Where was I? Or better, where were you? Oh, right: still on my neighbour’s back porch, recovering from another attack. Crazy cat. 

Every once in a while there will be a vet coming to the island, so when that was the case, they tried to get you fixed. But my neighbours totally underestimated your opposition to being put in a carrier, so ten steps on their way to the vet you were out and away. Good for you!

Pumpkins the cat that changed his mindNext time they asked my help, and together we got you into a cage, and to the vet. It was amazing to see how you relaxed into the idea of sitting in a cage for hours inside an unknown space full of strangers and dogs, waiting your turn. You just went to sleep. You really seem to know when to surrender, don’t you? (you should write a book about it, make it into a workshop, it will sell very well). When it finally was your turn, the vet sedated you through the slits in the side of the cage, to prevent you from attacking her. Once you were out, you looked so harmless and sweet. But lo and behold: you had never been operated in your life, but you had no balls. Well, you have balls for sure, but no testicles in your little ball-sacks. They had never dropped in. So you didn’t get fixed. All that trouble for nothing. You were of course very pleased with yourself, I assume.

A few months later, time was coming for my neighbours to leave the island again. Their house would be occupied by a watchman, and he was ordered to feed you and give you fresh water every day on that back porch. They left a big sack of cat food, which should be enough for the time they were gone. You were in good shape by then, with only some minor scratches now and then, but no gaping holes, festering puncture wounds or other parts missing. You were basically living your independent cat life, apart from that bowl of kibble every day. I was only asked to report back on you every now and then, nothing else. 

The night before their departure, you disappeared, like most house cats would do. It’s that old trick of making us humans extra worried, so that we feel guilty about leaving you behind, even though there is not one hair in your fur that wishes to travel with us.

So as expected, they worried, came over and asked me to keep an eye out for you and let them know if I found you, if you were alright, etc. So suddenly I had cat duties……

 

If you want to read episodes 1-5 of Pumpkins’ story, click here.

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.

 

 

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:

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!

So there you were: a wreck.

At first sight I had even had thoughts about how we could help you out of your misery in the most humane way by ourselves, since there was no veterinarian on the island, and you looked beyond repair with your snapped spine and dragging hind legs. Karen had the same thoughts, but she also felt that she could at least try and make you feel comfortable and safe, until you perished or would be “destroyed” as she would say. (I found that the most horrible expression ever for putting you down. But then I am not American, and maybe this is a common word for it in the US?)

Anyway.  You did’t get destroyed, nor did you perish….you started to improve….. 

Only later did I come to understand that you are not an ordinary cat with 9 lives. You have probably 58 or more. 

So under Karen’s nursing love and patience, you showed signs of getting better. You started to be able to use your legs again, which was amazing, after the way your spine had been twisted. On your own, without surgery, without pain killers, without physiotherapy, crutches or braces, you just started to use those skinny legs again, bit by bit. It made me wonder why an animal can do that, and we (Western?) humans think we are incapable of it. Then I realised that you can, because you have no other options. You don’t know about doctors and operations and pain killers, and that is why you don’t need them. You either get better and survive, or you die. That is nature in all its simplicity and beauty, God at work. In nature you don’t have prescription drugs that you will have to take every single day, thinking that otherwise you will be sick and suffering for the rest of your life. We humans do that, because we cling on to life, with all our might (which is in fact not so mighty at all), and the pharmaceutical industry makes sure that we believe that we need all their medicine to be able to survive. We cannot deal with discomfort, and most certainly not with the idea that life might be short. We are unwilling to accept life as it comes to us, with disease and injuries, that either heal or not. Basically, with medicine and operations, we are just trying to play God, aren’t we?

Oh well, I got side-tracked here. Back to you, Pumpkins. You slowly managed to stand on your own feet again, and walk, albeit awkwardly. Jumping was still out of the question, and so was sitting. It was funny to see you trying, but literally not being able to bend your knees enough to sit on your haunches. It reminded me of some of my less flexible yoga students (usually guys, sorry, men!), trying to do the Garland Pose or Malasana. Garland Pose is a beautiful name for a wide-footed hip-opening squat where you push your knees outwards with your elbows, while your

hands are folded against each other in a praying gesture in front of your chest. The idea is to have the feet flat on the ground, but with short leg muscles and more than anything with tight hips, you cannot squat very deeply without lifting your heels off the ground. But since most people always want to go as deep as everybody else in yoga class (what do you mean, shutting up that little ego-voice in our heads and just be on our own mats without constantly comparing ourselves with others?), those heels will come off the ground and the not-so-flexible yoga student will be squatting on his toes, which will make him lose the stretch in the hips. But as a cat you don’t have a concept of squatting as deep as everybody else; you have no need to be as good as everybody else. So when your heels started to come off the ground, you just stayed there and didn’t squat any deeper. It looked very awkward, and it probably was, because you never sat for long. It taught me that when I have such a tight student in class I maybe should not make them stay in this pose for too long, because they are most likely feeling very awkward. Bummer, because I love to hang out in Garland Pose forever! So guys, be grateful for Pumpkins teaching me this lesson!

(This story takes place on Little Corn Island, Nicaragua. Read part 1 of Pumpkins’ story here)

 

To be continued…. 

 

 

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:-))

 

 

The first time I met you, you were completely broken, severely damaged. Both physically and emotionally, it seemed. When you dragged yourself into that hotel kitchen, you looked more dead than alive, but at the same time you seemed determined to get in there, exposing yourself to all these people you’d never met before. It was probably the last thing you wanted to do in that miserable and vulnerable state you were in, but it was also the last thing that you could do, since you had decided that you didn’t want to die yet.
The amazing thing was, that in all your squalor and brokenness, you still radiated a certain stoic arrogance and fearlessness, as if it was the most common thing to do for a wild cat: scramble into unknown human territory while you were skin over bones with festering puncture wounds and your hindquarters dragging behind you. You were probably scared to death, but at the same time you didn’t care anymore. You were at the end of your rope.

And the moment I saw you, I could feel exactly that: you had surrendered to God, to get help in any way imaginable, and in this case you were imagining that these humans were going to take care of you, even though they had never met you before. I call that Faith with a capital F. And you had it. 

The fact that the girls in the kitchen didn’t throw you out and just let you be there was a first sign that you were right. The fact that Karen, the manager of that place and a friend of mine decided to take care of you proved you right even more. Basically you had asked for help…..and received it! Life can be so simple. It was a brave thing to do, and probably not easy for you at all. ( Like it is for most of us humans. Why do we find it so difficult to ask for help? Is that just because it shows our vulnerability?)

Once you knew you could stay in this safe place, you let your trauma come out, and all of a sudden you were scared of everything. Nobody could come close to you except Karen, every little sound or movement startled you and made you scoot into a corner or under a couch as fast as your malfunctioning legs would let you. You were filthy and smelly , because you would pee yourself since you couldn’t squat properly. Your tomcat pride must have received a big blow by that attack that you had to fight off out there in the bush, but it was still being hurt time and again while you were recovering all these weeks and couldn’t show off your strong and proud tomcat image yet. 

In all your wounded vulnerability you were small, very small. In physical size and weight (when you dragged yourself in you probably weighed less than 4 pounds), but also in your severely damaged ego. There was not much left of it, it seemed. Totally subdued and afraid of everything. You were a total wreck.

 

To be continued…