Stop Smiling.

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Whenever you see a baby, there is this reflex around your mouth that makes it twist. Research has shown that it is hard to look angry at babies in general even when they look angry themselves. But to look angry at a smiling baby is just impossible. I also examine this phenomenon in my PhD thesis by the way ūüėČ

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It obviously starts earlier somewhere in the emotional and cognitive parts of our brain. Emotions such as affection and warmth are driven by the most rudimentary regions of our body, where hormones like oxytocin and endorphines are secreted. We also have expectations towards ourselves about how we want to treat children. We have believes of what society expects us to treat our children. And we see a lot of movies and advertisments where people smile all the time.

And smiling at a baby is the most natural reaction there is! It protects the child. With round cheeks, great eyes and a small nose, nature has produced a little human that everyone wants to protect and support.

But then there is your every day life. And if you watch yourself closely, you might notice, that you smile at your baby or even at your older child, whenever you see it. Even if you don’t feel like smiling. Even when your child does something that you disliked. But you don’t want to hurt his feelings so you smile. You are bored and exhausted and look out of the window. But whenever your child looks at you, you suddenly give him a smile.

Please: Stop doing that.

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You wonder why our western world becomes more and more superficial and why everyone is showing a teethy grin on photos? You wonder why the first answer that slips you, whenever someone asks you how you are is: great? People all in the world must be so happy, if we believed all of them. And if you smile all day long in the presence of your child, your child will think just the same about our world.

What your child will think:

Everyone is always happy. My mom always smiles. She is always happy- even when I do¬†something stupid. I am not always happy, so I am not normal. I have to smile on pictures, even if I’m sad. I have to smile at aunt Kathrin, even if I am scared of her. I will try harder to smile.

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You are the center of your child’s world, of your child’s believe system and reality. So just relax a little more often. Be mindful whenever you spend time together and try to remind yourself as often as possible that you can show your feelings. If you feel exhausted because you had a hard day then why not frown? If you are mad or sad why not sit there with your mouth corners looking in the wrong direction? That won’t traumatize your child. It will encourage him to be authentic and to show his feelings.

Children don’t need HAPPY parents- children need REAL parents

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I’m not saying you should NEVER¬†smile. Whenever you feel like it and you are filled with joy, then please smile! It is one of the most wonderful body reactions to smile and laugh and it is so healing! But try to be aware a little more often of how you feel and what you are displaying in your face.

You seek for a little more authenticity in our world? More real people? Start with your child and show him how real people are. Start in your little world.

Susann

 

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Healing Forgiveness 

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Thanksgiving just passed. We spent the eighth year in a row with our friends in an old farm house. We always come together for a weekend to spend time, share love and have a lot of intensely enjoyable ¬†meals. This year we visited a farm house in a very rural countryside. There was no heating and ¬†every room had an ancient oven and fire wood to use. It couldn’t have been more cosy and intimate.

With thanksgiving I always share thoughts of gratitude. I think back to what worked out this year and what didn’t. Who was by my side to support me and with whom I had a time full of struggles. How my loved ones felt this year and whether I managed to see all of them and to share their joys and fears?

And once again I notice how inseparable the two parts are. We are thankful for the good things and our heart glows at the thought of them. But we feel helpless, sad, and angry about the bad things. And I think we should spend the same amount of time to think of them as they are part of our life. We call that day thanksgiving for all that has been given to us by god, the universal energy or just destiny. But the bad things are given to us as well. Of course it doesn’t seem logic to be thankful for all the pain and hard times we have. But we can at least appreciate them as part of our life and evolving personality.

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We experience nasty people, fights with loved ones, disappointments, desillusions, accidents or even death throughout our life. It makes it quite hard to breathe and even harder to fall asleep from time to time. But its the difficult times that let us grow. It is an important part of mindfulness to accept abs even welcome every thought abs feeling. This might work after some experience, but how do we handle really tough situations especially when we are alone and feel helpless ?

Since I was quite young, maybe around the age of fifteen, my mother taught me a small forgiveness meditation. I already introduced you into my every evening gratitude meditation. And I add this second part every now and then. ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† I frequently talk to my mom on the phone and tell her about the moving things in my life like fights I had or when¬†I felt unjustly treated . What she would say would mostly be: How about you forgive this person now? And I sit there full of fury and I tell her that I don’t WANT to forgive them as they don’t deserve this and that I am just so angry at the moment. So she would go on in her calm voice and tell me that forgiveness is nothing you do for some other person, but you do it for yourself.¬†By forgiving you let go and free your soul. You take of that heavy burden that you feel when being angry at someone or even disliking them. I’ve since tried it many times and felt a lot better later.

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A forgiveness meditation

  1. Lay flat on your back or in a comfortable cross-legged position
  2. Start by connecting to the universal energy, god or just yourself at that very moment. You may talk aloud or just in your head to welcome them. You can feel your back and every other body part touching the ground. And now try to focus on the rest of your body being up in the air to connect these two parts.
  3. Now think of the person you intend to forgive. Forgive him in your own chosen words and bless him  i.e. I forgive Sarah for being such a selfish person and for hurting me so today. I forgive her for making me feel so unbelievably bad. I send her love, inner growth and satisfaction.
  4. End the meditation with 5-10 minutes of mindfulness. Try to stay awake and focused. Relaxation always comes, when the body is still and lifeless, while the mind is clear and keen.

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Sometimes it is me that I have to forgive, which is especially important. We are disappointed with ourselves for our reactions, our weakness, our immaturity. It is thus immensely important to live and celebrate self love. You already do that by forgiving others, because you clean yourself of hate and bad energy. But who is clearly good and innocent without any wrath?!  So tell yourself often enough that you will love and accept yourself no matter what happens. And let that inner self grow and evolve in warmth and honesty. We evolve our personality like an onion. We lose shell by shell in a row of desillusions, which can be painful or even unbearable. But forgiving will always be truly healing.

Susann

What are you waiting for?

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I sit at the train station. Waiting for my train home. Home to my two beloved persons in this world. It’s a cold and rainy afternoon and I remember I want to buy rain trousers for J, which is done ten minutes later with the help of online shopping. At that time I already sit inside the train. I notice that my feet are quite cold and I long for a hot bath and a steaming vegetable soup. ¬†I write to my man and kindly ask him to prepare something nice and send him several recipe ideas… I look forward to dinner and imagine this amazing soup in my mouth… 30 minutes later I arrive home. We sit down at the table and eat that wonderful¬†soup. But in my head I already plan tomorrow’s schedule…

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Do you know these kind of days? Time flows by and you ask yourself where the last week or even the last month have gone to? We spend at least 50 percent of our lifetime waiting for something. Waiting to become a schoolchild, waiting to become of age, waiting to get married and waiting for that little bump to rise and gift us with the beautiful treasure of tiny life. These waiting periods give us the strength to keep up in our every day struggles and raise our hopes and design our dreams and fantasies. But not all of our waiting is helpful. Most waiting time feels like waisted time. Waiting in front of that train, then waiting to arrive for¬†13 minutes. ¬†Waiting for the lasagne to be done in the oven. ¬†Waiting for Friday. ¬†Waiting for our date. Waiting for your child to speak or walk. Waiting, waiting, waiting. And to optimally use every second of our life we use every waiting minute to pull out our mobile phone and check our mails, what’s app or insta (of course some of us still pull out their books). If you sit inside the metro or tube you see at least 50% of travellers having their mobiles in their¬†hand. We are all trying so hard not to have any unused excess time.¬†

Wait. Stop!

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Excess time? How can life time be a waste? How can any minute that you’re able to breathe, feel, see and hear be less than highly precious? We treat time like an old wife we had for 50 years and that always seems the same to us, until we miss her when she is suddenly gone. Time is with you since you were born and will never leave you until you end your journey in that earthly body. Indeed we just borrow time for a limited period of life. ¬†Time itself is infinite in the flow of the universe.

So next time you are waiting for something, try to catch yourself at it. And treasure that moment with some questions (You might want to close your eyes):

  1. Can I feel the ground under me? What does it feel like? How many parts of my body actually touch the ground?
  2. Do I feel the cold air stream in through my nostrils? Do I feel how my lungs are filled and my rips are widening? Do I feel the warm used air leave my body through my nose? 

Now open your eyes:

  1. Now think of your parents. No matter where they are. No matter how well your relationship is and even if they are not alive anymore. Think of them and treasure them. Feel your heart beat and realise that this is only possible because these two persons have made you. 
  2. Is there anything in your view that is beautiful and precious? Find the smallest hints of life, joy and love around you. Now treasure them,too.
  3. Thank for all the blessings you have in your life: Living in a peaceful country, having enough food, having a family and friends, being healthy. 

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Silently be thankful for these minutes that you spent with yourself. That you actually see yourself as a friend and a person with whom it is wonderful to spend time with. Give yourself an inner smile and carry that smile through the rest of that day.

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Try to find these mindful moments throughout your day. They will make more of your 24 hours worth and precious. Don’t waste your time away by scheduling date after date and filling those gaps in between with mails on your phone. Try to actually live as much as possible. Remember: it’s not the quantity of time that you use that matters, but the quality in which you spend that time.

Susann

You haven’t failed yet.

Take a minute and remember the last hours of last year. The plans you made for the following year. The projects you were keen to take on: learning to knit those lopi socks, attending qi gong lessons or flying to iceland? Or the small things like spending more time with your husband, practicing more yoga or going to bed at early hours?

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In Europe it is now metereologically seen the middle of the year, Indian summer. About 200 years ago, the year wasn’t yet divided into four seasons, but only in a winter and a summer half, divided by the Indian summer. This time of the year the dry air and hot temperature¬†invite¬†millions of spiders to spin their webs around the trees. After cold nights those webs are¬†glittering with early autumn dew pearls¬†in the morning. The word Indian summer normally refers to the American phenomenon of the beginning of autumn and the leafs being colored red and golden. Here in Germany we call it the “Altweibersommer” (Old webbing summer) and the old sagas¬†say¬†that old women combed their hair and lost their silver hair strands in the trees. And by act of the goddess of fate old people who walk through the forest and are touched by these webs are blessed with luck and health.

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For our little family the Indian summer has most of all a contemplation meaning. We appreciate the projects we accomplished in the first half of the year. We think of the¬†seeds¬†we sowed in spring and are grateful for the fruits we are harvesting now. Since now is the middle¬†rather than¬†the end of the year, there is no evaluation needed. We don’t have to be disappointed¬†in¬†ourselves or others. It is a wonderful opportunity to be mindful and stop our pacing mind. Have we rushed through the last months? Have we taken time for ourselves? Have we lived within our circle of values? We can contemplate once again and sort our priorities and matters of heart. Which projects have we accomplished? Which projects are worth to be kept on?

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Depending on your values you might ask yourself now:

  • Do I spend enough time with my loved ones?
  • Do I spend enough time with myself?
  • Do I spend enough time in nature?
  • Do I take enough time to rest?
  • Do I take enough time in movement?
  • Do I tell my loved ones what I feel for them?
  • Do I tell myself that I love me?
  • Do I support my body and soul with fresh green meals?
  • Am I fulfilled in my life?

If you answer any of these questions with no, it is no reason to despair. It is wonderful you asked them and now it is time to rearrange your daily time. 5 minutes are also time. And 5 minutes spent in the range of your own values are the most precious time. So take small steps rather than none.

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In the end of November it will be time for us to celebrate our traditional thanksgiving feast with friends and family. The time to officially thank people, nature and the universal energy for everything.  Until then you might want to go out in the woods and take a look at these beautiful webs. And who knows, maybe one of them will touch and bless you.

Susann

How 10 minutes can save your hour

Having effective, efficient and preferably high speed employees is a characteristic that is on top of the wish list for leaders of any company. On the other side we deal with the highest amount of burn out, depression and work related stress that the world has ever faced. We are online 100% of the time. Even at the weekends and during holidays our phone reliably delivers all private and work messages if we haven’t prepared an absence note or¬†blocked them. The last thing before we go to bed is checking our mails on the phone before we lay it right next to our head on the bed. In the morning we check our Mails, Twitter, Instagram or Facebook again and the game starts all over.¬†Babies at the age of one stand in front of aquariums¬†and try to move fishes with their fingers and a little later they play bubble games on¬†their parents’ phones. People even pay for special black hole hotels in which there is no Wifi available just to slow down for a few days.

I don’t want to start a fundamental debate, but generate a little awareness for the things I want to say. Because in the end we all want to be efficient -just as our boss wants us to be. But rather after a long working day, we want to have the energy to listen to our children’s laugh and stories without migraine. We want to be able to do the things we love and live for. We don’t want to be sucked out like batteries by our jobs before retiring as empty shells.

This year Sweden introduced the six-hour working day with astonishing effects: shorter workdays led to greater gains for companies. But these results aren’t new. In fact we go a way behind time. At the beginning of the 20th century the first work psychologists started examining how working processes could be optimized. Already in 1926 the German psychologist¬†Kurt Lewin ¬†found out that short breaks after 50 minutes could distinctly increase workers efficiency . Graf and Scholz (1956) compared two groups of shift¬†workers and found a significantly higher daily output in the group that took a short break every hour additionally to¬†one long lunch break compared the group that only had one lunch break. Recent research¬†confirms these first studies. After about 50 minutes our energy, concentration and vigilance start to drop¬†from optimal levels to a certain level of fatigue. A high motivation is able to bias this subjective feeling of exhaustion, but if we keep pushing this boundary we finally reach an irreversible point from where it is not possible to mobilize our powers again. To have a break then will not charge our batteries, because it is already too late.

So here is the simple thing you can do:

Try to build in your ten minutes free time every hour.

  1. If you can: lay straight on the floor and close your eyes for a short meditation
  2. Do some movement you prefer: Yoga, stretching, gymnastics
  3. Listen to 3 songs of music and dance, clean up or just brew yourself a tea
  4. If you can’t do all that, just get into a toilet room, lock the door for 10 minutes and close your eyes while sitting
  5. Avoid any activities that require your eye muscles to contract. Leave your computer and mobile phone off
  6. Have this time-out every hour!

It is something you can adapt to every situation in your life. I started my 10 minute breaks in my exam learning sessions during studies. This way I became highly efficient. Every new hour was started with a refreshed brain, ready to be filled with some more knowledge. And it took me much less time to learn than before. I could learn stuff until lunch that normally would have cost me a whole day learning, just because of all the regress time that goes on for being slower, tired and less concentrated.

This also applies to¬†parenthood. As a mother I don’t like to stress through the day just because I want to have a perfect household, perfects meals and a happy child. What does that do for me if I can’t perceive clearly anymore, because I’m rushed, exhausted and on edge. In the end I can get all these things done and even appreciate them calm and joyful. For these 10 minute breaks¬†I often prepare us a smoothie or I just sit next to J while he plays and close my eyes. And of course there are always nursing breaks at his age.

Try it out!

You will see just how much more you get done over the day. How much nicer it is to ease up from time to time and how much clearer and more colorful the world appears. How much energy is left for your real life after work. Because after all: We work for a living, don’t we? What is it good to work and have no living?!

Susann

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Before I fall asleep…

About the age of 7 or 8 my parents gave me a wonderful book for my birthday. It was about a magic fairy that is inside you and that helps you to feel good. With help of that magic fairy (I called her Rosalinda) you could send colored rainbows to other people and make them feel better in a certain way. For example you could send yellow rainbows for brainpower, pink ones for love and green ones for health. I loved that book and it was an excellent way to introduce me into some kind of evening meditation. So I would lay in bed, talking to Rosalinda and share all my worries with her. In a way I trusted her to solve these problems as I lay there sleeping peacefully. When I became older, I changed my rituals and my mother showed me different mantras for going to bed and she taught me how to be thankful. I never reflected on what I actually did there, but it helped me to calm down and to process my days in childhood and adolescence.

Especially as young parents time is rolling past so quickly and you mostly lay in bed every evening somewhat around midnight with your head buzzing and hoping to fall asleep. The last cognitive act is probably counting the hours until morning. For me it is similar on many days, but whenever I think about it I include the following evening ritual.

 


 

A short gratitude meditation 

Close your eyes and lie in a flat position on your back. Don’t cross your legs to let the energy flow.

Turn your palms up. And imagine to connect to the universal energy. To every being in the world. To everything that you touch. Feel the ground beneath you and imagine that the ground is connected to everything else in the world. Feel part of the total.

You can even speak or think a mantra three times: “I connect to the universal energy.”

Now think about your day and thank for the nice things that happened in it. Especially when it was an exhausting or terrible day. Think about the small things.

” I am thankful for that nice conversation with my grandma on the phone”

“I am thankful for the fresh air that I smelled in the park today”

“I am thankful for that caring coffee that my husband made for me”

” I am thankful for J being so tender to me when I brought him to bed.”

You see, the small things matter, too. This way you can appreciate them and go to bed with a positive attitude that will make your sleep much more restorative.

Sleep tight!

Susann