I welcome all feedback and look forward to reading your comments. Please be respectful of everyone's voice. My intention is to create a safe, secure place where people can be completely vulnerable and express themselves fully without fear or inhibitions of being judged or criticized. I ask that you respond not react. Practice the art of mindfulness in your comments.
"When one experiences truth, the madness of finding faults with others disappears" - S.N. Goenka.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Everything We Need, We Already Have

“Happiness is not getting what you want, it is wanting what you get.” – Neale Donald Walsch.

I grew up on the outskirts of the City of Detroit’s west side, just one mile north of Eminem’s now famous 8 Mile Road. Our neighborhood streets weren’t exactly tree-lined, nor were there pools in every yard. Instead, it was abandoned lawns, cracked and crumbled driveways, and homes in desperate need of fresh paint.

Tom’s Party Shop was just down our road. It was a place where neighborhood kids went with their pockets flush with coins to buy handfuls of candies or frozen treats. If you were an under-aged teen with a little extra cash, you had no problem getting your share of Marlboros. Tom’s was the meet-up point for our neighborhood “gang.” After meeting, we scattered throughout the neighborhood. Days spent riding bikes, running through sprinklers and hiking the woods. We climbed trees, ate Popsicles and sometimes smoked those shared Marlboros. We had everything we needed. There was nothing lacking in our world. We were simply flowing with a curiosity borne of our childhood innocence. A feeling so intense, that we explored our world with creative imagination and complete openness.

That place, my neighborhood, became a summer reprieve. It was my own little and first established community that provided a sense of normalcy and belonging. It allowed an escape from my father’s heavy hand and my mother’s borderless despair. The only time my mother broke free from the gnawing anxiety and depression that chewed perforations in her soul was when her family flew the three of us to Sicily for summer visits.  

If the neighborhood was my reprieve, then Sicily was my sanctuary. It was a place of refuge. The air alone felt like a warm blanket of comfort. With every visit, I stepped off the plane and took in a deep breath of the sweet Mediterranean air. It was like drinking an elixir that instantly filled my body with life.  Trips to this magical land transformed me. This sacred ground touched a part of me that went unaffected back in Detroit. It was an unexplainable sense of complete and utter ease.   It often left me wondering – was it the constant flow of affection or the life that filled the streets that had me feeling this way?

Walking through the markets my heart just tumbled with an unexplainable love as I watched an old-Italian guy with a round belly selling fish while singing Volare! Laundry hung from every window and dangled across streets, kids in their flip-flops and swimsuits ran through the streets as they screamed to friends up on the rooftops. The sounds of Vespa motors, beeping car horns, and street vendors shouting melded together to create the unforgettable background buzz of our little, Sicilian beach town.  In front of almost every household entrance would be seated at least one, crooked, gray-haired woman watching it all unfold – a reality show right before her eyes. With every visit, all remained the same.

My family’s country villa was located only a mile from town, but was completely removed from the excitement of the village streets. The tiny house sits amidst acres of fruit trees and abundantly growing vegetables. The land is covered with a colorful array of the earth’s glorious offerings. The colors of flowers, bright red tomatoes, sun kissed lemons, pale green pears, round pink peaches, purple eggplants, green zucchini and peas dotted the property. Abundance so plentiful, that we happily shared our wealth with the countless people who walked through our open door.  We lived our summer days under the glow of the Sicilian sun.  Starting each day with a swim in the Mediterranean Sea, in warm water so clear you could see the groups of tiny fish swim away from your approach. The beach was set against a backdrop of rocky, mountain cliffs descending precipitously into the sea, with mysterious caves and caverns that keep you wondering what lived inside. I always admired the scene in absolute disbelief.  Nature has an impeccable way of putting together such vibrant colors in the most perfect conditions.  After leaving the beach, we made our way to the baker for our daily bread and cheese while spending the rest of the day playing in the breeze of the country air. Eating was always an event in itself. Every carefully planned, delicious meal created with an intense amount of zest and passion. Passionately is how the Italians live while appreciating the simplicity of life.

My Italian family made up for the lack of love back home.  A stream of attention and affection were constants amongst all of our family and friends.  But it was my grandfather who held my heart.  He was my idol. I followed him everywhere like a lost puppy. I felt most secure and safe when I was around him, and whenever he noticed me nearby, he would stop watering the eggplants or mixing the pasta, to give me a little extra attention. And with a wink, I knew I was his favorite.

I used to wonder why life in Sicily was just so much better than my life anywhere else. I thought it was the place itself. Maybe it really was magic. That’s what my grandpa would say. He convinced me that our little town in Sicily’s coastal cove was the best place on earth. Now, looking back, I realize that it has nothing to do with its geographical location, and everything to do with the way I lived there. I was fastened safely to love, and was living each moment – in that moment – never thinking about where I’d be next, or where I was before.  Why would I? Everything right in front of me was perfect. Why dare spending a second removed from it! Summer days in my neighborhood back home gave me glimpses of that reality, but it was quickly stripped from me when I walked through my front door. In Sicily I lived in tranquility, peace, joy and happiness practically all the time – and this is how life is supposed to be lived.

Life is meant to be happy. News flash, Dad: humans are NOT made to suffer. 

Just watch a child play blissfully in the street. It’s evidence of how life is designed to be lived. Playfully loving each moment without the preoccupation of anything other than the present. We are love, peace and joy. These aren’t emotions. They are aspects that define our being. There is nothing more we need. We already have everything.  But our mind often makes too much noise for us to notice. In Sicily, my mind was quiet long enough for me to feel that union. That was what I had confused as magic, but maybe that’s what magic really is? My presence with every moment and my firm connection with myself, as One, drew me closer to my truth. This truth connected me to that pureness and joy. But we sometimes confuse joy with pleasure. Pleasure is always derived from something outside of ourselves. It can be here today and gone tomorrow. And that thing that we oftentimes call “love” may be pleasurable today, but it might cause tremendous pain tomorrow.

Joy, on the other hand, arises from within. It is what we experience in those short-lived moments of complete and utter peace: the birth of a child, watching the sun set, the stillness in nature. But because our thoughts are quick to interrupt these moments, we’re only able to appreciate glimpses of our truth. If only we can be there longer than we’re not.  Living that which we are - Joy, Love, and Peace…not just experiencing it. That is what some people call “Enlightenment.”
Remember your moments of joy and magical places in your memory - how do they make you feel?  Are you living your joy or just remembering glimpses from the past?  Are you continually looking forward to something else, something better, something more?  Or are you finding that joy right now? Feel free to share your moments of enlightenment or just contribute by adding your insight.  

I look forward to reading your comments.


Jason Meaux said...

Beautiful post Val!

Makes me want to go home and roll in the grass with my kidlets.

Liking the blog.

The Political Mutt said...

At dusk each night, Italians come out and sit on their front stoops and talk until the last light of twilight disappears. Go to the Piazzas and you will see children playing, dogs running free, and the elders all catching up on the day's news. Then, it's time for dinner. What a life!

Rene said...

I heard about your blog on Petes show and I'm impressed. Great article.

Steve said...

Val, you are so eloquent in class and your writing tells many stories. What a great experience to be able to share. I am always searching for more...for better. I cannot relax and rarely do i smell the roses. i wish i could remain in the yoga class all day sometimes

Cara said...

once again, i am not only impressed by your writing but touched by what you have to say. keep up the good work. i wish i could hire you as my private mentor... :)

Patrick Bauer said...

I guess we were both writing about Italy today in my blog... You and Pete sound like such neat people. I know you from afar through your blog and his show yet I feel like you are both such a gift. If I could I would buy Pete a beer and you a wonderful bottle of Italian red.

kathleen Mahoney said...

I love the way u right. This brought me back to when I was a child growing up n scotland and visiting relatives n Ireland. Mine was a different experience usually cold n raining n my relitives were overwhelmbed with their own children so didnt feel the love that u spoke of with grandpa However I still have very warm memories of those summers and made some great bonds with my cousins. Italians have it right think I may come back n my next life as italian.

love kathleen

Valerie Vendrame said...

Comment Written By: Sala
Posted By - Valerie

Namaste dear friend. I abide in infinite gratitude for you as I hear
your words, share your remembrance of peace & joy and observe the
evolutionary flame you are igniting in the world. It has a been a
delightful treat to accompany you into the pristine Sicilian waters
and experience the joy you held there. I am grateful for the
prompting to recall, in more vivid detail, the lush green mountains
and magical hummingbirds of my childhood visits to the island of my
grandmothers birth. A joyous journey that is NOW urging our minds to
accept more and more of the peace that is always available to us
embedded in the timeless evolutionary pulse of all human beings.

Although our surface minds may observe war and violence in the world,
calmly and quietly, at the same time, something wonderful is always,
consistently happening in Reality. An inner revolution is taking place
and we are being called to a higher light. It is the silent powerful
evolution of humanity.

“Love is the new religion of the 21st century.
You don’t have to be a highly educated person.
Or have any exceptional knowledge to understand it.
It comes from the intelligence of the heart."

Rev Kate said...

The Journey

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice--
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do--
determined to save
the only life you could save.

© Mary Oliver.

Anonymous said...

I am very impressed with the blogger's ability to recall her feelings, both past and present, and put them into words that flow seemingly without effort. I feel like I was going to the store with the pack of kids for candy and smokes. I feel like I could actually smell the citrus fruits growing in the hot Italian sun. Your gift is grand. Furthermore, while reading I was reminded of my own "Sicily". It was not as romantic as the Island, but it did provide me with a safe, loving and stable place that felt like home, or the idea that I thought home should be. It was in the middle of a busy city street and a city alley that was traveled by cars, trucks and the occasional spray painting youth trying to fit in. It was my grandmother's backyard. It was a small, extremely well manicured lawn with a small garden of tomatoes, green onions, garlic and basil. The best smelling basil that ever existed. My memory of this place as a safe haven did not strike me until years later when I was at a market and smelled fresh basil again for the first time since I was a small boy. Once the familiar smell reached my nose the memories flooded my mind just as quickly. I remember never wanting to leave for home. A home that I did not particularly care to spend any time. I did not want to leave the food, the relatives, the stories and most of all I did not want to leave the feeling of belonging. Years have past and my own backyard now lies between a busy city street and an alley. My yard is not as manicured and the garden does not boast as many wonderful foods as my grandma's did. However, it is where my basil grows and it is where I hope that my family will always feel like they belong. I hope we all can figure out a way to bring our own "Sicily" back to our lives every day. Thanks you blog.

Anonymous said...


This reminds me of a trip I took with my friend's family in the late 80's. At the time, I worked long and distress filled hours in a job that was joyless. Worse yet, I had colitis-like symptoms without the solace of a diagnosis or a solution. Test after test yielded nothing. I wondered whether I could even go on my planned trip to rural Istria, a region on the Adriatic sea immediately east of Trieste, Italy in what was then Yugoslavia. I decided to go and packed medications with flip flops, departing for two weeks.
The first morning there, I was awakened by the "pitech" (rooster) who complained that we were bound to sleep away the day. A walk to the ancient village much like the one you described was a sensual delight of Mediterranean wild flowers and farm houses that ultimately led to the town square, markets and cool, winding alleys. In the afternoon, time was suspended in the buoyant waters of the deep blue Adriatic. My friend's extended family embraced me as one of their own (but for the jealous fiance of one of the cousins) and I partook in festive evenings, finding laughter at being "man handled" by my friend's elderly grandmother as she grabbed me into a vice gripped dance. Within about a week, I didn't need my medications any more. Soon, I didn't even need to think about what I ate. And nights staring through the grape vines at the inky sky washed me clean of all the "what if" and "what for" ills that had accompanied me at the start.
Thanks for reminding me to find my inner Istria.
David from Premier yoga.

Judy said...

I feel sad for your father...something must have happened in his past which caused him to feel that life was for suffering...probably religion...


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