Day 3: Arrival

Tuesday, 15th June 2021

I started the day with a Pilates abdominal workout on the carpet, ate yummy leftovers from yesterday for breakfast, took in the view from the balcony, and then car & driver got back on the road. Nine hours of driving (with breaks) across Germany were upon us. It felt good to have a clear destination and a clear path towards it. Grounded determination. No desire for meanderings today.

Of course the universe lovingly injects the right obstacles. How could I not love it? In Rohnetal the car and I performed my first ever fully autonomous oil refill. After double-checking the manual, I found the right lubricant for this precious engine that has been running smoothly for almost 300,000 km. The tricky part was to find the mechanism to lift the hood, elegantly hidden in the Audi logo. The refill itself was easy. After 42 years, I am thus no longer a virgin when it comes to motor oil.

It’s never too late to get dirty.

Listening to my friend Erwin’s albums “Leb’n“, “Anaseits” and “Host schon gheat?” proved to be just the right soundtrack for this road trip. I smiled as the highway signs started showing “Hamburg”. Still two hours to go. At the next service area, I contemplated putting up a hammock between the trees. Yet instead, I lost my precious cool white hat – the one I got from my dear friend Dav in Arizona in early March 2020 when people were still flying.

Driving into the sunset again, I finally arrived at my destination in Groß Nordende, located about 30-40 minutes to the northwest of Hamburg. For me it was, and still is, the most gorgeous Airbnb place ever. Spacious, bright, beautiful. Two bathrooms, two bedrooms, cozy chairs and couches, a sweet little balcony. Birdsong all day, stillness at night. The best bed I’ve slept in for years!

How lovely would it be to share this place … and yet I knew my need for solitude, for now. Visitors were going to come soon enough: three days later Annika was going to stay for a night, and the rest would reveal itself.

The sea is calling me. Soon I will respond.

Soundtrack of the day:

Robin Wall Kimmerer – “Braiding Sweetgrass” (audiobook)

The Kinks – “You Really Got Me
Erwin R. – “Leb’n” (album), “Anaseits” (album), “Host schon gheat?” (album)
Arstidir – “Hvel” (album), “Nivalis” (album)

Day 2: Metamorphosis

Monday, 14th June 2021

Part 1: Finding Stillness

Drowsily stretching in bed and checking my phone in the morning, I saw a caterpillar crawling towards the laptop. I looked away and back again: the little thing was gone without a trace. Surely you didn’t crawl through the ventilation slots, little one, did you?

After breakfast I visited Christoph and became best buddies with his adorable dog Tinkerbell. I asked if he had tools. Yes, Christoph has tools. He has all the tiny tools you need to open an old MacBook Pro Mid 2009, still alive and kickin’. I took off the ground plate, and there it was: the little caterpillar was resting comfortably on the SSD! Deciding that a laptop is not a good place for a caterpillar, I set it free. (Did I, though? Perhaps it was destined for metamorphosis there? My friend Niko later asked, “Maybe it actually wanted to join you on your travel?”)

Almost camouflaged caterpillar is almost camouflaged.

Christoph interviewed me for his podcast “Zukunftsweberei“, soon to be launched. It was my first time on a podcast, and I really enjoyed it. He asked excellent questions. I talked a lot, shared stories and thoughts, described my journey through physics, my time at CERN, the big changes in 2012, the transition towards Contemplative Science, and eventually the Mindful Researchers initiative. I was completely in my element. And then …

… I remembered stillness.

I cannot recall the details; perhaps it was triggered by sharing stories about my blessed encounters with Brother David Steindl-Rast in 2018 and 2019, perhaps it was amplified by Christoph’s presence. Yet as I remembered stillness, I too became still. The energy in our room shifted. We were suddenly finding ourselves in an intimate encounter with the Mystery. Ordinary ideas and “knowing” went to the background. What we exchanged from there onwards came from a different place, a different “knowing” that dwells behind the mirror of not-knowing.

Christoph, Tinkerbell and I bade each other farewell, and I returned for lunch with my aunt, my cousin Mareike and her son Julian, my nephew. I delighted in hearing about Mareike’s upcoming ventures with the Pioneers of Change and other ripening visions. Julian defeated me 10:7 in a fun garden soccer match. Then it was time to saddle my steelhorse and ride into the Northwest; 4 hours of driving were upon me.

Part 2: Crossing Borders

WHERE is the land of Luthany,
Where is the tract of Elenore?
I am bound therefor.

from “The Mistress of Vision” by Francis Thompson


A good hour into Bavaria, the highway customs police asked me to pull over, and we exited at the next parking opportunity. Two cops approached my door. I donned my mask, lowered the window, and we exchanged formal courtesies. I handed over my passport and papers.

“Are you nervous?”, the more talkative cop asked.

“Not too much. Why, are my hands shaking?” I looked at my hands.

“Yes indeed, sir. Have you ever taken drugs? Like cannabis?”

I thought for a moment. “It’s been a while … 2015, I think. Am I in trouble now?”

I’m sure the man grinned underneath his mask. “Not yet. Do you carry any weapons, drugs, or illegal substances with you now?”

“Of course not. Would you like to check the car?”

They wanted. I assisted where I could. The talkative cop had to go through ALL THE THINGS in the trunk. Meanwhile his colleague searched the front of my car, and I didn’t even notice. I kinda enjoyed speculating aloud about what might make a good secret cache, and empathetically denied the talkative cop’s speculation that a small flask filled with massage oil might contain k.o.-drops. That man did have humour!

“That instrument is hollow”, I said when he knocked on the uncovered RAV Vast and elicited some sounds. “It would actually make for an excellent cache, too!”

“How do you get all these ideas, sir?”, he asked. “Now you’re making me sooo curious.”

“I just have a vivid imagination”, I laughed. Perhaps I should offer my services to criminal investigation. If they ever need someone to give them ideas for how criminals might think, I’m a near inexhaustible source of creativity. On the other hand, I’d be a poor criminal myself, as the next minutes would reveal.

Pierce thy heart to find the key;
With thee take
Only what none else would keep …

from “The Mistress of Vision” by Francis Thompson


The talkative cop sent me to his colleage who asked me to empty my pockets on the engine hood. All fine. As I went back, the talkative cop held up a little flask. “And what’s this?”

“Oh! The CBD oil. I didn’t even remember packing it. But that’s not psychoactive, hence legal.” Cricket chirp. “Right?” Uncomfortable moments of silence. “Or is it illegal in Germany?”

“Here, read this.”

I confidently obliged. “THC <0.2%. Yes, but that’s far below being psychoactive. You’d have to swallow like a liter of that stuff.”

Guardian stag is watching (over) you.

I still didn’t see the problem, until he politely informed me that in Bavaria even the possession of such minimal amounts of THC was illegal. My feelings of unease increased.

Fortunately, the cops decided to let me pass and went on with their patrol. Perhaps my “case” would have meant tons of paperwork for actually nothing, and some other big fish out there was awaiting their dutiful inspection. With a sigh, I tossed the flask into a bin and grinned. Surprises on every corner! And a welcome break from the long drive.

Riding into a gorgeous sunset, I arrived in Windischeschenbach and checked into my Airbnb for that night. It wouldn’t take all too long until Morpheus embraced me under the watchful gaze of a plush stag.

Soundtrack of the Day

Day 1: Memories

Sunday, 13th June 2021

After a semi-sleepless night, my pounding heart heralded the rising awareness that my “second real journey” was finally beginning today, on Sunday, 13th June 2021. Given the luxury of a spacious trunk, I packed ALL THE THINGS: guitar, RAV Vast (a hangdrum-like instrument), a year’s supply of books, about 20 favorite shirts, the first three of my “spiritual journals” (the first I started on 14th June 2005, the third was completed in December 2012), meditation bowl, sitting cushions, incense sticks, pumpkin seed oil, … and lots of small stuff – perhaps a tiny bit too much. (We’ll get back to this on Day 2.)

Surely (almost) nobody is actually going to read this …

My brother and I transported herbs and flowers from my balcony to his place. We talked about family matters and I told him about a recent liberating breakthrough. I remembered that our relationship too had transformed way back in May 2005 in the cleansing fire of a fierce clash and the healing balm of our reconciliation. We hugged each other farewell, and I went on my way with his car, a token of love and trust.

(It strikes me as quite extraordinary how the years 2005, 2012 and 2021 keep popping up as siblings and chronological protagonists in this journey. These are the years of most significant transitions in my life, with the current one – the youngest of the three siblings – still unfolding. Like humans, these years ripen over time and progress through stages of maturity with each birth of a new sibling: for instance, 2005, 2012 and I are now developing and enacting a new kind of relationship together.)

Back home I played Tetris 3D by stuffing ALL THE THINGS in the trunk and on the back seat, then took a picture for one of my extremely rare Facebook posts. Once upon a time, I had planned on journal-blogging about my “first real journey” in October 2012. But some things had kept me from it, among them a hesitation about being seen – a kind of social anxiety that today feels all but gone.

Changes … and growth.

My first destination was Sulz im Wienerwald, where incidentally my cousin Michael was busy renovating my late uncle’s house that they had inherited. He greeted me in a dark blue work overall, artfully embroidered with the words “Lord Bughunter” aptly praising his formerly embodied expertise. It’s been a long time since we’ve last hugged. It felt good.

All watched over by machine-rabbits of loving grass.

I took my RAV Vast to the nearby cemetery to improvise some melodies for my beloved uncle. How he would love to see me embark on this journey! The tomb looked different now, more alive. I brushed dark soil from two faux-grass-covered rabbits that had been toppled over by a storm and put them back into position. Clearly the old man still has humor, reflected by the myriad creative artefacts that we mortals are compelled to gather in this ceremonial place, paying homage to the multifaceted human beingness, not only his, but ours too.

Rorschach test: anyone else seeing a divine act of procreation here?

I stretched out on the patch of grass next to my uncle’s tomb and gazed at the trees above, remembering my time in Sulz with him in Summer 2005, just three months after my first and irrevocable “spiritual heart awakening”. He was one of my first companions with whom I was able to talk quite unrestrained about my budding spirituality. In fact our conversations had already been a source of inspiration for years. What a precious gift! Some people have a hard time understanding how this unabashedly hedonic and sometimes hot-tempered man could also be a dedicated Buddhist practitioner and an eclectic spiritual seeker. My uncle had always defied narrow categories. I believe we have that in common.

“There it was!” (Despite my significant growth, the old room looks bigger today.)

Back at the house (read: construction site) my cousin led me through the garden, once fully untamed, now partly shaped by a grass-covered oasis of active gardening amidst the wilderness, all watched over by old Buddha peacefully abiding in the very center. Then we walked through the old house, from cellar to attic, and I inhaled the familiar olfactory uniqueness that had always defined that place for me; knowing that I was seeing and smelling it as such for the last time.

The tiny room in the attic where we, the “BMW” gang (Bernhard, Michael, Wolfgang), had slept as teenagers, was clearly my highlight of this tour through old “Villa Sonnenschein”. Ancient memories were instantly rekindled. I enthusiastically shared with Michael where my bed had been and what significant discoveries I had made there some thirty years ago.

It was good to speak with Michael, a dedicated husband and father of two who helps rebuild a house for his family. Sensing the arc from childhood to adulthood, I can’t help but feel content and proud for us.

I continued my journey to St.Pölten, driving into the sunset as I would be doing for the next couple of days. My aunt greeted me with a warm dinner, and we talked more than ever until major fatigue (salute Major Fatigue!) commanded us both to retreat to our beds. I checked my phone and found that myriad likes, hearts, and text responses to my Facebook posting were pouring in. Old friends from all over the world were wishing me a blessed journey and safe travels, including both my head teachers from the secondary school days – one of them long retired for more than 25 years. Whoa!

Whooops!

The beautiful “unintended consequence” of my posting was now unfolding as an integration of memories and connections that I had made throughout this lifetime. Old colleagues from CERN, new colleagues and friends from the Contemplative Science / Mind & Life / Mind & Life Europe communities, former housemates, classmates, head teachers, Elders, Council trainers and carriers, muses, musicians, artists, writers, extended family, Salsa dancers, people I’ve met at concerts by Anneke van Giersbergen, friends from old and new online & hybrid communities, friends from the European Forum Alpbach, Commodore Amiga computer geeks, men with whom I’ve shared initiatory journeys and sweat lodges, travelers, activists, chess players, researchers I’ve met on my “first real journey” in 2012, meditators, mystics, and more. I’m sure I’ve missed a few categories, but I hope I can weave you all into my story nonetheless. You are already part of this journey as you are part of my life.

Just scrolling through this highly eclectic list of wonderful humans makes me feel tremendously integrated – not stretched apart, as it used to – and very happy. I am blessed by generous offers to visit friends in Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands. I’ve never been to Denmark before, maybe this is the time?

Soundtrack of the Day

Let me pause here: this audiobook, narrated by the author herself, is among the best I’ve ever listened to. The chapter about “The Honorable Harvest” is forever changing my life.

Also, various songs from these albums:

Freedom

“Why didn’t you ask me?”, he vented with a voice full of disappointment. “Why didn’t you come to me? Who am I to you?

“What do you I expect?”, I shouted. “We have no relationship! You weren’t there for years! You expect me to turn to you for advice? I wasn’t even thinking of you when I made that decision. If I had been thinking of you, I’m not sure I would have consulted you. Maybe I wouldn’t have wanted to! Even with all your expertise, you are not an authority for me.”

It was a bitter pill of truth for him to swallow.

“What were you thinking?”, he asked, shaking his head. “How did you even make that decision? Were you maybe thinking that, hooray, let’s all just follow the … –”

“Do you genuinely want to know?”, I interrupted him. “If you genuinely want to know what I was thinking, you’ll have to give me some silence to collect myself and respond.”

“Yes, yes, I want to know”, he iterated with impatience. “Or were you maybe thinking that it doesn’t matter … –”

“Stop that!”, I said. “Stop making assumptions! Calm down. If you really want to know, you need to calm down and give me some space in silence, so that I can remember and give you my genuine response.”

He agreed. We went into silence. I felt into my body and noticed that the adrenal hormones in my bloodstream were still rampant. I took a couple of breaths, attended to body and mind, and watched the waves of anger slowly ebb and fade into stillness. Eventually, I felt ready to share with him. And he was ready to listen, even though he didn’t like to hear what I had to say.

He told me how difficult it was for him to see us make these choices. I felt compassion and told him that I can see how hard it must be for him to see his offspring make decisions that he felt were terribly wrong. I also made clear that making sovereign life choices is the only way and not negotiable. Our communication and our relationship transformed as we were speaking with unprecedented frankness. We remained in disagreement about the basis for our dispute. Yet we agreed on how refreshing and healing it was for us to have just expressed our anger.

Towards the end, he said precious words and expressed tender emotions that I will never forget. I felt his love and mine – if not in other ways that I had often longed for, then clearly in this moment, in the absolute immediacy and intimacy of our connection.

After 42 years of life, this was our first open confrontation. Despite the sad context of our dispute, I’ve never felt more empowered, authentic, free, connected, and whole. Now I know for a fact that there is nothing to fear: not confrontation, nor anger, nor even love. Now I know for a fact that I am already free.

Who speaks for trees?

At the entrance to the cedar’s grove, the old tree pushed me backwards and knocked me over from the distance.

Surrender.

I paused in awe. Tears filled my eyes. I slowly surrendered. An eternity passed. I accepted that this was not my time to enter, that I had been too hasty and too preoccupied with my own thoughts and projections, that I hadn’t been listening to her. In this very moment she invited me to come closer.

Listen.

My eyes beheld a golden leaf before me, reflecting the sunlight. I felt my body rise and walk, yet it was not I who rose and walked. I slowly followed the golden light into the grove, inwardly reciting the ancient poem “The Mistress of Vision“. Half way towards her, I waited and listened to the mosquitoes humming “no, no, no” until their song changed.

Ask.

I asked to approach her. Will you allow me to receive you? I came closer. She accepted in silence. I sank to the ground before her, filled with awe.

Rise. Feel your roots.

I rose up to stand tall before her, stretching out my hands to become a tree like her. My feet were rooted firmly, yet gently, on the ground.

Rise up, stand tall. If you do not rise, I will fall.

I wept. What can I, a single human, possibly do to change this course? I wept for her, for all of her kind, for all of our kind … for all beings.

Speak. You must speak up.

I promised her, in some kind of language that I could not understand. Enthralled by the mosquitoes not biting me, not even attempting to, she taught me again to ask. I asked the mosquitoes to refrain from sucking my blood unless their lives depended on it, for then I would willingly give it to them. They spared me, humming. I knelt down again.

Enter me. Come inside me.

I closed my eyes, weeping again in gratitude – how much you trust me! – me, a man who was only learning how to listen, and yet a man who was willing to surrender to just that. I dared not enter her fully, yet I sensed a budding glimpse of our spiritual union.

Feel me.

I reached out my hands, very slowly, listening to who it really was that spoke. Trusting, I placed one hand on her leg, or was it her hand? I touched her. I gently placed my other hand on her. I feel you! I was learning how to feel her. You are alive!

Remember. Remember my brothers and sisters.

I rose up and looked around me. With new eyes I saw their sentience, I saw her brothers and sisters whom she was lending her voice. Yes, I will speak up for you all. I will honor you. I felt complete and began to leave.

Remember.

I stumbled and fell backwards again. She wasn’t done with me yet.

Remember my brothers and sisters. You are among them, too.

I saw a yellow leaf resting on the trunk of a tree before me. Are you mine to pick up? I asked permission. I held the leaf up high, and suddenly three other leaves were falling around me. Clearly, the one that landed before my feet was mine to bring back. I carefully placed that first one back on its trunk and picked up mine. Finally I left the grove, focusing on my steps, filled with a knowing that I did not need to look back.

Don’t look back, remember. Remember us.

— based on a journal entry on Monday, 22nd June 2019 @ Seattle, Washington, USA.

The Haunted House on Hibernation Hill

I slumber on my sacred hill,
you tread on paths forbidden,
and so awakened by your thrill
reveal what long was hidden.

You rest your steps before my gate,
your mind moves on, inquiring;
I lure your soul, yet you must wait
in polar nights, perspiring.

Behold my signs of ancient rite
denying you safe passage.
What if all purpose of this site
is in your crypt my message?

The Haunted House on Hibernation Hill

Which secrets hidden under snow?
What dwells beneath my cellar door?
Are you not curious to know?
Is this not what you came here for?

Dear traveller, woe unto you!
You are condemned to haunt me.
I will not yield my essence; true –
my purpose ne’er to daunt thee.

I hibernate. Your time will come
to pass when you and I are one.

   ~ * ~ * ~ * ~
Note: inspired by an old house which I often pass along my walks, with a reminiscence of the beginning of “The Graveyard Book” by Neil Gaiman. I wonder if you can feel a glimpse of non-dual kafkaesqueness towards the end (or better yet, its resolution?), which I didn’t see coming until I wrote the last lines. Apparently the power of the unconscious serves a larger purpose than to capture the mystical ambiance. I hope it succeeds in both quests.

Winter Is Coming

Winter is coming –
long and cold:
lo! behold!

A hollow hedge – come close! This cave
shall grant your seasons shelter
from Cailleach freezing wind and wave:
in time your Spring will melt her.

Winter is coming –
cruel and kind:
fall not behind!

Her whitely veil doth mend my scars,
preserve our purest essence;
Hark! Ere your kin may conquer stars
these lands request your presence!

Winter is coming –
strong and still:
heed her will!

Cold branches clad in icy claws
guard entrance to her holding.
Will you bear witness, when she thaws,
to my rebirth unfolding?

   ~ * ~ * ~ * ~
Note: Inspired by a walk through falling snow, where I saw a hedge with a hole that gave shelter to birds, and twigs with frozen ends covered in ice which resembled claws. Cailleach is known as a Winter Goddess in Celtic mythology, and her name is derived from the Old Irish language where “caillech” means “veiled one”.

The Extra Mile

Today I walked the extra mile.
I wondered: would it be worthwhile?

A hill that dreams of mountains high
while covered all in snow,
where branches breathe a solemn sigh
amidst the season’s flow.
Theirs will be time to grow,
but not today, nay, not these days;
yet change unfolds in different ways.
And even frozen leaves can dance
like stardust, to behold – perchance –
a passing wanderer’s searching soul,
return his gaze and speak: be whole!

I stopped.

I stood beneath a tree
with inexplicable delight
for what I could not hear (nor see)
until she neared in swift-paced flight.
Her song mingled with ancient words
that rose from over yonder –
among the twigs she jumped,
called her companion. Two birds:
my soul was filled with wonder,
my heart no longer numbed.
Unfurling tree-quakes high above,
snow to my face they shook;
my eyes with water filled and love,
for what they gave, I took.

Today I walked the extra mile.
Or two? Then both were most worthwhile.

   ~ * ~ * ~ * ~
Note: I found the inspiration for this poem during a walk through the gently falling snow, over the hills and far away. I listened to “Australia” by Amanda Palmer, half sunken into deep thoughts, half admiring my surroundings. And then it happened. The tree. The birds. My initial version contained a reference to that song:

“Her song merged with electric words
of dishes and Down Under -“

… but the edited version feels more organic, more mystical, as did my experience.

How to (not) fail at Human Rights

Today is Blog Action Day 2013. There are thousands of ways to write about this year’s theme “Human Rights” – and today you will find an abundance of inspiring posts in the blogosphere, from legislation to activism, from personal experiences to new world visions.

I will take you on another journey (and shamelessly re-use ideas from my unpublished draft for last year’s Blog Action Day). My contribution is about mindsets and worldviews, in-groups and out-groups, and compassion. I want to complement all the other amazing contributions and ask: now that we have a Universal Declaration of Human Rights, what do we need to actually walk the walk? How do we need to think and feel to turn this profound vision into universal reality?

My concern is this: Human Rights are meant to apply to every human being. Not your friends, not your neighbors, not your tribe, not your country – everyone. But as long as we differentiate between in- and out-groups, as long as we fail to show genuine compassion also for those dissidents and strangers and outcasts and so-called enemies, the whole concept just doesn’t fly. We will be doomed to stick with the struggle of activists against the lip-service of decision-makers. We will fervently complain about the scandalous news while ourselves turning a blind eye on the needs of next-door minorities we dislike.

I am not proud to say that I speak from experience. It is so easy to fall into this trap. Look, I already fail at Article 1:

  • All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Do you see what I mean? Yes? Then let’s start from here. (We’re probably not arguing with the important rest anyway: discrimination, liberty, slavery, torture, detention, freedom of thought and speech and what not.)

So even with my best intentions, and “nod-nod yes of course we’re all equal”, I treat people quite differently, putting the ones into the shiny comfy “in-group box” and the others into the dirty let’s-ship-this-far-away “out-group box”. It seems quite natural to do so, especially since we learn mostly how to compete against each other, and not so much how to cooperate with each other. There’s a fascinating experiment with pre-school kids who can give stickers to groups of other kids: by default they give far more stickers to their friends and almost none to those whom they do not like. You think that’s proof? See, even the kids do that! It must be natural then. Well … not quite. I’ll come back to that later.

To act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood requires, as far as I can see, a heart-mind that does not discriminate between who is and who is not a brother or sister, disagreements and their settlements notwithstanding. The only way to realize this is to overcome the limitations of in-group/out-group thinking. This, in turn, can be accomplished by compassion.

In Buddhism the four brahmaviharas – loving kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity – are defined as boundless states. The practitioner takes time to develop these inner qualities with regard to the entire universe and all beings within it. You don’t need Buddhism for this, nor Christianity, nor any form of spirituality. For the science lovers among us, the effects of compassion training can even be measured directly in the brain via fMRI scans! I’ve recently been to the Mind & Life Europe Symposium for Contemplative Studies where Tania Singer and her students presented many fascinating research projects and results on this subject.

As for the kids from my earlier example: after some compassion training (a few minutes each day for a couple of weeks) they gave about the same amount of stickers to everyone else, no matter whether they liked them or not. (And I say that’s our native mode.)

I fantasize about an xkcd-style t-shirt: “Compassion. It works, bitches.”
Yes, that would be something.

Here’s another take: worldviews. How about the integration of all possible scales and flavors of mindsets and worldviews? I’ll try to explain what I mean with this, why it matters, what we can do with it, and how we can do it – including compassion (big surprise).

Our worldviews can be as large and powerful as we want “us” to be. They become actualized and gain momentum by the actions we take as individuals. Therefore let’s start small: let us look inside ourselves first. We can think of the scope of our world-view in terms of where we draw the (artificial) line between “me/us” and “you/them”. These categories fluctuate and evolve from moment to moment, like a dance of viewpoints.

The smallest unit would be called “egocentric”. That’s classic “I versus you (all)” thinking, likely to be activated if you feel threatened, or during competition. Here you care for yourself, period.

Next come various flavors of “ethnocentric” – families, cliques, tribes, cultures and the like. Here we talk of in-groups versus out-groups, “us versus them”. We feel larger. The power of a group. Collaboration. Competition. War. With us or against us.

Take one step beyond and you will encompass all humans, all life on Earth. This mindset can be called “world-centric”, or if you expand it even further, “cosmo-centric”. We are all connected. We belong together. The planet becomes one large living entity: Gaia. Deep ecology. Systems theory. Caring economics. Now our interests shift towards global or universal cooperation. Here you have a link back to compassion and the brahmaviharas – these states of our heart-minds that do not discriminate between friend and foe, inherently boundless and unconditional.

This is the mindset that we need, in my humble opinion and experience, to truly grasp and realize Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

I think these world-view ideas are described in greater detail in Ken Wilber’s work, and also somewhat reflected in “Spiral Dynamics“, but let’s not get too distracted here. I don’t know what exactly Ken Wilber and the “Integral” people propose, but I believe that it’s also about the cultivation of more integral mindsets, akin to the cultivation of loving kindness and compassion. The best way that I know to achieve this is meditation. I also find that traveling opens my heart-mind.

I’ll close this contribution with a quote from one of my earlier journals:

[…] It may not be accessible for one individual human being, just as the achievements of the hive may never be accessible by any single ant alone. But as we allow for a connection between our viewpoints, and as we develop the capacity to understand and integrate other viewpoints, we may reach such a state together.

And here a sense of ethics plays a role: will we use this capacity as in our past for “one group versus another”, I versus you, us versus them, … in the egocentric, ethnocentric or world-centric sense? I believe that we must get to world-centric at the very least, as follows indeed by the whole idea of a fully integrated world-view, which would otherwise be limited by our choice of inclusion and exclusion. The Gaia myth may be a valid and useful pointer to show the direction towards this sub-goal.

And then, again as a consequence of this very idea, we must take it further to a universe-centric world-view. In this way we may one day become the responsible creators of life, evolutionaries of consciousness, participants in a universal community of lifeforms, skilled solution-finders on a scale which exceeds our imagination of today and of generations to come.

Your comments will be warmly appreciated (and your critique will have me put these outlined principles to test :-)). In any case, thank you for reading all this!

The Meaning of Ithaca

We are all on journeys – the journey of life, and its many quests that lead to new worlds in space and time. Once again I am back home on the road. A friend of mine sent me this amazing poem:

When you set out on the voyage to Ithaca,
pray that your journey may be long,
full of adventures, full of knowledge.
Of the Laestrygones and the Cyclopes,
and of furious Poseidon, do not be afraid,
for such on your journey you shall never meet
if your thought remain lofty, if a select
emotion imbue your spirit and your body.
The Laestrygones and the Cyclopes
and furious Poseidon you will never meet
unless you drag them with you in your soul,
unless your soul raises them up before you.
Pray that your journey may be long,
that many may those summer mornings be
when with what pleasure, what untold delight
you enter harbors you’ve not seen before;
that you stop at Phoenician market places
to procure the goodly merchandise,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
and voluptuous perfumes of every kind,
as lavish an amount of voluptuous perfumes as you can;
that you venture on to many Egyptian cities
to learn and yet again to learn from the sages.
But you must always keep Ithaca in mind.
The arrival there is your predestination.
Yet do not by any means hasten your voyage.
Let it best endure for many years,
until grown old at length you anchor at your island
rich with all you have acquired on the way.
You never hoped that Ithaca would give you riches.
Ithaca has given you the lovely voyage.
Without her you would not have ventured on the way.
She has nothing more to give you now.
Poor though you may find her, Ithaca has not deceived you.
Now that you have become so wise, so full of experience,
you will have understood the meaning of an Ithaca.

Ithaca by Constantine Cavafy


When I read this poem I felt inspired. Yet when I recited it to two friends on Sunday, I got completely overwhelmed, and my voice cracked numerous times, and I cried passionate tears of unknown origin in the middle of the restaurant in the heart of Berlin. Something is happening, shifting, finding its way to express itself through me, while Ithaca guides me on my path and inspires my every footstep, breath and heartbeat. May it inspire you as well!