by Mona Kino February 2017
Yesterday I went ice skating. For a few month I have been taking classes to refresh what I learned from age six to eight. At age eight I was sent to boarding school, and I was told I could continue taking skating lessons if my grades improved. As that never happened I had to say good-bye to skating.
Meanwhile I am fifty, and in yesterday´s lesson when I practiced what the teacher demonstrated, I realized that a whole different way of movement pushed itself into the foreground of my practice. In my teenage years I had learned to ski. For years I had learned to weight the downhill ski to take a turn. With ice skating you have to do the exact opposite, as you have to put your weight on the foot that drives inside the circle.
I knew the principle of weight distribution as a means to steer, it was just the complete opposite now.
So what has that to do with the training of empathy?
Because it is exactly what I do now. I practice something that I know, but need to learn to use differently.
Before having been sent to boarding school I was taught to focus on what others wanted or needed from me. In the following seven school years this demand grew even bigger and I lost the contact to the five inborn domains of competences. I specialized in caring only for others, which lead to me losing the authentic contact to myself and even to the ones I tried to care for. Which all lead to a burnout.
When I started the exercises during the training of empathy, I felt similar to how I feel during my skating lessons. I had to redirect the awareness I was taught to reserve for others and use it first for myself. It felt wobbly in the beginning, and it was uncomfortable to face my imperfection. But similarly to how I understood today how I had to change my weight distribution on my feet while skating along, I experience more and more often when I meditate for twenty minutes in the evenings, that I do not only face my resistance, my fatigue, and all those many thoughts, but also myself. I am aware of my body from head to toe, I follow my breath and feel my beating heart. I feel better, healthier, in privat and in my job.
Not long ago for example when my husband is away on business I would have gotten up in the morning despite a fever and feeling sick. I would have done the school run crawling on my knees so to say. Today I can accept my children´s offer to take the bus when I am sick. Even tough the acceptance does not yet come as easy as I wish it would.
An exercise that came easy to me in the beginning, and which made me want to open up more and more to this change in patterns is this one:
Look for a quiet piece of music. The piece can be three to five minutes long. Check out „Chord left“ from Agnes Obel as an example
Sit down on a chair (you can also lie down). During the time the music runs, raise yourself and stand up. Try to leave the concept of „Standing-up“ behind and only focus on your impulse to stand up. Nothing what you do here is right or wrong. Maybe you already stand up while only half the music has been played, maybe there is another impulse to stand differently, maybe there is the impulse to kneel down again. To raise the arms up and down?
We all have different impulses and different timing.
Sometimes I repeat the same exercise backwards. I sit down again. If you do the practice with others, share your observations. If you do the exercise by yourself , write them down. It can be very nice to revisit all those different things one has experienced during the same exercise. Because that is how it feels: same, same, but different.
Illustration Gesine Grotrian
Editing Kerstin Schöps