The Slow Five with Dennis Karpes
After Dennis Karpes experiences a moment of enlightenment in 2000, he knows what to do with his life: he wants to make impact. And not without success, because soon after, his idea Dance4life becomes a fact – a substantive student program that makes it possible for teenagers around the world to help fight against HIV and AIDS. Money is raised by selling artworks, showing rap songs or by any other form of fundraising, with amazing dance events as a reward. Ten years later, Justdiggit is born, a non-profit organization that makes dry land green again to inspire and activate African farmers, positively impacting climate change, the environment and people. In a warm and motivating conversation, Dennis tells us what inspires him to want to do all of this.
What is your general idea of a conscious lifestyle?
The first time I asked myself what my purpose is this life was, was when I was 24. Before that I just lived my life, went to school but did it purely because I had to. I had a really good time still, and eventually also completed my vocational degree (HEAO), but what I wanted to do with it – I had no idea. Until I took a gap year at the age of 24 and left for South Africa. That changed my life. I realized that I didn’t want to do anything with all that I had learned at the HEAO! I wanted to follow my heart and I started to think what my dreams were. That was a moment when I started to think more consciously about who I wanted to be, and what I wanted to do. The clothing industry and the sports world seemed like fun. Back in the Netherlands, I got a job in the world of sports in the field of marketing, and soon ended up at a large corporate as ‘the’ marketing man. Within a year, I realized I didn’t want to work for a corporate at all – horrible! Too much hierarchy, too much focus on profit, not enough freedom – it was not my world. I became aware that money didn’t interest me at all, and I guess I surprised myself the most – why didn’t I just want to make a lot of money? It felt like I was being pushed in another direction – to not go for the money. These years did give me great ideas, however, because not long after that, I was one of the co-creators of the first cool ecological jeans brand in the world, Kuyichi.
And then, in June 2000, I had a great conscious experience – I realized I’m here on Earth to make impact. That experience was so clear that it changed my life forever. I wanted to give everything I had in me to do something good. And believe me, I’m no saint, but that deep feeling was just there. At that moment the idea of Dance4life surfaced, an idea that I had actually been working on for 1.5 years in my head. It was so clear, within a few hours I had put everything on paper. But to be able to properly explain how it all came together, I have to briefly tell you something that has been on my mind from an early age.
When my mother was pregnant with me, she rolled from side to side on her bed every day – very meditative. When I was born she stopped, but I continued and have been doing it for 52 years now. While doing this almost daily over the years, I started creating my own fantasy world – a cosmic gift that I have received. During these sessions, I imagined that I was going to do something really big, something that would improve the world, something related to Africa. I thought big, confident and even dared to mention names like Bono and Desmond Tutu, both of whom I eventually met and worked with. A book that came out around the same time, called The Secret, pretty much summed up everything that was happening to me – being able to visualize something so strongly turned out to be part of my natural behavior. And so once the idea was on paper, I was convinced that everything would actually happen, with Dance4Life as a result.
During this moment of enlightenment I felt such a natural high – I knew this would not just be a one time thing – I wanted to make an impact for the rest of my life. I have been doing that for about 20 years now, through trial and error. I can have an incredibly clear picture in my head and see exactly how something could turn out. Doing this together with the right people managing it, is awesome. During that time I met with a famous astrologer, Peter Delahay. It was nothing less than amazing what he managed to tell me after studying the position of my stars for a few weeks. He told me what I actually already knew – that I’m here on Earth bringing my visualizations to life and to then outsource them. Being able to experience spirituality while I’m actually just a sober guy: that’s great.
At the age of 31 I ended up on my conscious path. I hope to show young people at colleges and universities that they also have a path and that if they find that path, they will have a very nice life. I want to show that I was also insecure and didn’t know it all very well. But by showing the power of meditation and by giving young people concrete tools to act, I hope to guide them towards their own path.
In what way do you lead a conscious life regarding body, mind & soul?
I have been on the water as a windsurfer since I was 9 years old. The feeling of freedom and happiness in combination with the meditative feeling that surfing gives me is indescribable. After that, I also started kite- and wave surfing. Being on the water for hours in combination with all the elements of nature – everyone should do that! Being able to practice a sport based on natural power – in this case with the waves and wind – has defined my life. Because when I was in South Africa for the first time at the age of 24, I knew I wanted to keep that feeling and come up with something to be able to come back there very often. A few years later, Dance4life was a fact. Sports and having a good time – that just makes people happy.
Later in my life I came into contact with transcendental meditation* – an effective form of meditation that brings you to your deepest consciousness. If you truly experience that once, it will be life changing. For a year now, my 17-year-old daughter has been experiencing how much it benefits her. She is much more confident and searching less – things are going more natural because she’s truly finding herself.
In what way do you lead a conscious life in caring for the planet?
I’m doing my best with landscape restoration with Justdiggit. At home, we separate waste and in our beach house everything runs on solar energy. I also recently started driving an electric car – with many thanks to Mercedes Benz who chose me as Brand Ambassador for their new 100 % electric SUV EQC. Driving electric is a great invention, however, many countries are far from ready. The power fell out several times in Cape Town yesterday. Jan Rotmans puts it nicely: “We do not live in an era of change, but in a change of era.” It will take a long time for us to create that sustainable world. The hopeful thing is that the realization is there.
Who or what has been a big inspiration for you throughout your life?
Music is magical. It’s crazy what music can do to you. When I’m lying on my bed with good music, it feels like I’m not in this world but the world is in me. I love electronic sounds – it keeps touching me. Music goes straight to your soul. It gives me a certain energy, like I’m natural high. Music is perhaps the highest art form there is. I was able to experience the Roxy in Amsterdam and that was phenomenal. No other club came close to the Roxy. I experienced the house revolution there – I’m so grateful for that.
But people also continue to inspire me. Mohamed Ali, Bono, Mandela, Desmond Tutu and Sadhguru. Mohamed Ali was not an easy man, but has given the world a good input on so many fronts and that shows that no one can be perfect. Luckily, I was able to experience Mandela during a concert that was organized for him in Cape Town in 2002. Bono has always shown his voice for a better world. I was able to attend several concerts with him, all containing very nice messages. During a TED event in Africa I was able to personally thank him for his commitment to Dance4life, it turned out to be a very funny guy. Desmond Tutu is a living legend to me and to many. He is a patron of Justdiggit and he was involved with Dance4life as well, which means we have been working together for over 20 years. It remains such an honor that I have been able to work with so many inspiring people.
What kind of person do you hope you will have become once you look back upon your life?
Of course I still hope to be here for a while, but if I leave early, then I am very satisfied. I’ll never say ‘if only I had’ at the end of my life. On the contrary – I’m doing exactly what I have to do and I’m extremely grateful for my wife and 2 children. When I used to think about death, it frightened me enormously – the idea that you would be gone forever. But now I think differently – I have been able to meet people with special stories about previous lives and the astrologer I spoke about earlier also told me more about my previous life. Apparently I was a very wealthy man, but cared little about others – probably the reason why I don’t care about money now and want to make an impact. It remains inexplicable, but for now it ensures that I can live an insanely beautiful life.
* Curious what transcendental meditation can do you for you?
Check out www.tm.org
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