Last Tuesday I was about to spend an enormous amount of money on a coaching program that promises Visionary Business Owners That Have Dreams Of Making A Difference to break through the obstacles that limit them reaching a bigger audience, finding the right clients and create the cash flow that gives space to breathe or – in their words – is in alignment with their purpose (a 6 figure income is suggested). I heard great things about the program from trustworthy people who had a first hand experience. The problem was that with every call I had with the male coach I was feeling annoyed, manipulated and pushed.
The ceremony is intended as a fresher-upper, a cleansing and the creation of a clean slate. We renew our vows. I think it was about 25 minutes of bowing and chanting different sutras and reciting the names of the most important Buddhas and Boddhissatvahs.
To be honest I am not very big on the Buddhist services, the chanting and the ceremonies. For me it is a bit like going to family gatherings: I am not particularly looking forward but afterwards I feel kind of good. Especially in this case, when there was a lot more bowing than normally, I liked it because I feel a surrendering to the rhythm and the movement. Bowing is nice practice, it makes humble and soft if you do it often enough.
My fellow practitioners have been visiting the same sesshins as me for many years, many of them even a lot longer than me. So I see the same faces every time I go on retreat. Today I noticed how we ripen over the years. I really saw it! And I don’t mean aging but maturing. We all have our personalities with good sides and blind spots and in some way it feels so familiar to be here, as if nothing ever changes. But we do change. And we go step by step. Somebody said something like: “I am always preoccupied with the steps I want to take or wished I could take – the big and impressive steps – but I am never too appreciative for the steps I am taking. The small steps seem less interesting”. It was so beautiful and so true. I saw the faces of my fellow students and realized how many small steps they have taken over the years. If it is true for them it must be true for me too. (Quite self-evident but we do tend to place ourselves outside of that equation, I have fallen in that trap. But this time I didn’t) I realized how our lives take shape by the little steps we take and how I am taking my own small but deliberate steps.
Now I want you to watch this video. Dustin Hoffman shares an insight he got from making the 1982 movie “Tootsie”.
In preparation of the movie wherein he plays a man who poses as a woman he explores with makeup artists the possibility of turning him into a believable woman. The makeup artists turn him into a woman but not a woman that he as a man would find attractive. He does not meet his physical expectations and standards and he realizes he would never approach himself on a party. He says: “there are too many interesting women I did not have the experience to know in this life because I have been brain washed”.
The video is beautiful and touching. And it hit home. I realized that I probably would have never noticed the girl I am seeing tonight if she wasn’t attractive.
A couple of years ago I found out by accident that I might have something like ADD or ADHD. If I remember correctly the hyper activity doesn’t come out in a very physical way when you are smart but (my theory) creates a fast moving mind instead (which is called ‘creative’ or ‘original’). I still don’t know if I am ‘officially’ ADD and I thought I had good reasons not to find out. But on days like this I can see my behavior and restlessness very clearly and it frustrates me. And when I found out that these things were ‘symptoms’ of something like ADD I recalled going through this battle almost daily for so many years. I would spend hours and hours not doing my home work as child. This is the reason why I can juggle, balance a broom stick on my nose, do keepie uppies and let the ball drop dead in my neck: skills I developed while avoiding my home work.
I notice I have an eye for travelers when I walk through Amsterdam. I see people looking in maps, trying to find their bearings and debating the next site they want to visit. I also noticed that the towns that I visited (Zandvoort and Amsterdam) look better than when I left. Dutch complain a lot that there is always construction going on, that roads and boardwalks are open, that traffic is redirected and so on. But I saw that new traffic situations were improvements, creating a smoother and safer flow. By now I know that ongoing maintenance and continuous improvement is a rare thing in the world. It was strange to go from a previous to a new situation without being part of the hindrances that came with it and it was definitely slightly disorienting (“this wasn’t here before”) but it was a pleasant surprise. I can also proudly say that our beaches are first class, not even in Australia did I see such wide beaches.
I never had a heart to heart with my father. All encounters that I had with him were pretty awful and if I add up the hours we spend in the same room during my life it will be less than 24 since 1976 (during the first 5 years of my life he was more or less a normal dad, I guess). So there was no reconciliation or feel-good happy end, something that we as a family perhaps hoped for when he was diagnosed with terminal cancer.
I did do a lot of work on reconciliation and forgiveness inside myself. For some reason I don’t feel so eloquent in this very moment (bit sleepy) and I find it hard to explain. It has everything to do with the awakening I experienced in 2004. It was actually not just one event but a major breakthrough followed by a whole string of events.
Until now I made a point out of doing things differently. I was never convinced that rules and laws also applied to me, not even at a very young age. In elementary school, when the teacher addressed the class he should mention me separately because I would not feel obliged to do what ‘everybody else’ did or had to do.
When I graduated from university I was complimented on writing a thesis twice as long as the norm based on a extremely short literature list containing only 4 books. The dean considered it an example of what he called ‘my extraordinary thinking power’. But my truth was that I just wasn’t very interested in the thinking of others.
I spend a lot of time thinking and it has served me well. I like my brain. And I really used to like outsmarting others and feeling all chuffed about it. But looking back there was a pattern of liking feeling smart and avoiding feeling stupid.
When I was in L.A, I bought a Kindle, a device that allows me to read e-books. I left home with only 2 books for reasons of light traveling. From the perspective of inspiration I would have liked to bring 15 but that would have been ridiculous. But since I have my Kindle I have read quite a bit, although not as much as I want. I love the device though, I am now literally always carrying 25 books in my pocket.
The outcome of my journey should be a book. But pages can be filled in innumerable ways and I am not exactly the first or the only one with the idea to write. So I read a lot to get a taste for words, information and stories and to learn from successful examples in different genres. What speaks to people? Why? And what is my message? What exactly would I like to achieve? I am still not clear.
Once you have started your journey everything you do and don’t do is your journey. You are a snake in a bamboo pole too. The journey is towards becoming more authentic, more real, more conscious of what is going on inside and outside. It doesn’t really matter if you spend your waking hours in a ‘spiritual’ way or not. The important thing is that you now are aware of your desire to deepen and slowly (or not) become aware of all the inner and outer obstacles that try to prevent you from doing that. Now you can ask yourself why you are not doing what you want to do. Every self-confronting question answered honestly is a gain in your process of self-development or – as you wish- spiritual growth.