My 6 tips for a relaxed Christmas

Christmas is not for wimps.

At no other time of the year expectations are so high and are disappointed so easily. Media and advertisements dazzle us with pictures of peace and bliss: In soft candle light a big family is sitting happily around a big table and exchanges gifts that everybody is crazy about. (You can read this article in German here.)

Even though I am very much aware of these manipulations I still catch myself succumbing to them.

How plausible is it that a big group of people, who don´t meet very often will understand each other blindly?

Reality-Check: Are you clear about your expectations for Christmas?

My own experiences

When I was a child there was always stress and conflict on Christmas. My mother, left alone with all the preparations was totally exhausted by Christmas Eve. My father did not feel responsible for either household chores or Christmas arrangements.

We 4 kids were so excited that we were probably quite a handful. I was the oldest and I felt responsible for keeping the peace, which was more than I could handle, of course. This was probably the reason for my growing apprehension. When I moved out I avoided spending Christmas at home.

Since then I have been working on making Christmas less stressful for me.

I have known my husband for almost 30 years now and we have had children for 18 years. This means that I had lots of time to practise. It was a long learning process.

Here I share 6 tips for a more tranquil Christmas:

1. Be mindful in the pre-Christmas period

It is not a good idea to exhaust yourself by the Christmas preparations. When I have a busy work schedule I bake less Christmas cookies and our house is less orderly. Every year I used to pack 24 little gifts for the advent calendar of my three children. This year we agreed on pre-manufactured ones and this saved lots of time and energy.

I also cut back on volunteering in December. I do not stop everything, but I don´t feel responsible for baking at the school any more, for example. I see this as a good investment for me in a more relaxed Christmas season.

2. Less presents can be a good idea

I have very good experiences with cutting back on presents for friends and my extended family. The adults in our families – my husband and I have 3 siblings – have been skipping presents for a long time. Before we had children we rented a house in Denmark instead, which was very relaxing.

Since I don´t like to go shopping I have a list with ideas for Christmas presents that I add to during the year. Last minute Christmas shopping is nothing for me and I try to avoid that.

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Last year working on several Advent wreaths.

3. Communication, communication, communication

The most important thing for me is to get to know the individual expectations of everybody who participates in my Christmas: Children, parents, grandparents, siblings or friends.

Who expects what and which expectations do we want to meet? It is not as easy as one might think to uncover the true expectations of everybody involved. Often you will get vague answers: “Oh, you know…” but this is not helpful. To express oneself clearly helps both the listener and the talker.

When people don´t communicate openly and say: “I am okay with everything” even though this is not true, there will be problems. My mother-in-law always had a hard time to clearly state her wishes and this way she was sometimes disappointed.

Achieving transparency about the individual expectations is a process that takes time. But it is very much worth it. In my experience the more transparency we generate the less conflicts we have at Christmas.

4. Reflection

When we have children it is particularly important to be as clear as possible about our own wishes. Here are some questions that can help:

  • Which values do we have and which ones do we want to live?
  • What are our goals this Christmas and what do we want to avoid?
  • What did we enjoy in previous years and what do we want to repeat?
  • What are Christmas rituals that are important to us and do they still fit?
  • Set clear priorities: What is most important for us? (For me it is stress-reduction.)

Recognising and getting rid of obsolete automatisms

Especially at Christmas time we tend to stick to traditions because we somehow feel as if our Christmas would die when we change something. This is nonsense of course; there are much more possibilities than we are aware of.

In Germany we have a Christmas tradition to eat goose on Christmas day. Just like the Thanksgiving turkey in the States the preparations are time-consuming. Luckily there are alternatives to cooking your own goose now: They can either eat out or order goose-to-go.

To have creative ideas and new solutions we have to be open for new possibilities. We need to be aware that we are running on autopilot mode even more at Christmas time than on other occasions.

When I am feeling stressed about something I do creative sessions with my husband where we evaluate alternative ways to reach my goal together.

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5. Planning

My Christmas holidays profit from structure. The more persons are involved the more a plan can help. This plan should include lots of free spaces and breathing room to prevent pressure building up because of a tight schedule.

Free space in the Christmas plan is most important.

How detailed you plan for the holidays depends on you. Here are some ideas:

  • Prepare a rough approximate timetable (make sure to include enough breathing space).
  • Create a general overview: Who is where when?
  • Make a meal-plan: Who is responsible for what and what can be prepared ahead of time? This food-plan relaxes me a lot.
  • Include time for individual or joint breaks: Watch a film, go for a walk or play together.

I have learned that Christmas is not the right time for experiments. Things we are used to doing feel comfortable to us. Playing board games when you never do this is not a good idea.

Children need breathing room

Small children have short attention spans and cannot occupy themselves for a long time. I advise against planning an elaborate meal that gives children too little space. When my children are happy and relaxed, so am I.

Big children can be included in the preparations and take responsibility for some chores. My children even enjoy to help at Christmas time, probably because they don´t enjoy a stressed-out mother! For me as the head planner it is important to be as clear as possible when delegating.

6. You are responsible for yourself

Everybody is responsible for creating the conditions they feel well in. It is not possible to delegate this. This is especially true at Christmas time where people tend to create extremes more easily and may suddenly find themselves in explosive situations.

My kids often realise before I do when I start to get agitated and ask me: What is the matter, Mom? I am thankful for this warning that enables me to become aware and react.

What is good for you at Christmas time?

  • When you need a time-out it is okay to skip Christmas altogether.
  • Dare to change old structures when they are a burden for you.
  • Include family and participants early on in the Christmas preparations. Beware that you have to live with other people doing stuff differently from you, which is a good exercise in acceptance.
  • Do you really have to invite relatives who are annoying just because they are family?
  • Very important: You are not responsible for what others think of you.

When the situation is escalating:

  • Get help bringing down your stress level.
  • Note your stress triggers and get back to them after the holidays.
  • Don´t expect easy Christmas holidays only because you changed some things.

Christmas time is always a good test for me that shows how much progress I have made in my personal development.

My offer for a more relaxed Christmas season:

Especially at Christmastime issues we are working on will pop up. Don´t hesitate to ask for help. I offer special energy-coachings before Christmas.

Pictures: private

© Inge Schumacher

 Book-tip: Nonviolent Communication by Marshall B. Rosenberg

 

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Leadership in Times of Transformation

We live in volatile times and cannot accurately predict what will happen next.

  • In the near future climate and earth changes and wars might cause more displacements of millions of people
  • The world economy is far from stable: Shaky banks, unstable trade relations and inequality attest to that
  • Old structures are crumbling
  • Authority that used to come automatically with the office is gone: The president of the United States and the CEO of Volkswagen are examples

A buzzword that illustrates the situation very well is VUCA. It is the acronym for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity, which is just a complicated way of saying:

There are too many moving parts

 

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To meet the challenges we face today and in the future we need new ways for coping. The structures that have been working for us so far don´t suffice. We need to make international cooperation more efficient.

We have a good base to build upon

In case of earthquakes or other environmental disasters international rescue teams are able to fly in with only a few hours notice. This is a great accomplishment. I think we should opt for complementing this with informal networks in every country that can call to action people for whatever needs to be done.

To manage this we need responsible leaders

When 1 million refugees came to Germany in 2015 there were no structures that could have coped with this. Millions of individuals taking action made all the difference. I have personally met many responsible leaders in this situation: They saw the need, stepped in and helped. They seemed to come out of nowhere. Nobody told them what to do and how to do it.

We have all the resources we need

The digital age gives us a solid base for international networking. We only have to put our human ingenuity and creativity to good use to master these turbulent times. Sounds easy doesn´t it?

We have great human resources to build on and I am witnessing many people learning and educating themselves to be able to play a responsible part in this.

Balanced personalities

It is our responsibility to take care of ourselves first. People who don´t know how to properly care for themselves cannot take care of others. I believe that only when we take good care of ourselves we are able to develop balanced personalities and bring balance back to this planet.

We are becoming more aware of our interconnectedness

I see this clearly in my clients of all ages: They are actively working on becoming more aware of themselves and they start to see our interconnectedness.

The generation Y is another good example: They are digital natives. Born between 1980 and 2000 they prefer to work in teams rather than in deep hierarchies, they long for more freedom and personal-fulfilment and less for status and prestige. They want to make a contribution that matters.

International cooperation will save us

We are in the age of self-empowerment and cooperation. To manage the many moving parts we need to juggle it is very helpful to cooperate worldwide. More and more people are realising this.

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What skills do responsible leaders need?

I compare responsible leaders with bus drivers because for bus drivers many hard skills we believe to be important are secondary.

They don´t need a university degree or specific professional skills other than knowing how to handle a bus. The people who want to travel to a destination are focused on getting there. They choose a driver they trust. Together the two groups make efficient teams.

Soft skills are essential for responsible leaders

Soft skills are a combination of people skills, social skills and communication skills.

Bus drivers care for the wellbeing of the people they drive. They need soft skills to be good at that. Leading responsibly is all about self-awareness: Responsible leaders lead by example. They go first and don´t dictate what others should do. They demonstrate how something can be done and others will follow.

Characteristics of responsible leaders

The responsible leaders I have met or follow in the media have these characteristics:

  • They are unpretentious: They are not motivated primarily by prestige, fame or status.
  • They are interested in making a contribution that matters.
  • They see the bigger picture and care for the wellbeing of others.
  • They risk exploring new paths thereby creating opportunities for themselves and for others.
  • They are motivated by the problem or the task at hand and don´t necessarily care for long-term commitments. When they reach their goals they search for a new challenge or drop the role of the leader altogether.
  • They walk their talk and thus earn their authority: They are authentic.

In times of turmoil we need leaders who are at peace with themselves

  • They have to be self-confident enough to not be thrown off course easily.
  • They respect and accept themselves and their fellow humans.
  • They see and acknowledge the talents of the people around them and encourage them use them.
  • They inspire cooperation and teamwork.

How to cultivate and develop responsible leaders

We are the examples for the younger generations. The most important thing we need to teach everybody is how to become responsible for themselves and to take care of themselves.

In my workshops and in my practise I see people of all generations working on educating themselves and getting to know themselves better. This is great, because we need more people who are aware of their potentials, who know that they have what it takes to become responsible leaders.

Examples of responsible leaders today

There already are many responsible leaders today. Here are some examples:

  • Jóhannesson, president of Iceland,
  • Pope Francis
  • Khan, founder of the non-profit educational organisation Khan Academy
  • Kayango: The global soap project
  • Check TED talks on Youtube, you can meet more there

One way of supporting responsible leaders is to establish more informal international connections between individuals.

Examples of successful international connections

  • Exchange programs for teenagers and students
  • International work camps for young people all over the world
  • Conferences like the ICSR in Cologne for networking
  • The Panama Papers: International journalists collaborated for years and published simultaneously: A revolution in investigative journalism

The good thing is that we are getting to know and to work with each other worldwide that way.

How we can support responsible leaders

In Germany during the last 3 years we built informal networks involving volunteer organisations, state officials and politics.

In my hometown of Hamburg it took a long time to establish cross-sectional communication across the different government agencies. This is not working perfectly yet, but we have established these networks and we will surely need them again.

We are all responsible for our future

The weight of our future is not only resting on the shoulders of responsible leaders. Quite the contrary:

Responsible leaders are the ones who are stepping in when they see the need. They go first and start driving a bus. Their passengers are the people who support them. They see the need to get to the destination themselves. The drivers set the example and the passengers make their own responsible choices.

We are all in this together. We all are responsible for creating our joint future. Together we can make things happen we would never have thought possible.

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Are you working on taking care of yourself?

To be able to shape a better future together we have to know how to take care of ourselves and accept ourselves first. You think you are already taking good care of yourself? Really? Think again!

Just try to monitor for one day how often you tell yourself that you are stupid for forgetting this, that you are dumb for making that wrong decision. This is not taking care of yourself or acceptance! Believe me, I have been working on this for ages and it still is work in progress. But I have learned that when I accept myself more it is much easier to accept others.

Why is it so hard to accept ourselves? We were brought up to always look at what we lack and what we are deficient at. As a consequence we treat us habitually bad so often that we don´t even realise what we are doing. Only when we become aware of what we are doing we are able to change this.

Not all of us have to be leaders, but the world needs all of us to take responsibility for ourselves. My own experience shows how important it is to be responsible for myself. People who know themselves better are more able to see the bigger picture and make a difference.

Living in a VUCA world

We have to remind ourselves that we are the ones who create our reality. We have to own our authority and be courageous enough to jump into processes with unknown ends. We need more positive pictures of the future to interest more people to involve themselves in the coming transformations.

The situation is going to stay volatile. But panicking is not helping. We can do this. Together we are able to ride the waves of transformation and not get drowned by them. Responsible people and responsible leaders will make the difference. Because:

Everybody can cause considerable rippling effects by being truly himself.

 

Pictures: pixabay and private

© Inge Schumacher

 

Get Started! 8 Exercises for Letting Go

These exercises are part of my blog-article on Letting Go. I put them together for my clients because I value practical tips. Because they are so important to me, I put them in a separate article. You can read this article in German here.

I share here eight exercises of the many good ones I know. I especially like exercises that include the body. This signals our brain that loves to have input from all sides, that we are really getting serious.

Letting Go is clearing up on the inside

We tidy and clean our home to feel comfortable in it. We take care of our body by having a shower regularly. Many people are becoming aware that it is important for their well-being to also take good care of their inner home: By devoting time to this important part of themselves they are getting more familiar with it.

When I realised that my inner home likes to be sorted once in a while I started to do letting go sessions every once in a while. In these sessions I evaluate what I really need and what only takes space and energy that I could use much better elsewhere.

Exercises facilitate change

1. Clarity

An exercise forces you to get to the point. To be really precise can be more difficult than you might think. It is so important to write down precisely what we want to consciously let go. Being precise at the beginning of the letting go process helps to focus. I also found out that writing things down by hand brings greater clarity than tapping on the computer keyboard.

2. Setting the signals on change

With doing an exercise you are signalling to yourself that you are serious. To permanently change a habit you need at least three weeks. It takes that long to convince your whole being that you really want to implement something new. This is why it is so easy to fall back into old habits. So please don´t give up too early!

3. Select an exercise that feels good to you

The exercise that you choose should fit to you. You do not need to do the hardest, longest or most complex exercise. Be creative and vary an exercise to your liking. What matters most is that you set the signs for a new beginning.

4. Define an objective

At the beginning you have ideally put down a goal you want to reach with an exercise. It  helps to decide how often you want to do the exercise and you can better monitor your success.

5. Don´t forget to appreciate yourself

You did it! Party when you have finished with an exercise. Pat yourself on the back! You have deserved a reward. This way you reinforce the positive change you initiated.

Eight letting go exercises

When doing your exercise find a place where you feel comfortable and safe.

Chaos elctricity

1. Discovering what exactly you want to let go of: Evaluating your habits

  • Write down what your thoughts are busy with often. Everything that we repeat a lot of times becomes more and more important to us. What subjects are your thoughts revolving around most?
  • Why is that so (thoughts, emotions, actions)? Which beliefs are behind this that are consistently reinforced that way?
  • Do these beliefs still fit to you?

2. Being aware of emotions and letting them go

This exercise is for self-awareness. Define as exactly as possible what you want to let go: People, conflicts or beliefs. Now imagine releasing them. Because this is a process you need to repeat this exercise.

  1. In this exercise you watch yourself: What do you feel? How much can you allow? Please don´t go too far. To make this process more tangible please write down the recurring thoughts.
  2. What emotions can you allow? What impulses and automatic responses can you detect that you use to supress these feelings? Can you look at them without judging yourself? When you realise that you are going on a negative spiral stop and start with 1. again. The feelings will get less dramatic over time.
  3. Repetition: Are you able to let the feelings come and go? E-motion is energy in motion. Look at your feelings from a distance. Over time you will get used to releasing feelings more easily.
  4. Now you can manage to observe the emotions you wrote down travelling through you. Be careful not to overwhelm yourself.
  5. The more negative emotions you can let go, the more space you have for positive ones. Fill the space you create with acceptance and love for yourself.
  6. Be thankful for the time and help that you had from the people or beliefs you let go.

3. A letting go ritual: Let a piece of paper fall to the ground

Write down what you want to let go of in only 1 to 3 words. This helps you to be precise. Fold the paper, stand up, open your hand and the paper go. Watch how it is sailing to the ground and monitor your feelings. Please repeat this at least 3 times the same day and on the following days.

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4. The exercise with the ball makes letting go tangible

Hold a small ball not bigger than a tennis ball in your hand. Press it hard until it is really uncomfortable. The ball is the symbol for an emotion, a person, or something else you want to let go. The hand represents you.

Open the hand and let the ball roll around on your palm. It is not part of you and therefore doesn´t stick to your hand. Let it fall to the ground and observe yourself and your feelings. Repeat the exercise.

5. Remove the connection to people, who are not good for you

  • Visualise the connection as a tie.
  • Say thank you for the time you have spent together and say good-bye.
  • Imagine how you are undoing the tie, rolling it up and putting it in your pocket.
  • Repeat the exercise.

6. Forgive yourself and others

  • You cannot change other people but you can change the way you react to them.
  • Write down as exactly as possible what is hurting you and what you keep thinking about.
  • Accept the situation. You know that we all decide at any given moment as best as we can.
  • Affirmation: Say aloud: “I forgive me and I forgive you.”
  • Do a symbolic act: Burn the paper or bury it. (Exercise number 3).

7. Visualisations

  1. Imagine how old issues are getting smaller. Visualise a block of ice melting and becoming liquid. Transfer this to your situation. With this you can now water a plant. What kind of plant is it?
  2. Envision a big untidy knot in a long rope exactly where your problem is. Start to slowly untangle the rope and roll it up. When you have a real ball of tangled yarn at home, great, you can also use that.
  3. Fake it until you make it: Imagine in detail how free you are feeling when you have finished the letting go process. This is a psychological trick that really helps.

Repeat the visualisations.

8. Clearing up

Tidying on the outside is a nice symbol for letting go on the inside. This can feel so liberating! No matter what you put in order: Car, closet, basement, desk or handbag. When I feel the strong impulse to tidy, my inner home is often very much in need of a clearing up session.

Pictures: pixabay and private

© Inge Schumacher

 

Easing the Burden by Letting Go

Sometimes it helps to pause a little and reflect where I am going. What do I carry around with me that I don´t need any more?

I learned that life is much easier when I regularly take some time to make an inventory and tidy up the clutter in my life. This is true for material things as well as for intangibles. I not only create time and freedom this way, but I am also more open for change. (You can read this article in German here.)

1. What do we hold on to?

We carry around a lot of things in our everyday lives that we are not aware of. There are three fields to check for unnecessary burdens:

  • Material things: clothes, mementos
  • People: parents, children, friends
  • Intangibles: responsibilities, guilt, injuries, beliefs

 2. To let go we need calmness and peace of mind

To identify the dead weight I am carrying around with me I need to pause. Only then I can switch off my automatic pilot and get out of the hamster wheel.

a. The hamster-wheel

Often we rush mindlessly through our days. Our body supports us by producing adrenaline and cortisol. This gives us the much-needed energy but it also makes us tense. I call this the hamster-wheel. In the hamster-wheel we are constantly in survival mode. This is efficient if we need maximum power but it is not supposed to be the norm.

Our body does not recognise whether we are really in need to be in survival mode or whether the stress just exists in our mind. He serves us by fabricating the hormones we ask for. If this goes on too long we are out of balance and our body and psyche suffer. In survival mode our body does not have the time or the energy to regenerate or to heal. Our immune system does not have priority.

I am amazed at how long we can stand the hamster-wheel before we finally break down. For me this is one of the main reasons for burnout and depression. We drive ourselves until we are literally paralysed.

drivingSkitterphoto

b. The autopilot

As we become adults the circuits in our brain are firmly established. In our everyday lives we are 95% in automatic mode. This autopilot is a clever institution because it makes our life easier. We don´t have to think about how to set one foot in front of the other in order to walk. When we want to change something in our lives however, we have to switch the autopilot off.

3. Making an inventory

I can only take stock when I am present in the Here and Now. Only here I can identify what still serves me and what I want to let go.

When I keep creating problems and conflicts, it is time for an evaluation.

a. Reasons to let go:

  • Lack of time
  • Discontent
  • No opportunities for development
  • Constraining limitations
  • Searching for new paths
  • Our boundaries are violated too much and we become ill as a consequence
  • The effects of too much holding on: negative feelings, thought-circles, fears, depression, hate and rage

Why do I hold on to many things far too long? Often my family and friends can see much more clearly when it would be good for me to let go of something. What prevents me? Why do we often keep running in the hamster wheel in spite of the fact that we desperately need a break to regenerate?

b. Reasons to hold on:

  • Security and habit
  • Old rules: Loyalty, this is the way things are always done
  • Basically positive things: Love and sympathy

The Christmas example

A client told me about her horror of the next Christmas holidays: She drives with her family with two small kids all over Germany two visit both her parents and her in-laws. Afterwards everybody is exhausted and cranky.

I asked her why she could not change this Christmas routine and invite both parents home. She could not imagine changing the routine because it had always been this way.

4. How can we let go?

I show a comprehensive letting go process here. Of course this process is individual and different for everybody.

First I need to be aware that I want to change something in my life. Then I can decide how I want to go about it. When I know what is superfluous it is often easy. When I am stuck I ask friends and family for help.

The Process of Letting go

  1. Becoming aware: Do I still need this?
  2. Honesty to oneself and to others: Is this good for me, if not why? Since when?
  3. Recognise excuses: Do I ride a dead horse?
  4. Do I hold on because I think that nothing better is coming? Do I do this because of low self-esteem?
  5. Mind games: How would it be without…? I look at my feelings and fears.
  6. Forgive myself: I have made the best decisions I could at the time.
  7. I say thank you for what has served me.
  8. Finding a ritual to help me to let go. For example write what I want to separate from on a piece of paper and burn it.
  9. Get help: I don´t have to do everything on my own.
  10. I give myself time for grieving, healing and establishing new habits.

Fest

a. Letting go is uncomfortable

When I am thinking of letting go I sometimes feel sadness. This is because I am going to say good-bye to something that I am used to and that has worked for me. It is normal when this process is painful.

b. Monitoring the thought-process

I try not to take my mind too seriously when I let go because it loves the safe status quo. My brain is not enthusiastic about me trying new ways. It signals caution: You don´t have to do this. It is okay the way things are at the moment.

c. Letting go of feelings

We hold on to feelings by fighting against them, suppressing them or trying to forcefully change them. It is exhausting to protect oneself constantly from feelings.

Emotions are signals that we give ourselves. We have feelings, but we are not defined by them.

E-motion is energy in motion, Joe Dispenza writes. Emotions are not fixed, they come and go. When we let them they can be gone in 2 minutes. This is hard to believe since we are so used to reconnecting with them all the time and thereby reactivating them again.

d. Letting go of conflicts

I am vulnerable because I have self-limiting beliefs: I can´t do this, I am not good enough. These beliefs build a bridge that makes injuries and violations possible.

I cannot change other people but I can change the way I react to them.

What I can do is to look at my limiting beliefs and work on getting rid of them. At the same time I need to build up my self-esteem. When I have successfully let go of a conflict the other person can rant and rave and this does not touch me any more because the connection is gone. This process is not easy but it is very much worth engaging it.

e. Fake it until you make it

When letting go is hard, I like to use a trick. I imagine that I have already accomplished it. I imagine in detail how free I feel, how great my life is without the thing I want to let go of.

This works like the well-known one-minute-smile-exercise. Our brain does not recognise that the smile is not real. The smiling mouth signals the brain that we are happy and it complies by producing happiness hormones.

5. Letting go eases your burden and enables change

Taking inventory and letting go is easiest for me on holidays because then I am more relaxed. My experiences with letting go in Iceland you can read about here. Being out of my hamster-wheel I have the energy to regenerate and time to get clear what is really important for me. I can let go of the dead weight I am carrying around and change automated habits.

I have let go a lot of rigidity in my daily life lately. Much too long I bore too many responsibilities and tasks. This was exhausting. Some of them I let go after discussing them with my family. This way I could create time pockets for myself. These are mine and I can fill them with my personal priorities: Family, meditation, work or just relaxing.

Be easy on yourself

Try not to overwhelm yourself when embarking on a journey to let go. When you realise that it is going to be difficult reduce your speed. Letting go is a process that sometimes needs time and please give it the time that is needed. This is a good investment in your health and your future.

 

Recommended reading:

Joe Dispenza, Becoming Supernatural 2017

© Inge Schumacher

Learning to be Present

When I am present, I don´t run mindlessly through all the errands on my list. I turn the autopilot off. I am aware of what is happening in the present moment and this makes me open for more possibilities.

Only in the present I can shape my reality. Here I can create the life I want to live.

After practising for a long time I finally see progress: I live much more mindful in the present. In this article I share my way to more presence and mindfulness.

Being present in the Fairy Tale Dimension

For beings in the Fairy Tale Dimension living in the present moment is natural. To be in the Now they don´t have to unlearn old programs, silence their thought mechanisms and learn something new like we western post-industrialised people have to. Why is that so? Magic only works in the present moment. I am sure that my connection with this dimension helped me on my path to more presence.

Why is it so important to be present?

The labyrinth example

I am in the middle of a labyrinth and I don´t know how to get out. It does not help to wish never to have come here in the first place (past). It also does not help to worry about the future either and panic: I will never find a way out!

The only thing that helps now is to be present and focus my attention. There is no danger for me now, there are only possibilities I don´t see yet. Perhaps I hear some people in the distance who could help me or I see the ladder round the next corner that will give me an overview. Perhaps I can detect a hole in the labyrinth that could be my way out.

park-tarey

Driving in the right direction

It was getting dark this summer when I was driving my family home from the Baltic Sea late in the evening. Close to the motorway the satnav suddenly told me I took a wrong turn. I was irritated because the signs said something different. The situation was confusing and I was driving very slowly to search for a place to turn. When I came around a bend two deer were walking calmly over the road right in front of me. I could stop easily and neither of us was startled. As I continued driving and I saw that I was heading in the right direction after all.

The day had been sunny and full of fun. I remember that I was present and thankful for the gift of life. This energy probably generated this very nice outcome to a potentially dangerous situation.

We often are in stress-mode

In our daily lives we are often in survival-mode. This keeps us on our toes and energises us. Our body then emits hormones like cortisol and adrenalin to give us the energy we need. But it also causes tension. We are so used to this tension permeating our daily lives that we often can´t feel it any more.

Being present is being in rest and repair-mode.

It took a lot of practise for me to become more present, but it was worth it. Everybody can do it, in his or her own way of course. I went through these phases:

My way to more presence consisted of these phases

1. Theory

I was fascinated by the prospect of being able to more actively create my reality. I gathered information, read on the Internet and in books. I decided it was worth a try.

2. The click moment

In the click moment I am still in the theory part of establishing a new routine. But when it clicks I really get the concept. Only afterwards I am able to start with the implementation.

It took more than one click moment for me to understand what it could mean to be more present and how it works: For example a family situation I could turn around because I was more present and did not react automatically.

3. Practise

After this I was ready for some exercises. I tried to include them in my everyday life.

I discovered that long daily exercises are not for me.

Long before results could be expected I was bored and gave up. I used to feel bad when this happened. I beat myself up: Other people can do this! I judged myself as being lazy and not motivated enough.

Today I am wiser: These exercises weren´t for me. But don´t worry there are also exercises for easily bored people. The right exercises feel easy and can be even fun. I enjoy variations.

The question: What is good for me this very moment? became my central exercise. When I was hesitating what to do next, I asked myself what would serve me best right this moment. I had a big training field in my daily life between family, job and volunteering.

4. Automation

At the beginning the question What is good for me now? felt strange. I did not get any helpful answers either: I thought a coffee would be good for me, but it turned out that this coffee was one too many.

But I got used to regularly checking in with myself. Slowly I learned to listen to the small impulses that I give myself, that are so easily overlooked in our daily routine. I got more and more experience in finding out what was really good for me. This slowly brought more ease to my life.

Sadly we need a lot of repetition to establish new routines. Because this exercise was okay for me I stuck with it. Only when something becomes automatic our unconscious can take over and we can create a new habit.

While doing the exercise I almost forgot what I wanted to achieve with it, which was probably very helpful. Only now I realise how natural being more present has become for me.

Am I always present? No! This is still a work in progress.

Routinely checking in with myself multiple times during the day I am becoming more conscious of what I am doing, my mood and where it comes from. I automatically give myself a break from my thoughts and take an observer´s view. Sometimes I have to laugh at what my mind conjures up.

What has changed for me by becoming more present?

Being more mindful has changed a lot of aspects in my life:

  • I now appreciate the little wonders in my everyday life much more.
  • I don´t take my thoughts so seriously any more. I also take things less personally.
  • I am much more content and balanced.
  • I listen more to my little impulses. This way I see many more opportunities. They make my life much more interesting and easy.

Do I always listen to my impulses? No! I am stubborn sometimes.

Creating new opportunities

I am much more balanced and in my flow. I cherish the new opportunities I have started to create. Lately I did a lot of things I would never have thought possible. From giving speeches to doing videos to having my blog featured in a facebook group.

Presence in my Practise

During my work with clients we both are very much present, even when we are separated by an ocean. Being present we are able to tap into new information and find solutions to situations that would have been overlooked otherwise.

In my practise and in my volunteer work I see a lot of suffering. Some personal stories stick with me more than others. That is normal. I can come back to the present moment to help efficiently much easier now.

Herz

Be gentle to yourself and don´t give up too soon

I have often thought, I will never learn this!

Please try to ignore your inner monologue when you try something new. Our mind just mirrors our reluctance to venture into unknown places and is not to be taken too seriously!

Don´t beat yourself up because things do not go as planned. You are right the way you are. Everybody is. We always compare ourselves with others and this is not an efficient way to learn anything new.

Stop comparing

There will always be somebody who does something better, is better looking or more intelligent. When you catch yourself comparing again, and you will when you are more present, search for the next mirror and stick out your tongue. This will bring you back immediately to the present moment, I promise.

Meditation helps

When exercises work for you, do them. Use everything that is helpful. It is great when you have a morning routine or meditate regularly.

Meditation, becoming quiet, is good for me. I managed to establish more or less regular meditations in my life. I often use an app, sometimes with music sometimes without and I change my meditation places. I aim for at least three 30 minutes sessions a week and have been quite successful with this in the last year. When I don´t reach my goal I don´t beat myself up any more. I stick with it because I feel better with this pause in my life.

You can only win

When you are present your thinking, feeling and doing is one. You are out of stress-mode and in rest and repair mode. The autopilot is off and you are at the steering wheel. This makes you the creator of your life.

I am not alone in my endeavour to become more present. Many people I know are working on this now because they have experienced that this is the way to create a fulfilling life.

What are your experiences with becoming more present and mindful? Please share them here. We can learn so much from each other!

 

 

Additional Information

Eckhart Tolle: The Power of Now. This book is written in a question and answer format. I have reread it recently and now get what he means. Should you need a structured approach I don´t recommend it.

Joe Dispenza has written books on healing yourself. To heal yourself you have to be totally present and he explains very well how to achieve this.

You can find good videos of them both on You tube.

 

Exercises for more mindfulness and presence:

 

Pictures: pixabay and private

© Inge Schumacher

 

 

Letting Go and Iceland

I wrote this blog article on a holiday with my family in Iceland. This holiday was a good occasion for me to take inventory and sort my priorities. I looked at what I was carrying around with me and identified some superfluous burdens. In everyday life I am often not aware of the unnecessary things that I am holding on to.

I am a healing practitioner and letting go is one of the important issues I help my clients with. Turns out that my pictures of Iceland fit very well to the experiences with letting go I share here.

You can read this article in German, too.

 

In Iceland the wind blows everything away

Everybody has an affinity for different places. Some people are drawn to an island in the Caribbean and others enjoy Spain. For recharging my husband and I like to visit the Baltic Sea. It is about an hour from Hamburg and a short visit there feels like a holiday to us.

Iceland is a magical place for my family and me. All of us can relax and let go there easily. The crisp air and wide-open landscape resonate with us; it helps us to just be there. This time we spent two weeks in the northern part of the island.

Wind

Letting go is work in progress for me

I started into the subject of letting go right at the beginning of our journey at the airport. We were late and searching for our check-in counter when I realised that my oldest daughter was wearing a light jacket. I could not believe my eyes! She forgot her winter coat and we were travelling to a country were it would still be snowing!

Instantly I was in “Mom Worries Mode” At first I blamed myself for not checking for the third time whether she took the right jacket like I did with the rest of the family.

In the airplane I finally calmed down. Theoretically I know that I can´t and don´t want to be responsible for everything. This incident shows that letting go is still a work in progress for me. When I found out the next day that my middle daughter had accidentally packed last year´s too small winter boots, I only laughed.

We solved the jacket problem of the older daughter with layers of sweaters. Luckily the weather was agreeable so that my second daughter did not get wet feet, they were only cold sometimes.

In this situation the Icelandic saying Þetta reddast! was appropriate. It means: All will be well. Icelanders are very laid back and spontaneous people. For them appointments are loose arrangements. This can cause problems, for example in tourism. I know that German travel companies prefer to do business in Iceland with German expatriates because they are more reliable.

On this holiday we also experienced the positive side of the Icelandic ease when help for our punctured tire arrived the same evening instead of the next morning. Our friendly repairman said he came earlier because he was bored.

Icelanders are experts in making good coffee and I gladly borrow some of their ease. For me they are not ideal examples for letting go however; their mentality is too different.

Letting go liberates energies

When we let go of things we create free space. This is true for objects as well as for immaterial things. This means when we let old stuff go, we have more time and we are more open for new ideas.

At the end of 2016 I let go of my cooperation with my Icelandic friend. For four years we had offered workshops for women in the Westfjords of Iceland. When I told her about my decision to stop she was very glad I took the initiative. She is in her mid-sixties and wanted to work less.

Now I am looking forward to new projects in Iceland and continue to learn Icelandic. On this holiday I could already talk a little with the natives.

The Icelandic joint venture must have cost much more energy than I was aware of, because afterwards I was much faster with my own projects. Since 2017 I have more national and international clients and I started two blogs: This one about the Fairy Tale Dimension and personal development and my German blog about my work.

 

Ben
My 8-year-old with Iceland-cap

 

It is hard for me to let go of my children

My oldest daughter used to be quite timid. When she was in nursery school I was relieved when I found out that the teachers there worked hand in hand with me. All of us supported her by helping her to stretch her boundaries without demanding too much. I learned then that it was helpful to share some of my parental responsibilities.

A continuing challenge for me is my son´s school situation. He started school in a big chaotic class with a lot of very difficult kids. The headmaster was not able to alleviate the situation and I was very much afraid that my quiet sensitive child would suffer. Luckily my son was okay because the teacher managed to give him a feeling of security despite of the difficult situation. She was not able to devote much time to his reading problems and so I arranged with her to support him at home as well as I can.

Even though my son has found wonderful friends in his class it still is a conscious effort for me to let go of my worries.

 

Enough with self-limiting beliefs

Only when we are aware of our self-set boundaries, which direct us undetected and inhibit us unseen, we can let them go.

I discovered such a superfluous belief just before my 50th birthday. My husband asked me what I wanted to do because I was not keen on having a big party. I would love to have a picnic by the sea was my spontaneous answer. At the same time I heard an inner voice telling my, that this was not possible because my birthday is in February and in winter it is much too cold for picnics. I realised that I had found a totally useless self-limiting belief. Why should this not be possible? I was shocked to see that I am obviously still limiting myself unnecessarily.

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Our picnic on the Baltic Sea in February 2016

My husband and I had a wonderful picnic at the sea-shore in February. This experience has inspired my motto for the next decade of my life: “Enough with the self-limiting beliefs!” Since then I have been watching out for this little voice telling me what I should or should not do.

 

Letting go in my Healing Practise

Letting go is a central part of my energy work. I help my clients to understand what they are holding on to at the moment and why. Only when they are aware of what is going on they are able to let go. Afterwards we work together at finding out ways to change routines that are not beneficial any more.

A few days before our holiday I got a phone call from a client who had been very tired since our healing session. I found out that she has used this session as a starting point to let things she did not need any more go. Why was this making her tired?

When we let go of things we have leaned on for a long time, there suddenly is a void. We can compare this to changing important parts of the foundation of our house: The whole construction can start to wobble. As a consequence we need additional energy to maintain our balance as well as adding new pieces to form a new basis. I have experienced this often myself and the only thing I can do then is to take good care of myself.

My client was so tired because she was busy reconstructing her foundation. I was very glad to witness this. She is well on her way to become the person she wants to be.

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Rainbow over Dettifoss

 

Get to know your autopilot

Automatic reactions cause us to cruise through our lives automatically. Because we are not in the driver´s seat we sometimes end up in places we had not wanted to go. We need to be more aware in our daily lives to realise when we are on autopilot and just follow worn-out tracks. It takes a conscious effort to leave old roads and try some new ones. Being aware and turning the autopilot off literally opens new avenues for us.

 

Humour helps me a lot

What happens when we laugh? Genuine laughter involves the whole body. The face muscles move and tension in other regions of the body, for example the stomach or the neck, disappear. When we laugh heartily we turn our attention to something fun and aggravation and resentment don´t have a chance to cling to us.

Spass

Especially in my profession humour is very helpful. It keeps me grounded when I don´t  take myself too serious. My humour helps me to maintain a healthy distance to the subjective input I get through my energy work. This is the reason why humour is very welcome in my practice.

 

Less structure gives me more freedom

Since I was in Iceland for the first time I have changed a lot in my daily life. In the past detailed plans gave me safety; I was the Queen of lists. Slowly I realised that I did not need so many structures anymore. They felt confining to me and I wanted  to have more creativity and spontaneity in my life .

Today I use lists and structures to organise my daily tasks efficiently and create room that I can fill with creativity and surprises.

I also don´t define my goals in great detail anymore and don´t spend as much time trying to figure out how to achieve them. I live much more in the here and now and, with the help of my inner compass, check regularly whether I am still on the right track.

Even though this change has made my life more insecure, my quality of life has increased considerably. I do much more what I like in my everyday life. The things that, in my opinion, need to be done I try to do in a way that resonates with me. My family supports me in this.

I believe that before implementing a complex time management system it is much more efficient to order ones priorities and get rid of unnecessary things.

It is very liberating and a lot of energy can be saved by letting go. I very much recommend you to take inventory and look critically at your personal priorities in regular intervals, ideally when being in a place you resonate with.

 

Steinn Farm

Photos: private

© Inge Schumacher

 

High Sensitivity for Everybody?

It is no coincidence that High Sensitivity is written about a lot in newspapers, magazines and books at the moment. Lately I have noticed that people in my surroundings seem to be more sensitive. To add some objective input to this personal impression I put surveys in some facebook groups. You can see the results at the end of the article.

Based on my life story I share my personal characteristics of high sensitive features and senses in this article. For my job as a healing practitioner this sensitivity is a great bonus.

You can read the article in German here.

In the extensive addendum you find tips for books and links for online-tests, websites and blogs about high sensitivity.

I am writing this article about high sensitivity but I want to remind you that all of us have sensitive aspects. I want to encourage you to give them the attention they deserve.

Some statistics on high sensitivity

High sensitivity is a personality trait and not an illness. 20% of the population, male and female, can be called highly sensitive. All higher animal species have this characteristic. It seems to be helpful for evolution if part of a population is sensitive. Elaine Aron, the pioneer of high sensitivity research, says that this sensitivity is at least partly inherited. 70% of these Highly Sensitive Persons are introverts and 30% are extroverts.

 

How I learned about the concept of high sensitivity

Three years ago I met an interesting woman at a get-together of the mompreneurs in Hamburg. Mompreneurs is an association of self-employed mothers. She told me that she was writing a book about high sensitivity. After that she explained to me what high sensitivity was and what it was like to be a Highly Sensitive Person. In our conversation I heard the expression high sensitivity for the first time. Since then I have been interested in this subject, reading books and taking part in workshops.

Kathrin Sohst´s book was published in 2016. I am proud to have contributed one page to the many testimonials in the book. Sadly it has not been translated into English yet.

 

My personal story

I am the oldest of four children. My parents were born during World War II and for most of their generation outwardly functioning was most important. What was happening on the inside was not really interesting and normally not shared.

Many children of my generation were not treated as independent personalities: We were not allowed to decide for ourselves and our opinion did not count. That was normal. A lot has changed in the meantime.

From High Sensitivity…

Today I know that I supressed my intuition and sensitivity to adjust better to my environment and to create less friction. My parents probably could not follow my highly sensitive perceptions and mirrored to me that these were wrong. Because of this I forgot my sensitive side.

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The first evidence that I carried some emotional baggage I discovered in my twenties after I had completed my MBA. I was on a world tour with my future husband and I experienced a key moment when going to sleep in our tent in Yosemite National Park. Suddenly I realised: Something was missing! This was the first time I was not afraid of the next day. This anxiety had been so normal for me that I had neither ever questioned it nor told anybody about it. I thought everybody was feeling that way.

I was very upset that the world had felt so threatening to me, in spite of me having had a very protected childhood.

…and a depression…

In my thirties after a tubal pregnancy I was diagnosed with depression. I had therapy, took medication and searched for the reasons for this depression.

Why did I get it? After I told my parents about it they shared with me that both of my grandmothers had also had depressions. I found out that a tendency for depression is hereditary.

I believe that besides this hereditary aspect, my dormant sensitivity was another reason for the depression. During therapy my psychiatrist helped me to relearn my intuition by practising it with me. Only later did I realize how far removed I must have been from this important part of myself.

…to being a healing practitioner

After therapy I started to incorporate my natural intuition in my daily life. Slowly I discovered my extraordinary perceptiveness. A few years later I studied energy healing and qualified as a healing practitioner.

 

What does my sensitivity look like?

In the almost 30 years I have been working on my personal development I learned a lot about myself. The knowledge that I belong to the group of Highly Sensitive Persons helps me to explain some of my peculiarities and to view myself from another perspective.

In the following paragraphs I share my personal forms of some characteristics of Highly Sensitive Persons with you: Perception, senses and social interactions.

 

1. Perception and processing of information

Every day we all pick up many stimuli with our senses. As a Highly Sensitive Person I tend to pick up more details which I also process deeper. This can easily become overwhelming. The knowledge that I filter less helps me to notice signs of fatigue earlier and react to them accordingly.

 

2. Some senses are more sensitive than others

2a. Sight

I don´t enjoy shopping. The many colours, objects and offers tend to overwhelm me. Therefore I organise grocery shopping as efficiently as possible. When I go to the supermarket I know exactly what I need and I choose a time when there are not so many people around.

2b. Sound

My hearing has become much more sensitive during the last ten years. I react very diversely to noise: Fireworks scare me and hurt my ears but I like loud classical music in the opera or in a concert. This does not mean that I don´t enjoy pop concerts. I do, wearing earplugs.

2c. Smell

My nose is not very sensitive. I cope well with bad smells. If somebody on the bus or train is wearing a very strong perfume or after-shave I feel nauseous, but many other passengers do too.

2d. Taste

I love eating and good food. Comfort food in winter that warms the body from within is a delicacy for me.

But I hate the taste of an apple that has been sliced by a knife that had contact with an onion before. Then my taste buds curl up in horror.

2e. Touch

My normal tactile sense is not overly sensitive. Natural sheep wool on my skin does not bother me. I don´t mind temperature changes as much as many other sensitive people do. However we heat our house much higher in wintertime.

Nevertheless I have been getting much more sensitive feeling energies with my hands. But these extrasensory perceptions belong to the 6th sense in the next paragraph.

2f. The 6th sense

With the 6th sense I mean perceptions that don´t belong to any of the previous 5 senses: For example the knowing of information without being told or sensing energies with the hands. I use my 6th sense in my practice when I look at my clients´ energy status and create a picture of them in 4D.

 

3. Values

Kathrin Sohst talks about the important inner value system of Highly Sensitive Persons and their search for a meaningful life. I second that. After working in controlling and management consulting for a timeframe I lost the feeling of doing something meaningful. Now being a self-employed healing practitioner I can live the values that are important to me. I have a family, I volunteer and I have the opportunity to continue discovering and exploring.

 

4. Social interactions

I love people and enjoy meeting friends because I am an extrovert. After a party I just need some more time for processing than other people. Like many Highly Sensitive Persons I enjoy deep authentic conversations. My friends appreciate this in me.

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High sensitivity in my practise

My profession is ideal for me because I can use my extraordinary sensitivity to energies there. Additionally to the information my clients give me I work with their chakras and meridians. We only employ self-healing powers and I offer additional energy for healing. The goal is to bring each client into an energetic balance. In what way my clients use the energy is up to them. The wonderful thing is that we are working as a team.

Listening and empathy are strengths of mine I was not aware of for a long time. Today they are very important parts in my toolbox.

The longer I work in healing the more I become a coach. Often only one healing session helps to ease pain or allergies. Sometimes you need more time to look at some deep-set causes for physical symptoms in detail. Then it is helpful not to fall back into old habits and recreate the symptoms. In our conversations my clients and I figure out ways how this can be avoided.

A high percentage of my clients are very sensitive. They have experienced that for them a lot of therapies offered by traditional medicine do not work. Because of this they are probably more open to search for alternatives.

 

Results of the facebook surveys

In the surveys I asked the participants whether they noticed any development of their senses during the last years. They could tick more than one answer. Here are the results:

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Around 100 participants have given 322 answers. I chose two German-speaking groups and one English-speaking group. A lot of members of these groups engage in self-development. This means that they are familiar with self-evaluation and self-reflection. This could also make them more sensitive than other groups of people and this could be the reason why only three participants did not notice any change in their sensitivity in the last years.

Most changes were seen in empathy and sensing energies. Empathy means to understand and share the feelings of another person. Sensing energies stands for the perception of impressions or information, like the identification of places with high energy levels.

Every fifth participant has become more sensitive in these areas. In the commentaries people pointed out that they felt a deeper connection to their environment.

The 6th sense comes third. Almost 15% of the answers indicate that people are more perceptive in the extrasensory field now. Participants wrote that they know about things by intuition or through dreams before they were officially informed.

Synchronicity, the simultaneous occurrence of events, which appear significantly related but have no discernible causal connection, was also experienced more. Examples for this are women who start to see other pregnant women everywhere when they get pregnant.

 

Does the general sensitivity level increase?

My personal sensitivity has increased considerably in the last years. This shows that sensitivity has a dynamic component. With my non-scientific surveys I cannot prove that we are all going to be highly sensitive one day. But I do interpret this as an indicator that something fundamentally is changing.

We are used to see our senses as being absolute. They cannot be absolute however since the input is selected by our individual perceptions. When our perception changes the input of our senses will also change. When several people describe a situation in different manners their individual perceptions are the reason.

Should my idea that our sensitivity level is rising be correct this would be the result of a shift in perception and not the result of alterations of the sensory organs. I don´t think the organs, our “hardware”, are changing significantly. I believe the “software”, our perception, is getting an update.

It is possible that we are witnessing the beginning of a development that will change our society. What would a world look like that is populated by, compared to todays´ standards, Highly Sensitive People?

 

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Addendum

Online tests

Are you or people you know highly sensitive? There are a lot of self-tests online that can give some insights:

Short online tests

Articles

  • Article with an interview of Elaine Aron.
  • Articles by Susan Meindl. Susan Meindl is a Montreal based psychologist who has specialized in Introverted Temperament and Highly Sensitive People.

Book Tips

Elaine Aron

  • The Highly Sensitive Person, 1996
  • The Highly Sensitive Person´s Workbook (1999)
  • High Sensitivity Person in Love (2000)
  • The Highly Sensitive Child (2002)

Tracy Cooper

  • Thrive! The Highly Sensitive Person and Career (2015)
  • Thrill! High Sensation Seeking Highly Sensitive Persons (2017)

Barrie Jaeger

  • Making Work Work for the Highly Sensitive Person (2004)

Ted Zeff

  • The Highly Sensitive Person’s Survival Guide (2004)
  • The Strong Sensitive Boy (2010)
  • The Power of Sensitivity (2015)

Websites for Highly Sensitive Persons

Blogs

 

© Inge Schumacher

Pictures: Togi Simatupang and Inge Schumacher