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This quote is made for me. Taking action is so natural to me that I do not even notice this talent anymore. I need others to tell me that this is typically me. I love giving my all, being able to see something progress, take form and get done.

Loose ends do not work for me. I get restless and discouraged when something stays unfinished for a long time. Or when a state of deconstruction takes too long. I wrote about this in April, in ‘Lost in deconstruction’.

In the meantime the state of the garden is the living result of my taking action – I can safely say ‘our’ taking action as my husband suffers from the same trait. We both like getting things done!

I also notice that the process of becoming gives more information on how to continue something. It is often a matter of taking the first step when you long for something. Once you take that step, the rest will follow, almost without effort.

Or as Goethe wrote: “Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.” I can only confirm those wise words.

See you next time!

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Do you also enjoy these summery days in the middle of spring? Everything is so intensely fresh and green, bushes and trees explode with beautiful fragrant blossoms, the plants in our garden burst like miniature rockets from the fertile soil. Nature’s annual Big Bang.

It has an effect, not in the least on me. I feel like being outside, enjoying, breathing in the scents, running my hands through the soil, bringing the best out of the garden. Or just relaxing in the hammock with a good book, a nice drink at hand, savouring the moment. I feel like taking a mini-holiday.

But…. you cannot just do that. There is all this work that needs to be finished, meetings that are planned, the neverending flow of emails and text messages that need to be read and answered. “That is not what humans were made to do”, is what goes through my mind. On moments like that you would need to be able to take time off and press the pause button – by which I mean that your workload also should not accumulate while you are out.

Lately I have seen so many people who are completely overwhelmed by work and life, by a full agenda, a challenging job, but also by the demands they impose on themselves. We fill our days with so many things, we live our life at 200 miles per hour while at the same time we seem to have lost control. Exhaustion lurks around the corner, and the real ‘legal’ holiday is close but not quite there yet.

How would you like to give yourself a break for one day, and take care of yourself for a change? Completely recharge your batteries to end the working year in beauty. A day during which you get out of your head and get down to work with your creative self. A day of creative self-care.

Anje Claeys and I really enjoyed putting this together for you. On 9 June we offer a joint workshop ‘A mini-holiday, a day of creative play and self-care’ in Atelier Blauwhof in Kessel.

Anje is an artist who specialises in print techniques and creates fabulous works. You can read all about it on her website http://www.bioart.eu.

As I told you before I am passionate about the African art of kasàlà (http://www.kasalaland.art).

During this wonderful day you will slow down and learn how to write a kasàlà in a playful way, make an etching and print it. At the end of the workshop you will go home with your own work of art, ready to frame, together with your own poem, your kasàlà.

No advance knowledge or experience required. We only ask you to bring a beginners mind and a willingness to play!

More information on this day, as well as instructions on how to register can be found here.

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54569378 - abstract confusion observatory building
54569378 - abstract confusion observatory building

During the past few days this phrase has been going through my mind. Don’t get me wrong, I’m doing fine. I’m just a bit ‘lost in deconstruction’. Our garden is a perfect illustration: after all these years we want a complete makeover and to achieve this, we have to deconstruct it completely. The hedges around the vegetable plot need to be taken out, the lie fruit trees need to be moved elsewhere, etc.

From a fairly classical garden with grass and planted borders we are aiming for a wilder, more natural one, including paths that lead to spots with inspiring plants and flowers and colours that change through the seasons; and what I am wishing for specifically: no more grass. Our garden architect from “Tuinen in Beweging” (quite an appropriate name, as it means “Gardens in Movement”) translated our wishes into a plan and we want this to become reality as soon as possible. This unavoidably means going through a deconstruction phase – which feels very chaotic and confusing, and sometimes a trifle hopeless.

And that is how I sometimes feel myself nowadays. Not surprising really, when I think of all the great changes in my life in the past year. Some of these changes I consciously initiated myself, others just happened. My own landscape is being redrawn and it looks chaotic at times.

Good old Nietzsche was probably right when he said “You need chaos in your soul to give birth to a dancing star”. Our garden project also proves to be a source of inspiration. We have laid out the paths with sticks and boards. A theoretical design on paper, envisaged in our minds, can now be experienced tangibly. Our body supplies us with new information that our brain did not have before. The initial design is slowly being adapted, and what felt complicated at first, becomes clearer, one step at a time. Sometimes I can picture our final garden, and it feels great.

In my life I now also have these aha moments quite often, when I almost literally feel how my brain gets something that my body has known for a long time, like it is catching up. I also realise that I have to give it time and that I do not need to fill my days with more action. In Africa there is a saying that goes: “Wait every now and then, so that your soul can catch up”.

See you next time.

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If you want to understand how Dog ended up doing what he did, you should read what happened previously in my inspiration How Cat and Dog should follow the example of Mouse, a contemporary fable.

So now Dog had a fair insight into his problem. He could clearly see what was going wrong, but it did not really result in any constructive action. He had to change tactics, and unwittingly (after all, how could he possibly have known) he followed the example of his room mate Mouse.

This he knew for sure: he sincerely longed for a harmonic, even loving cohabitation with Cat. That was the change he passionately wanted to achieve. He longed for an animal playmate, an ally in the midst of this pack of human creatures. In practice he had not been very successful – quite the contrary – and his relationship with Cat was very unpredictable.

If he was very honest, he had to admit that it frightened him to do the opposite of what he was doing now – in other words, not to go chasing after Cat when the feline walked through the living room. When he gave it some further thought, he realised that it was mainly Cat’s movement that triggered him – especially when Cat moved swiftly.

He really tried to imagine what would happen if he would not follow his dog instincts blindly. The thought alone made him slightly queasy. After all, he belonged to the Border Collie breed, he was a proper herding dog. It was in his genes. If you saw movement out of the corner of your eyes – say a sheep wandering away from the herd – you jump up immediately and go after it, without thinking. The pride and honour of the breed was at stake – at least, that is what he had always thought. And it was exactly this instinct that was causing these issues with a cat, of all creatures.

His conscious goal to change was competing strongly with a much more subconscious and apparently stronger impulse. And the subconscious cannot be fought or changed. Because of his sharp mind, he had come to that insight after long thought.

So what now? He decided to gather some more information first to test if his assumptions were correct – if it was really true that a Border Collie can only respect himself when he chases after everything that moves in his line of vision.

Firstly, he made a conscious effort to see Cat in a different light – no longer as an annoying creature, but as a peer with his own right of being, just like him. He just needed to flip a switch in his head. That seemed to work quite nicely. Nothing catastrophic happened because he changed his mind. He was also not ashamed. His owners still loved him just as much. He even thought that he saw Cat looking at him affably, rather than in his usual dark way.

Then he had lain down a few times close to Cat, quietly. That had been most exciting as he feared it might have ended badly, with Cat hissing and growling again – but that had not happened. His assumptions about dogs versus cats proved to be unfounded – check.

Now only the big test was left: not to chase after a moving cat. The previous two actions had changed his perspective in such a way that he felt fine about that test, and also confident that he could change, slowly but surely. So his goal suddenly seemed very close.

 

Did you find this fable – and the previous one – inspiring? Do you see goals for change for yourself, that you cannot seem to realise? There is hope. Together we can map what is keeping you from making permanent changes. Just like Dog you will be ready to test your big assumptions with small actions. These can be very different issues, on a personal or professional level. Even teams or organisations can be faced with a serious immunity problem that stops real change from happening. Contact me for a free session and make your own breakthrough come true.

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Once upon a time there lived a mouse, a cat and a dog in the same house. They were basically stuck with each other.

Cat had been trying to catch Mouse for several months, since he assumed that was what his owners expected – and to be frank he wouldn’t say no to a tasty mouse either. But despite his efforts, he hadn’t managed to catch Mouse, who was always one step ahead of him. He had tried everything, so he could not be accused of being lazy. In fact he ran all over the place from the break of dawn until late at night, everywhere he thought Mouse could appear. He couldn’t make head nor tail of it. A normal cat would catch mice galore, by the simple fact of being a cat – that’s how it had always been. And he had never encountered any problems with catching the relatives of Mouse. He had simply killed them off, one by one. But this last one was a survivor. And then there was this annoying and clumsy dog creature that kept getting in his way. He basically ruined everything.

Dog had not been in the house that long yet. Cat had been there much longer – exactly how much he didn’t know – but judging by the condescending behaviour of that useless creature, it must have been very long. Dog in turn had a hard time not chasing after Cat. His whole dog being yearned to do so, but he knew it irritated his owners to no end. So he tried his best to suppress his animal instincts and please his owners like a model pack animal. Meanwhile he had grasped how to learn and suppress stuff, including the urge to chase after cats. As a Border Collie he was quite smart, after all. But no matter how many insights he had gathered, when Cat suddenly came parading haughtily through the living room – knowing full well he was there -, he couldn’t control himself and chased after the irritating creature. His owners were not happy at all, judging by the way they shouted at him, and he was quite disappointed with himself for not being able to control his outbursts. He had worked it out so clearly in his head – so why couldn’t he stop chasing after Cat?

Mouse felt completely unwanted in the house, but he had to make the best of it and in order to survive he tried to avoid Cat. So far that had worked quite well. Mouse had taken the time to quietly study the comings and goings of his room mates, especially those of Cat. He had been observing and reflecting. He had seen his relatives fall victim to Cat one by one. They had also wanted to survive, but what had they done instead? They had gone after that piece of cheese or breadcrumb in the kitchen, taking enormous risks when knowing full well that Cat could appear out of nowhere. They foolishly followed their urge to eat, blind to the danger. He had observed all of it very carefully and mapped the typical mouse behaviour with his small but exquisite brain. He had gained insight in his own urge and where it came from – as long as he could remember his family’s motto had been ‘better a crumb in the belly than 10 on the counter’. So he understood how his relatives had come to pass away prematurely.

He had also observed Cat and discovered patterns in the animal’s behaviour. Using those insights he had started doing small tests, with the purpose of gathering information. He would for instance only come out of his hiding hole behind the fridge when he heard the noise of the dog chasing after the cat, accompanied by the shouting of the humans in the house. All eyes were clearly aimed elsewhere during those moments. At first it was quite hard to go against his family values and to wait for the right moment, especially when his belly was rumbling and the crumbs smelled so heavenly. It really didn’t feel right. Could he still be a worthy descendant of his family when acting this way? But his tests were always successful and slowly Mouse started to change. He started to realise and feel that being a mouse did not necessarily mean that you blindly went for the crumbs. And so he managed to survive amidst all the danger.

What is the moral of this story? Cat and Dog are each in their own way the victim of their immunity to change. Cat tries to reach his goal by taking action blindly and doing what he thinks every normal cat does. He doesn’t look beyond the obvious and has a serious blind spot.

Dog does have a good view on what is needed to change his nature. But it’s all in his head and he keeps running around in circles, he has never done any tests to see if his insights are right and what they do to him. Mouse did manage to change – for him it was also a real matter of life or death.

To summarise: action without insight is as fruitless as insight without action – or how Cat and Dog should follow the example of Mouse. Next time: how Dog manages to change his behaviour successfully.

© Anne De Smet

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