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Learning to OBSERVE

Before starting the Pastamadre project, I studied and worked for 20 years in the field of contemporary art, because one of my biggest drives in life has always been to find the deeper meaning of things.

Whenever I use my hands to create something, whether it is a work of art or a plate of freshly made pasta, I am always investigating the deeper nature of us as human beings and the mystery of life.

When preparing food with my friends or the participants of my courses, it happens very often that the conversations become profound and we ask ourselves the big questions of life.

Not too long ago, on one of these occasions that arise spontaneously, a dear friend, whom I was telling about the big change that has taken place in my life in recent years, asked me: "Yes, it sounds wonderful what you're telling me, but where do I start when I don't even know who I am?"

From my own experience I have learned that it is not possible to answer such a profound question in a conceptual way, but that only through a series of direct experiences can we learn who we really are and how the nature of our mind works.

For this reason, I offered her a small "vademecum" with daily exercises that could help her to discover the many aspects that determine our way of being and living.

I am now sharing these reflections and exercises with you in the hope that they may inspire you too. Who am I really? How can I find it out? Start by "observing".

You can observe that you have a mind (thoughts) and a body (perceptions) and that you can perceive an additional area, the heart, within you. This area moves "things between the head and the body" and we call these 'movements' emotions.

Through the act of observation you can discover that you are not only your thoughts, your body or your heart, but that you are something that goes beyond this and that can observe the 3 aspects mentioned.

How do these three parts work together? When You are not using your mind to deal with what is needed at that moment, the mind (thoughts) usually travels between the past (memories, regrets, judgments, etc.) and the future (speculation, risk analysis, planning, etc.)

Whenever I “consciously” recall one of these thoughts (positive or negative), I can observe what happens in my body. Every thought triggers an automatic/unconscious sensation in the body that is based on previous experiences. The sensation in the body in turn triggers an emotion:

  • A negative thought usually causes feelings of contractions and tensions in the body therefore perceived as negative emotion.

  • A positive thought causes feelings of openness and relaxation in the body therefore is perceived as positive emotion.

This is, of course, a rather simplified and basic theory of how humans function.

Be that as it may, my invitation is not to take my words for good, but to find out through your own observation whether these "rules" also apply to you!

Very often we look for the answers to existential questions in our mind and think over and over again, forgetting that it is impossible to find a "complete and authentic" answer if we forget to ask our body and heart. The body and heart are actually constantly sending us "signals and information" that we all too often ignore as they often contradict what the head is saying.

Consciously bring attention to the body from within and notice if you can feel your body from within.

Ask yourself: What do I sense and perceive right now in my body? What can I feel now, where?

DO NOT THINK about the body but FEEL it from within!

What you observe and notice is critical information to understand who you are, how you are conditioned, which automatic patterns-reactions you experience, which are your emotional triggers.

Without that information it is like wanting to build a house without knowing how the materials you want to use work. You “are made” not only of a head, but also of a body and a heart. Look with curiosity at what you discover there.

Observe with kindness.

This is a daily practice. Anywhere, whenever you can is a good moment to do it.

Do it for example while you are engaged in your kitchen, preparing food.

Stop for 2 deep breath and ask yourself: What do I feel now, at this very moment in my body? Observe what you might notice.

It's amazing how many "things" we can discover when we start to observe ourselves from the inside! It is an exercise that requires a lot of patience and courage, because we are not used to doing it and usually what we don't know scares us.

Be kind to yourself... learning to "observe" requires a lot of practice, this is basically the practice on which mindfulness meditation is based.

Have a good practice and remember, always with you on the journey!

With much love


P.S. If you would like to learn the practice of "conscious observation" with us, find out about our upcoming courses #BeyondRecipes Cooking as a Mindfulness Practice here


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