Another shooting….

Good day,

So we had yet another shooting…… A bit more than two weeks after the Aurora shooting, roughly a year after the Oslo carnage (to which the picture above relates). And in spite of the controversy in the US around the question if people should (be allowed to) carry weapons and around the prevalence of violence in TV-series, films and video-games it’s fair to say that the US don’t have the monopoly on violence amongst civilians or of civilians against state institutions. Nor does violence always involve the use of fire arms. In the preface to my novel ‘The Glass Dome’ (www.geerthofman.com/glass-dome) I pointed at a series of events which took place early 2011. As I suggested by then (August 2011) I was sure that it wasn’t over yet. On the contrary. And it goes to show: earlier this week the town hall in my place of birth (Waalre, The Netherlands) was set fire to during the night by driving two previously stolen cars into the building. The town hall has been destroyed and until now no one has the slightest idea who is responsible for this and what their motives are. Mind you: Waalre has some 16,000 inhabitants and how I remember it, it has nothing of a metropolitan dimension. Just a peaceful quiet little town. Until a few days ago, that is.

So it seems that everybody’s tolerance towards everybody else is getting to an absolute low. Engaging in traffic increasingly involves violent interactions between people as I can read in the papers each day. Going out for a drink often meets with violence. It seems we want to have it our way and our way only and without any delay. Gratification must be immediate, require no further creative engagement on our end (other than to thoughtlessly consume it) and seems to be aimed at dulling the senses rather than providing an uplifting experience aimed at attaining a more refined state of consciousness for instance.

In my blog of Feb 1st I introduced 4 levels of interaction (https://geerthofman.wordpress.com/2012/02/01/on-human-interaction-four-levels/) when we are faced with a situation:

  • the drama
  • the facts & figures
  • the different options for reacting
  • what wants to make itself shown?

To stick with the last question: I choose to believe that as mankind we’re facing the transition to a radically new era with radically new ways of viewing ourselves, all others, the world we live in and radically new ways of treating each other and our world. It seems to me that our current institutions and structures in all areas of our world are rapidly becoming obsolete. Without having meaningful alternatives in place yet, our future looks very unstable and insecure with all of us looking for something to hold on to. Clearly, saying our farewell to the old era, to the paradigm all of us alive have been brought up with and to various degrees gotten used to, is causing fear and anxiety. And clearly this transition needs to take place with lots of turmoil, violence and unrest.

But why exactly?

I’m wondering what we could do, collectively, to make the transition smoother, much more peaceful. Is it possible at all? I know it won’t help those who have died on the Aurora massacre. Or in the Oslo carnage. Or Alphen (Netherlands) shooting in May 2011. Or in the Winnenden (Germany) killings in 2009. Or in the Columbine shooting. And so on.

What I really would like to know from all of you: Is there anything each of us and therewith all of us could do to prevent further outbursts of this raging violence? To prevent us from injuring and killing our fellow-men? Ruining the lives of those who are left behind? Which is not limited to victims of shootings but it would include everything that we just know is not right but fail to make it right up until today. It’s clear this requires a radical overhaul of our current thinking and practices and the solutions are going to be systemic. It’s not just telling people not to carry guns. Or to punish those who do carry one. It’s about changing everything that has led to our non-productive practices. From education to nutrition. From (health-)care to the distribution of our abundance. Since the solution does not involve just an incremental change from where we are now, I’m not looking at our self-proclaimed leaders who have been brought forward by the current system. Both presidential candidates in the US could not demonstrate this more clearly as they carefully avoid mentioning the possibility of banning fire arms from being held by civilians. They feel they have to think about their constituent lobbies in order to get (re-)elected. Furthermore they are as much part of the drama as most of us and can contribute as much to the transition as all of us.

So, really, what is it that you and me can start doing as of today? Help me, please?

Love and Blessings,

Geert

www.geerthofman.com

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For the love of it

Geert on Stage with the FFB-BigBand
Geert on Stage with the FFB-BigBand

Hey there!

Again I’ve been reading in Ken Robinson’s fabulous book ‘The Element’ (http://sirkenrobinson.com/skr/) In short: it’s about (encouraging) people finding their calling en living it. Towards the end is a passage that really hit home for me personally. It’s the chapter called ‘For Love or Money’ where an academic is introduced who is crazy about playing his cello and apparently very good at it too. The point that got me gasping for breath is where the academic is quoted saying that ‘calling it a hobby is ridiculous’. Bang! That hit home! For me too, calling playing music a hobby really sounds off. Although I thoroughly enjoy my professional activities as executive coach I also find myself in my element when I get to play music. And it’s no longer only playing. I started arranging songs and actually composed a few myself. Well, composed: let me just say the music came to me when I was ready for it. On no occasion did it involve sitting down and think what I should write. Playing music has given me some extraordinary moments of flow, especially during the last three, four years when I got to play with others again. With the FFB-BigBand (without having prior experience with or exposure to this kind of music) I’m one of the soloists. Mind you, on guitar, not really the first instrument that comes to mind when you think about bigband music. It was only at the second gig that our band leader asked me to play a solo. Where I was really struggling trying to keep up with what was being played! 🙂  And I have similar experience with my other bands and projects. I like to have a good time but also to touch our audience and frankly, and probably this is a result of why I play music, I want to be good at it. Oh, and equally important: for me it’s so great (and vital) to engage with other people and be on the same wavelength with them! I get tremendous support from them and I try to support all others where I can.

Something similar applies to writing novels. The first one ‘The Glass Dome’ wanted to be written by me if that makes any sense to you at all. I had no ambition nor intention to become an author. But somehow, and finally, I gave in to this urge which I felt. Or better: I had the courage to give in to it and wonder at what wanted to manifest itself through me. Again they keyword here was allowing. Allowing to let happen that which wanted to happen. No, not as a helpless victim but as a fully aware steward of those energies.

So being an author and musician goes along perfectly well with being an executive coach. following the energy creates new possibilities that seem to perfectly fit what I’m doing. Again: I thoroughly enjoy all three of these lines of activities through which I like to share my love for all and consider them to continue my element, as Sir Ken Robinson would have it. I wouldn’t want to drop any of them, nor would I want to focus exclusively on one of them.

Sometimes I find people listening to this story in awe. Like as if they would never be able to do something similar. Well, as stated in my previous blog, it probably is going to be quite an effort if anyone would want to carbon copy my life. But similar possibilities exist for all of us. We are not confined to one context to deploy the many talents that we have, to share our gift to the world.

My invitation to you right now is to find your place of stillness and ask yourself whether you are really fulfilled. If not, don’t blame yourself or anyone or anything else for that matter but ask yourself the question: what is it that I need to experience fulfillment? What is it that wants to make itself heard or seen in my life that I haven’t been able to until now. Stay with those questions for a while and allow your soul to show you the answer. And by all means: do let me know what comes out of it for you.

All love and blessings,

Geert

www.geerthofman.com

PS: here are the links to two YouTube videos of the FFB-BigBand

www.youtube.com/watch?v=MUuROIwxDfM&feature=relmfu

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hWdI0F1mTAo

 

Geert with the FFB-BigBand playing 'Satin Doll'
Geert with the FFB-BigBand playing ‘Satin Doll’

 

Spirituality vs Religion: The Tenacity of Dogma’s

Guten Tag,

Last week I watched a discussion program on German television, called Anne Will. The central theme was something like this: All are looking for meaning (of life) – does the church still has answers? (link) The discussion, or better: coarse debate as such was a disaster; the usual disaster perhaps when spiritual matters are subject of a conversation. It came close to a war in the trenches with most of the participants sticking to their fixed positions. It got hijacked by a man, unconditionally believing and vehemently defending anything the pope and the church come up with. Quite an unpleasant contribution to the discussion, I must confess. The other participants were a psycho-therapist who positioned herself as self-declared atheist, a man who grew up in a strict catholic pilgrimage town in Bavaria and who had suffered the unloving, dogmatic and hypocrite side of that. There was this elderly protestant man who has been seeking regular refuge in catholic cloister for the last 30 years. And there was this éminence grise, also an elderly man who could see and think beyond the artificial boundaries dogma imposes. Last but not least was the 38-year old banker turned nun (at the age of 32) with the order of the Benedictines, who also showed the capacity to talk from an essence connection and transcend the limitations of ancient dogmas.

Dogma is sticking to beliefs.

No one, except the latter two, could leave room for a different viewpoint, the sharing of a different spiritual experience. The four loudest speakers were sticking to beliefs they once had accepted and with which they identify themselves and which, in their view, is the only and absolute truth. And all thinking differently are wrong and need to be convinced of that. To me it seemed those four all live in fear, unable to open up to life and immersed in a relentless need to judge everybody and everything all of the time. And I felt quite sad about that.

In my novel ‘The Glass Dome’ (http://www.geerthofman.com/glass-dome), the main character Peter Woudenberg finds himself seated next to a catholic priest at a dinner party. The conversation they enter addresses some of the issues, related to sticking to old dogma’s by the catholic church. Here’s an excerpt.

“Would you say it’s easy to be a priest in the catholic church today?” Jean didn’t answer right away but was apparently consciously enjoying the lobster salad Peter had prepared.

“Delicious,” was the first thing he said and more guests made similar compliments. He took a sip of his white wine, consciously tasted it and then looked at Peter. “I’m sorry, I did not mean to ignore your question. No, I don’t think it’s difficult at all to be a priest in the catholic church today.” “I’m sorry if I sounded offensive,” Peter reacted to Jean’s answer. “I had no intention of doing so.”

“I’m pretty sure part of the reason for you to ask this question lies in the numerous scandals that have surfaced over the last years.”

“That did pass my mind indeed.”, Peter spoke softly.

“Fair enough but for my work, the work that I’m doing in my parish, the work I know I have been called to, those scandals don’t mean a thing.” Jean took another few bites of the salad which gave Peter time to digest what he just said. With his glass of wine in his hand he tilted his head a bit in order to study the structure and colour of it. “Don’t get me wrong, I’m appalled as anyone by these continuing horror stories of sexual abuse. And it is clear that has nothing to do with what the essence of the catholic faith stands for.”

“What does it stand for?” Peter asked.

“Love,” was the factual answer right away but it didn’t particularly come across as factual. Rather it seemed to come from a place where it had a deep meaning. “Love is for me the essence. Pure love for me is glue for the entire human family across the globe,” Jean stated.

Peter was struck by the natural way his discussion partner talked about love and he wondered briefly if he would ever be in such a position.

“And it’s clear that since the faith started to become a male dominated institution, with countless rules, regulations and conventions that sprung from mental processes aimed at controlling the internal and external organisation, the fluid character of the essence became more fixed and hence the application of the essence dogmatic. In other words: the focus shifted from being love to preaching love and talking about it. Needless to say that this gives different results. Contact with the essence was lost. However, I choose to remain with this essential energy as, at its most basic level, everything in the universe is energy, which changes all of the time but which never disappears. Material manifestations may, but energy not. Energy transforms all of the time but lives forever.”

“You sound, how shall I put it, quite convinced about your viewpoints. How do you reconcile that with being part of the catholic church?”

“I get a tremendous satisfaction by doing the work I’m doing, which is helping people to make sense of the things that take place in their lives. And in return, that helps me to grow spiritually and to try to make sense of things for myself as well. In no way am I trying to convince them that the catholic faith or church or bible is the sole means of support for them. What I do see in these turbulent times is a growing need for experiencing spirituality which is true and pure. And liberated from interpretations of certain events that may or may not have taken place. The experience is the important thing here. Experiencing spirituality is different from talking about it and I have the impression there is a growing number of people seeking this experience.”

Here, Père Jean stopped for a moment. He emptied his glass of wine and seemed to contemplate what he had just said. Peter too drank from his wine and swiftly looked around the room where he saw all in conversation with each other. Most of the guests laughing, he was sure not many were engaged in the type of conversation he was engaged in. Somehow he wanted to go to Isabelle and enjoy the seemingly careless state she was in. But he felt compelled to listen to what Père Jean had to say. The latter put down his glass on the table, laid his hand to rest next to it and looked at Peter.

“The name of the club is irrelevant once you make a connection on essence level. Muslims, Hindus, Jews, whatever are able to experience a sense of connectedness and meaningfulness that goes beyond the dogmatic and artificially created boundaries of what we call religions. When you connect to this essence, there’s neither much room nor need for interpreting. As it is the heart that speaks in its powerful language without words. The heart, or the soul if you like, speaks from deep wisdom and knowing. It speaks from love as it does not know otherwise and when doing so greatly enhances the person’s awareness and peaceful, loving presence. You’ll experience something similar as everyone else who experiences it and that only becomes different when you start using words to label it.”

As Père Jean I choose to believe that giving room for each other’s spiritual experience yields better results than trying to rally all behind some concept where a few men tell all the others what it is all about. I see it as a step towards of being able to really see each other therewith allowing all of us to live in freedom and to have our spiritual experiences in freedom as well. There’s great learning possible if and when we can leave our spiritual experiences and our accounts of those as belonging to whoever expresses them, therewith knowing they have no intention to convince us of their views and opinions. Sadly the current practice is different as we can read in the newspapers every day. Being open and willing to listen to other viewpoints may contribute to the regular maintenance our belief system needs.

The conversation between the two men continues and Père Jean makes clear what he thinks of the church being a male dominated institution, having lost its connection with its true essence and why it cannot sustain that. In the process one could notice he lives his life very much in the moment.

“I guess that makes clear why you did not make a splendid career within in the church,” Peter was too quick to comment.

“When you mean with career ‘moving up the ladder’, my life has been a total failure,” he looked at Peter and burst out laughing. Their glasses refilled, they toasted again while Jean was still laughing. “When you mean with career ‘living what you’re called to be’, it’s a tremendous success and I wouldn’t change it for anything in the world. Besides I have the privilege of working with young talented managers from all over the world as I’m a visiting professor at a business school nearby as well.”

“Touché.”

“I understand my viewpoints may sound conflicting with the laws and rules of the church as you may have come to know them. In that respect it’s no different from working for a company. If you don’t share the same attitude and beliefs, you’re no longer part of the inner circle and your career won’t advance. I’m sure you know about this yourself.”

Peter acknowledged what Père Jean just said and wondered if he thought the institution of the church would be around much longer.

“You know, some say a process of de-institutionalisation can be expected based on the belief we’re moving into a new cosmic era, with different characteristics and values which will change the way people treat each other.”

“I don’t know much about cosmic era’s but I could see the church, as the fixed materialised institution it has become, will be falling apart. Not the essential energy, as energy is always conserved, but rather the fixed forms that have been constructed over the past 20 centuries or so with all its well established interests. As science progresses and the results of that become available faster and faster to more and more people, it’s difficult for me to see how we can seriously continue to see the pope as God’s sole representative on earth. I mean, we elect this male member of the organisation through a dim process of voting. And why should senior church management be privileged to men? Are women worse managers? Do they lack the ability to lead? Do they have limitations, we don’t know of, that prevent them from having spiritual experiences?” he sounded undignified.

Peter liked his clear viewpoints and somewhat militant attitude and intuitively felt there was much truth in what Jean was saying.

“Let me ask you,” Jean addressed Peter and looked inquisitively at him from his brown eyes. “Do you believe in God?”

Peter felt uncomfortable having to answer the question and many thoughts raged through his mind trying to come up with an answer as neutral as possible. “Uhhh, yes, well, I guess I do.”

“Whoa, that’s a struggle to answer that simple question,” Jean laughed. “You strike me as an intelligent man, so tell me: Where does God live?” “It sure is fun to ask questions that no one knows the answer to,” Peter tried.

“Oh come on, Peter, you can do better than that: now, where does she live?” Jean probed.

“I don’t know,” Peter shyly said.

“Suppose he would live within you,” Jean said.

“Within me? Yeah, right.”

“No, seriously, suppose she would live within you, how would that affect the way you view yourself? Your friends? All of us here celebrating? The world? The universe?” Jean drew widening circles with his right arm as he spoke.

“I would…,” Peter tried to find an answer.

“Now wait a minute, let me add something. Suppose he lives with you as much as she lives within me,” Jean interrupted him.

Peter looked at him in utter concentration, asking himself what trap Père Jean was leading him to. One point he had noted is the changing use of the male and female form. A thought sprang to mind and in spite of his attempt to stay somewhat at a distance he released it without further processing it.

“We would all live in God’s energy field as he would live in ours. Then all would be one. All would be one,” Peter answered without hesitation which actually surprised himself.

Jean looked flabbergasted, his eyes staring at Peter, his mouth half-open for a second. Then his face relaxed, he smiled and put his hand on Peter’s shoulder.

“Yes, we are all one,” he finally quietly said. “All is one. A truth many ancient spiritual traditions all over the world hold high. A truth modern science is starting to prove. A truth meeting much resistance from scared and confused people. And sadly those will cause much grief.”

“Why do you think so?”

“Partially because they have vested well established interests in things staying the way they are. There’s quite a bit of power involved. And partially because they’ll just panic.”

“Don’t you find it unsettling, the insights science is leading to?”

“On the contrary, what will happen is a meeting of science and spirituality as in essence they talk about the same things. And in a way it’s funny to see so many respected women and men struggling to prove something I have been knowing all my life. And many great thinkers did so before me.”

Peter carefully acknowledged what Jean said.

“When you can accept that God resides within you as much as she resides within Didier, Fabienne, Isabelle, me, everyone…..there’s no difference in religion anymore except for your personal experience. But if you could leave that to be your personal experience, and allow others to have theirs, and do not try to convince each other which one is the right one, one major obstacle to world peace would have been removed.”

Père Jean’s face shone with happiness and he took a firm drink from his wine. “And you know what? All of the so-called world religions are struggling with this. I have friends from various major denominations and when we get together we manage to create a special sacred space. Just by gently and quietly focussing on our hearts and atuning to our being together. Not by adhering to a strict and fixed order of actions. But just by being open-hearted and present to the moment. What results is an atmosphere of refined energy that all experience as very uplifting. You cannot summon God to be present and participate in your conversations the way you would like her to. She will still be there but perhaps more at a distance. When invited, rather than ordered, she may show up and her presence will give different results. A famous fellow countryman of yours, Erasmus, wrote this once ‘Vocatus atque non vocatus, deus aderit’, which means ‘Evoked or not, God is always present’.”

If you like what you just read, you can find the entire novel here (http://www.geerthofman.com/glass-dome). I would also love to hear what you think about what you just read.

Love,

Geert

www.geerthofman.com

Religion vs Spirituality

Today this facebook post by the Dalai Lama caught my eye:

“More fundamental than religion is our basic human spirituality. We have a basic human disposition towards love, kindness and affection, irrespective of whether we have a religious framework or not. When we nurture this most basic human resource – when we set about cultivating those basic inner values which we all appreciate in others, then we start to live spiritually.”

I don’t know what it means to you (perhaps you want to share?) but for me it gets down to the essence. Following the french philosopher Pierre Teilhard the Chardin (We are not a human beings in search of a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings immersed in a human experience) I too choose to believe that we as humans carry this basic human spirituality with us. It shows itself in this willingness to help others or in this sense of curiosity when we meet each other. The systems we have been creating over the past centuries lead to different outcomes and often take us away from our very nature: the desire to connect and share in freedom.

In my view religion invariably becomes dogmatic and filled with people, who are leading and managing the organisation that gets built around it by sticking to and expanding the dogma. Where for some dogma may have some advantages, I see four major disadvantages:

1) to quote the famous 2005 speech by Steve Jobs: dogma is the result of other people’ s thinking. It blocks a flow of energy that is needed to keep the essence and the connection to it organic and alive. It tends to make interpretations of accounts of historic events fixed, not leaving room for more accurate interpretations, based on scientific research for instance.

2) religious dogma forms a disconnect from the original essence. For instance in my novel “The Glass Dome” this is illustrated by the catholic priest telling the main character during a dinner party that nowadays the catholic church preaches love and talks about it whereas the essence is being love. And that contact with that essence has been lost. Quite a difference. Oh, and of course ‘being love’, does not require to be talked about as it just is.

3) because religious dogma tends to be fixed, leaving no room for different interpretations (or to put it differently: it’s not open to change) it gets intolerant with the risk of becoming fundamental and (extremely) violent. This is the stage where even groups of people of different factions of the same religion start waging war on each other because of the differing interpretation of a written document for example.

4) it enhances the illusion of separation as the dogmatic communities are exclusive. It introduces right and wrong (based on dogma that is) which means that we and those who are with us are right and all the others are wrong (and should be stopped from promoting their viewpoints; see pt 3 above)

What might be the way forward? Well, it won’t come as a surprise when I tell you that in my view ideally all religious dogmatism would be reevaluated and judged on its connection with the original essence. In order for the original essential energy to surface again. How different would it be when we all allow our own individual spiritual experiences to be what they are: our own individual spiritual experiences, still knowing that we are connected of course. I would enjoy my experiences and you would enjoy yours. Of course we could share them but preferably without one trying to convince the other of the supposed superiority of his experience. Learning from your experience could possibly enrich mine and vice versa. As long as we present our spiritual experiences as our own and merely as an invitation to observe and learn if we want to. Our experiences are different but they stem from the same source. As we do. What a peaceful world would result, or?

All is one. We’re all God’s children and no one is a child of a lesser God.

Namaste,

Geert

www.geerthofman.com