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Archive for July, 2010

Do you know who you are?

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010


“Be authentic, be true to yourself” – an advice I often hear. People tell us to be authentic when we make new friends, start a new relationship or need to make some changes in our life. However, what does it mean, being authentic. How do you know you are true to yourself?

The thing is we are not just one real self, but have many different parts.

Those parts play out in varying degrees depending on the roles and the situations we are in. Imagine, you introduce yourself at a business networking meeting, or get acquainted with other parents of your child’s new school.

Which words would you use to describe yourself in those different situations and roles? You will probably notice that some words seem to be more dominant than others and some might even be in conflict.

Take the following example. A parent is so happy for her daughter to work in a job she enjoys. However, at the same time she might feel a sense of loss and disconnection, because her daughter is now thousands of miles away.

The problem is when we identify ourselves to just one part we get stuck in a problem, a situation or behaviour that is not helpful to us.

Realising, that ‘you’ consists of many parts, is the first step to make changes and get unstuck.

The more you are curious about the different faces of yourself and become aware of them the better you will be able to create a balance. You will be able to nurture parts that were more passive and therefore change the dynamics.

“The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change”

Carl Rogers

You might also want to read:
Conversations with my pink elephant

Image: Some rights reserved by Benimoto

Imagination and story telling (video)

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

Listening to stories widens the imagination; telling them lets us leap over cultural walls, embrace different experiences, feel what others feel. Elif Shafak builds on this simple idea to argue that fiction can overcome identity politics.

Some quotes from the video that caught my attention

“… if you want to destroy something in this life, be it an acne, a blemish or the human soul, all you need to do is to surround it with thick walls. It will dry up inside. Now we all live in some kind of social and cultural circle. We all do. We’re born into a certain family, nation, class. But if we have no connection whatsoever with the worlds beyond the one we take for granted, then we too run the risk of drying up inside. Our imagination might shrink. Our hearts might dwindle. And our humanness might wither if we stay for too long inside our cultural cocoons. Our friends, neighbors, colleagues, family — if all the people in our inner circle resemble us, it means we are surrounded with our mirror image.”

“…writer and commuter, James Baldwin, gave an interview in 1984 in which he was repeatedly asked about his homosexuality. When the interviewer tried to pigeonhole him as a gay writer, Baldwin stopped and said, “But don’t you see? There’s nothing in me that is not in everybody else, and nothing in everybody else that is not in me.”

“…Chekhov said, “The solution to a problem and the correct way of posing the question are two completely separate things…”

Life is a balancing act

Tuesday, July 20th, 2010


When I was young I did gymnastics. I was confident with the floor and vault exercises, but had an ongoing conflict with the balance beam. In my mind it was the most cruel part of gymnastics. Raised from the floor and only 10 cm wide. Every time I lost balance I added a painful bruise to my collection on my legs, sometimes hitting the same spot over and over again. At times my mind was consumed with the vision of falling which resulted in my body to freeze.

My movements became jerky instead of fluent and flexible. My body tensed up and reacted to anything that was going on internally (my fearful visions) and in my environment (instructions from my trainer). These constant responses literally threw me off balance.

To master the beam you have to be able to listen to your body and take mindful actions to move forward.

The difficulty for me was to find the right balance between listening and taking action.

I still encounter those situations in my life where I fall off the beam. I loose balance and catch myself reacting to anything that comes my way.

When I find myself in this situation I put away and turn off anything that could distract me from regaining balance. This could be the radio, phone, computer, or any paper or to do lists that stare in my face.

Then I just do nothing, only follow the air of my breath and observe any sensation that emerges. This can take me one minute, ten or twenty. This little ‘time-out’ exercise clears my mind and often shows me how to get back on the balance beam.

What is your experience? How do you balance listening and taking action?

Image: Raphael Goetter

You might also want to read:
Create space for clarity

Thursday, July 15th, 2010


Create space for clarity

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010


In the weekend I listened to an interview between Björk and Arvo Pärt. Two of my favourite musicians. Both of them, though in different genres, have developed their own unique style of music. In this short interview Björk describes to Arvo Pärt how she experiences his music: “you give the listener space”. This really fascinated me. An image immediately emerged: I was moving and floating between the sounds in a white room. It also reminded me how much clutter there often is in our life. This clutter or noise prevents us from moving around. Arvo Pärt uses sounds sparingly. He doesn’t want to waste musical notes as a filler or background. If you are interested listen to his piece “Für Alina”.

This interview reinforced the message that there is this space where we have the freedom of choice. Take this excerpt from Victor Frankl’s book “A man’s search for meaning”*

    Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.

Unfortunately, sometimes we fill up this space with clutter and forget it even exists. The result. We don’t think we have any choice but are at the whim of what is directing us. Think of a time when you were highly stressed. Did you feel you had the power to make decisions within that situation?

How can you re-create this space?

Simplify and emptiness

    “ I felt the need to concentrate on each sound, so that every blade of grass would be as important as a flower” - Arvo Pärt

In his music Arvo Pärt is giving the listeners time and space to give attention to just one sound at a time without being distracted by any background noises. Also photography, art, or story telling, aims to direct our attention to just one spot. Artists create a focal point and therefore create clarity and space for us to move around and to make meaning for ourselves. Each sound or focal point has an empty space in and around it. This space creates the possibilities for growth, for explorations, for improvements and for change.

The more clutter we have in life the more confused and uncertain our life seems. Take the beginning of your day, how did you wake up this morning. Already planning the day while you were brushing your teeth? This is a great way to fill your empty space before the day has even started. Maybe you want to start your day tomorrow by just focusing on what you are doing. When you brush your teeth just observe how you do that, how the brush feels. When it is time to plan what you have to do on that day, just do that.

Here are a few questions that you might want to ask yourself

How much space do you have between the sounds in your life?
What area in your life you feel is too cluttered, or maybe too foggy to see clearly?
How could you start to create some empty spaces?
What are the sounds that you make? Which of them are necessary, which ones are just fillers?

I am curious what you do to get more clarity and transparency for the different areas in your life?

You might also want to read:
How to reduce distractions and stay focused
Do you know where you are going
A fresh sheet of paper

* “A man’s search for meaning”: this is Frankl’s personal essay of his imprisonment in Auschwitz and other concentration camps and describes the psychotherapeutic method that he pioneered as a result of his experiences in the concentration camps.
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