Walk-thought wanders: Stadtwanderweg 1

HELLO!! It’s been a while since I last posted! That’s partly because I’m working on a post that’s taking a little longer than expected, and also because I’ve been busy getting settled in Austria! I’ve had lots of new experiences since being here. Living on my own for the first time, leading a bible study group, getting used to serving at the church here in Austria… the list goes on. I must say I have been made to feel very welcome at Christ Church and am settling in well! I’ll post a more detailed update soon, but I want to move on to what I hope will be my regular Monday post.

Monday is my day off and I love to spend the morning walking. Last week, I came across something called the ‘Stadtwanderweg’. They’re a group of trails covering different parts of Vienna and have so far been a great way to find hidden gems that you wouldn’t otherwise come across! There are 12 in total, so my aim is to get through them all during my time here! Walking is a time for me to let my mind wander, so I may well share some of my ‘walk thoughts’ here too!

Stadtwanderweg 1 – Kahlenberg:

I got the tram to the starting point, a place called Beethovengang, which is said to have been one of Beethoven’s favourite walks. On the way, I started listening to Brené Brown’s book ‘The Power of Vulnerability’. I’m now on chapter 4 and so far really connected with a lot of what she wrote. I think especially at the moment, having moved to a new country, started a new job, and met lots of new people, it is quite natural to feel vulnerable, or in other words, more exposed. I am quickly learning, as Brené Brown writes, that “vulnerability is not weakness”. Instead, she describes it as the “birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity”. Brené Brown also talks about the link between vulnerability and perfectionism. For me, perfectionism has certainly been a shield, a way to try to hide my vulnerability, but also a way to try and ignore its existence. Anyway, that’s what my new post is going to talk about so I won’t say any more now!

I have to say, I wasn’t blown away by the first bit of the walk. It went through a forest which did feel quite peaceful, however it was a fairly long stretch and I suppose I like a bit of variety! But what was to come was very unexpected and just beautiful! When I came into Kahlenberg, I was met by this wonderful church building.

The Kahlenbergkirche, also known as the Josefskirche, was originally constructed in the 17th century, was destroyed, and rebuilt later on. It is situated just around the corner from the wonderful view in Kahlenberg pictured below. It’s at times like this when I really try to practice gratitude. Being grateful that I can walk there, being grateful for the time to take in the view, and being grateful for the view itself. By just standing and taking a moment to express our gratitude can really help us to deal with the more difficult parts of the day. 

As I wandered on from Kahlenberg, I came across the very fun-looking Kahlenberg Forest Rope Park, which I might go to at some point during my year here! The Stadtwanderweg then takes you into a very tranquil area where there are some absolutely beautiful views. While I was up there, I took some time to really take in the view. Looking across, I was drawn to a church-looking building pictured below, which I believe to be St. Leopold’s Church. It’s on the very top of the hill, and peers out from the trees. Views and moments like these are often where I go in my mind when I’m feeling stressed or anxious. I close my eyes (if I can) and try to imagine literally taking myself out of the stressful environment and placing myself in the calmer environment. I try to picture the views, what can I see and what colours are around? I imagine the wind gently touching my skin, and think about what I can hear. Are the birds signing? Are the trees making that familiar whistling noise? Then when I come back into the stressful room, I feel calmer and more able to cope with the situation. It’s taken time to get to the point of being able to imagine myself in a peaceful place, but if it’s something you think may help you in those stressful moments, first try the exercise at times when you’re not anxious. If you do this for a few minutes every day, it becomes more like a habit, and that makes it easier to bring up the image when you’re feeling more stressed. 

Another thing I was reflecting on whilst on this walk was why I love walking, and what purpose it serves. Walking and being in the hills helps me to feel closer to God AND further away from fear. When I’m on a hill, or even walking through a forest, my mind is less busy and I can therefore focus more on being prayerful. I’m a person whose automatic reaction when things are difficult is to want to fix things either for myself or others. But being in the middle of nowhere with my phone on silent and the majority of my belongings at home, I am more aware of my lack of power to change things, more aware of my vulnerability and in some ways, my insignificance. The one thing I can do however is pray, and so that’s perhaps why being in the hills helps me to feel closer to God. I can accept my vulnerability and inability to ‘fix’ things or people, and instead hand it over to God in prayer. That then also feels like a weight off my shoulders! Some quite deep walk-thoughts for today!

The walk then heads back towards Beethovengang and before I knew it, I was back where I started! I have to say, it was a really lovely walk and I’m also very grateful for the beautiful weather.

So that’s Stadtwanderweg 1 complete! The next one will be 1a, and I look forward to seeing what that will bring. In the meantime, I would love to hear from you! Let me know what you have been doing this week, what you have been reflecting upon and/or any comments about this post!

And please remember, we are all on different parts of our journeys and therefore it would be unfair to compare ourselves to another individual! I share my thoughts with the hope that someone somewhere may take something from it, but equally this isn’t a perfected piece of writing, nor is it ‘gospel’. It’s just thoughts shared on a page by me, an imperfect human being who is and always will be learning and growing! 

Onwards and upwards,

Rosie x

Moving from fear of failure to considering other possibilities

Every Wednesday afternoon for the past ten weeks, I have been attending online training in Intentional Peer Support. I’ve learnt so much and I’m really looking forward to sharing some of my thoughts in a series of blog posts inspired by the things I’ve learnt and have since been reflecting upon.

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So the first: moving from fear of failure to considering other possibilities! Part of the course has involved doing group activities including role plays, where two people take part in the role play and a third gives feedback. Any feedback given during the sessions takes the form of saying what worked well and then exploring other possibilities. At first, I wasn’t convinced that simply changing ‘suggestions for improvement’ to ‘other possibilities’ would make much of a difference, but it really has for me! This is why:

As much as I’m better at managing it nowadays, I’m still very much someone who can let perfectionism get the better of me. I like things to be perfect and if they’re not, I can get frustrated with myself. Logically, I know that ‘perfect’, at least my idea of perfect, does not exist, but that still doesn’t stop my brain from insisting that I get things 100% right 100% of the time. This has often meant that I resist trying something that I might not do well at because I’m so fearful of the possibility that I might ‘fail’. At times, I have also struggled with receiving feedback from others because it somehow felt like I was being criticised and sometimes even attacked. (Logically, I know this wasn’t the case but that’s just how it felt).

The thing I started to realise was that by not welcoming feedback and not accepting that I didn’t always have the answer, I was not allowing myself to grow and develop. That’s when the idea of ‘other possibilities’ comes in. I’m slowly allowing myself to ask others for feedback on everyday things like asking my mum what she liked about the soup I made and her suggestions of other possibilities for next time. By introducing this concept into the ‘smaller’ and ‘more simple’ things, I have been able to work up to receiving feedback on what may feel like ‘bigger’ things, such as my performance at work. I also try to do a self-reflection. What went well, and what are other possibilities for next time? With these two lots of feedback, I can then weigh up what I could try keeping the same, I what I could change. I can see this working in so many different aspects of my life. Playing squash, work, baking, music, even prayer. 

I’ve found this process to be quite a liberating one. It means that I no longer feel stuck. Instead, I know that I don’t have to do things perfectly the first time, but can build up from where I currently am. I have also felt less pressurised, because I no longer put an intense amount of pressure on myself to make sure nothing goes ‘wrong’. In fact, I’ve been finding that sometimes, things haven’t gone how I wanted them to, but actually the outcome has been better! To use walking as an example: I set off hoping to follow a certain track on a walk but must have taken the ‘wrong’ path. I decide to carry on and what I did eventually come to was a beautiful stream, the sun shining and the birds singing such beautiful tunes. It wasn’t where I had planned to go, but I’m glad I ended up there. When I did eventually find the other track another time, it wasn’t as beautiful as the place I discovered ‘accidentally’. 

Personally, I don’t believe these things are ‘accidental’, as I feel God is guiding us. I often try to pray about this area of my life too. I pray that I may be given wisdom to recognise these other possibilities and that I may learn to trust God more. I pray for the courage and humility to hand over the control to God, and let him lead the way rather than me trying to control everything. I pray all this whilst accepting that I am only human, and sometimes I will fall. So when that happens, I pray for God to lift me up.

Of course, I still do and always will aim for the best I can, but I accept that my current ‘best’ may be my future’s ‘mediocre’, and that’s ok. So if you’re feeling like nothing but ‘perfect’ is good enough, maybe you could try to recognise the times when you don’t do as well as you had hoped, and see them as opportunities to learn rather than moments of failure. It takes time and perseverance, but it has certainly been a liberating process for me, and I’d love to hear how you get on! Also, if you have any tips or thoughts around perfectionism and self-improvement, I’d love to hear from you! 

Onwards and upwards,

Rosie x