It’s a while ago that I have written about freedom, and how to free your mind from beliefs and values that are not yours but were projected to you, from parents, families, society, and culture. Today, let’s talk about the foundation of freedom (as I see it), and what the limits of freedom are.
The foundation of freedom is connectedness
My thoughts here are not based on any religion or non-religion, or any political view. My thoughts have a simple foundation. And this foundation is that we are all connected to each other, that we are part of Earth and Earth is in us. And the same is true on the level of the universe. Some people feel this deep connectedness in meditation, others simply get it be experiencing it in nature, or with animals, or being with a group of conscious people. Connectedness is neither spiritual nor religious. It’s science that can be learned (facts) and experienced as mentioned above. I’m not a scientist but fascinated by science. And I’m happy to learn from science to connect the dots to spirituality. It’s amazing how often both worlds come to the same conclusion. And connectedness is one of these areas. Let’s learn again from Neill de Grasse Tyson’s ability to explain connectedness with simple words:
“Recognize that the very molecules that make up your body, the atoms that construct the molecules, are traceable to the crucibles that were once the centers of high mass stars that exploded their chemically rich guts into the galaxy, enriching pristine gas clouds with the chemistry of life. So that we are all connected to each other biologically, to the earth chemically and to the rest of the universe atomically. That’s kinda cool! That makes me smile and I actually feel quite large at the end of that. It’s not that we are better than the universe, we are part of the universe. We are in the universe and the universe is in us.”
Humans are not the most important species on Earth.
There are no species that are more important than others. In my humble opinion, this thinking that humans are more important than all others is one of the root causes that led to the belief that humans can “rule” the world while ignoring the principles how planet Earth functions. As there is no second planet around the corner, we have to care for the Earth and to live by her rules. And that can only work in a peaceful way if we understand that our personal freedom has limits.
Discussing freedom on the foundation of connectedness is a much broader concept than just focusing on human beings. Look around us: the tremendous amount of ecological devastation, pollution and violence against other beings and nature could easily lead to the conclusion that humans are actually the biggest virus on Earth, but far away from being the (ethically) “leading” species. What we see is clearly not based on a broad concept of connectedness. Instead, it’s more based on the idea, that humans would be more important than anything else on Earth. In my own, humble opinion, that’s exactly why humanity is where it is, why planet Earth is treated so badly. And as we are Earth (connectedness!), we harm ourselves the same way). Additionally, so many animals have to suffer their entire lives. The driving force behind this behaviour is what only humans seem to have: greed. Would any animal ever do things because they are driven by greed? No. And greed is most of the time justified by personal “freedom.” Well-known phrases are “I can do whatever I want” or “it’s my personal choice.” “What I eat is my own choice” is just another variation. What do all these statements have in common? They ignore the principle of connectedness. Completely. And they ignore even more: compassion.
Understanding connectedness is based on understanding compassion. And understanding compassion requires an educated heart. Only then, the real meaning of freedom and its limits can be determined.
For me, it’s no surprise that people think as they think; if they don’t educate their heart and their soul on their own. The educational systems in most western countries from preschool to university are based on teaching the mind with facts and figures, left-brained only. Children learn facts about the Earth, but not that they are Earth and not how to love Earth. Children learn what’s legal, but not what’s legitimate. Children’s hearts are not educated, and therefore, compassion is still way too rare. Schools where children’s hearts are educated in the same way, where kids learn how to garden, how to grow their food, and how to prepare it, far away from so-called “food” companies, are more than a rare exception.
Freedom is based on connectedness and has its limits – whenever another being is harmed without need, reason and right, you have reached the limit!
Let’s first look at humans to define a foundation. If your life is threatened by another person, there is a reason to defend your life. That’s covered in many constitutions as an exception. Because in general, it’s not allowed to kill someone else just because you have the ability to do so. This is an approach that’s widely accepted. And in most so-called “free” societies, it’s also not allowed to limit someone else’s freedom, by robbery, kidnapping or rape, just to name a few examples. I don’t want to get into a legal discussion. I want to get to an ethical discussion following the approach that freedom is based on connectedness. And these are examples where the legal and the ethical dimension are often the same.
Another area is much more confusing, and not based on connectedness, nor on compassion. And that’s when it comes to animals. What humans do with animals, just because they call a few of them “farmed animals” and others “pets” is, for me, a very special left-brained act of judgement. It’s actually a very cynical judgement without any compassion, based on the assumption that humans have the need, the reasons and the rights to do so. Humans made a classification that allowed them to treat the one category (farmed animals) in a horrible way while others have to satisfy people’s ambitions (horses) or are “pets.” Each term is cruel, because, from an ethical perspective, there are no farmed animals or circus animals, or pets, etc. There are only animals, and they are not born to be reduced to any of these human-made categories, that have only one purpose: to justify different legal views.
In reality, it simply means that you can abuse a pig or a cow or a sheep almost as horrible as you want it. It’s in most countries legal. Because it’s a farmed animal. But if you would do the same cruelty (examples are to cut tails, or to neuter animals without anesthesia, to beat and abuse animals, and to keep them in cages in which they cannot even turn around their entire lives, or to take away their babies after birth) to a dog or a cat, you could be imprisoned. Just because these animals belong to the category of “pets.”
While these animal abusing practices are legal in many countries for farmed animals, is it legitimate? Is it ethically correct to be able to harm a “farmed animal” while “petting” others? Look back at the concept of connectedness. You can answer the question for yourself. It is not. These living beings are all sentient living beings, they want to live, they want to avoid pain, and they do suffer. Their entire lives.
There is no reason, no need and no ethical right to mistreat any other living being
While there is a broad agreement on this principle when it comes to humans, it’s still very different when it comes to animals. Why is it ethically not correct, in my opinion? First of all, we don’t have a need. As nobody has the freedom to abuse a dog or a cat, nobody should be legally allowed to abuse other animals, or kill animals just for fun (e.g. trophy hunting). When it comes to “farmed animals”: we don’t need animal-based protein to survive. Instead, it’s damaging our health, and responsible for lots of so-called “civilization diseases”, as you can learn in Forks over Knives. If there is no need, why should there be a reason? If you can live a happy and healthy life without harming an animal, why wouldn’t you? Ah, I hear you: “I like meat”, and “I couldn’t give up on cheese”, and “it’s my personal choice.” As we already said here, when you harm another living being for no reason, we are at the limits of freedom. How can you justify killing an animal (or asking others to do so), if there is no need and no real reason? And if there is no need and no reason, where should a moral right to treat “farmed animals” so badly come from? For me, taste is not a justifiable reason and has nothing to do with freedom. If I leave other living beings out of the equation to justify “my” freedom, then I have clearly crossed the limits of freedom.
Don’t forget Planet Earth
Furthermore, there are lots of environmental dimensions to be considered when it comes to freedom. What you can always check for yourself, is your environmental footprint, and how to improve it. Then, there are broader aspects to be considered that depend directly on our decisions because we are all connected to each other and the Earth.
Following people’s appetite for meat (other examples are exploiting Earth for more and more oil versus focusing on renewable energy), we run directly in an environmental disaster. The impact of animal agriculture is by far the biggest trigger for climate change, but it is the elephant in the room, because of an unbelievably strong lobby. Or why do you think animal agriculture was not even on the agenda of the Paris Climate Summit last December?
If you don’t believe me, please educate yourself here or watch Cowspiracy directly: facts nobody can ignore. The consumption of land and water and the impact on greenhouse gases is simply not doable any longer. Feeding 70 billion farmed animals with food that could be consumed by humans directly, simply shows that this is the most inefficient way to feed people.
And here we are again. Freedom has to be based on connectedness, and that’s not a belief, it’s a scientific fact. We are all Earth, and Earth is in us. How can we possibly treat planet Earth as badly as we do? For me, it comes back to the lack of compassion and not knowing or ignoring the principles of connectedness.
I don’t claim to be right, nor do I claim to have all the answers. Instead, I’d love to have your thoughts on this topic. As I said earlier, these are my thoughts, and I have derived my thoughts from facts. Please feel free to chime in, to share your thoughts and to evolve the discussion about freedom. There are many more aspects to be discussed. This is just a starting point.
- Question your actions and decisions regarding connectedness and compassion
- Educate yourself about the impact of your actions and decisions on other living beings and on planet Earth
- Ask yourself what’s ethically correct, not what’s legally allowed.
- Let your heart make your next decisions, not your brain.
“Nothing ever goes away until it teaches us what we need to know.”
— Pema Chödrön
I have written a few times about forgiveness, here and here. The context of what I shared about forgiveness was the life and death of my Father and how to deal with painful situations as a vulnerable soul.
I have learned a few things along my journey on forgiveness: what worked for me and what didn’t. And why it depends on how to approach the forgiveness process and which intention to put into it. For me, it helped a lot to work with the end in mind (what did I learn and how could I grow personally). And that’s all about how I wanted to get out of this process. And that deepened my forgiveness practice.
Let’s have a look:
Put it on paper and write your forgiveness list
Forgiving incidents and situations that were very painful for your heart and soul that requires a holistic approach. In other words, forgiving is not an issue you can decide on with your brain only. It won’t work in the long run. Forgiving has to be processed by your heart and body. Then, your mind can do the rest of the work. For me, it all begins with writing down the things I want to forgive. It doesn’t matter if this is a list that covers your entire past life until today, or if this is a list that’s focused on a single incident, as you might practice forgiveness regularly. Write things down, all aspects you want to forgive, in full sentences. While you are writing, listen carefully to your heart to make sure that your mind doesn’t suppress things that are relevant to your heart. Your heart is where the pain is; this is where the need to forgiving comes from: from a wounded heart. Now, look at the list, and make sure that it’s complete for today. Be gentle with yourself and say thank you to yourself for this first step. It might already be a painful process to write these things down.
And then write your gratitude list
Not everything is bad. There are always positive aspects related to the person(s) and incidents you want to forgive. Again, listen to your heart and let the positive things flow on your next sheet of paper, your gratitude list. What is it you love about this person, what makes you smile, what makes your heart beating faster, what is it you are grateful for? If there are really more pain and negativity than positive aspects, focus on what you learned from this person, even though it was a painful lesson. Looking at the situations this way, you will find a positive aspect. For yourself and your future. After all, what we always should is learning from what’s happening to us. Because this is why things are happening. To help us to grow personally. Then, hold the forgiveness list in one hand, and the gratitude list in the other hand. How do you feel about the one and the other? Which has more weight, which one feels lighter?
Are you ready to burn the heavy list?
Burn one list and keep the other
Now, it’s time to manifest what you want to forgive. Light a candle, and position yourself in front of the candle. Have a bowl next to you to burn the forgiveness sheet. If you have a fireplace at home, even better. Then, use this one. Take a few deep breaths. Try to connect with the person, you want to forgive, try to build an energetic connection. It works, even if the person is no longer living. Simply focus your energy and call the person into the procedure. Look at your forgiveness list, read the sentences, and burn the forgiveness list. It depends on your preference if you want to speak it out loud, but it’s important that you process at the end these steps: “I forgive you” and “I claim my freedom back.” Most important at the end: “I wish you well.”
The procedure to burn the forgiveness list is so powerful because it manifests the things you let go in the physical world. It doesn’t mean that you should forget what has happened (why should you, as it has taught you lots of lessons). It doesn’t mean that you “approve” what has happened to you. Not at all. Forgiving simply says that what has happened has no longer power to control your future life from now on. This is why “claiming your freedom back” is such an important step in this procedure.
Put an intention into the process
That’s an aspect I have only learned a few weeks ago. It was the question “what’s next?” Is forgiveness just an isolated procedure for me to feel better, to remove the tremendous weight from my heart? Looking at forgiveness from a more holistic perspective, and from my own aspiration to grow personally with whatever happens to me, I learned that putting an intention in the whole process was the key to success for myself. It may come as a no surprise to you, but my ultimate goal is to achieve as much personal growth as possible, to lead myself towards personal mastery based on the assumption that we are all spiritual beings with a human body [please fill in whatever works for you…]. So, defining the intention should be focused on what you learned, how you could grow personally and on which level you what to connect or re-connect with the impacted person(s). Given the fact that what has happened, has happened to teach me something, my intention is to learn this lesson (finally) and to execute on it. For me, recent forgiveness needs had a lot do to with living my truth, and addressing issues that don’t work with my truth any longer. It was about pushing myself to the next level of connectedness and understanding of myself and others. And that’s like establishing the foundation for a new level of interaction. And that’s directly connected to the gratitude list: I’m grateful that I could learn this lesson.
That’s, of course, specific for each of you.
Forgiveness is not a one-way street, and don’t forget to forgive yourself
As I mentioned earlier, try to build a connection with the person(s) you want to forgive. And it’s equally important that the other involved persons can forgive themselves as well. It’s something that will circle back on an energetic level.
Often overlooked, but the key to your success that you can move on to your next level is the need to forgive yourself. You may struggle with yourself why and what has brought you in the situation that has hurt you in the first place. You may struggle with your vulnerability, or whatever it might be. Be gentle with yourself, accept the fact that you may have needed a few iterations to learn the lesson you had to learn. Make peace with who you are and allow yourself to move on. And we need the gratitude list again: add, that you are grateful for whatever you have learned from this situation and also from this forgiveness process.
And now, move on, and enjoy your life on a new level of consciousness. And you will see, this new energy will do the work and impact your environment.
Stay on your journey, and integrate the forgiveness process in your life’s routine. Whenever you need it, work with it, improve it, and feel free to adjust it to make it work for you. And don’t forget to gather your gratitude lists, and to enjoy what you are grateful for.
“No matter who you are, or what you do, the ground is always shaky. And the really good news is that shaky ground is really fertile ground for spiritual growth and awakening.”
“Sir” Max and “Prince Charming” Flix are the two boys that changed my life completely. Sir Max is a 13-year old, big red tiger tomcat, and Flix is a 16-year old black and white tomcat. Both met at the local animal shelter, and they shared a cat house. And that’s where they also met their future service personnel. Max made the decision. At some point, he has put himself on my bag. Ok, that was a pretty clear signal to do the paperwork with the animal shelter, and to take them home.
Now, it’s one year later. Adopting the boys was one of the best decisions in my life. If there was anything within my heart that had to be opened, the boys did. That’s for sure. I was always hesitating to have animals again (we have had dogs at home, and I worked with horses for many years), but then I caught up with work, I was living a consultant life, which means I was, at least, four days away, week by week, year by year. I didn’t want to force an animal into such a lonely life. Animals deserve a real home. So, the idea was postponed and postponed. Then, I changed my job and could enjoy working most of my time from home; I only had to travel for conferences and client meetings. Woohoo! A perfect prerequisite to have animals again.
Max and Flix took the lead
Max is a pretty bossy tom cat, he is the born territory manager, and he is a bit of a control freak, always monitoring the quality of the service personnel’s work. But it’s funny, he is doing that with so much love and care, that I’m already missing it when he sometimes forgets to do it. He is a very busy cat. And there are so many things he has to supervise. He has to make sure that the beds are made for him to reside on, that space in the closet is ready for him to relax, that the food places and that the cat toilets are cleaned. Whenever that’s done, he makes a quality check. And most important, his red rug has to be cleaned for him. That’s his headquarter place. From the red rug, he is managing the family!
Flix is just the opposite. Not only is he a much smaller cat (Max doubles his height and weight), he is also very shy, and, in the beginning, he was full of fear. He was running away, as soon as a human approached him. Apparently he had to process some bad experience with humans. Then, he didn’t eat in the beginning, and he lost weight, and he was already a thin cat. So, I bought whatever kind of cat food I could get to provide him everything he could probably like. And then, step by step, it became better, he has eaten a bit more every day, and he could slowly be transformed from dry food to wet food. And he fought for his own places and kept Max away from them. Good, he needed many places to hide. And he also respected that the red rug in the entrance area and the big cat tree were Max territory. So, he used the smaller cat tree and some other places, only he could reach. The boys have organized their territory quite nicely.
Caring for an animal with a chronical disease
And with Max came the challenge to deal with a chronical illness: chronical kidney disease CKD. I had to go through myriads of emotions until I figured out that the vet I have chosen in the beginning was not competent at all to deal with this disease. At a certain point when his kidney results became worse, I was told, “that’s all we can do for him.” I stopped everything I was doing, focused on all the research I could get about this disease, was angry with myself that I ever trusted this vet for a minute; then I relaxed again and leveraged the social networks to find people who were dealing with the same challenge. There is indeed a lot what can be done to allow these CKD cats a happy life, but it has to be regularly monitored, and the therapy plan has to be adjusted accordingly. And you need a vet who works with you, not against you. And even more important, you need a group of people who help you through the difficult times, and you need to make tough decisions. One of these decisions was Max’ teeth restoration. He had bad teeth; they were an ongoing source of inflammation that caused the kidneys additional trouble. So, the risk of such an operation had to be evaluated versus the advantages (less inflammation in the body, better for the kidneys). Luckily I have found an excellent animal hospital with lots of experiences, and a special procedure for operations with CKD cats. The day itself was horrible – for Max and me. I had to take Max very early to the animal hospital, without breakfast, of course. He debated the issue with me in the car until we reached the hospital. He never meowed. But here he did, 35 minutes. Then, he got infusions for the next few hours, and I said, I won’t leave him alone, I want to talk to the operating vet. So, I waited. After three hours, the vet came and sat down with me, to explain to me what she would do with him. She checked the blood results again, and I asked, “could I see him again?” She must have seen the tears in my eyes, and she brought him to me. And I will never forget this moment: Max was looking at me, with his eyes full of love, and full of questions “what’s going on, why is this shit here happening? I want to go home.” Oh no… I had brought him into this situation, and of course, he connected this experience with me. I hugged him, and I had to go. I was driving home with tears in my eyes, questioning the decision, but it was too late. As soon as I was at home, the phone rang, the hospital! The vet said the situation would be slightly different. His back teeth were fine, but three of his four fangs had to be removed because of cat caries. A more difficult operation, and she wasn’t sure if the anesthesia would be enough. I asked what her colleagues would suggest, and what she would recommend. Long story short, I decided to proceed, and hoped that the anesthesia would be enough for her to remove the infected teeth all at once. You don’t want to do this again with a CKD cat. Luckily, it worked pretty well. Inhale. Exhale.
I couldn’t do anything useful at home, not to mention working. I picked him up in the evening. I got a morphine for him, and antibiotics as a precaution. He got a fancy cone around his neck, and we were driving home. He was already in the mood to debate the whole situation with me. Again. He made pretty clear that he hated the whole day, and what I was thinking! This is when no valid reason helps.
Long story short: I have spent the next days with him, to care for him, to make his life as good as possible, given the pain in his mouth. A few days later, he was suddenly sitting on the red sofa in my office, and told me that I should continue to work, he wasn’t a baby anymore, and he would be OK. That’s what I needed: his approval! And he recovered pretty fast. He is doing much better, he is feeling much better, and his blood results became slightly better and are now very stable. What a process.
Animal communication to learn more about Flix’ past
Each cat showed certain patterns, as we all have our patterns to deal with. Especially because of Flix’ fears and his often sorrowful eyes, I tried to learn more about his past. So, I worked with an animal communicator, who could connect with him on an energetic level. This way, she could have a conversation with him, and that’s what she could share. So, Flix’ fear came from the fact that at a certain point, he could no longer return to his home. And he has loved his home. The door didn’t open for him anymore. He was offered a place in a garage, and all of a sudden, the humans surrounding him had no faces. The story with his human is not solved for him; maybe his human had an accident or died. This is where his deep sadness came from. It didn’t take a long time until he was a stray cat. And that’s how he got into the animal shelter. Given this highly vulnerable and sensitive tomcat, I can only imagine how much this situation must have damaged his beautiful soul. This is where the deep sadness came from. Good to know.
So I focused even more on spending time with him, on having him on my lap, and simply love him and hold him. We got better over time. In the second half of the year, after a lovely summer, both could enjoy on two balconies (so they could go with the sun), he relaxed more and more. And slowly, he became a brave and cheeky cat. His playful soul helped him as well to deal with his sadness. While playing he could forget his sadness, and now he knows how to use his service personnel to relax, to enjoy life, to be happy.
I cannot put in words, how beautiful it is to share my life with these lovely and wise souls. It’s a tremendous gift, a continuous source of joy and inspiration, and it’s a beautiful responsibility to have.
Rescued animals rescue their humans as much as the other way around. That’s so true. I also had deep downs this year. And whenever such a situation happened, I didn’t need to say anything. No, but Max sensed that immediately. Then, he has always curled up next to me, and he spent the whole night in my bed. In good times, when he feels that I’m fine, he spends the night on his cat tree and comes later or early in the morning. And Flix has another ritual. Whenever I make a cappuccino for me in the afternoon, he joins me on the sofa, jumps on my lap, and we make a ten-minute cuddle break. Then he goes back meditating, and I go back working.
These beautiful souls have inspired me in so many ways that I can hardly describe it with words. They taught me to live in the moment because “I want to be hugged now” doesn’t allow to be postponed. They taught me to play when it’s time for a play, and they taught me when I should make a break, and they taught me what priorities mean: having a cat on the lap; cuddling and loving the cat is always the first priority.
Who would argue with that?
I love these boys very much. And I will do whatever I can to make their life as happy as possible. They had enough misery to experience, and they deserve to be happy tomcats. They don’t need to worry any longer. They are in their forever home.
The New Year is still young. It’s still time to set directions, to define your focus, on how you want to grow this year. Last January I have written about Knowledge, Love or Truth, what each of these areas mean to me, and where my focus was last year – truth – and why.
Now, the challenging year 2015 has come to an end. A year with high ups and even deeper downs. 2015 was also a year with great opportunities to grow, in different dimensions. The area of personal growth is, at least for me, the most important one. It is my number one priority. One of those opportunities was to begin a spiritual leadership program that will guide me until 2017. What was initiated within me during the first module in August, can only be described as: “magic happens if you allow magic to happen.” The triggers that were set and the buttons that were pushed moved me forward on my journey. This first module allowed me to achieve a next level of discovering my truth. And then to begin to live my truth. This is a longer journey!
In case, you have read the two blog posts about my Father’s life and death in November, here, and here, I have mentioned the importance of letting things go and forgiveness (for me). The magic thing about this is, that during this leadership course in August forgiving was again a topic, including forgiving ourselves. And without even thinking about what or whom to forgive, all my energy was immediately focused on my Father. Very well invested time. I have seen a few months later, how important this work actually was. For me. And for him.
You may ask the obvious question: what’s your focus this year? Any changes?
I have asked this myself, in a few iterations in December and fast forward to today: It will remain truth, gently surrounded and supported by knowledge and love. I have to move forward along this journey. The direction is the right one with minor adjustments.
What else did I learn from that last year?
- My vulnerable soul is my gift and my challenge:
I experienced last year that the process to open my heart over the last couple of years had worked pretty well. Whatever happened last year, also vulnerable situations that have hurt me deeply, didn’t have the power to close my heart again. Observing and understanding myself how I react in such a situation was the first thing to do. Then, I tried everything to really understanding the other person’s decisions, behaviours, and patterns. This was a process during the entire year. I wasn’t always good at it. Not at all. But I was thrown into those situations until I learned what I had to learn. This way, I have built a foundation for myself to move forward, to forgive myself and the involved persons. Not to say, that things were OK, but to close a chapter of a book that has no power to control me anymore. The result should always be: I’m forgiven. And: you are forgiven. Whatever will happen next, there can be a great future with personal growth for all persons involved!
- Love as my intrinsic quality is the prerequisite to living my truth:
Only because I have learned that love is my intrinsic quality, only because I have opened my heart, love can flow, love can happen, and I can share it. This way, I am love. This learning helped me not to build attachments anymore. Because love is within me, not derived from somebody else. Love has to be discovered within us, in our hearts. This way, nobody can ever take it away from me. Then, love and freedom are inseparable. And that’s a foundation to grow!
- Creativity requires love to flow and grow: The more I could open my heart, the more creative I have become. Years ago, when I was still impacted by my parents’ opinion that creativity was not necessary and that I was not creative at all, I, of course, couldn’t manifest creative things. Looking back at this process, opening my heart was a mandatory prerequisite to allowing creativity to come into my heart and to flow out again. Some of the things I write here are written through me. One example of a creative push was to create Peaceful Soulfood, another website that’s focused on the idea that the body is the temple of your soul.
- Vulnerability is my biggest challenges and my driving force to grow:
I was running into situations that have hurt me, several times. Simply because I didn’t speak up earlier with the necessary clarity. So, I allowed it to happen. Because I always hoped, it wouldn’t happen again. But it did. Because I did not define boundaries, clearly enough and early enough. Especially as a vulnerable soul, it is, even more, important to speak up early, to define boundaries, to avoid painful situations. A key lesson for me.
- We are all on the same journey, but in different stages: I learned that I have often ignored the fact that we are all somewhere on our journeys, but at different stages. These various stages trigger different behaviours, and sometimes I was on the wrong end. Yes, I got it. Thanks for the lessons I could learn. Understanding each other, understanding each other’s journey and challenges as well as their current stage is now a key prerequisite for me to adjust my behavior, to respond wisely and in love (my level of aspiration), but living my truth, instead of being forced to react with pain only.
- Leveraging knowledge: I leverage new knowledge, latest research, and additional techniques and tools that help me along my way. Just as an example, with the various needs for forgiveness this past year, I used all the techniques I have learned, but I was in need to check out additional methods. I did my research, and I found a guided meditation program that not only allowed me to leverage the power of my brain and my heart at the same time, it also helped me to establish a much broader foundation for creating my desired future. Win-win.
- We need a tribe to grow: Many things can be accomplished alone, but not everything. I honestly believe that at some point in everyone’s life, there is a need to work with a spiritual teacher, the need to work with someone who has gone through it, who understands where and why I’m struggling. I cannot express in words how grateful I am for the gift of working with my spiritual teachers, and of course, for working with a tribe of like-minded people who come from different places and situations, but are committed to supporting each other along their journeys.
Love and knowledge are both prerequisites to continue discovering my truth.
An exciting journey. I’m looking very much forward to it.
What’s your focus this year?
How did you determine your focus, and why?
Sand Hearts continues to be my personal blog with no commercial ambitions. Sand Hearts exists because I love writing, and because I love to create art. And creative work also heals the creator’s soul. That’s why I only write about topics I care about for those of you who care about those issues. Sand Hearts is not “mainstream”. It will never be “mainstream”. Of course not. I don’t provide checklists to happiness. Life cannot be lived by checklists. The dynamics of life have to be navigated; they cannot be controlled. There are only a few mechanics we can control: our attitude, our behaviour, our decisions and actions. Depending on life’s dynamics we have to deal with, we may need to adjust our attitude and behaviours, the decisions we make, and the actions we take.
What has happened here at Sand Hearts? A lot, especially regarding the depth of topics I have written about. All posts are based on what I had to go through this year, what I have learned along my way of spiritual leadership, of self-leadership. So far. There is more to come. That’s for sure. So, stay tuned!
In case you are a regular Sand Hearts reader you can easily hold me accountable for what I wanted to focus on. Yes, I shared my 2015 agenda with you in January 2015! You can check out the details here. I defined three focus areas, and the first one was about Sand Hearts: “I will evolve this blog, my personal blog, to a platform for spiritual leadership. I will build on the foundation that has been established over the last years. I will continue to write about my journey on transformation and self-leadership, covering various aspects of my lessons learned and experiences.”
In a nutshell, this is what happened here at Sand Hearts in 2015:
- My agenda 2015 and my 2015 focus between knowledge, love and truth:
Beyond Sand Hearts, the other two focus areas were in my professional life (which is covered here) and on what I call spiritual leadership, understanding the purpose of our physical existence, the deep connectedness between all living beings, the need for compassion and non-violence. As I have written here, truth was the driving force of my life in 2015. Truth will remain the driving force in 2016, gently surrounded and supported by love, our intrinsic quality we are all born with, and knowledge, which I will never get tired of acquiring on a daily basis. Having such an agenda for a year is all about spiritual leadership, about self-leadership.
- Vulnerability was the most important topic for me this year. Oh yes, life has thrown me in situations that challenged my vulnerable soul pretty hard. For those of you who know me in person, it comes as no surprise. My very vulnerable soul is the biggest challenge for me to navigate the dynamics of my life, to grow personally, and to transform vulnerability into creativity. But my vulnerability is also my biggest gift, it is my early sensor, my early warning system, and it allows me to experience things much deeper and more intensive. Obviously, this causes higher ups and deeper downs, which brings us back to the art of navigating our lives, playfully and joyfully. I have addressed the topic from four different perspectives: Vulnerability and creativity, how to master painful situations as a vulnerable soul, how vulnerability can help you to better master your life challenges, and how to embrace vulnerability to drive your personal growth. From today’s perspective, I know that the challenges on vulnerability I had to go through, are a direct consequence of my focus on truth, my truth. I had to go through these often painful situations to get closer to my truth. A journey that will continue!
- Creativity: Sand Heart’s sister was born in April! The most creative part that was born this year is Sand Heart’s sister: Peaceful Soulfood, currently a Tumblr blog, dedicated to bringing the ideas of compassion, non-violence and animal rights into action, focused on plant-based, peaceful and nutrient-dense vegan food. Pragmatic. Enjoyable. Delicious. To nourish your soul. Peaceful Soulfood is all about tasty, peaceful, nutrient-dense, great food, leveraging the plant-based power of vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds, the gifts of Mother Earth. Peaceful Soulfood also contains useful data and information that support its core message: Ethics. Environment. Health. The announcement was published in April here.
- Compassion requires to educating your heart. Understanding compassion and its cornerstones connectedness and responsibility for every action you take are the foundations to be able to create compassionate work. Only then, compassion can change your life. Only then, you can create art that’s based on compassion. I have shared my thoughts on compassion and why caring about living beings alone is not enough. That’s how a creative project like Peaceful Soulfood – Your Body Is The Temple Of Your Soul could be born. It needed some work on my side as a foundation. It’s a natural progression of developing compassion, going vegan more than three years ago, and simply living it in a way that others may be inspired by my work. Even though this project created a lot of work for me, I enjoy it very much! It makes me very happy whenever I learn something new; whenever I have created a new recipe that people enjoy, and whenever I find interesting facts and figures that support Peaceful Soulfood’s core message. In 2016, Peaceful Soulfood will get an own website. As you can see, the young sister is growing rapidly!
- My Father’s life and death: It didn’t happen unexpectedly. My Father’s death at age 93 came slowly and then suddenly. As my experience with his death was a bit different compared to what’s considered to be “normal” in our culture, I needed to write about it. An inner voice told me that over and over again. At the point of his funeral, when I was running out of energy (I had, as usual, to organize a lot of things within the family), I decided to write about it: here and here. I wanted to share my experience to open a space for people who feel in a similar way, who have a broader perspective on life and death, and who deal differently with the situation. The most important part was to forgive him (and myself) for the issues we had to deal with each other. As soon as this forgiveness work was done, I could let him go over the rainbow bridge. In love. In peace.
- Women’s Day: Yes, I’m also focused on women’s rights and their proper representation in our societies. So, I have taken the women’s day on March 8th as a trigger to write about two outstanding, but very different woman. One was Artemisia Gentileschi, an artist who is considered as the linchpin of the Baroque era. The other one is Fiona Oakes, the most compassionate, dedicated and focused woman I ever met. She is a vegan marathon runner, holding three world records, and the head of Tower Hill Stables Animal Sanctuary. And she is a dear friend of mine. She cares for 400 animals. Alone. Fiona is leading by example, focusing completely on what’s the right thing to do, every single day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Outstanding. A very rare combination of high-performance and compassion.
- Other topics were the difference between excellence and perfectionism and how I experience it, and thoughts on freedom, especially how to free your mind. A follow-up post on freedom will come soon!
Change always starts with ourselves. In ourselves. In our hearts. Mind-driven changes that are projected from the outside to you (you should do this or that), or created mind-based only (I should do this), not coming from your heart, are most of the time not sustainable and won’t last until end of January.
So, invest your efforts in developing your future vision, nurturing your soul, listening to your inner voice. Educate your heart, open it up, and never close it again. Discover the love in your heart, the source of everything you create. This is how you are born. With love. With creativity. Not with hate. Then, forgive others for what has happened, what has hurt you (this does not mean that you say it was OK, it only means that it doesn’t control you any longer), and don’t forget to forgive yourself (same principle). Whatever has happened, it is the past. You cannot change it anymore. But you can make every effort NOW to make a difference. To change in the future what was wrong in the past. You can make a difference NOW, and with every new moment of your life going forward.
Make decisions based on this newly discovered love in your heart. Simply be this love. Develop compassion and live this compassion in every aspect of your life. This is my approach: We have to educate people regarding ethical principles, values, moral baselines and on developing a higher level of consciousness. Educating people’s hearts (not only their minds) and developing their compassion is not a luxury; it is a necessity to survive.
That’s why I’m writing here.
That’s my role here.
To be a gatekeeper.
That’s why Sand Hearts exists.
Because it’s the right thing to do.
To make a difference. Now.
In my last post, I shared my thoughts on my Father’s life and death. His physical existence ended more than five weeks ago.
Many of you may have wondered about my experience which wasn’t so much about grief. What I shared here was more about reflecting his difficult life, our often challenging relationship, and the specific experience to be with him when he was in transition over the rainbow bridge.
The forgiveness work was very important for me to set myself free. Ultimately, it was also important to my Father, to set him free. As soon as this underlying negative energy that came from past negative actions stopped to exist between us, things changed for the better. Rapidly. It was only in the last few years that I have found my peace with him. And as far as I could observe him, he had finally come to a state of peace as well. After all, I was simply happy for him that his physical suffering has finally come to an end.
Giving this background, why should I be in grief all the time, processing rituals people expect me to do? Rituals such as wearing black, sitting at my Mother’s house each and every day, going to the cemetery, or stop working for some time never felt right for me.
As in many other cases, I have my way to deal with certain situations and experiences. I’m still not in the expected phase of grief, even if I am a very sensitive and vulnerable person. And I won’t get there. I don’t wear black all the time, just when I want to wear black as before. I didn’t stop working, and I’m not sitting each and every day at my Mother’s house. And finally, I never was, and I never will become a cemetery person. I don’t need to go to the cemetery to be in touch with his soul. All of that made me very quickly the “certified bad daughter”. In the opinion of my Mother’s neighbours and her broader social environment. My Mother never had a problem with that, but her environment projected that on her, and therefore back to me.
I could easily say “not my cup of tea” and move on. On the one hand, this is true, but it’s also too simple to me. Instead, I want to use this blog post to write about misconceptions so many people have about death (and therefore about life as both belong together).
My Father would want me to do my work and to live my life
I haven’t got a lot from my Father regarding my personality type, but a few attributes are for sure from him: discipline, staying power and a strong focus on work. Even if our perception about work was different (for him it was a duty and something to make a living; and for me work has to be meaningful, creative, and connected to a bigger vision and goal), he wouldn’t have expected me to sit somewhere, grief about his death and follow other people’s expectations.
My Father suffered from two heart attacks. One happened in his 70s, the other one in his 80s. When it happened the first time, he was still working in his engineering office and told my Mother to postpone all his meetings to the following week. Yes. No joke. That was my Father’s perspective, his extreme capability to neglect his body’s reality. I worked together with his cardiologist to convince him to go to a rehab for a couple of weeks. The doctor’s instructions were the only way to get him convinced to do so. And it worked. The first time in his life that he has taken three weeks only for himself.
The next heart attack happened in his 80s. I was at a meeting in Frankfurt, more than two hours away. When I got the information, I left the meeting, drove immediately to the hospital, where he was in intensive care. Can you imagine what he said to me when I arrived there? “Why aren’t you at work? I’m fine.” It rarely happens that I don’t know what to say. That was one of those situations. I guess that explains a lot …
Those and other death situations
When my older brother was killed in a car accident four years ago, that was a totally different situation. It was unexpected, he was only in his 50s, and he left his wife and two children behind. Furthermore, our brother/sister relationship was never an easy one, and the challenges we had for many years were not solved. There was always something more important to do. For me. And for him. I simply didn’t care. And he didn’t care. Probably for the same reasons. So, his death happened all of a sudden, and it forced me to question a lot. I was rethinking my relationships, not only this one. I wanted to get clarity in the very few relationships that were really important to me. I never wanted to get in such a situation again, with lots of unsolved issues brushed under the carpet. Just because of laziness. Just because of “being busy” or other excuses that are no longer acceptable for me. What I missed while he was alive, that’s what I had to work on after his death. Because nothing ever goes away until we learn what we have to learn.
The situation is very different in an expected death situation, especially when illnesses and suffering were involved over a longer period. If so, death doesn’t come unexpectedly. For the person passing away, death often comes as a release. Death knocks several times at the door to make us aware of getting things solved and healed, for those passing away and for those remaining here in this life. In my Father’s situation, death knocked at the door with both heart attacks, several pneumonia infections, a broken shoulder and a couple of broken ribs over the last ten years.
Enough trigger moments indeed, to show me that each and every moment can only be lived once. No moment can ever be repeated. Moments cannot be taken somewhere. Moments cannot be “saved” or “filed”. There are moments, and there are memories. Only our memories can help us to remember those moments. Understanding this simple truth, means to understand that every moment of our life is irrevocable. And that’s exactly the character of death. Death is irrevocable. Definite. Final. As each and every moment of our life. So, life and death are not so far away from each other…
But aren’t you very sad and don’t you miss your Father?
Yes and no. The sadness occurred along the process I went through, in many iterations. This process of forgiveness and letting things go lasted a few years and specifically the months from August to his death early in November. I experienced that in a very conscious way, I wanted to make sure that I don’t brush upcoming emotions and happenings just under another carpet. I observed myself carefully and precisely what was going on with me, in different iterations. This process came to an end with his death, November 4th. This is maybe what’s difficult for many people to understand.
I experienced that my writing creativity was gone, down to zero when he passed away. I was feeling empty and tired. Not sad. A long process came to an end with no return. This emptiness lasted a few weeks, and the actual breakthrough was writing my recent blog post about his life and death. An inner voice told me to write about it. Once I did that, my writing creativity was back. Interestingly, my peaceful soul food creativity did not stop. Instead, I was very creative in this area. Maybe it was just as a reminder to keep me healthy and peaceful – with Peaceful Soulfood.
My Father left this physical existence. That’s the ultimate part of it, of a cycle, not of a start and end point as we often think in the Western world. Thinking in cycles resonates much more with my soul. His soul is somewhere in the universe, hopefully, reunited with his beloved dogs, without physical pain and suffering, in freedom. That’s my wish for him.
“The tragedy of life is not death but what we let die in us while we live.”
– Native American proverb
I also learned during this process that so many little things we often find disturbing or annoying about other people become irrelevant. Completely irrelevant. Facing existential questions between life and death, many “problems” are no longer “problems”. In fact, what we find annoying about others, is often something that has a lot to do with ourselves. It’s just a trigger the universe shows us, to solve it in our own garden. A good reminder to practice patience, with ourselves, and with others.
Most of the time we miss context to really understand what’s going on in another soul. Just look at this story. So, don’t judge people you love. Simply love them, with no attachments.
And love yourself. And be patient with yourself.
“Life is not separate from death.
It only looks that way.”
It happened on November 4th. My Father passed away, at age 93. Over the rainbow bridge. Off to another world, where he will probably catch up with all the dogs in his life, without any suffering and free from pain.
The last time I have seen him alive was on Sunday, Nov 1. The nursing home brought him to the hospital because he couldn’t swallow well enough and he suffered from severe seizures in his legs. On that Sunday, he was already very weak. He could only speak a few words, no longer full sentences. My purpose for this day was to be with him, to hold his hand and to reassure him that everything would be all right.
Reflecting my Father’s life and our relationship
When I was driving home, already knowing that he would pass away soon, I was reflecting a lot: his life, his impact on my life, our father/daughter relationship that wasn’t an easy one. But in the middle of this difficult, sad and somehow irrevocable situation, I was also happy about myself. After many years of my adult life, I could now simply love him as my Father, with no further negative emotions and attachments. I have worked on that for a couple of years in many iterations to forgive all the difficult situations I experienced with him, and all the situations in which I thought he didn’t treat me the right way. Today, I know that he always did his best. From his perspective, of course.
Do you know what the most difficult step was for me? It was to forgive myself, that I didn’t realize earlier in my life how difficult and horrible it was for him to grow up in Nazi Germany with a Half-Jewish mother who was kept in a secret place. For him, there was never a light-hearted youth. Not a single day. Whatever he said to somebody, had to be well thought through. If not, it could mean the death of his Mother. Imagine this for a moment. So, he became an expert in not saying anything, and not discussing things. Instead, he became an expert in talking only to his dog, Mohrle. As I know from the very few things he shared from his youth, Mohrle was the most important living being for him when he was growing up. Today, living with two beautiful tom cats, I exactly know what that means.
This horrible experience determined his future behavior on so many levels. As an example, he always used the third person when he was talking about himself. In fact, he never talked about himself, it was “one” not “I”. The way he had to grow up also determined how he behaved in his marriage and how he raised us children. I was born when he was already 45, as the third child of the family. His main focus was to raise us as young adults. We didn’t have a light-hearted, playful childhood. Being children, doing childish things; that didn’t exist in his world. He was focused on our education, pushed us to performance, performance and performance. And he wanted us to fit in the system, to have a safe life.
As a young child, I was forced to hike, every single day of our vacation, year after year. Whenever I fell and ended up with a bloody knee, he simply took my hand and said, “nothing happened, keep going”. You can imagine how I was feeling as a child. Today, I also know that these early experiences impacted my staying power, my “keep going” attitude, whatever happens. Just an example.
Letting things go
Driving home this Sunday, Nov 1, feeling that the death already entered the space, all past problems were no longer relevant. Those past issues became meaningless. I had no attachments to any past issues: not to the fact that he never told me that he loved me, and not the fact that he almost never hugged me, or never called me except the one time when I was around thirty, and my life was a complete disaster. Now, it was all good. I know that he always loved me, he simply could not articulate it. Instead, he showed his emotions via the dogs; he had later in his life, Teddy, Fido and Altan. And that was the way how we connected again. Deeply. Via the dogs.
But to feel this way, I had to do my homework. I had to forgive everything that was painful in the past. I had to let things go, to put the father/daughter relationship on another level, a more spiritual level. That was a long process for me. The last piece of forgiveness work was done this summer in Scotland, at Lendrick Lodge, as part of a spiritual leadership program.
For me, it was the only way to help him in this situation, to help him to pass away in peace. My mental and energetic focus over the next few days was to help him to let things go, to find peace, to leave his physical existence as peaceful as possible.
His passing away – slowly and then suddenly
This Sunday was the last time that I have seen him alive. The doctors in the hospital called me on Monday afternoon to tell me that he was suffering from a remarkable brain tumour. This tumour was already destroying his body functions.
I was supposed to meet my Father and the doctors on Nov 4 to discuss the next steps regarding a pain therapy. When I arrived at the hospital, I couldn’t go into his room. I asked a nurse what was going on. She didn’t tell me anything, talked to a doctor instead. Then, she came back and told me that he had just passed away, a few moments before. He simply stopped breathing. Something I have expected. Of course. But not at this moment. I asked her if I could see him. She said yes, and then she had concerns that I would crash right here in the hospital because she has seen tears in my eyes. Of course, she didn’t know me. The very few people who had the gift to experience my vulnerable, and sensitive soul, know this situation and that there is nothing to worry about for them. Whenever something or someone is really touching my heart, I have tears in my eyes. Often, this is simply a sign of a moment that’s deeply touching my soul, my heart, my body and my mind. And that happened here. I said, “no worries, I won’t crash.”
He made it. He was now already free from pain, from suffering, and the tumour couldn’t hurt him anymore. He was already in transition, and being with him during this phase was a gift for me, definitely not a reason to crash.
The moments I could spend with him during his transition were a real gift. I have held his hands that became colder with every moment, and I reassured him again that he was forgiven, cleansed and free. Free to fly as high as possible in his new world.
The funeral was two weeks later, family, friends, and neighbours. A procedure that was totally against his thoughts and beliefs, on the one hand. But, on the other hand, he insisted on it. A situation that showed his multifaceted character.
Whenever you would have had a chance to chat with him, he would have described himself as an atheist. The death as the end of his physical existence was for him the end of everything. “Then, I will only see the radish from the bottom of my grave” was his way to describe his viewpoint. There is nothing right or wrong. It was his viewpoint. But he never managed it to leave the church and to stop supporting an institution he didn’t like. In Germany, you pay an additional tax to support the church if you are a member of the church. Something I have stopped doing more than twenty years ago, simply because I don’t believe in any specific religion. I’m more a spiritual person rather than a religious person. Leaving the church was something my Father never did. His reason was always “who will take care of my funeral when I’m no longer in the church?”
He got his funeral. I tried to integrate something in the ceremony he would have loved. The last piece of music at the funeral was “Echo of a star”, a beautiful song of singer and songwriter Pratibha Ma, a dear friend of mine. She had written this song when her Mother died. So, it was perfect for my Father’s funeral. And Pratibha was more than happy when I asked her if we could integrate her song in his funeral ceremony.
I hope my Father will find the peace he deserves wherever he is now. I hope that he could already catch up with his dogs, with Mohrle, Teddy, Fido and Altan, beautiful souls who passed away earlier, waiting for him. I also hope that he could meet Legend, a beautiful, older horse that passed away in the same week at the animal paradise, at Tower Hill Stables Animal Sanctuary.
I will have to define that I don’t want a funeral “event” like this. Definitely not. I want my dead body to be burned. My ashes should be spread at my spiritual home in Scotland. The people there will always know what to do with my ashes.