When one plus one equals three

Expat partner Arjan ten Broecke – a trained therapist who has practised meditation as a Zen Buddhist for 17 years – struggled during the first lockdown in Madrid. But when the kids went back to school, he was ready to explore new passions and pathways.

Taking time out

“I was more than happy to press pause on my practice in Amsterdam. I’d been working six days / nights a week. I really enjoyed being a stay-at-home dad with my daughter after moving to Madrid,” says Arjan, who moved to the Spanish capital with his Mexican wife in 2017, and had a second child in 2019.

Ready for a comeback

“After a couple of years, I felt very rested. I tried getting back into therapy, doing online sessions with old clients. But this was pre-Covid and, at that time, many people just weren’t fond of using Skype for therapy,” says Arjan, who has always sought ways to marry western concepts of psychotherapy with eastern (mainly Buddhist) philosophies.

Challenging times

“I felt lost at this time. I had no clear goals. Then the pandemic came along. I was at home, pretty much in one room, all day with the kids. Although I have done Zen retreats for the last 17 years, I found it very tough mentally. Everything went to zero.”

New passions

Previously, through his own personal research and meditation networks, Arjan had discovered two topics that intrigued him. The first is urushi  (the Japanese art of lacquering objects) and the second is kintsugi  (the Japanese art of mending cracked or broken pottery with lacquer mixed with powdered gold or silver). “The kids went back to school, thank god! So I was free to pursue these topics! I will study with masters of each discipline online and practise each day. In the future, I hope I can create a business making lacquerware and repairing broken items using these concepts.”

See where it goes

Urushi  appeals to me for its meditative processes and beauty, and as a therapist, who has counselled people on trauma, I am fascinated by kintsugi.  You don’t hide from the damage but own it and grow as a person by facing your damaged parts and become a more complete and healed person. When you take a cracked bowl and turn it into a piece of art, something that’s even more beautiful, it’s like one plus one equals three. In a world that throws away so much, this speaks to me on so many levels. I can’t wait to follow my heart on this and see where it goes.”

This article was originally published for the thousands of expat partners that Global Connection supports around the globe. It is reproduced here in its original form.

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