Can I choose a nicer feeling?

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If I was not worried about this situation, but felt calm and positive about it – would that change anything for me?

This last week I have been trying a little bit extra to focus on my everyday fear. I always say that all emotions come from either fear or love. As if irritation, worry, anger, anxiety or frustration have their roots in a place of fear, while harmony, happiness, contentment and hope have their roots in a place of love. Like a “fear mode” and a “love mode”.

It’s natural for us to look for dangers all the time, since that’s more crucial for our survival than signs of kindness or love. We have done that for so many years that it has become the first hand choice for our subconscious – to choose an emotion coming from fear rather than considering one from love.

I therefore have to make a conscious effort to first realize that what I’m feeling is coming from fear.
“I’m worried.”
Then I have to ask myself what it would feel like if I picked a feeling coming from love, calmness for example.
“That would be much nicer and I would be much more relaxed”.
So I continue and ask myself if something in reality would change if I choose to focus more on being calm than worried.
“Maybe I would make decision that are better for everyone involved. I would probably be more creative. And perhaps more fun to be around!”
Do I have anything to earn from continuing being worried?
“No, I just don’t want to be naïve, but I can’t actually see that things could change for the worse if I changed the roots of this emotion from fear to love.”

Piece of cake? Not exactly. But interesting and a good way of growing and developing.

If you want to try you don’t have to start with the big fears in your life. Start with a little useless negativity that you have in your mind or body right now.

 Are you irritated, frustrated, bitter or low about something or someone particular today?
 What if you were not?
 What positive emotion could you choose instead?
 Would that be nicer? Want to give it a try?

Write a little note or place something symbolic on your desk (I have my symbolic bracelet that reminds me of today’s challenge!) or set the alarm and think about the situation and your feelings from the “love place” as many times as possible today.

Everybody just wants to be happy.

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When I read the news about all the horrible things people do to each other, I often thing about Dalai Lama talking about happiness. “Everybody just wants to be happy”, he says. The problem is that we don’t know what makes us happy.

Isn’t that weird!? We learn so much in school, at college and at work; math, grammar, history, science etcetera, but we never really learn how to be happy.

A man who kills hundreds of people in the name of a god or an organization – did he do that to be happier? Well, maybe he was not in a good, harmonious and balanced mood, feeling loved and prosperous. Maybe he felt that if he did something that counted, others would praise him and see him as a hero. Unconsciously, being seen as a hero, might be something that feels closer to happiness than anything else in his life? The girl who makes up rumors about another girl in class. Isn’t she mean and evil? Well, maybe she is afraid that nobody likes her as she really is, and – once again unconsciously – if she can make her friends dislike another girl, they might not dislike her as much. Not really happiness, but a step away from the frightening unhappiness.

I don’t say that Dalai Lama is right about this, but I often think about it and it gives me a kind of explanation to the seemingly irrational behaviors of some people. So we come back to the weirdness of not knowing what makes us happy. Do you know what makes you happy?

Part of the answer might be easy, like; being with my friends and family, sunshine, a cinnamon roll and a cup of tea, a job that I like, good health. But if we dig a little bit deeper? When you are being bullied at you job, your best friend doesn’t invite you to a party or you get sick? When you are angry, sad or humiliated? Then what makes you happy? Maybe just to ask yourself what will make you happy implies that you are not happy right now, and that thought (the acceptance of being miserable) might be worse than pretending that all is fine. And maybe all will be much better if those horrible people over there were to blame?

I don’t have a quick fix solution to instant happiness, but I once in a while try to sit down and seriously ask myself what I really want, what really would make me happier in the present situation.

But my key point today, is not so much about my or your happiness, but to consider how everyone else is fighting for happiness, even when it looks just the opposite to us. In what way is that person trying to be happier? That is an interesting and valuable way of personal development I think.

Stop. Breathe. Notice.

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This is one of my favorite exercises to make myself more mindful in my everyday life.

I might sit in my office about to write a blog post, when I simply stop what I’m doing for a moment, I look outside the window and take a breath. Then I just notice whatever I see. Today the sun falls nicely on the leaves of the green bush outside, while the leaves of the tree behind gently play in the wind. It’s surprisingly beautiful!

But I’m always surprised by the beauty of what I see when I just suddenly focus on something ordinary surrounding me. I think it’s the breathing that makes me notice what I actually see. So often I look out the window but I don’t really see anything in particular. To stop, breathe and then just notice what you see, not judging or starting a long chain of associations, but just noticing makes your pulse slow down and the stress hormones in your body decrease instantly. I also feel that it makes me happier. Most of my thoughts are about memories from the past or worries or planning for the future. Very little of my time I actually spend in reality – here and now. To just be and enjoy the very simple thinks in front of my eyes makes me appreciate my life more.

And it’s such a good thing to do when you’re waiting; in the line at the grocery store, in the street waiting for green light, on the doorstep waiting for your teenage daughter to finish her make-up or in front of the wakening computer. Waiting is usually boring and useless, but if you train your mind to notice the things around you – “she has a green hat”, “the shadow is very long”, “all but one person here are wearing sneakers” etcetera – the waiting will suddenly be a little pleasant reality check. Try not to go on about how ugly the green hat is or how cold it is in the shadow – simply notice what it looks like. I promise you that you will like this exercise!

Do you know the teenager language?

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(The teenager on this picture is not my child)

The other day a mother in my daughter’s school asked me in what grade she is. When I answered that she’s in grade 9, she looked at me full of empathy and said: “So you’re a 9-grader. That’s hard.” At first I didn’t understand what she meant, but then I realized that having children in different ages also means that you have to adjust your parenting to their level. Having a teenager means that a part of you is also going through that stage. Grade 9 was not one of my favorite grades …

In his book Almost Cool, Tim Smith writes that we should think about teenagers as foreigners. They have a different language, different culture and different habits. Of course! Why have I not thought about it that way before!? When moving to Turkey I understood even before I went there that I had to learn some basic Turkish and I struggled with the peculiar words and grammar. Once there I had to cope, understand and adopt to different ways of doing things the Turkish way. Gradually it went better and better and the more I was able to communicate the more I could enjoy meeting people, finding out how to solve everyday problems and make myself a good life in this new country. Then I moved to China. All over again! But it’s obvious to everyone that we have to learn the basic language and culture if we want to communicate and understand those who are foreign to us. Why aren’t there language courses in Teenagerish?

Below are some “translations” from Tim Smith’s book Almost Cool.

The way many adults tend to communicate The way most teenagers tend to communicate
By using reason, logic, one topic at a time. Stream of conciousness, easily switching between topics.
To solve problems, get results, change behaviour. By talking at length without looking for solutions.
By lecturing or moralising, at times getting heavy and intense. Like to leave things open-ended; don’t need to have a ‘point’; enjoy talking for its own sake.
Interrogation style: Have you …? Are you …? Aren’t you …? Open up when we least expect it and usually not to order.
Often drawing on much experience to support arguments; holding a firm viewpoint. Often drawing on limited experience to make their point; exploring options.
Pushing to know the whole situation, to learn all the details. Less focused; more easily distracted; shorter attention-span.
Generally in a hurry. Have high expectations of what can be achieved in a short amount of time. Can’t rush them. They are on their own timetable – often it’s very slow.

I can clearly see that it’s much tougher than learning Mandarin! But if I’m a 9-grader mom I better start learning, because in a couple of months I’ll have to transform to a 10-grader!

 

The Expat Dilemma of Friends Coming and Going

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This time of the year is often filled with complicated emotions for expats. Spring is on its way and there are several holidays to look forward to, but at the same time the end of the school year is coming closer and a lot of families and friends will move.

To move abroad as an expat is fantastic and somewhat stressing when it comes to friends. To me it has been unusual to get that many good, new friends as an adult. Usually it takes many years in my home country before a person I just met become a close friend. When I moved to Istanbul, five years ago, I didn’t understand that I had to be much quicker! By the time I asked a nice lady out for lunch she told me that she was packing to move. And that happened again and again. My best friends in Istanbul I got the last year, when I had understood the unwritten rules.

Some of the rules are
“She seems nice.” Ask her if she wants to join you for a lunch or coffee immediately. If you still find her nice after the coffee, ask her for her number, WeChat, WhatsApp information or whatever app is the primary in your country.
“How nice that I was invited to a coffee by that lady”. Now you have to act! Don’t think that you are the newcomer after more than one month, or expect anyone else to pamper you more than once. Call her and ask her to check out a place you want to visit.
“I want to visit this place with someone, but how shall I choose one of the five ladies I just met?” Don’t! Invite them all even if they don’t know each other. That will broaden the network for everyone.
“It would be nice to join a group (book club, sightseeing, discussion etc), but I can’t find one” Start one!
“I don’t like to fix my nails or go to lunches all the time, I want something else.” You can be absolutely sure that you are not alone – just tell people what you want and the ones interested will join you. And praise you for your intitiative!

(Not so many men out there, but of course this goes for accompanying men as well!)

There are of course many more rules, but those are the ones that were hardest for me to catch up with. The common thread is ACTION – now!

So you follow the rules and get wonderful friends from all over the world. Then what happens, just when you started to enjoy life in this new country? They move! Usually at the same time. Now you might encounter even tougher emotions than the ones of loneliness and lack of friends you experienced when you arrived. To most accompanying spouses friends are an important part of everyday life. The worries about how life will be when you are alone again might disturb you. And you might not look forward to starting all over, inviting newly arrived ladies for coffee and find out which ones might be good friends next year.

I myself, try to first of all enjoy my friends all the way until they move. It’s very common that friends (especially children and teenagers) part before they actually have to part, in an unconscious way of trying to avoid the pain. Then I try not to envision what next year will look like. Some days it work, some days not … I try to stay open minded and believe in my own ability to develop my friend finding skills and trust that there are a lot of nice people out there also open minded and eager for a coffee!

What is your experience and how do you cope with it? Are you about to move or are you the one staying?

Can Technical Development Cause De-Civilization?

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What is actually development? When you look around the world you will probably think that some countries are developing in the wrong direction. But how do we know what is wrong and what is right? And what is right anyhow? Is it BNP, life length, happiness, or technical implementation?

Is technical development necessarily something that leads to a civilization’s development? Clever brains have the possibility to invent new machines and solutions, but is it for the happiness, health and wealth of the people in the world or mostly for the wealth of that particular company producing it? Well, we all know the answer to that I think.

But if we believe that some inventions actually make more people stressed and unhappy and don’t add to their health or wealth, is it right to forbid it, to stop a kind of de-civilization in the country? I find it an interesting question, but of course almost impossible to answer, since it all comes down to guessing. How would anyone know if a new thing is for better or for worse in the long run?

I see an interview with the old king of Bhutan, who started to put the measures of the people’s happiness over the BNP in the 1970s. This is still their primary goal in the country and to keep the happiness of the people on a high and growing level, they forbid a lot of technology and inventions from outside, which they don’t see is to their benefit. Is this wonderful or just a way to control the people?

If you look at your life – are all the technology surrounding you adding to your happiness or would it even be less stressful without it? What in your life is truly adding to your happiness?

I myself realize how detached my mobile make me. Instead of looking at the people, trees or everyday life surrounding me, I keep reading useless articles or look at little kittens on Facebook! As if it’s better to do an activity (scrolling down on Facebook) instead of enjoying the moment in real life!

 

Does Beauty Make You Happy or Sad?

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Today I wanted to think about how it comes that beauty makes us happy. Why does a golden sunset or a delicate flower or a puppy make us happy?

But the more I sat thinking about it, the more I started to doubt whether that is always true. If I’m unhappy, will a sunset make me happy again? Or do I have to be happy first to be able to be happier by the sight of a beautiful sunset? Might it even be so that a beautiful sunset can cause me more unhappiness if I for example have unhappy emotions of loneliness, low self-esteem or quilt? Maybe that beauty will make me feel excluded from the happiness I know I’m supposed to feel.

That makes sense if the saying “The beauty is in the eye of the beholder” is true. How I interpret something depends on my mood, and the interpretation then adds to my mood. If I see a beautiful woman, will I smile and be inspired or will I feel ugly and inferior? Well it all depends on my attitude. That attitude can of course be one of very deep good or bad self-esteem, but it can also vary from day to day, depending on my mood that actual day (or if I have a bad hair day!) If I’m happy I will get happier, if I’m sad I will get sadder. That’s unfair, isn’t it!?

But I still enjoy beauty around me. I can’t really understand people who have aggressive, sad or cruel art on their walls. But once again that’s my interpretation! When I was a poor student I bought a beautiful, quite expensive picture. The first thing you saw was the head of a man in total peace, with a light smile on his lips. If you continued to look you could see that his head was on a plate. It was a picture of John the Baptist’s head. When I looked at it I was filled with the peace of his face at that moment, but all my friends found it horrible and only saw the cruelty behind it!

Still I think we have an urge to make our surroundings pleasant and nice and that we like to enjoy beauty. If we’re not too unhappy, but just a bit exhausted or low, I believe the sight of a sunset or a puppy can’t keep us from feeling a bit better. Or what do you say?

The Observer Effect indicates a consciousness behind matter

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When I first heard about the Observer Effect, some 25 years ago, I could not believe it. But during the years I’ve come across a documentary every now and then and just the other day I saw one again. The Observer Effect refers to the phenomenon that might happen when a person just by observing an experiment changes the way the particles are behaving. Within quantum mechanics there is a classic example where electrons are being projected towards a wall. On their way to the wall the electrons have to go through two rectangular holes, thus making the same pattern on the wall. As if you were spraying color through a template to make a decoration on your wall. Nothing strange about that. Waves, which is not any kind of particles, makes a completely different pattern on the wall, since they are not moving, before and after the template, in the same way as particles.

Now comes the interesting part! When the researchers were looking at the difference between how particles and waves are behaving, they could suddenly see on their recordings that when nobody was observing the experiment, the particles were behaving as if they were waves. That never happened when someone was observing them. Nobody could explain what was happening. Some years later other researchers did the same experiment, with a person present but with his eyes closed. Just before the electrons were to hit the wall he opened his eyes. On the recordings you could see how the particles started out, behaving as waves, but in the same moment that the person opened his eyes they turned into behaving as particles again. And they even changed their history, so looking back it looked as if they had behaved as particles from the start.

Still there is no explanation for this that scientists within all disciplines are accepting, but I don’t care so much about that. I’m mostly fascinating by the thought that there might be a consciousness behind the matter. That would mean that our reality is not built by particles, but by a consciousness deciding who, when and where the particles should act. That opens up a lot of new possibilities! Doesn’t it?

 

If you’re interested you can look at this fascinating documentary (the Observer Effect comes towards the end): The Simulation Hypothesis
And here you can read about the first experiment: ScienceDaily; Quantum Theory Demonstrated: Observation Affects Reality

“It’s a fact. That’s true!”

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These days we hear a lot about “alternative facts” and jokes about “the truth”, coming from the circus in the US. We laugh because we know that there can only be one true fact about something. You can’t have alternative facts. A fact is a fact. And a truth is a truth. Based on the facts most of the time.

At the same time we know how facts and statistics can be used in any possible way, depending on your purpose. Which facts you choose to report and which ones you omit. I’m a little bit troubled when I see how the different news channels, without even trying to hide it, clearly choose the facts that they think make the best “news”. How will the audience be able to see the big picture and be able to make their own opinion about what’s going on if they never get “alternative facts”?

And who decides what the truth is? Is it the conclusion someone at the news desk draws from the chosen facts? Is it something we have been told for generations or always done in our culture without questioning it? Can you make a reference to a god and immediately everyone has to believe that it’s a truth? Is it true because it’s the latest scientific proof?

I think that most of us want to live in a truthful way. So how come that we have so different ways of looking at the truth? It bothers me to use the word “truth” since that immediately implies that the opposite, or even the slightest deviation, has to be untrue or false. As if there only exist one good, true side of each opinion or action.

In honest, deep discussions I find that most people agree that everyone wants to be good and truthful, but how come that we too often completely forget that and look at actions and beliefs of people on “the other side” as if they were stupid, less intelligent than we? If I believe that my opinion is the truth, how can I accept that their opposing opinion is just as true? Not just true to them (no wondering since they are stupid?!), but actually as true as my truth.

I don’t say that we should be passive and just accept actions and speech that we find wrong, but I think it’s of great value to the overall development of societies, if we start by trying to figure out how it can be true in different ways to different people. Only then can we grow and continue the discussion on a higher, more developed level.

Is it true? How to change your negative feelings about someone in a few questions.

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Many years ago I and some colleagues were discussing another person at the office, whom we disliked because we found him lying about so many things and acting nice, but being mean behind our backs at the same time.

He’s such a false person, one of my colleagues said in anger.
Are you really sure about that?, I asked this particular day. She looked at me in confusion:
Of course I am!
But can you be 100% sure that he is false?,
I persisted.
Well, of course he’s not false all the time, she admitted.
How would we feel about him if we didn’t think this way about him?, I dared to ask.

Both my colleagues probably thought I was crazy, but we agreed that it would improve the atmosphere at the office and make co-operation much easier.

By now they wondered why I was asking these strange questions, instead of just participate in the daily nagging on our colleague. So I had to tell them that I was just reading about The Work by Byron Katie (“Loving What Is”) and that I had one last – reverted – question:

What if it’s WE who are false?

That was just too much! No, they could not even ponder that question! But I persisted: Here we are sitting, talking angrily about this man, but we never tell him how we feel about him. Instead we are smiling and carrying on with our jobs. So you could actually say that we are just as false as he is!

Well, they didn’t really accept that, but to me it made a difference – I was not as hard in my judgement and attitude any longer, because I could see that I had my part in the play as well – and since that day I have often come back to Byron Katie’s questions, if I’m having negative thoughts or feelings about someone.

It’s so easy to pick a negative thought and then hang on to it, as if it’s a truth, just because we have been thinking it over and over. Nothing good will come from that. Since I can’t change anyone but myself, scrutinizing my own thoughts about others, is a good start to improve relationships. And to grow as a person!

Is it true?
Can I be absolutely sure that it’s true?
What do I feel when I think like that?
How would I feel if I didn’t have that thought?
What if I revert the thought: He is NOT …/ I am …./ I am not ….

 

What is a good life?

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Today I got inspired by a talk by Arianna Huffington. She said that when we say we want a good life, we usually mean a successful life. And by successful we usually mean a life were we have gathered a good amount of money and power. This is quite a modern way to look at life. In ancient time, the Greeks used to talk about the four pillars to a good life: giving, wellbeing, wisdom and wonder. What a completely different way of looking at it!

What I find fascinating and sad is that most of us probably know that to be able to earn a lot of money and gain power, we have to be creative, make good decisions and see new solutions. But that is almost impossible to do if you are tired, stressed and out of balance. We know that too. But still we admire people who seem never to sleep, have hundreds of projects going at the same time and never being lazy, relaxing in the sofa the whole Sunday.

Arianna Huffington talks about an experiment where people got two choices: Either they should sit all alone, without any devices or anything else, in an empty room for a long time, or they should sit in the same room getting electric shocks. 47 % of the men preferred to have electric shocks instead of sitting alone with nothing to do! Isn’t that tragic! (Only 25 % of the women choose electric shocks, which is somewhat reassuring though!).

But how can this be!? How can it be hard to do the nice things we know we have to do, to be in balance? Is it cultural? It seems like more and more top leaders are confessing that they have been meditation for years, but never told anybody. If it would turn out that meditation or sleeping a lot or taking 30 minutes time for reflection in the middle of the day is what cool leaders do, will that change our view of how to look upon our work?

After more than four years of not working the way I used to do, I still feel a bit ashamed if I have not been “productive” enough every day! But I am getting better and better at thinking about my meditation or breathing in mindfulness as a productive thing to do. I can see how important the balance in my life is, not only for my harmony but also for my relations with my family and friends. Being more balanced also makes it easier to make decisions or find out what we truly want, because we have a better access to both logic and emotions when we aren’t constantly involved in something non-real happening in our minds or our cellphones! It will even prevent you from accidents – if you are in balance, you will see that stone or hole in the road and you will not fall. You will not fall, because you are totally in the present, alert about what you are doing, using all your senses here and now.

Just one last thing that Arianna Huffington also said that made me think; She commented on the fantastic technique we have today, that brings us this enormous amount of knowledge – how will we now gather that into wisdom? So much knowledge and so little wisdom …

I have read and heard about Arianna Huffington and her Huffington Post for years, but never actually heard her speak or understood what she is doing. Here you can see the 30 minute speech that I was inspired by today: Arianna Huffington – Reimagine. Everything.

I can learn something from everyone I meet.

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Reading Swedish film director Kay Pollak’s book “No Chance Encounter: Meeting Yourself in Others” some ten years ago was one of those eye opener you get once in a while. Whenever you have any negative feelings towards someone else it’s mostly about you, Pollak says.

At first I had troubles understanding what he meant.

So that terribly annoying mom at school is not really annoying at all – it’s I who have a problem? And that far too smiling sales man is not embarrassing at all? It’s all about me?

Of course I had to do my homework! I remember so well one morning when I was waiting for the commuting train and I saw this young adult covered in tattoos. He had tattoos all over his neck and face and they were far from professionally made. One was even wrongly spelled. I became aware of my negative feeling towards him. So my first quest was to find out what I was actually feeling? I tried to be honest and realized that it was a feeling of despise. That’s shameful! You should never despise someone! So I breathed deeply and went further into this feeling of despise. Was I despising the fact that he had tattoos? No. Did I despise that they were all over his face? Maybe, but not really. That they were so ugly and badly made? Yes! Here I could feel in my body that I had hit the root of the feeling. But why did I despise that?

“It’s ugly”, I could hear myself thinking, “and you just don’t make yourself ugly!” Aha! “Why not?”, I asked myself. “Well, you just shouldn’t!”, was the agitated answer. I was actually a bit surprised about the strength in my feelings about not making yourself ugly and I started to scan my life and childhood about such situations.

When I grew up I was very tall with red hair, freckles and white eye lashes. I never felt ugly, but then I never felt cute or beautiful either. I did my best to look good, dress nicely and be as creative as possible when I was allowed to use make-up. I had always hated masquerades when you were supposed to dress like a monster or ghost or any other kind of ugly creature. I didn’t want to look worse than I did – I wanted to look a little bit better! How on earth could anyone even suggest such parties?!

So now you can also see where my deep emotions came from! The child within not being cute enough. Feeling a bit sad about this, standing there still waiting for the train, I continued the chain of thoughts and started to think about the man with the tattoos again. What he had done I would never be able to do! I wouldn’t be brave enough to go around with one fake tattoo in my face just for one day! So actually he was much braver than I … What a turn of feelings! I looked at him and smiled and thanked him in my mind for a wonderful lesson!

Since that morning I have done this exercise many times. And it’s thrilling and amazing to see how my irritation about that mom’s behavior turn into a lessons about me being afraid of making a fool of myself at the school meeting or being unsecure about my social skills in new encounters. And I can see now how every meeting is a chance to grow and develop!

We are only alive in the moment

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Even before I left Sweden, I had heard friends living abroad saying that they found themselves so much more alive there than they did in their home countries. They thought that people at home just lived every day the same way and were only looking forward to the weekend or the vacation. During my years abroad I have heard this often and wondered what it’s really about. The other day I was working on a course in mindfulness and I suddenly got it!

Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder of modern mindfulness, explains in an interview what mindfulness is:

“It’s the awareness that arises through paying attention on purpose in the present moment non-judgmentally.” And then he adds: “As if your life depended on it!”

Day in and day out our brains are fully occupied with thoughts about the past or planning in the future. We very seldom just ARE in the moment, experiencing it just the way it is, without thinking. But since we’re only alive in the moment, not being aware of it makes us sort of emotionally dead! Only when we are fully aware of the moment do we feel alive.

When you’ve left the people, the environment, the language and the culture that you know so well and suddenly are standing in a street with completely new smells and sounds, people acting in new ways and talking a different language and you’re trying to cross the street with a seemingly chaotic traffic, you are most probably not planning your dinner at the same time. You just are. You are completely alive and aware of the moment.

Maybe you’re not completely non-judgmental all of the time though, and you might find it extremely stressful to have to get to know new people all the time, experiment with new groceries or trying to explain what you want in a new language, but this lack of grueling on the past or planning of the future actually makes you live here and now more than you did at home. It’s a kind of unintentional mindfulness, that is forced on you whether you like it or not. The best is of course to practice some awareness and let go of the thoughts just for a little moment every now and then and just enjoy what you experience, no matter if it’s in a chaotic corner in Shanghai or in your well-known kitchen in your home country!

If you want to hear Jon Kabat-Zinn explain what Mindfulness is you can click here (5:17 minutes)

The impersonal intelligence beyond my control.

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Today I happened to hear an old interview with Dr. Wayne Dyer talking about the impersonal intelligence. He gave an example that I liked very much: Put forth your hands and take a look at your ten fingers. On everyone is a finger nail. A nail that is growing constantly. If you find it tiresome to have to cut them and take care of them all the time, you might want to tell them to stop growing. Will this prevent them from growing? No, it won’t, because that is out of your control. There is an intelligence within you that makes the nails grow. And that same intelligence is within all of us.

So my nails keep on growing due to some kind of intelligence beyond my control.

When I start to think of it, that’s the case with everything in life that is truly important. I can control what I do during my day, what I eat, what I say and what I pay attention to. But I can’t control my breathing very much, my heart pumping, blood running in the right directions in my body, all my organs taking care of food and air and turning it into fuel for my body. The actual things that are important for me to be able to live yet one more day! Of course I can make it easier or more difficult for my body to be able to carry out its purpose, depending on what I eat, the pressure I put on my body, if I get a cold etc, but the ability to fight the bacteria, to mend broken muscles or turn food into healthy fuel I can’t control.

Where is this intelligence? Is it in my cells, or between them, or outside of me? Is my body like a radio satellite, receiving information and forwarding it to the right cells? I don’t know. But I find the thought fascinating, that we all have the same intelligence making our nails grow. Is it once source of intelligence telling all our bodies what to do, or is it one intelligence in each of us, originating from that one source?

Is conversation different in mixed groups?

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The other day I suddenly realized that I live in a very female dominant environment nowadays. I have always been working in very male dominant companies, but now I’m not working and most of my friends whom I spend my days with are women. My husband is almost the only male I talk to! Is it different? Hmm. When I start to think about it I can notice that it’s very comforting talking to women. I don’t really have to think about what we’re talking about. The atmosphere of bonding, relaxing in the friendship is the most important. But if occasionally a man joins the group I get the feeling that the conversation is suddenly more focused. Why is that?

When I started my first job at a small, newly started mill with five men at the office and eleven men in the factory they had already worked together for some months. One day the six of us at the office decided to have an after work; bicycling in the forest, having picnic and drinking Gammeldansk. While we were resting and chatting in a meadow one of my colleagues said “It’s so good that you began at our job – now our conversations at coffee break and lunch are so much more interesting!” I laughed and wondered if they had only been talking about women and fast cars before. “Oh, I wish we had, but we mostly talked about what paint to use when repainting the house or which new tires to buy. Nothing really interesting.”

Is it so, I wonder, that both men and women tend to relax and pay less attention to the dynamic and the actual topics in the conversation when they are in a homogeneous group, but get more alert when the group is mixed? I have no idea at all, these are only my thoughts for the day! Don’t get me wrong – I often have fantastic conversations with my girlfriends, but then we are usually aware of the fact that this was something different from the everyday chitchat. Maybe the awareness that women’s everyday chitchat is different from men’s everyday chitchat makes us meet on common ground, where we both have to listen to the other part and his or her interests, which makes us more focused.

Then of course comes the question if “focused” is actually better than relaxed and comforting? Is it more intellectual or more important or just more of a compromise?

Or maybe it’s just the way I am? I would really like to hear your thought on this subject! Have you had the same experience?

Is tolerance to be passive?

A photo by Daniel Cheung. unsplash.com/photos/cPF2nlWcMY4

There are some words that I’ve always found hard to use, hard to really understand, for example love, tolerance, forgiveness, peace.

I want to develop and become a better, kinder person and I suspect that to act out of love, tolerance and forgiveness is important. But the words are so BIG to me! Do you understand what I mean?

How can I love people I don’t know? How is that possible? How can I be tolerant towards people that have the most horrible opinions and do terrible things?

Actually it is only the last few years that I have understood that it is the INTERPRETATION of the words that make the difference. If I think of love like the feeling I have for my daughter and expect to feel that towards everybody in the world, I will never succeed. And if I try to accept and understand the thoughts of someone doing horrible things I will make myself a victim and become a passive doll.

So I have to see the words from another angel.

“Tolerance is not about agreement or being vague about differences and disagreements. Tolerance is maintaining metta (loving kindness) towards those who hold views which are different from ours and which are even repugnant to us. Metta is the basic Buddhist attitude and tolerance is the application of that basic attitude to the area of difference and disagreement with others.”
‘Buddhist thoughts for a violent world’ by Ratnaghosha (2003)

When I read this quote some years ago, that was something new to me. Until then I couldn’t understand how one could be tolerant with all those crazy people in the world having such violent, egoistic, narrow views. To me that was to be passive! How could I just listen and smile if someone told me about his or her opinion and I thought that they were completely wrong? To just listen and smile would be being a coward, not fighting for a better world! Or at least feeling that I was dishonest to myself, by not telling the person about my opinion.

Then I was taught about the difference between being passive and being tolerant. As the quote above says, the point is not NOT to say my opinion, it is to do it in a kind way. To listen to the other person, to try to understand what he means and maybe even why he has this opinion. Then I can tell him my view, I can write articles, I can demonstrate, I can do anything I want to show my opinion, but I should do it in a kind way. I should not hurt or even kill him, I should not shout, humiliate or say mean things. I should respect him. I should respect the other person as an equal part of humanity.

I can see now how I often have felt as if my opinion, or rather I myself, have been threatened by somebody else’s opinion. I felt that I sort of had to WIN, or I would have LOST. To be good at argumentation would be to be better at winning. That might be completely wrong then. I should not feel threatened next time. I shall try my best to accept that this other person thinks like this, and that I can tell him or her what I think if I feel that it would be good.

I shall express myself in a kind way, no matter what others say or think!

How can it be stressful being an expat spouse?

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You’re an expat. Your children are at school and your spouse at work. Your only duty is to make dinner today. You have all the day to do whatever you like. Yet, you’re not happy. You actually feel quite stressed and you feel stupid about it. How on earth can you be stressed under these luxurious circumstances? If you would tell your friends at home they would probably frown at you and not understand how such a spoiled person can be stressed. So you try to tell yourself that you are such a lucky person, that all is well and you engage in a mass of activities to keep your mind off those depressing emotions.

If you’re actually living an expat life I’m pretty sure that you have been there. The question is how it can be stressful?

Last week I took a look at the Holmes and Rahe stress scale. It lists 43 stressful life events that can lead to illness, and I realized that when you move abroad you (usually) have to separate from your extended family, say goodbye to all your friends and social network, quit your job not knowing if you will ever get it back, leave or even sell your house and then move to a new house with foreign furniture and no things of your own, try to find food that you can use in a new food culture, try to find your way around in a new neighborhood, try to communicate in a new language, try to understand all the new, unwritten laws and behaviors, get used to the climate and all the noise in a big city as well as the traffic, take care of a stressed out spouse coming home from his/her new job and comfort your children coming home from school in a roller-coaster of emotions (with a new language, friends, system, teachers, subjects and unwritten rules), get yourself out and find new friends and finally enjoy that now you can do whatever you want – if you just had any idea of what that might be.

My conclusion was that you hit so many of the crucial stress factors at once, in a way that you probably never ever do in an everyday life at home. You might not have the stress related to time management that you have at home, but that’s not the most dangerous one. You sort of get BINGO in stressful events!

So accept that it’s enormously stressful to move abroad like you have done! You have had to meet so many stressful events at once that your friends at home would be shocked if they actually understood! Take care of yourself and accept your feelings. Share them with the new friends you find and you’ll be able to comfort each other. If you listen truthfully to yourself you’ll probably be able to figure out what you need to do to reduce your stress level. It might be to start meditate, find a gym, read a book, organize excursions with a neighbor to get to know your city, sleep a lot, watch a movie in the middle of the day or join a course to try new hobbies. The most important, I think, is to accept your feelings, listen to your thoughts and wishes and take a first step to reduce the stress and bring in more moments of recovery and joy.

 

Below you will find the Holmes and Rahe stress scale.

Life event Life change units
Death of a spouse 100
Divorce 73
Marital separation 65
Imprisonment 63
Death of a close family member 63
Personal injury or illness 53
Marriage 50
Dismissal from work 47
Marital reconciliation 45
Retirement 45
Change in health of family member 44
Pregnancy 40
Sexual difficulties 39
Gain a new family member 39
Business readjustment 39
Change in financial state 38
Death of a close friend 37
Change to different line of work 36
Change in frequency of arguments 35
Major mortgage 32
Foreclosure of mortgage or loan 30
Change in responsibilities at work 29
Child leaving home 29
Trouble with in-laws 29
Outstanding personal achievement 28
Spouse starts or stops work 26
Beginning or end school 26
Change in living conditions 25
Revision of personal habits 24
Trouble with boss 23
Change in working hours or conditions 20
Change in residence 20
Change in schools 20
Change in recreation 19
Change in church activities 19
Change in social activities 18
Minor mortgage or loan 17
Change in sleeping habits 16
Change in number of family reunions 15
Change in eating habits 15
Vacation 13
Major Holiday 12
Minor violation of law 11

Score of 300+: At risk of illness.

Score of 150-299: Risk of illness is moderate (reduced by 30% from the above risk).

Score <150: Only have a slight risk of illness.

What if it might be true?

A photo by Greg Rakozy. unsplash.com/photos/oMpAz-DN-9I

Sometimes I meet people with opinions that I’ve never heard before. Pretty often within the spiritual area. Some years ago I would just have thought of them with pity; how can anyone be so crazy they believe in things that are not proven to exist?

But then I read something that made me change my approach. Unfortunately I can’t remember the author but her categorization of new ideas was this:

1. I’m not interested in this subject.
2. It might be true.
3. I believe this.

That was such a relief to me!

I had accepted that people believe in the big religions, even if many of the thoughts there too seemed crazy and too old fashioned for me to listen to. It had been harder with the more strange things like UFO, aliens, parallel universe, law of attraction, reincarnation, vibrations, messages from other entities etc. I couldn’t really pay much attention to them, because I didn’t want to be one of these people who believe in every new age thought, thinking it’s a truth just because many enough people say so, even if there are no scientific proofs at all. This new categorization though made me start listening more relaxed to their thoughts. I could think “It might be true” and I didn’t have to decide if I believed in it or not. Sometimes I heard about absolutely crazy things, and then I could just think “I’m not interested in that” – I didn’t have to state that I thought it was wrong.

I have always relied hard on scientific proof. But to be honest, I know, as we all do, that the scientists only see what they are looking for and can only measure things they have instruments for. We can laugh at people some hundred years ago who didn’t understand things we understand today, just because now science has been able to prove it.

This more relaxed approach to new ideas has also allowed me to read new books about all kind of strange thoughts, listen to interesting, engaged people on YouTube and provoke my friends at dinner parties. And funnily enough, I every now and then read about scientific discoveries, especially within the quantum physics, that prove some of the more strange ideas!

At the same time I think it has changed my world view. Things aren’t black or white. There are so many things we still have not discovered and some things that are true today will most probably be proven false in some years. And I don’t have to react to someone’s belief – I can just enjoy expanding my world of possibilities!

Will I reach the top of the hill when I turn 50?

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We have all seen the illustrations of human ageing; the babies followed by young children and teenagers going upwards in a stair case or a hill side. On the top of the stairs or the hill is the middle aged person and after that it all goes downward with the retired followed by on old, crocked person with a stick and finally the cross symbolizing death. So how depressing isn’t it being on the top?!

“It must be around forty, when you’re “over the hill”. I don’t even know why it’s a bad thing. When I go hiking and I get over the hill, that means I’m past the hard part and there’s a snack in the future. That’s a good thing as far as I’m concerned”, writes Ellen Degeneres in her book “Seriously …. I’m Kidding”.

I find that such a great way of seeing it! It’s much nicer to think that in life it’s time for a “snack” and I can imagine that I will sit down and enjoy the view every here and now. The walk will be easier and not require the same amount of energy and perspiration. It’s a beautiful image. But is it true? Or is it just me changing my perspective because it suites me? To see my future as a nice downhill walk I find more enjoyable than a depressing slope towards illness and death.

I can without doubt say that I would never like to be a teenager again! But I remember that I liked turning 28. I felt that I had been 28 mentally for many years and liked that my actual age and I was suddenly the same. Then I stayed 28 for some years before I had to admit that I was actually 35. But would I like to be 35 again? The truth is that it’s impossible to compare. Today I’m living expat wife life in Shanghai, trying to support a teenager and a husband, but back then I had a hectic life with children, a career involving travelling all over Europe, commuting three hours every day and taking care of a big house and a garden – while longing for the holiday. But maybe it’s not so much about the whereabouts of everyday life, but the change of attitude.

Looking out from the top of the hill, I enjoy that what I see now is not black and white. During my travel uphill I have met so many people with so many different opinions and values that I today know that the Truth might look very different from different angles and that Good and Bad often depends more on the intentions and the consequences than the actual deed. That gives me a more relaxed mind on my way down. I don’t have to be perfect, because there is no such person, and I don’t have to know all the right answers, because there is no right and wrong.

I tend to be more anxious about my health now than I was going up towards the top, I must admit that. A bad knee was just something I tried to forget, hoping it would be better next month, but now I get a bit worried that it will not disappear by itself. What will the rest of the trip look like if it doesn’t?

My world view has changed in the opposite direction though. When I was young I took for granted that we all could change the world, today I’m not that optimistic …

I have come to the conclusion though, that the major difference between going up and going down on this imaginary hill, is that when we are working our way up we always aim for the next camp. These camps are goals that we have, like meeting a man/woman, get married, buy a house, have children, change job to speed up the career, buy a nice car, travel to our dream destination etc. Some might have very specific goals that they have set up, but most of us just follow the goals set by society, friends and family. Even though I’m a coach and I love working with goals and how to reach them, I think that the joy I feel now – overlooking the downhill path – is the lack of these unstated but life changing goals! The goals I set up for myself now are purely created from my heart, to give me and my family joy and harmony. They are not so much about things and positions, as they are about feelings and attitude. That makes me feel so much more in control of my own life. On my way down I don’t have to hurry up to get to the next camp – I can follow the stars, stray from the path to look at the flowers or sleep in that cave just for the thrill of it!

And isn’t it time for that snack now?!

Is my Ego just a lump of fearful emotions?

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I’ve been thinking about my ego lately. I read an article about the ego, saying that we will never experience full harmony and love as long as we are so deeply connected to our ego. But what is the ego? Is it an alien living inside of me or am I two kind of people in one body? I have started to think of my ego as if it’s all my fears gathered together like a big lump of emotions. Since we have learned over the years to connect different emotions with different thoughts – and vice versa – these emotions have a lot of thoughts already stored in my brain. Perhaps these thoughts of fear are what we experience as our ego. By “fear” I mean all kinds of negative feelings, like anxiety, worry, embarrassment, unease, anger, bitterness, self-pity.

Whenever I do something totally out of kindness, love or joy there is no ego knocking on my shoulder. I feel harmony and ease. The ego is absent. And if it’s not absent, it will for sure turn that good moment into something negative by telling me that this act of kindness didn’t get the proper response or that my love for someone is not returned – different kinds of fear talking again! The ego making sure that I don’t forget about it!

This would mean that in order for me to feel more harmony in my life I have to get my ego more and more out of the way. How can I do that? I don’t know for sure, but I will start by trying to take a closer look at all these little pieces of fear. What would this moment be like without any kind of fear? How would I respond to this person without any kind of fear? If I was free from all negative emotions, what would I do today?

Maybe that big lump of fearful emotions is like any other kind of infection in the body? When it gets too big it will start to affect me, and if not treated it will take over and eventually make me a victim of the decease.

“The treatment” could of course be a pill – so that I don’t feel any kind of feelings any more. Or perhaps a kind of vaccination – if I boost myself with even more fear I might be one with my ego and not think about harmony or joy at all anymore. Or I do it the military way – I attack! By investigating in my “enemy” I will get to know it and how it’s working. I can then form my strategy and finally attack the Ego. My weapon will be love and understanding! That I will do.

I’ll come back to you with further reports from the battle field!