Looking Back

I wrote the following text more than two weeks ago and then never opened the text document again. I don’t really know why, probably I felt like it wasn’t good enough, not fully expressing what I feel and what I experienced.

I returned to Vienna in the meantime and throughout that time, three or four different people with who I have little or no contact at all came up to me and told me that they read my blog. And not only did they read it, but they actually understood and could relate to what I wrote. This means SO MUCH to me ❤

Also, this positive feedback helps me with learning to trust and believe in myself, even though it’s hard sometimes. Most of you said that you liked the authenticity of my writing – which I’m obviously aiming for, but which I am still very much afraid of at the same time. I am still afraid that the ‘real’ me, that my real thoughts are not good enough in a way sometimes, and that I have to polish and improve them somehow.

So to challenge that fear, I’m publishing this text without much changes, as a snapshot of whatever I was feeling and thinking two weeks ago. I hope you find it useful 🙂

After 2 ½ months on the road, right now I have the perfect opportunity to really take my time and reflect: Sitting in my father’s work flat in a little village overlooking Lake of Constance, I prepared my own little meditation retreat and promised myself not to use the internet on my phone for two days.  I want to use this precious alone-time to fully get back into my meditation practice (by meditating three hours a day), to eat healthy and consciously, to enjoy nature, to read, to draw, and finally, to write.

sdr

Since my last post, I visited Cordoba for two days with a friend from Vienna and then started my journey North in order to catch my plane from Barcelona to Basel on November 28th. I stayed a night in Alicante, which turned out to be a pleasant and calm (because of the low-season) surprise, then went to Valencia. More pleasant and fascinating surprises awaited me there in the form of two great walking tours, delicious olives and ‘pinchos’ in the central market and amazing street art all over the place. Finally, I arrived in Barcelona on the 25th to go out one last time (at least in Spain, haha) on Monday.

On the way to the airport I was in a funny mood – in a way, I felt like the journey was ‘over’ now. The question “What did I do, after all?” popped up in my mind again and again, and of course the inner critic would answer: “Well, not much!”

But what does that mean anyway,‘doing’ things?

By now I know myself well enough to see that this is still me trying to please society, trying to ‘produce’ something through which I can then define my value, like a certificate after attending a course. This is what I have done for most of my life: seeking validation from the outside, instead of looking inside and seeking for validation from myself first. But I’m getting there. Thus, I refuse to answer the question about what I did – instead, I want to reflect on what I learned and how I was able to grow in the process.

Many insights may sound familiar or even obvious to you when you read them, and I don’t claim that I invented any of it. In fact, I have ‘known’ many of these wisdoms for a long time myself – but only intellectually. I never really experienced these truths before, and thus never really understood them, never really knew. And there are worlds between understanding something intellectually and directly experiencing it: The intellectual understanding is cold, distanced, never quite sure. After a direct experience of truth, everything is sure; you feel warm and safe.

Osho’s words (in ‘Courage: The Joy of Living Dangerously’) resonate with me very well in this regard. He writes: “Truth is an experience, not a belief. Truth never comes by studying about it; truth has to be encountered, it has to be faced.” 

I am free to choose who I want to be in every single moment

This was probably the single most important insight I had, not only in Spain, but in my whole life. Since the first time in June, I’ve had this insight many times. It always comes in slightly different forms, but always with an incredible feeling of absolute bliss. This feeling comes from the experience of being completely free – free to choose, free to do, free to be.

How do I get there? Usually I become aware of a thought pattern, realize that I don’t have to continue thinking that way, and then, mostly upon realizing it, stop the thinking pattern. This extends to my actions: When I become aware that I was thinking in a certain way, I also become aware that because of these thoughts I usually act in a certain way – and upon realizing it, I choose to act differently the next time.

It’s that easy – or rather, that simple.*

*I found this linguistic differentiation in a book called ‘Triggers: Creating Behavior That Lasts – Becoming the Person You Want to Be’ by Marshal Goldsmith with Mark Reiter, which I highly recommend.

He writes: “What makes positive, lasting behavioral change so challenging – and causes most of us to give up early in the game – is that we have to do it in our imperfect world, full of triggers that may pull and push us off course. The good news is that behavioral change does not have to be complicated. As you absorb the methods in the following pages, do not be lulled into dismissiveness because my advice sounds simple. Achieving meaningful and lasting change may be simple – simpler than we imagine. But simple is far from easy.”

This heightened awareness and the ability to adapt my behavior of course comes from meditation. But it is also very closely connected to the conscious decision to be open to whatever happens and to whatever feels good. It forces me to be fully aware of my situation, my thoughts and my feelings at any given moment as much as I can.

If it feels good – why change it? Instead, appreciate it.

I consciously experienced this for the first time during the rainbow gathering, but already felt it when I stayed in the meditation center at the beginning of my trip. I felt great there, meditating and working in harmony with everyone – yet something was pulling me away: the fear of missing out, the vague idea that somewhere out there, something ‘better’ might be awaiting me.

It’s been a lot of work for me to appreciate and be thankful for the moments in which I feel good, and of course the process never ends. But every day I realize more that in some regards it’s not about constant growth. Sometimes things are great just as they are, there is no need to change anything.

And the more I realize that, the more often things happen to be great just as they are. 🙂

If it doesn’t feel good – change it.

Obviously. What’s important to mention here, I think, is that we often think we cannot change something when we actually can. We often think we don’t have a choice when we actually have all the choices in the world.

Just some days ago someone told me:

“Oh, I’d really like to live like you, but I can’t do it!”

(With ‘living like me’, he probably meant giving up ‘normal’ life and figuring out things on the way.)

I said:

“You can do whatever you want. This just means that you don’t really want to live like me, otherwise you would do it.”

He answered:

“But what should I do? I’m supposed to take over my father’s company in a few years. Should I just tell him no, I won’t do it? I can’t do that!”

I know this example sounds like a cliché, but that’s how it was. He thinks that he doesn’t have a choice, that he is bound to this future that he may have decided upon in the past , but doesn’t like so much anymore now. In a way, he thinks that it’s more important to please his father than to live according to his own wishes. He doesn’t see that he is the one deciding to stay in the situation that makes him unhappy, instead of doing what he really wants.

I feel very compassionate for him and everyone else who is still stuck in this thought pattern. I know it seems impossible to get out of it, because I’ve been living my life like this as well up until very recently. I know it doesn’t help to intellectually understand that “in theory” you can do whatever you want, when you don’t understand how you can actually do it. All I can say is that it is possible to break out of this thinking pattern – if you really want to, and maybe if you have a bit of luck.

If you can’t change it – accept it.

I read this in a book once some years ago and it made perfect sense to me back then. The only problem was that I couldn’t put it into action – I usually wasn’t able at all to accept a situation I couldn’t change. Obviously, endless amounts of energy are lost when complaining or being frustrated about something one has no power over whatsoever, and yet I used to do it all the time.

Again, I think the meditation practice makes all the difference here. Actually, that’s more or less what I’m doing when I’m meditating: Observing the sensations in my body and accepting them, because I know they’re arising and sooner or later passing away – as do all the unpleasant situations.

Vacation is a State of Mind

For most of my life, I didn’t think I was free at all (and probably, this is why I wasn’t*). I felt like I don’t really have a choice anyway – choosing between this degree and that degree, choosing between working in this office and that office doesn’t seem like a real choice for me. In the last days I often thought about what my first psychotherapist said to me when I said that I don’t really see the point in pursuing any kind of career and spend most of my life working in whatever job I chose.

She said:

“Well, you can’t be on vacation forever, you know.”

It turned out I can 🙂 Right now, I’m on constant vacation – even when I’m working. But this type of vacation is a state of mind, not a place (just like paradise, hehe). Because what are we doing, how are we feeling when we’re on vacation? We’re usually in a different place, we abandon most of our daily routine from home, we’re highly curious about our surroundings, we’re more open to meet other people, we explore, and most importantly, we appreciate every single day of vacation we have. And this is what I do every day, every minute: I am curious, I am open, and I am thankful for every single moment.

*This reminds me of Alan Watts’ words in ‘How To Figure Out Where You Are Meant To Be’ in regards to the meaning of life:

“So you can be fooled – as long as you can be fooled. When you can’t be fooled, you don’t ask the question anymore – because it’s all become clear. It’s all become clear that there is no puzzle about this universe. What makes you think there are puzzles about this universe?

Magic happens when I surrender to the present moment

In old Couchsurfing reviews, people would often describe me as ‘open’ – usually meaning ‘open for sex’. I used to think I was open too, but I think I understood what ‘being open’ really means only in the past months – to me, it means surrendering to the present moment, with no expectations and no hidden agenda. It means being in the Now and just appreciating what’s there. It means enjoying the moment, no matter what’s happening. Again Osho: “The experience does not depend on the object. It depends on the experiencer, on the quality of experience.” Being open makes every experience exciting, because every moment holds the possibility for a new adventure.

If I have no expectations and no agenda, everything can happen – the choices are endless. This state of mind is not to be confused with not wanting or choosing anything at all. In fact, when I’m fully present, I choose what to do or say or how to be in every single moment. This is what makes it so beautiful – it’s the opposite of the autopilot-mode I used to be in.

Every moment is new

Sometimes I’m still a bit embarrassed about how excited I get about this one. I often used to be bored when I was in a familiar situation and thought that I know it all already anyway. But that’s not true – every experience is different, and even if all the other factors stayed the same (which they never do), at least I have changed since the last experience and thus am looking at the situation with a new perspective. The future is never known, it is always unknown, always mysterious, always new.

This perspective makes everything just so much more exciting for me, and I became curious about really everything and everyone. I just need to listen well enough and to look close enough to learn something new.

If you found any of this useful or particularly interesting, if you don’t agree at all with something I wrote, or if something was unclear – let me know. I’m happy to talk, share and exchange ❤

 

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