This end of the year post has been a tradition for many years, and it’s for me one of the most pleasurable things to write. This one is pretty long, so gear up, or perhaps skip to the section which is of most interest to you.
Looking back at this 2018, I feel bursting with gratitude. I do what I have always wanted to do since I was a child, and I have a huge freedom which I don’t take for granted. For this stage in my life, I’m fully self-actualized, I’m embodying all of my passions. And each one of them leads me to new paths, new learning, new discovering journeys. This unfolding is a beautiful story to tell, and I feel my life is like an artwork. And I can appreciate its dynamism fully, its ups and downs, its clarity and its drama, because I know it’s ultimately all a play. The comedy of life.
What really became evident for me this year is that beneath the life story, there is the truth of what I am – what we are. This is indeed underneath, it is eternal. It is the calm abyss under the beautiful waves. It’s the clear sky upon the rosy or stormy clouds. It is the truth of the moving particles beneath the apparent solidity of reality. Now I know I can enjoy an external life as beautiful as the one of D’Annunzio, Simone De Beauvoir or even Lara Croft on the level of form, and still stay anchored in the truth of who I am. And if some of this natural love will leak through the folds of life, this is just the best. So simple to tell with words, so much harder to embody on the level of life situation.
I would say the first 23 years of my life I have lived according to what Kierkegaard describes an the aesthetic. The aesthetic life is defined by pleasures. Increasing one’s aesthetic enjoyment is one way to combat boredom. Since I returned back to my Indonesian reportage and moved to Australia, I started building around me a rigid set of rules and routines that could have identified me with the ethical. An ethical person doesn’t simply enjoy things because they’re beautiful and exciting, but makes ethical choices because those choices evoke a higher set of principles.
I feel this 2018 I started moving toward the third mode of life the Danish philosopher describes, which is based on faith and the acknowledgment of the imponderable. Kierkegaard says that faith necessarily involves embracing the absurd; we believe in things that we can prove, but we can only have faith in things that are beyond our understanding.
But back to earth for a moment: here a little chronicle of how I did this year in terms of Journalism, Graphic Novels, Martial Arts and Yoga.
I feel this was the year I reached a certain consolidated structure and method in my work. The first is time-related. I have established the month-long trip/reportage to Southeast Asia at the beginning of the year as a must, which has many great sides. On one hand, I am able to cross path with the art week in Singapore, and, like this year ahead, a Biennale too. The inspiration for the next country to visit is usually slowly building in the course of the previous year. Cambodia for example happened because of a few interviews to Cambodian art institutions I realized for Culture360 and Art Republik, and realized it had very little coverage. Usually at the end of the summer is when I build the project in my mind, and the Christmas holidays is when I do most of the planning.
During the 2018 Cambodia trip in January/February I realized how at ease I have become at what I do, both the interviewing and writing process. However, tackling this new country was a bit like stepping up my game from Singapore, which was so much easier to explore and of course much safer. In terms of organisation, it was a four-cities trip as well (Singapore, Siem Reap, Battambang and Phnom Penh), which made a bit more complicated. Also, I travelled with my little brother, which sometimes helped, sometimes really did not. Ultimately, all the problems I came across were figuratable. Taking out the emotional aspect of it and, dare I say, the drama, it was mostly organisational really. Now I know we are never faced with obstacles we can’t overcome. The lesson for me is that I shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help when I need it, rather that taking useless risks on my own. Everyone has their own conception of risk dictated by their own life experience, however you are the only person responsible for your own safety. Pride shouldn’t get in the way.
I didn’t feel ok for those moments when I felt kind of sorry for myself: I knew everybody I would come across in the streets had endured the most dreadful things that can happen to a human being. If not directly certainly in their country’s consciousness. And yet, being in the situation, I had many moments I thought all that stress and sadness were not worth it for a reportage, and many times I was temped to give up. I guess, the fact that I managed to carry on and go all the way down with it was the biggest lesson for me. Overall, my long trips are never all roses, but they are always worth it. And I have been humbled by the interest and appreciation the articles have been received.
From Cambodia I will treasure forever the big heart of many artists, who opened to me in such a touching way, trusting me even if we met only for a few hours. The past of Cambodia is as heavier as it could get, and it was extremely interesting and moving to learn how artists coped with that or re-elaborated trauma. I was amazed and how they were able to approach something ephemeral as contemporary art when they endured so much pain. I gave me trust in the power of art itself. I will also remember forever encounters that didn’t end up in interviews, but brought me back to beauty at a time that I need the most. And of course I will remember the utter beauty of the Angkor Wat’s temples and the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh. The great food and the feeling of calm in Battambang.
And then one day I didn’t wake up in Phnom Penh, but in my house in Rome. Back in the Eternal City, back to my everyday activities and training, I felt quiet and peaceful. Many of my friends told me they noticed I was less playful, talkative and joyous compared to my usual self. How come I had become so serious? Was I sad? But I didn’t felt sad. I just felt very still, like you do when you are just coming from a month-long swirl wind of emotions. This of course didn’t last for more than one month, then I reverted back to my usual personality.
In 2017, pre-Cambodia, doubts about work and life in general will still regularly pop up – especially in conversations with my friend Rod. Without even knowing we were cultivating doubt together, which is good until it’s too much. However, after Cambodia all my doubts were mostly sorted. For my work I established a rock-solid routine which I wouldn’t let anything shake. As my working space I elected the Roman café La Bottiglieria, a short walk away from home, and went there Monday to Friday. I would work in the morning and sometimes in the afternoon, and then the rest of the day would be devoted to realizing my graphic novels.
In the summer, when I was in Sorrento, I basically replicated my routine there, finding two beautiful cafes to work from, the Artis Domus and Café Diana. The first one is in a garden with beautiful peacocks strolling around, the second in the lively square of the town. It was extremely pleasurable to work from there, with a cappuccino and a piece of cake at my hand. I felt just right, doing the right amount of work at the right time, with the right spirit. The right measure, as Rod would say.
Throughout the year I worked on the huge amount of material I gathered in Cambodia, as well as covering art events and realizing new interviews on a variety of art-related topics for CoBo, Culture360, Middle East Monitor, Art Republik and others, and wrote also curatorial texts. I also did a lot of editing this year, which I totally loved, because I learned so much by working on interviews done by others. As I’m writing these words, I have my last two interviews from the Cambodia reportage to send in, and then I’ll be done with that material.
Another big rock I had to tackle was the Singapore book, on which I worked on since 2015. It had a very tormented history, and because of my freelancing work, I still kept working on it on and off. In the summer I devoted some consistent time to it, and went back and forth with an editor/proof-reader. I started looking for a book designer in the meantime, because I figured that it needed to be published as soon as possible, and self-publishing was the best way to do it.
At the end of that beautiful, prolonged summer which lasted till mid-September, I had a some new crises about work and life which, as crisis tend to do, signalled that something had to change. I took my time to let all the pieces fall into place, without rushing up solutions. I trusted that new intuitions about stale situations will came up, and they did. It took until November for everything to click in. In terms of work, I decided to go to Thailand at the beginning of the year – rather than at end of 2019 as we I had planned – for a new reportage. This time with Rod would come along to film my interviews. I also decided to publish the Singapore book in episodes on the news website Medium and on my blog. This way my blog would have finally come alive again as my own platform. I figured the information from the Singapore book needed to get out there and be shared as soon as possible, and in a book form I would have to wait until May. A self-published book would have also utilized more of my own resources – thus the initial decision to postpone the Thailand reportage. So far so good. I think to publish the Singapore book this way was a great decision, then at the end of the publication I will collect all the material together.
From that moment of crisis at the end of the summer I mentioned earlier, another big decision came up. This decision has been part of a process of re-appropriating of my original calling, after devoting three years of my life to journalism only. Last year I remember looking at the poster with all the characters from my comics I had created in the past. I thought: “I can’t let this die. I’m almost 30, if I don’t do anything about it now, when?” At the time, I sticked a post-it as a reminder in the empty space right at the centre of the poster, saying: “Nurture your spirit Cali.”
It took more than another year to land. In the meantime, I didn’t waste time. Last year I dropped the impossibly complex three-volumes three-styles comic book on martial arts called “EVENFLOW”, to start with a new watercolour style “Fronn’ ‘e Limon’ MAESTRALE”. I started publishing it on episodes (you start seeing a leitmotiv here, I love serials) on the One More Red Naima facebook page. Since it was set on the Amalfi Coast, I also published it on the blog Positano MyLife, directed by my good friend photographer Massimo Capodanno.
Publishing the comic book like this gave me a beautiful sense of continuity, and in the afternoons I could devote my time to explore new ideas and build back my world of imagination. I started working on a sequel of Fronn’, called Vesuvio, but though the watercolour style greatly improved, it wasn’t too convincing yet. When I was in Sorrento I looked at the comics and graphic novels I have been doing since I was 13 and, though very immature in terms of style, they seemed to work so seamlessly in terms of the story, ideas, dialogues, and narrative timeframes. What had happened? I knew my new journalistic mindset has modified my way of looking at the world and organize information, even the way of telling a story. But for the comics I never had a doubt. I know it was about time I’d get my powers back, and become even stronger.
When I was in Japan with my ninjas (another of those amazing but emotionally exhausting trips I’d talk about more later), I knew I had to make a comic book about it. I worked on the structure in cafés in the little snippets of free time I had between training and in the five days two friends and I went around Japan. The plot was basic and heavily relying on the original EVENFLOW. This is why I knew I couldn’t pitch it to an editor. But it was a story that needed to be told in my heart.
To paint the comics right after lunch in the summer brought me so much light, beauty, calm and peace. I would make from two to four pages a days in my room in Sorrento. I’d make sure I was done before the sun would set, so I could do my 30 minutes walk to the beach to catch the sunset. That time made me so happy, and filled me with purpose and meaning. I’d rather draw than tan at the beach all afternoon. Just like with the journalism, the comics were my service to the world. Honing the skills to do something even bigger. I felt good, and I felt right. I was also listening a lot of audiobooks while painting, which put my mind and heart in the space of love, soothing me. From the end of June, when I was finally back in Sorrento from Japan, to the first days of September, I finished this hundred-page long work. It is called EVENFLOW – Fire.
To get it out into the world I decided to stick to the Facebook and PositanoMyLife publication, as well as trying a new medium: the Instagram stories. At the same time I was setting this up, I started to work on a new story it has been in my mind for a very long time, a prequel of another comic book I did some seven years ago, set in pre-war Italy called “Vince Chi Dimentica”. It was the last legit graphic novel I realized, and looking back on it, I felt it was the right time to work on it. I now had new eyes to see the dynamics between those ego-filled, ambitious characters of Eva Corà and Marcello Sartorio.
However, there still was a void to fill. The only person I have been talking consistently about my comics was my great and old friend from the art academy Laslo. The previous year he had started the Scuola Romana di Fumetti, one of the best comics school in Italy. He was enthusiastic about it, and suggested me several times to join in. I must confess I had a lot of resistance. For starters, I got the impression the school was forming well-rounded professionals that could work from major publishing houses, like Marvel, Bonelli and so on. I wasn’t interested in that, I just wanted to do my own gig, in the way I wanted. For example I wasn’t interested in digital colouring or inking, because had already developed my watercolour style. Let alone doing these things for others. I have also been a big proponent of the School of Life philosophy, that has served me well so far in my writing.
However, something got me in. On one hand it was the community aspect. Aside from Laslo and some other friends who were outside the comic realm, I had no one to talk about comics and share ideas. Also, I knew my shortcomings in my drawing skills, and I had my afternoons to devote to that. But for the scenario part, I could use some help. I had a look on the Scuola Romana del Fumetto website and saw the screenplay course was about to start, and they were open to interviews. I was hesitant because the course was two times a week, exactly the same time I’d have my ninjutsu and yoga lessons at my dojo. But I went anyway. I brought also a portfolio with my last comics and the Vince Chi Dimentica comic book from 7 years ago. Just because.
The interview was pleasant, as I explained my necessity to build skills to create my own comic works as an author. I handed the screenwriter professor my portfolio, and he browsed through my latest EVENFLOW watercolour comics: “These are interesting, a naïf but a very well-made kid of naïf… it’s more graphic novel than comics though!” “Well, that’s what I’d like to do really…” I tried to argue. “And those?”, he said. My old Vince Chi Dimentica pages stopped him in his tracks. A group of people gather around and made positive comments about the works. The professor said that by looking at those work he would point me to the Technique of Comics course, rather than Screenwriting: “You are a journalist, is not that you are a rookie at writing. But in these pages there is a big potential you want to develop.” Incidentally, the Technique of Comics course didn’t overlap to my martial arts and yoga lessons. I was hooked in.
It is a little more than one month that I have started the school, and so far I can say it was a great decision. I’m becoming more and more humble about my skills and what I need to learn. And I love having a safe space where I know I’m learning – and I don’t have to create the entire curriculum myself. I have space for experimenting and trying things that might not be in my alley, but where I can still learn a lot from. I’m in a good class of nice people, and the professors are kicking ass, both in their skills and way of teaching. Where else you can draw anatomy while the professor is blasting the Metallica from on YouTube? I’m loving it so much.
Incidentally, my mind dropped down its paranoias and obsessions, and started being filled with best thoughts. The ones of a story for a comic book instead of a fake storylines I’d believe for myself in my own life. I can now see how my need for stories and creation needs to be directed in its rightful direction, in order to not be turned against me. I’m really living my free afternoons in the space of planes and pre-war Italy – the scenario of Vince Chi Dimentica, and the rest of the time I’m practicing anatomy, perspective and character design. It feels right and good, that’s my way of living the dream. My own dream.
My story with ninjutsu is and has been nothing short of love story, and I feel in 2018 we have been slowly approaching the three-years crisis. I started practicing this Japanese martial art in September 2015. From 2016 to the first half of 2017 is was blind passion; I basically spent all my time at the dojo. At the end of 2017, after having giving it my all, I started noticing very little improvement. At the same time, all other areas of my life were crumbling before my eyes. Constantly tired because of too much training, constantly bruised and making my life revolve around the lessons was no way to go forth from that point. Also, I have been in love with a man which, for better and for worse, tamed a bit my more combative spirit and challenged my abnegation. Yoga and its philosophy which I had been practicing all along seemed offering me a more viable way to find harmony in my life, as well as dealing with my relationship in a less aggressive, ego-filled way.
So I decided to back off from it a little bit at the end of 2017. I did it to put my work first as it should have been all along and give a better balance to all the other activities in my life. In January 2018, pre-Cambodia, I had dropped from seven lessons a week to three lessons a week. My sensei was quite upset to see my commitment dimming. After all for the past two years I had been his most consistent student, and dealing with my withdrawal wasn’t easy for him either. What’s more, the previous year I was among the six students which decided to join him for his yearly trip to Japan to train with his sensei, and of course he would have wanted us to get there at the best of our possibilities and with full excitement.
When I was back from Cambodia, back to the mat, this feeling exacerbated also during training, which made me feel discouraged. Sensei felt quite frustrated of our lack of commitment: “You guys should train more, not less.” My friend and I felt frustrated too because at that time we couldn’t give more than that in terms of time. For the first time in years I felt a renewed balance in my life by training less, and I hold onto it. After all, I knew I wasn’t particularly gifted in that discipline, so with less time spent on the mat improvement was impossible. But the tickets for Japan were made, and in June we left.
It wasn’t the only hurdle. The dojo for us has always been a community and a point of reference. Us ninjas are friends well beyond the walls of the class, and as sometimes happen in any social situation, gossip started becoming greater and triggered me. I probably would say gossip was there all along, but in the beginning I wouldn’t care. Perhaps it was a different mindset which I developed in those months, thanks to yoga and other teachings. For the first time I was very uncomfortable participating in gossip. I started seeing everything with different eyes. To avoid that heavy energy I started skipping more and more martial arts classes. A couple of weeks before leaving from Japan, I went back to Sorrento to detach myself from it all.
That june in Sorrento I experienced a beautiful time, but it didn’t free me from my doubts about going. I told myself ninjutsu wasn’t right for my body type, and that I couldn’t improve. It felt that my sensei saw me as helpless, and he had given up on teaching on me. I had lose my faith, and of course without faith in martial arts you can’t go very far. I became uninterested in the crude philosophy of ninjutsu, and all I wanted to do was yoga. The situation with the group I was about to travel with was also complicated. The place were we were forced to stay was described to us by the ninjas which travelled before us as extremely uncomfortable. I could really see no solace.
At that point it was true that we had already bought a plane ticket, but we already had a big sum money to spend for the lessons and accommodation. So I was still in time to give up and not leave. The doubt remained until the very last moment I arrived to the airport. But some mysterious thing pushed me on the plane. I went. Some of the things were far worse than I expected. And some others that I feared turned out to be anchors. As always, I don’t regret having gone that trip. I wasn’t easy, but ultimately it was great. During the first part of the trip I learned so many lessons and got to know the country. It was a lecture of flexibility, adaptability, and manage one’s own energies. And the last five days my two friends Giorgia, Mino, travelling around Japan, were some well-deserved fun and wonder.
Back to Italy, I went straight from Sorrento to the airport and find my way to harmony back again near the seaside. I was determined to think about what to do with ninjutsu only later, in winter. Over the summer I focused on yoga and barely touched a bo staff. At the end of the summer I learned that the gossip had worsened. Because of the inner work I did, the news didn’t shake me. I knew that the only thing that would convince me to stay or to go, was to train at least once and see how it felt. Mental games of blames, intellectual reasons wouldn’t serve anyone. We all had our responsibilities, and how we would move from there it was what would count in the end.
I trained at Kokorozashi and I felt good. I felt the same joy as ever in getting my body awake, punching, rolling and moving, fooling around with my ninjas. The last hesitations fell in November, when after talking with my friend Mino I decided to renew my three months subscription, determined to take only the good from that place. I trusted the unfolding of the events, and see the miracle of my sensei’s attitude completely transformed. He too was able to follow the best nature. He created something beautiful, he transformed me through the discipline, and I’ll be forever grateful for that. We are all learning together.
Of course, the doubts didn’t disappeared overnight. We did two workshops with the Japanese teacher Ryo at the dojo at the beginning of November, and the crisis came back. Later on I met with a ninja who since left the school who feed on my doubts. And yet, these days I have been still on the mat three times a week. Why? First of all, because of the community, these are friendships in action which make me genuinely happy. The second is the attitude of attention, discipline and presence that the martial arts bring into my life. And then I also feel so good training. It still allows me to bring out my more yang, combative side, which won’t feel good to keep silent. It needs an outlet. It’s good energy.
On the technical side, my generous friend Mino offered to train with me for a month. He became an important point of reference in the dojo, as he was able to piece together the lessons from Japan and those from the workshop, to create something that seems to work very well. His drive and attitude are inspiring to me, and I’m happy he gave me this chance to get back into my passion.
I don’t know what the future will hold in this realm, but I guess the way here is to be able to stay with the question. Enjoy the present, for everything brings learning. After all, beyond all the differentiation between human activities, our first activity is to stay present. That’s the only place where good rightful action can spring from.
My yoga practice has grown a lot this year. It is since the summer of 2015 which I started slowly building the first attempts at a practice, on the rooftop of my parents’ house in Sorrento. In the beginning I was just stretching and doing some simple sequences with a Korean yoga app. Then I started following the awesome Yoga with Adriene videos, where I really started getting the philosophy.
Then Cambodia shifted things a bit. When I was there at the beginning of the year I did some vinayasa classes with an American teacher on a beautiful terrace in Battambang. Later on took some lessons of Jivamukti of AZAHAR Peace Center in Phnom Penh. Up to that point my practice was really quiet and chill, it was there that I learned that I could sweat like crazy and wake up the next day as sore as after a martial arts lesson. I also notice that practicing with others pushed me to overcome what I thought where my limits. In one class I hold a shirsasana for the longest time up to that point.
Another interesting thing about yoga is that I drew my brother in. He joined one yoga class in Battambang, and he wasn’t enthusiastic of the long holds of poses at first. However, having him already a training routine, we had fun trying out handstands with the wall in our Phnom Penh hotel room, sending the videos of our attempts to our parents. Back then we were holding a handstand for almost the same amount of time – meaning little more than one second. As for today, I’m happy to say that with dedication my brother is on his way to master it, while I still kinda suck at it, but hey! #slowprogressisstillprogress, right?
I wouldn’t believe if they would tell me, but my brother developed a passion for yoga, especially the more athletic side of it, and in May/ early June we trained together at some arm balances when I was in Sorrento – of course on the rooftop of our building at dusk like in an Hong Kong martial arts movie. He brings an ironic slant to it, so it was a lot of fun. As if I wasn’t surprised enough, he also modified some of the roughest edge of his easily-irritated character, and become super-chill and even zen on some matters. My brother, my mother and I even started going to Ashtanga one or two times a week in a newly-opened yoga studio in Sorrento. It was delightful.
As I mentioned earlier, by the time I was about to go to Japan to go to train ninjutsu, I was more and more drawn to yoga and its philosophy of balance, harmony, and ahimsa, non harming. Which was part of the reasons why I had so many doubts about doing this ninjusu-intensive. During the 15 days I spent in Japan I had no time at all to do yoga, and struggle to find some balance in a tense situation, light years away from my routines. In those days, I’d say my yoga was the tea in the tea room, and going to the Onsen, the thermal station which was awesome – a revelation I could only then appreciate, giving finally value and importance to relaxation. In those times of inner and outer conflict, it was solace.
When I came back from chilly Japan, I just wanted sun, beaches, yoga and meditation. And that’s what I did. I ended up experiencing the most peaceful and harmonious summer ever. Far from all the stimulae of the city, in a natural, friendly scenery, with nothing but the sun and a family meals to dictate my new routine, I was able to reach a deep state of presence and content. I haven’t wrote much in my blog, because I didn’t even felt the need to structure thought around it and analyse it. I only put it snippets of it on my instagram.
My days were even and beautiful. I did my breakfast on the little terrace with vanilla white tea and biscuits, steeped in presence. Counting the beautiful things I could see in front of me, the sea, the coast, the Vesuvius, the roofs of the Mediterranean town and the people who I could see rising up from their beds from their windows. I would read a few lines from a spiritual book – I spend a whole lot of time with Eckart Tolle’s The Power of Now. Then I would go up the building to the rooftop and see the dawn, say my little prayer “I’m of service to the world, use me as your vehicle to bring me more love and light into the world.” And then start my 20 minutes meditation. Then my yoga, with the help of the new app Alo Yoga, and the practice usually went for over an hour. Journalism and Comics find their place naturally,. The beach was a place I’d go a little later, doing my second 20 minutes meditation, swimming, exploring the rocks and diving for the first time with consistency in its abysses with the mask.
I did two parallel dives at the time, which really helped me build new foundations for my Sadhana as it is today. One were the course of the wonderful yoga teacher Talia Sutra, which were all about love. I did a free heart opener lesson on YouTube, part of her course “Love and All Is Coming” on the app, and I was drawn. I felt so good and I knew I wanted more of it. I have always loved heart opener asanas, like Reverse Triangle, Dolphin, Puppy and Wild Thing, and this felt so right for me. The way she taught was beautiful and filled me with love. A the same time I started digging Marianne Williamson, whose audiobooks I used to listen to while drawing my comics in the afternoon. “A Return to Love” really shifted things for me.
While I still hold a bit of paranoia about nature and the people (not completely unmotivated since I was hanging out in beaches populated with weird characters with a taste for the illicit), I developed a friendliness and openness which created connections in a place I had long felt disconnected from. In the time I felt a bit alone because my friends were all in Rome, I remember that I was not alone, but part of nature and the universe. Perhaps it was from that attitude that I ended up making new friends, some of whom I was able to have great conversations with.
Definitely responsible for my transformation was my Mistral. The relationship with him is still very turbulent, and we split up many times over the summer. I still feel he’s the biggest challenge for my ego on so many levels. Our values, lifestyles, style of communication and way to deal with people and situations are so different. It’s the one person who deeply triggers me the most, so conflict is almost inevitable. However, I have an awareness that in our fight it’s the “little me”, who is hurt. There another self which has endless love for him. It is a self which doesn’t judge him. A self which senses no separation, that sees no conflict. Theego contrast and compares, searches praises for itself, looks at his past and present and says “I can’t accept this.” The other self just surrenders. The conflict with him is really an inner conflict between these two selves within me. I don’t know where this
Maybe it’s more about what is defined – if we want to go all the way new-agey – as the balance of Shiva and Shakti, feminine and masculine, yin and yang. With me Mistral is very yin – feminine energy – whereas I’m very yang – masculine energy.. When I’m able to bring the yin side, there is harmony. And yin was what I needed to integrate with Sorrento. Mistral is about patience, presence, friendliness, relaxing into stillness, perception of the little details of nature, abandonment. Whereas I’m all about action, making, creating, doing, movement, dynamism. I guess when Mistral brought out the yang side, that’s when we fought. This summer we found several moments of balance. We went camping in Ieranto. It was rough and we fought and I had a sleepless night because I couldn’t relax. But that experience opened up new possibilities for me, and on the way back on the trail on top of steeped cliffs, I was laughing under the rain, very happy.
Through Mistral, I could find again appreciation for the mundane and little things of Sorrento. I could lighten up the burden of inherited prejudices towards situation that I would deem sticky and boring, but I actually ended up enjoying. He helped me appreciate human connections per se, even with humans I don’t share much – if anything – with. Having this as baseline doesn’t depreciate the deeper connections, it just makes you more flexible, powerful and present.
In that, I kept going to the Ashtanga lessons, sometimes alone, sometimes with my brother and mum, then kept on talking about yoga endlessly at lunch, with my poor father who felt a bit excluded (one day we’ll manage to draw him in too.) I think about Hot Yoga – that’s the name of the place – in Sorrento, as another place of solace, a bit like my dojo Kokorozashi in Rome. Being a super-calm, poised and friendly guy, my Ashtanga yoga teacher is a bit of a role model for what I can see, and meeting him around Sorrento with his wife and kids always put a smile of my face.
Back in Rome in October (I delayed the comeback for a month), I had a hard time adapting back to city life and its rhythms. Finally, I had to let go of the yin and embraced the yang. I kept my morning practice a bit shorter – around 40 minutes of yoga and 20 of meditation, and did some very soothing yoga at Kokorozashi with Aria, my yoga teacher I have been following for two years now. Even before the summer I had some quite deep experience during the practice, and a couple of times I got quite scared. A feeling of deep fear came into me in the form of images from art – my subconscious is apparently into modernism – and at the time I couldn’t understand what it meant. Those sessions were great, because in no other way I could go tap in such a profound dimension, but at the same time I was given no guidance for what it came up. I kept going to practice, but in the following months I was honestly worried of what it could come up. I talked about it with all of my friends, especially with those with a knuckle in psychology, and realized that that fear wasn’t necessarily something tied to a memory, but perhaps a present anxiety which would borrow images from paintings I saw in childhood.
So the second time around that abstract sense of fear came up – during another yoga session with Aria – I was more equipped to tackle it. Overwhelmed by a nameless fear that got me in the guts, I was about to leave the session, when I remember the antidote. The counter-lock. What is the contrary of fear? Love. I remember the lesson for that summer, the experience of universal love. I lighten up the darkness of fear with the torch of love. And I was able to endure the rest of session and came out stronger. Phew!
Helping to moulding that conception of the miracle as a shift from fear to love, was a gift I gave myself the day before my birthday in September. The book “A Course in Miracles.” Many of the ideas from that book are insanely difficult for me to embrace, but others are really resonating. The book has one exercise or mantra for each day of the year, so if I’m diligent, the day before I turn 30 in 2019, I’d have moved closer to a psychological framework based on love rather than fear. Up to this moment I’m loving it, and I’m bringing the lessons also in my trips, making sure that even if I skip yoga and meditation, and one time or another I’d be able to read the daily lesson and write it on my wrist to peak at it during the day.
This year I have also started with my first yoga workshop to deepen my personal practice. Together with my partner in crime Rod we went to Paris, and I did two workshops “The Method: Backbending” and “The Method: Flexibility” at Healthy Warriors, with the wonderful Talia Sutra of course. Her charisma was even higher than I expected. Her firm, focused yet compassionate and loving attitude was really inspiring.
The workshop experience was great on so many levels. The obvious one is that I really deepen in my asanas. The less direct one was that I experience the whole thing as a “no one”. I didn’t know anyone there, I was only in a pair of amaranth leggings and an anonymous black top, the language was different. The only thing I had to do was embody the poses, and that was it. Talking about stepping away from the ego. The second workshop day, we stretched, twisted and sweated, and then fell into a deep relaxation, where Talia reminded of some basic truth: “You are loved.” As my body was exhausted, lifted from the burden of obsessive and ego-driven thoughts, I could appreciate in my body how that was true to me. And it is such a marvellous, precious thing to have a practice which serves as a reminded that we all are ultimately that: Power, Grace, Wisdom, Wonder.