Have you ever spent 5 days without access to a telephone and the Internet?

I hadn’t, until this week.

My God, it can be unbelievably boring at times. Boring?
Simply because I am used to something different in the Netherlands 

But it is simultaneously silently, unbelievably impressive and enlightening. 

Imagine if we all ‘worked and lived more naturally’ a little more?’ What then? And how?

My wife is an ‘Indigenous Native’ of the spiritual Karen People 'The Karen People'who have inhabited the border region between Myanmar and Thailand for centuries. They believe that all objects have a soul, which is reminiscent of what I saw when I visited the ‘First Nations' in Canada, BA and other indigenous peoples around the world. One of their most important expressions is: ‘Give me liberty or give me death’. ’ She often tells me: ‘I come from poor people; we live easy.’

‘I come from poor people, we live easy’

After heading North from Kanchanaburi (the location of the famous bridge over the river Kwai) with the car, a ferry and a longboat for 4 hours I find myself deep in the jungle, on her native soil. Up to that time I had interacted with a great many indigenous peoples during my extensive travels, but had never actually lived amongst them for a while, even if it was

The fact that I cannot access the Internet means that I have no distractions. And my lack of fluency in either the Karen or Thai language obliges me to absorb everything in silence.

Just being…which allows a host of ‘felt insights’ to come flooding in.

Merciless mirrors of reflection

Nature as a supermarket

There is not a single supermarket in the entire village and local region. Nature is the cheapest supermarket, and chemical-free. They live off the nature that surrounds them, cultivating and eating: rice, maize, mangos, papaya, vegetables, chili peppers, tamarind, ginger, cardamom, mushrooms, garlic, limes, cucumber, eggplants and bamboo shoots. When something is needed, my wife just picks it from the tree and that’s it. This ‘haute cuisine’ suffices.

And they don’t sell any ‘super-soft’ five-ply toilet paperzachtheid’ packaged in plastic there either. No, you just wipe your backside with flowing water.

Just imagine sustaining yourself with natural foods and buying less plastic packaging. Try it for a while. Feel the positive effect on your vitality and the realisation that you are contributing to a cleaner world, even if only in a small way.

Nature’s alarm clock

The Karen People don’t have alarm clocks. They live and work with the rhythms of nature. Waking at dawn to work on the land, and going to bed earlier, when it gets dark. This promotes great vitality to an extremely old age.

Try it for a week and see what it does to you. 

Interacting with each other ‘live’

As I have absolutely no telephone or Internet connection for 5 days I am obliged to seek contact with the people around me without the assistance of social media. Even though I don’t speak the language, ‘Live’ face-to-face contact is so energetic and so real 

Visit each other more often, even if it takes hours of travel. Leave your smartphone at home. Be yourself during your interaction with others and occasionally share your innermost feelings. See how much more fulfilling real connection can be for you.

‘Living live with each other, makes you alive’

Sharing food and drink

They don’t serve food on separate plates. Food and drink are served amongst and with other families. They just walk into each other’s little wooden houses on poles, dwelling to eat with other people, occasionally bringing food. The meal is eaten from collective dishes placed on the ground in the middle of the circle of diners.

We sometimes replicate this at Christmas or Easter, and it immediately gives us a feeling of togetherness and communal happiness while we eat and share stories. So connecting. Try it more often throughout the year with your family, friends, neighbours or colleagues, even if it is not what you normally do, and see what happens. You will go home with a warmer heart.

Caring for each other and your elders

The 'The Karen People' don’t have Old Age Homes.My wife was shocked to the core when she saw a block of flats used to house senior citizens in the Netherlands. She said: ‘How do you dare to lock your parents up like that!’ And if you stop to think, it is actually a closed house of death where loneliness thrives and the aged die faster. After all, an old tree that is not moved stays healthy for longer.

"An old tree that is not moved stays healthy for longer"

In the Netherlands we don’t have time to visit our father or mother regularly. Why? We are too involved with our personal material, needs or development. However, in the village they care for their elders until they die.

Visit your parents more often and stay longer than you are used to. Just being there for them will enrich you. Remember that they are the ones who gave you this life, just like your ancestors. Honour them, and you will never regret it.

And don’t understand me wrong, you might not find it easy. Here too, egos can obstruct and create unnecessary tension. We are very similar in this way. Like when a neighbour plays deafening music at three in the morning, ruining other people’s sleep. Don’t think that you can tell him to turn it down. The reaction might involve a gun being pointed at you.

So, it is not a paradise, but we can learn to live with a natural connection that we in the West have often lost. It will boost your vitality and happiness.

And that is what I wish for each and every one of you. Try acting on my suggestions more often and feel what it does to you, your friends, neighbours and colleagues.

You will be surprised.

#naturalliving #coaching #personaleadership #personalempowerment 

© 2022: Martin Thoolen

I’m shivering on the platform of Utrecht Central Station. I can’t wait to dive into the warm train. As soon as I get in I notice that the heating is not working. Damn. I am surrounded by miserable faces. At that moment a lively voice booms over the PA:”Holder de Bolder, we will shortly be arriving at the little station in Den Dolder”.

People around me start to smile and talk to each other. It suddenly seems as if the train has become much warmer.

The same thing occurs when you allow synchronicity to happen.

What is synchronicity?

You think about a friend from high school. You have not seen them for 15 years. And they call one hour later. For no reason, out of the blue.

According to the Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung, synchronicity is the simultaneous occurrence of two or more different events that have meaning for those involved. You can also say useful coincidence. However, what is meaningful for one person does not necessarily have to be so for someone else.

In 2013, Diana participated in one of our retreats in the Ardennes. She is 31, has a loud voice and thinks that she is 20 kilograms overweight. She works 55 hours per week as a hospital manager. This enables her to pay the mortgage on her new home. She is known as powerhouse. She is result-oriented, but her colleagues call her bitch behind her back. In the evening she sits on the couch, zapping and snacking.

On the second day of the retreat she had a dream. Pink flower petals were floating down onto her. She had absolutely no idea what it was about. On the following day she did a visualisation exercise. Once again she saw the pink petals. It meant nothing to her and she was just happy that she did not have to be thinking about the retreat for a while. She and several other participants went to the caves of Han. Just in front of the entrance she walked across a square full of fruit trees. There was a sudden gust of wind, and Diana was covered in pink petals.

Coincidental events reveal invisible connections. Connections that we cannot grasp intellectually. They give you a feeling of connection or unity that supports you. For example, when you sit in a restaurant and think about your deceased mother for a while. It is precisely at that moment that you hear her favourite music coming out of the speakers.

If you allow yourself to be touched by coincidences they can also be signposts for your personal or professional development. They ask that you acknowledge something that you have skimmed over until that time. Or they tell you to tackle an issue in your life, as happened to Diana.

Diana sees what her dream, the visualisation exercise and the walk does to her feelings. She feels emotional and sad. She lets these feelings simmer for hours and examines at them occasionally. ‘What is this sadness about?’ she asks herself. In a flash she realises how she was bullied about her appearance at primary school. She suddenly understands that she had been protecting herself. Convenient, because this meant that she no longer had to feel the pain of rejection. Until now, she has been a powerhouse who buried her vulnerability.

‘What in heaven’s name are the pink petals about?’ The answer emerges from the caverns of her psyche: “It is the softness of the hidden, sensitive girl in me who longs for new contact”. As if she had abandoned that girl many years ago. She now realises in her heart of hearts that she no longer wants this and decides to make more room for her vulnerability as well as her strength. She is unhappy with her body and permits herself to feel sadness again for the first time. She decides to eat more healthily and loses 15 kilograms in 5 weeks. She works less hard and snaps less at her colleagues and patients, but she lets her heart speak.

But coincidence doesn’t exist?

It just depends on how you look and what you accept as reality. What you see is what you believe. If you accept that things just happen to you or that something is ridiculous, then that is what you will believe. Then you will not notice the miraculous fact that everything is connected to everything and that synchronicity offers opportunities for your development. Is synchronicity nonsense? Try the following tips and discover whether the kite can still fly.

5 tips to experience synchronicity

1. It starts with looking, looking, looking
Look at your dream images, at something that you have really experienced or something that has coincidentally crossed your path. Or look at something that you think or feel, like Simon, a HRM manager who drew the same card three times in succession during our Personal Empowerment course – a card with the word power.

2. However ridiculous they are, make connections
Do you dare to compare a card from a game to one of your basic attitudes? At first, our HRM manager did not know how power related to him. He could not figure it out. When he continued searching he suddenly realised that all of his employment conflicts originated in a power struggle. He had heard that he frequently had a superior attitude. And that is pouring oil onto fire in his interaction with his employers.

3. Open your heart
It is easy to ridicule synchronicity, to minimise or even deny it – coincidence does not exist. coincidence does not exist. Zeker als je het louter vanuit je hoofd probeert te verklaren. Dat gaat je niet lukken. Synchroniciteit laat je zien en vooral voelen dat alles met alles verbonden is. Om het te ervaren moet je naast een gezonde dosis denken ook je hart openzetten en je gevoelens toelaten. Of het nu gaat over schuld, opluchting, schaamte, kwaadheid, verdriet of blijheid.

Simon was confronted by the power card three times, which made him curious. Initially, he did not want to face it, but after a short while he put his ego aside and opened his heart. He asked the group for feedback, and the participants said that he did often come across as somewhat arrogant. This made him feel frustrated and sad.

4. Allow your feelings simmer and see what comes up 
We prefer to avoid unpleasant feelings, while it is precisely there that we find keys for new development. Simon’s sadness took him to his loneliness. He considered the issue for several days and then realised that his arrogance was pushing him back into loneliness. It is a selffulfilling prophecy. Now he really wants to adopt a different attitude.

5. Take action
You can call insights generated by experiences that are felt in true depth transparent insights. They are not intellectual or smart insights provided by books or authorities. No – they are crystal clear insights emerging from a personal process. A process of thoroughly feeling what has already been simmering for some time.

From now on, make choices that involve transparent insights. Like Simon: ‘from now on I will not always talk and interrupt other people. I am going to listen more often, even though I do not always agree with others’.

In short

Synchronicity is: useful coincidence. It can give you support and can also give you new experiences, insights and signposts for your personal or professional development.

Allow synchronicity to enrich your life

In the next week check at least three times whether you are experiencing synchronicity in your life, and apply the 5 tips:
1. It starts with looking, looking, looking
2. However ridiculous they are, make connections
3. Open your heart
4. Allow your feelings simmer and see what comes up
5. Take action

© 2015 Martin Thoolen & Wendy Hobbelink

It’s your birthday. You unwrap your gift and find a pearl!
Have you ever been surprised when you unwrap yourself and find the real version of yourself?

What is the as the real version of yourself?

If you work as the as the real real version, you take your thoughts, feelings, intuition and choices seriously. And you express (carefully) what is actually going on inside you.

You then show, for example, what you are good at and what you are (as yet) unable to do, what you enjoy and what irritates you, and you are open and define your limits. This means that you are honest to yourself, find courage and go for what you believe in. It is not the perfectversion of yourself, in which you conceal and improve all kinds of things.

You are in a meeting and think: ‘I don’t agree with this. Say something about it, or am I being Mister say-nothing again?’This is how IT manager Peter puts on his please mask when things become tense and authority shifts around the table. An executive Board member growls that it really is time for Peter to implement the new computer system in the departments. Because time is pressing. Peter’s inner yes-man is ready to go, but something inside him screams no. He actually wants to say no, but he finds it very difficult. Because when an authority has a problem (and especially with him) he has the tendency to make himself smaller, or he sticks his head in the sand.

Why does he do that? Because he has been doing this all his life! His parents argued frequently, and he tried to calm things down and ease the tension. That was the origin of his recipe: Mollification, placation or just walking away. The most normal thing in the world for him.

Normal? Until he discovers that this can sometimes work in exactly the wrong way during a deepening course. He also discovers how he can as the real work as his real version in difficult situations.

How do you work as the as the real version of yourself?

As the real as the real of yourself? You work as the real version of yourself when you, for example, express what you really desire or what really bothers you.

Peter talked with the department heads again, and this time with fresh eyes and ears. “You should have stood up for us better”, is the accusation heard from some people. And he wants to minimise and justify again. But now he doesn’t do it. He just sits there, listens and asks questions, so that everything is discussed.

A little later, at the coffee machine, a succession of images flashes by – frowning, growling department heads with robust feedback in the test phase. An impenetrable 300-page manual provided by the supplier that will take a couple of weekends to read.

The new system is on the agenda again tomorrow and Peter asks himself: ‘What should I do?’

Next morning, he walks into the meeting feeling self-confident, and says “I just do not support top-down imposition of the new system, while the departments are do not unable to work with it”. He lays out the collective concerns and wishes with calm assurance. He demands that the supplier make adjustments. Even though he knows that the supplier is a friend of one of the Board members.

What does the as the real real version give you and your organisation?

Personal and professional strength, clarity and increased effectiveness.

Peter now uses his own strength to make it clear that significant amounts of money and time will be saved if a change is made. Then everyone will be able to work with the new system without a frown. The executives change their minds. The supplier is put on the spot and alters his plans.

Result: a larger base of support amongst the employees and effective implementation of the new computer system. Peter is happy with his as the real real version and the department heads want to start working with the new system.

How can you you work more as the real version of yourself?

1- What social mask do you put on when things get tense?
2- What would happen if you show as the real the real version?

© 2017 Martin Thoolen & Wendy Hobbelink