Leap of faith

Talk on 19th January 2016 at the Oxford YES Group meeting

Chris Walton sadly had to cancel last minute due to being taken to hospital. So my good friend Richard texted me and asked me if I was happy to give a talk. I had 2 hours! And I said ‘YES’. I did it without much preparation, trusting I was able to speak from the heart and connect with the audience, also knowing that I am competent in Mindfulness and Family (Systemic) Constellations. I had a fantastic experience of being in my power and received very positive feedback. Feeling grateful and blessed to have such a wonderful friend, community and lovely audience.

I talked about Mindfulness (some how-to’s below) and I facilitated a Family Constellation with a courageous volunteer, who wanted to have a closer/deeper look into an issue of hers. What we witnessed was very touching and moving, and I know that this has helped the lady see what the underlying issue was, as well as a possible solution. We did not have time to go all the way, but she got some valuable insight into her situation. It struck me how the audience engaged in the process, fully committed to support the ‘issue holder’.

So, here are some reminders to get through your day more mindfully and therefore be 100% available at all times:

  • When you open your eyes in the morning, think a positive thought, e.g. what you are grateful for in your life and tell yourself that this day will be a good one because you decide so. Get up in a different way you normally do.
  • When you wash, brush your teeth and do your hair, drink your tea/coffee, eat your breakfast, make everything a sensual experience, using smell, taste, touch, vision and hearing. Stay in the moment and push away any thoughts that are distracting; usually thoughts of the past or the future.
  • On your way to work, take another route, if possible and/or drive more slowly and attentively, give way to pedestrians, cyclists and drivers now and then. Smile at people, look at them. Maybe even say something like “what a lovely day!” to someone. Arrive at work with a smile, infect others with your positivity.
  • At work, allow yourself to breathe consciously at first and then several times during the day. Take breaks! Speak to colleagues! Avoid gossiping at any cost. Engage fully with your job, break it down to small steps rather than getting overwhelmed with the work load.
  • When you take your lunch break (which you definitely should do), either engage with other colleagues (have fun) or walk and find a spot that gives you tranquillity to recharge your batteries. Breaks are not there to engage your eyes and brain even more by looking into your emails/FB etc. They are for you to relax!
  • When you’re back home, take care of yourself. Make sure you’re aware how you are and what you need. Ask for things/help/support/chat/quality time!
  • The most important thing in order to be aware of your own and others’ needs is to be fully available. Mindfulness helps to balance your life in all aspects.

I facilitate a weekly group in Abingdon. You can join here: Abingdon-Meditation-and-Mindfulness-Meetup

Facilitation of a Constellation

Facilitation of a Constellation

Family Constellations are a way of uncovering and changing dynamics that are not helpful, either in your family or at work/in relationships. In a constellation old family trauma can be carefully addressed and healed, in order that more love flows freely through the family system and opens up freedom for your life. It’s about cutting strings that are holding you back and getting greater awareness and understanding of why things are the way they are.

In my ‘Growth Space’ I once monthly facilitate small constellations (amongst other techniques) in order to find out how it works as well as to address issues and find solutions. This space is also creating community, support and friendship. You can sign up here: The Growth Space

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My work life

I’m at home with a sniffy nose, a lot of coughing, a painful stomach and a headache. I chose not to go to work this morning. I always think I should not call in sick – feeling guilty and full of shame for being not well. Anybody else feeling like that? Also, when I’m ill, I feel so very ill and so very upset and low.

Anyway, I wanted to write about my work life.

2 years I’ve been with this department now. The time for change has come, ….. I thought. I’ve just had a radical haircut, which is usually an indicator for change in my life. Two years is enough. Isn’t it? No, don’t get me wrong. I love (most of) my colleagues, and (most of) my job. It doesn’t pay very well, but – compared to other reception/admin jobs – it pays pretty well. There is no obvious reason why I should leave. Well – that’s not quite true. It’s the city I’ve got to commute to and from; it’s loud and full of tourists and students – overcrowded, I’d call it. At least I’ve changed to three full days from five half days. But still, a minimum of 2 hours commute on a work day? Okay, it gives me time to read (on the bus). And – really – an hour to work is not that bad. Is it? It’s like I’m looking for a good enough reason to change jobs. My husband calls me a job junky. I think he’s right. Maybe I’m just addicted to changing jobs after it has become routine. Maybe I’m just addicted to change anyway???

I’ve been looking, locally, but nothing compares to my current position, neither the pay rates nor the stuff I’d have to do to earn my wages. And – will I ever find such a lovely team of colleagues again? I’d be taking quite a risk.

There’s something else bugging me, if I’m honest. When I came to this country, in the beginning of 2005, I did not intend to work in admin much longer. I’d had enough of it when I left Germany. I actually hated being a PA/secretary/admin assistant. The whole admin crap – I didn’t want it anymore. And here I am – still doing admin. I wanted to be a full-time therapist. That’s what I wanted. In eight years I have not managed to earn a living from being a therapist. I am now not earning a living from anything I do. The part-time job in admin doesn’t pay enough to live – at least not in an independent way. I’m contributing to the bills, that’s it. The other days I’m spending hours and hours trying to get my name out there and trying to convince the public that constellations are fantastic and that I am a great therapist.

Drawing a balance: I failed.

Is that the deeper reason I’m at home, feeling pretty grim? I think I feel sorry for myself. Yes. I feel sorry for myself. “Poor little Silvia! You are a loser! Let’s face it. But I do feel sorry for you, I really do.” Is that what I need?

Wuh, – – – wait!

No, no, no, no, no, no, no. I am not a loser. And I have not failed. Let’s face THAT, shall we?

I have changed jobs a lot, because I was never happy in them. I finally found a job, in which I am feeling happy enough to stay. I may only contribute to the bills and not earn enough to make a living, but I could if I wanted to. I don’t need to earn more than I currently do, because my husband and I have an arrangement. More than the income I need the time to build my therapeutic practice. And that is what the 2 other workdays are dedicated to.

I learned a lot on my way, and I learned that it is important to give energy into the things I’d like to grow. I also learned that I have most of my energy in the mornings. I know I haven’t made a rocket start; I’ve taken – I had to take – the little side roads, and I still am. On the way, I got to know exciting, supportive people, and slowly but surely I’ve been getting my name out there and still am. Don’t forget: I had to adapt to a new country. I left all my friends and family behind and had to start all over again. I’ve built friendships, strengthened my relationship, was a mother and bonus-mother to five children. I fostered two young people and I looked after dogs. I simply had no time to make a rocket start.

I know what it is: I’m sitting in this space that is empty. My kids are no longer here, the dogs are gone, too. I caught a bug. I’m feeling crap. That’s why I get this sense of emptiness. I misinterpreted it as failure.

I’m not failing. I never failed. I only ever did as best as I knew at the time.

There is so much to learn, still. But I’m on my way. I may not be the rocket therapist, but I may be the one who has been there, done that. And – once this bug has left my body – I’ll be my old sparkling self, inspiring and full of kindness and love.

Watch this space!

Dog business

I know, it’s been a long time since I sat down and wrote a blog. Not sure why I won’t take time for blogging, usually. I’ve got a kind of blockage with writing. In my head there is so much going on all the time, and in my mind I’m expressing lots of things, but when I sit down, it’s all gone, and my mind goes blank.

So many things happened in the past few months.

The most devastating experience was the death of my wonderful bitch Jo, only 7 years old, on the 28th of June 2013. She ran full speed into a closed glass door, wanting to help me chase a chicken off the flower pot (I had banged on the door, she understood ‘go’). I had forgotten that she would want to help me with this task. It was in our new house, and she probably was not familiar with it yet. First we kind of laughed, but it didn’t take long that she showed signs of concussion. She went downhill from there. After three weeks of ups and downs (mostly downs), the vet suggested we should put her down. Lacking pet insurance and a sufficient budget, we could not afford to pay for diagnostics or an operation. We decided to end her suffering, and she died from an injection, her little cute head in my hands, me talking to her calmingly, looking into her eyes, my husband’s hand on her back. Life left her body within seconds. I lost my best friend, my baby, my comfort and joy.

It is true that writing brings one in contact with one’s emotions. I realise I’m not over it. I miss this great little dog, that had such a huge personality, so much.

We still had Charlie, her son. That was in a way comforting, but also reminding us of Jo all the time. He had to get used to being alone now, when we were at work. I don’t think he was happy; he was not as happy as he used to be. I hated his expression when I left him every morning, as if he was asking: “Why are you leaving me alone?”

We hardly got a break. Only a week later Charlie was bitten by a Husky, while he was with his “Every-other-weekend”-family, and he was badly wounded in his left back leg.

The whole dog experience was devastating and draining. It was also not good for our finances. We struggled a lot and still do.

Charlie recovered within the next 4 weeks and is now fine again, fortunately.

But more happened with regard to dog business.

While we were on holiday, we received a text from Charlie’s “Every-other-weekend”-family, asking whether they could adopt him. Boom! Even though it didn’t come unexpected, it hit us more than we thought. Charlie would get the opportunity to become a therapeutic school dog with the mother of that family. He would gain a family with four children still living in the household who all adore him. We talked a lot, we slept over it. And in the end, after about two weeks, we felt we would enjoy the new freedom this would give us, knowing that our dog would have it even better at his new place. We agreed; and he is gone now.

And here I am, grieving again. This time self-inflicted. But at the same time I feel the joy of this new chapter in our lives, my husband’s and mine. Charlie left a hole. And I’m not quite filling it yet. But I get spells of happiness that I now can do whatever I want with my free time. When I get that feeling of guilt, I remind myself that our dog is young and adaptable. He loves that other family and he is loved to bits and to pieces. And he might bring a lot of joy and happiness into young people’s lives at school – if he passes his exams. We’ve done the right thing. I know it.

The other thing I/we had to deal with is the criticism from our grown-up children (five of them). Some accepted our decision quite easily, some took it quite hard. I became very aware that we took a decision that hurt our children, and that we will have to live with the feeling of having caused them grief, especially so quickly after Jo’s death. I am very proud to say that they all decided to let Charlie go and support us. We are blessed with wonderful children.

I leave it here for now. All of a sudden I could write and write and write.

For next time: I’d like to share what happened job-wise and how my talk at the YES group went.

Bless you all! xXx

Letting go

It is one month ago that my second daughter flew the nest. It is only now that I can write about my emotions around letting her go. The process started a good year before, when I had a strong sense of having to let her take her own decisions and not being the first person she would go to when she wanted to share something, happy or sad. I could feel how she was maturing into an adult. At that time I was attending a psychodrama group with the wonderful Philip Halmarack, so I took the opportunity and worked on letting go of my daughter. It was very painful, but also insightful and transforming. I realised how very important it was to set her free and that I actually wanted her to move on and live her own life. When it came to the day one month ago, it was still painful, although also joyful, because I am so happy for her, moving in with her boyfriend, whom I really love. She received my full blessing and she knows I’m always here if she needs me.

She has left a big hole in my life. I miss her presence, even though we hadn’t had much time together anymore. I miss her hugs, the chats with her, the fun we had at the dinner table, I miss her coming home from work and sharing her day.

What am I filling this hole with?

At first, I just felt sad and sorry for myself and therefore filled this hole with negative emotions. Then I felt trapped (left) with my husband and the dogs and was quite vile at times, feeling I had no sense of duty anymore. Having a great support network, I worked through those phases quite quickly, though. Slowly but surely I stopped ‘pestering’ my daughter with texts and chats. Instead, I now consciously focus my attention on the things I have to do or I always wanted to do, e.g. writing another post on this blog. I am filling that hole with new projects: Our new house, which we move in soon; new ideas for workshops and how to use our ‘Magic Room’ – a nice little workshop space – in the new home.

I want to find dog sharers, so my husband and I can go away at weekends to explore new things together.

One door closes, another 10 open.

On Mother’s Day I received such a lovely card from my second-born: She appreciated that I struggled to relax into the new situation and she said she would never let go of me and that I’d done a good job, being a mother. Quote: “Well – Look at me!” 🙂

I am very proud of her, being so independent and grown up at the young age of 18 and experiencing a great love that has huge potential. I have my share in her being able to be happy. That I am proud of, too (tapping my own shoulder).

She has been a shining light in my life, and somehow I know she always will be. It’s wonderful to have a close and loving relationship like that. I never had that myself, although I feel it has changed over the years. My relationship with my mother is now so much better than when I was young.

I want to mention my first-born daughter here, too. I had to let her go when she was only 5 years old. At the time, I wouldn’t feel the real pain, I simply couldn’t. I was only ready to feel it when I worked on it a year ago in another psychodrama session, which brought up the relation to letting go of my second-born. Before that I never felt complete; and I experienced a lot of sadness, but never allowed myself to feel the real trauma the early separation caused. It takes a good supportive network to carry one through such re-lived traumatic experience, and I am so grateful that it was there and I was ready. Having her back in my life is a great blessing.

I like the song line from Sting, which says: “If you love somebody, set them free!” That’s what love is all about. But, like everything in this life on Earth, it’s a process, it can’t be done just like that. It involves grieving. Without mourning, there is no letting go.

Right now, I’m going through the process of letting go of my old life. I feel like growing. Sometimes I feel the growing pains, but I know that it is only temporary, and that I will come out the other side like a butterfly; and I will spread my wings…

…and – finally – fly.

Bless you all!

Children & trauma

My youngest daughter was only two years old when within a few months only her dad had to leave us and her adored and much loved big (5 year old, half-) sister left us to live with her dad (which wasn’t my youngest daughter’s dad). It came as a big shock and could not be digested by my little girl. It got stuck in her system as a trauma. At one point she started shouting and screaming at night while she was sleeping and would not be touched or calmed down. Those ‘attacks’ lasted for a good half hour or longer. I had – at the time – no idea why and felt completly helpless with the situation.

A little later, at a women-and-children’s clinic, I learnt to just be there until the attacks finished. I was advised to stay calm and keep still, which would eventually affect my child. During the stay in that clinic I learnt a lot about myself, my situation and received a huge amount of loving care from the therapists and nurses. Therapy showed me that I was a child in need, too, and that I had to learn to give myself those things I was missing. I had to understand that I would never get what I needed from my parents, as childhood was over, and my parents wouldn’t change just because I wanted them to.

After a few months of many sleepless nights with screaming attacks, my daughter slept through the nights again. I understand that she had to get the anger and frustration, as well as the feeling of being powerless, out of her system.

The trauma, though, was still there, and she developed many different kinds of symptoms during childhood that had to be dealt with. My oldest daughter was influenced against me and everybody in my family, so there was no contact for many years. My girls were separated.

One day, when my youngest was about 9 years old, she told me how angry she felt that her sister didn’t want to have contact with us and expressed her disagreement very emotionally – she was furious. I decided to use my family constellation skills on the kitchen table using jam jars, cups and glasses. I placed our situation using those cups and glasses and made them representatives of our family system by giving them names and positions and let my daughter take over to change and move them where she wanted them to be. My clever little girl knew exactly how the different people in our system felt in the different positions.

During this ‘constellation’ it became clear to my daughter that her sister was meant to be with her dad and that she just wasn’t able to contact us, although she really wanted to. She understood that everything was as it had to be. I was astonished how clearly she saw what was really going on and how the dynamics worked. This new insight gave her some peace and understanding, and from that day on she never questioned the situation again, she accepted it and kept hoping that things would change for the better (which they did eventually). She kept a loving contact in her heart and sent postcards and little messages now and then to let her sister know that she still loved her and would always be there for her. The same did I. And we often sat together, looked at older photos of my oldest and sent her good thoughts and wishes from our hearts. It was always very emotional but good for both our minds and souls.

Two years later we were ‘re-united’ after seven years, although my oldest daughter decided to stay at her dad’s in Germany. But we were back in contact, and we were re-bonding and have been doing so since.

I am convinced that family constellation work is a wonderful and powerful tool to help children (from a certain age) and adults to understand and accept their situation, find peace and even solutions.

I could not avoid my children getting hurt, as at the time I didn’t know better. But I was able to address my issues and heal myself in order to become a better parent. I see it as my duty to be the person in my children’s life they can rely on one hundred percent. I see it as my duty to be an example, because I know they look to me first.

As a constellator and grown-up I know how much my children want me to be happy and content, and that they would give their lives to take my pain from me. Therefore I am constantly making sure that I am happy and content.

Both my daughters carry the burden of their own heart breaks, which I am responsible for. But I have forgiven myself for causing pain and confusion, because I know I didn’t know what I was doing and I was in pain and I was confused myself.