Blog, Food for Thought

Same same but always different 

4216FA21-B4ED-4A82-B128-8E96B021B2B6As I walk the streets these days, the sound of “ritsch-ratsch” comes out of open windows, moving trucks are parked around many corners. A clear sign that summer holidays are about to start – and so does moving time for many. With 16 years on the go, summer time is kind of “same – same – but – different” every year. 

  • Sometimes you stay, sometimes you move 
  • Sometimes you are excited of what comes next, sometimes you are worried, concerned and anxious
  • Sometimes you leave great friends behind, sometimes they leave you behind
  • Sometimes all goes according to plan, sometimes not 
  • Sometimes you take it all in a stride, sometimes it is damn hard 
  • Sometimes you laugh, sometimes you cry 

No matter how often I experience this time, it’s always different, it always brings up different feelings and emotions. 

This year I’m the one staying again. But it’s a summer with a huge turnover of friends, for myself and the kids. All three of them will be affected this time. 

I’m excited for my friends, about the new places they will go to and experience. But I’m well aware that a lot will have changed once the new school year starts for us back here. It might feel a bit like a new start for us again, too – despite staying on. 

Reaching the end of the school year you will give many, many hugs and send well wishes, with hope that friendships will remain. But knowing full well that often life happens and some friendships, no matter how close and dear they were, may not survive. Hope is always there but reality is often different. But that is part of this life, too. For every hello often comes as well a good bye. Friendships are always important but some happen for different reasons. 

I had a discussion with my kids about how they feel about their friends leaving last summer and that discussion stayed with me, still today. 

My daughter (then 8) said: “Yes, I am sad but I will be ok.”
My son (then 10) replied: “Yes, I am a bit sad, but this is our life. After all we have this every year and we have been ok.”

A moment that made me proud and broke my heart a bit at the same time.  But, as long as we stay open to new people and still embrace friendships, reach out to newcomers, are open-minded when we move and ask for help when needed, we are ok, more than ok!

For now, I will fondly listen to the sound of movers packing when I walk the streets, enjoy every talk and memory I make with friends still here, be excited for what lies ahead for them, be open for a new – and old – beginning when school starts again here for us end of August. 

Here is a big “cheers” to memories and friendships made and that we made a life like this happen.

To all moving, to all staying behind – I wish you all the very best and to new beginnings! 

AK

Blog, Food for Thought

Book – Playing Big by Tara Mohr

AF936780-799B-43DD-9F91-72A72B1ED321Book review take away. Similar reasons may lead us to this book but we are all coming from a different angle, a different background and we will connect to it in a different way. Therefore, rather then writing what I liked or didn’t like (*), I’ll share a few points that inspired me, while reading it – and long after. And hopefully you will get inspired, too.

What drew me to the book was that it wasn’t just a book telling me to “just do it”, to just get over my fears. This book does not downplay on fear, worries and concerns, instead it gives ideas and tools on how to work with and how to look at them differently. After all, most of us deal with fear and such. It’s not made up. Some of us do have a very strong – and verbal – “inner critic”, whether we like it or not. And this book really helped me to work with mine, I named mine Bob. Bob and I, we do have some good talks at times!

I read the book a while ago, but it is one of those rare books that stayed with me. And while I’ve been rather quiet here on the blog my life was not quiet at all. I’ve been busy with a course and as much as I wanted to keep all my balls in the air, I dropped a few so that I could focus on what was just in front of me.

Too many new things came up and I could not attend to them all. Grudgingly I gave in and learned to let go for a certain time, to make space for something new. And to make space to have some meaningful chats with Bob! He was pretty dominate at times I have to say!

“The inner critic is like a guard at the edge of our comfort zone!”…

… and I do like my comfort zone, and Bob clearly likes it too and guards it well. But it was time to step out a bit further. The book helped me to change my perspective on my fears, concerns, doubts and self critic. Rather then working against them, trying hard to suppress or ignore them all I let them (him) speak. But Bob didn’t end up by himself, he got good company! Because my “inner mentor” is now there, too! She still shows her softer side, doesn`t always speak up but she is there in moments of need.

The inner mentor “helps us to keep things simple”, “she helps us to see the bottom line.” My inner mentor has a very matter of fact personality, and we get along just fine. I just have to listen to her more and give her space to speak up!

If we are really honest to ourselves it is mainly fear that is holding us back, blocking us, do you agree? Fear of failure, fear of success, fear of not being liked, being criticized, fear of not being good enough, not bold enough, fear of being too bold, fear of being too open, fear of being compared, fear of being judged, fear of being misunderstood, fear of…you name it.

Fear by definition is an “unpleasant emotion or thought that you have when you are frightened or worried by something dangerous, painful, or bad that is happening or might happen.” (Collins dictionary)

Tara Mohr gave a different perspective. She brought in a definition based on the Hebrew Bible, that has a second word for fear, the word Yirah. And Yirah defines fear as follows:

  • “It is the feeling that overcomes us when we inhibit a larger space than we are used to.
  • It is the feeling we experience when we suddenly come to possession of considerably more energy than we had before.
  • It is what we feel in the presence of the divine.”

I let you sit with this for a moment…

If life could just be easy and simple! But no, too many things and mindsets are holding us back! I’m getting back to the book and into Praise and Criticism; “we have to unhook from praise and criticism – to no longer depend on other’s positive feedback or fear their disapproval.” Another big one for me and one that requires more work. And it leads as well to feedback and how we deal with it. Isn’t it funny (or sad) how we tend to brush off positive feedback yet tend to dwell on the negative one?

The criticism that most hurts us
mirrors a negative belief we hold about ourselves.” 

For me, the book was full of eye openers, and there were moments I felt myself nodding and thinking “yep, me!”. It reads more like a conversation with a friend than an I-tell-you-how-it-is-done-book.

Acknowledging fear, being held accountable, dealing with feedback (the good and not so good one), receiving and giving support and guidance are all crucial for me. After all, only having an idea, a vision is not good enough we have to take action somehow.

My new journey is just starting and it is not all smooth sailing and I feel very vulnerable. But as I tell others, to me being vulnerable is not a sign of weakness, it is a sign of strength. And I am getting stronger. But in those moments when it all comes tumbling down on me, I allow myself some space. I reflect on the WHY (**) I want to do what I want to do, instead of letting fear take over. And this “why-” thought is a powerful tool, leaving me feeling focused, more determined, and energized.

Tara Mohr’s book, Playing Big came to me at the right time. And I could go on and on there are so many gems in there. But this book is better read individually rather than having me digging deeper into it!

If you feel you are a self critic, a doubter, unsure what is holding you back, want to do something but let fear block you then this might be a book for you, too! Perhaps it helps you to take those first tender steps towards something new!

Is it scary? Yes! Am I fearful? Yes. But as long as Bob and I keep chatting, my inner mentor speaks up and I keep my “why” close to me, I am moving forward.

If you got curious about this book I hope you will enjoy your chat with YOUR inner critic and find the parts that speak to you! And if you want to discuss the book further with me, please contact me! I would love to hear from you,

Have a lovely day,

AK

Find your Ease – whether your live abroad, are in transition or have returned home

(*) I can’t really think of anything that I didn’t like to be honest!
(**) in Playing Big this is your “calling”

 

 

Blog, Food for Thought

All shades of pink

Have you ever been to Japan in early Spring?  If so, you will have noticed that almost everything seems to come with a shade of pink. Springtime here equals the bloom of the Cherry Blossom – and the whole country goes a bit crazy. It seems that everybody gets addicted to this ‘pink-spirited-season’ also called Cherry blossom, Sakura or Hanami season!

Weeks prior newspapers and the national TV publish the expected blooming peak! Rain, colder or warmer weather can put it all off by a few days; throwing carefully made up plans for picnics, get-togethers and travels off schedule.

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But once the trees bloom, giving the impression from afar that the trees are covered with large cotton balls, you see the pure joy on people’s faces.

Everywhere you look people are delighted by those little, fragile, pink flowers.
Areas under the trees are reserved by mats as from the early morning, people squeeze as tight as possible in picnic areas, getting cozy with the next-door-picnic-mat. Drinks, snacks and food are available in various shades of pink. And whether you like it or not, you get sucked into it, there is no escape!

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But it can be overwhelming as almost everywhere you find a Sakura tree there are people.

All this can be seen as totally crazy, and at times I have to agree with my kids when they say so. But as I ventured out this year for a walk amongst the Cherry Blossom trees, I took a different viewpoint.

After taking some mandatory pictures of the beautiful trees in full bloom, I shifted my focus to the people around me.

The Japanese do not just go out there to see a tree blooming, no they celebrate this whole happening. And it is simply delightful to see how they go along with it.

8A90C15D-2B76-4883-A224-768EDBFC126APathways lined with vendors offer pink bubbly, drinks with sakura blossom, pink sakura flavoured snacks, bottles with sakura flower prints. Shops and delivery services offer special Sakura boxes, all ready-made and to-go for the picnic. Pink clearly sells these weeks, whether in food or drinks! What a simple thing – finding joy in Sakura watching, don’t you think so, too?

And once you let go and ignore the craziness around you, you just go with the flow and wonder how this little fragile flower can bring so much joy to millions of people despite being surrounded by almost as many.

While observing the crowds I can see that they are simply in the moment – in the here and now. They know how to make the best out of something fragile, knowing it won’t last long. The beauty passes quickly every year. And everybody around me simply enjoys while it lasts.

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To beautiful moments in life, make the best out of them and don’t let them slip by!

AK

Blog, Food for Thought

Dare to ask & deal with feedback

A few weeks ago I posted this picture on the At Ease Facebook page.

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This truly was a big lesson I took on for myself last year. For some this may sound minor but to me and I believe many others it is something that takes us fully out of our comfort zone.

Why is it so difficult to ask for help, support, guidance or advice?

It is clearly not because we are all so good, smart and tough and always have it together, is it?

 

For me there are several reasons and it very much depends on the situation I find myself in. I share my thoughts with you and perhaps you recognize yourself in some of them?

Before I go and ask any of this can go through my mind:

  • I appear weak
  • I appear to not have a clue
  • I make myself vulnerable
  • I am worried what the others think about me
  • I do not want to bother others with my “stuff”
  • I can do it myself, do not need anybody
  • Do they think I am stupid
  • Everybody is so busy I can`t ask

And so it can go on. Throwing all this over board I decided last year to get out there and to dare to ask (more)!

And what a different it made. It opened doors to new possibilities, new connections and friendships. I felt myself getting more confident, stronger. It helped to expand my horizon, I got different points of view and it lead me to be there for others, to help and support!

Having said all this, I still do not find it easy. I am still shaky at times, my finger lingers over the submit button before I dare to press and my stomach feels in knots as I await replies. But it is so worth it!

It is worth it – but now that we took the hurdle to ask we have to deal with the feedback, too. And that is not always easy either!

Hopefully the following thoughts will make it easier to deal with feedback, especially with the tricky ones:

No matter whether or not you like the feedback, pause and consider that the person who replied was kind enough to take time for you! He/she took the time to read about or listen to your issue, to think about it and to give a reply! For this we should already be grateful.

The more people you ask the more opinions you get. This can be good and bad and at times overwhelming. Do not lose yourself here. Do not just follow what others say. Think about all replies and see what fits, what may be a valid different view point and what does not work for you. But make sure you stay true to yourself!

You may not agree and like all the replies. They may appear too direct, harsh or rude, too short, too long, not direct enough and so on. But don`t forget that especially when replies are given in writing things can get lost in typing and language and not come across as wanted. But similar to my first point, keep in mind that the majority of people do reply with a good intention. Some things are simply lost in translation. Do not take it personal!

You do not get as much feedback as you hoped for. Yes it may hurt you but as well here do not take it personal. Everybody is busy, it can slip through, or the person does not feel connected to what you ask and thinks a reply won`t give you any benefit. Again do not think the worst here. Shake it off and rather focus on what you received. And if you really want a reply from somebody specific, send a kind reminder. In the information overflow replies can simply get lost!

Do not just be somebody who only asks and takes feedback! The best way to learn, expand and improve is as well to give feedback, reply and support others. As a rule, try to give more feedback than you take!

Go, dare and ask, you can only gain!

AK

 

 

 

 

Blog, Food for Thought

When life throws us a curve-ball

No matter how you call it, may it being mindful, being aware or in the moment. All this is easy(er) to practise and believe in when we are in a good spot, when it all runs smooth.
But it is the moments when life throws us a curve-ball that we tend to drop it all.
It is in those moments we often think all this is just a lot of “ empty talk”.
It is in those moments we think it is all a lot of BS.
It is in those moments that we doubt.
It is in those moments we may drop it all.

But- it is in those moments we need it the most!

Sounds familiar?
Then you are not alone as I am feeling like that, too. I slowly start to learn to let go and to use the mindfulness practise especially in the tough moments. And it is then that I feel and recognise the true benefit of it all. But I have to admit I do not find it easy, this letting go, going deep when I am feeling low already.

After all, it means to admit fully to our emotions and feelings. We have to allow to be really vulnerable – even if just to ourselves. This is hard, after all we are supposed to have it all together, we are meant to be strong.
I recently had this “curve-ball” experience again and in my usual manner I took it all tough, controlled, pushed it away, with a “just accept and keep going” attitude. But where did that leave me? I ended up all tensed up, frustrate and irritated. Not only about the situation itself but as well doubtful about myself and all the tools I learned and things I believe in! It was a mess.

Truth to be told I was simply running away from my own feelings. The problem is that if we run, and keep running, there always comes a time when we are out of breath, can`t run anymore. There comes the moment (sooner or much later) when it all simply gets too much and we crash, reach an (emotional) burn out.

But I did not want that to happen. Instead, I literally told myself to stop! I sat down (in a relaxed bath), and told myself to simply allow to feel. To let my thoughts and feelings come and go, without any judgement or criticism towards myself.

I knew that I would not be able to change the situation but by simply (or not so simple actually) allowing my emotions, feelings and thoughts I released a lot of pressure on myself. Letting it all flush over me, all the frustration, the helplessness, the unfairness did help to relieve some of the stressors. 
Then there came a point when I noticed a shift in my thoughts and in my body. Instead of losing myself and sinking low I started to be able to concentrate on myself, on how I can chose to react, how I can take a different look onto the situation from within. This left me feeling stronger, motivated and calmer.

Too often we have situations that we can`t change ourselves, situations that leave us exhausted, tired, frustrated and worn down. We may not be able to change the outer influences, but we can chose and have to learn to look at how we react to them. It may not change the situation but it can change so much for yourself!

As for me, no, the situation itself did not change but by allowing myself to go into it, allowing myself to fall deep, I started to feel more grounded and balanced again. So even if nothing really changed from the outside, it was me who felt stronger and more in control again. And that changed everything!

Where I am going with all this? I want to make you aware to go down the mindfulness / awareness path especially in the tougher moments. It is then that the real benefit of it all will show!

Scary? Yes! Painful? Sure, it can be! Easy? No, not at all. Daunting? Yep! Empowering? Absolutely!

Never forget that vulnerability is not a weak spot,
it is from that point that true strength comes through!

Yours,
AK