(English) Anita Moorjani‘ „Dying to be me“ – book review part 2

anita It’s official, my tumor is back. My MRI taken on the 29th January 2015 revealed that parts of it have grown again. This news sheds a new light on my book review . And it took me days, to actually sit down and start writing.

What is the bottom line of Anita Moorjani’s book? What is her insight from her NDE? She says ‚I understood that my body is only a reflection  of my internal state. If my inner self were aware of its greatness and connection with All-that-is, my body would soon reflect that and heal rapidly‚. What does that mean for me? I do believe, that we are all connected. I am sure of it. Am I aware of my own greatness. I have self-doubts like probably most of us. I feel not pretty enough, not slim enough, not successful enough. I could be a better daughter. Definitely a better wife. I am a pretty good mum though. But I am trying to love myself. I am trying to see the beauty in myself. I am trying to accept myself. Didn’t I paint that self portrait? And didn’t  I – oh, no I didn’t ONLY like it, I also saw the flaws. I didn’t like the nose Stehaufmännchen and I didn’t like how I had drawn the lips. But overall I loved it. Is healing connected to seeing ones own greatness and does that mean if I don’t manage to love myself enough I won’t heal?

My outer life is actually only a reflection of my inner state… Living more in harmony with who we truly are isn’t just forcing ourselves to repeat positive thoughts. It really means being and doing things that make us happy, things that arouse our passion and bring out the best in us, things that make us feel good – and it also means loving ourselves unconditionally.‚ When I finally quit chemistry in 2000 after having studied and worked in that area for 10 years, to actually follow my passion and take photos, I was happy. I felt nothing could stop me. I went to Palestine to be in the middle of the conflict, to take photos and to show them to the world. I really believed that was my path – until – I had a bullet flying so close over my head that I could feel the movement of the air. That was the moment I smoked probably my fifth cigarette in my life and I suddenly realized my soul was not made for so much heart-ship. All the pain I saw, all the hate, all those emotions  and I had no way of releasing them. They were all in me and I didn’t find a way to express them. So I buried my dream of becoming a professional photographer.

Parallel I had started to teach English to long term unemployed people. And here I found my talent. I had a way to teach that made these people feel good about themselves. We had fun together and at the same time discussed difficult personal issues. I felt needed. I felt I was making a difference. I loved it. Things changed when I started to teach German – and later leadership – in Switzerland. Although my students were also mainly job seekers, I didn’t manage to win them over. Was it because I am German and there were and still are some significant cultural differences? Was it my way of teaching? When students luck motivation, or think they know it all, when they show a limited amount of respect for my work – for me I am feeling worn out and drained of all my energy.

So what is my passion? I love giving seminars and workshops on leadership topics, I love showing people how to make SoulCollage® cards. I love coaching people. But doing only that doesn’t pay the bills. Workshops I organized were canceled because there weren’t enough registrations? What does that mean? Am I not good at what I love doing? What is missing? Am I doing it for the wrong reasons? Why is the Universe not helping, supporting me? What is it trying to tell me? I have been thinking for a while of not teaching any longer. But what else could I be doing? What is my unique gift to the world?

And then there is this… loving myself unconditionally. How am I doing that? Just a couple of days ago I came across an article by Megan Bruneau on WHAT “LOVE YOURSELF” MEANS AND 3 WAYS TO GET CLOSER TO IT. I want to live. I want to see my daughters to grow up. Let’s learn how to love myself unconditionally. Her advice is…

1. When you become aware of your critical voice, thank it for showing up with its good intentions. Her formula which is a sentence structure is for me too artificial. I like the general idea of first of all noticing that critical voice. That already is a challenge for most of us – including me. While writing this blog, I had numerous encounters with my inner critic. Why is my inner critic so strong. I am a perfectionist. I know that. And I am trying to let go of that pattern. And I am trying not to do the same to my children and my students. However, I have realized that I have high standards. The good intention is usually giving my best, making a difference, changing something for the better, but also getting recognition, being praised, loved, appreciated.

2. Practice a compassionate meditation towards yourself. The idea of going inward and scanning what I am feeling physically and emotionally and then bringing up feelings of warmth, patience, empathy, sympathy, comfort, appreciation and compassion and sending them to myself is a challenge. She describes it as ‚enveloping you like a warm blanket or a comforting hug‚. I particular like her suggestion  of doing the mountain pose  DSC_1103DSC_1102 in front of a mirror and noticing what thoughts and feelings come up as I look at my reflection and once I am comfortable doing that ‚sending love to the person in the mirror‚. I remember somebody suggesting nearly a year ago I should stand in front of a mirror and tell myself ‚I am healthy.‘ And I remember how difficult if not to say impossible that was for me. It never became a daily ritual.

3. Consider how you act towards yourself in response to success, compared to how you might react to someone you love. Her argument is that ‚our society overvalues modesty, to the point at which people feel guilty if they own or congratulate their successes.‚ Well thinking about this… when was I told the last time ‚job well done‘? It was actually after the last SoulCollage® introductory workshop. I felt good about it and I have learnt to just hear these compliments without giving into that urge of responding. When however the compliment was repeated in front of somebody else, I felt embarrassed. Why is that? On one hand I am complaining about students who don’t appreciate and value me enough and then if there is somebody who is giving me exactly what I need and want – I feel embarrassed and can also not enjoy that moment. So whatever people do – I am unhappy? That can’t be. I believe I am a good trainer. I believe I am a good teacher. I am competent, skilled and experienced. When I was doing my Transactional Analysis training our trainer gave us a metaphor for how different people hear acknowledgement. There are those whose opening for hearing compliments is pretty big. They will fill their daily need of recognition sooner vase6 than those whose opening is smaller. vase6b Maybe I belong to the second group.

Having said all that, what does it practically mean for me? Well on the odd occasion I write down what I love about myself, what I am good at… but I am miles away from unconditionally loving myself. I know though what it feels like. I love my children unconditionally. Which leaves me at exactly the same place I was at the beginning. If loving myself unconditionally is the key to healing than I am far far away from it.

(English) Anita Moorjani‘ „Dying to be me“ – book review part 1

anitaWhen a good friend of mine suggested to me to read this book, my very first reaction was „No, can’t do it“. Having been seriously ill for a few years now and having to learn to live with the possibility of dying younger than normal, ok, what is normal? – but anyway my first reaction was „Can’t do it!“, „Won’t do it!“. In her gentle way she didn’t push me just said: „Get it anyway and if you don’t read it, no worries.“

So I bought the book. And once I had started I didn’t put it down anymore. I didn’t feel any of those expected bad emotions. Right at the beginning, yes I was emotional, but not in a bad way. I let it happen and it changed into being curious, being open, being critical.

Overall, if somebody was asking me if I would recommend the book, I would say „Yes.“ I have been even thinking of getting it as a present for some very specific people, but it’s kind of a strange present.

For me writing this blog is a way of once more working my way through the book, critical looking at her ideas, her beliefs and finding out what the learning, what the essence is for me. And don’t get me wrong, the essence will be different for every reader. This book that has the potential of polarizing significantly.

„It was a late Friday afternoon…“ when Anita was told that she had „lymphoma, which is a form of cancer of the lymphatic system“. Also having been given my diagnosis on a Friday, it was the 19th December 2008, moved me. It created some feeling of understanding what she had gone through, nearly knowing her. When later she described how she behaved, I felt she talked about me. I also „put up a front. I laughed and smiled and made small talk, even when I didn’t want to, because it was important to me not to cause concern or worry anyone else with my condition. I didn’t want others to feel upset or uncomfortable because of my situation, … So many people remarked on how ‚brave‘ I was, and how they admired the way I was dealing with my illness. Many, many individuals also commented on how positive and happy I always was – but that’s not how I felt inside.“ This is one of the most difficult things, I experienced in all those years. Who do I talk to? Who can handle a conversation on this topic without being too much affected? I didn’t think my partner could handle it, he was worried enough. He didn’t allow himself to imagine the unimaginable. And my parents? My mum is so very emotional. Me being ill was her living nightmare. And she had soon after me getting ill also some health issues. So talking to her, worrying her,  was also not really something I felt comfortable with. In German there are two words for feeling compassion: Mitgefühl and Mitleid. The first I needed, the second I got. So there was my dad left who I felt the closed to in those moments. He is very rational and calm. With him I could talk about my advance decision, he knew where all my papers where, just in case, he would drive me to the hospital before the operations and not talk, he was actually the one I told the diagnosis. I knew, well I thought, my mum couldn’t handle it, so I had him on the phone. There are a million small situations where when I thought who could be on my side for that, I came up with my dad’s name. Is it bad that it was never my partner? Or a friend? Or my mum? I don’t know. Looking back, my dad was my rock. My focal point. My rational safety net in an emotional turmoil.

It took me all together 5 years to find the courage to look for somebody specialized in psycho oncology. When I met her for the first time she asked me why I was coming and I said something like: “ I am looking for somebody I can tell all those frightening thoughts, all those worries, all those nightmares, and who is professional enough to be emphatic but not personally impacted. I am looking for somebody who get’s getting paid for listening to me.“ And we talked. We discussed all the unimaginable „What if-s“. And I felt free to talk about it with her. It was her competency, her skill to remain at a professional distance. I should have done this much earlier. This is one of my biggest leanings. There is more to healing than just cutting out, or radiation in my case, or whatever the doctors need doing. There is the soul part that gets in our society so easily forgotten. The soul needs attention and pampering. Maybe if I had been in the oncology department in the hospital, I would have been introduced to a psychologist. But I was in the neurological department. And I was never ever asked if I wanted to talk to somebody. Maybe I would have refused it in my arrogance, maybe not. Who knows. But we should learn, that if we are ill, we need to address our situation from different points with different methods. I did do art therapy along side of the standard treatment and it did me a lot of good. I choose art therapy because there I didn’t need to talk. It was what I felt I needed. But those thoughts, feelings, worries, anxieties that we feel in a life threatening situation, they also need to be heard. Well, and for them to be heard, one has to talk about them. I thought I was so self reflected, so strong, so clear that I wouldn’t need any of that therapy talk. But I was wrong. Had I done that earlier, maybe my partner and I would have started earlier to be truly open about how we felt and what we thought. We might have found a better way together during those years. We would have been a team. The way I did it – was that I did it all by myself. I felt I was the one being ill, I was the one having to handle it by myself and that I had to be strong for everybody else. How stupid of me. (to be continued)