Category Archives: wholiness

On Beyond The Edge

On Beyond Zebra is a beautiful children’s book by the infamous Dr.Seuss. My second daughter Mahdee is reading it with me. Every letter invented as a continuation of our alphabet beyond the letter Z, she points at and excitedly exclaims:’wow, that letter is beautiful!’. We indulge in Dr. Seuss’ fantasy of ‘a List of Letters for People who Don’t stop at Z’. We marvel together at the Yuzz for Yuzz-a-ma-Tuzz, the Fuddle for Miss Fuddle-dee-Duddle and the Spazz for Spazzim.

Life has got the capacity to go on beyond the edge of the end of the alphabet. To me it seems to shift into another realm, surpassing common sense and exploring the whereabouts of unique sensability. I read back the ‘About’ page of this website. It talks about living in the present moment. Like we all do nowadays. I pledge to somehow differentiate from ‘something else’, my five senses, i.e. how to experience life solely based upon the impressions generated by the senses.

How can we experience life other then through our five senses? I am talking about experiencing life through the mind. Which ridiculously enough opposes mindfulness. More on that later in life. Experiencing life through the mind goes by applying filters. Filters that tell you how life should be, as opposed to how it presents itself in her naked form. Superego, religious paradimes, legislation, society and it’s set of rules and ethics; all are examples of filters. It’s all like taking a camera and viewing the world through a lens, manipulating the edges, the brightness and the sharpness-depth of what we are exposed to.

What does life look like beyond these manipulations? What does life look like beyond the controllable frames? Words fail to communicate. We can share in words what is known. We can’t get the unknown across, other then living and witnessing it together.

Advertisements

The Endless Journey

 
Let’s just be difficult. And challenge our fellow souls who successfully demonstrate the purpose of traveling rather then that of reaching a destination. So let’s just be annoying and ask ourselves the question: ‘what if the beginning and the end are contrary to current wisdom, all about the destination rather then about the journey? Just for the sake of it. Or to be brutally honest, because reality has it that sometimes or suddenly, life, or at least my life, is all about a certain, specific destination. Which wonderfully leads me to the realization that without realizing it, at specific yet undefined moments the present is presenting me with an endless, continuous journey.

‘What ifs’ bring me in a wondrous world of fantasy and imagination, seducing me straight onto the way out of a sound and surrounding reality. Exit, green signs pointing towards flights of stairs. The ones you physically find next to and metaphysically as opposed to, the elevation mechanism called a lift. What ifs generally don’t have the tendency to lift you up. What ifs often lead to a place where it isn’t about logic and cognitive abilities. It makes me browse another reality. An inner reality of inside stories that float and rave upon the waves of feelings, cravings and longings. It made me tattoo at the back of my shoulder: ‘dreams are wishes of the heart’. A reality where satisfaction hardly is possible, yet always just around the corner. A reality shaped by the rhythm of a constant pendulum of frantically searching and researching at one end, while at it’s other extremity finding balance by blockage and deprivation.

Let’s assume that the concept of destiny equals our so called point of satisfaction. We assume things the whole day. In particular about other people’s thoughts, emotions and intentions. So now let us assume something about our own conception. We do have the capacity to feed ourselves with whatever it is we want, to such an extent that at a certain point we say: I’ve had enough, I am done, full, satisfied. At that point we experience a sense of satisfaction. But then, as chance unsurprisingly has it, we quickly find a new spot at the horizon to reach for. And so we accumulate a wealth in experiences. We diversify the richness of our taste palette. We widen the scope of our possessions, let them be made of material, bare power or fulfilling relationships. Eventually we end up being experienced, rich and possessed. But are we ever really satisfied? Or let’s put it this way: does satisfaction actually exist? It makes me compare a sense of satisfaction to the concept of destiny – or there being a destination in life.

What if? I bluntly put forward that a destination does not exist other then in our mind. That the concept of destiny merely functions as a tool, an apparent focus point, allowing us to thrive, move forward, push along, using, or driven by, forces of nature comparable to water whirls, blazing winds and striking lightning. We need our destination and our point of focus as an excuse to flow with those forces of nature. The conceptualization of a destiny, a point of focus and the idea that it is due to our own doings, that it’s us ourselves getting us there, give us a sense of mastering those forces of nature, that we control and that we lead instead of being led by human nature. Why do we call such a vast thing as nature, human anyway? Smells like an effort to master or at least control The Force.

We assume the continuous development, proactively unrolling, dynamically pushing like sprouts do, is led by our own genius. And it’s exactly this assumption that tricks us into being haunted. As human beings, we turn into human doings, restless, never satisfied, always (de)parting, never arriving. And you know what? To stop the motion is not an option. Stop, hold back, like pulling the reins of a galloping Arabian horse, resist the race, back out of it by trying to repress forces of nature that are so much bigger then a bit of consciousness wrapped in a human body. Inertia makes us wonder about the difference between repression and depression. Inertia leads us to believe, have faith, divert into the realm of dreaming, finding distraction and the ephemere satisfaction of multiple addictions. Closing the circle I like to put forth that the absence of a conceptual triplet evolving around being destined, destiny and destination frees the way to literally realize what it actually is that the present beholds. I assure you it’s more then just cruising along.

The Impossibilities of a Luxurious Lifestyle


‘The only available time tomorrow for a massage is 4.15 pm’.’Hummm, that’s going to be difficult with the kids. What about the day after?’

‘At 10.15 am we have availability for a 60 minute massage’.

‘That’s perfect. My kids start surf classes at 10 am. I like to book the massage at 10.15 am’.

After processing the credit card payment by phone and a long intermezzo about booking the family baths at the hot springs for tomorrow with the kids, no clay experience because this isn’t available for kids and kids can’t hang around the ‘family–bath-hot-springs’ without supervision.

‘Right’.

‘Well all is done. Please make sure to arrive 30 minutes prior to your massage’.

‘Excuse me?’

‘Please make sure to arrive 30 minutes before the actual starting time of the massage’

‘That’s complicated. I will drop my kids at 10 am at the beach and then come to you’

‘If you are late it will reduce your massage time. Our massages are back to back’.

I just paid AUS$150 for a massage, the most expensive massage I ever booked, I think but I don’t say it.

‘You need to be 30 minutes early to fill out the necessary paperwork, get changed into a robe and make your way to the treatment rooms where you will be seated to wait untill you are being guided to your massage table’.

‘Could I maybe save some time by filling out the so called necessary paper work already tomorrow? Since I will be at your hot springs then with my kids. Small effort for me to drop by your reception shortly’.

‘Unfortunately, that’s not possible’.

Our conversation lasts the necessary amount of time it takes me to become familiar with the impossibilities of a luxurious life style. After I turn and shake my world a bit, my kids on Wednesday are going to be dropped off by me 45 min ahead of their surfing class at the milk bar. Where they will be picked up by the van of the East Coast Surf School. I like easy going people. So that Wednesday at 9.45 am sharp I enter the reception lounge of the spa area at the Hot Springs. The paperwork to be filled out consists of one A4 with seven questions about allergies, age and gender. By 9.50 am after having fulfilled my writing tasks, I am changed into my robe and escorted to the treatment rooms uphill. 

‘Would you like some tea? This is Hester. The two of you will be treated in about 15 minutes. Please make yourself comfortable’. Hester takes up a magazine and asks me one or two questions about where I am from. She glances through the glossy while talking to me. She’s from Melbourne, aged around 60, a summer house at the peninsula and trusted with a remarkable memory about Amsterdam, my home town, which she visited in 1977. Walking arm in arm with her husband, he was being propositioned by a girl at one of the streets where girls find themselves inappropriately dressed standing and wiggling their hips in red illuminated windows.

‘Melbourne must have changed a lot over the past twenty years?’

‘Oh well, since I am living in it, I don’t see the change. Aside from the grafitti that has gotten way out of hand. A pity that the streetview has been contaminated in such a way’.

‘Really? Just recently there was this article in the NY times about the extrordinairy graffitti in Australia and New Zealand’.

Shortly after I decide to rest my case and silently wait for my massage saviour to come rescue me.

Helen is being collected. Another woman that meanwhile had come into the relax room, is being collected. Finally Leia comes rushing in, accidentally smashing the door close behind her while apologizing for being a bit sweaty: ‘the hill is steep you know’. I like Leia although I think her demeanour is not very professional. She explains me some things about the ingredients in the oil that she is using. I tell her my skin is not prone on heavy scented creams and oils, essential or not. Obviously she forgets about this soon enough. The amount of very cold oil splashed on my skin without being warmed by her hands first, is quite excessive. The temperature in the massage room already being cooler then comfortable, most probably due to the fact that Leia herself is a bit overheated and let’s the aircon cool her down. I decide I don’t want her to get in a bad mood and keep my mouth shut. Bite your lip Reina, and endure. The massage itself literally doesn’t make a big impression. I think there’s no chance at all to improve the experience. I decide once more to keep my mouth shut. Leia finishes and asks me to wait for her to return so she can let me out. I wait, realizing my cloths are in the dressing room down hill. I wonder why I am left to wait. I think of my children who must probably be towards the end of their surf class by now. After several long minutes I step out of the massage room. Planning to visit the toilet but discarting the idea when I see four women waiting in line for 1 single toilet. I want to make my way out of here as soon as possible. And then I almost bump into Leia again who is hurrying with a large pile of towels on her arms through the corridor. She manages to set me up with a small little double folded card that says: treatment plan, while I apologize myself as polite as possible under the pretext of kids waiting for me to be picked up. ‘Don’t wash the oil off’, Leia concludes insistingly. But I can’t wait to wash the excessive amounts of oil off. I’ve got trouble finding my way back down hill to the changing rooms, paths being restricted by ropes preventing a free through way so that the non-privileged can’t trespass the more exclusive parts of the premises. With some assistance I make my way down and quickly into a shower to shortly afterwards pass by the reception, where I wait, hesitating a moment, not knowing what to do with my locker-wrist band, the girls behind the reception all engaged in phone conversations. When I am just about to hurry on, I am being asked in a generous tone: ‘How was it mam, did you enjoy your massage this morning?’
At the end of the day I read in my treatment plan: ‘discount on products applies, next recommended treatment: Morrocan Cocoon’. 

Going to Kathmandu


In Bhaktapur’s busy bus station’s street, the pavement is swept immaculately clean. Big chicken are foraging, most shop owners with a damping cup of tea between the palms of their hands. It ‘s not that cold, 8.30 am. I change bus on my way from Nepal Yoga Retreat in Telkot to Kathmandu, on my first day off. Quickly taking a super sweet black tea at a little café outside. I am not into sugar. Maybe because I used to like it too much I try to avoid it now as much as possible. Not today. I am excited to be where I am. I order a second tea right away against any mindful objections. Not much later on the bus to Kathmandu I feel pretty sick. Sugar overload on an empty stomach. But feeling sick in an overcrowded bus in Nepal is somehow the way it should be. I accept my condition. No regrets. I love being here.
Ayurveda favors eating with your hands. Aside from seeing, smelling and tasting food, one should feel it as well. Makes perfect sense to me. And certainly to my kids. Can’t wait to tell them. It is awkward though, sitting in a quality food café – a name much preferred here for lunchrooms – where the food looks absolutely delicious. Instead of sandwiches or a salad, here lunch is served as a plate of rice with a variety of condiments, freshly made, freshly ground, lovely scents. Some use a spoon. Most eat with one of their hands. Mixing rice with sauce or curry and aptly shoveling it up into their mouth using three or four fingers. Although the garnished rice sticks all over the hand, it does look quite civilized actually.

This will make my kids very happy.

Breath in

   
   
Beaver building a dam

How serious and demanding about ourselves should we really be?

Skipped meditation & yoga yesterday. Normally the monday morning session sets me up for the new week. After the typical weekend often prohibiting focus and concentration. After having leisurely taken the kids and myself to sport events, birthday parties, play dates, the tea shop around the corner, obliged interrogations of other European languages and last but certainly not least, catering work. So hurray for Monday mornings’ dawn. 

But this Monday body & mind are telling me something different. It’s a bit difficult to comprehend and as such difficult to act upon. At 8.30 am, instead of making my usual way to the underground meditation & yoga cellar that serves as a refuge to both body and mind, I set myself up in the waiting room of the house doctor’s practice. A newly employed young woman listens to my story and pays it a lot of attention. I like that. Because I rather not focus on problems but at solutions instead. However discussing solutions does get bothered or restricted if resistance towards elaborating on problems is admitted. So what is your problem? asks the fresh doctor. I turn my head around curious after who’s standing behind my back. 

We settle for the conclusion that I’m ready to open up, at least a little, or at least that it is worthwhile to give it a try to open up a little. I rather shut the door close again right away after our twenty minutes chat. Which literally I do, leaving her small but bright ‘talk room’. The sign on the door post says ‘talk room’. I shut it close. But I do make the required follow-up appointment. There’s people that spend three to ten years studying physical and psychological conditions. I’m successfully convincing myself. Who am I, if I wouldn’t be able to tap some water from their sources?

An hour later I find myself in another waiting room. Physiotherapist introduces himself. Fortunately in this room I only need to concentrate on distinguishing left feet from right legs: ‘the other right leg please’ and rolling over tummy side up or the other way around. It doesn’t go by itself but definitely is a lot easier then what was being asked from me in the last health practicioner’s room. Follow up appointment is made and another little bag of homework carried outside. 

I didn’t come up with the first sentence of this little piece of brain sandwich if it weren’t for yet a third waiting room I attended within the following hour. This queen of allergens (the people I work with know exactly what I mean) did the most dreadful thing. For the first time in her life she took it seriously. She didn’t take it as a an act arising from the need for attention ‘I can’t eat fish if the head is still on, I can only take it if you can’t actually see where the meat comes from’. ‘So you mean, you only eat fillet of fish when it comes in translucent supermarket wrapping, perfectly groomed and colored, like as if it’s artificial?’ ‘Yes, that’s the only way I can handle fish’. ‘Okay of course I fully understand. As you wish miss’. 

This princess of abstention for one Monday morning also didn’t take her physical resistance towards most of the ingredients of a regular diet, as an act of proving to be strong willed. ‘I do at times feel the urge coming up to smoke a cigarette to give myself a break. I do at times feel the urge coming up to have a beer and not think about what’s next. I also recognize at times the lack of a stimulating boost of coffee, sugar or a little red spicy chilly’. ‘But I do not give in to all this divertimento’. ‘Seen it, done it, had it all’ is the firm line, cutting the border of one of the important five senses: taste. Because taste evokes emotions.

So yesterday morning this tough girl is temporarily locked in a closet. Just for a bit. The tough girl doesn’t really let go, she agrees to resign a tiny bit, just one Monday morning. In exchange she pledges for an explanation. An explanation of this ridicule behavior, spending an entire Monday morning walking from one waiting room into the other instead of focussing at what needs to be done. What needs to be done, it resonates. What needs to be done? Can you hear it too?

Third and last waiting room is a quick one. The homosexual bright and extremely witty nurse, fifty plus, considerably stylish, quickly points a needle in my left upper arm. We make jokes about I don’t know what. It doesn’t matter what’s it about. Fun and laughter fill the smallest room of the three I visited this morning. And I’m done. For now.

It’s not about results I tell myself. It’s about intention. And yes, it certainly is about attention. Their attention follows mine. I start. I did it. It relieves me in ways I don’t comprehend. But also that doesn’t matter. My blood is tested on allergens and other internal signs of physical misbalances. The mind will be dressed up to undergo some necessary changes and specific muscles and joints will be worked on. To find relief from blockages. The blockages we create like beavers building dams in order to survive.

Breath out.

Lolita or Dolores, Part II

Nothing is required. It is very well possible to protect oneself against all the love and all the pain and to live a perfectly traumatized or phobic life. Running up- and down to duties, solely entering spotless spaces, closing eyes to injustice, abstracting culture by bringing it down to one-monthly visits to musical performances and museum cafés. And last but certainly not least: we are very well capable and will for sure silently bear those unexplainable little fears of heights, flying or other secret threats that come along with disconnecting. Opening up and closing down is like breathing in and out. We keep on doing it all the time. Aren’t we? Automatically? We’ve escaped or rescued ourselves from the rat race. And now suddenly we find ourselves settling down into another formality, soothed day after day by nice glasses of wine, interesting reads and the decent fantasy of making this special challenging trip, next year.

We live in a consumer paradise. Unfortunately it’s not only the material stuff we purchase exactly how and when it suits us. We got into the mode of wanting to feel in doses as well. Comparable to selecting our groceries from the shelves of the supermarket. We want the ingredients of what we’re about to feel, to be well advertised on the packaging. We actually even prefer to pay for it because it enables us to circumscribe pretty exact, restricted and narrow, the amount of what we get and to specify in terms of money what we can afford to spend in order to acquire exactly the amount of desired satisfaction. We want to enable ourself to open up the box of Pandora at a suitable time and close it when we’ve had enough. We let feeling in at command. Like we do when acting as if we control our kids, our garden, our weight and the traffic: ruling and out ruling feelings upon a whim. There’s rules and how-to’s for everything. How to (over) rule what you’re feeling is a main target in everyday life. Feeling tired? Grab a coffee. Suffering from a headache? Take a painkiller. Feeling down? Seek distraction. Fall in Love? Play hide and seek. You’ve only got to stick to the civilized manuals and guidelines and you’ll stay out of trouble. Social and outward trouble that is. As opposed to inward trouble which is lulled to sleep or anesthetized by French wine, moments of wellness or acquiring some must-haves.

As we speak I realize that we do not at all want to feel our everything and all that’s around and about. To the contrary! We’re trying our uttermost best to not feel next to nothing. We’re trying so hard to not connect!
Connection is advertised as something you experience while sitting on a yoga mat with your fingers crossed. Tuning in at the sound of aum while keeping your eyes and all other senses closed and shut up. We call this connecting with the inner self. What we’re doing is forcefully silencing thoughts and emotions to make space for nothing. After a bit we pretend to step into a sudden energy flow by elegantly moving from one asana into the next. Set and done we feel satisfied with what we’ve just done, more then with who we are and continue our daily lives as human doings instead of beings. Continue, maintain, proceed, keep up with it.

It starts to dawn at me that this can’t be the real flow of energy, contained as it is without any transforming or reborn power at all. This won’t lead to transforming the energy called pain into something else that can be released. Transforming despair into hope. Transforming knots into unwinding nests of loose ends. Why do I want this, if it doesn’t make me run harder, if it won’t give me back the control in life. It results in the opposite. It stops me from running away from the chaos. And it makes me stay put. Yeah! Finally.

To have your energy flowing for real, it takes connecting to a real source of power. Something mutual and universal I suggest. But it doesn’t really matter. As long as it is bigger then yourself. Who cares for connecting to your own level of apprenticeship? Move on up is what we’re in for. Progressing, growing and deepening the senses by broadening them and foremost alluding to the understanding of it. Keep away from it for too long and the engine is running on empty, stagnating and eventually it fails to ignite at all. Our attempts to reinforce ourselves by cursing, drinking or working hard failed. Pursuing authentic produce, spending expensive time in silence retreats or developing our own personal trainer programs actually to be honest, don’t do the trick either. You know what? It takes a hell of a lot of stopping, sitting in and letting go offs to see through that exact same window that opens onto the beautiful things in life. Lolita, Dolores, are you still with me!

Lolita or Dolores, Part I

Dolores or the mother of grief is Lolita’s real name; agent-provocateur of a whole complex of sexual pursuit and inhibition embodied in a novel by Nabokov. Feelings of attraction and guilt personified by and cheerfully nicknamed Lolita. Dolores being her real name, dolor Spanish for pain. Lolita is about the pain inflicted by Western civilization, bluntly imposing sex as not a good thing to have between a girl at the age of twelve and her stepfather. Lolita or Dolores would probably be called Felicita in a real world where mature girls are allowed to be mature when they are and real men are allowed to act upon their impulses, swift and resolute that is. For that’s how mankind survives.

Back in our not so real world: how do we act upon our instincts? Or do we not act at all but re-act, obstructing energy, merely giving way to feelings of pain and remorse. Pain that is inflicted by something bigger then ourselves: the rules of society, laws that protect the weak, administered authorities. I rather make companions in suffering for the things that are too big to carry around by myself, then bluntly act upon my instincts. Because if I do, I will be outlawed, out ruled or imprisoned. Hence, I unconsciously share and make fellows in carrying the pain, creating my own keepsakes of pain. Until the pain can be turned into something else like tears or grief and as such can be harmlessly released. It’s not the soul or whatever word you prefer to describe the essence of being in general and human being in particular, that’s crying. Souls, like boys, don’t cry. Actually boys should cry a little bit more. To keep them from doing more harm then preventable.

The body cries and sheds tears, not the soul. If ever, souls merely weep. The soul doesn’t get tensed, the body does. Souls just are. Beings. Not running, making love, eating nor the act of crying make them exist. Souls simply are. There’s one thing they do. They mate. Souls mate and make soul mates. In doing so they produce more soulful material. Let’s say they reproduce. To cut it short, when I’m crying it’s a form of pain release; it’s not my inner self that expresses itself. It’s outer tension turned into something else. Be it tears, laughter or rage, it remains energy, just neatly enveloped in different wrappings. Energy is energy. It only takes on different forms to manifest itself: pain, love, a tree or burning flames. It implies that pain cannot be dissolute. Dolores might be a pretty heavy name to carry – imagine giving it to your daughter – actually it’s what it is and what we all do. From friend to friend, from parent to child, from neighbor to neighbor, from driver to pedestrian and the other way around; we carry pain.

Talking pain, it’s universal. It’s all around and all about. The guy that jells at me in traffic, the parent that accuses me, the lover that hurts me; they all suffer themselves, not being able to digest the pain. It might be against all odds but pain simply is not to be digested. We say we digest pain like we say that male love goes through the stomach. Which symbolizes something essentially immaterial. What is digested are the keepsakes of pain and love. We turn them into something else. Into grief, hope, laughter, fantasies or sorrow. If we’re able to! We transform pain or love if we or others allow ourselves to do so. Then we release it. Pain in the form of tears, love in the form of tenderness. If not, if we’re not able to transform the pain, we’ll inflict it upon ourselves causing mental and physical illness or upon others in a faint attempt to get rid of it, understandable but extremely sorrowful. What happens if we’re not able to transform the love? Well look around and see for yourself.

Let the body release. As far as physical and mental barriers or boundaries permit. And this is why, even without consciously being aware of it, we crave to open up. As much as possible. Not so much to receive the love that’s presumably all around. Please keep looking for magnificent flowers and beautiful butterflies. See the beauty of it. To open up to all kinds of instant provocateurs of the senses. But be prepare to cry now, to feel horrible, down and outworn. Pain and the lack of love manifest. Transform to release it. It simply is a package deal. Once you really connect, you connect with everything around you. Love and injustice, misery and marriage; it’s all like horses and their carriage. You tell me what’s abundant: is it love or is it pain? And Lolita asks Dolores: ‘what is in a name anyway?’

Wholesome

Recently a friend and me had lunch at Lavinia, a lunchroom at the Kerkstraat. Which happens to be the longest street of Amsterdam city centre, hidden between Prinsengracht and Keizersgracht. Lavinia serves mainly vegetarian food, including vegan options and modernistic responsible-food-products like packaged coconut water and UTZ certified chocolate springles. My friend the other day dropped the expression New Foodism. If there’s any such thing, Lavinia has it.

Sustainable and vintage furniture, tap water garnished with citrus fruits and mint offered for free at the counter, intelligent waitresses and more vegetarian options at the menu then fishy or meaty treats. However my friend and me like to look beyond the idea of wholesome, well sourced ingredients and a hip and going environment. What’s it really all about? Like the purpose, meaning and destiny of life we constantly keep asking ourselves about or if we’re not in the spin of this mind-full-ness, being in doubt whether we should actually better be asking ourselves these deep questions instead of simply living the moment.

The difference between questions, doubt and awareness is quite an item which I gladly leave for another post. For now I’d like to keep things close to Lavinia, her food and it’s surroundings. Over a year ago my friend and me independently choose to pursue a vegan life style by skipping diary, fishy and meaty products from our menus. On the side I also rather not digest refined sugar, gluten and nuts. However I do prefer leather shoes and woolen sweaters over synthetic material to address yet another complicated matter of assimilation and appearance. Anyway it’s an entertaining challenge to find out who’s able to cater for our pretty demanding food preferences. My friend questions his vegan lifestyle once in a while. He especially did during the holiday season. Not because, finding himself in Manchester for Christmas, he missed out on the turkey and scrambled eggs with bacon for breakfast. But merely because he doesn’t want to be a pain in the ass for his hosts. Social wise, to confess being vegan – if only it were for the mere pronunciation – isn’t typically easy going. Your food-loving host prepares an excellent and entertaining diner and you act like: “No thanks, I do not eat – as in appreciate – your efforts. But don’t you worry about me”. And that’s exactly what they’ll do the rest of the evening. Worrying and talking about your a-typical food preferences. Deep apologies dear hosts. We’re not here to harm you.

To our unexpected surprise electing a dish from a menu in regular restaurants actually more often then not is a simple task. On average there’s just not so much to choose from. Which makes it easy. A vegan burger nowadays has found it’s way into many a restaurant. It often isn’t the most seducing or appealing item at the menu. You might even rather skip the whole restaurant experience all together, visit your local farm shop instead, buy some real wholesome and good ingredients and cook yourself. However not having to choose really does make life simple once in a while.

Fortunately Lavinia at the Kerkstraat offers a different experience. The intelligent waitresses eagerly inform themselves in the kitchen upon our question if the pick-your-own choice-of-three from the salad station could possibly behold a vegan lunch option. They proudly return with the happy notice that this can be done. Which is great of course. The cakes and sweets I love to indulge unfortunately all contain refined sugar. Which disappoints slightly because the expectations are held high through the Lavinian outlook of things. Tea is to be infused in the form of a simple teabag. Which isn’t very lucid either with even a professionally commercial chain like the Coffee Company serving subtle and refined tea made from bold leaves transferred into individual paper bags with loving care and attention by the barristas.

The Lavinian experience in particular makes us wonder if indeed we’re all still very much attached to the idea of purchasing a package deal while eating out. It’s about what you find at your plate, of course. But we’re comfortably used at paying the bill for the way the food is presented, for the ambiance created for us, including some not very professional but charming gestures or words of the waitresses. I am not judging this predisposition of ours. I am just trying to make it clear to myself and others. The same way as I tend to check the list of ingredients on almost every jar or pack I grap from a shop shelve nowadays. What am I buying? I need glasses to make it clear to myself. But it isn’t the glasses that clarify it. It’s the act of being conscious of it.

And so it is with our restaurant bills. We find it romantically nostalgic if in France the ‚couverts’ are being charged seperately at € 1 per head. We check if the service is included or not before adding a pourboire (tip) to l’addition (bill). I’m starting to realize the truth of this basically very realistic custom. It makes me come up with the idea of a new Amsterdam way. A place where it is specified at your bill what you pay for. Apart from charging the custom couscous with pomegranate, spicy pumpkin soup and two jasmin tea’s, the bill specifies separately for x-amounts: special Monday ambiance; José’s service; vintage tableware and the chefs ‚made with love and attention’ label. Because in most of the restaurants and places you’ll find yourself nowadays, that’s what it is all about. Entourage, feeling, ideas and idealism or what you see is what you get. Do not go beyond, do not pass the borders of our communal comfort zone while sullenly enjoying the moment.

Free of

Which content to share first? The exploration of free-of-animal-products-lunch-options in Amsterdam? An adventure an old friend of mine came up with. Like myself, he turned vegan almost two years ago. We share our experiences over vegan or even raw cheesecakes, banana bread and complete gourmet lunch deals. Appetizing yet remarkably more difficult to pursue then one would believe in the free-est city of all: Amsterdam. Really exploring a certain field needs persistence. We set out primarily every other Wednesday. This might change to every other Thursday. Along side persistence features structure. Indispensable assets to take off with.

The other interesting subject I am longing to share with you is a small little treatise on the difference between attachment and connection. This is more of a group travel. It’s the first time for me to make up my mind about the difference between attachment and connection. To do so I’d better be in your presence. If not I risk loosing track. The suspected major importance of the difference between attachment and connection (attaching an electric wire, plugging in for connection) holds me back a bit. I feel it to be difficult to grasp it’s full meaning. As opposed to the adventure that evolves around the ‘free of’ food-trip. Simply drawing upon some sort of rationalistic point of view and behaviour guided along a clear – free of – etiquette. Or isn’t it that simple? Am I oblivious of the important subconscious impact my friend and me make by eating vegan and the drive we feel to follow it through?

Let me quickly share some first results of our comparitive research into the vegan lunch options, just to give you an idea. After having had lunch at Dophert, Wagamama, the Alchemist Garden, Deshima and Lavinia -all being day time restaurants located in Amsterdam and offering good lunch options, we agreed upon the best lunch deal at Deshima. We do not take into account the bill. Price-quality relation isn’t the first thing to consider in this new type of sports. We take into account: the quantity of vegan options at the menu, the genuineness of the chefs’ vegan drive, the authenticity of the ingredients and the energy we got from the food and it’s location. We discovered ‘the Amsterdam way’ isn’t appealing if it comes to vegan cooking in particular or serving food in general. We feel best if our servings are honest and made with an amount of knowledge, love and attention that surpasses our own. The establishments with a kind of non-commercial feel, really focusing at the food, in an environment that’s not exactly cosy, hip or outstanding we like best: Deshima and Alchemist Garden. Lavinia makes a nice day break by presenting their products and menu in a customer friendly way, up to date yet low profile. Unfortunately the so called Amsterdam way rules. The awesome looking cakes at Lavinia all contain refined sugar. So far for the outcome of the research into vegan lunch options.

‘Free of’ features easily as the main adjective for 2015. The best adjective according to my humble opinion being no adjective at all. Free of as an adjective is coming close to this minimalistic best. There’s all kinds of free from. Free from as opposed to free form, is restrictive, bordered and contains a lot of no’s. Instead of freely forming – or going with – the flow. Alas! we do no longer go with the flow.

Yet at the same time we’re meant to accept all that is. No no’s, no resistance. At least that’s what mindfull or wise people are telling us. Forget your ego, don’t let your mind rule your behavior. This contradicts big time our efforts to live consciously by saying no to almost everything our bodies crave for. Or does it not? Acceptance versus resistance: it leads me to grasp for a solution hidden in the difference between being attached and being connected. Saying no to the good taste, nice textures and satisfaction derived from animal products, results in testifying to me and others that I am not attached to these animalistic seductions. Instead I connect to my body. If I really connect to my body without the fear of loosing what I like – being attached – I find out what I really need. However if then I discover the body cries for ice cream, red wine and sashimi, I am set back. The mind says: ‘that’s wrong!’ To make things even more complicated, we get to the explanation that if the body yearns for unhealthy stuff, it means the body is not in balance. Would it be in balance, it would crave for mere water when thirsty and carrots or beans when hungry. Pretty daunting and much of a disillusion after having prioritized food in every possible way for the past thirty years.

Where’s the exit? Experience! To go through it all. To find out that listening to my body doesn’t actually start with listening to my body. Conscious living and eating both start with the mind. Hence mindfulness. First I tell myself or let others and pseudo-scientific studies tell me, what is good or bad for my health. A good first step into this thousand miles journey is for example: Timeless secrets of Health and Rejuvenation by the late Andreas Moritz. The journey continues by saying no to almost anything that is easily available, palatable and payable. Hence the exploration of alternative, macro-biotic, ayurvedic and vegan fields to find out what suits my taste. Then developing proper recipes, creating a personal daily routine and new cravings. Along the way this most exciting revelation pops up: I can actually make the body crave for green tea and date balls covered with shredded coconut instead of glasses filled with Sauternes accompanied by butterscotch chocolate, not to mention the terribly wrong foie gras. It takes a couple of years and a lot of don’ts. But it works!

After all I am not so sure if real connection is coming in. I’ve merely just changed my patterns and habits. Because the mind and others made me believe my former patterns and habits were unhealthy, making me stressed, tired and old. I was able to transform my attachments. Which is an important step into the direction of being freed from attachments. But it isn’t the same thing. Sometimes I really am able to feel the body, to connect to it. The funny thing is, when it happens, I am happy. The inner body doesn’t talk back telling me what to resist.

With special thanks to my friend Michiel Oudakker and awesomeamsterdam.nl

Wonderland Revisited

IMG_0860.JPG
{Afbeelding van Piet de Loof, Sneeuwwitje}

Rood is de kleur van liefde en zwart die van de dood. Rood en zwart zijn samen flamenco en duivels. Weet ik. Wie niet? Weten en (in)zien zijn alleen niet hetzelfde. Vannacht ervoer ik plotseling een inzicht. Ik zeg nogal pathetisch ‘ervoer’ in plaats van ‘had’ omdat ik dat inzicht duidelijk niet te pakken had, het had mij te pakken. Willie Wortel duidt zijn vorm van verlichting aan met een gloeilampje. Dat is grappig maar niet alles omvattend. Inzicht is meer dan een geestelijk-verstandelijke aha erlebnis. Ik voelde het.

Is dat alles? Voelen!

Pooh, het mag duidelijk zijn. Ik leg het niet zomaar even uit.

Om kort te gaan: kleuren kwamen tot leven. Ten overvloede voeg ik hieraan toe dat er geen hallucinerend middel aan te pas kwam anders dan mijn eigen thèta state of mind. Een schemer of lucide staat waarin hersengolven niet frequent zijn en hersenactiviteit laag is. De deur tussen bewust- en onbewustzijn staat wagenwijd open. En opeens begreep ik werkelijk waarom bijvoorbeeld een klein meisje hoort bij roze. Ze houdt van deze vermenging van maagdelijk wit en liefdevol rood omdat ze het herkent. Ze herkent haar eigen onbevangen kleurenmix van witte spiritualiteit en rode liefde.

Het duivelse van geheimzinnig en occult zwart in combinatie met een beetje emotioneel gevaarlijk rood treft me opeens. Diepe gevoelens horen bij zwart en dan is de verrijking met een gepassioneerd rood detail tegelijk zo afstotend en aanlokkelijk als spiritualiën zijn: dubbelgedistilleerde Eau de Vie en andere desastreuze levenselixers.

Voor het raam waar ik zit te schrijven steekt een grijsharige vrouw het zebrapad over. Ze draagt een lange zwarte jas met een rode sjaal. Diepzinnige mensen dragen zwart. De tango is zwart van diepgang en beslotenheid. A little black dress is een geheimzinnig omhulsel. Veel zwart met een beetje rood is duivels; occulte diepzinnigheid met passie vanuit het hart. Flamenco is in balans qua zwart en rood en een stuk levendiger dan de zware en zwarte Portugese fado. Rauwe stemmen alom weliswaar. En dan veel rood met maar een beetje zwart. Daar neemt passie de overhand en is het niet langer zwaar, diep en gevaarlijk. Dat heet pikant.

Rood en wit samen geeft opeens een heel ander beeld met een heel ander gevoel. Het Rode Kruis: een liefdevol kruis op een spiritueel witte achtergrond. Zo had ik dit ijzersterke embleem nog niet bekeken. Het vormt een fikse tegenstelling met de verleidelijk zwart met rode Can Can dansende dames van plezier in de Moulin Rouge. The Red Light district is rood met zwart, niet rood met wit. Add another color and the picture completely changes. Or so it seems.

Bloedrode lippen met een sneeuwwitte huid en haar zo zwart als ebbehout, dat is waar ze samen komen. Waar rood, wit en zwart blijken te staan voor een perfecte drie-éénheid. Een volmaakt vrouwelijk evenwicht dat niet bestaat uit onze hedendaagse tweedimensionale balans zonder diepgang. Waarbij het vrouwelijk ideaalbeeld draait om liefde en spiritualiteit zonder zwarte modder. Dat is althans waar het onwetend vrouwelijk ik naartoe wil. Een blanke geest en een gepassioneerd hart, ongeaard en zonder rommel.

Dit in tegenstelling tot het veel minder bewust tot stand gekomen huidige straatbeeld waarin vrouwen hoofdzakelijk zwart dragen en andere donkere, grijzige, modderige tinten aangevuld met een clandestien rood sjaaltje. We oefenen graag de lotushouding. Het liefst met wijsvinger en duim gevormd in een perfect cirkeltje, omhooggericht, met de rug van de hand rustend op de knie. Beide knieën zijn op hun beurt allebei zo geknikt dat ze de ultieme vorm van een overtreffende trap van de kleermakerszit bereiken. I’ll show you how perfect I am. Maar perfectie zit ‘m niet in het ontbreken van imperfectie, het zit ‘m in het accepteren ervan.

Als de houding levenloos is, ontbreekt het slijk der aarde eraan. Waar is de drek waaruit die prachtige bloem op-groeide, de foute ellende die ze ont-groeide? Willen we wel weten dat we het roze meisjesstadium achter ons lieten? To not be revisited no more. Zien we wel wat een rijk geschakeerd kleurenpalet ervoor in de plaats kwam? We sluiten liever massaal onze ogen hiervoor om ons te ‘verdiepen’ in meditatieve mijmeringen met wijsvinger en duim in zo’n cirkeltje dat perfectie symboliseert. We willen zijn zoals we waren, een mengsel van spiritueel wit en liefdevol rood, net als toen, onschuldig en gepassioneerd. Want dat is vertrouwd en bekend. Never change a winning team. We hebben onze strijd gestreden. Maar hebben we ook gewonnen? Het is tijd voor een nieuwe outfit dames. Eéntje die ons beter staat dan dat wat we inmiddels lang ontgroeid zijn.

Een werkelijke vrouw zoals je die alleen in sprookjes treft, vormt een drie-éénheid van vlammend rode liefde, maagdelijke witte spiritualiteit én het donkere zwart van de aarde. Dood en verderf en alle occulte geheimzinnigheid incluis. Alleen die vrouw maakt werkelijk verbinding. Connects deep down to where we all come from.

Daar gaat ze, hand in hand met de heilige drie-éénheid van de christelijke God de vader, God de zoon en de Heilige geest (hoe patriarchaal wil je het hebben) verschijnt ten tonele deze matriarchale niet-heilige drie-éénheid (trinidad) van sneeuwwit, bloedrood en zwart als ebbehout.

Thanx dear Alice for quickly revisiting wonderland with me.