Same, same but different.

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.
samesame by gesine grotrian
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:
standup by gesine grotrian
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

Sun, rain, thunder and lighting and sun again

by Mona Kino – January 2017

It took me a little while to find the appropriate way of writing this blog. First there were ideas, then fragments of texts, and the question what form or shape to condense all this to. How to start?

I have decided to start this first blog with a little explanation regarding the biographical parts of my writing.

Some of my writing is personal, some will reflect about personal issues of people I encounter. Sometimes I combine thoughts and experiences and the distinction between friends, clients, co-workers and my family get blurry. This pays respect to the need of protecting the privat sphere of those close to me, and also reflects my deepest respect for thoughts and emotions people have shared with me.
Hence I will take the liberty to merge people and change places, names and ages.

Everything can be true, but has happened differently.

I hope you find some pleasure and fun in reading.


„So, how has your life changed since you have been taking the course Training Empathy?“ my friend asked me while visiting me last week. I laughed  „It is like so much and so little at the same time, that I do not know with what or how to start to describing it.“ She replied also laughing: „Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.“ Referring to one of our faourite quotes of Danish philosopher Kierkegaard. I nodded with a smile. That is exactly how I felt at the moment.

We sat down on a bench at the lake where we hab been for a walk. I asked her for a couple of minutes of patience so I could think of an example. I closed my eyes for a minute or two and gave space to the first memory coming up in my mind:

I was sitting in our car. Time was tight, as I was rushing to an appointment.

„I forgot my p.e. bag“ my son said from the back seat of our car. We had just arrived at his table tennis training center where I wanted to drop him off quickly on my way. Instantly I could hear different voices in my head. As in the movie „Inside out“ I could feel my personal secretary of defense, inner secretary of state and home secretary joining for a meeting to discuss what kind of restriction we shall go for.

Then time stretched.  I realized that  my breath had gotten stuck in my throat. That happens typically when I am angry . And while focusing on relaxing that area I continued to listen to all their arguments.

„Your son knew you are having an important date right after taking him to training. How many times do you want to let yourself be fooled around by him? We shall restrict computer gaming for four weeks, without explanations.“ „I think, we should explain, why we think this is the result of to much gaming and tell him, next time we will cut of the Wi-Fi sixty minutes prior to leaving the house.“ „You and all your explanations. You better look for the reasons of the massive amount of gaming, and now you shall put all your effort to solve the issue:  how to handle the important date and getting the p.e. bag in time …..“ So while following my breath I could also follow my thought patterns. Without the gap that following my breath created I would have  gone for the first advise of my secretary of defense, that would have been my usual reaction..

But now I did different. I checked the time. Still enough time to drive back home, pick up the bag and if not arriving in time at my appointment, a phone call would do it´s best for apologizing me coming latfraukopflos_2 by gesine grotriane.

When I turned back to my son to let him know my decision I could see the fear in his eyes as well as my daughters who sat next to him. The fear of my secretary of defense to come out again. Their breath was stuck in their bodies. And I felt deeply what my anger must have caused so many times before in their bodies.

I told  them that I am sorry, and that I wasn´t able to see that in situations before and that we just turn around to pick up the stuff at home. Both relaxed within seconds.

When I said good night to my son and daughter that evening, they thanked me for this new experience with my temper. This was a moment of deep joy for me. Receiving such feedback after having used these skills to change a common pattern in my family life gaining stronger relational competence in situations under pressure.

I turned to my friend still sitting with me on the bench and returned to her initial question.
Of course there are still moments I think that everything is stuck in my life and manifested for eternity. And some days those moments seem to last forever. But the deep understanding of the nature of creativity supports me to get quicker to the point that nothing lasts forever. I know in a couple of minutes the uncomfortable feelings are gone. Like thunder and lightning are followed by sun.

An exercise I like to practice for following my breath is this one:

Sit relaxed on a chair or cushion as this makes you able to sense the smaller nuances. First you move your awareness to a point several centimeters below the navel, which also is roughly where the body’s center of gravity lies, and which most sports and dance disciplines therefore work on becoming aware of. It is also known as the 6th chakra.

Then shift your awareness to the center of your head, which is known as  the pinal gland but also as the 2nd chakra.frauinnerbreath by gesine grotrian

As you breathe in, move your awareness from the center of your head to the point under the navel.
As you breathe out, awareness shifts back to the center of the head.

Often you will have the feeling that you’re breathing in with the center of your head, and that air physically is drawn all the way into your abdomen and breathed out again through your head.

It’s a good idea to give this exercise several minutes each day. In the beginning it will feel unfamiliar and perhaps awkward, as if it’s making your breathing a bit difficult. But after some minutes you’ll be able to breathe automatically again, and your awareness will easily be able to follow the elevator ride up and down your body.

First and foremost this exercise connects your head and abdomen, and it ties the mental processes to the body, which our culture and/or educational system often misses.

If you like the exercise and perform it over a longer period of time, several minutes a day for, say, half a year, you will find that it didn’t just show up out of the blue. It is built over – and supports – many natural and subtle energy channels that connect the center of the head to the hip area.

Finally, for many, children and adults alike, it produces a pleasant, stabilizing feeling. Not strong, but substantial.

Illustrations by Gesine Grotrian
Editing Kerstin Schöps