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 sidesder_baum_by_gesinegrotrian
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 shargroundinge 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

Birthday girl

by Mona Kino – April 2017

Shortly before my last birthday I had a dream: one of my friends youngest daughter screamed out loud, arms wide open: „Hello world, I am the birthday girl.“

The joy in her face accompanied me for a couple of days. It made me realize that I don´t  like celebrating my birthday a lot. I mostly celebrated it in the past because I thought I would start to like it if I just jumped over the first step of resistance. Unfortunately it never worked out for me. The resistance became even bigger every time I crossed that line. But when I chose not to celebrate my birthday at all I didn’t feel better either.

So with the birthday girl dream in mind and knowing that strong emotional reactions are related to childhood experiences I decided to explore both: my withdrawing from and longing for celebrating my birthday.

I grew up with sentences like: „You just have to try hard enough, then things will change.“  So naturally I started working very hard to change the past by seeing it in a positive way.

I even created great birthday parties in my mind, at home with my parents as opposed to boarding school where they actually had taken place. But all this didn´t help. And I had to realize that you can work as hard as you want, it is impossible to change that what had happened in the past.

However it is possible to change how much power we allow the past to still have over our lives. Hence I decided to turn it around: in the past the message I got as a child having to celebrate birthdays away from home at boarding school was that the day of my birthday wasn´t worth celebrating for my parents, and being dependent on my parents as a child I identified with that message, inflicting a deep lack of self worthiness.
So I sat down for the first time in my life and asked my friends and family for a favor as a present: I asked everybody I invited to my 50th birthday to describe how I enriched his or her life.

Looking now at the vast variety of different presents I got, from a bonsai tree to self made fortune cookies that contained answers to my question, to hand written letters from my kids (imagine that from an iPhone addicted teenager) – I still feel overwhelmed. Before my birthday I knew why I was connected to my friends. What they contributed to my life to be enriched. Now I know how I enrich their lives and that my humor seems to be a big part of that. And that they think that I lead my life with a heart „as big as a bus“ – an unexpected perspective that helps me a lot when my try-to-understand-everything-brain goes around in circles again.

The exercise that inspired me to all this happened during a module of training empathy. We were asked to evaluate our relations to each other in the smaller working groups with following questions:

What made it easy for me being part of the group?
What made it difficult for me?
What did I contribute to the group?
What did I get from the other participants?

Try for yourself with your family and friends. Or if you are a teacher or pedagogue try it with your colleagues or students. Sit together at least once a year and ask yourself this question: how do we enrich each others lives?

It is great getting to know the actual status quo from the ones most beloved or important in our lives.
If you feel the atmosphere is a bit shaky add a grounding exercise before.

Three steps grounding

1. stepgrounding12_1
. Place your-self in a standing position with parallel feet hip-width apart.
. Bend you knees as much as you can without lifting your heels. Knees are pointing straight forward.
. Lift yourself from flat feet to standing on your toes without stretching your knees. Knees are still bended pointing straight ahead
. Lower your heels to the floor. Now your back in the starting position.
. Find your own rhythm and do the little sequence a number of times.
. Stand for a moment. How does your body response to the exercise? And what about your breathing?

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. stepgrounding12_3
. Place your-self in a wide legged standing position
. Shift your weight from one foot to the other.
. Press your foot into the ground.
. You can bend your knee to get the movement a little bigger. Keep the other foot in the ground.
. Move from side to side in your own rhythm a couple of times
. Place one foot in front of the other.
. Be aware of the contact between your feet and the floor
. Shift your weight as you did before from on foot to the other.
. Role through your feet so that you feel each foot from the heel to the toes.
. Find your own rhythm and repeat a couple of times
. Switch legs so that the other foot stands in front. Repeat the exercise.
. Stand for a moment. Be aware …

 

 

 

3. stepgrounding12_2
. Place your-self in a standing position with parallel feet hip-width apart.
. Make a small release in your knees
. Make a full body stretch raising your arms to the ceiling
. Be aware of your feet and your breath while stretching
. Be aware of the two directions in your body. Stretching into the ceiling and grounding down into the floor at the same time.
. Let go off your arms and let them relax down the sides of your body
. Bend your head and move slowly into a forward fold. Let your awareness follow the movement of your spine.
. Come as far down as possible. Stand for a short while in the position. Relax your head, your arms your face.
. Move back very slowly to the standing position.
. Stand for a moment. Feel your feet on the floor and the impulses in your body.

 

Illustration by Gesine Grotrian

Editing by Kerstin Schöps

Straight from the heart

by Mona Kino – March 2017

I´ve received this letter last week.

Dear Mona,
it´s been a while since we´ve met and I hope this email finds you well.
Me and my family are still working out new ways to solve our conflicts. Sometimes we succeed and sometimes we run into the „mines“ as you suggested. It helped me a lot to accept that they are part of our lives and that you’ve mentioned, not to try to avoid them. Even though it´s not easy to handle somedays- the atmosphere at home is better than ever before.

The reason I write to you is something else I want to share with you. It made me laugh the other day and I thought it might be an interesting feedback from a fourteen year old.

Me, Ruby and Emma recently went to Prague to visit Ben at work for a week. The morning before we returned home, Ruby told me, that she couldn`t fall asleep last night and that she became very desperate because of that. Rolling her eyes she added: ‘And you know, all that Jesper-Juul-and-Helle-Jensen-meditation-and-empathy-stuff  you always bring home really worked out.’

I was curious to understand more of what she was mentioning. And she continued: She woke up in the middle of the night hearing a noise she couldn´t locate. First she thought it was in her head, then she thought it was the refrigerator in the kitchen, or maybe the heating system? She didn´t want to wake us up and got up to locate it herself but couldn´t find it. The idea that it was in her head grew and made her feel more and more uncomfortable. When she thought it could be a tinnitus the uneasiness swell and ended in fear. But then, she said, she remembered an exercise we once practiced in our mutual sessions at your practice.
She set herself up in a quiet place in the apartment and did a „heart-journey“. After a while, she said, the noise was still there, but the fear was gone. I  asked her what she thought made  it go away. And she replied, as she became aware that it was just a noise wherever in or out of her body and no-one trying to catch her, she felt relief. She no longer felt as a victim of the noise. She gave me a smile and said, I then added a short moment to focus on something nice that had happened to me the other day. And in my mind I saw this new pair of shoes I got from you, and I could easily feel relaxation in my body and I fell asleep shortly after.

With warm regards,
Betty

The exercise we did in the counseling session is the following:

Someone You Like

Place yourself comfortably in a chair.  
Notice how the chair supports your body, the backside of your legs, your buttocks and perhaps your back.
Then notice the contact between your feet and the floor. How the floor meets your feet and how your feet are pressing against the floor.  Bend und stretch your toes.
Notice then the contact between your hand and the place they are resting on. Bend and stretch your fingers.
Now shift your awareness to your head. Make some funny faces to relax the muscles of your face.
Now see if you can feel your body, feet, hands and head at the same time.
Shift your awareness to your breath.
Stay with it for a while. Breath in- breath out.
Just watch it, don´t judge it.
Now shift your awareness to the area around your heart.
Maybe you can feel how your heart is beating, maybe not?
Stay here with your awareness for a while. Feel how the area is like.
Think of somebody you like or love. Now feel somebody you like or love in your heart.
It can be a member of your family, a good friend, a pet and even your teddybear.
Let the comfortable feeling now run through your whole body. Into your feet, your hands, hair-roots.
Stay with this feeling for a few minutes. Feel how it is.
Notice your general mood as it is right now and prepare yourself to end this exercise.

 

Illustration by Gesine Grotrian

Editing by Kerstin Schöps

Shake it off, a fifteen minutes gift

by Mona Kino – March 2017

„How did you wake up today?“ Was your basic mood more like Beethoven, Mmy_inner_mozart_by_gesinegrotrianozart or Bach?“

Peter Hoeg asked us while we were standing barefoot with closed eyes in the seminar room. To be honest I didn´t like any of them too much to make a pick that day. Beethoven too dark, Mozart too light and Bach too genius. But while I was searching in my own inner music box from Abba to Zappa, Peter Hoeg added that most people wake up with one specific basic mood throughout their lives (or at least for longer periods in their lives) which are comparable to the works of these three musicians.
Ok, I thought, if there is no other choice I am brave and take the Beethoven, even though this choice will reveal that I am obviously hiding a drama queen inside me. But that’s one of the topics why I am attending this training: getting to know myself better and becoming more empathic with myself. I’ve never met too many people in my life who acted empathic towards me or others as I’ve never heard about many of such experiences in my friends, clients and colleagues lives. I think it is what today’s world lacks most:  Empathy. Even though many of are us using the word quite often. But more likely in the sense of compassion. As I realized  throughout the exercise that I started to like my Beethoven mood more and more Peter Hoeg instructed us with the next step of the exercise. We should shake the mood off from every part of our bodies to make space for the other moods, the lightness of Mozart and neutralism of Bach. And I thought, holy shit, that is what awareness is all about. I don´t have to label my moods, I don´t have to fight it nor take it with me throughout the day. I just have to realize it, feel it, take it just as the basic mood it is and shake it off. What a gift.

And now- now I am playing Diana Ross´s Upside down.

Illustration by Gesine Grotrian

Editing by Kerstin Schöps

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.

fraukopflos_1 http://www.bornslivskundskab.dk

„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.frauinnerbreath1_by_gesinegrotrian

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