Friday, November 19, 2010

The will to love

I assume most of you are familiar with the following situation: Sunday morning, after a late night out, the head is throbbing with pain and you wonder how long you can control the feeling of nausea before you have to rush off to the toilet. Hangover time! The thought of never ever drinking alcohol again, or at least not for a quite a while, is very appealing. An easy decision, so it seems. A little bit of fun for so much suffering just isn’t worth it!
Then comes the afternoon, nausea goes, the headache eases, and latest by early evening I start wondering, ‘just a little Brandy to go to sleep...’

Alcohol excess is only one example of course. Any drug, bad eating habbits, lacking exercise, stopping with the crap we don’t want in our lifes and starting with the things we always wanted to do. Why is change so difficult? Or why do we make it so difficult?

As a human species, we have the tendency to wait until change is not a free choice any more, but a necessity. Number One reason for giving up smoking? When the doctor tells you it’s a matter of ‘quit or die’. Well, I suppose some people decide, at least subconsciously, to die but for the vast mayority option two is not really an option. Hence there is no choice.
The big question is, when is the tipping point? When does choice turn into no-choice? It almost seems that we enjoy gambling with this uncertainty. Why leaving my comfort zone now if I can still change at a later time? The problem is of course that not knowing where the edge is, it is possible that we fall over. When we suddenly realise that we must change, we already missed the turning. Too late! And as individuals, society and as the whole world, can we really affort to wait until it is too late?

Yesterday I had a discussion with a good friend about what is actually needed to make change happen. Soon we arrived at two ingredients, discipline and will.
Discipline is a mental act. I force myself to do something, whether I like it or not. Will, on the other hand, seems to be more rooted in the emotions. Why? Well, at first I was wondering about that as well. Thinking about it though, to have will, to really want something, requires a very strong motivation. ‘I am going to get really fit because I have always dreamt of hiking in the himalayas.’ No motivation, no will.
The quality of the motivation is determined by emotions. The stronger I feel that I want to fulfill my dream of hiking in the himalayas, the better is my motivation. And the better my motivation, the more powerful my will. So yes Charlotte, I give you that one. My will is powered by my emotions.

Another friend of mine, Don Jose, has told me recently in another discussion that ‘once there is true understanding, discipline is not needed any more.’ Instead of suffering the mental agony of doing something we don’t feel like doing, with true understanding, change becomes effortless. And true understanding has to take place in both mind and heart. Otherwise, if my mind understands something but my heart doesn’t, emotionally I might not have any good reasons to change. I feel frustrated, and angry, and depressed, and then I get the cigarettes out, or the chocolate, or I stay in front of the TV instead of going for a walk or work in the garden.

A different example: We all know that most of the coffee market is controlled by huge profit-driven corporations, with desastrous consequences for the small coffee bean farmers in South America and Africa. Still we buy and drink the same coffee as always. Why is that? Maybe because we only half understand the issue. Mentally, yes. But do we understand the whole situation emotionally? Do we feel the injustice? Injustice that we feed with our actions. Do we feel the anxiety of the farmer, who has to struggle daily to survive, not being able to send his kids to school, no perspective for the future? Just because we don’t want to pay a fair price for a cup of coffee. Feeling the whole dilemma, surely we’d think twice before buying the cheap Lidl coffee, or Nescafé, or from any of the other big players who give a shit about values outside of their bank account.

There are many more examples. The point is, we need to sort out our emotions. To find out how we really feel. And how we make others feel. To find ways of expressing our anger and frustration, making room for a better feeling. Like love for instance. Shouldn’t that be motivation enough?

Changing our bad habits by loving ourselves.
And changing the world by loving others.

So forget about discpline. Find the will to love!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Journey to the green island - England 2010

And the clock keeps ticking... Unless you are somewhere in the southern hemisphere, winter is approaching. I got a good taste of this during my recent 2-week trip through England. Although I hate to admit it, the sun definitely helps to keep that smile on your face...

I hadn’t been back to England for almost 4 years. Some people I met asked me what I thought had changed. Well, the weather seems to be the same, sorry. Otherwise the main thing I noticed is an increasing level of control. There are cameras almost everywhere, Big Brother is zooming in, checking on you wherever you go. I guess it’s supposed to create more security. My feeling, however, is that it does very little to increase security, but instead taking away a sense of freedom that is irreplaceable. Do we really need to pay somebody to control every one of our moves? It seems like more and more we prefer to trust in cameras rather than in our fellow human beings. I wonder whether this is really healthy in the longterm. Straight into Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World”…

Apart from catching up with good friends, the main reason for my England trip was the promotion of THE LITTLE BUDDHA, my recently published book ( All in all I am very happy how things went, thanks again for everybody who has helped! THE LITTLE BUDDHA is now available in Maidstone (Kent), Brighton, Exeter, Glastonbury and London. Of course it is also availabe online on Amazon. However, while travelling around I had to witness the same drama that is unfolding in pretty much all of the world, at least the western, ‘civilized’ world: The independent bookshop is disappearing fast, a dying breed on the road to extinction. There are lots of towns which don’t even have a bookshop anymore. Sad but true. Now, I am not saying that I don’t buy stuff on Amazon. I do, and it’s very easy and comfortable. But walking into a proper bookshop, being able to actually see, to pick up and even smell books, that’s something very different to clicking twice and waiting for the postman. I’d hate having to tell my grandchildren one day about the experience of buying a book in a bookshop, without them being able to try it for themselves. So, please, whenever you can, support independent bookshops! And independent record shops, clothes shops, markets, etc. The beauty of life is its diversity!

The last days of my trip I spent mainly in London. Uufff, I have no idea how you can live there. Honestly. So many people, so much traffic, so much consumption. One thing I constantly wondered was where all the rubbish goes every day. So much rubbish!! London is definitely not on the top ten list of sustainable cities…

Most of the time I actually spent underground, getting round on the tube. And down there I was confronted with what seems to be a general problem in life: Most things are not designed by those who use it! The tube, the London subway, carries millions of people every day, and average travelling times must be at least 30min, often much longer. Yet there are no toilets, nowhere! Not on the tube, not near the platforms, and not even in the stations. The amount of times I almost pissed myself last week was not normal… And as top engineers and town planners usually travel by taxi or chauffeur, it’s unlikely that anything is going to change anytime soon. I was told that on weekend nights, people actually start to piss in the tube. Public transport is getting more attractive by the minute.

But then there is of course also the other side of London, the reason why it attracts so many people from all over the world: Culture! Whether it’s concerts, theatre, cinema, museums, there is something really good going on all the time.

During my stay I was lucky to attend two great events. One was the premiere of STAFF BENDA BILILI at the London Film Festival 2010. It’s a moving story of a group of handicapped musicians in the Kongo, documenting their path from the early rehearsals on the dirty and dangerous streets of an african slum to the recording of an album and the subsequent, hugely successful european festival tour. A film about hope and the importance of never giving up, of having a dream that is more powerful than all the shit that life might throw at you. I think it’s out in February 2011. The brilliant CD is already available now, just search for ‘Staff Benda Bilili’.

The second cultural treat was a fantastic concert by the great MANU CHAO. In contrast to the profit-orientated, billion-dollar music industry, Manu Chao played for free at an event of a Columbian art charity. The entrance fee went to charity and venue. It feels so good to see when music is about music, and not about making money. So respect to Mr Chao, and a great thank you for a great gig! Go and see him if you ever feel like jumping for two hours…

Back in Andalucía, I continue smiling with the help of the warm autumn sun. Yet I also feel melancholy creeping in, for many problems in Spain and the world in general are getting worse and worse. Pollution, poverty, injustice, natural disasters, illness and unhappiness, they all keep on growing and growing. And worst of all, ignorance seems to grow as well. While it might be comforting to close the eyes for a while and simply ignore what is going on, it doesn’t actually change anything. As Manu Chao puts it, “This world go crazy, it’s an emergency!”

There are huge challenges ahead of us, really really big challenges. The media might say otherwise, but of course, as long as economic interests decide what’s on the news, the truth remains inconvenient and is thus covered under lots of layers of totally useless information. So how to change if we don’t know where to start? Personally, I think the best thing we can do is to be open rather than closed and ignorant. And especially we need stay flexible, and to prepare ourselves mentally that the next decade will be very different from the last one. And then to embrace change, to see opportunities in whatever comes our way. It might not always be easy and fun, but it definitely won’t get boring. We are up for an exciting ride. A good time to be on planet EARTH!

Be happy!