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The best advise I ever got ...

...came from my former therapist, Frau Hering. She was an old woman, when I came to meet her. I think, she was about 77 or so years old, a kind of a sage. I found her through friends, shortly after I had arrived in Berlin in 1995, to live here for a year (this year is still not over btw!!)  I was 31 years old or so and she was my first ever therapist. After moving to Berlin I decided, that it was about time to work out some difficulties and shine some clearing light into some corners of my past and my present, and while we were at it, maybe even of the future.

I went to see her once a week. Every session cost about 100 Deutschmarks, which was A LOT OF MONEY for me back than. But somehow I never asked her for a refund or to pay next time. I always managed to get that money together, which seems, looking back, like a freaking miracle. 
She had a small apartment in Waidmannslust, a northern part of Berlin, to which I took the S-Bahn. I lived in Schöneberg, later in Neukölln, so the trip was long. I read on the train, or wrote in my journal.
Her apartment was pretty, but small, with lots of white, stones, shells and glass in it. You could tell, she didn't have a lot of money. But you could also tell, that she had a lot of good,zen-like taste. We always talked in her living room, me lying on the sofa, she sitting in a comfy chair. 
Looking back, I can not imagine, how she could stand to stay so patient and nice with me. She just listened, while I complained, complained, complained, about pretty much everybody in my life. I gossiped a lot too. She never corrected me. Sometimes, she would ask a question, but she was most of all a very good listener. Often she would ask: where in your body do you feel this. 

One day, she gave me a sheet of paper, "here, I found this, and I thought, I give it to you". 
It was yellow and printed on it stood those words:

"...Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. 
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us." Nelson Mandela

She did not say: read these words and take them to heart. She just gave the paper to me and she probably knew, that I did not understand the words. She did not say: this is exactly your problem, Susanne and you should work on it. She for sure knew, it was still a long long way for me to understand, what that quote could possibly mean and what it meant in connection with me. She just looked at me, and I like to think, she knew, that this piece of paper, this quote, would silently work in me, until almost twenty years later, I still remember it and start to know, what it means. 
It meant, that I should not wait for somebody to find me in my dark corner, in which I sit hiding, hoping frankly, not to be found. Because to be found would mean, people would see me. 
The words meant: be as good as you can and shine your light and be of service to the world and give everything, you have to offer. Eveything else is a waste of time. Don't hide behind your fear and shortcomings, but shine your light.
It also meant: stop wasting your precious beauty, energy and time with complaints about other people, with being disappointed, angry or upset. 
It means: be as wonderful as you can and shut up.

This yellow piece of paper, handed to me by Frau Hering almost twenty years ago, has subconsciously been something like my guiding light, my inner mantra, by far the best advice I ever got in my entire life and it worked underneath my surface all those years, until a few days ago, I woke up and  understood. Funny thing is, that for weeks now, I do my yoga and meditation with this mantra, or prayer, however you choose to call it: please let me be able to realize my full potential, and only today did I remember this sheet of paper and saw, how both are actually the same. 

Frau Hering died many years ago, but I will never forget her. She was for sure one of the most important influences in my life. 

© Susanne Becker


  1. Beautiful reminder Susanne. It is amazing how a subtle piece of "advice" can lodge into the psyche and be pulled out when you are ready to need it :-) Years ago, I did a dark retreat at Serenity Ridge for only 5 days. Those who are not familiar with this kind of retreat thought that they could never sit in the total darkness for that long. I loved it. What I most remember from the experience was that the dark did not frighten me, but the flashes of light I saw from time to time did.....

  2. This is such an interesting observation. I never heard, there were such things as dark retreats, but the moment, I read your comment, I thought, I would very much like to do one. It is so good to be in silence and darkness, apart from everything, which distracts us. I often think about bad habits lately, and how they are ego tricks to keep us from being as good as we can. How difficult it is, to let go of them. BEcause we feel more familiar in them, than we feel without them. Does that make sense? I wish you a beautiful sunday, Linda, and I hope, we will meet in person one day. xxx


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