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).

 

 

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?).

 

 

 

There are many perks to living on a remote tropical little island paradise in the Caribbean Sea off the coast of Nicaragua, and I bet you can dream up a few: year round warm weather (although not always sunny, as our last Christmas proved by the bucketful), white sandy beaches and turquoise seas (with one lost crocodile that is keeping us from swimming at the moment), a relaxed lifestyle (for most of us) and a hammock (I personally believe I have the best hammock on the island). 

In another post I will write about all that is not so paradisiacal about life on Little Corn Island (and there is plenty), but today I want to focus on just one thing: FAQ’s. Yes, you read that right: Frequently Asked Questions. 

When you settle in a remote place that happens to be a tourist destination, you tend to meet a lot of tourists, especially when you own a business catering to them. And man, are they curious! 

But since they make our money, we have to accommodate them as best as we can, so we have to answer the same questions hundreds of times…and I tell you, that gets quite boring. Sorry, tourist friends, you cannot help it. I believe you are truly interested. But by the 250th time the story of how we got here and how long we have been here gets pretty b-o-r-i-n-g, and but the 500th time I’d rather not answer your questions ever again.

At least that is how I felt for quite a while, a few years ago. At one point I had read some stuff about the personal stories that we tell about ourselves, and how we can get really stuck in them, or attached to them, while we actually have the option to change that story every minute of our conscious life. After reading that, I was even less willing to repeat my ‘island story’ time and again, and I would kindly explain the asker why I didn’t want to answer. I was going through this phase where I really wanted to let go of my story and just be in the moment, not attached to the past.

Well, good luck with that, with all this nosy tourists around. Impossible. 

Then one of them kindly told me off, explaining that she really understood my resistance, but that she was asking the question for the first time. She pointed out that my story could be an inspiration for some people, opening their eyes to change or giving them the courage to finally do what they had been dreaming of for ages, thinking it wasn’t doable. She said that she herself found my story very inspiring. I was humbled. It made me change my attitude towards the FAQ’s.

The funny thing is, that when you live your own life, you’re never as impressed by it as others, who don’t live it. I really don’t think it’s such a big deal that I left my corporate job and after a few years of wandering the world ended up on this little island, where I now have my own yoga and massage studio. I don’t think it is brave to have done all that on my own, because I was never scared. So I don ‘t feel a big urge to talk about it either. But for some people it is brave, because they are scared, or stuck (most likely in their comfort zone). They are the ones that want to hear my story, because they don’t believe they have it in them to do what I have done, while I am convinced that anybody could do it. 

But let’s not argue about can or can’t.

Since that ‘inspiration’-lecture I went back to dutifully telling my story again and again, answering the same questions another few hundred times: at my doorstep (dancing around while the ants are biting their feet), during massages, after yoga class when I can’t get my  students to leave the Karma Shack or when they stop to ask the way….whenever a tourist gets an opportunity, they will fire their FAQ’s. 

I had already been playing with the idea of making a FAQ’s page on my website as a joke, and I will, now that I wrote this blog post. Recently I had another massage client asking me the same questions, but she added to it: “If you don’t mind me asking.” I did mind that day, probably because I was a little tired, after Christmas, but I didn’t want to be rude. Now that I have this blog and website I realized I could create an elegant way out. I told her that I didn’t really mind, but that my talking takes the focus away from the massage; she would get better value for her money paying attention to what my hands and her body are telling her, than listening to my voice telling island stories. I referred her to my website, where she could find all information about the history of the Karma Shack, and explained her my plan to write a FAQ section. She appreciated my excuse and chose to focus on her massage. I had created a writing commitment right there…

You may want to know by now which questions are asked so often…here’s the list. The answers are to be found on the FAQ page of this website. The order is pretty random, apart from the first one. That is definitely The Most Frequently Asked Question!

  1. How long have you been here?
  2. How long have you had this business?
  3. How did you end up here?
  4. Why Little Corn Island?
  5. Are you here for good?
  6. Has it changed a lot since you got here?
  7. Is this weather normal for the time of year?
  8. How often do you go back (to Holland)
  9. Is there a path here that takes us back to the village (walking into the backyard of the Karma Shack)
  10. Do you never get lonely?
  11. What did you do before you got here/back in Holland?
  12. How long does it take you to make one (coconut carving)?

My dutiful answers to these FAQ, asked by so many people, must have given them a bit of an idea of what it takes to go to a little island and settle there. I truly hope I have satisfied their curiosity, taken away their fears to make a change, and inspired them to look at their lives in a different way.

Unwittingly their questions opened my eyes to completely different things. While I was bored with my own story, I got more interested in the patterns that I saw in their questions, leading me to wonder about the psychology of boxed thinking.
Why does everybody ask the same questions? Do we have an innate human need to know certain things, or is it cultural behaviour? Are certain questions age or nation-related? Which questions are asked to confirm their beliefs, and which ones are meant to explore beyond the limits of their comfort zone? How much do people idealise life on a tropical island, and to what measure do they want to see it confirmed as an unattainable goal? 

Just take that first question: how long have you been here? Why is time so important to us humans? Why do we always want to put things on a timeline (Facebook!). Why do we need to know how long it takes to do something or get somewhere, and why does it matter how long I have been here? Apart from the professional world becoming a complete chaos, I sometimes wonder what would happen to us people if we didn’t have time to keep. Wouldn’t that be a liberating idea? Would we lose our minds? I mean, there are still millions of people on this planet that most likely do not have a watch or clock, and they survive, don’t they? 

When you are totally absorbed in a task that you are really passionate about, you completely lose track of time. You are “in the zone” and time loses its importance, its meaning. Time flies when you are having fun, but why?The opposite is true too: when you are bored, time almost grinds to a halt.  

But here we are, programmed to keep track of time, to time everything, to be in time and to beat time, if you are into any kind of racing sports. I’d like to challenge you to hide all your time devices for a day and see what that does to you and the way you go through your day and then report back on it in the comments. If you have an interesting experience I will write about it in another post. 

 

The question about how much the island must have changed since I first got here, is another interesting one. The funny thing is, that nobody will ever ask someone living in Chicago if it has changed much in the last 10 years. Of course it has. But when it is a cute little island everybody wants to know. Why? Do they want to hear that it is still as unspoilt as when I got here in 2005 so that they can say that they had a truly original experience? Or would they rather learn that this little paradise is being ruined, that it has lost its charm, that things are going downhill, thinking they got here just in time, or just too late? Are they maybe trying to gauge if with the rate of development as it is, it might be interesting to invest in property or a business here? 

Isn’t it strange, that everybody wants to know about things having changed, while most people by nature are afraid of change (I will write about this topic more often in the future)? 

Then there is that very personal question, whether I ever get lonely….it’s almost rude, isn’t it? But it is most likely a direct projection of their own fears of being lonely or maybe even their own actual loneliness (they may be standing right next to their partner when they ask the question). The sad thing is, that you don’t have to go to the other end of the world to be lonely. That can happen at home, within your marriage, or with all your family and friends close by. There are many ways to feel disconnected and lonely, and they have nothing to do with physical distance. It is usually this question that I try to answer in the most sincere and honest way, hoping to help this person to find their way out of their own loneliness. My idea of loneliness is this: if you need someone to help you with something (a strong man to help you put up some shelves, a geek that helps you unfreeze your computer, a shoulder to cry on or just a willing ear to listen to your story) and there is nobody available, that’s when you feel lonely. When you are a jack-of-all-trades that has read a lot of self-help books, your lonely moments will be infrequent.

As you can see, all these FAQ’s have in return brought up a lot of questions for me over the years. But I never ask the questioners my questions to find out what’s behind all theirs other than their obvious curiosity. Maybe I should, that would really give the conversation a different twist and make it more interesting for me. But I try to remain polite and don’t want to scare people by confronting them with the psychological and emotional reasons behind their own questions. It might ruin their vacation… I may have to go on a world tour and visit all of them in their home towns and ask them my questions, as that seems to be the way it is done:-)

So I created a special page on this website, to which I can refer them now… (it will be a great way to generate traffic to my website, won’t it:-)). They can find all the answers there. It will save me a ton of time which I can dedicate to writing and gardening, and my massages can be silent and more focused again. Everybody wins!

Any questions?

(I kept the list down to 12 questions just to give you an idea. If your most urgent question is not on the list, you may post it in the comments, and I may even choose to answer it fully and add it to the FAQ-page:-))