What if you had the time?
What if you had the answer?
What if you had what it takes?
What if you would allow flow?
What if you’d qualify yourself anew each day?
The universe works in mysterious ways.
Question your thoughts, but never lose trust.
Everything is possible. Everything is possible.
2021 is in full swing – and so am I. At least that’s the theory.
Practically I’ve been crafting THE perfect New Year’s post for the past two weeks – and of course I stressed myself out about it.
As I indicated in ‘outdated’, I want to start afresh this year – with my creative processes and also in my professional life. The year has just begun and I had already been pressuring myself towards ‘a new me’. Guess what? I cracked solemnly with this approach – and disclosed a deep truth: Change is hard.
Transformation is a long and tiring process. It requires determination. It includes the celebration of small wins and the acceptance of continuous losses.
This is what change is: It is the destruction of the old and the creation of the new – all at once. And: It is not a straight line. Inherently ‘change’ is messy.
“Being the change” – This is nothing simple to strive for. It denotes the turning of the tides and the solidity of a rock at the same time.
The other day, on one of my numerous walks during lockdown, I saw a sticker at a gutter that shouted the catchphrase: “Be the change.”
‘I am the change!,’ something inside of me shouted back.
I exhaled and felt a sense of ease when I understood: ‘I am a prototype. I evolve in iterations.’
These days we all are ‘the change’. And this big change doesn’t happen overnight. It is uncomfortable and debilitating at times and it doesn’t smell like incense sticks and essential oils.
These days I remember what this blog is about. This blog is the result of a lot of frustration and the realisation that there is no change possible in this world, if I don’t start changing myself.
“The first step is to become aware of the fog that is in your mind. You must become aware that you are dreaming all the time. Only with awareness do you have the possibility of transforming your dream.”
As Miguel Ruiz induces in ‘The Four Agreements’: I became aware that I am not aware, when I started this blog experiment in 2017.
It dawned me that I’m the creator of everything in my life – all the achievements as well as all the turmoil.
Only gradually I comprehend the depth of the deconditioning process I got myself into:
Most of our life is determined by the subconscious. And most of the time we are unconscious about what our subconscious is doing. That’s why it’s called the subconscious. I’m referring to psychoanalyst Carl Gustav Jung here, who determined the state of the art when it comes to shadow work. He claims: “Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”
So, how do we not let the subconscious rule our life? Or let’s say: How do we become conscious of the unconscious?
Yes, we practice mindfulness. (Yay, I got there in the end…)
Even though mindfulness experienced a devaluation due to its inflationary use. In my personal journey of self-discovery it continually increases its significance…
So: “What’s the role of mindfulness in the process of self-discovery?”
I would say mindfulness is the protagonist of this whole play. (In the end it’s a game. Call it karma if you like.)
So, what will happen to your life, if you become more mindful?
1. You Will Arrive Where You Are
Okay, where to begin? Just to make sure we have a common ground to start from: How do I define mindfulness here?
When you research the science of mindfulness, the first thing you are going to come across is the practice of mindfulness meditation or zen meditation.
From a buddhist point of view mindfulness is the essence of meditation: By watching your thoughts pass you will create a gap between you and your thinking. You will eventually learn to differentiate the thought from the thinker. With time you will start to perceive reality in a different, less personal way. Zen master and buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh describes meditation as ‘a serene encounter with reality’.
A german translation for the word mindfulness is ‘Geistesgegenwärtigkeit’. ‘Geist’ is the spirit or the mind. ‘Gegenwärtigkeit’ is the presence. ‘Presence of mind’. What is the presence of mind, if we look at it plainly? It is being aware of what our mind is doing…
There was a time in my life when I couldn’t peel potatoes or wash the dishes without getting an anxiety attack. I was not able to focus on the present moment, because I was so tangled up in my to-do-list. I was so focussed on my achievements that regular household-chores seemed to be a waste of time to me.
There was a huge discrepancy between what I was doing in the physical world and what was going on in my head.
Life became very dissatisfying this way, because I missed it.
Through mindfulness I started to return to the presence. Already meditating for a view minutes a day changed my perception of the world around me drastically.
Especially through long-term-travelling I learnt to look closely at things. By looking closely at my environment, I learnt to look closer at my thoughts, too.
I became mindful. I stopped rushing and I started to enjoy the small things again.
2. You Get To View Yourself From a Different Perspective
‘To be mindful’ means so much more than ‘arriving in the presence’. According to etymonline it can be translated as ‘remembrance’. I like that translation.
When you become mindful, you start to remember – not only how much pleasure it is to walk slow or to prepare fresh food, but over time you will remember who you are deep down inside…
“Know thyself,” is the only way to go in the process of ‘awakening’.
How do you want to ‘know thyself’, if you never take the time to actually look at who you are?
Mindfulness is your tool in becoming aware of yourself: What are you telling yourself each day? How do you treat yourself? Do you use a lot of I shoulds or musts?
From my current perspective on ‘awakening’ it is a constant process of surfacing layer after layer after layer. There is so much to look at:
There is your behaviour.
There is your way of thinking.
There is your environment.
There are the activities you invest your time in, the people you spend time with, what you eat, how you are treating your body and so on and so on…
It sounds simple, but it’s a big step to look at all the aspects of yourself.
3. You Will Identify Triggers And Find A Way To Transform Them
For me it is still a painful and tenacious process to admit that I am the one who creates everything in my life – every success as well as all the chaos. And I don’t mean this in a sense of ‘prompting an order to the universe’.
I create by acting – in one way or another. If I don’t take the time to look at my actions and the roots of my actions I won’t live my own life, but the life controlled by a mind that is hacked by it’s conditioning – determined by reaction rather than intentional deed.
Luckily life offers potential for growth around every corner: Triggers are the signposts towards the land of self-discovery!
These days I get triggered a lot! And every trigger shows me an arena of my life, where I’m not willing or not able to take responsibility for my own life at the moment.
4. You Will Reveal Your True Motives
A quote of buddhist nun Pema Chördrön demonstrates the role of mindfulness in the process of self-discovery: “The most fundamental aggression to ourselves, the most fundamental harm we can do to ourselves, is to remain ignorant by not having the courage and the respect to look at ourselves honestly and gently.”
What do you want? And what do you think you want? How do you spend your time?
The more your start looking at yourself, the more you will ask yourself why you behave a certain way. And this is where the magic of mindfulness starts to unfold.
What drives you, really? What are your true values? Which values do you share with your friends and your family?
We are conditioned to believe in what we see. “To have faith is to believe unconditionally,” writes Don Miguel Ruiz in “The Four Agreements”.
What we see in our own reality is not what we are or what we are capable of. It is a story that either we have created ourselves or that has been told in order to make life a comprehensible experience. The human mind loves context.
It’s good to have context, but expansion can only happen if we create ‘space’ for ourselves. Imagine for a moment you would pursue exactly what you want to achieve in your life. You think you would fail? Have you tried it? I wrote an article on this two years ago…
The more mindful you become the more you will realize that the image you have created of yourself is just – yes – an image. You can easily rewrite it, reframe it, recolour it. But first you have to identify which story you are telling yourself.
The more aware you become of your true feelings and your needs the more aware you will automatically become of which beliefs are holding you back.
Slowly you will uncover your motives, recover your faith and ‘reinvent’ your own conditioning. But remember, it happens in iterations. And iterations are NEVER a straight line.
5. You Will Eventually Start Acting
For a long time I wanted to learn another language apart from english. But something inside of me always blocked me from pursuing it. Until I realized that I just have to do it – despite the belief inside of me that I don’t have the capacity to do it.
The reality was that I didn’t even get started, because by default I thought I would fail. By practicing mindfulness I identified my false belief system. I found out that a lack of self-confidence underlies nearly every shortcoming that I perceive. My lack of self-discipline was caused by this lack of self-esteem.
So, how did I eventually start learning Italian? I established a tiny language learning routine. And with the first results my old beliefs started to fade. There was no foundation anymore for my old beliefs, because over time I undoubtedly made progress. When I ordered my first breakfast in Florence in Italian followed by a loose conversation with the waiter I couldn’t deny it anymore: I am able to learn another language! This experience of self-efficacy opened my eyes.
And this is how I’m wishing to approach all challenges throughout 2021 and beyond.
6. You Will Start To Love Yourself More
What I understood throughout the practice of mindfulness is that I have needs that want to be met. The more I understand this, the more I’m starting to value myself and the more I understand what this self-love is everybody talks about (including myself).
More and more I understand that I’m not crazy, but human. ‘A human in denial’ could be a title for my book. (I don’t know where that came up from, but I won’t erase it from this post. Who knows – maybe it’s valuable information.)
It’s a Process
Okay, I realized that this article doesn’t really find an end.
There are SO many aspects to address around mindfulness. What I wanted to get across is that self-development is called self-development for a reason.
There is something to develop. It is already there, but we can’t see it. Like a film reel. We need to soak in various liquids and hang from the ceiling to dry in order to get a full image of who we really are. But be careful not to overexpose. Haha, that’s what I like doing. It results in tears and lengthy blog posts like this one.
As I mentioned at the very beginning: change is hard. This whole awakening process is not a straight line. It’s easier said than done to transform negative thinking patterns. But it is not impossible. I have the suspicion that we reached a point collectively where change is not to be suspended.
To throw in another Thich Nhat Hanh: “If we want to become mindful rather than just knowing about mindfulness, we need to establish our own regular practice.”
It is easy to do things the same way over and over again. It is easy to cling to assumptions about the world and about ourselves, because they allow us to stick to our belief patterns. They are convenient, because they don’t require will-power.
It is an effort to change our belief system, yes. But it is doable with awareness, patience and compassion.
“nobody can save you but
you will be put again and again
into nearly impossible
they will attempt again and again
through subterfuge, guise and
to make you submit, quit and/or die quietly
nobody can save you but
and it will be easy enough to fail
so very easily
but don’t, don’t, don’t.
just watch them.
listen to them.
do you want to be like that?
a faceless, mindless, heartless
do you want to experience
death before death?
nobody can save you but
and you’re worth saving.
it’s a war not easily won
but if anything is worth winning then
this is it.
think about it.Charles Bukowski
think about saving your self.”
These days I feel ‘outdated’.
I don’t know exactly what I mean by that, but who the hell am I to know what I’m writing about?
I feel like I need an update.
Nope, actually I feel like I need a new harddrive; a super fast ssd with rapid mode if this is a thing…
The past couple of days I was punishing myself for not being productive – nothing new.
I don’t know about you, but I’m so busy preserving my sanity that I barely get things done at the moment.
Before/during christmas I wanted to post at least two more posts. I wanted to start using the writing software scrivener, I wanted to make up my mind about the direction I’m heading professionally next year…
It is a lot right now.
I feel like I’m standing at the intersection of a busy road.
Did I say intersection?
I feel like I’ve just gotten out of a deep forest after a long-distance hike and now I’m trying to cross a busy six-lane-highway….
Nope, I DON’T have all my ducks in a row right now. And my ducks are freaking out!
There is a ton of unpublished material.
There are myriads of unprocessed ideas, half-finished articles and creative projects.
There are endless tasks on my numerous to-do-lists and endless things I want to get better at….
There is something else beyond all this confusion…
There is this huge potential hidden in every challenge that I’m facing. There is this profound growth concealed in every solution that I find.
There is this deep knowledge inside of me.
I just know that it’s there – even if it’s not accessible to me…
Do I might also need a new graphics card?
There is this heartening trust in spite of all the uncertainty.
Mayyybee, only maybe the challenges of this year pay off?
“You are the only one keeping me sane,” a friend of mine – who admittedly is slightly mad (in the most positive sense) – pointed out to me.
I feel like I’m going insane.
What did he mean?
Well, I have doubts and I have fears.
Throughout this year I learnt that I better be transparent with myself about my fears, my doubts and my pain.
Why? Because otherwise I get nasty. I’m starting to destroy things, because I’m blaming them for making my life not working.
But in the end it’s just a small adjustment that my soul is calling upon? Maybe I just need to refurbish my toolbox?
I better check for software updates before the end of the year…
All these lessons want to be integrated.
Maybe sometimes a reboot is the only option?
‘I feel raw like a carpaccio,’ I am contemplating the current state of my being.
Raw and juicy. Mmmhhh…
My current life situation provides a learning curve with a steepness I didn’t quite expect for the rest of this year.
I had no idea what kind of surprises the universe would hold in stock for me after experiencing a so-called ‘dark night of the soul’, which lasted for about five months.
After working a couple of night shifts in a row I am sitting in front of my computer. I’m catching myself ‘waiting for inspiration’ – whereas my body is screaming for rest.
What do I expect of my neurons? I should lay down and sleep, but of course I’m trying to finish an article I had been working on for way too long (as my inner judge proclaims). In the back of my head I’m beating myself up for not doing (more) yoga or practicing a foreign language.
Jep. My internal organs are contracting. A heavy weight around my ribcage is limiting the capacity of my lungs…
I know this feeling very well. My perfectionism is pinching. Anxiety drains my energy system.
“This is a potent time to be with…,” the words of Kendra Adachi, who assisted me in arriving in the present moment over and over again for the past couple of months, are flashing through my head.
She is right.
I am working a full-time job at a low-budget hostel after living a nomad life for the past couple of years. I’ve started a relationship with a man who massages my feet every day (and who I’ve known only for two months). Me and my vagabond soul are practicing ourselves in ‘settling down’… more or less voluntarily. (I still owe you a longer story of what had happened in the past eight months. As some of you might know – I’ve travelled to India and then I fell apart.)
I discover my own boundaries and I’m learning to set them where I still need to set them. I’m learning to receive. I’m learning to ‘not run away’. To make it short: I’m confronted with regular life in times of a global pandemic. Yay – great fun!
It’s a time of adaptation. More than ever before I can feel it – an old phase had ended and something new began. Where this new period of time will lead? I have no clue… But do I have to know the destination?
2020 has been profoundly challenging – for a lot, if not all of us…
I did my homework during lockdown and quarantine phases (partly self-imposed). I dove deep into the darkest corners of the blackness of my personality. I reconnected with my soul in the darkness. My physical body is still sympathizing with old patterns.
There is A LOT to integrate.
And I better take my time to do it – if I don’t want to scare the people away who are trying to love me (for a change).
Still it amazes me how accurately aligned this global crisis is with the personal crisis I’m going through…
‘Who do you think you are? Some sort of hyper-human?,’ I’m questioning myself…
Well, honestly, I do think I’m some sort of a transmutation or at least I consider my life as a research project – as you might have noticed.
Haha, it sounds like the same story as usual… but it is not quite…
I’ve asked for help and I received it – in ways I have never expected. I’ve met the most inspiring and courageous souls that showed me my own strength and my own endurance.
The darkness became my friend in the end and finally it is my turn to actually apply the tools I had been gathering since I’ve started my journey in 2013 (or was it 2015? or 2017? :D)
‘Surrender or die’ – This is the short version of what I had learnt from my ‘dark night of the soul’. Dark night of the soul? Sounds more hip than just calling it a ‘depression’ or a ‘depressive phase’, right?!
I’m not even being pathetic here. It just wouldn’t be fair to call it a ‘depression’, because I was not depressed in the sense of ‘I couldn’t do anything’. I just lost track for a little while and remained paralyzed in a state of fear. I think that’s called trauma. That’s a difference. Argh, I didn’t mean to sound ironic here. It was really not fun. BUT… I FREAKIN’ DID IT!!! I SURVIVED AND I LEARNT A TON!!!
Anyway, probably I will dive into that further along the way… 😉
The challenge is to surrender. Surrender to the currents of life and trust that my life jacket will rescue me.
And how do I surrender? By doing nothing… First I wanted to call the challenge the ‘What-do-I-want-challenge”. This sounded too proactive and too ‘awwe, she is still searching’. Then I wanted to call it “Mindfulness-Challenge”, but come on?! “Do-Nothing-Challenge” sounds a bit more polarizing…
Another challenge? Well, the task is actually to destress myself. I want to give myself time to adjust…
I had attempted this challenge several times already. The task is to meditate for one hour a day for 30 days in a row…. And see what happens… I’m four days into this challenge and I’m already gathering some learning. By the end of the week I will give you an update.
If you lose focus, what do you think?
If your eyes are shut, what do you see?
If your senses are numbed, what do you feel?
If you keep on running, how do you ever reach home?
If you can’t feed yourself, how do you want to nourish others?
If you are walking on eggshells, how do you root yourself?
If you are crawling in darkness, how are you going to reach the light?
The illusion can’t sustain itself forever. These are the rules.
When you finally hit rock bottom, you get the chance to stand up for yourself.
You are the one who judges yourself. You are the one who overcomplicates your life. You are the one who is projecting. You are the one who pulls the trigger. You are the one who is using other people as an excuse. You are the one who is using force. You are the one who is building up the walls. You are the one who has expectations. You are the one who ducks down.
Do you remember?
“Get the fuck out of your head,” this has been my message from the universe – not only on this mornings’ walk, but all the past two months…
The ‘lockdown’ forced me into my head. My body forced me to get out of my head.
To be fair – for me it was not really a big difference as I chose to retreat or ‘cocoon’ for the past five months. (I have learnt this term recently from my beloved youtube mentor “The Heart Alchemist” Christina Lopes.) Finally I had an excuse to stay at home.
It’s been rough. My thoughts became so heavy that I literally had to start running. I was in ‘fight and flight’ mode nearly every single day of the past two months.
Panic attacks and emotional flashbacks – from more than one lifetime – shook my bones. I ran and I cried. There were days when my tank of tears was empty. There was nothing to cry anymore.
So, I started walking and drumming and singing instead….
After travelling India for two months I had spent two months at my parents house. My nomad life forced me ‘home’ – how ironic, isn’t it?! And this was probably the hardest journey of my life. I had to look at my old wounds. I had to look at it all. The wounds of my whole family…
Healing became essential. I was forced to train my thinking. I was forced to transform grief into gratitude, frustration into positivity, anger into love…
Now I know: I have to do it! I have to turn everything that doesn’t feel good into love.
I always thought this is a hard thing to do, but in reality I was only looking for excuses and for shortcuts. I didn’t understand that this is a skill that I already inherit.
My addictions had taught me a lot about ‘excuses’. It is the time now to become addicted to love.
Go and play your roles lightly again.
Go and be happy.
This is just an illusion.
Don’t ask for permission to love.
Don’t be somehow, but be who you are.
Understand that you are a physical body that consists of biochemical processes. Take care of this body. The vessel of your soul.
As simple as that.
“This is not about the destination. If it was, what would you do when you get there?,” thank you Sarah Beth Yoga for making this morning an even more remarkable one…
This morning rattled me. Yesterday I was in a state of paralysis. I thought now it must be the time to go to the psychiatric clinic. My past two months were that way, but now the momentum is coming back.
The shift becomes so obvious, I can’t be scared anymore.
The astonishing fact: I asked for it.
I asked for every single lesson. There is always something to learn. Always. I don’t know what my life would be without these lessons? What would my life be without change? Would it be a life?
I’m not talking about physical change here… I’m talking about the change of perspective, the change of habits, the change of thinking. Because this happens when you learn. You rewire your entire brain… This is why I always travelled. It was never about seeing places. It was about learning.
Why not go for a walk in the middle of the night instead of lying in bed sleepless? Why not using your energy appropriately? Why not singing it out instead of being angry? Why not running it off?
This world is a playground and we are here to play. Of course we have to work fucking hard. Me too. Everybody does. But that’s what it is all about.
This is an incredible opportunity to learn. This is seriously the only thing that keeps me going. The moment when I understood this changed my life forever. The moment when I understood how much I love learning.
I don’t remember if there was a moment, but I know that there was always this force in my life. This force that told me that there is ‘something else’ to life. Something ‘more’.
Up to now I didn’t even know what I was talking about.
Now I know that this is all about awareness. This is all about being able to sense, to appreciate what is happening around you. This is the oldest practice of all times. The practice of being present.
When I went for a walk this morning I asked for guidance. Where should I go? I passed a field and I saw a spider hanging in the grains, hidden in a tiny cobweb. The spider was holding on to the grains with her acrobatic legs.
“So, this is your little home?,” I smiled at her.
All of sudden I realized that I am already there. I am able to see the small things. I feel a rush of love when I see the sun rising over the fields – the fresh morning breeze in my ear… Even writing it down here brings tears into my eyes. This is how moved I am by the beauty of nature – time and time again.
But there are the times when I forget about it. There are the times when I’m eaten alive by my fears and my self-doubt. Indecision paralyzes me in these moments – desperately waiting for a sign that never comes when I expect it…
On these days I get so anxious that I don’t want to see people at all if I don’t have to. On these days I forget that I am in control of my life. I am in control of my happiness. Nobody will make me happy. Nobody will make a decision for me. Nobody will be happy for me…..
But some people are a little bit more happy, when I am happy. So, why not just walk around and be happy?
How To Play A Role Lightly?
So, what does this have to do with playing roles? Everything! Because the roles are the masks that keep us trapped…
“How to play a role lightly?”
Ram Dass printed this question into my notes. I’ve been collecting notes on this question for quite a while.
Only today when I watched this spider it came crashing down on me how everything is related so smoothly: My negative thinking patterns are my roles.
Or actually it was the opposite: It felt like all the roles were taken from me?.
I had this sensation quite a lot in the past two years, but more and more I can cast it into words.
More and more I can look out for ‘patterns’ to drop – because this is a massive process. It’s truly like peeling an onion.
I was blaming myself for my massive ups and downs, for my heavy emotional flashbacks. Slowly it dawns me that every breakdown is another layer…
I’m learning my tools and they are so simple.
This is what fills my heart with gratefulness nowadays and it manifests my desire to get this knowledge out to everybody who needs it. I want to make the knowledge accessible. (“Hm, maybe sharing more on social media would be a step, right?”:)
So, what is a role? A role is not only the role you play in society (mother, employee,..) or a role you play in your head (author, artist,…:), it can also be a trait or a feeling. What do I mean by that? For a long time I didn’t realize how much pressure I put on myself by assuming that I am ‘depressed’ or I am not normal or ‘I am an over-improver’. These anti-mantras became my personality traits.
You become your thoughts. You become what you think about. It is worth it to consider this – every single day.
What do you identify yourself with? What is the first thing you are telling yourself in the morning? What definitions and standards are you holding on to? Are they yours? Are they helpful or not? Do you need them?
Now that I took the time to spend so so much time in my head the voices become clearer and clearer…
The judge became louder and louder – until I’ve started to scream back. More than that: I’m laughing at her. I’m laughing out loud when the huge, dark, negative thoughts come and cloud my view.
Of course I’m not ‘fully there’. I guess we are never fully there – and this is the beauty of it. It’s a neverending process.
Because if we were ‘there’ what would we do, right? What happens when we reach the destination?
It is better to enjoy the journey – and travel lightly. That means playing everything lightly.
…and because a list might comes handy, I have worked up my notes about “How To Play A Role Lightly” a little for you.
- Do not consider your job as your passion. Just do it with pleasure. Do everything with pleasure.
- Do what needs to be done. Do the best job you can, but don’t get lost in perfectionism. “Doing” is an outside experience, while being is an inside experience. What does that mean? You do things in the outside world, but inside you remain quiet.
- Stop being driven by deadlines and results. Just ‘do’ one step at a time and detach from the outcome. It takes the stress away. Otherwise you will get lost.
- Have rules, have boundaries, but don’t freak out when they are being crossed. It means nothing.
- You have nothing to prove and nothing to lose. Keep it easy.
Know that you are capable of transforming every negative event into a positive one. Rewrite your story easily.
When you realize that what you do doesn’t define you and what you say is without meaning, then you are truly free.
Enjoy your crisis.
Be proud of it.
This is what your soul called upon.
This is not the time to give up. It is the time to build up your strength.
The crisis is not the challenge – it is the preparation.
Now, drop your convictions.
Drop the story that you had been telling yourself.
Keep up the work. In hard times it is even more crucial.
Transform your despair into love. It is possible. This is what you are here for.
You won’t die.
Your soul won’t die.
Chaos is expansion. Devote to it.
You can save your physical body only by surrendering.
Feel it all. Yes. ALL. Don’t stop.
Appreciate it all.
Let go of it all.
Let go of the blame, the anger and the guilt.
Hold on to nothing.
Celebrate the unanswered questions.
In between the pieces there is a little gem called silence.
Allow silence and peace will overtake your stirred-up mind.
If you wait long enough bliss will come and invigorate you.
I promise you.
Take a break.
And another one.
And another one – if you need it.
Let everything die that wants to die.
As long as it takes…
The known is dead.
The unknown is alive.
The awakening is like an earthquake at the bottom of the ocean and you are like a vessel on the surface.
The bigger the eruption the greater the impact.
You really learn to sail on these rocky waters.
Don’t stop breathing.
Keep quiet and steer.
Trust your inner compass.
You know the tools. Be ready to apply them.