Ängsbacka revisited: in with the new…

My second time in Ängsbacka was amazing, again. But different. Because of the familiarity I felt more comfortable with the family and the program. I did not go through as deep a spiritual journey as the first time, but became aware of these new insights: that staying mindful, connected with the now, is threatened by living in repetition. The body stores away sensations and experiences in deeper, less conscious parts. As to make way for new things. But in that growing feeling of family I also felt a deeper love, one that grows by proximity. We were caring, loving, expressing, enjoying, massaging, playing. We came so close and grew so much love, that I started connecting more to my bigger purpose: to enrich each others lives by being me, in all my beautiful facets. Living a life from simplicity, not adding to noise. Bringing clarity and joy. And touch! Didn’t I say to myself last year that I would start doing massage courses? Didn’t do any, not yet. But I did massage every day at Ängsbacka again, which fuelled my determination to really make it my main practice.

But I also became more aware of me rejecting what I have in me. Could I integrate it all? Maybe there was a way to take my old career into the next evolutionary stage: instead of programming myself, maybe I could use my enthusiasm and knowledge to evangelise my technological vision. So I built out my vision into a demo stack and had around 10 interviews, all aimed at becoming just that: leading tech teams into the future of computer automation. None worked out. Mostly because I could not commit to a year long of full time work, and sometimes because it wasn’t a good fit or timing, but also because I didn’t fully believe in my own silly endeavour to get back in. So I was done playing that game. Universe says no!

At the same time it became clear that I had to go to Mexico, because my parked car had to be removed. The family I paid to watch over it said police started asking questions and neighbours started talking about it. So in January 2018 I booked a ticket, and early February I went back, together with a friend. We traveled from Cancún to Tulum with the car, and stayed at the beach for almost 3 weeks. Only relaxing, swimming, exercising in the water and on the beach, doing yoga and having fun. And dealing with my new found family of beach lovers. Many beautiful souls, but also a lot of dysfunctional men that were yearning for love and peace inside. They had attached so deeply to their identities, that they didn’t want to or couldn’t let go off them. These identities were major obstacles on the path to freedom and sensitivity (which is needed to be in direct contact with reality), but their innate need for love and connection revealed itself over and over through smiles and talks. I was grateful to be there. It felt as if I was needed there.

My friend went back to NL and it was time to move on. Some of the beach family joined and we journeyed via Bacalar to Palenque. Here I stopped to help out a friend from Tulum, who was overwhelmed by his duty taking care of two friends that ended up in hospital after a psychosis. I thought my grounding presence might help, and so we walked, ate, felt, touched, slept, and then decided to do a road trip to San Cristobál de las Casas. Slowly reality came back to them, but we felt trapped in the city. So we decided to continue to San Marcos La Laguna, Lago Atitlán. My friends fully recovered in that last week there, being in nature, paddling on the water, and making plans to go back home. And when they did I was grateful to have met them, and care for them. Such wonderful people!

Del Lago

I stayed in San Marcos over a month and found a new and nurturing family. Such a spiritual vortex! Ecstatic dance every week, chocolate ceremonies, stunning views and nature. But most of all, so many open people leading their own open life. Vulnerability and uncertainty are at the center of being, hiding nothing, without pretense. It was there that I came across the Shiatsu course of Lazio Luna, and so I decided to jump in. It felt so natural! I received many compliments affirming I was on the right path. Every time I gave someone a massage I felt rejuvenated. I was meditating on their bodies, being only in the moment with what was in front of me. I felt such alignment and sense of purpose! During my time in San Marcos I also felt a growing need to put all of my strengths and qualities into service, not only through touch. I have witnessed people gain more clarity in my presence many times. When I connect with the source and step into the flow of universal wisdom, it feels as if that wisdom is revealing itself through the words coming out of my mouth. But only in full awareness of what is now, and staying connected to just that. Not going into ideas, nor judgement, nor patterns of thought, nor any of those tricks of the mind that make you lose contact with reality.

So I am trying to capture my simplistic views into writings. To support others, but also myself in crafting invitations for upcoming meetings. Because there lies a greater potential for healing the mind: helping each other discover and break through the veils we created ourselves. Finding your own blind spots can be very hard ;) And maybe I will be able to combine my gifts into a powerful session: helping to relax through massage and touch, and creating clarity in life. Ultimately leading to that peaceful trust in life and oneself, however uncertain the future may be :)

My first Ängsbacka: out with the old…

After working for over 8 months I was in pain. I needed to make a shift. I was invited to join a community in Sweden organising conscious festivals. My first experience in Ängsbacka in the summer of 2016 was life altering. After 3 beautiful days there I decided to stay longer than the initial week planned, and ended up staying 7 weeks.

We worked, ate,  shared, swam, danced, expressed, sang, loved, everything together in Harmony. That is also when I started massaging people regularly (almost daily in the sauna), because it felt as a calling and I needed more practice. I became so healthy in body, mind and soul, that I decided not to go back to my unhealthy old line of work: crafting software for money. Instead I would focus on massage.

So I also decided to travel away from my concrete environment and keep moving my body. Luckily Dariush (whom I met at Ängsbacka) visited my house and never left: he became a dear friend and brother, and offered to take care of the house and Airbnb guests for me, while even paying rent for the penthouse on top. I booked a ticket to California, bought a car to travel with and had an amazing time there with friends and nature. Then I drove south to Mexico, travelled around and stayed in Baja (which is an awesome place by the way) for over a month at Proyecto Amor with friends.

17 days of silence followed in the Hridaya yoga school in Mazunte, followed by another 21 days of yoga module 1. Such bliss and revelations, and such wonderful people! I did find out that such a controlled life in a retreat community is not for me, as it is mostly aimed at letting die of the old. There was no attention for life in all it’s facets, and the whole of my being yearned for expression and exploration.

By chance my dear friend Shay (whom I befriended the summer before in Ängsbacka) also arrived in Mazunte, and we became brothers seeing each other daily. I was pointed towards “embodiment” by him: every moment in life is to be felt, and through relaxation one can de-arm old patterns of contraction. He had learned a lot through his relationship with Aisha Salem. I already understood what I needed, but mostly from the mind: flow with what is, remove any resistance. But now Shay made it seem more practical. When emotions are felt, be present with the feelings and relax. Relaxing away contractions that stemmed from trauma made it lose it’s grip on the body.

Shay suggested reading Krishnamurti. After reading “Freedom from the Known” and “The awakening of Intelligence” my life had become even simpler than before. Being with what is, and becoming aware of the tricks of the mind that take me away from the now, was my major concern. As always I trusted myself to know what to do when it needed to be done, and so I set out on this new path of embodiment. It felt like a relief to embrace the fullness of life, instead of becoming a teacher at Hridaya, which I had contemplated on before while in stillness. Life it is!

Shay joined me going back to the Netherlands, where he would live in my house and deal with my Airbnb guests, and I would be going back for my second summer in Ängsbacka :) I felt so grateful to have been living an organic and adventurous life, and now it was time to go see my family again: my blood relatives, as well as my hippie brothers and sisters! Me, Shay and Dariush lived for some weeks together and shared many stories and emotions, such brotherhood! But then came the time for the next summer in Ängsbacka, and so Dariush left in his travel van, while I took my own car som days later, and we set out for Sweden once more.

DevSurplus is there to help

After a life of working as a professional geek in web technology I came to a crossroads. I acknowledged the call to use my experience and knowledge not only for my own benefit, but for a larger cause, for that of society. A couple of years ago I started investigating other areas to venture into, that would be more in tune with my journey as a human being. I joined different groups of creatives and artists and had a lot of learning experiences and fun. But then I became part of a growing community of people that understand the need for personal leadership. Almost every week I got to experience and contribute to a lot of workshops and events, by and for the community. Bringing tools to the table that allow for the whole to become more than the sum of its parts. I witnessed beautiful moments with different people working so well together when given the right tools, safety and guidance. So empowering! Each step made me more aware of my strengths and weaknesses, and the reward when going beyond them.

I decided to work on my weaknesses, but also to hold onto my strengths and to use them, recognizing a global need to work together towards a sustainable future. And in this movement there is a place for smart machines and knowledge engineering that help achieve these goals. Information needs to be shared, knowledge applied, and audiences reached.

So I decided to bring together resources from the IT industry with interesting organizations and companies that make a difference in life. To allow professionals like me to connect and work with good causes and inspiring entrepreneurs and leaders. After 15 years of growth as a professional in web technology I have a good understanding what is needed and what can be done to create intelligent and robust internet services and applications. I have also taught and mentored pupils with what I know and love about technology. But these last couple of years have also made me realize my strengths as a human being, and that is to connect with others and inspire them to go beyond the usual.

My Philosophy

I have come to a simple philosophy, which can be written as such:

“As a digital developer/creative I wan’t to do something good with my skills for my community or the world at large, and in that order (start local, go global).”

It builds on the following assumptions:

  • “we” are (potential) digital developers and creatives and we love what we do
  • we are spiritual beings (as opposed to machines) and have a need for purpose in life, and want to connect with others and contribute to something greater than ourselves
  • we like to meet each other regularly and work together in real life
  • developers are well paid for their work and can therefore work less to provide for income
  • developers would thus like to commit some spare time to contribute their strengths to a greater cause
  • there are companies and organisations out there that need our help and expertise
  • together with them we are capable of identifying their need for digital technology and capable of defining and realizing possible solutions
  • we are capable of starting up projects, organisations or companies for causes we identify ourselves if this is needed
  • we can be self sustaining, by giving enough of our time and teaching others our skills and about our community tools, principles and best practices
  • together, and in a transparent way me make up what these tools, principles and best practices are all about
  • It is ok to create revenue from work, as long as this work serves the greater cause
  • it is not ok to create services for one’s own profit, and dress it up with feel-good sauce and labels to make it look acceptable

And that is how DevSurplus came into being. Let’s hope you hear from it some time in the future :)

Hosted Beings was born

After two years of designing workshops and gaining experiencing with relevant techniques and settings, we decided to start a company around the Art of Hosting. Me and my two friends Joost and Marien had been ‘stepping up’ on many occasions, and felt the natural urge to combine our strengths and serve the world.

We sat down each wednesday, when each of us was able to find time for our endeavours. Each time we got a little closer to each other, and a little further with our plans.
But to go ahead we first had to apply the Art of Hosting steps to ourselves. So we laid down our own Chaordic Stepping Stones and derived a shared purpose and vision. Then we thought long and hard about the way we would introduce our services, and were hoping to come up with some concrete product form. But this isn’t easy, as the AoH approach involves a lot of knowledge, principles and techniques.

In the end we all thought it would be beneficial for organisations to let us host their key moments, like important meetings, to allow them to see how people can work together in efficient and empowering ways. But that’s when we got in touch with our first client. An organisation comprised of hundreds of employees and thousands of psychiatric clients, having heard of the AoH, and wanting to get involved. After many talks we are almost there, and waiting for them to sign off on our first workshop. Exciting times!

Coach Surfing: next steps

After 5 sessions of Coach Surfing this year, my fellows from De Universiteit and I felt the urgence for taking our form of peer coaching to the next level. We sat down with a core group of four people and decided we should host a series of gatherings for those willing to step up and participate. The first of these gatherings last week, with no less than seven passionate people was very fruitful, and brought a lot of insight into what’s needed for this organic group to grow. Two new members came to the round table, willing to inject their passion and knowledge with regards to coaching and group dynamics. Wonderful!

Not only that, we also managed to find a very inspiring place to host these sessions: Huis a/d Werf in Utrecht, a stage/meeting place for the arts and the creative industry. They immediately saw the possible synergy between our group and the people that come there during the day, working by themselves and with others on their own projects.
Now we have 4 dates lined up there, till the end of the year, with 2 sessions each month, one afternoon and one evening (to cater to those who work 5 days a week :).

For the next phase in our evolution we foresee more people stepping up, bringing their knowledge, tools and baggage to the table, with the hope that the group will be self organizing, as an organic and flat structure, allowing room for those who are willing to add to the mix of peer coaching potential.
We also hope to quickly cristallize this vision and knowledge into  guidelines and tools, enabling others to take Coach Surfing wherever they see fit.

All of this we do for free, because we have felt how wonderful it is to be coached by each other, and believe that our work together ultimately leads to a better world, through refection, mindfulness and helping each other.
I do hope however, that by immersing myself into this new way of thinking and collaborating, that it might one day be feasible to sustain myself through this work I so much enjoy ;)

Coach Surfing is here

After 6 months of mondays with De Universiteit, and many insights later, we finally found the time to set up our own coaching sessions. You see, we learn all kinds of great things together in co-creativity with De Universiteit, and they are all invigorating and inspiring, but many of us felt we wanted to touch more deeply onto the subjects at hand, and apply our new insights on ourselves.

So we came up with Coach Surfing, a recurring evening that would enable us to do just that. To coach each other and to help identify the things that matter most in our lives. To help with priorities and steering in the right direction. And by sharing these insights we can carry loads together.
When we put our heads together we came up with a format that we thought would suit our needs. The first half of the evening was to be dedicated to finding out our most profound/important need(s), while the second half would serve as a practical moment to distill our intentions and formulate our calls to action.

Yesterday was our first real night together, and after a familiar in-orderly introduction and check-in round, we laid down our hosting principles and guidelines (suspend judgement etc) and went to work.
We set up clusters of three persons per table, to enable two interviewers to use Appreciative Inquiry on the third person, the subject, while one of the two interviewers would also harvest (in writings and drawings) what became manifest. We asked the group to rotate three times, to allow everybody each role, but only if they felt like it.
Appreciative Inquiry, the 4D cycle
We anticipated the need for sufficient time, and only helped to guide the groups in their time management, to allow each with a need to be addressed.
And off they went. In a self organising fashion each group found their strengths and created a sense of wellbeing, while investigating what matters most.
We went far beyond our original timeline, but sensed that the first half of the evening (the inquiry) was most important.

When we finally manage to squeeze in a break, most of us went outside to socialize and clear heads. Practically everybody was buzzing with good vibes and insights, and a lot of the newcomers were talking about the open atmosphere and self organizing principles.
When we came to the last stage, we realized three rounds were not an option, and we suggested we would continue the same setup, but with the focus on distilling “the next step(s)”, to allow us to leave with a small and practical list of things to do until our next meeting. Of course they took all the time they needed, and we ended up doing our checkout round well after 11pm.

The checkout was wonderful! Everybody was amazed about the potential, and wished this initiative would continue to grow, allowing more people to join in. We hoped for this to happen, but to actually hear and receive this wonderful feedback was still a surprise ;)
Tim asked us to come down by breathing in and out together, and so we ended our activities. That didn’t stop us from mingling afterwards and enjoying the night together with a beer tho!

If you want to know more about De Universiteit, you can join our facebook group, or go to our website (see link at top of this article). Be aware that most of it is in Dutch!

Iktami Devaux

When I met my friend Iktami Devaux for the first time in El Bolsón, Argentina, I immediately fell in love with him (no, I am not gay, and he was already a beardy old man in his mid fifties). With his openness, witty outlook, spirituality (yet firmly grounded in reason) and liveliness he was talking directly to my inner self. With his body slowly degrading, like a failing machine grinding to a halt, he saw his sickness (a rare form of arthritis) as his master, pushing him to take his plans with life to another level. And plans he has. To keep his sanity he has to keep writing down his thoughts, in the form of reflections, as well as full blown books.

After having read the first collection of his short stories -“Through the wilderness of love”- I also became a fan of his work. His writings were so much in line with the path I had set out for myself, being in a relationship with my fellow beings and nature, I could not get around it. But in the six years thereafter, I was distracted by my own life and work, and we found ourselves sharing thoughts only once a year sometimes.

Until he translated “El arte de no hacer nada” into “The art of doing nothing”, which I had the pleasure of reading in 2011. It immediately sparked the fire that lay dormant within me, and I asked for more. I also decided I would make him a website to sell his books. Until then he had only been selling them at the fair of El Bolsón.

Well, that work is now finally done, and I am proud to present to you his website, which is fully bilingual:


Because I truly believe his writings should reach as wide an audience as possible, I asked him if I could distribute “The art of doing nothing” as a PDF for free. And so he agreed! I quickly converted his rich text document to a pdf, so here’s the link to it on dropbox:

The art of doing nothing – free PDF version.

Please read it and tell him what you think (you can comment on his website). He loves to communicate and communicates love :)
(And if you really like it, you can make a donation on this website.)

The Art of Hosting

Man am I glad that I went to The Art of Hosting workshop in Karlskrona, Sweden, last week!
130 people from all over the world joined in a circle of trust. We left our egos at home, and stepped into a safe space to learn from each other. To explore a sustainable future for our inner selves and the world we live in.

The art of hosting community consists of a growing group of people taking leadership of their own lives, to help others find theirs. To allow them to start or facilitate change. In social structures, in organisations, or whatever group of people that are bound together.
The community has no structure, and is all about self empowerment.

Some of the founders of the movement, together with many volunteers, took up their role of “stewards”, enabling us to become host to a group of souls to find their own answers.
Inspiring us with every step, they kept reminding us to differentiate our pure selves from our egos, to be truly receptive and helpful.

The first day was about “stepping in”, to become acquainted with each other and the practices. To allow us to become familiar with the tools. To know which to use for each situation, and for the different groups we might be dealing with: policy makers, managers, workers, fellows…
We ended with story telling, because each of us has a story to tell that shows who we are. Four stories were so amazing, beautiful, thrilling and inspiring, that their ‘writers’ were asked to share them with the group at large. And so they did.
Tears fell. Into an awakening pond.

The second day was about “stepping up”, to help out with the work at hand. Most of us helped in any way we could. Some helped with each days’ starting ritual, the check-in, asking us to do physical exercise or contemplate, or meditate. Others helped with the various types of “harvests” we wanted to gather. The harvesting of our experiences and insights is an essential part of the process. It not only serves as a binding memory of what we are trying to accomplish, but also as food for others not with us at that time. It was amazing to see so many artists draw up such wonderful maps of our journey, and others willing to spread the word online on twitter, facebook and websites. I started a poetry dialog, and asked others to add their part. Music was made and songs were performed. Wonderful!

The third and last day was all about being proactive. 24 people could host their own group to get help with their own questions, issues and projects. 28 came forward, and extra space was created to attend to all of them. Wow!
Many got involvement in concrete, not so concrete, small and large projects. Lots of connections were made, and many got even more inspired.
I hesitated when I was one of the last to come forward. Most of the others were so much further with their growth and visions, but I had my own personal questions, so I overcame my insecurities and was glad I did.
Since long do I wonder what the conditions are for a sincere and most open initial encounter with a fellow human being. So I asked what those were, and if we could put this into words. Into sentences that would set the stage for the rest of our interaction to be fruitful and without prejudice. But we discovered that we touched upon the magic of life, and such beauty should be left to discover by our own.
For long I felt this was the case, and with a lot of help from my friends I saw that my hopes were remnants of the old me. The logical, solution focused part in me that wanted a grip on life and the insecurities it brings. But our vulnerabilities are what binds us. They are not to be waved away with a magic wand.

Thank you my friends!

A new beginning…

There’s always a new beginning.

And that moment came when I saw that I was heading nowhere with my cosy, comfortable life and the environment that goes with it. With tunnel vision I was moving towards a dimming light. I realised it was the shining light of my forgotten dreams, left behind, reflecting in my rear mirror.

So I started walking the walk. Slowly but steadily I lost the fake sense of security that barred me for so long. I walked into the open arena of human interaction. Allowing my intuition to be my guide once again, as I did as a child. And love prevailed. No darkness disguised as passive acceptance would hinder me now, now that I felt the love of others, and the growing love for myself.

That was a while ago now, a much needed while. I am now confident enough, about myself, and about you. That we will recognize the intention in our hearts and minds to give each other space and truly connect. For only then can we blossom, and see who we truly are. Let us not judge by assumption, but experience from genuine interest, and accept what is here right now. Only when we ask the right questions do we elicit change. From within.

And that is why I started this blog. To let my inner needs and experiences become manifest. To get in touch with my friends in the now, and those yet to come.
Are you with me?