Harmony is Where Business, Buddhism, and Belly Come Together

Harmony is an interesting thing, I recently noticed how it’s an essential part of very different things. The previous months I have been learning about “The Learning Organization”, how to create a sustainable business that doesn’t revolve around producing, but rather around learning where the production is a natural consequence. This has been an attitude natural throughout my life with all the necessary characteristics I had to develop. Most of all however, fall face down to the ground plenty of times. Interestingly, this is the state of the art in business. This surprised me and made me wonder why this attitude isn’t more prominent around me. What’s curious though, is that the whole idea of creating an organization around learning made me think about Buddhism. And my belly.

Business and the Learning Organization

Let’s start with business. As I used to be naturally resistant to anything that had a monetary ring to it. Be it capitalistic attitudes, investing, and choosing money over health and quality of life, I had also nullified everything with a business-air to it.

business-man

However, The Learning Organization is different. It is a concept coined by, and after the work and research of Peter Senge. He wrote all about it in his book the 5th discipline. A learning organization is all about creating an working environment that improves the ability to learn. This should both benefit the individuals that make up the organization as the collective whole. Consequently, the organization is not about producing, but about learning where the production is a consequence.

The 5 pillars of the learning organization are shared vision, personal mastery, systems thinking, mental models and team learning. Sounds familiar? Probably not. Shared vision is the idea that every single person in an organization has their own vision, generated by themselves, that adds to, and supports, the shared vision.

Personal mastery is self-improvement, reflecting on a regular basis, making mistakes, a lot, and learning from them. Team learning is about: yes you’re right, learning as a team. Think about a sports team becoming more and more fluent over the course of the season in their playing together, and winning the title. Now apply this to your office job.

Mental models are the assumptions we hold about the world, it is our personal lens through which we see things. These are deeply held beliefs, that can save energy in everyday life, but can also limit us from seeing reality clearly. Think of the idea that government officials don’t work hard. Surely, everything you see them do is at least slow. Your little sister is annoying because she always wants attention. After that, everything she does is asking for attention. But is she? Now apply this to your work environment, what are you thinking about others? Is this really true? Or did you just install a thought a couple of years ago that you have been reinforcing until now.

And finally, systems thinking. Seeing that problems occur systemically is something I was trained to do as a physical therapist. My shoulder hurts here! Treating “here” would mean I neglect the entire system (the body) that is made up of so many subsystems (joints, connective tissue, muscular system, neurological system etc.) that all are part of the problem. Instead of responding to losses in sales by lowering product prices, a systemic approach would mean that you question why your sales went down and aim to resolve that. Even though, this might be painfully confronting.

Buddhism

Now on to what Buddha said. Yes, Buddha, and it’s not that long of a shot as it turns out. Stick with me.

monk-hands

Buddha spoke of the noble eight-fold path to “enlightenment”:

  1. Step one is right view, seeing things as they are
  2. Step two right intentions
  3. Step three right speech or speaking truth
  4. Step four right action, the art of living
  5. Step five right livelihood, where love through work is made visible
  6. Step six is right effort
  7. Step seven right mindfulness
  8. Step eight right concentration

Living up to these steps will help you realize anything from 0 to a 100 on the scale on enlightenment. What I find thought-provoking is that step one to three, right view, right intentions and right speech are basically what is part of the mental models described before. Personal mastery is right action, and right livelihood. Right effort is personal mastery again and right mindfulness and right concentration could be part of a shared vision. Between your body and mind in this case.

The idea of Buddhism is to see reality as it is, to leave destructive thoughts, fairy tales, and everything else that clouds you from seeing it, at the door. This is equally important in the learning organization, where you want to act on reality, not what every person in the organization perceives as reality.

Where the idea of the learning organization is aligning you as an individual with the organization and vice versa. In the case of Buddhism it is about finding this alignment between mind, body and spirit.

The Belly

Now the belly. Still with me?

belly

So your belly is full of organs, mainly with your food processor starting with your mouth until, euh, the other side. The intestine with it’s brain-qualities is highly important in determining how you feel and behave. The easiest way to communicate with it, is through what comes in through your mouth. Alignment!

Are you thinking about what you will feel like after that stuff made your tongue jump from excitement?

Your belly will be happy if you accept that happens at point A will have consequences for point X, regardless if you are able to see it’s journey. This is why Buddhists aim to live a non-invasive lifestyle, and this is why it’s essential in the learning organization that you become aware how the individual affects the whole and the other way around

Harmony

The thing all these ideas have in common is harmony. Harmony between colleagues, harmony between mind and body, harmony between thoughts and emotions, and harmony between what your tongue likes and what your stomach has to digest. However, it is impossible to achieve this harmony without learning. Nobody ever managed to do anything substantial overnight. To create a functioning learning organization is a long process, just like progressing along the 8-fold path set out by Buddha, and the way your body responds to different types of food, diet, and environmental stress. There is only one way to figure all this stuff out: try, and fail (more!).

If you find these things hard to connect I would ask you, why? Why are these long shots, why are these different things? Why do you believe that? Where does that idea come from?

I believe we divide the world to understand it better. Think of hierarchies so high you need binoculars to see the one on top, political parties, countries, ideologies, religion, body parts and time frames. All of these are mental models created to make the world easier to digest. I know it’s important to be aware of the fact that these things are nothing more than useful for navigating the physical world.

When it comes to more profound issues a holistic view is required. I recently read in Seven Brief Lessons on Physics (in my next life I want to be a physicist), by the Italian Physicist Carlo Rovelli, that space, time, and matter are all the same. It’s a big moving whole of which it’s individual parts cannot be perceived. What we see is the connections between all of it. Supposedly, humans are too limited in their perceptions that we cannot see this whole. As a consequence we think that we are progressing in time and that things and stuff are divided.

I find it not surprising that the things that work across the board all have this similar harmonious origin. If you want your organization you need to respect it’s individuals’ parts needs, if you want to reach you maximum spiritual potential you have to align every part of the self, and if you want to feel good in your belly, you have to figure out how to align everything from top to bottom. I hope that left you with an interesting image in your mind.

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How Does Politics Really Work?

Je moet het ijzer smeden als het heet is – You should mold the iron when it’s hot

– come into action when you recognize the right moment. –

Dutch saying

With the presidential elections less than two weeks away here in Brazil, I thought it time to take – what we call – politics under closer scrutiny. More than often a topic of discourse, politics is usually treated as an influential phenomenon. We like to think so at least.

Democracy

So far the least worst system created that has held up on bigger scale is democracy. In this political construct every person has the ability to vote for the idea or person that he or she would like to see established in his or her country. However, is this really the case, that the voter has the power to express what he or she wants?

By comparison we stick to democracy because a dictatorship scares every person after we have seen so many vivid images of Stalin, Saddam Hussein, Mao Zedong, and others. Similarly we stick to capitalism because communism was (executed) way worse by comparison. This does not mean however, that democracy and capitalism are great systems.

Brazil

Currently in Brazil, there is heavy campaigning going on between 13 presidential candidates. Main topics of discussion are the treatment of minorities, abortion, and how to deal with the sustaining violence. According to Brazilian news outlet Globo, in the years 2016 and 2017 together the Brazilian police killed almost 10.000 people. Supposedly the highest amount in the world.

rafaela-biazi-680927-unsplash

Ordem e Progresso (Order and Progression) written on the Brazilian flag, far from present in everyday life however.

Now it’s definitely important that these topics get attended to, the thing is though, that they are symptoms – not origins of problems. People are more frustrated about the likelihood to be robbed in the street than the quality of education. However, when you take a moment and think, change the latter and you will alter the former. This would be a very long term plan (a lot more than 1 president can realize) and would take planning and dedication to execute.

Imagine yourself in a situation where you have to take care every time you take out your phone of your pocket, as soon as its get dark certain places are no-go-zones and you pay 40% of taxes on top of all your groceries that you never see in return in the form of quality healthcare or education (only in shiny suits, big houses, and nice cars of your politicians). In a situation like this, that is not only common in Brazil but also other Latin American Countries, nobody wants to wait 20 years before people stop robbing and assaulting.

The Candidate’s Perspective

At the same time imagine the attractiveness of this strategy as a presidential candidate who only governs for four years, and needs to explain this complex strategy to 200 million people. Conceding to shouting one-liners and emotional presentations is a lot more attractive. And that is what a lot of politicians do.

And it works! Why? Because politicians spend a lot of money understanding us, human beings, how to make our clock tick in their direction and how to tap in to our irrationality. So in this beautiful democracy, who is influencing who? Politicians know; attack is the best defense. And then, even more so: how much money and time have you recently invested in figuring out how to influence politics?

Flaws

However, this does not only apply to Brazil, but to the U.S. and the Netherlands as well. Right there, we have a couple of essential flaws to the system. A 4 year period is too short to get something done for real, and every election campaign turns into a popularity contest – not a contest of the best ideas to resolve present issues. In Brazil popularity revolves around the subject violence, in the US around Mexican immigrants and terrorism, and in the Netherlands around refugees. On top of that all, by ways of the democratic system it is impossible to take every inhabitant of a country into account for any politician, regardless of which of these countries you visit.

Democracy is so overrated.

Frank Underwood (House of Cards)

I love how the Netflix hit-series House of Cards portrays the workings of politics and of democracy in this case. An interplay between dealing in favors behind the cameras, and figuring out how to make the voter do you what you want when you are in front of the camera. Even though, large parts of the series could be perceived as exaggerated, The Guardian Australia’s Political Editor, confirms the deal-making culture that is highly influenced by third party interests. A useful thing to keep in mind: politics is influenced by third party interests.

Since we have been scared by the alternatives to democracy everyone keeps discussing left, right, and center instead of if democracy, or politics is the best way to govern a country at all.

Transcending Democracy and Political Decision Taking

Transcending this discussion of left, right, and center has direct implications for your life. Are you going to wait until the party that verbalizes your desires best before you can live the way you want? Or, are you going to turn that around?

Politics will never be a solution, and because it is a glorified popularity contest to begin with, the topics you think important are nothing more than a trigger to acquire votes. Whatever subject makes it into the debates of politicians will never be what it was before. It doesn’t matter what happens with it, as long as it gains votes.

woman-protester

Error 155: Democracy not found

Topics to consider in this case are drugs, terrorism, Islam, refugees, guns, and abortion. These topics are present in politics across the entire planet, but when being spoken about them, how much of it is about understanding the problem, and solving it thereafter, and how much is about votes and popularity?

The moment these subjects enter the realm of politicians, information gets disguised, twisted and abused all to acquire votes. Drug laws resemble political views not actual science, otherwise alcohol would have been illegal before LSD, mushrooms, weed, amphetamines, and cocaine. If laws on terrorism would be rational than they would be far less important than fighting diabetes and hearts disease. The former “only” cost around 25.000 lives in 2016 (as published on Satistica), where diabetes and hearts disease, according to the World Health Organization, takes 18.3 MILLION lives every year. Both of the diseases are preventable in 99.9% of the cases.

A small example of what happens to subjects once they become a political theme. I am by no means arguing to abandon the current systems (before we have an alternative). However, at the very least you should be aware of the real value of what is being discussed. As with all things, if you want to make a decision that works for you and not what works for somebody else; educate yourself and never stop questioning.

Are You Feeling the Vibe?

The Law of Vibration states that anything that exists in our universe, whether seen or unseen, broken down into and analyzed in it’s purest and most basic form, consists of pure energy or light which resonates and exists as a vibratory frequency or pattern.

This one is for all the die-hard materialists out there. Turns out with the recent developments in quantum physics (the study of small particles) that everything in its smallest form is immaterial. Chairs, like cars, bricks, the road, noise, visual images and your thoughts, are all in its essence, vibration.

This vibration travels in waves. As waves are the direction of, for example sound, the vibration is the proof that the wave is there. When this wave reaches our ears, this input gets processed by our brain into something we could consider as music. Even though everything is fundamentally vibration, there are differences in frequencies. Because of these variations we are able to discriminate a chair from a table, and our mother from our father.

Furthermore, the brain not only processes waves, it vibrates by itself as well. The thoughts that pass through are vibration, just like the emotions and states of mind that are experienced as a consequence.

Taking this a step further, you might have noticed how when you feel good, good things happen more often. All of a sudden you find a job, meet your partner, and you lose weight. There is a law that I believe can be applied to this phenomenon. It’s called the Matthew Principle. It dictates the following: “to every one who has, will more be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” This quote comes from the Bible, as Matthew was one of Jesus’ disciples. The easy version of this law is “the richer get richer and the poorer get poorer.”

This law applies to economics, status, and fame. Once you have more, you get more.

stars
The bigger the star, the more matter it attracts

However, it seems that this could be a universal law. When you look at the population of

cities (a very small number have almost all the people), the frequency of words in language (90% of communication occurs using just 500 words), and the mass of heavenly bodies (the bigger the star the more matter it attracts). I wonder therefore, could this also apply to vibration?

 

I wonder therefore, could this also apply to vibration?

Negative thought processes attract more negativity. Pain feels worse, and your self image gets darker and darker. On the other hand positive thoughts, produce positive emotions, make you feel good, relax your body and increase your self image.

We measure the body according to centimeters, kilograms and things like kilo joul, even though its essential make up is made of the same things as our thoughts. Therefore, borders only exist in the reality as we create it today. It is way more subtle and sensitive than “a centimeter” or a “kilogram”. Therefore, subtle changes affect a lot more than we can perceive with our senses. Being grateful, acts of kindness, eating healthier, drinking more water and working on relaxation literally changes your vibe.

If you reinforce this pattern you will, I believe according to Matthews Principle, attract more positive vibrations, coming at a lower investment.

So, does this mean that by aligning your thoughts and drinking more water, that you will be invincible? It might, or not. However, the clue is to stop seeing cancer as something different than your thoughts, and the way you walk as something different than the way you talk. Applying this knowledge into your all day everyday would mean that you take care of your rest, sleep enough, drink enough, stress less, eat well, move often, and keep a positive mental attitude. Because, the accumulative effort will make a difference.

Even if you are skeptical about this idea, if you take care of your self in the above mentioned ways you are raising your vibe. If you are aiming for it or not. There are a million ways to address things, but you have to figure out what works for you. Nevertheless, when you feel the vibe, you might notice that everything is connected.

The 3 Most Important Things I Learned in 27 Years

Here I am, 27 years and three days old and I am taking a moment to reflect. What the hell am I doing with my life? This year was the first time that I celebrated my birthday in the winter, and in the month of the crazy dog. A couple of interesting novelties that I didn’t see coming if you would have asked me one year ago.

So what did I learn in 27 years roaming around on this planet? I experienced a variety of cultures, people, and situations that shaped me into who I am today. In the meantime I think I have come to know a wide ranging amount of perspectives. Underneath I sum up three things I learned from those.

1. I laugh when I don’t understand

I remember when I was 12 years old, standing in the center of our village next to a green telephone booth with a glass door. Already out of function, partially due to me and my teammates’ efforts. The brick stone streets deserted and the cobblestones on the side quite slippery. A slight mist and temperatures far below zero. Me and my 3 teammates were waiting for another to come with a family member to drive us to a nearby village. We would play an indoor soccer tournament there, if our legs would still be functioning when we would get there anyway.

When our blood pressure was so low we could barely move our legs, a dark colored sedan came creeping up the street. Slowly because there could be a thin layer of ice on that is usually hard to see. When it freezes, it melts and then it freezes again over a short period of time, black ice might occur. Or ijzel as we call that in the Netherlands. Every bike, truck and car drivers’ nightmare. Government officials work all night to throw salt on the streets to make the ice melt. Not in our village though.

When the last of my teammates threw the door shut, off we went. More or less motivated for what was coming because I wasn’t really sure we would win any game. We creeped down another brick street, passing the protestant church up the hill on the right, the butcher on the left with it’s curtains down behind the windows, and later the bungalow village house on the right. Nobody in the streets. Leaving the village we changed from brick to asphalt, still driving like a snail. The sister of one of my teammates who was driving seemed quite tense. Past the soccer field on the left, and around the corner. Swoosh no ice. Softly braking we came to a crossing surrounded by trees. Right turn, accelerating slowly, big oak trees on both

beukenlaan
Space for one and half car (photo taken in Autumn)

sides of the road, and space for one and half car. Always nice when you encounter a car driving the other direction here. Between the trees we could see frozen grass fields and an occasional house in the distance. One more turn, and over the white wooden bridge we would come to the next crossing to turn on to the big road that was the main entry to our village.

Were it not that the turn before the bridge, our driver turned the steering wheel to the right. Without success. Straight we went. BOOM! Lucky there was a wooden fence or we would have ended up in the canal. We opened the doors, stepped on to the street. Our driver started crying, my teammates looked shocked out of there eyes, and I, I couldn’t stop laughing for 20 minutes.

Now before you think I am some sadistic freak, a shock response can come in many forms. After this event I ended up in another car accident not that long ago. I totally saw this one coming, but again, I was quite lyrical after the accident. I couldn’t believe what had happened.

Now this not only applies to accidents like this. I am bound to laugh when I feel uncomfortable, or when something is out of my field of comprehension (for that moment). These defense mechanisms are normal because the body and mind love structure, routine and preferably not too much novelty.  Now when I laugh, somebody else might get quiet, frustrated, bossy, feel insulted, or be judgmental. The clue here is that your defense mechanism might kick in without conscious attention, just like mine, that of a strangers, or that of your friends’. When you understand this, you can be both more accepting towards your own behavior as well as others’.

2. I learn easily, but only under the right conditions

A couple of years later, I was addicted to computer games and I tried to shoot people in the head all day. In between I indulged on grilled ham and cheese sandwiches and I gained quite a bit of weight as a consequence. Also, I rather didn’t go to school. My parents were figuring out how to motivate me. They would pull of my blanket when I was trying to sleep in on school days. It didn’t work I’m telling you, I just went downstairs to get my blanket and slept some more. When I finally got up, I didn’t waste time to hop in front of my computer screen and start shooting heady’s again.

I did hate school then, unbelievable, and my German teacher I hated the most. I tried to provoke her every class, trying to put as much of my frustration as possible on to her. All that time, she was just trying her best with a class full of very hard-to-please teenagers. Anyway, when I was at school at least. I remember one time my team-leader scheduled a meeting with me and my mother. He showed a statistic of my absence. May, 30 days absent. I didn’t go to school for a month. I was surprised because from my perspective I hadn’t been absent for that long.

May, 30 days absent. I didn’t go to school for a month. I was surprised because from my perspective I hadn’t been absent for that long.

He and many others would often say, you just have to try a little harder, we know you have the qualities to get your grades. I couldn’t care less.

Flash forward to Physical Therapy school. I am that guy sitting in the front, raising his hand all the time trying to give the right answer. One time I got a 7 (out of 10). Jesus, was I disappointed, I should have had a 9!

Over time I have come to understand that I am an easy learner, but only under the right conditions. When I am motivated I am a sponge and suck up every piece of  information. I was lucky to choose the right bachelor program, after choosing the wrong one the year before. I had quit that one after 6 weeks.

Our school system is very limited, when it comes to providing the individual with what they need to know. Both in the subjects that are taught and the way it is done. Definitely when it comes to traditional high school education in the Netherlands. It’s a disaster, you only learn how to function within a materialistic society even though most of our experience is determined by the metaphysical. The system only works for the person that can bring up empathy for his teachers, is disciplined, and has himself figured out. However, which boy has all these things by the age of 15?

Now if something like that is your last memory of school and has left you with the idea you can’t learn, or schoolbooks are not for you, stop and think again. The latter might be true, but everybody can learn. The divisions made in schools do not resemble natural division, and only more or less, work within the society that was created by our forefathers. This does not mean however, that when you cannot read a book you do not understand what is written in there.

This does not mean however, that when you cannot read a book you do not understand what is written in there

There are a million ways to learn, but only one is being propagated during traditional education. Luckily nowadays, more and more people are becoming aware of this, plus all the information in the world is available online. The only thing for you to do, is to figure out what the right learning conditions are for you.

3. Bad people don’t exist

In the aforementioned chaos of my teenage years somewhere along the line an interest for the Middle-East was born. At the time wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were taking place and Israel and Palestine remained a reoccurring theme on the news as well.

A natural indignation to not believing what I was being told by mediums like the 8 o’clock news, partially ingrained by my parents, I was doubting the validity of what was being shown. The Middle-East; a breeding-ground for terrorists where nobody could be trusted.

This image was spread with such force it basically dehumanized the entire region and allowed for nonhuman interventions.

thewall2
The wall between Israel and Palestine, this photo was taken from the Palestinian side. Are the people within this wall bad? And are the people that put up this wall bad?

At that time I read a couple of interesting books by former Dutch news reporter Joris Luyendijk. In A Good Man Sometimes Beats His Wife he wrote about the western perspective on Egyptian culture, and in They’re Just Like People (People Like Us in the US) he wrote about his experiences as a news reporter in the Middle East.

The thing I remember most profoundly about the second book is how he as a reporter barely ever saw the site of what he was reporting about. He always had to call to press agencies like Reuters and then create a story based on all the information he could gather from other people. In the end he would have 2 minutes to talk on the 8 o’clock news. So I was wondering, how well does that piece of information represent what really happened?

As the universe would have it I had the opportunity together with a friend to do an internship in Palestine a couple of years later. I couldn’t have been more excited to finally get to see things with my own eyes.

And what do you think happened? Nothing! People kind and forthcoming beyond believe and I never felt unsafe in all of the 11 weeks that I lived and worked there.

And what do you think happened? Nothing! People kind and forthcoming beyond believe

kindtaxidriver
This “supposed” bad person, who was also a taxi driver, went out of his way to give us a 2 hour tour of Bethlehem’s’ surrounding areas.

and I never felt unsafe in all of the 11 weeks that I lived and worked there. The scariest thing I experienced was the interim supervisor of the physical therapy department having an occasional anger attack. For reasons I did not understand, he would make a lot of arm movements, walk really quick, all the while shouting in Arabic to everybody he passed by.

Over the course of my life I have hung out with labeled terrorists, drug addicts, rich kids, poor people, well educated people, and people shaped by life. Not one of them I considered as a bad person, even when that person would (have) engaged in stealing, vandalism or dealing drugs.

As things go every single one of us is shaped by the accumulation of our life experiences. There are always moments where we can influence our decisions, but not everybody was dealt the same cards. Politicians, the traditional media, and corporations do their best to divide the world in to good and bad, smart and dumb, and quick and slow, only to capitalize on this division after.

The truth is though, that when you hit your child, when you bully other people, when you steal, when others call you a terrorist, or when you are addicted to drugs, you are not a bad person. Life is too complicated to divide into two sides.

Even though we are the accumulation of our experiences, we are not the experiences themselves.

Even though we are the accumulation of our experiences, we are not the experiences themselves. You define who you are, and how you manifest yourself in the world, good and bad is not part of that equation.

The Power of a Shower

I come home after 9 months of travelling, experiencing barely what I wanted beforehand, but everything I needed. I changed my perspective on a million of subjects, I learned new languages, I met amazing people, I found a new home, I saw amazing things and I enjoyed every day of it, even when I did not. Now, with all these memories continuously replaying in my head, I try to make sense of them. How can I, without diminishing the value of all that I experienced, incorporate this into a life that satisfies me.

Follow My Own Advice

In a previous blog, I wrote about having the guts to follow heart before brain. At this moment in time, I feel that I am at a point where it is essential that I follow my own advice. I notice that I have a certain vision regarding how I want to live my life and where I want to invest my energy. The thing is, there is a complete lack of structure nor a path to follow. I see no clear trajectory and nobody is telling me where to go. There is just a burning energy in my heart when it comes to the idea and purpose I derive from everything that I experienced.

Insecurities

When I start thinking (with my head brain) however, questions and insecurities instantly arise. What about money and what if I fail? After, I get stuck in these thought patterns that seem to have no way out of them. Once I shift my awareness back down to the heart though, everything seems really clear. I make the conscious decision to engage with, and live this feeling. What follows, is total evaporation of all the worries and doubts that were in my brain before. Instead of all the negative energy blocking my thoughts with impossibilities, it is now liberated and ideas start flowing around automatically.

It is interesting to see how efficient it is to thrive upon heartfelt energy. Once I accept it’s presence it seems that it overrules what goes on in the brain. The insecurity (and therefore lack of courage) that blocks this process is a quality of the gut brain however (more on that here).

Realizations In The Shower

What helped initiate this shift was a simple conversation between two man that I watched. The shower after, allowed me to process this: how turning to the age of fifty had provoked changes in the two talking to what was really important in life. Then, in the shower after all, is one of these moments we are usually alone with our thoughts. Even when we are unable to find time during the day to find a moment of tranquility, every person with a shower still has one.

This made me realize, that I want to value life exactly like that. I am 26 years old, far from turning fifty, but I do not feel that I should wait with acting upon this realization until then. Nevertheless, here is another reason to be insecure. If everybody starts realizing these things with fifty, am I not missing something if I am contemplating similar thoughts right now? Then I remember however, have the guts to follow heart before brain.

Value and Money (2)

Last week I wrote the first part of this two part blog post. There, I wrote about how my vision on money has changed over time. In this second blog post on the subject, I will explain how I try to incorporate this vision to find the right balance between value and money in my life.

Starting off, I believe it most important that I should not be afraid to be without money. Or if I have money, to lose it. In a recent blog post on fear-based life, I wrote about how fear can corrupt my behavior and does not serve me at all except for life threatening situations. This is not the case though, when it comes to losing or not having money. Nevertheless, I am made to believe that only through money I can acquire what I need. Consequently, making me prone to be afraid of not having any, because I can not survive otherwise. However, this is not the case. The true things that seem to be allowing us to live long and happy are: purpose, social contact, physical activity and a balanced whole food diet. The question is then, for which of these do I really need money?

The more money I have though, the more afraid I tend to get. When I would barely have enough money to buy my food, I will only lose that option. But what if I have so much I can buy a Ferrari, a boat and a house? When I lose money then, it seems I am losing a lot more. That is the moment life stops right? I lost it all, or not? As soon as I start seeing that money is corrupting my worldview I can start making decisions based on value. At the same time I believe, that when I run out of money, helping hands will be extended from places I could not have imagined before.

The second thing that I think is essential, is to do something I believe is valuable. Then, if it really is, the people around me will eventually notice it’s value as well. Regardless if this is expressed in my job, the way I treat my friends or how I use my garden. I believe this mindset will eventually spread in to every part of my life. Consequently, because we created a society that expresses value in money, the things I do will eventually be payed for in some form.

Equally decisive though, in this process, is that I enjoy doing what I do. This is more true than it is cliché. If I want to live a life that is sustainable for me I should be motivated and content with what I am creating. This supports my creativity, reduces insecurity and fear, but above all attracts positivism from the world around me.

Then, another thing that is critical, is to let go of the idea of retirement. From my perspective, retirement is the biggest anticlimax built in to our working society. Not before my 65th birthday when my body starts failing me, I am “free” to do what I want. Ultimately living with the physical and mental consequences of having been enslaved to this idea all my life. However, when I disconnect my purpose from money and I am concentrating on creating value doing something I love, I see no reason to stop when I am 65. Simultaneously, when I am young and physically strong there are so many things to enjoy I can not at that time. I believe it better to use these opportunities now and to not worry about the effect this might have on my retirement. As things go, my future I am creating today.

My final point is, that I believe there is no gain above a certain living standard. Once I have a safe and comfortable place to live, hopefully in an area I love, quality food to enjoy, means of transport, and I am lucky enough to be able to acquire the usual technologies, I do not see my quality of life increasing after that. I can turn my Fiat in to a Jeep and my Huawei in to the newest Iphone, but what am I really gaining here? The amounts of money I need to spend only make me more afraid of what might happen because I spent so much in the first place.

I think everybody should find their own balance between value and money. Nevertheless, I believe it is important to take in to account the false perspective that was drawn in my life. When I break down these walls I am more free to chose my own direction. Maybe even taking in to account that all I need to live a happy healthy life is whole food, physical activity, social contact and purpose.

Value and Money (1)

The subject of value and money has been playing around my mind for a long time. How can I live without money being the main motivation in my decisions? This used to be an interesting discussion point among friends. At that time, I was already aware of how money corrupts life. Consecutively, I chose a standpoint that was more directed at denying the existence of money, than actually dealing with it the way it is. I usually ended up saying things like: “I don’t like money and our monetary system. I don’t want to think about it, and I rather have nothing to do with it”.

Where I grew up in North-Western Europe, it was easy to create convictions like these. As things go, the consequences of not having money I never experienced. Over there, I used to live in a protected society where people living on the street, still have better chances than the majority of the people living in this world.

Nevertheless, I still disagree on the value that we have given money. I do understand now though, that to live the life I want to, I have to accept at least part of the value we ascribe to it. Next, it also made me realize that I should value more what I already have. At the same time, not being afraid to seize the opportunities given to me. To live on an island alone, might solve the issue of having to deal with money. However, this would also mean that I lose the possibility on using the opportunities that result from having it. I realized that I rather try to show how to live and value money differently within society, than to live on the outside denying it as a whole.

When discussing this subject over the previous half year, people would often remind me that you have money. Even when I do not, there are friends, family and a safety net provided by the government waiting for me in the Netherlands. This means, that the lowest life standard experienced by me, will still be above what the majority of the world population currently enjoys. Now, it is not just that I am aware of these inequalities, I also was in situations where I actually experienced them. Consecutively, the aforementioned comments sometimes made me feel guilty. It is quite easy for me to be critical of the monetary system, while being on the safe side within it. Should I not be living on the street to give my ideas some real credit? I concluded in the end, that I do not need to.

The awareness of the fact that I am positively predisposed in our world, just because I grew up in North-Western Europe, has made me realize that every opportunity I get is worth twice as much. Also, it does not make sense to me to live a life where I feel sorry for the chances other people did not get. It is easy to develop depressed feelings living with this awareness. I do believe however, that by showing that I can live happy with my values, there is a higher chance that somebody else copies them. There are enough people feeling depressed and unsatisfied already. Regardless, of the amount money in their bank account. Interestingly, a lot of people feeling this way in developed countries, turn out to be in some way or another, enslaved to the idea that money holds value.

In reality though, money by itself has no value. It only holds value as long as we believe it. The 50 euro note is not worth anything by itself. I can hardly hold it up to stop the rain from dropping on my head, or to use it as paper to write an important message upon. A thick woolen sweater on the other hand, will warm my body if I believe it or not, just like a roof on top of my house will keep me dry and a banana will always be able to provide my body with energy. As long as I keep believing money holds value by itself though, it is hard to put it into perspective. Once I flip this idea, I might be able to find ways to not see money as the sole condition to acquire anything of value.

In conclusion this means, as long as I want to be part of the current world we live in, I believe that I cannot deny that money exists nor cut it out of life entirely.  However, I can change the value it holds in my own life. If everybody else still thinks it is the most important base to decide upon, does not mean it should be for me.

Next week I will continue with this topic and explain how I try to find the right balance between value and money in my life.

 

What Is Authenticity?

Two blog posts ago I wrote about why I started Quest for Authenticity and I will now continue to explore what authenticity means and how I think going on this quest has already helped me live a more fulfilling life.

Awareness

To me, the thing that stands out most strikingly in this process, is the importance of becoming aware of what is ours in our lives, and what is not. Consequently, it is possible to make a conscious decision on what we would like to include and what to exclude. Because, from the moment  we enter this world up to this very moment there has been, and will be, continuous input from both inside and outside ourselves. Regardless of the origin of these inputs, their effects on us are all equally real. The problem is though, that in most cases nobody teaches us how to deal with all of these inputs.

When we zoom out though, it becomes visible that a lot of these inputs are results of a societal belief-system rather than the result of personal needs. In western society, our culture has become increasingly materialistic and focused on education, money, and performance whereas in Middle-Eastern society, for example, a more traditionally family oriented belief-system is still in place. The result in both occasions, however, is that we end up living lives that we think are ours but are actually far from it.

Authenticity as a Painting

I like to think of this way of life as a painting. When we are born we actually have a blank painting, nevertheless society drew all the lines already. The way it is now, we are only allowed to color in our painting. The idea of finding your own authentic way of life though is, to look at your painting and question every color and line in there. Is this what I want it to look like? Where after you can decide to keep it in this way, change it or erase it, leaving space for something new.

What is Normal?

Currently though, the first thing that will be decided on is whether we are normal or not normal. Normal in this case means that we are allowed to start the path into society along the most convenient way – starting in kindergarten until we get our degree. Subsequently, we are eligible to start producing and consuming to keep the bubble of our western society floating.

However, if you are not qualified as normal, you will either have to become normal by doing therapy, using medication or just pretending to be. After this, you might still be eligible to enter the “regular” path of life. If this still does not work out, there is an alternative trajectory which reduces your chances of a free life in almost every way. The criteria for normal and not normal vary depending on where you are from. In some cases skin color or the amount of money is already enough to put you in one of the categories, while in other cases a certain mental health status might determine your trajectory.

However, the way we view skin color, mental health, body composition, physical capacity and book-learning capabilities are all labels and measurements created by us humans. We have defined what is normal and what is not normal. This way, the reigning paradigm can be kept in place easier, and threats to it can be suppressed and quarantined. Think of all the medication prescribed for certain mental health “disorders”. In this, we are made to believe that there is only one reality, and that is the one that is systematically being forced upon us. At the same time we get the false idea that all of this is necessary for our own well-being.

So when we realize this we can come to a point where we might decide to view things a little differently. We can start changing, erasing and refilling parts of the painting of life. Do you agree with the normal – not normal division? Do you think that money is more important than health? Do you agree with the amount of hours we have to work every week? Do you agree with school being more important than playing at home? Do you agree with the idea that somebody who finished his Masters’ degree is smarter than somebody quitting high-school? And do you agree with the idea that when you are not working you are not productive?

These and a million other normal things within our western society are results of this belief-system silently agreed upon. However, when we become aware of this and actively use this awareness, we can make a conscious decision on anything in life. Therefore, my Quest for Authenticity is really about reviewing these concepts and to decide on their part in my life. While there are both useful and useless things to our western society, both of them are there without question until you start questioning them for yourself, and start to paint your own painting.

Redefining Continuously

Personally, in this on-going process I am redefining concepts like the importance of work, time, laziness, health, and money. I am trying to reduce the influence of the latter in my decision taking, by looking for alternatives when it comes to spending it.

Also, feelings of insecurity and fear I try to accept and retrace to it’s origin. These feelings are often based on non-personal beliefs and wreak havoc in my behavior and decision-making capabilities. Seeing them for what they are it is easier to reduce their influence. Still, there are so many other things that I at least try to approach without any preconception, until there is a moment I need to decide on the value of a certain idea. Because, the idea that once we have defined something that this is forever, is an invention of ours as well. We are actually free to redefine our authenticity at any moment.

Time: A Different Perspective

Starting of the blog and the new year, it seemed like a good idea to talk about a different perspective on time. Progressing to the next year always creates a special feeling, for some it is full of anticipation and for others it is filled with hope. Another chance to do things better, leave bad habits behind, and finally start eating right. Regardless of what happens though, we always keep counting our years as they pass by.

Linear Time

Our calendar and idea of time progress linearly. Day after day, month after month, year after year, always counting on. This invention of ours “helps” us determine where we are in space related to our idea of time. We can tell when somebody is late for work, when the sun comes up, when somebody should know enough mathematics to progress to 4th grade, and when you can expect to retire. All makes perfect sense, right?

Artificial Life, Artificial Time

Until you realize we are natural beings living in nature. Yes, we still live in nature even though we stacked it with roads, bridges, and cities. Just another concept to support those other inventions of ours, such as: money, time, distance, and borders. All these inventions reinforce each other in order to sustain society.

In effect, this creates a bubble where everything seems fixed but never really is. Because, borders are being fought over, there is always too little time to do everything you want, it is too far to walk to the supermarket and there is too little money to buy that new car. This all distracts us really from who or what we are, which diminishes our true needs: social contact, real food, exercise, and a sense of purpose in life.

To me, however, more and more it starts to make sense to drop this idea of time progressing along this artificial line of ours. Feeding the idea of that we are all different and “individual” (un-dividable). I am older than you, I have more experience than you because I work here longer, I am better than you because I play the guitar longer, and I have the right to retire because I am 65 years old. This way there will never be a person like you, everybody will always be ahead or behind you. Ever more creating a feeling of disconnection from the world around us.

Cyclical Time

However, in nature there are obvious cycles taking place. The sun goes up and returns, the moon shows itself in cycles, the earth moves in cycles, the seasons progress cyclically, women have their menstrual cycle and even men seem to experience cycles.

On a macro level there are times when the earth heats up or cools down depending on what happens elsewhere in our galaxy. Even our own inventions are subject to cycles, our economy, for example, needs to crash now and then in order to prosper again.

Keeping faith in this idea of time can make things really confusing. Our artificial creation keeps you thinking that this time is important. However, our bodies are subject to other inputs as well, including the cycles found within nature and our own lives, which influence our appetite, sleep, fitness, and ultimately our mood.


Once you become aware of this, you might recognize similarities with the people around you. Whereas cycles in nature seem to be dynamic returning phenomena, like the seasons starting around the same time each year, human cycles are initiated by the way you grow up, but also through changes in (social) environment and other life changing events. Thus, a 23-year-old experiencing a break up might experience the same feelings as a 65-year-old quitting his job.

Personally, during my work as a Physical Therapist I saw clients ranging from 10 to over 90 years old. It really surprised me how much I would have in common with somebody who was 90 years of age.

Leaving the linear way of perceiving time for what it is, a useful tool for navigating space, allows for seeing that everybody is living through similar cycles in different ways. Sometimes we return to similar situations, but at another point in our life. Understanding time cyclically this starts to make sense. If you stick to the idea of linear time progression it seems you have set a step back – ridiculous.

Adopting a cyclical view will allow you to realize how you are influenced by the world around you and vice versa. This will facilitate a sense of connection with the people around you, wherafter the world automatically becomes a more meaningful place.

Time to See Things Differently

Upon finishing this blog post, I challenge you to let 2018 be the year where you start seeing connections rather than disconnections. Possibilities rather than impossibilities and perceiving a familiar life situation as another opportunity to learn instead of seeing it as a setback. This will energize you along the road to find your own authentic way of life. In the meantime it will open your eyes to see that everything around you might actually be a bit more connected to you than it was.