Are you extremely sensitive? Are you one of those people that burst into tears easily, over all sorts of seemingly little things, while people stare at you, telling you that it isn’t that bad or just calling you a crybaby? Do you feel ashamed about being so emotional, and wish you wouldn’t be like that? Well, here you might find some reasons to change your mind about that!

This post is inspired by one of my clients, a young woman who came for a massage in the Karma Shack. I will not divulge her real name, but when she reads this she will immediately recognise her story, without a doubt. Here I’ll call her Kitty, just because she loved Pumpkins, and he loved her, at first sight.

If you ever read the FAQ section on this website, or the blogpost I wrote on the topic of FAQ on Little Corn Island, you know that I try to be silent during massages. But it doesn’t always happen. With some clients there just has to be a conversation, for a variety of reasons that I won’t discuss here because they are not relevant to the story.super-sensitive people cry often

 

Kitty was such a client. The conversation just had to be. We spoke about many things, mostly just light topics. Asked about her job or field of work, she told me she was between jobs, figuring out what she really wanted to do most. At that point we moved on to another topic and didn’t go into the options that she was considering.

Much later during the massage, she burst into tears when she was talking about a few animals she had seen here on the island: a skinny horse, a dying puppy, maybe a cat…. She apologised for her tears and beat herself up for being oversensitive. She said that she could even become upset and cry over the fact that she can cry about anything. Well, once you go down that lane, you’d never stop crying, right?

I stopped her in the middle of her apology and told her that there was nothing wrong with showing emotions and being sensitive. It is a human trait (and right!). Some people are very sensitive, others are unable to show any emotion at all ever, and then there are hundreds of shades from teariness to stoicism in between those two extremes. Then I asked her: who has ever decided that crying over little things is bad? I never had a vote in that, did she? She laughed through her tears. 

Actually, in these times of being numbed out by all the violence and negative news of the media, being sensitive is in my opinion a very positive trait. More people should try and tap into their sensitive side, because it could spark their passion about something. It may make them ask themselves or others some serious questions about the way they live their lives and the way things are going in this world. Maybe they would even stand up for a cause of some sort and make a difference in this world, instead of just passively consuming whatever gets put in front of them on social media and TV. They could start with a sensitivity-rights movement to get things moving a little bit, just like there are a gay-rights movement, and an animal rights movement.

 
Kitty agreed with me that sensitivity is a positive trait in these mind-numbing times. Then she said that she could probably win a contest with her crying.

The next thing that happened was the funniest thing ever.

My mind fired into a major bout of creative imagining, and this is what came out: the marketability of sensitivity. It could be Kitty’s new career. 

First of all she could offer trainings in sensitivity management. Knowing when to tap into it, when to put a lid on it, when to let it show and when to hide behind your hair. This would be for overly sensitive people. 

The other end of the spectrum would be trainings to develop sensitivity. How to stimulate it, how to show it, how to use it in the right moment as an emotional outlet. How to let your sensitivity inspire you into action. Teaching the cold people to be more sensitive.

Both trainings could be made into special retreats, preferably on a small tropical island, like for example Little Corn Island, and should include a couple of sessions in the Karma Shack, always good to get a bit closer to your true self.

Then of course there could be books, a website, a blog, audio-recordings, online-trainings and individual online coaching sessions. I could swear Hay House would love it all! Oh, and of course there would be sensitivity yoga and sensitivity meditation, the latest of the latest.

Sensitivity is the new black.

 

The other end of this new sensitivity hype would be a TV-show: The Sensitivity Contest. Contestants would be exposed to certain cues in different settings, each with a judge on their side, timing the start and finish of the tears running. Cues could be pictures of skinny puppies, a father holding his newborn child, an older couple embracing, or a young woman sitting on her own in a bar. Then the contestant would be told some really good news, or maybe some slightly less happy news, or random world news of all sorts. Also some compliments, a few mild criticisms and different types of music, smells and touch. A small gift or two, a favour done to them…..so many ways to set them off, if I may believe Kitty. The contestants would be exposed to some of these cues in public, for example in the studio in front of an audience, at home in the company of friends and family or at work amidst co-workers. Other cues would be given in an isolated situation, where nobody could see them cry (apart form the camera). There might even be a hidden camera part to this show, to make it reality TV too. The person that cries quickest, longest and most often under all circumstances wins the contest. Of course there can be prizes in subcategories, so that there will be more tears of joy and less of disappointment when it comes to the finals.

I can see some of the major TV-stations wanting to buy this concept to make millions!

Kitty can stop looking for a new job, we just invented her new career. She would be working with what she is really good at, that is being sensitive. She is passionate about it (it makes her cry), so she will be very successful with it! Go for it, Kitty!

I told her that she could take all the credit for this amazingly original idea, I will not ask any royalties or sue her for stealing my idea when she is making the billions. I hereby hand it over to her, to use it to her best ability. I mean, she is the sensitive one, so she has earned this. If it weren’t for her tears during the massage, I would not have come up with this idea.

I did ask her to invite me to all the opening nights of her trainings and retreats and to the presentations of her books and of the prizes she will win with both her books and her TV-show. I will stand in the corner and smile, and I may even  have a little tear in the corner of my eye. I hope she will not forget that afternoon massage in the Karma Shack, when she gets all famous.

I wrote this post to make sure that the idea will not be claimed by anyone else. Whoever reads this and thinks they can get ahead of Kitty in making this idea reality will have to deal with me. Only I know the real identity of Kitty, and any publisher or TV-station that wants to buy this concept will have to check with me if they are dealing with the real Kitty, because otherwise there will be a huge lawsuit. It’s all about Karma, isn’t it?

(this post is published with the consent of Kitty).

 

This episode finds you at your new home. You instantly made the big mistake of flagging your territory inside the house as well. That definitely made you a little less welcome, and my neighbours banned you to the porch for good, but you seemed alright with that anyway. Your legs were getting stronger, and you were venturing into the garden every day, and stayed away a little longer every time. You were slowly getting back to being a proper bush cat, always outside. But you had changed your mind about one thing: it was very convenient that you had a plate of food on that porch waiting for you every day, plus some treats whenever they had some tasty leftovers from their dinner. Life wasn’t too bad for you, a couple of months after you dragged yourself near-dead into that hotel-kitchen. It had been worth the humiliating effort of asking for help. 

Pumpkins the cat gets chased by dogsHaving said that, you got into trouble again. Somehow two dogs got you cornered when you had ventured off the deck. My neighbours caught them in the act of tearing you apart, literally. One had hold of your hind legs, the other of your head, and they were pulling in opposite directions. You “looked three feet long” as my neighbour described it agitatedly after they had bravely rescued you from the bloody chops of these ferocious canines. Result: re-traumatised cat with several puncture wounds and cuts. Where had we seen that before? 

Anyway, back on the porch you licked your wounds, stayed low and just recovered again, like you did before. A little more skittish for a bit, but after a while you were just back to your “normal” self. Did I ever tell you that we have a dog on this island that’s called Trouble? I don’t think she gets into a whole lot of trouble herself, but jeez, that name would fit you well, Pumpkins! 

So after this incident my questions were: how do you get yourself into so much trouble…..do you not see the danger coming because you’re partially blind or deaf or otherwise impaired? Or do you not consider it danger? Did the Creator not fit you out with a healthy sense of danger-assessing abilities, the way they usually come with a complete cat-kit? Do you just have no concept of danger at all? Are you a total dare-devil? Or do you have such a big ego that you think that you can handle everything, and no cat or dog or even two or three dogs can bring you down?  Maybe you are just plain suicidal but not very successful at it? I am not sure what is the answer to these speculations. Let’s keep it on a mixture of all of them. Although, on second thought, if you were suicidal you wouldn’t have dragged yourself into that kitchen. So fair enough, we’ll scratch that option. 

Life goes on even if you're woundedRecently I was reading a book by Wayne Dyer, such a wise man. Illustrating the concept of living in the moment he described how he had once been on a safari where he watched a zebra peacefully grazing and chewing her food. She seemed very graceful and calm, notwithstanding the fact that one of her legs had been chewed off by lions the night before, but she had somehow escaped. Since there was nothing she could do to change the situation of her probable near-death, she just went on with what she would always do in the morning: have breakfast, and then go for a drink at the watering hole. When I read that story, I couldn’t help but think of you, Pumpkins. Even though you are severely damaged at times, you just go on with life, as normal as possible. 

We humans could learn a lesson or two from animals here, couldn’t we? Whenever we get “severely damaged”, we curl up in bed and cry and whine and feel very sorry for ourselves and hope that everybody else also feels very sorry for us, and how are we ever going to get over this misery? Often we need counselling to get over all our traumatic experiences, or store it at cell level in our bodies which then start aching or develop chronic diseases……Right? Well, as the zebra and Pumpkins have been illustrating, there are other ways to deal with trauma…… Just saying.

 

If you missed earlier episodes of Pumpkins’ story, you can read them here.

 

 

 

The Karma Shack blogGratitude is a much used word these days. In this new age of spiritual change that seems to spread slowly but steadily, you hear people talk about gratitude left, right and centre. Every third quote on Facebook seems to be about gratitude. Gratitude is being quoted as the secret to happiness. If you just start being grateful, happiness will find you easily. Is it really that easy? Or is everybody just talking after each other, without really knowing what they are saying? How many of them practice gratitude on a daily basis? Is gratitude becoming a platitude? I’d like to explore that idea here…..

Those of you who have ever been to one of my yoga classes in the Karma Shack know that I always end the session with a little gratitude contemplation. I express amongst other things how extremely grateful I am for everything that the Karma Shack has brought into my life: growth, depth, joy and fulfilment, and the fact that I can share all that with others in my classes and treatments. The first time I said this out loud in class, it was a spontaneous act. As if the thoughts had been put in my head and my mouth just worded them, without much conscious input from yours truly. I had goose bumps and tears in my eyes. Because it sounded so totally true. I felt that gratitude deep inside, in every cell of my body, and it made me very happy. It was real.
I realised that by saying it out loud every day I confirmed that happiness over and over again, and I started adding this little gratitude prayer to the end of each yoga session. Every day it feels true. I am thankful for the Karma Shack in so many ways, and I even believe that that little building keeps handing me more good stuff because I thank it out loud in front of everybody every day.

 

Apart from that daily public expression of gratitude, I do another little private round in the evening, the moment I lay my head on my pillow. I run quietly through my day and name all the things, events and people that I feel grateful for: an inspired yoga session, a pile of clean laundry, a super-satisfied massage client, a hummingbird visiting the Karma Shack garden while I am at work there, a visit with a friend where one cup of tea leads to another and to a very intimate conversation, my cat Pumpkins joining us in a Karma Shack yoga session or sitting on my lap all afternoon while I am writing, a beautiful meal with veggies and herbs from my own garden, the fact that I can go to bed at eight without feeling that I am missing out on anything. Then I fall asleep with a peaceful mind in less than 5 minutes, usually. 

Another cat had gotten air of you, Pumpkins, the new cat on the block, and had started marking its territory outside my house, in the garden, and even on my doorpost and porch bench. That freaked you out. You had to do something. So you actually ventured down the steps into the yard, and spritzed your best scent all over the place. In the mean time I scrubbed the doorpost and the porch bench. It had been another cat 

pumpkins the cat that changed his mindand a challenging situation that had made you brave enough to come out of the house and get back into the big world. Go Pumpkins! We all need a little push now and then to get out of our comfort zone, or out of our funk.

But this other tom cat wouldn’t put up with the unknown invader that was hidden in my house. At night he would come to piss all over the place again, and actually start a fight with you, through the crack under the front door. Growling, scratching and full on screeching was taking place in the middle of the night. Hmmm, not so much fun anymore to take care of you, Pumpkins, since this was costing me my precious sleep. Luckily my neighbours were coming back soon!

A few days after their arrival we transferred you to their house. I thought I was just going to carry you up there, but I had totally overrated our relationship that was barely a week old. Maybe I thought that picking you up was an OK thing to do by then, but you definitely didn’t agree. Ten metres away from my house you put up a fight and I had to let you go. Mission aborted.

 

Pumpkins the cat that changed his mind

So I had to find a box and fix it in such a way that I could put you in and close it in one smooth move, before you would find your way out. Only then we could move you to your new home. You were not pleased at all with that box-manoeuvre. All cats like boxes, but only if they can play with them in their own time. The moment you put them in there when it is not playing time, they are highly offended. As they always are when they are not being treated like the queens and kings they all think they are, you included, my dear damaged Pumpkins.

At your new home you were getting the back room and adjoining porch as your domain. There was a litter box inside, and corners to hide, and during the day the door to the porch was open, so you could be on the balcony, safe from dog attacks, because there was a dense railing all around. You could see the world, and you could squeeze through if you wanted, but no dog could come in and get you, and that was the main goal: keeping you safe from mauling dogs, that had done such terrible damage to your body and to your mind, while you were recovering.

You didn’t start off too friendly with your new caretakers, and they may have been a little impatient for you to become a sweet and cuddly house kitty, who knows. You lashed out at either one of them every once in a while, and bit them several times, so they started calling you psycho kitty, which probably wasn’t helping the situation. When we repeatedly say or hear something, it becomes a belief and then gets confirmed time and again, because we start to manifest more of it. The Universe (or God, if you want to call it that) will always provide us with what we put our energy to. So my neighbours got more unexpected scratches and bites, thanks to the fact that they called you Psycho Kitty. This is my belief. Because after enough time for you to get used to me, you hardly ever lash out to me anymore. And I have never called you psycho kitty. So there you go, theory proven right, right? Life can be so simple.

Missed the first 3 episodes of Pumpkins’ story? You can find them

here.

 

 

Read more about cat behaviour:

 

fear of changeA simple, no-bake 3-ingredient recipe that anyone can make in less than 1 minute. Whether you like it or not, that is totally up to you.

Ingredients list:

1 cup of this quote by Heraclitus: “The only constant in life is change.”

1 cup of this old Hebrew proverb: “Change can happen in an instant, but the resistance to change can last a life-time.”

1 cup of (only the thought of) change of your own choice ( for example a new job, a divorce, a new exercise regime or diet, going back to school, an accident, loosing someone close, moving to a different place).

 

changeDirections:

Fold all three ingredients gently into the recipient of your consciousness. Stirring is optional if you want to throw in an extra dash of upheaval. And Voila!: most likely you will be experiencing a variety of unsettling emotions, ranging from just slight and short-lived unease (when you’re getting a new hairstyle), to full-blown anxiety-attacks, anger bursts, depression or great sadness. All of them causing you to suffer. And nothing hasn’t even changed yet!

Change, it ain’t fun for most of us, is it? 

Change (and the resistance to change) is one of the main pillars of my blog. In these pages I will regularly explore the many ways in which change manifests itself and the many roles that it can take on for us, hoping to inspire you to look at all those things in your life that you could change to make it happier, healthier and more fulfilling. 

I bet you have heard this quote a million times: “Change is the only constant”. It is so true. There is no way denying that one! It’s the cycle of life: ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Everything with a spark of life in it gets born, grows, blossoms at its peak, withers and dies. Even concrete will crumble, stainless steel will get unstable, sand dunes shift, mountains get pushed higher by sheer tectonic force, or lower from the never-ending grind of little grains of sand. 

Nothing is forever

We all know it, but in our way of living, behaving and thinking we are constantly in denial of that natural law of change. We don’t want to grow older, get sick and die. We don’t want to lose our jobs, our loved ones, our favourite TV-show, our health, our wealth. And we never ever want to throw away our favourite sweater. EVER! Even just thinking of those changes can make us unhappy. So there we are: let’s be totally open and honest about it: we d
on’t like change. 

The second quote in my recipe rubs this in so clearly: ‘Change can happen in an instant, but it is the resistance to change that can last a lifetime.”

It is this last quote, that is less known, that spells out for us the recipe of our own suffering. Our resistance to change is what creates all our emotional upheaval.

Resistance to change……where does that come from? Resistance rhymes with clinging, right? Well, you know what I mean. So why do we cling? Why do we so badly want to hold on to all these things that we have or are, unwilling to let go of the old and familiar and try on something new? 

In comes the Comfort Zone, one of my favourite topics (it was on my list as a potential name for this website, but already taken). I will talk regularly about our comfort zone too, because it is such an important aspect of our lives. It is the nursery of our well-being. At least that is what we want to believe. Comfort feels good, warm, cozy, relaxed, familiar. 

No stress, no pressure, no worries, no hurry. 

Your favourite clothes, your favourite corner of the couch with your favourite food and drink at hand, your favourite person or pet at your side, your favourite music or movie playing……isn’t that what first comes to mind when you think Comfort Zone? All those very familiar things, always the same? Always the same……we don’t want them to change. Every day the same. The security of knowing exactly what is coming. Nothing unexpected to be feared. 

We humans are such creatures of habit, aren’t we? Your daily routines, your work, your relationship…..all very much within the comfort zone. Life seems easy, when you know exactly how and when to do something and what to expect. But routines could easily become ruts, and that already sounds a little less comfortable. Ruts can get ugly, right? 

In ruts, you get stuck. 

resistance to changeOK, I plead guilty, I have just made your comfort zone probably a little uncomfortable……on purpose. Why? Let’s look at that same comfort zone not as a nice, cozy, protective shell keeping the scary unknown out, but as an imposing, restrictive prison cell, keeping you from reaching for the unknown good stuff out there…? What if it is holding you back from exploring new horizons, new possibilities and opportunities, new talents; from personal growth? What if the happiest and most fulfilled version of yourself, your-best-you, doesn’t live in your comfort zone? In the Karma Shack blog I will regularly explore that possibility in depth. For now I want to finish with my third favourite quote: 

“Life starts at the end of your comfort zone.” (Neale Donald Walsch)

See you there!

 

 

 

If you want to read a bit more about change and the resistance to change, check these links:

We’re slowly advancing into your story, probably as slow as you were recovering. 

The cat that changed his mindKaren was going to leave the island and wanted to take you with her, but you were still in no shape to travel. Even though we have learned here on the island that it is easier for a Nicaraguan cat or dog to get into the US than for a Nicaraguan human, for sure no vet would give you a clean bill of health, mandatory to travel. So we looked at other options. My landlord was not particularly fond of cats, so I couldn’t adopt you. I asked my neighbours, who had once told me they were cat people, although they were forever taking care of dogs. They agreed to take you in, when they would arrive on the island for the season. But between Karen’s departure and my neighbour’s arrival was a 10-day gap. So there I came in. Since it was only for 10 days my landlord was willing to give me an OK on having a cat around. You were still so injured it was unlikely that you were really going to go around and make a mess everywhere and get into fights with other cats (we thought…). Under your loud protests we stuck you in a cat carrier and wheelbarrowed you to my house, into strange territory. It must have been another terrifying experience.

 

Once we arrived and let you out, you scooted under the bed, and stayed there for the rest of the day. For the next few days, the far end corner of the bed was where you ensconced yourself. Hardly visible for the outside world, but you could just peek around the corner and keep a lookout through the open door. Then, a couple of days later, you posted yourself on the far corner of the mat that Karen had given me,  it must have smelled familiar, I guess. You still did not want to go outside. The big world had really given you a good scare, apparently, and on top of that you must have felt that your weak legs were a major handicap when it would come to confronting whatever danger was lurking out there. You were happy to use a litter box, since that relieved you from the need to go outside, but your stiff legs that still prevented a proper squat sometimes made you miss the box, so I was mopping every day, sometimes a couple of times a day. My little house smelled of you, Pumpkins, and it was OK. 

The way you were taking your time to recover from your fears AND wounds was an eye-opener for me. You were constantly sitting with your fears balancing on the edge of your confidence, nudging the limits of your comfort zone. Shifting them a little bit every day, moving a little closer to that open door. You weren’t wallowing in you misery and fears, but gave them time to calm down and subside. You weren’t going to be traumatised forever, that wouldn’t work for a bush cat, would it? You had to get back out there, but only when you were ready. In the right time it would happen. An amazing process.The cat that changed his mind

Then you moved to the door mat.

And then trouble came around. 

To be continued….

 

(This story takes place on Little Corn Island, Nicaragua. You can read parts 1 and 2 of Pumpkins’ story here)

 

Little Corn Beach Bums

My last post was about trash and why I pick it up. I didn’t include a story about one particular clean-up session, because it has become quite a long story in itself, the prompt for a charity project that I have started for the island. And when I say for the island, I mean literally for the physical island, for Mother Nature. But as a beautiful side effect families will benefit from it too, financially, and babies, physically! It will be a triple win! Before I go into all the details about the project (and you may be able to help as well!), I will tell you how it all started…..

Little Corn Beach BumsOn one of my trash-pick-up outings, I followed a little trail into the bush. I had never walked that little trail, because it doesn’t really go anywhere that I ever need to go. But I was curious…. (well, to be honest, I kind of knew what I was going to find there)….and guess what I found: a big pile of trash. Mostly diapers and plastic bottles. Those bottles made me mad, because they should be in the recycling bins. The diapers made me very sad, because I realised that diapers are the most complicated trash that we have here on the island. For multiple reasons:

  1. we have many babies, and many used diapers as a long-lasting by-product of their sweet presence
  2. the diapers are not organic, so they won’t decompose in nature
  3. they are soaking wet after use, so they cannot be burned
  4. they stink, so you cannot just let them sit in your backyard drying, besides, if you do that, dogs will come by and start eating them
  5. they cannot be recycled, but are full of plastics and other toxic compounds, so even burying is not really an option

 

 

I pick up trash. Not for a living, but just because it’s there. And because I can. Because I want to. Because I have to. Let me explain.

I live on this beautiful tropical island in the Caribbean, Little Corn Island, off the coast of Nicaragua. It’s tiny, so everything (and everybody) is right in your face. You cannot avoid walking past trash, because there are only a few paths that take you around the island. And there is trash everywhere. 

I bet your first thought is: why do people throw their trash around in such a beautiful place? Well, there are many reasons. First of all, this is a developing country, with a lack of funds, logistics and poor education. Basically, here we have no system in place that takes care of our trash the way you are used to have your trash taken care of. All you have to do is put it at the curb, and a truck will come and pick it up. Out of sight, out of mind. You pay for the service, they take care of it. Not here. We have no municipal facility or officer here. We have no roads, no cars, so no garbage trucks. We have no central dump or incinerator. Apart from a handful of recycling bins, we have no general garbage bins along our walkways, because emptying them causes a problem: where to take it? So better not have the bins, head in the sand-strategy. Basically, we’re on our own, when it comes to trash. We DO have trash, lots of it. 

 

A lot of the people living on this island have not grown up with the same concepts about trash in nature as you and I have. It’s a cultural thing: I have learned that trash does not belong in nature, and I have learned why it is bad that it is there. So I know. I cannot walk past trash sitting in nature without feeling bad about it. A lot of the people here have not learned that (yet). And let’s be honest, our developed countries took ages to establish this attitude towards trash. I remember I was tiny, when we had only one black and white channel on TV, seeing a government campaign about taking care of the environment. So it was barely 1970 when they started educating us about the environment in the Netherlands. It took us well into the 90’s before there was a firmly established system of recycling and diminishing our trash, which now has become second nature to most Dutch people. So if a well-developed, rich country with a good education system, municipal services and government campaigns needs a whole generation to get this environmental attitude in place, we cannot expect that a poor country without all that is going to get on top of their trash problem in a couple of years. I let go of that dream a while ago.

Here reality is that a lot of people throw their trash wherever they go. Because they don’t know any better. And because there is no real option to put it anywhere anyway, apart from plastic bottles and aluminium cans that are collected and shipped off the island for recycling. At their own homes they may burn their trash, but when it rains (and this is the tropics), that is not an option either. So then it is the bush. Where the chickens will scratch through it, and neatly distribute it all over the place. Dogs will scrounge and find the edibles (including disposable diapers). So what’s left is plastic, loads of it, and cans, everywhere.

Then I walk by. I see the trash. I used to get angry at the people for throwing it there, even though I didn’t know who had done it, a pretty senseless waste of my emotional energy. When I started to understand the complexity of this problem better I managed to stop blaming them, and I also tried to stop thinking that the local government should do something about it. Because they won’t, because they can’t. The person who throws plastic in nature is guilty of a crime against Mother Earth, and in a way that is a crime against every organism on this planet, which includes me. So that could give me a good reason to be angry and upset. But when I walk by and I see that trash sitting there, KNOWING THAT IT IS HARMFUL TO MOTHER EARTH and then not picking it up, I become as guilty of a crime against nature as that person who threw it there in the first place. I should be mad at myself then too! Once you know, you cannot leave it there, can you? That is the most important reason to pick it up: I do not want to be guilty of leaving it there, passively condoning these crimes against nature, which are also crimes against me. So I pick it up, and take it to the recycling bins. I throw the non-recyclables in there too, that is my silent protest to the municipality  and government for not providing some kind of trash-bins and a system to take care of that street trash.

 

For all you people who have aspirations to meditate, or who are already doing it for some time and still find it impossible to tame that monkey mind, I have some good news and some bad news. 

Let’s start with the bad news: after years of meditating, mostly on a daily basis, and often for at least 30 minutes or more, yours truly still has a VERY LOUD MONKEY MIND. Well, I must admit it isn’t too bad in my case, because I do not have a very stressful life, plus I don’t have a partner and a family, which always cause a million worried, stressed or anxious thoughts a minute. My monkey mind does keep going endlessly though, but it is mostly story telling that goes on during my meditation or just a lot of remembering. It is mildly entertaining, so I often just get totally lost in thought. But in all these years of regular practice the moments of true stillness are hardly ever longer than 30 seconds, and few and far between. It took me a while to stop seeing that as a personal failure, and it took me even longer to stop finding it frustrating and unfulfilling. But that monkey does never put a lid on its chatter, EVER. So far the bad news. (Did I just crush all your hopes or motivation to even try and start meditating? Sorry for that, but keep reading…the good news will perk you up).

The good news is that I found a way of working with that monkey mind, and tame it in a different way. I’m happy to share it here. 

I am not a fan of one particular type of meditation, so I switch around between techniques now and then, and one of the things I regularly do is a combination of deep breathing with mantras (not out loud, just in my head) or positive affirmations. When I start such a meditation, I think I got the right phrases ready, but then when I get into it, I keep fiddling with the words for a bit, trying to find the perfect mantra for myself. One day it seemed that no phrase was the right one, so I kept fiddling for quite a while (what do you mean monkey mind in disguise?).

 

Last week I posted a list of 17 things that could be potential deal breakers in your life on a little tropical island. If you started laughing hard at some of my descriptions, you are made for island life. If most of the points made you cringe or gave you the shivers, you may reconsider relocating to a tropical island paradise. 

Today I am giving you the exact same list, but this time I will tell you why most of them are the BEST reasons to come and live on Little Corn Island:

1.The Heat: I love the heat, because I love the sun! I always feel a lot of affinity with the iguanas we have here. They only come out when the sun shines. They first have to warm up, before they can become active. I’m just like that. Inactive in the cold, active in the heat. Although you won’t find me sunbathing on the beach, I always say I was born in the wrong location. In the Netherlands I was often cold, and very miserable in wintertime, when blankets of cold grey dampness do anything but make you feel comfortable or lift your mood. The sun is hidden by that ominous dark layer, sometimes for weeks at a time. The landscape looks grey and brown and dead, without any colour to brighten up your day. Only in my thirties I learned there was a name for my yearly depression: Seasonal Affection Disorder. Living on a little tropical island, seeing the sun almost every day and feeling warm most of the time has totally fixed that problem. Temperatures never drop below 20 Celsius (68 Fahrenheit) and are usually up around 25 in the shade (high seventies). The climate forces you to be outside in the fresh air all the time, instead of being locked up in air-conditioned or centrally heated sealed spaces. Having your house all open and being outside all the time also makes the whole island community more welcoming and open. No huddling behind closed curtains to keep the cold out. And thanks to that year-round warmth, Mother nature is always showing herself in her brightest greens and colourful flowers, against the backdrop of turquoise seas and blue skies. Nothing more uplifting for your mood than a dash of bright colour! Oh, and the sweat? Just see it as if you’re working out all the time: a major boost for self esteem and feeling accomplished. 

2. The Rain: OK, I confess, sometimes I have to force myself to love the rain. But imagine the first rains after months of dry hot weather. It is the most refreshing thing ever. I will take rain-showers, literally just standing outside washing myself in the downpour. It’s a most invigorating and super fun experience, and both my skin and hair love it! The rain saves you work, because you don’t have to water all your plants, and you can catch the water running down from the roof to water those that are not exposed, and to wash your laundry. Your clothes just feel and smell different when they have been washed with rainwater. As annoying as rainy season can be, with days of intermittent showers and squalls or 24 hours continuous downpours, we have to be grateful for all that water. It replenishes our aquifer and allows us to live on this little rock. We are totally dependent on the rains for all our daily water use. And after all the heat and sweat and always being outside, sometimes it is nice to be forced by the rains to go inside and do something indoors, without having sweat running down your spine. You have to love the rain!

3. The Wind: ahh, the wind! Here it is called a “sweet breeze”, and what better name for that cooling breeze coming from the sea, to keep you from coming to a full boil around midday. The breeze dries all your laundry in no time, and also keeps the mosquitoes at bay, that’s why you want to live on the windy side of the island. Those of you familiar with Ayurveda will understand when I say that for Vatas the windy season may be a little aggravating, but with the right foods, a thin wrap around your shoulders and some extra stretching it is still ten times better than winter up north.

4. The Transport: oh well, there’s a lot to be said that is not in favour of our transportation system to and from the island. But on all the good days, a ride in that open panga is the best way to come home to our little island. You make friends on the way, see a beautiful sunset over your shoulder, while craning your neck to catch a glimpse of your destination. On an early morning ride out to the Big Island, I meditate under the rays of the sun, not yet too hot, feeling the rhythm of the boat against the waves resonate with my own heart beat. The wind blowing your hair out of your face, the spray from the bow making beautiful shimmering arches. Ahh, I love those panga rides!

5. The Erosion: well, there is nothing to be loved about that. It is horrific and makes us all very sad and scared. Businesses are close to falling into the sea in some places, people are losing part of their properties, the island is getting smaller with every storm. On the opposite side of all that material loss is the impressive power of Mother Nature. You gotta give it to her: maybe we humans are bad to her, but she is a badass herself, throwing right back at us all that we have done wrong. When a good high sea backed by a strong wind washes the sea water over the vegetation into the beach trail, leaving us with ankle deep water full of trash and debris to wade through, I cannot help but think: right on, girl, thanks for rubbing it in. 

6. The Bugs: they are beautiful! At least, quite a few of them. Colourful butterflies, amazing moths, bright red dragonflies, bright green grasshoppers, the most amazing beetles, caterpillars and (tiny) praying mantises, and have you ever taken a good look at a cockroach? It’s actually quite a beautiful creature. So is a tarantula. We have banana spiders here who have a miniature skull face painted on their backs. Ants have intricate ways of communicating and working together, never giving up their tasks. Watching a mosquito from close by, seeing how it lifts its hind legs, is quite interesting. But then you just smack them on the head. Mosquitoes and sand flies offer excellent training in letting go. Letting go of wanting to be in control, because you can’t. Letting go of being annoyed by their high pitched buzz, because you can’t stop them. Letting go of the need to scratch an itchy bite, because you will cause it to get infected (you can stop yourself). Thank you bugs, for providing us with multiple reminders to let go and relax.

7. The Dogs: they are so much fun! Most island dogs run around free, and choose whom they want to hang out with for the day. They may be your best friend for a couple of days, until they run into someone else that all of a sudden becomes their preferred company (probably a better bite from a hamburger). Most dogs have names, and we all know them by their name. So we greet all dogs just like we greet each other. They are an integral part of the island community, are allowed in most restaurants, feature in lots of tourist’s pictures, get their own Facebook pages and are missed by many when they pass away. I’m a cat person, but I love the simplicity of dogs too.

 

8. The Aquifer: Not much to rejoice about an aquifer in itself, but the fact that it is limited makes you very aware of the amount of water that you use every day. Once you become aware of the possibility that the aquifer gets depleted, every drop of water plays a trick on your conscience. You learn to conserve water, recycle it, catch it. It definitely contributes to mindfulness and conscious and creative living!

9. The Trash: another one that is hard to be liked. Trash everywhere. Always washing up more on the beach, from all around the world. Always a stinking, burning pile of household trash somewhere close to you, unless you live smack on the beach, upwind from everyone. Always trash lying around everywhere, since a lack of education has not taught a good part of the local population that trash does not belong in nature. Besides: we have nowhere to go with it. Still, there are good things to be said about trash and little tropical islands: for a lot of us living here and being responsible for our own trash has made us very conscious of it. Some of us have started to shop more consciously, looking for things in bulk, creating less trash. I personally have let go of most processed foods, to avoid trash. So in a way I can thank trash for a healthier diet with mostly whole foods. It also makes us more resourceful, finding creative ways to recycle it, like stuffing soft plastics in cushions for the beach, or reusing PVC-pipes used for pouring cement posts to organise T-shirts in the gift shop. I have made a lot of fun things out of beach trash, and it is my way of not getting totally sad and upset about all that rubbish sitting on the beach. Watching the giant Karma Shack mobile made of beach trash slowly doing its never-ending choreography makes a lot of people feel good. 

10. The Limited Availability of Basic Things: love that one! The lack of choice is so liberating. When you need new shorts, and the store has only two pairs of cotton shorts that are not jeans and full of bling, you don’t mind that one is a size too big, and the other not really a colour that you’d normally wear. You just buy them! When you start to think about it, modern life is a daily struggle of choices, taking up a lot of your time. All day long. A lot of them are choices about stuff that you buy to wear, to use, to eat or drink. On a little tropical island there is not a whole lot to choose from, and it leaves you with lots of time and energy to do other things, or think about other things. The realisation that you won’t die when you don’t get your favourite coffee, your preferred sweet rolls or flip-flops that match your bathing suit, means that you are growing away from a highly materialist life of having, and start to get more into the mode of just being (I even have a pair of non-matching rubber boots). If you can handle the limited availability of basic things, you have passed one of the main rites of passage for life on a tropical island (in my Christmas 2016 post I wrote about ‘being vs having’ as an essential characteristic of island life).

11. Lack of Proper Healthcare: this is an interesting one. When you know there is not really a reliable medical service, you become more resourceful in finding out on your own what could be wrong with you, and then finding natural treatments for it, instead of pharmaceutical remedies that are sometimes not available anyway. But you also let things just take their course more often. When you get sick, well, you just wait till you get better, instead of running to the doctor for some pills. You start to rely less on someone else taking care of your health, and become more responsible yourself.  In all these years on the island I have visited the clinic once. Living a proper stress free island life also makes you less prone to disease. 

12. Lack of Communication: the lack of reliable telephone and internet signals has made me very independent of my phone, and of my need to stay connected with people in other parts of the world. When I can, I will, when I can’t I won’t cry over it. As I write this it is noon, and I just realised that I have forgotten to turn on my phone this morning! (and I am still alive!). When I am in the middle of posting a blog and the internet blacks out, I just go rake the garden or walk along the beach. Having unreliable communication can also be a great excuse to not stay in touch, or not get any work done! I sometimes dream of making our little island a digital detox destination. DDD, I’d love to offer that in the Karma Shack! 

13. Limited things to do: bullshit. I never have enough time to read all the books I want to read, study all the topics I want to study, write all the posts I have in my head, make my garden look perfect, finish all those arts&crafts-projects, and make all those home-cooked goodies that I’d like to eat, just because I am too busy with island-life as it is, and I don’t mean work. Boredom is a choice, and it’s not mine.

14. Temptations: that can be a tough one for some. But it can also be your real challenge. Staying true to your choice to live a life free of addictive substances that are toxic for you in many ways, is a very empowering experience. Especially when you are surrounded by people who are daily users of one for more of them. 

15. The Tourists: Love them or leave the island! So many wonderful people from all over the world come to our little island. And they are all here to have a good time, so as soon as you contribute to that, they are your best friend forever! I have met so many interesting people through my work in the Karma Shack, from submarine engineers to drummers in famous bands, ayurveda specialists and acupuncturists, young families travelling with 3 little kids, and double breast cancer survivor 85-year olds still swimming everyday. A guy that made a living of carving wooden spoons and teaching people how to do that, with a raw vegan chef as his girlfriend, whom he asked to marry here on the island. A woman who teaches yoga to children with special needs. War veterans, relief workers, missionaries. Wonderful musicians share their talents, artists leave their paintings, and many a tourist will spend a couple of hours leaving our beaches cleaner than before. Some of the tourists come back and become part of our community for a few weeks or months every year. These people become our favourite pack-horses to lug special requests from the US and Canada down here for us. Tourists! So grateful they come here!

16. The Local Community: a local island community is always a fun mix of many. Because even the locals come from all over the place, and add to that your mix of foreigners settling here after they have arrived as tourists. Once tourism starts to offer a good amount of jobs you see the local and foreign community mix more and more. Living in a place like this you get to have friends from all over the world. Apart from Nicaraguans both from the island and from the mainland, we have French, Italian, British, Irish, Portuguese, German, Austrian, Swiss, Spanish, Norwegian, Israeli, Argentinian, Australian, Kiwi, US, Canadian, Salvadoran, Colombian and Syrian people living on our little island. To this day I am still the only Dutch resident here, phew! 

The local community provides a never ending course of life-lessons. More than anything you learn that the way they do things in your country, is not the way they do things in any other country, and especially not on your little island. You learn to open your mind to different ways, and accept that things cannot always go your way, simply because you’re not at home. 

17. The confrontation with self: a great point if you’re into personal and spiritual growth! Being in unfamiliar surroundings with a lot of common things missing, out of your comfort zone, not surrounded by your closest family and friends that are always there for you and put up with your quirks or moods when necessary, you get to face yourself in the mirrors that random strangers will hold up for you, not knowing you so well. What you see in that mirror might not be your most favourite you, but then you can start working on it, and grow into a better version of yourself. Enjoy the ride!

So here we have the exact same list that I presented last week as 17 good reasons why you DON’T want to live on a little tropical is
land. Today I turned them around and made them perfect reasons why you DO want to live here. Last week’s list was based on all sorts of fears, keeping us in our comfort zones, today’s list is based on love, challenging us to step out of that comfort zone and learn new things and have different and magical experiences. That is always your choice in life: do I think, speak, act and live from a place of fear based on discomfort, uncertainties and the unknown, or do I live from a place of love, based on a willingness to learn and grow? Take that thought with you when you pack your bag to come and visit us and check out our little island for yourselves!