Such a busy city, such a beautiful city, full of people from all over the world. A selfish city filled with pockets of kindness a ‘me first’ place if it’s not the cyclists waiting for their moment to mow down the unexpecting visitor, it’s the busy indifferent shop keepers and store assistants. Still it is also filled with heart and soul, if that is not too big a contradiction but that is the nature of Amsterdam. I feel a portion of the world is revealed here, extreme consumerism but with Dutch individuality thrown in to confuse.
Bumping alongside this world is that of the alternative scene, people intent on creating a new world but doing so in the shadow of the old. The light has not yet shone on the alternative paradigm now in creation. This is the world of; Transition towns, permaculture, people building for a resilient world, consciousness in and for the environment is generally strong within communities and individuals but slow in action.
My first day I was whisked by Arianne to English speaking radio. A cheery breakfast chat with some great and well informed young guys. They were bright and fun, genuinely engaged in the debate to end ecocide in Europe.
Next after a little exploration I got to speak at ‘The Bookstore Project’ an evening spent with local people in discussion, about ecocide, life, the financial systems, the gift economy, blue economics…. a great energy and interest filled the room. Increasingly I wonder why we can’t get these topics into main stream media. This is what fires people; the debates of life not just the economy but the way we live. Again and again I hear how frustrated people are with the existing status quo.
Everywhere I go, be it a bus-stop or books stores a University or a night club, I find people interested and most absorbed with discussions about looking after each other and our world. My conclusion is we are dealing with manufactured apathy- a smoke screen; people are by definition active they just no longer know how to take action. The old political system is not fit for purpose in this changing world. It is archaic and reflects the worst of this world, self-interest, greed and disconnection from nature. Leading to depression, rising health costs, overwork and stress in the first world and an increasing mass of excluded people. Interestingly where people and communities are taking action it is the small things that make people happy! And we know this each of us intrinsically.
I had the opportunity to join the anti-Monsanto gathering in Dam Square in the middle of town. It was a big celebration about life rather than a rant about the evils of Monsanto, a new kind of Demonstration. Choosing positive action rather than shouting, and a celebration of Indigenous culture. But discussing at all points the work and damaging attitude of some of Monsanto’s work. We then moved on to a community farm on the edge of town to celebrate all things from Peru. It was a great night of indigenous film, song and dance!
The following morning I left Amsterdam with Wouter and on route we picked up Jeanine and Cecelia two of the members of T2R Transition to Resilliance, a paradigms shifting Eco orientated teaching and consultancy. Heading to Leijburg to have a planning weekend. However on route we had the opportunity to visit the community of the ‘Sweet Vally’ a brave community, building a different life in a developing permaculture community, growing and enriching the local environment in Zutendaal just inside the Belgium border to the South. The thickly wooded land, most fertile and sheltered, had scattered here and there abandoned houses and was slowly becoming a neglected part of the world. This community is breathing life in a generous heartfelt way to this locality. We had the honour of being some of their first guests on their first Open Day. We walked in the woods and had a wonderful laughing yoga class under the spreading boughs of some towering beach trees. Then hot soup in the descending dusk in a warm, wood heated house surrounded by candles and happy people!
The next day we went to visit another community of people in the singing Valley of birds. This was a group of people who had worked hard to come together to live in community, giving up jobs and lives they had known to create a better quality of life, working and living in support and connection. Growing food and teaching their children a new/old set of values.
A huge project: a farm house that the group were gifted for ten years to live in and care for. Providing a different exchange the group stopped the house from falling into a ruin while the owner understood the need for generosity to fulfil his needs in these changing times. The Owner was unable to sell and the house and it was beginning to fall into disrepair. This was a ‘win win’ in these hard times and both parties seem very happy with the deal. This was a 10 + bedroom Farm house that now houses a community of ten, including two families.
I return to Amsterdam on the 17th November and will be giving a talk and holding a conversation at;
Voedlink Voko, Vegetarian Food coop
Bolder dojo Amsterdam, Monday 18th November @ 8- 10 pm
I then spent some days walking the Pieterspad. 120km of the 485 famous Dutch walk from Pieterburen, Groningen to Maastricht, Limburg. Sadly this marvellous winding expansive Dutch long distance walk, has no translations for the walker in English, which does to an extent limit the pleasure. The countryside is beautiful but much is missed historically. As no information exists that tells the inquisitive traveller where they are or what they are looking at.
However on this occasion, utterly bliss filled Autumn walking was the experience. I have been so fortunate to be walking when the sun decided to shine. The Autumn smells are rich and mother earth is giving up her fruits to the harvest. Pumpkins adorn Dutch doorsteps – people smile in disbelief at the balmy autumnal fruitful time. The smell of the leaves sweet and earthy the heightened smell of nature, aided by huge nightly downpours of rain followed by balmy days.
I think this for me has to be the most beautiful time of year as the splendour and the wild growth of summer sinks back to the earth and winter creeps slowly in.
Daily my heart sings as I walk alone in the world of nature, in silence but never feeling lonely. The joy of nature and her meetings gives me much food for thought. We have such busy minds that the practice of keeping them quiet in solitary being is rarely something we get to practice. It makes me think about the times in my life when I have had no real contact with nature and I craved it, how I behaved and used my energy slightly disconnected from the grid. Nowadays I am calmer and walk in peace. I look back at my disorientated self and did not even realise that this was a me. We need to teach our children to ‘be’ still in peace and listen and then hear. How to smell the earth and hear bird song. We spend our lives searching for these ways of being rather than living them and schooling them.
‘Walk upright, with calm, dignity, and joy, as though you were an emperor. Place your foot on the Earth the way an Emperor places his seal on a royal decree. A decree can bring happiness or misery. Your steps can do the same. If your steps are peaceful, the world will have peace. If you can make one peaceful step, then peace is possible.’
- Thich Nhat Hanh
Imagine how potent we would be if this was our practice! With children! Imagine how we could accelerate our own and our children’s learning. Living with nature and creating cities that hold nature at their heat too. In this I resonate with the work of Gunter Pauli see The able economy. This requires a switch in our attitude developed from within and demonstrated from externally an intention that is fired by ‘right action’, which will cause the shift in humanity right now. We do not have to tear down what we have we need to re-orientate our intentions around what we have and change the way we do business, make policy and profit.