Mirjam Grupp: “Meditation used to overwhelm me”

Meditation used to overwhelm me. I searched for calm or peace or centeredness. By wishing for a result, I was meditating under tension or expectation. Now, my meditation has only one purpose: to say good morning to myself and listen to all that I am (not) at this moment. And start the day with all […]

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Meditation used to overwhelm me. I searched for calm or peace or centeredness. By wishing for a result, I was meditating under tension or expectation. Now, my meditation has only one purpose: to say good morning to myself and listen to all that I am (not) at this moment. And start the day with all of me.

As a part of my series about “How To Learn To Finally Love Yourself” I had the pleasure to interview author Mirjam Grupp. Mirjam Grupp is a writer. She explores femininity today, and what it takes to open yourself up to romantic relationships and real love. As Mira Roth, she writes crime series. Since 2011, they are frequently televised across Europe. Her episodes are love stories in disguise. With her clothing brand Wearable Poetry, she creates self-care to wear on sustainable garments.

Presently she is working on An Almost Love Story — a non-fiction book about how and why one-sided love stories help us to create real love stories with ourselves and our lives — if we let them.

With her work, Mirjam contributes to make the world a place where people can live with open hearts.

She currently lives in Berlin, Germany.

Thank you so much for joining us! I’d love to begin by asking you to give us the backstory as to what brought you to this specific career path.

Thank you, Kristin and Authority Magazine, for having me! Writing is a part of “being me” since I am a teenager, and for a long time, it has been my way of processing life. I had always wanted to make writing my profession but developed confidence only later. Before, I studied Electronic Business at the University of Fine Arts Berlin and founded a company for furnished apartment rentals in Berlin, Germany. I ran it with a partner for 12 years. During this time, I studied screenwriting at Babelsberg Film University and had the great chance to start writing for a crime series right after graduating. I love crime series because they let you explore what can happen when feelings get hurt. My specialty I’d say, are the love stories within the crime series. Love (in its various ways) is the main subject of my writing, whether it is for TV series, in articles, non-fiction — or on clothes.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you hope that they might help people along their path to self-understanding or a better sense of wellbeing in their relationships?

Yes! I am writing a book about “almost love stories” and how they can ignite profound change in our inner and outer lives.

By almost love story, I mean meeting a person with whom you feel so yourself and at home with, that you are sure you have met your life partner — it is only that s*he doesn’t want to be with you. And that hurts.

However, through my own story, I realized that when you fall in love with someone, you also fall in love with yourself, your creativity, flow, and potential — with a version of you that you love to be. You want to keep this version, but the rejection lets you face your deepest insecurities.

It is in this contrast that change happens quite organically and at first, motivated by the hopes of winning this person’s love. You address your insecurities and backstory wounds; you go for your goals. During this process, you are freeing bit by bit the version of you that you have fallen in love with.

When I started talking about my experience with others, many people had a similar story to share. It is so important to reframe how we see almost love stories in the greater perspective of our lives. They are not the end of our access to love. On the contrary, an almost lover can be a catalyst and also a vehicle for freeing who we truly are and a portal to a life we love. The book will be released in 2021. Right now, I am also launching new editions of Wearable Poetry every month.

Do you have a personal story that you can share with our readers about your struggles or successes along your journey of self-understanding and self-love? Was there ever a tipping point that triggered a change regarding your feelings of self-acceptance?

There is one particular struggle that — for me — is the base of all the other struggles. It also leads to my personal tipping point.

When I entered the path of self-development and self-love, I started from a place of no to little self-love. I read, practiced, workshopped, listened to, and consumed the “right” thoughts, practices and meditations, workshops, podcasts and music, food and green juices.

But no matter what I did, practiced, read, workshopped, listened to — I resolved or healed one thing — and then the next one showed up. I was in a constant feeling of not-having-made-it-yet, searching for the right article, practice… that would finally help me to accept and love myself. But it didn’t happen.

You can leave an outer hamster wheel, for example, leaving a draining job. However, you may keep its mechanism and transfer it to an inner hamster wheel of healing and self-development without realizing this.

The tipping point came when I asked myself: “What if this constant struggle and stretch continued? What if I died before I “healed enough” to be able to love myself?”

And this led to the next questions.

How can I start to love myself right now?

The answer was quite obvious and simple; I just had not seen it.

Self-love must be without conditions. As is. As am. With and without all.

And as it is without conditions, also without spiritual conditions, this kind of self-love can start right now. What it takes is a decision and the willingness to let go of the conditions you have made yourself.

According to a recent study cited in Cosmopolitan, in the US, only about 28 percent of men and 26 percent of women are “very satisfied with their appearance.” Could you talk about what some of the causes might be, as well as the consequences?

I’d love to answer this question with a personal story. I was a teenager in the 90ties. So no internet, no social media. But three boys in my class figured out that my nose was bigger than others — and they started to sing a song that went like “Big nose, big, big nose.” They would start singing it out of the blue. What happened then is: firstly, I tried to avoid giving them a reason to sing it — like being good at school, in sports, in music. I also didn’t tell them what stupid idiots they were. I stopped smiling because I figured that my nose grew broader when I smiled. In my face, I only saw my nose and not my eyes or lips anymore. What also happened, and this I can tell only from today’s perspective because it was only recently that I could let this go is: I armored up. I tried to protect myself against the hurt. Because I never knew when they would start singing the song, I was always protected. Unfortunately, this also led to numbing feelings in general. What can’t get in can’t get out. I later learned that the lead singer of the song was secretly in love with me. It did not dissolve the damage.

I learned to smile again in drama school, in my beginning twenties. First, on an outer level, only by lifting the corners of my mouth because the teacher demanded it. And by pretending my nose was not there. I spent years trying to hide my nose or dissociate from it and played with the thought of an operation. When I took the decision against it, I asked God for acceptance. Because I was not willing to live with this painful, dissociated feeling. Acceptance happened over time. When I started also smiling from the inside, I learned that it is my smile that people feel drawn to, that it is kind of my biggest asset, including my smiling nose.

So the consequences are that we begin to dim and doubt our lights, talents, and feelings if we feel and get told that our looks are not ideal. And that we dissociate and hate our physical bodies that are our precious homes here on earth.

As cheesy as it might sound to truly understand and “love yourself,” can you share with our readers a few reasons why it’s so important?

It sounds similarly cheesy (I find many true things do) to say: because you are the person you spend the most time with throughout your entire life. You go to sleep with yourself, and you wake up with yourself. You spend all the hours in between with yourself. You are the only person who is the immediate witness of your thoughts, feelings, and dreams. You are the only person who can truly change your thoughts and feelings and realize your dreams.

People who called you their best friend could disappear out of the blue and without reason. So can lovers, jobs, circumstances.

If you learned how to love and support yourself, you are the person, the shelter, the home you can rely on. You can give yourself what you need to recharge and soothe yourself.

This way, you enable yourself to let others and yourself be free of neediness. Erich Fromm once said: Mature love says: I need you because I love you. And not the other way round.

Unconditional self-love is also vital for the process of healing and shedding emotional shells and limiting beliefs. As said previously, the work is better to be done from a place of love — and not from a place of lack. When you stop fighting against yourself, you can still improve, but from a place of self-support. It then feels less of a struggle. It feels more like: “This is interesting. I want to learn this. I want to apply this to do myself good and offer myself more freedom (of choice).”

Why do you think people stay in mediocre relationships? What advice would you give to our readers regarding this?

I’ve seen it in my own love-story-history twice and in a lot in the love stories of friends. Deep down, we know when it is time to leave. But this doesn’t necessarily mean that we are able to leave right away. Why? For the same reasons as we remain in jobs or life circumstances that do not feel right. It’s the simple — and very human — fear of change, uncertainty, and nothingness.

If the next better thing is not already secured or at least insight, it takes courage to leave. However, we tend to be afraid of our own courage, as the saying goes. I found that there are three different ways to lose this fear.

The first is to ask if you really gave this relationship your best. Did you take the responsibility to identify your share in the mediocrity of this relationship? After all, this is the only thing you can change — and then watch the effects on the other person and on your couple unfold. Either the relationship begins to change because of your conscious efforts — or it doesn’t. But then, after having done your best, leaving doesn’t take courage anymore — but has become the next logical step in giving your best.

The second way is to continue the relationship like it is. Maybe even worsening it — consciously or unconsciously — until you or the other person are genuinely fed up, exhausted, and at rock bottom. Again, courage is not required anymore for leaving. It has become a necessity because you have grown the hell of your relationship way bigger than your fear of nothingness.

And then, there is number three, changing the character of courage. Carl Gustav Jung once wrote that if there’s a fear of falling, the only safety consists in deliberately jumping. For me, this means to grow the excitement, the vision of what I truly want, and let myself be pulled by that vision. Instead of frightening, courage becomes thrilling.

When I talk about self-love and understanding, I don’t necessarily mean blindly loving and accepting ourselves the way we are. Many times self-understanding requires us to reflect and ask ourselves the tough questions, to realize perhaps where we need to make changes in ourselves to be better not only for ourselves but our relationships. What are some of those tough questions that will cut through the safe space of comfort we like to maintain, that our readers might want to ask themselves? Can you share an example of a time that you had to reflect and realize how you needed to make changes?

I appreciate your question a lot. Because indeed, it is the tough questions and the tough answers that help us change — the truth that sets you free.

For me, one of those questions clearly was: Do I really not want to suffer? I raised it during the almost love story that I was going through. What a stupid question, the rebel part within me said, of course, I don’t want to suffer and be happy. But the truth was, that on a deeper level, I had to admit to myself that yes, obviously I wanted to suffer. Despite all of the positive inner and outer changes that I had made in my life and being, I was still emotionally clinging to this man. I was still keeping myself in a state of lack (his absence). I was still keeping myself in the identity of a woman who is not wanted. I was still not living my life fully.

Answers like these come with a pain that feels as if the metal is cutting through your body. But they also come with a second question: “What does it take?” In this example, “What do I need to change and heal to end my relationship with suffering? What does it take to let go of the idea of this man, becoming a woman who understands herself as wanted, living a full life?” And the answers to these questions lead to taking action and change.

When it comes to future relationships and future families, there are a couple of questions that are helpful to ask yourself and to answer honestly:

“Would I marry myself?” “Did I ever promise myself “in good times and bad times”?” “Do I keep my promise?” “Would I want myself to be the mother/ father of my children?”

So many don’t really know how to be alone, or are afraid of it. How important is it for us to have, and practice, that capacity to truly be with ourselves and be alone (literally or metaphorically)?

The noisier the world gets, and the more information is available, the more important it becomes to create a space of alone- and quiet time. Why? Because only you know — by “knowing,” I mean a feeling of intuitive certainty that you can also feel in your body — what is right for yourself. I personally can only cultivate a connection with this knowledge when I get quiet and consciously listen to myself. What do I feel in my body, my being, what do I really want? What do I need?

Listening to oneself makes you a better listener for others. Holding space for yourself helps to hold space for others. You can bring more of you to an encounter.

All companionship can only consist in the strengthening of two neighboring solitudes is one of my favorite companionship quotes by Rainer Maria Rilke. The German original quote says togetherness instead of companionship.

How does achieving a certain level of self-understanding and self-love then affect your ability to connect with and deepen your relationships with others?

We want to be seen, understood, accepted, respected, needed — so to be loved. And also, we want to love.

Wayne Dyer wrote You can only give away what you have. And I want to add: you can only receive and truly accept from others what you found within yourself — at least the seed of it.

And also, you don’t need to put energy and effort into fighting for being treated with understanding, love, and respect. You don’t need others to treat you in a certain way for you to feel good. You can let them and yourself be free.

In your experience, what should a) individuals and b) society, do to help people better understand themselves and accept themselves?

As for individuals, I find it very helpful that we learn to simply hold space for others and let them speak and feel what they want to speak or feel. Without giving our opinion. Often when we speak out loud what we feel or think, the solution presents itself. It “rings true” and resonates in our bodies.

I also find that social media is helping. There are many people out there who have a feed that goes way deeper than motivational quotes. But clearing your social media feed and consuming only information that is good for you is your own responsibility.

As for self-acceptance, I find it helpful to realize that we are not the only ones with a problem/ dark thought/ struggle. It helps to understand that others face similar challenges and that there is nothing essentially wrong with you.

What are 5 strategies that you implement to maintain your connection with and love for yourself, that our readers might learn from? Could you please give a story or example for each?

I tell myself where I am proud of myself. Telling yourself what you are proud of is especially important when it comes to inner changes — because you can’t exactly see, track, or measure them. But often, it is those changes that lead to more freedom of being, speaking, and living. So, for example, I recently received an email and got upset. But only for two minutes or so. Then, I could let it be and focus on something else that was important to me. Within the last year, I have achieved this freedom, and I am proud of it.

On my mirror are golden letters that say UNCONDITIONAL — w/ & w/o all. They are sitting like a crown on your head. I wrote it first with a kajal pencil and then produced stickers for myself and others in these beautiful golden letters. The good thing about unconditional self-love is — it can start right here and now and not when you have matched (your own) conditions.

Meditation used to overwhelm me. I searched for calm or peace or centeredness. By wishing for a result, I was meditating under tension or expectation. Now, my meditation has only one purpose: to say good morning to myself and listen to all that I am (not) at this moment. And start the day with all of me.

I learn to show up and speak up for myself. Integrity is so essential to a healthy connection with oneself. Respect is a crucial part of love, and so is self-respect for self-love. For me, it means to act and speak congruently to what I feel and don’t back off because I am afraid to disappoint someone or get rejected, or cause a confrontation.

Taking action: love is a do-verb for me, more than a feel-verb. So self-love means actually doing the things that are in alignment with the love I feel for myself. It especially includes things that feel challenging and require work. There is a quote by Steven Pressfield: Put your ass where your heart wants to be. It is one of my all-time favorites.

What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources for self-psychology, intimacy, or relationships? What do you love about each one and how does it resonate with you?

I love to read. My library is full of brilliant books. It is hard to pick one. One of my favorites books is A Return to Love by Marianne Williamson. Opening it and reading just some lines helps me shift my energy when I am in a lower place. Through The War of Art, Steven Pressfield taught me to be persistent in my work, regardless of what self-doubt-voices are twittering. Elizabeth Gilbert helped me with Big Magic to take care of being playful when creating.

I also enjoy music that is grounding and primal, for example, Dub Sutra or Porangui.

The Instagram-work of The Holistic Psychologist is so valuable because she makes healing accessible and understandable. She shares tips that you can implement right away at the moment when you stop scrolling your feed. I also benefit from Ryan Holiday’s DailyStoic. It helps me to focus on the next task calmly.

And I love to watch the conversations Lewis Howes leads in his School of Greatness videos/ podcast. Topics, guests, and Lewis’ genuine curiosity make his show truly worthwhile.

In the end, all great resources help us to live from a place of love instead of fear, and they give support in learning to deal with our egos so that we can free our true natures.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? Maybe we’ll inspire our readers to start it…

It clearly is: Let your almost love story be the beginning of a true love story with yourself. Take this heartbreak and turn it into your breakthrough.

Today, there are so many inspirational stories out there that show how health breakdowns or financial rock bottoms were starting points of new, transformed ways of living. The same goes for almost all love stories.

Join the movement here by sharing your story with us

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote” that you use to guide yourself by? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life and how our readers might learn to live by it in theirs?

All of the quotes that I have mentioned throughout our conversation. I have seasonal quotes, according to what I want to learn and integrate in my way of living life. At the moment, it is two. Now by Now — this is how I want to approach the dreams and visions that I hold. And Open 24/7 — it reminds me to open up my heart again when I have closed down. I find them so important that I have designed a sweater with both of them on it. It will be released with the new Wearable Poetry edition at the end of October 2020. As I think about it, those two are rather reminders than quotes. Originally they were scribbles on the back of my hands.

There is a quote by Rumi that I am fascinated with. What I want also wants me. If this is the case — that what I or my heart wants also wants me — it is not my job to chase it. But to get out of the way. And to get curious about what it is that I really want.

Thank you so much for your time and for your inspiring insights!

Thank you for choosing these questions!

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