A Tinge of Melancholy

The steadfast cycle of the seasons trick us into thinking there will be another Spring, but are we fully there to experience this fleeting moment of beauty?

Cloudy days, fresh air, wet shoes. I took a long walk this morning. Every day, I pay close attention to what has changed. Nature has exploded. Everything is green. The orchards are releasing their blossom, the fragrant petals dancing in the wind. I feel a tinge of melancholy. Was I fully there to experience this fleeting moment of nature’s beauty?

The steadfast cycle of the seasons trick us into thinking there will be another Spring. Another year of fragrant blossom. But we never know. And how could we possibly know? Our world is upside down.

I am painfully aware that my experiences are the only possessions I truly have. In my book, a perfect reason to go out for a walk in the rain. Rebecca Solnit writes that walking realigns mind, body and spirit. The ideal state of man, in which we experience the world at the perfect pace, allowing us to travel, to observe and to think at the same time.

Walking, observing, thinking. All remind me to appreciate the little things in life. The refreshing smell after rain. A little lamb snoozing at the base of an old poplar. The sound of my footsteps on a dirt road. Beauty and wonder, as far as the eye can see.

A False Sense of Nostalgia

The return of silence in our society can trick us into a false sense of nostalgia, a wistful adoration of our return to nature by means of a crisis.

After a full month without rain, the first drops touch my face. My heart relaxes. The rain comforts me and the fresh air purifies my mind. I need these grey, wet days to slumber and dream about nothing in particular. To run behind my thoughts and watch the grass grow.

The weather invites me to take it slow. The rain brings silence and deeply craved rest. A sigh of relief. Today, no walking couples, cycling families and motorcycle groups. The intelligent lockdown gave us time on our hands and turned us into a nation of leisure. But when it rains, we stay in. Those days are my favorite days to be out.

I read an article yesterday that praises the return of silence in our society. “When man is silent, nature speaks.” Very true. Suddenly there is room for the smallest, the negligent, the transient. “Calm days of yore, when the trees and the birds spoke to us.” I could have written it myself, but these words can trick us into a false sense of nostalgia; a wistful adoration of man’s return to nature by means of a crisis.

We are nature. All of us, our loud motorcycles included. I wake up from my dream and see my conscious mind for what it is: nature looking at its own creation. All of it. And then I see the beauty. Such beauty. And the birds and the trees speak to me.

Taking Risks for Your Desires

You will flourish when you bring your deepest dreams and desires into the world, even when it feels like you are taking risks in doing so.

Summer is on the horizon. This is a time to explore the things that we desire, even when it feels like we are taking risks in doing so. We can choose to continue what we were doing or choose to jump to a new circumstance completely. Both roads are open. It could even be that certain aspects of our life continue and we still choose to create something completely new. Like we are renewing ourselves within the continuity of our previous existence.

The seeds of our dreams, wishes, ambitions and desires have sprouted and now is the time to make them more beautiful. This beauty comes from a deeper essence. We need to stay connected to something larger within us, something that just wants to happen, no matter what. When we’re simply working on our image, we will probably not succeed. Everyone is so busy creating their own dreams, that all of the motivation to continue to express your dreams in the most beautiful way will have to come from your own source. By staying connected to the deeper essence of our desires, you’re on your way to fulfilling something deep and great inside of you. 

We will flourish when we bring our deepest dreams, wishes, ambitions and desires into the world. Listen to this month’s meditation to get inspired. Use good headphones and let me know what you are going to manifest this year!

A New Experience of Time

The virus forces us into kairos, a new experience of time. Learn how to seize this critical time of action to set your course.

My world is upside down and I think about time. Time is a subjective experience, a malleable dimension. My mind can ripple and distort my experience of time by traveling to the past or future.

In my dreams about the future, I set the route towards my goals. So often, walking to my next milestone, I forget about the why behind my goals; I walk on a path that turns out to be a sidetrack.

I need to remind myself continuously to check in with myself about the motivation behind my goals. This direct presence, full attention in the now, is also my key to acceptance so I can enjoy the walk itself.

We need the future to give direction and meaning to our life, even if we know for sure we will end up somewhere else. And when we set goals inevitably someone or something comes along that forces us to stand still and find our why again. This time, that something is a virus.

The ancient Greeks had two notions of time. Chronos, sequential time as we know it, and kairos, the right, critical, or opportune time of action. The latter was seen as opportune moment for something new to emerge. This crisis forces us into kairos, into an experience of time in which we are compelled to stand still. Seize this moment. What kind of future do you wish for yourself and others?

Inertia is our greatest sin

It seems we are trying to make the most out of this crisis. Our desire to be productive is symptomatic of a culture in which inertia is the greatest sin.

The natural world is full of analogies that reorient me when I feel lost. A few days ago I was captivated by the way water moved around a smooth rock in the river. I paused and watched this beautiful dance for a while.

The analogy hit me today after a good conversation. I envy the stone for its steadiness when the river of life flows in a direction that I do not feel comfortable with. It is still uncertain when and how I can continue my nature retreats. I see other people in my trade come up with creative solutions, using online means to continue their work. I have not yet and this feels like I am missing the boat everyone is on.

Meanwhile, it is easy to feel overwhelmed by the amount of online offerings popping up everywhere. It seems we are collectively trying to make the most out of this crisis. Our desire to be productive is symptomatic of a culture in which inertia is the greatest sin.

Maybe I can trust my lack of inspiration and resourcefulness, for now. A matter of trust that the river will move me when it is time.

Space to feel unbound

Isolation invites insight. By a twist of fate, we are isolated in our normal circumstances. Does that count?

Today we’re going out. It’s been over a month and I feel excited. We’re visiting family at their summer house. I sit in the car and enjoy seeing how Spring has transformed the landscape. A palette of bright greens and the yellows of flowering rapeseed. A sign telling us to stay home. Not today. 

I look forward to a stack of papers and books on the back seat. New environments can stir up new ideas. Martin Heidegger believed that we need to withdraw ourselves from our normal circumstances to gain useful insights. Isolation invites thought, space to feel unbound. 

By a twist of fate, we are isolated in our normal circumstances. Does that count? I don’t know. All I know is that I feel excited to do the same thing somewhere else. Read, write, think and watch plants and animals carry on with their normal life.

Who we once were and who we want to become

Creating a meaningful environment for ourselves is a deeply human need. In uncertain times, we look for beauty at home to make us feel safe.

Home. Something I am faced with every day. Now more so than ever. The Stoics shunned home as a place we were bound to get too comfortable. Their secret to happiness was the cultivation of a virtuous mental state; the only place where we could truly come home. Living like a Stoic meant you had little to no interest in the material luxuries of life.

A good practice, for sure. But now most of us are home all day, it seems of little use. Although there is a little voice inside me that says, “Come on now, strap on that backpack, drop everything and disappear into nature for a while.” A romantic thought, and somehow misplaced. I don’t know why.

I came across some words of Alain de Botton. He believes creating a meaningful environment for ourselves is a deeply human need. Our homes are pillars of our identity, who we once were and who we want to become. Especially in uncertain times, we look for beauty and harmony at home to compensate for our vulnerability. This makes us feel safe and comforted.

In my Autumn retreats, I speak about the concept of home. Autumn is a natural time to reflect, consolidate and let go of things we no longer need. It seems most of us started this process earlier this year, myself included. I look around my room. Persian carpets. A hand-painted classic teapot. A piece of wood from the old willow by the river… What will I have learned when I come out of my home again?

Unlikely worlds I inhabit

Nature seems impervious to what I want from her. To feel heard by her, I need listen to living beings that I do not understand.

To listen to living beings that I do not understand. To feel heard by nature, I need listen. I go out, facing clear skies and the dry winds of the East. During my walk I identify things. Skylarks, cormorants, oystercatchers. Wonderful names for wonderful birds, but something is missing.

Nature does not ask of me to experience “something”. She seems impervious to what I want from her and what I learn from being in her presence. Whatever is happening in me, she reflects. A perfect mirror.

I try again. I sit down in front of my door and I listen intently. My body relaxes and my thoughts become like little worlds I inhabit. They seem unlikely. What is there to understand? Only that I have no clue how it works. I merge with those living beings that I do not understand. And I tell myself that, in secret, they fulfill all of my desires.

Your life, a little richer

Writing a journal daily sharpens the mind. You become more attentive, your life a little richer.

I thought I was going to skip writing today. No inspiration, so I let it go. I sit still and look at the field I see every day. Hot air coming from my stove distorts playing hares in the distance. The ripples remind me of the malleability of reality. Mushrooms do that too. Sometimes the world seems too beautiful to be real.

Writing a journal daily sharpens the mind. You become more attentive; your life a little richer.

I collect sentences and fragments of daily life in a black notebook. I flip through it. Zuikitsu, an ancient Japanese style of writing loosely connected essays and fragments that spring forth from stray thoughts and the natural environment of the author. Tied to fudi ni shitagau; to follow the pencil, capriciously running behind thoughts.

What we have lost

This strange time offers us an unexpected, remarkable gift. Close your eyes and listen carefully, so that you remember what we have lost.

The sky is draped with clouds, making my world more quiet. I listen carefully. There is no wind and the birds are quiet. I hear the droning sound of a barge in the distance, which is strangely comforting. I read somewhere that the little, day-to-day sounds connect us to our environment. Like some smells bring back fond memories, certain sounds can make us feel comfortable and safe. They put us in a state of relaxation, so that our senses can roam freely and we expand our awareness.

Unfortunately, when loud or unexpected sounds drown out the little sounds, we are programmed to pay attention. It puts us in a state of alarm and distress. We narrow our focus; potential danger ahead.

Gordon Hempton, acoustic ecologist and avid collector of sounds across the world, defines real quiet as presence. Not an absence of sound, but an absence of noise. Noise is ubiquitous in our world. According to Hempton, real silence is an endangered species on the verge of extinction.

This strange time offers us an unexpected, remarkable gift. Silence. Make use of it. Close your eyes and listen carefully, so that you remember what we have lost.