Butterflies in the stomach

What a delicious feeling is to fall in love! Those first days when everything is a bliss, butterflies flutter in our stomach, we glow, the world seems brighter, we smile alone while remembering the object of our affection, time is eternal when we are apart from that person, time goes too fast when we are together.

That feeling is so wonderful, however....it is fleeting.

A few days ago I went to a very slow yoga class. And by slow I mean we only did like five poses. The rest of the class was just practicing awareness of every single move, of our breathing, of the space around us. That is when it hit me...mindfulness is the most similar thing to the state of infatuation.

“Mindfulness is the most similar thing to the state of infatuation.”

What makes feeling in love seem so delicious is that we put all our attention into one person while the rest of the world fades. In fact, even the least attractive parts of that person and the red flags, they all become hazy. But we don’t notice, because our attention is concentrated on something else.

Mindfulness produces the same effect. We place our attention in the present, in the smaller things and suddenly the rest of the world blurs: our problems, our worries, our pain. We don’t pay attention to things because they are beautiful, we make them beautiful because we pay attention.

Is inevitable sometimes to long for that feeling of first love. Occasionally things fall out of the track because of our egos, because we don’t have a choice. But sometimes, we stop being in love because we stop paying attention, because we become robotic in our interactions and forget to be present. If you are in that moment of your life were you wish to feel butterflies again, then breathe and offer your whole presence to your significance other, to your job, to your exercise routine, to life. Make the whole world brighter. Don’t look for someone or something new. That would be a temporary solution. Go for the real deal. Only in that place where we give our all is where we find the most absolute, delicious, renewable, eternal bliss.

Things that happen in a commuter train....

Rush hour train from New York City to Connecticut. I am lucky enough to find a comfortable seat on a busy ride. Commuters are carrying their briefcases, their coats, hats, umbrellas, laptops and tablets. Lots of noise cancelling headphones.

I decide to write for a while until I get distracted by a fellow passenger. In front of me, three people share a bench, their elbows and knees touching. In the middle, a man probably reaching his 70s is on his phone, what is left of his white hair carefully arranged. It is not that I am curious, but his phone is held high on plain sight, so I read as I always do.

He is on a dating app, don’t ask me which because that is not a domain I am familiar with. Now he has my full attention.

He goes to see his daily matches. A full list of women come up. I find myself judging along: “this one seems trustworthy,” “too much plastic surgery,” “too young for him.”

He keeps closing profile after profile but he takes a few extra seconds on a few. Then he goes on goggle. Now, he and I are on full stalking mode. I am wondering if his fellow riders, only inches away, are as engaged as I am in this man’s search. The white-hair-man goes back to the dating app and disqualifies a few more women that I thought could be a good match for him. I don’t say anything, obviously.

After a while he closes the app and opens a book. I can’t read from where I am, but it has the word “power” on it.

We both stand up at the same time because we are are getting out at the same train station. From upfront he looks like an ordinary man. He could probably be my dad. He did not look too amicable or grumpy, just a plain man. I can’t avoid thinking that the beauty of dating in this digital age is that people can be as picky as they want without offending anyone. The smartness of it, it’s that an ordinary man can change the destiny of his love life with just one click. The surprising fact is that in a packed commuter train I seem to be the only one who finds a man checking his dating matches in plain sight an anomaly worth of stealing my curiosity.

Good luck, man with white hair and a book about power! I hope you find a match worth of keeping your curiosity alive.

The worst advisor

The two sides of my brain were passionately debating a dilemma today: what makes us stay with someone (love, friend) or something (job, project, goal)? Is it plain commitment, luck, stubbornness, fear? After lots of deliberation I could only find one common thread through all the examples I could think of. The answer was not something we need to possess but rather something we need to tame: our ego. Is there a worst advisor than ego? If we make any decision, big or small, but all our arguments derive from an avoidance to hurt the ego, we might miss the chance of fulfillment and real happiness. Only by putting our ego on a tray, far from our minds and hearts, and becoming completely vulnerable is that we can really evaluate if we are in the right path for the right reasons. In painting, for example, there is an unavoidable moment (at least for me) when I feel I do not know how to continue. If at that moment I decide to listen to my ego, there is a high probability that painting no longer represents my essence, and goes in a direction that does not satisfy me at all. The point is not quitting, but rather becoming deaf to the wrong voices, not to get distracted by the siren's songs that ego represents. Now that the argument is settled, I am going to let my brain work on something else, not because I have to, not because I am committed but because I want to. Besides, I have to go pack ego's suitcases, he loves to over-welcome his stay.

 

originally written 2/2/16 

Success is...

Like many other times in my life, lately I have been showered with messages about a single topic in books, conversations, and even videos on facebook. All that information has forced me to evaluate my definition of success. When do we know we have achieved something of relevance? When do we feel satisfied? When do we feel we are at the summit and are ready to pat ourselves on the back? After a lot of deliberation I have come to the conclusion that; at least for me; success has to hold all of these characteristics in order to earn its name:

  1. Using the experience and knowledge harvested on past "failures" to go farther than where we were when we previously fell.

  2. Having reached a point when we know we need to keep the wheel turning, that even when we passed "GO" and collected our $200 we still need to keep moving. In other words, when we find that the "arrival" is a moving target.

  3. Arriving to a place that in the past we only dreamt of going, and we see that the path was paved with not only hard but especially constant work.

  4. Acknowledging that success can be painted in many different colors and that the closer we are, the clearer it becomes that we might need to redefine it with each passing step.

  5. When at night, alone with our thoughts, when there are not eyes to see what we have done or hands to applaud our efforts, we feel a fire inside of our chest and a satisfaction that can only been forged by doing what we really love and what we are passionate about.

  6. When we reach that “Aha!” moment when we discover that walking a determined path is our only way to remain "alive".

I have come to realize that success cannot be measured by numbers, and that what others will acknowledge as great achievements mean nothing if they are not aligned with our burning passions. It does not matter if it is an academic or professional triumph, or the fulfillment of a relationship or even a desired weight loss; the level of the success is measured by the way it connects with our heart. And for that, there are no relevant diplomas, promotions or awards. The true reward is in our fulfilled hearts; the rest, is quite irrelevant.

 

originally written 10/26/15 

Persistance

Sometimes I wonder if what I consider the most challenging part of my job is actually an obstacle shared by other artists and creative friends. Every time I sit in front of a blank canvas I have this weird, haunting feeling that I don't know what to do, as if I had never held a brush in my hand. Then I start painting, not sure how to approach the canvas, and suddenly I am making one decision after another until things start to take shape. Most of the time I think I am probably making the wrong decisions, and yet I keep going anyway; as if I was given a job where I am only an instrument and not a creator.

At that point, painting along other artists, is where I have found most people get paralyzed by the fear of making a wrong choice. I might feel clueless, but I am rarely afraid because I know paint can be scraped off, a whole eye erased or painted over, and it is not the end of the world. It is usually said that there are lots of things that are like a riding a bike, you never forget how to do them. That does not apply to my creative process, and maybe others as well. I guess it is what the Buddhists called “the beginner’s mind”. I don’t know if this is the “right” way to approach any creative project, whether it be painting, writing or cooking: to forget every formula you have learned before and to treat each project as a whole new experience. I know that, for me, it is the most challenging and frustrating part of the journey. But then I know I cannot stop, I can only keep walking; evaluating every new form, value and shape. The same way I need to approach this new “project” of having another baby after 13 years. I might forgotten a lot of the things I have done before, but then that is the beauty of being in front of a “blank canvas”. There are no right or wrong formulas. Instead, there are various ways to try to achieve our best work; reevaluating our journey as we move along; enjoying every step; noticing mistakes and walking without fear. Maybe there is a formula for creating a masterpiece, but so far I'd rather not follow any formula whatsoever and instead be surprised by every new beginning, haunted by my temporary “amnesia” and my persistence to keep going.

 

originally written 8/6/15 

 

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Reflections

Thinking today that we never know how strong our heart is until we are tested by fear, how weak is it until we are tested by love and definitely how deep it is until we are able to experience and embrace both.

 

Originally written 10/24/14

About truths and lies

When the truth steps out to the light for the first time, it is usuallly mistaken with a lie. But only the truth perseveres the pass of time, becoming trees that grow taller and stronger everyday.Lies on the other hand are like weed that reproduce quickly but only become annoyances. When you decide to stick with the truth you are free to enjoy the forest, but when you decide to follow the lies, you are bound to walk looking down in a pasture full of nothing worth enjoying.

originally written 3/24/2014 

 

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Faith and perseverance

Lessons from the easel: today while working on an alla prima portrait that started really bad I started thinking how in painting as in life there are two neecesary elements in order to achieve something: faith and perseverence. The first one (and I am not talking about religious faith specifically) keeps us going when at first things seem odd (like the first layers of my painting today). Then perseverence keeps us going. They both need each other the same way cars (traditional cars at least) need electricity to start and gas to keep it moving. Thanks to both I did not wipe down the painting, something I am glad I didn't. And then when I got home I found out that a water bottle rolled all through the panel and ruin it, which taught me that even with faith and perseverence sometimes the results may end up being different than what we expected...and that is OK.

originally written 1/17/14