MC's Whispers

Whispering Silences

Archive for the category “Something Different”

Life secrets from a cat

Have you ever observed a cat? No, not just seen one, but actually studied how it behaves, its features and characteristics, its every move?

Cats are amazing creatures. There’s a reason they were worshipped as a deity and considered sacred in Ancient Egypt. They are free in every sense of the word. They have their own attitude, and are subject to no-one. Even though you think you own them as your pet, it is you who actually has the privilege of living with a cat. Cats choose who they’ll devote their attention to, when they would like to play, where they want to sleep and how much they feel like eating. Yet, they’ll be there for you whenever you need them, even when you don’t know you need someone, they’ll sit by you (or on you), transmitting their warmth and soothing purr, thus healing you. Cats are true friends.

That is why so much has been said about them. And even more can be learnt from them.

Stéphane Garnier learnt so much from living with a cat that he wrote two best-selling books on how to live and think like one. He acknowledges that cats are calm, observant, wise, elegant, charismatic and proud. In fact, he argues that they have found the secret of how we should all live, regardless of our species, and through his books, diffuses the knowledge drawn from cats into leading a better life.

Cats never give up. And that is perhaps the most important lesson of all.

They understand that fear serves no real purpose, and they believe in themselves and their power to achieve whatever they set their minds on.

They know how to be authentic, maintain their superiority at all times, and how to love themselves.

They can maintain their calm no matter what life (or anyone else) throws at them, are prudent and know how to have fun, even on their own.

They are kind-hearted, simple and communicate what they want.

They’ll forgive you and themselves too for making mistakes, accepting what has passed, while being well aware of how to pursue the lives they want.

Cats can teach us to respect the choices we – and others make – be it what we choose to eat, wear, occupy ourselves with, or believe. Everyone is free to make their own choices. We should respect and stand by them if this would lead us to tranquillity and happiness.

Above all though, cats appreciate how to love with all their hearts, because everything is temporary and we should enjoy every single breathing minute we have.

Perhaps our best life coach would be a cat. If only we too could be more like them.

Chasing a perfect life

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Do you ever wake up after a bad night’s sleep and you’re angry with the world and everything in it? There are certain moments during the day, week or month, when the slightest thing can make us snap and lose control. We need moments to alleviate the tension we’re building up inside by holding everything in so as to be ‘proper’ and sane. Or at least to appear to be calm and, well…’normal’. But what is normal, in a world that so forcefully tries to convince itself it is embracing difference, uniqueness and diversity?

People interpret words and circumstances differently. It is unavoidable. And it all comes down to how each of our minds functions.

We are so used to complaining and moaning about all the problems in our lives, most of which are created by our own negative thoughts. We fear of letting them go, of taking a risk and being happy, because we are unfamiliar with that sentiment. We have clenched such a strong grip on the unpleasantness in our lives that anything else seems too much of a leap into uncertainty.

It’s almost as if we persuade ourselves that this stance of misery is the norm. That this is how it should be and we inflict shame upon ourselves for not being someone else, for not being more or less of what we picture as an ideal, of what society illustrates as how people should be. And that shame brings numbness to every emotion. Because, as we try to block out our feelings of grief and embarrassment and irritation at not being perfect, we also numb those of joy, satisfaction and lightness. We refuse to accept our vulnerability, out of shame, and instead shut ourselves down from the inside, alienating everyone around us in the process.

In searching for meaning and purpose in our lives, we may turn to self-help. We think we can fix ourselves and be happy if we follow certain books of wisdom and guidance on how to live. It’s an industry worth $11 billion, but does it actually help? In her witty, poignant and inspiring book Help Me!, Marianne Power goes through a dozen self-help books in a quest for perfection and happiness. But she also goes through a breakdown – or ‘spiritual awakening’ – as she gets too close with the thoughts in her head. She discovers that humans have an innate need to love, be loved and belong, and rejection hurts because we rely on the approval of the group for our survival since our cave-men days. She notes that self-help creates “unrealistic standards about how great life should be, puts unrealistic pressure on yourself to change, and creates self-obsession”; but the more you try to improve who you are, the more you are aware of the flaws, and the more you chase happiness, the unhappier you become.

In “The Power of Now”, Eckhart Tolle reassures us that we all have a voice in our head, which is usually mean and talks us down. It is one that takes us away from the only thing that is real and will give us peace – being right here, right now. If we can quieten down the voice, we’ll realise we are perfectly happy in this very moment. And like British playwright Dennis Potter said: “We tend to forget that life can only be defined in the present tense”.

In her very inspiring TED speech, Brené Brown explores the depth and source of human connection, understanding vulnerability, feeling empathy and confronting shame. She explains that we’re all constantly afraid of not being good enough, with the underlying fear that we won’t be loved, and so we strive harder to be perfect. But instead of chasing perfection, she says we should be seeking connection, to empathise and understand each other, to talk honestly and openly about our fears, insecurities and doubts. “Healing comes from sharing your story with someone who is worthy of hearing it”, she states. “Connection is why we’re here; it’s what gives purpose and meaning to our lives”. And it all centres around this. For shame, is the fear of disconnection, of not being worthy enough; the “gremlin who says you’re not good enough”. But for connection to happen, we need to allow ourselves to truly be seen, to expose ourselves and be vulnerable. Those who achieve this are whole-hearted people, ones who are courageous enough to show their authentic selves (‘courage’, after all, derives from the Latin word ‘cor’=heart), who acknowledge they are imperfect and who demonstrate compassion by being kind to themselves first and then to others.

The path for a whole-hearted living, according to Dr. Brown’s research, is to be willing to let go of who we think we should be in order to be who we are. To be willing to plunge into something where there are no guarantees, to invest in a relationship that may or may not work out, to practice gratitude in times of terror, to believe we’re enough, and ultimately to simply stop controlling and predicting life and just…live it. She concludes that “joy comes to us in moments – ordinary moments. We risk missing out on joy when we get too busy chasing down the extraordinary”.

And like Marianne Power eventually realizes – happiness depends on getting up in the morning and being a decent person. Or like her Irish mother, eloquently put it, just “do no harm”.

In the end, there is a truth that when we stop pursuing happiness and the ‘perfect’ life, we will encounter all that matters and we need.

In the time of Coronavirus everything is changing. Are we?

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It is obvious that our lives are changing and with it our daily routines. Whatever we so far considered “normal” may not be as such when we eventually exit this unprecedented crisis. Even the concept of what is “normal” has now obtained a controversial meaning, along with whatever we previously considered as given or obvious facts, such as the need for cleanliness which, although formerly seen as an obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD), now has become an imperative necessity.

The fear of contracting the coronavirus (Covid-19) during its violent and uncontrollable spread is now accompanied by the anguish of when cities and markets will regain their pulse after weeks or even months. What scares us the most is the unpredictability of all this.

We are treading on unchartered waters, moments that will remain engraved not only in our minds, but in global history. And we are unprepared for it. Because instead of investing in research and health programmes – in the essential – we grant importance to the ephemeral, things and people who in times of crisis will have no value or use.

There are many theories circulating regarding the Coronavirus. How it is a conspiracy of the strong and powerful to further manipulate and subdue the weak masses; on the conflict between East and West; on economic interests etc.

Whatever the case, the current pandemic constitutes both a challenge and an opportunity.

It is a challenge for healthcare systems that have broken down due to lack of infrastructure, and resources both human and material; for state aid to be offered to those most affected; for social solidarity that is necessary now more than ever; for individual responsibility that many continue not to comprehend; for our mental health primarily, and for every kind of relationship we have.

This absence of regularity, the abrupt disruption of our daily lives, our routines, has shaken us to the core. This is aggravated by the fear of the economic impact or an imminent financial crisis, together with the lack of connection with other people. Suddenly, we find ourselves with an abundance of time, but no people to spend it with. All this heightens the feeling that we have lost our sense of safety. And this in turn makes us miserable; it brings upon us an undefined grief.

It is only if we manage to find the positive in a negative situation, that we will be able to fight it; to save ourselves both physically and mentally. For every illness, the remedy is always a strong immune system – resilient antibodies – to be able to cure ourselves. The same goes for the thoughts that we allow to occupy our minds. A head full of fear has no room for dreams. So let’s be optimistic, because as Winston Churchill said, “it does not seem too much use being anything else”.

The truth is, we should be grateful about how privileged we are that amidst a global pandemic we have been ordered to stay at home – in our refuge – in the safety of our own space, reading, watching TV, working, creating, with a full fridge and few worries, waiting for this all to end. Most of us are called to fight this invisible enemy from our couch.

Yet, we complain for the opportunity to get away from the routine we constantly criticised for draining our energy and leaving us little time to do the things we really want. Here is our chance to remember our hobbies, to watch TV, to learn something new, to read books, spend time with our loved ones, to (finally) get acquainted with technology, to invest time in ourselves and our priorities and evolve stronger, improved.

But we still complain. When other worse hit countries are forced to choose who to save because their healthcare systems are overwhelmed. We complain because we are staying home, when there are people who don’t even have that. We spend a lifetime staring at a screen, yet now we suddenly all want to go outside. The forbidden is always sweeter, they say. Even now, under these dire circumstances.

In the time of Coronavirus, everything is changing.

And when all this shall pass – because it will – what will we be left with? Apart from an earth that has pushed a small ‘pause’ and managed to heal itself, and leaving aside reports about a new hantavirus, what will we have learned out of all this? Will we wash our hands and our communal spaces better? Will we maintain social distancing? Will we consider that our individual actions have an impact on others? Will we appreciate more the time we have, the people around us and everything we consider as granted? Will we view life with a different lens?

The Coronavirus pandemic has proven how unprepared we are, because we consider so many things – even health – as granted. It is a shock on the global health system, on governance, security, but mainly on our values. It showed that everything around us is so temporary. Things we revolved our lives around: our work, gym, cafes, malls, cinemas, society itself, have all become irrelevant as we are now learning for weeks to live without them. It has taught us that we are so technologically advanced we can actually work from home, i.e. anywhere, and we can remain more connected than we believe. But in the end, it is up to us to demonstrate that the lives lost daily are not in vain. It is our responsibility to change ourselves to change the world.

Mentality is a way of life

©MCD_Agrigento

There is a saying that we travel not to escape life, but so that life does not escape us. Going somewhere different not only breaks your routine and revives you, but it also allows you to open your eyes and mind to things you never even considered before.

Not everyone thinks or acts the same way we do, and we generally have this ingrained belief that what ‘our people’ do is the norm, the standard against which everyone else is compared or measured.

The truth is though, when we travel, we might find alternatives that may even be better to our way of life. We may see things and people who change our perspectives. We may even talk to locals and find out that they are more calm, relaxed and happy living in what seems like a backward village, than others who live in big cities.

We see people smiling without any particular reason, who always have something good to say and who wish you a pleasant day without knowing you at all. That is just who they are and what they are used to. Kindness is a way of life.

It is these same people who know how to keep calm in every situation, who find no reason in getting angry or irritated at something they cannot control. They follow traditions that they have grown with and see no point in altering them if they still work well.

Because in the end, it is not the technology that makes people advanced; it is their mentality. And that is the most difficult thing of all to change.

Empty pockets and full hearts

There is a saying that being rich is not about the material things you have, but the wealth you store inside – the things that enrich your mind and spirit. As such, the more we have inside, the less we need on the outside.

In his beautiful and very inspiring book “The Richest Man of the World”, Rafael Vídac states that most of the problems in this world come from people with full pockets and empty hearts. For this reason, he has written what is described as “a complete map to follow for anyone who needs a profound change in his life” (Diana Zuluaga). He prompts readers to take steps to enrich their internal wealth, which will help in transforming them into a more dynamic person by expanding their mind.

In a page-turning story that grips you from the start, the author notes that all people go through periods of personal crisis. And these consist of five stages:

  1. Ignorance – not acknowledging why you feel terrible
  2. Wandering – accepting you feel bad but not knowing what you want
  3. Utopia – you know what you want but don’t know how to achieve it
  4. Paralysis – you know what you want and the steps to take to realise it, but you are still incapable of taking action and this causes pain and disappointment. It is scary to take hold of the realms of your life.
  5. Resistances – you are able to move into action and pursue your goals, but for some reason you are unable to succeed.

At the same time, however, we are taught that there are three “laws” worth taking into account during periods of crisis:

  1. No one regardless is forced to endure a difficulty that they are not capable of overcoming.
  2. Every pain and effort is always rewarded and at the right time.
  3. The truly important things that happen to us do so on a wise purpose that we will understand sooner or later.

“Try to believe and life will prove to you that no matter what, it will support you,” Vídac states, stressing that “life will show you the path you need to follow.”

He makes the reader open his/her eyes to things we are too busy to see. Or the ones we don’t want to.

For example:

  • Material things are only the shell covering people’s feelings and thoughts.
  • We tend to substitute insecurities with the need to have control.
  • Control is a useful tool on condition that you do not allow it to govern you. It is impossible to control everything in life.
  • You need to learn how to take steps in the dark – if you can move without any prior information, you will sharpen your senses to move on the ground on which you tread.

In this amazing and very motivating book, the reader is forced to think, to ponder on where s/he focuses their energy on a daily basis and what needs to change for a better life.

Here are some of the best messages from this must-read book:

  • Our body needs vitality. The next step in achieving internal wealth is to correctly manage unpleasant emotions. When such feelings have been supressed for too long they become toxins that poison our bodies and distort the way we view the world around us.
  • The problem does not lie with the unpleasant emotions per se, but in our inability to appropriately manage them. For that reason, we don’t need to eradicate them but to harness them.
  • It is easy to feel angry. But few know how to appropriately manage this feeling. Anger when suppressed for a long time results in bitterness. Sorrow may turn into depression and fear into a pathological insecurity against any situation.
  • The real target is not the target itself, but the person who you wish to become. The aim is for you to transform into someone who is ready to accept what s/he desires. The way you deal with circumstances must be that of a person who was already conquered his/her goals. Start to believe that you have that something you want. From that moment, you create it, by believing in it (Law of attraction).
  • Never underestimate the impact of the true meaning of words. We don’t “chase” our dreams – the phrase insinuates running after something that constantly evades us.
  • Possessing the necessary internal wealth allows you to hold the necessary energy and have a mind capable of concentrating.
  • What we call ‘luck’ is only the final consequence of all our past actions. What you do alone does not determine your luck, but also what you feel and what you think.
  • Our stance – as per our emotional or mental actions – also has a great role to play in implementing our goals. You need to believe strongly in what you want to achieve, but also be able to distance yourself from the result, whatever that may be – to accept any outcome.
  • Our perceptions are packages of brain information that operate autonomously and affect our way of perceiving the world.
  • No one knows you better than your own mind and that is why no one is more enticing when it wants to convince you about something.
  • Focus your mind on what is happening at that moment and not on the disappointments that may never come. Worry is a mental creation born out of fear
  • The person who becomes obsessed with what he is looking for cannot appreciate what he already has.
  • At times, life destroys in the most painful way what matters most to us, but that only happens when we are ready to succeed in something better.
  • The only limits that exist are the ones we ourselves impose.
  • A flame does not stop shining because of the darkness that surrounds it.
  • We should wonder if what exists in our life is what we truly want or what we fear to change.
  • All of us, and each one separately, can transform into something wonderful, someone brilliant. There is no better time than now.

The making of a genius

He was born out of wedlock so had no right to education. He was considered an outcast and society looked down on him. Yet he managed to ignore them all – all those eyes who stared with loathing when he walked by, as if he had stolen something from them, as if they had become lesser people because of his existence.

He was curious of the world. Of how everything was structured to make things work so seamlessly. He was astonished by the way birds used their wings to fly or how water was present almost everywhere. He had a mind that was constantly alert. His thoughts would keep him awake at night and without food, for he was too busy thinking about how he could make improvements in an already magnificently built world. He wanted humans to go further. But they had to want that too.

He was a scientist, an inventor, a sculptor, an artist, a musician, a thinker. He was a genius. One who comprehended the need to go out and do things to achieve something. One the world acknowledged too late in time.

He was the one who proved the world was a better place because of him. But people couldn’t see it.

His name was Leonardo.

“There are three classes of people: those who see, those who see when they are shown, those who do not see”

“Learning is the only thing the mind never exhausts, never fears, and never regrets”

– Leonardo Da Vinci

Scorched earth

https://www.google.gr/url?sa=i&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=imgres&cd=&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=2ahUKEwjZ6un5rL3cAhULU1AKHdXNBXYQjRx6BAgBEAU&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.elenifourli.gr%2Fh-anoipoth-thlipsh-ap-tis-fonikes-pyrkagies-sthn-attikh-se-fotografies%2F&psig=AOvVaw0aBq1bLtvd1eC4h-VZrPBy&ust=1532714596008839It is something you hope and pray you will never have to experience. What others do not even wish upon their foes. It is something you cannot even bring yourself to imagine. You read it in history books and saw it in movies – the volcanic ash burying an entire city alive in Pompeii in 79 AD – but you never thought it would happen so close to you, or rather to you.

You looked away when in movies people were burnt alive. Or were screaming because they were drowning. But now. Now it became a reality, developing right in front of your eyes. A raging fire aided by gushing winds and, suddenly, property became ashes and lives disappeared within seconds.

You didn’t want to even think about what it was like to lose everything. Now you have to answer for yourself.

You were looking forward to a summer, one that would create new memories, not one where you would consider yourself lucky if you even survived it.

‘Painful’ cannot even begin to describe it all. Whatever others say, do or act will never appease you. It won’t bring anything back. It won’t make anything better.

You lie on the ground outdoors on a rugged blanket someone donated. You look at the starry night not because you’re out camping or because you want to, but because there is no other option and there is nowhere else to be.

And all you can do is hope.

That it will not rain.

Knowing One’s Own

Book cover NK.jpegThere is a special connection that ties people who write with each other. More so, when they share similar views and may recommend readings to each other. It is not often that I embark on a personal rant, but this is about a person who is more than my employer or my co-worker; he is my mentor and the person who always has some exciting book / author to recommend and some fascinating viewpoint to share.

Knowing One’s Place is Nicholas Karides’ first book, published in December 2017. It is a book of memoirs: those recited by the writer and those ignited in the reader. When I first asked him why he was writing a book, he told me it was because he wanted to put all his notes from his journals into some logic order. I was intrigued, as I am well aware at how his scrapbook-snippets consist of historical milestones, incidents of history that we quickly forget until someone reminds us of them again. His book is precisely what it promised to be: “Essays on journalism, diplomacy, and football”. It talks about the controversial state of journalism in today’s digital area of constant reporting from all sorts of media – at anywhere at anytime; it discusses the diminishing traits of bold world leaders in a time when everyone can rise to power (given the right connections); and it shares thoughts about a rapidly changing world with its never-ceasing developments. More than that, the book offers a greater insight and a different perspective into the place in which you were born and bred and which you shamefully come to realise you know little about. Cyprus features a great deal in the book, and it is the tool through which you get to know the writer a bit better, but also this European country that, albeit small, has suffered a lot and is still caught in the crossroads of history. As with every book, you appreciate every thing a little bit more when you are aware of the circumstances being discussed, and when you know the person holding the pen.

This is a book that is extremely well researched, calling upon a list of prestigious sources, well justified and above all really well written with the perfect dose of wit. Every word is important. And it manages to grasp your attention and maintain it until the very last page.

It’s a book about how we must value the time and world we live in, but also about the significance of education and the need to keep it alive. It serves as a reminder to constantly contemplate the circumstances that surround us, to reflect, and to engage in opportunities that may help us improve, both ourselves and the places we live in.

Quiet People – Loudest Minds

https://www.cartoonmovement.com/depot/cartoons/2018/03/14/stephen_hawking_1942_2018__stephff.jpegLife would be tragic if it weren’t funny”. It is one of the inspirational quotes by renowned physicist Stephen Hawking who passed away today.

Having lived to the age of 76, more than 50 years older than the age doctors told him he could expect to reach after being diagnosed in 1963 with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also called Lou Gehrig’s disease, Hawking was an awe-inspiring human apart from an innovative scientist. He was the person who truly proved that “however difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at”.

In tribute, here are some of his most inspiring quotes / lessons:

The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.

The thing about smart people is that they seem like crazy people to dumb people.

Quiet people have the loudest minds.

One of the basic rules of the universe is that nothing is perfect. Perfection simply doesn’t exist…..Without imperfection, neither you nor I would exist.

Keeping an active mind has been vital to my survival, as has been maintaining a sense of humor.

One, remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Two, never give up work. Work gives you meaning and purpose, and life is empty without it. Three, if you are lucky enough to find love, remember it is there and don’t throw it away.”

Try to make sense of what you see and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious, and however difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do, and succeed at. It matters that you don’t just give up.”

A Platanus of history

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©MCD

There is a quote that says, “imagine if trees gave free WiFi; we’d all be planting like crazy. Too bad they only produce the oxygen we breathe”.

Trees are more important and vital for our lives than we believe or even give them credit for. They contribute to their environment by providing oxygen, improving air quality, climate amelioration, conserving water, preserving soil, and supporting wildlife. They produce the wood we use to light our fireplaces in the winter, make our furniture, even the paper we write on. Yet, we cut them down without second thoughts.

It is no wonder then, that when we come across a tree that is centuries old we treat it as a wonder of nature. We stand before it dumbfounded, gazing at this stupendous sight. And it makes you truly feel small and insignificant.

There is a place in North Evia, Greece, somewhere along that nature-blazing road that has you driving among trees, on your way towards the Kyreas River, in between the villages of Prokopi and Mantoudi. There is this place where a sign will direct you to the “Great Platanus”. A plane tree that residents will tell you has been there for centuries. It is “a tree of huge dimensions”, as the sign reads, a “monument of nature”. A Platanus Orientalis. It is 22-23 metres tall, with its trunk’s circumference reaching 18 metres, its trunk diameter at 5.5 metres, the surface of its stem at 900 square metres, and its shadow said to be once stretching over 2.5 acres. Its age is estimated at 500-600 years, although some say that it exceeds 2,300 years! It is said that this is the most ancient Platanus in the Balkans, perhaps even the whole of Europe.

20171028_133927Its tree trunks are larger than what can fit in your wide-open arms. It stands imposing before you and, even though lacking in foliage and somewhat deserted and with broken branches, the vastness of this tree is not diminished. Rather, it is a refreshing site in a world full of asbestos and tar. There is also a huge hollow in its trunk, big enough for 10 or more people standing. In it, you suddenly forget all the problems that trouble your head daily. You take a deep breath and simply be grateful for being alive. For being there. And for being able to witness this. Just think about all the changes this tree may have witnessed. It was there before you and will probably remain so even after you.

20171028_133932As with all over-aged creatures, there are myths and legends surrounding this tree. For example, it is said that if someone falls asleep in its hollow, they will fall ill or harm will come to them, as goblins will come out and cast a spell on them. In another legend, if you are found at midnight under the tree, you will hear voices, music, violins and clarinets, and see fairies and goblins appear dancing at the shores of the river. In yet another, it is said that at midnight two large rams come out of the platanus and start noisily fighting each other. This tree is often associated with fairies and goblins as it was believed that, being over-aged, it was also haunted.

No matter the stories, however, the reality remains that this, like so many others, is part of our natural heritage and should be protected and preserved. We devote so much of our time, energy and funds to things that matter less, yet we abandon those that benefit us more.

N.B. All photos are mine, taken in North Evia, Greece, on 28 October 2017.

 

Also part of Daily Prompt: Gratitude

 

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