My tribute to life with all its curiosities and miracles

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Sadhu Saturday

I love meditating! Do I ever get bored while doing it? No, never! Do I ever feel like getting up before the bell? Oh yes! But whenever I am tempted to do so it indicates an insight of some kind: an instant flash of clarity, a sudden thought that provides a missing link or an idea that is so inspiring that I want to start working on it right away. Resisting, however, is the real meditation challenge.

When I started meditating I thought the ultimate goal was to clear my mind of all thoughts while sitting. I tried. I tried hard. And I got frustrated with myself many many times. Today, a little over 2 years later, I still don’t manage to clear out my mind. But I’ve come to realize that it doesn’t matter so I adjusted my goal from “Clear out all thoughts NOW” to “Be aware of any thoughts, feelings and emotions that show up”. Nothing more, nothing less. Be aware, don’t judge, don’t engage and let them pass. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. But I’ve also come to accept that and I rarely throw angry meditation fits anymore 🙂

In case you wonder how all this is related to Sadhu Saturday bear with me for a minute. Sadhu Saturday was actually one of the inspiring ideas that hit me in my meditation today. In July 2012, I was on a 7 day meditation retreat with Ajahn Brahm. I had no idea who he was at that time and it was a mere coincidence that I stayed at the Zen monastery when he was there for the retreat. I could write an entire book about this retreat but that’s not the point here. In a nutshell: That retreat changed my life! Ajahn Brahm is an incredible person and teacher and these 7 days of meditation, talks and Q&A sessions enriched my life in so many ways. And I learned a new word: “Sadhu”, which is Pali and saying it three times is an expression of happiness.

While meditating earlier, memories of this retreat popped up and I remembered that I bought one of Ajahn Brahm’s books, which includes 108 stories for welcoming life’s difficulties. I devoured the book when I first got it and it really helped me to deal with some major difficulties I was facing at the time. As life is currently offering me quite a few opportunities to welcome its difficulties, I figured it can’t hurt to take a look at the book again. I grabbed it from the shelve and randomly opened up a page. I do that a lot with books whenever I am looking for inspiration or “signs” and always open up the right page at the right time. Today the story “The Trial” brought me some valuable insights on anger and forgiveness. It talks about how being angry is like running a trial against a defendant who is not allowed to defend himself. Unjust. But we need this unjust trial to convince ourselves of the wrongdoings of the other, which then justifies our anger. And once we have internal permission we can enjoy our outburst of rage to the fullest. We are furious! We seek revenge! And most of all we are 100% sure that we are right and the other person is wrong. How could he/she! But what if we really asked: How could he/she? If we approach this question with curiosity and non-judgement it might not be so evident anymore who is right and who is wrong. And who’s the judge of that anyway?

I wasn’t angry at all when I opened up the random page earlier. In fact, I had just tweeted even before my meditation that I was feeling extremely calm and peaceful. So when I opened up the story about anger I was questioning whether this was really the right page at the right time. But as my random book flipping served me well in the past I trusted that there is a message for me. And suddenly it triggered a thought: Who’s to judge if resisting the urge to engage with a thought is the real meditation challenge? What if it only serves as my justification to hold on to some of my anger? I am certainly reevaluating my take on that.

“Sadhu Saturday” might turn into a recurring post series, as there are 108 stories and insights to be shared 🙂 Please let me know what you think about that. However, if you don’t want to wait or are looking for instant ways to welcome life’s difficulties, just get the book, do some random page flipping and get curious about the message it has for you. Happy flipping and…

Sadhu! Sadhu! Sadhu!

English version:

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Who Ordered this Truckload of Dung?
Ajahn Brahm

Deutsche Version:

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Die Kuh, die weinte
Ajahn Brahm

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Frustration and mindfulness…a hard line to walk

Mindfulness reflects much more than an attitude; it is a lifestyle of choice and so is aggressive behavior. I never considered myself as an aggressive person and even less so ever since I embraced the principles of mindfulness. However, these past days started shaking my beliefs and I finally came to think that my new mindful self is just putting me to a rough test.

Mindfulness is the acceptance of a current situation while being present in the moment without any cravings, wants or complaints. Easier said than done from time to time. I am a strong believer in mindfulness and am absolutely convinced of its benefits and contributions to happiness. In theory this is easy to achieve and obey, especially when the only person you have to deal with is yourself. Once other people come into the picture, dynamics start shifting immediately and you find yourself in a different position. This is mainly true with people who have known you for a long time and are therefore quite opinionated about you and your life; well let’s say their perception of you and your life.
From their point of view this is understandable of course. After all we have been accepting the “roles” we played for ourselves and others for a very long time and acted accordingly. Each of our “roles” came with certain behavioral patterns, which we internalized and mastered to perfection.

Most of these “selves in disguise” were formed in our childhood and have been extended and strengthened while growing up with a set of self-made and inherited dogmas. We started planning and organizing our lives according to these values and beliefs only to find out at some point (for me this took well over 30 years) that neither the values nor the beliefs reflect our own wants and needs. Some of them were handed over from generation to generation or from our parents but some are also a simple creation of our mind. At some point we took random pieces of information and turned them into a set of beliefs that seemed to make sense according to our understanding at the time and…Congratulations! As easy as 123 and without being aware of it we gave birth to powerful dogmas with the ability to influence our entire life!

Currently I am still in the process of becoming aware of my “selves in disguise” and bringing the attached dogmas from my unconscious to my conscious mind. Not an easy task in itself and even less so when other people are involved, especially those who are used to your “old” behavioral patterns. Many people don’t feel comfortable about change. They like to keep the status quo for themselves but sometimes it is even more irritating to see close friends or family change their well-known behavior, attitude or even entire way of life. I’ve been observing a good amount of people getting very uncomfortable when I tell them that I am currently unemployed by choice and don’t really have a plan yet. One of the most common reactions is: “What? You? But you were always really good at your job had at least 3 backup plans. Can’t you just find another job?” And when I tell them that I probably could but really just don’t want to at this point the conversation is usually even more uncomfortable and tends to end fairly quickly.

Especially last week I had a lot of these conversations. Although I know I am doing exactly the right thing for now I felt a lot of frustration and even aggression come up with each of these encounters. I started to ask myself why this was bothering me so much. Instant first reaction: Doubts. A few at first followed by a whole flood! Maybe I wasn’t doing the right thing after all and maybe I should just get back on board, get a new job and keep doing what I used to do: disguising myself in a play called my life.

At this point I was very frustrated, full of doubts about my “foolish decisions”, feeling guilty about not being mad busy with work and ready to throw in the towel. Unknown feelings of aggression had been building up inside me and were probably already dripping out of every single one of my pores. But just when I was about to give in I took a moment of mindful breathing and suddenly I realized that this was just an evil trick my ego was playing on me, trying to convince me that I needed to get rid of these uncomfortable feelings of doubt, aggression and even fear. Going back to my old ways would just be the easiest and also the socially acceptable thing to do. Instantly I remembered the core principle of mindfulness: Accept and embrace unpleasant situations and feelings and don’t try to get rid of them. I took a deep breath – and suddenly I was fully in the present moment again, my perspective changed and all previous doubts, fears and aggressions vanished instantly. My temporary weakness ended up giving me the strength to keep the faith in my intuition and inner voice. All it took was the length of a breath to come back to myself and to realize that for now there really is “Nothing to do. Nowhere to go.” (Thich Nhat Hanh)


A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. (Lao Tzu)

This is one of my favorite quotes and it holds so much truth. I’ve been talking and thinking about how much I love to write for years and years so I figured it might be about time I actually start doing it.

I am currently at a point in my life where all previous values and ambitions somehow lost their appeal. As of yet I have no clue where this new way is going to take me – a scary but also very exciting thought!

Until recently I was leading a typical career-oriented life. After Grad School I got my first job in advertising and worked my way up over the years. Always on the hunt for the next great opportunity I changed jobs, moved several times (also across countiries) as work required it and – without realizing it – totally lost myself in this process. One day I woke up in the morning and couldn’t come up with a single reason why it was important for me to go to work. All of the sudden my life seemed to have lost any kind of purpose. Of course that didn’t happen over night. But that morning it hit me totally out of the blue: high-speed and head-on.

I hadn’t been happy in my job for quite some time but never really allowed me to even think these thoughts. What right did I have to complain? I made a very decent living, my CV was flawless, the companies I worked for were all internationally renowned and some people would probably kill to just have one of them on their CV. But as the years went on I felt like a robot. All creativity and goals I once had had slowly but surely disappeared.

It took me about a year and a half to finally find the courage to listen to my hear and soul and break out of this “condition” that used to be my life.

I quit my job, went on a meditation retreat and started to make meditation and mindfulness practice a part of my daily routine. In a nutshell: I started to live again!

And this is where I am today. I have no clue what’s gonna hapen next but it doesn’t scare me anymore. I used to have a backup plan at all times – not this time though. Mindfulness teaches us to appreciate and enjoy the present moment because this is all we have anyway. The past is gone and the future is not here yet. If we are fully present in the moment there is no regret, no worries – just being!

Sometimes we have to give ourselves time and a break to do nothing. In today’s “always on” world we forgot how to listen to our inner voice – and only in peace and calm can it be heard again. So for now I will just follow Thich Nhat Hanh’s advise: Nothing to do, nowhere to go.