A Magical Summer & FinerMinds Feature

beachart1Doesn’t it seem like summer is slipping away too soon? We enjoyed our days and nights with the crisp warm weather, the unusual rains and occasional thunderstorms.

I hope you enjoyed the season too, that you learned new things, saw new places or new perspectives, or grew with challenges in greater ways.

But most of all, that you made time FOR TIME–with your loved ones, with your children, or with those who you may not have as close this time next year.

stonesYesterday, the awesome folks at MindValley published my piece on Making Room for Magic on their FinerMinds Blog.

Mindvalley invests in pushing humanity forward. They develop knowledge products, media platforms, community events and movements that help people in the areas of personal growth, entrepreneurship, lifestyle applications, and continuous education. 

I’m honored to be able to share my writings there with a greater audience, and hope you will take time to read the other helpful articles on their site. Thanks for reading!

Seven Ways to Make Room for Life’s Magic and Gifts

shutterstock_130937636By Nyx Martinez

I am no psychologist, or degree-holding professional. I am simply a mother, wife, and lover of life. And life has taught me that there is a force out there, greater than ourselves, which causes amazing things to happen.

But it’s not just out there…it’s right within us. The difference between people who experience magic in their lives, and those who don’t, is that the former consciously allow amazing things to happen. They focus on it. They acknowledge its existence. And what they concentrate on is what comes to life.

As if by magic.

(Continue reading the article here.)

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Happiness and the Dalai Lama

Whenever I picture the Dalai Lama, I think of him smiling. Perhaps because, in most of his published photographs, he usually is.

His Holiness Tenzin Gyatso, or the Fourteenth Dalai Lama of Tibet, visited Milan last week (a two-hour drive from where we live), and was shown around the cathedral.

Having grown up in Buddhist Bangkok, I learned that their teachings focus on acceptance and tolerance, peace and the finding of contentment in one’s soul through a gentle way of life and a balanced mind.

But I would like to know what words were exchanged between the Catholic priests and the Dalai Lama, who learned more from who, where they found common ground in their religions or spiritual teachings. Wouldn’t it be interesting to have a one-on-one conversation with the effortlessly-cheerful teacher?

On compassion in life, and our basic need to love and be loved, the Dalai Lama has this to say:

“I believe that the purpose of life is to be happy. I don’t know whether the universe, with its countless galaxies, stars and planets, has a deeper meaning or not, but at the very least, it is clear that we humans who live on this earth face the task of making a happy life for ourselves. 

From my own limited experience I have found that the greatest degree of inner tranquility comes from the development of love and compassion. The more we care for the happiness of others, the greater our own sense of well-being becomes.

The need for love lies at the very foundation of human existence. It results from the profound interdependence we all share with one another.

No matter how new the face or how different the dress and behavior, there is no significant division between us and other people. It is foolish to dwell on external differences, because our basic natures are the same.

I believe that at every level of society – familial, tribal, national and international – the key to a happier and more successful world is the growth of compassion. We do not need to become religious, nor do we need to believe in an ideology. All that is necessary is for each of us to develop our good human qualities.”

(Excerpts from “Compassion and the Individual”, courtesy of www.dalailama.com)

Here is a picture of my son, happy with a new-found friend at the airport, sharing a listen on her Ipod. Kids always have a way of making us smile as they make new friends, maybe because they aren’t judgmental, and it’s this kind of childish happiness we could all use a little more of.

More on Life in Lake Como

Let me tell you a little more about life here in Como:

We live just a couple steps from the town piazza, behind the local church, the bakery, and Gelateria. Across the street are two café bars, my husband’s work place (watersports school) and a giant, grassy playground with a tennis court, basketball court, trampoline and swimming pool.

The atmosphere here is a typically relaxed one, where people stroll unhurried, and whole families play together—or sometimes with total strangers, and children learn to love Nature. Out on the beachfront, kitesurfers pump up their kites to air out, while parachuters glide down the mountain side’s cool air, the wind powering them just enough for an early morning sail.

It’s a place where locals greet you by name, and always a smile. Unlike Germany (our previous home), where the conversation ends at “Good day”, before walking quickly on one’s way, here they will continue chatting—regardless of long queues at the checkout, schedules, or working hours. You learn to not get impatient, but rather, appreciate the fact that people are taking the time to listen, and converse, and communicate—face to face.

Besides, siesta will come soon, and then it will last at least three hours.

And when you live in Italy, you learn to embrace this laidback style. You sip cappuccino, eat gelato, and have a midday Prosecco—as you please. You take your time. You smile more. You stay up late, and sleep in long hours. You chat long minutes because you bask in the presence of another human being, you share life stories as the sun sets in front of you, and you swim naked in the lake, because water is for nurturing.

After a long day’s work (and yes, sometimes just being a stay-at-home-mom is quite a lot of plain hard work with no paycheck at the end of the month) if you get to kiss your son goodnight and say, “I love you, and when you wake up, we’ll go swimming together at the beach,” that’s something to not take for granted.

So you can manage those disputes that sometimes happen in the shadows of your home; those misunderstandings, the trivialities of life. You can look forward to greeting the next Summer day, because as long as there is someone to share it with, and good health to enjoy it a little bit longer, then life is quite delicious.

Life on Lake Como

It’s been just about two weeks now that we have settled in our new home. And I have loved every minute of it. We live in the northern tip of Como, in a small town. It’s tiny, but full of life—especially in the Summer, when everyone flocks to the lakefront for watersports.

In the mornings, I jog by the edge of the lake, taking in the quietness, and being awed by the surrounding beauty. Dimensions of deep blue paint surreal mountain peaks in the background, then hues of a violet sky dips back into rippled water.

There are no grocery stores in our town, but every day we buy fresh bread from the bakery, and since we live a couple steps away from the center piazza, we don’t have far to walk. Just across our street are the lake bars, restaurants, pizzerias, and cafes. Cappuccino for mom in the afternoons; gelato for the boy, every day.

During the week that we changed locations, I became quite sick with a few infections, the worst one being in my eyes. I have had to take out my contact lenses for now, a bit blind as I go about my days. But somehow, falling back on this one sense—sight—makes me appreciate everything else even more.

I’ve also spent the last couple of weeks disconnected from my usual world of Internet, social networks and status updates. I have been engaged more in taking long walks, playing with my son in the large playgrounds, and having long, real conversations with new friends over Italian wine.

And I have been finding that it’s great to disconnect—and truly connect with what is at your fingertips—the people who cross your path every day, learning of life that goes around you. As I type this, the church bells toll, kids play in the arched alleyways of our neighborhood.

I can hear life thriving around me. There is the endless chirp of birds, and ducks in the harbor, the wind blowing kites and windsurfers across the lake…the swans with their babies sailing gracefully across the flat waters, enjoying the afternoon sun.

It’s also an amazing place to raise a child. While most of my conversation with the locals consists of a lot of sign language, in Italy, children melt hearts and open doors everywhere.

I find myself enjoying the sweet little pleasures of simple life on the lake, being continually aware that destiny is taking me to amazing places, and all I can do is close my eyes, and be grateful.

What Ignites Your Creativity?

Is it pain? Anger? Love? Fear?

So many emotions can be channeled into works of art, if we CHOOSE to create with our passions–even if those emotions are sad, or painful.

Next time your spirit is down, pick up a pencil and write away. Dip a paintbrush into any color–without thinking, without planning, without “trying” to create. See what happens…

And here’s a fun tip: if you have some wine nearby and are comforting yourself with a drink or two, try instead to create with it!

Wine, unlike normal paint, darkens as it dries, so the effect is always a surprise! I love the end result–here is one of my latest:

“Last Rose” Wine Painting

If you liked this painting, you can own my art as originals or prints by sending me an email or leave a note below. Here’s the link to my Red Bubble Store.

Have a creative Sunday!

Great-Grandfather’s Goldmine

“April 14, 1945. Three times during the war, I was wounded. This one right here, in my arm!” My son’s German Great-Grandfather raised his sleeve to reveal a strong upper-arm, and pointed to where a bullet had pierced through, leaving a deep scar. “Just a few centimeters to the left and it would have pierced my heart.”

“He remembers every date,” my husband whispered, “Incredible.”

This last week, we drove to visit him in a small village an hour away, in a house that is about 100 years old. Generations of families have lived there and raised their children in that home, including the great-grandfather’s wife, Erika.

“I was 25 when we married, and she was pregnant. Is such a thing so bad?” He shook his head sadly, remembering the love of his life, who had stayed by his side all those years, and who had finally passed away the year after our son Karsten was born. Our Grandfather now refused to leave the old house, although he lived alone, and it was harder to tend to the garden than in years past.

Looking around, one could see why his heart was buried here, and wanted to remain. The old house held so many memories, and happy events that told of a time that was. My husband took me around the garden to show me where things once stood, where happy people had picnicked, and played, and lived a simple life to the full. There were the bars of a playground swing that was built for him 30 years ago, and an old shed where the family would have grilled barbecues, when the great-grandmother would cook—and she could always cook up a storm.

“There are two things you learn to do in this house,” my husband had told me during my first visit here in 2009, “Eat. And drink.”

And so it was.

Mornings, noons, and nights, the family gathered around the old dining table, and a feast was spread. I remember how Oma (Grandmother) would set the table and cutlery, and special ceramics, and watch me with eager eyes to make sure that I ate well. “Pass her more butter!” she would say, and I always felt a little guilty for trying to watch my pre-wedding weight.

And Opa (Grandfather) would make sure that I drank. Upon refilling my own wine glass, he would scold my husband. “Be a good gentleman and water your wife!” I always laughed at this, because in German, eingiesen is a way of saying to “fill one’s glass up”. But one can also say, “die Blumen giesen”, when gardening (“water the flowers”).

Those who had known, and lived through hard times, now appreciated the peace. They ate and drank with such relish. They stored the photographs we had mailed them on a special shelf just for memories like these; they knew the value of time, the significance of a life.

Come evenings, the whisky bottle would already be half emptied, and it was during such an night last week, that Opa told us of all his memories. He described them as if they had happened yesterday, his great hands—burly workerman’s hands—showing how it was done.

He had served in the war as a young man, and then became a developer of large-scale coal mining during the Industrial Revolution. He brought us down to the cellar, where all his precious memorabilia and medals were kept.

“Nikki,” he sighed. “One needs a whole day or a few days to tell all of the stories from here, and to explain everything. It’s like a little museum.”

In this little museum hung a few framed pictures of his past—he had been awarded so many times, with such high honors and recognition. There were also displayed miners’ tools—the old–school kind— plus antique lamps, rare precious stones and minerals from Freiburg on display in a little glass case. He sat on the long bench and explained everything in great detail to us.

“Let’s stay just one more day,” we decided, reluctant to leave Opa, who so enjoyed these rare times with his great-grandchild, who could now converse with him.

Every day, he visited the village cemetery nearby, laid new flowers for his wife, raked the path and tended her grave. His name was already embossed on the tombstone, just under hers. Even death would not part this pair of lovers.

That afternoon, I walked to the cornerstone to buy a new bouquet for our visit to the Friedhof (cemetery), and returned with a bundle of deep red roses. As one must always be cautious of with another culture, I wasn’t sure if that particular flower was traditional or offensive. I asked my husband if it was okay, and he in turn asked his grandfather.

“Of course, of course!” Opa smiled, before revealing: “It will be our Golden Anniversary on Saturday.”

I crawled into bed late that night, to join my sleeping son, and my husband stayed an hour longer to listen to Opa’s stories.

“I bet he’s got ten more years of life in him,” he said, when he finally returned to bed, and I was nearly asleep. “I’ve never heard all those stories before. He always said he would save it for another time.”

If Opa does complete another decade, then nearly a century will have passed before his eyes. He would have seen things we can’t even imagine, would have lived a long, and full, and love-filled life. And even if he doesn’t get that many more years, his gold mine of a life would have already been complete. Through two world wars, through love and loss, through health and sickness, through pain and joy, he had made his mark. He had kept his memories.

It’s Saturday today, and I try to picture myself growing old in that way: still strong, quick in mind, determined to work well.

But I can’t.

Life isn’t something you can fast forward and predict how it’s going to be. Life is simply lived minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day—the best we can.

And if the years permit to roll on and bring us volumes of history to share with our next generations, and the generations afterwards, I only hope that those stories will always be worth telling.

Crave

Sometimes, all we crave are silent moments, which the heart knows but cannot spell.

This original 12×17 cm aquarelle is on sale for just €30, please email nyxmartinez@gmail.com or leave a note below if you have a home for it. And if you liked this painting, be sure to check out my complete gallery here. Thank you!