“Must”, “It’s Impossible”, “I’ll try” and other Tyrants

Lately I have been working a lot with young people. Students. Members in NGOs or student organisations. Some on their first job. Other interns in different companies. Beautiful, curious, intelligent, ambitious, willing to learn. Every time my workshops are an invitation to introspection. We talk about authenticity, emotions, personal values, mission in life. It’s a difficult exercise even for people more experienced, let alone for 19-20 year olds who are just starting in their life journey. I’m always happy to see how bravely the throw themselves into these inner conversations despite their youth, or maybe because of it. Then I feel their confusion and even fear when the answers they give themselves to the question “Who am I” don’t match what they have been taught to believe is “normal”, “good”, “compulsory”, “possible”.  “There is no job where I can be completely happy, I need to compromise if I want to be successful”. “I will be happy when I get really high up on the corporate ladder and for that I need to work hard on the things I’m good at, not necessarily on what I like”. “Money comes first on my list of values, but that’s only normal at 21; now I have to find the highest paying job possible so I can raise enough money to have my own business by the time I turn 25”. “You can’t do only what you dream in life”. “I can’t see myself doing the job I studied for, but I have to carry on because I’m to scared to try something else”. “My parents told me that life is not easy and I need to fight and make sacrifices if I want to succeed”. “I was told that these are my talents and this is the most appropriate career for me, the one that will make me successful”.  These are all statements I heard over time from young people that I worked with. And not seldom did I leave these workshops with a nagging question: When exactly...

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People. Roads. Love.

Jan 19, 14 People. Roads. Love.

Posted by in Mindfulness, Thoughts/Ideas

This year I took a longer time to start writing and not because I am out of subjects to write about, but because the very act of living has become so intense that I have been having trouble finding the words to describe my feelings. Over the past year I travelled longer distances than ever before – both inside and out. And I learnt about the world. About me. I learnt about love. Love of nature, of life. Love of parents, sisters and brothers, friends, lovers. Love of people. Love of me. Somewhere deep down in my heart I always knew that love was part of the very DNA of the beings that we are, that without it we either cease to exist altogether or we transform in shadows, in bodies moving around inexorably caught up in the routine of days going by without meaning. But also deep down a seed started growing a long time ago, longer than I can consciously remember – the seed of fear. Fear that I might lose love. At that point I started believing that love was something I have rather than something I am and that without it I will suffer. I created the belief that I had to fight for love and that I should never become complacent, never relax completely in the certainty that I was loved unconditionally. Over the first 30 years of my existence I strived to earn the love of others and, once gained, I tried hard not to lose it. And with each loss, with each friend who chose a different road, with each lie, injustice, bad luck came pain and with it the certainty that love was indeed fragile and it could be taken from me in an instant. I convinced myself that I can be safe from suffering if I was vigilant. If I “invested”love only in those who were unlikely to let me down, if I offered my love in small doses and if, as my grandmother often...

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30 Years. The Story of a Love Lost and a Life Found.

Jun 13, 13 30 Years. The Story of a Love Lost and a Life Found.

Posted by in Featured, Mindfulness

I first saw him, really saw him, on the bus taking us from Campus to the Centre of Bucharest. He was leaning on the rail, his gaze lost somewhere in that indefinite space between where I was, two meters away, and the window, through which the orangey light of late October was coming in. I remember having a strange feeling of dejá-vu – as if I had lived this before – I, secretly glancing at him, he, pretending no to notice me. Suddenly, he raised his eyes straight towards me and I found myself suspended in an space beyond time, flooded by a strange sensation of familiarity, awkwardness and a “something” I couldn’t quite name – a thrill, a longing, an impulse to get lost in his big, brown-green eyes. After a few moments, which seemed a lifetime, he extended his hand: “I believe we’re in the same study group, right? I’m Stefan” I replied trying to seem sure of myself, even slightly indifferent: “Hi. I’m Alis.” We were juniors at the University of Bucharest, the Faculty of Political Science. I had chosen this faculty because in 2002 Romania, when everybody wanted to study Economics and Law, it sounded “exotic” to me. Moreover, it was in English. I had dreamt about studying Psychology because I was fascinated in this intricate Universe in each of us, in myself in particular, but my father, doctor and skeptic, had convinced me to choose a more interesting career, one that wouldn’t require me to “work with all the mad men in some hospital”. So I thought I would be a diplomat. That’s an interesting career, right? Traveling through the world, meeting fascinating people and discovering diverse cultures – what could be more interesting than that? It was hard not to notice Stefan after our meeting on the bus. He was the brilliant student, a walking encyclopedia, great lover of history and philosophy, favored by teachers because he always had some intelligent question in seminars where others were nodding....

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Celebrating the Magic of Life

May 05, 13 Celebrating the Magic of Life

Posted by in Featured, Thoughts/Ideas

Are there days when you feel completely happy with no special reason? Days when it seems as if you are a child once more and a Cosmic Santa Claus wrapped up the whole world as a special gift just for you? Today was such a day for me. As I sat on the beach lost in the sight of the swirling ocean I fell into a state of grace and complete joy for life itself. I was is awe of the sun, the sand, the waves, the birds singing in the palm trees above my head, the people laughing and playing on the beach, enjoying the day as I was. I was unbelievably grateful for it all. I gave thanks for my loved ones, for the smiles, for the playfulness, for the passion, for the sense of purpose, for all there is in my life that makes it worth living. Today I felt the MAGIC. The magic of life itself. I felt life is like a huge playground inviting me to let out my inner child, a spark of light in the vastness of nothingness, an amazing opportunity the Universe is giving me to exist, to breathe, to build, to  feel, to grow, to give away something of myself into the world. I felt this opportunity itself is magical and every single day is truly a precious gift that should be enjoyed and cherished. Perhaps it’s not by chance that I had this feeling of bliss today of all days. For all of you celebrating Easter as a time of rebirth, this may be a reminder. We are reborn with the dawn of every new day. Don’t let the shadows of yesterday creep into today. Every single morning is a new chance to live differently, to choose to connect to that magic, to look at the world with the bright, innocent eyes of a child, to take nothing for granted and to be grateful for every opportunity to live beautifully. I leave you now with...

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Stepping Off the Treadmill and Into the Ocean

I’m back in sunny Brazil, which is quickly becoming my home away from home. Here, in a small, dusty, green, charmingly animated town by the ocean, one can find an impressive mix people from all over the world. I found myself immersed in this incredible diversity of styles, backgrounds and preoccupations, which felt like being thrown on a cultural carousel – the whole world, normally so full of lines dividing people/nations/cultures seems to have shrunk to the size of a small town where lines are blurred and surprising similarities start emerging from among all the differences. A French businessman seized the opportunity to own a “fazenda de cacau” (cocoa tree farm), producing his own organic brand of chocolate. A Dutch, former University professor, now in her 50s, used her life savings to buy a “pousada” – a small motel – right by the ocean and is now making a living from it. An Australian in her 40s, who had refused to settle down before, finally found true love here, in Bahia, and just had her baby one month ago – she and her husband own the local bakery. A Portuguese chef and passionate hand-made jewellery artist found a place here which she calls home. A lovely, highly educated young woman left a 7 year career in the largest bank of Brazil to live here, by the ocean, with the man she loves – he the manager of a small restaurant, she a waitress speaking flawless English, with a beautiful smile on her face most of the time. Surfers, eccentric “rasta” tattoo artists, people belonging to various spiritual communities, party goers, capoeira dancers with perfectly sculpted bodies diligently practicing their art on the beach every single day mix with locals, expats and tourists from every corner of the world in what probably is the most amazing cultural cocktail that one would ever expect to find in such a small place – barely the size of a pin-tip on the map of Brazil. What do all these people...

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