When we were at the start of our twenties, my dear friend Hanna and me one of Our favoured activities together. We took a several hours long walk with my beloved dog. A well deserved break from
marketing, events, making movies for me and her studies for her. Good for getting your breath going, the brain empty of thoughts and deep conversations.
Somewhere she said: "You know, usually, when people are around 40, they change their life again completly and take a turn to what is really important. They usually become Coaches, riding teachers or Yogatrainers." So, obviously, already then she could foresee our future. Turned out I was a bit unpatient as usual, and could not wait so long.
But here we are , me with a professional business all around ponies, and her with a wonderful business all around mindfulness, self-development and experiencing the body-mind connection.
How this is connected with the art of riding? How is it not connected would be the better question. When being with horses, it is all about being connected to yourself, to the other being sharing the space with you and staying in the moment.
So, if we share a walk today, we still share our thoughts about how to be more in touch with ourselves, and how to be the best Version of ourselves. Not only for the sake of our horses, but that too.
I am grateful for her sharing her thoughts with us. Enjoy!
The word "Mindfulness" is everywhere right now. Do you have thoughts about that?
The term mindfulness is used a lot lately, that’s true. I recommend a closer look at the actual context and also at the person who is talking about it. Not everything that is sold as mindful actually is so mindful.
How would you, personally, define Mindfulness?
That is a very big question which a lot of others tried to answer already before me.
The origin of the term lies in buddhism where it is a very important and central element of the teachings. It means both an attitude and a condition as well as the designation of the buddhist practice. In Pali (the language which was used during the time of the Buddha) they use the term sati. The term mindfulness doesn’t include 100% of the meaning of the original word sati. Some things got lost in translation, in terms of both language and culture. My short answer to your question would be:
„Mindfulness means to be aware of the present moment…“
This is something most of us do at least sometimes, for example when we watch the sun rise or set, when we smell the scent of our ﬁrst coﬀee in the morning, when we look into the eyes of a loved being or when we feel our hands getting sweaty and our heart beating faster right before an important exam. It feels like time stops. And in some way it does. In these moments there is only now, no past, no future. Only here and now. But the deﬁnition goes on:
„…to be aware of the present moment without interpreting or judging it.“
That’s when it starts to become a bit more difficult. How many times do we actually judge anyone and anything right away the moment it appears in our awareness? Either we like something or we don’t. Something is good or it is bad. We want something (and then usually we want more, and more: money, love, appreciation, beauty…) or we don’t want it (pain, loneliness, defeat, fear…). So most of the time we want reality to be diﬀerent than it actually is.
To be mindful means to bring to awareness into the moment and to accept what is. And also to be aware of judgement in case it happens. Without then again judging the judgement. To be fully aware of how the mind (thoughts, psyche, desires of the heart) and the body work.
In a second step we can take a conscious decision based on how we want to act. We can only work with what’s there right now.
As an example: If you want to be more patient you need to work with your current impatience. You can practice to become aware when it is that you’re getting impatient and then start to observe that. „Only“ to observe, nothing more. That way you learn to be patient with your impatience. In case you practice that consequently for some time you will start to experience more patience in your life.
So we get to act and therefore aren’t caught in re-acting any longer. And we start to understand that we are not our thoughts nor our feelings or our moods. Because „I“ can observe my thoughts arising and passing away and can take a conscious decision wether „I“ 1. believe my thoughts and 2. act upon them - or if I choose not to. Therefore „I“ am not my thoughts. We experience something that’s called non-identiﬁcation which a lot of people describe as pretty deliberating and which opens up a huge potential for conscious action. And that has an impact on all areas of life. That is my opinion why mindfulness is so popular right now in all kinds of contexts.
Concluding I would say one needs to experience mindfulness in order to really understand it. Like before you fell in love for the ﬁrst time you had no idea what it feels like. And with mindfulness it’s kind of the same: One cannot grasp the full potential and the depth of mindfulness only intellectually. Like reading a book about how to swim: It can help to understand which movements keep a body on the surface but you’ll only learn swimming the moment you step into the water an do it.
Within the Art of Riding, there's different schools with different, sometimes even opposing, programs, though everyone strive for the same goals. How is that in
There are diﬀerent programs in the West which were developed for diﬀerent contexts. So next to the spiritual path there are for example therapeutical programs to support the health of body and mind. On the business level there are trainings for mindful leadership in corporations. Even the military is using mindfulness trainings to higher the ability of their soldiers to concentrate but also to strengthen their resilience and to support soldiers who suﬀer from PTSD. So the goal might be a diﬀerent one depending on the context but the root of all of these programs and the techniques they use is usually the same. Regarding meditation in general there are some big diﬀerences though. This term doesn’t necessarily mean mindfulness or insight meditation. Another big tradition is the so called transcendent meditation which uses mantras or visualization for example.
So, what is the base you are working with and why have you decided for that?
I started my own mindfulness journey 10 years ago with a 10-days Vipassana retreat, the traditional buddhist insight meditation. Practicing Vipassana really changed my life profoundly and so I made it a part of my everyday life.
People in my environment recognized some positive change in me over the years and every now and then asked me if I could teach them a bit. At the beginning I didn’t feel comfortable doing that and told them to go visit my own teachers. But somehow they couldn’t imagine to disappear in a silent retreat for 10 days. So I started looking for a program that ﬁts more into the Western culture and in our everyday life. I found this in a program called MBSR - mindfulness based stress reduction. The program was developed in the 70s by Jon Kabat-Zinn, an American professor for medicine. MBSR is nowadays the best known program for mindfulness in the Western world with a long list of scientiﬁc studies that testify the positive eﬀect that this program has on the participants. The 8-weeks-program combines the ancient buddhist insight meditation Vipassana with Hatha Yoga and contemporary knowledge about stress and psychology.
Meaning, is my life than always easy and nice if I start practicing Mindfulness?
That’s a nice one. I don’t believe that reality is only easy and nice. Or at least mine isn’t.
Mindfulness helps us to face reality as it is. To accept it and to also be aware how we inﬂuence it ourselves. So by practicing mindfulness we gain the freedom to create our own life more consciously and to understand the power we have to do so. Many times that means in a ﬁrst step we have to deal with pain or hurtful emotions that might come up. We have to feel it and to go through it, before we’re ﬁnally able to let go of it.
At the same time mindfulness also helps to be aware of all the beauty there is in life. And that’s much more than we usually realize. With mindfulness we train ourselves to be aware of everything and to really enjoy everything that's good as long as it lasts. And to let go of it when it’s over, with but clinging to it. We become more sensitive and experience more intensely everything there is.
So mindfulness can widen your horizon and help you to really be present in your own life. You will get to know yourself better and gain a deeper understanding of what it is that gives purpose to your life. Still you won’t be able to decide what happens in your life. But you’ll be able to deal more conciously with whatever might come up. And that’s a lot, actually.
To sum it up - why would you recommend starting to practice?
Because it can change a life for the better. That’s proven by millions of people who went through that kind of training already. A lot of them describe it as the one most important experience in their life when they startet to meditate and to practice mindfulness. Many people cannot even think about a life without the practice.
If you don’t won’t to miss your life anymore, if you really want to be present in your own life, this is a great opportunity.
A lot of scientiﬁc studies show that even the 8 weeks training of MBSR have a profound positive impact on health, stress, quality of life, relationships and wellbeing of participants. After only 8 weeks!
And next to our personal development there is also the global situation which we need to take under consideration. We as a society have to face tremendous challenges in order to keep the planet healthy and the human race alive. We need each and every one of us to show up, to be awake and present in order to create proper solutions and to act upon the insights that we gain. The challenges we face are of such tremendous importance that a lot of people feel overwhelmed or paralyzed and therefore somehow are waiting for someone to show up and to do something. Practicing mindfulness can help us to stay strong and courageous enough to face reality as it is while staying capable of acting at the same time.
What are the first steps?
Well, there are diﬀerent options, depending on what you want, what kind of life you’re living etc.
If you’ve never been in touch with mindfulness before, meaning you’re a complete beginner, maybe you just start by taking a few moments for yourself. Just some time where you close your eyes and bring your attention to your breath. Can you feel your body? Which sensations are there? Are there some thoughts as well? Just give yourself a few minutes of your time and do some kind of a check-in: „How am I in this very moment?“ Be aware that you’re alive. How do you know?
Then there are diﬀerent kinds of meditation apps, like 7mind or headspace. They are quite good and I think some of them even have a version which is free of charge.
I you want to dive a bit deeper into the topic you can also look for a course or a class in your area. Buddhist centers usually also oﬀer meditation classes for beginners. Mindfulness based stress reduction (MBSR) is usually taught by a privat teacher. This program is perfect to integrate in the everyday lives of most people and is a very good way to really understand and experience the topic on a deeper level. Students learn step by step diﬀerent aspects of mindfulness meditation and mindfulness yoga, so that at the end of the course you’ll have your own individual practice and will be able to meditate independently without further guidance.
On my webpage www.hannavoss.de there are three 15-minutes guided meditations which are suitable for beginners as well. Also you’ll ﬁnd my ﬁrst-aid anti-stress kit with three eﬀective mindfulness practices that help you to re-center yourself in your body and in the present moment again.
.... is trainer for mindfulness, MBSR-Trainer, Coach for social innovation and working with research within the field of personell development and society
These area are unseperatable for Hanna. As a coach for mindfulness she helps humans to develop their own inner potential, wisdome and intuition. As a coach for social innovation she supports both, the individuum and cooperations, to together get activ for a better future and sustainable solutions for society and our planet.Her academic background is within social- and culturalanthropologie, social management and business psychologie. She practices Vipassana since 2010 and is liscensed MBSR-Trainer after Jon-Kabat Zinn. Hanna lives and works in Berlin, but is available for clinics all over the world as she speaks english fluently. Don't hestate contacting her in English ;-) www.hannavoss.de