A personal approach to Zen

Monat: August 2021

About waiting

We spend a large part of our lives waiting.

Despite the hectic pace of our daily lives, it’s waiting for a bus, a train connection, a meeting or an appointment, or even a better life.

Often it is as absurd as in Samuel Beckett’s „Waiting for Godot.“ I have waited countless times for a bus connection in Munich and calculated how much of my life I waste on it and it was not insignificant.

In recent years I have thought a lot about waiting and have learned to appreciate it.

Often life is about making room for something you don’t know yet.

A new job, a new direction in life. Then I decided to make room, to end relationships, to quit jobs, even though nothing new was in sight yet. And then it is time to wait.

This time can be used to reflect on yourself and there is an art to accepting the time of waiting as something valuable.

To learn new things, be it through podcasts or books, to enjoy the moment and not to think about the waiting itself but about the time in the now and how it is given to you through waiting.

Suddenly that time makes sense and it’s not just a wasted life. Twenty minutes of meditation or short breathing space while waiting on a bus.

We often waste so much time on meaningless activity and waiting seems annoying but the attitude towards it changes everything.

Often it is the act of willing ourselves to spend time waiting that leads us to more freedom. Especially when we question relationships and activities that exist only for their own sake and we let them go.

It is difficult because we are afraid of the ‚empty‘ time, the time in which we do not know what to do with ourselves. Then it turns out that this time is necessary to learn more about ourselves.

The emptiness and the waiting can also prepare us for the new tasks and challenges we don’t know yet. It is important to get involved in it and to accept it and use it in these times.

I wish that we draw strength from the time of waiting instead of being angry about it and seeing it as wasted.

I wish that waiting is accepted as a possibility to live life in this so-called lost time.

Maybe a new adventure starts right there.


I don’t care that much about money unless I don’t have any.

Money is a concept, I’m really only interested in the freedom I can buy with it. And of course the goods I can acquire.

Although in recent years, consumption is no longer so important to me, on the contrary, it even gets on my nerves.

The fact that our economic system and our prosperity are based on the fact that we exploit our earth and probably inflict considerable damage on future generations annoys me.

It is also annoying in western countries to exploit other countries and other people for our consumption. A consumption stop is a clear sign against it.

But I am also wracked by my own behavior, my urge to buy things. Things that I don’t really need. And I notice how quickly the short happiness from consumption fades, and the things I have do weigh me down.

Then I try to get rid of them again, which is nonsense, wouldn’t I have bought them in the first place.

I’m brought up in the ’80s, in the white, western world, and material possessions and consumption were the number one goal for us. Wealth, more and more, better and better, newer and newer.

Today I feel freer the less I own but also secure when I have money in the account. Being able to travel. Although I know that also pollutes the environment beyond measure, our urge to be constantly mobile, traveling gives me a sense of freedom and happiness.

I like a few things I would miss; a few clothes, a lot of books, DVDs I want to have on the shelf because I want to look at the spines and both books and DVDs remind me of the content. A small watch tick is also there and my motorcycle gives me the feeling of freedom.

For me, not having money means not being able to participate in society. Not that society is that important to me but being excluded is no fun.

The distribution of money is unjust and this injustice is growing every day. Maybe we need a new relationship to money or a new concept that distributes our goods more fairly.

Property obligates, I try to consume less and thus be happier.

But I can’t be without money either, because I am afraid of the social isolation that comes with it.

I am aware of my wealth, even though I am far from being upper class in the country I live in, I am grateful for not having to worry about basic needs like good food or medical care.

I should be even more grateful and be aware of it every day.


We are all children and remain so throughout our lives.

The love of our parents is a prerequisite for us to feel secure in the world. Our parents shape us in the first years of life like no one else.

We cannot decide where we are born and also not whether we wanted to be born. It is a matter of fate or luck and we cannot choose which parents we have. We are born into the lives of our parents.

Life attitudes and values, lifestyle and circumstances format us, so to speak.

I have always had a split relationship with my parents, precisely because of their divorce, and thus with parenthood.

I could not imagine having children. On the one hand, because I am constantly afraid for them, in which world will they live, which challenges will they face?

But also because I am afraid of giving them too much of myself. To transfer my primal fears and mistrust, my doubts and psychoses to them.

Now that I’m a father myself, I have to admit, it’s worse than I expected. The parenting job is the most horrible in the world, with lousy pay and constant over time.

My fears are one thing, but I often fall back on methods of my parents out of nowhere when parenting and it scares me.

No one can prepare you for parenthood and even what kids you get and how they turn out often seems random and a matter of luck. A mixture of genes and peer groups and your own situation in life, a thousand parameters influence the little ones.

I lose my temper way too often and constantly reach my limits. My children seem to love me anyway. This love is the strongest and most gratifying feeling I have experienced so far. My love for them as well. No one can prepare for or anticipate something like this.

I want my children to become free-thinking, independent living, happy people.

I want to give them advice and support and actually just protect them around the clock. But this is not possible and will not do them any good, I have to learn to bring the support and the letting go into a reasonable balance and I have to learn to speak with the children, in their language.

With them, I get the chance to experience my life from a completely new perspective and they teach me more about myself and the world every day than anyone or anything else.

With an open heart and when I am really with them, I see the world in a new way, marveling at seemingly small things, a tree, a bus, a beautiful color, a train, an ice cream.
They live in the now and know no yesterday and no tomorrow. They express their needs immediately. Their default mood is happy unless they are hungry, thirsty, or tired.

As Kahlil Gibran so aptly writes:

„Your children are not your children.
     They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
     They come through you but not from you,
     And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

     You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
     For they have their own thoughts.
     You may house their bodies but not their souls,
     For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
     You may strive to be like them but seek not to make them like you.
     For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
     You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
     The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
     Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
     For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.“

That’s what I have to learn.

Poem ‚On Children‘ from The Prophet (Knopf, 1923). This poem is in the public domain.

On worrying

I worry all the time, all the time. About my children, my professional future, my financial future, my past, my mother, my wife, my home. About getting older, staying healthy, getting a healthier lifestyle, getting more money, buying your own home, owning a home, you name it.

Yesterday we found out that we have to move out of the house next year. We have lived here for almost ten years, my children have been here since they were born, they love the garden, they love the house.

I never cared much about the garden because I don’t like gardening and because I always feel watched by the neighbors. I also didn’t care much about the house because I know I can rent something else and it’s ok. I grew up in apartments and never found it bad. But I worry about how my kids will take it.

Worrying all the time is exhausting.

The mind doesn’t settle down, I can’t be in the now, constantly thinking about something else, can’t enjoy the moment.

It is not a very nice summer but the somewhat gray, rainy days, still summer warm, have a nice mood. Walks are nice, sports outside are nice, time with the kids at home, now on vacation is nice. But everything is overlaid with these worries.
Some writers or philosophers said that it makes no sense to worry all the time because most things never happen anyway and you can only worry when something does happen.

That is right and makes sense. It makes no sense to worry twice about something that is not yet here, and a move is just what it is.

If I try to free the mind from worry, I still don’t succeed. If I wake up at night, it immediately continues. Deep meditation does not seem possible. Any distraction does not seem possible. I don’t know how to deal with it, how to unburden the mind. Tara Brach writes of radical acceptance, I will try that but I feel this discomfort in the abdominal area.

There are bigger worries to have at the moment, Covid, climate change, the shift to the right in society and there are some things to confront. That doesn’t put my worries into perspective either.

Today is the day you were afraid of yesterday, it’s just a waste of time to worry too much. But they are there.

About grief and loss

My first serious confrontation with grief was the death of my grandparents.

Maybe it is like that in many cases when time passes naturally and no early strokes of fate befall us.

At that time this event had shaken me because I had a strong bond with them and I remember thinking at that time ‚best not to take human bonds too seriously, because, in the end, they must end in loss‘.

In fact, this is a core teaching in Buddhism as well, in other words, life is suffering.

What I didn’t understand at the time is that life can still be enjoyed, perhaps even must be enjoyed, and that human bonds are the most important thing there is for us. Only these bonds give our life real meaning.

And so I finally allowed it again, the love. The love for other people, friends, women, my children. Always knowing that a relationship probably has to end one day.

The thing I regret the most is the connection with my father, which broke up in a quarrel and now he is deceased, there is no possibility to revise something or to reconcile. Saying you love each other and then saying goodbye in peace is very important. This regret will definitely haunt me for the rest of my life.

Then there was the loss of a good friend that hit me hard. It came suddenly and for him at a relatively young age some time ago. But even though I miss him every day, I don’t mourn him that much because there was nothing unresolved between us. No conflict and I did not have the impression that he had not lived just one day in the life he wanted, he enjoyed his life. Sure, he could have had many more wonderful years and we could have had many more wonderful times together but I am glad for the time we had.

There can also be mourning about friendships we lost even if death isn’t involved. You lose track of someone, you have a conflict that doesn’t get resolved, you turn to different life paths and don’t see each other anymore. I lost friends along the way which I deeply regret and I’m mourning their loss even if they’re still out there somewhere.

Grief and loss are certainly processed differently in each individual case and there are also strokes of fate in which it is probably not possible. I imagine the loss of my own children and the thought alone must be suppressed, the fear and grief even if such a thing has not happened, is unbearable in the imagination alone.

So it is the acceptance that our lives are fleeting that is so difficult, and even the beautiful moments are not permanent. If life is long enough, the chance of a ‚happy ending‘ dwindles. At the same time, it is the cycle of life and mortality that makes everything so special to us.

Therefore, every moment in the now should be enjoyed and the beautiful and also less beautiful moments should be perceived and accepted as what they are:


It is hard, it is easy, it is cruel, it is beautiful, it is all that and wants to be lived.

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