Action Plan for Turbulent Times

It's the first day since the elections that I don't feel a knot in my stomach. I kept processing my feelings, acknowledging my grief so may be my body and mind decided to give me a break.

I was especially thinking of globally mobile professionals, people like me. Who legally live and work in this country but not its citizens. Who are on a work visa and couldn't vote.

I've been living in DC for thirteen years. My children grew up here. From my Lucky walks I know every curve and tree in the neighborhood. I reinvented my career here. And I half-jokingly say that i learned to walk in Siberia and learned to breathe in California. As I actually discovered that most of my life I have been breathing the wrong way. In a word, I invested my energy, creativity and love into where I live now. So I care.

And I know that other people like me, non-citizens professionals, care too. I talked to them these days and heard their fear, sadness and anger.

We couldn't vote. But what can we do? How can we express our concern though officially we don't "belong" here. The feeling of belonging starts with taking responsibility. How can we/I be response - able.

That's what I already did and i am open to your suggestions and sharing.

I voted symbolically by sharing my choice with my friends, including here on FB. I also liked John Oliver's invitation to actively support organizations that I resonate with and that are under threat now. So I signed in for a monthly donation for Planned Parenthood. I invited my Russian friends to get together for a soul warming event though I knew that not all of us share the same views.

What else can we do? How to turn, as one of my friends said, fear into loving action?

What comes to mind is to actively create conscious multi-national communities, to invite dialogue. I believe that because of our mobile life style we can become real Ambassadors of conscious, mindful living. Also, as many of us lived under autocracy or dictatorship we can share our stories and warm people against complacency and acceptance of something that doesn't support their value. It's easier to do it in the beginning.

These are my thoughts. I want the voices of the US global community and from all around the world to be heard.

Comment

Oxana Holtmann

Oxana Holtmann is a Conscious Living coach and an advisor to globally mobile professionals and their life partners. She is the founder of Oxana Holtmann International, a coaching platform that promotes true homecoming through mindfulness, body intelligence, wonder and co-creativity at work and in relationships. Oxana loves writing, discovering and disseminating practical wisdom, and noticing everyday beauty. Oxana grew up in Siberia and now lives with her family in Washington, D.C.

Fighting a Dragon

The time will come when you have to stand face to face with a dragon.

The dragon may look like your boss, a colleague, or a relative. But let’s not be deceived by this resemblance. It is a dragon! It spits fire and when you cut off one of its heads, two more grow out immediately.

Scary, isn’t it? Scarier, even, is if we suppose that running away is not an option. Suppose you are in a meeting room with twenty people sitting around a brown table. Whoever the dragon is, or whatever it may be, there is no escaping. What do you do then?

Confronting a dragon is a big deal! So first, appreciate yourself for inviting this opportunity into your life! Because it’s an opportunity to grow and a path to treasures.

To deal with any dragon in a smart way, one always—always!—needs magic tools. They could be the powerful sword that the old wise man gave you some time ago, the magic word that disarms the beast for a moment, or the magic boots that allow you a swift shift in your position so you can have a better vision.

In dealing with the dragon of your life, here are my three magic tools for you:

-       Breathing deeply into your belly - it works like a sword that cools down the fire.

-       Naming your feelings (silently or out loud, depending on the dragon’s breed) - it works like a magic word and puzzles the beast to your advantage. It creates a little pause inside you so you can better decide on your next move. Naming your feelings can be as simple as saying, “I feel scared.”

-       Keeping your eyes on the treasure – it works like magic boots that give you much more flexibility and a wider space to move. You can keep your eyes on the treasure by asking yourself some questions: “Where’s the gift? What’s here to be appreciated?”

Please, don’t underestimate your ordinary-looking supporters when you are facing the dragon:

-       a little fish – it may look like a sip of water when the energy rises;

-       a bird – it could be a quick look out of the window or at any open space;

-       a rabbit – It could be an invitation to change your body posture, relax your shoulders and your jaw.

It sounds crazy to imagine the dragon as your ally. But by confronting the dragon, the process really will lead you to collect all the treasures. Remember that dragons are known to guard treasures!

The fact that life brought you face to face with the dragon tells me that you can conquer it—especially now that you are armed with magic tools.

Comment

Oxana Holtmann

Oxana Holtmann is a Conscious Living coach and an advisor to globally mobile professionals and their life partners. She is the founder of Oxana Holtmann International, a coaching platform that promotes true homecoming through mindfulness, body intelligence, wonder and co-creativity at work and in relationships. Oxana loves writing, discovering and disseminating practical wisdom, and noticing everyday beauty. Oxana grew up in Siberia and now lives with her family in Washington, D.C.

Grow Your Appreciation Container

If you were given a lot of genuine appreciation while growing up, you will most likely be able to receive appreciation with ease as an adult.

Unfortunately, some of us were not so lucky so our inner appreciation container never got to grow. It stays very small. It's good to expand it. Why? Because if it’s really tiny, how will people pour all their big love and appreciation into us? There would be no space!

Here’s a story for you. Some years ago, my mentor expressed her authentic appreciation for me as a human being. Even though she used only a few lines of words, when I read them I burst into tears! The tears welled up from a very deep place in my heart and were accompanied by wailing and howling. If you asked me at that moment why I was crying, I wouldn’t have been able to explain.

The thing is, that my appreciation container was overflowing. There was just not enough space in it to hold this amount of admiration. As my appreciation container was expanding, I experienced both pain and joy. It was as if something was stretching inside me, some old wound was getting healed.

I believe that it is health-giving being seen by others as you are, especially if this person represents a “parent figure” for you.

Over time, I’ve become much more at ease with receiving appreciation. But still, sometimes when people say something nice to me I feel as if a little door is immediately shut inside my chest. I then need to consciously open that “door” to let the appreciation in. The ability to receive appreciation, for some of us, must be learned!

Notice what happens in your body when you receive appreciation, gratitude, or a compliment. Notice how you respond. Do you deflect it? If somebody says, “You look so fresh today!” Is your answer, “I actually slept so badly last night”? If so, try to open the door inside you and let the appreciation come in. Respond with a simple, “Thank you.”

Another thing you can do to grow your appreciation container is to ask for appreciation. This is an advanced skill, so don’t worry if it feels awkward in the beginning.

Tell a person exactly what you want to hear and then embrace their words fully. You can even open your arms while you are receiving their expression of appreciation to you.

For example, if you did a lot of work in the garden but nobody noticed it, you can say to your family, “Hey, guys, let me show you all the work I’ve done in the garden! Please, tell me, ‘Wow! You’ve done so much! I really like how you’ve weeded the flower bed!’” Then receive their appreciation without judgment.

 If people in your family are not comfortable with verbalizing their appreciation—sometimes my sons are not J—it’s not a big deal. At least you’ve already said these words to yourself!

Give it a try.

Art: DharmaComics.com

Comment

Oxana Holtmann

Oxana Holtmann is a Conscious Living coach and an advisor to globally mobile professionals and their life partners. She is the founder of Oxana Holtmann International, a coaching platform that promotes true homecoming through mindfulness, body intelligence, wonder and co-creativity at work and in relationships. Oxana loves writing, discovering and disseminating practical wisdom, and noticing everyday beauty. Oxana grew up in Siberia and now lives with her family in Washington, D.C.

Secrets

I don’t think it’s possible for anyone to be secret-free. There’s always some private thing that is only yours, the "secret anniversary" of your first kiss, as Samantha Bennett calls it. Or, like a Russian poet Anna Akhmatova states it,

In closeness there is some inviolable bound,
Impossible to cross by passionate devotion -

Yet there’s a price for keeping a secret. I define a secret as whatever information you are afraid to tell to your partner. The price is less closeness.

The law of keeping secrets is very precise: the more secrets there are between two people, the less closeness there is between them.

This is because secrets take space. To keep a secret, you need to create a little distance from your partner. You don’t want your partner to notice, feel, or intuit your secret, so you push him or her a little bit away when you hug.

Then you notice the distance and get upset. You want complete closeness but you can’t ask for it, because somewhere deep inside you know that having complete closeness requires revealing your secret. So, in order to safeguard that secret, you start keeping the secret about wanting closeness, and the divide between you and your partner widens.

That’s how it goes….

Art: DharmaComics.com

Comment

Oxana Holtmann

Oxana Holtmann is a Conscious Living coach and an advisor to globally mobile professionals and their life partners. She is the founder of Oxana Holtmann International, a coaching platform that promotes true homecoming through mindfulness, body intelligence, wonder and co-creativity at work and in relationships. Oxana loves writing, discovering and disseminating practical wisdom, and noticing everyday beauty. Oxana grew up in Siberia and now lives with her family in Washington, D.C.

Say More Words

Sometimes words get in the way. And it only means that we need more practice saying them. Words can be tremendously nourishing.

We need more practice with expressing ourselves in words especially when we want to convey the tenderness inside us and the feelings of appreciation and admiration. Without practice, our words may come out as half-baked cookies. Our best effort may sound like a blunder that fails to deliver the depth of our emotion.

That’s why it’s so important to keep saying good words. Don’t worry if others think you are tongue-tied, inarticulate, or incoherent. Risk being misunderstood, stared upon, and awkward. Choose to practice your self-expression, otherwise your appreciation of other people will be forever buried inside you.

Most of us got our master’s degree in criticism and critical analysis. Very few of us are masters of genuine appreciation. It takes time to become comfortable with and good at saying out loud positive things to other people.

If you practice enough you’ll become more eloquent and precise in your expression. You’ll use more adjectives and verbs that closely describe the good that you see in the other. Words will suddenly fit naturally even into very intimate situations. But first, you need to give yourself permission to start saying more words.

Comment

Oxana Holtmann

Oxana Holtmann is a Conscious Living coach and an advisor to globally mobile professionals and their life partners. She is the founder of Oxana Holtmann International, a coaching platform that promotes true homecoming through mindfulness, body intelligence, wonder and co-creativity at work and in relationships. Oxana loves writing, discovering and disseminating practical wisdom, and noticing everyday beauty. Oxana grew up in Siberia and now lives with her family in Washington, D.C.

Get Your Free Chocolate

Get Your Free Chocolate.jpg

This morning at around 10:30 AM I had to rush to Whole Foods to buy some flour for our traditional Sunday pancakes.

When I came up to the cashier, he said, “Good morning.” I looked at him—a big young dude—our eyes met for a second and I echoed, “Good morning!”

He bagged my groceries, including the flour, and as I was ready to leave, he suddenly handed me a chocolate. I thought he mixed something up. “It’s not mine. I didn’t get the chocolate,” I explained. He responded simply, “This is for you. I kept it for the first person this morning who will look at me.”

Driving back home I thought, “This free chocolate, the sweetness of a brief human connection, is always available. And it may even come with zero calories.”

So get your free chocolate today.

Comment

Oxana Holtmann

Oxana Holtmann is a Conscious Living coach and an advisor to globally mobile professionals and their life partners. She is the founder of Oxana Holtmann International, a coaching platform that promotes true homecoming through mindfulness, body intelligence, wonder and co-creativity at work and in relationships. Oxana loves writing, discovering and disseminating practical wisdom, and noticing everyday beauty. Oxana grew up in Siberia and now lives with her family in Washington, D.C.

45 Years Movie - 45 Years of Avoiding Conflict

Sometimes peace and harmony is not good for your relationship. “Conflict-avoidant” couple is a term used in therapy to describe people who do everything to hide their authentic feelings in order to not rock the boat of their relationship. Often they hide their feelings not only from their partner but also from themselves. Keep reading if this describes you or your relationship, it certainly used to describe mine.

You and your partner likely developed this behavior pattern in response to exposure to very unpleasant fight scenes as young children. Consciously or unconsciously, you decided that you would never create conflicts like this in their relationship. I remember having this thought as a child.

It’s a wonderful decision but it’s lacking a very important ingredient. Avoiding conflict is not enough. Disagreement is a normal part of any relationship and you need to learn tools for openhearted conflict resolution. Without a good example from your childhood or the tools, you will most likely keep hiding your real self.

The lack of authenticity blocks the possibility of real closeness. But as humans we are wired to long and strive for closeness, so partners in a conflict-avoidant relationship fill the void of closeness with some sort of a substitute, sometimes a lover or a phantom lover with whom they can be close in their imagination. That’s what happens in the movie 45 Years.

Conflict-avoidant couples often surprise their friends with a sudden divorce after the kids go to college. Prior to this lightning move, their relationship seemed so fulfilling and smooth. And indeed it was a good, friendly, and stable relationship—only they never showed each other their real inner landscape. Even when life sends them powerful invitations to open up to their partner—as in the movie 45 Years—people whose relationship credo is conflict-avoidance still prefer not to reveal their most intimate feelings and thoughts.

When I watched the movie, I was waiting for Geoff (Tom Courtenay) to say, “Dear, I feel sad that my ex-girl-friend died such a horrific death and that I chose to hide this story from you. I turned her into a ghost in our relationship and now I am scared that won’t love me anymore. Will you help me to get out of this awful situation?” Or, I imagined Kate (Charlotte Rampling) would say something along these lines: “Geoff, I feel angry. I also feel scared and sad and I am creating a story that all these years you didn’t love me. What did this ghost relationship add to your life?

But nothing like this happened in the movie. In fact, it would be a surprise if it did happen in a conflict-avoidant relationship like Geoff and Kate’s. Typically, for a conflict-avoidant couple to finally open up to each other and begin an authentic, sincere, and non-judgmental shift in how they relate to each other, One needs either a lot of personal courage or third-party help so such a couple will be able to open up to each other and create an authentic, sincere, and non-judgmental shift.

The ghost love is the incarnation of all the ghosts of their childhood.

So as in most real-life relationships that follow conflict avoidance, Geoff and Kate got permanently stuck in a murky victim-villain-hero triangle.

This is a pity, since I strongly believe that conflict-avoidant partners have a gift of accepting each others' mistakes and past stories with much more grace and ease than aggressive couples.

And, yes, it takes commitment to your authentic expression, courage, and learning openhearted conflict resolution tools.

Finding Home in Your Mother’s Eyes

Imagine, that your child will be met by the world with the same attitude and attention that you deliver to him or her through your eyes! What is there in your eyes?

Once my client, let’s call her Nancy, told me a story. She participated in a training. Four of them were supposed to do an activity together and as Nancy’s turn came she had to choose a partner. She first looked at the young, beautiful woman that was part of their team, but something pushed her away from that woman.

Nancy quickly turned to an older guy, it felt much easier for her to do an exercise with him. She noticed that the woman looked very disappointed. When they finished the exploration, the woman revealed to Nancy that she felt sad and made a story that “something was wrong with her” because Nancy hadn’t chosen her. She was wondering what pushed Nancy away?

Nancy didn’t know. What occurred to her though that the woman’s eyes looked very similar to her mother’s eyes – almost the same color and shape. As Nancy grew up she was often afraid of her mother. Her mother’s reactions were unpredictable and when they talked and their eyes met her mother would often say to Nancy, “Why are you staring at me like this with your shameless eyes!” So Nancy learned to avoid looking straight into her mother’s eyes.

When her mother looked at Nancy her attitude was often judgmental or checking for “what’s wrong” – a wrong t-shirt, dirty ears, hunched back… So Nancy learned to keep her distance from her mother and certainly not “to stare” at her. She also without being aware stayed away from women whose eyes reminded her of her mother’s.

This story was a revelation to me! I started noticing the lens through which I look at my children. I asked myself: Does my gaze meet them with a loving greeting every morning when they come down for breakfast? Or when they come back from school? Or when they are back from a birthday party? What do my eyes express? Excitement? Admiration? An open heart? Or there’s nothing besides business – scanning, evaluating, grading, glazing over? I felt sad about all the missed opportunities to deliver the message to them, “Come, dive into the safety of my gaze! I see you and love you with all your joys and your sorrows. I see the best in you!”

I also started consciously relaxing my forehead and softening my eyebrows and the area around my eyes when I look at my kids. I began to scan more for what is there to appreciate rather than what is there to fix. 

And as it often happens I discovered that other people asked the same questions. For example, I came across the Mark Matousek’s webinar under the title The Mother's Gaze: How We Learn to Trust and Love and that led me to his blog The Meeting Eyes of Love: How Empathy Is Born In Us.

Mark says, “You learn the world from your mother's face. The mother's eyes, especially, are a child's refuge, the mirror where children confirm their existence. From the doting reflection of its mother's eyes, a baby draws its earliest, wordless lessons about connection, care, and love…”

And then, “In the complex relationship between parents and children, our earliest bonding patterns are formed. Our first glimmers of being loved by our mother, thereby feeling ourselves to be lovable, are indissolubly linked to our ability to care for others in our maturity. As anyone who's been a parent can attest, this love requires levels of patience, stamina, and selflessness beyond anything demanded by any other relationship. Luckily, the rewards can be equally epic. Through the mirrored love in our parents' eyes, we learn surrender, devotion, and trust.”

So here is my question to you.
How would you like the world to look at your child?
Write down five words that reflect your wish.
How can you start expressing these qualities through your eyes already now?
Remember to relax the muscles around your eyes and let the corners of your eyes smile when you look at your child. It's good against wrinkles too!

Hopefully, our children will know that they can find true home in our eyes - the place where they feel at ease, accepted and loved.