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Thursday, December 30, 2010

My Body - the Way I See It

During my last Yoga session I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. I was surprised to see myself fit and slim. After all, it was just after Christmas and my eating certainly had not been the best, and my exercise schedule had been paused over the Holidays. I smiled and remembered how good it feels to go easy on myself...

Body image. As a psychologist I learned all about it. For people with an eating disorder it can be very distorted to the point, where a skeleton-thin person looks at herself in the full length mirror and sees an obese person. That is sad and needs serious treatment. But we all have our body image of our own bodies. Have you ever stopped to think what yours is? Does it match with how others see you? I noticed for myself that I typically like myself on photos - no matter how recent - and always assign that fact that I am looking at a younger, fitter ME. Closer to the truth is that I am fairly hard on myself when it comes to the shape of my body. Truly I like my body in the mirror, whenever I had been eating well (meaning little amounts and healthy food) and/or been exercising well. The "well" usually refers to "better than usual". So if I am at an upward trend with my diet, I like what I see in the mirror. Whenever I am on a downward trend however, I am not thrilled with my body. That is a typical "relational" body image, which does not necessarily serve me, certainly does not make me happy.

So how come, I was positively surprised by what I saw in the mirror at Yoga. No, it was not that I was in a class for overweight people and I was the only one with a BMI in it considered average. It was the fact that I had taken off work the whole week and had spent a lot of time relaxing and recharging my batteries. My eating has not been all that bad, but I did enjoy "Holiday" treats. Instead of exercising a lot I played it by ear, was sleeping in, relaxing and exercising whenever it felt good. Being rested has a lot to do with how we feel about ourselves.

Also, I had spent some time thinking about what I am grateful for, and one of the things on top of my list is a good functioning, pain free body. It is needless to say that my own body image impacts how I feel about myself. It interferes with self esteem, the way I approach daily life, relationships and the bigger picture and ultimately my actions.

Well, instead of weight loss and increased exercise as New Year´s resolutions I will focus on being grateful for my body and will make it a point to be easier on myself with fewer judgements about about my body and will enjoy more what is today.

Happy New Year!! Follow your dreams, they are what make you special and unique and point you towards your talents and gifts!!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Courage to Live a Fantastic Life

A quote I heard from Marianne Williamson has impressed me very much. It goes like this:
We are not afraid that we might fail, we are afraid that we might be absolutely brilliant.
Isn´t it true that we are quite good at failing, it is a save thing to do, it is familiar, our environment knows how to handle that, and we know that we don´t offend anybody that way. Imagine you were to live your full potential and are successful with your biggest dreams and desires. That might seem intimidating, frightening, maybe even lonely.

It all does not make much sense, but it feels oddly true and familiar? Not to worry. We have all kinds of pasts where contradicting beliefs get planted. All that counts is to look at it right now: Do I still want to cater to that belief? Do I want to make myself smaller than I am in order to feel save and liked? I believe not.

The courage in living a brilliant and successful life comes from following the true and honest desire to be the best we can be and be the most present we can be for our life: showing up and suiting up, taking it one step at a time, one situation at a time - always guided by our values and truths that we adopted for ourselves.

The freedom of being an adult is that we can truly do with our life what we please and choose to do. This is where the courage comes in: It takes courage to be just and fully ourselves. It is also the most rewarding of all options. Being the original, the unique being that we are and not being one of many many copies of commonly agreed upon mainstream people.

Mainstream is going the easy route, the one where I only have to look alike, act alike; where I don´t need to answer to myself and know myself and make the best out of myself. Mainstream also means that I get to blame someone or something else - outside myself - if I am not happy, satisfied, fulfilled.

So it takes courage to take the responsibility for our own happiness, our own creation, our own growth. Truly, there are powerful ads that advertise products and experiences that we should buy. But we are our only advocate when it comes to our own unique happiness and satisfaction, our own choices and decisions, our own life path. And going down the path of our very own life is the truly satisfying path that no product ever advertised on TV or anywhere else could buy us. Enjoy!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Surrounded by Friends and How Affairs Affect Friendships

Have you ever noticed, how with changing life circumstances and values/beliefs your circle of friends is changing. It has been said that we are the average of the 5 people we spend the most time with. This could also mean that by taking a closer look at our friends and choosing wisely, we can improve ourselves. Here is what I know to be true:

After 6+ years of marriage and loving it, I have a quite different circle of friends than when I was a single woman. I got closer to some of my married friends, and have lost contact to some of my single friends - the partying kind mostly. Some new couples came into our life, us enjoying to do couple things together.

As I was chatting with a good friend and the wife of one of our "couple friends", we discussed the topic of marriage. We both like the commitment to our marriage and value and respect it. One of the most hurtful and destructive behaviors of a spouse is to have an affair. It affects not only the immediate family system, it also affects friendships. This is because with the act of following through with a desire and starting and/or keeping an affair going, the whole set of values goes through a change. Some might even say, the values have been there all along: In the case of someone having an affair it would be anything else than respectful, true to her/his word, honest, courageous.

Imagine a good friend who is married or in a committed relationship - like you or like people you value. This friend starts to brag to you about an affair or even more affairs. What does that mean for you? The situation is getting more and more dishonest. No friend does you any good by making you a confidant of their moral downfall. It leaves you with the struggle of what to do with that knowledge. Plus, one not so often discussed aspect is that your spouse/partner might be the target if your friend so desires one of theses days. I have seen it happen, and it is fairly common, even though it is a terrible betrayal of trust and friendship.

We all have friends who need to be the center of attention. Sometimes, when paired with having affairs, this desire gets so intense that the value of friendship has nothing to oppose this. Maybe it is time to take a closer look at our friends and get closer to the ones who we admire and respect and fade out the ones who are not having the same values as we do. Clearly there is nothing to be gained to start discussing morals with a friend ("so called") who is not having any. The person without morals will win any argument about them, because she/he speaks from the perspective of the own ego and not the context of society and the greater spiritual good.

I invite you to be selective with who you call a friend. It certainly tells a story about you.
Courage, love and compassion.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Giving Thanks

I have heard doctors call Gratitude the most powerful medicine there is. I can only agree, having experienced it myself. Also, Gratitude and being thankful is not to be underestimated, considered too easy or not worth it. It is all a matter of perspective, for sure.

There are several aspects about Gratitude. Today I want to get into comparing the power of Gratitude to the power of a painkiller. Whereas I am not someone who takes medication lightly and tries to make do without any as much as possible, I have had my share of physical pain to endure. I learned that hanging in there without the help of painkillers is not always the shortest way to recovery. The pain itself stiffens the muscles around the hurt area so much that it hinders the healing process. The tight muscles from the pain become a problem themselves. Taking a pain killer at that point helps the body to focus on healing and gives it a break from the devastating sensations of pain. The healing process can take its course.

With Gratitude it is much the same. No matter where we are, there will always be things that could be much better, if we compare ourselves "upward", or things to be grateful for if we compare ourselves "downward". The thing about shifting awareness toward the things we are missing in life, that could be bigger, better, faster, more, is that it hurts. It makes us feel little, out of place, somewhat broken, we contract. This is a painful place to be in and certainly not a mindset that encourages any kind of healing, creating or growth.

Gratitude helps us relax into who we are, where we are at. It brightens our day by being able to see our blessings. It helps us think in possibilities and options, we expand, are able to create and use our potential. It all starts with Gratitude, with being thankful for what is, with feeling blessed, looked after, protected, supported, connected. From that comes so much more of something that we aspire to have, be, experience.

The most powerful medication there is!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Volunteer Work - Why and How?

Putting books back in the shelves in libraries, representing the Psychological Association in front of students, helping students with their literature search, putting up a teenager in our house for months, organizing seminars, reading to and listening to elderly people with dementia, running a hostel in Spain, taring the deck of the sail ship Star of India, distributing gardening news to garden club members via e-mail and postcards, teaching illiterate adults to learn how to read and write, I have done that and other things as a volunteer over the years. As with everything, with practice comes experience. At the end of this list of tasks is one main question: Why do I and why do people in general volunteer, what is the motivation?

Volunteering is the back bone of social society in the USA. Many, many organizations depend on the graciousness of volunteers. In Europe, where the government finances a lot of the social services, volunteer work is not as ingrained in the culture, but it certainly exists as well. Helping out: That is a genuinely humane trait. It inspires, it feels good, it makes us feel connected. It is great to be able to give and put some of our own talents to work. The responsibility is often low, the commitment is mainly voluntary. There is no pay.

During volunteering at various places in Europe and the US I have worked with many other volunteers. The tenor is pretty much the same everywhere. The "pay" seems to be the praise. There is just one problem with the motivation fueled by wanting praise and recognition. Often there is no one there to do that job. There are mainly fellow volunteers, who also hope to get praise for putting their heart and soul into something. So the tempers are often running high, and the initial pastime turns into a hassle.

That is not how it is supposed to be. You should have a good time when volunteering and not have to deal with "difficult" peers. The following steps help to get the best out of volunteering and to give your kind heart what it deserves: gratitude and acknowledgement.

1. stay with your area of assignment and ignore any wish to tell someone else how they can improve what they are doing
2. be honest with yourself and ask yourself what it is you like about a volunteer position
3. keep reminding yourself that the volunteer place is not your "real world". You don´t need to fix everything, take responsibility, and you won´t be affected in your "real" life by your actions while volunteering (unlike a bread winner´s job)
4. enjoy, enjoy, enjoy. As a volunteer you have the absolute right to enjoy what you do. If you don´t enjoy it, volunteering makes no sense
5. remind yourself, even if the task at hand seem mundane, you are doing a great deed and help the organization fulfill their mission

In any case, volunteering is one of the most noble and honorable things we can do. Keep up the grace of it and let little ripples pass you by, unaffected.

Thank you for volunteering past, present and future.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

What Is Wrong - Really?

The other night I could not sleep because of worries. Once
I started to inspect these worries I had to admit that they had little grounds
to stand on, and that my phantasy had taken off with me...

There I was: In the middle of a wonderful vacation in Europe, having time to hike in the Austrian Alps, adoring the golden glory of the fall foliage and being able to spend time with family and friends. Also, my husband and I were in the process of moving our furniture and belongings from our former Vienna apartment to our San Diego house. We were very much looking forward to having the European Chic in our house. The international moving company was hired, the boxes already picked up. How much better could it get? I was grateful, very grateful. Things were in flow. Fortunate us.

Then, one day before the sea freight container was to be loaded, I realized that I still had not received the promised insurance paper from our Austrian moving company. All day I had tried to reach her - without success. All 3 telephone numbers I had stayed unanswered. No e-mails from them in my inbox. So, in that night it occured to me that the big chunk of money had changed hands already (that´s how they do it in that line of work) and they had driven off with all of our belongings. Could it be a scam? Could they be that good? I started to doubt the good feeling I had had with them. My phantasy was taking off and was getting as dark as the night was.

It is very unusual for me not to be able to sleep. I felt highjacked by my own imagination. After a while of rolling around in bed I got my composure back. I asked myself what was really wrong in reality? I had all kinds of worst case possibilities, but had not looked at the likelyhood of them being the case. I had also not looked at all the reasons why that was not likely to be the case. I went through all off that and came to the conclusion that there must be something going on that I did not know and that was not anything out of my "worries box".

I also remembered that it is not always personal, not always about me. True, it is unusual not to reach anyone from a company anymore after handing over the money, when the availability had been perfect before. But does it have to be my worst idea?

During those dark hours I learned a lot. I was very happy that I made that reality check and that I found my faith again. I even got to the point where I realized that my peace of mind was worth more than any belongings and money. A day lost and not lived can never be replaced. Money and things always can be.

The next day I learned that the family business was in uproar for a day, because the father of one of the partners had had a bad car accident. I understood. I also learned my lesson. It felt good to be able to calm myself down in difficult times. True, we don´t always know the people we are dealing with, but I prefer and choose to have a trusting, while alert, way of approaching others. If I see thieves everywhere, I might find them everywhere. And if I see helpful and reliable people everywhere, I just might as well find them everywhere as well.

I think that it is deeply ingrained in us to protect ourselves. But if that tendencie becomes too tight and almost paranoid, it reaches the point where it harms us and keeps us from oportunities rather than protect us. It is wise to know the difference and keep checking, where the border lies again and again.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Information, then Follow Through

I have recently been at a psychology convention with an abundant program. For 4 whole days I have been satisfying my brain with lecture after lecture. I got inspired, and I had many an idea for my on business, for my own clients. I could barely wait to get back home to my office and start incorporating the newly learned things and developing the newly concocted ideas. Two weeks later, the pile of info material still has not made its way into my filing cabinet, and I myself was busy catching up from having been gone. I remembered that studies show that we only incorporate 20 % of what we learn new, into our lives. But with coaching, this rate goes up to 80 %.

Studies show that this is a very normal scenario for any kind of education. Naturally and by ourselves, we end up incorporating only up to 20 per cent of what we have learned at a conference, an education, even a highly priced training program. 20 per cent that is, if we are extremely motivated. Whereas 20 per cent are still change in the right direction, I could see people being unhappy about the news, especially after spending thousands of Dollars for education for a new career path or the like.

So, how can we change this low incorporation rate and make it a big and noticeable, beneficial change? It has been shown in studies that the most efficient way to guarantee a high incorporation rate is to hire a coach. Within the coaching relationship there is time and space for the phase of "Follow Through". The new goals can be laid out and broken down into smaller steps. The incorporation can happen naturally and powerfully and in full alignment with the person´s own life and goals.

Well, such a clear outcome of a study is quite convincing. But I tend to want to find out for myself. For the last two years I have had a coach for myself. Half a year ago I hired a second one for an isolated, very specific area in my life. I am very impressed with the experience of this "Follow Through" potential during coaching. In general, I am an idea person. I never lack the most unusual or also most elaborate and thought through ideas. During these two years with my coach I was able to finally witness, how some of my life long dreams finally took shape. I went to selected educations for inspiration (much like I always used to do), except now I finally did something with it afterwards. It is the most amazing process to be part of. It creates an overall feeling of being in charge of an responsible for my own life and actively creating the life I always dreamed of leading.

So now, the info material piles are gone and ready to serve as a reference, whenever I need it. I got a system in place for that, one that actually works for me. This is also a result of my work with my coach. Next time you go to get education for something that is important to you, ask yourself if you want to go back home and barely use a fifth of it or if you want to make a high impact with it on your life. It is certainly doable. Enjoy!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

One Simple Ingredient to Balance

Everyone has its own source for wisdom. For me it often is Yoga. While balancing on one leg, arms stretched towards the sky (the tree pose), the teacher reminded us of what it takes to master balancing poses in Yoga. I was thankful for the reminder and was also stunned how much it applies to life itself...

"In order to master balancing poses, we need to be completely present." It takes our complete attention, if we want to be able to stand calmly and successfully on one leg or the like. This is so true for life itself as well. How do we long to achieve balance and how tricky does it seem to be in the modern world.

Being present is what it takes to maintain balance. It may seem like a natural conclusion, yet is it not something that is applied often. When we find ourselves busy and overwhelmed and running behind, we rarely stop to think and regain our presence, so we can make the choices it takes in order to get balance back into our lives. Most of us speed up and try to catch up and thus invite poor judgement and many an unnecessary detour, thus wasting time and energy.

Balance seems to get out of reach, until it is only an old fashioned commodity. Yet, the longing stays. So does the preconception that balance is something for other people with other life circumstance than what we´ve got.

What does it take to simply be present? It takes a lot and not much at the same time, depending on where you are at. The "not much" part is that taking a conscious moment no matter what is enough to get the priorities back and thus have all unnecessary choices easily and naturally fall away. The "a lot" part is that it we need to take responsibility for our life if we want to be present. That means, letting go of any resentments we might harbor, no more being the victim and getting away with not suiting up and showing up. There is also no use to complain about much anything, once we accept responsibility for our own life. Indulging in sitting on the pity-pot is does also not exist. That might seem a lot, especially if we have been making common use of any of these practices. They seem seductive, but in the long run they just keep us from unfolding our true potential. I would see them like candy. It does taste good while going down, but if we have too much of it on a regular basis, it becomes who we are, it makes us sick, it takes a huge toll. Now, I am not for having any "fun" and am all for the occasional cookie or pity-pot ride. But know to end it in time and you will enjoy a life of freedom AND a blissfully and seemingly ease-soaked balanced life.

You get to choose. It´s simple, didn´t I promise that?!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Back to School

Hearing the term "back to school" brings back memories of years past, when I was a kid, mixed with bright and bold announcements for special back to school sales blaring everywhere in the present. But in between these extremes, there is really more to it. "Back to School" affects us all. Here are some reasons why and tips how to get the best start of the school year ever...

Ahhhh, summer. No worries, sleeping in, no tight schedule, simply being. Vacations, adventures, sun kissed faces, hanging with family, remembering dreams and likes, away from long lists of chores, tense and energy draining environments and long hours of work. Still today, although I find myself every summer to be busier than ever, I feel the very distinct "back to school" feeling come over me, right about the same time, the first ads for the yearly "back to school" sale start to arrive in the mail. It is a feeling of hope. I feel I have been given a clean slate, a new chance. This time I will do everything different. This time I will be all organized and clear about my priorities. I will not procrastinate and thus always enjoy doing what I am doing, because the pressure does not spoil my interest in learning and creating.

Back to school is also a time for reconnecting with friends, exchanging stories about what has happened while everyone was traveling and/or taking it easy at home. New trends become clear quickly. A slight feeling of having missed something is immanent. What if the one interesting thing happened while I was gone? What if something has truly changed just then?

The time right before school starts again is the ideal time to set the tone for the coming season. The mind is still rested and uplifted from the long days, more time outdoors and from relaxation. The desires of the soul - that could be heard again during those endless seeming lazy summer afternoons and mild evenings outside - are still fresh, are still known. A sense of oncoming seriousness is already in the air. This is the perfect time to plan. It is well worth it spending some time thinking about the few priorities and discussing them within the family.

Once the schedules have started again and the days are filled with countless mundane things that need to be done, a feeling of overwhelm starts to pile up slowly but surely, all the way to exhaustion. Being in the middle, it is often impossible to even find the time to think about priorities, let alone being able to name them. This overwhelm and sense of being in a hamster wheel or even complete chaos, barely making it from day to day, can be easily prevented by making use of this gap that opens up in the few days before and around the start of the school year.

Make it a priority and take some time. Whether it is you alone, with a partner, with kids as well. Agree on a time to meet and make sure there will be no distractions and the environment is pleasant, somewhat in order, and serene. Supply water and make sure no one goes into it hungry or with a high sugar or caffeine intake immediately prior. You want to be able to listen to the others. Start with the question "What is our main goal as a family" and come up with up to 3 priorities. Come up with up to 3 individual goals for every participant. Listen everyone out and listen with compassion, while looking for the magnificence in whose turn it is to speak. If an individual goal does not seem to go along with the family´s priorities, bring it up and find a solution.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Summertime Sass Series for Women

We had fun doing this series.
Let me know if you are interested in getting something like the below.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Why Life Coaching - Really?

I believe that almost everyone knows meanwhile that being overweight is unhealthy in many ways and that exercising is part of a healthy and long life. I have seen many professions - like fitness trainers all the way to mediation lawyers - give advice such as "make healthy choices", "deal with your stress", or even "give up smoking". So, how come people are still doing such things, despite the good advice?
It is because everyone needs the help to accomplish habit changes in their daily life, beyond the advice. The reasons for unhealthy behaviors are as numerous as there are people. The advice and active help needs to be tailored to each individual person. So is one person for example one person task oriented and wants to know the next step in order to achieve a goal, whereas another person might want to understand what is going on, in order to be able to move on. This is the incredible strength of Life Coaching. Although it has a clear and proven method, it is highly individual and gets every single person what it is the he or she needs: not their friend, their mentor, their mother,...., but that very person.

Getting some generic advice that leaves you alone with implementing it and that needs for you to really turn your life around, is like acing a science test without having been given material to study for it or without having even had lessons in that subject. You might want the outcome and want to have a good grade, but how are you gonna do it all alone without knowledge of the subject? And it does not get you any closer to passing the test, if your doctor, your friend, your spouse, maybe even your fitness trainer keeps telling you that you needed to pass that test, that you needed to lose weight, etc. It can get worse, once the people who truly care for you start thinking they did not make themselves clear enough about how important it is for you, or worse, when they start thinking you are not trying hard enough. If you only tried harder, you would know all the answers and pass the test, lose the weight, or quit smoking.

This is exactly how it is, when you, say, try to make healthy choices in your diet. You probably even know what the desired healthy choices are, but come evening, and you come home from work tired or once the house gets quiet, you go for the fridge and enjoy that alone time with your favorite "treats" until you are exhausted. Or you are convinced you need to exercise some more or at all and keep thinking, you will go running or swim some laps tomorrow. But tomorrow never turns into today, never turns into NOW.

This is where a Life Coach accompanies, helps identify the next possible step. Eventually you are at your goal, you have lost that weight, have established that exercise routine, have aced the test. How wonderful! Congratulations!! Your family is proud of you, the relationships are not strained and are better than ever. Plus, all the way to the goal was not even close to difficult. None of the treaded things have happened, you actually feel much better now. You can be proud of yourself! That is, what a Life Coach can do for you. And I just LOVE doing it for my clients. It still is magical to me to see my clients blossom, take responsibility and enjoy the process. They feel empowered and do things and go places that they have only be dreaming of. I feel so blessed to be able to assist people with that. Also, I am so grateful that there is a method like that available to anyone who chooses to use it.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Toxic Social Environments: Solutions Beyond Fight, Flight or Freeze

Ever since I have been coaching people towards their own life fulfillment I was also very careful with surrounding myself with supportive and well meaning, successful people. I like to socialize and work with people who believe in the possibilities and blessings of Win-Wins. You could also call it “live and let live”. Once in a while I find myself in a tricky social circumstance where old patterns like fight, flight or freeze want to come forth. Unwilling to give in to any of these options that do not serve me or my goals, I worked through it and found one that does: FEEL!

Isn´t amazing, how on a perfectly alright day a little incidence can change everything and the day is interrupted in a most unpleasant way? In my case it was a flood of e-mails from fellow volunteer people who were spreading around their criticism as oposed to acknowledgements and respect for each other. It really got wild for me once I was the target. All of a sudden old fears resurfaced and weighed heavily on me. So I went through all the above mentioned stages: First I froze and just ignored it. Then I was ready to resign and flee. Then I was ready to “tell them”. Once that was over, I realized that I did not want to be in re-action anymore. I want to be in charge of my life and consciously decide what to do. From that powerful state I can creat my future and realize my visions.

But how do I get from being in the claws of my past to creating my own future? It seemed almost impossible, so strong was the pull backwards into these bad emotions. With all my might did I try to avoid these emotions. Then I decided to walk through them instead of pulling away from them. FEEL. I took a moment to sit with every feeling that came up and to the story that came with it. Then I respectfully thanked them for sharing and came back to 2010 me and who I truly wanted to be. I consciously chose to be in charge, responsible, grounded. Some deep breaths helped to reclaim my own power and to focus on what it is I want to create and how I want to be. I know I don´t want to get back at people, I know I don´t want to be a pushover either. I want to stand up for myself and make that clear in a respectful and loving way. It felt so much better to just stay where I was, without avoiding (flight) or attacking (fight) or letting myself down (freeze). Focussing on my own strength and my goals and most of all, my own VALUES turned out to be extremely helpful.

I also found that with that behavior, all my fears did vanish and everything turned out just fine. At the end I felt grateful for the learning experience and hope that I don´t have to revisit that cross roads anytime soon again. My bigger wish however is, to remember next time and the time after that and again and again, to choose to feel and stand in my own power. I know the first time is the hardest and each time it gets easier and comes more naturally, until one day it is my default mode. Now THAT´s how habits are formed. Oh, and one other thing about toxic environments: Stay away from them as much as possible. A toxic environment in social terms is people who are overly critical, complain a lot, are envious or mean. In one word, not worth hanging out with. If you have no choice (although we have more choice than we often admit) stay strong in your own power and values in order not to be pulled down by these kinds of people. Sometime you can actually improve their situation by just being in a good mental space yourself. But don´t expect it. Good luck!

Thursday, July 8, 2010


Gratitude used to be an old-fashioned word for me about something that I would archive in the category of manners: nice, but somewhat useless. In recent years I have experienced, how important gratitude for my quality of life is. Here are the reasons why you cannot afford to live without GRATITUDE - or rather - why you would not want to live without ...

First of all I want to say that Gratitude is so highly underestimated and underutilized that I am always happy to talk about Gratitude in order to spread the word. Practicing Gratitude systematically is a very powerful tool and essential in the pursuit of a happy and fulfilling life.

What does it do for me?
As always I invite my readers to try it on yourselves and not to believe anything just from hear say. I can tell you my story so you can relate to how it works. As a typical teenager I used to be very good at complaining and at the "that´s the least they (parents) can do for me" attitude. So even good things got downplayed. The main motto was "never enough". This attitude can be seen in many adults, who have never shed this approach to the world. It actually harms the chance for a rich and fulfilled life. With an attitude change towards gratitude, life is suddenly seen as a miracle, full of wonders and precious experiences. The endorphins and other great neurotransmitters are flowing and the feeling of happiness is created.

How to practice Gratitude?
There are various ways to practice Gratitude. It starts with very simple and time efficient ways that require merely moments of awareness. During your day, stop to think about what is great in your life, your day, this moment. Recognize it, smile and say to yourself how thankful you are to have X in your life and how blessed you are. This awareness practice also works well first thing in the morning to set an uplifting tone for the day, or last thing in the evening to recap the day and let it end on a high note, which makes for better sleep.

Another way is to keep a Gratitude journal and enter some things to be grateful for every day (or whenever it fits for you, but as regularly as possible). It is also rewarding to read earlier entries. It is an especially great resource in times of despair and distress.

There are also websites where everybody can log their things to be grateful for. It is fun to do it that way, it comes with some comradeship, which helps sometimes to stay with it.

What does it mean to be grateful?
Being grateful is truly a way of life. It has nothing to do with an "I am not worthy" approach. It is a conscious thought about how happy I am and how blessed I feel to have X in my life, to be able to do X or to have experienced X. These can be big and very little things. It makes me feel special and connected to and engaged in life.

As an example, here is what I am grateful for now:
having breakfast cooking on the stove
being happily married
having wonderful clients, who I love and adore
being free to create my life one day at a time towards my dreams
that my early morning headache dissipated
that the weekend is approaching
that the workers on the roof are about to finish today
for my MacBook that I absolutely adore
for having been able to give up coffee in the morning - after years of trying
for learning each and every day new and exciting things about life
for the tomato harvest in our garden
for the fresh figs from our fig trees

I could go on an on. So, with the list getting longer, my composition improves more and more. In daily life it is so easy to forget the wonders of this world. I would for example be rather annoyed at all the spam mail and the many work mails than marveling at the fact that we can communicate via e-mail these days, which I find highly fascinating.

Gratitude is a tool, a conscious choice for a better life. If practiced as prescribed, it will definitely create major improvements for anyone. All it takes is a commitment to it. The rest happens from there on.

Thank you for listening :-)
Have fun with this.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Life Takes Constant Maintenance

While having one of these unexpected things come up that need to be dealt with right away during a perfectly mundane and average day, it occurred to me that it is truly not the exception but the truth of life: there will most certainly be things showing up in our lives that we need to take care of that we did not plan or wish to happen. Take for instance your body and its physical health. Once the immortality of the teenage years has passed, the body needs constant maintenance. How do you want to be throughout this?

It is true that routine exams and checkups at various physicians grow in number as our candles on our birthday cake get more. Now, you can fight each and every incident of taking care of your body, maybe even being mad at it and at life that more and more "work" needs to be done. Maybe it is very strenuous and frightening every time, since you have seen and heard commercials about the many drugs that cure the many diseases.

Here I am to share my insight with you and tell you, that there is a choice that can be made that will improve your life quality and happiness if you choose to do so. There are so many, many things you can do for your body. There are checkups and "searches" for diseases, and then there is an even bigger variety of nourishing your body and taking care of it in a most loving and cherishing manner. Imagine how different you feel while doing things that help your body and make it stronger, make it more easy for it to do its many duties.

I don´t say not to go to checkups anymore, what I do recommend is to accept the fact that your body needs maintenance throughout your life. After all, your car does too, and do you argue about that? Now the body is a much more complex entity than a car or even a computer. Isn´t it fair that it needs some basic maintenance? Once you accepted that fact, you can focus on the many pleasant ways to maintain and support your body. I can think of a few: massage, eating healthy and fresh, nutrient rich food, exercise (how about Tango?), steam room, lots of sleep and relaxing time, and much more. Whatever works for you, have fun with it. It is not a luxury, but an absolute necessity.

One nice side effect of treating your body with a focus on supportive and uplifting maintenance is that these commercials about pharmaceutics won´t scare you anymore. After all, you are doing your share.

As always, don´t blindly believe, experience and see for yourself.
And have FUN....

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Secret to Having a Green Thumb and a Good Life

When I was starting with gardening, I had the headstrong opinion that I would choose where to plant what and that the plants just had to give in. Little did I know about gardening and being able to enjoy the bounty of nature. Once I got it, I saw how I had been sabotaging myself in my own life in the same way....

Funny, how sometimes my ideas are very specific and I am convinced that everything else has to abide by them. The results are often meager and so-so. But I would ask myself how that was possible. After all, I did everything I could and invested a lot of energy. Let´s take the example of my garden. It has a specific sun exposure, the soil has a certain consistency, and on top of things, I was determined to save water and "wean" the plants from needing too much water. I had specific ideas about which plants to plant where and was heading towards this rigid plan. After investing a lot of time and energy, the results were not thrilling. It took me a few growing circles until I finally got it and believed it. A plant has very simple needs: right sun exposure, soil composition/fertilizer and right watering cycle. Once that is in place, the plant thrives and is at its own very best: lush, healthy, beautiful. It is dis-ease resistant (because it is at ease), wards off pests and has many flowers and fruits or vegetables. All it takes is to be willing to bow to the simple needs of the plant, and the rewards are manyfold.

Now, this does not seem to be all too surprising, but at the same time it is the secret of people who are said to have a "green thumb". Anybody who is interested and willing can have a green thumb, it is nothing complex or secret or too hard to reach.

The same goes with goals in life. Usually, a goal has very simple requirements. Once the single steps are isolated and determined, all it takes is commitment and focus. With this, practically any goal is achievable, given that the goal makes sense (e.g. someone who is 5 ft 4 and weighs 135 lbs is not a good candidate for american football). The commitment to achieving a goal in life guarantees that there is a willingness to accept the various steps that it takes in order to get there. It just does not do it to keep talking about a certain goal and not showing the actions that would make it come true. It is like planting a sun loving plant in the shade and continuously complaining about its poor growth and ill health.

This is such a simple but highly overlooked fact. It amazes me how often I hear someone talk about exactly this contradiction: wanting A while doing B and being very upset about not getting A. Working with what you got is a secret of success. And, by the way, the grass is not greener on the other side. From farther away it just appears to be greener....

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Biggest Loser

The "Biggest Loser" TV show is in its 9th season and very popular. It is a show where morbidly obese people get access to personal trainers and health and nutrition education on the Biggest Loser ranch. The viewers of this show get to see with their own eyes how the impossible is possible. People on the show lose up to 200 pounds in 17 weeks. And this time it is not an empty commercial of some diet pill or a questionable ´before´ and ´after´ picture...

I have personally taken to watching this program. It is just incredible to see all my beliefs and knowledge about weight loss and fitness come to live. What also comes to live is the contestants themselves. I just LOVE watching how their eyes start to light up, how they beam with their own accomplishments, how to start believing in themselves, have hopes and dreams and feel as an active and essential part of society, friends and family. No more shame, isolating, heaviness and being weighed down. Weight itself is a mirror of each person´s life. It is not normal for us to burden our body with excess pounds. It is literally limiting with everything we do.

When I was in my late teens, I left my home town in Austria for the first time and spent one year in Atlanta Georgia. I immersed myself into the American culture and sampled lots of fast food restaurants (which is also a money saving factor in this country). Within 6 months I had gained about 25 pounds. I had been struggling with my weight before that all my life already, but was not seriously obese. Well, I was shocked to say the least. In the following 6 months I started to swim and go to Jazzercise classes regularly, I dropped more than the gained 25 pounds and am at my ideal weight ever since. Wow! The turning point for me was that for the first time in my life I did not want to lose weight for my looks but for my health. Back in Austria I had learned that at 21 years old I had high cholesterol and triglycerides levels.

I educated myself in belongings of nutrition and exercise. I became an expert in weight loss and got to pass my knowledge on within my profession as a psychologist, and now as a Life Coach. I know how it feels to be wheezing after taking the stairs, how it feels to be mentally numbed by all the sugar and fat intake, to be unexcited about getting dressed because nothing really ever looks good on me. I believe that nobody should have to experience that. And, if I can do it, anybody else can. I love food above all, love cooking, social eating and have a definite sweet tooth. All of this is wonderful and I still enjoy all of that. I don´t feel like I restrain myself, instead I take responsibility and am loving it.

Weight loss is as simple as calories going in need to be less than calories being used up and then you see weight loss. At the same time weight loss is so complex. Emotions, learned patterns, beliefs, social immersion, availability of food (big lobbies are at play), commercials, and much more are affecting each person. Often I see shame, guilt, even disgust that people have to distance themselves from in order to be able to successfully shed the weight for good.

Yet it is so doable and so rewarding. It truly is like giving yourself your life back. Everybody can do it, and it does not have to be hard (as most of us believe). It takes love, being gentle with yourself and COMMITMENT.

Hey, have you got a moment? Let´s drop some pounds... :-)

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

"A Good Garden May Have Some Weeds"

This quote is from Thomas Fuller, M. D. Common wisdom like this finds me anywhere. This quote is from the book "Gentle Reminders. Daily Affirmations for Co-Dependents", by Mitzi Chandler. What does this quote have to do with my Coaching clients...

My clients and myself as well, have full and filled days and lives. Chances are, you have, too. With the plenty of things to do in a day, day in day out, it is impractical to have to have everything is pristine and perfect condition. Often it seems like something has got to give. The feeling of being overwhelmed often chimes in, and the pressure and stress grow. A lot of life gets wasted this way, striving to achieve this unnatural state of perfectionism.

If you look at it, 98 per cent are working and wonderful. Somehow this tendency towards perfectionism makes us focus only on the 2 per cent missing, undone, imperfect. Having to have it at 100 per cent is a very exhausting way to live. It is not even a condition that occurs in nature and life naturally. I would call it manmade.

In the above mentioned book it goes on to say that life is much nicer when we pick and choose what projects will get our best efforts and which ones aren't worth the bother. The advice there is to give it all with gardening, if that is the project of our choice. However, not to despair with the often unloved chore of weeding, to do a decent job at it, pick a few, and call the rest of them wildflowers. Can't you just feel the relief of that approach and the zest of life? The important thing is to truly let it sink in that it does not take to do the things perfectly all the time in order to be worthwhile.

Here is the essence of it to ponder: I am worthwhile just as I am

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Best Time to Plant a Tree or to Change Your Life Around

The Garden Club speaker meetings are always a delightful treasure of true life wisdom. At the last one I heard this Chinese Proverb "The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago, the second best time is today". As a Life Fulfillment Coach I could not agree more. There will always be the "should haves" and "could haves". They don´t add any quality to life now, rather take away. So do the second best thing and DO and CAN now...

When I was working in the clinical field as a psychologist there was just so much room that was occupied with the past, all the things that never happened and should have, and all the things that did happen and should not have. With the years or watching how this drained reasonably well people and how it kept them from moving on and enjoying the NOW that they had in front of them, I grew increasingly impatient (it took some years, since I am a rather patient person). I wanted to offer a more contemporary, more time efficient way that would not waste any more life and effort.

The resourceful approach of Life Coaching is just that method. I enjoy watching my clients planting that tree now that they wished to have planted 20 years ago. And it feels so good! Their eyes light up, their facial expression come alive. They are full of bliss and joy and pride. These wonderful people become truly alive by being present, showing up for their own lives. I am all for second chances and say, go for it, whenever they show up.

Ask yourself today, what is still inside you that you wished for all these years over and over again? All it takes is a YES from your heart and you can do the first step towards it NOW. Ahhh ..., enjoy how wonderful it feels, how wonderful it feels to treat yourself to that life changing big or little thing that had been in the back of your mind for so long. Turn your regrets of the past into action now. It is never too late!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Motivation vs. Inspiration

This is the first one of my Garden Wisdom series. It is amazing, how much I learn through gardening for leading a happier and healthier life. For years I was interested in motivation and studied it closely. Then I came upon Wayne Dyer´s definition of motivation vs. inspiration. Thinking about my garden it made sense immediately. Whereas there was no doubt that all my Coaching clients are highly motivated, I realized that if I wanted to help my Coaching clients to build a happy and healthy life, I truly needed to guide them towards their inspirations.

Motivation is when you have a goal and you take it and go towards it. You know exactly what you want, you know why you want it and you have it your way all along. It often takes a lot of work and energy in order to get there, but hey, you are motivated. Wayne Dyer says it is the ego´s path. It is also a lonely path, often highly successful. People might be surprised to find an emptiness right where the big success lies. It might not look so great at the other end as expected, so a new motivation, a new goal is found. After all, there is always more to achieve and to acquire. Whereas it feel good to be motivated, it is an "Autobahn" way of living. You want it, you go there, you get there. Boom. Check, next goal. Being motivated is a good thing in our society, and it certainly beats being listless and resigned. So you might ask, what is wrong with it? There is nothing wrong with it. But let me introduce

the inspired life. For this I want to use the example of my garden and my approach to gardening. When I think about an upcoming Saturday, on which I have time for gardening, I might overlook my garden and drink it all in. I enjoy what is already here, I also check for the weeds and other things that might stick out that need attention. When I think about my garden it is so obvious to me, how much I love it, how much I love tending to it, seeing it grow, trying out new things and letting nature take it´s path. I am also aware that it is not an essential part in my life in terms of survival. I don´t HAVE to garden in order to survive, or even in order to lead a well respected life. Also, in the very beginning, when our terraces towards the canyon were brand new and bare, I had no idea what they would look like some years from then. There was no ONE way to do it. So, what brought me this far? The way I create my garden is mainly through INSPIRATION. Inspiration and gardening could be synonyms. Nature taught me that it won´t have it all the time how I wanted to have it. Shortly after moving to never freezing San Diego, I fell in love with tulips and bleeding heart and peonies, of all things. See, they have the need to spend time in the freezing cold winter dirt in order to rise and shine the next year. Little did I know at first. Hat I approached my newly found love with motivation, I would have stuck with it and would go through a lot of effort of digging the bulbs out every so often in order to store them in the fridge for a number of weeks, before they went back into the soil. Or I would treat them like annuals and keep replanting them.

Instead I followed my inspiration and got curious what else is there that I love and that will flourish at its best in this climate. Today I have lilies in many different shapes and colors, sunflowers and various kinds of succulents that lift my heart whenever I look at them. I get tulips for bouquets indoors, when they are in season, and continue to experiment with flowers, as my inspirations takes me places. I find this a very graceful and fulfilling way to approach a subject matter. Underlying is the trust to be guided and trusting my own intuition.

After all, it truly is about the journey and not about getting there. Imagine what a life of just getting there would look like. Instead, it makes all the difference, when you make time to stop and smell the roses...

TiP*. Whether it is indoor or outdoors, take 5 seconds, whenever you can and take a flower in front of you in with all your senses. What color(s) does it have, how is the shape, the texture? How does it smell? Do you notice any pleasant noises in your environment? What do you imagine the flower to taste like if it were used in a dish? Have fun with it. Take a deep breath. Notice the jolt of relaxation and energy at the same time. Take it all in. It truly does not take longer than a few seconds. With some practice, you will get conditioned on the first sight of a flower within reach and have all the relaxation response in your body.

*If you are allergic to flowers or don´t care for them too much, choose a target of your choice that you encounter naturally in your daily life on a regular basis. Play with it, make it you own experience.

Monday, May 17, 2010

I Can Do It! Conference - A Feast for Heart and Soul

Three full days of presentations and exhibitions of matters of the heart and soul. I had come upon this conference that is organized by the HayHouse (Louise Hay) by chance - or was it? Some 8000 people gathered, like-minded people. Who would that be? Anyone who was interested in cultivating happiness, finding and honing their own talents and gifts, in order to give back to the world.

Is there a better reason for a conference? They called it a mind, body and soul retreat. It truly was. I enjoyed every moment of it and got educated in what certain foods do with or for my body - and mind, how to incorporate self-care practices (always a favorite topic of mine), why to chose to be happy over complaining and whining (venting is good, but beyond that it gets harmful to yourself), how to find our life path so we can give back and make this world a better place (don´t we all want that? I believe we do), and much more.

This abundance of input is still shining and vibrating inside myself as I write this. It will soon settle down, I will incorporate things right away and tuck away others for later. All in all I truly felt the wish of Louse Hay (she wrote many books about healing the body through the mind) to provide knowledge in order to help people to help themselves. It was also delicious to be with all the other people (no feeling crowded or pushed around), to chat while standing in line or just starting to talk during the breaks, comparing aha-moments and favorites. We all concluded that there was no "bad" presentation in sight. The speakers were all very dedicated interesting individuals who modeled so beautifully what they talked about.

Wayne Dyer was my favorite, if there was such a thing as a favorite. I was impressed with his intense studies of the old and sacred texts, poets, classic authors and his synthesis for us, the audience. It was all right there. Loud and clear I heard the message what a privilege and gift it is to be in this world and that we have a connection with others and with the world and that this is good news and that with that comes a responsibility to live our full potential, our special gift that only we can give. I thought that was so beautiful. I got reconfirmed with my own profession. A Life Coach is what I am called to be (Life brought me to it in the most wondrous ways), I help people bring out their own special gifts and magnificence. It is so exciting to know that I am on my own very special path and it is so incredibly rewarding to watch and assist others finding that very, very special own path that brings them to fulfillment and full strength. I get asked a lot "How do you know whether it is your own right path or not?" I say it is easy to recognize, once you start looking. Where or when is it that you get excited, pay attention when strong emotions of gratitude and wonder are with you, then you are getting "warmer".... Have fun following your own very unique path and don´t hesitate to get the help you need in order to be fully and completely your own beautiful and magnificent YOU.

"Don´t die with your music still in you."

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Life is a Garden

Being a passionate gardener myself and just having been on a garden tour with 12 wonderful gardens, I cannot help but notice, how inspiring and uplifting gardens are. Touring these gardens I also noticed, how much effort went into them so they would look at their best. It was truly a time to enjoy the gardens and to celebrate life itself. As a volunteer I had seen some of the gardens a week before the tour, when homeowners were still planting and sweeping, some hammering and fertilizing. It made me realize that life itself is like a garden. It needs to be tended to and lovingly cared for, so that joy and celebrations take place. There is a time of putting work into it, a growing plan, a vision. Then, success and a vibrant lively appearance are guaranteed.

Now, the planting and fertilizing and other tasks of garden work are usually the things that we do without much of an audience. Maybe we have a friend or two who help, maybe we have partner who fills in where we need help. Sometimes we hire help, so we get more work done, get things that we cannot do or get expertise and planning done.

With life it is just the same. The days where we need to take care of medical checkups, pick up the kids from school, go grocery shopping and just simply do our job, those days are fairly unspectacular and are not happening in the midst of large crowds of friends and family. We do all the things that need to done so our life jugs along and so our long term goals come true.

Then there are times for the garden party. The garden is all spick-and-span, everything is in its place and looks its best. The invited guest arrive and fill the place with liveliness and laughter. Time stands still, for now it is time to enjoy the company of loved ones and to celebrate life itself together. The same goes for your life. There are times when everything is taken care of and you know that soon your loved ones arrive. Just being together is precious enough. Sometimes there are great achievements or events to celebrate together. Nothing else matters, for today is for celebrating.

To me, this is a very powerful rhythm of life. The only thing I try to to for myself and with my clients: To be ready for the times of celebration and get things in place so the summer parties are utmost delightful and have everybody radiating for days to come. Thus life becomes a dance between the everyday tasks and the never ending garland of celebrations and festivities that is weaving through your days.

To all the gardeners out there: Enjoy your garden AND enjoy gardening!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Relaxation Pre-101

After years of helping my clients to achieve relaxation, teaching relaxation techniques in groups and trying to make sure I am in a relaxed state myself, I have read many books on the topic and have attended numerous seminars and continuing education courses. It seems that even a relaxation 101 course does not cover the most basic thing about it in order to be of any use for the individual in need of relaxing ...

There truly are countless ways and methods of relaxation, breathing to be one of the most basic and simple approaches and Autogenic Training (a form of relaxation therapy involving autosuggestion, created by Schultz in the 1930ies) being a rather elaborate method that is being taught in 5 to 7 whole hour sessions. They all have a real effect on the physical body, its systems like endocrine and muscular. Relaxation is a necessary state for the body in order to be able to renew its cells, to have the hair and finger/toe nails grow, to detox and get rid of toxins from the body.

In our modern world life style we need to take active action in order to relax. There is just no natural room for it any more. All too fast we cram more and more to-do´s into the empty spaces in our calendar that used to be for "soul dangling" and for "just being" instead of doing.

From my experience with people I dare to propose that most people know of the importance of relaxation and also know one or two things to do in order to achieve it. So, another book or course or instruction about it would not add value, since it does not really matter which method is being used. The real key is to actually do these one or two things that each one knows about. What actually matters is to hold still for a moment and to investigate when and what will I and do I want to do in order to guarantee relaxation in my life.

Now this is the point that does not get discussed satisfactory whenever talking about relaxation. It is very simple: Decide how much time you want to take for your relaxation in your life. Also, decide what it is you want to do (important, since only things you are willing to do have a chance of actually happening). Make sure the allotted time fits with the method you choose. Go simple at first. Commit to very easy and quick things and observe the outcome for you. The most important thing is to actually stick to it! This is what is never said, because it is so obvious that everybody would agree: It does not do to KNOW the relaxation techniques, it actually takes DOING it! It´s a "Duhh", I know. But with my clients and with myself I have noticed that the action is not following that statement.

Maybe it is because the power of "Take 3 deep breaths every hour" (or whenever you think of it - please, NO stress) is being highly underestimated and therefore not carried out. In a time where things can be pretty complicated and sophisticated - how are 3 deep breaths going to save me in my fast paced and completely full day? Exactly by DOING it! The great thing is, the breath is always with me and always fits into a busy day.

So, here is my invitation to you, to simply go ahead and try it out.
Let me know, what happens...

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Earthquake . All Shook Up

On Easter Sunday afternoon, on a perfect day, the earth started shaking - without any warning. It shook about one whole minute. Books and statues fell out of shelves, lamps were swinging. Fortunately, things seemed without much damage - in San Diego at least. However, I continued to shake inside...

In my life I had had experienced 2 earthquakes, until Easter Sunday of 2010. Both had been in Austria, one when I was about 5 and one in my college years in Vienna, when it woke me up in the wee hours after a long night out, wondering what had been in that last drink. Both were kind of fun to experience, and Austria is certainly not known for having earth quakes.

This one on Easter Sunday sent the shock waves right into my heart. Many things are different today - I am older, I currently have responsibility for my 17 year old niece, and we own a house by the canyon - built in 1923, where only the front wall is on the ground and the rest is on stilts. I had been sitting on the bench on our front porch, enjoying the gorgeous Easter Sunday afternoon, my husband and my niece each on a sofa in the living room, taking a nap, in sight. The scene was sheer contentment for me. Then, the shaking started. First I thought my first glass of wine since the beginning of lent was doing weird things to me, then I thought the new aluminum bench from Costco wasn´t that great after all. When it did not stop shaking I realized what was going on: an earthquake! My husband and my niece joined me in front of the house, my niece enjoying the experience. I got quiet and felt so helpless, hoping our house would be okay and mostly hoping that nobody was getting hurt amongst all the people affected by the ground shaking.

Several aftershocks were noticeable, me stiffening every time. I was amazed, how deep that experience had gone. It also surprised me that this experience was so different from the ones before. It made me think of the Buddha´s definition of suffering: Let go and freedom will be, where suffering has been. My attachment to our house and things has changed how I perceive nature on its course. Of course, I feel attached to the safety of loved ones as well. That one is much harder to let go, if at all possible for me at this point (being not enlightened). But something else is on my mind since then. The wish to control the circumstances and a dislike to be inconvenienced is also creating suffering. It would be so inconvenient, if something came that cannot be changed but changes our daily lives, our schedules, disturbs our sense of safety and security, our sense of knowing what was happening at any given moment throughout the week.

It also made me think of the fall in 2008, when the dramatic wildfires were raging in San Diego County. I volunteered as one of the Psychologists of the San Diego Psychological Association. I listened to and comforted people who did not know if their houses were still going to be there upon their return home. Amongst many impressions I mostly remember one woman who reported that she had lost her house and all her belongings once before due to wildfires. After her first shock she described it as a chance of a fresh start in life. She seemed less concerned than the others at the temporary camp at Qalcom Stadium. I remember her and remember how impressed I was by her and how deeply I understood that truth: letting go is all it takes for the suffering to go away.

For now, I am just so happy that we are all safe. Meanwhile, I continue to be thankful on a daily basis and practice non-attachment as much as I can. I can only wish to be able to live it as truthfully as that woman who lost all here belongings to wildfires and could stay calm while facing it happening again to her. About earthquakes I need to say, there is not much more impressive than nature showing its power through the ground shaking from Mexicali almost all the way up to San Francisco and stopping Millions of people in their tracks. Talking about truly getting the insignificance of mankind. Of course, the good news is, if I am shrinking to gnat-size, so are my problems. Very good news indeed.

Have you ever experienced an earthquake? Tell me about your thoughts about it, I would appreciate it.

Stay safe!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Do Overs Allowed

It is 2.23 pm. All day long I have been trying to "get things done". The
list was long, the ambitions big, my motiviation high. So far so good. Except,

the printer does not print, the internet connection has a "low signal" and goes in slothlike speed, my "sanity" 5 minute meditation got interrupted by the UPS man´s ringing the doorbell and alarming knocking on the door, not even the garden hose supplies me (and thus my thirsty plants) with water. I get reminded of the earthquake that woke me up around 4 am by hearing it on the news and stop right there. I feel shaken! That´s when I take a deep breath and remember that I get to start my day over again, whenever I choose to.

So, relief sets in and I enjoy the grounding and invigorating effect of some more nice, deep breaths. My inner tempo slows down immediatedly and I rejoice when I look outside my home office window, into the garden and hear the birds´ urging and convincing spring sing song. What a great day it is. I reexamine that sense of urgency and failure that accompanied me all day long and realize, there is nothing wrong with this day - or with me. It is simply not all going as smooth as I would like it to be.

I close my eyes for a few moments and ask myself, what I really want to have accomplished by the end of this day. A short and manageable list is being generated: empty washing machine and hang clothes in fresh air (indoors, love it), commit to and sign up for Inspired Learning Training (am so looking forward to it!), spend time with my teenage niece who lives with us for a while (soon enough she will be gone again), and a few other items I know, I can manage. What a relief. Instead of being crumpy to my loved ones and frustrated because nothing seems to work, I am taking a step back, soak in all my blessings with gratitude and continue on with some things, so as to have a feeling of achievement in the evening. I also remember the things that did go well today, like my Coaching sessions earlier today. I remind myself to take my own advice and focus on the 98 % that are already working. Great!

We all are allowed to have Do Overs. That is an important, important lesson. We don´t have any time to waste on "lost days", "screwed up days". There are only moments, not whole days that are a challenge. What we do with those moments, is up to us. Besides, Do Overs let us get much milder and gentler towards other peoples bad moods or screw ups. Anyone can have a bad moment. I choose to enjoy and live, whenever I have the wisdom to do so.

Good luck with your Do Overs. Have fun and be kind to yourself (or not, your choice :-)).

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


If there is one thing that truly changed my life in a most wonderful way, it is having walked a pilgrimage route. I remember making the decision to do it and not being able to answer my friends, why I wanted to walk 500 miles all along northern Spain, with a 22 pound backpack on my back ...

In late August of 2002 I finally did the often quoted first step with which a long journey starts. It was in on the french side of the Pyrenees. I had everything I would need for the next 6 weeks in my circa 22 pound backpack, water included. I still remember how a had the feeling that this was one of the last real adventures, I did not know what brought me here, where I had the courage from. I did not know anyone who had ever done it, neither had I been to Spain before. All I knew was that I had been working way too much the years before and that I had been wanting to help people in a different, more profound way, than I was doing in my employment as a clinical psychologist back then in Vienna, Austria.

Now, almost 8 years and a second time on the same pilgrimage route, the Camino de Santiago (Paulo Coelho´s book `the Pilgrimage`is about this route) I am still trying to keep the feeling alive. I look at my photos and feel the wide open landscapes, the trees, green mountains and dry plaines, the simplicity and clarity of mind. After days and weeks of simply walking, resting, eating, sleeping and walking, all of a sudden it is clear what really matters in life. My life´s calling had been buried beneath life´s daily demands, immediate tasks, long long to-do lists. With no room for dreams and inspiration, no room for my spiritual being meeting my work life; it was as if I had been buried alive. Forever grateful, for some reason I followed a calling to experience how simple life can be, on that pilgrimage. I got reminded how precious life is and how I am the creator of my own life by making decisions.

Six weeks after that first step, I returned home with my hopes and dreams back alive. My daily life changed because I made the decisions for change. I simplified my life and focused on sticking with my intuition. Convenient habits did creep back in, but I went again on the pilgrimage, 6 years later. This time, I noticed how different a person I was, how much more focused my mind was. I had less physical pain this time despite a general lower fitness level. I used my mind, my experience, paced myself. Again, clarity about my life´s calling was my reward.

Today, I am keeping all the lessons from the Camino alive with pictures, readings and mind travels to that pilgrimage route. My goal it to keep that spirit and energy present whenever I am coaching my clients. I know for myself that it is my goal to be in that mindset to be of utmost service to my clients. Work in my office has long become a very rewarding affair. I am far from the hamster wheel and make sure, my clients also grow beyond themselves by becoming more and more themselves.

I am so very grateful that I have listened to that calling back in 2002, despite my concerns, despite being afraid and despite appearing somewhat nuts to my family and friends. Now they understand and some have followed their own calling to the north of Spain. Where is your Camino? I wish that you may find it, so it brings you home to yourself. After all, I had to walk 500 miles back home to myself. Someone has calculated that it takes one million steps. And every single one was so worth it.

Buen Camino!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Lent - What a Concept

Ash Wednesday started the 40 days of Lent. Sure it is a catholic concept. But why should you bother to stop to think about it. And is there more to it than abdication and loss of pleasantries? The Dalai Lama said that without discipline there was no freedom. I was inspired by that saying and here are my insights.
Growing up as a good catholic girl I did not like the time of Lent. For me it was not so much the absence of meat on the dinner table (never cared much for meat), it was how my three older brothers explained the concept of Lent to me. They said I needed to give up something that I love. Wanting to do my share of fasting, I thought it was necessary for me to give up singing. For I loved to sing while I was on my swing and pretty much all the time in between. No wonder I came to think of Lent as a time of punishment and sin.

Growing older I realized that many concepts in various religions are meant to serve the believers themselves. Lent is a time to tune up the body and spirit, help it along with the natural detox that takes place in spring, when the metabolism can come out of the energy storing mode of the winter.

From fasting come other rewards, such as simplicity in daily life and a lightness of body and mind. Having extra time on hands has often been reported as well. Bad habits have the tendency to accumulate over the year. Lent/spring time is the perfect opportunity to get rid of some unwanted habits in order to feel more alive again and in order to live the life once dreamed about.

"Without discipline there is no freedom". The Dalai Lama said in an interview and that the not knowing of this fact is what ails the western world the most. Freedom is a big word here, but what is taken for freedom does not serve the individuals on the long run. Often the call for freedom to do/not to do certain things is motivated by enertia (which is not friendly towards the flow of life itself). "Easy" is not the way a fully lived live is done (another misapprehension). Yet, the current ideal seems to propagate easy. The result of easy and instant rewards is all too often sluggishness, spiritlessness and dullness. The consumer of easy starts to feel empty, dull, uninspired.

So discipline has its place and many rewards (don´t confuse it with obsessive behavior, however): feeling alive, proud, part of the community, being able to make your own living, feel the creativity flowing inside yourself, being able to enjoy rewards. The list is long, satisfying and life affirming.

About Lent today. Every year I make a conscious effort to ask myself what would bring me forward and would assist me in my goals. This year, I will be without wine and committed myself to a daily reading in a meditation book. Whereas I like to enjoy a glass of good wine, I know it will serve me to be without it for some time and be fully present at all times. I want to use the time of Lent to satisfy my graving for more awareness in daily life.

You don´t have to be catholic in order to make a resolution, that´s for sure. You do need to want something bad enough however, in order to shed those sticky clingy habits of instant comfort.

Good luck!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

All You Need Is Love

Have you noticed how much businesses are pushing Valentine´s Day as a gift giving holiday? I even read a column in the San Diego Union Tribune about what to do when "undergifting happens" - meaning being given or giving a much bigger/smaller present than getting from the other person. Can love be flourishing in such strict conventions? Here are my thoughts on having a pleasant Day dedicated to the one thing we all want so desperately: LOVE.

She/He who is truthful to her/himself, is comfortable with her/his actions and can easily recognize love whenever it comes her/his way. Whereas this seems to be such a simple sentence (aside from the gender slashes :-)), let me elaborate it further in order to make it more accessible to your benefit:

Valentine´s Day is/can be a vicious circle: A fond feeling towards someone motivates to express this feeling in some way of material subject. The subject is received and judged in terms of how much love it contains depending on how much it cost or how it compares to the presents the friends have received from their sweethearts. Often the subject in hand also gets compared to the expectations that derive from social learning/environment/media/advertising. The love originally behind the act does not stand alone. It´s assigned value is much more a result of the recipients personality. The gift giver itself needs to free himself of whatever result his present produces and stay with the motivation from the heart. At the same time he is advised to pay attention to the reaction, since this will give very valuable information about the personality of the sweetheart.

The above scenario can happen - and burden both sides - when the media has succeeded and the vicious circle starts its circling.

Let´s simplify things: Whereas I am not too happy about all the gift giving at the countless holidays throughout the year (don´t get me wrong - I LOVE cute things, but I also LOVE serene and empty spaces to live in), I do appreciate the fact that there is a day, solely dedicated to LOVE. Life is often so hectic and full that it is easy to forget that what we all are really after is, well, LOVE. The Beatles really nailed it when they sang "All You Need Is Love". So I am thankful for the reminder and make a true effort to get in the spirit of it. With some thought I don´t need to go along with what the ads everywhere want me to buy, and I can find some great things that make sense. My Sweetie is a true romantic and can never have enough candles around. He also loves a good piece of soap. So deep red candles with luscious incense and some sheep milk soap bars in the shape of hearts are my Valentine´s present to him. Of course there are other treats that I would think are the star of the day, but you can figure that out on your own...

I LOVE the Day of Love, I must admit. I love all the hearts and the reds everywhere. So, I invite you to get in the spirit and enjoy it. How about giving a give or doing something nice for someone who you know did not plan on getting you anything? Make it casual, so that she/he does not feel embarrassed about not having something. Also, if someone surprises you with a treat who you have nothing prepared for, enjoy it and say "Thank You". A lot of uhhhing and ahhhing over it is sometimes a much better reciprocation that making sure you give the same value back. We have forgotten how to receive and how to give without expecting back. It is such a wonderful feeling. I dare you to try it out. There we come back to being truthful to yourself. Then, nothing can go wrong...
Happy Valentine´s Day!