Sunday, December 4, 2016

Shedding impotence

Short recap: There's Trump and Brexit, a whole bunch of facist leaders rising in Europe, endless killing in Aleppo and the US army fighting peaceful protestors of its own country at Standing Rock in North Dakota. With soon 8 billion people, there's more pollution than ever, top soils are eroding at an larming rate, plastic is replacing fish in the oceans and millions of modern slaves all over Asia are producing our x-mas gifts. We're not doing too well, are we?

This is only a small extract of all the things that are going wrong. The list is long, very long! So long that it's very tempting to put the whole damn list aside and get ridiculously stoned or drunk or watch some crap on TV. Anything to distract from reality! The problems are just too big and way beyond our reach – we can't change anything anyway, can we? We're too small, too powerless, too insignificant. And so we start to feel more and more impotent and put our hopes in someone else. Someone else will sort it out, someone else will make it all good again. But guess what? That someone else is you and me because without us, nothing will happen!

So it's time to shed the illusion of impotence and to take back our power. How? Through our every day choices! Here are four things that we all use: food, clothes, banking and transport. There's more of course, like housing, hygiene, computers, etc., but I haven't looked into them enough. If you have more experience in some of these fields, please inspire us! Now, back to the four:

FOOD – some of you might be tired of me constantly advocating organic and local food, but it's just so crucial and probably the most powerful thing we can do. Unless you've managed to live of sunlight, you eat food every single day. So every single day you can choose which kind of world you want to support: a healthy and sustainable one, or a destructive one.

CLOTHES – like food, you use them every day. But who makes your clothes? Do you really want to wear stuff for which other people and the planet have to suffer? Yes, ethically produced clothes are more expensive (or more precisely, most other clothes today are far too cheap and don't reflect the true cost of their production), but again, it's about choosing. For the last couple of years most of the clothes that I bought were organic and fairtrade, and I'd say about 80% of all the people I know have a higher monthly income than I do. So if I can do it, at least 80% of the people who read this can do the same.

BANKING – this is an often overlooked choice, but also a very powerful one. And it's so simple: There are ethical banks which invest your money in social and sustainable projects. There is absolutely no need to let greedy investors use your money for wars and other profitable but very harming business models. It's your money – you decide what it does.

TRANSPORT – cars and planes are great because they offer us freedom. But they have two big disadvantages: 1) they are polluting the air that we breathe and 2) they rely on oil, which means that whoever uses cars and planes is supporting the rather dubious practices of the oil companies. There's cycling, bus riding, train travelling and car sharing – anything that reduces our consumption of oil is good. And yes, in a way I might seem hypocritical here because I still fly and drive sometimes, but I'm working on reducing it. I also don't think any of this is about being perfect. It's about making progress towards a better, fairer and more beautiful world – one step at a time.

Having said all that, I'd like to introduce you to one of the steps that I've recently made myself. Here's the story: For six years I've been writing this blog, called 'reflections on changing times'. Furthermore I'm making my living writing books, which is wonderful and I feel very grateful for being able to do it. However, while words on paper and screen can certainly inspire change, ultimately words alone won't change anything. So the last few years I felt a desire to apply some of the things I write about to a business project. I wanted to be able to offer a product that is both essential AND ethical. Although, I must admit that I'm not sure if I'm the best person for a sales job – in my life I already tried to sell postcards, calenders, chocolate, houses and turbans (no joke!), and with all I failed miserably, at least from a financial point of view. But hey, it's always fun to start a new adventure...

Long story short: I've started a clothing label with the name COTTON POET – combining words and ethics with an everyday product like a t-shirt.

All shirts (and tank tops for the ladies) are certified organic and fairtrade, and they are really soft to wear too! The colours used for the screenprinting are both organic and vegan, and all shirts were printed on full moon. Ok, the last one is a lie. But here's something else that's true: FREE worldwide shipping until the end of 2016!

Happy Christmas!

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Small changes

Today America is going to vote for one of two available muppets. Or puppets? Well, whatever. It's a big sad joke, this whole discussion of who might be the better president when it's pretty clear that, whoever will be elected, he or she is unlikely to make the world a better place. And isn't this what is desperately needed, a better world?

Sometimes, there's a part of me which hopes that we will crash the whole bus into the wall. Maybe then we start to understand... Life is precious, the planet is vulnerable and we're all one – simple really but we just ain't getting it, do we? So perhaps something needs to go seriously wrong, something big enough to shake us all up. Like a proper global environmental catastrophe, major political unrest, collapse of the financial system, severe energy shortage or perhaps even war.

But of course it's easy for me to fantasize about these scenarios – I've never experienced any real crisis! Far far away are the whispers of my grandparents, telling stories of what they've seen and lived through in the second world war. Stories of hunger, excruciating pain and tremendous fear. If I had lived through these stories myself, I might not be wishing for them. I might even be doing more to help that this beautiful planet and its 7 billion people won't turn into a true hell house (and at present this is exactly where we're heading).

The question is, what can you and I do to make things better? Because if WE won't do it, who will? The presidents? Haha... The only two living politicians I can think of who might be able to initiate positive changes are Bernie Sanders and José Mujica. One was eliminated by the media and the establishment, the other retired. In other words, it's down to us.

When looking at the overwhelming size of all the problems though, as individuals we can easily feel discouraged to do anything. 'I'm too small to make a difference, so why should I bother?' If everyone thought that way, well, then we'd be screwed indeed. However, if more and more people thought and acted differently, a lot could be done to make things better. For everyone.

So, where to start? Let's ask José.

tell uplifting stories – buy organic products – support local and independent businesses – recycle – change to an ethical bank – eat more vegetarian and vegan food – help your neighbour – smile – ride your bicycle – meditate – play soulful music – be honest – choose fairtrade – grow plants – reduce waste – rescue drowning flies – forgive – love – do it!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

God's having a laugh

Quite some time ago God created planet Earth. After a while he and his wife got bored watching only plants and dinosaurs and so God took the dinosaurs away and replaced them with humans. Since then the two were having a blast observing all the happenings from high above the clouds.

However, recently they started to notice more problems and God realised that he's made a little mistake in the design: While the population of the humans keeps growing exponentially, the consciousness of this mysterious race is evolving with the pace of a snail. Not really the best combination...

“Why are they killing each other?”, the Goddess kept asking her husband.
“I have no idea.”
“And why are they destroying the planet they live on?”
“Dunno”; God replied. “I think they've gone crazy!”

The two felt sorry for all the animals and plants and stones but since God can create another planet any time, they didn't worry about it too much. And the humans? Well, neither God nor the Goddess are able to help them and so they decided that it's best to accept the way things are and simply enjoy the drama.

At some point they wondered how much crazier it could get down there. To try it out and have a laugh, God sent down a guy with the name of Donald Trump, and the Goddess sent down Hillary Clinton.

“I bet you”, said God, “people will make one of them president of the most powerful country in the world.”
“I can't imagine they'd be that stupid”, the Goddess replied, compassionately.
“Oh yes, I'm afraid they are that stupid. And I don't think there's a remedy for stupidity... They will elect one of them and then they will blame all their problems on whoever will be president. Or they blame me, or you. And then, just before they blow up their home, they will pray for our help and say they didn't see it coming.”
God shook his head and smiled indifferently.
“Maybe we should have stuck with the dinosaurs.”

The Goddess nodded in agreement. She knew that her husband was right but... Still, somewhere deep inside she felt a tiny spark of hope that maybe, maybe...

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Show me a sign

Midday, 36° C in the shade, 10 floors up – 'no way!', I thought while looking at the stairs. A few seconds later I was standing in the elevator of the big apartment block where I had to meet someone. The elevator had a mirror, like most elevators do, and it also had a little flatscreen on the wall. Immediately my eyes were hypnotized by the flickering lights. Headline news about the latest terrorist attack were shown, with a Muslim as the first suspect (obviously), and on the bottom of the screen a banner with local advertisements running along at high speed. In that moment I imagined what it must be like to get up every morning, head to work and the first thing you see, every day, is how shit the world is. Just what the doctor ordered, ay? Mind you, by the time they are in the elevator many people will have seen the same depressing stuff already once on their phones while still in bed and another time during breakfast on TV. Essential stuff for another bright new gloomy day!

About three years ago I spent ten days in silence during a Vipassana meditation course (more here). When I 'got out' after the course, after ten days without phone, internet, books, music or any other form of distraction, I was wondering, 'who knows, anything could have happened while I was away'. Earthquake, death, political unrest, new world record in 100m sprint – I wouldn't have heard about anything! And you know, it didn't matter. Because, if we're honest, almost everything we hear and see on the news has no relevance to the lives that we live. It has nothing to do with our own daily challenges, joys and dreams.

Personally I think a short ride in an elevator offers a nice little opportunity to reflect for a moment, to look at oneself in the mirror and pause for a few breaths. If the news on the screen were at least predominantly inspiring and encouraging, I'd be fine with that too. But watching only terror and incompetent politicians and super summer sales announcements, that's just the worst possible way to spend a moment of solitude. And isn't that a real tragedy? All these precious moments of solitude, we let them slowly slip through our hands...

What to do? Well, if you're unfortunate enough to live on the 10th floor with one of those brainwashing units in your elevator and you don't want to be brainwashed, you basically have three options: either you take the stairs, or you close your eyes while in the elevator, or you dismantle the damn screen and take it to a charity shop.

Fact is, most news stories make us angry, scared or depressed, or a combination of the three. Even worse, many of the stories we choose to tell do the same. And in a hyper-connected world of soon eight billion, everything we say and do is sending out a message. In a way we are all screens, transmitting information constantly. So the question is, what kind of information do you want to spread?

Share uplifting stories – buy organic products – support local and independent businesses – recycle – change to an ethical bank – eat more vegetarian and vegan food – help your neighbour – smile – ride your bicyle – meditate – play soulful music – be honest – choose fairtrade – grow plants – reduce waste – rescue drowning flies – forgive – love – do it!

Monday, August 22, 2016

Choose your music wisely

Recently I had a little summer job as a band chauffeur. The two bands I've worked with were the Kaiser Chiefs and Simply Red. Driving them around was fun yet not as spectacular as one might imagine. Just a bunch of guys on their way to play a gig and me hoping that I won't crash the van.

What was rather interesting though was to get a closer look behind the scenes of a big concert. It's really incredible how much work goes into a show that only lasts 90min. So many people spending so much time getting everything ready, I could write a blog entry just about that. But something else is far more entertaining: the riders!

The rider is basically a list that the management of the band sends out to the local production team before the concert. It specifies everything that the band needs with great detail: lots of technical stuff, hotel and transfers, food and drink requirements for the backstage area, etc. Some of these requests make sense, like if some of the band or crew are vegetarian and need veggie food, or if there's an alcoholic needing strong vodka. But some (too many!) people take the piss and ask for ridiculous things.

The Kaiser Chiefs wanted some tea, some beer, cereals and pizza. Fair enough. However, with Simply Red – or more precisely Mick Hucknall, the singer and head of the band – it was a very different story. He needed to be picked up separately from the rest of the band (if you play in a band but don't travel together, that's already weird, no?) in a Mercedes S-class, he made ridiculous demands for his hotel suite and backstage he wanted wine costing between 80 and 100 Euros per bottle. Now, I don't know much about wine but I'd say that unless you're a super wine connoisseur you can't tell the difference between a 10 Euro bottle and a 100 Euro bottle. And if you're a real connoisseur you'd probably name exactly which wine you want. In other words: Good old Mick, or Chucky as I like to call him, just wanted to have expensive wine because it helps him to keep his hopelessly inflated ego satisfied.

Chucky is in good company though. I've had a little look around the net and found some nice gems:

  • Mary J Blige: On one of her tours she requested in every venue she played at her own private toilet – with a new toilet seat!
  • Madonna: She wants the backstage room to look exactly like her own home and so she ships her furniture to every stop of the tour.
  • Eminem: The story goes that in 2011, playing on a festival in Northern Ireland, he asked for a wooden pond to be constructed in his backstage area – filled with koi carp.
  • Mariah Carey: Apart from the usual Rolls-Royce and pink carpet she also asked for 20 white kittens and 100 doves at a Christmas event in London.

This is so fucked up that it's actually funny. Still I wonder, is there any hope left for our beautiful human race? Fortunately there is. Here are a couple of examples:

  • Foo Fighters: They ask for “used DvDs (no sports titles or Martin Lawrence) and magazines (no Spin, Rolling Stone or People) that show us you have a brain and fantastic interests.” And furthermore, “Please make arrangements for leftover food to be collected by a local soup kitchen, homeless shelter or our roadie who looks like Osama Bin Laden.” Amen to that.
  • Jack Johnson: When considering the environmental impact of his concerts (thousands of plastic bottles used, thousands of litres of fuel burned by those visiting the shows, etc.) he first wanted to quit touring. But instead of doing so he changed the way he was doing it. Details on his riders now include reusable beer cups for everybody and discounts for those who come by bicycle to his concerts. Also, for five years he donated all the profits made from his tours to non-profit organizations. Amen again.

Bottom line: You can change the world by choosing wisely which musicians you support. Stop funding bands that play absurd power games with your money and instead find bands that inspire and speak out about things that actually matter.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Do you need what you keep?

His name is Carlos. He's a juicer. And not just any juicer – he's a legend! Made by a small manufacturer in California, he's also known as THE CHAMPION. I've bought him about 10 years ago and witnessed his magic on several festivals where I was running juice bars, and at home he's been a great help to supply my daughter with vitamins in a hassle-free way. Fruit juices, vegetable juices, sorbets – all amazingly delicious!

A few weeks ago I saw Carlos when I was cleaning the kitchen. Tucked away on the top shelve, he was collecting dust and didn't seem too happy. It had been at least 18 months since we made juice together and I don't think my house mates had used him during this time either. So there he was, a precious gem, half forgotten and totally unappreciated.
I started wondering: Do I actually need to keep him? Maybe someone else would be delighted to use him? I could sell him and make some space. But then doubts came rolling in. What if I'd regret it? Maybe I'd miss Carlos. What if I want to use him next week, or next month, or next year? What if I never recovered from the loss and would die of a broken heart?

In the end I sold Carlos to a good friend and now he's making my friend and his family happy. I earned some money, gained some storage space and, most importantly, I got rid of the feeling of having unused stuff cluttering my life. It was a surprisingly difficult process at first, to part from him, but once it was done it felt profoundly liberating.

In our civilised and wealthy world the endless accumulation of material possessions has become a very common problem. Sure, many things bring comfort into our lives but our greed and the lacking practice of letting go mean that more and more often we find ourselves drowning in stuff. It's like attaching weights to the wings of a bird – instead of travelling light we're getting stuck.

I used to live in a 4-bed room house. Empty corners were pretty much non-existent... When I moved to a small room in a shared house I put most of the stuff that filled the big house in storage. Bar very few exceptions, I didn't need or miss any of it once it was out of sight. It took me several years to finally get rid of it all. Now I don't even remember what it was.

Another good example are clothes. There are so many clothes in each home! But how many shoes and shirts do we actually wear? And if we don't wear them, why do we keep them? To remedy the nuisance of having an overcrowded wardrobe some people buy bigger wardrobes every few years. In contrast to this rather bizarre strategy, here's what a friend of mine does: Every spring she takes every piece of clothing that she owns and thinks about how often she has worn it during the past twelve months. Everything that hasn't been used for a whole year she gives away.

Ultimately it's quite easy. Just go through all your stuff and ask yourself: Do I really really really need it? If not, there are flea markets and auction houses and many people who have hardly anything and would gladly help to lighten your load. Freedom and happiness are waiting! It's not YOUR stuff anyway. It's just stuff.

For further inspiration and perhaps a final push, listen to the wise words of Mr Flowin Immo:

Monday, June 20, 2016

Once there was an island...

Brexit – what a weird word, sounds like cat food. And probably you are as tired of hearing it as I am, so I won't mention it again. I promise!

Very soon it's referendum day on the little green island. A fierce battle is going on between the supporters of Vote leave and Vote stay – the news and social media sites are full with it, streets and pubs too. Nothing else matters, so it seems.
Reading all the different posts and watching some of the campaign videos, one gets the impression though that it's a lose/lose situation anyway: 'If we don't leave now, the nightmare will continue' versus 'if we don't stay, it will be hell'. Not quite what a bright future looks like.

Now, leaving the EU or not is of course a big decision. Hence I encourage everyone who is entitled to vote to do so. After all, that's what a democracy is all about, right? To take part in the decision-making. I actually think voting should be compulsory. If you don't like any of the options given, vote blank or create a different option yourself. But you have to participate, that's your responsibility as a citizen.

Back to the upcoming election. Whether Britain will stay in the EU or not, really it doesn't matter. Either result won't make the world a better place. In or out, some things might improve a bit and others will get worse but there won't be any real change. Things will drag on as usual and a ping pong game of blame and power will be played.

You want real changes? Change yourself! Start in your own micro cosmos because that's where you have a real influence, that's where you can make things happen.
  • You're worried about local businesses? Give them business! Big supermarkets and online places like Amazon are terribly convenient but the more you use them the more you kill small shops run by local people. And the big players aren't the most honest tax payers either.
  • Change to an ethical bank instead of supporting huge financial institutions that use your money to make profit from wars.
  • Help your neighbour – gardening, babysitting, carrying bags, whatever! 'Your' country starts next door.
  • You feel threatened by Muslim immigrants? Invite one for a cup of tea and find out who that person is. Chances are high that, as humans, you both share similar fears and hopes.
  • Reduce waste, use a bicycle instead of driving everywhere, eat organic and more vegan food – in other words, do things that any sane person would do when it's obvious that Mother Nature is suffering.
  • Consume less stuff and produce more kindness.
  • Be forgiving to the assholes you meet – for everyone is on a journey, and everyone struggles at times.
  • Find peace within yourself.

These are some examples of changes that are needed. And the one thing they all have in common is that each one of us can choose to start making these changes today. Voting leave or voting stay, voting Trump or voting Hillary, voting candidate #1 or candidate #2 – at the end of the day they're all distractions! Distractions from what we really should be doing. And that is, to choose with our daily actions which WORLD we want to live in. Because there is only one world. It's like an island, floating through space, and we're all stuck on it together.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Tinder and Time

The other day on Tinder I...
“What? You're on Tinder?”
Yes, I'm on Tinder. Sometimes. Why not?
“Because it's so superficial. I didn't expect that of you...”
Well, what can I say? Most Singles I know are on there. I guess I'm trying to be normal. Kind of. And hey, while Tinder has a reputation for being a dating app that is merely used to find quick sex, ultimately it's like with everything else in life: It all depends on your intention and your attitude! One-night stands are indeed a possibility, but so are new friendships, beautiful romances and even the future husband or wife – as always, limitations reside only in the mind.

Now, admittedly it's a rather superficial act to select potential lovers from looking briefly at a few photos but...c'mon, if you go to a bar, what makes you talk to someone? It's not that people wear signs on their foreheads naming their favourite books. Either there's some physical attraction or you stay alone and order another beer. And I hate hanging out in bars anyway.
Of course Tinder can't match up with an experience like walking into a groovy vegan restaurant in Berlin, high on Californian weed, and bumping into someone you didn't even know was waiting for you... But hey, how often does that happen?

Used in moderation, a dating app can be really entertaining because apart from some pretty faces you also see all sorts of really weird and crazy people. It's like a freak show, right on your phone screen! You get a glimpse of how strange society really is – scary stuff, but also very funny...
So the other day on Tinder I saw the profile of a woman with the following line as her intro text: 'You've got the Rolex – I've got the time.' At first I couldn't stop laughing. What a ridiculously dumb thing to say! Honest perhaps, but nevertheless stupid. Then I was amazed that this kind of old-school thinking still exists. I mean, it's the 21st century, right? Each to their own, sure, but you'd think that we've come a little further than this by now. Maybe not. Anyway, somehow the words stayed in my head and I started thinking about what else they might have to say.

Quite often we find ourselves in situations where, in one way or another, we have to choose between time and money. Should I go out to eat, which costs more money, or stay in and cook, which requires more time? Should I take the taxi or the bus, car or bicycle? Should I book a luxurious hotel for a week or go backpacking for a couple of months? Do I move to a bigger flat so that I have more space for all the stuff that I buy, knowing that I will have to work more hours to pay for it all? Or do I change from a full-time to a part-time job, gaining free time but losing money?

In short: Do I want to be the one with the Rolex or the one having time? I think it's a very important question to ask oneself, at least once in a while. If you prefer the Rolex, that's cool, but unless you're already super rich there's a little detail that might be worth considering. Here it is: You can spend your time without spending money, but you can't spend money without spending your time. Every cent has a timetag on it! Therefore I think it's a good idea to try and choose wisely how much money you really need – and how much time you want.

Some Dude from Uruguay sums it up perfectly. (And just in this moment I'm realizing that I've somehow ended up creating a link between the bizarre world of Tinder and the great José Mujica. I hope he forgives me...)

When I buy something, or when you buy it, we're not paying with money. We're paying with the time from our lives we had to spend to earn that money. The difference is that you can't buy life.”

(extract from HUMANS with the above quote from José Mujica)

Monday, April 4, 2016

Vegetarianism is dead

I used to think that you become a better person when you embrace vegetarianism. Of course I was wrong. No ism will ever make you a better person – in fact, nothing will make you a better person, or a worse one for that matter. There are only actions, good ones and bad ones, done by different people. At any given moment, a saint can commit murder and a murderer can save a life.

Vegetarianism... I tried it, several times. Not a big deal really, after all there's plenty of other delicious and nutritious food around which isn't meat or fish. But I always ended up making occasional exceptions, usually in social gatherings with some dead animal as the main course. “Okay, I'll have a piece of lamb, why not?” Let's be flexible, right? There's even a word for it: Flexitarian.

My bad conscience remained though. Every time that I ate meat or fish I felt bad. Well, not totally bad because when meat tastes good it's obviously a very pleasurable experience. But there was this guilt hovering over my shoulder, nagging at me...'you're the reason why this animal was killed – unnecessarily!'
Luckily all this changed when one day, a year ago or so, a friend told me the following: “Eating a steak is, ethically speaking, better than drinking a glass of milk. Because the cow who provided the steak is at least dead, while the milk cow keeps suffering.” In other words, I can eat dead animals and be less of an arsehole than the preaching veggie from next door who lives on cheese and yoghurt. Great!

I looked into veganism (= no animal products whatsoever) and have started to eat more and more vegan food. And I must say, I've never eaten healthier in my life and I keep discovering amazing stuff that I didn't even know existed (popped amaranth, hazelnut milk or, the latest, marinated tempeh!). The ethical reasons for a vegan diet are plentiful: no animal torture, greatly reduced CO² emissions, less rainforest destruction, etc. To sum it up: If most of the world switched to a predominantly vegan diet, many environmental problems would be greatly reduced. And all those lovely videos about the violent animal industry would disappear as well. Like this one. Or this one. Or here, my recent favourite: DAIRY IS F**KING SCARY (highly recommended!)

So yes, I think vegetarianism is dead. If you care for animals and the planet and you really want to make a difference, the only logical step is to start with a vegan diet. Period.

Now, you're probably feeling already the urge to defend your beloved eating habits and to turn away from these weird vegan people who might be trying to brainwash you into some kind of cult. Here are a couple of things to consider:

1) I feel the wording is quite important: It's ' start with a vegan diet', and not ' become a vegan'. That's right, you can eat vegan food without being a vegan! It's don't have to become a Buddhist if you want to meditate. Or if you see the benefits of cleaning the kitchen regularly, well, you don't have to become an official 'cleaner'. You just do it while continuing being you. No identifying needed, no worshipping, just pure common sense. Like, you don't have to be a socialist to vote Bernie Sanders – you vote him because this man is perhaps the only hope this world has left. Same with veganism.

2) It would be amazing if everybody was able to change completely from one day to the next but this ain't gonna happen. I can't do it myself and it looks like most others can't do it either. Fine, that's just the way it is for now. However, it is possible to make small changes and then sooner or later, as long as you keep going, these small changes will lead to a big change. Creating a better world one moment at a time! So, eat as much vegan food as possible. Try it! Two days per week, three, four or five – any day is better than no day.

I believe that the future will be at least 90% vegan – or else there won't be a future (for us humans). This is not fiction, we're heading for a huge environmental disaster on many levels and animal farming is one of the biggest causes of this problem. Find out for yourself and enjoy the facts!

Furthermore, I believe that evolution has not only brought us sensational advances such as smartphones and plastic surgery, but also a certain amount of responsibility. And for me, a big part of this responsibility is to respect all life – not because we ought to, but because we are able to. And you know, it really can be done. It has actually never been easier for a human being to live a healthy and happy life without harming other living beings. So if we can do it without torture and killing, why don't we?

I'm not a vegan. But when I eat mainly plant-based food, as local and organic as possible, it always makes me feel really good. Like more connected with everything, in a positive way. There's less abuse and more respect in my life, less selfishness and more kindness. There's a feeling of hope because I can see how my actions are contributing to less death and suffering and to more peace in the world. And that's something to strive for, isn't it?

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Cooperate or die

Have you read SHANTARAM? What a mesmerisingly amazing book! So honest, so magical and so bloody intense! If you haven't had the pleasure yet – yes, the almost 1000 pages might be a bit scary at first, but it's really worth it. A wonderful and very rare reading experience is waiting for you!

There is a story going round that Gregory David Roberts, the author of Shantaram, started to write the book in prison. One day the prison guards found the manuscript (paper in those days) and threw it away. Roberts started from zero, got half way through the book and then the same thing happened again! So he set off a third time and when he finally got out he managed to finish it. Now, that's dedication!
Whether this story is totally true or not, I don't know, but it's possible. And for me that's what this book is about: A reminder that life itself is a crazy adventure and that each moment carries endless possibilities.

When I finished Shantaram I read a few articles and watched some interviews to find out more about the book and the author. At some point I stumbled across a video with Roberts speaking at an event in Mumbai. The whole video is really good but there is especially one part where he talks about the current state of the world, and the way he describes our situation I find quite remarkable.

We are in transition – a much needed transition! For a long time we've been competing with each other and consuming the hell out of this planet. In fact, most of the stuff we do involves competition and consumption, the two have become God-like ideals to strive for. But our circumstances have changed, rather drastically, and so unless we start to cooperate and to conserve, very soon this whole place will be a story of the past. WE will be a story of the past.

I was going to write more about what he says in the video but I think that he puts it all so well, so clear and inspiring, speaking passionately and beautifully, that I recommend you to simply watch it.

“If we don't change, if we don't learn how to cooperate, we will compete ourselves to death.”

(The part about competition and cooperation is from minute 3:05 - 15:50)


Thursday, February 11, 2016

This is it

“Once the house is sold, everything will be better!”
These were the words of a good friend, repeated every time we met, for almost five years. Last week we talked the first time in ages and she told me about all the struggles she is facing at the moment. Towards the end of the conversation, after about 20min, she said that she'll be busy next weekend clearing the house.
“Yes, the house, it's sold.”

I was puzzled. For years one of her main hopes for a better future had been to sell this damn house, and now that it was sold she hardly mentioned it. Her big dream had finally become true but now that dream had lost its magic; it had drowned in the sea of all the other everyday crap.

A similar kind of story happened to me recently too. Three months ago I was finishing my first documentary film, anicca – embracing change, and during the final weeks I could feel my stress levels rising on an hourly basis. I remember that I kept saying to myself, 'once this film is done I'll be able to relax'. Now the film is out and since the middle of last month I've been working on a new book. Due to a self-imposed deadline I found myself yet again with rising stress levels, and again I could hear that voice in my head, trying to convince me that 'once this book is done...'

'Once I have a better job...'
'Once I finish my studies...'
'Once I get my money back...'
'Once I find a new home...'
'Once it's summer...'
'Once I'm in love...'

Yes, one day it might all be better. But what if not? What if it won't get better? Or what if I am dead when one day arrives?

We always imagine that there's got to be somewhere else better than where we are right now; this is the Great Somewhere Else we all carry around in our heads. We believe Somewhere Else is out there for us if only we could find it. But there's no Somewhere Else. Everything is right here.” (Brad Warner)

Can you hear it too? That furious storm of excuses hurling through the air? 'All very well, but I first need more money', 'I first need to find a different house', 'I first need to fall in love', etc. etc. etc. Fine, get money, find a house and fall in love. Do what you have to do but in the meantime, live! Laugh, cry and dance, be kind and breathe deeply! Enjoy today and be grateful for everything you have already. For there might not be a better tomorrow. There might not even be a tomorrow at all.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Get real!

The first blog article of the new year was going to be about 'paying attention', or rather, us not paying attention. But when I sat down yesterday to gather some thoughts I suddenly got the feeling that I had written about this before... So I had a look and indeed, almost 3 years ago I wrote an article called – guess what? – exactly: PAYING ATTENTION! Here's a link if you are interested: Paying attention 2013 - still very valid in 2016.

It's the 7th year of me writing a blog and this is actually blog entry number 70. Totally random and unimportant information, I know. Anyway, after realising that I had already written about paying attention I slid into a tiny but very pathetic one-hour long depression. I was looking for something else to write about but nothing seemed worthwhile. Then I started to wonder why I am actually writing a blog at all? And why every month? And why me? Maybe I should quit. I've just turned 40, maybe this is the beginning of a midlife crisis...

Monday, back to work, life is terrible! Train is late! Traffic jam! So many emails to answer and facebook posts to read! So much ironing to do! So many restaurants - damn, it's so hard to choose! Which film to watch? Which shoes to wear? Which phone to get? And what should I write about? Where should I go on holidays? I NEED holidays! And fuck me, why is the internet so slow? 

Lovely all those problems we think we're having. What about this one for a change: Right now it's winter in Nepal. Like, REAL winter! Thousands of people are without housing, without heating, without electricity. REAL problems!

Since the earthquake happened in April of 2015 my sister Lisa has been fundraising and with the help of her Nepali friends every single cent that was raised went DIRECTLY to support those in need. Here's a little video about her work:

Last week a stranger donated 1400 Euros; the week before we've raised almost 800 Euros on my birthday party. A neighbour put in 20 Euros, an old friend sent 10 Dollars and a little girl gave 50 cents which she stole from her piggybank. Everything helps.

Name: Lisa Mikosch
Bank: Sparkasse Mönchengladbach (Germany)
IBAN: DE11 3105 0000 0005 9581 37
Subject: Help for Nepal