Living in The NOW (part 8)

It has been 8 weeks of discussing the NOW. From death, to happiness, decision making and more conscious living.

A note on closing your past. As of my example I blamed other people for pushing me into something. I have since learned that the decisions are solely made by yourself and you are solely responsible for what you decide.

You carry 100% of the responsibility to make your life work. No one else.

In other words, you need to stop blaming others for your decisions. Steve Jobs addressing the graduates from Stanford said it very clearly: don’t live someone else’s life, you living and creating your own life. No one can live a life for you. No one can  make decisions for you, not even your spouse or closest friends. Their advice might add more weight into your decision but the decision is yours. Don’t blame anyone else for what you are doing.

I stepped into dog poo lately. I dragged it around the house and carpets and it took me an hour to clean it. That was my fault, and my fault only. Sh* happens. I cannot blame the dog, or the dog’s owner but myself who never noticed stepping into it. But my initial reaction was different. I am only human 😉

Your past, your childhood in particular, will shape the rest of your life. Often you hear speakers who had bad childhoods and out of desperation broke free and made something out of their life. Bad and good experiences lead to you making decisions – desperation or inspiration – will lead you to change your life from smoking 60 cigarettes a day to giving up completely overnight. You are influenced of course by your grand-parents, mostly by your parents, then your childhood friends, the society you live in, the school and the teachers and so on. They are all mentors in your life and you need to pick out the advice that works for you in order to go your own way. There are practises that allow you to see how your family constellation works and influences you. I believe in them and they can show you some deep insights into what might have happened in the past.

To explore and let go.

To put more focus into the NOW.

The trick is to cherish all experiences though. You want to be sure you appreciate bad and good experiences for what they were. And any of those experiences will help you making who you are now, helped you becoming the person you are. In a good or bad way. Once you can appreciate that, you can let go of those feelings, particularly the bad ones, in order to move on. Usually those bad feelings hold you in the past. You need to find closure with your past instead of wasting valuable energy dwelling on what once has been. Because you will not be able to change it any more.

Living in the now for me is being the master of your own destiny.

I hope you enjoyed this journey for what it is today. Please comment below on what you are thinking and what you would like to discuss. I am happy to add more content based on what you suggest.

The exercise of making my book available for free, open source, on this domain, is to welcome ideas, inputs and comments to improve the overall product in order to help you and others even more.

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Living in The NOW (part 7)

The next post, again written a few years ago, also looks at dying. I don’t want to sound morbid, yet the thought of dying is within us.

Being a Buddhist, living in the now, knowing we are all coming to the same end point, yet we don’t know when, I look at death as a relief from suffering. Life is suffering. In good and bad ways, and if we master it, we get relief from that suffering. Death also offers that relief. If death comes early, or if death comes forced upon us through accidents or suicides, I believe you ending your life early in the middle of the suffering, giving up almost. At least for the latter. That results in you being re-born with even more suffering. You never leave the samsara, the continuous rebirth, until you end the suffering. How to end it, I am not sure yet. I am still learning and maybe that is for another blog post or book one day. The enlightenment, the end of suffering, the golden gate, achieving that prior to dying is the ultimate aim. At least for me it is.

From my blog: I may die today…: 27th January 2011

Some people might call me crazy for this thought but I got it out of this new book I am reading, Geshe Kelsang Gyatso’s “Transform your Life“.

So far I have only read a few chapters about Inner Peace and Karma. Also, I love the Buddhist thoughts about reincarnation. And, that if you do not have fear, you do not have to worry about your life….and your death. So by saying this mantra, that I may die today, I take off all the fear. But what is happening?

In our samsara, the rebirth cycle in which we are born to different levels, depending on our karma and previous lives, we travel from one life to another. We would not remember any of it consciously, and re-birth might not take place for a while. However, the more stressed and fearful you are about the next one, the less likely you go from this life with a good karma – that is additional to everything else you might have done in your life.

By thinking that you might die today, you are not saying you will or will not. All you are saying is that you should be prepared for it. So if it happens, go in a good matter. Be prepared. Live your life in a way that if you die today, you do not have to worry or fear anything. Just let go.

I find this thought very comforting and helpful. It calms me down to think that if I might die today, there is no reason why I should stress or worry now. But on the other hand it does not suggest me to stop living or enjoying myself either. But more relaxed.

I started focusing on the here and now rather than the future or past. I live in the now, worry less and of course enjoy every moment more than before. That combined with Karma means, if you live your life more intensely, each moment more than before, maybe with a strong sense of giving and helping, then you cannot really develop a bad karma, or can you?

And, by thinking you may die today, you take all the fear of it away.

This might be odd for some, but I really find it helpful. Do you?

This understanding helped me a lot with decisions at work or in life. If you made hasty decisions and you send an angry email, this cannot be undone. This is one of the key principles when it comes to productivity around email. Just because an email comes in, you don’t have to give it attention. And if it bugs you, let it sit there for a while and sleep on it. Think about it. On a productivity note I only synchronise my emails every 15-60 minutes so that I do not get disturbed by incoming emails all the time or if I write hasty emails they will not get sent. I can easily take them and change them at a later stage. This only works with Outlook for Windows unfortunately, but not given an email a subject line stops it from being sent without the computer asking “are you sure you want to send this email without a subject line”? Often, I turn off emails half a day and only check them 3 times a day so I can get on with other work in the meantime.

Once an email is sent, it is sent. No recall features that will not allow the recipient to actually not see the content. Things cannot be undone, you cannot turn back time. All those thoughts about the ‘what if’ will disappear when you move on living in the now.

But I am drifting a bit between death and productivity. Yet productivity helps me to accomplish things before I die. The more I accomplish, the less I regret. Regret in the now, as it doesn’t matter in the future, or in death.

Let’s look on closing your past next week, in the final bit of this chapter.

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Living in The NOW (part 6)

How did you find my reflection from 2009. That’s a long time ago now, it feels like it anyway. Time doesn’t stop.

The point I would like to look at in this part is that you cannot change your past. Whether you went to university because your parents wanted you to be a lawyer or because you decided that studying law is the way forward, once you made a decision you go with it. But that does not mean you cannot change your decision or your reasoning for doing so. You might have had a few classes, did not like it, and you end up changing your major. That is fine, you can change direction then again you do not want to change direction too often of course. Or you change the reasoning for why you are doing what you are doing, e.g. you reframe your motivation towards your own personal goal.

The point is the past. You made a decision in the past. It will affect your now and the future. Cause and effect. Karma even. However, if you blame your parents like I did you are blaming your past for your failures. This will only cause more headaches for you. And it might just be down to misunderstandings between yourself and your parents in my case. And if we had talked about it more often, it could have been better – or it could have been worse. We cannot change the past, so no point of drilling on it.

This is difficult to understand.

The past is not the present. It is a time that has elapsed and in which you made decisions that affect your current life. However, if you focus away from the past and draw a line under it, you can start a new life with a potential different outcome.

But when do you make that decision: in the now. Because the only decision you can ever make is in the now. No other time. You might have prepared the decision in the past and it might affect your future, but the decision itself is in the here and now. Does that make sense?

This is an important thing to understand. Hence in NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) you get something called time-line therapy where you can move someone back in time (in their mind) to re-live the old now, the past, to make changes in the old now, to change the outcome of the future. This is to water down bad experiences and amplify good experiences. Living through situations again, to easier let go of them.

Nevertheless, people go back and dwell on the past. “What if I had changed ‘xyz’? What if my decision would have been different?” do not dwell on it! You are wasting your time. Focus on the here and now and the information you have at hand in order to shape the future. Learn from the past of course but do not waste energy or time dwelling on it. Things are done. They are done and dusted. Nothing you can change.

It is a little bit like thinking you are dying. And you are on your deathbed and thinking “If I only ever had the chance to…”. Do it now.

Follow your dreams and do something that you enjoy doing. Start with the decision in the here and now that will influence your actions in the future. Think of those extreme sports people living life to the fullest. Those actions then lead to the result and outcome that you will remember on your deathbed. And in the whole process there is only ever the very moment, the very now, that allows you to do anything.

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Living in The NOW (part 5)

Now. In this moment, let’s take another step back. Let’s have a look of a way of coping with your past, finding closure.

Dealing with my past, particularly after I moved to Great Britain/UK, was something very high on my agenda. I wrote a book, a diary of what had happened before. I wrote my autobiography if you like. Just that I am not famous (yet).

Life was difficult for me, but only because I let it become difficult. Slowly I gained back my own ambition and life.

Here is another excerpt from my blog about Germany.

From my blog: My Germany (9th December 2009)

I have been writing a lot about my “personal” German history or my personal reflection on history and tradition in regards to Germany. And, I think it is time again to write about it. Again? Yes, whilst the past does not equal the future and you cannot live in the past, you can form the future. Hence I often go back and think about the country I once was born in. Where I was raised and where I got a good start in my life. I still have strong connections to “a Germany” the way I used to know it. My Germany. Sometimes I would love to get an offer from “Die Welt” or “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ)” to write a monthly column on “A German view from the outside” or something like that.

Coming up for Christmas, deciding whether Christian and for me German traditions should be important for our festive celebrations, makes me think. Should we celebrate Advent, Nikolaus and when should we celebrate Christmas? On the 24th? Do I really mind? How important is it for my son and his upbringing? How important is it for me. Is it the Christian belief or is it a German tradition. And, does it really matter?

I watched a movie, the Comedian Harmonists, the other day. A group of Germans in the recession in the 1930s in Berlin form a “band”. They sang songs and made noises like instruments, just accompanied by a piano:

Now, I like the movie because of my most favourite German actor Ben Becker, but also because of the time it plays in. I am attracted to the 1920ies and 1930ies when people did not have money and nothing to live on. The bare minimum and surviving was the key. And, there is this group of people that made it happen. The “American Dream” from rags to riches. My grandmother comes to my mind again; she used to sit up all night to sew clothes and tablecloths to make their living a little bit better, to have a little bit extra. The hard working Germans who did not fear a recession because life will always go on.

On a side note, when the Comedian Harmonists got more successful, they started drinking wine instead of beer and smoked cigars instead of cigarettes. Is that why my granddad smoked cigars and drank wine, and why I like both too? Maybe there is a connection to feel “wealthy” between those things?

Maybe that is why I am thinking about it now. I was made redundant twice in the recession, found a job twice too; I think it is my will to survive, to work hard and make things happen. Not to give up, to establish opportunities early and to network. Never forget your friends and never forget your enemies either. I have been sitting up some nights to make things happen and it will pay off one day. Hard work, my grandparents said every time I visited them, will always pay off.

Now, the past does not equal the future. Germany has moved on. I have moved on and left Germany 8 years ago. But I still think German. I cannot and do not want to get rid of my heritage.

Stereotypes of course. Yes, Germans seem to be very efficient, “Vorsprung durch Technik”. Always have been, always seem to evaluate things back and forth before making a decision. They are less impulsive and they are hard working. This definitely comes from the “good old days”. The German engineers that build cars. Thinking back and forth before coming to the conclusion on how to build a car, they then wanted to make sure it is the best and the most efficient one. We are a nation of those engineers, there was a time we envied the successful bankers and lawyers as a nation. But that is a different topic.

So, I am not sitting here in the UK pointing fingers at Germany and try to explain why we are, who we are, and how we are. No, it is more about looking back and finding out why I still do certain things in a certain way. Why I still try to engineer my career, my life and why that drives my wife nuts (sometimes). It is about understanding the past to shape the future. It is all about letting go, and in order to let go of the past you need to understand it. Will I ever understand it though?

Germans also seem to be less emotional. And I believe, it has to do with our heritage also. Because there was a time in Germany when people “just had to get on”. Not worry about things, if you work hard and if you make things happen, then everything will be ok. You will be ok and so will be your child. It was not very common to show emotions. After all, it is all black and white, the “machine works or it does not”. There is no in between.

Now, to conclude, my Germany is build on this image of black and white, the efficiency and “just getting on” mentality. That has been drummed into me since I was a child. More though in the generations before me. You do not show emotions and you just work hard, and that is it. I want to let go from that and as my German teacher said with hindsight, a few years after my A-Levels, “Volker, I never thought you’d stay in Germany. I know you would go abroad, I could see that”. But, he never told me then.

Not long to go to 2010. A time when I will engage more with my boy and want to tell him about “my Germany”. A time when I am looking forward to starting something new. And, another year away from my fatherland. The longer I am away from Germany, the more I examine the values I inherited and filter them, “good and bad” or “black and white”, to decide which ones to pass on. To nourish them. To learn from them. To make sure they are what they are and not pretending to be something that is based on false assumptions.

That is part of my Germany.

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