Naima Morelli

Reflections: Midsummer Daydream

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These days I’m filled with love for the world.

Summer leaves are lighten up by the sun and look like emeralds. They have this love effect. Happy movement and endorphins have this love effect. So has making new friends. Rediscovering the old ones. By whatever means connection with what’s around me happens, that’s where the gold is. Noticing the beauty all around me.

These days, every time I go “off-track”, I “derail”, there is a sentence that pops always in my mind, sorting things out. The words are: “You think you have many different problems, but you only have one: your disconnection for Love (from Life, from God, from Source, from the Nature of Existence, whatever you want to call it.)

This happens to us when we are in pain, of course. But in pain — especially in pain — there is labour of love to do. We are called to action. And when I remember this words, I have a choice. Knowing that pain is inevitable but suffering is optional, I can either stay in the self-made hell, in the suffering — whether psychological or physical — or work towards mending the wounds.

And I sure know how to return to love by now. When I decide to go with the light, things align naturally to help me out. But of course, sometimes I really don’t want to “be good.” And rebelling, that’s also ok at times. Sometimes you need to go through it, in order to decide firmly to avoid needless suffering the next time around. In the mistakes there is so much learning.

That’s what I have been up to this summer, in the different fields I bask into.

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Journalism: amor fati (earth)

Journalism and work felt good this summer. It was all quite stable this year — in all its challenges, that is. At the beginning of the year, like every year, I did my month-long research in Thailand. This time I brought with me my partner in crime and travel: my curator friend Roberto D’Onorio.

The trip proved itself extremely interesting as always in terms of the research, and we learned a ton about this incredible land. We experienced first-hand the incredible kindness, generosity and gentleness of Thai people. And we were also there during the pollution crisis — which as far as I understand is sadly continuing happening.

Going around with air pollution masks, knowing we were inhaling absurd levels of toxic micro-particles in the air — even if for one month only — waked me up to reality. Paired with the exceptional heat wave of this summer, I have realized on my own skin to what extent are we destroying the planet.

This experience made me very aware of the air I’m breathing on the daily, of what I expose myself to in terms of toxic substances. It also made me incredibly grateful to breathe in clean places like the beach. But hèlas, also the Sorrento beaches and water are often pained by pollution, from abandoned trashes to illegal discharges in the sea. Our sea.

As a personal responsibility, to feel some sort of agency on this situation, I’ve a little ecological gesture I perform every time I go to the beach. I’m picking up at least one piece of trash when I go to my favorite beach, La Solara, one of the latest wild outposts not colonized by sunbeds yet. It won’t change the planet, sure, but I’m acting my small part, together with slowly starting to discard plastic and toxic products from my life.

Of course those ecological concerns also entered my writing, and I looked at artists who have ecological concerns, making us think of nature in a different way. From my first realizations — encouraged from the work of the great Robert Zhao Renhui in Singapore — to Thai artist Ruangsak Anuwatwimon, a great shift in thinking about our environment happened. It became less philosophical, and more practical. Less mind, more rasa.

Speaking of Singapore, I have recently finished publishing the Singapore book into chapters online. Again, many of the concepts I talk about in the book have evolved in my mind — including the idea of nature — but the categories/dichotomies I outlined there (Motherland/Cityport — Market/Spirit — Bureaucracy/Imagination — Urban/Nature) I suspect will serve me for the times to come.

Also, I have another SEA trip coming up, one I’m truly excited about. This trip will bring me back into the land where this big adventure – the foundations for my job as it is now – were laid. And I’m going back in a victorious way — a way I could only dream about seven years ago, when I first set foot there.

I’m going on this journey full of love to give, of gratitude and curiosity. Of energy and light. I feel like a thunderbolt fueled by an invincible summer, which is the amor fati Simone Weil, Nietzsche and the stoics talked about. Amor fati propels me like a thunderbolt.

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Graphic Novels: a joyful process (water)

Oh man! Talking of propelling. Since I have been back from Thailand, I have been working on developing Red Naima, my comic book author alter-ego, as a brand.

In a previous personal essay I wrote for the blog, I mentioned that I started to do a school of comic books in Rome. Well, I retired myself from it in January, before leaving for Thailand, as I didn’t feel very excited with it. I recognize there was something of great value, but it was scattered into loads of things that, quite frankly, didn’t feel good to me personally.

It was mostly because the school catered to artists who wanted to work as professional figures in the comic book industry, but what I needed was really authorial support. I already have so many stories in my heart, and I have been developing my own painting and drawing style since I first put a pencil on paper. I might sound too self-assured, or even presumptuous, some told me, but I trusted myself on this. What I need for the graphic novels is really different from those  aiming to become “pens for hire”. Which is beautiful and a great job, but not for me.

After I gained that clarity, I took a step in another direction, because hey, we gotta keep moving! I have been pondering this idea for an entire year. I wanted to start an online business and marketing course. It was called Marie Forleo B-School, and it proved itself just as great as I expected. I’d recommend to anyone with a big dream and a need for structure.

What I loved the most about this course were three things. The first was the structured approach to starting a small business and marketing it. I guess I had most the information already… but having them with loads of other contrasting ones was somehow blocking me in the multitude of possibilities. Having Marie’s one, single, coherent method – tweaking it to needs of an artist rather than a traditional business owner — gave me enormous clarity.

Also the course itself encourages you to take what serves you and leave it what doesn’t. And always ask the question that really creates new ways to conceive your industry, or everything in life for that matter: “How can this apply to me and my work?”

The second thing is the constant stream of energy I got from the course. Even if it was an online community, the support was constant. People were helping each other, problem were examined together, and every week Marie’s emails were full of encouragement. So my energy tank never went dry. And I’ll tell you. Get the unshakable belief that your dream can come to life, is really half of the job.

I think this was also my friends from ninjutsu noticed; not only because I was late to every single lesson — from right after lunch until a few minutes before the lesson started, I was doing the worksheets from the course, but also because I became really, really alive. And they couldn’t fathom how a seemingly boring “marketing course” could get me so incredibly powered up.

I got challenges, of course. I almost immediately started getting a bit slumped on designing my website from zero, but with loads and loads of hard work, trial and error and some technical help from my dad, I finally got rednaima.com up and running. I’m so proud of it, and I really made Marie’s philosophy “everything is figuratable”, my own.

With summer of course the rednaima project got a bit slower, because there is the sea, the beach, the communion with nature, and more stillness. In summer the Apollo mind leaves some room to the Artemis, and that’s ok. However, I proceed into one of the most important steps yet; the publication in Italian and English of two of my works from the past, Fronn ‘e Limon Scirocco and Vince chi Dimentica (Desire for Victory, in English).

I designed the covers, a part which I absolutely loved, inspired by my favourite graphics. Since I’m self-publishing with Amazon, the nitty-gritty of the publication (margins, bleeding, measurements) and stuff took much longer than expected. At the moment I’m still slumped down on some technical issues, but I keep fighting and adjusting the work.

In the meantime I did something very fun for the subscribers of my newsletters; I went to the different beaches in Sorrento and painted the landscape on beautiful watercolour paper postcards and sent them to their inboxes, from Pescara and Rome, all the way to Melbourne and Singapore. It was really a joyful process.

In this regard, the third thing that the course helped me with is breaking the isolation of doing a very isolating activity; I like to draw and work on my stories far from the crowd (whereas in my journalism I write surrounded by people at local cafès.)

But lately, I’ve started bringing friends in  some phases of the work— and not the usual three friends I have always relied on to give me feedback. I’ve started interviewing other comic book artists, reach out to faraway friends to share my universe and get feedback… and I got lots of encouragement, appreciation and support. I can see how in the future I’ll put myself out there more and more. Maybe also through video and podcast… I have been experimenting with that and I’m highly tempted! Will see about that!

I can confidently say that with a more still attitude, an unshakable belief and a stronger commitment, joy is the emotion that drives me throughout the whole thing of setting up rednaima. It feels like being in love, it nourishes my cells. It’s like water.

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Yoga and movement: in flow with life (empty space)

This year my approach to martial arts was really light-hearted, nothing compared to the strong commitment of the past few years. I’ve no doubt I’ll keep on cultivating my Mulan, Yang, Combattive side going forward… just because it’s so fun and fighting make me feel like myself. However, this year I gave more room to my yin and nurturing side.

Each morning, I keep on with my routine of doing 20 mins meditation (sometimes also 15 minutes in the afternoon at the beach) and 45 mins yoga. Alongside Talia Sutra’s lessons on the app Alo Moves (she’s always awesome), I was really into Melini Jetsundason and Jade Alectra (whose series mixing yoga and boxing are rebalancing a bit of the aforementioned Yang.)

The little miracle that happened in the yoga arena, is the transformation of my brother since our trip to Cambodia. At the beginning of the year he did yoga teacher training in Bali, and he came back a yoga teacher — (and with a super-tall yoga girlfriend too! Speaking of transformative experiences!) He immediately linked up with a start-up, called Toonado, created by the wonderful, proactive Ivana Di Leva, and started teaching lessons at Peter’s beach in Sorrento and on the terrace of the Hotel Pupetto in Positano.

Having yoga entering my family in a big way (my mother is also practicing), was a true wonder. Thanks to Toonado I found out there are a lot of like-minded, interesting people in Sorrento I didn’t suspect the existence of. A lovely group formed in Sorrento, whereas it was wonderful to experience Positano in a new light. These are places of my heart, and rediscovering them was a true gift.

And then I kept on moving in many different way, swimming a lot, especially in Nerano’s beach, which I rediscovered this summer, walking to and from La Solara, and keeping on training bo staff and with the punching bag on Saturday. Different kind of movements feel light like air; it’s not a struggle to get up into the groove anymore. I know for sure that movement is natural, is needed, is asked from my body-mind, it’s in flow with my daily activities and puts my mind in the right place.

But when I say Yoga, of course I don’t mean only the movement but also the stillness. Their interplay produces the way you approach everything. So I’d say my yoga as a spiritual practice, takes also the form of written and mental inquiry, mindful walking, and most days even the breakfast — all the rituals.

I’m keeping on doing the workbook from the metaphysical text “A Course in Miracles”, and I’m starting to get it more and more. I have been listening to a lot of one of the Course’s most prominent teacher, Marianne Williamson, as she is bringing those teaching into the public sphere by running at president of the United States.

I have also been looking to other approaches, and following the awesome, super recommended free online courses by Commune. There I learned more about Byron Katie’s process of self-inquiry, called “The Work”, and I applied to some the perceived problems of the time. I allowed me to really turn some ideas upside down.

Through the “Clean Beauty” course at Commune I also started making a switch towards chemical-free, possibly also plastic-free products. I started by purchasing 100% natural soaps and shampoos, and adopted coconut oil and a bamboo toothbrush. In line with this idea of conscious, ethical capitalism, I have been researching and ordering online products of companies who really care for human and environmental health. I would hundred per cent consider this mindful approach of conscious consumer as a part of my yoga practice.

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Relationships: expanded love (air)

In the past romantic love had its own category in my personal essays. This summer I understood in a big way how love, romantic love, can only thrive in an integrated system. In a network of caring relationship.

I just now realize how some comments from author Esther Perel made something click in my mind; the nuclear family is a modern invention, and the romantic notion of the two lovers sufficing each other, tending to the other person every need — is in the end harmful for the couple. The Simone De Beauvoir- Sartre, the Patti Smith — Mapplethorpe model is still highly life-enhancing. But if the two people haven’t done some personal work on themselves, it can also tend to be biased by expectations and projections.

For someone enamored of a certain kind of aesthetics, it’s way too easy to believe a beautiful story I made for myself, and try to inhabit it despite reality. Being in love with someone who can’t care less of aesthetics, I’m FORCED to reckon with reality. And when I’m really grounded into reality, and no expectations are to find — strangely enough everything goes well, and an aesthetic-less, pure, natural, love, can unfold.

It took me three summers to get it, and I’m in no way mastering it quite yet. But I’m getting a handle on it in a way, and when I derail, I know it’s only my own projections taking over.

Truth to be told. Being in that space of awareness is much more easy now that in Sorrento I’m living with my family, which provides a “original point”, and allows me to re-live again my hometown and the people inhabiting it. The name of the game, courtesy of wise Roberto again, is a psychological term: intermediation. Namely dissociating a past negative feeling from the present experience, and living reality as it is.

So I’m living everything anew, and making the point to kick the remnants of my shyness at the curb, saying hi and perhaps reconnecting even with a small chat with all the people I have knew in the course of my life in Sorrento. I have to credit also my boyfriend Alby for that ,actually. I absorbed some of his concept of community, which sees him friendly even with his primary school friends.

I guess this state of openness had started already last years with me reading “A Return to Love”, by Marianne Williamson (here she is again). Friendliness has his challenges, especially as a woman in the South Italy macho society, where a simple stare, or even your own simple existence, seems to give unrespectful people permission to say horrible, unsolicited things to you. But I’ve also learned to let go those violent comments, not letting them affect my feeling, not letting my rage explode.

This is a major challenge as a woman. But most of the times an explosion of rage with someone who won’t understand anyways doesn’t help change things. Understanding the place where they are coming from is key to not let myself act into their illusion as well. This definitely goes for those who don’t know how to relate with women. But it also goes to the paladins thinking that “men needs to protect the poor, weak women”, instead of being there, sure, but also empowering us, rather than make us feel like we are incapable of strength – (many women really don’t know how strong they are).

So, when faced with people harassing us, let’s all take a step back. Their words and attitudes enrage and offend us, but really, it’s not about us, or our sisters, anyways. They are just acting in their dream. Let’s keep centered, and act from that place. And from there we take responsibility for deciding to stay in an environment that sometimes is harmful towards women (and many other people), AND we decide to keep going on our way, walk our path in the way it’s right for us. Living our freedom.

I’m doing the work for my sisters, but on a more granular level than counter-insults. My weapons of choices are my life, imagination, words, art,. That’s what I’m called to fight with.

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Readings: losing myself in stories, finding myself in stories (fire)

Never before I’d have associated the fire element to my readings. This summer, I can see how books, habits and practices have ignited and fueled my inner and outer life. I have never stopped being a reader; even when everything I was doing all day was training martial arts I somehow find time to sneak in a few pages each week. However these past few months reading has reclaimed a big part of my life. And it was beautiful; an enchantment. I have been under a spell.

It might be what I have previously called “the return to the original state”, the fact that I have been staying a lot in Sorrento with my family lately, going back to the condition of being child, without the same tensions of when I was a punk-rock adolescent.

As a kid I used to read tons, and my readings highly influenced my way of seeing and acting in the world, as well as my comics and writings. Fueling the inner world was also a way to be involved in “interestingness”, given that I couldn’t experience big adventures in my hometown.

In Sorrento I have found the peace and tranquility to lose myself in books. I have started putting in my instagram stories on rednaima my “book trail. These are all the books — all connected to each other and with my current interests in a way — that I pick up guided solely by my intuition.

I’d say the first hint of sharing the  rich, golden trail I was in, started appearing very strongly with the Goddess Pose by Michelle Goldberg, a tale of yoga and East meets West. I picked the book in Singapore — at Kinokuniya which is a mandatory stop. That exciting biography kept me company during my Thai trip.

Then, with the confidence that my intuition would guide me towards the next revelation, almost by chance I ended in the sociology section of the huge Feltrinelli of Piazza della Rupubblica, and I bumped into the wonderful, delightful book “Il Sogno di Solomeo” by Brunello Cucinelli. It was the right book at the right time, as I had started right then the business and marketing course I mentioned earlier, so I was all about finding an ethical way to survive into the capitalist world, and an alternative to city living.

And from there I fell in love with the “Narratori” line by Feltrinelli, jumping to “L’Amore” by Maurizio Maggiani, delightful, “Il Filo Infinito” by Rumiz, on Benedectine monks — again exploring utopias, love as communal living, different forms of staying together. And finally I got there. I picked up the “Brillant Friend” four-book series by Elena Ferrante.

Wow. That hit me in a big way. I read one tome a week for four weeks; I just couldn’t put them them. I was in love, with all the conflicted feelings and emotions it brought. It has been a very long time since I didn’t feel so engulfed by a book. I woke up thinking about the characters of the book. I took advantage of each moment to read at least a few pages. The book was the place to start the day with, to read for hours at the beach, to go back to each day. I didn’t need much else to survive, not food, not water, just the book.

But the best part, aside the all-encompassing experience, is how the Brilliant Friend allowed me to look at the reality that I was experiencing. Being so much tapped into American healthy-living courses, podcast, online courses, writing for Asia and about Asia, I had a hard time coming to terms with the reality I had around me — including the aforementioned sexist aspect I continually encounter.

In some way, Elena Ferrante helped me find a reconciliation with those aspects. For example, I deeply understood where my boyfriend was coming from in his most unnerving attitudes. I could see how his context was exactly like the Rione Elena Ferrante describes. Seeing him made of the same matter of an Antonio or an Enzo Scanno, allowed me to be more indulgent with his macho behaviors and not get shaken by his incapacity to see my point of view and feelings. I could see his point of view then, his feelings about the situation. I didn’t expect him to be one of those conscious people from my yoga podcasts anymore. I expected him to be just a good man, a product of certain context, just like I am. This resulted in clarity and felt a newfound peace in my heart. That’s the power of literature.

Going back to the books, I didn’t like “L’amore molesto” and didn’t approach Ferrante’s other novels because they seemed to completely lack joy – although highlighted the less pleasurable aspects of the women’s condition. They tapped into sadness and despair, and didn’t like that, though they were incredibly written. I read the parts of “La Frantumaglia”, her essays on writing, regarding the Brilliant Friends, and found some profound reflections on the “invention of women by men”, and the peculiar context women are writing in, which were quite enlightening for me.

Pushed by Ferrante’s reflections to go to the roots of Italian women’s literature, and having women narrating in their own terms, I have found Sibilla Aleramo. Beautiful writing which was, again, joy-less, except from the first chapters that were full of light. But then, her experience got so painful that I couldn’t bear to keep my eyes on the page. As much as a fundamental text is, I found myself speed-reading the book. When I finished it, I decided again that at this time I wanted to not focus on what triggers me – the reality of women in the past – but rather what nourishes me. I am lucky to live in this part of the world and this time in history, that I know for sure.

I decided then to orient myself towards Japan and picked up, again, a “Narratori Feltrinelli” book which caught my eye some time ago. I have to say that I have a ritual at the station of both Naples and Rome. When I have some spare minutes before the train leaves  — almost always — I visit the station’s bookshop. I don’t do this necessarily to buy — but to nourish my intuition with suggestions for my future readings. It’s like tasting different things, and then let them marinate. What is meant to emerge will come up on my next bookshop visit, when I decide to buy a book.

And that’s what happened with Un’estate con la Strega dellOvest by Kaho Nashiki, a light, blithe novel which made me light-hearted and even more longing for a life immersed in nature. Those pages almost make me produce oxitocine, and brought peaceful bliss to my heart —also speaking to my fears in a healing way. The book re-open a side of the feminine I have been always interested in since I was a child: the archetype of the witch. The woman who is close to the mystery of nature.

I did a few blitz at my bookshop since childhood, Libreria Tasso in Sorrento, and on Amazon for other texts which were harder to get, and have already a few tomes lined up. The one I’m currently reading is also a Japanese author. Taeko, the protagonist of “La Scuola della Carne” by Yukio Mishima, is a woman that doesn’t look at all as “the invention of women by men”, but shows the talent of a writer who is in touch with his feminine side. I could deeply relate with the protagonist’s feelings and attitudes.

This morning I researched this Japanese author, and I was astounded. A complete author, as well as martial artist, he was a men who lived from his intellect as well as from his senses, marrying aesthetics and ethic in his life. He lived the Kalos Kagathos in a very Japanese way. I should actually find the term that Japanese use to describe this kind of integration — and I’m most definitely going to read more Mishima.

By the way, the wonder of reading is also that it allows to connect with people who are also on their own book trail. In my yoga lesson, at Nerano’s beach and at La Solara, I have been exchanging book suggestions with fellow readers. It’s a beautiful thing that connects our inner worlds on a direct line.

The love for books is one of the most precious gift my mother and father have transmitted me. Even though I find them always complaining I “accumulate loads of paper,” I know they look with sympathy at the instant high I get from literature. After all, they could have had it worse, maybe I could have done drugs all day or something!

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As a end note, I have always divided the narrative of my life as I decide to look at it and report it, through different lens. But again, I could have remixed it, or not have made section, because today more than ever I can see how all these passions feed on each other. I feel alive, full of joy, and geared with a mindset which allows me to face the “not knowing” with curiosity, openness and even a calm attitude (at times, when I get to soothe my inner ninja)

Happiness, peace and love need to be cultivated, tend to, and when they flourish you still need to keep on watering them. It’s a conscious decision, and I decide to live in that space as much as I can.