A Recipe For A Healthy Relationship: Do You Have The Right Ingredients?

On mindfulness and consciousness as a solid way to achieve healthy relationships.

Lately, the word “Healthy” is becoming trendy. Every day you find people on Facebook and Instagram posting photos of their healthy meals or writing posts that show affection to their partners or friends or family. I am sure you too have bumped a lot into these hashtags: #healthydiet, #healthyrelationships, #healthylifestyle or #relationshipgoals etc. But are our relationships and food as healthy as the hashtags?  Do we really know how to maintain them?

This brings me to the concept of a “A Healthy Diet”. In fact, it is quite easy to follow one and achieve the expected results once you know the right recipe. Not that healthy relationships are not achievable – it’s just that human relationships can be much more complicated than that, and not everyone knows where to start and what to do. 

So what is a healthy relationship? This is actually a question with a very broad answer. I believe, no one can define it ultimately, but this is what I find  describing it the best: “A healthy relationship keeps the doors and the windows wide open. Plenty of air is circulating and no one feels trapped. Relationships thrive in these environments. Keep your doors and windows open and always have compassion. If the person you love is meant to be in your life, all the windows and the doors in the world will not make them leave. Trust that truth.” – Unknown

But still very broad, huh?  So now let me introduce you to what I call “A Recipe for a Healthy Relationship”.

INGREDIENTS:

Love yourself Cultivate an acceptance of who you are and what you feel impassioned to do. Grow that acceptance of yourself to be strong, that it can’t be hindered by anything or anyone else, including your ego.

“Loving yourself isn’t Vanity, it is Sanity” – Katrina Mayer

→ Be Aware Understand and be conscious of your needs and what you  expect from your loved ones. Understanding the human nature and how our minds work is the key to it.

Find Your Inner Peace Create peace within yourself first, let it spread out from you. The best part is that peace is already within you, waiting for you to just let it do its work. Meditate at least 15 mins per day and let silence and stillness take you to the center of yourself and the core of life.

“Self-care is so important, when you take time to replenish your spirit, it allows you to serve others from the overflow. You can not serve from an empty vessel.”- Eleanor Brownn

→ Love Mindfully You never want to go so far loving someone to an extent that it hurts, you never want to have an imbalanced love life either. No matter how good person your loved one is, you have to always love mindfully. Mindfulness help you focus your energy equally on all aspects of your life which creates balance at the end and thus happiness and fulfilment.

DIRECTIONS:

Mix the ingredients and use it as a base, – a strong base to rely on – and re-enhance whenever possible. From there, you get on to the first step of the recipe:

1. Love truly and put all your effort into your relationships.  You never regret the effort you put, it’s the currency of relationships. But remember, true love comes with responsibilities, you have to accept your loved ones as they are. With all their flaws and weak points and messiness. You have to accept them and bring your patience, understanding and energy to help them transform into a better version of themselves. This kind of love brings protection and safety.

2. Respect your partner. It’s not about winning or losing, but love and respect. Always respect in every way possible. Respect is not a reflection of their character but of yours.

3. Appreciate little things, never take your loved ones for granted for that love dies slowly. Appreciate the laughs, the presence, the love they surround you with and the memories you make with them. Hold it close to your heart and remember that nothing stays forever.

4. Be Grateful, say thank you more often. Give them your attention, your care, your time and your presence. There’s no greater gift.

5. Communicate with your loved ones. Opening heart-to-heart talks are very essential for a healthy relationship. Speak your mind and be true to them and yourself. Elaborate and ask for what you need, maybe they just don’t know, maybe they would give you the world if they knew.

6. Evaluate your relationship every now and then. Write down what needs improvement, what are your expectations and your needs if they changed along the last period. Ask your partner about theirs and discuss them thoroughly. Write down a plan in bullet points, go crazy with it! Fail and forget the plan and then go back to it again. Don’t worry as long as you are conscious enough that you will get back to the plan and DO IT.

7. Support your loved ones through their journey, respect their dreams and moreover help to reach them. Be patient with them through their tough times and hold their hands whenever needed. Make them feel safe and cherished every second of every day.

NUTRITION FACTS:

Per relationship: 100% Balance, 100% Happiness, 100% Understanding, 100% Fulfilment, 100% Love.

And Voila,  it’s literally ” SERVED WITH LOVE” .

Photo credits: https://www.thespruce.com/origami-puffy-heart-instructions-2540707

Why We Keep Failing At Love

The concept of love has existed as long as the human race. For centuries, scholars have tried to come up with different definitions of love but it never suffices due to the complexities involved in this magical word or feeling. So many times I’ve tried to understand what this word means but it has never been easy to come up with a hundred percent understanding of the word.

Could love be a myth or a trick? Is it just a concept created to make people happy and vulnerable at the same time? Or is it really the key to eternal happiness? What is this feeling that makes it hard to go to sleep without one’s head spinning like a carousel? These are some of the questions that many of us ask especially when we have once found ourselves in an unsuccessful relationship before.

We do not realize love is the same

Have lived in this world for at least one quarter of a century, had my own fair share of messed up relationships with different kinds of people worldwide, I figured eventually that a lot of us are not loving the right way. Love means the same everywhere, and the right application of it brings the same result. I might start by asking you, how do you want to be loved? I know the answer to this question may be an unending list, such as I want to be given attention, provided with material needs, or complimented very often or never to be cheated upon.

How about if we reverse the above question to, how do you want to give love? Worth thinking, right? But the issue here is not just about giving but more of giving what we have. There is no way you can truly love somebody if you do not love yourself enough. The sustainability of every relationship depends hugely on deeply rooted love of self before loving another person. A lot of times we failed at love because we were either trying so hard to please our partners that we somehow diminished our own value or rather because we were expecting too much than we were ready to give. In my opinion, it is about striking a balance between loving yourself and giving out love to a significant other.

Like being a pilot with an air-plane

If you spent more time in your own self development, you would feel more confident and eventually develop self-love. This makes you ready to be in a loving relationship without necessarily getting too attached, needy, vulnerable or egocentric. You just give out love naturally, also knowing when to strike a balance without feeling guilty or making your partner feel lesser. Loving the right way is like being a pilot with an air-plane, knowing when to fly high, higher and descending without a crash. Just like a pilot, this skill is only possible when you invest in yourself first before you can be able to manage the emotions of another person as well.

It is necessary therefore to also identify the fact that we cannot take actions to invest in ourselves if we have not searched within to see whether that deficiency of love comes from an experience in our lives such as childhood or another. The same goes with understanding and dealing with an insecure or needy partner. It took me years of contemplation before I finally learned the art of meditation that has taught me how to observe with no expectations and let go, especially negative self talks or assumptions. This skill has helped me unlock some of the mysteries of love and relationships.

Finding balance

Still wondering how to start loving yourself, finding inner peace and having better relationships? Try meditating 15 minutes a day for at least 21 day and you can thank yourself later. Please don’t get it twisted; sharing my opinion here does not mean that I’m an expert at love or meditation. I’m a work-in-progress, and all I can say is, I feel more balanced in my emotions now than I was before. I hope you find your balance too. Happy love month!

Photo credits: Finn Hackshaw, Unsplash.com

 

Here Comes Love Again… Wait, Really?

Opennes to love

On desiring infinity while experiencing finitude. Thoughts on love. Part I. 

In our practical life, we love people, pets, stuff, nature, art etc. We experience this feeling not only in romantic contexts but in many others – or at least we can be open to feel love in multiple ways. However, the fact that we love those things/people doesn´t mean that we can have them all the time we want, or whenever we want them. Here we start to play the limits of the material life. There are duties, distance, and particularities that make us realize that we do not always have the opportunity to get what we want when we want it, no matter how much we love it. When you get the experience – not only the rational understanding of it -, you feel the limit. You acknowledge the space of separation between you and the object of your love that comes from outer circumstances. You feel it. 

On a more personal level, our reactivity is our limit. Whenever we react, we are on the edge. A reaction is impulsive, unconscious behaviour, a byproduct of the circumstance. Every time we get A, we react B. Every. Single. Time. Because of this simple formula we get lazy about our own self-development and/or life, judgemental about ourselves and others, we blame anyone, complain or become the victim of circumstances. There is another name for this consciousness or state of the mind, we call it EGO.

In basic etymology, EGO is the first person singular in Latin (nominative case or when the pronoun is doing the action or otherwise serving as the subject of the sentence). It basically means “I”. And because EGO is semantically very charged – we use it in a variety of contexts with multiple meanings – and can mislead, I prefer to name this person simply “reactive behaviour” (“persona” means “character or mask” in Latin, another insight there). Here we are complaining about our last breakup to our friends, blaming the other (ex-boss, boy/girlfriend, friend), being the victim “I don´t know how we got there” “I gave my all to that relationship” “Relationships are harder than I thought” “Life is not fair” and so on. All that talking and complaining is from our ego, our mask, that part of ourselves that is insanely fixed and reluctant to change or see things under another light.

Wings of love

 

“Your hand opens and closes, opens and closes. If it were always a fist or always stretched open, you would be paralyzed. Your deepest presence is in every small contracting and expanding, the two as beautifully balanced and coordinated as birds’ wings.” Jalaluddin Mevlana Rumi                                                                                             Credits @delnudotatuajes

One thing is the feeling that we have in our hearts, sincere and truer than any rational epiphany, and another thing is the thing that runs in our minds. The first one is our raw, vulnerable nature, the openness of our heart that sometimes feels like a painful break; the second one – our reactive behaviour. Here we rely on the meditation practice again in order to understand this in a practical and holistic way. When we notice our emotions, thoughts, and start training the “no reaction” attitude or equanimity, when we try to let those things pass, when we try to let them go without engaging in the inner drama, we are walking away from our reactive nature and gaining more than one important thing not only for our meditation but also for our lives. That is the whole thing of this simple yet not easy exercise of mindfulness. In meditation, we train ourselves to become less reactive and more aware by learning to control our habitual tendencies.  

We trust here in the basic principle of universal economy: everything has its raison d’être. And as in any type of economy, from domestic to global, restriction is essential. There is, though, a restriction to restriction: healthy restriction, not repression. What´s the difference? The difference is very simple: restriction implies awareness, repression is a denial of reality. This said, we now understand that it´s not about repressing our ego or reactive behavior, but to set a limit to it (and later on to transform it… but that´s for another post). To restrict our ego in a way that doesn´t become the king of our minds. Why? Because otherwise, we are far from love – love will always find ways to bring us back to its territory anyway… Here is a tough truth about love: love drives us down that path of stretching and restricting with the promise of abundant and unconditional satisfaction.  We walk the path and our ego has little to do there. The rest is yet to come.

Credits for the image @vip.mambo76

Practice Locally, Love Globally: Survival Guide For Liquid Times

liquid times

On staying sane in times of change. Part III (part I , part II )

When we go through transformative experiences such as an important trip, moving to another country, starting a new career path, becoming a parent, falling in/out of love, – we stop being “somebody”, the one we were before. We enter into a new dimension of ourselves which is unknown and more expansive than the previous one. This expansion is experienced in many levels at the same time (you became a parent and your house is not the same anymore, the empty room is now the room of the baby, you discover your impressive nurturing and loving capacity, and your patience, and how good is your partner in supporting – or not etc.) and comes with this new “identity” of yours.

When it comes about spiritual practice, the expansion beyond one’s known identity is also present, and one finds that deep meditation experiences are always described with the same words: “softness”, “lightness”, “indescribable peace”, “emptiness”, “centered”, “expanded” among experienced meditators. It´s like if everyone gets to the same headspace. As if profound experiences don´t differ much from one person to another. But how come that two different individuals have almost the same inner experience while going deep into meditation? One can say that, framing it in a structural perspective, the “somebody” – the one who meditates – becomes “nobody” – the one who experiences all the possibilities within without identification – and because is nobody, is everyone at the same time. 

Transformation – or change – is present at the level of our mundane life and at the level of our spiritual life too. Many spiritual doctrines teach about how one can become enlightened (a transformational process aiming at “seeing” or “knowing” things as they are) or knowing your true self (Atman), a saint (those of us “who are more perfectly transformed in the image of Christ” defines the “Lumen Gentium” No 50), how to stay closer to God or “to act according to the Light of the Creator” as Kabbalists explain, and so on. And none of these processes occur without experiencing a deep transformation within.

Whether you are moving into another country, experiencing a significant loss, falling in love, in the path of sanctity or spiritual realization, you are changing. Purists may raise a brow at this point since I´m comparing becoming a parent or traveling with the path of spiritual realization, but to me, they differ by visibility (how material or visible is the process of transformation) and calling (distinctions between what is profane and holy are, usually, the place where problems arise, and they are most of the times culturally biased – I´m not trying to say that divinity is not sacred, I´m pointing out toward a certain carefulness that is needed on this matter, especially in a globalized world). The “somebody”, the one who is aware of itself to the point of selfishness, when becomes a parent, is a “nobody”. The entire attention goes to the baby – it can´t be another way! – and all that happens around it.  The spiritual seeker, the “somebody” who seeks inner peace, wisdom or God, becomes a “nobody” in a profound meditation experience, in the Holy Communion or during the Praying time.

Our consciousness and reality are one and the same (check out my previous posts). By understanding all the aspects of our life as different dimensions of one single thing, by bringing up a core, center or unifying space within in which the “somebody” can surrender and become a “nobody”, we won´t feel lost or lacking the point of reference – a feeling that occurs very often when we experience change and transformation, especially in this “liquid modernity” as Bauman named it. On the contrary, we will embrace change, no matter how uncomfortable this change might be, because that´s the foundation of our human experience, that is what all of us (no matter our differences) experience in life. This understanding brings not only wisdom but also a greater compassion toward all living beings. And at the end of the day that counts because we are all having our own doses of fear, uncertainty, loss, gain, judgment, realization, and satisfaction, and we deserve some little peace in between.

Credits for the image @ajaychahal29

Do I See Myself From The Right Angle?

How to stand your ground when you feel you have lost yourself?

Or when you are sitting and wandering why this is happening to me, why I can’t be free from the pestering thoughts. Let’s all take a deep breath and a step backward!

When we are sitting too close, we often can’t see the whole picture. Some aspects can be seen and understood only from the right angle. Same as in Hans Holbein’s anamorphosis* The Ambassadors (1533).

Hans Holbein the Younger, The Ambassadors. Photo source: http://bit.ly/2rCsc3a

Meditation often inspires positive traits such as focus, clarity, willpower, empowerment and deep trust in individual capabilities and success towards what we commit to. How understanding ourselves goes hand in hand with the right type of meditation?

Through our lives, even in the course of a single day things can change and a person can go through a wide range of emotions. Meditation helps see more clearly and identify the dominant traits we are aware of. The ability to put a label on how we feel is empowering. The complicated mind can find comfort when it’s able to recognise itself.

Finding the right word and recommended meditation technique is validating and helps feel cool and collected. Here are some traits and the corresponding meditation technique that is recommended when we experience a certain kind of mind:

  • An indulgent mind – is helped by the recollection of the body, starting the meditation in the body
  • An irritable mind – by practicing loving kindness meditation
  • An oblivious mind – relying on the breath helps
  • A doubtful mind – relying on the breath
  • A susceptible mind – can go back to being at peace with the exercise of making a reflection of values
  • A questioning mind – the recollection of peace is more than reassuring

The above is just a quick mapping, try not to get too caught up in the technique and enjoy the process.

“Worrying does not take away tomorrow’s troubles. It takes away today’s peace.” Randy Armstrong


*anammorphosis – a distorted projection or drawing which appears normal when viewed from a particular point or with a suitable mirror or lens.

Featured Image photo source: http://bit.ly/2E5fhtc

How Nature Can Inspire Some Habits

I have been observing the curious life of meditators for a certain number of years. From the journals of people who are writing their daily thoughts and experiences, I have come to notice that we often feel motivated to pay attention to the patterns arising in the mind, the quality of our inner talk and learning how to access the feeling of a mind that is settling down and, at the same time, be less patient with our bodies, the connection between the way we feel physically and how far we can get, mentally.

A meditator can patiently wait for hours for the mind and thoughts to settle down and have the feeling of inner calm restored in the process, yet be less tolerant with a back pain, cold, sleepiness creeping in at the end of a long day.

In the words of Alan Harrington “We must never forget that we are cosmic revolutionaries, not stooges conscripted to advance a natural order that kills everybody.”

Health is wealth and for that to be attained or maintained we must honour the nature in ourselves.

One of the best things we can do for our health is to fill ourselves with fresh air and leave aside the city hassle as often as we can.

I am not talking about the-once-a-year big get-away in the heart of nature or a retreat in an isolated place, but rather about making time to be in nature as often as we can.

In the past year, I feel nature has taught me a lot and there is much more to explore. 

From overcoming laziness to getting an early start for the day and spending time in the quietness of the forest at least 4 – 5 times a week.

Changing the weekend routine from sorting out things I did not have time to deal with during the week, shopping, eating out and catching up with friends to hiking from sunrise to sunset and sharing a lunch box with friends out of wifi reach and preferably somewhere at high altitude. From relying on my phone to tell me how to get to places to paying attention to the landscape, mentally recording landmarks so that I would be able to make my way back, learning about the clouds and the direction and intensity of the wind so that I would be able to tell which way I’d need to move to be out of storm’s reach.

The rules of nature are clear and nature respects everyone. Nature is welcoming and it makes space for all the plants and the trees, allowing all projects to grow and to flourish so that when one does not work out, not all is lost and the soil is not barren. I often feel that the rate of personal success and growth depends on clarifying our goals and the habits that support us. Nothing is lost and everything can be re-purposed. 

Two years ago, I have written about health and how peace starts on our plate.

photo source @seanafnan

How Peru Going To Football World Cup Can Inspire You To Meditate

My generation did not see Peru in the World Cup. Last time Peru went was June 1982. I was exactly 20 days of birth when the Football World Cup began. Of course, I can´t remember it. But what I remember since being very little is the expression “I will do when Peru is going to Football World Cup!” as ironically, as something that won´t ever happen. We just could not believe that we could reach a World Cup again.

I teach meditation for quite a while now and there is a very recurrent story that students tell me. It is about how they could meditate a long time ago but now it seems impossible to them.
“I tried but I never achieve to meditate again, my mind is so busy.”
“I can´t meditate anymore. I think too much.”
They just can´t believe that they will be able to meditate well.

The story of Peru going to the World Cup after such a long time is quite interesting.

Gareca, our Argentinean Football Team director, played in the last eliminatory in Mexico 1986 and made the point against Peru that made us go out of the World Cup. Since that time we have never been so close to the World Cup until now. The person that took us out of the World Cup was bringing us closer to Russia now.

Gareca said something very interesting when being interviewed, – there is nothing impossible when you have a clear goal. He said he believes in Peruvian team.

Time passed and we did a good job in Argentina and New Zealand games, we did not lose. The final game was going to be in Lima, Peru. By that time, even when our main player Paolo Guerrero wasn´t allowed to play in the last game due to further anti-doping research, Gareca and all Peruvians believed in their football team.

Next day of the last game, when Peru was already classified to World Cup, it was the national holiday. I had a yoga and meditation class to teach next day at 7:15 am. Unbelievably all my students went. After savasana we arrived to the meditation part and I told them that if you want to meditate you will do it. With distracting thoughts, with a busy mind, but you just have to believe in you.

“Be thankful for your limits because they are the ones that allow you to grow, to transform and to transcend.”

As Peruvian journalist Diego Salazar wrote: “When nobody believed, Gareca did.”

Photo by Eric BARBEAU on Unsplash

I Won´t Lose My Grasping – Note From Consciousness

Awareness of a cat

On staying sane in times of change. Part II.

(part I here)

If there is one thing in which different philosophies, worldviews, spiritual systems, and cosmologies coincide regarding reality is that change is the only certainty in this world. Impermanence – name it in eastern philosophies, change – in other places. However you understand this, it seems that change permeates all our experience in this world. The body, mood, and thoughts change daily, sometimes per minute and even seconds. We change jobs, partners, friends, house, country, and pets. Our body decays, we get old. The nature of reality is that of change.

This understanding is important so we may learn to internally zoom out of things that, at the end of the day, will change. Wink at equanimity here. The attachment to things that change is, ultimately, the source of our suffering in life. Letting go, again. This time it´s not only about our past experiences but also about the future. Of course, it´s never about our future plans or past experiences, but emotions, attachments or “desires out of control”, and judgements about them. Once you release these burdens, you can plan your future more effectively and realistically – we may acknowledge the fact that our plans do not come to a fruition because, many times, we expect either too much or too little about ourselves or about the circumstance. As per your past experiences, you will be able to learn from them and get wisdom out of them for yourself and others. Once you get insights or wisdom, being of service to others follows.

“Cease from practice based on intellectual understanding, pursuing words, and following after speech, and learn the backward step that turns your light inward to illuminate your self. Body and mind of themselves will drop away, and your original face will manifest.” Dogen

If the nature of reality is that of change, what about our own nature? How different are we from reality? We may accept that we don´t differ much from it. We are real, actually. And if so, if we are real, what is left of ourselves when things change? What do we lose or gain about ourselves in this changing game? The question about our deepest identity, the “self” that remains when things change, can be addressed by a more subtle approach. And just to point towards a direction, we can consider that our consciousness – meaning here how we process/understand information delivered by our perception and the response to that awareness – and reality are one and the same. In other words, reality is conscious and consciousness is real. (Physics has something to say about this. You can check out this article and read about how material is the reality, in case you think that it is only and strictly a matter).

The nature of both, reality and consciousness, is one and the same. Our consciousness changes along with our reality, and vice versa. If we think in the so-called spiritual practices, or practices that connect us with ourselves at the consciousness level as meditation does (we thus know what is going on), we realize that they are highly practical: ritualistic and down to earth (quietly enter to the room, sit down, adjust your body, feel comfortable, close your eyes, gently bring your attention at one single point, two fingers-width above the navel, and keep it there… how ethereal is that?). And there is no other way in which can be so since we engage with reality when we are in tune with it, so we go with it, we flow with it, and allow the process of change take place.

This process of change is not only very visible and positive while meditating regularly or maintaining a spiritual practice, but due to other circumstances too – although the experience of change is rougher, I would say.  And so you find yourself one day holding a baby, your baby, for the very first time in your life and one of the things that cross your mind is “how much I love this small body and how fragile it is!”. This temporary thought creates an important feeling within yourself and suddenly you understand, beyond words, that her/his fragility is your fragility too, that you are now responsible of that small body, and that this new understanding brings about transformation, something changes in you and you are not the same anymore. In a way, you are becoming more real.

To be continued…

Credits for the image @sakshi101889

Vacuity: What Can Take You Beyond Happiness

Have you ever heard the word vacuity?
First time I heard this word was in a meditation class. I did not actually fully understand  it. The theory provided by the teacher was kind of difficult for me. In general, Buddhist philosophy to me is very interesting but also full of concepts and words that are not so easy to comprehend. Vacuity used to be one of them.

My Thai meditation teacher always says 99% practice and 1% theory.
The truth is that this is not only a good advice for your meditation development but also a very good advice for understanding Buddhist philosophy.

Take a look at this wooden block:

Attēlu rezultāti vaicājumam “yoga block”
Source: Mec.ca

Before this block was a tree, now –  a bock, in the future it will disintegrate and disappear. Then, is this really a block? Everything that changes does not actually exist.

Everything is changing

The concept of me is also changing. Right now I am 35 years old, I teach yoga and meditation and work in communications. But what about next year? I won’t be 35 anymore. I might not be teaching yoga, meditation or working in communication, so myself dissolute in vacuity because of changes.

If me is changing, then it does not exist as a description composed of external aspects as age or profession. Wen I feel happy, who is feeling happy? When I feel worried, who is feeling worried? The answer is nobody. It is vacuity. It does not exist.

Connecting to the Divine

This concept can be very hard to understand just by reading these words but my meditation practice did help me getting it.

When I go deep in meditation, the concept of me as composed by external concepts disappear. I am not anymore my body what I perceive with my senses; I am not my age, my profession or my work. I am something that is deeply inside me, a state of pureness, emptiness and stability which goes beyond happiness. It is just a word that can be described in a text.

When I go deeply in meditation, I connect to what you can call soul, spirit or the Divine.

That is vacuity – the dissolution of me perceived in my meditation.

That’s when I got the point of my Thai meditation teacher: 99% practice and 1% theory.