“Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery.
None but ourselves can free our minds.”
― Bob Marley

What does freedom mean to you? Is that a feeling, a right, a place, an idea or anything else?

Freedom according to Oxford Dictionaries is defined as the “power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants.” Freedom covers several aspects such as self-determination, free choice, free will, being independent and unrestricted as well as not being imprisoned or enslaved.

Many of these aspects, such as free speech, have a political dimension. This political dimension has to be ensured by a government that is ideally elected by a nation’s citizens. As we know, people will always have to fight for freedom as governments regardless of their political color seem to have a tendency to restrict people’s freedom in many different ways. Just look at the overwhelming surveillance practices in so-called “free” nations.

Wat does freedom mean? Does it mean that people can do whatever they want? What about the impact of their decisions on others living beings and the environment? First, there are values and principle societies have given themselves to define what’s allowed and what is not. Examples are that you are not allowed to rob another person, or that you have to stop when the traffic lights are red, or that you have to pay a certain amount of taxes, and the list goes on and on.
Second, there is the element of responsibility.

Freedom doesn’t come alone. Freedom comes with its twin, and this twin is called responsibility.

To claim freedom also requires to claim responsibility. Freedom is a commitment to be responsible for your own decisions and the impact of these decisions. That means not to blame others for your decisions and their related outcomes. This kind of responsibility requires a solid foundation of a free mind that can evaluate options in a thoughtful and respectful way, based on consciously adopted values, principles and beliefs. To get to this conscious and free state of mind requires cleaning the basement of your mind first.

The foundation for freedom in responsibility: Free your mind

Developing freedom in your mind is one of the most difficult processes to master. Remember how you were raised. Remember what kind of statements have been implemented in your mind. Think about the “musts” your parents told you. You must sit still, you must not leave the table until Mum or Dad say it’s ok to do so. You must go to the kindergarten, or you must go to school. And you must not wear this or that, or you must eat this, and you must not eat that. The list goes on and on.

Of course, it’s important to teach children good manners and how to behave in society and how to be respectful to other people. But then, we became adults, and we may all remember decisions that were more or less impacted by our parents’ values and beliefs or their expectations. But these decisions were not really ours.

Recognizing this situation is the first step to developing a free mind. The next step is to question and evaluate those values and beliefs that control your mind and to understand where they come from. Then, you have to get rid of those thoughts, values and beliefs that no longer serve you. It’s important to understand that these thoughts and patterns were put in your mind as a child from your families and teachers. To get rid of those values and beliefs in a gentle way, make peace with those thoughts and then to let them go. Be grateful that they served you for such a long time, but let them rest where they belong – in your past.

I’m still smiling when I have my Mother on the phone, and she asks me things like “do you must work tomorrow?” or “do you must travel again to the US this year?” or something else. Growing up, this was “normal.” But there is nothing “normal” about it. Seriously. Statement and questions like this are simply limiting ourselves, as I would have no choice to do this or that. But I had, and I have a choice. Always. And I made my decisions, and I will do so in the future. And I’m happy that I can do creative, inspiring and exciting work that I love to do. Now, I can smile about her questions. Ten years ago, I became angry. All the time. Yes, I have done some work.

Developing a free mind is an iterative journey of awareness and consciousness

Getting rid of those values and beliefs that have been implemented deeply in you, is not an easy thing to do. It’s not a one-time event. It’s a process that comes in iterations. Most of the time, the process begins with a trigger event that forces you to do so, to look closely at these things. Becoming aware of those beliefs that impact your decisions is the prerequisite to change them. Often one trigger event won’t be enough. Others will follow. But with each iteration, you will achieve more freedom, and another issue will be solved. Until another trigger event happens that forces you to rethink another value, belief or principle that has not been questioned so far. Or you have to question a certain principle again and will come to another conclusion.

Saying good-bye to the one or the other belief that no longer serve you is a life-long process because we only see the way until the next intersection. But we will never see the end of the road. And that’s good as it is. We always learn what we need to know to make the next step, to achieve the next plateau. And from each plateau our perspective is a bit different. And what freedom means to us will probably change as well. Self-leadership, finding peace and freedom in one’s heart and mind is a lifelong journey.

In the second part of the little series on freedom, I will build on this foundation of a free mind and focus more on the element of responsibility.

In case you have read my recent blog post about compassion, you may have recognized that I focused the term on two cornerstones. Connectedness was one of them. I have defined compassion in a broad way, and I defined its scope to be “living beings”. It was the right thing to articulate at this time in July. But I have learned new things since then.

First, I have read the book “The World We Have” by Thich Nhat Hanh. He provides a Buddhist approach to peace and ecology, highly recommended to read. You don’t need to call yourself a Buddhist to read his book. Fascinating for me way simply the holistic approach that begins with challenging your own mind. And second, I was traveling to Devon, England, for a weekend to visit friends in their fabulous new home. Now, you will ask me how these two happenings could be connected to each other.

Traveling to Devon included a two hour train ride from London to Exeter. Enough time to work again with “The World We Have.” Books that inspire me so much deserve a second “reading round”, then with a text marker. I stumbled again and again about a passage in the book making the case that we should break through the notion of “living beings”. The idea is simple. It’s the idea that living beings are comprised of non-living-being elements. “When we look into ourselves, we see minerals and all other non-living beings elements. Why discriminate against what we call inanimate?”

Good question. Important question. Just as an example, our hair consists of inanimate elements and our bones are made from inanimate minerals. We are comprised of inanimate elements. And these minerals can be found elsewhere in nature, for instance, in the soil or stones. And to exist as living beings, we need a lot of these minerals on a daily basis. We take these minerals with our food that has grown on our soils. That means living beings are connected to inanimate elements. We need those elements such as minerals; they are part of our physical existence. Minerals are a part of all of us. Inanimate elements are a part of us. Welcome to connectedness. As Neill de Grasse Tyson said, we are connected to other beings biologically, to the Earth chemically and to the rest of the universe, atomically.

Arriving in Devon, I found myself in the middle of an absolutely breathtaking nature. The most fascinating element in Devon’s nature were the so-called “tors”. According to Wikipedia, a tor “is a large, free-standing rock outcrop that rises abruptly from the surrounding smooth and gentle slopes of a rounded hill summit or ridge crest.”

Imagine, just having this book in mind and thinking through these existential thoughts, then arriving in Devon and seeing these beautiful tors. It could only end in “oh wow. That’s what connectedness really means”. It was so obvious to me, without reading and reflecting anything else. Connectedness cannot be reduced to living beings only. It has to cover Mother Earth, and our universe, on three layers: biologically, chemically, and atomically. This is what I learned at a moment’s notice in a holistic way. The Native Americans would say, balanced learning happens if the mental, spiritual, physical, and emotional dimensions are involved. I have to admit, the universes orchestrated this sequence of events perfectly for me, to make this balanced learning happen.

Enjoying these tors, I simply had the feeling that these guys are living, somehow. I could feel lots of energy, courage, strength, and guidance. Each tor provided a different combination of energies. They also made me feel that they belong exactly where they are.

So, many dots on connectedness have been connected now. Let me close this blog post with wisdom from another ancient tribe, the Native Americans.

I was lucky enough that I was allowed to attend ancient Native American rituals such as a sweat lodge along my spiritual journey. That’s an experience that connects you on a very deep level to mother Earth and all her elements, living or not living. Through the course of a sweat lodge, when hot stones are brought into the lodge for each of the four rounds that are processed for each of the four directions, you feel them, you feel their tremendous energy. You learn that every stone has its purpose, that every stone has a story to tell, and that every stone has its place to exist. Atoms and stones are pure consciousness.

Thich Nhat Hanh continues in his book: “To protect living beings, we must protect the stones, the soil, and the oceans.”

Let me close this blog post with one of the Seven Native American Philosophies, put together in 1996:

“Our Mother Earth is the source of all life, whether it be the plants, the two-legged, four-legged, winged ones or human beings. The Mother Earth is the greatest teacher, if we listen, observe and respect her. When we live in harmony with the Mother Earth, she will recycle the things we consume and make them available to our children and to their children. As an Indian man, I must teach my children how to care for the Earth so it is there for the future generations. So from now on:

I realize the Earth is our mother. I will treat her with honor and respect.

I will honor the interconnectedness of all things and all forms of life. I will realize the Earth does not belong to us, but we belong to the Earth.

The natural law is the ultimate authority upon the lands and water. I will learn the knowledge and wisdom of the natural laws. I will pass this knowledge in to my children.

The mother Earth is a living entity that maintains life. I will speak out in a good way whenever I see someone abusing the Earth. Just as I would protect my own mother, so will I protect the Earth. I will ensure that the land, water, and air will be intact for my children and my children’s children – unborn.”


“True compassion develops when we ourselves want happiness and not suffering for others, and recognize that they have every right to pursue this.”
–Dalai Lama

Compassion, what is it really? How can we develop more compassion and what will change for us and others if we do so?

Compassion defined

The ‘co’ in compassion means together, and ‘passion’ means a strong feeling, an intense desire or enthusiasm for something.
Compassion means to develop a feeling of connectedness toward other living beings, instead of separateness. Compassion is when we see other living beings suffering, when we feel their pain as if it were our own. Compassion is when we strive to help them to get rid of their pain or at least to lessen it. Compassion means to open our hearts to reach out to the sufferings of others and to do whatever we can to reduce their suffering. Compassion means to feel responsibility for other living beings’ well-being. Compassion is just the opposite of hatred and anger:
Compassion is expressing non-violence.

Compassion’s cornerstone number one – Connectedness

Understanding the broad scope of compassion is essential, because it describes the difference between caring about friends and family and caring about other living beings. Understanding this difference is the key to avoiding one of the biggest misconceptions about compassion. And that’s our often limited and biased perspective that restricts compassion to our loved ones.

Instead, the broad scope of compassion covers “living beings.” This scope is based on the idea that we are all connected to each other. For more details, please have a look at my connectedness blog post here. Amongst other ideas, I tried to bridge between science and a more spiritual view of connectedness. And who could articulate that any better than astrophysicist, cosmologist, author, and science communicator Neil de Grasse Tyson?

“We are all connected to each other, biologically, to the Earth chemically, and to the rest of the universe, atomically….That makes me smile…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.”
–Neill de Grasse Tyson

In case you practice meditation, you may already know this deep feeling of connectedness within yourself that may show up in achieving a deep level of inner peace. Such a personal experience is, of course, a much deeper way to feel connectedness across body, mind and soul than to “understand” a scientific statement with your mind only.

Along my journey, it was, and it is always very satisfying to connect the dots between science and my (spiritual) experience. For me, it’s just the other side of the same coin, that’s called life. It’s about connecting and balancing body, mind and heart.

Compassion’s cornerstone number two – Responsibility

The term “living beings” covers more than human beings, “living beings” covers the entire animal kingdom and everything in our nature that is living. The difference between the animals and the plants is that the animals are considered sentient living beings as humans, whereas the plants are considered living beings.

Let’s look at animals first. Compassion addresses all animals, pets, farmed animals, wild animals, and whatever labels human beings have given to different groups of animals. These labels are nothing else than judgements that are used to “legalise” certain actions to take place. Those actions range from the horrible practices in the animal agriculture industry; to the fur and leather industry, up to various hunting practices.

The category of farmed animals, for instance, can be exploited, abused and tortured in horrible ways (watch Earthlings), and it is all legal. In parallel, doing the same crime to a pet can have serious consequences in most countries. Now look at a different culture and you will see that your “pets” are their “farmed animals.” But is there a difference between a pig, a cow, a sheep, a cat or a dog as living beings? No. All these animals just want to live and avoid pain, and they should have every right to pursue this. So, what do these categorisations really mean? In my own humble opinion, those categories are made to justify that one category can be treated differently than another category. So, you can exploit and abuse a chicken in an egg battery and it’s still legal. But abusing a dog is a crime. Now, from a compassionate perspective, there is no difference. So, just because something is legal, does not mean that it is acceptable from a moral and ethical perspective.

Now, look back in history at the changes that happened regarding, for instance, apartheid, slavery, homosexuality, and women rights. All these examples demonstrate a lack of respect, a lack of responsibility and a serious lack of compassion. And see what has been achieved over decades. Take a single issue like women’s suffrage, and make your research. You will see that this issue alone has taken up to two hundred years and it’s still not reality in every country.

For us humans, a broad scope of compassion has consequences. Ultimately, compassion comes with responsibility because the animals and human minorities don’t sit at the table when people and societies define laws and regulations how to treat those living beings based people’s judgmental categorizations of animals. The plants don’t sit at the table either when people define how to treat plants, for instance, destroying their identity by engineering them genetically for no other reason than making a profit.

“Woe to humanity, should only a single animal have a seat in the Last Judgement.”
– Christian Morgenstern

These issues come all down to one major misconception people face. And that’s to assume that humans are more important than any other species on this planet. It’s the opposite of what we learn when we develop genuine compassion. And that’s understanding connectedness instead of sticking to a false belief of separateness (I consider that a false belief because even science is on the same page here).

Genuine compassion has to be universal in scope. Compassion for those living beings who have no voice has to guide our actions and decisions.

And another thought that might be hard to accept: Compassion is not connected to the attitude and the behaviours of others. Correct, it is not. Compassion is way beyond any “tit for tat.” That’s not always an easy challenge to overcome. You may fall back a few times, but your iterations will bring you to a slightly higher plateau with every iteration.

True compassionate actions are based on your own compassionate values and principles that do not depend on other living beings’ behaviors and attitudes. For me, this is all about developing humanity in humans.

“Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.”
― Pema Chödrön

Developing compassion – my journey so far

For me, developing compassion has led – amongst others – to the decision to go vegan more than three years ago. If you are interested in more, click here. I simply didn’t want to support animal cruelty and exploitation anymore. So, I changed what matters and I changed what I can control as a single living being. And that’s all about what I’m consuming and what I’m eating on a daily basis. The change came slowly and then suddenly.

I wasn’t aware of it when I changed, but these three years have been a truly liberating experience: liberating for my mind, my heart, my body and my consciousness. And it’s driving my compassion even further. It is liberating to become more and more independent from an entire industry that only wants to make profit, regardless of exploited, abused, tortured and killed animals, regardless of their “products” that make people addictive or ill, and regardless of the tremendous negative impact on our environment.

Then, I learned and experienced that my body is the temple of my soul. The experience has led to another project: I have launched a sister blog called “Peaceful Soulfood.” Here, I share delicious peaceful recipes, mixed up with spiritual thoughts as well as facts and figures that may help you to connect the dots between your actions and habits and the impact on other living beings.

Developing compassion is a life-long learning experience. And I’m just somewhere along this journey, as you are. And what I share here, is just what I experienced so far.

It always begins with ourselves, with opening our hearts first. Then, it continues with learning techniques that keep our hearts and minds open to whatever arises. It’s about developing inner peace and trust in your own compassion that allows you to jump in at the deep end. Honestly, we don’t know what will happen. We have to learn and to adapt as things are happening, every time in a more and more compassionate way.

“We can reject everything else: religion, ideology, all received
wisdom. But we cannot escape the necessity of love and compassion….
This, then, is my true religion, my simple faith. In this sense, there is no need
for temple or church, for mosque or synagogue, no need for complicated
philosophy, doctrine or dogma. Our own heart, our own mind, is the temple.
The doctrine is compassion. Love for others and respect for their rights and
dignity, no matter who or what they are: ultimately these are all we need.
So long as we practice these in our daily lives, then no matter if we are
learned or unlearned, whether we believe in Buddha or God, or follow some
other religion or none at all, as long as we have compassion for others and
conduct ourselves with restraint out of a sense of responsibility, there is
no doubt we will be happy.”
― Dalai Lama XIV



Imagine the last situation when you found yourself in a painful situation, when you were feeling very hurt. Maybe somebody has misused your trust. Maybe somebody has treated you in a way you perceived to be extremely unfair. Maybe you were feeling like an old piece of furniture that has been moved around on somebody else’s terms.

We all know various examples. Situations like this happen all the time, in professional and in private environments. Just to be precise, being hurt is what you perceive as an individual. Feeling hurt is an individual, subjective perception. I know, this is probably not what you want to hear right now, but don’t forget that situations that are painful for you are maybe not even an issue worth talking about for somebody else.

So, before jumping on an emotional rant that makes already difficult situations even worse, let’s look a bit deeper into the matter, with distance and some lessons learned.

Situations that can be very painful for the vulnerable soul have certain commonalities

  • First, you find yourself in a reactive position because the other person has made a decision or acted in a way that reduced your space of options, and you find yourself in a reactive position. For me as a very active and decisive person who is (most of the time) in the driver seat, that’s a hard place to be.
  • Second, you may feel that the other person played with your time; giving you the feeling that your time would be less valuable than their time. I work a lot, on many different projects at the same time. I’m very concerned about how I spend my time wisely because I know this is my lifetime, and not a single hour will ever come back. Having this feeling of being pushed into a reactive position combined with the feeling that my time is less important than another person’s time is a bad combination.
  • Third, you may have the feeling that your trust and ability to forgive have been misused. Isn’t it an amazing observation that people who have a proven ability of forgiveness in many different aspects, have to deal with even more of those situations? Correct me if I’m wrong, but it’s just my observation. Maybe I’m just too vulnerable, and I sense many more things than others…
  • Fourth, only people you love and situations on topics that are very close to your heart have the ability to hurt you. Why is that so? Not sure, but I learned along my way that the very few people I love have a place in my heart. Literally. That’s not just a saying; they are in my heart. Always. Whenever such a bad situation with a person I love occurs, I feel like being attacked from within. That’s the same with my work, which is my purpose in this life. And this is what hurts so much…

Now we are in the middle of a bad place. I’m sure some of you are already processing old situations over and over again. Stop doing this. It’s more important to answer this question:

How do we get out of painful situations without adding more pain to ourselves and others?

And that’s the key point: without screwing up an already difficult situation. It’s easy to hurt back and to walk away. That’s just not a very mature and conscious behavior and certainly not a successful one. Because it solves nothing and adds only more negative energy to the situation. Furthermore, it takes you the opportunity to learn from what has happened. Hurting back and walking away means just to sweep more unprocessed pain under the carpet.

Let me share a few lessons I have learned along my way. Before you react emotionally, while you are angry and hurt, pause for a minute and walk yourself through these three ad-hoc steps to avoid further pain for yourself and to open a space for your healing.

Three ad-hoc steps to treat a vulnerable, hurt soul

  • Leave the situation:
    This is the most important step to do. As soon as you recognize that the problem cannot be solved right away for whatever reasons, leave the situation before additional pain with additional emotional reactions screw up the already difficult situation.
  • Accept your sadness and your vulnerability:
    Inhale and exhale. Allow yourself to feel sad and hurt. Allow yourself that you don’t feel valued, accepted, and loved right now. Allow yourself to be vulnerable.
  • Let your tears do some work: For those of you who are highly vulnerable souls as I am, you won’t be able to avoid your tears. Let them come. Just cry. It’s not a weakness; it’s a strength. It’s accepting yourself. Tears come up when your heart has so much more to say than you could ever express in any language. I learned along my way that this is a “must have” phase for me. It has to do with accepting my emotions and not suppressing them. This process takes as much time as it takes. There is no right or wrong. It’s just your way or my way. Don’t proceed to the next phase before you have the feeling that your tears have processed most of the drama. When the tears end, this part of the process is done.

Reflection phase to change perspectives: Step back from the situation and the involved people and become an observer of the situation.

Perspectives matter – put yourself in the other person’s shoes: Even if that sounds hard at the moment, putting yourself in the other person’s shoes is a mandatory step before you can make any conscious decision.

  • Do you know the other person’s core values, principles, and priorities?
    If no, don’t make assumptions, but try to have a conversation to understand the other person’s essentials, as these elements are what drives people’s behavior. If yes, didn’t the involved persons just apply their values, principles or beliefs? Probably those values and principles are not exactly yours. But could it be the case that you had a tendency to ignore them beforehand? Maybe because they didn’t fit into your image of the other person? I’m not saying that anything is good or bad, right or wrong. But this “changing perspectives” phase is simply about getting real, seeing things as they are, taking away the clutter. And the situation you find yourself in could also exist because both of you worked with a certain “image” of the other one. So far. Now, it’s a good opportunity to get clarity.
  • Maybe the situation was triggered by an underlying mirror effect? Maybe there is something the other person doesn’t like about you, which was one of the triggers for your painful situation. Maybe this problem was already existing for a while but was not communicated. Now, probably in the most inappropriate moment, the issue has been brought to your attention. Whom. Those “dislikes” about another person’s behavior or attitude have not only to do with you, they also have a lot to do with the person who articulates the “dislike”. And it is the same the other way around. Because people whose souls are strongly connected to each other, mirror each other, the good and the bad things. Often, those “dislike behaviours” address something within the other person that has not been processed so far. For instance, why did I (in my “closed phase”) found it horrible when people showed their emotions? Because I suppressed exactly that, my complex emotions, for decades. So, what was presented to me triggered an issue that was unsolved within myself. Of course, I didn’t like that until I got on another journey to open up and just to be who I am.
  • Take your perspective again and identify why you feel so much hurt:
    Having done the “change perspective” exercise has brought some distance between you and the situation. Hopefully, it has helped you to get a better understanding of the involved persons’ viewpoints. We talked about the mirror effect. Now, let’s see what the other person’s behavior that has hurt you so much has to do with you. Maybe, the other person prioritized an urgent business issue, and not you, even it was planned differently. Ok, that hurts, nobody wants to compete with a budget negotiation process. But now, check your own behaviour. How often did you put business first, and your friends and family had to suffer from your decisions? Pause for a minute. And just acknowledge that you as well have probably an issue to distinguish between urgency and importance and things that really matter in life when you will have to leave this life. And missed conference calls won’t be on your list of regrets. That’s for sure. This is why understanding the mirror effect is so important:
    It’s about learning and growing and making better decisions next time.

Now it’s time to regain your inner peace and to take action

By now, you should be in a far better place. You should have regained your inner peace as a prerequisite for your next steps. I have no recipes for your next steps because there are never five steps to guaranteed happiness and another ten to success. It always depends on your character, your context, and on the quality of relationship with the people involved and last but not least – on what you want. Here is what works for me. Maybe it makes sense for you as well.

I learned along my journey that I have to communicate how I have perceived what has happened, what I have learned from the situation, and how I want to proceed. Even if I was treated badly, in my humble opinion. But another person’s behavior doesn’t lead to a situation in which I would walk away from my own values, principles and priorities.
A core value for me is to treat others in a way I want to be treated. That means that I simply don’t get out of a situation with at least one attempt to clarify it, and to try to establish a foundation for the future. In some cases it works, in others it doesn’t.

I also learned that articulating my viewpoint seems to be more important for me than for others. Especially people who are not very emotional may appreciate you sharing your perspective. But they won’t always be able to respond. People perceive and tackle situations differently. You will recognize pretty soon if your communication was appreciated or not. In case it was those people will come back to you, often in different ways, forms and shapes. Others won’t appreciate what you are doing, and they may push back and hurt you a second time. Just to be right, in their perspective. That’s also for me clear signal how to better spend my time.

Finally, it’s never about being right or wrong. Emotions and perceptions are always subjective impressions, on both sides. Different characters, different values, principles, and priorities will always lead to the one or the other painful situation. What we can change, is to become much more aware, conscious and better in dealing with those situations. And that’s a huge part of your healing process and your personal growth.

“We think that the point is to pass the test or overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen:
room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.“
–Pema Chödrön

I don’t have a silver bullet, and I don’t have all the answers. This is just what works for me, what I learned along my journey. So far. May it be helpful and inspirational for you.

There is only one thing I know for sure: People whose hearts and souls are closely connected will always circle back to each other.

Vulnerability seems to be a key theme. Not only at Sand Hearts. I have written about vulnerability based on my experience and the journey I had to go through to embrace my vulnerable self. Additionally, I hear your feedback and your comments that vulnerability in different forms and shapes is a huge challenge for many of you. In personal and professional situations; which simply means in situations with human interactions.

The more I learned to embrace my vulnerability, the more I could connect the dots to other aspects and challenges of my life. I have written about vulnerability as the key to unleash your creativity, and how to embrace vulnerability to drive your personal growth.

However, there are other aspects of vulnerability that might be connected to your specific challenges in this life. A life challenge (in my opinion) is a challenge that will come up over and over again in different forms and shapes depending on your life’s journey and the current plateau you have achieved. Life challenges are, for instance, getting rid of being a control freak, or walking away from attachment and ownership thinking, or unleashing creativity to fulfill a life purpose and to make a difference. Whatever it is for you, it’s worth a few thoughts, processes and a dialog with yourself what your main life challenge is, and how it is connected to the vulnerable part of your soul. I bet, embracing your vulnerable soul can be a key trigger to better navigating your life challenges. Here is why.

What’s your life challenge?

The more I have found myself in vulnerable situations (personal, professional, etc.), I learned about the connection to one of my key challenges – getting rid of safety thinking. I have already shared how I was raised as a child. Another part of my parents’ philosophy was that everything had to be “secure” and “safe”. My father closed life insurance and retirement insurance contracts for me when I was a teenager! Yes, no joke! That’s what he did. His main focus was to push me into a journey of school, university, career and marriage for one simple reason: I should fit into the system, and I should have a “safe” life. I was put on a journey that I didn’t want to follow. But I didn’t know that at this time. I learned it the hard way. I learned that I was on the wrong path when my life crashed almost completely when I was about thirty. My partnership, my career, and the company I had with my partner – all these things crashed almost at the same time. It was a house of cards that had to crash. It was a process that couldn’t be stopped in the middle. Everything had to crash to open a space for a new beginning. I had to restart. Again. From zero. From today’s perspective, it was the best thing that could happen to me at this time. I worked myself back into my life, step by step. Now, it was about my life, not about anybody else’s life. I was happy just to be with myself; in a small apartment, continuing with a freelance consulting job, moving to another city. Not a “safe” thing. Finally, not a “safe” thing!

This crash was one of the triggers to come closer to my vulnerable soul. I needed a few more triggers to accept and then to embrace my vulnerability as it is, see also here and here.

What’s now the connection between vulnerability and mastering life challenges?

Life challenges, such as mine “getting rid of security thinking” can only be mastered with deeply knowing, understanding and embracing the vulnerable part of your soul.

That includes understanding how your vulnerability shows up in specific situations. Only then, you have a chance to navigate yourself through vulnerable situations and to grow with what has happened and what is happening. Embracing your vulnerability is not only the key to unleashing creative and innovative potential, it can also be the key to navigating better your specific life challenges. Therefore, it’s essential to understand what the root causes of your vulnerable soul are. In my case, the root cause of my vulnerable soul is that I never felt loved when I was a child. My parents have always taken great care of me, but only on a tangible, material level. Not on an emotional level. I missed the feeling to be loved unconditionally and to be accepted for who I was. And I missed happiness and joy. Our family life was a pretty busy, structured and literally “cool” atmosphere. From us children, it was expected to function and to fit into the system.

Today, I know pretty well that I had to go through a few iterations and crashes to understand the vulnerable part of my soul, and also to discover this cause. Understanding what love really is and to discover real love was for many years one of my key challenges and it became a focal point. Something in my life forced me to discover this, which is why I found myself in situations that disrupted everything I thought I would know about love. Luckily, all that happened, the weird situations, the disasters and also the most beautiful moments. I could discover love in my own heart, which was the first step to open a space to begin to develop love as a state of being. And that will be a lifelong journey, I guess… But we all need ambitions! To make a long story short, click here to read what I learned about love so far.

Understanding and discovering love as the cause of my very vulnerable soul, was a prerequisite to better master my life challenge, getting rid of “safety thinking”.

What I learned about love is everything else but stable or safe. Facing my life challenge, engaging in love, embracing the depth of it is one thing. This other thing is the danger of being hurt. Embracing both is all about getting rid of the “safety thinking” patter. It’s an approach to learning and growing. The same discovery helped me to leave “safe” jobs and embrace new but “unsafe” challenges. I did never regret a choice that was based on following my heart, and inner guidance.

Love (I don’t mean “managing” an institution such as a marriage) is just the opposite of safety thinking. It’s about how people who love each other (however they feel and define that for themselves), relate to each other, along their life journeys, what values and principles they bring to the table. It’s about supporting each other on their journeys. And love requires freedom. “Love and freedom are two wings of the same bird,” as Osho said. Loving each other means also to understand that different people have different levels of vulnerability and that their vulnerability may have different causes (and buttons…). Also, different people have different emotional capacities and needs. And sometimes this balance gets lost and has to be established again, on a higher, more conscious level. For the vulnerable soul, that isn’t always an easy thing to do. The vulnerable soul needs time to reflect and to process these things in order to move on. Establishing a new layer of playfulness and joy, in freedom, can help to navigate those challenges. Furthermore, people, even when in love with each other in whatever way, may seek for different things, often based on a different life purpose and different priorities. Knowing, understanding and balance are the keys to happiness and joy, based on freedom.

Love became the key energy for all that matters to me, my inner circle, my work, and my various projects and initiatives I’m working on. All that’s based on love, driven by my life purpose of being a gatekeeper to bridge between assumed different worlds, driven by my truth. Love is now my foundation.

Getting to the root causes requires courage, curiosity, willpower, honesty, time and passion for learning, unlearning and relearning. And that’s how we grow.

Related blog posts:




“Vulnerable is the only way we can feel when we truly share the art we’ve made.

When we share it, when we connect, we have shifted all the power and made ourselves naked
in front of the person we’ve given
the gift of our art to.

We have no excuses, no manual to point to,
no standard operating procedure to protect us.
And that is part of our gift.”

–Seth Godin

There is no quotation on vulnerability that’s touching me more than this one. It’s so spot on and written by someone who has gone through this experience, over and over again. It’s the essence of many different situations, such as publishing a blog post, an article or even a book, delivering a presentation at a conference, or leading a workshop or a seminar.

Prior to those situations, you have spent lots of time to create your art. Here, I use the term “art” as equivalent to “work” as outcomes along a creative journey. You focused on making your work as best as possible until what you have created is ready to be shared. And then suddenly, you are “on stage” with your art. It’s the same feeling whether you click the “Publish” button on your blog, or you walk onstage to deliver a presentation or you enter the seminar room to meet your attendees.

For me, those situations are so vulnerable because it’s my art, my work that I’m going to share. My work, my insights, and my creativity are based on me as a unique character. I’m completely “in” my art or anything else I do, or I’m out. I’m inseparable from the person creating, delivering or presenting my art. I don’t know how that feels for you, but this is my truth. Think about a writer’s specific content and style, a filmmaker’s preferences and techniques or a photographer’s specific lens how to look at the world. What they create, reflects their individual journey, their experiences, their suffering and their viewpoints until they create and deliver this specific piece of art.

Vulnerability is a powerful energy, a strong emotion and always an individual experience. Your perception of your vulnerability will be different from my experience even if we use the same term. There is no right or wrong. It’s simply unique and, therefore – different. My perception of my vulnerability is my reflection of my perceived reality. And so it is for you, your perception, and your experience. Different.

I have written about vulnerability from a very personal perspective. More about that, click here. It sounds counterintuitive, but my perceived strength, power, courage, and creativity come from my very vulnerable soul. This part of my soul can make me highly emotional and vulnerable in private and professional situations where other people, even friends who know me pretty well, would never expect me to react like this. However, I’m more than aware of this, and I will always have the challenge to connect the dots between these different character traits in me.

I have also written about the difference between perfectionism and excellence, how I experience these terms and what I learned along my way. Walking away from too much perfectionism (a limiting element at this time), allowed myself to open up, and to embrace my vulnerability. Here are a few principles for the vulnerable souls out there that I learned during my professional career and my spiritual journey. 

You control what you share, when you share and with whom.

Often overlooked, but so important. It’s you who decides when your art is ready to be shared. Processing a few iterations before sharing your art with “everybody” helps to sharpen your art and to make it as excellent as it can be at this point in your life.

It’s important to understand that “as excellent as it can be” simply means to do your best. But doing your best is going to change, it depends on your current stage of your life journey. If I read my articles from two or three years ago, I clearly see the progress I made along my journey. Writing about the same topics today would be different. Of course, I made progress along my way, and I learned many new things.

Getting real feedback from people who respect your work and art, and who understand your thinking, helps you to sharpen your art, your messages, and your outcome. You don’t want any “great”, “nice work”, “excellent” or other polite, but meaningless statements. In this situation, you want to get true feedback. Even if it’s hard. I learned along my way that this is an essential step to make my work stronger and better. The ideal counterpart here is probably not a person you are in love with, it’s better a friend, a peer, or a colleague you respect and trust. Most important, don’t waste your time and energy with feedback from amateurs who have no idea what you are talking about. Then, whatever this feedback is, be grateful for the gift and take it seriously. The person who provides you such an honest feedback, opened up the same way and made herself vulnerable. Then, with this feedback in mind, rethink your whole approach. If your approach were already strong, it would remain, but it will be sharper here and there. If you missed relevant elements, they would be discovered, and you can integrate them.

If it’s not about writing, concepts etc., but about delivering presentations, keynotes, seminars, etc., practice, practice, and practice. For the content part, chose the same iteration as mentioned above. Then practice on your own, practice with your smart phone and practice with others. Especially for keynotes, counterparts who are not experts in your area, but good thinkers, are a great proof point. If you can explain it simply enough that they understand, you are very well prepared. Then, it’s time to be “on stage”.

You cannot control other people’s reaction. That’s their perception of their reality; it’s not yours.

This principle was essential for me to live and to embrace my vulnerability while having a professional role with lots of exposure in writing, publishing and public speaking.

It goes back to the second of The Four Agreements, by Don Miguel Ruiz. It says, “Don’t take anything personally.” Because: “Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.”

It has taken me years and many iterations and experiences to understand the true meaning of it. Understanding is one thing. Having an ambition is another thing. And living and embracing it is another animal altogether. So, I got it, and I have my ambition how to live this, but let’s face it: I’m not living up to my ambitions every day in my life. But I get better every day and every time I have to deal with this challenge.

What does that mean for our “Publish” button scenario? As soon as you have clicked this button, the whole world can read and see what you have created. You have done your best to get there; it’s as excellent as it can be at this point. And that’s all that matters for now. The first thing to do is to thank yourself for what you have created. Pause. Inhale. Exhale. And be aware that you will never be able to please everyone (if so, it would simply mean that you didn’t take any position). So, the natural consequence is that there will be people who disagree with you. And there will be people who love what you have done, who will share what you have created. And others, ok, they will simply ignore what you have created. If so, it simply wasn’t for them.

And then, have a look at feedback and critique when it’s a good time for you and you can fully embrace the second of The Four Agreements. Whatever anybody has to say about your art, is based on their perception of their reality. Knowing this makes it a lot easier to deal with critique and negative feedback. I’m not saying push it away. Not at all. Feedback from people who have done this, who have gone through similar challenges, can point you to important elements and perspectives that are maybe not part of your thinking and working right now. Embracing this kind of feedback and perceiving it as a gift can only make your art stronger.

These two principles are about inhaling and embracing your vulnerability. Processed this way, you can use your vulnerability as an early warning system that provides you guidance along your way, that makes your work, your art, even better. But don’t waste time and energy in feedback from people who have no idea what you are talking about, or who have nothing to say in your area of expertise. Dealing with this kind of feedback will only water down your art and make it weak. So don’t do it. But embrace strong and critical feedback  from people who understand your thinking and your creativity, from people you respect and trust.

How do you deal with your vulnerability?
How do you make your vulnerability a driving force four your personal growth?


“Unless you love the body, and unless you understand the body,
you cannot grow spiritually.
The body is the temple of your soul.”
– Osho

Do you perceive yourself as a soul having a body or as a body having a soul? Whatever your belief is, I want to invite you for a moment to play with the thought that your body is the temple of your soul. Imagine your body is holding the space for your soul. Create a picture in your mind, imagine how the temple of your soul would look like.

Having this picture in your mind, ask yourself how would you treat your body being the temple of your soul?

How would you honor your body as the temple of your soul?

That was the question I had the pleasure to work with during the SUNDOOR Masters Training in August 2013 at Lendrick Lodge in Scotland.

How would you answer this question? How would you honor the body as the temple of your soul?
Here is what I have written in my notebook at this time:

I handle my body with care and love, always in a gentle way. I keep my body in good shape that I can fulfill my aspirations. I nourish my body with vegan food, that’s free of animal-cruelty but full of Mother Earth’s powerful and healing ingredients. I have a close connection between my body, my mind, and my soul. I feel happy in my body. My body is the best home ever for my soul.
I trust my body. I love my body.

On a scale of 1 to 10, how achievable do these things look right now ?
Think about your current state for a moment.

Our bodies are the tangible and visible entity we expect to function 24/7, 365 days a year, and an entire life. But how much attention do you pay to your body? How do you enable your body to be your always functioning servant, to be a beautiful, and healthy temple for your soul? There are three areas to be considered: Food, moving/exercising and last but not least: your thoughts.
For today, let’s focus on food.

At this time, August 2013, I was already on a vegan diet for more than one year. Click here and read A Journey of Self-Leadership if you are interested in the why and how of my decision to change.

This change was a huge shift for me. There is only one thing I regret: that I didn’t make the decision earlier. It was a process of unlearning and relearning, not only regarding facts and information, but also regarding how to do things differently and how to create totally different nutrient-dense dishes. As my decision was based on ethical principles, there was never even a thought of going back. It’s like a spiritual journey. Once your heart and your mind have opened up, and your soul finds its place to live, there is no way back. Instead, you are looking forward to learning more and more along your journey. In the meantime, it’s still an amazing journey of learning and discovering new things.

Here is what I wrote about my journey in September 2013:

“Going vegan changed my life – literally. I could lead myself in another direction that’s much closer to my heart; it’s much more me, myself and I. I could achieve a new level of inner peace, balance, and happiness. And I have even more energy than before – OK, that may sound like a threat for those of you who know me…

I feel every moment that I don’t have any longer the animals’ suffering and the violence they had to experience in my body. It’s a feeling of deep happiness, gratitude, and connectedness. The way how deeply I feel this connectedness now, this feeling of being Earth – instead of living on Earth – changed so much for me, also to achieve another level of love. This concept of a conscious and compassionate life has now another, much deeper level for me. It became very solid and grounded because it is manifested on a daily basis.

And… my love is growing, my love is changing to a state of being.
Another beautiful journey, I’m deeply grateful for.”

Everything I wrote in 2013 is still spot on. Now, it’s an even deeper experience since then and yes – my love is still growing. Love as a state of being, and compassion as a consequence of the connectedness of all living beings on Earth. And without any doubt: my soul loves even more to live in my body. Finally, both are best friends and inspire each other.

I learned a ton of new things about food in general, to ditch “food products” and to enjoy Mother Earth’s abundant garden of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, grains, and lentils. I learned tons of new things about vegan, raw vegan nutrient-dense food. And I developed many things to a new level, to make vegan cuisine practical for people who work a lot and who travel a lot. I became a true advocate of peaceful, cruel-free food for our bodies, the temple of our souls. And I can’t wait to share all these amazing things with you. And that’s why…

Sand Hearts has got a sister: Peaceful Soulfood

Peaceful Soulfood is my newborn blog! I will share photographs, facts and figures, recipes, inspirational posts and quotes to make your vegan soulfood diet an enjoyable, delicious, heart, soul and mind-opening holistic experience. Peaceful Soulfood is not another blog of recipes.

Peaceful Soulfood is based on five pillars:

  • The body is the temple of your soul. Compassionate and peaceful souls can only grow in a body that’s nourished in a cruel-free way. You cannot eat violence and expect peace.
  • Animals are living beings. Open your heart and mind to those animals who are exploited, misused, abused, tortured and killed by the animal agriculture industry.
  • Just because something is legal doesn’t make it right from an ethical perspective.
  • What we eat has a huge impact on the environment. The animal agriculture industry is not only the most water consuming “food” industry, but also the biggest contributor to greenhouse gasses.
  • Mother Earth doesn’t need us. But we need her to survive:
    Just as fossil fuels are replaced by renewable and sustainable energy sources, animal-based foods will be replaced by Mother Earth’s abundance in terms of vegetables, fruits, grains, seeds and lentils.


Links for those of you who are interested to learn more:

Wikipedia defines perfectionism as “a personality trait characterized by a person’s striving for flawlessness and setting excessively high-performance standards, accompanied by overly critical self-evaluations and concerns regarding others’ evaluations.” Adaptive perfectionism, carried out in a positive way can drive and motivate people to reach ambitious and stretch goals. But in a maladaptive form, perfectionism – especially when projected in an unfiltered and very critical way to others – can drive people crazy and can destroy new, creative and innovative ideas.

Can we as human beings ever be perfect? Or can we never be perfect by definition?

I cannot offer right or wrong answers, but I’d love to share what I learned so far on my journey. It won’t be perfect, I guess. But I hope it’s something that inspires you to think differently about perfectionism.

We are born with a perfect system – our human body.
We are not born with all we need to know in life.

We all have to learn essentials such as sitting, walking, talking, eating and drinking, writing and reading. Later on, we learn how to drive a bike or a car, and we acquire explicit knowledge and experiences in various areas of interest. At the same time, we will always lack knowledge in other areas. We learn in many different ways, for instance by observation, by repetition, by trial and error, and by mistakes. And the list goes on and on. Remember how you learned to ride a bike. Remember your first photographs or your first pieces of writing. And then, years later: look at what you create now and how you create now. That will be different. Often very different. And that’s good news. It means that learning, development, and growth have happened. And all of that happens in iterations, triggered by inspirations, by conflicts or by a situation that forces us to change. Also, people we meet can shape our lives, and influence or revolutionize our work. But only, if we allow other people to come so close to our heart that these changes can be triggered by them. And that’s the part that has to do with the acceptance of our vulnerability.

Does that sound “perfect”? No, I don’t think so. What bothers me most about the term “perfect” is that it excludes change, growth, and development. By definition. If something is considered to be perfect, how should it ever be advanced to a new level? No way. If something is already perfect, changes can only make it imperfect.

That’s not something I prefer. Not for who I am, not for what I do, and not for my relationships. To be precise, not for the way I relate to the very few people that are really important to me.

I was a perfectionist for many years, when I worked like crazy in a job that meant nothing to me personally, more than ten years ago. Click here for more information. In this consulting era, I was well known for being a perfectionist, especially regarding presentations for client projects. Why was I a perfectionist at this time? From today’s perspective, it’s easy to answer for me.  Because I could hide myself behind my “perfectionism shield”. At this time I didn’t accept my vulnerable soul, I didn’t love myself in all aspects as I should. My consulting role at this time didn’t allow myself to be vulnerable. I was paid to function where others already failed. So, hiding my vulnerability was most important to me. And there is no better way than being a perfectionist.

What I learned is now proven by research:

“Perfectionism is not the same thing as striving to be our best. Perfectionism is not about healthy achievement and growth; it’s a shield.”
– Brené Brown

Striving for our best in everything we do is of course something we should aim for every day. But how we do that, how we strive for our best; that makes all the difference in all aspects of our lives.

The perfectionist way takes you in your entirety pretty much out of the equation. Perfectionism often works like a shield, seeking for acceptance and approval for what we do. Somehow, perfectionism and who we really are – these two elements don’t seem to go along pretty well because I don’t think that we as human beings can ever be perfect, as discussed above. So, being perceived perfectly means almost all the time to hide you being a human being, especially your vulnerable part. Hiding that helps to minimize critic and painful feelings of judgment. The downside is that the perfectionist way doesn’t allow you to grow, to develop your work and yourself to another level in a holistic way. Therefore, you have to be “in”; completely, with all aspects of YOU.

Striving for your best in everything you do should be based on excellence, not on perfectionism.

  • Excellence is different from perfectionism.
  • Excellence is a virtue.
  • Excellence includes the necessity of growth.
  • Excellence includes the need to develop different levels of excellence.
  • Excellence happens in iterations.

Whenever I publish a blog post, this specific piece of writing, and I have gone through a few iterations. Gathering ideas, doing research, extracting the main idea and the supporting ideas, how to tell the story, and then – the first draft. Often, I walk away from the article at this point and come back a few days later. I have to digest the first draft. Sometimes, I’m still happy with the flow, and a few editing iterations follow. And sometimes, I’m not happy with the first draft, and I have to rewrite the article. Whatever the process is for whatever I publish here, I don’t click the publish button before I’m not sure that I have done my very best I’m able to do at this point.

Is that perfect? No, but it’s the best version I could create at this point;  knowing that there is always room for improvement and knowing that I would probably write with a slightly different perspective within a year or two from now. And that’s good news. Because I assume to learn, to grow and to deepen my understanding and my experience. And I expect to have deeper insights the more I have the pleasure to learn and to grow in this human experience that’s called my life.

I’m happy to be able to accept my vulnerability as one of my core strengths. I’m either completely “in” or completely “out” regarding all aspects of my life. I love to strive for excellence in all those “in” areas of my life. Always.

  • Perfectionism is not about change, growth and iterations, but excellence is.
  • Perfectionism takes “being human” out of the equation.
  • Perfectionism works as a shield to avoid judgment, shame and blame.

The pursuit of excellence – that’s what boosts your creativity in playfulness, in acceptance of who you are as a human being and in acceptance of what you do along your journey.

It’s International Women’s Day, #IWD2015!

And here is the second part of my series about inspiring women. In part 1, I covered women rights and the cultural aspect that influences women’s reality. I introduced you to a true leader of the Baroque era, artist Artemisia Gentileschi.

Fast forward to today, we are in the 21st century, and I want to introduce you to my heroine of the second part of the series, Fiona Oakes.

Fiona Oakes is a world-class marathon runner. She holds three Guinness world records as the fastest women to run a marathon on all seven continents aggregate time as well as the fastest woman to run a marathon on all continents plus the North Pole in both aggregate and elapsed time. Additionally, she holds several course records. She is vegan since her childhood. Apart from running marathons across the planet, her day-job is leading Tower Hill Stables Animal Sanctuary, where she cares about 400 rescued and previously unwanted animals, with the support of her partner Martin Morgan.

Fiona is leading by example, focusing completely on what’s the right thing to do; every single day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Considering animals as what they are, sentient living beings who love to live and who want to avoid pain, Fiona made the connection between animal-based food and the painful situation of farmed animals very early in her childhood. The result: she became a vegan. Imagine this sense of a holistic big picture and the clear articulation of her focus and her dedication already as a child. For me, this connection and the logical consequence to go vegan has taken many more years. Click here to learn more.

On the one hand side, Tower Hill Stables Animal Sanctuary deals with the symptoms of abuse and exploitation by caring about abused and exploited animals. On the other hand side, Fiona has created The Fiona Oakes Foundation to address the root causes. Root causes are, for instance, how people perceive animals differently (to love pets but to consume the meat or the breastmilk of farmed animals), and how people look at the environment (“I cannot change a lot”). Ultimately it’s what we eat. Diets that are rich in animal-based ingredients are a torture for the animals exploited by the animal agriculture industry. This industry is one of the biggest threats to our environment (see facts here) because it is one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gases. Furthermore, animal-based diets are not healthy, as the China Study and the related documentary Forks over Knives proved already years ago.

Fiona has dedicated her life to change the root causes and to help abused and exploited animals wherever she can. She addresses the root causes as a vegan, serves as a role model by showcasing what can be achieved on a vegan diet. High performance is a small word for all her athletic achievements. What makes her an outstanding athlete is her consistent world-class performance year over year: three world records and several course records. Not a single one was a “one-hit-wonder”. Her athletic achievements are always planned precisely. She is very focused on executing her goals. Running 100 miles a week, while caring for about 400 animals is nothing you do between nine and five. She alone knows where she takes the energy to get up at 3:30 am every day. And running is nothing she does to for herself. “It serves the purpose” is her simple statement. She is running for the animals, to raise money for the sanctuary and to prove that world-class performance can be achieved on a vegan diet.

In February 2015, she has taken on another challenge, the 777quest: seven marathons in seven days on seven continents. Also here, she delivered seven marathons, in seven days on “only” six continents due to bad weather conditions at Antarctica. Is there anybody out there who wants to question her outstanding performance and dedication?

Fiona Oakes is a 21st century heroine and world-class marathon runner, leading by example to transform the world into a more sustainable and non-violent place

I had the pleasure to meet Fiona and her partner Martin in person last year at the sanctuary. It was so spot on when she said “let me introduce you to our family”. That’s what the animals are, fellow creatures and living beings who deserve to live in peace without pain. She introduced me to the horses, the chickens, the ducks, the pigs and the sheep, the dogs and the cats. Every single animal has either a violent ex-farm history or another background where their owners didn’t take their responsibility seriously. At Tower Hill Stables, peace is a reality. And that’s what Fiona and Martin have created, a paradise for animals. You feel the difference. It’s peaceful, animals are loved for who and what they are, not for what they may “produce” or “do” for humans. Tower Hill Stables is itself a role model for a non-violent world. This is how we all should live together. It’s so beautiful to see that different species can live together in peace.

Fiona works extremely hard without almost no break or pause. In her spare time, she provides posts, updates, and news from the sanctuary to raise money for the animals, and to grow the group of sanctuary members who support the animals on a monthly basis. Furthermore, she is always exploring new ideas to create an even bigger impact for her cause.

“It’s important to follow your heart.
And it’s important to open your heart to the suffering of others.”
Fiona Oakes

That’s what I call servant leadership!
Happy #IWD2015!

P.S.: In case you want to join me in helping Fiona and the animals, click here to learn more about different ways to help: http://www.towerhillstables.com/towerhill-helpingus.htm


More about Fiona Oakes:

Fiona’s story:

CNN Human to Hero:

Fiona’s world records:

BBC London Radio Interview:

Fiona Oakes, Ultra Marathon Runner: Mazda Real Challengers, Series 2:


It’s International Women’s Day, #IWD2015!

It’s a day to recognize and to celebrate what has been achieved in terms of women rights. It’s also a day to look at the current state and to focus on the remaining challenges that have to be mastered to achieve gender equality in all aspects of our lives. There is a legal dimension, and there is the cultural dimension, a reality of women who inspire, who lead and who transform. In past times and the present.

Before I will introduce you to a few women who inspired my life; let’s just look at one legal issue, the right of women to vote. For many of us, women’s suffrage already existed when we were born. Only the older generations may remember the tremendous fights that were necessary to gain the right to vote. It’s absolutely worth your time to have a look at this timetable of women’s suffrage. Look at the huge timespan from the 18th century up to the 20th century which was necessary in so many countries to achieve a right that is considered to be self-evident for many of us. Did you know that women got the right to vote in Germany in 1918, but in France only in 1944, in Italy in 1946 and in Greece in 1952? The UK established selected women’s suffrage in 1918 until women got the same rights as men in 1928. Some US states were early adopters, and on a federal level women’s suffrage was achieved in 1920. Women’s suffrage is still an issue in the 21st century: Oman in 2003, United Arab Emirates in 2006 and Saudi Arab in 2015.

There are always two sides of the same coin. One is the legal part as mentioned in the example above; the other one is women’s cultural reality, women’s lives. The cultural dimension goes way beyond the example I used here. Both realities make me aware that there is no reason to take anything for granted.

Apart from legal rights and constitutions, there have always been courageous women who led by example and how transformed entire eras.

In part one of the little series; we go back to the Baroque era.

Think of baroque painters. Which name comes to your mind? Probably Caravaggio considered as one of the most important Baroque painters and influencers. But did you ever hear about Artemisia Gentileschi? Maybe yes, maybe not. I admit, I didn’t know her name since I had the pleasure to be part of a guided tour at the MET – Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York last December. The tour’s purpose was to guide our team through different eras of art, from the first painters up to the impressionists. Our focus was to understand the triggers, for instance in society, church, or around methods and techniques, which changed the way of painting, which changed art in each era. Artemisia Gentileschi (1593 – 1656), was an Italian Baroque painter. “Today she is considered one of the most accomplished painters of the generation following that of Caravaggio. In an era when women painters were not easily accepted by the artistic community or patrons, she was the first woman to become a member of the Accademia di Arte del Disegno in Florence” (Wikipedia).

But there is much more in Artemisia’s life that makes her a heroine for me.

Artemisia’s lost her mother at age 12. Since then, she was mostly surrounded by men. She learned how to paint from her father, painter Orazio Gentileschi. At age 17, she was raped by a friend of her father, painter Agostino Tassi. To make a long story short, she had to go through an ensuing seven-month trial. Artemisia’s father pressed charges against Tassi because he had taken Artemisia’s virginity. During the trial, Artemisia was subjected to a gynecological examination and torture using thumbscrews to verify her testimony. At the end of the trial, Tassi was sentenced to imprisonment for one year, although he never served the time. Imagine for a moment how this 17-year-old girl could have felt at this time…

Artemisia lived in many different places in Italy, in Vienna and England. Wikipedia sums it up: “[She] was an artist who fought with determination—using the weapon of personality and of the artistic qualities—against the prejudices expressed against women painters; being able to introduce herself productively in the circle of the most respected painters of her time, embracing a series of pictorial genres that probably were more ample and varied than her paintings suggest.”

What makes Artemisia’s work as a painter so important is that 94% of her art featured women as protagonists or equal to men. Imagine the Baroque era. Doing so was more than a revolution. Many of the characters she painted intentionally lacked the stereotypical “feminine” traits — sensitivity, timidness, and weakness. The opposite was the case, these characters were brave, courageous, rebellious, and powerful personalities. Apparently, she processed the rape and the related challenges in her life with creating outstanding art. And she seemed to be well aware of how differently women and female artists were viewed by men. That could explain why her works at the beginning of her career were so bold and defiant.

Artemisia was the linchpin of the Baroque era. She used bravery, insight, creativity, and boldness to challenge the current state.

Here is what I love about Artemisia and what truly inspired me: She was a courageous and strong women, she was a highly creative artist, and she became one of the most important Baroque painters. She had to go through a lot of suffering and even more challenges in her life. But she always led by example, she processed her challenges while creating outstanding art. If a certain place didn’t work any longer for her art, she changed the situation, and she moved to another place. In parallel, she had to raise her daughter, most of the time as a single Mother.

Last but not least, she invented the “women artist” and she was a role model for her generation. And for me, she still is a role model for women in our world. She is a role model for a linchpin, which is a brave, passionate, creative person who follows a bold vision and leads by example.

Find your life purpose and walk your journey. Lead by example, make your vulnerability a creative strength and make sure that your journey is a benefit to all.

Happy #IWD2015!

Stay tuned, the second part is already in the making!