Slow down to speed up! Retreat as often as you can!

Transformation is a shift in root perspective. The butterfly cannot go back to being a caterpillar, once bursted out of the cocoon. There is no way back. My latest transformation is like that, I feel it in my whole body: no way back. Amazing how important it is to first slow down to be able to speed up, to integrate lessons learned. ‘Accelerate, consolidate, learn’ an old friend of mine loved to preach. Without consolidation (i.e. reflection) there is no learning, let alone acceleration. I got that.


Reflection and relaxation are crucial to lead a healthy, happy, creative life. Crucial for the mind, for the body, for our energy to flow. Crucial to be our best in every role we occupy in our crazy, busy, noisy lives of today. We all know it, we feel it in our bodies. The scientific evidence cannot be argued. And yet, we find it sooo hard to pull the plug, sit still, change our habits and consciously take time to slow down to speed up. We think we have to speed up to speed up, addicted as we are to action. Slow down, to speed up! I’ve really felt that in my whole being these past five weeks during my ‘Me-We-It-Retreat’ in Amsterdam.

In Amsterdam!? Shouldn’t a retreat be somewhere in nature? Yes sometimes…but not for me this time… Funny, everybody has an opinion about what a retreat should or should not be. And that is exactly why I do this: feeling what I feel and what I think instead of meeting expectations of others… And automatically go and do that. Because that is the most common thing to do, isn’t it? Doing what you are used to do, without thinking, without (too much) feeling. Until that inner voice starts to first whisper and then shout: you are a human BEING, not a human DOING, stop!

I am writing this blog from one of the many, many places where a lot of people are sitting behind their laptops with a latte in front of their nose. Foreign languages and different ages everywhere. This is not the Amsterdam of 25 years ago. Not even of 5 years ago, when I left. In the street where my ‘temporary home’ is, I hear more languages than I know. In the supermarket around the corner nobody carries a basket. These youngsters, mostly foreigners, buy one meal at the time, for themselves. They live outdoors, carry their lives in their smartphones. It is confronting for me: I have to get used to this change in ‘my’ city. It is a lot of me, myself and I, nowadays.

So here I am, on my ‘Me-We-It-Retreat’. That is the way I labeled it, to be able to explain to others (and to myself ;-)?) why, how and what I am doing this for. Labeling and explaining helps people to get over their own fears and anxieties that are mirrored in my decision. For me, this is about integrating all my changes of the past 5 years. And there were many of them! I got married (yes, for the first time), became a (step)mom of two kids, divorced my blue corporate family I had been together with for 22 years, acquired a biiiiig family in law, started as an entrepreneur and…..moved out of Amsterdam….to an adult (my first) house in a little cute village…. Quite a lot, in 5 years.

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‘You can’t pour from an empty cup. So if you truly want to be of service to the world, you have to be your first priority. Your outer can only be great, if your inner is great.’ I now truly feel that to be true. I thought that, being Mrs Transformation, I was so flexible, easy peasy. That being conscious of all these changes was enough. What I didn’t see is how I had slowly lost sight of my own needs to serve the ‘greater good’. I was so busy serving the family and my role as an entrepreneur, that I had neglected my own needs. So I had to start with me, serving me. That is not selfish, but crucial to understand how to be my best me.

Ok, serving me, what does that mean? Eating what I want, when I want it, watching tv shows that I want, reading what I want, meeting people that I want, visiting exhibitions that I want, being in the city that I want. Everything that I want, for 5 weeks long, wow!! It is amazing to see how taking care of yourself quickly results in renewed energy, many insights and vibrating new plans and ideas.

And immediately after me comes we. In that order: I am, because we are. I finally understand this part of Ubuntu. I always thought, that we is more important than me. That used to be my truth: I hate the individualistic and egoistic way of being, that rules our world and that I don’t consider the essence of us, human beings. Now I see: taking good care of myself before being able to be the best of me in every situation, that is true Ubuntu. And of course the proof of the pudding is in the eating…Because serving others and the ‘whole’ is still what I am used to the most…


‘What will be different when you return after 5 weeks?’, my bonus daughter asked me when I announced my retreat. ‘Me’, I answered. Organisations, families, societies don’t transform, people do. It is me.