Negativity – another bad Habit of Control Freaks! – 18 Sep 16

I have been writing about control freaks and their problems as well as the difficulties they can have when trying to leave those habits. There is one more aspect to that which I would like to look at more in detail and which obviously gives such people trouble as well: they have the habit of seeking negative point in everything!

This may seem like a rather unimportant issue, a minor character flaw which you can overlook easily. Of course you can overlook it at another person whom you meet from time to time. But I tell you that this gets really, really difficult for the person himself or herself and even annoying for the people around!

How come? Well, I already pointed out that some people raise their self-esteem with the feeling that they are indispensable. This means that they have to show themselves and the world around that they are the ones who do it right and it wouldn’t work without them. The best way for this is to show others their faults. These have to be found first! That’s how these people develop – consciously or subconsciously – a very good eye for those things which are not working perfectly fine.

Once such a spot is found, they focus on it. They lament about it. They show the consequences of this fault and once you hear them talk about it, you feel, too, that only this fact, this one mistake, means that the world will crash down around you.

Yes, if you are with one of the hard-core control freaks you will regularly have this feeling: you are doing something wrong which will lead to the end of the world! It is definitely not a nice feeling!

As annoying it is for you to be close to this person on the long run, as horrible it is for the person himself whenever he tries to leave this habit! It is hard to stop yourself from seeing everything in a negative way if you have done that for years and years! I always call these people the ‘hole-seekers’ because they manage to find a hole in every blanket, the bad thing in everything good. You can be sure, if there is any flaw, they will find it – and there will be a point that they get annoyed with themselves, too. Hopefully it is on time and not after everyone else has already become upset with them!

Verbal Violence with Children – Breaking your Child Word by Word – 25 Feb 14

While I yesterday described the two kinds of physical violence that people often use on children, I today want to add a blog entry for another kind of violence which may, at first, seem less cruel, but which also has a devastating effect on children: violence through words.

While a lot of people will now think I am talking of speaking gently to your children in a nice tone and the subtle violence that you convey to your children through your daily talk, I am actually talking about something very obvious and clear. Violence that you can hear in a normal Indian family every day and actually every hour: ‘Mar lagegi’. ‘Pitai hogi’. – ‘I will hit you’. ‘I will beat you’.

Just as slapping their children has become a habit to a big part of Indian parents, they don’t even notice anymore how many times they threaten their children with becoming violent. Some become more creative – if you can use this word for such cruel behavior – and describe more in detail how the children will be beaten black and blue, that it would hurt so much that they would not be able to walk anymore or that they would break their bones. Yes, break their own children’s bones.

And then you wonder why your child is so aggressive towards younger siblings? Cruel towards animals? Only playing fighting, beating and murder?

‘I would never really do that’ is the answer that one gets when asking why you say such things to children. Then why do you say it? Don’t you think when you have said something like this fifty times, your child will know that you won’t? I told you some months ago about an incident when a woman warned her son that Ramona would hit him if he didn’t eat properly. This woman had said ‘I will hit you’ so many times already to her two-year-old that he didn’t react to it anymore. She had to say that a stranger would hit him – shocking Ramona with her words and leading to a little lecture about things that should not be said in our Ashram.

Your child picks up everything you say, saves it as information and uses it when interacting with others. Even if you never hit your child, saying such things is less than a good idea. It instills violence in your child’s mind and creates a behavior which I am sure you don’t actually want to encourage!

You are the biggest example to your child, the most important person in his or her life. So show your daughters and sons that acting with love throughout the day will bring much more joy and happiness than being violent or threatening with violence. Discourage your kids from playing fighting or beating but play, dance and sing with them instead.

You will notice how their behavior changes along with yours!

Getting rid of stereotype Formalities – 1 Aug 13

While writing so much about habits in my home country India and also in my home country of choice, Germany, I obviously also noted whether I fit into those stereotypes or not. I had a few thoughts to that and didn’t want to keep you in the dark.

I am a very non-formal person and have always been, but nevertheless there are of course elements of a culture that you adapt when you live in that culture. This is how I also had for example the habit of saying ‘no, no’ first and then accepting something anyway after the other person insisted a few times. It is just the common form of being polite and nice. There was once incident though that changed this habit forever: when I was in Germany, on my first trip, I visited my first German friend, Dr. Michael Kosak. He knew I was new in Germany and he wanted to give me some money, saying ‘Keep this, you may need it some time’. He had it in his hand and wanted to pass it to me. In typical Indian style I refused but he came forward, placed it in my hand and said firmly ‘Money is the thing that you should never disrespect by refusing it!’ I followed his advice ever since and don’t do the ‘No, no, I cannot take this’ anymore, not only when money is concerned but also with other things that I don’t want to disrespect.

I now tend to ignore this and similar socially popular games. When I offer something, I just put the option out there. If they want to take it, they will have to take their chance the first time or learn it for the next time. I just don’t keep on insisting and often just explain that I am not that formal.

I also don’t enjoy this same process of insisting and refusing when it comes to food. I am honest and clear – if I cannot eat more, I will tell this to the person who comes by and wants to put more on my plate. Once I was eating and the woman who distributed kept on urging me very much to eat. After having refused at least five times, she still placed food on my plate and then I just let her put more. And she came by again and put even more. In the end, I was done and the plate was full. I just got up though – really, I had told her often enough that I could not eat more! Tell me, what should I do: it is your food but my stomach and body and I have to take care of it!

I have also written about Indian Standard Time and the Indian idea of punctuality – which contrasts very much with how Germans regard time. I got to know this while working in Germany and although I was never very late, I developed a new punctuality and am now normally very much on time.

In the long time living abroad, my mind and habits have changed a lot and although I was never very formal, I have got rid of the remaining formalities, too, I believe. Now I find myself quite often in the situation that I have to explain visitors about my lack of formality.

When someone invites me, as I wrote yesterday, I really answer honestly, for example that I hardly go out in Vrindavan and that I will thus probably not come to visit. If they insist five times however, I often get tired of explaining myself and just agree, joining the social game again, succumbing to politeness, formality and cultural habits.

If you see it as a game, as I often do, it is fun to play with your own reaction and observe the reaction of others. What I enjoy most however is if the person in front of me also drops all formalities and we can talk from heart to heart. Luckily, this is the beauty of Indian culture – once you are past the formalities, people are ready to open their feelings and heart. Yes, every culture has interesting aspects and I enjoy exploring the basics of at least two cultures!

Indian Habits: formal and polite until everyone is confused – 24 Jul 13

Last week I wrote about some typical characteristics of Germans and Americans. Of course we are talking about stereotypes here but these exist due to a certain general culture and that you can find when you live or travel in those countries. In India, too, people who are not from here, can find some habits and attitudes confusing, strange or funny. As my wife is German but living here, there are a few such things that she can tell about.

One of them is that Indians often want to be polite but don’t mean what they say and it can get really difficult to find out whether they actually want to do the opposite of what they are saying. They will do that – if you just insist hard enough. Let me give you an example:

My wife had agreed to accompany a friend to a doctor’s appointment. It was monsoon time and on that day the rain hardly stopped. Shortly before their appointment, her friend called Ramona and asked ‘It is raining. Shall we go anyway?’ Ramona answered ‘Sure, we go! Shall we send you our car to pick you up?’ Her friend replied ‘Oh, no, I can go by rickshaw!’ – ‘Are you sure?’ – ‘Yes!’ My wife put down the phone.

Both Yashendu and I were sitting next to her and Yashendu opened the curtain and pointed outside where it was raining cats and dogs. Ramona understood that he implied she should have sent the car and protested ‘I asked her twice and she repeated that she wanted to go by rickshaw! I also don’t know why she wants to arrive at the doctor’s soaking wet!’

With a laugh I explained her that her friend had no intention to go out in the rain – which was why she asked in the first place whether they should go at all! She wanted to be picked up – the right answer would have been: ‘Just stay where you are, we are coming to pick you up!’ Don’t ask, don’t give her the chance to lose herself in unnecessary politeness!

So Ramona called and told her just that – which made her friend happy. On the way back though, the same thing happened again and Ramona told her with a smile ‘You know what, I don’t know how to do this, how often I have to ask and how strongly! The car is here, Pankaj, our driver, will be happy to take you back home but if you want to, you can take a rickshaw and get a shower – your choice!’ Her friend had to laugh and said ‘You know what, I will go by car!’

There are so many such cases of false modesty or pretended refusal that you can get quite confused. It happens with food when the eating person refuses to take more although he would still love to eat something and the distributing person thus insists again and again on filling the plate. There is hardly a chance to avoid overeating due to this system! And if you don’t insist that they should take more, you will keep a guest hungry who actually wanted to eat some more but refused in order to stay polite!

With time and maybe with years of experience in other cultures, I have really got rid of a lot of Indian habits and first of all of this kind of formality. But that is another story which I will write about in the next days.

Are you ready to buy Alcohol and Cigarettes for your Teenager? – 19 Jul 11

When people talk about the lack of respect in teenagers, as I did yesterday, they often in the same sentence also mention that teenagers nowadays drink and smoke, outside in the street in front of everyone’s eyes. It is very concerning when you see how a young child gets drunk. How do you feel when you take a walk and you see an 11-year-old child smoking at the bus stop?

Maybe you feel sorry or maybe you don’t feel and think anything because it is not your child. Maybe you think ‘Where are his parents?’ and walk on. Imagine that was your child. What would be your reaction? What would you feel? It may not be your child but it is someone else’s child. It could be yours, too! Maybe your child also drinks and smokes and just takes care not to do it in front of you.

You know how the smoke of the cigarette harms the lungs of this child. You know, when you see teenagers drink, that the young liver is damaged by the alcohol. You cannot do anything because it is not your child. You pass by and go away. As a parent you pray that this may never happen with your children. But they are also someone’s children.

Working with people, I see the problems that parents have with their teenagers. When their 14-year-old son comes home in the afternoon and seems to be drunk. When parents have found cigarettes hidden on the balcony of the 13-year-old daughter.

Of course all parents have given lessons to their children many times and they and their children know it is bad. But the children see their elders drink and smoke themselves. They know you would be angry if you knew and that’s why they hide it from you.

When you teach them, it may be difficult for them to learn. They are not as good in learning as they are in following your example. It is easier if you give them an example. Children want to be adult and they want to do what the older people around them do. You can be sure, if you give a lecture to your child about not smoking or drinking while you have a glass of alcohol on your table and a cigarette in hand, it does not work. As a parent, you first need to set those values for yourself which you want to give as guidelines to your children.

Maybe parents who cannot set a good and clear example give their children a rule like ‘You can drink one beer, not more’ or ‘You can smoke one cigarette a day’. Do you think this is really effective? If you allow one bottle of beer or one cigarette, you already give them a permission to do everything. For them the way is clear, they know what to do. They surely tell you ‘Of course I only smoke one cigarette per day’ but the reality looks different. Whenever you will see them smoking, they will tell you that this is the first one on that day. You are not in the position to say anything then. You may have allowed soft alcohol or only a bit but your children will find their way.

This is however not the end of this story! Things have got much worse already. Imagine the following situation: your 13-year-old son wants to go to a party with his friends. They want to drink alcohol and they tell you that but they cannot buy alcohol for the party because it is not allowed by law. Now they are standing there and ask you to help them. I have seen parents who then accompany their children, go to the supermarket with them and buy alcohol. Their children don’t only want to have beer though, they want to have vodka! And so this child, who would not even have been able to buy beer, gets very strong alcohol to go to a party. What are you doing to your child? You have given birth to this child and you know this child’s liver is still developing to its full function. Now tell me, if you allow this, why should your child not go for binge drinking with a group of friends? Why would your child not drink until he falls unconscious and has to go to hospital?

When I saw this, I got tears in my eyes and I thought how a mother can do that? I felt very sad but what can I do? I feel helpless, seeing those situations in this society. I only can get sad, express my pain in these words and ask parents to set their values. Do not destroy the body of a child whom you have brought to this world. There are even parents who smoke and drink while they are pregnant. They don’t have the slightest feeling or sensitivity towards this topic and these children get those habits already with the mother’s milk.

This all happens on the name of freedom and parents explain me that they have to be modern and go with time. I will never approve this and don’t think any parents should do this to their children. I don’t mind if people say I am not modern, I can accept that, but I would never do this to my children.

Unfortunately this topic also is a very difficult one as it is very much accepted in today’s society. Just like yesterday’s topic, this way of thinking just doesn’t fit to my values. When I wrote yesterday that teenagers lack respect when they talk to their parents, I did not receive much response or feedback. It is because it is acceptable and normal for parents today. The society has also accepted alcohol and smoking. It is normal that young people do that. It will not however make me stop talking about it. I bring my pain out in this way, even if people prefer to close their eyes and go on how it is. It is not the right way.

Overweight Children and Teenagers – Hunger in Thoughts and Eyes – 11 Jul 11

I recently read one of those studies about overweight children that appear from time to time and warn people that the population of many western countries is getting more and more obese – starting with the youngest. While the study revealed no dramatic new information about this problem, it made me think again how much we got used to such news, articles and studies. When parents however get used to it and don’t see it as a real issue but as the normal state of things, we really have a problem.

We need to take responsibility. Children and also teenagers have not developed fully and whatever they learn, they learn from their surroundings. We show them everything and as parents, we need to give them a discipline, also when it comes to the questions what to eat, when to eat and how much to eat. We give them guidelines in many areas of life and we should also do this when it comes to their eating habits.

Eating habits is an interesting combination of words anyway. Often eating just becomes a habit. When children are very young, you need to feed them more often, that is true and of course you cannot cut back on that. They need to develop and grow and they should not be hungry. At some point however, this eating becomes a kind of entertainment. They start eating, not when they are hungry but when they are bored. To pass time and to entertain themselves they look for something to put into their mouths. And this is how it becomes a habit to eat a little bit here and a little bit there throughout the day.

Another problem is that children have hunger in their thoughts and eyes. They think of something to eat, get appetite and believe they are hungry. They see something to eat and they immediately think that they have to eat this right here and now. Their hunger is not in their stomach but in their eyes. If adults do the same, you would call it childish but still many people do exactly this. If you only ate when you were hungry, you would never have a problem with obesity. Adults and also children get hungry naturally. Don’t eat and don’t let them eat for their entertainment, from boredom or from hunger in their thoughts and eyes.

Teach your children to feel their hunger and make a discipline of when it is food time and when it is not. Of course, you are a mother or father, you want your child to be happy and you want to fulfill their wishes. If they only wish to eat, you may feel that it makes them happy, so why not allow it. Remain strict and keep the discipline. They are children and don’t see the long-term consequences in the way that you do! If you are concerned about their weight, they might be a little bit, too, but you know what can happen through this and they don’t. They may have heard of heart disease and diabetes but they have not enough experience to grasp what this means.

You have the control of how often they eat until a certain degree. Of course, in their teenage you won’t be able anymore to make sure they don’t eat in between meals. You can keep up some rules for meals together, though, and make sure they eat properly then. And from the very beginning teach them how important it is to take care of their body. They have to learn themselves to take care of when they eat and also what.

If you start teaching them in their childhood how a healthy and balanced nutrition looks like, how much is good to eat in one day and what you should eat, chances are they don’t need to face problems of overweight. The childhood is an important time and you lay the foundation for your child’s future.

Joy of having a Friend from Germany at the Ashram – 3 Jul 11

We landed in Delhi in the midday and at the airport we were welcomed by my brothers Purnendu and Yashendu. They had been looking forward to meet my German friend who had so spontaneously accompanied me to India.

Together we started towards Vrindavan. On the way, my friend had the wish to stop somewhere for a chai. He had been in India before but not in our area and he knew that you can get chai, Indian tea, nearly everywhere along the road. We stopped, took a small break and he drank his chai before we went on. It was nice to see that he felt good in his surroundings and that it was easy for him to just be there in India, in that culture.

Just as it had been the first time for me to live in the house of a foreigner when I had been with him, it was the first time for me and my family to host a foreigner in our home. We all, my whole family, were excited and happy to have him there. He stayed at the Ashram with my brothers and me and a group of students who were living there to learn Sanskrit and about the scriptures. We also still had cows at the Ashram. I vividly remember a few incidents of the time that he spent with us in India in 2001.

As it had been my habit before, we went to my parents’ house for dinner to eat together with the family every day. I remember one of those days, maybe one of the first ones of his stay, when we were at dinner in my parents’ home. As usual, my mother was cooking and my sister served the food to the plates. As usual in India, she always came to everyone and asked if they wanted more. In this way she came to my German friend and he accepted the bread, he accepted the rice, the vegetables, the dal and also when she brought it again. He was eager to taste it all and the food was really great, and so he had a really full plate and was obviously not able to eat it all. I think he just did not have the idea to say no when my sister came with food.

I had known that my friend always smoked one cigarette after dinner. He did not otherwise smoke, only one in 24 hours and that after dinner. He went outside of the Ashram to smoke his cigarettes and in the beginning he asked me, the rest of the cigarette in the hand, where he should throw it away. I looked at him and could only shrug my shoulders. I had no idea where you should throw this away! He became inventive then and we could see him how he squatted down at the road after each of his cigarettes and dug a hole into the sandy ground. He threw his cigarette rest in there and covered the hole with sand again. It was very nice to see this as he did not just throw it away anywhere but actually cared about it.

It was a great time. We laughed a lot with each other and about each other, each other’s habits and each other’s cultures. Getting to know another person and his culture in this way is really wonderful and my friend was so open to get to know more that we all enjoyed showing him around, cooking for him, talking to him and taking him to different places.

Of course we showed him Vrindavan and the surrounding towns. We went to Agra with him to the Taj Mahal and to Fatehpur Sikri. We even drove to Khajuraho, where we visited the popular Kama Sutra Temples which are of course always interesting for tourists in India. It is a distance of about 500 kilometers and we drove by car. It was Yashendu, my friend and I who went there. Yashendu and I were taking turns in driving and on the way back, my German friend wanted to drive, too. So we switched and there he was, driving on the left side of the road in Indian traffic. It may have taken a few minutes for him to get used to it but then he was pretty good and drove quite a while. He was behind the steering wheel for about two hours and we really had much fun. Until today he is the only one of my western friends who ever dared to drive our car in Indian traffic.

This is how our time together passed quickly and the last day before my friend’s departure came. When we came back from dinner at my parents’ house in the evening, we were standing in the Ashram and looking into each other’s eyes. I am a very emotional person and with the feeling of that evening and looking into his eyes, I felt tears dwell up and run down my cheeks. He also got tears in his eyes and so we were standing there, just looking at each other. I will never forget that beautiful feeling. We hugged each other tightly.

On the next day I took him to Delhi.

Spontaneous German Friend decides to accompany me back to India – 26 Jun 11

While I was in Lüneburg in November 2001, I actually started my professional work in Germany. Until then, I had only visited Germany without work. When a friend of my hosts asked whether I could help her with her back pain, I gave my first healing session in Germany. I told her some exercises, did healing as I was doing it in that time and in this way started my work. I consider those days as the starting point of my work in Germany.

In that year I still had a habit which I had got many years ago. Each day, before going to bed, I drank one glass of milk. My friend's wife, whom I told about this, started making it for me and also for their 5-year-old son and she mixed chocolate powder into the milk to make a nice and sweet drink out of it. She took good care of me.

While I was there, I told my new friend, now I am here in your house and I would like to invite you to come and visit us in my Ashram in Vrindavan. My friend asked when I would fly back to India. I told him the date, about a week or ten days later. He asked with which airline I was flying and I explained it to him. I would fly back with Virgin Atlantic from Hamburg to London and then from London to Delhi.

He noted down the date, time and flight number and told me he would accompany me right away if he got a seat in the same plane. I was surprised but also very happy. He called his travel agent, told him that he wanted to have a ticket in precisely that flight. There was exactly one seat left! He booked it and told me that we would fly to India together!

In that time this spontaneous action seemed completely normal to me but thinking of this now and writing about it I feel that it was really extraordinary. He is a doctor, a busy person and German on top of it. People in Germany use to plan everything quite a long time before and don?t usually decide such a thing spontaneously. It was really great.

I went back to Itzehoe for some days before the flight. From there I phoned my family and told my brothers that I would bring my friend to India, too. Of course they were happy and looking forward. Germany was getting cold now and I was really looking forward to going back to India.

When I left the house in Itzehoe, I locked the apartment door and as I had agreed with my Indian friend, went down the road to another friend of his, handed over the key and set off to Hamburg to catch the flight to London together with my spontaneous German friend.

In London we had several hours layover and I had planned to visit the Indian family with whom I had stayed before. Arriving in London I noticed however that my visa for the UK was not valid anymore and that I had to stay in the airport and wait for the connecting flight. My Indian host was already outside though and waiting for me! So what should we do?

I explained my plan to my German friend and he went out to meet my Indian friend with whom I was talking on phone from inside the airport. Together they went with the car to the home of the Indian family and there packed a full Indian dinner into bags. My German friend was then dropped back at the airport, fully amazed about this little episode. This is how we could enjoy rice, vegetables, dal and even chapatis, flat Indian bread, at the London Heathrow Airport.

When our flight was ready for boarding we got on and after some hours on plane landed in Delhi on the 22nd November 2001.

Do not mind different Opinions among Friends – 17 May 11

Yesterday I wrote that if someone is a real friend, it doesn’t matter to your friendship if you change your belief or philosophy. Today I want to add that it should not even matter if you have a different opinion than each other from the very beginning. It is fully fine and it doesn’t mean that you cannot love each other.

I often give the example of my oldest friend Govind. We are very different from each other, have a lot of different habits and opinions. Still we are friends, see each other when we both are in Vrindavan, we meet, we talk and we love each other. It doesn’t matter that we have different opinions.

Opinions are a bit like different taste. When we three travel together, there can be several points in which we don’t fully agree. Ramona loves eggplant whereas Yashendu absolutely does not like it. We manage to cook eggplant from time to time so that we can enjoy it but also make something separate for Yashendu as well. It works and it doesn’t matter that they have different taste.

If I have a friend who smokes but I don’t smoke, we can be friends anyway. I even write in my diary that I don’t approve of smoking but I still love my friends who smoke. I am a vegetarian and openly and always advocate vegetarianism but still have many good friends who are not vegetarian. There can be many examples like these but the main point is that even if I don’t agree with a point of my friends’ lives or if they don’t agree with a certain aspect of my life, we still can be friends.

So if I write something in my diary about one of these points, for example that I think people should recycle their garbage but you do not recycle or if I believe one should not drink alcohol, especially if one’s children are around but you do exactly that, we can still be friends.

I have made the experience that people minded it very much whenever I wrote negatively about something that they actually did in their lives. Some people even got very angry, thinking that I am writing about them in particular. This made me think from time to time, before writing a diary entry: ‘Oh, if I write this, maybe he or she could think I am writing about them! I should talk to them before!’ The reality is however that I cannot warn everybody every time that I write something that could concern them, too. To how many people can I talk?

I explained before, too, that nothing that I write is in any way personal. Of course I get inspiration from everything around me but I like to talk in a wider range. You may think that I am talking about you but what you don’t realize is that your neighbor has the same problem. I usually write about things that concern many people, not only individuals.

This is why, if I have written something in the past or write something in the future that you find in your life and that fits to you please don’t take it personal and don’t mind it. It is meant for a large number of people to read, not only for you, the individual. And it is only my opinion. If yours is different, it is fully fine for me, too. You, your love and your friendship is valuable to me. I love you.

Eating and Talking Habits – 1 June 10

I wrote about different customs at the lunch or dinner table and friends reminded me that it is very common to talk while you are having a meal here in the West. That is in Germany just like in the US for some families the only time for talking with each other. Often families are not connected throughout the whole day and when they are together then, one time a day, they of course want to talk to each other.

It is good if families come together for sharing the day and being together. I actually like to concentrate on my food and I know that sometimes people ask something and I do not reply because I am just eating. I like to do only one thing at one moment. It is not that I would not say one word because of manners or tradition, I just feel it is difficult to fully concentrate on a conversation. In India it is generally not usual to talk during food and I believe that in earlier times it was also not usual in Europe, either. Times, habits and manners change.

In whatever way, you need to enjoy both, your food and your company. And we enjoyed our company here with the family of Jeff and Joanne very much. In one hour Kevin will pick us up and drop us at the airport in Houston from where we will fly back to New York. We had a great time here and are happy to have some more friends now in this part of the world.