How Bruce Lee Helped Me Get A Spanish Driving Licence

Perhaps this is something we don’t like admitting, but although we may want to get things done as soon as possible, sometimes it will just take longer. And that doesn’t have to be a bad thing.

 

I’ve just managed to get a Spanish driving licence for a friend. It’s been a process which started a few months ago and as is the case in most places, dealing with bureaucracy can be a challenge and in Spain, perhaps more so. Either way, after several months and visits to various official administrative departments, I collected the document this morning and I’m relieved and happy, even though it perhaps took longer than it needed to.

 

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However, when faced with a potentially unfriendly beast such as government departments with some staff who lean more towards the ‘computer-says-no’ school of customer service, I have found there are are four key elements to get what you are looking for:

 

1) be prepared, do your homework and make umpteen copies

2) focus on developing a relationship with whoever can help you as opposed to having a go at who is being obstructive. Perhaps I should have known that the grumpy man in the pink trousers was not going to be the most helpful. Having said that, can you ever trust anybody in pink trousers?!

3) take a breath and be patient (this one is important)

4) take another breath and be a little bit more patient (more important than the last)

 

Bruce Lee talked about ‘being like water’ where the water in a bottle takes the shape of the bottle or whatever container it is in.

 

In this case, I had to assume the shape of the staff in the Traffic Department and ‘speak their language’. In time, it worked, but in the meantime, being like water and working together with the ‘system’ was ultimately much more productive than if I had fought against it.

This approach may not work in all situations, but I know the next time I will have to deal with Spanish bureaucracy, like Bruce Lee, I will most certainly aim to ‘be like water’…

Baby image courtesy of The Odyssey Online.
Bruce Lee image courtesy of Bloody Elbow.

 

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Do Your Work And Then, Step Back

A while ago, I spent a few months travelling across the USA and one of my favourite places was the rather laidback city of Portland, Oregon. There is a thriving food, art, music and craft beer scene and it’s also renowned for its slightly hippyness. What’s not to like?

Maybe I could sense something in the air, but it was while wandering around this wonderful city that I started thinking about the words ‘Do your work and then step back’ by Lao Tzu, the founder of Taoism.

From my point of view, everything gets done and works well in Portland but there seems to be this wonderful consciousness there that whatever you are doing, your intention is to do it well even if it takes a little longer and this includes everything from working on one of the infamous (and rather fabulous) food trucks to making coffee which is practically an art form there.

Yes of course, there are the overly pretentious, hipster places as depicted in TV comedy Portlandia, but it’s even the ‘regular Joe’ coffee shops where there is a sense of pride in everyday work. Community is very important there and after only a few days you really notice it. Portland has a downtown/centre, but the heart of the city is not there, but in the thriving centre of each local neighbourhood.

One of the barmen I met there said one night: ‘The slower you chill the ice, the fewer bubbles you get and you have clear ice’
or as I interpreted it:
‘The more slowly and mindfully you live your life, the fewer obstacles there are and so, the clearer things become.’

Being in Portland reminded me of the benefits of being more conscious and mindful of things you do each day, however small they may seem. It doesn’t have to take time, just a momentary awareness and focus on what you’re doing. A kind of mindful meditation I guess.

It was lovely hanging out in Portland and I can see why people want to live there. It’s a quietly inspirational place which encourages you to do your own thing in your own way whatever that may be. Again, what’s not to like?

World Of Dust

Other than writing blog posts, hanging out in Spanish cafes and my new dog, my primary passion in life has been making music. For many years, writing songs on my old acoustic guitar and in the last few years, I’ve also been using my laptop. My latest project is called Pearl Viper and the mOnk and in January, we released our first EP ‘Immortal’.

Like all Pearl Viper and the mOnk tracks, ‘World Of Dust’ came about after listening to one of teapotmOnk’s ‘Empty Your Cup’ podcasts. In this post is new artwork for the song based on a photo taken round the corner from our studio. What do you think?

We will also be posting each new title on our Facebook page (with accompanying artwork) each week when we are not also working on our new video for the first song from the EP ‘Right Now’ at Viper Studios.

As someone with an interest in Eastern philosophies and taoism in particular, I’ve always liked the idea that we are merely dust in the wind. We are born, we live our lives and we die. The much more important world does its thing around us while it gives us temporary permission to take up some space, live and make our own contribution to the world.

TeapotmOnk says:
“Dust is everything that holds back that drop of pure spirit within each of us from riding a boundless wave of energy, from wandering between crossing paths, from delighting in spontaneity and moon light and laughing to the rhythm of music in the wind.”

I wanted the sound of ‘World Of Dust’ to be quite primeval, hence the heavy percussion throughout the track. It was also a nod to Burundi drumming and my childhood heroes, the very drum-friendly Kings of the Wild Frontier period Adam and the Ants.

You could even say that Pearl Viper and the mOnk literally have our own world of dust not far from Viper Studios in the desert of Almeria in the south of Spain. However, it’s the awareness of the metaphorical dust which helps us to live better lives, isn’t it?

Jason (Pearl Viper) & Paul (teapotmOnk)

‘World Of Dust’ is the second song on the new ‘Now’ EP of Taoist-inspired songs by Pearl Viper and the mOnk which will be on Spotify, Itunes, Apple Music and all online download/streaming outlets in May 2016.

In case you haven’t seen or heard any of the songs on the ‘Immortal’ EP which came out in January, you can do just that via the links on the Pearl Viper Facebook page.

Right Now

Other than writing blog posts, hanging out in Spanish cafes and my new dog, my primary passion in life has been making music. For many years, writing songs on my old acoustic guitar and in the last few years, I’ve also been using my laptop. My latest project is called Pearl Viper and the mOnk and in January, we released our first EP ‘Immortal’.

In May 2016, we will be releasing the ‘Now’ EP, the 2nd in our series of 3 EPs of taoist inspired music that we will be releasing this year.

However, what’s that got to do with the Away From The Noise blog?

Well, as I’m writing this, it’s a beautiful day and I’m lucky enough to be sitting outside in the sunshine with the 21st Century tai-chi teaching teapotmOnk at my local bar having a morning coffee. You may not think that having a coffee somewhere nice is particularly special, but I would disagree as what we’re also doing is really enjoying the moment.

Right now.

Which ever so subtly just happens to be the title of the first song on the new ‘Now’ EP of Taoist-inspired songs by Pearl Viper and the mOnk which will be on Spotify, Itunes, Apple Music and all online download/streaming outlets in May 2016.

Happiness is for us to enjoy now. It’s in the moment. It took me a long time to see that. From whatever has happened in the past – ten years ago, last month or even yesterday – which have all been and gone – to whatever will happen after tomorrow – which hasn’t happened yet – all of that is what it was and what it will be.

You see it naturally in children and animals who get lost in the moment. Yes, as adults, we have to go to work after the weekend, but that hasn’t happened yet. Let’s all take a moment to enjoy the moment. Now.

What do you think of the ‘Right Now’ sleeve artwork?

‘Right Now’ is the first of the 4 titles on the EP that we will be posting (with accompanying artwork) each week when we are not also working on our new video for ‘Right Now’ at our new studio in the desert of Almería in southern Spain.

In case you haven’t seen or heard any of the songs on the ‘Immortal’ EP which came out in January, you can do just that on the Pearl Viper & the mOnk Facebook page.

In the meantime, wherever you are, whatever you’re doing and whoever you’re with, I hope you’re enjoying your own moment right now.

Jason (Pearl Viper/Away From The Noise) and Paul Read (teapotmOnk)

Do Your Thing, Then Step Back

I recently spent a few months travelling across the USA and one of my favourite places was the rather laidback city of Portland, Oregon. There is a thriving food, art, music and craft beer scene and it’s also renowned for its slightly hippyness. What’s not to like?

Maybe I could sense something in the air, but it was while wandering around this wonderful city that I started thinking about the words ‘Do your work and then step back’ by Lao Tzu, the founder of Taoism. 

From my point of view, everything gets done and works well in Portland but there seems to be this wonderful consciousness there that whatever you are doing, your intention is to do it well even if it takes a little longer and this includes everything from working on one of the infamous (and rather fabulous) food trucks to making coffee which is practically an art form there.

Yes of course, there are the overly pretentious, hipster places as depicted in TV comedy Portlandia, but it’s even the ‘regular Joe’ coffee shops where there is a sense of pride in everyday work. Community is very important there and after only a few days you really notice it. Portland has a downtown/centre, but the heart of the city is not there, but in the thriving centre of each local neighbourhood.

One of the barmen I met there said one night: ‘The slower you chill the ice, the fewer bubbles you get and you have clear ice’
or as I interpreted it:
‘The more slowly and mindfully you live your life, the fewer obstacles there are and so, the clearer things become.’

Being in Portland reminded me of the benefits of being more conscious and mindful of things you do each day, however small they may seem. It doesn’t have to take time, just a momentary awareness and focus on what you’re doing. A kind of mindful meditation I guess.

It was lovely hanging out in Portland and I can see why people want to live there. It’s a quietly inspirational place which encourages you to do your own thing in your own way whatever that may be. Again, what’s not to like?

Want To Be Immortal?

For those following this blog, you will know I’m quite a big music fan, but you may not know that I have also been writing and recording songs for many years. I’ve released 3 albums in the past few years with the last album ‘Departures’ by Blue Angel being released 2 years ago and have been working on a number of songs over the past few months.

This track ‘To Become An Immortal’ samples anarchist, tai chi guru, author and friend, the teapotmOnk Paul Read talking about Lao Tzu and Taoism. Hope you like it!

 

 

In addition to writing about inspiring positive simplicity, Away From The Noise is also the name of one of my music projects. Previous projec​ts/ban​ds and albums are:

Blue Angel ‘Depar​tures’ (2013) / Blue Angel Facebook

Blame Jack (2009)

Calmer ‘Melt’ (2001)

 

If You Were Water

How do you react to someone walking into the room seething with anger? Or in fact how do you react to other equally negative situations?

A) Are you reactive by giving them control of how you feel and your state of mind?

B) Or are you proactive by choosing how you react, instead of simply responding to others?

Not easy I know but perhaps a more positive and constructive way forward. You may know the following quote which first inspired me when I saw it on a Sinead O’Connor album – it turns out to be called the Serenity Prayer written by Reinhold Niebuhr…

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, The courage to change the things I can, And the wisdom to know the difference.

This always makes me think of the ‘founder’ of Taosim, Lao Tzu, who talked about the story of the water and the rock which demonstrates that water needs to get past the rock but it doesn’t smash its way through it like an angry person would regardless of any damage it may cause, it simply goes round the rock. Without damage and you could argue that it does so with consideration as it leaves the rock to do its rock ‘thing’. It still manages to get past. Both water and rock are happy.

In Taoism, this is called ‘Wu Wei’ which means something like Effortless Action – somebody once described it as ‘getting stuff done without doing stuff’.

So in potentially challenging situations, think of what you could achieve if you were the water…

If you want to find out more about Taoism and ‘Wu Wei’, I’d suggest reading:

– ‘The Tao Of Pooh’ by Benjamin Hoff
– the ‘Tao Te Ching’ by Lao Tzu
the Bean Curd Boxer blog