Those who push limits know that these sometimes push back. I have felt some of this push back in the past weeks running on reserve battery. But I am also aware that I'm not a victim of these set-back. Being alive implies that I'm ready to put a moment before the consequences this moment may have. Yes, that is risky and sometimes straightout silly but it allows me to live, to give it my all and to learn from reality rather than from the fear of action or inaction.
A challenge I am currently accutely aware of is to build up and lightly hold courage and love to live today, knowing and facing tomorrow. My tendency is to take the courage to face the next bout of pain by functioning, being dutiful, being diligent. But more powerful is finding courage by allowing myself to love and be love and to connect with myself in such a way that it is respectful and enabling.
To explore this is my path I tenderly tread on. Falling and getting up, falling and getting up.
I had a very saddening experince yesterday on my trip from Phnom Penh to Bangkok. Sitting next to me was a young Cambodian or Laotian girl. She had never flown and I realised she was very scared and nervous the moment we started taxiing. When the food tray came she had no idea how to eat the packaged snacks and foods. I helped her and when we landed I showed how to unbuckle the seatbelt. She then held my arm and looked terrified. I asked where she was going and she said she doesn't know. Then I saw a man two rows behind me observing me angrily. The young girl (I guess she wasn't older than 15years of age) kept looking at him. On the bus to the terminal she asked me to help her as she didn't know where to go. Her english was very poor but I am quite sure she was being traffiked on. She mentioned that she has to take a bus to Pattaya. At immigration I asked the officer to call the police. By the time they came and I had alerted her the man following the girl was through immigrations and had disappeard with the girl. It was difficult trying to persuade the Thai police what my suspicion was but they said they see this happen often. It has haunted me today thinking of the plight of this young girl and my heart and prayers go out to her and the millions of children and adults who are being held captive and are un-free!
For 40 years I have been living with a genetic disorder which causes ongoing inflammations and leads to ongoing, constant pain. There are very very few days where the absence of pain breaks through the normal pain-full days. On these days it seems as if the air is more fresh, the colours more vivid and the days shorter.
It has been years since I last wished to be only healthy because I am mostly very thankful for the life I may live. Of course not suffering pains would be awesome. But then I might not experience the peace and love I often do. What would I have been able to accomplish if I used less time and energy to manage pain? Would it have been something meaningful and loving?
Roughly 10 years ago I decided to leave the church and religion. I have struggled, enjoyed, searched and sometimes - for short moments - re-found believe in a God who enters into our world. I found expressions of life (some may say, spirituality) which I can embrace. Not being part of a closed group and religious system has been most liberating. It’s lead me to re-discover, to embark on journeys with a less judgemental mind which is open to explore, accept and embrace. So much of my identity and beliefe in the church system was based on principles lf exclusion and inclusion. It was dualistic - what is right and wrong. I am continuing to learn to embrace the now and be more present. Breathing and being connected with creation and the created around me and with me makes me be more alert to their needs, their fears, their hopes and desires.
My goal for the next months and years is to let go more and more of fix expectations in order to experience each day as gift. No matter whether this day brings pain and fear of tomorrow or whether I can move and breath without fearing the next stabbing pains.
Those who know me are aware that I like people much more than animals (except if they are marinated and seasoned well...).
This weekend two big religious festivities, Eid-ul Adha and Puja are celebrated in Bangladesh. There are more than a million and many more goats on the streets of Dhaka.
Most families buy a animal. Religious leaders will cut the animals starting tomorrow Monday. The animal is shared in three equal parts. With their own family, a third is for relatives and a third is shared with the poor.
I had a facinating experience as I was invited to the home of a Bangla family and spoilt with 20 or so dishes for a mouthwatering dinner. The hospitality experienced touches me.
During the time here I was driven around by Narzra who is a devout Muslim. It was a privilege to experience his kindness, gentleness and albeit his skillful driving in the crazy traffic of Dhaka.
After long 6 months in Switzerland with one 2 short international trips I am back in Asia again.
The past months in Switzerland have been a challenge on many levels, especially healthwise. However I did very much enjoy being together with my great family and friends.
Last Monday and Tuesday I wrapped up a project and started a new mandate with a federal office in Switzerland by facilitating a two day retreat. From the smooth and sophisticated (and partially spoilt) world of federal workers I flew to Bangladesh to work in a slum close to Dhaka where our NGO is funding a maternity clinic. Tomorrow I go on to Dubai, then on Monday to Bangkok then to Phnom Penh.
The culture differences of the work contexts I am in a huge and sometimes it's challenging to switch. But I am extremely thankful for my work and enjoy it!
Dhaka is fascinating and sometimes overwhelming with the sheer masses of people, scarcity of space and smells and sounds. As it's Eid ul-Aldh and the biggest hindi holiday there are thousands of cows ready to be slaughtered on the streets.
Today 500 person drowned when their boat was rammed by smugglers in the Mediterranean. What a tragedy.
In the past weeks the number of persons who died in boat accidents enroute to Europe exceeded 700. It is heartbreakening that this ongoing tragedy is silently accepted. I could point at the media, polititians or somebody else. But I ask myself what my response is.
If three Swiss planes would crash in the perod of one or two weeks I would be more shaken, more distressed and more saddened by the loss of life and human suffering. But migrants crossing over illegally to Europe?
This tragedy can be avoided. We can create safe crossing to Europe for refuggees. We could open registration offices on the african continent and cut off the dirty business of smugglers. But politically this in obviously not a valid approach.
This is the heartbreaking truth. We don't care as much about the lives of persons who don't hav a swiss bank account or who aren't so called "talent".
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.