Thursday, 22 September 2016

Is Life Too Loud?

For the past few weeks I have been traveling around the south-western United States, visiting all kinds of places on my way. I gravitate towards wilderness and quiet places, but my travels have also brought me in cities and other places I normally try to stay away from. After traveling from a big city to a cabin in the mountains, I realized how most people really spend most of their lives in the extreme loudness and noise of 'civilization', and how damaging this is to our mental and physical health. I don't know how those of us who live in cities manage to survive, and perhaps we hardly can.

The buzzing of computers and cars, the ticking of clocks, music playing on the radio and in most public places, people talking, mobile phones, and the list goes on.

We think we get used to the noise, and perhaps to some degree we do, but only by blocking off some of the noise that comes in. For most of us that means we shut part of ourselves off in order to escape the busy-ness that is going on all around us, most of the time. And in that process, a lot more gets lost and blocked off than just the excess noise.

The moment you realize this is when you find yourself in a peaceful place, where all you can hear is the chirping of birds and insects, and the occasional rustling of leaves. The mind may protest for a while and continue the rush of anxiety and stress that has often consequently taken over our systems. Some people have gotten so used to the noise and this constant state of almost-panic that they fear the silence, because in that silence they can suddenly hear their loud mind, which has become louder and louder over time in order to be heard and in order to function in the overwhelming, purpose-packed world of effectiveness we have created.

The good news is that we can find peace of mind again by immersing ourselves in nature. Spend some time in the wilderness and allow yourself to do nothing for a while; for as long as you need to. It is so important that we take the time to do this. It is the busy, noisy minds that want to swallow up, categorize and manage the wilderness, filling it up with purpose and efficiency, making it a part of our Loudness and Noisiness while drowning out the cries of the earth, each other and ourselves. But wilderness has its own purpose, that is far more valuable than anything we could create in that space. Space has value. It restores our inner balance. It helps keep our hearts and minds open. It keeps us sensitive to others' needs, including our precious earth. It gives us a direct opportunity to experience peace of mind, and once you know what it is and what it feels like, it is so much easier to integrate that into the rest of our lives.

I am so grateful for wilderness and places that have not been swallowed up by humanity yet, and I hope we can keep (and even expand) those places. These are the places of healing where people and other animals can meet soul-to-soul to restore and replenish their being. Where we can remind ourselves what it feels like to just 'be' instead of being somebody who has so many tasks and things that have to be done.

You may find yourself (almost) deafened by the noise of this world, or you may no longer feel the effects of the system on your mind and body. Whatever may be the case, make sure you take the time to go into the wild regularly, not as another task that has to be completed, but to reconnect with the flow of nature instead of the pace of mankind. Our lives and the survival of our species depends on it.

Monday, 12 September 2016

Happy Birthday, Mum!

Today it is my mum's birthday! Two months ago while I was writing a post about my dad for his birthday, I felt inspired to also write one for my mum. And luckily I did not have to wait long to post it!
Below are some things that my mum taught me. My mum and I share more differences than me and my dad, but I am getting to a point where I realize I have more in common with her than I previously thought, and many of those things I have been taking for granted, because at first glance they may not seem 'spectacular', 'bold' or 'extraordinary'. Most of us don't appreciate subtleties and intricacies anymore. 
However, the following points have proven to be important building blocks for me to become the person I am today and I am often reminded of them as I go about my life.

Treasure and respect nature
Throughout my life, mum taught me a lot about nature. We went berry picking, picking mushrooms and went for long walks in the park, marveling at all the different creatures, big and small, plants and trees. I learned to treat all beings like they matter, because they do. And not just outside the house, but also inside. She taught me how to catch creatures that had gone astray with respect and care by trapping them in a glass with a piece of paper covering it, and then leading them outside. That is how I still catch spiders, beetles and flies in my house (and even mosquitoes nowadays, which used to be the only exception). Mum taught me to see how we are all a part of the web of Life and that purposely killing a creature without provocation is always unnecessary.

Appreciate the little things
Mum has taught me awareness of many things that most people (including me) tend to take for granted most of the time. Mum often points out her gratitude for the air we breathe, the flowers, the trees around us, and all the wonderful beings we share the earth with. I have always been a big-picture-kind-of-person, so for me it is easy to forget about things that are always there. And nowadays I find myself more and more noticing the things my mum consistently and often pointed out to me while I was consistently overlooking them as I was growing up.

My mum offered her couch to travelers from near and far long before it became fashionable. I often had friends over that I met while exploring the globe and she always welcomed them with open arms. She loves learning about different cultures and is always eager to host people from anywhere to exchange views and experiences. We literally had visitors from each of the (habitable) continents on earth.

If you can help someone in need, help them
When I was about 17, I met a boy who soon after became homeless. He had no family to help him, a big debt and no job (and no hope of being considered for a job). He was recovering from an accident at work, and got zero support from the previous employer, nor the government. Then he lost his home – I think it was because the person he was living with disappeared. Once you lose your home, it is very difficult to get your life back on track (at least in the Netherlands). It is impossible to keep a bank account, because you don’t have an address. Without an address and bank account, you also can't get a job, nor receive any unemployment benefits. Once you no longer work in our society, you get discarded and treated like you don’t exist. You don't get health insurance either, because you need to pay for that in the Netherlands. And you can’t pay for it if you don’t have income (or a bank account). However, the government can fine you at any time for not being insured, because it is mandatory for all citizens.
He came over e to meet my parents and my mum adopted him as her own son from the moment she met him. She said he could stay with us and he ended up staying for a long time, much longer than I personally wanted, because he had a lot of problems which caused a lot of tensions in our house. Mum guided him through all of the red tape and bureaucracy of getting his finances back in order, getting him a bank account, getting him welfare and finally also helping him find a place of his own. It took about eight months. All the time my mum was always understanding, stuck up for him when he was having angry outbursts towards the system and helped us to try and see the world through his eyes - even for a moment. 

 I am pleased to say that my adopted brother is doing well and still part of the family, visiting my parents at least once a week. He has become somewhat of an expert with technical appliances, and often helps my parents out if they are having trouble with their phones or computer.
I was amazed though that it was so difficult for a person to get back into the system once they were out. It was my first experience of seeing how the state really has no interest in its citizens, only in the profit that is being generated. It made me realize how silly the system is, and how lives really don’t matter in that system. We are just a number, a spoke on a wheel. Our needs don’t matter, even our most basic ones. As soon as we need support - the support we pay for through taxes and by being a member of society - that support we believe exists is not given. And since we have been discarded from society, we lose our voice. No one will hear your cries and you will be left to die. People will walk past you as you lay crying in the curb, but most people will just think you are crazy and worthless - and leave you to die as well. Not my mum though. My mum will not give up on you. When she was 15 she also helped a friend to get back on her feet by offering her to live with her in her room for a couple of months (with the support of her mum), and another time when she was 18 with another friend. They are still good friends.

Coloring outside the lines: it’s okay to stand out
My mum is an artist. She creates her artworks from the heart and lets them flow from her personal experiences. Personal experience is never generalized. To have interesting ideas, it helps to have an interesting life. And to stand out, it is important to question the very fundamentals of society that most people blindly accept as the norm. Standing out may make you a target for criticism, but it also gets you seen and heard. If the message is worth it, then don’t be afraid to stand out and make yourself heard. It is not about you anyway: it is about the message.
Here are some of my mum’s beautiful works (and the catalogue of her most recent work can be found here):

Anti-waste mentality
Mum definitely knows who to save money, and my moneyless challenge was partly inspired by her. She hardly buys anything for herself and is very creative with what she has. She gives most of what she has to others. She also knows a lot about expiry dates and so I often turn to her for advice on the things I find. Following her guidelines, I have never been sick from dumpster food. I think I would never have had the courage to eat some of the things I found while diving if it wasn't for her reassurance. 

Patience and seeing the value of experiences
While me and my sister were growing up, mum had a lot of patience with us so that we could learn about life and explore and grow (even when things were challenging and not going particularly smoothly, because my sister and I are very different and had a lot of fights). We had real childhoods and spent a lot of time outdoors. We often came back with dirty or muddy clothes, sometimes with animals we found and often with interesting friends. My main friends as a young child were the ducks that lived in the nearby park. They stayed clear of most people but they came to me for cuddles and we spent a lot of time together. Some of them moved into our garden and practically lived there. Once one of them accidentally got trapped in the house. The whole house was full of duck-poo when we got back home.

I am extremely grateful for the childhood I have had, growing up in harmony with nature and learning about the value of Life. I am grateful that I got so much freedom and unconditional love growing up, and that I got to learn to make up my own mind. This has certainly helped me to choose an unconventional path in life. To me there is just no better feeling than knowing you are a part of Life, in all its facets, and having the freedom to follow your heart.

May all of us be able to find a way to create this for ourselves. <3

Monday, 5 September 2016

Starving The System


I often hear people say that we should create a new system that makes the old one obsolete. Of course this is true. However.... this phrase is often used as an explanation of why many people - even though they are opposed to the economic system and the destruction it causes to our fellow earthlings and ecosystems every day - still keep shopping and using money as a tool for fulfilling their needs (or keep doing other things that contradict their own values).

I find this decision remarkable and anything but rational, because while I fully agree that we should create a new system to make the old one obsolete, I also feel strongly that the people that have the power to change this (i.e. the people who have the most money) are unlikely to be willing to do so unless they are forced. And what better way to force them than to 'starve the system' as I like to call it: We need to stop feeding it from the bottom up.
So why not do both: create a new system and stop feeding into the old one.... starve it to death. That means stop using money to pay for the structures that are in place, as much as we can.

Maybe we fear that life will get uncomfortable... because life without money may be really uncomfortable.

Yes, we may need to change our lifestyles temporarily until the changes are complete. Yes we may need to let go of some comfort and embrace some much needed personal growth instead. Yes, we may lose some of the 'privileges' we have gotten used to, which -by the way- we can only keep getting with a very severe price-tag to the environment and our fellow beings.

On the other hand, if we keep consuming like it's no big deal, then nothing is going to change and we can come up with the most brilliant alternatives to our economic system that we can think of, but the people who benefit from keeping things the way they are (which also happen to be the people who have the most power) will do everything in their power (which is a lot) to stop any efforts of change.

In the meantime, there ARE alternatives to money. Which ones there are depends on your needs and your location. You will need to get creative. You can start small and increase your freedom from money step by step. You may need to resort to illegalities at times, but remember that it is okay to cheat or exploit the system, but never your fellow man. The system as it is right now exploits our fellow beings in every step of the way and it's legal, so 'legal' obviously doesn't equal 'right'. We all know that. Now let's act on it.

Life may temporarily become a little bit more uncomfortable than you were used to, but this will change very quickly. First of all on an individual level because you will soon find alternatives that are just as comfortable, more rewarding and more in line with your values than the way you were doing things before. It can be challenging but this is also exciting and fun. Secondly, things will soon get easier on a structural level if everyone chooses to follow this path in some way or other, because then the system will have to change. People in power will lose their power; it will be pulled from underneath them. We are the ones upholding their status. Once we all realize this and stop contributing, the system will be forced out of existence and a new one has to be put in place.

Also, this type of revolution is most of all needed in the 'materialistic societies'; mostly Western (or Westernized) countries, because they are doing most of the damage to our planet AND they generally also make it easiest to live without money. If you are living in one of those countries, you have a very important decision to make. It is really not even a decision: it's either changing or perishing. We, the people, have the same powers as the governments that claim to lead us and the companies that supply our needs and greeds: when we stop supporting those 'leaders', their power falls back onto us.

What are you waiting for? Find a way to oppose the system... and not just any system of course. Only the dysfunctional ones... until they function once again.

Peace out :)