Archive for July, 2010

When my client opened her front door I felt a shock of negativity going through my body. Saying hello to the lady I recognized her South-African accent. She confirmed that she was born in Durban but immediately she started a diatribe about criminality in South Africa. When I praised the magnificent view we had from her terrace overlooking the vineyards and the rolling hills, she gave me her view about the corruption in our area.

When I asked her about her neighbours she could only say that it was not possible to get along with them.

As I wanted to know where she had found her dog, I had to listen to a story about how cruel people are with animals.

Speaking about her dog she complained that the Rottweiler-mix always ran away as soon as the gate was open.

Although I felt as if I wanted to run off too, I kept on trying to talk to her.

It was very difficult because she when she did not interrupt me, she did not listen to what I said and kept on talking about all the problems and the misery in the world.

Then I asked her to call her dog and make her sit in front of her. She used the word Come 13 times and the word Sit 9 times.

Getting up I asked her if I could have a look at the food she was serving the dog. I took a few bits of the cheap supermarket food with chemicals and called the dog by simply crouching down. Getting up and holding my hand over her head the bitch sat down. I did not have to say anything.

Explaining my client how I could teach her to do the same with her dog I was overwhelmed with the clear feeling: I cannot get through the wall this lady had built around her.

When I asked for my fee at the end of my 2 hour visit my client reacted by saying she found it very expensive. Then  she said that she did not have the money and could pay me only part of my fee.

We agreed to meet again the day after, in front of the local supermarket.

When I walked to my car I felt angry. My client told me she had the impression I was angry. I answered that I was not angry and drove away.

The rest of the day I kept on paying attention to my feelings and slowly I could let go of the built-up negativity.

Meeting the lady the day after I told her I had lied to her. Although she kept on interrupting me I was able to explain to her that I had been angry with myself because I had been unable to find a hole in her wall. I had been unable to communicate with her.

Then I offered her a new copy of The Power Of Now by Eckhart Tolle, saying that if she liked the book and wanted to speak about it I would be most willing to meet her again. I could see that slowly there was less tension in her body. In the end she started talking slower and yes, I can say that she even started listening to me.

Finally I felt no negativity anymore. I am sure she felt better too because before she walked away she gave me a hug. You might think that this has nothing to do with the lady and her problem with her dog. According to me it has everything to do with it. If my client is unable to communicate with me how can I teach her anything? I am very glad I was able to make a hole in her wall of negativity, pain and fear and I am looking forward to our next meeting.

Kindest regards from Brunothedoglistener.

Dogs are my teachers.

Are they yours too?

00 34 690 19 29 76

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Today I want to talk about a youn mother who is earning 70 € less per month while she has to work harder.

Having bought some toilet paper in the local supermarket I was waiting at the check out. When it was my turn the check out lady asked if I wanted to buy half a melon. I said No and added ¿Tienes que atender la caja pero vender al mismo tiempo? (You are responsible for check out but you have to sell at the same time). She confirmed what I said. Then I asked ¿Pero estás cobrando más? (Are you earning more?) She answered No, estoy cobrando 70 € menos que antes. Todos estamos cobrando menos. Pero tenemos que aceptar o dejar de trabajar.(No, I am earning 70 € less. We are all earning less. But we have to accept or stop working)

I felt angry when I left the supermarket. Angry at this system.

Supermarkets lure their customers stressing they sell CHEAP food.

I do not want cheap food. I want good food.

Do you want cheap food? Why would you want cheap food? What kind of car do you drive? Is it a cheap car?

Besides, when you buy supermarket food, it is my opinion their produce is not cheap but EXPENSIVE food.

Cheap food is being produced while using poisonous chemicals, destroying nature, torturing animals, using slave labour, exploiting farmers, using genetically modified ingredients and underpaying humans like the check out lady in my village.

Do you see that food produced, transported and distributed like that is very, very, very expensive food? It destroys not only nature but also families, social structures in farmer communities and it destroys our health. It contains barely 10 percent of all the vitamins and minerals we need in order to lead a healthy life.

Organic farmers do not destroy nature. They respect nature. They produce good food. Food that is good for us, for them and for Mother Earth.

I only make a small additional effort every time I drive to the shop of the organic farmer in Benissa. My small effort is that I drive a few km more, that I look for a parking spot that is sometimes difficult to find and that I walk two streets to the shop. But there I can buy the good, tasty, quality food I want. The farmer and his wife are not slaves and they greet me with a smile. Over the years we became friends.

If their yoghurt or kefir, apples or pears, lettuce or potatoes are nominally a bit more expensive than what the supermarkets are selling, I know their produce is not expensive compared to supermarket produce as it contains 100 percent of the vitamins and minerals I need for my body.

By the way: the same is of course true for petfood.

Have you found an organic shop in your neigbourhood? Is the check out lady in your local supermarket also earning less than last year? Ask her and write to me about what you have discovered.

Kindest regards from Brunothedoglistener.

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According to me Deepak Chopra is an astonishing author. I cherish his books but especially the ones about Buddha, Jesus and God.

In the book called Reinventing The Body, Resurrecting The Soul he speaks about learned helplessness. Referring to my own experience as a doglistener I can confirm that I see this behaviour in some of my clients. I never stop being amazed when I hear how they call themselves useless and good for nothing. I can see the learned helplessness in their eyes.

In his latest book Deepak Chopra says (page 213-4) that many people resist the notion that they have an absolute worth in the Universe. Unwittingly they are playing out a behaviour known as learned helplessness. A famous example comes from experiments with dogs performed in the 1950s.

Two dogs were put in separate cages and each was given a mild shock at random intervals. The first dog had a switch that it could hit to make the shocks stop and very quickly it learned to throw the switch. Since the shocks were mild this dog displayed no adverse effects. The second dog received shocks at the same time, but had no switch for stopping them. Its experience was very different. For that dog, pain was a random occurrence out of its control.

But it is the second part of the experiment that is most revealing.

Each dog was now put into a cage where half the floor delivered shocks while the other half was safe. All the dog had to do when it was shocked was to jump over a small partition to reach the safe zone. The first dog, the one that had learned how to turn the shocks off, did not have a switch anymore. But it did not need one. It quickly learned to jump to safety. The second dog however, gave up immediately. He laid down and let the shocks come as they would, without making an effort to jump out of the way.

This is learned helplessness in action.

When applied to human life the implications are devastating. Countless people accept that pain and suffering come randomly. They have never been in control of the shocks that every existence delivers, and so they seek no escape, even when one is presented.

Knowing how things work is important. Otherwise, learned helplessness creeps up on us. The first dog learned that life makes sense: if you hit a switch, the pain goes away. The second dog learned that life was pointless: no matter what you do, the pain comes anyway, which means either no one is in charge, or whoever is in charge does not care. A dog may not think this way, but we do. Without a sense of purpose, we resort to helplessness. To escape our learned helplessness, we have to have a sense that we matter in the larger scheme of things.

So far Deepak Chopra.

Sometimes I meet clients who are really willing to learn how to communicate with their dogs. Working with them is pure joy. Other times I feel quite well that the will to listen and learn is not present. At the end of my first visit this kind of client says that (s)he will call me. They of course never call me again.

Next week I want to write about a remarkable meeting I had with a client.

Kindest regards from Brunothedoglistener

Dogs are my teachers.

Are they yours too?

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You might think that this letter has nothing to do with dogs. I can confirm that it has, according to me, a lot to do with dogs.

I have seen it thousands of times how the so-called problems some people have with dogs are linked to the so-called problems they have with themselves and with their fellow human beings. It has all to do with relationships. If we have a good relationship with our true self, we will have good relationships with other people, with our pets and with the rest of the Universe. For that reason I am talking about Ubuntu today.

In 2006 and 2007 I have lived in South Africa. At the end of 2007 I went back to Europe after a divorce.

But not one moment have I regretted my South African experience. Especially because of the South African people. In South Africa I was initiated in the ManKindProject and since then I have been inundated by the love of my brothers. Although I left the country I have been able to stay in touch with Mncedisi Ntsangase who became my mentee. It sometimes sounds silly to me that I am the mentor of a young and bright Zulu man because I think I have learned more from him than him from me.

Today I still know quite well what Ubuntu is because I have felt what it means in South Africa. Today it enables me to practice Ubuntuwherever I am.

Eva Schoenfeld in Johannesburg did send me a copy of a letter written by Shari Cohen, who is a development worker in the public health sector. The letter explains what Ubuntu means to this American visitor of South Africa. It was published in The Huffington Post.

South Africa Rolls Out the Ubuntu in Abundance

I went on a rant the other day regarding the cost of the 2010 World Cup versus all the critical needs South Africa is facing and whether or not the most vulnerable of this country would gain anything from having the World Cup hosted in their country. At that time, I also had some very positive things to say about our hosts for the 2010 World Cup and I wanted to share that side of the coin as well, because it is equally important.

To say that I have been blown away at the hospitality South Africa has shown the rest of the world would be an understatement. I think back on recent Olympics and struggle to remember much reporting in the USA of athletes from other countries. I remember when a Togolese guy won a bronze medal in kayaking and NBC reported it and I thought to myself, “where are all the other fascinating stories like this one…like the Jamaican bobsledding team.” In today’s America, sadly, we have drifted so far towards being so US-centric that we only seem to root for the Americans.

Not so here in South Africa. I’ve been here since early May and each week I have become more and more impressed with the global embrace that South Africans have offered up to the world. On the way to the airport a couple of weeks ago, I heard a radio program that said each day they would focus on one country that would be coming to South Africa for the World Cup, and they would explore not only that sport’s history in soccer, but also their politics, religion, and socio-cultural practices. On the television, I’ve seen numerous programs that focus on a particular country and it’s history of soccer and how the history of that country is intertwined with their soccer history. I’ve seen programs on India, exploring why India enjoys soccer but hasn’t really excelled at the global level… yet. And I’ve seen shows on soccer in Muslim countries. Maybe it’s planned, maybe it’s unplanned, maybe it’s by chance, but it is happening. It’s not just about South Africans showing off their varied and multifaceted culture to their global guests, it’s also about using this opportunity to educate South Africa on the rest of Planet Earth’s inhabitants.

As I moved through my work here in the provinces over the last six weeks, I had a pivotal meeting with the Board members of a rural NGO. They were explaining their guiding program philosophy of Ubuntu. No, not the Linux program. I’m talking about the traditional African philosophy of Ubuntu that essentially says, “No man is an island.”

I found a better explanation from Wikipedia:

Archbishop Desmond Tutu further explained Ubuntu in 2008:

One of the sayings in our country is Ubuntu – the essence of being human. Ubuntu speaks particularly about the fact that you can’t exist as a human being in isolation. It speaks about our interconnectedness. You can’t be human all by yourself, and when you have this quality — Ubuntu — you are known for your generosity.

We think of ourselves far too frequently as just individuals, separated from one another, whereas you are connected and what you do affects the whole world. When you do well, it spreads out; it is for the whole of humanity.

To me, Ubuntu is the acceptance of others as parts of the sum total of each of us. And that is exactly what I have experienced during the lead up to, and the initial days of this World Cup. There is nary a South African citizen that I’ve met on the street, or in shops or restaurants or hotels, that hasn’t gone out of their way to greet me and make me feel like I am home. And I don’t mean that in the trivial, “Oh, aren’t they nice, homey people here… ” sort of way. I mean real, genuine interest and questions. People seriously want to know where I come from. What it’s like where I live. How does it compare to where I am now. What do I think of South Africa. Oh yes, and what do I think of Bafana Bafana… The questions and conversations are in earnest. They are honest. And they are had with enthusiasm and a thirst to know more. South Africans are drinking deeply from the cup of humanity that has been brought to their doorstep. I would never imagine that an American World Cup or Olympics would ever be this welcoming to the rest of the world. And that saddens me for the state of my home country, but it also makes me feel the pride of the South African people.

I have been truly humbled on this trip. And while I have my gripes regarding development here, I cannot say one negative thing about how South Africa has handled its duties as host and hostess to the world. If I could say one thing to sum up being here during this once-in-a-lifetime experience, it would be that I’ve learned the value of Ubuntu, and that when found and offered in abundance, the world is indeed a better place to live in.

So, if South Africa accomplishes nothing more on the playing field, it will still have won as a host country. I am a cynic, no doubt about that. And yet I have to admit, I’m a little teary just writing this because I leave for home next weekend and I will be leaving a little piece of myself here in South Africa. I just hope I have learned enough to bring back a little piece of Ubuntu to my homeland, where perhaps with a little caring and a little water, it will take root as naturally as it does here, in the cradle of civilization. It’s funny, many people in America still ask me, “are the people in Africa very primitive?” Yes, I know, amazing someone could ask that but they do. And when they do, I usually explain that living in a mud hut does not make one primitive, however, allowing kids to sell drugs to other kids and engage in drive-by killings — isn’t that primitive behavior? I think it is. When I think of Ubuntu and my recent experiences here, I think America has much to learn from Africa in general, in terms of living as a larger village; and as human beings who are all interconnected with each other, each of us having an affect on our brothers and sisters.

As the 2010 Cup slogan goes, “Feel it. It is here.” Well, I have felt it, because I am here. Thank you South Africa, for giving me this unexpected gift. I am humbled.

You have just read what Shari Cohen experienced.

I have experienced the same Ubuntu many times in South Africa.

I hope this letter is an anti-dote against all the negativity most of the media are producing when they keep on speaking about criminality in South Africa. Media are brain washing machines. But you knew that already.

Kindest regards from Brunothedoglistener

If I love myself I can love others

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