Life. What a complex word!
Sometimes we are so stuck in our daily routine that we forget to pause for a second: just to breathe and think how good is to be alive.
I’ve read Carlos’s answers 5 times and planning to read them again every morning in the next weeks. I think it’s the best exercise for my mind. Brain food. The best one.
- Before reading the interview, you should know that you can find Carlos L’Abbate on Yogilates.ro (also discover The Yoga Classes) and that his book “About Presence – A Journey into Ourselves” is available in bookstores.
>>> We live in complicated times due to the coronavirus pandemic. People lose their jobs, feel despair, anxiety and worry about their future. Moreover, it is difficult for them to connect with themselves and accept the present as it is. Where should they start to become aware of what they feel, about their life?
There is no certainty in life.
This is something that most people don’t like to hear, but it is the reality of our existence: there is no certainty in life.
The thing is that in our modern way of living, we have isolated ourselves from this truth in a bubble of apparent safety. And when this bubble breaks, as it is bound to do, the reality of the uncertainty of life is exposed, and we panic.
And so, the way to return to ourselves is by becoming aware of the fragility of our existence: ‘this is how things are. Now, what can I do about it?’
For example, the coronavirus is not up to me, but wearing a mask and washing my hands often is up to me. And so, given that this particular situation is as it is, what is in my power to do?
The reason why we cannot accept the present moment as it is is simply because we want it to be different from what it is, which means we are not really looking at the present moment, but we are only looking at our thoughts, at our ideas of how the moment SHOULD be. It is a form of blindness.
What we need to do is to recognize this dichotomy between things as they are and my ideas about how things are supposed to be.
Of course there is nothing wrong with wanting things to be in a particular way, except that things often don’t appear as I want them, but they do as they do.
We need to step out of our own thoughts into the appreciation of the moment as it is, independent of my likes or dislikes towards it.
Once I am able to bring objectivity to the moment, then I need to ask the question: what is in my power to do, given the moment being as it is?
It is similar with playing poker. It will be nice if one gets good cards, but a good poker player does not depend on that. A good player will try to win the game with whatever cards it gets.
The poker game in this example is our life. It would be nice if all we get nice and pleasant moments, but a person that knows how to live will not depend on that. It will simply do what needs to be done given the circumstances with which the person is confronted, being that a coronavirus, a lay off from work, a new relationship, a lack of money, a great promotion at work, the welcoming of a child, the opportunity to move into a new country, sickness or even the treat of death.
Life is a magnificent and beautiful adventure. But we need to learn to see life this way.
>>> If our own life means failure, pain, distrust of ourselves, how can we accept it as it is? How can we stop complaining about the present and enjoy life?
In my understanding, our life NEVER ‘means failure, pain or distrust of ourselves’. Just like up or down, pretty or ugly, good or bad do not exist in nature but only in our minds (what is up in North America will be down in South America, what is pretty in one society will be ugly in another, and what is good in one century will be bad in a different one), failure, pain and distrust are only points of view, not realities.
What affects me is not what happens to me, but what I THINK that happens.
Failure does not exist in reality. It exists only in the mind of a person that believes that it has not succeeded.
Instead of failure one could think like Thomas A. Edison and say: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” The belief in failure is not a hard reality, it is not how things are, but it is only a point of view that a particular person assumes for a particular time.
Accepting things as they are means accepting the hard fact of what is: It is raining and not sunny. Today is Monday and not Friday. I am 50 years old and not 23.
But to say that raining is ugly or that Monday is not good or that being 50 is bad are not realities but only thoughts, believes, points of view that do not reflect nature.
I can learn to accept the reality of, for example, the pain of having hammered my thumb, but I don’t need to accept the ‘reality’ of being an idiot because I hammer my thumb for the simple reason that to think ‘I am an idiot because I hummer my thumb’ is not a reality but only a thought, a point of view.
We can learn to enjoy our lives by differentiating between the objectivity of reality and the subjectivity of my own thoughts.
Reality is always what is, and as such, without my opinions about it, it is perfect.
Enjoying life is appreciating nature (what is) as it is. Complaining is expecting nature (what is) to be what I think it should be.
>>> How can we control negative thoughts? Is fighting with the mind a way to do it?
Fighting with the mind is one way to go about it, and that is what most people do, but doing this usually leads to repression, inhibition and/or depression.
And to me it is not a matter of controlling negative thoughts (even if in some rare occasions that is the right thing to do) but it is a matter of understanding the pain and the misery that implies condoning and expressing negative thoughts.
A negative thought is born out of a belief that something that is happening should not be happening, which means that a negative thought is born out of a wrong belief, and not out of a reality.
We see a person driving recklessly and we get upset. But is the upsetness coming from the driver? No! It is only coming from the belief that the person should not be driving that way. And of course it would be nice if that would not be happening and if everybody will always drive perfectly and if the world were an ‘eternal sunshine’, but the reality is that this is not the case.
From the beginning of time people behave recklessly and without clear thinking.
Negative thoughts are never coming form outside but they are always an inner resistance to what is.
Nothing that happens is an isolated incident but everything is a result of a previous cause which came from the result of another cause appearing from the result of another cause in an infinite web of cause and effect going all the way to the very beginning of the world. As Carl Sagan said: ‘If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.’
Everything that happens, everything, either outside in the world or inside in our heads, is a product of an infinite movement of causes and effects going all the way back to the beginning of time.
The reason we get upset is because we are blind to this truth and instead, believe that what is happening simply should not happen. It is a simplistic, childish and ignorant way to see reality. Anything that happens, either outside in the world or inside our heads is what is supposed to happen, and when we see this clearly, negativity loses its power.
Of course this does not mean that if one understand this truth then one should accept crime, injustice or unfairness with arms cross. Not at all! If the possibility to do something arises, one should definitely act on it and produce a change.
What is different is that the act will not be coming form negativity, but from wisdom, acceptance and love.
>>> In your book – “About Presence” – you said that if we don’t know ourselves, life passes in vain. How do we get to know each other?
In my book, I speak about knowing ourselves from two different points of view.
The first one, what can be called the psychological discovery of who we are, is that we need to discover our own personal capacities and natural abilities, what makes us unique, what differentiate us from other people.
The difficulty with this is that in our modern society, very often comfort and appearance are overvalued, and so many people end up doing jobs or activities that may provide them with a comfortable and even luxurious life, but without heart and meaning, which means that sooner or later anger, bitterness and/or frustration will make their appearances.
Knowing oneself means that it is better to suffer a bit to be what we are rather than have fun with things and activities that takes us away from who we are.
Or as the saying goes: ‘It is better to live in a cardboard box and do your art than live in a nice apartment but spend your time doing what you dislike.’
Of curse one could also have both, doing what one likes in a comfortable environment, but the important thing about what I am trying to say is that knowing ourselves is synonymous with having self esteem and feeling pleased, content and satisfied with ourselves, either in the card box, in the luxurious apartment or anywhere in between.
From this sense of satisfaction and peace with ourselves, the possibility to discover who we are from the second point of view appears. (There are also other requisites for this, but basically they amount to a quiet and peaceful mind, a mind that is not always resisting and fighting with life).
This is because as long as we are in disharmony with ourselves (or with the world), all our energy and attention is dispersed out into difficulties, problems and suffering.
But once we find a relatively peaceful state of mind by feeling in harmony with ourselves (and with the world), the deeper need to find our true self may emerge.
This point of view can be called the spiritual discovery of what we are, and one way to refer to it is as the discovery of ourselves as the awareness aware of the psychological self.
This awareness is not something created in the brain, but it is what allows the brain, and everything else to function.
It is a discovery that not many people are interested in. Most everybody, if they are not completely lost in their greed for power, possessions or fame, will be interested in discovering their psychological self.
But very few people have the call to discover their spiritual self. The reason for it is that most people, knowingly or unknowingly, believe that only matter is true. By matter I don’t mean only the so called gross matter, like buildings and cars and bodies and atoms but I also mean subtle matter, like thoughts and emotions and sensations.
The definition I use for matter – subtle or gross – is anything that can be perceived, anything that can be said ’this’.
Just as one can say this body, this car, this planet or this atom, one can also say this thought, this emotion, this sensation or this perception. From the view I am talking about, anything we can say ‘this’ is material.
The world and the body are obviously material, but the mind and all its effects – like an unpleasant negative emotions or a sublime sense of joy, as both can be referred as ’this’ – are also material.
Spirit is what is aware of ‘this’.
And who or what is aware? I Am.
The discovery that what I am – and what everybody is – is spirit, is the discovery of our true self. And it is this discovery what leads to true peace, true contentment and true love.
But to really grasp what I just said in this last few paragraphs needs a lot of profound thought and time and study and an enormous amount of desire to understand.
For me, the search for this understanding is the most important and beautiful thing that anybody can spend their time on. Why? Because my whole life is a response to my needs; and my needs depends on who I think I am. And so the question is, who am I?
>>> How can parents educate their children towards the happiness of the present moment, towards the love of life and self-respect?
By example. A child does not hear what you say: it imitates. We educate our children in presence, love for life and self-respect by recognizing ourselves the value of the present moment and acting on it with the attention it deserves, by the way we live and express our appreciation and gratefulness for our own lives and by valuing and respecting ourselves. Everything else is, at best, only a complement to this.
>>> What do you do every day to keep your mind clear, alert and conscious?
What I do is definitely not the only way to help the mind to stay clear, alert and conscious, but it is what I do, or try to do, and it helps me enormously.
- I meditate every day first thing in the morning for about 1/2 hour.
- As my mind works much better in the morning than at any other hour of the day, I do my best to always have an hour or more of time to read and study the more difficult subjects of psychology, philosophy or spirituality I am interested in.
- I eat as much as I can a healthy diet (a healthy diet is not only useful for the body but is especially beneficial for the mind) composed of lots of fruits and vegetables, grains, seeds and nuts, and occasionally, about once or twice a month, some good meat. I do my best, and I mostly succeed, in avoiding any kind of processed food. I very rarely drink any alcohol (alcohol makes me feel good, but dull) and try to avoid eating much sugar (sugar makes the mind spike in the moment but soon after, like alcohol, it makes you dull).
- I stretch the body and take deep breaths as often as I can or remember.
- I listen to beautiful music, which for me is mostly classical and baroque.
- I try to do some gym every day. If I can’t, at least I do some sun salutations.
- I do my best not to be in a hurry throughout the day by not over filling my schedule. I try to not be late to my appointments, and I actually try to arrive to them at least a few minutes earlier… although I am still not very good at it.
- I try to spend as much time as I can in parks and, when going anyplace, I chose the nicest roads, especially if they go through parks.
- And as much as I can throughout the day, I practice what I call the Yoga of Presence, which means that I try to slow down and keep bringing the mind back into the experience of the present moment.
>>> How would you characterize the times we live in?
As a unique opportunity to evolve – to chose compassion over negativity (compassion), to chose confidence over distrust, to chose love over hatred, to chose gratitude over indifference, to give, and not just hope to receive. I see this very challenging time as a fantastic opportunity to recognize the true meaning of our lives.
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