Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Esoteric stuff? Yuck! Or...

I will be honest with you: I am not the most open-minded person when it comes to esoteric stuff. Sorry if I disappoint you. I have a pretty good reason though: At primary school my best friend's mom was with the Bhagwan. There were pictures of the man (also known as Osho) all over their house, including on the toilet - where he stared at you while you were peeing. One day the mom held a ceremony to also include me as a member and gave me a mala (a beaded necklace) with Osho's picture on it. The mom, the house and the movement scared me to death and I didn't want to be initiated to this sect at all. You can imagine that this whole episode in my life traumatized me somewhat. Ever since, I have not been very open-minded when it comes to meditation or people going to India to find their inner selves.

The eyes of Osha aka Bhagwan 

Lately, I have (luckily) realized that I was limiting myself and fortunately had the opportunity to try new and (yes!) esoteric things, and now, I can't seem to stop. The coming months I plan to write a bit more about this spiritual journey I am on. So, be prepared!

'What happened?', you may wonder. In September, I participated in YourLab, a program that is almost impossible to describe. Yet, I will give it a try now. Crap, I know that it will sound way out there which is not what I want it to. But well, after YourLab things all started making more sense. I feel a stronger connection to other people ('I didn't think it was possible for us to interact in this way. If only we had been taught this at High School...' a fellow participant told me). Most importantly, I feel more positive about the future of the world (more about this soon).

But what is it? It's a program of two weeks or four days, for young people, to learn about themselves and their place in the world. It sounds like something I would like to start for myself one day. So, I wrote them and asked if I could participate (despite my age = older than 'young'). Potential participants met with each other and the organizers one Wednesday afternoon, and I was slightly skeptical (read: very unsure about participating). They told us to bring comfortable clothes since we would be working out a lot. "I hear lots of talk of yoga, but what are we actually going to DO?" I asked. My mom and a good friend finally talked me into it, saying it would be great to start something unknown (thank you!).

From the first minute I entered the room and met the other participants on Day One, I felt at ease. There was trust and good energy, despite people's nerves. Two weeks filled with impressions and emotions passed by at the speed of light. But they continue to last until today as well. I learned basic stuff: That it's possible to care for someone you don't know, if you open your heart. That we are more than just our minds and two typing hands; that we have bodies we can and should use, bodies that say a lot about us. In the two weeks, I did Aikido, Tai Ki Ken, Yoga, Meditation, Family Constellations, Transformational breathing, dancing and singing. With the group we made 'art' and came up with ways to use an empty building in the Southeast of Amsterdam.

Alexandra and me doing Tai Ki Ken (Chinese boxing)

The main things that stuck with me were:
  1. (from Tai Ki Ken), be square on the inside and round on the outside - in other words, stick to your core self, but be flexible so you can interact with others. 
  2. You can change your state of mind by changing the state of your body, by grounding more. 
  3. There is an amazing power deep inside of us, which is hidden underneath layer of stress. If we peel off these layers (through transformational breathing), we can connect to this power. This was the most amazing experience for me. I suddenly felt this strength, this determination, this love inside of me, that had me high for a day or two. 
  4. We all have our own unique dance and voice.
YourLab showed me that I was not really in touch with my body nor with my soul. I tend to over-think everything and - even though I am a sensitive girl - I lose track of what I feel. I think everyone can use YourLab time at some point in their lives. I used to always say this about psychologists, but I don't believe that anymore. I don't think it's so important to try to understand rationally how your psyche works. On the other hand, I do believe it is important to value the body, mind and soul that you have and to feel how it is connected to other people. How's that for esoteric? Ha!

This is what a fellow Your Lab participant wrote (in Dutch).

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

More Love Letters and a bit of Amelie

A few weeks ago a good friend of mine sent me the TED video below. As I am a huge fan of TED, this is a very nice thing to do for me (in case you were wondering). In this particular video, Hannah Brencher talks about how she started leaving notes throughout New York city a while back. She was depressed at the time and found comfort in writing love letters to strangers. Before she knew it, she started a movement which is now called 'The World Needs More Love Letters', and I just joined them.

For years I have dreamt of doing something similar; organise a dancing flashmob on a train, paint a quote of something I believe in on a city wall. I dreamt of being more like my heroin Amelie Poulain, doing good in the weirdest of ways. But I never quite dared. Hannah's idea however matches me perfectly: it's easy to do unnoticed and I love to write. So I got started last week... I was very nervous writing my first letter and even moreso when leaving it on a table at Starbucks in Amsterdam. After tucking away around ten letters on trains, cafes and inside books the past week, I'm getting the hang of it. The fact that I have already received two responses from very enthusiastic people makes it all the more exciting. Together with a friend, I started a website to collect all comments and make it easier for other people in Holland to join in. The next step now is to start writing letters for people who need them, not only to random strangers. Do let us know if you know of anyone, or if you want to join us! You can reach us at meerlievebrieven (at)

* For people in the US, the team of More Love Letters has everything ready for you to start writing today. Just visit their website and get started.

I just realised that I haven't yet (UNBELIEVABLE) dedicated a blogpost to my favourite (and most viewed) movie: Le fabuleux destin d'Amelie Poulain. I watch it once every year, at least. Well, here are two scenes of her doing good in her own funky way. A separate blogpost about this magical tale will follow. It will.

Amelie helps a blind man and shows him her world. I also helped a blind man a few weeks ago at The Hague Central station, which is a complete mess, and tried to make it as funny as I could ("I'm not sure if you appreciate being grabbed by a strange women, but I promise; I mean well!"). It still wasn't quite like this though...

And, one more... Later on in the movie, Amelie paints some quotes from the book, written by her friend Hipolito, on the walls of Paris' streets.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Looking back: My 15 most played songs of 2012

Happy new year, my beloved reader! I wish you a terrific 2013 filled with many good things, such as sunshine, brownies and music. Hopefully it is not yet too late to look back on 2012 and share my musical highlights with you. Yes, I know, I should have done it about two weeks ago, but I was busy eating too much delicious food with my family. Sorry about that.

2012 was a great year for me in many ways. I spent half of it in Cartagena de Indias, a city that made me dance many a night away. But no matter my physical location, I will always have my music with me. These are some of the songs, and artists, that I spent most of my time with this year, sort of in chronological order. Thank you friends for adding to my supply! Did I forget any?

Lykke Li - I follow rivers
Classy lady, great voice and beautiful videos

Maria Gadu - Tudo diferente
I just cannot get enough of this music!  

Mayer hawthorne - Can't stop
Mayer is a modern-day soul man, we need more of these guys!

Hector Lavoe - Todo tiene su final
Hector actually deserves a separate blogpost... This one song does not do him justice.

Juan Luis Guerra - Ojala que llueva cafe 
First heard this song in Spanish class learning about the subjunctive.

Joe Arroyo - La Rebelion
No night in Cartagena nightlife goes by without this song...

Diomedes dias - Amarte mas no pude 
My guilty pleasure.

J Alvarez - La Pregunta
Speaking of guilty pleasures... Yes, yes, I know this guy is a nasty sexist, but I can't help wanting to dance to this. 

Luis Enrique - Yo no se mañana 

Monsieur Perine - Sabor a mi
I had the pleasure of seeing both Monsier Perine and Bomba Estereo live at a festival. Both great bands that made the crowds go crazy.

Bomba Estereo - Pa' Respirar

Lianne La Havas - Au Cinema
This lady has made my year. Since I missed her performance in Amsterdam, I am hoping she'll come back soon.

Marques Toliver - Magic Look

Ben Howard -  Only love
Usually I am not so into white guys with guitars, but in this case... I am hooked. Cannot get enough of this voice, of this song, of this video.

Rihanna - Diamonds
At the time of posting this song has 127 million views - so I guess you have all already seen it. I do believe about 1500 of those views were mine. Yes, maybe I should be ashamed, but I'm not. I also love Beyonce. Ha! This songs just calls for dramatic dance moves in front of the mirror. Seriously, it does. Give it try!