MindfulVision

My tribute to life with all its curiosities and miracles


Leave a comment

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:

Screen Shot 2013-10-12 at 11.42.14 PM

Who Ordered this Truckload of Dung?
Ajahn Brahm



Deutsche Version:

Screen Shot 2013-10-12 at 11.40.33 PM

Die Kuh, die weinte
Ajahn Brahm


Leave a comment

Life is what happens…

P1010690

while you are busy making other plans… I’m wondering if John Lennon actually knew how much truth this sentence really holds. At least for me, as there is no better way of putting into words what’s recently going on in my life and also in the lives of many others who are dear and close to me.

When I logged on to my account today I saw in my notifications that MindfulVision turned 1 a few days ago…and I was too busy to remember it myself. I feel terrible for having forgotten my “baby’s” first birthday. Of course I wasn’t planning on buying a cake and gifts anyway but I didn’t want to just let it pass unnoticed either. This blog is important to me and I started it with a clear vision, a mindful one. And here I am a year later too mindless to even pause for a moment to celebrate and remember it’s birth. I apologize to my blog (and to myself) and just put a reminder in my calendar so this won’t happen again.

Okay, but let’s get back to the original topic. There have been many reasons that kept me busy, worried and distracted and required my presence and attention, which eventually led to other people, events and things not receiving the attention they would have deserved (e.g. my blog’s b-day). I don’t want to go into much detail about all the unexpected events and twists and turns. After all I still have that book project on my mind and might use some of the stories for that 🙂 However, I do want to share some of the valuable lessons I learned from them:

  • Family and friends are priceless!
  • I can’t control external factors, people and their reactions. But I can control MY reactions to whatever happens.
  • Always be grateful for what you have right NOW.
  • Just because I currently can’t think of a solution that doesn’t mean there isn’t any.
  • ALWAYS trust your gut feeling!
  • NEVER assume to know what another person might want/think/need.
  • Happiness is possible even in difficult situations.
  • Always be aware of and honor your boundaries, values and needs.
  • Be grateful for LIFE!
  • Sometimes a simple smile makes all the difference.
  • Authentic and compassionate communication is the key.
  • Always speak up if something doesn’t feel right.
  • The truth might hurt – a lot. But holding on to illusions will eventually hurt a lot more!
  • Miracles do happen!

There is no way I could have imagined a year ago what life had in store for me in the past 365 days. And even today I have no clue what’s going to happen a year from today or even tomorrow. But I do know one thing: I will keep making plans. And if life happens to interfere with my plans again, I am prepared to sail with the winds. I survived the storm before and I sure will again! And what’s the fun anyway if I’d know exactly what’s waiting for me next 🙂

 

 

 


Leave a comment

Snail Mail

photo-8A few weeks ago I went for a walk when this little snail crossed my path. It caught my attention so I figured it had a message for me. At the time I didn’t really know what it was, however, I took a picture as a reminder. Everybody knows that snail mail tends to take its time so I was willing to wait for its message.  And today, at 4:04 AM to be exact, it was finally delivered by Insight Express – and it even came with free shipping 🙂

At times life can be chaotic, hectic, unpredictable, exhausting and challenging. That’s what I’m currently experiencing. Don’t get me wrong, I am not complaining because although I am facing a lot of challenges I am also learning incredibly valuable life lessons along the way. And one of them is finding my own pace and attitude toward all these challenges, changes and  demands.

As long as I can remember I used to pride myself on being resilient beyond belief. I took on whatever came my way just because I wanted to prove (mostly to myself) that I can do it. Limits and boundaries were an unknown and it didn’t even occur to me why anybody would need them. I don’t remember ever turning down a favor or a task that I was asked for. I wanted to be supportive and I am sure I was but more than anything else I was boosting my ego by taking on everything that came my way. What seemed like one of my biggest strengths at the time turned out to be a weakness in disguise.

I was so busy taking on more and more responsibilities, projects and favors that I forgot to take care of one of my core responsibilities: self-care. Each electronic device needs frequent recharging to keep running. My computer currently shows 11% remaining battery life and I already get nervous. Why is it so hard to take care of my own battery?

Life sent a not so gentle reminder my way! I was facing multiple very challenging situations at once and finally hit a point of emotional and physical exhaustion. An unknown feeling for me until then. I was irritated and really didn’t know what to do with it. And although I was very tempted to keep pampering my ego by ignoring the signals I didn’t. Instead I paid attention and made a conscious choice to slow down and adjust my pace. Life is a cycle so I know that there will be times when I am back to my energetic and active self. However, this version of me will be much more effective when rested and fully recharged. As we know partially charging doesn’t serve any battery life 🙂

So here’s the essence of my snail mail wake up call: Even if  it takes a little longer to reach a destination that delay is still better than collapsing at the finish line!


Leave a comment

MindfulVision goes Kindle

I am so excited! MindfulVision is now also available as a blog subscription on the Kindle in the US!

Check out the MindfulVision Kindle Edition and please share and spread the word and leave a review if you like!

I’d also like to hear what kind of content is of interest to my readers, so please leave a comment and let me know if you want to share what you’d like to read about!

So happy and grateful right now!

Mahalo!


Leave a comment

Shampoo thoughts on happiness

photo-4This morning I hopped into the most colorful shower I have ever seen in my life. What a great start of the day! My daily showers have served me well in the past regarding inspiration about my writing and especially shampoo really seems to tap into my inspirational thinking. Here I was, squeezing my shampoo bottle, when this big realization hit me out of the blue.

I’ve been travelling Hawaii for about three and a half weeks now. After the first week I went from O’ahu to the Big Island and had a major shampoo accident on the flight. It was spilled all over the place – luckily only on my washbag. However, it was messy . I remember how happy I was that day when I took a shower and there was at least enough left in the bottle for me to wash my hair that day. And even happier when it was still serving me the day after and the day after that. When I left the place I had stayed at for a few days I took the seemingly empty bottle of shampoo with me – for whatever reason. And here I am almost 3 weeks later, still squeezing enough out of that bottle for me to wash my hair. And I did take regular showers including washing my hair in the meantime 🙂

Sometimes we are so focused on lack and our fear of losing something that we do not even realize how much we have already. Our concern is in the past – that has passed – or the future – that’s not here yet and might never come – that we forget to be present here and now with what is and with what we have.

Very little can take you a very long way! That is so applicable to anything in life. If my shampoo would not have lasted that long I could have just picked up a new bottle at the next store … or I might have come up with other ways to keep my hair clean 🙂 Either way, there are always options to choose from and just because something seems little it can serve a great purpose and be quite long lasting.

So what am I taking away from this? My shampoo bottle 🙂 and a lot of trust that it might actually stay with me until the end of my trip. Overusing, overpacking, over everything seems to be the name of the game these days. We accumulate and pile up more and more stuff thinking it will bring us happiness. But what really happens is it burdens us because we have to take it everywhere we go and also adds a lot of worries to our lives because we are so afraid that we might lose what we accumulated over time.

This trip has taught me how limited options actually serve you well in tapping into your creativity and are a great way of truly experiencing the moment. Happiness is in being content with what is in each moment, however little that may be. I know for sure now that I need very little to be very well and happy. Mahalo!


Leave a comment

From grumpy carpe diem to happy camper

Today is one of these days that I am extremely grateful for being alive. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s pretty awesome to be alive every single day and stating and appreciating that is actually a part of my daily meditation. However, today was special – for no particular reason. Just an ordinary Saturday except for my mood, which was surprisingly bad for a day without plans, obligations or stress. I woke up way too early after a restless night and after going to bed too late in the first place. I was tired and grumpy!

About two hours after I had dragged myself out of bed I was ready  to hit the couch and call it a day. But for whatever reason I got dressed instead and left the house. At that point the carpe diem voice inside my head seemed pretty determined to make the most out of this day. I decided to just go along as I was too tired (and still grumpy) to fight it anyway. After grocery shopping and a little walk I called my mom to see if she wanted to get some coffee – luckily she did. We had such a good time chatting, giggling and laughing and after our first round of coffee we ordered a round of drinks. I had to be 5 o’clock somewhere at that point 🙂 What a fun time we had…and on a little side note: love you mom!

After we left the cafĂ© I wanted to go home, fix some dinner and finally keep my coach some company. But apparently the inner carpe diem brat had other plans again and it seemed to be controlling my car: instead of making the turn leading to my house the car just kept driving – and  I surrendered. And this was when the magic happened. Once I stopped expecting a certain outcome and taking things for granted, openness stepped in and my eyes and soul were able to see and experience each moment fully. Carpe diem me had taken over – completely! Whenever I got to the end of a road I followed my intuition and took the turn that was “pulling” me. My intuitive GPS was taking me to places I didn’t know existed: beautiful houses, scenery and hidden treasures! And the entire time I kept thinking: How in the world is it possible that I never noticed any of this before???

CaipiBy the end of the day carpe diem me decided it was time to take myself out to dinner. I ended up in a nice (and up to this point also unknown) Brazilian restaurant with a delicious plate of dried cod in palm oil and coconut milk and a caipirinha in front of me, chatting with the Brazilian-Portuguese-African waiter, got a drink on the house after I finished eating and just sat there and enjoyed the music for a little while longer thinking: I am a truly great date 🙂 Thank you life for proving me that you are  stronger than my moods and that we never know what the day might have in stock for us!


Leave a comment

Blown away…

“The true definition of madness is repeating the same action, over and over, hoping for a different result.” – Albert Einstein

This is one of my favorite quotes and also the reason why I haven’t published anything here for a couple of weeks. I started this blog at a time in my life when I had no clue at all where I was heading.

For the last couple of years my life somewhat resembled a ride in a hot-air balloon. I got on somewhere and didn’t even know when and where I was going to touch the ground again. As a result I just followed the winds. I hovered on soft winds and enjoyed some calm rides with pretty views but also had to make it through storms when I couldn’t even take a peek outside my little basket. Ups and downs took turns and the years went by with me constantly on the move but heading nowhere.

At some point I ran out of gas and my little hot-air balloon started sinking and finally landed somewhere. As I turned around and checked out my whereabouts it was pretty obvious that I didn’t like it at all.  Oh well but I gave it a shot and thought maybe I might like it at some point if I just gave it enough time. Turned out I didn’t so after a while I refueled my hot-air balloon and went on the next ride. Anything had to be better that this place so I just took off and trusted the winds again until – you might have guessed – I ran out of fuel again at some point…Believe it or not but I did this about 5 times until I came to realize that this balloon was taking me places but not once did it take me to a place of my choice: first of all I didn’t even have one and even if I had one I would have had no idea how to get there.

And this is when I understood the true definition of madness 🙂

Instead of catching the next blast to start yet another aimless ride, I took some time to think about where I wanted to go next. For the last couple of month I have been planning my next “journey”, considered a couple of options, revoked my choices and looked for new ones. Overall a very intensive time with ups and downs as well. I may not know all details about my destination yet but at least I am aware of the direction in which I’m heading next. I kept myself busy for a few weeks planning and preparing so I can get back on my hot-air balloon. But this time I’m bringing a compass and maybe even a map 🙂


Leave a comment

When you just know…

The concept of stress has been on my mind lately. There were times when stressful situations didn’t bring up automated feelings of anxiety but lately this has been the case. Just a few years ago I was a full-fledged stress junky craving the rush of adrenaline pumping through my body. I had so much energy and just didn’t seem to run out. Like the human version of the Energizer bunny I just kept going…and going…and going. It was so easy to find and keep motivation and at times it seemed like I was able to get more than 24 hours out of a day.

Not so much anymore although – in theory – I currently have much more spare time at my disposal. This is a trend I’ve been observing for a couple of months now and I started to ask myself why I had turned into such an unmotivated bum? So I started a “to do list”, hoping to beat my inner procrastinator.
After a few days I realized that instead of checking things off the list, the list kept growing and growing and growing. I didn’t understand because I had been quite busy the last few days and wasn’t just sitting around doing nothing. It took a little while until I realized that I had been putting all sorts of tasks on the list and instead of accomplishing anything from the list turned around and did something else. I kept myself very busy and the days went by quickly. However, the heap of unaccomplished list tasks kept getting bigger.
I took a closer look at my list and all of the sudden it hit me: Every single item on the list was a ‘must do’, at least things I thought I had to do. But do I really have to do these things or is it just my subconscious mind telling me what I’m supposed to do?

I remember times when I used to be in the flow. I was very busy and quite ‘stressed’ but it was a good kind if stress and it didn’t even seem like I was working. I liked what I did and therefore procrastination was an unknown. My heart and my mind were involved to the same extent!

And suddenly it hit me again: as long as you put your heart into an idea, a task or whatever project it is, external motivation is no longer needed! This is when you can’t wait to start working on it, do research, make phone calls etc. Because all the motivation you need is already there and doesn’t need an external jump start to get you going!

Please don’t even worry that you might be missing one of these moments! Whenever a heartfelt project/idea comes along, you just know! And you know exactly what you have to do right then and there!

And so did I: I went into the living room, grabbed my to do list and ripped it into pieces – right then and there without any procrastination!

Relieved I returned to doing things I wanted to do. Without a list but with a lot of heart, motivation and energy!

“If you are working on something exciting that you really care about, you don’t have to be pushed. The vision pulls you.” – Steve Jobs


Leave a comment

Nothing endures but change. (Heraclitus)

There is a little tray in my shower, which is actually way too small for all the things I keep on it. Since we moved into this appartment I’ve been developing a “stacking method”, which allows me to make all my showering utensils fit anyway: shower gel, shampoo, face wash, conditioner and a razor…Of course I also came up with a special order according to bottle sizes and shapes to come to the perfect arrangement. It worked for a long time and I was quite happy with my little set up. About a month ago I switched shampoos. Not a big deal as one might think but it shook my little tray arrangement to the core. Of course the new shampoo differed from the old one in shape and size…but I didn’t care and kept the order that I had been working on for so long to finally make it fit – more or less. I managed to put everything on there but I just couldn’t get it to stay! So every time I took a shower in the last couple of weeks at least one of the bottles (mostly the new shampoo) fell down but usually at least the face wash – sometimes everything else – dropped as well. As a result I found myself picking up all my shower utensils anywhere from one to five times while showering. The shampoo (and face wash and shower gel and razor) kept falling and I kept picking it up…over and over again. Of course with every time I reached for the things on the ground I got a little more furious, impatient and annoyed.

While taking a shower today the falling down routine started again and when I was just about to get down to pick up my shampoo it hit me: The new shampoo just doesn’t fit with the old order! Why had this taken me over a month to realize? So I took “action” and changed the ‘face wash behind shampoo order’ to ‘shampoo behind face wash’ and with a little change like that I had not only restored but even improved stability on the tray!

My little shower story got me thinking. The more I thought about it the more it resembled common life issues for me. We grow up in set structures with predefined values / aims and we start to arrange our lives accordingly. At some point these structures or values might start to shift due to external circumstances or maybe because we start questioning our old beliefs and start developing new ones. Either way one or several parts of this little ‘puzzle’ go missing, change shapes or new parts come into the picture. So what happens? The entire ‘puzzle’ arrangement changes and some parts just don’t fit anymore but we try EVERYTHING to make them fit anyway. We try so hard that we start bending pieces or leave them out because we want to keep the old arrangement. We liked the old ‘puzzle’, we had known it for a long time, it was pretty to look at and most importantly we knew every little detail by heart – no (unpleasant) surprises. The more we try to use the new parts for the old puzzle the more we break it; the pieces we have at hand are just not made for the previous order.

Unless we switch perspectives and accept change as a good and necessary thing that keeps life flowing we are stuck with a stubborn attempt to keep the status quo. Once acceptance takes place and we look at the new situation from a different angle we realize that the new ‘puzzle’ is just as pretty as the old one – maybe even prettier. It didn’t take any effort to put together because for the new ‘puzzle’ we had everything we needed: perfectly fitting pieces. But as long as we desperately fight change and try to keep things as they are we will find ourselves in an endless struggle.

Change is a scary thing for a lot of people. I never thought I was one of them because I usually crave new experiences and unknown situations. However, my little shower incident today made me realize that there is (at least a little) fear of change in everybody, even when it is just about keeping the order on your shower tray!

—-

“It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” – Charles Darwin


Leave a comment

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)