How to End Every Day at Your Favorite Place.

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Lately I’ve tried to turn it into a habit, to end my day by mentally going to a favorite place. I have always believed that it’s not a good thing to go to sleep feeling worried, angry or stressed. That feeling will affect your whole night and the quality of your sleep and dreams.

But if you can use a trigger associated with a good feeling that can help you change your mood very quickly. The thing about a trigger is that you make a strong connection between a thing, a gesture, an image or a sound/song and the wished for feeling. To make the connection with a thing is not that preferable though, because if you lose the thing or forgot to bring it, you can’t connect to the desired feeling. But a gesture, like rubbing your ear, crossing your fingers or gently holding your elbow is good, as well as a vivid image in your head. For this particular “good night feeling” I have taken a memory from a recent vacation: I see this little bird on the ground looking at me. I look beyond the bird and I see the beautiful beach in sunset. I go to the beach and sit down in the warm sand. I can feel the wind and the sun on my skin and I strongly experience a feeling of inner harmony and lack of stress.

It’s important to make the image and the feeling connected to the trigger as real as possible. What do you hear? What do you see? Where in your body is that nice feeling? When you have done this connection a couple of times you only have to use the trigger gesture, see the picture (the bird with the beach in the background, in my case) or sing a bit on the chosen song.

So eventually I only have to picture the bird in my mind, and my body automatically makes the connection to that nice feeling connected to that picture. That’s a quick thing to do just before you go to sleep!

Now I like that feeling of harmony so much that I actually think about that bird when I’m sitting in a taxi, waiting in line at the grocery shop or waiting for my old computer to get up and running. Once you start using triggers you will find it very convenient. I have another trigger (casually holding my left thumb) that I always use before coaching someone (to make me incorporate all the good values of a wonderful coach that I have put into that trigger), and yet another that I use when I want to feel in full control of a project and at the same time full of joy, harmony and exhilaration (I see myself in a red dress at such a perfect occasion many years ago).

Do you have any recurrent situation in your life that would benefit from a quick mood upgrading?

As Long as You are Happy.

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Often we tell our children, our friends or ourselves that it doesn’t really matter if you don’t end up being a successful lawyer, have the perfect job, find a man or achieve different high set goals – the most important is that you are happy! That’s a relief, isn’t it? Or? Maybe it’s a curse!

Do you know how to be happy all the time? It’s pretty hard and if the goal is to be constantly happy you are most probably going to fail. If “being happy” it said to be your main goal in life, a sense of failing might be a big risk throughout your life. How come that we say this to our children and friends all the time then? I think our intention is to say that your inner emotions are much more important in life than outer conditions like job, title, fancy apartment et cetera. But we are comparing two very different things here, and that’s what makes it confusing.

Let’s say that your child has no ambitions to go on to university after high school. To show your child that you are not a pushy parent, but one that firstly cares about his or her wellbeing, you say; “It’s okay that you don’t continue your education, because what’s most important is that you’re happy.” But your child is not happy. Most young adults aren’t so sure about what they want, who they are and what makes them happy. So not only will they not continue their education, they will also feel like a failure for not being happy, now when they got the opportunity to choose. What I mean is that we shouldn’t put Education vs. Happiness. Those are two different things. You can go to university and be happy or unhappy, or you can work at the local store some years and be just as happy or unhappy. So those outer things has very little to do with the happiness we wish for our children or friends.

If we take a closer look at this “as long as you are happy”, I think that we mostly mean that you should do what you find inspiring and interesting to do. We know that people who do things (job, education, hobbies) that they like are more prone to have a positive feeling than those doing something they dislike. That’s not so strange. The complication is that we have not taught our children how to know what they like! So we tell them about the most important task in life without telling them how to do it. As a life coach I often meet people in their middle age who still don’t know how to figure out what they want, just because nobody ever taught them what questions to ask themselves. On the contrary – they have been taught NOT to think so much about what they want for themselves!

The second complication is that even if we have a job we like, we won’t be happy every single minute of the day, year in and year out. Of course not! So we also have to figure out how to go for a better feeling when we are not feeling so good. Nobody taught us that either! If you hate someone or something in your life you are far from happy. And even if you want to be happy, you might not know how to reach that feeling. One way of doing it is to reach for a less negative feeling, frustration for example. When you have been able to feel frustration instead of hate for a while, you can go on to irritation. That way you can slowly, slowly lift yourself towards contentment, and maybe even happiness. But this is something we have not been trained for, so it’s not that easy to figure out by yourself.

So in the example with your child going or not going to university, I think this would be better to say: “A good education might make it easier for you to choose better what profession you want and maybe you can earn more money which might be convenient in your life. No matter what you do when it comes to working or going to university, what I really want you to start training how to feel as good as possible when life’s ups and downs hit you. I wish that you will be able to choose a somewhat better thought when you are down and help yourself feeling better, and enjoy your random days of happiness wherever you are, whatever you do.”

Do you think I’m being too pessimistic today? Or is constant happiness achievable?

How to be Successful Instantly. Every day.

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Do you consider yourself successful?

Most people don’t. On the contrary! We think about famous people who are very successful and rich and realize that we will probably never be that in this lifetime. At least not if we continue with our lives in the same was as today. But I’ve been thinking a lot about this and today I think of myself as pretty successful actually! This is how I did:
Almost all of us think of someone being successful if she or he has earned a lot of money and have bought nice houses, cars and other expensive things. But I don’t think there is a certain income level that makes someone successful. You can probably earn what I would consider an awful lot of money and you might compare yourself to someone who is earning more and still don’t think of yourself as successful.

On the other hand though, we can easily say “That party was truly a success!” Why was it a success? Probably because it turned out just the way we had wished for – or maybe even better! And the success didn’t have to do with any money. A meeting, a talk or a demonstration could be a success.

But how can a party be a success when there are no money involved? Because you can get other things than money as proof of your success! You can get a lot of hugs, laughs, people dancing and singing and being happy at your party, or messages afterward from people telling you what a success it was. You have to admit that those things are sometimes even better than money!

So events can be successful just because they turned out in a good way. Then we should be able to use the same definition for our own deeds, shouldn’t we? Everything that you do could then be a success, as long as it turns out as you wanted it to turn out – or better. That means that you actually have to think about what you do and what kind of outcome you want. How do you want your meeting with your friend at the café this afternoon to turn out? Do you want it to be funny, relaxing, private, or deep? Then afterwards you can ask yourself if it turned out that way. If it did – it was a success! Here you might have to think of your own feelings as the thing you get instead of money. Do you get a feeling of happiness, warmth, or maybe contentment? That’s good, isn’t it?

Now you can go even one step further and think about all the things you do in your life. Think about the small, everyday things, like going to work, cooking dinner, cleaning the house – did you do it in a successful way? Then be happy and allow yourself to feel successful about that! But also the more major things in your life, like your relationship with your partner or your mother, choice of job, or how you are treating yourself. First: How do you want it to be? Then: Are you being successful in doing it that way? If not: What can you change to make it more successful?

I promise, that this feeling of actually being successful at some things in your life every day will make you feel more content and happy!

(So I managed to write a blog post about success. I won’t get any money! Maybe a few positive comments?! But I am happy that I wrote more or less what I had set out to write. This might be a successful day!)

My Wish for Trust was Fulfilled in an Unexpected Way.

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I have a belief that we can create and influence our future by the way we choose to focus our thoughts and enhance our feelings today. I don’t know how it works though! If it’s my brain finding new connections and solution, God, Angels, guardians, the Universe, the law of attraction, my soul or something else. And I try not to care, as long as I see that it works. And I can see that over and over again. Yet I don’t trust it to work!

Ironically I also believe that if I focus on what I do NOT want and my lack of things going my way, I will get more of that (which I do not want). So that’s been my biggest mental issue the last year. How can I let go of focusing on the problem and trust that the solution will come?

Last week I was on vacation and had time to sit on the beach pondering these thoughts, asking for help to trust. Just enjoying the warm sand under my feet I lazily walked down to the ocean. The waves close to the beach were high and hard this day and I felt that I should not go swimming today (particularly not wearing my new, cut sunglasses), since I’m scared of being under water. But there were a bunch of French people further out, beyond the breaking point of the waves, and they seemed to have a great time. So I quickly swam out to them and enjoyed the movement of the warm ocean for a while. Suddenly I see a huge wave coming against me and I realize I will not be able to escape it. I take a deep breath and tell myself not to panic but swim upwards and let the wave pass before I try to put my feet down again. I tumble helplessly under the wave crushing down on me, but I am proud when I come up without any panic. Then I see the next wave coming and I have to do the same thing over again. Standing up once again, I realize that my glasses of course are gone, but there is no time to look around because a third huge wave is on its way! I use my last strength to fight the strong current and manage to reach the shore.

To my surprise, and contentment, I feel mostly positive: I’m happy that I escaped the third wave, I’m not angry with myself for losing my glasses, since it’s already too late and I’m a bit fascinated to think that my inner me told me not to go into the waves!

Another 5-6 huge waves come and go and I can imagine my glasses being anywhere in the ocean by now. But I have experienced miracles before, I remind myself. So I ask two French ladies on the beach if they can tell their friends out there in the waves that I’ve lost my glasses. Just when I’m about to leave I hear a lady shouting. I look up and far out there she is, waving, with my glasses in her hand!

I just had to laugh! I could just imagine a somewhat fed up guardian angel standing by my side saying: “So now – do you trust that I’m here!?”

I do. For a while at least …

I Just Can’t Get Rid of My Ego!

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Since I was very young I’ve been passionately interested in personal development – my own and others. Recent years that curiosity has also turned into spiritual development.

To change your behavior or your thoughts and believes are not that easy, as you might have noticed. To give us a clue on how to easier reach the realms of harmony and an open mind almost every respectable author and modern guru, like Eckhart Tolle, Wayne D. Dyer or Deepak Chopra, tells us that we have to fight and get rid of our Ego.

How can you get rid of your Ego?! It’s there all the time, telling me who I am in comparison and relation to all the other people and their egos. Sometimes my Ego tells me that I am great and sometimes I feel lousy and the Ego tells me that it’s somebody else’s fault. No matter what it says, it’s always there. And I get all stressed and confused about how I should do to let it go. I can’t meditate all day! And intuitively it doesn’t feel good to fight against a part of myself. I always prefer to work towards something instead of against something else. Like working for peace instead of fighting against war. Much more positive!

But then I read Anita Moorjani’s last book “What if This is Heaven?” and she has a completely different view on the Ego. She says that if we could really love ourselves without worrying about what others might think that can’t be a bad thing. On the contrary – it would be very good if everybody loved themselves! The problem is that our awareness of us being a part of and connected to everything and everyone else is not big enough. She gives us a metaphor: Pretend that every child is born with two volume knobs – one for Ego and one for Awareness. In the beginning they are both set to level 10. So the baby loves him- or herself completely (strong Ego) and is at the same time not aware of any separation from mom and dad, the butterfly or the soft Teddybear (high Awareness). But as time goes, the child is taught to be more actively part of this reality and to separate him- or herself from others and learning what is mine and what is yours. So the Awareness knob is constantly being turned down to a lower and lower level. But the Ego knob is still on 10!

This results in selfish, worried Egos.

What’s new in this perspective is that you don’t have to focus on your Ego and getting rid of that anymore! Instead you can focus so much more on being aware of how everything is connected. Think of yourself and your fellow humans as water drops in a big ocean. We are all with an Ego each, but being connected is what makes us an ocean. Both religions and modern science try to tell us this, in different versions. I don’t say that it’s much easier than getting rid of the Ego, but to me it feels much more progressive, fascinating and positive!

Who is Allowed to Criticize You and Make You Feel Bad?

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It’s almost impossible not to get hurt when someone criticizes you. Even if you don’t agree with their words, they might stick and eventually you might even think that there’re right about you. You feel sad, bad or even ashamed.

During the past months I’ve noticed that I’ve several times come back to a helping idea regarding this. I read the popular book “Daring Greatly” by Brené Brown a couple of months ago, and she gives us a great advice concerning criticism. After that initial hurt, you might be able to gather yourself and think (cited from her book):

  1. I only accept and pay attention to feedback from people who are also in the arena.

  2. I carry a small sheet of paper in my wallet that has written on it the names of people whose opinions of me matter.

“People in the arena” are people who might know and understand what you are doing and how different aspects of your life are effecting you right now. Does the person criticizing you about how you’re parenting your teenage daughter have a similar teenage daughter herself? Does the person criticizing you about your last results at job know about all the things you managed to do, thanks to your knowledge and experience, that made the result not worse? Does the person looking at your garden with a raised eyebrow know about your life and all the things you are prioritizing right now? If not – they are simply not in your arena! They don’t know what they are talking about! So why should you let their comments about you and how you handle your life make you feel bad? From now on – if you feel attacked or shamed – stop your ruminating, lift your head and decide that their comments have no true value.

Of course it might be good to listen to feedback from your teacher or boss about facts or events that you are working on together. Or even from another parent whom you know is also struggling with ups and downs in the teenage world, because then you feel that he or she is actually in the same arena too.

The second advice is to write down which people in your life who really love you and want you to grow and develop in your own way. People whom you have known and grown together with for a longer period of your life. You will probably only have just one or two people on this list. If the person who just made you feel bad or ashamed is on this list, you should pay a bit more attention and talk it through with him or her, to fully understand how this opinion might be of some value to you and your development. If the person is not on the list – tell yourself that their opinion is not of much value to you and nothing that you will put any more effort into.

The truth is that these two recommendations have also helped me when it comes to criticizing others (even if it’s mostly in my head). I might think something negative about how someone is handling things or relations, and then suddenly I remember bullet point number one above – Am I in their arena? No! I’m not! Even if we might have some similarities we don’t share the same life with all its complications, relations and decisions. Which means that I actually have no idea about why they are doing the way they are and weather I might have done exactly the same thing, had I been in their arena/living their life.

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.

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!

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?

“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 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.

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?!

How I let my past ruin my present moment.

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Lately I have begun to notice how I worry about things in the future that all derives from my past experiences. Of course they do – how could I predict the future? All I have is the moment of Now and my past memories. But it actually helps me to react to my worries and ask myself what experiences and memories these feelings of fear or unease come from.

Then I can also ask myself if I am absolutely sure that this exact same thing will happen in the future. If I believe so (which is very seldom) – what can I do to prevent it? It helps me to focus on actions which I can control instead of feelings that I can’t change. If I don’t think it’s absolutely sure that it will happen, I try to convince myself that the worries will only make me loose the joy of the moment, my mindfulness, and peace of mind for something that has already happened.

Is the thing I am anxious about happening right in this moment? No! So the fear is all about something that does not exist, something that is not happening. Either it’s a past memory or an imagination of the future, based on the same memories. But it is not happening right now!

A while ago I tasted a fruit that I had not tasted before. “Is it good?” my daughter asked. I didn’t know. It wasn’t bad, but I couldn’t say if I enjoyed the taste or not. “What does it taste like?” she continued. I didn’t know that either. It tasted like nothing I had eaten before.

I could really imagine how my brain was working at high speed to try to find something somewhere in my brain that could make sense of the taste in my mouth! And even if my answer to my daughter was: “Maybe it tastes a bit like banana mixed with something” it was not the true explanation of the sensation of the moment. So I had to stop searching and instead concentrate on the present – to enjoy the happiness of tasting something completely new!

Our daily lives are like tasting new fruit every day, but since we mostly think the same thoughts today as we did yesterday, we miss the moment and keep ourselves stuck in old memories. We keep ourselves busy all days trying to imagine all the dangers and troubles that might meet us tomorrow or next month. Of course we have to plan our days and use our experiences when needed, but then let go and enjoy the Now, the thrill of not knowing what tomorrow will bring!