Monday, 4 September 2017

Steps For Creating A Vision Board: Reshaping Your Life


When we are clear on what we really want out of life, the universe will suddenly align in new, unexpected and mysterious ways to make things happen that previously might have seemed unattainable, highly unlikely or simply impossible. Even before I created my first vision board, I have seen this principle (of the Determined Mind) work its magic in countless areas of my life (job opportunities, travels, dumpster finds, the entire journey to moneyless living, etc). Now I am also starting to see that a vision board can serve as a great (daily) reminder of our hopes, dreams and priorities in life. It can help us remain focused on what we truly want rather than what we don't want, and it can also help us catch any self-sabotage, subconscious resistance, or doubts that might crop up (as well as blind spots, double standards and hypocrisy) so that we can nip them in the bud.

As with most things in life, the actual process of creating a vision board is far more powerful than the final product, because it brings us clarity along the way. A clear, uncluttered, conscious and determined mind is what we need to create the life of our imagination. It works because when we are clear on what we truly want and focus on those aspects of our lives, we no longer resist whatever else happens. When all our focus is on what truly matters to us - what makes us feel truly alive - then everything else pales into insignificance. It doesn't matter anymore. It falls away. It literally disappears from our world. If you no longer give it any attention, it ceases to exist. That is how you rebuild your world. You can starve the parts of your life that no longer serve you by just refocusing your attention on what matters to you most.

Attention is always selective, so it's not a matter of either focusing your attention or not. We are always in the process of creating a new world, whether we do it consciously or not. Therefore it is important to focus with awareness, so that you can create consciously. And a vision board is a great way to get started.

Here are my personal guidelines for creating a vision board:

1. Think about what you really, really want. This is probably the hardest (and most important) part. Sometimes we think we want certain things, but upon closer inspection we just believe we want them. Maybe we really want something different. Also, sometimes we set the bar too low, due to limiting beliefs. What would you really want if there were no limitations? What makes your heart sing when you think about it? What would make you excited to be alive? How would you like to feel in this world? What kind of world would you like to live in?
Make sure you don't go for too much comfort. Remember that comfort kills growth. What would make all the pain worthwhile? What would make you forget about it altogether? If it's something you can find within your own heart, then that would be even better. No one can ever take that away.
2. Make a selection of your own favorite photos (and perhaps some from the Internet for things that haven't happened yet, or that you don't have suitable photos for); the ones that make you feel so enthusiastic and happy that you forget about everything else - even if just for a moment. Photos that make you laugh, or that remind you of good times or good qualities of yourself. Next, match those photos to the themes you selected for your vision board.
3. Write a detailed description of all the themes so that it is clear in your mind what you are going for. I kept adjusting the description until just reading the text made me feel enthusiastic and happy about the future. You can read the description I wrote for my themes in the second half of this post.
4. For each theme add affirmations, action steps and perhaps even powerful songs that make you feel happy, enthusiastic, empowered or peaceful - such as this one.
The most important steps to manifest your dreams are step 5 and 6:
5. Make sure your thoughts, words and actions are all in alignment with your goals. This helps you to stay mindful and alert of possible limiting beliefs that need to be worked through as well as self-sabotage (e.g. inaction).
6. Completely let go of any outcome and realize that your life is already wonderful as it is. Enjoy the process of becoming.
Whenever I look at my vision board - because of the happy pictures I have chosen - I am reminded how great my life has already been so far and I would not want to waste a moment of it by focusing on what *might* be missing. If you focus on what is missing in your life, you actually miss everything that is already right here, right now, making your life wonderful. Looking at my vision board I also feel excited about what's yet to come - on such a deep level that I know and feel that I would not want to settle for anything less than the highest vision (depicted on the board). If it were to require some time to materialize, it would be so worth the wait - no matter how long it would take. And even if my dreams would never materialize at all, it still wouldn't matter because I am living my truth authentically. This is what life is about for me. Time no longer matters when you have chosen your highest vision. When even time loses its significance, looking at the vision board makes you feel like you are already there, celebrating your life as what you envisioned. And when your mind is no longer in the way, that is the truth.
7. Review your board from time to time and change it as you change.

Creating a personal vision board is a fun, empowering and freeing experience. The mind is a powerful force. It is important to remember that. Therefore, take it seriously, and spend some contemplative time on the first step. Your focus can literally change the world. If we make our focus too narrow or focus on things that only benefit ourselves, we run the risk of becoming blind for others' experiences, and others' suffering. However, if we focus on creating values that benefit all beings, then we can transform the world together.

My vision board was mainly focused around love: love for the world and romantic love. Prior to creating it, I had discovered that I had silently given up on romantic love, because I had never really found what I was looking for. After creating the vision board, however, my beliefs were immediately restored for the first time in a very long time. Sometimes it is enough to see what you have been holding onto (and how unhelpful it has been) in order to let it go. And lo and behold: a couple of days after I completed and posted the vision board (which took about a week altogether), I met a wonderful guy. We met through a series of big coincidences. It felt like magic.

Of course it might have been just a stroke of luck, but the timing is definitely interesting. If it is luck, then may you - the reader - be blessed by it also  <3  :)



Friday, 1 September 2017

My 3-Year Moneyless Journey In Review


It has been almost three years since I started the Stop Shopping Challenge, and since I started this blog. Also, with my PhD almost coming to an end, I feel that this is a perfect time for review.

Granted, I have not lived 100% moneyless for the entire time (only for about 2.5 years with some breaks in between), and I have not lived solely off of nature (without any help from others) for more than a few days. For example, I have still used tap water for most of the time and (public) internet connections. This is why I prefer to define the journey as a 'rewilding' experience. But what's in the name, right? For me it is the experience that counts.

The experience was about letting go of the attachment to money. The way I chose to do this was to find ways to live 100% without bills and without spending money (with just a few exceptions).  Because living moneyless took the focus off of money, it allowed me to reconnect to everything that brings real, tangible value to my life: friendships (with humans and other animals), food, nature, meditation, etc.

We all grow up with and get used to the idea that money is what gives us access to everything we need. Over the years, we start to (unconsciously) desire money and we forget our true desires. In exchange for choosing money over everything else, we lose our connection with everything that has real, inherent value. Nature, love, friendships, time (being present). It becomes an unconscious fixation and obsession for most of us that gets connected to everything we do. We start living more in the future rather than in the now; always working for a better life somewhere down the track.

We don't realize how deep this (dis-)connection goes until we start letting go of it. We long for money because we think it buys us what we really need and desire, but in fact it is a sham. Money has no value and chasing empty goals can only bring misery in the end. When we let go of this illusion, we can see clearly once again.

Here are some of the things that my moneyless journey has helped me do.

Being mindful and observant
I see more because I was not part of the system for a while. This new way of life has given me a new perspective for looking at the world. It is easier to observe the forest when you are not walking through it. It is easier to see the water when you are not submerged in it. And similarly, it is easier to observe society when you step back and cease to participate in it for a while.

Living in the moment
Without the fear of losing a job or the pressure of having to make money to survive (knowing I can always count on nature), it is far easier to relax and enjoy the moment. Stress is a thing of the past when we can live the way nature intended: without worries about the future, in the abundance of what nature provides, flowing with the seasons. I have also learned to have more patience and to accept (or love) things as they are, which is easy to do once you see that nothing is static but rather in a constant state of change... no matter how slow. I have learned to trust life and to believe in miracles. I know everything that needs to happen will happen in due time. This doesn't mean I have become complacent. I have learned to step up to the plate when I am able to do something to help another being without causing harm. And when it is clearly not up to me, then I have learned to let go without losing sight of what part I could help with. When I feel a strong need for change, I won't assume it is beyond my control without trying first. Thinking outside the box encourages me find new ways to help.

Appreciating what I have
Gratitude is something that developed within me naturally on this journey. In my experience, money often brings a sense of entitlement, and it can result in people taking things (as well as each other) for granted. When you live in closer contact with nature and observe keenly, you realize that while everything is given freely, you are not entitled to anything and nature doesn't owe you anything. Neither do other people. Therefore everything is grace, and while I remain conscious of this I don't take anything for granted. Habit can make people unconscious, and that is when we stop appreciating things and other beings. When we get too comfortable, habit slips in. And habit destroys our consciousness. Don't let your comforts lull you to sleep.

Building character
One of the biggest benefits of this journey was that it helped me to be the best version of myself. It inspired me to look within constantly, and to look at the way I relate to other people. It inspired me to have high standards of myself in my relationships with other people, because this way of life connects me to people in a different way. This lifestyle clearly demonstrates our interdependence - with each other as well as with other species - and it motivates me to be at my best and to help others whenever I can. Also, working on myself, exploring the boundless depths of my being and uncovering all that I am is the best way I can contribute to a better world.

Currently, I am still living mostly moneyless, living mainly off of food from supermarket dumpsters, supplemented with foraged and homegrown foods. I still dive at least two times a week, and preferably daily. I still marvel at the waste of society and will never forget what I have come to understand about society and money. However, at the same time moneyless living is no longer a compulsive goal for me at this time. This doesn't mean I will give it up in the near future, even though perhaps I may become less rigid about it for a while.

Having said that, I am still aiming to set up a sustainable, self-sufficient home base somewhere. I have no desire to be part of a system that doesn't serve me (nor other people, other species or nature). I will not give up the consciousness and awareness I gained through this experience. I will stay present and remain aware and observant. I will keep my eyes open to the truth, and see what is happening around me, beyond how it is presented to us by the media or people in power who have a vested interest in certain perspectives being pushed onto the public. I will keep questioning everything so that I can keep living my own truth, and not anyone else's.

Thanks to Dörte Giebel for this picture :)


(You may also enjoy reading The Moneyless Mindset vs. the Exchange Mindset: What moneyless living has taught me)


Sunday, 20 August 2017

When Dumpsters Get Locked...

If you are rescuing food from supermarket dumpsters on a regular basis, then you might run into problems when your actions are discovered by staff. Dumpsters may get locked, moved inside the storage area, fenced in or replaced by a press container. Of course this is something we want to avoid and in this article I will share some prevention strategies.

"Welcome" -- *points to store entrance for divers*
Usually, store personnel won't mind dumpster divers if they dive respectfully. This means always leaving the site as clean as or cleaner than you found it, diving after closing time, minimizing noise and limiting exposure (try not to be seen by anybody). If your favorite store is fairly abandoned after opening hours and the dumpsters are used in such a way that it is difficult for staff to find out about what you are doing, you may prefer to dive anonymously. However, when you dive in an area where you can be easily spotted by passers-by, or if dumpsters are small and you collect a lot of stuff from the bins, then you may want to consider trying to arrange a diving agreement.

One way to do this is to ask the store manager for permission first to collect and donate food. You can either agree to collect the food inside the store directly, or to dive with permission. Unfortunately, store managers are often still reluctant to donate food or give permission for divers, and this strategy may backfire because the manager will be on high alert, and may take preventive measures against dumpster diving. However, so far this has not happened to me. What did happen in one case is that the manager turned a blind eye to the diving and even walked past me on many occasions while I was digging for treasures.

When interacting with store personnel, especially managers, make an effort to see their point of view and always respond with kindness, humility and compassion.

1. Remember it is fear, not malice, that motivates managers to resist food rescuers.
2. Fear (like anything else) can best be approached with love and compassion. Not attack, blame or defensiveness.
3. Try to keep the conversation open and take initiative.
4. Be innovative and positive in your approach and communications with personnel, management and law enforcers.
5. Demonstrate your goodwill by sharing your treasures with others, especially those who are less fortunate than you or organizations with little resources who aim to make a difference in the world  (volunteering organizations, animal shelters, homeless people, refugees, organic farms, etc).

Another option is to make your presence known in a subtle way, by leaving a note on the dumpster door (on the outside or inside). You can do this straight away or after a dumpster gets locked.
Here is an example of such a note:

---------------
Dear ....,

You have been visited by Food Rescuers. We collect food waste and donate it to farms and people in need, to help prevent climate change.

Your store remains anonymous and we take full responsibility for food safety. We will not donate if there is any health risk.

Please help us by keeping your dumpsters unlocked, or we can pick up directly at the store during opening hours. Please call 93606823 to make arrangements.

Thank you for helping us with our cause. We are always open to answering questions and feel free to get in touch if you would like to learn more.

Sincerely,

Trondheim Food Rescue Team
--------------

Of course it is very important that you keep your promises and commit to your purpose long-term. Read more about what it takes to live moneyless here.

It may be difficult to know what option works best and it may require you to talk to the manager first, even if just to get a feel for the type of person you are dealing with.

If you have other advice for fellow divers, feel free to post your tips below.

Most of all, don't forget to keep on having fun!

Happy hunting! :)

(click HERE for a reminder of the benefits of dumpster diving; not just for yourself, but also for the store and the rest of the world!)


Friday, 4 August 2017

Making A Vision Board

For the past few weeks I have been suffering from a broken heart. I 'met' someone online and we had a great connection: shared ideals, shared plans for the future, similar values, great communication and a shared passion for self-sufficient lifestyles. Due to living in different parts of the world we hadn't met in person yet but we talked via chat and on Skype. And then suddenly everything changed. I am not sure what happened. Maybe the excitement wore off for him, or maybe he was afraid of taking the next step (meeting), or maybe there was someone else in his life. I don't know. All I know is that it was over. He never actually told me why or what happened. He just found ways to shut down all communication between us, and after a few months of trying to reconnect (and merely getting vague and indirect answers) I think I have to conclude that he no longer wishes to be a part of my life. I will never know what might have been.

Of course, rationally, I can tell myself this is a good thing. After all, it would be much easier to be with someone who wants to share with me what is going on for him, even when this is difficult to do. Situations and feelings can always change, but when things are not working out as you hoped then it's fair to let the other person know so that they can either do something about it or move on with their lives, instead of leaving them hanging - and guessing - for months. So rationally I understand this wasn't such a good match after all. But still, it hurt.
A lot.

I contemplated what it was that made it so difficult for me to let go this time and I realized there were three things:

1. For me, meeting someone who has similar ideas and values and who actually wants to create a similar kind of lifestyle is a rare event. From this it is easy to conclude that perhaps there aren't many people who have similar life goals to mine, but it could also mean that I don't meet enough people and/or that I go to the wrong places to meet them. On top of that - as I wrote in my previous blog post - I move around a lot, which makes it difficult to build and maintain lasting friendships. So it will be important for me to start meeting more like-minded people; not just people who live far away, but also people who live nearby. And the more people I meet, the bigger the chance that some of them will have similar values, goals and dreams.

2. At least some of the time I doubt whether the kind of person I would like to share my life with exists at all (and whether they are within my reach). The first part of this is connected with the previous point: because I believe that I am looking for a rare combination of qualities. But maybe this is just a matter of being in the wrong crowd. Also, I have to remind myself that it is not necessary to find many people like this - just one will do.

3. Another subconscious belief that came to the surface is that sometimes I feel like I am not good enough as I am, or that I somehow have to earn love; that I am not lovable just the way I am. In those moments, I feel like I have to convince others that I am worthy of love. Of course when someone loses interest, it reinforces the story - even though it probably has nothing to do with me.

These realizations finally motivated me to create my First Ever Vision Board to help me focus on shifting these tendencies, and it was SO much fun! I highly recommend it :) You can use a program like Vision Board Builder. I started off with a colorful wallpaper image to get the beautiful background colors, and layered the other images over the top.


Here's a breakdown of my vision board:

LOVE (and friends)
For me, 'practicing life' is about unconditional love, towards myself and others. Universal love goes beyond preferences and all other types of judgments. Love is joy in its purest form. It is a practice; a way of life. 'Issues' that come up in relationships with others can teach me what I haven't realized yet about myself, or show me what I have to let go of.
Love is free: free of attachment and free of demands. Love is connection, sharing and openness. Love is about being myself around others, getting comfortable being uncomfortable for the sake of personal growth. Love is about bringing out the best in each other, and looking for the best in everyone I meet. It is about bringing joy into other people's lives, because I know and support others' deepest wishes and desires and support them as much as I support my own, without the imposition of my own agenda. It is about honest self-expression, and therefore also about listening with compassion when others share their world with me. All of this starts with knowing myself, accepting myself, and loving myself- not superficially, but unconditionally.
Romantic love brings two people together who want to explore the depths of self-growth and unconditional love, and share the best and the worst of life's experiences with each other in order to learn and grow. Together they build a strong bond so that they can take each other to higher/deeper levels, explore all facets of life together and be each other's mirror and inspiration.

TRUST
Without trust there can be no love and without love it is difficult to trust. The trust I am talking about is a fundamental (and therefore unshakable) kind of trust: a deep knowing that whatever will happen is what needs to happen. Moreover, knowing that what happens is always the best possible outcome. Trusting that life will always bring me what I need and even what I ultimately want, even if I don't realize it at the time. And trusting that everything that happens in my life is designed to bring me happiness and freedom. Everything is a gift. So far this has always been true for me - without exceptions. It just takes me a while to realize it sometimes.

PEACE
Inner peace is the absence of stress. When I experience stress, I look to my mind to see what causes it. When I experience peace, I can see that I am connected with truth - in the flow of the present moment without resistance or attachment - free to respond naturally and spontaneously. Even the slightest amount of stress is my wake-up call. Peace is always present inside and stress is always caused by me. That is empowering knowledge. I can choose peace at any time. 

CREATIVITY
We are always creating, but what we are creating depends on our inner states. When we have trust, inner peace and an awareness of love, then our creations reflect that. Creation is perhaps one of the most magnificent wonders of life, because it can be a way to shine a light for others, simply by expressing what is true for you in the moment and what is important to you.

In my experience, gratitude is not something that needs direct focus because it results from living in a harmonious and present state of mind. Trying to ‘be grateful’ doesn’t work, because you are trying to get an effect without putting in the required ingredients first (or more precisely: without doing the work that is required to uncover it). It might feel inauthentic or forced. I only included it as a measure for progress. I also included fun and health, because sometimes I particularly forget about those two aspects of my life. It serves to remind me to check whether I am eating healthy foods and whether I am making time to play and have fun. It is important not to take yourself too seriously at least some of the time.

The picture in the center of the board is one of my favorite pictures of me because it represents all of the aspects that are important to me in one single image. I added the Tarot card on Wednesday when I did a past-present-future spread which gave me the 10 of cups as my card for the future. That happens to be one of my favorite Tarot cards and it fits very well with the themes on the vision board.


If you have a vision board as well, I would love to see yours!



Sunday, 23 July 2017

Back To Square One: Planning The Future


As most of you already know, I have just moved back to the Netherlands after spending almost 3 years in Norway. This was probably the longest period of time I have spent in one place in a long, long time. Since I was 18 years old, I have moved 32 times between 26 different addresses, across 7 different countries (or 8 if you count Northern Ireland as separate from England) and 3 continents. It was self-imposed and I used to enjoy every move - and still do to some degree. It keeps me from accumulating too much stuff, it is exciting and brings new adventures, it allows me to start over each time and therefore live in the moment more, and it helps me to gain new perspectives and to see the world through new eyes.

Nevertheless, there are also some downsides to long-term travel and living a rootless life, and for the past five or six years these have been coming to the forefront more and more. It can be challenging to maintain close friendships, or to experience a sense of belonging. Even though I can easily feel at home anywhere in the world, I also feel like I am an alien everywhere I go. I belong everywhere and nowhere. Each time I move to a new place it is a little less exciting and more exhausting to start up my life yet again, because I know it is just temporary and I will have to start all over again after just a few years. Saying good-bye to some of the wonderful people I meet along the way and grow to love and respect also gets more difficult each time. Sometimes I feel like an outcast, even though so far it has been mostly by choice.

I feel like it is time for a new phase in my life: a phase where I start to put down some serious roots, settle down, meet people (and really get to know them) and fully commit to building up my life in one place. To me, that feels quite a way outside my comfort zone because in a world that offers no certainties, my sense of security has come from remaining unbound and free. But at the same time that also brings a constant restlessness to my life; a sense of always being on the run (even when I am not).

So the next step in my rewilding adventure will be to build my own self-sufficient home, preferably in an environment where money and ownership are entirely absent (in the wild) or where I could more easily forget about those concepts (on my 'own' piece of land - which would be the next best thing if living in the wild would somehow not be an option). Therefore, the next time I move I am intending to stay for a while; maybe even forever. I will pluck up the courage to put down some firm roots, build solid friendships, and start living my dream: creating a self-sufficient, sustainable environment where I can live in harmony with nature, possibly with room for others to join me. No more waiting for the perfect time, the perfect people to show up around me or the perfect circumstances. Life offers no guarantees. I may be uprooted once again through circumstance, but I can always re-plant myself, and it may even be easier the second time.

The planning phase starts now. The first step will be to decide which country is best suited for me to build an eco-home, grow foods year-round and build a small community (whether in the wilderness or not). At the moment I am considering Norway and France as viable options, or perhaps further afield…

(If you have any advice for me, please let me know!)

Much love to you all. <3



Saturday, 20 May 2017

What It Means To Be Successful






Success is often described in material terms. Society seems to prescribe it in terms of whether you own your own home, have a (nice) car, have a well-paid job, etc. If you don’t have a job or one that barely pays the bills, then it seems you can’t be successful according to society’s standards.

However, what matters is not how society defines success, or how your parents or friends define it. It matters how you define it. This is the only measure of success that you need to determine whether you have succeeded in life or not. It also doesn't have to be an end goal far into the future: it can be something you can achieve in any moment, over and over.

'How do I define success?' is one of the most important questions we can ask ourselves, because it can help us remain true to ourselves and true to our path when hard times arise and we have to make tough decisions. Our definitions of success change and evolve over time, because life changes and situations change as well, and our perspectives may change as a result of that. In my experience, it usually becomes simpler as we get older and wiser. We realize that success really isn’t that complicated (which doesn't mean it is always easy), and that we really don’t need that much to live a meaningful, happy and fulfilling life. We realize that it is more (or even entirely) about what happens on the inside rather than about what happens around us. That realization is success in itself - if freedom is important to you.

For me, a definition of success is only meaningful if it is something that I can achieve at any time (no matter what happens). It is about prioritizing what matters most to me at that point in time. It is always about me, because I can’t decide for others, or dictate what situations may come my way. Defining success as a personal quality that I want to develop not only makes life simpler and more enjoyable, it also helps me to see the perfection of life because everything that happens is an opportunity for me to learn and to practice. I can start over in every moment. Sometimes I fail, sometimes I succeed. It doesn't matter. I get to practice.

Have you noticed that the challenges that come to you are always the right ones? And that the people who show up in your life (and leave again) also bring you exactly what you need?

*****
How do you measure success in your life? What does being successful mean to you?