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Day One on the Camino

Today is my first day as a volunteer in a pilgrim’s hostel on the famous Spanish pilgrimage route – the Camino de Santiago.

Pilgrims have walked this path for centuries. In modern times its being rediscovered by thousands of people as a modern-day route to self-discovery.

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Pilgrims checking out the next day’s route in the pilgrim’s hostel, or albergue, in the town of Najera on the Camino Frances

Giving back to the Camino what the Camino has given to me over the years is an enormous privilege.

I arrived in Najera, northwestern Spain, in the valley known for its famous Rioja wines last night. As a volunteer hospitalero I am one of four people who serve in a pilgrims’ hostel for two weeks. We register the arriving pilgrims who come from places as far as South Korea, Colombia, Japan, Canada, Australia, and Kazakhstan. In the mornings we clean the rooms, toilets and prepare the hostel for the next group of pilgrims.

Every pilgrim has a story

Every pilgrim comes with a story and is happy to share some experience while on the way. Last night Darko from Croatia told me how he met a Swedish couple celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary walking the Camino. They were sitting on a bench looking at the vineyards in the valley below. “So has someone hugged you today, ” he asked. “No, they replied. You are the first one who asks.”

“Well, then can I give you a hug then?” he responded to the beaming couple.

My fellow volunteers are from France, Argentina and Spain. We converse in a mixture of pigeon Spanish and French. It always works out. All of us have walked the Camino several times and it doesn’t need much vocabulary to understand what needs to be done.

Reino Gevers – Author, Mentor and Consultant

https://www.reinogevers.com

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Where is your attention?

harmony

by Reino Gevers

When you practise the martial art of “taiji push hands” you instantly become aware when your mind is wandering elsewhere. As soon as your attention slips your opponent has easy play in finding the gap and pushing you over. Its all about:

Where your attention goes your energy goes.

In our connected world the power of distraction lurks everywhere. Our mind becomes like a butterfly constantly fluttering from one short attention span to the next. We search for something on google and suddenly a pop-up diverts our attention elsewhere and before we know it, we have spent hours surfing meaninglessly on the Internet.

Mass media is brainwashing us 24-7 with drama and catastrophes. The objective is to shock and awe. The result: more clicks, more viewers, a higher circulation and more advertising revenue. Good news is no news. I know what I’m talking about because I worked in the news industry for more than 26 years. Don’t get me wrong. Its not about sticking your head in the sand and avoiding the world’s problems. Its the dosage of negativity in relation to positivity.

Human nature has a habit of looking first on what is bad than on what is wonderful and on what we can be grateful for in our lives. If your mind is filled with thoughts on wars, riots, crime, the antics of the rich and famous and all the other shadow sides of humanity your subconscious mind will begin to confirm all this as the reality of existence. The end result is often depression and a sense of hopelessness. Moreover, negativity hurts us on the physical level, weakening our immune system and causing many of our modern day plagues such as cardiovascular disease and cancer.

The truth is that we live in a world of polarity – of yin and yang. For every bad event being flashed across the globe you can be sure there is another positive thing happening at the same time. Its just not receiving our attention. There is so much distraction, brainwashing and mind control from external forces that we spend less and less time in reflecting on what is happening to us. The end result is living a life behind a veil of negativity and emptyness.

You have the power! Draw your boundary on what you want inside your “room” and what needs to stay out:

  • By anchoring yourself with meditation you are extracting yourself from distraction. Meditation is a powerful tool in helping you perceive that inner voice that keeps you connected to your Soul Path.
  • As you meditate you will observe your thoughts. Are they mostly of a positive or negative nature?
  • Are the people you surround yourself with kind and compassionate? Do they exude positive vibes or are they abusing you as a refuse bucket in venting all their anger and frustration? Remember you are the sum of the people you surround yourself with.
  • How much time are you spending in nature? Are you exercising enough? Taking a walk in nature, doing yoga or taiji,  will hugely improve your mood and help you realign.
  • Are you nourishing your body and mind with healthy foods and liquids?

In training your awareness by doing the right things every day, of every week of every month and of every year you will be aligned and become immune to energy-sucking distractions.

By Reino Gevers – Health Mentor for Leaders and Achievers

http://www.reinogevers.com

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Lessons learned on the Camino

Why walk several hundred kilometres on a path in Spain with a back pack? For an outsider it seems difficult to understand why thousands of people from all walks of life are resdiscovering this ancient pilgrimage route as a personal journey of self-discovery.

After walking the Camino Primitivo from Oviedo to Finisterre this year I would like to share some of the insights that might motivate you to put the Camino on your bucket list. First and foremost I see a walk on the Camino as a fast-track opportunity of learning many of life’s important lessons:

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  • Walking alone for hours a day in nature is the perfect opportunity for self reflection and to disengage from daily distractions that under normal circumstances prevent you from looking deep inside of you. You will go into sync with your own rhythm at a deeper level. What thoughts, fears, emotions are you dealing with at this moment in time?img_3781
  • Walking with a back pack forces you to slow down. If you go too fast you will lose your way and you will take much longer to get to your destination.You might even have to end your journey because your feet, back and knees have been over-exerted.
  • If you see it as a mere physical exercise of doing so many kilometres each day and reaching a certain destination by a certain time, you won’t see and discover any of the miracles around you. Its the difference between head-mind and heart-mind.
  • Every day is walking into an unknown territory. You don’t know what will come around the next bend and what you will have to deal with. The weather sometimes changes every hour and you just have to deal with the situation that is at hand and that you don’t have any control over.
  • There are Highs- and Lows every day in life. You just have to accept this as a natural order of ebb and flow. Attachment to either is a cause of unhappiness.
  • The more you carry with you the harder your walk. Free yourself of the clutter that you don’t really need. Focus on the essentials.
  • If you get lost don’t hesitate to ask for help. Most people are only too willing to be of assistance.
  • Be humble and the Path will lead you.

Last but not least: Why are you here? What is your soul purpose and what are you doing for the rest of the days in your life that is of service to the bigger WHOLE? You have all the time in the world and yet no time to lose!

Reino Gevers – coach, trainer, author

http://www.reinogevers.com

 

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Who are you allowing into your home?

Business person looking at wall with light tunnel opening

There is a saying that it takes a village to raise a child. “Ubuntu” is an ancient African term meaning  ‘humanity to others’ because it is those “others” who have made you into that individual who you are.

It means the persons you surround yourself with make you into the person who you are. The village, the individual and the tribe are ONE. So it is worth reflecting on who those five people are who you are letting into your “house.”

Who is supporting and uplifting you?

It will determine how upbeat, optimistic, healthy and successful you are. Are you surrounded by people who are supportive of you on your soul path or do you have people around you who use every opportunity to pull you down?

It is worth reflecting every now and then on those five people who really appreciate and serve you. As you disassociate and realign yourself you will inevitably be confronted by push back.

Is your guest trampling all over your carpet?

So how do I determine who is good for me and who isn’t?  How do I know that the person I let into my home is not going to “trample over my clean white carpet with dirty feet?”

And, it’s basically quite simple:

  • Do you constantly feel drained and emotionally exhausted after spending time with a particular person or a group of people?
  • Have you had this feeling for some time that a relationship is one-sided?
  • Are your conversations with that person or persons centered mainly around negative issues?

If so, it is high time to start disassociating yourself and to move on.

Surround people who emanate kindness and good energy

Open yourself to those people, who, when entering a room, emanate an aura of good energy. I admit those people are few and far between. Most of us are so preoccupied with our own baggage and issues that we no longer notice the true nature of the people around us. True, we cannot always be upbeat. That is not what life is about. Its how we deal on a day to day basis with our ups and downs in the knowledge that nothing stays permanent.

Life is impermanent

All great teachers of Mysticism will tell you that the art of happiness is the ability and wisdom to accept life’s preciousness in the here and now. Impermanence is one of life’s great lessons. Ask anyone who has suddenly lost a loved one, gone through a traumatic divorce or been confronted with a life-changing situation, like losing all one’s savings on the stock market.

The only truth is that life is a constant flow of yin and yang, birth and death, light and shadow, good and evil, expansion and withdrawal. Sorrow, grief, and despair are as much part of life as happiness, joy and exultation or loss and abundance. The discipline of the inner mind and thought process by means of meditation, the body arts or other rituals will help us deal with this ebb and flow.

What we can control is the practice of mind-setting, the choice of the people we surround ourselves with and who we invite into “our holy chambers.”

Reino Gevers – Author, Mentor, and Consultant

(Read more on this topic in my new book “Deep Walking for Body Mind and Soul” Ebook scheduled for publication by Morgan James in New York on May 5th, 2020. Printed edition scheduled for the major outlets in August 2020)

https://www.reinogevers.com

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Are you into conspiracy theory?

A broad cross-section of people I have come across lately believe in conspiracy theories.  The argument mostly goes like this:  The world is being ruled by a small group of people who decide and control most of the things that happen in the world today from political decision-making to technological invention.

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Conspiracy theorists seem to have moved from the fringe to the mainstream.  Here is the top 10 list of conspiracy theories compiled by Time magazine:

Some conspiracy theories in history have in fact been proven true, like the Nixon cover-up in the Watergate affair, the Iran-Contra affair and the Libyan involvement in the terror attack on the Pan Am Flight 103 in December 1988.  One of the most absurd allegations during  South Africa’s apartheid era also turned out to be true many years later.  Research was actually being conducted on a virus that would only kill the blacks.

But there is a need to be a bit more  sceptical when it comes to some of the conspiracy theories out there. The common thread seems to be to find a way to explain in simplistic terms many of the events happening in a world of growing complexity. A lot of people have the tendency to form an opinion and then verifying what they believe with some information on the Internet. On closer scrutiny the article or website turns out to be a badly written diatribe of a single opinion without any valid sourcing or solid evidence

Take the story on the so-called “fake moon landing”. I cannot possibly imagine thousands of people working on such a complex space project over many years and all of them keeping a “fake made in a Disney film studio” a secret for decades. The world is so intricate and complex that the truth in the end always comes out. A cover-up, especially if many people are involved, simply doesn’t work. It is a human tendency to tell their family and friends “a secret.” Someone will always spill the beans.

The issue that needs to be addressed is the gullibility with which every half-truth, speculation and downright wacky theory is being claimed as truth while sound investigative journalism, scientific study or a judicial finding is being ignored or slammed as being part of this conspiracy thing. Part of the problem is that established media is not doing its job and has lost credibility by placing emphasis on superficial entertainment instead of being a watchdog on society and itself blasting some of these theories into the world without verifying the facts.  A growing number of people feel alienated in a fast-changing society and are seeking simple answers.

Conspiracy theories first and foremost feed on fear. Here lies the bigger problem. Fear breeds irrationality and a victim mentality. It is just a short step away from blaming a religious or racial minority, the politicians, the media or anyone else for all that is going wrong in the world.  It’s a “cop out” mentality of refusing to stand up and taking responsibility.

We have the freedom of choice on most things that matter. Health and personal happiness is a choice. It is a  choice of what we eat, how we exercise, what we read, what people, family and friends we want to spend our time with and especially what information we are feeding our minds with.

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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: http://goo.gl/N7vhSh

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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Are we all in stress overload?

The fast-paced rhythm of modern life with all its ups and downs, often gives us the feeling that its too much and that we are really stressed-out. Hardly a day goes by at the workplace without people complaining that they have a “stress overload”. But is stress all bad?

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In principle stress the stress reaction in our bodies is part of our survival mechanism that dates back to the dawn of mankind. The early hunter on the plains of Africa meets a predator. A flood of stress hormones such as adrenalin and cortisol are released, causing an increase in blood pressure, the heart to pound faster, muscles to contract . All senses are put on alert. We are focused completely on confronting the danger ahead. “Where is the next tree? Do I run or use all my additional strength to throw my spear at the predator?”

 We might feel the same kind of “rushed” energy and focused attention when we are busy doing something we enjoy. Time seems of no relevance. We are in flow with what we are doing and the additional adrenalin gives us that extra push. This is the “stage fright” that most actors, singers or sports stars go through before giving an immaculate performance.

 The problem starts when stress gets out of control. When our body is more or less permanently flooded with stress hormones. We are practically confronting a predator for many days, weeks and even years. The long-term health effects are disastrous with every system in the body affected from high blood pressure, poor libido and even rewiring of brain functions that can cause severe fear and depression symptoms.

 Its all about finding the right balance between what we call the yin and yang.

 One part of the Taiji body art principles is finding the balance between muscles contracting and expanding, inhaling and exhaling, vertical and horizontal alignment, internal and external flow. These gentle movements are ideally suited to bring stress under control.

 So when do I know that I have too much stress and need to wind down?

 This differs from person to person. What one person might shake off and forget immediately another person might carry around for days severly stressing him/her emotionally – the worst kind of stress. Much is dependent on the personality. Are you an outgoing, joyful person at heart with a big family and support network? Or are you a pessimist. Can you deal with setbacks? How do you catch yourself again? What gives you strength and energy?

 The “collective burnout syndrome” we are seeing around us in essence means that something is out of balance, that there is too much yang – too much physical energy, thoughts, distractions, over indulgence spent on things that are harming us. We need more yin to bring that in balance such as meditation, stillness, the ability to be completely alone with ourselves, the ability to downsize and to abstain – seeing the beauty and abundance in small things. Now we can’t all go and escape into a monastery. We have family and other obligations. The challenge is to find that balance in our everyday lives. Here are just a few ways of getting quick stress relief:

 Get out into nature: Taking a short break for a walk in the park just listening to the birds and awakening the senses to smell, sight and sound will do a lot. Nearly all great teachers, leaders and philosophers from varied cultures and traditions have been strengthened by alone time in nature.

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 Thought control: Most chronic stress comes from an emotional disconnection from the world outside and our own needs. This, scientists have recently discovered, has a lot to do with the effects of stress on the prefrontal cortex of the brain. Taking a different perspective and just accepting that life has ups- and downs will help. Meditation exercises can really help.

 Physical exercise and nutrition: Even mild regular exercise will release pent-up pressure and tension. Reduce your white sugar and salt intake and feed your body with fresh organic foods with lots of Omega 3 and 6 nutrients. See also my blog on foods.

 

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