I am a rich man

Workshop Beirut III

Today is my last day in Iraq. Tomorrow I will fly to Istanbul, Inshallah. Let’s hope the roads are open and that I get on the plane without too much hassle. There is a stamp missing in my passport, I was unable to obtain it because of the closing of the administrative offices during the summit.

I feel like looking back. I turned 40 on the 24th of November and my original plan was to leave the 25th. I missed that deadline and made the next one: 14th of January. I am now on the road for 2,5 months. I visited Israel, Lebanon and Iraq with short transitional stops in Greece, Jordan and Egypt. In some way I feel that I didn’t go out enough, I didn’t make an effort to see the highlights of the country. It was quite hard to eat healthy and to get enough exercise. There were expectations not met and ideas that needed to be adjusted. Before I left I was afraid of being so exposed and at the same time creating the circumstances to maximize that exposure. I feared to be overwhelmed by media attention and hordes of visitors. Also I envisioned the possibility that I would attract so many Skype clients that I would have no time to leave my hotel but would create a generous income. This did not happen. Yet. But that doesn’t mean I am disappointed. Not at all.
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A sad day with silver lining

Salah and Atalwin doing something traditional

He shared another beautiful thing, insightful for me. He told me how important he feels a woman is. In Islamic tradition the genders are very separated. So as a man your wife is the only source of feminine energy and vice versa. I realized the same thing during the workshop. After a sharing exercise that gives people a strong experience of connection another participant asked me in disbelief “are we equal?” and I asked him “what does your heart tell you?” He checked in with himself and said, “yes, we are equal” It was an extremely powerful moment because the answer came out of the mouth of a devote Muslim whose tradition learned him that women are inferior. In that moment I myself saw how extremely important equality is for me. I don’t like my woman to be equal; I need her to be equal to balance me. Today my iraqi friend agreed with me.

Meeting some Iraqi tradition

Noble Leaders of Iraq

Somewhere in the beginning of the course I had expressed my sadness about the loss of my relationship. Two days later I am in the car with Dr. Chudr and Dr. Salah. Dr. Chudr is driving us to a restaurant where we will have lunch. At some point he asks me: “Can I ask you a personal question?. I say: “Yes”. Then he says: “What is a girlfriend?” Now I have been asked often in my life if I had a girlfriend or what is the name of my girlfriend. But this was a question I had never answered before. I made me realize that we had very different paradigms wherein we lived our lives.

Maybe I am a good guy

Seconds after car bomb explosion on Tahir Square

In the morning we start with meditation. Every morning when I open up I feel a wave of deep sadness going through my system. It is the moment where I remember that there is nobody waiting for me anymore and I feel utterly alone around the Arabic voices. But now, as I type this, I realize that when you are thrown in front of a group that doesn’t speak your language without one second of preparation while you are heartbroken, during a war and right after a car bomb exploded near you and you still do a good job helping people open their hearts, you can’t be that bad. Maybe it is time to get rid of my beliefs around feeling inadequate and incompetent.

Stick to the basics

Soldiers on the sofa

I had scheduled a Skype meeting with a friend who I met in Israel who works as a healer. I thought I needed healing. He advised me to let her know how I feel. Now this was an obvious one. The underlying advice was actually quite a good one: he told me that every time he mixed the roles of teacher and boyfriend he landed on his ass. He had learned that the best way to prevent that was to just express his feelings. Nothing more, nothing less.

It is good to hear that out of somebody else’s mouth now and then. I did what he told me to do and I wrote an email. It was a rather emotional expedition. But I blurted everything out and I feel I was very honest. It is very difficult to open up to all the fears and desires when I feel that more rejection is an option but it did make me feel better. I didn’t want to email at first because I wanted to respect her but I realized that not telling her directly how I feel but writing about it here was kind of indirect. Also not writing her ‘out of respect’ is assuming I know what is best but actually just a strategy to not have to open up.



What do I want to write about? What is present for me?

I just came from my meditation cushion. Outside the wind is howling over Bagdad, making the sky white. Inside I feel numb, defeated, forgiving and consoling. I went through a complete cycle this morning: woke up, felt ok, got out of bed, became a zombie, zombied to breakfast, went back to my room, cried, showered, wanted to cry more but worked out in my room instead, had many thoughts, let them go, meditated, opened up, felt endless love and compassion, felt trust and had a question. Aha, that is my topic of today.


Crushed Grapes by Marianne Perdomo

It is so hard for me to comprehend that her feelings changed so quickly and so radical. And it is so painful to accept that she came to the conclusion that the best, most healing thing for her to do is to cut all ties with me. It breaks my heart.

It is my worst nightmare: that somebody I love wakes up and sees that loving me is a mistake and that appropriate action needs to be taken. That she sees that it is in her best interest to get the hell out of there.

Iraqi’s love their children too

Smiling at the security

What could I say? His words send chills down my spine. There are 115.471 Iraqi civilians killed (and counting) because George Bush lied to the world that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. This number is just the civilians. Of course many, many more Iraqi soldiers had to be killed, men who were fathers, sons and husbands too, but killing soldiers is completely justified. I mean, if you can’t kill foreign soldiers anymore, what is the fun of having an army? I feel ashamed to be from a country that condoned that. How would it feel to live under a dictatorship and then have the most powerful country in the world come slaughter you? When America decides to liberate you from the dictator it used to support, you can be sure that no power in the world will be able to stop the killing. You are completely defenseless.

Arriving in Iraq

No "others" on Bagdad airport

The plan is to train two groups of young Iraqi’s. There will be 20 participants per group. We will train each group for 5 days.

The challenge is so big that it overwhelms me. I have no clue how to work with people who are separated from me by language, tradition and religion. I have no clue how to bring them together, how to be able to hear them and how to give them the feeling they are heard. But I will try and they will notice that I am trying and every centimeter of terrain that we cover is gain.

For a moment I felt completely vulnerable and surrendered to destiny. I messaged a friend and I broke down. I didn’t feel received so I fell deeper. And then I worked myself through. I should not seek for comfort, support or approval outside myself. I am alone but I am not.