“The original stressful thought is the thought of an I. Before that thought, there was peace. A thought is born out of nothing and instantly goes back to where it came from. If you look before, between, and after your thoughts, you’ll see that there is only a vast openness. That’s the space of don’t-know. It’s who we really are. It’s the source of everything, it contains everything: life and death, beginning, middle and end.” – Katie


There, I said it: “I”. This morning I found myself singing “Thank you, thank you; I’m so grateful” as I walked down the street in the sunshine. I have not been able to write, I have actually not been able to do much of anything. Not sure if it has been because of the miserable weather we seem to be having day after day, or some internal weather clouding over with unquestioned thoughts. Stomach has been off, body tired…

But it is true: before the thought of an “I” there is peace; there is no one and there is nothing: only an infinite space filled with love and that which –in our lack of a better word- we call darkness.oznor

I would want to say “Life is not easy” but then the question Is that true? arises. I would like to say, “Stress has entered my life” and I would be forced to answer the question Can I absolutely know that is true? And I find the “no” surfacing each time. Noticing, noticing…. the emotions, the stories, the fear, the frustration… I question… I… Who would I be without the “I”? The body relaxes, the mind quiets. Often I ask: “who or what is looking through these eyes?” And I wait. There is no answer. Or I go looking for the observer and upon finding it, then ask: Who has found the observer; who observes the observer? And it all goes back and back until once more there is … darkness (for lack of a better word), the inexpressible… that which is not I. oznor

So I walk down the street saying “Thank you, thank you; I’m so grateful,” and instead of writing, I take pictures; I capture the beauty of the world around me (the world is around me… Is that true?). I hang the pictures on my Facebook page because the “I” must keep proving it exists by collecting “likes” and comments. The I that no one has been able to find, not in the body, not in the mind… The I that believes it is grateful… Is it true?

“Thank you, thank you; I’m so grateful”… Even for rain and stress and upset stomachs and emptiness… All that, “Thank you, thank you; I’m so grateful…”




Restos_du_coeur_Logo_svgToday I did 3 hours of volunteering for the French Association called “Les Restaurants du Coeur” or the Restaurants of the Heart. It was the local collect in the supermarket and my neighbour and I were on duty from 4 to 7. I have never enjoyed anything so much! I really thought I would hate having to ask people to give something… and in French! I believed I would be embarrassed and feel badly when they said “no”. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

From the very start I found myself speaking from my heart, approaching each shopper as he or she entered and smiling because I really felt happy; there was nothing fictitious about what I was doing. I seemed to find the words; most people stopped and listened, took the suggested donation list that I offered and smiled back saying they would cooperate. When someone waved me away saying they had already given, I spontaneously thanked them from my heart for their donation which I had no proof of, but why would I have doubted such beautiful people. For suddenly everyone who entered had become beautiful and gracious. I don’t where the magic came from; I felt as if I had just fallen in love and nothing, absolutely nothing could go wrong even if they spat in my face. When they said “no” and refused to take my little sheet of paper, I said “thank you for your honesty” and sincerely felt it; strangely, I did not feel bad for myself, but rather for them not having the pleasure of giving, for I began to notice that all the people who came out with a donation, no matter how small, looked different, were happy, were glad they had given, felt generous, perhaps even a bit proud of themselves. I really wished that for everyone, not that they should give to the “Restos”, but that they should give that to themselves. I loved everyone! And then… the people I met!!!

Friends came and I realized how many people I knew and how many knew me and were happy to see me. Some asked about Salomé, others stopped to talk and bring me up to date on their lives while I continued giving out flyers and inviting people to participate. My friends didn’t seem to mind that I interrupted them off and on; they would just pick up their conversation where they had left off when I broke away. collecte

There was my old French teacher, Annie, who I was delighted to see. She did not look well so I gave her an especially tight hug and asked about her new apartment; she said it was too small for two people to each have her or his own space. Then there was Maité one half of the first lesbian couple I met upon arriving here (I had never met a lesbian couple before, so it was a first for me); she is fond of me, I can tell by the way she always hugs me a bit too tightly and a bit too long for just a normal salutation. She talked for almost 15 minutes telling me the latest about the problems they have had with their builder whom they are suing.

Then there was a lady who goes to the same café I do in the morning and –although we do not even know each other’s names- she asked about Salomé who everyone knows. And a gentleman who I know from just passing him in town frequently and always saying hello, and the lady that used to own one of the restaurants I go to sometimes, and my hairdresser…

But, more than the people I knew, it was the people I didn’t know that gave me the most. A man came over from the checkout counter and asked to borrow one of the large cartons we were filling with produce. Then he returned with the box completely filled to the top with canned goods. A darling little man was about to walk by and leave the store when he saw me, covered his mouth and muttered: “I forgot”. Then, instead of leaving the store, he handed me his goods to watch, re-entered, went through all the trouble of standing in line again at the checkout and brought me a bag of noodles. I couldn’t believe it. I told him he was ‘adorable’ and he seemed to like that. We were just two people completely in love.

A rather scruffy looking tall man sidled over. He didn’t look as if he could buy anything for himself, much less for us, but I invited him to anyway. He said no, he was a store thief and had come to steal some food. I asked why he didn’t register for the Restos de Coeur for food and he got angry, saying that he had tried but they had demanded certain legal papers that he didn’t have and he had decided they were no good (or something like that). He talked on a bit, but as I was busy inviting other people I couldn’t pay much attention to him. I know that the Association is strict and people must have their papers in order for them to receive aid. A while later, the ‘thief’ came back; he seemed in a better mood.

“Are you giving away any of that stuff today?” he asked. I said “no”, we were collecting and did not have permission to share any. I asked him how his ‘thievery’ had gone. He shrugged and with a sly smile, said that it hadn’t gone at all well. “There were people watching; I couldn’t take anything. I’ll have to give it another try.”

“Better luck next time” I said and I really meant it. He stuck around for a while; he seemed pleased that someone had taken his ‘occupation’ seriously. He explained how he hid things in his clothes, or ate them in the store. As a justification for his trade, he explained how the managers and owners of big businesses were stealing left and right and people like him were arrested for lifting a loaf of bread. “And don’t forget the politicians,” I added. That seemed to encourage him and he went back in. I didn’t see him again so I have no idea if he got to eat his meal or take home a few bars of chocolate for dessert.

People kept coming with stuff, filling up all the boxes I had. They seemed so happy and it pleased me tremendously to have given them the chance to feel so good with themselves.

A sort of dark-skinned good-looking young man came in and I presented my spiel. He shook his head and in broken English said he did not speak French. “What do you speak” I asked in English. “English and Spanish” he said, immediately clueing me in with his accent to the fact that Spanish must be his first language. What a relief! I immediately broke into Spanish asking him where he was from. It turned out he was Peruvian and he had come to give a conference for some business (I didn’t really catch the name) in town and he urgently needed a current adapter for his computer or he wouldn’t be able to give his course tomorrow. I was not sure he could find one in the store so I told him that if he didn’t, I had plenty at home and if he waited or returned at 7pm I would take him home and loan him one. He returned a few minutes later with an adapter in his hand: problem solved. I asked him if he would kindly help me take the full box of cans and goods off the top of the empty boxes so that I could get one out and he did. He was a lovely young man and I was so glad to speak in Spanish for a few minutes. We thanked each other and he parted.

A couple of tall, lanky teenagers strode into the store and –in spite the fact that someone had mentioned that youth seldom gave- I stopped them and offered the list, saying that any small thing would do. About twenty minutes later they came out and approached, handing me two small boxes of cookies: “It was all we could afford” they said, looking slightly embarrassed. “Oh no!” I cooed, “It is wonderful, just perfect. We are so grateful and the kids at the Restos des Coeur will love them.” If I hadn’t been so sure that they would feel very uncomfortable, I would have hugged them on the spot!

One lady, when I tried to explain about the Restos, stopped me. “I know” she said, “they helped me out for a while there when I was in trouble.”

“Are things better for you, now?” I queried.

“Fortunately, yes” she said; “What is it you most need and I’ll get some.” I told her some cooking oil would be good and she came back shortly later with three bottles. Another lady stopped and told me she had heard the advertisements about the collect on television and that she did not agree to giving the recipients cans of cooked food. “They don’t learn how to cook their own food that way; it is not right; I don’t agree with that.” I nodded my head and said I found her opinion interesting and that she just might be right about it. Then I suggested that she could always give a bag of lentils or rice and she smiled, and nodded. A while later she returned with two cans of cooked vegetables, so I guess her opinion wasn’t so solid after all.

Experdoniences of extreme generosity, of efforts made in spite of not having much for one’s self, of the painful way people hid their faces when they didn’t want to give or even take the paper, and so much love that my heart was overflowing. As I left, mentally kneeling down with gratitude, I wondered if somewhere along the line I had missed my calling. It has been a long time since I have felt so much love in my heart. How to say ‘Thank you,’ except…. Thank you.


 “The most important decision we make is whether we believe we live in a friendly or hostile universe.” Albert Einstein

20130622_225437For some time now I have truly believed that the most important thing Life had given me was Freedom.  But recently I realized that this was not true: Life did not give me Freedom. The most important thing that life gave me instead was TRUST and when I finally trusted, I found true freedom.

In the beginning there was no trust, there was only fear. Hunger pangs caused a fit of screaming because there was no way I knew to trust my mother to feed me on time. Cold, wet diapers, an earache, a sore throat… everything exacted the same response to make sure the Universe knew I needed something and got it to me as quickly as possible if only to shut me up. Screaming did it until around the age of 5; after that it was being good, studying, not bothering and brushing my teeth even though the sound gave me goose bumps.

By the time I reached my teens, there was no doubt in my mind that this was a Do-It-Yourself Universe and that you only got what you screamed, kicked, worked, pleaded and fought for, and even then, there was no guarantee.

My grandmother, bless her, quickly confirmed this when she repeatedly told me that we lived in a dog-eat-dog world, and that bringing children into it was an act of extreme selfishness. Her remedy would have been –if she had had anything to say about the matter- to put a sterilizing machine on every street corner and ¡zap! every man that went by. My grandmother was a woman with very definite beliefs about what was and what wasn’t and she expressed them at the slightest excuse or without one.20131116_105036

My mother was not given to philosophical considerations like my grandmother, so I have no idea what she thought of the Universe and its workings, and my father several times said that he would rather be cheated and lose than to go through life untrusting. I particularly remember him saying this after being swindled in a business deal where he lost a lot of money.

My father however was not talking about the Universe; he was referring to other people. I really don’t remember him going into philosophical considerations about the cosmos except to say that he was an agnostic, having lost his faith (the Catholic one) early on when God failed to strike him down for all the terrible things he did. My mother seconded his agnosticism without justifying it, and my grandmother –whom I mentioned earlier- was a devout atheist who spoke of God almost every day of her life to declare His nonexistence. My grandfather was more dedicated to drinking, gambling and philandering than to discussing the conditions of the Cosmos.

Therefore I was left to figure out the walks and wanderings of Life on my own and I quickly came to the conclusion that it was heaped with disappointments, frustrations and disillusionments and had little to offer in the way of gratification unless you grabbed whatever chanced to come your way before anyone else spotted it. I remember my father repeating a Spanish proverb that says “Opportunity is bald and you have to grab it by the hair”.

20160803_160514So my upbringing was pretty straight forward: there was no God (no friendly Universe either) showering down blessings; no free rides. Whatever I wanted or needed I would have to work, grovel or cheat to get and, even then, nothing was guaranteed. This is the way I went about life for all of 49 years, and then Life itself stopped me in my tracks.

I’ll never forget the day I interned myself in a clinic for addictions. I truly believed my life was over and I had been a rotund failure throughout. But from the very beginning, the very first day, something strange happened. From out of the blue, a phrase popped into my mind that later would turn out to be one of the pet phrases of Alcoholics Anonymous: “Let go, let God”. I didn’t believe in God; even much later, I crossed out the word “God” in all the AA literature and put HP instead, which stood for “Higher Power”. To this day, I have no idea where or when I had heard the words, but Let go, let God was a catch phrase that helped me surmount my overpowering fear and stay in the clinic for the time necessary to clean my system of alcohol and learn the basic ropes of staying sober.

Repeating that phrase, however, by no means meant that I believed in God or in the Universe or in anything other than my AA group and my companions at the time. I counted myself as lucky to have landed in a “therapeutically inclined” AA group rather than in one of the “spiritual” ones. And the truth was that I trusted no one but my therapist.

Nevertheless, there was no way I could deny that there were strange things happening. For instance: the very first day I didn’t drink I went to bed thinking I would have trouble sleeping. Not only did I fall asleep immediately, but at 3a.m. –the hour when I was usually awakened by terrible nightmares- I awoke with the strangest feeling coursing through my body. It came –I realized- from the enormous smile spread across my face which was electrifying me in the most pleasant way. Immediately I understood: my decision to stop dandelionsdrinking and get help was the way to go. I fell asleep again filled with happiness. Where did that smile come from? At that time I decided that it had surfaced from the unconscious mind to tell me I was doing the right thing, but the marvelment of that small happening has lasted to this day. And then again, where exactly is the unconscious mind?

If I look back, I can notice now how everything fell into place so that I would follow the path I did: the friend I called (a psychoanalyst) had two alcoholic brothers and knew the name of a doctor specialized in addictions; the doctor immediately put me in touch with a marvellous clinic and they had space for me; once out of the clinic I was directed to an AA group that is –to this day- the best group I have ever participated in for its level of recovery (people shared how they were recovering, not how they had been drinking). When I divorced 18 months later, I got to keep the spacious house we had lived in and immediately was able to rent it to an American executive for an exorbitant price that gave me a decent income; the first day I went to look for a place for myself, I remember turning into a street in the section of the city where I wanted to live and seeing a brick wall at the end of the block. Immediately I knew that that was where I was going to live, before I even saw that the house was for rent.

It was in that house that I received the first gift from life: the gift of Gratitude (read “Life Doesn’t Owe You Anything”) and was invited to let new love into my heart. It was then that the idea of trust began to slowly seep in. Gratitude made me realize the abundance in my life and the fact that I had not done anything to deserve it or to achieve it. As a matter of fact, I had not even noticed it until that strange voice in my head brought it to my attention. It was gratitude that actually made me see that I was not going anywhere I was being led. For the first time since sobering up, I felt the deep meaning of the catch phrase that had accompanied me in the Clinic: “Let go, let God”. For the first time in my life I really experienced from deep inside that a Power Greater than myself (as they say in the groups) was doing for me what I couldn’t do for myself. Consciously I began practicing letting go; I stopped grasping, clinging to or longing for things and sort of settled back (nervously at first) to see what would happen.

wall-flowersFor once, I really began to notice that everything I needed came to me exactly when I needed it. If there was something I thought I needed and didn’t get it, shortly afterwards I would discover why this had been for the best, or instead I would get something even better than that which I had wanted. And then the clincher came.

Once I felt sure enough that the sober life was the one for me and that I wasn’t going to slip easily back into my old habits, I made a wish. I wanted to fall in love, really fall in love, like an adolescent. I actually told the Universe about this wish, and then tried to take things into my own hands checking out every possible candidate. I even propositioned a couple of them and was turned down. After a while, I got tired of hoping and trying so hard and I gave up, throwing myself into other things. I founded a women’s group for co-dependency; I translated Melody Beattie’s 12 Steps for Codependents into Spanish and got it published, I made friends with other single women and started making a life for myself. Of course (I can say that now), when I stopped obsessing about it, it happened.

I was sitting in front of the room facing towards the door; I had just finished coordinating the meeting, when the door opened and he walked in. The moment I saw him I knew. Without a thought, I stood up, crossed the room and held out my hand:

“Hi, I’m Brianda.”

His name was Fernando, like my ex-husband; he was recently divorced and had been sober for 13 years. He was tall, slender, well-dressed and 4 years younger than me (which turned out not to be a problem). Less than a week later we were going together and I was madly in love, so much so that I thought I was going to die. Be careful what you wish for!

By the time we had been dating some 6 months and I knew that I wanted to live with Fernando, but I had been to his house and seen that moving in would probably be a fast-track to the end of the relationship. And then, one day, I had a dream… no, not an asleep dream, a waking dream: a day-dream. I was walking down the street thinking of my love when a vision appeared in my mind’s eye. It was like a movie: I saw myself knocking down a wall between Fernando’s house and the house next door. The vision was so real and I got so excited that the minute I arrived home I called him.pansy

“You won’t believe this, but I just had this waking dream,” and I told him about the vision. “I don’t know how you feel but I want to live with you and I don’t fit into your house. So, if you agree, I need to buy the house next door,” I blurted out, suddenly realizing that I was proposing to the guy.

“It isn’t for sale,” he answered, “and I don’t think they will consider selling it as the woman who owns it rents it out and lives from that income.”

I wasn’t worried about details for some strange reason; what I wanted to know was if he felt the same, so I asked him straight out. He said that he did, that he too wanted to live with me. That clinched it.

As the house next door was not for sale, I went around to the neighbour that owned a large stretch of property directly behind Fernando’s house and asked if she would sell me a piece of her enormous garden. She said no. I insisted; she got nasty. That was the end of that. For a few days, I went over and over the possibilities without finding a solution and then, one day, I threw my hands up in exasperation:

“I give up”-I was addressing the Universe or whatever- “If you want me to have this relationship, if it is the best thing for me, then you make it happen.”

And I actually let go. I carried on with my life and forgot about our living or not together completely. Then, about ten days later, I came home from whatever I was doing one afternoon and the cleaning girl told me Fernando had called 3 times; this was not usual as OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAhe very seldom called before night and never more than once. I phoned him back.

“They just put the house next door up for sale. Do you want to buy it?”

Ten days! This was the house he had been sure wouldn’t be sold so we hadn’t even asked. Ten days, for god’s sake! How was it possible? Coincidence? Chance? Call it what you will, there was something at work here that had nothing whatsoever to do with human endeavour.

To make a long story short, I bought the house and we knocked out the wall between Fernando’s bedroom and a room in my new house just as I had seen it in my daydream, and made a master bedroom connecting both houses so that each morning we would get up and he would go into his house and I would go into mine. The vision that had come to me completely out of the blue had become reality through no effort of mine, but simply by letting go.

It was then and there that the element of Trust was born in me. I realized that there had never been very much that I could do, that there were really no decisions that could be taken intelligently as we could never know the outcomes, that my life had been led down paths I could never have suspected and that I might as well trust what was “doing for me what I couldn’t do for myself”, because to date it certainly had seemed to want what was best for me.

Since then I have basically trusted, letting what I call The Universe, do its job with the 20141105_103633least possible interference from me. Today, I look at how things have unfolded without much input from me and I find it hard to believe. Many of the things I thought I would never experience in this lifetime (living in Madrid, visiting Machu Picchu, moving to a small town in France, spending three years on a fascinating new project that got me up every morning at 6 a.m., etc) have come to pass, and every day I wake up wondering what adventure is next.

Since then I have but one prayer (if it can be called that) and that is “I’m willing…” I live with faith and trust in the Universe knowing absolutely that it is friendly and will bring nothing but the best for me. And as I said at the beginning, this Trust has given me the greatest gift of all: Freedom.

And if all the previous proof wasn’t enough to believe in the intervention of the Universe, while I was writing this piece I happened to look over some other posts I have on my blog spot and thought to myself that I really would like to make a book out of some of them. Then tonight before turning in, I took one last look at my mail. I always check the Spam before erasing it and there was omeone who subscribed to my blog. I opened his page out of interest and it was publicity inviting me to make a book out of my blog posts, yes… exactly… I thought the same.




You often say, “I would give,

but only to the deserving.”

                               The trees in your orchard say not  so,

nor the flocks in your pasture. (Kahlil

Gibran, The Prophet)



Recently I worked with someone who was upset because her life had become so happy and she couldn’t seem to enjoy it. She believed she didn’t deserve any of the happiness that was coming her way. So her thinking was that she should know she deserved it 1) just because she was alive and 2) because she had “suffered” so much previously. The fact was that she couldn’t enjoy what life was giving her because she believed she should feel entitled to it. Her thought went something like this: “I am angry because I don’t believe I deserve all the good things I am receiving in life.” It was a double whammy! She wasn’t enjoying what she was getting and on top of it, she was punishing herself for not enjoying it. So I went for the jugular.

“So you deserve what you are getting in life, is that true?” and then proceeded, internally to do my own Work.untitled

How do I react when I believe that I deserve all the good life gives me? What happens when I believe that either my previous suffering or my hard inner work has earned me the blessings that are showering down on me day after day? Oh, how the Ego loves that! Oh, how it puffs up! I earned this; I am doing it right. Or perhaps it turns judgmental and feels it is about time it got something good! After all I have done, after everything I’ve been through, how can life treat me like this! What the Ego doesn’t do is feel grateful, and gratitude is the attitude (rhyme on purpose) that fills me with joy.

applesTo begin with, I didn’t do anything to deserve being born; I wasn’t even chosen. I just happened, popped into life so to speak, and there I was. I did nothing either to be loved and cared for and not left to die the moment after arriving. As a matter of fact, I did all the opposite. I screamed for food or warmth or comfort or attention; I peed and pooed my diaper making a stinking mess; I didn’t let my parents get any real sleep for a long time after coming and, later on, I ignored their wishes at every opportunity and did whatever I pleased. Besides that, I never thanked them for a thing; quite the reverse, I blamed them for every little supposed “trauma” that I believed I had (until I stopped believing that traumas actually exist). Seen with clarity, I didn’t even deserve to live. If any parents were in their right mind, they would do us in immediately after birth if they had the bad luck to get pregnant and allow that state to evolve, ungrateful little wretches that we are!

Oh, but I was sooooo cute! Really! Drooling on my mother’s silk blouse, making tooth marks on the gold locket my father had just given her, being born with four toes on my left foot so that my parents had to spend a fortune making sure both my legs were more or less the same length when I grew up. Wetting my bed stubbornly until I was eleven… What was cute about me?images

And after the age of six, when I fell absolutely and uncontrollably in love with the idealized image of my father, I treated my mother like a second class citizen. I made it so obvious that I didn’t want her along on our walks that most of the time she would let me go alone with my father; later, I decided she was beautiful but stupid so I would be intelligent and win my father’s love away from her. Many a night while my mother went to bed, I sat up with him discussing important things that she wouldn’t understand. And I did my mother the favor of hating her because she wouldn’t let me have him. My poor mother! What had she done to deserve me as a daughter?

And my mother wasn’t the only one I couldn’t stand. I didn’t even go near my little brother, who was six years my junior, except to torture him and make him cry. I remember one day in a doctor’s office, I wouldn’t stop picking on him and my mother finally got so desperate she lost her temper and slapped me across the face. Of course, I never forgave her for that one time or understood her desperation. Arrogance was my middle name: I definitely deserved a different mother or perhaps no mother at all so I could have Daddy all imagesY6UE8290to myself. Now I know that if I deserved anything it was that slap and many more!

But somebody somewhere seems to have come up with the strange idea that we deserve everything good simply because we exist or that we don’t deserve anything because we haven’t lived right. Ha! And then when we get the good things, we can’t really enjoy them because we can’t figure out what we have done to deserve them. And, unless we judge them –which we do sometimes- neither can we figure out what someone else has done to deserve his or her “ghastly” life. Well the answer, at least in my case, is NOTHING.

That is why, that signal day, when I couldn’t understand why I was so miserable when I had done everything I knew to do to be happy, my thinking was exactly that: having done the work, I deserved the prize (happiness) and Life wasn’t doing its job! So Life finally sang it to me as it was: Brianda, Life doesn’t owe you anything.images75TMJUY2

Since then I live mentally (and sometimes physically) on my knees in gratitude for all I have received, never having once done anything to deserve it. Or as Kahlil Gibran says in The Prophet: “For in truth it is life that gives unto life –while you, who deem yourself a giver, are but a witness.”



stone gratitudeTwo messages received during my birthday celebration have stuck in my mind: one said, “That’s right, be happy” and the other thanked me for reminding its author of the importance of gratitude.

I have often told the story of how I awoke to gratitude, so bear with me as I repeat it briefly.

After my divorce I couldn’t stop crying and I was so sick of feeling miserable when all I wanted was to be happy, that one day I fell to my knees and asked a God I didn’t believe in what it was exactly that was I doing wrong to feel so unhappy. Nothing happened, so I gotcrying up and began fixing my makeup. Then, I heard a voice –it wasn’t my voice and it wasn’t a thought- it was an unknown, somewhat masculine voice in the space I call my mind, and it said: Brianda, life doesn’t owe you anything. That was all, and it was enough. The realization that I had spent my whole life looking at what I didn’t have instead of being grateful for what I did have was immediate. My thought: ‘Life gave me life, all the rest is gravy’ sent me racing around my house like a madwoman thanking every object that I owned: stairs, roof, sofa, fridge, walls, rugs, tables, books… everything. When I finished, I was so happy I hardly fit in my own skin.

imagesSC3S7QKCSo, for me, the path to happiness is gratitude. Those five words (life doesn’t owe you anything) are the most important thing that has happened to me in my life, bar none.

This morning, as I walked to coffee with Salomé, I tripped over a cable lying across the path and went flying forward, falling with all my weight on my right arm and hip. A man rushed imagesIWIXEE3Aforward and, grabbing my arm, tried to pull me up. Why do some people think that pulling you right up is the best thing to do? Could it be that they are embarrassed for you lying there on the pavement? I was actually feeling very grateful for the solidity of the street that was allowing me to be very still for a moment and mentally check if there was anything broken. It felt so good to just not move and simply go from limb to limb mentally gathering myself together.

I noticed I had skinned my arm right below the wrist and it was bleeding. I showed the man (who was standing over me looking extremely worried) and said, “This is all that has happened, nothing broken … isn’t that good?” Actually, I didn’t mind at all being on the 20130718_173248ground (Salomé didn’t seem to mind that I was there either; she was just sitting on the side observing the whole scene) but the man seemed so upset about a woman fully dressed, with earrings and all, just lying there on the street that I thought I would try to ease his mind by making an effort to get up.

It was a very slow process, but every time he tried to help I discouraged him; something told me that it was important for my body to do this by itself, at its own pace. Slowly, I pulled myself together and up. The man looked less worried and actually smiled. Then he pointed to my arm that was bleeding a bit. I dug into my handbag (it had not even fallen off my shoulder) and, giving him a big smile, produced a kleenex with which to stem the bleeding (really not much at all). I thanked him for being so willing to help and walked the rest of the way to the Café for my morning coffee and a chat with my friends.pansement

Upon arriving, I showed Rose, the owner, my damaged arm and she produced a Band-Aid (in French, pansement, so I learned a new word too). All was well; I had my coffee and walked home again, this time without coffee-cups_00367940.jpgfalling. Ahh, so much to be grateful for!

Happy birthday to me, Feliz cumpleaños a mí… Joyeaux Anniversaire a moi, Feliz cumpleaños Happy birthday to ME!!!

What a birthday!!! Let’s do it again!!!  I am still savoring it. 13669571_1047155385369805_4993947718874278850_n

Not too long ago, birthdays were usually celebrated with family and maybe a few friends. Today there is INTERNET!!! Skype tells everyone on your Contact list that it is your birthday and invites them to help you celebrate by –what else? – giving a gift of Skype credit for phone calls. Facebook sends all the people you have ‘friended’ an email reminder that you are celebrating a birthday and then sends you a notice of those that congratulate you. Afterwards, Facebook tallies up the final score on your FB page so that everyone can see how popular you are or aren’t.

13879373_10207828128555189_7987522197833662195_nThanks to Whatsapp, saying Happy Birthday with many smiley faces and clapping hands is more than easy and can be done in less than a minute, so the phone just keeps whistling all day long to let me know another message has been received.

And to top it off, when I sat down at my computer and opened Google, lo-and-behold, my search page sported a series of birthday goodies. For a split second I thought it might just be a coincidence so I placed the cursor over the display and clicked: “Happy Birthday, Brianda my birthday (2)appeared on the screen. Now that is a first! I truly must exist if even Google thinks so! It makes me feel soooo connected! All day long, if I wanted to check to see if I was real, I could return to the Google page and get another birthday greeting.

Then, of course, there were the advertisements: websites that I have visited and registered at that sent me all sorts of invitations to give myself their products for my birthday. So kind of them to think I 13912591_1657263811267272_8661916408328722376_nmight need something on this special day.

All this attention helped me to understand the ease with which people become addicted to internet. If someone feels lonely, they can click on internet; if they are jilted by the love in turn, they can turn to internet; if there is a celebration they wish to share and nobody around seems interested they share it on internet… Then they get responses from people they can’t even remember or perhaps have never met, but who are there (apparently), loving them (apparently), thinking of them (for at least a few seconds) and the momentary feeling is of no longer being lonely or left out of the world. And, of course, they are there even if –like me- you don’t feel lonely or left out of anything.13921031_10210201599856043_5559419092677839889_n

It was absolutely fascinating and I spent most of my day saying thank you (in three languages) to so many people that sent me wishes and pictures, not only thanks to the Social Media on internet, but also because I had made no secret of the fact that it was going to be my birthday. Many years ago, I decided that waiting to see who might remember my birthday was an exercise in self-torture. Since then, I celebrate my own BIRTHDAY, after all it is MY day (and I could question that belief!!!), and I enjoy letting everybody know. I don’t expect them to remember: I remind them when I see them. It is kinder to them and to me.

petit foursMy group of morning coffee friends organizes birthdays for everyone. The plan is always the same: the birthday person brings the goodies (a cake, a pie, croissants or whatever) and pays for everyone’s coffee (everyone who is sitting at the birthday table, of course). In return, the celebrated one receives a lovely card filled with 10€ bills collected amongst all the celebrants and gets to spend it on a gift of her choice (only the girls get celebrated, but the boys get to put their money in too, heh-heh). This year, one of my friends had already taken my usual offering (lemon meringue pie) so I settled on petit-fours and they were a great success. And when I went to pay for the coffee, the owner –Rose- told me that no, she was paying as a birthday present for me. What a generous world!!!

And the fun kept on going. On the way home from coffee, a trio of my favorite people sung13892099_10207085290626583_4880492004903632853_n me Happy Birthday right in the center of Salies. When I got to my apartment, my kids and grandkids called or sent messages, and I received the most beautiful letters from a few friends thanking me for things that have given me so much pleasure to do that I certainly never expected any gratitude in return.

And the surprises continued! At lunchtime, I went to my regular restaurant and ordered exactly what I felt like eating: a hamburger. When I was finished, I checked my body to see if there was space for a birthday desert. There was a little so I considered a “Café Delice” which is coffee with all sorts of sweet tidbits. I could ask which ones were served cafe gourmandand only order it with one or two tiny sweets. I was considering this when the owner and chef, Melanie, came out carrying…. a Café Delice with four tiny replicas of my two favorite desserts on it: crumble with caramel ice cream and lemon meringue pie (her special recipe). She then proceeded to sing me Happy Birthday in French and everyone in the restaurant clapped. When I went to pay b daythe bill, there was no desert or coffee on it.

So, there it was: gifts left and right, more birthday wishes than I had ever gotten or that I would ever have imagined getting in my whole life and a very happy, happy birthday with Google to keep right on reminding me all day long!

Can’t wait to see what happens next year with the big



imagesMD9V91XOTwenty-four years ago today I woke in the morning and my first thought was: ‘I’d rather be dead’. Then, I remembered what had happened the night before. This was the miracle. It was the very beginning of a new life; I didn’t know it then, but I had just been reborn.

imagesFMMAHHCRWhy do I say that the miracle was remembering the horror show of the previous evening? Because, given all my past experiences, I shouldn’t have: I had had a blackout.

I want to explain what this is for the benefit of all those lucky people who have never had one. A blackout happens –sometimes, not always- after a certain amount of alcohol has entered your system and, instead of getting drunk and passing out (which is the other possibility), the memory center in your mind shuts down completely -the movie being projected never reaches the screen- as if suddenly the lightsuntitled had gone out. But the lights do not go out, not for you or for anyone else; the movie continues being projected, but the memory screen in your mind does not receive the images. This may happen untitled3 (2)while you are sipping your umpteenth cocktail before dinner or just as the dessert is placed in front of you on the table. At that moment, whatever it is that, in your brain, receives the movie so it may project it back for you the following morning, shuts down, blacks out, so to say. But you continue functioning as if nothing had happened; you are not aware that the receiver of memory has shut down. You finish your dessert, you converse or fight with someone, you thank your hostess and leave as if you were fresh as a daisy and then you insist on driving home because it is clear that your husband has had too much to drink.

images      The following morning you remember that last instant, say, when they put the dessert in front of you and then nothing, absolutely nothing, until the moment you wake up; there is a black hole in your personal history which you will never fill, a stretch of time during which a chapter in the story of your life is omitted. You have no idea who you fought with, how you managed to drive home, if anyone noticed. There was not one morning after a blackout that I did not awake terrified of asking what I had done the previous evening. Sometimes it was terrible; sometimes –surprisingly enough- no one had even noticed that I was drunk. But even on those luckier occasions, the horror of having a black hole in one’s existence is no less. I had long since given up the hope of ever recovering even a second of that lost time.untitled5

By that morning of the 26th of March, twenty-four years ago, I had been having blackouts for a long time, and they were becoming more and more frequent. On the previous evening, my husband and I were at our own personal bar at home and I was mad at him, so I had decided to get blind drunk to show him (I am not even going to try to explain the alcoholic logic of that thought). The last thing I remember before the blackout was a slow, festering anger and this illogical decision. That should have been all until the following morning, but it wasn’t.

untitled6            Around 3a.m., for reasons I will never be able to explain, I suddenly snapped out of the blackout and saw myself. I was standing on one side of our king-size bed, glass in hand, vomiting insults expressed in the vilest language possible from my mouth. My husband stood on the other side of the bed and I will never forget the pained look of despair on his face as he reached for the gun he kept under the mattress. I ran from the room, locked myself in the bedroom that had been my son’s when he lived with us, and went to sleep.

That was the scene I remembered the following morning when my only thought was ‘I’d rather be dead’. That was the miracle I needed: to wake up and see myself, to see what I had become and the hopelessness of the life I was leading. I felt dead, hollow inside, beaten.

I dragged myself out of bed and called a friend who was a psychoanalyst. When she answered, I uttered the understatement of a lifetime: “I think I have a problem with my drinking”. She set up an appointment with a doctor specialized in addictions who, in turn, called the clinic where I ended up the following Monday the 30th of March. I thought I was dying; actually I was being born.imagesXX3Z5KNF

Today, 24 years later, I can look back on the simple miracle of a moment of memory that gave me new life.





“For an answer, go to the place where there is no thought and listen.”-Katie

The world is what it is, it’s neither good nor bad, it’s not happy or sad; it just is. There is no should or shouldn’t. There is no ‘I would rather…’ It’s either cloudy or clear, day or night, rain or shine and neither is better nor worse than the other. In this instant, which is all there is, that is what is… and you are perceiving it, you are the perceiving. Look, witness, be.


Watch. Be still. Everything changes. By the time you think “now”, it is gone; it is already a story of the past. Remember the saying ‘go-with-the-flow’? That is the only Now: the flow.


Be still, perceive, let it flow in and out, in and out. Sounds, sensations, colors, shapes. Feel, see, hear, smell. Who? What? Who or what perceives? Close your eyes. Find the Perceiver.


Did you find it, the perceiver? Good. Now, who did that? Who or what perceived the perceiver? Find that one. Oh, yes… there it is, found it! Fantastic! But… who or what perceived the perceiver of the perceiver?


Are you beginning to see? Really see? You can never, NOT EVER, see or find the Who or What that you are. The self cannot contemplate the self. The Perceiver can never find the Perceiver. The Perceiver can only perceive what it is not. There is only the possibility of experiencing its presence through what it perceives, through the very act of perceiving.

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Almost 60 years ago, I saw. I was an adolescent. An adolescent knows nothing; an adolescent has so little experience. Perhaps, an adolescent is open to whatever because it knows it does not know and becomes curious. To be curious is to be. So, that night, I turned off all the lights in my room and looked.

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There was still a glow from the street lights. Therefore, I covered my eyes with my hands to shut out all possibility of light. There was no question posed, I was not looking for an answer to anything, there was no goal, spirituality wasn’t even a word in my vocabulary. I have no idea why I did what I did. Curiosity was alive in me. So, I covered my eyes. Then, with the lights off and my hands tightly blocking any glow, I opened my eyes again and looked. Then I saw, I perceived with an intensity that left no doubt. For an instant, I sat in wonder just looking. And then the mind came in and named it: There was absolutely nothing in between the Cosmos inside and the Cosmos outside.


Of course, by putting it into words, I have turned the pure experience into a thought, but in the instant I experienced it, there was no thought so I knew it to be true.  I told no one about this experience, but I have never forgotten it and that infinite cosmos, inside and out, is a space I can always go to when I believe that reality should be different than it is.