Change out of contentment
I read a great article (German) about how important it is to let go of the „in order to“. Meaning, letting go of doing things that we think are necessary to achieve something. It’s a chase for the right job / partner / city that will finally allow us to be happy / be different / focus on what we really want to do.
We „have to“ switch city/job/partner so that the life we really want can finally begin. It’s so easy to fall into this line of thinking that we mustn’t be content what actually is just because it doesn’t really match our idea of how things should be.
I caught myself a while ago thinking that if I allowed myself to accept my situation then that would mean it couldn’t change. This place I chose was only supposed to be a temporary thing from the start! What if I allow myself to find anything good here, and get so content that I won’t want to leave anymore?! That would be terrible because I wanted something else, right!?
Somehow I was still attached to that notion that change can only be born out of dissatisfaction. That is not true. In reality, we receive what we send out into the world. From my experience we’re usually just not very conscious of what it is that we’re actually sending out. It’s not so much the words or actions but the energy/intentions behind them. Loving change is great, life is change! However, if we initiate change out of a sense of discontentment, then the result will be more discontentment.
And vice versa: when we allow ourselves to find the gold in what we have in front of us, allow ourselves to see how this is exactly what we need, while also allowing ourselves to dream and wish for things, then change will come on its own accord. In the meantime we get to enjoy a rich and fulfilling life.
When my trip around the world turned out to be something different from what I had imagined, it took me a while to understand that what was going on was simply that my underlying quest (finding out what I really wanted to do with my life, finding the home within and out there) had been answered a lot faster than I had anticipated. Continuing the trip would only have meant holding on to the form I had started out with.
And still things turned out differently. All of the three places that feel like home to me suddenly seemed impossible. When I came to my grandpa’s house – to get the rest of my stuff, as I thought – this place seemed like a very doable quick fix. An empty house where I could focus on my business. Doesn’t get any faster and easier, right!? I was really sick of living out of a suitcase by that time, so I went for it.
As you know, things went differently. I was suddenly facing a reality that had nothing to do with my preconception. Nothing was easy. I was devastated, thinking „The only reason I came here was because I wanted to make things easy for myself! If I had known, that things would be hard anywhere I turn because it’s my inner barriers, I never would have chosen this place!“
I had somehow managed to make choices out of my wishes while at the same time still chasing ideas of how things were supposed to be in order for me to allow myself to be content. Ever since I understood that everything hasn’t been easy but I’ve been able to meet my own resistance with more compassion.
And that makes all the difference. It’s really all it takes to make a new flow possible. It’s because I don’t feel attached to anything around here, I am suddenly able to make decisions without the pressure of expectations regarding the outcome. For instance, when I saw that my favorite café in town was hiring, I just went and introduced myself. Just like that. Now I work there.
Not too long ago I would have let myself be stopped by the thought that it’s pointless to apply for a job in a place where I have no intention of staying. Let alone something I am overqualified for! And wasn’t I done with employment anyway? Wasn’t I supposed to just focus on my business? That, my friends, is discontentment at its finest. It makes life here and now miserable and almost impossible.
What I would have missed out on, if I had let myself be stopped by this line of thinking: balancing my own work with something where I don’t spend any time in front of the computer screen is a blessing! The time I am spending at the café is not time that I don’t have for my business. Honestly, when I have an entire day to myself, I don’t spend 100% of it being productive or creative. Most of the time goes towards worrying and procrastinating (amazing how in reality the time for being productive is always way less than I want yet always perfectly sufficient). I get to meet people, nice ones, too! I get to make use of my ability to make others feel seen and taken care of. I get to learn new things. That is contentment. Here and now. Not one fine day in tomorrowland.
And since there is my wish for other places, I can’t even fall for the illusion that this is The Job I need to „make sacrifices“ for. So I tried something I haven’t before: negotiating. I expressed that a different form of employment would be a better combo with my own work. I also decided to be honest about my concern: That I enjoyed the work but that I was still thinking about moving because I felt that home was somewhere else. I never would have done that in the past but it was so worth it. And guess what: no problems.
While I don’t need to convince myself or anyone else that I am intending to stay for very long, I still get to unpack my inner boxes so to say, and accept the fact that I am here now. And it’s ok to nest a little on the outside, too. I went to IKEA a few days ago and got some office supplies, throow pillows and picture frames. Up until now I’ve been telling myself „No, don’t start piling up stuff that you need to move, you’re not staying!“. But the fact is that that only made me feel more out of place than I already did. If I already don’t feel at home, it’s all the more important to have a little oasis that is me, and that is home!
And when it comes to what to fill our lives with: the things we really want to do with our life are very rarely tied to a specific place. Or any other prerequisites. No „in order to“, either. Photography, writing, drawing, being creative, healing – those are the things I want to fill my life and this world with. Just because. Of course, I am focusing on making my heart’s desires my business. The trick is just not to fall for the illusion that joy is only worth living when we’re being paid for it. That’s bs, it’s the „in order to“ illusion.
Just like making it dependent on one’s mood, fears or other emotions. I can’t, I don’t want to, It’s impossible – those three will always be there. They are truly the beginning of everything we desire from the depths of our heart.
The right life is not the perfect life (= the one where circumstances are ideal). The right life is the one where we opt for our heart’s desires – and the circumstances that come with it (or, as Elisabeth Gilbert puts is in Big Magic the „shit sandwich“ that comes with it). Simply the one, that makes us face all the can’ts, don’twanttos, impossibles. Again and again.
Bangkok & Sydney| The inner journey
My last night in Bangkok got pretty ugly since I fell ill with food-poisoning. I hadn’t even eaten from one of the little food stalls in the street that night, like I had the day before. I had been to a rstaurant. Either way, it was a long and sleepless night, and by Sunday I was seriously doubting I would make it to the airport, let alone to Australia.
Note to self: the no. 1 tourist attraction is never low-key, even if it is a temple
Since I had to check out of the hotel by noon (at that point I was lucky enough to only be exhausted, my body was done with the cleansing process) but the flight was in the evening, I thought it might be a good idea to keep it low-key. Like going to the temple of the giant reclining buddha. In hindsight one might ask if maybe I had emptied parts of my brain during the night as well, since the number one tourist attraction obviously didn’t turn out to be a good destination for a quiet outing. To top things off, you had to go there by boat. It went surprisingly well, and I thought to myself, if I can do this, I am going to be good to board the plane that night. I felt a little queasy was when I smelled food, and I was extremely thirsty but could only take tiny sips if I wanted to keep the water down. As far as discomfort goes, that was pretty ok compared to the previous night.
As long as I’m alive … As long as it’s the right soda!
The way to the airport was pretty awful though, and I thought I might need to ask for help which almost certainly would have meant missing the flight. All I wanted at that point was leaving this city, though, so I was determined ta make it. And I did. At the airport all that was left was extreme fatigue – and I was incredibly thirsty for Coca Cola. I hardly ever drink coke, or any other soda. And here I was, with a desire as bad as an addict. Since for some reason it just had to be „the right kind“, too, I found myself going through several stores, because, of course, most of them only had Pepsi … Life can be funny that way, one minute all you wish for is to live (or die, depending on how drama-inclined you are), the next nothing seems more crucial than getting the right soda … Don’t you just love the irony of that?
Sent back off the airplane – That could have been me!?
It gets even more ironic: I was sitting in the middle row of seats, on the left side. Then came two empty seats, then another woman who was looking like she wasn’t feeling very well. It turned out – you guessed it – that she had fallen ill with food poisoning. The crew called a doctor, and the lady was sent off the plane. Of course I felt sympathetic to the woman but I also thought: that could have been me. Thank God it wasn’t! … That’s how I suddenly found myself alone with an entire row of seats, meaning, I was finally able to stretch out and sleep. Such a blessing after the ordeal of the previous night. I didn’t wake up until they started serving breakfast.
All just coincidence – right?
Thus my short visit to Bangkok ended with kind of a shock. And you might know me well enough by now to know that I don’t believe in coincidence. I am convinced that this wasn’t just some random bout of food poisoning. I believe there has been a process of transformation at work in my body. When I left for Sweden for my two semesters abroad in 2007, I fell ill, too, which I could not explain at all, because I had never been afraid to travel. My parents, who had come to Bremen to see me off, even went to get painkillers. I flew anyway – and at the hostel in Stockholm, where I had a stopover, I felt more miserable than ever in my life. When I arrived in Sundsvall, everything was fine again. What I did not realize at the time was how significant this stay abroad would be. After all, I had no idea that I would move to this country and live there for six years, three of them at the place where I „just happened“ to spend my year abroad …
Explanations make it easier for me to accept a situation
I think this trip is similar, but of course, I’m more aware that this experience will make an impact on the rest of my life. So I’m not really surprised by this physically exhausting start, though that does not take away the shock of the experience. I just always find it comforting to have an explanation. That way I do not have to go into resistance and try to fight something that I can not change anyway.
Sleepless in Sydney – homesick …
The shock came not only from the food poisoning. I could still feel it during my first two days here in Australia. Due to the time difference and the sleep disturbance that comes with it (I do not belong to the people who can fall asleep easily anyway), I felt pretty out of it, and this of course also affects the mind. Tuesday night, when I was tossing and turning in bed, I really hit the low point. I felt so out of place (even though I am staying at a very nice Airbnb, I have a room with a family, so it reminds me a bit of my exchange year in the US, which was such a positive experience) and it felt like I would never be able to feel „right“ again anywhere.
… but where is home?
I was so homesick, and at the same time the feeling was not directed to a specific place. Or rather, along with the thought „I want to go back to xyz“ (in fact, it’s usually the nature in Sweden I miss, when the homesickness sneaks up on my), came the certainty that this is not my home. That if I really did give in to the feeling and decided to quit everything and book a ticket to xyz, I would just end up feeling that I was not „right“ there.
Home is where you are – The real reason for this journey
A while ago, I was wondering what the true purpose of this trip is. Even though it may be true that the idea was born out of a certain impulse to escape (namely exactly the feeling „I’m not right here, so I’m getting out of here„), I was sure that there was something else to it. Because I am convinced that on a deeper level, the trip is still right and meaningful. So what is the real reason? I am convinced that it is about finding the home in me. Because that’s what I’ve come to realize about homesickness: it overcomes me when I cannot feel myself, when I cannot recognize myself in my surrounding.
If you do not recognize yourself in the world, claim your place in it
The world is our mirror, and if we stand in front of the mirror and we do not recognize ourselves in it, then that is scary. But the real reason why we cannot see ourselves is that we do not occupy our space. It is understandable that we contract in a strange environment, instead of expanding. It is not immediately clear to us where and how we can take our spot in this strange place. It was this phase of disorientation I found myself in when I arrived here in Australia.
Belonging and alienation – both are in you, not in your surrounding
I am firmly convinced that this experience, uncomfortable as it may have been at first, was important for me. Because it did not allow me to project my idea of “home“ onto my surroundings. Because that’s my pattern, right? I like a place, I call it home. It gets uncomfortable, I draw the conclusion, this is not home, I move on. I believe that in reality the comfort and the restlessness, the sense of belonging and the sense of alienation are in me – not in the places.
In this initial phase of disorientation, the feeling of alienation was just very strong – and also the pain of it. When I realized that, the feeling of being lost did not immediately disappear, but at least I could remember that the answer to my grief was to take my place. That’s how I can feel me again and THAT is the real feeling of home.
Claim your space – Be that which you feel is missing
How do you claim your space? For me, it means starting by observing what exactly it is that I miss in a given place. I believe that we are claiming our space (which is the same as fulfilling our life’s purpose) as we bring into the world what we miss in it. It may sound somewhat counter-intuitive that we should be what we feel is lacking, but the more I put this belief to the test, the more I see: that’s how it works. When I do for others what I wish somebody would do for me, then I actually get the feeling that I long for – it is as if I receive what I give.
I often feel that the mothering energy is missing in my life, in the places where I am. By now I know that this feeling is a call to me: Be caring to others.
I mentioned that my Airbnb is a room in the house of a family. The mom happens to be abroad this week. The father and the son are great, still, at first I felt that it would have been nice having another woman in the house. It took a moment for me to understand: you may not be the mother, but you are here now. And the answer to what I can do here is so simple: give the kid some attention. I often lack the energy when it comes to playing with children. But that is not even required of me! The son of my hosts is already very happy when I just listen to him and watch him play. When I came back from my trip to the Blue Mountains yesterday, he came to the door right away and gave me a big hug. That made me very happy and I am becoming more and more aware that my ideas about what the world expects of me, what great things I have to accomplish to be enough or to „live up to my potential“ are completely out of scale!
It’s the tiny little things that count and make up our life’s accomplishments. Those are the ones that make up our everyday life – and those are the first ones we overlook when we look ponder the purpose of our life, because we think that it must be something larger than life.
„I see you“ is my life’s purpose. And it’s the present moment that reveals to me in what way I can live up to it.
Endings & beginnings … and everything in between
Aaand there’s more. I think this post will just be an attempt to recap this summer so far.
We celebrated the summer solstice with a bunch of friends (old ones and new ones) at our house. Since most of them came from Gothenburg and Stockholm, they stayed for several days and we had a little bit of a collective thing going, which was cool. Lots of barbecuing, talking, hiking, even swimming in the lake (the Swedish summer has been more of a „summer“ this year, but that weekend was great). Plus we made flower wreaths, which I am mentioning because it somehow was really important to me to follow this Swedish tradition. As it turned out, my friend La who was coming felt the same way. Maybe it’s because we’re German … Anyway, as we were standing in a ditch that day, picking flowers for our wreaths, a farmer drove by and held up seven fingers. Luckily we’d read The Six Bullerby Children, otherwise we might not have understood that he was trying to tell us that we’re supposed to pick seven flowers and put under our pillows that night to dream of our future husbands. I don’t know if La dreamed of him, but she seemed to have found the guy alright. 🙂
A few weeks later I went to Stockholm to buy a car. Peter’s uncle is really into cars, but when he bought his third, his wife insisted that he had to get rid of one. Lucky for us, who were looking for one. One that might be better for someone as sensitive to magnetic fields and electrosmog as Peter. The trip felt like a mini-vacation. It might have something to do with Peter’s aunt and uncle having a jacuzzi in their backyard … Plus the stop on my way home at some friends‘ „house“. I say „house“ because they actually live in a church, and a pretty cool one, too.
And then, the big one: after several weeks of feeling like my days at my job are nearing their end, everything happened really fast. Last week I suddenly had the impulse to quit talking about that I need to move on but start looking. I usually don’t even look at job postings. I believe that most of them are usually already given away within an organization and they just put them out as a necessary formality. But the task of trying to figure out where I’d want to go seemed to daunting at that moment, so I decided I’d at least see if one particular institution had anything interesting up (I really have been wanting to work at this place ever since I moved here). Well, they did. No big deal, it was ONLY MY DREAM JOB???!!! Friday I had a talk with by bosses, and they confirmed my feeling that we’d come to the end of the road (the reason being lack of money, not lack of work). I don’t know how many partings go this cordially – but I can recommend it. All three of us shared the feeling that the saddest part about this would be not working together anymore. (I will really miss all of my colleagues.) They too thought I would be perfect for the job I saw (I told them about the ad), and that this somehow was not an ending but a beginning.
I spent most of Monday afternoon writing my application for said DREAM JOB. The hardest part for me in the process of applying for work is usually letting go once I’ve sent them, not fretting over how I maybe should have wrote this instead, what if I left out something important, should I have told the recruiter more about myself when I called to ask about the job … Not quite there yet, I need to proof-read (and have someone proof-read). Still, whether this job is meant to be or not – something new WILL come – and I am excited about that.
Life | Work in progress
The original purpose of this blog was to document and share my journey as a soul-searcher. I think the main reason I haven’t done that lately (apart from the fact that our internet situation is still kind of a non-situation and I haven’t felt like staying at the office just so that I can spend more time by the computer) is that some things are still too new and fragile to share yet. I need to manifest and live them before I can share them. Does that make sense?
But spiritual growth for me is nothing separate from physical growth, and I see our garden as a big part of what I want to accomplish in this life. So lately I have been thinking that I want to document that part more, even if it’s just to be able to see how things evolve from one year to the next.
Last year, our first, felt like a struggle. I was working full-time, and often felt too exhausted to want to o anything at all after work. We picked the heaviest, most clayey spot on our entire land to grow vegetables on, and nothing much grew besides potatoes. This year we’re only growing potatoes on it – and we dug out another bed (much better soil) where we grow other veggies.
We built a greenhouse last year, and the tomatoes and squash grew into a jungle. The cucumbers died, we watered them with cold water. I made tomato chutney and jam, and lots of squash cheesecake. At the end of the season I got hold of another (a „real“ greenhouse) through the Swedish equivalent to craigslist. The previous owners sold it for next to nothing because a storm had destroyed a lot of the glass. So this year we have two green-houses.
The tomatoes I pre-grew all died because I didn’t think to harden them before planting them into the green-house. Luckily, a much more experienced gardening-enthusiast down the street sold their excess tomato plants. That way I even got hold of a couple of exotic specimens they had brought home from a vacation. No suqash this year, I simply forgot to pre-grow it. Cucumbers, though, and melons!
We have been talking about chickens, too. Haven’t gotten further than getting books from the library, though. That’s one of the things that I like about gardening (besides lovely „free“, organic food): there will always be another chance, another spring, another summer, more time to grow.
Northern gardening lesson #1: Pregrow everything
This is my second year growing stuff on actual soil, not just a balcony and a kitchen window sill. Last year’s lesson: pregrow EVERYTHING. I learned that one by not pregrowing anything except for tomatoes. And those still didn’t ripen fast enough before it got too cold. In my defense, we talked to our neighbors before getting started, and they all said that they never pregrow anything, they plant right in the soil. The rule of thumb up here is not to plant before the summer solstice (21 June), since it can still get below freezing before that (doesn’t happen often but still). That’s cold, man! And obviously summer doesn’t last longer around here just because it starts late, so … you get the picture.
So yesterday I planted 192 plus seeds – melon, cucumber, lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, radishes, egg plants, the works. Excited to see what lessons this year has in store for me. If I had to guess now it could be: don’t let your cats use the land you want to grow food on as a litter box during the winter if you don’t want them to do their business there during the summer … But hey, I might be wrong.
Love what you love
I have been thinking a lot about the meaning of life lately. Probably because the The Path Into The Light seminar is coming up soon. While a part of me says, „You’ll find out there, so why even bother now“, another part knows that I am already on my way, have been for a while, and that the seminar won’t be THE answer to everything (we already know it’s 42 anyway, right 😉 ). So I do wonder, not just about the meaning of life in general, but obviously about the meaning of my life.
Here’s some random notes on what I’ve come up with so far:
1. The meaning of life in general is to be happy. Not all the time, obviously, but I do believe that deep down inside, that’s what we’re all striving for – happiness. That part seems fairly banal. The trick, I guess, is the next step. Believing that it is possible to be happy. That seems to be the part where things go wrong when they do.
2. I have been denying myself a lot of happiness because I can be very judgmental. (See my Yoga Girl book review.) I am trying to change that by promising myself to allow myself to like the things I do. That means becoming aware of the inner censor, the voice that tells you why the things you feel are wrong. Do you have a voice like that? For me working on this inner censor means becoming aware of the fact that there is a conflict – that I like one thing but also have feelings of guilt about liking it. Usually, my feelings of guilt come from some set of beliefs that aren’t originally my own but that I’ve adopted/inherited from others. And 100% of the times I like something I also feel guilty about, I have good reason for liking it.
3. An good example of how my inner censor is holding me back is that I am the kind of person who really enjoys a lot of different things, and I can be interested in many things, and yes: I can be good at most of the things I set my mind to. I don’t just have one thing I am passionate about and devote all my (spare) time to, nor is there one thing that I naturally excel at, so that it would be obvious that this is my calling. But somewhere along the road I got the idea that that is how things work: you get to be good at one thing, and you get to really like one thing. You have to decide, let everything else go, and focus on this one thing. I could get really worked up over how I seemed to be all over the place, not being able to make up my mind and dedicate myself to one thing. Until the other day it never even occurred to me that I am allowed to enjoy AS MANY THINGS AS I DO – writing, baking, photography, sewing, dancing, gardening, meditating, cooking, yoga, knitting, embroidery, film-making, … If the point is to master a craft, then I will obviously not be able to do that the same way a person could who puts all their time and effort into one craft. But if the point is to do things that make me happy, then why not simply be happy – and be grateful that I have the gift of having many things in my life that make me happy?! It seems so obvious now, but as long as my mind was limited by this belief set that you can only have one passion, one talent, I never even looked at it that way.
Getting down to business with this inner censor seems to be key to this whole happiness thing. And those of you who are into mindfulness and/or spiritual teachings are probably familiar with this concept – that we are not our thoughts and feelings but really the observers of them but that we are often unaware, and act as if we were identical with our thoughts, feelings, etc. For those of you who aren’t already into this „stuff“, I can highly recommend Eckhart Tolle (and I think I’ve done that before here on the blog). I find it makes life a lot easier = happier.
So for now I’m working on (gosh, that sounds hard but it’s work AND it’s not hard – another contradiction in terms according to my inner censor/know-it-all) just doing what I love as much as possible – whatever that may be. I will share as much of it here as I can.
Have a great Sunday, everyone!
A friend asked me to show some pictures of our house. Since the bedroom has been my latest project, and the only one that I am not done yet happy with, I started with that. Voilà:
Ok, I am starting to post cat pictures. Time to go home.
In case you’re wondering: yes, some of those pictures are taken with a different camera. After realizing that 1. we spent less money on Christmas than anticipated, and 2. that we regret the things we didn’t buy more often than we regret the things we did buy, we came to the conclusion that it was time for me to get the thing I had been pining for for several years now: an SLR. I bought it second-hand, of course, and I am really happy with it. The body is a Nikon D90, the lens is from an older, analog model. I can’t wait to get an adapter for the M42-lenses I have lying around. If you have any experience with/advice on those kind of adapter rings, I’d be grateful for your comments.
When I was growing tomatoes on the balcony of our apartment in Gothenburg, I decided that I would call it a success if I could get just one tomato out of it. I even insisted on taking the plants with us when we moved. They survived, and we got more than one tomato (not a lot more but hey). So I tried to approach this first year growing on our land with a similar attitude: I wanted to be happy with whatever we’d get, and take it as a sort of reference point for next year.
I am actually really pleased with the result, all things considered, and amazed by how much you get, even when you don’t put a lot of work into it, or sometimes not even any work at all. Like with all the lingon and rowan berries we picked and made jam from, or the two (!?) apple trees that produced so many apples this year that we couldn’t even process all of them.
I am beginning to suspect that this notion of scarcity is something less natural than I have been led to believe, maybe a result of the food industry as it is today. It seems to me that the natural state really is abundance. It might take me some time to get used to that, at this point I am pretty still mourning every single apple that’s lying on the ground, not being made into jam, sauce or chips …
Let it grow
It has been quiet around here, I know. I think our slow internet connection at home is the main reason, but also I went through a rough patch where I didn’t feel like I had anything to share here. Things have turned around faster than I could have imagined, and I am feeling inspired and determined to breathe some life back into this blog.
We finally finished building our greenhouse last week (no pix yet), and sowed a bunch of vegetables on the patch of land Peter has been preparing – with more help from his family than from me, ehem. I blame the long office days due to the commute … so, thanks Birgitta, Stefan and Felix! The patch shrank somewhat from our original megalomaniac outline when we had to face the reality of the hard physical labor involved when preparing the soil … Pix soon to come.
Also, I seem to have found the holy grail (yup, once again) when it comes to health/nutrition. It comes in the form of two books (by the same genius authors, Dr. Mary Enig and Sally Fallon), namely Nourishing Traditions and Eat Fat, Lose Fat. I know, the latter sounds like it’s just another dieting book but it is really more about health in general than (just) weight loss. Hopefully I can keep the momentum, and write an entry just about those (which is the least they deserve).
What would a post be without some pix? Exactly.
In May …
In June …
All yellow | The fall collection
Yup, it’s definitely fall. I am still not used to the fact that that doesn’t mean gray, rain and mud (hello Bremen, ’sup Gothenburg). Nope, here it means yellow, sun and more yellow.
This is what our little corner of the world looked like yesterday: