Current Events

Monday, December 31, 2012

Out With the Old, In With the New Year

In the middle of winter we get a new shot at life, year after year. What it means to us is often the result of customs around us growing up and/or today. What it could do for us is only a moment´s worth of reflection away.
Do we really want something new in the New Year? Why now? It does seem a little forced that with January 1st all our bad habits are supposed to have ended and a completely new and vice-free life ought to come out of nowhere, functioning fully on day one as only a life can be that has been honed for years and years. Even if that was possible, it would be very uncomfortable and scary for most of us. So why even wishing for it? I would see it as an alibi act.

We all know from board games that when we are sent back to square one we hope that this time it will be different, namely better. Except, just because the calendar year starts all over again, our life does not. We are stringing each year up like pearls, one after the other. Together they result in a necklace or bracelet, with each pearl showing. We can certainly pick prettier pearls each year to add, more precious and shiny. The pearls from years past will still be contributing to the overall look. I for myself love the eclectic look, where various sizes and shapes come together to a unique appearance. That is also how I see life: unique. The goal is not perfection, it is aliveness.

A life wants to be lived. Sure it helps if we are free of unhealthy habits and if we choose well and such. But a life without any struggles or miss-steps - however little - does not seem to be very flowing and alive. It can get very rigid.

For example, if we achieve the perfect diet - certainly that is a classic New Year´s resolution - our social life will suffer, our taste buds might get bored (although healthy food can be delicious!) and our flexibility will be replaced by rigidity. Better to aim for an overall healthy diet with room for our social life, occasional breaks from the regiment and a no-beating-myself-up policy in case of slips. That way the body and mind are healthy and not burdened by a strict set of rules.  A good balance is a nice basis for a fulfilled and happy life. Perfectionism - no matter what way, no matter how healthy the life style - can lead us to obsessive compulsive behavior, which is not good for our psyche, and eventually our body and overall life.

That said, I wish you a wonderful New Year with a certain lightness to it, with sparkles, successes and a good balance, with room for error and wonders.

comments are welcome:

Friday, November 30, 2012

Special Days with - Well - Special People

The perfect family is truly only a myth. It is more the approach to it that matters. Here are some thoughts on how to deal with delicate family situations over the holidays, like some family members are not talking to others, or you don´t want to continue the 10 year family tradition of having all the work and all the people over, and such...

Having worked for almost a decade on a psychological helpline telephone, I know how stressful the holidays are for people: our number of calls soared. Also, I had my own share of family drama, when we all expected to experience family bliss.

I heard from two different friends this year who would invite the whole family (20 + people) year after year for the big family meal, without getting much help. Finally, they realized that they were not respected for it, but rather started to feel used. It was important for them, to end this and see what else might come of it. They each informed everyone well in advance that they won´t be hosting the gathering this year. It is very important, not to give any reasons or get negative. Just saying that it used to be fun and that they enjoyed the times makes an end on a positive note. Really letting go goes along with it. No expectations that anyone else will take on the big task is another. Families grow - usually slowly. Eventually it is only natural that new smaller groups form, which will eventually grow again. It is nobodies fault, it is the way things go.

In case you have some family members who don´t talk with each other, but you love each one just the same, invite them all and let them decide what to to with that. It is important that you do not get involved in "making peace" and also not take it personally if they choose not to come. Sometimes they are just not there yet to face the other. It is so nice to be accepted and not judged at that point. Give the gift of staying out of it.

Approaching family gatherings with gratitude that there is a family to gather is helping not to get any old resentments started. Arrive at family events as the person you are today, not who you were as a child or adolescent. Make sure you stay that person as well. Sometimes it helps to bring a friend along or leave a situation if the "experienced or psychological age" gets younger and younger.

These are a few things to consider. I wish you all a wonderful Holiday Season. Life is so precious and wonderful. There is no time to be wasted.

Happy Holidays!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Therapeutic Mistake-Making

A mistake a day is often my suggestion to my clients. Usually I am met with disbelief. Once they practice and do it "right" they tell me how relieved they are to be able to let go of self-blame, destructive pressure and even low self-esteem. Here is how:

What does making a mistake even mean? It is individually different for all of us. That´s where self-reflection comes in. What we are looking for is little mishaps that get stuck in our heads. Look for situations that you keep rehearsing in your head, wishing you had done it differently. It can be truly little things, like not getting our name out clearly when we are asked. Later we go over the scene in our head and start having negative self talk. THAT is what gives us a great opportunity to practice.

Aiming for one mistake a day, keeps us connected to our humanity, remembering that life itself is not perfect. Life is amazing, wonderful, mysterious and much more, but it is not perfect. Once that truly gets real for us, we can start to heal from over-achieving, high stress, unrealistic expectations of ourselves that can make our life quite rigid, unforgiving of our own little quirks - and others´. Living in a world like that is not much fun, not very colorful, certainly void of any sense of wonder and spirituality.

When we reach a point where we don´t allow ourselves little mishaps, situations where we are not at our best and might look stupid to the observing stranger, we are "on the job" all the time. We won´t have any time off, but we all need time off. We need to be able to relax and restore our body, mind and soul. We need to be able to feel safe, lovable and OKAY.

When we are always on our own case: negative self-talk. Making a mistake a day ensures that we don´t forget to give that lighter side of life a place in our day. At first I can be very uncomfortable to actually let ourselves get away with a little mistake that we used to beat ourselves up over. With a little practice it is such a relief once the "beating" habitually starts in our head and we remember that we can laugh about it, no harm was done, that we can let it go and don´t need to go over it again and again and that we can be forgiving toward ourselves instead. Ahhhhhhh.

Any person I know that I truly admire can laugh at their little mistakes and go on with what really matters to them without distraction. I invite you to give it a try. Please let me know if you have any squestions :-)...

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Weight Loss...Continued

Hardly a day goes by that I don´t hear some kind of advice about weight loss, new research results, new diets, new exercises. It is difficult to discern what works. How come, so many people are still struggling with that topic, despite the abundance of offers to help lose weight. What comes to mind is "What you focus on expands"...

When we focus on being relaxed and happy, we end up being relaxed and happy with the help of the many clues and hints we come along every day. That´s how it works. That said, if we focus on losing weight, it works in a different way. The subconscious mind works in images. There is no NO in images. An image is, or it isn´t. Try this: "Don´t think of a pink elephant!" Impossible. It is right there, big and pink. What does that mean for weight loss:

I can give my own example. Unfortunately, I struggled with my weight until my mid twenties, always unhappy with my body, always on a diet of some sorts. I did not ever achieve my goal, however. One day, my health check-up showed I had elevated cholesterol and sugar levels. I was shocked. After all, I was pretty much only eating diet foods, with hick-ups in between, plus, I was young!

This changed my motivation completely. Losing weight was not on my agenda anymore. My new goal was to restore my health. That image of a pristine state of health was very powerful to me. It started to guide my choices, I started exercising and nourishing my body as opposed to starving it. Most of all, I started be-friending it, loving it and being grateful for it. My cholesterol and sugar levels have now been fine for many years, and the pounds came off within the first year as a nice side effect.

It even took me a while to realize that I had achieved my long standing goal from the past, because it was not my main image anymore. And that image had been weight troubles. Our subconsciousness is our trusted servant and works around the clock - even when we are asleep. I found it to be very effective to be mindful of powerful images of our goals. Struggling with weight was not getting me anywhere, but "seeing", envisioning a healthy body was. I would even imagine the numbers of my next check-up back within the normal range. I looked for behavior that supported my image of a healthy body, without ever experiencing a feeling of struggle.

With a little practice, this habit of defining our goals in powerful images is easy to do and even fun. In my work with clients as a coach, I help them achieve their goals. We determine those powerful images, which are very individual to each of us. One thing I have learned about behavior change is that it will not happen, if it is accompanied by uncomfortable feelings. Just imagine how struggling with weight feels, as opposed to returning to a vibrant, healthy body.

I find it wasted time to go for goals that have this unpleasant vibe around them. Life is so precious, and time does go by whether we want it or not. My credo is to live every day the best while creating an even more amazing tomorrow. How neat is that! Enjoying what we are doing, taking the responsibility, loving making decisions for our own goals, our heart´s desires. I have also found that our heart goes for what is best for us and not what brings a good taste into our mouth for a moment at our health´s expense. Trusting that has been very powerful for me as well as my clients.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Biographies: From Steve Jobs to My Grandmother

In a class I took about biography writing I heard my talented teacher Jim Ruland explain that the bottom line in writing any biographical or autobiographical material was that it had to pass the "Who cares?!" test of the reader.

I was impressed, and started to apply this "test" to my own little and big life questions, with me being my own audience. This made decisions often easier for me. It also got me to thinking that biographies are happening all the time. It is kind of a "starting with the end in mind" approach.

For as long as I can remember I have been fascinated with people and the decisions they made in their lives or what they make of things that happened to them, when stripped of the decision. Of course, one can learn a lot from reading the biographies of famous people. After all, they got famous for a reason. But I find the life stories of family members just as rich and inspiring. Plus, they left a little bit of them through me on this world. That fact makes their story somewhat more relatable to me, maybe also a little more interesting.

The thing about fascination is that it usually tells us something about ourselves. The relation to our own being, our own personality makes things fascinating for us. In that respect we are quite self-centered. Otherwise, how could we decide one thing from another, with many many things out there? It would be overwhelming and all the same, bland, boring and too much. Fascination brings us closer to our own talents and meaning of life.

So, what kind of people do you find fascinating? Is there a theme? Later we can ask where this theme shows up in our own life, and how we could incorporate more of it. It is a wonderful distilling process, and it works like a charm. Sometimes it takes the assistance of a life coach in order to find the theme and to go towards it. It always makes life more fulfilling and enriched, it always leaves me in awe.

Sometimes, reading biographies is simply entertaining, relaxing, interesting; without any noticeable connection to ourselves. That is fine as well. Usually, a true life theme shows up more than once, in various forms. Reading one interesting biography does not bear any significance for our own life, yet. It is when we find the same topic in movies, stories, etc., and it still fascinates, moves, highly interests us that we can assume a relevance for our own life path.

It is wonderful when we figure a new piece to our own truth out. It seems to show up when we are ready to tackle it, to learn about it (and us with it) and play with it. I find biographies to be one of the most direct ways to get to know yet unknown corners of our own personality and psyche.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Time Well Spent

Time. It is the precious resource nowadays. Now, my last blog entry is not over 15 months ago because I was racing through life with a filled schedule, I have had my time out that sets my priorities in life straight and gives my adrenal system a much needed rest.
Who ever read the book "Momo" knows the gray, suit-wearing and cigar smoking "agents" of the time bank, who convince people to put time in the bank now so they would have time later. Except, the agents are frauds who live off time that they roll up and smoke like cigars. The people who saved time in the time bank never get it back and keep hurrying through life. Sounds familiar, doesn´t it. So many things beckon, luring us to invest our time in them.

During my last visit to the beautiful country side in Austria (again - Sound of Music quality), I was at first struggling with the limited and super slow internet connection. After all, I love the internet and I do a lot of my work with the help of it. But pretty soon I learned to cope with it and I let go. Wow, I had so much more time! Time to ask myself, how I was actually doing and feeling; time to wonder what really matters to me in life and to assess how well I am doing going after my priorities.

After three weeks my heart started to sing. I was well reacquainted with myself (in a stressful daily life I often lose that connection), and I felt ready to tackle the buzzing city life again with fervor and a good dose of conviction and humor. I know it is easy to think that "idle" time, or non-productive time equals wasted time. But I have experienced it often enough to form a firm belief that it is essential for us to take time out in order to be and stay productive. Priorities get re-affirmed, and it is easy to let go of all the time and energy wasting non-important things in our life. They might appear urgent, but if they are ultimately not important, why invest precious life-time?

Have fun going for your own priorities in life and with leaving out the chatter, the fillers, the time-eaters.