Celebrating Diversity

I was shocked by the events that took place yesterday in Orlando, Florida. It is hard to conceive that a human being would go into a public place and start shooting innocent people at random. A few years back, I saw video footage of a shooting at Kenya’s westgate shopping mall and it terrorized me. I realized at that moment that the terrorists had won since they were able to upset me. Terror provokes fear and the more suffering and fear we feel, the more terror prevails.

So, when trying to come to terms with the shootings at the gay nightclub in Florida, I realized it was time to do something else. Instead of switching to fear and suffering, I decided to pray for the families of the victims and for those that are still in the hospital. My hope is that you will pray with me.

Universe/God/Divine Love (you choose), please help the families of those who left their bodies last night in the Pulse night club in Florida. While seeking to have fun and to celebrate who they are, they were abruptly stopped in their tracks by someone that didn’t understand that what makes us humans beings are our differences and the ability to see through them and be compassionate. Please also help the family of the attacker since I am sure it will be very hard for his parents to reconcile their love for his son with the violence that was perpetrated by him. Please also help the LGBT community, make this act of non-sensical violence strength its sense of community. Also, please remind us with every breath that a single person won’t be able to steal from any gay, lesbian, bi, or trans person the natural joy and uniqueness of who they are. Please bless us all with your love so that we can turn any feelings of anger or hate into love. And so it is.

I once heard that violence is anger in action. And what happened in Florida was a huge display of the power that anger can have when acted out. Like water thrown into a fire though, I believe love is much more powerful than anger. And so, when talking about the violence that took place in Florida or attending a vigil for it, put out your fireman hat on and put down the fire within and without with love by praying as we just did. You can also imagine golden light enveloping the city of Orlando, the state of Florida, the US and the entire globe. While you do that, remember to take deep breaths.

Diversity is what makes the Universe expand. If we were all the same, there would be no diversity. And so, let’s use this horrendous episode to reinforce where we stand as a nation and as people, let’s celebrate who we are and our differences. In doing so, let’s exercise compassion and loving kindness.

The Miracle of Life

It is unusual to see an animal being born these days. Most of us live in big cities and we are so concerned with our lives that we take for granted that babies are being born around us all the time. And, I don’t just mean human babies, but baby spiders, baby mice, baby chicken and baby giraffes. Well, for a giraffe, the gestation period is 13 to 15 months and so, seeing a baby giraffe being born is quite special. So, guess what? Today it was my special day. As I am writing this, it is still hard for me to believe what I saw. Luckily, I have pictures to prove to myself that it happened, a few feet away from me.

I have been living in San Diego for over 15 years and have been to its world famous zoo probably twice or three times during all these years. Today, as I had the day off, I decided that it would be a great idea to visit the zoo. It would be a great way to be outside and enjoy the beautiful day while communing with nature. And so, I made my way to the zoo with very few expectations other than having a good time. It was amazing to see a hippo sleeping in the water two feet from me. I could follow its breath as its tummy expanded and contracted. I wondered if the hippo was meditating or sleeping. I also spent quite a bit of time watching the resident pandas. Very cute, especially when given lunch. I had a great time watching them eating bamboo. The koalas were also cute. At some point, I sat down next to the crocodile exhibit and was treated by lots of crocs swimming by next to my head. Yes, very cool! It was a long day and towards the end of my day at the zoo, I decided I would pay a visit to the giraffes. As I was getting close, I saw a huge crowd in front of their enclosure. I wondered what was happening but decided it was just a group of tourists that had come out of a bus nearby.

So, there I was among the crowd looking at the giraffes when I noticed something coming out from one of them. I couldn’t believe my eyes since it seemed like feet were coming out of one giraffe’s ass. After a few seconds, it dawned on me. The giraffe was giving birth, and the crowd around me was here for that reason and that reason only.

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And so it was that after a few more minutes, I saw a head coming out. Try to see it in the picture below.

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The crowd around me got excited. I could feel the energy as more and more cameras were being pointed at the baby giraffe who could now see the world for the first time. The interesting thing is that the giraffe themselves, including soon mom to be, seemed very relaxed. I realized that they were present! The giraffes were not worrying that the baby wouldn’t come out right or soon enough. They were simply there, living in the now, waiting and being still.

Soon enough the miracle of life happened in front of everyone’s eyes; I saw mom push a few times, and suddenly, the baby came crashing down into the earth below. It all happened in a matter of a second or two. Oh my God! I felt a huge relieve for its mother and the entire giraffe population around the world! I also felt a jolt of appreciation. Appreciation for being at the right place and at the right time to witness such a fantastic event.

In the picture below, you can see the placenta still hanging out from mom giraffe as she caresses the baby with her feet, very gently.

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It was interesting that the crowd around me started cheering and clapping. 14 months of gestation had come to an abrupt end. The baby giraffe was now out of its mother’s womb and on top of mother earth.

And then the struggle started. Baby giraffe made several attempts to get up. Mom tried to help as much as she could, by leaking and using her front feet to gently propel the baby to get going.

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I left after a few unsuccessful attempts. But, every time, the baby giraffe tried to get up, it got better. I imagine that it is super important to get moving as soon as possible in the wild.

And so it was, that a new giraffe came into this world. Note above the watchful eyes of the giraffe family towards the newborn.

Apart from the crowd watching, there was no noise or drama. All the giraffes were there, witnessing the arrival of their new family member, one step at a time, in the present moment. And, it all worked out. No need for worries or negative thoughts. Well-being is everywhere; it is up to each and every one of us to tune to its vibration through positive feeling thoughts.

Happy baby giraffe thoughts to you!

Life and Health

It is pretty amazing how life and health go together. If you are healthy and pain-free, life is good. If not, life can be pretty miserable (unless you are an enlightened being).

Around six years ago, I had a major problem in my lower back (coccyx). I couldn’t sit anymore. I even bought a special chair for work that allowed me to put most of my weight on the knees. I also went to a few doctors and eventually ended up at the office of a back surgeon at Scripps (one of the best hospitals/clinics in the US). After a series of x-rays and other exams, the doctor basically offered me two “pills”: a red and a green. The “red pill” was surgery and removal of the coccyx, something he said was not guaranteed to work. The “green pill” was the name of a Doctor of Osteopathy he told me could work miracles. Her name is Aline Fournier. I decided on the green pill and “woke up” in Dr. Fournier’s office.

Yes, she cured me of my coccyx pain. But, there was more. I had been sick since I can remember. As a kid, I was always sick with throat infections and tonsillitis. It was so bad that I had to be hospitalized a number of times and went through a series of prescribed injections to boost my immune system. There was a nurse who came to our house every week to give me injections. Her name was D. Marieta. She dressed in white to make a point that she was a nurse. She carried with her a bag full of glass syringes (this is in the 70s). She would then proceed to pick one and boil it in water to sterilize it. All the while tension was building up inside me. Those injections were super painful and so once, I locked myself in the bathroom. It took a lot of persuasion from my parents for me to unlock the door. I believe they had to bribe me. In any case, when I finally opened the door, there was D. Marieta with her huge glass syringe waiting to poke me. There was no escape.

But, all the immune booster shots didn’t really quite work. In the year before I met Dr. Fournier I was prescribed antibiotics four times and was told I needed to have my tonsils removed. Dr. Fournier was the first person to tell me that I might be gluten intolerant. As a matter of fact, she believes I may have a problem with grains in general. She told me to stay away from gluten for a month and I did. A month is now almost six years. And guess what, not only didn’t I get sick that month, but I never had tonsillitis again. I have also been antibiotics free every since. Antibiotics are great, but they also kill the good bacteria, which opens you up to all kinds of other problems (have you heard of candida?). Science is just now beginning to understand the importance of our community of bacteria. We all have an individual bacterial biota and the good bacteria are essential for our good health.

It turns out gluten was weakening my immune system and the biggest immune booster I could have had was to stop eating it. Mind you that my family is originally from Italy and I grew up around my nona who masterly made the best tasting pasta from scratch.

Dr. Fournier has also cured me from other issues and she advices staying away from sugar. It is bad for the liver, promotes inflammation (and arthritis) and feeds cancer cells (and the list goes on). Since carbs (such as rice and pasta) metabolize almost instantly into sugar, it is prudent to also stay alway from those. It was very hard for me to be gluten-free and almost carb-free in one fell swoop. I lost a lot of weight in the beginning but gained most of it back once I learned how to navigate my way around food choices that were healthier.

Dr. Fournier is an expert D.O. and a master of prolotherapy which she uses to threat many ailments. I just saw her yesterday for a general alignment. My left foot has also been a problem. It goes out sometimes, mostly whenever I walk barefoot or wear sandals. It is then painful for a number of days, before going back into place. It happened a few days before my hiking down the Grand Canyon and I almost had to cancel the hike. Luckily it stopped hurting just two days before. Dr. Fournier believes my ligaments are weakened and so I went through a painful prolotherapy session on my foot. Prolotherapy, also known as regenerative injection therapy, is a nonsurgical treatment which stimulates healing. Now, these are injections in ligaments and tendons. Remember D. Marieta? I did feel like hiding in the clinic’s bathroom.

The interesting thing about Dr. Fournier is that she is also an energy healer. Her healing hands are a blessing (in fact the whole clinic seems to be immersed in this amazing healing energy). Because of her hands, she reminds me of my dad who has the same gift, but never really advanced it much. People would come long distances to see him (and still do). Once we were fishing by this beautiful river in Brazil and I happened to stand on top of a stone which sat on top of a colony of fire ants. When I realized it, the ants were all over my legs and seemed to bite me at the same time. I was probably 7 years old and in a lot of pain. My dad made me lay down and proceeded to heal me through his hands (by hovering them over my legs). As soon as he did that, the pain was gone. I was surprised and happy but mostly, I was proud to have a super dad.

Anyway, I wanted to write this entry about health and the person who changed my life for the better. I am very happy I took the green pill and grateful for all the health I got out of it.

Cheers to doctors that treat the causes of sickness, not their consequences!

The Interview

I am back in San Diego and so it seems my days at the Garchen Buddhist Institute went by really fast. While at the center, though, the days seemed to stretch much longer than usual and I will attribute that to my attempt (and maybe sometimes success) in being present. I decided to make an effort to clear my mind from thoughts and concentrate instead on the present moment (not easy, but as I learned, you can only be present by actually trying). I continued to meet with Rinpoche, other lamas and monks, Ani Angela, staff and new friends on a daily basis, either for offerings or for talking about life in general.

Among a few souls seeking refuge at the Institute was Laura from Estonia who is studying to be a Tibetan doctor. I was really impressed not only by that but also by her overall energy which seemed peaceful and at ease. I am sure she will be a great doctor. It was great talking to her since given that I arrived at the Institute just a day after leaving my job, I was in need of some tips on how to deal with my racing heart and my stressed self. She gave me some wonderful tips that I will literally take to my heart (including drinking a glass of whole warm milk with nutmeg before going to bed). In any case, if you are interested in learning more about Tibetan medicine, I highly recommend a movie entitled “The Knowledge of Healing” which features the Dalai Lama and his personal doctor Tenzin Choedrak.

I also met Paul who arrived at the Institute a few weeks back. Like me, he also discovered this place from watching “The Yogis of Tibet”. I thought Paul was fascinating since he was raised Mormon but knew from an early age that the Mormon religion was a bit too narrow (I am being nice and compassionate with the Mormon church here). We didn’t talk much but my impression is that he is on the verge of a personal spiritual breakthrough. According to Amma, the “Hugging Saint”, there are three types of people. For some, the glass is full, that is, these people have no space to learn new things or the ability to change their old beliefs. Then, there are the people for which the glass is empty. They are in no capacity of taking anything that they cannot comprehend. Lastly, there are people for which the glass is half-full (or half-empty). These are people that can absorb new ideas and re-evaluate old beliefs based on new information. I believe Paul is in this category.

In any case, my visit was coming to an end and, although I was able to be in Rinpoche’s presence, I had not really conversed with him as I had done with Abraham a few days earlier. I am quite sure that deep inside I harbored that desire since a few hours before leaving, I was approached by one of the staff members who asked me if I would like a personal interview with Rinpoche. Obviously, I said YES.

And so, in a few minutes, we were on our way to the Lama house where I would meet with Rinpoche. We came in and waited for a few seconds and soon Rinpoche’s personal assistant and translator came to get me. We went upstairs and walked through a corridor leading to the room where Rinpoche was sitting by himself. When I came in, he opened a huge smile and asked me to sit in front of him. You can probably imagine that I had a smile on my face much larger than my mouth. My heart was smiling too since I felt happy and at home in his presence. I told Rinpoche about my upcoming book “Inhale, Exhale, Repeat”. That although it related a personal journey, it delved into spirituality and religion, including Buddhism and Hinduism. He went on to tell me that I should definitely write about the essence of religion – love and compassion – since many people write books that end up putting one religion against another, which is not really of service. I thought that was a perfect comment. I then asked if I should find another job or if I should dedicate my time instead to promote the book and start on a new book project I have in mind. He said that I should find a new job so that I can pay the bills until I can be a full-time writer. That is obviously a very reasonable answer. I decided to tell Rinpoche then that I “work” with Angels and wanted to know if Tibetan Buddhism has space for Angels somehow. He told me that deities like the White Tara or Chenrezig, the Buddha of Compassion, can be perceived as Angels. It took a while for me to explain what I meant by “work” and for the translator to capture the sense of what Christian-based religions define as Angels. At some point, he used his arms to convey the idea of wings, by flapping them up and down. I thought that was extremely sweet. In any case, we went on to talk about anxiety and ways to relieve it. According to Rinpoche, the main source of anxiety is self-grasping, which I believe is similar to the ego and its view as a separate entity producing feelings of anger and attachment to the material world.

I could probably talk to Rinpoche for hours, but I knew it was time to go. His last words were about cause and effect, which is behind karma.

At the end of our interview, he gave me a mala (rosary) and touched his forehead with mine. I felt loved and honored. Thank Universe!

It was time to pack and get going, though. Once at the dorm, I had an opportunity to talk again with Ani Angela who is a sweetie. Upon learning about my book, she offered me a prayer for its success that touched my heart. I am sure the Universe heard her words.

As I was driving home, I could not stop myself from thinking about the days at the Institute and mostly about Rinpoche’s last words on cause and effect. I believe the concept is somewhat simple but its implications are profound. Basically, if we plant an apple tree, we will get apples, not peaches. Got it? Easy, right? Well, easier said than done. If we want a happy life, we need to plant the right seeds that will lead us there. As I was thinking about all that, I looked around and decided to start planting the right seeds by stop thinking and start appreciating all the wild flowers along the road – an amazing display of yellow against a monochromatic desert landscape (the pics don’t make it justice).

 

Garchen Rinpoche

After seeing and conversing with Abraham, now what?

I drove to the Garchen Buddhist Institute in Chino Valley, AZ! I had booked a four-day stay there a few weeks back and thought it would be a great way to continue my spiritual adventure. It would also be a great way to look inside. I had been skipping my daily meditation and so it was a time to catch up on that and regroup.

Upon arrival, I went straight to the office to check-in. It turned out that very few people are here this week since, in a few days, a big teaching will take place and so the crowds will be coming in later. It was a surprise when the resident Ani told me Garchen Rinpoche himself was here. She also told me I could join him and the Lamas for the Smoke Ceremony the next day. I was elated. I had no idea I was going to see Garchen Rinpoche this time around. In the book “Inhale, Exhale, Repeat”, I recount my experience taking Refuge with Rinpoche here at the Institute in 2014.

I was apparently very tired. I had started my day very early and drove for hours first from Palm Desert to Phoenix and then here. I literally crashed in bed early that evening. I woke up around 7:30 am just in time to get myself ready for the Smoke Ceremony. I was excited. I walked over to the Lama House and walked in. Only 5 people were there. After introducing myself, I sat down. In a few minutes, Garchen Rinpoche came in. I stood up and eventually after saying hi to everyone else (and touching their heads), he came towards me and graciously touched my head with his head.

We all then proceeded to sit down around the dining table and the ceremony started. It was beautiful. I love hearing the Tibetan language and so the prayers reverberated inside me. It lasted about a half-hour. At the end, Garchen Rinpoche gave a few of us a braided bracelet and we left. I was exhilarated and blessed to be able to talk to Abraham on one day and then be in the presence of Garchen Rinpoche the next day.

The blessings continued though since, at 2 pm, Rinpoche was leading the White Tara Ceremony at the temple. It went on for two hours but towards the end, my mind felt even clearer. I walked outside and was blasted by strong winds and the shining sun. I was taking my time around the temple looking at the view but eventually decided to head towards my dorm. It was then that I bumped into Garchen Rinpoche again and was able to walk with him for a few minutes before turning into my dorm. I guess I will see him again tomorrow morning for yet another Smoke Ceremony. I am looking forward to participating in it once more.

May all being be happy and they may be free from suffering and the causes of suffering.

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Resources:

  1. To learn more about Garchen Rinpoche himself, please visit his wikipedia page
  2. Click: The Garchen Buddhist Institute, to learn more about the institute itself, schedule of events, how to get here, and how to reserve your staying.
  3. There are lots of amazing videos of Rinpoche on YouTube. Here is an example:

Or, you can check out the amazing documentary “The Yogis of Tibet” (the reason I first found out about Rinpoche and the Institute here in Arizona):

In the Hot Seat with Abraham-Hicks

Wow! What an amazing day! I woke up at 4 am in Palm Desert and tried to get my act together as fast as I could. I debated if I should shower but a voice inside me simply said “NO”. I realized I needed to get going if I wanted to make it to the 9 am Abraham-Hicks seminar in Phoenix. I thought to myself, though, no problem. The navigational system on my phone said it was going to take less than four hours to get to Phoenix and so I would have no problems arriving before the workshop starts. Or so I thought.

I finally got in the car and left at 4:22 am. I decided I was going to listen to Eckart Tolle on my way to Phoenix and that’s what I did. I found a recording with more than 3 hours of compilations of his lectures and I am happy to report that it enlightened my path from dark to dawn. It was fascinating to hear him talk about manifestations and that we need to be happy first in order to realize them. In his words, a desire needs to be approached at as a preference. According to Abraham, everything we want, be it a lover, a new car, money … is simply because we believe that in the having of it, we will feel better/happy. The secret is to feel happy in the now. So, Abraham and Eckart Tolle are actually saying something very similar in regards to being able to manifest.

Eckart Tolle went on to say that some people view and utilize the present moment (the Now) as a means to an end, but since the end never comes (when I win the lottery, I will be happy – kind of end), life just passes by and the Now slips away without being fully lived. We need to find a way to be fully present.

And so it was, that I crossed the border with Arizona listening to teachings on how to be in the Now, just to realized that California and Arizona are in different time zones. The Now was one hour ahead and I had missed it. I may have known that before, but it didn’t cross my mind until I looked at the navigational system on my phone. Yes, all of a sudden I was late for the workshop. I mentally send Abraham a note. Wait for me!

I arrived at the hotel in Phoenix where the workshop was taking place just after 9 am. I ran to the registration desk and the women behind the desk told me that Abraham had started speaking 11 minutes before. I grabbed my badge and got inside as fast as I could. Esther Hicks was on the stage – Abraham giving his introductory speech before opening the forum for questions. I noticed that as I was coming in, I was noticed by Abraham. Were they waiting for me?

I just had enough time to find a seat on the very back of the room when Abraham finished the intro speech and opened the floor for questions. I raised my hand. Normally, my hand doesn’t feel like an energy field, but this morning it did. I felt like I was holding a torch. The energy was vibrating from my hand in all directions. And then Abraham looked at me and said. YOU!

Note: If you haven’t been to an Abraham-Hicks workshop, it is composed of four hours. The intro speech is followed by participant questions. If Abraham selects you to ask a question, you walk to the stage and sit in a chair in front of them and the whole entire audience.

I got up and dragged myself to the stage to sit on the hot seat. Unfortunately, I got nervous and told Abraham about it. They simply said: DON’T!

My question was: “I just resigned my job and given that you are infinite intelligence, now what?”

And, I can’t remember much of the answer. I was nervous and it all made sense at the time, but it all now seemed like a dream. I remember looking at Esther’s eyes and seeing Abraham. Her eyes conveyed a depth that was very noticeable. It was a depth of connectedness, something I had seen before when being looked at by Amma, the “Hugging Saint”. I felt naked but also at home. I also remember thinking how beautiful Esther looked and that her black and blue garment gave her an ethereal vibe.

I will be counting he days until I get the recording and find out what Abraham had to say. I promise to write down the answer here when that happens. So, keep tuned in.

Resources:

  1. To learn more about Abraham and Esther Hicks, see Esther’s wikipedia page
  2. To find out about upcoming workshops, check out abraham-hicks.com

Butterflies & Angels

I was talking to a couple of friends the other day and they mentioned something about butterflies and angels. I may be making this up too, since my memory is not as good as it was. But, the idea is to make an association between an animal, say a dolphin or a butterfly with something positive so that every time you see a dolphin you think of that which makes you feel happy/content/blissful. So, I decided to give it a try. And … it has been amazing. I basically decided to associate butterflies with angels. In this case, every time I see a butterfly I remember that I am surrounded by angels and that they are protecting me and sending me love. I encourage you to give it a try. It works since I don’t remember seeing so many butterflies before.

BTW, I was always fascinated about the word “butterfly” since it is the combination of two words in English. Someone told me that the reason the word butter is used is because when you touch the wings of a butterfly, it leaves your fingers buttery. I like that explanation very much. Well, butterflies have very different names in different languages, even latin languages which usually have similar words for a lot of things. So, in Portuguese they are called BORBOLETAS, in Spanish they are called MARIPOSAS (which in Portuguese is a word that is used only for black butterflies), in Italian the word for butterfly is FARFALLA, in French the word is PAPILLON … you got my point.

As I was coming to my place here in Palm Desert yesterday, there was a beautiful yellow butterfly hanging around the entrance for quite a few minutes. Because of the association I made, I felt a very strong presence of my guardian angels. That they are with me here in the desert and will be with me throughout my journey. This is true for all of us. So, if you don’t believe in Angels, I hope the idea makes you at least smile inside with the possibility. 😉

This borboleta allowed me to get very close and personal with it just yesterday. I started by taking pictures from a distance as you can see in the pic below. Interesting enough, when this happened, I was walking through the Sunnyland’s gardens with my friend Angel.

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But then I got really close and it was still fine with me. BEAUTIFUL BORBOLETA! The patterns in its wings are incredible. Very elegant and so amazingly distributed. Look closer, the left wing is a mirror of the right wing. Great symmetry.

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Hope you see lots of farfallas in the coming days. I am sure I will.