Community

I can share my experience and people who share that experience are less alone.
I can share my experience and people who share that experience help me feel less alone.
I can share what I learn, so that that learning sparks a shift in someone else’s journey.
I can share what I know and learn more myself and shift my own journey.
My [life] is about connection and reciprocity. We build a community that sustains us through the hard and the light.

Amalgamation

“Instead of amalgamations of parts having contradictory and uncontrollable purposes, suppose we consider ourselves to be already what we long for: functional, integrated wholes who produce the results we choose, effortlessly, with our entire beings.”
– Brad Blanton, Radical Honesty
Would you still try to change the way you look?
Would you try to do the work you want to do?
Would you try to work out the relationship that’s on the rocks?

Meeting Absence with Presence

“This ain’t no place for the weary kind,
This ain’t no place to lose your mind,
This ain’t no place to fall behind.
Pick up your crazy heart ’n’ give it one more try.”

How to grieve? I don’t know. It’s a skill I have yet to acquire. Part of me resents having to acquire it.
It’s awkward sitting here with this weight on my shoulders and thinking „um… yeah… what do I do now?“
It’s an uncomfortable place to be stuck. If you stay here long enough you calcify. The absence becoming your final reality, a well so deep you can never fill it, even if you throw all your joy and aliveness at it.

It is a living thing this grief. You have to feed it, with love, with care and presence. The absence, however huge and insurmountable it may seem, is contained in the space of your heart. It seems that you grieve with the same bigness as you love.
It seems grief is an expression of love.

So if love and grief are two sides of this multifaceted coin of aliveness, how do I mourn?

What do I even know about this grief?
Where do I feel it? In my body?
What does it feel like?
Is it expansive like anger? Or contracting like depression?
How does it relate to the vividness that suddenly suffuses my experience of this world?
Does it have a face?
Does it have a voice?
And what is it saying?

Other people say things about grief
I cried every day for two years.
It helps me to remember that she is in a better place.
I know that this isn’t the end, just another transition.
I ask myself what would she have wanted.

What good are the wishes of the dead to the living?

Freeing grief from the mind
When I am willing to have an experience as it is, I have a choice about how I to react to it. To move through the grief I need to experience whatever comes up. And to fully experience it, I need to free myself from the idea that there are wrong and right ways to express grief. It might be that I need to cry huge howling sobs every night, or it might be that I need to run after aliveness like an adrenaline junky on a motorbike.
An emotion unexpressed festers into judgments and helplessness. To get back, or to stay in a place of health and aliveness I need to give myself space to express, rather than jumping into „dealing with it“, or „getting over it“.

This is my Practice

Sitting in presence.
Breathing in presence.
Walking in presence.
Feeling all the feelings, with presence.
Moving through the absence in presence, getting to know it like I know my home, like I know my body. Letting it be a living, breathing thing, so that some day it will be just another part, integrated and unquestioned, the way the existence of an extra toe might not be questioned.

As The Crow Flies – Crow Pose And (Broken) Noses

“Shit,” I thought, “if I broke my nose, I’ll have to wake up Matthias.”

Matthias is my roommate and of course it was 1am at night. I gingerly tested my nose, my fingers came away slightly bloody.

***

It started when I confidently posted in my fitness group that I could now consistently do crow pose.

No, further back, it started when I decided that I would do crow pose damnit! and went in search of strength experts to help my wobbly wrists grow stronger. I got the help I needed along with weekly accountability and stronger wrists. Two weeks ago I could hold myself up for five seconds for the first time. And since then I’ve moved to holding it fine most of the time. Most of the time.

To do this I carefully place my hands on a mat, fix a point slightly ahead of me. Put my knees on my arms and then lift one toe after the other off the ground until I’m precariously balanced on my hands. It’s a strange and exhilarating feeling.

Each day I noticed how I got more familiar with the pose and with the feeling, how I was getting stronger and more confident.

***

Then one night I decide that I can just do crow pose wherever. I have visions of myself balancing on rocks with sun-splashed waves crashing behind me with a delightful bokeh effect. And well “Hochmut kommt vor dem Fall” as they say in german. Overconfidence leads to stupidity, and trying to balance on your arms in the dark on a plain floor, when having a visual focus is part of keeping your balance IS stupidity.

And so I toppled over forward and couldn’t reach my hands in front of my face in time, for obvious reasons.

***

Like crow pose, balancing overconfidence and timidity in our habits is a constant precarious act, but, also like crow pose, one that can be learned. It’s learning the difference between standing up for oneself and brashly ignoring everyone else’s needs. It means knowing when it is ok to let people have their way and when you you are being a doormat. To most of us these distinctions don’t come naturally, but when we learn them it enables us to actively shape our lives. To live, as I like to say, more congruently.

***

As for the fall: Turns out my nose wasn’t broken, just badly bruised. I took a cold pack out of the fridge and stuck it on my nose to avoid giant purple signs of my stupidity. It seems I was lucky.
That day.

Repentance

“No, you said you wanted to do repentance. I’m telling you to do teshuvah. That means “return.” Return towards the light from which your soul originally came. When you are running towards the light, filling your life with more wisdom, more understanding, more mitzvahs; more joy, love and beauty; and the light is getting brighter and brighter, and you want to reach out and talk directly, sincerely with your G‑d . . .

“. . . that’s when it hits you that the crummy messup from the past is holding you back, like a useless backpack weighing you down, like a lump of clay in your heart, like a wall between you and the true place of your soul. That’s when a genuine, aching remorse overcomes you, just swelling up all on its own from the bottom of your heart. That’s when you scream, ‘Get off my back!’

“You look behind for a sec, throw that junk away, and fly ahead. That’s when you repent. But not until then.”

http://www.chabad.org/holidays/JewishNewYear/template_cdo/aid/1625044/jewish/Repentance-Is-a-Trap.htm

I don’t know who posted the link and where I followed it, but: This! So much this! ‪#‎thingsiwanttolearn‬

What does it mean to “just let it go”?

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We talk a lot about this in yoga.

Someone annoys the hell out of you and you’re upset, then your yogi friend will tell you to “just let it go” (in the most annoying sanctimonious tone evar!). You hear “suppress all your emotions.”

You sit in meditation, your knees hurt and you can’t stop thinking about how hungry you are and then you have this brilliant (brilliant! I tell you) idea and start calculating how embarrassing it would be to get up to get a piece of paper to write it down, then your instructor tells you to “just let all your thoughts go.” You hear “suppress all your thoughts.”

A little love story has entangled you and now you worry about whether he will call (it’s only been 2 hours, so no.) or not and you decide that really you should “just let it go.” You think “suppress the desire for validation.”

Rather than suppressing, what we are really trying to do here is to not identify with our emotions, our thoughts, or our relationships. More big words, let me give you an example.

The darling from your love story gives you a rose, one with a long stem, thorns and beautiful red petals, and it is storming outside. As you walk home through the wind you grasp the rose really tightly, lest it blow away. Once you are safely ensconced at home you unfurl your hand and you see that the thorns have pricked your hands until they bled and the stem of the flower is broken. You wanted so much to bring this rose home that you clung to it with all your might. What would have happened if you had held it more lightly?

You probably would have brought it home safe and sound. Or it might have been blown away.
Neither possibility would have changed the regard that your darling feels for you. The rose is just a symbol for love, not the love itself.

The same way your emotions aren’t you, they are just a symbol of you.
The same way your thoughts aren’t you, they are just a symbol of you.
The same way your desires aren’t you, they are just a symbol of you.
Only because you identify with them do they become your identity.

No matter whether you are annoyed, or happy, whether you sit in meditation or not, you are you. That spark of youness doesn’t diminish with the external circumstances. And so we yogis practice not identifying. We feel annoyance and then hold it lightly, letting it go if it goes and feeling it as long as it is there in the knowledge that my emotions do not define me. We have a brilliant thought and hold it lightly, if it is still there after meditation we can write it down if not there will be something else. We want our darling to call and then hold that lightly, knowing that his call won’t change our worth.

You can compare it to a tree. That is rooted in it’s spot and sometimes a flock of birds come and sit in the branches, sometimes it is wet from the rain, sometimes it sheds all it’s leaves and sometimes it flowers, the external circumstances change yet always it is a tree.

We practice holding our identity lightly and letting it go. We practice being treelike.

And then a thing happens that is most extraordinary, we experience happiness bubbling up form inside us, pure and undiluted. The happy hum. The yoga text have a name for this “Ananda”, bliss. They say that this is our true nature and that the more we let go, hold the things we identify with lightly, the more we will experience the truth of our true nature.

Return

I returned. Everything is different, also familiar.
The same street. The same door. The same bed.
Yet I have never been here.

The heart is full of longing. Aching to be home.
Familiarity, sameness, knowing.
Yet what is home?

This is home. Though unfamiliar.
The street. The door. The bed.
I am here now.

Experimenting mindfully

The other day I was in a seminar hosted by the wonderful Kerstin of Prinzessin Häberle, she teaches advertising to women entrepreneurs, and the topic was markers of a successful entrepreneur. My suggestion was a willingness to experiment. This was promptly met with resistance. It is more important, I was told, to act strategically and stick to what works.

This shows to me a fundamental misunderstanding about what experimenting in a scientific context actually means. Let me clarify this, because I talk about experimenting a lot and I would like us to be on the same page.

experiment
noun |ikˈsperəmənt|
• a scientific procedure undertaken to make a discovery, test a hypothesis, or demonstrate a known fact: laboratory experiments on guinea pigs | I have tested this by experiment.
• a course of action tentatively adopted without being sure of the eventual outcome: the previous experiment in liberal democracy had ended in disaster.

verb |ikˈsperəˌment| [ no obj. ]
• perform a scientific procedure, esp. in a laboratory, to determine something: she experimented on chickens as well as mice.
• try out new concepts or ways of doing things: the designers experimented with new ideas in lighting.

So that’s the official definition of my Mac-dictionary. Important is that an experiment tests something and has an outcome that is quantifiable, or at least qualifiable. This something you test is a hypothesis. Say in a marketing context “If I post on facebook x times a week I will increase my sales by y%” or in a more personal context “If I paint my lips red each day, my behaviour will be more guarded.” Then of course you have to track what you do and what happens. This gives you numbers and data and lets you make more knowledgeable decisions in the future.

Try to think of experimenting not as “randomly trying shit”, but as conscious process of “forming a hypothesis and doing an experiment that gives measurable/observable results.” Of course, you don’t know the result of your experiment in advance, but you’ve observed events that lead you to assume this course “tentatively” as a good option. Another example; I knew tea influences my sleep, but I didn’t know how, so I tracked it for a month and found that it is not the amount of tea, but the time of day that I switch to something without caffeine that makes a difference.

The time to start experimenting isn’t when things are going horribly wrong already, but before when you’re cruising along just fine. There is your space to get curious and say ” I wonder what happens if…” I feel strongly that cultivating an attitude of experiment and curiosity can do wonders, both for your personal life and for your business space. And if you make testing a habit, you have real data to back up your actions and counter monster beliefs.

Observing A System

The thing about systems is that we all have them, even people who believe they are the absolute worst at systems. What these people lack is an honest look at their systems.

An Example: Laundry

Each day I go out of the house with clean clothes. This is a desired effect, so obviously there is a system that works here. (Yay me) If I were asked to describe my system I would name my laundry basket, the washing machine, my drying rack and the closet. Yet if I look closely, sometimes there is dry laundry on the line for days, or it sits folded in a basket, or there are piles of already worn but undirty clothes on the chair in my bedroom, mixed in with stuff that belongs in the laundry basket. These elements also belong in my description of the laundry system, though they are undesired.

In reality my system is this clean clothes come out of the closet or a basket, I wear them and when I get undressed at night I throw them over the chair, sometimes I also put clothes that need to be washed into the laundry basket. When my planner tells me it is laundry day sometimes I collect all dirty clothes from the chair and the laundry basket and sort them into light and dark. The still to be worn clothes go into the closet, or stay on the chair. Sometimes I wait until “I have nothing to wear”. I wash a load. Sometime that day I also hang the laundry. It needs about a day to dry, depending on time of year. At some point, Friday evening or on the weekend when the drying rack is in my way I fold laundry and put it into a basket which I put in the bedroom next to the dresser. Sometimes I sort all the things into their places in the closet.

It’s a lot messier and not my ideal system, but it is a system and it works to do what it should, give me clean clothes. Optimizing it so that it is less messy and includes more desired behaviors is another matter.