Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Lessons from 2013

On leadership
At work I have started to coordinate a few projects  and I am struggling with the sentence in my head "I just wasn't born to be a leader". A long talk with a friend helped me realize that I  don't have to change my whole personality. I can still be an introvert and be delicate, understanding and sensitive. Nor do I have to negate my quiet nature or fearfulness. Leadership or management skills are something I can use if I need them . The lesson I want to  learn is how to make the best use of what I have: empathy, expecting the best of others, positive attitude to people. I also  have a good role model I can draw from. My own boss. He is someone I appreciate for being clear, visionary, and at the same time open to ideas and supportive.

On prayer  
In September I wanted to make it to a training retreat with my friends from my mediation course and a party of my dear friend to honour the birth of his little girl.  At some point problems with my travel started piling up I sat for hours biting my nails thinking I would not make it and let so many people down. I remember how I prayed to find solutions and I received all the help I needed. The experience of the ardour, the focus and the energy on  the intention with which I asked made me feel what prayer really can be. It is not just about asking and getting something, but prayer as something that fills your whole being.  A part of my prayer was gratitude. It was more about the attention, the energy with which I pray. Maybe those dark hours, praying and being heard will help me to really understand and transform the way I pray. 

On trusting my own conscience and intuition
You know that feeling deep inside "this is the right thing to do?" I had it in a very painful and unexpected situation  when it was about revealing something to a family member of a friend and I did not follow this feeling. Although I cannot blame myself for the situation itself or others for advising me wrongly, I take the responsibility for not trusting myself. I would like to be more honest with myself and remember that in the end what counts is the choice I make not what others tell me. 

On friendship and keeping in touch 
 With one of my closest friends going away for studies abroad  I thought that it meant the end of  spontaneous coffees during the week and long chats about everything and nothing. But we continue to have coffee talks on skype, to support one another in our life challenges. Regularly. This won't be possible with every friend leaving or changing their life. But he has shown me that it is possible  to stay in touch if it stays a priority for both people. And I am grateful to him that with us it has.  

On appreciating what I have learned and know  
Taking a second training course in mediation left me excited and anxious. I was not sure if I would be able to shift my perspective or if anything I learned before would be useful. It turned out that I knew many things and could even share them with other people. It does not mean I have less to learn during this course or about mediation, but appreciating the things I can already do and know helps me to feel more positive about myself and trust that all these efforts I have made to learn have not been in vain. 

On reading 
I learned that if I simply put a book in my bag (or a kindle- see below) in my bag and carry it with me I will read so much more, because I will use all these little moments in the metro, in the waiting rooms. I am happier when I read more and I do it regularly. My family thinks I am a devout reader, but the truth is I don't read that much if I don't discipline myself to get books.  Making sure I always have a book in my bag helps me to live a life according to my values, filled with intellectual stimulation and beauty.

On possessions and buying 
I am always weary about  desiring and buying new gadgets and the consumer culture-especially that I am reading more and more about minimalism. However, there are some things that do make my life better and easier.  I dreamed of a kindle and now that I have one I can say that I absolutely love it. It's so easy to read on the public transport, I don't have to print large PDFs, there is not problem with turning pages in gripping cold. And it's small and light and fit's perfectly into a purse. 
 So maybe it's OK to  want some things if they serve a good purpose and I really use them.


Sunday, December 8, 2013

All the families

As I waived goodbye to my uncle and aunt going back to their home in Montreal  today I thought about belonging to more than one family, or should I say, my family is bigger than I could ever imagine. Of course they are my blood relation anyway, but also our mutual history is interwoven in a unique way. They left me a box of  baklava sweets  they brought from Dubai.  Once the candies are finished I will put the box on my desk and keep letters and envelopes in it. Could I have ever imagined that a box engraved with Arabic letters will remind me of them and that part of me  which is still there in Canada with them?

Friday, November 29, 2013

The moon and all

I was coming home today and I felt more than possibly could be described. I was happy with a new gift, all tender with meeting people I haven't seen for a long time, teary because my grief came back to me. I simply let tears fall. In the midst of all of it I watched the full moon and marveled with its beauty. How can the heart be filled with so much at once and know that all of this is life?



Friday, November 15, 2013

November treasure


I sat in a cafe waiting for someone and stared  adoringly at the pumpkin placed in the middle of the table. I thought how maybe God created them so we have our own little  sun in the dark November days, lighting up our longing for light. I can almost feel its creamy consistence warming up my body. Plumpy, generous and beautiful, they are my November treasure. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Scraps of joy

I have been feeling frustrated with choosing work over autumn walks, going to cultural festivals, inspiring lectures, spending time with family and friends...

I tried to remember why I do it, because I have a very clear purpose for working and earning money. 

And yet it was not enough. A moment of a relief came when I tried to feel what Laura Vandercam writes about in her book " You have got more time than you think": enjoying the  "five minute things", which take less than 30 or 20 or even 10 minutes... But things which I really like.  

Suddenly I found there are many of such things. And it is not to create a false impression that it's not a difficult period. Because it is  and there is a lot to miss. 

But I still do have time to

stop to watch a beautiful autumn tree 

read a book for ten minutes in the metro 

share a tea or pudding my sister 

read a blog post of my favourite blogger 

play my chillout radio in the background

and so many more.... 

Together they make a blanket of joy I can wrap myself in a hard-working time. 

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Where I am not

I often gaze out the window and think about the places where I am not because I am here.

I know I want to really be where  I am, because what sense is it to long for a place where I am not? 

The longing- does it make me be more than just here or does it take me away from here and now so in the end  I am nowhere? 

Is it enough to notice it with gentleness and come back to what is here and now? 



Saturday, September 28, 2013

The meaning of leaves

                    I stopped to look at a maple tree today 
                    Held my breath for a moment 
                    Trying to name the hundred blazing shades of red 
                    And then I remembered what you said 
                    that beauty of the autumn leaves is that of dying
                    No more naive enchantment with the world 
                    But the sense of wonder shall always be 


Friday, September 13, 2013

Celebrating life

Why do we need to celebrate life? And what that does really mean? It is one of those phrases I hear a lot in self-development classes and often read on blogs. And the capital letters make it sometimes hard for me to feel the real meaning. 

But when a dear friend  of mine held his little daughter up high  in the air during the celebration of her life  to welcome her among  us- the family and friends,  I was  close to what it meant. There was that joy of seeing that adorable human being, but it was also that we took that weekend to be together,  that we stopped to feel the things bigger than us, than our life. 

I had a lot of goodbyes last summer...  They are also a part of life I do not want to forget, but it was good to experience that moment of joyful welcoming. To be reminded that the way I want to live my life is to celebrate the important moment and share them with the people I love. Hope  you will always remind me of that little Ma-jita!

Saturday, August 10, 2013


In a moment when something happened I would have never expected to happen, when life hits in the most tender spot, I think of a quote from Robert Penn Warren " All the King's Men" (which I learned from Gretchen Rubin) :

   " ...Aches like your heart in the bosom when you stand on the street corner waiting for the light to change and happen to recollect how thing once were and how they might have been yet if what happened had not happened."

 I am waiting for the light to change, to move again and cross the street with more confidence.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Gift of a quiet evening

It is Sunday evening and I am alone. I did not plan this, actually I thought I would spend it with family or friends. And a part of me has been feeling lonely and a bit disappointed in the last hours. There is a solitary feeling that there are so many people around but no one there although tomorrow morning my day will be filled with people again. 

Nevertheless, I am now I am soaking the moment  because it is a gift.  I can give my creativity the time it needs. I can write without the pressure of "hurry, someone or something is waiting". I can let my thoughts and feelings just be and let go of the "bustleness" and "busyness"

As Jen Lee writes on the "sacred quiet": "When I surrender to the sacred quiet, I let memories surface and collect them like quilt patches. I listen to what's really tugging at my heart and try to hold everything else at bay.I hope that in this posture, direction and redirection will find me".

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The introvert's guide to social life

I have to admit, I don't have such a guide yet.

It took me a long time to even consider that being introverted might not be a weakness or a flaw.  But as the season of weddings, parties and other social events unveils, being an introvert (as much as it's only a label) is not easy. 

Only last weekend I found myself at a party in a room where everyone seemed to be engaged in a conversation but me and I wished I could  just vanish. 

There is a lot of wisdom out there, from Susan Cain's inviting to accept and value our nature, Ivan Misner teaching that networking can be natural and fun, Philip Zimbardo showing practical exercises taming shyness. And in moments of social awkwardness I try to remember them. 

But then... 

 I walk into a room full of small groups speaking to each other.

When I  try to cut in with my carefully thought out question after a lecture somebody always starts speaking first.

My two neighbors at the table are speaking to their neighbors and I am staring at my plate... 

I become   the neglected one, the one not having voice, the invisible one, the unsociable one. The victim.

I start to  blame. Myself. The other people in the room. 

My first question in the guide would be: how do you regain your power, your space, your stand as the quiet one? 

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Looking at the city with different eyes

I walked through the beautiful German city of Leipzig with my friend. I was a foreigner in this city, I did know the language. He was my guide. 

As my friend is blind, I guided us both through the streets with my eyes. I was his guide.
We both had to adjust to a very different rhythm than when we go alone. Sometimes I wanted to rely more on my sight,  and he on his memory and spatial orientation, but we were learning to trust each other.

Embarrassed by the fact that sometimes we had to turn back or would occasionally bump into someone  at some point I started to apologize for my terrible sense of orientation. But my friend  simply said that so far we were able to get to all the places we wanted to. 

And that was true. It reminded me  to be proud of little things. 


Thursday, April 25, 2013

The farmer's wife

There was something very fragile  about this woman, and powerful at the same time. It was one of those small family farms, and the farmer and his wife were probably the last generation to be running it. She was very nervous about the inspection, embarrassed with the disorder in the papers. Yet, she tried to stay alert and cooperative. Her eyes were brimming with tears, every time the inspector pointed out some lacks and leaks but she spoke in her own defense if needed. 

Her husband sat further away from the table, mostly silent, making odd comments sometimes. His sense of humour was slightly coarse and sexist so I do not think it made much sense in translation to the official from Brussels.  I felt the irritation towards  this man that he was letting his wife handle everything  on her own and pretended not to notice when  she went to other room  to get herself together.

They were a middle aged couple, and probably had their way of working things out and dividing tasks. But I felt some strange satisfaction when  leading inspector ( a young woman)  invited the man firmly to come closer, to listen to the results of the report at the table. 

I exchanged a few words with the wife at the end.  She praised my language skills and I expressed my admiration at the efforts farming must take. She gladly talked about her family and the farm.  I could see a woman who  is busy and tired,  makes ends meet but will be probably never well off, who is proud of her land and family, but regrets the children won't follow in her footsteps. 

Was she a typical woman-farmer? It would be arrogant of me to be making generalizations  about her, after an hour of being on the farm, but one thing I could say  was that she seemed to be the kind of person who makes an effort to do her best what ever the circumstances are. 

Saturday, April 20, 2013

A call to poetry

I believe we are called to fill our life with poetry. Poetry doesn't mean escaping from life, settling down on some sentimental cloud as I used to fear. No, poetry brings you closer to  life because it can name your experiences more precisely and sharply that any  lengthy sentences could. And sometimes it takes you further than the horizon of the everyday, it gives you a strikingly new perspective. That's also being close to life, to its flow  and going forward. Poems bring awareness. 

Monday, April 8, 2013

Carry them all

At Good Friday liturgy, in the center of the Easter Triduum, I was struck by the words of the "Prayer of the Faithful":

 Enable those who do not acknowledge God
To find the truth
As they walk before you in sincerity of heart 

That is just a small excerpt from the longer prayer that expresses care and respect not only for the Church, but all those who are outside. It struck me, that here in one of the most solemn and intimate days in the life of the Church, all the people who are far away are recalled. This is so true for me, because even entering the space and place that many people  would not understand or claim, if they are in my life, in what ever way, even if for the fact that we are the part of the same humanity, I carry them with me in a way.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

It's been a year

Dear Blog,

You may not know it but we have been together for a year now.

You wouldn't be here if it weren't for some people.

My creative writing teachers who gave the opportunity to practice writing. 

My favourite bloggers whom I learn from every day. 

My friends and family who cheer me on and are also your Readers. 

All the other Readers I don't know by name yet, but  who have found or might find their way here. 

You are small, but we will grow together. 

I promise to water you with my ideas and words, hold them dearly. 

Happy birthday!

Your Creator

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The night winter didn't leave

Things shouldn't be like this. I should not be looking at piles of snow mocking me as if telling me there would be no walk with spring in each step, only careful treading on ice. I should not  be gasping for a breath of warmth every time  I go out....

Only a week ago I had these thoughts in my head. I felt guilty about whining about the weather with every person I met. I didn't think it made anyone better or more optimistic. After all the weather is something we cannot control, then why focus so much attention to useless frustration. And yet there was this nagging feeling of refusal, "I do not want to wait for spring anymore!, I want it now" everything in me screamed. I was  surprised to discover the intensity of bitter feelings inside me. 

And then a few days ago I found myself in a car coming back  from a day trip from another city to Warsaw. It was evening and the people in the car were silent. I think we were somewhere half through our journey and it was that moment when you have discussed the day and drowsiness settles in. I was sitting in the front seat next to the driver and could hear the quiet music on the radio.  It was an opera piece. It  was snowing, just as it had been all day. I watched the snow flakes fall on the road ahead and I could not but be drawn to their beauty. I had been denying the beauty of winter landscapes for the last few weeks,  as if admitting it would mean that I had given up on spring. But there I just instinctively let myself into the music and the rhythm of snow flakes.  Something released in me. A wave of serenity came, a deep sense of calmness. 

I still feel that kind of calmness about the weather. Does it mean that I don't get irritated about the weather or stopped wishing that spring came? No, absolutely not. I am still yearning for spring and checking out frantically every morning whether some bits of grass have not started to show up.  I am irritated with my running nose and cough. I might even continue complaining about the weather with the people I meet.

But something has changed. I allow myself to enjoy the sun rays reflected in the snow and the warmth of teacup held between my hands. I don't feel such a poignant refusal of the cycle of nature.  I guess I simply feel better with myself and don't think the world is trying to play an ugly trick on me.

I did not do anything to feel differently and I do not take credit for it. I did not give myself empathy or meditate.  It was just one of those moments which come unexpectedly, as a small gift from nature.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

On becoming

Today my certificate of completion of the mediation course arrived by post. 

With each new skill, each new competence that I learn, I ask myself when is it actually the moment that I become that professional, when I can actually declare my new identity. For a long time after my studies I was not confident enough to say or even write "I am an interpreter/translator". I would say " I do interpreting" or "I do translations".

Even though I have the paper in my hand, I have done my first mediations I am not sure if I can already say " I am a mediator".

Perhaps there is that question behind  " Am I  skilled/educated /experienced/sought out by clients/successful.... enough"? Where is the balance between going for the goal of being that person you want to be and affirming the place as you are in the very moment?

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Orphan of learning

How do you recognize  a real teacher?  I think I recognized him as one when  he made it clear that he did not come to please, entertain or impress is audience.  He did not pretend to know everything, but he pressed  to ask the right questions about dying and life, not to hide behind the "what ifs". He warned us of the pain we fight feel in the two  coming days. 

It wasn't just the pain, it was the bareness, the exposure to being  called the orphan deprived of your own village and roots. It made me remember that at times I feel an orphan of learning. I need spiritual guides and mentors. Not gurus, not ideals but teachers.  They won't do the learning for me but can show me a new light. I might question their arguement or challenge them, but I am willing to look at the world throught their eyes, even if for a moment, to see what it feels like. 

I find the stiffness in my tongue to say "my teachers". I use the word "trainers", "lecturers", "authors". As if it was a sign of weakness,  submissiveness or blidness to talk otherwise.  Call me sentimental, but that night I walked into the room to be interpreter and he was the speaker, I walked out as a student, apprentice and he  became my  teacher. 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Love comes

When you realize how much love there already is in your life.

When you realize that loss  isn't the end of  love.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

When traditions come home

In the last years, ever since I became  involved with Nonviolent Communication, I have been learning more  about mindfulness, being in the present and the practice of meditation. It feels very true to me, I believe it is a part of a good quality life. But there has always been this inkling that to integrate it on a deeper level I need to find a missing piece. 

I guess was trying to understand how I could relate to the spiritual source of mindfulness and meditation, which  for me echoes from the traditions of Zen and Buddhism.  As little as I know of this tradition I feel respect for it, but it is not quite my own.  Although there are  authors and teachers I can call my own: Barry Magrid, Thich Nhat Hanh and lately Leo Babauta. Then there is Antony De Mello and Thomas Merton who loved both of these worlds and weaved their teachings  out of what is best about them. But to hear Fr. Laurence Freeman, here in Warsaw, speak of meditation from the Christian perspective and guide us through an exercise, has made this more alive for me, that there is a deep link with what I know. 

The way he spoke of meditation and mindfulness was not "we Christians can also do meditation so we are not worse than anybody else". He spoke of meditation as something that has been practiced from the very beginning of Christian contemplation.  It's not a fad  or an experiment, but coming home. 

Of course the wording "Christian meditation" has its weakness. Meditation in the Christian tradition is a form of prayer, and thus it has its unique meaning, but at the same time meditation is a meditation. The core of paying attention, being here and now is simply what it is. 

Fr. Laurence Freeman speaking of paying attention- very beautiful to me, and it can be listened by anybody.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Not to old for fairy tales

This is what I'd like to believe when I think of the TV show "Once Upon a Time" that has been my January delight. 

Sometimes I am wary of film or TV adaptations because if they are done in a  Disney's  like  way, the plot loses lots of the original's subtleties. But even though "Once Upon a Time" is inspired by the way Disney has visualized many of these stories,   it has its own unique touch. The characters, stories and symbols are mixed, intertwined and  so in a way it is a completely new story. But that is also one of the traditions of storytelling.

I love how the authors of the show have followed Snow White, Red Riding Hood and  others in their quest to tell us the well known stories from their point of view. We can go much deeper into their motives and emotions than in many of the adaptations.

In the  "Once Upon a Time" the fairy tale world reflects  the past that defines us and haunts us at the same time. The characters, who we  get to know  through the retrospection of their life back in the enchanted forest and their present life in the real world, make different choices, sometimes they overcome their weaknesses, sometimes they fall down.  So  there is always a  choice about how we want to act in the present and shape our future. 

And the roles that they played back in the fairy world- the princess, the evil queen, the warewolf- they need to overcome them in some way, recognize the gifts the role might carry but also its limitations. Find out who they really are.  To connect with the real world. 

I hope I will be able to do the same with my own fairy tale...

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

January blanket

January seems to be a month of excitement, vivid memories of holiday craze and starting new. But this year I am discovering its sadness. Maybe it's a sadness that comes from the fact that I recall all the failed new year resolutions from the past years? And that as much planning as you might do, growth isn't a linear process. I come back to the old issues, new come up...  Awakened by the holiday cards and wishes I also think of all the people I would like to see and catch up with. But then deep down I know might not  keep in touch as I would like to, or even worse meet up with them. 

It's not a kind of sadness that makes me panic though. I'd like to think of it as a sadness that is closer melancholy and nostalgia. A kind of blanket to wrap up in and stay still for  a while.

I lately learned that the first nations in America assigned a special meaning to January as a month of  dreaming. So I think of this month as a time to create a space for wrapping myself literally in a blanket each day and dream of who I want to be this year looking beyond lists, resolutions, promises and declarations,  even it means first being with this sadness for a while.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Guiding words

Take care of the one you love,
Take care of the one you need,
Take care of the one who needs you most,
Take care of the one you love.

These words come from Imany's song "Take care". I have been enchanted with Imany's warm voice and ambiance of her songs  since the end of last year, but this one struck me in a special way. Maybe because somehow the lyrics turn my attention to myself, not other people.  I want to take care of people in my life. But there is also a small whisper in my head saying "How about yourself? How can you care for others, if all these times you don't take care of yourself?" 

I don't know exactly what taking care of myself means. The answers will probably slowly come, if the question has appeared. As I think of this year I want to hum gently to myself "take care of the one you love, take care of the one you need"....