I want to create and share authentic pictures and stories. I want to have meaningful conversations. I want to have social contacts that are based on honesty, love and mutual appreciation. I want to step regularly out of my comfort zone.
Based on that thoughts, the Roadstories Project emerged. One portrait, one interview, one encounter per week.
My name is Leonie, Leonie Galina Hochrein. “Leonie” was the only name my parents had in common when they made their lists with names they could imagine for me. It comes from Latin for “Lion”. My second name, Galina, is an Eastern name, meaning “the calm”, to harmonize the lion.
I am an introvert. I love being silent, I love to discuss, I love to be in nature and to be with animals. I love asking unusual questions and to see, what happens. I fell in love with humans a while ago, though still I am often scared of what we call civilisation. I did this project as a challenge, and it became a beautiful journey to more places and with more faces than I could have imagined.
What makes me happy... A lot, lot, lot of things. First of all, awareness and gratitude of what I have, where life put me, makes me happy.
Leonie did complete the ROADSTORIES Project - except her own interview.
The following text was found on a postcard for the ROADSTORIES Project. It is the last text Leonie wrote that is maintained for us.
I feel like a little girl – Plus what I've learned of 3 years in art school.
I feel like a little girl again.
I feel free.
I feel the soft pine needles under my bare foot, the soft cool meadow, warm stones.
I am climbing boulders playfully, I run, I jump. I just feel at the right place at the right time.
The view I woke up with this morning was magic, was something I'd never have expected to wake up with the age before.
We spontaneously decide to take a day for bouldering in switzerland to meet with a mutual friend before doing the alpine tour. We pick up Stefan in Ulm and meet with Simons uncle in Lindau. In the night, we drive up the little windy road, more up, more and more up until a little nishe, right behind a boulder, and right in front the open view in the valley.
And now, I feel like a happy kid while exploring unbeaten paths. In the forest, washing my hands in the river, enjoying the shadow of the trees.
I feel free.
Recently, I wrote in a Facebook post about finding abundance in simplicity. I feel that I got everything at the moment. My friends are strolling through the boulders – This has nothing in common with working out on plastic grips in a boulder gym. This is playing. What else is bouldering than playing with your physical creativity? Funnily enough, the necessity and overall importance of play is what I take with me from 3 years of proper, serious art university.
You need an empty space so that creativity can fill it. We are used to be very busy. I am an expert in always having my calendar filled.
I am not necessarily talking about an empty time frame (which is for sure healthy and helpful), but something I've called Headspace.
An empty, beautiful space in your head. In my explanation, it is most commonly achieved while doing joyful activities, being bored or doing nothing at all. I therefore love transit-times, when you are pissed because you can't work, during long train travels,
when waiting for the bus or train.
We usually don't allow emptiness, because it's also a space for emotions to come up we don't want to feel. If they come, don't shut the door. Trust me, they will wait until you let them trespass, and they are more patient than you can imagine.
You can also translate the empty space with being in the moment. I compare a running shower to thoughts running free.
Creativity finds its way. It's like water. If you block it for too long, it can be devastating. But if you let it flow frequently, it will help you to overcome... Well, everything.
I am dreaming of a creative life.
A life, where I can run through boulders, no matter how old I am.
A life, filled with play and lightness.
professor, teacher, razor-sharp lucidity, radical pragmatism, source of creativity
What makes me happy. First of all, in order to answer what happiness means, one has to take the word „happiness" apart. There are things which make me feel amused, there are things which make me feel very content - speechless, tender, amazed...There are so many facets to this big word.
Reducing this question to moments without language, it's often scents that trigger childhood memories, for example the smell of a cornfield in summer or a haybale. When I become aware of a robin redbreast who approaches me, the buds of flowers presumed dead.
Extending the question into areas of tenderness and empathy, it is often children who are defenceless and oblivious, but also older people in their slowness and who are the mercy of someone or something. This feeling is more directed towards an emotion, which I would also consider as happiness, because one is becoming aware of being alive.
Those are the things which touch you the deepest. Atmospheric nature, the fleeting feeling of arriving at a home which in turn also reconnects you with the past.
Then of course, there is the concept of happiness that follows a red thread: a life full of contentment, a successful relationship. Those concepts of happiness are endangered every day and also can only be understood and experienced in the very moment.
Happiness for me is diversity, the gift of experiencing the unknown. To give in to a temptation - and as a result, having the feeling to have lived life to the full. For me, the great concept is to having had the opportunity to become who you are meant to be.
And happiness in regard to relationships: is to have experienced real love. ...which effectively is system of continous trap-doors, because this is how one thinks in every realtionship, but in retrospective, one realizes the differences between illusionistic, pragmatic relationships...
And relationships, that can lead you back to the greatness, which is love on every level. I was lucky to experience this and therefore consider myself a happy person. However this relationship is no longer existing, because the man has died.
Then there is the feeling of happiness when working, which perhaps could be called „flow". Which is again a different dimension, like when you are playing as a child and don't want to stop. This is maybe a more lasting feeling than the robin redbreast for example.
Happiness for me is a brief moment. Everything else I would call joy, which is already a different word.
Home is a huge term. Home can be: this uncontaminated, straightforward feeling that one had as a child when „school is over and you had the whole afternoon off"
A wunderful feeling of being at home with yourself without commitments, with an open timewindow, open to anything that might happen. This can be at the campsite, knowing that all I'll do is to watch the sea all afternoon or painting with watercolours or cooking or swimming...and and and. This is „being with myself" in a sense of „being at home".
Being at home is a feeling that even works for me while I'm looking into peoples livingroom windows with their candlelit christmas trees. It's an overriding theme completely unattached to a place. A feeling of cosiness, togetherness as a moment of life.
Being at home can also mean arriving somewhere where someone was waiting for you. Feeling welcomed is also a form of being at home, no matter where.
I also experience a certain type of being at home in relation to the order of things. When you are folding your trousers in the evening and putting them onto a specific chair, watering the flowers, making a fresh bed. Concerning yourself with simple, ever repeating rituals and routines. Like being familiar with existing things and your own relationship and responsibility towards them.
A very important and guiding experience during my life was to travel alone by myself. De facto the very first travel that I did on my own was when I was 19, where I also met my future husband, who I would marry 20 years later.
Travelling on your own is to completely free yourself from any safety nets, whilst being maximally open to the totally unexpected. Also, to be open-minded without any preconceptions – because with friends or company one always has to find a consensus.
This was a life changing, guiding turning-point.
What I'd like to mention secondly, relates to a lot of things during a specific age. I would summarize it as ‚self-efficacy'. At that age I realized, apart from travelling alone, that I am able to invent something, that I can make things happen and as a result that it is going to happen! Understanding this was astonishing. As opposed to travelling, where alot of impressions come towards you from the outside, self-efficacy is hailing from the opposite direction. As a child one is unconsciously always doing it: making your own plans and making them happen. The awareness that this is what the world is made of; that you make a decision and as a result something is evolving.
This has shown itself to me in a lot of different facets and it was an important jolt in my life, which is challenging me still; which I'm constantly aware of. Playfullness, responsibilities, but also always creating a new beginning and not „falling asleep".
Thirdly, what I experienced mainly in recent years is death. This is also a new pointer, to realize that not everything one does is just to pass time. It's like in Brahm's requiem, that „my life has a purpose and I must away". Becoming aware of the preciousness of life, that the meaning will only become clear in the moment one is aware of it. Through this, one is entering a whole new level of value creation. Nothing is really worth the discovery anymore, apart from perhaps mindfullness towards that what really is. This is a big challenge.
Heloisas question: What means self-love to you?
In my life I have experienced that the most reliable form of defining the self is in association through others. By this I don't mean opinions about me, but through encounters, exchange. Self-reflection without relation is...dangerous, because it is much more of an external assessment than a real connection. Because it is retrospective and is based on experiences that can be interpreted etc.
The self can only be experienced in the moment and therefore the realisation that the self is ever-changing is a most honest one. First of all self-love means having self-respect. Whereby love is also greatly related to respect. It is impossible to single out certain aspects because it is a wholistic experience of positive and negative aspects, which are inseparable. Respect is the wholistic aspect for me. Love is also wholistic, but these days it is often taken too lightly within our little hearts, though beautifully and positively.
I understand self-love and self-respect mostly in a sense of authenticity. This is how I can best relate to. When I experience myself during a moment of desiring something that I don't know yet and don't know what is yet to come. That is the moment during which I can connect with myself the most – but only through relation.
The second moment, which I like to mention, is a moment of playfullness, mostly in my studio – there I'm in relation with things, with something else, a sculpture or a drawing. I'm part of an intense dialogue and I completly forget myself, as if I'm having a mindful exchange with another human and by doing this I'm entirely at ease and with myself. This is a state of being is where „everything is alright". Everything else, for example, valueing something retrospectively or intentionally planning a personal development is not what I would call self-love or self-respect, because it is not an original state. The original state is something which is worthwhile returning to.
Diemut's question: What is the craziest thing you have ever done in your life?
Heloisa studies Eurythmics at the Alanus University of Arts and Social Scienes. The dance classes she is holding in the late afternoons are one of my every weeks highlights in university. The enthusiasm and motivation for dance, she is teaching with, is literally breath taking.
What makes me happy...Honestly, I'd probably say that dancing makes me most happy. I need to dance. The movement helps me to stay balanced, and when I am balanced I am happy.
My partner also makes me happy. I consider myself to be a "people person". I enjoy social interaction..but then again I'm a bit strange in that regard, because I'm only able to really connect to one person at a time. Something which always makes me very happy is when I am able to have a genuinely meaningful conversation with someone.
In combination I'd say that yoga, dance, and relationships are the things that make me most happy. With these three things I feel I can really embrace the day. I feel content. Connected. For example, when I'm at a dance event or a marathon I feel awake and alive...I am very conscious of the present moment. If I were to summarise it, I suppose I'd say happiness is the moment in which I am consciously aware and living in the present.
Home is definitely not bound to a place or a house for me. I have absolutely no connection to a specific house or flat, because I have been moving around a lot for some time now. My own flat is almost permanently sublet. I have, however, come to feel quite at home here in Bonn.
Home is my family and my boyfriend. I love spending time with them, and it is with them that I feel most secure.
On a level my parents' anthroposophical background has been very influential. I went to a Steiner school, which I believe aided and encouraged my ability and capacity for self reflexion and self awareness. I think these are fundamental qualities which have contributed to the way in which I live my life, and which are still very much a part of me today.
A second definitive and influential moment in my life, was the decision I made to join the armed forces. Technically what I really wanted to do was to start studying, but somehow I ended up in the army instead. It taught me a lot about structure and routine. Originally I wanted to do a Shaolin course in China, so I decided to do the three month basic training course to gain a better understanding of what might be expected of me over there. It was in the army that I first experienced or learned how practical it can be to simply act instead of permanently over thinking and over discussing things. Things work differently, the immediate execution of orders is expected...the ability to act...just to do without asking questions. Obviously this way of doing things is not always appropriate, but it was good for me to experience a different way of being...simply to respond.
It was there that I realised how much people are really capable of. How strong human beings really are, and how much we are capable of enduring. I was often pushed to my limits and able to overcome them.
In this way you could say that my life has been shaped by three things; My parents' philosophy and inspiration, the realisation that we are capable of so much more than we are aware of and the discovery of my passion for dancing.
A Short Story of Movement
Movement has always been a part of my life...except during puberty, at which point I was studying Business Management and aspiring to a more materialistic way of life. I didn't really want to have anything to do with creativity and the arts.
I enjoyed extreme sports. I would go jogging and keep going until I reached my limit. I was always pushing myself to extremes, because it was in those moments that I felt most present or connected. What I did not yet know is that dance could bring me to that same feeling without the need for extremity. At some point I decided to start learning a Brazilian dance for couples. I had so much fun! I was reminded of my roots. I threw caution to the wind and went to Brazil for a semester abroad. Soon after I dropped out of my Business Management studies and started to study dance and drama. I knew that I couldn't just return to Germany and continue where I left off without recognising what I was experiencing. I decided to follow my heart and to change everything. I decided to dance. To only do what gave me pleasure.
I now have a different approach to studying. I am not studying for the qualification, but for my personal enjoyment and development. My aim is to live each day as fully and honestly as possible. This was, in fact, my sole goal in Brazil, because normal Uni-life had not been fulfilling for me.
After discovering my passion for dance I did nothing else for 3/4 of a year. I visited many different dance schools and learned many different techniques. I realised I was looking for something more than just movement or rhythm. That's when I began to train as a yoga teacher. The connection to the spiritual through movement is what I had been looking for. This, however, was still not the end of the line. I continued to take part in courses and visit conferences to continue researching the self-healing powers of human beings. This is, in fact, exactly what I am focussed on at the moment. I am studying Eurythmy at the moment, and I believe it to be connected to this. Eurythmy, in my opinion, is a lesson in consciousness.
Gwen's question: What would you do if you were brave enough to do it?
I would dare to take a step into an area which is unknown to me.
Heloisa's question: What does self-love mean to you?
Filmmaker of the inspiring film „WEIT“. A documentary which tells the personal story of a journey around the world, he made with her boyfriend Patrick and later joined by their new born son.
The encounters with people from all over the world, landscapes and own experiences and reflections of travelling are captured in this film in a Meeting Patrick and Gwen after their filmscreening in Cologne was a pleasure.
It makes me happy to see other people beeing happy. And to make people happy, for some reason. Spring makes me happy as well: the first flowers, the birds singing, the first warm days... And, of course, to watch my son discovering the world with his small hands, his small feet and his innocent mind.
While travelling we asked many people this question. And the answers mostly includes people who they love. And I understand why people always connect home and the once they love. I feel the same. But there is also more to it: I guess home is also the place, where there is a memory waiting for you behind every corner. It may be a sound, it may be a smell or just some moment you remember when passing by.
When I was thirteen years old, my parents did have another baby. Me any my three older sibelings where totaly suprised that there was someone else who had been waiting for so long to join our family. Our youngest brother, Merlin, was born in April 2005. I remember the night, when my sister woke me up to tell me that my mom was having the baby – I got up, went down to my parents room and watched Merlin being born. My whole family was there – 6 people welcomed the tiny baby with the long fingers and the awake eyes.
For my 17th birthday, my best friends gave me a very special present: They told me that I need to take some days off, and I should wait what would be happening then. The first morning of this days I woke up and I found a packed backpack infront of my door. It containt some food, some clothes, a sleeping back and a knife. An it containt a batch of letters and a envelope with answers to questions I would most probabyl be asking myself during the short trip. Also there was a ticket, valid for 3 days, covering our whole state.
I left home, took a train to the black forest, hitch-hiked to the Donau, slept alone in the forest, visited a friend I haven't been visiting in a very long time, met people, met myself and red many of the letters and answers my friends prepaird for me. For one of the first times in my life, I was confronted with myself. It was not a very long trip, but for sure a very important one.I felt grown up, I guess :)
The last thing I'll mention here is the day I saw Patrick for the first time. I went to a concert, Patrick was there to film it. I saw him standing on a pedestal, I knew that this person would become very important to me. It took a few months before we met again and he felt the same in reference to me.
Now, 5 years later, I have surrounded the world with him, shared a 2 square meter tent with him for more than three years, can call him the father of our wonderful son. And I still remember the feeling I had when I saw him for the first time...
Patrick's question: Imagine yourself 30 years ahead from now. What would a perfect day look like for you?
There are so many different perfekt days I can envision. But in the end they all have three things incommen: A world in harmony. A colourfull crowd of people that respect each other. And the qualities of the children: Activity, curiousity and trust.
Gwen's question: What would you do if you were brave enough to do it?
Filmmaker of the inspiring film „WEIT“. A documentary which tells the authentic story of a journey around the world, he made with his girlfriend Gwen and later joined by their new born son. They travelled with little money and without going by airplane. On their journey they asked people the question: „What means home to you?“
The encounters with people from all over the world and their own experiences and reflections of travelling are captured in their film and magazine „WEIT“.
to hear my son laughing
to see my girlfriend
to walk barefoot.
to talk with good friends the whole night long
my Family, whereever we are.
to watch cold rain from a warm place through the window.
the Sound of the cukcuk
the four Seasons i know from the place i grew up.
When I hitchhiked through New Zealand and a man took me with his car. He ask me what I will do after the trip.
I told him that I would love to start an internship in a Television Station. He told me that he is the owner of such a Station and invited me straight away to start an internship in his Television Station. I spend 10 weeks with his Team. it was the start of my passion for filming.
Traveling through Pakistan. I realise (once more) that I should not trust my prejudices. I was amazed by the huge and deep hospitality. People who suffer and live such a tough life, share their house, their food, their privacy without any doubt.
Pasqual's question: What would you do, if money wouldn't matter? Why don't you do it?
In these days, "no Money" would be very hard to imagine. Our whole system is based on it. Allmost everything leads to it. Sometimes even friendships or important relationsships.
This can be very sad. And crazy, especially if I think that money is often only a couple of virtual numbers in my bank account. There is allmost no day without dealing with money.
What would I do, if money wouldn't matter?
Probably go back to the roots. Without money, trading goods and skills would get a new respect, or better: an old respect, that it already had many years ago where money did not have the influence it has today.
Before the middle Age, People shared their goods and ability in their villages. Their was no need for money, their was no indirection with something else.
Wool against corn, security against food, whatever. The daily life and the society was less complex than it is nowadays, more direct, better to understand, more regional!
With no money I would try to step back in those systems, would try to share my skills, my belongings. On our trip around the world, we often worked for board and loge. In more than 10 projects all over the world. Everywhere it was based on "no Money". We gave our help: Our strenght in wood hacking, our patience in gardening, our skills in creating and editing films and documentarys.
In direct exchange we received food and accomodation. These personal trades felt very healthy and respectful.
In my future I want to live more like this. In a deeper connection to the goods and values around me. I imagine to live in a community, where everybody gives his skills, his passion, his creativity, his strengh to the project, without earning money for that. I imagine that place to have less need for money.
Nevertheless I would say that "no money" would not be the solution for a better world. The world is not a village anymore, the globalisation reached almost everywhere. Today it would be difficult to trade things around the world directly with others goods or skills. Less money could be a good start.
Giving money less value, giving money less focus and importance is something I would appreciate. It could create a more regional and fair together.
Patrick's question: Imagine yourself 30 years ahead from now. What would a perfect day look like for you?
Pasqual was a paratrooper, then paramedic. He is now working three days a week as a climbing trainer and tries to do only what he loves.
I met Pasqual briefly as a boulder friend of Simon. Randomly, I found out that he and a friend were starting a blog-project, focusing on the issues of happiness and balance and how to achieve those in life through quality time (and while climbing). While reading his texts, I found that we share important values and move similar questions. Meanwhile, it was Pasqual who wrote me, that he treasures “The Roadstories Project” for its approach and realization. We decided to meet and exchange and I invited him to share his own story.
What makes me happy – Time, in the first place, having time. Material things not so much. I have been a person that owns a lot – big TV, a car, luxurious apartment. But today, I have realised that time is the most precious thing I can have. The luxury, not having to wake up by the alarm, but to get up early anyway to enjoy the day.
What makes me happy are moments, experiences. Definitely. Two years ago in the Zillertal happened a beautiful one. I got out of my tent at half past seven, the sun didn't rise over the Alps yet. I made coffee – in an old, rusty Bialetti – and sat down beneath a tree, while the first sunbeams warmed my face.
Having coffee while sitting in the dew-fresh grass during sunrise was one of my truly happiest experiences, that I still live off. The memory always cheers me up when I'm not well. Through that, I realised that it's exactly these moments that truly make me happy.
Friends, coffee, sun, being outside – independently from material luxury. If a single coffee makes me that happy – you honestly don't need more. Having time. Quality time. That makes me happy.
That's interesting... I have been asking myself this my whole life and until recently, I have always been searching for a home. For a long time, I connected home with a place and realised that I feel nowhere at home. It was connected with an incredibly sad feeling – It is really depressing when you are always looking for something, that you can't find. I just had the wrong concept in mind while searching. Today, home for me is not a place, but rather a lifestyle. At the moment, I am home with my girlfriend. Not particularly in her apartment or in the mine, but when she is there. When I feel completely relaxed, calm and safe, I am home. It doesn't matter where I am, then. It can be at a rock face, on the couch, actually in a car going somewhere. As long as I am with people who I feel safe and cared for with, I am home.
Home to me is a feeling of safety, independently from the place.
Things, that shaped my life... That's difficult. My Burn-Out was definitely life-changing. Because it opened my eyes to what it means to be truly free – it does not mean to afford things, to own stuff, to always run in the same treadmill, hoping one day it will lead to somewhere else. But it means to have ones eyes open for the essentials, for the people around me, for those precious moments. It turned my life upside down from being a soldier and paramedic to becoming a climbing trainer who has more free time than actual work. The unwillingness to keep exchanging five days of work for two days of weekend evoked that change of my lifestyle, which was, I believe, the most important decision in my life.
Another incident was the first moment that I have been truly proud on my own achievement – because I achieved it by myself, without anybody else's help. It happened after three months in the army (Bundeswehr), when you get your beret, your headgear, after your successful recruitment exam.
I decided to go to the department of the paratroopers – the pretty hardest assholes that exist in this world – and I fought myself through the three months of basic training. I literally shed blood, sweat and tears. I had no support, it was my own achievement. And it was the very first time in my life that I managed something on my own and that I even had to motivate myself on my own. Getting this beret and realizing, that I did this without anybody else's help was incredibly important. Because it made me realize, that I can do everything, if I want to - that there are no limits for myself, my body and my mind except those that I set up myself.
To sum it up to the number of three... I don't know, where this last point will lead me to, because this insight is just a few days old.
I am an extremely strident person. Not because you can't argue with me, that actually happens pretty easy. But because I have an extremely huge ego, which can expand into infinity. What is even worse, is that I am willing to escalate unboundedly for my ego, there is no chance for any human being to win against me. But there is one trigger, that makes my ego collapse – when I realize, that I jeopardise people I love.
My girlfriend can't stand fighting. She literally falls apart, becomes silent, she would just break under my ego. Every time we could start arguing, and I see it in her face, my ego just deflates – because SHE is so much more important than my ego, and so are all people I care for.
My love, my will to protect the ones I love, is greater than me. This was an incredible insight – that my ego isn't the greatest part of me, just the one, that has been screaming the loudest in my life.
As I said, I have no idea where this realisation will lead me to, it is only like four, five days old. It is crazy, but I think, this might be the most life-changing insight I ever had.
Because all of a sudden, it's not only me who it's all about, but the people I love and who I care for.
That's hard to answer... Coming into harmony. With myself, with the people around me and with the world in general. What is essential to me is being in the flow and reaching harmony. I am a person of extremes, who is strongly in search of himself and therefore getting in troubled phases. (Without being bipolar..) I can vary between nearly depressive to euphoric. My goal is to bring the pendulum close to zero, to be in balance. Balance to me is very holistic: Not only to be happy, but to know who I am. Balance to me is not about changing myself, but to know and to accept myself as I am. I think, this is the most essential point why I am living and why I am living this life.
This is my overall goal: Finding balance, be in harmony.
And the second part... Everything. Everything I do is following the vision of balance.
Pasqual's question: What would you do, if money wouldn't matter?
And why don't you do it?
Anke Firlefanz. Artist, clown, wise woman and pioneer in the field of bodypainting as a healing-journey and exploration of the Self.
Anke is a woman who truly walks her talk, I never experienced someone who would express her personality that strong in everything she does. Since 20 years, she is living in the South of Germany. In her home, Atelierhaus Schwabsoien, I found home, depth and women wisdom – and a healing, nourishing approach towards art as an original expression and connection.
Life makes me happy. Love makes me happy. And I recognize love in so, so many things in life. Contact, touch makes me happy, and sensual experiences touch me – therefore I am happy when I can enjoy life with all my senses. I love to eat, I dance barefoot through the grass or let my face be caressed by the wind. Those are things, that make me happy. Contact with people is also a part of it; the embrace with a friend, those small, tender contacts that happen with the eyes, the intimate contact with our lover. I love to touch baby feet and it makes me happy!
I think that may surround, what happiness means to me.
Home is inside of me. For a long time, I was constantly asking myself where my home is, my place. Then, I always had a carpet in my car and knew, where I roll out my carpet, there is my home. Today, I know that my home is HERE. Because I feel inside, that I grew roots here – and wings to dream. It is a very interesting question, because home doesn't depend on a room, but it has to feel familiar and secure. And secure - not inside of walls, because I need to have open doors, but... in the sense of an inner heart-connection. When there is enough of it, I feel home. I don't need to be geographically close to people, because I can always feel the people I love. When I can feel that heart connection, I can be home alone and yet connected with everybody.
At the moment, I am very much at home HERE, at this place. Because the outer living situation is completely in line with my inner feeling. I am so much at home here, that the little pond next door is my bathtub and at the same time my personal working space... Here is my mission, my purpose, my motherhood. And I can “goblin' around” here, I don't need to pretend I am different than I am – this also belongs to my perception of home: I can be, how I am. It took a while, until I realized that.
Since last year, I know that I am home at this place. For al long time, I was at home on the way, and home is still in my heart; but I find it really, really interesting that it also manifests on the outside, into a real home. Because I am not willing to make compromises.
It is pretty difficult to name only tree things! The first thing, that point my way ahead, is definitely my birth. Of course I don't remember my birth, but I know, that I decided to come here. Since I was a child, there has always been this AWE, the wonder of the daily: „...and another day! How awesome is that here!“ What a gift. In sad times, also, I was always aware that life is a gift. Even in the darkest and desperate days, I knew.
A second incident is, that I encountered Joey (Anke's partner since 20 years). He is not the father of my children, but in some other form my very true love, my very counterpart, my sparring partner – in everything that we wandered through; all the power struggles, everything that can happen between man and woman. The force of the love, that was there, guided me, through all wave troughs. Even when Joey thought he wouldn't love me anymore, it was the love who guided me through the process and I understood, that it is not important if somebody loves me back, because love stays within me.
In the deepest desperation and darkness, it was the love who came to me. I was laying in bed, when love hit me like a beam. I could only spread my arms and thought: Oh, now I know, why the world functions. Like Yin and Yang, those waves of up and down in life that lead us through life – it is love. Even in the sadness, when it becomes dark, there is love. Others may call it faith, but for me it is love, who keeps everything moving.
And the third point may be, that today, I am experiencing that I am able to share this love. I find it incredibly how many soulful people there are, all the children around me, and it IS shaping my life. This insight still belongs to my second point, when I realized, when I was waved through and through, that on the other hand, I AM PART OF IT – I am also just love. It doesn't mean, that I can't be angry, sad or unjust. It happened roughly at the same time with the feeling of truly being home at this place. That situation is a gift, a task. Windows opened in my mind and I saw connections, that everything fits together. I am so grateful for this whole experience. Humble doesn't express it, but it is the point where I am realizing: I am stardust, I am NOTHING. And at the same time though an important part of the big picture.
And that I am allowed to experience this – this is the third life-shaping thing. It carries me further.
These are beautiful questions, that you are asking.
Desperation. I knew this moment, before love hit me – not falling in love, but the kind of love who showed me her presence in everything that is, also in myself. Others may call it God. Desperation was the state I was in right before that happened, and desperation to me is connected with DOUBT. When I am doubting, everything gets confused. The doubter in me can become so powerful that I get incapable of acting.
When I felt real desperation, it was the only time that I had something like suicidal thought, and I knew: That's not me, because I LOVE life. But that's how desperation feels like. It was so dark, I couldn't even communicate it. It feels like stabbing and turning a knife in the heart; that are heartaches. What I read about that sensation is, that the pain, the breaking, is not the heart itself; it is the old crusts which aren't serving us anymore, because life wants to grow, to expand. Life is movement.
As soon as something becomes rigid, it doesn't participate in life anymore, Even, if something is so beautiful that I want to hold it and keep it forever. “It will pass” is actually the slogan of life.
When I was at the deepest point of desperation, love came. And I am really grateful for that experience. Desperation is, to feel the opposite of love: Hopelessness, no motivation nor will to live. The deepest point of the Ying-Yang-Wave, and yet a part of life. We can't go through life without experiencing desperation, because we all feel this wave movement.
For many people, this amount of emotion feels threatening, because we are not used to handle it. In school, we are judged according to our grades, not according to our happiness.
Today, I know how I can breathe into that state of desperation, breathe, feel it entirely and say then: Ah, I know you. You are doubt. And you are good. But I know, that I won't be well when I follow you; I rather listen to what love says. And I do listen what my heart says and go for it, even if it may be completely against reason.
Anke's question: (In a non-material way) : What is the most important thing for you in life?
And how much of what you do is in line with that?
“Are you still doing this interview series? Yes? Ok, I wrote the answers down for you. We only need to take the picture.”
The following interview is not my achievement. It is a gift from my oldest brother and I feel honoured to have received it - and to be able to share it with you.
Florestan is my oldest brother, and the oldest of us four children. He studied in Hamburg and Oslo and holds a master degree in wood science. He is now working as a bikemessenger in Hamburg.
„Happiness I cannot feel, and love to me is so unreal...“
This has become somehow a strained term for me. Everybody is searching for it, everybody has suggestions and concepts how to reach this state of being. Despite the fact that this anticipated vibe is so eminently distinct, and particularly, contingently not available for everybody along these lines...
Struggling most of my lifetime with chaos, disorder and depression, it sometimes seems that the key to this mythic purpose is lost. Which path to choose? Ironically, the frantic quest for happiness alone can lead to misery.
So what is happiness to me? Probably more a state of calmness, mental balance. These rare, little moments: Alone in the woods. Watching and communicating with wild animals. Exhaustion, aching muscles. Confronting the elements. A successful repair. Riding my motorcycle with my brother... The first cold beer on a warm summer's day. Meeting old friends again. The feeling of being known. The feeling of being needed.
„Forever I wander, forever alone...“
For me, this is even harder to answer than the question for happiness.. Most people seem willing to say that „home“ does not inevitably mean an actual place. More that feeling of being at home, somewhere, with someone. It will therefore depend on the people, with whom you gather.
Thinking back, I have always felt a strong disconnection to the concept of home. More the feeling of being caged, when the bounds of venues and people come too close. Which leads to escape and expel of one self from these secure spots. Comparable to the strive for happiness - Most people will search for settle and establishment, sooner or later. By way of contrast there are those people, who avoid the gathering, almost against human nature... The few who are driven, restless, compelled to search and wander.
Never been literally home-less, I still carry that mindset in my inner self. Existing in transient dwellings and occasionally participating in social structures, instinctively having a foothold for rapid flight.
What is it? A fierce combat. Falling down, losing, bracing up again. Fighting your inner demons, getting thrashed. Feeling the fire, the anguish. Licking your wounds, tasting blood. Standing up for the next round, again. Learning to lose. Learning to release.
Decisions. For life, or against life. Arise or perish. Open or occlude yourself. Bite through and unclench again. Soak all the sorrow, grief and mania, choke, gulp, digest. Breath out again. Cognize. See what life gives you and what you give life back.
Behold all the noise and fury and bitterness, and even so the vastness, silence and all the purity and pulchritude. The astounding ambivalence, and the vicious, barbaric indifference of nature.
A snap thought on that: Man and mankind are always ambivalent. I have the feeling that the question for good and evil, to the end that people are gonna be valued and rated, is kind of obsolete.. a desperate attempt, to comprehend the incomprehensible.. climbing through the urge of dubious action. Clamping on learnt morals to deal with fear and frustration.
Mankind is not predictable. It often seems to me, that our presence on this planet must be totally randomly, as measured by the grade of self-destruction, carelessness and non-sustainable existence. Not to mention the calculating deviousness you experience in people. Yet, there are these rare personal bounds, encounters, acts of commitment.. these irrational, selfless actions, midget miracles that can astonish even when stuck in the endless streams of negativity.
In the end, the question for good and evil probably doesn't matter to me. You will have to deal with the utter darkness, the pure instinct of survival as well as the predisposition for kindness and sincerity in people.
Florestan's question: What means desperation to you?
In my memory, Solveig is this small, fine girl at the Lakota Camps. Over the years, (partly thanks to Facebook), I witness her growing into a brave young woman. Her statetments impress me with their directness and their willing to provoke positive change. We meet in a florist's café, just before her graduation.
What makes me happy.. A well fitting question because today, I was very happy. I got up this morning, the sun was shining and I prepared my morning coffee. The smell of coffee – that makes me happy. Today was the first time I walked barefoot across a field which cured my long-lasting winter depression. (Solveig smiles)
What makes me truly happy are most often the small things. I can hardly describe this in general. The small moments which make you seize and cherish the day...When I find someone with whom I can talk about things, which I put off for too long or which I tried to avoid talking about. Or, that I can be proud of myself to be back at rock climbing after three stressful weeks of exam preparation, or when I see my sister again after a long time. I could probably name heaps of things, but I think I am the happiest when I feel good in the very situation, when I can be truly myself, completely me and fully certain. I reckon, that it is extremely important that one can share this joy. The book „Into the Wild“ reads: „Happiness is only real when shared“, what I find to be true. I love when I can make people smile – or when they are glad, simply about the fact that I am happy.
Home has been something complicated, at least in my early years. My parents got divorced 14 years ago. Since then, I have moved 7 times, drove to my dad's over the weekend, and lived with my mum on the weekdays. My belongings and my life were scattered everywhere. I have never completely felt at home. Probably, because I thought "home" is a place and therefore wondered where this place actually is... For me, this is inseparable from you first question. Meanwhile I have moved out of home and I am living together with my boyfriend. It is not necessarily the place, the flat, which counts, but rather the security to know that I can be exactly who I am. I believe one is only home where one is happy and fulfilled.
This is a complicated question. Obviously it is hard to summarize this specifically. Probably, the divorce of my parents had the greatest impact on me, because this lead to me not feeling at home anywhere, not feeling to belong somewhere. I had to go to medical centres, I was fairly scared. What has shaped me the most during this time, was how my mum miraculously managed to sort of "repair" my soul.
The second thing; I realised over time what was wrong in this world, mostly from what I learnt in school. This was around the time, when the accident in Fukushima happened. This made me question how we live, how we treat ourselves and the world, and what actually happens all around us. In school, I then collected information about the Palestine - Israel conflict. This was the turning point. I started to question my understanding, tried to find my own way, to adjust and expand my limited point of view. I learned to critically exam my perception, to study other perspectives different from those I learned at school - and wondered what I could do to make a change and to have an impact. Through this I was introduced to politics – this sounds so bad, "politics“ - but I see my political engagement as my way to contribute to something which has the power to make a change. To question, to realize, what and who actually is behind all those things going wrong in this world and to develop real solutions.
Through this, I met people who are dear to my heart now. I had never been happier about certain people – all of a sudden there were people, who had similar ideas, with whom I could discuss, who listened to me. I was able to talk about what I tried to accumulate for so long. With those people, I continuously argue about how to make this world a better place. ( Solveig laughs)
The third thing; probably – this sounds completely cheesy – but, that I met my boyfriend. He is also involved in political work. He helped me to sum up my thoughts and organise them so I can participate more than before. I have never met someone like him. I've never vibed so well with someone. We just complete each other, fairly well. He is extremely rational, on the other hand, (I can be both), but I also am a very emotional being and this is wonderful; we constantly learn from each other.
Of course there is more that happened throughout my life, but those are the three most important aspects.
I do not believe in God in the first place – maybe due to of what I see everyday on earth.
In my opinion people tend to hide behind God. As far as I noticed some believe in god to shirk form their responsibilities or to be inactive with an excuse. It is easier to sit in the church and pray for peace, than going out and making peace happen through action.
Apart from my thinking that me ending up in heaven will never happen - if I really did I would probably be very mad at God and confront him with what is going on down here everyday and that he must be completely blinded if he does not see – maybe he's just not looking down..
Most recently he would probably just say: “Get out!”
Solveig's question: Is the human being fundamentally good or bad?
Pablo Victor Bordón Pardo is a Cuban photographer, working analogue and digital. He is currently graduating from the Instituto Superior de Arte. We met each other in the grey German autumn last year, when he came to Germany as an exchange student at the Alanus University for Art and Social Science Germany. We do the interview in his parents' apartment in sunny Havana, while watching the waves hitting the Malecon.
Good company makes me happy. Having my friends around me. Feeling free to do whatever I want, in the time that I want, in the way that I want to, without having to think too much about the consequences. In general, freedom. I am happy when I am relaxed with myself, when I feel calm in my own company and in my environment. You have to find the balance within yourself to be free. Find the way to – it may sound weird, but you have to find a state to follow to find happiness. Sometimes you have to know yourself well enough to know what steps you have to take, to find happiness at their top.
There is an artificial short-time happiness, like through medicine pills, or a greater sense of happiness that lasts throughout the whole life, which are very different. I think, you have to chose on what you want to focus.
I would say home is about the people that make you feel at home. It's that. It's not about a specific space, house or place. When I was in Germany and in the US, I experienced that some people make you feel home, even if you are quite far away from the place you thought was home. But even if you don't have the people like friends, partner, family around, you can find or create your own, personal space. The space for freedom, where you can do whatever you want. I would call that home, too.
The first thing is balance. I think it is very essential to find balance between all the elements that your life is consisting of. Family is the second thing that is so important in my life. Not only the family of your relatives, but friends. Loyalty would be a third expression. Being loyal to your friends and family, but also to yourself. You cannot be against yourself – you have to learn, how to be true to yourself.
Balance, family and loyalty are like the three pillars in my life, that you should always maintain.
Frency's question: Which is the main issue, that moves you at the moment?
I have two answers for that question. The first one is concerning my artistic work. In the art world, you have to learn how to be the biggest scammer. How to convince others to “buy” your solution for a personal problem in form of your art work, and I am constantly busy with that.
And secondly, in life... Maybe, it is following happiness. But it comes down to following the path of being okay with myself. Some people would maybe say, that their core issue is to follow their dreams, but for me, it feels quite more complicated than that. I can follow my dreams, but still, there is always an underlying issue, merged with the things you have to do in your daily life; finish your studies, earn money, find the right person... And within all that, the “spine” of it is to get along well with yourself. Again, it is about finding balance.
Pablo's question: Imagine, you come to heaven. What will God say to you?
Frency Fernández is an art historian, art critic and theoretician, curator and artist. (He is secretly called “Dorian Gray”, because of his timeless-seeming youthful appearance). I met Frency first in 2015, when he worked as a Guest Professor at the Alanus University for Art and Social Science. Together with two professors of Alanus, he built up the senseLAB program at the Instituto Superior de Arte in Havana, Cuba, which I was able to participate in 2017. We met for the interview between the beautiful cúpulas on the ground of the ISA.
It makes me happy, when I realize that I have achieved something. Not necessarily in a material way, but also spiritually. I am a work-addict, a workaholic. When I see the results, when I am satisfied – I enjoy that very much. I also have a ritual going with this: always, when I finished something, I smoke a cigarette, a cigarette of pleasure. But it's not only the finished result – it's when I follow my feelings. Other people may be more rational here. When I am in front of something that is getting the shape that I envisioned it to have, may it be in the field of personal relationship, in the professional life, in the creative way... I feel this certain kind of happiness.
For me, the sensation of happiness is completely virtual. Because directly after it, I enter into a critical moment with myself, asking myself what is not finished yet. I don't believe in perfection, but I am always aiming for another level. It is like the carrot for the donkey, that I put in front of myself all the time: It is like following a sense of happiness in several ways. I don't divide my profession from my spirituality or my emotional work; it is like a blend of elements.
So, the sensation of happiness can come through several ways, but it is always the same reaction: “Oh, all right. Let me go to another level”.
Of course, I am now talking as an individual. But this type of responsibility that I have been carrying in all these years implies many people. As a critic, you can work completely isolated - But in the end, you are working with the work of other people, and you are talking about human beings. You are involved with a lot of people and basically, it all has to do with communication. Being critical is one form of communication. Clapping, for instance, is another form, which can also increase happiness.
I hear a lot of music, also when I am working, for everything, and my sense of happiness is also very much connected with that. Because it increases my production, intellectually, mentally, it is also connected to some spiritual things. I am not believing in religion, but in my art, I am also connected to spiritual elements. It is a happy moment when you realize, that you are providing something, that you consider to be important for other people, and when you get the results and reactions, no matter if they are grateful or not. It makes me happy, when things flow together due to my work, according to the vision I had.
I don't have a sense of home; it is very strange for me. Since I was a child, I have been living in more than 20 places in my life, for shorter and longer periods. I feel at home in a place where I am somehow balanced. It can be one square-meter, but it can be the perfect place for me to create and work. It can be in an airplane, in a car or a room, I don't care.
For me, it is very interesting, because I don't have a bond with specific spaces. Home is something that is mental. I have that joke, that when I am going to Europe or when I am returning to Cuba, I always change my “micro-chip”. Because you have to enter into different realities, and the journey is the moment to realize “All right, now you're entering another dynamic, another reality with a different structure”.
Home to me doesn't describe a location, but how I am connected with myself in the context of where I am. Home as a defined, physical ground is an illusion to me, it is more like a state of mind. I can be home in many places.
The question reminds me of a story that happened many years ago. When I was a teenager, I regularly escaped from my house to go to my family in Matanzas. I took the train to go there, it took about six hours because the train went incredibly slow, you could literally walk aside. I would always take the train in the middle of the night, to arrive in Matanzas in the early morning hours around seven or eight.
It was like a ritual, to arrive there and to sit at a certain place, watching the people slowly coming out and opening their houses, following their morning routine, while waiting for my auntie to wake up – what she did around 8:30 – and to knock at her door to surprise her. Then, she would prepare one of the best coffees, a moment that I also connect with that happiness in the small things.
In Germany, I experienced a very similar situation, going from Bonn to Berlin Kreuzberg very early in the morning. Sitting in a corner of a small Turkish bakery with a Capucchino and a piece of bread, seeing the very same – also people opening their businesses, following their morning routine – and enjoying it. It has been the same in all the other countries I visited, like in Spain or Central America. I think, this is like a psychological thread that I create for myself. I create coincidence, analogies between spaces. They are not the same, but quite similar for me. It is like a salvation for me in places where I am strange, where I am an outsider, somehow.
Coming back to the story that I want to tell: In one of those occasions, I was in the train returning from Matanzas. I was reading a book, “Panchatantra”. It is one of the masterpieces of Indian literature, one story inside another story inside another story... And a beautiful girl was sitting beside me, I didn't knew her. We started a conversation about the book, and the conversation continued about other themes, art, life. We were nearly arriving to Havana, when she asked if she could give me a kiss, a normal kiss on the cheek. And I said “Of course, but why?”, because her reaction didn't seem very normal to me. And she said “It's because you saved my life”.
She took the train to jump from a bridge in the middle between Matanzas and Havana city, to commit suicide. And she didn't, because of the conversation we had. She said, that it gave her a sense of life again.
I was a teenager, around 17, I think. I never saw that girl again, but for me, it was a very intense experience. In a lot of situations, I am reminded of this situation – because in the end, it was very dramatic.
Our talk continues about art, our work as artists.
We are in something, that we call art. We are producing something. And from time to time, you really have to ask yourself, if the things that you are doing are essential or not. Some years ago, I wrote a text that was very important for me, because it included questions that are still important to me. It started with the question, why we choose to do things that maybe aren't important to other people, that maybe other people don't even think about. Also, about all the sacrifices that you have to make, because the condition of creation is not really looking for profit. It is looking for another level of satisfaction, which is individual and collective and social, too – but why would you do something, that is not really materialistic? I think in the end, we are providing something that is spiritual. Symbolically, we increase the domain of language – this again connects to your synapses and helps to create a new way of creation.
The work of a doctor, for example, is very essential. Are people that deal with life and death. And we are in this comfortable position not to directly dealing with humans, but with the topics. I realized, that I am always working to reinforce the sense of life. I understand that as the beauty of creation, which can also provide something for a doctor, for medicine, to think in other levels than saving human beings in the more drastic, concrete sense of life.
I am not quite sure if that is something, that people who are producing art are questioning. What is our role, not socially speaking, but in the world? Which kind of values are we producing? What is the relevance of our productions?
The question, why we are doing art, is a matter of ethics with ourselves. If you choose to create something – we call it art, but I prefer to call it creation – you have to be aware of which are your main problems as a human being, as an individual. If you are aware of this, if you are conscious about your very own problematic and contradictions, which are your main issues.
In my case, it is the possibility of freedom in all the levels.
If we don't find art as a kind of “exorcism” to eject our problems and to share it with other people – because maybe other people are facing a similar situation – This is, how we are connecting symbolically and metaphorically in art – you are not doing anything.
This is what I always tell artists, no matter of their age “This is beautiful, this is nice – but what are you pursuing with this? How are you? What are your problems?” Because these problems are your main path. It is a matter of self-consciousness. Then, you can be more happy - And then you will find a new problem, and so you are trespassing different levels. This is how development happens. And you can share that with other people. Otherwise, you are like “out of compass” in the world.
In my case, I would take my computer and my devices and I could go anywhere. The problem is, if the places I go to have electricity or not (Frency laughs). Because it is an extension of everything that I have in my mind. For example, 2012, I was living in the old town of Bonn in a very tiny space with an oven. I was always too lazy to light a fire, so I was sitting in the cold, because it was winter – but I was happy, because I created, like a nerd, my set with the computer. With the computer, I can basically do what I want (I don't mind if there is internet, you rarely have it in Cuba). The computer is an extension of our brain, somehow. When I find the possibility to combine this material element, that goes with me everywhere, with the physical work that follows later, like doing an exhibition, it doesn't matter where I am. With it, I can keep my memories and if there is internet, I can connect with my family in the distance.
The computer is the first thing that I always take with me. When I was a teenager, when computers didn't exist, I would take my sound equipment and my cassettes.
Frency's question: Which is the main issue, that moves you at the moment?
David Osthoff is an artist and world citizen. David and I get to know each other in Cuba, as participants of the senseLAB program at the Instituto Superior de Arte in Havana. David has studied in Spain and Vienna and will spend the next six months working in Cuba.
Happiness... For me, happiness starts with waking up in the morning and looking up to the ceiling of your room, slowly starting to think, maybe still feeling the dreams you just had... I guess, you should just realize where you are and what you have and how much luck you actually have to be as healthy as you are and to have those conditions around you, to be able to leave in peace. There are always things you can complain about it, but I always try to re-focus on this knowledge, that I am experiencing this abundance, that I am healthy and able to be where I want to be.
For me, happiness comes with gratitude. Of course, sometimes you put things in doubt, but then you mostly realize that it is depending on such things as the weather. I realized when being in Europe, that this lack of sun, when you have a lot of grey and rainy days, really make me unhappy. Maybe I feel it more, because I grew up in South America.
Of course, happiness is influenced or created by the conditions, the people around me, the field in which I move. And of course, by love. Love is a core issue. Love, not only with someone, but the love of life, I think. Loving and being thankful makes me happy.
That's a really interesting question, because in German we have the word “Heimat”... In English it would be “homeland”, but the meaning is not the same. My parents moved to Ecuador when I was twelve and home, homeland, became something completely different. I think, I lost the connection to the place that is actually my home. But then, a couple of years ago, I started to think a lot about it, and suddenly home became the place where you are in this moment. And where you feel well. Of course, I have my living basis in Vienna, but now I am here in Cuba... and my home is here now. After one month of staying here I already feel home.
Of course, home is related to the things that happen around you, people you know, things you do, how you actually feel in the space that you are in. But I think I learned to feel at home without needing much things. There is a saying in Spanish, meaning you should go with just few luggage, not to carry so much with you. And some people are really collectors, who like to have a home full of stuff, but I decided to leave that behind.
Home is, I think, inside. But home has also this dimension of protection, somewhere you feel safe. And of course, when you go to a place where you don't know anyone, where you are the new foreigner, you feel in a way exposed to the world, to the heaviness of reality. And it is a challenge to be home then, also in situations where not everything is nice.
For me, the thing that mostly shaped my life was that my parents took me from that really safe home in the south of Germany, in the Black Forest, with a beautiful house and a nearly idealistic surrounding – and brought us to a place, which was then completely chaotic. The whole situation in Ecuador in that time was really rough. There was this craziness there, and we would just.. fall in place. We had no idea how to communicate, because we didn't knew the language, people looked at us of course as strangers. Getting used to live in a place like this and to change the whole perspective of what reality is – being a child - shapes you forever. It not only brings you a reality close that there is poverty in the world, aggression, criminality, also danger. Things we never had experienced before. I think it is like waking up, it is just opening your horizon and it will never ever be the same again. All the people we left behind were so much doubting about the decision, but they also realized that we had done this step that they will never do. It opened for me the world, and I am very grateful for that.I hope that maybe my sons, or let's say my grandsons, can have this change with me and will be able to think from that point of view. I think, this experience also changed my perception of home.
I also worked as a photographer in crisis areas. One of them was in Colombia, in an area where guerilla and all that things were happening. There, I saw and experienced things which show the worst and craziest things that humans are capable of. And this caused me a big pain, seeing how humans can create the worst and at the same time the most beautiful things. Living in this scissor-like contrast made me doubt a lot, I needed to start again to see the beauty in the world. That also was a deep cut.
I moved around a lot, I was living five years in Spain. When I was 18, still a child, I had no idea what to do. Actually I just came out of school with no orientation at all what I wanted to do, maybe becoming a chef, maybe doing art... It was my mother's proposal that I would join my sister when she went to Spain to study there for half a year, because she needed someone who was 18 to be with here.
The cooking schools were all full, so I just started with art – I started with print art and later stepped into photography, graphic design. Lastly, I stayed five years on this island. It was a rough cut for me – being in I in Spain, thousands of kilometres away from my mother, who stayed in Ecuador. The first days and months were a huge challenge for me. Of course, I fell in love and I had a long relationship there and it also helped me to settle. I changed so rapidly, that when I came back to Ecuador after one year, people wouldn't recognize me. I really became from a boy to a man in that time.
Basically, my mother made this decision for me. And it is a tough decision to send you children away, though you know that they will be safe. Knowing, that they will change. It is similar to the situation when we arrived in Ecuador, because we were so unhappy the first months, we really wanted to go back. And my mother said, yes, maybe in half a year we go back – But still, having your children unhappy and deciding to stay and wait, knowing, that this change will happen in us – because then we found friends, we learned the language and everything was great – I think these character of my mother in this case, but of my parents in general, by making those difficult decisions lead to big changes in my life.
I think, I am completely living my dream. I am so, so lucky to say that, because I am lucky to do what I love to do, art, and to travel. Merging this two things in work – and work not being something that you do for someone else, but something you do for yourself – being free to do this and to live from it by seeing the world. Due to the languages I know and the culture that I feel close to, I can get deep into things, but I am also able to look from my perspective as an artist, as an observer.
It has been my dream for a long time not only to stay in a place and to work there, but to look at the world and to get deep into the culture, the differences, all the layers and colours, not just to scratch the surface. So I feel really happy to be able to stay here in Cuba for so long, to work and to travel... though my relationship makes me a bit challenge, but she will be here soon (David smiles).
David's question: If you would go to a foreign country and you could only take three things with you – which ones would you chose?
Oliver, called Oli, is a colleague of mine at the Alanus University of Arts and Social Science. He is also studying art-pedagogy-therapy, expressing himself as a singer and songwriter and visual artist in the field of realism and classical graffiti.
What immediately comes to my mind is music – because I can totally dive into it. Because it is the musical backdrop for all those little things, that happen everyday.
It allows me to dive into the depth of those little things, even when it's just thoughts or things that I discover outside. I love walking through nature and to get inspired by it. I often carry my guitar with me or at least something to write. For me it is incredibly fulfilling, when encounters happen – be it with an animal or a human, or when I discover of a „hidden world” somewhere in nature, where you can completely dive in to – and music allows me to illustrate that. And for sure, listening to music opens new perspectives and dimensions, too.
What else makes me happy... Very often, when I feel, that I can give something to people, in every way, be it by simply listening, small favours or surprises. I am generally one from the empathetic side of life. When my environment is happy, I am usually happy, too, that is very important to me. It can be exhausting sometimes, if you always want to balance everything. I am not that good at taking my time and space to recover and to respect my own needs. It makes me happy to see others happy, but it is a task to recognize my own limit, when I have to set borders in order to maintain my happiness or well-being.
That's really a difficult question, because when you're happy, you actually don't think about it, you are just experiencing the moment. Often, it's the joy of the unexpected, that brings happiness, wonder, that gives you an experience beyond the everyday life.
In general, I love new encounters.
That's interesting, because I worked a lot on that question during the last semester... Like where I can actually locate this feeling of home, in the world and in my body. I instantly came up with smells of my childhood: For instance, we had a lilac bush growing in front of our house. And I love lilac, every time when I smell it, it gives me an incredible feeling of home like no other smell. When I worked on this topic, I used to place a flowering branch over my working place, to get in this state of feeling...
Also, of course... People. Especially my mother, my sister and my niece resemble home to me. In my family, they have always been my source of support. No matter what happens, these people see my very core, no matter how I might change. And this matters. When my niece was born, I got an even more intense connection to my sister. I spend a lot of time with the baby, before I moved to Alfter... And it is incredibly to feel that love, that welcomes me whenever I come back. Feeling this ongoing connection to people is simply beautiful.
My friends mean the world to me. There is this handful of friends where you know for sure, that they will be at your side for your entire life. I know my best friend for nearly twenty years and we're still doing a lot of things together. It was a big step for me to move, to look back from the distance and to experience, what this distance changes. One part of my new living place is, that I am constantly getting in touch with new people, which is great; the other part is, that I am missing the feeling of complete familiarity, when communication becomes unnecessary. The feeling of “I don't even have to say something”.
In general, I am a person who loves the silence. When you get to know people, you are talking very much, you exchange, you get to know each other. But within that kind of clear familiarity at home, you just share a glance and everything is clear. Like this great moment when my friend and I both fell asleep while watching a movie, because the situation is so entirely relaxed and familiar. We also do a lot of music together, and even there, communication is incredibly intensive.
But there is this decisive point... You need travelling, to become aware of this feeling of home. When the counterpart is missing, the feeling of home becomes rather self-evident. Home to me is not necessarily linked to material things, I don't need much, but I enjoy having my own space. I believe, that it's important to have a space where you can retreat.
At first, as it is the case with many people, my parental home.
I find it really interesting, but I am the only one in my family, who does somehow artistic things, no matter if through music or painting. I often asked myself why this is the case. I have three older sisters and I am the youngest child, my parents divorced at some point. I was mostly raised by my mother, who is very empathetic, very sensitive. She has a giant heart, but words aren't her favourite way of expression. Maybe I got a good portion of that from her and have therefore searched for other ways to express myself, to communicate and to be understood since I was a child. From a very young age, I started painting – and I basically never stopped. It was very important to me to discover, that there is this source of expression that doesn't need words, but which is so intensive.
Then, it was very formative for me when I started to make music. I was already 18 then, but this really shaped me. It was the beginning of a period of reflection in my life. From the very beginning, I tried to write own songs, even if I didn't knew anything about how to play music. I just grabbed my guitar and tried to find a form of expression. That mixture of an inner reflection and the longing for a corresponding expression did incredibly moved me – and still does. I explored new ways of thinking then, I encountered a different kind of people, who really inspired me. It was the first time that I felt like being completely seen, because we had a similar way of thinking. All these incidents finally brought me here.
… It's hard to put in words, but I think most of us have experienced, that the first great love is something really important. For sure, it was in my case. We separated one year ago, we had been together for five years then. She is – in contrary to me – a very rational mind. It was a shaping experience in how total otherness can complement other. Being really different, but treasuring and loving the differentness of the other.
I mentioned before, that I enjoy being amongst like-minded people, when communication happens naturally and you feel completely understood. That relationship, that encounter was so special to me, because this 'understanding' happened on another level. I experienced an incredibly intense complement and therefore support and I am very thankful for that.
What also shaped me, is the encounter with my best friend, in the first grade at school. With him, I started to make music. He is a very energetic, impulsive guy, who sometimes likes to tumble into things head over heels. That doesn't always end in positive results, but the positive outcomes changed my life for sure. Because it were things, that I would have never managed to do by myself. And of course i can say, also mistakes shaped my life in a very hard but intensely learning way.
Feeling understood allows you to open up to the world. Because through the eyes of the other, you can get an idea about what role you may play in the world – what your own qualities are and where you can use them... Therefore, you need other people and therefore I love people! I am incredibly grateful for that mirror. Maybe, because of that it makes me happy to make other people happy; because I can give something back that way.
I think I am doing pretty good here... Because I was looking for this artistic expression from a very young age, and I am really happy to made my way to this university of Arts! And what else.. fireman? (He laughs).
A big dream, that still exists and that I really want to fulfill… I would love to encounter a whale. In my imagination, that would be incredible. I would probably burst in tears and simply experience... that feeling of how incredibly small I am. I don't know why this matters that much to me, but this is really a dream of mine. I would just jump in the water and hope, that I can join in swimming for a while. I would love to fulfil that dream.
Oli's question: Are you living your dream at the moment? And if not, what keeps you from doing it?
Priska Baumann is a Sheroe, writer, actress, walking her talk. I was following her Blog for quite a while, but shortly before Christmas I couldn't resist anymore and just answered one of her beautiful newsletters. It felt like our meeting was meant to be: We easily found a date and had a magical afternoon full of lightness and laughter in Priskas chosen part-time hometown Hoorn in the Netherlands, right at the Ijsselmeer.
Priska is supporting women as a coach and with her business “SoulFreedom” to find their inner Freedom and outer voice.
What makes me happy... Oh my god, good question! First, I have to say that I learned, that happiness is a choice. A really conscious choice that you have to make in order to be happy. Because there was a time in my life, when I didn't chose to be happy; I chose for adventure, for all other sort of things, but I always forgot about happiness, somehow. Since then, I learned that I actually want to be happy and that I deserve to be happy, and everything changed. I was chasing happiness like.. a horse that chases the carrot, but I never chose to be happy, and that's why I wasn't.
Happiness is about focus, I think. When I changed my focus, I found out that I can actually be happy with everything that is in my life, I just see the beauty in everything. Right now, when we're sitting here, I see this beautiful lake in front of us, the sun, the clouds, you guys, my dog, and just this makes me super happy! To know that I have a home, that I have a partner who loves me, that I can do what I love... that I can just be present in the moment. I think, happiness is always happening in the present moment.
I can really chose to be happy in every moment, just by shifting the focus. Then, I am able to just be happy about me being in this life and about everything that is around me. I really got to learn that – and we all got it, everybody has it, we just need to decide for it.
This is actually the topic of my life, home. Because I was always looking for a home, I was searching for it in all kind of places in the outside. Now, I can say that I have three kinds of home. There is the home in a spiritual way, the connection to a god, source, life or love, however you want to call it. But I also call myself home. I feel home in myself. I learned this when I moved and left my old life behind me; I just realised, that I have everything with me! This is a really big thing for me, because I was constantly looking for this kind of home in the outside world, got disappointed, got hurt, and there was so much drama of not belonging anywhere... and now I found, Oh! I just belong to myself! How cool is that, and I am free! I am free and I can create some sacred space for myself wherever I am. This is also what SoulFreedom means to me, what my business is called. This is what it means to me, to find home in yourself and the strength in yourself, so that you are free to do what ever you want to.
The third kind of home is the physical one, that I have as well ...Not only physical, but rather emotional. The emotional home with my love, where I feel totally at home. There, I can just be who I am and express myself. There, I have the perfect mirror, energies are flowing, this is where I feel like... just celebrating this human being that I am at the moment and feeling at home with somebody else. This is very beautiful. Accompanied with his kids and my dog, who make me feel at home as well. With him, I found home in a physical form.
What shaped my life. Oh wow, this is big! I think, all my crises shaped my life. That's why I say, where the biggest pain is, where you stand in the fire and break through it, that's where you find the biggest treasures in life. These crises brought me awareness that there is more in life than just the obvious.
At one point, I was just fed up with falling down and getting hurt and being always the victim of stuff. When I really was at my lowest, I decided to go for my life and to find the holy grail on my own. I really think it's the contrast in life that shaped me. The dark, that makes the light visible, somehow. When I was in the darkest dark, I just knew that there has to be something else as well – and I wanted THAT, I wanted to find out about it and where to find it. I call it my “kitchen-floor-moment”, because I was literally lying on the kitchen floor, praying for a sign or something, because I just needed help. And all of a sudden, peace flooded through me and I knew: Okay. I can do it. For the first time in my life, I knew that I am responsible for my life and that I can change it. It wasn't always a nice stroll, it has been an Up and Down, but it is this journey, that brought me here. I believe, when you are ready to walk your path, as I call it, the path of the Sheroe, then all the right persons and situations will come into your life - And you will see that everything is actually a gift. When you realize, that even the shitty experiences are being brought to you as somehow strangely wrapped gift, you can't stop unwrapping gifts, right? Because you know, that everything serves YOU in some kind of way. It just changes the focus again and you don't drown in the misery anymore, it allows you to see that there is something powerful behind it – and you know, that when you break through that, you will be so much stronger and you'll learn so much for yourself.
This shaped my life.
Of course, all the people in my life did shape me, all the teachers I had, the wanted teachers and the unwanted teachers (...who can really be a pain in the ass!); but these were actually the best teachers to show me who I am and what I want, and what I don't want anymore.
But I think the core are really the crises and the realization, that crises are opportunities. That they are not against you, but always for you, that everything is for me. Realizing, that this life is standing behind me and that I don't have to fight against it, but that I have to fight for something. It's not even a fight, it's just about accepting and flowing, discovering what's there for me. Sometimes, it is super easy and sometimes it's a real struggle, and both is totally okay, because we are human, right?
The first for me is quite easy to answer: A good relationship is, when I can completely be myself. And when I see that the other person is also opening up to me and we can just be real. When there is a connection and honesty and some kind of nurturing, also. When our relationship nurtures me, when I feel that I can give and that I can receive, like a constant flow. It doesn't mean that it has to be always easy, but it has to have this kind of energetic flowing. I also feel that I have a need for growth, a need to expand, to become more and to give more. This is where I feel most alive in my life, with all kind of people, with clients, in my love relationship... This is what life's about and it can be with who ever we met. Connection, authenticity and growth.
And how can you transfer these principles to society... I think we just need real people. Real people, who are not afraid to stand up for themselves and for their truth. Because we are living in such an artificial world at the moment. Like in advertisement, you are constantly taught that you are not enough; everything is being photoshopped, everything is perfect, you only see those perfectly happy faces and families. And this makes so many people feel miserable, because they feel that they can never live up to this. I think, if we would dare to be more real and just be ourselves – simple, actually – and really tear down all these walls we built up – I think there could happen so much more connection. And I believe this would really influence not only us, but also our children and the whole wide world. I think, if we would be more real, we would also be more connected to ourselves; where it all starts, it all starts with the relationship to yourself – and when I can change the relationship to myself, I can also show up in the world as who I am. I think, there would also be much more compassion. I think that compassion is some kind of suffocated under all this artificial stuff, because we are very much defining our reality by it, but we don't feel anymore, we somehow lost the connections to our feelings. If there would be more compassion, society would definitely change.
Priska's question: Do you remember your childhood dreams and how could you transport them to nowadays life?
Johannes Euler, called Hannes, is living in the same communal house project as Markus and Christiane, through whom I got to know him. He is currently writing his PhD-thesis about Commoning in the field of water management, and is doing an apprenticeship as conflict moderator and mediator. He holds a Bachelor in Economics and Business Economics and a Master in Politics, Economics and Philosophy.
What makes me happy? Being with people makes me happy. Being positively connected to people, being cared for and caring for others. I feel happy if that “connectedness” is not a forced one, when I am not obliged to connect in that way, but when it is what you actually want to do. And if all those people involved within those connections are also trying to feel connected to themselves, trying to be close to their own needs and to other people's needs at the same time. This is one way I could describe happiness.
Another aspect is when I do something, when I do something I find nice and good, important, and useful. I am happy when I am outside, when the sun is shining, when I am hiking in the mountains with some good friends. When I have time to connect with nature and be in nature, connect to my body. Good food and bonfires, make me happy, too.
Now, this relates to the first point again; I am happy when I feel a good amount of freedom within the limitations I face and the connections I live in. If that doesn't restrain me, but if it actually allows me to unfold and develop myself, to do what I love. It is a bit like contact improvisation; I just started to do that again: When other people are not a restraint for me, but a possibility to grow and have great experiences together.
Home has something to do with me knowing, what is going on. Not that I know everything that is happening, but that I am familiar with the place. For example, when I come back to my hometown, I start feeling at home because I know the streets, the culture. Or when I come home here to this house, I know the people, I know where to find the orange juice... When you are somewhere and you have to ask for every single thing - that doesn't feel quite at home. That's one point.
The second point is being accepted. Being seen by other people as belonging to their place. For example, I am from Bremen and I did study abroad for quite some time, but for my Master I went back to Hamburg, and Hamburg and Bremen are close and fairly similar in terms of culture. When I came back, I felt like: Yes, people are speaking the language I speak, people have this kind of humour, I was not seen as a stranger and I didn't see myself as a stranger. The third dimension is a sense of security, that comes with it... sort of where I have a place.
But also, when I am travelling and leave my backpack somewhere and go out to see the city, when talking to someone, I will say “And now I need to go home”, so home in this case is just where I sleep, home is, where my stuff is.It's a bit like home is a place to which I can retreat, from time to time.
What really makes me feel at home though, is an invitation from people who genuinely enjoy my company. I suppose this strongly relates to what I previously mentioned, about belonging. Being part of something and feeling natural in a social environment and not being constantly questioned or challenged in this. Home is also the place where I can create something. Create space, create conversation, maybe also do something with the house, the place itself. Where I can express myself.
When I am abroad... I do feel strange, not in the sense of weird, but in the sense of being a stranger. Especially when I have the feeling of other people perceiving me as a stranger and if I don't speak the language well enough to integrate. I think, that are two very important aspects to me. I lived in Brazil for one year when I was 17, and I really, really felt at home there. After a while, of course. I needed to get used to it first. But after some time I was good with the language, I felt incredibly accepted, I had friends, that all made me feel at home. Home is a place where I can relax. It is a bit of a shelter. As soon as I am sheltered, it is possible to feel at home. It is something cosy, something protected. I perceive the outside world as being a very grim place at times, and home is a bit of a protection from that.
Another very important aspect; I feel more at home in any place, if I feel home within myself, also. I have a very strong sense of being “adjusted” or in the centre of myself. If it is a place where I can get towards that stage of “inner wholeness”, it makes it much easier to feel at home in that space. But also, if I am not feeling at home within myself, the most cosy place won't make me feel at home and I will feel very strange. And I do – I had that situation already, I was in a really nice place with so lovely people, but I just couldn't deal with it, it was too much, because I didn't like myself at that moment, I wasn’t feeling at home within myself.
The first thing, I already mentioned it, was my stay in Brazil. Before that, at least in retrospect, I see myself as a quite shy person, insecure a lot of times. I neither had a strong feeling for myself nor a general idea about life. Then, I made a student exchange and went to Brazil for one year. I was so lucky of having a really nice family and a very intense relationship with my host brother. I was having good friends, I was actually going out and partying quite a lot, I was really digging into the whole culture... the last months, it really felt like if a part of me had turned into a Brazilian. I still have strong connections with Brazil, at least in my mind and heart. When I came back, I came back as a different person. I was much more outgoing, self-confident and much more knowing, what I wanted to do. Much more happy, in a way. More spontaneous and grounded. Of course, to some degree Islipped back into my old role, but I managed to keep quite a lot of that. And that changed me for the better, I would say.
The second thing is another stay abroad. When I was 21, I moved to Togo, in West Africa, for one year for my Civil Service. I was there with Plan International, a children aid organisation and I stayed in a small village at the main road, the one main road going from the North to the South. I was working in a youth centre, I was giving courses to kids after school. We would plant trees, do advertisement at the radio station, I was giving art lessons and German courses a bit, trying to teach kids how to play guitar, those kind of things. It was quite nice, but my boss was really trying to keep me down or at least not allowing me to experiment as much as I wanted to. Also, I was always regarded as stranger and I really didn't get that deep into relationships and culture.
I was living by myself and I was alone quite a lot, so it was an experience of loneliness. It was also an experience of being and feeling strange, feeling different. Which I was; 90% of people living in the village never heard of the internet, which was very common to me; so there were just very, very different experiences, and it was hard to find ways to connect. I was never really at eye level with anyone, because either I was the young one, and older people in Togo really have the authority over younger people, so my voice didn't really count that much. Or I was the white one, so my voice counted more in a very weird way. Which both felt strange and I couldn't do much about it, though I tried.
So it was an experience of actually study to feel okay with myself, accepting myself, finding that inner spot of where I feel home, actually developing an inner feeling for that spot. And also feeling when it's not there. That made me stronger in many aspects. It was a very rich experience, a very exciting and also very difficult one, and it was changing me in quite a substantial way. Rooting myself within myself. It was painful, but it was good. In the end, I profited a lot from this way of feeling my intuition, trusting it, connecting to my feelings and my needs. Accepting myself as I am, because that was something I did not do before that much. The Brazil experience was more like overplaying it a little bit, which felt really good and I got rid of a lot of insecurities. It was that sort of outside-happiness. But in Togo I found some roots within myself. That were two very personal experiences which changed my inner being quite a lot. In very different ways, but I think they complement each other quite well.
Number three was in 2011/2012, when I just moved to Hamburg and started finding out about the idea of the Commons, which is still with me and within my life, even more the older I grow. It all started with me being in a social movement, and some of my friends asking me “You're an economist, right? What is this thing? I just read a book, can you explain it to me?” and I was like “What? Never really heard of that!”. But it caught my interest and so I got that book and read it. And actually it really got me because there were some thoughts in the book, that I already had myself (specifically, in Togo, when I had a lot of time..). So I found that I did already connect to that thoughts before and I felt that I wanted to dig deeper. I started to write a paper in Uni about the Commons as a democratic model for the future and shortly afterwards, I met Silke Helfrich, who is a big proponent of the Commons in the German speaking world. I was approaching her after a lecture she gave, and she invited me to a Summer school that was about to take place shortly after. And that summer school changed a lot –We were about 20 people in some place in Thuringia, we had beautiful time with great weather and atmosphere. Basically, we spent one week talking about this issue – I was sleeping four hours per night, I was so energized! I was not tired at all, not even afterwards. It really struck me. I went there in a sceptical way, searching the needle in the haystack, the needle that would make the whole balloon burst; but I couldn't find it, I couldn't find it until today, though I was really looking for it.
I became more and more interested; I really decided to go for it, because it changed something for me. It gave me a perspective where things could go, how a different world could look like. And how already today there are already good things happening, like seeds, which aren't fully developed yet. But they could be so much more. Before, I was looking at today's society and I could only say, that they are things that are really going wrong. The whole idea of the Commons provided me with an ordering scheme, where I could start making sense out of what I see. I was studying before and I was interested in different theories, but nothing really got to me like that. For me, it is an intellectual tool or concept/theory, that allows me to see differently. It is like glasses you put on. That's exactly how I feel; once you put these glasses on, you see the world differently, it does something to me. It's not just an intellectual thing to me, but something I feel, sense in many ways. You can only learn, when you experience it, I believe. And that was what we did during that summer school. From then on, I started digging deeper, I put those glasses on and also started helping develop those glasses in contributing to further thoughts and working on that. A lot of my professional work is going into that direction and a lot of my personal aiming and striving, activities, too. One of the reasons that I live here in this house is because I've seen many of these aspects of these principles being a part of this and I feel, that it is doing me good; giving me both, this feeling of home and this feeling of freedom – being connected to people in a very good way and being able to develop myself. Freedom in relatedness. It is a vision and it is also a compass for me in life.
Spontaneously – I had two people coming to my mind, very spontaneously, I didn't think about this too much. I go for Karl Marx and Mahatma Gandhi. And I would talk about how a better society would look like, and how we could get there of course. I am convinced that those two people would have very interesting things to share, because they come from very different cultures, and because they have a very distinct thinking. I like some of Marx's stuff, and I dislike some other things. I don't think, for example, that you need a “quick and dirty” revolution of a specific group of people who then seize power and change everything from there - and so the way of Gandhi's peaceful revolution, the civil as a medium and the non-violent actions and things are very, very interesting. To get those people together and exchange visions, before the background of today's development and technologies and so on and so forth -That would be really interesting!
Hannes' question: How does a good connection/relationship to one person look like to you? What are the underlying principles? And how would you translate THAT to a society? How would that form of society manifest?
Four years ago, I visited the open day at the Alanus Hochschule, strolling through the ateliers. A series of work caught my attention and I found myself being stoked by realistic paintings of old trees, which I found out years later were painted by Michael. (I remember my boyfriend and me wondering for minutes, whether they were photos or paintings).
Michael Weiss is in his last year of the Master of Fine Arts and art pedagogy and held exhibitions throughout Germany and at the New York Academy of Art.
A lot of things make me happy. Taking a walk in the forest, painting of course, my books – I love books, and I love being surrounded by books – spending time with people I cherish. Knowledge makes me happy, hearing and watching smart people talk. I love watching scientific discussions, especially about things like the universe or astrophysics, stuff I have no idea about. I like feeling stupid at that moment, just knowing that there is so much more. Receiving knowledge, but also forms of passing knowledge on, brings me a lot of joy - I don't know if it's due to my studies or even before that, but I tend to be a teacher in a lot of moments in my life. I have the tendency to lecture people, even when they didn't ask for it (Michael laughs).I know that a lot of people might get a bit angry when I do that because they feel I would teach them in a superior manner, but actually, I just love to say “by the way, fun fact! ...”, to contribute something that is hopefully new and interesting.
This is going to sound pathetic, but I kind of carry my home with me, at all times. Due to the fact that I am an army child, I had to move every three years to a new place or even a new country. I never really had a home; a place that stayed the same, I was always in transition. The only stable things I knew where my parents and myself. Also, being an only child, I had to deal a lot with myself. For instance when I had trouble with my emotions or with the fact of having these sudden transitions, I always had to deal with my own thoughts. I didn't have someone that helped me with that. So I sort of learned that I had to create home within myself. Now I have the feeling that I could make any place my home as long as I have a roof; I can even feel at home in the studio, any place actually. So home isn't really a place, but … I don't know, it is in me.
I thought a lot about my roots. A lot of people, when they're done with school, they have the tendency to leave the nest and travel the world. And I love travelling, but I didn’t have the need to move to any new places, to find a new home. I had, and have the need to set roots, to really stay somewhere. After my grandfather died, I did a lot of research into our family tree and I noticed that that gave me a strong feeling of comfort, of roots, a feeling of belonging in some place and time. Just knowing that this is where I come from, these are my roots and they are fixed to a certain geographic point, gave me this inner feeling of being rooted to this point, even though I've never been there or even met most of those relatives. So maybe home is fixed to a place, but to a place I've never been to.
Obviously, again the fact of me being an army child, of having to deal with that, of having to move and lose your friends every three years, not really staying in contact with them – that of course changed the way of how I acted, how I perceived people. Because I noticed how I learned to very quickly gain new friends, to be very extroverted and open, but I also noticed that I wouldn't let people very close to me, because I knew that we were going to be separated at some part and that I didn't want to have that feeling of loss. I didn't let people very close to me, to protect myself. This was probably a bit weird for other people, who wanted to come closer to me, who wanted to have a stronger friendship. Especially, because I seemed very open, but just shut at some point. What I also noticed about myself was that I always felt like a puzzle piece that had been placed in the wrong puzzle. Because every time I came into this already existing constellation, usually the students in the classroom all knew each other since kindergarten, and I was always the new person. It was like every person in that class already had his or her niche, an ecological niche, a role in this whole tiny micro-organisation; and I didn't. So I always felt misplaced somehow and had to adjust to that. I realized how I became somewhat fluid; I would try to adapt, I wouldn't be myself, but I would try to see where there is a hole where I could fit in and I’d change my personality due to that.
I think, that was basically my survival instinct that I had as a child; you either adapt or you're always left out. It wasn't until I reached the age of 14/15 that I started to realize that I was doing this and that my dearest friends, that I already now had let closer to me because I knew I was going to stay here for a longer period of time, actually liked the sides of me that weren't adapted, that really came from me. That really gave me the reassurance to be myself. Especially, when I started studying here, and I was in this place where I could start new again, I could really embrace myself and show “This is who I am, I don't have to adapt anymore”. Those were very shaping things in my life. There are a lot of little important moments, of course, that shaped my life, but that's probably the biggest one. It really shaped my personality, my character, my way of thinking about the world. I noticed for instance, that in comparison to other students at my age, I had a much broader horizon, just because I've been to other places before. I had less borders in my head, basically. When I moved to Leipzig or later Bonn, I realized that some of these kids had never left their suburbs and that that was their world, while I had already lived on two different continents and in at least three different German states. I learned at a very early age that different people from different places have different ways of living and different ways of perceiving the world. And again, that kind of secluded me; because I was kind of like the released prisoner in Plato's allegory of the cave, who saw some part of the light (though I highly doubt that I’ve seen the whole light yet!), and returns to tell his friends of the crazy things he’s seen, but their only reaction is “Well, you're crazy”.
Another interesting thing I learned about myself, especially when I came to Bonn – as I said, I’ve never stayed at any place this long – in pedagogy, you always learn, how important rhythms are. And I suddenly knew what that meant, because I was in this rhythm of moving every three years, so the minute I stepped into a room I knew “I am not seeing these people again in three years”. Usually, you have between two or three people you try to stay in contact with, but it loses itself, especially when you're younger. And there was no Facebook or anything then; you would write a letter, then maybe just one to their birthday or Christmas, and eventually stop. And I was always aware of the positive side to it, that I can always start new, I can always re-start my life because I can always encounter new people that don't know me yet. And I didn't have that in Bonn! I really noticed that after three years, I got really agitated, shaky, I had this need to escape and just see new faces and start over. I got really sick of seeing the same faces, which was a really, really weird feeling – I felt bad for it, like something was wrong with me, because these were great people, so why am I bored of them? How utterly insulting of me! I actually had to reflect upon what this feeling was and I recognized this rhythm that had shaped my entire life since then. What I did to cope with that was just to rearrange some of my furniture in my room, to create the illusion that I sort of moved. It helped a little bit. But eventually, I lost this rhythm. That was a moment in my life where I didn't necessarily want to reflect on that, but it just sort of knocked on the door.
As an only child, you spend a lot of time with your own thoughts; I guess that's how you start to reflect. I don't know if it comes naturally, but if I had not created that ability, I don't know how I would have handled those life situations, that encountered me. My parents were always there for me of course; I wasn't left alone. My father was usually working, but my mother decided to become a stay-at-home-mom. She chose to do that just because she knew that this was the only stability they could give me. And I am very grateful for that. Interestingly enough she had to put up with a lot of critique from other women who pitied her for not being a “modern women” with her own career.
Gabriele's question: Have you ever had an encounter with any kind of art that deeply moved you?
I am a realist painter. But interestingly enough, on major encounter was an abstract painting that had a remarkable effect on me. In school, I was always on this mind-set that abstract painting is just stupid, I just couldn't understand it, because I really wanted to learn techniques, I wanted to really know how to draw, how to capture nature as realistically as possible. I couldn't understand why people would just throw paint around, that always seemed weird to me. I really had an inner opposition against it. After my Abitur, my parents and I went to New York again for a visit and of course we went to the Metropolitan. The section for modern art at that time was like this: You came up a staircase, like walking up a temple, and the very first picture you saw was this huge, giant Pollock, “autumn rhythm”. And it just hit me, violently. It really hit me! It came over me and I was not prepared, I couldn't make this shell of “this is stupid, I don't like this”. It was just this huge thing I was surrounded by and I couldn't see anything else. And I suddenly realised the power of seeing an original instead of tiny reproductions and thought: “Oh yeah.. I kind of get what everyone was talking about”. So interestingly enough, even though I cherish realistic painting and especially the art of the 19th century, it was an abstract, modern painting that probably… maybe not touched me the most, not like in an emotional way, but that really attacked me. I can't even find precise words for it. All in all, I am not a fan of Pollock... (Michael laughs)
Michael's question: Imagine, you could have a dinner party and you could invite two people from history (Any two people that have ever existed, throughout time and space).
Who would you chose, why, and what would you want to talk about?
Dr. Prof. Gabriele Oberreuter holds a professorship for art history at the Alanus University of Arts and Social Science. As her student, I was amazed by the enthusiam Mrs. Obereuter would talk about all forms of art and the many exceptional stories she would tell us about the background o the artworks. She is also engaged in organizing interdisciplinary symposia, connecting the theoretical and practical approaches in art.
What makes me happy? That's quite a complex question. What first springs to mind, is that both art and my profession make me happy. I have been able to keep or maintain a childlike enthusiasm, which allows me to acutely observe and impartially be drawn to things, particularly within the realms of art. In these instances, I am able to disregard everything I have learnt about the observation and the meaning of art, and allow a different quality of experience to take precedence. I carry this enthusiasm, which allows me the pure joy of the rediscovery of things, as if I were experiencing them for the very first time, both through my private life as well as my profession. Every lecture I give, encourages me to reengage with a given topic in a new and different way. I am currently revising the period Antiquity for the umpteenth time, for example. Fortunately I was able to photograph some interesting things during my last holiday in Rome, which I hope to include in my next lecture. My conscience will not allow me to teach the same lecture twice. In this way, every lecture I teach holds new information, understanding and focus with regards to my preparation. Each lecture is the first of its kind- like a premiere.
And then, of course, there are one's private pleasures. The opportunity to meet or encounter people who have travelled a similar path through life to me, makes me very happy. Meeting people...in fact, just the process of meeting, in itself, can be very exciting. In recent years, I have found a lot of happiness through meeting friends, or even strangers, within the context of the performing arts. In theatres or at concerts, for example. Although it can, occasionally, be very difficult to persuade oneself to leave the house, in hindsight, it is always a very exciting and enriching experience.
Happiness is surprise. Happiness in itself cannot be engineered, one can only create environments and possible frameworks to support/ encourage happiness as a result. Nature also brings out deep feelings of joy and enthusiasm in me. This enthusiasm for life and wish to share it with others however, is not only present within the context of my profession, but a characteristic of my entire life.
One's understanding of home, both cognitively and emotionally, is very subjective, and thus, very dependent on each individual. I have realised that, unlike most of my friends and acquaintances, I do not consider one specific place as my home, one's place of birth, for example. I do not feel the same need to return to or regard the place I was born, as home. I was born in Rheinland, but grew up in Westfalen. My mother came from Rheinland and my father came from Sauerland. Through my mother's influence, I have always considered Rheinland to be my home. I have now lived here for many years, and realise that I don't feel unconditionally bound here. If the circumstances are right, it is relatively easy from me to feel at home anywhere. For this experience to be successful, I need to feel comfortable within my surroundings and trust the people who I am with. Naturally the environment in which one finds themselves (by which one is surrounded) influences ones feeling of home, however, I believe that it is through people and the atmospheres they create, that home is defined.
I am not a person who wants to live a drastic or very restricted kind of life. I like to surround myself with beautiful things...like flowers...things that make me feel comfortable and content. It's important that there is no tension. For me, feeling at home means that I feel accepted just as I am.
Memories are, of course, also very important and influential. we carry them with us throughout our lives. I have noticed that, from about the age of 40, one seems to begin to reminisce more often, to look back and share past experiences and memories with one another. I have two siblings with whom I have a very close and loving relationship. I think that exchanging memories of the past as well as past experiences, plays a big role in how and where one feels at home. When I visit my sister or my brother, I immediately feel comfortable, even though I don't visit them very often. This is simply because we have many shared memories and past experiences. Even though memories are very subjective things, and we sometimes remember the same situation from very different perspectives or in very different ways...they are an important aspect or contribution to one's feeling of home.
If I look at my life from a bird's eye view, like looking at it from a window of a helicopter, it becomes clear that certain events or facts have shaped my path and choices. I am the oldest child, for example, and I spent the first three years of my life as an only child. Experiences like this are decisive, and frameworks such as these impact the way in which one lives life. It is difficult to reflect upon this by oneself, but I'm certain it was very influential. Ultimately my mother was the determining factor as regards my choice of profession. After travelling a divers set of paths and lots of hard work during my studies, which included long periods of research, she suggested that the pursuit of an academic career would contribute to my overall happiness. I later began to doubt this choice because I am a very lively person who likes to learn and experience life through practice, and I found myself cooped up in Libraries, lost in books. My mother's support was probably very influenced by the fact that she did not have the opportunity to follow an academic career herself. Consequently, however, my path seemed to lead directly in this direction. As a result I spent a lot of my time at different universities and research institutions. What I attribute to my ability to react, is that I did not continue to work in the archives as an 'Archive bee', like so many others with whom I studied. That was never something which really excited me. What became increasingly attractive to me, however, was the challenge and ability to share my understanding of art with others. The fact that I could finally combine my passions within the context of my profession is, for me, a very important aspect, which shows how crucial areas of my life came together to form a new path.
I have done a lot of research around the area of failure. To further penetrate this area of research, I designed and ran a workshop. This allowed me to further reflect and deepen my understanding of this concept. I find it very interesting and exciting that it is precisely those moments, which trip us up, which can be the most constructive, if we don't allow them to permanently hinder our progression. I consider the path which brought me to where I am today, a professor at Alanus University, and shaped who I have become, to be an extraordinary stroke of luck. I had sufficient qualifications to teach at any German University, and one naturally tends to be drawn to the big Universities which hold a lot of influence and status, and at that point Alanus had only just become approved by the state, but out of pure curiosity, I decided to do a sculpture course with a Graduate from Alanus University, and that's how I ended up here.
There is something which has been a kind of constant throughout my life. This is, that I never restrict myself to a concrete aim, instead I allow myself to be affected by things which I come into contact with. Allowing curiosity to lead the way, is something which has hugely shaped my life. It has enabled me to accept and combine my very tangled past experiences to arrive where I am today. Perhaps that's why I fit so well here, at Alanus, because although my path as such has been completely academic, the way in which I followed it was actually quite artistic. I try not to allow myself to be restricted by conventions, and actually didn't do what one would expect from an art historian. I only realised later, that art history is quite a conservative profession. I do feel committed to a certain set of values, but I am not conservative in the sense that I restrict myself to old things...Instead I have a childlike sense of curiosity, and I am always happy when I can give into my curiosity and when I find likeminded people who play along.
I don't live life according to a five year plan of action. I try to live in the moment, and for that one also has to have a certain degree of trust. I realise that my curiosity cannot thrive in a restricted or safe environment. There's that saying: "There is no path, the path emerges as one walks it". I have experienced this in my life.
That's tricky... The greatest day of all...something that would give me a lot of happiness...it fits quite well together with what I mentioned earlier, with regards to the principle of surprise. I'm currently looking at a poster, from the last semester, for a lecture about Beuys. This lecture made me unbelievably happy and left me completely perplexed. It started very slowly, nobody really seemed to show much interest in Beuys, but after the first few sittings came the first presentation. The two speakers had prepared Beuys's "Zeige deine Wunde" so beautifully, and put so much of their own understanding and reflection into the presentation...That really was a great day!! It was quite overwhelming...I felt so lucky and honoured, that the students had taken my impulse and openly challenged themselves...Before that point I was beginning to wonder if I was being at all understood or not...That really was an amazing day in my life!! After that moment the rest of the seminar was a highlight...One sequence of dreamlike sittings after the other. I let go of the controls and just allowed myself to be blown away.
I think it really is that moment of surprise, when something very special happens, that touches ones soul, that transform ordinary days into extraordinary days.
Gabriele's question: Have you ever had an experience, with any form of art, which deeply moved you?
I met Benjamin, called Benj, thanks to my colleague Maja. Benj studied forestry and did an apprenticeship in adventure and experiental education. He is collaborating with schools in terms of environmental education and offers children's camps at organic farms.
What makes me happy. Nice people, being in nature and good food.
First, what has always been very important for me to feel at home, is that I have the feeling of being understood. Also, I had to leave and come back to notice that it's home. Home is more than just my stuff, my things, my flat, it is my whole region, the Black Forest. Where I actually feel, that there are my roots. I grew up there and I never lived more North in Germany than in Freiburg.
The Black Forest is a big part of being at home and feeling at home. And of course, when I am returning from a journey, even when I was just away for a weekend; the return to the place where I have my own stuff, my own created room and my flatmates, that is also a kind of home.
But what's the reason for you to travel then?
Maybe to get over this restlessness. Also, meeting people, coming out, getting new impressions. And of course, to come home again every time and to see, that it's still a good place to be.
To find that state of inner silence, that resembles the feeling of being at home, I do not necessarily need the place of my home though. Mostly, it is combined with nature.
A very big influence is coming from my grandmother, I guess. She was really rudimental, almost self-sufficant, and very connected with nature. I went out with her on walks for so many times. My father had a tree nursery, we had a big ground. There was a vegetable garden, at the house of my grandmother was also one, and at our house was one. I was working or helping in all of the three gardens. When I wasn't in the garden with my grandmother, I was in the forest with her, searching mushrooms or berries, collecting stuff... I spent so much time with her out in nature. When I was a little bit older, around six or seven, I took my dog with us on the walks. And until now, many friends of mine are not okay with me saying “Let's go for a walk”, because these walks can easily last up to six hours...
That's one very life-shaping thing in my life.
The next was the comprehension of what food does with us. It is getting more and more important to me what I am eating and where my food comes from. Also the act or the ritual of making, preparing food becomes more and more like a celebration or a kind of meditation of creating good food. I like this idea in Buddhism, that it takes the same amount of time to prepare tea as it takes to drink tea. When I am cooking for six hours, it is impossible to eat for six hours, but what I mean is to consciously value the worth food holds for us. Finding out how cooking and baking nurture not only us, but also the talents of spontaneity and improvisation, was great for me. It has been a kind of process to find out or to get closer to what I am because of what I eat.
The third thing would be my forestry studies in Freiburg, where I came really close to myself because of really, really great people I had around me. There, I noticed what friendship really means. What it does to me, when I am with friends. Today, seven years after I finished my studies, I know what a big treasure it is to have such great friends.
All three points combined may lead back to the first questions; to what makes me happy.
Blanca's question: What is the most difficult task you ever faced or might face?
That's really, really difficult to answer. There were many difficult things that I struggled with, but mostly – maybe I have not one answer that directly fits the question, because I guess I have a quite good talent to go through every struggle. Every single one strengthened me more. One example could be a situation when I was in Highschool, where I had to live for four weeks with absolutely no money. Means I had around 10€ (DM, in former years) and that was it. I had friends with exactly the same problem, we were five people. And we managed to cook everyday super nice food – without having any money. We didn't go containering, it wasn't common then. But everyday, we had a nice dish, five people eating for one or two DMark a day. But this wasn't the most difficult task.... we just managed it. And that's kind of what happens all the time; that I find a solution. But it's a really nice question. Probably someone else could answer it better...
And concerning the future; I also do not see this as a problem, but maybe to create an own family and to build a strong basis for the children, that they don't have to suffer of hunger or other needs. That might be the biggest task I might face. But it does not worry me.
Benjamin's question: Is there something that would make a day to the greatest day of your life?
I met Blanca during her exchange semester in sculpting at the Alanus Hochschule for Arts and Social Science, being really amazed by her confidence and joyful way of being. Blanca studied art and sculpting in her hometown Barcelona. At the moment, she is doing a certification course for German language in Cologne, where she will start to study art and new media next year.
What makes me happy... When I go to bed and think about the day I had... if I worked and had a fruitful day, then I feel happy. When I come to a point where I agree with the time I spent and the attitude I had facing situations. Work makes me happy, mostly my artistic work. Because that's what I do and what I stand for. That's the pursuit of my life, working with art. But also if I help someone. But what makes me happy - Meeting people, travelling... but I think in the end, it is about feeling as a whole.
It makes me happy when I achieve my goals, but also in general, when I am feeling that I am really in the moment - no matter what my problems may be, what I have to do tomorrow, what I ate yesterday... When I am just enjoying this exact moment. When I am really into something, working with art, I feel some kind of infinity. When all the noise around fades away and I am just in that present moment – that also connects to feeling whole. It can be while … floating in the sea. Being really in the precise moment, doing what you wish to be doing in this exact moment and nothing else, makes me feeling as a hole and feeling happy. When one is complaining about the surrounding, you are no more able to simply enjoy the moment.
Another dimension may be that it makes me happy when Russia and the US decide to not fire anymore. When I feel peaceful – and this is for me about being in the moment – then I am happy. Maybe tomorrow I'd give you an other answer, but I think the core would be the same. Feeling whole.
Home. This is for me also linked to the first question, about when one feels happy. My home was Barcelona, where my family is, but when you grow up, you decide where your new home will be. Home is a place where I feel comfortable, where I feel loved – also by myself, it doesn't necessarily depend on other people. When I feel happy. Sun and Sea are home. Home is when I have the stability to build something.
When I returned to Barcelona after I have lived somewhere else, I started having really weird, strong nightmares in my former house and I realised, that my home wasn't there anymore. My family and the people I love, the ones that unconditionally will love me and support me, are there, but it is not my place anymore. And it is anywhere at the same time, I am just carrying it with me.
Also, when I am visiting close friends of mine in Montserrat, I feel incredibly comfortable and at home there; home to me isn't a physical thing, it is made out of the whole circumstances, the people, the spirit of a place. Since one month I am living in Cologne and sometimes, when I am riding my bike through the streets, I already get a glimpse of things, that aren't unknown anymore. Maybe it is connected with me feeling happy with myself, something about the attitude you have.
Menorca also holds a special meaning for me. Even the memory of how I feel when I am there makes me feel good, so it's the work of melancholy or something like that... Since I was born, I spent my holidays there. Also the memories of things and places make me feel at home, but I am also feeling at home anywhere where I feel comfortable with myself.
The conversations with my father shaped me from a very young age. We are pretty connected, we are pretty similar. He is my “Maestro” in life.
Then, a moment in my life where I was really, really tired about myself about not stepping into something – I was always like “Oh, I would like to do that or that...”, complaining about what I would like to do – I was so tired of this behaviour of mine, that I finally broke with everything – not physically, but mentally – and focused on art, on my work. It was from my second to the third year in university, when I was twenty. This period of time when I took the decision to step forward and focus on art, really really started things going. I was going on and on, I had the feeling that I really started my life consciously. Stepping out of this complaining, starting to act and doing something.
A third thing, that brought me to where I am now, may be – material things, the beauty of materials. Well, everything and anything can be applied to what I am saying. “Material” to me are unknown things, that evoke my curiosity. Curiosity is, what brings me here, maybe just curiosity. I've always been curious, always – that also started the conversations with my father, because as a child, I asked tons of questions about everything. Also the feeling of being tired of myself came through that curiosity; I was curious, but held myself back from exploring. Also in the material; I want to understand what I see, what I have in front of me, what I read... I want to find answers. I am not saying that there is an answer to everything – but just asking yourself, if there are any is essential to me.
Kira's question: What do you do, when fear becomes overwhelming?
In moments of crisis, times of dought, when I find myself asking questions like “Why am I here” and “Where am I going” - this is fear! It is a fear of myself. The only thing I am afraid about is myself! Pretty difficult to explain... And what helps to overcome fear: Just the realization: I can't stuck here; I have to keep going!
Like many other children, I was afraid of darkness. When you can not see, you can not go on; but when you're in the house, you can not stay where you are, being too afraid to move; in the end, someone has to switch on the light! And then you go for it. So maybe realizing that you cannot stay in some place, that you have to keep moving. Because when you get stuck somewhere and won't move anymore, you will die. Movement is life. Sometimes, also the power of movement makes me afraid; but then I relax myself, that this is just normal. One year ago, I was living pretty much in my comfort zone. Now I am here, new country, new language, new university, new everything – but that also leads to a stage where one can excel. I am overcoming fear through the realization that I can't stay stuck and that I shall and I must go on. Then, fear will somehow go away.
Blanca's question: What's the most difficult task you ever faced or you might face?
The bff. We met each other when we were seven on riding holidays, followed by hundreds of letters, then e-mails and hours of talking on the phone. The interview was held one day after Kira's
birthday on a trampoline in Brandenburg with salty Maulina- hotchocolate at the “Bude”, a farmhouse owned and created by Kira's boyfriend Helge together with three friends. Kira is a succesful Poetry Slammer and writes about her
personal experiences on her Blog Neuland.
Difficult. There are so many different and wonderful things, that I could never name them all, that make me happy. It starts with certain smells, like the scent of freshly brewed coffee in the morning... and then continues with the midday sun, and everything the world has to offer. And one can't forget, people. Although, I do first have to try and find out how exactly they make me happy. There are moments which I will always remember, like meeting up with old friends who I haven't seen in a long time. In situations like these I realise how absolutely happy I am! Reuniting with special people, who have been absent in one's life for a while, are so special...these are moments of real happiness!
Sometimes there are moments where everything just seems to flow... and I'm happy. Sometimes even over a longer period of time. It's often like that at the camp. (When we talk about the
"Camp", we mean a gathering of befriended people and families, who meet to camp together inspired by the traditions of the Lakota Indians in summer)
Everything just seems to be right. There is nature all around me, lovely people, and the feeling that I need to 'prove myself' just disappears. I can just be! Unfortunately, these moments in which everything just seems to flow naturally, seem to be deliberately separate from everyday life. Like the camp or experimental holidays to 'get back to nature'. The feeling of being needed and/or wanted can also be very nice. I experienced that, when I was looking after children in a summer camp. The ability of being able to give them something, was very fulfilling, but then also to have received so much joy from the children in return. It was a lovely experience. Another thing, is the realisation that one is gifted...in this case, the realisation that I had a certain natural ability to work with children...Perhaps one could broadly describe it like that...
I think I have a pretty complex history with home in general, as well as with the feeling of being home. You once told me something about myself, not so long ago actually. You said that for you it seems like I am constantly seeking for a place were I can feel comfortable and safe and because I never know if the next place I am going to go is safe, its the most secure thing to do to stay where I am. ...and that somehow holds truth for me and explains some of my inner conflicts. And of course there are some places which I feel more drawn to than others, like the camp.
The constant movement between places and never being able to just stay somewhere, since...since I was born really...has been pretty difficult. (Kira's parents separated one year after she was born, and she moved weekly between them as a child) I never really learnt what it meant to have a stable home. I would love to learn how to build better relationships to places. I think that I could probably call more places than I'm aware of, home. I would absolutely love to have the trust and confidence in myself, to know that I am welcome anywhere in the world and that even if my surroundings aren't perfect, I have a home in myself and the strength to keep moving forward. I think I am slowly getting there, because more and more I am beginning to believe that I can feel at home anywhere. I'm not quite there yet, though...
I used to consciously throw myself into the deep end, by trying to put myself into situations which I was very afraid of. WOW...that was an interesting time. It wasn't all bad thought, a lot of good things emerged as well. I met a lot of really cool people. At that time, I believed that confrontation was the solution. I don't believe that anymore. I think one should take the time one needs for things, and one doesn't have to make things more difficult than they are. Even now, as I begin my next big journey as a student, I am trying to make it as enjoyable and structured as possible. It has a lot to do with relationships. Contact with those around you. When you take the time to get to know the people around you, as well as to help them get to know you, you feel more comfortable around each other and start to care more for one another.
Finally, home for me, is also connected to beauty. Is the place pretty or not?...For me, nature often holds the meaning of beauty.
It definitely starts with what I have just mentioned; about growing up between places and parents. That had...quite an impact on me. It...damaged something in me, which I am now trying to slowly repair, and which has impacted my whole life. Fear...I think that's how I'd describe it. I consider myself to be quite a fearful person. On the one hand, I love life...social interaction, recklessness, excitement and the freedom to follow ones dreams, but at the same time, I'm afraid to do so. I swing between these two extremes at the moment. I don't know if it's true, but I often think that I am more afraid than other people.
Secondly, now that I'm thinking about it, my father has also been very influential. My mother was always there when I needed someone to talk to; when I needed advice and my father was always more of a role model. I really appreciate a lot of what he does and how he does it. If someone were to compare me to my father, I'd be pretty proud! My dad has always had a VW camper van, which was a big part of my childhood. Recently, I've been thinking and I think I'd like to buy myself one too because it's a lovely way to travel.
My parents are very different. My father is more...alternative, and I'm so happy that he took me with him to so many different places. Travelling with him, I met so many people who I otherwise would never have had the pleasure of meeting. It really was a privilege and an eye-opener to different ways of life, ways of thinking and ways of perceiving the world.
The camp has also been very important. Simply because I know a lot of people there, who are now very important to me, and because it's a place which I can always return to. It feels like a family.
Oh! I'd also say that school was very influential. I don't know if I'm glorifying it, but I just really loved school! Firstly, I went to a Waldorf school, which is probably important to mention, because things like learning through games and the year-long projects totally suited me. I also always had the feeling that I was seen and enabled. All the teachers helped me believe ...that I was capable...that my opinions were important. It was a really positive feeling. There are so many interconnected and overlapping moments and experiences ...and they are all important! The time with you and the horses, for example.
And as I mentioned before: At some point I decided to actively confront all the things I was afraid of. Kind of like a personal challenge; My fight against fear. During this time I also met...or found, my boyfriend. Somehow, something else also began...something which I am very grateful for and which makes me very happy...The right people, seem always to have arrived in my life, at the right time. They have given me a really strong belief that "you can do everything you want to , and that it's fine as long as you are happy". A lot more is possible than one normally realizes. There is so much around me, and I often just stumble into situations, which always seem to have positive outcomes. The 'Schulfrei Festival' which I'm helping to organize, for example.
You are still an important part of my life...I don't know if you want to write that though. The continuity and stable nature of our friendship, means a lot to me. It's not dramatic, but I know it's something I can rely on. That also makes me happy, by the way.
Alexandre's question: Which is the happiest animal in the world? Which animal would you like to be?
I honestly think, all animals are happy! (Apart from obvious situations like, a caged dog or a laying hen) I think animals have a better capacity for happiness than humans. Simply because they live in the moment. I don't think animals worry themselves about the future like we do. One of the main reasons for unhappiness, is fussing and worrying about things which haven't even happened yet.
Now, because every animal, according to the above, would be a good choice, I would like to choose an animal, which would enable me to do or experience something, which is not possible in my human body. Perhaps a bird, for example...this would allow me to fly...or a water animal...or a monkey : )
Kira's question: What do you do, when fear becomes overwhelming?
Alexandre is a climbing friend (I interviewed him after a sunny sunday we spent in the Vulkaneifel), French, lives and works in Cologne, and has been doing karate for 23 years. He works in a big energy company as a statistician.
What makes me happy...My freedom! Today is a good example as to what I mean. I've had the freedom to spend the whole day outside, climbing and just doing whatever I want to do in the spur of the moment. Without any pressure of achievement. Without stress and obligations. It's often obligations which restrict freedom, even though they can also result in a kind of happiness or satisfaction... My job is an obligation...Even though I can 'play' with numbers, which I enjoyed doing as a child. Work and pleasure - I think, despite the complexity, it's important to ask oneself if what makes one happy should be connected to ones work? Whether or not ones work can also make one happy and whether or not the restrictions of a work environment could have a negative impact on that which makes one happy? In my experience, as soon as I commit myself to something, I lose interest in it.
Since I bought my flat a year ago, I have had my first real home. I could almost have answered the first question, with the second one. What I'm referring to, is why I decided to buy my flat in Cologne, rather than somewhere on the cost, in the mountains or in a more beautiful city. The answer is not only dependant on my job, I also feel really good here! I like the people and the atmosphere, here in Cologne. In France, you don't see many elderly people on the streets or in clubs because they probably think they are too old for that kind of thing - But here, people just do it, and they seem SO happy! You can see elderly people, around 70, sitting in the breweries , eating, drinking and just having fun together. To see that makes me happy. I can also get everywhere, from my flat, with a bicycle, which for me is very important and gives me a sense of freedom and happiness.
I used to work in Paris and, at that time, I actually wanted to move to a different branch of the company in England or Ireland. By chance I met one of my best friends from Uni, who was doing a years voluntary work with the company. Then I was recommended the position in Cologne, and I thought, ok, I'll try it for a year. I couldn't speak any German, but it didn't matter because the project was in English. After one year I decided to stay on...After two years I wanted to move again, but after three years I found a great karate group, and with this discovery came some great friends and more reasons to stay in Cologne.
I now have more German friends than French friends, which also plays a part in where one feels comfortable. A good 'benchmark' for me was my 30th birthday. I celebrated it here in Cologne, with many of my friends from France, Paris, who were all very surprised by the city and my life here. They were very supportive and said they could totally understand if I decided to stay here.
What was influential...I used to be a real country person...I never would have thought that I'd end up in a city. Paris was much too big for me. In Cologne, however, I've found a really good balance. I'd love to be able to say that I like the food, but unfortunately I can't...(Alexandre laughs)... It's more about the attitude and atmosphere here in Cologne. Carnival for example: It's not really that important or interesting to me, but I still take part because it's an amazing feeling to celebrate together with many people.
Climbing has also become a great hobby! I can now totally understand those people, who spend their entire life just climbing.
Lara's questions: What is the reason for your unhappiness which leads to conflict?
I believe, generally speaking, that political leaders and therefore a very small number of people, are largely responsible for the current situation of conflict and war. Strangers who meet, because they don't know each other's backgrounds, are generally not in conflict with one another.
If one is caught up in too many commitments and responsibilities in everyday life, like working all day and running errands, and one knows that one's next opportunity to have a small break is months away and after that only around Christmas time, I think that discontentment is not unreasonable. I know that if I were stuck in a routine, from which I could not escape, I would be unhappy and dissatisfied. That's not to say that a busy life can't be very fulfilling for some people, but it's not how I want to live. I would feel completely trapped or caged in - like my freedom had been taken away. I always try to maximise my free time and to fill it with positive things. If you have a clear head, I see no reason why one can't be happy.
Alexandre's question: Which is the happiest animal in the world? Which animal would you like to be?
Lara and I have know each other for sixteen years. We spend 13 years of school mostly sitting next to each other, talking, and learning together. After school, we would often cycle to Lara's house (Over the years, we managed to master the technique of riding at full speed down the hill together on ONE bike) and go horseriding. When we met each other in Bonn, where Lara is studying nutrition and food science, we hadn't seen each other in two years.
Sunshine!! Sunshine makes me happy. Apart from the sun, friends and family are definitely very important. I know these are probably pretty obvious answers, but I think that sunshine, warmth and social contact, on one level or another, are things that all people need...someone who listens and cares, who takes you seriously - friends - those who accept and appreciate exactly who you are.
Some kind of job, purpose, is also important Something through which one feels needed. Perhaps this is why we study... In order to be able to fill a possible need later on in life. I think this makes me happy - Or rather that this is something that would make me happy, if I manage to find a job which is both fulfilling and able to financially support my basic needs.
In my opinion, however, friends and family hold most importance! No matter what happens... If everything goes wrong and you loose everything you have been working towards, friends and family are constant. If you have good friends who are supportive and constructive everything else will fall into place. It's friends like these, with whom one feels at home, that give one security...a solid base...and when you have that it's not difficult to be happy.
This links directly to my previous answer... I think it's very closely connected to what makes one happy. For me home, security and comfort are closely interwoven. It could also be argued that, where one feels at home, at the core of it, one is not unhappy. Happiness is a very individual thing...dependant on ones attitude and what each individual believes to be important. That's a good question... Where one feels at home and why? Here in Bonn, for example, I really feel at home, even though I never wanted to come here....I don't understand it and really can't explain it.
The place in which I spent my childhood and grew up, holds many memories and experience's for me. I think this is very important. Places which hold memories, be them good or bad, and in which one has spent a lot of time, will always feel like home. My parents house will always feel like home to me. Even if they were to move into a new house situated in a different place... I think it would still feel like home, because once again there is a close connection between home and people...people who are important to you and who you love.
Oh... That's a really difficult question. I feel like things in my life often didn't go as planned or turned out differently to what I expected.
Going to a Waldorf school did have its effect. In my opinion it encourages a certain openness and readiness to meet the world. I would describe myself as a very open person.
The year I moved out of my parents house and went to live in Berlin, was very important. 'Flying the coop' and becoming independent has been a really good experience. This process of finding my wings and learning to meet the world from a different perspective really expands ones horizon! Why am I doing what I'm doing...I honesty can't say exactly ... It just sort of turned out this way. One does what one believes to be right and what makes one happy. What happens, happens. At the moment I don't really know exactly where I'm going... But maybe the I- don't-know-thing is just a phase I'm going through.
Roni's question: What is your view on the world and what do you want to do about it?
I could talk for hours about that... The world at present ... Crazy. Insane. Insane is a good word for it, I like it. I sometimes get the feeling that people are just so...stupid. I cannot comprehend why we have to massacre each other, as we seem to be doing in an escalating manner. With all these scenarios of war and terror... Why can't we live in peace with each other? There will always be conflict, but limits still have to be recognised and respected. I know that many people grow up living in terrible conditions and we cannot imagine, what they learn from our world. I can't judge that, but at present I think the world is pretty insane!
...What I personally would or could do to change it? At the moment I am studying how to teach people to nourish themselves in a different way. Maybe there is a way to change something with this knowledge, because a lot of things have gone wrong in this regard in the world. The way in which a lot of people think about food... Completely disconnected from its original source. I don't know... Maybe it is within this context that I could contribute... I hope so.
Lara's question: What is the reason for your unhappiness which leads to conflict?
I met Roni at the Herzberg Festival where we were working together at the Bar Jeder Sinne (we have a great team and we offer drinks 24h and breakfast with hand-spread breadrolls with lots of love). He is born in Israel and living with his (very artistic, cool and german) wife in Leipzig.
What makes me happy... Hard question, actually! Friends. Seeing my friends, seeing my family. Party. That's it, I think.
I think what makes me feel at home be with my friend, that I have a place for myself and also for my wife. When I have a group of friends with me, then I feel comfortable and at home.
The first thing for me was to leave the religion that I was growing up on. I have a Jewish family. When I was thirteen and I had a Bar Mizwa and directly after this I realized that this is bullshit and in every thing you do there is reason, has nothing to do with god or somebody else who decided this for you. You are the one to decide what to do with your life.The second – Growing up not in my motherhouse, but to grow up in the streets, in the squad. It also made me growing up. And to leave Israel. I wanted to travel and came directly to Germany. I always had in the back of my head that I didn't want to stay there, I just wanted to leave because they are too much difficulties there.
Noah's question: How and under which circumstances would you like to die?
How I would like to die – I would like – I don't really have something how I want to die, thatdoens't really matter. But I would like if they burn my body andput the ashes in some small thing. Actually, I would like that people are not sad at my funeral. I want to have a really big party, that peple will have a big party at my funeral. It will be sad a bit, but I want that people are not sad too much and celebrate.
Roni's question: How do you see the world at the moment and what do you want to do about it?
Noah is my 'little' brother. I am three years and three days older than him, he is more than a head taller than me. As a child, he would build two meter high LEGO-cranes (without any kit!) that would function perfectly thanks to the clever hydraulic systems 4-year-old Noah invented. Today, he does an apprenticeship as metal constructor.
Hm. Difficult question. So I see myself as a pretty egoistic person and my concept of happiness is pretty... simple. Materialistic stuff is important to me, status symbols do have a meaning for me. I am not very demanding concerning „spiritual levels“. Maybe I have a pretty capitalistic disposition. Consumption isn't a complete fulfilment, but until now, I haven't found the one thing where I can say: THAT's it, what fulfills me, the one and only thing that brings me happiness. I couldn't find that for me yet. There are many things I have fun with, but not a thing I'd say: That's the one and only thing I live for.
I feel at home, when I am with people where I feel welcome. Where I feel secure and content, even when I am not doing well. When I can retreat and have my peace when I want to. That's a home. For me, home is not a concrete place, it rather depends on the surrounding – Either the people or the feeling, that the place itself gives me. If I feel comfortable and safe, if I have my peace there.
Somehow difficult to answer. What shaped my life... I don't really have an idea. I really don't know. There are no „decisive moments“ in my mind, which caused a concrete change or changed my point of view completely. This question somehow... doesn't apply to me :)
I can't really remember details anymore, but the memory of our holidays in Tuscany is somehow important to me. (For several years, we drove with the six of us plus one or two school friends of our older brothers in our 9-seater Mercedes Benz MB 100 all the way down to Tuscany for two weeks in Autumn, to take care oft the house and three dogs of friends. Every year, we children would be a bit nervous if the bus would make it up the last pitch – The house is on a steep hill, very secluded, surrounded by a huge beautiful garden and acres with organic olive trees). It was something where I had the feeling that I really had an experience and received something from it. I don't know if it changed me as a person, but the feeling is still present – there are moments when I think: Now there is this feeling again, of being together with people at a certain place...
I can't find those concrete moments or things in my biography. What influences me is, in fact, the feedback of my environment. It marks me, when I receive feedback for my work or for what I do in general. And due to that feedback, I try to change something. Or myself.
Markus' question: Do you ever think about radically changing your life?
Radical change... If I would turn my life upside down, it would mean that I would organize all my stuff completely independently and live in complete self-responsibility (my brother has a tendency to exaggerate), what I personally don't always prefer. So – no. There are a few habits of mine I'd like to change, but radically – not really.
Noah's question: How or under which circumstances do you want to die?
Markus. The friendliness in person, passionate climber (because of where he comes from), football fan (because of the tactic), studied Economics and Development in Bayreuth, then did his carpentry apprenticeship. He lives in a self renovated communal house near Bonn and is the boyfriend of my very first Roadstories Portrait, Christiane.
Hmmm...In my experience, my happiness is very much connected to my stomach. Food definitely makes me happy! Its often much easier for me to identify what makes me unhappy than what makes me happy. And I'm not a very pleasant person to be around when I haven't eaten. For sure, doing things outside my comfort zone makes me happy. Everything else though, even things which result in positive outcomes, like spending a day working together on the house, don't really make me that happy. I suppose for me, happiness is more connected to the moments in which I really have to push myself out of my daily routine or comfort zone- when my limits and abilities are really put to the test- such moments, for a short while, make me very happy! In long term, it's exactly the opposite. It's important to me that I am surrounded by cool people, that my workload is self-determined and that the projects I work in are both such which I can identify with and that challenge me. Last but not least in a project, I desire to have a strong feeling of a group pulling on the same string, of being integrated in a collective process. I am definitely unhappy when everything seems to be random and I can't see where things are going. A while ago, I hadn't always had a clear vision - I was sort of drifting without direction. By now I manage to develop a clearer idea of my future goals, and I am a lot happier.
Since I moved out of my parent's house, I have always considered the places in which I have lived, as home. I am probably like most people, a creature of habit. In this way a place can very quickly become a home, the easier it is for me to engage and integrate myself into the new surrounding the quicker it is for me to feel at home. When I get to shape and take responsibility for the surroundings in which I live in, the process of making a place a home is much quicker...but even then, it doesn't take long for me to feel at home. I no longer consider my parents house as “home” though, and strangely enough I have a friend visiting me at the moment, who always refers to his parents house as “home”. I struggle with this, because I have a very different understanding of home. I think home is very much linked to where one sleeps and recovers/rejuvenates. It is also a larger environment though, in which one is intimately incorporated. At the moment it is also very important to me, where Christiane is. When we were living separately in Bayreuth, I also considered where she lived to be my home. At that point she was living in a communal house in which I was well integrated and knew everyone.
An essentially life changing decision I recently made, was not to carry on studying after completing my BA, and instead to follow a very different profession. One of the main reasons for this decision, was the realisation that in order to feel happy or content at the end of the day, I need to be able to see what has been achieved. This physical appreciation was hardly present while studying and neither in the future work it leaded to. The decision to become a carpenter fits much better to my character. I found out that I really appreciate the physical work that comes - amongst others – with this profession! In retro-perspective the decision to change my professional subject was very far-reaching for my entire life. .
It was around about the same time, that I decided to embark on the project we called “dranbleiben” (~ keep at sth.). We decided, as group of friends, that we would like to keep at the dynamics we created by projecting together via moving as a group to some co-selected new place in Germany. Until now this project has been a real eye opener. The initial idea was actually a long term one. To keep in place a group of people with similar interests and beliefs with the prospect to one day start an intentional community in a big enough place outside of the city. We wanted to prevent us from scattering apart after each “career step” to then separately having to rebuild such a group again and again or to live in hope to reunite someday. In this way still see this project also as political action against the tendency in our generation to not commit to something (apart from ones professional career) and to stay unbound. -
As a first step we actually wanted to rent a flat in Bonn to experiment on living together, but since we couldn't find one large enough we decided to buy this house with the help of an association called “Freiraum Alfter e.V.”...in this way we have sort of realised some of our long term plans a bit earlier than expected. It's still not clear how this project will proceed after we have completed the renovations, but I suppose we will tackle that questions next.
What else was definitive...I'm sure there were moments in my childhood, but nothing really important springs to mind. The decision to study in Bayreuth being the decision not to study in a big city was very incisive for my development. I am not really the kind of person who thrives and feels comfortable in big aggressive environments and self-display. I think entering into such an institution I would probably have foundered. Bayreuth, on the other hand, is a personal environment in which I felt I could comfortably evolute. Moving away from my family and hometown environment with the expectations and projections on my person has been very good for me. Many of my ideas and ideals I now stand for have developed in this period due to my new social environment. Bayreuth gave me a good compass for life.
Earlier on I don't see decisive crossroads (or I just haven't elaborated the connections thoroughly). My childhood and teenage years were unspectacular. There weren't really any drastic or dramatic experiences... This in itself, however, is also very formative.
Debby's question: Do you think your thoughts create reality? Why or why not?
Yes, I definitely believe that! This links directly to my job. Everything I make is the transformation of a thought into a physical reality. All the planning is in the form of thought or concept which can then be transformed into real material objects or actions. In economics it's a bit more abstract, but the concepts developed there spread and determine our actions. See for example how our notion of money determines the way we behave in reality. I think that the majority of our society is built on thought constructs which economists, for example, try to bring into being.
Markus's question: Do you ever think about radically changing your life?
Living near Portland, Oregon, Debby Potts is travelling half of every year through the whole world, from the States to Europe through Asia, to teach the Tellington TTouch Method for companion animals and horses. I spent half a day taking pictures at a training she taught, admiring her goodwill and kindness with humans and animals and her ability as a teacher to give space for everyone's needs while maintaining a clear focus. I was lucky to enjoy Debby's sparkling humour and to experience her as an amazing pleasant guest, because she stayed at my current home at Bibi's house.
Oh, what makes me happy... I think if you would have asked me that ten years ago, I wouldn't have known so much. By now, I have learned to use my own 'barometer' about detecting what makes me happy and what doesn't. I can tell with the feeling in my body, what feels good to me. I think, feeling your body is so much more accurate than just deciding in my head 'I am happy now' – I really started paying attention to those things that make me feel good or happy, you can't really label that sensation: Sometimes, there are situations that are a little bit uncomfortable and I can identify those as 'This isn't the feel-good picture feeling', but it's one of those that I can learn from. Just because I am uncomfortable, it doesn't mean that it is not a good thing. So I have 'this feels good' and 'this doesn’t feel good' and also 'maybe this doesn't feel good for some really good reasons'.
... The work I do really makes me happy. I don't even call it work, I realized that when paying attention to the words that I use, because I think your brain listens to what you say. I realised that my friends are saying “Ugh, I have to work” and I thought: Oh! I don't think I say that very much; I say 'I am teaching', 'I am seeing a client' or 'I am working with this dog, seeing this horse'- I hardly ever say 'I am working'. That gives me the idea that my work makes me really, really happy.
I love time for myself, because I spend a lot of time with people. I call it 'being on'. And I love it, it's wonderful. I think the balance of that is having solitude and peacefulness and just time that I can choose whatever I want to do. It may be something really silly or mindless, it could be reading something that I learn something from or could be reading something totally unimportant. When I am travelling and teaching a lot, there is the moment when I close the hotel door, when I know that I am alone – My good friend and business partner and I call it the “giddy” moment. There is this moment of “Hehehe, I can do whatever I want – I'll take a bath – no,no, no, I'll – I'll watch a movie – no, no, no – I'll have a cup of tea, yes, yes, yes, I'll have a cup of tea AND take a bath...” So I think it's good to just allow the freedom to do all of that without judgement. Because even something that seems really silly can be just the very best use of our time.
My family makes me very, very happy. My husband and I just celebrated our forty-first wedding anniversary and we still very much enjoy time together. I am very lucky that we both feel like we're the lucky one. Our sons grew up to be amazing, wonderful young men who love their jobs and have wonderful wives and are doing a lot of things in their lives that make them happy, and that makes me really happy. I live in a beautiful place, and just being able to sit outside on my deck and look at the trees and hear the birds – I love your question, because I think people tend to focus a lot more on what's not okay in their life instead of what really is. And I think living in gratitude for all the things around us, that just feeds our hearts, really makes a difference. Taking time for ourselves and realizing how important taking care of yourself is. I love to use the analogy, when you're on the airplane and they are doing the safety instructions, they tell you: In the unlikely event of a change in the air... an oxygen mask will fall off in front of your face. And always put your own mask on first before helping another person with their mask... I think this is a very good analogy for why it is important for us to take care of ourselves. I think it's not so useful that in our society, it seems like in order to be considered successful, you have to be crazy busy. I started not doing that, because for me, success means having the time to have lunch with my friend. Or to sit on my deck or to spend time with my family and my animals. For me, that's what being successful is about. And all of that makes me really, really happy and filled with gratitude. Long answer to a short question!
What is home to me... The place where I live feels like a real gift. We believe, that we were really... guided. I grew up in Portland, which is a big city, and when we wanted to have a family, we wanted to move away from the city and closer to the ocean. We just decided to start looking, but we had no idea what we were looking for. So we sat down and opened up the newspaper and there was an advertisement for a place and we thought well, we are just going to see it and it'll give us a chance to start to think about what we want. And this was our home. We didn't look at any other place, we didn't consider anything else, we just fell in love with it. It doesn't feel like we own this, but we really feel like if we were guardians of this land. It's 24 acres, there is woodland and open fields and it is on this little mountain. There is a big pond on the property, so there are fish and waterbirds and deer, lots of wildlife. It's very secluded and quiet, you just see trees from the road. We've lived there forty years now, and every time when I drive up the little windy road, into the driveway and when the view opens up to the forest the pond and the fields, I have this moment of: “Ahh...”. Debby breathes out. Home to me is exactly this moment where you can just be. There are many places I go that feel very homelike, where people make me feel comfortable like at home... but that peacefulness that goes along with where I live, whether if I am there by myself or whether I am there with family or a lot of people, it is still home. I travel many, many places, I see wonderful things - and then it's still this moment of just driving into the driveway.
Things that shaped my life... One of the things I think about is, how important it is not to label the things that happen in our lives. It is so easy for us to say “This is a good thing” and “this is a bad one”. I know, that some of the things in my life I thought were really bad things – and looking back, they were really important, because without them I wouldn't be doing what I am doing today, things that bring me so much joy. So whenever I think “Ugh, this is really awful”, I think: “How do you know?”
Things that shaped me. My father grew up on a farm and even though he left the farm when he was a young man and became a business man, he still felt like having my brother and I experience a little bit of farm life would be a good thing for us. Even though we lived in the city, my parents bought a small piece of land that was close enough to get to on my bike. My father wanted us to see the corn grow and the chicks hatch, and I figured that if we had chicks and corn, we should have a pony, too – and that's where horses started for me. My dad and I were close and he was really my first teacher about taking care of animals and the land. Being able to learn about animals from him – even though everything he learned, he learned from his father, so it was all pretty traditional kind of handling - was still a wonderful thing for us to share together.
This is a really good question. I like this a lot, because it makes me think – in order to think about what shaped me or my life, it is necessary to think well then, who am I right now and how did I get here?
I had a lot of loss with people dying when I was young. My father died when I was sixteen, my mother died when I was 23 and pregnant with my oldest son. She died two months before he was born. What that did was create a situation where I really trusted my own intuition and my own sense of things, because I couldn't ask my parents what they would do. I learned a lot about being responsible for my own decisions. Like always, there are two sides, but it really gave me the space to explore what I thought was important in raising my kids and in all kind of choices in my life. I think my parents passing away and not having other close family when I was really young shaped me to a certain degree, helping me to figure out who I am, not just as an extension of other family.
There is no question, that the horse that brought me to TTouch had a massive influence on my life. She had a brain damage when she was born, and when the vets didn't know how to help her, I wondered if TTouch could make a difference for her. She, without a doubt, came into my life to bring me to this work and it probably shaped my life more than anything else.
At that time, I was super shy. I didn't talk to anybody that I didn't know really well. So my decision to take this horse and go to a training with Linda Tellington-Jones six hours away from my house was a really big deal. I was really afraid about going, but my desire to help my horse was greater than my fear. I spent nine days with people that were new to me, I was staying in a house trailer with two other women I never met before in this other women's backyard... It was the first time I had gone anywhere by myself - And I got so inspired and curious so that I wanted to learn more. My second training was in Colorado, which meant that I got on an airplane by myself for the first time!
I didn't imagine that I would do anything with TTouch, but I was just so curious, it was so fun and interesting and there were really nice people involved. And my horse changed so much within the first clinic, beyond what anybody would have imagined. This was 30 years ago;, Linda hadn't been teaching in the States that long, so everybody was new (and trying hard to remember clockwise circles or stumble over the poles when leading the horses). We were learning how to do this while working with all these horses with big problems, and they all got so much better! I was really inspired by that, because I had been involved with veterinary medicine before, which I found really rewarding, but I realized that this is something that anyone can learn and that really empowers people to take care of their animals. And while I was helping the horses become more confident and adapt to new situations, all that stuff was happening to me. I started being able to talk to people, after a while I started experimenting with teaching a class for friends and then – Here I am..
The mare that brought me to the Tellington method was sixteen months old when I took her to the very first training with Linda. When she was three, I was hooked, there was no way that I would do anything else. Then she got really sick and she died. As much as it would be a great story if she grew up and my kids rode her into her late years, I think it is a better story, actually, that she died when she did, because it really reminds us that life doesn't have to be really long to have tremendous value. I really believe that she had accomplished her life-purpose and it wasn't important for her to hang around anymore.
So this work has totally shaped my life, it just opened me to so many opportunities and interesting people, it opened up a lot of other things I enjoy learning and doing. And it continues to do so.
Another life changing incident was being in Japan when the big earthquake happened. It really showed me that you just DON'T really know what you are doing two minutes from now. You may think you do, you may have plans on your calendar. In Japan, I had a schedule for three weeks, people had paid, I knew what I was going to teach, I knew exactly what I would be doing. And then there was the earthquake, three days later I was at home, a week later I was in Johannesburg, saying hello to a bunch of people. It was a big reminder to be present. “You don't know what the next moment brings”. And that's not a bad thing.
Lindsey's question: How would you describe the difference between wisdom and knowledge?
This is an interesting question! My first thought would be, that knowledge is stuff that you learn and wisdom is stuff that... comes from a different place. I think, knowledge is really in your head: Stuff I know, like I can add numbers, remember facts. And that's fine, knowledge is a good thing, obviously. But I think wisdom comes from beyond that. Wisdom is in your cells, wisdom is in the collective consciousness around us, it comes from a place we can't always identify. When I look at my dog Kiki, there is just so much wisdom in her eyes. She is like an old soul, that carries the wisdom of the ages. I think, wisdom is something that comes from experience, intuition, tapping into stuff that we may not even know where it comes from. It doesn't have to be something that comes from years of living, because I believe there are very wise, very young people. Perhaps young people even have it more before they are taught that you can't just know stuff. I think that wisdom is more innate and knowledge is a little more active. Actually, I talk to people a lot about the three brains; that you have a brain in your head, one in your chest and one in your belly, and that it's really helpful to check with all three before you decide something. Because your head has a lot of knowledge. A lot of information in here. Not always reliable, because it is often cluttered up with “should”, “need to, have to” and judgement. The brain from the heart is really great, I think, sometimes the emotions might make things not that clear. Down in the belly is a lot of our intuition. Knowledge, emotions and intuition are so useful and when you pull those together, maybe you have a more balanced perspective for making choices.
For me, everything is about balance. Too much of a good thing is still too much. So I think the balance of knowledge and wisdom and looking at things from different perspectives is really useful.
Lindsey is a tea specialist, an herbalist, a studied artist, travelled the world full-time for several years while working as a journalist and freelancer for tea. She is married with Merlin, who grew up at the organic farm where I used to spent my riding holidays, and where a group of befriended families meets to camp together inspired by the traditions of the Lakota Indians. The interview was the second time we met, after their wedding one year ago. We laughed a lot during the interview. And I still feel really gifted and inspired by her clear calmness, the wisdom and the feminine integrity that surrounds her like an aura.
What makes me happy... I think that a feeling of connectedness is probably the thing that makes me the happiest. Sometimes, that means feeling connected with another person or a group of people. Sometimes it means feeling connected to a purpose, an intention. Often it means feeling connected to nature. In the past for me it has also often involved connections with ideas, but I find myself shifting away from that over the years, more into a sense of connectedness with the present moment and with the incredible energy that is all around us all the time – This sense of oneness that connects all and is itself emptiness and yet not emptiness at the same time... I think, recognizing that I am part of that, whatever it is or isn't. I hope that doesn't sound to pretentious! That's what makes me happy.
To be a bit more specific, I love working with plants. I do a lot of work with plants as nourishment and as medicine. When most people walk outside, they see plants as a sort of green blob – but the more I've learned about plants and how we humans can work with plants, the more I feel this incredible sense of connection every time I step outside. Just looking around right outside of my door, I see dandelions and I know that I can cook the flowers into this amazing fritters or I can make mead or wine from them, the leaves I can use for salad in the spring and in the autumn, and during the summer I can cook them up with other kinds of greens, and the roots make amazing medicine as a tincture, too… There are so many of them, right there. I see stinging nettle all over the place, too, and it is such an incredible, nourishing plant as food and as medicine, both. And we think a lot of these plants are weeds, right? But actually, these plants are there because we humans are there. There are even weed seeds in Antarctica now, because people carry them in the soles of their shoes and in the fibers of their clothing, they bring them by accident or on purpose wherever the go. All over the world, there are these great plants for nourishment. And of course they vary on where you are, but they don't have to be so wildly and exotic or from one specific place – a lot of them are incredibly common.
I think that “weeds” are offering themselves to us – and interacting with us – in ways that we don't always recognize. So just becoming aware of what some of these plants are and then being open to connecting with them can be such a joy. Such a delight. And that brings me a lot of happiness. Whether it is making wild salads – which is so fun, changes all year – or if it's making some nice nettle soup, especially this time of the year, making tinctures... And through that, I find that I can connect with a lot of other people as a teacher, as a student, as a nourisher – for me, that connects into my own spiritual practice of giving and of embodying goddess. So… yup! This is what makes me happy.
That's an interesting question and that's the thing that people asked me a lot when I was traveling full time. In 2011, I gave away or sold almost all of my possessions. I had a small storage unit left in Portland, Oregon and aside from that I had my suitcase and a backpack and that was it. When I started my journey, people would always ask my where my home is and I would joke, that it was in my suitcase. Over the time, I started to change my response as I was asked again and again and I would say “it's here” [Lindsey points to her head], right in my head. Then, I started to meditate on a regular basis and I started saying something that maybe sounds a little bit cheesy, but I found it to be true and it is: It's in my heart. There is this expression of “home is where your heart is”, and it is considered to be a bit cheesy, something that most people see embroidered, this kind of nostalgic thing, but I think it is usually thought of as home, being where you are with people that you care about. But the way that I meant it was more like: Home is being comfortable in your own skin. And taking that sense of comfort wherever you are. I don't mean comfort like lazing around on a couch, I mean comfort like a kind of gentle confidence in not just yourself, but in what is going on. A sort of assurance that everything is gonna be okay. And a sense of being empowered to act when necessary and to be still when action is not necessary. More recently, I moved to Germany. I lived here for nearly a year and home is taking a sort of added layer for me, because I live on an organic farm that has belonged to my husband's family for a long, long time. And he has very deep roots here. So for him, this place is a lot of his sense of home. And I find that I am beginning to share in some of that and I really love this land on this place and I am happy to be a part of it and to have this sense of connection here, while still maintaining my own sense of home within myself.
What shaped my life. I'll start with one thing from about five years ago, relatively recent, but it has had a really profound effect on how I live my life, which is starting a meditation practice. Before I started the mediation practice, I think that I had a lot of inner conflicts between who I was and who I felt I was expected to be. I think, I was putting a lot of external ideals on myself, expecting things of myself that I really don't have to. I feel so much more free of that, so much more clear about who I am am (and who I am not). I find that I don't have such rigid walls around myself. I am much more able to connect with other people in a deeper way than I was before. And as an ongoing part of that practice, more recently I am also learning when it is appropriate to have walls – in a healthy and compassionate way. And how to do that well. Which doesn't mean shutting someone out completely or shutting down emotionally, but rather resting in compassion and setting boundaries that are clear. So that is part of an ongoing process I think I'll be engaged in for the rest of my life and it's been an enormous shift on how I see the world and how I operate within it. And I am very grateful for that change in my life.
Something else from right around that time – Six months or so after the day I started meditating, I met Merlin, who is now my husband. I had dated quite a few people before and some of them I had cared about quite a bit, but I think I wasn't clear on who I was, what I needed, what I wanted. And I wasn't looking to date anyone, I was intentionally not dating anyone for a year or so before I met Merlin. And I think eliminating even the possibility of dating anyone for that time, I helped me to not waste any emotional energy on people who I wasn't going to be in a deeply caring relationship with. I wasn't just going out for dinner with someone for entertainment or as a way to pass the time, but I was very actively working on myself. During that time I was traveling quite a bit, so I was opening myself up to a lot of new experiences and situations, cultural understandings and this kind of thing that really helped to foster emotional work on myself.
For a long time, I had been very against been having children. I believed that it wasn't sustainable, they are like tiny little ego accessories, all the usual arguments on not having children. But through the meditation practice I found myself becoming a gentler person, becoming kinder to myself, becoming more compassionate. And I realized that actually, I do want to have children and that’s okay. I didn't feel that I need to have children, I felt open to the possibility of it. I remember on my first date with Merlin, he told me: Just so you know, I wanna have like six kids. In the years before that, if someone had said that to me on a first date I would have looked at him like “Yeah, goodbye, thank you...” But I immediately joked back to him “Well, maybe you can count on me for like one of them.” And that sense of playfulness and openness has guided our relationship since that very first date next to a certain sense of joy and magic. I don't mean it to sound like if we had some kind of fairytale, perfect relationship in every way, but I think that keeping that sense of joy and magic has really helped us to work through some incredibly difficult things, including the very sudden death of our first child. I think, it helped us to stay positive and connected, even in the most difficult and dark of times. And it really started with that very first date, actually even before that, it started with the very first time we met. There is kind of always been this very deep sense of connection and acceptance and of caring very deeply for each other without clinging to that. For the first two years of our relationship we lived half way across the world from each other. We talked on Skype maybe once a week, and our conversations were very meaningful. We felt very close to each other, but we weren't dependent on having that. We were very free and open on how it would progress – or not. And I think, for both of us, just knowing that the other person was happy was very central to what we wanted out of things. So I think, since we first met, that has been something that shaped a lot of my life in these last five years.
The third thing... it might sound small, but I think it happened during a very formative time. It is that I went to a very progressive pre-school, and I had these really cool teachers. One of them had hair all the way down to her hips and one of them would never watch the news, because she said that watching the news doesn't help you to affect change – and she would rather work on a local level and expand her energy in that way than watching news about things she can't do anything about. I think, just having these strong wise women around me at a very young age was incredibly powerful for me. It was echoed later in my life, with the teacher who is the most important to me in my life, a woman named Susun Weed, who is an herbalist and a “green witch”, I am also a green witch. I did a 13-week, full-time apprenticeship with her in Woodstock, New York, where she has a beautiful piece of land where apprentices learn all about herbs in many different aspects of understanding. We herd goats, we learn how to nourish through cooking, we make herbal medicines, we have talking stick circles every day, a moon lodge once a month... it was a very intense and difficult experience. As a teacher, Susun is incredibly demanding, she pushes her apprentices really hard. She and her partner say, 'If our apprentices aren't crying, we're not doing our job.’ So, one of the most challenging things I've ever done and yet it created such growth in me and prepared me for so much. It shifted how I see health, healing, the interconnectedness of all living things, the spiral dance of life and death and rebirth. I think without that, I really wouldn’t have known how to survive the death of my son.
I feel so blessed to have studied with her. Because through that education and through that sharing of wisdom, I was able to experientially understand that this is the great spiral of 'eating and being eaten', that death becomes life over and over and over. And death is not a disease, not something to be feared, it is a natural part of a healthy life. And it is something all of us will do one day. Die. With the experience of being an apprentice, having that wisdom be passed on through her as a teacher and through the teachings she provides, I felt so much more equipped to heal myself, help others heal, and to accept the death of my son. The death of a child is something most parents find to be unacceptable. They literally do not accept it. Most married couples who lose a child divorced within a year, according to the last study I know of about it from 1977. Maybe today this is different. But I think being able to personally survive and to be on the road to thriving again, to be able to maintain and build upon a healthy relationship with my husband after the loss of a child is an amazing gift. And I feel very blessed to have received the tools to be able to do this things.
Lily's question: What do you do to celebrate the gift of life?
Oh, wow! That's a great question! When you ask children what makes them happy or what they do to celebrate, it's usually something really easy that they can do right then. So it's often something small, like they might say: Hearing the birds sing right now makes me happy. And to celebrate, I sing, I jump up and down, I hug my friend... it's all these very immediate, actionable things. Usually, if you ask an adult the same kind of questions, they'll say things like: 'Go on a vacation'. It becomes these 'maybe someday' kind of things. And for me to celebrate the gift of life, I love to return to that child-like state, which is actually a very amazing form of wisdom that they carry, and to just appreciate the life that is all around me. And to recognize that it is all changing, all the time, and being part of that change. To participate in that. That's how I celebrate.
Lindsey's question: How would you describe the difference between wisdom and knowledge?
Lily Merklin is a Tellington TTouch Instructor for horses, bodywork therapist, psychologist, author and translator. She is passionate about anatomy and her chosen homeland Switzerland and enjoys running every morning for at least one hour. Lily's lessons are so remarkable not only because of her broad knowledge, but because of her sparkling joviality, no matter if she is handling real horse bones to explain those a-ma-zing connections in our bodies or living horses.
I am not sure whether there is something that makes me happy. I remember wanting to change the world as a child. I wanted, at the very least, to make a difference and I thought that I had to suffer to do so. I finally figured out that I am firstly, not very good at being miserable and secondly, that I was actually much more helpful when I was happy. So I allowed myself to be happy. For this reason, I think that happiness is also a decision. And of course I feel it more when I am in the mountains, or when I go running in the morning than when I do computer stuff, but in everything you can find something that makes you happy.
What does home mean to me...Where I was born, where my parents lived, I somehow knew that this was home. The first time I had the feeling of being home, however, was in Switzerland. I can still clearly remember where and when I first experienced this feeling. I was walking two dogs around a lake. It was late and there was a full moon, suddenly I was filled with the feeling: I'm home.
Not long ago, I moved house and I somehow noticed how much I had felt at home where I had lived before - and I figured out that you also somehow have to create a home to feel at home. A strategy for this might be, to first make ones direct living space comfortable, but also discover ones external surroundings, find out all the things like where do you like to get your food from, beautiful places to be.
What shaped my life...First of all, without doubt, my parents. Or rather, my whole family. I was lucky enough to be loved and looked after by my whole family, parents; grandparents; aunties and uncles. So I had an easy start in life. I probably learned that the world is a friendly place and that people are nice before even being born.
My mother has an imperturbable optimistic character, some of which I have inherited. And my father loves to think. I think that through him I learned to love thought, argumentation and logic.
I have also had many great teachers over the years who have influenced my life substantially. One of the most influential teachers was my Latin and Philosophy teacher in school, Barbara Selz. I always say, the school subject, in which I learned most about life, was Latin. I loved it!
In class, she would ask us questions like: How can you have an influence on other people? And the answers were always like: Write a book, have a child, build a house, plant a tree and start a war. ...Maybe the question even was: What do you have to do in life to be remembered after death? ...I can't remember the exact formulation anymore, but what she was inviting us to understand, is that within every conversation or social interaction we change something. We leave a footprint; An impression. And I really, really liked that idea. And I am still thinking about it a lot, that in any given moment, no matter if I am with a friend, a client, a student, a colleague – no matter what I do, I always change something. I suppose it would be different if I had a different profession.
A second person who had a big impact was Doris Süess. I met her where I did my horse training, and she really helped me to realize my love for teaching. I think this was very important! And I don't know, whether without her I would be a teacher today. Finally, the first therapist (psychologist) with whom I worked really shaped my conception of how therapy can be. And there are many other teachers too, but to name three of them, that would be these...
Coming to Switzerland was probably also very important for me. I didn't really decide to go to Switzerland. When I was younger, I passionately wanted to become a vet. Later I worked with several vets and realized: This is not what I want to do. I then started human medicine. Shortly after starting, I decided this is definitely not what I want to do. After this I went through a period of... disorientation... I didn't know what I wanted to do or become. I was interested in healing arts and wanted to do something with my hands. Doris Süess, at Mascot, offered a physiotherapy training for horses. And that was something I wanted to learn, so I went to her place without really noticing or caring that this was in Switzerland. But very soon I fall in love with this country – I love the mountains, I love the dialect, but there is also something else which I can't explain. I can't explain why I love Switzerland more than I ever loved germany. And why I feel more at home here. So that also changed my life.
But I still want to name another person, and that's Stefan, my partner. Together with him I have learned how easy loving and being loved can be... which is simply wonderful.
John's question: How do you respond to unexpected conflicts/difficult situations?
It depends... strangely enough this is something I've been trying to figure out for a while. I often observe myself in different situations, and I have noticed that I have two juxtaposing responses to conflict. Sometimes I really enjoy an argument; An argument or even a real fight makes me feeling alive and I want to discuss things and challenge my opponent. And sometimes I am really trying to avoid a conflict, I myself get all nervous, I try to calm whoever is angry and make sure that everyone else is happy! And I find myself feeling very uncomfortable and feeling that I need to change the situation and the way he or she feels, so that I kind of forget about myself. And I can't really tell what my response depends on though.
John's second question: And how do you feel about being on the planet earth in the middle of nowhere in the universe?
Wow! I remember that – quite early – I asked myself: Where does the universe ends and what's behind? Or, if it doesn't end: How far does it go? And this questions reminds me of that... When I think about it too hard, I feel really lost; but then I get so lost in my thoughts that I become centered again. I mean, the universe is so infinite, that you have to start somewhere. So why not seeing where we are as the centre of the universe. And then – right place, right time, right being... that's what springs to mind in response to the question. And I like to – that's probably not an answer to this question, but if I were only asked the first part of the question: How do you feel about being on the earth? My answer is: I LIKE IT! And I don't really care whether it's in the middle of the universe or somewhere else...
Lily's question: What do you do to honor the gift of life?
John Kameel Farah is a composer, pianist and visual artist, based between Toronto and Berlin. I heard a concert of him playing organ and synthesizers in a church during the EMAF (European Media Art Festival) in Osnabrück and was amazed by his devotion to music, and his sympathetic and authentic interactions with the audience (including that he came down from the pulpit to play the piano with socks on). Thanks to the literal push from my colleague who joined me at the concert, I interviewed him the following day.
I am not sure if I really know what happiness is, as the normal definition of 'happy' to me seems so extreme; when someone says they are happy, I imagine them to smile as hard as they can, every minute of every day, which is just unrealistic. There are always obstacles and irritations in life.
Aside from the universal idea of happiness, things like having good times with close friends and family, I think I am most happy when I am doing the things most important to me. When I am sharing my music with an audience, and when all good circumstances come together, that allow you to get into this head-space, those are the times that confirm why you wanted to be an artist in the first place.
And when I am composing. When you first sit down to compose, sometimes at first it’s not easy, but after a while, you lose yourself in it. In the middle of a composition, or when you are making an album, when you are really into a project, this is some of the most meaningful time in your life, but you’re often not even conscious of it. I am not walking around smiling, maybe I am not smiling at all, but I feel like this is what I am meant to do. I am doing, what I am supposed to be doing. Maybe you’re happy, but you don't notice it, you are just not thinking about happy, sad, anything. You are doing this thing that is the most interesting and stimulating to you. I think, the higher the percentage that I can have in my life of that is, the 'happier' that I would be. And I feel very lucky that I am able to do that at all.
When you are composing on your own, it happens in isolation, you are a hermit. You are completely alone. It is not a social job to me. It is very private, hearing your private thoughts. But later, when the music is communicated in concert, it is completely social, even intimate - and I get to meet people like this, sparkling and interesting personalities, all over the world. I feel really, really lucky to get to experience that.
Being with open people, with a sense of humour makes me feel at home. When I feel most at ease with an audience, is when there’s a kind of a relationship somehow, which allows me to be goofy on stage but also very serious.
I love traveling. When you're traveling, all this new possibilities open up for everything, new pathways in your brain, possibilities for your own thinking. At the same time, when I come home, I need huge amounts of down time, staying at home in my apartment for days on end, recharging myself. In order to be creative in my own way, I have to live at a different pace, sometimes very intense, other times quite empty and slow, and live my own slightly strange lifestyle – I just mean slightly strange, but what if I wanna watch Star Trek and eat cornflakes at 3 o'clock in the morning? Often I need to go at a slowly, to conserve energy, because at other times, composing or performing can be extremely intense, like an emotional supernova.
I noticed, when I don't feel at home is when I am with people whose concept of how you should live is very narrow. That you should have a certain kind of job, a certain kind of house, car, lifetsyle etc. All those things are fine, as long as you don't make a rule out of them.
I do feel at home in Berlin. Here, someone might ask: What do you do? And when you answer: I am a composer, usually the reaction is: What kind of music do you do? Tell me about your music! Instead of: How much money do you make? Or, can you afford a car? Or something immediately going to these financial questions.
Incidents, that shaped my life... First thing would be where I was born, more like a circumstance. I was born in this suburb of Toronto called Brampton, which has this reputation of being the most boring, desolate suburb in the world. When I meet someone else from Canada, that also comes from Brampton, it feels like meeting another prisoner that escaped from Alcatraz. An empty wasteland of parking lots, factories, fast food, car repairs and giant malls. And the Heavy Metal epicentre — everybody, including me, listened to Heavy Metal. This was quite formative.
Incidents, that shaped my life - This is very difficult for me to answer concretely. I have always stayed focused on what I want to do, which is to be an artist, both in visual art and composing. But it’s like navigating through a bunch of asteroids. You are always getting hit, going through life, trying to work towards something, as other things, distractions and obstacles are pushing you this way and that. But you still keep coming back. So on one hand, this goal can not be removed, and this makes it look like I am not influenced by anything. But I am actually heavily influenced by everything, maybe more than I should be. Maybe this is typical for artists, having really big 'antennas', so that you are very sensitive to not only the people that you meet, but also the whole atmosphere of the world, the atmosphere between countries, etc… This is constantly shaping me, in a big way. In a way that sometimes I think it would be much easier if I could turn it off, if I had a button I could press.
My mother had a great influence on me, by having this spirit of creativity. She wasn't officially an artist, not in the sense of showing your work to the public, but everything that she did, whether it was painting with watercolor, stained glass, her approach to cooking - was artistic in spirit, and really was an amazing example to follow.
Another formative element was the situation between Palestine and Israel, the situation in the middle east. You are born into that, like it or not. It constantly raises complex questions of complex identities, who and what you/we are. And you see through these labels, how these identities are just as superficial and temporal as they are deep, so that the only really reasonable way to identify is as a human being, or even stepping back from that, as a sentient life form. But unfortunately the reality of politics on Planet Earth doesn’t let you really subscribe to that in practicality, except in your own mind.
Ivo's question: What is your art?
I am an artist. There is this line from a Woody Allen film, Alan Alda says 'My life is my art'. It’s a beautiful idea, but in my case; my art is my art. However, if you took all of my art and music, I feel that it also, over time, over my life, makes one giant Gesamtkunstwerk. It is varied and broad. If you take everything altogether, it also makes a statement in itself. Most visual artists have ‘artist statements’. But they never ask you to make one as a musician; it's just not required, while the artist must.
But I feel that everything that I do; a viewer/listener has to stand back from it. And then stand further back and more further back, to see the whole thing, as it relates to other pieces, the interconnected ideas and themes, pondering life, history, cosmology, what came before and what might come after.
[John shows me some of his drawings, sketches, black dot work, forming into what reminds me of strings, tentacles, leaves, which are moving from an exact frame towards the middle and towards each other, creating vivid ornamental forms.]
Some of them have these ancient middle eastern themes, some remind me of biology, others more abstract. I feel my art is a mixture of history, a love of science and astronomy, the universe, and trying to understand our place in it. And I know, these questions are not answerable. But somehow, there is this element of reaching out to communicate, at least to ponder it. An effort towards fairness and justice is in there somehow; and trying to reconcile this East-West-problem, in a very abstract and very personal way.
However, it’s not like I am making the art to serve this agenda, this is kind of art and music I want to be making in the first place, and it’s a happy coincidence that all these interests come together in tandem. The art and music are tied in together with ancient history, astronomy and world issues. Interpersonally – the act of artistic creation is also another way to be intimate with people. It’s so incredibly intimate, because you are going straight to their deepest personal emotions, bypassing words, even though you’re not meeting them in person. To take ideas at the back of your mind (or heart) and bring them into reality, to deliver these ideas through your hands, and watch as the invisible sound waves leaving your instrument and go into people’s ears, and have them receive and react to these vibrations with emotions of their own, that’s a really beautiful process.
John's question: How do you respond to unexpected conflicts/difficult situations?
And how do you feel about being on the planet earth, a grain of sand in the middle of nowhere in the universe?
I met Ivo during my first Tellington training (he was walking on his hands through the arena). I found him very inspiring and therefore decided to visit him in Amsterdam, where he was studying at the Knowmads Business School. (This visit turned out to be a life shaping event for me, mostly because of Ivo's questions). I am currently living at his mothers', Bibi, and I interviewed him just before he left to live in Chile for few months. Until now, Ivo's career as a Changemaker and Knowmad has included, among many MANY other things, creating Knowmads Sevilla and holding a TEDx Talk about places of Hope.
What makes me happy... That's a good question!
As we talk, Tiponi and Mio, a dog and a tomcat, play around us.
I suppose this would be a good example of something that really gives me joy – watching people and animals play, in a real game. I'm still not sure though, if there's a difference between being happy and seeing something that makes you happy.
What makes me happy is watching people and animals bring out the very best in one another and in themselves. Watching people doing things they are good at –like when somebody discovers what it is he or she loves doing, and then does it with pride – or watching group dynamics... That moment of connection, which suddenly enables real collaboration. It is being able to observe, as well as to experience, moments when things begin to flow, that makes me happy. These moments are usually interwoven with other people.
I believe, there are different forms of happiness. Sometimes I find myself in a frame of mind, which allows me to experience everything as a game. I'm not entirely sure how or why this occasionally happens, but when it does, no matter what the circumstances, I am able to respond playfully. I love this mentality, because no matter what happens, I am still able to enjoy the moment...it doesn't matter if my surroundings are positively or negatively charged...I will still enjoy myself. This is simply a wonderful way of being, and when it happens I try to make it last as long as possible.
...suddenly the cat jumps into the washing basket with Ivo's white laundry. Both, Ivo and the dog, want him to get out.
Back to the question... I experience different kinds of happiness in different situations. Being confronted within the realms of what I am interested in, also makes me happy, IF the situation is challenging enough. Challenging social situations would be a good example for this, say a conflict in a community that requires me to work as a mediator or facilitator.
It is only within the context of my interests, however, that I enjoy tackling a challenge. Dealing with this kind of challenge can make me happy. If, however, it is a problem I can solve easily, the element of joy disappears and it just feels like a waste of time. This satisfaction or enjoyment I get from solving problems does not only apply to external or social situations, but also to situations in which I have to solve my own problems, like getting in trouble on a ski tour.
Something else which gives me joy is Learning. The ability to progress and improve. For example, over the last few years, I have been working with the concept of boundaries. With setting boundaries and acknowledging what my limits are. Only recently, I realized, that through this work things that I used to find very difficult have become easier. This feeling of achievement at the end of a process makes me happy.
...When I think about it, I could talk about this for a very long time...so I will give one last example of what makes me happy. The chance to take part in, and experience, social situations in which each individual is an expert in his or her field, can be very enjoyable. In such social situations, you know that you can rely on each individual within a certain framework... Encountering and partaking in these kinds of social exchanges can be awesome.
Hmm... The never ending question... This is, in fact, a question which I have asked myself very often over the last few years. When you are travelling and you meet people, the first two questions you are asked are: What's your name? and Where do you come from? For a long time I struggled to answer the second question. ...Where do you come from?...Well...I have an Austrian passport, but I grew-up in Germany and....but that's not the right answer... And so the conversation, as well as my own personal reflections, would continue. Somewhere along the road, I realized, that the only right, or rather honest, answer for me, was: I don't know. This answer, however, is normally not sufficient. One must know where they come from...It was the frequent confrontation with this question, and with it the bigger concept of home, which helped me to realize that home, is not necessarily ones country or place of birth. For many people it is... but it doesn't have to be. After this realization, I could think of many places where I had felt at home. The feeling of home though, is often very closely connected with people. This I discovered by revisiting some of the places which had been a home to me, but without the people I associated with the places, they no longer offered me the same feeling of home.
Then there's something which I find really strange, I can't explain it. I have this absolutely unexplainable feeling of being home, when I am in Andalusia. It doesn't make any sense though. I didn't grow-up there. Not a single member of my family comes from there, and yet, since the very first time I travelled there, I knew: This is home. It is there that I feel most comfortable...content. Out of all the places and different countries I have visited, it is the only place where I feel complete. Where nothing is uncomfortable and I know: Everything is okay. This feeling of arrival and completeness also applies to the farm I have been staying on the Cañada, the Finca where I lived for the last five months, and Sevilla. In these places I can just be ME. I haven't experienced this feeling of complete satisfaction, wholeness and acceptance anywhere else.
Then there is another component, namely, the saying: Home is where the heart is. I think most people interpret this saying in such a way as to mean, home is where ones loved ones are; Family and friends. I also used to interpret it in that way, until I realized, my heart is here in my chest! That means, my home is here...within me. This realization resulted in quite a long process of reflection which started with the question: Am I really at home within myself? For a long time, I thought, that because I don't feel at home in any specific place, I must be at home within myself, and that because of this I am able to make anywhere my home. This was before I discovered Andalusia. I think feeling at home within oneself does have a lot to do with home though! - It is important for me, to give myself a safe place within myself to call home...Safe as well as interesting. On the one hand home is safety, but if it becomes a place only associated with safety and ease, it becomes too comfortable! It must also be interesting! I need both of these components to feel at home within myself.
The next step, is to feel at home with people. This is something which I didn't have for a long time. I discovered this possibility for the first time, when I joined Knowmads. I think I must have been about 21 years old. A few years later, while reflecting on my relationship (at the time), I realized, that my own safety, and social connectedness, don't have to be two isolated things. I can enjoy both of them together... Maybe that is the Ideal. The ability and freedom to feel at home in a relationship, within a group and in a place. All three combined. I think this is what I will try to find. This is what I'm looking for.
Like with all things, however, there is of course another perspective: The need to leave home. To get away from its warmth and safety. Places in my world are always changing and evolving...If I stay in my home town too long... Maybe I have to leave in order to be able to come home again.
One thing that had a huge impact on me, was my mother and her work. I think that the Tellington method has influenced my life greatly because I received this very particular kind of contact from the very beginning. At some point I realized, that I have something that many others don't have; The consciousness of touch. An understanding of how light and profound at the same time it can be, to be conscious of one's own body. Even though I often forget it, my body has a grounded, basic knowledge, of subtlety, sensitivity and contact which it searches for. A fundamental tendency to strive towards freedom; Towards harmony and understanding. Even if I am sometimes discontent because of this, it is the TTouch work which opened me to this acknowledgement and understanding.
The biggest influence in my life, however, has been that horse in the picture behind you. It's very difficult to describe. Through my work and relationship with Jezabel, I have been able to realize some unbelievably important things for myself, but like I mentioned, I can't seem to find the right words to describe exactly what it is she has given me....Ideas about life...connections, developments and the importance of development.
One of the things Jezabel has taught me, is the importance of discipline. I wasn't taught this growing up. I was brought up in a very anti-authoritarian manner, meaning, I never learnt that sometimes one has to just get on and do things....except for doing the dishes, cleaning up and mucking out the stables of course, but being forced to work was not part of my childhood. With Jezabel, however, I had to learn to push myself! If I made one wrong move around her, the consequence was a weeks' worth of grumpy horse, without exception!
Jezabel taught me the importance and necessity of doing things properly; down to the smallest detail. If I wasn't absolutely conscious while working with her, she knew, and responded. From the basics, like saddling up and mounting, to the way in which I breathed around her, she was completely aware of my consciousness. If I was not completely concentrated on our interaction, we were not able to work together. It just wouldn't work! I think our interaction has probably been one of the most influential experiences in my life.
When I was a child, I often asked myself if 'intelligent living' existed. I wasn't sure if people where really intelligent...I'm not sure where this question came from, but Jezabel helped me to answer it. She proved to me that there is such a thing as 'intelligent living'. I think that this question might initially have manifested itself, because of how predictable people are, and she showed me through her surprisingly intelligent behaviour and consistent awareness.
Knowmads has also had a big impact on my life because it managed to give me everything I was looking for. I wanted complete freedom. I wanted to be absolutely challenged and unconditionally loved, and Knowmads somehow managed to fulfill these. The only task which was given to me by Knowmads was: Cope with yourself. And this was really challenging. I think the most important thing I learnt at Knowmads, was acceptance. Challenges come and go and life carries on. Be honest and try hard. Just do your very best.
...It's difficult to identify individual moments from the past which one might consider to hold most importance because moments are not isolated. Each moment is connected to what happened before it, and what came after it...a very long chain of actions and reactions...
The Cañada has also had a very big impact on my life, with regards to what I consider to be real life. I was 16 when I visited the Cañada for the first time, I was really enthusiastic, because there was nothing fake or superficial. Things are done because they need to be done, and not because someone else has told you to do so. This principle of doing what is necessary, what makes sense, is something I have only ever experienced at the Cañada. I find it very difficult, therefore, to practice this way of being, when I am not there. There are so many mind games and social constructs which get in the way of what is really important... but at least I know that real life does exist.
Cats' question: Have you ever experienced something like a failure, which then turned out to be a blessing in disguise?
Constantly! It is such a commonplace to say that: You have to make mistakes to learn. After giving up Knowmads Sevilla, I often asked myself: Was that a defeat, or not? I still haven't been able to reach a conclusive answer to this question. If I had to make a decision right now, I'd say Yes, it really was. When I look at it in more detail though, I can see some truth in this statement. For example, that I really wanted to learn and explore and therefore couldn't complete it, but I had to just keep trying different things. And there were many good things about it.
I have been in two relationships which I would describe as being significant failures. The first relationship in which I really failed, caused me to ask myself, what it really means to love. It came to this, because of the awful feeling I was left with. I have never suffered as much as I did during the months that followed. I had to ask myself: This can't be right. It should be good...but it hurts SO bad. There must be something which I haven't understood, if love is something so wonderful, I can't believe it should hurt like this. What I'm experiencing can't be love. It was in this moment that I realized, I have no idea what it actually is. I really am clueless. Funnily enough, I had just been given the book “The Art of Loving”, as a present, in which it's exactly described, what Love is.
When I start training a new horse, I often make a lot of mistakes at the beginning of the process. This used to really annoy me, until I realized, every horse functions differently - So I can't know what is right or wrong at the beginning. It is inevitable that I will make mistakes...In fact, I have to make mistakes. I must just be careful that they aren't too bad. Since this realization, I consciously make mistakes until I have a break-through, and something functions. This is something I would like always to remember - In situations where I am insecure, or don't know how to behave, I can then remind myself, to make as many mistakes as necessary, for something positive to happen. When you approach situations with this mentality, strangely enough, more often than not, many unexpected good things happen. I think that this approach is very positive, and can result in a lot of fun! One just needs quite a lot of patience...but positive results are usually more quickly achieved, using this method, as opposed to trying to get everything right the first time round.
Ivo's question: What is your art?
Translation from German to English: The great Emily van Zyl
Cat is an artist and Tellington TTouch practitioner for companion animals, living in Berlin. I met her during a Tellington training she assisted and had the chance to spend one week in her beautiful appartment in Berlin Kreuzberg while looking after her two dogs Beuysie and Noukie - between pieces of artwork and LPs from all over the world.
Happy people make me happy. People who have the ability to show their emotions and to share them. Animals make me happy! Happiness is something inside. So... if happiness is inside of myself first, I therefore connect with other happy people. It resonates, ripples and multiplies. I also feel happiness when... very simply, my chosen family is well, the people and animals that I love. That is not very philosophical, life can be sometimes very simple, much more simple than we might think. I think, our world right now is not a very happy place, looking at the global enviromental situation, political problems and wars. So, I find it very important to create my own space of happiness with the things and the people I surround myself, in order to give back a positive input into the world.
What makes me feel at home... I lived in several countries and visited a lot of places and I think I started to feel at home the moment when I had found a core group of friends and/or animals. A little bit of a safety helps too... then I feel at home – I can very quickly feel at home, even if I go travelling and I am somewhere only for a short time. I think my heart is nomadic... my ancestors have been shepherds.
So... important incidents during one's life... Sometimes you don't notice in that very moment..In my case, I think never really knew it the moment, but followed my intuition. Only retrospectively it became clear and then it became like a thread. It started in my childhood – I grew up in a very small village, surrounded by sheep, horses and all sorts of companion and wild animals. I had a best friend, who was a welsh pony mare. My family have been Heilpraktiker (Naturopaths) since generations. The connection to nature and to alternative healing methods and herbalism were part of my consciousness since I can remember... That is definitely something, which I now feel is a really important basis of who I am now; my childhood DNA.
Then...I am potentially an anarchist... being a young adult, I have always looked for the wild and unusual things in life – not taking things how they are and asking questions. I would never really accept things, if they felt wrong. I decided that I'll become an artist. I was always painting and drawing as a child anyway... So, I went out into the world... I studied fine arts and philosophy at university, met really amazing people, travelled around the world and was based in London. Whilst making videos and performative installations, I met Leah Gordon, who has been inspiring me to travel to Haiti. Currently, one of my artistic manifestations is to help organizing the „Ghetto Biennale“ which is an alternative Art Biennale in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. We are a curatorial team of several international and haitian artists, focussing on projects based on social, spiritual and enviromental practice. Interactive ideas are welcomed rather than classical, isolated art making ideas.
Another very important influence on my path of life was one of my dogs, Beuysie, who I named after Joseph Beuys. This dog is little and cute but very challenging and I couldn't imagine then that we would be able get to where we are now. Beuysie guided me to learning the Tellington TTouch method and this method quickly became another, most important part of my life. Working with TTouch is where I feel I can make use of the creativity of being an artist and at the same time connect with animals, humans and nature on a very deep level and to bring it all together. I can help animals and people heal. That's why I decided to become a practitioner. I do love working and teaching in that field of practice, to see transformations and changes in the animals and the people and to help them see things with new eyes. Yes, so... these three events have been quite influential in my life.
Bea's question: What is your greatest passion and how have you found it?
I think I can be very passionate about music, all sorts of music, especially music that is played life. I go to a lot of gigs. Music is something I don't make myself anymore, but which I so much enjoy listening to. It gives me real joy to dance to music too. I love going to Haiti and dancing in the streets, not only during the Carnival. Haitian people seem to always dance while they are moving. Music and dancing are my greatest passions, they make me very happy and I can feel that I can let go of everything. Forget everything.
I could say, okay, animals are my passion, or artworks, or seeing good films, but those are too much connected to my everyday life and my own work already, they are in a way great passions too... But music has this passion 'PLUS' factor, it's music and rhythms, that I love to move and dance to. And I love to dance wildly.
Cat's question: Have you ever experienced something like a failure, which then turned out to be a blessing in disguise?
On a late, mild Sunday afternoon, as Simon and I were exploring a climbing spot in the Vulkaneifel, I met Bea. She seemed interesting and sympathetic and as I climbed up the columnar basalt, I decided to take the leap and approach her. She agreed to talk with me and I was left feeling happy and impressed with the honest conversation we shared.
What makes me happy... A day like today! Being outside, having a day off and just doing what I love to do. In this case: Climbing. Great weather, being with friends and not feeling stressed... Being physically active... simply moving. This is already a perfect day for me.
Good question...I'd say, in my experience, home is not necessarily one fixed place, but rather a feeling. I can let myself go and just relax (no matter where I am) , as if I were at home, when I am with people I feel comfortable with; People I can trust and have fun with. This applies to particular people in my life, although it can happen with people I have just met.
That's a ...hard question. There was the death of my father. Thereupon I travelled, alone, to Norway to visit a friend of mine. And finally, my Boyfriend. We met while climbing and have only known each other for two years, but he has really helped me to stay true to myself and strengthen who I am. ...When I think about it, these are probably the three incidents which have shaped who I am today.
Michael's question: How can one, faster and at an earlier stage in life, find out what is really important?
Umm...that's another difficult question...I don't believe that these processes or realisations can be 'sped-up', and if one tries to find a shortcut, the result will certainly not hold much meaning. There might be an event which results in a realisation or degree of insight, for example talks or an unexpected incident, but I don't think there is a concrete way to find out what is truly important in life. I don't think there is a standard recipe which says : "Do this and then you will know". It has to happen naturally. I believe that we will all encounter decisive moments in our lives, which will show us the way.
What I've learned, is that life can be over very quickly. For this reason, I think we must learn not to do things which make us uncomfortable or which we don't consider to be important. On the contrary, we should follow exactly that which is important to us! I think that these things are dependent on situation and age though. I believe that, if you can acknowledge and accept what doesn't feel right, and honour that feeling, it might be a start. For example: If I have already accepted an invitation to a party, which I don't feel like attending, I try to be honest and say: This is not what I want to be doing right now.
Bea's question: What is your passion and how did you find it?
Michael is a passionate and experienced hiker and mountaineer, who lives a five minute walk away from Lake Constanze. He works as a coach and trainer in an Austrian bank and is the uncle of Simon and David. It was, in fact, after a two-day ski-tour in Switzerland, (where I experienced how it feels to move beyond all known physical limits...) which we both took part in, that I interviewed him.
What makes me happy....I suppose I will begin with what makes me unhappy. I have come to understand that it is my mind or rather the way in which I think, which make me unhappy. I realise that there is a part of me, which is never quite satisfied or content. There is a voice inside of me which relentlessly tells me: No, it's not good enough...it's not perfect and you should have done better. In hind sight I can say that I am, and have been, most happy when my mind is quiet. For this reason, I love being in the mountains. When I am hiking, my mind stops criticizing. I experience a quietness within and I can just feel myself. I experienced this when I walked the St. James Trail. It was then that I realised, happiness is about enjoying the present moment. Happiness for me, therefore, is the ability to live in the moment. To really be able to appreciate and experience the present, without worrying about what has been or what might be.
Formerly the feeling of home meant....Hm. The house I grew-up in, never really gave me the feeling of being home. It was only later in life that I realized the feeling of home, for me, is connected to the feeling of comfort. Furthermore, it became clear to me that my well being was not dependant on common external factors, such as landscape, beautiful surroundings or possibilities a place offers, but instead, on social contact, with what I consider to be, beautiful people. When I am surrounded by people who treat both themselves and each other mindfully, I somehow feel at home, regardless of where I am.
On the other hand, I would also describe the place in which I live, my house, as my home. When I am not well, or going through a crisis, a fixed place to call home can offer security and the feeling of being grounded. The feeling of home could be described as security and stability as well as a source of strength when you are not feeling well. In the end, however, I believe it will always be people who enable you to experience the feeling of home.
I think, the first big landmark for me was something every young person experiences once. When you reach a point and suddenly realize, where the road will lead to.
The first time I was confronted with such an experience was during my time in the Army. I did not, in fact, want to join the Army, however, my application for civilian service was denied and I was thus conscripted by the Army. During this time I observed the actions of a comrade who lived in the Army base with the company. This man would spend his entire months wages on alcohol. He spent his time drinking and at the end of the month he would party with his friends. This cycle continued for years, until he was later fired from a discount store. It was at this point that a very strange feeling of disgust came over me and suddenly I was very clear, I knew: I don't want to end up like that. I stopped partying and when I was discharged from the Army, it was clear to me that I did an apprenticeship... and basically, so my career began.
The second signpost was my son Marco. When he was nearly two years, he wouldn't sleep through the night anymore. He woke up at 2 o' clock in the night and would only sleep again, when I carried him for two hours though the house, singing lullabies for him. It went on until I truly accepted my new life as a dad – and from that day, he would sleep though the night.
Another point for me was for sure the failure of a relationship. Not long after my ex-wife and I were divorced, just like a stereotypical man, I entered into a new relationship. After about two to three years I realized: Oh! We are arguing about the same things as before. I was once again faced with the questions of what actually my responsibility is, what is important to me, what was my part. I found the courage to end the relationship and did not engage in another one for one year.
And the fourth, maybe, no – for sure, the most influential event was a heavy motorbike accident I was involved in. My personality at that time was clearly defined by my sportiness, my body. I am: athletic. That definition was like the pillar on which I had built my existence, and it was exactly this which the accident almost took from me. I was sitting there alone in the hospital, next to me an Italian guy who I didn't understand, but who somehow gave me strength. I was informed that I would have to wait until Monday for my medical results. I could not move or feel my feet, and as I waited, I realized, what is actually important in life. I realised that it is not things like money, a house, ones job or ones status that give life meaning and importance, but rather the special moments and experiences we share with friends and family. As I waited, my son and our adventures were very present in my thoughts.
I had often heard, that when you die, your life flashes before you like a film. I experienced this. My film consisted only of moments which I had consciously experienced. I suddenly realised how many mountains I had run up, focussed only on my performance, on my speed and agility, and thus forgetting to notice and appreciate the mountain itself. I was confronted with a very strange situation. I could only remember the moments in my life which I had lived consciously. This realisation struck me to my core. It helped me to understand: That what really counts in the end, are the beautiful hours and moments which we are lucky enough to share with friends and family. That it is not the big achievements, but rather the wondrous little stories, which hold joy and strength. It also showed me how fragile certain values can be. I had made physical strength my sole pillar in life, and how fragile it was. A millisecond of carelessness could have destroyed it forever. I then realised that there are more of these "pillars". Friends, jobs, sports, but most importantly oneself. Ones very core. It became clear to me that I had neglected my "own pillar", by instead focussing on all the others. This marked the beginning of a new... more spiritual path for me. I began to give myself more importance. I went to Scotland and began to walk the St. Johns Trail. If I could, I would be a saint, but I often think to myself: Michael, when your time has come, I want you to have many beautiful memories.
The accident was like a second chance for me, through which I was able to realise: I want to have more beautiful experiences to look back on. I think this is the core of what I learned through the accident.
I am realising once again, in this moment, how fragile the pillars on which we build our lives are. We often think that a job...that everything we have built is stable and secure. Yet how quickly it can all change. There is, in fact, no security in life.
Maja's question: What is REALLY important in your life?
Really important...I think it is the ability to enjoy! What I mean when I use the word enjoy is not luxury...but the ability to consciously perceive and appreciate ones surroundings and experiences. The ability to acknowledge life's beauty. I believe that THIS is what really matters. Life is not always colourful, but the ability to discover beauty, even in the small things, may be the most important achievement in life.
Michaels question: How can one, faster and at an earlier stage in life, find out what is truly important?
I returned from India with the wish and intention to engage in a more relaxing roadstory, one which would not push me too far out of my comfort zone. I decided to interview a friend of mine called Maja, who, for me personally, embodies that grounded femininity, which makes me feel instantly at home. She is earth and nature loving, studying Art-Pedagogy-Therapy; a florist by nature who comes from a family of musicians.
What makes me happy... I think what makes me happy is the ability, not only to feel or experience life’s ebb and flow, the way in which everything comes together with purpose and reason, but to also consciously allow myself to let life's current lead the way. For this, clarity of mind is very important; being actually present in every new moment and new experience. I am most happy when I am connected and in harmony with myself; when I can sense what my next step is. In this way everything resonates, chance encounters, coincidences and unique moments. Things over which I have no control, like meeting the right person, in the right place, at the right time, also make me happy. Even if these moments are bad, the realisation and awareness that everything happens for a reason and will resolve itself makes me happy. Balance and equilibrium also make me happy. Not in the sense that everything has to be perfect, just the feeling that I can cope with all the challenges which come my way. Finally, very superficial things also make me happy. Well, what does superficial mean? In any case, things such as delicious food, listening to beautiful music, being in the sun and being given flowers, these things too make me happy.
Home for me is not a place, but a feeling, which emerges when everything is right, when I feel present within my own body. Certain situations also carry the meaning of home for me. For example listening to music in the kitchen while I cook, the colour of a wall in combination with a houseplant or simply realising things, which I associate with a happy memory. There are also some places in which I know I will feel at home. Nature is one of these places. In nature I feel that I can totally be myself in combination with being completely present within myself. There are also people who, for me, represent a kind of 'mobile home' because they make me feel secure. I think the feeling of home has a lot to do with security for me.
I think there have been three phases in my life so far, which have helped to form who I am today. The first is the clear direction my parents gave me as a child. This dominating input was not always great, but in retrospect, also nice to have had. Their individual characters and unique qualities as well as their decisions had a direct impact on my life. For example, their decision to separate meant entirely new and different conditions of living for me. 'Home', at this time, adopted a completely different meaning. During this phase it wasn't always my decision as to how my life would evolve and progress, rather that of my parents.
The second phase began after puberty...I reached a point where I suddenly realised: I don't want to belong to anybody anymore! I want to belong to myself. Until this point, I always felt the need to conform, adapt and 'fit in'... the need to be part of the 'cool crowd'. This need was also accompanied with fear. The fear of making a mistake and thus losing my status. One day, however, and perhaps purely out of spite, I decided to do exactly the opposite. I decided to simply be exactly who I am. A decision which I am proud of. A dance teacher once said: Either you drive at full speed or you stop, but never drive with the hand break on. It was at this point I realised that being different is good and that I am unique and that that is the cool thing about it.
My final phase begins with the end of school and the beginning of university, at which point I found myself in a completely new environment with new surroundings and places. For the first time I had the responsibility of managing my own home and the feeling of being totally independent.
I now carry sole responsibility for my decisions. Previously I would do things without really knowing or understanding why, now it is up to me to decide where, why and how I invest my energy. Even if I decide to invest myself in something that is perhaps not necessarily constructive, it is my choice, and I think this freedom is very important.
Jaya Balas question: A tip, how to control anger – how to be peaceful?
I have a theory which is based on my own experience...I think anger is mostly caused by external conditions. The first step is asking oneself, what is my contribution to the situation. What part of me resonates with this external annoyance. For example, if a person irritates me, instead of reacting aggressively, I try to first look into myself and ask myself: How am I reflected in this person? What is it that makes me feel this way?
I think, however, that the second step holds even more importance. The ability to acknowledge or find the source of the problem and to deal with it in a peaceful manner, instead of being aggressive with oneself. In my experience, however, this is very difficult. I believe that the world would be a more peaceful place if people treated themselves with more respect. The ability to say, even in this moment, in which I don't like myself, I can accept and forgive myself. I can still love myself, imperfections and all.
I believe the key is a combination of two things: Being able to treat oneself with respect and being able to create a distance from oneself, which allows you to see things from a different perspective or in a different light (e.g. humour). If you don't take yourself too seriously, you can't hate yourself that much. When this space is lost and you start to be too judgemental with yourself, it helps to step back, laugh at yourself and say: "OK, despite everything, I do love myself and I will honour and remain true to myself..." this could bring calmness and peace.
Maja's question: What is REALLY important to you in your life?
I met JayaBala at the Balasai Baba Temple in Kurnool, where she lives. Her father is the brother of Baba.
She has a beautiful singing voice, great body control and andurance, as she offers daily aerobic and meditation for the devotees. Moreover, she graduated in Pharmacy and is going to study to become a doctor of pharmacy.
Baba's company makes me happy! Obviously...Simply that.
No one should interfere in my work. That makes me feel at home. When no one disturbs me. Whatever I want to do, I should be able to do it without any obstacles or dirsturbance. So home to me is no fixed place, but rather a state.
There are no particular incidents for me. Everything is decided before. This is my destiny, whatever is happening. So I have no particularly incidents I remember. Whatever Baba directs me to do, I do that. Without any questions.
Suji's question: What is your life's purpose?
I dedicated my life to Baba. So whatever purpose, he has to decide. He has to direct me, I am completely dedicated to Baba.
Jaya Bala's question: A tip, how to control our anger - how to be peaceful?
Suji is a traditional singer at the Kathakali Centre in Kochi, Kerala in the South of India. I was deeply touched and impressed by the purity of his voice and the devotion in his singing. The training to become a singer lasts six years. Since 21 years, he starts the morning at the centre with singing traditional Ragas for meditation and ends it with singing for the traditional Kathakali demonstration. I interviewed him between two of his explanations for the auditors at a concert in the late evening.
The life is making me happy. Doing the real things. The true things. Whatever the day starts with – it starts for me with doing something to serve the culture for. That is my life. And it fulfills my life with happiness. All kind of music is the language of the universe.
This is my home. Art.
I am living not far from here, but my day is starting here and is ending here.
That is amazing, that question. Because it is so difficult to come here to this situation, you know. Because I didn't know I would be here - Normally, my father has given us small lessons of singing. And somehow that institute got me for the conception, the conception of this building. And incidentally, my friend started this theatre. And for the last 21 years I am going here, every single day. Hundred people here, hundred people there in the audience, I hope for everybody to leave with the same feeling. Doing this service makes for me a good feeling. I am living to do something. I am giving everything of me. When I am doing the service, it creates happiness, for me and for others. Whatever you are doing you should do it trustfully and heartfully and enjoy it. Your selfish enjoyment – makes enjoyment for others
Klaus' question: What means fear to you and how do you deal with it?
I am not afraid of anything. I just live today – today. So there is no fear.
Suji's question: What is your life's purpose?
Klaus is already the fourth carpenter in 16 portraits – after Simon, Julian and Stefan. A creative mind in building with wood and repairing cycle motors. Besides, he is my father and the son of Margot. I interview him at a paradise like place in the South of India, where I visit him and my mother, after they have been travelling through India for the last five months.
What makes me happy... Sometimes, it just makes me happy when I do handicrafts, without big expectations. I am easily happy when I can move my hands just how I like to do. Or – recently, I sat on the top of the cliff and looked at the sea and I was just happy, because I didn't want anything - I was just pleased with what I saw, the sea, the waves, the sun. And I didn't want anything from it. This is something I consider as happiness. This is a pretty complicated questions, I can't answer it generally, I can only describe aspects of happiness.
When I am together with my wife and feel exactly: The two of us, we fit together. We complement eachother. And we, we are happy together.
To say it in general: When I am in a state where I can just take everything as it is without wanting to change anything. When I am wishless... then I am probably also happy. And it becomes more and more clear to me, that happiness doesn't depend on objects. Sometimes, it depends on people I am together with, but not on „Ah, now I am happy, because finally I have 5000€ on my bank account.“ And also, that happiness is not statically – Sometimes it's there, gone in the next moment, but it will return. It is nothing that starts and lasts, but consists of moments.
I have the feeling of coming home when I am driving in the direction of the Rhön, when I see those familiar hills, I don't know why. Coming home for me is simply returning to where I grew up, it is a special place or a special imprint for me. But I realised throughout my life that home is nothing geographical. I often feel at home with people I am deeply connected with. What makes me feel at home often depends on the people I encounter, I feel at home when there is a certain connection. And I believe, that one can find a home when one has the feeling of not having one. That one can create a new home. Like the refugees, who lost their homes, but maybe it succeeds to create new ones. So home for me is the place where I grew up. And I feel at home in the encounter with people when it moves beyond the ordinary.
What really point my ay ahead was becoming a father. When you have children, you suddenly have a different view on the world, you think differently about many things. You think differently about yourself, when you suddenly discover, that – how should I say – you are just one dot in a row in life. That there were people before you, that you yourself have a life and after you will come life as well.
Another important point in my life was, when I encountered circles of men and realized: It is important, that men come together with men.
And especially influencing is my wife Ellen, who lured so much out of me, or she even exorcised things out of me, doesn't matter, I don't want to judge it – this is very special. If I didn't meet Ellen and spent so many years with her, I would be a comletely different person today.
And maybe anther point... that I believe in God, or something, that you could may call God. Which still surprises me with how complex it is. It is no more the old man with a white beard from my childhood, nor the intellectual construction you build up in smart talks, but something you encounter every day, although it seems differently sometimes. Which is something like a point of light in my life.
Teresa's question: Who do you really want to be? Imagine, money wouldn't matter.
I believe, that money doesn't matter. It is something we all believe, but when we only focus on money, we will miss 99,99% of the rest and it holds us back from so many thingsone can do without or with very little money. This is something I realized, because I always use to think: You have to save up your money, this is not possible at the moment, there is no money for it... But money is just... an excuse. And who I really wanna be... I didn't find out yet. What I really want is to find out, what I really want. I am not clear about that yet. I can imagine many things, but that's just mental acrobatics, nothing where I say: THIS is what I want. What I try for myself is to be honest. I try being really honest, when someone asks me something or I feel to say something. That I don't restrain myself. But I am still young...
Klaus' question: What means fear to you and how do you deal with it?
Chance (or fate) brought me and Teresa together. She is a writer and excellent cook. She shares her words on her blog erdengel and her beautiful voice in songs and studies Oecotrophologiy. Her whatsapp status says „Let no one come to you without leaving happier“ and she lives that pretty perfect. If you meet Teresa, you'll leave with a smile on your face.
What makes me happy.... Little things. I easily get enthusiastic, as I am able to discover big wonders in small things... Be it the first breeze of spring air, the first flower that blossoms. It can be the first snow which covers the world in silence, a hand-picked strawberry, that is warm of the sun, the smell of cinnamon waffles on Spiekeroog... things like that make me happy. The underlying feeling in those moments is being in connection with... everything. Those little moments let me feel, that everything is connected, a oneness. Universe, World, Life. That life is good.
...People make me happy. Seeing the beauty of humans,
Home for me is more a feeling than a location. The feeling of security and being protected, the feeling of Mum's lap. And home can be mum's lap, but I can experience it everywhere, with every person. At places, which I create as a home for me or places, where others welcome me and create a home for me.
The feeling of being at home is strongly connected with sensory perception for me... for instance, when I smell a certain scent, like the smell of pancakes in the stairwell, I feel like being transported back into the days of sheltered childhood.
I also feel at home when I hear a music, which reminds me of a certain moment, a moment where I was fulfilled, where I felt that connection I described above in the field of happiness. When I feel, that life is good, that I am loved and that I don't have to make an effort to be loved.
I think, there was a chain of incidents – I met a woman, who managed to wake me up so that I could transform, she lead my thoughts towards a new direction and enabled me seeing life as a playground where I am not only a spectator, but welcome to play. I got a whole new view on my life: That I am allowed to create, to wildly paint it in all colours. It opened the door for new experiences and places which weren't the places where my parents sent me to, but new ones, which I discover on my own.
The impulse of that woman lead me to other people, encounters, that deeply influence and enrich my life since then. I discovered a whole community, where I found the most intimate and close friendship, which I treasure so much, as it nurtures and empowers me and always reminds me of the essential things in life. Supports me in trusting in myself. I gained a clarity, which leads me to meet the right people at the right time... From there, other beautiful chains of incidents happened. And I have the feeling, that I am walking into the right directon. That I will always meet the right people.
Jasmin's question: What is your personal solution, your vision, for a positive change of the world?
For me, it is a change of perspective, as I experienced it myself. Showing that to people. I think, the essence – maybe my personal happiness formula – is to shift the focus on defects, the feeling of living in lack and having to achieve more and more, into the feeling of abundance. It is just that little shift in your thoughts which transforms a negative experience into a positive and enriching one, although it is the same situation.
This is a perspective I want to show to others; because it leads to so much more love and happiness among each other..
Teresa's question to you: Who do you really want to be? Imagine, money wouldn't matter.
Well, then. I am travelling again, carrying my basket of roadstories with me and collecting new ones. I am in India now, experiencing more beauty and dirt than ever before in my life. Visiting my parents, who have been travelling through India for six months now. It feels like my inner protection wall around my emotions is slowly flushed away by the waves of the ocean I am surrounded by every day. And due to my approach of honest answers and questions, I dare to share.
Today, I saw dolphins playing in the ocean from my place at the breakfast table.
Today, I married myself.*
At noon, my mother covered my eyes with her scarf and lead me to the tables. In front of me, a beautifully decorated table with a birthday cake, candles and blossomchains. My birthday, actually in january, is now celebrated once again with my parents. The cook brings Masala Chai and coffee, the two younger coworkers take photos from us. I get a plate with a heart of filled dates. And I have to cut the cake. I say thank you to all of them. Thank you. The Indians answer in placing their right hands on their hearts. It is a silent round, because only the cook speaks english.
I nod, when my mother asks me if I want to give the flowers into the ocean.
I have to be alone, after the last days have been quite intense. I get in my bathing suits under my clothes and wrap a read cloth around my hips.
I take the heavy yellow blossomchains and red hibiscus blossoms and walk to the sea, while the tears start rolling. On my way, I put the chains around my neck. The beach is more crowded than usually.
It feels like if I am letting my childhood behind. Finally. Like a coat, that sheds from my shoulders and leaves me feeling taller and higher.
So it must feel, when you are walking to the altar, I realize. Everybody is looking at me, I am so visible because of the vivid colourd blossoms around my neck.
I walk with my head held up high.
I climb up a red earthy rock at the foot of the cliff and wrap the blossoms around a coconut, which seems to lay there just for that purpose
Tears are rolling.
My soul expands.
I realize, that I will never be alone, as long as I am with me.
That I am responsible for myself and no one else.
Today, I marry myself.
The tears carry away the pain and leave space for forgiveness.
I forgive myself for all the pain I caused myself.
Today, I marry myself.
I say yes to me in this life.
Yes to being always with me.
There is peace in me.
Over my head, the hawks circle and the half moon starts to shine. In front of me, a path of golden waves extends to the sunset.
I watch the sky turning from blue to red into a darker blue. I wash my earthy hands in the sea. Let the ocean clean me. When I leave the beach, the bells of the Hindu temple on the hill start to ring, because it is an Indian holiday.
* The idea of marrying myself is not an idea of mine, but from German speaker and author Veit Lindau, who wrote a book called „Marry yourself“.
A few years ago, Jasmin decided to reduce the working hours in her job, because it didn't make her happy, and started working as a professional photographer instead. She is especially passionate about capturing the power and beauty of horses in her pictures. Jasmin welcomed me in her home, where we spent a cozy afternoon next to her Labradors Zoe and Lilo with a cup of tea and banana muffins. (And I am deeply impressed that she, a professional photographer herself, embraced the challenge of being photographed just as she is, although she just recovered from a tooth surgery!).
Many, many things make me happy. Being in nature, for instance, spending time with my two beloved dogs and my boyfriend. Many little things like a delicious wine, a great TV-Show where a new talent is discovered, I always cry with them... Having delicious food with friends, a great community around me. And being in the woods. Experiencing the silence in the woods really fills my heart. When I see the success of others. When I am able to touch people... Photography makes me happy, especially when I am surrounded by horses.
And peace. My greatest vision and bliss would be worldpeace, although it may sound like the typical wish of the winner of a beauty contest. But peace really makes me happy.
Here, the feeling of happiness matters. I feel at home, when I feel comfortable and when I feel welcome. I used to say, that home is no fixed place for me, I always considered myself as „uprooted“, but in a positive way: That I can grow roots wherever I feel it's right. Home could be anything, like a cave in the mountains with a chandelier – as long as my beloved ones are around me and one can make it cozy, it is a home.
I feel at home, when I canbe myself – when I can be like I really am. When there are no expectations I have to fulfill, but when I can just... flow. Home for me is a place of security. Home as a retreat is very important to me, very very important. I need a secure home, so that I can „incubate“ the things I am contributing to the outside,
I love to cook and to have it cozy, with my animals, and therefore I need a home. It doesn't matter how it looks like, if it is small or big, I will just create it. Having the possibility of retreating in my own four walls means a lot to me. Like a cave, that offers protection.
Things, that point my way ahead... my self-worth. That's what comes up intuitively. I cannot really specify it, but throughout my youth and childhood, which weren't written in golden letters, I didn't believe that I would achieve something, or even make something, that I have a talent at all. Because nobody took my hand and said „So, and now we gonna find out what your talents are!“, I had to experience it by myself. And my selfworth was very deciding during my life.
What also point my way ahead was my carrier of being delinquent, to somehow name it. For a couple of years, I didn't live a model life. Now I now, that I wanted to hide and also suppress my sensitivity, through drugs and intoxicants. And the point of realizing, that I am not only a cold rock without feelings, but so, so much more – and that point my way ahead to what I am doing now.
And the man at my side – from the first day, he saw my talent and did everything to support me. If something is a supporting pillar in my life, it's him. And I am incredibly thankful for that. Where my weaknesses appeared and I „gave way“, he supported me in every way.
And of course, the animals. The animals are so important in my life.
Vanja's question: No matter how (!) you are going to achieve it - But what do you really wish to do?
I want to touch people. I want to touch people and open hearts. I want to show people, how wonderful they can be. Because there are so many people who don't believe in themselves. That is, where I want to go: Fill people with enthusiasm and motivate them: YOU, yes, exactly you, why not you?
Maybe also: Making people touchable. That's what I really want.
Jasmin's question to you: What is your personal solution, your vision, for a positive change of the world?
I met Vanja at the Business Retreat of the Women Entrepreneur Club in Summer 2015, hosted by Marja. As a buddy, she supported me since then in developing my vision and forming this project with her smart questions and remarkable intuition. Vanja studied Spanish in Slovenia and moved to the North of Tenerife in winter 2015. For the interview, we met each other for three hours at Frankfurt main station, when she spent a weekend in Germany. I never had such a good time at a train station, the only shortcoming was that we had no daylight for the portrait.
It seems a really easy question, but it's not! ...What really makes me happy is being true to myself. And being happy doesn't mean to me just to smile all the time and jump of happiness, but I am also happy when I can cry. When I can say „I can not do it anymore“. And... when I do spontaneous things and when I am angry. So I would say: Being authentic to myself and especially to my feelings, my emotions. When I am really connected with myself – This is what makes me happy.
My home is, where my soul feels... like at home. And a lot of people say, that home is, where certain people are and I partly agree with it. But mainly, I think the most important thing is the decision of your soul, your inner self. This tiny little voice, which is hardly to hear, which says „I would like to stay here!“ I don't know exactly what it is, if it's good vibrations, the feeling of your body... This is it, I would say – When your body says „Here!“ - and not your mind. It is so powerful that your mind can not keep it off. And it is so... magical to get to this point. Even if you have to search it for a really long time. But all of the path, all the changes and wrong directions are actually not wrong, it is like exploring, which leads you to this moment, this place... Which is actually inside of you. I was looking for it for a really long time outside of me and it was okay, this way was needed, but then the answer came from the inside. And this is what makes me feel at home, when I am at home in my body.
First of all, my parents. Without them, I wouldn't be here and I wouldn't be where I am now. They kind of.. didn't know what to do with the role of being a father and a mother. So this was... their only mistake, not knowing it, and not being able to be parents. But without this, without this kind of parents, I wouldn't be where I am now and I wouldn't have this kind of experiences that made me to go towards my dreams and my path, towards my authentic self. This is for sure one big thing that influenced me.
Another one was the decision to leave Slovenia. I was always feeling that Slovenia is too small for me, that my energy is on a higher level, which I am not able to express and live in Slovenia. I felt myself flourishing, when I was abroad. And for a long time, I thought, that this was wrong, that I had to change this, that there is something wrong with me. But then I started to meet people that were just living their life like this and I said to myself „Okay, I am just… normal“. I don't like this word, but it was also like: My way is alright, although it may be a little bit different. Leaving Slovenia was for sure a big decision, but the best ever.
And the third one. The third one was starting to know myself. In totally new environments, but especially getting to know myself from the inside. Because I think when you know yourself, you can start creating your life. The life around you is like the mirror of your inside. And when you start changing things in your inner world, the surrounding starts to change, too. And here, I include people, work, projects, new ways. And this lead me to leave my past life behind. It was quite a hard way. But you have to leave things, people, places, behind to create space for new ones, because you are changing. And when you are changing, and I am changing continuesly, your comfort zone needs to spread out.
David's question: In your actions concerning your future, what is more important to you – love or money?
Love. Because love is also what brings you the money. Nowadays, we tend to want more and more and more – but you are happy when you have love, when you belong to somebody. When you belong to yourself. And when you have this, you start to create and attract things. I think there is nothing as powerful as living your love, nothing that can attract so many good things.
Money is something that is important, but if you have money and don't have love, you have nothing. And if you have love, you got everything. And money just comes and goes.
Vanja's question to you: No matter how (!) you are going to achieve it - But what do you really wish to do?
David is the younger brother of Simon and happens to live with his long-time girlfriend in the same city as I do. He makes a dual apprenticeship to do his Abitur and to become an information technology assistant.
Also, he has gaming friends all over the world, who send each other christmas parcels with local sweets every year.
What makes me happy... many things. I often enjoy the brief luck in form of incidents which cause the chemic reaction of euphoria, happiness. (Me: Ehm, sounds like if you are talking of drugs).
Yes, maybe, drugs do this, like other negative habits, too. But also the flight into other realities, where you can let your imagination run free is a form of euphoria. When you manage to trick your head to get into another sphere, where it can fully express itself, detached from reality. I mostly enjoy this when I am really stressed out.
The second thing is the kind of lasting happiness – that I am surrounded by people who love me for who I really am, where I can be my true self.
I strongly connect happiness with love. And... balance. You don't need the extreme in love – The extreme, the honeymoon effect you have when you fall in love, is too extreme to me. Because you are not really yourself, just overwhelmed with emotions. And that I found this kind of love where I can develop, which doesn't limit me, makes me very happy.
What makes me feel at home... A place, where I can let go of my restlessness. Where I can relax and recharge my batteries. Where I reach a point zero, where I don't have to put on an act. A place to relax physically and mentally – where I have a social environment where I can simply be, without having to do something. And of course people, friends! So home to me is not only the maternal space or the space you create in a relationship, but also friends can be a home.
What influenced me... The relationship of my parents. What happened between them, the atmosphere between them. When I was 14, I really dealt with that and it made me more critical and more cautious.
And of course, my girlfriend influenced me – she's the reason, why I am here now. You find love in every corner, but true love... True love is not hard to hold, but hard to find.
The relationship to my mother made me more catious, in financial things and things concerning my future – and my girlfriend is my ambition to do things. With her, I realize, that I need to... achieve something, that I can't stand still, but always go a step further. I don't know why, maybe I am just trying to fulfill a stereotype picture. In ten years, my answer will be propbably different.
And of course, my friends are important throughout my life... And my gaming. Gaming influenced me – why else would I do something with PCs, I could do so many other things.
Bibi's question: What is the meaning and importance of sexuality in your life?
Ha, cool question. Sexuality, sex is important. I think, everybody has this need, me too. What I said before, it is important to me to find a balance – and I think, sex contributes to it. It is a confirmation, an act where you and you partner come to one level. It doesn't have to be the basis of a relationship, but it complements very much, tenderness, love. And I think, it creates a very good balance.
David's question to you: Concerning your future – what is more important in your actions, love or money? Why?
I got to know Bibi during my training as a Tellington Practitioner for horses. It happened, that I live at her place now, together with my boyfriend, her horses, dog and cat, during my studies. Originally from Austria, Bibi is a renowned teacher in all fields of connection between animals and humans, such as riding, dog training and animal assisted therapy. She is instructor of the Tellington Method and built up the Association of Tellington practitioners in Germany.
Overall, connection makes me happy, with humans and animals. And true connection... is something I am looking for during my whole life, which I understand as something that comes and goes and is not a steady state. This connection is very essential for me.
Animals make me happy, riding makes me happy, very happy. Being in nature offers me moments of happiness. And maybe, also being in connection with myself – with others, but also being truly and deeply connected with myself is beautiful.
It makes me happy to love. And for me, to love is linked with that connection.
That's an interesting question, I asked myself this recently -When I return from a journey, I feel at home. And there is a difference to the many places where I am staying at, although there are places where I do feel comfortable. When I return home, I am relaxed. I think, I am feeling safe at home – it has something to do with feeling secure. I realized something, what I have to do to feel at home when I am somewhere else: I have to take a responsibilty for that place. For instance, when I sleep in a hotel room, I can simply use it or I can transform it into a little home... When I think of all the hotels and guest rooms where I am inevitably, my approach is linked to the first question: If I bring something of myself in, not only by arranging my things, but in BEING a moment with myself, being in connection with myself, for instance through meditation – Then it radiates and the place becomes a part of me. Like in nature, places I had intense experiences with gain a connection with me. And become home.
There is another level of feeling at home which I feel when I am at a friend's place in Spain, La Canada del Robledo. This already happened when I got there for the first time, 20 years ago, so it has nothing to do with me having been there so often. Already on the way from Ronda over the mountains I thought „Aah... Arriving. Here is where I belong to.“ I don't know why this was and still is the case. I think, the Finca's location is very 'right' in an archaic way and makes many people feeling at home there. Behind the house are the mountains, that offer protection, in front you have the lake and the plain, the view to the wide expanse.
The contact with animals did definitely point my way ahead, already before there were any – I wasn't allowed to get in touch as a child, at least in my first ten years. But I always had the urge and longing. For a long time, I didn't take it serious and dismissed it as a hobby. But they are really defining my life.
There are many single animals and situations that touched me deeply. One animal „person“, who is outstanding, is my first Arabian stallion. I bought him when I was nineteen, rashly, a totally impetuous decision. He was a very difficult stallion, challenging, great, an incredibly powerful horse, but sensitive and giving. I learned a lot from him. Because of him, I startet Endurance riding, he simply had to run! And he gave me that feeling, which is so important to me: Expanse and speed, movement. That brings joy to my heart.
And he pointed my way ahead, on one hand with the experiences I made with him, on the other hand he eavened my path to the Arabian horses, to a wild and fast way of riding. Riding and being are very close to each other for me.
It all meshes, as well as these three questions. There are many encounters with meaningful people in my life. My loves, which all influenced me. Maybe I can summarize those relationships with men. For me, it was always about finding the balance between devotion and staying by me. Every love, every deep encounter had these elements: On the one hand, the wish for fusion, devotion – which involves the danger of self-abandonment. On the other hand, holding the connection with myself, staying true to myself. It was always about finding the way in between, which means: Only when I am rooted in myself, I can truly connect and give. Finding this balance is like a developing task for life.
And the third is the Tellington method, being really meaningful to me. Linda and her work inherent this deep connection – and I knew it, since I first saw it. It is something I had been looking for in my work with children and people, something that allows me to connect with others – how funny, how it all merges... in a way that allows my counterpart to be in connection with himself, to grow and to shine. That had been my drive in my time as teacher in school, providing the „breeding ground“ for the children to grow and develop their potential, by creating a relational structure in class that allows the individual to experience itself and to grow.
I hadn't found this in the work with animals, until I met Linda. Until then, I only knew the common way: You have to make them obedient. I learned a lot to make animals to do what I wanted them to do and I was quite good at it, but it didn't fulfill me. When Linda appeared in my life, she showed me other ways, that allowed the animals to develop THEIR potential! And I knew: This is what I wanna do. And it includes this aspect of bodywork, which helps so much to overcome barriers of contact. There are those magic moments when I have my hands on an animal (or sometimes humans), where I realize: It becomes one. And by the way - this makes me happy.
Stefan's question: What means friendship to you?
There is this saying: „A friend is somebody who knows everything about you and still loves you“... Friendship means to me having the courage to be myself, providing a room which is a bit home. It has very little to do with how often I might meet somebody, rather in which ways I can be with somebody. Friendship to me is the feeling of love, being pleased with somebody. Friendship for me has much to do with trust. Feeling trust is a great gift for me, it allows me to relax, like a warm breeze. And once again, there is the other side: Knowing, feeling, that the counterpart dares to show herself and trusts you, getting back this openness.
Bibi's question: What is the meaning and imortance of sexuality in your life?
I got to know Stefan at a campsite in Arco, Italy (also known as the Home of Climbing in Europe – so guess, why we've been there) between the years. Simon and I, Stefan and two of his friends, all youth leaders of the DAV (German Alpin Association), were the only ones who dared to tent. We enjoyed the entertainment from our tent-neighbourhood with music in the morning and grande-Unfall-stories in the evening.
Stefan is a carpenter, generous, magnanimous.
We meet each other again at our journey back in the „best café“ in his home town.
What makes me happy - My profession, my friends, my hobbies – where you alway meet new people, with whom you have fun. And my family!
Home is simply coziness – no matter where – it simply has to be comfortable, the atmosphere has to be right, as well as the people you spend time with. When you are alone, you are not at home. Then there is something missing, that certain something. But you can be at home at many places.
What were landmarks... My school career. And that times, when I was disappointed by certain people - and build up again, bailed out by other people. Knowing, that you will always be able to count on them, that you will always be there for each other.
Margot's question: Why are people so discontent and what is so hard about loving your neighbour as yourself?
That's difficult... I have to think about it... I think, loving your neighbour and personal satisfaction, personal happiness, are related. To be happy and love your neighbour.
I believe, that many people are convincend, that you need money to be happy and content. Also, in our society, many things depend on money, up to our circle of friends.
But when you imagine – actually, you don't need money to find happiness. Living with the minimum, so that you come from A to B, always scratching the limit, makes life way more interesting and fulfilled. At least that's my conviction of how one will become happy.
Stefan's question: What means friendship to you?
I interview my father's mother at the 24th of december, in the simple kitchen with the wood-fired oven where I spent many hours of my childhood. In that room full of memories and a present encounter I realize, that my and my grandma's world are shaped differently, although they are sharing the same space. That some things may have a completely different meaning due to the times we lived.
When I tell her that I'd like to take a picture of her, she explains that in former times, girls at the age of eighteen would go to the photographer for a picture. In a borrowed dress, mostly.
So you know, Leonie, I think, how grandpa and I are living; this is actually the best time and I wish for everyone that one can enjoy this. My mother for instance was only fifteen and her father was in war and they had basically nothing. And my grandfather died with 52, since then my grandmother was on her own. And now as the saying goes: I want to go to bed with you in the evening and wake up with you in the morning, and every morning, I poke grandpa to wake up.
And also, you grandchildren, all of you three. Leander remembers everything – so every tuesday and friday when I went to Maberzell, I picked him up in Fulda. Sometimes when I picked him up from the Kindergarten, he came running with waving arms, calling „Oma, Oma!“ And he was also such a picky eater but he loved it when I cooked chocolate pudding and he loved the lumps which arose from cooking on fire. Then, I told him tales and when he wouldn't answer any more, he was fallen asleep...
Here is home for me. Although, in the beginning, Benno (grandpa) always told me when I came from Maberzell: Your home is here now. But you know, I grew up there and went there for fifty years, twice a week. And it did hurt, when the old house was torn down. I couldn't look at the place for a while. Although I don't live there anymore since fifty years, I still went there because of my brothers, and I always stayed in my role of the big sister.
How I met your grandfather. And then the first child... when Klaus was born. But the others, too. With Joachim, I use to think... (My daughter) Elke died right after the birth and I always thought: I have to have another child to come over it, because it was so horrible for me. And I always think: Joachim is one, who never nettled me consciously. Until today. Like this noon, he called me, although I know that he doesn't have much time. A good boy. All the three of them.
Julian's question: Describe the feeling of loving somebody deeply.
My grandpa steps in. I tell him about the questions, he answers.
It is... well... nice, how should I say, when you know, where you belong, Leonie, and that you are loving that person.
Long silence. We change the subject. My grandmother continues.
If I hadn't had my faith... it helped me so much, when things were bad, so that I could go through it. And somehow it helps me... as I don't have to be afraid of death.
We come to speak about refugees. My grandma gets in a rage.
I absolutely don't understand how people can complain about them! Of course there are wrong ones among them, but among the germans as well! And imagine where they had to go thorugh to come here... I don't understand why people are complaining so much, why they are so dissatisfied although it is said: Love your neighbour as yourself.
Margot's question to you: Why are people so discontent and what is so hard about loving your neighbour as yourself?
Julian is a carpenter, at the moment he is travelling through germany. In one or two years, he wants to study architecture to design and built sustainable houses. Moreover, he is very
creative in cooking, singer/guitar player in a band called „Whales on Crack“ and talented in drawing/tattooing.
What makes me happy are... the little moments you either spend with talks or being together. It can be something like great food, things one save up for special moments. Music. Doing nothing and let life flow...
When things happen and you realize, how beautiful they are. Appreciating the things in the moment, I would consider as happiness.
No concrete place, but rather the meaning of a place for oneself. When you are familiar with a place, where you can be who you are without pretending to be different. When a place fills you with a deep happiness, then it's home. If it is a hut in the woods, a view on a field or your family's house – doesn't matter. For me, it does not depend on if there are people. When a place gives you a lasting feeling of trust, then it is home. Where you feel secure. It changes, depending on where I am.
One thing... when I was only as tall as this table's edge, I picked the most colourful disc from my father's CD shelf and became addicted. Half a year later, the Zappa album was totally scratched and my father angry with me, but this was the cornerstone for the music in my life. If I haven't had music, my life would be quite sad today. I wouldn't have started making music and I hadn't experienced music as the great thing it is for me now.
Another cornerstone... I think it was a situation when I was in the fifth grade, when I got to know Simon, who is a good friend of mine. Then, he was smaller than most of the others and I therefore teased him – until he verbally hit back in a way, that I became aware of the mistake I just made – that I was treating somebody unjustly. I found myself in that situation a few times; when somebody from the outside makes you aware of your actions, so that you realize your mistakes. It is the most effective impulse to shift, because it really... hits you in the brain. I realized, that people who are able to bring you into this situation are the best friends you can have. The feeling of active and purposeful criticism means real friendship to me.
What came to my mind first to this question, probably because I talked about it yesterday, was the picture of the first master carpenter I worked for. What I learned from it was creating something on my own. Building something with my own hands, giving form to something, realizing it exactly as you have it in mind. Creating is something great. Not only in carpentry, but in every part of life.
Paulina's question: Where does your next journey lead you to?
I envisioned Costa Rica, but I am still undecided. Where the next journey will lead to... I don't know yet. I think, I am already on this journey, since three months, since I left home. But I have no idea, where it will lead to. Having a destination means that you have a fixed place you call home, from where you leave to see other places, from where you can START a journey, meaning that you plan to come back. I am already on this journey and I will see, where it will go.
Julian's question: Describe the feeling of loving somebody deeply.
Paulina Sommer is a fellow student of mine, traveller, film maker, exceptional in asking questions and spreading stories. Exactly one year ago, she inspired me to add the „What is the question you always wanted to ask“-question when she went through our group with a piece of paper, asking us to answer the question of the person before and ask a new one.
Kim's question: Is there something you (really) want to achieve/experience in the next years? And what will you do to make it happen?
...I am really bad in answering questions, I only like to ask them... Hm. What do I want to experience. That's hard to answer for me, because I don't think in years, but at the moment only until february (when I'll go to Cuba for a student exchange). I have no idea what will happen there and how it will affect the time afterwards. But until then, I want to spend time with people I like... say goodbye... spend some time on my own, because the last weeks have been quite tight. And what will I do for it... Going to Skagen, I think. Visiting my host parents from my denmark journey. It does me well being there.
Since one year, Kim is my neighbour. And since then, she keeps surprising me - when I meet her at 5 o'clock in the morning because she goes running before work, when her hair becomes even a nuance brighter or when she drives by on her motorcycle. Kim does a commercial apprenticeship at BMW.
My social environment makes me happy, animals and humans. Even if things go wrong, I know that there will be somebody to cheer me up again. It also makes me happy when I see close people happy and when I can contribute to it... It is very important to me to live in the present – I try not to worry about what could happen, because usually things turn out differently than planned. Living in the „here and now“ enables me to enjoy moments fully.
The feelings of love and security make me feel at home. When I know that I am loved and that I can trust somebody. The moment, when I don't have to pretend to be somebody else or trying to behave correctly, where I can just be myself.
That's difficult to answer, because I can't specify on three things... I think, every day things happen that should happen, thus point us in a certain direction. We are usually not aware of it, but everyday something changes and affects us. Whether it is work, friends or family... These are monopolies which involve change and which, consciously or unconsciously, point our way.
I am often proud, not necessarily on myself... but on what my life offers me. I have so many things I value and of which I am proud to have. I owe much to my beloved friends and family members and I am proud that I am able to count on them. I am proud on being part of them, that they always offer me strength and support.
Kim's question to you: Is there something you (really) want to achieve/experience in the next years? And what will you do to make it happen?
I met Lasse during my visit at Knowmads Business School in Amsterdam in 2013. One year later, I met him again in germany, discovering that we are studying at the same university. Lasse studies business administration with focus on sustainability and arts & philosophy.
Ulrich's question: What do you do, what can you do to make the world more beautiful?
Little things. I often smile at strangers (and they smile back). I do these little things you don't notice, which are kind of invisible, but though make a difference. I try to help wherever I can.
It really makes me happy when I see people in a state of Flow. When they found something that really makes them flourish, no matter if it is amazing art or a silly hobby. That really inspires me. Seeing this... bliss.
And for myself... what makes me happy are mostly unexpected things. For instance, my girlfriend surprised me recently. After we were having a dispute, we had arranged to skype and when I rushed home to be on time, she had come from Amsterdam and was sitting in my room – and I was just speechless. And happy.
Since three years, I am moving every two to three months to another room or even another city. Therefore I reduced my material goods to the essential. What I always take with me are my whiskey/gin collection, my cookbooks and my IKEA bed linen. When I have those around, a new place easily becomes home for me. (And if I have a gas stove to cook with). I myself can easily adapt to new people and surroundings, no matter if it's Alfter, Hamburg or Amsterdam.
„Connect the dots”… First one: In primary school, I somewhere picked up, that by the time I would leave school, everyone would need Abitur. Most of my family members were self-employed in crafts and no one expected or even wanted me to do a higher degree. I have no idea where I got it from, but I was convinced that I would need Abitur to be able to choose the profession I want to - and I asserted myself.
Second point: I had a teacher, who really liked me and pushed me. At some point in the upper school, I got lazy and just did the most necessary things to pass. During a talk, he said to me „Among the blind the one-eyed is the king“. That really was a wake-up moment, because I realized that I didn't satisfy me to be just a one-eyed.
And finally, during my graduation time, my mother gave me a business magazine with an article about Knowmads in it and said „You should go there!“ I didn't dare to apply and forgot about it. About one year later at a business dinner, during a talk about my life goals and visions another woman recommended „this business school“ for me. So I wrote to the magazine to get the information. My application got accepted and I spent one year at Knowmads in Amsterdam and learned many personal things about myself and my surroundings.
Lasse's question to you: When was the last time you were really proud on something/on yourself and what was it?
Ulrich Maiwald. Actor, teacher and professor in the subjects of applied theatre, language training and improvisation theatre. I met him as teacher at a seminar on „organized chaos - improvisation and self-efficacy“, which was as funny as intense and instructive.
He made me treasure the interview with him even more as it took place on his birthday.
Encounters with people make me happy. During seminars, in school – felicitous moments filled with activity, mutual goodwill, sometimes resistance too. When change happens and you are creating something new together.
Great moments on stage are fulfilling me. When a spoken word moves something in my inside, no matter whether I am playing or sitting in the audience. Moments, when you are feelimg something opening up, initiated by a word, body language or an encounter.
One more thing is sitting in the garden, listening to the birds, watching the leaves and to think: How beautiful is this.
Home depends on the people who mean something to me. Home is, where I can be with people to whom I belong and I feel a connection with.
And finally, there is a place deep inside of me, where I am feeling at home. A non-physiological, but psychological, spiritual internal space. Sometimes, I lose it when I get stuck in outer troubles, but it is always there and it is nice to gain the focus to return.
At fourteen years, I have been standing on a stage for the first time. All of a sudden, I realized: I can transform, I can change! I can make something visible that is inside of me and show it to others. At that moment, a door opened, that still exists: The insight about the moment of transformation.
The second incident happened, when I was part of a clique in the 11th class and realized: The individual has no importance, regarding the group's fun-factor. Later in my life, I broke it down to: If you truly want to be yourself, you have to step out of the group and follow your own path. You are carrying the responisbility for your personal development growth by yourself.
Thirdly, the encounter with my wife, because we really gain something of each other, in our artistic work as well as in our lifes.
Simon's question: Why don't you live your dreams?
I have the privilege to already live a great part of my dreams. What accompanies the other part is a strong feeling of responsibility, for my family – I have four sons – and the places I am working at. At the moment, I still like to bear this responsibility, but I think I would organize my time differently if I didn't feel it that strongly... I would like to have more time, for my artistic explorations and experiments, which are a very essential part of my work and life. It feels as if I would reflect in the evening that it has been a beautiful day, but it could have had a few more hours...
Ulrich's question to you: What do you do, what can you do to make the world more beautiful?
Simon works as a carpenter and spends every free minute either at climbing rocks or in the mountains. Since three years, he is my closest friend and lover (and I didn't knew, what his answers would be like).
What makes me happy... Life does. Being in the Here and Now. Travelling. Nice people. When I am free to do whatever I want to and just „go with the flow“. You make me happy.
That's a difficult question! Home is, where you love to be and where you can relax. Home is, where you have friends. I really like my van – I can chose wether I want to go wherever those friends are and I can have my peace at the same time. But also a winter room in a mountain hut becomes home after a few days. Fire, open or at a fireplace, means home to me... There is no specific place.
What influenced and marked me were no specific great incidents, but the small things in life. That little ones, that leave you fulfilled and happy. All kind of relationships. What inspired me were and are people; my grandparents and parents. My first boss, who taught me the most important things I know about carpentry. The stories about travelling of my geography teacher in school.
Being in the mountains, to reach elementary borders where you can't go on and you have make peace with.
Marja's question: What would be your ideal way of working?
Relaxed! I already do what I want to. For me, work has to have a purpose. I don't need a fixed timetable. It is ideal, when you are content and happy with your effort in the end and when you achieved something.
Simon's question to you: Why don't you live your dreams? What holds you back?
I got to know Marja as a host of the WE Club Summer School, which I had
the honor to attend as photographer this september. I now meet her three months later at the Zandvoort beach after her every-sunday-swim in the ocean.
What makes me happy, that's an interesting question. I think, setting forth and giving form to my inner mission, bringing it to reality, accomplishing it. Just recently, the last few years, I found that there is really a purpose in everything. Like when you form a question in your head and then you meet just the right people, without even asking for it - When it all comes together... that's happiness.
Smell is somehow important for me to feel at home... Home is where I can relax, where there's space to be myself, although that's very vague. I do my best to make places feel at home. Beauty is very essential to me, having elements of nature, light some candles, incenses. I always bring a big scarf and put it on the couch or as table cloth, so that they are some elements of me around. And if I feel at home, I really like to stay! When I feel at home, I am really grounded and happy and I think it's the best place to be.
Becoming a mother is definitely the Number One in life changing incidents. Doing the Go Mad Training... and then, starting the WE Club as really an expression of what I wanted to do, without thinking of money and practicalities, just as a desire to bring this into the world. That one, starting the WE Club, would be like sharing my dream – to speak out and get it out there.
Christiane's question: What would you change in society, if you could? That's an easy one :) Empower women doing business their own way!We are very used to be in that rat race, that everything is made up as a competition. I wish for more balance in that towards more „female“ principles, for us in society to become more caring and nurturing.
Can you? Yes! Otherwise I wouldn't be doing what I do. Although it may be just a small impact, with persistance, it is still... valuable. Changing something.
Marja's question to you: What would be your ideal way of working?