I believe in the usefulness of ancient wisdom to guide us in contemporary times, especially when times are turbulent. I often write about the wisdom of my own Italian cultural heritage. I was fortunate to be raised in an extended Italian family, in a neighborhood surrounded by relatives and friends from Italy. When growing up, of course I didn’t have the capacity to realize that I was learning extraordinary and valuable life lessons, through stories and observation. However in retrospect, I understand how the everyday wisdom I was surrounded with back then would become vitally important to my life in a clear and lasting way. The trips I made to Italy with and without my grandfather, the observations I made through my own cross-cultural research, and the countless life-changing experiences I lived throughout the years in Italia, which I consider my second home, have shaped me into the person I am now— which is the person I know I am meant to be.
Have you ever wondered what insights you might gain if you were to connect with your own cultural heritage? I have seen many people gain a deeper understanding of who they are through exploration of their ancestry. You may be generations away from your ancestor’s immigration to the U.S. You may even have two, three or more ethnicities in your make up. Researching your cultural roots however can be enlightening and fascinating, and it can also be an enriching hobby in your spare time. You don’t even have to have money enough to travel to the wise and ancient countries of your grandparents and great grandparents. A local cultural museum, like the one I presented my book at recently (Lemons into Limoncello: From Loss to Personal Renaissance with the Zest of Italy) can unlock the fascinating secrets of a past that led to your very presence today. Enrich your own life, by becoming knowledgeable of how you came to be the wonderful person you are. Visit a cultural museum to glean a snapshot of your personal ancestry.
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“Humankind’s thirst for beauty is not new. Historian J.H. Plumb described the Renaissance era as the pursuit of beauty ‘as if it were a drug’. Everyone wanted to adorn their abodes, the places they frequented, even themselves in sunlight gold, silver, bronze, silks, rubies and emeralds. A quest for beauty was the common denominator. Beauty made people feel good. It elevated the soul. It brought craftsmanship in painting and architecture to new heights of appreciation.
To Michelangelo, who grew up in Florence during the high Renaissance to become one of the most acclaimed artistic geniuses in the history of the world, beauty was sacred. Beauty was how God communicated to man, and thus Michelangelo portrayed the exquisite beauty of the human body–with all of its details, curves, and musculature. His famous Pieta’ (image above) can awe you as deeply as his frescoes on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.
This belief in the sacredness of visible beauty served as a testimony of how it can transform us. A simple, yet powerful moment can be experienced when we pause to drink in the colors of a painting, the graceful lines of a sculpture, the delicateness of a field of wildflowers.” 1
When you are rebuilding your life after loss or adversity, plant as many of these healing moments of beauty into your surroundings. Don’t just fast walk, but pause to inhale the fragrance of a fresh spring lilac. Don’t just drive by a lake or ocean, but sit before it and feel the energy of the sound of the waves, the sparkle of the sun reflecting on its peaks. Don’t let the birdsong go unnoticed, but instead drink it in as if it were the music of life.
The healing power of beauty sustains and enriches our lives. It uplifts us and gives us the energy to go on and be all that WE can be. Surround yourself with some form of simple beauty each and every day.
1. Mautner, R. (2013) “Lemons into Limoncello: From Loss to Personal Renaissance with the Zest of Italy” HCI Books.
As SantaBella and I walked the shore this morning, the contrast of light and dark that stretched out over the Long Island Sound reminded me of the reality of our life’s journey. The seascape of each of our lives includes dark periods of tragedy, crisis, loss, and sadness. Sometimes we feel we are being engulfed by a current and carried away into hopelessness. But if you just shift your gaze a bit to the left, you will notice the scintillating pathway where the sunlight beckons with its bright and brilliant periods of love, faith, joy, caring, and daily celebration. My Italian cultural upbringing served as a lifelong example of how to accept the darkness as a normal “given”, but not give it greater importance than it deserved. I learned to switch my focus when I find myself feeling overwhelmed by the vast confusion that loss and adversity can bring. I learned to take small strokes and swim back in the direction of light, where the water is once again warm, comforting, and makes me feel happy to be alive. This is where I dwell.
People ask me why I wrote “Lemons into Limoncello”. Well I wrote it for you, and for everyone who feels crippled by the changes that personal crisis can bring. These gentle and simple Italian cultural tenets helped me make my way back to passionate living in the face of difficulty. My wish is that it will help you too, and those you care about.
Remember to acknowledge your challenges with courage and strength, yet keep focused on the bright spots of your life. Refuse to let tough times rob you of your right to be happy and fulfilled.
I am so pleased to announce that “Lemons into Limoncello: From Loss to Personal Renaissance with the Zest of Italy” (HCI Books) is now available wherever books are sold. Please visit and LIKE my new Lemons into Limoncello Facebook page. I will continue to add more and more tips on that page to help you stay strong and resist letting your challenges sentence you to a life of unhappiness. Thank you, Dear Readers. www.facebook.com/lemonsintolimoncello