Moving on…

How we change in life! A month or so ago I bumped into a very lovely couple in Madrid who listened to the Notes in Spanish podcasts, and they said they felt they knew me from listening to the audios.

This made me think, later… I realised  that the Ben they knew was the Ben on the audios, mostly recorded from 2005 to about 2013, but that that Ben was somehow different. I had shifted slightly in ways of thinking and living.

So this was not the Ben they knew from the podcasts… and yet was! The feeling this gave me was very liberating. We are impermanent beings! Free to change as much as we like in life, and able to change whenever we like into whatever we like!

My adult life has involved many changes. On the ‘doing’ front it looks like this: (in London) working as an extra on films, being unemployed, studying photography, (move to Spain), English teacher, translator, blogger, podcaster, online business builder, event organiser, happiness writer…

All these changes have taken time, even the move to Spain – I came here first over the New Year of 97/98, but took 9 months to get here after that – and quite a lot of agonising. It’s hard to unroot the ego from attachment to a project and set it on a New Course. Recently I’ve been feeling the agony again, that anxious feeling, that a new course is required. A new creative or work course that is.

Everything suggests it’s about drawing, or art, and writing about life on a simpler level, not so philosophically, or searchingly. The last few posts have been in that line. The same thing happened, I notice, with my blog Notes from Spain. I wrote there prolifically about Spain for 7 years, then slowed down, one day posted there about happiness, and feeling it didn’t fit in with the original theme, decided to begin writing about happiness here instead. Our themes change.

So to Writing directly about Dharma, and ideas about happiness, I think, for now is done. If this were a book, this would be the final chapter. It’s time to write the next book. If I had to write a conclusion, I would perhaps invite the reader to flick back through the pages of this blog at random (this link does that). Each post is about happiness, each as good as another, and I don’t think I’d change anything.

In fact, checking the original post I wrote on happiness at Notes from Spain, before starting here, I don’t think I’d change much or have learned pretty much anything new since 2012! Which just goes to show, stop searching, stop searching – everything we need to be happy is already here. I guess I’ve learned that. Stop searching. But don’t stop moving and creating. (“Inspiration, she never visits the lazy”, I heard David Hockney say in an interview!)

What I increasingly realise is that happiness is about taking care of unhappiness, and knowing our mind (“Know thyself!”) Of knowing what takes us out of the here and now, where nothing is lacking, and taking care of it. In my case, the only problem I have is an overactive mind. THAT’S IT! And mostly my overactive mind tends towards the future (what should I be doing next, what project am I working on, what will I do for the next 50 years+…) Exhausting!

Calm my mind, or question it totally, and all is so well in the world.
Calming it works very well for me. Drawing is great for that. And walking, exploring. Thought slows or stops.

Whenever and however I come back to the absolute present, to what I’m doing now, there are no problems. Which is what made me realise that my only problem is an overactive mind. Properly directed it’s also a blessing of course! But when it gets carried away with the ‘what shall I do, what shall I do’ of the future, I’ll just draw, create, or go for a walk, whatever works to calm it down and bring it back to now. The better I know it, the easier life is. The more I can react with a smile.

Life is wonderful. It’s a miracle, and it’s absolutely fascinating.

What next then? This transformation continues. I love to write. I love to create. I love to publish my work and hope it inspires others to love life and the world too. I want to continue to head in the direction of creativity – away from adminsitering websites and businesses and events. To create, with the hands, the heart and the eye. Will I continue here? I don’t know! Perhaps for now, perhaps for good, but if I move elsewhere I’ll publish that move here. Perhaps this time a new title isn’t needed. Perhaps it is. I don’t know yet.

But this is a moment of change. From exploring ideas to exploring reality again. From searching to loving what already is. From concepts to creation. On with the observation of this wonderful life!

Thank you, as ever, for listening.

(Update: Thanks to all the comments below, and a little common sense, I’ll be staying here!)

Scan 17 (3)

19 thoughts on “Moving on…

  1. Ben, what you are really good at is SHARING. Is that not a theme across all your work-life engagements and creations? Whatever your next fuller engagement is, keep that in mind — you and we , your “friends” from past and present, benefit from your sharing of your experience of this world — and your sharing your feelings, not only about yourself, but your feelings for those who have shared in the past ( your NIS dialogue with Marina on art museum in Spain was among the best…you CAN draw, thus what a world for you to more fully enter to say nothing of ITS history – have you ever seen Rembrandt’s drawing of the Amsterdam rat catchers? It depicts a rat-catcher looking for work as he knocks on doors and displays the results of his “work”, kept on a long stick ), your sense of humor ( with your son, finally attracting women in the playground! and your political feelings as well ( I refer to both “small p” and larger p POLITICS as we all inhabit a world made by and for some and which can deny others – you have shown that you know and care a lot about this ).
    Saludos a la familia. Buen viaje.
    Carlos N.
    P.S. You have an additional (tech) blessing. The podcasts exist forever…how many of us have such a record of our work, thoughts, feelings, experiences? There lies your great opportunity for integrating your past into the present — su desarrollo – and understanding your journey…there’s so much there from the NIS part of your life’s “sharing”.
    Guanajuato Mexic0- Toronto


    1. Dear Carlos, thank you for your comment. First of all, quite right, I absolutely consider all of the people that read and comment here to be friends, and it makes me take a deep breath and feel very happy to know that you benefit from me sharing my experience of this world. That is more than reason enough to continue.

      I’m impressed by the observation you make about the record of my work, of this sharing, that exists. I hadn’t given much thought to that, but it’s true, one way or another there has been a fairly consistent record of life since I arrived in Spain 18 years ago. The book Errant in Iberia covers the first three years in Spain. I made an audiobook sequel called The Madrid Confessions that is currently in hiding until I listen to it again to see if it is worth making public again, which tells the story up to the start of the blog and Notes in Spanish, and now this. I actually hadn’t considered that I’d shared such a time span. And indeed, looking back to the way Notes from Spain changed at the end made me see what was happening here. This time I think perhaps I don’t have to ‘move house’ to another blog with another name, just allow for the slight change of approach, but keep sharing. It makes me happy, and to my amazing luck, I think others too.

      Enjoy Guanajuato, I went there when I was about 20, one of the most extraordinary and beautiful towns I visited in Mexico.


  2. I love to wake up on this side of the Atlantic (Atlanta, USA) to your posts and read them over breakfast! I spent months listening over and over to Notes in Spanish and Notes from Spain and now I delight in your drawings and notes on how to be happy with what surrounds you. Whatever move you make after I am sure it will make you grow even more and I will be glad to witness that. Take care! And keep on sketching! I love your trees!


    1. Dear Maria, to think that someone in Atlanta is reading my posts over breakfast and enjoying the writing and drawing is pretty much unbeatable! I shall continue! How could I not!?


  3. Thanks for sharing, Ben. I look forward to hearing about your next chapter.

    “Self-knowledge has no end — you don’t come to an achievement, you don’t come to a conclusion. It is an endless river. And as one studies it, as one goes into it more and more, one finds peace. Only when the mind is tranquil — through self-knowledge and not through imposed self-discipline — only then, in that tranquility, in that silence, can reality come into being. It is only then that there can be bliss, that there can be creative action.”
    ― Jiddu Krishnamurti


    1. I think the next chapter has already started Bill, I just had to write it out to realise it!

      What an interesting man Krishnamurti is! A friend gave me one of his books in Spanish years ago, the whole force of which was ‘know yourself’ before you even start looking for wisdom from others. That impressed me a lot. I found the book, actually a series of talks, online in English and stuck links to them in a back end of this site a while back, thinking one day I’d read it all:

      Here is a quote from there, which for me encapsulates the ideas in those talks, and echoes your quote above: “Can this incessant search, this longing, give us that extraordinary sense of reality, that creative being which comes when we really understand ourselves? ”

      I think knowing oneself is a (the?) key. And how much there is to know! Indeed an endless river!


  4. Thanks Ben for sharing your journey. It’s clear that the now is all we have and anything else doesn’t matter. I have been meditating for 15months but no ordinary meditation its ascending and thebrightpath have transformed my life. Inner peace. I truly recommend it. Thanks again.

    Peace x


  5. Hey man, I have to say that I love your work, the podcast, youtube channel, blogs, it’s all great! I have to admit, I only discovered it a few days ago, but I’m excited to learn and improve my Spanish. I’m kind of sad now, actually, that I only just found all of your stuff, because it seems like the podcast is already over, and this just ended. But I know whatever you move on to will be great too!

    P.S. I’m going to Madrid, Seville, and Barcelona for spring break this year, do you have any suggestions on what to see, where to eat, etc.? Also, it’s during Holy Week, so are there any extra festivities I should check out? Thanks a lot!


    1. Hi Chris, it didn’t end! I’ve decided to continue here. I just had to work things out on paper, so to speak 🙂 I’ll think about Barcelona etc and get back to you later today in a follow up comment here 🙂


    2. Hi again Chris,

      Hmmm, about what to do and where to eat in Madrid, Seville, and Barcelona, that’s a big question! Too big to answer in a comment I think! For eating, look for a ‘menu de dia’ at lunchtime, try them in different places that you think look good. Usually 10 to 12 euros for a 3 course meal, often very good. Surprisingly a friend and I had a very good one today right by the Plaza Mayor in Madrid, at this place: Los Galayos – – quite classic! (The surprise was that it wasn’t super touristy, being so close to the Plaza Mayor – you have to ask for the menu del dia, usually they hand you the pricey ‘carta’ first.)

      In Barcelona I’ve been taken to nice bars and restaurants in the Barceloneta barrio, I like that area, by the beach. Worth exploring! I’m afraid I don’t know Seville well. Check out Bill’s blog entry here:

      As for festivities… if you are here in Holy Week you’ll see plenty of that! Especially in Seville during Easter, it’s amazing. There are pretty interesting processions in Madrid too as well, but Andalusia is unbeatable at Easter. Have a fantastic time! And in each of those cities try the zig-zag walk:

      That’ll get you where you need to go!


      1. Wow, this is really extensive, thanks! I just looked at the itinerary for my trip, and it turns out it’s busier than I expected, so I won’t be able to try everything you suggested, but I hope to study abroad in Spain in a few years, so maybe then. Thanks again for all your help!


  6. Hi Ben. Like the couple you met in Madrid, I too have spent a few years listening to Notes in Spanish. I was living in London and used to listen to a few episodes on the 476 to Angel each morning going to work. Your conversations helped me immensely with listening and understanding Spanish but I too felt like I sort of knew you – the people chatting about their lives, likes and dislikes, opinions, etc. as the bus crawled through the north London traffic. Things like your love of Radiohead and hatred of shellfish! Now that I’m mulling over possibly returning to Madrid, I’ll listen back and read your blogs to reacquaint myself with the country and the city.
    The interesting thing is that your work doesn’t just catalogue your life but also helps to inform and frame other people’s impressions of the things you talk about. Maybe it would make me more conscious of the noise of the city as you often commented on that. Or the experience of walking around El Retiro where I might think ” that Ben from Notes in Spanish used to get away from the computer here.” By you sharing your life and thoughts you’re also colouring and maybe even changing the lives of your audience in subtle ways. And here was I thinking I was just learning Spanish! 🙂 Keep up the fantastic work.


    1. Thanks Wayne! Well, the original plan was that you were just learning Spanish, but I get carried away with these other projects as well! It would make me super happy to think that as you walk through the Retiro park you’d remember that that’s where I used to get away from the computer 🙂 I’ll keep sharing.


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