Journey within

2 Mar

Dear friends,

You might know by now that I’ve been living a nomadic life in the past years, wandering aimlessly around the world and wondering about the purpose of this strange thing called life. What are we all doing, what’s the point of it all, why try to achieve more and more while still feeling unsatisfied on the inside? It seemed like running like a mad man towards nothing but shadows.

When I failed to find answers I left it all and continued the search. Search for what exactly I didn’t know. But there was this feeling that told me to keep on, to follow my curiosity until I get beyond superficial truths. And so I did. I’ve traveled on four continents, changed jobs more times than I can remember, gave it all and started new so many times, always challenging the concept of home and normal life. I’ve learned so much through experience, every person, place and situation revealed more and more. But the core was still out of reach. The thirst was still there. So again I said goodbye and embarked on yet a new journey.

The one thing that stayed with me throughout my quest was a deep curiosity about the world and a wide pair of eyes, always observing, always hungry for knowledge, for understanding what is beneath the surface. Many times I was given the advice to look within instead of trying to grasp what is outside. I got the point, but it didn’t help my thirst. How was I to look within? I already knew what it was, who I am, what I want and wish for. I erased the thought from my mind and opened my eyes again.

A few years ago while I was selling my handicraft on a beach city in Ecuador, I briefly met an Argentinian girl who seduced me with her calmness and inner beauty. She was my age, also traveling like a nomad, but somehow she sent the vibes of being at peace, of knowing more than most of the other people I met. Among other things, she mentioned she recently attended a 10 days meditation course and said it was a wonderful experience. I remember being amazed about it and wondering how in the world could I stay still for more than 10 minutes, without scratching an imaginary itch, changing the way I sit or, most importantly, open my eyes to observe around.

I didn’t put more thought into this until years later when I again met a Chilean friend who did the same meditation course. I now learned it was called Vipassana. Google was my friend, now that I had a search term. I read a bit about it and thought I’d like to do one of this courses when I have the chance. And so I did.

During my last trip in Asia, I remembered about Vipassana and thought the land of Buddhism must be a good place to do it. I searched for courses on the internet and after initially being rejected in Cambodia due to lack of space, I applied and got accepted at a course in the north of Thailand, due to start in 2 months from then. I planned accordingly and was eager, yet scared to start the course. I read online about the idea of Vipassana and it made sense from the surface. The word literally means to see things as they really are and the technique that is taught is the same that Siddhārtha Gautama established and used to become the Buddha, an enlightened person. Sounded good enough to give it a go!

So there I was, leaving my husband behind, giving away all my “interesting” possessions, like books, music, phone, notebook, signing my commitment to stay at this center for 10 days, disconnected from the outside world and determined to look within. It’s now or never I thought as I entered my cell, where I was to live for the next week and a half, in total silence. The program is really tough, you wake up at 4am and basically meditate for most of the day until 9pm. There is of course time to eat (vegetarian food, wohooo!) and a few moments to rest and wash during the day. But you are there to be with yourself, to listen to the teacher and practice the method that supposedly leads to an end of suffering and shows you the way, the right way.

Those who know me probably know by now that I’m not particularly religious. Gladly this meditation technique is not too inclined to faith. It has some buddhist bits here and there, but it’s mostly based on practice and looking at how your body and mind work. Simple as that. Observe things as they really are. And what’s easier to observe than your own body and mind?

I won’t go into the details of my experience there, but I will share the main things I got out of it. It felt difficult, so difficult to simply be. We are so used to do, talk, plan, think, think twice, overthink, act, react, do, do, do. Staying still seemed unnatural. What was I doing there? Slowly it all made sense. I was able to see myself beyond all the thoughts that were racing through my mind, I understood that I am more than that. I sensed it before, but didn’t really know it. Now it became certain, undeniable. Without any trace of doubt, I got my answer. I feel I now know the way. Maybe I knew it all along, but kept doubting it and myself.

So what is the answer?, you might ask. It’s peace, happiness, goodness. The right way of life. We all know we should be good and do good, but sometimes we get carried away and react out of blind impulse. Sometimes our egos are stronger and hide our real selves deep inside. We want so much and give so little. Always striving for more, more comfort, more things, more titles, more friends, more love. Satisfaction is only temporary and when we fail to get what we want, we are frustrated and unhappy. We do all we can to avoid suffering, failing to realize we are the cause of it. Real happiness, that is what this Vipassana meditation aims to teach.

I recommend this courses to everybody with all my heart. The 10 days I spent there were surely the most important and eye-opening moments of my life (though I had my eyes wide shut the whole time). If you feel something is missing inside of you, you doubt whether this is all there is to life, feel unhappy deep down, out of control or simply curious, then you really have to try this! The courses are organized in many countries and are purely donation based. You don’t have to pay anything, only make a donation after the course if you think it was helpful. Give it a look http://www.dhamma.org and if at any point you get the chance to do this, go for it!

Does this mean I will stop traveling, convert to Buddhism or become a nun? Hell no! I will keep on keeping on, but with a more balanced and calm mind. 🙂

With all my love,

Carmen

 

~ a day in ~

14 May

Solitude gives you the chance to talk to yourself,

to wander around your mind, get lost, be found

and spiral again.

DSCN2735Foto del día 14-5-15 a la(s) 18.05 #2Foto del día 14-5-15 a la(s) 18.06Foto del día 14-5-15 a la(s) 18.03 #2

DSCN2741DSCN2742  DSCN2740DSCN2743DSCN2747

Seeing life with different eyes

8 Dec

I’ve always flirted with the idea of shaving my head. Completely. But every time this thought came to my mind I came up with a reason not to: would be difficult to get a decent job, people would look at me weird, I won’t be attractive anymore, I love my long hair blablabla endless bla bla. The truth is I never had the guts to do it. Until now. Or better said until last year. 3rd of December 2011, Rio de Janiero.

So, there’s me, a lonely girl in Brasil, looking for greatness, spiritual enlightening, finding of my soul and all those backpackers’ clichésAnd there’s Rio, oh crazy Rio! And a bunch of amazingly cute lovely funny gay guys that welcomed me in their strange family with open arms and a spare place in their bed. And last but not least, there’s Lars (the lars beer!), a German nomad who does things on his own terms and finds direction in life by following the butterflies (which actually seem to lead him somewhere, go figure!).

Combine all of the above, add a shaving machine and you get this:

20 minutes later, you get Carmen minus 40 cm of recently dyed red hair. Tadaaaa, new Carmen! Wow, I have to tell you, the first shower you take it’s unbelievably amazing! The water coming down on my hairless head was a sensation I will never forget. And then the wind blowing and the summer Brazilian rain falling down, caressing my skin like never before. And touching my 1 mm little hair and feeling more liberated than the most feminist speech could ever make me feel. So those were my first few impressions and feelings as the owner of a bald head, followed by some other … let’s say interesting changes in my life.

After a few days I almost forgot I don’t have any hair and would just act normal. But “luckily” society was there to remind me that a hairless woman can’t just be normal! Of course she can’t, she must be weird or something. And that something translates into lesbian, sick, crazy or punk. I’ve faced all of them in the next months.

The lesbian part was the funniest. Of course I’m somewhat to blame for that, as I would wear Lars’ t-shirts and rather punk looking boots. But hey, I was eager to explore what my new look can bring! So I would go out on the streets of Lapa, Rio’s crazy night life district, and be hit on by women. A girl came to me one night and practically started kissing me. I, out of curiosity of what will happen, answered. She became quite insistent that I accompany her to her house. That before even asking my name! And we say men are only interested in getting you in bed!

As to how men looked at me, I have to say, things took a 180 degree turn. Especially after living in Brazil for 2 months where being a white woman with long red hair is somewhat unique and men would whistle, stare, make sexual remarks, follow me, hit on me, try to know me, buy me drinks, offer me cigarettes, be nice to me, drive me home, and the list could go on and on and on. You get the picture of what being physically attractive means. After shaving my head, I got nothing, nada, zero of the attention I would usually get before. It felt really weird to be honest, as I was kind of used to being liked just for how I looked. It also felt liberating to walk on the street and not be looked at as a sexual object. But what felt amazing was that I met some people, very few of them, that would actually be attracted by my shaved head and would understand my statement and be curious about me and my personality. Not my looks, but my inside, my mind, my soul, myself. That was pretty cool and made the whole experience worth it.

The next few months of my life were amazing. Having boyish short hair made me nonexistent for the people I always wanted to ignore and sparked curiosity in the exact people I always wanted to meet. I’ve also learnt that being a woman has nothing to do with the stereotype of femininity and that I can be 10 times more attractive with my 1 cm of hair than many of the women that put on make up, have shinny long hair, wear flowery dresses and talk delicately. I could be myself and still be admired, appreciated and loved. Actually, I found love somewhere at the 2 cm mark. And picture this, he finds my pictures with long hair less attractive than when we’ve met and confessed that maybe if I had long red hair when we’ve met, he wouldn’t have developed such an interest in me.

So, to end my confession, shaving my head was an amazing, liberating and life changing experience that I never regretted, nor I ever will. And I’ll surely do it again!

Long live shaved heads! Long live bald women!

Viața ca un vis.

25 Jun

Un val de emoție mă cuprinde când mă gândesc că, la sfârșit, viața întreagă va părea un vis. Mi se-nfioară sufletul, dar știu că așa e, că așa va fi: ca un vis. Și dacă tot e un vis, vreau să fie unul dintre cele mai frumoase și pline de aventuri vise. Vreau să fie un vis plin de iubire, emoție, pasiune, tărâmuri străine, fructe exotice și orașe misterioase. Vreau să fie un vis amuzant, din care să mă trezesc cu zâmbetul pe buze. Unul absurd, plin de întâmplări contradictorii și situații inedite. Vreau să iubesc și să fiu iubită, să explorez toate sentimentele care încă n-au nume. Vreau să zbor, să cânt din tot sufletul și să dansez cu picioarele goale în nisip. Vreau să învăț mereu lucruri noi, pentru că așa vreau eu, nu pentru că așa trebuie sau așa vor alții. Vreau să râd. Vreau să râd cu poftă, nu doar un surâs din colțul buzelor. Vreau să-mi împart aventurile cu suflete gemene, vreau să călătorim împreună spre locuri magice și ascunse, locuri care li se dezvăluie numai celor care știu să viseze, care îndrăznesc să râdă în fața efemerității vieții. Vreau să am curajul să-mi abandonez întreaga ființă pentru ceva (sau cineva) în care cred. Vreau să mă bucur de prezent și nu să regret ce-ar fi putut să fie. Vreau să am curajul să fac întotdeauna ce-mi doresc și nu să cad captivă într-o lume care nu este a mea. Vreau să nu-mi fie frică de întuneric, de necunoscut ori de singurătate. Vreau să mă iubesc pe mine mai mult decât pe oricine altcineva, vreau să mă port frumos cu mine însămi, să mă respect, ascult, înțeleg. Vreau să am încredere în mine și în deciziile luate, fără a mă lăsa influențată de cei care au uitat să viseze. Vreau să plâng și să strig din tot sufletul fără să-mi fie frică de penibil. Vreau să mă joc ca un copil și să mă bucur de amănunte și nimicuri. Vreau ca atunci când se termină să deschid ochii și să spun cu zâmbetul pe buze: “Wow, ce vis nebun am avut azi-noapte!”

Reason and Reasons

28 Oct

Rather than love, than money, than faith, than fame, than fairness… give me truth.

Into the Wild

How many of us can stand up and say that? How many people really want to know the truth? Is the expression “truth hurts” just empty words or people are actually afraid of reality? If truth does hurt, why would you want to consciously cause yourself pain? Why not continue living a lie and be happy?

I recently had a very interesting conversation with an Indian friend of Hindu religion who admitted to me that logically thinking, god most probably does not exit. However, he still follows religious traditions and believes in god. This contradiction might never cease to amaze me. How can a rational person that knows and understands science and saw the evidence for evolution theory can still believe in god? And it’s even more than that: he not only saw the evidence, he agreed with it! It’s like saying I KNOW 2+2 equals 4, but I BELIEVE it’s 5.

Ok, so we have this situation: you know you’re probably wrong, but still prefer to believe in god. That means you put some thought into the problem, you doubted god’s existence at some point, you confronted the evidence. But were you really open to change your mind or did your search for the truth have a predefined answer? What interests me is why a person chooses to remain stuck into a state of mind that was proved wrong. The reasons I will be exploring are not, by any means, the only ones, but they are the ones that apply to my Hindu friend’s case.

An obvious reason for believing in god is the way you were brought up. When you’re a child everything is new, you have to learn and explore the world, so you believe what your parents and teachers tell you. You have to! If you cannot trust them, who can you trust? So if the persons you trust most tell you boiling water will burn you, flying out the window is not an option, Santa Claus will bring you presents for Christmas if you behave, god created the world and everything around us, you will believe them. At least until they prove to be wrong. You might say that kids stop believing in Santa when they grow up, so why don’t they also stop believing in god? And there it gets tricky. It’s where society comes in. You no longer trust you parents unconditionally, but you can also see different views from the people around you, the opinions of the culture that surrounds you. And everybody knows Santa is not real, so it’s not really difficult for you to stop believing in him as well. But with god it’s a different situation: most people continue to believe in him even when they grow up. Or at least that’s what they publicly declare. So unless you want to be excluded by the society or community you live in, you’ll continue believing in god’s existence and power.

Richard Dawkins argues countless times the importance of not naming a child as Muslim, Christian or any other religion. He is too young to make that decision and his parents or the community don’t have the right to decide for him. By calling a child a Christian and educating him as being one, you deny him the right of freedom of choice.

Children should not be brought up to believe what their parents believe, but given an education that allows them to decide for themselves. They should be taught about different belief systems and given the choice to choose which one they agree with when they are able to make that decision.

Going back to my Hindu friend: his family and community are very religious and he was raised in a strict and traditional environment. Even after moving away from home to a different country and culture he still respects most of the traditions. Asked why, he said that these habits and beliefs are so strong inside him, they go so long back, that he feels he HAS to respect them! He doesn’t agree or personally believe in some of the things he does, but he continues doing them because they feel right, they give him the feeling that he’s a part of something.

The feeling of membership is one of the most important reasons for being a part of a certain religion. People don’t want to be alone, solitude and darkness never stopped being frightening, even after you grew up. Think about it: how great is it to be a part of a community that shares you believes, fears, and opinions? Don’t we all seek public acceptance? Don’t we dress up, speak and act to be liked by our friends and community?  Seems like religion is no longer so surprising. People want to be a part of something and if that something is a community that welcomes you with open arms and comforts you when needed, how can you say no? Most of us don’t.

smoke in the dark

21 Sep

it was only september, but it already smelled like winter. the cold air from the north sea was slowly creeping inside the room. we sat by the semi-opened window and smoked in the dark. i could feel your every breath and movement and hear your thoughts twisting together with mine. the night was silent and we sat there without saying a word that could make the magic floating in the air vanish.

the smoke was playing around us and looked lazy while rising up to the ceiling. you put this song on my laptop and it seemed to go along perfectly with the darkness inside.

Beethoven\’s Moonlight Sonata, Laurindo Almeida

you stood still until the song was over. you blinked a few times and i think i spotted a faint smile on your lips, but other than that you hadn’t moved a muscle. you felt the music in a way that others can’t. i looked at you the entire time and i could feel the music through you.

smoke, darkness and silence.

how would you spend your last day on earth?

31 Aug

i’d wake up next to you, open my eyes to see if you’re awake, smile and then close my eyes again. i’d touch your shoulder and think of how great your skin feels beneath my fingertips. i’d smile again, this time with my eyes shut. i can feel you looking at me, i can feel your smile, i can feel your soul. there’s no need for words, they’ve never been more unnecessary than now.

we would wander around the city with no particular goal in mind. it feels like we’re the only people left on this world even though the streets are crowded. nobody seems to matter anymore. it’s just us. we lay down on the grass and gaze at the sky. it’s light blue and the clouds look like they were drawn by somebody. maybe by an angel.  i can feel the smell of freshly cut grass and remember how amazing your skin smells. i lean towards your neck. you kiss me softly, barely touching my lips. i can feel your breath on my lips and i’m trying to take it all into my lungs out of a desperate desire of keeping you with me forever.  it seems to be working, as i feel even closer to you.

it’s dark, we’re down the pier. the waves are hitting the concrete wall, breaking into a million pieces of white foam. i can smell the sea and feel the cold breeze caressing my cheeks. you look into my eyes and i know.