Mahatma Gandhi: Keep your thoughts positive because your thoughts become your words. Keep your words positive because your words become your behavior. Keep your behavior positive because your behavior becomes your habits. Keep your habits positive because your habits become your values. Keep your values positive because your values become your destiny. (thank you

Happy New Year to all of you! Looking forward to excellent exchanges with you in 2013!

Frohes Neues Jahr! Bonne Année! Prospero ano nuevo! Gelukkig Nieuwjaar!

How to survive the holiday period

It is that time of the year again… You are going to see people who you might only see once a year; you will have to talk (a lot) and you will normally have to eat (a lot). You will also hand out presents and receive some back wondering why you always get underwear in the strangest colours and sizes… Remember that more and foremost this period of the year should be one where you can re-connect with yourself. Try to find some time to escape, if only for a couple of hours and:
– switch your multiple devices off (the world will still be turning without you even if some people say that our last days are close)
– relax
– breathe
– watch the people surrounding you and wish them happiness.
– stop running and enjoy the present moment
– take the time to listen to people and be there for them.
It can be as simple as that!
Happy holiday season from rainy Switzerland, Jenny


Mark Twain Quote on travel (interculture)

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.
Thanks to Mark Twain Quotes

The power of mindful e-mailing

At SymbolPeople seem to be so happy to have e-mail nowadays… it truly is much easier to communicate using e-mail than actually having to see somebody face-to-face, especially when the subject of conversation is somewhat conflictual. As we have seen in one of my earlier posts about the components of communication, 55% of the non-verbal aspects contribute to the understanding of what your counterpart is saying and 38% of the paraverbal.

So where can these aspects be found in e-mail communication, where you cannot see your discussion partner? The non-verbal aspect would actually be equivalent to character fonts, drawings, diagrams, colours… all of which are usually standardised and not available when working in a bigger company. And even in smaller ones: I don’t know anybody, who would on purpose change the font and insert images when writing to different stakeholders, do you?

The paraverbal aspect on the other hand is linked to whether you write something in bold or in italics, or whether something is underlined as well as the paragraphs and the spaces that you are leaving in your message.

This doesn’t give you a lot of room to communicate emotions or feelings and very often leads  to disastrous results when the other person understands something completely different from what you wanted to express. It is true that without facial expressions, or tone of voice, posture, gestures, it becomes difficult to actually transmit a message. What then happens is that very often, as we don’t have sufficient information available, we make things up and interpret e-mails in a way which is bound to our own experiences and our own culture. We also subsequently believe that what we are interpreting is actually the truth as mostly, there is no evidence to prove the contrary. We then end up being frustrated or frightened or simply angry on/by something which was never intended to harm us or have such an effect…if, like most people (and I count myself in it as well, although I am trying very hard to change that bad habit) you then respond back immediately, following your own interpretation, things escalate and the spiral of messages doesn’t end anymore… until, well until somebody decides that maybe a quick call or face-to-face meeting would help resolve the issue.

What can we do to avoid that situation in our daily lives? Here are some steps that you could follow[1]:

  1. Don’t react immediately to mails that annoy you, take your time!
  2. Take a deep breath
  3. Calm down (mindful walking or even a short mindful meditation could be helpful here)
  4. Write your message/response
  5. Try and put yourself into the receivers’ shoes: what day did he/she have today? How does he/she feel? What culture is he/she from? How does this person normally communicate?
  6. Read your message again and change things. If you can:
  7. Wait a couple of hours and
  8. Read the message again. Maybe you then decide that it is not worth sending it anymore or maybe you decide to
  9. Send your message

Remember: once a message is sent, you cannot get it back, even though you might be tempted to click on ‘recall’….

[1] Compare also with “Mindful e-mailing”, p. 224-226. in “Search Inside Yourself” from Chade-Meng Tan.

What the month of December can teach us about culture

Christmas stockingMy post today has been prompted by a discussion that can be observed every year exactly at the same time: what do you have to write on your “end of the year” greeting cards, should it be” season’s greetings”? Or maybe “Merry x-mas and Happy New Year” as it used to be, or maybe even “Holiday greetings”? For English natives, this is easy as some expressions are more used in the UK, some others in the States or in Canada. But then, when you translate the wishes into other languages as good global citizens nowadays have to do, the problems begin… actually, this is not completely true. If I could choose on my own what I wanted to say, things would be more or less easy.

Once I have battled myself through diverse online dictionaries and discussion forums to find out what the most appropriate greeting for each language and country would be (yes, some countries have the same language but the greeting would slightly differ), the job is done. But normally, you cannot decide these things on your own as you have people in these countries who all want to have their say. What happens is that you get as many opinions as you ask people… funnily enough, every year, I am promising myself to simply keep the wording from last time (which I then forget in January at the latest) or to just send out cards in one language (which I then decide would be very sad being in Europe). Well, maybe I should just print out this post and take it out again next year as by now I successfully made it to the last round of card revisions for 2012….!

When looking at this particular period of time from a cultural perspective, greeting cards are actually not the only subjects of interest. Living and working in a multicultural environment, the second thing that struck me more than other years, was the fact that I am surrounded by so many different rites that I am not even aware of. For me, being German, it is normal for example to have a handmade advent calendar, an advent wreath, where every Sunday until x-mas a new candle may be lit, and, of course, to welcome Saint Nicholas to your house on the 6th of December by filling up a boot for old and young with sweets, tangerines and nuts.

Speaking with Lebanese neighbours the other day, I learned that this last practice does not exist. They have “Eid il-Burbara” on the 4th of December instead…whereas in Belgium and in the Netherlands the “Sinterklaas” even come to schools on the 6th. Nothing alike exists to my knowledge in the English-speaking and Canadian world but I am sure there are many more traditions out there that I don’t know of.

What it shows me again is that navigating through cultural waters really necessitates mindful non-judging and acceptance as we might see many things that appear “strange” or inappropriate to us. When keeping an open mind, inquiring and giving it a second thought, you will discover a true abundance of differences and cultural finesses, which are really enriching when you take the time to look. It will also give you the opportunity to meet new people and maybe even make new friends, who knows?!

What are your experiences around this time of the year? Please share them with me!

How to get started with Mindfulness

SchieneLately I got asked by a friend how you actually start with mindfulness meditation or practice. Starting with something new always requires some special commitment and guidance until you feel the benefits of the new activity on your own.

Well, from my experience, reading and informing yourself about something is already a very good start! You familiarize yourself with the idea of getting involved into something new and your inhibition threshold might even become lower or disappear completely. Like with all other activities, mindfulness meditation or practice can be started in many different ways…

For me, the way that worked was to actually attend an 8 weeks MBSR course or better, to do the eight sessions at my own pace with a coach given my personal circumstances. I decided that if I was going to do this, it had to fit in into my life as otherwise it would certainly not work for me and sustain itself.

Once, this decision was made, I had to find an adequate coach/teacher; one would think: easy! But depending on where you live the offer might not be as vast as you would have imagined. I would definitely look for a professional association in your country of residence[1] and get in touch with some people there, in order to find a suitable person. At least you will be sure that your teacher/coach has the required pre-requisites and is not just calling himself/herself “mindfulness teacher” as it seems to be quite “in” nowadays and a good selling point.

Once you have found somebody not too far from you, you might want to meet that person before registering for any type of course or sessions. I personally have to feel comfortable with my teacher/coach. If I don’t feel understood and supported and/or if my gut feeling tells me that this is not the right type of person for me, I would rather look for somebody else. Establishing a relationship of trust is absolutely necessary for me in order to be able to work with somebody.

Finally, when you have found the course and the person that is right for you, give it a try… the 8 weeks course is designed to give you all the tools you need to start practicing on your own. From there you see where your path goes; it will definitely change you somehow, maybe in a very subtle way but once you start practicing and applying the principles to your daily life, you might find a ‘new you’ on the way!

If you have good resources in different countries, please share them with me, so that I can establish a reference list for interested and like-minded people! Thanks and an excellent week! Jenny

[1] In Switzerland for example, it would be this address :