by Mona Kino – July 2017
Today is one of those days. One of those days that I had quite often the past four weeks. One of those days I know too well since I can remember: I do not know what to do first. No clients nor workshop that fill my calendar. Should I clean the house, read, write? Work on the blog, or an article, my current script, go shopping, cook or exercise? I can always keep myself busy with leisure or with work. What I do specifically does sometimes not really matter, I just like to be busy.
For this blog I have a thousand and one more idea. However: whenever I try to grab one, it slips through my fingers like a fish back into water, back into the sea of thousand possibilities.
Even the ones I manage to write down. And the more fish slip through my hands, the more I hear my inner voices. The critical one, of course, the loudest: „I have told you from the very start that you and your blog just would not work out…“
The days of the past months have been full, and it has been easy to be distracted. Graduation weekend of my two-year education; my birthday, which I could celebrate so easily; the assignment to write an article for a column in one of my favorite newspapers; the prospect of making a book about empathy from the blog; friendships, which were in a crisis and suddenly showed themselves in a new light.
Because the time was so intense, I approved myself to write the next post later than planned, as I did not feel any concrete impulse of what I wanted to write.
The first two weeks I was still kind with myself – much more supportive than before the empathy training. But even with the greatest kindness with which I did all the other things that are just as important for my everyday life, I did not manage to sit down and start working on the blog.
And even worse: this new kindness towards myself, this new patience stopped giving me a feeling of relief.
Instead, it all started to feel as if I had picked up an old gum under my desk, which I seemed to have parked there to chew on again and again. But instead of facing this situation, instead of analyzing it, to potentially transcend it (What does it actually taste like?), I would spit it out quickly. And every time I was about to be able to name it, I would listen to another kind voice in my head. “Tomorrow is still another day,“ it would say. I would stick the gum back under the table pushing back yet again any attempt to find an answer to this situation in myself.
What I am describing I often also hear from clients and friends.
Time for me to deal with it – although I already know now that this will not feel as nice as I wish it would. Because after all the taste of chewing gum is quickly named: cardboard. And who likes to chew on cardboard?
What is repeated here are two old strategies that I learned in my family and school: “You can not do that anyway” versus “Pah, I’ll show you.”
Both are based on a struggle. To defend myself, to prove myself. And the more I chew on the chewing gum, the more often I repeat this pattern.
So what can I do?
I give myself time. Time to gather strength, for the fighting over all the years exhausted.
But what can be done when these negative forces are back on track, just like today?
Still chewing a round and putting it away again? No, that now causes real stress. So, I wonder, what triggers chewing in me?
Unexpectedly, I come back to the word stress.
Especially when I visualize myself chewing.
Sometimes it helps to do something that relieves stress. Meditating, bathing, a walk, listening to music, laughing, etc.
In my case, however, this does not help, because this chewing gum chewing Mona picture always appears before me, and I listen to the sentences of my critics in the canon. And as I listen instead of muting them, I remember that as a young girl I had little opportunity to determine myself. What, when, where, how. I always had to adjust. Yes, in adjusting I am fantastic. If I start the day determined on completing a task, it is the easiest for me when a call comes out of school, with the request to pick up my daughter or my son. Relieved I can sit in the car immediately. But what it is that I really want I just start to find out now.
This blog is the freest writing I’ve done in my life. No wonder, then, that I am unsure how to do it. And this is hard and does not come easy to me like picking up my kids from school. But there is also the chance to practice self-determination.
Now, as I’ve been spreading all this out infant of me, I am taking an exercise that I got to know in training empathy and which I also use on days and in situations that are not quite as weary as they are today. The exercise enables you to get in contact with your heartfelt wishes. Ultimately our head cannot decide alone, only in exchange with the heart.
After the exercise I write down what came to me. I am wishing for: exchange, openness, clarity, benevolence, respect and the smile of a friend. I am now sending her all my thoughts asking her for support to unravel them. Working alone is good. Working with a friend even better.
For being grounded – especially when your head goes in circles – I suggest a breathing exercise and a body exercise beforehand. Both exercises losen up the muscles around the heart area in the back and front.
Sit comfortable on a cushion or a folded blanked with crossed legs. Or sit on your heels. Just as it is comfortable for you right now.
Inhale as you sweep your arms out to the side.
While you exhale bring both palms together in front of your heart.
In the short gap between exhaling and inhaling bend your head forward and place your palms into your neck. Fingertips showing downwards.
Inhale as you bring your arms, palms still together, over your head.
Follow your hands with your eyes.
Exhale as you bring back your arms back to the first position.
Repeat the exercise as often as you like. I suggest a minimum of 8-10 times or 3 Minutes. Depending if you prefer counting or setting a timer.
When you are finished sit for a moment in the position where you started, follow your breath for a short while. How is it now? Is anything different? How?
Turn your attention to your body.
As you inhale lift your arms over your head.
While you exhale twist your waist, shoulders and neck to the right side and place your right hand behind you. Place your left hand on your right thigh. Look over the right shoulder.
Keep the spine erect.
Check if your sitting bones are both still in full contact with the ground or
Hold and continue with gentle long breaths in and out.
Breathing out, release the right hand first (the hand behind you) stretch
it over your body and lean to the left.
You can feel a stretch in your right flank.
Exhale, bend forward and place your right hand on your left leg.
Now you can feel a stretch in your back.
If you want you can move your body back and forth so that you have a
nice stretching all over your back.
Inhale, roll slowly up vertebra by vertebra and lift your arms over your
Exhale, place your hands behind your back, fingers showing towards
Inhale, lift your body as high as possible.
Roll your tailbone forward, so you don´t fall to much into your lower
If you feel comfortable with it, stay her for 3-4 breaths.
Exhale, sit back on your heels. Hands on your thighs.
Repeat to the other side.
Are there any thoughts, pictures, feelings arising during the exercise?
Do you feel any pain in a certain area?
How do you treat yourself, when feeling pain?
Just recognise, don´t judge yourself.
Depending on how much time you have, you can repeat the exercise
as often as you want. I suggest 3 times.
Breathing out, come back to the front and relax.
“What´s your hearts desire”
Sit opposite with your dialogue partner.
Choose who starts asking and who starts answering.
Set a timer to 10-15 Minutes
Start asking “What´s your hearts desire?”
Wait for the answer and say “Thank you”.
Repeat for 10 to 15 Minutes –
Then switch and repeat 10-15 minutes in different roles.
When finished sit together and tell each other what you´ve experienced
during the excersise. Anything easy or challenging?
Each one has 2-3 Minutes.
Do not interrupt. Just listen actively and focus on feelings, pictures or
thoughts which might arise.
And if you are doing the excersise on your own, as i did today, take out a notebook and write down your thoughts. It has nothing to do with `high art`- and there is no right or wrong in whatever you write down.
Editing Kerstin Schöps
Illustrations Gesine Grotrian