The problem with servants

Down town Hong Kong

Recently I moved houses again. From crashing the couch on the 16th floor of a high building filled with tiny apartments in the heart of Hong Kong I am now in the guest room of an incredibly luxurious house with a swimming pool, a gym and a maid, all to myself. The owners, friends of mine, are on a short holiday and I get to house sit.

Last Friday my previous host came back from work sick. It was a bummer because I was looking forward to go out with him. I had spent the whole week in his apartment while he was working in the factory of his employer in China and I felt it would be nice if we could spend time together. It did not go that way. On Saturday I made soup and we watched a documentary (a very good one, by the way: The Interrupters. About former gang members who prevent violence to happen). Yesterday I fell ill myself. I was cold and sweaty with a head ache and a sore body. I spend about 10-11 hours in bed and I am still not 100% physically. So I am not having my best day but I still feel I should write something.

Transforming a company culture in 9 hours

Soho, Hong Kong

Today I visited the company that I worked for last year. 9 months ago they gave me the assignment to try to transform the introversion of a large part of their staff. It is a well-known cultural problem in Hong Kong companies: the introversion of the Chinese part of the staff versus the extraversion of the Western part of the staff. I found during my work here that the discrepancy is caused by deep-rooted differences in the way children are brought up in China and in the west. This combined with my experience that the effects of a workshop can be temporary, especially when people did not sign up out of free will, made that I would not have been surprised if the results of my efforts would have been hard to measure. But this was not the news I received. The managing director told me that the problem had completely and permanently vanished! Wow! We created lasting change by doing 3 consecutive 3-hour workshops! I am so proud!

Happy Rebirth Day To Me

Atalwin in Lebanon by Gabriel Gersch

On March 20th of 2004, exactly nine years ago, I had my experience of ego death or spiritual transformation during the writing of a letter on a Saturday morning.

Boy, did my life change that morning.

It is kind of weird. Although I like to entertain the thought that I should do something special on this day I often find out a day or two too late that I just missed it. And today I will lose a big chunk. In New York it is now 45 minutes after midnight but after the landing in 40 minutes it will be 12 hours later and well in the afternoon. That means I will be quite jetlagged and not really in a mood to visit a temple or do something else that is reflective and/or esoteric. I got that idea from dr David Serban Schreiber, late author of the book ‘Anti Cancer’. He had his awakening after being confronted with his mortality when he found his own brain tumor. He described how he celebrated that day every year by going to a church or a temple by himself and spent the day in silence. I liked that.

Let’s go to Thailand

Abbot Phra Khru Bah

It feels strange to leave Hong Kong. Yet again I will go to a new country to create a new adventure. I have no clue what will happen. I will miss my luxurious hotel room with over the top service from the student staff and realize there will be many cheap hostels, huts, couches and stretchers ahead of me with it’s own charm. And us usual I have no plan at all, I have not even looked at any map and have no idea if it will be hot, cold, dry or wet. But in my mind two things are different: I had a valid excuse this time (I was busy) and I don’t feel guilty or scared anymore. I remember how stupid I felt when I found out after arriving in Israel that there were no buses to from Jordan to Lebanon. This time I don’t mind: I am sure I will improvise something and something good will come out of it.

The Chinese pain

Chinese faces

One of the really cool things of giving the type of workshops that I give in different countries is that it reveals the cultural aspect of the personality structure. Common factors, traditions and beliefs in a country or region leave similar marks on the souls that grow up there. Different things are valued in different countries and communities causing different aspects to be suppressed.

Because I was spending most of my time with Dutch expats I didn’t get a close look at the Chinese. But that changed this week. Of course I could observe them in the public domain but it is obviously different to interact closely with people than observe from a distance.

Reflections on success from the Ocean View Room

The T Hotel - ocean View Room

There is something fascinating about this city. I feel I could be successful here. If I would stay a little bit longer I think my client base would grow pretty fast. This is not just because I gave a couple of good workshops, it is also the energy of the city.

Yesterday I attended an event organized by the Dutch Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong. There were many Dutch people and by now I know a handful. It was interesting to see how fast connections were made and how connections lead to immediate action. One guy would say to other: “I did a workshop with him. It was super cool! You MUST do it too!” and the other guy says “ok” and he pulls out his agenda. We will meet on Monday.

(Not) a good teacher

Best latte ever

When I am working and I experience some kind “flow” it almost as if “I” am not the one who is talking. Sometimes “I” am listening to what comes out of my mouth and I think: “hey, this sounds pretty good”. Quite schizophrenic of course but anyway: since a couple of days I have been following up my own advice and guess what? It works!

Today I was in a shopping mall and normally I am not too fond of shopping malls. I feel resistance and the tendency to get the hell out of there. My arguments are that I don’t like the hollowness, the greed, the superficiality, the sameness, the consumerism and the overwhelming amount of choice. It is not a good place for such a spiritual and sensitive being like me, you know. But today I actually tried my own recipe: when I felt the resistance come up I straightened my back, took a couple of gentle breaths and pulled my shoulders a fraction back. And my experience changed!

The fear of death

Letting go

Let me see. Is there more I have to say about death and dying? This is what comes up now: I really believe we don’t have to fear death. But I do, just like all the other humans (a very small number of enlightened beings excluded perhaps). Our fear of death translates into all the other fears we experience. Because we are afraid to die we are afraid of change. We cherish a naïve belief that if we just make sure that every thing stays the same death won’t come. In a way quite innocent: we are still the child that thinks he becomes invisible if he puts his hands before his eyes.

We know that many of our fears are so-called irrational. This is if we acknowledge them. But since we also have a fear of acknowledging our fears we keep many fears hidden from ourselves. Basically, we are all cowards. We don’t have the courage to admit that we are afraid. So we blame circumstances, diverting the attention away from fear.

Preparing for dying

Dying - Alex Grey

We don’t control when we are born, we don’t control where and who our parents are and we don’t control when we die. The only thing we can have some sort of influence on is our relationship with life, with the present moment.

The sad and painful incidents and accidents that happened to my friends can also serve as a reminder of the preciousness and mysteriousness of life. We come and we go. Death is inevitable and we better be prepared. I think this makes sense but in reality most human beings are trying to deny or even defeat death.

Remembering The Wayfinder

James Baye

I received the news of the death of James Baye. We first met in November 2006 in Salt Lake City. We were both attending the International Big Mind Conference, an intensive month long training under the guidance of Genpo Roshi and Diane Hamilton. I liked him. He was smart, friendly, devoted and funny. But what really struck me was that he told me, literally and straight to my face: “I like you”. I think that it was the first time I heard somebody saying that to me.

James never came back from a small solo retreat he planned for himself. A year ago his father died and he went into nature to commemorate that. He wanted to be alone with his thoughts, memories and the elements, I guess. According to the report his girlfriend received from the Rangers who found him he slipped from a rock during a full moon hike and hit his chest