Current Events

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Starting a Life Changing Journey

Two little fish swim past an old fish. The old fish asks the two young fish "Hi, how´s the water?" The two little fish look at each other perplexed, answering "What water?"
Besides a good laugh, this also brings up a very good point that applies especially to us humans, whose best evolutionary skill is adaptation. We grow up in a certain environment, we get used to it, we don´t even notice it anymore. So how do I know then, if it is time to change something out of my own initiative? After all, life has its own innate ups and downs. Therefore it is hard to spot whether I am just swimming in a passing current of polluted water or if I am in it for good.

This prime characteristic of humans - adaptability - is one of the biggest challenges for us life coaches who feel called to help improve people´s lives. Unless the "pain" is acute and urgent, the recognition of how much better life can be, is often unexplored and undiscovered. Therefore, many people endure and cope rather than live life for what it is: precious, energetic, inspired and so much more.

I find myself wonder at times, whether I am just on a natural wave of life on the way down from a high or whether I experience the down because I am missing some things and could make some adjustments. My experience is that both have its place in life. Honoring and taking the time to digest what is, to reflect, what was and investigating what to leave behind, what does not serve anymore and what to have more of in life: fun, relaxation, spiritual connection, social interaction, love, fulfillment, happiness...? You name it.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

May Brings Abundance and Possibilities

The month of May is named after the Greek Goddess Maia. It is the time when flowers appear and crops emerge. It is a great time of traditions and celebrations. I remember, in my childhood in Austria, dancing around the May pole with colorful ribbons, in the traditional Dirndl dress. These days in ever sunny San Diego, I don´t notice all that much about the joy of nature´s return and new start or its growth cycle. Some of it is also the anonymity that comes with life in a city, and some of it is that I am pretty busy these days with my business, house, garden, marriage.... Many things want to be tended to and taken care of, whether it is December May or August.

Yet, traditions and festivities are what breaks the routine of daily life and brings color. It is certainly worth it to put in some effort and decorate the house, wear something special, celebrate the occasion on hand.

It can be like a holiday away from home, except it happens at home and is a holiday away from the daily grind. I have learned to recognize the benefit of a time out, when my husband and I were living in Europe and California almost evenly distributed. We found ourselves missing the beach while being in Vienna and missing the rich and traditional culture when being in San Diego. Well, it became clear rather quickly that there was something wrong with that picture. We transitioned into making it a point to enjoy whatever we had in front of us. We learned to actually enjoy our current city like a tourist would. It is amazing, how much more ease and relaxation that approach added to our life.

Another wonderful benefit came from returning with a "new set of eyes", after having been away for a while. This resulted in a "reset" in patterns and behaviors at every fresh start. Amazing. This is when I realized, how much power we have and how we truly are all able to design our lives in a conscious way. This got me inspired to get trained as a life coach on top of my psychology degree, in order to assist and support people with designing their ideal lives for themselves. I can only say, it is awesome what I have watched happening, and magic is happening once a person decides to show up for her one and only, unique life. Enjoy it!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Downward Facing Dog - Upward Facing Dog, My Cat and Easy Does It

Many times a day I actually watch my cat do a series that is predictable: yawn - downward facing dog - upward facing dog. Now, finally I learned my lesson....

My cat - Tuxedo - is ever so relaxed. True, he has not many responsibilities, but still, he is taking care of himself and is not letting himself go. So, once I got over the funny fact that my cat is doing yoga (downward facing dog and upward facing dog are yoga poses), I started watching him a little more carefully. I love to see how it comes over him so naturally. He does not seem to be conflicted whether or not to stretch now and do a little self-care.

Despite of him sleeping some 19 to 22 hours a day he is fit. I read that the purring might have that effect, since it is quite strenuous (did you ever try Ujay breathing - also needs effort). Scientists believe that this and the stretching is enough for cats to stay fit and limber. Wow, I want that! Why over exercise?

Well, I love learning from my cat. So in this case I realize that a little goes a long way when it is focused and just the right thing. Also, being conflicted about an action is a waste of energies and comes with a questionable outcome. From that I want to vow that I will make up my mind and either do something in a fully present way at my own speed and pace or I let it be.

Once I apply all that I myself might have 19 hours a day freed up and could sleep or do some other things that never seemed to fit in.

Let me know what you have learned from your pet. I would love to hear about it.


Sunday, March 6, 2011

Judgements from the Past

I was looking through a workbook from my high school years. It was a cute accumulation of work with a lot of extra attention that I put into decorating it. I was amazed that I would have done such extra and inspired work. Then I saw a comment from my teacher from many years ago...

Wow. My teacher, who I remember as a fairly uninspired and limited teacher (today I can see that) had the need - or guts - to judge my extra work in the book with "quite nice". I don´t know about schools here in the US, but in Austria that was the least she could say and a term used when it was time to be polite and the situation was rather hopeless.

Immediately it hit me, how that statement had taken the wind out of my sails and made me feel untalented and less than average. How is it that teachers think they need to judge in a way other than grades? I thought of many little comments of other teachers as well that stuck with me to this day. Art is a delicate subject. How come a teacher can decide, whether what we put down on canvas or do with clay, is not enough of this and too much of that? It is the personal statements that get to the kids, not the technical help and feedback. It is a shame that these things happen.

I love the concept of inspired learning, where the focus is on what works and thus the whole person grows and learns more and more ( There is no need to trample the seedling of any talent in kids just yet - or ever. I am not against grades and learning and hard work. I find that many comments and judgements are uncalled for and do no good and only harm. We do not need this - ever.

So here is to some of my teachers, who encouraged me and my parents and accepted the parts that were yet to develop. You are true teachers, thank you so very much. Kids never forget. Kids grow into adults and will pass it on.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Life Events

Sometimes I listen to all the things that are going on in a client´s life and realize how easy it is to keep filling our own plate without ever acknowledging how full it has gotten. And sometimes it is just that acknowledgement that can make a big difference and bring some relief.

In psychology there is a system of "life points" for major events in life. Each event counts for a number of points. The points get added up and give a score about how much stress a person has from major life events on top of daily life. Now there are the obvious events like death of a loved one, divorce or loss of a job. But what might surprise you, there are just as many points for events like getting married, having a child, or  getting a dream job.

What they all have in common is that they mean major changes for our daily life, for our routines. There is a lot of not-knowing involved. All that - whether bad or good - is stressing us out. The thing is, there is also a social aspect to it. There is a lot of social support when bad things happen to us. It is easily understood how distressing it is when we loose someone or when we are in a tough spot in life. But there is not much understanding when the most wonderful things happen in life. We have no place to go with our stress then (other than professionals). Also, how could we possibly complain?! We don´t even think of it as stress ourselves, when great things happen in our lives.

That missing acknowledgement of how stressful a happy life event can be, adds even more stress. We don´t stop to think that our energies might be challenged by the change going on. We expect to get just as much done as usual - for example having a child should not change anything around our usual things we take care of. But the truth is, it does change a lot. It is not possible to go on as if nothing had changed.

I always find it brings my clients relief once I acknowledge how much change they are going through and how it amazes me that they are still asking so much of themselves. It opens their eyes, and they start to be more gentle with themselves. Then they start to relax and to incorporate the changes into the whole picture and are making healthier and less stressful decisions for themselves.

We all tend to ask the most of ourselves and can get a bit overboard with what we expect from ourselves. Sometimes it is good to remember that we are just like every one else: human.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Conscious Life Design

"A diamond is a piece of coal that stuck to the job."
from Gentle Reminders by Mitzi Chandler

That quote sums life up in a very simple and powerful way:
Whatever we choose to stick with will manifest. Sometimes we don´t consciously choose, but we always stick to something, and that something will determine our life. That is really good news, because it says that we can consciously design our life, no matter what the history, the upbringing.

I am fascinated with how people design their lives. I love to read biographies and see the conscious life design at work, how these interesting and successful people take it into their own hands and decide what to stick to.

It is true, our life is the sum of our doings, our decisions. No matter what life serves us, we still have the freedom to decide how to receive it, what to do with it, how to be with it.

The most successful and fulfilled lives seem to come out of an alignment with our own values and a conscious decision to stick to our values. I have seen that successful recipe in my work as a psychologist, and I am seeing every day now in work as a Life Coach.

It seems to make people unhappy and unfulfilled when they don´t reflect on their values and how they follow them with their decisions and actions; when people just get bounced around like a boat without a rudder and let it happen; when they act in opposition to their own values.

It is that simple: our actions and habits on a daily basis, our decisions, that is what our life is made up with, that is what our life will look like at the end. We have it in our hands to take it - our life - enough into consideration that we pause on a regular basis and check in if that is what we want our life to look like, if we are happy and fulfilled, if we are contributing in a way we want to contribute, if we are building our legacy, learning the skills we always wanted to, being the fellow human that we want to encounter ourselves.

I find all that to be such great news, such a wonderful and simple way to consciously design a felicitous life, our very own one unique life. It only makes sense to engage professional services like counseling or life coaching when designing this life that is so precious and so unique.

I wish you, dear reader, much success, happiness and fulfillment with it!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Judgements - And How They Hurt Yourself

To judge can be a good thing and help us make decisions. Most of the time, the mind is occupied by a constant flow of judgements, which is about a productive a the system idling process of my computer. Except while it occupies my mind, it is also harming my ability to approach the world with an open and curious mind...

Judgements: Usually they let us know where we stand with things. They reflect our own opinions and help weigh a current situation in terms of our "pre-set" opinions. In a dangerous situation it saves us time and might save our life. But truthfully, how often are we in a situation where every second counts. I myself have only been there once, when a robber pressed a 10 inch-bladed knife on my chest. My judgement was instantaneous, not to go after the can of pepper spray in my fanny pack and instead hand it over to the thief and let him walk away with it. Now THAT is, when judgements are extremely helpful. But most of the time - in 99.9 per cent, they turn into a limiting crutch that keeps us from making the best out of a moment, out of life. Judgements are often handed down, internalized opinions of loved ones around us. They were the price of admission to being part of a group. Sometime, we might use judgements about someone in order to elevate our selves. Often we judge simply because we want to exchange "knowing" for the discomfort of the unknown. To "know" gives us the sense of security and power.

During my spiritually based coaching training I heard that we could free up hours in our days, once we stopped judging other people. Wow, now that´s what I would call a great time management tool. I started putting this statement to the test. Sure enough, many of my thoughts turned out to be a judgement and not helpful at all. So, after the first step of catching myself with judgemental thoughts, I started the habit of releasing them by acknowledging their presence and sending them on their way again. Nice! I did not have to spend any further time and energy on these thoughts, not to mention hours after hours that I saved by not having to share my thoughts and encounters with my husband or my girlfriends (which would be gossip).

What a relief that was. Over time my whole life changed somewhat. And I like it a lot. I still get a lot of these thoughts at times, but I don´t nurse them or elaborate on them. I actually encourage my husband to point it out, in case I do start getting into it, which happens occasionally. Every time I catch myself when doing it, I first notice that sensationalizing feeling in my body. Pretty soon the image of a spider in her web approaching her unsuspecting victim appears in my mind. I like that reminder and at that point I catch on to what is happening and start retreating from my judgements with a smile. It feels so great not to have to do that, not to have to be the person who has bad thoughts about others and is envious of what others are or have. It has been said that we can´t decide what thoughts pop into our head, but that we can decide what to do with these thoughts. How true! In my experience, these first thoughts change over time according to where we choose to take our thoughts most of the time.

Now, THAT is good news!!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Boundaries - A Necessity Hardly Ever Talked About

I was about 25 years old and already deep into my studies of psychology at the university, when I heard about boundaries for the very first time. And I did not learn about it from my professors...

"You need better defined boundaries" my older girlfriend said, after listening to my stories of entanglement with my family and resulting bad feelings. I had no idea what she was talking about. Of course, that was my main problem just there: I had not idea what she meant with boundaries.

Luckily, the seed was planted, and I started to get curious about it. Years later, I am still working on it, but our own boundaries are always a work in progress. It changes, whether we have a good or bad day, are healthy or feel sick, are stressed or relaxed....

What I learned about boundaries:
It is important to have some, to reflect about it. In order to do that we need to think about our own needs and values. Do I speak up if someone makes a remark that hurts me? Do I let a friend who is down on her luck stay on my couch - one night, two months? It is good to know the general need there and decide from case to case once the situation shows up. There is flexibility in the moment, but if I have no idea, where I stand with it in general, the situation will catch me off guard and my reaction will end up being a default mode, usually not the helpful kind.

I have also learned that I truly set my own boundaries. That is part of the fun with life. That is where I can truly feel that I am creating my own life. It says a lot about myself how long I let a situation go. Some people only act and speak up about their boundaries if it concerns severe physical needs, such as the need to survive. Others speak up as soon as some little thing does not go how they want it, or that they controlled. Neither way is ideal if applied all the time. It helps to have some reflection on how we handle our own boundaries in general, by watching whenever we need to make a decision in relationship to somebody else.

A habit that has served me well over the years is to take care of little boundary violations right away. That still means that I pick my "battles" carefully. I meanwhile know the kind that keeps growing if I don´t act. People with weak boundaries often are resembling a doormat until they can´t take it anymore and - to the surprise of everyone around - lash out. That is a sure sign for weak boundaries and it does not feel good for anyone involved. So if the matter is taken care of when it shows up, it can´t build up and make us be someone we don´t want to be.

It is a true gift to ourselves and the people who surround us if we are sincere keepers of our own boundaries. Only we know ourselves well enough, and truly it is our own job to take care of it. So, next time you find yourself say "how could he/she do that TO me?" Turn it around and ask yourself "how did I let this happen?" "What can I do that this does not happen again?". Do you feel how empowering that is?

At first it might be a little bumpy and strange. But with a little practice the joy of expressing your life fully and taking charge in your own life will exceed any bad feelings.

With good boundaries we spend so much less or no time in a bad state. People with good boundaries are very charismatic, seem to achieve a lot in life and appear very empathetic, happy and authentic. I, for one, certainly want some of THAT!

Have fun playing with it and discovering your own boundaries!