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Is-ness

SandMandalaBeing OK with what “is” can be a powerful way of finding peace in your everyday life. It can be tricky though, and thankfully there are ways to not get stuck in a mental loop. For many of us, being OK with what “is” sounds like an impossible dream some times. In this post I would like to dive a bit deeper into this subject.
Generally my perceived reality unfolds in this way:
Something “happens”, i.e. I get faced with a situation. In a split second I feel a bodily sensation (emotion) which I, in turn, interpret with the less than conscious part of my mind (we can call this intuitive thinking) as either desirable (good) or less desirable (bad). The result of this lightning quick calculation affects my attitude, about the given situation, almost immediately.
If the situation is judged as “bad” my thinking and emotional response fuel each other, a mental loop is established and my attitude turns sour.
Maybe Shakespeare said it best when he proclaimed: “there is nothing good or bad in this world, but thinking makes it so.”

For example, my flight is delayed. This can easily upset the best of us, but if we look objectively at the situation it is neither “good” nor “bad”…it just IS. There can be a million reasons why the flight is late and it is impossible for me to grasp the whole picture of the situation. It is utterly pointless to dwell on these reasons, because the reality I am presented with is a late flight. Thinking about what caused it and what it might lead to cannot change the situation at hand. Reality is as it is…or simply, reality IS!
Since the external conditions are as they are and no amount of judgement will change them I am presented with a choice to let the situation be as it is. We can call it acceptance of our external reality. There is an all-pervasive peace and calmness in acceptance.

Sometimes however, my emotional response is so quick that I fail to catch it before it affects my attitude. At this point it can feel difficult, if not impossible, to accept the external reality as it is. I have already passed my judgement and made the situation into something undesirable.
Trying to accept the external reality while I am in this state can easily start a mental loop where I judge my own judgement. I shouldn’t be feeling bad about this. This, however, adds another layer of misery. Now I judge both the external and internal reality as bad. This loop can be very difficult to escape.
Here I am presented with another choice. If I can/will not accept the external conditions (late flight), I can accept the internal conditions (my judgement/attitude). Some situations will trigger your anger and there is no point in being angry about the anger.

When I let the reality be, I quickly follow.

Love, A

Surviving-Striving-Thriving

thriving
Like many others I meet on my path, I have spent years of my life focused mainly on surviving. When I talk about surviving I think about enduring, pulling through or just to continue existence. Stay on the hamster wheel. Work, eat, keep working, get paid, pay bills, eat, drink, consume & repeat. For many of us, myself included, it seemed like the only way to keep going. The more I work, the more I get paid and the more I can consume. So around it goes, the never ending cycle of disillusioned ‘growth’ or ‘development’.
At some point I got angry, and many of us do, and decided that this life of survival cannot be the only thing I am meant to do. I left my home and moved to a new city, in a new country, because I had heard of a school where I could find my passion and make more of myself. It was a 3 year intense process, both personally and professionally, but as I started to unlearn old patterns of living I saw another way. I was told that I am capable of amazing things and if I was just ambitious enough and found my passion, I could change the world.

This started a new chapter in my life. I finally had something to strive for. I started a few more-or-less successful businesses and projects, with the aim of making my world a better place and feeling better about life. I had transcended surviving, found ambition and started to set goals. Goals were broken down into milestones, milestones were broken down into actions and actions flew on and off my never-ending to-do lists. I was a machine! Actions were taken, milestones passed and goals reached, but I was still missing something essential…Quality of Life. In a way I was still on the hamster wheel. I had just managed to convince myself that since I was working for myself I had “beat the system”, but I was still going through the motions. Work, eat, keep working, get paid, pay bills, eat, drink, consume & repeat. Only difference was that now I was working towards my own goals so I was working more and harder than ever before. I had problems with my heart, I lost all the hair from the left part of my head, I couldn’t sleep and yet I continued to work hard, in the name of my ambition and passion until I finally broke down. I couldn’t be productive anymore and I needed a long break from the hustle. I took some time off. I walked a lot. I spent some time in solitude. I started writing and reading more and I took a lot of time to just sit with myself and reflect on the years that passed while striving.

It was a strange period in my life. I dove into spiritual texts trying to find answers and something I came across in both Taoist and Buddhist tradition was that ambition & passion are forms of suffering. I could feel this as deep truth, but then I couldn’t figure out how to make plans for the future while still enjoying the present moment. In the productivity trainings I still hosted sometimes I told people that we have to switch from being efficient to being effective, meaning doing the right things as opposed to doing a lot, but what were the ‘right things’?
During this period I was only doing the bare minimum, working just enough to pay for my expenses and as a by-product I was consuming very little. This started me on my path towards minimal living and I am grateful for this period of gestation. But by trying to avoid ambition I had robbed myself of enthusiasm. My pace started to slow down.
When I wasn’t constantly working I found time for other things. Reading, writing, meditating, walking, seeing friends and most importantly seeing my enthusiasm. The things in life that make my heart smile. I didn’t have to look for passion, because my enthusiasm was always there hidden under layers of ambition.

Here I would like to recommend an article written by fellow writer, lifehacker and minimalist Mark Manson called ‘Screw finding your passion’! It helped me to put words to the feelings I had, and eventually led me to write this blogpost.

The difference between ambition and enthusiasm can be found in the etymology of the words themselves. Ambition comes from the Latin ambire (going around, canvasing) and Enthusiasm comes from the Greek enthous (possessed by god or spirit). I could clearly see the difference now and this made it possible for me to live, work and act from my own spirit as opposed to my thinking mind, which will often create suffering and feelings of ‘not enough’. I had found a way to thrive.

I am now working on the things that matter most to me and I believe that by doing so, I am doing the best I can for the world around me. I work less, eat less, consume less, live more and sleep well. The world needs people to thrive, to feel complete, and in doing so, sharing their gift with humankind. This is what I can do best…support people around me to thrive in their lives. How can I support you?

Love, A

Two-Problems

Future-Present-Past-1680x1050During my second year at Kaospilots in Rotterdam we had a workshop host from KaosPilots in Aarhus, Denmark coming to guide us through the workings of Process Design. Kristin Birkeland is an inspiring, caring woman who always manages to get to the very essence of a group and their process and I greatly admire her work as a coach, facilitator and artist. In the week we were blessed with her presence we talked about many things that matter, and one of the most insightful things she told us was this simple phrase:

There are really only two types of problems in this world. There’s the ones you can do something about, and there is no sense worrying about them. Then there’s the ones you can’t do anything about, and there is no sense worrying about them.

This simple phrase has helped me take distance from worrying about any so-called “problem”. It has encouraged me to take action when I can and let go when I can’t. The wisdom contained in this statement continue to deepen inside myself over the years.
Consider the fact that problems always arise in the dimension of time. You tend to make problems of situations that concern either the past or the (imagined) future. If an emergency situation manifests in the present moment, we don’t have time to make it into a “problem”, but we spring into immediate action. Now I see that this is also what Kristin spoke of. The problems you can do something about belong in the future. The reason there is no sense in worrying about them is that you will, no doubt, handle them when they arise in the present. You can take action. The problems you cannot do anything about belong in the past. There is no sense in worrying because the situation cannot be changed. It happened how it happened and no amount of worrying can change that. In fact the act of worrying is what makes a situation into a problem!

Whenever I feel myself making a “problem” out of a situation, I know I can get out of it by bringing my attention into the present. Like anything it gets stronger with practice and the statement from Kristin has helped me greatly in this. Thank you!

Love, A

(This post was originally posted to my old blog in 2014)

Notebook Harvest

journalThe habit of keeping a journal cannot be overstated. Research has proven it to be an incredible tool for self-reflection, perhaps even more so than psychotherapy and meditation.

2 years ago I went to a silent retreat in Wapse, NL. I went there to spend time on my own, reading and writing in silence. I brought my journal, and I even brought an extra one just in case I would write so much I’d fill the first. As it turns out, I did finish it and as I transitioned from one book full of thoughts, insights, ideas, dreams and memories to an empty one, a wonderful feeling of blank slate came over me.
I was given the opportunity to start anew with more original thought, fresh ideas and memories waiting to be lived and recorded. I felt very satisfied leaving the old notebook behind and in true minimalist spirit I considered throwing the old journal away, maybe even burning it in a ceremonial blaze of glory!

Before embarking on such an endeavor I decided to read the old journal once more. While reading it became apparent how many unfinished thoughts and underdeveloped ideas these pages of life contained. Most probably this meant that all my old journals had the same kind of scribbles, smelling of underlying wisdom yet to bloom fully. When I came back to civilization, I looked through my old notebooks. I noticed that because I had not carried these unfinished thoughts forward, I had sometimes reached the same conclusion (albeit in different ways) over and over again.
I believe I am posed with the challenges needed for me to learn certain lessons in life. If I fail to take wisdom from an event, the challenge will manifest again in different form, and I will be playing out the same pattern over and over in my life until I learn the lesson I need to move on. Experiencing true “flow” is when I constantly move forward because of taking full learning from every challenge and integrating said learning in my life.

This was the moment a new idea started to form: The Notebook-Harvest!
Whenever a journal is “finished” I will go through it again and take all these unfinished thoughts and record them in the new empty journal so I can take them with me in my consciousness and develop them further.
After a full year I can say that this has really helped me to keep developing my thoughts, internalize the arising wisdom without anything falling back into my subconscious.

Here are the steps:
1. Fill a journal with all your amazing thoughts, reflections and ideas.
2. Read it through and underline/highlight the wisdom you want to develop/internalize further.
3. Record your findings in the first few pages of your new journal.
4. Expand the thoughts further in the coming weeks as you fill the new journal with more magic.
5. (Optional) Burn the old journal in a ritual of your choice, freeing your mind to think anew.

Love, A

Awareness-Awakening

fourthawakeningEvery path of change starts with awareness, whether it be one about food, health, work or spirituality. We feel we want to make a change so we start looking inward and outward for new paths. Then comes a time when I know enough. Sometimes it can even feel like too much. My awareness has reached the point where I’ve read, heard or thought of how I would like the new path to look like. But awareness alone does not create change.
I believe many people have experienced this phenomena in the last few years, at least to some extent. As a society we learn more every day about diet and nutrition. At some point we might feel guilty or ashamed because of having all the knowledge and still not making the change we would like to see. I like to call this Awareness Anxiety. It happens when there is a gap between what we know and what we do. Thinking gets triggered in this gap, causing us suffering in the form of self-loathing or self-doubt.  We know what feels right, yet continue with our old patterns and it hurts.
Many of us in the West know the perils of industry farming and mass produced food. We know that buying locally sourced or organic produce is better for the world as well as our own health, yet sometimes I still buy the products I am used to since childhood. The anxiety seems to come from the knowledge itself often we stop educating ourself, and maybe even ignore the knowledge we gathered, in order to rid ourselves of the feelings associated with this gap. The awareness now highlight what an “awful person” I am.
Unfortunately awareness cannot be undone, and the feeling will keep resurfacing until a point where I can’t take the suffering anymore and I decide to make an active change. I call this point Awareness Awakening. Once I have gotten this far it is virtually impossible to return to my old patterns.
To make this process easier for myself, I can learn to recognize the anxiety before it becomes unbearable and make active decisions about how I want to change. As with all changes in habit, I recommend starting with one at a time and allow yourself to be human. Change is not a goal, but a path…start today!

Love, A