Tuesday, July 27, 2010


Last sunday I was immensely enjoying the sunday papers* (one of those simple and rare joys of life, where the ratio of cost versus pleasure is deliciously disproportionate). I was minding my own business hopping from one entertaining article to another when I suddenly hit upon one in The New Review by Nina Lakhani which stopped me in my tracks and brought me back to earth rather than with a bump, with a blood curdling scream. The article was so brave, raw and incredible that it tinted my mood for the whole day (mass understatement of both emotive state and duration). I couldn't shake it off.

What bothered me almost as much as the article itself was how sad it made me feel. I dragged around this painful shroud trying to forcibly rid myself of it which only rendered it more weighty. Like wet wool.

Then I thought "hold on a minute - my sadness at my sadness is bringing me more trouble the original state of sadness itself - this can't be right!". And I came to a standstill.

So, I decided to employ one of Buddha's famous maxims which smacks of Regan's 1980s anti-drug campaign but both precedes him by a long way and proves to be actually effective. The maxim being "do something different" to get one out of a mental mind trap (rather than heroin addiction - which was maybe pushing it a bit too far).

Usually my "doing something different" consists of going out alone preferably somewhere greenish and relatively silent. At the moment I am in the mountains so leaving the family fast asleep I ventured into the fresh morning air to tackle a cross country ski track winding its way through a wood posing as a Brazilian rainforest, and next to a river. But clad in shorts rather than skis (seeing as summer is incompatible with the latter).

Striding forth deep it thought, bare thighs tearing through the invisible early morning cob threads strewn across my path, legs smarting with the cold I suddenly realized my mistake. I'd forgotten that positive thinking and sadness are not mutually exclusive. Positive thinking does not render upset illegal. For to feel the latter is (or should be) a HEATHY and APPROPRIATE reaction to certain negative to shocking input (be it actions,deed, articles, news, traumas etc) or material. To feel sad is to be human and healthy. (Where as to feel depressed is a to have a disproportional and destructive reaction to an event which warrants neither.)

The problem is not sadness itself but two other factors;

1) if it's out of proportion (as I once read somewhere - "I knew my feelings for him had died when one morning his reaction to losing a sock was comparable to that of being told he had cancer".)

2) if it overshadows and influences everything else negatively for a disproportionate length of time. Think of deep southern Italian widows permanently mourning, dressed in black and victimhood, sexless and alone until death.

So instead of chastising myself for my unexpected downturn in mood, instead of trying to mentally trick myself out of this healthy reaction in order to mistakenly find respite, I decided to let it in. I allowed the mood to seep through me (like a water drenched sponge), I watched it develop and almost swallow me up whole, but to my suprise it didn't. It started to subside and drain away. Leaving me alone and mentally refreshed with my rainforest pathway and cobwebs.

Walking on the way back is always far more pleasurable as the sun at that stage in the morning has started to peep over the mountain drenching me in its light and warmth and this alone seems to cleanse the mind. Anyway the point being - It's ok to be sad .

That's it folks.

So for your homework this week if and when you find yourself feeling blue ask yourself: why? Once the root cause is uncovered try to figure out if this sadness is indeed warranted, then allow it to co-exist as is simply is. Try to avoid pushing it away or feeding it. Feel, observe and wait.

I wanted to formally thank Nina Lakhani for her bravery in writing this article and to The Independent for publishing it on a Sunday, when more people will surely come into contact with it. It's hard but everybody should read it.

And good luck to Rebecca Moran may all your wounds heal - god knows you deserve it. To read the article go to the Independent website; www.independent.co.uk and look under the section "People". I tried to include the link but it doesn't seem to work.

*Forgive me Italians, I'm afraid I'm talking about English Newspapers which on a Sunday are huge gems of entertainment, knowledge and information - the same cannot be said for the ones found here - please do not take offense. I find Italian papers are all politics, reported speech and boredom. Although the only thing I cannot do without (and I acknowledge it's a completely different kettle of fish) is Vivimilano of Corriere della Sera. And not only because I have been mentioned within its pages!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010


The two guys leapt up, laughing and shouting they hugged each other, lots of pats on the backs ensued and tears of delight. Meanwhile on the other side of the world a black woman stared into the distance, tears of desolation streaming down her face. Why? Are we talking of the birth of a child, the celebration of marriage or the mourning over the death of a loved one? No, of course what we are talking about is football. The World Cup to be precise. The two men from Uruguay ecstatic in their victory the Ghanaian woman seeped in sadness over a goal too few, immobile and apparently impassive to the world around her, to the noise, the people, to reality.
And this is the point is it not?For a moment, for a match, it feels like the whole world is suspended as we channel emotions usually left aside for times of life and death, towards something, as Akhandadhi Das recently pointed out, which is a nothing but an illusion. This is why according to the sacred text Bhagavad-Gita, these crashing waves of euphoria and pain are experienced: due to the immersion into illusion, deciding to live something which is not real. And The World Cup is a good example of this, as it does not touch our lives personally nor directly (unless you are Maradona, in which case tears may be more than applicable). We find ourselves moved by matches normally avoided like the plague (even my MOTHER is watching football, which is synonymous with David Beckam taking an interest in crochet. Ok my mother wouldn't be seen dead with a crochet needle either, but this is besides the point) played by people we have never met in a country which most of us have never been too. We are not talking about the electricity bill that cannot be paid, a promotion at work, a broken bone, a financial gain on the stock market or loss during the recession. The world cup is a dream we choose to dip into. "Choose" ( or "choice")being the operative word. Exactly as we can choose elation or anguish for a match won or lost we can choose joy or misery for all our daily ups and downs.

Albert Einstein said "There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle."

Akhandadi Das in his recent comment suggested that ALL life is an illusion, so nothing is really worth getting so het up about. I agree with him but for us mere mortals acceptance of this fact is hard to figure, and implementing such a carefree attitude is as difficult as goal scoring in the world cup.
Therefore for your homework (or "our" homework) I suggest instead of attempting total passive accepting calm in all circumstances, that we work towards choosing emotions to events so that they (emotions) work for us rather than against us. Especially in occurrences which may seem negative, don't allow emotions to out-weigh the event itself. Remember emotions are not something you passively experience but something you CHOOSE.