Kids@Minca: How to Promote sense of Freedom in the olders and Spontaneity on the youngers

Coguis are an Amerindian tribe living in northern Sierra Nevada in Colombia. There are about 10,000 people in this region. They speak their own language, customs and ideas. Their practices are based on the belief that the Earth is a living being and that Humanity has two brothers: the big brothers (themselves) and the smaller brothers (us, the common people). We are described as “stunted children” who must learn to live Humanity.

Evan with no scientific basis, this was the reason I was dreaming to arrive in Sierra Nevada and interview Cogui children. I wanted to ask them for their tips on how to improve our interaction with the Earth. I just didn´t plan that Minca and Macondo could change my plans.

In the last before I spoke about the importance of connection with nature to the Family emotional health. Today I focus on freedom.

In fact, freedom began to gain ground before reaching Minca. When I “stumbled” with Macondo.

Macondo is a village with about 300 people in the city of Aracataca, where Gabriel Garcia Marquez lived his childhood and used as the setting for the novel “One Hundred Years of Solitude”.

The novel begins with the isolation and destruction of this village, and the Buendia family and its generations are the ones to take responsibility in the prosperous development of the region and its personal liberation. Coincidentally (or not) at this point I already suspected that freedom and solitude could go hand in hand, but it was in Minca that I realized the depth of the issue.

Minca is a place of free souls. I felt it immediately when I arrived. Maybe Pablo’s violoncello helped, but the location at 600 meters high, the rustic houses in tighty streets and the about 300 species of birds that fly over Santa Marta certainly contributed.


Pablo is Uruguayan of 28 years old. About 6 years ago he left the country of origin arguing “I just want to play the cello and make more music.” And it was in the streets of Minca, sitted on the folding wooden bench (which he made 10 stops before) that he played. I saw him playing with his curly hair and eyes on the horizon. He shared that playing an Italian instrument on an American continent was rare, and this was the reason he wanted to know more, better techniques and inspire people through music. Only when his family (tired of seeing him without encouragement), encouraged him, that he had risked. He began slowly, shaping his desire, transforming doubts into strengths and insecurities into music. During this process he was afraid of not being accepted by the community, with doubts if he would be good enough, with the feeling of being alone, without people of reference around them. Assuming his difference brought him a big sense of freedom, and only with the support of his family, the first social institution he met, was possible.

Pablo showed me that freedom, begins with the family and can walk along with loneliness when it is not well “cooked”.

Being free depends not only on the obvious, externally (prison …), but above all, internally processes (Fears, social pressures … etc) hence spontaneity is one of the main mediators between what is inside and what comes outside.

He hinted that being afraid to fail is part of the process, but it is not the end of it.

And it was in this reflexion that he took me to know Sónia and her project.


Sónia is the creator of a hippy community. She decided to create it years before because she believed that freedom comes from knowing how to live with others (only in this way we manage to practice spontaneity) and to manage our own time: “before having this community I had a motorcycle business that I had to have a lot of time discipline “I was always “stuck” on the business. And because it served the public, it could rarely be spontaneous and creative. I earned more and more money, but I didn´t have time to be with whom I loved, I had no time for leisure, and I hardly knew who I was. I felt trapped. So I created a community where I could be myself, more genuine, spontaneous and above all, manage my own time.”

Sónia has 15 different nationalities, more than 15 people: among musicians, artists and nature lovers, each one takes on a role in the group, manages their time and the contribution they want to make. Today that community is known for promoting the best jam sessions, coffee cultures and art exhibitions in the region.

Minca and Macondo, Pablo and Sónia made a significant contribution to today´s topic: freedom.  But it was children’s answer, in the various corners of the world, who showed me the depth:

The question asked was: “What do you hate the most that adults do?”

The answers:

In Colombia: “When they tell me that I have to do things I do not like and I do not understand why.” Emília, 7 years old.

In Brazil: “When I talk and nobody hears me!” Bruno, 6 years old.

In Portugal: “When I’m forced to eat things I do not like … I hate!” Rafael, 7 years

In São Tomé and Príncipe: “When they rape people.” Daisy, 9 years old.

In Sierra Leone: “When they force me to do things and they do not hear that I’m doing my own thing” Bill, 8 years old.

The contribution of young people has shown me that freedom plays a different role depending on phases of human development and “the feeling of losing control of one’s own life” is a focus of malaise that transcends all ages.

In fact, if we look at philosophy, Espinoza argues that to be free is to act according to the very essence, with its nature. Other prespectives focus on the autonomy and spontaneity of the subject. Nelson Mandela adds the dimension of “others.”

According to the happiness report in 2012, one of the most important components in the sense of well-being and personal fulfillment of the Human Being is the feeling of Freedom. The human freedom index of this report shows that the sense of freedom is divided into three areas: “freedom of expression, choice, management of relations”, but time is a transversal role to all of them.


At the children´s level, freedom is enhanced by spontaneity, self-esteem, and coping with failure. And since family is the first social institution that children know, it fundamental that these competences are stimulated here.

At the adult level and management of family dynamics, no doubt that time is a matter of disharmony.

Disharmony because if some are faster than others, others can not wait; some because they have more time than others for “their things” and there are still those who do not feel they have time for anything, and that is injurious.

In summary, when it comes to the Freedom in the family dinamic, I approach two dimensions: time management in adults and the development of spontaneity in children.

Studies indicate that mothers feel more responsibility in child upbringing, and they are the ones who feel they have no time for themselves and their things. The studies also show that the Parental Happiness Hole (satisfaction with parenting) changes with the life stage of the family and child dynamics. A family with little external support will be more affected by the illness of a small one, than another with the support, for example.

To reduce this gap, several countries are creating responses. In Denmark, for example, one of the answers was the “grandparent loan” program where older people enroll to adopt a family and support their logistical issues. After all, if a couple can do a good job, imagine 4 couples. In Japan they adopted shirin-yoku, “a forest bath”. The Japanese proposal is that from time to time, families get lost in nature and use their senses, according to them, the experience will strengthen ties and sense of belonging, ability to risk and throw. In Bogota, Colombia, the measure adopted was the “closure of the streets on Sundays” so that everyone can enjoy free time with the family using the cycle route.

According to Meik Viking, the Portuguese have much satisfaction with parenting. In Portugal there is a balance between working time, leisure time and the costs of child support services.

This is why I leave some tips for adults to free time, which will bring more sense of freedom in the daily routine and then some tips to train future adults more spontaneous, less fear of loneliness, more able to express their opinions and feel more and better on your skin, freer.

For Parents:

  1. Have a physical practice that includes socialization. Will make 2 in one. You can be with a friend and include exercise in your life.
  2. Make the most of the downtime. Two minutes here, five minutes there, can be used to do small things. I always use to do some research. But Meik Wiking uses it with an application to learn Spanish.
  3. If you travel by public transport, take the opportunity to read a book
  4. Cook more than you need. Have more food made, allow you to maintain a healthy diet and have free day endings.
  5. Focus on and avoid what Meik Wiking calls “blood sucks of time” such as social networking or mobile games. By avoiding them, you will spend more time communicating with your family, improving your interactions with everyone, and consequently your sense of belonging.


To include in the education of kids and promote their sense of freedom:

  1. Include the practice of acts of kindness: A ritual of visiting an institution and progressively adding actions such as helping those who need it, giving a compliment to someone, talking to a shy or isolated person.
  2. Promote empathy: “what will the person X or Y feel now?” Can be made in the game.
  3. Greet the people we meet with every day.
  4. Smile for strangers
  5. Promote trust in the child. Yes, I know it is not always easy, we tend to think that we know what is best for the little ones, so listen patiently, show curiosity and convey encouragement so that he / she can do things for you and develop your sense of “To be unique” without social pressures.

6. Show unconditional support for the child’s choices. One of the biggest issues of freedom, which can lead to the feeling of loneliness and the lack of support and understanding of parents.

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How to conect more with Nature?

No one wants to watch the world getting sick, but nobody seems to know very well what´s the solution.

Long time ago Maslow introduced the Pyramid needs, going from the basic ones like food, to the more complex ones (like the sense of belonging). I believe (like other authors) that what distinguishes us as a species are emotions and for many reasons we are losing the habit of practice them. This was the main reason that inspired me to create an Emotion Tool Kit for Families. But, if I propose to create an Emotion Tool Kit for Families, I have to go back to basics, leave the most complex level of things and go to the base of the bases. If necessary, go back to our ancestors and build from there. It was this existential crisis that attacked me in the middle of the Colombian Amazon and put me in contact with nature. It was there that I looked at nature as “a place” where the basics (like food) and the complex (like the feeling of belonging) merge. So today, I focus on the benefits of connecting with nature as a solution, not only for global warming, but also for emotional well-being.

The typical western formality was lost when I felt a swaying hammock at 4:15 a.m. Rogelio’s granddaughters wanted me to wake up before sunrise so we could hear the nighty birds and look for the Jaguar’s eyes.

It´s hard to describe how it feels when you face a rainforest like the Amazon.

With limited access, it is the tiny rivers that crosses the jungle and lead us to deeper places. On the banks, many indigenous communities try to pick up the rhythm of “plata” (money) and thus mingle their values. Among the densest forest there are other tribes, who hide in indigenous territory and fight daily to keep their customs away from the occidental and white people´s law. The Colombian World Organization registers a total of 87 indigenous groups in which 18 are in danger of extinction.

Here we wake up before the sun rises, bathe when it still warms us, discover north and south in it´s shade; we make campfires for the ajuri (collective meal) and drink the pajuaru (fermented cassava drink). We hike for hours to find fresh water and drink with our shell hand. We sleep lined up in the amak when the sun goes down and we count stars. We also pray for frogs not to procreate that nights, otherwise they unite and practice a deafening chorus.

Rogelio’s family is an indigenous family living in one of the Amazon River flows and welcomed me. They live in houses near each other, built on stakes and facing the river. Rogélio belongs to the Cocama tribe.

The story says that Cocamas suffered a rejection of an intergenerational ethnic identity and led to a disintegration, from which grew the marriages between people of different groups, mainly the Ticuna. The Cocama communities are formed by relatives with strong ties and the proximity of the houses demonstrates their genealogical relationship. Women often prepare food and help their husbands in the agriculture and family gardens. Fishing and hunting are practiced by all.

Rogelio is only 85 years old (this is how he introduces himself, adding that he is ready to marry again) at the age of 11 discovered that he was a shaman “It is not enough to know the cycles of nature, to be a Shaman, i had to accept my gift and learn how to use it.”

The shaman is someone who manifests unusual powers, such as the gift of invoking spirits or the power of plants, an altered state of consciousness. Communication with these aspects of life is achieved through drum beats, dances, dreams and many herbs.

He admitted that at that time life in the Amazon became frightening, since he was receiving many revelations from nature, so he decided to go out and get some air. 11 years later he returned home, already with a medical course and many miles of nature on the way. He felt the weight of the legacy, but nothing was so heavy, as the shame of facing a mother who never left the house while waiting for him. Today he lives in a another side of the river, and is in that place that he practices its shamanism and heals people and more people. He told me that only with what nature gives us, he has healed thousands of people, some with simple diseases, such as floe, others with complicated diseases, such as cancers.

Jessica, 9, and Maria, 6 (granddaughters of Rogelio) were my guides. It has not yet been discovered if any inherit the same gift as the grandfather. Although the knowledge is shared by the elements of the family, the gift is only revealed in a ceremony when they are 11 years old.

From the time I arrived they tried to teach me every little sound and movement of that river flows. They were the ones who showed me 36 possible jokes with only one grasshopper. They presented me with the eatable mushrooms and the poisonous ones. With them, I learned the power of the “Dragon’s Blood” and the divine spirit of the Ayoasca plant. With them I learned to fish tadpoles. It was also Jessica who helped me to dive on the shores of the Amazon and recognize the noise of a canoe paddle to hide. After all a women deserves privacy when bathing in the river. The awareness and connection we must have, when crossing a stream populated by crocodiles and anacondas is not on the screen, it is a fact. Cooperation among all a real need.

These girls have shown me that it is important to look at nature, not as a whole, but as a starting point. If Mary loved the little animals of the lamas, Jess vibrated with the plants and species of grasshoppers. Rogelio depended on the seasons, and his children from the tides of the rivers. The way they deal with time and interact with nature is undoubtedly inspiring.

These children play outdoors and live from and with Nature. This interaction shows that there are cycles of life, seasons of the year, that things have their time: birth, growth or development, and death.

The engagement of this family with nature gives them a greater awareness of protection, preservation and conservation. After all Nature, for them is like a human being.

When I realized that one of the millenium’s concerns remains the environment and global warming. That most of the children’s responses from Sierra Leone, Japan, Portugal, Colombia and Brazil to the question “what advice would you give to adults to be happier? It was: PROTECT NATURE!! “I decided to include it in the kit and to understand how the Portuguese live this topic.

In the United States a study shows that American children have less contact with nature than prisoners. Another study shows that Portuguese children have an average of 63 minutes of contact with the open pure air. The mains reason for this goes back to insecurity, to dangers of neighborhood life… Already the impact of this gap between new generations and Mother Nature is overwhelming: At the level of the immune system (deficiencies of Vitamins like Vit D) as the NO engagement and protection that children end up having, with an entity with which they do not interact and they do not know , Nature.

Because future generations deserve to grow up with meaningful interactions with the planet, deserve to grow up healthy, physically, socially and emotionally, here are some tips on how we can promote our children´s connection with nature and contribute to solve this millennium concern: environmental protection.

  1. Do not look at nature as a single entity. There are people who love birds, others who prefer insects. Discover the interests of everyone at home. Take a walk with your children and see what hypnotizes them, whether the flowers, the insects or the types of wood textures. Enjoy the fact that a piece of wood can hypnotizes more than a game of Ps4.
  2. In family observe the sky at various times of the day: Morning, afternoon and evening. Identify the big differences, make a drawing where everyone collaborates.
  3. Ideal program for an end of day or Sunday: Walk in a park with vegetation. Take sales and one to one make the directions ride. Blindfold, the goal is to use all senses to discover the park through smells, sounds or sensations on the skin.
  4. Take a walk in a forest with active hearing. The mission? Discover the noise of the water or a fountain and drink with a “shelly” hand.
  5. Create a season ritual: Celebrate the beginning of each season with a walk in the field. Throughout this tour the family is encouraged to live through their senses (with their eyes closed, feel the smells, sounds and temperatures of each season. A visit to the park closer to home is ideal. Ideally a park with tree, flowers and other elements of nature other than a swings park).
  6. Take a walk to pick up leaves. Make a showcase of dry leaves.
  7. Make a fire.
  8. Do a clean up plastic in beach near by

Buy the book “Uma caixa de primeiros socorros das Emoções”

Hello everyone!

I have received some people asking where they can buy the book “Uma Caixa de Primeiros Socorros das Emoções”.

You can do it here:



As an option, you may send an email to with the request and after the transfer I deliver an autographed book.

Book value: €14.90  €13.41

Changing year, Changing Life, Changing your hair: How to deal with changes?

New year, New life. But when we talk about Project Kids, new year means different continent.
I land in another continent with Project Kids (know how they can support in the Projects section / Kids project)

This time I left Far East Japan and landed in Latin America, more precisely in Colombia.

In the last chronicle I spoke about losses. I have shared one activity for adults and another for children, so that we can all develop emotional skills to deal with loss. Today, taking advantage of the new year and all the resolutions that it involves I focus in change.

Latin America, and in this case Colombia, appears in this project for several reasons.

The first is that the idea is to create an emotional tool KIT for families, enriched with children’s tips, children´s from contexts that required them to improve certain emotional competencies.

The second reason is related to numbers. The Gallup Institute shared a study that shows that this continent has the largest register of pleasurable emotions experienced in everyday life. Colombia is in second place (I dont resist sharing a curiosity about this study, the fact that Afghanistan  has highest rate of laughter given each day – but today we will not go there).

The third and more focused reason is that, besides being on the list of countries with the greatest register of pleasurable emotions, Colombia is also the country with the largest number of internally displaced people in the world due to conflicts. I would say that these facts transform Colombia into a true incubator of change managers.

With a population of 48 million in 2014 the records showed that about 5.4 million people had been forced to leave their homes and change their lives due to conflicts.

The nearly 50 years of instability and violence caused by paramilitaries by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – F.A.R.C. – and the drug cartels were at the bottom of these numbers. If I say that the country’s biggest narco-trafficker, Pablo Escobar, died only in 1993 and the 67th peace agreement between the FARC and the government was only approved in 2016, I can say that this past is still very much present in the Colombian day to day life. And I feel that I only realized this when I met Jose.

José is an 87-year-old hunter and accept the challenge of taking me to the village where I had to interview children. Along our way he told me that he was Pablo Escobar’s private hunter. Whenever Pablo visited that bush José was the one that hunted for his men “although he had his hands with blood, he had a great soul. We need more people with souls, “shared José.

The typical Colombian is the one who is born in Bogotá, takes his parents and moves to La Guajira, spends some years in Guatapé with his wife, of course. He lives and have children in Quibdó, but his current tax address is with Leticía.

Meringue, salsa, religion and family are essential to carry on and to deal with all the life changes.

Without comparison, but with many similarities, we can see how Colombia can add value to Portugal, especially in what concerns to “reinvent”, change, innovate, without breaking with values ​​or tradition.

Portugal, is one of the oldest countries in Europe, with a strong culture of tradition and religious rituals difficult to break through. Strong mentalities, with absolute certainties, conservative and afraid to change. However we are also a significant receptor of migratory populations, from African countries, Brazil, Ukraine and even China. And there are more than five million Portuguese spread around the world. This fact shows us that we should and can develop better change management skills.

In addition, we live in a world that demands a constant reinvention of ourselves, our sources of income, our family models, our strategies, concepts and prejudices. A world where change is the rule and not the exception.

I believe that what Colombia has to show us is essentially its capacity for change, keeping its values ​​of worship untouchable: the Catholic Church, the sense of family and hospitality.

This has shown me that after all, changing, innovating, daring to be different, does not mean loss of identity, a break in values ​​or tradition. On the contrary, innovating, trying to do differently, can bring to a culture a practical dimension, of humanity and empathy for others, more genuine and liberating relationships and less prejudice.

In times, a Portuguese friend told me that every 10 years he changed his profession. He had been a cook, a photographer, and now he was preparing to take the nursing course. In fact these life paths are not common in Portugal and can even be judged as something “without direction”, “without career”. Social pressure can be of such a heavy order that they are even discouraged.

As soon as I arrived in Bogotá I met many people living their sixth / seventh life.

I admit that I always had a great admiration for those who are able to use change to grow and develop as Human Beings.

Mama Gloria, 58, Colombian, with a brilliant look and easy laughter, after a disastrous marriage (but who gave her 4 beautiful children) decided to ask for a divorce, to leave Bogotá and to be based in Guatapé. From his home he made a small local lodging. He told me that after years of solitude and isolation in marriage, he longed to know the world, to know how to live differently. Since he was terrified of flying, the best way would be to have the world come to his house.
In fact, in an accommodation with only 8 beds, sometimes it had 8 different nationalities. He told me that he had not felt so well in a long time, that it had been the most drastic change of his life, a change that had brought him more resistance and fear, but to what more self-realization and honesty he had achieved.

Sónia, a 47-year-old music teacher, also marked me for her change. She was the seventh wife of a family of 8 sisters born in a village near Putumayo. The region of Putumayo is one of the regions that still suffers from insecurity due to narco-traffic. About 2 years ago, Sonia, decided to leave Mocoa and to be based in the middle of the mountain of Sierra Nevada, in a land of 1 hectare inherited by its daughter. Sonia has always believed that life can be of more personal and spiritual growth, but for this it has to be done in community with others.

So he decided to build a small hut (bamboo and plastic) on the ground and start planting coffee. Even without having a true agricultural knowledge, he decides to make his small house available to travelers interested in collaborating with the new coffee production. I know that in 2 years, Sónia has a cabin with more than 10 hammocks to sleep in and is often crowded. Volunteers help her take care of her coffee. During the days I was there interviewing children, I had the privilege to start the morning with the best coffee in the world. The coffee of the Estancia Madre Terra was made by one of the women with one of the most accomplished smiles I have ever known, that of Sonia.

All changes begin with an “urgency,” an urgent need to change. They all carry with them emotions, some pleasurable others difficult.

While pleasures are usually well accepted, the difficult ones are tended to be rejected. Because of this, changes bring so many challenges to those who live them.

Therefore, because we are men of habits and comfort, I decided to include this dimension in the interviews with children.

What have you learned from a change you had in your life?

The 7-year-old Japanese, like her 6-year-old cousin, said it was really important to help other people that when we do, we stop thinking about our problem and feel better about the changes. Shizuku (5 years old) argued against saying that helping others helped, but asking for help from an adult could also be a good idea.

Marta and Diogo, Portuguese brothers aged 5 and 7, both said that it was best not to be alone. Play with the cousins. They said that with the divorce of the Parents began to stay in the house of the cousins ​​and today it seems that instead of two brothers, they are 5.

In Colombia, Javier, 6, shared that in these moments he is very angry, but usually prays, and realizes that God hears when he stops being angry, he can stop crying and start solving things.

Simona, 9, told me that it cost her a lot when she lost her journal, but one thing she learned from this change was that she had an opportunity to renew it and create a new way of registering her things.

The only five-year-old Julia advises her to stop drinking so much coffee and to start drinking tea. It costs less and it’s easier to stop crying.

Guga, 7, said the best thing to let us be afraid when things change is to have a dog. “When I was without my grandmother every day I would go to the garden, play with my dog ​​until I got used to the idea that he would not come back.”

Usually when one puts the hypothesis that a change is approaching, apprehension, anxiety, or fear, are the first emotions to emerge. Faced with change, there is a tendency to resist in order to try to preserve the old patterns, forms of thought and action. If it is a new condition, it may require new strategies. During a period (and this varies from person to person) the tendency will be to negotiate, that is, I try to use my old strategies, I see if they work, I try to readjust them, and I feel bad about the readjustment I have to make an adult always feels that he must know how to do everything, and this type of flexibility is often felt as a test of his performance and therefore it is a stadium with many emotions such as fear, low self-esteem, feeling of “not being good enough” , doubts and insecurities regarding the future). After this moment we enter into an acceptance phase “okay, this is different, but it does not have to be worse” and soon afterwards there is usually a creative exploration phase, where one begins to try to do things differently, without this bring difficult emotions. On the contrary, it often brings a feeling of “This can even be fun”, “I am capable” until the change eventually sets in.

Here is a playful activity that we can do at home and that can help develop some skills.

Activity “A recipe book for the changes”

In this activity you will create a cookbook to deal with changes.
You must have a book with blank sheets. Drawing material and collages
The idea is that the family identifies moments of change, situations that the family has passed and have demanded change. Then, each one must identify personal situations where they felt a change, or that they had to change. Everyone must identify at least 1 situation.

After a list of changes, everyone should write and illustrate at least one recipe for emotional management:

A Recipe able to soothe the heart and help you feel better with this change.
A recipe able to calm the thoughts that came with the change, help you have quiet thoughts, without worries.
A recipe that can reduce the physical reactions we normally feel with the changes, The knots in the belly or the malaise that you feel in the body, and that can help you sleep well every night.

Good changes for 2018