September 2017

Trying to catch Django’s attention is a daily battle. In training school we learned that dogs only possess seven “attention slots”. If these are full of exclusive attention to one or more stimuli, there is no space to add anything else. Basically this means that when you give your dog a trained command – e.g. “sit” – and he does not respond at all, it is in fact useless to get angry or keep repeating the same command in an ever louder voice. He is not being disobedient, as we tend to think – it is just that his seven slots are already full of attention to other stimuli.

Waiting patiently is the only solution. All of a sudden you will notice that a slot has freed up – you can literally see this happening. You need to seize this moment and fill the slot with your stimulus – like the sit command.

You can also see this happening to us, people. We let our attention be drawn to certain things, to the point of complete absorption. Think about the situation when you are watching an exciting movie or reading a compelling book. Social media and computer games can also fully grasp our attention and practically make us lose the notion of where we are. It is addictive and requires quite some willpower to aim our consciousness at the here and now again.

What makes us different from dogs – and other mammals – is that the same can happen to our thoughts and feelings. We can become completely absorbed by a vortex in our head,  like some unwanted, babbling guest who is just sitting there. Buddha calls this the “Monkey Mind”. He described the human mind as a place filled with drunken monkeys who are endlessly jumping around, shouting and screaming.

We all have a Monkey Mind, Buddha said, with scores of monkeys, all demanding attention. The fear monkey is the loudest of them all, he is constantly ringing the alarm bell, drawing our attention to things we should be wary of and to everything that can go wrong. We are used to heeding what these monkeys are shouting about, every time again, and we take it seriously. It makes us withdraw into our head and worry about things that happened in the past or that could possibly happen in the future.

Being aware about this process is a first big step. Instead of these feelings and thoughts ‘having’ you, you need to realise that it is you who ‘has’ these thoughts and feelings, and that you can look at them in a conscious way. And that you can opt to go along or not, to get absorbed by them or not, to let them go or not. This is the freedom you have as a person, and you can cultivate this.

If you recognise the endless babbling of your own inner monkey world and you want to take back control, then coaching is there to help. Contact me for a free sample session. I will try to catch Django’s attention when you arrive, so he won’t greet you too enthusiastically and ignore all my commands.

The children are back at school. Regular working life has started again. The long summer break has ended. And I’m back to writing a new Inspiration.

When I took the decision to take a writing break, I followed a wise intuition – intuition and gut feeling are wise per definition. I somehow sensed that I would have very little time to open myself up for inspiration. At the end of July my dear mother passed away and the weeks before and after were entirely devoted to her, my dad, brothers and sister.

The weeks were intense and tiring, but at the same time beautiful, full of togetherness, intimacy and deep love. At moments like those only the essence is left. All the rest disappears into the background.

My mum was a very special person. This is something that maybe I have come to fully realise only now. The many stories from friends, family and acquaintances have only confirmed that realisation.

I was not entirely without inspiration in that period. For her I wrote the following ode that I read during the farewell ceremony. And I would like to share it here, as a further honour to her who gave me life.

Greetings to you all
My name is Elisabeth
The Loved One
Firstborn of eight
Determined plougher and trailblazer

I am the cherished daughter and sister
Worshipped partner of Vivian
Beloved mother and mother-in-law
Wise grandmother and great-grandmother
Family ties are woven into me

Resourceful Swan is my totem animal
My splendid plumage generates fine admiration
My movements graceful and regal
In my element, water
Purposeful and without hesitation

Sometimes I spread my nurturing wings
For those in need
My care knows no judgment, no conditions
I have no patience for injustice

Each rustle has me wondering
Everything I discover is forever anchored in me
And I conjure up knowledge and memories, effortlessly
When others sometimes seek in vain

At times I feel mischievousness well up in me
And restrained childlike joy erupts
In phrases full of witty, sometimes cynical humour
Or with the wind whirling through my hair
When tearing along Flemish roads
Direction coast
Grandchildren in tow

Tranquil and unwavering I follow my path in life
My presence discreet
But the ripples in the water are undeniable
Expanding ever further
Touching anybody who desires to be touched

I call upon you all
Love one another
Because believe me, love and togetherness
Are all that remain
When everything else falls away

As the poet Rilke so beautifully said:
This is the crux of all that once existed:
that it does not remain with all its weight,
that to our being it returns instead,
woven into us, deep and magical.

During the past months I often felt as if my life had slowed down or sometimes even stopped altogether. Now I know this was not the case. Subliminally, on a deeper level, things kept moving. I have gained more clarity about my own path, and on what I want to do with my life. The ode above is an example. It was written in the tradition of the Kasàlà, an ancient and beautiful African ritual. More will probably follow on this in future Inspirations.

I would like to end with sharing other and joyful personal news. Two weeks after the passing of my mother, our third grandson Fons was born. His birth means a lot to all of us, especially to my dad, and it will always stay connected with the grateful memory of mum.

My summer was eventful, that’s the least I can say!