Warming the heart, feeling connected

It’s now time to experience a different Brazil. One that reminds me of Australia. Not in terms of culture, politics or society, but in terms of the senses.

When I go out for a walk in the morning, there’s this particular spot in the bush near my place where there’s a gumtree. The earlier I go, the stronger the fragrance, and it feels like I’m walking around some parts of Adelaide. (Fun fact: In 1914, Brazilian botanist Navarro de Andrade brought 144 species of gumtrees to Brazil from Australia – there’s even an “Eucalyptus Museum” in the town where I grew up!)

The cicadas singing all around take me straight back to Mangrove Mountain and the ashram that was part of my life for so many years. The sound of the cicadas there was deafening and intense during summer, and they’re just starting to sing now in Brazil. This video below was recorded on 31 December 2017 at the ashram (not a great video, but the point is the noise you hear. I even say something in Portuguese along the lines of ‘I’m just arriving here and the cicadas are singing’ but we can’t barely hear my voice because the cicadas are so loud). (Side note: It was a great practice to do our yoga/meditation sadhana when the cicadas were singing so loudly – to learn to withdraw from listening to the outside world and go within.)

Arriving at the ashram

Another sound that takes me back to Australia, particularly to Manly Beach, is the sound of a helicopter hovering in the sky on a warm, sunny morning. I can almost feel my body lying down on the sand at North Steyne, contemplating the ocean, the calm, and hearing the helicopter, possibly taking people on a tour to see Sydney from above. (In Brazil the helicopters are the military police, but let’s just not focus on the reason why they’re taking to the sky…)

Now to the sense of sight. The suburb where I’m living in is very green – lots of trees, some bush and a creek. Such a green environment is so reminiscent of my life Down Under. I look around and the sight of trees and wildlife (loads of birds, including beautiful green parakeets, and lizards) simply reminds me of my connection with something bigger, which I used to feel whenever I was in nature in Australia. Both my dad and uncle when went to Australia to visit me, made comments about the Australian landscape and green areas reminding them of our Brazilian countryside.

What I’m finding interesting is that I had never had a strong awareness of the cicadas, helicopters, fragrance from the trees, the green, the wildlife etc. while visiting or living in Brazil. I don’t think I had ever connected my senses to my Brazilian experience. Now there’s not only an awareness, but there’s also acceptance, and I marvel at the idea that I can link both countries (or the memories and experiences of them) through my senses. It’s heartwarming, and I feel connected.

Choices we make

Today we’ve reached 100,000 covid deaths in Brazil. It has quite a saddening, depressing and confusing effect upon the mind. It’s hard to understand why people choose to live like this, as if they didn’t mind so many deaths and tragedy around them. Knowing someone who has got covid or who has died from it has become a staple conversation. I now have two friends who have got it, and a friend’s uncle who has died from the disease. My sister has lost two friends.

I think this was the thing I was most worried about when it came to coming back to Brazil – becoming again used to absurdities and stupidities. Everyday I fight the Brazilian mentality, praying it will not have a negative effect on me or change my mindset, and this is not a fun way to live life. I feel like I’m an outcast in my own country. I am one of the few who refuses to go to social gatherings (yes, people are getting together, and I’ve lost track of what the restrictions are, because most people don’t respect them anyway – my neighbour is right now down on the coast at a beach house with some friends spending the weekend). I am one of the few who when grocery shopping or ordering food online, refuses to let the cashier or the delivery guy hold my debit card (some get cross with me!), and ask them if I can insert the card on the machine myself. I am one of the few who is disgusted and outraged that the protocol at some hospitals is to administer dengue test to patients going in with covid symptoms – and please don’t bother fighting or asking why, it’s the protocol, your test result will be negative for dengue, of course, and you’ll be back home and into society possibly infecting other people in case it really is covid (I’m not kidding, this happened to a friend a couple of weeks ago).

I’ve been wondering what I can do to help others, and what I can do to feel less outraged, less lost and less alienated. So last Sunday I joined a campaign to take meals to the homeless. I thought it could be something good, to be part of something bigger. I would risk going out from my isolation to do good, to care for those in need. I went to a bakery with the people organising the campaign to prepare 100 kits (one loaf with butter, a doughnut, a bottle of water, a banana, and a pack of biscuits), then from there out in the streets to distribute them to the homeless. What shocked me the most weren’t the homeless people (in one of the streets they even formed a queue to receive the bags containing their meals!), but the organisers – how they’ve been careless in terms of isolating, washing hands and taking the necessary precautions. Back I am in isolation, and I’m considering not going back there again.

I know this isn’t the most pleasant blog post you’ve ever read, but I guess I needed to vent a bit, and ask for some love. At the end of this month it’ll be five months isolating for me. No hugs, no touching, and basically the minimum face-to-face human interaction. What’s keeping my head high is my belief that I’m acting dharmically, I’m doing what I think is right for me and for the community, and the fact that I can take this opportunity to slow down, really dive deep within and be on an inner transformative journey. But friends, I can tell you I miss a big heart-to-heart hug, sitting with friends for a chat over some coffee or tea, and the overall freedom to walk around not feeling frustrated or that I’ll be risking my health and that of others. Choosing the greater good is not always the easiest path. Big lesson.

Adapting to change is a process

I’ve been thinking a lot about the fact that I’m not being so emotionally affected by the coronavirus situation. Seeing so many of my friends struggling, I feel bad that I myself am not. When my friends come tell me how difficult life is for them right now, I refrain from saying how I’m feeling ok about everything (except about the Brazilian president) – I don’t want to sound like I’m dismissing what they’re feeling, but at the same time I wanted to tell them that I completely understand what they are going through. I’ve been there. Not necessarily right now, but I’ve experienced huge unexpected changes that turned my life upside down, and all the uncertainties that came along with these changes.

I didn’t ask for any of these unexpected changes, yet I’ve had to find ways to cope with loneliness, emptiness, lack of money, lack of face-to-face interaction, to let go of so many different things, from objects to people, as well as my life and my lifestyle as I knew them.

Nevertheless, the same feeling of peace wasn’t there for me in Bali when all the coronavirus thing started. There, although I was still doing my sadhana, praying, seeing my psychologist, and talking to friends online, I wasn’t feeling grounded at all , some wounds were coming to surface, my emotions were everywhere, my digestive system (and so my brain) was suffering. So all of this shows that adapting to change and coping with difficulties is a process. It isn’t something we accomplish overnight, particularly if we are open to dive deeply into our heart and soul. So this coronavirus situation seems like a new stage of this long process, only now it got to a level where all feels familar – living with less, interacting with fewer people, being quieter and looking within. Perhaps all the hardship I’ve been through has somehow prepared me for this. And you know what? I didn’t get why all of these changes were happening to me if you asked me a few months ago. But now I can only think that it’s a f***ing privilege to be able to go so deep into my soul and understand myself, heal my wounds, and feel freer.

To all of my friends who are struggling – I see you, I feel you. As many of you helped me with supporting words, messages and calls in the recent past – I hope you can feel I’m there a little for you too. Going through uncertainty and change is hard, but let’s lean on each other. That’s what has got me going as you know, and I’m a strong believer that a support network and a tight nonjudgmental community are one of the most important things we can have in our lives. This situation might take a while to pass, it might be painful, but I’m certain that all of you are super resilient, and I’m really proud of you for enduring through these tough times. Big big hug.

Open heart and courage

There’s something interesting about life – it’s always changing. We can make plans as much as we like, but the fact is that we never know what’s in store around the corner for us. Not in a billion years I could’ve imagined that I’d be living in Asia. I’ve always had some sort of curiosity about Bali, however visiting Asia has never been at the top of my list of places to visit. Yet, here I am. And from Bali, I’m today travelling to Singapore for a long weekend away.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this, and it actually blows my mind. So much can happen in a person’s life from one week to the other. And it makes me think that, no matter what, we’d better make the most out of life, throw ourselves fully to whatever is thrown at us, with an open heart and lots of courage to be ourself.

I’ve been rediscovering that open heart and that courage inside of me. Not an easy task but I’ve been incredibly proud of the person I’ve become. I now confidently say that resilience is my middle name, and that we all have the ability to bounce back after reaching bellow bottom.

On the way to the airport, I passed by this beautiful statue of Rāma – the ideal hero, the sun of sun, the embodiment of truth and morality, strength and vigor. I smiled and silently prayed – May I always remember to carry Rāma’s qualities within me as I face the ups and downs of life. May those qualities equal the strength and courage I need to keep making changes, growing, awakening. May you all experience those qualities, too, my friends.

Soon to erupt

There’s so much diversity in the world that sometimes I feel I was living in a bubble in Australia. Not that there isn’t diversity in Oz. On the contrary. But my mind was so focused on visa, visa, visa (and making money to pay for school and visa, then, only then, live my life and my purpose), that I kind of forgot how big and expanded the world, the mind and ideas can be.

Staying in Ubud seems to be waking me up from some sort of dormant state. The place is such a melting pot of multicultural, creative people – sometimes even very overwhelming – that it’s making me see life through different eyes, and encouraging me to think outside the box. I still think Australia is the place for me, where I want to build my future, retire, reconnect with and contribute to my community, etc. Nevertheless, it feels so much needs to change as far as my mindset is concerned. I’ve been questioning career, my purpose in life, friendships and boundaries, relationships… I feel like a volcano about to erupt. Soon to create beauty from such eruption.

It’s an intense, sometimes painful journey (ah, all that lava being produced inside), yet it’s starting to feel very exciting. I can see how/why inner change is necessary. So wait and see – I’ll come out of this stronger, happier, expanded, with more purpose, and even more empathy. Right now I totally feel I can do it. And I will.

Home is where the heart is

As I was filling in a form today, signing up for yoga classes, I realised letting go of Australia might take longer and might be harder than I thought. When completing the Country field, I automatically wrote Australia. Later I thought: no wonder why – I have an Australian ID card, Australian driver’s licence, Australian phone number, Australian bank account… 70% of my clients, my close friends, my sanga, my salsa community, and some of my belongings are all in Australia. Basically my life is still in Australia. It’s been hard to answer the question ‘Where are you from?’. I try to make it simple, saying where I’m originally from. But some people insist in asking where I’m based now. I don’t feel like making it up. I could simply say I live in Australia or Brazil or Italy. Not sure it’d matter to people. But it somehow matters to me. And it suddenly seems very unfair that I cannot settle down ‘Down Under’. Such ridiculous immigration rules. They say home is where the heart is. My heart is clearly in Oz. And it sucks that I’m going through this right now (although I’m enjoying Bali and can see healing at the end of the tunnel).

Too little, yet too much

As I sat at the train station in Cefalù waiting for my night train to Rome, I looked at my suitcase, my toiletry handbag and my laptop bag, and bang! It hit me – these are all my belongings for the time being. I once thought it was extraordinary the fact that my life fitted in a car when I moved from the Gold Coast to Adelaide. It was comforting though, to know that I was driving to a city where I already had a furnished home to move into, I was ready to build a new life, and in one year my dream of migrating to Australia would start to come true (#not). Now this – one suitcase, a small bag, a computer, and the uncertainty about when I’ll have a home again – feels like a whole new level of unexpected minimalism.

Six weeks have passed so far and I’ve managed to live with so little. Few belongings and lots of emotions. Life is interesting – who’d have thought that I’d be experiencing something like this? Sometimes it feels so simple – it’s all temporary, it’s only a matter of navigating through this period, and before I know it, it’ll be over. Other times it seems too complex – there are lots of awakening happening, lessons being learned, and wounds being healed. Too little, yet too much. Simple, yet complex.

My grieving heart

So I’ve struggled to grieve and mourn. Sometimes I forget that what I’ve been through is so intense that I need time to deeply feel my sorrow. Sometimes when the pain comes, I feel I want it to go away quickly. I resist. And by resisting, I don’t allow it to be, and it becomes more intense.

Thing is, I spent my childhood feeling my mum’s intense sorrow when she got divorced. She cried and cried, and I had to be there with her. I have sad memories of having to sleep with her, and she’d spoon me or hug me, and would just cry until we fell asleep. I was 9, and I can’t recall for how many months or years her pain and crying carried on. I know she had to grieve – I just wished it wasn’t in front of me all the time or while she was holding me. I also had to grieve my parents’ divorce and the fact that my family was falling apart. I unfortunately didn’t have any space for that, neither had I any support to understand or express what I was feeling. Today it feels as if I’ve done a lot of mourning in my life – however, I’m discovering it wasn’t really me who was grieving back then, at least I wasn’t doing it about my own pain.

It’s as if my mind wants to say ‘Enough of crying’. I sometimes think that I’m making a big deal of it all. That I wasn’t supposed to feel it so intensely, that I wasn’t supposed to miss things, that I was supposed to be bigger than that and just appreciate what the Universe has given me now (beautiful Sicily and a Vedanta retreat). Until I’m reminded of the contrary. So I’m kind of learning now, and although my personal yoga practice has helped me stay grounded and aware, most of the times I have to be reminded by my therapist and my friends that it’s OK to grieve, that it’s OK to have a bad day just because my mind wants to go through every little aspect of what’s happened, and my heart just feels overwhelmed. (I’m so grateful that I have so many beautiful friends helping and supporting me, spending their precious time to call, message and/or video call me. Love you.)

So here it’s, from my grieving heart today: I miss Adelaide. I miss my life in Adelaide. I miss my own bedroom and my housemate, who so dearly had me in her house. I miss my routine, my yoga class on Tuesdays, my chanting with the sanga on Saturdays, the nights out dancing, the dance classes. I miss the people, my friends. I miss the sense of security that that routine gave me. I miss the freedom I always felt in Australia, the fact that I seemed to always know where to go, the homecoming feeling I’ve always had. I miss the man I grew to love in ways I never thought I would. I miss his hug, his touch. I miss his happy face whenever he felt us more connected. I miss his stubbornness, his silly jokes. I miss relaxing by his side and caressing him during the many times he cooked us a meal. I miss, I wholeheartedly miss all of this.

I’ve been revisiting the little poems I’ve written, and below is one that somehow connects to this post. I don’t know exactly when I wrote it, but it was between the date when I got the visa application result and the date of my departure.

When I finally let my guard down
The universe conspired
Against
So it’s time to say goodbye
Again
And again
So much hurt already
Can I have a break?
For once I was thinking of settling down
I’ve found my place
Little Adelaide
And its people with the biggest heart
Why? I question
I try to make sense
Maybe there’s nothing to understand
Don’t overthink, I tell myself
Just live
Just love
Every singe moment
Every single person
Connect
Be open
Be honest

💔❤️

By the waterfall

Here’s a little bilingual poem I wrote on 24 November 2018 while sitting by one of the waterfalls at Waterfall Gully in Adelaide. Nearly one year later, it came to my mind as I am sitting today with myself:

By the waterfall / Aos pés da cachoeira

I can. I believe.
I dream. I achieve.
I hear the sounds of water flowing down.
I hear the sounds of my own emotions
calming down.
I hear the birds. I hear the wind.
I feel my heart. I find peace.

Eu posso, eu acredito
Eu sonho, eu conquisto
Ouço o som das águas caindo
Ouço o som das minhas próprias emoções
se esvaindo
Ouço os pássaros, ouço o vento
E a paz encontro no peito

On self-compassion

Today I naturally woke up during brahma muhurta, those one-and-a-half hours before sunrise, best time for knowledge and connection with divinity, as described in sacred texts like the ayurvedic Ashtanga Hridayam (for more on brahma muhurta, click here). I had set my alarm for 7 am, but at 5.14 am I was awake. I tried to go back to sleep, but my mind was too fresh and alert. It was pouring down outside and cold in the bedroom, yet I still sat down in bed encouraging myself to meditate. A mantra came to mind, and I found it on YouTube, focusing my attention on such a pure and touching chant – Namo Avalokiteshvara. If you haven’t listened to this mantra yet, I highly recommend – watching the video on YouTube (below) is highly soothing and moving.

Namo Avalokiteshvara is known as the Great Compassion Mantra. I heard it for the first time while watching the documentary Walk with Me – it had a profound effect on me; it really touched my heart and after a few minutes listening to it, I do feel like my heart is melting with compassion.

Compassion – and particularly self-compassion – has been an important aspect of this journey I’ve been through lately. I was raised to be tough, to hold my cry, to get things done no matter what emotions I was having, to never fail. So it’s natural that I go easily into a self-criticism mode and feel inadequate when/for having hard times. Or I just somehow ‘forget’ that I’m going through so much and start doing too much, putting on my plate many more things than it can hold, until I’m reminded through a chat with someone that I’ve been going through a tough time, and that it’s normal to take it easy. So more and more I’ve been finding that I need to practice self-compassion, self-kindness, and self-love while navigating this journey. And I think I’ve been succeeding in doing it here and there. When things get hard while I’m sorting things, packing, or just when emotions arise, I try and cultivate understanding and kindness toward myself. Like it happened yesterday – I was packing and this avalanche of emotions hit me, as my mind started to think about my uncertain future and the fact that I’m leaving my life as know it behind. I let the emotions flow, distanced myself from packing, thinking: it’s ok, I can sit with my emotions now and come back to packing tomorrow. For some, this might seem like a natural response. But for people who have always been criticised for having emotions and for their sensitivity, being so gentle on themselves may take lots and lots of practice, and a voice may still echo in their head questioning if being warm and accepting is really the right thing to do.

I’m glad I was up in brahma muhurta, with a fresh mind, ready to accept compassionate energy from the mantra, and with clarity about what I’ve been learning about self-kindness and being imperfect. This opens a new window to see everyone as imperfect, and to be compassionate and understanding also toward everyone around me. It’s a new perspective on life!