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Choosing the right moment

There is a saying among the ancient Buddhist and Taoist sages that impermanence is a fact of life and most suffering is caused by attachment to that which has gone and is no more.

Yet, the association with change is especially difficult with most people because we are creatures of habit and the dark unknown is perceived as threatening.

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Much of it can be attributed to modern man’s disconnect from nature, which is seen as an unpredictable threat.

Especially in the ancient Buddhist and Taoist tradition, the philosophy is all about yielding to the laws of nature rather than opposing and conquering it.

Political and military leaders of ancient China were very careful in choosing the right moment for any important decision. The Book of Wisdom, the I Ching, was consulted regularly, with its origins going back to mythical antiquity.

The I Ching, gained popularity in the West when the famous Swiss psychologist C.G. Jung revealed that he regularly consulted it after it was translated into German from the Chinese by his friend Richard Wilhelm in 1924.

Also known as the Book of Change, the I Ching, picks up on the wisdom of ancient man who saw nature as a teacher.  Like a farmer choosing the right moment of the season to plant the seeds, it is crucial to find “synchronicity” with the laws of the universe.

Rooted deep within the teaching of the I Ching is the philosphy of the Five Elements. Wood is associated with spring, preparing the ground for the planting of the seeds, Fire or summer is the time of growth, action and moving forward. Late summer or Earth is the time for harvesting and  storing the crops for winter. Metal is autumn when it is time to wind down, to close the shutters and withdraw. Water is winter, a time to rest, recuperate and build up energy for the next season.

The over-exploitation of nature – too much fire – eventually leads to the exhaustion and depletion of all resources.  In all of our modern economic and political system there appears to be an imbalance in the sprint and recovery cycle. Its boom and then bust.  The same applies to the average working day. Its a myth that any human being can work effectively and without a break for eight or nine hours. Concentration and performance levels already start dropping significantly after 90 minutes.

Looking at a typical daily work routine we have a similar Five Element cycle. The early part of the day is when we have most energy. Its Wood and Fire. This is the part of day you would want to address your most important tasks. Early afternoons after lunch (Earth) is when we start losing concentration and energy. Its the ideal time for a recuperation or a power-nap. (Metal and Water) so that we can move into a new cycle as we enter  late afternoon and early evening.  You won’t be very effective, if you force yourself into doing an important task when body and mind are demanding a recuperation cycle.
Reino Gevers – Author, Mentor and Consultant

https://www.reinogevers.com

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Walls again?

I was one of the fortunate people to have witnessed the fall of the iron curtain when the wall came down between East and West Germany in 1989 and some months later saw the abolishing of apartheid in South Africa and the release of Nelson Mandela.

It was an epic and optimistic time in history when the “isms” of ideology seemed history. We seemed on the verge of creating a new world order of peace and a common humanity sharing the values of tolerance beyond ethnic and national boundaries.

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Photo by Patrick Tomasso on Unsplash

The current political narrative however seems a gigantic step backward with nations walling themselves off and politicians running a rhetoric that reminds dangerously of the 1930s when minorities like the Jews were blamed for all the economic ills. And, we only know too well where that led to.

For too long have we been complacent, enjoying one of the most prosperous and peaceful periods in human history.  There have been wars and there are still wars going on but its nothing compared to the two world wars, and the civil wars and religious conflicts of the dark Middle Ages that wrought havoc in Europe.

What transpires in the outer world is very much a reflection of the collective unconscious mind. We are at the moment at the crossroads where on the one side we have the future-orientated globally thinking, broad-minded part of society espousing  mutual tolerance of diverse races, cultures and religions.

On the other side is the backward orientated “me-and-my-nation first” culture of bigots and nationalists, who have not understood that the very basis of our current prosperity is rooted in close trade and cooperation between nations. The losers of globalization are told their jobs have been taken by immigrants.  The truth is that robotics and technology has been responsible for job losses. There is a perceived feeling of loss of culture and identity, interestingly enough often in areas that hardly have any foreigners.

Culture and identity is never static and always in flux . We pick up food, music, and clothing habits from many cultures. Even the major religions have integrated a mix of different beliefs and traditions.

Building walls is not the answer. The real challenge is to confront the inner walls built with the bricks of fear, the very distorted and colored perspective of the past and underlying prejudice.
Reino Gevers – Author, Mentor and Consultant

https://www.reinogevers.com

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Dragon from the underground

While much of North America is experiencing Arctic temperatures we here on the island of Majorca are seeing the valleys below the Tramuntana mountains covered in the “snow”  of blooming almond trees that signal the  first signs of spring.

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Chinese mythology compares spring to a gigantic dragon rising from the depths of the underground. It is symbolic of the powerful earth energy that rises from deep below, expanding and finding space to express its true beauty and power.

The Majorcan legend tells us that a king brought his beloved to the island from a snowy country. Problem was that the poor lady got very homesick, missing the snow this time of the year.  So the king went about planting almond trees all over the island that indeed look like the valleys are covered in snow when they start blooming in February.

We can learn so much from nature if we really observe and hear her whisper.  The Chinese teaching of the Five Elements, deeply rooted in Daoist philosophy, is all about the yielding to nature, and finding the right time and place for every action.

Spring is the time of year when energies are expanding, and action is called for. Any vision or dream will remain a dream if we don’t take concrete action. If we want a harvest we need to prepare the soil and plant the seeds.

In the cycle of the elements, Spring is associated with the element of wood, like a tree sucking up the juices from the roots deep below, expanding and feeding the sprouting blossoms and leaves.

If we want to become what we are destined to become, we need to have that room and space to expand. All too often the voices of parents, friends, teachers and family members want to push us into a direction that might fulfill society’s image of what success is, but not what intuition and heart desire are yearning for.

Spring is therefore a good time of the year to do check list on whether you are being true to yourself.  Look into the mirror and ask yourself:

  • Am I taking daily action, even  with small things to pursue my dream?
  • Do I have a support group of friends and family positively empowering me?
  • Am I being distracted by other things such as a job that is taking so much energy from my life that I don’t have any energy left for anything else?

Taming the dragon is about harnessing its power in moving forward in the expression of our true and unique individuality.

Reino Gevers – Author, Mentor and Consultant

https://www.reinogevers.com

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Yielding to Nature

Our ancestors and the ancient tribes were firmly entrenched in the philosophy of the yielding to the forces of nature as opposed to the modern mindset of conquering and extracting from the earth.

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On some of my lengthy hikes on the Camino in Spain, the routes inevitably take you along busy country roads. Tons of rubbish including plastic bags, tin cans, plastic bottles and cigarette butts are carelessly thrown out of car windows by passing motorists.

It has a devastating effect on other living beings. I’ve seen cows and goats munch plastic bags and hedgehogs trapped in rubbish. More disturbingly sacred crosses and way markers are defaced by graffiti.

Much can be attributed to the disconnect of modern man to his natural surroundings. Nature is a manifestation of God and not without reason have the wise teachers of old described time spent in nature as our best healer.

Any person who has spent alone time in the African bush or hiked alone for hours in pristine nature will soon become aware of the awesome marvel of creation and the inter-connectedness of all living beings. God can be seen live working in slow motion.

Humanity will only survive when we recognize that the sacred within is also the sacred without.

For centuries Christianity has had a false understanding of man’s role in nature based on misinterpretation of the old testament of the bible in Genesis 1:28 in which man is given the cultural mandate to subdue and rule over the earth:

“And God blessed them, and God said unto them, be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that (Heb. creepeth)  moveth upon the earth.”

Especially the translations of “subdue” and “dominion” from the Hebrew have different meanings. Rather than exploitation and domination the call to humanity by God is like that to a king to take care of the weak and poor in his kingdom. Man is called to preserve the natural beauty of the environment entrusted to him and to restore those places that have been harshly affected by force and hardness of rule.

The lost gospel of St. Thomas, that was discovered in Egypt in the 1940s, has a far more mystical interpretation of many of the biblical interpretations. Rather waiting for the Second Coming of the Christ, the lesson espoused here is all about nurturing and discovering the Christ Within−closely resembling what is described in Buddhism as discovering the Buddha Nature.

The Medieval interpretation of Nature was that of a harsh alien environment, that needed to be conquered. Paradise and a life of bliss could only be expected after death and resurrection.

In contrast the eastern Daoist tradition is all about the yielding to the laws of nature. The philosophy of the Five Elements in essence is about the right timing in accordance with the laws of nature. The harmony of objects and things in Feng Shui, the cultivation of the life-force energy of Chi in the body with nutrition, Qi Gong and Tai Chi and the ancient Book of Wisdom, the I Qing, all are built on the foundations of the Elements.

Likewise the Greek, Roman and Medieval cultures placed great emphasis on building their temples and cities in harmony with the natural environment. These cultures were still steeped in myth and legend while the modern world is dominated by the economic.

Modern man’s environment−often in an urban concrete jungle, is very much a contributing factor to the alienation from nature and the loss of soul purpose. It is beginning to change. As humanity moves to a raised consciousness we rediscover old teachings that were anything but primitive.

Reino Gevers – Author, Mentor and Consultant

https://www.reinogevers.com

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Leaving the comfort zone

A few days into the New Year it appears that we are on the threshold of some major economic and political changes.  A downturn is long overdue given a cycle of uninterrupted growth for almost a decade. A continued trajectory upward defies the law of nature but most of us continue to believe that there are exceptions.

In making contingency plans, you won’t be caught by surprise. Those who choose the path of safety and comfort will fail to see the thunder storms of change on the horizon and take action only when its too late. It is the unwritten code of all life form.

An organism has the flexibility to adapt to changes in its habitat, changing its response or moving to a different environment. The species that fails to adapt to the continuous changes of the wheel of life will inevitably be doomed.

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Photo by Maik Fischer on Unsplash

The natural response of most humans in an economic environment of major change is to go into blaming mode: Its always the fault of the management, the government, foreigners or other external factors, surrendering themselves to a life of misery of what was and could have been.

But it’s the fear of the unknown that prevents most people from taking action when the writing is all over the wall.

Life appears easy in the comfort zone but a comfort zone can get very uncomfortable. Expectations are in line with what is expected. You are on automatic mode. You have the skill set on what needs to be done. But there is no magic left in the air. Staying in the treadmill of the routine is the reason why so many people lose their drive and enthusiasm.

We humans are creatures of habit and we need to train ourselves to remain adaptable to the cues of change that the universe is constantly sending us. We learn when we encounter new experience and that’s part of the magic in becoming our true self.

Be brave and adventurous. Try some New Year resolutions:

Take a path you’ve never walked before or go to places you’ve never been to. Learn a new craft, language or hobby. Meet new people that help move you out of the comfort zone. Try a different restaurant and a different dish. Wear clothing and colors that are different from your standard repertoire.

In becoming more flexible you will have less difficulty adapting to external changes that are out of your control.

Reino Gevers – Author, Mentor and Consultant

https://www.reinogevers.com

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When is enough, enough

Happiness is a state of “Being” and not something to be achieved. Yet, we are bombarded daily with subliminal messages and images that feed our mind with the toxic message that one day you will be happy if you get that salary raise, can afford that house or buy that car.

Taking time for inner reflection, a retreat or pilgrimage walk puts things into perspective.

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The “things” we were chasing in the daily rut become irrelevant. Yes, we need to be able to provide for basic needs like shelter, food and clothing. But most of the bigger things our mind is preoccupied with are not that important in the bigger picture when we refocus on soul purpose and meaning.

In our modern world of digital distraction, we are constantly being pulled away from the task at hand. Multi-tasking is expected and common in most work places. Psychologists have found that distraction is a major cause of unhappiness.

On average we have about 60,000 different thoughts a day with the mind constantly  jumping from one thing to the next.

Psychologists at Harvard University conducted a study with 2,250 volunteers, monitoring their thoughts and feelings, to find out how often they were focused on what they were doing, and what made them most happy.

More than half the time people’s minds were wandering to other things. The researchers concluded that reminiscing, thinking ahead or daydreaming tends to make people more miserable, even when they are thinking about something pleasant.

Matthew Killingsworth, a doctoral student in psychology and lead author of the study, wrote in the Journal “Science”:

“A human mind is a wandering mind and a wandering mind is an unhappy mind. The ability to think about what is not happening is a cognitive achievement that comes at an emotional cost.”

Training the mind to be fully in the present moment is practice, much like starting a physical exercise routine. You become better at it the more you practice.

Mindful walking or treading the ground softly is one method. Slow down your walking to your breathing rhythm, lifting a foot with an in-breath and placing in on the ground with an out-breath.

Reino Gevers – Author, Mentor and Consultant

https://www.reinogevers.com

     

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Thought control? Hope springs

The Trump administration released the dire warning of its own climate scientists from 13 agencies during Thanksgiving, hoping it would be buried at a time when most people in the US are spending time with their families and eating Turkey.

Trump told reporters that he did not believe the study from the 300 climate experts after reading “some” of their conclusions. But  instead of hiding the bad news, Trump succeeded in really focusing attention on the matter.

At about the same time the Brazilian government published data telling us that deforestation in the Amazon rain forest had jumped to its worst rate in a decade. The New York Times also published an in-depth report on how fast the rain forests in Asia are disappearing to fulfill an insatiable demand for palm oil.

A huge consensus of the world’s best climate scientists have been telling us for years that we have a serious problem and that the earth will become uninhabitable for humans in half a century if humanity does not gets its act together in the next few years in doing something about climate change.

The climate scientists are telling us that limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels is essential. Planting more trees, and keeping existing trees in the ground is essential if we want to meet that goal.

Only a small group of pseudo-scientists – nearly all of them funded by the fossil fuel industry- are in denial and pumping us with “thought control” fake news. It is much the same scenario that the world saw in the early 1960s when the tobacco industry paid “researchers” to deny the overwhelming evidence that smoking caused cancer. I don’t know how these people sleep at night or whether they really believe their own lies.

The danger is that when we hear all this bad news, it makes us fall into a paralytic state of in-action. What the anti-environmentalist governments in Brazil and the U.S. do is out of our control. The Amazon or Borneo is far away. We aren’t inhaling – yet – the smoke from all the burning forests.

Fact is that in our little worlds we can all do something. Here are only a few suggestions:

  • Each time we pick up a shampoo or cosmetic item in the supermarket we can check whether it contains palm oil.
  • Refuse to buy products equity or stock from agro-companies that are involved in deforestation. Check for the FSC label on sustainable forestry.
  • A vegan diet and food from the local organic farmer leaves the smallest carbon footprint. Mass animal production farms are dependent on monoculture farming that is destroying biodiversity.  For me personally a mainly vegetarian diet with a little organic meat every now and then is the best option.

Amid all the bad news, hope springs that we might after all get this climate issue solved if we really supported some very innovative ideas out there:

  • Dr. David Vaughan is a scientist who has achieved a breakthrough technology in bringing coral reefs back to life by making them grow up to 40 times faster than in the wild. Coral reefs are key to the ocean ecosystem and are major carbon sinks.
  •  Creating green roofs on skyscrapers in the major cities of the world could have a really positive effect in changing the micro-climate in urban areas and reducing carbon dioxide emissions.
  • Vertical farming in skyscrapers is a very effective way of providing fresh organic produce in cities, requiring much less land than conventional farming that is the second-largest emitter of carbon dioxide after the energy sector.  The Swedish company Plantagon is working on making a first prototype by constructing a 16-story building called The World Food Building that could serve as an international model for industrial urban farming.

Reino Gevers – Author, Mentor and Consultant

https://www.reinogevers.com

     

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