Ripple effect in northern Holland

photos- Rende Zoutewelle

(This was originally written for the Walk out, Walk on blog,  and has been slightly modified)

It’s been 5 months since the traffic action group, Route 30 (Lijn 30)  formed in our little village in northern Holland.

Since then, we’ve continued to meet weekly and have staged 3 successful events. Our plan has earned our village an ‘encouragement’ medal for traffic safety from the  National Traffic Safety organisation; we have received abundant regional media coverage, and have forged important partnerships on local, municipal, and provincial levels.

For me, the success isn’t defined by attaining external goals so much as the connections that are being forged. On a personal level, it has meant an end to my years of feeling isolated here, an opportunity for connection, creative collaboration , and a chance to serve a larger purpose.

I’m continually amazed at the creativity that emerges from the collaboration of our diverse group. The events are fun, humorous and colourful. On December 30th, for instance, we formed an impromptu choir, directed by a local music teacher who also wrote and arranged some songs for us. We transformed the bridge into a warm, winter scene with burning braziers, torches and sparklers. (Pictures here,  though the text is in Dutch). Other villagers passing by joined us in the singing. And after a freezing hour in the winter dark, the choir members were treated to thick mustard soup with rye bread at the home of one of the singers.

We haven’t had access to nor have we used methods such as ‘Art of Hosting’, I’m not sure it would transplant here too well. Instead, all our solutions  have grown organically out of these particular people, the situation, and the place.

Of course there are local people who are against our group; we are seen by some of the older, conservative villagers as ‘exhibitionist, over the top, and making a fuss about nothing’. It will be ‘nothing’ only so long as it’s only pets (they don’t seem to count) that get run over, and not children.
We try to engage the dissidents in dialogue and invite those willing, to join the events.

I’m most excited by a recent development, it seems that ‘start anywhere, follow it everywhere’ really is working here. Other neighbouring villages with the same problem are also starting action groups, also with a positive, creative character. And we have already been asked to share some of the knowledge and experience we’ve gained through our work so far.

We are hoping that gradually, all these separate initiatives will unite to form a strong protest group with the clout to exert pressure to enforce the changes needed to make our village roads places to meet, play and move safely.

This all started because a handful of neighbours decided to turn their powerlessness into positive action. It started because the systems failed us through their top heavy bureaucracy and  ponderous inaction. We decided to take things into our own hands and are finding that these hands, when united with others are capable, friendly, and effective!


No New Year’s resolutions, no professional goals- gentle musings for 2014

While on vacation in America last spring, I had the time and distance to re-evaluate parts of my life. The friend I was staying with had a book on ‘finding one’s purpose’, and I thought that working through the exercises might bring me clarity for my next step.

Believe me, in the past, I’ve done my share of visioning, goal setting, etc, led by a book or workshop promising to find my real ‘vein of gold’, which if exploited would bring me fulfilment and prosperity.

They never did, and I admit I approached this book with a certain cynicism. There were valuable points in it; and though I obediently envisioned a goal; went through steps on confronting and removing obstacles from the past that were keeping me back from ‘succeeding’; and  did the bit on breaking the grand vision down into manageable steps;  I finally baulked on the ‘committing to go for it’ part.

Here is what I wrote at the back of the workbook:

After working through this book it is clear to me that this approach does not work for me, and never has. Using rational methods and the force of will to bring success feels too based in old methods of control. I’m at the point where I’d rather create a fertile, joyful, intentional field within myself – and trust the right thing to come my way.

8 months later, this conviction was affirmed by Charles Eisenstein in his book
where he says that some teachings speak of creating a vision,  ‘but this is mistaken; the proper way to start is to receive a vision…’

A vision of your path or purpose or next step is a gift.

My heart has always known that.

When doggedly pursuing one goal, I often miss what life is offering me. Or in my ambition,  am blinkered to things that also need my nurturing, and may not directly serve the goal, but would definitely enhance my life.

Another confirmation of the more gentle path I seem to be entering on, came from a quote Cat sent me in a recent mail, and it is my motto for the new year:

“It’s far more creative to work with the idea of mindfulness rather than the idea of will. Too often people try to change their lives by using the will as a kind of hammer to beat their life into proper shape. The intellect identifies the goal of the program, and the will accordingly forces the life into that shape. This way of approaching the sacredness of one’s own presence is externalist and violent.  It brings you falsely outside yourself, and you can spend years lost in the wilderness of your own mechanical, spiritual programs. You can perish in a famine of your own making.
If you work with a different rhythm you will come easily and naturally home to yourself. The soul knows the geography of your destiny. Your soul alone has the map of your future, therefore you can trust this indirect, oblique side of yourself. If you do, it will take you where you need to go, but more important it will teach you a kindness of rhythm in your journey.”
by John O’Donohue, Anam Cara