As everywhere, you will find a lot of self-appointed “spiritual leaders”, and a very true real spiritual leaders. The difference often is that people in the former group claim to be spiritual leaders, and the leaders in the latter group don’t even mention it. They just do it. They just lead. In a spiritual way.
Before we jump into spiritual leadership, let’s first recap what spirituality is. I wrote about my thoughts on spirituality a few months ago. In a nutshell, and that’s a key element for me, spirituality is not connected to any religion, it’s not a belief system, and it’s nothing you can read in a book and apply.
Spirituality is an ongoing journey of discovery, experience and learning to get to the core of your soul, to liberate your soul, and to live your soul’s purpose. Spirituality builds on the fact that all souls out there are elements of a connected universe, based on the universal principles of love, collaboration, and the law of cause and effect.
Now, when it comes to spiritual leadership, let’s discuss a few defining attributes:
Spiritual leadership is never discretionary. Spiritual leadership requires to walk the talk, and it requires a decision. The decision to lead. The decision to act. The decision to take responsibility. The decision to touch as many souls a possible to drive the necessary change to a peaceful world.
Spiritual leadership requires that you have already found your way to your soul’s dimensions, that you already live your soul’s purpose, that you have already cleared a lot of karmic stuff, wrong perceptions and false beliefs that hindered you so far to walk your talk.
Let me add another thought regarding (false) beliefs: In my experience, the best way is to get rid of ALL beliefs that have been projected on you since birth, such as religious, cultural, and yes, also spiritual beliefs. Because for one simple reason: Beliefs limit your experience in one way or another. So, question every single one, and make a conscious decision whether to get rid of it or not. If you chose to keep a “belief” in your life, it’s no longer a belief. Then, it becomes one of your principles you have decided to live by. And that’s a huge difference because you brought your consciousness into play. This is just one example for questioning what you experience along your (spiritual) journey.
This is why spiritual leadership requires time to grow; and lots of iterations. But first and foremost, spiritual leadership demands that you walk your spiritual journey first. Furthermore, the knowledge that you will never know everything or you will never know “enough” is another prerequisite. The ability to learn new things, to make new experiences that lead to an adjustment of your teachings is relevant for any leader, but it is a prerequisite to becoming an authentic spiritual leader. Because we are all growing continuously.
There is no such thing as “spiritual management.” Souls can be inspired and led, but they cannot be “managed.”
When discussing leadership in general, there is often the debate whether there is a difference between management and leadership or not. When it comes to spiritual leadership, there is one thing crystal clear to me: there is no such thing as “spiritual management.” Management, mostly defined as optimising and improving processes to make them more efficient and effective is not what could be applied in the field of spiritual growth in any way. There is no such thing as a spiritual “process”, as a process how to learn a new language. There is no such thing as five steps to becoming spiritual, and another ten to achieving enlightenment. Whoever tells you “just do this” is not an authentic spiritual leader. Therefore, there is nothing to be “managed.” Instead, living beings can only be led along THEIR journey. And each soul has another spiritual journey, by definition, because every living being is a unique individuation of the universe, of the source; you name it. Souls have different soul origins, and souls are dominated by different soul energies. What works for one soul, might not be the right approach for the other one. Therefore, a spiritual leader has to develop the ability to inspire and to lead these souls along THEIR spiritual journey.
In a nutshell, this is what spiritual leadership means to me:
Spiritual leadership is the capability of equipping living beings to live their soul’s purpose based on the universal principles of love, collaboration, connectedness, and the law of cause and effect.
Now, let’s look at the essential attributes of a spiritual leader.
- Being love: The essence we are all born within our hearts is love. Unconditional love. But for so many souls, love got lost over time, alongside with basic trust. Instead, fear has been developed, and hearts have been closed. You see it all over the place, with human beings and our animal friends. So, a key challenge on each spiritual journey is to remove all blockages that hinder these souls to have access to the love in their hearts again. Spiritual leaders should be very advanced on their own journey to be love. One more thought on this: Being love does not mean that each decision is based on love only. While love should, of course, always be the guiding principle, true leadership also requires, if needed, to make unpleasant decisions to ensuring the best possible outcome for an entire group of students. And that’s actually “being love.”
- Integrity is based on a certain level of ethical values, such as honesty and truth, principles and the ability to live these values and principles on a daily basis. In other words, integrity is how someone behaves when nobody is watching. For me, it’s the foundation of leadership, whether you lead a company, an organisation, or simply yourself. As an example, if you define certain housekeeping rules for your students, and then you break self-defined own rules when situations become difficult, and tough decisions should be made, you put your integrity at risk. This can make or break you in your role as a spiritual leader. In a nutshell, integrity as a spiritual leader is the combination of love and integrity.
- Self-leadership: If you cannot lead yourself, and take the responsibility for your life based on the values and principles you have defined for yourself, how do you want to lead others in any way? Exactly, it won’t work. Self-leadership is a mandatory prerequisite to lead others. Spiritual leaders should have a proven track record of driving successful change in their lives.
- Authenticity has a lot to do with stepping out of the crowd, not trying to be a copy of another leader you may admire. It’s amazing if you could learn from other excellent leaders, but now is the time to step up. Authenticity requires to be completely you, to live your wisdom and truth, and to lead accordingly. Authenticity means to create your footprints, rather than to follow in someone else’s footsteps. This is an essential step in developing own leadership skills, and it’s also a critical step for the leader(s) you currently work with. Great leaders will always encourage you to create your footprints. Because that’s their ultimate goal: to create new leaders, not new followers.
- Creativity and curiosity: Both attributes belong together. True creativity is an essence that flows through the body of a soul and manifests itself in creative outcomes. Often, creative outcomes require a curious mind that always asks one more question to challenge the current state, or to walk a path nobody has walked before, or to try something new, often by connecting existing dots in another way. Spiritual leaders need both, creative approaches for their teachings, and they have to be curious to learn more about their students and the souls they work with, and ultimately, spiritual leaders should always remain curious about the beauty and the creativity of their own soul.
And yes, there is another one, humour!
You might be surprised to find “humour” here as an attribute for spiritual leaders. But you know what?
The greatest spiritual leaders I’m working with have all a great sense of humour. And they are great storytellers.
Getting a teaching wrapped in a joke or a beautiful story is simply priceless.
Because unwrapping the lesson is part of the lesson…
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.