having more compassionate attitudes. And this is the general approach when we talk about mindfulness in nowadays. Mindfulness is a way to live a happy life and to feel connected, and in its zen approach the goal is to cease the suffering caused by the expectations and cravings of the mind (our monkey type mind is tamed and our true nature revealed).

images-8However, in a complementary way, the mahayana ( as generally known as Tibetan Buddhism) goal is to achieve Bodhichitta ( the supreme realisation of compassion). To apply mindfulness through mahayana principles is to be aware of our daily actions, emotions and thoughts and to try to apply them in a way that is most beneficial to others. It’s a two in one kind of thing. Compassionate actions are bound to happen when we practice mindfulness, but when we enhance it with the awareness that our actions are for the benefit of others it’s like cream on top of a cake.

For instance, while I’m breathing to be aware of the breath and to simultaneously think that which in-breath I’m taking upon myself the suffering of others, and with every awareness of out-breath to think that I’m giving my happiness to others . Or when we see a flower or something that causes good feelings to be aware of that feeling and to visualize or to wish at the same time that all beings may have the opportunity to see that flower. images-7

It is to break our daily actions and thoughts into a “micro awareness” and to expand it universally through a sense of compassion.

In the end the compassion attitude does not only arise as consequence of our connection to the present, but also it becomes a mean to itself, multiplying our empathy and ceasing our sense of loneliness and ego. It is as a circle connecting us to everything from the starting point until the end.images-9

Of course, in the beginning all this may seem overwhelming specially when we bring to our daily lives the suffering of others. But step by step our mind switches to a point where the suffering of others is an “opportunity” for us to help and connect, and ultimately by doing so we not only diminish our wandering mind, but we become happier by having the sense that we are helping others to be happy. As the Dalai Lama says “(…)being wise selfish it’s being compassionate (…)”.


The importance of knowing oneself when the “lid” is on the breach of flipping

 Dan Siegel is one of the top neuropsychologists in nowadays. His goal in many of his studies is to try to understand how the brain works and it’s implications in disturbing emotions, and how and what are the consequences of the practice of mindfulness and meditation in our organic brain.

He uses a terminology that I personally find it very clear for those who like me aren’t scientists. I particularly like the “flipping lid” to explain the organic function of our brain when we deal with emotional triggers.images-1

In short some of our emotions, such as when we have a burst of anger, are directly related to the organic appearance of the brain. So if in many cases it’s not our fault that we react in a determined way, as Dr. Dan Siegel, says we have the responsibility to know the triggers and to try to connect with that part of the brain that empathise with ourselves and others.

images-2 So the first thing we should do is to know how our body reacts when we face something that for some reason we don’t like, for instance, does our body become tense, do have difficulty in smiling, do we start breathing more rapidly. To know that we must pay attention to our physical reactions every time we encounter a potential situation that may increase a negative or positive outcome ( negative\positive in the sense of its consequences for us, for the person or situation responsible for the cause).

Also we must try to have a deep understanding of what are the situations that trigger a response, for instance, for myself I have problems in remaining calm when I am physically tired or with sleep deprivation, so no matter the situation anything can trigger a negative response when I am in that state, or if I’m feeling pressured for some reason the it’s only a question of time until the ball bursts.

It requires a great knowledge of oneself first before you can try to master our emotions, and, in conclusion, before we can try to have compassion for someone else’s mental state.

maxresdefaultThis is why mindfulness techniques are so importance because they oblige us to be aware of our thoughts, our physical reactions instead of always being on the drift of our fantasies.

On the hand, when we meditate regularly there is an increase of the function of the frontal cortex of the brain that increases our awareness and is deeply related with our capacity to develop compassion and empathy towards others.

That is why scientific studies have recently suggested that compassion and empathy are skills that can be taught and developed. To know and understand how to deal with anger ,resentment, frustration among others are indispensable to have a better and happier society.