Making our Children well-behaved Members of our money-focused Society – 1 Apr 14

I yesterday already shortly mentioned that toddlers should have more time to just play and not sit in school-like classrooms yet. I actually think we are taking a part of our sons’ and daughters’ childhood if we send them to school too early. Or if we pack their day full with a busy schedule leaving them no time for free play. Unfortunately this is something that we see more and more often these days.

I experience this in India a bit, more than that in Germany but the most, I saw it in the USA. When we were there, we met mothers and children who told me that the kids did not have even one free moment during the whole week. They had school the whole day long, from quite an early hour, until the late afternoon, when their parents returned from work as well.

The children had breakfast and lunch at school, did their homework there and of course all school lessons took place in that time. After that, there were ‘leisure’ activities, which were however a must in the school. The children had to take part in those game lessons, guided by a teacher or professional educator.

On the one or two days on which school ended early, the parents had made sure that there was no time for getting bored: sports clubs, classes for learning an instrument and, if nothing else, play dates arranged by the parents. The children won’t get bored – but they also don’t have any free time for themselves! Even on Sundays, there is church school – another day full of activity.

They don’t have any period of time to do whatever they want. Even social activities are supervised and guided, they have limited space to decide on their own. I believe this actually limits their freedom, their power of imagination and their ability to fill their time on their own.

I am not saying that the children don’t enjoy all of these activities. They may love playing the flute, going to basketball training, even the homework lessons or activity classes at school. The theater groups and the library lessons. But that all is what they are told to enjoy from the outside.

Why can’t we let our children give more space to decide on their own what they would like to do? Provide them an instrument and lessons only if they really wish to? Why do we insist that they go to playdates when they actually would rather lie on the couch at home and read a book? Can we not give our children the information and possibility to play and discover the world in any direction they want?

I know that this may sound funny to some but I think we are robbing our children of their childhood, the time that they have without too many responsibilities and free to do what they like. If you don’t let them enjoy this feeling of freedom now, how will they ever learn in their life to just lie back and see what they really want to do?

Instead, they will follow what society tells them to, just because they are so used to guided activities! Well-behaved members of a society that wants people to work, consume and do what everyone else does. They will buy what advertisement tells them to because they have always done what they were told. They will be good employees, filling their work schedules until the last minute and agreeing on doing more than they actually want. Because they are used to it. Because they were always doing exactly that.

Until, sooner or later, they just burn out.

Yes, I believe we place the seeds for burn-out and depression already with our small ones. I will write more about that tomorrow.

Love is more important than your Genes – 23 Feb 14

Last week I told you about the mother who had come to me for an individual session together with her 18-year-old daughter. She had told her daughter on her 18th birthday that the man who had raised her and whom she called her father was actually not her biological father. Her biological father was a man with whom she had had an affair and whom she knew nothing about. Now it was up to me to talk to this young woman whose psychological situation was, understandably, a mess.

The mother, in distress and feeling guilty about causing her daughter’s emotional rollercoaster, explained why she had told her, after such a long time, about this big secret: she felt as though it was eating her from inside that she had lied for so many years. She had been carrying it in her heart and felt as though it was getting heavier every day.

I actually felt that there had been no reason to open this truth now, after such a long time. The girl was now adult, happy with the situation as it was and there was nothing to gain for her. There was not another caring individual who could become another role of father for her, as nobody even knew this man’s contact details. Instead, she lost the feeling of having a father for the person who had always been exactly this for her! You did not think about the consequences of your actions and how difficult it would be for you to bear them! But these thoughts were in vain, as she had not asked me before. I talked with the girl instead.

The mysterious man whose genes she shared was very present in this girl’s mind. How can I get in touch with him? If I try to search him and really find him, how would he react? And what about mother’s ex-husband, whom I call my dad? I don’t know what to think, what to do, I could just sit there and cry because my whole life was a lie until now! It feels like I am missing an important part of myself!

I told her that she was now an adult and needed to see things from a mature point of view. As a strong woman, she would be able to bear this shock, this sudden information, and see what is behind it: nothing actually changed.

In my eyes, it was not at all important who the biological father was. You don’t know his name, have never thought of him before and have never missed anything – why would you miss him now? Why would he suddenly be important?

If you are not strong, it will confuse you a lot. If you see it realistically however, you are still standing on the same ground and your place in this world has not changed. The man who raised you and loves you and whom you love very much as well will always be your father! Your genes don’t weight heavier than the love that he has given to you throughout your whole life!

You are a complete person as you are and first of all you need to get back to your balance in your life as it is now. If at some point after that you want to start your search for this man, do it without expecting an overwhelming result. Do it when you know it won’t upset your current life.

Be yourself, as you were until now. Love is more important than your genes!

Agnosticism can be a Transition, not a final Destination – 16 Jan 14

Today I would like to write a few lines, not about religion and religious people, also not about non-believers or atheists. No, I will write about agnostics.

For those who may not have heard this term until today, this is those people who don’t see themselves as believers but also not as non-believers. They practically say that there is a chance that God exists. They are neither sure that there is nor that there is not something like a supreme power. They call themselves skeptical, doubting, not sure and some of them even categorize themselves further into ‘Agnostic Theists’ and ‘Agnostic Atheists’, depending on the side to which they are tending.

The argument of an agnostic is that there are things which are not explainable and while there is no prove that there is God, there is also no certainty that there is not. There is always doubt and that’s why they, too, remain in this doubt.

This doubt is based on a doubt in religion without wanting to leave the possible benefits of believing. If it happened to be true in the end, you could still have heaven, salvation or whatever you were promised for your belief. You won’t however be eligible for those benefits because you don’t really believe in it anyway! According to a believer, you are not faithful to god, if you have any doubt. No religion would call you a faithful believer if you expressed your doubt whether their god existed. So according to them, you are a non-believer. You however would like to have a special category called ‘agnostic’ with special conditions. You don’t believe in God but just in case he happens to exist in the end, you would like to reap the benefits.

For many fields in this material world you will hear that it is good to be in doubt. When you question the things that are accepted as truth around you, it will bring you further, just like doubts are the reason for more scientific research in so many areas. When it comes to the mind however, doubts are not good at all. I will actually not call it a doubt anymore, I would call it confusion. And the situation of people in this confusion is the worst because they are neither here nor there.

Those who are confirmed in their belief are clear in their mind. They know that there is god, they know what they have to do in order to be loved by him and they act accordingly. Those who are free of any belief are very clear, too. They know there is no god and they don’t have to do anything except what their morals and values tell them to. Those who are in confusion however have no guideline like believers and they are not free as non-believers!

I believe this situation will, in the end, create personality problems. They will have problems in taking decisions because they don’t know which way to go. Can I be free and decide on my own or should I consider religious rules because they might be important after all, even if they seem outdated? Who actually are you? Identity problems, indecisiveness and in the end even psychological issues can be the result.

Of course, the state of being agnostic may just be a stop on the journey from believer to non-believer and I was myself some day in the past standing at this point. It is a transition period in which you mix different ideas until you finally get clear. It is important to get clear however! One should not live in this confusion for a long time – otherwise mental problems are probably inevitable!

So if you are one of those people who would categorize themselves as ‘agnostic’, please consider deciding for one or the other side someday – for your own good!

Don’t force yourself to fake Happiness – 17 Oct 13

Our dear friend Sylvia commented on one of the last days’ blog entries and mentioned another idea which is widely spread among the people who call themselves spiritual. It is also, like before, an idea which may cause you a headache when you are trying to follow it but which actually should not be followed without some limits or at least some further thought: You are the one that makes yourself happy.

Sylvia explained that while she saw some justification for this statement, she did not think that it was a remedy for every situation to just try and bear anything in the belief it was ‘upon you to manage your happiness’. I agree and would like to elaborate a bit on this.

The thought behind this advice is not wrong. You ARE the one who often has the conscious decision what you would like your mood to be. You are the one who decides how you would like to see things. You can decide whether you would like to approach a person with prejudice or openly. You take the decision whether you let the weather spoil your mood. It is up to you whether a comment of your mother-in-law can make you upset and angry or not.

Nevertheless however I have to agree that there are limits to this rule. It does not mean that you just have to decide to change your mind-set to be happy, no matter how bad the situation is that you are in! On the contrary, if you look at it this way, this can be quite a destructive attitude!

This would mean that you are in an unhealthy relationship for example and your partner constantly abuses you and you feel bad because he does not seem to care about your feelings at all – and instead of changing something, you believe that you are doing something wrong. You feel guilty because you feel bad and not happy. You think you have to get higher on your spiritual path, you are not enlightened enough yet to understand that these are just tests that bring you further. If you just find your happiness within this situation, you think, you will already be one step further.

No, no, no. This is absolutely not what this little sentence is about! I will still not call it wrong but you did not understand correctly what you are supposed to do here in order to make yourself happy! You have to get yourself out of this situation! Accept that it makes you unhappy when someone insults you whom you care about. It is fully right that it does! Accept that you get angry when you have worked for weeks and your colleague gets all the recognition for it! Accept that you have certain needs and get sad when they are not satisfied.

All these emotions are completely alright. They are there and not necessarily ‘negative’. They may indicate that you need a change but that change can mean distancing yourself from abusive people, giving someone a piece of your mind, taking some time just for yourself and more. Don’t force yourself to a fake happiness when you are not happy from inside out. Find the place where you are happy – and accept all those other feelings as well!

Don’t expect more of yourself than your Natural Limits allow – 15 Oct 13

Among those people who call themselves spiritual, there are many different ideas spread about how you should live your life. Of course, they are all positive points, telling you to love those around you, to be aware of who you are and what you want, to expect less in order to avoid disappointment and to control your ego. While it is a general tendency that the west imports such ideas from Eastern philosophies, trying to implement them in their lives, I believe that one needs to take a difference of culture into account as well. There are just certain things which may fit perfectly into an Eastern culture such as the Indian one but are so foreign to your Western culture that you would make yourself unhappy trying to fit into it.

Let’s take the example of expectations. It is a commonly known goal of spiritually interested people to reduce or even remove their expectations. I have always written and explained that there is actually no reason to try and fully remove your expectations. There should be some of them and there will be if you want to live a normal life with people like family and friends around you. So let’s just talk about the idea that you should drastically reduce your expectations to a minimum.

I believe that this is a valid point that can make you happier because you will not face that much disappointment. I also believe however that you should not try and force yourself not to have any expectations – and also not feel guilty if you have a certain amount of expectations that you cannot get rid of. And that amount depends on your cultural background!

If you look at a person who grows up in an Indian environment, he will not have the tendency to as many expectations as a person growing up in most western countries would. People don’t expect each other to be very punctual here. People don’t expect work to be done within the time frame that was fixed before. People don’t expect a task to be finished precisely and perfectly. A normal, regular Indian person already is used to adjustments, compromises and imperfection. There is already less disappointment, there is already less expectation.

If you have, in your daily life, moved away from unreasonable expectations, you have already done a big step! If you are now worried about the fact that you still expect your loved one to appear at the restaurant at the time that you have agreed upon, I think there is nothing wrong! It is the culture that you grew up with and that is something so deeply rooted inside that you may not ever get that out.

What I am trying to say is that you should not think ‘Whenever I have an expectation, I did something wrong!’ Don’t mentally beat yourself up for the fact that you have expectations just because people of another country have an easier time letting go. Your culture is different, your identity is different.

Accept who you are and don’t try to change what doesn’t actually need to be changed. There are things that can just be alright as they are – even if others don’t think so.

A 5-Step-Plan to boost your Self-Esteem – 29 Aug 13

I have spent several days and several blog entries writing about how people often compare themselves to others and thus lose their own self-confidence and along with it their self-esteem. They get depressed, have problems with their own body and think that even their actions and feelings are not worth anything. If you have come to this point or if you want to prevent even reaching until there, I would recommend you doing something to boost your self-esteem. Here is a plan, a tip on how you can start with this:

  1. When you have some minutes of free time, take a sheet of paper and a pen and sit down comfortably. Now start writing down what you think is valuable about yourself. That can be anything that you are proud of, anything that you think is good. It can range from ‘I am good at playing soccer’ over ‘My bottom looks great in jeans’ to ‘I can empathize with people’s feelings’ or ‘I have lots of patience’. You should have an absolute minimum of five points on that list – and there is no limit to how many you want to add.
     
  2. If you have any difficulty finding points that you are convinced of, ask your close friends or family what they value about you. You will notice, this alone will give you a strong push of positive feelings and self-esteem! If you are shy to ask, remember that you would also like them to ask you for help if they needed it!
     
  3. Read this list every day at least once. It does not take much time – before going to sleep or after waking up or maybe both times, sit down and consciously read what you have written about you. You will internalize the good feeling about yourself and after some time, you won’t even need the help of the written words anymore, you will just be able to think of your list and feel better.
     
  4. If you meditate or do breathing practice, use the list as an anchor to meditate on. Concentrate on the positive energy that you feel circulating inside yourself.
     
  5. Finally, whenever you are in a situation that threatens to throw you back down into your hole of bad thoughts about yourself, return mentally back to all the points that you like about yourself and that others value about you, too. Remember that nobody is superman or superwoman, that nobody is perfect in all fields of life. Know your own qualities and accept that you have some less impressive character traits as well.

Concentrate on yourself, stop comparing yourself to others and find out what your qualities are – you will notice how big a difference it will make in your daily life. Try – what does it take? A paper, some ink and just a few minutes per day! But the effect will make you happy!

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!

You are special because of who you are – not because of what you do! – 14 Aug 13

After yesterday’s speech for minorities who feel pressurized by society, I would like to add some words for those people who absolutely don’t feel like a minority, those who feel that they feel like most other people do, those who are genuinely a part of ‘the majority’. Why? Because there is a lot of ‘majority-bashing’ going on, especially in the spiritual scene, but there are a lot of people who honestly feel the way they do and they have a right to be themselves, too – even if this means that they are ‘mainstream’. If you are one of them, you don’t need to feel guilty about it!

It may sound funny to you that I think this should be said but let me explain why I believe that there are a lot of people who have such feelings. For many years now, people have been ‘waking up’, realizing that they don’t want to continue their lives in the normal trot, that they want to get out of the pressure of their daily routine and do something that makes their hearts happy. There have been several movements which you can call the ‘spiritual scene’ if you are looking for one word. They all emphasize that you have to do what makes you happy and I fully support this basic idea. There are different approaches but most of them tell the interested people one thing: you are special!

While again, I agree with the basic idea that we all are unique, there is another implication of this message that I don’t really agree with completely: you are special because you are doing something different. You are special because all those people around you, the ‘majority’, the ‘great mass’ of people are not as conscious as you. You are special because they all do the same old thing and you don’t like it anymore. You are special because you don’t like what they all like. You may find a few people who like approximately the same things that you like but in the end you will go alone on your way to enlightenment because you are so special.

Well, I am just not in favour of the idea that all of these people are ‘the chosen ones’. I don’t think it is a good idea to tell a whole lot of people that you have to be so different from others that you don’t fit in. Yes, I myself tell people that you don’t HAVE TO fit in but it is a completely different story if you tell people that they SHOULD NOT fit in! That they are not special if they feel well around their normal friends. That they are supposed to feel bad when they are in their regular surroundings. That they have to find new friends and a minority that they can join. Or that they have to be lone wolves.

Once you get more conscious of your body, your food, your mind, your levels of stress or relaxation and your actions as whole, you may feel that you are a bit different. You may realize that you don’t enjoy certain activities, maybe like evenings where everyone gets drunk in a bar or barbecues because you are now vegetarian. You may not enjoy talking about most of the topics that you were previously talking about. But even if you still enjoy going to the movies, if you still enjoy dancing in a disco, if you still enjoy going out to a soccer match with your friends, you are still special and unique! You are still an individual being and there is nobody like you!

The message is: you are unique just as you are. Because of who you are, not because of what you do or don’t. Even if you are part of a majority, you are still special!

Don’t let Society force you – it’s your own Life! – 13 Aug 13

When I yesterday wrote about the life plan that most people have, I had another thing in mind which I also wanted to express: this plan is by far not the right one for everyone – no matter how much society wants to get you to believe this!

This is not going to be an article about all those women who have reached the age where they are not going to get children anymore and who are sad about the fact that they could not make this experience. I understand their pain, I have met many women in this situation and several of them are my friends. No, this is going to be an article about those people who feel pressure from the outside to fulfill their ‘tasks of life’ which they themselves actually don’t consider important from their inside!

This may not be a diary entry for the broad masses, not having the majority of people as the main subject but a minority, a group of few. If those who are not part of this minority read this, however, I think it could open their eyes to another point of view and maybe change their actions towards these people, ultimately making it easier for them.

Society believes, if I say it in a very generalized version, that there are certain things that you have to do and achieve in life in order to have used your life properly, in order to be a valuable citizen of your country, in order to be as you are supposed to be. Study or make an apprenticeship, get a job, marry, have children, build a house. You already notice that these are the same goals that people stress themselves about. For some people it is only society imposing it on them.

There are certain things that are just not right in the eyes of a lot of people. Depending on the country that you live in, that can be different things. For a western woman it could be getting children before she could study or learn a profession, choosing not to take a profession at all and stay housewife or, strangely, also choosing not to marry and have children at all but devoting life to a career. For an Indian woman it could be choosing not to marry, deciding to work and establish their work before having children or maybe not have children at all. There are so many more examples in all different fields of life – I think the persons concerned will know what I mean.

If you decide to do what is not the norm in your country, you may face a lot of negative reactions of your surroundings. Even that much that you yourself doubt your decisions and feelings. But if you have found that you just don’t want to go the normal way, if you have found your way and enjoy it – even if it is not always easy – stay on your path! Don’t let ‘the majority’ of people get you down.

Do what you feel is right. Yes, you may need some more courage to face a few more storms than others. It might get uncomfortable sometimes but it would be much more uncomfortable for you to go against what you really want to do.

Follow your heart, as cheesy as it may sound. It is the right way and the only one on which you can find happiness!