Category Archives: Coaching A to Z

D for Death

Life is a death trap or is it not?
by Benedikt Schreyer

In the TV series “Band of Brothers” revolving around the soldiers from the 101st American Airborne Division during World War II, the legendary Lieutenant Ronald Speirs gives a frightened soldier, Albert Blithe, a lecture on the matter of death:

“We’re all scared. You hid in that ditch because you think there’s still hope. But Blithe, the only hope you have is to accept the fact that you’re already dead. And the sooner you accept that, the sooner you’ll be able to function as a soldier is supposed to function…”

What can we learn from this? How many of us live in hope, waiting for something to change? We may not be in a war zone, but most of us are hiding in a ditch just like Private Blithe – with an overabundance of hope that one day things are going to be different. The line that struck me most was:

“Accept the fact that you’re already dead.”

Honestly and truly. We are born with the intention to one day die. So we are in fact already dead. But because we are so afraid of what will be when we are dead, we decide to reject this unknown matter. The oldest fear and reason for panic in human beings seems to be the unknown.

So instead we believe in something else, maybe eternal youth, invincibility or even impossibility. And we want to believe it because it feels so cosy in that little bubble.

We constantly trick ourselves in respect to that fact and spend a lot of energy on building resistance against the inevitability of death. We cling to our lives like a limpet, not realising that we are already dangling from the gallows of our own illusionary concepts.

But at some point we realise that we’re not invincible and that we have lived in that illusion for a long time because it gave us a good feeling. We also experienced the downside of invincibility, the fact that we didn’t quite challenge ourselves or our ideas. Because, well, we were invincible and we wanted to keep it that way. After all, Gods don’t work.

But suddenly our bodies begin to ache a little, we spot a grey hair and end up buying wrinkle cream. We look back at our lives and realise we’re mortal just like everybody else.

Horay, you’re mortal!

This is the best thing that can happen to you. You’ve finally understood the key ingredient to a happy life. You’ve accepted the inevitable and now your mind is free to focus on the possible. The german poet Hilde Domin wrote:

“Dem Toten ist Ganzheit erlaubt.
Beeil dich ein Toter zu sein,
dem Toten
wird das Versprechen gehalten.”

“The dead are allowed entireness.
Hurry up to be dead,
the dead will be granted the promise.”

from: Hinuebergehen. Das Wunder des Spaetwerks

In ancient fairytales we can also find this wisdom that to “die” is the right way. Like in this russian story:

At a banquet, the czar finds that his three sons haven’t proven their true virtue yet. So they ask for his blessing and each one takes a horse from the stalls. All three come to a directory at a crossroads which says: “Who goes right, will have plenty to eat, but his horse will starve; who goes left, will have enough for his horse, but will starve himself; and he who goes straight, will die.

So the first son chooses to go right and finds a snake on a mountain. After his return his father becomes irate and says, he brought home something dangerous and demonic and throws him in prison. Metaphorically, the prison stands for a rigid life without the spirit of rejuvenation.

The second son chooses to go left and meets a whore who invites him to her mechanical bed. After having jumped out she pushes a button, the bed turns around and he falls into a cellar where a couple of other men are already trapped. So the option to go left is also a failure.

Now Big Iwan, the russian hero, comes along. After having seen the directory he starts to cry and says that a poor guy going to die will neither find honour nor glory… but, still he rides on. His horse dies and rises from the dead. He himself conquers the witch. Then he finds the princess, returns home and becomes czar.

translated from Marie-Louise Franz “Puer aeternus”

This is an average fairytale career: The hero decides to accept the inevitable and stays inside the conflict of life – though it seems like death to his ego, because it always wants to know what is lying ahead. But the miracle lies in the foray into the unknown. Life wants us to go the middle road and bear the tension between the two poles of life. So the ultimate goal in life is not your profession, your partner or your kids. It’s your death. Go through it whilst you’re alive.

Dying is going through the needle’s eye

In coaching, I learned the expression “to go through the needle’s eye”. It means facing your deepest fears and overcoming them. There will be setbacks, there will be defeat, but you know you want to get to the other side and try and try again. You confide in your intention to evolve. And then, you let go and you suddenly feel you have achieved something. Life has got a new quality, more that of an adventure than the hide-and-seek game you used to play before.

My own personal experience

On one of the last legs of my pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in Spain in 2008, I didn’t feel too well. I had eaten some hot peppers for dinner the day before which haunted my stomach the morning after. My pace slowed down and I started thinking about death. And suddenly I envisioned my own funeral. I saw my future family, friends and brothers,  – aged. I mourned deeply over my own death. It was real to me. My mind imagined my physical death whilst I stood watching at the sidelines. And at the same time I was alive – walking on. And on. And on. And then I understood that my life will continue after death and that the game wouldn’t be over once I played through level earth. There would be a new game, a new cycle of life. And death is just a stop-over.

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Benedikt Schreyer:

My name is Benedikt Schreyer – writer, coach and singer. I love to research life, gain and share knowledge and live up to my full potential. I believe the world is sound. That’s why to love is to laugh – Big loud belly laughter!

T for TODAY

mess in the living room

Me: “I am only going to count to ten: 1, 2, 3 … Clean up your mess in the living room. Now! We had an agreement about this.”

My son: “Just a minute, Mom. Right after I’ve finished the painting.”

Me: “You said that yesterday. And you said the same thing this morning after breakfast. I want you to do it now! There will be no further discussions about it.”

While I’m discussing the same annoying thing over and over again with my son, my mind wanders back to my personal to-do’s for today. There are piles of paper on my desk and a package waiting for me at the post office. I have an unanswered message from a good friend on my cell phone. She’s not feeling well. Could I please call her back a.s.a.p.?

As I’m loading the dishwasher I begin to balance my priorities. The package can wait until tomorrow. The papers can be tackled later. So, I decide to call my friend first. She picks up mid-ring of ring one – obviously sitting on her phone, waiting for me to call. The case seems urgent.

“To make a long story short, he’s an asshole.” she blurts out. “I shouldn’t have picked him up last night.”

Oh no, not again” I think to myself and sit down on the sofa ready for a long and compassionate phone call.

Me (trying to comfort her): “Don’t blame yourself. This won’t help.”

She (now on the verge of tears): “Why do I always make the same mistake over and over again?”

She continues on and while I’m half-way listening, my mind is searching for an intervention – some sensible doorway to help her exit out of WHY mode. In my experience, this three-letter question rarely ever solves problems. So, I consider asking her the unbelievably brilliant WHAT FOR? This seven-letter alternative usually helps in switching from blame to creatorship. But then I hear myself asking her this instead:

“When is the exact point in time you are really going to change your decision about him?”

She stops crying and thoughtfully mumbles: “I don’t know. I thought I already had. But obviously, I didn’t. I guess I need a re-start on this one.”

You see, given the choice, our minds generally choose tomorrow as the earliest possible starting point for dealing with a re-start, a goal or an intention. And for the change-resistent brain, tomorrow is simply a synonym for “doing it later”.

On this typical morning in my life, I had encounters with three people whose brains had decided to do things later:

  • My son: Between you and me, he still hasn’t cleaned up his mess.
  • Myself:  As I write this post at the end of the day, my pile of papers is still waiting to be sorted.
  • My friend: Her approach was more like, “Starting tomorrow, I will do it differently.”

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Sound familiar?

Most of us have, at one point, decided to start a diet tomorrow or a new exercise program next Monday (next week, after Christmas etc.) And certainly, there are enough methods, trainings and books about how to overcome your weaker self.

todayRecently, I decided to add a simple feature to the goal coaching sessions I have with my coachees. It doesn´t replace the process you need to create new and fulfilling results in your life, but it might help you to stay on track.

At the end of the session I hand out a simple piece of paper which has a single word written on it: TODAY.

I invite my clients to put it wherever they can see it and to look at it at least once in the morning and once in the evening.

I have one of my own and it is a nice and simple reminder for me to start transforming a certain behavior now – instead of tomorrow or whenever. To finish something immediately instead of next week. To clear up a problem before going to bed. Or simply to be grateful for everything that happened TODAY.

Here is how I like to think about time:

  1. Things from the past don’t matter – except in the context of how you are re-experiencing and utilizing them in your memory right now.
  2. Worrying about the future is a waste of time. Everything that will happen in the future is a result of an intent you are creating or living in this moment.
  3. Therefore, all that truly matters are the things you are doing (or omitting) TODAY.

I invite you to use TODAY as an easy point of entry.

Yours,

Pat

P.S.: Need some inspiration for things that could be done today? I know it’s quite an old one, but I love listening to it from time to time…

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Free tool: Today

E for EMPOWERMENT

rainy beachMy recent two week holiday in Mallorca was literally a nightmare: the rental house was filthy, the bedding had been used, the toilet was broken and my favorite beach had completely been washed away by thunderstorms.

To top it off, it rained ten of the thirteen days (six hours a day!) and my friends became sick with fever, allergies, skin rashes, cold and stomach flu.

++ At this point, I devotedly want to thank God for not having been robbed or abducted. ++

The advantage of a rainy holiday is that you have plenty of time to observe things and reflect on them, which I eagerly did the full two weeks. Thanks to the beautiful bouquet of mishaps, this holiday was full of opportunities for personal advancement. Today, I want to report about my findings on education.

Besides myself and my five year old son, I had several more test subjects: moms at the beach, moms in restaurants and moms in supermarkets. Mallorca is full of people educating their children…

Six things I realized about mothers on that trip:

1)      Mothers are worrying.
Things/weather/food/… might be too warm/cold/rough/… for the baby.
Certain people/circumstances/… could cause stress/danger/confusion/… for the baby.

2)      Mothers are trying to find reasons for everything.
Why does/doesn´t the baby cry/sleep/move/…?
Who/what could be accountable for the situation?

3)      Mothers are speculating about their baby´s true purpose in life.
She/he is so keen/eager/intelligent… she/he might be a [xy] one day.

4)      Mothers are calming themselves down if their children do so called “wrong things”.
It will be over soon / It certainly is only a phase of her/his life / …

5)      Mothers are justifying their children´s behavior if somebody criticizes them.
The reason why she/he does this is the experience of / mind set about / … – therefore it is a natural reaction

6)      Mothers are busy pushing their children into new experiences to encourage them.
Snorkeling / swimming to a buoy / wading through a current / swimming without swimmies / jumping into the water / …

Jona thinking about jumping

After reflecting over my six holy, key findings I came to the conclusion that all parents I know, including my own parents, did and still do behave like that.

The topics we worry about and question may vary – the worrying and questioning stay the same. The types of speculation about the child´s purpose might change – the hopes and expectations stay the same.

The calming down and justifying might fade out and come back during certain phases. But I bet, most parents are familiar with this thinking and behavior, as well as with the fear that your child might lack an important trait, like bravery or compassion.

Obviously, all these characteristics of education are a fundamental part of people trying to be good parents and giving their children “the best they can get for their lives”. The intention probably is to assure perfect conditions and to enable a suitable preparation for every day´s requirements. Good parents simply want to make sure that their children get strong enough so they can easily jump over every hurdle in life!

BUT WHAT IF…

… you don’t need so called perfect or normal conditions for living the highest vision of your life?

Like Jason McElway who did six three-pointers in a row (“He was hot as a pistol”):

AND WHAT IF…

… there were people who upheld your vision – or would have an even higher vision of you, if you wanted them to? Without any compliance requirements or expectations?

Like for example Ben Underwood´s mother does:

AND WHAT IF…

… those people stuck to their belief in you – no matter what happened and no matter what you did?

… there was no-one who wanted to press you into their “perfect” idea of you?

I believe that children would then finally have the great chance to enter a new dimension of developing themselves. And I believe that this would empower them to create a new way of existence, full of trust and fulfillment on this planet.

I think it´s time to use a key for creating a new way of caring for each other: it is replacing education with EMPOWERMENT.

Later, when I pick up my little 5 yr. old son from kindergarten, I will not worry whether his conditions for today were perfect. And I will not try to find a reason or excuse for him maybe not being in a perfect mood.

Concerning his true purpose in life, I might ask him about his personal wishes. And then, trustingly, I will stick to his wishes in an even higher vision. Up to the point where he changes it. And then I will stick to this new vision. Again and again. And trustingly enjoy that it is his decision, if or when he might take his next jump in life.

Jona in the water

Yours,

Pat

[I dedicate this blog post to all children in the world. And the great opportunity they are for us to create a higher vision of humanity.]

A for ATTITUDE

I was walking in the English Gardens in Munich when a helmet clad family of four bicycled by me. They were a fluid slanted line sloping from tall to small – papa, mama, big sister, little sister.

I hardly had time to think, “how darling”, when little sister abruptly interrupted that fine formation. First, by falling behind. Then, by falling over.

Seems gravity had been having its way with the slow-riding sister all day. Because when she got up, she kicked her unsuspecting two-wheeler, teared up and let out a piercing scream: “Ah!!! Not again!!! I didn’t wanna go biking anyway!!!”

Im Englischen GartenWe were deep in the park’s center, at least two miles from the next exit. So I felt a sense of gratitude, not being in the shoes of papa or mama, who would inevitably have to motivate little sister to rider her bike all the way home.

Just like that ride in the park, self-development and change processes are all about attitude.

If you don’t want to go biking in the first place and expect to experience a long and hard trip, you probably won’t find the journey very enjoyable. And chances are, you won’t get far before giving up – blaming gravity, your bike, your parents or whoever else you feel is responsible for your misery.

If you want to end a personal journey of improvement or change with a great result, then begin with a good attitude – reaffirming to yourself what you have always known:

  • Life is a song, a dance, a game, an adventure, …
    _______  (choose an image that inspires you and fill in the blank)
  • Every challenge, disappointment or pain is a hidden chance (to learn, grow or become something greater)
  • We have all the strengths, resources, passions and experiences we need to succeed and feel fulfilled
  • Change (in life and in business) can be easy and fun – if we remember not to take ourselves too seriously

So, ride your bicylce like the “Rockin Merritt Girls”. They definitely have the right attitude 😉

CU again soon,

Shailia

[This has been an article from “Coaching A to Z”, an excerpt from Pat and Shailia’s famous and free encyclopedia of life. Look forward to more letters in the near future.]