Spoken Retreat, non-silent non-smoking

Spoken Retreat, non-silent non-smoking

After many years of attending shorter and longer silent retreats, I came across an invitation to a spoken retreat and spontaneously registered myself because I was curious to find out what to expect. The brochure said “A spoken retreat follows the structure and format of most silent retreats with the main exception being, that the participants are strongly encourage to verbalise their minds!” Needless to say, each of the participants had to attend a short intake interview by phone and was then provided all details and instructions via an audio-file sent by email.

“All participants are strongly encouraged to express themselves verbally at all times – being on their own or with others.”

SPEAKING BY YOURSELF

As best you can put your mind’s inner commentary into words. Speak out loud what you think as often and as long as you can stay focused. Whenever you fall into silence, congratulate yourself and gently bring back the tone of your voice. Experiment with tonality, melody and volume. When your mind fatigues, start to speak to yourself and with yourself. Do it with kindness. Talk about anything you like or dislike – things you want or need to do and all the things you don’t want to do. Follow through with each train of thought arguing with yourself vigorously to dissect where your preferences and action tendencies come from and what they are based on.

SPEAKING TO OTHERS

In this retreat we cultivate speaking “to” rather than “with” others. Speaking to others means that we encourage you to speak about yourself, revealing some of your moment-to-moment awareness with each statement. Do not ask questions. If you feel the urge to ask a questions, perhaps you can work your way around it. Say “I wonder how you feel today?” Or “I am so anxious standing next to you, that I want to overcome my sense of awkwardness by asking you if you like the vegetarian food.”

THE SPOKEN RETREAT DIALOGUE

Use “I statements” as best you can. Repeat what your counterpart said and then add your own observation of the world and yourself. Example: The other person says “I like how green the gras is here.” You say “You like how green the gras is. I went to the other side this morning and found that it is even greener there.” And so on.

THE SPOKEN RETREAT GROUP CONVERSATION

Similar to the Spoken Retreat Dialogue (R), the Spoken Retreat Group Conversation was developed to increase the depth and richness of the retreat experience. When one group member makes an “I statement” all other group members need to repeat the statement and then make a judging comment based on their own view and experience. Which then in turn is again repeated by each group member. Smaller groups are preferable here for obvious reasons.

MEDITATIONS

Mindful Talking. Choose any thought that comes up in your mind and speak it, out loud. Again and again. Let’s say your thought is “I wish Arsenal wins anything this season”. Try as best you can to fully concentrate on that though and speak it out loud to yourself again and again. Slowly savouring every word. Enquire into each syllable, each word, the sound, the way you produce it, the meaning – of each word, of parts of the sentence, of the whole sentence. Find words with the same meaning for each word in the sentence: “I, myself, me, self, …”; “Wish, desire, want, aspire, crave, …”. When your mind gets distracted – for example by thinking of another football club like Middlesborough for example – say “Thinking, Thinking, Thinking” and bring your attention gently back to your phrase. If your mind drifts to images – say your favorite players holding a cup on a presentation ceremony – say “Imagining, Imagining, Imagining” and then bring back your attention gently and with kindness to your sentence. Take a fresh interest in your sentence and continue your mindful talking. If you notice any feelings arising such as warmth, fuzziness or hatred – say “Feeling, Feeling, Feeling”.

Take it from here!

This is the story of two people who turn into foxes and what happens after that …

In this video we can observe developmental stages of a relationship – symbiosis, differentiation and practicing.

Two people who like each other enter into a prolonged state of symbiosis – here artfully outlined and animated as the transformation of both partners into foxes. Their different likes, character traits and pastimes are highlighted shortly only to be blurred by their merging. Symbiosis characterised as melting into one, mutual promises for an indefinite future and inseparableness. Disturbance, anxiety and dispute surface at the point when one partner realises that he does not want to be a fox anymore and that his “true nature” is not a fox nature. His decision to let go from disguising as a fox – probably goes hand in hand with his differentiation of the self. He becomes aware of and expresses his thoughts, feelings and desires. She does not take her partner’s change lightly and becomes furious, anxious and then hyper-active. Turbulence is triggered through their being agitated and confused. While he is practicing, she struggles with development. LOOK OUT FOR HER WAY OF DEALING WITH ANXIETY!

He likes her and she likes him, She likes him and he likes her He likes her and she likes him, They like each other

He likes her she likes him, They met on a canopy He is quiet and she is bold, He likes birds, she likes bees.

He wants to rhyme, she wants to glow, They both make a plan to flee. They build a railway with rails, to trek through the forest together with it. 

He likes hunting, she likes collecting. He likes thinking, she likes acting. He likes walnut, she likes almonds. They start to transmute into foxes. 

They start to live in the forest. Feed on pigeons, bark and beans. They swear each other, never to save themselves and get the best out of each other. 

They invent their own country, bear names the other invented. Everyone learns what the other knows, the one lost what the other found.

They set each other on fire. They hunt each other through the ground. Everyone encourages the other, to mutually realign.

But eventually one of them started to realise that they only disguise as foxes. He wanted to hide it and didn’t want to show his sorrow, but that’s how the friction started:

He said: ‘I don’t want to be a fox anymore!’

She said: ‘Why? A fox is fine after all’

He said: ‘But I don’t want to be a fox anymore’

She said: ‘You’re a traitor’

He said: ‘And you’re not a fox!’

She said: ‘”Yes, I am a fox!’

He said: ‘Nope, you’re not a fox’

She said: ‘Yes, I am a fox and you are too. And what’s the point of this after all with you don’t want to be a fox anymore? You were a fox just now. What happened in the meantime? Being a fox is awesome!’

And he’s like: ‘Yeah, being a fox is awesome, but my true nature just is not a fox nature.’

She: ‘Your real nature isn’t the nature of a fox? What utter nonsense! What’s the point of this? If you aren’t a fox, then what are you?’

He was shaking and looked her in the eyes for a long moment and said:  ‘I am an Albatros!’

She became terribly sad and cried, because suddenly everything seemed to fall apart. ‘An Albatros? It lives at the sea. That means, we aren’t a fox couple anymore! Do you fly away now and build yourself a nest, like an Albatros? That’s so silly! You are crazy, I bite you now, because foxes eat birds, that’s a law’

He: ‘AAUHG!!!  You almost teared of my leg! I didn’t judge you like that’

She said ‘If doubts are plaguing you a long time you idiot, why didn’t you tell me right away?’

He said: ‘I wasn’t aware of it!’

She: ‘Yes, yes, very crafty. You were just using me’

He said ‘Nonsense. You think I’ll backstab you, just because I’m growing wings? How should I know before what I’m going to be. Maybe we’re transforming into a herd of horses soon.’

She said ‘But we didn’t agree to this.’

He: ‘I didn’t come up with the transmutation. But didn’t we swear never to save ourselves and get the best out of each other? And right now I am drawn into the air. I’m longing for wind and fish. I have to learn to fly, Albatros style! I’ll surely come around here again soon. I love you and I always will. It breaks my heart, but I have to fly now.’

And so he flew and flew and flew. He slipped in the wind and it pulled him up. Meanwhile she ran through the forest alone. She was hungry and the wind was cold. She stopped and started to cry. Alone she didn’t want to be a fox anymore. She concentrated, she knew, she had to act, wanted to covert as well: He turns into an Albatros, then I’ll turn into a Pelican. Because I can’t live in this forest alone anymore. That’s going to be fun. I am not kidding, this night I’m made into a pelican.

And she took a breath and started the pelican mutation chant. Pelican-Peli-Peli-Pelican – Pelican-Peli-Peli-Pelican – Pelican-Peli-Peli-Pelican – Pelican-Peli-Peli-Pelican – Pelican-Peli-Peli-Pelican – Peli-di-peli-di-peli-peli-peli-peli …

But eventually she broke down, didn’t turn into a pelican even with singing. She screamed and didn’t want to live anymore, stopped to breath, stopped to move. And plop! It happened! Suddenly there was no fox anymore! 

She felt herself and perceived that she was a brilliant spade from now on.

‘Hurray! I transformed. Too bad, it’s a garden tool. It would be better if I…’ Plop! And she turned into a willow stick. 

From stick to tree. From tree to grass. From grass to deer, to hose to glass. 

and to shirt to fence and from fence to salamander.  She turned completely and she freaked out.

She turned big, little, thick, thin, heavy and light. ‘I need a base, please, it’s enough!’ She reared up. 

She was cold and hot. She lost her shape and turned into a circle.

Meanwhile he was longing. Had enough of fish and of salt-breeze. He flew to the forest, wanted to know where she was, when he discovered a circle in a clearing.

‘Holy shit! What a circle. What is it doing here and what is its name? Did it travel or did it derail? If I circle him quietly, then I will be in the know.

But suddenly *plop!* she raised from the circle. Was shaking, here face was white.

‘Oh my God! What happened to me? I don’t understand, I was an animal just now!

Then I was nothing shortly and then everything at once! I’m scared, the world is a delivery room. 

All full of births and all full of deaths. Mutating into animals is prohibited by law.

But we just relieved from the laws, moved the boundaries, we’ve all been lied to! 

that you truly raised into the air and all my atoms were bent into circles.

It’s too much, I’m freaking out, I give up, I don’t understand.

Try to grasp it, but fail miserably. So she fainted and he caught her. 

He clasped her in his arms and looked up. The night was brigs. He saw a thousand stars.

Didn’t understand it himself, didn’t matter how much he wanted to know how it works, the last proof:

Seen from above the Earth draws an elliptical circle

Sir Lunchalot and the Nights at a Round Table

This is the story of a brave knight – Sir Lunchalot – who took the time to nourish himself regularly despite having to fight the dragons of the modern world. He decided to be social with loved ones as often as he could and to be alone when he felt the need to be. In both cases away from work.

His job was: to kill dragons. Doing bloody work, but for bloody good money. Frequently he thought about quitting, but feeding his horse and his crossbow-training were costly. He knew that there were always enough dragons out there. Waiting to turn into bounty. As many other knights, he sometimes lost himself in complacency.

One day however, he started reflecting upon his recent dragon killings. He found that he was most successful in the morning time and that it usually was the early afternoon dragons that nearly killed him. But why?

A lunch patron at the Snuggly Duckling it daunted on him that the mutton stew with gravy and duck fries might have had contributed to him feeling sluggish in the afternoons.

Fights with dragons would then drag on.

Sir Lunchalot once heard that he could only give to the world, if he took good care of himself. His therapist told him that it was as valuable to watch out for the knees and wands of others as it was for his own needs and wants – as there seemed to have been a misunderstanding. Through guided introspection he gathered an agenda to change his workday in simple and easy to manage ways:

  • He did enjoy meeting fellow cavaliers over lunchtime. Yes, he did lunch a lot. The sense of friendship, mutual respect and talking about what was going on in his life made him feel connected. Yeah happy. He had to admit that he much preferred to meet with the fellows he liked most, but realised that this meant planning ahead. Not everyone was always at call.
  • Also, he found that he needed different places to go to for lunch. He thaught, that he wanted to refocus his eyes after mornings of close and stuffy dragon combat. Looking out into a valley for example or sea views. Lush green. Nature. Fresh air. Sunlight. That’s what he needed. He wanted to have coffee in that tree-house he saw the other day, to sit al fresco at the waterfront and to meditate in that garden where the monks grew hops.
  • With regard to the meals he ate, there was a stunning revelation happening: When he ate the burger first and then the fries, he often found that he did not need to finish the fries, nor did he want to. Then the afternoon dragons often looked smaller and were much easier to handle.

In addition he decided to change his approach to afternoon knighthood entirely. In the early afternoons, he now read books about dragons and often took time to catch up with his carrier pigeons.

The End.

PS: Next time Sir Lunchalot will have to face the replacement of the carrier pigeons. Smaller more effective arrows had been developed that allowed to shoot messages from any place to anyone and much more frequently. … “For every arrow that he chopped off, five more would regrow”

Low Self-Esteem and a the need to boost confidence

By the middle of the week, one of my clients realised that he had been in a bad mood since the weekend. He only became aware of the fact that he was being grumpy for no obvious reason, because a fellow colleague took him to task. She asked him

“Why haven’t you spoken to me in three days? Did I do something wrong? Or is there something you need to tell me?”

He reported that this was the moment when it became clear to him, that he indeed had withdrawn from any social contact in the office over the last few days, but that he also had been short and snappy with his girlfriend and even short-tempered on the phone with his mom. This lead to feelings of guilt and disappointment in himself.

On the other hand, part of him clung on to the belief that it all had more to do with the other people around him and their “bad” behaviour. Basically he felt that ALL the people around him were at fault. This was true of people in the office, but also at the bakery store on Monday, in the restaurant on Tuesday and then there was this ugly argument with his house keeper on Wednesday. 

I asked him what else happened during this terrible week and he told me that he had just received his half yearly performance review on the day we spoke. He received great feedback.

His performance was above and beyond expectations. His boss was his biggest fan. She told him that he had been on the positive radar of the upper management for a while now and that she was proud of having him in her team.

Lotion for his soul. I could see the relief in his eyes while he told me about it. I asked him “Did you expect this? Did you see this positive review coming?”. He said “No”. After a short pause he continued “The review meeting with my boss was postponed from Wednesday to Friday. Not knowing the outcome for two more days turned me into a nervous wreck. I was sure they wanted to fire me. I was also convinced that they planned on doing it nicely on a Friday late afternoon, after the others in the team had left the office.” 

“That must have been stressful for you. No wonder you became an unpleasant colleague all week” I replied. After a while he said: “Seb, I think I want to work on this. Is this paranoia?”

NEW! FuggBit device now available for pre-order

I am delighted to announce that my research lab is now releasing beta versions of a tracking device for mental fitness. Similar to other tracking devices this one is collecting data about your activity throughout the day. You can share the data via your smartphone with your family and friends and of course with your therapist. The idea being that with measurable data you will increase your awareness and be more likely to change your thinking and behaviour.

Lets go right in and find out more about many useful features. The integrated microphone enables you to count the total amount of words spoken in a day. If you want to improve your listening skills, then start by talking less. The app will also indicate the total amount of swear-words and the percentage in relation to your overall verboseness. As rule of thumb: venting the occasional tension by swearing can keep you sane, while the week on week trend should point downwards. 

In ‘sensitive’ mode you can track the number of self-disclosures, I statements and constructive feedbacks (given on request only). The word detector in the microphone is connected to the motion sensor on your wrist. Hence, some standard reports will automatically combine the words counted with correlating hand-gestures like hugging, padding, caressing and hand-holding.

The newly developed finger-pointing index (see below) allows for better transparency on when you acted agressively or made a push-over out of yourself. It detects typical motion of your index finger, back-paddling, nervous scratching of your forehead and interprets fast steps as ‘running away from responsibility’. 

 finger-pointing  assertiveness psychology 
The function that allows for small electro-shocks as immediate feedback embedded in the device is planned for the next generation. The idea is to help people prevent from stupid and unnessessary behaviour – like the compulsion to give advice or to compare themselves to others. Here – in addition to some ethical challenges – it proves difficult for state-of-the-art sensors to differentiate between well-meant and unsolicited advice.

MY NON-ANIMATED WEBSITE – for your benefit!

A friend of mine recently asked me, why I don’t update my website. I was taken aback as I thought my site was down or not displaying the content I had up and running the way I remembered it to be. I went online to check if I could still find my professional profile as a counselling psychologist. Yes. Could potential clients still find that I am offering psychotherapy for individuals and relationship counselling for couples? yes.

So I called my friend back and told him that there is nothing wrong with my online presentation. He then said that he thought I needed a re-vamp in layout and functionality of the site. I thought about this and came to a clear conclusion: No, I do not need to animate my website and enable social media connectivity, live-chat, currency exchange converter, weather forecast or webcam of the basil growing on my kitchen sill (well, let me think again about the latter!).

As you have probably noticed by now, my website is not animated. There are no moving framed, spinning images or changes in background colour and wallpaper motives. There is no pop-up window that asks you in a 10-seconds interval if you want to subscribe to my newsletter – no matter how often you click “No thanx”. There is no advertisement that you have to watch for a few seconds before you reach the content that you actually wanted to see. No such thing. My website is a very conservative – yeah boring – website.

THIS IS MEANT TO BE LIKE THAT. FOR YOUR BENEFIT!!!

Thank you very much,

Sebastian

Please refer to the video below to assure yourself what can happen with too much animated information on your screen!

SPOTLESS MIND – Part 3

At work you received feedback that your performance had slipped significantly and you had smiled in despair – “well, you don’t have a spot at home, you don’t know how that is, you can’t compare my hardship to your happy lives” you murmured on the way back to your desk.

Your sister now worried more than ever about you, said you were withdrawing and made no effort to be part of your circle of friends. She had arranged for therapy for you and that she thought it was more about your mind than about the spot in your living room. The therapist was clearly not your friend. He sounded as being briefed by your sister. If “better coping” with your spot and “spot management” could become your common agenda he would ask. Moron!

And then the day came – a cold November morning. Noon to be precise. Since you had no job anymore, there was no reason not to get drunk on a Friday night. at home. alone – dancing angrily around the spot in you living room – yaha, peeing on it at 4am! exhausted and helpless.

This Saturday afternoon you stumbled into the kitchen with a hangover. Your head not nearly fitting through the doorframe. Still, even then -the moment your mind started working, your eyes drifted over to the carpet in the living room for a moment. Then the sudden shock. What? Frozen in disbelief. your eyes moving slowly back to the carpet.

The spot was gone. Nonononono. nooo! nooo? that can’t be! Your feet were faster than your mind. Within an instant you found yourself on the floor in your living room. You did swoop onto the carpet like a sleuth. Trying to get hold of anything. All you could see was plain beige carpet everywhere. Well, you had to sneeze heavily at some point – it was dusty down there – since you could not afford the cleaning lady anymore.

Sitting on the floor of your living room like Luis Suarez after his biting in the match against Italy, you tried to understand.

Maybe you needed help.