Something To Make You Think

Posted: April 30, 2017 in Depression
Tags: ,
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As Remote As You Can Get.

Posted: February 13, 2017 in Searching for meaning
This year I travel to yet another corner of the world – as far-flung as I can manage – for a holiday.
I always venture to extreme locations for the mental distance it affords me.
I will fly into the Pacific and land in Port Vila, part of Vanuatu. A winding taxi drive over a mountain then an open boat takes us a short distance to Pele Island. Our accommodation is hidden by coconut palms on the northwest corner of the island. Here the ocean has made a deep gulley between Nguna Island and our home for two weeks. “Home” is a hut with sandy  floor, no running water and no electricity for two weeks. 5507 kilometres will separate me from my job, my house and my dog.
Interesting thing is that Pele Island is home to someone else and my home is an extreme corner of the world to them.
I’m sure that somewhere in Vanuatu, someone is stressed because of the complications of their life. They  will curse internet dropouts, road accidents and the weather.
Choice is the deciding factor.
Not location.
Some decide on a more simple lifestyle.
They don’t research it.
They don’t discuss it first.
They jump.
They don’t Google ‘minimalist lifestyles’.
They don’t bounce the idea off a friend.
They jump.
They don’t do an online survey.
They don’t think about it for a while.
They jump.
van
The island pictured is our destination.
The pin shows our accommodation.
Standing on the edge of the world, gives us the perspective of distance.
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Below is another perspective. A skydive starts at 14 000 feet or 2kms. That is the height of this 2nd photo. Th last thing you will hear before exiting a perfectly good aeroplane is the call of the instructor, “Jump Time!”
Everyone battles inertia when in a new situation. It is an inbuilt mechanism that is designed to save us from threats. But it also holds us back from realising our dreams.
All we need is an instructor to call “Jump Time!”
14000

Jump Time

What Is Art?

Posted: January 11, 2017 in Meryl Streep, Uncategorized
Tags: ,

I recently heard some advice that was so eloquently spoken that I felt it would be wasted not to share it.

Although the speaker – Meryl Streep – has come under fire as a result of her speech, we need to look at the part that resonates with what we do and the effect we have on the community, not to dismiss the entire content because one part offends us.

For me, here is the pertinent part of her comment:

“This incident … to humiliate, when it is modelled by someone in the public platform by someone powerful, it filters down into everyone’s life because it gives permission for other people to do the same thing.
Disrespect invites disrespect.
Violence insights violence.
When the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose”

Now, I am a teacher and a martial arts instructor. Whether I like it or not – I am a community leader. Our youth look up to role models. They copy them, they emulate them … they believe them. It’s a duty to take that responsibility seriously.
As mentioned above, when we say something in public (in my classes) it filters down into everyones life because it gives people permission to do the same thing. Now that’s quite a responsibility.
If you don’t have the ability to speak in public, to articulate your thoughts clearly, then you run the chance of having your teaching misused. And that is something no one wants.
To not use our skills for the greater good is a missed opportunity of the highest order.

Skills and knowledge. We can never have too much.

Here is the video – go to the 4 minute mark.

Oh, one final thing. Any action can be raised to an artform – where execution of the movement looks effortless. Take Kelly Slater of surfing fame. 11 times World Champion. I sat at a competition once and watched him receive a perfect ten from one wave.

THAT was surfing raised to an artform.

The question NOW is – what is it that you do that can be raised to an art form?

Big Day Today

Posted: December 20, 2016 in Happiness

No wonder I was happy.

Tomorrow I am going to do it again. Maybe not in the ocean, but someone somewhere is going to need saving.
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What I think happens in life and thereafter.

There is no supporting evidence for this. None. But I think this photo depicts what happens to us in our life and afterwards.

Firstly, the sign.
The concept that life ends when we die is a man-made concept. Take that away and the picture takes on a different meaning
In the foreground, the road and painted line shows the direction that has been mapped out for us. We may have painted the line or we might be following a line painted by others. It’s still a direction we follow. Life is reliable if we walk this way. No surprises.

The end of the painted line.
Notice that the line stops but the road continues. At some point in our lives we don’t need to follow a direction. We just know which side of the road is the safest and the direction we should be travelling in. It’s still a direction followed by most but we don’t need as many rules to guide us. We brush our teeth, save some money and have the weekend off without thinking about it. Admittedly, doing these things does save you some heartache later but really it’s your choice. There are consequences for everything. Even if you stop in the middle of the road there is a consequence.

The gravel.
The end of the road and start of the dirt shows our partial return to the way things should be as we age. We can start to connect with the natural way of life and appreciate the little things. Like being outside. Feeling the wind. Listening to our own thoughts. All these experiences becomes more comfortable as we realise that all things pass. We end up walking our own path regardless of others. The realisation that happiness and contentment is up to us makes it much easier to live.
The decisions we have made, passage we have taken, and where it has lead us finally shows what really matters. Material gain and credit for our performance loses its lustre. The knowledge that others are struggling now seems to drive us to a point where we are rewarded with a deep contentment that only service to another living being can give.

The sign.
It may be the latest theory to explain death but it really just shows a transition. In science, nothing disappears, it changes state. Ice melts and become water; water boils and becomes steam; the steam seems to disappear but really spreads out to become, well, everything.

Afterwards.
Just because we can’t see something doesn’t mean it isn’t there. There is a continuation of us but as the picture shows, things change.
It seems to me there is a natural beauty thereafter. No roads, no directions, no hazards. Still in existence but a more natural one that allows us freedom that we haven’t experienced beforehand. Whether we continue into the trees or the sky is up to you. All we do is move forward into a new experience.

I sit here at 7:30 PM, at the table eating dinner by myself.
For this blog, I usually commit my thoughts to paper and talk about our attitude to the world. Change that, MY attitude to the world.
But my writing tonight concerns the life of a child in another part of the world. I haven’t met him or her yet. But I am about to change his/her life.

You see, I have created a system in my business that contributes a specific percentage of income to World Vision. Every time our client base grows by 10 people, we sponsor another child. The difference this time is that my current clients are choosing the next child.
Funny thing is, they are struggling.
They are realising that you can’t help everyone. For every child that you help, there are dozens that you can’t. Dozens of faces staring back at you from their website, dozens that will stay outside your reach.

So I sit here, sharing this dilemma with you. I have announced to the customers I have that at 9 PM I will make a choice.
Right now, I look over the list of suggestions. One lady has chosen a child because that child has the same birthday as her son. Another has chosen a child in Sri Lanka because she travelled there. Others have forwarded names of children all over the world for reasons not shared with me.

Before I sit down and make my final choice, I wish to share how this all came about.
I once read that for a person to be truly compassionate about others, they should give a percentage of their income to charity every month. The amount offered in that book was 10%. This prompted me to find my percentage. At that time, as a family, we had 2 World Vision children. That amounted to 1% of our income on a monthly basis. As I live in one of the most affluent countries in the world, my level of giving shamed me.
At 9pm, that number should move to approximately 3%.
Still not much.
But better than most.

Finally, I am reminded by writing about this, the story of a man’s experience walking along a beach. Strewn across the sand, were thousands of starfish that had washed up and were slowly drying out and dying in the sun. The beach stretched on and on. Just ahead of him he noticed a small boy picking up one starfish at a time, carefully tossing it into the ocean. The man reached the boy and asked what he was doing.
“I’m saving these starfish”, was the reply.
The man queried, “There are thousands of them. How can you possibly make a difference?”
The small boy bent over, picked up a starfish and tossed it into the ocean.
“I bet I made a difference to that one”, he replied.

Many kids will not receive my money tonight.
But one will.

The Pororoca lives in my memory now. In Brazil however, twice a year, the wave rolls on. Sometimes ridden by an inquisitive surfer, sometimes with no one to watch it.

Every time it builds up, it passes São Luis – the bustling town that lies near the mouth of the river.

It rumbles through the region of Maranhao where population dwindles and buildings become huts. As it approaches narrow banks and shallow water it builds up and passes by the lives of local Brazilians regardless of their problems.

It twists as the river curves and finally nears Arari, the town I used as my base for the expedition that put my problems into perspective.

You see, nature continues as we experience the events that seem to matter so much. As each full moon waxes and wanes, the lives of every person on the banks of the river wax and wane too. As I write this, the full moon tonight is the same one that greeted me in my early morning trips up river to meet the wave of my lifetime. Tonight’s full moon however greets a different me. I’ve changed. I look different. I think different. I’ve grown.

But I’ve changed because I wanted to. I could have returned to my life and struggled but as Robert Frost said, I took, “the road less travelled”.

And like Frost, it did make all the difference.

Now I don’t try to beat the world’s longest wave. In many ways I took the Pororoca home with me. I’ve made decisions since then that have allowed me to ride more waves. I moved so that I am minutes away from nature and waves and forest. I watch the ocean, the wind, the swell and yes, the tide.

I’m happy doing that. I found that the waves I dreamt of as a teenager do exist. I went to the end of the world and found that happiness is under my feet. Do I still struggle? Yes, but that is just part of being human. 40 years of wanting to do something better than before led me back to the place where I don’t feel bad about standing still.

I went from a human doing to a human being. Feels better.

 

Choosing a surfboard for a wave in a river is difficult.

As a river is freshwater it is not as buoyant as seawater. A surfer needs more foam underneath him to keep him moving. This newly made surfboard was now sitting in the cargo area of a plane flight that had just delivered me to São Luis, a town near the banks of the mouth of the Amazon river. Although the exact time of the wave’s arrival was known, 7 AM on Saturday, exactly how it would break was not known. We would have to travel up river the day before with a stick to test the depth as the sand bar shifts as the river curves through the Amazon jungle.

The adrenaline was pumping and I was full of the wonder of being in a new country and preparing myself for the experience of a lifetime. Even though I didn’t speak the language I was learning Portuguese
bit by bit. One conversation I will never forget. As we were moving up river in the early morning before the wave, one of the tour guides taps me on the shoulder and points to the river bank and says ‘Jacare’. I followed his direction to a three meter crocodile lying on the muddy bank. My eyes open wide. I turn to him. All that comes out of my mouth is, “Crocodile”.

He smiles and looks at me nodding and repeats, “Crocodile”.

Even thought the wave is due at 7am, we can hear it at 6.45am. Standing knee deep in mud on the banks of a river, waiting for a wave is not something you would expect on a Saturday morning.

The surreal nature of surfing in a river with crocodiles, piranha and anaconda hit me full force. You see, it’s not the experiences we have in life that changes us. It is the moments in between the experiences when things sink in. Therapists call them ‘teachable moments’. Only problem is that they usually occur when there is not a therapist in sight. That leaves just one person to make sense of it. You.

The wave itself is a sight that leaves even the tour guides initially speechless. The water is the colour of iced coffee. Branches and debris are pushed in front of the wave making it twice as hard for the surfer to negotiate his line.

In the event of falling off, I am instructed to wave my board over my head as the Jacare may wander over to see this new Australian addition to their menu.

The wave lasts about 2 hours. It is rideable most of that time which means the time you stand on your board – when added up – means you surf for nearly an hour. This probably equates to a 10 kilometre wave. A novice could learn to surf in just one wave.

At one stage we are told to get in the boat as we have to negotiate around a whirlpool that has developed on the bend of the river. A whirlpool? No one told me about that.

I ride the wave past towns and local people who have lined up on the bank to see the twice yearly sight. I lift my hand above my head to wave. They wave back. I surf on. They return to their lives.

Rising early

Final part comes out tomorrow…

Ridding yourself of negative thoughts is impossible. As parents we know this when our child is crying. We make them laugh or show them something that interests them and within moments they are laughing. They have at least forgotten the trauma.Real mud

As adults we must replace negative distractions with positive obsessions. You see, by concentrating on defeating something like depression your focus increases the subject of your thoughts. That is, depression. It’s like trying not to think of your father. Instantly his face springs to mind.

To combat depression all you need is an idealistic goal to chase. Victor Frankl, the psychiatrist who found himself in a concentration camp, accepted his place in the world, he just didn’t focus on it. He focused on the difference he wanted to make. He looked at how he could make a difference even though he was confined to Auschwitz with death all around him.

Okay, you are not in a concentration camp. But as the saying goes, “Man can make a hell of heaven or a heaven of hell”. So it’s up to you. It’s up to what you concentrate on.

Mud

Do you see burnt trees or new growth? If you have read this far, you know that the intended answer is new growth. The trick is realising that the fire caused the new growth.

It’s all about perspective.

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The tidal bore wave roaring down the Amazon river was stuck in my head. Local tribes named the Pororoca – meaning ‘Great Thunder’ – because of the sound the wave makes. It can be heard 15 minutes before it comes into sight. Trees and other debris are swept along the river making it a threatening site. Alligators that frequent the water disappear as it approaches. Piranha scatter.
In the absence of a scientific explanation, local tribes fear the wave and have made up stories to explain its occurrence and fury. For surfers however, it is a mesmerising site. As the river narrows the surge of water condenses and picks up in height. As the bottom of the river becomes shallow it forms into a breaking wave that follows the contours of the river for miles and miles. For me, as each day past I preferred to use this as an escape from my life trauma. I researched the wave and tried to track down anyone that could give me information that could put me there. As with all endeavours, the louder and more persistent your knocking is, the more doors that open for you. Slowly, evidence started to surface that this was possible. Contacts materialised. An expedition organiser was found. Money was discussed and dates made. Due to the accuracy of measuring tidal movements and full moons, the exact date and time of the next wave was chosen. September 7th.

Four months to go.