Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Everything is possible

Back in my innocent teenage years I used to dream of becoming a football player. Or a lawyer, like Matlock. Or Robin Hood. Needless to say, all of these dreams have failed miserably and none of them are likely to ever manifest. And it doesn't matter – the little boy who might get disappointed is long gone.

As we grow older and change, our dreams change too – what seemed once like a great idea is now nothing but a sweet little fantasy from distant times. However, new dreams are born constantly and while many of these also disappear again, some persist. And when a dream persists in your consciousness you have two options: Either you ignore it, in which case you are left with a rather unpleasant feeling of 'I wish I had...', or you try to turn the dream into reality.

For quite a few years I've been wanting to see what happens if I combined three things that have played an important role in my life – music, photos and words. I kept thinking, 'how exciting it must be to do a film one day'. One day...

At the end of 2014 'one day' was suddenly right in front of me. I had no clue about filmmaking yet somehow it seemed possible. All I had to do was to jump over some stupid self-doubts and dive headfirst into a new adventure. Scary and uncomfortable stuff, but doable. And so I did...

11 months later, I've just finished a 85min documentary film about change. It's been an amazing journey full of ups and downs: shooting in several countries, great conversations, messed-up recordings, 3 months spent like a super nerd solidly in front of the computer, having to deal with a bunch a very unprofessional professionals, working with some highly talented artists, running a crowdfunding campaing, frustration, gratitude, madness...and learning, so much learning!

The result is a film called 'anicca - embracing change'. It's a very personal and honest documentary about key issues regarding our strugge with change: fear, courage, trust and the big challenge of accepting reality as it is.

Last Sunday we celebrated the official premiere in Bonn. It's been a wonderful event, full of beautiful people, inspirational stories and hope. Half way through watching the film I suddenly thought, 'wow, I've made a film - I'm a film maker now!', quickly followed by, 'how on Earth did this happen...?'

You have a dream? Make it happen! And if it doesn't work out, try a different one. As my Dad always says, you will never fail as long as you keep trying. And as they say in India, everything is possible!

From today, anicca is available to be watched online - in English, German or Spanish.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Now what?

Last Friday the tragedy of Paris happened. One day earlier, a similar act of senseless violence occurred in Beirut. Thousands if not millions of people have died in other attacks in the last years, all around the globe. And, unless you are drowning in some kind of utopian dream, many more casualties will follow soon. So much unnecessary death, so much suffering – at times, life sucks!

May those who already died rest in peace. But what about us, the ones who are still alive? We can't rest, because we're not at peace. We're left with a feeling of helpless impotence and rising fear, and we keep asking ourselves: now what?

Blaming others – terrorists, politicians, Gods – doesn't really help, for it will only lead to more conflict, hate and bloodshed. So instead of playing a ping pong game with guilt and blame, here are a few things we could try to do.

Minimizing news intake

If an alien came to planet Earth and listened to the news for a single day, he or she (or it?) would very quickly get the impression that this place is hell. War, murder, terror, racism, speciesism, egotism – bad news, 24/7.

Yes, it's important to not ignore what's going on, but we all know by now that a lot of shit is happening in the world. Reminders are great, but all the time? Constantly? There's a lot of good stuff happening too, it's just for some reason the news people don't want to talk about it. Fine, it's their choice, everyone can talk about what they want. However, WE can choose to not listen to them anymore. Because why would you want to listen to someone who's making you feel scared and miserable ALL THE TIME?

Practicing forgiveness

Not long ago a friend told me that, for him, 'the most powerful medicines are hope and forgiveness'. I think there's a lot of truth in these words. The only problem I have with hope is that, while it can be certainly very healing and comforting, it's a rather passive thing to do. 'I hope the world will be a better place soon...' – nice, but is it going to get better by itself?

Forgiveness on the other hand is full of action. 'I forgive you', that's me doing something very actively. And one thing is for sure: with so much violence and injustice going on, the world is in desperate need of a lot of forgiveness!

Even a suicide bomber needs to be forgiven because no child was born that way. 'Natural born killer' is a phrase which might make good movie titles but in real life I don't think that natural born killers exit. No one is born evil, people become that way because they've been misguided by false friends, false beliefs and/or a sick society.

Of course this is easy for me to say – if my daughter had been hurt or killed by some terrorist, I'd probably struggle to forgive. But then, what else can be done? What do we gain if we continue to hate?

By forgiving those who have done wrong, whoever they are and whatever they've done, we get a chance to heal our wounds, to let go of what was and to move on. To make it better.

Asking yourself: Are you 100% peaceful?

Talking about change and the problems in the world, another friend of mine recently said that, 'if we've created an aggressive world, then only because we are aggressive beings'.

You might say now that of course you'd never go and kill innocent people in a concert hall. Well, I hope so! But aggression has many faces – you don't have to be a mass murderer to be aggressive.
Perhaps you're even convinced that you're not aggressive at all, ever! But is this really the truth?

I think it's safe to say that there are very few people alive today who are totally peaceful. Most of us have feelings of anger, we have thoughts of hatred and revenge and we might even do violent things (for example eating meat is, ultimately, an act of violence; even calling someone an arsehole is).

No, we are no saints and it's okay that we're not. But it's really important to acknowledge the violence within, no matter how big or small it is. Because only if we honestly acknowledge this, only then are we able to change.

Peace can't be created if we merely pretend to be peaceful. Only if there are more and more people becoming truly peaceful, only then the whole world will become more peaceful too.

It's not them. It's us.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Time to care

The image kept coming back. In flashes. Violent and clear.
A grey bin bag flying into the rubbish container at the side of the road.
The air filled with death and cold indifference.

One of our dogs had already killed six of our chickens. It was Friday, sunshine at noon, my house mate's birthday. The lunch guests were about to arrive when I saw another dead chicken on the lawn. Not the best sight when the family is coming for a birthday gathering...

Since there wasn't much time I did the first thing that came to mind: I grabbed a bin bag, put the dead chicken in and drove to the nearest rubbish site. Slightly in a hurry, I stopped, engine running, got the chicken bag out and threw it into the container.
Two minutes later I was back home.

While the chicken started to rot away, covered by all sorts of other stuff that we throw away, my own life continued as usual. But then, out of nothing, the images of that moment at the rubbish container started to infiltrate my mind. And my heart.

The day after the birthday lunch (which was totally vegan by the way), we indulged in a huge and very tasty Argentinian BBQ. Chewing on the blood-drenched meat, a wave of pleasure sailed over my face. Here I was, eating death and enjoying it.
Then the memory of the dead chicken returned...

Ethically and morally it's a very weird and definitely questionable habit to eat meat, but I guess it's just something many of us do. So let's accept that for a moment.

What's totally NOT acceptable though is that we kill other beings AND treat them like shit, every single day of their lives! We steal the babies from the mothers, we pump them up with drugs and crappy food, put them in cages, no fresh air, hardly space to turn around, noise, excrements everywhere and no hope for any happiness. Then, after a short and miserable life, we kill them, eat them and don't even say thank you.

The chicken that I've thrown into the bin got killed running around the garden, by a dog who probably just wanted to play. Bad luck, and nothing I can do about.
But here's the question I've been asking myself ever since that day: The chicken had given me eggs to eat for many months – didn't it deserve a bit more than a heartless flight into a black container? A little gesture of gratitude, was that too much to ask for? I still can't believe that I didn't take the time to dig a hole somewhere and at least show the chicken some respect. Shame on me!

Carnivore, vegetarian, vegan – it doesn't matter. Well, it does, but what's much more important is something else: Whatever we do, whatever we eat and consume – shouldn't we make an effort to do it in a respectful manner? Shouldn't we care for and love everything that helps us to enjoy life? Whether it's a chicken, an apple tree or a mountain spring; whether it's a person who makes our clothes or a whole planet that provides food, shelter and special moments.

How long until we become beautiful humans?

Time to care.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The art of harvesting

Imagine you are sowing seeds in a garden – do you know beforehand which seeds will die and which ones will survive? And of those who will survive, which one will turn into the most beautiful flower?

3 weeks ago I've started the crowdfunding campaign for the documentary film that I'm working on. It's been quite a journey so far, with lots of ups and downs. A few days after the launch, funds suddenly stopped coming in and nothing happened, despite me sending out hundreds of emails and posting like hell on facebook. There I was, stuck on 23%, feeling left alone. I must admit that I felt a bit disappointed... Over the years I had done lots of favours to various people and now nothing was coming back.

But of course my feeling of disappointment was my own problem – I had created it by having expectations which were simply not appropriate. After all, when you give something, you shouldn't expect anything in return. If you give, you should give because you want to give. At least that's the theory...

Anyway, in the second week of the campaign things picked up again and slowly I was moving towards the set goal. And then, all of a sudden something truly amazing happened. It's quite personal but I'd like to share the story with you:

One morning I checked my mail and saw that someone had made a contribution of 500 Euros. 'Holy shit!', I thought. I looked at the name: a woman from Germany who I didn't know. Strange... She had an email address from a company, so I checked out the website. It was an agency for Heavy Metal concerts. WTF? Something didn't seem right and so I stayed totally calm and thought, 'ah well, probably someone has added accidentally one or two zeros'. So I wrote to her and said that, if it had been a mistake, to get in touch with me so that we can sort it out somehow.
I waited for a reply. Nothing. The afternoon passed, still nothing. Weird... Then, when I came home late that night, I had an email from her. It started something like this: “You don't know me but I know you...” Just imagine my face! I took a deep breath and kept reading. She said that I had helped her with several problems during the last year and that it was now time to give something back. I was like, 'what???'
It turned out that someone had given her one of my books (The Little Buddha), and then one thing had led to another and she also started reading this blog. She told me that I have shown her some different perspectives which have triggered positive changes in her own life. Finally she wrote: “Over the last year I've been saving some money. The I ching (the chinese book of changes) says that if you take you should also give – and today was a day of giving. It was pure coincidence that I stumbled over your campaign this morning...”

Far out or what? It was amazing to receive a contribution of 500 Euros for the film, absolutely fantastic! But what touched me even more was her very personal email, sharing some of her story with me. You know, sometimes, sitting here in my little room writing random stuff, I kind of lose track with the real world and actually wonder whether anybody is reading it... Not that it really matters if somebody reads it or not – I write because I feel like it and I guess it saves me many therapy sessions. But when I received her message I suddenly felt that there was more to it than just me trying to stay sane. Suddenly there was a purpose in what I'm doing. And this feeling...this moment... Priceless!

The whole experience has made me reflect on lots of things. Suddenly I almost felt embarrassed for having felt disappointed about not receiving any money from those who I had thought would support me straight away. The 'poor-little-me' syndrome – totally pathetic! Life just doesn't work like that, life isn't a two-way road. No, life is one huge network of roads and junctions and endless little paths, and somehow they are all connected.

If you help someone today, it might be that this person will never return the favour and that's absolutely fine. Because ultimately you're not helping an individual but life itself. And if you help life, life will remember... In other words: What goes around comes around.

Yes, we heard it all before. It's like 'living in the Now': Everybody knows about it, but how many actually do it? It's similar with the film I'm working on: The central message is that everything changes and that you have to accept that. Nothing new. But since the most simple wisdoms seem to be the most difficult ones to put into practice, we need to be reminded. Over and over again, until it really sinks in. Until we understand – not only intellectually but until we really understand, with our whole being, with every single cell of our soul.

Coming back to the beginning, when we sow seeds in the garden of course we don't know which ones will survive and which ones will turn into the most beautiful flowers. But one thing is for sure: If we don't sow, there won't be any harvest...


PS: The crowdfunding campaign has reached its goal – thanks to everyone who has contributed! Does this mean the campaign is over? No, not quite yet. The initial goal was the absolute minimum that I need to get the film out. More funds will mean that I will have more money to invest in a website, mastering, etc. Films are kind of expensive business... There are a few days left, so if you want to get a streaming voucher or a DvD or an organic&fairtrade t-shirt, or if you simply want to become part of anicca – now is the time!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Summer, paper bins and the beautiful human race

I'm back on the Costa del Sol for a few months. It's lovely here right now: Overcrowded beaches, overcrowded streets, car parks, shops and bars. All this in sticky heat, day and night. Can't complain really – it could be much worse. I could be in Benidorm. Or Baghdad.

To escape the masses I'm mainly hiding in my little room, working and hoping that the fan won't die just yet. But since I can't sit in front of my screen every hour of the day, I need to come up with other stuff I can do without having to leave the house. Cleaning the kitchen for example.

So last Friday I bravely entered our communal cooking area. You know, I find it really fascinating how kitchens always end up super messy in very little time. It's the place where you prepare your food – shouldn't this be a sacred place? And if it's a sacred place, shouldn't it be kept clean and tidy all the time? After all, have you ever seen a messy church or temple?

Anyway, I did what had to be done and in the end I was left with four bags of recycled rubbish. The organic stuff went into the garden compost, the rest – glass, paper and plastic – I took to the nearest recycling bins.
While I was emptying some remaining paper bits into the paper bin, a woman walked up. I'd say she was in her early twenties, although her age doesn't really matter. She carried a big cardboard box that was covered almost entirely with a layer of thick plastic foil. When she arrived next to me, she was just about to throw the whole thing into the paper bin. I looked at her, slightly confused: “You know that there's lots of plastic around your cardboard box, no?”
She looked at the box, then she looked at me, then back at the box. Thinking.
“Ah well”, she finally said, dumped everything into the bin and walked off.

Needless to say, I was speechless. I mean, what can you say when someone has just robbed you of your last tiny bit of hope that one day, somewhere in the distant future, things will be alright?

I removed the plastic from her box and threw it into the other bin. “Ah well”, I tried to encourage myself, “it's just a ride...”
On the way home I stopped at the sea for a cleansing and refreshing dip into Mediterranean. Parked the car, walked to the shore and... Well, and now comes the really sad and absolutely mind-boggling part: The sea looked like the kitchen before I had cleaned it. WTF?

So let me get this right: We take oil, a precious gift from the earth, turn it into plastic, wrap all the shit that we buy in it, unwrap what we buy once we are home, throw the plastic away and then, yes, then we swim in it. Again, WTF? It's so bad, calling us stupid monkeys would actually insult the poor monkey race. Looks like we didn't evolve from monkeys upwards, but downwards!

How will we ever be able to solve huge problems such as the current refugee tragedy, the ongoing wars, hunger, injustice and global pollution if we are unable to separate our own plastic and paper rubbish? It's like, how can you dream of playing Champions League when you can't even hit the ball straight? As I've said, mind-boggling.

Normally I try to end my blog articles with some positive message, something uplifting to help creating a better world. Today I don't feel like it. Not because I'm miserable and depressed, not at all. I'm actually feeling quite happy today. But the thing is: If you take a step back and look at us humans, what you see is a very messed up race. You, me, everyone!
I'm not surprised that more and more people are getting cancer – because we ARE a cancer! And if we don't change ourselves very soon, I fear that our planet will undergo some hardcore radiation and chemotherapy. And of course we know what happens with this kind of treatment: Almost everything will be killed and chances of survival are minimal.

The only real chance to cure a cancer is to radically change your life: your bad habits, your diet, your attitude. Looking at humanity as one organism – are we able to do that? I wonder...

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Greece and laziness

Most people in Greece are lazy. But they are not lazy because they were born lazy – they are lazy because of the place they live in. Try to focus on work when the sky is always blue and temperatures invite you to a refreshing beer by the sea. Seriously, try it! It's much easier to be very productive when it's raining and there's nothing else to do anyway. Like in Germany for example.

I try to follow the news as little as possible but it's rather difficult to ignore all the talking about the current crisis in Greece. What I'm really tired of is the constant battle between black and white: It's the Germans fault; no, it's the Greeks fault – it's like being for Barca or Real... Fact is though, the mess that Europe (and the world) finds itself in is grey. As they say, 'it takes two to tango'.

Greece borrowed money and can't pay it back. Part of the problem lies with the Greeks themselves – there's loads of corruption and the tax system is a total disaster, especially when it comes to making the rich ones contribute in an appropriate way. Just one example: I was in Greece in May, on a sailing trip with a Spanish friend. In the harbour, we paid 6 Euros per night for our 38ft boat (already far too cheap). One night there was a huge 100ft motor yacht next to us (which consumes several thousand Euros of petrol just to cruise around for a day). This yacht belonged to some Greek people. They paid 9 Euros for the night... Sorry Mr Tsipras, I support you in many ways, but you gotta sort this kind of shit out or otherwise nothing will change. Ever!
At the same time it's also true that the EU lend money to Greece so that they can cash in on high interest and sell their fancy tanks to someone. This is ridiculous and not acceptable whatsoever. But to say that the Greek dilemma is only the fault of the Northern Europeans is as mistaken as to say that only Greece is responsible. Trying to solve the problem by thinking in little black and white boxes won't do the job. Neither will pointing the finger at others.

From our point of view – the 'normal', non-Greek citizens – getting involved in arguments about who is right or wrong doesn't help; and blaming political parties and bankers won't change anything either. So what can we do, you and me?

Sending donations? Not really, there are many other countries which need help much more urgently. Nepal for example.
Buying Greek products? Yes, perhaps that's one option. It won't solve everything, but it will definitely help a little. So: Eat feta cheese, buy Greek olive oil and get drunk on Ouzo. Or make holidays over there – it's a beautiful country and since its economy depends largely on tourism, any visitor who spends money will make a difference.

And there's something else we can do. Something very powerful: Changing to an ethical bank! Because no matter how much money you have, while it's in your debit or savings account, the average bank is using it to invest in highly profitable businesses (weapons, drugs, oil, etc.) and to give loans with outrageous interest rates to those who already struggle (like Greece). An ethical bank on the other hand supports organic farms, renewable energy projects and social institutions – all stuff that needs to be promoted if we want to create a better world. So, changing your bank will definitely help, not only Greece but the rest of the planet too.

Now here's the tricky part: While it's possible to change to a different bank, it does involve a little bit of hassle and so we usually don't do it. Not because we are unable to, but because we can't be arsed. In other words: We are too lazy! Which brings me back to the beginning of this story: Under certain conditions and in certain situations, everybody is lazy! It's not a crime, it's just a human weakness. And admittedly, sometimes it's rather nice, possibly even important to let go and simply be lazy. Yet if we want to see changes, there's only one way and that is to overcome our very own indolence and to start getting active. After all, change is all about movement – no motion, no change.

Personally I think that the EU and the IMF should cut the debt – to show solidarity with Greece AND to pay for their own greediness. Greece, instead of staying stuck in the victim role, should sort out its own problems. They could make big changes as of today – changes they will need to make anyway, with or without the EU.

And the rest of us? Well, there's this thing called Google. We use it to find new shoes, compare flights and search for porn. In theory we could also use it to find an ethical bank... 

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Transformation tools

Since January I've been working on a documentary about change. I've got most of the material recorded (350 GB of video and sound files...) – soon I'll be starting the editing process and, if everything goes according to plan, by the end of the year the film will be ready. So far it's been a very steep learning curve and a wonderfully enriching experience.

The main focus of the film is on personal change. I've talked to eight people with different backgrounds, exploring the question of how to deal with the inevitable fact that life is constantly changing and how to make changes voluntarily.
A few days ago, on a long train ride from Germany to Southern Spain, I was reflecting on some experiences that have triggered important transformations in my own life. Here are a few (in no particular order):

Travelling in India
The first time I went to India, in 1998, I arrived with a pretty clear idea of how life works. Spending 6 months in the East, my whole world view was shattered and I had to rebuild everything pretty much from scratch. I got lost and depressed but in the end life became much more fascinating. The depth of aliveness took on a whole new dimension!

Abandoning the daily TV program
Do you know how much time the average person spends sitting in front of the TV? I don't know, and I think I don't want to know. It'd be shocking! There are some amazing films and watching football every now and then is fun too, but other than that, staring at random crap (soaps, news, chat shows, commercials) is extremely dull and mind-destroying. When you are in a completely passive state, transformation can't happen. In order to make changes, you have to actively participate in life!

Experiencing a journey with 'abuelita', the magic teacher from the Amazon, has led to one of the biggest, if not THE biggest change in my life: Realizing that duality is an illusion! Everything is connected, everything is one: people, plants, rocks, oceans, worms, planets – everything! Not in a hippie sense, no. It's really like that. Curious? Here's a link to the book I've written about my experience with Ayahuasca: A CALL FROM THE UNKNOWN

Having a child
Something really nice that I've learned from being a dad is that responsibility can be beautiful. It doesn't have to be a burden when you approach it with the right attitude. Also, my daughter has renewed my belief that unconditional love is possible. No expectations and drama – just love.

Earlier this year I've done a clowning workshop. No, I don't plan to join a circus any time soon. That's not what Clowning is about. It's about shedding thoughts and plans and fears and simply being yourself. Being very present, being forgiving and courageous. So, if you want to learn how to drop from your head into your heart, I recommend you check it out: NOSE TO NOSE

Growing your own vegetables has many benefits: You spend time outdoors, do some exercise and of course you get some food. But for me, the most important benefit I got through gardening is a reconnection with nature. Digging with your hands in the soil is an incredibly grounding, humbling and beautiful thing to do. And your awareness changes too: Suddenly I didn't complain any more that an organic broccoli costs 2 Euros. Looking at how big the plant is, how much effort and water and time goes into it, I mean, any broccoli should cost at least 5 Euros. Seriously!

A while ago I saw a question on Facebook: Which single change would have the biggest impact in the world? Reading through the answers, the one I thought made most sense was this one: To make daily mediation compulsory in every school. Not because meditation leads automatically to more peace in the world, but because it helps you to look at reality and to simply be with what is. The result? Since I'm meditating regularly, there isn't less pain in my life – but far less suffering.

Learning an instrument
Being able to make music is absolutely amazing! First, because music is amazing; second, because being musically creative is amazing; and third, because sharing music is amazing. 
Jamming with other people has changed me insofar that it has added many special moments full of joy to my life. And when you add joy, you become a happier person!

If you would like to share some other transformation tools that have proved to be helpful to you, please do so in the comment box below.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Just fucking do it

Have you ever rode a bicycle with the seat being far too low? Not nice, right? For the last six weeks I've done exactly that. Why? Because every time I got the bike out and remembered that I need to change the seat, I was too lazy to go up and get the tools. When I finally got round to do it I went for a ride afterwards and couldn't believe how much I had tortured myself over the last weeks. I mean, how stupid can you be? Suffering, voluntarily!

Don't we just love postponing our tasks and dreams? And the same goes for our efforts of being responsible human beings: For years I've known that banks invest our money in profitable weapon companies. I speak out against war but my very own money helps to fund that war – again, clever me! In Spain I had already changed to a more ethical bank a while ago but in Germany it wasn't until last month that I did the same. Now all my money (not much, but still) is used to support organic farms, renewable energy projects and social institutions. Question is: What on earth took me so long to make that change?

Sometimes our love affair with procrastination can also lead to dramatic situations that are beyond fixing. I was really moved by a post from a friend which I read recently. He had been wanting to contact a good friend but he hesitated during several days. Too long as it turned out – his friend committed suicide. Whether he would have been able to help him or not, it doesn't matter. The possibility of making that call is now dead.

The trouble is, you think you have time.” (Buddha)

You have calls to make? Make them. You have dreams to follow, ideas to share, help to offer? Time is ticking, so live your dreams, spread your ideas and offer that helping hand! If you don't like wars change to an ethical bank and if your God damn bicycle seat is too low, don't be an idiot like me.

Whatever it is you want to do – now is the time!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Unchaining the heart

Last week a friend took me to the old airport of Berlin Tempelhof. Nowadays it's a huge open field in the city, with mobile coffee shops, urban gardening plots and people walking, cycling and windsurfing on skateboards. Some even come here to have sex, I was told.

With big white clouds passing slowly across the blue sky it was a great day to do some timelapse photography. So I got my camera out, mounted it on a tripod and placed it in the middle of what used to be the runway.

Now, for those of you who don't know anything about timelapse photography, basically you set the camera to take one photo every few seconds over a period of at least 20 minutes and afterwards you edit all photos into a short film. This means, once the camera is set up, you have to wait.

I was just about to sit down next to the tripod when my friend said, “Ok, let's go”, and started walking.
“But...”, I stuttered, “I ain't gonna leave my camera here.”
“Why not?”
I stared at him in disbelief.
“I don't think it's a good idea to have an expensive camera standing all alone in the middle of the runway where there are hundreds of people passing by.”
“Your camera will be fine”, was all he said.

I wasn't convinced. Not at all! So my friend told me that, a few years ago, he decided to not lock his bicycle any more. He said that he got fed up participating in a system that is based on distrust. Whether it was his good intention or pure luck – he still has the same bike.

Hesitantly I started to walk away from my camera. Every 10 seconds or so I turned around to check if it was still there. After 50 meters I wanted to return but my friend just gave me a totally indifferent look and continued walking. Again I hesitated, then I followed him. I guess I didn't want to show my attachment to the material world. Paranoid thoughts are difficult to switch off though and so, when I turned around a couple of minutes later, barely seeing my camera in the distance, I walked back. Rather quickly, I should add.

Needless to say, I failed this little test. But it made me wonder: How did that happen, that we lock everything? It wasn't always like this, was it? Has it to do with overpopulation? Too many people fighting over limited resources, everybody trying to get what they can? I've been to small villages where all doors are open all the time. Maybe trust can exist in a village, but not in a city?
Or maybe it's an ego thing? I have to protect what's mine because...well, because it belongs to me. Really? Temporarily I might be 'using' something, but belonging? Owning? Possessing? Having? I mean, not even my own life belongs to me. As someone told me recently:
“I don't have a life. I AM life, experiencing itself.”

Doors and bicycles are locked, ideas patented, art sold, hearts closed. Trees and land and even water – everything is owned by someone. As a consequence there are more and more fences in the world, separating us and fuelling wars. Ironically, while writing these lines I'm leaning against one of the few remaining parts of the Berlin wall. Aren't we supposed to learn from history?

To make matters even worse: Do you know these bridges where loved-up couples put a padlock? 
Maybe I'm just a little envious because I don't have anybody who I could tie myself to a bridge with, but still: Love is being represented by a padlock – if you think about it, that's just insane!

Yes, it's difficult to change the predominant mindset of ownership. I've worked many hours to buy my camera, I don't want to risk losing it. I'm glad there's copyright so I can sell my books and I'm not a big fan of open relationships either. Nevertheless, I believe the world would be a much better and happier place if we weren't so obsessed with owning everything.

So what to do? Giving everything away and becoming a saint? Moving to a hilltribe and running around naked? Reading more hippie books?

Perhaps a good starting point could be to simply put more emphasis on sharing. Not necessarily your husband or wife but pretty much everything else. You want to use my car? Use it! You are hungry? Come for dinner! You want to turn my idea into an amazing business? Do it!

I think ultimately it all has to do with an underlying fear of losing more than we gain. Giving stuff and love and our precious time away – oh my God, we could end up with nothing! Yet one of the lessons taught by those who give abundantly is that everything comes back in one way or another. So maybe we should trust life a little bit more...

Letting go of 'mine' and embracing 'ours'.
Replacing the fear of losing with the joy of sharing.
Bringing down walls by unchaining the heart.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

The art of cleaning your arse

Our conversation was heading towards a dead end road. Why? Because my friend had just pulled out what seemed the final, unbeatable argument: Money!

We were discussing why people fail to make ethical choices when they are shopping and he said that most of us simply can't afford to buy organic food, fairtrade clothes and other so-called 'green' products. To make his point he used the example of toilet paper:
“I would love to buy eco toilet paper”, he said, “but it's ridiculously expensive.”
True, it costs about twice as much as normal toilet paper. But still – shouldn't we make an effort to care for the planet that hosts us?

“You only have to buy toilet paper once in a while”, I replied. “If you drank one beer less per month you'd already be able to afford it. Just a question of priorities.”
I use this argument quite often in similar discussions, yet for some strange reason it rarely works. Most of the time I get a look saying, 'Yes, but...'
A healthy planet or more beer – indeed, tough decisions we have to make.

Anyway, some people might not have enough money for neither beer nor eco toilet paper. So is there nothing else you can do? Well, there is something but just like with many other problems we are facing today the solution requires some lateral thinking – and a willingness to get rid of old habits.

If you can't afford eco toilet paper, or if you don't want to spend your precious money on it, then maybe it's an idea to question toilet paper itself. Do we really need it? After all, over one billion Indians live happily without it. And for those of you who have never been to India: No, they are not all dirty pigs over there. I've actually found that Indians look much better after their body hygiene than most Europeans.

How did my friend react to my suggestion?
“But I don't have money to get a bidet installed in my bathroom.”
Yes, sorry, I forgot: All Indians have a bidet, especially those living in little mud huts.

Right, here's what you do: First, get a plastic jug. This one I just got for myself:

Fill the jug with warm water (or cold water, depending on personal preference) and pour it over your lovely bottom using your left hand to do the cleaning. Using the left hand is quite important if you want to avoid potentially awkward situations (since the right hand is commonly used to greet people). Finally, if you don't fancy wet underpants use a towel. That's it. Done.

I don't know if my friend is still laughing at me (which he did at the time) or whether he perhaps got himself a jug too. Who knows... Fact is: Cleaning your arse with water is cheaper, more hygienic and more environmentally friendly than any toilet paper could ever be.

In summary: If we want to find an excuse for not having to change, we'll find one. But likewise, if we want to find a solution, we usually find one too.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Going on a journey

Writing or talking about change is relatively easy: You wrap a few thoughts into some fancy words, post them online or add them to a random conversation, that's it! But what about putting change into practice?

In order to explore this question a bit more and also to prove that, at least sometimes, I actually listen to my own advice, I'm going to go on a journey. Have a look at this video to find out more:

Sometimes you have to find the courage to take the first step.
To choose a direction. To make a decision. And then to stop thinking and simply start.

Monday, January 5, 2015

The best is yet to come

On the 1st of January I received a message from a friend: “All the best for the new year”, she said, and added: “You know, once you've told me that we should give each year the chance to be the best year of our lives. Every new year's eve I think about this.”
While she remembered my advice, I had forgotten.

2015, the best year ever – really? Let's see: I've just turned 39, next up is 40. Not sure if that is a reason to feel excited... Aches and pains are invading my body, my knees hurt, eyes are getting worse, my skin seems to dissolve in many places, digestion struggles, teeth are dying... My bank account is racing towards the big Zero – wasn't I supposed to be rich by now? Each night I've got a bed to sleep in, yes, but I feel pretty homeless – do Nomads always have to live a nomadic life? And true romance – completely out of sight!
Meanwhile, many are worried about a war with the new favourite enemy called Russia, about attacks by Muslim fundamentalists and Christian governments. The next economic crisis is waiting because greed ain't dead yet and because the illusion continues that our problems can be solved with more shopping malls offering more stuff to fill our houses and wardrobes and all those empty spaces deep within. And then there's our beautiful planet which is being raped on a daily basis – when will it fight back? More and bigger ecological disasters are only a question of time.  

In summary: 2015 has the potential to be really really shit. Sounds negative? Well, it is. But of course this doesn't mean that the opposite isn't possible. Life is full of surprises, so who knows? The seeds of change have been sown – will they grow? Will WE grow?

Maybe 2015 will be indeed the best year ever.
Doubts remain, but let's give it a chance.