I have always loved to away travel from the so-called “western” world. To get away from the comfort and the ideas so ingrained in our part of the world and to observe the exotic and the different. It has been with equal parts fascination and discomfort, I have observed life in countries such as Uganda, India and Mexico. And I noticed that often, when I met a stranger, I would ask myself questions like: What fills this person’s life? What are the values and life perception behind their culture?
I have found it especially difficulty to understand the apparent lethargic attitude to life, which, I believe, I have seen in many people’s lives the places, where I have travelled. I have seen many use a half or a full day sitting by the road side, greeting those who come by. “What do these people do?”, I would wonder. Or sometimes, I would grapple with the little less charming “Why don’t they get the finger out?” Though, whilst on my physical trips, I have also been on an inner journey. I started with the little conceited and self-centred western opinion that we know better, and that other cultures are merely stages behind our development. But from my meetings with people from other cultures, I have developed a true humility and gained an insight into the insidiousness, I have experienced in my own culture.
I began to think that perhaps the lifestyle, we are so busy preaching to the rest of the world is not the final answer. Perhaps our conquering and ravaging from the vikings to the colonists to today’s soldiers “fighting” against terror is not that sophisticated? Perhaps the urge to continually conquer new things, develop ourselves and fight against everything and everyone, we don’t understand, comes not from a place of profit but rather from hard-line survival?
Let me tell you about an experience I once had, which made me really reflect on these things and change my worldview. I was walking in a market in the small town of Kapchorwa in Uganda, where I was posted as a youth delegate for the Red Cross Youth in 1999. I saw a man, as I had so often seen him, sitting and selling mangos with a smile. He joyfully exclaimed “good morning” in the local language, which I have unfortunately forgotten today. I think, I was homesick that day and felt everything was so foreign and strange in Africa. I could not rein in my wonder or my sarcasm, when I asked him why he didn’t do anything other than sit and sell a handful of mangoes. He replied without thinking about it: How could he not, when mangoes rained down on his head…
And then it hit me: nothing has ever rained down on our heads – other than rain – literally – and that can only be transformed into food or wealth with a lot of hard and focused work. Our culture – and I refer here to the northern countries in general – have had to struggle more. Struggle to hunt and gather food, struggle to cultivate the fields and have enough stock to survive the winter. Today we are striving to develop our ideas and know-how, so our country does not go bankrupt, now that we have to outsource all of our manual labour to countries that can do it cheaper. We can’t rest on our laurels, as the phrase so aptly goes. We must be in constant motion and in constant alertness for when the cold or crisis hits us.
That alertness does not only put a strain our society, but also very much our health and well-being in general.
My book LIVE MORE – STRUGGLE LESS is about how we can cultivate more health and well-being in a culture that never sleeps. In a culture that continually insists we work harder and do better. A society that advocates working hard and doing well before finding delight – but always leaves us with the big questions: “When have we done enough to deserve delight?” and “How long can we delight ourselves before we again must work hard?”
My main source of inspiration is the several thousand year old health tradition from India, Ayurveda. The mission of the book is to make this tradition relevant for us people of the north – in the time, culture and climate, we live in. “The science of life”, which is what Ayurveda translates as, has some quite valid suggestions for how descendants of the vikings can regain balance.
Come with me on a journey of sustainable health!