Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Oh come all ye faithful...

It is very nearly christmas and still, the weather is gorgeous and warm. Lisek and me have been outside all day on our day off, strolling near the Rhine. During the last few months, he has turned into a ball-addicted maniac. To give him some extra exercise I often take the ball with me and throw it for him along the way.

As every year the production of christmas presents is ongoing. Knitting, knitting and knitting. It is not as if I wouldn't enjoy it. Seriously, I am as addicted to my knitting as Lisek is to his ball. At the moment I am knitting a hat for a friend and socks again, as they are so easy and fast to make.

In the picture you see a present I am donating for a good cause. We have a christmas tree on the Carlsplatz, in the middle of Düsseldorf, where children attach selfmade cards with written wishes their parents cannot afford. As we don't have kids and in our family most kids are too grown up for fun presents, I guess it was a very selfish deed to get one of the cards and fulfill the little boy's wish: he wants to have a magician set, how cool is that? On the other hand, it is sad to see how some parents cannot afford the 20 Euros to get their little one a gift.
To come back to the selfish aspect of this, I just love giving away presents. To this day I haven't knit much for myself, most of the socks, mittens and hats have been given away to friends and family. Ariana Huffington writes about this impulse in Thrive, one of the most impressive books I have read in some time. One big part of her book is about giving.
"What makes service so powerful is that its benfits go two ways.", Huffington writes. I absolutely agree. Especially in times like theses, when millions of people lose their homes due to war and poverty, when people from all over the world come to our area to find their luck, or at least some peace, I sometimes feel so helpless, it feels good to give something.

The wish to help others is a big motivator for me and has been those last two years while I was training to be a mediator. The mediator's (or conflict manager's) attitude derives from a strong will to serve other people, it is an attitude of humbleness towards the world. Modesty and Reflection are lessons I have learned on the way and it helps me big time to stay calm in moments of craziness around me. This zen-like mindfulness makes you appreciate others in ther own way and you learn to take things less personal. Everyone has their own struggle and you appreciate that by not judging. This humbleness is very powerful and it motivates to help people in many ways, as it feels rewarding and liberating. Ariana Huffington writes: "From the depths of our compassion, we can free ourselves of all that limits our imagination about what is possible. It's the only way to counteract the excessive greed and narcissism that surround us." She quotes a 2012 study of the University of Wisconsin: "Compassion and altruism can be viewed as trainable skills, rather than as stable traits." Going through the world with an appreciating view, looking for opportunities to serve and to help others, is really mindblowing. Sometimes I have to think of the idea of Karma and I can see why it could make sense. When you try to be mindful and appreciating, while serving and helping people actively, it feels a bit like accumulating; but it is rather joy than points on a chart (that is somehow how I have always pictured Karma, a good-job sheet like in school) As everyhting, mindfulness gets easier with practice. I still remember when a friend asked me what I was learning in my lessons and I tried to show her how attentive listening works. It was pretty hard for me to do, as I am usually the first person, thrusting their good advice at others. Nowadays however, it is not such a big deal anymore. I can listen intensely and being with the other person totally, withouth much effort. This alone is a small step, but has such power, I could have never imagined it.

Mindfulness will be a big topic within the next months and I want to invite you all to read "Thrive", it may help you to be a happier person, as it has helped myelf. Also, if a friend tells you about their problems, why not just really listen, without any advice? Often that is all they need. We do not listen properly anymore, neither to our friends or family, to our surroundings or ourselves. By pausing and listening, I think we can already make a big step towards true mindfulness.