Tag Archives: mental-health

Building resilience during times of crisis

I’ve just been on my first trip since the lockdown that was imposed in Spain March 14th, walking through an almost empty airport terminal in Palma that would normally be bustling with people during the main summer vacation season.

Different pandemic responses

While in Germany I had the opportunity to speak to people from very different business sectors, and how they are dealing with the pandemic. Germany was one of the few countries that have managed to bring the virus under control with a widespread testing and track and trace system. The death toll has been kept under 10,000 compared to 28,000 in Spain, 35,000 in Italy, and 55,000 in the United Kingdom. Compare this to the United States with more than 130,000 dead!

Germany is a wealthy country with an excellent health care system but almost every business sector is feeling the pinch. The economy is hugely dependent on exports and all the country’s major trading partners have economies in freefall. This means job cutbacks, and less pay for most people.

The US has abdicated leadership 

The pandemic has illustrated vividly how interconnected our world has become. This is no time for insular thinking. The pandemic can only be brought under control by a global, and coordinated response. In the past, the United States has always taken a leadership role in an international crisis. This time around the U.S. administration is dismantling rather than strengthening international institutions like the WHO. It has abdicated leadership and alienated most of its friends and allies.

With many friends and family in the United States, I am very concerned to see how poor leadership, denialism, fanaticism, and political polarization are literally costing the lives of tens of thousands of people. We can only hope and pray that wise leadership will come to the fore.

A time to build body and mind resilience

With cataclysmic external events out of our control disrupting individual lives on so many levels, it is more important than ever to look after your personal physical and mental well-being. Building resilience is key. A resilient mind and body are immune from the blasts of negative distractions.  This is why I’m such a firm believer in taking time out by taking walks in nature to realign with the senses. The blue and green spaces in nature play a crucial part in reducing stress hormones. It even makes a difference when you listen to a tape with the sounds of nature.img_1685

Solutions come at unexpected moments within the stillness and quiet spaces of nature. This is the time for introspection rather than falling into a hectic activity driven by fear of the unknown.
Reino Gevers – Author. Mentor. Speaker

https://www.reinogevers.com

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Heart mind

We, humans, are hard-wired to walk on paths we know.  We choose friends, partners jobs, and geographical locations according to familiar patterns deeply ingrained in our past. When lives are so completely turned upside down by a pandemic the emotional stress is, particularly hard on the heart.

The heart is the “seat of the soul”

The heart is not merely an organ of the cardiovascular system that transports nutrients, oxygen, and hormones throughout the body and removes metabolic waste.  In the spiritual sense, the heart is described as the “seat of the soul.”  It is the first organ that develops in the fetus and is the connection between our physical and non-physical (soul) selves.

Protea

 

Impulses or thoughts flow first from the heart and then to the brain. The brain dissects, rationalizes, and analyzes. The heart is authentic and closest to the true self or soul purpose.

Cardiovascular disease is stress-related

Our body is constantly sending us signals about what we need to hear and work on. The problem is that we are so caught up in the world of distraction that we mostly fail to listen until the body calls a time-out with some illness or malady. It is no surprise that cardiovascular diseases top the list in much of the Western world.

Regaining that connection to the “heart-mind” comes during times of stillness. Becoming still is particularly needed during these times of emotional turmoil fed by the fear monsters.

Toxic emotions, stress, trauma, and procrastination can be transmuted very well with the ancient body arts of tai chi, qi gong, and yoga that were all developed and refined by spiritual masters over many generations. Cutting-edge research from Harvard Medical School supports the long-standing claims that Tai Chi also has a beneficial impact on the health of the heart.

The deep walking experience

Tai Chi is also described as meditation in motion. For me, I have found a combination of Tai Chi and deep walking as particularly beneficial. Many of you might also currently not have the energy to find a good Tai Chi teacher or to attend regular classes. So why not just take a walk in nature. Even if you live in a big city there are places where you can find stillness in green spaces. The green and blue spaces of nature have an immediate positive effect on reducing stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. Deep walking is not simply a hike for exercise purposes. It is finding a connection with your deeper self while walking. If you want to find out more I really recommend reading my new book Deep Walking for Body, Mind and Soul.

Stress starts with a thought

A really simple method of finding a connection to your heart-mind or your intuition is by concentrating on your breathing while you are walking. Stress starts with a thought. That thought is then compounded by follow-up thoughts and you soon find yourself in that stress maelstrom if you don’t consciously put on the brakes.  If you find it difficult you can count your in- and out breaths, as you are walking.  It is also helpful to focus the mind on a natural sound such as a bird singing or the distant bleating of a sheep.

The events of the past few weeks are teaching us more than ever to look after our mental and physical well-being. It is all about creating resilience and having the energy for the good times that will again come.

Reino Gevers – Author. Mentor. Speaker

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Be kind to yourself

A key measurement of your stress-coping strategy or resilience level during times of crisis is how kind you are to yourself. It is an ancient wisdom that is often confused with narcissism and vanity.

In our performance-driven society success is mostly defined in material terms. Those personalities held up as high-flying examples in the yellow press are often deeply-flawed and unhappy characters.

Are you living your own life or the life of another?

Yet so many people consume every snippet of information from other people’s lives, forgetting to live their own life.

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Being kind to yourself is accepting yourself with all your negative and positive traits. Much of the high expectations you put onto yourself in “wanting to be perfect” stems from a childhood where parents with overly high expectations gave love in return for “good behavior”.

If you have the feeling that “nobody loves me” then start loving yourself.  A healing mantra could be: “I love and accept myself the way I am.” Whisper or say it aloud to yourself whenever you have self-doubts and feelings of recrimination toward yourself.

The high-achieving perfectionist waiting for a reward

Among the various types of “burnout” personalities is the high-achieving perfectionist. There is an almost obsessive drive to achieve a goal. But when that goal is achieved there is a general feeling of emptiness. It is never enough and the subconscious wish for the “reward” never comes. It can eventually lead to complete mental and physical exhaustion.

A simple exercise to boost your self-worth

One of the simplest exercises in being kind to yourself is the gratitude ritual. It is the first thing you can do after getting up in the morning: Find just three things that you can be grateful for from the events of the past 24 hours.

This immediately leads to an emotional shift. There will always be humans in your vicinity who will be better off and worse off than you. It is just a fact of life.

The difference between self-love and narcissism

But what is the difference between self-love, kindness, and compassion towards yourself and narcissism?  Narcissists primarily revolve around their own needs and have an inflated sense of their own importance. They are in constant need of attention and validation from the world around them but often themselves completely lack compassion. Social media has unfortunately provided a perfect platform for this type of personality disorder.

Joy and grief are part of the human condition

The resilient personality is well aware that joy and grief, abundance, and loss are part of the human conditions that can and should both be lived.  From this grows authenticity, compassion, and love.

The saying “Love they neighbor as yourself”, first found in the Old Testament of the Bible, and amplified by Jesus in the New Testament defines God as love. But the precondition to doing good unto others is the kindness and acceptance of self. Without self-reflection comes projection and condition. It is also an acceptance that you are part of a bigger whole and that kindness to self is transmuted into kindness for others and mindfulness toward all living beings.

Reino Gevers – Author. Mentor. Speaker

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Walking through the pain

But nothing is solid and permanent. Our lives are raised on the shakiest foundations. You don’t need to read history books to know that. You only have to know the history of your own life.” ― Ron Rash 

One of the misconceptions of the booming self-development industry and self-help literature is the implication that something is wrong with you if you have a “low moment.”

“How are you?” is the first thing you get asked by a friend or acquaintance when you meet after some absence. You are expected to respond: “I’m very fine thank you. And how are you?”

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Life is never a happy cruise

There is an entirely different reaction when you open up and tell the other person how you are really feeling. It’s either an uncomfortable silence or the other person will show empathy and maybe even tell you about their own challenge they are currently going through. Those are real moments of authenticity.

Life is not meant to be an easy cruise. We go through moments of happiness, then moments of grief and sadness. There might be current health or relationship challenges. While you are carefully laying out your plans God has a different agenda. Life is living on the edge with constant surprises and detours. But its the challenges and the low moments that force us into introspection. The current Covid-19 crisis and its ripple effects are a typical example.

One of the first lessons pilgrims learn when walking the Camino is humility. If you don’t walk the path with humility the path will teach you humility. Physical and emotional pain is part of the process that starts in the early stages of the walk.

This too shall pass

I’ve gotten hopelessly lost just when I felt too sure of myself or did not accept physical boundaries. You plan to walk a certain distance for the day then the weather changes and you have to make different plans or you have to keep on walking because there is no accommodation in the town you had planned to stay for the night.

In the acceptance of life’s ups-and-downs comes the confidence that even in these times of turmoil and great uncertainty is also the certainty that “this too shall pass!”

We know from our own biography that health and financial security can be very fickle. There is no such thing as safe ground. A risk can be reduced but it will not insure you against life’s surprises.

Living through pain and uncertainty 

The challenge is to transmute that pain and to move on. Procrastinating in the sadness on that which has passed and is irrevocably gone prevents you from living the moment and fulfilling your soul purpose.

In accepting and walking through the pain comes the elevation of consciousness. Accepting the setbacks, failures, and mistakes in life is being authentically human. Change and uncertainty are part of LIVING. We aren’t meant to be perfect.  We are mortal beings. As the soul moves on to the next dimension it takes with it new perception and the recognition that everything is Grace.

As the famous German lyric, Rainer Maria Rilke wrote there is not always a solution. It’s living within the question and being patient with everything that remains unresolved in your heart.
Reino Gevers – Author. Mentor. Speaker

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Accepting the enemy within

Societal divisions along cultural, racial, gender, financial, political, and religious friction points become particularly pronounced during times of crisis when the fear demon gets stoked by the professional deceiver.

In the confrontation with the opposite, identity and belief are defined. There is good and bad, black and white, rich and poor, Christian and Muslim. Reality is far more complex and in myriad colors and shades of grey.

Neither yin or yang is absolute 

This is why the yin and yang symbol from the Daoist/Taoist tradition is such a beautiful concept of two halves forming the whole. Neither yin or yang is absolute. Each contains the beginning aspect of the other in a constant flow like night turning into day and day turning into night. The female aspect also has male aspects and the male aspect something of the female.

Too much yin or too much yang in any system creates an imbalance, whether in nature, body functions, or economic or political structures.

Accepting the shadow

Swiss psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung wrote, “Unfortunately, there can be no doubt that man is, on the whole, less good than he imagines himself or wants himself to be.  Everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is.”

We are all susceptible to burying parts of our character that we find unacceptable in the subconscious mind. The problem is that if we don’t face the shadow aspect at the doorway to our mind, it becomes too big to control.

For millennia the question arises: “If there is a God, why does he allow evil?”  Defining evil and recognizing evil can also be a difficult undertaking where the lie is sold as truth and truth gets turned into a lie.

Self-love and the acceptance of the human condition

When going into a meditation on the self you will soon find at least half a dozen positive as well as negative attributes of your own character. This is why it is so dangerous to fall into the trap of labeling an individual, a nation, a race, or a religious grouping. What Jung tried to tell us is that if you don’t accept this duality of light and shadow within, you will soon find yourself on a path of much self-created pain and suffering.

Only in unconditional acceptance of the imperfect human condition, and self-love of all aspects of the personality can grow the seeds of forgiveness, tolerance, and compassion.  This is at the heart of the teachings of Jesus and the ancient Mystics. The fundamentalist Christian concept of original sin meanwhile has been distorted into a culture of guilt and self-mortification. It is the perfect breeding ground for hypocrisy and intolerance.

The enemy is also the teacher 

In the pull between the identity of the opposites, spiritual growth and the evolution of character takes place. Are you kind, generous, compassionate, and loving?  Or are you rude, greedy, inconsiderate, spewing hate and anger? The decisions and habits we make on a daily and hourly basis can tip the scales in either direction.

We need the enemy, and the opposite perspective to gain clarity on our own core values and choices. Humankind has been given the power of choice. Are you falling into the shadow or going with the light?

The tragedy is that the character once held by the stranglehold of the shadow finds himself incapable of self-reflection. The phenomenon is widespread in some of the populist leaders of our time, trapped by their own ego and narcissism.

The image of self has become so clouded that the narrative is turned into its own truth. The deception of the emperor’s new clothes is revealed when it’s too late, and tragedy is upon us. At times it can be useful to turn the pages of that old history book to understand the events of recent months.

Reino Gevers – Author, Mentor, and Consultant

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Why I despise racism

“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

– Nelson Mandela – 

The image of a white policeman pressing his knee against the neck of a black man pleading for his life has triggered many emotions and memories from my own childhood growing up in apartheid South Africa.

To put it bluntly. Racism is wrong. It is evil and it comes from the lowest depths of human behavior.

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Born as a white person, I never questioned why blacks did not attend the same good schools that I attended, why blacks were refused entry to restaurants, had a different entrance at the post office, were arrested for breaking a night curfew in white areas or could not sit on the same benches as white people in the parks.

But some things happened where even as a child I started questioning the world in which I lived. I witnessed a farmer whipping one of his laborers. He showed no mercy as the man screamed in pain. This was the same man who only hours earlier attended holy communion in church and made a point of emphasizing how good a Christian he was.

Some years later the Lutheran pastor of our white church invited his fellow black pastor and his brass band choir to play in the white church. Despite the pleas from the pastor that this was not the apocalypse and that Jesus would not tolerate racism, the choir was met with extreme antagonism by white congregation members. I never understood the hatred spewing from the mouths of these people who all called themselves Christian.

Years later while working as a reporter for a newspaper in Durban,  I attended a court case where two black politicians, detained under the country’s emergency laws, explained in great detail how the white security policemen sitting in the same court meted out electroshock and other torture methods on them. I will never forget the smug grins of those stocky policemen who seemed very sure of themselves that they would never be investigated for their crimes.

I remember the sad and resigned expressions in the faces of the aged black women and men forced to leave their ancestral lands because a government had designated their luscious agricultural land as a “white” area.

I recall the terrible rage of a white shopkeeper when I walked into the black entrance of his shop.

Years later after returning to my home country for a visit, I drove through what I remember as a staunch white-only community.  The children were out in the playground. There were white, black, mixed-race, and Asian children playing together in what would have been unheard of in my childhood.

And, I remembered Nelson Mandela’s famous quote that nobody is born to hate. It is what the societies in which we live make of us. They can fuel the flames of the worst part of human character or sow the seeds of compassion, love, empathy, and the meeting of hearts that recognize the humanity within beyond the pigmentation of a man’s skin.

Reino Gevers – Author, Mentor, and Consultant

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Dealing with fear and anger

The only certainty in life is that change is a constant

– Heraclitus-

Anger is a close ally of fear. With many countries going into their second month of Covid-19 lockdown the strain is beginning to show with spontaneous angry protests in several bigger cities over the weekend.

We are currently experiencing a defining moment in history.  Our world will never be the same again.  During the first stage of a tumultuous change, there is often resistance and denial. Then comes fear. Terrible decisions are made when we are in a hurry and under stress. The reason is simple:

When you are in a state of fear and stress the body is flooded with stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline. Blood vessels contract, your heartbeat starts racing, the body is in fear and flight mode. The fear reaction in the brain’s amygdala is triggered even before you have time to process and think rationally.

Solutions are found with a relaxed mind

The prefrontal cortex of the brain has no time to process what is happening. In a relaxation mode, the prefrontal cortex can, however, perform its executive function in differentiating between conflicting thoughts and determining future consequences of current activities on a rational level. Solutions are found in an aligned and relaxed mode.

There are wonderful and simple methods of how you can lower your blood pressure and go back into a relaxed state of mind:

  • Emotional shifting is becoming aware of the emotion you are currently feeling. Is it fear, anger, grief, sadness? Define the emotion! Yes, I am afraid and anxious! Then find an image in your mind that can act as an antidote to that fear: A funny video, love for a person close to you, gratitude for all that is good in your life, a wonderful experience that you had recently.
  • When you are under duress it immediately shows in shortness of breath. Place your hands on your lower belly. At the count of one, you inhale, and at the count of one you exhale, feeling that exhaling feeling all the way down into your lower belly. Keep going at least until the count of 21.
  • Some countries are relaxing some of the restrictions, allowing people to go on walks. Take the opportunity and go for a walk in nature. Find a spot where you can tune your senses to a natural sound like the song of a bird or can hear the rustling of leaves in a tree.

How you start your day will determine your day. If you’ve had a bad night with monkeys dancing in your head, you can start with the emotional shift exercise, followed by the meditation. You can also practice a personal mantra. One of my favorites is:

Everything is Grace. Faith over Fear

Prayer is a powerful method of going beyond the self and finding solace, especially if you pray for others who are in a much worse position.

This time is a time that can be compared to winter. It is also a winter of the soul, a time of introspection where minds can go into silence.  The time of hibernation is lying low until the turbulence has passed and remain in trust. This too shall pass in a rebirth that is spring.
Reino Gevers – Author, Mentor, and Consultant

https://www.reinogevers.com

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You are not alone

No Man is an Island’

No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;

– John Donne – 

We realize when alone that we are not an island. During these times of crisis separation has become the watchword. It mirrors how far we have become separated in the relationship with ourselves and the natural world around us.

The writings of German philosopher Martin Buber seem particularly poignant. His most famous book “Ich und Du”, published in 1923,  roughly translates to “I and Though” with its central tenet that human life finds its purpose and meaning in relationships.

The separation from the ‘I’

Nature does not take revenge. If we go to war with nature there is merely cause and effect.  Perceiving the world, the earth, or the universe as being separate or external from the “I” is a belief-centered delusion.

Relationship is connection to Soul

Buber argues that ultimately relationship is about our connectedness to the inner soul spirit, God, or the Universe.  Ancient man and the hunter and gatherer societies are still very much aware of the connectedness of the inner spirit with the natural world.

Becoming with the Though

In the relationship with the “Though” there is a “becoming” into the wholeness of purpose and BEING. The essence of life, according to Buber, is found in the relationship with the other. With the emphasis of our culture from the “restrictions and obligations” of community” to the self-fulfillment of “individual freedom” we have fallen from one extreme to the other.

Pseudo-community or meaning is sought by the individual in pseudo-religion and the tribe affiliation to party political institutions. How else can we explain the blind following of the professional populist deceivers and the false prophets of our age?

Anybody who has gone through a divorce will know of the trauma left between two people who once loved each other. In the beginning, there is unconditional love. We see in the other, the Though, a merger or completion. Ideally, the partners support and empower each other in spiritual growth. But we often seek in the other that which has not been healed within. Disappointment is inevitable when the emotional shadows get triggered. The breakdown comes creeping slowly, respect gets lost when we see the other grappling with similar emotional issues. Communication is reduced to the mundane.

The soul journey is exploring the “Though” within. In the Gospel of St. Thomas, discovered at Nag Hammadi in Egypt in 1945, Jesus is quoted as saying:

“See the kingdom in the sky, then the birds of the sky will precede you. If they say to you. ‘It is in the sea,’ then the fish will precede you. Rather, the kingdom is inside of you, and it is outside of you. When you come to know yourselves, then you will become known, and you will realize that it is you who are the sons of the living father.” (Saying 3, p. 654.9-21).
Reino Gevers – Author, Mentor, and Consultant

https://www.reinogevers.com

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Dealing with anxiety and fear

Our mind is primarily programmed to focus on the negative. It is part of our survival toolkit as a human species. We are magically drawn to sensational news and images of catastrophes. During this time it is particularly important to protect your mental health and to guard your mind against fear and anxiety.

Guarding the mind against fear and anxiety

The constant dosage of coronavirus trackers with updates on infections and deaths, the lockdowns and drastic measures taken by many countries with the accompanying huge economic fallout is already having a major effect on mental health.

We should be mindful and look after our health during every influenza epidemic because it always has a major impact on the elderly with a weak immune system and those people with a history of poor health.  Bear in mind that we are not reading much about two-thirds of the people who fell ill with the coronavirus who only had mild symptoms and have recovered. 

Learning the lessons from a crisis

Every crisis teaches us something.  We need to look beyond the surface. As a humanity we need to go into deep introspection on what we are doing to our earth and our fellow living beings.  Nature is teaching us that we need to move away from an exploitative to a more sustainable economic model.  Short-term external gratification cannot replace the soul’s yearning for spiritual growth and meaning.

The worst and the best of mankind

A crisis triggers both the worst and the best in mankind. While some folk are fighting over toilet paper and hoarding grocery items others are discovering an entirely new sense of community. We are social animals and need the cooperative support of each other. The image of the Italians singing from the balconies of their homes will be of lasting impact. China is finally clamping down on the meat trade of endangered species, with growing evidence that the virus probably emanated from the endangered pangolin. 

spring flower

Hope springs

Practicing control of emotion and thought

Being locked down in our homes gives us time for reflection on what truly matters. If we stay calm, centered and in alignment with the higher self we can be of much more support to those loved ones around us.  Here are some tips on how to stand guard at the doorway to your soul.

  • Whenever you have a negative thought or feel a negative emotion such as fear replace it with a good thought or happy moment. What image or memory makes your heart expand or makes you laugh?
  • Breathing meditation. Focus your mind on your breathing. At the count of one I inhale and at the count of one I exhale – counting until 21.  Check out my immune-boosting meditation on Podcast.
  • Take a walk in nature – if you can. Find a spot where you can focus your attention on one sound that you find comforting such as a bird singing, rustling of leaves in a tree or water running over a stone in a creek. Just concentrate on that one sound for several minutes.
  • Our environment, our associations and our thoughts have a major impact on our mental well-being.  Radically reduce associations with people who bombard you with negativity. Reduce the consumption of negative media to a minimum. What we read, watch and think is what we become.

Reino Gevers – Author, Mentor, and Consultant

https://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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