Here’s a recent interview with Agnès van Gaalen, service provider of the Dutch Trans4mind website…
What was your idea in the beginning to set up T4M and do you think people picked up your idea in the 20 years T4M exist?
With a background for some years as a psychotherapist, helping people to resolve their problems and anxieties, I had become more interested in consciousness and mindfulness. I could see how psychology links with philosophical ideas, from Buddhism for example, which has been an interest of mine since childhood. The big breakthrough was when I studied transpersonal psychology – including the works of Ken Wilber, Assagioli and Peter Russell – which teaches how to transcend a limited identity built from genetics and upbringing, to help a person realize their full unique potential.
So I had studied this and also I had been working for a mind development company, which also had many methods to help people move forward in their lives. I’d done training and courses and devised my own methods. I put a synthesis of this knowledge into my book, Transforming the Mind, and that formed the basis of the web site, Trans4mind. The first impulse was to share, freely.
Is the purpose still up to date, or has the view changed over the years?
The purpose has evolved beyond sharing interesting information, to having a mission of sorts. I think that the human nature of Mankind has progressed little over the centuries. There are fundamental problems, like the schism between left and right brain thinking, between male and female ways of being. I think we need to evolve, to move forward as a race, and then we stand a chance of resolving the immense social, cultural, economic and ecologic problems that are staring us in the face. Human nature has to change. That’s all! We need to live lives of service based on compassion, instead of selfish lives based on a barrage of fears. We need to become conscious of who we really are, as human beings rather than merely human animals. Communicating and creating instead of enslaving and going to war. I try to contribute toward this evolution with the Trans4mind website.
Do you get a lot of feedback from your readers?
Yes, I get quite a lot of support, mostly through email. Many heartfelt messages, and it helps me a lot, to keep going. Our co-director, Wallace Huey, runs Life Mastery workshops in Dublin, and he receives very warm feedback from the students as well.
So, do you have some special story(s) in mind, to illustrate this feedback?
The most dramatic tale of involvement by people occurred when a group of friends in Libya started meeting every week to practice what they had learned from the site. They asked me to coach them by email and I did so. But their co-leader turned out to be secret police and the leader was put into prison and the group closed down. Fortunately he escaped to Algeria after some months of interrogation. A sign of the times though, as the Libyan people were showing that they wanted more freedom, and that’s how it turned out.
What was for you the most special opinion or remark, given to you about T4M?
It’s hard to single one out, but I really appreciate those who recognize that I put my heart and soul into the daily quotes service, that it really is a personal communication from me, a service of love.
If it was positive, how do you respond?
I just say thanks, that I really appreciate their getting in touch.
If it was negative, how do you respond?
Usually I just delete and ignore it, unless it is constructive criticism in which case I thank the person for that.
What kind of people are visiting your site nowadays?
I think it’s self-selecting. I get very little negative criticism as one might expect from political or religious fanatics. So people who visit the site are interested in the contents. I get the impression there are not so many young people and we’d like to address that with a special site for teens before too long. Most visitors – one and a half million per month – leave straight after they get what they want, in an article or something, but 20% stay for hours and come back regularly. 40% are from USA, 9% from India, 8% from UK, and other English speaking countries. The Trans4mind sites we have in our international network include most of the main world languages.
What are they looking for, and can they find what they are looking for on the T4M site?
Who are the people who want to set up a T4M site in other countries as a provider?
These are people who are inspired to contribute to their society, in the same way I am for Trans4mind in English. It’s a labor of love, not for money. We can earn a bit from Google ads and affiliate recommendations, and that helps to pay the bills, but it’s far from the primary motivation. So these are loving, compassionate people.
How do you keep contact with the T4M providers, and are they coming together ‘live’?
We email of course, and Skype when possible. But since moving into the country my connection is not so great and that makes conference calls unreliable. We do have an annual conference though, and the two we’ve held so far, the first in the Dolomites and last year here in your center in the Bourgogne, have been inspiring and memorable experiences. The next one coming up in July.
Is there a difference in reactions of the visitors of these sites in all these different countries?
Yes, there are national characteristics. Personal development is a new concept in some countries and the service provider really needs to make a splash in person, in their community, to get noticed and begin to communicate with their site.
Was there ever a period in time that T4M exist that you thought: “no more, thank you”?
No, because the site can just sit there even if I do nothing. I know it does a lot of good because of all the positive feedback, so I shall never take it away, and when I pass on it will still continue because we are making sure Trans4mind is here for posterity.
I may feel more or less motivated at times, like if there are computer and connection problems, or if there is lack of response to something I thought was really good – sometimes it can feel like communicating into a vacuum. But eventually you find out that all along what you were doing was appreciated, and so in future you remember that.
If not, where do you get the inspiration from? If yes, why did you pick it up again, what was your motivation to do so?
The inspiration is to make a difference in the world, a difference that is needed and wanted by all caring persons.
Do people get under your skin sometimes, and how do you live with this, or what do you do with this?
Yes, a person can be annoying, but one tries to be tolerant and forgiving – to remember the kind soul that is inside each one of us – that people have different views, it’s not a case of right and wrong. Then one can smile and life continues.
To answer all the questions of your readers, to provide new articles for your site, does this mean that you don’t have time anymore to write a book?
I’ve written my book, I don’t feel much of a drive to do another, though I would like to revise and update Daring to be Yourself. I am more interested in working with Wallace Huey to develop Life Mastery training into a world-wide success, reaching into communities world-wide with effective coaching to address all the challenges people face in life and to further my overall purpose of contributing in whatever way I can to the evolution of humanity. Of course, I wish there was more time in a day to get everything done I would like to.
Has it become for you a way of life, and what does this mean in your private life?
Yes, my life is built around two poles: running Trans4mind and my marriage. Fortunately those two poles are close together: my wife runs the Trans4mind site in French and we share the same purposes in life; there is no conflict and we support one another very well.
Is Peter Shepherd a different person in private life, as in the role of T4M?
No, I would hope not. I don’t really have a public persona in any case, I just work on my computer… this interview is a rare exception. I’m myself all the time and happy about that.
Who or what inspires you?
Musicians from my formative years, like Robin Williamson and Joni Mitchell. Their voices bring tears to my eyes, tears of love and the hope and wonderment of youth. Two favorites in the spiritual sphere are Timothy Freke and Anita Moorjani. Both know how to communicate profundity simply and without dogmatism – universal truth clearly understood and expressed. Harold Becker too, and there’s many others. The world is rich.
How is your view on the world of today?
One the one hand, corporate profit rules, way ahead of justice and ethics. It’s a world run for the rich to get richer, and they don’t even care if their grandchildren have a place to live, it’s just short-term profits. Less developed countries are also run according to greediness and corruption. But these selfish people are a small percentage, the majority of people are caring individuals. They need to become leaders, to have more influence than have now, to empower their communities and create reform. Hopefully personal development information and Life Mastery training will help them along this path.
How long will you continue working for T4M?
Until I die, and then it gets more interesting….
If you continue to do so, why?
Because it’s a fundamental instinct of the human being to try to do good, to be helpful, to express themselves. We’re not just warriors and enslavers!
Peter Shepherd answers lots more questions on his Bio Page.