A story by Eldina Sonnenholzner, Wavemaker, FWOC NL, based in Germany. (FWOC Story telling month June 2022)
My project is helping to bring mindfulness and wellbeing to individuals and organizations as a mindfulness teacher and trainer for individuals and companies.
What triggered you to get started on this adventure?
For many years, I have invested a lot of my time into self-exploration and silence through mindfulness meditation. And at one point, I noticed that I was not true to myself. Particularly in my job, I was working in the IT industry for decades, and I was quite successful. But somehow it felt like I was a different person as soon as I entered the office. I was wearing what my teacher Tara Brach would call a space suit. And this made me feel separated and empty and I lost my sense of meaning.
So I decided to bring those two worlds together and began to teach the art of mindfulness and compassion and to really use the opportunities in my life to walk my talk (at least I tried) not just when I had like minded people around, but especially when it was difficult.
My sense of responsibility and empowerment accelerated with the birth of my son. I really got it, each one of us is part or maybe even responsible for making this world a better place – we (just) have to choose whether we want to follow harmful self-protective patterns or if we want to open up and learn new ways of dealing with the challenges of today’s ever changing world. In a world that is changing so dynamically, we need to mature our minds.
What made me hesitate was my sense of safety. It felt like I had to give up something that I worked very hard to get there. I guess change does this with us. It adds this feeling of insecurity.
Who was supporting / cheering / mentoring you?
Honestly, I have needed and still need a lot of support! I have individuals who are on a similar path, that I tend to. We share our stories and just listen to each other and inspire each other. Also, I have some who are my mentors, people who have achieved something or have a skill that I would like to learn from and also groups such as FWOC who are a very big support in just learning how to be myself in this world.
What was the biggest challenge?
My biggest challenge was my own inner critic! We know each other already. This “guy” shows up whenever I create something new to tell me “Don’t do this”, ” You will fail”, “You don’t know what you’re doing, and now others will notice!” I remember when I first offered mindfulness courses, I spent days preparing for them and of course, I had no experience and no clients which meant, without having practice I had to go out and do some self marketing. This was very difficult for me! But still, I filled up the class, which was, looking back, a great achievement. But during this time, when a participant didn’t show up for one or more classes of an 8-weeks course, I immediately thought that it was because of me not being a good teacher. I remember, there was one class in which half of the group was missing. I hear my inner critics’ voice “See, now everybody knows that you are not good enough for this!” I’m happy that I was teaching about self-compassion during this class, because I needed it myself. The next class, everybody was back and luckily no-one knew about my inner dialogue.
The feeling I got was that of an imposter. My whole energy went into ignoring this inner voice which resulted in missing resources for my project. I’m not sure I overcame my imposter syndrome. Probably, this is part of me and will always visit me from time to time. I have learned not to feel so threatened by it and how even my little inner critic can add value to my system.
I also gained insight into my inner workings and really practiced my own therapy method. This was a very valuable experience, learning how to deal with a part in myself which is hindering and is maybe not so popular. This experience of self-exploration is valuable to my clients too, particularly female clients who often have this feeling of “not good enough”.
What value did you create for others?
There is a story from Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh :
” When the crowded Vietnamese refugee boats met with storms or pirates, if everyone panicked, all would be lost. But if even one person on the boat stayed calm and steady, it was enough. They showed the way for everyone to survive.”
I want to try and be this person as often as I can and remind others that everybody can be this person at times.
How are you integrating the learning in your day-to-day life?
My “normal” life is full of opportunities to practice. Life is challenging. Our lives are changing faster than ever before and especially now we are facing times of crisis, anxiety, depression and watching people suffering. This is hard! And I’m learning every day how to get back up, how to train my resilience and how to keep my heart open. And who knows, maybe it is contagious.