I’ve been reading Peter Casier’s blog The Road to the Horizon for years. Peter is a refreshing voice in the world of humanitarian aid. My impression of him has always been of a man with a big heart and an apparently boundless energy for the work.
When I read his answers to my five questions I decided that Peter is a fellow Zen Peacekeeper.
I thought I was the only person in this line of work kooky enough to say things like “love is the single most powerful source of energy”. But it turns out that Peter is my soul brother on the Zen Peacekeeper path. It’s a great pleasure to introduce him to you.
Five questions with Peter Casier
1. What is it that breaks your heart? What fills you with hope/joy?
In the work I do, I like to make a difference. And it makes me happy when I do. In the lives of the people I work for, as an aid worker, but also in the lives of the people I work with, the people around me.
It fills me with satisfaction if I realize I did something positive that changed the course of someone’s life. Something that later they say “I once met this guy, and this is what he did for me, or this is what he made me realize’
The frustration comes when I am not able to do that, to make a difference. Working in a system often has its burden on me. I am unhappy when I am unable to break out of a loop where I get sucked into a mass dynamic of apathy, of senselessness.
2. What are you doing about it?
Every day I try to make a difference. Every day I try to bring a joy in some people’s lives. Even if it was only one person. That is what makes the day worth living through.
3. How did you get started doing this?
Purely selfishly, really. I wanted to travel, and meet/work with people. I wanted to break out of my 9 to 5 job, my secure life. I wanted to put myself ‘out there’, and see what the world could offer me more. I wanted to find my own limits, explore areas I had not explored before.
Since the moment I broke out, the world opened itself for me. It has taught me many things. I grew along the way, and got as much out of it as I put into it.
4. What do you do to take care of yourself?
I live an intense life. I let many things get deep into me. I get involved. Emotionally, this takes a lot of energy, so I need to refuel regularly. Outside of work, I spend a lot of time by myself. I let myself ‘be’, follow my instincts as to what my mind and my body say. I let the moment guide me how I spend my time by myself. And I have learned to feel OK with it. Feel OK to spend a whole day in my room, doing… not much really… Just dream, write, just ‘be’… That helps me processing things.
And that is important for me, something I have learned over the years… With all the things I experience, I need the time to process it. It feels like a lot of energy, positive or negative, comes to me. A lot of impressions, a lot of influences… I need the time to let that energy flow, and settle.
I also watch myself not to find crutches on which I keep myself going. Many in this life I lead have crutches. Crutches of alcohol, “work hard, party harder”, sex, adrenaline peaks,… I avoid them. I want to process it by myself.
One of the main things that keeps me going is the love around me. I don’t have many friends, but those who are friends, are very close friends, loved ones. People I can sit with, and just ‘be myself’, people I utterly love, and love me back.
Physically, I used to be able to take ‘anything’.. I just kept going. The adrenaline just kept me going. Now that I turn 50, and have been an aid worker for 16 years, I have learned to watch my physical well being. I watch what I eat. I try to find basic stuff. Good water, good vegetables, good fresh fruit. And I sleep when I need to sleep. I can go for a week without decent food or water, but I need my daily ration of sleep. I watch myself when my concentration goes down, a sign I need to rest.
5. Do you have any advice for someone who dreams of doing what you do?
Follow your instincts, follow the road that destiny has set out for you. Be aware and read the signs destiny puts out along the road you walk, and follow them. Trust destiny, no matter how senseless it sometimes looks at the start. Good things will come to good people. Even if it takes a while.
Don’t be afraid to love. Love is the single most powerful source of energy. If you found love, give your fullest self.
Chat live with Peter – Zen Peacekeeper chats
Peter will be my second guest on the Zen Peacekeeper twitter chats. He can answer your questions on getting into a career in humanitarian work – he’s got personal experience of moving into this work after a first career in a different field. I’m also hoping we can also explore a little bit more of his fantastic approach to taking care of himself. Peter seems to have given this more thought than many people I know in our line of work.
Peter’s in Santo Domingo at the moment so we had to find a time that worked for him. The chat will be at on Thursday, 20 May 2010 at 01:00:00 GMT. You can find out what time that is in your ‘hood here. It’ll be 9.00pm on Wednesday in Santo Domingo and, I think, New York and Toronto. You can join the chat by using the #zpchats hashtag. If you want to know more about joining Twitter, using hashtags or Tweetchat – you can read all about it over at my Zen Peacekeeper Guide to Twitter.
This week’s chat will be a bit late for most of Europe but, on the up-side, it should be a much friendlier time for Australia and most of Asia.