Why it´s good to have Tea with your dead Aunt once in a while

In my late twenties and early thirties, I was really into Zen Buddhism. I took zazen meditation lessons (stopped it, I think it´s just not for me…), practiced martial arts, and read almost anything related I could get my hands on. I remember a story that was about conquering our fears, where a monk would lay his head inside a dragon´s open jaw – in order to rid himself of the fear of…well…dragons.

I deeply sympathize with this approach of “accepting what´s there” – it´s one of those crucial points where the more helpful spiritual and therapeutic traditions of East and West regularly meet and become friends (e.g., see Kristin Neff´s outline on self-compassion to get an idea for a more Western take on the concept).

I’ve got 99 problems and 93 of them are completely made up scenarios in my head that I’m stressing about for absolutely no reason. (multiple attributions)

John_CageWhile writing this, I remember another sage basically taught me the same lesson almost a decade before my deep-dive into Buddhism. One of my all-time favorites on TV is Ally McBeal. Every other year or so, I start another binge-watching weekend. I still love the affectionately exaggerated characters, the idea of visually externalizing the protagonists´ feelings, and the fabulous blending of music with plot and personal development. Here´s the dialogue that came to my mind:

John: I used to have a hallucination where my dead aunt kept wanting to have tea with me. It went for two years before I finally stopped her.
Ally: How did you stop her?
John: I had tea with her.

Here´s to our dead aunts!

You are allowed to be both a Masterpiece and a Work in Progress, simultaneously.

This quote brilliantly summarizes a mindset that I´ve been struggling with all the way up to my 30s. I´m definitely the “achiever type” person and into self-optimization, I want to be increasingly productive, get better at what I do, expand my outreach, and so on. I guess that is what drew me towards Positive Psychology in the first place. But this can be a pretty tough and unforgiving lifestyle – until it is balanced with a fair amount of self-compassion, and the ability to accept, appreciate, and enjoy what´s already there. I´m on my way…

Masterpiece - Progress

Life is amazing. And then it’s awful. And then…

Nico_Mika_ParkWord.

Life is amazing. And then it’s awful. And then it’s amazing again. And in between the amazing and awful it’s ordinary and mundane and routine. Breathe in the amazing, hold on through the awful, and relax and exhale during the ordinary. That’s just living heartbreaking, soul-healing, amazing, awful, ordinary life. And it’s breathtakingly beautiful.

(L.R. Knost)

Great Infographic on Self-Compassion: How not to be Hard on Yourself

For UN´s International Happiness Day, I´d like to share with you this great infographic created by information designer Anna Vital. It´s a wonderful piece of advise on the art (and science) of self-compassion. Additionally, you might want to watch Kristin Neff´s TEDx talk on the same topic that you can find in my Positive Psychology TED suggestions. Enjoy!

Self-Compassion - Anna Vital

 

My Top 20 TED(x) Talks on Happiness, Well-Being, Meaning & Co.

Here´s my Top 20 for the time being. Any suggestions what to add?

 

Edit

I guess since I´ve given my first TEDx talk now, it´s fair enough to put it on the list. 🙂