Panic doesn’t help us fight Corona!

We are here, in the middle of Germany. Watching the news, we can see how nearly every thirty minutes decisions are being taken to close schools, cinemas and theatres. Our phone has not been quiet for a while with family members, friends and parents of our daughter’s classmates sending news and notes about their emotions. Obviously, some of the messages are worried – others have a tone that is close to panic.

That’s how we decided to add a few lines to our blog about this special situation.

That is exactly what it is: special. The whole world is in a state that none of us has seen yet. There have been threats like war and terrorism. Most of the times, we could sit back and say: ‘that is far away from us.’ Tragic, horrible, but in countries far away. Other times, it would hit closer to home but then again, those were single incidents and we could somehow distance ourselves from them. This time, it is different. Not one of us has seen this kind of situation before. Now, we all are in this together, on the complete planet. We do not have the chance to make ourselves believe that it has nothing to do with us. We are definitely affected.

At the same time, let’s take a look at the facts and the reason why we have this issue. The corona virus is in fact quite close to the influenza – similarly infectious and even similarly dangerous. The reason why we have this big problem all over is simply that it is completely new. That we do not have any antibodies yet to fight it. Due to this, it is just very easy to contract the virus and then pass it on! This has, indeed, happened before: the Spanish flu in 1918 was a completely new virus, nobody was immune and thus it claimed many lives.

In most cases, healthy persons who get infected only even have light symptoms and their bodies are able to fight the virus. The problem is however that those whose immune system is anyway down or not as fit anymore develop more severe problems. Usually, influenza also causes such issues and for the same risk group, hospitals have to fight for lives every year. However, with such high numbers being affected, health systems are simply overburdened and health professions of course at high risk as well! This is the situation we are trying to avoid here in Germany at the moment: the government tries to slow the progress of the virus and appeals to everyone’s own social responsibility. Stay home as much as you can and avoid crowds.

It is a wonderful possibility to practice acceptance. Accept that the situation is the way it is. Accept that we can only take certain precautions and not more than that. We can practice calming down. That is what I would like to ask you to do. Do not panic and do not create panic in others.

My heart goes out to everyone who has lost a dear one or is worried about someone they love. Let’s help them by being calm. And maybe you can find a way to help those in your surrounding who are at risk – a neighbour whom you can bring along food when you go shopping for example. Let’s be positive about this and stay calm!

How Monika’s Surgery was postponed – and we can only accept it as it is – 25 Jan 16

Today I am writing to you from a hotel room in Gurgaon. How come? We came here yesterday, after having admitted Monika to the hospital. I actually intended to send you today the message that her surgery was successfully completed. Unfortunately I cannot – but not because there were complications during the surgery but because it didn’t take place! Monika had fever in night, coughed and showed all signs of a big cold. The doctors decided that they could not operate on her today.

I told you last week that we were getting ready for the surgery, making plans with the doctors and so on. We had then placed the date of the surgery right before Ramona and my flight to Eastern India, so that we would already be in Delhi. That was cancelled first, as I told you yesterday, and now the surgery was cancelled as well. In fact, the whole journey to Delhi did actually not make sense but you know what? I don’t really mind.

I do mind those delays by people who don’t keep their word and I don’t like having to change my plans due to them being unreliable. In cases like Monika’s however, I am very flexible. When we were at the pre-surgery consultation last week, Monika had a slight cough and the doctor prescribed medicine against it. Reema, Monika’s mother had also told me that the cough was fine by now. Yesterday evening however, maybe due to her nervousness or a new virus or something, the coughing got worse and she had fever. In the late evening, I got a call by Reema that the doctors had decided to postpone the surgery.

Well, that’s how I went to the hospital this morning, not to take Monika to the Operation Theatre but to take care of the discharge papers and formalities. The anesthetist explained that he could not take the risk to go in a surgery with a chest infection and the immune system being down. He would like her to get completely and 100% fine before she goes into surgery. We thus talked about coming back in about a month, when it won’t be as cold anymore here either!

So even if we could have skipped the complete trip to Delhi, we decided to just accept things as they are and have fun as we go along with it!

How to deal with the Knowledge that you won’t be alive much longer – 28 Oct 15

After having written about financial difficulties and difficulties in human relations, I would today like to write about a completely different issue that shakes your world if it comes up: if you get to know that you or someone who is very close to you has a bad illness or other health problem. I am obviously not talking about the common cold – no, I mean the news that someone has cancer, accidents in which an injured person loses a limb or becomes paraplegic. How to deal with such a situation?

Obviously, I will not give any kind of medical advice. For that, you will find a lot of qualified doctors who can help you through any possible therapy. I want to look at how you can emotionally and mentally deal with these situations.

Illness and death are the two situations in which you only have one option: to accept.

This is something that is much easier said than done and I am aware that anybody who finds himself in this position knows truly how difficult it is. If you know about the possibility that you may not live more than a year or two. If you know that you will never again feel your legs. If you know that your complete life will change because your partner now doesn’t have arms anymore.

The big point here is that you actually have no other option than to accept. Accept the facts and then make sure that you make the best out of the situation in front of you.

If you or your loved one know that the time for one of you is strongly limited, make every effort to make these days, weeks or months the most beautiful ones. Create lots of happy memories for those who will be around longer. Do things that you always wanted to do but always kept for later. See the beauty of this world together with those you love. If you have any talent for writing, I would even suggest to note down what you are going through so that others in the same situation can draw strength from your experience!

If you survive whatever it is that you have gone through, even if it is with a loss and a clear change to your life, appreciate every single second you are alive! For nearly every situation, there is someone who is in a worse situation. Have you seen the video of a motivational speaker who doesn’t have arms nor legs? It is incredible to hear him speaking about the joy of living!

Accept whatever it is that you have to live with now and create your life around it accordingly. Once you start accepting, you will notice how many caring people are around you who are ready to help and support you in every way they can! Accept not only your situation but also help of others when you need it.

It is difficult, of course, but once you start accepting, it will get easier and you will be able to see positive things in life again!

You cannot be extremely idealistic if you want to be happy as well – 27 Aug 15

A lot of people may think I am an idealist. I promote honesty, often speak about helping others, try to expose fraudulent activities and spread what I am believing to be thoughts that will help humanity. I am not, however, very idealistic. I see myself as rather realistic – with a positive attitude. More than that, I actually believe that idealists have difficulties being happy. Let me explain you why – and what you can do to be happy.

Why will idealism not make you happy? Because the world is not an ideal place. It is not perfect and it cannot be! We all have different ideas of what is perfect and we work towards those goals, even if another person thinks they are not right. So you will never have the ideal situation – although you can of course try to make your surroundings as ideal for you as possible.

You can change a lot instead of just getting depressed about the state of affairs. Take care of the big things, of those ideals which are really important to you. Learn to accept them. It is necessary to accept that there are little things that are not ideal. You may want to leave the idea of always having everything 100% according to your ideals – because it won’t be like this and it will make you unhappy.

That’s how I think I am more realistic and don’t want to be idealistic. There are a lot of situations with a higher motive that would make me behave differently than I would normally say is ideal.

Let me give you an example: I am fully against violence. I promote non-violent education in school and urge parents to do the same at home, too. I am against violence against animals and violence against each other, even in normal talk. I will not go that far and say however that I will never get violent. Should I feel threatened in a dangerous situation, should someone want to harm me or my wife and daughter, I would not hesitate to use my fists. I will not let someone beat me and just accept the pain – self-defense would be an example in which I believe violence is fully justified.

There are many more such examples! Ideally, people are against corruption. They regret having to give bribes in order to get their work done. In order to expose such corruption however – or any other such wrong happenings – people make sting operations, thus filming someone without his or her consent! That is generally immoral and you would not do that according to your ideals. For the higher motive of exposing and putting a stop to wrong actions, you do it anyway!

I am realistic in this way and don’t have any trouble accepting the fact that higher motives exist. Don’t be too extreme in your ideals because it will make you unhappy. You will regret your ‘immoral actions’ which you did for a higher purpose. It is too extreme and won’t give you peace.

Be honest about what you feel and think, stay true to your ideals but give reality a chance – this will make you happy!

Smoking banned in the Ashram but Smokers neither banned nor condemned! – 26 Apr 15

I have made it a habit now to tell you about something current of my life on Sundays. Today, it will be a few thoughts that were sparked by a conversation that I had yesterday. An Ashram guest was very positively surprised when we told her we wouldn’t mind it if she smoked and neither if she drank coffee!

We are a very untraditional, unconventional and unreligious Ashram. We have no rules in place for your behavior and what you do at what time of the day. The only things we forbid is alcohol or drugs in the Ashram and smoking on the room or in the garden. If you are a smoker, no problem, just go outside the Ashram and smoke in front of the gate! Really, many visitors do – and it is no problem for us!

Many times people come here with a certain tension, having decided that they want to go to India and come to the Ashram but then worrying because they have their nicotine addiction! Where would they be able to smoke? You can imagine their relief when they hear our stand – and more than often, they are surprised.

The reason is that there are a lot of Ashrams that have very strict rules and a very narrow idea of what you should be doing. The base of this, of course, is their belief, usually their Hindu religion with the influence of their guru’s views or teachings! If their group or sect preaches that chocolate is harmful, nobody in their Ashrams is allowed to eat chocolate!

The same holds true for coffee and that’s how it always is another huge surprise for many people when we ask them whether they would prefer a coffee to the chai, Indian spiced tea, which they would usually get here.

Why would I judge you about such things? My recommendation would be not to smoke because it is bad for your health. I would not like to stand next to you while you smoke because I don’t want to be harmed and cannot stand the smell. At the same time however, I wouldn’t think you are a bad person because you smoke!

It is your decision and your responsibility what you like to do to your own body. As long as you don’t harm others and behave with love and respect towards the people around you, you are most welcome at the Ashram. Be yourself and enjoy life – I can promise you, I won’t judge you on such habits!

‘God wants me to be poor – nothing can be done about it!’ – Religion’s bad Effect – 26 Mar 15

I mentioned in the diary of day before yesterday, that Indian people have an easier time accepting changes in life and life in general than people from the west. Unfortunately this does not only bring positive effects and that is what I would like to write about today.

Can you not imagine what negative aspects it could have to accept life and not get upset about the bad things in it? In general I agree, it sounds positive – unless it brings you inactivity and the inability to bring change into your own life. An example from our daily lives with several of our school children’s parents: when poor people simply accept the situation that they are in, they don’t even try to get out anymore.

Yes, we have talked with a lot of poor families, a lot of poor men and women who are trying to make ends meet. Many of them work and get minimal money, just enough to feed themselves and their children. Nevertheless, when you come to their home and they are not at work, they just lie around there. They tell that they work as priests or rickshaw drivers and well, sometimes they get work, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes a son or a daughter also earns, so the family gets by. Why to do any more?

They just don’t try to do more. They don’t seem to have any enthusiasm to work hard and get up and above the state that they are in!

It is how it is, if god wants this for us, if it is the almighty’s will… we hear such sentences and it makes me, as a non-believer, shake my head in disbelief! I really cannot understand how you can simply give up on the chance that you could lead a good life in abundance, thinking that some mean super-being decided that you cannot be successful! And religion created this!

Hinduism is full of such teachings, telling people that they have a fate that they should accept, that they should not fight and that everything is pre-written anyway. This is the reason that women, even if they are abused by their drunkard husbands, don’t even think of divorce: this is what life gave me, what god wants for me.

So yes, of course, acceptance is necessary in life and it is good that in the Indian culture it has developed in this way, because they need it a lot. On the other hand however, people here could learn just a bit from people in other countries who believe that hard work and discipline can help you get out of your miseries!

Have you accepted being unhappy in your Relationship? – 11 Jun 14

On our journey to Gran Canaria, Ramona and I had some time to talk. Of course a lot of our topics turned around Apra or our upcoming programs but then we also talked about how happy we were in our relationship. Next we wondered about people who stay in their relationship while being completely unhappy.

Well, maybe not completely unhappy. There are normally always at least some aspects which are not too bad at all and in the end they are the reasons for people to stay in a relationship that does not make them fully happy. With a partner whom they often don’t really love. In a situation with which they have at least some complaints. But they stay as though they are bound by a contract. For many this contract-like relationship may simply also just be the easiest possibility at that moment.

Some people stay because they have children and they believe it is better for the kids if mum and dad are both at home and available. It is not always the best, I believe, especially when there is a lot of tension between the parents. Why would it be good for the kids to see their mother and father fight continuously?

Other couples don’t actually have that tension. They seem to have accepted that the other one is not really ‘the one’ for them and they thus live together like roommates. Sharing a house but not the bed. Children but not love. The children have both parents and it functions more or less but is that really the best for kids? What kind of idea do the children get of a relationship of man and woman?

And for each spouse there is the question: how many years will you spend being unhappy in order to provide the illusion of a working family for your children? Trying to show something to the outside that you don’t really feel inside? Why?

There is a big ‘why’ as well for all those who don’t even have kids and thus are not responsible for the lives of some young beings that need guidance and depend on them. Why are you wasting your time? Months, often years of just being together without love, doubting and knowing at the same time that it is not right. It is fear. You are afraid of the change, afraid that you won’t find another partner, that you reject and give up on someone because you only get 70% happiness and then find out that this was all you will ever get. That there is no 100% happiness out there at all.

Let me tell you one thing: you only have one life. Even if you believe in reincarnation, don’t waste this one! You are living now, use your time! Why can’t you dare taking the step and venture out to find happiness?

Or be happy with what you have? Because happiness does not actually come from outside but from within you!

Arranged Marriage means that I have to cope with you – but I cannot bear your Family! – 29 Apr 13

Last week I explained why there were, in my opinion, so many problems in Indian marriages – because they are usually arranged marriages. Young people have their dreams and it is a big disappointment when they get to know their spouse after their wedding and realize that he or she is absolutely not according to their dreams. A lot of problems follow but while they usually arrange themselves with their marriage partner, the biggest fights and arguments take place with other family members – and as it is usually the bride who moves in with the groom and his family, it is she who faces the problems with her husband’s family, most commonly with her mother-in-law.

There is a reason for the fact that the fights are always worse with the rest of the family than with her husband himself. In India, divorce is still something that happens rarely. In most cases both, husband and wife, don’t even think of going separate ways ever in their life again. They accept that they are married and that’s it. In many people’s minds there is no alternative than coping with whoever you got on the marriage market.

This means that a husband will accept the wife’s actions and attitude and the wife will accept her husband’s opinion and what he does as well. If she does something he doesn’t like, he may tell her not to and she will oppose and they will have a fight. In the end, no matter what the outcome of the fight is, they both have to accept that they have different opinions and ideas. If she does it again, or in an altered version, he may just accept it, saying ‘Well, we have to live with each other’. In the same way, if she doesn’t like an opinion he voiced, she will confront him with this and they may fight again. In the end, if he doesn’t change his mind or only slightly, she will accept it and say ‘What can I do? He is my husband after all.’

What about his family though? For them, the situation is different and again, it works both ways. A woman may be able to bear strange behavior and opinions of her husband but she may not be ready to deal with such actions by her in-laws! If her husband says something wrong, she will in the end shrug her shoulders, accepting her fate. If her brother-in-law or her mother-in-law says the same, she won’t agree that easily! Why would she? She is married to him, not to his family! While she may try to avoid bigger confrontations, the anger which she suppresses in this way accumulates until it bursts out.

I said it works both ways and it does. The husband may accept his wife’s funny attitude towards certain topics but his family may not! If she says something bad to him, he may soon forgive her and forget about it but it will hurt his parents and siblings more and they won’t like to forget it as quickly! They remember and keep a grudge. If she then even talks to them in this way, they won’t hold back anymore!

The result is huge fights in homes which can even lead to a breaking of the family – when those tensions get so big that the husband decides it is better to move out than to bear such fights again and again.

Unfortunately this is happening often in today’s joint families and again arranged marriage is to blame. If you love someone and marry him, you care about his feelings and know they are connected with his family, so if you move in with them, you have a very different attitude towards them than if you get arranged and ‘placed’ into the family. For the family members it is the same – if their son or brother loves a woman and brings her home to meet them, they will be happy and more ready to adjust. That all however is only true when there is not the mindset of arranged marriages – and when there is a personal willingness of all persons concerned to create a loving atmosphere at home.

Do wise People not cry in Times of Grief because of religious Illusions? – 1 Jan 13

Welcome in the year 2013. I hope you had a good end of the past year and have welcomed the New Year with happiness and joy. We at the Ashram did not have a big celebration. I already mentioned around Christmas that you need to be in the right mood for a celebration and that we can just not be happy enough for dancing and singing. We nevertheless had a nice evening together. Apra, Ramona and I went to bed early but Purnendu took Thomas, Iris and our other guests to distribute blankets to the homeless – a great way to celebrate which you can do when you are not in the mood for a party. What I would like to write about today however is how you need to accept your emotions as they are, because no wisdom or knowledge can change them.

When people got to know about Ammaji’s death, many sent their condolences and many sent some lines similar to this: ‘I don’t know what to write because nothing I could say could lift your sadness or grief!’ Many others simply expressed their own sadness as a sign that they are with us in our mourning. There were some however, who had the impression that it would be best to give advice like: ‘You are a wise man and should celebrate her passing into another realm instead of grieving!’ Let me start the New Year with a clear message to all of these people, so that there won’t be any confusion about this in 2013: I am not religious and I am no guru, I am just a simple man. When a loved one dies, I feel sad and I won’t suppress my feelings with any illusion or imagination of heaven, other worlds or an afterlife.

Before there is another uproar among my readers, blaming me that I don’t respect the condolence of my religious friends, I want to specify that I don’t have issues with messages and emails that are heartfelt words of comfort, of love and of compassion. No, I took offense when I read about what I should or should not feel. My mother died. I am sad and I cry. This is a fact and I can accept it, why do you have a problem with it?

In reality, all of those people who give such advice, cry just as much as I did when their loved ones die. All their wisdom is then gone and they, too, have to accept their feelings because in that particular situation, you will have a very hard time trying to force your mind over your feelings. In my opinion, it is actually wrong to do so. On the contrary, you should cry and let your feelings out – only that is a healthy reaction!

Yes, I have cried, my whole family has cried and I believe it is fine. It may not be in fashion to cry, but it is good. I pity the person who is not able to let out his grief and sadness in this way. You may not be a very dramatic person and you don’t need to cry in front of a lot of people. Cry with your family, cry with your partner or cry just on your own. Don’t suppress it, though, no matter what your belief is.

I don’t believe in an afterlife or heaven or salvation but even if you trust that your loved one ends up in such a place afterwards, you will be sad. There is no way around it. You have to accept it, your wisdom won’t help with that. Let it out, cry, and if you don’t feel like celebrating, just don’t celebrate. Have a nice evening, sit together, talk, enjoy as much as you can. Make the best out of it. It will get easier with time and the one who left will be in your heart and memories with you. These all are good points and you can let them comfort you as much as they can. When tears come however, let them flow.