Monday, October 12, 2009

The start of a new movement

Lately I've been working on a completely new and innovative project. It's called Tientjes, or in English "Ten Bucks".

We've noticed that coaching and counselling, psychological help, help in starting up your own business or creating your own website is are services that are expensive. Prohibitively so.

Personally this has meant that it's been difficult for me to find clients for my online coaching business. Not because there aren't many people out there who suffer from the long term effects and affects of Childhood Sexual Abuse, but because they can't afford to hire a counsellor to help them through the healing.

That all is about to change. Ten Bucks aims to be a movement towards making these types of services (and many others) available to the average Joe. Shooting for a market of lower to middle incomes, we aim to provide services and challenge people to provide their own. Get a lawyer for Ten bucks, an artist to design your logo, build your website for Ten bucks an hour (or per page, up to the provider to make that decision).

The best part is that people who are now working menial jobs, barely getting by, working their tail off for a boss can use the services of Ten bucks to break out of their poverty and to follow their dream.

Far from being a rekindling of the American Dream, which appears to be geared towards rampant consumerism, this is all about producing your own dream, living your own passion on the scale you want. Do you want to be as big as Disney? We'll help you get started. Do you want to be a professional service provider, good at what you do and proud to be independent? We'll help you get started. Do you just want to put your skills to work on a small scale? We'll help you get started. It's what your dream is all about that counts.

Everything at Ten bucks, as you might have guessed by now, costs Ten bucks. The three initiators are accomplished professional coaches and trainers. Instead of going for the big bucks we go for Ten bucks. We feel that even if our services costs only Ten bucks we can make a decent living and have a lot of fun for our money.

We're in the process of writing our business plan and already we're dreaming about the possibility of going international. Big dreams, not of making big money, but of making the Ten bucks movement big enough to have a coach on every streetcorner, teaching people how to make the most of their dream.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Only dead fish go with the flow

I ask myself periodically, just to check on my own progress, if I'm doing what I want to be doing. If the way I've given direction and meaning to my life is working for me. Some people might want to go on a retreat, meditate or use a mindfulness-method to accomplish this. I do the opposite: instead of staying in comfortable house with it's relaxed and mindful atmosphere, I go and get myself a job.

For me, it's about avoiding the few things that keep me stuck in a rut. One of my pitfalls is too much going with the flow. While it's a good idea not to fight the river of life, not to offer resistance to the tide that wants to sweep us along, it's good to periodically remember that only dead fish go with the flow.

Things that seem so natural that they are rarely considered keep us stuck in a rut. Making a change can help us escape from doing the same thing over and over. Einstein gave us a beautiful definition of insanity, he said: "Insanity is doing the same thing time after time, expecting the results to be different."

If you want different results, do something different! It may sound strange, but basically anything will do. Any change, no matter how small or large will jolt you out of your comfortzone and give you an added awareness.

Lately I've done some work in a Social Hostel. Here I work with people who have suffered a psychiatric illness of have an alcohol or drugs problem. The way things are done here are more than stuck in a rut, they are etched in stone, ingrained in the people, confirmed by the way things are organized.

Being confronted with a strict regime like this helps me question my own routines. It's quite a shock to my system to work in a place where dinner is served at a specific time, where people have coffee at a specific time, where every aspect of life is pre-ordained by rules and regulations. Where people have become institutionalized to the extend that they no longer question the way things are. My own life is highly disorganized in terms of time. I make appointments with customers at a time when it's convenient to them. I rise when I feel like it and go to sleep when I'm tired. Just having a job is throwing me out of my "normal routine". Having a highly structured work environment is taking me quite a ways out of my comfort zone.

Whatever your normal is like, I believe it's a good idea to do something different now and then. It doesn't really matter what aspect you change, any type of change will bring about a heightened state of consciousness. Breaking your normal pattern means you become aware of the pattern and what your pattern offers you. Sometimes this means you become more firmly attached to you pattern: you notice how well it serves you and you get a renewed sense of value from it. Sometimes it means you break your pattern permanently, because you notice that the pattern you once had no longer serves you. Instead you are now free to choose a different mode of operation. This freedom of choice enriches your life.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Time, there was a time...

There's something strange happening with the concept of time. Things are changing at a faster rate. This trend was first flagged in the seventies by Alvin and Heidi Toffler, futurists and authors of the book "Future Shock". The idea in the seventies was that things were changing so fast, more and more people were unable to keep up with the changing times. Remember: this is before the advent of computers, let alone a world wide web.

In recent research Richard Wiseman, author of Quirkology compared the speed at which people walked, in different city's. It was a follow up from research that was done 10 years earlier and in every location people had stepped up their walking speed by at least 10%. We are literally moving faster than ever. In spite of mindfulness movements and meditation becoming more prevalent, we are speeding up.

The analogy with the life of a human being seems apt. When we're young a summer day can last almost forever, the hot summer nights of puberty seem much longer than sitting down at night after putting the children to bed. Time speeds up by perspective alone, 1 year at 20 is 5% of your life while at 50 it's down to 2% of your life. But there's more to it than that.

Another thing that makes time seem to last longer for the young is the level of interest they bring to what they are doing. They are doing a lot of things for the very first time, living it intensely. That first kiss lasted a lot longer it seems than the goodnight kiss you gave your partner tonight, didn't it? When in effect, in terms of clock-time it may have been of equal length.

Mindfulness and meditation aren't enough to turn the tide, if indeed the tide needs turning. Perhaps more and more people are unable to keep up with the changing times, but it may be that we don't need to grow and change all that much. Maybe the latest I-pod or the newest blackberry don't have any appeal except for the very young. Maybe they will grow faster and faster, to keep up with the things that are happening. Certainly the incidence of ADHD and Indigo Children seems to indicate that something is evolving.

How okay can you be with growing older? With not keeping up with the latest trends and not knowing what a flashmob is or how to create one? How much can you enjoy the benefits of growing older? The feel of your aging skin? How wonderful to live and not be that pimply, insecure youngster needing all these playthings to be okay, to feel like they're with the in-crowd.
Celebrate aging
I love new stuff, I love to read how they have invented a portable dvd-player and a Wii so children can play at the computer without going obese. I love that they are winning energy through osmosis from the places where sweetwater meets the salty. I like to stay informed and I twitter and (obviously) blog. I don't need any of these things to feel good about myself though. That's what aging does: It shows you how relative these things are to your personal mission and your happiness.

I have given myself permission to not keep up with the times. I pick and choose, those things that are fun and interesting, I run with, like blogging and twitter. The things that I don't feel add to my overall well being or my mission in life, I give a pass. This has made my life a lot simpler. I don't need half as much stuff, in fact I've made it a habit to give my excess stuff away twice a year. It also means I don't need to sell as much of my time for money. This gives me ample time to spend on the things in life that I find enjoyable. It also leaves me with plenty of time to do something meaningful for the world, which in the final analysis gives me the most satisfaction and joy.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

6 easy to follow steps to "do-gooding"

Do-gooding, as I see it, is doing good deeds for no appearant reason. Some would call it altruism and start a discussion if people do it in order to feel good. Or maybe they do it to avoid feeling ashamed or guilty for not having done it. However, I'm not really looking for a definition. Instead let's take a look at the mechanics.

How to do-good.


Step 1: Find your niche.
You can't do-good all the time and on every topic. The world is too full of small hurts for you to take it all on. Even Mother Theresa specialized in the orphans of Calcutta. On a world scale, you could call that a small niche. On a personal scale it was a daunting task. She made her mark on the world without trying to do it all.
Your niche should be something you care deeply about. Wether it's poverty, the environment, health or any of the millions of things it's possible to care about, choose the one that touches your heart. If you don't feel passionate about it, do-gooding is going to be a chore rather than a service of joy.

Step 2: Define your boundaries
Determine how much of your time and effort you are willing and able to invest. Make sure that the time you commit to do-gooding detract you from the other things you find important and necessary in your life. Neglecting your family, health or job will result in stress in those area's of your life. Ultimately this will negate your positive effect on the world from do-gooding. To my knowledge Mahatma Ghandi only slipped once in his efforts to change the world through non-violence and this was when he was so angry he took a swing at his wife. Don't you make the same mistake, do-gooding starts at home!

Step 3: Set the scene.
Think about place and time: are you going to be do-gooding everywhere or in a specific area. Place and time could mean you volunteer a certain amount of time to a cause of your choice, actually setting time apart, or you could make it a goal to be alert for anonymous do-gooding all the time (see: Heroes). The main thing is that you choose where and when you have the intention of doing good. It will open your eyes to do-gooding opportunities everywhere.

Step 4: Start!
This may sound obvious but starting is one of the most difficult steps. Make that phonecall to the volunteer organisation of your choice. Offer to carry your elderly neighbors groceries. Help out at the local foodbank. Pick up that first piece of litter on the ground. There's enormous power in beginning. If you're finding yourself procrastinating, putting off the do-gooding, go back to step number 1, bearing in mind that you may have set your goals too high.There's a story about a man who came to the gates of heaven and to his dismay they were closed. He wept and lamented, begged the doorman for the key. He was there for days, weeping and complaining, moaning and groaning, claiming he had always had the best of intentions and never did anybody any harm. Never once did he get up and try the handle. The door was never locked.

Step 5: Evaluate
Be sure to evaluate periodically, especially important when you're just starting out. Have you made the right choice? Is the area you're doing good in the one you feel passionate about? Are you in the right surroundings, with people feeding you in your commitment to do-gooding? Are you still spending enough time in your daily life, doing the stuff that you had a prior commitment to? Is your do-gooding effort giving you the satisfaction of a job well done? Are you doing good at your own level of competence? Can you do more? Should you do less? Evaluate if the task you've set yourself fit's in with your life and brings you joy.

Step 6: Inspire others.
You've found your niche and you're happily making a difference in the world. You're doing good on a regular basis and at a level you feel comfortable with. You're reaping the rewards, whether they be the aforementioned lack of shame and guilt or the pride you might feel in a job well worth doing, done well. It's time to inspire others to do what you did, show them how much joy you're finding in service. Show them that when you listen to your heart and find your niche everyone can do good.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Hubchallenge, day 5: Ten years of therapy

On a different blogsite I'm working on a series of articles that I'm pretty proud of. It's a 30 article series on Childhood Sexual Abuse. I'm aiming to write it from a personal experience perspective without turning it into a sobstory or personal journal. Using my experiences to shed some light on what Childhood Sexual Abuse, and healing from it, looks like from the inside.

Hubchallenge, day 5: Ten years of therapy

Heroes: becoming inspiring individuals

In my last post I speak about the true heroes, those unsung heroes that help an old lady cross the street, pick up that bit of garbage and light a candle in someone's darkness. Today's blog is an attempt to empower people to go out and be a hero.

In response to my last post my girlfriend told me she's been a hero today. Across the street from her there's a supermarket that always has a lot of empty beercans lying around. Some presumably homeless people hang out there and leave their can's lying around. Today she walked past it as she always does on the way to doing the groceries, and instead of just passing them by, she went and picked them up and put them in the garbage bin. I'm proud to have inspired such an act of heroism.

Calling it heroism may seem overdone, but I believe it is the right and proper term. It takes courage and determination to change your own behavior. It means you have to change your own perception, refuse to think of problems as unsolveable and to be committed to making a difference in the world. Calling it heroism may however makes the task at hand seem difficult. As if you have to do something really special and unique to be a hero.

A hero, in my definition is someone who doesn't let an opportunity to make a difference go unnoticed. They pay attention to what is going on around them and help whenever they can. My girlfriend in the above example has probably walked past those cans a dozen times at least, perhaps even hundreds of times. However, today she saw them in a different light and made a choice to do something about it.

This kind of behavior is different and gets noticed, and when it does it's contagious. I remember one night at Carnaval, walking from the trainstation to my girlfriends home. In the south of our country Carnaval is celebrated with as much joy and noise as it is in Rio, and my girlfriend lives in the south. It was quite a new experience for me, all these people all dressed up, walking from bar to bar, singing and having a good time. I noticed however that some vandal had pushed a number of bicycles over, so that they lay in the road. The inebriated crowd was walking by them, but I could see that it was only a matter of time before they'd be falling over them or maybe treading on them, either breaking their necks or breaking the bicycles.

So my girlfriend and I picked up the first bike we saw and leaned it against the buildings on the side. There were at least 7 bikes that were similarly thrown about and it looked like a daunting task when a man in a pigsuit cheered at us. He told us: "I saw you put that bike upright! Good going ladies, that's what the world needs, people who care". He helped us lean the rest of the bikes against buildings and lampposts and told us about Carnaval in years gone by when of course "everything was better and people really cared". We made his night and he made ours.

That's the random acts of kindness that I believe are truely heroic. And aside from making a difference they also make you feel good about yourself! It's fun to look at the world and look for small ways in which you can improve it, right here and right now. So I propose we start a movement: the RAK-movement. RAK meaning: Random Acts of Kindness. It's easy and anyone can do it. But just to get you started and to inspire others: let's keep a tRAK-record. Let me know what RAK you did today!


If you like this post, you may also enjoy:
On being human: The case for mediocrity

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Good and Evil

"All that is required for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing"
Edmund Burke.

Evil came into my life early in the form of a child molester who abused me for 9 years. I experienced first hand the truth of the statement by Edmund Burke. In the nine years I was abused I'm sure some people must have seen something strange going on with me. I have no memory of anyone ever acting on my behalf thought. Instead, I was scolded for the way I acted out, told I was lazy and a rebellious teen.

In coming to terms with the experience of evil so early in life, I've thought a lot about good and evil. It has made me very aware that I have a choice, at any moment, to commit evil (by act or ommision) or good. I learned the truth of Alexandre Soltjzenitzyn's statement:

"The line between good and evil runs through the heart of every human being"

It's a moral choice whether you do good deeds or evil deeds.

Conformity experiment
That moral choice isn't as easy to make as it might seem: most of us are easily influenced by peer pressure. In the famous Asch experiment of conformity a full 75% of the people tested at least once gave a wrong answer when everyone around them gave the wrong answer. The question was: which of these lines on the right is of equal length to the one left, A B or C? Not hard to answer that one is it? In fact, without peer pressure only 1 person out of 35 tested ever got it wrong. When everyone around them gave the wrong answer however, 75% failed to give the right answer.

What's true for factual matters is probably double true for matters dealing with right and wrong. Given a situation where you perceive yourself to have no choices, where someone in authority is taking responsibility for your actions, and peer pressure to conform is high, you too might commit attrocities, like them poor soldiers in Abu Grahib. There but for the grace of God go I. An inconvenient truth? Yes. Can we escape it? Maybe.

In no way do I excuse people for the evil deeds they commit, I solidly believe in personal responsibility. However I also believe that there is no such thing as an evil person. Every one of us has a potential for good AND evil. Circumstances may call forth one or the other. The only thing we have to assist us in doing good is making a moral choice.


The hero's choice
A very simple example is littering. Interesting study done about that shows that when a street is very clean you don't normally litter, although about 10% of the people do anyway. If the street is very dirty, 90% of the same people just add to the mess. You have a moral choice:
  • You can put your own litter in the appropriate bin.
  • You can drop your litter as you go.
Then there is also the hero's choice:
  • Clean your entire street of litter and engage in a community program to keep it clean.
What we need in order to escape from the risk of us becoming the very monsters we fear, is everyday heroism. We need to celebrate the everyday hero that helps an old lady with her groceries. The hero that helps you pick up your papers when you drop them. The kind of hero that doesn't stand idly by when something bad happens, but goes into action when it counts. Every day we have a chance to be the hero that we are. All we have to do is be on the lookout for it.

So ask yourself at the end of every day:
"Did I have a chance to be somebody's hero today? Did I grab the chance?"

Monday, July 6, 2009

There is no "us" and "them"

I newly discovered this great site called TED. It has video podcasts on various topics from all sorts of innovative speakers. One that really touched my heart was the following talk by Diane Benscoter. As a former Moonie she's made a study of what kind of processes go into making someone go to the extremes for their particular set of beliefs.




She makes a valid point near the end: if a problem is of human origin we can tackle it ourselves. Instead of relying on God, the government or whatever higher power you may find yourself believing in. Because that would be making the same mistake again.

Think your own thoughts
Be aware though: Believing you're on the right side of the conflict is not the way out. As long as you're willing to make the other person into an enemy, dehumanize them or perceive them as essentially different from you, you're falling victim to the oldfashioned "us and them" paradigm.

The way out of this whole mess is through critical thinking. Asking yourself and each other the kinds of questions that open our minds, rather than close it. It's being open to different solutions, new modes of thinking, rather than settling for a new solidified "truth". It takes being aware, awake to all possibilities, aware of your own needs and wants and curious about someone elses.

Jonestown, Abu Grahib, Nazi Germany, terrorism and anti-terrorism all use the same logic. Any kind of thinking that points to a possible villain is part of the old modes of thinking. It's time to do away with such blanket judgements and start thinking of ourselves as one human family and figure out a way to avoid killing each other.

What if there was a war and nobody went?
Fortunately these are also the times when great movements are happening. More perhaps than ever before we are working together to solve problems, learning to use non-violent communication, finding new ways of resolving conflicts. The world is becoming a less violent place. We're learning, albeit slowly, to cherish and love one another.

Having an unbirthday party

Remember Alice in wonderland? She fell into the rabit-hole on her birthday, which was quite a shame because down in the rabit-hole they only celebrated unbirthdays. How inspiring that is: instead of a single day of celebration you get 364 days, sometimes even one more. I always liked that concept, except for the fatal flaw in it: why not celebrate birthdays as well?

I have a friend who's birthday is in november. In Holland this means fall weather, sometimes even snow and this all amounts to an indoor party. However, my friend enjoys the out of doors, so together we came up with a better plan. This weekend we celebrated her birthday, on the fourth of july. Having lived in America for 6 years, I particularly like that date because of Independence day, but most Dutch people aren't even aware that the 4th of July is a special day for Americans.

We had a picnic by the river, a rather historical spot where during the war the allied forces dropped in by way of parachute and unfortunately were killed in large numbers by Germans being stationed on the hills overlooking the Rhine valley. This postponed the liberation of the north of our country leading to the worst famine ever in Holland because the north held most the farms. These days however, the spot is a favorite for the beauty of the riverbend, the river locks, the great picnic area right on the waterside.

There were a lot of people there from many nationalities. In Holland we have immigrants from such places as Morocco, Turkey, Iran, Albania and other exotic places. More perhaps than the Dutch they are fond of picnic's. It was great to see how integration works on a field like that. First it's the children, they pretty much play together as soon as someone brings out a ball. They don't notice or care about differences and a headscarf is nothing to worry yourself about. (the Dutch parliament has been in a gridlock about it, should civil servants be allowed to wear one when on duty?)

Later on some Turkish (?) people taught us how to dance a traditional folkdance. Some fishermen explained to a group of children all about river-fishing and another group played snakes and ladders on the grassy lawn. There are many prejudices in Dutch society about people from other nationalities and cultures, but when you actually meet them on an outing, they are all blown out of the water.

Integration is a hot topic in Dutch politics, in fact, it seems like for most European countries it's high on the agenda. To me the solution doesn't seem to be: sending people on a mandatory three day course on how the Dutch do things (another wonderful invention from our government). I would rather see them arrange, stimulate and fund parties where people get to informally meet each other. Any excuse will do, anything that brings people together, a party can help dissolve the mistrust, the misconception and the preconceived notions about "foreignors".

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Enlightenment

In Ode Magazine this month there was an article by Tijn Touber. After all his meditation exercises, guru's and mindfulness experiences he's finally arrived at the inevitable conclusion: "I am already enlightened." All the spiritual practises and training is actually keeping us from knowing this. At the heart of the matter, there's nothing other than: we are already enlightened.

When I was about 16 I was a prolific reader. People at the library got to know me, even to the extend that they offered me my first job ever: putting books back on those shelves. A bit of a bookworm I was in those days. I still enjoy reading a lot but it's never been like those days because I figured something out pretty soon. All the psychology books, all the self-help and sociology books, even the romance novels I read were about one thing only: Being human.

Being catapulted into enlightenment like Tijn talks about in Ode reminded me of something my good friend and mentor Tom Crum used to say. "We are already connected"
We don't end where our skin ends. Recent discoveries in quantum mechanics show that something of who you are gets absorbed into your surroundings, a measurable quantity of you remains in a room even if you only spend an hour there. And I assume something of your surroundings gets absorbed into you. That means that at least a little bit of who I am becomes part of who you are. Hurting you is tantamount to hurting myself.
We are already connected. Enlightenment, indeed being human is about accepting that connectedness.

Enlightenment, in my opinion, is the recognition that we're all part of this great quantum soup, each of us a drop in the ocean. Each of us with our own individual beauty and part of a greater truth at the same time. When those two beliefs are united within us, that's when you are enlightened.

I believe I'm enlightened, although I'd say I'm a part-timer at it :-). It's all too easy to get caught up in our littleness, our separateness and loose sight of the fact that we're also the great ocean of abundance. It's like I know that I am the light, or at least part of the light, but I get caught up making sure my lampshade is good enough. Oh well, I'm only human...

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Michael Jackson died...

I wonder what color this time...
That's how I heard about his death, while playing an online video game. Whatever else may be true about him, he deserves to be remembered for his good deeds in the world. From listening to the conversation in my game, the disreputable parts of Michael Jackson are remembered well. No need to
elaborate on those. His music is a body of work that speaks for itself, again, no need to go there.
Instead let's look at Michael Jackson, the humanitarian.


Got to be starting something...

Among the many records Michael Jackson holds in the
“Guinness Book Of Records” the most impressive to me is "the Pop Star who supports the most charity organizations" that was in the millennium edition of the book. In 1985 together with Lionel Richy, Michael Jackson wrote "We are the world". The song was performed by a host of musical icons keen to perform for charity. A new era of political and social conscience was sparked by this hugely successful record. And what a great message: we ARE the world.

Many charities owe a debt of gratitude to Michael Jackson. Beneficiaries include the American Cancer Society, the End Hunger Network and the United Negro College fund. His songs show the same dedication to making life better for all people on the planet.

How willing are we to make a man out to be a monster based on what little we know about him? How willing are we to make him into a hero, based on what little we know about him? Michael Jackson was not a hero. Nor was he a monster. He was just a man.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Interesting times

The Chinese have a saying: "May you live in interesting times". It is said to be a blessing and a curse at the same time. That sure holds true in my life. Since I posted the last blog-entry about realizing my dream a lot has happened. I've started work on making my dream come true. I'm currently working on a project-plan for a foundation that will give adult survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse a voice in the Netherlands.

Already the plan includes a photo-series on adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse by my good friend Toos Poels, who has a wonderful talent for expressing things through photography. Check out her blog if you will at Toosphotoos to get an impression of her stuff. Check every week or two for updates. She has a way of making simple, every day topics glow with a special shine. The picture on this blog entry (and many others on my blog) are from her stock.

We aim to have plaster the nation with posters and postcards, have presentations throughout the country and we're working on ideas for getting our message on local and national television and radio. The culmination of the project will be a documentary on the topic, presented in a symposium. The finale of the two year project with the documentary being a spin-off. We're looking for people to join us in this campaign, or perhaps start your own in America or the UK. Worldwide attention would be awesome, but is not within the scope of what we intend to accomplish in the Netherlands. However... this is just my dream and making it come true is just our project. Who knows we might inspire others in other nations?...


I will be going through the project step by step on a Dutch blog called
"onhoorbare schreeuw" which means something like "the inaudible scream". It feels really good to be working on this, to be on track with what my life is really all about. It's the most amazing feeling in the world to be this dedicated to something. I've never felt this strongly about anything ever before and it's making me want to jump out of bed in the morning and get to work.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Realizing your dream, following mine

I was at a series of workshops last week. The first, about mindfulness I've already reported on. Today I'd like to tell you about the dream workshop I did and what it did with me.

The trouble with dreaming is that so often I have had little or no idea what I wanted to do with my life. Somehow that's bred out of us through childhood expectations and educations: you're supposed to make something out of your life. Something the adults approve of, of course. So we lose the childlike
innocence that tells us intuitively what to do.

Reconnecting with the dream, finding out what really makes you tick and then going for it is the stuff that dreams are made of. The workshop was a very personal one by
Margreet de Jong who is realizing her own dream this summer. She's bought a beautiful estate in Spain where she is going to be giving an extended version of the dream workshop she showed us last week.

The one exercise that stood out for me personally was a visualization.
Taking us inside a trip in our own minds, she showed us a little hallway with two doors in it. The door on the left led to a room full of the stuff we'd be willing to leave behind. For me it contained my excuses, my escapism and some of my projects that really aren't what I'm about. The door to the right showed the possibilities that come with pursuing your dream.

I was surprised to see what was behind door number two. Recently I've been working on getting up my courage (core-rage, a friend of mine would say) to become the voice of abuse. I've long noticed that Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) has been in the media a lot, but always from the vantage point of the child. Media coverage is usually about current cases, makes perpetrators out to be monsters and generally provokes sentiments of anger and rage. Other communications aim at prevention, presenting lists of behavioral symptoms and sometimes educational tools to empower children to talk about it.

What is left out by all this attention is the adult survivor of
CSA. This lack is a painful one for the men and women suffering from the affects and effects of CSA on the long term. These are the people, and I am one of them, that I want to give my voice to. I want recognition, acknowledgement and downright help for people like me. I was fortunate to have found a therapist that was able and willing to go through the rough stuff with me. Who didn't get scared or disgusted when I told her about my experiences, but instead listened attentively and stimulated me to really connect to my pain and sorrow. I hear stories every day from people who weren't so fortunate. Whose trip to the doctor's office resulted in some sleep medication and a puzzled look on the face of the general practitioner. Heck, I got a mail the other day from a doctor who had stumbled onto my site at Windtraveller. It said: "I get people in my office all the time who suffer similarly, I never know what to do with that. Also, I suspect that what I'm seeing is just the tip of the iceberg".

So this is what I saw when I opened that door to the future. I saw myself standing in front of a room filled with hundreds of people. Speaking about the suffering of those who have survived CSA and are now dealing, coping, struggling with the aftereffects. I saw myself on television, heard myself on the radio and yes, saw myself writing this piece on the web.

There you have it, please, if this article strikes a chord in you, comment on it, leave a message, let me know. I'm looking for supporters in this pursuit of my dream.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Journey to wild divine

Meditation has never been this easy before! When I first heard of the game "Journey to wild divine" I was intrigued. Control a game with your brain? Further investigation told me it wasn't so much the brain as it was your breathing, heartrate and the conductivity of your skin that were the instruments with which the game is operated. Using biofeedback in a fun game, what a charming concept. Deepak Chopra was involved in creating the game which further peaked my interest. He writes about some of the more interesting concepts of the new age, human potential movement. I was all seet to learn self control and meditative techniques while having fun. I had to have the game!

For any serious gamers a caution is in order here; It's a great game if you're patient and wanting to meditate in a funloving way. The game however is not suitable for any mpmorph, rpg or adrenaline junkies. Unless you're looking for a break away from the hack and slash type of gaming, stay away; this is not your kind of game. But if you're into beautiful experiences, strolling through landscapes of great beauty and learning to control your breathing, practise mindfulness, this is for you.

I've played for a few days now and I'm learning to make balloons go up and down with the power of my mind, aiming my bow in a zen-like meditative manner and oh joy: I've built the stairway to heaven. Playing the game daily is improving my life too, which I can't say about the rpg's I usually play. Where those games help me escape from reality, this one helps me better prepare for it.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Mindfulness

This morning I participated in a workshop Mindfulness. These days it seems like mindfulness is on everybody's agenda as the hot new thing. Being naturally curious I wondered what one would do in a workshop mindfulness. To me mindfulness is about being awake, aware of what is here and now going on around you as well as inside you. A way of life that I've been attempting to live ever since I first heard of the Vietnamese monk Thich Nath Hahn and read one of his books, "Peace Is Every Step" I think it was 1994.

Todays workshop was good, even though the subject matter wasn't exactly new to me. The trainer was very patient and had a soothing and slow voice. One of the mindfulness exersizes involved looking at a cherry tomato. Looking at it as long as we could, focussing on the look, feel, smell, all sensory perceptions of the tomato. It lasted a long time, which, because there was little else we could focus on, made the indepth look at the tomato all the more interesting. After you got past the whole "why were we doing this again" phase and on past the "I'm done with this tomato" phase, you got to the "wow, this tomato has a depth of colour, an almost transparent skin, it reflects the sunlight, etc. etc. The tomato, because of all that attention, became special.

And then we ate the tomato, mindfully. This means you almost study what the tomato tastes like, how it explodes with juices in the mouth, the textures, the aftertaste. It was an amazing taste sensation that reminded me that doing things with my full attention makes things so much more interesting that I wonder why we do so much on autopilot. Sure, things that are boring and repetitive ask to be automated, but why not bring more mindfulness to the things we enjoy doing?


Mindful cooking and eating come to mind, mindfully taking a bath, mindful lovemaking... the possibilities are endless.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Poor people shouldn't have pets?

The hard hitting financial crisis is having it's effects on my friends and neighbors. My girlfriend has her finger solidly on the pulse of society, even though she neither reads newspapers nor watches television. She's on welfare and has foodstamps to get by.

A few months ago her cat's contacted cat disease, a horrid sickness that is mostly preventable by vaccination. Under normal conditions she would have had them all vaccinated, but since she had four kittens and another pregnant cat she could not afford to have them all done...
One of the older tomcats got sick and had to go to the vet's. He was committed and it cost something like 120 euro's to cure him. That was pretty much all her reserves for calamities and it wiped her out financially. They told her that they needed to do 55 euro's worth of testing to see what ailed him and she couldn't afford that. So she took him back home, not knowing what he had. There was a suspicion that it was cat's disease and well, we kept him seperate from the rest of the cats and hoped for the best.

For three weeks we hand fed the kittens, trying to help them survive this disease. It's a viral infection of the intestinal tract, the vet said, the main thing is to keep them hydrated and feed them to keep their intestines working. Subcutaneous injections, feeding them from a syringe and cleaning them regularly became our routine for three weeks. The end of the story is that five of the eight young kittens survived. A miracle according to the people in the animal shelter, because most often during an outbreak all the kittens die, as well as quite a few adults.

The local veterinarian said: "We rarely see cat's disease anymore, these days"

The local animal shelter said: "We see this kind of thing all the time, especially in these poor neighborhoods"


The difference is clear: the vet doesn't see these animals simply because the people who can't afford to vaccinate their animals can't afford to go to the veterinarians when they get sick either. My girlfriend had quite a few people who helped out to care for her cats. Unfortunately among the poor this is an extraordinary set of circumstances. Keeping up with social contacts can be difficult to do if you can never offer a round of drinks, never invite people to go to the movies... before you know it you don't see your friends anymore because you're afraid to impose.

A sign of the times: the animal shelters are filled with animals and summer vacations haven't even started yet. People who are on the bottom rung of the societal ladder simply can't afford to feed their pets, much less vaccinate them. My girlfriend's included a call to action on a sweepstakes for social projects and the ensueing discussion on the website from Trouw (in Dutch) the point was made that pet's are a luxury item.

"Poor people shouldn't have Pet's!" This seems such a heartless point of view that it makes me wonder. These are pet's that have often been with the family (and have become part of the family) for years. My own cat has been with me longer than any partner I've ever had. Even when I didn't have any money, the first thing I'd buy from what little I made I'd buy cat-food. My cat never went without, even when at times I did have to skip a meal.

We get to choose what kind of world we want to create with each other. We get to choose wheter we want our children to grow up with the knowledge that they are cared for and loved, no matter what. We set the tone by what we are willing to do to our animals. I hope my girlfriends project succeeds and results in a massive movement to have the pet's of the poor vaccinated in all of Holland. I'm rooting for her and all the cute little kittens and puppies!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Great digital photography by a great friend

My good friend Toos Poels makes spectacular photo's. I prefer to use her stuff whenever I can on my blog because she's got a wonderful way of viewing the world. Naturally she hasn't covered all the topics I write about but a fair bit of them she's got pictures of.

I've been looking for a way to promote her stuff, basically because she's my friend and way too modest about her stuff. So I built her a photoblog. I'll maintain it for her too, all she does is hand me the pictures and a little remark about where they were taken. The results are simply stunning and can be seen at toosphotoos

Take a look, sign up for her feed, tell your friends, she's got the stuff.

A quick sample: This is the lowly Dandelion, when it goes to seed it is the inspiration for my name Windtraveller.

Friday, June 5, 2009

I love... me

Today my girlfriend passed her NLP exams at Commitments. She had to do a presentation of what she felt she learned from the past year of soul-searching and reprogramming. Her production was impressive: she did a stand up comedy routine, starting and ending with a song with piano accompaniment.

She started with a song called "Flowers are red". It's a tragic song about how spontaneity is broken in the educational process. The original song is by Harry Chapin who was inspired to write it after reading the text on a eleven year old boys report card that said: "Your son marches to the beat of a different drummer, but don't worry. We'll have him joining the parade by the end of the term"

The song is about enforced conformity and it's heartrending in both Harry's version as well as my girlfriends. She's spent the greater portion of her life conforming to other peoples wishes. Only recently, with the help of the NLP training, and through her indomitable will, she's found a way to shed all these layers of expectation.

In her presentation this afternoon, she shed layer after layer of clothing, till she was left in her lingerie. Then she sang a dutch song, made by a stand up comedian called Harry Jekkers that in translation says: "I love.... me".

I've never been more proud in my life then when I saw her perform today. She was scared spitless by the idea of standing up in front of all these people in her undies, but real courage is not the absense of fear, rather feeling the fear and doing it anyway. Her courage has shone right through today and has touched the hearts of everyone who was present.


I'll add pictures when they become available.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Ten best most evocative lines from popular songs

Music is what inspired me, more than anything else, to think for myself. Some of the best music in the world are poetry, literature... So here's ten of my favorite "one liners" from my favorite artists. Hope you enjoy, let me know what you think and let me know what your favorite line is!
  1. "All lies and jests till the man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest"
    "The Boxer", a Simon and Garfunkle classic. For me this line speaks of not being heard, not being taken serious.

  2. "What do you know, you know just what you perceive"
    "Dreidel" is one of the lesser known songs by Don McLean. I think it's a great statement about the human condition, there's nothing you can be sure of, all is in the eyes of the beholder.

  3. "Remember what they taught you, how much of it was fear. Refuse to hand it down, the legacy stops here."
    Silent legacy, a great song about the things we're taught as children that we hardly ever think about when we grow. Melissa Etheridge has had her own battle in that respect, making her biography a very interesting read.

  4. "Happy I am, all on the new day. Happy I am, people and flowers are one and the same"
    Donovan has such a soft and gentle way of speaking about life and happiness. I honestly believe that the pursuit of happiness is what we're on this earth for.

  5. "Yonder stands your orphan with his gun"
    An old Bob Dylan classic, It's all over now baby blue. What fascinates me is the concept of "your orphan". In two words he captures the way we have disowned our children.

  6. "Do you remember days not so very long ago, when the world was run by people twice your size?"
    I use this line from "Catch another butterfly"by John Denver because it expresses clearly to me why there's no excuse for ever hitting a child. Imagine a 12 foot giant whooping you upside the head...

  7. "Is a dream a lie if it don't come true"
    A sad epic song about life in the USA, "The river" by Bruce Springsteen. He's talking about the American dream of course, but I think it's more universal than that.

  8. "Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose"
    The immortal Janis Joplin in Bobby McGee, to me she speaks of the loneliness in freedom without love and compassion.

  9. "Will you be a friend of mine to remind me what is real"
    From the song "Out of my mind", by James Blunt. He speaks about the madness of sudden fame and the need for friends, but it goes way deeper than that for me. Our friends are there to confirm our vision of reality.

  10. "Sitting on the dock of the bay, wasting time"
    Otis redding, hot sultry days, long nights of slow love, the imagery in just that one line, a complete philosophy of life. After all, none of us know why we're here, let's waste time...

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Arnhem, a bridge too far. Four tourist spots worth seeing.

Arnhem was the allied nemesis, the stumbling block on the way to victory in WWII. Arnhem is also my hometown. In this post I'll be highlighting my hometown a bit, invite you to take a look at the old cellars, the museums, the parks and the attractions that make this place special.

Arnhem sits between a great National park, the Veluwe and the Rhine river and the Posbank, another great nature preserve. One of the greenest city's in the Netherlands, it has a varied terrain, including huge fields of heather, forests and lowlands by the river, all a short bikeride away from whatever spot in Arnhem you are.
The veluwe is a great spot for observing wildlife, it has a "free bicycle plan" that allows you to ride one of their bikes from anywhere in the park to anywhere else and leave it there.
The Posbank is known for it's beautiful hilly heather fields. The infrastructure is excellent and the terrain provides a great challenging workout for cyclists.
The city itself has a lot of parks and greenzones as well. You can walk from my house about 5 miles, all the way to the Veluwe's edge through green terrain all the way. You'd never know you're in the middle of a city.

In addition to the beautiful landscape Arnhem has one of Europes greatest zoo's. Burger's Zoo has tropical gardens, bush landscape, a sealife aquarium, safari, desert, and even a mangrove. There's a jungle greenhouse with a hanging log bridge in it that is host to an incredible array of animals as well as beautiful flowering plants and huge ferns and trees. It has many educational fascilities and has breeding programmes and exchange of animals with many European Zoo's.

In the center of Arnhem there's a set of unique cellars that is a must see! The cellars were built from the start of 1400 until the middle of the last century, with constant redecorations going on well into the year 2000. In 2002 city council bought a large number of these historic cellars and connected them all underground to form a truly magical trip into ages long gone. See where in the middle ages they raised pigs, right under their houses and stores. Marvel at the fact that the pigs were brought in as piglets and left the building as porkchops, the first examples of bio-industry. The oldest cellars are closest to the entrance, as they were built close to the city gates at the time. In later times more cellars were dug and walking through them is a trip through 5 centuries. Every wednesday and friday there's guided tours with the guild of Arnhem.

The open air museum is another great way to explore the history of the region. Buildings spanning some 250 years have been rebuild in the large park, in a nice sampling of the Netherlands through the ages. The topical exhibit this year is esspecially interesting for any expat's: Immigration to the "new world". It's great for kids too, as they offer scavenger hunts and they can try their hands at some of the old crafts being shown around the museum.

Helpful hint: "The map is not the territory"

Friday, May 29, 2009

Seven books on how to live joyfully

There is no manual on life, or if there is any it got lost in translation. In a way this is a good thing because it allows us to live our lives as a journey of discovery, instead of having a preemptive path towards an final goal. Chaos and turmoil are part and parcel of every day living. It's how we respond to chaos and turmoil that makes the difference. These are seven of the most amazing books written on "being human". Without fail they are enjoyable to read, shake your view of the world and can catapult you into enlightenment... if you allow them to.

1. The Art of Happiness, Dalai Lama with Howard C. Cutler.
These days the Dalai Lama needs no further introduction I suppose. However Howard Cutler makes this book into a very re
adable book for sceptics and believers alike. As a psychologist he has seen human frailty and he questions the Dalai Lama indepth where others might take his answers for granted. The result is a very thorough book on the pursuit of happiness. "I believe that the very purpose of our lives is to seek happiness."

2.Non violent communication, a language of life, Marshall Rosenberg.
The definitive work on communication. It redefines what communication is for, it teaches us how language can be used as a tool to create empathetic connection
between people, rather than a way of getting your point across. In doing so it gives us a real, useable tool for improving relationships and furthering understanding between people. Move beyond judgement, demand and diagnoses into heart to heart contact. "What I want in my life is compassion, a flow between myself and others based on mutual giving from the heart"

3. Saying yes to life (even the hard parts), Ezra Bayda with Josh Bartok.
A charming little book of quotes, teaching you how to live in the happy acceptance of everything. A great nightstand book, to read when you la
y awake worrying. "Happiness has no cause, it is our natural state of being when unobstructed".

4. Journey to center, Tom Crum.
A well written book of stories describing the authors journey to awakening throughout life, and translates them into concrete and practical tips for every day enlightenment. The stories are humorous and direct, real life experiences that everyone can relate to. "Each moment the true warrior cuts through his story and steps forth from his vision. In this there is true power."



5. Love is letting go of fear, Gerald J. Jampolsky.
A charming book written in the late seventies that in a clear and simple voice explains what the course in miracles is really all about. Concise, poignant and useable in it's simplicity and honesty, it leaves other guides to personal transformation far behind. This charming little book speaks from the heart and to the heart. "Teach only love, for that is what you are."



6. Actualizations, you don't have to rehearse to be yourself, Steward Emery.
Derived from the EST seminars this book leaves behind the rather rigorous methods used there and successfully translates the insights gained through the training. Taking a look at the paradigms that have shaped our thinking and how to tackle them. Chapter titles include: "If you make reality your enemy, you lose" and "I am you, and I love myself".



7. The hero with a thousand faces, Joseph Campbell.
Through exploration of mythical stories the book sheds light on what it means to be human. All mythical heroes are metaphores for the trials and tribulations of every day living. Rather than an instruction manual (as many selfhelp books are) a good story sticks with you and changes you from the inside out. Heroic stories have throughout the history of mankind served as examples for what it means to be human. ""the function of ritual and myth is to make possible, and then to facilitate, the jump--by analogy"


Helpful hint:
"Be who you are and say what you want, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind."
~Dr. Seuss



Wednesday, May 27, 2009

They took the heart out of China.

This is part one of an ongoing series of people who at some point were an inspiration to me. Through their words, music, actions they inspired me to be the best I could be. It took me a long time to realize that the best I could be would have to be something to do with me: My personal strengths and what I want to put forth into the world. For the longest time being the best I could be had to do with emulating my heroes. Judging myself for not being as environmental as John Denver, or as compassionate as the Dalai Lama. Not as articulate as Jean Houston nor as joyful as Chungliang al Huang. As I grew through my association with these individuals I also learned to love myself.

I attended a seminar by Chungliang al Huang once during the Windstar Choices for the Future symposium in Aspen, back in 1989. He was one of the speakers at the inspiring three day meeting of the minds and a memorable one at that. He got the audience to stand up and do an exercise called: “Embrace tiger, return to the mountains”. At that time, I think very few people in audience had heard of Tai Chi much less done any.
Tai Chi means something like: "ultimate best" and it's art is evolved from Chinese fighting techniques. Most teachers of this art teach the form, the technique. Chungliang is different in this respect that he teaches the joy of the movement, tapping into the energy of the Hara, the gut. He got us all to belly laugh together, reach up to the sky to reel in all the sky’s energy. Reach down to the earth and draw in
all the earths energy as well and then pat our bellies to blend it all together in our Center. It was absolutely magical to see 1500 people, mostly Americans join in this dance of energy.

Then he told us about China, and the audience got very quiet. This was only days after Tiananmen Square massacre had happened and Chungliang told us about what had been happening in the homeland in the past decades. He drew a Chinese character on a flip-over: the symbol meaning China. His writing was as joyful a dance as his Tai Chi had been. Then he explained the meaning of the different parts.

He explained that what he had written was in the traditional Chinese language, the first character meaning central, the second symbol country or nation. Inside the protective square is the symbol for the heart and the people.
Then he drew the new, simplified symbol for China. The people symbol had become more rigid and they had taken the heart out of China. A real heartbreak moment. The symbolism of this spoke more clearly about what was happening in China than any blurry newscasts about the massacre.

Language is what we have that separates us from other animals and here they changed the language, taking out the heart of China. The simplicity of his message, the sheer joy of this person in spite of his personal grief over the massacre in Tiananmen Square. I fell in love with the man from China. The old China, full of heart.

Helpful hint:
“Does your path have a heart? If it does, the path is good, if it doesn’t it is of no use.” ~ Carlos Castaneda

Adulthood

Adulthood came to me when I was 25. I was living in Aspen, Colorado at the time and my life was fully dedicated to having fun. Even though I worked 3 or 4 jobs just to stay afloat, it felt like I had taken a long vacation from living the responsible, adult type of life. I decided that it was time to get serious about my life and ambitions. Playtime was over, I needed to buckle down and decide what my future was going to be like and then create it.

Aspen is the single most wonderful place to play. Sitting in the middle of the Rocky Mountains, some of the most pristine landscapes in the world it seems as far away from reality as you can get. Even the Aspen Daily News at the time sported just a half a page of news from anywhere else, appropriately named "the real world" at the very last page. There was live music happening every night, winters filled with apres ski parties (skiing too but I never got into that much) summers full of sunshine, art, music festivals. Famous artists from all over the world came to Aspen to perform.
There's symphony's and concerts on the lawn with live performances from students of the Aspen Music School.
Summer was my favorite time also because of the Windstar Symposium, in which I was involved as a volunteer, bringing together some of the most innovative thinkers on sustainable energy and social responsibility. When you got tired of all the excitement, all you had to do was take a walk into the mountains and you'd be surrounded by beauty. The air is crisp and clean, every turn of the trail showing another amazing vista.

Working as an illegal alien has it's drawbacks. Since I was getting ready to really build a life for myself, I felt I couldn't afford to be an illegal alien. What if I had just bought a home or a car and I got deported? I decided that if I were going to make a go of it I had to go back to Holland, finish my education and come back legal. Of course, as is often the case with ambitious plans, it didn't quite happen that way. I got back to Holland and everything I had been running away from came crashing back in. I slumped into a depression that lasted for two years. Life as an adult sure turned out to be more difficult than I had expected.

What I learned from that nervous breakdown is: you can't run away from the demons that live inside you. But what I learned from living the good life in Aspen is that there is joy in the world as well, life is full of possibilities and wonder. That wonder never left me, even in my most self-destructive moments. In the six years I lived there I built up a storehouse of positive images and anchors to help me through the rough stuff.This has proved to be an important skill in the art of living.

Helpful hint:
"Remember the good times, especially when going through the bad!"


A brief personal history of computer use.

How important has the computer become? Shockingly!

First time I ever blogged, about two years ago my internet connection froze on me. I was amazed at my own reaction...

I was talking with my friend Angie about it when we went out to dinner the other day. I've known her since highschool and we sat and talked about old times, having a good time. Her husband was the very first person I knew who had anything to do with computers. They had a Commodore 64 with a matrixprinter with the chainfeed, remember those?
I recall how impressed I was: You could type something and correct it and then it would print it all out without any typo's. For all you younger people who grew up with computers: the 64 in commodore stands for 64kb, the entire memory of that computer. A far cry from today where a 4 gigabyte memory stick is in practically every pocket.

Personal computers have only been around some 20 years. Angie and her husband gave me my very first computer ever, a 268 from IBM. Green letters on a black screen, floppy disks, WordPerfect, Windows 3.0, they are all ancient history now. Angie remembers reading an article back then about a way in which computers could be tied together to form a network. The article stated that it should be possible to do this worldwise. Those were wild futuristic notions...

So I started my blog two years ago and a computer failure was enough to completely ruin my day. I went to a friends house and typed up this blog on her computer immediately. On another occasion my monitor broke down. That was at 7.00 PM. By 9.00 PM I had replaced it with a brand new flatscreen. Lot's has happened in the past 20 years and like many others I have noticed that I've come to depend on the computer, perhaps more than I should.

There is a part of me that "lives" on the internet and that is looking for selfexpression. The balance between my "real-life" personality and my "netizenship" is sometimes hard to find. I use the fact that I work through the internet as a counsellor as an excuse, but it's no more than an excuse. I can hardly imagine life without a computer, internet and cellphones.
How did we get by in the olden days, some 10, 20 years ago?


Helpful hint:
"Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine"
~Robert C. Gallagher