Routine or Ritual?

by Berenice Boxler.

It is this time again, summer is here! School is out, vacation, less traffic on the local roads, paddling pool in the garden and sunscreen. Much is easier now and people start to relax. There is often less time pressure in the morning, calmer driving to appointments and more ice-cream in the afternoon sun. Oh, and no homework! Other things remain as usual: washing and grocery shopping, processing emails, administrational work, tidying up the children’s rooms and cleaning the car.

Routines give a hold

Routines give us something to lean on, because they give the daily hustle a framework. Without routines – even though if they are not always respected – it would be harder to get through the day. Especially children unconsciously cling to these routines and can thus develop a sense of security and structure. There is a morning routine, a “We come home”-routine, and of course the evenings would be a mess without a basic structure. But I do as well appreciate this framing of the week: there are shopping days, creative work days, sports days, etc.

We humans work with routines and habits, and it can make everyday life a lot easier if a certain structure exists as a fix idea in the background.

And now the summer is here, the long holidays … and the established routines start to crumble. Then the children are allowed to go outside after dinner, bedtime is later, the weekly ice cream quota is increased at lightning speed, and without homework one lives even more relaxed. It is completely fine and also necessary that routines and rules are repeatedly checked for their current purpose. Just because something was “always” like that doesn‘t mean it is automatically right and helpful now. Especially holidays are an invitation to do everything a little more relaxed.

Lack of routine as a guarantee for difficulties …

It becomes difficult, however, when family members have different downtime. My break is not eight weeks long and I have to and I really like to continue my work. And just because the children can (theoretically) sleep until late does not mean that my husband‘s office suddenly has other core working hours. Not only different daily rhythms can cause difficulties here, also the unconscious transfer of one‘s own moods and desires unto others are often challenging. “Can I get an ice cream?” This I hear almost every day, and they‘d love to play with me all day. “But I don‘t want to go shopping!” is another vacation classic.

… and the power of rituals

This is where rituals come into play. A routine can quickly become meaningless: It is a mostly automatic action, born of a decision and then developed into a habit or rule. However, as circumstances change, it is often difficult to stick to routines, and discussions and frustration are inevitable. A ritual, on the other hand, is a very deliberate act of performing and carrying out an action that also makes it possible to give life a firm framework – regardless of the season or external events. A ritual is performed because it has a nourishing and meaningful effect. It is a self-chosen and very individual preference, created out of the deep feeling: Yes, this is doing me good. And of course, rituals are also subject to change, but these are always deliberately chosen and adapted to current needs. A ritual is something that I create for myself – noone has to know or give consent – to make my day more conscious.

Examples in my life are the way I start the day: while still in bed, awakening the senses („Never get up until you‘re not fully awake,“ says Jon Kabat-Zinn), a bit of conscious breathing, drinking a glass of water, stretching the body slightly and then meditating. And it doesn’t matter how much time the current circumstances allow me, I will adapt the length of each part to the given moment. Another ritual is to consciously breathe three times before starting the engine of the car. Really tasting the first bite of each meal. In the evenings, reflecting on the day and doing a short gratitude exercise, and other little rituals that keep me attuned to the present and bring me back to what is really important: my life how it is right now. And it does not matter at all if it is a Sunday, a course day or day of travel at the beginning of the holidays.

When routines change or are difficult to follow, it is the rituals that allow us to hold the thread.

 

The Way it is

There‘s a thread you follow. It goes among

things that change. But it doesn‘t change.

People wonder about what you are pursuing.

You have to explain about the thread.

But it is hard for others to see.

While you hold it you can‘t get lost.

Tragedies happen; people get hurt

or die; and you suffer and get old.

Nothing you do can stop time‘s unfolding.

You don‘t ever let go of the thread.

William Stafford

Looking inside

by Berenice Boxler.

I look out the window and I see the forest I walked through this morning. Nature currently offers so much colour and life, texture and abundance. In the garden the flowers come out or have already passed into the next stage of their season.

There are so many exciting things to look at, whether in nature, in people‘s faces, on television, on vacation. Usually we humans are so immersed in the outside that an introspection seems strange and unnecessary at first. In all my classes and workshops I regularly notice frowning and incomprehension, especially at the beginning: „Why should I close my eyes and feel how my body is breathing? Why should I want to observe my thoughts and feelings?“

Life in the outside

The visual sense is so strong that we constantly look outward. There is nothing wrong with that, that’s how we grow up and that‘s how life is: colourful, diverse, attention-grabbing, constantly on the move. However, there is sometimes an over-stimulation. When my kids are constantly jumping around, I feel stressed out. And if they are fidgeting at the dinner-table, then I don‘t taste the food anymore. But others are less sensitive than me, for sure. Nevertheless, I notice that through my eyes I constantly send new stimuli to my brain and thus it can never come to rest.

Life on the outside can also be enormously exhausting, if we always check the outer world not only with the eyes but also mentally: What do the others think of me? How do I look? How should I present myself in order to be accepted? It easily happens that one‘s own life becomes a role by using this filter of outside perception of oneself and it moves us further and further away from how life actually is. This outward orientation is instilled, socially conditioned and an expression of the fundamental human desire to belong.

Why look inside?

If this outward orientation becomes the only measure of life, then at some point a quiet voice inside may whisper: „And me? What about me?“ It does not have to be that way, many are happy with their lives or have simply settled into their world and their habits. That‘s totally fine – but for some it is not enough.

In mindfulness practice you learn to observe the inner landscape. And this is immensely rich: thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, impulses, cravings … Life is so exciting when we open ourselves to everything that is here: outside AND inside of us.

And why should we look inside? Because the inside, our thought patterns and drives, our emotions, and also our present state of the body – all this determines what we do and how we do it. It determines how much someone annoys us or how intensively we receive a kind gesture. It influences how we feel and allows us to understand why we are doing what we are doing. And from this arises the choice for an action that will be more meaningful and helpful than any unconscious impulse.

The only control we have is about ourselves

Life outside cannot be controlled or completely planned. But would it not be nice to know the inner life and learn to control this? Almost all participants struggle to find time for formal mindfulness practice. It often takes a while for the understanding of the „why“ to develop – and usually a little longer until a conviction forms that these 2, 5, or 15 minutes of regular introspection are so deeply enriching and very helpful for daily life.

Jane Fulton Alt, an American photographer, says, „We need to go inward instead of outward, and learn to trust our own inner guide, preserving our identity and finding the answers from within.“

Adjusting a few screws…

by Berenice Boxler

Recently I burned three fingers on the hot pot. I had been lost in thoughts, the day had been full of deadlines and time pressure, no eye for details such as that I had forgotten to put out the stove. A short cry, a lot of water and a wound cream with plaster – well, the complete programme. Then it was interesting to feel the wave-like pains and how they weakened throughout the day.

What does the body need to work well?

Since I had a meeting with the little ones at the Maison Relais at noon, I talked about it: the tremendous healing powers of the body, the coming and going of pain, taking care of an injury, and „What can you do to support the body, so that it works fine for as long as possible?“ The 4- and 5-year-olds outbid themselves with „eating vegetables, eating pineapple, moving, eating apples“. We then talked about exercise, about nutrition – but nobody was aware of the importance of sleep, although many of them are often very tired. Maybe one should be tackling this issue a bit more with the children?

Self-care is not easy

Young or older, everybody knows what‘s right for the body. Why is it so difficult to do it? Why is everything else more important than taking good care of yourself?

„I have no time.“ is probably one of the most common obstacles. „Oh, that‘s alright. I do not feel like doing it right now.“ is another. And why not prefer some chips and TV at the end of a stressful day, rather than a meditation or a yoga session? That worked out fine so far, right?

Time passes, and the body changes. Everything changes. And even if you‘re okay, it does not hurt to think long-term. How can we support the body as well as possible so that it will carry us for a long time? How can we stay (or become) agile and resilient? How can we care for ourselves mentally so that we are prepared for more difficult times? Because, you know, they will come, the difficult times, because that is just part of life.

1 tool, many screws

No one has to sit down and meditate for 20 minutes each day (although that would actually not be too bad an idea). And it‘s not about suddenly training for a half-marathon.

But there is one tool and many small screws that can help us to better keep our everyday life and body in good shape:

 

The tool: pause and ask: „How am I doing right now? What does my body need now?“

The more regularly we do that, the more of an expert we become for our condition and our very individual needs. And hey, who would not like to be an expert in the field of keeping yourself in good shape?!

The screws:

– go out in nature more often (for example to a workshop on forest bathing on 19 October, more information here), take a walk, let your mind wander, open your senses to the wonders of nature, etc

exercise the body regularly: yoga, walking, fitness, chi gong, football, jogging, cycling, club sport, swimming, HIIT, muscle training, etc. Find something that suits you individually.

– get used to eating something green on a regular basis (like salad or green smoothies)

de-normalize sugar: the body does not need artificial sugar, and ripe fruit can be a wonderful substitute – So maybe save the ice cream and cake for special occasions and then really enjoy it?

– grant the body enough sleep (everything, really everything, works better with a rested body)

– and much more…

 

It‘s not about turning your entire life upside down. Take the tool in your hand, turn a small screw here and there and just watch how you feel.

Waiting for something to finally come true…

by Berenice Boxler.

Soon, my children will celebrate their birthdays again, and patience is not necessarily a strength that they have already become a master in. Or let‘s take the little trip, planned for the next holidays. „How many more days?“ They will grouch and ask me the same thing five times. And since they are not yet into counting high numbers, we sometimes count more creatively: „You will go to the forest with the class one more time before.“

Well, we adults are no better, it is just that we often conceal our impatience more skilfully: We pull out the phone when we have to wait somewhere. We distract ourselves with television, activities, or food. We ask if the other one has actually gotten our mail, if he dares not to respond within a few days.

Never here but always on the way to someplace else

Very often we are on our way somewhere or we push ourselves to get to a certain point. Thus we miss the here and now, because our view is only over there (and in the future). A feeling of impatience quickly kicks in: at the bus stop, on an appointment, at the thought of the upcoming holiday. We are confronted with resistance, strife and attempts to solve it, because impatience has as its core the idea: This moment right now is not good enough. Thus I am waiting for something/somewhere else.

What is patience?

What is patience? The dictionary describes it as „the ability to accept delay, annoyance or suffering without complaining“, originally derived from the Latin word patientia (=endurance, submission). A person is viewed as being patient when he or she can wait for something without complaining. But there is also a touch of prohibition and the task of having to endure something that you do not want. The word implies that there is a goal to wait for.

But patience is so much more than just pulling yourself together and waiting.

Patience is a form of wisdom, a kind of inner knowing that everything unfolds when the right moment has arrived. To be patient means to have the equanimity and perseverance to wait for the natural development and to give the things the time they need. Patience means recognizing the duration of a process and accepting that it is exactly what it is. You cannot make the carrots grow faster by pulling on them.

The power of patience

Cultivating patience has the great power to fully respond to the present moment and to grow from the experience: „That‘s exactly how it is. And even if I don‘t like it, that‘s the way it is.“ Patience is the ability to accept difficulty when it comes, with a sense of strength, trust, and dignity. A moment full of patience can be very reassuring, with confidence in the nature of things, and that it is ok as it is right now. The cultivation of patience creates space for experiencing life and for growth.

Author and meditation teacher Jack Kornfield says: „A cup of understanding, a barrel of love, and an ocean of patience“.

So I can try to teach my children that of course they can look forward to the holidays and their birthdays, but that they should not miss out on their lives while waiting. And the next time when I wait for the delayed train, I can practice being in this moment with acceptance and more equanimity: that‘s the way it is – even if I do not like it.

Gratitude

by Berenice Boxler. 

“Thank you.” Probably more than once a day we use this little word, but it quickly becomes a phrase, a polite necessity. We are brought up to kindness and learn this little word – in connection with “please” – in early childhood. I too pay attention to whether my children express their appreciation when given a taster at the cheese counter. Gratitude is much more than a friendly acknowledgment.

Gratitude, one of the nine qualities of mindfulness according to Jon Kabat-Zinn, is not just an answer to someone or for some gift. Genuine gratitude needs no impulse and no receiving something in advance. Gratitude is especially nurturing when we feel it for what we already have.

I can be grateful for the ability to see and to feel the sun on my skin. I am grateful to my body for carrying me through life every day. And so much more… A meditation teacher once said he is currently deeply grateful for the absence of toothache.

Gratitude is a superpower:

  • Gratitude makes you happy. There are studies that show that a conscious practice of gratitude makes optimism stronger, inspires more and makes happier. But even without research, it is clear that regular feelings and expressions of gratitude increase the inner contentment and appreciation for what we have – and therefore we are less concerned about what we do not (yet) have.
  • Gratitude improves relationships. Honest and sincerely expressed gratitude for the small and large gestures in a relationship can greatly improve the general atmosphere, be it with love partners, in the family or in the professional life.
  • Gratitude helps against sleep disorders. This is the result of a study by Alex M. Wood of the University of Stirling, one of the world‘s most respected gratitude researchers. He and his team were able to show that people who feel and practice gratitude, sleep better and fall asleep more easily. Tip: If next time in bed in the evening, your head starts rolling its worrying slope again, maybe try a gratitude exercise? It certainly cannot harm…
  • Gratitude reduces stress and promotes well-being. Studies such as those by Martin Seligman and Tracy Steen have shown that exercises such as gratitude help reduce stress levels. Put simply, anyone who considers what he is grateful for cannot think about problems or fears at the same time. Further studies show that we feel less alone, have fewer physical stress symptoms, and have more energy.

Gratitude for being alive

Gratitude allows us to wake up to the wonders and richness of the present moment and not take things for granted. We breathe, we are alive, we have eyes and ears, etc. – This is usually not worth mentioning for us, but it should be. Mindfulness and gratitude go hand in hand: we can‘t be grateful for things that we are not aware of. As with all emotions, there is no black or white, it is a mixture. For example, I can be grateful for the new opportunities I have after having moved countries, and – at the same time – be sad at the friendships left behind. The one feeling does not exclude the other. Everything is allowed, even at the same time.

To notice good things, when and wherever they are, always brings us out of this dangerous vortex of thought, in which we quickly see the world as a place where bad things happen or where nothing works out the way we want. In reality, life consists of good and bad, but our brain is designed to pay more attention to the bad (so-called “negativity bias” of the brain). Mindful gratitude helps us to appreciate the beautiful moments of life, while on the other hand we are better able to create such moments for others.

Practices for more gratitude

There are many ways to practice gratitude and thus to nurture and strengthen the inner sense of fullness: e.g. journaling about things you are grateful for, consciously opening the eyes and perceiving the beautiful, honestly saying “I thank you” for a friendly gesture, thinking of 10 things you are grateful for (everything is fine here, be it “delicious breakfast”, “my healthy children”, or “having been in time for the bus”), or using imagination and 5 fingers for this exercise:

Thumb: What strengths and talents am I proud of?
Pointer finger: What in nature inspires and excites me?
Middle finger: Whom can I be of benefit today?
Ring finger: Who do I love from the bottom of my heart?
Little finger: For what in my life am I deeply grateful?

(Source: https://karrierebibel.de/dankbarkeit/, last loaded on 14.4.2019, 13:54).
As with any practice, the secret is regularity. The more often we practice it, the stronger it will get in us. Gratitude does not cost anything while it gives us so much. So what are you waiting for?

I thank you very much for reading this article!

The secret of nature

by Berenice Boxler.

Winter is almost over, the first buds have been searching for a way out in the warm days of February. The end of the cold season is always an invitation: an invitation to notice the blooming of life, to observe the growth of plants and flowers, to look at the changing greens of the grass, to greet the morning light. It‘s not that winter is unwanted or less valuable. But spring makes it easier to waking up to life.

Look at a tree, a flower, a plant. Let your awareness rest on it. How still they are, how deeply rooted they are in being. Let nature teach you the silence. Eckhart Tolle

What nature teaches us

In observing and perceiving nature, so much can be learned.

  • The permanence of change: The weather changes, the flowers grow, the trees sprout. Human life, too, is constantly changing, and our bodily sensations, thoughts, and feelings have as the only constant their impermanence. This can sometimes create a sense of anxiety or stress, knowing that nothing lasts forever and that, eventually, everything has to end at one point. However, nature show us the beauty of change and can smooth the way to accepting: Life is change. No moment is like the other, no feeling lasts forever, and also thoughts come and go (if we let them) like the clouds in the sky.
  • Patience: The meditation teacher Jack Kornfield once said, „You cannot grow carrots faster by pulling on them“. Nature follows its own laws of growth and decay, and we can only watch and wait patiently. As much as we may wish that it was summer, vacation, the big party, graduation … we can‘t control time. The moment is just the moment, and our mind can form the nicest caprices and lose itself in wishful thinking, but it will not go any faster. To cover up this inner insecurity, we try to distract ourselves, to stay busy. The practice of patience is a very helpful and deeply calming one. The poet Ralph Waldo Emerson says: „Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.“
  • Trust: Closely connected to patience is a sense of trust in the nature of things. When we exercise patience, we strengthen our trust in ourselves and in our environment. Eventually leaves will be on the trees again. Eventually it will get warmer. Eventually the holiday will start. With this knowing, grown from experience, knowledge and deep insight into the way of life and the guarantee of change, life can become much easier and more satisfying. It also gives us confidence that we can be with this time of transition and can live with patience and awaken curiosity – without waiting for something to arrive. Now is good enough.
  • Joy of Life: It can be very enriching and fulfilling to watch nature blossom. A walk in the woods, a deliberate view of the treetops, special care for the houseplant, an awakening for the twittering of birds – there is so much to discover when we open our senses. Opening the eyes again and again, widening the gaze (and releasing it from the square technical devices under our noses), letting the silence of nature affect us. Many studies prove the calming effect of nature on the state of the human mind.

Mindful savoury walks in springtime

I am looking forward to a new spring and to accompany this process with awakened senses and heart.

In collaboration with the Natural Park Our and the Ministère de l’Énergie et de l’Aménagement du territoire, I organize „Savoury Walks” to experience nature at different times of the day with an open mind:

  • Sunday 19 May at 7-9 in the morning
  • Tuesday 25 June at 19.30-21.30

You can find more information here.

Speech is silver…

by Berenice Boxler

We communicate countless times every day. Face to face or in writing by mail, SMS or otherwise. People share what they have experienced or what matters to them, be it just with their best friend or an anonymous crowd of followers. Without our ability to communicate, social interaction is difficult to imagine.

The question of why

Why would I like to tell my relatives that I am spending a wonderful holiday in a grandiose winter residence? Why do I call a friend and pour out my love broken heart? Why do I ask my children every day what their day was like?

The question of the „why“ of a communication or a conversation leads into our inner being, into our inner landscape. There are innumerable reasons why we would want to communicate: to be heard, to feel the other‘s compassion or compassionate joy, to be understood, liked or recognized, to feel better than others (need for superiority), community, closeness, etc. Every action has at its core one or more needs that need to be met – even if we are often unaware of this.

This is where mindfulness comes into play: recognizing why I want to talk. Am I lonely? Do I burst with pride and joy and want to let it out? Do I need understanding? This awareness of the inner state of emotions and thoughts (and physical well-being) can greatly affect how and with whom we speak – and if now is the right time.

Sometimes the needs of some people will oppose our own core values. Do you know people who like to brag about their accomplishments or always put themselves in the best light? Also, it is not easy to hear harsh criticism of one‘s own behaviour or work. But even these individuals fulfil an inner need: to uphold recognition, self-esteem, personal perfectionism, or something completely different. With a mindful attitude, we can easily observe this without judging it.

The conscious recognition of the inner landscape in the present moment holds the great opportunity to be more awake for our speaking and to be more skilful in our choice of time, listener and content.

The content: what do we say?

There is a story of Socrates asking another person to first send his story through three strainers: truth – kindness – necessity. When the story fails the test, Socrates says, „Well, if it is neither true nor good nor necessary, let it be buried and burden you and me not with it.

There are other traditions with contemplations about „wise speech“. When we check our speech habits to see if what we want to communicate is true, friendly, and indeed necessary to tell, then there is simply no need for gossip, accusation, and meaningless talk. That may not be easy to implement in practice. This question („Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary?“) has often helped me not to talk about others only by hearsay, impulsively express the harsh word or to gab when the other simply wants some quiet.

Where are we coming from: How do we speak?

The way we speak is no less important than the content. If I speak out of a state of anger or disappointment, then people won’t like listening to me. The other gets into a fight-or-flight mode and is hurt, ashamed or annoyed – and I achieve nothing, certainly not understanding or cooperation. A meaningful communication is not possible and distance is created.

Especially the children have the finest antennas for how we are. Our body language and our tone of voice tell them directly. My lesson („Now clean up your room!“) will fizzle out and be met with resistance. But if I‘m aware of my mood and I have the strong intention not to speak out of anger, then I‘ll wait – and apply some self-care and self-compassion – until I‘m able to combine clarity and friendliness. That might look like this: „Wow, what a creative play! Do you want to take so many suitcases on your trip? Where are you going? … When you‘re done playing, please put the suitcases back, otherwise the room can not be cleaned tomorrow.

It is not easy – but very worthwhile – to commit yourself never to speak when you are angry. At most something like „I am very upset and need some time for me now. We‘ll talk about this when I am calm again.“ is helpful, but everything else does not help us to what we need. A proverb says, „Anger is like burning coals: it burns us and the other“ – when we throw the coals to the other with our words or deeds, we burn ourselves with our rage.

Mindful communication needs practice

Our communication is characterized by habits, conditioning and thought patterns. But we can learn to slowly but surely navigate this huge ship of speech into a calmer sea, where there are not so many icebergs and pirates. It takes time and practice, but it‘s worth it.

Waiting for spring time

by Berenice Boxler

At the beginning of the year I was in Northern Germany on a retreat. Silence, meditation in sitting, walking and eating and in movement. Imagine a movie apparatus projecting a movie onto a collection of people. There will not be much to recognize, as there are too many forms, colours, movement, sounds. If the same movie is played onto a white wall, then you will start to see the content. This is exactly what happens in a retreat: no television or smartphones, no alcohol, no books and no talking – „silence as the real teacher“ (Jake Dartington). External distractions and routines are reduced to a minimum, so that one can see the inner processes (= films) more clearly. Only then can we see the tricks of editing and the art of putting it all together.

On one of the mindful walks, my attention turned to the landscape: grey and muddy, withered branches, well-kept but flowerless gardens, dirty horses in the pasture, everywhere puddles and rotten leaves. The houses were beautiful and you could see that the people here take great care to keep everything in order.

The brain is always working

Nevertheless, I was able to catch the following thought, which appeared again and again: „How beautiful will this look, once everything blooms!“ In my imagination I saw laughing children in summer dresses on the swings, flowering hedges, the pond full of plants and the house “Am Rosengarten” in all its glory.

And again and again I could see the lightning-fast functioning of the brain: external impressions (here: seeing) –> judging –> imagination and ideas: „what if …“ or „I think it would be more beautiful like this…“. Everything, but not the non-judgmental perception of the present moment: Right now it is so.

Life is happening now

But the practice of mindfulness does not consist in judging and criticizing these trains of thought. It‘s about recognizing how we humans function.

Realizing that we want to change things and situations that we do not like – even if only in our imagination. Realizing that we judge everything and everywhere. Realizing that we are nearly always working towards a goal, waiting for something (spring for example). Realizing that this moment in its supposedly imperfection is life. Realizing that there are so many beautiful and exciting things to experience right now: the beautiful eyes of the horses, the clear air, the voice of the body (cold!), the connection with other people, nature in all its wet green and brown colouring.

Right now it is like this, and there is nothing missing. With this realization, we can stop waiting, and live our lives, just as it unfolds.

Bathing in mindfulness…

by Berenice Boxler

“Everything is allowed.”

In a mindfulness course, you can this sentence several times. It means no more and no less than the fact that everything we experience is allowed to be exactly as it is. It’s about acceptance, about letting go of every expectation and goal, about letting reality be as it is. Any sensation is allowed: itching, tingling, heat or cold, pain or well-being. Whether unpleasant or pleasant, it is just a sensation that you can sense in the body. Every thought is allowed: “I do not like that. That’s nice! Oh damn, again … He’s annoying! I can’t do this.” And so on … As inconvenient as it sometimes seems, every thought is just part of our experience. A mental phenomenon that comes and goes as the clouds in the sky come and go. Even the thought: “I should not think like this” is allowed. And yes, every emotion is allowed: joy, jealousy, anger, gratitude, fear, loneliness. Everything is part of this life and everything will happen to us sooner or later.

An environment of repression

It is at the heart of every mindfulness course to learn to be with everything and to allow everything. As unpleasant as a pain or a destructive thought may seem, it is possible to simply be with it. In terms of emotions, this is really not easy, because most of us grew up in an environment where pleasant emotions (joy, love, contentment) were allowed and explicitly wanted, but the unpleasant emotions (such as anger, hate, jealousy) were not. As a child, one was sent away when being angry (“go to your room!”), one often heard “don’t cry, that’s not so bad” or was being distracted from the disappointment of the failed exam with the prospect of a party later in the day. Just being here – and learning that this is all part of life and will pass again – has never been an option. We could never learn to be with the unpleasant and to learn that we can survive this too, build resilience.

Repression and ban …

People do a lot to avoid feeling their own difficult feelings. And the effort is no less great when it comes to not being „burdened“ by the unpleasant emotions of other people. This is also a big topic in the parenting course, which is about allowing the children to have all the emotions. But it is so hard when we have never learned it ourselves or are still being deprived of our feelings as adults. Only recently I saw in a TV talent show the presenter welcoming the candidate that did not make it to the next round with the words: „Don‘t be sad!

But that‘s exactly what it‘s about! She is allowed to be sad! She was disappointed because she did her best and it was not enough. Who would not be disappointed?! If she were allowed to accept her disappointment and sadness, then she could feel it in the body, let it flow, let it out, maybe with some tears. And then it will pass again, as long as the thoughts do not constantly ruminate about this moment. This is the course of events, the course of emotions. Everything comes, and everything goes, a constant flow, just pure life.

… and the consequences

But if we suppress it, if we swallow the loneliness, if we forbid jealousy, if we do not allow the feeling of helplessness, then this repression and non-acceptance can have serious consequences. Some people react with gastric ulcers, others have sleep problems, or they may experience out-bursting aggression and rage. Maybe you know that from people of all ages in your life who suddenly explode, seemingly triggered by a tiny thing? Well, there has been accumulating something that needs to come out, one way or the other. And then comes the shame afterwards about the fact that one has „lost control“.

Everything is allowed

Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese monk, says, „Give your anger, your despair, your fear, a bath of mindfulness every day.” We must learn again to allow everything. Whether frustration or disappointment or fear, it‘s just fine. It is human. And it‘s healthy to feel the feelings. We can learn that we can have the emotion, feel it in the body – but maybe not express it if this could hurt other people. Even though it is still a long way to acceptance in society, we can, no, we must allow ourselves to be human. And no-one is in a good mood and satisfied 24/7 …

It can be a great help to check in on a regular basis and to feel how things are going. How is my body? Which thoughts concern me? Which emotions are there to be felt? The „3-Minute-Breathing Space“ (here is a link to a guided breathing space on youtube) can help to pause again and again and to feel what is currently in the foreground. And never forget: everything is allowed.

Perspective – how we see the world

Do you know the story of the blind wise men and the elephant? The king sent his wisest men to experience and then describe an elephant. Since they were blind, each of them caught only one part: an ear, the tail, a leg, the trunk. They considered this part of the elephant to be the truth and argued about what an elephant would look like: like a branch, a long arm, a fan, a thick pillar. The king explained to them that everyone had perceived only part of the truth, their very own truth, and the wise men felt ashamed.

This story is often told on the second evening of the MBSR course when it comes to “perception”. The mindfulness practice wants us to be more open, to observe everything that is here. It’s not just about the trunk that feels like an arm in the story. It’s also about the accompanying thought: “That’s exactly how it is.” This strong identification with how we see the world can often cause our world view to conflict with someone else’s worldview.

Inner voice and thinking patterns

Our inner voice is very strong. Anyone who has ever tried a difficult task and whose inner critic wanted to tell him, “I can not do that!” knows its persuasive power. Often, we believe this voice more than others. If a friend tells us, “You look good!”, then we might say “I think I have dark circles under my eyes”, or “Does my belly not look too big in this shirt?” We often doubt the external perspective of others and stick to our small world view, which we cherish and nurture and cling to – even though we may not really like it. It is particularly difficult to accept compliments. “Wow, you did great!” is already commented by my youngest with the following words: “That’s totally easy!” (Well, except that he uses more colloquial words). I also regularly hear from my daughter: “I can’t do this!”, But more and more she tries again. And most of the time it works. At such moments, my inner voice is very strong, discussing what is the best way to save her from despair, but not to relieve her of the work and the sense of achievement.

The path is always the same: I observe what is in the foreground. Does she need an encouragement, a break, or my help? Nevertheless, every moment is exciting for itself, potentially holding a wrong decision – and this also depends on my own condition.

We all live in our own little truth

Everyone, young or old, has a limited perspective. We all live in our own little world, in our own little truth. We categorize and judge people on the basis of age, appearance, clothing, language, behaviour, etc. We evaluate whether or not he/she fits into our world or not. And then we deal with it accordingly.

Mindfulness enables us to come to life, and thus to the truth that we all have a filter in front of our eyes. Our parents, teachers, friends and life situations are constantly working on this filter, shaping and colouring it. “I’m shy.” has been one of my main filters for a long time, limiting me a lot and denying me new ways and important experiences. As I thought of myself, so I was, because “as we see the world, it presents itself for us.” Only through the mindfulness practice did I realize that my learned shyness was only a tiny part of my truth, just a thought that I had carved in stone. Recognizing and letting go of this paradigm was immensely liberating and opened the door to the world. It is still not easy to approach strangers, but I can recognize the old impulses and thought patterns – and then decide not to follow them and simply see what happens if I choose a different path. Just observing, in a calm, open and friendly way.