Monthly Archives: February 2014

Take a Walk, Sure, but Don’t Call It a Break

Walking as one alternative to a sedentary life. Or get a dog to help motivate you for several walks a day 😉

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How wolves change rivers

I saw this amazing video on how the return of wolves in Yellowstone actually sees the entire ecosystem change for the positive, giving life to many different species.

Just a few months ago the first wolves were sighted in our district near Lueneburg, southeast of Hamburg. They have returned for the first time in over 200 years, probably having migrated from Poland or Romania. In the past the Iron Curtain prevented them from crossing. But they were also relentlessly shot by ruthless hunters stuck in “old thinking” that these wonderful animals are a danger to humans.

But even here the wolf is hardly being welcomed. The population is more or less divided 50-50 between eco-friendly “wolf fans” and fearful farmers, dog owners and even parents fearing their children or dogs might be attacked.

Fear of the wolf is deeply ingrained in human nature and almost all the fears are irrational.  Lets look at the facts. During the past 100 years, there have been only two incidents in North America, in 2005 and 2010, where wolves have allegedly killed a human.  The most comprehensive report on wolf attacks ist the  “Linnell-Report” conducted by Norwegian researchers based on data over the past 400 years from North America, Europe and Asia. Between 1950 and the year 2000 there were 59 attacks on humans in Europe from an estimated wolf population of 15.000 (excluding Russia and Belarus) Some 38 of the attacks were from wolves infected with rabies. Five humans actually died in the attacks.

.ImageMy homeland South Africa is still blessed  with regions like the Mkzuzi and Hluhluwe game reserves that are virtually untouched by mankind. When going on a hike with an experienced ranger in these areas you can learn how everything from the Acacia tree to the Rhinoceros are interconnected. Take out one species and the whole system goes into imbalance.  This is why poaching is wreaking such havoc at the heart of Africa.

The principle is that nature always eventually returns to the balanced state of ” interconnectedness”. It is only recently that we have begun to understand that we too as humans cannot separate ourselves from nature.

The huge task of this and coming generations is that we need to find our niche within the system if we want to survive as a species.  I have gone into more detail on this in my book: Yield and Overcome


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The Messenger Is Just as Important as the Message

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City life versus country life. What is better?

For decades now we have seen a global phenomenon. Hundreds of millions of people are deserting the countryside and moving to the big cities. Its time to take stock. Is life really all that much better in the city? Signs are that indeed a growing number of people are moving back to the rural areas, finding that life out in the backwoods is not so bad after all.


 Many young people, fed-up at being unemployed in the big Greek, Spanish or Italian cities are finding contentment by moving to grandparents or long-forgotten aunts and uncles in remote rural villages. There they live easy-going lives cultivating vegetables or picking olives. The trend is catching on elsewhere too.

 Even in the much wealthier Germany a growing number of city-slickers are moving to rural communes based on a sustainable and alternative lifestyle. One such village is Sieben Linden in a remote part of eastern Germany. The 100 adults and 40 children living there are not bound by any religion or ideology. It is a microcosm of different ideas and people with the common cause to leave as small a carbon footprint as possible, experimenting with natural building materials such as clay and hay or cultivating organic vegetables.

 I moved to a mainly farming village, 76 kilometres, southeast of Hamburg some 18 years ago and have never regretted it. I was simply fed-up with the grumpiness, the anonymity, the noise and the stress level in the big city. Some years ago I was shocked to learn that a retired former colleague of mine was found in his Hamburg apartment. He had been lying dead in his armchair for over a year. The janitor only opened the door after neighbour’s complained of a smell in the building during a hot summer!

 You could say that the downside of country life is that everybody is minding everyone else’s business. But is that really bad? If my 93-year-old neighbour fails to appear before her favourite window for a day, sure enough I would have people asking me, whether I had seen Ilse and if she is still OK. Most children still have the decency to greet adults or to ask strangers looking for directions, if they can be of assistance. I can get fresh milk from the local farmer and have a chat about local politics. If I need someone to feed the cats, there is always someone to help, and we do the same. Its a natural give-and-take. Of course there are disputes between neighbours here too. This is not paradise. But it is nothing like the vicious acrimony I’ve seen between neighbours in the city over petty things such parking space.

 Life in a city, especially in Europe, is exorbitantly expensive. I would not even get a small apartment in Hamburg for the price I paid for my big house and property here. Everything from food, garbage collection to water and electricity costs at least a third more. That adds to the stress to earn enough just to get by.  When you are in your early 20s you enjoy the night life, the concerts, the movies and the many other attractions a city has to offer. But the shine wears off. Quality of life cannot be measured only in material terms and an entertainment agenda. This is the illusion of city life. The truth is that most people in the big cities appear to be in a constant rush and are pretty stressed-out, if you ask me. But I would enjoy your opinion on this?Image 




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A theft and lessons to learn

When my wife Alyce called me on the phone after a function last week, I knew from the tone of her voice that something nasty had happened. She was devastated. Her handbag had been stolen.

The small amount of cash in the bag was not the real problem.  But it was rather more the valuables such as her residence permit in Germany, driver’s license, credit cards and the iPhone with all contact addresses – more worrisome the house and car keys

Any crime victim will attest: Apart from “things” stolen, it is the invasiveness of knowing that persons with evil intentions have taken or have access to some of your most personal belongings, that is the real trauma.

After a sleepless night and making the dog sleep in front of the door to keep away potential burglars, we set about assessing the damage. Just changing the house door and car locks would set us back several hundred euros. Worst of all:  Weeks of bureaucratic time and trouble in getting new documents.

“So what’s this teaching us?” “What have we done to deserve this?” “Couldn’t I have been more careful?” were just some of the questions going through Alyces mind. It took some time to realise that what we teach others we also had to learn: Good decisions come only from a calm mind. Nothing happens without a reason.

First thing was to get a new iPhone because Alyce was scheduled to leave for a business trip to London on Sunday. Only when configurating the new phone it dawned on me. The iPhone data was in the cloud so it should be possible to find its location. Sure enough after a few clicks on Google maps, Alyces iPhone was telling me it was about one kilometre from the crime scene where it was stolen.

While I was still telling Alyce not to get her hopes up to high we started searching the area that the map was showing us. “So we just go up there and knock on the house door of the thief to ask for your things back?” I asked sarcastically. “I know its right there. I can feel it. Its just over the fence right over there…” I heard Alyce saying. While googlemaps was just giving us a rough indication, it would be much more difficult to actually find the gadget. But then Alyce did something quite amazing. “I’m just going to go by my gut feeling. I am going right over the fence there to get my things!”

Sure enough a few minutes later, a victorious and beaming Alyce found her bag behind a bush where it had been thrown by the thieves, who had obviously overlooked the iPhone in one of the pockets in their hurry to find money and credit cards. So what did we learn:Image

  • Nothing beats modern technology combined with gut intelligence
  • Shit happens. So what? Don’t get stuck. Move on.
  • Ground yourself. Keep a calm mind. Sleep over it a night and then make whatever decision you need to make.


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8 Ways to Eat More Plants

Health Room Blog

By Luke Jones. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook. 

There are a lot of contradictions in the world of nutrition. Many different experts have many different ideas, and the sheer volume of varying information can be enough to make your head spin if you’re not careful. Hopefully though, there’s one thing we can all agree on:

Whether we’re talking vegan or paleo, high carb or low carb, athletes or the sedentary, healthy or sick:

Everyone could benefit from including lots of whole plant foods in their diet.

There’s a quiet movement happening in the background of our lives. Plant foods are increasingly being recognised for their health benefits, and their role in preventing and even reversing many chronic diseases. People are beginning to wake up and smell the kale.

In terms of micro-nutrients, generally vegetables are the most mineral dense foods available, and fruits are often the most…

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Thoughts of Fast Food Hinder Your Ability to Derive Happiness from Small Pleasures

Its not only unhealthy to the body but also has an effect on our sense of well being

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Precious Silence

We have the great privilege of living out in the country. It’s winter and the time of the year when there are moments of serene silence. Taking our dog Klara for a walk is a real pleasure. Music to my ears is the odd clump of snow falling from a tree branch, the crunchy sound of my boots on the forest path and nothing else. Even the birds have migrated further to warmer southern Europe with a lonely

Robin or sparrow obviously not wanting to spend Imageenergy chirping against the cold.

When on a trip to the big cities the noise level is by contrast all the more startling. It is a scourge of the modern world that there is virtually no place to find solace. The sirens and other road noise is deafening. Any store you might enter will inevitably bombard you with the vibes of aggressive commercial radio stations. Can you think of any airport or public space without exposure from the electronic media?

Our senses have no time for relief. We are bombarded 24-7 with noise that stresses us at a conscious and subconscious level.

Sometimes I have visitors out here in the country who tell me that they cannot stand the silence. It makes them feel lonely. One person I know even needs the TV switched on all night to be able to sleep. Some kids out there are so addicted to their electronic media that they get aggressive if parents ask them to put the stuff away and to “communicate” . There are so many distractions out there, that there is no room left for contemplation. Alone time becomes “torture” in the same way a drug addict suffers withdrawal symptoms.

Noise stresses the brain and the nervous system on many levels, especially the pre-frontal cortex (PFC) that is also responsible for our ability to connect and to feel empathy with others. Noise and stress is in fact making us less human and can exacerbate psychological disorders such as depression. See this research:

The noise pollution caused by human activity is drowning that inner voice of the soul that seeks to tell us what is meaningful in life. Who are we really? What is our destiny at a soul level? Where are we heading in this life?

All the wise teachers throughout the ages recommend taking time out in nature. Natural sounds like bird song, the wind blowing through tree branches, spring water cascading against rock, raindrops falling on dry ground.

Such “time-out”moments can trigger real joy and a feeling of abundance, especially if we are forced to live in a noisy environment out of necessity. It grounds us and makes us connect back to the earth, the elements and our basic needs. One of the body arts that helps us connect with the above and below – of heaven and earth is Taiji. It was developed by Taoist monks in China thousands of years ago who, in observing the natural flow of movement by the animals, began integrating these movements in martial arts. Today more and more people are discovering for themselves these slow-meditative movements as an ideal way of de-stressing and re-connecting with the natural flow of nature.

How change can positively impact our lives

Noise pollution

WHO guidelines on noise levels


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