Monk Ven Bagdro on his suicide attempts

Monk Ven Bagdro on his suicide attempts

Coversations
November 13, 2017
Coversations
November 13, 2017

Every time we go to Dharamsala, India to interact with the Tibetan community, I meet with this one monk Ven Bagdro who was jailed by the Chinese for 3 years in the late 1980’s and submitted to severe abuse and torture. Tibet was invaded by China during the 1950’s as a result of which the Dalai Lama and about 80,000 other Tibetans escaped to safety in India. The remaining Tibetans in what is now called China are submitted to cultural genocide and one of them was Ven Bagdro. Although I don’t want to share his life story in this article, his views on suicide are very insightful.

Chatting to him recently I asked Ven “what kept you alive while you were in jail?” Knowing that he tried to commit suicide several times to end the torture and abuse, I wanted to get a better understanding of how he managed to get through this ordeal eventually. Especially since he seems to be a happy fully functioning human being writing books living normally. Without batting an eyelid he said, “it wasn’t my karma”. In our language this will translate into, “it wasn’t meant to be”, or it wasn’t my destiny or it was fate. But karma as seen by someone like Bagdro is far more active than “fate”. We look at fate mostly in a passive way with the shrug of the shoulder. Often commenting that it is “just one of those things”. But karma as seen by Bagdro is an active phenomenon of interrelated cause and effect. And according to him he has not done anything wrong. He was fighting a just cause in the right way. And he had the right motivations. So this feeling that it wasn’t meant to be comes from a very deep personal philosophical foundation. This belief, translated itself into an attitude, which filled him a defiant energy to overcome anything the Chinese could through at him. Essentially his deep-rooted beliefs manifested into an attitude modulation that filled him with death defying energy and purpose. This is an example of how someone can find meaning to keep on living despite the circumstances.

He made a second comment. “If I would die”, he said, “I would have neglected the Tibetan people and HH the Dalai Lama”. “I would have neglected my duty and it was my life task to survive and tell the rest of the world what is happening here in Tibet”. Here he point to the refuge one gest from doing something for someone or something other than oneself when confronted with potentially depressive situations.

Ven Bagdro points towards two very important antidotes to depression and suicidal tendencies. And whereas this may be seen as an over simplification. It nevertheless gives us a clue of how better understand someone suffering from depression – doing something for someone or some thing other than ourselves, and defiantly taking a stand no matter what the circumstances. Both of these may not be easy to access for anyone suffering from depression, the point however is that the connection points exist and with the tools of Logotherapy, counsellors or coaches could be of meaningful assistance.

After his escape from China (Tibet) to India, Ven met with HH the Dalai Lama as all escapees do. Telling the Dalai Lama his story, Ven urged HH to allow the Tibetans to take up arms. “The time is right to fight back,” he told the Dalai Lama. According to Ven the Dalai Lama smiled and proceeded to convince him to rather take up the pen and write books about the Tibetan situation. “There are many Chinese,” the Dalai Lama told him. “Many more than us Tibetans and and they will wipe out our nation very quickly.” And more importantly the Dalai Lama said, “Fighting is not the right way to approach this situation”. “No”, the Dalai Lama said to Ven, “take up the pen”. So very time I see Van Bagdro in the streets of Dharamsala, I know there goes a monk on a mission, with a smile on his face despite his circumstances.

This is the kind of stuff we experience on our journeys. Call me if you want to join the next one from 20 to 30 March 2018.

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  klasie@streetschool.co.za
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Stellenbosch, 7600

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Trekking can be cold

Trekking can be cold

Coversations
October 29, 2016
Coversations
October 29, 2016

An icy wind was gusting off the Himalayan peaks, bounced off the freezing Khumbu River and attacked our faces. At 4,400 meter above sea level our group of 12 trekkers were slowly inching our way up a valley towards Everest Base Camp. One of our trekkers, Ntokozo, a cancer survivor, was not doing well. For the past 6 days, her oxygen levels were steadily dropping and she was showing signs of advanced altitude sickness. As we reached our lunch spot at the foot of a very steep pass, a tearful Ntokozo flopped onto a bench outside the teahouse and said “I can’t go on”.

Having spent 8 months preparing for this trek, and assigned to post some flags for cancer victims who have passed over the years, her decision was not to be taken lightly. As an ambassador for the Breast Health Foundation, Ntokozo had an important mission – to show that cancer can be beaten, and that it is possible to defy this terrible illness to lead a healthy active live. But her responsibilities did not come without a heavy price. What weighed her down were feelings of guilt and incessant questions of why she survived when so many others perished. Her aim to do the trek in memory for those who have died, and set an example for other women struggling with cancer, was about to be crushed.

A quick team regroup was called and we decided to evacuate Ntokozo by helicopter to a hospital in Kathmandu. As I waited with her we spoke about goals, not reaching them, not finishing what one set out to do, and how to deal with unfinished business. Seven days later I caught up with a recovered Ntokozo in Kathmandu. “I have something important to tell you,” she said. Over a cup of tea she told me of an amazing development. “I almost died on that mountain, and as I was recovering in hospital, I came to understand what it was like to die. Because I survived I can now stand up and fight for those who have passed on.” This was an amazing account of overcoming severe physical exhaustion, changing attitudes and saying yes to life.

Ntokozo is one of the stories you will hear in the documentary “One Step at a Time” that will be flighted on Discovery TLC Channel 135 tomorrow – Monday 30 October at 20:55 with repeats on Tuesday 31 October at 15:25 and Wednesday 1 November at 09:05.

Check out when our next Everest Base Camp trip is planned

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  +27 21 880 0269
   +27 82 554 4614
  klasie@streetschool.co.za
   10 Repens Street, Paradyskloof,
Stellenbosch, 7600

Accreditations
Get in touch

  +27 21 880 0269
   +27 82 554 4614
  klasie@streetschool.co.za
   10 Repens Street, Paradyskloof,
Stellenbosch, 7600

Accreditations
How to apply mindfulness when it is most needed

How to apply mindfulness when it is most needed

Coversations
July 8, 2016
Coversations
July 8, 2016

Being mindful is easy when you are in a controlled environment with like-minded people. It is quite different to practice mindfulness when you are in the hustle and bustle of every day life. Mindfulness is not so much and activity but more a way of being. To get yourself into the habit of being mindful takes practice. You need to habituate an attitude of mindfulness and the little exercise below could be useful to practice mindfulness and making it part of your nature.

Follow the S-T-O-P practice below:

Stop and stand still. Between action and response is a space. In that space is your freedom to decide what is the right action. Just stop, create a space and catch yourself before you react. Then…

Take time to breathe. take a few deep breaths to calm down the Sympathetic nervous system and activate the parasympathetic nervous system. this way you will move from fight-or-flight to feed-and-breed. Gather yourself and stabilize your internal energy. Control the body first and then…

Observe, Open up and consider your Options. Notice your thoughts, feelings and sensations. Become aware of what you are thinking of and observe the type of thoughts you have at this time. Then notice the emotions that are generated by these thoughts. Try and identify these emotions and label them objectively. List as many as you can. Lastly notice how the thoughts are making you feel – and where you are experiencing these feelings. Finally when there is awareness of sensations, perceptions and mental formations…

Proceed with a new plan. Now that you are mindful of your current situation and in charge of yourself, proceed in a way that will make you proud. now you can act according to your conscience.

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  +27 21 880 0269
   +27 82 554 4614
  klasie@streetschool.co.za
   10 Repens Street, Paradyskloof,
Stellenbosch, 7600

Accreditations
Get in touch

  +27 21 880 0269
   +27 82 554 4614
  klasie@streetschool.co.za
   10 Repens Street, Paradyskloof,
Stellenbosch, 7600

Accreditations
Conceptual Reality by Dr Chok Tenzin

Conceptual Reality by Dr Chok Tenzin

Coversations
May 18, 2016
Coversations
May 18, 2016

Last week I had the privilege of hosting my Tibetan friend and colleague Dr. Chok Tenzin for the first time in South Africa. And what a refreshing experience it was for both of us. With his non-judgemental outlook on life he made me realise what a beautiful country we live in. The air is fresh, the roads are good and we live close to nature. He pointed out how much people live in conceptual worlds – thinking judgementally of what may happen or hanging on regretfully to what might have been.

Living predominantly in a “conceptual reality” often leads to uneasiness, anxiety, and stress. And whereas it is important to stay in touch with what’s happening in the world, one shouldn’t listen to too much bad news or watch too much negative TV. Our unhappiness is firmly rooted in the conceptual worlds we create for ourselves.

In his simple English: “don’t invite into your mind the future which is not here yet, and don’t hang on to the past which is already gone”. The trick is to balance one’s mental world with a healthy dose of direct experiences – those we can only get through our senses like mindfully seeing something beautiful, tasting something great, spending time with someone special, and thinking about the future or the past.

Our senses allow us to experience the only reality we have and has no ability to think or judge anything by themselves. We do that with our minds. And we should watch out for how we think about life. By simply contemplating the good things one has right now with a genuine sense of gratitude, without conceptualising the future or the past, it is possible to improve one’s sense of happiness. Counting one’s blessings as they say! Being mindful of the current moment and appreciating the freedom life offers us to express ourselves are the foundations of a great day.

Get in touch

  +27 21 880 0269
   +27 82 554 4614
  klasie@streetschool.co.za
   10 Repens Street, Paradyskloof,
Stellenbosch, 7600

Accreditations
Get in touch

  +27 21 880 0269
   +27 82 554 4614
  klasie@streetschool.co.za
   10 Repens Street, Paradyskloof,
Stellenbosch, 7600

Accreditations

Reinhold Messner on what is important in life

Reinhold Messner on what is important in life

Coversations
April 2, 2016
Coversations
April 2, 2016

Reinhold Messner has a passion for limits and was the first to successfully climb the 14 highest peaks in the world. All these peaks are in the Himalayas and he climbed them without supplementary oxygen. In the article below this 71 one-year-old Italian explorer give us his view on how he does things. It has a very strong message, which holds some powerful metaphors for everyday life. This is what he wrote in“Voices from the Summit”:

Danger, exposure, cold and difficulty are part of our mountain experience. These are what we fear and enjoy, and from them, we learn. And we will continue to learn in this millennium if we defend these values. Don’t sell them out. It’s so easy to sell out by building a cable car in the mountains, but by doing so; we steal the isolations and exposure from the mountains.

What’s important? At the end of our lives, it’s not important if we are rich or wealthy. At the end of our lives, it is important how many experiences we have lived through. For me, mountaineering is one of the best activities from which to become rich with experiences. We should not discuss ethics. We should save values. Mountains without danger are not mountains.

We should not make rules for others. I have only rules for myself. First, I never go where others are going. I climb on my own or with a small group. Second, I push myself only to my limits, never above them. Passion for limits is my motivation, and this could be a good slogan for mountaineering in the new millennium. The third thing is that I don’t leave any infrastructure behind: no bolts, no fixed ropes, no camps.


In my entire life, I have never placed a bolt and I never will; if I cannot do it without one, I don’t go. I have never used oxygen bottles; if I cannot climb without supplementary oxygen, I don’t go higher. It’s not a difficult decision. And I will never carry a telephone or have a handset with me in the wilderness. To do so would mean destroying the sense of isolation and exposure I seek. If I can call out, I’m no longer on the edge. These are my self-imposed rules. Now, getting older I simply dream of climbing lower mountains and skiing across smaller ice caps or deserts. I try to do so with less support. And after my political life as a nomad, I will spend half a year or more in the wilderness with only a rucksack – and nobody will know where I’m going.

Get in touch

  +27 21 880 0269
   +27 82 554 4614
  klasie@streetschool.co.za
   10 Repens Street, Paradyskloof,
Stellenbosch, 7600

Accreditations
Get in touch

  +27 21 880 0269
   +27 82 554 4614
  klasie@streetschool.co.za
   10 Repens Street, Paradyskloof,
Stellenbosch, 7600

Accreditations
Questioning our beliefs

Questioning our beliefs

Coversations
March 22, 2016
Coversations
March 22, 2016

We all want similar things in life really. Most of us want to be happy, to have nice things, a successful job, people to love, and people to love us. And we chase this in whatever way we think will get us there. I was chatting with a friend of mine in Nepal and he said something really interesting.

As we go through life we get more and more affected by a hangover of the past: what we haven’t done, or haven’t got haunts us into the future and we desperately try to get things to suit us so that we can finally reach that point where we can have it all and be ok. This concern for our perceived lack of not having enough yet, or not quite being there, is rooted in a restlessness called fear, and this uneasiness often manifests in aggression, irritation or impatience. By this, he was not suggesting we stop working hard or stop taking on challenges as they appear on our path. He was suggesting we change our attitudes and be driven by a courageous pursuit of growth rather than a restlessness that has its foundation in fear.

Now I’m sure we don’t all go through life driven by fear in this way, but is was interesting to note that in order to be content, we need to trust ourselves and have the courage in our own abilities to guide us through life successfully. We need to break down our self-imposed walls of imprisonment and wake up to our own consciousness as the moral compass that will courageously deliver us into the future. With a strong belief that we have what it takes to get us there, we can allow ourselves to relax and really enjoy the ride as so many of us profess.

Get in touch

  +27 21 880 0269
   +27 82 554 4614
  klasie@streetschool.co.za
   10 Repens Street, Paradyskloof,
Stellenbosch, 7600

Accreditations
Get in touch

  +27 21 880 0269
   +27 82 554 4614
  klasie@streetschool.co.za
   10 Repens Street, Paradyskloof,
Stellenbosch, 7600

Accreditations

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