Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Sow the Seeds of Love

The world is not for those wise of mind but for those wise of heart.

Although it may appear that the wise of mind rule, it is with the heart that we plant seeds of love and spread kindness to one another.

Seasons come and seasons go and the growth of our seeds may be threatened but if we tender to them well and offer them shelter from harsh conditions, we can protect our crops and eventually harvest the fruits of our labour.

When love truly resides within our soul, there is very little anyone can do to ever destroy it. Sometimes, it may feel like it waivers, like it’s absent for a moment or two but the flame never dies. We find our inner strength when we need it the most, when we trust in ourselves most and when we find that every answer we ever needed is contained within ourselves.

It is in love that we extend our hands to one another as brothers and sisters sharing one world where we all reside; breathing the same air, sharing the same oceans, admiring the same beauty of magnificent flora and fauna.

Nothing makes our enemy despise us more than to see our resilience and yet, in truth, we have no enemies because we are all the same. We are ever changing. We are ever evolving and with love we can ever evolve our relationships with those around us.

Ignorance: the lack of information is the root of all our differences. Knowledge: is power. Inner knowing, inner recognising and inner truth bring us closer together and make us see each other for who we were, who we are and who we will be. You and I are one and the same.

We come into this world the same way. We are made of the same substance. We cry the same when we are sad, we bleed the same when we are wounded and one day we all come to pass.

Our time on earth is too precious to waste on futile pursuits that drive us further apart. There is much to be learned in sharing, in proximity, in communication and in co-existence. There is a difference between arguing and debating. One leads to destruction, the other leads to construction.

We gain so much more by freely giving and freely receiving from others than by fighting or by clinging to that which we cannot or will not ever possess of free will.

If I can call you friend and if I can call another friend a friend then you can call my friend a friend too, because we all share common ground.

May 2010 bring peace, love and prosperity to you all.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Lies, Lies, Lies ...

Throughout my whole life, I’ve found myself somehow blessed (or cursed) to be fitted with a kind of innate lie detector. Yet the older I get, the more attuned it seems to be.

Every time I hear a lie – even if it’s a little white one - it’s almost as if a string of red lights start flashing at the back of my eyes and a stream of alarm bells, similar to those of Notre Dame, start ringing inside my head. My whole body starts to oscillate very subtly as if it’s on a frequency of its own.

Although I smile politely and say nothing - as if I believe every word I’m being told - I cringe to the very core of me. My teeth shudder and my bones feel that same eerie discomfort as they do when someone scrapes their fingers along a board of polystyrene.

In my younger years when I didn’t really know what I was dealing with, I use to find it very painful and uncomfortable; especially if the person telling the lie(s) was a loved one or a friend. Nowadays, although it’s still painful to an extent, I just accept it as a part of every day life.

Let’s face it, at some point we’ve all lied about something. We might have lied at a job interview just so we could land the job of our dreams. We might have lied on a first date just to make a good impression. We might have lied to our parents when we snuck out one day. We lie to ourselves all the time when we lead ourselves into false believes. The biggest lie of all is when we say: “We never lie.” We may not like to admit that we do or we may be so self-conceited that we convince ourselves that we don’t; but we all do at some point. It’s a natural part of being a human being. Of course, there are also compulsive liars out there who can no longer distinguish truth from fiction; but I’m not even going to go down that road here.

Even with the best intentions in the world of committing, from this day forward, to never lie again; at some point in the future, we will all lie about something whenever we believe the circumstances dictate that we should do so - even if it’s just to safeguard someone we love from something – Telling a lie for the greater good. I don’t have a problem with that kind of lie; even though technically it’s still a lie.

Personally, I don’t really condone the telling of lies. Yet, even though I cringe to the very bone, I move past them and accept people as they are. However, on the one hand, there are times when I do question if my silent acceptance of someone else’s lies makes me instrumental in their continuation to carrying on telling them. After all, we are all pawns in each others’ chess games. On the other hand, each and every one of us is solely responsible for ourselves.

What I find fascinating, is the motivation behind the act of telling a lie. It intrigues me. I find it contemporaneously amusing and sometimes very sad; amusing because motivations vary and sometimes border on the ridiculous; sad because it can quietly install a deep sense of distrust and insecurity between people, which can push people apart and be very difficult, or virtually impossible, to rebuild.

So just why do people tell lies? – Well, here are just a few of my suggestions, which I’m sure you can add a whole load more to:

To hide the truth of a situation
- Because telling the truth about a situation might hurt someone else.
- Because the person in question doesn’t really want to admit the reality of the situation to themselves; let alone to anyone else.
- Because the truth of a situation could be compromising for the person in question or other people around them;
- In matters of the heart, it could be because the person telling the lie is indecisive or a player who just wants to keep all their options open; to ensure the opposite sex never strays too far away from them.
- Because the truth of a situation may mean admitting defeat or failure to one’s self and/or to others.

To make an impression;
- To be liked by others;
- To land the dream job where an extra push is necessary;
- To be promoted at work where maybe a lack of “actual merit” is present;
- To be regarded/respected in some way to make up for something else lacking in another area of someone’s life. Or, for lack of sufficient self-belief that just being one’s self would be enough;

To protect
- Parents sometimes lie to their children to protect them from harm, i.e. the classic bogie man story.
- Children lie to parents about where they’ve been all night.
- Boyfriends/Husbands lie to Girlfriends/wives (and vice versa) about trespasses, illnesses, job situations, finances etc.

The lists could go on forever and I’m sure you could all come up with a whole range of categories. I‘ve just jotted these down off the top of my head.

As a Buddhist, I took a vow not to lie. Yet, oddly enough, there is an exception clause in the case of necessity for the greater good. However, for me that is a very grey area because what might be considered the greater good for one person may not necessarily be the greater good for another. Who can make that call?

When all is said and done, there are no guidelines in life for lies; not for telling them nor for being on the receiving end. We can only take responsibility for ourselves. Before we say something that isn’t true, we can only explore what is motivating us to be untrue, put our hand on our heart, listen to our conscience and see if we can truly live with what we are about to say.

by Venerina Conti

Friday, 13 November 2009

Where have all the good men gone?

I’ll see you in 6 months were the last parting words we said as we looked into each other’s eyes one last time; before we kissed and went our own separate ways at Dubai airport. I watched him as he walked off towards the boarding gate that took him back to Australia before I made my way back to the UK. It was the year 2000 and the last time I had a real relationship with anyone.

It was the first time since 1998, when I split up with my ex partner, that I’d brought myself to trust a man. My previous relationship had been on the rocks for some years. My ex partner and work colleague had slowly been on a downslide path to alcoholism and well, any woman who’s walked alongside someone on that track knows just what it entails; the fights, the anguish, the heartache and the violent streaks; not to mention the emotional and psychological blackmail.

My tall, dark, handsome, mysterious Australian beauty (as I use to call him) called me everyday while I was in the UK. He said he was coming. He never made it. His business took him everywhere around the globe except the UK. I got sent to China. He said he was coming there. He did make it there but only after I left. In fact, he made it to the UK after I left. His business had a way of keeping us apart all the time. I finally moved to Madeira. He told me to wait here. He told me he was coming. So, I did and I’m still here but then, the unthinkable happened. His business folded. He went bankrupt and stopped calling.

After waiting patiently for 3 years, then despairing, and then finally giving up, I met someone online who was such a great friend and such great company to be around. It seems though that I was only to be a friend in times of need; when disaster struck or when nothing better was going on. We’re still friends. I met an Italian Guy with whom I am still friends. I briefly dated a Tunisian guy who ended up spitting in my face and hitting me so hard I heard my back crack; and all because I asked him to hold me.

Then, I met another beautiful man online who captured my heart. After some time, we proposed to take things into the real world. He decided to come here and spend some time in my world. I made the decision to go and spend some time in his world and we agreed that if things worked out then we would take it that one step further and make a commitment to each other. Ten days, or so, before he was due to fly out here he went back to an ex girlfriend. That was Christmas 2006.

In the meantime, my Australian friend and I are back in touch but the trust I had in him has gone. He asked me to move to Australia but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. How could I trust a man who didn’t trust me to still love him when he went bankrupt? To my way of thinking, you don’t love someone because they have money. Many may, but that’s not what I’m about and I felt that he should have known that. Maybe I expected too much of him.

So, it’s now 2009. Somewhere between 2007 and now, I fell in love with another beautiful man who, coincidentally, I never even dated. Another “case closed” before it even started.

It’s very rare in this day and age, for me personally, to be able to say that I would trust my life in the hands of someone. Yet, it seems the very few that I would have trusted it with always end up breaking that trust in some way. I have to ask: “Do I have standards that are too high?” or “Is it because men just aren’t what they use to be?”

I have tonnes of male friends. In fact, I probably have more male friends than girl friends but no one special man in my life. I’ve put my personal life on hold since the year 2000. It’s been mine choice entirely and I don’t regret it, nor do I feel sorry for myself. I’ve dedicated my life to helping others since then and reaped rewards that no one man could have ever given me.

However, I’ve now decided to make that change in my personal life, and on the suggestion of an “eccentric” but adorable American personal coach friend of mine, I’m launching a worldwide campaign to find my one special man. I was told there are 6 million people out there, so it’s a question of trial and error. So, I’m going to try. They say: “Nothing ventured, nothing gained”

For once, I’m taking my own advice; picking up the pieces and moving on. My grandmother use to say to me that if someone wants you, they’ll find you. I don’t think that’s true anymore. Times have changed. We live in a different world and different times. It seems that if we want something, sitting in the sidelines; waiting and hoping for the good ones to notice just isn’t enough anymore.

So, where are all the good men?

I’m a simple woman really – although I can be a minefield of complexity in my sometimes irrational but logical thinking. You just have to get to know me.

It’s the little things make me happy - your smile that lets me know you’re happy to see me. A please and thank you, a good morning and good night; a kind gesture, a thoughtful act, a walk in the park or through the forest. I don’t need you to buy me flowers but I do need some sign of appreciation every now and then. I don’t need gifts but I do need hugs to remind me that you care.

I don’t need you to call me or text me or email me every 5 minutes but a hello once a day would be nice to let me know you think about me because I’ll be thinking about you. I don’t need to see you every day, but it would be nice if you surprised me by showing up on my doorstep for a cup of tea once in a while.

I am a Buddhist, so please don’t try and convert me. Don’t be jealous of my friends. If you are that special man in my life, there will be only you for me. I will be faithful and you will always have my loyalty. However, please try and understand that you are only one person compared to the thousands I promised to help. So, please give me space to help them or help me to help them.

One last thing, I may run away from you but I won’t run after you. So if you know in your heart of hearts that you’re afraid to love whole heartedly it’ll never work. As a friend of mine once said about me; when I give, it’s 150%. So, think carefully before you contact me.

My heart’s been broken too many times. I’ve been disappointed and let down too many times. You don’t have to be perfect; just perfect in my eyes. I believe that if something is worth having, then it’s worth going all out for. Do you? Then show me! Actions speak louder than words.

By Venerina Conti (www.facebook.com/venerina)

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Thursday, 12 November 2009

Where is justice?

1.2 million Tibetans dead. 125,000 counted in exile by the 1996 census. 2,500 seek asylum every year. Thousands suffer malnutrition, depression, anxiety and persecution syndrome. Thousands never see their home or their families ever again. Thousands die in exile because they never recover. Thousands die because the living conditions in exile aren’t adequate enough.

How many more have to die? How many more need to suffer before something is done? Where is human justice?

I’m not a political person. I never have been. Yet, I will stand up and be a voice when I think something needs to be heard.

The invasion and illegal annexation of Tibet began in 1949. You can read the full story here: http://www.tibet.com/whitepaper/white2.html

Since then, Tibetans have fled mainly to Nepal, India and Bhutan in search of asylum. Although, there are circa 9,000 refugees living in the United States, 8,000 living in Switzerland and a few thousand scattered throughout other parts of Europe and Canada. However, recent census figures are unavailable at this time. (Macalester College)

This year, I visited Nepal and was fortunate enough to spend a lot of time with several hundreds of Tibetan refugees. I even visited one of the Tibetan refugee camps just outside Pokhara. Believe me when I say, the Tibetan people are beautiful, kind, loving and peaceful people. They open their doors, their hearts and their homes to strangers. They have little or nothing to give and yet they give everything.

Despite their ordeal, they are not driven by vendetta, resentment or hatred. They are not motivated by capitalism or materialism. They pray for their enemy. In fact, despite the invasion of Tibet and the Chinese occupation, they don’t even consider China their enemy. During one of the retreats I took part in, I was told to pray for China. It was I, as a Westerner, who had to confront that part of me, which unlike them, was reluctant to forgive and forget. Tibetan people resolve matters with loving words, with prayers and with hope in their heart.

Although the Tibetan refugee camps are well organised with small handicraft factories, a prayer hall and basic living quarters for everyone; they are not really a place to call home.

The particular refugee camp I visited was founded in 1962 and yet the people who live there are still not officially recognised by the Nepalese government. To this day, most of the Tibetan people, living there, have no citizenship. They are no longer Tibetans because Tibet is now Chinese. They are not recognised by Nepal because they are asylum seekers. So, they belong to no country.

Citizenship would mean the possibility of a legal job. It would mean being able to travel backwards and forwards to Tibet and visit their family. Yet, it costs Tibetan refugees a tremendous amount of money to get a citizenship of Nepal. A monk friend of mine recently told me it was around 800 Sterling Pounds - if they're lucky enough to get one. Considering the monthly income is around 50 British Pounds – for some not even that - it’s an unthinkable amount of money to spend. So, they're forced to decide between living essentials or citizenship.

They mainly rely on the sales of handcraft items to survive. Monks and nuns don’t earn anything at all. They rely on the kindness and support of donations and sponsorship to survive; and the willingness of monasteries and nunneries to look after them.

During the low tourist season or during times of recession in Europe (like now) - people aren't spending much money - so many Tibetan families barely manage to make ends meet. This is something that I feel wouldn't necessarily happen if the Tibetan people were in their own country in "real" jobs - (whatever they may be defined as.)

While I was there, a Tibetan woman put all her pride aside and asked me for my clothes. She also asked if I had any sheets or other items I didn’t need. She wasn't a beggar. She was a beautiful, polite lady selling jewellery on the streets who was just trying to provide for her family in the best way any mother or grandmother would.

If a family member becomes ill, the medical bills put an enormous strain on the whole family’s total monthly expenditure.

We can say that poverty is everywhere in the world. I know this, but this is a poverty that could be avoided if the people of Tibet were allowed to have a place to belong to - a citizenship - an employment.

Worst of all, where is their voice? It seems that every time someone speaks of the Tibetan situation it’s pushed under the carpet. In fact, one day in Nepal, four of us went down to join a protest march for free Tibet. By the time we got there, everyone had been arrested and thrown in prison.

Now, President Obama is going to visit China and the Tibetan situation isn’t even on his agenda; despite his closeness to His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

What kind of human rights is that? Where's the freedom of expression? I believe everyone should be allowed to have a voice.

Like I said before, I am on the side of the people - not governments and politics. I believe in human beings and their rights to the basic human necessities of life.
So, I ask: “Where is justice?”

Friday, 30 October 2009

The New Personal Development Kaleidoscope E-book

The New Personal Development Kaleidoscope E-book

It’s finally here and it’s a must read!

The E-book I contributed towards and co-edited has finally been released, and is now available on the Internet.

Friday, 23 October 2009

For those of you who don't know, I volunteer for the Tara Stitchting Foundation,based in Holland, that works to provide help to the needy in India, Nepal and Tibet. We're currently working on 4 major projects.Sponsoring monks and nuns is only a part of what the foundation does. It also provides funding for building schools and bringing an education to the destitute; who would otherwise have no opportunities in life. It also helps to raise funds to provide food for those who have very little or none. I'm busy revamping the website at the moment but here's the old link and one of our latest videos:


Monday, 28 September 2009

Back from Nepal

It’s been a while I know… but I do have a good excuse. I spent 7 weeks away from modern technology. Now, although sometimes it was frustrating, most of the time it was absolute bliss!

Just for the record, I spent 6 weeks in what I can only describe as the magical, mystical and spiritual country of Nepal. The country and the people captured my heart.

I spent 5 weeks at Kopan Monastery on the outskirts of Kathmandu. More or less, 4 of those weeks were spent in retreat. One week was spent volunteering in the clinic in Kopan Nunnery. Finally, I spent 5 days in Lakeside near Pokhara, where I had the opportunity to visit a beautiful Tibetan family in Hengja refugee camp.

The whole trip was a heart wrenching and heart warming experience (to say the least.)

Never before has my heart and soul been opened so much in one singular place. Never before have I encountered so much warmth and love from so many beautiful people. I look at the amount of suffering and poverty in Nepal and yet, I see hope for the future.

Only 30% of the total population of Nepal is employed. Poverty is a common thing. People live below the poverty line. However, people who can help, give what they can; not with indifference or embarrassment but with the genuine desire to help. Whether it’s with a hand full of rice, a bottle of water or a few rupees; each person helps in their own way.

The army’s presence is strong; a reminder to us all of the restless times we live in. Yet, countless faceless, nameless people from both the East and the West spin Dharma wheels and pray in hope of peace.

The blind are led, the hungry are fed, the elderly and the unmarried are taken care of. The departed are remembered by communities who gather to commemorate. People come together to help people and not just in times of crisis.

Kopan Monastery, where I stayed, uses wisely the donations given to it in order to give refuge to numerous Tibetans who go unrecognised by the Nepali government, and who can no longer go home. Some monks haven’t seen their families, in Tibet, for over ten years.

They empower their nuns by offering them degrees in Philosophy. Nepali families who can’t afford to support their children send them to the nunnery or the monastery. Westerners come from all corners of the world to seek retreat.

Nobody is turned away. Everyone is welcome; regardless of race, colour, belief or background. You instantly feel the warmth and love when you see the sign on the entrance floor saying: “Welcome Home.”

If anyone wants to see the first batch of phootographs from my trip, they’re available at:

www.flickr.com/venerina or

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

2010 Calendars!

Well folks,

Those of you who know me well enough, know how much I love to dabble in photography. I don't consider myself any good at it but ... I have a good time trying and it's fun! Over the last few weeks a lot of you have nagged me about doing something worthwhile with my photos ... so ... I have ...

Three new 2010 calendars are ready and available online:

The Flower Collection:

Support independent publishing: buy this calendar on Lulu.

The Sea-Scape

Support independent publishing: buy this calendar on Lulu.

The Sunset Collection

Support independent publishing: buy this calendar on Lulu.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Who am I? (Part 1)

Who am I? – It’s such a simple question.

Yet, most people have great difficulty answering it.

Most people reply to the question who am I? with the labels they have acquired throughout their lifetime.

They primarily identify themselves with the roles they play in relationship to others. They use definitions like: I’m a father. I’m a sister. I’m a mother. I’m John’s friend, I’m an uncle. I’m a wife.

They define themselves in accordance with the role they play in society; i.e. the job or vocation they have; I’m a writer. I’m a barman. I’m a secretary. I’m a fireman.

They describe their current status with phrases like: I’m unemployed. I have a job. I’m a student. I’m a stay at home mum. I’m a struggling artist. I’m successful, I’m poor and so on. They adhere to a cultural group by saying: I’m Italian, I’m British, I’m Arabic, I’m German, I’m Chinese and so on.

They may even go on to explain their environmental backgrounds by saying: I live in London. I live in Paris. I lived in the United States when I was younger. I spent a lot of time in the Middle East. I have travelled to Egypt and Cyprus or wherever. They define what religious or spiritual sect they belong to by saying I’m a Catholic, I’m Jewish, I’m a Muslim, I’m a Buddhist, I’m a spiritualist.

By listing items such as those mentioned above, people are consciously or subconsciously recognising how important these factors are in describing who they are. Yet, they are nothing more than labels.

Aside from these labels, people also use descriptive qualities to define themselves. They list characteristics of their personality like: I’m a happy person. I have a nervous disposition. I’m not assertive enough. I’m introvert. I’m extrovert. I’m very patient. They list physiological aspects of themselves such as: I’m unattractive. I’m overweight. I’m pretty. I’m tall. I’m short. I have long hair. I have green eyes.

They list their behavioural qualities like: I’m organised, I’m unorganised, I’m untidy and so on. They may even add what pleases them like: I enjoy walking. I collect stamps. I go to the beach every weekend. I like the sea. Similarly, they may express what displeases them like I hate the cold. I never go to the beach. I don’t like queuing.

Whatever descriptions and labels are used, they only define a person according to their beliefs about who they think they are.

These beliefs are based on years of accumulated experiences and learning, environmental and societal influences. They come from an accepted understanding of the individuals’ capabilities, limitations, likes and dislikes.

Yet, most of the time, these beliefs are the product of how we think we are or how we think others see us.

(Extracted from: The Power to Heal is Yours - Be your best friend, not your worst enemy - A Practical Guide to Self-Transformation by Venerina Conti)
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