The Chemistry of Advice and personal Experience – 1 Aug 16

I am generally cautious in giving and taking advice. I only give advice if someone directly asks me for it. And even then I will always tell a person where his or her choices are, keeping my own life completely apart from what I tell them. Unfortunately not everybody keeps it in this way and whenever you get advice from anybody, I would always recommend remembering one thing: most advice is autobiographical!

It is true. As a counsellor, I have of course some more experience in not letting my own life influence my suggestions to the person in front of me. At the same time however, whatever you tell another person will always be a result of your own experiences! It is hard to avoid that. You have, personally, experienced one thing as positive and another as negative. You would try to pass the positive experience on to the one in front of you – but maybe for that person, something completely different would actually be the positive experience!

Nowadays, you can get a lot of advice completely for free on the biggest of platforms available to the whole world: the internet. There, a lot of people do something which is called giving advice but which is actually only the story of their lives presented as advice. The problem is that you may tend to take it literally and as something you should follow exactly!

So keep in mind that the advice of another person is always a mix of his experiences, his own thoughts and his feeling of what is right or wrong. Don’t feel bad if you are doing things differently. Your reality may look very different and that is good as it is!

Do Westerners divorce too easily or do Indians stick around too long? – 17 Mar 16

I yesterday told you of one of our first experiences at Ammaji’s Ayurvedic Restaurant. The four of us, Purnendu, Yashendu, Ramona and I, have committed ourselves completely to our new work and love getting fully involved in everything surrounding it! We are thus often talking to our guests before or after their order, collect feedback, help serving and constantly improve our new venture. One of these conversations which Ramona had with a female customer was rather interesting, as it mirrored a very Indian view on westerners and their relationships!

The lady had come from Delhi together with her adult daughter. It was their first time in Vrindavan and they were happy that they had found our restaurant so that they could relax during lunch after a busy morning of visiting temples. Ramona started a conversation and soon they also asked where she was from and how long she had already been in India. They got to know that we were married and the moment Ramona told this, I was just walking by, so I stopped as well to greet our guests. The older lady got serious and told Ramona: ‘You know, now that you are married here, you should stay. We Indians believe a marriage is forever!’

We replied she should not worry, Ramona would not run away from me!

Obviously, we laughed but the fact that this woman had mentioned this shows a widely popular perception Indians have of relationships and marriages in the west: they believe western people easily break up and even leave their spouses much more frequently and maybe even without thinking much about it.

In a way, it is true: the divorce rate in the west is significantly higher than the one here in India. It is also true, the average Indian will have a lower number of relationships throughout his life than the average westerner.

There are a few different thoughts and facts to this however, too: In India, relationships before marriage are not appreciated which is why people don’t normally make it known when they are in a committed relationship. Or they don’t regard physical contact or emotional attachment as a relationship, as it is not a usual concept in this society. It happens in hidden and when it is over, it is simply as though nothing has ever happened. That’s how in the west, there seems to be much more trial and error – while in India, it also happens, just not officially. Maybe less, but it does happen, too.

When it comes to the divorce rate, it is very clear why exactly there are less divorces in India: not because people are much happier in their arranged marriages with people they had never known. No, there is the same amount of unhappiness and failure to communicate in between spouses – but divorce is such a taboo in society that most people just don’t think it is an option! Women are dependent on their husbands and cannot sustain themselves or their children, families offer little to no support to relatives that want to get a divorce, religion opposes the very idea of ‘turning against your fate’ and especially as a divorced woman, life can be difficult and even insecure at times.

So while many Indians think westerners divorce too easily, I often think Indians make divorce too difficult. Men and women often live in misery due to this. Of course, some people in the west don’t try to work on issues in their relationship in order to solve them – but sometimes Indians just don’t see that nothing helps and it would be better if each went his or her own way!

You are the best Expert for your Children – 19 Apr 13

When writing a blog entry for the category ‘Parenting’, I am always well aware that I am not giving the usual ‘parenting advice’ that you can read in other places. I just provide my own opinion and experience and whoever likes it can see whether he would like to apply my ideas in his life, too. To be honest, I am not fond of reading parenting advice at all – the main reason for that is probably that a lot of that advice seems to have the claim in itself that there is only one correct way. That is something that I just cannot accept in a world that has so much variety! Unfortunately you can get lots of such extremely limiting parenting advice not only in books or online but also by people around you – those who are close to you and even complete strangers!

I know that this happens all over the world, so I guess most parents have experienced it already in one way or another: you are out with your children, let’s say in a supermarket. It is always a challenging task to have an eye on them while simultaneously making sure you have everything that you wanted to buy. The children are running around, asking you ‘Can I have this?’ and ‘Please let me have that!’ While your mind is busy with the question whether you need toothpaste or not, you grant them each a lollipop and get into the queue at the counter in order to pay. The lady in front of you has been watching your children and turns around ‘You know that lollipops are bad for their teeth? You could give them fruit instead!’

If a mother is already stressed at this point, this could be the last straw and she might say something nasty to the advice-giver which she would normally never say to a complete stranger. Not to anybody actually but there are sometimes people who provoke such a response by giving unnecessary advice! That can be strangers like in the example above, it can be your friends, it can be acquaintances and it can be relatives. You may have witnessed your mother-in-law asking your husband whether he didn’t think that you should give the child more milk to drink. Other mothers like to compare, which is just natural, but then tell you what they do to achieve what they believe is your child’s weakness!

Advice comes for every possible field of parenting – breastfeeding, weaning, food, diapers, rashes, fever, colds, clothes, shoes, teething, hygiene, accessories, bedtime, sleeping routines, learning processes and which toys are good or not good for your child. It is no surprise that first mothers are overwhelmed by the advice they get! They feel impressed and maybe even a little bit inferior when they see the sheer amount of knowledge and wisdom that other women seem to have!

After some time and a few experiences with their own child however they see that all that knowledge usually comes from individual experiences, things that others ‘have heard’ and maybe a few things that are commonly known to be true. The reality however is that most of the advice does not apply to your child – or at least not to 100%. People just thing that they are the experts of something once they have made an experience. But even if you have put five children into this world and have raised them all, you are not the expert for other people’s children! You may have experience and give suggestions when asked – but you should refrain from giving unnecessary and unasked-for advice which would stress out any new mother!

Mothers, you are the best expert for your own children. Every child has his or her own character and the reactions of your children depend on the environment that they are growing up in. No other man or woman can tell you more about your child than you who have carried it in your belly, have spent countless hours soothing, caring, cuddling, feeding, holding and caressing it. Listen to what your belly says, take advice whenever you need it and don’t get upset about advice when it is not needed. They mean it well – thank them, smile and do your own thing!

Why Flirting Advice for Singles does not Work – 3 Jan 10

I said already yesterday that there are many people who have advice for those who are looking for a relationship. There is a lot of general advice in books, magazines and of course on the internet. On TV there are shows in which one woman has a selection of men to choose from or shows where psychologists give advice about flirting to singles who then straight away try it.

The main point about this kind of advice is that it is very general. How can you give one advice to millions of people who are all leading different lives, have different characters and behave, feel and think in different ways?

Of course someone who has met many people can already tell something about a person’s character after some talk and a little bit of time with that person. In this way you could give advice: if you meet a shy person, do this. If you meet such a character, better do that. As soon as it goes deeper however, when the first step is done and both sides agree on being with each other, then no general advice like that can help anymore. You are then in this situation and nobody was there before because it is you, one unique character, mind and person, and a second unique character. And when you get closer, you may have a similar situation like one of your friends, who would like to help you with advice, but your friend’s partner is not yours! He or she is a different being.

It is like hand-painted pictures. Every picture is different and it takes time until you have discovered every small detail that the painter has added. God is the painter who created us and now it is up to us to discover each other.