On July 10, the new edition of my book, Travels of the Mind was released. Consequently, I asked the person who built my website to update it with the cover of the new book. He didn’t. He didn’t even answer my e-mails.
I was very angry and hesitant about what to do. Finally, I came to the right decision. I didn’t argue with him, instead I decided to build a new website by myself.
Nothing is impossible for determined people. If you have enough faith in yourself, you can even move a mountain!
It took two days to build my website, but finally I did. Furthermore, I enhanced my blog.
The man who refused to update my website was like a teacher to me. I am grateful to him. Thanks to him, I created something that seemed to be impossible to me.
According to Lao Tzu, the author of the most ancient book about Tao, there is a paramount force over heaven and earth, called Tao (the way). Lao Tzu thinks that unfavorable situations are a source of personal growth. In Taoism the sourness and bitterness of life are not caused by life itself, but our minds which don’t know how to transform the unfavorable situations into favorable ones.
You can have a look at my new website and blog: and
Nothing is impossible for determined people!
Ettore Grillo, author of these books:
– A Hidden Sicilian History
– The Vibrations of Words
– Travels of the Mind



Travel to Paravati
To return to Sicily, I took the same itinerary as the outward journey: London, Calais, Paris North, Paris Austerlitz, Genoa, and Rome. On my way home, I wanted to visit Paravati, the town where Natuzza Evolo lived. She was the woman the gentleman I had met in Saint Paul’s Basilica recommended me to see.
At Rome Termini Train Station, I found some information about where the town of Paravati was located. The clerk at the information desk couldn’t spot the tiny village easily at first, but he finally did.
“Paravati is not an autonomous town. It is a part of the municipality of Mileto. I advise you to get off at Mileto station. Paravati is not far away from there. You can use the same
international ticket without extra charge because Mileto is on the same railway line that takes you straight to Sicily.”
I got to Mileto station after some hours. Actually more than a station, it looked like a level-crossing keeper’s lodge in the midst of the countryside. I got off and walked on the empty platform. On the opposite railroad, a train, which seemed to ignore that tiny station, sped along. About two hundred meters ahead, there was a small house, so I headed there. Since the door was wide open, I took a little peek inside. There was a man with a red hat on his head. He wore a gray uniform. He was reading a book, reclining on an armchair with his outstretched legs on a console with a monitor and buttons of many colors. On seeing me, he gave a start of surprise. Apparently, few travelers passed through that train station.
“Please come in!” he said with his eyes wide open and full of wonder.
He closed the book, stood up, and held out his hand to me. He looked quite lanky, at first glance. His thick, black beard all around his face seemed to make up for his terribly thinness. His voice was stentorian and with no inflection.
“Is this Mileto station?”
“Yes, it is. Actually, there is not much passenger traffic here. The locals prefer to get off at Vibo Valentia-Pizzo station, and from there, they take a bus to Mileto. Once in a while, a few visitors arrive here, usually to see Natuzza Evolo.”
“That is why I am here. Can I take a bus to Paravati?”
“No, you can’t. There are no buses from here to there.”
“What can I do? I’ve come here just for Natuzza Evolo. Please help me.”
“You can walk. It is not difficult. You have two options: either walking on the road, which will take more time, or taking a shortcut down the hill. Keep in mind that this station will be closed after sunset.”
I opted for the shortcut and climbed up the hill, following the path that he had shown me. After about ten minutes, I caught sight of the first houses of the village. I couldn’t see either cars or people. I had the feeling of having landed in one of the old villages of the American West where the inhabitants lock themselves in their houses after a gun fight! I walked a little through the village and entered a bar. A woman behind the counter offered me a glass of water. I asked her whether it was possible to speak with Natuzza Evolo or not.
She answered that Natuzza lived in a community on the upper part of the town. I walked up to the top of the hill and got to the house where Natuzza was supposed to live. I knocked on the street door and a priest wearing a long cassock opened the door after a few minutes. He looked very kind and smiled all the time. He showed me into a small chapel and asked me to wait. Nevertheless, he didn’t guarantee that Natuzza would come down to see me. She lived on the upper floor, but she was weak, very weak. Because of that, she wasn’t always able to talk with the guests who came to visit her.
I sat on a chair and waited for her to come down. Now and then, I stood up, lounged around the chapel, and had a look at the pictures and books about Natuzza’s life. Along the sides of the chapel, there were cupboards, glass showcases, and desks where some objects related to her miraculous life and some books were exhibited. Sitting and strolling in the chapel, I felt like she was aware of me and was watching me from above.
I picked up one of those books about her life and leafed through the pages. Natuzza Evolo was born in 1924 in Paravati. She had no schooling, so she grew up illiterate. At the age of fourteen, she went to work as a maid.
I read on. One afternoon, after the mistress of the house offered some tea to her guests, Natuzza asked her why she didn’t offer anything to the priest.
“What priest?” asked the lady.
“The man who is standing in the lounge!” answered Natuzza.
“What are you talking about? I can’t see him. Where is he?”
“He is standing by the gentleman who is sitting in the armchair. Even though he is dead, I can see him. I can describe him. He is tall with a smiling face. His eyes and hair are black. He has a long nose, a broad brow, and a red birthmark in his cheek. He is laying his arm on his brother’s shoulder. Maybe only I can see him now, but he is present with us.”
On listening to Natuzza, one of the guests gave a start of surprise. Actually, his brother, who was a priest, had passed away a few years before. Natuzza’s description of him was flawless.
The handkerchiefs and bandages exhibited in the chapel showed writing, symbols, and drawings imprinted with Natuzza’s blood. In fact, whenever her sweated blood came in
contact with cloths, bandages, handkerchiefs and so on, it turned into holy drawings, symbols, and prayers, not only in Italian, but also in Latin, Greek, and other languages. The drawings consisted of angels, crowns of thorns, and every kind of holy object. Sometimes, passages from the Bible were written with her blood. Since she was very young, besides talking with the dead, she showed other paranormal abilities, which had been recorded not only in the book I was holding in hand, but also in many other texts corroborated by physicians, experts, and hundreds of witnesses.
I put back the book on the desk and lifted my eyes to one of Natuzza’s pictures. She wore glasses with brown frames. Her look was typically Italian. Black hair framed her beautiful face.
I don’t know why, but I felt that she was an intellectual. Her smile was simple, and her eyes seemed to show the great soul she had inside. After I waited for about an hour, three more persons came to the chapel. After a little while, another small group joined us. We all hoped to talk with Natuzza. The ones who came later lived in the neighboring villages. More than once they had tried to talk to Natuzza, but they hadn’t succeeded. One of the newcomers began to say the rosary, and we all joined in.
It was five hours since I had arrived at Natuzza’s house. I was afraid of missing my train. The thought of spending the night at the level-crossing keeper’s lodge didn’t appeal to me
much. It was located in the countryside, and during the night, it was locked. Nonetheless, I kept waiting. Talking with Natuzza was too important for me!
In the late afternoon, I saw the door of the chapel opening. Unfortunately, it was not Natuzza, but the priest who had welcomed me before.
“I’m sorry! Natuzza can’t come down,” he said. “The state of her health doesn’t allow her to meet you.”
I was very disappointed, but what to do! I said goodbye and rushed to the station. I didn’t go through the countryside shortcut. I feared coming across the shepherd’s watchdogs. So, I ran like the wind down the road, but I got to the level-crossing keeper’s lodge some minutes late. Oh, my! I had missed my train!
“You can take the next one to Vibo Valentia-Pizzo, if you like. That station is much more comfortable than ours. You can take another train to Sicily there.”
I accepted the railroader’s advice. While I was waiting for my train, we exchanged a few words.
“Could you talk with Natuzza?”
“No, I couldn’t!”
“Don’t be disappointed. Although you couldn’t see her, maybe your visit will have an effect on you.”
“How do you know that?”
“I have been attending this station for many years. Some visitors who passed through here said that they benefited from the visit although they couldn’t talk to Natuzza.”
The train arrived and I said goodbye.
On the journey home, I pondered his words. Like in a dream, I saw Natuzza’s very beautiful and warm face talking to me in my mind: I am too weak to assist those who need my help. I don’t have enough strength! I associated Natuzza’s words with my way of living that I used to have before leaving for London. At that time, I got along with only shepherds and sick people. I believed that the life of a true Christian should be based on staying with the poor, sick, old, and outcast. There is no difference between the healthy and the sick, the poor and the rich, because all of them are children of God. Therefore, I can’t find any reason why I should not associate with the sick and outcast, I thought at that time. Natuzza suggested to me how to solve this problem. She showed me the weak spot in my reasoning. Thanks to Natuzza, I realized that my cowardice drove me to surround myself with easy and non-demanding friends and women for the purposes of not being lonely and for having a little sex. What’s the point in staying with the poor, the sick, and the outcast? I went to meet them not because of Christian love, but because I was unsociable! Yes, I was a maladjusted man. I couldn’t socialize with normal people, so I felt it easier to flee society and withdraw among the weak, the poor, and the sick. Natuzza spurred me to live a new life based on pure love and joy.
After that visit to Paravati, my life changed radically, and my guilt complex subsided…
This is an excerpt from Travels of the Mind
Ettore Grillo, author of these books:
– A Hidden Sicilian History
– The Vibrations of Words
– Travels of the Mind



Then, we did another variation of the ‘seaweed and the wave.’ Both partners imagined being under the sea. They had to move continually like seaweeds. It wasn’t needed to wait that one touched the other with his hand to draw back and wave sinuously. In other words, one should move regardless of the partner’s action to touch him or not. This exercise made me think that we should live our lives autonomously, regardless of external stimuli. It is important to have a strong and stable mind, which doesn’t depend on the circumstances of life.
A long time ago, I thought that to solve my inner problems I should have a house in the countryside, live in the nature, and breathe fresh air. So, I purchased a plot of land and built a house on it, a big house with many rooms. At the beginning, it seemed that something was about to change in my life. I felt satisfied to have built such a big house. I became very diligent. I improved the soil and planted many young trees and grapevines.
Nevertheless, little by little, I became aware that the new house couldn’t calm my inner discomfort. A few years later, I sold the house and moved to a luxurious apartment in town. There, I felt uncomfortable after one or two years. I wanted to spend my life near the sea, but I didn’t feel like moving again. Instead, I decided to travel somewhere.
In ancient Rome, there was a similar character who moved from one place to another all over the world. He hoped that a new environment would bring him good luck. Coming across him, the Latin poet Horatio said to him, ‘Caelum, non animum mutant qui trans mare currunt.’ It means, ‘They change their sky, not their soul, who rush across the sea.’ Although the place where we live changes, that is, the sky changes, our mind is the same. Therefore, the way to overcome our trouble comes from inside ourselves. We should rely on our inner strength and inner light without expecting any help from others.

Excerpt from Travels of the Mind
Ettore Grillo, author of these books:
– A Hidden Sicilian History
– The Vibrations of Words
– Travels of the Mind



While I was staying in the ashram, I finished writing the first draft of this book and gave a copy of it to Baradeny. After she read a few pages of the draft, she wanted to talk about paranoia and anxiety in the class.
“Paranoia,” she said, “is a compound of two Greek words: para means ‘close,’ ‘near,’ ‘sideways,’ ‘similar,’ ‘resembling’; nus means ‘mind.’ So, we can define paranoia as an artificial mind close to the real one. It looks like a real mind, but it is a false mind. Whenever you let that artificial mind loose, it takes you by the hand, and you are led by it. Then, you stop thinking with your real mind and begin to think with this artificial mind or paranoia. It has the power to lead you into an illusory world. Gradually, you lose contact with the real world.
“What can you do to fight paranoia? What is the method to overcome and eliminate the artificial mind definitely? It’s not difficult. You shouldn’t try to suppress it. If you attack paranoia frontally, as in an open field battle, you will lose and end up strengthening it more and more. Instead, all you have to do is watch paranoia! Yes, just watch and watch this artificial mind. At last, it will fade away, because it can’t exist by itself. It is like a mirage bound to disappear as soon as you realize what it is.”
I tried to keep those words in mind. Whenever my artificial mind allured me into the twists and turns of illusion, I watched it calmly. As I kept watching my artificial mind, it became smaller and smaller like a little shy boy who runs to hide when he notices that a stranger is watching him. As the darkness of the night disappears when the day dawns, my paranoia faded away after my watching, at last.
During a break, Baradeny told us an old Indian story.
“Once upon a time, there was a bee that flitted over the flowers in a meadow. Now and then, it alighted on a flower to suck the nectar. Finally, the bee settled on an extraordinary flower, the most beautiful in the meadow. Its fragrance was intense and attractive enough to spellbind the bee. It didn’t want to leave the flower and lingered inside the corolla, forgetting to go back to its hive. While it was enjoying the nectar, an elephant came unexpectedly. With its trunk, it pulled the flower out and cast it away. Without its roots in the ground, the flower shut itself up immediately. The bee remained trapped inside the petals and couldn’t get out of it. Do you know what the significance of this story is? You ought to strive not to become attached to earthly pleasures too much. Otherwise, you will get trapped, as it happened to the bee.”
Then, Baradeny talked about anxiety.
“We can define anxiety as a kind of self-defense. It is not harmful if it is necessary. Anxiety makes us alert and aware of danger. But when anxiety is excessive, it becomes pathological. Once, I knew a man who couldn’t get out of his house because of his anxiety. Some people fear traveling by airplane, and some can’t drive a car because of fear. In extreme situations, some people can’t even walk in the street. They are much too anxious to do the usual things for others.
“There are many effective methods to treat anxiety, but the best of all is ‘watching yourself.’ In fact, anxiety, just like paranoia, doesn’t have a real basis. It is the fruit of your imagination. Anxiety is like being scared of your own shadow. But anxiety, like a shadow, is just a projection of your mind. If you keep watching yourself without striving to suppress anxiety, you will realize the difference between reality and illusion. Instead of running away from anxiety, watch yourself. You will understand that neither the shadow nor anxiety can hurt you because neither of them can stand alone. They are just projections!
“When I lived in Germany, I had a horse that was frightened by his shadow. The horse didn’t know that the shadow of his body couldn’t threaten him. It was not easy to convince him not to get scared. At last, he understood that his shadow was an image projected by his body. After understanding, he calmed down.
“Therefore, whenever anxiety tries to take over you, take a rest for some minutes and sit silently. Watch your breathing, watch your mind, watch your body, watch your thoughts, and watch your anxiety. Gradually, your mind will be purified, and your anxiety will vanish! You can’t find it anymore because it comes from an impure mind.”

This is an excerpt from Travels of the Mind
Ettore Grillo, author of these books:
– A Hidden Sicilian History
– The Vibrations of Words
– Travels of the Mind




The village was in the Rift Valley. In the lower area, a few houses remained. Most of the houses were in the upper part of the valley. The two places had different names. The relocation of the population was imposed by the frequent floods of Lake Rukwa, which made the houses of the lower village unsafe. The house of the organization stood in the lower area, the oldest and the most fascinating.
The houses were all thatched, without electricity and running water. I spent my days strolling around. I was attracted by the silence and peace in the village and the simplicity of the villagers. There were two or three shops, but as for style and dimension, they were very different from the European shops. There was a barber who ran his shop under a tree! His tools were just a chair, a pair of scissors, and a razor blade. He was very good at using the razor blade to shave his customers. I couldn’t resist the temptation to have my hair cut, even though I had it short and didn’t need to cut it. I sat down on that wooden chair, and the barber cut my hair in the African style. Despite not having a comb, his haircut was excellent. I paid 200 shillings, the equivalent of a few cents.
In front of those houses, there were mostly women and children. Seldom could I find men. The women burned wood and boiled water in big saucepans, probably to cook ugali, the basic food of those people in Tanzania. Rice was cooked as well, but maybe it was more expensive.
I admired the uniqueness and the attire of those women. They wore long dresses. Over their dresses, they wore long and loose cloths called kitenge or kanga (according to the kind and consistency of the fabric) from the waist nearly to the feet. Most women wore several brilliant and multicolored kitenge or kanga. When the need arose, they slipped off a kitenge or kanga from their waist and utilized the material in various ways: to carry their babies behind their backs, to cover them when it was cold, to make a soft base before putting something to carry on their heads, or even to make pretty hats for themselves. The women also carried heavy things on their heads, yet their spines were perfect and upright like those of the models in a fashion show.
I visited a primary school. The classrooms were very crowded. One had 140 students! One of the teachers told me that it was impossible to take care of all the pupils. The primary school was free and consisted of seven levels. They had to pay a fee for the secondary school. In that village, few people could afford to pay the school fees. For that reason, the children finished their schooling at the end of the primary school.

This is an excerpt from Travels of the Mind
Ettore Grillo, author of these books:
– A Hidden Sicilian History
– The Vibrations of Words
– Travels of the Mind



After a short stay in Matema, Manuela took us to her village. She introduced David and me to her mother, who was almost blind, and to her relatives. She was the only daughter still alive. Her sister had died very young, while her brother had died from HIV/AIDS three years before. We met her brother’s widow, who was in good health; she didn’t look infected with the AIDS virus. Manuela’s brother’s grave was in front of the house where he had lived. It was in the street where people walked.
In the graveyard of my hometown, walking on the graves is considered a sin! Manuela showed us two upside-down bottles driven into the ground at a distance of nearly two meters from each other. She said that the bottles were marks that someone had been buried in that place. In that way, people could avoid digging another grave there.
That night, I woke up and sat on my bed. Those two bottles driven into the ground appeared in my mind, as if they were in front of my eyes. The thought that Manuela’s brother had been buried underground without a coffin like a dog made me feel that the end of our life involved the end of everything. Perhaps,in the grave, not only that man’s body, but also his soul, mind, and energy had been buried. Everything vanishes into thin air. We human beings are like meteors, which appear for a while and then disappear. Life is like a firework. It is evanescent. I asked David to tell me something about African burials.
“Can you tell me something about funerals in your country?”
“Sure! The dead person is not buried soon after his death. The dead body is washed and kept in the house for some hours. Then, usually, he is shrouded in a cloth. Often, a few hours before his burial, he is put on a chair in front of the house where he lived. People who knew him in his lifetime can stop there silently and give their condolences to the families.
“In the villages, there are no graveyards. The dead are buried near their houses. First of all, a quite deep pit is dug. Then, a burial niche is made in the lateral wall of the pit. The body is lowered into the pit, taken by two people who are beneath and put in the burial niche, which finally is closed with a cloth. The pit is then filled with earth. The grave is a little higher than the level of the ground and everybody can spot it. But over the years, the traces of the grave tend to disappear. It becomes indistinguishable from the ground. For that reason, Manuela’s sister-in-law drove those two bottles into the grave. She wanted to make it recognizable so that no one could dig another grave in the same spot.”
In the past, I had the chance to visit graves in cemeteries and churches. The grave that impressed me much was Robert Kennedy’s. In my opinion, it is similar to the African graves for its simplicity. It stood at the foot of a grassy hill in the Arlington cemetery in Washington, D.C. One of the richest and most potent men in the world rested inside an unadorned, isolated grave. On it, there were a small cross and a small gravestone with just his name, Robert Francis Kennedy, and the dates of his birth and death.
“When a witch doctor dies,” continued David, “the burial is done soon after his death. People think he can do bad things if his ghost stays on Earth for some time.
“If the chief of a tribe dies, the funeral is different. He is tied on a high-backed chair with a spear in hand. Then, his body and a person still alive, aged between fifteen and thirty-five, are lowered into the grave.”
“But it is just a legend!” said Manuela.
“I don’t think so!” insisted David. “This kind of burial was practiced not long ago. Then, with time, the living person has been replaced with a hen.”

This is an excerpt from Travels of the Mind
Ettore Grillo, author of these books:
– A Hidden Sicilian History
– The Vibrations of Words
– Travels of the Mind



To get to the Sukuma family, we crossed a plain with some trees. As we went on, little by little, the road disappeared. A Sukuma boy, who had gotten in our car at Chunia, guided us until we arrived at our destination.
Sukuma’s houses were no different from those I had seen before. They were built with bricks and had the usual thatched roofs. One of the barns was made of kneaded mud and a wooden frame. In that place, there were four houses, some corrals and shelters for animals, and two earthen silos for storing grain, maize, and forage.
We were served ugali, dry potatoes, and chicken. We ate with our hands, after having washed them carefully, even though the water we washed our hands with was grayish! The Sukuma used that water even for drinking. But for us, who were guests, they served mineral water, not that kind of water. We took some ugali with our hands and kneaded it to make small balls with a little hollow in the middle. Then we dunked the little ball in
a sort of oil with crumbs similar to mince. Both the oil and the crumbs were made from milk.
After lunch, we remained sitting around the table for a while. The head of the Sukuma family invited us to ask him some questions about their culture. David prompted me to
say something. I was the guest of honor, and the trip had been organized just for me. My questions should be in Italian, then David would translate them into Kiswahili, and in turn, Antonia would translate Kiswahili into the Sukuma language.
“Ask something!” David insisted.
“I’d like to know something about the burials in the Sukuma tribe.”
“Can’t you choose a more pleasant topic? You could ask, for instance, something about their weddings.”
“For me, the important question is how their burial rites are. First, I want him to answer this question, and then I’ll ask something more cheerful.”
“When a person dies,” said the Sukuma man, “the families have a meeting to decide the spot of the burial. The grave should be in the corral, according to our culture. Once the decision has been made, the families take a bull to the corral if the dead person is a man, or a cow if the dead person is a woman. Then, the animal is killed by hitting it with a stick. After having been cut into two equal parts, it is skinned. The two halves of the skin
are taken from the animal and put on the front and back of the dead man. Then, a pit is dug as deep as his height. A burial niche in one side of the pit is made. The dead man is placed there. The pit is covered with earth, but before it is done so, a big stone is put on the grave. The stone partly stands under the ground and partly stands out to indicate that there is a grave in that place.
“When the burial is over, the friends, relatives, and family members of the dead man eat the animal. The families will stay at home in mourning for two days if the death happens in the rainy season, or for three days if it happens in different periods of the year.
“Now, let’s talk about the funerary practices in your country, in Italy.”
“I can tell you about the burials in my hometown, since traditions vary from one town to another in Italy.
“Once, the dead were buried inside the churches, but after Napoleon’s edict, this practice fell into disuse. These days, the graves are only in the graveyards, far from the places where people live.
“In my hometown, a tomb is considered the second house, the last resting place. According to his means, everyone tries to build a family mortuary chapel as luxurious as he can. Inside the chapel, there are some burial niches. The dead person is put into a casket made of rich wood. Then the casket is sealed hermetically. One day, the manager of the cemetery of my hometown said to me that, according to her, the practice of sealing the dead in caskets is barbarous. But she had to abide by the regulations. Those who can’t afford to build a mortuary chapel make a small grave or buy a walled niche to put a coffin inside.
“I remember an uncle of mine who built a very big and luxurious family mortuary chapel. It was made of granite and rich marble. Inside the chapel, he made double burial niches so that husband and wife could lie together after their deaths. He had the illusion that death is the continuation of life!”
While we were chatting, a new man came in. He belonged to a different tribe whose name I could not catch.
“Do you want to ask some questions to the newcomer?” David said to me.
“Yes, I’d like to know his opinion about whether the buried dead man disappears into thin air or if his soul survives.”
“The person buried underground is not dead. Only his body dies, but he is still alive and wanders from house to house and from village to village. In our houses, there is the custom to leave something to eat for the guests and for the souls who may pass by,” said the newcomer.
“What is your religion? Can you describe something about your religious practice?”
“We have a holy tree and often go to pray there.”
“What’s so special about that tree? Why is that tree holy?”
“I don’t know. Our ancestors taught us to pray like that. We have prayed at the foot of that tree since time immemorial, and we will keep praying in the future, too.”
After our talking was over, some Sukuma boys and girls appeared with two long horns that seemed to me to be antelope. On the wider part of the horn, there was an extension of some material that I didn’t know. It served as a sound box. Playing those musical instruments, they performed traditional Sukuma dances.

This is an excerpt from Travels of the Mind
Ettore Grillo, author of these books:
– A Hidden Sicilian History
– The Vibrations of Words
– Travels of the Mind



Without a doubt, Shikido produces positive effects on the body and mind. In regard to me, it made me more open to others and steadier. Is it possible that these positive effects are due to autosuggestion rather than to the real effectiveness of the discipline? What is autosuggestion? What is the difference between reality and illusion, waking and dreaming, existence and vacuity?
When I was about twenty years old, one night my Belgian friend, Brigitte, gave me an effective pill to sleep peacefully. It worked perfectly, and I slept well all night. The following day, she showed me the capsules that seemed to contain the drug inside. But they were all empty. The pill I had taken was also empty! I didn’t know it. Nonetheless, it was effective to me. Did the same happen with regard to Shikido?
What is the criterion that makes us distinguish between reality and illusion? In pharmacology, the effectiveness of drugs is often tested through a placebo. Without their knowing, a group of patients is given a dose of a placebo drug while another group receives the real drug. Even though the placebo contains nothing effective, it often produces the same effect as the actual drug. Sometimes, so-called magicians, healers, and
clairvoyants provoke a placebo effect in their clients who are really convinced of benefiting from them. Do meditation and prayer produce placebo effects as well?
When I attended secondary school, before a written test, I entered the church and lit a small candle to Saint Joseph. My grandmother told me that, if the flame of the candle was
brilliant, the result of the test would be good, but if it was feeble or flickering, the result would be not good. Almost always what my grandmother said happened to me! Was it a placebo effect?
In ancient times, predictions were sometimes gotten through the observation of the flight of birds or their entrails. In Greece, the Delphian oracle was renowned. It seems that its predictions were infallible. But we can’t know whether it was true or not. For some people, even stigmata are the fruit of autosuggestion.
How to distinguish illusion from reality? Once, a friend of mine gave me his answer on this topic.
“I can state, with absolute certainty, that everything we can touch, see, and hear through our senses is true and real.”
The answer is only partially correct. At that time, I felt that his opinion was materialistic. There are many invisible truths. Senses are connected to the mind, which rules them. We sense things through the filter of the mind. So, how can we be sure that what we see, touch, and listen to corresponds to the absolute, true, and ultimate reality? We can’t know the truth! This is the human condition! From this basis, the path of knowledge has to proceed toward the search for another dimension where we can perceive the ‘source of the universe’ from which reality derives.

This is an excerpt from Travels of the Mind
Ettore Grillo, author of these books:
– A Hidden Sicilian History
– The Vibrations of Words
– Travels of the Mind



In the past, I strove to remain serene. But it was very difficult for me, because I couldn’t put into practice my resolution in daily life. Although I deeply wanted to be free from anxiety, I couldn’t succeed. Anxiety and mental confusion always got the upper hand on me. What to do!
When Manuela and I got back to the house of the organization, I went to my room to lie down on my bed, and went over my past experiences and attempts to get over my anxiety and depression.
On the sides of the lake in my hometown, there were some apparatuses for doing gymnastic exercises. My friends used to do rolls on the rings. I couldn’t do that exercise, even though I knew how to do it in theory. I knew that it was not dangerous, and nothing would happen to me. I had a body structure suitable for doing that, but I lacked the courage to grip the rings and launch myself with my head downwards. I couldn’t put into
practice what I knew in theory. I was too anxious to do a roll.
How could I keep my anxiety under control?
There are many methods that claim to be a good treatment for anxiety and depression. Many of them consist in taking medicines. I have always viewed those chemicals with suspicion. They are artificial treatments for temporary serenity. Tranquilizers and medicines for mental diseases and personality disorders also have side effects and are addictive. A person’s inner balance is kept artificially on these drugs. If treatment is stopped, the frail equilibrium breaks. Drugs fight the symptoms, not the disease. Undoubtedly, the medicine triggers a chemical, artificial reaction that affects the person’s behavior and impairs his free expression of emotions and ideas.
Once, I talked about this issue with a psychiatrist. I expressed to her my opinion about drugs and addiction. If mental disease is kept under control by medicines, then the patient has to take them for his whole life.
“Don’t be so upset! Many body diseases can be controlled by taking medicines. For instance, think of the pills to control diabetes or high blood pressure. They must be taken daily and for life. That kind of medicine doesn’t provoke any scandal. Unfortunately, people are embarrassed to take drugs in the treatment of mental or emotional diseases,” said the psychiatrist.
As for me, I have always refused anything that was artificial and unnatural. I was convinced that if I had taken drugs to cure my anxiety and depression, my spontaneity would have been impaired. They would have undermined my spirit of adventure, my desire for knowledge, and my spiritual quest to understand the meaning of life. Furthermore, my critical and judgmental capacity would have dwindled away, as well as my passion for travel. So, I never turned to medicines to resolve my emotional, existential, and psychological problems.
Once, a Buddhist friend of mine taught me a kind of meditation.
“The technique I will teach you,” he said, “doesn’t provoke any side effect. It doesn’t break the natural equilibrium of your character. It strengthens your spirit of adventure and desire for knowledge instead of reducing them. In fact, this technique removes the negativity inside you and the hindrances that interfere with your inner growth. Hence, whenever anxiety and depression are about to invade you, use this technique.
“Just sit down and watch your breathing. Watch as if you were an external watcher. Don’t judge the thoughts that pass through your mind. Confine yourself to watching them. Pay attention to the air that comes in and out of your nostrils. Then, when you inhale, imagine that a white light passes through the crown of your head, floods into your body, and purifies it. When you exhale, imagine that your exhalation is a black smoke that carries out your negative thoughts, worries, and delusions.”
From then on, whenever I meditated in that way, my anxiety subsided a little. One day, when I was jogging around the lake, I stopped by the apparatuses. I stood facing the rings and meditated for a while as my Buddhist friend had taught me. Then, I grasped the rings, bent my head downward, made a jump, and lifted my feet toward the sky, without hesitating. Finally, I had done it! It was an easy exercise. My anxiety had prevented me from doing that. Both the white light and the black smoke didn’t exist. They were a figment of my imagination, but so was my anxiety.
While traveling in Tanzania, I resumed that meditation technique. I did it whenever I could, even that day, in the organization’s house. The results were good. My depression and anxiety subsided a little.

This is an excerpt from Travels of the Mind
Ettore Grillo, author of these books:
– A Hidden Sicilian History
– The Vibrations of Words
– Travels of the Mind



On Sunday, William and I went to a village almost 150 kilometers away. There, they were having a celebration for a member of the organization who had been advanced in his career. To get to that village, we crossed a torrid zone of the Rift Valley. It seemed that all the vegetation had been destroyed by a wildfire. The trees were without leaves. William told me to be careful not to be stung by tsetse flies, because I would sleep for a long time or forever if one of those flies stung me. Even the cows sometimes died from a sting of a tsetse fly. I laughed to myself. How could I avoid coming across a tsetse fly? For sure, I couldn’t travel inside a mosquito net! However, we passed that arid zone unharmed. Once in a while, we saw some monkeys and guinea hens.
In the village, there was bustle and a festive air. There were many street vendors. I purchased a flashlight, which can be very useful in Africa.
Walking in the street, I saw something that seemed to be a very old rite, but nobody was able to explain its meaning to me. On one side in a small square, three men were beating
their drums. On the opposite side, there was a big porcupine inside a cage made of reeds on a table. I had never seen such a big porcupine before. The animal was terrified and hook its posterior part, which seemed to be a tail. At almost two meters from the cage of the porcupine, a white circle with a diameter of about one meter was drawn on the round. Inside the circle, there were some quills of the porcupine, a metal tray, and other objects that I couldn’t make out. Two women alternated in dances. The rhythm of the drums was continuous. A man wearing a sharp tail made of cloth danced.
I wanted to know the symbolic meaning of that old dance and of the white circle drawn on the ground. I tried to analyze the symbols, but I couldn’t make out any meaning. Later, I asked a member of the organization to solve the mystery about those symbols. He was an anthropologist and an authority on African lore.
“African dances,” he said, “are just dances of joy and are performed to celebrate something. They are not rites and don’t have any symbolic meaning. Here in Africa, people dance only for enjoyment. In past times, the Africans danced to welcome the warriors who returned from battle. Here, the dances have no other meaning but expressions of joy, love, and peace.”
“What is the meaning of the porcupine, the white circle, the dances of those women, and that man who danced with a tail made of cloth?”
“Porcupine meat has an exquisite taste. This animal is a protected species in Tanzania, but sometimes poachers catch it. The porcupine you saw will be killed to be eaten. The ones who danced are not women, but men disguised as women. The white circle was drawn just for fun to give the impression that they were witch doctors. That dance was just a joke, fun, and nothing else.”

This is an excerpt from Travels of the Mind
Ettore Grillo, author of these books:
– A Hidden Sicilian History
– The Vibrations of Words
– Travels of the Mind