30 Apr 2012

The Pleasure of Gifts

Yesterday a common acquaintance brought me a present from a dear and far away friend: a lovely kitchen towel, with an angel and the words "Petite Maman" embroidered on it. This gift out of the blue made me very happy! Not only had S. bought me this cute towel, but she had also gone through the trouble of finding a way to get it here.
I often see little things of which I believe they would suit my friends, but then I stumble over the hindrance of how to get them delivered (postage often being far more expensive than the item itself). My learning is: never mind! Always get the gift; a transport solution will be found. You will be happy thinking of the pleasure your gift brings your friend, and your friend will be happily surprised.
Just as I still am!

The Lovely Gift

28 Apr 2012

Balcony Bliss

Spring is here for real! It has been a long winter and, as so often, we got a small taste of spring some months ago before it turned cold and rainy again. It is so hard to go back to winter...
But now the sun is out, it's over 20°C, and my balcony has come back to life! What a wonderful feeling to clean away dead plants, dry leaves, and other winter traces and finally move out all plants again.  Geraniums, hibiscuses and other non-winter plants have hibernated in my spare room, looking quite sad the last months. I could really feel how the came alive again, moving out in the fresh air.
Today I have spent hours outside enjoying the warm breeze, listening to the birds, children playing in the small park below, and the church bells.
A garden would have been great, but my balcony really is my Green Haven and seeing the plants grow and flower is one of my Big Sources of Happiness. Welcome back, miss Spring!

Imagine me, sitting there

26 Apr 2012

The Sicilian Heart Project

Some years ago a dream came true and I went to Sicily with my little sister C. During two weeks we travelled around this amazing island and apart from having a wonderful time, we discovered hearts all over the place: clouds shaped as hearts, oil stains in the street, shadows on a hill... Or real hearts in surprising places, like on a young man's jacket. We ended up seeing hearts everywhere!
When two people who are connected with their hearts come together, amazing things start to happen - the famous synergy effect. I enjoy every minute of augmented creativity and happiness that I share with my Heart Friends. Being with these friends gives positive energy a huge boost and is Life in one of its most rewarding forms.

A wall in Palermo

24 Apr 2012

Sleep Restores

The importance of sleeping is often underestimated. The younger you are, the less important it seems. There's so much to do in life! Why waste valuable time on "just sleeping"?
Of course we know it's no waste. We need to restore our vital energy, we need time to shut off from the outside world.
When after several days of very little sleep I finally snooze off like a baby it makes such a huge difference the day after! Not only do I feel stronger, but also happier.
The challenge is to find the perfect amount of sleep you need. Some need 7 hours, others 9. I think Einstein's 5 hours are a myth. During a certain period I tried to sleep only 5-6 hours per night, but it did not work in the long run. You need to catch up.
So go to bed when you're tired. No reason to stay up because others do or because it's only 10 PM. Sleep is good - and isn't it wonderful do doze of in a warm bed after a long day's work...? I love it!

22 Apr 2012

To You and To You

Can you see it in my eyes?
When I am with you
I feel so much tenderness
seas of tenderness

My heart becomes limitless
it outgrows myself
It wants to embrace you
make you feel safe

What can't be put in words
I hope I can convey
in other, subtle ways
from soul to soul

19 Apr 2012

Self Discipline

In my world, self discipline is an important factor for "living well". I know, the word discipline has quite some negative connotations, but it really is not about aggression or violence, but about refraining from acting in harmful ways, and keeping up beneficial activities.
Self  discipline keeps me from over-indulging in ice cream or buying clothes too often and it helps me to meditate and practice yoga regularly.
On a day like today, however, after too little sleep and too much stress at work, I allow myself to do - nothing. Refraining from being overly strict with myself is also a kind of self discipline...

18 Apr 2012

When I Tighten Up

I know it is important to acknowledge my negative feelings, and to face them. That is not an easy task, so too often I just close my eyes on them.
However, I have learnt a very good way to work with them, and I'd like to share that.
It all starts with the Tightening up. I know there's a negative feeling when I feel my stomach getting like a knot, all tightened up. What now...?
Right there, I have to become aware of what's happening. Acknowledge the feeling, and that I'm stuck.
Then I need to Pause. I don't want to get all worked up (and start a negative chain reaction); instead I stop and take three conscious breaths. Now I lean in to the energy and get to know it. Physically. I don't act it out or speak, but just find out where in my body the energy is concentrated and how it feels.
Step three is to relax, and move on. That's all.
Of course I have to examine why I get stuck in the first place, and work on that, but it is better to do that with a clear mind.

Read more in a great little book by Pema Chödrön: "Taking the Leap"

16 Apr 2012

Top Eight for Ghastly Weather

After days of rain and chilly winds - in April, when I fool myself to believe it's spring - I feel cold deep in my bones.
I've finally understood there is no meaning in reproaching or fighting against the weather; the rain does not care about my grumbling. So I accept the situation and try to do the best of it.
Here's my Top Eight list for Ghastly Weather:

  • Dress warmly (elementary, but often disregarded)
  • Light lots of candles
  • Make a pot of your favorite tea
  • Hug somebody (if nobody's around, a stuffed animal or a pillow will do)
  • Have a nice, filling soup for dinner
  • Cuddle up with a good book
  • Call someone near & dear and tell them how much you care for them
  • Put on your warmest socks (feet cold = all cold)

PS: 8 is my lucky number

15 Apr 2012

Connecting People

I have moved about quite a bit in my life, so my family members and friends are spread out in several countries (even continents). It is wonderful when there is a possibility to introduce these persons, who are all very important and dear to me, to each other. Unfortunately, that only happens very rarely.
This week end, however, was such an occasion. I was so happy when bringing my newest Friend to meet my oldest Friend (my mother!), my first childhood Friend and one of my dear Daughters. It filled me with such gratitude to see how these wonderful people connected, how they laughed together and how true feelings of sympathy and care arose.
Connecting people with the same heart qualities, who all contribute in making the world a better place to live, just makes my heart shine, too!

13 Apr 2012

Children in Need

Millions of children suffer all over the world. Not only because of famine, wars, or other social unrest. Huge amounts of children suffer in their own homes, being mistreated, beaten, and abused by their parents or people close to them. These children need love and care, more than anything.
Living in a rich and healthy country and in a good neighborhood I do not see any of this misery, but I know that it exists.  So what can I do about it?
Every morning I take a moment trying to connect to these children. I focus on all the love I have inside and send it out to them,  hoping it may strengthen them. I try to convey the feeling that they are not guilty of anything, that they also have the right to be happy and live in the sunshine. And that they must find some adult they can trust in (you see it in people's eyes...) to tell their story to, and get help.
I want to do more. Sponsoring a single child, and NGO's supporting children? Good, but not enough. I am still searching, and I will find a way.
Children are our future. Often they will treat their own children the way they were treated themselves. These vicious circles of aggression and abuse must find an end.

10 Apr 2012

When There is Nothing I Can Do

Sometimes you encounter a difficult situation (without being directly involved), and you feel completely helpless. There seems to be nothing you can do to help the involved persons. They seem locked up in their positions and the situation seems completely stuck.
But there is always one thing you can do. It's called tonglen, originally a Tibetan Buddhist practice, here in a simplified version. It may sound strange: you will breathe in the negativity of the situation, but that does not harm you. This is how it goes:
You stop and take a deep, conscious breath. Then you breathe in the pain, frustration or anxiousness you see and feel, like a black cloud. With your outbreath you send your positive energy and a sense of relief, like a bright, glowing cloud. Repeat a couple of times.
Practicing tonglen I have sometimes sensed a slight shift in the situation, and sometimes I even came up with a way to disarm it.

9 Apr 2012

Soft Spring Rain

In the middle of the beech forest it starts raining. A fine drizzle - I have to stop to hear it. The spring rain makes tiny "drip drop" sounds on  the dead leaves on the ground and on the hood of my jacket. Here it's only the trees, the rain, and me.
With my hiking boots firmly on the ground, I feel like a tree. They are all getting their first, delicate, lime green leaves, almost the same colour as my jacket. Their freshness fills my head. I close my eyes and am one with the forest, the sounds, the smells and the feeling.
Being close with nature and slowing down to its rhythm always restores my energy.

The very first beech leaves

8 Apr 2012

Intense Life

It is sometimes believed that meditators draw away from real life into some kind of own little cloud. Actually, it's just the other way round. When you practice meditation, consciously following your breath in This Moment, life becomes more real, more intense. You are there with every sense impression, every thought.
For me, the main benefit of (sitting) meditation is the "spill over effect" it has on everyday life. The guiding light is a meditative life: a life where I am aware of everything that unfolds inside and outside of me.  Every moment lived fully - a truly intense life. I will probably never arrive there, but I am happy just being on the way.

5 Apr 2012


Biking home through the rain today I felt a sudden rush of gratitude.
We often live our lives on autopilot, not really reflecting over what happens, and we tend to take our lives for granted. It it somehow completely natural that we live in a comfortable environment, that we have all the good food we can wish for, that we are healthy...
Of course, all this is far from obvious. We know that, we just have to open a daily paper or watch the news to be reminded.
So there I was, completely wet and tired, and felt really privileged: I am healthy and can bike to work. I have a nice home to return to, and lovely, green tea to warm up with when I'm cold. And not to be forgotten: I can enjoy biking through uncomfortable weather - simply being grateful for being alive.

4 Apr 2012

Watering the Seeds

In spring many of us sow seeds of vegetables, herbs or flowers in our gardens or pots, and we all know they need water to grow and turn into beautiful plants.
We humans also have different seeds within us: seeds of frustration and anger, but also seeds of love and happiness. The ones you want to let grow need water every day.
The negative seeds should just be left alone, and not be watered with any attention at all, because whatever you give attention, is strengthened.
So concentrate on the positive ones, like the seed of happiness. Be with people who spread happiness, listen to happy music or why not make a list of 10 things that make you happy - and do at least two of them today!

Beautiful flowers, grown out of a tiny seed

3 Apr 2012

Lost and Found

Oh dear, all the times I lose things... Countless! I search and search; sometimes I find them in odd places (the camera in the laundry basket), and sometimes right in front of my nose.
Yesterday I lost very expensive train tickets and I looked all over the place (I thought) - no tickets. They were not at my workplace, and it turned out I had not forgotten them at the ticket booth either. *Sigh!*
Before I went home to search again I learned a very nice Turkish saying: the gods make us lose our things on purpose, so that we can be happy when we find them again!  In fact, in most cases we do find our "lost" items after a while.
I found my tickets, too, after having looked almost everywhere, and already having given up on them. I went to pick up a hiking map, and there they were... really an odd place to be. Well, it made me very happy to have them back again!
So next time you lose something, don't despair. It's probably just the playful gods wanting to make you happy :-)

2 Apr 2012

Work With the Getting Worked Up

I don't often get really worked up about annoying things that happen in daily life. Often, I can even take it with a smile (yes, it has taken me decades to get there!).
But when somebody close to me gets all worked up about something, I still find it hard not to follow him or her in that negative spiral and frantically try to solve the issue.
Now, I am working with my being reactive, and I can see it when it's happening. I have learned to slow down in that very tense atmosphere, breathe deeply and relax.
I know I am not doing this only for my own peace of mind, but for the whole situation and everybody involved. Working with, and letting go of my own reactivity, I have something to offer others.
It makes me really  happy when I succeed in just shutting up and breathing. Breathing out calm and ease, letting go of tensions and wait. The issue will be solved.