5 tips to take away with you on your holidays

As we are now approaching the holiday season and many of you are already or will soon be away, please remember the following when traveling to foreign countries and meeting people from foreign cultures:

  1. Even if locals speak the same language as you do, chances are high that they have a completely different worldview from yours, i.e. react and behave in a way that is unknown to you.
  2. Try to stay away from stereotypes you might have read or heard about. Preparing for a trip by reading books etc. in advance is certainly good but cannot give you the ‘right way to be’ when you are away.
  3. Be as open as you can, non-judging and observing. The more you try to put yourself into other people’s ‘shoes’, seeing what they see with their eyes, the more you will understand about how they ‘function’. A short trip will never be able to give you full insights though, but at least you will be able to grasp some of the differences surrounding you.
  4. If you encounter problems and difficulties, stay calm and always treat your counter part(s) with respect, whatever happens. Engaging in angry discussions will only put more fuel to the fire. You are certainly not the only one traveling during this time of the year, hence having a little bit more patience than usual will definitely help you on the way.
  5. And, of course: enjoy your time off, energize yourself and stay away from your mobile devices if you can. Give your brain and your whole body the time to rest and to be at ease. Just be, with no need to achieve anything… the more you are able to disconnect, the more your body and mind will rest! Enjoy your time off!


Enjoying the present moment – The story of the snail

Snail metaphorThe other day I was searching for a bed time story and just randomly picked a book. The story was entitled something along the lines of ‘Invitation for coffee and cake by the racing snails’. It was about a normal little snail which one day was invited for coffee by the racing snails; the only problem was that the ordinary snail was very slow and enjoyed doing everything slowly. The meeting point with the faster snails on the other hand was far away. Nevertheless, our little snail decided to accept the invitation and to ‘hit the road’ directly in order to arrive on time two days later.

On its way it passed through a field of fresh salad and found that it had never seen such great salad in its life. It hence stopped to eat. Then it was tired and found a perfect place to sleep and so on. At first it thought: “oh no, I am going to be late” but then it simply decided to enjoy the present moment and everything it saw along the way.

In the end it arrived (obviously) too late where it was supposed to be and all the other snails were long gone already. The cake was eaten and the coffee can empty. A little bug walking by wondered why the snail was looking so happy and content although there was nobody left at the party and thus questioned it. The snail simply responded that it did not matter as now it would have all the time it needed to enjoy the journey back and do everything slowly as it was used to.

I must say that I found this story excellent as it is a wonderful metaphor illustrating how much nicer it can be to walk mindfully through your life, enjoying every single moment of it and living here and now, instead of running without noticing what surrounds you, as small as it might be! We should enjoy our journey through life and stop striving for something far away in the future. We have the opportunity to be happy and fulfilled here and now and it is up to us to decide to live our lives that way.

What about you? Are you living the present moment or just passing through your own life?

Have an excellent Sunday!


“Mantras” for the New Year


Dear friends and readers, 2013 is here and the world has obviously not stopped to exist… As I am not a big fan of New Year’s resolutions I did not make any; but I think that it is worthwhile to remember a couple of things as most of us already started or are about to start with our busy lives again:
Happiness lies within yourself
Running behind dreams and believing that something more interesting and better waits for you around the corner makes you miss the most important things that are given to you, namely the present moment. Live all of your present moments to the fullest extent! You are the key to your own happiness!
Solutions are never far away
Even if you have major issues and problems, there is always a way out. It might not be easy and it might not be solved fast but there is always a solution. Very often we are so deeply entangled in our own schemes and routines that we don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. Try to shed light from a different angle on what you are going through, reach out to other people, don’t be shy to speak up. Solutions are never that far away!
Stop running
Easily said and not easily done, I know! Setting objectives and goals even in your personal life in order to find more time for yourself and the things you want to do really helps! If you don’t know how to do this, ask me. I am more than happy to share tools and insights with you! Even small chunks of time for yourself are already a great start. And: it is possible! You can do it…
Don’t fall into the same pitfalls
Learn from your mistakes, analyse what went wrong and why. You could even write this down if it helps you. It will make you grow and ultimately make you stronger!

With this in mind, I wish you an excellent start in the New Year! Looking forward to reading/hearing from you!

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 : http://www.mbsr-verband.ch/index.php/home/willkommen/

4 little hints to find time for your daily mindfulness meditation

Have you ever thought that you will never be able to meditate as your life is filled with work, children, pets, shopping, cleaning, cooking, gardening etc. etc.? Trust me, you are not alone! On the contrary, when looking around me, I don’t know anybody who could actually not identify with the above. Quite sad I find, as the most precious moments in a day are these couple of moments that you dedicate to yourself and to your own well-being.

But the good news is that, if I am able to find time in my busy life, you also can! It is actually quite easy if you start by reminding yourself that 15-20 minutes of practicing a relaxation technique a day can easily be the equivalent of 2-3 hours of sleep[1]… as I can never get enough sleep it seems, the prospect of spending only 15-20 minutes a day meditating and feeling like having slept over 10 hours at night, is really an exciting one for me.

The second thing to keep in mind is that you don’t necessarily need to practice ‘formal’ meditation each and every time but that there are many ‘informal’ ways that can be highly beneficial to you also. Whereas “in formal mindfulness practice, the meditator sits with eyes closed, focusing the attention on the sensations and movement of the breath for approximately 45-60 minutes at a time, at least once a day”[2]; the informal mindfulness practice can basically be carried out in any situation of your life.[3] So, here’s how to make some space for yourself:

1)   Use some of the time you spend walking during the day to do it in a ‘mindful’ way. Do you walk with your dog? Walk the children to school? Walk to the train or simply walk to lunch or around the office/your house? Well, just bring full moment-to-moment attention to everything happening in your body while you walk; that’s it! You can actually walk at any speed, slowly or fast. What counts is that you are fully into what you are doing.[4]

2)   Take one of the routine actions you perform during the day (washing, cooking, brushing your teeth etc.) and start doing it mindfully. Concentrate on the action itself and clear all other thoughts in your mind. What are you feeling? What are you smelling/tasting?

3)   Eat one meal a day mindfully, really tasting what you eat and being fully there… it can be as short as 10 minutes or as long as a full meal. Focus on the texture of the food, the different sensations you might have etc.

4)   Take 15 minutes of out of your lunch/coffee break or fix a meeting with yourself in your calendar. Find a quiet space, be it a cubicle, your car or your kitchen and concentrate on breathing and clearing your mind. Every time your thoughts wander away, gently bring them back.

It truly can be as simple as that… try it out and write back to me!

Let me finish this post with a quote I find very inspirational:

If we learn to open our hearts, anyone, including the people who drive us crazy, can be our teacher ~ Pema Chodron[5]

[1] Just search for this on the internet and you will find multiple articles on the subject, such as http://www.angelfire.com/hi/TheSeer/technique.html for example.

[2] Free medical dictionary: http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/meditation

[3] Read for example the Chapter ‘Mindfulness Without Butt on Cushion”, p. 51 et seqq. in “Search Inside Yourself” from Chade-Meng Tan.

[4] See also ‘Walking meditation’ in “Search Inside Yourself”, p. 55-56.

[5] Found here : http://mindfulproductivity.net/2012/03/12/mindfulness-quotes/