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POSITIVE, WISE & LOVING LIFE

Three valuable insights burnout can bring

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Is it possible to find inner peace, and to discover my own voice, while remaining in the center of my hectic modern life? 

It’s a question people often ask me. Of course it’s a wonderful dream to escape from everyday chaos, move to a faraway coast or mountain and find peace there. But a faraway coast won’t bring us answers to the questions that modern life asks us. What does? Here’s three insights I found when I recovered from burnout.

Insight 1: make sure your feelings, thoughts and actions are in sync

If your feelings, thoughts and actions aren’t in sync, life becomes unclear, chaotic and powerless. I often felt I didn’t want to say yes to a job, while my head convinced me I had to do it – without checking why it didn’t feel right. The result was that I was doing things unpredictably, feeling tired. On the one hand, I tried to get it over with as quickly as possible, on the other hand I forced myself to do the best I could. It was so confusing that, in the end, I didn’t know why I did the things I did or what to trust. My feelings? My mind? The result?  

Only when I saw through this pattern, I managed to sort out my feelings and thoughts first, and combine them in a clear intention. For instance: I want to tell this story in the best possible way. Then, my actions organically flow from that, with a clear direction and meaning.

Insight 2: Are you in a hurry? Connect to the elements

Life goes fast and it’s volatile – it made me lose myself. As a medicine, I learned how to connect to things that are bigger and older than me. Things that confirmed my ‘humanity’ through time and space. I taught myself how to make fire and bake bread, activities that ground you and connect you to the elements, but also less active ones: I now know where to find the sun and the moon, and I make sure I see them regularly. I put stones in my pockets or shells and pieces of wood. Just to remind me that the world is so much bigger than I’m able to see, and that I can lean on that. 

Insight 3: Sometimes it helps to change your perspective 

The continuous focus on the question ‘what’s in it for me?’ has worn me out for years. I learned to change perspective and to ask myself what I have to offer. It brings me peace and makes me feel valuable, without a hidden agenda or a need to prove myself using all my energy. What do I have to give? This question takes you inside immediately and the only way to fin dan answer, is to learn to know yourself better. It didn’t just lead me straight through my fears, it also got me curious as to where I come from and which people were there before me, that made me understand my family and myself better. 

Knowing who you are means to be whole, and that’s your true gift to the world. Nothing feels better than that. 

Text: Sarah Domogala - Photo: Francisco Mereno

 

Need to relax for a minute? Time for a mini break!

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By being in the here and now, you immediately get what you were looking for while running through life: rest. This ‘micro break’ helps you to remain fit, alert and relaxed.

‘I don’t have any time for me anymore’. Recognize this? It seems that, while we get more spare time, we have less time for the things that are actually important to us. What we want is quite simple: we want to have more rest and to appreciate the little things in life more, it’s just that right now, we don’t have the time… And after this lamentation, we walk into the 'as soon as… then' – trap: as soon as it’s the weekend, I will have time to rest; as soon as I have enough financial space, I will be able to enjoy the good things… et cetera.

The solution is simple

The desire to enjoy things can easily drive us in the direction of all kinds of addiction: coffee, alcohol, smoking, excessive exercise, snacking, TV. Consciously or unconsciously you realize that this is nothing more than a surrogate. It’s a temporary fulfillment of an unsatisfied feeling. Micro breaks make sure that you focus on yourself. You don’t get drawn into the issues of the day. Your body becomes your anchorage, the safe harbor that you can always return to.  

Work that feet magic

What’s special about mini breaks, is that you can take them any time of the day. These moments of recovery are simple to integrate in your everyday activities, at work, at home, in the car or in public transport.

Have a seat in a chair, with your shoulders relaxed, your back straightened and separated from the back-rest, feet flat on the ground, hands on your upper legs.

Bow your head to the back, but not too far – make sure it feels comfortable, don’t force anything. Look straight up and ‘mark’ this point on the ceiling with your eyes.

Bring back your head in the starting position and put your right foot forward, with your heel on the ground. Bow your toes down (you don’t have to put your shoes off). Put back the same foot, until it rests on the ball of your foot and your heel is lifted off the ground. Curl your toes. Put the foot forward again, resting on the heel, and bow your toes. Put back the foot, resting on the ball of the foot, heel off the ground – etcetera. Keep moving your right foot like this for 10 times in a row.

Put your right foot flat on the ground again and do the same exercise with your left foot for 10 times.

Be seated in the starting position, with your feet flat on the ground, and bow your head back again, as far as feels comfortable for you. Look for the marked point on the ceiling. What do you notice?

Remarkably, this feet exercise relaxes the neck- and shoulder muscles within two minutes.

Photo: James Forbes

 

Things the new moon can teach you about love and letting go

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Yesterday, on February 15 late at night, it was new moon. Although the moon’s spectacle was invisible, the creative power of the new cycle is tangible. 

During the first two weeks of a moon cycle, our life energy grows with the moon, and many people experience an energy boost. Astrologists say it’s the best time to make a new start and make plans for the future – your love life is part of that. 

These 3 tips help you to let the power of the moon work in your favor – when you have to let go of an old love, or want to make room for new sparks.

Tip 1: Let go of everything that doesn’t regard love 

TO welcome something new in your life, you’ll have to let go of the old. Clean up unfinished business in love, but do it your way. You can delete all their contact information cold turkey, make excuses you’ve been needing to make for a long time, or write a letter to work out your feelings and say goodbye to a difficult time.

All this unfinished grief takes more room than you might think. Room you could use for new, light and loving contact.  

Tip 2: Know what you’re looking for

The energy that’s released during new moon, brings you a clear perspective on your wishes and desires. It’s a great time to reflect on relationships that were broken – by another or by you. What did you miss in them? And was there anything missing in you? 

It can be helpful to write down what you’re looking for in a new relationship, and what you would like to offer as a love partner. Write down everything you can think of and take the time to empty your head. 

Tip 3: Phrase your love wish during new moon 

Look at it as some sort of dating ad you’re sending into the world. Without you being aware of it, we’re all sending energy into the universe, and it has more impact on your relationships than you might think. 

Do you think you might be single forever? Then your energy is different than if you’re opening up to love – in all its shapes and forms. By phrasing your love wish and repeating it as an affirmation, you’re welcoming love. 

 

 

Why we need to hug our loved ones more often

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A loving touch isn’t just pleasant, it’s also very healthy. It’s the perfect medicine for both physical and mental complaints, and makes you feel good. Scientific advice: make time for hugging!

It reduces stress and gives you a peaceful and relaxed feeling. It works like a painkiller and advances healing processes and growth. Increase your ability to learn. Helps your digestion. Makes you more social, more friendly, less aggressive. More loving. More peaceful. Besides, it has no negative side-effects and is 100 percent natural.

But the best thing is the hormone named oxytocine is available for everyone, for free. Day and night. All we have to do is touch each other in a loving manner. Simple as that.

This is how it works

The more often and the more intensely we hug and caress eachother, the more powerful the effects and the longer they last. Pleasant skin to skin contact puts your oxytocine factory to work. While your arm is caressed or your back is being massaged, millions of nerve ends in the skin tell your brain: time to start producing!

Through an ingenious system, this miracle stuff gets into your blood. Blood pressure and heart beat go slower, the stress hormone in your body decreases drastically. A big, content smile is likely to appear on your face.

No time to relax?

Oxytocine, the royal supplier of rest and togetherness, is literally within arms reach. Still, in our hectic western society, we don’t make maximal use of its services, Kerstin Moberg concludes in her book ‘The oxytocine factor’. We are all so busy. We go from here to there, have to perform and produce and desperately try to tick all the boxes on our endless to do lists. We’re all about stress hormones.

Why hugging is a necessity of life

In our diaries, it never says: ’11.00, give big hug to best friend’. Or: ‘8.30 – 8.45, give partner huge kiss’. That’s while touching is a necessity of life. According to some scientists, physical contact is just as important as food.

Without warm physical contact, we risk becoming cold inside. Babies that don’t get hugged a lot, evolve less quickly. It is as if they lack a battery that charges them. They don’t grow as quickly, have trouble learning, get ill more often and when they grow up, they are less empathetic.  

Hugs are an antidote to stress

The less time and energy we have for rest and intimacy, the less oxytocine we produce. While our body is longing to relax, we deny ourselves a portion of ‘natural healing nectar’, as Kerstin Moberg calls the hugging hormone. ‘It’s an antidote to the negative effects of our hasty way of life.’

So: embrace more often, caress more intensely and make sure you are touched. Especially when you don’t have the time. The oxytocine boost will come, guaranteed.

Photo: Priscilla DuPreez

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Looking for love? These are the best places to find Mr or Mrs Right

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In order to find the love of your life, online dating isn't inevitable. Most people still find their object of love offline. It’s much more exciting and more fun: making eye contact without knowing their name or whether they would swipe you to the right.

The library

What’s more romantic than finding love at the library? A pair of beautiful eyes looking at you from the other side of the bookcase, or getting caught up in a spontaneous conversation about that collection of poems you’re taking home.

The gym

Admittedly, a sweaty face and a functional sports outfit might not make you feel super attractive, but a series of squats and lunges might be the starting point for something beautiful. The love of your life will see you at your less glamorous moments more often, so if this is the place where you hit it off, you know you don’t have to pretend.

The organic supermarket

It seems lots of relationships start at the supermarket: at the vegetables department, or in front of the frozen pizzas. It makes sense, if you think about it: all the time we spend there every week. At the organic supermarket, your chances are probably even better, because you’ll know a little bit more about them: just like you, they do their best to live consciously.

Doing voluntary work

It’s always easier to get to know someone when you’re both busy doing something. Especially when the two of you have the same purpose: to make your town a better place, for instance. If you meet at a voluntary job, you have something interesting in common, and you’ll know they are willing to commit to something.

At a course or workshop

Remember Ghost, the movie starring Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze who fall in love head over heels during pottery? Any creative course (photography, drawing portraits, DIY… whatever you like) is a brilliant place to meet someone. You’re having fun, learning something new, meeting new people in a spontaneous, easy way.

Photo: Jared Sluyter

 

 

How falling ill can cure your life

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Author Sophie Sabbage about how to transform the process of being diagnosed with cancer, undergoing treatment, feeling ill and being ill, from a crisis to a journey.

 

‘I’m sorry, I have to reschedule our Skype interview. I’m going to hospital for a scan,’ Sophie Sabbage writes. ‘Of course, your body is priority number one’, I respond. For a moment, I forgot that Sabbage doesn’t just write about being ill, she ís ill. Her best selling ‘The Cancer Whisperer’ shows so much insight and strength, it seems as if it’s all behind her now. Unfortunately, it isn’t.

Her book isn’t about curing cancer, she stresses, it’s about how cancer –or any disease- can cure your life. She shows it’s possible to be at peace with your illness, define a purpose for the rest of your life and dance with grief. Because we should welcome grief, according to Sophie. It’s the most appropriate answer to regret, loss and pain. It shows you love, have loved.  

After you fell ill, you decided you wanted to spend as much time with your loved ones as possible. Then you wrote this book. Why?

‘When I was diagnosed, people gave me all kinds of brochures. But nobody tells you how to handle the feelings of despair, the tendency to bury your head in the sand, the fear. As a coach, I had some experience with that, I’ve guided hundreds of people who were confronted with seemingly insurmountable setbacks. I’ve seen them transform, find their strength. So I knew I had to grab hold of my fear, before it would get a hold of me.’

‘Besides, I think it’s hard to believe how little attention and room there is for grief in the medical world. I remember sitting in the waiting room at the radiotherapy department, about six weeks after my doctor had told me I was ‘incurably’ ill. I was undergoing radiation treatment because a big tumor was pressing one of my nerves. My husband John was with me, and while I was waiting, I got a kind tekst from a friend. I cried. The nurse rushed towards me and asked me if I was OK. She wanted to make me stop crying, as if my tears were bad for me, as if they were contagious to other patients. Her worriedness upset me, it didn’t comfort me. Wasn’t this the ultimate time to cry? What would be a better time to grieve over a future that was being taken from me? I realised the time had come to stop restraining myself and start feeling everything. To stop denying, stop numbing myself, but to be awake, alert and attentive. I wish someone had given me a book about that.’

It must be incredibly heavy to hear you may only have a few years left to live. Isn’t it understandable to want to deny that, to avoid it?

‘Of course. It is definitely understandable. But it weakens you. Knowledge is power, especially if you are ill. If you don’t want to face the truth, you become a victim of the situation. The more you know about your disease, the easier it is to know what you need and how to react. By facing all of it, I was able to discuss my disease clearly with my doctors, as a partner. I have always been in charge. It gave me confidence and freedom.’

Don’t be a patient, is your advice: be a person.

‘I think it’s incredibly important to have a life that goes beyond illness. Having your own life, a goal in life, is of vital importance. What will I do with the scarce time I still have in front of me? My goal was, and it still is, not to live as long as possible, but to live long enough to have a transforming experience. I have, now.’

‘It may sound funny, but my life has improved so much since I fell ill. I have finally started writing, which I wanted to do since I was a little girl. I have healed old wounds, taken charge of my health, I’ve reassessed my relationships – which ones were still good for me, which weren’t? – and freed myself from insecurities. I’m living here and now, enjoying all that’s beautiful in life. Nothing is self-evident anymore, everything is a blessing.’

At the end of the book, you write a letter to ‘dear cancer’. Would you say you wouldn’t want to have missed this disease?

‘Cancer has changed my life for the better. I wouldn’t have wanted to miss the last two years. It was the most creative, useful, loving period of my life. I’ve become the person I always wanted to be. There’s one but: I am a mother. My daughter Gabriella is seven years old. I would give everything to see her grow up. There are many things I have sorted out, but not the fact that I might die before she has reached adulthood. I haven’t even tried to. It’s the only thing I don’t want to reconcile with: I want to be there for her.’

Text: Cathelijne Elzes - Photo: Noah Silliman

Do you feel like you're not good enough? These are the 6 ingredients of self esteem

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Being confident in every situation, who wouldn’t want that? Living without insecurities sounds great. But how do you do that?

Self confidence is a bit like calcium. A lack of calcium isn’t deadly, but after a while it does weaken your body. If you could use an extra dose of power, Nathaniel Branden’s six pillars of self esteem might give you the right boost.

In his book, ‘The six pillars of self esteem’, Nathaniel Branden (AKA the originator of the self esteem movement) explains what he thinks are the most important elements that help you to strengthen your self esteem.

1.  Practice living in the moment

Improve the things you are able to change, and learn to accept the things you can’t. Live in the moment, without wishing you were somewhere else. If you focus completely on what you’re doing, you add meaning to your life.

2.  Practice self acceptation

Self acceptation means self improvement. Everyone has their good and less wonderful features, but if you keep comparing yourself to others who are better at the things you’re not so great at, you keep losing – all the time. There’s always someone who’s better at something than you are. But if you accept who you are, and if you’re willing to look your lesser qualities in the eye, you can make choices based on who you are – not who you would want to be.

3.  Practice responsibility

If you have a bad condition and eat unhealthy food, it affects how you feel. You get tired more easily, are less able to focus and you develop all kinds of afflictions. Is treating the symptoms the best solution? Or is it wiser to do something about the underlying problem?

4.  Practice assertiveness

If it’s your goal to be nice to people all the time, they will take advantage of you.

5.  Practice living with a purpose

Dreaming big is fine, but how do you reach the goal of your fantasy? Most of us have goals we would like to reach. But we tend to forget that we need to act in order to make them happen.

For instance, if you want to write a life changing book, how do you make sure you publish it in the end? Do you keep waiting fot The Big Idea? Or should you keep practicing in the meantime, and increasing the skills you need to make your dream come true?

6.  Practice integrity

When it comes to having self esteem, it’s all about learning how to listen to the voice in your own head. That’s not because you have to live according to the rules others impose on you, but because you want to live according to the rules you impose on yourself. Do you walk your talk? Do you lie to yourself and others, or do you do your best to speak the truth – even if a little white lie is much easier?

This is the most difficult pillar of all, but if you follow your own integrity, you’ll find you become much happier and more self confident.  

Photo: Autumn Goodman

 

This is why you should never ever feel ashamed about having mental issues

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It’s funny how it works. If you have hay fever, your throat is sore or your stomach hurts, you probably wouldn’t think of feeling ashamed. It’s perfectly normal to mention it. Why is it that we find mental issues so much harder to talk about?

In Holland, the government just started a campaign: ‘Hey, it’s OK!’, aimed at breaking the silence around depression. Hundreds of thousands of people suffer from depression in the country, and most of them would like to talk about it, research showed. They find it hard to talk about it, though, and sometimes people around them avoid the topic.

Just bad luck

That’s a real shame, because not talking about it only increases feelings of shame about mental illness. No one blames themselves for breaking a leg – that could happen to anyone. But when it’s about depression or anxiety, it’s different, while these occur just as randomly. You didn’t ask for it, it doesn’t define who you are, let alone how strong you are. It’s just bad luck.

Your depression doesn’t define you

Embrace your issues – but don’t identify with them. You may suffer from depression, but it’s not what you are. Look for help when you nee dit, just like you would with a broken leg. It’s called taking good care of yourself. And tell people around you how you’re doing. You’ll be surprised how many people will tell you that they also… or that they know someone who also… And don’t think for a minute that mental issues have to keep you from what you want to do in life. Guess what Hugh Laurie, JK Rowling, Lena Dunham and Ruby Wax have in common.

Ruby Wax on mental illness

Speaking of the latter – British comedian Ruby Wax has battled depression for years. In this TEDtalk, she tells all about it: ‘Because, you know, the one thing that you get with this disease, this one comes with a package, is you get a real sense of shame, because your friends go, "Oh come on, show me the lump, show me the x-rays," and of course you've got nothing to show.’

 

Text: Dorien Vrieling - Photo: Jony Ariadi

  

 

This is how you forgive your partner

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How do you forgive a loved one? How do I get myself to accept my pain? How can I start to think more positively about the person who has hurt me so much, what is the secret?

The secret is that you don’t need this person. The essence of forgiveness is to dismiss the other person from the obligation to live up to your expectations.

The basics of forgiveness are knowing what you long for and allowing yourself to long for it, while at the same time no longer expecting someone else to fulfill your wishes. Or: ‘I long for a certain form of love, care and acknowledgement. But you don’t have to be the one to give it to me.’

Forgiving doesn’t mean ‘water under the bridge’

In relationships it’s probably most difficult, because why would you have a partner if they can't give you the love, care and acknowledgement you are looking for? However, forgiving is extremely important in relationships. Scientists say we should be aware that forgiving doesn’t mean ‘water under the bridge’, nor does it mean justifying things or apologizing for them.

Nobody is entitled to forgiveness, it’s always a present. It has nothing to do with weakness. You can forgive someone and, at the same time, hate what they did or even find it unforgivable. And you can forgive someone for something and, at the same time, never want to see them again.

Do you want to stay together?

If you stay together, you need to know forgiveness is a process that takes time. It’s wise not to tell your partner ‘I forgive you’, because they will think that you have done so right then and there. If you’re not loving and understanding immediately, they may get frustrated or confused. It’s better to say: ‘I will try to forgive you, but give me time.’

Think of the times when your partner did give you love, care and acknowledgement. And realize that you don’t live for other people’s acknowledgement or love, but to fulfill your own life goals. That you can be a light for yourself within a relationship. And give yourself time.

Photo: Toa Heftiba

Are you single? This is why you should never feel ashamed about it

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‘How long has it been?’ If you’re single and somebody asks you that question, the underlying message is usually ‘Don’t you think it’s time for a new relationship?’ And the more often you are asked this question the more you start doubting yourself.

All these questions and remarks make you feel like you’re going through a temporary phase, a phase that has only one purpose: to lead to the first prize, a new relationship. Until then, you’ll just have to make do. And when you look around you, you only see things that confirm this idea. At a wedding, where everyone seems to be celebrating their love, or when you’re visiting a couple you usually double dated with – together with your ex. And you’re on your own now. #sad

Cat lady

Aren’t they right? Isn’t it time for you to find someone new? Why didn’t you find anyone yet, are your standards too high? Are you even able to do maintain a relationship anymore, or did you turn into a spinster, a cat lady? Are you even good enough?

No to all these questions, except for the last ones. Don’t let anyone tell you there’s anything wrong with you. Or that a new relationship is something you find within a fixed amount of time. If you’re not ready for it yet, you’re not ready for it. If you simply haven’t bumped into anyone who was fun enough, good for you, because that means you know what you want (and what you don’t want).

You can do it on your own

Don’t be ashamed of the fact that you go to parties on your own, that friends can’t double-date with you right now, that you don’t lead a white-picket-fence life. Be proud of yourself, because no matter how comfortable a relationship can be: you don’t need another person to be happy. You can do it on your own. And that’s what you’re showing the world every day.  

Text: Dorien Vrieling - Photo: Sam Burriss

 

10 tips that help you to support your highly sensitive child

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Highly sensitive children experience reality more intensely. They are so open to stimulation, that the stimuli sometimes get the best of them. That’s when they get angry or sad, tend to withdraw or complain. This is how you accompany a highly sensitive child in life.

1.  Make sure home is a harmonious and peaceful place.

2.  Be honest, don’t lie, and don’t hide your feelings from them.

3.  Treat your child as an equal. Be thoughtful about criticism: this has a heavy effect on them.

4.  Explain why you ask them to do something, don’t force anything if you don’t have to, ask for cooperation in a friendly manner.

5.  Make sure there’s time for them to process new impressions; time when nothing special is happening. It’s wise not to go away during every school holiday: schedule lots of days for pottering around.   

6.  Try to be understanding when your child is complaining about uncomfortable clothes, loud noises, bright colors and food they can’t bear.

7.  Support your child in difficult social situations.

8.  Teach your child that it’s not necessary to look people in the eye if it feels too intense – they can also look at an ear, without seeming impolite.

9.  Teach your child a protective image that might help them, like an angel, a knight or a spirit animal, and tell them stories about it.

10.  Teach them visualisations to protect themselves in difficult surroundings. They might imagine there’s an egg of light around them, or a protective cloak, a magical waistband, a rose hedge or a glass wall.

Photo: Ratiu Bia

 

Why grief is not the enemy

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The only thing we have to teach ourselves (and our children) is to endure pain. Allowing all that grief to go through you, means to maintain a kind heart. A heart that is able to love again, to open up – even if that means it might get hurt.

 

In the movie Call me by your name, inspired by André Aciman’s beautiful novel (it’s one of my all time favorites), there’s a beautiful, touching monologue. A father witnesses the silent, but heavy lovesickness his adolescent son Elio is going through. The father puts away his book and glasses and looks him in the eye. He doesn’t say: ‘It’s just puppy love.’ He doesn’t say: ‘Hush, don’t be sad.’ Nor does he say: ‘There’s more fish in the sea.’

What he says is something like this: ‘If you’re in pain, just feel it. Grieve for what you’ve lost, or you won’t find anything at all. We throw away so much in order to heal quicker than possible – by the time we’re thirty, we’re bankrupt. Every time we start a new relationship, we have less to offer. Hurt, my boy, but remember the happiness too.’

Handling discomfort

It’s the best advice anyone could ever get. Emotional pain doesn’t require an immediate antidote. Most pain isn’t unbearable, doesn’t damage us, doesn’t last forever. Every time we close ourselves off from the pain, we avoid practicing handling discomfort and grief. We’re less and less able to do it and, in the end, we focus on escaping and denying pain.

The price is high. It requires an armored heart. If you want to avoid soul pain to reach you at all costs, and you try to combat it with every strategy you can find, deep joy is unable to reach you too – because it bumps into the same armored heart. In the end, nothing can really get to you anymore.  

This is how you maintain a kind heart

All we have to teach ourselves (and our children), is to endure pain. If we take care of our emotional wounds, they are able to heal, in their own time. The reward for letting all that pain go through you is that you keep a heart that’s soft and kind. A heart that is open to beauty, emotion, wisdom and the art of life. A heart that is able to love again, and willing to be open – even if that means it might get hurt. A heart full of chambers that you have occupated and that you know well.  

The last shot in Call me by your name takes minutes. We see the son, a little older now, staring into the fireplace, minutes after he found out how his lover got engaged to a woman (he fell in love with a young man). At first, there’s a deep pain reflecting in his face, then tears well up in his eyes and in the end, there’s a little smile. He’s still able to touch the happiness he experienced before.

I sighed with relief. Elio’s heart remained kind.

Text: Susan Smit - Photo: Matthew Henry

How to keep feeling safe when you're in love

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There’s always an excuse to be careful, not to jump into the big adventure of love. This is how you keep feeling safe in love.

There are several reasons why we deny ourselves the biggest and greatest things when it comes to love. Some of us have been hurt before, and created a protective shield afterwards, others are convinced they are not worthy of love and they are scared to believe in it.

There’s always an excuse to be careful, not to jump into the big adventure of love, but to keep a back door open.

Fall in love

We don’t call it ‘falling in love’ for no reason. You fall. There you go. All your thoughts and feelings regard this one person, you think the world of them and you would be willing to change your life fort hem. You are filled with hope, of course, but there’s fear too. And there’s doubt: do your feelings mean that there are great things lying ahead of you, are you catching a glimpse of a glorious truth or is it a trap, a chimera, self deceit?  

These five tips help you to feel safe when you’re in love

1.   Let your heart set the pace. Don’t say or do anything that makes things go any faster than you feel comfortable with.

2.   Try to e-mail and text less, and see your love face to face more often. This is a good way to keep your connection pure, and to prevent yourself from creating an ideal picture.  

3.   Get to know them, talk to their friends, see how they were before you met them.

4.   Think of your relationship as something that might last and talk about it this way.

5.   Try to really get to know them. Don’t focus on ‘do they like me’, but ask yourself regularly: ‘do I like them?’

 

Photo: Montse Monmo

 

Elizabeth Lesser, Oprah's soul sister, teaches you how to relax when times are tough

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She's Oprah Winfrey's soul sister, and her books became big best sellers: Elizabeth Lesser. In this episode of Words of Wisdom, the inspiring author tells us how she still uses the knowledge she gained when she was a midwife. 

When you are going through a rough patch, it's just like in labor: resistance is useless, you better try to relax and embrace the situation. 

Photo: Brooke Cagle

 

Haven't met your soulmate yet? You can stop looking

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Why you might want to question the ideal of the soulmate. 

A soulmate. Who doesn’t want one? People sometimes talk about their partner or a friend, saying: ‘He truly is my soulmate.’ Perhaps it makes you a little jealous, and you think: why don’t I have one? Where do I find one? Or is this person in my life already, but I just fail to recognize them?  

A fresh look at congenial spirits

A soulmate is a person we can trust 100 percent, who senses what we’re feeling without words. Some soulmates resemble us so much that it seems like we’re two birds of a feather, like a mirror image or a copy of ourselves. Other soulmates are people who support us no matter what, who are always there for us. Whether it’s a partner or a friend, the soulmate is an inherently romantic ideal. But it is an ideal that you might want to question.

Because if someone senses everything about you from the start, and makes you feel completely at home, does that mean there’s no trouble at all? That you have found a comrade without any edges or thorns or unbridgeable differences? That’s impossible, unless this friend doesn’t have their own individuality, or unless they wrap themselves around you like an empty shell. And that will only lead to repression, which sooner or later will have unpleasant results. Isn’t it a bit childish, too, to long for a connection that’s completely effortless? That’s what we needed when we were babies, but not as autonomous adults.

The bigger the soul…

Is it beneficial for our spiritual growth to focus on effortless contact? Maybe we’re meant to appreciate the new and strange things in other people. To open our hearts wide enough to make room for every unruly, rough and incomprehensible aspect in others. Peace comes into existence when we stop thinking about other people as ‘different’, and start thinking about ‘one of us’.

This requires a spacious soul, a plus size soul. A beautiful word for it is magnanimous, coming from the Latin magna anima: big, noble soul. The bigger the soul, the more soulmates you’ll have.  

Text: Lisette Thooft - Photo: Annie Spratt

 

This is a letter that every woman should read

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This is an ode to all women. To all the mothers, sisters, daughters and girlfriends. This is an ode to the stripes on our bellies, the lumps on our thighs. To our lioness power. To the fantastic beings we are. 

Dear woman,

Our softness, our skin that gives in a little – that’s where I see our beauty.

The stripes on our bellies, the lumps on our thighs, sometimes move me because they are so human.

And oh, how we don’t learn to handle the glances at our bodies – judging, inspecting, longing – until these glances have become rarities.

I love our bellies when we’re pregnant. Subtlely puffing up at first, then big and round and powerful, showing the fire in our bosoms that belongs to anyone but ourselves.

I love our capacity to feel deeply, to sense and empathize, and how carefully we cherish and show it.

How we can suddenly become furious like Electra, with a lionesses power that may have been slumbering, but that was at our disposal the whole time.

I see us in the tops of my mother’s fingers, rough as they are from working hard and caring.

And in my friends’ bursts of laughter, their generous arms that are so good at comforting waving highly in the sky when we dance.

In the silent looks of my girl child, as she’s looking for places tob ring her love – all the love that flows freely and unsuspectingly, because no one has stolen any of it yet.

See how we want to guard our sons and protect our daughters, and still choose to embrace them with arms open.

How we’ve been belittled for centuries, used or put on pedestals way too high, and how it taught us to get up again after we fall.

How we’ve learned to endure tough power systems, because we knew that ‘the soft powers will win in the end’.

Here we are, as daughters in a long line of grandmothers and mothers, as neighbors, doctors, dancers and presidents.

Would you see how all of us are born as perfect creatures, but some of us have gotten convinced of the contrary?

I thank all of you, my sisters, for every helping hand, supporting wink, understanding glance and kind word. Never forget how magnificent we are.

With love and high regard for all that you are,

Susan Smit

 

Photo: Ana Gabriel

 

Checklist: are you stuck inside your body? This is how you let go

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Every day, we get caught up in situations that make us freeze. This simple exercise helps you to let go of the tension in your body.

If your body feels nice and loose, it means you move flexibly and you’re aware of your entire body. You feel the live tingling in your feet, your fingers, your lips. You feel your heart beating. It’s the same feeling you have at the end of a yoga class, enjoying the sun at the beach or relaxing in the spa: you realize your body is all yours, and completely free.

But everyday life makes us get tangled up in situations that make us freeze. And when we freeze, our body tightens. Letting go means nullifying blockages and letting it all flow.

Checklist: how stuck are you?

1.  Are there weak spots in your body that tend to get stuck, like your shoulders or your lower back?

2.  Do you avoid physical contact, do you dislike kissing and casual touching?

3.  Do you like to hang in your chair or on the couch, or do you unconsciously find positions that make your body turn stiff?

4.  Do you need coffee to get going in the morning?

5.  Do you prefer to sit down when people around you are dancing?

What does it mean to be stuck?

According to Inge Maassen, a senior teacher in Healing Tao, loosening up means to allow your emotions to be there. If your neck or shoulders are stuck, it could mean you’re pretending to be something you’re not. ‘In the body, you experience sadness, but you want to be radiant towards the outside world: this transformation is located in the shoulder area.’

‘Loosening up in your body, in fact, just means: remaining in the center of the emotion. Even if it’s a restless or unpleasant feeling. Especially when something feels unpleasant, like an emotion or nauseousness, you tend to avoid the feeling. Transferring your attention to your mind causes a muscular tension.’

‘From an early age, we learn to escape into our minds, but the physical is just as important, or even more important: the body feeds our mind. It’s only when you stay focused on the (sometimes unpleasant) feeling, you can move freely in your body and prevent convulsions.’

‘Unpleasant feelings are easily sedated: with one lump of sugar, you don’t have to feel for two hours, a cup of coffee sharpens your focus but has a similar effect. At first, it feals pleasant, but in the end your body gets tired. If you confront the unpleasant feelings, you end up in a pure power of being, the feeling that you are completely there. That’s very pleasant.’

Mini meditation: letting go of everything

Bending over is an exercise that relaxes and invigorates your body. Yoga teacher Amanda Ringnalda thought of a variation you can do anywhere, even sitting in front of your desk. Put your feet on the ground, not too closely to eachother. Breathe in and stretch the upper part of your body. Bend over from the waist, and let your hands glide past your ankles onto the ground, while relaxing your upper body during an exhalation.

While you do this, think: I’m letting go of everything. Let the tension flow into the ground through your fingers. Roll up, one vertebra at a time, until you’re sitting up straight.  Hello, world, here you are again.

 

 

 

This is what makes life meaningful, according to psychotherapist Irvin Yalom

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World famous psychotherapist Irvin Yalom (86) has been together with his wife for 70 years. This is how he feels about love and a meaningful life. 

You have been with your wife for 70 years. What’s the secret to a long relationship like yours?

I met Marilyn when I was fifteen and immediately, I know she would be my wife. I love her. She has been at a Chicago conference for three days now, and I miss her. I cherish every minute I’m with her, especially know. I know my days are numbered. We share the same interests and we love books. Literature has learned me a lot about the human condition, perhaps more than my own clinical literature. We are both still fanatic readers, reading brings us spiritual wealth and stimulating discussions. Of course, there have been difficult times, as well. Marilyn took care of our family for the most part, while I was busy with my career and away often. But in those days, you didn’t just get divorced when times got rough.

What do you think makes life meaningful?

I love to talk and write about the ripples we cause in other people’s lives. By giving our children, friends and patients genuine attention and not being afraid of intimacy or vulnerability. By showing who we are. This requires courage, but it creates valuable relationships in which the other person feels appreciated. If you have this experience, you can pass it on to others. Everyone creates ripples in the lives of people around them, often unknowingly. They have an effect even after we’ve gone. I’ve had many teachers who influenced my work and I think that I’ll ‘ripple on’ in the lives of my students, readers and clients. I get lots of letters from readers who feel comforted and inspired by my books. That is meaningful to me. But of course, I ‘ripple’ in my kids’ and grandkids’ lives. Feeling love for people and knowing you’re loved is the most important thing in our lives.    

In an interview, you said you prefer not to work with clients who are in love. Why is that?

Because people in love are starstruck. They can’t think clearly. When you’re in love, it’s hard to think about anything else than your object of affection. You don’t see them for who they really are. Psychotherapy and love are fundamentally incompatible. A good therapist looks for enlightenment in the darkness, while romantic love flourishes with mystery and crumbles when you take a good look at it. Alain de Botton wrote a beautiful book about that. In ‘The course of love’, he describes accurately how we will always marry the wrong person, because we project unrealistic expectations on our loved ones. Disappointment is inevitable. I started giving the book to my patients. 

Why feelings of shame can be a burden - and how to break through it

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The time you unsuspectingly headed back to your desk from the toilet – with your skirt in your tights. When your friends wanted to go on a weekend trip, but you really couldn’t afford to. That time on that wedding full of happy couples, where you were the only single person. Or today, when you realized that you have been seeing a therapist for several years now. Whatever it is, we all feel ashamed sometimes.

The feeling itself is always connected to being different (or making different choices). When you’re feeling ashamed, you’re very aware that you’re different because of something you do or who you are. It is frightening, because people might disapprove, or even reject you.

Why shame is useful

‘Never be ashamed! There’s some who’ll hold it against you, but they’re not worth bothering with,’ said writer J.K. Rowling. A beautiful pursuit, but banishing shame from your life is impossible. Feeling ashamed every once in a while isn’t just human, it’s useful too: every time we do something that’s inadvisable, from a social point of view, the unpleasant feeling prevents us from doing it again.  

Then again, shame is something you can overdo. That’s when you avoid certain situations (and never enter a beach wearing a bikini) or compensate by shouting from the rooftops (telling everyone that you absolutely loooove being single, because ‘relationships are so overrated!’).

Share your feelings, it helps

How do you prevent feelings of shame from bothering you? By doing the opposite of what you would naturally tend to do. Don’t hide what you’re ashamed of, don’t deny you feel embarrassed, but open up. Tell people you trust about your feelings. It helps you to put shame in perspective and makes it lighter, because either you find that they think your shame is unnecessary, or they tell you about the things they are embarrassed about. Also, because they’ll sympathize with you.

The antidote to shame

Brené Brown, the figure head of vulnerability, put it like this in one of her TEDtalks (see below): ‘If we’re going to find our way out of shame and back to eachother, we need to know empathy, because empathy is the antidote to shame. If you put shame in a Petri dish, it needs three things to grow exponentially: secrecy, silence and judgment. If you put the same amount of shame in a Petri dish and douse it with empathy, it can’t survive. The two most powerful words when we’re in a struggle: me too.’

Dare to be vulnerable

If you’re afraid of being rejected, it’s worth examining that feeling. Take a good look at the people who are the closest to you. You’ll probably find that you gathered these people around you for a reason. Dare to trust them. It’s an investment in the future: if you have the guts to be vulnerable, the people you attract will be the right ones for you – they’ll stay, because they really know you.

 

Photo: Alef Vinicius

 

 

 

Why it's healthy to go on a holiday without the kids every once in a while

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Right before you leave, a trip without children always feels unnecessary. What if something bad happens to one of the kids, or to me? Or what if nothing bad happens, and I’ll enjoy myself?

I recently caught my eldest son talking to his grandma – my mom- about happiness. She said, as you grow older, you become happier and happier. My son said that, regardless of a few little things, he was already quite happy. And he said that if the happiness would only grow from now – he’s eleven years old – that he would spend his last days jumping on a trampoline in his backyard.

Me-time

Every once in a while I go on a trip without my kids. Usually I go with my boyfriend, sometimes with a friend. This time, I went on my own. A trip like that always seems like a silly idea in the hours before I leave. Since I have kids, they are the main reason for living. Usually, I have about two hours of ‘me-time’ a week, that’s it. But now, I will have a whole week for me time and surfing and yoga and massages and good food without having to cook and basically everything anyone could wish for – and that’s a delightful and horrible idea at the same time. What if something bad happens to one of the kids, or to me? Or what if nothing bad happens and I’ll enjoy myself? In both cases, the consequences for normal life are hard to unpredictable.

The holiday will take place in Imsouane, a small village on the Moroccan coast, about two hours from Agadir. I’m cheering inside and simultaneously feeling guilty even before I’ve left. 

The sound of the sea is what I need

When we arrive it’s dark, the thunder of the ocean is sounding in the background. With the city still in my head, it sounds like a highway. The next morning, the sea sounds like something you need around you all the time, like the opposite of a highway. Both in yoga and longboarding, you are forced to get out of your head and into the moment. When the sun is shining, the people are friendly, the food is nice and the sea is like magic – the Imsouane bay is called ‘the magic bay’ – being pushed into the moment turns out to be fine.

Under a sparkling starry sky

The evening yoga class starts a bit later than scheduled – just like everything around here. The air has cooled off. We practice yoga outside, on the roof, everyone is wearing sweaters, some of them even a coat. It’s a lesson in restoration focused on letting our muscles relax, it doesn’t warm us. Then I notice. I look at the ceiling, and I see thousands of stars.

We stretch and stretch under a sparkling starry sky and all of a sudden, all the exercises are fantastic and I want them to last longer. I want this whole class to last for the entire night. Apart from the sound of the ocean, all is quiet. Inside, too. There are times when I feel like I’m already jumping on that trampoline of happiness.  

Text: Pauline Bijster - Photo: Filipp Nekhaev