Don’t try to be a perfect Parent – 25 Feb 16

I yesterday wrote about perfectionism and mentioned that we needed to learn from our mistakes. I cannot think of any area where this is more true than in parenting. If you are a father or a mother to one or several of these wonderful beings that are children, please realize that you cannot ever be perfect – and that you aren’t a bad parent, either!

I have met far too many parents worrying about making mistakes while raising their kids. I said it then and I say it now, as the father of a four-year-old: yes, you will make mistakes, but that doesn’t mean that you are a failure as a parent! The fact that you care so much already shows that you aren’t!

There are too many guides on parenting and too many ‘professionals’ giving their opinion. These opinions clash, there are different philosophies in the background of these thoughts and if you try to follow all of them, you will create a terrible mess. That comes from the fact that there is not one right path to parenthood!

We all are different and our children are all different, too. Ask any mother of two or more children and she can tell you exactly how different her kids are by character. Due to this, we will all treat others, including our children, differently from each other and our children will also take things differently from each other. One may take a scolding much to the heart, nearly crying each time while the other one can hear the same thing ten times and still won’t seem to care! It is completely normal and just shows again that there is not any standard that you have to stick to.

There are of course some basic rules that everyone should stick to: don’t hurt or humiliate your child, for example. This is something that is not yet followed everywhere and especially in India, we are working against this but it should be clear. Apart from that, I would say to follow your heart and love for your child, trying to teach him or her to be a good person.

You will notice several times that you may have made a mistake. Take note of it and don’t repeat it. At a certain point you can even show your son or daughter what you changed and explain why: because we all learn! If we didn’t know something before but changed after hearing about it or reflecting on it, we are on the right path!

If you need it, you can write down your main goals and remind yourself of them from time to time. Over the course of time, you will notice that details fill up those goals, showing you how to proceed! Don’t be afraid – enjoy, laugh, love and learn!

Why you should not try to be perfect – 24 Feb 16

Yesterday I wrote about the little judgements that especially parents often have to face from the outside. And the reason why such a judgement often bothers you much longer than it actually should, is simple: you want to be perfect!

Yes, striving for perfection actually makes you unhappy, something you may already have guessed. Why? Because there is no way you are ever going to reach this goal! There is nobody who is perfect, we all make mistakes and the easier you accept this, the happier you will be!

The problem for a lot of people is however that they really very much want to be perfect. They don’t want to make any mistake and that’s how they are eagerly trying to do everything right. If they do a mistake, they beat themselves up about it mentally. Paired with a tendency to worry about what others think, this gets even worse. A mistake proves you wrong and you get stuck with it. You keep it in the mind, try to make explanations and excuses, you try to hide it so that nobody sees it – in short, you just don’t want to let anybody see that you are not perfect. Maybe you even manage to convince yourself that it was not a real mistake, that in fact you are perfect and it was someone else’s mistake!

Another problem is that there is not always a right and a wrong! For some people, one thing may be right while others would say the same for a completely different matter. So if you are trying to be perfect for your surroundings, you constantly need to change, because the people around you have different ideas of what is perfect!

There is a big lesson for everyone wanting to be perfect: we learn from our mistakes! Yes, it is actually good to do mistakes because they teach you what you should or should not do in future. You can feel guilty about your mistake and ponder on it for weeks or months or you can accept that it was a mistake and make a change!

I can promise you that other people won’t even remember your mistake for as long as you do! They forget it quicker than you because it actually is not as important as you think it is! So when you feel judged by someone about a little thing and then you are worried about it for a long time, they may already have changed their mind and forgotten all about it!

Don’t try to be perfect – you are perfect as you are with all your mistakes!

Funny once you get used to it: India’s missing finishing Touch – 25 Jul 13

Yesterday I described one habit of Indians that especially people from other countries may find difficult to deal with: their politeness and formalities. Apart from the fact that you will find many Indians to generally be very polite, you will also find that they can get very enthusiastic about starting something new, a new project, creating something, making a change and putting their ideas into action. That is the spirit of the beginning. When you look at things a bit later, at a point where the end should be close, you will find a fully different mindset. It often feels as though their thoughts are already planning the next project. They are just not good in finishing what they started!

There are so many examples for this and it gets most obvious in buildings and construction work. The painter for example paints the walls with his small hand brush, not with a roller. He spends hours on doing it properly and neatly without painting for example on the plaster of paris at the ceiling – but then just carelessly moves his brush by the electrical switchboard, leaving a trail of paint on the side of it, catching every visitor’s eye.

The carpenter fits a custom-made cupboard on the narrow end of one room, in the corner that was made for it. It fits exactly and looks wonderful on the first look. On the second glance however you notice something that will occupy your mind whenever you look at the cupboard from that moment on: One of the handles is fixed two centimeters above the other one just next to it.

The plumber installs the sanitary equipment. To close all holes and finish it off, he uses cement. He closes the holes – but doesn’t pay attention on the surrounding where he smeared cement onto the wall and the floor where several drops of cement are then forever stuck on the marble.

Our janitor once did a temporary fix for the door closer of our office which had gotten loose and was blocking the door. He tied a string to a hook at the ceiling and to the closer, holding the closer up so that the door would open. A day later he came with the equipment to fix the closer, did it and untied the string from the closer. He was already standing on a chair but could still not reach to the hook at the ceiling to untie it from there, too. So what did he do? Of course he did not take the pains to get something bigger than a chair to reach up! He simply reached up as high as he could and pulled with a jerk – tearing the string and leaving a small rest dangling at the hook. Sitting in our office, we were staring at that small thing for weeks, wondering why he had done that until finally one of us took pity on the others and got it down.

We had a bathtub installed in a bathroom. It came in plastic wrapping, we let the workers in, they finished their job and left. The cleaning staff did a great job clearing the mess and we stood in front of a shining new bathtub – no wait, not all was shiny! They had left one sticker on the whole side of the tub, reading to everyone who came into the bathroom: ‘Attention, handle with care!’ It was a sticker but they had permanently fixed it into the bathroom along with the tub by attaching half of it with cement to the marble.

If you travel through India some day, just keep an eye open for these small pieces of imperfection. It is a characteristic that you can find all over the country and once you stop being bothered by it, you will smile and laugh about it!

Ego and Perfectionism – a dangerous Combination – 7 Dec 12

Yesterday I said that criticism is never well perceived by people with ego problems. It is obvious – any kind of criticism, be that with good intention or not, means that there is something wrong with who they are or what they have done. Their ego is not able to accept this and they will get angry and won’t change anything. Especially when this ego is paired with perfectionism, a person will have the biggest problems with even a small piece of criticism.

A perfectionist who does not have ego-problems may not have as much of a problem if someone points out a mistake in his work. It will still sting – because it means his work was not perfect – but he will go and change that detail to make the complete work as perfect as possible. In the end, he may even be thankful to the person who pointed it out because that made it possible for him to be perfect, at least in his own eyes.

The definition of perfect means that it has reached the highest level of being good. If something is called perfect, it means it could not have been better. A perfectionist tries to reach this level with his work. He will practice again and again until he reaches there or he will closely examine every piece of his work, correct it, modify it and go in detail to make sure it really is perfect. A small piece of imperfection will disturb him.

A regular perfectionist also knows that nobody is perfect and that perfection, although it is by definition the point where you reach the limit, actually has no limits. There is always something that could be better. You play the guitar perfectly but then there suddenly is a player who plays even better than you! You create a perfect piece of art but then you see another piece of art, just like yours, into which the artist added an element that could have improved your work, too! Perfection in itself has a contradiction: it is the limit, the best, but at the same time there is always something even better.

The perfectionist knows this and is caught in the conflict of wanting to be perfect while knowing that there always be someone or something a little bit more perfect than him.

When ego crawls into the mind of a perfectionist, the situation changes. Ego makes him believe that he is perfect. This is the point where this person becomes an explosive danger for his surroundings and especially to each person who dares criticizing or questioning any of his actions or results of his work.

In that case, the inner conflict of the perfectionist with the fear ‘oh, did I miss something?’ clashes the thought of the ego ‘This cannot be, I have thought it all through!’ and the result is a direct attack: ‘If you know it better, do it yourself the next time!’ or ‘Okay, I just destroy it all and then you can see how you want to do it!’ or something along those lines. The perfectionist will regret this later while the ego keeps on shouting in his head ‘I was right, I am perfect!’

For everyone who finds himself in that situation, I have one advice: control your ego. Whenever you hear someone criticize you and you feel the blood rushing to your head, remind yourself that this is the ego pumping up your blood pressure and making your ears ring. You don’t need to get that excited about it! Take a moment, consider what the other one is saying and then reply. If you are in mid-conversation and it would look funny to just remain silent while you calm yourself, simply excuse yourself for a moment. You don’t want to regret anything later, so think first.

Work on controlling your ego and know that nobody is perfect. Nobody expects you to be, either. Just be you.

Travelling but afraid of making Mistakes in another Culture? – 21 Nov 12

When our guests arrive at the Ashram, we always give them a short introduction into Ashram life, tell them who is who and let them know that they can just feel like home, relax here, go into the garden or wherever they want. We explain that we are very free and that they don’t have to do anything and are not prohibited from doing anything, they can just be, that’s it. Sometimes however people who are in India for the first time hesitate to really feel free – they have heard so much about what you should do and what you should not do in another culture that they are afraid to do something wrong!

It is just a natural feeling which you have more or less of, depending on your experience and your general character.

People who are very self-conscious and feel easily ashamed about their mistakes may have big difficulties even starting a journey to a country like India because they know the culture is so different that they will hardly be able to avoid putting his foot in. If they do come though, they will stay away from places where they don’t know the rules and customs for unless they are with a guide or someone who they can follow in their actions.

They will hesitate going into a temple for example, not knowing how to behave in it and whether someone might be offended by them even entering. With this attitude they ‘play safe’ but unfortunately miss out on a lot of things, simply because of their fear of doing something wrong. They will be able to avoid really offending someone culturally but if they actually do something that a native inhabitant would do differently, they will be horribly ashamed. That will be one of the biggest memories of their journey and each time they think of it, their cheeks will burn with the memory. Only time will be able to fix that and they will eventually be able to regret making this so important. Maybe they can even laugh about it and tell it to others – but only after some years and from safe distance!

Perfectionists would hate committing any faux-pas in another country just as much and that is why they read as many culture-guides as they can in order to know everything before. They have read so much that they believe they know how to behave anywhere and everywhere. With their theoretical knowledge, they can impress their fellow travellers and they can easily become the guides for locations they have not even been to themselves.

Obviously the knowledge of books and texts is not comparable to the experience itself though and sometimes you find such people wondering why everyone is doing things just so very differently from how they should be doing it! They stand at the evening ceremony at the river ghats and explain their friends how the priest lights the candles and holds the fire and swings it – wait, he doesn’t do it right! Seeing this controversy brings confusion and the perfectionist will mostly leave with the feeling that the natives are not following their own culture properly – he would have done it better.

The best attitude to enjoy and experience however is, if you simply jump into the life and go with the flow. Don’t hesitate too much and don’t have too many expectations on how it should be. Just let it happen and go along. Indians are known for their hospitality and they will be happy to show you, explain you and just let you know what to do. Don’t be shy or afraid of doing mistakes – they can see you are not from here and that is why they don’t expect you to know everything!

You can hardly commit a faux-pas that is so big and bad that people really could blame you to have done a big mistake. It is a difference of culture and if they came to your country, you would also not mind them doing things a bit differently than you do them. Just use your common sense and a little bit of a feeling for the situation and you will be fine. The most important thing is that you enjoy your time.

I believe we all should be more open towards others and take life easy. With such an attitude, we don’t need to be afraid of cultural mistakes but can really make beautiful experiences, knowing that others simply appreciate you exploring their country and culture. Enjoy and be happy!

How to deal with Anxiety and Fear – 15 May 12

I have been writing about fear in the last week and explained why I believe fear is something that we are born with and which is just natural. In an email, a reader explained me that she could easily accept the fact that fear was natural but that this did not help her get rid of it. She said she was nearly always anxious about all kinds of topics and whatever was planned, whatever she should do, she would worry about the result. When there was nothing else, she would be afraid for her health, afraid that something could happen to those she loved and so on. This anxiety had become a part of her life. What to do about this?

The first thing you need to do is to determine whether there is a certain reason that you are in this situation. Is there an exam or a test coming up that you are nervous about? Is there something important going on, like a work project in which you want to be excellent? Maybe your future depends on something that is going on right now?

If any of this is the case, please sit down for some minutes whenever you feel this anxiety and just relax. Get some perspective and remember that nothing, whatever is going to happen, is going to cost you your life or love. Nothing can be bad enough for you to get that much afraid or anxious. What you fear is an illusion, a creation of your mind. The world will not stop turning! You are obviously aware of the bad effects that this fear has on your body and mind, so calm down and remind yourself that everything is okay. It is a limited period of time, there is a point when this will be over. Now you will go through it, you do the best you can and it will be alright.

But what if you cannot make out any particular reason? What if anxiety has become a general state of mind, like in the case of my reader? Then there is no way to say ‘Once this time is over, everything will be good’. When you notice that you are in this situation, it is a serious sign to change your thinking – in order to avoid serious health problems!

This anxiety often goes hand in hand with stress. When there is a lot of stress, you get anxious about being able to get it all done on time and still nicely or correct. At the same time, if you are anxious about several things, you will get stressed about it because your mind is just busy, concentrating of what you are afraid of.

Obviously, yoga and meditation are very good methods of calming yourself down and getting rid of anxiety. One factor is that with yoga, you get physical exercise which stimulates your complete body and makes you feel good. You immediately feel more relaxed after a nice workout. Additionally to that, use meditation to find peace inside yourself, to keep your mind from swirling around and from creating illusions which make you anxious or afraid. With some practice you will notice how you will be able to focus more and more on reality and presence instead of creating horror-visions of the future.

Another important thing to work on now is your self-confidence and self-esteem. Again, meditation helps you but apart from that I would recommend you to remember, several times in a day, that you are great just as you are. Stop being afraid of other people’s judgment. They are also just humans, they do mistakes and should you do one now, they may have done the same thing a while ago already.

You have to come back to a life that is worth living it. You have to be able to enjoy.

Not shy to make Mistakes when learning English – 11 Sep 11

During her proposal, the woman said: ‘We are very compatible’. She actually spoke Hindi to me but mixed it with English words. With my limited knowledge of English I did not know what ‘compatible’ meant and asked her for the meaning.

She explained me the following: If there is a husband and a wife and they have different ideas of life, like a different way of living and different wishes, they just don’t fit together. It doesn’t work. But we fit together! You are from the Brahman caste and I am from the Brahman caste. You are very religious and so am I! You lived alone for so long and I lived alone until now, too. Our thoughts are similar! We are really very compatible, it is hard to find someone like this.

This is how I learned a new word: compatible.

I actually was learning English bit by bit and word by word, always ready to adopt a new one into my vocabulary. I just tried to add English words into my Hindi speaking and to say small sentences in English. I was eager to learn, knowing that with English you can talk with so many more people!

When I was with the other family in London before, I had told my host to correct me if I said something wrong in English. He asked me ‘So you won’t mind if I correct you?’ and I told him that I was not shy at all in realizing my mistakes and having them corrected. I never was and am not until now.

I knew I did mistakes in pronounciation, my grammar was wrong and I even used wrong words when I did not know the proper meaning. He was actually happy to correct me, to teach me and to help me. I had also started receiving emails in English and he helped me by translating what I did not understand as well as writing replies in a way that the other one could understand it.

I remember how we were sitting together once and talking when his teenage daughter came in. She said ‘I go Harrow’ and off she was. He turned to me and said ‘You see, these days young people don’t care whether they speak correctly or not. She was born here, she knows that the correct way to say this sentence is ‘I go to Harrow’, but she does not care about the correct form. So you really don’t need to worry if you do some small mistakes and if that what you say is slightly wrong. People will understand you!’

I never had proper English lessons but in this way I learned some words, some sentences and some expressions in 2002.

Are you searching for a Mother in your Relationship with your Wife? – 28 Apr 11

Yesterday I wrote that overprotection by the parents can cause a woman to look for a father figure in her relationship, too. The same overprotection by parents, and specifically by a mother, can also cause a man to search for a woman who is like a mother to him.

The basics can happen while the boy is growing up. Many mothers do everything for their sons until they have grown up and even longer, maybe until they have found a girlfriend who will do it for them. The problem is not so much the love of the mother that makes her do as much as possible for the boy, feed him, wash his clothes, prepare what he should wear in the morning and clean his shoes when they are dirty. The problem is that she doesn’t help the boy to grow up, do his things on his own and sometimes even to think on his own.

In the beginning of a relationship, it may not be a problem that the young man is looking for someone who takes care of him like his mother. On the contrary, both partners may be very happy with it. The boy thinks his mother did the same for his father, too, and it worked out for them! She may be happy with taking care of someone, pampering someone and being responsible.

If this remains like this and both are happy, I won’t say a word. What happens mostly however is that both partners at some point are not fully satisfied anymore, are unhappy, complain about the other one and just don’t lead a relationship of love anymore.

A woman in this situation, with a husband and several children to take care of, often gets tired of her role as mother. She has to take care of one more person and sometimes feels that this is just too much. Parents should be there to carry responsibility for the children together but her husband himself depends on her for details such as finding the right socks or packing a suitcase for a business trip. She does it for all children and is sometimes overwhelmed with the many things that are to do. Paired with perfectionism, this feeling of responsibility for everyone can lead a woman to become hysteric, stressed, have burn-out and depressions.

For the man, however, too, this situation is not always as much pleasant as it may seems. If he is with a woman who likes to be the mother and who is fully in this role, she is used to advising him in everything he does in the house, assuming that he is not able to do it on his own. If he dressed himself without her suggestion, she critically looks him up and down, frowning. If he does something in the kitchen, searching for a knife for example, she may point out his silliness of even going in the kitchen. It is not pleasant at all if you, as a man, get the feeling that you are not able to even wear your underwear the right way around without a suggestion of your wife.

These problems all appear and are not to be neglected but they would maybe not be that dramatic if there was not the biggest problem of all: they don’t enjoy their sexual life anymore.

The reason for this problem, which occurs most often, is actually very logical. The feeling is simply not right. In the beginning there may not be such a big problem but after some years, the man can feel that he does not have that much sexual feeling towards this woman anymore who is becoming more and more like his mother and for whom he feels more and more like his mother. He gets irritated about his own feelings towards this woman.

She has the feeling that she has to take care of her husband all the time. In this way, she cannot relax at all for any sexual action. How could she? The whole day long she takes care of every little bit for her husband and tries to make him happy in this way, feeling maybe that there is not enough appreciation for what she is doing. It has become like a job to be like his mother. In the end of the day now it would be her job to take care of him in bed, too. Obviously, there is no joy or arousal involved if you think of sex in this way, as a job. As she obviously cannot be his mother in bed, she there has to change and be the lover. She gets into pressure as she has to perform this job very well, too, which brings stress, not arousal once again.

The result is unfortunately many times, that both partners start an affair with some other person with whom there are no obligations to be anything else than sexual.

This cannot be a solution for your relationship problems. You need to face them, talk about them and find a solution together, not apart from each other.

As a woman, you need to accept that your man is an adult and in general capable of doing the things you do for him, even if you do them for him with much love. As a man, you may want to do some of the things yourself that your wife has been doing for you until now. It will reduce the pressure on her and might also be a good feeling for you.

Do things together, find your tuning as man and woman, as lovers, as people who love each other, not like mother and son but like man and wife.

The Ego of Being Perfect – 5 Dec 10

Yesterday I wrote about perfectionism and mentioned that it is normal in everybody to have the wish to be perfect. The problems actually begin when we start comparing ourselves to others. In today’s Darshan I thought a step further and talked about how and why we start comparing.

The biggest problem with this is actually our ego. Of course everybody gives his best in what he or she does and everybody has the wish to be perfect. As long as we don’t compare to others it is fine. We start comparing however when we believe that whatever we do is perfect. It is a question of your ego. If you think that you are perfect, that you can do things perfectly and that everything that you do is perfect, you can get a big problem: you compare with everybody. And then you only need to meet one person who does something better than you and you will immediately feel bad. It is the ego of believing that you are perfect which kills all your happiness in what you do. The solution may sound easy but is often very difficult: take good care of your ego. You don’t need to be perfect and – to be honest – also will have a hard time being better than everybody around you. So relax, take it easy and just enjoy that you are doing something as good as you can.

I wrote yesterday to a friend already that perfectionism for me means that in the end of the day I can look back and say that I lived honestly and with love.

It was a nice Darshan and an evening full of fun and joy.

Perfectionism is Perfect if there is no Comparison – 4 Dec 10

Yesterday I talked with our friend Annick about perfectionism, about the wish to be perfect. We both agreed that it is a very common problem with people here that they want to have the perfect life, the perfect job, the perfect relationship, the perfect house, the perfect family, the perfect clothes, the perfect friends and so on. This gives you a lot of pressure. Your house has to be clean and there should be no spot at the window, your career should steadily go up and bring you more and more money, your hair should always fall in a perfect form if anybody had the idea to take a picture and just in general, you have to manage everything and make it perfect. Annick mentioned that this wish is not that much there when you are happy and in harmony with yourself. Then you somehow don’t care too much if your garden is not very tidy, if your children are sometimes too loud for the neighbours or you did not find time to bake Christmas cookies. But these times are rare and mostly you go crazy about the question, if others could think you are not perfect.

I said to Annick that I actually believe perfectionism is quite normal. Everybody wants to be perfect. This would not really be the problem. The problem comes when you start comparing. Whenever you do something, you put your effort in making it perfect. You try as much as you can and you will be happy with the result, because you have put so much effort in it. You will only be disappointed if you see someone else and compare your result with theirs. Imagine you are cutting your hedge. You spend a whole day on making a nice shape and cutting away all extra twigs. In the evening you look at it and think ‘Wow, I think I did a good job!’ You are proud and smile. On the way back into the house however you see that the neighbor, who started after you in the morning, is already done and his hedge seems fuller and somehow more elegant than yours! Now there is another person and he or she made something so much better, faster or more beautiful than you, so you don’t really like yours anymore.

You only had a problem because you compared. Everybody wants to be good and there is nothing wrong in that. Just don’t think that you have to be best. Don’t compare with others. Put your mind, heart and soul into what you are doing and be proud of the result.