Lately, I find that the word happiness comes across as being muddied by too many headlines blurs telling us things like: "all you have to is: be happy."
Is it? and if yes how can I do it?
It's like the word LOVE. If it falls out of your mouth without a connection to your heart, it's missing the power to heal yourself and your listener. Faked happiness does the same. If behind the facade, you are struggling to give your life lasting meaning without the action step necessary to create it, it will make you miserable. You might look at the word happiness with a smirk as if happiness belongs to a certain type of chosen people.
A friend pointed out to me that she cannot always be happy. She said: "if I try to be happy all the time where would I hide the hard feelings, the sadness, the anger, the unhappiness?"
How I understand true happiness comes from my lifelong commitment to the practice of yoga and the mindful life connected to it. Yoga on the mat can be blissful and rewarding but also testing and very challenging. Just like day to day life.
I am not about to hide when life sucks. But at the end of the day, I remember that no matter what I will cultivate the feeling of contentment which in turn allows me to be happy with what is.
Happiness on my mat and in my life exists at the very moment when I notice my frustration, my pain, my dark side and react with kindness instead of rejection or disappointment.
It's not easy. But it's possible. It's a daily practice.
If your answer to the question:
"Do you want to be happy?" is yes but it's startled by a but-if you're tying your happiness to your circumstances.
There cannot be any ifs, ands or buts attached to it. It's not a question of whether your happiness is under your control. Of course, it is! No qualifying needed. If we can only be happy when x y and z are in place, we missed the boat.
I have many reasons to give up on being happy, and I am sure you do too. But I refuse.
Yoga taught me to pause and to practice self-reflection and self-love. I am deeply grateful for that. Rarely have I stepped off my yoga mat without feeling grounded in my world and intensely aware of what is going on. It's not all about me. It's about my connection to everything around me. What I think, say or not say and how I act or not act.
I can wholeheartedly say practicing yoga reminds me to stand in my truth and as a result, I step off my mat and can say: "I am happy."
In this groundedness, I can look my humaneness in the eye. I catapult the problematic feelings to the surface like today when I lost it with my daughter. Again. She triggers me like no other. Of course, she is the person I am most passionate about in my life. And the one who needs my support.
It doesn't help my feeling of self-worth that she is special. She sees and understands the world differently. Her neediness coupled with her brilliance can drive me into despair. How can I lose it with her? It's by far the most painful emotion I know.
In the moments when the sky turns dark, and I feel crushed to the ground Yoga has taught me to re-bounce, to find my breathe and move on. And reaffirm my commitment to find happiness on the other side of fear.
I am keeping Pema Chodron's words:
Fail, fail again, fail better
as a mantra in my imaginary back pocket. It works.
I collect quotes. I still love the first quote I put on my wall back in 1999 when we moved to California.
Happiness is a how; not a what.
A talent, not on object.
by Hermann Hesse
I am the witness to this process. We learn what happiness is through understanding that:
It is a choice!
Trees have been part of me forever. From the first love in my life, the cherry tree in my fathers gardens to the "secret" hollow trees of my childhood where we escaped to from adult-supervision to the "tree house tree" in Sarina's childhood home. Trees hold a magic that stops me in my tracks.
We live next to Annadel State Park in Santa Rosa, Northern California. A magical place to live. Sometimes I think we were called to move up here because of the trees. I am blessed, I can walk out the door and find groves of trees within a few steps.
This Christmas season my love for trees sparked two new traditions.
Every Christmas Eve we will walk by my trees and adorn them with an ornament.
And inspired by Judi Dench, who plants a tree on her land for every friend that passes away, I will name a tree on my hill for friends I lose. Judi, like myself, belongs to a group of women called "Tree Sisters".
Tree Sisters is a global network of women who donate monthly to fund the restoration of our tropical forests as a collective expression of planetary care.
Join them: www.tressisters.org. The air we breathe, and the world we leave behind for our children depends on our trees.
Finally, let me introduce you to and celebrate my trees:
He was love at first sight. The first time I drove up the road to my street I had to stop. The name Adam just poured out of me. Adam is stunning. Adam is strong. He stands as a guardian for everyone coming up the hill.
Adam has become my go-to place when I need support. When I want to lean on something that is stronger than myself. I read him my stories, tell him what aches me.
When Sarina dressed up as a "human bouquet" to deliver joy "one 🌷 at a time" to the fire victims who were still in shelters at that time we had to pay tribute to Adam on our way home. He too kept our hill from burning.
I always walk away feeling happier. My small world opens up just by listening to Adams stories.
🌳 Hugo - the patient
Hugo is on every sunset you might have seen me share on my Facebook page.
Hugo was the tree Sarina and I hugged when we came home in October of this year after the wildfires threatened to burn up our hill.
He stands outside my dining room window, leaning onto a large boulder for assistance. Someone butchered his wings before we moved in. He is still healing, still a patient needing extra support.
We sit next to him to watch the sunsets. I swear he hears our stories. I can climb into him and feel free. Hugo is a symbol of healing for me.
The first time I sat on our sofa and admired the view, Victor smiled at me. His shape is precise: "Victory" is what you see. He stands firm, protected from the winds. When things don't go my way, he nods at me: "you can do this!" is what I hear.
It took me a while to find Eva. In proximity to Adam, I thought, healthy and impressive and stunning was what I wanted to see. Eva bears all of that and more. She stands protected in a grove of smaller trees. Above Adam on the same hill but not immediately visible from the path. You have to hike off the trail to find her. Her crown is full, giving shade to the siblings below. Her canopy reaches far down to the ground.
"Protected" is what I feel when I sit with her.
I dedicate the next tree to my friend of more than 40 years
who suddenly passed away in October, a day before the wildfires devastated part of our city.
She died at age 56.😔.
When I visited Corinna in August this year we spoke about her bucket list wish to visit me in California. She loved to learn about my life in the US, was a dedicated student of yoga, a devoted friend and admired my trees from afar. She loved Sarina.
I picked this tree because it stands firm, like Corinna did, across the street from Adam, hugged by beautiful flowers. I pass it every day on my way down!
More of my tree stories and adventure will follow.
Leave me a comment or write me a note if you have named a tree and why.
On the picture you see Sarina jump in front of the library of Santa Rosa Junior College. I took it on the last day of her 1. Semester when all the finals where done. That was just two days ago.
She scored 100%/100% on all of her courses. A significant milestone for her!
Determined, willing to show up, doing the work and a never ending up hope in her heart made her first chance of going to college a full success.
You might know, Sarina has been waiting for this chance since 2009. Living with the challenges she faces on a daily basis make steps like this like a walk on ice.
Now we are holding another hope: her moving out and to start living on her own again. A fantastic supported living program in Sonoma has one spot open. She had an interview there last Thursday. Three young women have been on the waiting list before her. Send your love and support. She deserves this chance. I choose to envision her there already and breath when doubt kicks in😊.
2017 was a roller-coaster year for us on many levels. Losses and victories shook hands a few times. We're grateful to celebrate today in the home we love, the place we want to be!
I have been reflecting on where we as human beings can find the ongoing courage to be brave, be daring and leap when needed.
I find it in my practice, out in nature and in the yogic texts I keep going back to for the last 30 years. I cherish what I learn by my ongoing study of the Yamas and Niyamas. They are yogas ten guidelines on how we should behave in the world and how we need to pay attention to our inner practice.
The tree below is in front of our home. A colorful thank you that our neighborhood survived the fires.
And this is what I stand for:
⭐️ I'm sending love to you and your loved ones.
⭐️ Healing and strength if life is challenging for you right now.
⭐️ Time for reflection and pockets of silence to breathe.
⭐️ A walk under the sky.
⭐️ And a smile. I also often smile for no apparent reason!
PS. Some of you wrote to me that you have not been able to open links included in my letters to you. I have not figured out why but will try to do so. In the meantime, if you want to read about my yoga life and my life with Sarina, just visit my website. You can click the blog link or the Sarina inspiration and choose what inspires you. Of course, if you let me know I will also try to send my blogs via email to you.
I have a collection of "magic moments."
They are what sustain me and feed my hungry soul when lives challenges are closing in on me.
It's the "not having enough time" that makes me suffer the most. I feel it as tight chains around my body that threaten to take my breath away and dampen my massive joy for life. I get angry quickly in that state, I lose it with my daughter and don't like myself that way.
Do you know that feeling? The constant rush, the endless d o i n g and no time for b e i n g ? I think most mothers do when their kids are little. And mothers like me who are raising a special child. Of course, this hits home for anybody who is struggling with a demanding life. With old age and illness, with injury and loss and grief.
What are you doing to take care of your body? When the energy is low, and the mood turns grumpy? Do you numb it? So you don't feel it?
I have a few things to share that help me stay sane and energized. I will not give up on being vibrantly alive.
They are my "magic moments." I pop them into my day. On the spot, before I roll out of bed, in the shower, in my car, in the grocery line, etc.
You need to p a u s e for a few minutes of your time to experience them ☺️.
Don't say no. It's simple math... only 5 "pockets of silence" a day and you will fill your happiness account with about 25 golden minutes.
In that pause, you can refill your cup and connect with yourself.
Feel your body and notice your breath. Acknowledge your feelings and raise your vibration because you're connected to your source again.
Here is my # 1 pause:
🚿 Magic in the shower
Instead, to continue to think of the million things on my to-list or my despair, I step into my "to-be list" once the water is turned on. I love to "wash" away the stories that cling to my body and run through my mind. I step into my senses and the present moment on the spot. Water is a great metaphor to help me do that. It hasn't failed me. The success is in my smile.
🚿 Stand facing the shower head and allow the water to run down directly onto the back of the neck.*💡
Focus on feeling the water on your back for a few moments.
⭐️ Let your shoulders drop
⭐️ Let go of everything else you might be holding on to by relaxing
your hands and your grip
⭐️ Take three deep breaths - feel yourself breath - make sounds if you like
⭐️ Listen to the water
⭐️ Feel it touch your skin. Feel the temperature of the water
⭐️ Smell the aroma of the soap
⭐️ close your eyes and feel
Become super aware of everything you are feeling and experiencing in that moment. No judgment needed. Just being present! Give yourself a smile!
Take this peaceful moment with you in your day.
🌷 I am a believer in visualization. When challenged during the day, I close my eyes, take a deep breath and visualize this moment in the shower. Before you know it you created another magic moment. Another chance to be you.
It's a charm. Own it!
Pause - Please!
⇰sign up for my newsletter to add my other treasures to your list. Next is a guided 2-minute mindfulness moment
*💡 Let me add a short info from my yogic life. We have seven main energy centers in our body called Chakras. Another one worth understanding is an energy center right where the neck meets the head. It's called the Cerebellum Chakra. That's where you want to feel the water. When this energy center is balanced, it manifests as feeling in touch and inspired by our dreams. It lets us access our soul contract. It connects us to our intuitive voice.
Today, is the 4th of December. It's my grandmothers Birthday.
She would have turned 140 years old! 🌷
I feel more connected to my tradition this year. I feel connected to my home in Santa Rosa, more than to any other place I have lived for a long time. I remember my roots as a reflection of who I am. I mirror my life in them. I am curious.
What lessons did I receive? What shaped me? Which stories burn in my heart? Which ones have I let go? Which ones are still waiting for their exit?
My grandmother was a grumpy even bitter old woman. She didn't like me much because I was my father's child. Very much like him. Too fast, to sporty, to noisy, too much laughter. Too much sun on our skin and not well behaved enough. Not a good Catholic, not good enough in prayer was one of the sins she despised me for. I was afraid of her harsh judgment. And for my father? He was not good enough for my grandmothers standards. End of story.
My mother suffered under her meanness. She was not like her.
I revisited the hurt I felt by her rejection for as long as I needed to heal and move on. I did. I learned from her behavior: I will have nothing of this. There is no such thing as not a good enough human being. I will not bigger behind people's back. Well, I learned not to. I worked hard to find my voice and I am still learning.
The last Christmas season we celebrated in the United States after moving here in 1987 was in 2009.
We lived in Orinda, CA at the time. In 2010 we moved back to Germany. To our roots we thought, but now it feels more like an uprooting to me.
In 2015 we moved to Texas... let me tell you, that's another adventure of it's kind. Sarina stayed on in Germany.
In an almost overnight and very happy decision, we moved to Santa Rosa in April of this year and Sarina followed.
Goodbye Empty Nest for me. For now. For a bit too long I feel, but what do I know which lessons I will get to cherish from this?
I vow to have an Empty Nest again. I ordered it. Yes. It's one phone call away.
There is a whole story written of what happened this year. So much did not go as planned. And much more did. LOL, who invented the word "plan" anyway? As I reflect, I learn that one of my superpowers is
Another one, I am a
💪🏼 WARRIOR WOMAN.
I don't give up. I fight back. I know how fear looks like and challenge it. It has to go on its knees so I can move towards my dreams. With a deep breath I step over my obstacles - every day.
💪🏼 I bend but, I don't break.
I feel a few more superpowers arising as I type. I am growing something big. I dare to say this out loud:
💪🏼 I do manifest. It's in the power of my soul. I am getting clear about what I want and: I ask for it out loud.
Oma Aloisia would not want any of that. Her imagined resistance to the woman I am makes me smile today. I would stand up to her now and love her anyway.
🎄Crafting our advent wreath and preparing the home for the Holidays brings me back to memories of her and my childhood. To my roots. I feel them grow strong and reach out to the word. I know they give me the strength to stand up when I fall and to stand tall.
Being in this reflective mood, my grandma's birthday today is one of the memories that just pop up. Perhaps she wants me to celebrate?
She gave birth to 10 children! Only 4 survived into adulthood. Two lost their lives in World War II. My mother, the youngest, and her brother Leo, the oldest were the only one still alive when they had to leave their home, their friends and memories behind. They were part of the expulsion of Germans from Czechoslovakia after World War II. I am a child of all of this.
So much to tell here. I feel it coming... the book I have been dreaming and speaking about? It wants to come out. I had no plan to write this much today. My fingers did!
As the sky turns dark outside my window, I look at that picture of her. I will get up now and light the advent candle for her. She would approve of that. She would smile. Sarina will soak up the story. She is our families history queen.
I will bow my head to everything my grandma went through, everything she taught me. I will salute her tonight!
Happy Birthday, Oma Aloisia!🌷
Here is a thing that slipped in... sorry Oma... AND thanks to my older sister Evi for picking it up and counting better.... OMA ALOiSIA TURNED 130 yesterday not 140! ☺️