Two things: I haven’t been writing and it has been raining almost non-stop for more weeks than I care to count. Yes, we get a sunny day in-between weeks of rain and everyone rushes out and basks in the sunshine with faces of just having won the grand prize. We all walk through town smiling at each other as we pass and I find myself saying to everyone “What a beautiful day!” (in French, of course). To which most people feel obliged to respond: “Yes, but it is going to rain tomorrow again.” I wonder why… it’s like raining on your own parade.

As I said: I haven’t been writing, and I have been reading. At least that is a good thing. Strangely enough, I ended up reading two books about radical Islam back to back: The Looming Tower (by Lawrence Wright) and The Girl Who Beat ISIS (by Farida Khalaf co-authored by Andrea C. Hoffman). It was an interesting encounter because the demise of Al-Qaeda foreseen at the end of the first book (which is about the 50 years of radical Islam leading up to 9/11) seems to have led to the rise of ISIS viewed in the second book. Looming has been made into a television series and I can see why it would make a magnificent one; the book was fascinating and –in spite of all the unpronounceable names, foreign places and shifting loyalties- made for spellbound reading from start to finish. I had often asked –both myself and the people who attended my workshops- what the pilots of the planes that hit the towers must have had to believe in order to commit that act: the book made that very clear. It was a most interesting fact to see how these mostly young men not only believed that everyone who does not adhere to radical Islam as they see it is an infidel (and often that included their own family members), but also that to die while killing said infidels assured one martyrdom. What Wright found and made clear through his book is that these young terrorists go out to kill –yes- but much more than that to be killed. Martyrdom is their ultimate goal for it brings uncountable benefits to the martyr and to over 70 members of his family. Several times in the book, the author reflects the frustration of leaders of diverse groups who have not been allowed (by Allah) to obtain martyrdom. I finally understood the motivation of the pilots and could see that –in the end- it was as selfish and ego-bound as most human motivations. After all, it is Ithe martyr who will live forever in Paradise with all those virgins and be worshipped unconditionally by my family for the spiritual benefits that I have provided.

(The day has gotten so dark that even though it is noon I have the lights on.) In his book, Wright skirts judgment for the most part and just presents the facts as he has researched them. This means that we get to view these young men living out their beliefs without the label of ‘terrorists’, just as we get to see the members of the CIA or the FBI without the label of ‘heroes’: just people, believing what they believe.

Of course, one believes what one believes and this is neither good nor bad. Have you ever tried not believing what you believe? As long as I believe that I want it to stop raining when it doesn’t, I’ll feel frustration every time I look out the window. If I don’t believe that thought or its opposite… if I don’t believe any thought, I will just gaze out the window and notice that it is either raining or not. But the whole matter is very difficult because I believe that what I believe is good, and that what the terrorists believe is bad and that gets a whole set of emotions going. Wright’s book is outstanding in that he allows you to see what every character is believing (and that includes not only the terrorists, but also all the players on the American side who fumbled the ball, so to say, between the different government agencies and thus made 9/11 possible) as they all move inexorably towards the tragic end. This is deep Greek drama: we get to see fate at play through the beliefs held by the different parts. I’ll say no more, but highly suggest reading the book rather than, or at least before, seeing the series.

The second book is the complete opposite: it is the personal tale of a 19-year-old Yazidi girl, Farida (not her real name), taken prisoner along with others by ISIS. The story is told in first person by the young woman who –along with several others- is imprisoned, routinely raped, brutally beaten and sold off several times to different ‘owners’ until she and a few others manage to escape. Here the good beliefs of the Yazidi girls are contrasted with the bad beliefs of the members of ISIS and several times in the course of narration, Farida asks how it is possible that the men who own, rape and beat her can believe that their God condones this. And yet, Farida herself also believes blindly in the dictates of her religion which says that God, after creating the world, placed it under the guardianship of 7 angels, whose chief is known as Melek Taus, the Peacock Angel. Interestingly enough, Melek Taus –who as world ruler causes both good and bad to befall individuals- has once fallen temporarily from God’s favor before his remorse reconciled him with the Deity. In other words, Melek Taus is ‘a fallen angel’ or Satan for the fervent Muslims who follow ISIS and consider the Yazidis ‘Devil worshippers’; they also surely must ask themselves how the Yazidis can believe such things.

Byron Katie calls this believing ‘the I-Know mind’, and invites us to question it and set ourselves free. The ‘I-Know mind’ does not apply only to formal religion, however, but to every thought which we believe. If I believe my daughter should phone me and she doesn’t, I might feel frustration or disappointment. Then, if I call her instead, my emotions will go into ‘attack mode’ and I will accuse her of ‘never calling me’. If she feels attacked, she’ll defend herself by attacking me back (‘you refuse to understand how busy I am’), and we have a war. If I find out that my best friend voted for Trump and I believe that Trump voters are all idiots, I just lost a best friend even if I don’t say anything. What I believe becomes ‘my religion’ in the moment I believe it and –unless I question it- it rules my life as surely as radical Islam rules the lives of the young men who die for it. Both books make this very clear.

The ‘I-Know mind’ is an absolute dictator: nothing can penetrate it; to go against it is like beating your head on a concrete wall and expecting the wall to give way. Believe me: I know! I have one, it decides ‘this is good, this is bad’, ‘this is beautiful, this is ugly’, this should not be, this should be’, ‘he must, she mustn’t’. It never stops, judging, deciding, choosing; making war against, allying with. My ‘I-Know mind’ does this all day long; it’s its job.

Fortunately, in 2003, I learned 4 questions that set me free when I use them to question my beliefs (see:, the first of which I now call my ‘Heart-question’. It has taken many years for the ‘I-Know mind’ to, little by little, fall in love with the ‘Heart-question’ Is that true? Now they live together hand in hand. When the I-Know mind states absolutely ‘She shouldn’t do that!’, the body stiffens; then its loving Heart whispers: “Is that true” and the body softens, looks again and smiles.

So my recent literary journey into the extremes of the I-Know mind has made me appreciate even more than before the power of these four simple questions. And if it is to books we must turn, rather than continuing along with the ego-centered Descartes’ “I think therefore I am” which has placed our frail human reason on a dangerous throne, we might choose to go back to Socrates’ simple “I only know that I know nothing”… except perhaps that the rain continues.





In my last post I spoke of forgiving myself, but recent events have made me think about forgiveness in and of itself. I have come to believe, through personal experience, that the best definition of forgiveness is the one that Byron Katie gives: “Forgiveness is the realization that what you thought happened, didn’t.”

This is true: if I believe someone has done something wrong to me, I can question the belief that they did it to me which invariably leads me to see quite plainly that it had nothing to do with me and it was only I, myself, taking it personally that caused the pain. If someone hits, insults or in some way tries to harm me, I can understand that they are doing the best they can in that moment with what they are believing about me or about themselves (they are striking out against the person they believe me to be, not who I really am). This, of course, doesn’t mean that I will stick around and let them continue abusing me or themselves, but understanding that they are doing the best they can with what they believe in the moment, allows me to see that it has nothing to do with me and therefore there is nothing to forgive.

Voilà an example:

I had quit drinking –let´s say- three months earlier, in other words I still wasn’t emotionally very sober. My mother came over to our house (I was still married then) for supper and she came through the door gaily announcing to my husband: “Fernando, your drinking partner is here because Brianda no longer drinks.” I flew into a red rage MAMA–doubly so, because my husband couldn’t understand what I was so angry about- said a couple of nasty things in a loud voice and stomped off to the bedroom. The thought was: ‘How can she be so cruel’, obviously to me. That scene alone sufficed for years to prove to me how unloving my mother was which, of course, was one of the reasons I was so messed up.

It wasn’t till years later, many years later (after my mother had died, actually), that I questioned that belief, thinking it was time to forgive her. The thought was: she was being cruel. As I viewed the scene, in my mind’s eye, first holding the thought (still rage) and then without the thought (sudden realization and laughter), I saw clearly that her entering announcement had nothing to do with me. It was my mother being her usual flirtatious, playful, man-attracting self that always wanted attention (but only all of it). As I watched the scene play over again and again in my mind’s eye, I felt a wave of love for my mother, a smile spread across my face and a mad desire to run and embrace her took hold of me. I felt so sorry I had treated her badly at that moment. It was then I realized that there was nothing to forgive, there never had been. There was a sadness in my work that day for, when I turned the thought around (I was being cruel to her) I could definitely see that I had been, attacking her directly with every intention of hurting her. But The Work freed me. It freed me to love my mother with all my heart which is my birth right.

Even forgiving myself is understanding that there is nothing to forgive: I can’t know to do any better than I know to do in each moment; when I raged out at my mother, I was still believing all my thoughts. It would be many years before I was freed from this. So when I said in the previous post that I forgave myself, it actually was saying that I1944-1 Poughkeepsie25042014 (2) realized I had done the best I knew how to do with the information I had at the moment and that now, with new information, I would hopefully not repeat the mistake. Slate wiped clean.

So this is what Katie means when she says that forgiveness is understanding that there is nothing to forgive; that we are all, in every moment, doing the best we can with what we believe.

Unfortunately, the person who supposedly (the harm is done, she said, but never specified where or how) suffered the wrong I unwittingly committed, does not feel the same way. For her there is no forgiveness possible. I would not know this for sure (although I suspected it would be so, knowing this person) until yesterday morning when I worked up enough courage to walk into town and enter the café where we gather.

cofAs far as the group went, there was only one person (whom I will call our local Drama Queen because she is always in a state of righteous anger about something somewhere she has found wrong) in the Café and I walked over to say hello. Before I could reach her, she swung around on her barstool and told me she was furious with me because I had fought with the other member of the group and therefore she –the person I had fought with- wouldn’t be coming to the coffee group any more as long as I was there, and therefore the Drama Queen would never see her again. I politely, but firmly, set the story right (I did not fight with her, I made a mistake and she was apparently hurt by it) and told her not to worry, that it would be me quitting the group so the other friend could come. I realized, in that moment, that I had made a decision.

The ironic thing about this scene is that the person whom I hurt and was not going to come to the café any more, can’t stand the Drama Queen who was so bitterly lamenting that she would never see her again (something ridiculous as they live in the same town and if they were friends they could visit each other; but they are not even friends). Anyway, I sat alone and drank my coffee and then left.

WINDOWStrangely, as I walked home, the thought of not going to the café every morning for coffee didn’t weigh me down; on the contrary, I felt lighter. Inside, there was a conviction that the Universe never closes a door without opening a window, and all of a sudden I began looking forward to what might come next. Yes, during the afternoon, I had a couple of down-thoughts (I won’t have the group to buy presents for when I travel any more, and there will be no birthday celebration for me on the 1st of August this year) and a slight feeling of loss swept through my chest thinking of the friend who will not forgive, but on the whole I felt pretty good. During the afternoon, I wrote to the coffee group and explained the situation without going into details, and announced that I would be retiring from the group out of respect for the ‘injured’ party who had been there long before me.

One friend answered, it was the artist and sculptress. She jokingly suggested that instead of a café group we form a restaurant group and invited me to join her and some painter friends for lunch the following day (today). I gratefully accepted, and there it was: new beginnings. Added to that, a dear friend who reads my blog, alerted by the last post, emailed me to let me know she was there if I needed anything. That felt so sweet that grateful tears filled my eyes.

img_5192This morning I went to another café (where the coffee is slightly more expensive but much, much better) and had a jolly conversation with a woman who was visiting from a nearby village (in French!). Then at noon, I met the Artist lady and her friends, spent a delightful two hours and had a delicious lunch. C’est la vie, what to do, that’s life!


A friend asked me today if I thought that some people “love” more than others. Allow me to put the word between quotes because I am not sure whether I know what is meant by it. He, this friend, was wondering if his girlfriend is more capable of love than he is because she seems more giving, more tolerant, more patient, more Fotos Galaxy (205)capable of “loving”. This has set me to thinking all day long: Do some people love more than others? Do I love less than most people who are in a relationship because I lead a single life (at 73, finally) and seem to have no need for a partner? In my 30-year marriage, did my husband or I love more? In my second relationship, was there one of us who loved less? In either, was there love at all, or something else? What is LOVE really, what is it about and where does one find it?

Byron Katie says: “Personalities don’t love, they want something.” For Katie, ego and personality is equal. So I must ask myself if I loved my first husband, and sincerely answer that I did not, at least not at a conscious level. How can I be so sure? Because when he confessed to having had an affair (which had long been over), instead of asking him if he had been happy in that relationship, if it had given him something I was not capable of giving and if it had been terribly painful for him to


break it off in order to fulfill his marital duties, which would have been the loving thing to do, I flew into a rage, threatened to kill myself (I was much too much of a coward to kill him, but leaving him with the guilt of my death would have been the ultimate revenge) and proceeded to drink my way to divorce ten years later. I didn’t care about his happiness or his pain or his needs in that moment and probably not in many others either; it was my injured ego, a simple matter of vanity (there was no question of his leaving me in that moment) and a terrible feeling of powerlessness before a fait accompli.

So, did I love my second partner? I remember telling the Universe that I wanted to fall madly in love, which was something that hadn’t preceded my first marriage. As if ‘falling madly in love’ assured a lasting relationship! The Universe complied (it always does, whether we are conscious of it or not), and I fell madly in love, so much so that I was convinced I would die if it didn’t end. Fortunately, I knew to wait for I had read Alberoni’s Innamoramento e amore, (titled Falling in Love in DSCN1157English) which explains the difference between falling in love and love itself, and promises lovers that the falling period will last little over 6 months if that much. As promised, the falling in love period turned to what I called “love”. But was it? There were definitely things about him that I “loved” –he made me laugh, he treated me with tenderness, he held my hand when we walked together, he made love the way I wanted to and the sex was satisfactory for me…- but everything on my list of what I loved about him has to do with me and my supposed needs. There is nothing about him. So was it love?

Understand me, I am not saying my relationships were wrong in any way, or not normal, but the question of someone loving more than the other has made me ask 1) is that possible and 2) how can we know, unless we can find some way to measure it?  If one half of the equation gives more, tolerates more, serves more and is more faithful, does this mean they love more or just that they need more? If someone says: ‘I want you to love me as much as I love you’, is that person expressing love or need?

“Personalities don’t love, they want something.” If I “want” something it is because I believe I need it, that it would make my life better, more complete, fuller, etc. In both of my relationships I wanted many things, the not least of which was DSCN1155being ‘happy’. But one thing that I wasn’t conscious of wanting became clear the day my second partner left. Even though I had asked him to go, when the time came for him to actually leave, I found myself filled with pain and crying hysterically. I could hardly believe what was happening to me. After having instigated the break was I now to discover that I had made a mistake?

At the time, I had learned from one of my multiple ‘teachers’ that when under the effects of a strong, overpowering emotion, if one breathes into the feeling (pain, sadness, whatever) and out again without thinking but just concentrating on the breath going to the place of pain and exiting again, one not only alleviates the feelingSALIES EN EL INVIERNO 021 but also might discover what is causing it. So I began to breathe, very slowly, recovering little by little a state of calm and then, suddenly, a thought/belief came out of the depths of my subconscious and popped into my consciousness: “Without a man my life is meaningless.” I was dumbfounded and actually burst out laughing at the absurdity! I hadn’t had a clue that a belief like that was buried in me. It wasn’t even “without this man my life is meaningless”, so it had nothing to do with my partner leaving. What was more, the belief had nothing to do with me or my life: it belonged to my grandmother, it belonged to my mother; thanks to my inner work I had finally discovered that my existence was filled with meaning by the simple fact of existing.

So I had to admit that, even if I had not wanted anything else (which is doubtful), my relationships had been motivated by an unconscious belief that without them my life would be meaningless. Well, I had had two and as far as I could see, they had not made my life any more meaningful, although I had greatly enjoyed both for many reasons that had nothing to do with meaning. So there I was, watching my second partner walk out and feeling nothing but a certain excitement at the new challenge I faced of learning to live alone.

Chrysanthemum            Did I love less than he did? No, I don’t believe so, but in that moment I began to need less, to want less from others, because I began to learn how to give myself everything my heart desires. In time, I discovered that there is nothing I cannot give myself. That does not mean I do not receive from others; quite the contrary. I receive and am eternally grateful to the other and life itself for such generosity and abundance; I just don’t need the other to give it to me. When I do want something from someone else, I simply ask for it. If that person does not have or is not willing to give me what I want, I go to the next person

I realize now that this possibility of fulfilling my own needs more and better than anyone had ever been capable of doing (including my parents) gave me something that was quite unexpected: for the first time in my life I felt genuine love for myself and it was the most incredible feeling, it filled me completely and asked for nothing in return; I can feel it now as I write this (realize this) and tears come to my eyes, my cup runneth over. I remember something I learned when first in AA: ‘You can’t give anyone else that which you cannot give yourself’. This is the modern version of ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself’ which is not ‘sacrifice yourself for your neighbor so that he/she loves you’, but love yourself and then offer that same love to your neighbor.

Ok, so that means…. I think it means: give your neighbor the same things you give yourself 1) if he/she asks for them and you can and are willing to, and 2) if doing so harms no one including yourself. So what do I give myself? Everything I give my beloved dog:






Help when needed and I can


and each one of those things encompasses many more. But perhaps it is time to go back to the original question: In a relationship, does one partner love more than the other? How would we know? I don’t think it matters: today I believe that relationships are about learning, not necessarily loving (and they can be loving too), and if in a relationship I learn to love myself, then I will probably love the other enough to let the other go with love if that is his/her desire… or mine.

When Byron Katie was asked why she married Stephen Mitchell, she answered: “ Because he asked. After considering his proposal for over a year and asking all my friends to help me find a reason why I shouldn’t marry him, I couldn’t come up with one, so I said ‘yes’.”  Does she love him? She loves everyone, and he apparently has no problem with that.

So what is love? Has anyone said it better than Kahlil Gibran in The ProphetGibran

Love gives naught but itself and takes naught but from itself, Love possesses not nor would it be possessed; For love is sufficient unto love…   Love has no other desire but to fulfil itself.   But if you love and must needs have desires, let these be your desires:            -To melt and be like a running brook that sings it melody to the night,

                        -To know the pain of too much tenderness.

                        -To be wounded by your own understanding of love;

                        -And to bleed willingly and joyfully,

                        -To wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving;

                        -To rest at the noon hour and meditate love’s ecstasy;

                        -To return home at eventide with gratitude;

                        -And then to sleep with a prayer for the beloved in your heart and a song of praise on your lips.

So be it.


Dec. 5 2011 029Buddha recognized that what made us suffer were our attachments; Byron Katie recognized that all we could attach to was a thought. Although it’s hard to believe it’s that simple, it is. This is something I know as surely as I know to breathe because I have experienced it over and over and over again.2011-2012 034

For instance: I am cleaning out clothes and I come across a pair of pants I haven’t worn all winter. For a moment I contemplate putting the pants in the “out” bag, and then my mind says: ‘It’s your only pair of green pants; what if you want to wear that green sweater next week?” When I had looked at the pants a split instant before and had separated them from the others in the closet, it was because I saw that they were out of date, worn at the sit-downs, slightly faded…  It was the mind: the thoughts about the ‘loss’ of the pants made me feel fear, fear of a non-existent future where I would suddenly exclaim “¡Oh, I never should have thrown out those pants! ¡Now I have nothing to wear with the green sweater!” and these thoughts had nothing to do with the actual pants in front of me. Without a thought, the pants are gone; I am not attached to them ever, only to my fearful thinking about the pants.detachment

It is not possible to be ‘attached’ to a thing, not even to something as close and common as my own breathing. My breath started without my willing it and will stop without my being able to avoid it: it is not attached to me nor I to it, although I may be attached to the thought that I don’t want it to stop.  If I am attached to this or any similar thought in relation to my own breathing, I will probably begin to experience some anguish if my breathing becomes labored at any point, as due to a pulmonary congestion or something. The thought “I don’t want my breath to stop” to which I am apparently very attached because I believe it to be true, will probably produce enormous amounts of anguish the moment my breathing seems not normal, result of which will be to make my breathing even more labored than it was to begin with. So it is the attachment to the thought and not to the breath that causes my suffering. If I suffer apnea at night and stop breathing for periods of time, there is no problem: no thought, no attachment. The attachment is to the thought (I am going to suffer, to die, it will be terrible) not to the breath.

NUBES Y DIENTES DE LEÓN (AMARGÓN) 007The moment I claim it as “mine” (a mental construct called ‘possession’), my breath, I become attached to the thought that it belongs to me, like ‘my’ pants, or ‘my’ son. The mind is that way. As a matter of fact, the mind attaches everything to everything else chaining together events, people and things until we are caught up in a veritible ‘network’ of attachments in a world of distinct and unattached objects (and I include people and even emotions). A friend of mine had kept an old chair because it was the one her mother used to sit in to read (‘I’m attached to it because it was my mother’s’ she’d say when someone suggested she get rid of it). Then her sister came one day, saw the chair and immediately identified it as being an old one her mother had absolutely hated and had placed in the garage thinking to get rid of it. My friend immediately saw the chair for what it was and threw it out: no thought (story), no attachment.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And so it is with every single thing in this fantastic experience we call life. I think of my son and my heart aches a bit with the desire to see him. Am I attached to my son? Of course not! By what means would I be? One might say “my heart strings”, but where on earth are these located? No such thing. I am attached to the thought of my son (the image I have created of him in my mind), whereas the instant before the thought and the instant after the thought I could just as well never have had a son; and for all I know, I might never have had him, except in my imagination; I have heard women lament the absence of sons they have never had as if their heart would break at the loss. Then my son Peter + Betty01052014 (2)phones: I am in the middle of writing this blog and tell him that I can’t talk now and will call back later; later comes and I am hungry so I set about fixing my dinner forgetting completely to call my son. Where is the attachment when there is no thought? So it can’t be the son I am attached to, but the thought of my son and that is all I am attached to.

It is all thought, can you see? Without the thought, there is no son, there is no breath (except when there is), and there are no green pants that are gone forever with the discards. There is only now, now, now and this, and this, and this. The immediate, the perceived, the instantly gone forever: nothing possibly to attach to… but a thought.

So there it was. I went to London to sell my mother’s jewels which I had held on to for over 20 years (ever since she lost herself in dementia). Before she died I couldn’t sell them or give them away (if it had been my desire) because they weren’t mine. After she died, for reasons beyond his control, my brother -with whom I had to share the inheritance- was not available to make the necessary decisions. So, after 20 years of never using (I wear very little jewels and hardly ever the real stuff) them, and having had to hide them every time I travelled for fear someone would come in and steal them, my brother and I went to London, marched into Sotheby’s, and signed away a nice amount of diamonds to be auctioned off in June. So many people had asked me if it wasn’t painful to part with my mother’s 20141108_150733jewels that I had actually sat with myself the night before looking for some thought of attachment that might jump out of the unconscious shadows the moment I exited Sotheby’s without the booty. Having found none I had no problem signing the corresponding papers the following day. What I had not expected was the physical sensation of lightness that enveloped me the moment I stepped into the street making me feel as if I were a form of Mary Poppins without umbrella floating about 1 foot above the pavement. I found myself singing and dancing my way to the nearest restaurant where I was so happy I actually paid for my brother’s lunch. Was this Nirvana?

Did Buddha say that when one achieves complete detachment, one finds Nirvana? Or was it just peace one achieved?  Are peace and Nirvana the same thing? Katie just says ‘Question your thoughts, set yourself free’ or something similar. And what, after all, is Nirvana if not peace, serenity, wholeness, freedom, joy, love, presence, astonishment, joy again and again, right here, right now?radical detachmentOct. 27 2011 001


…if the aspiration is inside a human being to grow,

to find the truth, then (she) will find a way

and the way will find (her).

I just watched a video titled, 212 – The Extra Degree, ( It is a good promotional video that stresses the importance of the number “1”, beginning with the difference between water that is 211º and is hot, and water that is 212º and boils producing steam which is power enough to move a train or a boat. Continue reading


“You can’t let go of a stressful thought,
because you didn’t create it in the first place.
A thought just appears. You are not doing it.
You can’t let go of what you have no control over.
Once you have questioned the thought,
you don’t let go of it, it lets go of you.”
(Byron Katie, A Thousand Names for Joy)

Thinking is something we can’t help doing; it just happens; there is nothing we can do about it. Oh yes, one can meditate and apparently there are instants where thought is not, but what has happened is that we have taken our attention elsewhere and it no longer registers thought. Continue reading