I had a wonderful time in Thailand with my son in January. We travelled to Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Koh Chang and enjoyed work and relaxation together! What a privilege to have the opportunity of spending 3 weeks with the best son in the world :-)!
Back in Switzerland I'm working hard on a large project with a federal office coaching and consulting the 250 persons involved in a change project. So I'm commuting frequently to Zürich and back. At the same time we're starting new projects with up! international and Dynamic Share where I am strongly involved.
Ruben Ung (www.rubenung.ch) made some portraits and I'm very happy with the results! Thanks to you Ruben!
January is a packed month with alot of work in with a client in Zürich and preperations for workshops and other activities in Asia. I am leaving for Thailand together with my son on Friday 17 Jan and will be back in Switzerland on Thursday 6 February. It's a great privilege and unique experience to be able to travel with my son on this trip!
I look forward to interaction and communication with you. Please contact me via social media or my email or sms during my travelling period.
Being in the "in between space" is something which marks Mark's life. It's the place where words, categories, definitions fall short.
It's the moment when somebody says "Oh, so you are sick..." and I respond "no I am healthy but have a physical illness which causes chronic pain".
It's the moment when sombody says "Are you on vacation here in Chiang Mai?" and I answer "well ... I'm doing remote work but I usually live in Switzerland where my family is...". And I see their puzzled look.
It's the moment when my third culture kid identity kicks in and I feel like a stranger in my home country.
It's moments when I'm asked whether I am a believer, a christian, a spiritual person or which religious group I am affiliated with.
The "in between space" has it's beauty as it allows me to be free. It allows me to define myself in the present. Moments come and go where I would rather fully belong, be part of a clearly defined group, culture and identity or gang ... But then I recognise that who I am is strongly shaped by this "in between". It gives me freedom to develop, explore, fail and stand up again.
And to quote the well-known expression: We are all just guests passing though...
I love the work and thoughts of Malcom Gladwell. His last book is on "The power of the underdog".
When we look at battles between lopsided parties, we exaggerate the strength of the favorite and we underestimate the strength of the underdog.
Malcolm Gladwell believes underdogs win more often than we think because their limitations can force them to be creative. David couldn’t slay Goliath with a sword, but with his sling he could be deadly from a distance. And Gladwell says, there’s plenty of modern research to explain why.
Check out this for more:
One of the most precious tools or gifts we have been endowed with is the ability to learn to reflect. True reflection is the path to wisdom.
I went to the labyrinth at Seven Sisters in Chiang Mai this morning to do a meditative walk. The first minutes my mind is trying to understand where the various turns of the path. As I focus on my breathing and lower my head to look just at the next few meters of the path ahead my mind slows down as I can trust that I don't need to think about the direction. What a beautiful reality to just be able to walk and to be certain that I will reach the inner place - the rock. So often I miss the present because I'm thinking about the next thing, worrying if I'll find the way to my destination rather than just trusting the process. As I took one step at a time a butterfly criss-crossed and accompanied me reminding me that we are never alone. I become aware how often my opinion, fears, hopes stop me from loving, from being wise and letting go of the many things that hold me back. I recall a quote of Vikas Swarup:
Knowing the world is cleverness. Knowing yourself is wisdom.
Wisdom is attained by intuition, values and making choices and learning from them. I wish you all a good start into the new week. Focus on the moment and less on the direction and future - it will be ok.
On days like this when I come from a cold climate to the warmth of Dubai or another place I feel like I am pushing back the expiry date of my body significantly. My body works differently, tissue and muscles relax and pain decreases and I can breath better again.
As I sit at Dubai fountain smoking my shisha (which admittedly doesn't help to push back the expiry date :) I ponder what else I can do to live more healthy and happily. I ask my taxi driver from Swat valley in Pakistan what he does to stay increase the quality of his life as he drives 12 hours, 7 days per week for 24 months before having a month vacation to go back to his family. His answer is that it makes him thankful that he can provide financially for his extended family of 13 people. He says that staying calm and thankful is what he focuses on most as he does his work.
Perhaps you know the quote:
One does not get what one deserves but what one negotiates.
Our sole most important negotiation partner is our ego and our soul who have to battle out who wins over the big and small battles, deals and negoations in our life.
I have often been called a liberal. Those who use this term to label me often don't agree to some belief, practice or thought I have expressed. Usually it's when they think they know my "thought" or "position" on some more or less significant issue in life.
I love what Richard Rohr says about these labels:
As many have said in varying ways, you can (1) Do the old thing with the old mind (“conservatives”), (2) Do a new thing with the old mind (“liberals”), or (3) Do a new thing with a new mind. Only the third way deserves to be called authentic religion. The other two stances often avoid the necessary dying to self which is called transformation. The new mind could be called the contemplative mind. The new thing is always love—at ever-deeper levels.
One of the things I focus on in life is not to judge people. And if I must or can't stop myself from doing so (which is very often the case unfortunately), then I remind myself to judge people not based on their thoughts but on their practices and actions in life.
I train myself to embrace a contemplative heart, mind and soul and to have a less dualistic mind. I will probably be doing this training for many years to come at the pace I'm going :-). I want to learn to see more nuanced than the black and white, deeper than organised and to see into the mystical and mysteriöus. I want to have less opinions and be more loving and generous.
It is hard to navigate in the gray zones of our lives. Navigating become a meaning and part of the walk itself. Therefore I want to learn to navigate with my soul. Leashing my ego and unleasing my soul to help me find a path which is meaningful. I believe that this is a true pilgrimage.
I cherish finding ways to integrate stress-reducing mindulfulness exercises in my daily routines. One of my favorite is to focus on my breathing and to walk at half or even less of my regular pace a distance I need to cover anyway (eg to the train station or to buy lunch etc). Walking very slowly helps my brain slow down and my muscles to relax as I breath more deeply and regularly.
Another option I often choose is to slow down my visual intake by looking at an object for a couple of minutes. Plants, trees, flowers or whatever is in my sight. I try and focus on the object as a whole and then go into zoom-mode and zoom-out again. This also helps me me more attentive to my environment and to take notice of the small things which are part of my life.
Of course my favorite mindfulness exercise is to .... drink coffee and be thankful for the beauty and deliciousness of each sip :-)!
What do you do to be more mindful?
One in four persons in Lebanon are from Syria. The tiny country of Lebanon has taken in more than 1 million refugees. Switzerland is discussing granting refuge to 75 Syrians and many in our country have the feeling that although we are one of the richest countries in the world this symbolic gesture is already false and should be retracted.
For many polititians and their constituants, receiving 11'000 requests for asylum in 2013 is supposedly a huge problem. Asked what the most significant challenges are for our country, many mention "Ausländerpolitik"! But I can't find the problem! Is it a problem to share what we have with more persons? Especially given the reality that we need more persons to help run our economy!
There are others who are proud of the fact that Switzerland is accepting less refugees in 2012 and 2013 than in previous years inspite of the fact that our world faces record numbers of migrants and that conficts, climate change and the food and economic crisis is having a huge toll on many countries.
Switzerland has two diverging immigration and integration policies which are soley based on economics. For persons coming to Switzerland - or wanting to come to Switzerland - the doors are wide open if they have financial ressources. For those with less financial resources and for those in economic distress the doors are firmly closed. It's that simple.
The swiss economy is highly dependent of skilled non-swiss workers and actively recruits these abroad. Yet mainstream politics and media constantly talk about our "Ausländerproblem" - problems with foreigners as if Switzerland was being vicimized by masses of foreigners trying to invade our country and we needed to rid ourselves of them.
The hypocrisy of this makes me angry and upset. We treat persons differently based on their economic situation and are losing touch with core values of humanity, helping persons in need.
I met a guy in a coffee shop today here in Dubai. He has an Egyptian passport but has never lived in Egypt and is living in Dubai since 25 years. Since several years he cannot renew his passport which has expired. Therefore, he cannot obtain a new visa for Dubai. Because of this he has been thrown into jail more than 15 times. If he goes back to Egypt he'll be forced to join the military as he hasn't done the service in the army. But why should he serve in the military of a country he has never lived in and does not feel connected to?
It was saddening to listen to his story.
Driving back to the hotel I heard the story of a man who's family is in Damascus. They are desperately trying to flee but don't have the money to ensure and more or less safe exit. He had tears in his eyes sharing.
My conclusion and strong belief:
Everyone you meet is fighting a battle we know nothing about. Be kind. Always.
Love is learned in the together with "otherness". It's learning to live with the unreconciled, the people and issues we don't necessarily understand or agree with.
This is one reason why I love travelling, love interacting with people of different beliefs, practices, races and nations.
Being able to love is such a key issue to living a live which is worth living. It requires actively exploring and embracing forgiveness. Not only in the big matters of life but also...
When talking with people enduring situations of conflict on a personal or structural level it strikes me just which powerful tool and condition to transformation forgiveness is.
Seeking to receive and share forgivess is similar to breathing. Breathing provides us with the necessary oxygen. Forgiveness enables us to live a love-based (rather than an opinion-based) life.
I read this line as I came across the Spanish philosopher Miguel De Unamuno. One can put many meanings into this sentence. The meaning I give it is that life doesn't take us on straight paths. It can't be boxed into a plan and written in a short mission statement and life purpose.
Truth can only be found in life itselft. In experiencing and not just in believing. I know when I have tasted, touched, desired. Truth and the journey towards finding and accepting my true self is a process which cannot be seperated.
Nature is so much more disorder than order. It's far more chaos than structure. It's fluid, ever changing and wanting to be re-discovered.
I would love to map out my life, plan my successes and be able to act as if I had smart answers to even smarter questions. But I don't… I just have desire and the longing to come home. To re-kindle the child in me day by day to taste and embrace love and life.
Truely seeing, connecting and feeling with others as they go through pain and suffering is just about as difficult as enduring suffering oneself.
Visiting prisons in Cambodia in the past week, seeing 80 prisoners cramped into dark spaces without sufficient space to stretch out and sleep, with only 2x1 hour to leave their cells, having very basic and poor meals (without getting enough calories or a balanced diet to stay health) has really effected me. I saw communities who were evicted from their homes and are now living in most basic and dire situations. Many of these persons have been awaiting for several years to see the promise fulfilled by the government of Hun Sen of getting new land and a new future given. Sickness, poverty, lack of access to security and clean water is a daily, ongoing reality.
I met a lady Hong in Bangkok from Vietnam who is working in an expensive steakhouse run by a farang. She has been working there since 6 years, 7 days a week from lunch till after midnight. Once a year she gets 7 days to go back home to Vietman to visit her family.
I met Sip in Cambodia selling snails which they boil and prepare at 5am in the morning in his camp. He then drives in to Phnom Penh with an old motorbike. The drive takes him about 2 hours. He then sells snails till late evening before returning to his 4 children and wife. The children don't go to school because the money he makes isn't sufficient. 2 children died before the age of 5 because of diarrhea from dirty water (worms). It would cost them 3000 Reis (less than 1 USD) to buy 1m2 water but this is not affordable.
Then there was the woman suffering from cervical cancer. She doens't have access to pain medication and is suffering incredible pains since 3 years.
There are many more stories I could tell... about the mainly women working in the countless factories producing clothes for GAP, H&M and others. They earn USD 80 per month, often live in cramped quaters sharing a room with 4 to 6 others. Many faint during the shifts of 10 to 12 hours due to insufficient cooling systems. Their kids are being taken care of grandparents, sibblings in their villages to which they can return ever 6 or 12 months...
My primary reaction to suffering which would be avoidable (by bringing more fairness, transparency and less greed into our economic system and consumer habits or by developing a less corrupt political process just to give two examples) is anger and a sense of determination not to forget about these realities. To keep pointing it out... But my anger may not linger - it has to be molded and changed into compassion and love. These are better seeds for any change I anticipate to see happen through my small contributions.
There is no other moment which is more relevant than the one I am living now. One of my big learning objectives for the past 2 years has been to learn to recognize, accept and appreciate the now. Yes, I am a slow learner that is why it’s taking so long J.
Because our moments are not tasted—or full—or real—or in the Presence—we are never fulfilled and there is never enough. We then create artificial fullness and distractions and try to pass time or empty time with that. There is no other more significant and complete moment than now. Why fear the next if I’m not there yet? Why focus on the past when I can be in the now? There is so much power, love and fulfillment in the Present.
I am thankful for so many things in my life. Yes, I do wish my health was more stable and robust but otherwise I wouldn't want to change lives with anybody! I am thankful for my great wife, kids, many friends, a very stimulating and interesting life both privately and in terms of work. I have had so many rich and fascinating, challenging, happy, sad, spicy, sour and sweet experiences contribuiting to a deep thankfulness.
One year ago I started "twentyfivedegrees" my limited company. Till December 12 it was a struggle to make ends meet. And then the tap went on and since then business is flowing in. I am extremely grateful to Pascal, Sabine, Thomas and so many other friends who have supported me in the past year practically and opening doors and giving a hand as I start this new adventure.
Thanks to our wonderful neighbours, my brothers and sisters and the many friends supporting and helping in a very turbulent year!
A picture from an eveing walk this week.
I wish you all a good start into the new week.
In our brokenness lies the blessing of a seed. I have been taught this the nice, hard, clean and dirty way. It's my desire to search, treassure and nurture the seeds in my life that lie in my brokenness and the path of healing - what we call life.
But what does brokenness mean to me? It's about staying humble in the beauty, pleasure, success, knowing and experience of life. It's about staying searching and open-minded even when I think I've found. It's about trust when I don't know, giving up the safe place of the known for the unknown destiny with all it's tastes and smells I I haven't yet enjoyed. But perhaps most of all living in brokenness means that I strive to stay loving in the midst of pain and the dark moments live provides.
The suffering of those living in Syria and the milions who have had to fled just doesn't end! And even now that one can be quite certain that Assad's troups have been repeatedly using chemical weapons the worlds powers and super-powers are unable to respond in a way which would bring an end to the suffering of millions.
I saw Kofi Annan today on the flight Abu Dhabi to Geneva and would have loved to engage with him in a discussion to see if more can't be done....
I hope that Obama will have the courage to use the range of options the US has and to put together a strong coalition to get engaged.
The suffering of those living in Syria and the milions who have had to fled just doesn't end! And even now when one can be quite certain that Assad's troups have repeatedly used chemical weapons the rest of the world is unable to respond in a manner which would bring an end or slow-down of the horror millions are facing.