A Competition I didn’t like, even after I had won it – 20 Jul 14

I would like to tell you of a lecture I had in Copenhagen in 2006. It was, well, a different kind of lecture. Let me tell you why.

I had a friend in Copenhagen. I have told you about him before, I believe. He is a writer and author, a philosopher and quite interesting person. He had invited me to come back in 2006 and he was the one to organize my program that time. More than being my organizer however, he was my friend and I was looking forward to spending some time with him, too, in between work.

I reached Copenhagen in the morning and after having arrived at his home, where I was going to stay, he told me what the program would be. The very first point on that list was a lecture the same evening and he specified a detail: I have planned a lecture of a different style today! I asked what he meant with that and the explanation followed suit:

It would not only be me giving the lecture but also him and another friend of both of us who was quite popular in Copenhagen for his work directly with people and their physical problems. All three of us would speak on the same topic and then the audience – who would actually pay to see these three lectures by different speakers – would then judge on who did it best.

I was totally baffled. It was just a few hours before the lecture and I had never ever talked in a concept like this. I was never into competitions and I had no ambition to win something like a speaking contest! I honestly didn’t like the idea. I imagined it to be strange to compete with two of my friends! Anyway, the arrangement was made and so I thought that it would at least be a first experience of this kind. Something new – let’s do the best out of it!

It happened as it was planned. My friend had papers distributed to the audience with the names of us three speakers on them on which they would in the end give us marks. We then all three gave a lecture on the same topic – I don’t remember what it was – and our listeners got some time to note down their marks. The papers were collected and counted – and it was time for the results:

I won the competition, second was our common friend and the organizer himself came third and last.

I was not surprised – it was my profession after all! As far as the other two were concerned, I think it was just a liking by the crowd. Our common friend had loads of knowledge and although he was not a speaker per se, he was in contact with clients the whole day long. He himself was a writer, a person who generally knows how to express himself in word.

We all laughed and joked about it and the audience also enjoyed how light we took it – at least how we seemed to take it. I had the feeling that my friend’s pride had taken a blow! He showed a smile, pretended to laugh about himself but there was something more! I knew him and could feel that on the inside, he had not expected to reach third.

He could not enjoy this as he should – otherwise I think this whole idea could have been fun in the end!

Comparing with other does not increase or reduce your Beauty – 27 Aug 13

Yesterday I mentioned that people get very stressed simply because they constantly compare themselves to others in all regards. The area of life in which especially woman make most comparisons is of course beauty. This kind of comparison however is, in my eyes, the reason why there are so many women with low self-esteem and a bad body-image for themselves.

The main problem is again the comparison with the outside. It is nothing unusual that a woman comes into a room and screens the place for other women. It sounds like cliché but a majority of women will admit – at least to themselves – that they do look at other women’s bodies and faces, comparing their dress, their slimness, level of fitness, hairstyle and even make-up to their own. Depending on the result of their little check, their self-esteem either rises a bit or falls. They feel more beautiful if the woman in front of them is heavier, has an acne problem or a bad hair day. In the same way however, they feel conscious about their weight or whatever they believe is their problem zone, if the woman seems more beautiful to them.

While I am talking about women here, this is not only a problem for the female gender! You might not talk about beauty when men do the same thing but what happens is not different in any way! Men look at other men’s abs, their muscles, their toned biceps and triceps and then of course the air of nonchalance or that confident smile and they feel the exact same thing!

But does beauty only work when you win in comparison to others? Do you really only feel beautiful when you look at another woman and feel that she looks even less like a movie star or supermodel than you do? Do you really think that you are only beautiful if you look like the women whom you see on posters and in TV advertisements?

I understand that there is a certain feel-good factor when you win in a comparison, even if it is just in your own mind and there are no spectators to witness your victory. You should however realize what you are really doing there and reflect a bit what your beauty ideal really is!

The fact is that this beauty ideal is not realistic, as every media channel uses computer programs to ‘optimize’ the looks of their models and actors. You however take this ideal as a goal for how you would like to look and simultaneously measure other people on this ideal as well.

Again, the question is how much you really have to look on the outside in order to define yourself and identify who you are? Do you have to think ‘I am slimmer than Heather, have better skin than Mary and fuller hair than Louise’? Wouldn’t it be enough to just think ‘I am beautiful’?

I cannot stress often enough that beauty is not only on the outside and that everybody’s perception of beauty is different! You have to feel beautiful when you are standing alone in a room, too, when you have nobody to compare to! And you should feel beautiful if you are standing in a crowd full of superstars. You are unique and you are beautiful.

Stop comparing yourself to others and be happy! – 26 Aug 13

In the past week I wrote about competition at the workplace which can even make people fall into depression, have a breakdown and burn out. This competition is not only at the working place however, it can be in every other area of your life as well – if you want to live in this constant pressure! It is really pretty much up to you: how much do you want to compete and compare and how much do you want to focus on yourself?

It is really no wonder that a lot of people get stressed because in today’s society it is normal to compete with each other. For competing you need to compare yourself with others in order to find out who is doing better or worse. You can do that in nearly every area of life and many people are doing exactly that. They don’t only have a competition with their co-workers but they compare how far their own career went with how far their former classmates have come. They compare how fast or long they can run on the treadmill in the gym with how fast their friends can. They compare not only how much they earn but also how much their partner earns with how much their neighbours earn. They compare their own looks with the looks even of complete strangers! They compare what they are reading in their free time with what other people at the pool or beach or in the metro are reading. Am I more intelligent? Am I more successful? Am I more beautiful? Am I faster, higher, better?

Only if the answer to each of these questions is ‘Yes!’, they will be satisfied. If you also have the tendency to do this, you will know exactly what I mean. You permanently make comparisons, repeatedly looking at yourself and then at others, getting a positive push for your mood if you win that comparison and getting upset if you don’t.

The problem is that you are thus concentrating completely on others and identifying yourself through these comparisons. Who are you? I am faster than Jack in running, I am more successful than Jasmine at work, I am a better parent than the Millers next door! It is all on the outside, defined by how far others have come and where you are. You don’t actually relate to your inner values, you maybe don’t even know about them because you are constantly focusing on the outside.

You cannot always win and obviously, losing again and again creates more and more stress! Perfectionists and people with a high level of self-expectation will feel this even more, all adding to the pressure that today’s hectic life anyway creates. This is how even someone who does not have a very high-profile job or even someone who is not employed or working at all can also face burnout.

You have to learn to value yourself because of who you are. You don’t need to always be the best and the first – in fact, you cannot! Nobody can! Accept that you are doing your best and that your talents may not lie on all fields at the same time.

If you need help in changing this habit, try meditating every day for at least a short time or try reminding yourself several times a day that you should not compare yourself to others. Whenever you feel down, find out why – is it because you feel inferior to someone else? Get out of the feeling, remind yourself that you both are humans and thus of the same value, just with different qualities.

Stop comparing yourself to others and be happy!

Burnout – and then? The long Way to find back to yourself – 22 Aug 13

I yesterday described how it happens that a lot of people these days have a burnout, break down and even get into deep depressions due to the pressure and stress of their work. Today I would like to write a little bit about the recovery process after such a burnout situation.

I have met a lot of people with burnout in individual counselling sessions and at the Ashram and I have worked together with several psychotherapists, so I do have a quite precise idea of the feelings that people have when they find themselves in this kind of situation – and what they need to do in order to get their life back on track.

Yesterday already I mentioned that they don’t actually need to get ‘back to normal’ because their ‘normal’ lifestyle, their way of living, thinking and acting before their breakdown, has brought them into this situation in the first place! They have to start over new!

Someone who has suffered from burnout needs professional help because he or she has first of all fully hit rock bottom. Many people have to stay in a clinic because they don’t even know how to go on living – the complete base of their life seems senseless now! Very often they identified completely with their job, their post, their work and didn’t even realize the immense pressure they were putting themselves in. This fall has taken this base from beneath their feet. Their body took care that they could not do this any longer, that they could not ignore your own needs any longer.

Doctors usually prescribe medicines for burnout patients – anti-depressants, sleeping pills and more. It helps in the beginning, in the emergency, but after some time, which can be months, they have to start getting on their own two feet again and find some stability. That is the point when they start an inner search and where a stay at our Ashram has already helped many people.

The main thing, when you are in that situation, is that you have to find yourself again. You have completely lost the feeling for yourself in the race for money and success. Who are you? What do you want to do in your life? What do you actually enjoy doing? These and similar questions have to be answered before a burnout patient can pick up the pieces of his life again! Many decide that they have to change their job, that they just cannot go on with what they were doing because that doesn’t give them any chance to get rid of their stress and pressure.

It is not only the outside, though, you also have to get rid of a lot of inner patterns and thoughts! And what could be better for this cleansing process than taking a time out from your normal surrounding and go somewhere completely different. We have made very good experiences with people who took for example our Ayurveda Yoga Holiday in such a situation.

They told us how much the daily Ayurvedic massages helped them because there was someone who, for a complete hour, concentrated just on them, on every small part of their body. For years they had not given their body this attention and it was longing for exactly that! The treatments helped them detoxify and get rid of toxins – physically and mentally! In the daily yoga sessions, you regain a feeling for your body which you have nearly forgotten about while you were running from one appointment to another, pushing yourself further and further with your expectations on yourself!

And then, maybe most important of all, you get the atmosphere and surrounding where you can find out who you are and what you want. You can be just yourself – on your own, with the children, with our family or with other retreat participants. You can retreat or you can join, you can read, you can meditate, you can do completely whatever your heart tells you. And that is the big chance: you can start listening to your heart again, which you have just not heard over the voice of your stressed mind!

Slowly, very slowly, people after a breakdown find back to themselves. And most of them say that afterwards is better than it ever was before their fall! I wish anybody who is in such a situation the strength to find back to his real self and everyone who is still running in pressure and stress that they may realize what they are doing before it hits them hard.

And if you ever need distance from your usual surroundings, the Ashram has an open door for everyone who needs it.

Striving to get Success and to the Top can bring you Burnout and make you fall deep – 21 Aug 13

I yesterday wrote about the competitions that people have to face in their work life. These competitions are created to encourage people to run for success and in the end make more money. Stress and pressure weigh heavy on people’s shoulders and it happens more and more often that people reach the top – and then just break down. It is now called burnout, a complete exhaustion, often followed by a depression, a long phase of recovery and the search for individual goals and aims in life.

Especially huge companies don’t really care about the individual. Everyone knows this but once you are in there, in their system of statistics and rewards, you may forget about it, running along with your competitors, the eyes on the company goal, not looking left or right. The goal is a figure, not more. You should have this many appointments in one day, this percentage of these appointments has to turn into sales, that many customers have to sign and that much money should finally end up in the company’s account! You feel you have accomplished something great and the whole company is proud of you. In reality, the leaders are happy about the success, about the figures, about the money in their accounts – not proud of you. While you completely identify with the company and your achievements as well as the success you brought to the company, you are only an instrument for them to get there!

This doesn’t mean that those who don’t work in big companies escape this pressure and stress. Especially self-employed or small firm owners are prone to just as much stress, as they know exactly that their success is on their shoulders! They often have to work hard to see the money come in but they, too, get into the trap of running for more money, more success and all the pressure that comes with this. The people around, society, advertisement, that all supports the rush for success.

It is nothing new that this society is focused on money. It is nothing new that the masses don’t care about the individual. But what about you? Why are you playing along? Why are you following this kind of lifestyle, like a programmed computer? You don’t do anything for your own entertainment anymore, nothing brings you joy except for seeing success at work, you even forget your own interests, your social life is like dead and you don’t pay attention to yourself. Important is only work, success, more and more, no time for anything else.

That is the point when people simply burn out. They break down and that means that they physically and mentally don’t have any strength anymore. Many people experience a loss of memory – all those numbers and names which were so important to them before are just erased from their memory. For many, a time of depression follows. Their whole life collapsed from one minute to another, often not expected by the people around them. They need professional help and while they go and see their psychotherapists every week or so, they need to do a lot of work on themselves to get back to normal life.

Actually no, not get back – start over new and find a balanced way of life for themselves!

Tomorrow I will write a bit more about the ways to recover from burnout.

When Achievements and Success are more important than Happiness – 20 Aug 13

Yesterday, when I told you of our new project, I mentioned that a lot of sports create a feeling of competition that children will still get enough of in later life. While a sportive competition can be fun and is not always something to avoid, the competitions that people face ‘in real life’, especially at the workplace, create lots of unhealthy pressure and stress!

Actually, it already starts in school these days. There has of course always been an atmosphere of competition when it came to the announcement of marks. Every student tries to find out how well the classmates did, compares his achievement with his friends and tries to bet as well or better than them. This natural competition however is fuelled and enlarged by the education system that provides awards in all kinds of areas, always honouring ‘the best’, making everyone else long for the same kind of appreciation for their accomplishments.

This is school, still a protected environment with regulated ways and a clear frame. It provides the base for what you will experience later, in the wild of real life! If you haven’t learned until this point that you are only worth something if you make accomplishments, you will have to learn it the hard way.

You find a job in a big company because you believe that gives you good career possibilities – a chance to make more and more achievements. You give your best and maybe it follows, an accomplishment, the best sales of the region, the highest amount of profit of the year, you are awarded the ‘newcomer of the year’ in your company, you get honoured again, maybe combined with a pay raise. If you are second, you don’t. If you are only in the mid-range or one among the last in the statistics, you are nothing. You don’t get attention, you are not very much appreciated. You are there and that’s it.

I think I don’t need to explain what kind of working climate this creates, what kind of feelings this gives to those who don’t win! This is what modern society teaches people: You are good if you are the best. You are good if you are the number one. If you are in the higher range, your ego gets artificially boosted so that you perform even better, bringing even more income and profit to the company.

Some people will run among the first and the best, performing until they cannot do it anymore, breaking down under the pressure. Others will try and try to reach there, always in mid-range, never really getting there, getting depressed because they just never get the appreciation that they are so much striving for. And then there are those who never have a chance, who are always at the bottom of the statistics. They either live in fear of being replaced or they get numb to the competition that is happening around them – because they won’t ever make it to the top.

We cannot go on like this! We have to stop, take a break and realize that we cannot anymore identify ourselves only with our achievements. It won’t bring us happiness and it won’t make anybody love us any more than they did before. If you believe that your company loves you because you are bringing income, realize that you are only loved and valuable as long as you make that profit.

This may sound hard but I think you need to realize this in order to save yourself from a breakdown due to this artificial pressure! It doesn’t matter whether you are successful in this competition or not, do not place your complete happiness in this game! Don’t search for appreciation there! You have to build a network of family and friends and a strong inner self-worth that is independent of such competition. Otherwise you will fall and it will hurt. Make sure your complete self-esteem does not arise from your achievements at work. Look at who you are, realize that you are you and that this information in itself is enough to make you feel good. You don’t need to be the best. You don’t need to be the first. Enjoy the game if you like it, play along as long as you have fun. And if you don’t, just don’t play along.

Enjoy your uniqueness, enjoy being you! – 16 Aug 12

Every single person of us is different from the other. This is something that we all know. We are individuals, you cannot argue about taste, you cannot find even identical twins who are exactly the same because our bodies are inside so complex that everyone is at least a bit different from the others. Unfortunately however this fact has not been realized by everyone yet – and once you realize it, it has a lot of consequences.

The very first consequence is a boost for your self-esteem. You are unique and there is no other person on this planet who is exactly like you. That is obviously not something that you achieved yourself and you can try to explain it in any way you want – nature, God, science, whatever. The fact is there, though: there is no person on this planet who has the exact same combination of genes that you have and this is why you are special the way you are.

There are of course people who can feel like you, who think in similar ways and also people who could have similar looks. But as everyone is different there are also all kind of different opinions and views on what is good, what is beautiful, what is clever, what is desirable and what is not.

This means that there is no sense in trying to be like others and copying someone else’s looks and style, someone else’s actions or someone else’s words. I believe that this is a very important consequence of the realization that you are special.

It is then simply unnecessary to go into competition with others because you know that every person has very different values. If you do a competition in running, it may give you pride to be the quicker runner but maybe you would lose in swimming against the other one. And if you win in all sportive activities, the other one may easily win over you in a mathematics test. This is only an example to show that you don’t need to go into competitions and be crushed if you lose! There will never be a competition of ‘who is the better person’ because it is just impossible to tell and a very complex topic.

You are not replaceable and you are not comparable. You are just you and once you realize that you are not like anybody else, that nobody else can be like you and you cannot be like anyone else.

If we all could just realize this, there would not be that many problems with inferiority complexes as there are now, especially among young people. There would be less jealousy because partners would have more self-esteem and would know that they are unique – and that the other one cannot ever find a person who is the same.

Why it is not good to hold Yoga Poses for long time – 21 Mar 11

We have had a wonderful celebration weekend, with Ramona’s birthday on Saturday and a big Holi party on Sunday. It was lots of coloured powder, lots of coloured water and lots of fun! Everybody enjoyed it very much. Yashendu also gave the yoga workshop to the participants of the Ayurveda Yoga Holiday and in that time I remembered another incident that I wanted to tell you about.

Once in a healing session, someone asked me about a certain yoga practice. He had heard that one of his teachers was able to remain in each yoga pose that he did for a complete half an hour.

‘But when I try this, I start getting pain so quickly. I bend forward in Paschimottasana and my back hurts, I sit in Padmasana, the lotus seat and my knee hurts, I am in the shoulder stand and my hips start aching. What can I do to reach that level?’

As he asked me for my opinion, I did not hold back with it. I told him that I thought this idea was completely wrong, simply a wrong approach to any physical exercise and definitely a wrong way to practice yoga.

First of all, there are many poses which are physically harmful if you hold them for such a long time. There are postures for example that hurt and injure your joints after a certain time because they are twisted in an unusual position which is not how your body is meant to be. Inversion postures, such as the shoulder stand and the head stand, should never be performed longer than ten minutes. These poses are beneficial for you because more blood flows towards the head due to gravity but if you keep it for a long time, this same fact can harm the blood vessels in the head due to the increased blood pressure. What is good for you for a short time is harmful if you do it for that long.

Even if you practice a posture that is medically fine to hold for such a long time, you should never ever exceed the limits of your body. It is not any miracle if someone can do this. The human body is very flexible and you can practice and train it to do nearly whatever you want. But it is wrong. Why would you give pain and hurt to your body in order to force it into an unnatural position for a long time? Yoga is meant to be enjoyed. It is not a competition and it is nothing that is goal-oriented. Feel the benefit of a pose when you are in the pose, no matter how well you can perform it.

Don’t give pain to your body or cross your own limits! Listen to your body and what it tells you, it knows best what is good for you.

India Biggest Importer of Arms – Arms Race for Power – 15 Mar 11

Yesterday I wrote about the catastrophe in Japan and about how much loss is there of people and material. There are still explosions in the nuclear power stations and the danger of radiation is not banned. This is the same Japan that had to suffer from nuclear bombs in the Second World War.

At the side of this news, further information caught my attention: India has surpassed China if you look at the countries’ amount of weapon imports. 9% of global arm imports go to India!

It is the same country in which farmers commit suicide because they don’t have food to eat. I have written so often about how many children never in their lives see a school. It is the same country in which children are seriously ill because of malnourishment.

I just read:

“A 2007 report by the state-run National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector (NCEUS) found that 77% of Indians, or 836 million people, lived on less than 20 rupees per day (USD 0.50 nominal, USD 2.0 in PPP), with most working in ‘informal labour sector with no job or social security, living in abject poverty.’” Source: Wikipedia

When you hear that our country is the biggest buyer of arms in the world, you can only shake your head and wonder. How many people’s lives could you save with this money? We don’t spend enough money for their welfare but we can afford to buy those weapons?

Being Indian, I am of course also concerned about the security of our country. The Indian government says they see risks and danger from their neighbours China and Pakistan. They could be trying to acquire land that is now Indian at some time in future, as it happened before in history, so the military needs arms to protect the country. I don’t want to say that our military should not have arms and we do not need protection. I am thankful that there are people who fight and even give their lives for the rest of the country and I don’t think this protection can be achieved by throwing flowers and singing Mantras.

What I criticize and believe is a wrong concept is that competition of buying weapons between these countries. When China announced their budget on how many weapons they will buy, India looked at it and decided to buy more! This is what I don’t approve of. China is getting more powerful and India wants to be, too. It is a striving for power with a view of the future that is everything else than peaceful. There are of course countries that sell the weapons and thus earn money with it. These companies approve of the increased export of arms. They get rich by selling war. It is going towards war and bloodshed and there is a whole industry behind this. We should not be living our lives for war and arms, and should not strive to be the biggest power and those with most weapons. We should strive for peace and seek love and for this the whole world has to leave the competition and change their attitude. Otherwise every country will keep an arms race and in the end every country will have nuclear weapons and threaten each other. If this kind of war starts, it will simply extinguish all life on earth. Then for whom do you do this?

The power that you think you get by buying arms, is only an illusion. Look at Japan and what happened there! They are a powerful country, the third biggest economy of the world. They are just a small country but a very powerful one. Still however, nature is more powerful than human and you can see what happened. Do you still think human is powerful? No, whatever you will do, this earth will survive us.

Formula One Car Race – Fun in Dying, Injuring and Polluting Environment – 11 Feb 11

This week I by chance saw some news on the internet the subject of which usually is not at all a topic that I think about a lot. Today however, I talked with Ramona about it and we agreed that it may be interesting to know the opinions of our diary readers, too.
A driver of the Formula One, Robert Kubica, some days ago had a horrible accident. He was actually not driving a formula 1 car but was participating in a rally.

Nevertheless, he was driving a very fast car in a race and on a wet piece of road lost the control over the skidding car, which crashed into the safety fence that then pierced the car. In the end the car crashed against the wall of a church.

Miraculously the co-pilot had no injuries but the pilot’s complete right side of the body has been injured badly. He was bleeding internally, his leg and arm were broken in several places and his right hand was like smashed. He was immediately brought to a hospital where doctors and surgeons managed to stop the internal bleeding and made every effort to place the bones of his leg, arm and hand again into the right places. For some time they thought they might have to amputate his right hand but then managed to place the bones and muscles together again. They are still not sure whether he will be able to use his hand again with its full functionality. He will however most probably never again drive in a formula 1 car.

Well, why am I writing this? Each time when I hear about motorsports I wonder very much why it is called sports and why such a thing even exists.

First of all, what is the sport in this? Are they physically very active in this? Of course, people say the drivers need to stay fit and are training every day before these races but actually during the race, what is the sport? Is it only the competition? I don’t understand why people have fun in watching that. Are they actually waiting for an accident to happen, is it just the craving for sensations that makes them watch?
It is dangerous to drive with speed of 300 kilometers per hour or more, even if you are trained and even if you have driven on that racetrack many times before. There can always be some kind of mistake in your car, something on the road, an unpredictable move of another car and your car starts sliding and you lose control. People have broken all bones of their body, have carried away permanent injuries and disabilities and people have even died.

You may now say that the drivers are well aware of these risks and everybody working near the racetrack knows that he can get injured or even die if an accident happens. Another point, a very important one, however is that they are not only harming themselves, they are harming every single one of us through the pollution they create. I really don’t understand, with all the measurements that are taken against global warming all over the world, why have motorsports not been banned yet? With each race they use that fuel which is getting rarer in this world and thus more expensive everywhere. We hear everywhere that oil is getting less and less but here they just blow it out for fun and in this way create pollution, simply for driving in circles for several hours. This sport is harming nature, harming our environment and contributing in our deaths in the long run! They pollute the air and millions of people sit in front of their TVs watching them and cheering for them.

If humankind really wants to change something, this kind of ‘sports’ have to stop! You have to stop destroying our planet just for that short-sighted kind of fun. It costs lives, not only those of the drivers.