And An Article On Empathy

This time I am publishing an article I wrote for the German Magazine Zeit-online in June this year. It is in german and will be translated later this year.

Empathie, die Kehrseite des Mitgefühls

Von Mona Kino *

In letzter Zeit gibt es zunehmend Artikel, die sich mit den Vor- und Nachteilen von zu viel oder zu wenig Mitgefühl, Achtsamkeit und Empathie beschäftigen. Die einen sagen, dass einen zu viel Empathie oder zu viel Achtsamkeit – wie eine böse Stiefmutter aus Grimms Märchen – unweigerlich in den Burnn-out treibe. Die anderen beklagen, das uns das Mitgefühl abhanden gekommen sei. Ich habe ein 36-tägiges Empathietraining [LINK: http://www.trainingempathy.com] absolviert, und ich kann sagen: Weder dem einen, noch dem anderen ist so.
Sehe ich mir die Übersetzungsmöglichkeiten im Wörterbuch an, tauchen im Englischen drei völlig unterschiedliche Begriffe für Mitgefühl auf: compassion, sympathy, commiseration, die wiederum etliche unterschiedliche Bedeutungen im Deutschen haben: Barmherzigkeit, Mitleid, Erbarmen, Sympathie, Anteilnahme, Beileid und Verständnis. Schlägt man Empathie nach, steht da neben Mitgefühl noch Einfühlungsvermögen. Das ist durchaus verwirrend.

Mitfühlen bedeutet erst einmal, Gefühle von Anderen zu teilen. Diese Gefühle teilen wir meist unbewußt. Wie überhaupt achtzig Prozent unserer Kommunikation unbewußt abläuft. Nur ab und an tauchen sie in unserem Bewusstsein auf. Wenn wir unbewusst mitfühlen, fallen die zwischenmenschlichen Grenzen ungefähr so wie die Grenzen zwischen einem Neugeborenen und seiner Mutter fallen. Wir fühlen sozusagen die Gefühle des Anderen und sind auf unbewußter Ebene ein Mensch, statt zwei. Wir unterscheiden also nicht mehr zwischen den eigenen Gefühlen und denen des anderen. Wir sind das Gefühl, und wir spiegeln dieses Gefühl, indem wir zum Beispiel anfangen, zu weinen, wenn wir jemanden sehen, der traurig ist oder leidet. Wenn uns das Mitfühlen bewusst wird und wir zugleich innerlich einen Schritt zurücktreten, können wir benennen, aus welchen Gefühlen dieser Zustand zusammengesetzt ist. Meist ist es eine Mischung aus Mitleid und dem starken Bedürfnis, dem Anderen in seiner misslichen Lage zu helfen. Ich fühle dann zwar wieder mein eigenes Gefühl, Mitleid, die Lage des Anderen scheint mir aber misslicher als meine eigene. Damit werte ich dann allerdings den Anderen ab und mich auf. Überspitzt gesagt sehen wir auf den Leidenden herab, wenn wir denken: „Der Arme, dem geht es ja so viel schlechter als mir. Ich kann ihm helfen, mir geht es ja so viel besser.“  Jeder weiß vermutlich, wie es sich anfühlt, wenn der Leidende die angebotene Hilfe vehement ablehnt: „Nee, lass mal, ist schon gut.“ Diese Ablehnung bezieht sich allerdings meist nicht auf die Hilfe, sondern auf den Teil der Botschaft, die als Abwertung empfunden wird: „Das schaffst du nicht!“

Im Gegensatz zu diesen eher unbewußten Zuständen ist Empathie (Einfühlung) ein Zustand, in dem ich mir zur gleichen Zeit sowohl meiner eigenen Gefühle wie auch der Gefühle des Anderen völlig bewusst bin. Neulich zum Beispiel nach einem heftigen Streit mit unserem Sohn. Er verschwand, die Türen knallend in sein Zimmer. So weit so gut. Dann hörte ich ihn weinen und es klang als wäre er drei. Ich spürte sofort den starken Impuls, ihn zu trösten, weil es ja überhaupt nicht meine Absicht war, dass er sich wegen des Streits jetzt so schlecht fühlte. Statt diesem ersten Impuls nachzugeben, hielt ich noch einen Moment länger inne und spürte dann ganz deutlich, dass unter meinem Mitleid Hilflosigkeit lag: nicht zu wissen, was ich außer diesem naheliegenden Trösten jetzt tun könnte. Ich ging zu ihm ins Zimmer, setzte mich neben ihn aufs Bett. Dann sagte ich, dass ich mich grade wohl genauso hilflos fühle, wie er und dass es nicht meine Absicht war, ihn so traurig zu machen. Und anstatt mich, wie sonst, wegzuschubsen, legte er nach der längsten Minute meines Lebens seine Hand in meine und sagte, „Ich wollte dich auch nicht so wütend machen. Wenn du magst, leg´ dich doch einfach nur kurz mal neben mich.“

Ich bewertete weder seine Gefühle, noch meine als „schlimmer“ oder „besser“. Auch nicht als gleichwertig. Ich begegnete ihnen einfach mit gleicher Würde. Ich introjizierte nichts auf mich wie zum Beispiel „Gott, was bin ich nur für eine schlechte Mutter“. Und projizierte nichts auf ihn wie zum Beispiel: „Oje, der Arme“. Stattdessen war ich mit ihm im Austausch, im Dialog, darüber, wie ich mich fühle und, was ich denke, wie es ihm geht. So bekam ich ein Feedback dazu, was er sich in diesem Moment tatsächlich wünschte.

Genau hier kommt dann Achtsamkeit ins Spiel, mit der wir uns Dingen, aber auch Gefühlen bewußt werden können. Diese Achtsamkeit können wir, in zwei Richtungen nutzen: nach Innen und nach Außen.

Die schlechte Nachricht ist, dass wir in unserer heutigen Leistungs- und Informationsgesellschaft meistens beim unbewußten Mitfühlen steckenbleiben, wie ich es in den ersten beiden Beispielen beschrieben habe. Ganz einfach deshalb, weil wir mit unserer Achtsamkeit hauptsächlich im Außen auf Empfang oder Sendung sind. Mit dem Kopf schon beim nächsten Termin oder beim nächsten Punkt auf der Todo-Liste, und wenn dann auch noch der Kaffee umkippt und der Toaster explodiert, werden wir wütend. Aber diese Wut ist nur ein Zeichen dafür, dass wir schon vor zwei, drei Stunden unsere Grenzen überschritten und unser Bedürfnis nach einer Pause übergangen haben.

Wir haben sie ignoriert und weiter gemacht, weil der Tisch oder der Haushalt ja noch voller unerledigter Dinge ist, und es uns fast scheint, dass wir den Job verlieren, wenn wir mal eine Stunde früher nach Hause gehen. Wenn dann auch noch ein Mitarbeiter, Kind, Mann, Frau, Klient, Supermarktverkäufer mit seiner schlechten Laune zu uns kommt, dann lassen wir uns auch davon anstecken und reagieren – wiederum meist unbewußt, abermals mit Wut.

Die gute Nachricht ist, dass wir – Achtsamkeit sei Dank – lernen können, uns unserer Gefühle und der Gefühle der Anderen bewusst zu werden. Empathie kann man lernen, indem wir unsere angeborene Möglichkeit nutzen, uns bewusst unserem Körper, Atem, Herzen, unserer Kreativität und unseren geistigen Aktivitäten im Außen und im Innen zuzuwenden.

Wenn Achtsamkeit ein Muskel wäre, dann haben wir diesen gewissermaßen im Außen übertrainiert. Als würden wir Jogging ohne Stretching machen. Wir sind dann im zwischenmenschlichen Kontakt sehr gut auf das, was Außen und beim Anderen passiert eingeschossen, die Verbindung zu unserem Innen, zu dem, was wir wollen haben wir verloren. Das gleiche passiert aber auch in die entgegengesetzte Richtung. Richte ich dauerhaft oder häufiger meine Achtsamkeit nach Innen und vernachlässige den Kontakt zum Außen, dann ist das wie Stretching ohne Jogging. Yin ohne Yang. Yang ohne Yin. Und ich bin genauso wenig im zwischenmenschlichen Kontakt wie vorher.

Haben wir Eltern, die sich ihrer eigenen Gefühle, Impulse, Bedürfnisse bewusst sind, haben wir Empathie nur verlernt. Das Erlernen ist dann so, wie wenn wir eine Sprache reaktivieren, die wir als Kind schon mal gesprochen haben. Jeden Tag kommt eine weitere alte Vokabel hoch und gesellt sich in die Sätze, die zunehmend geschliffener und genauer werden. Und so können wir uns nicht nur in alltäglichen Situationen differenzierter mitteilen, sondern auch in herausfordernden Situationen.

Haben wir Eltern, die sich ihrer eigenen Gefühle und Bedürfnisse nicht bewusst sind, dann ist das schwerer, aber eben ganz und gar nicht hoffnungslos. Man muss dann das, was sie einem nicht beigebracht haben, auch noch mit lernen. Das ist dann eher so, als hätte man irgendwann mal Russisch, Japanisch oder Chinesisch gehört, müsse jetzt aber neben den Vokabeln auch noch die Grammatik und die Schriftzeichen dafür lernen. Sprich, es dauert ein bisschen länger. Aber auch hier gelingt uns irgendwann der Dialog in der neuen Sprache, in alltäglichen und herausfordernden Situationen, genauso differerenziert.

Aus meiner Sicht geht es deshalb nicht darum, ob mehr oder weniger Achtsamkeit richtig oder falsch ist, sondern darum, sich über das Unbewußte bewusst zu werden. Und das lässt sich zum Beispiel mit ganz einfachen Körper- oder Atemübungen in Kombination mit Dialogübungen trainieren.

Dann ist sogar, die Kassiererin nicht mehr schuld daran, wenn ich wütend bin, weil sie nicht die zweite Kasse an einem heißen Tag, wie heute, aufmacht. Ja, das ist sehr ärgerlich, wenn sie nicht sieht, dass die Schlange sich ins vermeintlich Unendliche zieht. Und ja, ich bin wütend, weil ich deshalb nicht schnell genug zu Hause bin. Wenn ich mir darüber bewußt bin, wie ärgerlich das jetzt grade für mich ist, gibt mir das aber die Möglichkeit, mich zu entscheiden, was jetzt notwendig ist zu tun. Also beschließe ich, das mit der Wut auf die Kassiererin zu lassen – sie sieht mich eben einfach nicht. Und wende mich stattdessen meinem Ärger zu. Frag, was ihn, was ihm denn jetzt gut tun würde? Und ich spüre überall auf meiner Haut den Dreck des Tages kleben, der sich bei der Hitze angesammelt hat. Ich denke, kein Wunder, dass ich explodiert bin, ich schwitze ja schon seit Stunden. Abkühlen also. Als ich dran bin, freue ich mich schon so auf die Abkühlung, dass ich wieder lächeln kann. Ich sage: “Puh, ganz schön heiß heute!“ Sie lächelt und sagt, ja. “Na, dann, nichts wie ab unter die Dusche.

Illustrated by Gesine Grotrian *

A Summertime Insight

by Mona Kino * September 2017

Summer was good. Not great, but ok. Too much unpredictable weather for my taste. One day, when I felt the weather was getting on my nerves once again I was so annoyed that I asked myself what is it that annoys me so much about it?

I chose to do a walking meditation which for me is one of the most useful and grounding ways of attending to my body. To be honest, it was not one of my favorite insights I ever had. It reminded me of my own unpredictability, which you also can call over-flexibility. And an inner voice was saying: „If just the weather would be fine I could pretend hurrying from A to B without thinking if it is necessary would be just as fine as well. It would feel right because it is just warm and cosy.“

But as no-one else is responsible for my wellbeing the weather isn´t either. And so I did focus on that inner voice once more and heard it say: „Yes, that’s how it is you are in an unstable mood at the moment and … what do you think about just a bit more structure for the next couple of month?“ This felt right. And so I do now, instead of wishing for predictable weather as an „all-is-ok-confirmation“ I re-establish a reasonable state of my flexibility.

Walking Meditation

Since walking meditation is like sitting meditation a simple practice for developing calm, connectedness, and awareness I am using the walking meditation to calm and collect myself. You can practice it regularly, any time you want and wherever you want. When you get up in the morning or even when you are on your way back home from work. To get to know it, I did start practicing barefoot at home. Now I am doing it sometimes while shopping or on my way to the bus stop with shoes on.

As you do with the breath in sitting meditation walking meditation is to learn to be aware as you walk, to use your natural movement of walking to cultivate mindfulness and wakeful presence.

To practice, select a place where you can walk comfortably back and forth, indoors or out, about ten to thirty steps.

Plant your feet firmly on the ground on the beginning of your imaginary path. Let your hands rest wherever you feel comfortable and open your senses to see and feel the whole surroundings for a minute or two.

Bring back your attention to your body, center yourself and feel how you are standing with your both feet on the ground.

Start to walk a bit more slowly than usual and pay attention to your body. With each step feel the sensations of lifting your foot and leg off of the ground and placing your foot back down on the earth. Feel each step mindfully as you walk. Which part of the foot is on the ground which part is lifted. How does it feel to stand just on one foot for a moment?

When you reach the end of your path, pause for a moment. Center yourself again, mindfully turn around, pause again so that you be aware of the first step you want to walk back. If you get used to it you can decide with your impulse whether you make a pause or walk on, or walk even backwards.

Experiment with the speed, this keeps you most present and walk back and forth for ten to twenty minutes – or even longer.

As with the breath in sitting, your attention will wander away many times. As soon as you notice this, acknowledge where it went softly, “thinking,” “planning,” “sorting,” “listening.” Then return to feel the next step.

Whether you have been away with your thoughts for one second or for ten minutes, no matter. Simply acknowledge softly where you have been and then come back here and now and the next step you are going to take.

Illustrated by Gesine Grotrian *

What’s Your Hearts Desire?

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.

The exercise

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.

Breathing Exercise

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.

Body Exercise:

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
your heels.

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
head.
Exhale, place your hands behind your back, fingers showing towards
your buttocks.
Inhale, lift your body as high as possible.
Roll your tailbone forward, so you don´t fall to much into your lower
back.
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

 

Why practicing? Why training empathy?

by Mona Kino – June 2017

These are the most asked questions among others I come across. As I did today with a client.
Since I found my own answer, I am trying to avoid giving others an answer – instead I am interested and curious what their answer will be. In the past I oftentimes tried to explain and sometimes lecture – to convince others by listing up the benefits for body, mind and soul. But thinking of a quote I once read: seven billion people, seven billion perspectives – I trained myself thinking of this in a conversation and staying open to an additional answer.

Interestingly almost always I am meeting rejection towards my curiosity.

We are well trained in not being specific about what we really think or want. Mostly it seems dangerous to us and we are afraid to loose contact to the ones we are living or working with. Surely we are vulnerable when we say what we think or want. And surely it can be proven different then we expect it to be. One of the basic conflicts of us humans is that we tend to give up our integrity – to stand for ourselves – and choose to be valuable for others first, since we needed to chose that when we were kids and being dependent in our family-systems to survive.

I have to choose being valuable for the wellbeing of my kids many times. But since I am aware of that I am taking a choice – I am not depressing my integrity´s needs any more for my personal development. Instead I choose to say, yes, that´s how it is now and I promise myself to return to the impulse of my integrity´s needs later. It is not so much about acting out an impulse instantly, but to become aware of it and taking care of it five, ten or sixty minutes later. Even a day. Getting back to it proofs trust in your own sources in the long run – and stability in our sources in challenging situations. Like I once experienced: Everything up to that point went so wrong that day and of course I was in a hurry for a business appointment, too. But when the car broke down next in the middle of the lane during rush hour, everyone´s yelling and honking I sat there and said to one of the honking ladies: Honestly, this is the best I can do now.

My client was still resistant in finding his answer and I asked him: „What is bothering you?“ „If a day would have a twenty-six hours, sure I trained. Anything and empathy. But my day is already fully packed. Getting up, getting kids to kindergarten or school, getting to work, doing work everyone is avoiding to do, doing workout sometimes, shopping, picking kids up again, washing dishes, cleaning kitchen, calling parents, making dinner and so on… I even hardly have some time to meet some friends…“

I sometimes still fail in not giving answers, and I did so today again. But fully conscious. „I, know“, I said, „ What would you say if I tell you, that you have time?“ „Why is that?“ „We are training twenty-four hours a day. But we need to make a choice what we want to train: Things we already can do best or things we want to be more experienced with.“
He laughed, „Uuuharg, you just hit the nail. Tomorrow, first thing I do train, is putting the work everyone is avoiding to do back on their desks.“

An impulse training exercise:

Put a 5 to 10 minutes music piece you like in your mp3 or stereo –

Lay down on a mat or carpet.

Feel your whole body from feet, legs, back, front, hands, arms up to your head.

Then start to pay attention to your impulses.

Where in your body do you feel the impulse to move?
Move.

And again. Where do you feel the next impulse to move?
Move again.

Repeat paying attention to the next impulse until you are in a standing position when the piece of music ends.

It never matter´s how it looks like –

If you are practicing the exercise with somebody or in a group sit together afterwards tow by two and tell and listen actively each other what you became aware of while doing the exercise. Actively listening means one is talking the other one is just listening and not making any comments. 2-4 Minutes for per participant are sufficient.

Editing by Kerstin Schöps

Illustrated by Gesine Grotrian

Cold waters

by Mona Kino – May 2017

„Your text is cold, massive, shattering and analytical“

Bang. My colleague´s comment to one of my work papers hit me hard. I gasped, as if I were suddenly thrown from behind into a deep, unknown water. I felt a pressure on the solar plexus, which made breathing almost impossible. I could see that my reaction was palpable for her and an uncomfortable tension spread, but I did not want to give it room. At least I did not want to discuss the fact that I found this an unfortunate phrase.

I think, we all know such a situation or something similar.

Although not so light and easy (because my good old friend, the perfectionist, was finally also in the room), I was able to get some distance by avoiding direct eye contact. I followed my stumbling breath slowly and tried not to be judgemental by muttering my mantra: Just perceive how and whether your breath changes.

I was amazed at what was happening in me.

Heart to body: “Do you have an idea? Shall we get up, leave the room? Make a coffee?”
Body to heart: “I’m still too exhausted from this hit and still want to sit.” Meanwhile consciousness spits out something deposited somewhere inside my brain:
“Traumatic experiences are stored in the nervous system.“ My body and my breathing relax. My creativity tunes in: „Let´s look for an alternative to fight or flight.”
More relaxation is spreading through out body and breath.
Creativity makes contact with the heart: “What do you think?”
“I just want an uncomplicated, structured, open and curious work related conversation.”
And turns to my consciousness: “Can you get something out of this?”
Even before consciousness answers, creativity speaks:
“Heart, what do you think of doing the work alone? You can make this very simple and structured?“
Heart shakes his head, no.
Silence.
After a while consciousness speaks up again: “Hello, this is only a working text that says nothing about you as a human being.” And creativity adds:
“Exactly, this was not about literature.”
After another pause, the heart adds:
“Yes, that is how it is sometimes. Sometimes we write texts that are cold and analytical, and I think these are qualities that can be used for a working text. In a love letter, however, they are not so appropriate. ”
I have to laugh and my body says: „Guys, I need a break now, I will get up and make some tea.”

I was calmer again. Another challenging comment from my colleague about how the text felt so sad did not agitate my nervous system anymore. This time I could interestingly connect directly to the word “sad.” I remembered that I had already collected some funny ideas for the implementation of my text and told her this.
I had climbed back into the boat, from which I had fallen into the water. We both laughed – and the worries of my colleague, that everything could become too dreary, and for which she had no idea, were dissolving.

This morning, I wanted to deal with that hardened feeling that I had perceived in the solar plexus.

Writing and meditating are very close to each other. In both cases thoughts come and go. Only that when writing, a kind of intermediate step (the physical activity of moving the pen) is inserted before the next.

With a breathing exercise, I opened the area around the Solar Plexus, then I started writing.

Yesterday I had felt being hit by an unexpected comment. Now an early memory of this unexpected thrust came to my mind. My father wanted me to learn swimming. He grabbed me from behind when we were together in the swimming pool and threw me into the water. I was three years old and was so afraid of what was happening to my body under water. I was struggling, panicking. Gasping for air, crying, screaming, trembling. When I appeared on the surface of the water I saw my father standing at the edge of the pool, laughing. He looked up at my mother, who was lying on a couch reading a book, and said, “See, this is how you do it.” As I swallowed water and made my way to the edge of the pool, they continued fighting over their educational methods. And what I felt in my solar plexus now while writing down this memory was hatred. Hate of my parents, who, because of their conflicts, disregarded my boundaries and desires.

And so for me today a circle came together.

I understood that  ever since that incidence when someone or something, so to say, threw me into cold water, I was reacting with my nervous system as I did back then.

In contrast to back then I have a choice today. I do not have to swallow water, rage or hatred, but I can and may say, “Hello, sorry, that was just really unpleasant and I need a break to meet you sincerely and with all my senses.”

Even if the exercises with the solar plexus are more concerned with the unpleasant feelings than with the pleasant ones that are located in the heart, I find them now essential.

For as long as the unpleasant feelings are not felt and named, they will distort all our encounters, also the ones of love and joy, like a kind of coloured filter.

 

Open the area around solar plexus with your breath
Place yourself in a comfortable position.
Notice your breathing. Notice how you inhale and exhale.
Notice how your breathing makes your body move: stomach, chest, diaphragm or elsewhere.
Place your fingers on the solar plexus. Perhaps it is tense or even a bit painful, remember, there is no right or wrong – your solar plexus is as it is.
Breath in and loosen your fingers,  While you breath out, press your fingers against the solar plexus and turn to the left. Breath in, let loose, turn back to the middle. Breath out, press and turn to the right.
Beginners start with 2-3 minutes.
When you get more used to it you can practice for 10 minutes.
Then take 15 Minutes to meditate in a comfortable position on what is happening in your body, breathing, heart, creativity and mind.
If you want, you can listen to some music.
Then share with one of your collegues as described in the blog before-
If you are alone you can make some notes instead of meditating. Just write what is coming up into your mind. Also here – there is no right or wrong-

 

Illustrations by Gesine Grotrian

Edited by Kerstin Schöps

Endless Shades Of Love

by Mona Kino – April 2017

Have you ever thought T H I S is love! — I did. — Should I have given words to what T H I S is – it would have been impossible for me to put it in one sentence or word, neither a felling.  Except confusion or the sight out of a dirty window after a long winter.

Hence we are all individuals there is no such thing as standardized love. So what is love?

With this exercise you can weep the window and explore what love is for you.

If you are practicing Yoga or Thai Chi start with a grounding exercise you like. Five to ten minutes are fine. If you are not practicing any awareness body work I introduce you to this simple exercise.

Grounding exercise

Stand with the feet together and the arms by your sides
Bend the right knee, raise your right thigh and bring the sole of the right foot as high up the inside of the left thigh as possible.
In the beginning it might just as high as your left ankle.
Balance now on the left foot, raise both arms over the head keeping the elbows unbent and joining the palms together.
If you feel uncomfortable with your arms raised over your head bring your palms together in front of your heart.
Hold the posture for a couple of breaths.
Lower the arms and right leg and return to the standing position with feet together and arms at the sides. Pause for a few moments and repeat on the opposite leg.
The challenge of this exercise is maintaining balance on one leg. Poor balance is often the result of a restless mind or distracted attention. Regular practice will help focus the mind and improves concentration, balance and coordination.
When doing this exercise it may help to imagine or picture a tree in your  mind.
Imagine that the foot you are balanced on is the root of the tree and the leg is the trunk.
Imagine your head and outstretched arms are the branches and leaves of the tree.
You may be unsteady for a while and find the body swaying back and forth, like a tree bending in the wind.
As you advance in this posture and are able to remain standing for more than a few moments, try closing the eyes and maintaining your balance.  Hold it as long as your comfortably can. Repeat it two or three times on each leg.

Then sit relaxed on a chair or cushion. Scan your feelings in your body from toes to head, then focus on your breathing. When you´ve connected your body with your breathing focus on the area around your heart.
When being in touch with your heart let a person you love arise. It also can be a child or a pet you love. People can have strong feelings of love for animals and even things. Again there is no right nor wrong in this exercise. Repeat this three times.

The first person who came into my mind was my daughter. My love for her felt like a warm shower in the morning. You can imagine the big smile on my face. Second my son came up.  My love for him was like being surrounded by millions of different spices in a Moroccan souk. Thirdly my love for my partner came up which felt like warm tender naked skin.

I I realized that love has as that many different shades and I accepted too, that my confusion was no wonder at all but a fight for a definition for the one and only love. Sure there is a special kind of love for all of us which leads us to those we want to share our life with. But we can also feel love for those we don´t want to share our life with. Feeling love for someone is no need for taking action in a specific way.
My love list is growing ever since. For my children, my partner, my friends and also for the guest dog we sometimes taking care of. Today I added pink and white marshmallows to the Moroccan spice bag on my sons list.
If you are a teacher or pedagogue or just a parent or partner- try out for yourself and share your experiences this way. Sit together ear by ear then decide who wants to talk the first five minutes and who wants to listen.
If you don´t want to say anything, don´t. Just be aware of your impulses.

Illustration by Gesine Grotrian

Editing by Kerstin Schöps