The Sacred Centre

sharing – daring – caring – writing from the heart

Tag: mindfulness

Seventh Day – Departure to the unknown

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Farewells started early at 7am with one of my room mates and carried on with the other three hours later. I had caught up with taking some photos during the morning and surprisingly it felt like the most relaxing day of all. I got close to tears when the last of my room mates left but still the gates wouldn’t open. The longed for emotional release didn’t happen.

I wondered whether my own practice, however little and sporadic it might have been, since my last stay at Plum Village, had made more of a difference than I realised, meaning that I was already much calmer and more present than I had been during my first visit, despite my recent stressful experience. I also wonder whether this means that I will be able to re-integrate quicker back into the “real world” compared to the last time when I had difficulties to adjust.

Then thing is that we don’t always realise how deep we are into something – be it stress or relaxation. We simply carry on living. The only time we really notice how deep we have gone is when we experience the opposite. That’s how we measure success or failure. So without the bad we won’t know how good we are and equally we won’t know how bad we have got until we feel good again.

And even though I feel rather bad for having been so critical during my stay at Plum Village, I know that it was important for me to recognize and experience those emotions to be able to process them, so I would be ready to deal with them back in the “real world”. And where better to deal with such emotions than in the humbling embrace of a Buddhist community in the heart of Plum Village.

So forgive me if my past few posts made you feel uncomfortable but the point I’m trying to make is how stress and anxieties can impact on your life, how they literally suck the joy out of it and leave you in a bleak twilight state that can be very difficult to deal with. So if reading those posts made you uncomfortable, may I ask you to put yourself into the position of someone who struggles with day to day activities and try to understand that the discomfort you feel while reading is the same discomfort they feel most days while carrying on with their lives, just much worse. And it is not just a grumpy person or someone who’s having a bad day!

I will continue to write from the heart, because that’s what this blog is all about, even though it might not be the most uplifting of places at the moment. And what I find hardest is the fact that not many people are prepared to accept that not everyone can be cheered up with a joke or a cup of tea, but that doesn’t mean that you should stop trying. These people need you to just be there for them and accept them the way they are without judgement or overwhelming advice. Just have an open heart and listen deeply. Increasingly more people experience stress and anxieties, so there might be a time when you may need support yourself and I bet that those who previously struggled will be there to return the favour because they understand what it is like.

So many people with such issues hide because they don’t want to be a burden or a nuisance, they don’t want to ruin their friends’ day, and they avoid contact because the dreaded questions of “how are you” isn’t an easy one to answer. So they either hide behind that smile while silently writhing in pain inside or they might say how they really feel and expose themselves to the unpredictable reaction of others. I myself didn’t fully understand how it feels until I experienced it myself. And I want to make others aware of it, to broaden their horizon, to create more acceptance and understanding and most importantly to come to terms with it myself. I hope to keep your company for a little while longer, for hope is all I have.

Love
Anna

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Sixth Day – Rest

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Today was Mindfulness Day at Plum Village, where once again all the hamlets got together. My back had significantly improved since the Thai Massage and this morning I was able to sit much more comfortably during meditation. I did working meditation as allocated in the toilet block under the watchful presence of that lump in my throat. Why? What is it about cleaning that makes me feel so annoyed and upset? Is it too downgrading, does it make me feel a failure? It can’t be that bad, I used to be a cleaner myself!

After the optimistically painless start into the day I only made it half-way through the Dharma Talk DVD. I felt so tired, woozy, sick and had this panicky feeling of walls closing in. So, after a little while of fidgeting and fighting off sleep, I left, the walk of shame through the big hall filled with a crowd of monastic and lay people, and went to bed, breathing heavily.

I spent most of the day resting in bed, away from the many people that had come to visit, skipped Dharma sharing and the second lot of working meditation, but had a good talk with my room mate instead, who once again felt similar. It’s incredible how similar we are indeed. It somehow feels good, not to be alone with these awful feelings.

I felt I could go a little deeper during walking meditation later in the day. But overall I just want to go home now. This whole group commitment thing was getting too much. But I also realized once and for all that I could not live as a nun as I had previously thought I might one day, but really admire those who do and am grateful that they offer us the opportunity to find ourselves and to practice with them.

Lazy evening meant we had a lot of time to talk. Us three room mates sat under the willow by the frog pond with another girl and her boyfriend form the other hamlet. We laughed and spoke about things that mattered to us and the world. No preference, just like-minded people. Later in our room we kept on talking until nearly midnight. And there it was again – that feeling from childhood – the uncomplicated and fun pyjama parties, staying over at a friend’s house with no worries…other than knowing that tomorrow it will be all over again already.

A couple of days ago one of my room mates was talking about leaving Facebook, for all the same reasons that I have always wanted to leave. After my initial disappointment that I won’t be able to keep in touch with her in that easy non-committal way that Facebook offers, I decided it was time for me to leave too. And it felt so good! I actually look forward to going home and clicking the leaving button 🙂

Fifth Day – Endurance

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I share a lot of similarities with one of my room mates. We both consider ourselves highly sensitive (read about The Extrovert Detox) and always aim for the same sitting cushion. Just like me she often feels like running away, not linking rules and even today felt the same irritation as me during meditation. We are both aware how easily we can pick up other’s emotions and mistake them for our own.

The “Mutant Message Down Under” revealed a few more insights to me. “There should be no suffering by any creature except what they accept for themselves. Each soul on the highest level of our being could select to be born into an imperfect body; they often came to teach and influence the lives they touched. All diseases and disorders have some spiritual connection and serve as stepping stones if we would only open up and listen to our bodies to learn what is taking place.”

“You cannot hear the voice of Oneness when you are busy talking. Clear your mind and thoughts and wait to receive.”

I wondered whether I should have just stayed at home with this book of wisdoms instead of travelling all this way to find peace at Plum Village in  France but realised immediately that you only learn by practicing, not merely by reading about it in a book.

After the alarm of one of our room mates had gone on and on and on this morning while she blissfully carried on sleeping, and not to mention the seemingly endless sitting mediation, we now returned giggling joyfully from a deep relaxation session which somehow resembled more a Chinese karaoke session. The singing just wouldn’t stop. Irritation arose and found release in laughter with each other. But the best was that the girl who slept through her alarm also managed to sleep through the relaxation! Unbelievable! 🙂

And it was only 10am… What else would we have to endure today? I can generally be quite impatient and when I feel I need to go I will just go. Sitting through mental and physical pain and discomfort is challenging but it also tests your endurance.

Me and one of my room mates skipped working meditation. Just gave in to the feeling of disinterest and irritation. I don’t know yet what it means in the long run but it did make me feel guilty, neglecting the community. I almost feel like I lost interest. I don’t know if this is part of my current issue with anxiety and depression or the medication adjustment phase, or even just plain disinterest itself. Maybe I’ve stressed myself that much that I really can’t find my quite core again?

My reluctance to carry on participating here might actually make it easier to re-integrate back into real life again after. Maybe that is also an indication that I’m ready to tackle real life again instead of hiding from it. I also haven’t taken a single photo yet since arriving at Plum Village. It made the flow easier I suppose. Anyway I have everything documented already from my last stay three years ago.

I had a deep moment during walking meditation where we stood by a still water and I momentarily got lost in the mirroring depth of lush spring green trees and leaves on the water’s surface as fellow participants appear one after the other like shy deer.

Me and my room mates finally agree to wake up without the extra alarm, promising we would wake each other up if the bell didn’t.

Fourth Day – Fighting Pain

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I awoke feeling slightly ill, very heavy, not able to motivate myself to move a single limb, while I was very aware of a fist sized pain sensation in my back. I really much rather skip working meditation today but that also makes me feel incredibly guilty and such a failure. I always see things through, I never give up. But I worry, worry, worry about every possible outcome regardless…

The Mutant Message Down Under revealed that “souls were made in the likeness of Divine Oneness, capable of pure love and peace, with the capacity for creativity and caretaking of many things. We were given free will and this planet to use as a learning place for emotions, which are uniquely acute when the soul is in human form”.

The new back pain is probably just because I changed my sitting practice yesterday and used new muscles.

The working meditation wasn’t that bad after all, having been gently pushed to go by one of my fellow room mates. The process of allocating who does what was pure hell and I had to really fight the urge to leg it and hide. But I got what I wanted, the library, which was basically sorting books and was very calming on my mind. It’s funny, as with the veg patch, first you don’t want to do it, then you get into the flow and forget your surroundings, like some sort of trance and suddenly you “come round” and feel exhausted but also proud of your achievement. I wonder whether I will be able to the same at work next week.

Of course I tried to place a heavy burden of blame on myself for once again doing only the things I wanted, getting my way again, and knowing that if I hadn’t there would have been a very high chance of me disappearing in my room, hiding in bed.

Later that day I had an awesome Thai massage by one of the retreat participants who had listened to my dharma sharing the other day and needed to practice. It eased my back pain and made me feel a little fresher and clearer in my head as well. I can only recommend you try it out for yourself!

A beautiful moment at the frog pond, catching the last golden rays of the setting sun, while listening to the evening bell and song. The water was sparkling and glittering, flies danced ecstatically, the sweet scent of freshly mowed grass still lingered in the air, as three souls unite when my room mates cross paths and briefly join me in the present moment, sharing eternity with each other.

I feel easier, less tense and frustrated. Sitting is easier, just eating is still a bit cramped. I was humbled by the realisation that someone had gone through the kind trouble of peeling the kiwi instead of just cutting them into halves. I find myself getting too late to activities. Am more relaxed. I figured that you don’t necessarily come here to be relaxed but to learn to relax and then be ready relaxed for when you leave back into reality.

Third Day – Releasing Blame

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This morning was beautiful. Fresh air after the rain, golden sunshine. As I sat down to look over the frog pond, a light sprinkle of rain blessed us while the sun looked on. It was as if the rain wanted to be part of this beautiful experience, like a cosmic handshake or hug.

Last night us three in the room were talking and laughing and it felt so good, exactly what I had been missing. Like hanging out with friends you’ve known all your life and you’re finally catching up again, despite having known them a mere three days. It felt good in my heart.

All night I was dreaming, waking, sleeping, tossing and turning. Today is lazy day, two more hours sleep, breakfast, a long and gentle yoga session, shower. I’m wondering: Have I been on my own too long or too much so that I feel the only way is my own way? Is that why I feel like rebelling against rules?

In on of my dreams last night I cried a little after a silly girl said to me that maybe I shouldn’t go on a run with them since my bad mood would bring them all down. Afterwards I felt like saying that she “should” have been more supportive and could have helped me lift my mood instead of rejecting me. I didn’t cry for long, there were things to do, even in my dream world.

I’m reading “Mutant Message Down Under” by Marlo Morgan and am equally amazed as I am unsure of whether it is fiction or reality. The reviews are confusing but the simple truths of humanity, which we seem to have forgotten all about, are revealed by example of the life and believes of the Australian Aborigines. It might be an invented story but this doesn’t make it any less mind blowing and answers a lot of questions as well as offers advice, coinciding with my own thoughts and conversations with other retreat participants. As soon as I pick up the book, there is the answer in black and white!

In terms of dreams, for example, one member of the tribe realises after a dream about a turtle with only two legs on one side that his aches and pains had materialised because his job as tool maker, which he loved, had become less enjoyable with more self-inflicted pressure, so he was signalled a need for change. He had become one-sided, hence the two legged turtle, no longer balanced in work and play. He said: “When thinking became flexible, joints became flexible. No pain no more.”

There will be more working meditations this week and something in me is really going against it. I struggle enough with the early sitting mediations and worry that by pushing myself too hard I will get worse again. On the other hand I wonder whether it is a good opportunity to gently get myself prepared for work again. I do worry that I won’t be able to do my job when I return next week…

On jobs Mutant Message Down Under sais: “Business seemingly has become a hazard to humanity. It started as means to get better things, to express individual talent and become part of the money system. But now the goal of business is to stay in business. But business isn’t real, it’s only an idea, an agreement.”

The book describes how the tribal members believe that the difference you make in the world is by leading by example, by the things you do. That gives them the drive to be a better person each day. They say: “People are non-living when angry, depressed, feeling sorry for themselves or filled with fear. Breathing doesn’t determine being alive. It just tells others which body is ready for burial or not. Not all breathing people are in a state of aliveness. It’s okay to try out negative emotions to see how they feel, but it certainly isn’t a place one would wisely want to stay.”

I remembered yesterday’s dharma talk and the topic of blame. “We can’t blame others, no matter how much we feel we ought to.” Our emotions are within us and others merely mirror them. What we react to is ourselves. Just what to do with that blame? It’s easy to direct it at ourselves, but not advisable. Sitting with it is hard. A life without blame, or rather the prospect of it, appears to be happier. How does it feel to be happy, without anger or pain, I ask one of the girls: “Light, free” she sais after a few moments of thinking. “Happiness is peaceful” sais another. I wonder, will we get bored when we’re always happy? Do we create emotions to “entertain” us when we’re bored, like a theatre production?

I realise how much I have been blaming others: my father, teacher, technology, the world, climate change, other people, my boyfriend, manager, work, depression, the system, food, the weather, my genes, my body, myself. So what remains if I don’t blame any of those? A whole lot of nothing?

Again from the book: “The only way to pass any test is to take the test. All tests at any level are repeated until you pass.”

“Happiness is freedom from wanting!” Leaving the bookshop “just” with an ice-cream is a start.

After a long lazy day we practice beginning anew in the evening. Touching the earth I vow to release blame and express my hurts. There are still no tears but I feel lighter, happier after releasing attachment to blame. I’ve been tying too many knots over the years by swallowing hurts and blaming others for my pain instead of speaking up and clearing my emotions. Now I have arrived at the bottom and can begin to untie one knot at a time. Releasing the built up anger, becoming free and happy.

That night I write a letter to my boyfriend, saying how I admire him, regret how I made him suffer with my mood swings and not listening to him properly, saying how I also feel disappointed that he doesn’t give me his full attention when talking to him, wishing that we can become more aware of each other’s emotional needs. I feel relief.

Second Day – Anger Manifests

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We all spend the day at the Upper Hamlet, a long day with dharma talk, formal lunch and dharma sharing. Inside of me it was boiling and bubbling, my back hurt with a passionate burning sensation which stretched all along the whole length of my spine. I was fed up with sitting and being “happy”. The dharma talk fittingly spoke of a crying baby inside of us that needs attention.

A humble moment occurred when Thich Nhat Hanh, zen monk and founder of Plum Village who was still affected by his illness, was wheeled in during the dharma talk while a hall full of monks, nuns and lay friends sang “I have arrived, I am home“. His presence was immediately noticeable. He was only able to hold up one hand in half prayer pose but with his eyes full of energy he scanned every single face in the hall, going along the rows of people. I also spotted Sister Chân Không, who helped to set up Plum Village, among the group of monks and nuns during the welcome song at the beginning of the day, as if seeking refuge. I was very touched and humbled to be in the same room as those two inspiring individuals.

I was hoping to see one of the monks again that I spoke with the last time I was there but I couldn’t spot him in the crowd. We had shared from the heart our experience of not being recognized and accepted by our parents. There had been no change in my situation apart from a new sort of anger that was brewing at still being ignored by my father and I was intrigued to hear whether there had been any changes for him. Later back at the Lower Hamlet, a girl who attended one of the other dharma sharing groups said how touched she was by a monk in her group who shared with his mother who had come to visit him from the other end of the world and that both had cried. By her description of him I could assume that it was him, tall, big nose, still with his hair, slightly curled and combed back. I was saddened to think I missed him, the lump in my throat tightened. But then I heard we might still meet the other hamlets again for a day of mindfulness later in the week. That would be good, maybe the time just wasn’t right yet.

During dharma sharing I spoke from the heart how I had tried to keep up my practice since my last visit to Plum Village three years ago and how I felt like a failure for my stress related anxiety despite my knowledge and awareness of mindfulness and had come to Plum Village in the hope to find my flow again. But instead, I said, I was experiencing frustration and anger, feeling like I want to run away, but figured that since I was aware of these emotions I might as well sit with them and see what happens. The dharma talk also mentioned how our emotions are not us, that they are mere visitors in our house. So we can sit with them but we won’t let them take over our house.

It was interesting to hear others share how they were struggling, especially in their second week (even if mine was three years later). It seems to be that way. Also, when the need to share arises it appears to be common to feel your heart race or a pressure feeling in your chest. For me it was also accompanied by anger at what others were saying, which subsided once I had said what I felt and was able to listen to the others without that negativity inside of me. I felt a little lighter afterwards, as if someone had lifted the lid off the pressure cooker, even had a few more natural and less constrained conversations with other participants afterwards.

I want to cry, let it all out, but it just wasn’t happening! My 48 hours were up, where were the tears?

And after learning about non-attachment we merrily go into the gift shop and buy pretty and useful things we don’t really need.

The key to a happy and emotionally balanced life is to let the heart speak when it calls out. I wouldn’t be depressed if I had been able to speak up openly and clearly express my opinion, regardless of it being different to others. I need to start doing that. No point in silently agreeing with others only because you get their point. You can bring your own point across as well and calmly work on finding a middle point agreement that suits everyone.

I probably also tried too hard to be mindful, setting myself up for disappointment. I feel suffocated by the rules of meal times. They are all different and I’m just never quite sure when to wait, eat or get up. Earlier we were unsure because there had been no bell and it was already ten minutes after beginning of meal time and lazy evening. So when I observed a nun take food I thought it meant we could help ourselves. But when picking a plate I was reminded that the bell hadn’t yet invited dinner and the nun had some other reason for taking food. Felt like such a fool! And my internal magma was bubbling…

 

 

First Day – Irritation Rises

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While travelling to Plum Village I kind of naively believed to be travelling and arriving on my own until half the train got up to leave at the same station. And the girl that sat next to me on the plane also stood there! Having been to Plum Village before I found it easier to settle in and be. I slipped straight into my comfy yoga pants and poncho and looked forward to a wholesome week of calm, despite the strong headache I experienced on the evening of arrival.

However, as it goes, the first irritations already came to the surface right on the first morning. I woke up from the 5am bell, not having slept all too well, and was looking forward to laying in the dim morning light for a little bit longer while listening to the gong, when instead my room mate’s mobile phone alarm was going every five minutes for the next thirty minutes and persistent plastic bag rustling ensued from the other.

I had a rather enlightening dream though, which helped me feel really good about my unsure thoughts to look for a new job. In the dream I made that decision and announced it openly, which felt liberating and good, a feeling of relief that still registered in my tired bones when I woke up.

My irritation grew further during orientation, when a retreat participant with a persistent sniff sat right behind me. The meal time rules seemed to have gotten more complicated too, or did I just not realise the last time? Breakfast: noble silence, fill tables and only eat when table full with at least six others. Lunch: Noble silence, sit anywhere, only eat when everyone is seated at all tables, don’t get up for at least 20 minutes. Dinner: Noble silence, sit anywhere, start eating straight away. My back started to hurt from sitting unsupported, the Sister kept going on and on… Too slow, collection of mats at the end, too slow… but I’m also able to leave it be better than the last time.

I’m diving into the anonymity of the group of participants without feeling alone. Where else can one be with a large group of people from all  over the world without the need to talk or interact and without feeling left out? Maybe I’m excluding myself too much. It’s still early days, the group still needs to find itself.

I still feel rather restless, like as if I should be doing something, can’t stay down very long, get up and walk, slow walking. I’m somewhat in a hurry to I don’t know where. It must be my anxiety, though I always thought it is enthusiasm, curiosity drive. The lump in my throat came up during walking meditation but went again at some point. During the committed quiet time at lunch and while weeding during working mediation I felt trapped, angry, impatient and had a strong urge to run.

The last time I was here it took me 48 hours to unexpectedly cry. It was crucial for me in my process of letting go and I’m hoping it will happen again this time. Let’s see what happens tomorrow.

 

 

Behind the Smile

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Lower Hamlet, Plum Village, France

Three years ago I spent a week at Plum Village, a Buddhist monastery in France, which teaches the mindfulness philosophy of Thich Nhat Hanh (read about it here). Ever since then have I been practicing to keep my calm but found it often difficult in the fast world outside the comforting surroundings of Plum Village, and the sense of peace I acquired during my week there soon dissolved like clouds in the sky.

A month ago I experienced work related stress and anxiety. Some might, and some did, say they saw it coming, I had been under a lot of stress at work over the past two years. I blame myself, because I took on so much, but there is also a lot to be said for the additional stress at work with unpredictable and often unmanageable workloads and also when our department moved on top of it all.

I also feel a failure for not being able to get on top of it and instead ending up unable to work, or even live, for that matter, despite everything I had learned about stress management and health and wellbeing. I went against my belief that we can heal ourselves with a healthy and nutritious diet, exercise, a positive attitude to life and whichever complementary or alternative therapy suits by taking antidepressants. I was always critical towards medications, the chemicals and side effects, and worried they might change me. But the stress and the anxiety had festered so much I already hardly recognized myself anymore, so taking pills couldn’t possibly be any worse. And it wasn’t. It turned out to be the best I could possibly have done since every aspect of my life slowly improved over the past weeks.

The physical, mental and emotional symptoms had become unbearable and are difficult to explain, especially since from the outside I didn’t look much different. It was the inner turmoil, the persistent unhappiness, constant worries, the tiredness, exhaustion and aching limbs, the acid cursing through my veins, the heart racing, that lump in my throat, the lack of focus and motivation, the deep sadness and feeling of loneliness, all hidden behind a calm smile, which only faded when nobody was watching. I didn’t know what to do, all my stress busting practices, meditation, yoga, walks, acupressure, acupuncture, psychotherapy didn’t seem to work anymore. Even worse, I was more and more unable to do them. I realised I was getting really bad when I stopped doing my usual daily yoga practice. So I summoned up my last strength and tried again to make an appointment with my GP.

At the moment I feel very good, calm, relaxed, at ease, happy. I have crossed the 4 week threshold of the adjustment phase of my medication relatively unharmed by side effects. I feel more peaceful within myself, enjoying time with my partner without fear and worries, being among people without panic, waking up without my heart racing, appreciating simple moments, having the motivation and will to get up and do things and not worrying too much about my return to work. I carried on with my daily yoga, meditation, acupressure and walks and am certain that without them I would either have gone down a long time ago already or would be much deeper into the illness and less likely to recover so smoothly and quick.

The thing is that we don’t always realise how deep we are into something – be it stress or relaxation. We simply carry on living. The only time we really notice how deep we have gone is when we experience the opposite. That’s how we measure success or failure. So without the bad we won’t know how good we are and equally we won’t know how bad we have got until we feel good again.

My second visit to Plum Village wasn’t as joyful as the first but brought on more of a struggle, which could be due to anxiety, the medication adjustment phase or simply because I had changed as a person. I will share my thoughts and feelings from that week with you over the next few days.

Until then
Anna

Vision 2016

Do you know that feeling, when you are really passionate about what you do and feel life couldn’t possibly be getting any busier and yet it does and you come to that point where you suddenly stop caring about what you do and don’t want to do anything at all no more?

To stop caring, together with irritability, mood swings and tiredness, is  a sure sign you’re heading towards burnout. Those signs should be anybody’s wakeup call to stop and rest. Better even to not even get there in the first place. The irony in my case is that, being very passionate about helping others, I have put such a big effort into ensuring everyone else’s wellbeing this year that I simply exhausted myself in the process.

So here it is, my vision board for 2016. Be inspired!

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Similar to last year I (still) feel the strong need to slow down and do less. Last year’s collage was therefore very simple and calming and although I wanted something similar for this year I ended up with a collection of concrete reminders to actually calm down, most of which I found fittingly in this month’s edition of Psychologies Magazine.

One thing I would like to do is to learn more about helping others de-stress, without stressing myself of course:) There was an advertising for a stress course with a photo of a monk which spoke to me which is why I have included it in the collage. There was just something about the sense of discipline and groundedness it emanated that I liked.

There is a lot to be said about the “Power of a Rest Day” and knowing that “within you there is a stillness and a sanctuary to which you can retreat at any time” (Hermann Hesse) is very reassuring. There was an article in the magazine that went through the four seasons and I particularly liked those as focal points.

Winter: “remember you’re a human being – slow down and take time to be.”

Spring: “Gratitude – the need to spring clean. Clearing cupboards clears my mind.”

Summer: “Flower Power – Find a fragrant flower, close you’re eyes, take deep breaths and inhale deeply.”

Autumn: “Cherish your mid-point – don’t let achievements determine your sense of self-worth. I’m calmer if I stay balanced and remain at mid-point.”

Henry Thoreau put it best: “Our life is frittered away by detail… simplify, simplify.” First thing to do when you’re feeling stressed and run down: sleep more and chill out! The HALT technique does just that. When you feel stressed stop and check whether you’re hungry, angry, lonely or tired. If either of those are the case you can come up with a suitable solution instead of biting someone’s head off.

And last, but not least: the 10 Keys of Happiness: do things for and connect with others, look after your body, look at the world around you, learn new things and have a goal to work towards to, improve your resilience, be positive, accept yourself, be part of something bigger.

Finally the first line’s of a book by Lorna Gibb: “In the beginning there was me. Actually, no, that’s not quite right. In the beginning there was the idea of me.” You can be who you want to be, it all starts with a thought and a feeling!

So now that I have taken most of the magazine apart I feel I should by another copy to keep as a reference 🙂

A Merry Christmas and a calm and happy 2016!

Love

Anna

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When time allows

Have you ever noticed how slow time passes when you don’t check for time?

Having purposefully left my mobile phone switched off over the weekend I find myself swimming in a see of calm and peace with very little worry for anything other than making the most of each moment. And the moments keep coming. Every now and again I throw a casual glance at the kitchen clock when I happen to pass by and am left wondering why there is still so much time of the day left. This is a beautiful feeling and I am savouring every long moment of it.

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The need to check my phone for missed calls, messages, emails, the weather, news and facebook updates had become obsessive. And I don’t even like it! It’s the reward centre of my dear brain that urges my nervous system to act and find new stimulation to increase my happiness, and thus a lot of time is wasted picking up my phone and checking stuff. But instead of making me happier I felt increasingly more stressed.

I just finished reading “The Time Keeper” by Mitch Albom which has a crucial message about the invention of time: “Once we began to chime the hour we lost the ability to be satisfied. There was always a quest for more minutes, more hours, faster progress to accomplish more in each day. The simple joy of living between sunrises was gone. Everything man does today to be efficient, to fill the hour, does not satisfy. It only makes him hungry to do more. Man wants to own his existence. But no one owns time. When you are measuring life, you are not living it.”

So I urge you to claim back your time, stop watching it go by and start living it! Go out and brush through the yellow autumn leaves on the ground, listen to the wind in the trees, watch that squirrel jump about, smile back at the occasional burst of sun and for once, even if it is just for that one moment, forget that time exists!

Have a lovely day!
Anna

That moment where you finally stop and take a deep breath

Poppy

Amidst the confusion of suddenly having nothing major to do after two years of university did I find myself taking the first conscious breath in what seems a lifetime.

It is very very strange. I was soo looking forward to finishing, sitting here fidgeting in my chair in front of my computer writing the last few paragraphs on my essays, that I was rather surprised at the sudden feeling of sadness wash over me on the actual last day of university. Is it just again the concept of “endings” (click here to read all about it) that shakes me? That things won’t be the same? Some of us started a bit later on that day than others in the group but I felt the strong need to come in earlier at the usual time, because it would be the last time we all sat together in the canteen.

So now that it is over, two of the most stressful years of my life, that brought so many changes to myself and my practice at work, I am left in a dazed state of confusion, in desperate need to relax but unable to just stop. It is good to have that time to just sit and breathe without feeling guilty that I’m wasting time. But it also takes a lot of effort on my part to not just carry on and look for the next project to embark on.

Many times over the past year did I feel like writing about all the changes taking place and new epiphanies arising but simply didn’t find the time for it. And how nice a feeling to be looking forward to writing from the heart again, compared to clinical evidence based practice.

This is just the confusion stage, once I’m over it I can begin to listen to my heart again and share it’s story with you.

Until then

With Love

Anna

That New Year Feeling

As the end of the year drew closer I felt inspired to create a new vision board for the New Year.

I thumped through pages and pages of magazines with beautiful photos and inspiring quotes, following a feeling that I had for the New Year. It is a humbling feeling, much calmer and peaceful than the past couple of years. I will be finishing university in the summer and am looking forward to resting during the latter half of the year. And I have achieved quite a fair amount in the past year. New opportunities have opened, my role at work has changed fundamentally and I as a person have equally grown and changed. Now I feel the need to take some time to adapt to those changes, to re-centre and find my save ground again on which I can stand and feel safe while I figure out what kind of person I am now.

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“Be the change you want to see in the world.” Ghandi – Dreaming, waking, sleeping, devoting. – This is it (Thich Nhat Hanh). – “Be present where you are.”

The end result of ripping through magazine pages was the above vision board. I felt the need to use my native language German for it, something that I have not done so far. It was this Christmas that I had seen most of my family in Germany, some of whom I hadn’t seen for six or more years. It made me more aware again about my roots and my origin.

There had been a rift within our family for a few years and for Christmas my brother and I had written “Love Letters” to family members based on Thich Nhat Hanh. The idea is that when we acknowledge the good in others it might not only help them see it too but it might also break down old habits and create change where there had been old patterns preventing communication between individuals. It partially worked and we sincerely believe that whatever seed we planted with this that it now can grow until the time is right.

The small circle of “This is it” on the collage is also from Thich Nhat Hanh representing the arrival in the present moment where one only breathes and smiles. It goes together with the big yellow  “Be present where you are”, to fully emerge and participate in every moment. This leads me onto the many roses on my collage which I felt really drawn to. I have plans to plant some more roses next year and I would like to have plenty of time to “smell the roses”.

“Be the change you want to see in the world” by Gandhi will be my mantra for the next year. Instead of preaching to simply be what I believe in. For me this notion is a much calmer and more humbling perspective than my last few years of actively breaking down convention to create positive change.

The big Buddha face in the centre is a painting by a lady called Maurah and it simply spoke to me with it’s calm presence and air of “this is it”. The smaller Buddha figure underneath holds the teaching mudra, which is another aspect that I feel drawn to in my life. To live and teach by example, not only by theory but by practice.

Dreaming, waking, sleeping, devoting – going for a welly boot walk by the sea, following the never ending circle of life. To arrive within myself, to breathe, to smile, to walk slowly. It  surely sounds like a beautifully mellow 2015 😉

Happy New Year to you all!

Love
Anna

The Essence of Who We Are

Today a cheerful little colleague of mine felt the need to tell me of how much she thought I had changed over the past years. She said that when we first started working together she wasn’t sure whether I even liked her. To her I appeared quiet and reserved and didn’t respond much to her at all, like I had put up a façade. Now she feels that I am so much more confident and open, and we have actually grown quite close.

My heart both hurt and rejoiced while listening to her. To tell you the truth, I couldn’t get on with her at all back then. She was like a whirlwind that had lost it’s quiet inner core, something that is really difficult to deal with as a solid introvert like me. Yet, over the past years I have warmed to my surroundings, gained my confidence, had grown up. My colleague on the other hand had noticeably calmed down and one day we happened to meet at a level that we both felt comfortable at. I now lovingly call her “Chiquita” because she not only stems from Brazil but is also much older than me albeit looking half my age. It hurts me to think that my behaviour might have upset her back then.

Some say that people never change. And it may be true that the essence of a person, their genetic blueprint, always stays the same. However, on a behavioural level, or even from heart level, we are able to change, adapt, learn, adjust and warm, as well as harden, to our surroundings, depending on what we encounter.

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Having analysed the development of compassion over the past year (read “Compassion in Practice“), wondering whether compassion can be learned, I grow more and more confident in my thesis that compassion grows together with your heart: the more you nurture it, the more it will grow. As long as you remain true to yourself and respect your surroundings you have as much the chance to change for the better and develop compassionate values as anyone else, regardless of their childhood issues or “wrong” upbringing.

Who decides what’s right or wrong anyway? What norms are we measuring society with? Wouldn’t we all be much happier if we had the chance to develop according to our own soul’s calling instead of letting society tell us which of our behaviour is acceptable and which is not? Just don’t go about hurting others and cause damage. What I’m much more referring to is the gender and age specific stereotyping which is probably enough to destroy compassion for self and others even in those with the best upbringing and early childhood experiences.

Life has so much to offer, why don’t we let it? Why won’t we learn to let life guide us and let our heart decide what’s good for us? Speak up for yourself, especially if you are not being respected as the magnificent human being that you are. Apply some common sense. Anger and spitefulness won’t get you anywhere. Whatever you gained by force or took without permission from another was never yours to start with and will only ever bear a negative memory. Happiness won’t settle until you follow the true calling of your heart. So whoever you are, whether you are already following your heart or have served many sentences, you can change direction any time.

And as I watch the big orange sphere of the sun disappear behind the horizon, I am filled with a deep sense of connection to everything around me. I feel truly grateful for my life and the many opportunities that came my way and shaped me into the person that I am now as well as the many versions that I resembled in the past. Only you will know who you want to be. Who will you be tomorrow? The choice is yours.

Love
Anna

Beyond Words

Writing for me is coupled with emotions, an urge to express myself and my feelings, something that can often be difficult to put into words. However, the process of finding words to describe emotions has been hugely beneficial in that it made me look at myself and help me understand the connections between my feelings and the way I react to them. Often I found myself looking for more information on topics I was writing about and even learned a thing or two on the way.

And I can certainly say that I have changed a great deal since I began writing a couple of years ago, even believe that the writing process helped me to lay some issues from the past at rest. After the initial burp of endless blog posts I have calmed down a little. As if I have found my inner peace at last. I don’t seem to get outraged so much no more, often don’t even feel like writing about thoughts that pop up. I find myself smiling at them and watch them flutter away like butterflies.

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Reading through some of my past blog posts I find a lot of wisdom and am often surprised at the almost accidental knowledge and insights that I unearth while writing. Whether anyone else has benefitted from my posts I won’t know for sure, but I am greatly reassured by the vast knowledge that is seemingly hidden within me, be it inspired from a higher source or simply just hidden from view, only available when the present moment requires it.

Recently I have become very angry and upset with the electronic developments of our time. What good are they to humanity in the long run, especially since we are depleting the planet of its natural resources to fund them. We’re getting way too dependent on them and won’t be able to live without them, which makes me very sad. I got so angry with Facebook and mobile phones that I came to the point where I silently made the decision to cut any electronic related hassle out of my life. I even refused to write another blog. Easier said than done. Because how can I condemn all the other users of electronic gadgets but still use it myself? And where was all the anger coming from anyway?

The funny insight came after I had calmed down a little and I realised how threatened I felt by a device or system that wasn’t actually posing any direct threat to me. It was just my own dissatisfaction with the development of machines and the thoughtless use of consumers using them that upset me. Once I had acknowledged that I took a deep breath, dropped the anger and allowed for the clever gadgets to co-exist without interrupting my peace of mind. For it is presently not within my capacity to prevent humanity from using any electronic equipment and revert to prehistoric living standards. All I can do is find my own peace of mind and live a happy life which maybe others will take note of and begin to make small changes themselves. The secret is to take advantage of today’s clever gadgets with a mindful approach but to not be sucked into their mindless maze of activities and waste precious present moments of your life.

Ask yourself: Am I taking a photo or am I living the moment?

It is so important to find peace of mind, and yet so difficult to actually achieve it. Years of practice doesn’t sound promising to most and albeit it is necessary if you want to permanently achieve mental calmness, so the process starts with the very first minute that you simply close your eyes and take a deep breath. Note the thoughts that arise, smile at them and let them move on with the wind and the clouds. If a persistent thought won’t leave you in peace, maybe consider writing about it and find out what it tries to tell you.

Happiness is a peaceful mind, not a Facebook update 😉

Love
Anna

The Key to our Genes

I listened to this very insightful man talk about Gene Keys (www.genekeys.com), a unique geometry consisting of our 64 genes, based on our date and place of birth in our moving universe, that can offer us clues to ourselves, our being and behaviour, as well as our purpose in life. I was instantly hooked.

Having gained a little insight into my genetic past last year (My Mitochondrial Past, Incarnation vs Mutation, The Call of Life), the question of how much awareness our genes have beyond our knowing and whether they have any influence on our spiritual development as much as our physiology, has neither settled nor encountered a satisfactory answer. Richard Rudd and his hologenetic profile might be just the answer I was after.

Anna Hologenetic Profile

So that is my profile. And when I began to read about the 49th gene, my heart began to pound. According to the book, my Life’s Work is to “change the world from the inside”. That very first line was enough for me to believe that I was onto something incredibly worthwhile here. This simple sentence not only confirmed all my efforts over the past few years to help humanity find their “Inner Self“, but also encouraged me to carry on changing the world for the better, however insignificant my steps and progress may seem.

The profile consists of three phases: discovering your genius, opening your heart through relationships  and releasing your prosperity through simplicity. The Gene Keys won’t serve you the answer but encourage you to find your true calling and illuminate your life’s path by contemplating on life and your reaction to it. To help me find my way and maybe even enlighten yours a little, I will share my contemplations and insights while I work through my hologenetic profile with you here.

And if you would like to share that journey with me, then get yourself on the path and download your free profile now and order the book as soon as you can. You can download your free profile from his website to give you an idea about your own geometry, but you will need his book to understand the message behind your genes (www.genekeys.com/gene-keys-book). And I highly recommend it! It’s a bargain!

Looking forward to this exciting little project 🙂

Love
Anna

Personal Development

Yay, I won the Personal Development Award at our annual staff awards ceremony! That is a real honour and something I wasn’t expecting at all. It almost feels like I have taken someone else’s award, because surely somebody else would deserve it more than me? And yet, I have indeed come a long way. I’ve worked tirelessly on improving myself and the world around me, at work as much as outside of work. But I only did what I felt needed doing and where my passion was directing me. I didn’t do any of it to receive an award.

Being given this award meant more to me than “just” being honoured for my work achievements. It takes me back, once again (I whish I would just get over it), to my non-existent father and my teasing and misunderstanding teacher who both instilled in me the believe that I am not only not worth knowing but also that I likely won’t achieve much in my life. Thankfully I was also born with a fierce will to survive and grow, the latter of which was ironically fuelled by the constant let-downs of my teacher and the lacking acknowledgement of my father. I spent the majority of my life proving myself to the world.  This award to me is the acceptance and acknowledgement that I was longing for for the past 30 years. Am I ready to accept it?

The winners of all categories were given a yellow lanyard that had “Trust Staff Awards Winner 2014” written all over it and it was suggested to wear it at work because we could all be proud of our achievement. Putting it around my neck the next day at work gave me a minor panic attack, almost like as if I was on my way to the executioner who was going to hang me with it. I was unable to wear it. Why this irrational response?

Something in me can’t accept it, can’t deal with the hype around it, doesn’t feel worthy of it, worries that it won’t be as well received by others and that it will make me look like being above my colleagues. It was as if all the sudden acknowledgement was too much in one go. I was used to quietly get on with things and when it came to present changes to others I was easily defeated by their opposition to change and my little suggested improvements often fell on deaf ears by fellow colleagues. It is interesting to note that it is more management that liked my ideas. For staff it presented just another new addition they didn’t really have the time or desire to get into, which is another factor why I felt insecure about my award.

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I’m not really much of a talker, more a doer. I have done so many things in my life, all driven by my thirst for knowledge and interest in how the world ticks. And when I realised that I wanted to work more closely with people it was as if I had found the key to my purpose in life: to help others realise their potential and to assist them back to health as much as possible for them to continue with their own life purpose. Another acknowledgement came unexpectedly from a patient a couple of months ago. He said that he always wanted to have a daughter, and if he had had one he would have wanted her to be like me. The realisation of the overall meaning to me only really set in on my way home: why do I wait for acknowledgement from my father if I’m being acknowledged by so many others?

When I realised that I wanted to work with people I was working as a Housekeeping Assistant at a General Hospital. I didn’t have any care experience and therefore no luck of working in healthcare at the hospital. Instead I worked a year as a Care Assistant at a Nursing Home, which kindly provided me with an NVQ2 in Health and Social Care. This was my ticket back into hospital. There I worked for a year on the bank and accepted an offer for a permanent position on my favourite ward. Three years later, after increasing my hours from 24 to 36, I was offered the Level 3 Diploma in Clinical Healthcare Support. And before I even finished that I was already applying for the Foundation Degree in Health and Social Care Practice.

All of this was offered to me, based on the good work I delivered. And to be accepted at university, for the first time in my life, in a language that is not my mother tongue, whereas my teacher was adamant that I would be better suited for a school for special needs, is quite extraordinary to me. And then I was nominated for a Personal Development Award. Is it maybe also because I would have been the only one of 200 to raise my hand at the awards ceremony when the guest speaker asked who gets out of bed in the morning feeling happy and looking forward to the day? I didn’t raise my hand by the way, because, you know, that is embarrassing 😉

But it was also that very same embarrassment that stopped me from wearing my lanyard. And what morale can we draw from this? That it really doesn’t matter what others say around you. That everyone is perfect just the way they are and that we should all strive for the best in all areas. And to not wait until you have enough time or are paid to do something that you feel passionate about but to simply grab an idea and make something of it. This is how change happens. It starts with an idea, a feeling, the sense to do something. So go for it! Don’t let yourself be held back by past hurts and let-downs. Let them be the reason to change!

To change and a better world!

Love
Anna

When Happiness Returns

Suddenly I felt this pure happiness wafting through my body. Like as if a window had been opened in a stuffy room to let the fresh spring air in and awaken the sleeping mind. I admit it had been a while since I last felt it. We’re probably talking a good 5 years. My goodness, what had happened that I spent all that time semi-unhappy?

What kept me going those past years was that last memory of a sunny morning that I woke up early in my little studio flat, refreshed after sleeping sound through the night, went for a run along the seafront and settled with a good read on the sofa. I had a little patio on which I grew as many vegetables as possible in pots, even a little apple tree. And I felt happy, really happy. And ever since have I tried to get back to feeling happy just like that.

The decline followed on after a big depression which was the result of an emotionally abusive relationship, the shockwaves of which would follow me around more or less for most of those years. The foundation was fear. The fear of either living a life under the control of someone, which I didn’t want or living with the consequences of leaving the confines of control and be subject to harassment. I chose to break free but from then on didn’t sleep properly, couldn’t eat properly, got an adrenaline rush every time I heard a noise outside or spotted someone in the streets that looked like my ex and my menstrual cycle was all over the place as well. This naturally is a disaster recipe for unhappiness.

I have come a long way since then and sensing that glimpse of happiness made me realise how much work I had done on myself and on my surroundings. It would be great to assume that happiness is something that is freely available, but I don’t think it is. And it may also be interpreted differently by everyone. What happiness is to you might not be happiness to the person next to you.

Opening up to a new partner was hell for me and I only got through it because he was so patient and understanding, something I will be eternally grateful for. What I have learned over the past years is that if a relationship has no mutual respect and understanding for both parties, neither will be happy and sometimes the only way to be happy is to get out, however hard it may be.

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Sometimes you have to make sacrifices to find lasting happiness. This means to give up something you like or release people from your life who get you down. My sacrifice was to move in with my new partner into a small second floor flat along a main road to safe money for a better place. There were always people shouting and suspicious groups of people hanging out outside and I missed my connection to nature and to grow my veg. Together with my fear of commitment based on my last experience this meant another dip in spirits. But now I have been rewarded with a lovely little house and beautiful garden in a really quiet area with views onto the magnificent green hills of the South Downs. And here it was that suddenly my happiness perked up. Totally and completely 100% undiluted happiness.

“WOW”

My menstrual cycle is still a bit out of sync but thanks to acupuncture treatments as well as my own applied acupressure, healing, meditation and yoga I’m not as affected mentally, the ups and downs of which were the biggest obstacle to happiness. Food is also still an ongoing battle because I find that there are more and more things my body reacts to with tiredness, fatigue, aches and pains.

So, to keep your spirits up and be truly happy it is crucial to be with people who appreciate and value you, who listen to you and who understand who you are and what makes you tick. To release people from your life that cause you unhappiness isn’t an easy one. When I was in that situation I read somewhere that by raising your own happiness, to be yourself, to not let yourself get down and to surround yourself with people who contribute to your happiness will quite likely lead to the natural disappearance of those who don’t contribute to your happiness. The Law of Attraction says that you get more of what you put out. It sort of worked like that for me. We’re all annoying at times, we all have our ups and downs, but if you can reflect on yourself and acknowledge those around you, to laugh with them and sometimes even without them on your own, just for the sheer joy of it, then you will have found happiness.

If you then support yourself and others with a simple diet that is full of fresh ingredients, swapping common sugar with natural sweeteners (read my “Sugar Hangover Diaries” if you would like to know more) and enjoyed with “gusto” you will find that your body will be a good vehicle from which to shine your light of happiness. We well and truly are what we eat and food has a big effect on us, how we feel, how we act, how we present ourselves, which I belief isn’t nearly given as much attention as it deserves. We’re all such individual personalities that one rule doesn’t fit all of us. So what I find important is that you figure out who you are, what you need to be truly happy and to give you more of what you need, not only in food but also in people around you and the space you live in. It all starts with the simple thought of what you want.

You can change and create your life just how you want it. Down to the very T 🙂

Love
Anna

Accepting Grief

The days rushed by without coming to a conclusion whether I should take the trip to the continent for my Godmother’s funeral. And when the day came I was still struggling between the stress of travelling on short notice and the worry I would feel that I had missed out on the last opportunity to spend time in my Godmother’s surroundings.

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So this morning I went up onto the rolling green hills of the Sussex South Downs and flew a small kite as my very own little memorial service to an inspirational individual who has had a big impact on my spiritual growth. To the kite I had attached Tibetan prayer flags and a little bundle of flower petals. The weather couldn’t have been better, blue sky and a warm spring sun. A soft wind blew my prayers and flower petals towards the East, towards the continent where the funeral was being held.

I had also draped my little stone Buddha in flowers and petals and attached the prayer flags to the bushes around it. I felt thoroughly happy with it. It looked joyful. The celebration of a new beginning, not the mourning of an ending. That works for me. Though, once again, I wonder, how much it matters what the person that has passed on thinks of it. How much is their own belief paramount to my belief when it comes to dealing with the passing of a soul?

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This does kind of prove my thesis that it is much more about those who stay on. And I see in my own behaviour how important it is to come to a closure, however trivial it might seem. The feeling to do something extraordinary and beautiful for the passing soul is quite common. And little rituals like this can make the transition a little easier. I took the day off work as well. It just didn’t feel right to simply carry on with the ordinary when something out of the ordinary had happened. I felt that I needed that day to fully come to terms with it. My closure.

My little kite excursion felt like something my Godmother would have been up for. And I’m more than convinced that she thoroughly enjoyed it too. I don’t class myself as religious. I simply picked up a few ideas here and there and feel comfortable with some Buddhist practices. “You don’t need to be a Buddhist to practice Buddhism” I was once told by a Buddhist monk.

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Acceptance, as part of the five stages of grief, is coming to terms with the passing and to move on. Does taking part in a belief system make it easier to accept death? Or even, does it help to carry on living our life and to fill the hole a passing soul has left? And getting back to my thoughts on denial: do we need faith and religions to come over the denial phase, the inability to accept that someone is simply just not here anymore? Would we break if we didn’t have anything else to look at than an empty hole? Is that why I decided to feel their presence after their passing, or do I just happen to sense them anyway?

I don’t think I will be able to answer that question any time soon. I need to experience more, learn to listen more deeply to other dimensions of existence.

Love
Anna

P.S. It would greatly interest me to hear form any atheists out there who have undergone bereavement and to learn what their thoughts and emotions were.

Personal Profit

With an alleged 18% rise in births and an expected 10 year housing crisis, I see the planet suffocating by concrete buildings, streets and many billion feet. Having established that I thrive of simple solitude (Seeking Solitude in a Loud World) and also having been driven to near insanity in the supermarket today while “hunting” for food (just don’t go shopping at the weekend!), the idea of overpopulation is frightening to me. If I was in charge, which might not be such a good idea after all,  I would put a ban on births for about a year, or lets say, to not completely suppress a person’s personal need to bear children, set an allowance of total births.

By now, those of you who are well into business and financial stuff will start getting nervous, seeing that this means that there won’t be enough young earners to pay your pension when you decide to begin the solitary part of your life after having wasted most of your waking life working your butt off.

To vaguely quote the “insightful” newspaper commentator on the birth rate rise: “In the short run this might mean a lack of school places, but in the long run this is a small price to pay in the name of prosperity.”

Yikes, the upward spiral again. There doesn’t seem to be a stop in sight for humanity, ever. Until our planet has enough and simply collapses. Humans are the worst that could have happened to our planet. Comparable to a disease, selfish, egotistic, self-destructing and vengeful. I realise more and more how much I hate Homo Sapiens, which ironically in Latin means “wise man”. But it seems that our wisdom has taken the better of us and has taken the wrong turn. And on the way it has forgotten that it can turn around and take the other route after all.

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Sadly for today’s profit driven society this would mean a loss and is therefore not an option. So it is left to those idealistic individuals to fight for their right to turn around, which is a tough journey, sometimes takes many years, but will in the end be worth it, with the personal profit (better health, healthy soil, fresh food, permaculture, renewable energy and the like) being invaluable.

To me, turning around and changing is what makes up the essence of life. Simply just following others up the spiral and cashing in on others success is not healthy for your soul. Your soul wants to live. And money making, however useful it may seem, is not what your soul longs for.

And just to clarify: when I say that I hate Homo Sapiens, I don’t mean this to be an insult, I even include myself in the mass. For being “not bothered” when I should, for not speaking up when it matters, for not being truthful to my own feelings, for not living as fully as I would like to and finally for fearing of being seen as a fool for breaking out of the system and turning the other way.

Now then, “wise wo/man”, what does your soul yearn for?

Love
Anna

Conditioned Laziness

There I was, awake again at 6.30am, mentally alert yet physically knackered after two twelve hour shifts and a feast of duck pancakes the sauce of which clearly contained too much sugar for my body to cope with.

I have been waking up at that time most days as far as I can remember back, regardless of how many hours of sleep I had. It’s dangerous to try and fall asleep again, and if it happens I can rarely count those days to the productive kind.

My granny’s words still ring in my ears from the days when I was much younger and stayed at hers some weekends. “Child, it’s only 7am! Turn around and sleep a little longer.”

But I had ants in my pants and had to get up, whereas my granny would grudgingly roll over and continue snoring. I still remember the excitement in view of the early morning kid’s cartoons on telly. I didn’t have those at home and my mum was convinced that TV wasn’t something children should watch excessively. Nor do I think this today.

At granny’s was different. She fed me white bread with lots of butter and honey for breakfast, made a gorgeous green salad with her special home-made yoghurt dressing for lunch and pasta with butter and peas for dinner. I was able to play in the garden to my heart’s desire and I was given sweets which my mum strongly attested to. And the first couple of early hours in the morning of watching cartoons were only a sweet beginning to a day with the best things yet to come.

Only on very rare occasions have I been able to recreate that feeling of contentment that I experienced as a young child at granny’s house. And it usually involved a kid’s programme on telly together with bread or rolls for breakfast. Shows you how easily we can condition ourselves to happiness!

So if there wasn’t any kid’s cartoons on telly, would I not be able to achieve happiness again ever? Not that today’s cartoons anything compared to the good old ones anyway! 🙂

Today I went as far as looking up some of the twenty odd year old cartoons on the internet and watch some while I was having my breakfast. Whereas I felt kinda happy in a truly lazy way, I also realised that the cartoon wasn’t all that easy to watch at all with an adult mind. It was almost horrific watching two sisters, one probably around 11, the other around 16, having to move into an orphanage after their parents went missing abroad.

Watching this lovely cartoon that I had fond memories of as a child, with an adult mind, now at the age of the parents in the cartoon, it was a whole different story! Well isn’t that interesting?

So while humanity may spent a lot of time as adults wishing to be young again, without all the hassles, responsibilities  and worries we face as adults now, we might miss out on the potentials we have as grown ups, to take our happiness into our own hands and to begin recognizing our conditioned past, as we were taught as children, or even taught ourselves, and break free from it to create our own happiness right here and now.

Having been without telly most of my life I am capable to live without it for the reminder of my life. The problem is if it is there and someone else is watching, then I quite easily find myself curling up on the sofa giving in to the dormant state of laziness.

And from time to time there is absolutely nothing wrong with it 😉

Love
Anna

The Half-Life Epiphany

Let me explain why the stories outlined below make me think about a topic that might at first not be obvious.

Yesterday’s newspaper told me that asthma is now the most common chronic disease in childhood. Together with increasing numbers of babies surviving a premature birth, childhood asthma is set to become a major problem. On the opposite page I read about Syrian refugees, women, children, elderly, who are trying to escape a life of suffering. Another article right next to it talks about a 21 year old Syrian soldier who got shot and lies in hospital with a shattered leg.

May I begin with the thesis that prolonging life at all circumstances, defying our natural tendency to die at some point or another, is once again our priority, despite the fact that life is what it has always been and always will be: a cyclic event of living and dying that only the universe can bear witness to, if only it was able to give us the reassurance we crave.

“Half-life is used to describe a quantity undergoing exponential decay, and is constant over the lifetime of the decaying quantity.” (Wikipedia)

Our population is growing fast, very fast (watch this if you want to get an idea of it). At some point we will run out of space. Maybe by then we will be going “outa space”. A thought occurred that if you survive your birth and other possible illnesses during your life you stand a good chance to be shot or encounter a similar danger to your life at another point (every watched “Final Destination”?). And the truth is that we could encounter the other side at any point in our life. For some it takes longer, others get there earlier. We won’t know. And we shouldn’t, because we would be spending all of our life dreading that one unavoidable point at the end of our life instead of simply living it.

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To come to the point, I do not mean to be pessimistic and all doom and gloom. Quite to the contrary, I believe that if we were to open our eyes fully and learn from early on about the significance of life and death, as a joint responsibility of our existence, that we will have a much more comprehensive understanding of our purpose in life. We might even be living our life much more responsibly, valuing each other, acknowledging death when it knocks on the door, grief deeply instead of suppressing our sadness but also appreciate the impact those around us have on us together with our responsibility towards our planet.

But we don’t talk about death. We simply close our eyes when it comes to this fundamental, essential, obvious part of our life cycle. But the thing is, the more we close our eyes to it the less we are able to see ourselves, our future, our unique purpose in life. We will spend our whole life living in semi-darkness, denying such a vital part of ourselves access to reality. A reality that we are living every day of our life. Why close your eyes to it?

Don’t just live in half-light believing that someone with a defibrillator will surely come running when your heart gives up, because the truth is that your heart simply gives up because it can’t stand the twilight of your existence anymore. It was never allowed to live fully, enjoy the sunshine, good honest food free from chemicals and hidden fats, dancing in the rain, denied to feel emotions to the full, to discover the world without fear or stress and to have a proper good nights sleep. It yearns to be free, it yearns for happiness. That’s why it is giving up on your half-lived existence.

These words are not meant to offend anyone, nor are they true for everyone who might read this. But in essence I hope they will wake you up from your half-life state and make you want to live your life to the full. Right here and now.

Because it is worth it! 😉

Love
Anna

The Wonders of the Conscious Universe

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That’s what I’m thinking after listening to Jim Carrey (yes the actor) talking about conscious thought, the present moment, happiness and that he is a Buddhist, Islamist, Christian and anyhow, that it didn’t matter anyhow since it was all the same.

A proper wow-moment for me.

Watch it for yourself:
http://www.social-consciousness.com/2013/03/jim-carrey-the-power-of-consciousness.html
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KfWN5EW5eo4

Last night I picked an oracle card as a little guidance for the moment, having had a very low point again a couple of weeks ago after a disagreement with someone. But despite the worries and feeling shaken by it the incident wouldn’t touch me as deeply as similar events had done in the past. It was like as if I had matured in some way and was able to deal with the situation from a more detached angle instead of drowning in it with my heart and soul.

In the video Jim talks about negativity going through you, without taking hold of you. We only hold onto negative emotions as long as they serve us. The reason why we react with upset to them is so that they can be resolved by dealing with them. The more we deal with them the less they will appear in our life.

He then spoke about intention, that with intention we create our universe. The oracle card I picked yesterday suggested that I wrote down my intentions…

One of my biggest intention, the one that drives me most, and equally gets me down most (as it did two weeks ago), is to save the world. At the end of the Jim Carrey clip it said: We all want to change the world, but most of us don’t know where to begin, concluding that it is our emotions and consciousness that make the difference.

During the clip it was also mentioned how the magnetic field created by the human heart during certain emotions has a tremendous influence on our world, the climate, people, everything. Such is my amazement that I have been actively working on helping people to become more conscious of their heart space (The Sacred Centre) for the past couple years now, to open it up and connect with their Inner Self, that it feels incredible to hear this confirmed and to realise even more so the importance of it.

Especially when we get together with others to focus on the same intention. That’s when we really have an influence over the world.

So I have been working on myself, my own development and have inspired some people on the way. Only now, that I have reached another threshold, am I able to hear my visions and intentions confirmed.

Such is the wonder of the universe we live in 😉

Love
Anna

Why the Difference?

I feel tired from the world’s hectic upward spiral, always achieving, increasing, improving (you get it) and yearn for some time out. Last year I spent a week at Plum Village, a Buddhist Community (read all about it here). Now I am looking for something similar closer to where I live.

This does prove to be difficult, since different groups have arisen that have different ideas about the Buddha’s teachings. Surely, one man, one message? Right? Sadly no, as you can also observe in many other religions, who essentially follow the same message but have given their “God” or practice a different name.

The arising confusion is understandable, yet frustrating, when all one wants is a safe place to retreat to for a long weekend away from every day’s stressors. “No, we can’t allow you to our Mindfulness Retreat since you haven’t got any experience with our type of Buddhism.”

Blimey, my daily meditation practice, my mindful approach to life, my interest in the essential Buddhist sutras all in vain, or so it seems, since no begging is getting me any closer to attending this desired retreat. Okay, they suggested the introductory retreat to me, but do I want to be introduced to a system that in turn won’t let me in anywhere else? What is this?

Now I’m feeling insecure in approaching other retreats, not sure what to expect, or even what is expected of me. Surely, thoughts like that shouldn’t precede the attendance of a retreat.

Things like that is what separates the world from itself. A phrase from the recent “Walter Mitty” movie won’t leave my head: “TO SEE THE WORLD, THINGS DANGEROUS TO COME TO, TO SEE BEHIND WALLS, TO DRAW CLOSER, TO FIND EACH OTHER AND TO FEEL. THAT IS THE PURPOSE OF LIFE.”

Walter Mitty2

It actually left such an impression on me that I made it this year’s New Year’s Resolution. To travel, have adventures, be inquisitive, learn something new, meet new people, re-connect with old friends and to be present with all my heart. What more of a purpose could our life possibly have?

When we had set up the Awareness Spa Mini Retreats last year (www.awarenessspa.co.uk), we welcomed everyone, and still do, to come and join us for a day of mindfulness and relaxation, to simply take the time off and let go. This can be tricky to do in your own home (there is always the dishes to wash or to hoover and by the way, the windows really need cleaning, and oh, it’s time to prepare dinner…).

Despite leading this day retreat and it feeling like being on a retreat myself, so it is nonetheless hard work, which is why we have slowed down a little bit in terms of content. And oh how I wished someone else would offer something similar for me to attend, without the organisational aspect.

I won’t give up that easily on my search for a retreat, even if I simply set off on my own again into the unknown, as I have done numerous times before (as you can also read here).

Happy discovery 😉

Love
Anna

A little Analogy on Change, Health and Evolution

A curious idea occurred to me. It began with the thought that never ceases to amaze me when I see how quickly the human body repairs itself. How all the cells muck in together and start working to bring the body back to a normal state as best possible.

This thought becomes abstract when I relate it to my place of work with the accompanying irony that I work on an acute surgical hospital ward.

Recently there have been major changes to our working environment. Some departments, including us, have been moved, others, luckily not us yet, have been axed entirely. Staff are understandably shaken and stressed with the uncertainty this brings about. Even though the main aim of all this is to ensure safe staffing levels, mostly these changes are seen as a personal attack to each individual member of staff.

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However, sometimes I wish that every single member of staff would simply just muck in and contribute their best to the whole, just as the cells in our body do when they try to get their systems back on track, maintaining homeostasis – total balance despite surrounding chaos.

Just imagine our bodily repair systems refusing to work, crossing their arms, stamping their foot and saying: “We are not going to do a single thing if you keep upsetting our work!”

Our health would rapidly decline. Unfortunately, so does my place of work. Staff morale and support are at its lowest, not many are prepared to take responsibility for anything outside their narrow view of a job description. Most blame others for mistakes instead of looking at themselves. They run against walls and closed doors, which seems to infuriate them even more, ears and eyes closed to any suggestions of change.

It somewhat amuses me, if it wasn’t so sad to see the mental  toxicity that comes with it. The constant bickering, slacking each other off, blowing news out of proportion, making it more difficult for themselves and for others. They seem to have lost the connection to themselves. The only way to stop bashing their head against walls is to simply change their thinking. This may allow them to see the door that has just opened. If only it was that easy.

At the centre of all this sits a vulnerable adult who really needs your help and relies on your support because his body is undergoing a tremendous amount of repair work. And it does this all on its own, while you are kicking and screaming at the injustice around you instead of pulling yourself together and focus on the individual who is in your care.

So the moral of this little analogy may be that we are only as strong as our will. We can achieve tremendous things, if we want to. At the same time we need to understand that the only thing that is certain is that nothing is certain. Change is inevitable, just like human evolution.

If a creepy crawly at the very early beginning of our human evolution had refused to change, we would probably still be crawling along the floor. And I’m sure that a lot of those crawling creatures found it very daunting to change their habits. And so it is for us to this very day and likely will always be that way.

When you understand this and take in the change of perspective this offers, you can make the decision to use it to your advantage. Going with the flow wherever it may take you. Or let it be your disadvantage and drown in sorrow, a choice I personally would not recommend 😉

Love
Anna

The Running Horses and University

Now it has happened. I have run away with the horses and trampled everything in my path.

All this from a point of eager excitement and sheer joy to be going to university for the first time in my life at the humble age of 30.

With all this joyous excitement I could not understand how others on the course would not feel the same. Least of all was I able to emphasize when one of them said that they were stressed already, two weeks before university had even started!

I came to my senses only after reporting my eager curiosity to a friend, relaying how I can’t understand that people are stressed before even starting a project and figuratively outlined that I might have to slap them if they carry on like this for the whole course.

The responding figurative slap came straight back at me with my friend, equally just about to start a new course, saying: “I also feel stressed and worry that I won’t be able to manage.”

Oh this made me feel so sad and the figurative slap brought me straight down from my running horses.

How could I be so insensitive??

Me, who things she knows it all and has understanding for everything and everyone, emphasizing, feeling, being open and receptive. Possibly I’m just an egotistic dreamer.

I suppose that ideally I would want other people to become mini versions of myself, which is impossible.

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Weirdly, I seem to cope best in crisis situations and have more trouble coping in mundane, everyday routines. Everyone is different, everyone has different coping strategies.

My enthusiasm to start university was further curbed by the first two days of introduction, where the emphasis appeared to be lying on the fact that most people in the course were scared out of their minds and worried, worried and worried about everything.

This seemed to be unintentionally reinforced by well-meaning course leaders who repeatedly asked if we were still worried followed by the supportive “don’t be”. So in the end even I, bold and brave as I am, began worrying that maybe I didn’t worry enough. Maybe I was too naïve thinking that this would be fun and interesting.

In the end I almost got angry, a very interesting emotion. Observing it arising was a little surprising and I’m still not quite sure what to do with it. Maybe I ought to channel it into creating more positively inclined future induction processes.

After all, I have come to the understanding that one of my tasks in this life is to pave the way, push through closed doors and widen horizons. In the end it doesn’t really matter whether I get acknowledged for it or receive a higher position because of it, but more so that I was the one who made it possible for others to get further. Like I’m the one who gives you a step-up to get over a high wall.

And actually, that sits with me quite well. I’m strong enough to take it. I just got to try and rein my horses in every now and again 😉

Love
Anna

A Button Society

And no, I still cannot simply ignore these strange embodiments of seemingly ordinary people that appear to be powered by small hand-held devices. They seem to otherwise be detached from their surroundings yet carry out every-day tasks as normal.

As if on auto pilot do I see them pushing prams, walk dogs, go shopping, exercising in the gym, walk along footpaths or through parks, sometimes holding an equally surreal being on the other hand, driving cars and even riding bicycles with their gaze transfixed on the small screen in their hand.

What is it they have that I don’t have, I wonder. Am I missing out on something here?

I daren’t say that it might be them missing out. Not noticing the change in weather or even the seasons. Not seeing the smile on other’s faces, nor the frown when suddenly stopping in their way. And then they suddenly look up and talk, eyes glazed, staring into nowhere, yet talking as if an ordinary person.

It reminds me of the quirky movie “The World’s End” with the notorious Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. There the world is being taken over by alien robots, which kindly gave the world internet and mobile phones, yet in the process hollowed them out and turned their brains into blue gloop, all in the face of eternal youth.

I wonder if we would be happier filled with gloop instead of a self-functioning brain and proceed to conclude that it is hardly happiness, more a bland neutral state of interbeing. How boring.

Why is it then that there are so many people psyched up about computer games, a complete illusion that does technically not exist. Do they give them something real life can’t? Please don’t let me get you down simply because I can’t comprehend.

It’s just that I have come to understand the difference between essential living and non-essential living. The first can live on its own, the second depends on an array of electronic devices, a tangle of cables, artificial electricity and some surreal invention called the world wide web.

All clever stuff, don’t get me wrong, just maybe don’t rely on it too much and base your whole life on it. Because what will you do if one day it won’t exist no more? What will you do while pushing prams, walking dogs, going shopping, exercising in the gym, walking along footpaths or through parks, sometimes holding an equally surreal being on the other hand, driving cars and even riding bicycles?

Would you feel bored? Or would you be overwhelmed by the sheer beauty and variety of the world and people around you? And would you be able to use the absence of distractions to find inner peace?

Would you know what to do when someone smiled at you in the streets? Would you know how to talk properly to someone? Would you be able to live with the consequence that you won’t be able to quickly call up your best friend? And would you be able to cope with the fact that you quite likely won’t even be able to get to your best friend at all unless you started walking now and maybe get there in a few years?

It’s a scary world we live in, either way or the other.

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The other day I went into town for a few errands and I managed to go into several shops, buy things and leave without talking to a single person. This was greatly thanks to self-checkout tills. On the other hand, when I went into a games shop to pick up the latest release of a computer game for my dear boyfriend, I found myself staring dumb fold at a shop assistant who had asked me something that simply didn’t register in my mind nor did it resemble anything I have ever had to do with.

Oh boy, I had stepped into a completely different world and felt accordingly alien while cuing patiently, yet mortified. No, I am not saying that one is better than the other, just that one depends on so much electronic equipment to sustain itself. We live in a “button-society” where I can’t just go to the canteen at work and buy a small bowl of stew to top up my lunch because there is only one button on the till that charges for meat stew with rice and vegetables and it went beyond the comprehension or capability of the person operating the button to simply charge me half the price.

We loose our individuality, being reduced to a mere number in the system. When I need to check someone’s blood sugar level at work I not only have to first scan a barcode that is dangling from my ID card but also the other’s barcode on their ID bracelet and then the barcode on the test strip. I can also do bladder scans, avoiding the old scanner because it is way too complicated for I have the choice to use one that can be operated by, you guess it, a simple button. And then there is the heating that can not be regulated as and how needed but is controlled by a computer somewhere in the basement. Even when I want to order a photo in a certain size and go into the shop to ask for help because I couldn’t find the size I wanted online, all I got was a friendly shop assistant that was eagerly pushing buttons on the “self-service point”. And it only took her 10 minutes and several nervous sighs to find a size close enough to the one I wanted.

This is not me being picky! This is society being controlled by norms and guidelines that simply don’t fit. So the half-decent result is a reasonable product that we get to keep for a regular amount of money until it is deemed not worthwhile or not good enough anymore, considering it was actually never what we wanted in the first place. So it ends up littering the earth we walk on because it is cheaper to buy another half-decent product than fix a broken one and near to impossible to get one we actually really like.

Once the world collapses, and I rather wish it does it sooner than later so I can get on with it, “essential living skills” will be needed. These include gardening, arts and crafts, hands-on therapies, interpersonal skills, musical instruments etc. Anything that can be used without plugging it into walls, or people, for that matter. Anything that enables you to simply sit, breathe and smile. And as a side-effect we will likely be developing other senses, understanding premonitions, and probably even enable us to communicate at distance without hand-held devices.

Noticing how quickly we destroy this magic planet by eradicating anything it has on offer and then suffocating it with the end result, I wonder how many planets in our solar system and beyond have been populated and destroyed accordingly. Once we have exploited this planet to its fullest extend, we either carry on on another planet, or we simply survive as “life force” and begin yet another cycle of evolution, also likely on another planet, as simple single cell organisms.

Unless we learn form our mistakes and begin to work and live with the world around us instead simply just on it, this process will never change for eternity. And I am fully aware that this is a process that may take a long time, maybe even more than eternity, but it begins with awareness, the preparedness for whatever is to come and the readiness to act on the essential stuff that we really need.

Happiness can not be man made. It has to come from within yourself.

Love
Anna

Wasps and Signs

On one of my low tide walks, the first rather chilly one of this season, nonetheless barefoot, blinking into the golden morning sunlight, I happen to spot a wasp drifting in the waves, frantically crawling along the moving water surface in search for something to hold on to.

At first I stepped over it, glad that I didn’t step onto it and avoided being stung. To mind came the wasp infestation we had at work, millions of them everywhere.

But my heart went out to that tiny creature, emphasising how I would feel amidst a torrent of water, though my physical structure would not permit me to crawl on the water’s surface. How cool would that be? 🙂

So I held out one of my shoes for it to grab hold of, which it did, but kept being blown off again by gusts of wind. When I finally had safely deposited it inside the shoe, it kept crawling out, facing repeatedly more blows by the wind, throwing it back out onto the water.

I was desperately trying to help it but there was either no common sense in the wasp to stay safely out of the wind or it was driven by a need that was out of my awareness span. Maybe neither of it applied and it simply did whatever it did for the sake of it.

My heart sank with the poor wasp as I realised that there was no way of keeping it save if it kept doing its own thing. And it hit me that this so translates into my repeated attempts at helping people or improving working environments or any area in life that I see could need some help, only to realise that most people simply don’t want to be helped. Or don’t know how to let themselves be helped, like the wasp.

It was mentioned that there is a lot of drunken wasps around at the moment because their work for their queen is done and yet there is still a lot of fruit around which is beginning to ferment. So the wasps get tipsy on that 🙂

So in the end I don’t know if that wasp was maybe too pissed to “think” straight. And would it have behaved different if it wasn’t? Maybe it would never have ended up near the water edge. It would have either been strong enough to face the wind or instinctual enough to not go into the wind in the first place.

Compare that to us humans. Aren’t we all just drunken wasps, washed away by the strong current of todays consumerism, shiny gadgets, colourful wrappings and funny advertising? Driven to the edge of extinction by seemingly unfulfilled needs that make us want more of everything. Is it pure greed or do we really believe that we would be much happier if we had it all?

And how many tiny creatures are trampled on every day because we don’t think anything of them? Because they aren’t big enough to count as worthwhile, or because they annoy us. Likewise, how many people in lower positions face the same fate every day?

When
A
Sign
Points

it’s up to you which way you follow 😉

Love
Anna

The Sacred Centre Explained

 “In the centre of our heart, no bigger than the size of your thumb, is a secret dwelling, the lotus of the heart. Within this dwelling is a space, and within that space is the fulfilment of all desires. As great as the infinite space beyond is the space within the lotus of the heart. Both heaven and earth are contained in the inner space, both fire and air, sun and moon, lightning and stars. Whether we know it in this world or know it not, everything is contained in that inner space.

Never fear that old age will invade that space; never fear that this inner treasure of all reality will wither and decay. This knows no age when the body ages, this knows no dying when the body dies. This is your true Self, free from old age, from death and grief, hunger and thirst. In this Self, all desires are fulfilled.”

The Cahndogya Upanishad

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I don’t think anyone could put this into any better words. This part of you, or rather inside of you, holds the answers to a lot of your questions. You may call it your “Inner Self“, “The Lotus of the Heart”, or as I have done “The Sacred Centre”. I even came to understand it as “The Buddha Within“, which may be a little too religious for some. I might be greatly influenced by Buddhism, purely due to its open and all encompassing nature towards all beings. Though religion has nothing to do with the Inner Self, which lies within you regardless of whether you belief in something or not.

Whatever you may want to call it, it is a part of yourself that is personal and individual just as you are yourself. By recognizing this part of yourself, not to be confused with the ego though, you may notice a change within yourself, however subtle or big, which can grow to give you a whole new perspective onto life. So you may call it “life changing” 😉

Since this is a personal experience, no two people will feel the same, which can be confusing at times, especially if you attempt to share your exciting new take on life with others, but also shows what a magnificent and interesting individual you are.

How do I know all this? Well, I experienced it myself and went on to find out more about it. And the more I read, the more didI find about the importance of the heart. All I would like to do is make you aware of this part within yourself, which you may have already noticed at times, yet didn’t have the full understanding or awareness what precisely it was that you were feeling.

An easy and natural way to connect with your Inner Self is to sit quietly and simply follow your breath as it enters and leaves your body. A simple exercise that some may call meditation. Again, whatever you want to call it, the idea is to come to a point of stillness in which you may be able to hear your Inner Self.

There is so much more to be said, a lot of which I have expressed in my blog posts. Last, but not least, I would like to encourage you to discover your very own Inner Self and to question my view and find your own.

To quote the wise Raimon Panikkar once again: “The seat of our responsibility lies not in the good or bad example we set, not in the good or bad effect we have on others, but in our very being. The seat is inside us, it is ourselves.

Aware of our intrinsic responsibility in our very being, we do not frantically run to influence other people or “convert” them to our ways by extrinsic means. Instead it is the purity of heart that counts and the transparency of our lives.”

Trust your intuition!

Love Anna

Recommended Blogs:

That miraculous Inner Self

The Buddha Within the Sacred Centre

Smile Breathe Walk

The Breath of Life

Reaching for the Stars

Universal Mysteries and Rubber Ducks

What makes you Happy?

What makes you Happy?

The question is not whether to believe or not believe, or whether one religion is more true than another, or whether confession is going to make you a better person, or if there is a life after death…

The simple truth is that we all strive for some form of happiness.

For some this may mean a big family, others prefer a nomadic existence in isolation. A child gazing up to a balloon, an athlete winning a gold medal, getting that job, laying at the beach in the sun. There are those that want to earn loads of money to live a splendid life when they retire and those who have learned that possessions alone don’t bring about happiness.

Another simple truth may be that most people don’t intend to cause harm, they just don’t know that what they do is bad because they either grew up believing it is acceptable or can only see the benefit for themselves and lack the insight necessary to see that their benefit may harm others. Apart from a few psychopaths who really simply don’t care.

And among all these questions – polarities – of what is considered right and wrong and who actually decides who is right or wrong, lets just decide we are neither right nor wrong, we simple follow different ways to our very own happiness, which are all acceptable, as long as they don’t harm anyone else.

“When the thought of someone’s decapitated head upsets you, that is love”

it says in the silly movie “The Dictator”. Silly, and slightly wrong, yet quite true in view of our universal responsibility, which I had previously mentioned here.

As Raimon Panikkar put it so aptly:
Our responsibility is based on the response we give to ourselves, to our being, because our being is constitutively related to all other beings. We have responsibility towards others (legal) and to ourselves (ethical). We are not just responsible for our actions but also for our thoughts.

The seat of our responsibility lies not in the good or bad example we set, not in the good or bad effect we have on others, but in our very being. The seat is inside us, it is ourselves. Aware of our intrinsic responsibility in our very being, we do not frantically run to influence other people or “convert” them to our ways by extrinsic means. Instead it is the purity of heart that counts and the transparency of our lives.”

With that in mind I breathe in deeply and breathe out unhindered, cherishing the moment, the pure act of air entering and leaving my body, being grateful to be able to sit, walk, smile, knowing that I am an incredible individual with many talents.

These talents of mine don’t need to be forced onto the world. They merely exist inside of me to filter trough the masses as and when needed. Timing is crucial, as a mere demonstration of a talent could be misunderstood and lead to confusion in those who are not yet ready to learn from it.

When you learn to follow your breath, you will intrinsically know the right timing and be in tune with the universal ebb and flow of life.

Ultimate happiness lies in the breath of the present moment. Here I dwell in serene calmness and smile as I watch the world go by.

There is way too much noise and information out there. Put aside your phone for a moment, switch off the telly, close the iPad and stop the music. Listen, breathe, smile. Close your eyes and simply be.

And it is okay not to talk about it on Facebook 😉

Love
Anna

A Gentle Nudge

Cringingly I remember the moment in class when I was about 12 and tried to open up the possibility to a class mate that God or the devil could potentially be female.

My word did that go down the wrong way!

Against me stood many books and paintings in history that clearly showed that they were both male. So why would I want them to be female?

Not so much wanting to, more thinking that they could take any form they like. It was the beginning of my understanding that there is a much more subtle world around us that is different to just being male or female and could certainly be mere energy, a cloud of atoms, at its most.

I have always been different, keeping to myself, busying myself with my own interests, exploring other ways and digging in holes that opened up new dimensions. My class teacher certainly couldn’t cope with the way I was, a quiet little girl, not very bright in her eyes, a failure at maths and geometry, way too overburdened with an additional foreign language, which is why she suggested I would be better off in a school for kids with special needs.

Heyho, nothing wrong with me, said the school psychologist, just a bit lazy. Or, in my own words, just not interested in maths 🙂

I decided against the holy communion because I didn’t like the fact that angels had to have fluffy wings like in the pictures and that I didn’t see why I should honour that bearded man on the other pictures, whereas I had seen and felt beings of light around me that were nothing like that – though some of them do have wings after all.

Never mind. I was born a fighter, coming into the world against all the odds of my father’s request of abortion to having the umbilical cord wrapped around my neck twice and not wanting to breathe at first. But after my first breath was taken, there was no stopping me.

This sense of having a special task in this life has been with me as long as I can think back, however, what exactly it is wasn’t always that clear. But maybe that is what life itself is – the discovery of yourself.

Along came indigo children, light workers, Superman, Mother Theresa, Joan of Arc, Gandhi, Buddha, the Dalai Lama … the world is certainly not lacking in heroes … just who am I?

I jumped form one branch to another, never falling off the tree, but never quite sure on which branch to settle. I am lucky to be blessed with insight and the ability to see truth in both sides of an argument – though it can at times feel more like a curse – not being able to settle on one point, feeling like a traitor, split between friends and foes alike.

The sense to help has always been strongest, just that there is soo many ways to help. It took yet another change in profession into healthcare to somewhat satisfy that urge and give it a scope to work with. Ironically the one profession I did not intent to do after having watched my mother and grandmother working in the same field.

But it turns out to be the only job I have done so far that well and truly fulfils me and gives me a purpose to wake up to every day of my life. Just one tiny thing was still missing. Just how could I incorporate my knowledge and awareness of the alternative approach to life, which is not acknowledged in general medicine?

I had set up a complementary business next to my main job, addressing the Inner Self, the Sacred Centre, helping with Subtle Energy Healing and Acupressure Massage, but I don’t have enough time to fully commit to it. But it is there, and when the time comes it will all mould together into one big perfect piece of history. I might be an indigo child as well as a light worker but certainly am no Superwoman (well, only apart from the flying ;)).

I am neither nor – I am the bridge stretching from on to the other, a guide that leads you, a foundation that carries you, a walking living library that is available for questions.

It is not up to me to heal you, but I can help you heal yourself. Awareness of the Sacred Centre can be the beginning of that healing process.

And as I sat quietly, breathing in and out, aware of the Buddha within myself, my heart lotus opened it’s petals and radiated warmth outward, heating up my entire chest. I was wondering if I could maybe use this to warm the hearts of others and bring about a change of hearts just by being there, with them, without words, just with a smile. Would that be my next learning curve?

I have definitely come a long way since my above mentioned account of trying to make someone else see my side!

And it’s really not about the money. Really not – despite how many people have told me to value myself and to not give of myself for free. There is a reason why I have been supported with a good job that offers me free education, even sending me to university (all this in a foreign language – would love to know what my teacher thinks), so that I can spend my free time offering the world a little bit of my wisdom, as and when it needs it.

I have noticed so many times in my life that if you are true to yourself and listen to the gentle nudges of your Inner Self, that support will materialise. It might not be in form of a pot of gold, but certainly recognizable in the shape of whatever it is that you need most at the time.

Trust yourself!

Love
Anna

A Sense of Universal Responsibility

An email arrived with a link and suddenly I found myself listen to thoughts and feelings of mine being expressed by someone on a YouTube clip, which was strange at first, yet also somewhat reassuring and prompted me to write about a topic that had been on my mind for the past weeks.

A few weeks ago I was exposed to Games of Thrones for the first time. I didn’t know what it was, had never heard of it and quite frankly didn’t even care about it. So the box set, lent to me in an act of goodwill by a friend, had sat on the shelf for over a month when I finally thought I might as well see what it is about.

I finished the whole first season in less than a week and was left wanting to know more. The second season was kindly handed over soon after by the well-meaning, though surprised, friend.

However, I seriously wonder why I am so keen to watch it. It has incredibly strong acts of violence which I find really upsetting at times and the affection on display is very much porn.

What hooks me though is the interpersonal relationships, the hearts of the people, the injustices with hope of justice and the developing characters, their life-stories unfolding in front of me without having to do much more than sit and watch.

So does it sell because it has violence for the hard men out there, sex for those who can’t get enough and an actual storyline for those with an intact thinking apparatus? Does it fill some gap in felt experience that otherwise would never be felt?

So that above mentioned YouTube clip arrived by email on an unrelated topic, yet it opened with a battle scene from Games of Thrones

And having meant to write about the above for the past weeks, the YouTube link acted like a hit with a pole, though a gentle one, since I’m not really that much into violence 😉

Watch it below, I’d like to know what it brings up in you!

 

My emotional response in regards towards any kind of violence everywhere on the planet is unsettling, be it a mere play on TV or factual on the news. And comparing my experience of peace at Plum Village, I wonder if it will ever be possible to live in complete peace.

Sadly, I doubt it.

To top Game of Thrones, I merrily went to see Kick-Ass 2 last week and after the “violent but kinda funny” first movie was somewhat appalled at the sheer brutality of the follow up. The constant splattering of blood and breaking of bones didn’t leave much space for anything else  and left me somewhat distressed instead. It’s not like I didn’t know what to expect, with Kick-Ass it is the “funny side”, the “cartoon effect”, that lets it get away with it. But maybe I should have leave it be after the first one.

In the end, most TV violence can be put aside for “not being real”. But what does your brain “see” as real? Can your unconscious mind really completely differentiate between “real” and “unreal” violence when it is quite clearly happening in front if it’s very eyes?

I notice myself how much I had already got desensitised to violence from the first episode of Game of Thrones to the end of the first season. After many beheadings and endless gut-wrenching scenes, in the literal sense, not the poetic, throughout the series I noticed how little my felt experience alarmed when Jim Carrey’s head got twisted off his neck in Kick-Ass 2.

On an interesting note, Jim Carrey actually stepped back from promoting Kick-Ass 2 after “a change of heart”. Does he feel similar to how I felt after watching it?

It worries me to think that violence will simply more increasingly be seen as something that happens without sending a much needed alarm message to our conscious brain telling it that it is not acceptable. We laugh about it, “maintaining the funny side of it”, thinking it isn’t real.

How do you feel if someone is being murdered right in front of you? Or if you are the one “having to do” the murdering? Is it just as acceptable to kill to defend yourself as it is to defend whatever it is you are representing? (remember the “duty” of those in charge during the Holocaust)

The bigger question here would be that of responsibility: “How much do we feel responsible for something that happens outside of our view, either far away or with participants that are not personally know to us?”

In the book “Understanding the Dalai Lama”, Raimon Panikkar talks about “Universal Responsibilities”:

“Why should I be responsible for a murder committed in a distant island by an unknown “fellow” for reasons totally incomprehensible to me? Is this distant person actually my fellow? Or have we fellowship only with our family, clan, caste, nation, religion, culture?

The only rational answer is to say that willingly or unwillingly, knowingly or not, we belong together and are not isolated individuals, unconnected monads, independent being. In a word, universal responsibility implies a certain type of universal solidarity. Individuals can only be linked by external ties, like a common interest. The moral responsibility which flows from a common goal is limited to the means used in the acquisition of that goal.

If power lies exclusively with the people and I am the people, and I have not voted for the constitution (of a country for example), why am I obliged to obey that law? Individuals feel united only if there is a common purpose or if there is a threat form the law, the police or the army. No wonder that our planet has more than 40 million in the armed forces. They “enforce” law and order because there is no sense of responsibility.”

So this somewhat lengthy account of mine that began with a mere unexpressed emotion and ends with an interesting account on Universal Responsibility by a very wise man is only an expansion of the awareness of my very own responsibility towards humanity.

If I don’t agree with violence then I shouldn’t apply violence and maybe shouldn’t merely sit and watch it either. Just, would it make any difference to humanity if I did carry on watching it on TV?

Ask yourself 😉

Love
Anna

Let me share a few more quotes by Raimon Panikkar with you:

“His Holiness suggests we should include in our responsibility the entire ecosystem of our planet and soon of our solar system.

Humanity as such is responsible for its own destiny.

I am responsible if I have in me the capacity to respond to the summons of what makes me precisely responsible. Human freedom is an essential ingredient of responsibility.

We have responsibility towards others (legal) and to ourselves (ethical).

We should not understand universal responsibility to mean a single universal moral code. Each culture may have different visions and interpret and justify this responsibility in diverse forms.

We are not just responsible for our actions but also for our thoughts.

The seat of our responsibility lies not in the good or bad example we set, not in the good or bad effect we have on others, but in our very being. The seat is inside us, it is ourselves.

Our responsibility is based on the response we give to ourselves, to our being, because our being is constitutively related to all other beings.

Aware of our intrinsic responsibility in our very being, we do not frantically run to influence other people or “convert” them to our ways by extrinsic means. Instead it is the purity of heart that counts and the transparency of our lives.”

Happiness and Mobile Phones

Ok, so I can’t help noticing the poor disoriented individuals that are wandering the streets day and night, assiduously tapping on small devices that seem to be attached to their hands.

Has the Mars-landing already happened?

Can you really not enjoy your time on earth while you still can?

Is it really more important to tell the whole world how happy/angry/excited/disappointed (you get it) you are feeling and that you are indeed walking/sitting/dancing/watching a movie (why do I bother) instead of actually enjoying that moment to the fullest?

What value has a moment that has been captured to live forever on the www compared to a moment of pure joy in your life that wasn’t actually lived?

 

It scares me a bit. Is it the same fear that gripped the generation of my grandparents when the little box appeared in their living room that enabled them to watch men jump on the moon? Or the unthinkable event of humans learning to fly in monstrous contraptions?

When they said things like “Everything was better in the old days”, did they feel overwhelmed and worried what else the future would come up with?

It is truly fascinating what humans have achieved over the past 100 years compared to the 100 years before that. Just what is it all good for? Why is it so important to be better/faster/more efficient at absolutely everything we do? Is it money?

Well in that case you might as well say goodbye to your happiness right now!

Last week a colleague conveyed to me how one of our patients had said to her that he has so much money and so many houses, he doesn’t know what to do with it all. Now in his eighties, what he has worked hard for all his life had become a burden.

He didn’t have any children and only married fairly recently because his life-long work didn’t give him enough time for it. Now he has just spent a few weeks in hospital due to ill health, sitting in a chair next to his bed all day long, muttering curses to himself.

Visitors come at times but he exhaustedly said to me after: “I wish they didn’t come and stay that long. But then I have so much to sort, they have to. I’m glad I brought my suitcase in because I have so much paperwork to deal with.”

So what did all his hard work, all his money, all those houses bring him in the end? Even more stress, more annoyance and the regret that he didn’t get married and have children earlier in life.

“The more you have, the more you have to lose. Happiness is freedom from wanting”.

 

Well aware that I’m being nostalgic, I can’t help but think back to a time without mobile phones, without internet, where you arranged to meet somewhere and that’s what you did. There was no texting of “will be late” or “sorry can’t make it”.

I somewhat think that we become less reliable because we have the chance to easily opt out without standing someone up entirely. It seems to be okay to not show up as long as you can text 5 minutes in that you actually won’t be coming. Least to mention all those that got dumped via text, threatened by anonymous callers, constantly worry they break their brand new iPhone and never have reception when they really need it.

I have great respect for a friend who claims he has a mobile phone, thought he isn’t entirely sure where it is and blatantly refuses to use it. It can be irritating at times if you want to get hold of him, but then he sais himself that he doesn’t always want to be gotten hold of.

I dread the moment I will be needing a new phone, unless I’m being lurked in with the promise of a free upgrade (evil marketing), because I truly just want a device to make and receive calls from, not a camera (got one thank you), fast internet connection (actually doesn’t work at all cos updates are not updating…), mp3 player (would get one if I needed it) and really, really don’t care about apps, games or any of the other possibilities these mini computes have on offer!

And isn’t it just sad, possibly even selfish, that we nowadays demand of everyone to be a mobile phone call away just in case we need them? And even worse, if they are not answering, we either break into a rage, think they possibly ignore us on purpose or worry that maybe something happened to them?

So tell me again, is this what you understand under happiness?

And however marvellous the internet is in connecting us with someone on the other end of the world, it also at the same time overloads us with information that we can’t always handle. It send us a little loopy to say the least.

We become agitated, feel the need to check our inbox and “social networks” frequently, even if on the loo, just to satisfy the reward centre in our brain which is now continuously longing to be stimulated and create the warm sensation of acceptance in society, to be acknowledged, to sigh with pure joy that someone likes our status or left a comment.

In all honesty. Really?

This is mere idolisation of the term “happiness”, a mere phantasmagoria!

Great word, isn’t it?

It bothers me greatly that people at work don’t just walk the corridors with equally bland expressions on their faces while staring at their little lit display of wonderment but also while sitting behind desks, standing in corners or store rooms and one can’t tell if they are “just checking” on their latest “social updates” or actually researching an altogether important aspect of their work – like one of our newly started junior doctors did the other day.

Am I overanalysing this by saying I think it is rude to ignore other people over a little electronic device that has the power to zap your attention to any part of the world you would like?

But actually, hey you outdated people with your hand-held devices! You are like soo behind! Haven’t you seen those glasses yet that you can check up on all this stuff with the blink of an eye?? That way people won’t even notice that you’re not actually listening!

Seriously!

I don’t know if I should laugh or cry. I try to advertise my little business and in this case, the internet is a brilliant way of free advertising, if it wasn’t full of it! It seems that it is full to the brim with advertising without actually reaching those potential clients that would really benefit from my work. Someone recently admitted that the only reason he went back to facebook after deciding he didn’t want to be part of it anymore was, wait for it, his curiosity to catch up with the latest gossip!

One of the reasons I hated sport’s festivals at school was the competition. The internet leaves me feeling similar. I just don’t want to have to compete, needing to claim the most likes, having to be there because everyone is, having to take part to show I exist, needing to be there to not miss out on anything potentially important.

At times I well and truly feel overwhelmed by the sheer possibilities technology has on offer. And then to feel the pressure to having to use it, just to keep up with everyone and everything tips my point of happiness and turns it into sheer desperation and the wish arises inside of me that everyone would simply shut up sometimes. To just leave it be.

To not update my computer when I’m just working on something,  to not stream endless and mindless reality shows on TV when I look for proper entertainment, to not send me texts that I might be owed money for an alleged accident I never had, to stop spamming my email account with stuff nobody wants to see, to stop complaining about your allegedly pitiful life on facebook and if you have been out clubbing and end up walking past my window at 3 in the morning pissed, please, for the greater good of humanity, do not sing out loud deliriously nor start a fight with anyone, especially if you are missing a great deal of your clothes!

Imagine the peace 😉

Love
Anna

A Subtle Difference

As a world nation with different ethnic backgrounds and even more diverse believes and outlooks on life, we get it pretty wrong at times.

We look what others have and compare ourselves to their looks, their money, their success and downfalls, their strengths and weaknesses and somehow end up thinking that we are either better or worse than them, creating within ourselves a believe that separates us from our very own self and thus creates war not only within our own hearts but also between nations.

I myself notice far too often a sensation of inadequateness when I look at other’s success. And sometimes I look at others and see what they are lacking that I have already found for myself.

We are quite quick in judging others, usually within the first few seconds of meeting someone have we come up with an idea of what this person is like. This is a natural reflex of our brain trying to understand what’s going on and assess potential danger. Just how wrong we often are only emerges should we choose to get to know someone better. And by judging others we ultimately judge ourselves.

However, a simple solution is at hand: If you were to realise that you are in essence part of those around you, you can learn to love yourself even more. Genetics suggest that we are all to some 98% chimpanzee, and currently we are estimated to decent from only 7 mothers. Bring in the soul aspect, the one consciousness that combines us all, and you have an idea why we are essentially more the same than our small differences suggest.

You might have noticed how similar individuals from other ethnic backgrounds appear at first glance and we are quick in identifying an Asian origin by their eyes, but its only when getting to know them more that you realise that there are many subtle hints that sets them apart from each other and separates Asians into Chinese, Nepalese, Japanese and so on.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

So by assuming that we all still simply originated from chimpanzees and taking into account that we all started off in Africa to populate the word, it might help you to see a little bit of yourself in any member of the world population. And if you then love someone, like your partner, family, friends, your own love will reflect back to you from your own particles that connect you with these people and all you have to do is accept that love.

This goes back to the well know thesis to “love yourself”, but by believing that I should love myself as an individual, I may be in danger of isolating myself form the collective consciousness. But by recognizing myself in everyone around me, I can become whole.

The question to ask yourself is why you either feel inadequate or better than others. What caused you to believe you should prove yourself to be better than others, and why is it that bad if you are not the best? When I overhear someone complimenting someone else, I immediately take it to mean that I am clearly not good enough otherwise they would have said it to me instead. On the other hand I find it hard to actually take compliments, thinking that I don’t deserve it and worry that others won’t like me now because they think I am somewhat better.

None of it makes any sense, yet it registers within me as a failure. Realising this is the first step to begin the healing process. The subtle difference is instead of “wanting to be the best” you should simply “just be the best”. Honour the present moment instead of hoping for the future. Instead of looking for perfection within others, look for it within yourself. Instead of starting a war because you disagree with someone, sit together and discuss it peacefully over a cup of tea.

If only it was that simple, the world would be a much better place. So spread the word and hopefully we will all soon be drinking tea together 😉

Love
Anna

Life, Visions, Doubts and Passions

Insights come in the most unexpected ways. It might be a coincidence that this post comes while chopping up mushrooms for my risotto. Dish of the day, huh? 😉

After reading someone’s blog I left the comment:

“Life is based on visions – and you decide what your life’s vision is!”

and following on after the author’s comment to keep it in mind the next time doubts would creep in I concluded:

“Doubts are necessary because they make you re-evaluate your visions.”

And suddenly I wondered what had happened to my own vision. Maybe a little re-evaluation of my own little business wouldn’t be such a bad idea.

This comes after re-evaluating the Awareness Spa Mini Retreats, which I am part of, deciding to take a step back and simply hold the space, inviting people as they come and show interest. We all felt such relief after a year of constant advertising, which was three times as exhausting than actually running the retreat once a month.

I have changed. I now embark on another new step in my life which gently forces me to stop and do something different for a while. I am starting a two year university course in clinical health care as part of my employment.

It has been a passionate of mine to set up a little complementary business next to my main job. I have attended many interesting courses, met even more interesting people and took part in arduous networking meetings with little understanding of what I was supposed to talk about nor what it actually was that I wanted from it. It was all a great learning curve. So instead of spending my time advertising and feeling disappointed that I don’t get much response, I will now concentrate on university and let happen whatever will happen.

It’s almost like I have been creating different identities of myself in recent years, creating different blogs for different audiences because I didn’t feel that one could cope with the other. But I see now how beautifully they all work together. It’s an amalgamation of who I am as an individual, and of a life that I am proud to be living.

My previous website was build with simple HTML to keep my web design skills up but it got more and more difficult due to time and bothersome techniques to even update a single sentence, whereas I could spent hours blogging about a topic I felt passionate about here on wordpress. So I chose to transfer some of the content from my website onto my blog site since I am on here most of the time anyway.

First part of the amalgamation has been done. Now I can relax.

A passion to help is great – just that you can’t help if someone doesn’t want to be helped.

People rather have you fix their problems for them instead of genuinely wanting to solve them with your help.

Symptom control is impossible in the long-term unless you change something in your life. If you’re not happy to change your life, you might have to live with the symptoms.

I actually feel like I can be even more open in expressing myself through my writing now that I don’t have the burden of attracting potential clients. Too much have I been indoctrinated by several different codes of conducts relevant to whichever course I went for to behave and talk in a certain way.

Whereas I fully respect a professional appearance and a non-discriminatory approach and to refrain from practices that I am not qualified in, I also felt like I couldn’t fully be me, unable to breathe, stifled by the code and conduct’s suggested demeanours and crippled by my insurance’s terms and conditions.

My passion to help is joined by my passion to teach. So what better approach could I choose than simply be myself and lead by example. If someone would like to understand more about what I do they can ask. And I will be more than happy to fill them in.

I draw inspiration from my own experiences and thoughts as well as what I observe in the world around me. I don’t mean to offend anyone with my thoughts, they are merely expressions of my Inner Self, hence the term “The Sacred Centre”, in case you were wondering.

I refer to the Sacred Centre as the Inner Self that lies within you, in the centre of your chest. Seeing the world with your heart, not with your head will put a smile on your face. It brings you one step closer to the rest of the world, one step closer to yourself.

Writing brings clarity into my mind. With each story I share it feels like I am getting closer to finding inner peace.

To a new future filled with fun 😀

Love
Anna

Destiny

I try to be still, breathing in and out, calming my thoughts, but internally I writhe and twist under my mental turmoil.

Nothing major happened, just an accumulation of occurrences that whirl around in my head, unable to find a niche to settle in.

Let’s try and create one. Where do I even begin?

It’s actually all down to other’s opinions and behaviours. Just why does it affect me that much? Is it because it stirs something in me? Connects to memories and experiences that unsettle me?

Like, being unable to deal effectively with confrontation and disagreements. It’s scares the hell out of me. It makes me feel very insecure. It makes me want to run away. And in running away I am very good. I swallow my anger, my frustration out of fear that letting it out will create unrest around me and rather silently disappear a few years down the line, when the build up has gotten too much.

Coupled with the anxiety I still feel when seeing people on the street that resemble an individual that caused me a lot of emotional trauma, I came home mentally exhausted and collapsed on the bed.

Now I was left facing the last issue which is infesting my mind. Irritatingly it goes back to my father issues once again. How many times?

There is a young dad who has decided he can’t be a dad yet. And whereas I know him I am nowhere near enough to him as to know the exact details. But every single fibre in my body wants to tell him to please consider what effect this can have on his child in the future. Purely based on my own father issues, or rather his non-existence.

Just who am I to tell him that, considering everyone else is already miffed with him after having made his decision. I wonder what made him decide he didn’t want a family. At the same time I know that it is completely different to the decision my father made 30 years ago.

It’s interesting to note that there is a young man, pretty much the same age as my father was when I was born, and I am watching the whole scenario from the position of a person sharing the same age and yet with the emotions of a child that wasn’t wanted by it’s father.

If I had the chance to talk to him what would I say? If I have had the chance to talk to my father at the time he decided against me, what would I have said to him?

Would I say he is making a mistake? Surely it is his decision, he can’t be forced into something he doesn’t want to do. Maybe it’s even better to not be there at all than being a crap dad because he can’t be bothered.

Would it help either of them to have the perspective of a 30 year old future child with all its faults and perfections, all its dreams and anxieties, all its hopes and fears?

Would it change anything? Would it make them reconsider? And least of all, what would it change for me?

Does tempering with other’s destiny solve anything in the long term? Or is it destiny that someone came and tempered with it?

Either way, I will have to think about it a little more, but for now at least it helped me put these thoughts into a comfy niche and put my mind at rest for the night.

Love
Anna

A State of Mind

After two busy twelve hour shifts I awake tired and achy, unwilling to move or do anything for that matter.

I force myself out of bed at 10am only to get back into it less than three hours later. There I lie, reading a few pages in my book, before I loose the rest of my concentration and focus for the world and roll over in an attempt to sleep a little more.

Just sleep doesn’t want to come. I waft in and out of a dozing half-sleep state, a few thoughts making their way through the processing centre of my brain.

I actually enjoy this state of interbeing, being one with everything without actually doing anything. In fact, I was way too tired to sit upright and meditate and even my yoga practice was abandoned prematurely due to a slight sensation of light-headedness and lack of limb control.

As I lie there, one of the patients I was looking after over the past two days came into my mind. He has tetraplegia, paralyzed from the neck down, with just a little uncoordinated movement in his arms.

Once again I try to put myself into the position of such an individual, which is impossible, and unfortunately I don’t see it as acceptable to ask such an individual how they feel about it, especially not from my position as the care-giver.

However, the question has been with me for years and since I can’t find an answer it comes up again and again: how is it to be unable to move?

Even if I was to ask an individual and would be invited to gain an insight into his/her thoughts and emotions, it would only represent this one particular individual, not all those who are paralysed. Books  like “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” or stories like Tony Nicklinson’s case help to gain an insight, though both of them were unable to communicate verbally.

What I always find remarkable is the contentment I encounter in individuals who are paralyzed but still able to talk. Rarely have I come across someone who represents a difficult individual with a negative mindset. The majority are witty people with a wicked sense of humour.

Is it vital for us humans to communicate in order for life to make sense?

In cases of those who are paralyzed and able to talk, apart form the fact that they can’t mobilise, they seem to enjoy a mentally engaging life. Some learn languages, others travel abroad, and a lot of those I had the pleasure of meeting talk about their state of the art TV set that they can control with the blink of their eye which offers them much more than just TV and internet. As the story goes, some care homes even arrange escorts on their resident’s wishes. (watch “The Sessions“)

Dare to smile?

Another burning question: are they really happy?

As I blissfully enjoy my lazy state of interbeing, my legs all heavy and my back achy, I wonder if this is what it feels like for a paralyzed individual. Are they happy that they don’t really have a care in the world beside requiring others to look after them and enduring the processes of manual evacuation and washes under the constant eyes of others? Dare I wonder if they enjoy not having to move, having to go shopping, having to cook? Or is this too patronising and violates their dignity and respect?

Their sheer joy for life seems to stand out. It must give them something, otherwise they would have given up by now, like Tony Nicklinson, for example. I have seen the process of simply giving up so many times, that I can say that if someone loses the will to live, they usually begin to loose their appetite first, followed by a physical deterioration resulting in poor health and unless they can bring the spark back into their lives, they will simply cease to exist.

This does apply a lot more to the older generation, who have lost partners, most friends, don’t have many family members, have a physical ailment and are tired of being ill and don’t want to be a nuisance to others. It is quite sad to watch, but I can also emphasize and understand their point.

In paralyzed individuals who are able to communicate effectively, I observe a gist for life and a very healthy appetite. I would assume that it means that these particular individuals have accepted their condition to be part of their life and make the most of it.

I suppose all the above questions and contemplations refer back to myself and my very last question: would I want to live like that?

Considering I am a very intellectually active person, loving to teach and spread my acquired knowledge, and also bringing in my awareness of a much subtler world around us that can be engaged with by thought, I think I would be happy to still have the chance to be able to share my knowledge, even if my physical body wasn’t any longer following my mental commands.

In the case that I was unable to express my thoughts properly, I think I would rather like to go back to the state where I came from before I was born, in which the physical world doesn’t play a part, wherever that may be.

I have developed a huge respect for these paralyzed individuals followed by an ever increasing compassion towards them. And at the end of the day I have to say that I see this as the purpose of living, to learn about ourselves as much as we learn about others. And when we are able to understand others, we will also be able to understand more about ourselves.

And vice versa 🙂

Love
Anna

Natural Selection

I notoriously try to avoid the news. I just can’t bear to listen to all the negativity, deaths, assaults, wars, economic disasters and poverty and starvation in poor countries.

It makes me very very  sad, touches a seed inside of me that I do not wish to water. Why is it that bad news sell better than good news?

Is it naïve or selfish to prefer to live in my little bubble of happiness, trying to keep my little candle alight amidst all the disasters of the world happening around me?

I do like to help others keep their candle alight, teach them a way to practice life more peacefully and at ease with themselves. But ultimately it is their own responsibility to look after their candle light and to ensure it isn’t blown out by the threatening wind created by bad news and other’s opinions.

There are people who predict the end of the world quite frequently and others who say the financial system is going to go bust and that America is going to go down just like Atlantis did.

They don’t mean to upset anyone, they actually try to make us aware of what is about to come so that we are prepared for when it happens.

Just when is this extra knowledge worth the worries? Wouldn’t it be much better that we aim for a peaceful way of living and dying instead of spending our life preparing for a possibly disastrous end?

And why is it that we need to survive by all means? If I think that a massive wave of water is going to hit our coast and make its way inland over the flood planes, is my house going to survive? How about I ensure my car has inflatables build in underneath so that it can float for a little while or even build a helicopter type construction under the roof so that it can lift me up to the next higher hill?

You see, that’s the effect bad news has on me. They send me a little barmy. My innate sense for survival kicking in and looking for solutions to survive straight away.

What are we in the face of evolution?

Now, I do believe in the power of thought and law of attraction, as it has worked repeatedly in my favour, and also, I hasten to say, against me. What you put out you are likely to get. So what about these conspiracy theories? Wouldn’t it be basic law of attraction at work, should we all worry about the end of the world, that it will indeed happen?

Shouldn’t we instead focus on simple life changes to bring about a healthy planet and inhabitants?

There is a reason I don’t listen to the news or engage in political polls or discussions. Call me ignorant, but I simply don’t see how it is going to change anything if we all trust into someone to make changes for us instead of beginning with the change within ourselves.

If you want a better world, begin to create one instead of waiting for someone to create it for you!

Natural disasters have been part of shaping the universe long before the existence of humans and it will likely carry on happening. I suppose we have to accept that and consider looking at it from a slightly different angle, seeing it more as natural selection than a catastrophe, despite the obviously sad impact on family and friends that may have lost against nature, which is sad, I don’t deny that.

But I also think that, if we ourselves weren’t so ignorant to believe that we could live forever, and face the fact that we will all die one day, that maybe this acceptance of our ultimate vulnerability would lead us to value our short existence on this planet in the face of human and planetary evolution and make the best of it.

So build yourself a bubble to protect your own light, lead by example and create a better world now!

Love
Anna

A New Perspective

“Because things are the way they are, things will not stay the way they are”.
Berthold Brecht

When I started this blog I was hoping to fill it with interesting topics on alternative health and complementary therapies and to bring the idea of the Inner Self closer to others. I also thought it would enhance my own complementary business that I had just set up.

A full year and a half later I can say that it neither gave me more clients, nor that I have written many blogs on alternative health options. But the mere act of writing had a transforming effect on me. It greatly helped to understand myself, where I came from, who I am, who I want to be and what is shaping me on the way and mostly to make peace with myself.

And I realised that it isn’t important for me to master the unseen energies surrounding us, neither is it important to convince others of their existence.  I came to understand that it is actually much more important for me to live my life as a leading example.

Remaining calm when disagreements occur, smile when others get angry, breathe and listen when someone cuts into my sentence, prepare and eat simple nutritious foods to keep me going, meditate to maintain my inner peace, practice yoga to keep flexible as age gets on.

Even more so did I see how much the extra knowledge I have acquired over the last two decades influences the way I carry out my main job. And even though I can’t apply any of my complementary skills in my main job, the background knowledge still filters through in the way I think, converse with others, handle situations and express myself. It enables me to see others from a different angle and somewhat see more to them than they themselves would.

Setting up your own business is a tiring process that requires a lot of determination and dedication. Especially through the initial starting phase where it looks like its just not going to happen. It depends on whether this job will be your main income or whether you will have another job in the background that will keep you above water while your new business is growing.

In my case I was never going to give up my main job, more likely reducing the hours should I get busy with my own business. It might be that this is a reason why I don’t have very many private clients. I might simply not have put enough effort in because it wasn’t like my life depended on it. I also have been continuously in education since I sat up my own business. I simply didn’t have enough time to direct my whole attention onto it, despite my passion to make it happen.

Now I have been very lucky to get promoted at work which means I will go to university for the next two years and will have to put my little business on hold. And it doesn’t bother me a bit. Something inside of me already knows that I will be much better off once I finish this course. I will be stronger, more knowledgeable, ready to take on the whole world.

It’s just strange that, now that I am in full anticipation to start the new course, people suddenly get interested in my complementary treatments. Or is it because of the new course? Does it make me more appealing or trustworthy in a professional sense? Or am I being tested once again from higher sources to see what I really want to do?

The promotion came after having held a strong vision of mine for a good two years. Call it cosmic ordering, or law of attraction, I got what I wanted without much effort. And although I initially feel like I am cheating myself, converting from complementary therapies to a more clinical practice, I know that it is all part of the parcel, part of being more accepted by the world as a whole.

Regardless of what your vision is, and regardless of whether it changes from time to time, as long as you have a vision, you know where you are going.

Interestingly, now that I move on to another topic, away from healing energies, I find myself get embarrassed when asked about it. It almost feels like I have grown out of it. Don’t get me wrong, I am still fully aware that these energies are there, but I have learned to acknowledge them and work with them in such a subtle way, that I don’t need to address them openly anymore.

Over the past few years, when I began to attend courses in Energy Healing, that was the only thing I was interested in, and was equally keen on getting others interested too. But I only know now that it doesn’t work that way. Only because you are interested by something doesn’t mean that others will be interested. Even if you see that they would benefit from the extra knowledge.

You can’t force others to heal, even if you have their best interest at heart and only want to help. They need to find their own way, and if it is supposed to be, their paths will cross with yours.

That’s just the way things are 🙂

Love
Anna

Life is a Roundabout

If you have encountered one of the “magic roundabouts” you know just how confusing it can be. But having made it through alive and without damage to you or others, you also realise that things will be okay as long as you go with the flow.

Just what does it mean??

The other day I was waiting by a roundabout for a friend and since there was nothing else to do, my mind wandered and naturally focused on the most engaging option, the traffic going round the roundabout.

After a few unconscious minutes of staring at the cars whooshing by, my awareness was alerted by the realisation that this roundabout was a spitting image of the concept of life and the cosmos.

Not only did the central island represent the sun and the cars somewhat the planets circling around it, but also did the whole appearing and disappearing of cars resemble the coming and going of life, death, rebirth and also the theory of cause and effect – what comes around, goes around.

This idea was born when I recognized some drivers and seeing how different everyone behaved and interacted with each other. Some steered confident and self-assured through the roundabout only to be beeped at by someone who thought that it wasn’t going fast enough which in turn upset the anxious driver in the lane next to them who worried they made a mistake.

Regardless of individual’s driving styles and experiences, everyone left the circle of life at some point and took with it a different view based on their own experience. The only thing that remains the same, a constant observer, is the centre island, affected only by the seasons.

Representing a similar entity to what some would call a “God”, the centre island would also be our haven, a peaceful sanctuary, a point from where to see all and everything, an oracle that could tell you what happened and why. Although it was actually designed to block off the view for the opposing oncoming traffic so that they would focus on the traffic coming from one side only.

An even higher authority designed the layouts and decided that this was a good way to make traffic run smoothly. Of course not everyone obeys the rules. Most people don’t stay in their lane and cut through the middle, especially if there is no centre island. Recently I was doing my best staying in my lane when going straight over the roundabout, only to be cut off by someone entering the roundabout right in front of me. He probably thought I was about to leave the roundabout at the first exit because I was in the outside lane instead of cutting through the middle, like most probably do.

Auckland, New Zealand

Auckland, New Zealand

When I was about to visit New Zealand I was shown a picture of a roundabout layout by a friend which at first glance looked very terrifying, considering I was a German national and about to drive on the “wrong” side of the road. So before I went to pick up the car I had hired downtown Auckland, I walked the first few blocks that I was about to drive on, just to make sure I wouldn’t crash right away.

But soon I swerved gently through the traffic and actually had more trouble back on the roads in Germany adjusting to driving on the “normal” side of the  road, as I had been taught. Now that I have been living in the UK for over 7 years, I avoid driving in Germany because I find it too confusing and intimidating, despite it being the roads that I initially learned to drive on.

Roundabouts are a beautifully choreographed version of life and watching the traffic circle is almost like meditating. And although cars may or may not be the best example to compare life to, especially since they stink to heaven, excuse my choice of words, the epiphany that derives directly from simply watching is grandiose.

An interesting comparison from my point of view is that in Nepal I found that, stepping out to cross over a road, I myself became a centre island around which the traffic swerved frighteningly. But that is just the way it goes there. There are mini buses, taxis, motorcycles, bicycles, rickshaws, dogs, cows and people of all ages, genders and professions on the road, swerving and veering around each other in a beautiful harmonious chaos. The idea is to just go and everything will just swirl around you. Just don’t stop. A wonderfully exhilarating experience.

Roundabout in Kathmandu, Nepal

Roundabout in Kathmandu, Nepal

So we all have our own parcel to carry, or drive around. And what we do with life is up to us and us alone. If you ever wonder why life is the way it is, sit yourself next to a roundabout and watch. The answer will come to you 😉

Love
Anna

The Mini Evolution

Having been researching a little into my mitochondrial past, my mother line, and being aware of today’s understanding of human evolution, I came to see just how fast we develop today.

What our ancestors learned over many thousands, even millions of years, we now learn in a single lifetime. We learn to walk in the first couple of years of our life together with the first words that soon transform into proper sentences followed by proper reading and writing when we enter school.

During our teens we discover ourselves and the world around us, we trial and test and grow up with a pretty good understanding of how we should behave, though a lot of us might have different ideas.

We enter adolescence and are expected to become responsible, look after ourselves and make decisions about our life and the future. We are curious and want to see for ourselves if the photos from places far away are correct and many go to see it for themselves.

Annapurna, Himalaya, Nepal

After a few years we may get tired, no longer hungry for knowledge we begin to settle down. Quite naturally children are born which repeat the cycle of growing up and once they have left the house to explore the world for themselves, we hope to spend the rest of our life in the peaceful surroundings of our home that we have established during our lifetime.

Granted this describes the average Western view on life. In poorer countries, like Nepal above for example, which is one of the poorest countries in the world, this theory is a completely different ballgame.

Today we live on average twice as long as my mitochondrial mother Helena did 20 000 years ago, at the time of the last ice age. We can get a good 90 years out of it if we are lucky, yet the majority of important transformations take place in the first 20 years of our life. So what are we doing with the rest of our life? Is it maybe not that lucky at all to live to such a high age?

What is it that evolution tries to teach us by enabling us to grow up to our full potential so quickly and then allowing us to live that long?

On a related concept, researchers have realised that our brain has been steadily shrinking for the past 20 000 years. The reasons are yet unknown. One idea I like. It suggests that we have adapted to life, became used to our surroundings and simply don’t need some of the early functions that enabled us to survive in the wild. It is for example also mentioned that a larger head would have been of benefit to counteract the cold ice age. http://discovermagazine.com/2010/sep/25-modern-humans-smart-why-brain-shrinking

Our ancient ancestors were mostly travelling by foot and many didn’t make it either due to old age, illness or accidental death while hunting. Today’s life offers us the possibility to travel relatively safe to places that those living a few thousand years ago didn’t even knew existed. Travelling further got easier with the first railway tracks and nowadays we take travelling afar for granted.

Aotearoa – New Zealand – The land of the long white cloud

The first time I set foot on a plane was nine years ago, at the adventurous age of 21, when I decided to take a look at New Zealand at the bottom of the world. Prior to that I thought flying was only for rich people. And to be fair, it has only been a fairly recent development that low cost airlines made flying more accessible to those on a low budget.

Two years after my trip to New Zealand I moved from Germany to England and spent the first few years flying back and forth twice a year to see my family until I got fed up with it and began taking the car on the ferry to cross the English Channel about once each year.

It was the realisation during the years of “commuting” between England and Germany that I looked at myself and asked “Just when did you become a frequent flyer?” An innate fear response set in that suggested that the more often I fly the higher the chance I will crash one day. So I stopped flying, which I know is silly since crashing I can anywhere be it in a car, bus, train or even more so on my bike. Did my prehistoric ancestors begin to settle in one place because they were afraid to venture further into a dangerous wild?

However silly this approach of mine to flying may be, it does enable me to be prepared for the possibility that the oil on the planet may run out at some point. How prepared are you to do without the comfort of distant travels and to be forced back onto your own two feet to walk, just like our prehistoric ancestors did? Would that cause our brain to grow again?

As mentioned above, I have become a little less adventurous now compared to a few years ago when I went to Nepal and ended up climbing over a massive rock and mudslide.

Rock and mudslide in Nepal

Actually, this may sound clichéd, having just turned 30 I feel I have aged a lot in the past six months. As if the whole of evolution had suddenly caught up with me. My eyesight rapidly declined, my driving isn’t as boisterous as it used to be, I am more aware of the possible dangers around me and my handwriting is deteriorating to mere hieroglyphs. I read somewhere once that our body is only designed to function to it’s fullest potential until about age 37. Is this what I’m feeling?

My sense of adventure has turned inward, to be happy with myself wherever I am. I have even only recently bought a little bungalow. “Only old people buy bungalows” used to be a common stereotype. I just like the compact cuteness of it. And the immense feeling of security this new house evokes in me is tremendous, despite my inability to commit even to a fulltime job until a few years ago.

My warm and happy feelings towards the house as a place where I can retreat to and rest might be similar to the first farmers 10 000 years ago that settled down because they found it much more comfortable to grow their food around the house compared to running after it in the wild.

We all start of as hunters when we are born and return to the shelter of a home to settle down in comfort. And I think that in my very own mini evolution, I am just at that point. Just children are not on my horizon 😉

Love
Anna

The Call of Life

What is the purpose of living? And why do we carry on producing offspring to further populate an already overcrowded planet? Are we unconsciously preparing for an expedition to Mars after all?

20 000 years ago it was the declining ice cover over northern Europe that enabled Helena, my mitochondrial mother, to move further north from southern France and discover unknown territory. It must have been exciting as well as terrifying and dangerous, to say the least.

20 000 years later I decide to leave my home country of Germany to move to England after accepting a six months work experience placement. I saw it as a stepping stone from which to travel the rest of the world. It was exciting, terrifying but more than anything, I had enough of Germany, a place that didn’t hold much excitement for me anymore at the time.

Friends had fallen out with each other, my part time job had been given to someone else, and actually, something had been missing all along. And I was keen to find out what it was that I was missing out on.

Apart from the known facts that Helena, whose name derives from the haplogroup letter H, was said to belong to the hunter and gatherers, long before humans settled down to farm, one of her main aims was to keep finding food to survive, an important instinct that we still possess today.

When I made the decision to move abroad, my instinct was to find something new, a challenge, somewhere else. English as a language seemed to come easy to me and I enjoyed talking, watching movies and reading in English. I would love to know how Helena communicated and whether her clan had trouble communicating with other clans.

Chalk Cliffs at Dover, UK.

Six months in England have now turned into seven years. How did that happen? And I wonder just how it happened that my ancestors decided to settle in Germany. How did the hunter and gatherers come to begin farming? Because they realised that it was much easier to grow food in close proximity than having to run around in the wild for days to hunt it down.

I have to admit, though I didn’t get very far with my ambitious plans to travel the world, after a decade of discovering myself, beginning by leaving my mother’s house, re-educating myself from graphic design to foreign languages to healthcare, adding complementary therapies, jetting off to inspect far away places like New Zealand and teaching English at Buddhist monasteries in Nepal, I feel like I spent my twenties well with researching my options and playing around with all the possibilities.

I have figured out what I want out of life, realised that the horizon will still be there to discover more if I wish and that I am now ready to lay back and enjoy living my thirties, which would have been a fulfilling middle age for Helena, a little more peaceful.

Well, maybe after the two years university that lie ahead 🙂

I hasten to say that it is more my mental attitude that has changed, more at ease with myself, more accepting of myself and others, a little calmer. Why yes, we are still a constantly evolving species after all.

The genetic mutations that make up our markers which make it possible to establish where our DNA has travelled, are estimated to arise every few thousand years and can be used to give us a rough idea when and where these people lived. What I find interesting is the finding that humans never had a milk digesting enzyme, other than as babies, and that it was a genetic mutation that arouse a few thousand years ago that enabled humans to digest milk from animals. It is suggested that this strand of humans went on to populate Europe, since most Asian and African populations are not able to tolerate milk.

I don’t tolerate milk very well, with the symptoms of headache, bloating, nausea, but my DNA result didn’t include this information, so I don’t know for sure if any of my ancestors carried the lactose tolerating enzyme and if they did, where it began.

I have written before about the story how and why I left Germany, which you can read here if you like. But it is only now that I don’t just consider it a spiritual calling, the influence of reincarnation, but begin to wonder whether it was maybe my genes calling me just as much. How much would a genetic predisposition influence our decision where we feel home?

Only in the last year did I write about my nomadic behaviour of running away in connection with my engagement, about being home where the heart is, reminisced about the winds of change, releasing toy horses and discovered the Buddha within.

Feel free to click on the links and read!

And why do I feel drawn to certain places on the globe and not at all to others? Is it the total unknown that fascinates me or is it familiarities? Can we put any emphasis on these questions at all? I always say that if I had lived a few hundred years ago, I would have discovered the world. Did I?

The end result is that I feel happy where I am and would only consider moving away if I found find that I wasn’t happy anymore. However, I have come to learn to deal with such situations and transform them, which is probably why I am still here.

Did the same happen to Helena and my more recent German ancestors? Did they simply stay where they were because they were happy? Or did other commitments keep them bound to the area? Did they feel they had to raise children to maintain the family line or did it just happen? Or was it just not possibly for them to pack their bags and run for the hills, like I did?

Even if someone claims to know the answers, there will be hardly any evidence to support them. Which makes this topic so exciting 😉

Love
Anna

Smile Breathe Walk

The first thing I learned about mindfulness was that it is important to smile at yourself, to smile at your thoughts, to breathe and to walk. “If you can do these things, you will be happy”, said the sister at Plum Village.

The practice of mindfulness can bring a little more ease into our everyday life. Breathing deeply  and following the natural flow of our breath in and out of our body for a few minutes is a simple tool to arrive in the present moment, to feel calm and be at peace with yourself.

Calligraphy by Tich Nhat Hanh

A brilliant help on the path of mindfulness is the mindfulness bell. Any kind of sound – a bell, ringing phone, door bell, beeping car – can be utilised to bring our awareness back to our breath and most importantly, to drop those tight shoulders. Common side effects include no more neck pain, a serene happiness and reduced anxiety.

If you would like to make use of the mindfulness bell you can use this clever gadget that you can install on your computer, or run via your web browser and that you can set to a preferred time or let it surprise you at random. www.mindfulnessdc.org/bell/index.html

My singing bowl – the perfect mindfulness bell!

I even extended the idea of using any sound to bring me back to the present moment to someone screaming outside, which used to infuriate me, but has now become a reason for me to simply focus on my breathing and to smile. Believe it or not, I actually sleep through most of the midnight screamers now. Pure bliss 🙂

By living more consciously aware of yourself and your surroundings you can arrive in the present moment any time. Another tool is the practice of slow walking, or walking meditation. Walking not to get somewhere but simply to walk for the sake of walking, breathing, smiling, slowing down and giving the present moment a chance to catch up with you.

Brothers and sisters walking slowly at Plum Village, France

I quite often walk along our seafront in Eastbourne, UK at low tide and decided I am going to invite others along to share the practice of mindfulness and help them to slow down a little and become more peaceful.

So if you live somewhere around Eastbourne, UK, or are planning to visit, and would like to join me on a mindful low tide walk, follow me on Facebook or Twitter where I will announce when I will be going. This will be very sporadic, whenever I am free and it happens to be low tide, and quite likely on a short term notice.

The walk will be very slow and in silence, but there will be a little time after and before for questions. Make sure you are there at least 5 minutes before the time stated, I will not wait. As a meeting point I suggest the old fountain outside of Fusciardie’s Ice Cream Parlour. I like to walk barefoot, and like to encourage others to do the same, but feel free to wear wellies or water proof shoes if it would make you feel more comfortable. There is absolutely no charge, besides, air is free to breathe as well 😉

However, if you wish to donate something, I am collecting for urgent maintenance and repair work in Plum Village, aiming to send all donations over in December as a Christmas present.

Bell Tower and Lotus Pond at Plum Village, France

Plum Village was established over 30 years ago, and time is passing which means that there are cracks in the walls and boards falling from the ceilings (yes it came down right outside my room door 🙂 ). There also are a lot of Government regulations and expectations to live up to, and if things don’t improve, Plum Village will not be able to take any more visitors, which would be a great loss. It is such a tranquil place of peace and calm, which also supports many Vietnamese living under very poor conditions in Vietnam.

If you are unable to join me in Eastbourne, why not practice on your own. Walk slowly, breath deeply and smile to yourself 😉

Enjoy living and breathing in the present moment!

Love
Anna

The Buddha Within the Sacred Centre

Now this is interesting.

A year and a half ago I decided it was time to create a business around my idea to help people. This was mainly driven by the thought that I ought to declare any extra income so I don’t get into trouble one day and have to pay a silly amount of money to the tax man.

At that time I didn’t have a regular income outside my main job but was naively believing that I would one day. I still don’t take much more in on the side but beside the reassurance that I am abiding the law (however irritating and confusing the self-assessment tax returns are), it actually helped me to pin point what I really wanted this little extra business to be.

My main drive was to help and I wanted to do this by sharing my own practice together with knowledge acquired along the way. While searching for the all important internet domain, I settled for “The Sacred Centre“. The decision was certainly mainly fueled by my omnipresent gut feeling and possibly because it sound good. But mostly it resonated with a sensation inside of me, in the centre of my chest, that I had come to see as a space where my Inner Self resides peacefully.

Fast forward a year and a half, after having lead many workshops on raising other’s awareness of this “Sacred Centre” within, I found something even deeper at Plum Village, a Buddhist Retreat in France.

Statue at Lower Hamlet, Plum Village

In that same space that I had stumbled across a few years ago, I found what a Buddhist nun referred to as the “Buddha within”, a sense of pure happiness and joy, so beautiful, I have no words to describe it.

Discovering my Sacred Centre was like standing in a doorway, fully aware of the room inside, yet the most vital feature within that room was still out of reach, hidden by the mists of the past. It was no doubt a vital discovery, but having been able to completely wind down and relax for a week at Plum Village enabled me to shift that mist and see the Buddha within clearly, understanding what it means to “really arrive, to be truly at home“.

And upon my return home, after nearly two years living in a flat that I didn’t like, surrounded by loud traffic and screaming people, I was able to be happy where I was, in the present moment, with the Buddha within me. Only three weeks later arrived the long awaited offer to buy the flat, giving us the opportunity to move on to live in a much calmer environment of our choice.

I have often made the discovery that if someone, me included, wasn’t happy with their place of living, they would also encounter difficulties in selling or renting a new place. However, as soon as they made the decision to stop looking and redecorate, thinking if they have to stay they might as well make themselves comfortable, the offers came in and they moved out of a beautifully redecorated house into another!

I did a lot of cobweb dusting during working meditation at Plum Village and it truly applied to those around myself as much as those inside of me. Clear your inner cobwebs, redecorate and smile and breathe deeply from time to time! In truth it doesn’t matter where you are, as long as you are happy with yourself. If you aren’t happy with yourself, your surroundings will let you know 😉

Love
Anna

The Breath of Life

I have come to see more and more recently, how important our breathing is and how distant we become from ourselves if we are unable to connect with our breath. Breath is life – life is breathing. We could possibly survive without food for about a month or two, without water for two to three days but without oxygen only for a few minutes.

Breathing deeply can help to maintain the connection to our body and inner self. Taking a deep breath and following the natural flow of your breathing in and out of your body for a few minutes can be a simple way to celebrate being alive. It can bring you back into the present moment and also give you a sense of calmness and being at peace with yourself.

However, not everyone is able to breathe properly, me included. I spent a week at Plum Village recently, a Buddhist retreat in France, and there I learned to use any kind of sound – a bell, ringing phone, door bell, beeping car – as a way of centring, bringing my awareness back to my breath and most importantly, to drop my shoulders.

Small Bell at the Lower Hamlet, Plum Village

At first, this was strange to me, I actually tensed up even more whenever I heard the mindfulness bell, as if I innately feared something bad was going to happen. At the same time I realised that my breath literally got stuck in my chest, I was unable to breathe properly. It was as if someone was holding a tight grip on my neck and shoulders, as if I was doing something I shouldn’t do, as if I wasn’t allowed to be alive.

This actually translates nicely onto my father’s decision to have me aborted. His words posed a danger to my most basic need, being alive and breathing, and once I took my first breath they unconsciously haunted me for most of my life, giving me the feeling that I shouldn’t be here, alive, breathing.

Calligraphy by Thich Nhat Hanh

I had some deep revelations and a lot of letting go during my stay at Plum Village, which you can read about in the category “On the Road to Mindfulness“, and soon I began to relax whenever I heard the bell. I even began to long for the sound of mindfulness to bring me back to peace.

Back home I found this clever gadget, a mindfulness bell that you can install on your computer, or run via your web browser and that you can set to a preferred time or let it surprise you at random. www.mindfulnessdc.org/bell/index.html

I even extended the idea of using any sound to bring me back to the present moment to someone screaming outside, which used to infuriate me, but has now become a reason for me to simply focus on my breathing and to smile. Believe it or not, I actually sleep through most of the midnight screamers now 🙂

It was a couple of months before I learned about the mindfulness bell that I felt the urge to get myself another singing bowl in addition to the one I had bought in Nepal a few years ago. It is only now that I realise that this little bowl serves as the perfect mindfulness bell! 🙂

By living more consciously aware of yourself and your surroundings you can celebrate life at any moment in time. Another tool I would like to carry forth from Plum Village is the practice of slow walking, or walking meditation. Walking not to get somewhere but simply to walk for the sake of walking, breathing, slowing down and arriving in the present moment.

While I was doing just that today along our seafront on the sand that the low tide had revealed, I decided I am going to invite others along whenever I do a walk like that to spread the teaching of mindfulness and help others to slow down and become more peaceful within themselves.

Monks and Nuns walking slowly at Son Ha, Plum Village

So if you read this and you live somewhere around Eastbourne, or are planning to visit, and would like to join me on a mindful low tide walk along Eastbourne’s seafront, follow me on Facebook or Twitter where I will announce when I will be going. This will be very sporadic, whenever I am free and it happens to be low tide, and quite likely on a short term notice.

The walk will be very slow and in silence, but there will be time after and before for questions. Make sure you are there at least 5 minutes before the time stated, I will not wait. As a meeting point I suggest the old fountain outside of Fusciardie’s Ice Cream Parlour. I like to walk barefoot, and like to encourage others to do the same, but feel free to wear wellies or water proof shoes if it would make you feel more comfortable. There is absolutely no charge, besides, air is free to breathe as well 😉

However, if you wish to donate something, I would like to collect for urgent maintenance and repair work in Plum Village, aiming to send all donations over in December as a Christmas present. Plum Village is such a tranquil place of peace and calm, which also supports a lot of Vietnamese living under very poor conditions in Vietnam.

My room was in Persimmon House at the Lower Hamlet, Plum Village

Plum Village was established over 30 years ago, and time is passing which means that there are cracks in the walls and boards falling from the ceilings (yes it came down right outside my room door :)).  There also are a lot of Government regulations and expectations to live up to, and if things don’t improve, Plum Village will not be able to take any more visitors, which would be a great loss.

Bell Tower and Lotus Pond at Lower Hamlet, Plum Village

If you are unable to join me, why not practice on your own. Walk slowly, breath deeply and smile to yourself 😉

Enjoy living and breathing in the present moment!

Love
Anna

Mindfulness in Reality

So how do I integrate the practices of mindfulness I had learned at Plum Village into my daily life? Whereas it is possible while I make an effort, it is also more difficult than I had thought. 

While on holiday one has time and it is easier to fully dedicate myself to meditate, slow down and relax. But back at home in every day life, there is always something that needs to be done which causes distractions followed by stress.

Even though I take the time to sit and breathe, my mind wants to carry on planning the day and get things done. And it really doesn’t help that I have loads of photos to sort through and a very slow computer to do it with! 🙂

I’m loosing all my mindfulness over it… Does mindfulness require a good working computer?

Although I am generally more at ease and less stressed in most situations, I also feel that all my joy and excitement has fallen to the wayside, overshadowed by a soft blanket of peace and calm. My first day back at work was almost surreal, colleagues joked I look lost, asking whether I was away for too long and had forgotten what to do. How can I get back to being more actively joyful without directly toppling over into the cycle of mania and depression?

It is almost as if my body and mind are fighting to prevail over my soul. I notice pure anger welling up as my computer stops working once again… I scream out loud. Not mindful at all. I decide it is time for a new computer.

I see that the true lesson of mindfulness is not to master being mindful but to integrate mindfulness into daily life. And to not get upset or angry at our or other’s unmindful behaviour but to use our awareness to be more mindful in the future. Our behaviour will be noticed by others, who in turn will reflect it back to us. How would you like to be treated? Treat others the same!

Another new behaviour of mine is that I don’t feel like eating meat. After a week of wholesome vegan cuisine at Plum Village I am left wanting more of it and even feel repulsed at the thought of eating meat. It is almost like eating my own brother. At the same time I don’t like to call myself a vegetarian, it is so limiting. I have been eating meat since I came back, but I get less and less inclined to carry on, and more and more excited about trying vegan dishes. They are just so easy and delicious!

Interestingly, a lot of people assume that I already am vegetarian. When I ask what gave them the idea, they shrug their shoulders and say they just thought I was. Is it because most of my meals are vegetarian or because I eat a lot of salad, or because I promote raw chocolate? I don’t know, but does it matter?

Nope 🙂

To a mindful life and new ways of thinking!

Love
Anna

A Mindful Journey Home

When the bell invites me for breakfast the last time, I step outside into the warm rays of the sun that are filtering through the leaves, into the fresh morning air, sensing the cold, as the cuckoo greets me with his call.

Bell tower at Lower Hamlet in Plum Village

Reality sucked me in like the East Australian Current does with the sea turtles. At first I withstood the current, smiling, driving far too slowly through the rolling green hills as I leave Plum Village behind me. But all too soon did other drivers, traffic jams and time catch up with me. I maintained my conscious breathing, which did help to remain calm. It was difficult, however, to find decent food. I just didn’t want to eat meat. And everything had cream of some sort or another. When I actually found a salad bar along the motorway they didn’t even have green salad leaves.

After a ten hour drive north, I arrive with my protector on the roof in the pretty country village of Mont-Dol, where I had booked in for two nights. This time I took full advantage of my protector and he duly took me to the nearest toilet or petrol station whenever I asked for it, even if it meant that I “accidentally” misread the sat-nav.

The BnB is a beautiful farm building and is run by a lovely couple, accompanied by two friendly dogs, a loud goose and a few horses, still, the atmosphere is noticeably different to Plum Village. People ask so many interrogative questions and the old awkwardness of having to make conversation for the sakes of it hangs in the air, all the while the TV is running in the background. In my lovely little attic room hang abstract drawings of nude ladies.

Countryside BnB in Mont-Dol

I try to accommodate the “new world” which is clashing with my inner peace like two rivers meeting and being expected to share the one and only river bed. Outside it thunders and the heavens are pouring tons of hail over us. There was thunder the evening I arrived at Plum Village… I remember one of the nuns saying yesterday that “It isn’t other people, songs, movies, books etc. that make us sad or happy, but that they merely bring up the sadness or happiness which is already in us”.

Walking towards Mont St Michel

The whole next day I spend on Mont St Michel, a granite rock island topped with a picturesque abbey and even has a few houses dating back to the middle ages, which are now mainly hotels, restaurants and gift shops. Up the stairs, down the stairs, left round, right round and then down to the beach and round the island rock at low tide. Pretty impressive!

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View of St Aubert’s Chapel at the beach of Mont St Michel

The following morning I wake up early, as if my body unconsciously joined in the morning meditation at Plum Village, and as I look outside the window a huge full moon is hovering over misty fields. I nearly lost all my mindfulness trying to open the window, but it wouldn’t budge, so I only got a blurry impression of the mighty scene. Oh how I wished I was at Mont St Michel now! Why didn’t I at least go outside? Because I was at the top floor of a tree story farm house whose stairs creaked like nobody’s business and it was Sunday after all and I worried the owners might think I try to sneak away without paying 🙂

Mindfulness is to enjoy the moment when it happens and not to look at it on a photo later.

When I enter the dining room for breakfast I naturally bow as I see a monk in cream coloured robe sitting at the table. Oh dear, I wonder if I shouldn’t have. Plum Village has properly conditioned me 🙂

Nearly two weeks driving through Europe including 6 countries and many toll stations on the last leg of my travels, and I was back again at the familiar ferry port in Calais. Earlier I had found myself suddenly and unexpectedly on a rather high bridge crossing the Seine estuary, clinging to the wheel of my car for dear life as I reach the middle of the bridge which was way too high above the water.

On the ferry I get myself an über-expensive meal because I am proper hungry and as I sit by the window eating, watching the French coast pass by, I feel like the Queen of England 🙂

As soon as I have finished eating I am outside, pointing my noise into the wind. With no more spaces left on my memory card, eliminating the chance of taking any further photos, I surrendered fully to the present moment. With view of the French and English coastlines as time grants me an extra hour, I find a place to simply be. Soon the first seagulls announce land and the familiar white chalk cliffs welcome me home. We even get an extra tour along the cliffs thrown in for free as the port wasn’t ready to take us in and we had to wait for a little while.

Chalk cliffs at Dover

The last couple hours driving on English soil pass in no time and I find myself back home, sitting on the sofa, smiling blissfully hoping that this feeling will last.

And I totally forgot to add the map in all my blissfulness 🙂

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Travelled from Plum Village (4) to Mont-Dol (5).

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And from Mont-Dol back to Eastbourne.

Truly Arriving at the Sixth Day of Mindfulness

Frogs of the Lotus Pond at Plum Village

As the wind rustles through the trees, we are standing around the lotus pond, listening to the frog’s song as they jump and play around. The sun is out and the daisies are smiling up at me from the green grass and I can’t help but smile back at them. We had butterflies passing by, spiders and ants crossing our path while walking mindfully through the plum tree orchard. And as the wind blew through the bamboo, I knew that I had learned something new. As I pass underneath the sweet scent of the elderberry tree I pause and feel at peace as I reach to smell the roses and admire the beautiful orange-yellow against the stone wall. I have finally arrived, I am truly home.

Having finally arrived, being truly at home expressed itself to me as an immense feeling of calmness, a deep sense of happiness, the absence of all worries, just being present in the moment. All my tensions and funny gut sensations seem to have vanished. At our last Dharma sharing I made a feeble attempt to communicate this sensation of peace to the others, which I had no words for. And while my confusing array of words was simultaneously translated into French, the French speakers looked at me with slight bewilderment.

How do you express a feeling and put it into words? I compared it to being in love – just different. One of the Vietnamese sisters said she fully understands what I mean, because many here have experienced the same sensation of pure happiness and she was happy for me to have found it here too. A French sister called it “the Buddha within”, saying that I can carry it within me wherever I go, but that it is also important to nourish it well. Those comments already added great nourishment to my inner Buddha 🙂

“If a feeling is so intrinsically beautiful that it can’t be expressed by words,
it can only be expressed by living it.”
Anna

“Water your flowers”

The language barrier meant that there were some participants that I didn’t talk much to. It is interesting to notice that something in me assumed that we wouldn’t have anything in common either. A few days ago I was thinking to myself how easily we meet new people and judge them straight away on first sight and then slowly get to know them by listening to their Dharma sharing and suddenly you begin to feel a connection with them.

Today a French participant had said this about a mushroom: “Up to now I never liked the big Asian mushrooms, just didn’t like the look of them, with their big wobbly shape. Today I tried one. At first I just looked at it, deeply, until I could sense the connection with it to the whole cosmos. Then I ate it, with every bite recognizing and assessing the texture, the taste, the smell, and I began to like it, just the way it is.” The intensity and huge meaning behind it touched me deeply, particularly because I was sitting next to her while she was poking around at her food while I caught myself thinking why she wasn’t just eating it…

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I was surprised to see how many participants here have problems with their parents, either not being fully accepted or trying to live up to individual expectations. Once again quite aptly we were watching a Dharma talk by Thay on video about children and parents today, suggesting that we should aim to see our parents as 5 year olds in order to help us develop compassion towards them and to enable us to heal the pain we associate with them. And it came to me that parents are also just people with problems they are trying to heal. And they then try to create a world for their children that fulfils their own dreams and ideas, believing they are making it better than their own childhood. When children begin to work on realising their own dreams and ideas, parents might meet them with misunderstanding and criticism, purely because they think their view is better, for they surely must know it best. Who gives us the ideal of how parents or children should be?

Some people came with similar expectations to Plum Village. Some left earlier because they didn’t think there was enough teaching. Others said they didn’t get their money’s worth out of this week. Once again, what are they basing their evaluation on? Some only want to come to meet the honourable Thich Nhat Hanh. He actually has written over hundred books on the theory and philosophy of Plum Village, you don’t need to come here to be taught what you can read in them anywhere in the world. Here you can come to practice mindfulness. I came without any expectations, only hoping that I would be able to calm down a little. This I have done, together with unexpected profound insights and wonderful occurrences. The arising uneasiness from the negative comments I settled with deep breathing.

The welcome letter in our room (click to enlarge)

Though my back still aches during sitting meditation, the pain seems to have moved downwards below the shoulder blades. I am pleased to say that today I actually felt light while sitting in meditation, as it should feel like, unlike the past days, where I always felt like a heavy block of pain. Having observed the brothers and sisters sitting gracefully in peaceful silence, I wonder how long it took them to sit trough the pain until they were able to meditate without being bothered by pain.

Replaying some conversations I had with brothers and sisters or remembering individuals I had listened to during Dharma talks and sharing, I wonder whether one decides to become a monk or nun because one feels unable to cope with or to have failed in “normal life”? Is it a way out, like running away or is it possibly the true path of awareness that the “normal world” can’t actually give us what we really need to live in the here and now? For what kind of life is it to be running from here to there and simultaneously be thinking about yesterday and tomorrow, if one could joyfully live every moment to the full right here and now? Who determines how fast the world should turn around itself to function properly?

Buddha statue at the Lower Hamlet

Together with all the issues we seem to have with our parents, I wonder whether we could be happier living alone.  Having come to the understanding that monks and nuns live apart from each other so they could devote themselves undisturbed to finding inner peace, yet still live under a shared roof, the thought arises whether God only created Adam to share the wonders of his creations with someone else? Because what worth is there to being able to create if one can’t show it to someone? Is this maybe the reason why us humans on principle can’t be alone?  I myself am very creative and wonder what it would be worth if there was nobody who I could create things for. What would I do if I was the last human on earth?

The last gongs of the big bell announce noble silence. I pause, breathing in and out. Standing under green foliage, I watch a yellowing leaf gliding to the ground as a couple of birds fly up from the trees toward the evening sky.

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I sit in the small meditation hall on my own for the last time. Tomorrow I will already leave Plum Village, though I am not sad about departing, rather excited to share my insights and new practices with the world.

The air is crisp and cool and fresh from the rain, the dark blue evening sky is clear. The frogs and crickets are singing their song, in the distance the sound of a tawny owl. I watch in awe as the moon rises bright and big above the bell tower roof.

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A Serene Fifth Day of Mindfulness

A grey lazy morning, rain is mixing with the water of the lotus pond, a gentle wind, otherwise silence. Can’t possibly walk past the water drops on the roses without taking a photo.

 I think I have finally understood the table manners now. Fill empty seats at a table before sitting at an empty table, bow before sitting down, wait until everyone is seated at the table and bow before beginning to eat. When finished eating, bow before standing up, wash up your plates and remain silent for the whole procedure 😉

Cat outside dining room

Cat outside dining room

I have been watching many “random acts of kindness” or rather “rescue missions” of small creepy crawlies and invertebrates the last days. Just like flowers are left untroubled by slow walking Buddhists. It gives you an idea what impact mindfulness could have on the planet if we were all to incorporate it into our daily lives.

The bell and I

My stay here has greatly helped me to breathe better or slower. My shoulders are also so much more relaxed and I can now hear a clicking noise every now and again when I take a deep breath, which might not sound good, but compared to the previous tightness, is definitely a positive change. At first I was unable to join in with the group singing, partly because I didn’t know the texts and melody, but also due to shame and embarrassment. As the days went by I began to recognize some of the songs and began to sing along. Today I even sang a short German song in the group on my own, which was complemented with cheerful hand fluttering, for here nobody claps their hands.

Small bell

It dawns on me why monasteries separate men from women, because I understand now that it is about finding inner peace, which is impossible to find if there is someone who you just can’t get out of your head. For if I have found inner peace, I can engage peacefully with the other sex without my head being full to the brim with perplexity. And I realise how perfect it is that I have found a loving long-term partner, who gives me all the time and space in the world when I need it and yet is also there to listen, talk and share my life with. Even though I might at times long for the excitement we felt when we had just met, I also know that these feelings won’t last in any relationship, and if I were to keep looking for these feelings of excitement, they will be all I will ever have. For once they will stop me from finding inner peace and secondly experience the beauty of real love, which develops over time. Just like wine, as the French will tell you 🙂

View over plum orchard at Plum Village

Today’s walking meditation leads us past the plum trees with a beautiful view onto Plum Village. We stop for a mindful moment and I smile when I see that the tall grass is bowing to me in the wind and I bow back. A purple flower is standing proud amidst the green border. My head prickles under the sun. I’m breathing in and I’m breathing out as feet slowly pace ahead again.

The bowing grass and the purple flower

Working meditation was on the schedule again and I was once again allocated to remove the cobwebs, this time in the big meditation hall. The little nuns made the most of it and took full advantage of my height, even tying a long bamboo stick to my mob so I could reach the high ceiling. I wondered what more figurative cobwebs there were  that I still needed to get rid off, didn’t I already remove enough during my stay?

Big meditation hall at Plum Village

When I reached the far end of the hall and began to remove cobwebs around the magnificent stained glass window depicting Buddha, I came to the conclusion that the last few figurative cobwebs were still clouding my full devotion to whatever there is that makes us live. As I looked at the vibrant colours of the glass, I promised myself to continue practicing mindfulness, as it seemed to be a practice of real worth to the inner self, which is where devotion should be aimed at first and foremost.

Stained glass window in the big meditation hall

Yesterday I had talked to the brother about how I don’t like to be part of a group, especially not a religious belief, since I don’t believe in a one and only belief and that I don’t like the rules that come with such group formations. This was reason enough for me to decline my holy communion when I was 14, and I wasn’t prepared to let my search for the truth be blinded by somebody’s teaching of their truth.

The golden light of the evening sun

But what I had come to like at Plum Village was the ease of simply going with the flow of your breath. Yes, there are certain rules, like the table manners for example, which are really just courtesy rules, whereas the teachings are mainly based on the heart, on being in the present moment, being mindful of yourself and your surroundings and to practice for your own inner peace. And like the brother had said: “You don’t need to be a Buddhist in order to practice.”

A cheeky noble silence cherry picking

As noble silence sets in me and my room mate are reaching for red cherries, giggling and whispering merrily.

Cheeky cherries

Celebrating Wesak on the Fourth Day of Mindfulness

Stick exercise! Equipped with a bamboo stick matching my height, I stand in a circle in the dim morning light while a faint rain is drip dropping on my rain coat. Wielding my stick precariously over my head, stretching with it behind my back, this is fun!

 

Early morning stick exercise

Today we are leaving the Lower Hamlet again in the white mini vans to celebrate Wesak, the Buddha’s Birthday, at the Son Ha building, a short drive away. Everyone from all Hamlets gathered together again for a few songs, wholesome lunch, a short walking meditation and obviously for the Wesak Ceremony.

Happy Wesak

The previous day, some brothers and sisters had lovingly decorated the estate. They had hung garlands along the water bank, attached flowers to the small bridge crossing the water and, on what seemed a tiny island, had set up a place with a small Buddha statue and a water basin filled with flower petals. It looked really pretty, just the weather didn’t.

Everyone gathered around the big tree to listen to the story of Buddha’s birth. The brothers, sisters and lay friends formed two lines, separating men and women, and slowly walked towards the second bridge, crossing the water, along the small strip of island towards the Buddha shrine.

Up to the very end, as it was nearly my turn, I didn’t really know what I was supposed to do. Nervously observing those in front of me, I bowed, got down on my knees, scooped up a ladle of petal water and poured it over the Buddha statue. Then I put the ladle back down, bowed, stood up and walked as slowly as my nerves were letting me over the bridge and relaxed. It just doesn’t help if a large group of people is looking at me (that includes Buddhist monks).

Suddenly I felt socially very awkward. I didn’t know anyone and couldn’t see the other girls from my hamlet. It didn’t help that a fellow German lay friend recognized me from the Dharma sharing two days ago and started talking to me. It was really quite surprising to notice how different it is to talk to men after a few days among women. It threw me off balance and made me rather nervous. Even more surprising was my reaction to him saying he was getting himself a cup of tea, asking if I was having one. I said no – I simply don’t drink tea – which always seems to give off the idea that I don’t just want tea but don’t want to carry on talking either, which is never my intention. After an awkward moment he turned away to get his tea whereas my throat was blocking off again, and the feelings of rejection came flooding up, just like they had done two days ago at the dinner table.

Small bell at Son Ha

Now that was strange. I went for a slow walk to calm me down and noticed the brother from the Dharma sharing two days ago, whose story had brought up my invisible core. I approached him, bowed and asked if I could share something with him. “Of course sister”, came the open answer. I told him about my breakthrough and thanked him for sharing his story, as it did help me, unlike I had said there and then, for which I apologized again. I really liked the uncomplicated yet deep way we talked. When he said that I didn’t sound like someone who had only been here in Plum Village for a few days, rather a few years, I replied that I have been talking and thinking like this for many years, just that I don’t really listen to myself often, hence I was here hoping to find stillness so I could listen to myself.

With his tall statue and unique facial features, he stood out from the crowd of mainly short Vietnamese monks and nuns and I couldn’t help but wonder why he had curly brown hair, unlike his fellow brothers and sisters. He explained that shaving your head is a choice you make and that it is usually an obvious sign that something is going on in someone’s head if the hair is growing. I asked if he had found complete peace here with his practice of mindfulness and whether old hurts would therefore cause him no more pain. He replied that even though he had found peace here, he could still feel the pain.

I was thinking aloud whether pain is peace, or peace is to be found in pain. They both appear to be directly connected with each other. Maybe the goal is to find peace in pain? The brother made an interesting remark that stuck with me. With his big blue eyes, he seemingly looked straight into my heart when he said that if we can’t understand our parents, we might be able to find out what is going on inside of them by watching our own thoughts and habits, because it is the same genes at work.

Vegan BBQ – really good!

The scent of burning charcoal and roasting vegetables raised my interest and I went to inspect my first vegan BBQ. And it was really, really good! The many different varieties of tofu I have encountered this week is phenomenal! After lunch we are being entertained by brothers and sister with catchy songs, jokes and laughter.

Afternoon of entertainment

I did speak to the German again briefly during the afternoon, noticing again the difference, this time compared to the monk I was talking to, and how much I long for attention and also affection, not especially his, or of any other random male for that matter, but for my father’s. Though for years and years I thought it was mere attraction to the opposite sex. Now I realise that it is just the missing recognition and accordingly the missing link to a neutral male, being unable to understand fundamental differences between men and women and how to interact. Talking to the brother was like talking from soul to soul whereas talking to the German was like talking from man to woman. Is it necessary for a man to be celibate for me to not get nervous?

I had arranged to walk back to the Lower Hamlet with one of the aspirant nuns form my Hamlet so we could talk. I had asked her a few days ago if she would like to share her story with me. Neither the German nor the brother were around when we were about to leave which to me felt like unfinished business. Even if I knew I would possibly never see them again, I still had made a link with them and simply wanted to say goodbye.

Buddha Statues near Upper Hamlet

We walked towards the Upper Hamlet and I was able to see the impressive group of Buddha statues in the woods. She remarked that I was lucky to see all the hamlets within one week. That usually doesn’t happen, she said. While passing through the Upper Hamlet, we not only bump into the German for yet another banter but the brother also walked round the corner. I get to say a proper goodbye and leave with a serene feeling of happiness, which is topped by the brother driving past us a little further down the road, leaning out of the window saying ” Good luck with everything, Anna, and thank you again for sharing!”

While talking to the aspirant nun I see a lot of similarities.  I observe her talking with another brother and wonder what would happen if brothers and sisters fall in love. She explains to me later that she isn’t permitted to talk to brothers unless she has a “second body”, another nun, with her. This she finds hard, especially since she has quite a good friendship with one of the brothers. She tells me that she had come to realise that she is much happier without a relationship because it enables her to be herself, without being tied down by others. Her story resonate with me, since I used to picture myself living at a monastery when I was younger. I am in awe with the way the brothers and sisters treat each other here, with unconditional love, just like real brothers and sisters.

Both encounters, with the brother and the sister, touched me deeply. And all these other wonderful conversations, so deep and profound, with people that I had met only so briefly, left me feeling as if I had known them forever. And together with the Buddha’s birthday and last night’s ceremony on beginning anew, I also feel like I have just been born again.

A Lazy Third Day of Mindfulness

On a lazy evening followed a lazy day, where we can do whatever we like. Still, I got up before breakfast to meditate and practice yoga, which seems to come naturally to me here. It is good to have nothing else to do or not to need to go somewhere. This way I can fully emerge myself in my practice until the bell rings for breakfast.

Schedule of Lazy Day (click to enlarge)

I have to say that compared to a “normal holiday”, I feel so much more relaxed here, despite of getting up so early and sitting upright without back support for most of the day. This inner tranquillity, that I already feel after such a short time, is very pleasant.

“A true holiday begins within yourself”!

It is truly remarkable and sweet how much the nuns enjoy singing, even if they are not quite sure of the notes. They sing from their hearts, because it brings them joy, not because they want to shine.

Mindful Photography = take time to actually smell the roses!

Mindful Photography – try that 🙂

Most of my three weeks in New Zealand, nearly a decade ago, was spent driving around the north island, jumping in and out of the car, taking photos to capture as much as possible of this beautiful country at the bottom of the world, forgetting to actually be there in the moment. I have long since been aware that I keep doing this. Taking photos to marvel at after instead of looking at the actual motive. Now I am vowing to myself once again that in future I will take time to look at the motive more with my eyes than with my camera lens.

Before lunch today, me and my room mate decided to discover the area around Plum Village. We strolled up along the road towards Loubes-Bernac in fluorescent vests, which the nuns had asked us to do, since there are actually no pavements or walking paths here.

Yes I am a tourist and I am fine with that!

As seen from Loubes-Bernac

We took plenty of mindful photos of the town’s church and then carried on along the road, hoping it would take us in the promised circle back to Plum Village.

Church in Loubes-Bernac

When it was nearly lunch time we realised that we would never make it back to Plum Village in time for lunch. We asked a lady in a car whether she knew a quick way back to “Village des Pruniers” to which she looked at us in disbelief and offered us a lift back. Maybe we were actually lost, just a little bit 🙂

Plum Village Sign

After a few minutes of driving back along the road we had come from, it was now actually raining, we arrived at the Plum Village car park, excited like little children at Christmas. We exuberantly thanked the kind lady, even threw a few bowings in, just because it had become so natural for us to do, which seemed to delight the kind lady, and we cheerfully went on to have lunch.

Soaking beans for dinner

Today I realised that just chewing slower isn’t really mindful eating if you are at the same time already digging in your bowl, preparing your spoon for the next load. So I tried to wait until my mouth was completely empty and then began filling my spoon. What a difference! It took me twice as long to finish my meal, which I really enjoyed. This meant that I even got caught out by the mindfulness bell twice 🙂

The big meditation hall

In the evening we had a “New Beginning Ceremony”, which follows on nicely after yesterday’s revelation. The ceremony involves a lot of  “touching the earth” practice and I vowed to myself that I would leave the past behind, to live unattached by it, to accept it as it is and to start anew from today. This beginning anew can be done as many times as you like. Listening to the nun reading from a book, I begin to like the idea of it more and more, understanding that this practice helps to get rid of old grudges you hold towards others and to simply start again with a new mindset.

Buddha statue outside Dharma Nectar Hall

It differs slightly to my usual “trying to forget and get over it” in that it is actually leaving the past behind and not just jumping over it in an attempt to move on. But it also doesn’t mean you simply forget, but that you understand the mistakes of yourself and others and try to make it better the next time. It would also help if you share this with another person, particularly one that you have a disagreement with. If only it was that easy…

Swing under big oak tree

I’m spending the sunny evening on the swing, hanging from the massive oak tree with its deep green roof of leaves, listening to the evening song of a nun with the regular gong of the big bell inbetween. Apart from that, the wind in the trees and the distant song of birds, there is silence. Even the frogs in the pond are silent.

Big Bell