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).

Christmas on Little Corn Island or why I love the life I live

Living on a tiny tropical island in a developing country makes Christmas quite a different experience from what most of you are used to. And that is exactly why I love living the life I live, here on Little Corn Island.

While back home the Christmas buzz starts in some places somewhere in October, working itself into a total frenzy of freaky consumerist energy by mid-December, here on Little Corn Island life goes on as normal, more or less until December 21 or thereabouts. 

Until then nobody has any idea what they will be doing on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, apart from those that have jobs in the restaurants, because they of course will be working. But none of us has made any plans for a Christmas dinner or full-blown Christmas party. No fancy invitations have been sent, no heads broken over 10-course dinners. Island dinners can never be very elaborate anyway, because of the major lack of fancy ingredients to be found in the shops. No-one has been spending a fortune buying gifts and wrapping them, because there is not a whole lot to buy in our handful of general stores, and there is no brain-washing through non-stop advertising that makes you want to buy all that Christmas-stuff. Christmas cards cannot be sent for lack of postal services here, so that one is easy too. Basically, the almost complete absence of forceful marketing publicity makes Christmas on a little island so much more relaxed.

So there wasn’t much Christmas-inspired activity going on here, way into December…..

Then, finally, someone sent out a Facebook group message that there would be a pot luck/BYOB/bring your own plate-dinner on the 25th, and everybody happily RSVP-ed with thumbs up, stickers and other funny comments. It’s going to be quite a crowd of mostly foreigners that have settled or who hibernate on our little island. There is no printed menu, we don’t even know if there will be enough food and drinks, but we don’t worry about it. No dress code either and half of us will appear on flip-flops or crocs, the other half barefoot. Guys will for sure wear their baggy shorts, some of us girls will wear a slightly fancy dress that we have worn already many times to all the other festive occasions, since we all just have one dress like that. Make up is optional. My necklace is made of coconut shell. Oh, and you don’t have to worry about a dinner date to attend the party, you just come with your dish and some booze and the party is on. Until then: relax!

By early December there are usually some minor indications that “the season” is starting. The first sign is always somewhere in November when a salesman starts showing up every Saturday on the freight boat with a load of imported green and red apples and grapes. Prices are inflated. More than a dollar for 1 apple and something like 5 dollars for a pound of grapes. People pay that money, because that’s what you do: you buy expensive imported apples and grapes for Christmas.

Photo credit: The Lighthouse Hostel
                                            Photo credit: The Lighthouse Hostel

The next sign of seasonal activity is on the 2nd Saturday of December when the freight boat delivers a bunch of fire crackers, which of course are all fired that same day. I wonder if there are any left for Christmas or New Year’s? 

A few houses sport a couple of strings of Christmas lights. One house has strung them around just one  low-sitting square window. Somehow the sight of that single red-lit window makes me think of my home-town. I guess I have lived in Amsterdam for too many years 🙂

About two weeks before Christmas the big communal Christmas tree has been set up on the beach. It consists of one cable of neon-coloured Christmas lights spiralling down to the ground from the top of a tall stick. No decorations, and not even a hint of fake “evergreen”, thank god for that. Nothing as sad as a fake evergreen in a tropical country where everything is green forever, but we don’t have spruce, pine or firs here. Sunset gives that tree quite a magical backdrop! No need for decorations there.

In the mean time a few of us (foreign residents) are gearing up for a Christmas tree decoration activity in front of Café Desideri, island style. 

Every year they put up some kind of basic tree (either just a tall stick, or a big dead branch with loads of side branches), and we decorate the whole thing with beach trash. Yours truly is always good for a sackful of colourful beach trash, collected throughout the year. A few days before Christmas we dump that all in front of the restaurant, bring some simple tools to poke holes, a pair of scissors, a roll of string and maybe some glue, and then the fun begins! As soon as two adults start playing with a pile of colourful trash they attract lots of attention. Local children are pulled in by the magnetic force of coloured plastic, automatically associated with toys. Adults are always very curious about what we are doing, and once they understand the idea usually become very supportive of the whole project, appreciating the fact that we recycle trash there. Random strangers join in to help the kids or to create their own decoration; a constantly changing group of adults and kids combine their innate creative talents for several hours making the strangest, funniest, ugliest and prettiest Christmas tree decorations you can imagine.

Christmas tree 2016Anything goes. Combs, flip-flops, tooth brushes, bottle caps, broken USB cables or egg timers, cups, ice cream tubs, and one year even the derrière of a mannequin and a biker’s helmet have made it into our Christmas tree. The result is a very messy, but super-merry Christmas tree, that has no pretensions to be fancy or fashionable, just pure fun. The best part of this whole happening in my opinion is the opportunity for all of us to do something different and to express some creativity, because we don’t get that chance often enough. The absence of prefabricated examples stimulates the children’s imagination, and they start to create from scratch, stringing a few bottle caps together with a tooth brush in between and all of a sudden it’s a doggie! They work together, sharing their ‘trashures’, helping each other to cut string or poke holes. And then one of the littlest ones collects a whole set of bottle caps, lids, some plastic jars and a little spoon and starts cooking up a storm in her little improvised kitchen, and afterwards she puts all the dishes neatly away and wipes of her counter. No need for an expensive fancy toys-‘r-us-stove with a set of matching pots and pans, just some trash and a handful of sand was enough to spark her imagination to create her own complete kitchen. 

As little as she is she joined us in our statement against consumerism, having a great time decorating a tree without spending a dime! 

Another reason why I like our beach-trash-tree is the fact that we can turn something ugly, sad and negative (the dirty beaches, the fact that so many people don’t care and let their trash end up in the sea, the fact that there is so much wastefulness in a world where so many people lack even the most basic things) into a fun event with a, umm, well, kind of pretty result! An alternative Christmas thought, being mindful in many ways. 

Christmas mannequin

A couple of years ago I read an article based on interview with island dwellers about their lives and what they appreciated so much about it. The one thing I remember from that article was someone who mentioned that living on an island so far from everything makes the focus of life shift from ‘having’ to ‘being’. That rang so true for me that I will never forget it. Being instead of having is a major focus point in my life here on the island, and I love it. Our way of celebrating Christmas is a perfect example of that. No pretensions here, no fortunes spent just because everybody else does that too, or because the commercials tell you that you should. Just getting together with a pile of trash, some simple pot luck food, drinks and music and we all have a good time. 

How much of your Christmas experience is about being, and how much of it is about having, about consuming? How much effort and money do you put in the appearances of your home, your food, your clothes for Christmas? What are your main Christmas thoughts? Do you take time to make your own Christmas cards, use your creativity to make decorations and gifts, do you bake your own cookies? Or do you just buy, buy and buy? And even if you get everything store-bought, for lack of time, do you shop locally, buying from small stores, or is your Christmas just filling the pockets of a few big corporations? Do you buy fair trade gifts and decorations, to help alleviate poverty in developing countries? Is your feast mostly locally grown and organic, to support the environment? How’s your balance between preparation time spent running around in a frenzy to get everything perfect, and the actual quality time with your family or friends over Christmas? 

What are your Christmas thoughts? Did you ever stop and think about why you are decorating a chopped-off tree, and why you are buying gifts for all those people? Ever stop to think why there is a pot-bellied Saint riding around in a sleigh through the snow distributing presents around the same time that we are celebrating the birth of Jesus in the Middle East where they have no snow at all? Why does Christmas dinner have to be such a huge meal? Unless we are devout Catholics, there is no real reason to celebrate Christmas, is there, other than that everybody celebrates Christmas, and everybody sends Christmas cards, and everybody buys Christmas gifts? Who are we fooling, other than the little ones with Santa’s fairytale? 

But hear me out, let me not ruin your Christmas. These are just a few thoughts, mostly seeded by my simple life on this little island. I have posted them here hoping to create some more awareness, to help you start thinking about celebrating Christmas in more sustainable and mindful ways, or maybe creating your own mindful celebrations at random moments in the year, just because you can, and not because everybody else is doing it. 

So, let’s have fun, in whichever way you are celebrating this year. Pot luck or 5-course dinner, flip-flops or high heels, may you all have a very Merry Christmas!

 

 

How I got to start this blog….

For my very first blog post I have chosen to do a bit of a free writing exercise and just let the words flow. I have spent a good two months preparing the website, and now I am ready to publish it and start writing and posting the stuff that I am passionate about. That is a lot, so this blog might end up covering a lot of ground over time. From meditation and yoga posts to nutrition, skin care and healthy habits. I will explore the phenomenon “comfort zone” and invite you to check in with yours. There will be posts about fear and what it does to us, about karma and how we can use that as a tool in our lives. I will talk about creative living, trash and doing something different, about patience and compassion, self-love and mindfulness AND I will write with regular intervals about Pumpkins the cat.

 

Pumpkins

It’s all his fault. Blame it on the cat. When he walked into my life and I reluctantly let him stay, so many things happened and fell into place for me that I felt a compelling urge to start writing about it and create this website. I had been playing with several ideas for blogs in the last couple of years, but never got the guts to start one. A case of major laziness and procrastination, of not wanting to get out of my Karma Shack comfort zone (that is 4 blog topics in one sentence). 

 

I love writing, always have. Already as a little kid I would write 8 pages for an essay assignment in the time that other kids barely managed to squeeze out 4 sentences. I used to have pen pals (yes I grew up in an era of snail mail, and it was so much more exciting to come home from school and find a letter on the doormat, than getting non-stop notifications popping up on your phone!). I journaled for years as a teenager (and burned those diaries years later when I found it too embarrassing to even finish reading through them again) and never procrastinated writing a paper for a school assignment. All of my ex-boyfriends would receive one or more long letters after we broke up, in which I would explain exactly how I felt and what I thought about them (I wonder if any one of these guys has kept one?). 

 

alice

My father was an art critic for a major Dutch newspaper, my uncle director of the Royal Library in The Hague (and he co-wrote a Dutch translation of Alice in Wonderland, how awesome is that?), my brother has had his own advertising and publicity agency where he has been doing all the copywriting himself for probably 25 years now. So I guess the writing runs in my blood. And even though I am making  a living as a yoga instructor and body and energy worker right now, it seems that writing has edged itself sideways into my life after all, in a similar way as the cat has. It snuck into my life so subtly that there was no one point where I could say no! And now it has become a heartfelt YES for writing (and for Pumpkins the cat)!

 

I tell you all this, because it is actually quite significant. This blog is the living proof that every now and then you have to open your mind to new and scary things (a cat!, taking a 30-day writing challenge!, starting a blog!), to give your innate passion a chance to come out and express itself.

If I would not have let that cat edge himself into my life I would not have started to contemplate on myself and life in general the way I did when I was observing him and commenting to him (well, to myself, basically) on his process of domestication. His evolution from wild bush cat into loving and loveable house cat seemed to mirror and relate my own process of learning to love myself and be loved.

The longer Pumpkins hang around and the closer he got to me, the more I caught myself thinking that between him and me we had some serious write-worthy material going on…… Then a friend visited. A musician, poet, song-writer and singer. I told him about Pumpkins and about my personal parallel journey. He said: “Girl, you got a book there!”.  And that’s when I knew I wasn’t making things up. It was a story worth writing, and I started the very next morning. Soon I realised that this cat story could consist of a whole series of short chapters, each with their own theme, which is perfect for a blog. And having to keep up a blog would be the ultimate accountability trick to keep me writing and not let the whole project end in a writer’s block or the lame excuse of not having enough time. With a blog, you have an obligation to your readers to show up regularly. Now I cannot avoid writing that book, one blog post at a time. So yes, Grant Peeples, you are another cat-alyst that made me start this blog by telling me I should write that book.

 

A few days after I had decided to write the book, I received an email announcing a 30-day online creative writing challenge. The timing seemed significant and it wasn’t too expensive, so I signed up for ‘Write Yourself Alive’. And boy, did I write myself alive! It was so much fun, at times liberating or very challenging, going deep into myself or just making it all up in the spur of the moment. It was a month of being totally immersed in bringing out my true self, in writing. The connection with other participants was encouraging, and I felt inspired and motivated every day, just by the act of sitting down and writing for a couple of hours. I learned that some creative action every day actually creates inspiration for your whole day, for all the other things you have to do that don’t seem very inspiring, like laundry, shopping and working to pay the bills. Although I have been a creative throughout my life, I had never consciously learned to use creativity as the motivation-tool that it totally is.

So after the cat and my poet-friend, this 30-day writing challenge became the 3rd and decisive cat-alyst to start this blog. Now I had a peer-group that encouraged me and which could hold me accountable, since I wrote on the group-page that I was starting a blog. There was no way back, I was going to be a blogger…

 

Starting a blog involves creating a website, which you can make as simple or as complicated as you want. I had never done such a thing before, and identify myself as a total digital dinosaur. (I always explain how I left the Western world in ‘the last millennium’ which sounds so awesomely ancient. People had just started to use hotmail accounts then, e-commerce had still not really taken off and less than a third of our population had a cell phone (I bought my first one a year ago). Just to give you an idea).

computercrash

I have always nurtured quite a bit of fear for computers and other digital gadgets, because they tend to shut down on me, freeze in my hands or even die when I just look at them (I was glad when I found out a couple of years ago that there is a scientific explanation for this phenomenon, and that I am not a witch again, as I apparently was in a former lifetime). My last computer outlived its one-year warranty by nineteen(!) days before it passed away from one day to the next. Beyond repair.
So yes, the digital world has me somewhat daunted. Which meant that wanting to start a blog/website was quite a bold decision, which definitely got me Out Of My Comfort Zone big time. I googled “How to start a blog”, found a helpful website written for dummies, and got a tip for a web host that has user-friendly templates. They said that creating your website would be as easy as drop-and-drag……..well, kind of, but not completely. Being the writer-formerly-trained-as-designer I will of course not settle for the simple bloggers template. I need more personal input, AND I have a business, that I might as well put on that website now that I am making one. Add to that all the interesting stuff related to the Karma Shack and everything that I learned through it….This should be much more than a cat blog. The project started to take on serious proportions.

Scary digital design for a good-sized website….and I was still not giving up? Wow, where did I find that motivation I hear you ask? I know, I was quite surprised and amazed myself.

 

Of course it went wrong many times, and I got quite intimate with several of the chat help desk assistants of the web host. Most of them are quite patient. Only a couple of them started throwing code at me, which I just whacked back at them immediately. There is going to be no code in my life! Thank you.

At a certain point I had been messing up so much, that I decided to start all over again. Mind you, we’re talking days of work here…. and somehow I was still motivated to keep going. At one point I gave a friend a little preview. She said she was impressed and I realised only at that moment that I was as impressed by myself as she was. Which made me laugh, proud and determined to finish!

 

steep-learning-curve-ahead-1

The learning curve so far has been steeper than your average Nicaraguan volcano hike, and will continue to go up for quite a while longer (note to self: learning as a blog topic). But for now I am just happy that this website is up, and that I am blogging. A new phase in my life has just begun, and I am very excited about it!

 

I hope you will get a little enthusiastic for me as well, that would be very helpful, thank you so much. Some cheering on, some constructive feedback, a little pep talk, some appreciating comments,…you know, the small stuff that makes or breaks a person’s ego and related motivation……Go on, you spent probably about 8 minutes reading all this, you might as well take another two minutes to write a little comment……I dare you to do some creative writing yourselves, it’s very refreshing!