No, this is not another blog post about the outcome of the UK’s EU referendum. My aim is to identify political behaviors that trigger those difficult situations we all have to deal with. And therefore I will use two examples, the AfD example in Germany and the EU referendum in the UK.
In February, I have written a political post about the refugee crisis from a German perspective. Not because I wanted to get into political writing. But because I had to raise my voice at a time when my country was shocked by an increasing number of nationalist-driven crimes against refugees. When I wrote this in February, I couldn’t know how the right-wing party AfD would misuse this situation to drive even more fear, hatred, and negativity across the country.
Unfortunately, their negative, right-wing, and fear-driven campaign including false assertions was pretty successful: they got elected into all three federal parliaments on March 6. Germany was shocked. But it wasn’t such a surprise. Various analysis of the election brought up the truth: 75% of the AfD voters were frustrated people, mostly young men, without a job, more in East than in West Germany. Even worse, they did not know anything about the AfD’s program. And there wasn’t much of a program at this time. Now, we know: this right-wing party is primarily against everything that made Germany a strong country including the EU, and of course, the refugees are blamed for almost everything. And, of course, they had and have no plan what to do in the future.
Being against something is acceptable, even if I’d prefer to have a plan how to solve the issue in the future. But driving fears and not being afraid to “adjust facts” into false assertions is absolutely not acceptable, just to win an election, but not having any idea how to implement the campaign’s goal. We experienced this behavior in March in Germany, and the UK is still experiencing the results of this behavior regarding the EU referendum.
I love many places in the UK, London, England, and especially Scotland. I have friends in all parts of the country, and I spend a couple of weeks each year in the UK, for business and also privately. I’m always following politics in the UK as I do it in Germany.
Honestly, I didn’t expect the Brexit campaign to win. For three reasons:
One, I could never build any trust in the figureheads of the campaign, especially in Boris Johnson. For me, it was way too transparent from the very beginning that he had a personal agenda. How could the previous Mayor of London, who was leading a capital which was always based on the contribution of various cultures including many global enterprises that have chosen London for their European head offices, being against the EU?
Two, because I watched their campaign video very carefully. I was sure that most people would identify the lack of facts and the very thin ice they were skating on. And the very thin ice was misusing immigration as the key topic to drive people’s fear, to win the referendum.
Three, I listened to a presentation of a professor of European Law, explaining all the legal issues, all the advantages, and the problems and also what it would really mean to leave the EU.
Don’t get me wrong: The EU is far away from being perfect, and no other large organisation is perfect. And the EU made bad decisions as any other organisation or government did as well. But the initial purpose of the EU is right, and the benefits can be seen across Europe, including the UK.
What can we learn from these political happenings that seem to be patterns that just come over and over again in different forms and shapes?
- A referendum in a parliamentary democracy, especially with such an essential question, has special risks:
What would the result be in Germany, asking the same question? Not sure, it could easily end up in a similar constitutional crisis. Because such a question regarding the EU is one of the most complex questions, you can ever ask. Why do we expect that every person in a country with the right to vote is also able to understand the problem in its complexity and depth, and its impact on various areas of people’s life?
It’s different in a direct democracy. Ask Swiss people. They have to answer a referendum every other month. They know the process, they know that they have to read a lot of stuff (and they get the material) to make a decision. They know that voting is a right AND a duty.
- Politicians are not to blame alone. Because politicians are just a mirror of our societies. Campaigning with an “adjusted truth” just to win an election or a referendum is just the same illness we experience in so many corporations. Decisions, even if facts have to be “adjusted” are made just to serve a short-term purpose, e.g. to fix a quarter, to maximize the shareholder value, even if the decisions make no sense from a long-term, strategic perspective. It’s just the same illness, just in different forms and shapes.
- How can a call for political isolation ever be a solution in a deeply connected world with global challenges?
Make your own opinion, and ask yourself this question whatever the election or the campaign might be.
Our thoughts impact our actions. Our actions determine our results.
If our thoughts are fearful and negative, our actions will reflect this, and negative, fear-driven results will manifest.
If our thoughts are compassionate, integrating and collaborative, our actions will reflect this, and more positive results will manifest. In our lives, and in our environment.
“As the world’s fears increase and humanity’s actions reflect these fears, allow your inner flame to burn brighter.”
Develop love and compassion within your heart, as a state of being.
Develop a positive vision of your future success, based on your soul’s purpose, and act accordingly.
And don’t forget that clarity and change often come when there are chaos and confusion.
Having said this, I wish all my friends in the UK a positive outcome, for all of us!
You may say “Oh, was he a famous horse, a racing horse, or a showjumping horse?” No. He was not a racing horse, and not a show jumping horse. Luckily. He lived at an animal sanctuary, at Tower Hill Stables Animals Sanctuary, in Essex, UK, rescued a few years ago from slaughter.
Mr. Rupert’s life mattered. Because life matters.
There are no species that are more important than others. But we currently experience on this planet that this is not the case. Not at all. Animal suffering is a huge issue on this planet right now. They are still considered as “things” that can be bought, owned, sold to make money with them, or thrown away when no longer needed. For horses, it seems that as soon as they don’t provide enough “value” to their “owners”, they have a high probability to be sold to the slaughterhouse, or to be abandoned. Tower Hill Stables Animal Sanctuary, a home for about 400 previously unwanted animals, led by my friend Fiona Oakes, can share those tragic stories about every single horse she is taking care of.
Mr. Rupert was a very special horse. A very big horse. A very gentle, calm, and wise soul. Always in balance. He was born into the body of a white Percheron, which is one of the biggest horse races on the planet. Fiona Oakes rescued Mr. Rupert four years ago from slaughter. As you can imagine, some people who want to make money with animals, had the great idea to sell this beautiful horse that’s about 1.000 kg plus as a young boy (!) to the slaughterhouse. Lots of money to make compared to a horse that’s just half the weight of Mr. Rupert; if you don’t care about the life of an animal.
If you do care about animals, you would never even consider selling your animal to the slaughterhouse.
Luckily, Mr. Rupert had a guardian angel surrounding and protecting him. His guardian angel was and is Fiona Oakes. As soon as he was rescued by her; as soon as he arrived at Tower Hill Stables, he was safe. Finally, he could inhale and exhale without anxiety. Now, as he was safe, he could simply enjoy his horse life with all the other horses, with pigs, cows, sheep, turkeys, chickens, cats, and dogs.
Why do I write about Mr. Rupert as he wasn’t even “my” horse?
I write about him because all life matters.
I write about him because we are all connected to each other. And by the way, this is not a “belief system”, this is simply physics. On a quantum level, we are all electro-magnetic beings.
I write about him because nobody “owns” an animal; it’s just our outdated “humans rule the world” legal system that declares an animal a thing, which is a prerequisite to “own” it and to “use” it.
I write about him because this big boy left huge horse “hoof” imprints on my heart.
I write about him because animals like Mr. Rupert wouldn’t live without animal sanctuaries, without fascinating human beings like Fiona Oakes, who sacrifice EVERYTHING for the animals, to provide them with all they need to live their lives on their terms. And that’s not a “benefit”; it is simply their right.
I will never forget the moment when I met Mr. Rupert for the first time. Such an impressive, big, big horse. His head was as big as my upper body, and I’m not a small, but a tall person. I will never forget his incredible tender horse kisses and his curious horse tongue that was always checking out if there were any treats for him in my pockets. Whenever I visited the sanctuary, Mr. Rupert walked me around in his calm, majestic, and totally relaxed manner.
When the new stable was built, and finally a proper roof could be created, it was Mr. Rupert who presented it to me as you can see here on the left. Some of you may remember Mr. Rupert’s roof appeal when he was raising money for him and his horse friends for the new roof.
Why did Mr. Rupert die? He was not older than ten or twelve years, way too young for a horse
Well, Mr. Rupert was lame on May 19th, seen by the vet the same day. At this point, it was not certain what was causing the issue.
On May 21st, Rupert went down. “Given his size and his weight of about 1.000 kg plus, this is a serious issue in case of lameness. The vet suggested we contact the fire rescue services” said Fiona Oakes. The special animal crew from South Woodham Ferrers and their Unimog vehicle and more crews came to bring Mr. Rupert back on his feet. Four hours later Rupert could stand without the help of the lift. Woohoo!
It was planned to make x rays the following day. But it turned out that the mobile x rays were too small for Mr. Rupert. So, he had to be brought to the vet’s hospital for the x rays and further investigations. But let’s tell Fiona: “…and we finally got him on the lorry. This is his only chance – his size is a massive consideration in this matter. He is a large horse, and I don’t think the phrase ‘no hoof, no horse’ could ever have applied more. We have had many heavy horses in the past and have learned the hard way you must keep them on their feet. They simply cannot afford to go down on a prolonged and regular basis.”
May 22nd: Mr. Rupert has made it to the Vet and was being x-rayed. He now had access to ‘state of the art’ veterinary treatments. That was his chance! He had the best chance anybody could offer him. And Fiona and her partner Martin did EVERYTHING to get him there. But that didn’t save his life.
On May 24th, Mr. Rupert passed away owing to very unfortunate circumstances
Those circumstances were, for instance, not acting fast enough, not considering his massive size when it came to the dosage of medication, and not listening to Fiona who knows Mr. Rupert in an out, and who is taking care of horses for over 40 years, including lots of those big horses.
“His foot was poulticed, and the abscess had already tracked up rather than down and come out through the Coronet Band. They were hoping this would continue and they Farrier could drill a hole under the foot to get the rest out from the bottom of the hoof, but they didn’t act fast enough, and the infection had spread” as Fiona shared on facebook. The infection had spread into his pedal bone which caused him, as you can imagine, terrible pain.
Fiona Oakes fought to get him to the vet. She fought to get the right lorry for him, and she fought for his treatment. “Honestly, it’s like they see horses as items of value based on what they are worth in terms of human remuneration – not that they are precious lives who are equal and deserve to be treated so.”
Unfortunately, she is so right with her observations. This is why Mr. Rupert’s life and his death matter. I guess his soul has more work to do on the other side of the rainbow bridge, educating other souls on what matters. Basic principles such as unconditional love, collaboration instead of competition, and understanding connectedness and oneness, and the rule of cause and effect.
Mr. Rupert’s atomic body died. But his spirit, his energy, his consciousness are still around to drive change.
Links and ways to help the animals:
Fiona Oakes is a world-class vegan marathon runner, holds several Guinness world records
Her biggest challenge is happening right now: The Four Desert Challenge
Do you care about your breath? Probably not so much. Can you describe your breathing habits? Maybe you can if you are a yoga practitioner as I am. How does your breath contribute to your overall health (body, mind, and soul) and your spiritual development? Most people don’t know a lot about that. So did I.
After one week of working consciously with my breath, many things have changed
I feel lighter, better, happier, more peaceful, and much more aware and conscious, and also more liberated and more connected to the universal life force that flows through all living beings. I feel like being in another state. And yes, also my heart opened up even more. I’m observing what’s going on around me rather than building an immediate opinion or taking immediate action on something. Of course, I still take a lot of actions, but the way I do has changed. It’s much more conscious, more focused on being aligned with my soul purpose rather than reacting to operational needs only. You could also say, I’m listening much better to my inner voice, which is my soul’s voice, as I have built a deeper connection to my soul. And on a physical level, my breathing capacity and my ability to leverage the value of proper breathing has increased tremendously.
Why are we so disconnected from our breath?
The human body can survive many hours without food or water, but only a few seconds without breathing. Isn’t it interesting that this most important life force, our breath, is so underestimated, in all aspects of our lives? It’s strange enough that children don’t learn in school how to plant a garden to grow their food. Even worse, they also don’t learn how to use their breath correctly. And it’s the same in medicine. Did you ever meet a doctor who had sent you to a breathwork practitioner to improve your healing process, especially when it was about chronical diseases? Probably not. And that’s a shame.
It wasn’t always like this. In many languages, the word for spirit and breath is the same which underlines the meaning of the breath: the movement of spirit in matter. In many cultures, the process of breathing was always considered inseparable from health, consciousness and spirit. Also here, you can see the holistic understanding of health that seems to be lost in so many Western cultures. Here and there, it’s coming back, and more holistic approaches to physical and mental health are growing everywhere. Luckily this trend is increasing.
Babies know how to breathe, but most adults lost this ability along the way
If you have the chance, look at a baby and how it’s breathing. Babies take deep round belly breaths; they breathe deeply into the abdomen, and they take deep slow out breaths. Their whole body seems to breathe. But most adults’ breath is restricted. They breathe high in the chest, where little blood flows through the lungs (less than 1/10 of a liter blood a minute). But in the bottom of the lungs over a liter of blood flows through the lungs every minute picking up oxygen to keep body, mind and spirit healthy. To get to this level of oxygen that nourishes our bodies, we have to breathe deeply using the abdomen, like babies.
Breathing deeply (diaphragmatic) leads immediately to a more centered state of being. And as a side effect: you cannot remain angry or upset if you focus on breathing this way: slowly and deeply. So whatever happens to you that has the potential to upset you: focus on your breath and calm down before taking any further action. It always helps.
Regaining the ability to breathe properly equals regaining the ability to a deeper connection
There are lots and lots of breathing techniques to be studied and practiced. Here is an example to put things into practice:
Lay down on your bed or a comfortable mat, such as a yoga mat, or a blanket. Inhale deeply and count slowly from 1 to 4; focus on a deep breath that fills your entire lungs, especially the lower lungs. Keep the breath for a moment. And then exhale slowly and fully, counting from 1 to 8. Repeat that for a few times. Then, repeat and focus while you inhale (round-belly breaths) on arching the small of your back. While you exhale, flatten your back. If you put your hands on your sides, you can feel what is happening in your body.
Breathing in water is an experience that can be described but only if experienced, you will really understand the incredible effect in you. Breathing in water is highly effective when it comes to clearing blockages, setting intentions, or gaining a deeper connection to the universal life force that flows through the bodies of all living beings. And this life force connects us with all elements and with all beings.
Let me give you an impression how that works. You are equipped with your swimming costume, a snorkel, and a nose plug made for swimming, or what worked better for me: goggles. Two persons assist you while breathing in the water: one is responsible for making sure that your snorkel remains in the air; and the other person holds you while you are breathing, lying horizontally in the water. And then, breathing under water begins. Whatever emotion it is you are dealing with, the water intensifies the emotion. Whatever the patterns or blockages are you want to release, the water can help you even deeper and faster to transform this energy you want to get rid of into what you want to manifest. Examples are, for instance, getting rid of a rejection pattern, or fear patterns, or variations of “not being good enough” patterns. The water will help you to transform those energies. Even if you need a few sessions combined with other breathing techniques, it’s absolutely worth the time: first to clear the blockages and then to reinforce the energy you want to step into such as love versus anger or hatred, collaboration versus competition, peace versus fear.
The incredible energy of water can also trigger emotions and patterns within you, just because the person you are supporting, is dealing with those emotions right now. I experienced this feeling. All of a sudden, a rejection pattern I thought I had mastered already, came up again and said hello again. As I learned later, the person I was supporting in the water at this very moment was dealing with the same pattern. So, she could release her pattern in this session, and I did the same when it was my turn to breathe while she supported me.
Water is gentle and powerful at the same time. Water’s ability to transmit energies must not be underestimated. The advantage is with us: we can faster transform whatever comes up in the water into whatever we are looking for. Based on the gentle character of water, whatever we will manifest in the water and whatever we feel in the water is in line with our soul’s purpose.
More than air, water guides as to the connection we may miss from time to time: the connection to the universal life force that’s flowing through all living beings. Some call it the essence, others the divine, others eternity, others infinite… you name it.
The name doesn’t matter. What matters, is that you can make this connection.
“Breath is the bridge which connects life to consciousness, which unites your body to your thoughts.”
–Thich Nhat Hanh
For more information, click here
“Enlightenment is not separate from washing dishes or growing lettuce. Learning to live each moment of our daily life deeply, in mindfulness and concentration, is the practice.”
–Thich Nhat Hanh
In my last blog post, I shared my two cents on religions, beliefs, science and spirituality and why I would describe myself as a spiritual person; not following any religion. Some of you who are reading this blog regularly (thank YOU!) have already assumed this. I guess, it wasn’t very difficult …
And some of you asked me “now what is spirituality really?”
It sounds like a simple question. But it isn’t that simple to express in words what has to be experienced on various levels to really understand it. However, the question is useful and important at the same time; and it deserves a thoughtful answer.
When I began my spiritual work more than fifteen years ago, I had no idea what it was. I didn’t even realize that the course I signed up for, would be the beginning of my spiritual journey. To be precise, it was the beginning of understanding that I am a spiritual being with a human experience. But that’s what I only learned years later.
Let me share a few criteria based on my experiences, what spirituality means to me. What I share here is entirely based on my experience. So, feel free to chime in and to add your perspectives and your experiences.
Spirituality is a discovery journey to your soul, not a belief system
Spirituality is a journey to your soul. This journey often includes restoring lost or suppressed parts of your soul. Spirituality allows you to live from your head to your heart. This journey leads you to your life’s meaning and purpose, and it allows you to adjust your life in this direction, step by step. A spiritual journey should help you to live your life in more wholeness with the body, mind, and soul on the same page.
Every person’s spiritual journey is different even if most people seek answers to similar questions. And that’s because every person has different challenges and a different point of departure when they begin to do the work.
Spiritual journeys usually have many curves and iterations until you can reach the next level. And life will present you exactly the challenges you need to go through until you learn what you need to learn.
Spirituality is definitely not a belief system. Spirituality is not something you can read, learn and apply. There are no given rules to follow (as opposed to religion). Instead, you have to develop your set of values, principles and standards you want to live by.
Spirituality is based on connectedness, and that’s science you can experience
I have written on connectedness many times here on this blog, also here and here. For me, it’s the fundamental principle to understand. No, I should say, it’s the core principle to experience, to feel, and to process by the body, mind, and soul. Connectedness is exactly some of the things you cannot learn from a book. Of course, you can understand the facts, but not how connectedness feels, and not what it means to you and your life going forward. Connectedness is science; physics, to be precise.
In a nutshell, connectedness means that we as living beings are all connected: to each other biologically, to the earth chemically and to the rest of the universe atomically (click here for more details and sources). That means: we are Earth. Earth is within us. And the same applies to the universe. Now that means that we don’t live “on” Earth. Earth is within us. Earth is not separate from us. This experience alone has the power to completely transform how you live your life going forward. Furthermore, it allows you to break through one of the biggest misconceptions of the (Western) mind: separateness and fragmentation.
Example: Once I heard a dairy cow crying and mourning because humans have taken her newborn calf away from her and put it in a veal crate just to ensure that humans can consume her breast milk (which her body only produced because of her calf), I couldn’t stop crying for hours. My compassion reached out to every single dairy cow and from that moment, I couldn’t consume any dairy “product” any longer. I have thrown away every remaining item in my fridge and went vegan (click here for the entire story). And that was by far one of the best decisions I ever made. Being vegan is my daily spiritual practice, ensuring that I don’t cause any animal suffering. Promoting the vegan movement is an additional spiritual practice for me, powered by Peaceful Soulfood, a blog that provides thoughts, facts and recipes how to treat your body as the temple of your soul.
Spiritual work is the key to personal growth; to be processed by body, mind, and soul
Spiritual work is mostly working with yourself. That doesn’t mean that the work is always done alone. Based on my experience, the compassionate, caring and energetic presence of a group of like-minded people (even if distributed all over the world), a tribe if you will, is an essential part of the journey, and one of the biggest and most precious gifts I ever experienced in my life. Working together is an enormous enrichment for your spiritual journey. And then, it’s absolutely beautiful, that there is an “ark” of people that will always hold and support you whatever it is you are currently going through – in love. That’s compassion in action; my “Ark” is where my soul is always at home. It’s my soul family.
Example: You may feel inclined to click on the first blog post back in October 2012. Read this blog post, and you will see that this website called Sand Hearts is the result of a spiritual group work that’s called „Sādhanās“. This experience in August 2012 was for me the trigger that opened a space for me to reconnect with my playfulness, my creativity, my passion for writing; outside of my profession. During this year, I could reintegrate parts of my soul that were lost during my childhood. My “gurus” in this exercise pushed me into this adventure which is today one of my most loved creative work: writing from my heart, here for Sand Hearts. Furthermore, this process helped me to figure out what my purpose in this life should be: the first idea of my role as a gatekeeper between assumed different worlds was born with this project, Sand Hearts, inspired by a „Sādhanās“.
Spirituality opens your heart to experience the strongest energy that’s out there in the infinite: Love
Many of us were raised to fit into a system of school, education, work, family, retirement, and death. Children had to learn how to “function.” What the soul wanted was often not addressed and not discussed. Instead, the focus was on tangible achievements, ignoring the needs of the soul. Often, the soul got lost along the way, due to emotional, physical or even sexual abuse. Children have learned early on to build a wall around their hearts, not to be hurt anymore.
Spiritual work allows you to recognize all these patterns and to get rid of them as they don’t serve you anymore. Step by step. This is so incredibly important because a closed heart cannot love and it cannot trust. A closed heart means not to live without the gifts we were born with. Furthermore, a closed heart cannot receive love, but it is actually crying for love. The only way is to break through these barriers, by taking down the walls around your heart, step by step. Many different ways are out there in many cultures, how to do that. Examples are, for instance, guided group work as mentioned above, shamanic journeying, soul retrievals, breath work sessions, firewalks or sweat lodges (if you ever had the chance to be part of a Native American sweat lodge, you are one of the most blessed persons on Earth; there is no ritual that connects you deeper with Mother Earth than a sweat lodge; just my experience in a nutshell). Each of these rituals has their specific energy, but every ritual will allow you to make the connection, to feel hold, to feel the strongest energy that’s out there in the universe: love. Unconditional love. Deep in your heart.
Once your heart has opened up and you have discovered the power of love that’s within your heart (yes, you were born this way!), you will also feel the universal, the divine (you name it) power within this energy. Love is the quality of the infinite. Love is the essence of the universe. This essence called love flows through you. Once you feel that love flows through you, you are on the best way to get rid of attachments you may have connected to the term “love” in your previous life. And so it goes: once you learn one thing, the next thing to learn is already waiting for you.
Spirituality requires trusting the process
I have described spirituality in the context of a journey. Now, what happens along such a journey? You follow a process. It’s not a process you may know from your business. It’s a process with lots of iterations, curves, and bends. You always follow your process, which is unique to you. And the most important thing here is: trust the process. Trusting the process is for many people from a Western culture the most challenging thing ever:
In this culture, people consider process steps and activities as directly connected to certain goals and outcomes and defined in the beginning. None of this is true for your spiritual journey. Because the universe doesn’t work this way. Because life doesn’t work this way (if we are honest with ourselves). And therefore, spirituality doesn’t work this way.
Trust the process. Yes, trust the process even if you don’t know what will happen after the next curve. That’s good. That’s perfect. Trust the process even if you have to go through similar challenges again and again. If so, then there is still something you have to learn. Believe me; I know what I’m talking about here… Seek for the lesson to learn, don’t develop anger and negativity because of the situation and the people that are involved, etc.). Invest all your energy in figuring out what it is you have to learn. Now, you are on your soul’s journey. Once your heart opens up, you develop trust at the same time. Only then, you can trust the process, this process, your spiritual journey. Things will change. Because you change.
Spirituality requires spiritual practice to grow
Whatever the practices are you follow, find your way. Every method that helps you to experience this connection, oneness, wholeness to the Earth, the infinite, to all living beings, is a good practice. Every practice that connects you to the love in your heart that enables you to act in a more compassionate way every single day counts as a spiritual practice. Whatever sets you in a state of awareness and mindfulness is a spiritual practice. That why I have chosen Tich Nhat Hanh’s quotation: washing dishes, or growing lettuce, if done in awareness, mindfulness, experiencing connectedness, you are on your way, on your spiritual way!
Example: For me, spiritual practices are, for instance, my yoga practice, caring for my cats and playing with them, meditating, writing, creating peaceful soul food and many more things, such as spending time with friends I feel a deep connection on a soul level.
That’s it for now. This is what I learned along my journey so far. If you ask me “what is spirituality?” next year, I will probably have additional thoughts and ideas because I may have learned new things along my journey. Because throughout your spiritual journey you are always confronted with new situations that may challenge you to the core – simply to help you to grow.
“To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest. To live fully is to be always in no-man’s-land, to experience each moment as completely new and fresh. To live is to be willing to die over and over again. ”
― Pema Chödrön, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times
It’s this time of the year, a few days before Eastern when, for instance, Jehova’s Witnesses knock on doors to convince people from their religion and belief system. The other time when this happens quite often is before Christmas. Yesterday, when it happened again, I just said “thanks for asking, but there is nothing I want to discuss with you.” I’m wondering why they have no working customer relationship principles in place. They should know that I’m very consequent over years in not having any conversation with them.
What follows here is my personal perspective only. I do not call out a single religion. That’s not my purpose at all. And if one of the many religions in this world is beneficial to you in your life, that’s totally fine. But please respect that others may have another point of view. Tolerance and respect are what we need the most, especially as nowadays religions are again so mixed up with politics. Even worse, often “culture” is meant, but it’s called “religion.”
My early experiences with religions didn’t convince me
I remember when I was a child at age twelve or thirteen, alone at home when the doorbell rang. Then these guys stood in front of the door when I opened. At this time, I had no idea what “Jehova’s Witnesses” would even mean. I was told in school that there was a God in the sky who created everything and controlled everything. It didn’t make a lot of sense for me. It didn’t feel right. I had immediately the idea that whatever people called “God” is something we had to discover within ourselves, if at all. In school, I was told to be wrong and to learn my religion. It ended with bad grades, as you can imagine.
As a child, I debated the issue with these guys from “Jehova’s witnesses” for almost an hour at the door, letting them know my opinion. They made lots of efforts to convince me of the opposite. But the only things they could tell me were quotes from the bible. But it was nothing they could put into my context. Nothing tangible. So, I was still not convinced of their religion. The discussion ended when my Mother came home.
There is no single truth in the world, especially not if it’s built on beliefs only
Fast forward to today, I still have an issue with religions, because they are all built on an intangible authority that has different names in different religions, quoted from books that have different names in different religions, with questionable origins. And, of course, every religion provides their list of rules, what to do and what not to do, what’s good, what’s bad, what’s right and what’s wrong. If you follow these rules, you will be fine. If not, bad things will happen to you. Overall, lots of opinions and beliefs. But almost no facts. Of course, each religion claims to have the universal truth. And that means that all the others are wrong.
What none of these religions does, is to encourage people to think on their own and to question everything that comes their way. And that’s exactly what drives me crazy, this idea that one religion is right and from this perspective, another one is wrong. But we all know that none of them has neither the facts nor the truth. Regarding encouraging people to think systematically and critically, only Buddhism teaches people to question everything and to make their own experiences. And that makes Buddhism something else, but not a religion, as they provide more a framework that inspires thinking rather than a set of rules to be followed.
How should this polarity between good and bad, right and wrong help us to solve a single issue of the many urgent issues on this planet? And this polarity was and is so often driven by different religions fighting against each other.
This is simply not how this world works and not how people should interact with each other. Things are never only black and white, and today’s reality from climate change to personal relationships are far more complex on many levels. In my opinion, nobody has the truth because the world and the universe out there are way too complex that we humans could really understand it thoroughly.
What we have, are scientific facts (physics), and they are not built on religions, but on how this universe works. In parallel, have a look at various spiritual thinkers, and compare what they experience and how. Often, both domains discover similar things, but on a different level of consciousness. And that’ fascinating for me especially when you have your own experiences with meditation, yoga and other spiritual practices like feeding that cats or washing the dishes, that allow you to make a deeper connection with our world, and the universe we are a part of.
Let’s look how science and spirituality come to similar conclusions from different perspectives
The scientific part on how we are all connected to each other, to the Earth, and to the rest of the universe, is best explained by Neill de Grasse Tyson:
“The atoms of our bodies are traceable to stars that manufactured them in their cores and exploded these enriched ingredients across our galaxy, billions of years ago. For this reason, we are biologically connected to every other living thing in the world. We are chemically connected to all molecules on Earth. And we are atomically connected to all atoms in the universe. We are not figuratively, but literally stardust.”
Now listen, for instance, to Thich Nhat Hanh, who explains connectedness differently: why you can see the cloud in the rain, which is built on science and not on a belief system.
“It’s like a cloud in the sky. When the cloud is no longer in the sky, it doesn’t mean the cloud has died. The cloud is continued in other forms like rain or snow or ice. So you can recognize your cloud in her new forms.”
So, as a writer, look at the transformation from the cloud that became rain that allowed the trees to grow which was necessary to create paper. You can clearly see the cloud in the paper, and also the sun because the tree also needed the sunshine to grow. Play with these thoughts to get a feeling how connected things actually are. For me, that’s highly fascinating.
Understanding that all living beings are connected to each other, how does paschal lamb or the goose or turkey for Christmas fit together? How can sacrificing animals for a religious habit ever be justified?
In my opinion, it cannot be “peaceful” to kill one being over there to celebrate “peace” over here. I follow a simple principle: All life matters, and there is no species that is more important than another one. Furthermore, as a human being, I have no need, no reason and, therefore, no right to kill another living being. That includes animals. And “taste” is not a reason, it’s just an excuse to change a habit. I will never understand how people can “enjoy” something that’s based on so much cruelty and suffering for others. Don’t leave the animals out of the equation. Furthermore, animal based “food” is a disaster for the environment (watch CowSpiracy), a Holocaust for the animals (watch Earthlings), and it’s only healthy for the pharmaceutical industry, but not for people’s health (watch Forks over Knives).
I haven’t seen a religion raising its voice for animal rights. Why?
Living what I discovered in my heart, unconditional love, how could I possibly follow any religion that still builds on sacrificing animals for religious reasons? Could it be, that this is merely pathetic or a common and unquestioned habit, because people have always done it this way?
Please wake up and question your habits and beliefs. What seemed to be right in the past, must not be the right thing today, as our consciousness level should have increased.
I made a simple decision for myself: Understanding the principle of connectedness and the need to increase compassion in this world led to the decision to stop animal cruelty on my plate, and in other parts of my life (it takes some time to replace shoes, bags, and other equipment).
Being vegan, considering my body as the temple of my soul, not supporting animal cruelty, is my daily spiritual practice.
The difference between religion and spirituality can be reduced to one principle: Religion separates, Spirituality unites.
Instead of providing rules and beliefs, spirituality encourages you to make your own path and create your own stories. This sets you on a journey of enlightenment and self-discovery to which the only limits can be set by yourself.
Discover your own path, and find your truth!
Do you know this feeling? Imagine you arrive at an airport, let’s say in London, Paris, Madrid, San Francisco, or New York. You leave the aircraft, and you walk to the baggage reclaim area. And then you ask yourself “where do I come from?” just to find the right carousel four your flight’s baggage delivery. This often happens to me, regardless whether I fly from my home airport Frankfurt to somewhere else, or when I arrive in Frankfurt, or when I have a multiple stop trip with various departures and destinations.
Sometimes, it doesn’t happen at all. And then, I have this feeling again. I’m standing in front of all the arrival information to find my flight’s baggage carousel number, and I ask myself “where do I come from?” The confusion only lasts for a few moments. Then I can, of course, answer the question where I came from on that day, and I go to the right carousel, take my luggage and walk away.
It feels strange because it’s only at airports. I never have this feeling when I wake up in a hotel room, wherever in the world. But something seems to keep me disconnected – just for a moment – from my point of departure when I’m flying until things fall into place again.
It’s also interesting that I always know where I’m going, what my destination is. I never ask myself “where did I arrive?” And there are some places, I just feel at home, when I arrive. These destinations make me very emotional when I arrive, it just feels right, it feels comfortable, it feels home. Soul homes I’d call these very few places I ever had this feeling.
Now, as you can imagine, I’m asking myself where this pattern comes from, what the root causes are for this symptom. And as so often in our lives, we only have to go straight back to our childhood.
Do you have a real “hometown”?
For some people, it’s very natural to say “YXZ is my hometown.” What they call their hometown, is a place they feel at home, they feel arrived, protected, happy and safe. Many people call the city they were born their hometown, and it feels right for them. Others call another place they decided to live their hometown.
I never had this feeling when it comes to the city I was born. I never called this city “my hometown.” I never felt “at home” there. I was just born there. No wonder that I always wanted to walk away; which is what I did later during my life. When I got back in this area for only a few years in my early thirties, I literally couldn’t breathe after a while. An unyielding signal to move on; which is what I did.
Whenever I go there today, visiting my Mother or a few old friends, I have still the same feeling that this isn’t my “hometown.” Nothing has changed regarding my soul’s perception at this place over decades.
I’m gifted with soul homes
On the other hand, I have a very few soul homes. One, for instance, is in Scotland where my soul felt at home the very first time I have ever been there. Whenever I arrive at this place, everything in me feels “at home.” The radiant energy at this place that connects to something deeper within me seems to be the trigger that makes this place my soul’s home. Maybe this place connects me to my soul’s previous lives. Who knows?
In my situation, my soul homes and the place where I was born into this life are different places.
It seems that especially when I’m traveling very fast (and that’s what flying is!), that my soul needs more time to adjust where I came from this time (from which home or from no home) to where I’m going to. It seems that my soul has more challenges to connect backwards than to log in to the destination.
An interesting feeling, once you discovered for yourself where the root causes may come from. In my experience, it’s always worth to look deeper, it’s always worth the time to better understand why we act and react as we do.
Observing and knowing something is the foundation, and deeply understanding the matter is a crucial prerequisite to growing. Only then, you can adjust your future behaviours. And that’s applied wisdom.
A few weeks ago, I was traveling to the US for business. In San Francisco, the immigration officer looked at my passport and me and said after the usual questions and answers about what I was doing here and, most important for him when I would leave the country again: “I heard you have a lot of refugees in your country. I’m so sorry. Somebody must have invited them.” He laughed and gave me my passport back.
I didn’t know what to say at that moment. So, I have taken my passport and went to the baggage claim area, feeling very uncomfortable. Was that supposed to be funny? It wasn’t. Was he really sorry about it? Probably not. What was it? Just to say something. Maybe.
What matters is that the so-called “refugee crisis” in Europe, especially in Germany, goes around the world in very different forms and shapes, far away from reality. It’s not the case that Germans celebrate incoming refugees every day with welcome parties.
One could ask the question why so many people, not only in the US, don’t make a connection between the ongoing wars in so many countries as, for instance, Afghanistan and Syria, and the citizens of these countries who become refugees and are on their way to Europe, to Germany. Because their countries have been destroyed. Just a thought.
I never wanted to write about this issue. Not here on Sand Hearts and nowhere else. Now, I feel that I have to speak up as a German. The experience at the airport in San Francisco was a trigger for me to do so. I want to add my perspective, which is, of course, somehow subjective. Those of you who know me also know that I’m often struggling with my country and my culture. However, it drives me crazy to see how and especially what is and (what isn’t) reported in other countries about what’s going on in Germany. It’s not that we celebrate day and night the newly arrived refugees. We have to deal with serious issues here. So, a few thoughts from my perspective:
Chancellor Angela Merkel is not guided by empathy
Empathy is not her strength, never has been. She is a scientist; she studied physics. And she is the daughter of a Protestant pastor, and she grew up in East Germany. She is a person with a high level of awareness and lots of sensitivity on what’s going on around her. She loves to have control. Based on her awareness and her preference to control, she leads her party, the government, and the country. She is power-oriented, but she is not the “macho politician” as her predecessor Gerhard Schröder. She is also detail-oriented, and she always learns lots of facts before she makes decisions.
Based on her scientific background, she is used to thinking in systems and to address issues holistically. That’s why she is relentlessly fighting for European solutions. She is deeply grounded in the European idea, and she is used to fighting for what she thinks is the right thing to do, even if it takes many negotiations and many different approaches to achieve compromises. Her staying power is what makes her unique. Some of her critics say that she never made hard and brave decisions before the refugee crisis. That’s not true. Remember her “no” to nuclear energy directly after Fukushima. She immediately realized that nuclear energy will never have any future again in Germany. So, she made a decision against lots of lobbyists and many members of her own party for what she considered to be right. Her decision regarding the refugees is similar; it follows her basic beliefs and what she calls her “humanitarian and legal duty”.
I do not agree with all the decisions she has ever made, but I do agree with her statement:
“To be honest with you, if we now should apologize for being friendly in a case of emergency – then, this is not my country.”
I didn’t write this paragraph to find excuses for her decisions that brought Germany in a politically difficult situation, even if I completely agree with the principle, that people that really need political asylum should be able to get it. But as always, the devil is in the details. I simply wanted to shed light on how she makes decisions. I will address another potential reason: the German demographics.
Demographic challenges: Germany is growing too old
Germany is short on qualified people to work here. Especially jobs such as craftsmen and other qualified roles in the manufacturing industry are difficult to staff. There are not enough qualified applicants. As Germany has over years one of the smallest reproduction rates, this problem is increasing, for the economy, for our social systems and especially for the state-driven retirement system. This retirement system is based on the idea that those who work pay for those who retire. Nice concept, but it has been built on an unrealistic assumption that the economy would always grow, and the reproduction rate would always remain the same. This is a structural challenge that cannot be cured with tactical manoeuvres. Changing the system is politically not possible in a country that is driven by “redistribution”. This problem could be cured with qualified (!) immigration. As especially people from Syria are much better qualified than people from other countries, this might be an additional reason for Angela Merkel’s decisions.
Religion and culture are mixed up, not only in the news
In the news going around the world, religions and cultural issues are mixed up all the time with terrible consequences. Not only in this matter, in general. Germany is not a deeply religious country, but it is grounded in its German, Christian and European culture. So, it’s not that deeply religious Christs fear the Islamization of the Occident (as Pegida and the AfD want to make people believe). It’s much simpler: people in Germany are afraid to lose their culture, their values, to be overruled by other cultures that have different values and beliefs. People are afraid to be overruled by an increase in all sorts of criminal attacks. This fear is systematically fed by the news that mix up religious and cultural issues and that mix-up crime and religion. People are afraid of the women rights they have fought for decades. And sexual attacks and other crimes that happened, for instance, in Cologne on New Year’s Eve feed people’s fears even more.
People are afraid of not being able to walk around without fear in their own country. That’s what’s going on. People who are living next to a refugee home, which is mostly filled with young men from another culture, have fear to have their little daughters playing outside. They don’t allow their children to walk to school alone or to play outside. I know from families who already decided to sell their homes and to go elsewhere. These are issues that are not addressed anywhere.
Angela Merkel is the daughter of a Protestant pastor. She does not understand that people who don’t know a single sentence from the Bible and never visit a church feel threatened by another religion. This is exactly where culture is named religion and the other way around, causing lots of problems and misunderstandings. Both terms should be used very carefully and always be defined precisely. Crimes have to be named, and the criminalists have to be brought to justice, no matter what nation, religion or culture. Not doing so contributes to right-wing political potential, that’s destabilizing the country from the inside.
The right of asylum
I’m proud of our Basic Law (please remember that we have more than 60 years after the second world-war a “Basic Law”, it’s not even called a “constitution”). Article 16a ensures political refugees to find a home in Germany (“Persons persecuted on political grounds shall have the right of asylum”). That’s compassion in paragraphs. That’s one of the few things I love in my country. This right for political asylum is grounded in Germany’s horrible history, the Nazi regime and the Holocaust. It’s good that we have it. I don’t want to miss it. And I can tell you that as a German whose family was heavily impacted by the Nazis.
When too much is too much
Imagine a traffic jam. If it’s not an accident that blocks the road, it’s simply that too many cars want to drive at the same time on the same piece of road. As the capacity of the road is limited, too many cars at the same time, cause a traffic jam. And this is what’s happening since months in Germany. Too many refugees at the same time. That causes chaos, something this country tries to avoid at all costs.
Refugees in Germany are processed based on the federal principle the country is based on. That means, each state, such as Bavaria, Hassia (where I live), or Lower-Saxony, etc. has their central gathering points for refugees. And these “Erstaufnahmeeinrichtungen” simply crashed. There was temporarily no way to get more people in. All of them had to become very creative to master the huge amount of people. Too many people. From these centers, people are moved to different cities and villages, based on a certain “distribution formula”. And that’s when the refugees suddenly come into one’s neighborhood. The cities and villages had to identify buildings where the refugees could live, and they had to get the processes managed. And this is where the problems as mentioned earlier come from.
It’s still a huge problem that so many people are in the country who are not even properly registered. As soon as they are in a certain city, they often disappear to their families and friends somewhere in the country. And nobody has an idea who they are and where they are and how many are actually here. This is a problem that’s based on the federal principle. Merkel should have advised all Prime Ministers to shift priorities. But knowing German constitutional law, this is much easier said than done.
Many stories on what’s going on cannot be found in German newspapers. Let me give you a few examples from websites, reports and pages I’m following, and from people I trust, illustrating what’s really going in here. As an example, the child of refugees died in a hospital in Munich after it was carried across Europe by its parents for months. The child was very sick, and it got the best medical care it could get. But it died. The refugee father attacked the physicians physically because he accused them of being responsible for his child’s death. Is this understandable? Maybe. Is it acceptable? No. Who will go after them and bring this violence to justice? Nobody. Is that OK? No.
Some refugees bring illnesses in this country that were not treated here for many years. At some point, refugees have to be brought to a hospital. I know from a case in which the male refugee refused to be treated by a female doctor because of his “religion”. Is that acceptable? No. Refugees get free healthcare, and they refuse it because of religious reasons? It’s, at least, questionable. In this country, our “Grundgesetz” (Basic Law) applies. Men and women are equal before the law. In my opinion, this must be accepted by everybody who is coming into this country. It’s a shame that our President had to point this out specifically.
Learning from taxi drivers is what I do all the time. My favorite taxi driver who makes all my airport trips told me recently that he had customers to pick up from the local hospital. The address they have given him was an address where refugees live. You may ask “how did they pay?” They paid with a taxi voucher; my taxi driver had to turn back to the city to get his money. Oh wow. That creates trouble in a country with lots of people who live below minimum wage on social welfare, who have no chance ever to use a taxi.
Imagine a Bavarian District Administrator (“Landrat”), who tried everything to “manage” the situation with the incredibly huge amount of refugees in his district, who simply couldn’t stand it anymore to hear lots of high-level statements from Berlin, but no concrete help and support at the front line. This person went to Berlin and processed his own, lonely rally in front of the parliament. Brave. Powerful. And it shows the mere desperation of somebody who desperately tried to do his best.
The political landscape changed a lot: right-wing parties become way too strong
This is a long-term trend that has its roots in the German unification more than 25 years ago. At this point, the political landscape shifted to the left, even the party of the chancellor made a turn to the left. And with “Die Linke” there was all of a sudden a socialist party in the parliament, with origins in East Germany. There was less and less space for right-conservative people. Years later, many of these people were afraid of the Euro and the European monetary policy and found a new home within the new party AfD, which was initially totally focused on fighting against the European financial regulations. The party presented itself as an alternative to the German liberal party FDP which supported the Euro politics with only a few critics (and the party is nowadays close to being meaningless). Many liberal people switched from the FDP to the new AfD. But very quickly, the AfD evolved into an organization that became a new home for many very right-winged people and even worse, also for those who can be called racists or – Nazis. People who left the AfD in the meantime can tell insights that prove that this evolvement is even worse than it looks from the outside.
How do you deal with radical movements and tendencies, regardless if they come from the right or the left-hand side? In my opinion, address the real issues people are concerned about and fight them with good decisions and even better solutions. But this is not happening. Many problems are still not properly solved, and the lack of European solidarity makes things even worse. The established German parties call all newbies “radical” and by doing so, they open a space for them to become really radical. A kind of self-fulfilling prophecy. Isn’t this a horribly dangerous situation?
Currently, it seems almost impossible to say anything negative about the refugee situation, without being pushed to the right-wing of the political landscape, or even labeled a “Nazi.”
Dealing with Germany’s Nazi crimes was very different in West and East Germany
In West Germany, people learned in school a lot about Nazi Germany, the Holocaust, and the second world-war. The history had been processed, not pushed away. People learned since decades to live with many different cultures together. Currently, we have 8.2 million foreign people who live in Germany (overall population is 81.2 million). But these 8.2 million live mostly in the western part of the country. And that’s part of the current problem.
The “DDR” did not really process the past. The German Nazi past and the Holocaust were pushed away, not discussed. The horrible crimes had not been processed across the society. In addition to that, people didn’t learn how to deal with foreign cultures beforehand. East Germany was for decades a very isolated country. Fast forward to today, most Eastern states have a very small percentage of foreign people living there, often between 1 and 3% only. Now, we are all one country since more than 25 years. But people’s perceptions are still very different.
This background is not an excuse at all. Not by any means. But it might help you to understand why right conservative people and racists that are active in organizations like Pegida or the new right-wing party AfD have found their power base in East Germany. It may also explain why people’s resistance is so big over there, even if the percentage of foreign people, in general, is very low in the East part of the country.
Regarding the recent crimes against refugees in Clausnitz: This is a shame, and not acceptable at all. Clausnitz is not my country.
Fighting against other people just because of their race, their religion or any other reasons is simply not acceptable. See Basic Law, Article 3: Equality before the Law.
Let me close my thoughts with those from Christian Nürnberger, a highly respected German journalist and publicist, who summed up Clausnitz perfectly:
“Many of the Turks, Africans and Arabs that are living here are much better integrated in our society than those Saxons who whoop it up in in Dresden, Clausnitz, and Bautzen. And the problem is: We cannot send this hate mob back in their country of origin. We have to live with this mob. But what we don’t have to do is this: sending the political party who has raised this mob and is continuing to do so, with ten percent or more in the German parliament. We have to call on the AfD to take a firm stand and to ensure that their frantic supporters behave accordingly. But it won’t be sufficient that the party distances itself from the crimes. That’s their method: their leadership personnel behaves as serious middle-class agents, while they set targeted signals at the same time – such as shooting on refugees – and are happy about fire-raisers, rowdies and whips. This has to change. The civilized German society must outlaw the AfD for driving hate.”