Personal development


A vampire's tale

Sometimes I feel small, useless, willing to give up on everything, thinking that there is no solution, that this life and this world stink and there is nothing I can do to make it better. Other times I seem to be strong, confident, full of energy & optimistic, but even then I get involved in situations or hooked by people that drive me to feelings of fear, lack of enthusiasm, deep anger, frustration or complaint.

Being aware

Last week I did not upload any post. I had a few intense days, loads happening at different levels, and I did surrender to the possibility of re-arranging my reality in another way. It meant some inner fight to finally giving in to being flexible, living every moment as it came.

Proud of...

When looking at the definition of 'pride' given by the Real Academia de la Lengua Española (RAE) the result is:

"Arrogance, vanity, excess of self-steem that sometimes is disguised due to its origins within noble and virtuous causes."

To my health

Some people enjoy an iron constitution, being sturdy as centenarian trees. They hardly catch a cold or suffer from the stomach and their lives pass without visiting the doctor, not becoming ever operating theatre flesh. They never wonder why things are like that. They simply see themselves as strong by nature and, as a consequence, as very lucky people indeed.
Collage on Japanese paper by the artist & writer Fernando González Viñas.

The morning after


That’s it, it is all over. What am I left with now that it has finished?

The morning after a big day I can hold within different sensations. A few very straight forward examples about how I can feel:

-    Sad, because that great celebration or event is gone by now, after all the excitement and preparation, after the fun I had and the emotions I went through.

-    Relieved, because my levels of stress were high for quite a while and now I can rest and relax, forgetting about my responsibilities, finally!

   Hopeful, because I might expect many good things to start happening after what I experienced the day before.

-    Empty, because the planning & preparation for the big day took me so long and I dedicated so much energy that now I feel deflated, not knowing what to do.

-    Disappointed, because I thought the results were going to be more satisfactory and that I would feel much better afterwards, which is not the case.

Maybe that big day was the wedding or birthday party of somebody very special to me, maybe my own wedding or my special birthday party; perhaps it was a very important meeting or conference that I organised; or a date that I dreamt about for months in advance; it could be an interview for a very promising job in a very exciting company after being unemployed for a while; or the end of that trip that I planned with care for so long; or even the realization after a very clear and explicit communication that something has come to and end.

There are countless options and the fact is that the morning after and every morning is a new beginning and the start of a brand new life. The attitude I face this new life with will make the difference and it will always be my choice.

I can choose to get hooked or trapped in my gloomy cloud, wrapped by melancholy and never-ending ‘what ifs’.  But I can also decide to accept the outcome, learn about it and keep going.

When writing about this I cannot help but thinking about that quote by Lao Tzu: “If you are depressed, you are living in the past; if you are anxious, you are living in the future; if you have peace of mind, you are living in the present”. That’s something, isn’t it?

There is a practice that I deeply love and I initiated a few years ago thanks to yoga. When starting and finishing the class the teacher would invite us to acknowledge our own body, thanking it for being there and also thanking everything and everyone around us for becoming part of that moment and that experience. It is truly beautiful and especially powerful when practised within a group because the joint energy can be felt and transcends the physical world and the mental explanations. It is definitely something worth living.

So now I transfer that practice to nearly everything in my life:

-    I thank the sun for such a beautiful warm day once again, or the clouds for keeping my plants cool and protected.

-    I thank my plants for giving me that happy green colour and the clean oxygen to keep me alive.

-    I thank the moon for its magical beauty and the sea for its amazing power & for the life that holds within.

-    I thank the gardener for the great job he does every day, all year round, and the cleaner for her dedication and her loving presence always.

-    I thank myself for cooking a nice dish and for setting a lovely table even if I am eating by myself, with my little candle and the music on.

-    I thank the people who are there and tell me that they read me, that they like it; those who send me inspirational message or those who share with me juicy conversations filled with valuable content.

-    I thank my family for their unconditional support, even when sometimes they don’t understand what I do or why I do it. They are always there anyway, thinking of me, wishing me the best.

-    I thank my partner for being courageous enough to be him every day & I thank him for his endless ability to love too.

I could keep going forever here as well but these few examples are enough to prove my point. And the point is that, when I am in this ‘thanking mood’ I feel in peace and I feel good, real good actually! There is no room for anxiety or regret, for disappointment or sadness because I am able to see further. In most of the situations I get to a point where, even when I am entitled or it would be justified for me to feel sad, anxious, angry or worried, I cannot feel that way because I get myself detached for the fact that, in theory, has caused the disturbing feeling, and I look at it with a little bit of distance, thanking the person or the experience for the chance they are giving me, accepting it the way it is and doing my best to get out the bright side of it. Rescuing another great quote by Confucius this time: “There is beauty in everything but not everyone sees it”. I am not able to succeed every single time but hey, I am getting there.

So yes, the morning after a big day is always a brand new start, another chance to understand & accept, to see further, deeper, underneath and behind. If I didn’t do well enough, next time it will be better. If I had a top performance, I give myself a hug and loads of kisses for being so brilliant. It is not about being positive over everything. It is about minimising the pain, the guilt, the emotion that brings me down to substitute it for a more worthwhile view, one that creates wellness in me and helps me growing, bringing up all my potential. Because I am worth it ;-)  


Where I find my answers

It took time & effort (I still have work to do and I always will) but right now I am able to say that I love myself over anything or anyone else in this world.

I love not only the physical aspects of myself but also, and most importantly, the inner ones. For instance:

  I used to hate my belly so deeply and for so long! It was always there in the middle, ruining every tight dress or coming out of the sexiest bikinis. Now, however, I enjoy my little belly and I rest my hands on it in the evenings when I go to sleep, sending it all my love and gratitude for being there supporting me, right in the middle, giving me balance.

  Another example: I used to think I was shy & useless when mixing with people, unable to stand up & talk for myself. Now I realise that I have a great capacity to be quiet, listening, looking, doing nothing, just being. It becomes truly useful with my job and also when meeting new people, so I can always offer a quality active listening.  And on top of that, I love doing it!

There is too much going on around us these days, too much to do, too many things happening at once. I felt I was getting lost. My true being was going missing within all the lights, colours, trends & social regulations. I seemed to spend my life seeking something, looking to fill up some spaces, making myself complete, occupied, busy, entertained, engaged, loved…

Enough of all that, now! I need to create some distance so I can get away from all that noise in order to hear & see my true self, and if I’ve learnt anything about what that means and how it feels, I’ve done it through yoga first and then thanks to meditation.

I began my yoga practice in 2003. I joined a huge fancy gym and started attending yoga and taichi classes with excitement. Taichi did not bring much to me but yoga was different. At first it only felt like a very different way to exercise: in silence instead of having loud music around, and not competing with anyone but with myself, trying to push my boundaries a little bit further with each pose, for another few more seconds.

It was a mental combat with my own mind. She was saying: ‘that’s it, enough now, it is too painful, plus you are not a flexible person anyway, you are going to break it!’. I was saying: ‘I can do it, I want to do it, I am going to do it. I am in charge of my own body, not my body in charge of me. If other people can do it and we are all made of the same tissue & bones, then I can do it too’. The feeling afterwards was great: I was light, almost like a feather, nothing was hurting or pulling, there was no pressure anywhere in my body, my mind was still & peaceful and I could sleep incredibly well the evenings after my practice. I am not surprised that yoga is actually the exercise that Masters of meditation do before sitting for hours of deep practice.

Through these years I've been lucky enough to have 4 different yoga teachers & I've shared my time with classmates of all ages & nationalities. I’ve done my yoga indoor & outdoor, in the morning & in the evening, in English & in Spanish, with natural & with artificial light, with music in the background & in silence. But what I’ve always felt was the beauty of being there, present, with myself, enjoying my practice & its evolution within my body, thanking & loving every cell for doing its job, helping me to go further in order to feel better & be better.

When practising yoga, meditation is something that might come naturally at some point, if the person is ready for it. Meditation is that space that I give to myself as a precious gift. I sit comfortably on my cushion, with the right clothes (depending on the season) and the right light, in & with my 3 ‘S’: silence, stillness & solitude. It is all about enjoying time with the person that I’ve learnt to love the most in this world. ME!!!

Sitting on my cushion, allowing myself to be as I am right at that moment, unfolding my fears & certainties, just breathing. There is nothing else to do, nowhere to go. It is just me with myself there, focusing on my breathing first, making it deeper & abdominal, following the path that the air follows through my body, amazing myself with the perfection & wisdom of this machine that my body is.

Then other thoughts will start to visit me, of course: ‘What am I going to cook for dinner tonight? I must send that article to this client, he will love it. When did I speak last to my Mum? I had better ring her later anyway. Gosh, that dog is noisy... Off he goes with the barking again… Maybe I should go back to salsa lessons… Am I breathing? Ups, I lost it again…’ That’s how it goes always, every time. And after thoughts, feelings come into stage too: ‘I am so cold! I am shivering! My head is beating; I cannot concentrate with this headache. How can I be so useless? Here I am, unable to focus on something so simple... What am I going to do with myself? I feel anxious right now and angry with myself, and that anger is warming me up actually which is good but…, no, my feet are still freezing. Damn it! I am off again…’.

My mind never stops, always wanting to be listened to, to be the shining star. I let the thoughts and the feelings in, embracing them at first with love & compassion, then letting them go. I smile from the inside showing gratitude to my mind & my body for being so capable to file all these thoughts & feelings that design my daily life & make me human. But it is not time for planning dinners or agendas. It is time to simply be there: still, silent, on my own. ‘But what’s the point? What are you getting out of this? Come on! There is so much to do and you are sitting there, doing nothing other than breathing! I want you to do real productive things! ’ That was my mind talking again, by the way. She thinks she knows best but she doesn’t. I do. I deserve this space. I want it for me. That's it.

I read somewhere that when that moment of confusion comes, it is when I am entering into the path of awakening. And it makes sense, because when those moments arise, all of a sudden I am so right there, open to my own awareness, sensing what existence is really about through my breathing and the incredible beauty & knowledge that I treasure.

I need that space. I choose to spend time on my own, in my own company. This is where I find my answers. I decide not to fill myself up with outside things or people anymore. There isn't anybody or anything other than me that can fill my emptiness, if there is such a thing. Searching for distractions is only a way to escape. Looking within with the ears & the eyes of my soul is the route for me to find the peace of mind I long for. Of course I love people: my perfect partner in love, my great family, my wonderful friends, my amazing clients… I love things too: my books, my terrace, my photographs & clothes, the sea, the trees. But I don’t need anyone or anything to be me and that’s where the beauty lies. I want all these people and things to be part of my life but I come first, I don’t need them to be & they don’t need me either. They don’t have my solutions and I don’t tie them to any sort of expectations. Now is all about freedom, individual responsibility & personal choice.

Some might not understand it sometimes and it is ok like that. Some things cannot be explained. They must be experienced & felt. I guess this is one of them. As long as I am in charge of my own life everything will be fine.


P.S.: Thanks to my dear friend Fer for his Cambodian Buddha pic.


The support network

We are not isolated creatures playing a separate role. Everything that each of us does or says has an impact and affects the others around, whether they are human beings, animals, plants or even objects.

If we talk about living beings in general there is no gap between us, no separation whatsoever. We are linked, united, sharing this current moment right here, right now. If we just refer to human beings, it doesn’t matter how much effort many of us dedicate to convince the rest that we are all different, belonging to different races, continents, countries or religions. We are just the same thing, the same energy in motion, formed by the same type of cells. Our skin is always flexible & our blood looks dark red. We need the water & the air to exist. We all have a purpose in life and follow a path to fulfil it. We strive for better opportunities & hold feelings deep inside that drive us in one
direction or another.  

We are one. And because of that I can feel empathy & enjoy your success or beauty, whether your skin is black, yellow or white. If you suffer in Japan I can feel your struggling. If you laugh with joy in New Zealand I can smile with you too. If you sing an old traditional song from your homeland & play instruments that I’ve never seen or heard before, I can still feel the rhythm pounding inside of me. If you speak in a language that sounds foreign to me, I could be able to understand if you are annoyed, frustrated or overwhelmed by happiness.

Within this oneness we are simply pieces of the same puzzle. All of them are necessary to create the whole picture. So I rely on you & you can also rely on me. I do my bit trusting that you will do yours so this whole mechanism keeps rolling, fulfilling its purpose.

Sometimes I will need help because I cannot do everything by myself. Then I will come to you looking for knowledge, support, strength, supervision or advice. Through that help that you provide me with, our link becomes stronger, just as we do too. Living is a constant feeding process, so, the more I give, the better I become. The more you share with me, the better you help me become. With each one of your helping actions I get wiser, stronger, cleverer, or more patient. After every time I give you my help you turn into someone more able too. We are perfect as we are, all complete. But when joined together we are simply elevating ourselves higher, growing into superior beings.

That’s why I look for a partner with great qualities who makes me see life from a wider perspective. That’s the reason to embrace friendships that bring in brighter colours & ideas or to work for a boss with a giant vision who can take mine miles away from my sight.

I love & admire all these people for many different reasons. My life was ok without them but since I met them I want them around whatever happens. I will not relinquish their presence & wonderful gifts but at the same time I strive to do my best so I can pay it forward. I want to be great for them just as they are the best for me. I look after them, I am around, present. I think of them always & let them know I am here for them. And our chain grows longer & stronger every single day.

I could not be me without all these beautiful souls. I feel blessed for having them around. Some of them are physically very close while others are miles away. I meet some of them quite often & it might take years to see others. There are some very famous ones and it will be nearly impossible to meet them at all, but they still inspire me or help me with their words, music or looks. Some are not alive anymore, however they are not gone & their spirit & drive still stand up straight as a firm lighthouse for me.

How could I possibly feel lonely ever when I am lucky enough to have all that beauty around me? How on earth can I be anything but the best version of me to pay back all the joy they provide me with on a daily basis? Well, I confess, that’s my trick: whenever I feel down I don’t let myself stay absorbed for too long by that feeling. I give it its space but afterwards I think about my people, my treasure, and I stand up tall again to honour the amazing gift they offer me every single minute of their lives.



It is all about kindness


Just think about it carefully. There is no need whatsoever to hurt anyone in any way, shape or form. Being kind is the most important thing for human beings. And it is free!! Whether I am making a claim, setting up an official complaint, arguing about something, expressing my opinion against other people's, training someone on a new subject or defending an idea, I can always choose kindness over any other attitude such as arrogance, anger, annoyance, harshness or pride.

I find it difficult to understand how some people still feel that being rough, harsh or hard on others will take them further or make them more efficient. How come? The end doesn’t justify the means, ever.  

Have you ever felt pushed, unfairly treated, ashamed by another person’s words or hurt because of the way someone talked to you or about you? How could they possibly help you by doing that? Have you actually done it to someone? What feelings did you have afterwards?

I used to be quite impatient & pretty harsh with some people in the past and when I think about it now I realise that after showing that sort of behaviour I was left with a sense of pride, maybe because I made my point or won the case, but also I could always sense a bitter taste deep inside me. On top of my own perceptions there were the other person’s feelings as well, which sometimes I didn’t consider but when I did I used to ask myself: ‘Was it worth it? Could I have done it in a nicer way?’

Today I know that it is only through soft touch, gentleness, love, care & dedication that the most beautiful flowers glow in all their glory. You can ask the constant gardener for his advice. Then you can give it a try yourself: act with kindness and check out your own feelings. Then pay attention to the people involved and to their feelings too.

I worked with someone once who taught me loads about people. Unfortunately the learning was not in a constructive way but through stress & anxiety. This person told me at some point that we were there to be feared and as a consequence, respected. For me, respect hasn’t ever been a consequence of fear but a fruit of tolerance & love. I am not in this world to be feared by anything or anyone. My aim is to be loved and to give love away. Some people say they do too but they don’t really know what that means. They react to things, attack with sharp words, and listen to others from their brains instead of from their hearts & souls.

I am just saying let's be kind and then harvest the fruit. It will be much more juicier & definitely sweeter!



We are the champions!


As we are in the middle of the Olympics, I keep thinking these days about human beings’ infinite ability to overcome themselves, to improve, to reach even further every time.

It is a fact that behind elite sports there is manipulation, doping, money, big investments and vested interests in certain countries. However that’s not the view I am interested in. What really moves me is the willpower that many people have to work, no matter what for a goal, engaging their mind, body and emotion in it, ready to pay whatever price it takes. That price means sacrifices, including emotional ones. They have to be away from their homes quite a lot, separated from family and friends, working truly hard and long hours every day from their early ages, being present & focused at all times in order to achieve their highest performance.

Living at that level of dedication is hard work. I find fascinating that most of these sports people talk about their sacrifices with pride & joy because they feel they’ve been given the opportunity to do what they love the most. They can get up every day feeling enthusiastic about the work that is waiting for them, a job that completely fulfills them, and their final reward will be the next competition, a new chance to better themselves, willing to get there a second sooner or a centimetre further. That’s genuine commitment.

The coaches also better themselves by planning success strategies that bring out all the potential of these sports people. The engineers work on the design, the materials and the performance of a new type of swimming suit, ball, racquet or trainers. The endocrinologists, dieticians and chefs suggest the best menus & diets for each champion. All of them are working behind the ones who will be wearing the medals afterwards (Redes magazine dedicated an interesting article to all these in its nº 28 issue, in Spanish).

At the end of the chain we find the visible link who lets himself be guided, investing effort & dedication, hours of training & enthusiasm, competing and showing his face in the name of all the ones who are working in the background. He becomes the banner of many others, representing his team and also a whole country.

And there we are sitting in our armchairs at home, identifying ourselves with those fighters. We admire them and support them. We cheer for their victories and suffer their defeats. We cry with them when they are listening to their national anthem at the podium or when they have to give up due to an injury after all the effort… We feel proud of their achievements and share their sorrow. We even feel champions as well because maybe we’ve been faithful supporters for so long, because we are compatriots or because we feel close to them for whatever reason.

We are not elite sports people but we do know what effort is and we do work to better ourselves everyday, setting new goals and moving forward. We’ve also won many times and on other occasions things didn’t work out the way we planned. Failure is always there, like a shadow, but satisfaction prevails most of the time. It is always worth it to face a challenge and to go for it. Being part of something so great feels wonderful. How could anyone not be proud of participating in an Olympics even if they go back home without a medal on! Just being there is already an award. It means that you’ve been one of the best, that you’ve worked hard and that work took you to the place where only a few can be. Winning is wonderful but enjoying the journey is even better. Loving your job and giving yourself to it, taking notice & listening to those who are there to help you & support you, having the opportunity to be better every day and resting every night feeling satisfied for that job well done, knowing that there is more of the same to come tomorrow… That’s something that money cannot buy!

I have a very dear friend. We’ve been friends since we were born (well, actually since I was born, as she came to this world 23 days before me). We were around 20 at the time and, without giving any further details about the situation, all of a sudden my friend shouted: “WE ARE CHAMPIONS!”, meaning we could achieve anything we wanted if we were really going for it and believing that we could get it. She was so right! Over the years we've always used that motivational slogan every time we were facing new challenges or generating new goals: “Just remember that you are a champion!”. Saying those magic words out loud would lead us to laughter and that into cheering each other: “Of course, I can do it!”. It was a proper anchorage, no doubts about it. We were so wise! That’s how we've achieved many of the things we went for (by the way, my friend was a champion that night, of course).

Quite often we don’t put on all the medals that we deserve. We don’t remember the achievements we’ve reached. We don’t congratulate ourselves for all the knowledge we gained from our defeats. Are you aware of all the things you’ve done? Do you realise how much you’ve learnt and how much you’ve grown? We are champions and many of us don’t even know it!

I would like to congratulate myself today and congratulate you too. WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS, so very well done!